Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Gratin

My closest Costco (that happens to be 1 1/2 hours away in the next state over) is gradually getting more and more organic options available to us consumers, and I couldn't be happier about it! I have learned to not bat an eye when I have to drive long distances, because that is just my way of life now. I live in the mountains, and drive a long time to get almost anywhere. I want my kids to participate in sports? I drive. I want to shop at more than one store (that doesn't have much of a selection)? I drive. I need a hospital? I drive. (We recently found out this last one when my oldest daughter fractured her arm so badly that she needed surgery. We went to the closest hospital - 30 minutes away in the next town - and found out that they don't do surgery there. So it was another 1 hour drive to the closest "big" city to go to their hospital. Now I drive that far (1 1/2 hours) for surgery followups and doctors appointments. FUN! (Can you sense the sarcasm?)) So, I still make Costco trips once a week (usually on the days that my girls take gymnastics - also in the next state over), and I get beyond excited when I see a new organic produce option that wasn't there before! When I was there a few days ago I picked up some spaghetti squash with no real plan in mind, but I knew I would think of something delicious.
   I wanted to stay away from the traditional - treating the squash just like spaghetti noodles, and serving them with a marinara or a meat sauce. Not that the traditional preparation isn't good, it's just that I find myself serving it that way more often than not, and I wanted to switch things up tonight. I remember seeing a few posts about a cheesy spaghetti squash, and thought that would hit the spot nicely. Pardon the dark pictures, but this is real life. The sun is setting as dinner is getting done, and that's just life. So, here is the dish right before (or as) we dug in. Everyone enjoyed it - some more than others - but my daughter, who would live on macaroni and cheese alone if allowed to, said that she LOVED it. And had a huge bowl full. She said that "it's a case of 'don't judge a book by its cover.'" She didn't think that she was going to like it based on it's looks, but then she tasted it's cheesy goodness and was blown away.
   It's basically macaroni and cheese, but with squash instead of noodles. What's not to love? You can change up the cheeses with any you wish. I used cheddar and Parmesan because that is what I had in the fridge, but some Gruyere and Monterey Jack would be lovely too.

Here's the recipe: (organic ingredients are always encouraged)

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Gratin

1 large spaghetti squash
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour (I used organic sprouted whole wheat)
2 cups milk or half and half
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
3/4 cup cheddar cheese - divided*
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - divided*

Cut the squash in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Roast, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet @ 350 for 45 minutes (until tender), and let cool. Once cool, Scrape out the strings of squash with a fork, and drain in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl while you get the sauce ready.
In a large skillet or saute pan, over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Let the flour cook for 1 minute, and then slowly whisk in the milk so there are no lumps. Grate in the nutmeg, and add a little salt and pepper (to taste). Continue to whisk until the mixture bubbles and thickens. 
Stir in the drained squash and the half of each of the cheeses. Once it's all combined, put the mixture into an oven safe baking dish and cover the top with the remaining cheese. (If your skillet is oven safe you can just leave it in the pan, sprinkle with cheese and put the whole thing in the oven.) Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is brown and bubbly. Serve warm.
**Another good cheese combination would be 1/2 cup Gruyere, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack and 1/4 cup Parmesan

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