Friday, November 28, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Goulash

This Spaghetti Squash Goulash is my "go to" recipe on nights that I come home late from work or the gym and just don't have the energy or ambition to cook yet want something nutritious. I love this recipe because as long as you have three basic ingredients on hand—a jar of tomato sauce, ground sausage, and spaghetti squash—you golden. The rest is whatever vegetables you may have in your fridge that you want to throw in. 

I always keep a package of ground sausage, sweet or hot, stocked in the freezer, and a jar of my favorite tomato sauce in the pantry just for this recipe. The spaghetti squash is a more seasonal item, so sometimes I make it over gluten-free pasta or rice, but the squash is my favorite by far.

Below is the recipe for this particular evenings creation. Feel free to mix and match vegetables you have on hand in your fridge. I haven't come across a bad combination yet. If you like the vegetables you put in, I'm pretty sure it will come out just fine.
Spaghetti Squash Goulash
1 whole medium spaghetti squash
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, chopped
10 ounces white button mushrooms, chopped
1 jar (24 ounces) tomato sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 green onion, chopped for garnish

Carefully cut spaghetti squash in half and place cut side down in a microwave safe bowl. Add about 1/2 inch of water to the dish, cover and microwave for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is cooked all the way through. Once it is cooked through, uncover and let it cool for about 10 minutes before handling. 

While the spaghetti squash is cooking, begin to make the meat/vegetable mixture. Place the ground sausage in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. As the sausage cooks, use your spatula to crumble into small bite-sized pieces. Continue to cook sausage until almost cooked through and only some pink is showing. 

Next, add in your onions and garlic to the pan, stir to combine. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, then add the rest of your vegetables to the pan. Cook vegetables stirring occasionally until desired tenderness, about 8-10 minutes. 

Add your tomato sauce to the pan, stir to combine. Add salt and pepper if needed. Turn heat down to low, cover pan and simmer for about 5 minutes while you prepare your spaghetti squash for serving.

Now that the squash has cooled enough to handle, take a spoon and remove the seeds, discard. Take a fork and begin to pull through the flesh of the squash making spaghetti-like strands. Place your spaghetti squash into serving bowls and sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. Spoon your meat/vegetable mixture over top of squash. 

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and green onion. Serve immediately. 

Yield: 4 servings.
This recipe is gluten-free, and nut-free. It can be easily made vegetarian by adding more vegetables in place of the meat.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Crock Pot Beef Bourguignonne

It's getting colder and colder outside and Old Man Winter is fast approaching. Everyone who knows me knows that winter isn't my cup of tea. I know "hate" is a strong word and you shouldn't use it, but hey, "it is what it is."

I hate being cold, or even somewhat cold. 
I hate having to wear a ton of layers just to take the chill off. 
I hate having to scrape ice and brush snow off my car. 
I hate waiting for my car to warm up just so I can stop shivering uncontrollably. 
I hate pumping gas in the winter...I find myself standing there freezing my butt off and wishing I lived in New Jersey so that someone would be pumping my gas for me.
The list could go on and on...

Winter is no fun for me, so I tend to be one that hibernates as much as possible until spring arrives. You are probably wondering why I live in New York then, right? One I love them too much to leave because if I were to move, it would be to California, and that is just too far.

Regardless of my "hate list" there is one thing that I do really enjoy about the colder months, and that would be comfort food! Even I have to admit that you are never going to enjoy a nice bowl of chili, homemade soups and stews, or a nice big cup of hot chocolate in the warmer months like you do in the winter. It's just not going to work. These kinds of comfort foods are the ones that warm me through and through, and make me feel right at home. So, I guess I should thank you Old Man Winter for that.

This stew recipe is one that I found years ago in a Cooking Light magazine. It was intended to be cooked on the stovetop and had a lot of steps, but I figured why not make it easier on myself and cook it in the Crock Pot? You know, "Set it, and forget it!" 

I've never been a huge fan of your typical beef stew, it's too meat and potatoes for me. Of course this is why my husband loves beef stew. What man doesn't love meat and potatoes, right? I am sure there are some, but probably not too many. So, when I came across this recipe I knew it was more my style, and I knew it would be a good compromise for the two of us. 

The red wine gives this dish a depth of flavor and richness that I really enjoy. We both like mushrooms, carrots, onions, and garlic, so it was perfect in every way. I've made it numerous times over the years, and it is one we look forward to having every winter. 

You can serve this stew as is, or over your favorite gluten-free pasta (shown here with my favorite brown rice pasta by Tinkyada) , quinoa or brown rice. And, if you are so inclined, you could get a nice gluten-free baguette for mopping up any of that delicious gravy! 

I hope you give this one a try and enjoy it as much as we do. 
I may hate winter, but I do love this stew!
Crock Pot Beef Bourguignonne
2 1/2 lbs. beef stew meat
1/3 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 can (14 oz.) gluten-free beef broth
1 1/2 cups red wine (any kind you like to drink)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup carrots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 10 ounce packages white mushrooms, quartered
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 cups frozen pearl onions
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch with water (if needed at the end)

Place stew beef into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag with flour and sea salt. Seal the bag tight and then shake to coat evenly. 

Place all of the liquid ingredients first into a 5-quart crock pot. Then, add the tomato paste and beef mixture. Place all remaining ingredients into slow cooker and cover. 

Cook for about 6 hours on High, or 8 hours on Low. 

If the broth is not thick enough for you at this point you may add some corn starch to it. Take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of corn starch in a small bowl and add some water to it. Mix it well and then pour into the crock pot and stir through. Cover it and let it set up for about 5 minutes.

Serve over your favorite gluten-free pasta, quinoa, or brown rice.

Yield: 9, 1 cup servings.
This recipe is gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2004.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amazing 5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Do you love peanut butter? 
How about chocolate? 
Well then, how about I tell you that these cookies have both those ingredients, and that they are just about the easiest cookies that you will ever make! Yup, it's true, I wouldn't lie. These cookies take only five to ten minutes to prepare, and take about 10-12 minutes to bake. That's it!

Once you take a look at the ingredients list you will notice that there are no oils or flours in this recipe. Please don't panic like I did when I first was introduced to this recipe. I promos you, these cookies will bake just like any other cookie you have made in the past, if not better. The egg replacer and the fat that is naturally in the peanut butter does all the work. 

I can still remember when some friends of mine were telling me about these peanut butter cookies, and I couldn't imagine how the peanut butter wouldn't just melt all over the place. It sounded like a complete disaster. It took me over a year to actually try making them, and when I finally did I was pretty mad at myself for not trying them sooner. They are so good! They are super peanut buttery with just the right amount of dark chocolate. I love to eat them when they are still a little warm with a glass of cold unsweetened coconut milk. Yum! 

Both of my friends recipes were very similar to the one you see here. I have made only a few changes to the original recipe to take them up a notch. So, go ahead and make them today, and I guarantee that they will be amazingly delicious!
Amazing 5 Ingredient Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
1 cup Peanut Butter, chunky or smooth* 
1 cup Coconut Sugar or Brown Sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 2 tablespoons warm water mixed**
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first 4 ingredients well, then stir chips in to combine. Drop tablespoon sized balls of dough about 1 to 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press the dough down a little by using the back of a fork. Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool about 5 minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet to cooling rack. Once completely cooled you may put them in an airtight container.

Yield: 24 cookies
This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.

*Do not use natural nut butters, only Jiff, Skippy, etc.)

** You may use 1 large egg in place of the egg replacer. However, please note that your cookies will come ou flatter and will spread out more during baking. I found that the egg replacer did not change the flavor or texture of the cookies at all and allowed the cookies hold their shape much better.