Sausage & Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

While there are numerous ways to enjoy spaghetti squash, I favor stuffed. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to stuffing. Beef, turkey, chicken along with rice and a nice smoky cheese like Gruyere or even mozzarella and Parmesan work really well.

It’s called spaghetti squash for a reason. Just steam, microwave or bake the squash in its shell and scrape out the flesh with a fork or spoon. No need for a spiralizer as it separates its own flesh in slender pasta-like strands. It makes for a remarkable stand-in for pasta dishes and with such a mild flavor you can chose from any number of sauces to give it a flavor boost.

This stuffed squash is the full meal deal. Along with veggies, you have chicken, sausage and cheese. Super good!

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Sausage & Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
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Instructions
Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Drizzle cut sides of spaghetti squash with oil & season with salt & pepper. Place cut side down on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender, 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Using a fork, break up squash strands. Set aside.
Filling & Topping
  1. In a large skillet, scramble-fry sausage in olive oil; drain on paper towels. Add another Tbsp oil to skillet; saute onion & pepper about 3-4 minutes then add tomatoes, zucchini, garlic & lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper & Italian seasoning & cook 3-4 minutes more. Gently stir in squash, cooked chicken & sausage & remove from heat.
  2. Divide mixture between spaghetti squash halves (or quarters). Top each spaghetti squash portion with mozzarella cheese & return to oven to melt for 5 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan & serve.

Baked Shells w/ Pesto, Cheese & Meat Sauce

Pasta is without a doubt, one of the most versatile ingredients to cook with. It can be prepared in so many unique ways with different sauces. Pesto sauce is one of those … a simple sauce with simple ingredients that packs a huge flavor.

Pesto sauce originated in Genoa, which is located in the northern region of Italy. The Italian word for pesto: pestare, means to pound or to crush. It was originally prepared with a marble mortar and wooden pestle. However, the translation may be a bit misleading because preparation does not consist of pounding, rather it is of grounding.

Traditionally, pesto is made of crushed garlic, fresh basil and pine nuts blended with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. There are many variations of pesto and while the most popular is a pasta sauce, it can be used for a spread or dip, salad dressing or as an accompaniment to steak, poultry or fish. Red pesto is either made from sundried tomatoes or red bell peppers.

This pasta meal comes together easily in a short space of time. Sometimes its the simplest dishes that are truly the best!

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Baked Shells w/ Pesto, Mozzarella & Meat Sauce
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Course Main Dish
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a saucepan over low heat, saute onion in olive oil for 5-7 minutes. Add ground pork, 2 Tbsp water, pepper, sage, red pepper flakes & ginger. Cook, stirring until no longer pink.
  3. Add salt, dried basil & diced tomatoes; bring to a boil then lower heat & simmer for 20 minutes. Stir periodically. At the end of cooking time, stir in pesto & remove from heat.
  4. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta shells al dente. It is important not to overcook shells as they will be further cooked in the oven. Drain pasta, add cooked sauce & gently toss.
  5. Place half of the pasta in a baking dish & sprinkle with half of mozzarella & Parmesan. Top it up with remaining pasta & sprinkle with other half of the cheeses.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is golden & pasta is hot & bubbly.
Recipe Notes
  • Don't hesitate to bake your pasta in individual servings.

Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes

Is there anything potatoes can not do! Many cultures make some form of potato cakes with any kind of filling you can imagine. Sauteed cabbage, ground meat, egg and onions, you name it, the possibilities are endless. Mushrooms are by far, one of my most favorite fillings.

Did you know that most of the table mushrooms we eat are all the same variety. The difference is just age.

The white button mushrooms, are simply the youngest variety. They have been cultivated, too, for that white color and soft texture. In the wild these mushrooms are usually browner.

The Portobello is the most mature mushroom; it’s really just an overgrown white mushroom! They are left to grow for longer, until they have spread out into that delicious meaty cap.

The Cremini mushroom is just in between these two varieties. It’s a moderately mature version of the white button mushroom. Mature state means that they have a browner color, firmer texture and better flavor than the younger white mushrooms. Who knew!!

These stuffed potato cakes are such a nice addition to a winter meal.

