In the (Lunch) Bag: High Protein and Gluten Free Baked Spaghetti

One of the foods I missed most when I had to give up gluten was pasta. Not just any pasta, but the higher-protein, stick to your ribs varieties. The typical gluten free stuff made from high glycemic rice or corn just didn’t do it for me.

And then I discovered this stuff.

Look for it on Amazon.

Look for it on Amazon.

Yeah, it sounds weird. And it looks even weirder (my students always think it has squid ink in it!). But it tastes great, cooks easily and….drumroll, please….has over 20 grams of protein per serving! Yes, please:)

This week’s recipe was one I invented on the spur of the moment after once more looking to see what needed to be used from my kitchen (the pasta pictured above, a half used bag of chopped sundried tomatoes and a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes) and the produce on sale this week (zucchini and bell peppers).

I was also limited to one small pot and one large skillet that is also oven-safe as well as only a few available spices. I got a little crazy packing up the kitchen last week:)

Baked Spaghetti

1 package Explore Asian Black Bean Spaghetti

4 cloves garlic, chopped small

1 onion, diced

2 red, orange or yellow bell peppers, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 medium zucchini, cut into small pieces

8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced

4 oz julienned sundried tomatoes

28 oz can diced tomatoes

1 tsp basil

1 tsp oregano

16 oz part skim ricotta cheese

4 oz mozzarella cheese

olive oil

Cook the pasta according to package directions and set aside. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add the zucchini and peppers and cook until the moisture is cooked of the zucchini. Add the mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and spices and stir for a couple more minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced (about 7-8 minutes).

The veg.

The veg.

Remove from heat and stir in pasta and ricotta cheese.

The pasta does look pretty funny:)

The pasta does look pretty funny:)

Move to an oven-safe dish, if needed. Sprinkle mozzarella on top. Bake at 350, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

All done!

All done!

I would have loved to have some green beans or broccoli as a side dish, but they were overpriced and looking puny. So, I’ll just add an apple to end the meal and to keep the doctor away!


In the (Lunch) Bag: Lentil Chili & Sweet Potato Mash

It may still be summer according to the calendar, but it sure feels like fall here in Atlanta. The windows are open and the shorts have been exchanged for jeans. Something about the cooler days made me crave the fall associations with all things chili. Since I had some lentils in the pantry (and all of the cookbooks are packed), I decided to go with this recipe from the Whole Foods Recipes App.

Look at those beautiful fall colors:)

Look at those beautiful fall colors:)

A brief aside on this app. I love this thing. No, I mean really love. You can search for recipes by ingredient and special diet (vegan, gluten free, low sugar, etc.). This makes it invaluable after a haul from the farmer’s market. Gluten free zucchini side dish, you say? No problem. There are many from which to choose. I also love that, even being associated with Whole Foods, the recipes are generally entirely non fussy. Simple even. We’re talking a one pot stop. Enough about the app, let’s get to the food:)

I’m going to give you the recipe as it is in the app and then I’ll tell you how I tweaked it!

Lentil Chili

8 cups low sodium veggie broth

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

5 cloves garlic, cup ’em up fine

4 tsp chili powder

16 oz brown lentils

30 oz diced tomatoes (no salt added)

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Bring 3/4 cup of the broth to a simmer, add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook until translucent (about 8 minutes). Add everything else except the cilantro, bring to boil and then simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Remove the cover and cook another few minutes, stirring in the cilantro at the end.

I used three peppers all together – red, orange and yellow because I love me some peppers. I used 1/2 brown lentils and 1/2 red, since that’s what I had. The red tend to mush a bit more, but really, who cares? I reduced the broth a bit since my pot was about to overflow. Didn’t seem to be a problem.


The sweet potato dish is one of my own invention. Peel some sweet potatoes and cut them into 1″ chunks. Add to boiling water until they are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and then mash with cinnamon, 2-3 scoops vanilla protein powder and a little almond milk, if needed. I had two clementines left over from last week, so I decided to squeeze their juice into the mix. Yum. I like to top each serving with a few walnuts for some crunch.

And, drumroll please…

The finished lunch, all packed and ready!

Even the low light gives the feeling of fall!

Even the low light gives the feeling of fall!

The only thing that would make this better is some Sunday afternoon football. Soon enough:)

In the (Lunch) Bag: Ginger Stir Fry

It’s been a good start to the school year, but it is sure difficult adjusting to the new rhythm. I always find it challenging to get enough sleep during transition times and this one is maintaining that tradition. Even though I didn’t stop counting sheep (okay, reading) until almost midnight, my body thought that it was wise to be up at 5:00. Apparently, my body needs some reeducation:)

It was interesting coming up with my recipes for the week. There were no produce sales at the store (other than corn) and I knew that I would not have the opportunity to go by the farmer’s market. Since we are moving in a few weeks, I decided to use almost-empty packages as my inspiration. I figure it’s easier to eat it than move it! Additionally, I knew I wanted something vegan this week to balance out all the cheese from last week.

pretty colors:)

pretty colors:)

I found a bottle of gluten free soy sauce in the fridge with only a few tablespoons left. I immediately knew what I wanted to make: stir fry. Not just any stir fry, but one that is influenced by a conglomeration of Amy’s brown rice and stir fried vegetables frozen dinner and the tofu gingerine from my favorite Thai restaurant (seriously, let me know if you’re in the north Atlanta area and I’ll hook you up with the best Thai ever!).

Ginger Stir Fry

Marinade: 3 garlic cloves, crushed, 2 tsp shredded ginger root, ½ tsp red pepper, ½ cup Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce (gluten free, if needed), rice vinegar to fill container

Stir Fry:

coconut oil

2 packs extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into cubes

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp shredded ginger root (or more…I like lots of ginger!)

1 red onion, chopped

1 package mushrooms, quartered

2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, sliced

1/2 head cabbage, chopped

1 lb asparagus, cut into 1” pieces

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

It's not bird. And it's certainly not a plane. Yup, it's tofu!

It’s not bird. And it’s certainly not a plane. Yup, it’s tofu!

Marinate the tofu overnight.  Drain the liquid (and reserve) and cook in a large saucepan with a little coconut oil until browned. Remove and set aside.  Using the same saucepan, add the garlic, ginger, and onion and cook until softened.  Add the remaining veggies and some of the residual marinade and cover, steaming until soft, stirring occasionally.

Steamy goodness

Steamy goodness

Serve alone or over rice.

The quantities and types of veggies here are easily adaptable. I frequently use a whole head of cabbage (because it’s cheap!) and I love to add lemongrass and/or bok choy when I can get it. When fresh peppers or asparagus are too expensive, I substitute frozen.

Whenever I have more fresh ginger than I will use in the next week or so, I cut it into 1″ chucks (I don’t even bother to peel) and put it in a bag in the freezer to be used for smoothies. One of my favorite is a ginger peach cobbler recipe!

Ready for the lunch bag

Ready for the lunch bag


Add a protein shake and some clementines and I have a healthy lunch packed with vitamin C to ward off the germs the kiddos are bringing in!