Hatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

You know how everyone has certain staples that they keep in their pantries?  I feel like for most people that’s things like canned tomatoes, pasta sauce, pasta. Basics that you can use to throw together a meal pretty quickly.

For me, it’s canned beans and tuna.  Classy. I know.

I rarely ever buy pasta.  It’s one of those things I just don’t even think to buy.  But I’m human and I love mac and cheese.  Sometimes I want that cheesy goodness, but I don’t feel like going to the store to buy pasta.

So I’ll be honest.  This is one of those things I threw together because I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks (I know, how am I surviving right?).  Spaghetti squash will last a good while on the counter, and I roasted some hatch chiles that Melissa’s Produce sent me a week ago, so we’re good to go.  But don’t worry, just because I threw this together with ingredients on hand, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious.  I’ve been eager to use those hatch chiles and this was seriously delicious.

I think you’ll love it!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheesetextHatch Chile Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
2 fully cooked sausages, diced (optional)
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheese
2 hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Poke holes in your spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and microwave for 5-10 minutes.  The cook time will vary depending on the size of your spaghetti squash.  You’ll know it’s ready when you can run your knife through it fairly easily.

While your spaghetti squash is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Once oil is hot, add sausage and brown until crispy on medium/high heat.  Once the sausage is browned, turn the heat down to low and add flour.  Toss with sausage and let it brown a minute or two.  Slowly stream in milk while whisking, breaking up any clumps in the process.  Once the milk is incoporated, add cheese and hatch chiles.  Stir until cheese is melted, taste and season with salt and pepper to your desired amount (I only added a few pinches because I don’t like things too salty).  Turn off heat and set aside.

Now go back to your spaghetti squash.  By now it should be cooked and cool enough to handle.  Slice in half, then spoon out the seeds.  Using a fork, fluff and pull out the strands of the squash.  Add the spaghetti squash to cheese sauce and stir until well combined.  Garnish with extra cheese and hatch chiles if you’d like then serve and enjoy!

hatchspaghettisquashandcheese2

The spaghetti squash I used was enormous.  I’ll be eating this for a few days, but no complaints there.  This has an awesome kick from the hatch chiles, but it’s cooled by the creamy, cheesy sauce.  You can also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage (or using vegetarian sausage).

What I also love about spaghetti squash dishes (oh hey, remember the Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash I made a while back?), is that it doesn’t feel too heavy. While I’m not claiming that this is healthy, I feel a little bit better about eating it than a full plate of pasta.  I think you could make this a bit healthier by reducing the amount of cheese and adding some greens in there.  We all need a little more kale in our life.  I’ll try throwing some in there next time.

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I’ll definitely make this again!

What are some of your pantry staples?

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How to Roast Hatch Chiles

If there’s one thing you learn while growing up in a latino household, it’s how to roast chiles.

Roasting chiles is common, not just in Mexican cooking but also in Guatemalan.  A lot of traditional dishes (like pepian!) include roasted or grilled tomatoes, red peppers and onions.  Our salsa even includes grilled tomatoes.  It’s amazing.  It helps the chiles release all the flavors, and is surprisingly quick and easy.

Remember a while back, Melissa’s Produce sent me one of their produce boxes to try out and with it I made some lettuce wrap burgers?  Well, they were also kind enough to send me an enormous box of hatch chiles (they also have a cool looking Hatch Chile Cookbook in case that interests you.  I haven’t seen it but I like the idea of lots of chiles!.

hatchchiles

I’m going to be honest.  I had never eaten a hatch chile before, but I was up to the challenge of experimenting with them.  I’ve seen hatch chiles a lot on the blogosphere lately, so clearly they’re becoming more common.  But since I had never tried them, I did a bit of research.

Hatch Chiles are from New Mexico.  This is exciting because I just started watching Breaking Bad and all of a sudden New Mexico is the coolest (err most intense?) place in America.  Clearly, I was excited to give these a try.

One of the first things to do before enjoying these chiles is to roast them.  While roasting is not necessarily required (aka you won’t die if you eat it raw), roasting helps them taste amazing, so why not give it a try?

If you’ve never roasted a chile before (and you can do this with any type of chile: poblano, bell pepper, anaheim, etc), here’s a bit of a step by step on how.

