If you are addicted to pizza and to pasta, try these healthy low fat recipes to increase the variety of vegetables in your diet and reduce your consumption of carbohydrates from pizza dough and pasta dishes.
Healthy Low Fat Recipe #1: Roasted Spaghetti Squash
If more people knew how easy and tasty spaghetti squash was to make, they’d eat it all the time. Uncooked squash also has the benefit of a long shelf life, no refrigeration is required.
To cook this lozenge-shaped yellow squash, start by turning the oven on to 400 degrees and place a rack in the middle of the oven.
Next, cut your squash in half lengthwise. Use care when doing this, particularly if the squash has been in storage for a while as it may be a bit tougher to cut through. Use a sharp knife and cut on a stable surface. You can also roll up a small wet towel and curl it under the squash for more support.
Once it’s cut in half, remove the seeds from the center with a spoon. Leave the flesh on the perimeter intact. Brush or hand rub a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on the insides of both squash halves. You can season them with liberally with ground pepper and a little salt. Try it first without salt, you might not miss it.
Now put both halves of the squash (with the cut side up) onto a baking sheet (covering the sheet with foil makes cleanup easier) and let them bake for 50 minutes. You’ll know they are done when you can stick a fork in them and the flesh separates easily.
Remove the squash from the oven and let them cool down for 30 minutes or so. That way you can handle them easily without burning your hands.
Now, using a fork, scrape at the flesh inside each half. If you have never cooked spaghetti squash before, you’ll be surprised that the spaghetti squash flesh turns into long strings, just like its namesake. You can remove the long strings at this time and set them aside. (Some cooks prefer to serve the final version in the squash skin, that’s up to you.)
Now you can make a garlic and shallot ‘sauce’ for the squash. Heat up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan for two or three minutes until it begins to shimmer. Meanwhile, chop up 2 cloves of garlic and cut up some shallots (young onions or thoroughly washed leeks would work as well) and add them to the pan when the oil is nice and hot. Season with pepper. Add salt if you must. Cook this mixture for 3 minutes or so until it’s softened and slightly browned.
Now you can mix your garlic and shallots ‘sauce’ with the reserved squash from the previous step. Serve the final mix in a serving bowl or transfer it back into the original squash skin and serve it that way.
If you can eat dairy, add a little bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top if you want. It’s delicious.
Healthy Low Fat Recipe #2: Zucchini Spaghetti, also known as Zoodles
Zucchini is another vegetable that you can cook up like pasta. You’ll need to cut the zucchini into very thin strips to simulate pasta. This is easier to do if you have a mandolin in the kitchen that can cut very thin julienne strips or — even better — you invest in a spiral slicer — also known as a “spiralizer” — which will make these zucchini noodles in no time.
Once you cut the zucchini into very thin strips, about the thickness of spaghetti, you’ll have a raw ingredient to try in your favorite pasta recipes. But instead of boiling them, you can try putting them into the microwave for 2 minutes in a covered dish. Don’t overcook or they will be soggy. The microwave approach will give the most spaghetti-like texture and flavor. Try them with your favorite marinara sauce (and other favorite toppings).
What about using zucchini noodles in asian-style recipes? No problem. You can also stir fry these zucchini noodles. Before cooking them on the stove, seasoning them with ground pepper and a little salt and let them rest for 20 minutes before cooking. This will soften and dry the noodles a bit before you finish cooking them in a wok or a pan. It won’t take long to cook them, you can stir fry them with an oil of your choice for maybe 1 or 2 minutes on a high heat.
We hope you try zucchini noodles. It’s great way to add more vegetables to your diet while satisfying your cravings for carbohydrate-rich pasta!
Healthy Low Fat Recipe #3: Grilled Eggplant, Tomato and Goat Cheese
Our third suggestion this month is a vegetable alternative to pizza dough.
Pick up an eggplant (we are talking about the regular-sized eggplants, although the smaller Japanese style ones could work as well) at the store and give it a try.
Eggplants used to be very bitter, so the old method was to slice them into disks and salt them liberally to remove the bitterness, then wash the salt off. But growers today generally sell varieties that are less bitter. You can probably skip this step nowadays and reduce your salt intake to boot.
Another tip: when you are picking eggplants at the store, you may want to select ‘male’ eggplants, which are said to have fewer seeds and a less bitter taste. Look at the bottom end of the eggplant (opposite end from the green stem). The male eggplants have a rounder disk-shaped spot while the female eggplants have a longer, oblong spot.
Once you’ve picked out your eggplant, it’s time to get cooking. If you plan to grill these outside, now is a good time to get the fire going so it’s nice and hot when the ingredients are ready. If you are cooking your eggplant on the stove, you can wait a bit.
Cut your eggplant into disks, somewhere between a quarter of an inch to half an inch thick.
Transfer your eggplant disks into a bowl and coat them with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Season liberally with ground pepper (and a little salt, if you must).
Arrange the sliced disks on a tray. Put a slice of tomato on each disk. Add a slide of goat cheese to each one as well. Now you have little eggplant ‘pizzas’ to set on the grill. If you want perfection, use toothpicks to keep everything tidy.
(If you use diced tomatoes, flipping the eggplant over during the grilling process will be problematic, but it will still taste great. You will have to reassemble everything at the end.)
Now it’s time to grill our eggplant ‘pizzas’. Oil your grill (or prep your ridged griddle or frying pan if you are cooking on the stove.) Put the eggplant ‘pizzas’ on the heat and remove the toothpicks if you are using them. Cook each slice of eggplant with the toppings for about 7 to 8 minutes, then (this is hard!) flip them over and cook for another 6 to 7 minutes. (Don’t worry if they fall apart the first time your try this — they will still taste great.)
This recipe is another healthy way to eat more vegetables and less pizza dough. Once you perfect flipping them over, they are also a great dish to bring to a party or potluck.
Do you have other suggestions for healthy low fat recipes?
Leave us a note in the comments below!