Fall Chickpea Squash Chili

Fall recipe time!  I would definitely consider this chili a fall recipe since it uses butternut squash (for some reason squash equates to fall and winter in my mind).  I waited to post this until fall for this reason because I actually made it this summer (breaking all the rules!).  We had leftover butternut squash from this mac & cheese recipe I made a few days earlier.  I originally followed the “seasonality rules” with this two falls ago when I was living in Boston and wanted to make a fall dish (which was a surprise to myself since I wasn’t big on complicated recipes).  Similar with baking, I was never super into cooking elaborate dishes, but for some reason I saw the squash at a farmer’s market and found this particular recipe for Chickpea Chili calling to me.  It turns out that I really enjoyed cooking it and suddenly cooking became a lot less scary and a lot more interesting.  The original recipe can be found from Cooking Light and requires a crock pot and around 9 hours of simmering, but it can definitely be made in a medium-large pot with 3-5 hours of simmering.  It’s a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon when you don’t have any plans and it fills the entire house up with a lovely aroma of spices.  It also keeps well and tastes excellent heated up!  And the great part is that you WILL have leftovers from this recipe!

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Ingredients:
1 cup canned chickpeas
2 tbs olive oil (or cooking spray if you want to keep it very healthy)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
2 1/2 cups fat-free lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (undrained)
4 cups chopped butternut squash
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
6 cups hot couscous
8 lime wedges
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan (or cooking spray). Add onion; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through turmeric); sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  2. Add onion mixture to slow cooker.  If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use a large pot (which is what I used).   Add broth and next 4 ingredients (through tomatoes); cover and cook on HIGH 8 hours.  Or, if you are using a pot, 4-5 hours.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add squash and sauté 5 minutes. Add squash to slow cooker/pot. Cover and cook on HIGH 1 hour, or low-medium heat.  Stir in peas. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve over couscous with lime wedges!

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The Greatest Not-So-Bad-For-You Mac & Cheese

This is quite possibly the best mac & cheese recipe I’ve come across.  AND it’s not THAT bad for you.  The original recipe is labeled as “light” and it’s from Cooking Light, but of course all cheese is pretty fattening, so I don’t really like to label any type of mac & cheese dish “light” … hence the “not-so-bad-for-you” label.  This recipe combines some cheese with squash and Greek yogurt, so you still get that creamy texture, but not as bad as traditional mac & cheese.  If you’d like to make it even healthier, you can make it with spaghetti squash like I did here. Original recipe can be found here.

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Ingredients:
3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups 1% milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 spaghetti squash or 1 pound cavatappi pasta

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Combine butternut squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork (about 25 minutes).
3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt and blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.
4. Cook pasta according to package directions OR cook spaghetti squash.  (If you’re unfamiliar about how to cook spaghetti squash, please see my past post here).  Add pasta/spaghetti squash to butternut squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
5. Heat a small pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta or spaghetti squash mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve!

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How To Cook Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash could possibly be the most amazing vegetable on the planet.  I thought it would be beneficial to do a post on cooking spaghetti squash because I do cook a lot of recipes that involve it.  It’s pretty easy to cook and the hardest part is getting the squash open.  So, without further ado, here’s how you cook a spaghetti squash in 5 simple steps.

1. Buy spaghetti squash (that one’s pretty self explanatory).

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2. Cut spaghetti squash open length-wise.  This can be a little tricky and involves some semi-dangerous knife-work, so be careful!

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3. Scoop out the seeds/middle of the squash.

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4. Place spaghetti squash flat side down on a plate and microwave for 10-12 minutes.

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5. Use a fork to scrape the squash part out of the skin and into a bowl.  Voila!  You have your “spaghetti!”

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***Update – You can also cook it in the oven at 375 for 45-1 hour.  I have also read in the past that cutting the sides off (where the stem is) might make it easier to cut length-wise.  I have also read that microwaving the entire squash for a 2-3 minutes might soften it up and make it easier to cut in half.

Spring Rolls + PB2 Peanut Sauce

Spring Rolls are the greatest thing ever and if you live anywhere near Worcester, MA, I’d definitely recommend trying out Dalat on Park Ave. I went to college right around the corner and this little Vietnamese place has the best spring rolls quite possibly ever.  That’s where my love affair of Vietnamese Spring Rolls (and Vietnamese food in general) began.  Now that I’m on the other side of the country, one of the greatest things about living in San Francisco is that there are spring rolls basically everywhere.  I decided one day that I wanted to try to make these myself (or perhaps it was my boyfriend’s idea – he is obsessed), and it turned out to be a success!  They are fairly time consuming to make, but require no oven and if you make enough, they can be an entire dinner.  I combined a few different recipes to come up with the below recipe and matching peanut sauce, so this is my take on Vietnamese Spring Rolls.  They’re great as an appetizer or if you make 4-5 per person, you’ll have a dinner.  I used this stuff called PB2 for the sauce (which is amazing – basically powdered peanut butter that you add water to – and only about 45 calories and 13 calories from fat) and it makes the sauce recipe a lot healthier.

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Ingredients for spring rolls:
1 lb small shrimp
Bunch of basil
Bunch of mint
Bunch of cilantro
Rice papers
Rice vermicelli (or 1/2 spaghetti squash – you can make it with this!)
Shredded carrots
Head of butter lettuce

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Ingredients for peanut sauce:
3/4 cup PB2 (or 3 tbsp peanut butter)
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp lime juice (or rice vinegar)
4 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp white sugar
2 1/4 tsp garlic chili sauce (I’d recommend this one by Sriracha)
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup water (if it’s already a little watery or not enough, you can omit this or add more)

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Directions:
1. Prepare peanut sauce by mixing together all the sauce ingredients.
2. Cook about 1/3 of vermicelli package according to the package instructions (very easy, only takes about 10-15 mins total to cook).  You can also sub this with some spaghetti squash (as pictured) if you’d like.
3. Let peanut sauce and vermicelli cool in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes.
4. Once everything is “prepped” you can start making the rolls.  Fill a big bowl with water and dip the rice paper in one at a time for about 15-20 seconds until it is soft and pliable.  Remove from the water, shake it out gently, and place it on a damp plate.
5. Add a leaf of lettuce, some basil, mint, cilantro, shredded carrots, vermicelli, and shrimp all on top of each other. Pictures below.
6. Tightly roll the ingredients into a  cigar shape and close in the sides.  This step takes a a few tries!  It will be pretty sticky, and you might get a tear or two, but you’ll get the hang of it!
7.  Serve with sauce!

(Please excuse the Christmas tree plate!)

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Chicken Pineapple Fajita Lettuce Cups

Back in my Boston days I came across these skillet sauces by Rick Bayless at the Star Market near my apartment.  I don’t know what prompted me to try it out, but I instantly fell in love.  The Star Market only carried two, the New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce with roasted tomato + mild red chilies for chicken and the Key Lime Cilantro Taco Skillet Sauce with roasted tomatillo + green chile for shrimp.  I tried both, and the red sauce instantly became my favorite because it tastes really great with chicken (as it was meant for).  I made the Key Lime Cilantro with chicken and it was definitely good (but probably a ton better with shrimp), but the red one really became my favorite and a staple for me.  I’ve never really seen these anywhere outside of that Star Market on Beacon Street.  That is, UNTIL LAST WEEK.  ANNOUNCEMENT: SAFEWAY IN SAN FRANCISCO NOW CARRIES THESE.  I REPEAT – AS OF LAST WEEK, SAFEWAY IN SAN FRANCISCO NOW CARRIES THESE.  At least, the one in Duboce Triangle.  I know most of you don’t live around here, but I’d definitely recommend taking a look at your local grocery store and see if they have these because I really enjoy them!  They are better than the classic dry taco seasoning and pretty low calorie (25 cal & 5 cals from fat per two tablespoons).  This recipe is one I came up with in Boston using the New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce with roasted tomato + mild red chilies.  It’s a really great summer dish and goes great with lettuce cups instead of tortillas if you want to keep it super low-cal and carb free.  Feel free to use tortillas instead, though!  Also tastes great with some guac and salsa (particularly Newman’s Own Peach Salsa – my favorite, which, unfortunately, I have yet to find in San Francisco) and even a side of chips!

