“Spaghetti” & Meatballs {gluten-free}

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So, we all know by now that I have a slight obsession with spaghetti squash. The truth is, I probably won’t give it up until I have created every noodle-y dish known to man using this fabulous vegetable. And even then, I will probably go back to the beginning and make them all again, because it just never.gets.old.

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I was raised on Italian food. My dad doesn’t cook and he loves pasta, so it was normal for us to go out to fancy Italian dinners multiple nights per week. Sure, there are some healthy options when you go to an Italian restaurant, but let’s be honest–we really want pasta. All of the pasta. And then more pasta.

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Well, you guys know I AM ALL ABOUT THE SAUCE. Pasta is a vehicle. A mostly tasteless way to get to some alfredo sauce or spicy marinara. Or pesto. Or…MEATBALLS.

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Honestly, when you have huge delicious meatballs, do you even need spaghetti??? Well, I like a side of spaghetti with my meatballs. A nice side of spaghetti squash to hold onto some sauce, give me some texture, and fill out the rest of my bowl because, let’s be honest, I am always looking for the maximum amount of food possible, and veggies are the way to get there. Bonus points for them being better than “real” pasta.

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OMG and can we talk about these meatballs???? They are ridiculous. I’d actually never made meatballs before, but I went with a combination of spicy turkey sausage and lean ground turkey. I added some chopped garlic, some onions to keep them juicy, and some oats to help keep them together. Fun fact–did you know you can sub oats for breadcrumbs in recipes like meatballs and meatloaf? I always do, and it always comes out great!

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Sometimes using lean turkey can cause dishes to come out dry, but between the turkey sausage and the onions (my friend Kristi gave me the onion tip!), these meatballs were perfectly juicy and tender.

“Spaghetti” & Meatballs

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

The classic comfort of spaghetti and meatballs with a lightened up, gluten-free and grain-free twist. Served with spicy Italian meatballs and spicy marinara sauce.

Ingredients

    For the spaghetti squash:
  • 1 large spaghetti squash, halved
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • pinch each salt and pepper
  • For the meatballs:
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey (93% or higher)
  • 1 lb spicy turkey sausage
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 egg. lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup oats (use gluten-free if that's important to you)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasonings (preferably homemade)
  • small pinch cayenne pepper
  • For the sauce:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less depending on desired spiciness)
  • pinch each salt and pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. To make the spaghetti squash, preheat oven to 400. Scrape the seeds and stringy center from the spaghetti squash. Drizzle each half with 1 tsp olive oil. Use your fingers to rub oil into squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay each half face down in a large baking dish and cook until tender, about an hour.
  2. To make the meatballs, place a wire rack inside a large cookie sheet. Spray with nonstick spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, gently combine all your meatball ingredients.. Do not over mix, just combine. Roll into approx 2" balls (or however large or small you like them). Transfer to prepared wire baking sheet. Bake at 400 (you can throw them in at the same time as your squash!) until cooked throughout, about 25 minutes.
  3. To make the sauce sauté onion and garlic in 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add crushed tomato and remaining spices. When sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat to a simmer until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. To plate, scrape the insides of the spaghetti squash. The squash when fully cooked will come out easily in spaghetti-like noodles. Top with sauce and add meatballs. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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Looking for more spaghetti squash recipes?

“Spaghetti” & Spicy Meat Sauce

Spaghetti Squash Boats

Skinnified “Fettucine”  Alfredo

Noodleless Chicken “Pad” Thai

Buckeye Brownies

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My favorite (and best) cooking inspiration has always been making things for the people I love. Especially birthdays. Birthdays are my favorite thing in the world, and nothing brings me more happiness than making the perfect treat to show my love.

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In fact, to date my favorite recipe I’ve ever made was for Steve’s birthday last year. I have to tell you, though–these give them a run for their money!

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When I saw this post on Brown Eyed Baker a couple of months ago, I immediately sent it to Nicole–the idea is genius, the photos are absolutely gorgeous, and I wanted to jump through my screen and lick every crumb.

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So when I was deciding what to make Nicole for her birthday this year, I knew exactly where I wanted to start. Of course, I changed a few things to make these a little less indulgent, but they still tasted rich and decadent. The brownie layer is the fudgiest brownie I have ever tasted, and the peanut butter tastes like the inside of a Reese’s cup, and then that perfectly glossy glaze? I diiiieeee.

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The good thing about cooking for your BBF (best blog friend–I know, we’re totally, like tweens) is they don’t mind that you cut into their birthday dessert to photograph it, and maybe sneak a tiny bite so that you can make sure it’s perfect before you give it to them. ;) Thanks for taking one for the team blog, Nicole!

