Recipe Review: Slow-Cooker Coconut-Curry Spaghetti Squash

After my last post about breaking my addiction to pasta, many of my friends suggested I use spaghetti squash instead of tofu noodles.  Little did they know I already had spaghetti squash in my sights.  (cue evil laugh… bwah-hah-hah!!)

photo 1-34In my efforts to shed a few LBs and get some healthy recipe ideas, I “liked” a site on Facebook called Paleo Pot.  The website is great and has very simple, idiot-proof recipes.  Just what I need!  A couple of weeks ago, they posted this recipe for Super-Easy Crock-Pot Spaghetti Squash Curry.

Considering some of my favorite words are “crock pot,” “curry” and “spaghetti,” this was high on my ‘Recipes to Try’ Pinterest board.

They weren’t kidding when they called this ‘super-easy!’  Just follow their quick-prep directions, toss everything in the crock pot and go! But be careful you don’t buy a squash that’s too big.  Mine almost didn’t fit into the crock pot once it was split in half.  And it made much more than my family could eat.

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This dish was very flavorful.  My 7 year old typically snubs his nose at curry dishes, but he cleaned his plate and asked for seconds.  My 3yo gobbled it up.  My husband also really liked it.  Very surprising considering I accidentally bought the ‘hot’ red curry paste in my rush through the grocery store!  Yikes!

The person who surprised me the most was my 5yo.  This kid is ALL about spicy!  He eats a mound of wasabi straight when we go out for sushi!  He puts spicy horseradish sauce on his steak!  He started eating Lamb Vindaloo at 18 months old!

But this squash — he wanted nothing to do with it, saying he doesn’t like curry!  I was SHOCKED!

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I served this with baked flounder and sautéed spinach.  Probably not the best pairing, on my part.  But I’ll make it again because it’s different than most of the recipes in my usual repertoire and oh-so-simple.

Give it a try.  If you like coconut curry, you might like this!

Happy eating!

Sharon

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Gifts From My Grandmothers & My Garden

“…The most treasured things passed down from generation to generation are the family recipes.” 

I come from a long line of exceptional women — both in and out of the kitchen. Growing up, I was always fed amazing food without having to cook. This may be why I have moments when I’m a culinary train wreck.

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My mixed-European heritage was fully-embraced by the women who’ve preceded me in our family.  My paternal grandmother could turn German flavors like sauerbraten, spatzle, and potato pancakes with her eyes closed.  Her Irish stews and her soda bread were to die for. (I’ll share those soon!)

My other grandmother was Italian and made magic with her homemade raviolis, lasagna, ziti and sauces. My mouth waters remembering how their houses would smell; how their food was almost medicinal in the way it could make you feel comfort.

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But I was stupid.  When my grandmothers were alive, I had no interest in learning the wonderful things they wanted to teach me.  My father’s mother died when I was 16 and in the throws of caring more about boys, music, and college.

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My other grandmother died when I was 31.  Back then, I was more concerned with my career and the family I was about to create.  Earlier, when she was well enough to share her gift with me I thought:  why do I need to know how to cook?  I’m never going to need to know how to do that!!  I’m going to be a modern career girl, after all!

I didn’t realize that I was slamming a treasure box closed.

I know.  Stupid.

If you’re not smart, be lucky.  I am lucky because I still have my mom.  She has preserved, perfected and melded both of my grandmothers’ techniques and talents.  So when my garden started to yield a beautiful bounty of veggies, I called mom.

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Let me be clear: my house is the house where plants come to die. Nothing green is safe in my presence.  But when we moved to our new home two years ago, I saw raised flower beds surrounded by a deer-proof fence and thought: this is my chance!

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After two summers of successes and terrifically ugly failures, I found a beautiful array of eggplants, peppers, and oh-so-many tomatoes this week.

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My mom suggested Grandma’s Stewed Eggplant.  I was wary. My 7-year-old is vehement about his hatred of all things eggplant.  But when he saw me pluck the eggplant he helped me plant in our garden, even he was excited.

