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Spaghetti squash perfect proxy for pasta

Whether you wish to lose weight, improve digestive health, eat more vegetables, lower your carbohydrates or go paleo or gluten free, you’ll want to say hello to my little friend: spaghetti squash.

This squash cooks into long, tender strands like, well … spaghetti. I’m not going to tell you it tastes exactly like pasta, because it doesn’t. But it’s delicious. The taste is sweet and mild, so this guilt-free spaghetti alternative is a perfect substitute in your favorite pasta dishes.

The health benefits are significant with this nutrient-dense squash. You’ll get vitamins, antioxidants, fatty acids, minerals and fiber. One cup of cooked spaghetti squash has 31 calories and 5.5 grams of net carbs, compared with 221 calories and 43 grams of carbs in one cup of cooked pasta. And can we be honest? Does anyone eat just one cup of pasta?

Spaghetti squash is easy, inexpensive and versatile. Stock up when it’s on sale because it keeps for a month stored in a cool, dry place and up to three months in the fridge.

This big, yellow squash can look intimidating, but I promise it’s easy to prepare. Like all hard-shell squash, the rind is hard to cut. To make this easier, pierce the squash with a knife and cook in the microwave for 3-4 minutes to soften before cutting.

The easiest preparation is to roast in halves. Use a sharp knife to cut it lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place it cut sides down in a roasting pan. You can add a little water and cover with foil if you like, but it’s not necessary. Bake at 400 F for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size. It’s done when it’s easily pierced with a knife.

You can also microwave spaghetti squash. Slice lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and place the squash cut sides down in a 9-by-13 glass baking dish.

Add an inch of water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave the squash on high for 15 minutes; check to see if the squash is thoroughly cooked. If not, microwave for 5 more minutes. Carefully remove squash from microwave and let stand until cool.

After the squash is cooked, take a fork and scrape the squash to remove the spaghetti-like strands. As an entrée, spaghetti squash happily replaces pasta in your favorite pasta-based dishes. Try it with marinara, pesto or Alfredo sauces.

This fresh, versatile recipe has become a family favorite as a light lunch or smartly paired with chicken, fish or shrimp.

LEMON BUTTER SPAGHETTI SQUASH

What you’ll need:

1 2-pound spaghetti squash

1 teaspoon olive oil

Pinch of salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1 lemon, juice and zest

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil

2 tablespoons sliced almonds (optional)

Here’s how:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.

Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Brush it lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife.

About 5 minutes before the squash is finished roasting, heat a skillet over medium-low heat and melt the butter. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice, zest and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring mixture to simmer, then remove from heat.

Scrape the squash strands into a serving bowl or platter. Toss gently with the lemon butter mixture. Top with parsley and almonds, if using. Enjoy!

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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