Microwaving Spaghetti Squash: A Skeptics Tale

I am not a fan of the idea of a massive spaghetti squash exploding in my microwave; this is one reason I’ve held off trying this method of cooking it for so long.

Also, I was skeptical that the texture of the squash would turn out correctly if microwaved, as i’ve never been a fan of preparing any vegetable in this way.

Well, I tried it, and the squash did not explode! And, to my delight (and surprise), the texture was as it should be: al dente and stringy.

There are some recipes that this method of cooking probably won’t work for: for example, when trying to obtain a crunchy or caramelized texture, as this isn’t the texture one will produce via this method of cooking.

For some dishes though, like in those that use the squash to replace pasta, this cooking technique will be a time saver; the microwaved squash mimics the texture of pasta wonderfully.

My favorite method to eat the squash–which the microwave method works perfectly for– is to simply shred it and top it with a hearty tomato sauce and parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast. Sometimes i’ll add vegetarian “meat” balls for extra protein.

If you want to save even more time: microwave the squash and store it shredded in the fridge. When you are ready to eat it, put the squash into a pan and it heat up with some good pasta sauce, and then serve it up!

The nutritional value of the spaghetti squash is also something to cheer about. And if you are looking for a great post workout or yoga meal, look no further!

I followed the directions for microwaving in the YouTube video “Spaghetti Squash 101” by Dani Spies of Clean & Delicious.

Step 1: After cleaning the squash, puncture it a few times with a knife. This step is important; it stops the squash from exploding in the microwave, which wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for you or your kitchen.

Step 2: You’ll want set the timer according to the size of the squash being microwaved. Spies suggests four to five minutes per pound of vegetable.

Step 3: Cut the squash open, do away with the seeds, and use a fork to remove the flesh; the spaghetti-like strands should form easily when you run a fork over it.

 

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

For the Hungry Yogi: Farro, Sweet Potato, and Pesto Salad

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Farro, sweet potato, and pesto, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and sea salt.

When I have a busy yoga schedule it can be hard to figure out how to feed myself a satisfying meal without weighing myself down on the mat.

If I need energy for an intense session, and I feel that a piece of fruit just isn’t going to cut it, I chow down on cold farro and sweet potatoes with vegan pesto and sea salt an hour or two before I head into the studio.

I usually bake some sweet potatoes to store in the fridge and I boil farro to stash away as well. This way, if I’m in an “I need food now” state if mind either before or after practice, I can just pick up some fresh vegan pesto from the store and put the dish together in no time.

The farro: I can’t remember when I was introduced to this nutritious ancient grain, but since it’s been in my life, I’ve loved it more than any other grain. Its delicious, nutty flavor, lends itself well to both hot dishes and cold salads, and it’s similar to pasta or rice in how versatile it is; the flavor and texture of farro is distinct, yet it can easily act as a base for many dishes. All you need to do to prepare the farro is to boil it in water.

The sweet potatoes: These are easy to make. I just scrub each one well, puncture the skin with a fork, and place the potatoes in the oven on some foil. Set the oven at a high temperature. The sweets are done when you can easily puncture the potatoes with a knife; the sugars will start caramelize.

The pesto: If you have time to make everything on the spot, creating your own pesto is very easy. The base of a traditional pesto is fresh basil, olive oil, salt, pepper, toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. All the ingredients are simply blended in a blender, a food processor, or with a mortar and pestle.

Today, I made my own pesto with a bit of kitchen improv, using some fresh spinach along with the small amount of basil I had in the fridge. It worked well. I used a blender to combine the following items:

  • Two garlic cloves
  • A good few pinches of sea salt
  • A few grinds of pepper
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • A few good glugs of olive oil
  • Lemon juice (about 3/4 of a lemon)
  • An absurd amount of greens (basil and spinach today). Because I love greens.
  • A good few sprinkles of nutritional yeast. WHAT IS NUTRITIONAL YEAST?! It’s not scary, I promise. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a great alternative to using parmesan, as it lends a similar flavor and it has no lactose. Those who are lactose intolerant know that parmesan is much lower in lactose than other cheeses, so if you can tolerate it, as many lactose intolerant people can, go for it! Add it right into the blender!

