Topic: Nutrition and food safety
(OR- how to sneak vegetables into your children)
During harvest time we are overwhelmed by the amount of zucchini and tomatoes that can come out of the garden. Zucchini bread aside, it's often hard to get more fresh vegetables into your children unless they don't see it coming!
But who doesn't like Spaghetti? It's a favorite for all ages. And even gluten-free pastas are readily available in every market. The trick to making pasta healthy is in the portion control of the pasta and determining what else is being offered with the pasta.
One way is to use Spaghetti squash directly in place of the pasta noodles. That will work for adults and teenagers most of the time. But younger children and finicky eaters of all ages will reject not having the real deal spaghetti.
If that's the situation in your house, your plan will be to increase nutrition by fortifying the sauce, by planting extra vegetables (natural sources of vitamins) and meat (protein) into the sauce to supply needed nutrition.
But, portion control will still be a challenge. Spaghetti from traditional wheat flour contains about 42 grams of starch in 2 ounces. And 2 ounces of cooked Spaghetti is a small amount to serve a hungry growing teen or adult so it is most likely, they'll be filling their plates or bowls with two and three times the amount before saucing it up.
The compromise balance comes in this very simple, delicious recipe for “Spaghetti Casserole.”
This casserole favorite has been doctored up to assure there's plenty of protein with grassfed beef or ground turkey, cheese, and natural sources of vitamins with extra vegetables in the sauce. It's robust and yet the portion control of starch is curtailed. The six generous servings refers to adult portions, so children will eat less volume, but still get balanced amounts of other nutrients along with the starch. You can use your own canned tomatoes, or conveniently start with organic crushed tomatoes- and add more vegetables!
It's so good that virtually everyone's palate should be happy! It's a great casserole to make for a Saturday night casual dinner --OR--to bake and bring to a potluck dinner or a tailgate party!
Creative cooks can readily adapt this recipe to make it vegetarian.
6 generous servings
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 13” x 9” baking pan.
Create your sauce:
Brown and cook 1 lb. of grassfed beef or ground turkey in a heavy skillet or pot.
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium carrot (or 4-6 baby carrots), diced
1 green pepper, diced
1small onion, diced
Cook these ingredients together until vegetables are no longer firm.
Add to above mixture:
1-28 oz can of crushed organic tomatoes
8 oz. tomato sauce
Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
Season with Italian seasoning dried herb blend (basil, oregano,parsley)--or equivalent fresh herbs, finely chopped –amount to your tastes
Salt and garlic powder (instead of garlic powder, add fresh chopped garlic to meat when browning)-amount to your tastes
Note: this is where the personal tastes of the chef prevail—add fennel seed ? adjust amounts of everything to your tastes.)
Cook 12 oz. of Spaghetti according to instructions on package to al dente (slightly firm) stage.
You will also need 2 cups of shredded Italian cheese blend or shredded mozzarella
You are ready to assemble when the pasta is cooked.
Layer half of spaghetti, then half sauce, then half cheese.
Repeat with remainder of spaghetti, then remainder sauce, then remainder cheese.
Additional shaved parmesan, fresh chopped herbs, as desired--
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Allow to sit 10 minutes, then cut and serve portions with a large spatula into pasta bowls.
Maybe add a side of simply sauteed broccoli, Italian green beans, broccoli rabe or greens? Or green salad? You're done!
(I don't have a final picture because we were into devouring dinner before I remembered we missed the “after” shot!)