Pesto Spaghetti Squash

Pesto Spaghetti Squash

 

I’m trying really hard to stay healthy (read as: cut carbs) but it’s just so hard. I love carbs. I especially love bread and pasta and rice and all those delicious things that add inches to my thighs when I eat too much. We’re on week 2 of 2017 and I’m doing pretty well so far. I’ve been going to the gym, taking a healthy breakfast to work — and actually eating it, I’ve been packing my lunches, filling up on veggies, fruit and protein. Yes, I’ve been having some cheat meals. But come on, I need to live a little!

I don’t have anything against veggies, I just prefer to have the carbalicious version. In the warmer months, I was all about the zoodles, zucchini cut into a noodle-like texture. If you loved zoodles, you’re going to really like spaghetti squash. Yea, it’s another vegetable, but it’s naturally stringy and makes for … you guessed it … the perfect spaghetti noodle substitute. While you can go with the classic tomato sauce and meatballs, I invite you to try some different variations. Most recently, I experimented with Pesto Spaghetti Squash. If you love pesto, this is recipe for you. The most time consuming part of the Pesto Spaghetti Squash recipe is roasting the spaghetti squash, 50 minutes to be exact. Other than that, it’s smooth sailing and so healthy. As matter of fact, if you don’t take any part of this recipe except how to roast spaghetti squash, I have no issue with that!

Feel free to use pre-packaged basil pesto, or if you have some extra time, whip up my parsley pesto. My parents wanted grilled chicken in their squash, while I opted for meatless. It’s delicious either way. If you feel you need some added protein, grill some chicken or sauté some shrimp and Ta-Da! 

Pesto Spaghetti Squash

Pesto Spaghetti Squash

Pesto Spaghetti Squash

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil, for brushing
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup Pesto (use my Parsley Pesto Recipe LINK or use pre-packaged)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half, the long way (it's easier to cut if you've microwaved the squash, whole, for 1 minute)
  3. Remove the seeds, and the squishy insides. Don't worry, the "spaghetti" comes from the flesh
  4. Place face-up on parchments paper lined baking sheet
  5. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt
  6. Bake for 50 minutes on a middle rack
  7. Meanwhile, if you're making pesto, this is the time to do it
  8. Remove squash from the oven
  9. Using a fork carefully pull at the flesh until it becomes shredded -- resembling spaghetti noodles and place in a medium bowl. Save the squash shells.
  10. In a medium bowl, mix the shredded squash and pesto until combined
  11. Scoop the pesto squash back into the shells and serve
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This Week on Instagram

We made it through the first full week of 2017. So far so good. It’s also the second installation of “This week on Instagram,” and I have so many things to share! I did a ton of eating out and not as much recipe testing. I’m really excited to share my delicious experiences at the restaurants in the DMV (that’s DC, Southern Maryland, and Northern Virginia).

 

I found this amazingly easy recipe for dog treats Best part? I already had everything in my kitchen. I couldn’t find my bone-shaped cookie cutter, so I went with stars, which actually yields more pieces to break off when you’re teaching new tricks.

 

Did I mentioned we have a dog? Everyone, meet Leia. Really, she’s my brother’s dog. What’s his is mine, right? Tell me she’s not the most adorable thing in the world.

 

I just found out someone at work is going through a really rough breakup. She’s the sweetest, and I wanted to bring her a little bit of joy. So I decided to pull together a Cheer Up Kit. Contents include: Bottle of Wine, Godiva Chocolate, Buddha Board, Instant Happy Journal, and a card with a little note inside. I left it at her desk and she was the happiest I had seen her in a while. It’s the little things. 

 

I had my very first ramen experience, and it wasn’t ramen from the 10 for $1 packets. Chaplin’s in DC is an interesting place – I’d say more hipster than authentic Japanese. I highly recommend checking it out. Their cocktails are fun too.

 

It seems like I’ve been on the Asian food bandwagon this week. With looming snow on the way (it was a false alarm on the snow front Thursday night by the way), it was the perfect freezing cold day for steamy Pho.

 

We got our first snow of the season! It was beautiful. Unfortunately it fell on a Saturday, so we didn’t get a snow day.

 

OH MY GOSH. Hen Quarter is amazing. I loved every bit of it from the biscuits, to the fried chicken skins, to the chicken and waffles. And I ended off that dinner with a spiced hot chocolate, because it was 19 F out!

 

I love this little gem of a place in Annandale. They have a mix of Swiss and German food, and their berner rösti (potato pancake) is yummy, especially with the melted cheese and poached egg. You’ve got to get on their bread bandwagon too. Yums.

Until next week …. follow along on Instagram

New Year’s Champagne Pancakes

Champagne Pancakes

Now that 2016 is behind us, it’s time to start the New Year off right. Has anyone actually gone to the gym this week? I did! Now that we made it through week 1 of exercise and eating right, it’s time to celebrate, again, with Champagne Pancakes. Come on … you’re entitled to a cheat day, or two.

