Spaghetti Squash

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There’s a special place in my heart for spaghetti squash. I love all squashes, and my locally available winter squashes like butternut and acorn are great for stuffing or for soups. But spaghetti squash can be used like noodles! After cooking the squash, you use a fork to scrape out the strands of spaghetti, except they’re actually squash strands.

Now I have nothing against pasta, but of course a vegetable, even a starchy squash, will always be healthier, especially over traditional white pasta. Plus the texture is fun and different. It’s just an option. And you don’t need a spiralizer!

There are many ways to cook a spaghetti squash, but I’ll show you the one I now stick with because it’s foolproof.
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And I mostly love it served spaghetti and meatball style!

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Baked Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a cleaver, cut the squash lengthwise in half. (My halves aren’t perfectly matched, but I am always concerned for my fingers when I’m wielding a cleaver!)


Remove all of the seeds from inside the squashes. Then place cut-side up in a baking pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

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Cover with foil, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. If you want the squash to brown a little, remove the foil from the pan and continue baking for about 15 minutes.

Let the squash cool, then scrape at the squash halves with a fork to free up the lovely spaghetti strands. That’s it!


Try spaghetti squash as you would spaghetti, or with a Puttanesca, or underneath grilled chicken and peppers.
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Or you can stuff the squash halves!


I prefer spaghetti squash used as noodles. You can stuff other squashes!

Meatballs in Creamy Caper Sauce

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It’s commonplace to pair meatballs and a red sauce, but this recipe is a lovely alternative. The only prerequisite is that you must love capers!

This recipe comes from one that most likely I copied from a cookbook borrowed from the local library. It’s from the days I had higher priorities than spending lots of money on cookbooks, so I simply borrowed the books, read them, and marked the recipes I wanted to keep. Then my husband would use the copier at work; he was always very nice about this. But, of course, he always got fed well so it was a win-win for him!

I’d then cut out the recipes and glue them on cards. But unfortunately, I cannot share with you the source of this recipe because I never thought to add those details to the recipe cards. It’s really sad that I didn’t, and I apologize to you as well.
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I’ve made this recipe the way it is on the card, and it’s divine. I’m pretty sure I made it for other people, because my husband won’t eat capers.

The recipe involves meatballs, that you make any way you want, but they must be made on the small side, and then they’re boiled/steam cooked in a seasoned broth. From the broth you make the sauce, which involves sour cream and capers.
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On this post, I’m not really focusing on the meatballs, because everyone has her/his own favorite recipes for meatballs, but more on the way they’re cooked, as well as the sauce. The dish is not terribly photogenic, but really tasty.


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Meatballs in a Creamy Caper Sauce

Meatballs:
1/2 ground pork, 1/2 ground turkey, white meat only, 12 ounces each
1/2 small onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
Some amount of breadcrumbs, I used dried, about 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Coarsely ground black pepper
Parsley, which I forgot to put in the meatballs*

In an extra large bowl, place the meats, the onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Then add the seasonings.

Use your hands and mix everything together well, without over mixing. You don’t want the meatballs to turn out dense.

Using a scoop, if you feel you need one, form the meat mixture into small balls, about 1″ in diameter.

Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of chicken or beef broth into a large, flat skillet. I used chicken broth powder to season the water.

The original recipe called for lemon juice, a strip of lemon peel, a bay leaf, and some pickling spices to be added to the broth. I decided to make my broth a little more on the herbaceous side. I also omitted the lemon altogether.

I picked some fresh oregano, parsley, and rosemary and placed them in the broth, along with a few bay leaves. Then I simmered the broth for about 15 minutes. You could always do this step first, before you make the meatballs.

When the broth is ready, remove the herbs. Adjust the amount of liquid, if necessary; there should be about 1/4″ minimum on the bottom of the skillet. Make sure the broth is simmering, then add a batch of meatballs.

Cover the skillet and let the meatballs cook through. This will hardly take 5 minutes or so; you could always check one to see if it’s just done in the middle. You don’t want to overcook them.


Remove the cooked meatballs with a slotted spoon, place them on a clean platter, and continue with the remaining batches. You’re left with some meat and onion bits in the seasoned broth, but that didn’t bother me. If it bothers you, pour the liquid through a sieve, and then back into the skillet. You should still have about 3/4 cup – 1 cup of liquid. This will dictate the amount of sauce you end up with, so adjust accordingly.

At this point, with the broth simmering, add a teaspoon of cornstarch and whisk well, then add 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream or creme fraiche. Whisk well, then stir in about 1/4 cup of capers.

