If so, have you ventured beyond zucchini?
Since we will soon be surrounded by amazing late spring and summer produce, we wanted to revisit one of our favorite kitchen gadgets...
Years ago, when we first heard of the spiralizer, we initially dismissed it as just another fad kitchen gadget that would take up valuable space in the kitchen and rarely get used. Then, a good friend was telling us about how she had just bought one and incorporated zucchini noodles into her spaghetti. Knowing how picky her family was, when she said her whole family loved it, we were intrigued - we had to check it out!
We did some research and bought our first spiralizer on Amazon. We started spiralizing just about everything and, needless to say, we became believers. The ease and speed at which it can turn a vegetable into unique shapes and textures is fantastic...and definitely outweighs the few minutes it takes to clean!
So, what is a spiralizer?
A spiralizer is a device that can turn lots of vegetables - and even some fruits - into noodles…and not just one type of noodle, but several different types! The one we bought has a 1/8 inch blade (for thin, spaghetti-type noodles), a 1/4 inch blade (think curly fries) and a straight blade (for ribbon-shaped noodles).
Check out our video to see how it works! It includes a brilliant tip inspired by an Eat REAL America member on how to manage those extra-long strands or noodles and ribbons.
There are a number of spiralizers to pick from, ranging in price from $20 to $100. When we bought ours several years ago, we ended up purchasing the Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Spiral Vegetable Slicer for $35, which we have been super pleased with. They have come down in price recently and there are several highly rated options on Amazon for under $30. When you watch the video, you will see that we, too, are now in the market for a new spiralizer!
Why is it worth it?
There are so many benefits a spiralizer provides:
- No chopping and slicing! The spiralizer can literally transform your vegetable or fruit into noodles or ribbons in less than a minute. When you are just not in the mood to chop or slice, this is a great alternative. And, if a mandolin has you fearful of losing a finger, a spiralizer is an excellent option.
- Veggie-forward! This is a wonderful way to get your family excited about a veggie-forward meal. In a culture where meat tends to be the star of the show and veggies are an afterthought, this is a great way to give your in-season veggies a chance to shine!
- Heaping helping! A cup of cooked durum wheat spaghetti noodles contains about 200 calories and 40 grams of carbs (vs. a cup of zucchini noodles, which contains about 40 calories and 7 grams of carbs). And, who eats just one cup?! Remember, carbs from whole grain pasta can be healthy in moderation. But, you can clearly see that you can guiltlessly double up on your helping of veggie noodles, plus you get the benefit of nutrients like Vitamins A, B and C and potassium.
- Gluten-free! Veggie noodles are a great option for anyone with Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
- Hurry up! You can enjoy spiralized noodles raw or give them a quick sauté and they are ready in less than five minutes. When you need a quick meal, this can be a huge time saver vs. waiting for a pot of water to boil and cooking your pasta.
What can you spiralize?
The list of fruits and veggies that a spiralizer can transform into noodles and ribbons is a long one. If it doesn’t have a pit in it, chances are you can spiralize it! Because the spiralizer has a part that attaches “teeth” to the produce, it works best with vegetables (or fruits) that are at least 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Here is a list of just some of the REAL food that can be used with a spiralizer: zucchini, summer squash, cucumber, carrot, potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, beet, jicama, kohlrabi, parsnip, turnip, daikon, pear, apple, onion, fennel, cabbage plus many more!
Once you convert this produce into your desired shape of noodle or ribbon, you have several options to prepare them. For example, you can sauté, roast, grill, or just eat them raw. Recently, we were talking to a mom whose kids were still very young and she said that her 3 year old would eat anything he thought was a french fry — here is the perfect way to turn veggies into shoestring fries or other fun shapes! No matter what method of cooking you choose, it's a great way to introduce some variety into your meals!
What are some recipe ideas?
Remember, whether it is veggie noodles or whole grain pasta, it's all about the ingredients, toppings, and sauce. Noodles by themselves (whether veggies or whole grain) are never going to be super flavor-popping, but combine a few simple ingredients together and they are easily transformed into some flavor-loaded meals!
We have several entrée and side ideas that will help you get a huge return on your spiralizer investment!
Remember, you can substitute spiralized noodles for pasta in so many other meals!
Are there other options?
There are a few other tool options out there, a couple of which include a spiral vegetable cutter and a julienne peeler. None of these options will produce the shapes and textures of the spiralizer, but they can certainly be useful additions to your kitchen collection.
Spiral Vegetable Cutter (as seen on TV!): this is a handheld tool that is shaped like an hourglass sand timer and works similar to a pencil sharpener. It shreds the outside of your vegetable into noodles while the inside core remains intact. According to others who have used it, this tool works well, is small and easy to store, and is slightly less expensive than a spiralizer (ranges between $10 and $20). The downside is it does leave more un-cut veggie in the tool and it requires more “elbow grease” than the spiralizer. And, of course, you can’t make curly fries like you can with the spiralizer!
Julienne Peeler: another handheld tool that is an inexpensive option ($10-$20). This peeler can make thin matchstick-like “noodles” from a variety of vegetables. It is more difficult to maneuver and does require that you keep a watch on your fingers (holding one end with a fork is a great idea to preserve your fingers!). Also, the quality varies, but if you find a good-quality, julienne peeler, it should do a decent job, especially for “softer” vegetables. Keep in mind, depending on what type of vegetable you use, and the quality of your peeler, the blade can sometimes bend and then your vegetables end up mangled.
As you know, our goal is to provide tips and ideas for ways to enjoy REAL food, and if a gadget comes along that makes life easier, well that is a bonus! We really enjoy our spiralizer — it is easy to use, cuts veggies fast (which we really love!) and the end result is fun to eat!
Evaluate your options and see what works best for you!
If you know someone who is trying to “get out of the box,” please feel free to share this idea with them!