Lasagna Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash or 2 small ones
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced or crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 can (3 oz) tomato paste
1 cup ricotta cheese
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella
Olive oil
~ 1 T. Balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
1/2 t. Red pepper flakes
1/2 t. Smoked paprika
1 t. Italian seasoning
6-8 Fresh basil, chopped

Tip: to more easily cut your squash, poke several holes in it and microwave it for 5 minutes, turning once. It will soften it a bit. Also, use a good knife.😉

Heat oven to 400. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Season inside with olive oil and salt and pepper, place on baking sheet, flesh side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Depending on the size of the squash, it may need more time. If it doesn’t easily shred from the sides, give it another 10 minutes. Just keep doing that until it’s perfect.

While the squash is roasting, add olive oil to a large skillet and once it warms, add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add the ground turkey and cook until browned. Add diced tomatoes (if you have a meat chopper, use that to break them down a bit more – I prefer them less chunky, but it’s also hard to find fire roasted in the crushed variety, so just do what feels right and good to you and I’ll do the same.😛) Add tomato paste, stir to combine. Add seasonings (by now, everyone knows I don’t measure well because I’m terrible as a “test kitchen” person, so we’ll default to doing what feels right to you. I tried to make guesses shrugs shoulders). Also add a bit of balsamic vinegar and the bay leaf.

Now, I need you to trust yourself. If you have chicken broth, this is a good time to get it out, but if not water is fine, too. (If you use water, be sure to taste it because you may want to adjust the seasonings some.) We want the sauce to have a thicker consistency than a traditional “spaghetti sauce” and be more of a ragu sauce, so you might have to add just a little liquid or a bit more. We don’t want it runny, we want it meaty, but it needs to still be a little saucy. Does this make sense? I hope so. Let the sauce continue to cook while your squash is finishing up.

While the squash is roasting and the sauce is cooking, shred some mozzarella. I used provolone because it’s what I had, but mozzarella would be fine, too. Add half the shredded cheese to a small bowl with the ricotta and about 5-6 fresh basil leaves, mix well.

When the squash is done, carefully shred the flesh away from the skin with a fork and add the squash to the pan with the ragu (remove the bay leaf first). Divide the ricotta mixture evenly among the squash skins and add squash/ragu on top. Layer with the remaining mozzarella and broil until browned. Top with remaining fresh basil, and eat!

Creamy Salsa Verde, but not really

Look, I will try to cook anything at least once.

I’ve never made a salsa verde or tomatillo sauce or green sauce or or or…

After a friend shared a food memory with me, I had to try it.

Hello, beautiful.

To make this gorgeous dish, you’ll do a few simple things with a few simple ingredients. 😉 One note before you start, I used my Vitamix blender and would recommend a heavy duty, large capacity blender for this recipe.

About 2 pounds tomatillos – I think I had a bit more than that
2 serrano peppers, remove seeds if you’d like it less spicy
4-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
about 1 cup cilantro
1 – 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
about 1/2 – 1 cup crema*
1 pound spaghetti, cooked

Turn oven to broil – mine has a high and low setting, I used the high setting, and my oven rack is in the middle.

Remove outer layer of tomatillos and toss in a sink of water – they can be quite sticky, if you’ve never worked with them before — and wash them well. Cut the tomatillos in half, not top to bottom, though, but through the middle like you might cut open a biscuit. Place them on a baking sheet, flesh side down, drizzle with olive oil, and pop them in the oven for about 12-14 minutes. You want them to have a bit of char.

If you’re not quite as obnoxious as me, and you choose to make a smaller batch, you can use one baking sheet for all of it, but I’m extra.

While those are in the oven, cut the tops off the peppers and remove seeds, if you want. The more seeds you leave in, the spicier it’ll be – you do you. Rough chop the onion. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic to the other baking sheet.

Remove the tomatillos when they’re soft and have a decent char. Pop in the sheet with the peppers, for about 12 minutes, and remove when they are soft and have a nice char.

Wait about 10 minutes for the peppers to cool and rest a bit and then begin adding to the blender – tomatillos (and all their juices), peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, and cream cheese. Pulse until well blended. Remove from blender into a large saucepan or skillet. Add the crema beginning with about 1/2 cup. Season with a bit of kosher salt and warm through. If it’s still a bit too spicy, add more crema. The consistency should be a bit thinner than alfredo sauce and a little chunky. Taste and season as you see fit.

