Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life

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Roasted Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

There’s something about mac ‘n’ cheese that makes people crave it, and it’s become American comfort food. It’s a humble, simplistic dish, but it’s such a part of our culinary landscape that everyone from famous chefs to food bloggers have “elevated” it to something grand. But whether you shave truffles in it, top it with a sunny-side egg, mix in cheese that was made by celibate monks in a cloistered hut in the Himalayas, or garnish it with gold dust, it’s still mac ‘n’ cheese.

But you can definitely make it your own. Use different cheeses and vegetables. If you’re a meat eater, you can add meat as well. Change up the pasta—you can go with the traditional elbows, or choose something more fanciful like gemelli, pipette, or campanelli. The only rule here is that you don’t cook it past al dente (tender but still firm), because it will cook a little more in the oven, and nothing ruins a mac ‘n’ cheese more than wimpy, mushy pasta.

You can use any kind of orange winter squash you like. I happened to have a piece of a round, squat variety that came out of my mother’s garden.

Some days are harder than others, and it’s those days when you need mac ‘n’ cheese. Enjoy!

Roasted Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Makes 4 to 6 servings

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ medium squash (butternut, kabocha, or similar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. short pasta (elbows, gemelli, shells, campanelli, pipette, etc.)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¾ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons dry mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
3 cups shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs (regular or whole wheat)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 1½-quart baking dish. Set it aside. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.Peel the squash and cut it into small pieces. Place the squash in a bowl; add the oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well. Spread the squash out on the baking sheet. Bake until it’s tender and starting to brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the squash to the baking dish. Lower the heat to 350 ˚F.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt; cook until the pasta it’s al dente (varies depending on what pasta you use, but generally 8 to 10 minutes).  Drain thoroughly and add it to the squash.Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium pan. Stir in the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking often, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the mustard, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste.Stir in the cheddar and let it melt in. Pour into the baking dish with the squash and pasta. Mix well.Melt the remaining butter in a small pan. Add the parmesan and bread crumbs and stir to coat. Spread this over the mac ‘n’ cheese. Bake until it’s bubbly and a bit browned on top, about 30 to 35 minutes. Enjoy!




Tomato Tagliolini with Fresh Peas, Asparagus & Squash Blossoms

The fun thing about pasta is that it comes in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. You can play around with it almost endlessly. When I saw this particular pasta, I was drawn by its beautiful red color, which comes from tomatoes. Once it’s cooked, it retains a soft reddish color and a mild tomato flavor. Continue reading

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Pancit Bihon Noodles with Snow Peas


Pancit bihon noodles are long, thin noodles made from cornstarch and are used widely in Philippine cuisine. They’ve got a nice firm texture and can be used in pretty much any recipe that calls for long, spaghetti-like noodles. And they are gluten free.img_6471

Noodles were introduced to the Philippines by the Chinese. It’s said that the word pancit comes from Hokkien, a southern Chinese dialect: pian e sit, which means “something conveniently cooked.” Pancit noodles became a staple—in fact, national—dish of the Philippines.

The recipe I offer here today is a basic Asian noodle dish, and you can add or remove anything you like. Look for pancit bihon in Asian markets.

Pancit Bihon Noodles with Snow Peas

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

½ lb. snow peas
8 oz. pancit bihon noodles
2 teaspoons cooking oil (such as grapeseed or sunflower)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Sea salt, if desired

Trim the snow peas and either cut into strips or just chop coarsely.img_6470Bring a medium-large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and stir them in. Cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.img_6478Drain in a colander and run under cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside.img_6479In a wok or wide frying pan, heat the cooking oil, then add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the snow peas and sauté a few minutes until softened but still crisp.img_6480Add the noodles, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Mix well with tongs.img_6481Taste for seasoning and add a little salt, if needed. Serve hot.img_6485



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Oat Noodle Salad with Umeboshi Plum Dressing


Yes, I’m still on a noodle kick. This time I’ve created a recipe using oat flour noodles. The nice thing about gluten-free noodles is that they’re lighter than wheat noodles, but like wheat noodles, they can be used in a variety of ways.IMG_6043

For some reason, these noodles are sold in packages with the odd weight of 13.4 ounces. I don’t know how or why they came up with that number, but it makes it awkward to create a recipe. (They probably started with 380 grams and it just happens to convert to 13.4 ounces, but why 380?) Well, I used approximately 10 ounces, which is three of the bundles that come in the package in the photo.

In this recipe, I’ve paired oat noodles with string beans and Japanese yams (although, if you can’t find Japanese yams, you can use sweet potatoes). The noodles and yams will soak up the dressing very efficiently, so if the salad is too dry for your tastes, you can add a little more olive oil, but the salad will not be oily in the slightest.

