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!


On the Menu: Detox Green Soup

I was feeling the need to eat lightly this week. When I get that urge, I frequently turn to the amazing Detox Green Soup, which fills me up with nothing but veggie goodness. The chef evens dishes up a bit of marriage advice to go with the soup!

In no time flat, all of this

turns into bowls of this.

I rounded out the greens with slices of red bell peppers and cucumbers to dip in hummus and some nonfat Greek yogurt topped with blackberries for some extra protein.

I love lunches like these; I feel full, satisfied, and clean.

The Single Best Casual Dinner Party Dish Ever. Period.

Little did I know when I first made this meal for my now-fiance on our fourth date, that it was going to become a staple in our lives. Within hours, he was bragging to his friends about the kick a$$ (vegetarian!) Mexican lasagne that he (a meat eater!) had for dinner. We hosted a party not long after we became an established couple and, of course, I made the lasagne. It’s now been three years and any time we have friends over for dinner, they always ask for this dish. The recipe has made its rounds through my work and through my social groups. I’m making today to take on a girl’s beach weekend, where I’m sure it will be shared some more. It’s been tweaked and adapted, but always enjoyed.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a taste through the screen, but I can enumerate the reasons that this has become the go-to recipe in my life:

1) As written, it is vegetarian, gluten free, soy free and nut free, pleasing many dinner guests with food limitations.

2) It can be made vegan by replacing the cream cheese with this vegan version made from cashews (note: not nut free), replacing the skim milk with a non dairy version and eliminating the cheese in the layers or replacing it with a vegan shredded cheddar cheese substitute (note: this may not be soy free).

3) Although it is vegetarian, I have never had a meat-eater complain about the lack of animal protein. It’s a one-dish-pleases-all meal!

4) It’s super easy to make – basically throw stuff in a pan (after chopping:) ) and stir for a bit, layer the ingredients and bake.

5) It’s great for parties or local travel because you can make the filling ahead of time and then assemble and bake when you’re ready.

6) It’s very adaptable. Depending upon the intended eaters, sometimes I kick up the spiciness by adding some chili powder and/or more jalapenos. I also throw in other vegetables at times – mainly carrots and/or summer squashes. Don’t like an ingredient? Simple, leave it out.

7) It’s inexpensive, especially when zucchini and peppers are in season.

8) And, last but certainly not least, it is healthy, packed full of vegetables and beans.

Convinced yet? Mouth watering?

Here’s the recipe! (adapted from The Gluten Free Vegetarian Kitchen)

Mexican Lasagna

1 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 cups chopped bell peppers

2 zucchini, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can pinto beans

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

2 cups salsa

1 tbs chili powder

1⁄2 tbs cumin

2 tbs lime juice

8 corn tortillas

8 oz shredded cheddar and/or Monterey jack cheeses

8 oz reduced fat cream cheese

1⁄4 skim milk

1 tbs Chipotle Tabasco sauce
Sauté the veggies in oil until tender. Add beans, salsa, spices, and lime juice and stir for 3 minutes at medium high heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Arrange 4 of the tortillas in a greased 13” x 9” pan. Top with half the bean mixture and half the shredded cheese. Repeat. Cover with foil (spray the inside of the foil with cooking spray first so that it does stick to the cheese) and bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, milk and Tabasco in a small sauce pot. Stir over low heat until smooth. Cover the baked lasagna with the cream cheese mixture.

Some awesome serving ideas:

  • Top with sliced avocado
  • Top with nonfat plain Greek yogurt (tastes just like sour cream!)
  • Serve with baked corn chips to turn it into a dip
  • Top with sliced green onions
  • Serve with sliced tomatoes
  • Or just eat as-is!

Here are some pics of the preparations from today.

Unchopped and ready to begin.

Unchopped and ready to begin.

I like to add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and zucchini first so that they brown just a little and the excess water is cooked off from the zucchini.

I like to add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and zucchini first so that they brown just a little and the excess water is cooked off from the zucchini.

Is there anything prettier than chopped bell peppers? Wait, don't answer that:)

Is there anything prettier than chopped bell peppers? Wait, don’t answer that:)

This is when the house starts to smell amazing!

This is when the house starts to smell amazing!

The finished filling. Ready to be packed in a container to take to the beach:)

The finished filling. Ready to be packed in a container to take to the beach:)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the finished product. I’m waiting until I get to beach to assemble and bake it. Besides, once it’s done, it usually doesn’t sit around long enough for pictures!