10 December 2013

Dishes with Dee: Slow Cooker Sausage and Peppers with Spaghetti Squash

If you ask me, this is slow cooker season.
Its cold outside.
There is football on TV five days a week.
You want to spend Sunday with a Christmas Ale, your most comfortable fan gear, and your sofa.
Slow cookers are ideal for this.

You just toss things into a pot and in a few hours a delicious meal is born.
Absolutely perfect for winter.
The trouble with eating clean, or at least on the healthy side, is that you really miss some of the heavier foods you used to enjoy.
Personally, I miss potatoes.  I mean.. a lot.
And pasta.  I almost never eat pasta anymore since eating clean doesn't allow for processed grains like that.
You know what the most amazing alternative ever is?
Spaghetti Squash.
This stuff tastes pretty similar to pasta, but has about 1/5 the calories per serving, and is in the clear for your clean lifestyle.

And a perfect warming winter recipe is:
Slow Cooker Sausage and Peppers with Spaghetti Squash

Now, I know sausage isn't technically "clean", but for this recipe you'll remove the casing and if you buy an all natural product from someone local, you're getting pretty close.
Find 'em at Findlay Market.
They don't use any color enhancers, binders, artificial preservatives, or extending agents.
You can be sure you're getting a fresh, quality product.

Here's what ya need:
For the slow cooker:
1 garlic clove- peeled and coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves- minced
4 Italian sausage links- I used hot, but buy whatever you like best
1 large red pepper
1 large yellow pepper
1 small-medium white onion
1 can of diced fire roasted tomatoes (15.5 oz)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (15.5 oz)
1/2 c. dry white wine
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning
For the spaghetti squash:
1 medium- large spaghetti squash- about 3.5-4 lbs
4-6 cloves of garlic- peeled but not crushed
Freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, Italian seasoning
Olive Oil

And here's what ya do:
For the slow cooker:
Using a very sharp paring knife, cut and peel the casing off your sausages.
Slice the sausage at about 1 inch intervals and slightly roll to form a ball-like shape.
*Note: Your sausage doesn't have to be a perfect circle, working the meat too much can make it tough and a little chewy.  Just a quick roll between your palms will do just fine, girl*

Then, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the garlic and quickly toss.
Add your sausage and cook.  Agitate periodically until browned on all sides.
Just a minute or two on each side.
Remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain off any fat.

Meanwhile, slice your peppers and onion.
Next, add everything to the slow cooker.
Put in peppers, onions, both cans of tomatoes, sausage, white wine, minced garlic, and spices.
Set slow cooker to low and cook for 6 hours.

Go watch a football game.
After about 4 hours, you can start on your spaghetti squash.

For the spaghetti squash:
Preheat your oven to 375.
Using a very sharp chef's knife, halve your squash length wise from stem to base.
I would lay the squash on its side.
*Note: Be very careful here, spaghetti squash has a similar consistency to a pumpkin, so the outside is hard, y'all.  Since it's round, it can obviously get away from you pretty easily.  You can watch Emeril do it here*
But also, he kind of scares you with how many times he freakin' tells you to be careful.  It was easier than he makes it seem.  I have toothpick arms, and I did it just fine.

Then, scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  If you just watched that video you already know the next prep steps.
Oh, hey!  Why don't you save those seeds, clean 'em off, and roast 'em later?!  A perfect snack!

So next, brush olive oil (I used a roasted garlic infused one, so get fancy if ya got it) over the flesh of the squash and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.

Put two garlic cloves under the hollow part of the squash and place squash in a glass baking dish face down.
Roast for about 50 minutes, until squash is very tender.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.

Using a fork, drag the prongs length-wise down the flesh of the squash.  The result looks exactly like pasta!

That garlic roasted underneath the squash in the oven.  Smash it up in a small bowl with a pat of butter and mix it in with the spaghetti squash.

By now it is time to check your sausage and peppers.  Stir everything up in the slow cooker and check it out.  Onions should be soft and translucent.
Peppers should be soft.
Sausage should be cooked through.
Adjust seasoning to taste.

Now it's time to plate it.  Scoop your "pasta" into a bowl and top with sausage and peppers.
Add a little Parmesan cheese and you're ready to eat!

You really can't go wrong with a meal like this.
Spaghetti squash is an amazing alternative to pasta when you are focusing on a primarily clean diet.  In fact, I think it's better than pasta.

This meal will easily serve 4, so invite over your BFFs or plan it for lunch for the week!

Enjoy, peanuts. 

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