I’ve been exploring gluten free dishes and pastas to better support friends and family with gluten sensitivities. Simple is best and adding great flavor is what makes it great. Pasta is a simple dish that can be dressed up many different ways and for this dish I went Greek with a dash of North African flavor. I was also excited to use some produce from my own backyard. I have been growing sweet peppers, tomatoes and of course fresh herbs such as rosemary and green onion. This was easy to pair with baked chicken that I seasoned two ways (lemon rosemary and garlic and herb) for some variation this week. Check out the recipe below and be sure to share your thoughts.
Gluten Free Pasta Salad
1 cup of dry gluten free elbow pasta
1 cup sliced tomato
1/2 cup sliced sweet peppers
1/4 cup green onion
2 tbsp. harissa
2 tbsp. chopped kalamata olives
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. garlic infused olive oil
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
- Rinse vegetables and herbs. Slice tomato; cut peppers in half and remove seeds before slicing thinly. Chop rosemary.
- Boil pasta for 8-9 minutes. Chop whole olives or used canned, by straining liquid.
- Once boiled, add to a bowl, then add remaining ingredients.
- Mix well and enjoy.
Sangria is a great addition to any day whether celebrating the end of the week, hosting a girls night or simply having a staycation, sangria is a versatile, easy win. I love that you can add virtually any fruit to truly make this drink your own. It can me made ahead of time if you are hosting something within a few hours, and will last a couple of days in the fridge. I made this quick win with fruit I had on hand, and can’t wait to try other combinations! And of course you can always eat the fruit in your glass for an added bonus. While traditionally sangria is made with wine and brandy, I’m a big fan of trying out other liquors, or even a combination of a couple if you are feeling adventurous and empowered. Check out my recipe below.
1 bottle of white wine (table one or preferred mix)
1 cup of sliced grapes
1 orange sliced
1 lime sliced
2 sprigs of mint (orange or any preferred)
1/2 cup of tequila ( or 1/4 tequila and 1/4 gin or vodka)
- Rinse and slice fruit and add to a pitcher. Muddle gently with the back of a spoon or muddled.
- Add mint, top with wine and liquor. Stir and refrigerate until ready to enjoy.
What’s in your pantry? It is always good to keep items on hand for easy, semi-homemade meals. I keep staples like canned beans, diced tomatoes (roasted and plain), olives and others in stock for quick and easy meals that are easy on my budget. I picked up some ricotta and arugula ravioli and pasta sauce to make this dish. This dish took ten minutes to make and is packed with nutrients and vitamins. Though I prefer to make my own pasta sauce, I enjoyed this three-cheese tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s and added some fresh greens and herbs. In the future I would likely add some mushrooms for added nutrients red pepper flakes for heat. Check out the recipe below.
1 pack of ravioli
1 jar of pasta sauce (of choice)
1 1/2 cups of fresh spinach
1 cup of arugula
1 tbsp. fresh Parmesan
2 tbsp. fresh basil
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over medium high heat.
- Rinse and chop basil. In a large skillet, add sauce, basil and greens and wilt over low heat.
- Add fresh ravioli and boil for three minutes.
- Add ravioli to sauce and grate in fresh cheese.
So I did something I haven’t done in years; I burned a creation that I just knew would be mouth-watering delicious. I even shamefully ate it partially cold at lunch, afraid that it might smell a little scorched. While trimming my tomato plants, repotting herbs that I started indoors, and working on my spinach trellis, I lost track of time and my inspired dish suffered. Though my spicy stewed coconut chicken dish was not perfect as intended, the ginger basil fried rice was it’s saving grace as that had my full attention. It was also a good reminder that time waits for no one, so neglecting to set a timer thinking “this won’t take long” is a recipe for scorched food. I sufficiently learned my lesson. This is a pretty inexpensive dish, using chicken legs as a base which adds lots of flavor while being wallet friendly. Even the fried rice required little using items already on hand. If you’d like to try a non-scorched version, check out the recipe below.
Spicy Stewed Coconut Chicken
1 pack of chicken legs (4 count)
1 can diced tomato
6oz coconut milk
6 cups of water
2 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of chopped spinach
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves of grated garlic
2 tbsp. fresh basil
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. fresh ground peppercorn (or coarse black pepper)
1 tsp. cayenne (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
- Bring water and stock to a boil in a medium pot. Rinse and add chicken legs, garlic powder and ground peppercorns or pepper. Boil for 18 minutes.
- Remove chicken and cut from the bone before adding back into the pot. Add diced tomato (with liquid), coconut milk, basil and cayenne. Grate in garlic or mince well and add.
- Peel and dice a small onion and add to pot. Cook for 10 minutes on simmer, then rinse, chop and add spinach.
- Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Enjoy with plain or fried rice.
