Let’s talk about snacks

Kale. 

img_2235

This former plate garnish is enjoying it’s deserved limelight as a “superfood” these days. This humble leafy green boasts abundant vitamins K, C, A, iron, folate, magnesium, and the list goes on and on. 

We’ve juiced it. We’ve made salads with it. We’ve sauteed it. We’ve shelled out our hard-earned dollars for those salty, crunchy kale chips at the store. I’m not cheap, and love convenient things as much as the next person, but, if I can do somethng comparable for a better price, well, I’m in. Truthfully, there isn’t any magic to making great tasting kale chips at home. Really. 

You can customize your flavour profile on these so many times, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make these sooner. Change the fat. Change the seasoning. Snacking will never be boring again. Trust me. Remember, I’m the non-cook and if I can get these right, so can you.

The trick to getting these to crisp, is to spread them out on the parchment lined baking sheet. I’m talking, you wanna see white paper between the pieces of kale. Do not crowd them on the pan, it just doesn’t work well. I’ve had a few trays of, um, slightly uncrisp kale chips before I figured out the spacing detail. If you can, keep all the pieces of kale on the pan approximately the same size so they are all ready at the same time.

img_2414

Ready to do this? OK. . . 

Heat oven to 350.

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

  • a bunch of kale (as many leaves as you fancy)
  • approximately 1-2 tbsps melted fat of your choice (avocado oil, ghee, coconut oil, sesame oil, bacon grease if you can get your hands on pastured bacon is divine!)
  • any seasoning your heart desires (salt and pepper, garlic powder, italian seasoning, pizza spices, etc)

Cut the tough stems from the kale and rip into similar sized pieces. Wash and dry completely. I’m talking bone-dry, no water left on the leaves at all kinda dry. Dry ’em with a paper towel if you need to.

Dump the dry, ripped kale pieces into a a large bowl. Drizzle the melted fat into the bowl and using your hands, make sure each leaf is very lightly coated. Place the coated kale leaves on the parchment covered sheet and spread them out. 

Season the kale with salt and pepper or whatever flavour combo you have in your heart and pop the tray into the oven. Depending on how large or small you ripped the kale pieces, you will want to check them at the 10 minute mark and watch until they are crispy but not burnt. Pick up the edges of the parchment paper and slide the crispy chips in to your snack bowl. Fill your face. 

Some suggested flavour combos:

  • sesame oil and sesame seeds or Chinese 5 spice blend
  • avocado oil and Frank’s Red Hot seasoning (I limit this because of the canola oil in the ingredient list of the Frank’s Red Hot)
  • coconut oil and nutritional yeast
  • bacon grease and maple sugar

Vegan? Don’t use the bacon grease. Need to be 21DSD compliant? Keep your spices clean. Told you this was easy.

Let’s talk turkey and a word of thanks

Take a moment to think about what you are thankful for in your life.

Maybe those around you see that you have a wonderful family, a beautiful home, a dream job, reliable vehicles, well behaved pets, a time share somewhere exotic, etc. you get the point. You have these things, but what did you sacrifice to get them? For most people, it’s time. Time away from family, friends and loved ones. Missed opportunities of walks, talks and, you guessed it, time. You can’t get that back either. Every day is a fresh start of 24 hours. Take it. Make the most of it.

Thanks to social media, we show the world what we want them to see. How did we ever live without photoshop or beauty filters? Heaven forbid we have a wrinkle or a pimple. We hide our warts and flaws and act as if our lives are perfect. Andy Warhol, and I’m paraphrasing here, said in the future, we would all be famous for 15 minutes. Quite a prophetic statement. Anyone and everyone can put themselves out for the world to see with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Periscope and so on. We don’t show the pictures of our children’s tear-stained faces when they don’t get picked for the elite team or dance production. Nobody gets to see our hand-me-down clothes or failed garden attempts. We don’t post the photos of the boiled over sauce or our burnt pan. Ok, some of us do, with the hash tag #nailedit. Thank goodness some folks have a sense of humour. 

Being thankful should be simple. Live in the moment. Forget about those damn Jonses, stop trying to keep up with them. Maybe all this time, they are trying to keep up to you. Be with those around you. If you have a roof over your head and food to share, you are ahead of many. Too much emphasis is placed on having the latest device, car and so on. Be thankful for the company of those around you. No one has a guaranteed amount of time on this planet we all share. Not every baby has the luxury to grow old. Life isn’t always fair. 

