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Friday, July 6, 2012

Healthy Comfort Food

I had a pretty rough day today. I finally made the decision to quit the job that I was miserable at. The majority of my day was filled with anxiety and stress, but I was also very happy to be ending this chapter in my life and move on to something that brings me joy. At the end of the day, when I finally got home, I was emotionally spent, to say the least. Even though I was emotionally exhausted, I made my way to the gym to clear my head and vent any anger that I was holding inside (and it does the trick every time). So, when I got home and was ready to make myself dinner, I wanted something that could cook quickly, but I also was in need of something comforting.

The solution was simple: pasta. There are few foods that give you that warm, fuzzy feeling when eaten, like snuggling under your blankets on a Lazy Sunday just because it feels good. People who are on diets often believe that they shouldn't eat carbs, and to them I say, "Are you out of your freaking mind?!" Carbohydrates are suppose to make up 50-55% of your daily calorie intake (keep in mind that basically everything you eat has carbs, not just breads and pastas). Those who go on low-carb diets mostly just lose water weight, and then they gain it all back when they go back to eating the way they use to. The important part is choosing the right kind of carbs to eat. Whole-wheat and whole-grain products should always be a priority in your diet. White flour and breads are over-refined, which means they lose most of their nutritional value in the factory they are processed in. Eating foods closest to their natural form is the best way to ensure that you are consuming a healthy and balanced diet.

But enough of my ranting, let's get back to the pasta. I usually buy the Barilla Plus pasta because not only is it made with multi-grains, but it is also a good source of protein, fiber and Omega-3s (the good fats). I also used a jar sauce and packaged "meat" balls because I was in a hurry to get my grub on. I have made my own meatless balls for pasta before, and I can easily make my own sauce, but when you just have time to throw everything in a bowl, the pre-made stuff is just easier.

Spaghetti and "Meat" Balls

  • 2 oz. Barilla Plus thin spaghetti
  • 6 Veggie Patch Meatless Balls
  • 1/2 c. Pasta sauce (I used Classico)
  • 5-10 Asparagus stalks (or your favorite vegetable)
  • 1 tsp. Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add spaghetti. Continue to stir so pasta does not stick.
2. Rinse asparagus, cut off ends and cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces.
3. Add asparagus, meat balls, and sauce to a microwave safe dish and heat until everything is heated thoroughly (about 1 and a half minutes).
4. Once pasta is finished cooking to your liking (I prefer slightly al dente), drain and add cooked ingredients to a bowl.
5. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and enjoy!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total meal: 15 minutes

Nutrition: (Servings: 1) Calories: 475, Total fat: 11g, Sat. fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 6mg, Sodium: 923mg, Total Carbs: 60g, Fiber: 12g, Sugar: 9g, Protein: 33g

This meal was exactly what I needed at the end of this long day. It was simple and delicious, and the fact that I didn't have to stand in the kitchen and cook for an hour was the greatest gift I could give my exhausted body.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much the meat balls tasted like meat balls. But not the kind my grandmother and mom make, they were more like the little ones that come frozen in a giant bag that your crazy Aunt always makes for parties and tries to convince everyone that she made 500 meat balls from scratch. Still, they're definitely something I would buy again for a quick meal. 

I really liked the asparagus with this because it gave the meal some crunch without overshadowing the delicate pasta. I almost went with spinach first, but when I saw the green stalks in the draw, it was like fate stepped in and said, "Eat the asparagus, you NEED the asparagus." Or maybe it said I needed to eat them before they went bad. Talking about all this pasta is making me crave some sort of pasta dish with broccoli rabe. I have a sick obsession with broccoli rabe. I'd probably eat it every day if it wasn't so damn expensive! If you ever need to buy me something for my birthday or Christmas or Flag Day, get me broccoli rabe. 

This is definitely not your Nonna's spaghetti and meat balls, but it will get the job done when you're in the food for a healthy and filling alternative.

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