Monday, March 17, 2014 Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai

I squash season over already?!
This winter I fell in love with roasting vegetables. They are just as wonderful by themselves but I would use them in salads or pasta too. I even had Spaghetti Squash for the first time! (I'm a little behind on this wonderful gourd.) I completely undercooked it the first time I tried roasting one. The oven temperature was too low and I may have been  definitely was impatient with the roasting process. 

The first recipe I made was literally turning the squash into a classic spaghetti dish. Roasted Squash, filled with Red Gravy (also known as spaghetti sauce) and fresh Mozzarella. The squash roasts alone until tender and then again with sauce and cheese is warm and until it's wonderfully melty. The 'pasta' is eaten right out of the half of squash, the scooped out center serves as a bowl for the red gravy & cheese. After a few times attempts at this meal, I learned a helpful tip to roasting the Spaghetti Squash perfectly. Roasting it upside down lets the water from the Squash it turn to steam and speeds up the cooking process.

One afternoon, I was talking to Mrs. S on the phone about life and squash recipes (a fairly normal conversation). I asked for her favorite Spaghetti Squash recipe. She didn't have a specific recipe but she loves using the squash to make a gluten free Pad Thai (my recipe was inspired by version I found on the blog 'A Couple Cooks'). The Squash works just like noodles and does a wonderful job holding onto the Thai spices and flavors. I couldn't wait to give it a try!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 King Cake for Mardi Gras

Happy belated Mardi Gras!
To celebrate last week I decided to make a King Cake. I was a little nervous so about making this for CPB (a New Orleans native) even though I've had good luck with some of their other classics like Beignets, Gumbo and Jambalaya. A King Cake is essentially a Brioche Cinnamon Roll, instead of cutting the roll and baking individual slices spiral side up the roll remains intact, is formed into a ring and baked. I tried to find a recipe with only basic ingredients, some call for sour cream or cream cheese filling, but I wanted to go a more traditional route. There are a few notes I have that will hopefully help anyone trying to make this for the first time.

1. The Sanding Sugar is the only item I couldn't find in a typical grocery. I located it in a specialty baking shop (Do It with Icing), it's finer than typical sprinkles, which will work just fine or there are a few recipes online that show how to color granular sugar for the topping.
2. Creating a King Cake requires some waiting time, I recommend making the dough the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Just let it sit out on the counter to warm up slightly before rolling out the dough.
3. The tradition includes placing a plastic baby (represnting baby Jesus) into the cake. Whoever ends up with this slice is supposed to hold the King Cake Party the following year. Instead of a figurine, I chose to use a pecan half BUT if you are using a plastic baby, put the baby in AFTER you've baked the cake. No one wants to bite into a melty baby Jesus.

It took a little more patience than I expected but the result was wonderful. This is a delicious tradition I plan on repeating next year!


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