Be genuinely happy to spend time with those invited into your life. Unplug yourself from your device. Stop staring at a screen and look into the eyes of the people around you. Appreciate those who accompany you on your journey. Young faces are blank canvasses. Nourish their minds with well-told stories. Weathered faces have history and tales to tell. Listen to their stories, even if they are often-repeated yarns. This is how family histories and wisdom are passed down. Don’t interrupt. Enjoy the tale. Let the magic of the story unfold the way the raconteur intended. Don’t nit-pick for accuracy, as embelishment is the better part of any story. When the story-teller is no longer with you, you will long for those tales. 

Let’s talk turkey now.

This year, I ordered a fresh turkey from SPUD. (Yes, I know I talk about SPUD a lot) My folks were out of town this year for Thanksgiving so I opted to store the turkey in their empty fridge as mine was full of all the other accroutemants of our dinner. My plan was to have the turkey on the Sunday so I could relax and enjoy the holiday Monday by doing very little. (remember I’m talking about Canandian Thanksgiving, which was in October, but being thankful has no country of origin or time and datestamp) Through a miscommunication, my beautiful fresh turkey was placed in the freezer portion of the fridge. When it was shuttled to my house along with wine and a table top roasting oven, I was quite confused. I didn’t see the bird the day it was delivered, so I began to think the bird arrived frozen instead of fresh. After some questions, I learned how my bird came to spend the night in the freezer. So now my plans of cooking it Sunday went right out the window. Plan B: we had meatballs and spaghetti squash that night instead. 

I woke on the holiday Monday at 6:00 am and placed the still slightly frozen bird in a deep sink with cold water to thaw. I knew if I cooked it unstuffed, it would cook faster. That bird was given a lovely ghee massage and a jacket of bacon. Don’t judge me. It was amazing!  I threw some frozen poultry bone broth pucks into the roasting pan. The bird had some seasoning and garlic cloves tossed into it’s cavity and the lid was closed. The resulting gravy was rich and needed no further gussying, except to reduce and thicken. While the bird was roasting, I prepped the rest of the dinner. The beautiful thing with using a table top roasting oven, I was able to cook everything else at once in the regular oven without a game of Tetris to make all the dishes fit. Plus, the house stayed a cool temperature as the oven wasn’t going all day. Basting the bird was easy as can be, just lift the lid and go to town. 

By having dinner a night later, we had the privelage of having some of our teenage kids friends join us. It was a casual meal. Everyone grabbed a plate, picked what they wanted, buffet style, and found a place to sit. Some went downstairs and some stayed upstairs. Stories were shared, including the tale of the frozen-fresh turkey, and laughter echoed thoughout the house.

Listening to the conversations and watching everyone enjoy themselves, I was very thankful the turkey was inadvertently frozen, forcing a reschedule of dinner, to allow us such great company. 

Let’s chat about Fall, chia and all things pumpkin 

Fall has landed. That means Winter is around the corner.
Here on the west coast, that means rain. Usually lots of rain. I’m ok with rain because it seldom stops me from doing anything. Rain does not need shovelling. Rain does not cause pipes to burst. Make sure your gutters are clear, your drains are intact and you should be good to go. Rain doesn’t stop me from a daily walk. On the really ugly days, I will stay inside but light rain makes me reach for a wind-breaker and hi-vis vest.
Leaves are donning the most wonderful shades of gold and red and then hitting the ground. Maybe that’s how Autumn came to be known as Fall. It’s time to put on a sweater and slippers and snuggle under a blanket to watch a show or read a book. Does anyone still do that? Or is everything 100% digital? I’m still a fan of a good old fashioned book. No low battery signal, no need to be plugged in to download the next chapter. Just open and go. Reread a chapter, passage or sentence easily. I usually have several books on the go at the same time. I can grab one book when I need to reference something in another.
With the cooler weather, comes all things pumpkin. There’s no denying the pairing of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pumpkin to be close to otherworldly. The pumpkin spice enjoyment face can be recognized by the trademark eyes closed, head slightly tipped up, deep inhalation through the nose and a serene smile. There may or may not be arms wrapped around in a self-hug. Hands may be embracing a mug. Upon exhalation, the eyes will open slowly and there no doubt will be a quiet ‘mmmmmm’.
Everywhere you look, there are pumpkin spice candles, coffees, ice creams, cake, cookies and the list goes on and on. If you can dream it, you can pumpkin spice it.
Why should chia pudding be left out?

The simplicity of this recipe is right up my alley. The other beautiful thing about chia puddings is they do double duty as a dessert. Breakfast for dessert? Sign me up. Late night snack that you are not consumed with guilt about eating? Um, yes please.
Let’s look at some of the ingredients.

dsc04255
I found this brand of coconut milk and it has only two ingredients. No gums. No thickeners. Coconut extract 85% and water. That’s it. In coffee, smoothies, baking and cooking it is divine. I usually pick up 6 of these tetra paks at a time. Is that hoarding? I get weird looks from the cashiers when I am unloading these on the conveyor belt.
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides provide nutritional punch without adding grit or flavour.

Collagen is the most abundant protein on our bodies. It can help strengthen your hair and nails (my nails used to bend backwards easily) and improve the elasticity of your skin. My sleep is improving too. I used to be lucky to get 3-4 hours a night and not in one chunk either. I would have troubles falling asleep, or staying asleep or waking super early (read 3:00 am) and not be able to get back to sleep. The better sleep is a wonderful bonus. I wish I had found this when I was initially diagnosed with a Leaky Gut. Better late than never though. The food journey was/is important. I honestly enjoy this in my coffee every morning. I will add a scoop or two to cookies and muffins without hesitation.
So let’s get to our Pumpkin Chia Pudding shall we?
This is so easy. You will love this.

1 cup of full fat coconut milk

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup chia seeds

1 scoop Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

2-3 teaspoons of maple syrup

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice blend

You can put all the things into a container with a tight fitting lid and shake to your heart’s content. Or, whisk it all up in a bowl. Depends how many dishes you want to wash. Some people prefer a smoother pudding like texture. If you fall into this camp, put everything into your blender and whip it up. Stop and scrape the sides down as needed. The little bead-like quality reminds me of tapioca pudding that we cooked stovetop years ago, so I keep it unblended. Back then, I thought of tapioca pudding as frog’s eye pudding. Gross thought, I know, but, oh well. Stash the pudding in the fridge for several hours or overnight is best.

dsc04259

Grab your spoon and tuck in. Share this with someone you love, or keep it all to yourself.
Want to make this 21 Day Sugar Detox friendly? Skip the maple syrup.

What about the vegans? Skip the collagen.
Chia seeds can hold up to 12 times their weight in water. This helps promote the sustained feeling of fullness. They form a gel like coating which helps act as a prebiotic to feed the probiotics in your gut. That slippery coating allows the seeds to nestle in between your teeth right at the gum line. Do yourself a favour and go floss.
We’ll get into the importance of flossing another day.

Mmm, almond butter, take two

dsc04282

Inspiration is sometimes born of necessity, sometimes from unrelated circumstances (think of that time you woke up at 3:27 in the morning with the best idea EVER) and sometimes inspiration comes from failure. So these nuts weren’t a complete failure, but they didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted. Then. . . inspiration slapped me upside the head and said, waitasecondhere. . . almond butter. Rational brain said, but you already make nice almond butter. Inspiration brain said, no, we don’t want plain almond butter, we want something fancier. Guess who won that argument?

Let’s go back a step. In my head, I pictured myself snacking away on some slightly sweet, salty, spicy crunchy almonds and pecans. So, out came the maple syrup (real stuff, not “table syrup or pancake syrup”),  coconut oil, chili powder and salt. Mixed it all together and into the oven went the pan of nuts. The kitchen smelled really good. Gave them a stir once or twice during their coooking/roasting and dumped them on some clean parchment paper to cool. Well, underwhelmed I was, to say the least. Not as crunchy or spicy as I envisioned. Obviously had some ratios outta whack. After taste-testing a few of the nuts, I could feel a smile, ok it was really more like the grin the Grinch breaks into when he has his wonderful, awful idea, spreading across my face.

wonderfulawful

In my head, I swept everything off the counter in a grand gesture, stuff crashing to the floor to start creating anew. In reality, I moved the cooling nuts aside, grabbed the food processor and all the stuff. I think my heart was actually racing as I started throwing things together.

Almond butter, take two:

  • 3 cups amonds
  • 2 Tbsps real maple syrup
  • 3 – 4 1/2 Tbsps melted coconut oil (depending how runny you want your end product)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (go with your own spicy meter. Like it hot? Add more. Not a spice fan? Use less. Always good to err on the lower side of spicy at first ‘cuz you can always add it, you can’t take it out)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsps cinnamon

Again, this takes your time and patience as you scrape down the sides of the food processor. Let the almonds whirl away until they look like coarse meal and start releasing their own oils. Add the maple syrup and continue blitzing away. Throw the chili pwder, salt and cinnamon in and continue processing. Add the melted coconut oil 1 tablespoon at a time until it is as runny/thick as you want.

Taste it. Is it spicy enough? My chili powder is pretty potent so I found 1 teaspoon gave just enough heat without overwhelming the other flavours. I wasn’t aiming for so hot my mouth was on fire. I was looking for more of an olfactory mild spiciness and the cinnamon rounded that out.

Some days, I miss real bread. This would be so good on toast. Some gluten free breads are good and some are like chewing on the kitchen sponge you lost under the sink a year ago. I try not to pine for all things bread as it just isn’t productive or healthy to waste energy on these thoughts. My health and skin deserve the diligince of my gluten avoidance. Instead, I’ll load this into celery sticks, use an apple as a vessel to shovel it down the hatch, smeared on a piece of dark (71% or higher) chocolate and yes, even a good old fashioned spoonful when I’m snaky-hangry and need something STAT!

Right now, I’m thinking about ice-cream with this as a flavour stir-in . . . maybe in the summer.

 

 

Mmm, almond butter

Have I mentioned I am not a chef? Not even close.

When my husband asked my parents permission prior to proposing, (ooh, more alliteration) my mom replied, “you know she can’t cook right?” Talk about a marriage disclaimer. Thanks mom. Truer words, however, at the time, were never spoken. I could barely make a box of Kraft dinner. I seriously measured the water and salt and followed the instructions on the box to the letter. The results were never as good as what other folks mac n cheese tasted like, but they knew how to adlib (yes, boxed mac n cheese was my idea of food). That was scary territory as far as I was concerned. 

I can read a recipe. I can follow directions (sometimes with great success). I am getting far more adventurous when it comes to making things to eat. I owe a huge amount of thanks to Diane Sanfilippo for showing me, through her recipes, not personally, the simple ways things can be prepeared and how to change things to your own personal taste. I bought Practical Paleo, both of her 21 Day Sugar Detox books and then the second edition of Practical Paleo once it was released. Honestly, I found these books to be worth their weight in gold. They are a combo of cookbook and textbook and easy to understand for the non-sciencey type. They are kitchen confidence builders. 

Let’s get back to my flailings in the kitchen.

I like things to be simple (read: easy) if I’m likely to revisit a recipe. 

Oh, and I’m a little on the cheap side. Ok, maybe cheap isn’t the right word. What something costs and what it’s worth are two vastly different things. Quality will win if it means smaller amounts but with a health bang. Healing and maintaining my Leaky Gut is always on my radar. I digress ever so slightly. 

Nut butters. In a word, yummy. By the spoon kind of yummy. With a sliced apple kind of yummy instead of a bag of potato chips. Let’s be serious though. They are costly and I don’t have all kinds of disposable income to order all the fancy brands and flavours I see online. Some of the store-blought brands have some less than desirable oils and sugar and salt in the mix. So, the thrifty side of me is willing to invest some time standing by the food processor and whipping up my own. No need for an expensive high-powered blender such as a Vitamix or Blendtec to make this either. A basic food processor will do the trick. Just your time and aren’t you worth it?

