Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Ricotta stuffed shells

I don't like to admit it, but I kind of have a problem when it comes to browsing Pinterest. I guess I wouldn't call it a problem per say, but I go on there more then I would like. I just can't help myself. There is sooo much stuff on there to look at! I stick to the necessities though; food, fashion, and fitness. Sometimes it dawns on me that my browsing is a waste of time and I need to stop. Other days, like the day I found this recipe, I feel like the hour I just wasted to find a single recipe was well spent. I have pinned about 130 recipes, and this is the only one I have made. In reality, I probably will not make more then 5. I would really like to though, because it would be super hard to choose those 5! I will post the original recipe I found, but I did not fully follow it. I did not measure my ingredients or have a lemon, so I could not make the recommended sauce. I wish I had had a lemon though, I bet that would have been good! My version is posted after the original recipe.

The original recipe from: http://www.prouditaliancook.com/2009/10/butternut-squash-stuffed-shells-with.html

I modified it a little for my own preferences, but it is by no means my recipe.

Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Ricotta Stuffed Shells with a lemon sage butter sauce
jumbo pasta shells
1 butternut squash
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic – chopped
½ cup Fresh or frozen spinach- or more if you want
1 egg
Salt and pepper is optional
zest and juice of 1 lemon


1.       Peel, chop and toss squash olive oil, roast at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

2.      Cook your jumbo pasta shells according to directions.

3.      In a bowl add ricotta, parmesan cheese, garlic,  spinach, egg, your cooled down roasted squash, lemon zest. Mix together, will not be a uniform mix. You will want there to be some chunks of squash.

4.      Stuff the shells with the mixture and place in a buttered baking dish.

5.      Make a sage brown butter sauce by melting 1 stick of butter in a saute pan until golden brown and bubbly

6.      Add at least 10 sage leaves until slightly crisp. Turn off heat and squeeze in fresh lemon juice.

7.      Place your shells in a 400F oven until heated through around 20-25 minutes. When finished spoon your warm sage sauce all over and sprinkle with grated parmesan.
I did not use the lemon, egg, or sage. I also did not measure the ricotta cheese. Instead of putting parmesan cheese in the mixture (I only had a tiny bit of parmesan at home), I made a light sauce with it and poured it over the top. I also only used half of a butternut squash and a couple of handfuls of torn-up spinach.  I cooked about 14 shells, and had enough of the mixture to fill about 12. This recipe says it will stuff about 12 shells, but I think you can get a lot more out of it.
Here is my finished product:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Spinach and Parmesan Cream Sauce

This is my new favorite food. I think one reason I like it so much is because I thought of it all by myself! That doesn't happen very often. I was rummaging through my refrigerator one night trying to decide what to cook for dinner. I found: spinach and parmesan cheese. Pretty exciting, I know. I had a sweet potato sitting on the counter for about a week, and decided I needed to do something with it. Noticing a trend with the veggies sitting on my counter? Let me remind you. The spaghetti squash I used in my pad thai was borderline old. Anyway, I brainstormed for a mintue on what to do with a sweet potato, spinach, and parmesan cheese. I wasn't feeling baked or mashed sweet potato and adding spinach to that just sounded boring. The obvious choice was to make pan fried gnocchi. I had made it a few times before, but always made a carbonara sauce to go with it. Parmesan cheese is my favorite cheese to make cheese sauce with, and the spinach was just there and I had to use it before it went bad. So it was settled. Sweet potato gnocchi with spinach and parmesean cream sauce was about to be created. I am giving you my recipe even though it is a little vague. I was serious when I said I do not like to measure ingredients. I just add them until it looks or tastes how I want it. I really hope you try this, I am pretty sure it would be difficult to mess it up. I really don't know though, some peole are cooking challenged....

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
2 sweet potatoes – cooked and mashed (I poke holes in mine and microwave them, about 3 min on each side for 1)
1 cup of flour- start with this and add more as needed (until the dough is not very sticky)
1 egg
1.       Mix ingredients together until a dough forms. You want it to be a manageable, not too sticky consistency.

