Tuesday, January 29, 2013

squash pasta: trial run

With January 31 looming ever closer, it's become obvious that I won't be able to use my $50 Maggiano's gift card before I begin my carb-free Taubesian regime (I emailed both of my brothers about a last hurrah at Maggiano's; neither responded). So today, I went on a Costco spree and bought a ton of meat: ground beef, pork sirloin tip (you'll recall the lovely pulled pork I made last time), Hebrew National hot dogs, chicken breastuses, and dingle-damn salmon. I also bought a ton of cheeses: American cheese, cream cheese (mainly for creamy, Stroganoff-style sauces), and bleu cheese.

Later in the evening, I decided to test out my new spiral slicer, so I went out again and bought (along with two super-cheap bottles of psyllium fiber) some spaghetti sauce, Italian sausage, shrooms, and a package of "mixed" squash-- yellow and green. I ran the yellow squash through the slicer; most of the squash wasn't spiral-cut at all, but instead formed little Cs. There were a couple longish spirals, though, so it wasn't a total loss.

I gathered the sliced squash up in a plastic container and stuck it in the freezer while I worked on my spaghetti sauce. This involved removing the skins from the Italian sausage and breaking the sausage up into little pieces. I fried the sausage in my weird little wok-cum-skillet, added the shrooms, then added the sweet basil tomato sauce. Veddy nice, veddy nice. I set some water to boiling, then dumped in a mess of Montreal steak seasoning (it's mostly sea salt and heavy-grained black pepper, plus some other seasonings; thanks again, Hahna, for that huge-ass container!). I took out the now-cold squash and let it boil for about three minutes-- the recommended time I've seen on all the recipes for veggie pasta. The squash came out perfectly, but it was quite watery, as was the tomato sauce.

In the photo below, I've tried to minimize the wateriness by tilting the plate upward, away from the camera, so that the liquid would drain behind the food and thus not be visible:

All in all, the squash turned out to be a not-bad substitute for regular pasta. The long spirals behaved like fettuccine; I was able to twist my fork and wrap the "pasta" around it. The mouth-feel was satisfactorily al dente. I think I'll be able to live with this as a surrogate for regular pasta. I won't be fooled or reassured, of course; the squash still tastes like squash, not like pasta. But it's better that way: when vegetarian food tries too hard to simulate other types of food, that turns me off, almost as if my taste buds were experiencing a gustatory version of the uncanny valley.

Obviously, I won't be making tomato-based sauces once I start this diet. According to Taubes, cream sauces are just fine, but as any Atkins dieter knows, tomatoes are technically fruits, and as fruits, they're naturally sweet, which makes them carby and thus verboten.

So! Veggie pasta is in my future. Big time.



  1. i agree, its not pasta, but i am quite fond of it!

    GOOD LUCK with the diet!!!

  2. It's so counter-intuitive that a cream sauce is fine for losing weight, but a tomato sauce isn't. At least, it is counter-intuitive for me.

  3. Charles,

    I hear you. I've heard the phrase "artery-clogging" associated with cream and butter and other fatty material for so long that it's hard to de-program my mind to think otherwise. But Taubes, in his book, is adamant that heart attacks and sclerotic blood vessels arise not because of fat but because of carbs, which are readily converted into fat. He spends a good part of his book addressing the uproar surrounding the Atkins Diet, which has had to deal with accusations that it can lead to heart disease. His conclusion is that the laboratory evidence simply doesn't support the fat-consumption-causes-heart-attacks thesis.

    Go figure, right?

    Anyway, I'm about to bet my life on what Taubes is saying.

  4. And I will be following the experiment with interest.

    (I'm still not quite clear on why fat is OK, but carbs that convert into fat are not... are they different types of fat?)

  5. I'll re-skim the book and get back to you with a Cliff's Notes version of the answer you're looking for. Something about triglycerides, I think.

  6. You might not want to cut out tomatoes. They are extremely healthy.

    From livestong.com: "Sugar in Tomatoes -- One cup of sliced tomatoes contains just 5 g of sugar. Compare this to common fruits, such as grapes which offer 15 g of sugar per cup or 1 cup of apple slices with 13 g of sugar. When compared to vegetables, tomatoes are slightly higher in sugar than green choices -- one cup of zucchini, for example, contains 3 g of sugar and a cup of broccoli contains 2 g. A cup of corn kernels contains 6 g of sugar and a sweet potato contains 13 g per cooked cup.

    Nutrients -- Although one cup of sliced tomatoes has 5 g of sugar, it provides only 32 calories and 0 g of fat. This cup also offers 1,499 IU of vitamin A, 23 mg of vitamin C and 14 micrograms of vitamin K. Tomatoes are also a high source of potassium, with 427 mg per cup. Cooked tomatoes provide the antioxidant lycopene, which may help protect men against prostate cancer.

