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Simple Sides: Apples and Spaghetti Squash

Image of School Mascot with kids
This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options. The dishes will be centered around seasonal fresh produce item and easy enough to prepare so that a child of any age can help in contributing to the family meal. While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.

The competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can even be great fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Image of Organic Gala Apples
The fall season brings a plethora of apple and hard squash variety choices to grocery produce department displays. Here are two recipes that take advantage of the high quality and low retail prices available right now as these harvests peak in production. The overview lesson for young kitchen helpers here is to demonstrate how combining the same two seasonal favorites – Gala Apples and Spaghetti Squash – can produce entirely different kinds of dishes. With just a few changes in the cast of supporting ingredients, it is possible to come up with both a savory side dish and a sweet dessert!
Image of Spaghetti Squash
Recipe I – lesson notes: Spaghetti Squash with Apple & Pecans
A 15-minute spin in the microwave, whole, will cook the Spaghetti Squash perfectly. The kids will have fun scooping out the stringy squash, but the adult in the room should probably split the squash in half and present your helpers with a cooled squash to work with before they have at it. The recipe does require a little knife work in prepping the apples, pecans and green onions; however, if the kids are too young, do not worry about perfectly cubed apples and instead give your culinary assistants a lesson on using the food processer (set to CHOP) safely and it will work just as well. Once these ingredients are prepared, this is really a one-bowl recipe that can be accomplished by a child of almost an age involving some careful measuring and then tossing it all together. I found this dish to be just as good served warm or chilled.

Recipe II – lesson notes: Sweet Spaghetti Squash Dessert Casserole
Cook and cool the Spaghetti Squash in the same manner as in Recipe I. If you have a helper old enough to handle the thin slicing, apples are a great fruit to practice on as they are easy to cut through, allowing the slicer to focus on thinking thin cut. If not, then there is the job of peeling that can keep the kids involved in the process. A potato peeler is a safe replacement for the paring knife; then the adult in the room can quickly core and slice. Note the use of unsweetened, finely shredded coconut for baking here as the sweetener. Baking in this country usually means sugar-added. Teaching kids about alternative sweeteners becomes more than just a cooking lesson; it provides a path to better healthy eating through dietary choices that will last a lifetime. While the apple pie characteristics of cinnamon and raisins make this dish a scrumptious dessert, it also can be served as a great start to the day as a tasty breakfast or an afternoon snack. Actually, I just finished my batch for lunch and it was wonderful!

Recipe I
Spaghetti Squash with Apples & Toasted Pecans
Serves 8

1 (3 pounds) Spaghetti Squash
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 medium Gala Apples, cut into small cubes
½ cup Pecans, roughly chopped
3 Green Onions (white & green parts), thinly sliced

What the kids can do:
  1. Scrape out the seeds from the squash halves.
  2. Using a fork, twist out strands of the spaghetti squash and place in a large bowl. Cover and chill.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar and salt.
  4. Pour olive oil mixture into the spaghetti squash and toss together.
  5. Add pecans, apples, and most of green onions, and stir well.
  6. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with remaining green onions.
What the supervising adult should do:
Using a large, sharp knife, pierce a spaghetti squash in several places. Place the spaghetti squash in a glass baking dish and cook in the microwave on high for about 15 minutes, turning the squash halfway through cooking. Before handling, let the squash stand for 10 minutes. Cut it in half lengthwise and then let your kitchen crew take over from here.

Recipe II
Sweet Spaghetti Squash Dessert Casserole
Serves 9
Image of Sweet Spaghetti Squash Dessert Casserole
4 Eggs
½ cup (85 grams) Coconut Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
2 Apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
½ cup Raisins

What the kids can do:
  1. Scrape out the seeds from the squash halves.
  2. Using a fork, twist out strands of the spaghetti squash and set aside
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut sugar, and cinnamon.
  4. Add spaghetti squash and toss to coat.
  5. Add apple slices and raisins Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish.
What the supervising adult should do:
Cook and cool Spaghetti Squash the same as in Recipe I. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Spray an 8x8" baking dish with cooking spray or a light coat of shortening. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and set. Cool before slicing.
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