Edmonds Healthy Eating: Skip the pasta and enjoy spaghetti squash casserole

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Spaghetti squash
After microwaving, use a fork to flake the squash flesh from the skin into long strands.

I absolutely love the fall. I grew up in the Midwest and spent almost 20 years living in New England — both are places that have spectacular autumns full of colorful trees. My last residence before I moved to Edmonds was Burlington, Vermont—yes, indeed the leaves were brilliant. Leading hikes for visiting “leaf peepers” was always fun.

I also love this time of year because the farmers’ markets are bursting with produce that I adore. Root vegetables; greens; squash of every color, shape and size and lovely heirloom potatoes. For me this means the beginning of casserole and soup season. There is nothing more satisfying than taking time on a free Sunday to make a large pot of soup or a big casserole that helps make dinnertime during the week quick and easy. Just add a salad and perhaps some warm bread — instant and nutritious supper.

I have been experimenting with using vegetables for noodles. I have tried using grated zucchini instead of noodles with some success, although I have to admit that I prefer to harvest this vegetable when it is very young, small and deliciously tender. If the zucchini gets big then I just use it for healthy wholegrain muffins. This time of year my go to alternative is Spaghetti Squash. It’s easy to prepare and you can use it with your favorite marinara sauce for a main or side dish. Recently I used it in an Italian themed casserole. Like so many recipes, you can use what you have on hand and make this fit your palate. If you like spice consider adding red pepper flakes. You can experiment with different cheeses. You can even use a different flavor profile. Make it Mexican, Spanish, Mediterranean, or Middle Eastern using different spices. Make this your own and it will become a quick go-to casserole that will take advantage of the lovely squash coming in from the local farms.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Bake off your squash by cutting it half, scraping out the seeds and putting it in a baking dish flesh side down with about 1/2″ of water. Microwave for about 12-15 minutes. (Time may vary depending on your microwave.) Let it rest and then use a fork to flake the squash flesh from the skin into long strands. Lightly salt and drain out any excess water if necessary. You’ll be left with the shell of the squash, which you can discard or compost.

Spray or butter a casserole baking dish. Put flaked squash into the baking dish and create an even layer. In a pan, saute chopped onions, roasted red pepper, and garlic until tender. As an option you can add ground meat, sausage or cannellini beans to the pan. Add parsley, basil and oregano as well as some black pepper. To spice things up, add crushed red pepper flakes. Add tomato-based pasta sauce at this point and let things simmer. Pour this over the squash in the baking dish. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese (or Mozzarella) cheese…..or the cheese of your choice. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until it is bubbly. When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle toasted pine nuts over it. Serve with warm garlic bread and a nice green salad. Buon Appetito!

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder Formal PortraitDeborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and currently chef assists at PCC Cooks and NuCulinary Cooking School. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

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