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!

 

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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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Puntine with Beet Greens

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Pasta comes in so many shapes and sizes, from monstrous, long tubes to the tiniest little dots. Puntine (pronounced poon-TEEN-eh) means “little points,” and that’s what these are. It’s a kind of pasta that’s perfect for soups and dishes like the one I’m offering here today.img_6377

This recipe starts off as sort of a pilaf, but ends as a creamy vegetable melange. The addition of beet greens gives it a great flavor and texture, and makes it a healthful dish with plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants.

If you can’t find puntine, a good substitute is orzo. They’re almost the same, except that orzo is a little bigger.

Enjoy!

Puntine with Beet Greens

Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
½ cup puntine or orzo

2 ½ cups vegetable broth
3 cups chopped beet greens

In a medium pan, heat the oil and butter until the butter is melted. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.img_6382Sprinkle in the paprika. Add the puntine and toss so that all the pasta is coated. Toast the puntine for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.img_6385Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low, cover, and let it cook until the broth has been absorbed and the puntine is tender. If the broth is fully absorbed but the pasta isn’t cooked, add a little more water (about ¼ cup) and let it continued cooking until tender.img_6387

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Add the beet greens and stir them in.img_6389Add another ¼ cup water and cover. Let it continue cooking until greens are tender, about 5 minutes. If the puntine starts to stick to the pan at any point, add a little water and stir. Grind in some pepper. If you feel that it needs salt, add some to your taste. Serve.img_6402

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Pumpkins, Ghoulies, and Ravioli, Oh My

Photo: pikabu.ru

Photo: pikabu.ru

Hi, fellow foodies. We are in full pumpkin swing and candy is popping up all over the place! If you haven’t already, start stocking up because those trick-or-treaters will be knocking on your door in about a week. And you don’t want your house toilet papered, do you?

For any of you having ghoulish gatherings and sinister soirees, there are lots of horrific recipes out there that will make your guests scream…or at least look twice at what they’re eating and drinking. There are recipes out there for every type of ghoulish treat, from cute ghosts and witches to truly horrifying zombies and body parts.

Photo: HalfBaked Harvest.com

Photo: HalfBaked Harvest.com

If you’re going to be doing any pumpkin carving, don’t throw away all that fabulous flesh and those beautiful seeds! To me, throwing out all that stuff is an abomination. You can prepare the flesh and use it in recipes, the same as you would canned pumpkin. Never done it before? I’ll tell you how.

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Tuscan Kale-Bean Soup with Fregola

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Tuscan Kale

Tuscan kale is a beautiful specimen of the kale family. The leaves are long and dainty looking, and look really pretty in a garden. But like standard kale, the leaves are hearty and the stems tough. Thick stems should be cut off and the leaves need to cook for a substantial amount of time (versus greens such s spinach or chard, which cook down in a few minutes).

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Whole Wheat Penne with Kale Pesto

IMG_6035When people hear the word pesto, it conjures up images of big bowls of fragrant pesto, bulbs of fresh garlic, and creamy pignoli nuts. (Doesn’t that make your mouth water?) As good as that combination is, pesto has crossed boundaries into new territory. These days, pesto can be made with a variety of ingredients.

I made this pesto with kale. Kale is great to use for pesto because not only is raw kale packed with nutrients, but it’s a sturdy vegetable that holds up very well against the blade of a processor or blender, and it’s flavorful enough to really give a sauce some heft and legitimacy.

But rather than process the greens with raw garlic, as you would with traditional pesto, I sautéed some white onion and garlic in olive oil and added that to the kale. It gave the pesto some sweetness and cut down on the sharpness that the raw garlic would give it. Of course, that sharpness is what many people love about pesto, but the thing about kale is that it’s a heavier, stronger flavor than basil and it can stand to be mellowed out a bit. I also added a handful of cooked green beans to soften the sauce further. But after all is said and done, this is still a flavorful, hearty sauce. You can use it on meats and fish, spread it in sandwiches, or add it to soups, as you would a pistou. For this recipe, I used it with whole wheat penne.

Give it a try. If you like pesto, I think you’ll really enjoy this.

Whole Wheat Penne with Kale Pesto

Makes 4 servings.

2 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups kale
½ cup cooked green beans
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cups whole wheat penne
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Remove from heat.IMG_6015Place the kale in a food processor or blender.

IMG_6018Add the onion and string beans, salt, and pepper. Begin processing.

IMG_6020Feed the extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube and process until finely minced.

IMG_6023If necessary, stop the machine, scrape down the sides, and continue processing. It should only take a minute or two.

IMG_6028Bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and transfer to a bowl. Mix in the pesto. Divide between 4 bowls, sprinkle the cheese on top, and serve.IMG_6036


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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