The weather is growing cooler here in the Northeast. The last of autumn’s leaves have been raked. Mittens and scarf are at the ready! My stock pot has been working full time, and I am ready for all of the cold weather, heart warming meals that are on their way. It’s my favorite time of the year!
Just a few short months ago, I was focused on quick cooking and getting in and out of the kitchen as fast as I could. Now, it’s all about slow food. Food that takes its time. Food that is in no hurry. Food that can’t be rushed. Big pots of soup…herb crusted roasts…hearty stews – the secret to their success? Time.
Time. It certainly brings out the best, but time is also at a premium for many. Not everyone can casually watch over a pot of soup for the day or babysit a big roast for a few hours. Is there is a solution?
Enter the slow cooker. I love the fact that I can pop something in at the beginning of the day and can come home to a meal that’s table ready. Now, the crock pot is not the answer to everything, but it does come in handy. For the longest time it was the most underutilized item in my kitchen. Now, I am making much more than chicken, chili, and meatloaf in there. How about apple butter? Chicken Cacciatore? Overnight Pumpkin Steel Cut Oats? Or even cake? Yes, cake! I actually made a chocolate pumpkin spice cake in my slow cooker a few weeks ago and was amazed at the delicious results.
Today, I decided to try something completely new. I had picked up some beautiful spaghetti squash the other day. Could the slow cooker take care of these squash for me? There was only one way to find out. So, I rinsed off the outer skin, pierced the top of each squash with a fork, and nestled them into the crock. I set the time for eight hours and walked away and forgot about them.
Fast forward to 5:00. I took a peek into the crock pot and gave the spaghetti squash a quick little squeeze. They were perfect, and I was happy enough to squeal! Success! Next, I would cook up some ground meat, saute a few vegetables, and stir in some tomato sauce. Dinner was done in mere minutes. Who needs take out, pizza, or a fast food drive thru when you can put the slow cooker to work for you.
There is still nothing that compares to a fall off the bone roast from the oven, but when time is limited, it’s good to know that I can rely on my crock pot to help me out.
On a side note, if you have never tried spaghetti squash, you should. Once cooked, the inside flesh pulls apart into spaghetti like strands. The strands hold together well and are delicious topped with your favorite sauce. It’s a great alternative to traditional pasta.
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash with Sausage Kale Ragu
2 spaghetti squash
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 pound lean ground beef (90%)
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 cups of your favorite jarred tomato sauce
3 cups, packed, finely chopped kale leaves, stems discarded
Wash the spaghetti squash. Pierce each several times with a fork. Nestle the squash into an oval slow cooker. Set the timer for eight hours.
Saute the diced onion and olive oil in a large skillet for 5-7 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and garlic salt, cooking for one minute longer. Remove the vegetables to a separate bowl.
Add the ground beef and sausage to the skillet. Cook for 6-8 minutes, breaking the meat apart with a spatula until small crumbles form. Drain off the fat.
Return the sauteed vegetables to the skillet. Stir in the tomato sauce. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, sea salt, and chopped kale and cook for an additional three minutes.
Remove the squash from the slow cooker. Slice each squash in half horizontally. Gently scoop away the seeds with a spoon.
At this point you may either scrape away the spaghetti strands, place them in a large bowl, and top with the sausage and kale ragu. Or you may simply keep the squash halves intact and fill them with the ragu. Either way, sprinkle the top generously with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.