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.
- Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake
- Chicken and Lentil Soup
- 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.