I was excited, too.  As I cooked tonight, I could feel my grandmother in my kitchen with me.  She died just a few days after we found out we would be blessed with our oldest child. I’ve always wished she could have met our children.  So this was actually an emotional recipe for me to make and I really wanted the kids to love this.

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Grandma’s Stewed Eggplant

  • 2 eggplants, cubed and peeled (I used one really fat, big eggplant)
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 3 onions diced or sliced (my mom prefers diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes (diced)
  1. Saute eggplants, onions, garlic and peppers in the olive oil until eggplant is soft.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt, oregano.
  3. Cover and cook for 20 minutes until cooked through
         *if it’s too watery, add flour

I didn’t follow this exactly.  I had a lot of tomatoes that needed to be used today.  So I used one can of diced tomatoes, and then diced up 5 or 6 small fresh tomatoes from the garden and tossed them into the mix.  I also used a bit more oregano, to taste.  Oh… and I didn’t need to add flour.  Isn’t it just beautiful?!?


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My mom suggested serving this on hard rolls or crostini with some melted mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  She even said you can serve it on sandwiches cold– sort of like a relish.  I think these are great ideas and I’ll try them in the future, but I chose to serve it over spaghetti and sprinkled parmesan on it in order to pass it off on my more-discerning family.  (Everything tastes great on spaghetti, right?!)

It was a HIT!

Everyone LOVED this, even our 7-year-old who was sure to redeclare his steadfast hate of eggplant (with this one exception!) The mixture was a hearty, flavorful, veggie-rich sauce. The eggplant was not bitter at all.  It was so soft, it could be mistaken for sauteed mushrooms.  The oregano married the eggplant and peppers brilliantly.

I couldn’t wait to call my mom to tell her the results. She was as happy as I was that it was a success.

I think Grandma would have been proud — in more ways than one.  I hope so.

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Simple Shrimp and Veggie Risotto

Wow!  What a busy August it has been.

The kids and I took a road trip and were away for two weeks.  Then we returned to crazy Back-To-School mode.  Phew!  I’m pooped!

And while I’ve been cooking (we DO have to eat, after all!) I haven’t been blogging.  I’m just too worn out at the end of the day to actually think.

But I made something tonight that I wanted to share with you.  As usual, it was pretty easy. I did most of the prep work while the kids told me about their day and did homework. Then I cooked it while I let them watch a show.

My daughter came down with a stomach bug this morning and was on the BRAT diet all day.  So I knew she needed to have rice for dinner.  I found some Arborio Rice in my pantry and decided to run with it — I would make plain risotto for her and something a little more substantial for my guys. 

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Plus, I had a ton of veggies in my fridge that were on the fringe.  It was either use `em, or lose `em.  So I came up with this dish: 

