Red Lentil Spaghetti {with Sauteed Vegetables in Tomato Basil Sauce}

Feed A Cold, Fuel Your Body

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I started to feel under the weather. I started taking cold medication, hoping to ward off any germs but apparently I was too late. On Monday, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection – my first in nearly four years – and given a prescription for antibiotic.

I did nothing on Monday but sleep, hence the reason for the missing blog post. Apparently my body was exhausted, and the only way to slow me down was to knock me off my feet with this “crud”, as I call it. It’s Thursday, and I’m still not feeling well. (Although I am feeling better!)

I had planned to blog about another topic today, but this sickness has really be interesting to me from a food perspective. I thought I would delay the other post and share with you my cravings, and my take on them.

When 21 months pass between sinus infections, you would think that I wouldn’t remember the details. Oh, but I do! I am quite certain I picked up something on the plane to Haiti and, while I spent the week in the third-world country,  it developed into the worst double ear infection and sinus infection of my life. I knew I was sick, but I had no idea how sick until the day I flew home. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t have flown home. I was THAT sick. It took a month of strong antibiotics and lots of rest to recover. I will spare you any other details. In the next year, I developed other health problems and eventually learned of my food allergies. After learning that I had to give up dairy forever, I was told by my physician that I would likely see a decrease in sinus infections… and I did. I was actually surprised at this one. But she did say “decrease” and not “an end.”

When I learned of my food allergies, I obviously adopted a new way of eating… but it wasn’t entirely due to the elimination of gluten, casein, and whey. I started to eat more whole foods. I try sticking to the simple, natural ingredients when I can. I figure the less stuff, the less chance of worrying with food allergies. I avoid genetically modified foods and shop organic and local when I can. I now eat farm fresh eggs “right out of the chicken”, honey that is harvested and bottled by a coworker, and produce grown by farmers that I’ve built relationships with and know now on a first-name basis. I didn’t view it as a fad diet, like some who eat this way on occasion to drop a few pounds. It was my new way of life. I did see immediate changes: weight loss, more energy, and better skin, to name a few. But two years later, I am still seeing changes.

I remember when I returned from Haiti, sick and pouty, all I wanted was comfort food. My brother had picked me up from the airport, and I begged him to stop and buy me french fries & a sweet tea on our drive home. When I got home, I recall waking up from naps on the couch and eating things like grilled cheese with mayonnaise, mac & cheese, or Doritos. I was out of work for nearly a week following my return because all I wanted to do was sleep. Granted, I was more sick than I am now, but I suffered from fatigue in addition to the infections.

Jump ahead to this week. It dawned on me last night that I have only reached for comfort food once during this sickness, and it was at the very beginning on Sunday morning. And it was eggs, gf/df toast and milk gravy. One meal. One proportioned meal of decent ingredients. Comfort food doesn’t have to equate to junk food! The rest of the time, I haven’t really been able to taste anything. (My nose is so stuffy that it has affected my smell and taste.) However, I have noticed that I still crave certain things: fruits and vegetables! The only things I wanted to eat after that comfort food meal were oranges and bananas, so I listened to my body and ate those. The following day, I continued to crave the same thing but also ate small portions of rice. I couldn’t taste anything, but my tummy wanted it. By Tuesday, I had an insane craving for a giant salad. I filled it with veggies, tossed in some hard boiled eggs for protein, and topped it off with banana peppers and jalapenos, hoping their kick would offer up some flavor. Despite not being able to taste it either, I enjoyed the crunch of the fresh veggies that I wasn’t getting with the fruit. I only missed one day of work, and have had more overall energy than I expected with this sickness. I can’t help but to think that the fuel that I’ve been feeding my body this time around has played a key role in recovery. Because of that, I am planning to blog more about whole food and the benefit of food as fuel for our bodies in upcoming posts.

This morning, I woke up with one thing in mind… spaghetti with sautéed veggies! I know I must be feeling better to actually want to prepare a meal. 🙂 Luckily, this is an extremely easy meal to prepare.


I love sautéed fresh vegetables as a base for almost every meal.


Red lentil pasta has two ingredients: lentil flour and brown rice flour. It is low in carbs, sodium, and sugar, and high in protein.


Doesn’t this look delicious? I save leftovers to make homemade pizza! (I use a store-brand sauce from my local grocery store.)

Ingredients:
2 oz of red lentil spaghetti
1 medium-sized zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
coconut oil
tomato and basil spaghetti sauce

Instructions:
Boil 1 qt of water in a medium saucepan
Add pasta and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally

While waiting on water to boil, prepare vegetables
Heat frying pan and add 1 T of coconut oil
Sauté vegetables in coconut oil
Reduce to low and add in spaghetti sauce
Simmer until warmed thoroughly

When pasta is cooked to desired consistency, empty saucepan into strainer. Allow water to drain from pasta thoroughly, then place pasta back into saucepan. (Optional step: add butter or vegan substitute to pasta to help spaghetti to not stick together.)

*Some people prefer to combine the pasta with the sauce and mix. I plate mine separately so that I can use leftover sauce!

Serve as is or with a simple side salad. Quick, easy, allergy-friendly, and nutritious!

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.

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.

Infamous Pumpkin Pie

Since learning about my dairy allergy and gluten intolerance earlier in the year, I worried how I would handle the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas often produce some of the best food-centered celebrations, but most of my favorite recipes contained wheat, butter, or cheese.

On a whim, I decided to do a little research to see if I could make a quick and easy pumpkin pie for a work luncheon. I found several items that met my requirements, and it produced a pie that took under 15 minutes to make! The best part? It was devoured by my coworkers! To my surprise, no one cared that it was gluten free and dairy free. (Some folks are apprehensive to try gluten free/dairy free foods because they’re afraid the taste is compromised.) In this case, apparently the subtleness of the ingredients enhanced the flavor and the pie was a hit!

So I’m sure you’re asking, “Jenn… just what is in this pie?” Well, I’m getting ready to tell you, but I first wanted to disclose that I was not paid to endorse any of the following brands. These just happen to be the brands that are found in my local grocery store.

Ingredients:
Mi-Del Gluten Free Graham Style Pie Crust
Organic Pumpkin (15oz can)
Jell-o Pumpkin Spice Instant Pudding & Pie Filling (3.4 oz)
So Delicious Dairy Free CoCo Whip Coconut Whipped Topping (8-9oz container)
*Kinnikinnick Foods Gluten Free S’moreables
*Pumpkin Pie Spice

Note – You will want to thaw the frozen whipped topping in the refrigerator at least 4 hours before preparing this pie.

Instructions:
Open the pie crust and set it aside.
Open the can of pumpkin and pour it into a mixing bowl.
Open the packet of pudding and add it to the pumpkin. Stir together well.
Open the whipped topping and add to the pumpkin mixture. Fold together until everything is fully incorporated.
Add the mixture to the pie crust. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until ready to serve.
*Garnish with S’moreables (I grated some over the top of the pie) and spice.

That is it!! It seems too simple, doesn’t it? But it is completely fool proof! There is just enough spice in the pudding to compliment the pumpkin flavor, but the hint of coconut from the whipped topping gives the pie a little something extra.

I have had many requests to make this pie again, that I have now deemed it “infamous”! haha Since the Pumpkin Spice pudding is a seasonal product, I made a few of the pies with Sugar Free Fat Free Vanilla pudding as a substitution. I then added in approximately 2 teaspoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice to the mixture. The results were the same as if I had used the Pumpkin Spice pudding.

I hope that you will give this gluten free/dairy free pumpkin pie alternative a try. If you do, please comment below! I’d love to hear from you. Enjoy!

[Photos to come.]