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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Dinner With April Beets

 

Select beets that are heavy for their size and show no surface nicks or cuts. If they’re sold with their tops on, the greens are always a good indicator of freshness as they show wilting very quickly. So, buy beets that have very crisp leaves attached. Save the leaves and cook them for a side dish, as I did in the Stuffed Chicken Rolls for later in the week. I will post that recipe on Friday.

Marinated Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

Two bunches (6) medium-sized beets
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, sliced
¼ cup sliced red onions
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Wash and trim the beets so the stems and roots are about ½-inch long.
Place the beets onto a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the foil on a baking sheet, sprinkle the beets with salt and pepper, add the garlic slices and drizzle with a little olive oil. Close the package tightly and place in the oven for about an hour or until the beets are easily pierced with a knife.

Cool the beets before peeling.
Cut the beets into thick slices and place in a serving bowl.
Season to taste with salt, pepper, and the balsamic vinegar. Mix well.
Marinate the beets for at least 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, before adding a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Pan Seared Fish Fillets with Tomato Bacon Sauce

Ingredients:

4 (12 ounces) thin fish fillets
1 large Florida tomato, diced
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine, plus extra for garnish
1 garlic clove, grated
1 small shallot, finely minced
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Lightly season the fillets with salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.
Preheat a skillet just large enough to fit the fillets over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and carefully place the seasoned fillets skin side up in the sauté pan. Cook each fillet for 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and completely cooked throughout the thickest part of the fillet. Remove the cooked fillets from the pan and place on a plate.

Add the tomatoes, shallot, and garlic to the skillet. Cook the tomato mixture until the tomatoes start to wilt and release their juices. Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, and vegetable stock. Quickly bring the ingredients to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Return the fish to the skillet just to warm the fillets. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Sautéed Baby Zucchini

Scallions (green onions) are also in season in the spring. Look for crisp, bright-green stalks and a firm white base. Avoid stalks with any slimy, wet tops.
Young zucchini are in season where I live. If they are not available in your area, substitute another vegetable, such as green beans.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 young zucchini
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Directions

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut each in half crosswise to make 8 pieces.
Heat the oil in a small skillet and place the zucchini cut side down in the pan. Sprinkle the garlic and scallions over the zucchini. Let cook for 7- 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Take the pan off the heat and sprinkle with oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat and serve.

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Mexican Night

My market had a sale on Florida mini peppers. I like stuffing large peppers, so I thought I would try something similar with all these mini peppers. After thinking about what ingredients I would use – I came up with Nachos. I replaced the chips with mini peppers and this recipe turned out to be so delicious. Give it a try. Coleslaw is a good side for this entre and here is the kink to my recipe.

Mini Pepper Nachos

Ingredients

15 mini peppers
1 lb lean ground beef
2 tablespoons taco seasoning, see recipe below
½ cup water
1 cup salsa
Half an onion, diced
Sliced pickled jalapenos to taste
15 Mini peppers

Cheese Sauce

1 cup Velveeta light cheese, cubed
½ cup shredded Mexican blend or Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a13x9 inch baking dish.
Cut the mini peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves in the baking dish.

Brown the meat in a medium skill. Add the taco seasoning and water. Simmer until the liquid evaporates. Spoon the beef into each pepper half. Place a spoonful of salsa on each pepper. Sprinkle the diced onion on top. Add slices of jalapeno to taste. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Make the cheese sauce: Place the cheeses and milk in a microwave-safe dish or measuring cup. Hear for two minutes. Stir. Return the mixture to the microwave for 30 seconds if the cheese is not melted or set aside for a few minutes and the cheese will finish melting. Stir well.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour the cheese sauce over the peppers and place the dish under the broiler. Broil for a few minutes, just until the top begins to brown. Watch carefully.

Taco Seasoning

Ingredients

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Stir all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
Add 2 tablespoons taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water per pound of browned meat.

Using Up The Holiday Leftovers

Have lots of leftovers from the holiday? I do. So I thought I would share with you how I used some them in some new dishes.

Ham Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

2 cups finely diced baked ham
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Half medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
Half a bell pepper, finely diced
Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and pickle relish in a large bowl. Add the ham, vegetables, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir well and refrigerate until serving time.

This salad is also tasty mixed into cooked elbow macaroni for a ham and macaroni salad or as a sandwich filling.

Deviled Eggs

Good for leftover Easter eggs.

