Spaghetti squash, my new favorite squash

At some point I realized that Alamo Drafthouse, the awesomest of movie theaters, included a dish on their menu called “spaghetti squash and pomodoro sauce”.  Since the dish was both vegetarian and featured a new to me squash I had to try it. I think I’ve now eaten it on 3 out of my last 4 Alamo trips because it is delicious. It’s basically squash topped with mushrooms, sauce and parmesan.

Well this week I decided I wanted to make my own spaghetti squash dish, so I did. I got a giant squash at the grocery store that fed two of us for two nights.  I sliced it open and cleaned it out, kind of like a pumpkin. It then had to go into two separate baking dishes – I baked it for about 50 minutes, sliced side down, with a bit of water in the bottom of the pan.

While the squash baked, I assembled my ingredients, sauce, mushrooms, onion, and a red pepper.  If you’ve never tried Newman’s Own “Sockarooni” sauce, I highly recommend it. It has a slight fresh garden and spicy flavor and is just plain good. Newman’s Own also donates their profits to charity so that makes me happy.

I sautéed each vegetable separately in a touch of olive oil, being careful not to over cook them.

After all of that, the squash was about done. I could tell because when I scraped the inside with a fork, the squash easily pulled apart into spaghetti looking strands.

I served a quarter of the squash topped with the mushrooms, onion, red pepper, sauce and cheese.  It was quite delicious. I really like the slightly crunch texture of the squash strands.

My first canning results in watermelon jelly!

So you may have gathered from my previous post that this week we ordered some local produce from Greenling, a grocery delivery service here in Austin. We ordered from Greenling so that I could get a local watermelon because I LOVE watermelon. Especially juicy ripe watermelon which is what I figured I would get from Greenling.

Unfortunately, my watermelon turned out to be light pink when I cut it open and seems to be no where near ripe 😦  Sad for me, big time.

I used about half the watermelon making watermelon jelly, a recipe I saw on the Greenling blog. Hopefully it turns out tasty with underripe melon.

I got all my supplies for canning and started the process.

Melon, lemons, sugar, pectin, jars, and cheesecloth:

I then chopped up about half of the melon and pureed it in the food processor. The pulp was strained through some cheesecloth to get the juice:

While that drained, I went about the process of sterilizing the jars. This was my first canning experience and I think an extra pair of hands would have been handy.

First the jars, lid, and rings were washed in hot soapy water. Next, the jars went into a pot of boiling water, the rings into a separate pot, and the lids into a bowl and had boiling water poured over them. After the jars were done boiling, they went into the oven set to 200 degrees so that they stayed clean.

Sterilizing the jars:

After the watermelon was done draining and I had squeezed all of the juice out of the pulp, I added lemon juice and pectin and brought it to rolling boil. Next, the 6 (!) cups of sugar were added and the mixture brought back to a rolling boil for one minute:

The next part was the messy part. I had to ladle the watermelon mixture into the clean jars. It was not pretty. The instructions said to wipe off the jar threads and rim which made sense as I spilled the mixture all over them. Putting the hot rings on the hot jars was also an adventure. I just hope the jelly wasn’t contaminated. After the jars were assembled, I placed them in the boiling water to process for 5 minutes. Luckily my husband had a set of jar tongs specially designed for canning, so I used them to remove the jars when they were done.

I ended up with 3 pint jars, all properly sealed. Let’s hope the jelly is good!

It’s hatch green chile time!

Here in Austin, the grocery stores get excited each year at this time for hatch green chiles to arrive from Hatch, New Mexico. I have no idea if this is a thing in other parts of the country or not.  The grocery stores offer both fresh and roasted hatch chiles and a variety of other hatch flavored foods.  Chuy’s even makes a special menu that we always go check out.

For dinner this week, I decided I wanted to make something with hatch chiles for the first time in my 9 years in Austin. I decided on a play off of chicken salad that uses tofu instead. I combined extra firm tofu, patted dry, with diced red onion, roasted hatch chiles, sunflower seeds, and mayo.  We ate the tofu salad as an open faced sandwich on a slice of sourdough bread topped with a slice of heirloom tomato.  Man, did they turn out spicy! I used 6 roasted chiles, 3 of them mild and 3 hot.  On the side, I made roasted cauliflower tossed with olive oil and rosemary from our garden. It’s really the only thing left alive.

I decided that while the 110 degree air outside probably could roast the cauliflower and chiles, it most likely would take too long.  Instead, I fired up the grill and roasted them myself.

Cauliflower and chiles, ready to roast:

After roasting:

I then had to remove the skins from the chiles because they are quite crisp. Luckily my husband mentioned that because I was ready to leave them on.

Tofu, onion (at the bottom) and the chiles ready to go:

Mixed with mayo and sunflower seeds:

Served open-faced with a slice of heirloom tomato:

All in all, a quite tasty sandwich. Sometimes I feel that food made with hatch green chiles isn’t all that exciting. However, I definitely enjoyed this sandwich, especially after my mouth stopped burning.

Cooking with Quinoa… a fun grain!

Ever since I came across quinoa, I’ve been interested in recipes that I come across that use it. It’s a very small seed and when you cook it up, it opens up and looks like a little spiral.

Tonight I used this recipe but modified it to my taste of course. I added zucchini, garlic, some left over vegetable broth, more thyme, oregano from the garden, and a special spice mix that I got at the Savory Spice Shop on 6th Street.

The ingredients ready to go – carrots, zucchini, onion, tomato, and garlic:

First, the onions were sauteed in a bit of olive oil and some crushed garlic:

After appropriately cooked, but not overcooked so they would stay crunchy, I added the quinoa and toasted it for a few minutes:

Next, the vegetable broth and water along with herbs (thyme, oregano, pepper, spice mix) were added to the pot. That simmered for a few minutes and then the carrots and zucchini was added:

After the liquid was absorbed, the tomatoes and spinach were mixed in. I had a bit too much spinach and had to take some out. Whoa, so much spinach!

Once the spinach was fully cooked down, I served it with some shredded Parmesan on top.  Not bad for a light summer time meal, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get more flavor in quinoa dishes.

Look at all of those colors – such a healthy dish!

Making Stir Fry

Like most people, my husband and I like stir fry. The problem is that every time we try to make it at home, it’s bland at best despite following tasty sounding recipes.

Every so often we forget that we’re bad at making stir fry and give it another go. This time, I was persuaded to try yet again by two things. This blog post from Yard Farm, ATX about how to roast cabbage by tossing it in olive oil with some salt and pepper. It suggests using the roasted cabbage as a noodle substitute and I do love some cabbage. Then, the most recent Vegetarian Times magazine had a section on Asian dishes, including one for Stir Fried Rice Noodles. The recipe calls for rice noodles, asparagus, sugar peas, eggs, green onion and a sauce. It looked amazing.

Luckily for us, it turned out delicious this time, despite the changes I made to the recipe.

The recipe in Vegetarian Times:

Asparagus and Sweet Peas ready to be cooked, sliced green onion, minced garlic:

Eggs being cooked omelette style, to be sliced up later:

Rice noodles soaking in hot water (we didn’t completely replace them with cabbage):

Sweet peas, asparagus, and garlic cooking:

Roasted cabbage – oh man, this was so good I just ate it by itself:

All ingredients together, simmering in the sauce:

Making Super Bowl Food!

As everyone remembers, yesterday was the Super Bowl. We hosted a party at our house. Unfortunately for me, my Steelers lost but it was a good game and it’s hard not to like the Green Bay Packers (well, except when they beat the Steelers, then it’s easier). Fortunately for me, our Super Bowl food was a hit! I prepared Kung Pao Tofu Sliders and my husband made pulled pork with pickled onion sliders. Both were quite delicious if I say so myself.

Making Kung Pao Sliders

The recipe from the latest issue of the Vegetarian Times magazine. The sliders are made of marinated and baked tofu squares and a carrot and zucchini slaw.

First, I spent way too much time julienning carrots and zucchini. I wonder if it would have been okay to shred the veggies with my food processor instead.

Then they were mixed with the crazy dressing that had soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, mayo, natural cane sugar, garlic, cayenne powder and probably other things I can’t remember. The slaw chilled overnight.

On Sunday, I cut up two packages of extra firm tofu into small squares.

It was marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar.

It was then baked for 25 minutes on each side. After that, assembling it with the slaw and bun proved it was absolutely delicious! You can see the pulled pork slider in the picture as well.

Slider buns are tad tricky to find, so we used “brown-n-serve” rolls from HEB, our grocery store. They were cheap and perfectly sized!  And now we have them left over for dinner for most of the week, yum 🙂

Making tacos from left overs

Last week we made tacos from dinner from our taco cookbook. They were good. We ran out of filling before running out of tortillas so this evening I threw together some veggies we had lingering in the fridge to make a new taco filling. I guessed right because the new filling was delicious!


Slice up a sweet onion and a part of sweet potato into thin pieces and saute. After they are cooked, add handfuls of spinach and cook until wilted. Top with salsa and cotija cheese. Yum!


Ready to eat, one sweet potato/onion/spinach taco and one taco from the taco cookbook:

Smoky beet cakes – a lucky new years food!

Link: Smoky beet cakes – a lucky new years food!

On New Years day I like to make us foods that are considered lucky. For some reason I decided that beets were lucky without actually knowing if that’s true or not. Really I just wanted to make this beet cake recipe. It was fun because of the food processor and the fact that I got to turn my hands dark red by forming beet patties.

I only have a picture of them with the rest of the food from that day. They were quite tasty and would even make good veggie burger patties!

Making kale lasagna

I must admit, I’ve always loved lasagna. However, I really only love lasagna in the style that my mom makes because I don’t like ricotta cheese. That’s why I never order it at a restaurant. For this week’s dinner I decided to adapt a Kale Lasagna Diavolo recipe from my January / February 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine since kale is in season and gorgeous (not to mention delicious) this time of year.

The recipe didn’t have nearly enough vegetables in it for my liking, so I added mushrooms and onions. To make the lasagna more to my taste, I used small curd cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese (my mom’s style) and an Italian Mix of cheese instead of goat cheese (local varieties are not really available this time of year). Instead of tomato paste I used a combination of canned tomatoes and pasta sauce. This was also the first time I’ve ever made lasagna with actual lasagna noodles. Mom always uses rigatoni noodles since they are way easier to deal with. Using lasagna noodles wasn’t as bad as I expected.

It went something like this:

  • Clean and chop kale, removing it from the stems
  • Boil it in salted water for two minutes, drain and rinse

  • Saute 3 minced cloves of garlic, a sliced yellow onion, and a double package of sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil (I also use the olive oil cooking spray to cut calories)
  • After they are semi-cooked, add a can of tomatoes and continue cooking. Optionally, add red pepper flakes and black pepper. The idea was to cook down the tomatoes so there wasn’t so much liquid but it didn’t work that well. I guess that’s why the original recipe called for tomato paste

  • Next up: Cooking 9 lasagna noodles according to directions
  • Spray a casserole pan, spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce and then lay down 3 noodles
  • Spread some cottage cheese and shredded cheese. Put down half of the kale and half of the mushroom/onion/tomato mixture. Spread some more spaghetti sauce.
  • Lay down 3 more noodles. Lay down more cheese. Use up the rest of the kale and mushroom/onion/tomato mixture (lesson learned: don’t use all the liquid from that mixture). Spread spaghetti sauce.
  • Lay down the last 3 noodles. spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce.
  • Cover with foil, bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. About 5 minutes from the end, sprinkle more shredded cheese on top if you like.

I’d show you a picture of a slice of lasagna, but it ended up with lots of liquid and kind of went everywhere on the plate. Despite that I think this was the best lasagna I’ve ever made.  The kale has a great texture and all the flavors came together wonderfully. And on top of that, it’s incredibly healthy and low in calories! The recipe quotes 180 per serving but as I’ve adapted it, who knows where it stands.