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Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes
Instructions
  1. Cook potatoes in salted, boiling water until soft. Drain & mash.
  2. In a saucepan, saute mushrooms & garlic in olive oil. Season with salt & pepper & add chopped parsley.
  3. Place mashed potatoes in a bowl; add egg, butter, grated Parmigiana cheese, a pinch of salt, pepper & nutmeg. Combine well. Divide mixture into 8 equal patties. Roll into balls & then flatten into patties. In the center of 4 of the patties place 1/4 of the mushroom mixture. Top mushrooms with a cube of mozzarella cheese. Place one of the remaining potato patties on top of each filled one & gently press edges to seal.
  4. Heat a griddle to 350 F. Brush with some butter & fry stuffed potato patties to a golden brown on each side. Be careful when turning as they will be quite soft.

Baked Potato Skins

With the last day of December right around the corner, its time to focus on New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even if you don’t have big party plans, you will no doubt still want to enjoy a few finger foods to ring in the new year with. The fact that so much emphasis is placed on sweets over Christmas, now is a good time to enjoy something savory.

During the many years I worked in the commercial food service industry, new years eve was all about finger food. I remember making hundreds of these little bite size morsels. The thing about this type of food is, it takes hours of prep work but they can be devoured in a very short space of time.

Although the humble potato skin appetizer is pretty basic, its easy to make and quite tasty. Originally served as a clever way to repurpose food scraps, potato skins have been around since the 1970’s.

Today’s recipe works well in that you can prepare them the day before needed and refrigerate. Half an hour before you are ready to serve …. bake, sprinkle with toppings and bring on the new year!

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Baked Potato Skins
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Cuisine American
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Pierce potatoes 2-3 times. Bake directly on middle rack of oven for 50-60 minutes until tender.
  2. When cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in quarters lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop pulp from skins, leaving 1/4-inch thick shells. Place skin side down on ungreased baking sheets. Brush with oil; sprinkle with Parmesan, garlic salt & chili powder. The potatoes can be prepared up to this point one day ahead. Nest skins in rigid plastic containers, cover & refrigerate.
  3. To serve: Heat oven to 450 F. Bake skins 15-20 minutes or until hot & edges are crisp. Remove from oven; sprinkle with bacon, green onions & cheese. Bake another 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve with sour cream or Ranch dressing.

Candied Kumquats over Pistachio Crusted Turkey Breast

Today, December 25th our family celebrates my sister Rita’s birthday. She will forever be the special Christmas gift our family was so privileged to receive on that Christmas day. This time of the year makes us reflect on many different things. This moment, this day, this season will never come again. Treasure it and treasure those you love who make it memorable. I like to keep in mind that the best reflection of Christmas takes place in the mirror of our own hearts.

For many of us, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the aroma of turkey roasting in the oven. But that doesn’t mean you have to roast the whole bird to get the desired effect. Even though Brion and I probably like the dark meat almost better than the white, we have enjoyed quite a few little turkey ‘breast’ dinners.

This year kumquats are high on my list. They not only add a festive touch but paired with pistachios they seem to really enrich the flavor of the meat. Kumquat season is short and usually begins in November and lasts through the Chinese New Year in January. The name kumquat means ‘golden orange’ in its native Canton.

Although this recipe has about three parts, it comes together real easy. The pistachios form a nice crispy crust while the turkey breast stays tender and moist. It is so nice complimented by all the usual ‘side’ dishes of a turkey feast.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RITA … WE LOVE YOU … ENJOY YOUR DAY!

SEASON’S GREETINGS TO EVERYONE

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Candied Kumquats over Pistachio Crusted Turkey Breast
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
Servings
Ingredients
Pistachio Breading
Candied Kumquats
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia
Servings
Ingredients
Pistachio Breading
Candied Kumquats
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Pistachio Breading
  1. In a shallow dish, combine pistachios & bread crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together mustard, olive oil & honey.
Turkey / Stuffing
  1. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil then stir in contents of stuffing mix. Cover & allow to sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork & cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a large piece of heavy foil, making a circle about the same size as the turkey breast. Keeping the whole turkey breast intact, flatten slightly to create a uniform thicken.
  3. Dip the turkey breast in Dijon mixture, being sure to coat both inside & outside well. Next coat both inside & outside with pistachio/bread crumb mixture. Lay breast on buttered foil; top half of the breast with the turkey stuffing. Fold other half on top to enclose the filling. If necessary, use some toothpicks to secure stuffed breast during roasting time. Cup sides of foil fairly close to meat.
  4. Roast, covered for 1 hour, remove top piece of foil & continue to bake another 1/2 hour or until 185 F. is reached on a meat thermometer. Remove from oven & allow to rest a few minutes before slicing.
Candied Kumquats
  1. While the turkey is roasting prepare your kumquats. Heat water & sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Once sugar water begins to boil, add (seeded) sliced kumquats, stirring to coat well. Reduce heat to low & let simmer until liquid is reduced to a syrup consistency. Remove from heat & serve with turkey breasts.

