Need a healthy, easy meal that doesn’t take much prep work? Toss some spaghetti squash and some frozen meatballs in your slow cooker and bam. Insta-dinner.
Confession time. I really struggle with this low carb thing. Not for me, of course. I am fully on the low carb bandwagon and I don’t find it a hardship to eat this way. But for my family, it isn’t quite so simple. I have 3 hungry children and a very tall, VERY hungry husband. Simply put, I can’t always keep up with the demand. They devour my creations quickly and I am always left wondering where that huge batch of muffins or bread or pancakes went. I double a lot of my casserole recipes, thinking we will have tons of leftovers, and it barely stretches beyond one meal. I would very much love to make everything they ate from scratch but that simply isn’t practical. And I would love to have them fully on a grain-free diet, but we are not quite there. I sometimes have to rely on convenience foods, but I try to make smart choices about what those foods are.
Frozen meatballs seems like such a shoo-in for low carb convenience, don’t they? I mean, meatballs. Balls made out of meat. And my kids love them. But I have stood there so many times in the frozen food aisle, astounded at the carbs in ready-made meatballs. Sometimes up to 10 grams in a serving. Sounds to me like there is more bread than meat in those balls. Of course, they aren’t gluten-free and they usually have plenty of other fillers and junk in there too. So when Al Fresco asked if I’d like to try their frozen chicken meatballs, I was a bit skeptical. But I was very pleasantly surprised to see that they are completely gluten-free and that the ingredient list does not read like a who’s who of food additives. Definitely a more viable option for my hungry crowd. The Jalapeño & Pepper Jack are the lowest carb option, with only 2 g per serving (please note that sugar is on the ingredient list in a very small amount).
As for this recipe, well I don’t take credit for the idea. I saw it on my friend Shawn’s blog, I Wash, You Dry, and I knew I had to try it for myself. But not with canned pasta sauce because that’s usually full of extra sugar and carbs I don’t need. Instead, I made my instant marinara sauce: crushed tomatoes pureed in the blender with garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Then I popped it all into my slow cooker and let that machine do the work for me. It was an incredibly simple dish with all the great flavours of a comfort meal. At just under 10 g of carbs, it’s a little higher carb than some of my other recipes, but much of that comes from the tomatoes and the spaghetti squash. And when I am on a tight timeline to feed a hungry family, that works for me.
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 16 gluten-free chicken meatballs such as Al Fresco
- 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
- Additional salt and pepper to taste
Cut spaghetti squash in half, crosswise. Place in the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker, cut-side down.
In a processor or blender, combine tomatoes, salt, garlic powder, pepper and oregano. Puree until smooth. Pour into bottom of slow cooker.
Place meatballs over tomatoes, around spaghetti squash. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
Using tongs and kitchen gloves, remove spaghetti squash from slow cooker. Scoop out seeds and discard. Scoop out flesh into a sieve or colander and let drain a few minutes to reduce moisture. Transfer to a bowl and toss with butter or olive oil.
Divide between 4 plates and top with sauce and meatballs.
Serves 4. Each serving has 11.8 g of carbs and 1.92 g of fiber. Total NET CARBS = 9.88 g.
Food energy: 235kcal
Total fat: 13.52g
Calories from fat: 121
Total dietary fiber: 1.92g