Spaghetti Squash Casserole

I was looking for some new spaghetti squash recipes recently, and came across this one and thought it looked good. It is basically a cross between lasagna and spaghetti, but with spaghetti squash instead of pasta. It’s really easy to make and is a great low-carb alternative to these traditional dishes!

Here’s how I made it (recipe adapted from weight watchers):

Ingredients:

  • one medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 29 oz can of diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce from a jar)
  • Italian seasoning to taste
  • fat-free ricotta cheese (don’t recall how much I used…maybe 8 or 10 ounces?)
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • parmesan cheese to taste (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

To begin, preheat your oven to 350 and then cook your spaghetti squash in the oven. Meanwhile, brown the turkey in a skillet with olive oil and drain away the excess fat. Add the chopped onions, minced garlic, Italian seasonings, and salt and pepper. Once the onions have softened, add the canned tomatoes or add tomato sauce from a jar. In the end, I thought that tomato sauce from a jar would have been better since it would have created an actual sauce, rather than just tomatoes, but I’m sure either way is fine.

Continue simmering for a few minutes. You should now have something like this.

Cook your spinach in another skillet. Then, in a large mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta, egg, parmesan, and drained spinach.

Hopefully, by this point your spaghetti squash will be done or almost done cooking. Once you remove it from the oven, increase the oven temperature to 375.

In the meantime, prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish for the casserole by spraying it with cooking spray. Once the spaghetti squash is done cooking and has had a chance to cool a little, scoop the spaghetti squash into the baking pan to form the bottom layer of the casserole, like this:

Next, spread the spinach and ricotta layer on top of the spaghetti squash.

Then spread the turkey and tomato sauce layer on top and sprinkle it with the shredded cheese.

Bake the casserole for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the casserole is heated all the way through. Eat and enjoy!

I thought that this casserole was really good and would definitely make it again! It’s a nice alternative to a lot of the other spaghetti squash recipes that I’ve come across. My casserole came out kind of watery and I’m not sure why…if you have better luck, let me know what you did to help with that problem!

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Tiramisu Cake

How many law students and how many boxes of cake mix does it take to make a tiramisu layer cake like the one pictured below?

Trick question!  Apparently, it can’t be done.  At least not with just two law students.  We had to make it from scratch after the first two boxes of cake mix failed us.  Or maybe I should say that we failed them…

How can two seemingly competent bakers fail so miserably at making a cake from a cake mix? I’m still not quite sure, but it turned into quite the baking adventure.

It started with what seemed like an easy cake recipe…all that we needed to do was make a simple layer cake out of cake mix before adding lots of delicious other ingredients to make it into a tiramisu cake.  And then the first batch of cake came out like this:

Somehow, the cake batter decided not to spread throughout the pan to make a nice layer of cake. I’m not really sure what happened. Go ahead and click on the picture if you need to see it enlarged.

No problem, right?  I went to the store and bought another box of cake mix. This time, I was very careful to make sure that the batter spread throughout the entire pan.  But that turned out not to be the only problem, I learned.  Here’s what we got during round two:

I wish I could blame this on the oven, or the pans, or the cake mix, or…something…but I honestly have no idea what was going on.  Clearly, we should have lined the pans this time.

So then we contemplated making tiramisu trifle…

But this was for a dinner party, so my roommate decided to go the extra mile and make a third cake from scratch.  We made sure to spread the batter throughout the whole pan and to line the pans with parchment paper this time.

Success at last! Apparently, the third time’s a charm. Thankfully, the rest of the cake making process went much more smoothly.

We poured a coffee mixture into each layer, like this:

Notice how you get action shots when there are two cooks in the kitchen!  Then, we spread a mascarpone cheese filling in between the layers.

Looking good!  Then, we covered the cake with a whipped cream frosting, dusted it with cocoa, and topped it with chocolate curls.  Yum!  Here’s a slice of the finished product.  Please forgive me for being a terrible cake cutter.

And another one in case you want a close up of all the delicious layers!

The good thing is that the cake was really delicious!  I’m glad that it was worth it after all of that baking!

Here’s the recipe (adapted from AllRecipes.com):

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Stuffed Green Peppers

Today I finally used up the rest of the vegetables that I purchased at the farmer’s market by making these delicious stuffed green peppers!  I came up with this idea after doing some googling for recipes with green peppers, since I had so many of them.  I thought it turned out really well and will definitely have to make it again!

As a side note, while I was trying to decide what kinds of spices to season the beef mixture with, I couldn’t decide if I wanted this to be an Italian or Mexican dish.  I went with Italian, but am looking forward to trying a Mexican-themed version next time!

The recipe is pretty easy.  Here it is (adapted from momswhothink.com ).  Most stuffed green pepper recipes call for rice, but I left that out and didn’t miss it at all.

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 large green bell peppers
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 tomatoes, diced (or 1 20-oz can of whole tomatoes)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic and Italian seasonings to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can of condensed tomato soup
Directions:

To make the recipe, begin by preheating your oven to 350.  Then, remove the stems and seeds from the peppers and parboil them in boiling water for 4 minutes.  Drain the peppers and set aside.

Here are my boiling peppers:

In the meantime, cook the ground beef in a large skillet and drain the grease.  Add chopped onions and tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and spices to taste.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Mix in half of the shredded cheese and add some grated parmesan cheese.

