Spaghetti Squash FTW!

I knew spaghetti squash tasted okay. I’d had it before with some turkey meatball marinara–someone else prepared, of course. But I’d never worked up the courage to try it. For some reason, though, I’m now totally into trying new foods. (Because hey–blog fodder!)

I must’ve been fasting (since pregnancy I’ve accumulated about 70 days I need to make up! yikes!) when I was at Safeway and bought several kinds of squash. Why else would I wander through the produce section lovingly handling veggies I’d never cooked before? Anyway, I came home and placed them on the counter (something perfectly acceptable for winter squash) so inspire me one day. It took a week or so, once Thanksgiving had fully wrapped up, and all the leftovers had been consumed, before that inspiration came, but at last it did.

I thought I’d try to make a spaghetti variant, replacing the pasta with squash. I also decided to make tomato sauce from scratch, since I’ve recently realized that canned tomatoes seem to give my hubby heartburn. Unfortunately it’s not the season for tomatoes, but I had some in my fridge anyway since my son and I like to munch on them raw. Can’t beat fresh summer tomatoes from the south, though. The ones up here in Seattle just don’t get as sweet as the North Carolina tomatoes I’m used to. But now that it’s December, who knows where the tomatoes are coming from?

Anyway, I had learned how to make a basic tomato sauce in a MOOC which I would recommend for every parent concerned about feeding their kids. It was on coursera.org, and is called Child Nutrition and Cooking. Self-paced, you can probably enroll any time. It’s really high quality, nicely edited videos (unlike some MOOCs which are just a professor and a webcam), with Khan Academy style blackboards as well as live demonstrations.

The meat I thought I’d go with was chicken breast, so I defrosted it (since I suck at coordinating meals with thawing meat.) Then it was onions, garlic, tomatoes–into the pot with some olive oil. Then some sugar, some salt, and some oregano. (How much? Yeah, I didn’t measure… that might bite me later…) Then I learned how to cut and cook a spaghetti squash. Turns out, I did it in reverse order (cook first, then cut.) For that I can thank YouTube and Dani Spies (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPFErHz6zOM), the same channel where I learned how to cut butternut squash.

So once the chickenĀ had thawed, IĀ popped the squash into the microwave, then grilled the chicken on the stove (just to cook it quickly… there’s nothing great about this way of cooking chicken, so I might replace the chicken with some other meat, but it was fine this time.) Once the squash was done, I cut it, seeded it, then scraped out the flesh and put it in the bottom of a dish, covered it with the chicken, poured over the tomato sauce, and dumped some parmesan cheese on it.

And it worked great. Cooking the squash was almost as easy as cooking pasta, and it had a great flavor. It was satisfying but not heavy–and overall a real win. Except with my toddler, who would only eat the chicken with ketchup.

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The Value of Nearby Family

A few weeks ago I was at the park with my son, who had found a little girl to play with. The little girl’s grandmother was watching and playing with her, and she graciously extended the play to my son as well. Once I finished checking my email (am I the only one who takes my kid to the park for that reason?) I joined them, and had a fun conversation with the grandmother while the kids played. She and her husband were visiting from a Sequim, a small town a few hours away, where they had retired. Their visit was just to watch their granddaughter for the day while her mother was in labor.

I really felt it, right then. The poignant reminder of how far away my own family is (in-laws too!) stung, as I reflected on the challenge I’ll have when I have another baby, God willing. Will anyone be able to come watch Zaki while I’m in labor?

That’s an isolated but extremely important occasion when family help is needed. I also miss them when I want just a date with my husband. I realize how often my own parents watch my nieces and nephews, or even my siblings watch each other’s kids. In my husband’s family too, everyone chips in to help with the kids.

Until having a child of my own, I didn’t realize what a blessing it is to have family nearby. In fact, even a few hours away (by car) can be a blessing, if they can come even for a rare occasion. But my family is on the other side of the country, and my husband’s is on the other side of the planet (literally–a 12-hr time zone difference!)

We split up families for school and jobs, but the value of staying near family is something also to consider when deciding where to settle. It’s relatively easy to visit for holidays and whatnot, but even though I couldn’t be with my family this Thanksgiving, it’s not when I missed them the most. In fact, I just miss them all the time.