If you’ve been following our journey, you know we have a 10-year old daughter whose autism has made mealtime a challenge. For the last decade I’d resigned myself to the idea that I would be making a pizza to go with every meal we had as a family, and I’d have three unhappy campers beside her explaining to me that they wanted their pizza, too. Then our AMAZING speech therapist got Celia interested in “New Foods!” She actually has a routine to venture into new foods once a week or so, as part of her therapy sessions. And a newfound favorite? PASTA.
I know, right? If the kid can eat pasta, I can feed her what we eat virtually every night of the week. Again though, the challenge for us has been increasing the amount of nutrient-dense foods we give her, and trust me, this kid ain’t eating pasta with steamed kale and sundried tomatoes. Nope.
Enter zoodles. Miles of beautifully spiraled noodles made from fresh zucchini. I bought a spiralizer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer when they went on sale (plus a coupon, plus free shipping- I was such a queen that day), and I’ve made gobs of yummy fresh salads for myself, but never branched out into feeding the whole family with it. On a whim, after the girls and I watched an episode of Master Chef Junior, we felt inspired to make a “really fancy dinner” and ran some zucchini through the spiralizer.
First benefit: these kids were losing their minds over how cool the spiralizer is. Who knew? The sheer hilarity at a green squash turning into curly ribbons was just too much for them to handle. After that, the fact that we had these miles of curly goodness to throw into some sauce was even better. It made us “officially fancy, mom.” Win. Of course, I goofed up a lot of times, making mushy noodles, forgetting that I was going to make them and letting the zucchini go soft, and ultimately creating lots of frozen zucchini purees for future use with my failures. But we finally have a rhythm and have come to love these happy little pasta alternatives 🙂
Now we have zoodles all the time, but have learned a few basic lessons, which I’m happy to share with you here.
- Fresh is best. And yes, if you’re buying it, it’s probably fresh, but go with a super-firm squash. Even a little ripeness will add too much moisture and make your zoodles into mushy blobs vs. the gorgeous spirals you want.
- Cut them before you cook them. If your spiralizer is like mine, your zoodles are legitimately longer than 12 inches more often than not. Save yourself the hassle of cutting cooked zoodles and use your kitchen shears to trim through the bowl ahead of time.
- Better yet, don’t cook them at all. This is an embellishment. But yes, a flash-steam vs a boil is the best way to get nice, firm noodles. The longer they cook, the more moisture they release (remember it’s a squash!) and the more they taste like a vegetable vs a noodle.
- Don’t shy away from flavor! The beauty of zucchini is how mild it is- it literally tastes amazing with everything. We love a teeny bit of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes. But we’ve tried zillions of other combinations and very rarely found one we didn’t like.
Our favorite? What you see pictured here:
That’s a little grilled chicken (just tossed first in EVOO, Italian Seasoning, and black pepper), tomato sauce with paprika, white wine, and fresh garlic, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese.
*And my secret: Cook the chicken first, make the sauce second, toss the zoodles in at the last possible second to flash-steam them, and remove from heat. Anything longer turns the whole thing to a watery mess.*
I mean, isn’t that just divine? The kiddos totally love it. And they also love just saying “zoodles,” so…bonus. Clean plates = happy plates!