Category Archives: Italian

Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs

I love spaghetti squash!  I wanted to have it for dinner but didn’t just want it as a side or a base for a red sauce.  I found a recipe on www.wholeliving.com that I liked the look of and then adapted it to make it gluten-free and with a few different veggies.  It was unique and delicious!  My husband couldn’t believe the meatballs were just beef… and not some type of sausage.  He thought they were the best tasting meatballs I have made yet.  We will definitely want to hang onto this recipe!

Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs

Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs
1 spaghetti squash
salt/pepper
2 Tbsp. butter, melted and divided
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. gluten-free breadcrumbs (see note)
1 lb. grass-free ground beef
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 c. beef broth
4-5 c. fresh spinach
1 pint cherry tomatoes
parmesan cheese for garnish/topping

*I had a loaf of gluten-free bread that bombed so I ground it up in the food processor and froze it to use a bread crumbs. If you don’t have bread crumbs, you can grind up gluten-free oatmeal, or use flaxseed meal or even ground up chia seeds.

Instructions:

Cut spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush with 1 Tbsp. butter and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Bake in the oven on a baking sheet, face down, at 375 for about 45 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, scoop out of shell with a fork and set aside.

In a skillet, heat remaining Tbsp. butter. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender. Remove from heat to a small bowl to cool. Once cooled, add oregano, parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and ground beef. Combine with your hands and mold into meatballs. Mine were between 1-2 inches.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add meatballs and cook until browned on the outside. Remove from pan. Add additional oil if needed and cherry tomatoes. Be sure to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add broth, spinach, and meatballs back into the pan. Cook until spinach is fully wilted and meatballs are cooked through.

Place a scoop of spaghetti squash onto each plate. Top with meatball/veggie combo and garnish with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Husband Rating: 7 out of 10

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Creamy Gouda White Sauce

I know I haven’t posted in FOREVER here and I apologize!  It has been a crazy busy start to the fall.  With training for the half-marathon, working to help coordinate fundraising efforts for aforementioned half-marathon, starting in a new leadership role with my Bible Study Fellowship class, and just your typical adjustments to the new fall routine, I had to let some things go.

But, this meal was too good to not blog about!  Seriously… so good.  Like, it was one of those meals where as I was cooking it, I kept thinking, “This has the potential to be amazing.  I really hope it is.” And, then it really was so good.  My husband and I agreed that we would take this meal over going out for dinner any time.  That good!

Making gnocchi has been high on my “to-do” cooking list since going gluten-free.  I love gnocchi, ever since my husband and I tried it in Venice seven years ago.  But, of course, all store bough gnocchi has gluten in it.  I had been eying this recipe and even putting it on the menu for several weeks now but just not finding the time or energy to make it.  Today, finally I had the time and energy to make it.

Three things I discovered in making this gnocchi:

1) it wasn’t really as hard as I thought even though it was a bit time-consuming
2) it makes a crazy huge batch so I have gnocchi by the tons in my freezer (yay!!!)
3) I was able to include my 2 and 4 year old in the process.  Once the dough is made, you need to roll it into long ropes and cut it.  Since the dough is much like the texture of play dough, I was able to roll the ropes out and then the boys happily cut the gnocchi up with butter knives.  It was so novel for them to be able to CUT that they happily went along with the tediousness of making it.

The rest of the meal was a conglomeration of a few different recipes I looked up.  So, without further ado, the recipe for the amazing Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Creamy Gouda White Sauce.

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Creamy Gouda White Sauce

Gnocchi Ingredients:
(Recipe adapted from www.realsustenancecom/grain-free-sweet-potato-gnocchi-glutendairycornsoy-free/)

3 1/2 c. mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 large sweet potatoes)
1 tsp. Xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 large eggs
5-6 c. almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand today)
4 1/2 c. Arrowroot powder
*additional flour and arrowroot powder for dusting counter

Sauce Ingredients:
(Recipe adapted from www.thenoshery.com/2010/11/09/sweet-potato-gnocchi-with-gouda-cheese-sauce/ )

2 c. milk (I used 2%)
1/4 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp. dried sage
salt/pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill G/F all-purpose flour)
1 1/4 c. shredded Gouda cheese

Other:
1 lb. chicken breasts
garlic powder/salt/pepper to taste on chicken
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. sweet peas

Instructions:

To make the gnocchi:

In a preheated 425 degree oven, bake sweet potatoes in their skin until soft (about 45min – 1 hour). It helps to line your baking sheet with tin foil. Make clean up a snap!

