Did you indulge or party just a tee-tiny bit too much this past weekend? Or maybe you fell for that lie we all tell ourselves when we’ve eaten half the brownies and, thoroughly disgusted with ourselves, take action to rid the temptation by saying, “I want this out of the house. I’ll finish it and then it won’t be around anymore to tease me.” It’s so awful. And hard, too. But I’ve found if I can stick to a healthful meal plan for two or three days eating well almost becomes a habit. All of us have struggled with our weight at one time or another. College weight, baby weight and old lady weight have all been my personal nightmares. Here’s a special memory that ought to make you feel better. When I was pregnant with our son, James, I gained 52 (yes, 52) pounds. I was enormous; I looked like a walrus…except I had braces and a real tragedy of a haircut. After I gave birth I was still fat but I had the greatest treasure in the world. Anyway, one afternoon my father came over…alone. Normally he and Mom came over together or Mom came alone. We didn’t really have what one would call a “visit”, as he strode with his long legs into our house and made the following announcement. “Your mother and I are terribly worried. So I’m only going to say this once. Lose the weight.” With that, he turned around and walked out. Nice, huh? Thanks, Daddy. I can’t say his little pep talk worked, what with a new baby and nursing and all; it took a while after that to “lose the weight”. But these are the types of meals that make dropping a few pounds somewhat easier. We can do this. We’ve all lost weight before and we’ll do it again. With a little planning we can be healthy about it and keep the weight off. Fingers crossed.
I love this dish! It is incredibly satisfying and as filling as a pasta dish but without the sluggish, weighted down feeling one is left with after sitting down to a huge bowl of penne, fettucine or farfalle…not to mention the guilt, smothering like the black cloud we all know it to be. This casserole doubles extremely well, baked in a 9″ x 13″ dish. I typically double the recipe as my entire household enjoys it for lunch the following day, along with a good bit set aside for my brother and father. More fresh basil may be added if you like, as well as more grape tomatoes. The tomatoes bake-off beautifully, warm and savory, they almost melt in your mouth. The recipe doesn’t call for much parmesan cheese but if you want to stay Paleo or keep the calories out just leave it off. Truly, with all the different flavors, this dish doesn’t need it. Enjoy!
Sausage, Tomato and Basil Spaghetti Squash Bake
- 4 cups roasted spaghetti squash, that’s about one large squash
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 1/4 pounds Italian style turkey sausage
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium zucchini, grated using the large holes of a box grater
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn by hand
- 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Pre-heat oven to 375°. Cover an 8″ x 11″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- With a large spoon scoop the spaghetti squash flesh out of the shell and into a large bowl. Set aside.
- Pour half of the olive oil into a large skillet, heat to medium and swirl the olive oil fully covering the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Add the whole sausage links to the pan and cook over medium until browned all over.
- Leaving the juices in the pan, transfer the sausage to a bowl and let cool.
- Add the remaining olive oil, onion and garlic to the pan, stirring well to get up all the bits of sausage.
- When the onion begins to turn clear, add the zucchini and oregano and stir well.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, stir well and remove from heat.
- Transfer the vegetable mixture to the bowl of spaghetti squash.
- To the bowl add the grape tomatoes, basil and parsley and toss well to thoroughly combine.
- Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings if needed.
- Transfer mixture to baking dish and, if using parmesan, scatter the cheese evenly over the top of the casserole.
- Bake 25-30 minutes or until the grape tomatoes become soft to the touch.
Here we are in March…in like a lion, out like a lamb. In south Florida we are most definitely enjoying lamb-like weather. Jimmy and I are found in the courtyard often, reading and writing, the dog typically sprawled at our feet. Jimmy will spend his mornings outside working on his laptop, leisurely smoking his pipe which, by the way, smells positively heavenly. We read the New York Times in the morning and take pleasure in a simple happy hour or dinner in the evening. Clearly the mosquitos haven’t found our house yet…but they will. In the meantime, if it’s morning or evening, assume we’re puttering outside. This dish is a spring and summer joy. Simple and healthful, it may be served as a vegetable side dish or as an entree with a piece of grilled tuna or chicken atop. It’s lovely at a picnic or poolside as it travels extremely well. Spaghetti squash is much lighter than pasta and undeniably lower in calories. Those who are allergic to wheat will love this alternative. No more sneezing and itchy eye! Regardless of your reason to try this dish, I think you’ll truly enjoy it and so will your family.
Fresh Tomato and Pesto Spaghetti Squash
- 2 spaghetti squash, medium size
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 pints grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2-2 cups fresh basil leaves plus a few sprigs for garnish
- 1 7-ounce container of store-bought pesto or approximately 1 cup of homemade, I use store-bought, reduced fat
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese. This is completely optional and may be left out for a dairy-free, vegan or paleo dish. It’s still absolutely delicious.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400°. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil and cover foil lightly with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.
- Cut both squashes in half lengthwise.
- Using a large, metal spoon, scoop out all the seeds from the squashes. Discard the seeds.
- Place the squashes cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the flesh is fork tender. I check them at 45 minutes and return to the oven checking for doneness every 5 minutes or so.
- While the squashes are baking finely mince the garlic and place in a medium size, non-reactive bowl. I use glass.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the garlic.
- Using your hands, rip the fresh basil into small, bite size pieces and add them to the garlic-tomato mixture.
- Add the pesto and olive oil to the tomato mixture. If using parmesan cheese, add it as well. Mix thoroughly so all ingredients are well combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the squashes have baked.
- Remove the squashes from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes or until they’re easy to handle.
- With a small paring knife cut the flesh of the squashes lengthwise down to the shell being careful not to cut through to your hand, making 3 or 4 parallel cuts, each cut about 3/4″-1″ apart. This allows bite size pieces and makes it easier to assemble the dish.
- With a large, metal spoon scoop the flesh out of the squashes and place into a large bowl.
- Pour the tomato-pesto mixture over the squash and gently toss until all the squash is well coated.
- Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with any fresh basil leaves and serve.
- If serving within a few hours the bowl may be covered with plastic wrap and then transferred to the serving platter right before serving.
Here’s a little quickie to help you take a stand against temptation this weekend. Wait. Are you really going to pretend you’re not going to be tempted? C’mon. We’re all going to brunch. We’ll all have a couple of mimosas at home then maybe move on to bloodies once we arrive at the restaurant. Oftentimes it’s downhill from there. Plates appear dripping with crunchy, smokey bacon shyly peaking out from under the heavy drip of a lemony hollandaise and a small mountain of crispy, oniony hash browned potatoes…who can resist? And then there’s that guy. You know the one. He orders the thick-cut, maple, cinnamon, praline, cream cheese stuffed french toast. With extra butter and syrup on the side. Ugh. Kill me now! It’s got to taste beyond heavenly. But guess what? I didn’t work all week at feeling good and looking good to blow it all BEFORE I get to brunch. I exercise five days a week. And I try hard to have my cocktails only on the weekend. Yes, I watch what I eat but I indulge myself regularly with healthful treats. So no. I won’t be blowing it at brunch either. Preparation is half the battle and I, for one, will.be.prepared. Oh, yes. I think treating yourself well during the week makes a huge difference in health, weight loss and mind-set and that includes breakfast Saturday mornings. If brunch is on Sunday then errands are on Saturday, meaning fuel up for another long day. My family LOVES roasted spaghetti squash so I typically have it on hand. What better way to make “hash browns” than with leftover, roasted spaghetti squash? Great texture and mild taste make it the perfect side. Simple as A-B-C and topped with a fresh, organic egg, Saturday’s looking better already. A little tomato or leftover vegetables on the side and you may find yourself looking forward to “errand day”. And by having this luxurious breakfast I find I have more resolve at Sunday brunch. The frittata of the day with an extra side of salad sounds really good to me…why, yes, please, I’d love another bloody!
Okay, I have to make an admission here. The reason the photo above doesn’t really show the squash hash browns is because I ate it all before I realized I hadn’t taken any final shots. I’m crazy about this stuff. Spaghetti squash is the healthful, fabulous, take-on-any-flavor food of the year. Already roasted and added to a hot pan with a little oil? Well, you’re just about to have a bit of heaven on earth! One pan. Quick and easy. Fried, poached, scrambled or hard-boiled, eggs pair beautifully with it. If you don’t do eggs heat up those leftover vegetables from the night before, in the same pan with the squash, add another touch of oil and you’ll have a meal from an elegant restaurant. These breakfast hacks will help keep your waistline intact and leaving you feeling good. GOOD. How many times have you felt light AND full after eating a plateful of potatoes?
Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns
- coconut oil, olive oil or non-stick cooking spray to coat the pan
- 1/2 of a small spaghetti squash, already roasted
- 2 eggs or the toppings of your choice for two
- salt and pepper to taste
- Over medium-low heat, lightly coat the bottom of a non-stick pan with oil.
- Place squash in the pan and cut into two even pieces with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Let the squash brown slowly, about 5 minutes.
- Turn squash to brown the other side, adding a bit more oil if needed.
- Add eggs or toppings to the pan, alongside the squash. Cook until the eggs are done to your liking. Cover the pan if you wish to cook the whites of the eggs fully.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.