Monday, November 28, 2011

Cranberry Pear Sauce

Hi!  I feel like I'm apologizing for my absence in every post! The holidays and finals are really keeping me busy.  I have been cooking but I just haven't had time to post anything.  The next couple weeks will be dedicated to everything that I made for Thanksgiving. This was my first year actually cooking dishes from scratch so I was pretty excited. My mom, grandmother, and I cooked the staples - the turkey, potatoes, and stuffing - together but I took over most of the rest of the side dishes and desserts.

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday.  It's a whole day dedicated to food, football, family, and adult beverages. What's not to love?  The Packers stomped the Lions (if you watched the game... pun intended) so that ensured that my day would be glorious. I am thankful that they are the best team in the NFL and that Aaron Rodgers is so charming and handsome.

Back to food...

The dish I was most excited about was the cranberry sauce.  Weird, right? I could eat it right out of the can with the spoon. I love mixing it with mayo to have as a holiday inspired condiment throughout the year.  However, a couple years ago I read that it is the item with the least nutritional value on the Thanksgiving table. Probably because the canned stuff is just pure sugar and chemicals. No, this did not stop me from eating slice after slice. But this year I decided to try to find a recipe to "healthify" the sweet condiment. Trust me, the canned version still has a very special place in my heart and cabinet but it's simply not pretty enough for a feast. I'm a classy gal so I want classy condiments while I eat my turkey dinner like a barbarian. 

This recipe is surprisingly delicious, easy, and healthy! And it looks way more attractive on the table than a tube of jelly that stays in the shape of the can it has probably been sitting in for 10 years.  I love that the pears are responsible for a lot of the sweetness rather than copious amounts of sugar.  This was my first time using agave and it worked well in the recipe.  I tasted it before I added it and was a little worried because it tasted a little like honey (which I don't really like) but I didn't taste it in the final flavor. If you don't have agave or don't feel like searching for it, you can just add sugar until it is sweet enough for you.

Some people (my mother) weren't crazy about the skins of the cranberries in the sauce.  I generally like texture in my food so I loved it but next year I might try to strain out the cranberry skins and leave the chunks of pear.  So make this next year!  It's definitely more difficult to shake the jelly out of the can than it is to make this.

Cranberry Pear Sauce (from Skinnytaste)
  • 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 pears, peeled, cored, and cubed small
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 1 cup water
1.  Bring all the ingredients to a boil on high heat in a medium saucepan.
2.  When boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let it cool before refrigerating. Serve chilled or room temperature.  Makes 3 1/4 cups.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pumpkin Smoothie

I cannot stop drinking this.  I've had one (and sometimes two) daily for the last week.

It's really quick to throw together, has very few ingredients, has a great consistency (not too watery and not so thick that you have to eat it with a spoon), and is really healthy!  Oh, and it tastes like cold pumpkin pie.

I know what you're thinking... "pumpkin smoothie" does not sound appetizing. I totally agree. Usually my smoothies are super fruity so this is totally different.  But just try it, I promise you won't be disappointed. Plus, it's HEALTHY and tastes like PIE. So you can have it - guilt free - whenever you want. It can be a sweet treat for breakfast or a light dessert. Can't get much better than that.

I've topped it with fat free whipped cream, graham crackers, and granola. All delicious and add to the pumpkin pie aura. 

 Pumpkin Smoothie  (serves 1)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 very ripe medium-sized banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, making sure the ice is completely crushed. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Sorry again for being MIA. I had a crazy week in school with about a million assignments due. I also stressed about quitting my super crappy part-time job but I finally did it (yay!). Then I went home for the weekend to relax and recover.  Now, I'm back and ready to blog :)

This is the recipe for one of my new favorite things.  Spaghetti squash.

I'm always looking for carb substitutes because if I don't carefully monitor myself, I consume far too many. I love bread and pasta and basically anything starchy.

I had never heard of spaghetti squash until I started looking at food blogs.  And frankly, I wasn't that interested.  It didn't look that appetizing to me and I figured that it must take a ton of work to get squash to look like spaghetti.  Also, I feel that every Italian relative that I have would roll over in their grave if they saw me substituting a vegetable for pasta.

False on all accounts. It's totally easy to make - an hour in the oven and a couple minutes of scraping with a fork.  It's absolutely delicious. It has a sweet flavor on it's own which means you don't have to dress it up too much if you don't want to.  However, it is also plain enough so that you can put any sauce on it. And it's really healthy. So go ahead and throw some creamy alfredo and some extra cheese on there without feeling guilty!

I just cooked the squash, scraped out the insides, and stored it in plastic containers in the fridge. I topped the squash with sauce/toppings only right before eating it so that it wouldn't get soggy and weird. Here are the ways that I have eaten it. Just butter and some Parmesan cheese.  Mushrooms, garlic, and butter. Chicken, pesto, and pine nuts. Marinara sausage. Roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and feta. Vodka sauce and sausage. Alfredo and asparagus.  The possibilities are endless! I didn't photograph all of these concoctions because they don't look half as wonderful as they taste.

The only downside I have found to spaghetti squash is that I cannot figure out how to freeze it. I tried all of the ways that I found online and it always came out wet and mushy, like the gunk in a pumpkin.  Luckily, I have no problem eating a whole squash in a timely manner :)

Stock up on some spaghetti squash while they are still in season! They will keep for months if they are kept in a cool, dark-ish place in your house.

Baked Spaghetti Squash 
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Pierce squash a few times with sharp paring knife (to let steam escape). Bake spaghetti squash for 60 minutes, or until a paring knife pierces easily through skin with little resistance. Let squash cool for 10 minutes.
2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to remove and discard the seeds. Continue using fork to scrape the squash to get long, lovely strands. If the squash seem difficult to scrape, return the squash to bake for an additional 10 minutes.
3. Top with anything that you'd put on pasta! Favorite sauces, meat, veggies... go crazy!

One of my creations.  Mushrooms and garlic butter topped with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper.