Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

There has been a huge shift in my derby life. I can’t wait to get to the rink and lace up. I look forward to constructive critique. I adore my teammates. We come, we skate, we go home. We don’t sit around and gossip in the parking lot after practice about other teammates or the struggles with life/derby balance. I enjoy having the fresh meat around, no matter how many times they trip up the pace line, blatantly cut the track or backblock their way through walls.

I started coaching junior roller derby.

I’m sure there’s been some eyebrows raised over the last few months when I made the shift from skater to coach. After all, who in their right mind would let me around kids?! I’ve only received 1 MVP Blocker award in a bout yet named Life of the After Party two years in a row. I’m better at offending people with my obnoxious comments and sailor vocabulary than I am at holding a jammer. I’ll be the first to admit that even after skating for nearly 5 years there is a lot that I haven’t accomplished.

Giving up being a rostered skater was a decision I didn’t entirely make for myself. Between working longer hours, my mom’s passing, fear of re-injury, other goals and fostering a relationship with my boyfriend (now fiancé) I let derby take a smaller and smaller chunk of my life. It was an extremely bitter pill to force down, and its lodged still in my throat.

So I coach. It gives me the chance twice a week to lace up my skates and hang with some really cool people. I still see some of my old teammates as they come in for their practice, I have some of my old coaches helping me out and I have some of the NSOs and refs that I’ve known for years aiding me with practices. My group of kids are nothing short of awesome. They range from 3 years old to 17, and I mostly work with the kids who have had a little time on their skates. Thanks to some amazing coaches before me (Skatey Spice, Green Megs & Slam and Elle O’Kitty, among others) we have some top notch talent already. Thanks to some amazing coaches alongside me (Truth or Darron, Robusta Brews, and others) we’ll have the incoming freshies bout ready in no time.

And my heart explodes every time I show up. David Lee Wrath giving me my first whistle. Putting a freshie jammer out and watching her give the veteran kids a run for their money. Seeing five year old brothers and sisters knocking each other down with hip checks. When I had to miss 2 practices in a row and the kids were like, “Punk, where did you go? We thought you left us!”

If the aforementioned statement is not enough reassurance that I’m doing something right, I can always rely on Johnny 3:16 to remind me of how well I’ve adapted to coaching. Apparently even the parents dig my style as well. I also amaze myself at how well I turn sailor mode off.

Since our practices are Sunday and Tuesday late afternoons/evenings, I have to make sure I have dinner recipes that either Tim my fiancé or I can execute fairly quickly/easily. I’ve finally jumped on the spaghetti squash bandwagon last year and I love how versatile it is! I like this recipe in particular because you can do a lot of the prep work beforehand and have the lasagnas ready to pop in the oven after you put down the gear bag and before you hop in the shower. By the time you’ve gotten the derby stench off your body, you have a healthy and delicious home cooked meal.

Make this!

2 spaghetti squash
½ cup part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 pound of a protein of your choice. I like lean sausage crumbles or diced chicken breast.
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut your squashes in half and scoop the centers. (I like to save the seeds for roasting and snacking later!)
2. Season squashes with a little salt, pepper and olive oil and lay cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Tin foil makes clean up a breeze. Bake these suckers for an hour.
3. Cook your protein of choice while your squash is baking. Set it aside.
4. After the squashes are done, let them cool until you can handle them. Take a fork and flake away the meat of the squash from the skins. Be careful not to rip the skins, since those are going to be delicious boats to Flavorville once you fill them back up.
5. Toss the spaghetti part of the squash with about 2/3 of the jar of marinara sauce, or more if you’d like.
6. Fill each squash shell with the sauced “spaghetti”, a layer of chicken, a layer of ricotta and then a layer of mozzarella.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

All of the cheese

7. If you’re cooking these now, pop them back in the oven for 20-30 minutes until bubbling hot and melty. If you’re saving these for later, throw them in the fridge and when you’re back from derby practice they’ll be ready to cook!

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

Fresh herbs make everything fancier

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Beach Picnics Part 1 – Chicken Salad Sandwiches

The last couple of weekends I’ve been lucky enough to have Tim free on Sundays. Since we sometimes work opposite schedules, it’s a real treat when we both have a day off. We had been making a routine of hitting up brunch at The Hammered Lamb over on Ivanhoe Row. It’s the only place that has been able to break me of my standard eggs benedict and mimosa meal. Now I always order a BLT and their bloody mary bar. I’m definitely one of those classless assholes that tops their bloody mary with four pieces of bacon, two skewers of blue cheese stuffed olives, a few artichoke hearts and a stick of string cheese. I tried their BLT on a whim, since I’ve had a very strict policy ever since I was a toddler that bread and vegetables like raw tomato and lettuce should never meet. Sometimes food just beckons you, I suppose.

There is also a very distinct flavor in their BLT. They use an herbed mayo that is rife with thyme. I love herbs on my eggs, and its not uncommon for me to sprinkle herbes des Provence on eggs when cooking breakfast at home. I feel like you usually find thyme in much more rich and savory dishes, like French onion soup or anything else where beef is simmered for hours. But thyme also has a wonderful flavor that works well with lighter dishes, like eggs and chicken.

The Florida summer has really had me yearning for the beach, however. I usually never go because I got in the habit of only going for 2 or 3 hours and then heading home. When I was growing up in New Smyrna Beach, that was fine. Now that I live in Orlando and it’s easily an hour before I can even put a foot in the sand, I’d rather make a day of it. Tim and I took our brunch money and invested in all the tools necessary to make us look like every other Orlando resident that I grew up annoyed by yet thankful for; my beach umbrella, cooler and chairs a reminder of my time working at Mon Delice where I’d make sub sandwiches and box pastries up for the tourists.

I had been wanting to hit up Playalinda in Titusville. To keep us on the beach, I decided I’d pack the cooler with a great picnic spread. First, I’d make big chicken salad sandwiches on wheat buns. I chopped up some cucumber slices and celery sticks to go with hummus. For dessert, I made rosemary lemon shortbread cookies. Those actually turned out to be quite the Pinterest Fail, and I’ll be sure to post all about that so you can enjoy. For good measure I grabbed the vodka and a bottle of bloody mary mix.

Chicken salad is one of those recipes that I always forget how much I like. Although it can be labor-intensive, I enjoy how few ingredients it takes. Its also pretty cheap to make because I take bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and roast them in the oven. Not only are they half the cost of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but they have so much more flavor and moisture when you cook them.

The labor-intensive part is standing in the kitchen pulling the meat from the bone and shredding it by hand. Not only will you be able to make sure you separate the little bones and bits of cartilage, but I think the long shreds hold the sauce nicely and give a different texture. I also have made this recipe with salmon I’ve cooked. Salmon goes wonderfully with either herb, but especially with dill. Again, you’ll want to flake the salmon apart by hand; that will keep the thick flaky texture instead of mushy like bad tuna fish salad.

There are other ingredient swaps you can use in this recipe. For the mustard, I have Dijon listed. I’m also a big fan of stone ground mustard or even deli-style mustard with chicken in particular. I like to use a combination of half mayo – half low fat Greek yogurt to lighten it up. I’ve also made this with just Greek yogurt, but we like the extra richness the mayo gives. Play around with the proportions that you like, or even try with a vegan or paleo mayonnaise. Get funky.

dancing gif

2 Chicken breasts with the bone in and skin on, or about 3 cups of cooked shredded chicken
1 Cup celery, diced
½ Cup Mayo
½ Cup Greek Yogurt
¼ Cup Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. Thyme or Dill
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. If you’re starting with uncooked chicken, bake the chicken breasts skin-side up in an open pan at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Let them cool until they are cool enough to handle with your hands.

2. Discard the chicken skin… Or snack on it like I do while I make this! Its like chicken bacon.

3. Shred the chicken using your hands.

4. Combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

5. Check the mixture for seasoning. Some mustards have different flavors, so get a feel for where your flavors are at before adding additional salt and pepper. I usually will add about 1 teaspoon of salt at this point.

6. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for at least an hour before making your sandwiches.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cups

I’m trying to work those ‘good’ grains back into my diet these day. I know I need to watch the carbs, but you can’t deny the goodness of putting whole grains into your body. In addition to all of the fiber you’ll get to keep you full, they are little nuggets of goodness to get you through a derby practice. Nothing is worse than running out of steam and you still have to keep skating another hour.

I like this recipe because it allows me to use all of those overripe bananas that I throw in the back of my freezer. Store in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge or pop them in the freezer for much later. These are awesome on-the-go when you overslept before your morning practice or only have a few minutes to get to derby after work.

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Makes 12 cups
2 cups of rolled oats
1 Tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (you can sub any unsweetened milk of choice, I just like almond)
1 egg
2 medium bananas
1 large apple (preferably Granny Smith) cored and cut into small chunks

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spray your muffin tin with nonstick spray, or use tin foil liners. The paper ones may be harder to get off (they were for me).

