In college, my most popular Google search term was probably “healthy cheap recipes for college students.” I spent a lot of time trying to make decent food at an incredibly low cost – it was a challenge. That’s how I developed one of my go-to recipes at the time, Fiesta Rice. Fiesta Rice is essentially rice with ANY type of canned vegetable in it – usually corn, tomatoes, and black beans – topped with cheese. (Looking back, I realize this dish was probably very heavy on the sodium, but at the time it felt relatively healthy.) If I felt like splurging, sometimes I’d buy a fresh green pepper to add into the mix. It was cheap, easy to make in bulk, and pretty good considering my parameters.
When Googling these recipes, I often came across spaghetti squash as a main ingredients. I had never heard of spaghetti squash before and really didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t something we ate growing up, Rachael Ray never used it in a recipe on the Food Network, and I can’t remember ever seeing it on a restaurant menu. Probably because it can be cooked in the microwave, it was often on the “meals perfect for college students” websites that I scoured for ideas.
I didn’t try spaghetti squash right away – it took me a long time to warm up to the idea. I still feel like a newbie using it in recipes. I’m not sure why this vegetable doesn’t get more attention – it’s just 31 calories per cup and actually looks like spaghetti and can be cooked in the microwave. I can’t think of a better low-calories noodle replacement.
This recipe felt like a natural use for spaghetti squash – Pad Thai is a favorite take out meal of mine but I often feel like it’s too greasy or heavy (and then end up regretting the purchase). This is super light, low calorie, and much less expensive than the take out version. You can also super-load it with veggies to ramp up the nutritional value. Don’t be afraid of the spaghetti squash!
Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
Yield: 5 servings. Per Serving: $3.60, 379 calories, 19g fat, 31g carbs, 28g protein.
Using a fork, poke holes in the skin of a 3 pound spaghetti squash. Microwave the squash for 12 minutes on high. Let sit in microwave for 5 minutes to finish cooking.
While the squash is microwaving, prepare your vegetables: julienne 2 cups of carrots (about half of a small bag of baby carrots, cut into fourths), chop 8 green onions, mince 2 cloves garlic. 2 cups bean sprouts. Cut 2 chicken breasts into thinly sliced bite sized pieces and toss in ¼ cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
When the squash is done, cut it in half at the equator (not lengthwise) and use a spoon to remove the seeds. Use a fork to gently scrape out the noodle like flesh into a bowl and set aside.
To make the sauce, combine the juice from 1 lime, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, and sriracha to taste (start with a teaspoon). Heat in a small saucepan over low heat until combined and smooth. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
Cook the chicken in saute pan in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Set aside. Add carrots and 2 cups bean sprouts and cook for one minute. Add garlic and cook for another minute, then transfer the mixture to a large stock pot. Scramble 1 egg in the saute pan and add to stock pot. Add the chicken, squash, sauce, and green onion to the large pot and cook for 1 minute to combine. Garnish with ½ cup chopped peanuts and cilantro.