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Meatless Mondays | Spaghetti Squash Gratin

This is a perfect dish for fall with its nutty flavor and hints of sage and garlic.  Even if you proclaim to not enjoy squash – you will need to give this a try!   This can be a vegetarian entree or a side, or a wonderful accompaniment to baked or broiled fish such as tilapia or cod.

It’s actually a really easy dish to prepare – it just takes some time to bake the squash.  Once the squash is done, it comes together very quickly.  I love that it feels like a light dish in spite of the cheese and half-and-half.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • freshly grated nutmeg or dried nutmeg (scant amount)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (used throughout the recipe)

Directions:

  1. Prepare squash:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Poke holes in the squash and place in a shallow baking dish.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes – it should be browned in spots and tender.  Remove from the oven and let it cool down enough for you to handle it.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  To make the “strands” of the spaghetti squash, take a dinner fork and drag the tines through the flesh into a medium bowl.  Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter to the squash, add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and toss.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, garlic, sage, thyme, and nutmeg, and season with freshly ground pepper.  Bring to a simmer over medium to medium-low heat; reduce heat to low and let reduce by about 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes, stirring often.  Remove the garlic and the thyme sprig.
  3. Add 1 cup of Gruyere cheese to the half-and-half mixture and whisk until it melts.
  4. With the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, grease a shallow baking dish, preferably no larger than a two quart  size.  Add the spaghetti squash and the half-and half mixture to the baking dish and spread in an even layer.    Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Top the squash with the remaining 1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese, and then the Parmesan cheese.  Top the cheeses with the bread crumbs.
  6. Bake in a 400 degrees F oven for about 18-20 minutes.  Switch the oven to broil and broil 1-2 minutes, watching carefully, to brown the top.  Remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes.

Servings:  4-6

© Kitchen Serendipity 2011

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Phillette - Yum! Can’t wait to try this one!

Shannon - Wow. This looks so good!

This for dinner | Lamb Chops with Asian Pear & Kiwi Salsa

This is a recipe – one of three  – that I submitted to Bon Appetit magazine back in 1998 and was floored to learn that they would all be published in the April 1999 issue.  It was for their “Too Busy to Cook?” section and wow, I was on the top of the world!  I have the magazine right here on my desk – hmmm, memories, that was like 12 years ago???  I was pregnant with my son when it came out, and yeah, he’s now 12 and just returned from a 4-day, 3-night school trip with his 7th grade class.

Where time goes?  I don’t know.

P.S.   The great thing about this recipe?  It’s been tested in the Bon Appetit kitchen.  Now THAT’S pretty cool.  Any screw-ups by me were eliminated by the pros.  Love that.

Lamb Chops with Asian Pear & Kiwi Salsa

2 small Asian pears or one large, cored and diced

3 large kiwis, peeled and diced

6 tablespoons dried cranberies

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons honey (divided)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (divided) – I used apple mint!!

8 1-inch thick lamb rib chops

directions:

  1. Combine pears, kiwis, cranberries, green onions,  and lemon juice in a medium bowl;  add the 2 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons chopped mint.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and let marinate for at least 30 minutes with an occasional stir.
  2. Preheat the broiler.  Brush the lamb chops on both sides with the remaining 1 tablespoon honey; lightly season with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped mint.   Broil chops until cooked to desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for medium.
  3. Plate with two lamb rib chops and a generous serving of the salsa.

Makes 4 Servings

Note:  Asian pears are available in most supermarkets

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Carrie Terrones (Las Vegas Photographer) - That is so very cool Stacey! I love the new blog, its gorgeous AND = delicious 🙂

Meatless Mondays | Casual Fare for Friends

I don’t remember where this original recipe comes from, but I’ve updated it over the years and pretty much made it my own.  This is one of those ideal dishes to serve when friends come over for an afternoon or evening of watching football – all you need to complete the meal is a green salad and a couple bottles of Chianti.  It’s completely ooey gooey cheesy delicious.

Drizzling the eggplant and mozzarella halves with extra virgin olive oil is a wonderful flavor enhancer.  I discovered a new olive oil source this past weekend at my local farmer’s market – Olio Mazzone and I purchased a couple of their flavor infused oils including the basil one used in this recipe.