This sauce can be used over chicken enchiladas, as a dip for nachos or tortilla chips, on top of burritos or tacos, or like I did it here – over spaghetti.

If I’d had some monterey jack cheese, I would’ve added it on top, I didn’t, but you should. 😉

*crema is table cream and can be found in the refrigerated area of the grocery store near the Mexican cheeses. If you can’t find crema, you can use sour cream, but please look for the crema. It’s worth it.

Roasted Veggies and Gnocchi

You guys know I love me a good sheet pan dinner. I know it’s summertime and who really wants the oven on in the summer? Well, apparently, I do. And I assume some of you are okay with it, too. 😉

One of the things I like about this recipe is its versatility. Roasted gnocchi is probably one of the best things to eat! The veggie combos are endless.

So, first things first… this is shelf-stable, store-bought gnocchi. One day I will conquer it from scratch. Yesterday was not that day. Second, did you know you can cook gnocchi without boiling it? You can. I dare you to try it!

Here’s what I used and how I used it for this recipe.
Preheat oven to 450 (I know, I know, it’s hot) and cover a sheet pan in parchment paper.
While it’s heating to that hades level temperature, prep your veggies.
1/2 purple onion, rough dice (that means you don’t have to make it exceptionally small, pretty, or even uniform)
2 zucchinis, halved and sliced
A bunch of asparagus tips, snap at its natural snap point*
3 ears of corn, kernels removed*
Pint of sweet tomatoes
1 pound (or a little over) package gnocchi*
Olive Oil
Salt (the kosher variety, if you have it), fresh cracked pepper, and garlic salt
Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil

Place all the veggies and the gnocchi in a spot on the pan. Drizzle about 1/4 c (I didn’t measure) of olive oil over the whole pan. Add a touch of kosher salt and pepper. Mix each little section, trying to keep them separate but recognizing it will not ruin the dish if corn mixes with asparagus.

Place on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the pan halfway and roast for another 10 minutes.

In the end, the gnocchi should have a bit of color, and all the veggies should be nice and roasty.

Give it another drizzle of olive oil, add garlic salt, stir together and taste. Adjust seasonings to your preference. Top with fresh parmesan and fresh basil!

Okay. A couple *’s to address:
Asparagus will naturally snap at the point that the woody ends of it are no good. Just work your way up from the bottom, bending it lightly until it snaps.
To easily remove kernels, you can place the ear of corn on the middle of a bundt pan and let the pan collect the kernels. If you do it on a cutting board (this is what I do), please make sure it’s secure and won’t slip on you. Of course, frozen (and thawed) corn is an option, too. You’ll want about 1 1/2 cups of corn. Or however much you want. I’m not the boss of you or your kitchen.
If you use frozen gnocchi, be sure to thaw it for about 45 minutes before tossing it on the pan.

Penne with Chicken and Alfredo Sauce

My son will eat lots of things. He’s not particularly picky. His favorite dish and most requested for his birthday dinner is Taco Salad. He’s easy to please in the food department! Another favorite of his is “Chicken Alfredo” — so delicious.

When I was getting processed foods out of my diet a zillion years ago, it forced me to learn how to make lots of things that were really easy to buy already made. Alfredo sauce was surprisingly easy to make, much easier than I expected due to it’s decadent taste. I always make mine with chicken, but that can be skipped, obviously, if chicken isn’t your jam!

This is also one of those dishes that is hard to measure out and I’m pretty positive I’ve never measured any of it. So, exactly everything below is an estimate! Alfredo sauce is very much a feel and taste recipe!

Olive oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Italian Seasoning
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick, I used a bit less, but I want you to live your best life)
1 c heavy cream, warmed
1 c milk (I used 2%), warmed
2-3 T flour
2 c parmesan, freshly grated
Penne pasta, cooked according to package directions

Wash and pat dry chicken breasts. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season one side of the chicken with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Once the oil is warm, lay the chicken, seasoned side down in the skillet. While it’s cooking, season the other side the same way. Cook for about 5-6 minutes each side – the chicken will NOT be done. Remove from pan to a cutting board.

While the chicken cools off, begin the alfredo sauce in the same pan. Cut up the stick of butter and add to the pan, add the garlic and cook for about one minute. Now we’re making a roux – add the flour – start with two heaping tablespoons and stir, scrapping up any bits left from the chicken in the pan. If it’s still a bit runny, add a tiny bit of flour at a time. We want it to have the consistency of … uhm, wet or kinetic sand? LOL
We’re cooking off the flour so it’s not raw… it should turn a light tan.

Once there, start adding the warmed cream. (I just blast it for a minute or so in the microwave – I don’t want to add cold cream to a hot pan.) Stir. Add milk. Stir. Add more cream. Stir. Add more milk. Stir. Add cheese (please don’t use the stuff in the can or the bag, grate it fresh from the block, please and thank you.). This is where the feel comes into play. We want it to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but not stick there. It’ll take some practice. Season with salt and pepper. And maybe Italian seasoning if that’s how you wanna roll. It’s definitely how I wanna roll.

Cut chicken into chunks or slices or star shapes if that’s how you wanna do things – add to pan with sauce. Mix well. Reduce heat to low-medium, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is done. Taste your sauce. Adjust to your taste. Serve over pasta of your choice. Top with more fresh cheese. Or eat it straight from the pan – do you, boo boo. Enjoy!

Spicy Garbanzos

Y’all… chickpeas are easily one of my favorite things to eat. They’re good so many different ways; roasted, pan cooked, fried, raw, on salads, in soups, in anything! I love them!

Because I love them so much, I’m always finding new ways to enjoy them. For these ones I’m sharing today, I ate some of them with my breakfast and the rest sat on my counter and I literally ate them all day and finished them off at dinnertime. I was hooked!

Olive Oil
1 can garbanzos, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds*
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Tahini sauce
Kalamata olives, to taste
2-4 T (yes, tablespoons) butter (I’ll let you be the judge of it!)
Sprig of rosemary
1 tsp, or so, fresh squeezed lemon (about 1/4 of the lemon)

Heat a good swirl of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garbanzo beans and cook for about 10 minutes, adjust heat if they’re cooking a bit too fast – but don’t turn it up if you think they’re cooking too slow… hear me here. 😉

Add the seasonings and stir to combine. I have a couple things to say here… if you’re using olives and salted butter, you might skip the salt and taste it when it’s nearly done to see if you need it. If you do, throw it in there, if not then just skip it. I wish I could tell you how much tahini to use – I dipped a butter knife into the jar and whatever was on it is what I swirled all over the beans; super scientific guess would be a teaspoon? Half? I dunno. At the same time, because the olives were next to the tahini in the fridge, I decided they should go in there, too, and so I lived boldly with my love for olives and tossed them in there.

By now, the beans should be fairly crisp and they’ve taken on all that good flavor from the spices – we add the butter, in pats all over the pan. I did 4 tablespoons, but I might’ve only done three had I gone a bit slower. Even then, some folks might find it too rich, but I love butter soooooo… I did not. And a sprig of rosemary if you have it – you won’t regret this decision. Continue to stir while the butter browns being careful not to burn it – about 2 minutes.

To serve, give it a squeeze of lemon juice fresh from a lemon. I didn’t have a lemon so I didn’t do it, but I wished I had a lemon because I would’ve done it. I put an egg on top of mine and enjoyed it that way and I also ate them plain. If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet (using a butter alternative), the fennel mixed with the meaty texture of the beans is almost like enjoying some breakfast sausage! Enjoy!

*get out that mortar and pestle to crush the fennel seeds! It releases all kinds of fresh oils and spicy notes from the seed. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can put them in a resealable bag and beat the tar of of them with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin. Also, if you have a grinder (a spice one or any other kind – I’m not here to judge you!), that will work just fine, too! Only crush or grind what you need because it loses its flavor pretty quickly.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I will get better at food photos – one day. Until then, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup!

A few months ago, I needed to have a second surgery on one of my feet. So, my momma came to take care of me! Before she came, I prepped lots of food in the freezer and the fridge so she wouldn’t have to spend too much time shopping and prepping for meals. One of the meals I left for her to make was this beautiful soup. My apartment is an open concept, so while I laid on the sofa with my foot up – I gave her instructions for the soup.

A few days later, I remembered to write it down – and we think this is pretty close to how it was done. 😉

Large butternut squash
1-3 jalapeño peppers, diced (to your preference)
1 small onion, diced
4 c. Chicken broth (or veggie broth!)
1 can coconut milk (to preference)
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp sugar
couple pinches of thyme (dried, see note if using fresh)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil and butter

Preheat oven to 400. Peel squash, remove seeds, and dice into about 1 inch squares (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, toss the squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper until well coated. Place on baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for about 25 minutes, give it a stir, and roast for another 10-15 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, dice onion and *jalapeño peppers. Add about a knob of butter and a swirl of olive oil into a deep pot. Once those are melted together, add the onions and peppers and sauté until translucent and tender. Add ginger, salt, and pepper.

