Fun Fact: If you saute’ spinach with Olive Oil, Popeye will show up at your front door! It’s a Fact! (just cooking spinach alone won’t do it – it’s Olive Oil that brings his two great loves together)

So, let’s saute’ some spinach!

Why? Because it is yummy and healthy and easy to make! Step by step guide below.

Plus, even if you eat the entire bag of spinach yourself, it’s only 50 calories! – for the WHOLE bag!

Personally I prefer steamed Kale, and actually love it so much I feel the guilt of having binged on something sinful when I eat it!

If you prefer spinach to kale, try it this way. Peggo swears that this is one of the tastiest ways to cook it – second only to cooking hamburgers in a pan, removing the cooked hamburgers and then tossing the spinach into the pan and sauteing in the hamburger juices instead of olive oil.

Step 1:Buy some yummy fresh spinach. We bought this bag at Aldi for only $1.79.

Step 2: Heat up some Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan, just enough to cover the bottom so that the leaves don’t stick.

Step 3: Toss the spinach in the pan and quickly get it moving around – it cooks FAST.

Step 4: Keep it moving until it looks like this, and serve immediately. YUM! 

Even if you eat it slathered in butter, it’s still a low calorie and healthy treat!

Here it is plated and ready to eat. Yum! 

Pepper Pumpkins and Mashed BOOtatoes

Pepper Pumpkins and Mashed BOOtatoes! 
I actually made them this year, and here are the pictures to prove it!! (and illustrated six step how-to guide and recipe below)
Every holiday season I start decorating and preparing just a little bit earlier than the start of the season — which lulls me into falsely believing I have plenty of time to prepare and create all the fantastical holiday projects that dance through my head.  Yet somehow I go from being the early bird planner to the last minute loser every year without having any idea what happened to all the time between.
For YEARS I have planned to make stuffed peppers carved as Jack-O-Lanterns and mashed potatoes in the shape of ghosts that I rename mashed “BOOtatoes” but somehow Halloween passes before I can bring my Halloween dinner visions to life.
Well this year it finally happened! We made my Halloween dinner dreams come true! It was fun, festive and most importantly DELICIOUS.
So, here is the recipe we used and the step by step pictures along the way. This is recipe was created and tweaked to be more healthy by my mom, the lovely and talented artist Peggy Hickey.
Stuffed Peppers
3 Orange Bell Peppers
1 half pound (85% lean) chopped beef
1/4 cup dry uncooked oatmeal
1 half a small onion diced
1 tablespoon Gravy Master
1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Steps illustrated below!
Preheat the oven to 385 F degrees.
I started with the lovely orange peppers that I see in the store every year, only this time I bought them early, forcing myself to make this meal before the peppers went bad. 
I treated the little orange peppers just like pumpkins — cutting around the top as a ‘lid’ just like when carving a Jack-O-Lantern.
This made it quite easy to pull all the seeds out in one easy step.
Cut the seeds off the ‘lid’ and clean out any stray seeds inside.
Toss the seeds, but keep the ‘lid’ for later.
Then the fun part of carving the ‘face’.
Channel your inner child and give each pepper it’s own playful or spooky personality.
Don’t make them too scary or you’ll be afraid to eat it!
Make the stuffing by combining:

1 half pound (85% lean) chopped beef
1/4 cup dry uncooked oatmeal
1 half a small onion diced
1 tablespoon Gravy Master

Fill each pepper pumpkin with the meat mixture.
Don’t pack it too tightly or it may not cook evenly.
Put their lids back on and pop them in the oven!
Bake for 45 minutes at 385 F degrees.
I DARE you not to smile back at them when you see their little faces smiling out from the oven –it’s not possible.
While they are in the oven, start the sauce by combining the following:

1 can(16 oz) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Combine tomato sauce, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar in a small pan. Heat until the sugar dissolves and it’s nice and hot. Don’t overcook.
Serve with mashed potatoes spooned into ghost shapes and use peppercorns as eyes and mouth. 
You could use a pastry bag for the ghostly mashed BOOtatoes, or you can artfully dollop the potatoes – snowman style.
I used a plain ole spoon and placed a large dollop on the plate, then a medium one on top of that and a small one on top. Pay extra attention to the peak on the top dollop because that will make the ghosty head. 
Open the top of the pepper pumpkin and pour sauce inside the pepper so it oozes out creepily.
This sauce is tangy and sweet and a perfect compliment to the peppers.
And thats it! 

I’ve wanted to make this meal for so many years, and we finally did it! 

Okay…full disclosure. We made these on November 4th !! 
But in all fairness, the Halloween decorations were still up, and being after Halloween meant no trick or treaters to interrupt dinner, and we had lots of leftover candy for dessert!
Also, we are always looking to create healthy meals, and ground beef does not typically make it into our meal plans. Peggo had the great idea of adding the oatmeal to the stuffing with the rationale that the beef may raise cholesterol, but Oatmeal lowers it, so they cancel themselves out! While that science may or may not be completely sound, the oatmeal does bulk up the meat filling so you get a nice big portion without feeling too terribly guilty!

Oh My Gourd! What is a Spaghetti Squash?

Have you ever heard of Spaghetti Squash? 

During the Halloween season, the name alone may conjure up images of a mad scientist splicing together the DNA of a pumpkin and a plate of pasta, but the reality is a lot less spooky. 

So, where do you land on the spectrum of Spaghetti Squash knowledge?  It’s likely you fall into one of three groups;

Group A – You do not know what Spaghetti Squash is and I could easily convince you that it involves a plate of spaghetti and a blunt object, or that it might be some sort of strange fetish that involves sitting on pasta.

Group B – Not only have you heard of Spaghetti Squash but you have made it yourself. Perhaps you consider yourself a bit of a Spaghetti Squash expert and under your clothes you wear a leotard with a giant S on the chest, denoting that you are a superhero of squash.

Group C – Something between the extremes of group A and Group B – in other words, a normal person.

My goal in this article is to either introduce you to this venerable veggie and be right here with you at the moment that you say to yourself “OH MY GOURD!! spaghetti really is coming out of this squash!” Or to distract and disorient you before you come to the conclusion that I might be a Spaghetti Squash Stupidhead — which I totally am.

If you are like me, you probably have seen Spaghetti Squash at the local market and thought that they were just slightly anemic pumpkins that stayed indoors reading while the other pumpkins were out in the sun running around the pumpkin patch.

Compared to a plump orange pumpkin, Spaghetti Squash are pale and thin, but they are not just nerdy undernourished pumpkins. They are packed full of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and all sorts of other healthy stuff that makes health food bloggers and nutrition experts quiver with delight.

Also, if you are shaped like a pumpkin, and looking to slim down, Spaghetti Squash is a great way to painlessly cut calories. It has about 40 calories per serving, compared to pasta at about 200  (in other words, about 160 calories saved at dinner to spend later on cookies). So you can have a huge guilt free plate of spaghetti without any fears that someone will carve a face into you when you wear orange clothing. 

Most importantly, it tastes good and is easy to make. What more could you ask for?
(Cookies. You could ask for cookies)

So let’s get started!

Step 1:  Don’t be afraid — go buy a Spaghetti Squash. Gather up your courage and walk boldly to the spaghetti squash display at your local market. When choosing a squash, pick a nice firm one that feels heavy for its size and is free of blemishes and soft spots. While choosing, pick up several to feel and compare them. Thump them lightly also, because it will make you look like you know what you are doing.

Step 2: Cut the squash in half from top to bottom. Easy-peasy — should be just like carving a pumpkin on Halloween, right?  Not exactly. 

As you can see in the picture, the shell is thicker and more dense than a pumpkin. My knife got stuck a few times, and once I had cut all the way around the entire circumference of the squash, the two halves did not gracefully fall open into two perfectly cut halves. 

What worked best for me was working my way around the edge slowly, patiently and carefully  — then reaching the end of my patience and prying the halves apart like a she-beast while making overly dramatic grunting sounds reserved for use only when splitting a Spaghetti Squash, opening a jar with a tight lid, and when crowning without an epidural.  

Step 3: Scoop out the seeds and stuff – just like when making a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern! This is fun! We can go trick-or-treating later right? 

Step 4: Tis the season for seasoning. You can drizzle a little bit of EVOO (EVOO= Extra Virgin Olive Oil — It is important that you don’t use the kind-of-still-a-virgin olive oil, or Olive Oil that is dating Popeye or other sailors). Sprinkle salt and pepper or any spices you like. I am pretty sure these steps are optional though if you prefer not to sacrifice any virgins when you cook.

Step 5: Flip them over (open side down) to cook on a baking sheet.
We used parchment paper, but only because Martha Stewart peer pressured us into doing it. It probably isn’t necessary but we had some in the house and using it made us feel very fancy.

Step 6: Cook for about an hour at 425 F degrees, or until you can’t bear the building anticipation any longer.

Step 7: Remove the Spaghetti Squash from the oven, flip it over and freak out when you don’t see any spaghetti. When you calm down, grab a fork and lightly drag it over the surface of the inside of the shell and see the spaghetti strands forming. Squeal with delight and call friends and family members over to watch as you dazzle them with your new found Spaghetti Squash skills. 

Step 8: Scoop out the spaghetti and serve! We paired it with our favorite tomato sauce and some Parmesan cheese — just like regular pasta. 

That’s it! You’re done! There are lots of tasty and adventurous recipes out there to try (which I will share here when I try them), but for a first try this very basic approach is quick, easy and will give you your first taste of Spaghetti Squash Success.

I hope that this article has helped to squash any fears you may have had about trying Spaghetti Squash!

Don’t forget to take lots of pictures and post them on your blog and all over social media so you can show the world you are trying new things, living life to its fullest, creating spaghetti squash celebrations just for the heck of it and that you are NOT a Spaghetti Squash Stupidhead!