Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Happy…middle of September?  How the heck did THAT happen??

Before we know it, Autumn will be upon us.  In fact, it’s coming early from what I can see – we already have trees turning on our street (much to Darling Daughter’s dismay).

While I do NOT look forward to winter, I generally enjoy fall.  It’s a gorgeous season up here in northeast Ohio and the crisp temperatures are an invigorating excuse to wear my didn’t-exist-until-I-moved-North cool weather wardrobe.

Because, let’s face it, it’s cold for all of about 3 days in the middle of February down in Texas.

It’s also an opportunity to start tuning up for cold-weather cooking, which is (according to at least one of my readers) my forte.  I won’t deny it; I love casseroles and stews and braises and other hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare.

This particular recipe is a new favorite.  Ooooohhh, myyyyyyyy.

While the butternut squash Beloved planted earlier in the season didn’t take at all (this is not true of the one that has sprung up spontaneously in another garden – I guess the compost didn’t get hot enough again this year), the spaghetti squash is doing just fine.  We’ve already picked a couple, and I made this with the very first one Beloved harvested.

Fortunately, the harvest of this squash coincided with the last of the summer sweet corn we picked up at the farmer’s market.  When I finally decided what I was going to do with this particular one – I didn’t want it to involve a pasta sauce – I soaked and cooked some black beans, as well as a pound of Meat for Tacos. After that I made a fresh salsa with some red onion, a hillbilly tomato and a jalapeno, all from our garden, along with some cilantro from the CSA.  Once I’d roasted the squash, all that was left was to shred some cheese and assemble the whole thing and bake it in the oven.

It. Was. AMAZING.  This is comfort food, folks – delicious, satisfying and quite healthful comfort food.  The servings are also quite generous, and the leftovers keep well in the refrigerator, if they’re well-covered.  It really reheats beautifully – Beloved and I shared one stuffed squash half the night I made it, and finished off the other half for lunch the next day.  It was every bit as good (if not a little bit better, as dishes like this tend to be).

This would also be awesome topped with a good, homemade guacamole.

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash. Healthy and creative, this Mexican-inspired casserole is a great way to jazz up this versatile winter squash.

Click the image to enlarge

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 pound [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/meat-tacos/” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url]
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup fresh tomato salsa
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Halve the spaghetti squash and scrape out the seeds from the center. Rub both halves with olive oil and place them, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork; remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. While the squash is roasting, prepare the [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/meat-tacos/” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url].
  4. Once cooled enough to handle, shred the meat of the squash into a large mixing bowl with a fork, leaving the shells intact. Season lightly with salt and pepper; stir in the beans, corn, taco meat, red onion and half the cheese until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture back into the squash shells and top with the remaining cheese. Return to the foil-lined baking sheet.
  5. Reduce the heat to 350 F and return the stuffed squash halves to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Allow the stuffed squash to rest for 5 or so minutes before cutting each half in two. Top with the salsa and serve.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 584 calories, 36.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 1076.6mg sodium, 1024.3mg potassium, 37.1g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 30.9g protein

Mexican-Style Chorizo

Well, hmmm – this is my second “Mexican-Style” recipe this week.

I didn’t plan it that way.  It just sort of happened.

If you ask my kids what their favorite breakfast is, they’ll all say “Chorizo!”  Which is shorthand for breakfast tacos consisting of eggs scrambled with Mexican-style chorizo – a fresh sausage, as opposed to Spanish-style chorizo, which is a smoked sausage – fried potatoes and cheese all wrapped up in a tortilla (corn for Oldest Son, Darling Daughter and Miss J and flour for Jolly and The Young One – who will also skip the potatoes.  Yes, the kid is weird).

At any rate, I’ve slowly but surely been cutting out purchased fresh sausages – since we buy or procure all of our meat exclusively from our friends at Whitefeather Meats, this not only gives me a little freedom for how my sausage is seasoned, but is also a little cheaper as well (all those spices, herbs and seasonings cost money, you know).  Making fresh sausage at home is also so quick and easy, I’ve begun to wonder why I didn’t begin years and years ago.

Chorizo was the last hold-out.  Their version – which, of course, isn’t an authentic chorizo but chorizo-spiced ground pork – is just delicious and I tend to buy a pound or two every time we visit them.  Sometimes, though, I get a request for The Favorite Breakfast, and have no chorizo on hand; in cases like these, the 40 minute drive to Whitefeather isn’t exactly an option.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and this is true – especially when aided by a well-worded Google search.

