Weekend Comfort Food – Healthy Pizza

A picture of healthy gluten free and dairy free pizza

Delicious Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pizza Recipe

Well, it’s finally the weekend after a seemingly never ending week. A stressful week coupled with chilly, damp weather outside is really making me crave good old comfort food. And not just any comfort food …. pizza to be more specific.

Pizza is probably the meal I’ve missed most since I changed my diet about 9 years ago. Back in the day, I probably ate pizza at least once a week, Having worked in NYC for many years, pizza was always the easiest to-go item to pick up during a quick lunch break or on the walk after work to the subway. After I removed gluten and dairy from my diet, finding the perfect gluten free crust and dairy free cheese alternative has been quite the challenge. Finding decent fake “cheese” has been the trickiest by far. But lately, there are more and more viable options to choose from at the supermarkets and big box stores.

Well, after much trial and error, I think I found the perfect crust and cheese combination to satisfy any pizza comfort food craving. Plus, the recipe below requires very little prep time and uses some ingredients that you already have in your kitchen. I picked up the other ingredients, such as the crust, “cheese” and sauce using Whole Food’s curbside pickup service – which has been my favorite way to shop during this pandemic. You simply order via the Amazon app, select a pickup time, and park in one of their grocery pick-up designated spots. An employee will pack your groceries in your trunk and you will be on your way. It’s completely free! (Delivery is also available if that is more your jam, but fewer slots are available and delivery charges apply.)

Finding the Best Crust & Cheese

The easy recipe below uses Cappello’s Naked Pizza Crust – a frozen grain free, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, certified paleo, soy free and non-GMO ready-to-use pizza crust. The crust is made with an almond, arrowroot and cassava flour base. It also includes a few other clean ingredients such as cage-free eggs, organic coconut milk, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, psyllium husk, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and honey. It’s not only the cleanest gluten free crust that I could find, but also the tastiest. This crust retails for $6.99 at my Whole Foods. (Cappello’s also makes the best tasting gluten free fettucine. Check out there other products here.)

Capello's Naked Pizza Crust and Violife's  Just Like Mozarella Shreds

Like I mentioned earlier, finding good cheese alternatives has been quite the challenge. The simple recipe below features Violife’s Just Like Mozzarella Shreds, an excellent vegan alternative to shredded mozzarella cheese. It’s honestly the closest in taste and texture to cheese that I could find – without the odd aftertaste common with most dairy free cheeses. It also melts very similar to real cheese. Although it is not quite paleo because it contains some rice starch, it has a clean and simple list of ingredients. It’s not something that I would purchase often, but I give it a pass to use on occasion to satisfy a comfort food craving. It retails for $5.29 at my Whole Foods location.

Ingredients

All of the ingredients featured in this article

What you will need:

  • Cappello’s Naked Pizza Crust (frozen)
  • Violife Just Like Mozarella Shreds (a few handfuls)
  • Pizza sauce (I used a 1/2 of a small jar of Rao’s pizza sauce)
  • A few pinches of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of minced onion seasoning (or garlic or any other seasoning that your prefer)
  • A handful of arugula or basil for finishing

Steps

  1. Preheat over to 425 degrees. Per Cappello’s instructions, place the baking sheet in the middle rack while the oven preheats. (I sprayed the sheet with an olive oil cooking spray.)
  2. Remove Naked Pizza Crust from the plastic and cardboard tray. Place the crust on the preheated baking sheet.
  3. Add the pizza sauce and spread it to cover the pizza crust.
  4. Sprinkle salt on the sauce and add the minced onion or any preferred seasoning.
  5. Add a layer of the Violife Just Like Mozzarella Shreds. (Note: don’t pile on layers of cheese otherwise it won’t melt evenly.)
  6. Cook until the cheese is golden brown (13-20 minutes based on your oven speed).
  7. Remove from the oven and add the arugula or basil.
  8. Serve and enjoy!
The various stages of making the pizza - from bare crust to finished pizza with toppings

This is a once-in-a-while treat that will be sure to satisfy any pizza craving. Beyond indulging in the occasional comfort food like pizza, here are some tips for how to de-stress during stressful times. Here’s to a nice, relaxing weekend for us all!

A Total Game Changer for Your Barbecues: Coconut Aminos

It’s officially barbecue season! If you are looking to elevate the food at your get-togethers this summer, look no further. Coconut Aminos is the browning sauce/marinade that you didn’t know you needed in your pantry.

I first discovered this gem while scrolling through Instagram a month ago. My interest was piqued when a zoomed-in picture of this mysterious bottle made an appearance on my feed. This sauce was described right in the caption as a flavorful alternative to soy sauce without the bitter soy aftertaste. I needed to find this sauce!

So during my next shopping trip at Trader Joe’s, this bad boy earned a spot in my cart and journeyed home with me. Since then, I have poured this sauce on just about everything … and I have yet to be disappointed. Here are some of the best ways to pair this sauce with your favorite barbecue fare:

1. Grass-Fed Beef Burger Marinade

Wow! Using coconut aminos as a burger marinade will take your everyday barbecue burgers to the next level. Kick it up a notch further by pouring an extra bit of marinade on the burger after you take it off the grill. Your palate will thank you!

2. Fried Plantains

Fry some thinly sliced plantains in some of this flavorful sauce for a tasty and nutritious dessert. Expect compliments from your family and friends after they dive into this sweet and savory treat.

3. Brussel Sprouts with Paleo Bacon

This recipe couldn’t be easier. Add some brussel sprouts and 2 tablespoons of Coconut Aminos to a frying pan. Cook on medium heat until tender, remove from heat and place the brussel sprouts in a bowl. In a separate pan, brown two slices of paleo (sugar free) bacon until crisp. Break the bacon into small pieces and sprinkle the bacon on the brussel sprouts. Add more Coconut Aminos to taste, if preferred. Enjoy!

4. Chicken Marinade

Coconut Aminos also makes a sensational marinade for chicken. Add a handful of fresh cilantro with a pinch of sea salt and pepper to the marinade and you won’t be disappointed.

5. Dressing for Salads

Take a break from your usual go-to salad dressings and toss your salad with a mixture of Coconut Aminos and olive oil instead. It’s bound to be a crowd pleaser!

6. Glaze for Strawberries

Feeling adventurous? Drizzle some sliced strawberries with this delectable sauce. It’s an awesome substitute for balsamic vinegar.

Getting Your Veggies In … Even on Super Bowl Sunday!

vegetables-1736170__340

So, it’s Super Bowl Sunday – an unofficial national holiday practically devoted to Americans gorging our faces with wings, nachos, burgers, chips and beer. At first glance, it’s probably not the most fitting day to run a blog post about adding more vegetables into our daily meals. On second thought, though, I think we can all benefit from sneaking in more vegetables daily – even on days like Super Bowl Sunday. So, here we go!

As many of you are aware, the standard American diet typically falls short of the recommended servings of fiber-rich vegetables. Vegetables not only contain fiber, which is super important for gut health, they are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and ward off disease. Yet, many of us are skipping these healthy vegetables for tastier, empty calorie comfort foods. Let’s face it, we could all use more veggies in our lives.

One of my personal goals for 2017 is to try to eat a healthy serving of vegetables with each and every meal. Yes, even breakfast. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been tough to accomplish every day, especially with a brand new job and a lot going on since the beginning of the New Year. I have been pretty successful in meeting this goal thus far, though.

The good news is that I have found a lot of easy and crafty ways that you too can get your “veggies on” every day. Here are three suggestions to help you add more vegetables on the sly with minimum effort:

1. Make Vegetables the Focus of Your Smoothies

green-juice-769129__340

I’m all for juicing, but sometimes drinking cold pressed juices gives me a bit of a sugar rush. And the juicer is a giant pain in the neck to clean. These are just a few reasons why I usually blend vs. juice. One significant reason as to why I prefer smoothies to juices is because smoothies also contain fiber – which is lacking from most juices.

Smoothies are not always healthy. The biggest mistake that many people make is adding too much fruit to smoothies. I try to make vegetables the star of my smoothies and the fruit has much more of a supporting role.

The fabulous thing about smoothies is that you can really think out of the box when adding vegetables and make up recipes on the spot. I rarely make the same recipe twice. And my smoothie is always dependent on what I have in stock in my fridge or freezer at the time. Here are some vegetables that I regularly add to smoothies:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Beets (usually frozen)
  • Celery
  • Squash (whichever kind is in season)
  • Parsnip
  • Turnip

I usually add a bunch of vegetables from the list above to my blender, along with a 1/2 cup of coconut, almond or cashew milk. For a slight bit of sweetness, I add a small amount of wild frozen blueberries, pineapple or acai. To give my smoothies an added boost, I often add:

  • Fresh or powdered ginger (for a little spice)
  • Organic cacao powder (for a healthy chocolate kick)
  • Green Superfood powder (you can never have too many greens)
  • Cinnamon (for a warm flavor)
  • Fresh aloe (helps with digestion)
  • Collagen powder (helps with the gut, skin, hair and more)

As always, consult with your physician before incorporating any of the supplements above.

2. Consider Purchasing an Air Fryer for Quick, Healthy Vegetable Frying

th

If you don’t yet own an air fryer, you don’t know what you are missing.

This past Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an air fryer as a gift from my sister Katie. At first, I thought it might be a fun new appliance that I would tinker with only on occasion. It turns out, though, that I use my air fryer several times a week these days.

Like the name suggests, an air fryer uses air as opposed to oil to fry/cook foods. So, what results is healthy, flavorful fried vegetables. (You can use a smidgen of oil if you prefer in the air fryer, although none is required for most foods.) You can actually cook meats, fish and other foods in the air fryer as well – although I haven’t been that daring yet to test the air fryer with these kind of foods.

I have cooked a number of vegetables (kale, butternut squash cubes, carrots, etc.) and starchy foods (shredded potatoes, sweet potato chunks, etc.) in the air fryer. Most vegetables and potatoes take less than 15 minutes to cook in the air fryer. And the air fryer tray is super easy to clean and maintain.

I typically will put a large portion of vegetables in the air fryer in the evening, eat some with dinner and reserve the rest for lunches I prepare for the next few days. I pair the veggies/potatoes with some form of protein for healthy, nutrient-packed daily lunches.

The best news is that you can snag an air fryer for less than $100. The model I use, pictured, is available at Amazon for $81. Trust me, it will change the way you cook.

3. Substitute Carb-Heavy Sides with Vegetables

When you eat out at restaurants, entrees are most commonly served with sides such as white rice, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pasta, fries and other heavy foods. These options are definitely comfort foods that you almost expect to see on your plates when eating out. Many folks think of sides in the same way when cooking meals at home. But these carb-heavy sides can make an otherwise healthy meal significantly less healthy very quickly.

On a positive note, many restaurants are offering healthier, less heavy side options that focus more on vegetables and herb ingredients rather than empty carbs. At home, you too can incorporate more tasty vegetable sides into your daily menus. One such substitute is cauliflower rice. Below is a tasty cauliflower rice recipe that incorporates turkey bacon and herbs that will make you forget about white rice (I’m serious).

Savory Cauliflower Rice with Turkey Bacon, Herbs and Balsamic Vinegar

img_1506

If orange is the new black, than cauliflower rice is the new kale. Cauliflower rice seems to be everywhere these days – even on the menus of fancy restaurants. For the longest time, you could only find riced cauliflower in stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Nowadays, even Walmart carries frozen cauliflower rice. And it is very affordable in all stores.

Back on Christmas day, I wanted to make a new, healthy vegetable side recipe to accompany the usual Christmas sides. So, I devised the recipe below. It is a very flexible recipe so you can use the herbs and seasonings that you have on hand at home.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 strips of uncured turkey bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water (if fresh cauliflower rice is used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Fresh herbs (In the past, I have used a couple of fresh basil leaves or some fresh rosemary. Use what you have on hand.)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Over medium heat, add saucepan with 1 tablespoon oil to stove.
  2. Stir in two cups of cauliflower rice (if using frozen cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water; if using fresh cauliflower rice, add 1/4 cup of water).
  3. Add balsamic vinegar to sauce pan. Add thyme, parsley, Cajun seasoning and rosemary. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Stir regularly
  4. On a separate pan, cook two strips of turkey bacon until crisp. Add pieces of bacon to the cauliflower rice.
  5. Continue to cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes and stir often – until cauliflower rice is tender.
  6. Add additional seasoning to your taste preferences

Enjoy and Happy Super Bowl!

 

One Last Pumpkin Recipe for the Season!

pumpkin-1679827_1280

Wow, Thanksgiving was already over a week ago! Tis the season that time truly does seem to fly.

Presumably like you, I spent the holiday weekend consuming heaps of Thanksgiving leftovers, spending time with loved ones and shopping up a storm. Also like many of you, I had a ton of ingredients left over from my holiday baking and cooking feats. So, I put on my thinking cap and began to concoct some new recipes to ensure the ingredients did not go to waste! Here is one recipe that I devised, which uses one of my favorite ingredients of all time – pumpkin:

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Beginning in September, manufacturers, coffee shops, juice joints and restaurants seem to add “pumpkin spice” to just about everything. It’s ubiquitous! As the calendar moves into December, most of the population seems to be “over” the pumpkin craze and already have moved on to December flavors like peppermint, cinnamon spice, gingerbread, etc.

Not me! I consume pumpkin all year round. It’s a staple ingredient in my smoothies, baking and other recipes. Pumpkin is actually one of the healthiest vegetables around. This exciting vegetable, which is part of the squash family, is low in calories and packed with fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and flavonoids galore. These nutrients are why I try to use pumpkin as much as possible in my cooking/recipes. Click here to learn more about the amazing benefits of pumpkin.

The one recipe I’ve always wanted to tackle is a pumpkin pancake recipe. It’s been years since I’ve eaten pancakes, although I have often craved them. I have never been a fan of the pre-packaged, gluten-free pancake mixes due to some of the suspect ingredients added to the mixes. My only alternative to ever enjoying pancakes again was to make my own.

So, I experimented and came up with the recipe below. Since this recipe is a bit rich, I only suggest reserving it for special occasions, holidays or to satisfy a fierce craving. I also tend to make the pancakes on the smaller side – to prevent from over-indulging.

Pumpkin Spice Pancake Recipe with Toasted Pecans Recipe

What you’ll need:

  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Mixing spoon
  • Griddle/skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup coconut or almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk or cashew milk or blend)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 teaspoon real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (Trader Joe’s has an excellent one)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spread pecans on an ungreased baking/cookie sheet. Sprinkle olive oil over pecans and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the almond milk, eggs, canned pumpkin, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Mix together.
  4. Stir in coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice and the pinch of sea salt. Mix until lumps have disappeared.
  5. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Add coconut oil to the skillet or griddle. Once coconut oil melts, add pumpkin pancake batter to the skillet or griddle at the size that you prefer.
  6. The first batch will take longer than subsequent batches. Watch the first batch closely, when the bottom appears to lightly brown (typically takes about 4 minutes with the first batch), flip the pancake until the second side is lightly browned. With subsequent batches, it should take about 2-3 minutes for each side to lightly brown. Add more coconut oil if needed.
  7. Once finished, sprinkle each pancake with a few toasted pecans and drizzle the pancake with real maple syrup.
  8. Enjoy!

I may be late to the Pumpkin Spice party this year, but this is a recipe that can be enjoyed all year round! The pumpkin transforms these pancakes into a recipe that packs a healthy dose of nutrients. Now, that my pumpkin pancake craving is satisfied, I am suddenly craving peppermint….hmmm.

Start Your Day with a Healthy Protein Punch – Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie

smoothie-642125_1280

Breakfast truly does set the tone for the day. In fact, many nutritional experts agree that it is the most important daily meal. With that being said, breakfast is probably the easiest meal to veer off the healthy eating course.

And it is not difficult to do so! Think about it; many common breakfast foods like cereals, pancakes, muffins, granola bars, tarts and even most yogurts are loaded with sugar and other garbage. Eating these foods at breakfast sets you up for a day of blood sugar spikes and potential crashes by mid-day. This is the last thing we need during our busy days!

A Healthy Way to Start Your Day

There are much better ways to start your day. Why not add some healthy protein power to your mornings? Below is my Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie recipe that is not only protein-packed (which will keep you full until lunch) but is healthy, features no added sugar and tastes like a decadent dessert.

It’s called Almond Butter Cup because it tastes similar to the popular peanut butter cup candy – except the recipe features almond butter instead of peanut butter. (Almond butter is much healthier than peanut butter for reasons described in my earlier blog post here.)

Chocolate plant-based protein powder serves as the base ingredient of this recipe. Taste is subjective; so, find a protein powder that tastes great to your palate. Also, look for one without any added sugar and unnatural ingredients. (I also make sure any protein powder I purchase is gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free.) Below are some protein powders that I recommend:

Rebuild Protein Powder – Chocolate

Orgain Plant-Based Protein – Creamy Chocolate Fudge

Sunwarrior – Warrior Raw, Plant-based Protein – Chocolate

Bulletproof Chocolate Collagen

Almond Butter Cup Recipe

cocoa-174872_640

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk or almond milk/cashew milk combination
  • 2 scoops of chocolate plant-based protein powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cacao powder (make sure it does not contain added sugars; I use this one.)
  • 1 handful of spinach (or you may use a scoop of green powder if you prefer)
  • 1 handful of shredded carrots
  • 8 frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (or you may use one small banana instead)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter (pick one without unhealthy or unnecessary added ingredients. Click here for guidance in selecting healthy nut butters.)
  • A pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

The instructions couldn’t be any easier. Just place all ingredients in your blender and blend away. A few seconds later, you will have a rich, creamy and protein-packed smoothie that keep you full for hours.

A Tasty Staple in Any Morning Routine

This is one protein smoothie that I can’t get enough of each morning. I literally wake up looking forward to making this tasty treat every day. This smoothie satisfies salty, chocolate and sweet cravings at once – which is rare for a beverage or food. Plus it is not only loaded with plant-based protein, it includes a one-two punch of vitamins and fiber. It’s a must try for anyone who loves peanut butter cup candies!

Tips for Eating Healthy During Chaotic Times and a Simple Carrot Slaw Recipe

image

This week got the best of me! It was likely the sweltering heat, the multiple deadlines at work, the mid-week concert in Central Park, the dinner celebration for a family member and the general running around like a headless chicken that all contributed to me feeling more exhausted than usual by the end of this week. I haven’t welcomed a weekend with the enthusiasm as I did today in a very long time.

We’ve all had those weeks! For some reason, these action-packed and exhausting weeks tend to happen most often in the balmy summer months. It must be something in our blood that makes us want to spend as much time outdoors as possible in the summer and fill our calendars during these months to the max.

During these frenzied weeks, the last place most of us want to be is spending hours in our kitchens preparing meals. For some, increased stress and crazy schedules are the perfect excuse to veer off the healthy eating path. This doesn’t have to be the case, though! Plenty of quick, easy and most importantly diet compliant options are available even when time is of the essence.

My Healthy Eating Tips for Hectic Weeks

Unfortunately, most of the convenience foods that do not take long to make tend to be the most unhealthy for us (TV dinners, prepared foods from stores, etc.). And hectic weeks seem to give some of us an excuse to hop in the car and head straight to fast food joints for our meals. Don’t be tempted, though!  During the weeks when I am running around like a mad woman, I try to keep the following healthy items stocked in my kitchen instead of any unhealthy “convenience” foods:

  • Natural and Organic Rotisserie Chicken (from a local store)
  • Ground turkey or chicken (for a simple stir fry, burgers or meatballs)
  • Eggs (for quick and easy scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach, arugula, carrots and other salad fixings
  • Plenty of fruit (for snacking and smoothies)
  • Nut butters (click here for information about how to find healthy nut butters)
  • Dairy-free and gluten-free protein powder
  • Rxbars

Also Keep Simple Recipes Handy for Snappy Cooking

During crazy weeks, I also rely on my quick and easy recipes that encourage the use of only a few staple ingredients and pre-diced or cut vegetables (which cuts down food prep time immensely). I have shared some of these speedy recipes in previous blog posts, including:

Beyond my recipes, there are many fast and delicious recipes that you can browse in other blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and food-related websites. Keep them simple, though. I recommend focusing on recipes with only a few ingredients that can be made in under a half hour. Any more elaborate recipes just lead to more stress and post-cooking clean-up – which is the last thing we need when we are frenzied. Save the fancy recipes for quieter weeks.

Before I go put my feet up, slap on a facial mask and officially kiss this crazy work week goodbye, I wanted to share one more quick and easy dish: Carrot Slaw. This colorful dish is fabulous as a side dish or you can add grilled chicken for a full-on entrée.

Recipe: Carrot Slaw

image

This recipe is so incredibly simple! This dish will literally be ready in about ten minutes, including prep time. This recipe below yields 2 servings.

Kitchen Items You Will Need:

  • Frying pan/skillet
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons oil (olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil or coconut oil all work well with this recipe)
  • 2 cups of shredded carrots (I recommend buying the pre-shredded carrots available at most grocery stores.)
  • 1/3 cup of slivered almonds (unsalted)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Some fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or parsley (optional)
  • A pinch of sea salt (I use fine sea salt for this recipe.)
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Set the stove heat to medium.
  2. Add the oil to the skillet/frying pan.
  3. Pour in the carrots followed by the slivered almonds.
  4. Add the cayenne pepper, dried thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  5. Mix all ingredients well until all carrots and almonds are coated in oil.
  6. Add the fresh herbs if applicable.
  7. Stirring regularly, cook on medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes (or until you begin to see a bit of brown on the carrots).
  8. Serve as a side or add grilled chicken if preferred.

Enjoy! And Happy Weekend!

 

Recipe: Ultimate Turkey and Veggie Burger Mashup

image

A good turkey burger is hard to find! Ordering turkey burgers at restaurants is always hit or miss. Many times I have been completely let down when waiters or waitresses have delivered dry, whitish-looking pieces of meat that they attempt to pass off as turkey burgers. Sometimes the burgers even taste like they have been frozen for ages (even if they haven’t). Occasionally, I’ll find a good one that is tasty, juicy and looks appetizing – but sadly my experience is that most turkey burgers at restaurants are pretty lame.

I haven’t had too much luck with store-bought turkey burgers either. Most of the frozen turkey burgers are so incredibly thin, fall apart easily or include preservatives or other ingredients that leave them tasting like anything but turkey burgers. The pre-made and ready-to-cook turkey burgers, which are available in most meat sections of supermarkets, are most of the time okay; however, they are – let’s face it – a bit boring.

A Turkey and Veggie Burger Mashup

As the old saying goes: sometimes, when you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So, I began experimenting and making my own turkey burgers with turkey ground meat and various other ingredients and seasonings. My favorite creation thus far is a turkey/veggie burger mashup.

Since it is impossible to find a pre-made veggie burger out there that is grain-free, Low FODMAPs diet friendly and soy-free, I decided to add my favorite (and diet compliant) vegetables to the turkey burgers. After a few tweaks here and there, I think I found a turkey burger recipe that will blow you away! I literally can’t get enough of these burgers. Here is the recipe:

The Ultimate Turkey Veggie Burger

This recipe yields 4 medium to large burgers. Double the recipe for larger families.

Kitchen Supplies You Will Need:

  • 2 frying/skillet pans (or 1 frying/skillet pan and a grill or grill pan)
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Grater
  • Chopper or chopping knife (if you don’t buy pre-chopped veggies)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spatula or grill utensil

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of ground turkey (for best taste, look for ground turkey meat that is pinkish in color vs. white)
  • 1 egg (egg whites only)
  • 1/3 cup of diced celery (I buy pre-diced celery at the store to save time. For those of you on the Low FODMAPS diet, you may want to hold the celery or reduce the quantity – as celery is high in FODMAPS if greater than 5 cm of the celery stalk is used. If you don’t have any FODMAPS restrictions, you can substitute the celery for onions.)
  • 1/3 cup of diced red and/or green peppers (I buy pre-diced peppers to save time.)
  • 1/3 cup of diced carrots (As you probably guessed, I buy pre-diced carrots. You could also substitute with shredded carrots.)
  • 1/3 cup of grated/shredded sweet potato (some folks on the Paleo diet do not consider sweet potatoes to be Paleo compliant while others do. (I eat them!) Simply skip this step if they are not part of your diet.)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (I prefer fine sea salt)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper (or chipotle seasoning or any spicy seasoning… cut this back a bit if you are not into food that is too spicy; add a bit more if you like your food super spicy!)
  • Cooking oil (avocado oil or other heat tolerant oil if you will by frying your burgers on the stove; olive oil is okay for sauteing the veggies. Click here for information about the best cooking oils.
  • 1 cup of Arugula (optional)
  • Juice from a lemon (optional)

Instructions:

  1. If you didn’t buy pre-chopped vegetables, chop the celery, carrots and peppers using a chopper or knife. You’ll need 1/3 of a cup of each vegetable.
  2. Peel the top portion of a sweet potato. Grate 1/3 cup of sweet potato using a grater.
  3. Add two tablespoons of oil to a hot frying pan/skillet. (Olive oil is okay for this step because you will be using low heat.)
  4. Add the celery, carrots, peppers and sweet potatoes to the pan.
  5. Saute on low heat on the stove for 8 minutes. And remove pan from heat and let cool for 2 minutes.
  6. Add one package of ground turkey to the mixing bowl.
  7. Pour in the salt, pepper, thyme and cayenne pepper.
  8. Add the vegetables to the turkey in the mixing bowl.
  9. Crack one egg and add just the egg whites to the turkey mixture.
  10. Mix all ingredients together well with your hands.
  11. Form 4 medium/large patties.
  12. In a separate frying pan, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil (avocado oil is great with this recipe).
  13. Add the turkey patties to the pan. (I tend to cook 2 at a time.)
  14. On medium-high heat on the stove, cook 6 minutes on each side. If your turkey burgers are not ready at that point, cook for an additional 2 minutes per side.
  15. Serve over a bed of arugula (drizzled in a bit of fresh lemon juice) if preferred.

The burgers are also fantastic on the grill (or on a grill pan)! Heat the grill to medium and cook for approximately 10 minutes per side or until the interior of the turkey burger reaches 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Recipes: Chipotle Chicken Meatballs With Crunch and Easy Asian Salad

image

It’s summertime! The season of barbecues, swimming, vacations, mesmerizing sunsets, boat rides and lounging at the beach. If you’re anything like me, you try to spend as much time as possible outdoors during these spectacular warmer months.

The last place that most of us want to be when it is so beautiful outside is slogging away in our kitchens preparing complicated dinners. Summer dinner prep should be simple and require minimum fuss. Some of my favorite dinners to prepare during the warmer months require almost no thought and just a few easy steps.

While I confess that most of my favorite recipes for the summer months require the use of an outdoor grill, I also have a few tasty and simple “indoor” recipes for days that we need a break from the grill.

Today, I am sharing one of my recent favorite concoctions: Chipotle Chicken Meatballs with Crunch paired with an Easy Asian Salad. These two recipes are a perfect pairing of spicy and slightly sweet. The food is incredibly quick to make, super healthy and scrumptious! Best yet, the recipes take practically no time at all to prepare – so you can get yourself back outside to enjoy the glorious warm weather!

Chipotle Chicken Meatballs With Crunch

image

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Paleo and Low-FODMAP diet friendly.

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Measuring cup and measuring spoons
  • Chopper or knife (if not buying pre-chopped celery)
  • Baking dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of ground chicken (14 oz. – 20 oz.)
  • 1 cup of chopped celery or red peppers (If you are following a strict Low FODMAP diet, use the red peppers instead of celery. Feel free to substitute with onions if you are not following a Low-FODMAP diet)
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons of ground chipotle seasoning (feel free to substitute chipotle for any other spicy seasonings in your pantry) Note: I like my food moderately spicy; use less or more depending on your tolerance for spiciness.
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Oil to coat the baking dish and 2 tablespoons to sprinkle over the meatballs

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the oil of your choice (I typically use avocado oil but check out this article for some other ideas: The Best Oils for High Heat Cooking).
  3. Add the ground chicken to the large mixing bowl.
  4. Pour in the 1 cup of chopped celery. (To save time, I buy pre-chopped celery at the store but you can also use a food chopper or knife to finely chop the celery.)
  5. Add the cinnamon, chipotle seasoning, black pepper and salt.
  6. Mix all of the ingredients with your hands.
  7. Form meatballs and place them in the coated baking dish. (The recipe makes 12-15 medium to large meatballs.)
  8. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the meatballs. (For extra zing, sprinkle a little extra chipotle seasoning over the meatballs.)
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove and serve … and pair it with Easy Asian Salad below.

If you are someone who is obsessed with grilling just about everything during the summer months, do not fear; instead of forming meatballs, you could always make chicken patties with this recipe and pop them on the grill!

Easy Asian Salad

image

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Paleo and Low-FODMAP diet friendly.

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need:

  • Salad Bowl
  • Measuring Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bag/container of mixed greens (organic preferred) Note: If you are cooking for 3 or more, double this recipe.
  • 1/4 cup of mandarin oranges (in water not syrup)
  • 1/4 cup of blanched slivered blanched almonds (purchase a bag with no added ingredients or salt; if you can’t find a bag at your regular grocery store, they also sell these online at retailers like amazon.com.)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped celery (use red peppers instead if you are following a strict Low FODMAPS diet)
  • (If you are not on a Low-FODMAP diet, add 1/4 cup of green or white onions)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • Healthy salad dressing of your choice (I use olive oil and fresh lemon)

Instructions:

  1. Empty 1/2 bag or container of mixed greens in a salad bowl.
  2. Add the chopped celery and slivered blanched almonds to the bowl.
  3. Mix the salad
  4. Sprinkle the black pepper over the salad
  5. Drain the water from the can of mandarin oranges. Add the oranges to the top of the salad.
  6. Dress conservatively with the dressing of your choice.

Enjoy!

 

 

Recipe: Delicious and Easy Ground Turkey Italiano

Lately, it is almost impossible to get through an entire day without seeing at least one advertisement for the many meal kit home delivery services available these days. Companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated are spending a pretty penny on advertising their meal kits in every communications channel possible.

We’ve all seen the B list celebrities on Instagram (who are clearly getting paid ridiculous endorsement cash) post pictures while gloriously preparing one of these meal kits. Naturally, these celebrities are typically wearing a full face of makeup and freshly blown out hair – which is how all of us look while we cook. Right?

