Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Avocado Walnut Pesto

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Spaghetti squash was actually not on my grocery list this past week. I only purchase it in season and always classify it as a fall/winter food. But there in Whole Foods was a display of local Lancaster, PA organic squash. I couldn’t resist and am happy I didn’t! I have made a variety of different pesto in the past with avocado, cashews, walnuts and of course pine nuts, but had never combined the creamy avocado fruit with the crunchy texture of the nuts. Definitely a winning combination!

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Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Avocado Walnut Pesto (GF, V, DF)

Ingredients (see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients):

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

1 Medium-Large avocado

1/3 Cup Walnuts (chopped or in pieces)

5-6 cloves garlic (we love garlic, you might want to halve this!)

1/2 Cup packed basil (about 1 ounce on the food scale)

1.5 cups green peas, cooked from frozen (I used Whole Foods Organic-not pictured)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

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Directions:

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
-Take your spaghetti squash and carefully cut in half lengthwise. The first cut may seem difficult but once the knife is in its a lot easier to cut the rest of the squash.
-Dig out the seeds & pulp (pictured w/out seeds on left below)
-Save the seeds for the roasted seed recipe that I posted in November with my Italian Style Spaghetti Squash.


-Set the squash cut side down in a large glass baking dish & add 1/2-3/4 C water
-Place in the oven and cook about 40 minutes (may vary depending on size of squash & oven)

-While the squash is cooking, you can make your pesto and cook your peas
-Get out your food processor, bullet blender, or other blending tool
-Add all ingredients except for the peas and pulse until most of the mixture is smooth but you can still see tiny pieces of walnuts for texture
-Cook the frozen peas in a pot according to package instructions (I just cook over low-medium for about 5-7 minutes)
-When the squash is done you should easily be able to stick a fork in through the skin
-Remove it from the oven & carefully flip so the flesh side is up
-With a fork, you’ll basically want to “rake” from one side to the other to remove the “spaghetti”

-We used all of the pesto mixture and peas with about 2/3 of our squash to yield 4 servings. This will vary since your squash probably won’t be the exact same size. The leftovers can be used on a salad, in an omelet, or you can top it with any sauce.
-You can either stir your pesto mixture & peas right in with the squash, or keep separate for each dish that you plate and add the mixture on top.
-We also chopped up an heirloom tomato to add a little color and sweetness to balance out the delicious but strong garlic and basil.

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Spaghetti Squash isn’t going to provide you with tons of one specific nutrient but it will contribute a balanced amount of most vitamins and minerals to your diet especially Vitamins C & B6. What shines for spaghetti squash is the fiber & healthy carbohydrate content as well as the carotenoid antioxidants.

Avocados contain mostly the healthy mono-unsaturated fat that your body needs for heart health, brain function, joint protection and immune function. Avocados are also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins E, C, and K, as well as the B-vitamins folate and B6. Another compound this fruit gives us is beta-sitosterol. Just like we get cholesterol from animals, we can get plant sterols from certain plants. Sterols like beta-sitosterol help block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, enhancing heart health. The phytochemicals that avocados are highest in are the carotenoids lutein + zeaxanthin which are associated with eye health, immune and antioxidant function.

Walnuts have been pinned as the most heart healthy nut by many researchers due to their high omega-3 content (discussed here at walnuts.org) and their vitamin E and antioxidant phytochemical content. Omega-3′s support heart health by helping to regulate inflammation, Vitamin E is heart protective by protecting cells and fatty substances in the body, and the phenols present are thought to support a healthy metabolism and healthy blood vessels.

Did you know that peas are a good source of plant protein? Per 2/3 Cup serving you get 5 grams! As a reference, an egg contains 7 grams. Peas are also an excellent source of Vitamins K, C, A, B1, and folate. They contain the phytochemical coumestrol which has been found in research to reduce stomach cancer risk as well as other phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory properties.

Basil also packs a lot of vitamin K as well as some iron, calcium, and Vitamin A. The phytochemicals in basil have been found to be anti-inflammatory, heart healthy, and anti-bacterial.

Garlic provides the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgotten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

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I am not at all ready for summer to be over but have to admit I’m getting excited for fall foods!

Easy Homemade Guacamole Recipe

molcajete & ingredients

A couple of years ago, Tim and I would buy the Trader Joe’s packaged guacamole because it seemed easier than making our own. Well, being the spice loving foodies that we are we started to add chopped jalapeno because the store bought stuff just wasn’t enough. Then we thought it needed more garlic…then tomato…and then cilantro… and then we realized it was silly to not make the whole recipe fresh and from scratch!
Making guacamole is SO simple and should take no longer than 5-7 minutes. Avocados are very nutrient dense and are so delicious I end up adding guacamole or the avocado itself to meals close to 5 times a week. However, this recipe tastes great after it freezes and thaws too so, if you won’t eat it as frequently or don’t have enough people living with you, save half for next week.
We make guacamole so frequently and have become such food snobs that we just had to add the Crate & Barrel molcajete pictured above to our wedding registry last year. In addition to just looking really cool, it does make mashing all the ingredients together easier than doing so with just a fork.

Using avocados for the first time can be intimidating if you don’t know what to look for and when to use them. The California Avocado Board has a page on how to select and ripen your avocados here.

Spicy Guacamole


Simple Homemade Guacamole
(GF, V, DF)

Ingredients :

2 avocados
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 – 1/4 cup onion (I use red usually), minced
2 jalapenos, minced (only use 1 if you aren’t a huge fan of heat!)
1/4-1/2 medium tomato, diced very small (about 1/4 cup)
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro**
2 dashes of cumin & garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
Juice of 1 lime wedge

molcajete guac ingredients

*If not purchasing organic for these items, at least choose Non-GMO Project Verified brands to ensure your food is free of genetic engineering.

Directions:
-Cut & peel the avocados and add to a medium sized bowl or molcajete. When not using the molcajete I generally make the guac in a large pyrex so I don’t have to transfer it for storage. Also via California Avocado, here are directions and even a video on how to cut & peel your avocado.
-Add the jalapeno, garlic, onion and tomato (once minced/diced) to the same bowl. Mash with a fork or even a muddler until the avocado is mashed and the ingredients are well distributed.
guac ingredients chopped

-Add the dried spices, cilantro and lime juice, and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until all are well incorporated.

guacamole

Serving Options:

-Use as a dip with some Trader Joe’s “reduced guilt” baked tortilla chips, chopped bell peppers, or jicama.

-Use as a condiment for burgers, sandwiches and wraps.

-Top chili, taco’s or even chunky black bean soups with a couple of tablespoons for added flavor & nutrition.

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Yes, avocados are technically high in fat. However, they contain mostly the healthy mono-unsaturated fat that your body needs for heart health, brain function, joint protection and immune function. Avocados are also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins E, C, and K, as well as the B-vitamins folate and B6. Another compound this fruit gives us is beta-sitosterol. Just like we get cholesterol from animals, we can get plant sterols from certain plants. Sterols like beta-sitosterol help block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, enhancing heart health. The phytochemicals avocados are highest in are the carotenoids lutein + zeaxanthin which are associated with eye health, immune and antioxidant function.

Onions & garlic are part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Onions also provide Vitamins C, B6 and folate.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgetten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Jalapeno peppers contain capsaicin which has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation. Oh and you aren’t the only one who gets a runny nose from spicy food – these peppers can all help clear your sinuses!

Cilantro may be an herb but herbs have fantastic nutrient profiles too. Cilantro provides vitamins A & K and many antioxidants, especially quercitin. Quercitin is a flavonoid linked to respiratory (great for asthmatics and athletes) and heart health.

While cumin does contain manganese, magnesium, calcium and especially iron, you generally do not get high amounts of those minerals since it is used in such small amounts in recipes. We do know however that cumin is a potent antioxidant containing phenolic acids and carotenoids.