With Labor Day weekend coming up and football season starting, I’m sure you’ve got lots of potluck or tailgating parties coming up. Since it’s still in season, watermelon is the perfect choice for a healthy party side dish. By now, I’m sure you’ve had your fill of Watermelon Mint & Basil Salad with Feta or something similar. So why not try this Asian Citrus Watermelon Salad using NAKANO Citrus Seasoned Rice Vinegar? This would go well with my Sriracha Chicken Skewers or teriyaki beef or chicken cooked up on the grill!
You can assure all your gluten free and nut free guests that the salad is OK to eat because you’ve used tamari sauce instead of soy sauce, and pine nuts instead of peanuts. Just make sure to double check that the fish sauce doesn’t have any wheat or soy sauce in it. (The kind I used didn’t.)
Asian Citrus Watermelon Salad
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon flavored olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari sauce
- 3 tablespoons NAKANO Citrus Seasoned Rice Vinegar
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/4 cup minced red onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1/2 Thai pepper, seeded and minced or 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 5 cups seedless watermelon cut into 1” chunks
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- Whisk together sesame seed olive, olive oil, fish sauce, tamari sauce, vinegar, lime juice, red onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno in a large bowl.
- Add the watermelon and toss to combine.
- Let sit 10 minutes.
- Add the cilantro, basil, mint and pint nuts to salad.
- Toss to combine. Serve immediately.
- Serving size: 3/4 cup
The folks at Heartland Gluten Free Pasta asked me to create a original recipe using their spaghetti. While I had seen their gluten free and Hidden Vegetable pasta in the store, I had never tried it out. Well, I’m so glad I did because their gluten free pasta is the closest thing I’ve come to regular pasta. It tastes great, has a good texture (not gritty or gooey) and cooks up al dente just as easily as a wheat pasta. It also has a lovely butter yellow color to it, which inspired me to combine it with the reds and yellows of cherry tomatoes, the browns of mushrooms and the flavors of a creamy basil sauce.
You can save time on this dish by using pre-sliced mushrooms and store bought pesto sauce. Feel free to substitute my Tofu Sour Cream or no fat Greek yogurt, for the low fat sour cream. Finally, while it’s baking, set the table, clean up and pour yourself a glass of wine!
Mushroom, Tomato & Pesto Spaghetti Casserole
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 1 package Heartland Gluten Free Spaghetti
- 10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 16 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup low fat sour cream
- 2 to 4 tablespoons of pesto (to taste)
- Juice from half a lemon
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Pine nuts (optional)
- Set oven to warm setting (around 150-180 degrees F).
- Prepare Heartland Gluten Free Spaghetti per package directions until al dente. Drain, rinse and pour spaghetti back into spaghetti pot. Set aside.
- While spaghetti is cooking, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add oil, then mushrooms and sliced cherry tomatoes to pan. Sauté over medium heat until mushrooms and tomatoes are soft – about 10-12 minutes.
- Add sour cream, pesto and lemon juice to pan and stir to combine ingredients. Turn off heat.
- Pour sour cream, pesto and vegetable over cooked spaghetti. Toss gently to evenly distribute sauce.
- Place spaghetti and sauce mixture into an oven safe casserole dish. Liberally sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top of spaghetti.
- Place casserole dish in oven for 15-20 minutes or until top is golden brown and slightly crusty.
- Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
- Optionally for those who like a little crunch, serve with a side dish of pine nuts so each dinner guest can add a few to their pasta.
Disclosure: I was compensated by Heartland for recipe development, photography and posting. All opinions and experiences are my own.
I’m crazy about balsamic vinegar reduction as a sauce on anything from roasted vegetables to fish. Drizzling it on food makes an ordinary dish burst with flavor and adds a little elegance to boot. Plus, it’s so easy to make. In this recipe, I used Holland House balsamic vinegar, brought it to a boil on the stove top, and then simmered it until it was reduced by half. Easy!
This pizza recipe is inspired by a gluten free pizza I had at Udi’s PIzza Café Bar in Arvada, Colorado and a Caramelized Onion & Fig Mini Pizza I had when I visited the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter test kitchen back in 2010.