Pesto is one of those sauces that is easy to alter to suit your taste, just like dressing. If you like a bit more kick, use more garlic and lemon juice; season to your liking with salt and pepper; make the pesto thinner or thicker by adding more olive oil and/or greens.

If you are hitting your yoga mat in less than an hour, i’d suggest waiting to eat the meal until after. I’d snack on something light, like apples (or bananas) and peanut butter; dried fruit; some clean granola (and by that I mean not laden with sugars and fats) or even dark chocolate!

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

 

 

Golden, Sweet, Savory: Garlic and Olive Oil Sweet Potato Rounds

My mother made wonderful sweet potato fries when I was a youngster (i’m now an ancient 29 years old!), and these baked garlic and olive oil sweet potato rounds are my healthy alternative, and a homage, to her lovely, addictive, and indulgent crunchy fries.

The rounds are beautiful, golden-orange, nutrient-dense slices of potato that are crunchy and savory on the outside and soft, steamy, and sweet on the inside.

The healthy fats in the olive oil and the nutritional benefits of the sweet potato makes this a go-to dish for me during a busy week. I never get tired of them alongside a fresh salad, and they are phenomenal dipped in aioli, ketchup or Sriracha.

This dish isn’t necessarily quick to make; the rounds take a bit of time in the oven and they require a flip halfway through the cooking process. However, they aren’t labor intensive in terms of prep.

The sweet potatoes require scrubbing, slicing, and a tossing in good olive oil, sea salt, and garlic powder. The rounds are then spread out into rows on a foil lined baking sheet and popped into the oven. You don’t want the slices overlapping or they won’t crisp up properly.

You can personalize this dish, as it’s not an exact science. In the past i’ve added other spices such as chipotle (for a spicy smoky kick). Experiment with flavors you like that complement the sweet potato and any other dishes you are making for the night.

Note: My mother cringes that I use garlic powder in this dish. I can see the disgusted look on her face as she reads this. However, it really is delicious, and doesn’t burn like fresh garlic has the tendency to do in the oven. If you like, try substituting fresh, but this is how I’ve found the recipe works best!

Directions:

  1. Slice a rinsed and scrubbed sweet potato into rounds. If you can only find yams, that’s fine too; I’ve used both in this recipe. However, according to Livestrong.com, sweet potatoes trump yams slightly in terms of nutritional value.
  2. Because of nutritional value in the skin of sweet potatoes, I don’t peel the potatoes, just wash and scrub them well before slicing; if there’s a spot that doesn’t look good on the skin I just cut that out. Note: make sure to use a sharp knife and a cutting board that has good traction on the countertop; you don’t want the mat slipping! Another note: you can decide whether you want to cut thicker rounds or thinner rounds of potato, or a mix. I like variety and texture, so normally I chop the potatoes in all different sizes. However, you will have to keep a closer eye on them in the oven, and flip the thicker and thinner slices of potato at different times during the cooking process; the thinner the slices, the quicker they will cook and crisp.
  3. Depending on the size of the sweet potatoes you have, and the number of people you are aiming to feed, you will want to alter the amount of potatoes you use (this seems like common sense), but also the amount of oil, garlic and salt. You want enough oil to coat the potatoes, so that nice crispy surfaces form on the slices in the oven. I am liberal with the garlic powder, but that’s because I like lots of flavor and kick! Add it according to your taste; you can do the same with the salt, and other spices that complement the potato.img_2610-1
  4. After you mix the ingredients to coat the potatoes, spread them out onto a sheet pan lined with foil. Put them into a hot oven. I like to bake them at around 410°.
  5. Cooking time will depend on the thickness you have sliced your potatoes. Plan on at least 40 minutes though, even if you have thin slices.
  6. When the slices are brown and crispy on one side, flip them, and brown and crisp the rounds on the other side. Then serve! Note: I like to dip the potatoes in ketchup, Sriracha, or aioli, and serve with a salad (as previously mentioned).

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    Just as they should be! Gorgeous crispy rounds served with ketchup and Sriracha.

That’s it. Happy cooking!