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