Shrimp and Veggie Risotto

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  • 1 cup risotto
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bag of frozen, raw shrimp
  • 1 heaping Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 green zucchini squash, chopped
  • 1 yellow zucchini squash, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • salt
  • pepper
  • shredded parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on top)
Start by getting the risotto going. In a heavy saucepan, put 2 Tbsp olive oil and melt 1 Tbsp butter with it. Saute the onion.  ImageWhen the onion is opaque, add the cup of arborio rice and saute that for 2 minutes.  Then, start adding your chicken broth — over low heat, add 1 cup at a time and allow it to come to a boil until the liquid is absorbed.  ImageYou’ll need to keep an eye on this and stir it regularly so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
*Note:  I’ve seen recipes that instruct people heat the chicken broth in a separate sauce pan and adding it a little at a time. I’ve done this before, and found it doesn’t really make a big difference in the outcome.  So I just use the chicken broth straight from the container.  
After adding your first cup of chicken broth to the risotto — get started on the shrimp and veggies.  ImageSaute the garlic in remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Once the garlic is becoming more clear, add your tomatoes, salt and pepper and allow them to start to cook down (but not too much!)
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As the tomatoes are starting to soften, add your zucchini squash, mushroom and shrimp and cook it until the shrimp is pink and cooked through. (the shrimp and veggies took about 15 minutes to cook.)   
Ohhhhh — this was SO pretty and smelled SO good!!
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Once the veggies and shrimp are cooked through and the risotto is deliciously creamy — you’re ready to serve.  I put a scoop of risotto into a bowl and then a heaping scoop of shrimp and veggies on top.  Sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese and – YUM!
Personally, I thought this was delicious.  It was creamy and chock-full-of-veggies.  Plus, you can make it without the shrimp and substitute vegetable broth to make a vegetarian meal.  I was hopeful the kids would like it, too. So — moment of truth.  How’d the Hubs and the kids take to it???
  • The Hubs loved it, saying ‘It’s great.’
  • My 3 year old didn’t eat the shrimp and veggies since she was on a bland diet. But she loved her plain risotto and asked for seconds.
  • My 5 year old was in love.  He ate the entire bowl in record time.
  • My 7 year old ate it under duress (this is how he does EVERYTHING these days.  Even trying to get him ready for a trip to the pool turns me into a broken record: “Put your bathing suit on.  Put your bathing suit on.  Put your bathing suit on.”) He complained about how ‘EVERYONE’ knows he HATES zucchini and how DARE I give him zucchini!!!!  (The NERVE!!!)  I asked him to give it a try and promised he would not get dessert if he kept up his Oscar-worthy performance.  Low-and-behold… he actually didn’t hate it.  He ate it.  And if he wasn’t so set on being so difficult about EVERYTHING these days… he may have even had seconds.

I hope that getting back into the school routine gets me back on the blog routine.  I’ve missed writing these past few weeks.  The cooking…. well…. not so much!  LOL!

Happy eating!
Sharon

Trials and Errors in the Vegetarian World

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Confessions of a Carnivore

Here’s the thing: I admire vegetarians and their healthy choices. But as much as I admire my friends who can shun meat, I like meat too much. Specifically, cheeseburgers. Little known fact: my cheeseburger obsession got to such a point one year that I needed to give them up for Lent in a desperate attempt to try to break my habit. (It didn’t work.)

And – I’m not going to lie – I’m a very happy carnivore. Like many of my friends who are also children of the 70s, I was raised on a meat-and-potato kind of diet. Roasts and casseroles were standards in our house – with good reason! They’re delicious; they feed large families; and, they’re great meals for SAHMs like me because the prep work is done in advance and they don’t require a lot of oversight while they cook. Plus, there’s something so-darn-comforting about these hearty, meaty meals.

But in my growing want/need to eat more healthfully, I’m on a kick to try to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our dinner rotation. And I have discovered I really love to grill..

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers and Portobello

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers & Portabello

Grilled Romaine Hearts, Tofu, Peppers & Portabello

There were a lot of different elements to this meal, so I thought I’d break it down here:

Grilled Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Talk about a trial: tofu is very new to my family. A few months ago, I thought I’d give it a try as part of our effort to have more vegetarian meals. So, I used it in a stir-fry and the family loved it. That dish has become a new staple in our house.

But tonight, since it was 90 degrees here, I thought it would be fun to try marinating and grilling the tofu.

In the trial category, I get an A.  In the error category, I think I’d get a B.

For the marinade, I mixed what I could find in my cabinet:

  •  some soy sauce
  • honey
  • minced garlic
  • black pepper
  • toasted sesame oil

I cut the tofu in half lengthwise and put the now 1/2 inch thick tofu into the marinade to sit for an hour.

I was off to a good start and then…. the tofu started breaking apart. And crumbling. So when I put it in the grill pan (which I pre-sprayed with grilling spray), it fell through the holes and burned while the bigger pieces didn’t get that crispy coat I was hoping for.

Marinating Tofu

Marinating Tofu

Tofu remnants on grill

Tofu remnants on grill

Fail.

The Hubs and 2/3 of the kids liked the tofu and ate it.  I think it was the marinade flavors they liked, because they all liked the taste, but didn’t care for the texture. My friend who is a vegetarian tells me this can be fixed based on the type of tofu you use.  It’s all about the firmness and quality.  I, in all honesty, had bought the tofu that was on sale and is sold in a box. Food for thought.

