How to actually enjoy your meal prep: Spaghetti squash edition

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Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

In theory, I love the idea of doing a big meal prep for the week on a Sunday afternoon. It’s promised, by several very legit Instagram “nutritionists,” that preparing a grain, cooking a protein, chopping up veggies and putting each component in uniform Tupperware at the beginning of the week will not only save an immeasurable amount of stress, but also ensure that your meals are healthy and well-balanced. I’m totally on board for health and ease, but I’ve never been able to actually convince myself that all of the work is truly worth my while. Besides, the idea of eating the same monotonous meal every single night for an entire week feels more like a punishment than a relief.

Last semester, one of my roommates brought home a huge spaghetti squash, and, inadvertently, transformed the way I now approach weeknight meals. A lover of carbs and gluten, I struggle to understand why anyone would ever want to replace pasta voluntarily. Zoodles? Zuck NO! Spaghetti squash, for that very reason, didn’t sound particularly convincing. Before I go on, I want to be clear that spaghetti squash is by no means a perfect pasta replacement, and honestly, it shouldn’t be. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is wrong with pasta or bread in general. But let’s be real — we all can integrate a few more veggies into our lives!

Maybe it’s just the little kid in me, but my skepticism of the pasta replacement instantly vanished once my roommate took the golden, roasted squash out of the oven and started pulling at the flesh in a raking motion with two forks. There’s something incredibly satisfying about scraping the squash clean and fluffing it up a bit to separate the strands. I was mesmerized and demanded that she let me give it a go.

The cooking process is incredibly simple — you cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds, coat that baby in olive oil, sprinkle with S&P (a la salt bae) and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until tender. One squash yields a very impressive quantity of “noodles.” If you’ve never made spaghetti squash, the general rule of thumb is that for every pound the squash weighs, you get a little more than a cup, or one serving, of cooked squash pasta. Note: The average squash weighs between 4 and 6 pounds, so I’ll let your Berkeley mind do the rest of the math.

Spaghetti squash takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it and yields enough servings to create the base for a number of creative, healthful (only 42 calories a cup!) and delicious meals throughout the week. Throw in some spring cleaning pesto with blistered cherry tomatoes for an Italian vibe, use it as a base for a delicious grain-free bowl with lemony kale, roasted sweet potatoes and some chicken for those nights you need balance or toss with butter and cheese for a guilt-free late snack. If you roast one big guy off on a Sunday evening, you’ll be eating “pasta” all day, every day, for the rest of the week! Have you ever heard something so wonderful in your life? (I surely haven’t!)

To keep you and your stomach out of dinnertime purgatory, I’ve included my current favorite recipe for a fabulous spaghetti squash pad thai. The peanut sauce is so insanely good — I highly recommend that you make it in bulk and drizzle it on just about everything.

Ingredients: Squash

1 spaghetti squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Ingredients: Filling

½ large cucumber, peeled and quartered

1 cup carrot, sliced

1 cup bell pepper, diced

½ cup green onion, chopped

½ cup onion, diced

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

 

Ingredients: Sauce

¼ cup water

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons honey, or agave

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons sriracha

½ cup creamy peanut butter

1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

Peanut, crushed, to serve

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). With a sharp knife, slice the squash in half. If the squash is too tough, puncture in several places, forming a dotted line around the squash. Microwave for three to five minutes to soften. Allow to cool before cutting in half. Scoop out the seeds, brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the skin. Meanwhile, combine water, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, lime juice, Sriracha, peanut butter, ginger, and garlic in a bowl, stirring to combine. Remove squash from the oven, with a fork pull at the edges to produce that stringy “spaghetti” quality. In a bowl combine “spaghetti” with cucumber, carrots, peppers, green onions, onions, peanuts, cilantro, and sauce. Garnish with cilantro and peanuts.

Enjoy!

Recipe by Tasty. “Pad Thai Spaghetti Squash Recipe by Tasty.” Tasty.co, Tasty, 5 Oct. 2017, tasty.co/recipe/pad-thai-spaghetti-squash/.

Contact Natalie Abber at [email protected].