2.       Get a pot of water boiling

3.       Take small sections of the dough and roll it out on a floured surface. Roll the dough into long, thin snake-like shapes

4.       Cut the gnocchi into ½- 1 inch long sections. It gets larger when it is boiled.

5.       Add gnocchi to boiling water and cook for about 5 min or until it is cooked to your liking (I always try a piece before taking it out of the water) I usually have to cook it in a few batches. One batch will do if you have a huge pot.

6.       While gnocchi is boiling get a pan heated up with olive oil and/or butter

7.       Add gnocchi to pan after taking it out of the water. I cook mine until it has a little crunch to it and is golden brown

Ingredients for spinach and parmesan sauce:
Fresh spinach – tear it into small pieces, as much as you want. It shrinks when it is cooked.
Butter (optional; sometimes there is enough butter left on the gnocchi from pan frying it)
Milk and/or heavy cream
Shredded parmesan cheese

I do not measure any of these ingredients. I combine them all in a sauce pan together until they are well combined and the cheese is melted. You can also add the spinach to the frying pan and sauté it with the gnocchi if you'd like. When everything is ready I dump the gnocchi into the pot and mix with the cheese sauce. This makes enough to serve 2. Depending on how much you eat, there may or may not be leftovers. It is just as good reheated!
I am working on getting the pictures to be larger. In the meantime just click on it and it will enlarge!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Flourless Fudgy Brownies!

This recpie is not one that I have created, because I am awful at creating recipes for baked goods. I have no idea where to even start when it comes to figuring out how much of what ingredient to add. This is one of my favorite recipes I have found for a gluten-free treat. There are so many gluten-free products on the market right now, but a lot of them are made from potato flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, etc. (side note: new studies are finding rice/rice products contain tiny amounts of arsenic!! From now on I will only be eating rice when I have sushi, I can't not eat sushi!). I am not feeling that. It may be gluten-free but I think I would rather eat gluten from whole grains instead of these "white" carbohydrates that don't have the lowest glycemic index. I suppose that these brownies don't have the lowest glycemic index either, considering they do have sugar in them. Oh well. They still taste really good! Sometimes that is all that matters! Sometimes. Let's not get carried away.

I found this recipe at: http://www.health-bent.com/treats/paleo-fudgy-brownies . They are calling these brownies Paleo. But they aren't. They could be though, if you tweak the recipe and leave the sugar out. I think they mention that on their page. I have to agree with the people at health-bent, these brownies do taste A LOT like "real" brownies. By "real" I mean the awful for you ones that come from a box mix.


  • 1 c almond butter
  • 1/2 c canned coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c sugar (optional or sweetener of choice)
  • 1/3 c chocolate chips (use the highest % cocoa you can find, around 70% is good)
  • 1/3 c chopped nuts ( I used walnuts)

  • Directions:

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8 baking dish.
    In a bowl whisk together the almond butter, coconut milk, eggs, vanilla extract and salt. Then add the cocoa powder, sugar, and chocolate chips.
    Pour into the prepared baking dish and top with chopped nuts.
    Bake for approx. 18 minutes.

    Of course I do not have a picture for you! Suprised? You shouldn't be! I could have borrowed the one from health-bent's page but those are not the brownies I made, so I didn't.

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Flourless pancakes!

    I have been going through an "anti-grain as a source of carbohydrate" phase. It has been on and off for the last 3 months, and there is no one reason in particular. I have been experimenting with cooking with different types of flour and no flour. I am really liking coconut and almond flours. Coconut flour has about 11g less carbohydrates in 100g than white flour does. Over half of the carbohydrates in 100g of coconut flour is fiber. Also, the glycemic index isn't too high. So even though coconut flour is a source of carbohydrates, it is a better source then refined white flour that will cause your blood glucose to spike and leave you hungry only a short while later. Coconut flour is also a more healthy option than whole-wheat/whole-grain flours.

