The judges have spoken, and, after a "grueling" month of April, which included making and taste-testing the submitted recipes and their accompanying videos in our recent  "Dish-Off" Recipe Contest, is ready to announce our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners.

But, first, we want to thank all those who entered the contest; you all deserve a huge pat on the back for a job well down…this was not an easy decision!

Our 1st Place Winner would like to congratulate Adam Lavender from Gray, Georgia, whose "Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Sauce" recipe and video was chosen as the 1st prize winner. Adam has won a 55" Philips LCD HDTV (Value: $1,299.99).

Commenting on Adam`s winning "diabetes-friendly" recipe, RD/CDE Sharon Howard, who headed-up the judging committee, said, "This recipe not only tastes great, but has so many healthy elements! A great substitute for spaghetti, spaghetti squash is only about 25 calories per half cup, with only 5 grams of carbohydrate. The squash, with its mild flavor and slightly crunchy texture, can serve as the base for this light, tasty turkey tomato sauce. The squash is rich in beta-carotene, the sauce is high in vitamin C and lycopene, and the ground turkey is lean and enhanced, not overpowered, by the garlic, onion and Italian seasoning."

Commenting on Adam`s submitted video, Howard said: "The video is valuable in showing the cook how to handle the spaghetti squash. I have tried to boil it, bake it, cut in half first, or cook whole. The video demonstrates an easy way to deal with the squash’s unique feature - a string-like texture - without getting out the first aid kit! It is such a fun food, I applaude the opportunity to feature it."

"My taste-testers comments were quite positive," Howard added. "Comments included: `I never tried spaghetti squash—this is great`; `The turkey meat is light and the sauce is a flavorful topping for the squash. I need to cook with lean ground turkey more often.`"

"Reviewers offered enhancements," Howard continued: “`Could add kidney beans and season like a chili`”; "and `a splash of Parmesan cheese and this is a new twist on a classic dish.`”

Finally, Howard concluded, "As a diabetes friendly dish, you get a hearty meal with lower carbohydrate levels than pasta. The ground turkey meat offers a substantial amount of protein that satisfies the hunger and holds blood sugar levels, without adding much fat. The carbohydrate content is a reasonable 30 grams per serving. The sodium level is driven by the choice of tomato product. Fiber content of 6 grams aids in the blunting of the blood sugar response."

Here are the nutrition details of the winning "Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Sauce" recipe, based on Howard`s analysis: A four-pound spaghetti squash provides about 5 cups of cooked squash. The recipe is based on 4 hearty servings.

¼ of recipe:

Calories: 323
Protein: 25g
Carbohydrates: 28g
Fat: 13g
Fiber: 6g
Sodium: 494 mg
Diabetic Exchanges: 3 oz very lean meat, 1.5 starches, 2 veg, 1 fat.

Finally, here are the ingredients/directions for "Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Sauce," as supplied by Adam when he submitted his now 1st place winning recipe/video:

1 medium spaghetti squash (approx. 2-4lbs)
2 -14.5 oz. cans tomato product (chopped, diced, etc)
16 oz. 93 percent/7 percent ground turkey
1/2 sweet onion (diced)
4 large cloves garlic (chopped)
1 tbsp. butter substitute
(2) 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 cup water
Salt substitute (added to taste)
Finely chopped parsley (for garnish)

1: Pierce the skin of your spaghetti squash so that the steam from cooking can escape.
2: Place the squash in the microwave and cook it on high for approximately 4 minutes per pound.
3: Melt butter substitute in a large sauce pan and add onions and garlic and caramelize over medium high heat.
4: In a second sauce pan add 16 oz. ground turkey, and cook until browned over medium high heat. Add 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning.
5: Once onions and garlic are caramelized. Stir in one 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes. Add 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning. Reduce heat to simmer.
6: Puree second 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes and reserve for later.
7: Once your microwave is done cooking. Allow your squash to rest for 5 minutes.
8: Once the squash has had a chance to cool, with a large knife, slice the squash in half and remove the seeds within, leaving nothing but the flesh of the squash.
9: Place the two halves of the squash cut side down and microwave for another 4 minutes per pound.
10: Combine the contents of both pans (ground turkey and vegetable sauce mixture) into the larger of the two pans and stir to combine. Slowly incorporating 1/2 cup of water as well as the other pureed 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes. Increase the head to medium high once again stirring occasionally.
11: When your squash has finished its final cooking phase in the microwave, remove it to a cutting board CAUTION, it will be hot!!
12: With a fork, loosen and scrape the flesh of the squash from the rind while holding the rind with a pot holder to avoid getting burned. This will very closely resemble spaghetti noodles.

- All that is left is to plate up your dish.

1: Take a generous helping of the cooked squash and place it directly in the center of your plate; topping the squash with a heaping spoonful of your sauce mixture.
2: Garnish with finely chopped parsley and your meal is ready.

*As cooking is a subjective art, I am leaving the “salt to taste” aspect of this recipe solely up to the preparer. The beautiful thing about cooking is that you may add a little or a lot of salt substitute based on your own personal preferences. For this recipe we have kept salt, carbohydrates, and fat to a minimum.

Watch the winning "Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Sauce" recipe video here.

