A Little Word on Spaghetti Squash

The New Bite

The winter squash I wish I'd known about years ago.

Sometimes called vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, or the gold string melon, this gourd is one of my favorite new bites of the year.

Averaging at about 45 calories per cup, and high in potassium,  Vitamin A and other key nutrients, this is one of those rare moments where the food you’ll want to go back to for seconds and thirds won’t cause a repentant stomach.

So what is it? An oblong, yellow gourd with a uniquely-textured flesh that pulls away from the rind in thin, spaghetti-like strands when cooked.

I’ve tried preparing this product a number of ways, and have found that baking it produces the best effect.

For best results, halve the spaghetti squash lengthwise with a chef’s knife.

A Little Warning: This is the most difficult part of the process.  Spaghetti squash can be very difficult to cut.  If you are struggling, try microwaving the squash for 1 to 2 minutes.  Depending on the squash’s size, this can help soften the rind.

Once separated into two equal halves, remove the seeds and pulp from the center.

A Little Tip: Save the seeds! These can be treated just like pumpkin seeds, baked for 5-10 minutes with a little bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil. These make a great snack, but keep an eye on portion size.  Like nuts, squash seeds are high in good fats, but have the calories to match. A quarter cup may have 75-100 calories, depending on how much oil you use and the size of the seeds.

The good news is, that’s the hardest part! The rest is a little bit of waiting, and then the childish joy of playing with your food.

Lay the squash halves face down on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.  Because the size of spaghetti squashes can vary drastically, the time can vary significantly.  Try not to start this process if you’re already hungry, however, as it will not take less than twenty minutes.

Check on the status of your squash by trying to press a fork through the rind.  When a fork can pierce the rind, your squash is ready for the final stage.

I'm a big fan of foods that make playing with your dinner socially acceptable.

Allow your squash to cool before attempting this phase.  Another sign your squash is ready? That delicious golden coler around the edge of the rind.

Take a fork, and scrape at the inside of the flesh.  If your squash is cooked all the way through, the flesh should easily peel away from the rind in thin golden strands.  If this is proving difficult, try giving the squash another 3-5 minutes in the oven, and then leaving it face down to cool.

One small squash makes 4-6 cups of “spaghetti pasta,” which can be used as a delicious, low-calorie substitute for your favorite pasta recipe.  Whether you’re gluten-free, grain-free, or just looking for a healthy, guilt-free alternative for your pasta craving, spaghetti squash is definitely worth the effort.

This bowl contains about four cups of spaghetti squash, about 180 calories. That much angel hair pasta would be about 840 calories.

Off to find another another little bite,

Melanie

 

Where To Bite Thai – Chilli Duck [Boston, MA]

Where to Bite

Steamed mixed vegetables are complemented by a salty-sweet brown sauce and hearty brown rice in the Rama Garden, a go-to healthy bite.

There are certainly no shortage of Thai restaurants in Boston, and everyone seems to be a champion for one in particular.  The Chilli Duck, at 829 Boylston Street has long been my favorite place to fill a craving for Thai cuisine.

One of the first things I look for on a restaurant’s menu is the chance to choose.  As a vegetarian, it’s frustrating being told that my only options are the house salad or pasta primavera.  In general, I find Asian-cuisine to be a far more hospitable culinary climate.  The presence of tofu as a menu-staple is a major contributing factor to the variety available on Chilli Duck’s menu.

The dry curry prik khing sauce makes this dish one of my good friend’s favorites. Add tofu, as pictured above, to make the entree more filling.

http://chilliduckthai.com/

Recommended Dishes: The Pad Woon Sen is my ultimate Chilli Duck bite. Delicate bean thread noodles come mixed with baby corn, snow peas, mushrooms, and a variety of other vegetables.  Add tofu or additional vegetables for no additional cost. For a lighter option, try the Lemongrass Entree, a medley of winter vegetables in a crisp lemongrass sauce.

The Not-So-Good Bite: The portions at Chilli Duck are more than substantial.  For a healthier night out, try putting half aside and take it to go.  You’ll still have a filling meal, and lunch will be taken care of the next day.

The Good Bite:  Prices are all over the place at Chilli Duck.  But unless you have a penchant for a whole steamed fish filet ($19.95) most dishes are reasonably priced, between $8.95 and $13.95. The good news is with the big portions, it’s easy to split dinner with a friend or make that money last by saving leftovers for another meal.

The Best Bite: In addition to the wide variety of vegetarian options, the menu marks all of these with a little green leaf, taking all the guess work out of that what-exactly-is-in-the-spring-roll-anyway moment. What’s more, most entrees can include a protein of your choice, and thus can be kept as vegetarian.

For those who have been, what’s your favorite Chilli Duck bite? For those who haven’t, what’s the next Thai restaurant I need to try?
Off to find another little bite,
Melanie

Homemade Pumpkin Butter – CYOB

Create Your Own Bite

Make any bite a sweet one with a little spread of Homemade Pumpkin Butter.

