Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Baked Potato with Salsa

print recipe card posted in Lunch, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Baked potatoes are a quick and satisfying “comfort food” that CAN be healthy as well. Mary’s comment in “Cooking Potatoes in the Microwave” got me thinking about one of my favorite ways to eat baked potatoes.

In restaurants, you are often offered butter, sour cream, and bacon to go with your baked potato, and, of course, you can make them this way at home as a wonderful occasional splurge. But in my household, non-fat plain yogurt is more the norm. You get a similar “mouth sensation” without quite so many calories.

I bake the potato in the microwave, and carefully remove the hot potato from the oven. With a sharp knife, make a shallow slice down the length of the potato and then I give it a bash.

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This breaks up the fibers and makes it all easier to spoon out or eat with your fork. (Note: Be sure you put a clean cloth or paper towel between your fist and the hot potato or you will get burnt).

Now give it a squeeze and the potato should be nice and fluffy.

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From there, I add a small sprinkle of salt and several twists from the pepper grinder.

Sometimes I then add about 1/3 cup of salsa. If you haven’t tried salsa on your baked potato, you don’t know what you are missing. There are so many really great flavors of salsa; you really can’t go wrong with any of them! It’s not necessary to heat the salsa. The potato is so hot the salsa will actually cool it down to the perfect temperature!

I then top it with about 1/3 cup of plain yogurt. If I have green onions in the house, chop them up and add them too. It looks great, and the flavor is fantastic!

When cutting green onions, remember the white part is much stronger than the green part!

What’s your favorite baked potato topping?

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Beef with Bow Ties and Beans

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

This is one of those meals where everything gets cooked in the same pot. So get out your largest non-stick frying pan and lets startcooking!

This recipe is from my friend Cristen Jones, a registered dietitian from the Boston area.  I’ve adapted the recipe just a bit for the startcooking crowd.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 can (15 ounces) of Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 2 cups of bow tie pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • 2 cups of broccoli

The beef, onion and broccoli are the only fresh ingredients you need for this recipe. Buy the rest of the ingredients in advance and just stick them in your food cupboard. Then when you are stuck thinking about what to make for dinner, you can have that “Ah Ha” moment and just pick up some ground beef, broccoli, and an onion!

Get all your ingredients prepared and measured in advance.

1. Rinse and drain the beans

2. Chop the onion

3. Wash and cut the broccoli into bite size pieces also known as florets

4. Measure out the spices

5. Reconstitute the bullion cubes-you will need 2 cups of broth

With the stove set to medium, add the beef and the onions to the pan. (If you froze your ground beef when you got home from the grocery store, you can defrost the beef really quickly in the microwave.)

Brown the meat until the beef is no longer pink-about 6-8 minutes.

Be sure to drain off any excess fat. I used VERY lean beef for this recipe so there really was very little fat to drain off.

Add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the broccoli.

Mix everything together.

Cover the pot and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down to simmer. And cover the pot.

Simmer everything for about 10-12 minutes.

Lay the broccoli on top and re-cover the pot.

In about 3-5 minutes your broccoli will be nice and tender. Be sure not to over cook the broccoli as it will turn a nasty shade of green if you do!

Give it a taste. You may want to add more salt and some freshly ground pepper. You could also add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you like.

As this dish sits, almost all of the liquid gets absorbed.

If you are making recipe the day before you plan on eating it, be sure to steam the broccoli just before you serve it.

Enjoy!

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Spaghetti Squash

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
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There are many varieties of squash available at the grocery store and farm stands. Spaghetti squash, also know as calabash squash or vegetable spaghetti, is really quite unique because when cooked looks like thin translucent strands of thin spaghetti. It has a mild, delicate flavor somewhat like that of yellow summer squash and watery texture.

Spaghetti squash has a rounded shape and can vary in weight and size. The ones I bought weighed almost four pounds and were about 9 inches long.

When you buy spaghetti squash, it should have a nice lemon yellow color. If it is green it means that it is under ripe.

Washing and Cleaning Spaghetti Squash

Begin by washing the squash with a vegetable brush under running water.

Dry it well so that it does not slip when you are cutting into the squash.

To cut spaghetti squash you need a big, heavy kitchen knife. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.

Cutting the squash is the most difficult part of preparing the squash! It is like making that first cut into a melon, which can be tricky if you are not using a knife that can handle the task.

Once open, you can see there are seeds and stringy bits that need to get removed. (Just like with butternut squash or pumpkins.)

Using a spoon, scrape away the seeds and stringy bits….

…until the inside is clean.

Cooking Spaghetti Squash

I’m going to show you how to roast spaghetti squash in the oven and also how to cook it in the microwave. Normally these two cooking methods provide very different results. Roasting vegetables often makes them crispy and brings out their natural sweetness. Surprisingly enough, there is virtually no difference in the taste or texture when spaghetti squash is cooked in the oven vs. the microwave!

Oven Method:

Preheat the oven to 400º F ( = 200º C = gas mark 6-moderately hot.)

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on cut side of the squash and rub it around with your fingers.

Sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

Place the squash, cut side down in an oven-proof dish.

Depending on the size of your squash, it will take approximately 35-45 minutes to get tender.

Microwave Method:

Place the squash in a microwave-safe dish…

…cut side down.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap…

…being sure to leave a steam vent.

Cook the squash on high for approximately 7-10 minutes – depending on the size of your squash and how powerful your microwave is. If you do not have an automatic turntable in your microwave, give the dish a turn every 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.

Remove the plastic wrap with a pair of tongs and be very careful of the built up steam.

Note: I do not recommend cooking the squash WHOLE in the microwave. Some recipes have you pierce the whole squash about 20 or 30 times with a knife (so the squash does not explode in the microwave). Then stick it in the microwave whole. It is very difficult to cut and remove the seeds and stringy bits from a steaming hot squash.

How to Make the Squash Look Like Spaghetti

Once you have removed the squash from the oven or microwave, check to see if it is cooked by sticking a knife into it. The knife should slide in easily.

If you have over cooked the squash it will taste fine but the texture will be creamy and you will not be able to make the spaghetti like strands.

Flip the squash over with a spatula so that the cut side is facing up. (Be careful as it will be very hot!)

The above photo is of the oven roasted squash

Using a dinner fork, scrape the flesh of the squash….

…moving gently around the shell….

…fluffing up the strands of squash.

Turning the squash into spaghetti strands takes about 10 seconds!

You can then serve the squash as is or remove it to a serving plate. It will be very hot so hold the squash in a dish cloth so you don’t burn your hand.

The above photo is of the microwave cooked squash

Decision time! What do I now do with this squash?

You can eat it as is or dress it up with your favorite spaghetti sauce.

I like to add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of basil infused olive oil, and some salt and pepper!

Enjoy!

P.S. Just for the heck of it, I tried freezing the leftover spaghetti squash. WRONG! It turned into spaghetti squash mush. It tasted fine but the spaghetti texture did not hold up at all!

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