Sometimes it seems to me that we all are on a constant grain binge: pastas, doughnuts, breads, bagels, buns, cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals, cakes, pastries – there is no escaping or hiding from grain-based foods.
Most of us are aware that these foods are not ideal (to put it mildly), so many people are switching to “whole grains” as a more healthy alternative to heavily processed white grains.
Although the U.S. government (heavily influenced by industry lobbyists), as well as many nutrition experts, promote a high intake of grains, following this strategy actually sets up a lot of people for serious health consequences.
Pasta is often touted as “health food.” Highly processed cereals are promoted as “cholesterol lowering” foods, and whole grains are promoted as a way to prevent digestive diseases and cancer. This brainwashing is certainly working. We now consume so much grain products, that for many children cereal is their main source of vitamins!
To stay healthy and maintain ideal weight effortlessly, we should eat far fewer grain products than most of us consume today; and some of us should eat no grains (not even whole grains) at all!
Even the “whole grains”, although an improvement over the refined grains, should be limited, as they are still a processed foods with very low nutrient to calorie ratio. Read my post the Dark Side of Grains here.
So, what should we be eating instead?
More vegetables, fruits, greens, mushrooms, beans, nuts and seeds.
The best way to limit the amount of grain products, and – for those that are gluten intolerant – to get rid of gluten from your diet completely is to eat only unprocessed plant foods. All unprocessed food (obviously, with the exception for the unprocessed grains that contain gluten) is gluten-free, high in nutrients, while naturally low in calories.
Giving up grains requires a major paradigm shift for most of us. To make it easier for yourself, you may want to think about changing your diet as moving to another country and culture. You may attempt to bring all your old habits with you, and struggle to get all of the ingredients that you are used to to create the meals you are used to, or you can gracefully, and with a sense of adventure try the new cuisine.
So, without further ado, here are some ideas on how to substitute vegetables in pasta dishes.
How to Make Zucchini Pasta
Not zucchini with pasta…Zucchini as pasta!!!
Figure on one medium large zucchini per person.
If you have a mandolin slicer or spiral vegetable slicer, any of these will be perfect for the job, and you can hook up the julienne attachment for perfectly formed noodles.
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t have any of these, so you can either use a vegetable peeler or a knife. The peeler method will give you long flat noodles, and if using a knife, just cut the veggies into thin slices, stack up, and cut again lengthwise into thin strips.
By the way, you don’t have to limit yourself to zucchini. Use whatever you have: kale, collard greens, butternut squash, red bell pepper, and beets, would all be great to use as “noodles.”
Check out the pictures here Rainbow “Pasta” with an Almond Tumeric Sauce
Now, if you are ready for a hard-core raw pasta, just toss your noodles with the sauce of your choice, such as pesto or tomato, and you are done! (You may want to salt the noodles and rinse after 20 minutes to soften them a little bit).
However, many of you will probably prefer the pasta cooked.
So, just boil some salted water, and add the noodles to the water to cook for about 1 minute. Remove from boiling water quickly and immediately blanch in cold water, to stop cooking.
– or –
Skip the boiling and toss the noodles on a frying pan for a few minutes with some olive oil and your favorite pasta sauce: tomato, pesto sauce, garlic, whatever you wish.
Do not overcook! You don’t want to the zucchini to over cook and get soft.
These noodles can be tossed with any of your favorite sauces, but tend to work better with a simple, and non chunky style sauce.
Zucchini Noodles with Pesto Sauce
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Pesto Sauce Recipe
1 bunch of fresh basil (bunch could be as big or as little as you like)
1 cup of pine nuts
4-5 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 salt and pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
1. Substitute all or part of basil with other greens, such as parsley, dandelion, arugula, watercress, spinach, cilantro to give the recipe a unique flavor.
2. Substitute pine nuts with walnuts, almonds, basil nuts, etc.
3. For a creamy pesto sauce, add 2 avocados.
4. Toss in some sunflower or pumpkin seeds for more nutrition.
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Zucchini pasta is perfect for dieters, gluten intolerant people, diabetics,… and of course for everyone who loves their veggies!
World Cuisine 48297-99 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer
Just check this vegetable slicer it seems like the perfect tool for the job. This tool is great for making fancy spiral vegetable garnishes for salads as well as making curly fries from potatoes. I haven’t tried one myself, but it looks like a neat tool to have in your kitchen.
It includes three sets of blades: one with 1/8-inch spacing, one with 1/4-inch spacing, and one straight blade for ribbon cuts or curly, ribbon-like slices. It measures 12 by 10 by 6 inches (LxWxH) and is dishwasher safe. Backed by a 1-year warranty. About $30 on Amazon.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
If you have a favorite recipe, why not submit it here in the comment section of this smoothie recipes blog for others to enjoy too!
I also welcome any comments, questions and suggestions. Thanks!