Remove sweet potatoes from oven, cut open and scoop out the middle into a bowl. Mash and let sit until cools to room temperature. To cooled sweet potatoes, add xanthan gum, salt, and eggs. Mix well.

Add one cup of arrowroot powder and one cup of almond flour. Mix well to combine. Continue adding powder and flour one cup at a time. When the dough is ready, it will be firm, not sticky (able to be rolled by hand) and yet not overly dry, much like the texture of play dough. 🙂

Sprinkle the counter with almond flour and arrowroot powder. Begin rolling dough out in sections. Roll dough into rope-like lengths about finger thick. Cut into sections about 1 in. in length. Here is where you can decide how much work you want to do. I started out pressing each square with a fork and rolling it but then shortly gave that up for just making rectangular gnocchi without the fork marks. Totally your decision here. Here is a picture of it both ways.

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Place cut gnocchi onto a baking sheet. At this point you can either freeze and store in freezer bags or cook immediate. To cook, simply bring a pot of water to boil. Place desired amount of gnocchi in the water. When gnocchi starts to float, it is ready to remove from the water. It takes about 30 seconds from fresh and 2 minutes from frozen. You can eat it with a sauce as is or take it to the next level and do the following:

Heat 2 Tbsp. butter in a pan. Place gnocchi in a single layer in the pan. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes before turning. Cook on other side for about the same amount of time until golden and crispy. Ooh, that is a delicious treat and my favorite way to make gnocchi. From there, top with any sauce or eat plain!

Sauce Instructions:

In a small sauce pan, combine milk, onion (roughly chopped), garlic (smashed), and sage. Heat over medium heat until just bubbling around the edge, not boiling. Let sit for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Tip: Rinse out the small sauce pan while the milk is sitting to save yourself from having to get out another pan (or in my case, I didn’t have another pan to use and needed this one again).

Melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk consistently for 1 minute. Gradually add warmed milk while whisking continuously. Cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Add shredded gouda and continue cooking over low heat until cheese is melted.

To make the meal as we did:

Prior to making the cheese sauce, cut up the chicken breasts into strips. In a pan, melt 2 Tbsp. butter and add chicken. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook until chicken is no longer pink. Set aside. Cook sweet peas according to package directions (steam or microwave).

Assemble your meal. Place gnocchi on the bottom. Add chicken and peas. Drizzle with white sauce. ENJOY!!!!!

Husband Rating: 9 1/2 out of 10

New Favorite Grain-Free Pizza Crust Recipe

I was looking for a new pizza crust recipe and came to the one on a blog called The Unrefined Kitchen.  Great blog!  Even better pizza crust recipe!!!  We have made it several times – though I haven’t gotten around to publishing it yet.  It mixes up totally differently than any other pizza recipe, with the dough being more batter-like than dough like.  But, it is so tasty!  We made it with some delicious veggie toppings shown below – grilled zucchini and red pepper slices, onions, and fresh mozzarella cheese (no sauce, just a drizzle of olive oil on the crust). If you eat grain-free or gluten-free, this is a great pizza crust to try!

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Pizza Crust (Grain-free)

Recipe from http://www.unrefinedkitchen.com/2012/04/14/pizza-crust-primalpaleo/

Ingredients:
2 cups almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup arrowroot powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a pizza pan with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk to blend together.
Add eggs and almond milk to the dry ingredients. Mix well. (The batter will be runny–not like typical pizza dough.)

Use a spatula to spread batter onto greased pan.

Bake crust in preheated oven 8-12 minutes.

Remove crust from oven and top with sauce and desired toppings.

