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Spaghetti squash is one of those food items that I never purchased in my life until four or five years ago. I mean, like turnips or rutabagas, they are just too intimidating for a school night.
But, after going vegetarian I had to expand my horizons or be stuck with lentils for the rest of my life. Boy, am I glad I did. Spaghetti squash is not only delicious, it is also incredibly easy to make. Do not be intimated. The only hard part is cutting the damn thing in half.
- 2 Spaghetti Squash (for 4 servings)
- 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 1 jar Tomato or Marinara Sauce (I like Trader Joe’s Rustico)
- 1 cup fresh Mozzarella Cheese, grated
- Approximately 3 handfuls of fresh Spinach, chopped
- 1 half of large, yellow Onion, diced
- 3 Fresh Tomatoes, diced
- 3 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
- Olive oil, garlic salt, sea salt, pepper, basil (to taste)
- Roasted pine nuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375
- Wash the squash
- Slice in half (lengthwise)
- Remove seeds
- Rub insides with olive oil and garlic salt (optional)
- Place cut-side down on baking sheet
- Add water to baking sheet and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes
- Let cool, then scrape squash with fork to loosen strands
- Put squash “noodles” in medium bowl
- In pan on medium heat, cook onions and garlic in olive oil. Add chopped spinach. Cook until soft. Add jar of tomato or marinara sauce. Salt, pepper and/or basil to taste.
- Poor sauce over squash noodles. Add chopped tomatoes. Mix well.
- Add grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix well.
- Spoon mixture into each squash cavity equally.
- Top with mozzarella and basil
- Put squash on baking sheet in oven. Do not cover. Bake 350 for approximately 30-45 minutes.
- Top with roasted pine nuts before serving (optional). Serve with salad or bread!
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Wash the Squash. Since you’ll be using the squash as a sort of serving bowl, be sure to wash it really well. And, by all means, remove the grocery store produce stickers.
Slice the Squash in half. Find a really big and sharp knife and cut the squash in half, lengthwise while trying not to mortally wound your body. If my husband is mostly sober, I often leave this step up to him. Otherwise, you can pop it in the oven for 10 minutes or so to soften the squash and make it easier to cut through.
Assuming you are not in the hospital after halving the squash, be sure to remove the seeds and gushy center. You can roast them like pumpkin seeds, by the way.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Place squash on a baking sheet – CUT SIDE DOWN. I usually rub a little olive oil or butter and garlic salt on the inside of the squash and fill the baking pan with a layer of water. Bake until tender – but NOT too tender since you’ll be popping this sucker back in the oven later.
Let Cool and Scrape. Remove from oven and let cool at least 20 minutes.
(For this reason, this is a great make-ahead meal. Bake the squash the night before, refrigerate, and then do the rest the next night.)
Use a fork to separate the strands of squash and place in a medium bowl.
Try not to eat the strands. They are delicious.
Lower the oven temp to 350.
Saute the garlic, onions and spinach on medium heat. In pan on medium heat, cook onions and garlic in olive oil. Add chopped spinach. Cook until soft. If your kids will eat mushrooms, they would make a nice addition to this recipe – but we haven’t been able to serve mushrooms in our house since 1999.
Add tomato or marinara sauce to the pan. I usually make my own sauce but since this recipe already includes so much prep work, I opt to save time and sanity by just using a store bought marinara.
Beware – as you probably know, most store bought tomato sauces are the spawn of the devil. So, my go-to choice is Trader Joe’s Rustico Pommodoro Pasta Sauce. It’s not filled with crap and has a very unique flavor.
Feel free to use your favorite sauce, unless it’s one of those heinous Ragu meat flavored things. If you do that I will never speak to you again. Add a little extra salt, pepper and basil now, if you want. The spaghetti squash needs it.
Combine sauce and squash in a bowl. Add fresh, chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Add grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Mix well.
Spoon mixture into each squash cavity equally. Top with mozzarella and basil. Place on baking sheet in oven. Do not cover. Bake 350 for approximately 30-45 minutes.
Our fellow vegetarian friends do this cool dinner party thing where one family hosts a dinner each month. It’s a great way to try out new dishes because…
let’s face it, we vegetarians can only eat so many lentils before we are lentil’ed out.
