Featured Item–Spaghetti Squash
I’ve been slow to come around to spaghetti squash. To be honest, I haven’t hesitated because it doesn’t taste good. I’ve dragged my feet because it is touted to be like spaghetti and, well, I guess I always preferred real spaghetti to the somewhat mushy strands that are meant to be it’s substitute (as a veggie sub option, I prefer zucchini noodles instead).
It wasn’t until I stopped trying to think of spaghetti squash as pasta that I really came around to this winter squash. It’s uses are far more versatile than simply tossing with marinara and cheese (although that option is not bad per se, especially for those advised to avoid pasta in their diet. Pasta has over 100 calories per serving and upwards of 30 grams of carbohydrates. Spaghetti squash has only 20 calories per serving, significantly less carbohydrates, and even some protein as well as vital micronutrients and vitamins).
Spaghetti squash is a winter squash variety named spaghetti squash, or noodle squash, because of its noodle like strands and its mild flavor, which is thought to echo the mild backdrop of pasta in pasta dishes. It is an oblong squash with a hard skin like other varieties of winter squash. It originated in China and gained popularity in the US after WWII.
Like other winter squash, spaghetti squash contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients like antioxidants. It is a good source of vitamins A, C an B complex, as well as beta carotene and several essential minerals. It even contains a healthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 essential fatty acids and boasts some fiber content. However, it is low in fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium.
As I mentioned, spaghetti squash can be eaten in many ways. According to Dr. Mercola, it can be eaten raw, but I’ve never tried it that way. It can also be cooked, shredded into strands and added to soups/stews or dressed up and served as a side dish or salad. Like other squash, it can be stuffed and twice baked. You can even make a paleo gluten free pizza crust out of it (click here for recipe), or eat it as a kind of porridge for breakfast! (see recipe below)
The easiest way I have found to prepare spaghetti squash for recipes is to roast or steam it in halves. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the ends off the squash. Cut the squash into halves lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds and loose pulp. If you keep scraping hard, you will eventually start releasing the strands of the flesh, so just be careful to remove only the seeds and loose pulp for now.
To steam the squash halves, place them in a steamer insert set over boiling water and steam until a knife easily goes through both halves. To roast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Place about a 1/2-inch of water in casserole dish and place squash halves cut side down in water. Cover tightly with foil. Bake about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a knife goes easily through the halves. Allow cooked squash to cool somewhat and then using a fork, scrape from the top of the squash to the bottom, loosening the strands, until you hit the outer skin. Place strands in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
The following gratin recipe is an absolutely delicious way to use both spaghetti squash and cherry tomatoes
- - 1 large spaghetti squash
- - ¼ cup raw cashews, soaked for 4-6 hours, then drained well
- - ⅓ cup water
- - ¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
- - ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- - 2 large organic, pastured eggs
- - 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- - 1 tablespoon organic cultured butter or salted butter
- - 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- - 1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
- - salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400℉. Cut off both ends of spaghetti squash with a sharp knife. Then cut in the middle crosswise. Scoop out seeds and undesirable inner pulp (up to where the spaghetti strands start). Place about ½” water in a casserole dish. Place squash, hollow side down, in dish and then cover dish tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour or until squash is tender throughout. Remove from the oven. Remove foil and allow to cool.
- Place cashews, water, gorgonzola, and salt in a blender or small food processor. Blend until smooth and thick. Add eggs and blend on low speed just to combine well. Set aside.
- Once squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to release spaghetti strands from rind. Place the spaghetti-like pulp into a sieve. Squeeze or press out as much water from the squash as you can and drain well. Place drained squash in a bowl. Add cashew/egg mixture and stir in well.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350℉. Spray or brush a casserole dish with oil. Turn out squash mixture into dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Once squash mixture has baked for about 15 minutes, start cherry tomato topping. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic, and cook, stirring constantly for once minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft and plump but still retain their shape. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour tomato mixture over cooked gratin. Serve while hot.
The following recipe is the first time I’ve ever tried winter squash for breakfast. I have to admit, it was absolutely delicious. So I wanted to share the recipe again this year. It is a great way to add in some husk cherries and fresh picked raspberries to a meal. If you need even more protein in your breakfast, try stirring in some vanilla flavored protein powder.
Spaghetti Squash Porridge w/ Raspberries, Husk Cherries & Walnuts
– 3/4 cup cooked, shredded spaghetti squash strands
– 1/4 cup light or regular coconut milk
– 1/4 cup halved husk cherries
– 1/5 cup fresh raspberries, or more to taste
– 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
– 1-2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, optional
Place squash, coconut milk, husk cherries and raspberries in a medium bowl. Stir gently. Heat in a microwave for about 1 to 1 min 15 seconds or until porridge is heated through. Pour into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with walnuts and drizzle with maple syrup, if using. Serve immediately.
This warm spaghetti squash salad is simply addictive. Try it before the cherry tomatoes are gone!
Warm Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash Salad Serves 6
– 1 medium spaghetti squash
– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 2 medium leeks, white parts only
– 2 cloves garlic, pressed
– 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
– 1/4 cup thinly sliced pitted Kalamata olives
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
– 3 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
– 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, optional
1. Preheat oven to 400℉. Carefully cut squash in half lengthwise. With a spoon scrape out seeds and loose pulp and discard. Fill a glass casserole dish with about 1-inch water. Place squash halves in water cut side down. Cover tightly with foil. Place in preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a knife can be inserted easily through the squash. Remove from oven and remove foil. Remove squash halves to a plate and allow to cool. Once cool, “shred” the spaghetti squash by running a fork across the flesh to loosen the strands. Place in a bowl while you prepare the rest of the dish.
2. Thinly slice leeks and place in a large bowl or the basket of a salad spinner. Using your hands break of the disks into smaller pieces of leeks. Cover with water and gently swish leeks around to remove dirt. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes. Carefully lift out leeks (or the spinner basket). Dry with a towel or spin in the salad spinner to remove excess water.
3. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Pour three tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in pan and allow it to heat. Add dried leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until leeks become very soft, about 20 minutes. If they start to brown before they get real soft, reduce temperature and keep cooking. You can also try adding a little bit of water to help the leeks soften.
4. Once leeks have softened add spaghetti squash, crushed cloves of garlic, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until squash is heated and cherry tomatoes have warmed through but have not yet begun to burst and release their juices (about 5-10 minutes). Remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt, oregano, and white wine vinegar and stir in well. Stir in feta if desired. Serve immediately.
What about that round zucchini? Try this classic healthier chocolate zucchini cake recipe I make every year. When shredding the round zucchini, shred around the edges of the zucchini, avoiding the middle where the large seeds are.
Healthier Triple Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake Serves 20
– 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons avocado oil
– 1 3/4 cups sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
– 1 teaspoon vaniila extract
– 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
– 1 cup white whole wheat flour
– 1/2 cup good quality Dutch Process Cocoa, like Drost
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
– 1 cup bittersweet baking chocolate chips, like Ghirardelli 60% cocoa
– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 X 13 cake pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave chopped chocolate in 10-15 second intervals at 50% power, stirring well after each interval, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat oil, sugar, applesauce and vanilla on medium-low speed for 1 minute. With mixer on low, gradually add melted chocolate (mixture may look curdled). Add eggs, one at time, mixing just until incorporated. Alternate adding buttermilk and flour mixture on low, mixing just until combined before continuing. Do not overbeat.
5. With a spatula, fold in zucchini and chocolate chips until incorporated. Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter evenly and smoothing top.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour or serve warm.
Most supermarkets now carry King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat Flour. This flour has all the nutritional properties as regular whole wheat flour, but leads to more tender baked goods.