For the first four years of my post-grad, adult life, I lived in major cities - Manhattan, NY for three years then Hoboken, NJ for another. The hustle and bustle of day-to-day life was exhilarating in the beginning, but after enjoying it for a few years, I was ready for a change.
My boyfriend, Dave, and I had been discussing a possible move to Florida for a little while, but only pursued it about two years ago. Dave locked down a job down here, and I was able to follow since I could work my same job remotely.
Dave's mom and her sister own a rental property in the same area that we were moving to. They very kindly kept their condo vacant and let us stay there while we were waiting for our lease to begin. Their place is beautiful and made the transition to Florida life so easy. It has a large a screened in patio (or lanai, as we Floridians like to call it!) that overlooks a large bay from 9 stories up. You can watch the boats sail through the channels and get a front row seat to the sunset each night, all without ever leaving the condo. There's also a private little beach and pool area right outside the building. Talk about a perfect place to stay and the epitome of a complete 180 of the city life I came to escape from. (And if you're now convinced you need a getaway, head on over to VRBO and get booking! We've since vacated, so their condo is all yours!)
While we stayed at their condo, Dave's commute was a long one - about 45 minutes each way, before traffic. He'd be out the door before 7AM, and would come home 12+ hours later, totally exhausted and ravenous for dinner. Since I didn't have to deal with any commute, I had plenty of free time at night to whip up something delicious.
Even though we were new to being roomies, we were used to cooking meals together all the time (a hobby we are both passionate about!) but transitioning to everyday cooking presented new pressures. I couldn't just rely on indulgent meals every day anymore that were guaranteed to please. I had to come up with dishes that were full of flavor, but still healthy and satisfying.
That first dinner I made turned out to be a huge success. I threw together spicy sausage from our local grocery store and tossed it with onions, garlic, sweet mini bell peppers, asparagus, spices and red sauce. Dave was a happy man. This creation quickly made it's way to the top of our meal rotation as it satisfied many of our requirements - healthy, filling, a good serving of protein AND vegetables and wasn't too time consuming (for cooking or cleanup).
Since we are both in the market to make some more health-conscious decisions these days, I recently mixed things up and experimented with serving the sausage and veggies over spaghetti squash instead of pasta. It was a hit. And that says a lot for two carb-loving people. Check out the recipe below!
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1/2 large white onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 8-12 mini bell peppers
- 1 dozen asparagus spears
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 2 tsp thyme
- 1 lb spicy sausage*
- 1 jar red sauce*
For the spaghetti squash:
- CAREFULLY slice the squash in half, from end to end. Scoop out the seeds from the middle.
- Place on a tray, face up, into a preheated oven at 375 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool before scraping. The squash traps a lot of heat, so if you go to break it down before it cools off a bit, speaking from experience...you might burn your fingers off!
- Holding on to one end of the squash, use a fork to scrape at the insides. The squash will peel apart in a spaghetti-like shape. Transfer the squash to a bowl and set to the side. If you find any more seeds, you can either remove or keep them in there as they soften during the cooking process.
For the sauce:
- In a pan preheated to medium heat, drizzle in the olive oil. Add in the onions and garlic, and sauté for a few minutes until the onions become translucent, and the garlic becomes fragrant.
- Add the bell peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the asparagus and cook for another couple minutes. **You don't want to cook the veggies down too much at this point, otherwise they will become mushy by the time everything comes together!
- Season everything with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne and thyme.
- Add the chopped sausage to the pan and continue until the sausage is cooked throughout and no pink remains.
- Slowly (to avoid splatter!) pour in the pasta sauce. Stir everything together and allow the sauce to cook through for about 5 minutes.
- Give everything a good taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- Pour the sauce mixture over some spaghetti squash and you have a complete, healthy dinner!
*For all ingredients notated with an asterisk (*), ensure you are carefully reading labels and choosing a safe option, as many brands may have some sort of gluten within the ingredient lists.