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

The name ‘patty pan’ comes from the French word patisson, for a cake made in a scalloped mold. This type of squash is as versatile as they come. It is very similar to summer squash, in fact, the two are interchangeable in recipes.

Summer squash originated from the region between Mexico and Guatemala. Like its relatives, it grows fast and abundant. It cooks like a fleshier zucchini or yellow squash and can be baked, grilled or stuffed.

Patty pan’s shape is well suited to stuffing. Simply cut off the stem end to make a ‘hat’, then cut a thin slice off the bottom of the squash, so that it sits evenly in the baking pan. Use a spoon to hollow out the body, saving the insides. These can be cooked and added to your stuffing.

This is a simple yet ‘showy’ meal, great for fall entertaining.


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Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

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Instructions
Preparing Squash
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. With a small knife, cut a circle around the top of squash. As you cut, angle your knife diagonally from the outer edge of the squash towards the center. Remove the top of squash & set aside. Hollow out the insides with a small spoon, being careful not to pierce the squash. Discard membrane & seeds. Set aside remaining squash pulp. Drizzle the inside & bottom of lids with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, set on a baking sheet & place in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Couscous
  1. In a small saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover & remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork & drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.

Sausage & Veggies
  1. Add a small amount of olive oil to a large skillet & heat on medium-high. Remove the sausage from its casing; add in small pieces to the heated skillet. Cook & crumble sausage until browned. Add garlic & onion to skillet & saute for 4-5 minutes or until onion is slightly translucent. Add herbs & salsa to taste, then add reserved squash pulp & cook for another 2-3 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste. Add couscous to skillet & stir to combine with other ingredients. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over all & stir to incorporate.

Assembly
  1. Stuff each squash with the couscous mixture, sprinkling a bit more Parmesan on tops. Place the stuffed squash back in the oven for 10-15 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage

Even though we are almost at the end of fall, there is still time to embrace those summer zucchini. I realize using zucchini instead of lasagna noodles is not a new idea but definitely a natural substitution. Lasagna, in any form, has to be up there on our list of comfort foods. Their saucy, cheesy and you have endless possibilities with fillings.

Thinly sliced zucchini stands in for the noodles and the three cheeses give this vegetarian lasagna plenty of richness, but for an even more substantial dish, I added some cooked and crumbled Asiago sausage.

It certainly has wonderful eye appeal but even more important, the flavor was amazing. Asiago/Red Pepper sausage is made in-store by Save-On Foods in our city. It has become my ultimate favorite in fresh sausage to use.

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Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups with Asiago Sausage
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Course Main Dish
Servings
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a sheet pan with 1 Tbsp oil; set aside. Slice zucchini into 1/8-inch thick slices. Lay zucchini slices on prepared baking sheet & roast for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven & cool for 5 minutes before handling. Leave oven on for baking casserole.
  2. In a saucepan, crumble-fry sausage; remove & drain on paper towel. In a bowl, beat egg & combine with ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, salt & pepper.
  3. In a 9 X 13-inch baking dish, spread some marinara sauce on the bottom. Assemble zucchini roll-ups by laying the zucchini strips on a flat work surface. Divide filling between strips & spread. Sprinkle each strip with a bit of mozzarella cheese. Roll up & place in casserole dish. Drizzle remaining sauce on rolls & sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.
  4. Bake, uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted & bubbly.

Russian Salmon & Cabbage Pie

The ‘stuffing’ principle seems very predominate in Russian cooking, from pelmeni (little meat dumplings) and vareniki (dumplings with potato & cheese) golubzi (stuffed cabbage), meat or cheese blintzes and of course, blini wrapped around lox.

Then there’s kulebiaka, the ‘grand’ oblong pie, that features several fillings. Its main distinction from any other Russian pie is that the quantity of the filling should be two or three times the quantity of pastry.

The word was derived from the verb ‘kulebyachit’ meaning to make with hands, to shape, to bend and to knead. This pie contained a flavorful mixture of salmon, rice, cabbage, mushrooms, shallots, hard-boiled eggs, dill and/or visiga — a spinal marrow of the sturgeon.

