By Rose McAvoy
One of the fun behind the scenes parts about blogging is reading the keywords and phrases that lead people to my site. I have no way to track individual users, just the search terms they use. Commonly searched phrases include: vegan pesto, low fat espresso cake, Netflix workouts, and my favorite bikiniless. That last one makes me smile every time I see it because I have a feeling the Googler is not finding their intended content. Not long ago I noticed this phrase in the list, “no one in my family eats leftovers.” Wow, did that catch my attention.
I wondered what motivated the person to put such a specific statement into a search engine. Then I wondered which posts here the search engine identified. When I searched the term myself I came up with over 3.5 million results but none of the first dozen pages of links circled back here. If the person who stumbled upon this site looking for help enticing their family to eat leftovers is still reading send me a note I’d love give you some ideas.
In the mean time I have repurposed my own leftovers, in a manner of speaking. After the salmon pasta debacle I had about four cups of plain spaghetti squash “pasta” tucked away in the refrigerator. Reading Julia Child’s advice to learn from culinary mistakes was soothing salve to my cooking wounds. Rather than fear ruining the squash again I reflected on the mistakes I made with the first dish. I made a new plan using simple ingredients and let them do the work for me. The result was enticing, but most importantly, delicious.
On a side note, I thought you might like to know, the pictures you see here are actually the leftovers from the debute meal. They photographed pretty great and made an excellent lunch. Liberate your leftovers from their containers! Many foods taste even better the following day. It would be a shame to miss out on all that tastiness.
There are two key components to this Italian inspired, pasta-less, pasta dish. The first is spaghetti squash cooked just enough to turn the edible part into noodles. I’m not going to tell you that these squash noodles are an apples to apples replacement for flour based pasta. They retain a slight vegetable crunch when cooked and they don’t have the same stomach swelling starchy volume of the traditional version. These veggie noodles are a great vehicle for your favorite pasta sauce. Swapping your favorite pasta with squash lowers the calories and fat so you can splurge on other ingredients if you are in the mood. According to the USDA Nutritional Data Laboratory spaghetti squash has 31 calories and less than half a gram of fat per cup or 100 grams. You can heap your plate knowing you will burn off at least one part of the meal while washing the dishes.
There are several ways to prepare the squash. My preferred method uses the microwave. Rinse the spaghetti squash, pierce the skin with a fork about eight times to allow steam to escape during cooking (improper venting can cause the squash to explode while cooking – trust me). Microwave on full power (high) for 8 – 12 minutes. The time will vary according to the size of the squash, check after 5 minutes. Use caution when handling the squash after cooking — it will be very hot. Hold the squash with a dry dish towel to prevent burning your hands. The squash is ready when the skin is soft all the way around and a knife can pass through easily. Bisect the squash to make two long oval halves. Using a towel or hot pad to hold the squash scoop the seeds out of each half and discard. Use a fork to tease the strands of squash apart and away from the outer skin. Collect the squash “pasta” in a bowl. All of this can be done up to several days in advance.
The second key ingredient in this dish is pre-cooked shrimp. Shrimp are a great ingredient to keep on-hand to make a quick, fancy-feeling meal. I like to keep a package of pre-cooked shrimp in the freezer. Unlike frozen chicken or beef, shrimp defrosts quickly in a bowl of cool water. You can pull it out shortly before you need it and it should be ready to go in no time.
Referring again to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory a 3 ounce (85 gram) serving of shrimp is going to set you back only 84 calories, less than 1 gram of fat and boost your long term energy with just over 20 grams of protein. The bad news is the amount of cholesterol is just over half of the 300 mg daily intake recommended for those consuming a 2000 calorie diet. This is not a major concern in our house but make the choice that is healthy for your body.
Once the squash is prepared and the shrimp is defrosted you are just minutes away from settling down to this Mediterranean inspired meal.
Shrimp and Spaghetti Squash “Pasta”Tender shrimp and spaghetti squash pasta get tossed with diced tomatoes, parsley and a dab of butter. This is a light and simple weeknight meal that is sure to refresh and impress.
Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cook time: 10 minutes; Yield 4 servings
- 1 lb 31-40 shrimp, cooked and defrosted if needed (tails on or off)
- 4 fresh Roma tomatoes, 2 1/2 cups diced
- 1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons minced
- 4 cups Spaghetti squash, cooked and strands separated (see method above)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- salt &pepper
- 1 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (3/4 cooked, 1/4 garnish)
- lemon slices for finish &garnish
- 1. Heat olive oil in a large flat sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl warm oil in the pan to coat the bottom – it will not cover it entirely. Add the minced onion and garlic to the heated oil. Cook unti it begins to soften and brown around the edges, about two minutes.
- 2. To the onion and garlic add the diced tomatoes and a pinch of salt, about 1/4 teaspoon and a few grinds of pepper. Stir gently. While the tomatoes heat some liquid will come out and begin to create a sauce. After about 3 minutes the skins will begin curling back from the edges of the tomatoes. At this point add your defrosted shrimp.
- 3. Continue to gently stir the tomatoes and shrimp. After three minutes when the shrimp have nearly warmed through add the butter. Stir the butter so that it gets all around the contents of the pan and begins to slightly thicken the sauce. When the butter has fully melted, add 3/4 cup of chopped parsly and 4 cups of spaghetti squash. Tongs can help to fold the “pasta” into the shrimp and tomato sauce.
- 4. Let the “pasta” cook in the sauce for a minute or two so everything becomes the same temperature. Serve immediately with lemon to squeeze over the top and the remaining parsley for garnish.