Pantry Shopping – Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

As promised (though delayed thanks to life), we had leftover sauce from our veggie lasagna and some spaghetti squash from the garden in the cold room (it will last all winter in a cool dark space after picking in the fall).  Instead of noodles, the girls love spaghetti squash roasted in the oven and stuffed with spaghetti toppings.  I prefer it to pasta; it is not nearly as filling, obviously not processed and doesn’t leave me feeling so stuffed!  Plus – it is way more fun to “pick our pasta”! We have made veggie stuffing alternatives using mushrooms, butternut squash chunks, onions and beans instead of the meat but I will admit that my 2 meat-a-tarians prefer it this way.

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Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

From the cold room

1 large spaghetti squash, dried oregano, thyme, chives and crushed chilis peppers

From the freezer

1 pound each of local hot Italian sausage (Cavicci’s meats makes great sausage!) and ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey, browned.

Ingredients for tomato sauce – We had left over sauce to use, about 3 cups worth.  If we have none prepped, to make enough for 1 large squash we normally use the equivalent of 1 large can of frozen tomatoes (about 15 frozen paste tomatoes), 2 chunks of frozen basil (about 2 tbsp), dried herbs and some garlic scapes.

For this recipe, if I don’t have any sauce actually cooked, I will just blender the tomatoes with the basil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp each of dried thyme, oregano, chives and salt and pepper. We then add the “sauce smoothie” directly into the meat and warm it in the browning pan. Easy, easy cheat!!

From the fridge

1 cup each of cottage cheese, ricotta and mozzarella cheese

How we did it…

After halving and seeding the squash, we roasted it face down with a bit of olive oil at 350 degrees for roughly an hour (or until for fork tender.)

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In the meantime we combined the meats and left over sauce. In a separate bowl we combined the ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/2 tsp of crushed chilis and 1/2 tsp each of extra oregano and thyme.

Once roasted we filled the bottom 1/2 of each side of the squash with the cheese mixture and the top 1/2 with the meat and tomato sauce mixture. We covered the top with grated mozzarella and returned to the oven to bake until bubbly. We devoured this with a green salad with pears, seeds, dried cranberries and apples – all local!  Yum.

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LEFT OVER BONUS!  If the squash is a bit smaller, the left over meat and cheese mixtures can be added to brown rice with some black beans and salsa to make another great quick meal!

Now what to do with all of the frozen kale and carrots….? Soup!!

 

Nova Scotia Treasures

IMG_3107Buried treasure, shipwrecks, legends of smuggling and piracy fascinate my family, young and old. Growing up in Atlantic Canada provided so many opportunities to become engrossed in tales of lore.  On the South Shore is Oak Island, a small, mysterious isle where treasure hunters have been trying since 1795 to unearth what could be one of the biggest troves, ever!  6 people have died trying, millions have been supposedly spent on excavating and countless hours have been spent dreaming about what could be buried hundreds of feet underground in booby trapped vaults! My big girl’s voracious appetite for theories and speculations cannot get enough of Templar intrigue and Capt. Kidd rumblings.

Cape Breton’s natural beauty is booty enough for me, but for treasure hunters the call of hundreds of shipwrecks cannot be quelled.  In 1965, wreck hunter Alex Storm and his crew brought up gold and silver from the treasure ship, Le Chameau. It was rumoured to be worth almost a million dollars, but given a political scandal and settlement, no one knows for sure!  Another Cape Breton legend holds that the Louisbourg treasure, mysteriously missing following the siege of 1758, contained the annual gold and silver payroll of the French colonies, priceless relics and religious artifacts.  It has never been recovered, nor its resting site located…some think it is hidden on a small island in a lake off Mira Bay that was once an estuary, safe from the invading British forces and blockade.

As a kid, my Papa would take us on boat rides looking for the island and the booty. If the motor was out of commission, he would resort to rowing us, dory style, on our epic hunts. Now that my Dad is the Papa, the legend of the Louisbourg treasure and the traditional excursions to “Treasure Island” continues to have deep roots in our family. Annual trips still elicit squeals of delight from my little buccaneers, curious cousins and any little scallywags who visit!  Of course I can’t share the name of the lake, that would break the treasure hunter’s solemn code.

Maritimers are blessed with other treasures as well! Though my girls don’t find my adimageventures seeking out new garden markets to visit, farms to explore on Open Farm Day, or digging for buried treasure in our potato plot nearly as mystical, they indulge (read: put up with) me!  We hide our treasures throughout the house for the winter. In the garage we store root veggies, pumpkins, squash for a mid-winter homegrown pot of soup, rich as any king. In the windows, we hang herbs as decorations to dry and enjoy warm, aromatic teas all winter.  My little one loves delivering her prized mint next door on a regular basis!  The pantry is full of jars of pickles, beets and salsa. We freeze and puree and jelly. We even keep a few greens growing under the lights! There is no greater gold to me than that of sparkling crab apple jelly on a hot biscuit after a great day of skiing!

Lastimage fall, I tried to “overwinter” some cold hardy root veggies and kale in a secret spot in the garden.  Sadly, the strong North east winds and sly deer who share our inclination for treasure hunting had other plans.  They found them. My PVC hoop tunnels and frost blankets were no match for them; somewhere a very content deer is gloating over his victory in securing my garden’s plunders. Next year I will have to reinforce my tunnels with better support, stronger plastic, bigger rocks and more insulation. Lesson learned!  The only thing they left alone were my leeks and a few rogue kale, both of which are quite a treat to dig out from under the protection of the snow in the middle of January.

My big girl (staff photographer) thought it would be fun to share a bit of our winter treasures by taking pictures of a yummy winter soup we made on a blustery day and providing a “treasure map” of how we made it.  It is not exactly a recipe because I tend to measure by tasting! image First she roasted pie pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash with garlic hidden under the cored out centres. Next the last of our stash of potatoes were chopped and sautéed with fresh picked leeks, dried sage, thyme, chilis and chives. By accident I added nutmeg instead of pepper – I told you I was easily distracted!  I get that from my Grandma. image Chicken stock was added to the potatoes and leeks to simmer while the squash cooled and sweat under foil, making them easier to peel.  Once cooled and peeled, the were blendered with the roasted garlic and added to the soup. image We added some fresh cilantro, easily grown in windowsill pots, for a little something extra!image Though we may never actually uncover the Louisbourg treasure, I hope my girls will never lose their innocent sense of wonder and adventure. In time, they may even come to treasure all the spoils this beautiful province has to offer, especially those from our own back yard. Who knows, maybe one day they will take their own kids hunting for buried treasure, even if it is only potatoes.

When planning our garden for the year, we try to think about what we will grow to store for the winter, here are our thoughts..

Things we grow to store: Pie Pumpkin, Acorn squash, Butternut squash, Cheiftan and Norland potatoes, carrots, onions

To freeze: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, Haskap berries, beans, shell peas, beets and greens, Swiss chard, basil, dill

To can: Salsa, berries for jam, jalapeños for pepper jellies, beets and pickling cucumbers

To dry: Mint, oregano, sage, thyme, chives, tarragon, savoury, rosemary, I would like to try chamomile this year!

To tunnel: Beets, carrots, leeks, kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, mustard, parsley, mizuna

Under the lights:  Mesclun, romaine, cilantro, basil, arugula

Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte