Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup

There are days that I plan to blog about food, and I do a fabulous job capturing beautiful photos in the kitchen. Then, there are other days that I quickly throw something together and regret later that I didn’t photograph the process with my Canon DSLR and good lighting.

Today is one of those days that I regret.

I was in the midst of juggling cleaning with crafting, and had very little time to cook. I had chicken in the refrigerator that was about to expire, and a cabbage head that needed to be eaten. It was a cold, windy day… and this quickly transpired:

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN & RICE SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1lb thawed, thin chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 small cabbage head, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon rosemary
  • 2 Tablespoons Earth Balance Vegan Butter
  • 5 cups gluten-free chicken broth
  • 1 cup culinary coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup Jasmine rice

Instructions

Layer all ingredients into a 6-quart crock pot. I started with the chicken breasts on the bottom, topped with onions, carrots, and cabbage, and then added spices, rice, and broth/milk. Cook on low for 4 hours or until chicken breasts are cooked through. Rice should be done around the same time. (If not, remove chicken and allow rice to finish cooking before final step.) Shred chicken then stir back into soup and serve. Soup will thicken as it cools. Serves approximately 4.

Quick. Easy. Delicious.

Aleia’s {a GFAF Event Vendor showcase}

Recently, I attended Greensboro’s first Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. The event was coordinated by Nikki Everett, who has been directing this educational one-day convention in other cities since 2009. I am so grateful that she decided to include NC Triad in this year’s schedule.  The event was informative and fun! As a member of their Blogger Team, I had the opportunity to chat with the vendors and speakers before the event opened to the public. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to showcase a few of my favorites.

Today, I want to introduce you to Aleia’s.

Based in Connecticut, Aleia’s is artisan food for those of us who have to avoid gluten. Their products can be found in select stores throughout North Carolina, and online. (Aleia’s is currently not in stores here in the Triad, but they’re working on that!) Online orders of $40 or more ship free within the continental US. Their foods include cookies, stuffing, breadcrumbs, croutons, and their brand new product, a gluten-free/dairy-free crunchy coating similar to a bagged coating made popular by its claim to be a less-greasy, baked alternative to frying.

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Of their products, I decided to try the new crunchy coating first.

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The directions are simple and it took about five minutes to prepare. I began with three thin chicken breasts, rinsed and then drizzled with coconut oil. I opened the box, which contains two coating packets and two bags, and removed one of each. I opened the seasoned coating and placed it into the bag.

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From there, I simply placed one chicken breast into the pouch and shook the bag a few times. I didn’t have to shake it vigorously; the coating covered the chicken really well. I removed the chicken breast from the bag and placed it on a cookie sheet. I repeated the process for the remaining two breasts.

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I placed the coated chicken breasts into a preheated oven set at 425-degrees, and baked them for 20 minutes. The breasts that I used were thin, so the time would need to be adjusted for thicker ones. While the chicken baked, I chopped and sautéed mixed vegetables.

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In less than 30 minutes, I had prepared an easy and delicious meal. Aleia’s new Coat & Crunch was seasoned beautifully – not too spicy! – and really took my typically bland baked chicken to a new level. My tastebuds were extremely happy. I highly recommend that you try Aleia’s.

You can find Aleia’s products near you by clicking here and entering your zip code, or by ordering online at aleias.com. I have a discount code (valid for online purchases only – save $1.00 on each item) that I am happy to share with you if you will:

  1. Click here and LIKE my Facebook page.
  2. Click here and LIKE Aleia’s Facebook page.
  3. Comment below that you have completed steps 1 and 2, and share with us what product you’re most interested in trying.

I also invite you to subscribe to my blog by entering your name and email address in the fields under my photo on the righthand side of the page. That way, you’ll know when my next blog will publish featuring another fantastic GFAF Event vendor!

Aleia’s is devoted to producing superior hand crafted, certified gluten free, Non-GMO and kosher products. Our commitment is to provide healthy, delicious options for living a gluten free lifestyle every day! Handcrafted and packaged in the USA in a dedicated gluten free bakery that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk ingredients and lots of smiles!

Disclaimer: I was given one box of Coat & Crunch Extra Crispy and one box of Coat & Crunch Crispy Spicy by Aleia’s to review as part of the Greensboro Blogger Team. This post does not contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way. 

Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie [Gluten- and Dairy-Free]

This pie is THE BEST tasting pie on earth. No, really! That’s exactly what my dad proclaimed when I made it for his birthday last week. And what Dad says, goes. At least that is what I grew up being told. 🙂

Although it may not be the best pie on earth, it is truly the best tasting gluten free, diary free pie that I have made. It is seriously so good that I can’t image ever topping this pie. If you love chocolate and coconut (think Mounds candy bar), you will want to give this pie a try. It is simple to make, and doesn’t take long to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • Mi-Del Chocolate Snap gluten free pie crust (available in most grocery stores alongside regular
    pre-made crusts)
  • So Delicious CocoWhip (available in select grocery stores beside other frozen whipped toppings)
  • 1 can coconut cream (14 oz)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch (this can be replaced with arrowroot powder, if you prefer)
  • 2/3 cup cashews
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Instructions:

Before you begin, place cashews into a bowl and cover with water.  You will want these to soak no less than 4 hours, although they can soak longer. When they’re ready, rinse well.

Shake the can of coconut cream well before opening. Measure out 1 cup and pour it into a mixing bowl. Add in the cornstarch and whisk until all lumps are removed. Set aside.

Pour the remaining coconut cream into a measuring cup. There should be approx. 1/2 cup. Pour your choice of non-dairy milk (I use cashew milk) into the coconut cream to make a total of 1 cup. So this means you’ll probably use about 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk.

Add the cream/milk to a blender with soaked and rinsed cashews, maple syrup, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Blend ingredients until they become smooth and creamy.

When they’re blended well, pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk continuously as it heats, bringing the mixture to a gentle simmer. When the mixture is simmering well, reduce heat to low and pour in the cream/cornstarch

Continue to whisk all ingredients for approximately 5-10 minutes until it begins to thickens. When it starts to have the same consistency as pudding, remove the mixture from the heat and add in the coconut oil. Whisk again until the mixture appears glossy.

The mixture is now ready to pour into the pies crust. Doesn’t it look delicious? Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Tip: When you place the pie into the refrigerator, this is the perfect time to also remove the Cocowhip from the freezer and place it into the refrigerator as well. This will give the Cocowhip time to thaw, which will make it easier to spread.

After 4 hours, add a layer of softened Cocowhip onto the top of the firmed pie. It’s ready to serve!

You’ll be tempted to eat it quickly because it tastes so good, but be sure to savor every bite of deliciousness. If you give this pie a try, be sure to let me know if you love it as much as I do!

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. All photos © 2016 by jennonamission.

 

The pie filling recipe was taken in part from Natural Girl, Modern World. Be sure to check out her blog if you’re interested in a vegan option pie crust and simple whipped topping.

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event

When I learned about my food allergies last year, my blog changed. I went from posting recipes of quick meals made with ingredients that I had purchased for next-to-nothing with coupons, to experiments made with new products that I had never heard of before. It has been challenging, but in a wonderful way.

Although I feel like I have learned a lot since my diagnosis, I also know that I have barely scratched the surface on all there is to know. That is why I am so excited (and extremely honored) to have been selected to be a part of the Blogger Team for the upcoming Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event in Greensboro on September 10.

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Key speakers for this event are: Dr. Nicole DiNezza, DC, NTP, Jennifer Cuevas, Tarah Jakubiak, Meg Huebner, Rodger Lenhardt, Beth Mincher, and Drs. Roosevelt Smith, and Clifton Mays. They will be discussing an array of topics including essential oils, traveling with allergies, and digestive disorders. There will also be many vendors on site, including some well-known brands. It is going to be an amazing resource for anyone with food allergies, whether you were recently diagnosed or have battled them for years. 

I will be posting updates throughout the event; if you’re unable to attend, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I will also post a blog with highlights from the event the week of September 11.

Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased in advance or at the door. Please comment below if you’re planning to attend. I would love to connect with you at the event!

 

As a Blogger Team member, I will receive free admission and possibly additional compensation for posts regarding this event.

NC Blogger Network Triad Meetup

UPDATE: This event is being rescheduled. When a new date is available, I will update everyone with a new post. Thank you!

Hello blogger friends! I am hosting a fun meetup next month, and I hope that you will join me. It will take place on Thursday, September 1 at 6:30pm.

This will be the first NCBN Triad Blogger Meetup of 2016, and my first meetup hosting as NC Blogger Network’s Triad Ambassador.

The event will be held at the newly re-branded Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar at Friendly Center in Greensboro. Enjoy an evening of socializing, free appetizers and a drink special* (complements of the restaurant), and the chance to win a door prize.