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Ingredients (serves two):
12 oz chicken
One red pepper
One green pepper
1/2 of a large onion (or enough to match the amount of each pepper)
1/2 a bag of New Mexico Taco Skillet Sauce with roasted tomato + mild red chilies for chicken
8 oz pineapple chunks
Cooking spray
Iceberg lettuce (or tortillas)
Guac + Salsa (optional)

Instructions:
1. Cut up peppers and onions and spray cooking spray into a large skillet.
2. Cook peppers and onions until soft, but still a little crispy (approx 10-15 minutes).  About half way through, add a little bit of skillet sauce to veggies (enough to coat them).

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3. Place peppers and onions aside and spray pan with cooking spray again.  Cook chicken all the way through, adding a little more skillet sauce when chicken is almost finished cooking.

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4. When chicken is finished, put veggies back in the skillet with the chicken and add the rest of the skillet sauce (1/2 the bag!).  Cook for another 5-10 minutes.

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5. Add in pineapples to skillet a minute or two you are ready to plate.
6. Plate and eat with lettuce cups (or tortillas) and your sides (guac, salsa, and maybe some chips!!).

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Bruschetta + Grilled Chicken

A healthy protein filled bruschetta dinner!  This is a really delicious bruschetta recipe that tastes just like what you’d get in a nice Italian restaurant.  I really like bread, so I doubled the bruschetta recipe below to make a bruschetta appetizer with bread.  Outside of the bruschetta, this dish is super simple, being comprised of basically a grilled/broiled chicken breast and a side arugula salad (with more bruschetta on top, of course!).  If you want to make an appetizer plus the chicken dinner for two, I would recommend doubling the bruschetta recipe, but if you want just the chicken + bruschetta + some for the salad for two, or just bruschetta, the recipe below is MORE than enough.  Plus, it is very healthy, especially if you use part skim mozzarella! Thanks to Skinny Taste for the recipe!
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Ingredients:

3 medium vine ripe tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
3 oz part skim mozzarella, diced
2 chicken breasts
4 cups arugula
bread (optional)

Instructions:

1. Combine onion, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
2. Chop tomatoes and place into a large bowl.
3. Combine with garlic, basil, and onion-balsamic mixture from step 1.  Set aside to sit at least 10 minutes or as long as overnight.
4.  Add in the mozzarella cheese when ready to serve.  Your bruschetta is complete!
5. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Grill or broil (or cook however you please, really!) the chicken and top with the bruschetta.
6. Add arugula and top with some bruschetta. Serve!
 

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Spaghetti Squash Italian Casserole

This is the recipe that transformed my boyfriend and I into spaghetti squash fanatics (or “sketti squash” as we affectionately refer to it as now).  I knew of spaghetti squash because a friend of mine raved about it in college, but I don’t think I ever tasted it.  We try to eat really healthy, and my boyfriend came across this recipe earlier in the year.  It’s still our favorite spaghetti squash recipe, and the best parts about it are that it’s super easy to make, very healthy, and heats up very well (helloooo leftovers)!  Thanks to (Healthy) Vittles and Bits for the original recipe (I have modified it slightly to reflect how I make it)!

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Ingredients:

1 lb ground turkey
3 pressed garlic cloves
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano/parsley mix (3/4 oregano, 1/4 parsley)
3/4 (6oz) bag of shredded, reduced fat mozzarella cheese
1 large spaghetti squash
1/2 cup Feta cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place each half face down on a large microwaveable plate and microwave for 10 minutes on high.
3.  While the squash is cooking in the microwave, brown the ground turkey over medium heat. Add in the garlic, tomato sauce, oregano/parsley mix seasoning.  Mix together.  Stir in 1/2 of shredded mozzarella.
4. When the squash is finished cooking, let cool for a few minutes.  Then scrape out the insides of the squash halves using a fork into a 9×13 pan (if it is not a non-stick pan, spray with some olive oil cooking spray).  The spaghetti squash should be the first layer on the bottom of the pan.
5. Spoon the ground turkey mixture on top of the spaghetti squash.
6. Sprinkle the feta cheese and the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top and bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes.
7.  After 20-25 minutes, broil for 3-5 minutes (500 degrees) until the cheese is nice and browned on top.
8. Serve!

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