Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gluten Free Lasagna

I love lasagna. Love love LOVE it!! My family is Italian and I grew up eating pasta ALL the time with them. That's really the only thing I remember my grandmother making besides cudighi sandwiches (also fabulous!)...homemade sauce with my choice of angel hair or my brother's choice of mostaccioli with a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes fresh from the garden with oil and vinegar. My mom's homemade sauce is probably one of my favorite things in the world to eat! Lasagna was always a special treat for us :)

I found gluten free brown rice lasagna noodles at Wegman's and some gluten free chicken sausage so I just had to take a stab at lasagna. A perfect gluten free meal to last me throughout the week and also with some to freeze. I tried to pack it with vegetables, go light on the cheese and use part-skim ricotta to lessen the fat and pack a nutrition punch. It turned out fantastic! I could not tell the difference between the rice noodles I used and regular lasagna noodles...so good!

Here's what I used:
  • 28oz can of crushed tomatoes with juice
  • 14oz can of tomato sauce
  • 14oz can of stewed tomatoes with basil
  • 4oz can of tomato paste
  • 1cup dry red wine 
  • 8oz package of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1T Italian seasoning
  • 2tsp garlic powder
  • 1T red pepper flakes
  • 1T brown sugar
  • About 1# of gluten-free Italian sausage of your choice...I used Al Fresco Chicken Sausage in Spicy Jalapeno, cooked and chopped
  • Gluten free lasagna noodles (about 9), cooked according to package directions (I used Tinkyada)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 16oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 cups shredded mozzarella 
Basically I combined all of the tomato products, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, brown sugar and garlic powder together in a large pot and heated over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, sausage and red wine and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Place a little sauce on the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 inch pan, top with a layer of lasagna noodles (about 3). Spread about 8oz of the ricotta over the noodles, top with half of the spinach then about 1.5 cups of sauce and 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella. Layer with more noodles, ricotta, spinach, sauce and mozzarella. On top of the second layer place one more layer of noodles and cover with remaining sauce. 
Place the 9x13 inch pan on top of a cookie sheet line with foil to avoid any spillage in the oven. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Cover with remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top. Remove from oven and let rest a few minutes before cutting into and serving...enjoy!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gluten Free Toaster Waffles with a Quick Cherry Topping

I've always been a fan of toaster waffles ever since I was a few years old and my mom would make my bro and I some Eggos on the weekends :) Honestly, I think it used to be one of my favorite breakfasts (or dinners!). Now I eat them all the time since they can be so quick, easy and healthy! 

I have always bought whole grain waffles with flax seed and I'll bring them to work with me to pop in the microwave for a minute or even pop up to one of the units and put them in a toaster. I love to top them with peanut butter, honey, and fruit! 

I was so excited to see that Van's makes gluten free waffles in a variety of flavors! I grabbed a box of the whole grain flax to try and was pleasantly surprised. If someone served these to me without telling me they were GF I would have no idea they weren't made with wheat. I decided to take a cue from our Valentine's breakfast last weekend (ricotta pancakes with raspberry sauce!) and whip up a quick fruit topping to go with them. 

Here's what I used (makes about 2 servings):
  • 1 cup frozen cherries 
  • 2T water
  • 2 tsp honey (or your favorite sweetener to taste) 
Heat cherries over medium heat until nearly thawed. Add water and stir, kind of mashing the cherries as you stir. Once combined add the honey and continue to stir. Bring to a boil and reduce mixture to desired thickness...I think I let it go for about 3-4 minutes stirring often to avoid burning. Serve over your favorite waffles or pancakes! 
One serving is about 76 calories per 1/2 cup

We did something similar last weekend when I made my Valentine a {not-so-healthy} breakfast of ricotta pancakes (with added chocolate chips). We used raspberries with a bit of sugar and water and used the same technique and it turned out yummy as well :)
(Just a quick shot of us out to dinner for V-day...love him!) 
Now off for a nice long walk on this beautiful weekend in Baltimore! 

Curried Chicken Salad

Gluten free meal #1!!! For some reason I just had a major hankering for chicken salad and wanted something new, crunchy and healthy tasting. I don't like my chicken salad too creamy and didn't want to add a lot of mayonnaise because of the fat content. So I thought back to my recent blue cheese dip recipe and how the Greek yogurt worked so well so I thought I'd add this to the chicken and go with it! The curry came into play from our Thai dinner last week...I had this amazing red chicken curry and it was fabulous!

