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Hungry Girl Today: 3.7.12

Hi HG,

Now that it's Lent and I'm abstaining from eating meat on Fridays, I'm looking for some new ideas and suggestions for family meals. My kids and husband love pasta, but how do I keep it from being a calorie-and-carb-fest?

Meat-Free Girl Friday

Hi Girl Friday,

I too LOVE pasta. And I've got lots of meatless family-friendly swaps, tips, and tricks for getting a pasta fix without blowing your calorie budget.

Tofu Shirataki Noodles - This stuff is the world's greatest pasta swap, plain and simple! It's best with creamy sauces, like in my Fettuccine Hungry Girlfredo and this pumpkin-infused pasta swap. Those single-serving recipes can easily be multiplied to feed a crowd. Just use a BIG bowl when prepping the noodles, and adjust the cook time so everything gets nice and hot...

Produce-Section Pasta Swaps - Spaghetti squash is the latest favorite in HG land. It's really hearty and delicious, and it's easier to cook than you'd think. Click here for tons of info and recipe ideas. It's GREAT topped with this meatless chili. Broccoli cole slaw is another amazing pasta swap, and it's SUPER-SIMPLE to work with. Here's a really good recipe using broccoli cole slaw -- it can easily be doubled or tripled.

Go Halfsies - Not ready to do a full-on swap for pasta? Bulk up real high-fiber pasta with a less starchy alternative. Mix an equal amount of high-fiber spaghetti with spaghetti squash, or thinly slice some zucchini into ribbons and mix it with fettuccine.

Get Your Fiber On - High-fiber pasta is your best bet if you're going with real flour-based noodles. FiberGourmet Light Pasta is my favorite (18g fiber per serving!), but any pasta with at least 4g fiber per serving is great. Then keep your portion size in check -- one cup of cooked pasta is perfect. And fill out a serving with whatever veggies your family loves. I like meaty portabellas, sweet bell peppers, and juicy cherry tomatoes. Need some recipes? Make a double batch of this Chunky Eggplant Penne for Two, try this meatless lasagna, or whip up HG's Takes-the-Cake Ziti Bake!

Whatever type of pasta you go for, top it off with a sauce that isn't too high in fat or calories. You can make Hungry Girlfredo sauce by melting Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges (the regular Creamy Swiss flavor) and mixing them with fat-free sour cream and reduced-fat Parm. This lightened-up pesto is another fantastic pick. Or go with jarred low-fat marinara sauce -- I love the sauces by Dei Fratelli.

Now you've got lotsa pasta ideas. Enjoy!

Hi Hungry Girl,

I recently made your Yum Yum Brownie Muffins -- my family loves them! Do you have other recipes and ideas where I can throw in canned pumpkin or other veggies? I love that I can add some additional good stuff to something my whole family will eat.

Sneaky Mom

Hi Sneaky Mom,

This is one kind of sneakiness I can totally support! Those brownie-like muffins are loved by all. Canned pure pumpkin is great in recipes because it adds lots of fiber for very few calories, and it's precooked and ready to go.

If you want some more dessert options, I've got a bunch of spins on the brownie muffins -- here's the latest. And canned pumpkin is an essential part of HG fudge recipes -- click here, here, and here for proof!

Canned pumpkin also works well in savory recipes, like my Super-Duper Spaghetti Pie Part Deux, this swap for a soup from Chili's, and these aptly named enchiladas. P.S. Libby's has the best pure pumpkin. And don't confuse it with canned pumpkin pie filling/mix; that stuff has lots of calories and sugar.

If you want to try sneaking other produce into your family's food, cauliflower works amazingly well in mashed potatoes, like these garlic mashies, as well as in mac & cheese recipes, like this one. Other awesome sneaky ingredients? Turnips are perfect for filling out potato dishes, like this casserole and these fries. Chopped mushrooms and broccoli cole slaw are both great in meatloaf. And check out the Q&A above for some veggie-pasta combos.

Happy sneaking!

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