I made this gluten free using Udi’s Gluten Free pizza crusts. If you’re not gluten free, feel free to use whatever pizza crusts you wish. Or you can make your own using my healthy whole wheat pizza dough recipe.
Goat Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Baby Greens and Balsamic Reduction
- Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. (Make sure to watch carefully to avoid a messy boil over.)
- Quickly reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until vinegar is reduced by half and thickens slightly.
- While your balsamic vinegar is reducing, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add buttery spread to skillet to melt.
- Add onions and reduce heat to medium. Slowly sauté onions until they turn slightly brown and are caramelized. Be careful not to burn onions. Reduce heat and add more buttery spread if needed. When onions are done, remove skillet from stove top and set aside.
- Set oven to 425 degrees F.
- Place pizza crust on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.
- Using a spreader or offset spatula, spread a thin, even layer of goat cheese on pizza crust. If goat cheese is too hard to spread, put it in the microwave on high for 10 seconds to soften.
- Add an even layer of baby greens on top of the goat cheese layer.
- Carefully sprinkle pine nuts evenly over pizza.
- Cook for 10-12 minutes until greens start to wilt and pizza crust and cheese are heated through.
- Remove pizza from oven and drizzle balsamic vinegar over it. Apply a light or heavy drizzle depending on your individual taste.
- Slice pizza and serve.
- Serving size: Serves 2 as an appetizer or 1 as an entrée.
Disclosure: Mizkan, the parent company of Holland House, provided compensation for this post. All opinions are my own
Since I found out that I have food sensitivities to dairy products, I’ve been checking out vegan blogs and cookbooks for substitutes for my favorite recipes that use cheese and yogurt. That’s why I requested a review copy of The Everything Vegan Cookbook by Jolinda Hackett with Lorena Novak Bull, RD.
Vegan recipes like Thai Tom Kha Coconut Soup, Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Quinoa, and Cucumber Cilantro Salad should entice anyone, meat eater or not. It also contains vegan versions of normally cheese filled favorites like lasagna and mac and cheese. The Everything Vegan Cookbook also has meat substitution recipes like Spaghetti with Italian “Meatballs” and lots of tofu based recipes like Simmered Coconut Curried Tofu.
The Everything Vegan Cookbook is a good cookbook for someone starting on their vegan journey who wants to replicate old, non-vegan favorite dishes. Its recipes are easy to follow and usually contain three to five steps – perfect for busy families. It’s also a good cookbook to cook from when having vegan visitors or when a tween or teen decides to try out the vegan lifestyle. With over 300 recipes, there’s enough variety to please everyone. Also, each recipe comes with basic nutritional information like calories, fat grams and fiber grams.
Nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute
One of the first recipes that caught my eye (besides the tofu vegan ice creams) was the pesto. I love pesto but can’t handle the cheese in it. Instead, this recipe uses nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute.
I had some nutritional yeast left over from making the Smoked Turkey with Maple-Herb Brine on Thanksgiving. I found it at Sunflower Market in the bulk bins, but you can find nutritional yeast at any health food store as well as online at Amazon.
The pesto was a hit with my family. Even my husband, who is the number one cheese lover in the family, had seconds. I served it on brown rice pasta and whole wheat pasta. Delicious!
Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
From The Everything Vegan Cookbook
Yields 1 cup
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- If using dehydrated sun dried tomatoes, reconstitute in warm water until soft and pliable, about 15 minutes.
- Puree together all ingredients, adding oil last to achieve desired consistency.
Per two tablespoons
- Calories 133
- Fat 13g
- Sodium 193 mg
- Fiber 1g
- Protein 3g
Weight Watchers POINTS = 4
This Mama’s tips
- Since I didn’t have enough, I substituted arugula for half of the basil. You could probably experiment with spinach, cilantro and other leafy greens.
- If your pesto comes out too thick or dry, add more olive oil.
- The pesto doesn’t heat up well in the microwave. Instead, it gets dried out. So heat your noodles, add the pesto and mix it in.
- The pesto makes an excellent spread for crackers. Other suggestions are a spread for sandwiches or for a pesto pizza.
Disclosure: I received a review copy to facilitate this review.
