Fall Inspired Lasagna, Gluten Free and Vegetarian

Lasagna for All!
Lasagna for All!
Gluten Free and Grain Free Lasagna

I love throwing dinner parties, but menu planning can be so difficult! So many of our friends (myself included) have very specific dietary considerations. In addition, this is my first Fall season, cooking as a vegetarian. I am trying my hardest, not to get caught up in finding solace in heavy, high carbohydrate, gluten free meals. When my friend Natalie asked me to cook a main dish for her Halloween inspired dinner, I took on the challenge, with gratitude! A great opportunity to perfect a lasagna! A lasagna for ALL!

First of all, the most important consideration for me was the noodles. I decided to use a combination of zucchini “noodles” (simply made by peeling the zucchini into ribbons with the help of a vegetable peeler) and these awesome fresh, grain free, gluten free, lasagna noodles made by Cappello’s

Yes, they are expensive, but worth the splurge and since they are fresh, there is no precooking needed! (Also, you most likely will have leftovers, that you can freeze for later!) In the past, I had made lasagna without the noodles and I was unimpressed with the soggy results. The noodles soak up the liquid of the veggies, help to maintain the structure and add great texture:)

My next consideration was to make a vegetable rich, meat free sauce. To give the bite and texture of meat, I decided to use a mixture of chopped walnuts and mushrooms, sautéed with onion, garlic, basil and Italian seasoning.

Walnuts and mushrooms add texture and bite!
Walnuts and mushrooms add texture and bite!

Then, I looked around my kitchen and decided to use the Fall vegetables that I had on hand. Delicata squash, onion, garlic and basil, would be perfect!

Delicata squash, onion and garlic
Delicata squash, onion and garlic

I chopped everything up and sautéed it up, along with the “meat” mixture. I added a tablespoon of salt and more Italian seasoning. Once the pan started to get dry, I added about a cup of vegetable broth and continued to stir, until everything looked cooked through.

For the cheese filling, I decided to make two versions. One dairy free and one with plenty of ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Dairy Free and Regular Lasagna
Dairy Free and Regular Lasagna

Depending on your dietary needs, you can go either way! There are plenty of great dairy free options available.

Yummy Cheese Alternatives!
Yummy Cheese Alternatives!

I was very pleased with the dairy free ricotta from kite hill.

Ok! Lets make lasagna! To start, I poured a small amount of my favorite tomato sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish. Just enough to spread a thin, even layer. Then I arranged a single layer of the lasagna noodle sheets.

Add plenty of cheese!
Add plenty of cheese!

I added a layer of the veggies, topped that with dollops of ricotta and mozzarella, and a hefty amount of parmesan cheese. Then I added an even layer of tomato sauce. Then a layer of zucchini noodles, topped with more of the vegetable mixture, more cheese, more tomato sauce, etc.

A layer of zucchini noodles
A layer of zucchini noodles

It really doesn’t matter what order you do your layers. I didn’t even measure the cheese. I just made each layer consistent and I finished off the layers with a single layer of the lasagna noodles on top, with more tomato sauce and cheese. So, I only used the actual noodles for the top and bottom layers of the lasagna and zucchini noodles in the middle!

Place it in the oven (preheated) at 375 degrees, for 30 minutes, or until browned, hot and bubbly. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving!

***Something to note! If you decide to go with the dairy free cheeses for this recipe, it will NOT resemble traditional lasagna. It will, however, taste yummy and satisfy your cheese and comfort food craving!***