    Considerations -- Some tomato products contain added sugars. Many jarred sauces and condiments, particularly ketchup, have sugar added to soften the acidic taste tomatoes often have. Read food labels and check the ingredient list for items such as cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose or sucrose."

    Now, if you can grow your own (or have a friend or two with a garden), the purple variety, Indigo Rose, is probably the healthiest tomato out there. There are better tasting, bigger, more disease resistant varieties, but these are good for you and are a definite conversation starter.

  7. John,

    Good! Then I can still make a sort of tomato-based BBQ sauce for my pulled pork, along with other tomato-based sauces for use with the veggie pasta.

  8. John,

    Strangely enough, this page on Atkins says that the diet does allow tomatoes, even during the initial two-week "induction" phase.

  9. Kevin and Charles:

    Part of the problem here is the conventional understanding, and the nutrition for dummies model perpetrated by the govt and medical profession that supports it, that edible protein, fat and carbohydrate are the same as bodily protein, fat and carbs - in fact that the former generally are the respective sources of each of the latter in a rather straightforward way. As Taubes explains in great detail however, consumable fat, carb and protein are just raw material that the body processes for use, and the first step in that process is that the body breaks down such inputs into their respective constituent parts, out of which it then makes what it needs. Because the constituent parts of fat can more effectively be made into the sorts of fat the body requires than the components of protein or carbs, that is usually what happens. But fat also is made into many other essential things, such as cholesterol, which (besides being the simple physiological gangster that is portrayed in popular "science") is the principal building block of many of the hormones that are prerequisites of healthy functioning. The amino acids in protein are similarly used by the body to build muscle; and carbs are most readily used by the body as fuel for energy. But none of these are single use materials. Both fat and protein, most notably, also can be burned for energy if necessary (which is why low or no carb, ketogenic, diets are possible). And as Taubes demonstrates, excess consumption of carbohydrates, especially sugars and simple carbs that are quickly converted to sugar, for energy results in the conversion of the excess to fats, especially the sorts of fats (unlike those the body makes from fat sources themselves) that are dangerous to one's health. Moreover, carbs, especially highly refined carbs, are the great culprit in Taubes story, because unlike fat consumption which is quickly satiating and largely thus self-regulating, carbs trigger a variety of important hormonal changes, including especially in the up and down regulation of insulin that can easily get out of control when excess carb calories are consumed creating a a spiral effect of ever greater appetite for carbs, ever greater (bad) fat deposition, and a host of knock-on effects, e.g., in men the diminution of testosterone (in amounts greater than are connected with age degeneration alone) and increases in estrogen (which in a sort of evil feedback also promoted greater fat deposition.

  10. Kevin:

    Best of luck; it's doable:


    You might want to take a look at Venuto's stuff; he's very good and sensible about low carb/no carb.

    You might even want to consider doing one of his challenge programs as a means of motivation through accountability.

  11. It isn't the sugar that those unable to enjoy tomatoes have a problem with. It's the acidity.

    Anyway, there are over 7,500 varieties of this garden berry and now many of them don't have much acid (you need to add some though if you plan on canning those varieties) or seeds.

    As a gardener, I find that the seed company, Totally Tomatoes, is one of the best when it comes to getting the latest when it comes to the best tomato and pepper seeds on the market. Besides giving free detailed tomato and pepper growing information/instructions in their catalog, they have a nice assortment of cucumber seeds for sale as well. And the colors and flavors of today's varieties! Truly unbelievable.

  12. Sperwer,

    Wow, that's a bundle. A lot to... ahem... digest. But it was the answer that I was looking for. Fascinating stuff, and real food for thought. (Dear god, the puns, they are endless!)

    Say, speaking of highly-refined carbs, I've still got that jar of Sanders sitting in my cupboard...

  13. ...thus obviating the need for me to do any research... yes... my clever plan is working...

  14. I've been getting into reading up on this guy Mark Sisson. He is more of a paleo diet promoter. Check out his site: marksdailyapple.com
    I like how his approach is more of a whole body/life approach. I have a lot of friends that have gone this route with amazing results with not only weight loss, but muscle growth as well. It seems to make a lot of sense when you hear his reasoning. The expensive thing that he promotes is that when you buy proteins, you need to buy grass-fed/cage-less/antibiotic-free/hormone-free. It does seem to make sense though, especially about the hormone thing. I have a doctor friend that observed that its no wonder that people have gotten bigger and bigger as more and more animals are injected with growth hormone. Although we don't get the concentrated shot of growth hormone from eating the hormoney meat, over time it builds up in our systems.

  15. A fab twist on the original! I'll have to try squash as a substitute next time.



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