How to Cook a Spaghetti Squash

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I love spaghetti squash. I cook with it about once a week and keep inventing new ways to incorporate it into recipes or turn usually carb heavy recipes into vegetable heavy ones.

Yet, a year ago I barely knew what a Spaghetti Squash was let alone how to cook it. The first time I bought one was last September at a small produce stand alongside the road. It was $1.00 and I thought, “Why not?”

I brought the beast of a squash home and had no idea what to do with it. After a few Google searches and frustration I quickly figured it out. I fell in love with the sweet crunchy taste and filling nature of the noodle looking squash. 

So this post is for any of you out there who were like me a year ago, clueless as to how to cook a spaghetti squash. Below are simple step by step directions and photographs.

I wish I had something this simple when I was first experimenting, hope it helps!

1. Pick out your perfect Spaghetti Squash.

I like when they are golden-yellow and about 8 inches long.

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2. Place the spaghetti squash in the oven pre-heated to 350 degrees. Cook for 20 minutes. 

This allows the squash to soften up a bit before you do anything to it.

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3. Carefully remove the squash from the oven. Cut the squash into two perfect halves.

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4. Place the two halves back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of your squash)

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4. Carefully remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then use an ice cream scoop to remove all of the “icky” parts of the squash.

Think of it as removing the inside of a pumpkin when you are carving it. Remove the area in the middle that is full of seeds and “mushier”.

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5. Next, grab a fork and start scraping at the edges of the squash. This pulls apart the meaty part of the squash and creates the noodle like appearance that gives the spaghetti squash its name.

Place the noodle looking parts to the side.

Keep scraping and scraping until all that is left of the squash is the hollow skin.

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6. Look at all of this! All from one spaghetti squash! 

You can now use the spaghetti squash in a recipe as is, or put the pulled squash back in the oven for a bit longer of a crisper taste.

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Enjoy in the place of regular spaghetti, in a casserole, roasted with a few herbs and spices, or in Asian dishes.

Pretty simple, right?

The hardest part is leaving the time set aside for baking in the oven prior to being able to enjoy it.

Come back on Friday and I’ll share my newest favorite spaghetti squash recipe: Spaghetti Squash Mexican Casserole.

Pesto Quinoa Zucchini Boats

Zucchini Boats

Summer, the perfect season to eat healthy, when fresh veggies and fruit spring up all over and can be purchased cheaply.

Right now, zucchini are on sale at my town’s farmer’s markets for 5 for $1. With an abundance of zucchini on hand and a stomach that is so tired of zucchini bread I decided to experiment with a new recipe. 

Pesto Quinoa Zucchini Boats!

What You Need:

5 medium to large zucchini

1 cup of quinoa

2 tablespoons of pesto

2 tablespoons of reduced fat cream cheese 

1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1. Using a spoon, carve the zucchini into “boats”. Scoop out the seedy section making enough of a bowl to stuff with your quinoa mixture.

2. Bake the plain zucchini in the oven (preheated to 325 degrees) for 25 minutes or until they are soft. 

3. Meanwhile, prepare your quinoa on your stove top. 

4. Once the quinoa is ready and fluffed, mix in your pesto and cream cheese. Stir generously.

5. Remove the zucchini boats from the oven, fill them with the quinoa mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

6. Place zucchini boats back in the oven for another 4-5 minutes until the cheese melts. 

Enjoy!

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What else do you like to make with zucchini? I’d love to try other new recipes. 

xoxo Katie

 

 

A Favorite Recipe: Light Chicken Salad (no mayo!)

light chicken salad made with greek yogurt

Chicken salad is one of my go to comfort foods. It’s light yet filling and goes well on a salad, on bread, or in a wrap. Easy for picnics, road trips, or a packed work lunch.

My favorite store-bought chicken salad is Trader Joe’s wine country chicken salad with cranberries and pecans. I could eat an entire container in one sitting, it’s that good. But at 11 grams of fat per serving I only allowed myself to purchase it as a special treat.

Over the past year I’ve mastered a lighter version of my favorite chicken salad. What is the secret?Fat free greek yogurt!

light chicken salad

By simply replacing yucky processed mayonnaise with greek yogurt you save your waistline for a whole lot of damage and also increase your protein and probiotics intake. The greek yogurt offers the same texture and tangy taste as the mayo but cuts the calories and fat into half!

The recipe below makes enough to feed Ryan and I for lunch for three days. You’re going to love it and will never want full fat mayo chicken salad again.