This is how I discovered Zucchini Boats, which are fabulous little appetizers or side dishes made with cheese and tomatoes and, well, zucchini. Duh.
I suppose you could also call them Zucchini Pizzas because there is cheese and tomatoes involved, but since they are shaped like canoes, I feel this would be misleading. Regardless of what you decide to call them, they are delicious and healthy, and the best part – super easy to make.
Zucchini Boats – Ingredients
- 3 Zucchini, sliced lengthwise
- 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped in chunks (Plum, cherry or grape tomatoes work nicely too)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Chopped onion (optional)
- Fresh Mozzarella cheese, grated
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
Here’s what I did:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Get a nice, fresh, summer zucchini and slice it in half (lengthwise). If you are making appetizers, cut them in half again so that you end up with 4 pieces. You might also want to slice a little off the bottom so that your “canoe” is more stable, but thats up to you. I like mine more boat-like so I just leave them be. Scoop out a little of the top if you want room for more tomatoes and cheese.
Brush with olive oil and sprinkle on a little minced garlic. You can use garlic powder too.Then chop some tomatoes and add them too. I prefer to use Roma tomatoes and cut them sort of chunky, but you could slice them or dice them instead. Whatever works. Sometimes I added finely chopped onions but generally leave them out if I am making them for the kids. A little salt and pepper to taste would be a good idea.
Top it with some fresh, grated mozzarella cheese. Then, finish it off with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and a little chopped basil if you are in the mood for that.
Bake on lightly oiled, aluminum foil covered baking sheet until the cheese starts to brown – about 20-25 minutes.
I chair the Healthy Lifestyles program at our school so, as you can imagine, Halloween is a particularly terrifying time of the year for me – not because of all the ghosts and goblins, but because of all the room moms with the cupcakes and cookies.
Last year, I watched in horror as a first grader ran to the teacher’s trash can to throw up all the “blood” fruit punch and “monster” cupcakes and chocolate “witch hats” he had just consumed. Still gives me nightmares.
The idea that food must be filled with gobs of sugary icing and fudge to be “fun” is something I am constantly battling. So, I presented my spooky little Ghostberries at a recent PTA meeting as a sort of fun food education. Call it my “Healthy Halloween 101″… less icing more fruit shaped like ghosts. Problem solved.
Even better, these things are really easy and cheap to make, and the kids LOVE them. Trust me. Take them to your classroom Halloween party and I guarantee they will disappear. If you want to make them even healthier, which I am all for, then dip them in vanilla yogurt (instead of white chocolate) and freeze until you serve.
- Fresh Strawberries (cleaned and dried. Stems on!)
- Bag of chocolate chips (we used dark chocolate – yum!)
- Bag of white chocolate chips
- Almond extract (optional, but adds a wonderful nutty flavor to the white chocolate)
Make sure the strawberries are very dry before you begin. Even a little dampness will cause the chocolate not to stick.
In a microwave-safe glass bowl melt the white chocolate. Reducing the microwave power by 50% for 30 seconds at a time worked great for me. Just be careful not to overcook. Pull the chocolate from the microwave before the chips have completely melted. They should still sort of look like chocolate chips. Then stir, stir, stir, stir until smooth. If the chocolate is a little thick, you can add a small blob of vegetable shortening.
Next, stir in about 1/2 a teaspoon of almond extract, or more if you like the flavor. But be careful – too much almond extract might make the chocolate clumpy. Still, it is totally worth the risk. The almond extract gives the white chocolate such a deliciously rich flavor.
Begin dipping the strawberries in the white chocolate mixture by grabbing hold of the leafy top and dipping then sort of rolling to coat. Lay the strawberry on wax paper to set.
Melt the chocolate chips in a separate glass bowl in the microwave using the same technique as above. Stir, stir, stir! Add vegetable shortening if necessary.
You will need a tool to “paint” the faces on the strawberries. A toothpick would work but I used a golf tee. Because – why not?
