A Farewell to Carbs

A 30-something navigating the world of Type 2 Diabetes while remaining fun, fashionable and fabulous.

What’s cooking: Rainbow in a bowl 02/12/2012


I know, I know. It’s a weird title. Let me explain.

As you know, I’m trying to cut back on the amount of carbs I eat. Back before I was diagnosed as a diabetic, I ate a lot of pasta. Whole wheat pasta! I thought I was being virtuous. Turns out, not so much.

I’ve written often about my unsettling love for tomato sauce. For me, nothing beats a big bowl of fusilli pasta and homemade meat sauce. I could eat that for the rest of my life and not get tired of it ever. But pasta is high-carb, so after I got over my denial of being a diabetic, I began looking for ways to cut carbs but still indulge in a bowl of hearty meat sauce.

Then I remembered this wacky thing my mom used to do when I was a teen. My mom is a terrific cook, but not very adventurous in the kitchen. But one day when we all sat down together for dinner, she plopped a half a squash down in front of me and then covered it in tomato sauce. I wasn’t even sure what to think at first. It was delicious!

It only looks scary, I promise!

Spaghetti squash, as it is called, is a pretty amazing thing. It has the same general shape as a watermelon, but a little more oblong. Inside, it’s sort of looks like butternut squash — it has some seeds in the center you have to scrape out after cutting the thing in half lengthwise. Then you put the squash cut-side down in a glass pan with a little water in the bottom into an oven heated to about 350 degrees. After about an hour, take it out, flip it cut-side up and run a fork through the flesh. You’ll get strands that look somewhat like angel-hair pasta.

Pour some sauce over it and you have a pretty hearty dinner without the carbohydrate bomb in a heaping bowl of pasta. Per cup of spaghetti squash (prepared with no added salt or fat), there’s only 42 calories, 10 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber. I usually split each half of the spaghetti squash into two servings, so there are 4 servings per squash.

I find spaghetti squash to be a little on the sweet side. Not butternut squash sweet, but definitely partway there. To counterbalance the sweetness, I make my sauce pretty spicy by adding ground cumin and chili powder.

Now — where’s the rainbow part of all of this, you ask? I added sautéed spinach, shredded carrot and some zucchini to my sauce to bulk up the veggies. So that gives you red, orange and green. Add the squash and you have most of the colors of the rainbow. Studies show you should be eating a variety of colors of veggies and fruits every day. This dish definitely adheres to that rule.

I also added very lean ground beef to my sauce to add some protein. This would also be good with sausage or meatballs, though.

I don’t have an exact count on calories, fat, carbs, fiber or protein. For Weight Watchers, I added up the points from the plain tomato sauce and for 2 oz of lean ground beef (which I mixed into each cup of sauce to make sure it was completely accurate). All the veggies are “free,” and I added about 2 cups of uncooked spinach, which cooks way down when sautéed in cooking spray, and about a half-cup each of shredded carrot and zucchini rounds. I counted the spaghetti sauce’s points because I used a jarred sauce as a base and the nutrition facts were on it. If you make tomato sauce from scratch and only use tomatoes and spices, it would be “free” too on the WW plan. All together, I calculated my meal as being 7 WW points.

I found a nifty little recipe calculator online that you can use to calculate recipes by entering the amount of ingredients you use and then dividing by the number of servings. Share your favorite tomato sauce recipe in the comments and let me know if you use the calculator to get nutrition info per serving.

So there you have it, a veggie-centric spaghetti and meat sauce that takes most of the carbs out of the equation. Enjoy!

Your turn: What exotic veggie or fruit have you tried and loved? How do you prepare it?

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What’s cooking: Easy chicken cacciatore 01/15/2012

Filed under: cooking — Diabetic Diva @ 9:27 pm
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If I take a few minutes to think about my favorite meals of all time — the dishes I’d want as a last meal if I should ever find myself on death row and out of appeals, the entrees that make me think of love and comfort and deliciousness — one thing stands out as a pattern.

Tomato sauce.

Whether it’s a plate of chicken parmesan oozing with cheese or a fresh, spicy salsa topping a pile of tortilla chips, tomato sauce takes up a special plate in my heart and tummy. But tomato sauce is high in carbs (relatively speaking), especially when you add it to a heaping plate of pasta.

So I started flipping through recipes to find one that was heavy on the tomato sauce but light on the carbohydrates and came across one I cut out of a Diabetic Cooking magazine a year or so ago: Easy Chicken Cacciatore.

My mom made a version of this often as a family meal, and I’ve made it many times without a recipe. Cacciatore, or at least the dish as we know it in the U.S., has a couple of constants regardless of whether you’re going high-brow or bachelor: bell peppers, mushrooms, chunky tomato sauce and braised chicken.

This recipe, as the name states, is super-easy and doesn’t require you to use all the pots and pans in your kichen arsenal (or my kitchen arsenal, at least, which is admittedly lacking because I haven’t gotten married and thus have not benefitted from the wedding registry tradition).

Couple of notes: This recipe serves 6, which is a little much for a single girl like me. I either invite a friend or two over for dinner the first night and then pack the leftovers for my dinner the next three nights, or I cut down the recipe to serve four. I also skip the first step, but you might not want to. Finally, this recipe does not call for the dish to be served with noodles, rice or another carb. If you do serve it with a side dish to soak up the sauce, make sure you add on the additional calories, fat, carb, protein, etc.

What you’ll need:

1/4 c all-purpose flour

6 (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 6 (5-6 oz) bone-in breasts, skin removed

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided

1 large green bell pepper, cut into short strips

1 medium onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced crosswise

1 package (6 oz) sliced button mushrooms

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cans (about 14 oz each) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained

1 and 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon of salt

6 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella

1. Place flour in a large resealable food storage bag. Add chicken, 2 pieces at a time and  shake to coat.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on both sides and remove from pan.

3. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to same skillet. Add veggies, cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add garlic, cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, seasoning and salt; bring to a boil. Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 18 minutes if using boneless chicken, 23 minutes if using bone-in chicken. Check to make sure chicken is cooked through before taking off the stove.

4. Serve chicken with veggies and sauce. Top with 1 tablespoon of cheese.

Servings: 6 (1 chicken breast, 2/3 cup of sauce and 1 tablespoon of cheese per serving)

Nutrition per serving:

Calories: 233

Fat: 6 g

Carbs: 14 g

Fiber: 3 g

Protein: 31 g