I love experimenting in the kitchen. If you’re new to cooking or would like to be a better home cook, my #1 piece of advice is to take a familiar staple ingredient that you know and love and just have some fun with it. If chicken breasts are your jam, try out a new seasoning or sauce on it. If you usually sauté the chicken, look up a recipe that shows you how roast it or prepare it in the slow cooker.
Believe it or not, 10 years ago, I couldn’t cook to save my life. My college roommates would eagerly tell you about the time I referred to heating oil in a pot for frying as “boiling the oil” or the time my curry couscous (from the box! Definitely not homemade) burnt to the bottom of the pan, creating a stench throughout the entire apartment building. Not one of my finer culinary moments…
Once I graduated and moved out on my own, I wanted to eat healthier. And this prompted me to get serious in the kitchen and learn some basic cooking skills. Those first couple years, before food blogs became so popular, Hungry Girl was my go-to recipe resource. She introduced me to the concept of kale chips, butternut squash fries, and in general, lightened-up cooking. And I have to say, I credit her recipes for sparking my creativity in the kitchen and looking at ordinary ingredients in a different light. Sidebar/Fun fact: In 2011, I won a recipe contest with Starkist tuna and got to meet Hungry Girl, Lisa Lillien, and tour her headquarters in LA! Perhaps a story for a future post.
Anyway, I encourage anyone looking to improve their cooking skills to take a risk and try something new in the kitchen. You may end up with stinky burnt couscous, but it’s all a learning experience. And over time, with more practice, you’ll find that cooking isn’t so intimidating after all.
I’m still learning. While I tend to take a few more risks these days with my ingredients and grand plans for recipes (eg, plantains in lasagna, chorizo in oatmeal), I still have some epic fails. But with a little persistence, they usually turn into something tasty. Proof: this Spaghetti Squash Waffle Grilled Cheese. After a couple failed attempts involving mushy (yet still delicious) squash, I discovered that I skipped a major step in the process…wringing out all the excess water in the squash until you can’t wring out any more. The squash in this recipe is much like the cauliflower in these pizza bites. It must be free of excess liquid for the recipe to work!
The waffle batter consists of the wrung out squash, egg, parmesan cheese, and seasoning. Divide the batter in half to make 2 waffles as you normally would in your waffle maker. The spaghetti squash waffles won’t be super crispy, but they will be firm enough to act like soft sandwich bread. And they’ll add plenty of subtle sweetness to this otherwise savory sandwich.
Once the waffles are cooked, layer on the cheese slices (I used white sharp cheddar) and pesto (I used Classico brand) on one waffle and top it with the other waffle. Then, put the sandwich in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melted.
This waffle grilled cheese is pure decadence with gooey sharp cheddar oozing out the sides and garlic-basil pesto seeping into the squash. And for the kicker, we made it a teeny bit lighter by skipping the bread!
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- 1 large spaghetti squash
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic herb seasoning (I used Simply Organic’s spice blend)
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon pesto, divided (I used Classico brand)
- 1 ½ ounces cheese (I used sharp white cheddar)
- Cook the squash: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Place in the oven, flesh side up, and roast for 40-45 minutes. Let the squash cool and scrape out the strands. Release the excess liquid from the squash strands by piling them onto a sack towel and twisting the towel firmly until mostly all liquid is removed.
- Make the waffles: Heat the waffle iron. In a bowl mix the spaghetti squash, egg, salt, pepper, seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. When the iron is heated, place half of the mixture in the middle of the iron and close. Cook according to your waffle maker's settings. Remove the waffle and repeat the process again for the remaining mixture.
- Make the sandwich: Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto on one of the waffles. Layer on the cheese. Top with the other waffle to make a sandwich. Place the sandwich on a lined baking sheet and heat in the oven until the cheese has melted. About 7-8 minutes. Slice the sandwich in half and serve.
Nutrition Information (per serving) from Caloriecount.about.com
Calories: 300 Fat: 15.4g Carb: 28.2g Fiber: 5.6g Protein: 16g Sugar 10.3g Sodium: 698mg