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Experimenting with food

I have always loved to cook and bake, but have always been better at following recipes rather than creating my own. I mean, aside from adding my own toppings to pizza I have never diverged much from a written recipe, but everything usually turned out pretty well.

One of the nicest things about changing the way I eat is that I have found it is very hard to go wrong with cooking when you are putting together a protein, fat, and vegetable. You can mix and match a whole lot and get it to taste really good. I often take fish and cook it in a pan with some olive oil and spices, then when close to done take fresh spinach, a can of diced tomatoes (drained) and cheese. If the spices are Greek use feta, if Italian - use mozzarella, and end up with a very tasty well-rounded dinner. Sautéing ground meats with onions and other vegetables, covered with a cheese or other sauce is quick and delicious.

One of my favorite things to make now (because it tastes so good and makes great leftovers) is what we call "Meatball Spaz." Lately, I am deviating from the "meatball" because ground meat is faster and tastes just as good.

Meatball spaz has a base of spaghetti squash, which I never thought had a place in a quick meal, as it took over an hour to cook in the oven. But I learned a neat trick, cook it in the microwave for 13 minutes, and it is easily a part of a last minute meal.

To quickly cook a spaghetti squash use a large knife to pierce it 8-10 times on all sides. It will blow up all over your microwave if you don't. Place on a plate (to catch the drips) and put in the microwave for 12-13 minutes. Let it sit in the microwave another few minutes to cool. Take it out of the microwave and when ready carefully, to avoid steam, cut in half and remove the seeds, then use the flesh as you need.

For meatball spaz you can pick your meat - I like to mix a pound of ground beef with a pound of mild Italian sausage, but have used meatballs to cover the pan as well. You could even skip the meat if you want.

Cook the meat it in the skillet and seasoning with some salt and pepper (and anything else you feel like). When done set aside the meat and if there is a large amount of liquid grease in the pan remove some of it. Then put a block of frozen chopped spinach in the pan (thawed if you actually planned ahead).

As the spinach is heating up in the pan, get the spaghetti squash out of the oven and prepare it. Once the spinach is fully thawed, add the squash to the pan (I usually use the full squash but I have a very large pan).

After mixing the squash and the spinash together add 6-8 ounces of cream cheese to the vegetables (more if you like it really creamy). Then spread the mixture fully into the bottom of the skillet.

Take sugar free diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and mix to taste with garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Grate a liberal amount of mozzarella cheese. (I grate it myself as the preshredded adds potato starch so it doesn't stick together.

Spread the meat mixture onto the top (or spread the meatballs fairly densely on top). This is followed by the tomato sauce and the cheese. Put the whole skillet into the oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until the cheese is bubbly and turning brown). For another tasty variation add pepperoni or mushrooms or other vegetables!

Keep experimenting, and share your tasty creations with me! Enjoy!

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