Lasagna for All
Serves 8
An adaptable, gluten free, grain free lasagna (Dairy Free Suggestions)
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 package of Cappello's Gluten Free and Grain Free Lasagna Sheets
  2. 3 zucchini, peeled into ribbons
  3. 1-2 delicata squash, skin left on, chopped
  4. 1 onion chopped
  5. 2 cups walnuts, chopped
  6. 2 pints of fresh mushrooms, chopped
  7. 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  8. 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  9. 3 tbs Italian seasoning
  10. 15 oz Ricotta cheese or cheese alternative
  11. 2 cups of shredded parmesan cheese
  12. 1 ball of fresh mozzarella roughly chopped
  13. 1 1/2 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
  14. 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  15. Salt and pepper to taste.
Instructions
  1. Saute walnuts, mushrooms, onion, garlic and basil with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Once onions are cooked through, add delicata squash. Stir well. Once mixture looks dry, add 1- 2 cups of vegetable broth, stirring well, until squash is cooked through. Add Italian seasoning and salt as needed.
  2. Add enough tomato sauce to the bottom of a large casserole dish. Top with a single layer of lasagna noodles. Spoon an even layer of the squash mixture on top the noodles, add a layer of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Pour an even layer of tomato sauce on top. Add a layer of zucchini, then the squash mixture, then more cheese and tomato sauce. Repeat. For the top layer, use another layer of lasagna noodles, top with sauce and cheese.
  3. Cook for 30 min in a preheated 375 degree oven.
Notes
  1. The dairy free version is very tasty, but does not taste like traditional lasagna! I still recommend it!
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French Lentils with Cream, Mushrooms and Greens

So good!
Simple ingredients make the best food!
Simple ingredients make the best food!

I’ve been working really hard to shift us to a plant based diet for the New Year. For the first two weeks, I was obsessed with everything Japanese. Clean broths, lots of fish and veggies. Everything was squeaky clean. Perhaps too clean. Poor Jason was beginning to look famished. So this week, I’ve gone back to my cooking roots and I’ve been working on more familiar inspiration. I decided to start with lentils. Why lentils? Lentils have the second highest ratio of protein per calorie of any legume, except for soybeans. So, it’s a great plant based protein source:)

French Lentils
French Lentils

Have you cooked with lentils? Most people tend to simply use lentils in soup, but they are so adaptable and can be used in so many other dishes. There are tons of varieties available. The colors range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black. It can get very confusing if are not familiar with the differences between them. The French lentil is a good option for this recipe because they are sturdy and don’t fall apart.

So, I stumbled onto this amazing looking lentil recipe on Pinterest. I didn’t have the exact ingredients, but I decided to swing it anyway. The most important part of the recipe was the French lentils. the next key ingredient was mushrooms and I had a huge batch of chanterelle mushrooms that I needed to use.

Chanterelle Mushrooms!
Chanterelles

The recipe also called for kale. Given my recent Japanese food kick, I had a bunch of baby bok choy, so I decided to use it.

Shallots and garlic add a lot of great flavor.
Shallots and garlic add lots of flavor.

Feel free to use the mushrooms or greens of your choice. They will work!

Baby bok choy and chanterelle mushrooms. Don't forget the wine!
Baby bok choy and chanterelle mushrooms.

Ok, so as the the recipe states, it contains cream. Yes, cream. Actually, a lot of cream. Here’s the thing. There is nothing like eating real food to get your glow on! Live it up and enjoy the deliciousness of whole milk, butter and CREAM.

Plenty of cream!
Plenty of cream!

These ingredients are great to have in a diet that is comprised of fresh whole foods. Go ahead. Eat like royalty (at least once in awhile), as long as the ingredients you use include lots of delicious organic veggies, herbs and nutritious proteins like lentils!

So good!
The finished product!

The recipe is actually very easy, but does occupy 3 pans. It was worth it!

French Lentils with Cream, Chanterelles and Greens
Serves 2
Cream braised French lentils. Simply delicious and decadent!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup French lentils
  2. 3 cups vegetable broth
  3. 3 TBS unsalted butter
  4. 1 small shallot, diced
  5. 8 ounces chanterelle mushrooms
  6. 1 tsp kosher salt
  7. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  8. 1/4 cup of dry white wine
  9. 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  10. 1 TBS olive oil
  11. 2 eggs
  12. 6 baby bok choy, chopped, ends removed
  13. Parmesan to finish
Instructions
  1. Rinse lentils. Simmer in vegetable broth for 30 minutes. Lentils should be al dente. In a large skillet, at medium-high heat, brown butter. Add shallot. Cook until about a minute. Add mushrooms and 1/2 of the salt. Then add garlic. Cook until it starts to slightly stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not burn. Deglaze with the wine. Reduce until nearly dry. Add cream and simmer until cream just begins to thicken up. Add lentils and the remaining salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. In a separate pan, add enough oil to cook the 2 eggs. Cook eggs to your liking. And place on a separate plate, until lentils are done. Add the chopped bok choy to the lentils. Do not overcook, keep them green. Season lentils if needed. Serve 2 equal portions, with an egg on each. Top with freshly grated parmesan. Yum!
Adapted from From Ashley Rodriguez's "Date Night"
Adapted from From Ashley Rodriguez's "Date Night"
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Bacon and Mushroom Risotto with Greens