Ingredients:

  • 1 full rotisserie chicken cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup greek yogurt (adjust to your liking. Recipe is fine with more or less)
  • 1 cup diced celery (I like a lot of celery)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup craisens
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 1 tbsp stevia (or other natural sweetener)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Enjoy chilled on a salad, wrap, crackers, or bread. Happy taste buds and no guilt!

greek yogurt chicken salad

xoxo Katie

The Easiest Baked Oatmeal

easy baked oatmeal

As the weather turns colder I find myself craving a warm and filling breakfast. This is THE easiest baked oatmeal you will ever find. Perfect for lazy weekends or holiday gatherings. You simple place all the ingredients in a crock pot and let it cook overnight and awake to a delicious and warm breakfast.

Ingredients:

4 Apples – peeled and thinly sliced

2/3 Brown Sugar

4 Cups oatmeal

3 cups water

1 tsp Cinnamon

 Directions:

Place apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon in crock pot. Add 4 cups of oatmeal and 3 cups of water. Do not stir! Cook on low heat for 8 – 9 hours.

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Serve hot – I like to mix in a banana and and peanut butter, and sometimes chocolate chips!

I make a pot of this on the weekend and it lasts Ryan and I all week. Would also feed a large family on Thanksgiving morning.

baked oatmeal yum

xoxo katie

Weekend Wrap Up 11.11.13 Follow Your Bliss

follow your bliss

Today I feel a little bit like a kid who forgot to bring their homework to class. On Mondays I have been following the rule of posting a weekend wrap up, including pictures documenting the events of the past weekend. I took zero pictures this weekend! You can lower you eyebrows now – I simply took a little break from technology this weekend.

The weekend started off with a heavy dose of law school stress. I write often how I wish this hard time would go by faster. I hate seeing Ryan so stressed and unhappy. The heavy load of work, school, and finances hit us hard on Friday evening. I’ve been trying hard to follow my own advice and to not wish these rough times to pass. I’m making an effort to savor the waiting.

We allowed ourselves some tears and some time to wallow in the stress on Friday. Sometimes after you release that rage and wipe away the anger and tears the bigger picture looks so much clearer. I was able to come away with a new perspective and a goal to keep things simple.

An old boss had a signature phrase that I used to roll my eyes at; “Follow Your Bliss”. As a twenty-something I scoffed at this saying. I would think, well sure, I would just LOVE to follow my bliss, but how am I going to afford to go live at the beach and write poetry and novels with the man of my dreams and two little children running along the water’s edge? Sure boss, you followed your bliss because you had the money.

But now I see that your bliss doesn’t have to be a huge all encompassing dream. Your bliss can be something simple – anything that makes you smile, that makes your days a little more you. Following your bliss means creating your life to be a mirror image of YOU, of your thoughts, dreams, and hopes. It means filling up your days with actions and words that represent the heart of who you are as a person. Do what makes you happy. Create the changes you wish to see and be the type of person you dream of being with each little element of your day to day life. This is a rule that we all could strive to follow a little better, don’t you think?

So, this weekend I made sure to follow my bliss.

The rest of the weekend was filled with things that are signature happy Katie.

1. I jumped in on the Christmas spirit early. I love Christmas more than the average person – probably even more than a 5 year old. I love the warmth, the reminder to love each other, the festive decor, the excuse to celebrate and the magic of it all.

So, this weekend I decided it was time to start bringing Christmas to our home. I’m about 75% done with my shopping, bought some new decorations, played Christmas music all weekend and lit the Christmas tree scented candles.

2. I spent hours catching up with my bff Kay Marie and wedding planning! She was the maid of honor in my wedding (and did a fabulous job) and I am now able to return the favor as I am now the maid of honor in her wedding. Weddings and parties are a good second favorite after Christmas. I am so excited to be part of her wedding plans.

3. I danced around the kitchen to James Taylor as I made Pad Thai and baked some cookies – a home is complete when the kitchen is full of good scents and music. We ended the weekend together. There is no other bliss I love more than simple time with Ryan, bundled up with blankets, wine, a Christmas tree scented candle and freshly baked cookies.

This is what life is all about. As this is the month of Thanksgiving, I should be grateful for the hard times, as they remind me to enjoy the small things and to remember what makes me happiest and full of bliss.

xoxo katie

 

A Daily Intent

Vieques Sunset

I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately. Maybe I could blame it on the fact that I was home sick for a few days. Maybe I could blame it on the fact that I miss Ryan during the week. Maybe I could blame it on the fact that it’s Fall and everything seems to be dying outside. But if I’m 100% honest with myself, I’m in a funk because I’m neglecting my promise to live in the now.