How to Roast Hatch Chiles

Put them in a pan without any oil.  Turn the heat on to high.  Let them hang out there for a few minutes.  Once they start to blister, rotate them and let them sit a little longer.  Now it is a good idea to turn on your hood fan if you have one, or open all your windows and potentially turn off your smoke alarm because these babies smoke…

asando chile

Ha! That meme makes me laugh.  Once you got them good and blackened all around, you’re ready to move on.  Also FYI, you can do this on the grill outside to avoid the smoke and smell (even though I think it smells great.  Embrace the chile.) The idea is just to blacken them all around so the skin is practically falling off, like so:

hatchchile2

Put them in a plastic bag and close it up.

bag

I know.  That’s a little ghetto.  But if you live in a latino household you know that plastic bags are the way to go.  (Note: they’re also a great way to steam tamales and keep tortillas warm… clearly we’re not worried about chemicals because everyone does it.  BPA who?)

But if you’re worried about hot plastic, use a brown paper bag.  The idea is to let the peppers sweat so the skin comes off easily.  Let them chill in the bag for about 15 minutes or until they’re cool enough to handle.

Then, take them out of the bag and peel.  The skin will come off easily.  Slice them in half, remove the tops and scrape out the seeds with a spoon and discard.  I recommend using gloves for this.  I didn’t and my hands were burning the rest of the night (granted I roasted and peeled about 30 chiles so I wasn’t messing around).

Once your chiles are peeled and seeded, they are ready to use!

hatchchile

At this point, you can store them in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container until you’re ready to use them.  Or you can heat up some tortillas and queso fresco and enjoy right away!

hatch chile and panela

Confession: Jesse and I had this for dinner twice.

Seriously.  Tortilla + Roasted Hatch Chile + Queso Fresco + Avocado and a bit of salt.  Delicious.

Hatch chiles are a good spice level for me.  Less spicy than a jalapeno (with the seeds removed) but full of flavor! If you’re worried about the spice level, mixing them with cheese, cream or sour cream will help bring down the heat level.

I have a few more recipes to come using Hatch Chiles.  I can’t wait to 1. take pics and tell you about it and 2. eat the delicousness that is to come.  Stay tuned for the goodness!

Have you tried Hatch Chiles before?  What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Smores… and other PB&J Creations

I feel like everyone I talk to had PB&J for lunch as a kid.  I had ham with cream cheese.  PB&J was not a staple in my household growing up.  I’m not even sure my mom kept peanut butter in the house, because she hates it.  Peanut butter is one of those super American things that my mom never got on board with.

But regardless, growing up here, I developed a love of Peanut Butter and Jelly.

To share in the love of Peanut Butter and Jelly, Peanut Butter and Co. sent me and some other bloggers some jars of Peanut Butter and preserves to make some awesome peanut butter and jelly creations.   My jars arrived…

pbandco

and I was excited to start!  I had such high hopes.  I started by taking a stab at Peanut Butter and Jelly Sticky Buns.

pb&jstickybun1

Doesn’t that sound awesome?  It was! But the recipe turned out a bit dry (my first time ever making some sort of sticky bun/cinnamon type roll!).  So tweaks are needed.  And sadly, I used so much PB and Seriously Strawberry Jam (it’s seriously delicious), that I had none left to retry the recipe.

Instead of retrying (maybe I will in the future), I decided to try another idea that piqued by interest: Peanut Butter and Jelly Smores.

The ingredients are pretty simple, but this is really the perfect end of summer (early fall) recipe.

PBJ smores2

Peanut Butter and Jelly Smores

2 graham crackers

2 large marshmallows

2 heaping tsps Old Fashioned Crunchy Peanut Butter

2 heaping tsp Awesome Apricot Preserves (or other jam of choice) 

PBJ smores1

Cut graham crackers in half (so you have 4 pieces total).  Spread 1 tsp of peanut butter on each of two of the graham cracker pieces and 1 tsp of apricot preserves on the remaining two cracker pieces.  Place marshmallow in the peanut butter.  Put under the broiler for a few minutes (about 3 or 4) or until the marshmallow is toasted to the right consistency.  Put the pieces together and enjoy the oozey, gooey deliciousness!

PBJ smores3

I wasn’t sure that the PB + Apricot combo would work out well, but it was delicious!   I definitely recommend it!

Let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong with PB&J.  There are so many delicious ways to eat it, like in Pie form!

pbandjpie2

 

What’s your favorite way to eat Peanut Butter and Jelly?  Are you a strict strawberry jam eater or do you branch out to other preserves?

Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I have a hard time with this whole gluten-free movement that’s been happening the past few years.  I get that some people have genuine intolerances, but for the most part I’m a non-believer.  When someone tells me they don’t eat gluten, I roll my eyes.  Yes. I am that person.  I am a jerk.

Karma is a thing.  Let me tell you why…

You might have noticed that I fell off the face of the Earth a while (err 2 weeks).  Really it’s because I’ve been having major stomach issues and the last thing I want to do is cook and eat food.  Don’t worry.  This isn’t a blog post to tell you that I suddenly am going gluten-free.  No no.  But this post is about exploring new ways of eating, because I’ve come to the realization that having stomach issues sucks.  Right now, I would eat (or not eat) anything to make the discomfort go away.

Because now I understand how much it sucks, I have a little more sympathy for those with food sensitivities.  I have no idea if I have food sensitivities.  I’m currently trying to figure out what the heck is causing my stomach to implode on me.  I’m starting by avoiding dairy for a while.  Jury is still out.  We’ll see.

But in the meantime, let me tell you about my first experience with a gluten-free cake.

glutenfreecarrotcake1

Isn’t it beautiful?  By the looks of it, you wouldn’t even know it’s gluten-free, but it is.  And it came about because my good friend Allison (check our her blog Sweet Potato Bites) has a lot of food allergies.  I wanted to make a cake that would fit her allergy needs for a surprise birthday gathering.  Her husband sent me a list of Allison-approved cake recipes.  After a few days of back and forth, we decided he would make a gluten free cake and I would make a cake that everyone else could have.  Nice compromise for guests not into the gluten-free thing. So I went ahead and made a chocolate cake with raspberry whipped cream filling and frosting.  

But after that night, I still had a curiosity for how a gluten-free taste would be like.  I’ve never really eaten one, other than flourless chocolate cake.   So I went with it and made a cake anyway, because there’s never a wrong time to make a cake. I used a recipe for Carrot Cake from Elana’s Pantry, because having never made a gluten free cake, I couldn’t really wing it on my first try.  

But that said, I made a few adjustments to make 1 smaller (6-inch) cake.  Here’s my attempt:

glutenfreecarrotcake2

Gluten Free Carrot Cake

adapted from Elana’s Pantry

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of mace
2 eggs + 1 egg white
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup whipping cream
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Grease and line 2 (6-inch) cake pans with parchment paper

I used my vitamix to chop up the carrots instead of grating, but you can grate them if you’d like .  Then I throw all the ingredients into the blender and blended until combine.  It’s really that easy.  Pour batter into 2 prepared cake pans.

Bake about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.  While your cake is baking, make your frosting.  It’s easy.  Whip the cream.  Once the cream starts forming peaks, stream in maple syrup.  Taste it.  If you want it sweeter, add more maple syrup.  If it’s too sweet, oops!  (JK, add a bit at a time, and try to get your desired sweetness.  I didn’t want mine too sweet I only added about 2 tbsp).

Allow to cool completely.  Then lather with maple whipped cream and serve.  Store leftovers in the fridge.

glutenfreecarrotcake3

Confession: I actually think it tastes better cold.

2nd Confession: I meant to take Allison a piece of this cake but Jesse dug into.  Fail.  But really I can’t complain if he liked it.  That means it was tasty.

 

Overall: I thought this was tasty.

Does it taste like cake? Not really.

Does it have the texture of a cake? Not really.

Is it worth trying? Absolutely.

 

While I don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities that I know of, the point of all this is that I will stop being a hater, because stomach issues suck.

Are you a fan of gluten-free foods?  

Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers and Eating More Vegetables

We’re all adults here. We all know we’re supposed to eat vegetables, because they’re good for you.  But the reality is life happens.   We get caught up in things; we forget to eat vegetables…  Not cool, guys.  Eat your vegetables.

I’m a big proponent of vegetables and exercise being the cure for most things.  I’m not a nutrionist or a doctor but I’ve realized that when I eat more vegetables and exercise regularly, I tend to feel better.

Last week, Melissa’s Produce reached out to me asking if I’d like to review one of their boxes and maybe come up with a few recipes from the content.  I said Yes, because 1. I love vegetables and 2. it seemed like a great opportunity to blog about things.

So let me tell your a little bit about the produce box I got.  I got the “Organic Mixed Vegetable Box – Southern California Delivery.” I chose this one because I didn’t want a box with fruit.  I would rather just have vegetables.  It arrived while I was at work.  Since I live in a housing complex, it was delivered to the apartment office, so the box didn’t sit outside all day.  Luckily, I was able to make it home a few minutes before the apartment office closed at 5pm.  If not, I would have had to wait til the next day, which would have sucked.

I got the box and it was jam packed with deliciousness.  I definitely give them props for their packing skillzz.  Everything was in there, the lettuce wasn’t smashed or wilted.  Thumbs up for that! There was also an ice pack in the box  that kept everything cool.

Here is everything my box included:

produce

This is a good amount of produce for two people.  But Jesse and I eat a good amount of vegetables so we’re good to go.   One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about produce delivery services and CSA shares (aside from cost), is that it’s simply too much produce. I agree, it is a good amount, but not really too much.  When I first saw the enormous pile of vegetables, I got concerned and thought, oh goodness how are we going to eat all this?  But really, having this box forces us to eat more vegetables, it’s just about prioritizing and planning. Using this produce, I’ve planned a variety of meals to use up almost all the vegetables, and today I’ll share one of these recipes: Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce, served with Grilled Zucchini. Sounds delish right?  I think it looks pretty great too! turkeylettuceburger2

The most important thing to remember with CSAs and produce delivery is that certain things go bad faster than others.  Lettuce and kale are the most perishable, so they should probably be eaten first.  Then Zucchini, Broccoli, Cucumber and Celery.  Beets, Carrots, Potato, Garlic, Onion, Leeks and Ginger, will all last a pretty long time.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve been having green smoothies with kale for breakfast everyday to make sure to use the kale.  To consume the lettuce as quickly as possible, I decided lettuce wrapped burgers were the way to go.

turkeylettuceburger4

Lettuce Wrapped Turkey Burgers with Creamy Yogurt Sauce

For Turkey Burgers: 

1 package lean ground turkey (a little more than a pound)
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
1/4 cup onion finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
garlic salt to taste

For Creamy Yogurt Sauce:

1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, grated
1 lime
Garlic salt to taste

Extra:

Lettuce
Tomato  

Combine all ingredients for turkey burger.  Work together and form into patties (4-6 depending on how big you want them, I did 6).  Grill on a hot grill, or on a skillet or you can even bake them.  If you’re grilling on a grill or in a pan, it’ll be about 5 mins per side (depending on how thick your patties are).

In the meantime, prep your yogurt sauce by combining yogurt, grated cucumber and lime juice.  Mix together and add garlic salt.  Taste until you get the right saltiness.  Then refrigerate until ready to use. (Note: You can make this sauce is advance.  As long as it’s refrigerated, it’ll be good for a few days)

Next assemble your burger.  I doubled up and used two lettuce leaves per side of the burger “bun” (so 4 lettuce leaves total per burger. Remember, we’re packing in those vegetables!).  Put down two pieces of lettuce, top with burger and tomato, drizzle with yogurt sauce and top with more  lettuce.  Serve with some grilled zucchini and enjoy!  

This recipe will make 4-6 lettuce wrap burgers (I made 6). I was really happy with this recipe.  Confession: I ate 2!  I don’t feel guilty.

If you’re curious about how I grilled the zucchini, I just sliced it into 1/2 inch thick strips then drizzled with olive oil and tossed with some garlic salt.  That’s it.  And seriously delicious. turkeylettuceburger3

This meal was chock full of vegetables, which is always awesome, but also super tasty and satisfying.

turkeylettuceburger1

I can’t wait to make use of the other vegetables.  Here are some of my ideas to make the most of each ingredient…

  • Use Ginger to make awesome peanut sauce to go on zucchini noodles.  Or just drink with hot water, because ginger is great for your immune system!
  • Roast beets to make an amazing kale salad with onion, almonds, goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.  Doesn’t that sound amazing? I also intend to saute those beet greens and add those to the salad as well.
  • I cut up the rest of the cucumber that I didn’t use in the yogurt sauce just for snacking.  Because don’t we all need some extra veggies as an afternoon snack?  I think yes.
  • Carrots: Gluten free carrot cake.  Yup. I made it happen.  Recipe soon!
  • Celery: I love filling celery with tuna salad for an awesome and light lunch.  I can seriously go through 10 celery ribs in one sitting with a bowl of tuna salad.
  • Leeks + Potato… Do I even need to say it?  Potato-Leek Soup!

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with Melissa’s Produce delivery service.  It’s the most reasonably priced delivery service I’ve seen.  I used to pay about $19/week for my CSA share in Ithaca.  The box I got through Melissa’s Produce costs $25 (although I got it free this time, thanks to Melissa’s Produce!).  For $25 you get 7lbs of organic produce.  Not bad.

Are you a fan of lettuce wrapped burgers or are you a bun purist?

Disclaimer: Melissa’s Produce provided me with a free produce box in exchange for this blog post.  Opinions and recipes are my own.

Coconut Mint Cooler

I signed up for a half marathon.  Somehow I thought it was a good idea to run 13 miles.  So here it goes.  It’s not til November, but training has commenced (luckily, I run with Allison from Sweet Potato Bites and she keeps me going).

This morning I ran 8.  I’ve noticed I’ve been having some issues with hydration after these longer runs, especially since we’ve been having ridiculous humidity in southern California and I sweat like a whore in church.

I know coconut water is great for hydration, but sometimes, just plain coconut water is boring.  Sometimes you need to get a little bit fancy.  If you’re feeling fancy and dehydrated, I have the perfect drink for you.

Coconut Mint Cooler

Coconut Mint Cooler

4 cups coconut water
Juice of 2-3 limes
12-15 mint leaves

Blend together all ingredients.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Serve over ice (or with a dash of rum).

Coconut Mint Cooler

I’m pretty pretty much convinced that this would also make a great mixer.  I think it’d go great with rum… like a coocnut mojito! Would you say no to that?

Or if you wanted to keep be alcohol-free, mix with some club soda to give it a little fizz.

Coconut Mint Cooler

Either way, you’ll feel fancy drinking this and knowing you’re on your way to full hydration without any added sugars, chemicals or crazy ingredients.

 

What’s your favorite way to hydrate? 

Healthier Pancake Toppings and Options

With my series of overindulgent posts as of recent, I feel the need to balance out the calories and cholesterol with something a little bit healthier: Pancakes.

pancakebreakfast

That’s not a joke.  I totally think pancakes can be healthy.  You just have to know how to do them. As a kid, I hated pancakes.  I always thought they tasted funny.  Then something magical happened, I tried IHOP’s pancakes and I loved them.   That’s when I realized what I hated was Bisquick pancakes.  That’s all my mom ever made.  Sorry mom, but bisquick is just gross. When I discovered my love of pancakes, I wanted to eat them all the time.   While we all know pancakes aren’t always the healthiest breakfast, there are ways to lighted up your pancakes and especially the toppings so they’re still fun and delicious but won’t undo your workout. Here are a few ways to keep your pancakes a little on the healthier side so you can enjoy them guilt-free. peachpureepancakes2text

Choose a Better Pancake Base

Pancakes can basically be a carb fest (nothing wrong with that), but if you’re looking to balance your meal, adding protein powder is a great start.  I’m a big fan of protein pancakes because the extra protein helps keep you full.

Some of my favorites are:

protein pancakes1

Vanilla Coconut Protein Pancakes
Pumpkin Protein Pancakes
Banana Protein Pancakes

The fun part of protein pancakes is you can play with different flours and protein powders and find a mix that you love.

If making your own pancakes from scratch isn’t your thing or you’re really not looking to add some extra protein, there are some pancake mixes that are pretty natural and overall healthy.  I love Kodiak Cakes, because they’re super easy to make (just add water) and the ingredients are all natural.

You could also go the Paleo Pancake route.  It’s not exactly a pancake but still pretty darn tasty.

Lighten Up Your Toppings

When I was younger, I ate the regular old pancake syrup you get at the grocery store.  Nowadays, I try to stick with toppings that don’t have any chemicals or artificial sweeteners.  Straight up maple syrup is a little too intense for me, so generally I like to mix it up to create different types of syrups and sauces and toppings.

My latest obsession is fruit purees mixed with maple syrup.

I like to puree some fresh peaches and mixed it with maple syrup… about 2 tbsp peach puree + 1 tbsp of maple syrup for one person.  You can also just puree the fruit and skip the maple syrup.  I tried that with banana (simmered them in water first, but raw works) and it was awesome:

pancakesbananasyrupMy other favorite combo is plain greek yogurt with maple syrup.

vanillacoconutproteinpancakes2

 

But in general, fruit is a great topping.  It helps bulk up the volume without adding as many calories as eating extra pancakes.  Berries are always a great addition…

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But you can also get creative, like topping your pancakes with persimmon!

Pancakes with Persimmon2

 Portion Control

I love a big stack of pancakes.  Mostly because it looks pretty, but also because it’s fun to eat.  But eating 4 or 5 full sized pancakes is a lot.  So what I do is I made them smaller!  That way I feel like I’m eating a lot but really I’m not.

pancakes2
I generally use a tbsp measurer to prepare my pancakes.  Each pancake is composed of 2 tbsp of batter, instead of about 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) which is normal.

In the photo above, the banana slices show how the pancakes are actually pretty small.  Despite the fact that the portion size is smaller, I still feel like I’m getting a good amount of pancakes.

 

I’m all for eating a full stack of pancakes with butter and maple syrup every once a while.  But on a normal day basis, I like to keep it a bit lighter.  Pancakes can still be enjoyed if you’re trying to stay healthy.  It’s just about making sure you make the right choices.

What’s your favorite way to slim down your pancakes?

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