Paula Graves joins The Pink Heart Society with three fresh, easy, and delicious alternatives to traditional pasta...
My family decided to get takeout from Ruby Tuesday the other day, and as I was trying to watch my calories, I took a look at their "Fit and Trim" selections. I spotted "Spaghetti Squash Marinara" and boy, did that take me back in time.
When I was a teenager, I first went on the Weight Watchers plan, and one of the tricks the counselor suggested was trying spaghetti squash, that odd, noodly little gourd, in the place of pasta in favorite dishes. I liked it quite well, but life and bad habits took me away from healthy eating for far too long, so I hadn't had spaghetti squash in quite a while.
I decided to give the Spaghetti Squash Marinara a try, and boy am I glad I did. The spaghetti squash was firm and delicious, with a hint of nutty flavor that went well with the marinara and grilled zucchini medallions. And at 406 calories for the whole meal (which was large enough to split into two servings), it made a smart, healthy alternative to other dishes I could have chosen. The only real drawback was the price of the meal.
But who says you can't make your own Spaghetti Squash Marinara at home?
Spaghetti squash is readily available at most bigger grocery stores, especially in larger cities. And an average-sized squash will yield several cups of squash noodles. We cook ours in the microwave, about 8-10 minutes. (Punch holes in the squash first!). Cut the squash in half longways, scoop out the seeds and pulp in the center, and then use a fork to scrape out the flesh of the spaghetti squash. It will form noodle-shaped strands about the size of spaghettini. You can put the spaghetti squash "noodles" in a large storage bowl and use them in recipes for up to a week. You can get several meals out of one spaghetti squash.
Granted, spaghetti squash doesn't taste like pasta. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor like winter squash. But the flavor seems to work very well with pasta sauces like pesto and marinara, so don't be afraid to play around with the flavors.
I have three recipes I've tried so far, and I'll share them with you, in case you want to give spaghetti squash a try.
EASY MICROWAVE SPAGHETTI SQUASH MARINARA FOR TWO
2 cups cooked and shredded spaghetti squash
1/4 cup roasted red pepper
1/2 cup marinara (homemade or in the jar, your choice)
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder or other spices to taste
Combine the first four ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, thoroughly, then top with the Parmesan cheese. (Mozarella or other cheeses of your choice can be substituted, although it adds to the calories).
Microwave about 2 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly.
STOVETOP SHRIMP, SPINACH AND SPAGHETTI SQUASH MARINARA
4 cups cooked and shredded spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup sliced or chopped onions
2/3 cup canned spinach, 1/2 package frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh spinach (if fresh, plan to sautee a while before adding other ingredients)
1/2 cup roasted red pepper (or fresh, but sautee until it's soft)
2 or 3 cups cooked, peeled shrimp
2/3 cup marinara (homemade or in the jar, your choice)
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, other spices to taste
Sautee onions in olive oil in a large sautee pan until they're soft. Add red peppers and cooked spinach (add spinach while sauteeing onions if the spinach is fresh). Fold in the four cups of spaghetti squash until thoroughly blended. Season to taste and add marinara sauce and shrimp. Top with parmesan cheese and let simmer until heated through.
EASY MICROWAVE PESTO SPAGHETTI SQUASH
1 cup cooked and shredded spaghetti squash
2 tbsp pesto sauce (I used storebought in a jar)
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder to taste
2 tbsp. chopped roasted red peppers
1 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
Blend all ingredients thoroughly. Heat in microwave for about 2 minutes or until bubbly hot.
All three of these recipes were yummy, and all three had substantially fewer calories than if I'd made them with pasta.
Do you have any low-calorie, healthy go-to favorites that are quick and easy to make? Tell us all about them in the comments!
Paula’s latest, MAJOR NANNY, is out in October from Harlequin Intrigue. In 2012, look for a brand new series, Cooper Security, starting in March 2012 with SECRET IDENTITY.
As a child, Paula Graves's favorite books were Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries and Harlequin Romances. When she realized there were books that featured both romance and mystery, she knew she'd found her calling. Now Paula writes romantic suspense novels and novellas, where she gets to play both matchmaker and murderer and has a blast doing it. She loves to hear from her readers, who can reach her by clicking the contact button on her website, www.paulagraves.com.