Butternut Squash Me- 2!

 

Hello!

Here comes how I used the other half of that butternut squash I mentioned in this post.

This recipe came to me with a bit of inspiration- a friend had eaten a butternut squash ravioli out at dinner recently and it looked delicious, and it had a brown butter sage sauce that smelled heavenly.

Now I’m good, but I’m nobody’s Nonna and I wasn’t feeling experimenting with creating ravioli. I wanted to get that deliciousness in, but in a not-so-fussy kind of way. For the hangry amongst us.

So, as I like to do when I’m trying out purely experimental things and need to get an unbiased opinion, I invited my good friend Connor over for dinner. The guy is not afraid to tell me when I’m being a major jerk, so I feel pretty confident that he’ll tell me if my food tasted bad. As a result, he is often my de facto taste tester. He always brings wine for us to sip on and a good spirit about him when I take forever to make a worknight meal (thanks buddy!). This dish turned out to be very flavorful, and creamy without any cream involved.

So without further ado, the second installment featuring my favo little squash- the butternut squash.

Butternut Sage Spaghettini with Bacon

Serves 4 for $3.48 ($0.87 per person)

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Ingredients:

1/3 of a butternut squash ($1.33)

Thyme Leaves (approximately 2 sprigs) ($0.19)

5 sage leaves($0.35)

Two slices of Bacon, pre crisped as bacon bits ($1.06)

Olive Oil

Cracked black pepper and salt to taste

400g of dry spaghettini ($0.55)

Olive Oil

Red Chili Flakes

Parmesan to garnish (optional)

Method:

Step One: Roast your butternut squash

I did this in a shallow baking dish with some olive oil, thyme, pepper and salt. I cut my squash quite large out of laziness as I’m sure  you can see, but cutting it smaller will speed the process. I set the oven for 350 degrees and left the dish in there until the squash felt soft. Difficult, eh? It took about 35 minutes. I then cooled the squash and popped it in a bag to store overnight since I did this the day before I wanted to eat my pasta.

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Step Two: Cook Your Pasta!

Put that pot on the stove, salt, add your pasta. I use spaghettini because it’s what I like, but use whatever noodle your heart desires. It may seem weird to start the pasta before the sauce is started, but it comes together super quickly.

At this point, toss your bacon bits on a plate with some paper towel underneath them to crisp and warm them as well.

Step Three: Make that Sauce

Blenderize your sauce. To do this I put my squash in a pot with a bit of pasta water to give it a more liquidy consistency and heat it up. You could use chicken or vegetable stock if you had some around, just make sure you can cover the blades of an immersion blender. You want to add in your sage leaves and hot pepper flakes at this point as well so that they get blenderized as well.

I can’t stress enough that you only need a bit of liquid (and that’s why it doesn’t particularly matter what kind you use). You want to have a thick sauce that will adhere to the noodles. Taste your sauce- if it is flat tasting, add some balsamic vinegar or a tiny splash of lemon juice. Make sure it has a good salt and pepper base, because there’s not a lot in this sauce to hide poor seasoning.

Step Four: Assemble

Once your sauce is blenderized and nice and hot, keep it on the burner (stirring occasionally) until your pasta is ready. Drain your pasta when it’s cooked, keeping the noodles in your pasta pot. With a rubber spatula, take your sauce and dump it into the pasta pot. Stir your pasta until it’s well coated and then dish onto a plate a good helping of pasta. Garnish with your bacon bits and parmesan (if desired). Enjoy!

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Budget Cleaning- Post-Holiday CleanUp

I think we’ve all been there. Christmas has passed us by but the tree and other decorations have stayed up past their welcome, but the task of cleaning the decorations up feels much less fun than it was to put them up in the first place.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. And while New Years was a harder time for me this year and I would have preferred to let it slip by unnoticed and slide into 2016 and all its promise, I still love the season. There’s just something about all of the excuses to gather up with friends and family that I can’t complain about!

However, when it’s January 3rd and it looks like glitter was somehow projectile spread around your home, it feels like time to clear things up. This was my post-holiday cleanup, how did you do yours?

 

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Step One: Eliminate Sources of Glitter (and other unwanted items)

Those beautiful lightup trees shed glitter with wild abandon, and the garland wrapped around them sheds artificial (I’m allergic to most greenery) needles everywhere. It needed to be cleared out so that the first round of sweeping could be done.

