15 minute spaghetti squash

I’m feeling a little bit like my life is in shambles right now, so I’m going to teach you how to make a healthy dinner in the microwave!

I’ve made spaghetti squash before, but I stuck it in the oven which takes foreeeever. I lack patience.

WAIT. I just looked up the last time I blogged about this mysterious vegetable, and it was right after I got into a massive car accident and totaled my car. The reference to my life being in shambles above? Got into a massive car accident this weekend and totaled my car.

WHAT THE WHAT?! I wasn’t going to talk about it but that is just plain weird.

I would like to defend myself by saying that I was not speeding, texting while driving, or doing any other reckless things. This winter is just an evil bitch with icy roads and a slushy disposition.

I don’t know what I mean by that.

Oh and this is after I sunk the majority of my tax return into getting new brakes and stuff last week. Solid 4 days of clean and easy braking! Not worth the money.

Moving on.

SQUASH. In the microwave! It’s a revelation!

Cut it in half the long way, and scoop out the seeds. Brush it with olive oil, and add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Place both halves face down in a casserole dish. Microwave for 10-12 minutes (I did 12) and it’s DONE.

Normally you would let it cool a little before using the fork to create spaghetti strand magic, but I opted to wear oven mitts because I was just straight up starving.

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While my squash was in the microwave, I sauteed some hot Italian turkey/chicken sausage on the stove until brown. I pulled it out, and cooked up half an onion in the “fat” (there isn’t much fat in poultry sausage). Once the squash is done, toss it with the sausage, onion, and some tomato sauce. I had some leftover of this  20 minute tomato sauce, but you could also use your favorite jarred sauce (gasp!).

Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Parm from a can- gasp!) and serve.

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This stuff is pretty amazing leftover as well. I promise.

Now I feel like I should keep track of other foods that may or may not be associated with traumatic life events. I’ll be sure to let you know.

tortilla crusted chicken

200 days until Kelly and Aaron tie the knot!

(It works out really well that it’s a nice number, implying that I really planned ahead here. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)

A midst all of the planning for the event itself, everyone in the family is thinking about looking their best for the big day. Mom and Dad have a workout calendar in the basement. Morgan and I have our bridesmaid dresses hanging in our closets as motivation.

Kevin is the odd man out, proclaiming that he would like to gain as much weight as possible, and hopes that he’ll have braces on by the wedding day. Picture perfect.

Last weekend we were all home for the SU vs. Duke game, and Kelly was discussing her formerly chubby middle school days. In case you don’t click on the link above, she’s not chubby. Like at all. But like any bride, she wants to be slim and trim for her wedding day. She confessed that, when packing her lunch in 7th grade, she discovered that if she brought Doritos she could only fit a small amount of chips into a Ziplock bag. If she crushed them up, though, she could fit a lot more chips. Cue pouring chip crumbs down your throat in the cafeteria. We were all cracking up and Aaron was wondering if he can still back out.

Just kidding, Kel.

This recipe allows you to crush up some chips AND stay on your healthy eating plan. Win win, even if you’re not in a wedding.

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Tortilla Crusted Chicken

4-6 chicken breasts

6-7 cups tortilla chips, crushed

2 eggs

1/3 cup flour

1-2 tbs taco seasoning

1/2 cup of your favorite salsa

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Trim your chicken. I think I’ve talked about this 5,000 times but I like to butterfly the chicken if it’s a thick piece, or if it’s more like a chicken tender you can leave it as is. You just don’t want a massive chicken breast in the oven because then the tortilla crispy-ness is torched and the inside of the chicken is raw. You feel me?

Mix up some flour with taco seasoning. If you don’t have taco seasoning, you can throw in chili powder, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, etc. Really, whatever you have is fine.

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Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, dip it in egg, then coat it in your crushed chips.  As many chip crumbs as you can stick on there. Kelly style.

Place the chicken on a greased baking sheet. Spritz the side of the chicken facing up with some oil- preferably if you have one of those Misto sprayers like my mom does, but Pam if you need to.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

Remove from the oven and top with a little bit of salsa and some shredded cheese. Stick it back in the oven under the broiler until the cheese melts.

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I thought about serving this with guacamole, but went with salad instead. #sheddingforthewedding

white bean and arugula stew

I know what you’re thinking. Can you make anything other than soup? No.

This weather is just friggin’ freezing and I have no interest in foods that aren’t steamy and comforting.

The GS came into town last weekend and we made a fancy surf’n’turf dinner. One swordfish steak and one hanger steak, split. Talk about teamwork. Complete with red skin mashed potatoes, kale salad, and a growler full of Resurgence IPA.

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I’ve been trying to incorporate more protein into my diet but I rarely crave meat. I’m also still living as if my only income is $75/week from teaching Body Pump, so that’s probably why I’m not out buying sirloin. The solution? BEANS.

I tweaked this recipe a little bit from How Sweet It Is, my all time favorite that I love even more since she’s been posting pictures of her new bundle of joy. The main reason I made any changes to the original recipe was because I didn’t feel like buying anchovies. However, I won’t tell you not to include them. Adding salty flavor is always a good idea.

White Bean & Arugula Stew

slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

3 slices bacon

1 sweet onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 lb white beans

1 Parmesan rind

3-4 cups chicken stock

1-2 cups water

5 oz bag arugula

Start by preparing your beans. You can either let them soak for at least 4 hours, or potentially overnight. I was too impatient for this method, so I put them into a pot of water and brought it to a boil for 2 minutes, then turned the heat off and let them soak for an hour. Still time consuming, but slightly less so.

Next, crisp up your bacon. I sliced it first and then threw it in a hot soup pot. Brown it, and remove with a slotted spoon. Pour most of the fat out (I have a “fat can”, a coffee can that I pour oil and fat into).

 

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Add the onions to the bacon fat. Take a deep breath, as there is no better smell.

Add the smoked paprika, and some salt and pepper. Allow the onions to cook until translucent. Add the garlic, beans, bacon, and Parmesan rind.whitebeanThat looks like a hunk of butter, doesn’t it? I won’t judge you if you add that to the ingredients list, but it’s the cheese rind.

Add about half a box of stock and 2 cups of water, and bring to a simmer. Once the liquid has reduced by about half, add the greens. The whole bag, toss em in.

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Cook on medium low, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.

Serve with Parmesan cheese and BREAD. I only had boring sandwich bread but next time I make this I’ll plan ahead and get a big fat baguette. Or three.

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This stuff warms your soul even in a 54 degree apartment.

 

valentine’s day dinner ideas

If you’re a slacker and you know it, raise your hand!

I have been cooking, but nothing new or exciting. Mostly just kale on kale. This pasta with sausage and kale, and this kale salad. One night for dinner I just ate a plate of straight up sauteed kale with some garlic. That was a little sad. The GS told me that when Baltimore was supposed to get a “huge snow storm,” he went to Whole Foods. They were fully stocked in milk, bread, eggs, other essentials. The only thing out of stock? Kale. Basic bitches stocking up.

I’ve also been making vegan cookies out the wahzoo, and a lot of times I make a batch of this cookie dough and bake one ramekin at a time to keep my portion control in check.

But but but.

This weekend the GS will be visiting! He usually cooks dinner for me on V-Day (a holiday I’m not really a fan of). But tomorrow we’ll be shopping at WEGMANS for ingredients and then cooking in my apartment. And then eating dinner on the floor because I still don’t have a kitchen table. Floor space for yoga and Body Pump is much more important.

If you’re cooking for someone and want to impress them, these are my suggestions:

Appetizers (keep in mind some of these will make your breath stink):

Swiss-Bacon-Scallion Dip

Guacamole

Black Bean Salsa

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Bruschetta

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Entrees (some vegetarian, some not. some cost $5. some, ahem, lobster, cost more than that):

Eggplant Rollatini

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Crab Stuffed Lobster Tails

Honey Glazed Salmon with Brown Butter Lime Saucehoney glazed salmon 015

Beer Braised Short Ribs

Roasted Chicken

Pasta Bolognese

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Dessert (these are just the ones I LOVE the most, or look cute in single servings):

Peanut Butter Squares

Magic Bars

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Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate Greek Yogurt Truffles

Death by Chocolate Trifle (if you make mini ones in mason jars, please send me pictures)

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

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Really, Valentine’s Day should just be another day to celebrate food. Eat your heart out.

croque madame, but not really

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Something exciting went down this week!

I finally filmed my Body Attack video to finish my certification!

You thought I was giving you a link to the video, didn’t you? Chyea right. Embarrassing.

Basically I had to film myself teaching an entire class to at least five people. I asked all of my coworkers to come and they all said no. Luckily I had some wary Golds Gym members show up and try to avoid the camera at all costs.

I was ready to go. I had my choreography memorized, my coordinated outfit (including my lucky socks- a Christmas present from Kevin, and my microphone belt), and my tablet set up to film. Once you start filming you can’t pause the camera at all. It’s do or die.

So when I realized halfway through the warm-up that I had left my water bottle in the car, I had a mild panic attack.

You can’t tell in the video, though. All smiles. I’m such a natural.

Throughout my jump-jacking, high-kicking, burpee-ing hour of hell, I also managed to lose my headband and one of the hair bands holding my braid in place. I was a hot mess. Still sent it in.

After all that I felt I deserved a reward. Aside from manically chugging my entire Camelbak as soon as I got in the car. Hence, this weird ass sandwich.

I had croque madame on the brain but wanted to put a bit of a spin on it. So instead of including the egg as part of the sandwich middle, it’s made with FRENCH TOAST but not the sweet kind with cinnamon. We add some garlic to our egg mixture and then it’s savory french toast with ham and melty cheese and Brussels sprouts because why not?

Fake Croque Madames

for 2 sandwiches

4 slices of your favorite bread

2 eggs

dash of milk or half&half

6-8 slices deli ham

3-4 slices sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, halved

1/2 sweet onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 lemon

2-3 tbs olive oil

1-2 tbs Dijon mustard

salt & pepper

Halve the Brussels and chop the onions. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil, then toss with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 for about 15-20 minutes or until they’re caramel-y and a little crispy on the edges.

