Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake (Gluten-Free)

Toddlers, man. One day, you’re spending your last iota of sanity convincing them to eat something like, plain pasta with butter and parmesan, and the next day you make two perfect over easy farm eggs with avocado toast for yourself with breakfast, and you feel the gentle tug of a kiddo next to you and end up getting two bites of your own meal.

Trying to figure them out is maddening, so I’ve stopped trying. I’ve made it my mission to fight the good fight over here— one meal, eat it or don’t, or you go to bed hungry. Last week, my son went to bed without lunch or dinner three days in a row. I’m not kidding.

I listened to a podcast recently that talked about minimalist meal planning — and it suggested that you identify the top ten meals that your family loves, and basically put them in heavy rotation. I thought it would be fun to identify our family’s top ten meals, so I opened a note on my iphone and started to write. I ended up with a few.

  1. Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake
  2. Chicken and Lentil Soup
  3. Two Bean Beef Chili

And there the note sat. My biggest problem is that I forget to make things again, until my husband asks about it like – remember when we had that great thing with the mushrooms? Can you make that again?

So, all that is to say that this recipe has been an unlikely favorite of our family’s for going on two years. I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but I have made it probably over fifty times, and every single time, there is not a bite left in the pan. My kids shovel this meal in like they haven’t eaten in days (I’m looking at you, George). My husband says this meal gives him is “lasagna fix” – which is good, because I never make lasagna (too many steps, too many calories, just too much and I choose to get my fix at a really good Italian restaurant once a year.

My friend Jen is in town. She is gluten free and dairy free, so this recipe seemed like the perfect one to make for her. Knowing my ravenous beasts, I doubled it, and cooked it in a cast iron skillet so large that I can’t lift it over my head (and I’m strong.) As it baked, we opened up a bottle of really good red wine and the kids helped us make a salad. I’m obsessed with these knives for kids. If you children like to be with you or like to cook, buy them! You may not even know how much your kids like to help you yet, but when you buy these, you’ll find little helpers all the time. Marilyn cuts carrots, celery, lettuce, apples, tomatoes, avocado, and pretty much anything else she can get her little hands on.

As for this recipe, I’m embarrassed to say that we almost finished the entire pan of this doubled recipe, but it’s kind of hard to be mad at any of us given how packed it is with

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake

1 large spaghetti squash, or 2 smaller

1 lb. of Italian pork sausage – I prefer to buy Jimmy Dean in bulk, but you can also use links and remove the casings (you can use turkey sausage, too)

1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce

3 eggs, beaten

seasonings like oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, basil – to taste

salt and pepper

shredded mozzarella, optional

additional veggies, optional – such as spinach, olives, mushrooms, peppers, onions

First, start with your squash. Get out some frustration by inserting your knife in the side, and banging it furiously on the counter until there is a fissure, use your knife to open it up. Using a grapefruit spoon or spoon, scrape out the seeds. Put face down on a sheet pan with parchment and 2 tablespoons of water and roast at 350 for 1 hour. You can do this part a day ahead, and scrape out the strands of squash into a ziplock bag.

I often do this next step a day early, too. Saute the sausage until browned and broken up with a spoon.

In a large bowl, mix the slightly cooled squash, the sauce, the browned sausage, and the beaten eggs, seasonings and mozzarella (if using). Spread into an oval baking dish, a cast iron skillet or a 9×13 pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake at 400 for on hour, or until the edges are golden brown and the center is set.

We serve with a big green salad with some misshapenly cut vegetables (toddlers).  You can easily double this, and might want to.

Don’t forget to add these knives to your kiddo’s lists for the holidays and if you shop through my link, you can help me buy a stamp.

Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala Soup

I have never understood the concept of take-out. While I know that many of you relish your take-out rituals, I am pretty much in the camp of: if I’m home it should be homemade (cereal and scrambled eggs count), and if I’m paying to eat out, I want it to come with a side of atmosphere and no dishes to load. Not counting the first year of life with #twoundertwo, we have probably only had take-out a handful of times in our lives.

Still, life with two toddlers has confined us more and more to eating at home, and lately I have found myself missing the comforting flavors of Indian and Thai food. I have found that my little ones eat really well when I make soups/stews – one pot meals that they don’t have to think about dissecting or picking apart. They tend to be a little pickier when food is separated on the plate. They have also developed more of a flavor for heat lately – stealing my wasabi soy almonds out of my purse, and begging for more spicy chili and chipotle laced sweet potato fries.

So, when my friend Kristine posted a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala soup straight out of one of my all-time favorite Atlanta restaurants, Souper Jenny, I knew I had to have this recipe, and adapt it for the Instant Pot.  My goal was to make it a little more vegetable-laden, double it so that it would feed us with leftovers, and ensure that it really had the punch of Indian flavors. It isn’t spicy, but it does have a richness and depth of flavor.

I really try to avoid recipes where I have to buy a lot of new ingredients, so I loved that I had most of these in the pantry and only had to buy a new jar of garam masala. Next time, I think I will totally nix the potatoes in favor of cauliflower florets (I was so close to doing it, but didn’t have time to chop up my cauliflower and my Instant Pot was too full to have both.)


Chicken Tikka Masala Soup (adapted from Souper Jenny)

Every Monday night in our house is soup night. As I shared in my meal planning post I try to cook two meals every Monday, and usually they are both soups. We eat one on Monday night, and we eat the other for lunches throughout the week. This will fill your 6 quart Instant Pot; if you have a smaller one, reduce the liquid. This will feed a family of four with three extra bowls for lunches leftover. I served it with cilantro and extra greek yogurt as a garnish.

3-4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large finger ginger, grated (I always freeze mine, and I never peel it)
2 14.5 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
3 cups Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 cups of frozen peas
2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
20 ounces coconut milk (about a can and a half)
2 teaspoons of better than bouillon
fresh cilantro

extra greek yogurt for garnish, or to tone down the heat for little palates

Marinate your chicken thighs whole with yogurt, coriander, cumin, chili, garam masala, salt and pepper for at least an hour, or up to overnight.

While the chicken is marinating, heat your instant pot on the saute function. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute ginger and garlic and carrots until softened. Be careful, they will easily burn.

Remove chicken from yogurt, shaking off excess marinade and add chicken to the instant pot, stirring to saute the chicken on all sides (it will be crowded). Add the tomatoes, potatoes, peas, chicken broth, coconut milk and any remaining yogurt marinade. Set to manual for 25 minutes. Remove the chicken with tongs and shred it and add it back to the pot, or shred with a tongs in the pot. I use a scissors to cut up the chicken for the kids once it’s in the bowl.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, more red pepper flakes and greek yogurt.