Friday, January 21, 2011

Spaghetti Western

Today's pantry star is spaghetti squash.  I love them for the fact they keep so long.  I grow enough in our garden to last all year long, and keep them in the cool lower shelf in my under the stairs pantry.  Spaghetti squash is a nutrition powerhouse:  low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol, a good source of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber and Vitamin C.
There are several recipes I make regularly with spaghetti squash.  There are two preparations I use for spaghetti and other hard skinned squash to use in recipes.
Oven baking:
Split the squash lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon.  Drizzle with oil or a pat of butter and cracked pepper, and place cut side up in a baking dish that has an inch of water in the bottom.  (It keeps the squash from getting over browned).  Bake at 350 F for one hour, or until the squash "squashes" when you squeeze it together.  For spaghetti squash, I let it cool and shred the fibers with a fork, making it look like a pile of pasta.
Microwave steaming:
Place cut and cleaned squash half into a large zip lock bag with a couple of T of water.  Poke the top of the bag to vent steam, and microwave 3-4 minutes until the squash gives to pressure.  Cool and shred with a fork.
I have a few favorite recipes I use:  in a cold salad, to make a vegetarian spaghetti using buttered squash in place of noodles, and our new favorite is a slow cooker chili over the top of the baked spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash Salad
Cooked and cooled squash pulp
2 diced green peppers
1/2 diced red onion
1/4 C cider vinegar
2 T sugar or splenda
2 T corn oil
salt and pepper to taste 
Combine all ingredients, and chill before serving.  Better if made a day before using!

*This next recipe uses enchilada red sauce, made from dried Ancho chiles.  To make the sauce, combine 1 quart/box of low salt chicken stock with 6-8 dried anchos that you have cut in half with scissors, and removed the seeds and stems.  Bring to a boil in a saucepan, and reduce the heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes.  Blend until smooth.  This makes the richest, mild chili with a lot of spice, but not so much heat.  
Spaghetti Western
1 # ground beef
2 cans mexican stewed tomatoes 
1 40 oz. can of pinto beans with jalapenos and it's liquid
1/2 grated yellow onion
homemade enchilada sauce* (above)
Place raw hamburger in the bottom of the slow cooker, and break up with a spoon.  Top with the remaining ingredients and cook on high for 8-10 hours. About an hour before serving, add 1 C salsa (I used tomatillo, as I have homemade on hand). This adds a fresh tang. 
An hour before supper, I put the spaghetti squash in the oven to bake.  I serve a bed of spaghetti squash topped with the chunky beef chili in large soup bowls, with lime and hot sauce.

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