NCBN Triad Meetup
During our event you’ll get to mingle and network with area bloggers and their influential friends, gain insight about the NC Blogger Network (if you aren’t already a member) and learn who is blogging practically in your own backyard.

The meetup is open to all members, non members, and bloggers in general. Seating is limited, so be sure to grab your tickets early, and please bring a friend! Click here to RSVP.

*You will be responsible for purchasing your own drinks and any additional food.

When Life No Longer Revolves Around Food

Thoughts From a Recovering Food Addict

I can recall, in the not-too-distant past, when I would encourage monthly potlucks at work. There was always something to celebrate. Birthdays, holidays, weddings, babies, retirements … a random Thursday! I could truly turn any day into a reason to host a potluck. Why? Because I loved food. And ultimately, that’s really what I celebrated with every passing potluck.

Food also comforted me when I was worried, became my confidant when I was angry, and helped me pass the time when I was bored. Food had control of my life. I lived for food. And it was killing me.

Last year, I learned about my food allergies after suffering from many health problems including: belly issues, muscle pain, migraines, and chronic fatigue. I had no idea that these symptoms were subtle signs of my body’s rejection of dairy proteins. The moment I was diagnosed, my life changed. Suddenly, I had to analyze every morsel that went into my mouth. I had to read every single ingredient on the packaging. I had to search the websites of restaurants in advance to learn if they would have allergen-free menus when I arrived. It was a painstaking processes. It didn’t take long before I realized that buying pre-made cookie dough in the grocery store, or grabbing a quick meal from a drive-thru just wasn’t worth the effort that I had to put into it. I started reaching for simpler foods with less ingredients to decipher. When I wanted something sweet, I grabbed whole foods… dates, apples, strawberries, or grapes instead of contemplating whether that dark chocolate candy bar was really made of dark chocolate or some kind of blend containing milk fat. My perspective changed, and slowly… I stopped celebrating food.

Despite now knowing many dairy- and gluten-free products at a glance, I’m still in awe of the transition that I have made. Not physically, but mentally. I have entered a phase in which I could easily begin celebrating food again. I know where to find allergen free cheesecakes and pizza, and which fast food restaurants are safe. But I don’t live for food anymore, because I’ve learned the joy in celebrating the moment instead.

A great example of this is how I chose to celebrate my birthday. In the past, I celebrated with about four slices of a large, stuffed crust pizza and an oversized slice (or so) of a 9″ layered cake from my favorite bakery. That was typically preceded by a sweet, carb-heavy breakfast and followed by dinner out on the town. This year, however, food played a very small part in my day. Instead, I started my morning with an hour-long massage, followed by time with family, and ending with a concert and dancing with friends. I barely remember what I ate that day. Throughout the day I had a bottle of my favorite juice, likely a protein bar or some other healthy snack(s), and I did stop by Zoe’s Kitchen for a delicious Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and Gigi’s for a gluten free, vegan cupcake! (I still eat sweets… I just eat a cupcake instead of 1/2 the layer cake now.) My point is, I enjoyed life. I relaxed, I laughed, and I celebrated the moment. Memories far exceeded the calories this year.

I no longer plan office potlucks. We rarely have them now, and no one seems to mind. I have had the opportunity over the last few months, however, to help plan celebrations with others; things like baby showers and baptisms where food generally seems to take precedence over the actual event. It’s eye opening to me to see the amount of, and variety of, food that folks feel should be available at these special occasions. I didn’t realize the effort that I used to put into planning and preparing an event around food until I removed myself from that. I can now see how much effort others put into it. Food first, then all of the other details later. Those kind of events generally end in tummy aches and leftover casseroles for days.

I still enjoy food. I love trying new recipes and occasionally meeting friends at restaurants. I think it’s great to serve food at events. I don’t want this post to come across as my being anti-food. But I do ask you to stop and consider the intent of food at your next event. Make sure you’re not like the old me… celebrating mac & cheese and red velvet cake, making memories with pasta salad and chocolate chip cookies, and overlooking the real reason you’ve gathered together. I promise that you will be more likely to remember little things like the way the bride smiled at her new husband when they thought no one noticed, than the way the chicken salad sandwiches tasted. At the end of the day, your hearts will be more full than your bellies.

