A Spaghetti Squash Expirement (and some really yummy turkey meatballs)

Let me start by saying — I LOVE spaghetti squash.

I used to make it maybe once or twice a month, but for the past few weeks, it’s become a Sunday night tradition for me to make some kind of spaghetti squash dinner for my husband and me.  So far we’ve tried two recipes from SkinnyTaste (Cheese Baked Spaghetti Squash Boats and Spaghetti Squash Lasagna) and last week I tried Rachael Ray’s Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Ragu.  The two from SkinnyTaste were really good, but Rachael Ray’s recipe was a total bust. So bland and tasteless.  blech!

Anyway!  I wanted to make another spaghetti squash dish tonight, but I’m getting a little tired of the Italian theme.  I found a recipe for WW-friendly Asian meatballs and thought — why not try to make some kind of Asian spaghetti squash to go with it? I did a quick Google search for ‘Asian Spaghetti Squash Recipes’, and there were a couple, but none of them looked like exactly what I was looking for (or called for ingredients I didn’t have on hand). 

So I made one up. And it actually turned out really good!!  I basically just stir-fried the veggies I had on hand, then added a soy/peanut sauce that I’ve used for noodles before.. and voila!  “Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash” was born!

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Here’s my “recipe” if you want to try it yourself:

INGREDIENTS
1 large spaghetti squash, cooked and strands removed. (My favorite way to do this is to cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for about an hour.)
8 oz thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (I used my julienne peeler.  LOVE.)
1 tbs minced garlic
large handful chopped cilantro
Sauce:
2 tbs chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
juice from half a lime

DIRECTIONS
1)  Mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.  (If the PB doesn’t want to mix up with the soy sauce, you can microwave it for about 30 seconds and it should come together better.)
2)  Spray a large deep skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium-high.  Add mushrooms, pepper and carrots and cook, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  Add garlic and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes, until garlic is softened.
3)  Add spaghetti squash strands to the veggie mixture and stir to combine.  Turn off heat.
4)  Add sauce, and stir until all of the veggies are coated.  Top with cilantro and serve!

Now I’m not one of those people who pretends spaghetti squash actually tastes like spaghetti.  Let’s face it … it doesn’t.  But I have to say, with this peanut sauce on it, I almost fooled myself into believing I was eating Asian noodles.  And my husband (who is definitely not a huge fan of vegetables) LOVED it.  He even asked to take the leftovers to work with him tomorrow.  Yay!

But the best part?  I only had to count the points for 1 tbs peanut butter (actually less than that because I ate less than half of the recipe) because the rest of the recipe is Simply Filling.  Yay! 

Oh and the turkey meatballs were really good, too.  I found that recipe here.

So anyway… let me know if you give it a try.  And if you have any great spaghetti squash recipes, please share!  I’m sure we’ll be eating some more next Sunday! ūüôā

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A Pinterest tip that actually works!

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a Pinterest-er. ¬†I’m always trying out new recipes and other fun tips I find on there. ¬†Some work – some don’t.

This one was a tip for storing cilantro. I love cilantro and I end up buying a little bunch of it almost weekly because I use it in tons of recipes and I can never get it to last me more than a few days before turning mushy. ¬†[Yes I know I could just grow my own. ¬†Trust me I’ve tried, and I apparently am incapable of growing anything. ¬†Plants hate me.]

I’ve tried a couple suggestions for storing the yummy herb, including this one from one of my favorite Food Network people, Aarti Sequeira… and none of them ¬†have worked as well as this super simple one:

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Just wash and dry the cilantro and then stick it in a cup, standing up in a little bit of water… and voila! ¬†It works! ¬†I’ve had this bunch since Monday, and today is Saturday and it’s still looking good! ¬†Yay!

On a side note… if you haven’t tried Wickles, you really should! ¬†They are super spicy pickles that are deeeelicious and very low calorie/points.

Another Trader Joe’s Favorite: Reduced Guilt Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip

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Only 30 calories (or 1WW p+) for 2 tablespoons and this stuff is soooo good. ¬†And I am not even a fan of Greek yogurt! ¬†Try it right out of the container on raw veggies (carrots, radishes and mushrooms are my favorite), or heat it up in the microwave and it ends up tasting like a warm spinach dip — really good on pita bread or tortillas.

Mmm I’m gonna go have some right now.

Opal — My New Favorite Apple!

I eat apples all the time, but I must say… it’s sure hard to find a good one nowadays. ¬†I have tried just about every variety I can find at the grocery store and lately I seem to only have good luck with Fuji and Pink Lady. ¬†Even my old favorite — the Gala — has started to become bland and mealy. ¬†So sad.

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Last week my produce co-op gave me a bag of these yellow apples and I thought they were Golden Delicious (which I think are some of the worst apples ever), so all week I’ve been trying to think of what I was going to cook them in. There was no way I was going to just eat one as a snack!

Then this morning I took a closer look at the label and was surprised to see these were actually “Opal” apples. ¬†Opal? ¬†Hmm… never heard of it, but hey I’ll give it a try.

Well, what a nice surprise! So crispy and sweet and deeeelicious! ¬†I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in our grocery store (or maybe I just overlooked them thinking they were golden delicious?) but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for them now. ¬†So glad I have 5 or 6 more to enjoy while I look!

Have you ever tried an Opal apple? ¬†What’s your favorite?

Bundt Pan Roasted Chicken – A Pinterest FAIL

I love Pinterest, and I really love trying new recipes I find on Pinterest. ¬†I have come across some real gems on that site, but I’ve also come across quite a few stinkers, too. ¬†This one would go into the “stinkers” folder.

It’s actually not a recipe… it’s more of a cooking “technique.” ¬†According to this link, you can use your bundt pan to roast a chicken vertically. ¬†Like this:

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It looked kinda fun and my bundt pan doesn’t get much use so why the heck not? ¬†Well… I’ll tell ya why not. ¬†Because although the top part of the chicken that’s sticking up out of the confines of the pan comes out nice and crispy and yummy, the part that sits down in the pan stays limp and chewy and pretty darned gross.

Ah well. ¬†The meat inside was still good because I made sure I rubbed it down with lots of olive oil and rosemary and garlic and some fresh lemons… so it wasn’t a complete failure. And now I have lots of roasted chicken meat to use in my lunches this week!¬†You win some, you lose some.

My Favorite Protein Shake

I don’t drink protein shakes every day, but I do usually have one a few times a week. ¬†They’re quick to make and pretty filling, so they make a good after-workout snack or ¬†breakfast on-the-go.

Here’s how I make my very favorite. ¬†I call it the “Coconut Cream Milkshake.” (I’ve found that giving something a fancy name, and calling it a milkshake makes it taste a lot better! ūüėČ )

First fill your Magic Bullet cup about halfway with some crushed ice. If you don’t have a Magic Bullet (you should get one), I’d say it’s about a cup of ice.

ImageSorry for the terrible pics. ¬†I¬†apparently¬†had something smeared on my lens and didn’t realize till I was halfway done making my shake!

Anyway…. after you put the ice in your cup, add a cup of Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk (only 1 WW Point+).

ImageThen add your vanilla flavored protein powder. ¬†I like Designer Whey because it’s only 90 calories (or 2 WW Points+) and it tastes pretty good for a protein shake.

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Now here’s where the magic comes in. ¬†Add a big heaping spoonful of fat-free, sugar-free vanilla pudding mix AND a few drops of coconut extract.

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I usually add a little water at this point so it’s not too thick. ¬†Then I whirl it all up for about 30 seconds and voila! ¬†Yummy yummy thick and creamy cold and delicious coconut yumminess for just a few points!

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Let me know if you give it a try!

Planning, planning and more planning

One of the things that has helped me be successful so far has been planning. ¬†Gone are the days of being able to spontaneously decide when, where and what I’m going to eat… and when, where and how I’m going to exercise. ¬†I have learned when I don’t plan ahead, I get into trouble.

As you know, I’m a Weight Watcher, which means I have to track all my food anyway. ¬†I found very quickly that I needed to change that up a bit and actually PRE-track all of my food. ¬†So before I go to bed every night I go into my Points Plus Tracker and track tomorrow’s food. ¬†It helps so much to wake up and know the exact plan for the day. In the morning I can pack my breakfast and lunch (I eat both at work), and I can make sure everything’s in order for dinner. Then I don’t get caught scrambling for something last-minute, which usually results in bad choices.

But even before that, every Sunday night I plan out all my dinners for the whole week. ¬†I use the Evernote app on my phone to jot them down, and then when I do my grocery shopping on Monday, I know what I need to be shopping for (I have a separate shopping list in Evernote also). ¬†Here’s what my menu looks like this week:

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I also cook up a big thing of veggies on Monday, to have on hand for the rest of the week.  My favs are zucchini, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers and asparagus.  I cook up a giant batch, then put them into serving-size plastic containers and stack them up in my fridge.  Then when I want to add them to my breakfasts and lunches, they are all ready to go.  That helps so much.

I took some pics this week while I made my big batch of zucchini and squash. ¬†I thought I’d share my “recipe.”

First I turned my oven on to 375 degrees. ¬†Then I cut 3 medium zucchini and 3 yellow squash into bite-size pieces. ¬†Then I sprayed a cookie sheet with olive oil and spread them out on the pan. ¬†Next I drizzled a couple teaspoons of EVOO over the top and sprinkled liberally with powdered ranch dressing and cracked black pepper.ImageThen I took a big ol’ spoon and gave the squash a good mix to spread the EVOO and spices evenly over them. ¬†You can kinda tell they’re coated in this picture:Image

Then I stuck them in the hot oven and let them bake for about 20 minutes. ¬†They come out of the oven slightly browned on one side, which gives them that yummy roasted flavor. ¬† This picture isn’t so great (I really need to stop being lazy and use my actual camera instead of my phone), but trust me …. they’re yummy! ¬†Roasted veggies are the best.Image

Anyway, like I said…. I pack them up in serving-size containers and now I’m good to go for the week. ¬†I’ll add them to Lean Cuisines or leftovers or sandwiches at lunch time, or egg scrambles and omelets at breakfast time. ¬†Works great!

I have tons more ‘planning’ tricks I’ve picked up along the way, but I need to run for now… ¬†They’ll have to come in a later post. ¬†Meanwhile, I’d love to hear how other people “plan for success.” ¬†Let me know! ¬†I’m all ears!