Leftover bottles of New Year’s champagne? No problem. Don’t put them away just yet. While you may have opted to just pour champagne into you morning glass of orange juice for an instant mimosa, consider saving some for your pancakes. Say what?? Yes! Boozy champagne pancakes. Before you write off champagne pancakes, you have to try them. The bubbles give the pancakes added fluffiness, while the champagne frosting is a fun substitute for syrup. You’ll find that it’s a similar consistency and just so fun with sprinkles on top! So pour yourself a mimosa and start your first weekend of 2017 off with a breakfast celebration.

I loved these pancakes so much, they may just become a new celebratory breakfast tradition. There are so many things to celebrate. Just think of the possibilities: Birthday Champagne Pancakes, Congrats on Your New Job Champagne Pancakes, Bridal Shower Champagne Pancakes, Valentine’s Day Champagne Pancakes, Graduation (College+) Champagne Pancakes, Wedding Day Champagne Pancakes, Just Bought A House Champagne Pancakes, My Best Friend Just Got Engaged Champagne Pancakes… the possibilities are endless. Call them whatever you want, as long as you’re celebrating.

 

Champagne Pancakes

 

New Year’s Champagne Pancakes

Yield: About 12-14 pancakes

Ingredients

    For the Pancakes
  • 2 cups Original Bisquick® mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 - 1 cup Champagne
  • For the Topping
  • 1 16oz package Vanilla Frosting
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Champagne

Instructions

    For the Pancakes
  1. Heat griddle or skillet over a medium-high heat
  2. Meanwhile place all pancake ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth
  3. Spray the griddle or skillet with cooking spray
  4. Pour batter onto the griddle/skillet and cook until the outer edges are dry and bubbles start to form. I use a ¼ cup measure to make the perfect size.
  5. Using a spatula, flip the pancake over and cook until golden brown ( 1-2 minutes)
  6. Remove from the heat and set aside
  7. Repeat until the batter is finished
  8. Top with champagne frosting and sprinkles
  9. For the topping
  10. Empty the contents of the frosting into a small bowl
  11. Add champagne
  12. Whisk until combined
  13. Spoon onto each pancake and top with sprinkles
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This Week on Instagram

It’s a new year. Happy 2017!

With the New Year, I’m happy to introduce a new feature to Measuring Cups, Optional. Starting today, I’ll be posting a weekly piece called “This (last) Week on Instagram.” For everyone who follows Measuring Cups, Optional on Instagram — THANK YOU! — you know that I am always in the kitchen working on a new project and most of the time, those projects don’t make it onto the blog. There are a number of reasons why that is, but I don’t want my readers, who don’t necessarily follow me on Instagram, to miss out. Especially on some of the fantastic recipes I test out from other food bloggers. Aside from just tons of food, there’s a sprinkle of the fun things I do. In the spirit of the oversharing society we’ve become, you’ll get a weekly dose of MCO happenings in one convenient post.

Popovers

Monday = Federal Government Holiday = more sleep and more cooking. I made two dozen of my popovers to take to a waffle brunch on Monday and they were a total hit! A friend convinced me that they were “protein-packed” since they had so many eggs. Sure, they’re also packed with gluten and cheese. But they taste amazing!

 

 

Breakfast

The holidays, from Thanksgiving on, have really turned my eating habits upside down. So, about midweek, I decided to get my “healthy” breakfast back on. As you can see, I added a granola, chia and flax seed mix.

 

 

 

Mom and I made it out to the National Christmas Tree, and it was beautiful! My favorite part is walking along and looking at all the state trees. Can you imagine how proud each of these groups were to have their ornaments featured in Washington, DC for thousands of people to see?!

 

 

Honey Pig is hands down, one of my favorite places for Korean BBQ. Get the bulgogi, you’ll thank me later.

 

 

On my day off, mom dragged me to cycling at 9:15am. I was cranky and moody, but felt like a superstar at the end of the 50 minute workout.

 

 

 

I love ice skating! When I was a kid, I took skating lessons and was convinced I’d be the next Tara Lipinski My skills have degraded over the years …

 

 

We celebrated New Years Eve morning with Champagne Pancakes – Boozy Champagne Pancakes are coming to the blog soon! UPDATE: Champagne Pancakes recipe can be found here

 

Until next week …. follow along on Instagram 

 

Crockpot Beef Pho

Crockpot Beef Pho

‘Tis the season for short days, long nights, chilly weather, cozy layers… and lots of Pho! 

 Let me tell you about my very first Pho experience (it was awful, by the way). My friends had been raving on and on about Pho, which I quickly learned is pronounced, fah, and decided they wanted to plan a Pho night. It was Ramadan, and I was starving to begin with. The place was nothing to write home about. It included lots of basic chairs and tables, some Vietnamese décor, and of course only accepted cash. 

 A friend of mine, we’ll call her Dee, sat next to me. When I stared blankly at the menu and then started to panic because I had no idea what to look for, Dee told me to follow her lead. So I did. I ordered the beef Pho, added hoisin sauce, no garnish, no limes, and no siracha. It was the worst experience of my life. By the time we left, I had barely gotten through 1/4 of the Pho, coughed up the cash and promptly left. Only to cry all the way home. I never wanted to see another bowl of Pho again. 

