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

Ginger-Peach Crisp

Well, another crazy weekend came and went.

Oh, who am I kidding?  My whole life is crazy, and it’s not going to be any less crazy until about November.  If I’m lucky.

At any rate, my Young Diabetic Friend accompanied us on our rounds this Saturday to pick up our eggs and CSA share.  We also visited a couple of (tiny but good) farmer’s markets, as well as our friends at Whitefeather Meats where I bought the most incredible bison short ribs; they promptly became dinner.

Because no matter how often I post recipes like this, I’m always going to looooooooove my pastured/grass-fed/ethically raised meats – especially the odd bits.

At any rate, we spent the day canning 16 pints of green beans and slicing and vacuum-sealing about 2 pounds of fresh okra for the Young Diabetic Friend, as well as milling another half-bushel of paste tomatoes that we canned Sunday.  I also picked up a 1/2 peck of what is probably the last of the fresh peaches we’ll see this summer when we swung by Geig’s Orchard to get some of their incomparable, freshly pressed apple cider.

About half the peaches, which were on the small side, went into this wonderful dish that I made to go with our Sunday brunch.  Fresh peaches compete with cherries for the title of Jan’s Favorite Fruit, but if you put me in a headlock and made me choose, I’d probably pick the peaches.  I adore them, which is why I have at least 1/2 a peck sliced and vacuum sealed in my garage freezer.  I also love to cook with them – just search for “peaches” on this site, and you’ll see – and that includes the occasional dessert.

Of which this one is a doozy.  Oh. Muh. GAWD…it will certainly justify the purchase of both the candied ginger and the ground cardamom if you don’t already have some.  The servings are not large, but this is one of those desserts you want to eat slowly and reverently, savoring every bite.

Ginger-Peach Crisp. Combining peaches with candied ginger makes for a delicious - and slightly exotic - dessert.

Click the image to enlarge

Ginger-Peach Crisp
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 lbs ripe peaches (about 6 to 8), peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
  • Crumb Topping
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the peaches and sugar. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the peaches in a colander set over another bowl to collect the juices. Return the peaches to the original bowl and toss with the cornstarch, salt and candied ginger.
  3. While the peaches are macerating, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and ground coriander in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife or two forks until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
  4. Transfer the juices from the drained peaches to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook, swirling gently from time to time but not stirring, until the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir into the peach mixture.
  5. Pour the peaches into an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish; sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit, covering it as completely as possible.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden and crisp. Allow to cool to almost room temperature before serving.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 287 calories, 9.1g total fat, 20.4mg cholesterol, 37.8mg sodium, 408mg potassium, 51g carbohydrates, 4.2g fiber, 34.2g sugar, 3.9g 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

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup

I almost didn’t post today – we’re taking the day off, stretching our weekend to four days – and I keep thinking it’s Saturday (“It is!” says Beloved gleefully. “For the next 3 days!”).

Anyhoo, I thought I’d post a beautiful, completely seasonal recipe today.  It’s a reworked version of one I posted 3 years ago, so it’s not exactly new.  What it is, however, is greatly simplified and somewhat improved.

When I posted this recipe originally in late August of 2011, I had not yet discovered the wonder that is a food mill – I was still peeling and seeding tomatoes by hand and pureeing them in the food processor.  A food mill, either a small one, like I used for this particular dish, or a large one, which is indispensable when making and canning huge batches of tomato or apple sauce,  is an absolutely marvelous gadget and I don’t know how I ever managed without either of them.  Basically, I just cut up the tomatoes we’d gotten that week from the CSA – there was quite a variety of them – and cranked them through the small food mill until I had a beautiful puree.

Sooooo much easier than cutting an X in the bottom of the tomatoes, dropping them in boiling water for a minute, shocking them in ice water, then peeling, cutting them in half, squeezing/digging out the seeds then chopping them by hand or running them through the food processor.  Trust me on this.

At any rate, this not only cut down the preparation and cook time, it also allowed me to increase the ratio of tomatoes to chicken stock, which made for a slightly thicker – and much smoother – soup.  I also increased the amount of sweet corn (we are just swimming in it this year) and used Cajun seasoning rather than just cayenne.