This recipe tastes pretty spot-on – it was well-received by Darling Daughter, The Young One and Beloved, so I’d call that a win.  As written, the recipe doesn’t give the pork that deep, brick-red tone of most commercial chorizos, but you can add a couple of teaspoons of regular paprika (which has little flavor) if you’d like the color.

If you don’t eat pork, this would be just fine with ground turkey or venison.

Making fresh, Mexican-style chorizo at home is super simple - and super delicious!

Click the image to enlarge

Mexican-Style Chorizo
Serves: 4 to 6
[i]Adapted from [url href=”http://honestcooking.com/authentic-homemade-mexican-chorizo/” target=”_blank”]Honest Cooking[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, gently combine all of the ingredients, using your hands, until well-blended.
  2. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours before using in your favorite recipe.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 218 calories, 16.7g total fat, 54.4mg cholesterol, 402.5mg sodium, 315.4mg potassium, 3.4g carbohydrates, 1.5g fiber, <1g sugar, 13.6g protein

 

Mexican-Style Rice

Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, and if you live in northeast Ohio you’ll either 1) ignore it, 2) find yourself in a restaurant that wouldn’t know real Mexican (to say nothing of Tex-Mex) food if it jumped in their lap, or 3) make it yourself.

For the last 9 years, I’ve opted for number 3.

I guess ideally, I should have posted this recipe prior to Cinco de Mayo, but since I make Mexican food on a fairly regular basis – and you should, too – I figured it would be worth putting up post-weekday-reason-to-drink-margaritas anyway.  Well, that and the fact that it’s the first time I’ve ever really made it successfully.

For some reason, Mexican-style rice, or sopa seca, is something I’ve never been able to master to my satisfaction.  Something of an oddity, really, since things like handmade tamales and traditional chiles relleno pose no problem for me at all and neither of those dishes are what you could call “quick and easy.”  However, since I was making enchiladas for the “holiday” (I found some wonderful organic, sprouted corn tortillas at our local natural foods store) and I’d just made western-style beans a few days before, I wanted some rice.

I wanted some good rice, and I found the recipe over at Homesick Texan.  Lisa is a marvelous cook (her blog is where I found the aforementioned western-style beans originally) and I was more than willing to try her version of Mexican-style rice.  With a few modifications – I like peas and carrots in my Mexican-style rice and subbed half the tomato paste with some homemade Enchilada Sauce while cutting back on the cumin – it was just marvelous.  Not only did I love it, but Beloved, Jolly and Darling Daughter also ate it with great enthusiasm.

Really. Good. Stuff.

Mexican-Style Rice. A must for any Cinco de Mayo feast, this recipe for Mexican-style rice is easy, delicious and pretty much perfect.

Click the image to enlarge

Mexican-Style Rice
Serves: 6
[i]Adapted from [url href=”http://www.homesicktexan.com/2008/06/with-beans-comes-rice.html” target=”_blank”]Homesick Texan[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/enchilada-sauce/” target=”_blank”]Enchilada Sauce[/url]
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the rice, chicken broth and kosher sea salt in a large, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or just until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove from the heat. Stir again, then cover the saucepan with a dry, clean dishcloth and place the lid on top. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. While the rice is cooking, sauté the onion in the butter in a shallow skillet over medium-low heat until soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Stir in the tomato paste, enchilada sauce, cumin and peas and carrots and continue cooking until the vegetables are warmed through, another 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the onion/vegetable mixture from the heat and stir in the cooked rice, lime juice and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed, and serve immediately.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 197 calories, 3.7g total fat, 7.9mg cholesterol, 347.9mg sodium, 313.1mg potassium, 35.3g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, 3.6g sugar, 6g protein

 

 

Migas

Well, hello there.

If you’re wondering if I’d fallen off the edge of the earth, you’re not alone – I’ve been wondering that myself.  But no, just extremely busy (more on that tomorrow).

I’d mentioned a bit earlier that ever since The Young One has been off to college, I hadn’t felt much like cooking.  Or at least cooking anything worthy of a blog post; most of it’s been either recipes I’ve posted before, or stuff so simple that you could hardly call it “cooking.”  A lot of it couldn’t even remotely be considered “paleo” (but again, more on that tomorrow).

At any rate, I have prepared a few things worthy of a photograph and blog post – this is one of them.

My first husband was (is, I suppose, since he’s still living) Hispanic, and his grandmother was one of the finest cooks I’ve had the privilege to have known.  It was she who introduced me to authentic Mexican cuisine, rather than the Tex-Mex I’d grown up with, and her handmade tortillas, refried beans, menudo, and caldo de res were beyond compare.  I couldn’t wait for the holidays every year, when she and my mother-in-law would crank out enormous batches of tamales, both sweet and savory, and the buñuelos she made us as a treat for New Years were the best I, or probably anyone else, have ever tasted.

