Monthly Archives: September 2013

Spaghetti Squash-Those-Calories Beef Lasagna

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I’m back at it again with the beloved spaghetti squash. I just can’t get enough of it – sorry I’m not sorry.  I’ve received no protests concerning my spaghetti squash dinners from the one person I cook for, therefore, I figured I had to try cooking spaghetti squash lasagna because I’ve never met a lasagna I didn’t like. So what happens when you take one of the best dishes ever made and combine it with lower fat, calorie, and carbohydrate ingredients? You get pure bliss for your taste buds with no extra time required at the gym.

If you haven’t already noticed, I thrive on making food as healthy and low calorie/fat as possible. This spaghetti squash beef lasagna is an exemplary dish where one can easily eliminate unnecessary calories, fat, and carbohydrates without sacrificing the taste. Don’t believe me? You will after you try it and understand the nutritional breakdown.

The four ingredients I tampered with from a typical beef lasagna recipe were ground beef, lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. I used 93% lean, 7% fat content ground beef, replaced the noodles with spaghetti squash, and I substituted low-fat ricotta and low-fat mozzarella cheese in place of their fattier forms.

The lighter version of the four ingredients previously mentioned eliminates approximately 1,479 calories from the ENTIRE dish. In other words: a typical beef lasagna comes out to about 3,309 calories for the whole thing and 413 calories per serving. In skinny terms, my lighter version of lasagna calculates to about 1,830 calories for the entire dish and 229 calories per serving.  I know, I was equally surprised – and elated.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some leftover spaghetti squash beef lasagna that is calling my name for dinner.

Spaghetti Squash Beef Lasagna

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Ingredients:

-3 tbsp olive oil (for sautéing)

-1/2 tbsp butter (for the spaghetti squash)

-1 large spaghetti squash (You can use a medium squash, but just know you will probably only be able to do a one-layer lasagna instead of two. If you really want the double-layered lasagna and you only have small spaghetti squashes available, just cook two small ones)

-1 medium white onion, chopped

-1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I used Classico’s cabernet marinara; or be awesome and make your own sauce)

-1 pound of 93% Lean, 7% fat ground beef

-1 15 oz low-fat container of ricotta cheese

-1/2 cup of 2% shredded mozzarella cheese

-1 cup of fresh basil leaves (loosely packed), chopped

-10 oz frozen spinach (the size of a typical pack), thawed and drained

-Dash of red pepper flakes

-Salt and Pepper to taste

-1 to 2 tsp of Italian seasoning (the more the merrier)

-1/2 tsp of dried parsley

Directions:

* I recommend cooking the beef and prepping the other ingredients while the spaghetti squash cooks. It cuts your time significantly – to about 45 minutes of hands on preparation and another 20-30 minutes of baking (where you don’t have to do anything – except maybe clean up).

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise, remove the seeds, sprinkle with salt, and place cut-side down in a baking dish (I used a pyrex dish. Also note: if you need to cut off the end of the squash to fit into the dish, it will still cook properly). Fill the dish about a quarter to a third of the way up with water. If you are a salt freak like me, you can add more salt to the water. Bake for 50-55 minutes (Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the squash and your oven. A small spaghetti squash should cook for 30-35 minutes, a medium squash for 40-45 minutes, and a large squash for 50-55 minutes as listed above).

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-Take the spinach out of its package and thaw in a colander. I ran warm water over mine to speed up the process. I then took a slotted spoon and rigorously pressed the remaining water out of the spinach.

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-While the squash bakes, sauté the garlic on medium heat in the olive oil until golden in a large pot. Immediately add the chopped onion, salt and pepper to taste, Italian seasoning, dash of red pepper flakes, and parsley and stir together. Sauté the onions for about five minutes on medium to high heat, or until they begin to appear translucent.

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-Add the ground beef and sprinkle on a little more salt. Cook for about five minutes, or until the beef has completely browned.