So, the un-recipe of my almond butter goes like this. . . img_2343

  • 3 cups whole almonds
  • 6 – 6 1/2 tbsps melted coconut oil (depending how fluid you like your almond butter) 

Process almonds on high until broken into small pieces and resembles coarse meal. Add your coconut oil 1 tablespoon at a time. You may need to stop and scrape the sides of the food processor a few times. At about 3-5 tablespoons of oil, it seems to go through a stage where it turns into a big ball of thick pasty glop and you may begin to panic at this point. Fear not, stop, scrape the sides yet again and add another dose of oil. Then, magically. . . it transforms in to a wonderful, slightly chunky, quicksand like consistency butter. Start to finish is less than 30 minutes.

This will make about 2 1/2 cups of almond butter. 

I store mine in glass wide mouth Mason jars. In warm weather, it stays nice and spreadable and in cold weather, the coconut oil content solidifies slightly.

Baking this stuff into muffins and cookies is wonderful. Just dial the oil/butter/ghee you add into those things back ever so slightly because of the oil content of this butter. Your stuff may be too runny otherwise and baking times could be affected. 

If you need me, I’m slicing a Granny Smith apple for dipping. . . 

Teenagers and zombies

Is there a difference?

texting-and-walking

You see them shuffle down the street, eyes cast downwards (glued to their phones), unaware of traffic or anything else in their path. You swear you can hear a low droning utterance of “braaiiinnnnssssssss” in the air. Are these teenagers or zombies? Sometimes the only difference is a pulse. Some of the clothes are just as shredded and tattered as those worn by the undead. This is fashion?

I’d like to update the expression of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ to ‘keep your enemies close and your teenagers closer’.

Almost every parent struggles and strives to be with their babies when they are young. The idea of daycare, to some, is almost akin to neglect. How dare you allow a stranger to care for your child during their early years? Yes, parental contact is so critical during those first few years as you see the milestones achieved and lay the groundwork for future behaviours. One of the first words a child learns is “no”. They hear it time and time again coming from their parent’s mouths. When My kids were little, instead of saying “no, don’t touch”, I’d say, “that’s just for looking”. Same message but with reinforcing a positive action.

I’d like to propose a second maternal/paternal leave during the teen years. That is another time when they really need you. They need to know someone cares and is there for them. They need to know there is a safety net of unconditional love and support. That’s not saying let them do what they want. That’s being there when they need you. Provide structure and boundaries and stand by them. Isn’t that what a parent does? We all know some parents who are trying hard to be their kid’s friend. No. They have those at school and in the neighbourhood. Their friends are the ones they can complain to about how strict/lame their parents are and how they have chores to do and how their curfew sucks. Dancing the fine line between parent and buddy is a tricky foxtrot and it’s easy to get the steps wrong.

Depending on where you live, you have some sort of emergency contingency plan. Or at least you should have one in place. Such as flood preparedness, earthquake supplies and so on. Many people do not think these things will happen, so they don’t discuss where to meet if there is an earthquake or how to get out of the house alive if there were a fire. Humans are reactive. Very few are pro-active and have their ducks in a row. Those that do are often viewed as eccentric or talked about with much eye-rolling.

Cue Hollywood. They have given us movies about the end of the world, zombies, vampires, plagues and so on. Fear of sharks, bees, hospitals, dreams, fires, clowns, the list is endless. “The Walking Dead” comes along and people take notice. Now people talk about how to survive a zombie apocalypse. Some of them are even quite serious in their plans. Like I said, most people have a ‘reactive’ nature. When something bad happens, a flight or fight response kicks in. Some folks take charge of a situation, others run and hide and some do as directed.

We sat around the campfire one night, extra teenagers on hand as is often the case, and the conversation rolled around to just that, surviving a zombie apocalypse. What would we do? Well, we explained our survival plan, which is quite similar to almost every other catastrophe survival plan we have. The surplus teenagers announced if it ever came down to it, they wanted to hook up with us as ‘we had a plan and were obviously going to take care of things and get s#*t done’. I took that as a pretty big compliment. Bigger than “thanks for dinner”.

I don’t mind being the house where they get together, or being the parent who will drive a truckload of girls to the mall or, boys and longboards to a neighbourhood with a lot of hills. When you have them in the vehicle, listen. When they are sitting around the campfire, listen. Take them to the beach and listen. Know the names and faces of who is sharing your kid’s life. Their friends know our house is a safe place where they won’t be judged and they can say anything. I know things about these kids I am sure their own parents do not know. I would never break this confidence unless it was of a dire circumstance and had no option. Some rules have been broken at my house by friends, and proper amends were made so those parents never needed to be told what transpired. My kids were brought up with the understanding that no matter how heinous the crime, tell the truth. Punishment will be adjusted accordingly. They each have done some bad stuff and ‘fessed up 100% as soon as it was possible. Sometimes, half the punishment was waiting for me to get home from work to tell me what they did earlier in the day.

