October 16, 2011

Spaghetti squash spaghetti.

Mmmmm....spaghetti squash.

I have been wanting to make spaghetti squash for quite some time. I saw it used on the food network's "Chopped" just a few days ago and ever since, I've thought about using it in a recipe. My mom used to make spaghetti squash when I was young but I remember being so disappointed that there weren't real noodles in the spaghetti that I never really enjoyed the vegetable.

I gave spaghetti squash a try and was very pleased with the result. Matt was too, although at first he was disappointed there was no meat in the sauce (he is a meat guy). Once he got passed that (and added more and more cheese to his helping) he was satisfied as well.

Spaghetti squash spaghetti.
1 whole spaghetti squash
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 C chopped mushrooms
1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano (or fresh, to taste)
1 tsp basil (or fresh, to taste)
mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese

1. Cut spaghetti squash down the middle, lengthwise. (Don't be intimidated...just do it. Slice it. You can do it.) Remove seeds and pulp from center (the seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds...). Bring enough water to cover both halves of spaghetti squash to a boil. Place spaghetti squash in boiling water skin side up (tongs work great). Boil squash for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. While spaghetti squash is cooking, make spaghetti sauce. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil and garlic in sate pan on medium heat.  Add diced onion. Cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spices.

3. Add can of diced tomatoes and can of tomato sauce to onion and garlic mixture. Add half can of water. Cook until incorporated. Add mushrooms. Put lid on sate pan and simmer until ready to prepare.

4. Remove spaghetti squash from water with tongs. Separate and pull strands out of squash with a fork.

5. Place about 1/2 cup of sauce in empty squash shell. Layer spaghetti squash over sauce and layer another 1/2-1 cup of sauce on top, covering spaghetti squash. Sprinkle top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

6. Place finished shell on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven. Let sit for about 5 minutes, allowing juices to settle. Add additional cheese, as desired.

I spent a few minutes staring at the spaghetti squash, slightly intimidated by the shell between the squash and me. Using a chefs knife, splitting the squash was not that difficult.

Once the seeds and pulp are have been removed, you will have formed a nice pocket that speeds up the boiling process. You can boil the squash whole or with the seeds, but splitting the squash in half and removing the seeds, speeds up the boiling process.

I put the seeds aside...saving them for another time...and perhaps another blog post.

While waiting for the squash to finish boiling is a perfect time to cook the tomato sauce. I used a meatless version but your favorite spaghetti sauce will work just fine. The mushrooms were a perfect compliment to the texture of the spaghetti squash.

Once the squash has been boiled and removed from the water, the squash will look much more translucent than prior to boiling.

Removing the squash from the shell was really quite fun. With a fork, the strands of spaghetti will just pull right off the shell.

Continue pulling as much spaghetti from the shell as desired. I had plenty of left over spaghetti. It reheats perfectly.

Add the first layer of sauce to the shell...

...followed by a layer of spaghetti squash...

...and a final layer of sauce.

Sprinkle the top of the sauce with cheese...bake...and EAT!

I scraped my shell clean...literally.

October 14, 2011

Pumpkin Butter.

It seems like every food blogger is posting some sort of "pumpkin butter" recipe. To follow the trend and because pumpkins are all over the place right now, I thought it would be appropriate to try my own version of pumpkin butter.

Just imagine how yummy this butter will make the kitchen smell and how tasty this butter will be ?? Yum!

Most of the recipes I looked at were loaded with sugar. Since I am opposed to anything too sweet, I decided to completely eliminate any added sugar.

Pumpkin Butter (adapted from ohsheglows.com and pickyourown.org)

1 (29 oz) can pumpkin puree, approx. 3 1/2 cups
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce (or 1 C apple juice)
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 TBS ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Juice of half a lemon

1. Combine pumpkin, applesauce and spices in a large saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.

2. Remove from heat. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice. Cool.

3. Pumpkin butter can be kept in a mason jar or airtight container in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Matt and I LOVED the pumpkin butter. I was afraid it would not be sweet enough but put on toast (Matt) or combined with steel cut oatmeal (Me) the pumpkin butter tasted just right. Feel free to add (1/2 C - 1 C) brown sugar if you think the pumpkin butter needs to be sweetened.

I have no doubt this pumpkin butter will be eaten within three weeks one week.

Good thing I overstocked on Libby's pumpkin puree at the grocery store today...I have a feeling I will be using pumpkin quite frequently this fall.


October 12, 2011

Roasted Asparagus.