While I confess that I have never ordered meal kit delivery from any of these companies (mostly due to my dietary restrictions), I know several people who have given these kits a try. While there is no argument here that these meal kits are generally very healthy and can offer a fun family activity on occasion, I have also heard quite a few complaints. For starters, the meal kits can be fairly expensive. Although cheaper than a lovely meal at a fancy restaurant, the meal kits will definitely make your wallet a lot leaner if you order them regularly.

I’ve also heard rumblings that these kits require a considerable amount of preparation time. And some recipes might be more complicated than others to prepare. Sadly, none of the chefs that star in these companies’ commercials come in the box to help you get the dinner on the table.

Lastly, and probably most applicable to me, many of these kits do not work for people who have multiple food allergies and restrictions. You might be able to find one that is gluten-free but not Paleo. Or soy-free but not Low FODMAP friendly. So, I have to permanently pass on these meal kits and go with plan B.

Plan B: A Quick and Easy Meal With Simple Ingredients

While I can’t purchase the meal kits, I love the idea behind them. These kits provide families and individuals the opportunity to cook meals that are a million times healthier than fast food, take-out, processed foods and TV dinners.

If you have the extra cash, the time and a relatively normal diet, by all means order away! If you don’t, no need to fret. There are plenty of other meal options that are much more inexpensive, safe for most food allergies/restricted diets and take no time at all to prepare! In fact, I have a few recipes like this that are in my regular rotation. Below is my first in a series of simple and healthy recipes that I am thrilled to share with you and your family.

Ground Turkey Italiano Recipe

image

I’d like to be able to sit here and tell you that I spent a long time dreaming up this recipe, but that is far from the truth. In reality, this recipe came to life in a matter of minutes. Basically, I was hungry and running low on groceries. As many of you can relate, I simply relied on what I had in stock in my kitchen. To my amazement, this recipe turned out to be a pretty tasty concoction. In fact, I have made versions of this recipe dozens of times. It is a top request of family members.

What You’ll Need:

Slow cooker (crock pot), large mixing spoon, food chopper (optional)

Ingredients:

  1. 1 20 oz. package of ground turkey
  2. 2 cups of tomato sauce (If you are following a Low FODMAP diet, it is often difficult to find a jar of tomato sauce without onions or garlic. For Low-FODMAP diet followers, purchase a 14.5 ounce can of plain tomato sauce (preferably organic). Open the jar and pour the contents in a mixing bowl. Add an ounce and a half of water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add dried basil, oregano, salt pepper and any other seasonings that you prefer. If you are not following a Low-FODMAP diet, purchase a 16 oz.jar of tomato basil sauce (preferably organic). Make sure the sauce does not include added sugar.
  3. 1/2 cup of chopped celery or red peppers (Use red peppers instead of celery if you are following a strict Low FODMAPS diet. If you are not following a Low FODMAP diet, feel free to substitute the celery or peppers with onions. Also, if you are looking to cut down time, purchase pre-chopped celery or red peppers from the store. You can use the rest of the celery or red peppers in your omelette, salad or other recipes. Otherwise, a food chopper would save you some chopping time.)
  4. 3/4 cup of shredded carrots (I typically purchase shredded carrots in a bag at the grocery store. You can also substitute shredded carrots for diced carrots.)
  5. 2 teaspoons of dried basil
  6. 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  7. Sea salt and pepper to taste
  8. 3 cups of arugula or mixed greens (raw or cooked)

Instructions:

  1. Add the 20 oz. package of ground turkey to your slow cooker. (If you prefer, you can lightly brown the ground turkey on the stove before adding the turkey to the slow cooker.)
  2. Pour the two cups of tomato sauce on top of the turkey.
  3. Next, add the 1/2 cup chopped celery (or onions)
  4. Add the 3/4 cups of shredded or diced carrots to the slow cooker
  5. The last ingredients are the seasonings. Add 2 teaspoons of basil, 2 teaspoons of oregano and sea salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Mix the ingredients together.
  7. Set the slow cooker to the 8-10 hour setting if you plan to cook the meal in the morning to serve at dinner time. Stir regularly if you will be home while the meal is cooking. (If you want to start the meal in the evening, set the slow cooker to the highest setting. The dish will be ready to serve in about two hours.)
  8. Serve over raw or sautéed arugula or mixed greens.

Or simply watch this video:

Bon Appetit!