Ume Plum

Ume Plum

For the dressing, I used an umeboshi plum. Umbeboshi plums, a Japanese specialty, are ume plums (but more closely related to apricots) that have been salted and fermented. In the world of natural healing, umeboshi plums are considered miracle workers. If you divide foods into acidic, alkaline, and neutral, umeboshis are alkaline and can adjust imbalances in your body. It’s been used in Asia, particularly, Japan, China, and Korea, for centuries for a variety of ailments, including fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, colds, indigestion, headaches, and hangovers, among other things. Samurai soldiers were given umboshi as part of their field rations. They not used the plums to help them battle fatigue, they also used them to flavor foods such as rice and vegetables. Umeboshis also acted as a water and food purifier. Continue reading


Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake

Some people don’t know what to do with spaghetti squash. It’s an odd vegetable. It’s a squash but has a crispy texture and comes apart in strands. So, while you can certainly prepare it they way you would prepare it they way you’d prepare other squash, the result will be very different.

But because the flesh comes apart in strands, many people use it in place of spaghetti, with tomato sauce, cheese, and everything. And, along those lines, the squash can be used in place of pasta in other ways.IMG_5993

Here I decided to do a modified mac and cheese, combining spaghetti squash with actual pasta. But it’s not a true mac and cheese becuase it contains no milk of any kind. But it does have 2 kinds of delicous cheese, so I call it a Cheesy Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake.

By using 2 kinds of cheese, you get a deeper, more complex flavor. The cheeses I chose are Manchego and Jarlsberg, but you can substitute any other 2 cheeses you like. Or you can go the traditional route and do straight-up Cheddar.IMG_5996 Continue reading

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Black Rice Noodle Pie



Hey, all. Gluten-free noodle time again! Those black noodles I bought and made last time turned out so good, I wanted to do something else with them. But what? Pasta pie, of course!

Pasta pie is nothing new, but I wanted to give it a new spin by using the black rice noodles. It’s not only tasty, but visually stunning as well. Texturally, of course, it’s a different experience than regular pasta pie, as it always is when replacing regular pasta with gluten-free noodles. The result is a tender, yielding pie, and it won’t sit in your stomach like a brick.

Look for black rice noodles in Asian markets and give this a try. It’s beautiful, fun, and, most important, delicious. Enjoy!

Black Rice Noodle Pie

Makes 8 servings

Approx. 14 oz. black rice noodles (or other gluten-free noodles)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup milk
2 medium eggs, beaten
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 to 8 slices deli provolone cheese (about ¼ lb.)

IMG_5881Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.IMG_5882IMG_5883

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles, stir, and cook until firm-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.IMG_5868

Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining olive oil and mix throughout the noodles. Add the milk, eggs, ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper. Mix well. The noodles will clump together, so stir well. Tear a couple of slices of the provolone into small pieces to make ¼ cup and stir that into the noodles.IMG_5884

Lay 2 or three slices of provolone on the bottom of the cake pan.IMG_5887

Pour the noodles into the pan (scrape the bowl to get any bits of cheese). Lay 3 or 4 slices across the top of the noodles, then sprinkle on the remaining Parmigiano.


Bake until set (a knife inserted should come out just barely wet) and the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let it sit 5 to 10 minutes.IMG_5889

Remove the ring from the pan and invert the pie onto a plate. Remove the bottom and the parchment paper and invert it again onto a serving plate.IMG_5896IMG_5899

Cut into 8 wedges. Serve hot.IMG_5905



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Black Rice Noodles with White Beans & Cauliflower


I’m on noodle kick. If you read my blog last week, you know that I wrote about noodles then as well. That blog was about the mung bean noodles that I found in an Asian market. Well, in that same market, I found black rice noodles, and, as usual, I couldn’t resist trying them.

A New SuperfoodIMG_5856

Black foods are not only striking to look at, but they’re typically high in antioxidants because of they’re high levels of pigments. Black rice is high in Vitamin E, which helps the immune system and protects cells from free radical damage. According to a study from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, black rice contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries, making it an even healthier choice than brown rice. As a result, black rice is considered one of the new superfoods. And let’s not overlook the fact that these noodles are gluten free! Here’s more about it at Livestrong.com.

The unfortunate part of using black rice noodles is that once they’re cooked, they’re no longer black but a dark purple. But that’s okay—they’re still pretty to look at. And they still stand out beautifully against white beans and vegetables, which is exactly what I did with this recipe. Continue reading