    When I do eat foods made from "regular" flour, it is whole-grain, 99% of the time. Even though whole-grain flours are more healthy than enriched white flour, sometimes I still feel like they are "empty calories". I know that they provide heart-healthy fiber and some other semi-beneficial things, but for the amount of calories in bread, pasta, etc, I would rather be filling up on a lighter, healthier option. I really like bread, pasta, and baked goods, and I am super excited to have found healthier alternatives for making these foods.

     I don't think I would be able to fully eliminate bread, pasta, and some baked goods from my diet, nor do I have any interest in doing so. I try to eat whole-grains in moderation though, just because if I eat too many I feel bogged down and crummy. I am a pretty firm believer that it's fine to eat all foods in moderation. Some people, who do not have gluten intolerances such as Celiac Disease, willingly give up all types of grains for various reasons. People who eat "Paleo" are the main ones who come to mind. I know I have talked about Paleo eating on here in the past, and although I still disagree with some of the "facts", I am warning up to this lifestyle. I find the Paleo lifestyle very interesting, and am in love with some Paleo recipies I have found. When it comes down to it though, being Paleo is not a lifestyle that is for me. I am all about eating healthy and will continue to eat and cook several Paleo recipes, it is just not practical for me to all together eliminate grains (and dairy, but we are talking about grains today).

    I am constantly browsing the web for new recipies to try. I came across this one back in August, and I am in love with it (I forgot where I found it though, I've seen it on a couple of websites). Take note that after going on about coconut flour I am posting a recipe that uses no flour. haha.

    Almond Butter Pancakes

    1-2 ripe bananas (mashed)
    1-2 tbs almond butter
    1 egg

    Optional: blueberries and/or chopped walnuts

    Mash bananas in a bowl with a fork.
    Add in egg and almond butter, mix well. Batter will have some banana lumps.
    I use coconut oil to grease my frying pan, but use your choice of grease.
    Pour batter onto hot pan in about 3 inch round cakes (if they are larger they are harder to flip).
    Wait until bubbles form before flipping. Make sure they are cooked well and not gooey!
    I like to eat mine with maple syrup.

    I apologize for the crappy picture. I am not one to take a lot of pictures while I am cooking. The top left pancake has blueberries and walnuts, the top right has only blueberries, and the bottom one is plain. I think I like them with just walnuts, but of course I do not have a picture of that kind!


    Thursday, November 15, 2012

    Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

    I have had a spaghetti squash sitting on my sideboard for the past two weeks. I have looked at the thing daily, but have been to lazy to make something with it. I knew what I wanted to make with it, just have not have the drive. Also for the last two weeks I have been eating more grains and carbs than what I would prefer. I go through phases with grains, like pasta and bread. Somedays I love them and other days I wish they didn't exist. I can do without them just fine, and feel a lot better and more energetic when I don't eat them. They are my "I'm in a lazy mood" go-to foods. I need to not be lazy and actually cook well-thoughtout meals. I love cooking and eating, and have so many meal ideas I want to make, but sometimes cooking is too time consuming. Atleast through all of this food laziness I have been getting in a workout daily.

    Last night I decided it was time to eat the spagetti squash and get out of my carb funk. I made spaghetti squash pad Thai! Whenever I go to a Thai restaurant, pad Thai is my go to. I cannot and will not get a way from it. I looked over a couple of recipes online, but for the most part I just did my own thing with the ingredients. I don't really like creating or following recipes. Maybe I just don't like to measure things. I didn't have some of the recommended ingredients either.

    First I baked the spaghetti squash in the oven. After it was cooked I separated the strands with a fork and set it aside. I didn't have a clove of garlic, so I just used garlic powder. I put some garlic powder and chopped scallions in a frying pan on low-medium heat. Then I added some shrimp. While that was starting to cook, I started to mix the pad Thai sauce in a bowl. I added about 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, juice from 1 lime, and some water and vinegar. On a side note, fish sauce smells really bad. This was the first time I had ever cooked with it. It's also super salty. I do not like salty things and never add salt to anything. Also, I cut a nice gash in my thumb while I was cutting the lime in half. Anyway, I tried to stir the sauce together, but the peanut butter was making things difficult. I ended up just dumping it in the frying pan with everything else to soften the PB. Recipes online said to use sweet chili sauce. I do not have sweet chili sauce. I used a little bit of sirracha sauce instead. I also added some honey. After the sauce was blended together I added the spaghetti squash to the frying pan. I ended up adding in some more sirracha and water to tone down the fish sauce. I let everything cook together for a couple of minutes, just to make sure the spaghetti squash was fully coated with the sauce. Then I put it on a plate with some sushi I bought and dinner was served! I even used chopsticks to eat! I think the sauce I made was a little more mild then what you would get at a restaurant, but still very flavorful. It was delicous! Also very filling! I had my leftovers for lunch at work today. I will definitely be making this meal again!

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

    Adventures in Vietnamese Cooking

    So I had my first Vietnamese cooking lesson. I was at my father-in-laws house killing time with my husband, and my almost step-mother-in-law, Minh, was cooking lunch. She is from Vietnam, and is one of the best cooks I have met. I have been wanting to learn from her for a while, and finally was in the right place at the right time. I didn't think I was in the right place at the right time at first though. It started off with my husband leaving me alone with Minh. Don't get me wrong, she is great and I like her a lot, but she is a little difficult to understand. Ok, very difficult to understand. I think I get about 50% of what she says. But she is as nice as can be and does not seem to mind my ignorance. So when my husband left, I was thinking uh-oh. First we made lo-mein. Minh already had the noodles cooked, so we started off by cooking chicken to put in the lo-mein. Then we added scallions, garlic, butter, and a little soy sauce. While that mixture was cooking we put together the filling for the spring rolls, fresh rolls, I don't really know what they are called rolls. We cut up some shrimp and scallions and added them to a pot with water, garlic, and butter. Minh handed me some extra-long chop sticks to tend to the cooking. I was thinking, chop-sticks?! these are going to be helpful. Not. To make things a little more tricky, she added way too many noodles to the pot with the chicken. I was trying to toss and mix everything together without tossing the noodles out of the pan. Meanwhile, Minh was getting ready to chop up some fresh greens to add to the spring rolls. The only cutting board in sight was the one she used to cut up the raw chicken and shrimp. I was thinking, oh God, I am going to get salmonella and never going to want to eat her food again. Thankfully, she washed it. Now we were ready to put the spring rolls together. Minh told me to wash my hands before we started. When she repeated herself for the third time I caught what she said and obliged. At 5'3" I am not tall by anymeans, but next to Minh I feel like a giant. She asked me to get the rice paper down from a shelf she could not reach. After about 5 tries, I finally got the correct package down (she had a lot on the shelf and wanted the package that was already open). She did the first roll then let/told me do the rest. Rice paper is kinda hard to work with! I felt like I was working with clingy plastic wrap- you all know how fun that can be. She only laughed at me once and took one sheet of rice paper away from me after I stuck it to itself in about 16 different spots. There was no fixing that piece. Overall, the spring rolls came out decent looking. Minh made a "special sauce" to dip them in which is full of "secret ingredients". She did not teach me the "secrets". Maybe next time. She is big on sauce though. If you don't take some for youself, she will give you some. Whether you want it or not. So take the sauce. After eating, the four of us somehow got on the subject of gay marrige. Minh is all for it, which is cool. Before taking her naturalization test, she had a tutor to help her study. We learned that the tutor was a 42-year old lesbian who Minh thinks had a crush on her. Crush or not, Minh didn't mind, and some pretty funny stories. Minh said next time she will show me how to make banh xeo. Banh xeo is one of the few words I can understand from her, and it's not english. Go figure. I can't wait for that cooking lesson (for real; that is my favorite vietnamese food)!

    The finished products: