Found in grocery stores – August through March – in several varieties, spaghetti squash is a cylinder-shaped winter vegetable with inside strands similar to thin strings of pasta. Think capellini or angel hair spaghetti. Yum! The stands are yellower than spaghetti and provides a sweet, mild flavor. Best of all, it can be baked, boiled, microwaved, or slow cooked in a crockpot.
How nutritious is the spaghetti squash? Very! Low in calories (42 per cup), low in fat (> 0.5g per cup), and low in carbs (10g per cup), it’s a great choice for weight-loss or weight-management plans. It is packed with vitamins A, B-6, and C plus the minerals potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium.
Ready to try it out? Below is one of favorite Italian dinner lineups for when I’m in the mood to indulge but don’t want the guilt. Make one or all! You can also top off your meal with your favorite bottle of Italian wine, a loaf of fresh whole wheat bread with olive oil, and espresso!
Italian Leafy Green Salad
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups romaine lettuce (torn, washed, and dried), 1 cup torn escarole, 1 cup torn radicchio, 1 cup torn red leaf lettuce, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, 1/2 red bell pepper (sliced into rings), 1/2 green bell pepper (sliced in rings), and 12 cherry tomatoes. Set aside. Whisk together the 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.
Italian-Style Spaghetti Squash
Half 2 pounds spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Place cut sides down in glass baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 8-10 minutes until tender and cool slightly. Meanwhile in large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add 1 red onion thinly sliced and cook for 3 minutes until onion is translucent. Add 1 diced zucchini and cook 4-5 minutes. Add 4 diced tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Using a fork, scrape squash into bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive. Spoon vegetable mixture over squash. Drizzle with more oil if desired. Garnish with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 lemon sliced. Other option is instead of the vegetables, top with Cucina Antica’s Tuscany Pumpkin Pasta Sauce found online or at a whole food grocery store.
Almond Biscotti with Greek Frozen Yogurt
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Chop 1/2 cup soaked and crisped almonds (pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts can be substituted) coarsely in the food processor or by hand, and set aside. In a dry food processor fitted with the “S” blade, grind 1 1/2 cups of your favorite sweetener (I use stevia) to a very fine powder. Add 1 2/3 cups almond meal, 1 cup arrowroot powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon unprocessed salt, and 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (optional buttery flavor). Spin it for a minute to a very fine powder. Open the lid, stir the bottom, replace the lid, and grind again until the powder is uniformly fine. To the dry ingredients in the food processor, add 3 eggs (at room temperature), 1 teaspoon guar gum (optional, for slightly less crumbling), 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, zest of 1/2 lemon or orange, 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional), and 1/2 teaspoon ground anise seeds (optional). Pulse the nuts in briefly so they’re evenly distributed but not mush. Coat your hands with a bit of coconut oil. Remove the dough from the food processor. Divide it into two equal parts and place on the baking sheets. Shape each piece into a rectangular log about 10 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1 inch thick at the thickest point. Bake for 20 minutes. If they begin to crack, remove from oven before they crack deeply. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes in the pan on a rack. With a sharp knife on a cutting board, carefully slice each log diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick biscotti or a bit thicker. Place each piece flat on its side on the baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 325°F. Turn over each slice and bake for 15 additional minutes, until slightly golden brown on the top. Transfer to a wire rack or a plate to cool. Serve after dinner with Healthy Choice’s vanilla bean Greek yogurt or enjoy with breakfast! Store extras in an airtight container.
A few more tips with the spaghetti squash. When selecting, be certain it is hard and surprisingly heavy for its size. Avoid squash with soft spots and green in color. Once home, store your spaghetti squash in a cool, dry place. You may also choose to freeze. After cutting, wrap the squash in plastic and store it in your refrigerator no more than two days.
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