Ginger Basil Fried Rice
1 cup cooked white or brown rice (preferably a few days old)
2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 small carrot grated or in slivers
1 tbsp. sriracha
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. grated ginger
2 cloves of sliced garlic
3 tbsp. chopped basil
1 tbsp. oil (olive, avocado or coconut oil)
- In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Slice garlic and chop basil while oil heats.
- Add garlic and basil and stir to infuse in the oil. Add rice and stir occasionally, lightly browning for 5 minutes.
- Grate ginger and add to pot. Peel carrot and grate or peel into slivers with a potato peeler.
- Move still browning rice to one side of the pan and add the eggs. Mix in well with the rice.
- Add soy sauce, sriracha and sesame oil and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
After Labor Day indulgences, I decided to make a couple of juice blends to detox and cleanse my system. While beets are not at the top of most people’s favorite list, beet juice has some incredible cleansing properties. Beet juice is known to help lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, boost stamina and improve digestion among other benefits. Beets are loaded with potassium, fiber, vitamin C and nitrates which specifically aid with blood flow and pressure. Adding in a power partner like carrots which increase metabolism, boost the immune system, strengthens vision and improves skin and it’s a no brainer. While carrots are naturally sweet, I boosted the flavor of the mix with a couple of small apples, lemon and ginger.
I also made another juice blend of cucumber, celery and lemon juice. Celery is good for more than just soup and a ranch dressing companion. Juiced, it has antioxidant properties, minimizes oxidative stress, has anti- inflammatory properties and also helps lower blood pressure. Cucumber of course help promote weight loss with a boost to the metabolism, it hydrates the body as it’s mostly water, acts as a natural laxative and boost immunity.
These are two easy juice blends to get you back on track with a healthful diet and weight management routine. The best part is you don’t have to kill your budget to make it work. I made 32 ounces of the beet blend for about $4.25 and the same amount of the cucumber juice for about $2.75. Organic beets can be found at Trader Joe’s for about $1.69, organic gala apples $2.99/bag, organic celery about the same and organic carrots for $.89 a bag. Cucumbers are in season and I brought four for $1 at the farmer’s market. Ginger is also available at most stores or produce stands and since you only need a 1 inch to 2 inch piece, it shouldn’t cost more than $.50. Lemons can be found almost anywhere inexpensively. So if you have a mind to give it a try, check out the recipes below. Enjoy!
Beet and Carrot Juice
1 lb. organic beets washed and peeled
2 lb. organic carrots washed and peeled
3 small organic apples
2 inch piece of peeled ginger
1 medium lemon peeled
- Wash and peel carrots and beets.
- Rinse apples and peel ginger and lemon.
- Add to juicer alternating between beets and carrots to push all of the pulp through. Add ginger then lemon and juice.
- Store in airtight containers in refrigerator for up to three days.
Celery Cucumber Juice
½ lb. organic celery
3 medium cucumbers
2 lemon peeled
1 inch piece of ginger (optional)
- Wash celery and cucumber well.
- Peel lemon and ginger.
- Juice celery and cucumbers first and then lemon and ginger.
- Store in airtight containers in refrigerator for up to three days.
I love every kind of potato there is, but every now and then I like to try something new. There’s always those close cousins that get ignored like butternut squash. Since squash is in season, I decided to try preparing it in a different way. This would also be great as a replacement in sweet potato casserole or in a standard potato hash. This made a great side to baked chicken and sautéed greens and is easy to prepare ahead. You can always change up the chicken with different seasonings if you want to make enough for the week. Check out the recipe below.
Mashed Rosemary Butternut Squash
1 medium butternut squash (~2 cups)
1 cup of water
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add water to an oven safe baking pan.
2. Cut the Squash in half and roast for 1 hour or until tender (fork should go in easy).
3. Let cool for 20 minutes, then scoop out and discard seeded center. Using a spoon, scoop out squash and add to a bowl. If the skin is too soft for scooping, peel each half with a knife.
4. Mash squash until smooth and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
I find that cooking is all an exploration of what works and what doesn’t. I am all about finding efficiencies to prepare good meals that are cost effective and saves me time on cleanup. Since I spent time making granola and bread this weekend, I turned to my crockpot for an easy meal. I’ve always wondered if you could cook meat fully in the crockpot without browning it first and whether it would cook pasta for an easy all in one dish; yes you can. I was thrilled with how well it came out and I grated a little Parmesan on top for that final touch of flavor. Check out the easy recipe below and put your crockpot to good use.
1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup sliced mushrooms
8oz frozen spinach
1 25 oz jar of vodka sauce
8oz of dry corkscrew pasta
1 1/2 cup of diced onion
2 cups water
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh basil
- Defrost lean ground meat at least two hours before starting.
- Add meat to a crockpot and breakup thoroughly.
- Dice and slice veggies and mince herbs; add them to the crockpot including spinach.
- Add pasta then sauce and water.
- Cook on high for 4 hours.