Here’s another gluten free dessert inspired by the Grand Canyon Cook Book. This recipe caught my eye because I LOVE bread pudding, but have to stay away from it due to my food sensitivities to gluten, baker’s yeast, milk products and sugar.
My son who’s a big fan of Lärabars, which are date based, loved this healthy snack. Serve it warm out of the oven with a scoop of your favorite non-dairy ice cream or a dollop of Greek yogurt. It also heats up well in the microwave. Served cold, this gluten free dessert reminds me of pecan pie! You may just want to tuck this recipe away for Thanksgiving.
Either way, enjoy a sliver (a little goes a long way) with a hot mug of Crio Brü or a glass of soy milk.
Gluten Free Pine Nut and Date Pudding
- 1/4 cup stevia
- 1/4 cup Big Tree Farm’s Coconut Palm Sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates
- 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour (gluten free)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free)
- 1/2 cup whole pine nuts
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix sugar and eggs. Add dates, brown rice flour, salt, baking power, and pine nuts.
- Pour into a greased, shallow baking dish.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Calories 151
- Calories from Fat 59
- Total Fat 6.6g
- Saturated Fat 0.6g
- Trans Fat 0.0g
- Cholesterol 23mg
- Sodium 156mg
- Total Carbohydrates 23.3g
- Dietary Fiber 2.3g
- Sugars 16.0g
- Protein 2.8g
Nutrition Grade B+ from CalorieCount
Weight Watchers POINTS = 3
My family and I just came back from visiting the Grand Canyon. It was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken, and if you have a chance – GO! While we were there I picked up a fun little cookbook called The Grand Canyon Cook Book, Southwestern recipes from Arizona’s natural wonder by Bruce and Bobbie Fisher. It features recipes from park rangers, hikers and Grand Canyon chefs. (Yes, there’s fantastic eating to be had at the Grand Canyon, especially at the El Tovar dining room. Check out their dinner menu!)
Piñon nuts versus pine nuts
I was especially intrigued that several of the recipes from the Grand Canyon Cook Book used piñon nuts. According to the New Mexico Piñon Nut Company, “Pine nuts from New Mexico called Pinon nuts are called Pinon or Piñon by law in New Mexico. Pinon nuts come specifically from the pine tree species: pinus edulis. They taste different from other varieties. The pinon pine tree is a two-needled pine which grows wild in high desert mountain areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. These edible nuts are not to be confused with the ‘single needle’ pine tree from Nevada.”
The pine nuts you get at the store (usually imported from China) are much cheaper than piñon nuts from New Mexico, which sell anywhere from $25-40. Pinon nuts are a hand-harvest, wild crop and the pines can only be picked once every three to seven years. That’s why you see cars pulled on the highway and people on the medians when it’s piñon season.
More on pine nuts from Wikipedia:
In Asia, two species are widely harvested, Korean Pine in northeast Asia (the most important species in international trade), and Chilgoza Pine in the western Himalaya. Four other species, Siberian Pine, Siberian Dwarf Pine, Chinese White Pine and Lacebark Pine are also used to a lesser extent.
Pine nuts produced in Europe mostly come from the Stone Pine, which has been cultivated for its nuts for over 6,000 years, and harvested from wild trees for far longer. The Swiss Pine is also used to a very small extent.
In North America, the main species are three of the pinyon pines, Colorado Pinyon, Single-leaf Pinyon, and Mexican Pinyon.
I’ve read that some people experience a metallic aftertaste when eating Chinese pine nuts, and that this has more to do with a genetic predisposition than the pine nuts themselves. However, pine nuts do go rancid quite easily, so keep yours in the refrigerator. Also, you should taste test before cooking with them to make sure they’re OK. I use pine nuts from Costco and have never had a problem.
Gluten Free Pine Nut Cookies
I’ve “healthed up” the original Piñon Nut Squares recipe from the Grand Canyon Cook Book by using brown rice and oat flours to make the cookies gluten free. I also used stevia instead of white sugar and coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar.
My kids LOVED these!
Makes 30-33 cookies
- 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour (gluten free)
- 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (gluten free)
- 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (I used Quick Quaker Oats)
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup Stevia Extract in the Raw
- 1/3 cup Big Tree Farm’s Coconut Palm Sugar
- 1/2 cup softened buttery spread (I used Bestlife Spread)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 whole cup pine nuts (or piñon nuts if you’re lucky to find them)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Set oven for 375 degrees.