Ingredients

6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Paprika for garnish

Directions

Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.

Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.

Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.

Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.

Place the eggs on a serving platter and sprinkle the tops with paprika. Chill until serving time.

Coleslaw

I never use an entire cabbage at once, so I am able to get several meals from a head of cabbage.

Servings 4

Ingredients

Half a medium cabbage, sliced thin
2 scallions sliced
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping)
1⁄2 tablespoon white vinegar
1⁄2 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the honey, salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, cream, vinegar and lemon juice, using a whisk. Add the cabbage and scallions, stir gently to mix.

Refrigerate until serving time.

Mock “Split Pea” Soup

12 cups

I had green beans and cauliflower leftover from the holidays and decided to use them in a soup along with the ham bone. I was so surprised that soup tasted just like split pea soup but without all the carbs. Amazing taste.

Ingredients

1 baked ham bone with some meat attached
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 onion or 1 leeks, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 stalks celery with leaves, diced
2 cups cooked cauliflower
2 cups cooked green beans
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Put the ham bone in a large soup pot. Add the broth and water; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the meat is starting to fall off the bones, about an hour.

Remove the ham bone from the broth and set aside to cool.

Add the vegetables to the broth in the pot. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender about 30 minutes.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Remove the meat from the bones, cut into bite-size pieces and add to the soup.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.Heat on low for about 20 minutes.

Italian Manicotti (Crespelles)

Manicotti in many regions of Italy are actually called Crespelles. They are a perfect light start as a “primo” (first) course for a special Italian meal.
In America, manicotti are often made with pasta tubes. But for true manicotti made the Italian way, the shells should be light crepes, not made from boiled pasta. Cheese or meat stuffings enclosed in pasta are called Cannelloni in Italy.

The best recipe for Italian crepes comes from Marcella Hazan. In her book, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, she includes a variety of recipes for stuffing crepes. I use her crepe recipe for Manicotti, but the Marinara Sauce and Ricotta Filling are my long time standard recipes.

To make this dish, you will need:

Marinara Sauce
8 Crepes for a main dish or 4 Crepes for a first course
Swiss Chard or Spinach Ricotta Filling

Crespelle Batter

Makes at least 8 crepes

Ingredients

1 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free flour also works)
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Butter for crepe pan

To make the crepes:

Add the flour gradually to the milk with a whisk in a medium bowl with a cover. Strain the mixture through a sieve to avoid any lumps. Return the mixture to the bowl..
Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the salt.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the crepe pan and butter the pan.
Pour a scant ¼ cup of batter into the hot pan. Tilt the pan around with a circular motion so that the batter thins out and forms a round crêpe about the size of the pan. Cook until the edges of the crêpe become whitish and the inner portion yellow and partially solid.
Using a spatula, turn the crepe over and cook briefly (about 30 seconds).
Remove to a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the pan for each crepe. Place a sheet of wax paper between the layers to keep them from sticking together.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (28-ounce) cartons Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
4 fresh basil leaves, minced

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a cover. Add the garlic and onion. Sauce for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer the sauce with the cover ajar for 1 1/2 hours or until thickened.

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Filling

Ingredients

2 cups cooked (with garlic and olive oil) Swiss Chard or spinach, squeezed dry
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus extra for baking
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for baking
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the manicotti.

To assemble the Manicotti:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly brush 4 individual baking dishes with olive oil.
Spread about 4 tablespoons of the filling down the center of a crepe. Roll it up and place it, seam-side-down, in one of the baking dishes. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling, placing one or two filled crepes in each baking dish. Top lightly with marinara sauce spreading it evenly over the manicotti, sprinkle with Parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake the manicotti for 30 minutes.

Hot Cross Buns And A Few Superstitions

Myths And Traditions About Hot Cross Buns According To The Smithsonian:

Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten during Lent, especially in the week leading up to Easter. Marked with an icing cross on top, they’ve been a holiday staple in many countries for centuries. (Versions of the hot cross bun even appeared in ancient Greece.) Given the bun’s long history, legends and superstitions have developed over time.

Here are a few:

Some believe the hot cross bun originated in St Alban’s, where Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th Century monk at St Alban’s Abbey, developed a recipe called an”Alban Bun” and distributed the bun to the local poor on Good Friday.

In 1592, during the reign of Elizabeth I, it was forbidden to sell spiced bread, except at burials, on Good Friday, or at Christmas. If you violated the decree then you had to give all of your bread to the poor.

