Spaghetti Squash Casserole

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I first tried this dish at True Food Kitchen and fell in love with the light textures and fresh flavors of this dish. After recently switching to a plant based diet, I was thrilled when the restaurant allowed me to substitute their house made dairy free almond ricotta instead of a traditional mozzarella topped version . I will admit, I rarely eat spaghetti squash, and had never even cooked it before. I will be cooking spaghetti squash a lot more now that I have been inspired with this fabulous, light tasting casserole which is so filling and just bursting full of texture and flavor.

One of the things I love about this recipe is the make ahead factor. The sauce is not even cooked until final assembly.  All of the components, like the roasted spaghetti squash, spiralized/julienned zucchini, caramelized onions, sauce, and even the almond ricotta (for a non dairy version-almonds must be soaked a day ahead-recipe link below), may be made and prepped ahead and stored separately until final assembly.  The assembly of the dish takes just minutes to warm in a skillet and then the casserole may be popped in the oven just to melt or warm the cheese.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole Recipe:

Time: about 1 1/2 hours total not including the overnight soak for almond ricotta

Serves 6 generous portions – as pictured above this is a half a recipe baked in an 8 inch by 10.5 inch by 2 inch deep dish, I saved the remaining half of the cooked or prepped ingredients to make another smaller casserole a few nights later. If making the full casserole recipe all at once, use a 9×13 casserole dish when ready to bake.

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • 1 28 oz. can Blanco or other brand of Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves of Garlic, peeled with brown root end cut off of the clove
  • 1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano or 1 tsp. Fresh Oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-Tbls. Olive Oil (omit if oil-free version is desired-will still taste great)

For the Squash:

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash around 4-5 pounds, split in half lengthwise and seeded (roast the seeds separately with olive oil and salt for a nice snack)
  • 2 Zucchini Julienned or spiralized (I used a Kitchen Aid spiralizer-thin blade)
  • 2-3 Tbls. of Fresh Parsley, or Basil, or Thyme for garnish (or use a combination of and or all, dried or fresh)
  • 1 Onion Caramelized (Dice one medium to large sized yellow onion and sauté in a pan with 1-2 Tbls. of oil, or water for oil-free version, on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until brown and soft-can add a few teaspoons to taste of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar to speed up the process). I ran out of olive oil so I used the liquid that remained on my sheet pan after roasting the spaghetti squash.
  • 2 Tbls of Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibers attached to the seeds. Save the seeds to roast for a delicious snack.  If using oil, rub a small amount of olive oil just to lightly coat the inside of the spaghetti squash halves and sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside as well. For an oil free version omit the oil, it will be fine.  Lay the two halves cut side facing down on a sheet pan lined with parchment for easy clean up.  Roast until al dente-approximately 40 minutes. You do not want to overcook. Use a spoon or fork to scoop out the spaghetti squash strands once slightly cooled. The squash may be roasted and cooked a day ahead and refrigerated until needed.
  2. While the spaghetti sauce is roasting, caramelize the chopped onions in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil or for an oil free version water or vegetable broth so the onions do not stick. If you have liquid left over from the roasting of the spaghetti squash, you can use that as well. Add sweetener of choice to help with the browning and to add some sweetness.  This should take about 30 minutes or so on medium low heat. This can be made a day ahead.
  3. Blend all sauce ingredients in blender until almost pureed with some slight texture to the tomato. This can be refrigerated and made a day ahead if necessary. Keep the sauce uncooked, it will be cooked further later.
  4. Spiralize or Julienne the Zucchini
  5. Heat a large sauté pan with 2 Tablespoons of oil or water. You can even use any liquid that was on the sheet pan after roasting the squash.  Add the cooked and separated spaghetti squash strands which were scooped out of the skin, julienned zucchini, tomato sauce and caramelized onions till combined and just heated through.  Place mixture in a casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese or almond ricotta if desired.  Please see my blog or the link below for the almond ricotta recipe:   https://wordpress.com/posts/dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com
  6. Place casserole dish uncovered in a 400 F degrees oven until mozzarella cheese is melted and has a slight color or almond ricotta is heated and just warmed through. Once the cheese is melted and browned (mozzarella) or warned through ( almond ricotta), finish the dish with some chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil , thyme or a combination of one or all three. If you do not have fresh herbs used dried.

Enjoy!  Makes great leftovers as well!