Instead of living in the moment, I still constantly find myself mentally preparing and dreaming for the future. As I listen to Ryan’s rants about law school and work and his dreams, I know he’s doing it too. I still sit around and count the months, weeks, and days when Ryan will be done with school, when he can get a job he’ll be happy in, when we can spend time together outside of the weekend, when we can have a baby. I’m starting to obsess and it’s totally unhealthy. And I tell myself it’s unhealthy and yet continue to do it. I’m an addict.

As I spent most of my days this weekend sick and in bed, I happily thought, “Well those two days went by fast, can cross them off, two days closer to the future!” Seriously, Katie? You would rather spend your days sleeping away life rather than living with? Who are you? I’m wasting precious moments and time and it needs to stop. Now.

Each day that we’ve been given is a gift. I need to start being grateful for the perfect life that I’ve been given. I need to accept the love that is all around more. I’m not saying I’m greedy and ungrateful – I just need to accept the little gifts that are given to me each day.

In order to be happier in the now I’ve decided that each morning I should set an intent for the day. It can be as simple or as grand as I wish. For example, one day could be as simple as “Be sure to appreciate nature today” while the next could be a little tougher like “Be kind to those who are not always kind in return”. But I want to live each day with purpose towards not only my bigger goals but also my smaller goals. The Dali Lama got it spot on:

quote Lately, I have not been waking up ready to conquer the day. I want to feel like a fierce warrior (and I guess having Katy Perry’s “Roar” on repeat isn’t cutting it). I don’t want this to be another goal or “to do” list item. Because, knowing me, I’ll just push it under the bed like my other goals and run and hide.

I’ll be sharing my daily intents on Twitter. Each morning I’ll post my intent with #ABLAdailyintent. Join along if you’d like to partake. Feel free to give me a good slap in the face if you see my falling behind. I want to live a purpose driven life.

It’s a beautiful world out there, let’s be sure to live in it. Will you be joining me?

katie finger lakes

xoxo katie

Creating My Happy Place – 5 Steps to Living Clutter Free

this is our happy place

Do you know the one thing that has been proven to make people happy? And no, it’s not buying that new pair of shoes, or booking a vacation, or drinking that bottle of wine.

It’s a clean house!

I learned this first hand – coming home from a night away to a clean kitchen and living room simply allowed me to breathe a little easier. (Thank you, Ryan!)

After having a hard couple days last week I decided to take matters into my own hands and make our home our sanctuary – the place that serves as the foundation to a happy and stress free life.

Keeping  the kitchen and living room tidy is one thing but ridding yourself of access clutter is a completely other task. A very daunting task to a pack rat like myself.  Back in the beginning of September I made a pretty simple list of Fall Goals, two of which were to clean out my closets and our home office. I have failed at both of these so far. But, now I’m ready to go to war.

I believe happiness starts at home, and I want to create an environment that is a safe haven from the stresses of the world. If you walk in the door to a giant mess, it just creates more stress. It’s time to simplify. By getting rid of some of our junk, who knows what we will find?

simplify your life

Here are my 5 steps to a happier clutter free home:

1. Everything in its Place

This is a two-sided promise. First, as soon as you are done using something, put it away. Or as soon as you bring anything into your home, put it into its proper place. This means no longer dumping things in the entry way after a long day. Second, if something doesn’t have a “place”, create one for it. This will be key for me when doing something with the piles and piles of “files” in our office. Staying organized and knowing where everything is will save you so much time and energy!

2. Little by Little

Feel overwhelmed at the thought de cluttering your whole home? I sure do. Tackle one section of a room at a time . Try to dedicate 15-20 minutes a day. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get accomplished in just a few minutes.

3. No More Piles!

I don’t know about you, but our mail pile can quickly turn into a leaning tower of stress. It’s safe to say that any small pile can and will quickly grow – it’s just too easy.  Commit to the no more piles rule! Nothing should stack up anyway except in your laundry basket!

4. If you bring something in, take something out

Pretty simple – but who really follows this to a T? Take the time to really consider your purchases. Is this necessary? Will this make me happy? I like to think of long run purchases. How many of your impulse purchases could have added up to a weekend getaway or a new piece of furniture?

5. Only keep items that are useful or have meaning.

In other words: purge, purge, purge! I have so much clothes and other junk that I need to dispense of. It will be a weight off of your shoulders once those un needed items are removed from you life and mind. Bite the bullet and really go through your items. I personally know I have items of clothing I haven’t worn for 5 plus years.

clutter free stress free

I hope these steps will not only lead to a happier home and state of mind. I want to turn these steps into life habits of making my home an oasis and to living a simpler and happier life. 

How do de clutter your home or purge items you have a hard time letting go of?

Have you been successful at simplifying your life?

xoxo katie