Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Easy, Quick Vegetarian Dinner - Spaghetti Squash & Roasted Root Veggies

I had some beautiful beets and radishes that came with my last Organics to You order.  I also had a large n' lovely spaghetti squash that we got at the Learning Garden last weekend.  Since we are going camping this weekend I knew I better make good use of these vegetables before Thursday or else figure out who to give them away to (probably Sabrina, though I'm not sure she'd be glad to have them, lol).  So, here's what I came up with: first, I figured that with a name like "spaghetti squash," there must be a way to make this into a very pasta-esque dish.  I don't have a ton of experience with this type of squash, but a quick Google search confirmed my suspicion.  I learned that spaghetti squash can be cooked in the microwave, which might seem sacrilegious to someone like my brother Sebastian, but suits me just fine after a long day of working hard and zooming over to Target to buy some last-minute back-to-school stuff.  But, I had to start with the root veggies, since they'd be roasted in the oven and take a bit longer.

Roasted Root Vegetables

6-8 medium/large beets (trimmed)
8-10 radishes (trimmed)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme
pinch of garlic powder (optional)

First, I preheated my oven to 400 degrees.  Then, I placed all the root veggies on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzled the oil over them evenly.  Next I sprinkled the seasonings and herbs over the veggies and wrapped the all up in the foil.  I put this foil package onto a cookie sheet and placed on the top rack of my preheated oven.  I set the timer for 30 minutes and got started on the spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash

1 3 lb spaghetti squash
2 tbsp butter
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used the fire-roasted ones from Hunts)
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded cheese

First, I stabbed the squash all over with a sharp knife and lined my microwave with paper towels.  I placed the squash on top of the paper towels and microwaved it on high for 12 minutes.  When it came out, I let it cool for a bit, then trimmed of the end and stem, then halved the squash lengthwise.  After removing the seeds from the center, I used a fork to scrape out all of the squash's "meat." This left me with a lovely golden mound of deliciousness that resembled cooked spaghetti.  At this point, I heated up a large skillet over medium-high heat and melted the butter in it.  I added the can of tomatoes, then the squash, and mixed everything together.  I sprinkled some salt and pepper in, and let it cook for about 8 minutes, until some of the liquid from the tomatoes began to thicken.  At that point, I sprinkled the shredded cheese over the top and turned off the heat.

Prepared in this simple yet delicious way, spaghetti squash can TOTALLY be a main dish.  I sliced the root veggies up and served them on the side to complete a healthy and colorful dish.  The best part: my kids ATE IT UP.  And loved it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning Garden Harvest Party

Through a day camp my kids attended this summer, they were invited to participate in a Harvest Party (and pizza party!) at the Learning Garden.  For those of you who aren't familiar, Portland State University sponsors the Learning Garden Laboratory, which is "a 12-acre garden education site located in Southeast Portland that provides K-12, university students and community members hands-on and place-based education in sustainable gardening, healthy nutrition, and permaculture." (from PSU's Web site) The Learning Garden is a partnership between Portland State University, Portland Public Schools, Portland Parks and Recreation, and Oregon State University Extension Service.

The garden itself is beautiful, with a healthy multitude of organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers growing in lovely rows as far as the eye can see. When we arrived, someone explained how the harvest party was going to work.  We would help harvest some veggies, herbs or fruit, then bring it over to be weighed/recorded.  After that, everything would go on one of two large tables, so that everyone could take some of the bounty home at the end.  We were put right to work harvesting green beans and yellow wax beans from 6-foot-tall stalks.  My brother-in-law and nephews joined us, and we had a wonderful time picking the beans - the adults taking the high ones and the kids the ones closer to the ground.  We must have harvested about 7 pounds between all of us!

 After that, we took a break and enjoyed some fresh homemade mini pizzas (topped with Learning Garden veggies and basil and grilled right outdoors)!  And to think, after all the fun we'd had all morning long (not to mention the free and delicious lunch) we STILL got to take home as many fresh, organic goodies as we wanted........what a bargain!  I did find out that the Learning Garden harvests at least twice a week (including Saturdays) and welcomes volunteers to help with that process.  In return, helpers get to take some goodies home.  Yeah, we'll be back.

What we took home:

  • Spaghetti squash
  • Green beans
  • Yellow wax beans
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Sweet basil
  • Thai basil
  • Purple ruffle basil
  • Garlic
  • Lavender
  • Dahlias

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lunch at Thai Terrace

Ok, guys.  New lunch place for you, up by PCC Cascade.  Last Friday I had a lunch meeting with C.C. and C.D. and we were meeting up at C.C.'s office on campus.  C.C. suggested walking up to a Thai place that he likes, so we did just that.  The restaurant, Thai Terrace is located at 902 N. Killingsworth Street. I wasn't too hungry, but when we walked in I was immediately overtaken by the appetizing aroma.  

The place itself was pleasantly decorated with striking colors, authentic-looking Thai art, beautiful mother-of-pearl looking chandelierish light fixtures and dark wood tables throughout.  I ordered the (chicken) Panang Curry (the one with green beans, bell peppers and kaffir leaves) and was asked how spicy I like it.  (Nice of them to ask).  I said "medium," and immediately regretted it, thinking maybe the curry wouldn't be spicy enough.  To my delight, however, their "medium" was spiced perfectly to my liking.  The curry tasted very fresh, the coconut milk was not too dense, the green beans were crisp-tender and oh-so-green.  It was absolutely tasty and just the perfect portion size for lunch.  It was priced at $6.75 for lunch, so I will definitely be back.  (Maybe next week).