Do you ever just wing a meal, only for it to come out so well that you just can’t stop thinking about it after? Ok, so maybe you haven’t, but I have for sure and this meal was definitely one of them. This paleo spaghetti squash is also one of those dinners that although it takes longer than 30 minutes, it’s pretty easy to pull together because most of the time associated with this is the cooking time in the oven. For this reason, I would say as long as you have things ready to go, this is a pretty easy recipe to make during the week.
Let the food shaming begin
Growing up in an Italian household, I had my fair share of prosciutto and although I gave it up for quite a while, because it was on my naughty list, I have since allowed it back in, with a few stipulations of course, which I will get to later. But first, I wanted to just share a few thoughts regarding how we view food and why. I have touched on the subject before, as it is one I feel really passionate about, but I haven’t ever discussed the implications associated with how this plays into a larger aspect of our relationship with food.
The Diet Conundrum
Going back as far as I can remember my mom was always criticizing herself, trying new diets like weight watchers or going on the Bernstein diet. She was never truly happy with the way she looked and had a terrible relationship with food. Rather than looking at food as nourishment and sustenance, she viewed it as either “good” or “bad” depending on how many calories it had. We always had those mini snacks in our home (of the 100 calorie variety) that were pushed by weight watchers and other big brands and are filled with questionable ingredients simply because they were considered low calorie. Of course they never really filled you up and so you ended up eating more than one, cue the food shame cycle. It never occurred to me that this type of food relationship was a problem, I just thought that all women did this. I would overindulge and then feel bad about it, so I would try and make up for it the following day by restricting my own eating severely. My first foray into dieting came when I was about 15 and went on a strict 1200 calorie a day diet with my mom. Our dinners were bland and unfulfilling but we did it for about 2 weeks and although I did lose a few pounds, it did absolutely nothing for my own self esteem.
I tied how I looked into my own self worth and felt confused when I couldn’t figure out why my relationship with food was so messed up years later. It has taken so many years to get over this crazy notion that food can be categorized as “good” or “bad” and put into neat little boxes. As a nutritionist, it can be even easier to label foods as good or bad and I know that I am guilty of doing just this, but I also believe that food is so much more than just the sum of its nutritional counterpart. It nourishes you, it sustains you, comforts you and it provides the fundamental nutrition that your body needs to thrive and that is something worth acknowledging and embracing.
Make Peace with Your Plate
My mom never got to see me as a nutritionist or learn about the health benefits of kale because she passed away about six years ago from cancer. It honestly kills me that she doesn’t get to know the person I have become because I am a much different person than I was six years ago. But if there is one thing I can do, it is spread my message that food is more than just good or bad and in order to fix our relationship with food we have to let go of self imposed food restrictions. I am not talking about your personal ethical choices on what you eat because that is your own decision, I am talking about learning to let go of the judgement we place on ourselves when we eat something from the “bad” food category.
Stress has no place on your plate friends, let that shit go.
Paleo Spaghetti Squash
Now, onto this delicious recipe that I just couldn’t stop thinking about after I first made it. Brown butter might just be my new obsession and combine that with crispy prosciutto, sage and arugula and be prepared for an explosion of food flavour! If you can’t do butter, you could try it with melted ghee or just use extra virgin olive oil, I really like keeping the sauce light rather than the traditional tomato sauce as I find the squash gets really watery when you do it like that. I really like this with spaghetti squash because you are getting an extra dose of veg, but I am sure this would work nicely on regular spaghetti as well. If you don’t do prosciutto you can leave it out, but it does add a nice saltiness to the dish, perhaps olives would work, or maybe even turkey bacon?
Here is the one thing with bacon and other cured meats, you do always want to try and go for the best quality you can find that comes from pasture raised pigs, not factory farmed or conventional ones. If you want a really nicely detailed article all about nitrates/nitrites and buying and eating cured meats, have a look at this article. My take on this is that you always should aim for the best quality foods you can find when it comes to animal protein and of course moderation is key. Bacon and prosciutto can add a great flavour to a dish, but I don’t overdo it and have cured meats everyday all day either.
Can we try something different?
Lets try and work together to end the needless self shaming that comes along with what we put on our plate and instead focus on how it makes us feel. I for one am done labeling foods and placing unnecessary stress on myself just to fit into a smaller size dress. What I will do instead is take some time for myself to focus on my health and wellbeing and when I do eat a meal that is maybe less than ideal, you can bet I will enjoy every bite, no excuses or shame to follow. This isn’t going to be easy for me as I am sure it isn’t for you, but are great things ever really easy?
Are you going to join me?
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 4-5 sprigs of sage chopped (about 2 tbsp. of loose chopped sage)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 tbsp. pine nuts
- 4 slices of prosciutto (chopped after cooking and cooling)
- 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp. butter (depending on the size of your squash)
- 1-2 large handfuls of arugula
- Carefully slice your squash in half and remove the seeds (you can save them and cook them later as they are delicious).
- Brush spaghetti squash with a drizzle of avocado oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper.
- Cook spaghetti squash cut side down at 400 for 35-40 mins, until the flesh is soft and can be scraped with a fork.
- When the squash is done, lower the heat to 325 and lay the prosciutto slices on a baking tray flat and add the pine nuts around the slices and bake for 10-12 minutes. Check on the pine nuts to ensure they aren't getting too brown.
- Remove the pan from the oven and chop up the crispy prosciutto into bite sized pieces.
- Using a small saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it has turned a light brown colour and smells nutty then add your minced garlic and sage at the end and stir for about 20-30 seconds. Then remove from heat.
- Scrape your squash strands and add to a large bowl with a couple handfuls of arugula.
- The arugula will wilt with the hot squash.
- Add the brown butter, prosciutto and pine nuts.