squash

Beef Bolognese

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Bolognese with homemade peasant bread & spaghetti squash.

It’s getting’ Italian up in here. There are some inherent comfort foods in my life spawning from my upbringing and a really good pasta sauce is one of them. To Italian households your tomato sauce is a family recipe; other sauces, restaurants, etc just don’t taste right. As cold weather has finally started to settle in to Austin, I needed something filling and hot to warm my soul. When you want all the flavors without so much fat you can substitute the ground beef with ground turkey and serve with spaghetti squash instead of pasta.

Beef Bolognese
Ingredients

1 lb 80/20 ground beef, preferable chili beef, a thicker grind (If you substitute ground turkey for this, be sure to add a cube of beef boullion when add the cans of tomatoes, stirring to dissolve.)

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP butter

1 diced white onion

3 cloves minced garlic

1 1/2 TBSP Tomato paste

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp dried oregano

2 28oz. cans of crushed or diced tomatoes

1/2 TBSP red pepper flakes

3/4 cup dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon, you can also use a good white for this)

1 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

The zest of 1 lemon

1 lbs prepared linguini, rotini, or 2 lbs prepared spaghetti squash

1 minced anchovy (strictly for glutamate flavor, adds no fishiness, but optional none the less)

Saute the beef over medium high heat in a deep pot or sauce pan for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. You don’t want to cook it through, but you definitely want it to give up a lot of its fat. After few minutes, when a significant amount of grease has been rendered, but the meat has yet to really brown, turn off the heat and strain the meat with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside. Dispose of the rendered fat. If you want some added flavor, you can also do 1/2 lb beef with 1/2 pound ground pork, and you can use ground turkey for a healthier option, of course, skipping the step to render any fat.

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In a deep pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling a bit, add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onions are just transparent and the garlic is no longer raw, about 5-7minutes. Move the onions to one side of the pot, exposing a bare area and dollop the tomato paste there, to toast a bit, about 1-2 minutes. Stir the tomato paste with the onions and garlic, and then add the oregano and basil. Stir, letting the flavors marry and carmelize, about 3 minutes. Add the 2 cans of tomatoes, red pepper flakes, wine, and soy sauce, stirring well. Add the meat back to the sauce and let it simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, and allow the pot to continue to simmer over medium heat for another 10 minutes or so or until the sauce has thickened.

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Serve over your favorite pasta or spaghetti squash and top with shredded fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

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Light Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

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I’m in Austin. It’s a million degrees out here, on this second to last day of September. But I’m continuing in my quest to will it to be Autumn. Visiting a friend for a party tonight, I decided to bring a pumpkin cake. I like pumpkin bread, but tonight I wanted something more, yet light. This recipe has no oil or butter in it and makes for an ultra moist, but not too sweet dessert that’s great for company, coffee, or a night playing Beatles Rock Band. Breaking out my bundt pan and whipping together a brown sugar cream cheese filling, I set to work making an easy, but flavorful Fall cake.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 box Spice Cake Mix

1 15oz can pumpkin

1.5 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1 3.4oz butterscotch Instant Pudding Mix

2 eggs

2 TBSP Greek Yogurt

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Filling

12 oz. room temperature Cream Cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake ingredients. The cake batter will be sticky and thick, but fluffy, almost like icing. If it’s seems too thick, sticky, or dense to stir of manipulate add another big tablespoon of yogurt. In a separate bowl, whip together the cream cheese filling ingredients and place in the fridge for a few minutes.On a side note, I tend to not like things overly sweet and to me the pumpkin cake with cream cheese brown sugar mixture is more than enough. That being said, add 2 TBSP to 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the cake mixture if you like it as sweet as usual cakes.

Grease or spray non-stick spray in a bundt cake pan and sprinkle with flour. Scoop in roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter into the pan and spread evenly, making a little indenture in the center while doing it. The cream cheese will sit in this like a circular river of deliciousness. Next remove the cream cheese mixture from the fridge and dollop it in the indentation around the cake batter as evenly as possible. Next, top the cream cheese with the remaining cake batter, being careful to cover all the exposed cream cheese. Smooth the top as best you can.

Bake for 45-55 degrees or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before flipping out of the bundt pan. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, slice, and serve. It’s moist, it’s delicious, it’s low fat, low sugar, and it screams Autumn comfort!

Butternut Squash Bisque

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I love lobster bisque. After attempting to make it at home I decided I hate the cost of the ingredients. And cooking lobster and shrimp shells down into stock makes my home smell like low tide. Recently at a cafe in Austin I had out-of-this-world Tomato Bisque. It was truly great, much better than I ever thought it would be. If I hadn’t been eating lunch with the CEO of my company I would have totally stuck my head in that bowl and licked it clean. The thing about tomato bisque, however, is that it’s too similar to the tomato based sauces I make and it’s not Autumnish enough for me. I live in the capital of Texas, a place that – thanks to global warming – is now completely void of all seasons. There’s Lesser Summer during November through March, and then Seventh Circle of Hell Summer April through October. Take today for example. It’s November 13th and it’s 87 degrees out. Awesome. Yes, I mean that sarcastically. The leaves that have turned color have only done so because we’re experiencing a multi-year long drought and all plant matter turns brown and shrivels when it dies. There’s no romance about it.

In an attempt to relive the New England fall weather of my wasted youth, I try to make Autumn occur in other ways. I burn Apple Cinnamon candles, I hang my dust covered fall coats in easy to reach areas, I obsess over brown leather boots. And I begin a half-assed love affair with the butternut squash.

Butternut squash is….meh. It’s okay. It’s no fennel. But, you know, it tries and it’s very Fallesque. So, I decided to make Butternut Bisque.

All the recipes I read were all very sweet or too plain: Butternut Squash & Brown Sugar Bisque, Butternut Squash & Cinnamon Bisque, Mother’s Basic Butternut Bisque. I wanted something that emulated the Tomato Bisque flavor, but used Butternut squash as it’s base. So I started with bacon.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I started by roasting the squash and then half way through adding carrots to roast with said squash. One decent sized squash peeled & cubed, which made about 4 cups, and, roughly, 1 cup carrots.

Please excuse my half eaten lunch in the back round of the above picture. Austin, like most major US cities, has quite the “China Town” area and we found a little Vietnamese place that does AMAZING pork buns. So good.

I roasted the squash for 45 minutes at 500. After 25 minutes, I added the carrots. Once the 45 minutes of roasting was up, my house smelled fantastic – like Mega Fall – and my squash/carrot mixture looked like this:

I suppose I could have roasted the squash and carrots while prepping the other parts of the recipe, but I finally found the minikit detector in my Lego Star Wars video game and was just flying through levels. Once the squarrots were out of the oven, it was time to get down to business.

What makes everything better? Bacon. What makes everything even better-er? Cooking everything in bacon fat. I took 2 strips of center cut bacon, threw them in the bottom of a heavy pot and rendered the shit out of them. It looked like this:

Once I felt enough fat had cooked out of the bacon, I removed what was left of the strips. I then added 2 large, finely chopped cloves of garlic, 1 stalk of roughly chopped celery (something I’d leave out in the future, truth be told), and half of a white onion, chopped. I cooked those over medium heat until they were tender. It took about 8 minutes, so I had a cup of tea. It looked like this:

That’s my favorite mug. It was free and had some website name on it. I scraped all the letters off accept for the “O”, which I edited into a “C”, for the first letter of my married name. It’s great.

Anyway, once the other veg was tender, I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of flour over everything to help absorb all those fabulous flavors and to act like a thickening agent, stirring continuously for about three minutes. I then added only 3 cups of chicken stock. What I should have done was mixed in 2 cups chicken stock and 2 to 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, but hindsight’s 20/20. I added the squash and carrots and let everything just hangout to reach a boil. Upon hearing the boil, I sprinted down the hall from my bedroom video game fest back to the kitchen, and I added 1 bay leaf and about 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. I turned the heat down to a simmer, and left the bisque there to think about what it had done. About 30 minutes.

Once the half hour of sensational simmering had passed, I removed the pot from the heat to let it cool.

It’s not glamorous, I know. Like in war, these are simply what the realities of making a bisque look like, and it’s not pretty. Once the bisque cooled I blended the ever loving crap out of it with an immersion hand blender. I love that thing. Of course, it splattered most of my kitchen orange, but it worked like a charm. I probably could have kept things cleaner if I wasn’t also watching Troll Hunter on Netflix, a fantastic import from Norway that I highly recommend. Super entertaining. Yes, there’s subtitles; I don’t want to say what I think about people who won’t watch a movie just because there are subtitles. Troll Hunter is great. Watch it.

Once the bisque was at a smooth, bisque-like consistency, I added about 2/3 cup of heavy cream. Sure, this is optional, but when I say “optional” in reference to heavy cream, I don’t really mean it. I also like to swirl in a little more cream, or even just regular milk on top when I sit down to a bowl ‘o’ bisque, so I didn’t go throwing a full pint of heavy cream in all at once, like I had read on many recipes. I then garnished with a sprig of parsley and a piece of the uber cooked bacon.

It was good, it really was. You can tell from the picture it was a bit on the thick side, and when I reheat the rest I may throw in that extra cup or so of veggie stock I’d mentioned, but other than that my husband loved it and I…liked it…You know what? I’m just not a huge fan of butternut squash. Probably because it’s not a lobster.