Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kitchen Tools: About Spiralizers

This fall, I have significantly increased my consumption of vegetables and fruits in an effort to eat healthier. I have also included fall pumpkins and squash into my weekly menus. Interestingly, pumpkins and squash are treated like tomatoes in that they are actually fruits (botanically), but they are considered to be vegetables under US law! The US Supreme Court actually ruled in the late 1800s that a tomato was a vegetable for customs regulations, so it could be taxed (they imposed tariffs on imported vegetables but not fruits back then). Anyway, I thought this was interesting because it was accounting AND food related. 

So, to help add more vegetables to my diet, I have been using a kitchen tool called a spiralizer at least once a week. It must be working, because lately family, friends, and acquaintances mention my weight loss. I also feel healthier and less lethargic. I credit this awesome invention with helping me jump-start a much healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to buy yet another kitchen tool, some supermarkets sell “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) and cauliflower “rice” (crumbles) near the bagged salads. You can easily swap out pasta and rice with these pre-cut vegetables. 

So what is a spiralizer? A spiralizer falls into the category of kitchen cutting tools such as mandoline slicers and julienne peelers. A spiralizer has one or more blades (usually removable and interchangeable) that cut a vegetable into long, thin ribbons or "noodles" (such as zucchini noodles or “zoodles”).


How does it work? You attach the vegetable to a corer so that it is centered. Then, you attach the other side of the vegetable to the gripping teeth on the handle mechanism. You crank the handle, and it rotates and pushes the vegetable through the blade, cutting it into corkscrews of “noodles.” There are different types of spiralizers, but they all follow this same basic concept.

Cooking the “noodles.” The process of spiralizing the vegetable somehow changes the consistency of the vegetable so that it cooks quicker. For example, I made sweet potato “noodles” here by sautéing them in olive oil for 5-7 minutes instead of roasting a whole or cut up sweet potato for 30-40 minutes. The spaghetti-like vegetable “noodles” come out al dente like actual spaghetti after a very quick saute. Compare that to sauteing slices of zucchini which turn limp and translucent.

Stores have been advertising spiralizers more aggressively this fall season – Bed Bath and Beyond, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma. I own this Paderno one from Amazon which has 3-blades (thin noodles, regular noodles, shredding blade), but it looks like 4-blade spiralizers are now more common (they added an angel hair blade and a metal skewer to hold heavy vegetables in place). When comparing spiralizers, be sure to google some reviews first. I watched videos on Williams-Sonoma, Amazon and YouTube before buying mine. Some things to consider are: blade safety if you have small children (do the blades store away easily when not in use), sturdiness of the plastic base (if the entire unit is sturdy, it will not break and cranking will be easier), and ease of cleaning (can you remove the blades and handle pieces from the base for cleaning). To clean the spiralizer blades and parts, I took the advice of Ali from the Inspiralized blog - I use a round palm scrub brush like this one from KitchenAid or this one from Oxo. As per the disclaimer in the left sidebar, I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

And speaking of Inspiralized, I love the innovative recipes on her website Inspiralized and have purchased Ali’s first book “Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals” (her second book “Inspiralize Everything: An Apples-to-Zucchini Encyclopedia of Spiralizing” is on my wishlist). Her website contains such a wealth of information on the vegetables you can spiralize and how to prepare and cook them. Check out her tips on how to start spiralizing and how to cook zucchini noodles without watering down your sauce! She even designed her own spiralizer - The Inspiralizer! (FYI - this is the Amazon link, but I think it's cheaper on her website).  My Paderno spiralizer is doing great, so I can’t justify buying another spiralizer for myself; but her spiralizer is worth looking at if you are in the market for a new one since she improved on the Paderno’s features (I have no affiliation with Inspiralized or the Inspiralizer; I am just a huge fan!).

I hope you will try adding spiralized vegetables to your weekly menu. They are fun and healthy! I actually bought the tool in 2014 and barely used it because I didn’t know what vegetables to spiralize and how to cook them. But now there are so many resources online where you can find great ideas: food blogs, Instagram (#spiralized, #inspiralized, #zoodles), new cookbooks. I have added raw zucchini noodles to sandwiches and wraps; cooked zucchini and sweet potato noodles to any quick weeknight saute dish; and shredded red cabbage with soy ginger dressing as a salad and even in a wrap. 

Do you own a spiralizer or plan to buy one? Let me know what your favorite spiralizer or spiralized vegetable recipe is! 

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