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

Loaded Smashed Potatoes

Good grief – will someone please tell me how it got to be September already??

Things have calmed down somewhat around the Sushi Bar; The G Man is in Michigan and starts kindergarten today (boy, talk about time just flying by!!) and while The Young One came home for the long weekend, we didn’t see much of him (he spent a lot of time sleeping) and he was back on campus by Sunday afternoon.

However, even though our lives are no longer ruled by the comings and goings of young men, things are still pretty busy.  It is, of course, prime canning season and we did it in style this last weekend.  If you think we went crazy with the zucchini and green beans, well…let’s just say they weren’t anything compared to this weekend.

We took Friday off from work, which was a good thing, since it gave us the opportunity to do some housework and yard work.  We made our usual CSA/farmer’s market runs Saturday morning, and came home with 2 bushels of paste tomatoes (to which we added another half bushel from our own garden), 5 dozen ears of sweet corn, 5 pounds of okra and a 1/2 peck of the sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted.  The result?

– 8 pints of barbecue sauce canned

– 32 pints of tomato canned

– About 2 1/2 cups of tomato paste made, portioned and frozen

– All of the corn shucked and cleaned; 1 1/2 dozen frozen on the cob, the remainder cut away from the cob, portioned, and frozen

– All 5 pounds of the okra cleaned and sliced; about 4 pounds breaded before being frozen (’cause we love our fried okra)

– All of the peaches peeled, sliced and frozen

The tomatoes were milled and the sauces and paste were made on Saturday.  The canning, corn and okra were done on Sunday, and I peeled and sliced the peaches while cooking our dinner (an amazingly delicious and un-paleo gumbo) Monday evening.

In short, we basically came back to work today to rest from our “long weekend.”

We’d have gone out to eat Sunday night – the day was just that exhausting – but all the decent restaurants in Podunk are closed on Sunday, so we made dinner as simple as possible.  Beloved fired up the grill and cooked us steaks, while I roasted some of the okra I’d left whole.  Darling Daughter asked for this particular dish and since she did most of the work, I’ll credit her with the execution.

I have to tell you, these smashed potatoes are really pretty easy and they are really very delicious; even Beloved, who prefers sweet potatoes, wolfed them down.  The leftovers keep quite well, too, as you can see in the photo below, when we had them with the leftover steak, over-easy eggs and watermelon the next morning.

Note:  You can leave off the bacon if you don’t eat pork or want to make them vegetarian-friendly – simply sub the bacon fat with melted ghee or olive oil.

Loaded Smashed Potatoes.  Crispy and delicious, these are somewhere between potato skins and baked potatoes.

Click the image to enlarge

Loaded Smashed Potatoes
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound whole new potatoes, preferably Yukon golds
  • 4 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Scrub the potatoes well. Carefully drop them into 2 quarts of boiling salted water and cook until tender enough to pierce with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain; spread out on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet to cool slightly.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain; reserve the fat left behind in the pan.
  4. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them slightly (still on the baking sheet) with a potato masher or the bottom of a heavy glass measuring cup. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with the reserved bacon fat.
  5. Roast the smashed potatoes until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the bacon and cheese. Return the pan to the oven until the cheese is melted, another 5 to 7 minutes longer.
  6. Sprinkle the potatoes with the snipped chives and dollop with sour cream, if desired, before serving.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 235 calories, 16.1g total fat, 36.6mg cholesterol, 283.1mg sodium, 395mg potassium, 14.1g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, <1g sugar, 8.8g protein

Adventures in Yogurt Making

Here I am again, and devastated to report the slot on my Nikon that holds the SD card has decided to commit suicide.  If that’s not bad enough, it selfishly decided to take the 16GB memory card containing ALL of my unpublished (read: unsaved) food photos along with it.  This means the images of all the recipes that I’ve been photographing, but haven’t had time to post, have gone to That Great Mass Storage Device In The Sky.

