Tag Archives: Closet Cooking

Italian Sausage Lasagna Spaghetti Squash Boats

Italian Sausage Lasagna Spaghetti Squash Boats

This cold winter is really making an aggressively menacing effort to sabotage my weight loss efforts. I’ve got nine more pounds to go, and those nine pounds may just have to wait until spring. I’m serious. It’s not that I don’t want to lose them, it’s not that I’m not cognizant of my dietary and exercising efforts; it’s more that the cave man part of my brain is taking over and telling me that I need tons of animal fats and carbs to store up energy for this stupid cold weather we’re having. And it’s pretty difficult to talk back to that very strong voice.

Italian Sausage Lasagna Spaghetti Squash Boats

I try, of course. I tell it that I’m living in the 21st century, which means that I have access to all kinds of modern conveniences my cave man ancestors did not: winter coats, hats and gloves and scarves, indoor plumbing, indoor heating, any blanket I want, sweatshirts, long underwear…

It doesn’t matter. The inner voice persists, quite loudly sometimes. That’s why I am so thrilled that spaghetti squash is still in season. And that’s why I was even more thrilled to find that Kevin posted this recipe that includes a very hearty, meaty, cheesy lasagna type thing that nestles over spaghetti squash. I feel like Kevin is really looking out for both my inner cave man and my current waistline! Haha!

Italian Sausage Lasagna Spaghetti Squash Boats

Spaghetti squash is low-carb, of course, but it’s also filling and nutritious. And while not a pasta replacement, it is quite tasty on its own. In this dish we’ll be tossing that cooked spaghetti squash with lots of cheesy goodness: ricotta, Fontina, and some basil for extra flavor. It’s then topped with a hearty, warm, stick-to-your-ribs Italian sausage and tomato sauce ragu, which is then topped with more Fontina and melted under the broiler.

Lasagna Spaghetti Squash Boats

It’s PERFECT for cold winter nights, and it’s also pretty figure-friendly. You could sub in ground turkey for even fewer calories if you wanted, not to mention you could use low-fat ricotta and part-skim low moisture mozzarella for the Fontina.

And most importantly, this is really delicious. How could it not be? There’s just so much flavor here, and it’s so filling and satisfying without much guilt. And not nearly as time-consuming as actual lasagna, so score!! Enjoy this one guys! And try to stay warm!

Italian Sausage Lasagna Spaghetti Squash Boats

{One Year Ago: Margarita Fish Tacos}
{Two Years Ago: Giant Cinnamon Rolls with Buttermilk Glaze}

Source: slightly adapted from Closet Cooking

Ingredients:
2 small spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
2 tbs olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, removed from its casings
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs basil, chopped, divided
1 cup ricotta
6-8 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded, divided

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a silpat. Brush the inner flesh of the spaghetti squash with 1 tbs olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast, skin side up, in the oven until tender, about 30 minutes. You know when it’s done when a sharp paring knife can be inserted into the flesh and removed with no resistance.
Meanwhile, make the ragu. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, drizzle in the remaining tbs olive oil. Add the sausage and crumble with a sturdy spoon. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until no traces of pink remain. Add the onion and cook until tender, another 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, paprika, balsamic vinegar, plus salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for at least 10-15 minutes, to let the flavors marry and the tomato sauce thicken. Stir in the basil and turn the heat to very low.
Remove the spaghetti squash from the oven and let cool just slightly. Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the spaghetti squash into a large bowl, taking care not to break or crack the spaghetti squash shells. Add the ricotta, remaining tbs basil, and a medium-sized handful of the shredded Fontina. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well, evenly coating the strands of squash with the cheese.
Nestle the cheesy spaghetti squash strands back in the spaghetti squash shells, using a spoon to make an indentation, or a “bowl” in the center of each. Spoon the sausage ragu evenly into the 4 boats, then top each with the remaining shredded Fontina.
Broil in the oven until the cheese has melted and turned a light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
Serve immediately.

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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This is Part Six of my Favorite Food Bloggers Series!

Closet Cooking is a great food blog owned and operated by Kevin. Kevin lives in Toronto, Canada, shops often at farmer’s markets, and is a self-taught home cook. I love, love, love the name of his blog – he calls it closet cooking because his kitchen is the size of a closet! How can you not love him after that? Especially if you’re like me and can totally identify.

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Kevin got into cooking after realizing he ate the same boring thing over and over again, and needed to make some changes in his cooking style. He took the challenge seriously, as I think he is one of the more inventive and creative cooks in the blogosphere.

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One of the great things he does is take a dish, let’s say buffalo chicken wings, and then turns the concept completely on its head by reinventing it into many other dishes. Like buffalo chicken deviled eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches, and dips, and well, you get the picture. Seeing as this is one of my favorite ways to cook and eat, his blog definitely speaks to my stomach and heart.

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While he features many different recipes on his blog, I would say that Kevin is your go-to guy for two things in particular: dips and grilled cheese sandwiches. He is forever creating new versions of those beloved classics, and they all look amazing. He also cooks up quite a bit of Vietnamese food, a cuisine that I personally love very much. I know Toronto has a large Vietnamese community, and though I’ve never been there, I’ve heard that it’s one of the best places to get a banh mi in North America.

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It was particularly tough to pick one recipe to feature for this post, as I’ve been following Kevin’s blog for quite awhile and have pinned more of his recipes than you can imagine, but I knew it had to be one of his grilled cheeses. So I picked the Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich, because 1) I love jalapeno popper anything, and 2) it really showcases what his blog is all about; it’s one of his famous grilled cheese sandwiches, but it’s also a terrific example of how he takes one concept and turns it on its head to make it into another delicious meal. And delicious it definitely was.

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If for some reason you haven’t already, please check out Kevin’s delicious blog as soon as you can!

Other delicious-looking recipes of Kevin’s I considered: Pizza Quesadillas; Bacon Double Cheeseburger Dip

Read the rest of this series!   Part One    Part Two    Part Three
Part Four    Part Five    Part Seven    Part Eight    Part Nine    Part Ten

Source: slightly adapted from Closet Cooking

Makes 1 sandwich as written

Ingredients:
2 jalapeno peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
2 slices good quality white sandwich bread
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup Monterey jack, shredded
1 tablespoon tortilla chips, crumbled

Directions:
Place the peppers on a baking sheet with the cut side facing down.
Place the baking sheet on the top shelf in the oven and broil until the outer layer of the skin has blackened, about 8-14 minutes. You can also do this on your stovetop if you have a gas stove. Simply use tongs and place the peppers cut side up on your grates with the flame on medium heat until they blacken.
Place the peppers in a zip-lock bag or other sealable container, seal and let them cool until you can handle them, about 20 minutes.
Remove the skins from the peppers. The skins should easily “pinch” off.
Butter the outside of each slice of bread and spread the cream cheese on the inside. Sprinkle half of the cheese on the cream cheese of one slice of bread, top with the jalapenos, crumbled tortilla chips, the remaining cheese and finally the other slice of bread.
Heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat.
Add the sandwich and grill until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 2-4 minutes per side.