- Sift flours, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together.
- Mix oats into dry ingredients.
- In a large bowl, beat egg, both sugars, buttery spread and vanilla until the butter is well integrated.
- Mix in dry ingredients.
- Stir in pine nuts and raisins.
- Drop by the tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet or one covered with a silicon baking mat. (I use Wilton Easy Flex™ Silicone Baking Mats.)
- Bake on the center rack of oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the pine nut cookies turn slightly golden.
- Serve with a glass of your favorite “milk” (soy, rice, coconut or cow’s milk) and don’t forget the napkins and plates. These cookies are very crumbly!
- Calories 69
- Calories from Fat 43
- Total Fat 4.8g
- Saturated Fat 0.8g
- Trans Fat 0.0g
- Cholesterol 6mg
- Sodium 78mg
- Total Carbohydrates 6.1g
- Dietary Fiber 0.6g
- Sugars 2.0g
- Protein 1.2g
Nutrition Grade C from CalorieCount
Weight Watchers POINTS = 2
I recently attended an event at Kashi that you can read at The Mom Central Blog – Day One and Day Two. (Check out Day Two for a recipe for a delicious and oh-so-healthy recipe for Corn, Tomato and Basil Salad.)
I’ve been eating Kashi’s products for years, but had never cooked with their rice pilaf before. This dish, created by Katherine Emmenegger, the Executive Chef at the Great News! Discount Cookware and Cooking School in San Diego, is perfect for cold fall and winter evenings. It’s full of fiber and protein, but also high in fat and Weight Watchers POINTS, so watch your portion size!
We were cooking for a big group, so you may want to cut the recipe in half for your family. Also, it takes a really long time to cook up the pilaf. The chefs at Great News ended up putting it into pressure cookers to speed up the process. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, give yourself plenty of time. Or try cooking the pilaf during the day in a slow cooker and then finishing off the rest of the recipe (and reducing oven cooking time) before dinner time.
Kashi Multigrain Pilaf and Pine Nut Stuffed Vegetables
We only used bell peppers and didn’t chop up the “guts” in the food processor.
- 2 medium green bell peppers, washed, cut in half down the length, and seeds removed
- 2 medium zucchini, washed, stem removed, and sliced, crosswise into 3-inch lengths
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, washed and top sliced off, reserve the top
- Scoop the centers from the zucchini (not all the way through, so there is a bottom) and tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth.
- Place the hollowed vegetables into a roasting pan.
Pine Nut and Kashi Pilaf Filling
Grapeseed oil has a higher flash point than olive oil and no discernable taste. However, it’s fairly expensive, so feel free to substitute with olive oil.
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 3 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cup finely minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 3/4 cup minced fresh dill
- Add enough water to add to the pureed vegetable mixture to equal 6 cups of liquid
- 3 cups Kashi Original Pilaf
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon or to taste
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a sauté pan, over medium high heat, heat the oil; sauté the onion and garlic. Add the pureed vegetable centers, parsley, dill, water, and bring to a simmer.
- Add the pilaf, simmer until the pilaf is half cooked; the filling should still have a lot of visible liquid.
- Season with cinnamon, salt, and pepper.
- Fill each of the hollowed vegetables and cover the tomatoes with their tops. Drizzle with the olive oil. Excess filling can be placed in the bottom of the pan around the vegetables.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, periodically checking to insure that there is enough liquid to continue cooking the pilaf. Add more water as needed.
- Remove the foil, top with the Parmesan cheese, and bake for 15 minutes more to brown.
- Allow the vegetables to sit for 20 minutes before serving.
Stuffed vegetables are served warm or at room temperature and are wonderful the next day.
Serving size is 1/6 of the recipe. If you are watching your weight, I’d half the portion.
- Calories – 810
- Fat – 8 g
- Sodium – 265mg
- Fiber – 15g
- Total Carbs – 77g
- Sugars – 7g
- Protein – 17g
Weight Watchers POINTS = 8 for a half portion or 1/12 of the recipe