Lucky Casserole

I sometimes struggle with cooking because, well, it’s just me… and most recipes yield so much food that it takes me all week to consume it. Because of that, I’ve fallen into a funk and cook very little these days. However, when the mood strikes me, I don’t always have time to research recipes and swing by the store for ingredients. I’m known for opening up the fridge and using whatever is in there to create a meal. Most often, it’s a miss. Occasionally I get lucky and create a hit. I definitely got lucky with this casserole concoction and wanted to share this quick, easy recipe with you. I’m showing you a gluten-free, dairy-free option but the ingredient list is generic so that you can adjust the recipe to your liking. (Note: This is not a sponsored blog.)

Ingredients:
Chicken breasts
Italian dressing
3 medium-sized squash (any variety)
1 small onion
Breadcrumbs
Cheese
Butter
Nutritional yeast (optional)

Preparation:
Place two small chicken breasts into a crockpot.
Cover with Italian dressing. (I used the entire bottle.)
Cook on LOW for approximately 6 hours or HIGH for approx. 3 hours.
30 minutes before the chicken has finished cooking, remove and shred, then return to dressing in crockpot to finish cooking.

Dice squash and onion.
Place in refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the casserole.

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease an 8×8 casserole with butter.
Begin with a layer of diced squash & onions, add layer of chicken, and sprinkle with yeast.
Repeat another layer of each; veggies (add a couple pats of butter to the second layer of veggies), chicken, and yeast.
Top with breadcrumbs and a few pats of butter.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Add layer of shredded cheese and place back in for 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Serve hot.

This makes approximately three servings.


This is just before I placed the casserole in the oven.


And this is the delicious outcome!

Again, this is not a sponsored post… but I did want to mention a few of my favorite gluten-free, dairy-free ingredients if you’re looking for those alternatives.

Daiya cheese, in my opinion, is the best cheese alternative. It melts well, and is very creamy and flavorful. I also love that it is soy-free too!
Glutino makes wonderful gluten-free products. Their breadcrumbs are a terrific alternative to wheat-based breading.
Earth’s Balance buttery spread is a plant-based product that tastes just like the real thing! Organic, non-GMO, and Vegan… it is the perfect substitution to butter.

Go ahead and give this recipe a try, then let me know if you get lucky! 😉 Happy eating.

Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing

I spent the better part of 2015 without one of my favorite condiments: Ranch dressing. When I found out that I had a dairy allergy, I panicked. Would I seriously never taste wonderful buttermilk Ranch again? The thought was a shock to my system! After all, I used Ranch as a dressing, a dip, a sauce, and anything else that I could get away with.

Ten months after I walked away from Ranch, I saw a friend post a photo on Instagram of another non-dairy food made with canned coconut milk. It (and my recent craving for fish tacos) piqued my interest enough that I went into the kitchen and started digging through my pantry. Could it be? Could I really use coconut milk as the base of my homemade Ranch dressing? There’s no way this would work. The distinct taste of coconut would ruin the flavor, right?

Who knows? I didn’t have any canned coconut milk in my house. None! {I usually always have some on hand.} What I did have was a small can of coconut cream. I was so desperate to attempt a Ranch for my tacos that I opened the can and dumped it in a bowl.

I had never worked with coconut cream before but I knew it wasn’t creamy enough to achieve the perfect Ranch texture, even though it was thick. Although rarely, I do eat mayonnaise on occasion. (NOTE: This obviously is NOT a vegan recipe.) I added 1/2 cup of mayo to the coconut cream, along with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to give it more of a buttermilk tang.

After that was mixed well, I reached for spices. The only things that I had on hand were parsley, garlic powder, and a minced onion/onion powder mixture. I added one heaping teaspoon of each to the mixture and stirred until it was all blended well. I transferred the mixture from the bowl to a storage container, and placed it in the refrigerator for an hour to chill.

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That seemed like the longest hour of my life… but it was well worth the wait! The end result was a creamy, dreamy non-dairy Ranch substitute that tasted just like the real thing. Okay, maybe not JUST like it. Remember, I haven’t tasted “real” Ranch in almost a year, but from what I remember… this recipe is incredibly close. And there was absolutely no hint of coconut flavor!

As a reminder, I am not endorsed by any product or company… so the ingredients that I use for my recipes can be substituted with a similar ingredient of your choice. These items truly were things I had previously purchased and were already in my kitchen.

This recipe only yields approximately one cup of Ranch, with 2 tablespoons being the recommended serving size. I do plan to make a larger quantity next time since I now know how great it tastes! When I do, I will update this post with any recipe changes or ingredient adjustments. I highly recommend this smaller recipe to start. It’s the perfect amount for a taste test.

