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Artichoke and asiago zucchini “pasta”

artichoke-and-asiago-zucchini-pastaI am not the type of person to use weird, cutesy, made-up words such as “zoodles.” But I also don’t want someone searching for recipes containing aforementioned “zoodles” to miss out on this one, which is sure to be a hit, even more so because it is a beautiful balance between flavour and nutrition.

And I think more than anything, this recipe really embodies my take on healthy food: if it doesn’t taste good, it’s not worth it (regardless of nutritional value). My zucchini “pasta” is not perfectly healthy–there’s some cheese, some butter, but I admit I still need these to make zucchini palatable. Maybe I just love food too much to picture myself chowing down on steamed broccoli (which literally makes me gag, like when you’re brushing your tongue with your toothbrush and get back too far. Yeah, not pleasant!).

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I’ve struggled my entire life (with the exception of being spoon fed puree as a baby) to get enough fruits and vegetables in my diet. Given the statistics, I know this is a struggle for many other North Americans.

When you have every flavor in the world as part of a delicious melting pot (excuse my ridiculous pun), it’s almost impossible to turn your back on that and go for the unadulterated goodness of nature. Surely the flavors of nature are better, but not in their most natural form. Eating a fresh spring onion out of the ground is not at all like eating sweet potato fries. I honestly do not like the taste of most vegetables. When I became an adult, I did what I imagine every child dreams of doing, I cut them out of my diet completely. Those were amazing times of excess.

Artichoke-asiago-zucchini-pasta-550-2But one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that quantity in your diet (that is, the amount of food you eat) is equally as, if not more important than, balance (that is, the actual food you choose to eat).

For years I maintained a reasonable weight just by not having sandwiches and french fries and a milkshake all at once (but a sandwich for breakfast, french fries for lunch and a milkshake for dinner seemed perfectly reasonable to me). Diets like Weight Watchers (more so than before the Points Plus reinvention) often perpetuate the misconception that you can make choices and as long as you keep within a certain amount of calories, fiber, carbs, whatever, you can lose weight and “eat whatever you want.”

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Diet and body happiness comes from finding balance between nutrition and flavor that appeals to your palate, while not fighting your food instincts and comforts. When those instincts and comforts are at the opposite end of the spectrum from healthy, your challenge is more overwhelming. You may spend your entire life working through it. Inevitably, though, if you remain self-aware and follow your eating habits closely, you will find yourself trying to combine the two—such as cauliflower mashed potatoes and, like this recipe here, zucchini noodles (“zoodles” if you’re so inclined). Yes, I know it’s not the same thing as its home-cooked original! But I don’t have the constitution that would allow me to eat the other stuff as often as I need to eat. Admitting that has helped me to accept the necessity of eating vegetables daily. And no, not onion rings (although sometimes).

Without further food philosophy, I am introducing my artichoke and asiago zucchini “pasta.”

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Here’s the short story behind my choice of flavours. In university, one of my favorite ways of cooking calorie-friendly was to boil one serving of whole wheat spaghettini if you’re in Canada (better with angel hair pasta in the US), toss with two tablespoons of my favorite artichoke tapenade and stir in two melted Laughing Cow cheese wedges. By the way, Laughing Cow wedges are very low in calories and perfectly pre-portioned, thus meeting two requirements of avid dieters. I no longer do things this way (I luckily “woke up” from my two decades of dieting or thinking about dieting), but I will tell you that these little cheese wedges, much like cream cheese, are easy thickeners for sauces. I still love them, but I eat far less of them in general.

Anyways, this recipe is my grown-up, vegetable-containing version of my old three-ingredient favorite. No Laughing Cow involved, but still dairy-containing.

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The zucchini noodles are fun and easy to make with the right tools, like this spiralizer, which is the one I have. Seriously, it took me longer to run the mushrooms through my food processor than it did to spiralize the zucchini! I used the smallest blade setting for my “pasta” and if you’d like to watch a good tutorial, check out this Williams Sonoma video which demonstrates the model I use.

Of course, I also understand if you don’t want another “thing” cluttering up your kitchen, in which case, other methods you can use include a julienne peeler, box grater, vegetable peeler, or even a plain old knife.

Artichoke and asiago zucchini “pasta”
 
Beautiful, vegetarian-friendly combination of artichoke, mushroom and zucchini come together in a blend of asiago creaminess.
Author:
Recipe type: Main course
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, divided ¼ tsp and ¼ tsp
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine (or water)
  • 1 tablespoon flour (sub soy flour to make this gluten free)
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup light sour cream
  • ¼ cup asiago cheese, finely grated, divided ⅛ cup and ⅛ cup
  • ¾ cup mushrooms, finely chopped, divided ½ cup and ¼ cup
  • ½ cup artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 2 whole zucchinis (7-8 inch long), tops removed, julienned or spiralized
Instructions
  1. Toss the zucchini in ¼ teaspoon sea salt and garlic powder in a microwave-safe bowl. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. When butter is melted, first add the minced garlic and white wine vinegar, stirring vigorously. Then add the flour, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper while continuing to stir vigorously. Reduce heat to low, continue stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
  4. Remove from heat to stir in milk and sour cream. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly to prevent the sauce from burning. Stir in half of the asiago cheese, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, reduce the heat and continue simmering while preparing the zucchini.
  5. Microwave the zucchini for two minutes, covering with a paper towel. Strain.
  6. Plate hot zucchini and add sauce over noodles (tossing in the sauce may make zucchini soggy). Serve immediately. Top with extra mushrooms and asiago.
Notes
Serving size is roughly 1 cup zucchini + ⅓ cup sauce per serving. Splurge for organic zucchini and good asiago.

I hope if you make this, you enjoy it as much as I did! So unbelievably easy I can’t believe it hasn’t become a staple before now. And I just might go back to the store for some Laughing Cow cheese wedges and artichoke tapenade and simplify it back to its original.

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