It's becoming that time of year when we start to crave comfort food and cold salads and sandwiches no longer cut it as a meal. While we excitedly dive head first into comfort food (and quickly approaching holiday) season, meals tend to become warmer and heavier. Though delicious and well deserved as we start to deal with the colder weather, these comfort food cravings can make healthy eating more challenging. But that's where we come in! Our recipe this week is still so comfy but substitutes squash for the traditional pasta ingredient, making this a recipe you can indulge in as often as you like. We've even made an indulgent garlic cheese spread with a special ingredient - let's find out more!
Talking about oil and the "best" oils to use in the diet can be tricky. Besides thinking about the actual properties of the oil and types of fat it contains, processing methods should be considered. Many of the commonly used oils in our food system are extracted from seeds through chemical processing methods and have a higher percentage of polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids which can make them pro-inflammatory when consumed in large quantities. Seed oils are widely used due to availability, cost, and stability in processed foods and can be found on ingredient labels as canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, grapeseed, corn, and rice brain oil. Though not all these oils sound like they come from seeds the oil itself is extracted from the seed of the plant, many of which don't sound like they should contain a whole lot of fat or oil to begin with. On the other hand, foods like olives, coconut, and avocado are known to be high in fat and therefore an oil created from these foods just seems to make more sense, doesn't it? Because of the high fat content physical extraction methods (cold or expeller pressing) are frequently utilized and preferred to chemical methods in our opinion. Avocado oil was first extracted by heating the mashed flesh of the fruit in water to allow the fat to rise to the surface and be skimmed off. For time and cost considerations, avocado oil is now extracted from dried fruit and either heated to high temperatures and pressed or placed in a machine called a centrifuge which rapidly spins the avocado to separate the oil from the solids. Unlike the seed oils, avocado oil (and olive oil) are lower in polyunsaturated omega-6 fats and contain mostly monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats do not contain omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids so the ideal ratio of the two in a high fat source, such as an oil, is not a concern. In the kitchen, avocado oil is a useful compliment to olive oil - it is stable and has a higher smoke point of ~500 degrees allowing it to be used for hotter cooking methods. Also different from olive oil is avocado oil's mild flavor which allows the addition of richness to recipes without changing the flavor. So if you've had your fill of oil education by now, on to the recipes!
Five Cheese Garlic Spread
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 15 minutes
Servings: makes ~4 cups
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Havarti cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Romano cheese, shredded
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup avocado oil
1 head of garlic (~10 cloves), minced
1 1/2 tsp oregano, fresh or dried
1 tsp parsley, fresh or dried
1 tsp thyme, fresh or dried
In a large bowl mix all ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside 1 cup of cheese spread to top squash pot pies with and place remaining cheese spread in glass jars. Cheese spread will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks or freezes well for up to 6 months.
Spaghetti Squash Pot Pie
PREP TIME: 25 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2- 2 cups red sauce (we prefer olive oil based red sauce*)
1 cup five cheese garlic spread
Requires 4 small casserole dishes, we used 2-cup Pyrex bowls
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Carefully cut spaghetti squash in half (from stem to bottom), remove seeds, and place flat side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook squash for 30-40 minutes or until a knife slides into the outer skin easily. Remove squash from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes or until easy to handle. Using a fork, scrap the inside to create long strands of "spaghetti". Place 1/8 of the squash in each oven proof bowl. Top squash layer with 1/4 cup red sauce and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese then repeat with the rest of the squash and red sauce and ending with the five cheese garlic spread as the top cheese layer. Turn oven up to 400 degrees, place pot pies on a oven proof baking sheet, and bake for 7-10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the pies are warmed through. If you do not plan to serve all the pot pies the same day, skip the last warming step and place in the fridge with an air tight lid for up to 5 days. The pot pies can be reheated in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
*Feel free to prepare from scratch or use your favorite jarred sauce. Read your ingredients lists and look for a sauce made with olive oil as a base oil instead of some of the other seed oils we've mentioned.
This recipe is so comfy that it almost makes the approaching cold weather okay, almost! Spaghetti squash substitutes perfectly for pasta noodles and provides an extra crunch of texture to the dish. And what else is there to say about warm cheese garlic spread other than yum!? If you don't make the garlic cheese spread right away this can be topped with plain mozzarella, garlic, and spices to keep things simple and even lighter. However you enjoy this one, please share!
Jess and Cecelia
Jess and Cecelia welcome you to our kitchen. We are fun-loving and passionate foodies working to make the world a healthier, happier place one plant based recipe at a time.