English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or grow moldy during the subsequent year. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all loaves of bread turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.

Another tradition encourages keeping a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.

If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwrecks.

They also expel bad spirits. Due to the blessed cross on top, hot cross buns hung in the kitchen are supposed to protect from evil spirits.

Those who share a hot cross bun are said to enjoy a strong friendship and bond for the next year. A line from an old Irish rhyme captures this lore, “Half for you and half for me, between us two, good luck shall be.”

I certainly wish my version of Hot Cross Buns brings you good luck!

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

12 buns

Ingredients

1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 cups bread flour or 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons.wheat gluten
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
Powdered sugar icing, recipe below

Directions

Combine the flour, wheat gluten, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix with a paddle attachment to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

Add the sourdough starter, milk, butter, and vanilla. Mix together until a dough forms. Add the raisins, and mix into the dough.

Switch to the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth — about 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat the top. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double — about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough. Divide into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball. Place in a greased 13×9 inch baking dish.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap; let rise in warm place until double — about 30 minutes.

Bake in a preheated oven 400°F for 20 minutes or cooked in the center and golden brown in color.

Cool on wire rack. Be sure the buns are completely cool before adding the frosting or the frosting will melt over the buns.

Powdered Sugar Icing

Combine the following ingredients to make a thick frosting.

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

With a spoon, drizzle icing in a cross pattern over each bun.

Mu Shu Chicken

Mu (or Moo) Shu is a dish of northern Chinese origin and it is believed to have first appeared on the menus of Chinese restaurants in the United States in the 1960s.

In its traditional Chinese version, moo shu pork (木须肉 / mùxūròu) consists of sliced pork tenderloin, cucumber, and scrambled eggs, stir-fried in sesame or peanut oil together with thinly sliced wood ear mushrooms (black fungus) and enokitake mushrooms. One of the first restaurants in Manhattan to serve the dish was Pearl’s, one of the best known New York City Chinese restaurants at the time. A 1967 article in The New York Times states that another of the first restaurateurs to serve the dish in Manhattan was Emily Kwoh, the owner of the Mandarin House, Mandarin East, and Great Shanghai restaurants.

At the time of its introduction, the dish was prepared in a traditional manner, but, as wood ears and daylily buds were scarce, a modified recipe was developed. In this modified recipe, which gradually came to be the norm in North America, green cabbage is an ingredient, along with scrambled eggs, carrots, scallions, and bean sprouts, along with lesser amounts of daylily buds and wood ear mushrooms. The American version is more like the filling for Chinese Spring Rolls. Shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, snow pea pods, bell peppers, onions, and celery are sometimes also used, and dry sherry is often substituted for the huangjiu.

Although most commonly made with pork, the same basic dish can be prepared by substituting another meat or seafood. Many Chinese families use chicken but shrimp and beef are less common in home cooking. The dish is served with rice or noodles and soft tofu in China. In America, the dish is served with hoisin sauce and several warm, steamed, thin, white tortilla-like wrappers made of flour, called “Mandarin pancakes”; these are similar to those served with Peking Duck.

Now, here is my version:

Ingredients

Marinade
3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into ½-inch strips

Stir-fry
2 medium stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 cloves grated garlic
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced into ½-inch strips
1 cup sliced green onions (scallions)
4 cups sliced cabbage (½-inch strips)
8 oz can Bamboo shoots, drained
1 cup bean sprouts (mung beans for stir-frying)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Chinese Pancakes, recipe below

Directions

Mix together the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl, add the chicken, and mix to coat. Prepare the vegetables, and grate the ginger and the garlic so everything will be ready when it is time to cook.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, and stir-fry until just cooked through, probably 3 to 4 minutes depending on how thick you cut the chicken. Remove the chicken from pan to a bowl.

Add the celery, ginger, and garlic to the skillet. Saute for one minute.

Add the rest of the vegetables in the following order: mushrooms, green onions, cabbage, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, stir-frying for 1 to 2 minutes after each addition:

Add the soy sauce and the chicken. Toss to combine. Serve with warm Chinese pancakes and hoisin sauce.

