Friday, July 11, 2014

Pasta-less pesto recipe and choice


Pasta-less Pesto Pasta
Pasta-less Pesto Pasta

This pesto recipe and pasta dish is about choice. It can be made with or without traditional pasta. It can be made with no pasta. And there are plenty of other options.

Each choice in life comes with consequences, responsibilities, and accountability. With some choices, some people wish to burden others with the consequences instead of taking personal responsibility. Some do this by playing the “victim” game. They committed a crime or offense because they are a “victim of society”. With each choice we make, we must weigh the pros and cons of each alternative, including the second and third order effects of our decisions.

Some people choose to reduce the amount of carbohydrates they ingest, along with the amount of gluten from grains, in an effort to reduce visceral fat and lose weight. Others do so in an attempt to promote the growth of new brain cells. Others change to this sort of diet in hopes of mitigating cardiovascular disease. Then there are those who are tired of hearing others bash gluten.

Here’s a meal that gives the cook, a few options.

Possibly Pasta-less Pesto Recipe

Makes six (6) servings. Leftovers are just as tasty cold, eaten like a pasta salad.

Ingredients:

Pasta :

1 Spaghetti Squash (approximately 3 pounds)
-or-
1 package standard thin spaghetti
-or-
1 package gluten-free, wheat-free pasta

Pesto Sauce:

Pine nuts – 2 oz
Oilve Oil – 6 tbsp
Chopped basil – 1/2 tspn
Chopped Oregano – 1/2 tspn
Chipotle powder – 1/2 tspn
Fennel seed – 1 tspn
Minced garlic – 2 tbsp
Red Pepper flakes (dried)  – 1/4 tspn (or to taste)
Raw almonds (unsalted) – 1 oz
Grated Parmesan cheese – 1/4 cup

Fillers:

Shrimp (peeled) – 12 oz
Sausage ring – 12 oz (can be smoked, Italian, kielbasa, or any form you prefer)
Garlic – 1 tbsp
black pepper – to taste
Coconut oil (or olive oil) – 3 tspn
Chipotle powder – to taste
Turmeric – dash, or to taste
Chopped kale, spinach, and/or chard – 1 cup (total)
Bell pepper (red, orange, yellow or green) – 1 large, chopped
Tomato, chopped – 1 medium or large or 2 Roma
Other chopped vegetables such as asparagus or broccoli (optional)
Nutritional Quick Facts: These values are approximates and may vary depending upon ingredients. The example used included spaghetti squash and a smoked, all-beef sausage. Per serving: 19g protein, 14g carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber.

Directions:

If using a boxed pasta (either regular or gluten free), boil and prepare it per the directions on the box.
Spaghetti squash has two main ways it can be cooked. One method is to quarter it, long ways, and boil it in a stock pot for 30-40 minutes. Quarter the squash and remove the seeds. Place the squash in a stock pot and fill with water until the squash is completely immersed. Cover and place on heat. When it reaches the boiling point, uncover and continue to boil for 30-40 minutes.

To prepare in an oven, quartered it, remove the seeds (to be roasted separately as a snack) and place it inside-down in a glass roasting tray. Add water until the water covers 2/3 of the squash. Bake in the oven at 425 for one hour, turning the squash over after 40 minutes. No need to preheat the oven. It cooks best if the squash and water warm with the oven.

baked spaghetti squash
baked spaghetti squash

After turning the squash, start on the pesto. If you are boiling the squash, start this when the squash begins to boil. If using a boxed pasta, you can do this while waiting for the water to boil.  Using a food processor or a strong blender, combine all of the ingredients. Puree the mixture until it has the consistency of warm peanut butter. Set aside, at room temperature.

pesto recipe
Pesto

If cooking the squash using the baking method, get your stock pot out. If you are using your stock pot to boil past or the spaghetti squash, then wait until they are done cooking, then drain in a colander and set aside. Use the stock pot for the next step.