3. Mash your bananas and add your egg and milk. Mix together thoroughly.

4. Add your dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Once blended together, fold in the apple.

5. Fill your muffin tins to about the top. Bake for 25 minutes.

Vanilla Chia Smoothie

I’m trying to clean up my eating again. Like everyone else, I fall off the bandwagon during the holidays. I work in an industry full of food vendors. They are sending us droves of goodie baskets, as if the continual supply of food for testing throughout the year wasn’t havoc enough on my hips. Usually I wouldn’t mind, since I don’t beat myself up if I slip a cookie here and there because I know I’ve got at least 4 hours on my skates every week. However, my derby league is on holiday break like everyone else. Hopefully when I do start skating again back in January, the chocolate-covered pretzels, French truffles, Christmas cookies, and caramel popcorn won’t slow me down too much.

For me, getting back on the bandwagon is all about shortcuts. Just something to make the act of saying, “No, you don’t need to pull into T-Flats for Taco Tuesday because you have something equally delicious at home,” a little easier; like ripping off a Band Aid. My big problem this past month has been not eating a balanced breakfast. Lunch is easy for me if I don’t have time to pack it. I walk over to Panera for a fresh salad, or drive to one of many sushi places around and grab a fairly healthy meal. I’ve come to love Jimmy John’s not only for their freaky fast delivery to my office, but their Un-Wich as well. But when it comes to breakfast, I’m screwed if I don’t plan ahead. A bagel is out of the question, and though I like the hidden menu steak and egg bowl at Panera I don’t like paying more than $6 for it.

Enter chia smoothie goodness. I can whip this up in less than 5 minutes while I’m making dinner. Really no mess (especially if you heat the milk in the jar in the microwave) and after it sits in the fridge overnight, all you have to do is grab and go. I drink mine right out of the jar once I get to work and have been pairing it with eggs cups (recipe here) for a protein-packed breakfast that will help keep me going all morning.

Vanilla Chia Smoothie
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk (or soy, coconut or cow’s milk)
3 Tbs chia seeds
1 Tbs honey
1 Tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat your milk of choice either in the microwave or on the stovetop. Be careful not to scald it; stand by the stove and wait for it to warm. You want it warm so when you add your honey it will dissolve.

2. Add the honey and stir through, making sure it has dissolved into the milk.

3. Add your sweetened milk to a container with a lid (I prefer a mason jar or something from my collection of reused pasta sauce, pickles, mustard, and olive jars).

4. Add the vanilla extract and chia seeds.

5. Seal the lid and shake vigorously (over the sink!) until everything is incorporated. Let this is in the fridge for about half an hour and give it another good shake. Put it back in the fridge for at least 3 hours before shaking up and enjoying!

Sides: Roasted Potatoes

I just got home from work, and I’m beat. I’ve been looking at Excel spreadsheets all day, coding surveys and thinking of how to analyze them. I will not be going to the gym as planned. I will be looking for leftovers to heat up so I don’t have to think. Thankfully there is no derby practice tonight. I just want to put on my pajama-jams and zone out while watching a History Channel documentary of The Dark Ages on Netflix.

But first, the stressed-out hormones in me are calling for tasty carbohydrate comfort on this soon-to-be-44-degree night. Since the gym is a no-go, so are French fries. Luckily there are a few things that are go-to dishes for me that feel much more decadent than they are to make. Roasted veggies are one of those things. I’ll roast anything, especially veggies if it means that I’ll eat them! I happen to have those cute little multicolored potatoes that cost far too much for me to buy any other time aside from BOGO.

Colorful baby potatoes!

Colorful baby potatoes!

To make me feel a little healthier still, I happen to have some carrots that haven’t made their way into a soup. Roasted carrots are my favorite way to eat them. Their natural sugars caramelize and leave a totally different flavor profile from raw or steamed, both of which I’m not a big fan of.

Oh, look. See how much healthier that just got?

Oh, look. See how much healthier that just got?

I know this recipe sounds a little bit like a cop-out, but the key to taking plain ol’ potatoes and carrots to something really delicious are the spices. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and rosemary just brings out the earthiness. I like to make a little extra and save some for in the morning, when I’ll top them with eggs over medium and some cheese. My favorite meat to serve them alongside hands down is my roast chicken. I’ll be sure to post that recipe eventually…

You’ll need:

A sheet pan lined with tin foil (less clean up, yo!)

About 2-3 cups of your favorite potato and/or root veggies

A heavy drizzle of good olive oil

Rosemary, fresh or dried

Salt & pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut up your veggies into uniform chunks, about ½ inch by ½ inch. This will make sure everything cooks at about the same time.