 Note to self: don’t try new dishes in Ramadan when you’re already starving. 

 It wasn’t until I told my best friend, Z about my experience that I dared to try Pho again. Z’s exact words were “No, you did it wrong. You need to go with someone who knows how you like to eat. Let’s go to Pho together.” I learned,  with my best friend taking the lead, that I actually love Pho. With lots of limes, sprouts, basil and a dash of siracha. Turns out, our taste buds are pretty similar and she knows how I like to eat. 

 Since then, I began craving steaming hot Pho bowls on cold dreary days. 

Crockpot Beef Pho

As much as I love Pho, I hate waking up the next day with my face and fingers double their size. The amount of sodium in restaurant pho is just out of control. Making pho at home means you can really control the amount of salt you add to the broth.

If you didn’t know, Pho takes about 8 hours of stovetop cook time. 8 hours I don’t have. Enter the crockpot, this magical appliance that lets you cook food for long periods of time (4-8+ hours) without much active time. I adore my crockpot. No, really, I do. It’s great for soups and stews, and my yummy pulled beef tacos and BBQ Beef. So if you don’t already own one, I suggest adding it to your basic kitchen appliances. 

Adapted from here

Crockpot Beef Pho

Crockpot Beef Pho

Yield: 4 Bowls

Ingredients

    For the Broth: 
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced into ½ inch rounds
  • 1 3 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 4 lbs Beef bones
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 garlic cloves (whole)
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 teaspoon fennel
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 3-4 Tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8-9 cups water
  • 1–2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • For Bowls:
  • 4-5 oz rice noodles
  • 1 lb beef steak thinly sliced
  • 4 green onions, chopped 
  • 1 ½ c bean sprouts 
  • Limes, cut into wedges
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups Fresh basil
  • Sircaha, to taste
  • Hoisin Sauce, to taste

Instructions

    For the Broth
  1. Bring a large pot with water to a boil over high heat. Add the beef bones and boil on high for 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the spices and garlic for 2-3 minutes, then add to the crockpot
  3. Place onion rounds and ginger on an aluminum-lined baking sheet
  4. Broil for 5-7 minutes on each side, until charred.  Add to the crockpot.
  5. Keep an eye on the boiling bones. A froth will form. Remove the froth and discard as it's boiling
  6. After 10 minutes, remove the bones from the water and discard the water.
  7. Add the bones to the crockpot
  8. Add 9-10 cups water to the crockpot (fill to about 1 inch below the surface)
  9. Add fish sauce, sugar and salt
  10. Cook on high for 8 hours
  11. Strain the broth through a sieve before serving
  12. For the Bowls:
  13. Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and place in each bowl.
  14. In a small skillet sauté the steak until cooked through
  15. Place the noodles in the bowls, top with cooked beef and green onions
  16. Using a ladle and a sieve, pour the broth through a sieve into each bowl
  17. Put all your garnishes on small plates on the table, each person garnishes as they like
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Garlic Roasted Potato and Arugula Salad

Garlic Roasted Potato and Arugula Salad

Just last weekend, the family and I took a short road trip to James Madison University (JMU) for my brother’s graduation. The graduation ceremony was boring, except the part when my brother made his way across the stage. It was a proud moment for all of us. Me included, since he wouldn’t have made it without my editing his papers. Did I mention that he usually sent them to me 2 hours before the assignments were due with a frantic text asking for my help? Of course Murphy’s Law would have it that I always had meetings on those days. Once, I was given 12 hours. I had to read that email a few times just to make sure I really had extra time.

Once we cheered him across the stage, and took our graduation photos until they basically kicked us out of the commencement hall, we all headed to lunch. My brother insisted that it was the best pizza place in town, but what he didn’t tell us was that they had a delicious potato and arugula salad. After we each ordered individual pizzas (read as: we all ordered the same pizza with small topping variations), we dug into a shared plate of potato and arugula salad. My dad fell in love with it, so I mentally took note. I would be trying to recreate something similar in the coming weeks.

Garlic Roasted Potato and Arugula Salad

 

Garlic Roasted Potato and Arugula Salad

 

Garlic Roasted Potato and Arugula Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 Yokon Gold or Russet Potatoes
  • 3-4 cups Arugula
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Juice from 1 Lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F
  2. Keeping the skin on, slice the potatoes in to thin rounds (about 1/6 inch)
  3. Toss the sliced potatoes with vegetable oil, salt, and garlic, until coated. I usually put everything into a gallon-sized ziplock and shake until coated
  4. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on an aluminum-lined baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until crispy
  5. For the dressing, in a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice
  6. Toss together the arugula, potatoes and dressing. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve while the potatoes are warm
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http://www.measuringcupsoptional.com/2016/12/24/garlic-roasted-potato-and-arugula-salad/

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