fake out

One of my best girlfriends from college recently found out she has Celiac disease (gluten intolerance). Before moving to Chicago, I tried to teach her a few recipes that were quick, easy, and gluten free. Quite a challenge for a carb-a-holic like myself! That being said, I love a good challenge!

Before Cate found out she needed a GF lifestyle we would get together once or twice a month and I would teach her a new recipe. I always enjoyed going over to her place, splitting a bottle of vino and sharing my knowledge of food while getting filled in on all the latest gossip and reality tv shows. It was a night of guilty pleasures for us both!

At first, the thought of planning a gluten free meal seemed impossible. Its sort of like when someone tells you that you can't have a cupcake. Suddenly all you can think about is eating a cupcake! After a little more thinking, I remembered a dish my dad ate in his Jenny Craig days, spaghetti squash. Very skeptical that a veggie could fake me out, fill me up and make me think I was eating pasta, I decided why not?! I went to the store, picked up a spaghetti squash, a gluten free bottle of vodka sauce and some spinach to saute for a side dish. Yep, an entrée of veggies with a side of veggie... oh how I was praying that this would be a satisfying meal! Lets be honest, I can eat my fair share of pasta, heck, I can eat my fair share of any food. Spaghetti squash didn't seem too promising on my end. To my surprise, it was very satisfying and quite delicious! Not to mention this entire meal could be made in under 20 minutes. Such a quick weeknight meal for a working woman! It was perfect. Give spaghetti squash a try, you might just be pleasantly surprised!

I usually make a version of it once a month or so... Here's my recent spaghetti squash recipe, this one's for you Cate!

Baked Pesto Spaghetti Squash

for the pesto:
1 package fresh basil leaves (about 2 cups loosely packed)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
1/4 - 1/3 c olive oil
salt + pepper to taste
1/4 c fresh grated parmesan cheese

for the dish:
1 medium sized spaghetti squash
1/2 c. grape tomatoes
1/4 c. parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375º. Cut spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Place skin side up in a baking dish with about 2" of water. Roast it in the oven for 30-45 min until tender. Pull squash out of the dish and set aside to cool.

In a food processor, Place the basil, garlic, toasted pine nuts and salt & pepper, blend until ingredients are well chopped. Slowly pour the olive oil into the food processor as its blending. Add enough oil for it to make a loose paste. Finally stir in the 1/4 c. parmesan cheese. Home made pesto in 5 minutes! It's so much better than the stuff you buy!

Next, cut grape tomatoes in half and set aside. Grease a casserole dish with olive oil or butter. Grab one half of the spaghetti squash and with a fork, scrape the sides until strings come up from the flesh. Do this to the other half and place your spaghetti in a mixing bowl.

add the pesto and stir. Mix in the grape tomatoes and then transfer to your casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4c parmesan cheese and bake in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and brown!

improv style:
don't have time to make the pesto, get a good quality store bought brand. not a huge tomato fan? try adding peas and pine nuts instead. this recipe is really easy and forgiving so put your favorite pasta sauces and ingredients in like you would with spaghetti and you've got a quick and healthy dinner!



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