Spaghetti Squash Veggie Bake

I have been lovin’ Mondays this semester. I get up super early to take Devin to school, work out for an hour, eat breakfast, take a shower and then it’s still not even 9 o’lock yet! Travis goes to work and I have the house to myself until I leave for my 4 o’clock class. It’s usually a “write papers, make presentations and do home work kinda day”. In between studying, I cook.

Last week I roasted a spaghetti squash at 400 degrees for about an hour. Let it cool for a few minutes so you don’t burn yourself! Then use a fork to scoop it into a small baking dish (about a 8×8 size).

roasted spaghetti squash

I looked around in the fridge for some ideas for what to put on the squash. At first I was just going to dump some jarred sauce on it but then I decided to add some veggies to my veggies. I got out a half an onion, 1 zucchini and 2 cloves of garlic, then chopped, diced and sauteed them up in a skillet until almost tender. Then I added a 14 ounce can of organic diced tomatoes and a little oregano, salt and pepper and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so while I went back to my studying.

Then I dumped it over the squash and mixed it around…

spaghetti squash

Covered it with some freshly shredded parmigiano-reggiano…

cover it with cheese

and baked it at 350 for 15 minutes until the cheese melted into the veggie crevices!

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Bake

Lunch is served!

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Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Before I talk about tomato soup let me show off another glorious bowl of overnight oats. Same basic recipe as before but I stirred in thawed frozen blueberries and added some sliced almonds on top. I could eat these everyday but Travis’ reaction to his second bowl in a week was, “Porridge again? I like my smoothie action.”

blueberry almond overnight oats

I love being able to use of TONS of what’s growing in my garden all at the same time! I think I overdid it planting cherry tomatoes because I have them coming out of my ears. In the past 2 weeks I have made gazpacho, a large version of a caprese salad with halved cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella all tossed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette (that we shared with 8 friends) and we have eaten plenty of tomatoes sliced in sandwiches. My son and I picked another couple pounds of tomatoes yesterday and I was pretty excited to try a cooked version of my tomatoes.

Here are the tomatoes before going in the oven…

chopped tomatoes

This soup is so flavorful! I made it with tons of halved cherry tomatoes with a few larger tomatoes…all from my garden. In the early afternoon I prepared the tomatoes, roasted them and then let them cool completely.

roasted tomatoes

Then I blended all of them with my Vitamix. Because the recipe doesn’t tell you how to slice or dice the basil after I transferred the tomato mixture into the soup pot I blended the basil with some of the chicken stock and then added that to the soup. After the soup was done I used my immersion blender to puree the onions to make it completely smooth. I didn’t strain it as instructed.

raosted tomatoes in the Vitamix

Roasted tomato basil soup with some basil to garnish!

roasted tomato basil soup

After we each had a good sized bowl with dinner there  was still enough leftover to fill an eight cup container!

Leftover roasted tomato basil soup

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

  • 3 pounds tomatoes (I used cherry and roma varieties)
  • EVOO
  • 1 large vidalia onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss together the tomatoes, drizzle extra virgin olive oil over and salt & pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
  • In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a little salt and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet to a Vitamix or high speed blender and blend until smooth. Add mixture to soup pot. In the same blender container add basil and about a cup of the stock and blend until mostly smooth. Add to soup along with the remaining stock. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.  Serve hot or cold.

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten

My Tuesday and cooking for a friend

Yesterday I woke up around 8am, made a protein smoothie for breakfast and went off for a chiropractic exam. I have been seeing Dr. Luke at River City Chiropractic since last October for compressed discs in my lower spine. I went for an adjustment and a new back scan… he does these every couple months to see how you’re progressing.

After my scan and adjustment I went off to Kroger to get ingredients I needed to make a meal for my friend Dana that just had twin girls last week! Congrats to Dana and Dale!!

When I returned from the store I worked out (1 hour on elliptical), showered and then started cooking.