Bake for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Summer Squash Skillet

This one-dish supper was light and summery with several tasty veggies. I made a realization that six months ago, I probably would have thought this dish would be best served on pasta. Tonight, however, we just had it as is and it was tasty and satisfying. The kids ate the sausage and the one or two requisite ‘no-thank you’ bites of zucchini but my husband and I both enjoyed it!

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Quick and Easy Summer Squash Skillet

6 links mild Italian sausage (I used an all natural chicken sausage)
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 c. bell pepper, diced (I used a mix of yellow, red, and orange – what was left in the fridge!) 🙂
3 medium zucchinis, halved and sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 c. fresh basil, chopped
salt/pepper

Cook sausage according to package directions. Set aside. Slice.

In a large skillet, heat grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and oregano and sauté about 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and zucchini and sauté another 3-5 minutes.

Add sliced sausage, cherry tomatoes, basil, and salt/pepper. Cook for another minute or two until the tomatoes are just tender. Serve immediately.

Husband Rating: 7 out of 10

Grain-Free Pizza Crust

Last night, I had the pleasure of hearing a speaker, Dr. Natalie Gianforte of Maximized Living in Minnetonka, speak with a small group of women about nutritious eating for our families today.  (I am not at all affiliated with that clinic, just am really impressed with Dr. Natalie as a speaker and nutrition expert!)She shared so many interesting and enlightening facts about the importance of a whole food diet, reducing/eliminating sugars, increasing healthy fats, and focusing on food made by God, not food made by man.  If I wasn’t already before, I now am even more on fire for healthy eating!!!  I went through my pantry again today and tossed a bunch of things that now that I have learned more about and do not plan to cook with again. (This included such items as a bottle of canola oil, some old candy that was hiding in a drawer, brown and powdered sugar, among other things.)  It felt so good to purge!!!  FYI, in that same theme, I am going to be going back through old posts over the next few days and weeding out the ones that are not up to the standard I feel is good for my family now. 

Today’s recipe is one that I actually made a few days ago… I wanted to make pizza. My one recipe for g/f pizza crust requires two eggs… out of eggs. The other crust I love to use is my cauliflower pizza crust… no cauliflower. This is when I love google – I searched out gluten-free egg-free pizza crusts and came up with a great recipe. I added some seasonings to it and loved how it turned out. It was a delightful, flaky, thin-crust pizza. We made a traditional pepperoni pizza (using Applegate Natural pepperoni) for the boys and on the other pizza I added some tomatoes, fresh arugula, and fresh basil to the top. (Add the arugula and basil after baking just before serving.) 

The crust recipe I adapted came from a blog that I have found to have good recipes.  I have used it a few times and from what I have read/cooked from her blog, would recommend it to you.  It is www.realsustenance.com.  Check it out. 

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Grain-Free Pizza Crust

3 c. almond flour (I ran out and substituted about 1 c. of hazelnut flour – works fine as long as it is another nut flour)
7 Tbsp. arrowroot powder (or another starch – tapioca or corn)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. celtic sea salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 c. flaxseed meal
1 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted

In a large bowl, combine flour, arrowroot powder, spices, and baking powder. Mix well.

In a small bowl, mix flaxseed meal, water, and coconut oil. Mix until it starts to thicken. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well mixed.

Cover two pizza pans with parchment paper. Divide dough into two balls and spread thinly over each pizza pan. Because the dough is a bit sticky, I found that if I used a piece of wax paper on top of the dough and pressed it flat, it didn’t get stuck to me or the spatula. Press until the dough is about 1/16th of an inch thick.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake crusts for 22-25 minutes or until the edges are golden and they are cooked through. Add your favorite toppings. Increase oven heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until toppings are hot.

Food for Thought: This is another pizza recipe where it is easy to make one pizza and freeze the other. Simply bake the crust. Allow it to cool and then wrap it in plastic wrap tightly. Freeze flat. When you are ready to use it, simply unwrap it and place it on the baking sheet. Top and bake at 400 degrees or until everything is hot throughout.

