During the course of my research, I discovered an item on Amazon with decent reviews: the Paderno spiralizer.
With a sticker price of less than $30 (at the time anyway, price seems to vary on Amazon depending on the day), I figured the Paderno seemed like a reasonably inexpensive investment. Plus, when you coupled that with the fact that I could substitute a 300+ calorie serving of pasta with an entire zucchini for around 30 calories, I could omit a processed food from my diet, and I could increase my vegetable intake for the day ... well, duh! Of course I had to try it out.
Having an Amazon prime membership, I told my husband to tack a Paderno spiralizer onto our next order of whatever-whatever, and a few days later ... poof! A Paderno spiralizer landed on my door step.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how spiralizers work, it's pretty simple. Just get a vegetable that's roughly 2-4" in diameter, trim the ends, stick it on the holder, and crank the spinner handle. It's not too difficult.
If you're having a hard time imagining how it works, here are some photos:
Pretty nifty, no? And by the way, peeling the zucchini per the first photo above? Totally unnecessary. Just wash the vegetable well and you'll be fine. Plus, if you keep those skins on, you get all the extra nutritional benefits too.
Now to be fair, before you think this is some sort of AMAZING new kitchen gadget, I have to warn you: at first, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows when we started using this thing. After receiving the spiralizer, neither I nor my husband were smitten. Due to the learning curve of how to properly cook your "noodles" once you make them, we had a couple meals where we ended up with a slightly mushy mess.
What we learned is, the trick to vegetable noodles is to be VERY careful not to overcook them. Many people say to just throw the "noodles" in with your pasta sauce and warm them through. I personally think that allows the "noodle" to release too much of it's natural moisture, and that can make the rest of your entrée too watery. Therefore, I prefer using a large cooking pot with a pasta insert and flash boiling the "noodles" separately from the rest of your meal's components. The pasta insert allows you to quick push and pull the entire batch out at once, ensuring you don't leave some "noodles" in the boil too long ... as you try to fish them out with your cooking utensil, for example. (FYI: my husband, when asked, estimated that he boils the "noodles" for 5 minutes ... though that seemed too long to me. I would say use your best judgment call, maybe 3-5 minutes. You only need to warm them through, no need to cook them so long that they get soft or mushy.)
Once we mastered the proper cooking method, let me tell you - yum! We pretty much never looked back. In fact, pasta used to be a go-to meal in our pantry, and about a month ago it dawned on me that I hadn't purchased a box of pasta in close to a year!
In telling people about this discovery, though, I've found many are suspicious of my enthusiasim, and frequently ask ... "Does it really taste good? I mean, pasta tastes so good. I think I would know the difference."
All I can say to that in response is ... well, yeah, this isn't "pasta". But the texture, when cooked correctly, is darn close. And if you think about it, that's what you're aiming for - proper texture. Because what do you really TASTE when you eat a pasta dish - do you really taste the noodles? I mean, I don't know about you, but I usually pretty much just taste the sauce; the pasta is just kind of along for the ride. So, considering that, there's really not much difference between a zucchini noodle and a traditional noodle in my mind. (I can't speak to other vegetable noodles, since I have only tried the zucchini cut with the thin blade, and I like it well enough that I haven't experimented with others. However, I have read potatoes cut with the flat blade, for example, make for an excellent substitute for an egg noodle in a stroganoff type dish).
And well ... I guess that's about it! The Paderno spiralizer in a nutshell. Which I wrote about because you need to know it for my next post - a recipe using zucchini noodles. Check back for that in a couple of days.