Place the coconut (or olive) oil in the pot along with the garlic and heat over low-medium heat until the coconut oil melts (or garlic turns a very light brown). Slice the sausage into 1/4″ thick slices. Add the shrimp, sausage, and spices to the pot. Raise the heat to medium-high. Stir regularly to avoid sticking. Cook for 6-10 minutes.

spiced sausage, shrimp, and garlic
spiced sausage, shrimp, and garlic

Add the vegetables to the stock pot. Continue to stir over medium-high heat until the greens are wilted and the peppers soften. Reduce heat to low.

If using a cooked, boxed pasta, add it to the meat and vegetables mix in the stock pot. Stir.
If using spaghetti pasta, remove and drain it, (if you haven’t already). If it’s from the oven, you may want to let it cool for a minute or two, or rinse it in lukewarm water. Take a large, preferably metal, spoon and a paring knife. Using the paring knife, separate the the skin from a corner of the squash quarter. Place the spoon in the cut. Use the spoon the remove the “spaghetti” strands from the skin. Place them into the stock pot as you free them from the husk. Repeat with the rest of the quarters until all of the edible portions are removed from the skin. Mix the squash, shrimp, sausage, and other vegetables to make sure you break up any portions of the spaghetti squash that may be trying to cling together.

Mix in "pasta"
Mix in “pasta”

Regardless of which option you took in pasta or squash cooking method, it’s time to add the pesto. Pour the pesto into the stock pot and mix. Remove from heat and serve.

mix in pesto & toss
mix in pesto & toss

Healthy Benefits

The health benefits vary greatly depending upon the choices and options you decide. Previous articles, such as this couscous recipe and this shrimp dish, discussed the benefits of coconut oil, the curcumin in the turmeric, and vitamins A and K in the spinach and kale, and other similar benefits.

Some of the ingredients may cause allergic reactions for those with food allergies. Some may be allergic to squash, others allergic to tree nuts. Consult your doctor before trying these ingredients. Spaghetti squash can also slightly elevate your susceptibility to inflammation. The kale and squash may counteract the inflammation index. Again, consult your doctor and/or a registered dietitian (RD) if you suffer from an inflammatory condition.

Choice, accountability, responsibility, and consequences

The recipe above illustrates several variations on a dish from which to choose. Some choices are more physically healthy. Others may provide some psychological comfort level, like a dinner of macaroni and cheese followed by a few scoops of rich, chocolate ice cream and a glass of red wine. Each choice we make has consequences. There are immediate consequences and long-term effects.

Those choices in lifestyle such as diet and exercise can have short-term effects, giving us pleasant feelings as chemicals known as exorphins hit our brains, in the case of eating a gluten-rich chocolate cupcake. People who run often refer to a “runners’ high” when endorphins kick in. The long-term consequences can mean a longer, healthier life, more energy, better sleep, and lower medical bills.

The same is with every choice we make, big or small. In some cases, the unexpected long-term consequences can be far greater than we initially thought. In other cases, the ramifications may not be as bad as expected. Regardless of the case, when you make a choice, you must own the consequences, be they reward or failure.

Conservative-minded people tend to be more accepting of individual responsibility and accountability. If you make a mistake, you own it. You make up for it. You learn from it. You don’t blame somebody else for your choice. You don’t take credit for the fruits of another person’s choice, decision, action. That is the way adults should be. It’s one of the core values we work hard to instill into our children’s moral code.

Choice is a power to create or destroy. Choice creates prosperity and rewards. It creates hardship and misery. In each case, it is one’s choice, therefore one’s responsibility, to be accountable for the fruit of each choice. Don’t take away the choices of another. Don’t force your choices onto another. Don’t burden another with the consequences of your bad decisions. Choose it and own what comes.

The author is not a medical doctor nor a currently registered dietitian. The information provided in this article is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be interpreted as medical, nutritional or health advice. Please seek the advice of an expert before starting any new diet or exercise program.