Vegetable Spaghetti

Lori suggested I do a Veganuary column or columns.  Since I usually go healthier in January anyway, I thought this was a wonderful idea.  Then, I started this column and didn’t do vegan at all except the first recipe and that’s really just how to roast.  I am sorry.  Maybe next week.  I like my dairy products and eggs and seafood.  However, I was really good and didn’t eat the shrimp, Adrian did.  I did go with a vegetable main though and still low carb and healthy and so delicious!

This week, I went with spaghetti squash.  This is a winter vegetable and is in season and readily available.  It also has a nice, nutty flavor and is super easy to cook.  It’s a trifecta of perfection when it comes to choices-available, flavorful and easy!  

Spaghetti squash is an oval vegetable native to Central America.  The rind is firm and tough surrounding a thick flesh with the seeds gathered in the middle much like its cousin, the pumpkin.  It’s typically medium in size, about 5-8 pounds.  It has a mild flavor that easily absorbs the flavors used with it so it works well with just about anything.  It is known as spaghetti squash because the flesh inside, when cooked can be easily shredded into long, almost translucent ‘noodles’.  It does not taste like pasta however so if that’s what you are looking for, you will be disappointed. 

It is nutrient dense in just one cup while also being low in calories at just 42.  It does have 10 carbs so if you are watching carbs, just go light on how much you eat.  This cup has 2 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.  It also has moderate amounts of Vitamin C and B6, Manganese, Niacin and Potassium along with small amounts of thiamine, magnesium, folate, calcium, and iron.

Of course, there are other benefits to this vegetable.  The Vitamin C pulls double duty as an antioxidant.  It also includes beta carotene which also pulls multiple duty including also as an antioxidant.  Antioxidants are known to curb free radicals and reduce your risks of chronic diseases. The fiber is great for digestive health.  Fiber moves more slowly through your digestive system adding bulk to your stool and helping keep you regulated.  Fiber rich diets are supposed to help those suffering from diverticulitis, intestinal ulcers, hemorrhoids, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.  The low calorie count plus high fiber makes it a great option for those watching their calorie intake as well.  The fiber helps you feel full longer too.

Spaghetti squash is versatile and can easily be substituted for pasta in most dishes.  For those that prefer staying low carb, it’s something to add to the rotation with zucchini noodles so you don’t always eat the same thing every time you want something pasta like!  

When picking a squash, you want a firm, evenly yellow skin with few to no blemishes.  There are, however, some white or even orange varieties.  If you find those, just make sure the color is fairly even across the squash.  They can be stored, uncut, up to 6 months in a cool, dry place.  Stock up and save it for a rainy day!  One more thing to note.  This squash has a high moisture level.  You can either salt the squash to draw some of that out before roasting or, once roasted, leave it in a colander to drain a little if desired.  Make your grocery list, meet me in the kitchen and let’s enjoy ‘spaghetti’ of a different variety!

 

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

For each of these recipes, I started with this first.

1 spaghetti squash

Avocado oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut both ends off squash-just enough to give it a flat surface.  Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Make sure you use a sharp knife.  This is not really an easy task.  If you struggle with it too much, microwave whole squash for about 3 minutes to soften rind.  It will be much easier to cut this way.  Scoop out innards and seeds with a sturdy spoon. You will bend the spoon if it is not a good one.  Brush surface of flesh of both halves of squash with avocado oil.  Sprinkle each with salt and pepper to taste.  Place each half cut side down on prepared baking sheet.  Roast for 35-50 minutes or until flesh is tender when poked with a fork and it has reached your desired tenderness.  For crunchy noodles, roast 35 minutes. For al dente noodles, roast 40-45 minutes. For tender noodles, roast 50 to 55 minutes.  I roasted mine for about 45 minutes and it was perfect for me.  They were not crunchy, but they weren’t soggy either.  Once cool enough to handle, use fork to shred roasted flesh into strings. Now it’s ready for topping or even just eating!  I like spaghetti squash by itself as well!

 

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti

1.5lbs chicken breast, boneless skinless

1 tsp pink Himalayan salt

½ tsp black pepper

¼ cup butter

1 cup chicken broth

2 tsps. Italian seasoning

8oz cream cheese, softened for quicker melting

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup shredded roasted spaghetti squash per serving, approx.

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place in pot.  Add chicken broth, butter and Italian seasoning.  Lock lid in place and make sure valve is set to “sealing.” Select Poultry and cook for 10 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes once done and then release remaining pressure by moving valve to “venting.”  Press Cancel, then Sauté. Remove lid and transfer chicken to cutting board.  Add cream cheese and heavy cream to pot.  Shred chicken and return to pot.  Stir to combine and taste, season as desired if needed. Serve chicken and cream sauce over spaghetti squash and serve hot. 

 

Crab Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

1 half roasted spaghetti squash

16oz imitation crab meat

½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

8oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, or other cheese of choice

2 Tbsps. Ranch dressing powder, more or less to taste

½ cup Panko bread crumbs

2 tsps. garlic powder

1 egg

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Shred spaghetti squash and clean out flesh as much as possible, not too much though or the rind will split. It’s a fine balance. Add to bowl.  Add all ingredients to bowl and mix well to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Place mixture into rind of squash.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until heated through and egg is cooked. Serve hot. 

 

Shrimp Spaghetti with Garlic Butter Sauce

½ cup unsalted butter

2 tsps. minced garlic

12oz small shrimp

1 cup shredded spaghetti squash per serving, approx.

Melt butter over medium heat in large skillet.  Sauté garlic for 3-5 minutes or until fragrant.  Add shrimp in single layer and cook 2 minutes.  Flip shrimp and cook another 2-4 minutes or until pink and heated through.  Not too much or it will shrink even more. When it’s small to begin with, you don’t want it going any smaller. Plate shredded squash and top with shrimp and butter sauce.