Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baked Spaghetti Squash

In "dieting" circles, spaghetti squash is often bandied about as the next best thing, but I've never been able to get behind it.  I think I was soured to it as a kid when a pile of squash was plopped on my plate with a glob of jarred marinara & passed off as spaghetti.  Last night I decided to give it a second chance & I'm so glad I did.  Yum, yum!  This recipe was so delicious--probably because some of the calories saved by using squash instead of pasta were funneled into a little extra cheesy-goodness! 

Here's What You Need:
  • 1 medium raw spaghetti squash    
  • 1 pound uncooked lean ground beef (with 7% fat)    
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper    
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper    
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion   

  • 1 tsp minced garlic   

  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano   

  • 1/2 tsp dried basil   

  • 1/4 tsp table salt   

  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper   

  • 2 1/2 cups 2% milk reduced fat Colby Jack cheese   

  • 14 1/2 oz canned diced tomatoes, well drained  

Here's What You Do:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Place squash on a baking sheet, and bake 40 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat, cool, and shred pulp with a fork.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a casserole dish.
  4. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground beef until evenly brown. Drain, and mix in the green pepper, red pepper, red onion, and garlic. Continue to cook and stir until vegetables are tender.
  5. Mix the shredded squash and tomatoes into the skillet, and season with oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir until heated through. Remove skillet from heat, and mix in 2 cups cheese until melted. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish.
  6. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and continue baking 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.  Makes 6 servings.

Here's What I Learned That May or May Not be Useful:
  • I was skeptical, but I plunked the whole squash into the oven with a couple of slits poked into it.  It was a lot easier than trying to halve a raw squash & it worked--without having to add any butter or cooking spray to the cut edges! 
  • I cooked the squash in the afternoon & then left it out on the counter to cool until evening when I was ready to assemble the whole meal.  It was a rare piece of planning ahead that really paid off--I didn't burn my fingers trying to shred scalding squash!
  • Next time I will drain the tomatoes REALLY thoroughly.  I poured some of the liquid off just using the can as a strainer, but next time I will drain the tomatoes in a mesh strainer.  All of the veggies gave off plenty of liquid & mine was a little soupy.
  • I can't vouch for it from experience yet, but it seems like something that will freeze well.  We had 4 servings left over so we packaged them up as 1 lunch portion & 1supper for the family.  Time will tell if its deliciousness can handle freezing & re-heating.
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