Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Casserole ..

Two foods that I adore are cheese and pasta.  I think that I could eat some form of pasta seven days a week ... however, I know better.  Not sure exactly what triggered my brain to remember spaghetti squash, which I probably had not prepared in fifteen years or more, but I am so happy to have "found it" again.  This past week I made a spaghetti squash casserole.  Ingredients:  Spaghetti Squash, My Favorite Red Sauce and topped with Shredded Mozzarella Cheese .. and it was yummy !

 The hardest part of preparing spaghetti squash is cutting the squash lengthwise down the middle.  Cutting it is similar to cutting a watermelon in half, but I think a little more difficult because the flesh of the squash is quite dense, unlike the flesh of a watermelon which is definitely soft in comparison.

The tastiest way to prepare the squash is, once you have it halved (lengthwise), scoop out the seeds, rub the inner flesh with evoo, kosher salt and fresh black pepper.  Place the squash flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 - 425 degrees F for approximately 30 - 45 minutes, until when you touch the skin with a fork, it is soft.

After you remove it from the oven, let it cool until enough so that you can handle it.  Then the fun begins .. take either a fork or a large spoon and scrape away to remove the squash from the skin.

A few tips:

1. Make sure your red sauce is extra thick and chunky because there is a fair amount of water in the spaghetti squash.  Mix as much red sauce with the squash as you desire.

2.  If you are going to add meat to your red sauce, use the leanest ground beef, or chopped bison is even better.

3.  Don't go crazy with the cheese .. sprinkle the mozzarella sparingly on the top.

4.  Lightly oil a casserole dish, put the spaghetti squash and red sauce mixture in the casserole dish and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.

5.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 - 25 minutes.  Keep in mind that all the ingredients are cooked so you only need to make sure that the casserole is heated all the way through.

6.  Make just enough for one sitting ... this dish is best if you bake it only one time.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Food Additives ..

I am pretty conscientious when it comes to reading food labels for two reasons:  For one, I am allergic to a number of ingredients and second, if the print is so small, that I need a magnifying glass to read the list of ingredients, it goes straight back onto the store shelf.

For the most part, my style of cooking is a combination of healthy eating, recipes that are relatively simple but tasty and I am for shortcuts as long as it doesn't adversely impact the integrity of the finished dish.

If you happened to read my last post (Goat Cheese with Sun-Dried Tomatoes), you know that I love cheese.  For a snack I enjoy a piece of toasted whole grain bread which I will pop back in the toaster oven with a slice or two of cheese for an easy open-face melted cheese sandwich.  Another version I make is to toast a thinly sliced whole wheat bagel, then layer it with some sun-dried tomatoes and shredded mozzarella cheese.  After the cheese has melted, I top it with some fresh basil chiffonade.

For convenience, I have been using prepackaged cheeses (both shredded and sliced).  Awhile back I noticed an ingredient on packaged cheese that I was not familiar with but just shrugged it off:  Natamycin and in some cases Microbial Enzymes, which they are both basically the same from what I can tell.  They are added as a mold inhibitor, and I have not seen it on the ingredient list for block cheeses, cream cheese or most other cheeses.

Today I decided to pull out A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S., one of my many food books, to see what information she had on Natamycin:  Natamycin - see Pimaricin ASP; Pimaricin ASP: moderately toxic by ingestion.

Information I found posted by the FDA (M-I-07-3 posted on 29 January 2007) states that:  "In the case of natamycin, the substance is approved as a food additive for use as an antimycotic on the surface of cheese at levels up to 20 ppm, providing that if there is a standard of identity for the cheese ... "

Having made this discovery, I do not plan on discarding any of the pre-sliced or shredded cheese I have on hand; however, in the future I will most likely purchase only block cheeses and then slice or shred my own.  I'm sure I have enough other toxins in my diet that I don't know about !

Friday, July 26, 2013

Goat Cheese with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This is such an easy, delicious and healthy starter/appetizer, sandwich or mid-day snack.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I love cheese, so much so that when I was in sixth grade I wanted my nickname to be Cheese !  I have to admit, goat cheese is not my favorite cheese because for my palette it requires a little work .. I can't just take a dollop of goat cheese and put it on a cracker and enjoy it as much as I do a piece of cheddar or blue cheese. 

One way I do enjoy goat cheese is if I add some sun-dried tomatoes.  Sun-dried tomatoes are packed with flavor, are a good source of fiber and vitamin C and have zero calories from fat.   Sun-dried tomatoes are most readily available either packaged in self-seal plastic bags or packed in olive oil in jars.  My preference is self-seal plastic bags and made without sulfites .. which I purchase at Whole Foods.  If you do use sun-dried tomatoes in self-seal packaging, they should be reconstituted by soaking them in warm water.  I recommend that you should start with cold water and warm it in the microwave or a teakettle.  You should not use warm tap water because of contaminants from your hot water heater found in the hot water pipes.

The recipe for the goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes is approximately 5 ounces of goat cheese, 2 1/2 ounces of sun-dried tomatoes (finely chopped) and 1 1/2 teaspoons of agave.  The agave adds a little sweetness to the tartness of the goat cheese.  Then a nice addition is some fresh basil, either chopped and mixed with some olive oil (as shown on the left) or garnished with some fresh basil chiffonade (as shown on the right).

Spread the room temperature goat cheese mixture on some healthy high fiber bread .. and bingo, you have a healthy, delicious appetizer, sandwich or midday snack !  My choice of bread is Organic Flour Power Bread from German Bread Haus  ( in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  It is whole grain, high in fiber, full of flavor and only 43 calories per slice.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Banana Bread Recipe Rescue !

