If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you may remember when Pinterest™ first got ahold of me. As if Facebook™ stalking wasn’t enough of a time-suck for me, I now had a new way to catalog and categorize my life and all the cool things I’m interested in! I was learning so many ways to clean, organize, cook, parent, and basically rule the world via pinboard! YES! It was a beautiful time. It was also around the time I became enamored with the “crescent roll.” Its flaky goodness, its affordability and easy to pop can, and best of all, it’s many uses. You see, the versatility of a food (or any item, really) is what attracts me to it and impresses me most. I am of the school of thought that the more things one can accomplish with any single object, the more value that object holds. Behold my new favorite versatile miracle-meal-maker– the spaghetti squash. Not to be mistrusted or underestimated, it is neither spaghetti, nor squash. Stay with me…
Spaghetti squash is a big, yellow, gourdish creature, resembling somewhere between a regular yellow squash and a pumpkin. But after you cook it, whether you choose to boil, broil, bake, or grill (Yes, you can take your pick!), you then shred it with a fork and it becomes a noodle-like pile of versatile vegetable goodness! It’s mild flavor fools kids (and immature husbands) into thinking they are eating the starchy garbage they love– but it’s SQUASH. There are countless ways to prepare it, season it, serve it, even hide it! It can be a sweet dish, or a savory one. It can be a stand-alone side dish, or an ingredient or layer mixed in. I am not kidding when I say that this vegetable could rule the world… if it had thumbs and were so inclined. The spaghetti squash is not paying me to promote it… and I have more.
My favorite way (ie. the simplest way) to cook the spaghetti squash is to split the sucker open length-ways raw, scoop the seeds out (think jack-o-lantern), paint the insides with olive oil and place them open face down on a baking sheet, and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Once they cool, you can scoop out the stringy stuff and have your way with it. One side of it yields enough for my family to have as a side dish at dinner, so I like to set the other half aside to use for the next few days for various dishes. You can either go ahead and scoop it out now and store it in a plastic container, or just cover with foil (like a split melon) and scoop out what you need as you go. Here are 10 ideas I have come up with for enjoying the cooked spaghetti squash–Some I have tried, and some I have only speculated.
1. Simply saute with your favorite seasonings. I did a butter, Parmesan, and parsley medley, much like you would do with noodles, and it was a definite crowd-pleaser. I followed this recipe from Pinterest.™ (Go figure!) But I say anything goes– use what you like! Garlic and onion? Rosemary and goat cheese? Mushroom and spinach? Blackbeans and cajun seasoning?
2. Use as a topping on your homemade pizza. I seasoned the shreds with garlic powder and spread a thin layer on top of the sauce layer, so it hid nicely under the cheese. If your kids balk at trying new things, they’ll never know it’s there. It was delicious!
3. Treat it like yams. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a few dabs of butter or margarine and bake. Delicious and sweet, but still a veggie!
4. Top with pasta sauce of your choice. As the name suggests… substitute for spaghetti noodles under marinara, meat sauce, alfredo, pesto…
5. Stretch out that half pint of leftover lo mein. Throw your leftover takeout in a large pan and mix in spaghetti squash. Not only have you somewhat “healthified” your junk, you’ve turned it into enough food to suffice as supper for two! I actually did this with leftover Pancit, and it was spectacular.
6. Replace your lettuce on tacos. <Of course you would use it cold for this.> I have not tried this yet, but I plan to. Spaghetti squash is far more nutrient-rich than shredded iceberg lettuce. Or you could also chop it and season it with taco seasoning and replace your rice.
7. Replace the rice in your favorite casserole. This is another anything goes strategy. Whatever go-to casserole you throw together with a rice and condensed soup base can be done with spaghetti squash instead of rice. With only 4 net carbs per half-cup serving, it’s perfect for carb counters!
8. Put in an omelet for breakfast. I did this the other morning with some tomato, red onion, and dill. You can use the squash shreds in place of cheese to cut calories or as a wonderful complement to cheese, my obvious choice. As long as it’s not store brand slices… need we go there again?
9. As a “bed” for baked chicken or fish. Instead of pasta, rice, orzo, etc… a bed of lemon-pepper seasoned spaghetti squash is delish under a chicken breast or tilapia filet. This is one of my favorites because it adds sophistication for dinner guests, but it was no harder or more expensive than using one of the more typical staples.
10. As a “pasta” salad style side dish. Instead of cooked noodles, you could toss your favorite typical pasta salad ingredients with spaghetti squash and italian dressing and serve cold. SO EASY! My favorite medley has chunky cucumbers, grape tomatoes (halved), black olives (halved), and crumbled feta.
NOTES: The spaghetti squash I purchased last week was a large one, and it cost me $5.01. I was, at first, dismayed at the five dollar price tag on one vegetable. However, one half of that squash was the primary side dish for supper that night for three adults and two children. And the other half stretched out over the next four days of experimental snacks and ingredients. Well worth five bucks, in my opinion!
PLEASE COMMENT ON THE POST any recipes or ideas you have tried with spaghetti squash!