The result was simply out of the world.  It was just delicious and I felt so virtuous as I ate it I could barely stand myself.  Literally everything in it, spices aside, was local – the butter from a local dairy that pastures their cows, the tomatoes and okra from our CSA share, the sweet corn from the tiny farmer’s market where we meet our poultry farmer for eggs during the summer, the chicken stock from the backs and feet of the pastured chickens we get from the same farmer, and that I made and canned myself.  “Fresh” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In addition to be it being about as local as possible – when you live in the suburbs, at any rate – this soup is incredibly nutritious to boot.  It is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin E, phosphorus, copper, magnesium,  manganese and fiber.  Eat this with a nice salad of fresh greens topped with a tasty homemade dressing, some simply grilled meat and a few Dilly Beans and you’ve got meal that you can feel smug about, too.

Note:  You can, of course, use canned tomato puree if you don’t have a food mill and/or access to tomatoes in season.  If you can’t find fresh okra, frozen should be fine (the same goes for the corn), assuming you can find it without breading.  Depending on how you view the inclusion of certain grains in your diet, this is paleo-friendly as well.  It is certainly gluten-free as written.

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup. A Southern favorite, this soup is about as seasonal as it gets.  Bring on the late summer harvest!

Click the image to enlarge

Tomato, Okra and Corn Soup
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups tomato puree
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups sliced okra
  • 2 cups corn kernels, freshly cut from the cob
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, or to taste
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat; cook the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the tomato puree, chicken broth, okra and corn; increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in the Cajun seasoning. Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender and the mucilage has cooked out of the okra, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 216 calories, 6.9g total fat, 15mg cholesterol, 358.2mg sodium, 1153.4mg potassium,34.1g carbohydrates, 5.6g fiber, 14.5g sugar, 9.4g protein

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs

Earlier this week when I asked my daily “What do you want for dinner?” Beloved started rummaging around in the freezer.  After a few moments I heard, “Hey – we’ve still got a couple of pounds of ground lamb out here.”

So we took it out, and all that was left was to decide what to make out of it.

While I love lamb, ground lamb always seem to taste “stronger” to me than regular cuts – it’s probably due to the amount of fat.  It holds up well to bold flavors, though, so I decided something Moroccan-spiced might be in order.  After perusing the contents of my cupboard, fridge and spice rack I found myself putting this together.

Holy moly!  This was just marvelous.  The meatballs were moist and tender and deliciously spiced, and the sauce complimented them wonderfully; I served it over quinoa and alongside a summer squash sauté (I’m still trying to get rid of that stuff).  We loved it so much that we ate the leftovers for lunch for the next two days – it makes a ton.  I imagine it would freeze quite well, too.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients; the vast majority are spices, and this comes together pretty quickly and easily.  I like to pre-bake meatballs for dishes like this; it helps the meatballs keep their shape and renders out some of the fat so that you don’t end up with a greasy sauce.  In fact, both the calorie and fat content in the nutritional info are probably overstated somewhat because of this.

The best thing about this recipe – well, other than the fact that it’s incredibly delicious?  It’s paleo, and Whole30 compliant to boot.

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs.  Tender lamb meatballs in a delicious tomato sauce.  Fragrant and flavorful!

Moroccan-Style Lamb Meatballs
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • Meatballs
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped raisins
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped black olives
  • heaping 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • heaping 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 28-ounce can petite-diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Gently, but thoroughly, combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Form into 24 meatballs and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are in the oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Sweat the onions until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes; add the garlic cinnamon stick, cumin and coriander and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes more.
  • Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients except for the salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the sauce to a simmer and add the meatballs. Continue simmering until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf before serving.
  • Nutrition (per serving): 494 calories, 29.1g total fat, 165.1mg cholesterol, 899.8mg sodium, 1044.7mg potassium, 25.5g carbohydrates, 6.1g fiber, 6.3g sugar, 35.4g protein
Instructions