Here's what I used:

  • 1# Chicken breast, cooked and chopped into small chunks
  • 2 Stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 4 Green Onions, chopped (white parts and most of green parts used)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2T light mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Basically I boiled a few chicken breasts for 10-12 minutes until done, cooled them off and chopped them into chunks. Then mixed them well with all the rest of the ingredients and voila! A very tasty chicken salad! I served this with corn tortillas and topped them with a light sprinkle of mozzarella! So light, flavorful and the vegetables make it more filling! 

I estimated this to be about 4 servings at 150 calories and 23 grams of protein per serving (not including tortillas). Serve with your choice of bread, tortillas, crackers, etc! 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gluten Free week!

It's been a while since I've done a theme or "challenge" so I thought I'd give this gluten-free diet a try! I counsel lots of children and families on how to follow strict guidelines for celiac disease and those with wheat allergies and give them ideas of foods they can and can not have. I hear time and time again how difficult this diet is to follow (and truly, it is!) and families always express concern about how they can follow this, so I really think the best way to sympathize with them is to try it out myself and walk in their shoes. 

I went to my grocery store heaven (a.k.a. Wegman's) and scoured their gluten free (GF) section for a few inspirational ideas for my week. I purchased GF lasagna noodles, instant oatmeal, waffles, and rice crackers. Honey Nut Chex, fruits, veggies, pistachios, chicken breast and GF chicken sausage completed my grocery run and I'm excited to create some GF meals this weekend/week! 

I have to say that the prices for some of these items were a bit higher than I usually pay and I think that is a very difficult thing for many families that need to follow a GF diet. Amazon.com does have an amazing selection of gluten-free items though that you can buy in bulk and really save so check it out! 

Up first on my menu is going to be a chicken salad that can be eaten on it's own or with gluten-free bread, corn tortillas or rice crackers and tomorrow gluten-free lasagna with veggies & chicken sausage! I'll definitely welcome any suggestions from all of you! I know there are some amazing blogs out there 100% devoted to this gluten-free need :) 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quick & Easy {healthy} Blue Cheese Dip!

I'm so excited about this recipe! So fast and easy to whip up in my Magic Bullet blender from ingredients I usually have on hand already. Plus, it is very low in fat, full of calcium and totally satisfies your blue cheese need, especially on game day for those chicken wings and veggies!
Here's what I used:

  • 1 container of plain fat free greek yogurt (5.3oz each)
  • 3 wedges of Laughing Cow Light, Blue Cheese flavor
  • 2 T blue cheese crumbles, divided
Here's what I did:
Throw yogurt, cheese wedges and 1 tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles into your food processor. Blend until smooth. Stir in the other tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles for a chunkier dip. Serve! Makes about 1 cup of dressing/dip.

Calories for total recipe: 235; Calories per 2 tablespoons: about 30

This will pair perfectly with the baked buffalo tenders I'm making for the Super Bowl. Also on the menu are sweet potato fries, venison chili, and a variety of raw veggies. More {healthy} game day recipes to come! :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Festive Spiced Nuts

(Sorry, this is a little late! I meant to write this post around the holidays and never got the chance! But these were delicious and can be made all year round :) Maybe a great little snack for your super bowl party!) 

Yum Yum YUM!!! I've been reading on a lot of food blogs and in my health magazine all about spiced nuts for the winter season and that got me motivated to try them! I love the sweet roasted almonds/pecans that you can get at local fairs, carnivals and winter gatherings and during my Florida trip I remember my brother buying some honey roasted cashews from a local vendor at a flea market we visited...to die for!!!

I flipped back to my Vibrant Life issue for November/December to get some inspiration for a "lighter" version. After these came out of the oven I could barely keep myself from devouring the pan right then and there (The smell was incredible! Your kitchen will just smell like the Holdays!). The taste is sweet, smokey and a bit spicy!

Here's what I did (recipe adapted from Vibrant Life, 2010):
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • 1 Cup Cashews, raw unsalted
  • 1 Cup Almonds, raw unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of raw sugar (honey may also be good as well!)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Combine nuts with canola oil and mix well.  In a small bowl combine sugar, spices, and salt then add to nut mixture and coat well. Pour onto baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occassionally until lightly caramelized and fragrant. Allow to cool. Store in airtight container. Perfect for holiday parties or gifts!