Trail Mix Bites: A Healthy Sweet & Salty Snack

If you’re like me, you’re on a mission to keep your New Year’s Resolution(s). But the later into January we get, it seems to become more of a struggle to stay on track. Am I right? One of my goals for this year is to make healthy eating choices. This goes above monitoring calories, fats, and carbohydrates. I want to choose organic, whole foods as my options for both meals and snacks. What I am finding is that there aren’t many ready-made selections available that are also gluten- and dairy-free. I have to confess… that makes it harder for me to stick to my resolution because I am guilty of wanting convenient options. Listen, I get it. Life is busy. And the longer it takes to prepare healthy meals and snacks, the less likely we are to eat them.

Fortunately, there are some natural choices that are ready-to-eat with no preparation. I keep a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits in my kitchen at all times. (It’s time to restock… some of my canisters are dangerously low! haha)

I keep them in a resealable bag, too, and carry those with me in case I need nourishment while on-the-go. I love adding sprinkles of walnuts and sunflower seeds to my salads. They’re great in yogurt. Nuts make a tasty addition to stir-fry veggies. Dried fruit is a perfect compliment to a hot bowl of oatmeal. Cashews, soaked in water and then blended in a food processor, create a fantastic non-dairy cream for things like casseroles. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are versatile, healthy, and delicious.

Today, I want to introduce you to a great snack that combines all three with one of my favorite things… chocolate! Dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy too! It is a powerful antioxidant, can improve brain function, and may lower risks of heart disease. Let’s face it; sometimes we just want chocolate. This quick and easy recipe will satisfy your sweet tooth and salty cravings while providing nutrition. Healthy and guilt-free — that’s my kind of snack!

Begin with chocolate. I use a gluten-free, dairy-free, nonGMO chip that I find at my local grocery store. If your local store does not stock these types of chips, they can be found at specialty grocery stores or online. For this recipe, I used all of the 10 oz bag. You do not have to use a gluten-free, dairy-free option but do look for dark chocolate that is a higher percentage of cacao, with as few additional ingredients as possible.

Next, select a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. I have chosen to use dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and almond slivers. Be careful when selecting these items in grocery stores and supermarkets. Often times, the selections will contain additives or high volumes of sodium.  A great source for purchasing nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is Nuts.com. Ordering from them is easy, and the items are shipped to your door. Remember how I said that I like convenience because it keeps me on track? Nuts.com makes purchasing organic items a breeze. (They even have dark chocolate chips and pre-made snacks too, among other things! Please click here to check them out!)

The last step in preparation is lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper. This recipe will yield approximately 30 snacks, so I use two cookie sheets.

To assemble the snacks, start by heating the chocolate in the microwave. I suggest 30-second increments, stirring after each. This helps to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. You want the chocolate to be smooth but not too thin. I achieved these results after approximately 2 minutes.

Spoon small amounts of chocolate onto the parchment paper. I would say use no more than 2 teaspoons per snack; then spread the chocolate to 1″ – 1.5″ diameter. You will want each snack to be able to hold the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit… but you want the chocolate to be thin.

Add a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to the chocolate, pressing lightly to ensure they stick to one another. When you finish, slide the cookie sheets into the refrigerator for two hours. Once the chocolate has set, the snacks are ready to eat!

These snacks store well and are great on-the-go. Just keep them in a dry, relatively-cool location. I like to put a couple in a resealable bag and keep them in my purse. They’re also great in lunch boxes, and are a tasty contribution to an office potluck. (Just be cautious of anyone with nut allergies! You may want to make them with just seeds and dried fruit if that is the case.)

There you have it! A quick, healthy snack to enjoy on-the-go. This snack has it all… protein, fiber, nutrients, and flavor! It will only take one or two to curb your sweet and salty cravings, and to keep you satisfied between meals.

Veggie Spaghetti

My brother and sister-in-law recently gave me this Joie Veggie Spaghetti. I have been debating on purchasing a zucchini noodle maker for quite some time, but couldn’t decide which option to buy. There are so many! I’m glad that I waited because I love the option that they chose for me.

At first glance, it seems too simple. Will this small kitchen utensil really do the trick? To my surprise, it really is a great little tool. I love that it is compact, and I can toss it into a drawer with my other kitchen gadgets. I also love that it is safe; the blade is encased so it’s virtually impossible to cut yourself. The Veggie Spaghetti also requires little cleanup. And it’s so easy to use!

