This past Thanksgiving week, my husband and I have been camping. It was nice to get away and be in the peace and quiet. We stayed at a national forest campground called Laguna in mountains of San Diego county. The weather was perfect, reaching into the low seventies. The area has really nice hiking and biking trails that are mostly flat with a variety of lengths. We enjoyed a couple different trails. The scenery is beautiful, and we even encountered a couple surprises. One morning a bobcat spotted us and scurried away to a safe distance. Then on another hike, we stopped at the side of the path for a drink of water, and found an Indian grinding stone was beneath our feet. Fun to imagine women gathering together to prepare of a day’s meal. Not really a kitchen as we would see it, but a party happened all the same as they sat together to make flour out of acorns and seeds.
I have posted before about how we do camp food. I am all about “if you are what you eat, then I want to eat the good stuff.” Our meals this past week have been great. Roasted Pork Mole, Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, and Chicken Cacciatore have made their way to our stomachs. Yum. Last night, we enjoyed a baked pasta dish that had been lightened up, like in the case of Enlightened Mac and Cheese for my last post, with the addition of cauliflower. Don’t be alarmed. It turned out quite delicious and for an added twist we baked it, like all the other recipes on our menu, in a Dutch oven over coals. (Gotta have the camping experience somehow.) No Dutch oven? Your regular oven works just fine.
Baked Shells and Cauliflower with Meat Sauce
• 1 pound lean ground beef, I used 9% fat
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 8-ounce container mushrooms, sliced
• 1 24-ounce pasta sauce
• ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 ¼ cup medium pasta shells
• 4 cups (approx. ½ head) cauliflower, cut into small florets (about the same size as the pasta.)
• 1 10-ounce frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, placed between paper towels, and liquid squeezed out
• ½ cup ricotta, I used part-skim
• ¾ cup shredded Italian cheese blend, I used reduced fat
1. In large skillet, cook ground beef with salt over medium heat. When finished, transfer to medium bowl.
2. Return skillet to medium heat, add mushrooms. Sauté, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have released their liquid, about 5-7 minutes.
3. To mushrooms add pasta sauce, red pepper flakes, spinach, and reserved beef. Simmer to mingle flavors, about 10 minutes.
4. Cook shells according to package instructions in a medium pot.
5. Add cauliflower to pasta during last 3 minutes of cooking time.
6. Stir pasta mixture into sauce mixture. Transfer to baking dish.
7. Spoon ricotta by small teaspoons over the pasta.
8. Bake at 375F until bubbly around the edges, about 25 minutes.
9. Sprinkle with cheese blend, and bake until cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
Note: If cooking in 10 inch Dutch oven, line the oven with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Add pasta/sauce mixture, top with ricotta. Cover with lid. You will need 23 hot coals: 16 on top and 7 on the bottom. Cook, rotating oven and lid every 15 minutes. After a half hour, added Italian cheese blend and cook 10 minutes more. This method gives the dish an added smoky flavor. Enjoy.
I get way too much happiness from good food.
Update: In case you were wondering about how weight loss was going with Weigh Watchers, I have now lost sixteen pounds. All the food I cooked while camping was Weight Watcher friendly AND delicious. You can’t beat eating the good stuff. This recipe is 8 Smart points for 1 1/2 cups when using fat free pasta sauce and reduced fat cheese.