Thursday, December 17, 2015

Spiralizing everything


My meal planning has been somewhat sporadic this year but I've been picking it up a bit the last few months. I've been trying to eat fewer grains* for a long time and not succeeding terribly well, mostly because I was having a tough time figuring out how to bulk out our meals without using them. While I love vegetable side dishes and I know those would work well, I'm just too impatient to make multiple dishes for a week night meal. Honestly, adding a side salad is pushing it some nights. I just want everything in one bowl and that always seems to lead me back to pasta dishes or grain salads. For a while I tried focusing on a protein + a vegetable, and that worked pretty well but, side dishes - I don't like making them. And I'm picky about our meat, so eating it more than a couple times a week blows up our entire food budget.

But in my dogged searching for plant based recipes I keep seeing this gadget pop up and I finally gave in. Enter the spiralizer. This is possibly the most gimmicky, as seen on TV purchase that I have ever made, but I love it. It turns vegetables into noodle shapes and it is amazing. I previously had a julienne peeler that I would use for this purpose, but it's annoying to use, you get short noodles, and the risk of shredding my hand was so high that I almost never used it.

I got the spiralizer a few months ago and use it two to three times a week. When we were in the midst of a violent heatwave, I used it for raw veggie salads, which are delicious but admittedly not very hearty. As soon as the weather cooled down I became deeply obsessed with sweet potato noodles and now I make a big batch of them at least once a week. They're perfect because I can get all the carbs I need (my legs go totally dead and refuse to run on a low carb diet, which is part of why cutting out grains is a challenge for me - I like my hobby jogging!) but not wake up with a wheat hangover.

So basically - sweet potato noodles for carb loading, zucchini noodles for lighter days or side salads (I know - I just said I hate side dishes but if all we're doing is grilling I'm willing to put one together), and then a whole world of other options that I'm slowly exploring. There is a ton of information and recipes over at Inspiralized although I'm not using her spiralizer. I have the Paderno brand which had really good reviews and so far I'm really happy with it.

{zucchini noodle salad with miso ponzu dressing}

Recipes that I've been using: 

Sweet potato noodle bolognese  - not actually a recipe. I just use sweet potatoes in place of pasta for a super quick weeknight bolognese. Jar of pasta sauce, 1/2 lb ground beef, 1/2 lb hot sausage, 2 large sweet potatoes spiralized. Cook the beef, add the noodles, saute until just tender and then add the sauce. I make this almost every week because it is delicious, fast, and it's a great way to stretch a relatively small amount of meat. Sometimes I'll use more sweet potatoes and pasta sauce to get more servings and it's still great. Leave out the meat (or sub in mushrooms) for a veggie version.

Sweet potato noodles with mushrooms - this is a great recipe and I added extra mushrooms, chopped sage and then dumped half a bag of Trader Joe's Cruciferous Crunch mix (shredded kale, brussels, broccoli and cabbage) in there for some added green. The sage and sweet potatoes make it taste like Thanksgiving to me.

Sweet potato noodle pad thai - still working on tweaking this one. As written, the sauce needs some punch and you end up with WAY more than you need, so I either need to up the potatoes or scale down the sauce. On a trial run I added chili paste, fish sauce, extra soy and again used Cruceriferous Crunch for some extra veg. We're getting there.

Sweet potato dirty rice - love this concept, but it really relies on good Cajun sausage, so make sure you find one you like. I didn't love the one I got from Trader Joe's, shockingly.

Butternut squash noodles with onions and brussels - I'm now always on the lookout for good spiralizing candidates. If I see smaller, skinnier butternut squash (the less of a bulb on the end the better!) I'll pick a few up and keep them around. They're a little more work because you roast the noodles rather than saute them, but they're delicious.

