Roasted Butternut Squash with Red Pepper Ragu

Comfort food is not the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of alternative diets, but this Whole30 compliant meal is the ultimate in comfort. It might just be that I haven’t eaten pasta in five months, but the creamy texture of the butternut squash was more satisfying than I remember pasta to be – and I felt healthy and energetic after eating it. None of that post-pasta sluggishness here!

20130710-175123.jpgTo make the sauce, I combined my favorite tried-and-true roasted red pepper sauce recipe with sautéed ground beef. When I make the red pepper sauce, I like to make a huge batch and save it in divided portions in the freezer. When I know I’ll need it, I move a portion to the fridge to defrost while I’m at work.

This is a great grain-free meal for anyone, whether you normally eat grains or not. And if you are grain-free, Paleo, or in the middle of a Whole30, this is the perfect meal for entertaining non-Paleo friends or getting your kids to enjoy a seriously healthy dish.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Red Pepper Ragu

Serves 4

1 large butternut squash halved and seeded
3 cups roasted red pepper sauce or Paleo spaghetti sauce of choice
1 lb. ground beef

If using homemade sauce, make your sauce before preparing the rest of the meal.

Place butternut squash halves face up on baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

While squash cools, brown ground beef in a skillet, adding the red pepper sauce when the meat is just cooked through. Stir until hot and bubbly and take saucepan off heat.

Remove skin from the squash and cut into small cubes, or use a small melon-baller to scoop out bite-sized pieces of squash. Serve covered with red pepper ragu.


Mayo-Free Tuna Melt

I try to avoid mayonaisse. I just don’t like the idea that the store bought version is so pumped with preservatives it stays good in the fridge for months, when without the preservatives it would go bad in a week! I suppose I could make my own at home, but since giving it up, I’ve found that it’s not really necessary, even in recipes where it seems like an essential ingredient. Case in point: the tuna melt.

A good tuna melt is such an amazing comfort meal. It always takes me back to my childhood and my mom’s delicious version, served on English muffins. I still love my mom’s recipe, but now I have my own take on the classic – and it’s mayo and gluten-free.

The key to making a good tuna melt without mayo is using a more tart cheese in place of the usual mozzarella or cheddar. I like to use pecorino. For the gluten-free base, you can use whatever is available in your area! I use slices of a rather dense gluten-free bread sold at Great Food Hall here in Hong Kong. It holds up well to the tuna mixture and doesn’t become soggy.


IMG_1995Mayo-Free Tuna Melt

Makes 4 Melts, Serves 2 Adults

1 can of tuna, about 180 grams

4 cloves garlic

1/2 yellow or red bell pepper

1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon dill

2- inch by 2-inch cube of pecorino cheese

4 slices dense gluten-free bread or English muffin halves

salt and pepper to taste


Saute the garlic and bell pepper in the olive oil with salt and pepper for about two minutes. Move the contents of the skillet into a mixing bowl. Add the tuna, yogurt, most of the cheese, and dill and mix well.

Butter the bread or English muffins and top each with 1/4 of the tuna mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cook in the toaster oven for 15 minutes, or in the oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese on top is slightly browned.

Fresh Design at M on the Bund

I’ve been really intrigued by design lately. Perhaps living in a furnished apartment has finally made me cry out for things that look the way I want them to look. When I was in Shanghai this weekend, my parents and I went to brunch at M on the Bund. The food is European with some Moroccan influences, and I thought that was reflected so well in the menu and tableware. Moroccan influenced design has always been a favorite of mine!

I suspected I was in for a treat when I saw the front of the menu…
…and I was right! So whimsical!20130612-085934.jpg
This teacup is so romantic, yet fresh.
20130612-090041.jpgThe set that came with my mom’s coffee was my favorite. It made me want to sit at the table all afternoon and just relax!
There were little postcards and promotional materials everywhere! Our waiter told us that the owner is a designer and created the menu and other designs for the restaurant. What I would give to be able to create things like that!