Eggplant & Mozzarella Melt

2 large eggs

1 – 1 1/2  cups panko breadcrumbs (coarse dried Japanese breadcrumbs)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

I medium eggplant (1 – 1 1/4  pounds), sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds

1 loaf (12 ounces) French or Italian bread, ends sliced off, cut in half horizontally

2 cups good quality pizza or marinara sauce

16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds (I buy the sliced and ready to serve by Bel Gioioso)

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (I use a basil infused oil by Olio Mazzone)

4-6 fresh basil leaves, rolled like a cigar, and thinly sliced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet and coat it lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Beat the eggs in one shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Place the panko breadcrumbs in another shallow dish.  Dip the eggplant rounds into the egg, and then lightly press into the panko breadcrumbs.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  You should end up with 10 – 12 eggplant rounds.  Bake for 17-18 minutes until nicely browned and tender.  Do not turn the oven off.
  3. Prepare another sheet pan with foil.  Slice the bread halves in half lengthwise so that you have two tops and two bottoms.  Place crust down on the baking sheet and lightly press the soft bread down to form a well.  Spoon the pizza or marinara sauce along each bread half.  Reserve some sauce for the eggplant layer.
  4. Layer the eggplant rounds on each bread half and spoon the reserved sauce over the eggplant.  Top with the mozzarella slices, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle the basil over all.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes.  Turn the oven to broil, and broil just until the cheese has started to brown.
  6. Add another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top, cut into portions, and serve.

*If you’re feeling particularly decadent, you may also add a bit of shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese.

Serves 6


© Kitchen Serendipity 2011

 

 

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Phillette - Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! Can’t wait to try this! 🙂

Shannon - This looks so good. I’m a big fan of eggplant. Love your spin on an old fav. Yum! 🙂

Kathy Hysmith - Looks great…love eggplant. Great idea with your recipe.

Jen - Yum! Looks like a must try…

Tomato & Basil Vinaigrette

I have always made my own vinaigrettes for salads because it’s (1) easy, and (2) tastes fresh.  While this is not technically a vinaigrette since there’s no acid, I still call it as such since the tomatoes and their acidity are a chief component of the combination.

Tomato & Basil Vinaigrette

Chop up two on-the-vine tomatoes, discard the seeds with your fingers, and add to a small bowl.  Drizzle with a good extra-virgin olive oil to come up about 3/4 of the way to the top of the tomatoes.  Add a generous pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir to combine and taste.  Roll up two fresh basil leaves and then gently slice into thin slivers (chiffonade) and add to the bowl.  Let sit and marinate at least 15 minutes.

The freshness of the ingredients really comes through in this simple preparation.  Add to your salad greens or spoon over slices of fresh mozzarella.  You can also add one garlic clove to the bowl if you wish and allow it to marinate with the other ingredients – just remove before serving.  I make this almost every day – it’s that easy and fast.  AND my picky 12-year-old loves it (more so if there’s fresh mozzarella involved!)

 

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Shannon - I love how easy this sounds! I’m definitely going to try this one. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Welcome and Faculty Snack Show ‘n Tell

Welcome to Kitchen Serendipity!  I’m so happy to have my new food blog up and running although it still needs plenty of tweaking.   But most of all, I’m so glad that you’re here!  If you are interested in cooking and are looking for ways to not only get good meals on the table but to also kick it up a notch in the creativity and nutritious arenas, please come back and visit!  You can also subscribe to this blog by email or RSS feed.

There will be a bio section up shortly which offers a look into my food journey over the years if you should be interested in why I’m here at this particular place with a new food blog.  It’s really okay if you don’t want to spend time reading it.  Honestly.  😉   I am also a professional photographer and spend several months of the year capturing memories for families on the beach – but would like to improve my food photography skills.  Quite different from people, LOL.   This will be a great place in which to do that.

I don’t have a special theme or anything – no low-carb cooking, no “what to make with three ingredients,” and no particular ethnic cuisine.  Rather, I’m pretty dedicated to trying to use good, healthy ingredients in new and creative ways that ultimately keeps us away from fast food, processed food, and just plain ole’ “bad-for-you-food.”  There will be vegetarian choices, some vegan dishes, plenty of recipes to satisfy the meat and potatoes fans, and I’m going to get really creative with my slow-cooker.  I am not against decadent, glorious, slightly sinful food, either, so you will see that on a regular basis {yay!}.   I also hope to have a few contributors who will submit their recipes for desserts, kid’s lunches, and holiday fare.  If this is something you might be interested in, please use the Contact form on this blog.