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Unsurprisingly, I don’t use a lot of expensive items like throw-away dusters or specialty cleaners. I used a dust pan and then good old-fashioned pledge to restore my sideboard to its previous non-glittery glory. My dust pan does have a silicon edge to keep a tight seal on whatever surface you’re sweeping on, though.

Step Two: Pack Up Seasonal Items

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If you’re anything like me, Christmas decorations do not begin and end with the tree. Nope, there’s decorations everrrywhere. Before I felt like I could get a really good clean done, I had to get rid of everything that wasn’t supposed to be where it was long-term. I store my Christmas decorations in plastic tubs in my garage, so I hauled those up and started packing decorations into them.

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(even the bar cart wasn’t safe)

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I try to be very conscientious about how I pack things up, and not just because of the precious nature of a lot of Christmas decorations. I watched my father untangle Christmas lights enough to know that no matter how hard you try, they will tangle due to their design, but that storing them properly will minimize how much. My recommendation is to grab the end of your lights in your hand, pull it taut to your elbow and wrap hand to elbow in an oval until every light is in that loop. I then use my extension cord as a figure-eight securing device to hold everything in place until next Christmas. Items like bead garland are placed in zipper bags, and any ornaments without dedicated boxes are placed in shoe boxes or cookie tins, wrapped in tissue paper to keep them safe.

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Truly irreplaceable items, like the angel tree topper that my mum made, are placed in bags and then stored in a dedicated drawer so they can’t be damaged by accident. 20160103_170919

This is really just adorable… my tiny tree splits into even tinier parts…

Step Three: Clear the Air

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If you’re like me, Christmas means loads of visitors and meals. Or, it’s just that your roommate made fish after you made mexican beef. Whichever the case, an open bowl of plain ol’ vinegar will take scents out of the air! So my favorite final step to any good cleanup (even my monthly scrub of the house) is setting out a small bowl in the dining area to take up and away any lingering scents. It’s nice if you’re like me and trying to eat a bit healthier in the new year- no lingering smells of chocolate to entice a weak resolve. This is my mom’s trick, since she’s allergic to 99% of scents (as am I), so she’s come up with some pretty clever ways of making sure the house smells great without its occupants dying a slow, wheezing, itchy death.

 

I hope this helps with ideas for how to quickly and easily clean up from the holiday season! After doing these steps and a vacuum (or two… depending on your glitter situation) you should be ready to enter the new year with a clean slate.

Cheap Eats: Beef Tacos

Helllllooooo

Recently I spent a Saturday afternoon processing a ton of vegetables for the upcoming week, working, doing grocery shopping and other regular people tasks and realized at 5pm that I hadn’t made anything for dinner. This left me with two options:

a. What can I eat from my meals I just made, even though that would mess up my schedule?

b. What can I whip up from what I’ve got around?

It really became a question at that point of how hangry I was. My hanger level was low and my nobody was home so it was safe to scrounge up my dinner. Thankfully, I had recently bought some ground beef (which is pretty rare for me!) and made it into taco/nacho meat and frozen it in servings, so I brought that out to thaw a bit while I figured myself out. The rest of this meal came from things I just normally have around. This isn’t a supercheap meal, but it was delicious and easy to pull together.

Beef Tacos

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Serves 1 for $2.40 

Ingredients:

1/4 Cup of ground beef – ($0.84)

3 Medium size flour tortillas  ($0.67)

Half an avocado – ($0.30)

1/4 of a diced roma tomato ($0.25)

1 tablespoon salsa con queso – ($0.29)

1 tablespoon salsa – ($0.05)

(You can use pantry staples such as chili powder and cayenne to season your meat like I did, or if you’re feeling fancy, purchase a flavoring packet. It’ll work out to an increase of 15 cents per serving if you go that route.)

Method:

The first item is to cook your beef. Pop it in a skillet or electric frying pan on medium heat and start wiggling it into tiny bits and getting it browned. Once it is browned, add your seasoning and a half cup of water and let it continue to cook off. After this, I drain the fat off into an empty jar and let the meat cool to be processed for the freezer since I make it in batches of 5-10 meals. If you’re doing this at the same time you’re prepping dinner, put your tablespoon of salsa con queso in a bowl with your quarter cup of meat and stir them together. Set them aside.

Next, quickly dice up your roma tomato and half of an avocado. Set 3 tortillas on a plate and line 1/3 of your salsa con queso and meat mix on each one. Follow with tomato, then avocado, then garnish with a small dollop of salsa.

Enjoy! This is a truly easy and quick dinner, especially if you’ve got the meat already ready.