Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of eleven books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.
It can be hard to stay on top of cooking healthy meals, especially during the week. We’re all busy, and sometimes we just don’t have the time (or energy) to cook a meal every night and prep a smart lunch for the next day. That’s why I depend on make-ahead meals.
Check out this recipe… A lot of casserole recipes out there are bogged down with heavy carbs. This recipe, on the other hand, is bulked up with spaghetti squash. It’s super healthy, a great swap for starchy pasta, and it tastes amazing.
Bake up this flavor-packed casserole, and that’s four meals taken care of!
‘Til next time… Chew the right thing!
Mexican Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 spaghetti squash (at least 4 ½ lbs.)
1 lb. extra-lean ground beef (4% fat or less)
2 ½ tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. each salt and black pepper
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped bell pepper
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
½ cup (about 4 large) egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute
½ cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican-blend cheese
¼ cup sliced black olives
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray an 8” x 8” baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Microwave squash for 6 minutes, or until soft enough to cut. Halve lengthwise; scoop out and discard seeds. Fill a large baking pan with 1/2 inch water and place squash halves in the pan, cut sides down. Bake until tender, about 40 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium-high heat. Add beef, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin, and 1/8 tsp. each of remaining seasonings. Cook and crumble until beef is mostly cooked, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and onion. Cook and stir until beef is fully cooked and veggies have softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
4. Remove squash from oven, but leave oven on. Use a fork to scrape out spaghetti squash strands. Place in a strainer to drain excess moisture. Thoroughly blot squash strands dry, removing as much moisture as possible. Transfer 5 cups to the large bowl. (Reserve any extra squash for another time.)
5. Add canned crushed tomatoes, egg whites/substitute, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin, and 1/8 tsp. each of remaining seasonings. Mix thoroughly.
6. Transfer mixture to the baking pan and smooth out the surface. Bake until slightly firm, about 25 minutes.
7. Sprinkle with cheese and olives. Bake until cheese has melted and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Time-Saving Alternative: Instead of baking the squash, cook it in the microwave. After scooping out and discarding the seeds, place one half of the squash in an extra-large microwave-safe bowl, cut side down. Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook for 7 minutes, or until soft. Repeat with remaining squash half.
Another Alternative: Slow-cook your squash! Get the details here.
Nutritional information: 1/4th of recipe: 330 calories, 9.5g total fat (4g sat fat), 733mg sodium, 27g carbs, 6.5g fiber, 10.5g sugars, 34.5g protein