Bacon and Mushroom Risotto with Greens

It was one of those nights. You know what I mean. The day was cold and wet, I had tons of errands and the traffic was especially bad. (Did I mention that it was Monday?) I looked at the clock. It was 5:30, I was hungry and we were low on groceries. Agh! I would have to make due with the slim pickings in my pantry.

Bacon
Bacon

My mind kept thinking of the small package of bacon, sitting in the refrigerator drawer. Yes. Bacon. Something that we rarely purchase, except during the holidays. This would be the flavor booster I needed for my meager Monday night dinner.

There are a handful of pantry staples that one always needs to keep plentiful, especially in the winter months. Being gluten free, my winter staples are rice, lentils, beans and polenta. In a pinch, I can make a hearty, tasty meal, with any of these items!

Arborio Rice
Arborio Rice

I decided that Arborio rice (rice for risotto) would be a perfect base for this cozy, midweek dinner.

Next I took a peak into my refrigerator and quickly found bacon, onion, greens (a mix of shaved kale and brussels sprouts) and mushrooms.

Mushrooms, Greens, Hazelnuts and Onions.
Mushrooms, Greens, Hazelnuts and Onions.

These veggies were the perfect combination for the salty bacon. But, there was something missing. I decided to add some hazelnuts for added interest and texture.

It’s important to cook these ingredients separately from the risotto, otherwise, they get over cooked and mushy. So, sauté the chopped bacon, onions, greens, nuts and mushrooms in the risotto pan.

Sauteed bacon, onions, mushrooms, hazelnuts and greens.
Sauteed bacon, onions, mushrooms, hazelnuts and greens.

The bacon should produce a sufficient amount of grease to cook all of these ingredients! But if the mixture starts to stick to the pan, add a drizzle of olive oil and/or deglaze with a little chicken broth or white wine. (I tend to use high quality, uncured, nitrate free bacon. It’s worth it.) Once everything is cooked through, remove the mixture from the pan.

Now, it’s time to make the risotto. In the same pan, melt 1TBS of butter. Add all of the rice and sauté in the butter for 5 minutes.

Toast the risotto.
Toast the risotto.

This adds a nice toasty flavor to the rice. Now, add a total of 5 cups of chicken broth, one cup at a time, stirring regularly. The rice will slowly cook and soak up the broth. As the mixture dries up or starts to stick to the pan, add another cup of broth. It will take 20-30 minutes. Be patient. Enjoy the process. You will be rewarded;)

The final steps!!
The final steps!!

When you finally add the last cup of broth, go ahead and add the bacon mixture. Continue stirring and salt if needed. When the rice looks nearly done, add 1/4-1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Stir a bit more. You know its done, when it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a simple salad!

 

Bacon and Mushroom Risotto with Greens
Serves 4
A simple and hearty winter dinner!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4-1/2 package of bacon, chopped
  2. 1/2 onion, chopped
  3. 2 cups of greens of your choice, shaved (kale, spinach, arugula)
  4. 2 cups of mushrooms of your choice
  5. 1/2 cup chopped nuts of your choice
  6. 1/4 cup of chicken stock or white wine to deglaze
  7. 1 drizzle of olive oil, if needed
  8. 1&1/2 cup Arborio Rice
  9. 5 cups chicken broth
  10. 1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Saute bacon, onion, greens, hazelnuts and mushrooms in a large sauce pan, until cooked through. If the mixture becomes too dry, add 1/4 cup of chicken broth or white wine to deglaze the pan. Remove from pan and place to the side. Melt 1 TBS of butter in the same pan and add the Arborio rice, cooking it for 5 minutes, or so, until its toasty. Now begin adding the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring regularly until the rice is completely cooked. This should take about 20-30 minutes. Add the reserved bacon mixture when you add the final cup of chicken stock. Continue stirring. Add the parmesan cheese. Continue to stir. The risotto is done when it starts to stick to the bottom.
Notes
  1. Any greens or combination of veggies can be used. Any dry cheese will work, as well. Have fun with your favorite flavor combinations!
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Olive Roasted Cauliflower with Feta