And she introduced me to Migas.

In the Mexican-American household – or at least, her Mexican-American household – Migas is a simple dish of eggs scrambled together with bite-size pieces of corn tortillas, and I loved it from the first time I took a bite.  Having said that, it occurred to me when I made this particular recipe that I hadn’t eaten it in over 25 years.  You see, when I was pregnant with Darling Daughter (in 1986 – yeah, I’m that old), migas was one of those things that, for no good reason I could tell, just turned my stomach – I simply couldn’t eat it. (Pregnancy will often play horrible tricks like that on you.)  I re-entered the workforce when she was about 6 months old, and I guess it just never occurred to me to ever cook it again.  I don’t know why.

Fast forward to a couple of days after Christmas.  Jolly and The G Man had spent Christmas Eve with us, and I had made Mexican for dinner, which included beef and cheese enchiladas.  (Hey, it was our Christmas Eve dinner – we could eat what we liked.  And we did.)  So, here I was, left with half a package of corn tortillas sitting in my fridge, softly calling to me, “Here we are…are you going to let us go bad?’

The answer to that would be, “No.”  And Migas, which Beloved had never eaten before, was the result.

Ironically, this version is a gussied-up, restaurant-style, Tex-Mex version of the simple dish Grandma taught me, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious.  You can, of course, make it with just the eggs and tortillas, but the addition of the vegetables is just wonderful.  You can also leave out the cheese and half and half for a dairy-free version, or you can leave out the tortillas if you’re avoiding grains.  It won’t be Migas without them, of course, but it’ll still be pretty darn good.

Migas. Simple Tex-Mex comfort food at its finest.

Click the image to enlarge

Migas
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 8 corn tortillas, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the eggs and half and half until well blended; set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften and the onion turns translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the jalapeno and cook for another minute more.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the pan. Stir the tortillas into the vegetable mixture and cook for one minute; pour in the egg mixture and stir gently to combine. Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the eggs are softly scrambled. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then gently stir in the tomatoes.
  4. Divide the Migas between 4 plates; top each with cheese and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 479 calories, 30.8g total fat, 430.2mg cholesterol, 350.2mg sodium, 457mg potassium, 27.7g carbohydrates, 4.3g fiber, 3.8g sugar, 23.7g protein

Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms

Sunday morning I got up in the mood to cook.

And cook I did.

I don’t know what possessed me to make stuffed mushrooms and bacon-wrapped asparagus spears to go with our over-easy pastured eggs and chocolate-laced coffee, other than the fact I had mushrooms and asparagus in the fridge (Beloved was bemused, as well – “My wife got up this morning and made appetizers for breakfast!”), but it was all really tasty, if a little odd.

I’m not a huge mushroom fan – they’re one of the few foods I have an “I can take it or leave it” attitude about – but I have to say that these were absolutely delicious.  We enjoyed them so much that I am going to make them for our annual employee holiday party this year.  It helps that they’re just drop-dead easy, too, and can be assembled ahead of time and baked later.  They also reheat beautifully.

Note:  The chorizo I use is really a chorizo-spiced ground pork; we get it from our friends at Whitefeather Meats.  A traditional Mexian chorizo is going to be pretty fatty and probably won’t hold together very well as a stuffing.  However, making it yourself is really quite easy – this recipe is a good one.

Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms. These tasty morsels can be assembled ahead of time, and then baked just before serving.

Click image to enlarge

Chorizo-Stuffed Mushrooms
Serves: 8 to 10
Ingredients
  • 1 pound [url href=”http://honestcooking.com/authentic-homemade-mexican-chorizo/” target=”_blank”]homemade Mexican-style chorizo[/url]
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 pound large white button mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons ghee, divided
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease the pan with olive oil.
  2. Gently but thoroughly clean the mushrooms with a damp towel. Remove and finely chop the stems; set aside.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the ghee in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chopped mushrooms stems until they have given off all their liquid and it begins to evaporate.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of ghee to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened and begun to turn golden, about 7 to10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool enough to handle.
  5. In a large bowl, gently mix the chorizo and mushroom/onion mixture until well combined. Stuff each mushroom cap with the chorizo mixture, mounding it attractively, until all of the sausage has been used.
  6. Place the stuffed mushrooms on the oiled pan and bake for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through, or until the mushrooms have softened and the chorizo stuffing is cooked through.
  7. Serve warm.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 250 calories, 21g total fat, 49.1mg cholesterol, 563.2mg sodium, 336mg potassium, 3g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 1.2g sugar, 12.5g protein