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Buckeye Brownies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 32

Serving Size: 1 brownie

Buckeye Brownies

Rich and fudgy brownies topped with creamy sweetened peanut butter, followed by a chocolate peanut butter glaze--these brownies are to-die-for!

Ingredients

    For the brownies:
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • dash
  • salt
  • For the peanut butter layer:
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2-3 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • For the chocolate peanut butter glaze:
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Instructions

  1. To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, espresso powder and water. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla and sugar. Stir in flour and salt until combined. Do not overmix.
  3. Transfer batter to prepared baking dish. Bake set and until a toothpick inserted a couple of inches from the edge comes out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.
  4. To make the peanut butter layer, beat together peanut butter, coconut oil and powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk 1 tbsp at a time until you reach a smooth, spreadable texture. Spread evenly onto cooled brownies.
  5. To make the glaze, place chocolate and peanut butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 20 second increments, stirring between each, until melted. Spread glaze evenly over peanut butter layer. Cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then serve. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baked

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10 Minute Taco Salad

10 Minute Taco Salad via arismenu.comYou know that go-to outfit that you can always count on when you don’t know what to wear? The one that always looks cute, is super comfortable, and always makes you feel like a million bucks? This salad is like that. Except, I wouldn’t wear it. That would be such a waste of so much deliciousness.

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It doesn’t require much explanation. What I can tell you is I have made this more often than any other meal. Ever. I never thought to photograph and post it because it seems so simple and straight forward, but it’s easy to forget that it is those easy and straight forward recipes that I didn’t have back in the day, and those exact recipes that helped me finally be able to lose weight and kick my Taco Bell habit for good.

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You can add/subtract whatever you want really. You can use a store bought taco seasoning or make your own, and you can include whichever fresh veggies make your heart happy. I always use romain hearts as the base for crunch, and add cucumber and tomatoes. A lot of times I add chopped carrots, and tons of extra cilantro. Some avocado pieces never hurt, either. Really, there’s no wrong way to make this salad.

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Okay, there is ONE wrong way–inside a greasy, deep-fried taco shell. I mean, what is even the point of that thing??? Oh, and also, don’t omit the cinnamon. I know it sounds crazy, but it will take the flavor of your taco salad to the next level. It will become your taco salad secret weapon. Like a ninja. Okay, I’m done.

10 Minute Taco Salad

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

10 Minute Taco Salad

Ridiculously easy, healthy and delicious taco salad. My go-to meal that I continue to make over and over again.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 20 oz ground turkey breast (or 93% lean ground turkey, or 96% lean ground beef)
  • 3 tbsp taco seasoning (preferably homemade, or at least reduced sodium variety)
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 16 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 romain hearts, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large or 2 persian cucumbers, sliced
  • Optional Toppings:
  • Reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sliced avocado
  • Salsa

Instructions

  1. Heat onion, garlic and bell pepper in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add ground turkey and cook until turkey is fully browned. Add taco seasoning and cinnamon. Slowly add water until the meat has reached your desired level of liquid (some will cook out, so add a little more than you'd think). Increase heat to bring liquid to a light boil, then reduce to simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, heat beans in a small sauce pan over medium heat until fully warmed.
  3. Place chopped romain in large serving bowls. Layer with cooked meat, beans and fresh veggies. Add any desired toppings.
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Drink & Dish: Chicken Enchilada Dip {with video!}

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I think the happiest day of my life was the day Chipotle started serving brown rice. Maybe you think that makes me a total freak? But if that’s true, you clearly don’t understand my love for Mexican food. I mean, I live in Phoenix. Mexican food is more common than hamburgers.

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I’ve always been all about the cheese enchiladas. And quesedillas. Pretty much anything with cheese is sure to be a winner in my book. Did I ever tell you about how when I was younger I would “snack” on blocks of cheddar cheese? In fact, just this morning, I told Steve that cheese was my favorite food group.

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I’m pretty sure the abundance of cheese is what fuels my love for Mexican food, which is why it’s often difficult for me to find healthy options. No matter what I say, I cannot convince myself that 11 servings of cheese is “healthy”. It’s really sad. If you can help convince me, I would greatly appreciate it. ;)

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Luckily, this dip has the perfect amount of cheesy goodness, but with a lighter touch. Most of the creaminess comes from nonfat plain Greek yogurt and the avocado–the avocado is like my secret weapon. I put it in on a whim, and it ended up totally making the dish! It’s like if you took an enchilada and stuffed it with guacamole–I mean, HOW COULD THAT BE BAD???

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This dip is super simple with only a handful of ingredients, and it comes together in minutes. It’s perfect for any party or get together, and the bold flavors and creamy texture are sure to be a hit with whoever you’re serving!