It's done!
I store my spices in a drawer. It makes it easier to organize;)
I store my spices in a drawer. It makes it easier to organize;)

Now that my herb garden is no longer bursting with fragrant blossoms, I rely on my spice drawer being well stocked. As the winter months draw near, my spice drawer becomes one of my greatest allies in the kitchen. It’s loaded with spices from nearly every continent on earth. Spices such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, curries and smoked paprika get a serous workout, in the cold winter months. Their flavors are satisfying, warm and complex.

This weekend, the weather in the Pacific Northwest was relentless. Heavy rain, wind and cold kept us indoors, near the warmth of the fireplace. Finally burned out on roasted squash and sweet potatoes, I turned to the humble cauliflower.

The humble cauliflower.
The humble cauliflower.

Not being discouraged by its lack of color (how boring can this vegetable be?!), I decided it would be my canvas for something wonderful.

I chopped the cauliflower into medium sized, manageable pieces and placed them on a large cookie sheet. Now what? I needed to add something flavorful to add interest to this seemingly boring base.

It's starting to come together!
It’s starting to come together!

I had some leftover pitted olives from our dinner party the week before. Perfect! These olives happened to be lemon and rosemary brined. I added the olives, whole, with their brine, to the cookie sheet, tossed it all together and drizzled some olive oil and a heavy pinch of salt. It seemed too simple, so I added lemon juice, to compliment the flavors of the brine.

Now, it was time to add a spice. I could add any variety of spices, but really, when in doubt, (or for simplicity’s sake), I often go to smoked paprika. It’s complex on its own, yet it blends well with Mediterranean, Latino and Central European flavors.

Smoked Paprika
Smoked Paprika

Plus the smoky flavor adds extra depth to roasted vegetables. So I added 2 TBS over the top and set it all into the oven to roast.

20 minutes later, I checked on it. The fragrance was amazing. All it needed was a quick stir and a few minutes to finish it off. This is the perfect time to add raw nuts. I love adding nuts to my roasted veggies. They add texture, interest and protein to any vegetarian dish.

Roasting up nicely!
Roasting up nicely!

So I tossed in some pine nuts, and a more olive oil to keep things from getting too dry. After 3 minutes back in the oven. It was done…..or was it?

I felt like I needed to continue turning this dish into comfort food….my kind of comfort food. I don’t know about you, but for me cheese is the answer. So I added a hefty handful of crumbled feta. I chose feta because it’s salty, crumbly and works perfect with the olives.

It's done!
It’s done!

All that’s left is a sprinkle of smoked paprika and some chopped parsley. It was delicious. We ate it all, so I’m not sure if it makes good leftovers;)

Olive Roasted Cauliflower with Feta
Serves 3
A hearty side dish or light main entree, full of flavor.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 head of cauliflower chopped into medium sized chunks
  2. 1 1/2- 2 cups of pitted olives of your choice (Rosemary lemon brined)
  3. 1 lemon, juiced
  4. 2 TBS smoked paprika
  5. 1/4 cup pine nuts
  6. 1/8 cup of olive oil, or more, if needed
  7. 2 tsp salt
  8. 3 TBS chopped parsley to garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry cauliflower. Chop into medium sized chunks. Add to large cookie tray and toss with olives (brine included), olive oil, lemon juice, salt and paprika. Make sure cauliflower is evenly coated. Roast for 15 min, or just long enough for cauliflower to get browned. Remove from oven and toss in pine nuts. Add more olive oil and lemon juice, if cauliflower looks dry. Roast for an additional 3 min, just to brown the pine nuts. Remove from oven, mix in feta cheese and garnish with parsley and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve warm!
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Quinoa Pizza Crust

GF Quinoa Pizza

I’ve been GF for over three years. I gave up on manufactured, GF bread and pasta, years ago. When baking, I tend to gravitate towards the simplest recipes. Let’s face it, it’s very difficult to master GF baking without the addition of weird, binders and flours. So, I’ve gone without sandwiches, flour tortillas and pizza this whole time!