Eggplant Marinara

Spaghetti is a staple to what we eat on a regular basis. But, I like to create variety within that framework. Tonight I wanted a sauce that really packed a veggie punch! Enter the eggplant, zucchini, and spinach! I have been looking for something new to try with the boys and they have never had eggplant.  One of them was willing to eat it… the other did not.  Can’t win them all!  I served the boys sauce on some brown rice pasta and ate mine on some baked spaghetti squash. I thought it was very good either way!

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Eggplant Marinara

1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 small zucchini, finely diced
2 c. spinach, chopped
1 jar organic tomato basil marinara (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)
1 pk. sun dried tomato and basil chicken sausage, casing removed (Again, got it at Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
salt/pepper
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil. Add eggplant cubes, dried oregano, dried basil, and salt/pepper. Saute eggplant until it starts to turn golden on all sides (about 7-9 minutes). Remove from the pan.

Cook chicken sausage in same pan until no longer pink. Add spinach and zucchini and cook until the spinach wilts. Add the tomato sauce, basil, and eggplant into the sauce. Simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes or until hot through.

Serve on pasta or spaghetti squash.

Husband Rating: 6 out of 10

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Ok, I have been completely skeptical of this whole cauliflower pizza crust I had been reading about on various blogs… but, I want pizza and since traditional crusts contain either a) gluten, or b) sugar, I needed to bite the bullet and try it.  I am SOOOO glad that I did!  It was delicious, nutty, and crisp.

When you make this pizza, you can’t go into it expecting it to taste like a typical pizza crust.  My husband likened it to a flatbread pizza (at some fancy pizza shoppe – such a complement!) and as long as that is your expectation, you won’t be disappointed.

I loved that it was so healthy, even sneaking in a few veggies for the boys and that it was completely sugar-free!  Amazing!

Disclaimer – it is a bit putzy and is a bit messier than making traditional pizza crusts.  However, I was able to get about 4 cups of cauliflower ‘rice’ from one head of cauliflower and was able to make 4 crusts.  We ate two of them and I baked and froze two more for future use.  You could also, if you don’t have the time to make all the crusts, simply measure out the cauliflower ‘rice’ into freezer bags and save for future pizzas.

Cauliflower Pizza

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Recipe from http://realsustenance.com/revamped-better-than-ever-cauliflower-pizza-crust-graingluteneggdairysoy-free/

1 c. cooked cauliflower ‘rice’ (directions below)
2 c. almond flour/meal
6 1/2 Tbsp. arrowroot powder
3 Tbsp. flaxseed meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Instructions:

Make the cauliflower ‘rice’. Place cauliflower, chopped into pieces into a food processor and chop until it is the texture or rice or even couscous. Place ‘rice’ in a large skillet with a small amount of oil and cook for 5-7 minutes until tender.
Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 1 c. of the cauliflower ‘rice’ and the remaining ingredients and mix until well combines and ends up forming a ball of dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and press dough into the pan using the back of a spatula.

Preheat the oven to 375 and bake crust for 20-23 minutes or until desired crispy-ness. Remove from oven, top with favorite ingredients and bake for another 12-15 minutes until cheese is melted. Enjoy!

Husband Rating:

Gluten Free Meatballs

(Forgive any typos or formatting errors… our computer is once again getting fixed for the third time for the same problem!!! I am ready to ask for a new one!)

I love meatballs and spaghetti so going gluten free I had to rethink one of my favorite meals. First, I needed a g/f replacement for those darn breadcrumbs in meatballs. I haven’t yet made any g/f bread or seen g/f breadcrumbs in the store but after some research found several options for what to use instead. I did a combination of coconut flour and flaxseed meal but some other ideas I saw included g/f rolled oats, chia seed meal, or saving the crumbs from the bottom of a box of Chex cereal and using those crumbs.

Gluten Free Meatballs

The other challenge with spaghetti was what to use for the noodles. I could do some g/f pasta but instead decided to try spaghetti squash for the first time.  I roasted the squash in the oven until tender and easy to pull apart to “noodles”.