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-Pour in the marinara sauce and cook for about 25 minutes, but make sure to stir the contents periodically. Depending on the beef and marinara sauce you use, it may take a bit longer to cook off any additional liquid. Just make sure your final meat sauce doesn’t have too much liquid, or else the lasagna won’t bake properly. The picture below is what my sauce looked like when fully cooked. Once it is fully cooked, turn the burner to low to keep the sauce warm.

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This is what the meat sauce should look like when finished cooking

-While the beef and squash are cooking, chop the cup of basil leaves. Take the spinach and basil leaves and place in a bowl. Stir in the ricotta cheese until all three ingredients are well incorporated. Set aside.

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-Once the spaghetti squash is cooked, remove from the oven, drain the water, and set the dish aside for about five minutes to cool.  With a fork (and once the squash has cooled), scrape out the squash into a large bowl. The outer skin is VERY hot, so watch out (I wear an oven mitt)! Add the ½ tablespoon of butter and salt and pepper and stir it into the squash. Set aside. If your spaghetti squash produces a lot of liquid, just strain it before adding it to the lasagna.

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-In a baking dish (I used the same pyrex dish that the spaghetti squash cooked in), scoop out about half of the meat sauce and spread as evenly as possible.

-Spread about half of the spaghetti squash over the sauce. I recommend using a spoon or a spatula to most efficiently move the ingredients around.

-Take half of the ricotta cheese mixture and spread it on top of the squash.

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-Repeat the last three steps.

-Sprinkle the ½ cup of mozzarella over the top of the second layer of ricotta cheese.

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-Place in the oven and cook at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until the mozzarella cheese is fully cooked/melted. Let the lasagna cool for about five minutes before serving.

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-Last, and certainly not least, ENJOY!

If you like spaghetti squash, check out my Cheesy, Bacon Spaghetti Squash recipe!

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Cheesy, Bacon Spaghetti Squash

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I don’t know about you, but I love pasta – any type of it. I just don’t love all the empty calories that come along with this particular starchy Italian food. Growing up, my mother cooked some variation of an Italian pasta dish at least once a week. I always devoured her pasta dinners and had no difficulty going back for second and/or third helpings until halfway through high school, when all carbohydrates became the enemy.

Remember the South Beach Diet and Atkins Diet trend? I, regrettably, jumped on the bandwagon and eliminated all “bad” and “empty” carbohydrates. I only lasted a few months because how can anyone truly do away with carbs? I’m weak and Italian – that kind of diet just wasn’t going to work for me. While I obviously delight in the taste of pasta, its nutritional value – or lack thereof – always leaves me feeling guilty for indulging in the food. That’s all changed though, in thanks to the spaghetti squash and the genius that decided to substitute it for spaghetti (or other types of pasta).

Spaghetti squash has changed my foodie life. In addition to the fact that it provides a healthy, light, and tasty alternative to regular pasta, it has facilitated an Italian cooking experiment in my kitchen. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been cooking with the squash almost once a week and I have yet to be disappointed with the results.

This past week’s spaghetti squash experimentation resembled that of a BLT with a cheesy, creamy twist. In essence, I used ricotta cheese, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, bacon, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil (which can be substituted with spinach if you’re looking for the authentic “L” in BLT). It was an amazing, creamy, salty, comforting dish that I’m craving as I write.

Now here’s some nutritional info your gluteus maximus will be more than glad to hear: there are only 205 calories per serving, or 820 calories for the entire dish. On the contrary, if you used spaghetti instead of squash (about five yielded cups, the amount of one medium spaghetti squash), the calorie count per serving would come out to about 440 calories, or 1,755 calories for the entire fare. It may have taken over ten years, but my carb-fearing subconscious and my Italian taste buds can now live and eat in harmony.

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Cheesy, Bacon Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

-1 tbsp margarine

-1 medium spaghetti squash

-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

-1 medium shallot, chopped

-1 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped (once chopped, the basil condenses a bit)

-1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered

-6 slices of bacon, cooked

-1/2 cup of light ricotta cheese

-2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella

-1/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs

-Dash of red pepper flake

-Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise, remove the seeds, sprinkle with salt, and place cut-side down in a baking dish (I used a pyrex dish). Fill the dish about a quarter to a third of the way up with water. If you are a salt freak like me, you can add more salt to the water. Bake for 45 minutes (cooking times will vary depending on the size of the squash and your oven).

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-With about 15 minutes left in the spaghetti squash’s cooking time, in a large pan, sauté the garlic and shallots in the olive oil for a few minutes on low to medium heat, or until the garlic has turned a golden color. Add the tomatoes and basil, increase the temperature to medium to high, add salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about ten minutes. You want to make sure the tomatoes don’t add too much water to the mixture, so if this is the case, just sauté the contents a little longer until the water has steamed off. Keep the pan on the burner on low heat and continue to stir the contents until it’s time to add the other ingredients.

-Once the spaghetti squash is cooked, remove from the water and set it aside to cool before scraping out the squash. You don’t want to burn yourself, so make sure you let both sides cool for around ten minutes.

-In the meantime, it’s time to cook the bacon. I bake my bacon because it eliminates a majority of the entire mess. Line a cooking sheet with foil, place about six slices of bacon on the sheet, and cook at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Once the bacon has cooked, chop into small to medium sized pieces.

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-Scrape out the spaghetti squash with a fork and place in a bowl. Add the tablespoon of margarine and salt and pepper to taste and stir into the squash.

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-Turn the burner back to medium to high heat and add the spaghetti squash to the garlic, tomatoes, shallot, panko bread crumbs, and basil. Stir in the ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella, bacon, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat for about five minutes to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated. Let cool before digging in!

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Enjoy!

If you like spaghetti squash, check out my recipe for spaghetti squash lasagna !

These Socks are Made for Crawling

I’ve been nannying off and on for over ten years. Following my college graduation, I worked a few “professional” jobs that I couldn’t tolerate, never lasting more than a few months at a time in an office setting. Seriously, if an email address, an office chair, and professional work attire are required for a position, I DON’T WANT IT! With that in mind, I’ve been extremely lucky working multiple roles as a modern day Mary Poppins. I love kids and have an exuberant amount of patience for them (not so much with adults), which is why I do what I do.

My current position entails taking care of a 9-month-old baby girl. She started crawling about a month and a half ago and has been on the move ever since. She’s quite the interested infant and loves to explore the confines of her urban condo. There is a drawback, however, and that is that most of our time is spent in the great room–which only has one medium sized area rug–forcing the 9-month-old crawler to cruise on the hard wood floor. Not only is the floor cold, but it’s obviously hard on her little knees. On days when she wears pants, the floor is no issue; but since it’s summertime in the south, she’s regularly dressed in the typical onesie to keep cool.

Whilst wasting time on pinterest the other day, I came across a pin about “babylegs” and I knew I had to make them (find babylegs here: http://www.sisterssuitcaseblog.com/2012/08/diy-babylegs-guest-post-from-courtney.html). The blogger I referenced used a sewing tactic to make her leggings, but I didn’t want to put in the sewing effort as I’ve only done so in home economics class back in junior high school over 15 years ago (writing that makes me feel old). I therefore skipped the sewing part, and to my benefit, the leggings actually turned out quite well. The leggings roll a bit on the ends, but that doesn’t deter them from protecting chubby, little legs and knees that are constantly on the move. This was a simple and easy project that took under 15 minutes to complete three different pairs of crawler leggings.

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Materials:

-Knee socks (I used three pairs purchased from Target)

-Marker

-Scissors

-Straight edge to trace the cut-off line (I used a credit card)

Instructions:

-Lay out the socks as evenly as possible on a flat surface

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-Take your straight edge and align it as straight as possible just above the heel of the sock. With the marker, draw a straight line above the heel that is parallel with the top hem of the sock.
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-With the scissors, cut along the line as evenly as possible.photo 3 (5)

-And there are your crawler leggings. Do what you please with the foot of the sock (I’m using them as little hand puppets). I find it easiest to flip the socks when putting them on baby: ie. put the cut end up on the thighs, leaving the hemmed part of the sock on the ankles.photo 4 (5)But what do they look like on a baby? Adorable is the only word that comes to mind.

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