The crust was classically made with a yeast dough or puff pastry, although modern adaptations often include French crepes. In the 19th century, French chefs, who had worked in Russia, brought the recipe to France and adapted it to modern cookery.

This kulebiaka has a wonderful flavor with its many layers. I wanted to make it in the authentic oblong style but it can easily be baked in a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.

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Russian Salmon & Cabbage Pie
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & saute onion about 7 minutes over medium-low heat. Stir in mushrooms, cabbage & vinegar; increase heat to medium. Cover skillet & cook 4 minutes; uncover, toss & cook 2 more minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet, season with salt & pepper to taste; set aside.
  2. Wipe out skillet, add oil & set over medium-high heat. Add salmon & season lightly with salt & pepper. Cook salmon 5 minutes per side; remove to a plate & let cool. Flake salmon into large chunks & set aside.
  3. Spread brown rice over bottom pastry. Peel & chop the hard-boiled egg, then add to pie, followed by flaked salmon. Sprinkle with cheese, then bread crumbs. Mound vegetable mixture on top. Sprinkle with fresh dill.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out remaining sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is large enough to cover pie. Brush edge of bottom pastry with egg wash & place second sheet of pastry directly on top. Use a fork to crimp down edges so sheets of pastry will adhere. Cut a few small slits in the top of pie to allow steam to escape. Brush pastry with remaining egg wash. Bake 35-40 minutes until pastry is puffed & golden.

Stuffed Plantain Cups

When it comes to cooking, plantains are really more of a vegetable than a fruit. Grown extensively in Ecuador, plantains are usually cooked before eating, both when green and at various stages of ripening. When they are ripe they turn yellow than black. Plantains are larger and firmer than their banana relative and not sweet. With their bland, starchy, somewhat potato-like flavor, plantains take well to many cooking methods.

In October of 2018, I had posted a blog on Baked Patacones w/ Guacamole. Patacones or fried plantains had been my initial introduction to this vegetable in Ecuador. After enjoying them there, I have since made them a few different ways. I understand you can add them to stews, boil and puree them like mashed potatoes or bake with sugar and cinnamon for dessert.

Today, I wanted to make stuffed plantains but decided to do it in individual servings as opposed to leaving them in their skins. Of course, you can’t eat plantains without some avocado mayo, right!

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Stuffed Plantain Cups
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Ecuador
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Plantains
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly butter. IF YOU PREFER, PREPARE AVOCADO MAYO AT THIS TIME.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut both ends off the plantain. Slit a shallow line down the long seam of the plantain, peel only as deep as the peel. Remove plantain peel by pulling back. Place plantains on baking sheet & lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes, turn & bake for another 15 minutes or until golden & tender.
  3. While the plantains are baking, add 2 Tbsp of oil to saucepan, followed by onions, garlic & tomato sauce. Allow to simmer about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning, add about 1/2 cup water if necessary. Add ground meat & seasonings. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes more then add the small pepper.
Assembly
  1. Adjust oven to 375 F. Butter 4 custard baking cups. Lightly mash plantains. Scoop 4 equal parts into custard cups. Press against sides to form 'cups'. Sprinkle a small amount of grated cheese in bottom of each cup then divide meat filling between them. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven & top with remaining cheese. If you like, place back in oven for another 5 minutes. Serve warm with Avocado Mayo.
Avocado Mayo
  1. Remove peel & pits from avocados. In a food processor, combine all ingredients & puree. Remove from processor, cover & set aside.

Honey Mustard Chicken Legs

Honey mustard is one of those condiments you either really like or you hate it. I recall when one of my nephews was just about ‘knee high to a grasshopper’, he just LOVED it.

When he would dip that little KFC chicken nugget in some honey mustard, I think his eyes actually glazed over as he inhaled that flavor. It was just so incredibly cute to watch.

Combining honey with mustard brings out flavors not readily apparent in a straight honey. These two ingredients, when combined, flavor a variety of otherwise bland dishes such as chicken and pork. It’s often used in salad dressings, sandwich spreads, meat or veggie dips, ham glaze etc.

There seem to be many versions due to the fact that there are multiple types of honey and mustard. Although it is very often combined with mayo, I prefer it without. If you like this flavor, these ‘legs’ are for you!

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Honey Mustard Chicken Legs
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together mustard, honey & olive oil. Add a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. In a baking dish, place the chicken pieces, skin side up. Pour mustard/honey mixture over all & place sprigs of rosemary between them.
  3. Bake about 45 minutes or until cooked. Remove from oven & serve.