For Leah's pumpkin carving party this past weekend, she asked Matt and me to bring a side dish that was not salad or bread. I knew immediately that I would bring a vegetable and Matt said he wanted something green. This request definitely narrowed my options. A few veggies that went through my head = broccoli, green beans, zucchini and asparagus.

I decided to bring asparagus...roasted asparagus.

Roasted asparagus is one of my staple vegetables. It is so easy to cook and tastes so good. AND asparagus is low in calories and very rich in vitamins and minerals = VERY good for you. Always a bonus.

Roasted asparagus

Bundle of asparagus
1 - 2 TBS olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 TBS chopped parsley
course salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Break ends off asparagus
3. Crush garlic and combine with olive oil. Stir rapidly.
4. Arrange asparagus in single layer on baking sheet. Brush asparagus with garlic/olive oil mixture. Sprinkle with parsley.
5. Season asparagus with salt and pepper
6. Roast asparagus 8-12 minutes, rotating and shifting the asparagus half-way after 5-6 minutes of cooking time has elapsed.
7. Remove asparagus from oven and serve immediately.

I was so excited to see that the asparagus looked amazingly good in the produce section of the grocery store. Recently, the asparagus as looked spindly and malleable but these stalks looked firm, crisp and straight. The ends of the asparagus were closed and compact (which is a good indicator for fresh asparagus).

Laying the asparagus in a single layer on the baking sheet allows the asparagus to cook evenly. I think the garlic/olive oil mixture and parsley really adds a great flavor to the asparagus. I brushed the asparagus with the garlic and olive oil mixture; however, another way to coat the asparagus is by putting the asparagus with the garlic and olive oil in a plastic bag and shaking the bag until the asparagus is fully coated.

I usually cook the asparagus for the minimum amount of time because I prefer my asparagus slightly crunchy.

After you take the asparagus out of the oven, add additional seasonings as desired and place on serving plate.

Asparagus is a great vegetable to serve with a multitude of dishes. It tastes great with all kinds of meat and fish. Feel free to alter the seasonings depending on what you are serving with the asparagus. Other great spices that work well with asparagus are dill, oregano and lemon.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful asparagus recipe.


October 09, 2011

Carving pumpkins.

Saturday night we enjoyed a pumpkin carving party hosted by Leah and LuEmma. They served lasagna and guests were asked to bring a side dish (more about my side dish to come). It was a nice way to have a dinner that served a number of people.

In addition to a side dish, we were asked to bring a pumpkin for carving and carving utensils. I hadn't carved a pumpkin forever, so I was excited.

I cut around the stem and both Matt and I tackled the guts.

Rio was a major help to everyone carving pumpkins. I think she got her fair dose of pumpkin guts as well.

After all of the guts were removed, we left the garage and headed upstairs to carve out the faces of our pumpkins. Matt and I decided to carve our face free-hand. Matt carved the nose first, then I carved the eyes and then Matt carved the mouth. We were happy with the final product. 

LuEmma preparing the pumpkin seeds to eventually be roasted...

My favorite...the stars from the Alaska flag!

All of the finished pumpkins (minus Dana's pumpkin)...

Have a great weekend!

October 07, 2011


Lately, I have been CRAVING steel cut oatmeal in the mornings. Sometimes, while I am working out in the morning, it is thinking about steel cut oatmeal that gets me through my run...or bike...or swim. 

What are steel cut oats? Steel cut oats are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) that have been cut into two or three pieces by steel rather than rolled and steamed (common oatmeal). Steel cut oats are also known as pinhead oats, course cut oats, Irish oats. This form of oats takes longer to cook than rolled or instant oats due to its minimal processing. Steal cut oats tend to have a nuttier flavor and (my favorite characteristic) a chewy texture...even after cooking and reheating.

I avoided making steel cut oats for a long time, basically because they take about 20-30 minutes to cook. A few months ago, I read a blog that suggested cooking steel cut oats ahead of time (like a week ahead of time) and reheat in the morning. Brilliant.

So, began my love affair with steel cut oats.


Typically, I make a batch of steel cut oats one-two times per week (depending on how many servings Matt steals). One serving = 1/4 cup dry oats so one batch tends to last about four mornings.


3 C water
1 C uncooked steel cut oatmeal

Yes, the ingredient list is pretty simple.

1. In a medium sized pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the steel cut oatmeal, bring back to a boil and then simmer on low, covered, for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. When the oats become creamy and tender, remove from heat. Let cool before transferring to airtight container. Place in fridge.

3. In the morning, add a splash of milk and reheat in the microwave for about one minute, stirring after 30 seconds (you could also reheat on the stove).

There are many ways to be creative with steel cut oats. Topping ideas below:

Ground flax
Nut butter
Chia seeds
Maple syrup

I usually stir in chia seeds after 30 seconds of cooking the oats in the microwave. Then, I like to add one banana sliced, almond butter and milk after the oats have been completely reheated.

Angela, at ohsheglows.com, stirs in her desired ingredients while making the initial pot of steel cut oats. I keep my oats pretty basic initially so I can start with a plain batch every morning.

However, your options are endless. Be creative!


October 02, 2011

September in a nutshell.

So, what did I do in September?

...Matt, Leah and I ran Lost Lake (oops! no picture). The Lost Lake Trail Run is a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis and is considered one of the premier trail runs in Alaska. The weather was crappy (rainy, cold, etc) and really this is a race I wouldn't mind forgetting for a number of reasons. The best thing about the race this year? A great t-shirt and free chicken sandwiches and beer at the finish.

...Leah and I went to McCarthy, AK for Labor Day weekend with our friend Tammie. McCarthy is a town of roughly 40 people (according to the 2000 census) located about 120 miles northeast of Cordova, Alaska. 

A little bit about McCarthy...

Copper was discovered in the Kennecott Mountains near McCarthy in 1900. The mines and the company town of Kennecott were built by the Kennecott Mining Company quickly after the discovery. Alcoholic beverages and prostitution were forbidden in Kennecott and so McCarthy grew as an area to provide illicit services not available in the company town. McCarthy quickly grew into a major town with a gymnasium, hospital, school, bar and brothel. The Copper River and Northwestern Railway reached McCarthy in 1911.

In 1938 the copper deposits in Kennecott Mountain were mostly gone and the town was mostly abandoned. The railroad also discontinued service that year. Over its 30-year operation, $200 million in ore was extracted from the mine, making it the richest concentration of copper ore in the world.
The population of McCarthy and Kennecott fell to almost zero until the 1970s, when the area began to draw young people who had traveled to Alaska for adventure and the big money of the Trans Alaska Pipeline project. In the 80's after the area was designated Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (1980) McCarthy began to draw tourists. The few people who lived in McCarthy began to provide a variety of tourist services. There was always at least one family living in the McCarthy area from 1953 to the present day.

Interestingly, McCarthy is connected to the "outside" world via the McCarthy Road spur of the Edgerton Highway to Chitina. What used to be railroad tracks from the Copper River and Northwestern Railway is now a dirt road...and drivers are warned of the potential hazards when making the 60 mile trek.

We ran in a five mile race that was sponsored by the American Diabetes Association. 

The run was beautiful. A half-marathon was also offered that traversed up to the Kennecott mine. When I run this race next year...I'm doing the half. Definitely.

Most of the weekend was spent laughing and visiting with friends. Before heading back to Anchorage, we spent some time at Kennecott, looking at the remains of the mining town. I loved everything about this place...and definitely consider McCarthy/Kennecott one of my favorite places in Alaska.

What else did I do in September?

...I welcomed the opening of college football with a Hawkeye win, loss (UGH!) and win.

...Matt and I went camping at Nancy Lake...and hiked to Red Tree Lake.

...the Vikings fell to 0-3 (not really an embraced welcome...and now, after today, the Vikings are 0-4. Yikes!)

...I tried a few new food recipes (details to come) 

...and I traveled to South Lake Tahoe/Fallen Leaf Lake for the Americans for Non-Smokers' Rights (ANR) conference.

The camp is owned and operated by Stanford University. 

Temperatures were in the mid to high 80's every day and dipped into the mid-40s at night. The conference schedule allowed for attendees to take full advantage of the location with opportunities to run, hike and kayak.

Quite possibly the best conference I have ever attended, I left completely rejuvenated and proud to be involved in the movement to make Alaska a clean indoor air state.

...September also consisted of quality time with Rio. :)

Well, that was a quick synopsis of my September. 

I hope you had a great weekend.


Welcoming October.

You may have noticed that I skipped September. I did not post one single blog.


I had been looking forward to September for quite some time; not necessarily because September is the beginning of fall (and essentially winter) in Alaska, but mostly because September ended a VERY busy summer. 

I decided a break from blogging was definitely what the doctor ordered.


I am ready to get back on track again and am excited to welcome October with open arms. I LOVE October and definitely think it is one of my most favorite months.


(I'll give you my top ten)

1. The smell of burning leaves
2. Oktoberfest
3. College football
4. Changing colors
5. Brisk mornings = lovely runs
6. Autumn brews
7. Candy corn
8. Pumpkin patches
9. Halloween
10. Cold(er) weather Camping

Happy October!!


P.S. Happy Anniversary to my Grandpa Ron and Grandma Carol. I love you both!!