Catch ’em being good.

Is the glass half empty or half full? I don’t think that matters. Either way, there is room for more. Pass the bottle please. . .

Gluten free pizza crust that doesn’t suck

So, this is easy and tasty, but it does have quite a few ingredients and quite a few steps. Until I discovered paleo crust recipes, this was my go-to way to make pizza.

You will need a small, medium and large bowl to get started.                                               Preheat the oven to 425 and cut parchement paper to fit your pizza pan.

In the small bowl, mix together and set aside:

  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 cup very warm water

In the medium bowl, mix together and set aside:img_0404

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp miced garlic
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white sugar

In the large bowl, dry whisk together:

  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp anise seed

Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl with the egg and whisk well. Use a silicon spatula from here on. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the liquidy stuff unti it’s well combined. This will not look like dough at all. DO NOT PANIC!

  

Pour/spoon/scrape the “dough” (glop) onto your parchment paper lined pizza pan (we had some good alliteration going there). Use the silicon spatula to spread it around. This will make a crust just under 16″ in diameter with a slightly raised edge.

Bake 10-12 mimutes at 425. I brush more olive oil onto the crust after it has baked. Once you cover the crust with your favourite toppings, bake at 420 for 15-18 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Friday nights and pizza

Those two things seem to go together like Abbott and Costello, Spongebob and Patrick, movies and popcorn, red wine and dark chocolate. . . well, you get the idea.

When I learned I needed to give up wheat to heal my skin, I honestly thought I’d never have a decent pizza again. Frozen crusts, well, not bad in a pinch, but they are just that. Frozen crusts made on an assembly line. Blah in the flavour department. I’m done with assembly line food. I am my own assembly line now. 

Pizza night is also a great way to use up leftover random things in the fridge. Those last two roasted peppers? Chop ’em up. Had tacos earlier in the week? Leftover ground beef? Fry up those last two strips of bacon. Pull out that brick of frozen spinach and thaw that baby out. Squeeze the water out so your ‘za isn’t soggy. You get the idea. . . 

Two pizzas will do our family of four with a couple of slices for the next day for lunch. I set out double dishes and make two separate batches. I made it once just doubling the recipe and was met with, let’s say, bad? results. Double the dishes and double the clean up isn’t fun, but I’d rather do that than throw out a large bowl of glop and have no pizza.

Years ago, my mother-in-law won a raffle basket with various food items in it. Among the odd things was a squeeze bottle of ‘pizza oil’. She regifted this my way. I have always enjoyed making pizza, even when I did eat wheat. I would get the kids up on footstools and have them help top the crusts. This oil was somehow magical. I have no idea who made it or what was in it. Those pizzas left your fingers with a thin oily slick that turned paper towels orange. I’m sure if I found that oil now, some of the ingredients could be questionable.

I still love pizza on a friday night. Grab a slice and find a movie.

img_0362

Let’s talk about the spaghetti squash

Let’s look at the humble spaghetti squash.

img_2447I marvel that someone, one day long ago, had the idea to cut this open, take a gamble and eat it. That goes for pretty much anything we eat, doesn’t it? Someone looked at something and thought, can I eat this? How many things were tasted with disasterous results? We now Google to our heart’s content, the safety of anything we dare to consume and the best ways to do so. Imagine being the first person to see a squash. Pale outer skin. Curious quasi-football shape. Did someone bite into the tough rind? Was it bitter? Was it first viewed as  a weapon? Did warriors lob this at one another? Was it used to bring down prey? Who knows, and really, who cares.

Someone had the brilliant idea to heat this to increase its palliability and for that, I am grateful. 

I like to get my squash, almost all of my produce really, from Spud. They deliver local, organic goods right to my door. I love supporting local farmers. With a simple cut and simpler prep, you have the start of a beautiful dish or side. This really is easy and tasty. Two things I like. 

