Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

I have been making various versions of a spaghetti squash bake for many years now. I often make it when we have guests, and everyone seems to like it, and many have asked me to share the recipe.

The other day I decided to add some ground beef to the casserole, and the boys liked this version even better. However, you could make this casserole without the beef and just add more mushrooms, and it would be delicious.

I like that this is a simple recipe with few ingredients. Also, you can assemble the casserole earlier in the day and put it in the fridge and bake it about an hour before you are ready to serve it. That’s one of the reasons I like to make this dish when we have guests. It allows me to clean up the kitchen after assembling it and then prepare other dishes. It makes entertaining stress-free.

You start by cooking the spaghetti squash. When I have a small spaghetti squash and not a lot of time, I usually cook it in the microwave for about 12 minutes. The key is to make numerous deep and long cuts with a sharp knife all over the squash, or it will explode. If I have more time, I usually cut it in half, remove the seeds, and put it cut side down in a baking dish with 1/2 inch water and bake it at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. 

While the squash is cooking, I sauté the onions, mushrooms and ground beef.

Then it’s just about assembling everything into a casserole dish.

Just a few simple ingredients…

After the spaghetti squash is cooked and the onions, mushrooms and the beef are sautéed, it’s time to assemble the casserole. I used a 10.5 x7 and a 7 x 5 casserole dish.

Start with a layer of tomato sauce.

Next comes a layer of spaghetti squash. 

Season the spaghetti squash with salt and pepper. 

Put a thin layer of cheese on top of the spaghetti squash.

Next comes a layer of sautéed beef, mushrooms, and onions.

The beef is covered with more tomato sauce (so that the spaghetti squash is surrounded by tomato sauce on both sides) and then comes more spaghetti squash. Make sure you season the spaghetti squash with salt and pepper. 

The spaghetti squash is covered with more tomato sauce and then topped with cheese. 

Here are both casseroles ready to go into a 350 degree oven. If you want to bake the dish later in the day, just put it in the fridge at this point.

And here are the casseroles 40 minutes later.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Beef and Mushrooms

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 pound ground beef – you could omit the beef and just add more mushrooms
  • 1 onion, diced
  • About 15 mushrooms, sliced
  • About 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used the 3-cheese blend from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 jar tomato or marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Marinara sauce)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Cook the spaghetti squash. I use two methods, depending on how much time I have. When I have little time, I usually cook the squash in the microwave for about 12 minutes (for a small squash). The key is to make numerous deep and long cuts with a sharp knife all over the squash, or it will explode. If I have more time, I usually cut it in half, remove the seeds and strings, and put it cut side down in a baking dish with 1/2 inch water and bake it at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. After the squash is cooked, take a fork and run it through the squash to make “spaghetti.”
  2. In the meantime, sauté the onions, mushrooms, and beef until the meat is cooked through.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Unless you plan to bake the casserole later on.)
  4. Assemble the casserole, starting with a layer of marinara sauce.
  5. Next, add a spaghetti squash layer and season it with salt and pepper.
  6. Add another layer of marinara sauce.
  7. Next, sprinkle some cheese on the marinara sauce.
  8. Add a layer of ground beef. Since this will be your only meat layer, you can make it a bit thicker.
  9. Add a layer of marinara sauce.
  10. Put another layer of spaghetti squash and season the squash with salt and pepper.
  11. Add a last layer of marinara sauce.
  12. Finish by sprinkling some cheese on top.
  13. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, until the cheese is melted. If you refrigerated the assembled casserole, add a few minutes to the baking time.
The dish was kid approved. Smile

Questions: What are some of your favorite dishes to entertain with? The more I entertain, the more I realize the importance of easy, foolproof dishes that can be assembled ahead of time. After all, everyone should be able to enjoy the evening. Do you like spaghetti squash? If so, what’s your favorite spaghetti squash recipe? Feel free to post a link in the comments.

Be well,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekly Food Prep

Besides confirming my sensitivity to gluten and eggs, the biggest influence the Conscious Cleanse has had on my life is the increased prep work and precooking I do on the weekends. I had planned meals, grocery shopped and done some prep work on the weekends for years, but now I spend several hours each weekend making sure that there is plenty of food we can all eat when we get hungry.

Since the focus of the cleanse is fresh, unprocessed veggies and fruits, it is really essential to precook a lot so that you always have something you can grab when you get hungry. In fact, the only time I get a bit frustrated while doing the cleanse is when I don’t have anything ready to eat when I am hungry. And it’s really my fault.

Since I have been spending more time prepping on the weekend, we are all  eating a lot better because most of my prepped food focuses on veggies.

Here is what I prepped for the coming week. Next week my prepped food will look slightly different as some of the things I made for this week are not allowed on the cleanse.

Meal Prep 1027
  • Veggie bags (carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, and bell pepper slices)
  • Hummus
  • Grape cups
  • Lentil soup with onions, celery, and carrots
  • Black rice
  • Baked tofu (I sliced firm tofu and coated it with a mixture of rice vinegar, gluten-free soy sauce, and sesame oil and baked it at 375 for 12 minutes on each side.)
  • Sautéed onions, mushrooms and ground turkey 
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Roasted asparagus
I officially signed up for the Conscious Cleanse last week. Registration closes tomorrow, Monday, October 28, in case you want to join me. Smile

Questions: Do you meal plan? Do you prep or precook on the weekend? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? What was the highlight of your weekend?

Be well,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Walking at Disneyland and California Adventure

If you follow me on Instagram or like my Facebook page, you already know that we celebrated the kid’s 6th birthday with a trip to Disneyland. Recently, there have been many reminders of how short and unpredictable life is, and we therefore made the decision to celebrate hubby’s and the kid’s birthdays big. But celebrating life is really about cherishing every day and all the “little moments” for the gift it is, and I certainly strive to do that (some days more successfully than others…).

We visited Disneyland for one day when the kid was 3, which was enough at the time. This time we spent two days in California Adventure and Disneyland and did a lot of walking between the parks. We had a lot of steps at the end of each day. The kid was excited that he got his first Fitbit 25,000 steps badge, and I finally got my first 20,000 steps badge.

Fitbit Disneyland Day 1Fitbit Disneyland Day 2

While it was crowded, I think for Disneyland the crowds were not bad (we visited Thursday and Friday), and we actually didn’t wait very long for rides and got to see a lot. We got to the park right before opening each day and got back to our hotel around 7:30 p.m. each night.

Since we flew to Orange County, I couldn’t pack as much food as I normally do. I only took bananas, apples, almonds, and trail mix. Our hotel offered breakfast, but there wasn’t much I could eat as it was very sugar and bread heavy. They had plain cottage cheese every day. One morning they also had oatmeal and another day sausage patties. I supplemented that with a banana and almonds. 

I planned our lunches before we left for the trip and made reservations at two restaurants. I thought it would be important to sit down for a while and recharge with some quality food in the middle of the day. If I didn’t plan our lunches, I knew we would get hungry at one point and likely grab a not-so-healthy meal.

On Thursday, we ate at Blue Bayou, the restaurant you can see from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I had been wanting to eat there ever since the older kid was little. It was a splurge, but it was worth it. The cool, dark, quiet restaurant was exactly what we needed after a fun-packed morning at Disneyland.

I didn’t make reservations until 1:30, and lunch really was lunch and dinner. I didn’t take a picture of my food as it was so dark, but I was very happy with it. I had the salmon on top of risotto. Before the meal, they served a very good salad.

On Friday, we had reservations at Wine Country Trattoria in California Adventure. When I looked at their menu, I liked that they offered numerous salads. We started the meal by splitting the mozzarella and tomato salad. The kid claimed all the yellow tomatoes and most of the mozzarella.For my entrée, I chose a tasty salad with shrimp. For dessert, hubby and I split the panna cotta. We also splurged on something else than our regular water: an IPA for hubby, a glass of Prosecco for me, and chocolate milk for the kid. We decided to sit inside, and, again, the cool, quiet space was exactly what we needed to recharge our batteries for an hour.

Tomato Mozzarella SaladShrimp SaladPanna Cotta

I’m very glad I made the decision to make reservations before the trip to eat at these restaurants. While the meals weren’t cheap, the food was good quality and worth it. Plus, we didn’t really spend money on other food in the park, except for some ice cream for hubby and the kid on Thursday and a rice dish hubby and the kid split. We also didn’t spend any money on souvenirs other than a Simba pillow pet for the kid. I’d rather spend money on good food than other things. 

While I’m happy with the way we ate on the trip, I know I haven’t gotten as many greens in the last few weeks as I usually do. With hubby’s birthday party prep and then planning for our Disneyland trip right afterward, our meals were less than stellar, and I actually didn’t go to the grocery store last week and just used up what we had. I’m therefore really looking forward to the Conscious Cleanse, which starts on Nov. 2. It’ll be a great time to really clean up our eating and make greens once again the star of every meal. I’ve also not been starting every day with warm lemon water, and getting back to it will be nice. I always feel a lot better when I drink it. I’m looking forward to staring the holidays feeling my best this year!

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? What’s on your menu this week? Here is what we’ll be having: roasted veggies, spaghetti squash and ground beef casserole, salmon, pizza with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and brie cheese, ground turkey with mushrooms, and lots and lots of raw veggies and salads.

Be well,