The results of my experiment? Everyone liked the meatballs (which I serve with a  tomato basil marinara – store bought) and I was the only one to like the spaghetti squash base. I thought it was great but not so much for the men in my life… Next time I will have to try g/f pasta!

Gluten Free Meatballs

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1tsp oregano
2 tsp parsley
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 c. Flaxseed meal
1/4 c. Coconut flour
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
1/2 c milk
1 egg lightly beaten

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Roll into two inch balls. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes on a cooking sheet (or until cooked through). Serve with marinara sauce on g/f pasta or cooked spaghetti squash.
Husband Rating: 5 out of 10
Food For Thought: These would be great for the freezer. Cook them up and freeze in a freezer bag until you are ready to eat. Simply heat up in a skillet over medium high heat and then add sauce.

Sausage and Tomato Topped Polenta

This was a delicious meal that everyone found something in it to like.  I made it a few weeks ago but thought I would finally get around to posting it.  When we made this, I had not yet started my gluten-free adventure but I have learned that polenta can be gluten-free.  I don’t know if the tubes of premade polenta come that way but if they don’t, you can buy the mix and make it yourself.  I know Bob’s Red Mill brand has one that is g/f. It was a nice twist on an Italian inspired meal without having to have pasta.  Yum!

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Sausage and Tomato Topped Polenta

1 tube polenta (check to make sure it is g/f)
1 lb. Italian chicken sausage links, sliced
1 can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. fresh minced garlic
1/2 c. chopped kale (stems removed)
1 small onion, diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
sea salt, to taste
1/4 c.fresh basil,chopped

Instructions:

Slice polenta into 1/2 inch thick slices. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place on a cookie sheet.

In an oven preheated to 450 degrees, bake polenta for 20-25 minutes, turning once halfway through. Bake until lightly golden.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, use remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Heat over medium high heat and add onions and sausage. Cook until onions are tender and sausage is cooked through. Add tomatoes, beans, garlic, and kale. Cook until hot through. Season with salt to taste and toss with basil.

Serve 3-4 slices of polenta to each person topped with a scoop of the sausage mixture.

Husband Rating: 6 out of 10

Baked Angel Hair Pasta With Tomato Artichoke Sauce

This meal was sort of a different take on a baked spaghetti.  It turned out pretty good though my boys only wanted the sausage and nothing to do with the noodles.  You can’t win them all!  I used a great all natural mild Italian chicken sausage that I found at Costco for the recipe. The sauce was delicious and easy to make as well.  I think it is one that I will just try putting in front of the boys again sometime to try to get them to eat it.

Side note – I didn’t originally plan to puree the sauce for this recipe. However, after simmering it, it seemed a bit too chunky for what I was hoping it would be.  Because of that, I realized after the fact that that this would be an easy recipe to add some additional hidden veggies into.  You could easily add some carrots, spinach, or cauliflower into the sauce as you cook it. Since you are pureeing it, no one would be the wiser!

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Baked Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Artichoke Sauce

6 links all natural chicken mild Italian sausage
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
3 tsp. fresh minced garlic
1 tsp. dried basil
5 large tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 – 6 oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
salt/pepper to taste
1 lb. whole wheat angle hair pasta
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces

Instructions:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, parsley, and garlic. Saute for 5-6 minutes or until vegetables become tender. Add tomatoes, bell pepper, artichokes, and basil. Stir and season with salt/pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place sauce in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth consistency.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to boiling. Cook pasta until al dente, no more than 3 minutes. Drain and toss with pasta sauce.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole dish, place sausages and cook in oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot/cooked through. Remove from the oven. Set sausages aside. Place pasta into pan and top with sausage. Return to the oven and bake another 20 minutes or until it begins to get just a bit crispy on top.

Add cheese to top and bake for another 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Husband Rating: 6 out of 10

Food for Thought: This recipe would easily work as a freezer meal.  I would cook the meal through layering it all into the casserole dish.  Then, allow it to cool, cover it, and freeze.  Simply pop in the oven and bake until hot.

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