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spaghetti squash bolognese

A new favorite? Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

Have you ever had a favorite recipe you suddenly didn’t like anymore?

For as long as I can remember, my favorite food has been spaghetti with meat sauce. I devoured it. I used to eat a portion larger than my father’s – when I was eight!

Mom’s meat sauce was simple and convenient: ground beef, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a package of seasoning mix. It was a regular meal, at least every two or three weeks. I mean, it was so easy to make, and it was my favorite food.

Until it wasn’t. *frowny face*

Something happened while I was pregnant with Baby Number Two. My tastes started changing. At first I thought it was the day; you know, how something just doesn’t taste good to you that day. But after a few more times, I knew that wasn’t it. So then I thought maybe my preferred spaghetti sauce had changed its formula.

I think we tried five or six or more different brands and variations of jarred spaghetti sauce, trying to find something that suited me. I could still eat it, but in much smaller amounts. My girls, who had always eaten it, were now ALSO turning their nose up at it. Therefore, we were not eating up the leftovers, and not really enjoying our meal.

I’ve mentioned before my husband’s desire to go paleo. Our favorite paleo cookbook features a great recipe for Spaghetti Squash Bolognese. We’d made it several times and liked it very much. We’ve always served it over squash, as in the recipe, but I thought I’d give it a go over pasta.

Well, I now have my new go-to spaghetti sauce recipe.The combination of meats and the thick sauce are savory and satisfying. Unfortunately, it is not nearly as convenient as the previous version, so I’m planning to make it in large batches, freeze some, and maybe experiment with the crockpot.

If you’ve ever had an old favorite turn into a least favorite, why did it happen and what did you do?

Also, if you have a simple, tasty spaghetti sauce recipe, please share!

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 Tbsp. bacon fat or butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  • 1 glove of garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk (you could try whipping cream. If you do, let me know how it goes!)
  • 3 ounces (1/2 small can) tomato paste (I measured this at 6 Tbsps.)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise so that two shallow halves remain. Scoop out the seeds and inner portion of the squash, sprinkle with seas salt and black pepper. Place both halves face down on a baking sheet. Roast for 35-50 minutes until the flesh of he squash becomes translucent in color and the skin begins to soften and easily separate from the “noodles” that make up the inside.

Allow the squash to cool enough so that you can handle it, and then scoop the flesh o9ut from the inside of the skin into a large serving bowl. Set aside until the sauce is finished.

While the squash bakes: in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the bacon fat or butter, and saute the onions, carrots, and celery until they become translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Add the ground meats and bacon, cook until browned through. Once the meat is done, add the coconut milk, tomato paste, and white wine/broth. Simmer over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes or until the suace is well combined.

Add sea salt and black pepper to taste before removing he sauce from the heat. (This is essential! I learned the hard way that you need to taste and then season. The sea salt makes ALL the difference in this dish.)

Serve sauce over roasted spaghetti squash.

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love my deep freeze. I freeze all sorts of things to have on hand to make cooking and prep work easy. Here are a few of my favorite tips and tricks for making your freezer work like a second pantry.

Chopped bell peppers

Chopped bell peppers ready to be frozen on a cookie sheet. Freezing in this method prevents clumping.

Chop veggies and freeze on cookie sheets. Peppers, onions, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and more can be chopped, frozen on cookie sheets, and then stored in freezer containers in this method. When a recipe calls for 1/2 cup chopped onion or bell pepper, (like Pineapple Chicken Fajitas) you’ve got them ready to go. (Note: these veggies are best used in recipes where they will be cooked, and not left raw. If your recipe calls for raw onion/pepper, buy what you need for the raw portion, and chop up and freeze the rest!)

Freeze sauces, juices, and broths in ice cube trays. Pesto (like for my turkey burgers) freezes great in ice cube trays. Pineapple juice, tomato paste, and chicken broth are also handy to have frozen in 1 or 2 tablespoon measurements. Freeze in ice cube trays, then pop into freezer containers. (Pineapple juice, prune juice, and a few other juices don’t freeze super solid, so a lidded ice cube tray can be nice for these.)

Freeze shredded cheese. I keep shredded cheddar and shredded mozzarella on hand at all times. Then we are ready to go for pasta, pizza, and taco nights.

Rectangular freezer containers

Rectangular freezer containers. You can see the top one labeled with a dry erase marker. It is full of shredded carrot.

Square plastic freezer containers are AMAZING. They use all the space you have, stack and nest well, and prevent crushing. And they are reusable!!! They come in 1-pint, 2-pint, quart, and 4-quart sizes. One pint size is just right for a pound of ground beef, so I buy it in 10 lb. tubes, slice it with a knife and put in a container. They stack neatly in the bottom of my deep freeze.

Label plastic freezer containers with dry erase marker. Yes! It works. No more searching for masking tape and a pen to label things. (I still do that sometimes too.) But for the reusable containers, the dry erase will stay put until you are ready to wash the container.