Most importantly of all – I am SO not a chef and don’t even feel that I am a really good cook.  Yes, I have had some professional training, but I was never able to just “whip” up a meal.  I would be a failure on Top Chef or Next Food Network Star (my two favorite shows in the world!).   I love recipes.  I NEED recipes.  If I can create recipes that you and I can love and that our families can love, then I will be forever happy.  xo

I have to have a post with photos and I also wanted to get a post up to check my settings, so it’s a perfect excuse to share this past Monday’s ” Faculty Snack”.  Parent volunteers bring a snack for the middle school teachers to enjoy during their faculty staff meetings  – it is greatly appreciated by them and I know the parents love doing it as well.  It was my turn this past Monday…….

And the “evil” potato chips that many of the teachers were raving about were from……

Wal-Mart.  It’s a brand called “New World” and it was the Yukon Gold Mashed variety.  Yes, I’m with the teachers…..sinful, evil, etc. etc.  They are to die for!!  I almost never shop at Wal-Mart – there are too many times when I’ve come close to getting injured in their parking lot –  but I ended up there and came across things that I didn’t expect to, including the amazing little Cuban bread mini hogie rolls that I used to make the Caprese sandwiches.

Caprese Sandwich

Making Caprese sandwiches is super easy.  Buy fresh mozzarella cheese, a tub of pesto, crusty rolls (or baguette), a pound or so of Roma tomatoes (depending on the number of sandwiches),  and add some fresh basil that’s been rolled up like a cigar and sliced (chiffonade).   In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of fruity, extra-virgin olive oil with a hefty pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Build your sandwich:

Spread a layer of pesto of both sides of the roll or baguette.   Add fresh mozzarella slices (cut to fit).  Brush some of the oil  on the cheese.  Add three slices of tomato, and brush again with the seasoned oil.    Add a bit of the basil, and add the top of the roll or baguette.  Total yum.

……………………………………………………..

Are you on Pinterest?  It’s a site that’s like a virtual pinboard where the members collect their favorite things in any number of categories.  It’s like going through dozens of magazines and ripping out all the pages of the things you like!  I find many recipes on there (and hope some of mine will find there way on there, too, as soon as I get some up!  The following recipe was found there, and it comes from shugarysweets.com.

Another recipe on my snack menu also came from a hunt on Pinterest – the recipe is Jalapeno Cream Cheese Crescent Poppers and it comes from tastykitchen.com.

Last but not least – to go with the evil, evil, chips, was the classic Lipton Onion Soup mix with a container of sour cream.  Was oh so perfect with those amazing chips!

Enjoy and I hope you’ll be back!  If anyone is interested in an invite to Pinterest, please let me know.  🙂

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Cara - Congrats on the new blog it looks wonderful and inspiring. You have made me wat to cook something new rather than get in the same old rut. Thank you.

Kathy Hysmith - The blog looks great! The faculty snacks look so delicious and the photos of them are so bright and cheerful….but, somebody has to be ‘the one’ to follow such a wonderful cook and I drew the short straw on this one…Yikes, how do I follow these creations at this Monday’s faculty meeting? Where’s Chef Ramsey when I need him? 🙂

Gayle - Tempting, mouth-watering pics, Stacey! Makes me want to run out and make the caprese sandwiches immediately!

Jen - Amazing – that’s what you are! I the blog and your photography. Best wishes!

Shannon - Oh those caprese sammis look yummy! And dill oyster crackers have my curiosity perked (yum!). Your “faculty snack” makes me want to go back to work. 😉 Nicely done.

Samantha - Your amazing images make your delicious creations look even yummier! Thanks for sharing your talents!!! <3

Karen Verbeke - Oh Stacey!! Love this blog! The faculty must of LOVED your afternoon spread! So yummy and and beautiful. You are so talented my friend. Congrat’s on the new blog, very nice! ox 🙂

Phillette - Congrats on the new blog! Love the caprese mini sammis and I know the faculty loved everything too! How will we other moms ever be able to compete with this spread? Time for me to start planning! 🙂

Lori - Love it! I heard through the “grapevine” that the director REALLY loved the oyster dill crackers. She finished them up the next day! LOL!