Add the amount of meatballs you want smothered with this sauce, and leave the rest for another purpose. Cook the meatballs gently, turning them around in the sauce. Give them a minute, and then serve.

I served these meatballs to myself with some steamed asparagus, and it was a very nice combination. The original recipes suggests egg noodles, which would work if you have a lot of sauce.

If desired, top the meatballs with a few more capers and some chopped parsley before serving.

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* I feel that parsley is really underappreciated and under used, especially in the U.S. I think we still think of it as only a garnish on a plate. But in meatballs, for example, it not only adds a fresh flavor and a pretty color, but it adds moisture as well. But omit it if you don’t love it.

note: In the original recipe, you are also supposed to add chopped capers to the meatballs, which is a very good addition. Since my husband was going to be eating a majority of these meatballs, I omitted them.
Also, think about the different ways that you can season the broth, using peppercorns, allspice, star anise, orange peel, garlic, and much more. It’s a brilliant way to add flavors to the basic broth base of the sauce.
Also, I didn’t add any salt to either the meatballs or the sauce; I feel that the capers lend enough saltiness, but this is your choice.

Mini Muttballs

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I’m straying a bit from my people recipes on the blog here, as you can tell from the above photo, but it’s not unlike me in real life to make food for my dogs. I really do. I buy them top-of-the-line dry dog food, but I still feel that occasionally some meat and vegetables are in order.

Recently I came across a website called DogVacay.com. It’s a fabulous resource for people looking for dog sitters. The dog sitters actually dog sit your dogs in their homes, and the website provides the links to those who provide this service.

But then, the website had this post: 8 Holiday Recipes for Your Dog! I was very amused by it, because all of the 8 recipes look like actual people food, including a doggy eggnog that’s actually made with yogurt. Of course, all photos that have dogs in them get me excited.

So just because I’m a dog lover and I love dog lovers, I decided to make one of the recipes from that post – Mini Muttballs. I have three fairly mini dogs, and they’re all mutts – rescued mutts – so it all made perfect sense.

The original recipe came from the website Entirely Pets. I’m not going to follow the recipe exactly, because I never follow a recipe, but if you’ve never made dog meatballs or a doggy meatloaf before, it’s a good way to start!

When I do make meat-based food for my dogs, I always include vegetables – especially spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, and also parsley. I also tend to minimize dairy, but I’m not sure why. And of course you know to omit the aromatics – they can be problematic for dogs.
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So following is a generalized recipe for the muttballs that I made for my three mutts – just because I love them!

Mini Muttballs

Ground turkey
Chicken livers (I had some leftover from making paté)
Grated carrots
Parsley, chopped
2 eggs
quick oats, finely ground, or you can use breadcrumbs

Place all of the ingredients except the oats in a large bowl.
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Then mix together well using a fork or your hands.
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Add some of the oats; I ground mine up in the food processor.
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Keep adding oats until a mixture is formed that resembles an actual meatball mixture. You don’t want it too soft, or too stiff.
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Place a little bit of oil in a skillet over fairly high heat. Form little meatballs with a scoop, or just with a teaspoon. The dogs won’t care, I don’t think, if they’re misshapen. But try to keep them about the same size overall for cooking consistency.

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Toss them about so that they brown on all sides, and then, using a slotted spoon, place them on a paper towel-lined platter. Continue with the remaining meatball mixture. I didn’t cook these all the way through but you can. I think a little rawness is good for dogs. But you can cook them further in the skillet, and even place them in the oven after browning. That’s a personal choice.

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Serve them warm or at room temperature.

Of my three mutts, Louie is the one most crazed about food. Any kind of food. That’s why he got top billing in the featured photo.

Every summer he gains weight eating dead locusts. We can hear him crunching away, but we can’t stop him. But, in his defense, he was a puppy mill dog. Here he is again, wondering why the hell my husband hasn’t put the plate on the floor!
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Then he decided to share the limelight with Roxy, our eldest. She’s so deaf she didn’t hear all of the commotion; she just happened to come into the kitchen. Her big nose still works…

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Then Frankie came in, who is the most blazé about food. Except when it comes to meat. He weighs 9 pounds but rules the roost. Alpha dog. Head boss. Top dog.

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Frankie managed to get his chin into the tomato sauce.
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Please don’t think we were teasing them with this magnificent mini muttball dinner. All three dogs got muttballs. And they loved them. People could certainly eat these muttballs as well, except for the extreme lack of seasoning.

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