After eating spaghetti squash for a couple of years, struggling to cut it open and feeling slightly underwhelmed by the cooked product, I learned I was doing it all wrong. I didn’t season it prior to cooking (first mistake) and, I was cutting it lengthwise. I fought to cleave my way through the stem end. I would wrestle my chef knife into the tough skin, cursing under my breath until I managed to get it free, only to make the next dangerous cut. When it comes to cutting anything, I’ve learned the hard way, with a few impromptu trips to the emergency room, if you are struggling, stop right there. You never want to argue with a knife. You won’t win.

Fast forward through many a squash and many a knife fight. 

One day, it crossed my mind to grab my paring knife instead of my large Shun chef knife. Honestly, a revelation. The easy factor of cooking this squash went up ten-fold. Plus, when you cut your spaghetti squash crosswise, you get nice long strands. It looks more like spaghetti and isn’t that the look we are going for? 

So, in a nutshell: 

Prepping spaghetti squash:

Preheat your oven to 375

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

Use the sharp tip of your paring knife to make small cuts through the skin. Think about carving a pumpkin. Use the same kind of small, piercing cuts to go around the squash. Cut your spaghetti squash crosswise and scoop out the seeds. Crack some black pepper and salt into the hollow of the squash. Don’t skip this step, it really adds great flavour to the final taste. 

Place it cut side down on the cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. I found if I shut the oven off and leave the squash in the oven until I am ready to eat, it continues to steam to perfect tenderness. Use a fork to remove the strands into your serving bowl. Or, loosen the strands and add your sauce into the squash “bowl” and tuck in. 

This pairs really nicely with my Un-Pasta Sauce

Let’s talk about basics

This is easy. This is so tasty. This was given the proclamation of “make this any time” kind of rave reviews. Wow. My heart sang and did backflips. 

Real food. Real simple food.

Keeping real food in your pantry and fridge allows you to make more real food. That seems simple doesn’t it? With a few really basic things, which you may very well have in your arsenal already, you can have a wickedly good Un-Pasta Sauce ready in about an hour. You don’t need to be a slave to the jar sauce any more. Thanks to Spud, a local organic grocery delivery company, I have these basics on hand almost all the time.

img_2401

Scrounge up some grape or cherry tomatoes, a zucchini, onion, red pepper along with a few other goodies and you are off to the races.

Oven-Roasted Un-Pasta Sauce

  • 1 small zucchini, peeled and diced
  • 2 lbs of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or diced (I dice mine)
  • 1/2 a small white onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (you decide how garlicky you want this)
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. 

Chop all your veg (try to keep everything around the same size for quick and uniform cooking) and dump into a 9×13 metal baking dish. Drizzle oil and vinegar over veg and stir it all around. Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the mix and give it a taste. You can do that, nothing sketchy here. (See how we didn’t use a bowl to mix our stuff? One less dish to wash. Win-win!) Once it is seasoned to your taste, fire it into the oven for 45 minutes. Your tomatoes should look kinda shrivelled and your kitchen probably smells amazing.

If you opt to use big tomatoes, (not sure how may you would need) I suggest seeding all the innerds, otherwise your sauce is kinda watery, but, that’s just my personal preference. I don’t care for the ooky insides of tomatoes. Truthfully, I really am not a huge tomato fan, but cooked in stuff seems to be ok  as far as sneaking them past myself. I also know they are good for me, so I put on my brave face and scarf ’em back in stuff like this.

Now, if you eat noodles, while the veg are roasting in the oven, boil your water and make your pasta (gluten free for me if I was having noodles). Me? Right now, I’m a spaghetti squash person. So, I cut a squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place it cut side down on a parchment covered baking sheet and stab a few holes in the rind. I pop this in the oven alongside the Un-Pasta Sauce. Depending on the size of the squash, it should be done around the same time as the roasted tomato concoction. 

img_2363

Now, go pour a glass of red wine, load your bowl with either gluten free pasta or spaghetti squash, dump some of this magic on top and prepare to bask in the compliments. 

You can also take this to new amazing levels by spooning some feta on top after it comes out of the oven. Need meat? Brown some ground beef or pork or combo and stir into the sauce. It’s a great basic to tweak to your heart’s content.