Grilled Romaine Hearts with Caesar Vinaigrette

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This. Was. So. Good.  If you like caesar salad, you will love this.

I saw the look in my husband’s eyes when I told him I was grilling Romaine hearts. He was less-than-enthused.

But once he tried it, he was hooked and asked for me to make this again over the summer.

As for the kids – they loved it, too!!!

Here’s the recipe I followed — VERY easy.

Grilled Peppers and Portabello

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SIMPLE ALERT!

Toss sliced mini bell peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill.

Brush portabellos with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt. Grill.

Done. Dinner is ready-to-go and we didn’t have a clean plate in site (with the exception of some tofu my younger son just couldn’t bring himself to swallow.)

Then I woke up this morning 2lbs lighter!  Was it the healthier food?  I dunno… but it doesn’t hurt, does it?!  LOL!

Happy eatings!

Sharon

Crock Pot Night Meets Vegetarian Night

Tuesdays are usually crock pot night in our house.  With soccer during the day for our preschooler and CCD for me and our 1st grader in the afternoon, the crock pot helps keep my sanity most weeks.

Merge this effort to maintain sanity with my effort to bring healthier meals to the table and you get tonight’s dinner — a vegetarian creation in a crock (..and a bowl… and a bread maker…)

Ginger Carrot Soup.  Spinach Salad.  Homemade bread.

And… did I mention???…. It was simple!!

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First — the Ginger Carrot Soup.  Oh my goodness… sooooo yummy!  The WHOLE family loved it.  And my little boys had TWO HELPINGS!!  WHEEEEE!!!

This was VERY loosely based on a Guy Fieri recipe I saw in a Food Network magazine.  (the Fieri recipe isn’t made in a crock pot, for example, and his was served with a yogurt/honey dollop on top.)  But once I was in the thick of making the recipe, I realized I needed to make some changes in order to make it crock-pot friendly.  So I channeled a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup that’s tried-and-true for our family.   Here’s how I did it:

-2 lbs carrots and 2 russet potatoes peeled, chopped, and thrown into the crock pot

-cover them with chicken or veggie stock

-in a saucepan.. saute minced onion in olive oil.  once this starts to cook, add some kosher salt so it caramelizes.  add some minced garlic and some minced fresh ginger and cook for a minute or two.  toss this mixture into the crock pot.

-season with thyme, salt and pepper.  (I added a bit more powdered ginger so it would have more ginger taste.)

-TRICK TIME:  I like to do this to ‘cream’ soups.  I take a can or two of cannellini beans and blend it with my emulsion blender (right there in the can!) and add it to the soup.  It’s a trick I learned from Weight Watchers.  I feel it makes soup like this a little more hearty and adds protein to a veggie meal.

-When the carrots and potatoes are soft, blend with an emulsion blender.
-Once I’m serving the soup, I add a splash of fat-free 1/2 and 1/2.

**I was in a hurry tonight, so the crock pot was set for 4 hours.  Ordinarily, I’d cook this for 8 hours.

***Did I mention my boys ate TWO HELPINGS???

On the side, there was a Spinach Salad and my kids went crazy for this:

  • Spinach
  • heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • chopped peppers
  • mushrooms
  • cucumbers
  • shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • toss ingredients — sprinkle juice of 1/2 lemon and a little EVOO

If you have a bread maker, you know how easy bread making is.   And my kids LOVE when I make bread.  It tastes so good and makes the whole house smell warm and inviting.  Here’s my go-to recipe:   http://allrecipes.com/recipe/best-bread-machine-bread/

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I’ll admit:  I had my doubts — but this meal gets a 5 fork rating!!!  Everyone loved it — and my 6yo even asked for me to put the few leftovers we have into his lunchbox tomorrow!!

Phew!  Another good review from the kids.  But, trust me.  I know what’s in my fridge and there’s a bad review in my future.  I can almost guarantee it.  I told my son what I’m making later this week and he’s already groaning!

Stay tuned!  In the meantime, happy eatings!!