GF Pizza!
GF Pizza!

Pizza has been the most difficult sacrifice! One of my favorite meals, is a rustic style, thin crusted pizza loaded with fresh veggies, gobs of mozzarella and pesto. Well the wait is over! I’ve discovered the most incredible, easy to make, GF pizza dough EVER! All you need are 4 ingredients!

I ran across this link on Pinterest about 6 months ago…Summer No Bake Pizza. The concept was brilliant! The ingredients were simple! Alas, I couldn’t perfect it:( The dough kept sticking to the pan. In the end, it made a mess and it wasn’t pretty……but it was super tasty! It was something between a thin crust pizza and a flatbread.

So, I decided to forget about the stovetop method and opt to using the same recipe in the oven, in an oiled, parchment lined baking sheet. The results were perfect! And in the end, I was able to enjoy a yummy, GF pizza, made of wholesome ingredients, loaded with protein and void of processed junk! Pure heaven!

GF Quinoa Pizza
GF Quinoa Pizza

To start, you must soak 3/4 cup of quinoa overnight, or at least 8 hours. This allows the quinoa to soften up and bulk up! Rinse the quinoa and transfer it to a blender or Vitamix.

Add 1/4 cup of water, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder and herbs. I opted to add a hefty tablespoon of homemade pesto;) Now blend the mixture on high for 2 full minutes. Pour the batter into a small, oiled, parchment lined baking sheet. The parchment paper serves two purposes. One is to keep the batter from sticking and the other is to easily transfer the completed pizza for cutting and serving!

If you use a regular sized baking sheet, the batter will be too thin and will turn out to be more of a cracker! When pouring the batter into the pan, just concentrate on spreading it evenly. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully flip the crust. It will already look toasty and browned;)

After 15 minutes of baking! Now it's ready to flip!
After 15 minutes of baking! Now it’s ready to flip!

Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven. The crust should be perfectly browned!

Perfectly browned and ready for toppings!
Perfectly browned and ready for toppings!

Now for the fun part! Add all of your favorite pizza toppings. For my first pizza, I kept it simple, adding pesto as the base, fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil. Now pop it back into the oven for 5 more minutes, just to heat up the ingredients and melt the cheese. You know it’s done when you see the cheese bubbling:) 

GF Pizza!
GF Pizza!

Transfer onto a large cutting board to slice and serve:) I’ve experimented with all kinds of different toppings!

The finished product!
The finished product!

This pizza was made with pesto, fresh mozzarella and balsamic roasted veggies (green tomatoes, peppers, onion, eggplant and corn)!

A fun variety of balsamic roasted veggies!
A fun variety of balsamic roasted veggies!

A simple, elegant meal when served with a green salad and a glass of wine:) I’m thinking of making a large batch of crusts next time and freezing them! I’d love to hear about your creations! Let me know!

Quinoa Pizza Crust
Yields 1
A clean and easy GF pizza crust;)
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Cook Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup quinoa
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 1-2 TBS pesto or fresh herbs
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. Your favorite pizza toppings
Instructions
  1. Cover quinoa with water
  2. Soak quinoa for 8 hours
  3. Rinse well
  4. Place rinsed quinoa into Vitamix or blender with all ingredients
  5. Blend on high for 2 minutes
  6. Pour into small, oiled, parchment lined baking sheet
  7. Bake at 425 for 10-15 min
  8. Remove from oven and flip over to bake the other side
  9. Bake for another 5-10 minutes
  10. Remove from oven and add toppings
  11. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling!
Adapted from The Pancake Princess
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