Dip your toothpick (or whatever) in the chocolate and begin to draw on the “scary” faces. A simple elongated circle for the mouth makes a rather spooky looking face. If you are feeling artistic, a jagged line for the mouth and slanted lines for eyes makes a mean strawberry. If you are not artistic, like me, they will look like samurai warriors.
Refrigerate the finished product until you are ready to serve.
As you can see from my pictures, I made Ghostberries with whole strawberries and some with the tops chopped off (so the pointy part of the strawberry sticks up). I definitely liked the whole strawberry method better, but you can try it both ways and see what you think.
It’s late September so that means the Bell Pepper plants are coming in nicely. It’s also the time of year that you are likely to hear the first complaints from your kids about the boring cheese sticks and apple slices that you keep giving them for their school snack.
Here’s a way to put all those peppers to good use and make all the other moms look like chumps.
(Ok, it probably will not make the other moms look like chumps. There is a mom at my school who packs tacos with mexican themed napkins every Tuesday in her sons lunch. But I digress…)
Celery, Pepper & Cream Cheese Traffic Light Snacks. (Pretty much 7 words, more or less).
I am not sure exactly WHY kids like food shaped like traffic lights, but they do. Trust me on this.
You are going to need to grab yourself a round, mini cookie cutter. If you don’t have one, (because, clearly – who does?) you will need some other type of round object to punch holes in your peppers. This is how I discovered that I own a melon baller. It works better than my husbands wedding band and the tiny frying pan that came with my daughter’s LaLaLoopsy doll, so I went with it.
- Red Pepper
- Yellow Pepper
- Green Pepper
- Cream Cheese
Start by cutting the celery. They should be about 3 inches in length.
Next, use your melon baller (or your husbands wedding band or whatever) to cut out some circles in a red, green and yellow pepper.
Slap the cream cheese on the celery and then pop a red, yellow and green pepper-round on it.
They actually taste good too so – bonus. If your kids are the adventurous type, mix in a few herbs in the cream cheese for more flavor. Chives. Dill. Or use hummus instead of cream cheese. Sky is the limit. Go wild.
Feel free to clean the edges of the circles up if you are so inclined. As you can see from my photos, I was not inclined at all.
My kids like to call these the “polka dot polka dot afro circus snacks” which I think is hilarious. It’s even funnier to talk like Chris Rock while you make them.
I’ve considered changing the name from “Traffic Lights” to “Afro Circus” for this reason.
My freezer is a mess because I am constantly throwing over-rip bananas in it. But I can’t help myself because a frozen, over-rip banana is The Precious of any smoothie.
I actually make most of my smoothies with frozen fruit and veggies. It completely negates the need for ice cubes. When you see me leaving the grocery store with tons of strawberries and blueberries, and a gi-normous load of bananas, you can rest assured that I am stocking my freezer for future liquified deliciousness.
Coconut Kaleada Smoothie
- about 8 ounces of FROZEN pineapple chunks
- 1 cup chilled unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons smooth almond butter
- 2 cups of Kale (spinach works too)
- 1 FROZEN ripe banana
- Water, as needed
Directions: blend. Add a little water as needed.
If you make a little extra, try pouring it in some popsicle molds.
I must say – I am in love with a lot of stuff.
My husband, my kids, my family, my pug, my tall leather boots … and this watermelon birthday “cake” that my friend Becky was kind enough to share with me.
I mean, just look at it! It’s a thing of beauty. And good health. And deliciousness.
I’m not sure how she stopped people from swiping those kiwi off the top along with a big blob of lemon yogurt cool whip so she could take these pictures.
Her guests must have much better manners than my guests. (Yea, you know who you are.)
Anyway, this is pretty simple and would be perfect for a school or classroom party… or end of the school year party, or field day party, or birthday party, or Easter party, or just any-day-that-you-can-get-your-hands-on-a-watermelon party.
- Seedless watermelon
- Cool Whip – 8 oz
- Lemon Yogurt – 8 oz
- Golden and Green Kiwi and strawberries (but just about any fruit that you like would work for a garnish… raspberries, blueberries, grapes, oranges, go wild!)
Becky said she chilled the watermelon first. And since her watermelon “cake” came out so beautifully, I’d listen to her.
Remove the rind. You’ll need to remove the rind of the watermelon with a sharp knife, being careful not to butcher yourself in the process. This might get a little messy, so have a clean kitchen towel handy …
(and maybe some Band-Aids)
Slice off the bottom of the watermelon so you have a flat surface and then cut off all the rind all the way around the rest so that the bright, pink watermelon flesh is exposed. If you want a flat top “cake” then slice off the top too. Some people prefer a rounded top.
Do whatever you want. You are holding a knife, I’m not going to argue.
Prepare the frosting. Gently fold the lemon yogurt into the Cool Whip. Something about this combination causes it to firm up. I have no idea what, so let’s just go with it and be thankful for science.
Science! (said in my Thomas Dolby voice)
Pat the watermelon. Pat, pat the watermelon. Pat the watermelon with a soft, clean towel. (Ha! Flashbacks to Pat the Bunny, anyone?) Just make sure the watermelon is not too wet and runny before you begin adding the frosting.
Garnish with kiwi – or berries or whatever you like. Just, please, no candy or marshmallows. Let’s keep this healthy, shall we?
You must keep this refrigerated until you serve it. Whatever the science is that makes the lemon yogurt and Cool Whip firm up will not last forever. Eventually it will start to go all slump-y (not a word, but you know what I mean), so be sure to refrigerate the leftovers too.
DAY 1: ON THE MENU –
Cucumber & Turkey Salad Wrap
Blueberry & Strawberry skewers
Baked Carrot Fries
O”Fish”ally Back to “School” goldfish crackers
I’m sure if you’ve spent any time on Pinterest you’ve seen the utterly ridiculous display of lavish “back to school” lunch, snack and treat ideas. Seriously. Where do these people get the time? But don’t worry, you can still make a fun lunch for the first day back to school that does not involve glue or cupcakes.
The Turkey Wrap and Carrot Fries will give them the fuel they need to overcome first day jitters and the Blueberry & Strawberry skewers will make them the envy of the lunch table because, honestly, what kid doesn’t love food on a stick? If you have an elementary aged child, the “back to school” goldfish will be a hit too. But, warning: most kids over the age of 10 will be absolutely mortified by the idea so, in that case, be sure to leave the cutesy message off the container.
Cucumber & Turkey Salad Wrap
- 1 whole wheat tortilla
- 1 or 2 slices of deli turkey
- About 1/3 of a cucumber, thinly sliced or shredded
- Plain cream cheese (softened)
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- 1 small carrot, thinly sliced or shredded
For an older or more adventurous child you can also add chopped avocado red peppers, alfalfa sprouts and a little dill.
Directions: Spread a thin layer of cream cheese over the center of tortilla, leaving the edges clear. Add turkey then shredded or thinly sliced carrots and cucumbers. Roll up the tortilla and cut in half.
Blueberry & Strawberry Skewers
- Toothpicks or small skewers
*You can also add cheese (as pictured), bananas, cantaloupe or watermelon to your skewer
Directions: Very simple! Just slice off the top of your strawberry so that you are left with a flat surface. Slide the strawberry (with flat side first) onto the skewer or toothpick. Add as many blueberries as you can fit.
If you still have that cream cheese out from when you assembled the the Turkey Wrap, plop a little smidgen mixed with some vanilla Greek yogurt in a container for dipping.
Baked Carrot Fries
- About 2 medium carrots (for side dish serving size)
- Olive oil
Directions: First, don’t freak out! This is really simple and will not take that much time. You can make them the night before because they are still delicious cold the next day. If you want to send them to school warm, you can make them first and let them bake while you make the Cucumber Turkey Salad Wrap (recipe above)!
Preparation is simple. Clean and peel a couple of carrots. Cut them into long strips. Place them on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt; toss to coat. Bake, uncovered, at 450° for 10-12 minutes or until crisp-tender.
Back to “School” Goldfish
- Goldfish crackers
- Baggie, tie and printed note
Directions: Welcome the kids back to school with a bag of goldfish crackers and a fun note. Some ideas:
“You are o-FISH-ally in the 2nd grade”
“You are o-FISH-ly back in your school”
“Welcome back to your SCHOOL”
… you get the idea!