Spoon the beef mixture into the green peppers and place in a 9 x 13 baking pan.  Mix a little bit of water into the condensed tomato soup (until it can be poured) and pour over the stuffed peppers and the pan.  Sprinkle the peppers with the remaining cheese.

Bake the peppers uncovered for 20 minutes (or until cheese has melted and peppers are hot).  Enjoy!

Caprese salad, two ways

My roommate and I bought a basil plant at Trader Joe’s recently, so I have been on the lookout for basil recipes to make.  I was very excited after my farmer’s market and North End run to make some caprese salad.  Always a delicious dish, I think it only gets better the fresher your ingredients are.  With that in mind, I’m not sure it gets any better than this: fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market, freshly picked basil leaves from our basil plant, and fresh mozzarella from an Italian deli!

Caprese Salad #1:

It was really delicious!  I think that this is the best (and yet, possibly the cheapest) fresh mozzarella that I have ever bought and it really made the dish.  I know what you’re thinking (…Mom…): what if I don’t have a fancy Italian deli to buy fresh mozzarella at?  Easy, come to Boston, of course!

The dish is pretty simple.  Layer sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Caprese Salad #2 (an actual salad):

The next day, I turned this dish into an actual salad in an effort to make a dent in the humongous bag of spinach that I bought.  The ingredients are pictured below.  Going clockwise, I used tomatoes, basil, roasted red peppers, chicken, and fresh mozzarella.

I tossed these toppings with the spinach and added salt and pepper and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Delicious!

Looking forward to having some more soon!

Our basil plant

Fresh mozzarella

DIY: how to make roasted red peppers at home

With my multitude of vegetables from the farmer’s market the other day, I decided to try to make roasted red peppers myself.  Even if it turned out to be a flop, I knew that I would only be losing $1 and a little bit of time!  They actually turned out really well and I’m looking forward to using them now.

Here’s how I made them (thanks to the hazel bloom for the step-by-step instructions):

Turn on your broiler and pre-heat.  Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and place your washed red peppers on the cookie sheet.

The instructions I followed said to broil the peppers for about 5 minutes until they are blackened on top and then turn them (with about a quarter turn), but it took my peppers about 15 minutes to get very black on top.  Not sure if I should have preheated the broiler longer or what, but just broil them until they are blackened on the top.

Since my last experience with a broiler ended with the broiler catching on fire (note: I was not the cook…only an innocent bystander!), I was super paranoid about the oven catching on fire every time I heard the bubbling and hissing sounds of the roasting peppers. Fortunately, there was not even a spark this time!

Once they are blackened on one side, remove the cookie sheet from the oven.  Using tongs, rotate the peppers (pretend they have 3 or 4 sides and rotate them to the next side each time).  I had a lot of difficulty with the rotating since some of the sides were very rounded and wouldn’t stay in place, but I don’t think that matters too much as long as you get as much of the peppers as you can.  After rotating, they should look something like this:

Continue broiling about 5 minutes per side until blackened on all sides.

Once done broiling, place the peppers in a mixing bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  This allows the peppers to continue steaming while they cool, making the skin easier to remove.

Next, cut out the stems and begin peeling the skins off (my pictures of this made them look pretty un-appetizing, so I will spare you from seeing them).  As you do this, remove and discard the seeds.  Do not rinse the peppers with water, as this will make them lose the flavor contained in their juices.

I placed a fine mesh strainer over my mixing bowl and allowed all of the juices from the peppers to drip down in the bowl through the strainer before removing the skins.  This keeps the seeds out of the juices, while allowing you to save the juices for when you store the peppers.

Cut up the peppers to your desired size after removing the skins and seeds.

When you’re done, store them in a jar (or tupperware if you’re like me and have taken all of your jars to the recycling) and cover them with their juices and olive oil.  From the research I’ve done, it looks like they may store well in the fridge for up to three weeks. Pretty easy, right?

Low-carb pasta?

Is there such a thing as low-carb pasta?  I don’t know, but there’s something that comes pretty close: spaghetti squash.  Personally, I had never heard of spaghetti squash until my roommate made some last year.  I will admit that I was pretty skeptical about trying it back then…a vegetable that looks like pasta just didn’t sound quite right.  However, I’m now in the midst of trying to eat a low-carb diet and figured I might as well give it a shot.  It has been called a “dieter’s dream” given it’s low-calorie and low-carb qualities.  How bad can it be, right?

Can you tell that this is a picture of squash, rather than pasta?  Well, pasta lovers beware, it is a vegetable.

As it turns out, spaghetti squash is actually really good.  Who knew? It doesn’t have a strong flavor, but is a little sweet.  It has a different texture than pasta, but otherwise, is pretty darn similar.  Once you accept that it’s just not going to have the exact same taste and texture as pasta, it’s really good.

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My homemade tomato sauce

One of my great loves is Italian food.  As a result, many of my cooking experiments revolve around perfecting some of my favorite Italian dishes.  One thing that I have learned is that the tomato sauce is key. Through the help of friends and the powers of Google, I have come up with an amazing recipe that I think is a real keeper.  It’s incredibly flavorful and has a delicious sweetness from fresh basil (a critical ingredient, I have learned). Best of all, it can transform even the most mediocre chicken parmesan into something truly delicious.

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