Create Your Own Bite #1

Homemade Pumpkin Butter

1 15oz Can of Trader Joe’s Organic Canned Pumpkin

1 Tsp of Ground Cinnamon

1 Tsp of Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 Tsp of Vanilla Flavor

1 Tsp of Vanilla Creme Stevia

2 Tbsp of water

This recipe makes approximately thirty, 1 tablespoon servings. Estimated calories: 10

As I mentioned in my mini toast-post, ever since my last spoonful of Pecan Pumpkin Butter, I’ve been dying to get my hands on some more.  Fortunately, in my apartment my roommate and I always have miscellaneous products, such as Trader Joe’s Organic Canned Pumpkin, waiting around in the pantry for a purpose.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s simple, sweet, and just ten calories shy of being completely guilt free. Pumpkins are loaded in dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A and C, and loads of other minerals your mind and body crave.

To prepare the spread, simply combine the canned pumpkin, spices, water, and vanilla flavor and stevia into a sauce pan.  Once all of the ingredients are incorporated, put your stove on medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the spread begins to bubble, reduce heat and allow it to simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the spread is smooth and buttery. Allow the pumpkin butter to cool, and then can or refrigerate.

My roommate used an old sauce jar to store our pumpkin butter, which we mostly eat by the spoonful.  Homemade pumpkin butter is also great spread on toast, mixed into your morning oatmeal with sliced pecans, or on pancakes.

Adding 2 Tbsp of Maple Grove Farms Vermont Sugar Free Maple Syrup is a great variation on this recipe.

I love incorporating seasonal flavors into my day.  What seasonal ingredients are you stocking up on?

Off to find another little bite,

Melanie

A Little Word on Mini Toast

The New Bite
What A Perfect Bite Looks Like

Taking the all-American breakfast and shrinking it down into one little bite.

My latest discovery is the unrealistically cute mini toast, from Trader Joe’s.  At only 40 calories for 5 mini toasts, I’ve made it my mission to find all the different ways to serve up this snack.

Pictured above is the bite-sized breakfast I put together with my roommate today.  That’s real egg whites, real cheddar cheese and real applewood smoked bacon. I’ll admit, being a vegetarian I had to remove the bacon after photographing our creation.  But I spent the rest of the night arranging a number of different scaled-down treats to serve up on mini toast.

An quintet of scaled-down snacks.

The bottom left is one of my favorite flavor combinations to this day, the classic union of Fruit and Cheese.

o My mini toast variation on The Thinking Cup’s goat cheese, arugula and apricot jam sandwich.  This mini toast is topped with Stonewall Kitchen’s Peach Pomegranate Jam, a smear of Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss, and a slice of peach to finnish. An arugula leaf would work perfectly here, too.  Estimated calories: 30

Moving on to the top left, a nod to the Classic Cheese Pizza.

o By topping the toast with some of Trader Joe’s Traditional Marinara Sauce, Trader Joe’s Fat Free Crumbled Feta, and a pinch of fat-free mild shredded cheddar, I was able to recreate the traditional flavors of cheese pizza after popping the mini-slice in the oven for 15 seconds. Estimated calories: 15

Top and center, The Vegetarian Elvis Sandwich, deconstructed and miniaturized.

o Okay, so there’s no bacon to begin with. But I turned this childhood favorite into a sweet little bite by knocking off the guilt and sprinkling the toast with a touch of brown sugar, instead of bacon bits. If you’re a carnivore, I encourage you to switch it up with the latter.

This bite was as easy to make as it gets.  A little spread of Jif Reduced Fat Peanut Butter, a single medallion of fresh banana and a brown sugar garnish.  I imagine this mini toast would also be delicious after a few seconds orbiting around the microwave, too. Estimated calories: 40

In the top right, another miniature dessert, somewhere between a slice of pie and Apple Cider Tea and Honey.

o After spreading a little Trader Joe’s Honey Apple Butter on the mini toast, I added a slice of gala apple and a little sprinkle of ground cinnamon.  The crunch of the apple is a nice textural contrast to the super-smooth butter. Estimated calories: 20

And finally, in the bottom right corner, if Pumpkin Nut Bread were a mini-toast.

o  I recently ran out of my Williams-Sonoma Pecan Pumpkin Butter, and it’s seasonal.  In order to fill my craving for the stuff, my roommate and I whipped up a very basic, low-sugar pumpkin butter (more on that later!) which I used in this treat.

This mini toast is a layer of pumpkin butter, a drop of Maple Grove Farms Vermont Sugar Free Maple Syrup, and a single crushed cashew.  Estimated calories: 35

Any ideas for future mini-toast platters? I’d love to hear them! And if any of these worked for you, I’d love to know that too!

Off to find another little bite,

Melanie

The Perfect Little Bites

A Sweet Little Treat

There’s nothing like sinking your teeth into something delicious – especially when that bite is as good for your body as it tastes.

What’s makes the perfect bite? For twenty years, I’ve been searching for the perfect little bite.  That moment of salty and sweet, crunchy and smooth, healthy and sinfully indulgent.

But I’m a writer first, and there’s no better challenge for me than trying to find the perfect words to tell people about my new favorite recipe, the best place in Boston to satisfy a craving for frozen yogurt, or the latest strangest food I can’t get enough of.

When you find the right words, they’re a little like that perfect bite.  The textures of the syllables, the way the vowels roll together, and the how one good bite always promises to lead to another.

That’s the perfect little word bite. And I’m going to share with you all a few little words about all the perfect little bites I find.  With maybe a garnish of literary flavor along the way.