For the past couple of weeks I have been wanting to make my favorite banana bread recipe that I haven't made in about ten years.  So earlier this week I purchased the bananas so they could ripen.  Friday night I took the egg and butter out of the refrigerator so that they would be room temperature.  Yesterday afternoon .. sifted the flour and set the dry ingredients to the side, beat the egg with the sugar and when it came to adding the milk .. oops !  the recipe called for 1/2 cup of milk and I added 1 cup of milk.

No extra bananas, so doubling all of the other ingredients is really not an option unless I want a bland tasting banana bread.  I have plenty of extra pecans but I don't want to waste the pecans if the finished product is going to be a total flop.  I add the correct amounts of flour, baking powder and salt ... and then my aha moment came .. why not add one cup of wheat germ as I am trying hard to get more fiber into my diet.  So I beat the batter quite a bit more than normal in order to get some extra air into the batter to help it rise and add the wheat germ.

I pop it into the oven and test it after about 45 minutes and the cake tester comes out clean.  Once it cools down, I am pleasantly surprised .. the flavor is very good but it is a little too moist.  So this afternoon I decided to crumble it, put it on a baking sheet and into a 350 degrees oven.  Low and behold I ended up with some really tasty banana nut crumble which I served over vanilla ice cream and will probably have it for breakfast tomorrow morning over plain Greek yogurt.

Recipe Rescue Completed !

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Turn an Ordinary Sandwich into Extraordinary

This tasty sandwich is composed of a few simple ingredients: thinly sliced whole wheat bread (toasted), baby arugula, sliced tomatoes, Boar's Head Honey Maple Ham, lemon mayonnaise, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper . The ingredient that turns the sandwich from ordinary into extraordinary is the lemon mayonnaise.
To make the lemon mayonnaise: add the zest of two lemons and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. If you like spicy, you could add a dash of either Tabasco Sauce or cayenne pepper. Another addition to the sandwich that would work nicely would be thinly sliced red onions.

The beautiful hand turned wood bowl from the Weston Bowl Mill in Weston, Vermont that is holding the lemons is one of my new vintage treasures that I found in DairyFarmAntiques, a fellow vintage shop on Etsy. The bowl is made of maple with a natural finish that develops a patina with use. Just gorgeous, don't you think !

In the Kitchen with auntemilie focuses primarily on simple and healthy recipes, kitchen shortcuts, tools, reference books ... anything relevant to the kitchen and cooking that I think readers might enjoy !




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Simple Meatless Lunch or Dinner


A simple meatless lunch or dinner does not have to be complicated.  This culinary creation includes rigatoni, chopped spinach, Alfredo Sauce, parmesan cheese and toasted pignoli nuts.  If you happen to have a need for meat .. pick up a roasted chicken that is readily available in most grocery stores and gourmet markets.  At the end add some chicken pieces.

I used rigatoni pasta because I like the way it grabs the Alfredo Sauce.  After I assembled it I decided it could use another texture, so I toasted some pignoli nuts and garnished the pasta with the nuts.  I did not mix the nuts into the pasta because I knew I was going to have leftovers and I wanted the nuts to stay crunchy. 

The prep started with a large pot of water and once it started boiling I added about 2 Tbsp of Kosher Salt.  Then the pasta was slightly undercooked, I lifted it out of the boiling water with a long handled strainer into a colander.  Once all the pasta was out, I added the pouch of frozen chopped spinach and let it boil/simmer for about 10 minutes.  Once I lifted the spinach out, I made a small slit in the pouch and drained off some of the excess spinach water from inside the pouch.  


After draining the water from the pot, I lowered the heat on the burner and added the spinach and the Alfredo Sauce. The burner needs to be on low because you don't want to Alfredo sauce to break up which it would do if the heat is too high.  I added about 1/4 cup
of Parmesan cheese to the pot.  Once the cheese mixed-in I added some freshly ground black pepper and added about 3/4 of the pasta.  I didn't add all of the pasta because I don't like it too dry.  I also did not add any additional salt because the Parmesan cheese is quite salty.  Buitoni makes two versions of their Alfredo Sauce, which by the way is found in the refrigerator section at the grocery store, usually by or near the fresh pastas.  The lighter version has a few less calories.
As I previously mention, I garnished the pasta with some toasted pignoli nuts.  If you have never toasted nuts before, there are several ways to toast nuts ... the oven, a skillet, the microwave or a toaster oven.  I usually toast my nuts either in the oven or toaster oven on low (250 degrees F), turning them several times.

Pick your favorite pasta, add a package of frozen chopped spinach,
about a 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, one container of Buitoni Alfredo Sauce (either light or regular), fresh ground black pepper to taste and garnish with some toasted pignoli nuts.
Yum .. Yum !  Here are the secret ingredients ...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Books for Your Kitchen

Even the occasional home cook should have a few useful reference books on hand. In many cases, it is easier to locate needed information quicker than searching on the internet and if you select your reference books carefully, chances are that the information, in a published book, is more likely to be accurate.

The first book pictured is The Penguin Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, which is a soft cover book. It is out of print, but it is very findable. The Oxford Companion to Food, is the hardcover version. The Oxford Companion is still in print and it is easy to find either new or used.

Here is what The New York Times said about the Companion to Food by Alan Davidson … “A masterly work with a variety of voices, from the straightforward, almost dry, to the quirky and witty …. It’s not hard to be awed by these pages dense with extremely thorough and well-written entries, enhanced by cross-references and indexes and larded with anecdotes and strong opinions.”

The Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst was first printed in1990 and has updated several times. It is a soft cover book that measures 7 inches x 4 ¾ inches x 1 ¾ inches. The cover has changed  and it is now a soft rust color instead of white. There is a hard cover “deluxe” edition. In my opinion, the soft cover version is a book that easily fits in a kitchen drawer, on a shelf or standing in a cabinet … it is my go-to-book.