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I never ate spinach as a kid. Never! When I got to college, I started eating it in fresh salads, as I didn’t mind it raw, and I’m sure I started getting it cooked in certain dishes once in a while.

This spinach casserole was my sister-in-law’s regular recipe that she brought to dinner. And surprisingly, I like it! Now that I have kids of my own, we eat it regularly. Why? Because my kids will eat it! They don’t care for it fresh from the oven, but cool it off a bit, and they will eat it as a dip on crackers. (It is admittedly very tasty on crackers.)

So feel free to dig in with your favorite party crackers, pretzels, celery/carrots, or just with your fork!

spinach casserole

Amy’s Spinach Casserole

  • 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream (or 1 cup sour cream)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 package of onion soup mix

Thaw the spinach. (I often follow the cooking directions and cook it in the microwave with a little water for about 5-8 minutes). Squeeze it dry. Squeezing it dry is essential to getting a good final product that isn’t runny. How to do this: Especially if it is hot out of the microwave, the spinach is a bit hot to handle. I line my colander with paper towels, dump the spinach in, and then take a clean drinking glass and press down on the spinach all around in the colander until very little liquid comes out.

In an oven-save bowl or casserole dish, mix spinach, sour cream, soup, and soup mix together until well blended. Level the top of the mixture in the bowl. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Gazpacho Ingredients

Fresh strawberries, cucumbers, garlic, onion, pepper and tomatoes (not pictured) feature in this fantastic soup.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m always trying ways to get my family to eat more veggies. This cool soup is hit or miss with my kids. Sometimes they like it. Sometimes they don’t. But my husband and I both like it very much, and when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen, it’s a great side dish.

With fresh ingredients in season, this is perfect with grilled meats. The strawberries give the soup a lovely sweetness. And DO NOT skimp on the feta. The feta makes the soup. Buy good feta. 🙂

Gazpacho

A cup of gazpacho with feta on top. Yum!

Chunky Summer Gazpacho

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (or one small shallot, chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsps. white wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsps. olive oil
  • 2 tsps. fresh thyme OR 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • crumbled feta cheese

Place the water and tomatoes in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients (except feta) and pulse to desired consistency.

Chill the gazpacho for two hours (recommended in the recipe. We tend to serve immediately.) Add water to thin, if desired. Sprinkle individual servings with feta as desired.

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When I was a kid, I hated mushrooms. They were slimy. I picked them out of my grandma’s lasagna, off of pizza, and out of pretty much anything that would allow me to separate them from the meal of the day.

Then my husband discovered sauteing them in butter. Oh. My. They come alive when sauteed in butter.

Mushrooms and carrots are sauteed to tasty perfection in this simple side dish. Personally, I feel the green beans are sort of just along for the ride. But hey, if mushrooms can get me to eat my green beans, all the better!

IMG_3171

Mushrooms, Carrots and Green Beans, sauteed to perfection!

Vegetable Trio

  • 1/2 lb fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces. (I have used frozen, which works okay, too)
  • 4 large carrots, julienned (or you can just dump in a couple of handfuls of mini-cut carrots, though I usually still cut them in half.)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Cook and stir green beans, carrots, salt, thyme and butter over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms. Cook and stir for additional 10 minutes, or until green beans are crisp-tender.

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Sometimes, the kids just won’t eat what you want to eat. Annoying. This is a big part of why I hate Menu Planning Day. But I try to find ways to still make what I want and yet get them to eat SOME of it.

Rule in my house: you take one bite. One of my past daycare providers called it the “No- Thank-You Bite.” You don’t have to eat any more than that, but one bite is important. The other day, my daughter actually liked a salad I made her try. Like, with lettuce! Today, she helped me shake up the vinaigrette for this to go with our hamburgers off the grill.

Tortellini Salad (2)

This is a cool, crisp, tangy side for a picnic, or with any meat main dish. It is one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli. My youngest likes this – usually. My oldest turns her nose up at it – I think the vinaigrette is too strong for her – but she will eat raw broccoli and carrots with ranch dressing, so I just save some out for her. But she still has to taste it. Every. Time.

Tortellini Broccoli Salad

Recipe says it serves 4, but it goes farther than that in our house.

  • 1 pkg (7oz) cheese-filled tortellini (I like the dried ones in the pasta aisle rather than the frozen kind. They cook up better.)
  • Garlic Vinaigrette (below)
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 medium green onions, sliced (optional)

Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup cider or balsamic vinegar (I prefer balsamic)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. (If the package says to use salted water, DO IT. The salt makes a big difference.) Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again.
  2. Make garlic vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients in a large bowl with a tight lid. (I use the container I put the salad in. Make sure it will hold 7 cups, as any smaller will be too small.) Either close lid and shake to mix, or whisk gently.
  3. Add the carrot, broccoli, onions (if using) and pasta to the bowl. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate one hour, up to 24 hours. (I find it keeps well for several days, though it is good to toss the salad again before serving in case the vinaigrette settles.)

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