Zucchini noodle salad with miso ponzu dressing (pictured) - tasty, especially with some well baked tofu. I used extra firm tofu and marinated it in ponzu and a bit of sesame oil for a few hours before baking. This salad is pretty light so it's well suited to hot days. The leftovers hold up okay but not great, so maybe wait to dress the whole thing if you're planning to eat some the next day.

Mediterranean zucchini noodle salad - the best zucchini noodle salad I've made so far and it held up beautifully for leftovers the next day. I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I made my own dressing in my tiny blender but it was pretty similar to theirs.

There is a learning curve associated with cooking vegetable noodles. At first I wasn't sure when they were done so I was overcooking them a ton and usually ending up with sweet potato rice instead of sweet potato noodles. Still tasty, not as fun to twirl on a fork. You can read up on tips here, but I still think you just have to feel it out on your own and figure out your preferences.

I know it's still early to say, but I can see myself continuing to use this on a really regular basis. I feel so much better getting my carbs from vegetables and it's worth the tiny bit of extra prep work. I'm being especially diligent about it this month because December can so easily go completely out of whack.

Oh, and you'll notice when you spiralize that you end up with these funny bits of vegetable left. At first I was throwing them away but now I chop them and put them in the freezer (separate bag for each veg) and use them in soup once I've accumulated enough. It makes me feel extra virtuous.

* I am not, at all, allergic to gluten. But the older I get the more I notice that if I eat too many grains of any kind, but gluten in particular, I wake up with all my joints swollen and I feel uncomfortable. This probably means something but rather than fall into a Google black hole I've just been trying to reduce grains in my everyday diet. I still have something grain-y a couple times a week and accept that I will look like a marshmallow the next day. I think that's what they call balance?


  1. This is really timely. As I get older I notice that wheat (and to a lesser degree dairy) has the same effect on me. We picked up a spiralizer a few weeks ago but only used it once. Going to dust it off and give these a try.

  2. Vegetarian here so thanks for some new recipe ideas. My answer to less grains but needing bulk/carbs would be beans or lentils. I usually include them 3-4 times a week since they're so easy.

  3. I try to avoid gluten due to a thyroid issue so thank you for posting these recipes, as I've been on the lookout for more veggie noodle dishes. I have a handheld spiralizer and it is a huge pain to use, so I just added this one to my wish list!

  4. Thanks for the recipes -I bought a spiralizer, made one meh dish, and promptly forgot about it, so maybe this will get me back in gear...

  5. I've had my eye on a spiralizer for at least a Amazon gift card just landed on my desk and immediately went to this once I saw this post. I am PUMPED.

  6. I completely understand the meal-planning dilemmas when you eliminate carbs. Suddenly the anchor or the meal (or the substantial side) is gone and getting enough food to feel full becomes an issue. I eat dramatically less carbs/sugar in general now since distancing myself from them in May. For me, I didn't get swollen joints so much as feeling incredibly low-energy and bloated after eating even very modest portions. I eat more meat now (more fat in general) and I feel much more energetic, never bloated after meals and my skin looks so much healthier. Everyone's different and you just have to find what works for you. Kudos for being experimental.

  7. Beet noodles are also pretty fabulous with some sort of Italian-y sauce. I made a ground turkey sauce thing with capers that ended up perfect with the roasted beet noodles.

  8. Okay, I just have to share this.

    That said, I have given thought to one of those spiralizer things. Maybe if I share these recipes, my husband will agree.

  9. i will ask for this for my birthday! i have a crappy hand held spiralizer that's never the right size for our gigantic zucchini, and chunks always get stuck in it. you have inspired me to try more veggie noodle dishes since i usually find them kind of meh. i've been making sweet potato gnocchi and it seriously rocks. i will bring it to the next party. xoxo

  10. Great post- I bought the machine right away, using the link so I hope you get affiliate credit. Thanks for including all the recipes and practical advise too. Can't wait to give it a try.

  11. This post solidified my choice to buy one (using your link!). My boyfriend and I are starting the whole 30 next month, and after having done it once before I know this will help us immensly!


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