Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

I found out about spaghetti squash a long time ago in one of my failed attempts at vegetarianism as a teenager. I think it was my mom who told me about it. It is an extremely versatile vegetable... it takes very little to prepare and is mild enough that it can be combined with a lot of different flavour combos. It's healthy, cheap and low calorie and best of all.. it can mimic the consistency of pasta.

So a little background on the benefits of eating spaghetti squash. It is a winter squash so this post may be a bit out of date... I thought to write about it now because it seems like grocery stores are in abundance of winter squash right now and considering the weather this week, it really didn't seem out of line to make a 'wintery' dish. Spaghetti squash is loaded in vitamin A and C, fibre, and they are one of the best sources of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene on the planet. They are also a decent source of omega-3's, antioxidants and phyto nutrients.. all things that are good to have a on regular basis. 

There is about 75 calories in one cup of cooked squash. One normal spaghetti squash can feed 3-4 people as a side dish. 
Stabbing is a requirement of squash prep. Take your aggression out

There are many different ways to cook up squash. You can roast it, boil it, steam it, microwave it or bake it. As a kid I always got mine pre-cut from the grocery store (if they aren't sold this way you can ask someone there to cut it length-wise for you). Then I would always microwave it. It seems to be the fastest way to make a quick dinner. Now, I always roast or bake.. I now know how much better a little patience can be with vegetables. I am pretty sure that all vegetables taste better roasted and/or baked over microwaved.

So... how to cook spaghetti squash:

Microwave: Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place flesh-sde down on a plate or microwavable casserole. Pour water onto the plate so that it covers the bottom. Cook on high for 5-8 minutes. If you can peirce the rind with a fork or knife easily, it is done

Bake: Pierce the squash with a sharp pairing knife around the squash so that steam can vent. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the squash on a baking sheet. Cook for about 45 minutes or until squash can be easily pierced with a knife.

Now, you got your squash cooked, split it in half vertically and scoop out the seeds. Now take a fork and scrape lengthwise on the flesh of the squash it will easily start to shred and look like spaghetti.

What to do with spaghetti squash? You can just eat it as is. You could make it into spaghetti style dish and add marinara and some vegetables. Another great way is to add butter and garlic and saute it with the squash.

Today I felt like putting together a bit of a stir fry.

Spaghetti Squash Stir Fry
Makes 2 servings, 45 minutes for the squash and 15 minutes for the stir fry.

  • 1 cooked spaghetti squash
  • 1 handful of mushrooms of your choice, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup of greens of choice (I used collards and kale, mixed)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp Pumpkin seeds
First cook the squash, seed and scrape to get all the flesh out and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the greens and continue to saute  for another 10 minutes.
these are just some of the veggies I had on hand tonight.
You really could use anything you want.
Last add the tomatoes, basil and squash. Mix well and cook until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with pumpkin seeds.

has a little bit of everything, but the squash holds this dish together

This was a tricky one to picture well. Spaghetti squash seems to photograph a little mushy, but if you get the right flavours going, it will taste great. Spaghetti squash is good on its own, but they made it a great side and also a pretty good lunch the next day. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cold Soba Noodle Salad

It has not been easy to blog lately. Not because I haven’t had anything to share, I just can seem to get focused enough to get to a computer and write after sitting in front of a computer all day. Every time I take a hiatus I pretend like that is the last one, but let’s face it. This won’t be the last one. However, if anyone is still reading I’ll keep trying to post!

I wrote a while back about a mango salad that I love from a Thai restaurant in Edmonton. Then I made my own version of it… and I forgot immediately that I did that and made another version. Similar flavours, but slightly different too including a different grain. I tried cooking with soba noodles not long ago and was amazed at how much I loved them. They are a nice change from regular pasta and although they look like pasta and they taste kind of like pasta, I seem to only want to put them in more Asian-style dishes. Not quite sure why. Main reasons why I like this dish is that it is good cold and at room temperature which is great when I am taking things to work or while travelling; and there is very little labour time involved. If you happen to be a lucky person with a mandolin, bring it out for this one and you will have the veggies ready in a couple minutes. If I had a mandolin I would have julienned the cucumber, but after chopping the mango, I lost all interest and just sliced it. This salad could also have different fruit in it. Pineapple comes to mind as a good one.