Once the squash is done, add it to pot with veggies and mix well. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add 1/2 can of coconut milk (note: add more depending on your preference to taste and consistency). Add dried thyme and sugar, mix well and heat through.

Use a immersion blender to purée the soup to your desired consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can blend it in small batches in a regular blender. Keep in mind to only fill your blender about halfway and cover with a towel. The soup is HOT! But really, immersion blenders are amazing to have around! Enjoy! 😉

Note: if you have fresh thyme, skip the dried thyme and garnish with the fresh thyme instead. You can also garnish with crema or nothing at all.

*for milder flavor, remove seeds and ribs from the peppers. It’s all about how much heat you want in the soup.

Smoked Sausage Sheet Pan Dinner

Image may contain: food

Sheet pan dinners might be one of my favorite, most versatile, and most effortless things to make. The hardest part about it is choosing what you want to be in it. On it? In it… ON the pan, IN our bellies!

This one was really simple and tasty for everyone.

40 oz pkg Earl Campbell’s Smoked Sausage or Beef Sausage (perfect with both), sliced to about 11/2 in pieces
6 small potatoes, in a medium-sized dice
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large colored peppers, whatever color you’d like, chopped
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

How to:
Heat over to 400. Spray a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Put potatoes and onions on the pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; mix with your hands – because hands are perfect utensils. 😉 Roast for 15 minutes in the oven, remove and stir (don’t use your hands this time, trust me) and cook for another 15 minutes.

While that’s cooking, chop your peppers and slice the sausage. Removed potatoes and onions from the oven, add meat and peppers. Give it another drizzle of oil, another generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, mix together. Place back into the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring about midway through. Enjoy!

When I say this is one of the most versatile recipes, I’m so serious! You’ll probably see some variation of this recipe around here often.

Pizza Egg Rolls

So, I tried the time-lapsed video option with this recipe. Well, let’s just say I’ve not yet mastered that skill. In fact, I’ve not even noticed it. 😉 Feel free to check it out here. It’s okay if you laugh. I certainly did! 

If you’re looking for a super easy weeknight dinner that the toddlers – adults in the house can help make, this is the one. And there are, literally, hundreds of combinations. I have a finicky six-year-old, at least when it comes to pizza, in the house: cheese, pepperoni. Please and thank you, that’ll be all. There’s also, quite possible, a string cheese obsession in full force here. Maybe you know something about it. Maybe not. Anyway, this quick pull together snack makes everyone happy.

Egg roll wrappers
Mozzarella string cheese, unwrapped please. 😉
Vegetable oil

For the sauce:
6 oz can of tomato paste
Italian seasoning
Red pepper flakes

Set up a bit of an assembly line – apparently, that’s something I like around here, it must be my history with Ford Motor Co. I had the cheese and pepperoni on the same plate. Position your egg roll wrappers on a diagonal with one corner pointed toward you. A small bow of water to help wet the egg rolls can go wherever it makes sense for you.

Place 5 pepperoni in the middle-ish, a bit closer to you than directly in the center. Add a cheese stick, roll the corner closest to your body over the pepperoni and cheese. Fold in the sides toward the center, and roll away from you until there’s about an inch on the wrapper left. Dip your fingers in the water and wet the corner, finish wrapping, set aside on a plate, and finish wrapping the rest.

Heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Similar to the first pancake, don’t expect great color on your first try. It’ll take some practice to know what heat is best for your pans and your stove. Drain on a paper towel covered plate.

While the egg rolls are cooking, mix up a quick and easy sauce to serve with them, though, eating them alone is totally okay, too! Add a can of tomato paste to a small saucepan. How you season it is also really customizable, this is just a quick and easy version. Add about a tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, and don’t be shy with the salt – tomato past really needs the salt! Add about 2 tsp to start. I also add about a teaspoon of sugar just to help balance the acidity. Mix in about 1/2 c water and heat through. If it’s still too thick, add more water, taste, adjust, taste, stir. You probably need more salt; go ahead and add it. (did you know that most home chefs get sent home from cooking competitions for undersalted/underseasoned foods?). Serve alongside the pizza egg rolls! Enjoy!