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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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!

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.

     

Punk’s Eating

Lazy dinner... Rice penne with Rao's Homemade marina sauce and, of course, beer.

Lazy dinner… Rice penne with Rao’s Homemade marinara sauce and, of course, beer.

Some times we just don’t feel like cooking. Usually I buy the typical BOGO jarred sauce from the supermarket, let it sit on the shelf, and by the time I open the jar it will go bad before I even finish it. Not the case with Rao’s. I bought it after my fellow foodie Kayla Rose justified the $6.99 (on sale) price tag. So one night after the gym I needed to make a quick and easy dinner and gave it a shot. Just smelling the sauce hitting the hot pasta was enough to do me in. There was such a freshness to the tomatoes despite it being a jarred sauces, and the flavors were so intense. I knew this was a winner when I threw away the empty container. This week it was on sale again, and I actually had to resist the urge not to buy 2!

Breakfast: Egg Cups

Breakfast is unfortunately is the most overlooked meal of the day. The problem for me is 1. I L-O-V-E breakfast foods and 2. I’m like everyone else and I have no time to make myself something worthy of being considered breakfast. I’m sorry, but a bowl of sugary cold cereal at 7am just hits my stomach like a rock, and swinging into the DD on my way to the office most always makes me late.

Through my experimentation with different ways of eating, I’ve noticed that a high-protein breakfast not only keeps me going through lunchtime, but it’s pretty effective at helping me keep my weight in check. Also as a skater, my body needs all the protein it can get. While looking through some clean eating sites, I came across something called an ‘egg cup’. Basically they are mini egg quiches but without the crust, and by far the best thing that I’ve incorporated into my morning routine since the snooze button.  Do these Sunday while you’re making dinner, and you’ll be ready to go in the morning!

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You’ll need:

A muffin tin

8 eggs (whole, or any combo of white and yolks)

Shredded cheese (optional)

1 leak

2 strips of cooked bacon

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the rough top of the leak off and discard, about 1” from the end. Thinly slice the leak all the way to the bottom. Rinse under warm water thoroughly to remove any sand (leaks are notoriously sandy).
  3. Sautee the leaks in a pan in your favorite fat or cooking spray of choice on medium heat until they are soft.
  4. Mince the bacon and add to the leaks.
  5. Spoon the leak and bacon mixture into the muffin tin.

Resist the urge to season the ingredients! Adding salt to eggs while they are cooking can make them tough, and the bacon you are using may have enough sodium already. Do feel free to use herbs, like rosemary, or pepper.

  1. Crack your eggs into a bowl and whisk together.
  2. Pour enough egg into the muffin tins to reach about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the side. They will puff up!
  3. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until they have risen and look firm on top.
  4. Remove and sprinkle a pinch or two of shredded cheese on top. The heat from the eggs will melt it while they rest.
  5. While they are still warm (but not hot), gently lift the egg cups out with a fork and place into a container.

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To reheat in the morning, pop them into the microwave for 30-50 seconds and you have a delicious way to power up in the morning!

There are a million ways you can tweak this recipe. It lends itself as a way to use up any leftovers you might have, like the veggies that you didn’t finish at dinner mixed with some extra sausage you made for breakfast over the weekend. Try any combination of grilled or sautéed vegetables, but make sure that your ingredients do not contain much water. If you’re using spinach, be sure it’s relatively dry before you add it to your muffin pan- spinach and mushrooms hold a lot of water, which will compromise the texture of your eggs. I’m a fan of zucchini, asparagus, and onions. Play around with different cheese to top your egg cups with. I think hard or semi-soft cheeses would work best. Sharp cheddar and parmesan are my two favorites, especially because they add a lot of flavor without having to use much.