What are Antioxidants?
When our friend Jessalyn told us how delicious and easy her Mexican Spaghetti Squash Boats were, our ears perked up. Why? The winter squash family has amazing cancer and disease-fighting properties!
Winter squash are rich in carotenoids, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene. These carotenoids are phytochemicals that can act as antioxidants. Carotenoids are important for immune function and maintaining healthy cells, among other roles. (1)
We’ve all heard of antioxidants before, but what are they?
An antioxidant prevents oxidation. This really means, “combining with oxygen or lose electrons.”
Electrons? Oxidation? Ick. I’ll let Alison explain.
Easy Mexican Spaghetti Squash Boats
These boats are a delicious way to incorporate cancer-fighting winter squash!
Through a series of reactions in our body, sometimes free radicals are formed after exposure to harmful things like air pollution, smoking, toxic metals, pesticides, and more. When free radicals are formed, they are unstable because they are missing an electron. If the free radicals react with other molecules, such as DNA, it can damage the DNA which can lead to . . . (2)
Eye diseases (i.e cataracts and age-related macular degeneration)
This is where antioxidants enter. Antioxidants can donate an electron to the free radical essentially neutralizing the molecule -- meaning no harm.
This is just one reason why plant foods are so protective against cancer and other diseases -- because they contain high amounts of antioxidants!
Personally, I had never made spaghetti squash because I didn’t know how to cook it. It seems daunting, doesn’t it? (Spoiler alert: it’s easy peasy!) I knew I loved other kinds of squash so it was a no brainer to try Jessalyn’s recipe...and make it plant-based!
Since I had never cooked it and it had been a while since Alison had, we brought in our ringer -- our sister Jackie! Truth: Jackie is the best cook both of us know.
We knew her cooking knowledge (and talent) mixed with our experience cooking plant-based would be the best combination. We sure hope you love this recipe as much as we do!
Easy Mexican Spaghetti Squash Boats
Recipe Adapted from & Inspired by: Jessalyn Rich
Makes: 2 large boats, with ~2-3 servings for leftovers
taco seasoning ingredients
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced
¾ cup corn (we prefer frozen & organic)
1, 15 ounces can black beans, rinsed & drained
1, 15 ounces can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1, 10 ounces can diced tomatoes with green chilies
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Avocado Oil Spray, optional
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the oven is preheating, cut your spaghetti squash in half. Once it is cut in half (the hardest part of this recipe!), scoop out the insides.
Next, make the taco seasoning. Add all taco seasoning ingredients to a small dish and mix together well. Set aside.
Lightly spray each half of the spaghetti squash with avocado oil spray (optional). Sprinkle 1 teaspoon (total) of the finished taco seasoning on both halves of the spaghetti squash.
Once the oven is preheated, lay both halves of the squash flat side down on a pan. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. You know the squash is done with the sides pull away easily from the sides with a fork.
While the squash is roasting, prepare the insides. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. If the onions begin to stick, add water or vegetable broth 1 tablespoon at a time. (You can view our video here on how to cook onions with this method.)
Add the minced garlic and saute until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Next, add the red pepper, corn, black beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, and the remainder of the taco seasoning. Cook about 8-10 minutes, until the pepper softens. Stirring frequently.
When the squash is done, scrape the insides of the squash with a fork, creating the “spaghetti”. Add the squash to the cooked insides and stir until well mixed.
Add the juice of one lime. Taste and season with salt, pepper, or other seasonings if desired. Add a heaping scoop of the prepared inside to each squash boat. Serve with diced avocado, cilantro, and extra lime. Enjoy!
P.S. These make great leftovers!
Loving squash? Check out Alison’s Gingered Butternut Squash Soup!
“AICR's Foods That Fight Cancer™.” American Institute for Cancer Research, www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/squash.html.
“Antioxidants: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4 May 2016, nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm.