Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I graduated from high school as a gaunt 155 lb. teenager. Fast forward a decade or so, and Christmas 2017 had me tipping the scales at a portly 207 pounds thanks to a steady diet of fried chicken, dark beer, cheeseburgers, and lifting a bit.
***note to self and others*** The scale is a poor indicator of overall health. The only thing worse is BMI which is as outdated as humorism. You and I are probably best served by a body composition test, a blood pressure reading, and a blood panel. Barring that, step on the scale and look at yourself naked. If you like how you look and feel, worry not.***
Disclaimer out of the way, I don’t particularly like being heavier than about 200 pounds. I have three knee surgeries under my belt along with hips and ankles that I beat on regularly with years of organized sports. Whenever I crest the 200 pound mark, I can feel it in my joints, and I know that it’s time to cut some pounds.
The easiest way for me to do that is by eating low carb. The problem of course is that carbs are delicious and I miss them very badly.
One of my favorite carb laden dishes is tetrazzini. My wife’s family makes it each year with Thanksgiving leftovers. In fact, my father in law makes an extra turkey just for leftovers each year so we can maximize our tetrazzini intake. See how I got to 207 lbs?
There are two major carb offenders in the tetrazzini. First, and most obvious – the noodles. A cup of cooked spaghetti has roughly 43 g of carbs. Second – the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups contribute 16 g and 18 g per cup respectively. Less offensive are the mushrooms which contribute 2.3 g per cup. If you cook them in red wine, that’s another 6 g per cup. The mozzarella is 3.5 g per cup and the chicken is completely carb free.
Enter spaghetti squash. At 7 g per cup, you can significantly cut the amount of carbs in your dish. You end up with a different texture – its not pasta – but it is pleasantly noodly and provides for an adequate substitute.
If you’re just trying to cut some carbs, you can stop there. However, if you’d like to take it a step further, you can get to work on the sauce. And honestly, canned cream soup isn’t nearly as tasty as the keto best friend – alfredo!
This is a recipe I’ve used time and time again for alfredo. It’s simple and simple is best. I always double it (of course). 1 stick of butter (0 g carbs), 2 cups of heavy cream (14 g of carbs), and 3 cups of parmesan (12.3 g carbs). That totals 27.3 g of carbs versus the 34 g provided by the cream soups. If you’re trying to really dial back the carbs, you can cut out some of the parmesan. Either way, you’ve got a much more delicious sauce on your hands than canned soup. Here’s how it goes.
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 3 cups of cooked chicken either shredded or diced (your choice)
- 1 stick of unsalted butter + 1/2 stick for mushrooms
- 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
- 3 cups of shredded parmesan (dial back if you’re trying to minimize carbs as much as possible)
- 2 cloves of minced garlic – more or less to taste
- 2 cups mozzarella
- 2 cups mushrooms
- 1 cup red wine, preferably cabernet sauvignon
- salt/pepper to taste
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
Cut squash lengthwise, scrape out seeds, rub exposed flesh with olive oil, and place cut side down on a foil lined pan. Cook for 45 minutes, turn cut side up, and continue cooking for another 20-40 minutes until squash is desired tenderness.
Once the squash is in the oven, pour yourself a glass of scotch, and enjoy a few sips. With about 30 minutes until the flip of the squash, melt half a stick of butter in a saute pan, add the mushrooms, and cook on low for 30 minutes until tender. Once the squash is flipped, turn up the heat to medium and start adding wine a quarter cup at a time and cooking it off. About the time you’ve exhausted the wine, you should have some crispy mushrooms and be ready to pull the squash.
At the same time that you flip the squash, melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Slowly add the cream while whisking nearly constantly. You can let this sauce simmer, but do not let it boil. Once you pull the squash out of the oven, add the parmesan and continue whisking until smooth.
Once the squash comes out of the oven, use a fork to scrape the flesh into a bowl. Combine the precooked chicken, crispy mushrooms, and squash in that same bowl. Slowly add the alfredo until things are a bit “saucy”
Transfer half of the mixture to a greased pan. Cover with one cup of shredded mozzarella. Add the other half of the mixture and cover with the remaining cup of shredded mozzarella. Place the pan in the oven and cook until it starts bubbling. It should take fifteen minutes or so. Finish the dish by placing under a broiler on high until the mozzarella on top is brown and crispy.
Serve in bowls and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!