If every person over the age of 18 got together and compiled a list of why growing up stinks, we’d have a list long enough to circle the globe ten times at least. Here are just a few to skim the surface:
- Exponentially increasing responsibilities as you age
- Free time? What’s that?
- No more cartoons
- People no longer think it’s cute when you screw things up.
And the one I’ve had the hardest time coming to terms with:
- Your diet can’t consist of just chicken nuggets, Dunkaroos, pizza, and cereal anymore.
Seriously, who decided it would make sense that, as our palate matures to a wider spectrum of foods and our passion for eating grows, we should have increasingly worse metabolisms? It’s a sick joke, one that makes for a very difficult life as a food blogger and general food lover.
I have to try really hard to eat healthy, and I very rarely do so as strictly as I should. I’ve found the key is combining healthy ingredients I love so I can trick myself into thinking I’m eating indulgently.
A perfect example is my Sweet Potato & Squash Marinara Skillet. I took nutrient-packed veggies I love – sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, and zucchini - and served ‘em up in a kickin’ marinara sauce, made with fresh herbs and topped with a generous layer of mozzarella cheese. It looks too good to be healthy, right?
Here’s the secret: all those delicious veggies are full of vitamins and other good stuff, plus they’re really filling. Then, I made my own sauce instead of using jarred stuff that’s packed with gobs of hidden calories and sugar. I topped it all with my favorite kind of light mozzarella cheese that’s s a compromise between full-fat cheese, which is crazy high in calories, and fat-free cheese, which tastes like feet. You still get great flavor and protein with this light cheese, but for fewer calories. Lastly, spaghetti squash is a special star of the show since it makes us feel like we’re eating pasta with marinara sauce, when really, we’re cutting carbs and calories without cutting flavor.
This dish is hearty and full of multidimensional flavors that will make your tongue sing with joy. Eating healthy is a hard pill to swallow as an adult, but think of this delicious meal as the spoonful of sugar to help it go down.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- If you’ve got picky eaters who are skeptic about spaghetti squash, trade half the squash for regular whole wheat spaghetti so you can ease them into it.
- Can’t find the light Sargento mozzarella cheese sticks I used? You can use fat-free instead, or use a 1/2 cup grated parmesan.
- You’re looking at less than 200 calories per serving here. Yay!
- Fresh veggies + fresh herbs = a MUST.
- Sweet potatoes can easily be swapped with butternut squash.
Sweet Potato & Squash Marinara Skillet
By The Smart Cookie Cook
Yield – 4 heaping servings
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
- ¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock
- ½ a medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh basil
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. zero-calorie sweetener
- 4 light mozzarella cheese sticks (like Sargento), chopped to resemble the size of shredded cheese
- Place potatoes on a microwave-safe plate lined with paper towels. Poke holes in the tops of the potatoes with a fork. Microwave on high until fork tender, flipping halfway through, about 10 minutes. Slice open and let cool slightly. Squeeze the potatoes out of their skins and discard skins (or snack on ‘em). Roughly chop potatoes and set aside.
- Meanwhile, slice the spaghetti squash in half. Place in a microwave-safe casserole dish, skin side down, and fill halfway with water. Cover and cook in microwave on high for two 5-minute intervals, or until tender enough to scoop out innards. Discard the seeds then scoop the innards into a bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large oven-safe skillet to medium heat. Add chicken stock and onions and sauté until onions are tender, about two minutes. Add the entire content of the can of tomatoes including the juice, 3/4 of the herbs, and garlic. Use a hand blender to puree, or if you don’t have a hand blender, puree tomatoes in a food processor or blender before adding to pan.
- Stir in red pepper flakes, salt, and sweetener. Add zucchini and spaghetti squash and reduce to medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are tender.
- Turn off heat and gently stir in potatoes. Sprinkle cheese over top and bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Garnish with remaining fresh herbs and serve immediately.