So, yeah…no photos.  Have I mentioned I’m devastated?

(In a desperate ploy to at least partially appease his devastated – and, possibly, hysterical – wife, Beloved suggested I look at a new camera body so I didn’t have to try and take photographs with my lousy-for-taking-pictures Anroid phone for the 3 weeks it will take my D90 to be repaired.  I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D5300; the D90 will serve as a backup upon its return.)

Fortunately, I had already saved this particular photo and since making yogurt was one of the things I’ve been wanting to talk about, well, there you go.

As I’m sure My Better Half will tell you, I’m often guilty of coming up with Grand Plans that don’t see fruition.  Not from lack of follow-through, but from becoming distracted by other, sometimes more important, things that aren’t part of the Grand Plan – and, as I’m sure he will tell you, I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew.

In other words, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

At any rate, homemade yogurt has been on my list of Grand Plans for quite some time, and I have finally gotten around to giving it a whirl.  As I am wont to do, I began by researching and the first thing I researched was yogurt makers.  Since, like Alton Brown, I don’t like one-use gadgets, after reading that yogurt makers can suddenly lose their temperature control – and successful yogurt depends on pretty precise temperature control – it didn’t take long for me to look into other methods of making yogurt in my own kitchen.  And there are lots of different methods.

– Both David Lebovitz and Bon Appetit suggest just putting your tempered milk/starter mixture in a jar and leaving it in a “slightly warm spot” in your kitchen for 10 to 12 hours.  So much for precise temperature control. (I’m sure this will work, but the yogurt will be thin.)

– If you don’t feel comfortable leaving jars of warm milk sitting on your counter for hours, Aimee at Simple Bites tells you how to culture it with a heating pad and towels.

– The Creative Simple Life shows us how to make yogurt with a slow cooker.

– Don’t have a slow cooker or a heating pad?  Marisa at Food In Jars cultures hers in a small insulated cooler.

– Sarah at Heartland Renaissance started out making yogurt in her slow cooker, but now makes it in the oven.

While doing all of this research and considering all of these different methods for making yogurt, I found one site that suggested in an offhand manner that it’s possible to make yogurt using a Sous Vide Supreme.

Hold the phone.  I have one of those.

And it works.

Fabulously, really.

One of the reasons yogurt makers work so well is that they can (or are supposed to) hold the culturing milk at a steady, correct temperature, usually somewhere between 105 F and 113 F, ensuring that the yogurt doesn’t get too hot or too cold so the happy, beneficial little bacteria have the perfect environment to become fruitful and multiply.  Holding food at a steady temperature for hours is what a sous vide is designed to do, making it the perfect appliance for making yogurt.

Now, if you look at many homemade yogurt recipes, you’re going to find that some use just milk and a starter culture – usually yogurt, either store-bought or from a previous batch – while some include things like powdered milk and/or heavy cream.  The purpose of these additions is to thicken it; yogurt made with just milk tends to be a little on the runny side.  While I don’t have a real big problem with powdered milk per se (there is some concern about the process oxidizing the cholesterol, which is A Bad Thing), I’m not real crazy about the taste, and decided to use a combination of whole, vat-pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from a local dairy that grass feeds their cows, and organic, vat-pasteurized heavy cream.

The results are nothing short of delicious.  While still not as quite as thick as popular commercial yogurts, it is incredibly creamy, fresh and tangy.

A candy thermometer – one of those glass ones that clip to the side of the pan – makes the job much, much easier.

Homemade Yogurt
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
Instructions
  1. Fill 3 sterilized pint Ball jars 3/4 full with water, and set them in the empty sous vide. Fill the sous vide with water until it reaches the bottom of the necks of the jars. Remove the jars, pour out the water and wipe them dry with a clean cloth.
  2. Plug in the sous vide and set the temperature for 107 F. Cover with the lid.
  3. While the sous vide is coming to temp, combine the milk and cream in a large, heavy saucepan. Over low heat, slowly bring the milk/cream mixture to 180 F; this should take at least 15 to 20 minutes – if heated too quickly, the yogurt may turn out lumpy with a “grainy” texture. Remove from the heat and allow the milk/cream mixture to cool to 110 F.
  4. Whisk in the yogurt and pour the mixture into the jars, dividing it equally between the 3. Cap the jars and place them in the sous vide for 4 to 5 hours, or until the yogurt has thickened.
  5. Allow the yogurt to cool on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour, then refrigerate – it will continue to thicken as it becomes cold.
  6. Eat within a week.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 162 calories, 14.1g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 54.7mg sodium, 156.5mg potassium, 5.6g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 5.1g sugar, 3.8g protein

 

Of course, if you don’t have a Sous Vide Supreme, you can choose any of the other methods listed above with good results.

And what can you do with this wonderful, rich, creamy and delicious yogurt?  Just about anything you want, really.  I’ve used it to cook with, eaten it straight out of the jar (something I never did with plain store-bought yogurt – blech) and made this lovely, filling breakfast.  Which would also make a damn fine dessert.

Banana-Berry Yogurt Parfait.  Delicious, healthy and filling, this makes a great quick breakfast or dessert.

Banana-Berry Yogurt Parfait
Serves: 1
[i]Gently heating the honey will help it mix into the cold yogurt completely.[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Homemade Yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1/2 medium banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries, thawed
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and yogurt. Layer the sweetened yogurt in a tall parfait or dessert dish alternately with the berries and bananas.
  2. Serve immediately.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 275 calories, 14.4g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 57.8mg sodium, 534.9mg potassium, 34.9g carbohydrates, 3.9g fiber, 23.1g sugar, 4.9g 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

Turkey with Tarragon in Cream Sauce

I think I mentioned recently that I’m all about the simple as far as food preparation goes these days.  Well, this recipe, which is has been around since the old “SAD” days, is quite simple, and is also quite good.  I just love the flavors of turkey and tarragon, and turkey breast is so lean that it really needs the richness of the cream sauce.

I also talked about how when we got our summer turkey this year, we broke it down into all it’s parts, vacuum sealed and then froze them.  Recently I’d taken one of the breasts out of the freezer with the vague idea that I’d butterfly it, pound it thin, spread it with a mixture of fruit and nuts, then roll it up and roast it.

Needless to say, that didn’t happen.  Instead, I merely sliced it and made this (since I had all of the ingredients on hand), and served it with roasted Japanese sweet potatoes and sautéed bok choy.  All in all, a wonderfully quick, easy and delicious dinner.

I realize not everyone has a skinned and boned turkey breast languishing in their freezer (and good for you if you do), so turkey cutlets are what is called for in the recipe; you can find them in the meat section of just about any grocery store.  Or, if you prefer, plain boneless, skinless chicken breasts will work just fine.

Note:  If you want to go dairy-free with this, omit the butter and sub the half & half and cream cheese with half a cup of coconut milk.  I think that would be quite tasty, actually.

Turkey with Tarragon in Cream Sauce.  Tarragon and a simple sauce truly elevates this quick and easy saute of turkey cutlets for a great weeknight meal.

Click the image to enlarge

Turkey with Tarragon in Cream Sauce
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound turkey cutlets
  • 1 tablespoons lard
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/4 cup fresh tarragon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
Instructions
  1. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with the tarragon.
  2. Sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium high and add the cutlets to the pan, frying until brown and done through, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a platter and keep warm.
  3. Add chicken stock to the skillet and bring to boil. Continue cooking until the stock is reduced by half; reduce the heat to low, then add the half and half and cream cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Return the turkey to the pan and heat through.
  4. Serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 293 calories, 17.1g total fat, 88mg cholesterol, 1296.4mg sodium, 513.1mg potassium, 11.3g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 6.3g sugar, 23g protein