Ina Garten’s Granola Bars, No Preservatives and Full of Flavor, Much Better Than Store Bought

Who knew granola bars were so easy to make? I wanted to start a business with this recipe.  These granola bars are full of flavor and are a hit with anyone who tastes them. The best thing is there are no funky ingredients or preservatives.  I made these for Christmas presents and wrapped a dozen bars in a cello bag.  The recipients LOVED them!  The great thing about this recipe is you can put in whatever dried fruits or nuts you like, I don’t think I ever made them with dates as the recipe states. My most popular version was the almond/raisin and macadamia/sunflower seed/sesame seed /dried pineapple/dried papaya.

My tips:

  • Use a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper
  • Watch your toasted oats, germ, and coconut so that it does not burn
  • Substitute your favorite dried fruits or nuts by adding according to the ratios in the recipe: 1 cup nuts and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit depending on how sweet you want it to be, I usually use just shy of one cup dried fruit.
  • Allow the bars cool down completely as recipe states or they will break apart
  • purchase large bottles of honey from Costco to save a little extra money on ingredients

Here is the recipe:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/homemade-granola-bars-recipe/index.html click on this link or see the copy and pasted recipe below:

Ingredients
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted  wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light  brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure  vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried  apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Make Ahead Christmas Morning Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls and Egg Casserole

Traditions are wonderful. These recipes are a Christmas morning staple for us and the best thing about them is the make ahead factor. Whip them up the day before and just pop into the oven on Christmas morning, it can’t get much simpler than that!  This is an easy way to have some nice warm breakfast treats on Christmas Morning without having to “cook” in the kitchen.

I whip of a batch of no rise, no yeast (easy) cinnamon roll dough some time on Christmas Eve, I place 7 unbaked rolls around the edge and 1 roll in the middle of an Emile Henry Pie dish from Williams Sonoma and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  On Christmas morning this breakfast treat is ready to pop into the oven.  I either make the frosting the night before or just make it in the morning while the rolls are baking.  We always have the rolls with baked egg casserole, recipe below, which also sits in the fridge overnight to be baked Christmas Morning.

Cinnamon Roll Recipe:

 PECAN CINNAMON BUNS

Original source from Bon Appetit submitted by Dawn English. These are a Christmas Morning favorite in our family, just make the day before and refrigerate unbaked rolls and frosting and pop the rolls in the oven the next morning.

Makes 8 rolls

Filling:
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, toasted chopped
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter ( 1/4 stick) melted

DOUGH
nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 1/2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided

mascarpone icing

for filling: combine brown sugar, chopped pecans, sugar, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt in medium bowl. Stir in melted butter (filling will be dry and crumbly)

For dough: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. spray 10 inch diameter cake pan with 2 inch high sides with nonstick spray. Whisk 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Stir buttermilk and 6 tablespoons melted butter into dry ingredients until blended. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, adding more flour by teaspoon if dough is too sticky, about 8 turns.
Roll dough out on lightly floured surface to 12×10 inch rectangle. Brush dough with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle filling evenly over dough, leaving 1 inch plain border on 1 long side. Press filling gently into dough to adhere. Beginning at long end opposite plain border, roll up dough jelly-roll style. Pinch border of dough to seal. Cut dough crosswise into 8 equal slices.
Place 1 bun in center of prepared cake pan; surround with remaining 7 buns, spacing apart (buns will expand to fill spaces during baking). Brush tops of buns with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake buns until golden brown, about 23 minutes ( some filling may come out sides of buns). Cool buns in pan on rack 5 minutes. Drizzle icing over warm buns, then serve warm or at room temperature.

>>For mascarpone icing:
whisk 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (an Italian cream cheese available at many supermarkets or Italian markets) and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in medium bowl until smooth.

Hope you enjoy!

 

My tips:

  • Frosting: use cream cheese instead of mascarpone for the frosting if you don’t want to spend the money or can’t find it.
  • Cloves, I am not a lover of cloves in breakfast items so I leave it out

Breakfast Egg Casserole

This breakfast casserole is a family favorite on Christmas Morning. I love this recipe because it is assembled the night before and ready to pop into the oven in the morning.  Often times we use cut up ham left over from Christmas dinner to add to the casserole instead of sausage.  For the past few years my husband usually assembles this one just before we go to bed on Christmas Eve or technically very early Christmas morning usually around 12 midnight or 1 A.M.

6 eggs
2 cups milk
6 slices white bread
1 pound sausage (or cubed ham)
1 tsp salt
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used a little more)

Crumble and slightly brown sausage. Drain. Cool. In a mixing bowl beat eggs, add milk, salt and mustard. Cube the bread and add cheese and sausage or ham. Put in a 9” square baking dish. Refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees until puffy and set (cooked through) in the middle.