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The Pasta Alternate: Spaghetti Squash

I have visions of my Mother trying to convince me that the plate of strings in front of me tastes great and that I should just try it and see. It seems to me that my six-year old self was not convinced.  Times have changed though. My view of what is edible and what is not has matured. Today as a grown up, I am willing to give it another try. I might have to hold my nose to get it down, but let’s explore spaghetti squash today together. Join me to discover the joys of spaghetti squash.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A SPAGHETTI SQUASH?

Despite spaghetti squash receiving a bad name from me in my youth, there are lots of great reasons to add it into your diet today. The spaghetti squash is a winter squash, with a hard, yellow outer shell.  It is filled with large seeds and when ripe, the flesh is firm. When the flesh is cooked though, it falls apart into thin strands, giving it the appearance of spaghetti, hence the name. While I should have been in my glory at the prospect of eating this mild, pasta-like delicacy, I still had some learning to do.

NUTRIONAL BENEFITS OF SPAGHETTI SQUASH

The nutritional benefits of spaghetti squash make this vegetable a must have for anyone on a carbohydrate-reduced diet. They are low in calories, contain folic acid, potassium, protein, vitamin A and C, dietary fibre, omega-3 essential and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as being low in carbohydrates and having no cholesterol. In fact, for those counting their carbs, its similarity to spaghetti when cooked, makes it a superb alternate, as comparatively they are much lower in calories and carbohydrates.  With spaghetti squash, you can have your spaghetti, without worrying about your waistline.

PREPARATION & STORING OF SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Spaghetti squash are easy to store and simple to prepare. Being a winter squash, they need to be kept in a cool, dark place until ready to be used. You then cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and cook as desired. They taste great boiled, baked, roasted, or even microwaved. Once cooked, a fork can be run through the squash, to separate it into strands. It can then be added to any of your favorite pasta recipes. Likewise, similar to other squashes, they take well to sweetening. Nutritious and versatile, the spaghetti squash deserves a spot in your kitchen.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH RECIPES

 

Spaghetti Squash with Herbs

INGREDIENTS:
1 spaghetti squash (about 4 pounds), halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 tablespoon packed light-brown sugar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup blanched hazelnuts (1 ounce), toasted and coarsley chopped

DIRECTIONS:
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush cut sides of squash with oil, and sprinkle with sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Place squash, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet.
-Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly on sheet on a wire rack, about 10 minutes.
-Scrape squash with a fork to remove flesh in long strands. Place in a large bowl. Add oil, Parmesan, parsley, cilantro, hazelnuts, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Toss, and serve immediately.

Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp or Scallops

INGREDIENTS:
1 med. spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs.)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 lb. shrimp, shelled and cleaned (or scallops)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 sm. tomatoes, chopped
1 lg. bunch watercress or 1/2 bag spinach, washed
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts (optional)
1 c. crumbled Feta or grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:
-Cut squash lengthwise; bake face down on oiled cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until easily pierced by fork.
-Cool; scoop out insides.
-Heat oil and saute garlic. Add shrimp, lemon juice, and spices.
-Saute, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and watercress or spinach and cook 1 minute longer until vegetables are wilted.
-Add pine nuts and cheese and toss with squash. Serve heaped in squash shells or individual casseroles. Makes 2 generous servings.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups cooked spaghetti squash
2 lbs browned ground beef (lean)
2 cups spaghetti sauce
3 cups cottage cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS:
-cut spaghetti squash in half length-wise; remove seeds
-add 2 TBS water to the seed cavity, cover the squash with cling wrap and microwave for 8-10 minutes.
-Let set for 2 minutes; take a fork and pull down the insides of the squash. The flesh will come off in spaghetti like strands.
-Place cooked spaghetti squash strands in casserole dish
-Layer remaining ingredients in dish making sure to end with sprinkle of cheese on top
-Place in oven for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted and lasagna is hot all the way through.

VIDEO


This short video taken at Premiere Fitness Camp’s weight loss retreat illustrates another great use of spaghetti squash. Enjoy!

SOURCES

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/spaghetti-squash-nutrition.html
http://www.carbs-information.com/carb-vegetables/spaghetti-squash.htm
http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/spaghetti-squash-recipes#slide_2
http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1945,155167-255195,00.html
http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=402958

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