Although I’ve been out of college longer than I care to admit, the single-girl-cooking-for-one in me often reverts back to quick and easy meals for dinner most nights. I love to cook, but it is hard for me to justify the time and effort involved in preparing a large meal on a regular basis when I’m the only one eating it. And let’s not even talk about cleanup. Washing dishes has to be my least favorite chore!

It isn’t quite as easy to eat like a college kid these days. I have dietary restrictions now that prevent me from opening up the discounted, processed, canned pasta and meat concoctions that I practically lived on back then. I watch sodium intake, avoid gluten and dairy, and aim to eat as organic as possible. Plus, my taste has changed.

The Veggie Spaghetti made dinner prep extremely easy. I was able to make this delicious and satisfying meal in a matter of minutes. I wanted to share this simple recipe with you, so that you can see just how effortless it is to make healthier choices when it comes to eating!

I started with my Veggie Spaghetti and three small zucchini. I washed the zucchini, cut the stalk off of each, and inserted them – one at a time – into the gadget and twisted. It took less force to turn the zucchini than it does to open a twist-top bottle, so if you can do that… you can use the Veggie Spaghetti!

There were two small downfalls with this product. The first? If you do not trim the noodles as you go, the end will create a spiral cap that will eventually prevent the zucchini from turning any further. TIP: After a couple of turns, take a knife and trim the noodles from the Veggie Spaghetti. This will prevent the build up, and will give you the perfect noodle length.

When you’re finished, you’ll end up with a pile of zucchini like this! When you pick the zucchini up, it will begin to fall apart into individual noodles. You may have to peel a few of the noodles into individual strands, but it does not take long to separate them. I was very impressed with the precession of the cuts made by the Veggie Spaghetti.

Downfall number two, for me… I couldn’t twist the zucchini past this point. Perhaps that is a safety feature? It certainly prevents your fingers from getting close to the blades. I have seen other kitchen gadgets that come with an attachment that would stick into the zucchini and allow for a few more twists. There may be a way to alter this one (I guess I could have tried a fork?) but I’m not sure that anything will actually work. This small snafu results in some unused veggies. For some, this may not be a problem at all. For others, like myself, I don’t want to waste anything!

Once your zucchini noodles are cut and separated (even if you use something other than the Veggie Spaghetti), did you know that cooking the noodles is as simple as steaming them? That can be done on the stovetop or in the microwave!

This is a yummy-looking bowl of zucchini noodles, isn’t it?

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How do you steam your veggies? I have this Pampered Chef Small Micro-Cooker that I use for steaming anything from frozen broccoli to these zucchini noodles. I just popped them in the microwave for two minutes and they came out completely cooked. I do want to mention that it is not necessary to add water to the zucchini when steaming in the microwave. There is enough water in the veggie itself to handle the two minute steam. What I also want to recommend is that after you remove the zucchini noodles from the steamer, place them in a colander and allow them to drain while you prep the rest of your meal. If you skip this step, you may end up with some watery pasta sauce in the end.

Since I am always looking for the quick and convenient route in cooking, I do not make my own pasta sauce. Many of my friends do, but I stick to a jar of organic pasta sauce from my local grocery store. I always check the label to make sure there are less than seven ingredients, that it is low in sodium, and that it is gluten and dairy free. If you do not have dietary restrictions and are just looking for a quick meal… use any pasta sauce that you’d like. You could even grab an alfredo sauce if you prefer! [I heated a small amount of my pre-made sauce in the microwave, and then poured it on top of my steamed and drained zucchini noodles.]

Since I have a dairy allergy, I use Daiya brand cheese. I have found that this cheddar block-style cheese is great for shredding.

I grabbed a slice of my favorite gluten free bread and toasted it. While it was toasting, I softened a tablespoon of nondairy butter and added minced garlic to it. When the toast was finished, I spread the garlic butter on top to complete my meal. From start to finish, this took less than 30 minutes to make. I believe now that I know how to use my Veggie Spaghetti tool, this could easily be a 15-minute meal.

If you have a little more time on your hands, you can do so much with this meal. Need more subsistence? Brown ground turkey or extra-lean beef and add it to your pasta sauce. Want chicken fettuccine? Add grilled chicken breast (or strips of rotisserie chicken) to alfredo sauce. Be creative! Healthy doesn’t have to be boring.