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Do you guys do anything to celebrate Cinco De Mayo? My plan usually includes eating Mexican food, drinking margaritas, and apparently, wearing a mustache. You’ll have to check out the video to understand that one. Nicole and I were in a rare form of ridiculousness this episode.

Make sure to check out Nicole’s perfect margarita recipe too!

Chicken Enchilada Dip

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Chicken Enchilada Dip

Green chile enchilada dip with creamy avocado, goat cheese and Greek yogurt. Perfectly creamy and cheesy, with a lighter twist.

Ingredients

  • 10-12 oz cooked chicken, shredded (I used the meat from 1 rotisserie chicken)
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 pint enchilada sauce
  • 1 avocado, pitted and skin removed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese for topping*
  • Black olives and green onion for garnish, optional
  • Baked corn chips for serving

Instructions

  1. Combine chicken, goat cheese, yogurt, enchilada sauce and avocado in a medium pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until all ingredients are melted and combined.
  2. Transfer to your serving dish (make sure it's oven safe) and top with cheddar cheese (I used about 1/3 cup). Broil until cheese is browned and bubbly.
  3. Top with olives and onion if desired. Serve with chips or veggies.

Notes

*I usually use a reduced fat cheddar cheese, but it doesn't melt quite the same. For photos, I used full fat. If you're concerned about appearance, I would encourage a full fat cheese, but if you're purely concerned with taste, reduced fat will still taste great!

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Curried Chicken Salad {without mayo}

Today I am going to tell you something so embarrassing. Like, I can’t even believe I’m going to tell you, but it’s just so embarrassingly funny that it would be wrong to not give you the opportunity to laugh at me.

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Okay, first let me tell you that on Sunday morning I woke up and stretched in bed. All of the sudden my neck snapped, and the pain was immediate. I have barely been able to move my head since. I even called in sick to one of my jobs on Monday and I never call in sick. Anyway, I’ve been glued to the couch after making my way through every episode of How I Met Your Mother that Netflix has to offer, I found myself needing something to watch to ease the pain.

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This is where things get ugly. You see, when I’m sick, I love mindless TV. I love that it keeps going and going. I love that I only have to tune in every now and then to understand what’s going on. And I love that I don’t have to use my brain. So this morning when I was deciding what was next while I waited for my stupid neck to heal (I’ve been blogging from the couch laying on my back with my laptop on me knees when I don’t absolutely have to be at work), I may have chosen the most embarrassing TV show ever.

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Like, ever. So when Steve came home this afternoon from Landis (he just hangs out at the bike shop for no reason….), I quickly tried to turn off the TV so he wouldn’t see just how low I’d stooped. Then I tried to distract him by pretending to be interested in his trip to the bike shop, but it was no use.

Steve: Are you watching Dawson’s Creek???

Me: I don’t wanna talk about it….

Steve: Babe, I know you’ve been having a hard time (as he struggles to speek through his eruptive laughter)…. Well It would be worse if you were watching it on Hulu or something.

Me: I DON’T WANNA TALK ABOUT IT!!!

Steve: Really?? REALLY?????

(He then gets out his laptop and attempts to post on facebook about me. I plead with him not to embarrass me on the internet–clearly, I’m fully capable of doing that myself…)

Me: (finally) I thought I should start at the beginning.

And that my friends is how ridiculously embarrassing I am. That pretty much sums up my life.

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But you know what? Even when I can’t move, I can still make this ridiculously easy chicken salad. It was the first thing I made in days, and I was so thrilled to actually do something productive. I MADE FOOD!! For, like, the entire week! I don’t suck at life!!

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One of my best healthy habits (when I actually do it) is making a bulk healthy meal on Sundays that I use for lunch for the entire week. The thing is–you actually have to make it, and you have to REALLY like it if you’re going to eat it all week long (I usually take myself out to Chipotle one of the days, because, I mean, COME ON!). This is what we call lazy woman’s “food prep”.

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This chicken salad is so simple with only a handful of ingredients, and it comes together in minutes giving you an entire week’s worth of lunch in less time than it takes me to make breakfast in the morning. And, umm, I would TOTALLY eat this every day for the next 10 weeks. It is bold and flavorful with the curry seasoning, and has a spicy kick with sweet grapes and crunchy almonds and celery–it is perfection. You can eat it on lettuce, with a fork, on rice cakes, in a sandwich, in a Dr. Seuss book… It doesn’t matter how you eat it because, trust me, you will love it!

Curried Chicken Salad {without mayo}

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Curried Chicken Salad {without mayo}

Healthy, bold, flavorful and protein-packed curried chicken salad in minutes with no mayo.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry seasoning
  • pinch garlic salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 10-12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded (I use the meat from a whole rotisserie)
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Instructions

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together Greek yogurt, mustard and seasonings in a large bowl.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and toss until combined. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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