Monday, August 23, 2010

Low Carbing it....

OK, I never thought I would consider a low carb diet. I tried to read some of the books on it but they just did not catch my interest. I also love my carbs - pasta, good bread, rice - you name it. I do not think I wanted to learn about it so just did not even try. This all changed recently. For one thing, my husband had gained some unwanted pounds and his blood sugar was too high. His doctor has been telling him for some time to work on lowering it. In addition to that he is on cholesterol lowering medication which is just not healthy. Still, these issues did not motivate me to learn ways to fix it. I honestly thought I was cooking healthy food. That is until our recent vacation.

We were in Maine and the house we stay at does not have cable TV or access to the internet or a working phone and our cell phones do not get a signal there either. So at night we sip wine and read. The local library has a used book shop and the books on the porch are .25. So I sprang for a Suzanne Somer's book for that evenings entertainment. Her diet is a low carb plan that also focuses on food combining but what really got me was the way she explained everything. I finally got it. In addition was the food itself. It was truly not as limiting as I thought it would be. You are allowed to eat really good food. I could do this! I could do this for my husband. After reading the book himself he bought into it as well.

So we started the plan the day we returned from vacation. Twelve days later my husband had his quarterly doctors appointment. For the first time in years his blood sugar was below 100 and his blood pressure was in normal range. We are still working on the cholesterol issues and hope to get him off the medication. It has been six weeks now and he has lost about 10 pounds. I have been doing more research in an effort to understand this more. I have also been in the kitchen trying all kinds of new recipes to keep us satisfied. Right now we are really sticking with the program. The goal is to fix the health issues and then use the plan to maintain but begin to enjoy some of our favorite bad foods on weekends and such.

So, I do still plan to have my "Saturday Night Suppers" but for those interested I will also be posting my most successful low carb dishes as well. Tonight we had a recipe that I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. I call it Spaghetti Squash Casserole. The ricotta on top of the tomato sauce reminds me of an appetizer we have sometimes which is simply a spicy tomato sauce poured over a log of goat cheese and baked until hot and bubbly. This is served as a spread with freshly sliced baquettes. Of course here we have served it over the squash and we get to eat gobs of it as dinner. I am telling you what - this food is not so bad! Everyone I have served this to has enjoyed it. This time when I made it the squash was pretty large - mine was 3.75 lbs. I would probably recommend 2 - 2.5 pounds.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

One 2 - 2.5 lb spaghetti squash
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
Two 14 oz cans tomato sauce
One 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tbs fresh basil
8 oz bulk sausage (I used Jimmy Dean Original)
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
dash more oregano
dash more thyme
fresh ground pepper
Parmesan cheese to sprinkling on top of casserole

1. Cook the squash - pierce it all over with a knife and microwave on high for about 8 minutes. Let stand until cool. (even though I pierced mine it still kind of exploded, photo above!) When cool, cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Shred the squash into spaghetti like strands and put in a buttered casserole dish.

2. While the squash cooks prepare the sauce. Saute the garlic and onion in some olive oil until transparent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp thyme, the basil and fresh ground pepper. Let simmer until somewhat thickened, about 1/2 an hour.

3. Brown and crumble the sausage.

4. Preheat oven to 375. Mix together the ricotta cheese the the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Add a dash of oregano and thyme and fresh ground pepper. Evenly distribute the sausage over the squash. Top the sausage layer with all of the tomato sauce. Top the tomato sauce with the ricotta mixture. I found the easiest way to do this is to take about a quarter cup at a time and flatten it in my hands and the turn out over the casserole. I was able to evenly cover the casserole with the mixture. Sprinkle the top with more Parmesan cheese. Bake about 30 minutes until bubbly. I run it under the broiler for the last 2 minutes or so. Let stand 10 minutes before digging in.

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