Normally I pick out an ingredient and find some info on the nutrients on it, but I am trying something new. New as in I am actually attempting to get the nutritional information for some of my recipes.  I have never paid a whole lot of attention to the nutritional info. Most things that I cook are made from whole ingredients and I think are pretty healthy. Some things definitely are not, but really, who wants a healthy cookie anyways? A few weeks ago, a friend was arguing with me about vegans not being able to get proper nutrients in their diets. Personally, I thought this was bullshit, especially coming from a person that lives for junk food and doesn’t cook more than once a month. So I decided to log what I ate for a week and see where I stood. The results were mostly expected, but a few things surprised me:
  1. I don’t get enough vitamin C – How is that possible? I eat fruit and vegetables every day. I looked a little closer at my diet and I actually don’t eat a lot of fruit and veg that is high in vitamin C. I also don’t drink juice. Some days I get enough, but I think because this is the vitamin that most people get too much of, I just wasn't thinking it should be monitored. I guess I was wrong!
  2. I don’t always get enough Calcium: This one I was not as shocked at. Before going vegan I drank more milk than most families do. I was getting more than my fill of calcium. When I stopped, I replaced milk with water and never thought about making sure I was getting enough calcium the week I did this food diary I was also being a little lazy and not eating a lot of greens. If I eat greens every day, I see to be fine.. Something to remember the next time I think about not buying greens to save a buck.

  3. I don't get enough vitamin D – Another problem that comes from switching to a vegan diet. This vitamin is trickier to get as a vegan. Easiest way to get it is to go outside. During the time of logging what I ate, I was riding my bike outside and that wasn't calculated here. When I am not going outside (you only need 15 minutes), I will need to remember to drink orange juice and non-dairy milk that is fortified with it.

  4. Selenium – Seems I was low on this one too. Normally I eat a lot of grains, so I am rarely deficient. However, it is a reminder than this is another vitamin that seems to be easier to get from non-vegan sources. If you are eating your whole grains though, you’ll get enough. Mushrooms and sunflower seeds are a good source as well.
Most nutrients and vitamins I was getting more than my recommended daily intake. Not so much that I was getting too much, so this was good. Watching closely what I ate for a week was a little time invasive, but it reminded me how vegan diets are really only good when I am eating healthy. Like any diet really. Regardless of being vegan, if I don’t eat a lot of whole grains, vegetables and fruit, I will start to become deficient. Honestly if I eat enough whole foods to get the proper vitamins, I don’t want junk anyways… thinking there may be something to this way of thinking. It’s been a few weeks since I have logged what I ate, so I am going to try another week and see if knowing the areas I tend to be deficient if it will be enough to get me more on track.

With all of that said, here is the recipe for my soba noodle salad. It has vegetables, fruit and whole grain.

Cold Soba Noodle Salad
3-4 servings, takes about 45 minute, most of this is inactive
  • -          2 bundles of soba noodles (6 oz.)
  • -          2 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • -          Scant ½ cup of rice vinegar
  • -          2 Tbsp. sugar
  • -          1 Tbsp. Lime juice
  • -          Rind of one lime
  • -          1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • -          ½ jalapeno, chopped fine or 1-2 tsp. of chili flakes
  • -          ½ small red onion sliced very thin (not pictured, I added it after the fact)
  • -          ½ long English cucumber sliced on the diagonal (Can peel, but don’t have to)
  • -          1 mango, peeled and julienne
  • -          2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • -          ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • -          ¼ cup chopped salted peanuts
  • -          Extra lime slices (optional)
  • -          Chopped cilantro (optional)

Get two pots and fill the large one with water for the soba noodles and bring to a boil. While you are waiting, put the vinegar and sugar into a small sauce pot and heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. At this point the water should be boiling. Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions (about 3-4 minutes). In the sauce pot, add in the onion, garlic, jalapeno lime and oil and stir well to combine. Let this cook for a couple minutes. When everything is done, strain the soba noodles very well and put them in a large bowl. Pour the sauce over top of it and stir very well to combine. Put the noodles in the fridge and let them cool for about a half hour or so.
Making the dressing..

Careful with these noodles, you want them al dente.
They can over-cook very easily!

When the noodles are cold, chop up the mango, cucumber, mint, basil and peanuts. Add it all to the salad and stir well. This salad is best if you can let it stand for a while and let the ingredients meld, but could be eaten right away. Serve with extra lime and/or chopped cilantro

Nutrition Facts
User Entered Recipe
  3 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Total Fat
15.5 g
  Saturated Fat
2.2 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat
5.8 g
  Monounsaturated Fat
6.7 g
0.0 mg
47.8 mg
331.3 mg
  Total Carbohydrate
42.7 g
  Dietary Fiber
3.1 g
19.5 g
6.7 g

  Vitamin A
15.5 %
  Vitamin B-12
0.0 %
  Vitamin B-6
10.6 %
  Vitamin C
47.8 %
  Vitamin D
0.0 %
  Vitamin E
10.9 %
3.0 %
10.0 %
11.1 %
5.0 %
10.7 %
28.9 %
12.8 %
  Pantothenic Acid    
5.5 %
8.4 %
5.1 %
2.1 %
11.6 %
4.4 %