3. Pile your veggies into the center of your lined sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. If you’re using fresh rosemary, mince it up and add them. If you’re using dried be sure to go a little lighter (dried herbs have more concentrated flavor) and be sure to pinch as you sprinkle to release the flavor. Roll everything around so it gets nicely coated, and spread your veggies out into an even layer.

4. Bake for 25 minutes until everything is fork-tender and crispy on the outside! If it needs a little longer (some ovens do) then give it another 5-10 minutes until it’s done to your liking.

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms from the store, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes and carrots!

Chicken stuffed with mushrooms from the store, steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes and carrots!

Lunch: Rosemary and White Bean Soup

This is based off of one of Ina Garten’s recipes out of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I’m a big fan of her recipes because many times they are timeless classics with just a few ingredients. Like all soups, this one tastes even better as leftovers. It makes a big batch, which you can divide into single servings and freeze for an easy dinner or lunch later in the week.

You’ll need:

1 lb Great Northern beans, soaked overnight in water

3 onions, sliced

¼ cup of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 branch of rosemary (fresh should be used, but if you can’t find even a little plant at your grocery store use about 1 Tbs dried)

2 quarts chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegan option)

1 bay leaf

Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Sautee your onions in the olive oil until they are translucent.
  2. Add your minced garlic and continue cooking for another 3 minutes.

    The ingredients to a rosemary and white bean soup.

    The ingredients to a rosemary and white bean soup.

  3. Add the drained beans, stock, rosemary, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for about 40-45 minutes. The beans will be very soft when done.
  4. Remove the rosemary branch (if fresh was used) and the bay leaf. Ladle into a food processor or blender, but reserve a cup or two if you like your soup with some texture. Pulse until roughly pureed.
  5. Pour soup back into the pot, season with salt and pepper to your liking, and serve hot with crusty bread and a salad.

    Rosemary and White Bean soup with french bread and Mettwurst

    Rosemary and White Bean soup with french bread and Mettwurst

Dinner: Palak Paneer with Tofu

OK, so this isn’t really palak paneer in its most traditional sense. I happen to have a great Indian food crock pot book called The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla, so that is a great modern convenience. Secondly, I’m not making the homemade cheese (the paneer). Instead I’m throwing in cubes of firm tofu to give me my needed protein for a balanced meal.

One of the reasons I love this dish is that it’s very different from what I’m usually cooking. I’m no vegetarian, but it is nice (and cheaper) to make some meat-free options throughout the week and it also gets me a healthy portion of veggies into my diet. Ingredients such as spinach, turmeric, tomatoes, garlic and ginger have all been linked with good health. There is also no added fat!

But my favorite part about this recipe is that it makes a large batch that you can portion out and freeze for those days when you need to bring your lunch to work or have just enough time to heat something up for dinner. Tuesday nights I only have about an hour to eat and grab my skate bag between work and practice. These kinds of recipes keep me on time for practice and fueled for 2 hours of skating.

You’ll need:

A slow cooker

2 lbs fresh spinach, washed

2 large onions, chopped

3 medium tomatoes, quartered

4 inches of ginger, peeled and chopped

20 (yes, 20!) cloves of garlic, peeled

5-10 Thai chiles depending on how spicy you want it

4 Tbs ground cumin

1 Tbs red chili powder

1 Tbs garam masala

2 tsp turmeric

1 Tbs salt

  1. Throw everything into the slow cooker, except for the salt. The spinach will give off a lot of liquid, so even though you might not be able to fit the lid on everything will end up cooking down.
  2. Cook on High for 3 hours, stirring occasionally to push down the spinach leaves.
    Cooking palak paneer in a slow cooker.

    Cooking palak paneer in a slow cooker.

     

  3. Transfer the cooked-down veggies into a food processor or blender. If using one of these, do use a tea towel to cover the hole in the lid. Never blend hot stuff in your blender with the lid sealed… Unless you enjoy cleaning. If you have an immersion blender, feel free to use that Fancy Pants. Puree until you have a nice, smooth consistency. Pour back into the slow cooker.
  4. Add the salt and continue cooking the puree on Low for another 2 hours.
  5. Add your cubes of tofu when you’re ready to serve. This is best served over a bowl of basmati rice or quinoa, millet, or other grain.
    To store, I like to pour single servings into bags, top with tofu, and store in the freezer for a quick dinner later.

    To store, I like to pour single servings into bags, top with tofu, and store in the freezer for a quick dinner later.