Our 2nd Place Winner
Our 2nd place winner is Joanna Johnson from Flower Mound, Texas, for her "Creamy Roasted Garlic & Grape Tomato Pasta" recipe.

As our 2nd place winner, Joanna has won a first-generation 16GB Apple® iPad (Value: $499). RD/CDE Sharon Howard comments: "A delicious recipe that offers new cooking ideas. The roasted garlic and grape tomatoes blended into a low fat “cream sauce” is a technique I will continue to use again and again. Nice use of whole grain pasta and fresh vegetables to add fiber. One of the few recipes submitted that actually state the number of servings it makes. In this case, 6 servings is about 486 calories/serving, with 70 grams of carbohydrates. Heavy on the carbs with very little protein, but low in fat. Use this as a side dish for fish or chicken. Uses a lot of pots - had a lot of clean up to do!"

Nutrition Information
1 serving
Recipe divided into 6 servings
Calories: 486
Carbohydrate: 70g
Protein: 17g
Fat: 18g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 231mg

Diabetic Exchanges:
4 starch
1 lean meat
2 vegetable
1 fat

The ingredients (in order of use)/directions for Joanna`s "Creamy Roasted Garlic & Grape Tomato Pasta" recipe are:

4 heads of garlic plus 2 large cloves
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided use)
21 oz. (2 containers) grape tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided use
1 lb. whole wheat or multigrain penne pasta cooked al dente according to directions, one cup of cooking liquid reserved
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup fat free milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling over top of finished dish
4 cups assorted fresh vegetables chopped into ½ inch pieces (suggestions: red onion, red bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, and asparagus)
Salt (preferably kosher salt) and fresh ground pepper
Optional: 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop off top 1/3 of garlic heads and place on a square of heavy duty aluminum foil 2 double sheets of regular foil. Drizzle each head lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap up into packets and roast 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from foil, let cool. Using a sharp paring knife, remove individual cloves.

Place grape tomatoes in a 9×13 baking dish and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat. Add to garlic in the oven when 25 minutes remains. Remove to food processor with cream sauce (listed below), reserving several tomatoes for garnish.

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes (do not brown). Whisk in milk, raise heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in parmesan cheese. Pour into a food processor.

Process together cream sauce, roasted tomatoes (including juices), add in roasted garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add vegetables along with remaining Italian seasoning and sauté until crisp tender. Add in garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Finishing the dish
In the large pasta pot, combine sauce, vegetables, and pasta over medium flame. Heat together for several minutes, adding in cooking liquid if sauce is too thick. Adjust seasonings. Pour into large serving bowl. Garnish with reserved tomatoes, parsley, and additional grated parmesan. Serves 6 main portions.

View our 2nd place winner`s recipe video here.

Our 3rd Place Winner
Our 3rd place prize winner is Virginia Tinsley from Cumming, Georgia, for her "Healthy Chocolate Mousse" recipe.

As our 3rd place winner, Virginia wins an 8GB Apple® iTouch (Value: $229). RD/CDE Sharon Howard comments : "What person with diabetes isn’t interested in a `sweet dessert?`  Virginia has created a rich chocolate mousse that is low in sugar and fat, and, as an added benefit, high in protein. The protein makes this `dessert item` a great snack, since it provides protein along with a small amount of carbohydrate. Our taste-testers detected a little salty taste because of the cottage cheese, so look for a lower sodium brand of cottage cheese when making this recipe. The recipe seems to be designed for a crowd, so it makes too much for serving a family, or just one person. The recipe is tricky to divide in half. And, the recipe did not define the number of servings or the serving size, so I calculated the nutrition information on 8 servings, but you can increase the servings and still have a generous portion."

Nutrition Information
8 servings (about 4.5 oz.)      
Calories: 142                           
Protein: 25g                             
Carbohydrate: 19g                
Fat: 2g                                     
Fiber: 1g                                  
Sodium: 452 mg                   

12 servings (about 3 oz.)
Calories: 94
Protein: 17g
Fat: 1g
Fiber: 0
Sodium: 301mg 

Diabetic Exchanges
8 servings (about 4.5 oz.)   
Milk 1.5 (skim)                       
Meat 1 (very lean)                 

12 servings (about 3 oz.)
Milk: 1
Meat: 1

The ingredients/directions for Virginia`s "Healthy Chocolate Mousse" recipe are:

2 cups water,
3 packages unflavored gelatin,
24 oz. fat free cottage cheese,
1/2 cup cocoa powder,
1 pkg. fat- and sugar-free pudding mix,
1/2 cup Splenda,
1/2 cup pasteurized egg whites

1. Mix the gelatin packets in water and microwave for a minute and a half.
2. Mix the gelatin mixture, cottage cheese, pudding mix, cocoa powder, and sweetener.
3. Blend the mixture in a blender, stopping two or three times to stir by hand.
4. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until equal to approximately 2 cups by volume.
5. Gently fold the chocolate mixture and the egg whites in a large bowl until even in consistency and color.
6. Cover, chill, and serve.

View our 3rd place winner`s recipe video here.

Once again, would like to congratulate our winners, and thank everyone who took the time – and tons of effort – to enter our "diabetes friendly `Dish-Off`" Recipe Contest. We will be in touch with our three winners in the coming days.

Originally posted by on April 29, 2011.