I made a double batch of Dottie’s Pasta Salad. Some for Dana and some for us. The red and yellow tomatoes are all from my roof garden!

Dottie's Pasta Salad

I also made a double batch of BBQ chicken. The sauce is A-Maz-iNg! It’s from The Poineer Woman’s blog. I bought packages of bone-in breasts and legs and just started the breasts about 20 minutes before I started the legs (cooking them on two separate sheet trays). I left out the Chipotle Sauce because Dana doesn’t like spicy foods, used shallots instead of onion because it’s what I had but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. The sauce is tangy and sweet and the directions of cooking the chicken first, broiling it THEN adding the sauce really helps for the sauce to stick to the chicken and become thick. 

the Poineer Woman's bbq sauce

Here’s the care package for Dana: pasta salad, chicken, extra bbq sauce and a Banana Bread Cake. I was supposed to eat dinner with them but the chicken looked so good I couldn’t wait and had a leg before I left the house.

pasta salad, bbq chicken and banana cake

After returning from Dana’s I rested for a while with my laptop, then Travis and I went out to open mic night at Poe’s Pub for a couple hours. I never did get to taste the banana bread cake and I only used half of the icing that I made for the recipe…it might be time to make our own cake today!

Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Feta

Tomatoes and watermelon are a match made in heaven. If you haven’t tried the combo before you should soon (like tomorrow!). I looked through several recipes before deciding how I wanted to put my salad together. Feta was usually always added but other than that there were tons a variations going on. I thought some diced up cucumber would be nice for crunch and also decided to add a little green with some arugula.

I got lucky while shopping yesterday and found nice sized tubs of pre-chopped organic watermelon at Ellwood Thompsons for only $1.50 a piece! I grabbed 2 of them 🙂

watermelon and tomato salad

Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Feta

  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed watermelon (make sure it is chilled)
  • 1/2 english cucumber, diced
  • 1 big handful arugula
  • crumbled feta cheese (I used about 1/2 of a block)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • In a salad bowl combine the first 5 ingredients. In a separate small bowl whisk together the next 5 ingredients to make a vinegrette. Pour vinegrette over salad…toss…enjoy!

Have you ever

Whatever You Have Beef Stew

This week has been a blur. Devin started school on the 20th. Classes at VCU started for me last week on the 23rd so this was my first full week of classes. We’re both getting used to getting up early. He took a 3+ hour nap when he got home from school one day! It’s Labor Day weekend though, so with no school on Monday for both of us I can write on my blog, clean the house, do some homework and enjoy our last weekend at the pool for the summer!

The stew I made today is inspired by the rainy day and the bits and pieces of veggies from my cooking this past week that were left in my fridge. In the crisper drawer I had a quarter of a package of baby carrots, a bag of celery with only 2 stalks left, a yellow pepper and half of a large onion. My mom’s fresh canned tomatoes had been opened a few days ago for use in another recipe and I knew the rest of them needed to be used up soon. In the pantry I had a few tiny red potatoes. Making this stew was meant to be!

We served it with cornbread muffins:

Travis took some leftovers to his 95 year-old grandfather and he called me the next day to tell me how much he enjoyed it. He said that, “he wasn’t sure it was beef stew but whatever is was it was really, really good”! How great is that?? Thanks Grandpa!

Whatever You Have Beef Stew

  • 1 pound ground beef (93% lean)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • handful baby carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced into strips and diced small
  • 3 zucchini, quartered and sliced
  • 1 – 16 ounce bag frozen, chopped spinach
  • 12 tiny red potatoes, sliced
  •  1/2 quart fresh canned tomatoes (a 28 ounce can would work great)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  • In a medium skillet cook ground beef and the minced garlic along with a little salt and pepper until the ground beef is cooked through.
  • Meanwhile chop veggies and add them along with the rest of the ingredients (including the cooked ground beef) to the crockpot.
  • Cook 3-4 hours on high.