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french onion spaghetti squash

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Oh this is such a delicious recipe!  If you especially love French onion soup, then this is a must-try!  The spaghetti squash is not replacing another ingredient for caloric or gluten-free reasons as it often does when exchanged for pasta, but rather adds a new textural element and a great flavor when combined with the onions, cheese, and beef broth.  And anything that can be served in a little soup crock with melted cheese bubbling over the sides just makes eating fun.  I have found all of the ones that I own at Goodwill, but Amazon has a nice set of four if you can’t find any locally.  Two of the crocks I have are apparently from that set I’ve linked to and I’m kicking myself for not picking up the additional two that day at Goodwill because all four were there!  But – I found another set of three – a different style but at least I have enough crocks to feed more than two people now lol.  And you absolutely don’t need to prepare this in a crock – a baking dish works just as great such as an 8×8 or an 11×7.

I’ve been seeing more spaghetti squash available in the supermarket on the smaller side and have been buying two instead of one big one which are easier (and safer) to cut into halves if you choose to cut them before baking and quicker to bake in the oven.  I kept these guys whole – just poked a few holes in them with a knife.  And the crispy onions topping?  You can find at most gourmet markets including The Fresh Market but there are other brands as well at your local supermarket.

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admin - Thank you Michelle!! It’s really, really good!

Michelle | The Secret Ingredient Is - I love the use of spaghetti squash in this, so creative! It looks delicious!

shiitake broth with macaroni and spinach

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It’s January in Florida which means temperatures can be in the 50’s or 70’s….and lately for us it’s been one brief cold snap after another which is a very good reason to make soup!  This Shiitake Broth with Macaroni and Spinach is warming and comforting and offers a nice kick from the ginger and red pepper flakes.  Shiitakes are definitely my favorite among the mushroom varieties and since the stems are inedible, I thought why not make use of the entire mushroom by making a broth with the stems instead of merely tossing them out?  You can remove the stems ahead of time to make the broth if you wish – the broth will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.  You can also make this recipe with just regular chicken broth if you are short on time.

 

 

 

 

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gifts from your kitchen – flavored salts

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It’s been a while since I got crafty in the kitchen to prepare gifts of the food variety kind – but I absolutely had to make good use of the salt that my son brought back from the Dominican Republic on a school trip last May.  This salt comes directly from the salt flats and unlike the processed kind that we’re used to, it holds a lot of moisture and is pretty wet to the touch.  While teaching young elementary children in Monte Cristi, our kids took a break and visited one of the salt flats and mines which is definitely something quite out of the ordinary…….

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Since I used a combination of the salt from the Dominican Republic along with kosher salt, I had to dry out the Dominican Republic salt by using both an oven method (spread on a baking sheet and bake at 225°F for about an hour) and also drying it out in a skillet over low heat for about 15 minutes.  It was a little bit of a process, but with the origin of the salt being the “story” behind this gift from my son it was definitely worthwhile.  And – the skillet method seemed to work a little better and faster just in case you ever find that you are the recipient of salt directly from the salt flats.

The beauty of making flavored salts yourself is that there’s no end to the combinations you can create.  Besides using dried spices and herbs from your pantry, try zesting citrus and letting the zest sit out on parchment paper for a day or two to dry out – it makes a great addition to the salt.  I love using Meyer lemons and combined with dried fresh rosemary, it makes a wonderful dry rub for a pork roast.

If you’re looking for some other ideas for flavored salts in addition to the ones below, please check out this link to my friend Dara at Cookin Canuk or this December 2015 link to the Food Network Magazine’s section on 50 Gift Jars.  All make great gifts and you can find jars at any local kitchen store or stores such as Marshall’s, Home Goods, and Hobby Lobby.  Dress them up with a pretty ribbon or strands of raffia and attach a label with the salt’s name and suggested uses in recipes.  Happy Holidays!

 

 

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creamy mushroom fettuccine with boursin cheese

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If you love mushrooms – this is an easy weeknight recipe that will curb your cravings for a creamy mushroom dish.  I love using crème fraîche in pasta dishes to add body and that wonderful creamy element and in this case I combined it with a shallot and chive flavored Boursin cheese that can be found in your local supermarket’s cheese section.  Definitely a winning combination that was further enhanced by the addition of fresh shallots and chives.

The pasta water from cooking your pasta can be a new best friend in the kitchen – scoop up some of the water in a glass measuring cup or coffee cup before you drain the pasta.  Then add as needed into your pasta sauce to help the ingredients come together while you are combining and stirring.

On a final note?  Slam dunk, easy yum.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

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eggnog smoothie

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If you’ve seen any of my past smoothie posts, you probably know that I like to create them with fun-flavored ice creams and frozen yogurts such as my Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie (made with Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Shortcake Greek frozen yogurt), Blueberry Vanilla Graham Smoothie (Ben & Jerry’s Blueberry Vanilla Graham frozen yogurt), Winter Peach and Banana Smoothie (frozen vanilla yogurt and a peaches ‘n cream flavored milk from Promised Land Dairy), and my Blood Orange Smoothie (vanilla frozen yogurt as well as a blood orange sorbet from Ciao Bella.

The holiday season has a tendency to involve eggnog consumption, so I thought it would be fun to come up with a simple recipe using eggnog flavored ice cream which can usually be found this time of the year in the major supermarkets – mine is a Publix brand.  This smoothie is great on its own without alcohol for a festive morning beverage – but oh my yes please add the rum if you want  to make the morning even more festive or use as a holiday beverage at your next get-together (I used Captain Morgan).  I served the glasses styled for my blog with these cute spoons that I had been searching for and finally stumbled upon in Jo-Ellen’s Designs – a beautiful shop way up in Camden, ME – which are handy for scooping up the whipped topping.

Enjoy (in moderation of course)!!

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