Dredge your bread in egg, milk/half & half, and minced garlic. Fry it up in a little butter until both sides are golden. Schmear a little Dijon on one piece of bread (or both, if you’re Colonel Mustard). Stack up your ham, cheese, and Brussels/onion mixture. The Brussels sprouts will fall out everywhere. It’s fine.

Place the sandwich back in your pan over low-medium heat and press it down with a pot lid.

That’s right, I’m teaching you how to make a panini.

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Slice it in half and serve. This is pure loveliness, I’m telling you.

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I’m teaching my first real class tonight and I might house two of these afterward.

kitchen fails

That’s right, no new recipe this week. My apologies. I had some serious struggles last week.

The first was supposed to be a roasted cauliflower and kale soup. Carrots, shallot, cauliflower, kale, vegetable stock. It tasted exactly how it sounds.

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I absolutely destroyed my kitchen pouring the concoction into the food processor. What I should have photographed instead of the pretty roasted cauliflower was the end result, which was a very unfortunate shade of brownish-orange. And the splatters all over my white oven and refrigerator. It’s a good thing I clean obsessively.

I couldn’t stomach this as a soup, so I re-purposed it as a pesto of sorts and ate it over bowtie pasta. With a healthy serving of Parmesan cheese, I could handle it for two nights. The rest, sadly, went into the trash can. I HATE wasting food, and not just because I don’t have a garbage disposal so any food in the trash ends up smelling terrible within 3-4 hours.

The next attempt was a noodle dish: Chinese five spice and ginger chicken thighs with Thai rice noodles, bell pepper, onion, and snow peas. Aside from my borderline offensive use of “Asian” ingredients coming from a variety of different Asian cultures, this simply didn’t taste good. Maybe I don’t like Chinese five spice? Plus, the noodles all clung together in a soggy mess. I pretty much picked all the snow peas out and ate those, then the rest of it got trashed. Yet another fail.

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This reminds me of a time when I was probably 10 or 11 years old and decided to bake cookies while my parents were out one night. I had made this cookie recipe dozens of times with my mom, but in executing it by myself I forgot to add the baking powder and baking soda. The end result was a baking sheet with a melted mess of cookie dough and burnt edges. I remember later crying and writing in my diary melodramatically that “I can’t do anything right.”

I didn’t cry over the disgusting soup or the Thai noodles, but I did take this opportunity to teach Kevin how to properly bake cookies while I was home this weekend. I imparted all my years of wisdom with tips like: “Make sure the beaters of the hand mixer are touching the bottom of the bowl so you don’t fling batter everywhere” and “Don’t just squeeze the egg in your hand, Kevin. Crack it on the counter first.”

I expect he’ll be ready to guest blog any day now.

I’m also using this as proof that I don’t post crappy dishes just for the sake of blogging. You can trust my palate! And my judgment. I think.

Three of my last four meals have been this identical buffalo chicken salad.

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I texted this picture to the GS and he responded “You’re an artist.” This is why we’re dating.

I promise a good recipe soon!

beef & barley stew

Another round of frozen soup to warm your soul!

This whole freezer meal thing came at a very opportune time because unfortunately the GS broke his hand last weekend, and is having surgery this week.

I went down to visit this weekend (with about 15 pounds of frozen soup in tow) and his hand legitimately looks like Chubs’ fake hand in Happy Gilmore. That stiff and swollen. His injury was sustained while playing basketball, though, not wrestling an alligator. Slightly less heroic.

He rejected the idea of me staying down there through his surgery but accepted my meals with gratitude. Luckily he only needs one good finger to operate a microwave.

It’s too bad I didn’t save any of this stew for myself because all it’s all I want to eat these days. I may treat myself this weekend and make pretzel bread bowls again and go wild.

Beef & Barley Stew

1 lb stew meat (or whatever beef is on sale)

2-3 carrots, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 sweet potato, chopped

1 can diced tomatoes

1 bay leaf

2-3 tbs Italian seasoning

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 quart beef stock

3/4 cups pearl barley

Season the meat. I used salt, pepper, and the Perfect Pinch Italian seasoning which I use for everything. Saute until brown on both sides. You may have to drain some of the fat part way through, if it gets too fatty the meat sort of boils instead of getting that nice brown coating. Remove it and set aside.

In the residual oil and beef fat, add the veggies. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 10-15 minutes. While the veggies were cooking, I par-boiled the barley for 10-15 minutes just to give it a head start. If you’re going to let the stew simmer for several hours, the barley will cook through at that point. Add the barley and the diced tomatoes to the mix, then pour in your stock. Add the bay leaf.

photo 2Allow it to cook for at least 30 minutes, seasoning to taste. I added extra oregano and some crushed red pepper.

This one went into freezer bags as well, but would be wonderful eaten right away with crusty bread. What isn’t good with crusty bread?

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PS all of my clothes now smell like food from cooking up a storm in my tiny apartment. Eau de beef stew!