— Virginia Woolf
I made perhaps one of the greatest discoveries in my adventure to eat well and take care of my pancreas. It comes in the variation from a pale ivory to a creamy orange tone (the more orange the better as the darker and richer the tone, the higher the carotene content) and is large, round and delicious.
I have fallen in love with Spaghetti Squash.
I had read about this strange vegetable before, but always been a little scared to try to make it. The Spaghetti Squash (not to be confused with the almighty Flying Spaghetti Monster) is a winter squash, containing seeds and when raw has a similar consistancy to others in the same family. However, when cooked properly, the innards become something of a softer consistency and retain a string-like quality similar to spaghetti. Hence the name!
What is great about this vegetable is it is a perfect fit as a replacement food for my pancreatic diet I’m forced into. Being low in calorie content - averaging 42 calories per cup - yet rich in flavor and nutrients, I am able to easily digest the squash and not miss some of my favorite foods. It packs a powerful punch full of folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and of course beta carotene. The squash has such a nice flavor, that it can be used as a substitute for virtually any grain. It’s great for noodles, rice, couscous or quinoa recipes. Tossed with a little olive oil, salt, a light cheese and you have a meal in itself! Another bonus? You can roast the seeds with a little salt, similar to pumpkin seeds, for a light snack.
What made me so nervous about trying the vegetable was the size. When it comes to squash, I’m sort of an amateur. I’m not a big pumpkin person; I can’t stand the consistency. However, I absolutely love the flavor of butternut squash, and my two staples in my diet if I’m looking for a base are zuchinni and summer squash. Those two variants are small, easy to cook and pretty self explanatory when you’re in the produce aisle. However, the Spaghetti Squash is a large, oblong shape that, if I had no clue as to what it was, I wouldn’t bother with it.
Surprisingly, it’s not difficult.
The first step is cutting the squash in half. This takes a lot more than I had originally expected. You need to make sure your knife is as sharp as it can be and be very patient when trying to cut the thick skin. I used a regular kitchen knife and it took me about 15 minutes to work the skin through. I imagine if I had better knives, I would have been able to rock that squash open.
Next, you need to remove the seeds and the soft strings holding them in place. You can either save the seeds to roast in the oven with a dash of salt and a brush of olive oil, or discard. The part of the squash you will be baking will be the rough, raw walls of the squash.
Make sure you have your oven preheated at 350 degrees. Place the two halves on a baking pan and cook them for 40 to 50 minutes in the oven. You will know they are ready when you can take a fork, and dig the squash out of the halves and it flakes away into spaghetti-like strings.
There are many ways to cook the squash. This is my first attempt and I will tell you, the oven is perfect. They have suggested microwaving, boiling and even using a crock pot, however, I would think that this would dilute the rich flavor.
It produces a lot of food, so be ready to use it in several recipes. Fresh from the oven, I used it as a base for the Thai chicken recipe I made. Using some of Maranatha’s Tahini Nut Butter as a substitute for the overly rich sauce that curries produce, it added such a creaminess to the Spaghetti Squash that I thought I was eating something I shouldn’t. Absolutely fabulous.
Last night, using a spray butter instead of a pat of butter, I covered the spaghetti squash in a light dose and sprinkled some mozzarella on top. I microwaved for 30 seconds, and voila! I was in late night hunger heaven.
I’m excited to try different pasta sauces that I have recipes for with it. I can only imagine what my light alfredo sauce and my homemade spaghetti sauce with do for the vegetable. On it’s own, the Spaghetti Squash is delicious as well. I can envision using it as a lighter base for fried chicken for my husband, as well a great addition to crab cake recipes.
I encourage everyone to look in their local markets produce. When and if I ever get a yard again, I might venture into the field of gardening just to have my own at a moment’s notice. I’m a horrible gardener, but as I have just become the biggest fan of the Spaghetti Squash, I might just have to learn!