Chinese Pancakes

Options for the Pancakes:
Use regular, low carb or gluten-free tortillas
Make Crepes – regular, low carb or gluten-free
Or make authentic Chinese Mandarin Pancakes

Mandarin Pancake Ingredients
1½ cups flour
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon oil

Directions

Mix the flour and salt in a heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water into the flour mixture and use chopsticks or a spatula to mix until a dough ball forms. Once it is cool enough to handle, knead the dough for 8 minutes until smooth, adding flour if the dough is too sticky. Cover with plastic and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Roll the dough into a cylinder and cut into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a dough ball, then flatten them out into a small disc about 2 inches in diameter. Lightly brush all areas of 6 of the discs with oil. Layer the remaining 6 discs over the 6 oiled discs so you have 6 pieces, each composed of 2 discs.

Use a rolling pin to roll the discs into 7-inch circles, turning the pancakes frequently so both of the dough discs are rolled into the same size.

Heat a wok or frying pan over medium-low heat, and place one pancake in the pan. After 30 to 45 seconds, you should see air pockets begin to form between the two pancakes. Flip the pancake; it should be white with just a couple of faint brown patches. Any more than that, and they are overcooked. After another 30 seconds, the air pockets should be large enough to separate the two pancakes. Remove the pancake to a plate, and let it cool for another 30 seconds. Now carefully pull apart the two pancakes at the seams. Place finished pancakes onto a plate and cover with a warm kitchen towel. Repeat until all the pancakes are done.

Frugal Springtime Recipes

Springtime On The Gulf Coast

I am a home cook that hates to waste food. I also don’t like heated up leftovers. So…I try to think of ways to reinvent my leftovers. In the past week, I had cooked asparagus, green beans, Swiss chard, Italian sausage and mini bell peppers to use up. The new recipes turned out just fine.

Ham and Asparagus Quiche

This is a good dish to use up some of your leftover cooked vegetable sides. We like this dish for a lighter dinner and I serve it with a salad.

6 servings

Ingredients

Press in the Pan Crust

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour or Bob’s Red Mill Low Carb or Gluten-Free Baking Mix
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz (1 stick ) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3-4 tablespoons cold water

Quiche Filling

3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup baked ham cubes
1 cup chopped cooked asparagus
½ cup chopped cooked green beans
¼ cup cooked sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

To make the pastry

Place the flour, salt, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter is cut into little pieces. Slowly drizzle in the cold water by tablespoons until the dough comes together.

Remove the dough from the processor and press onto the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the crust for 10-12 minutes until the edges begin to brown.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

To make the filling

In a medium mixing bowl combine all the filling ingredients. Pour the mixture into the partially baked pie crust. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 35-40 minutes until set. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Sautéed Swiss Chard

This was the original recipe, I made for a side dish.

Ingredients

2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
2 large bunches of Swiss chard, washed in several changes of water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Directions

Drain the washed chard very well. With a knife, remove the chard stems that run up the middle of each leaf.Save them for soup.

Cut the leaves into smaller pieces.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and black pepper.

Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender.

Add the chard leaves and cook, covered, for 3-5 minutes until the leaves are wilted and brightly colored. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan if it seems like the leaves are getting too dry.

Add salt to taste and serve as a side dish. Reserve leftovers to make the patties for another meal.

Swiss Chard Patties

Ingredients

2 cups leftover cooked Swiss chard
2 tablespoons flour
1 scallions, minced
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Heat a stovetop griddle or a large frying pan. Oil the griddle. With a muffin-scoop drop batter onto the hot griddle.

Cook until lightly brown on the underside, Turn the patties over and cook until lightly brown. These patties make a delicious side dish.

If you have patties leftover, they make a great breakfast. Heat the patties in a skillet. Top each with a fried egg.

Sausage and Peppers with Spaghetti Squash

3 servings

Ingredients

4 cooked Italian sausage links
6 mini bell peppers, assorted colors
1 small yellow onion
1 ½ cups homemade or store-bought Marinara Sauce
One 2 lb spaghetti squash
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F and halve squash lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds from the middle of each half.

Arrange the squash halves in a baking dish, cut sides down. Pour 1/2 cup water into the dish and bake until just tender, 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and drain the water from the baking dish. Set the squash aside to cool.

Cut the onion and peppers into thin slices. Cut the sausage into ¼ inch circles.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and peppers and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the Marinara sauce and sliced sausage. Heat the mixture until hot.

With a fork rack back and forth across the cooled squash to remove its flesh in strands…like spaghetti!

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add salt and black pepper to the skillet and then add the squash strands. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the squash is hot. Don’t overcook. Add the parsley, mix and serve with the sausage and peppers.


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