Category Archives: Gluten-Free

Review: Ronzoni Gluten-Free Pasta (Recipe for Southwestern Penne Pasta Salad)

pasta salad

This post is sponsored by Ronzoni and written by me. All opinions are 100% mine.

How often do you purchase gluten-free pasta? I buy it every once in a while, but when Ronzoni contacted me about their gluten-free pasta, I’ll be honest: I was unaware that they offered it. However, I was keenly interested in learning more. After all, there are quite a few gluten-free pastas on the market that are incredibly finicky and often turn to mush at a moment’s notice. I’m always a fan of discovering a pasta that can cook up nicely, retain a good bite, and not turn to mush if I blink and leave it in the water for 10 seconds too long.

If you’re familiar with Ronzoni, you’ll know they also make regular “gluten-full” pasta. I asked them about cross-contamination, and here’s what they had to say:

“Ronzoni Gluten Free™ Pasta is also produced in a dedicated gluten free facility. When the ingredients arrive at the facility, they are verified to be gluten free and then each step in the manufacturing process is strongly controlled in order to protect the product from gluten contamination.”

Good to hear, Ronzoni!

So once the pasta arrived, I got to work preparing this lovely pasta salad recipe they shared with me. Cooking the pasta was a breeze – I just followed the instructions and it was the perfect texture. And while I’m not generally a pasta salad fan, I have to say, this pasta made a really nice salad. It was delicious at room temperature and served chilled. I brought it to my co-workers the following day and got several compliments on it! (The only person that knew it was gluten-free pasta was someone who has celiac disease.) It obviously passed the taste test of gluten-eaters, which is a good sign.

I’m definitely a fan of Ronzoni. I’ll be checking for it the next time I’m at the store looking for pasta (this weekend, in fact!).

Print Recipe

Southwestern Penne Pasta Salad, recipe courtesy of Ronzoni (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 pkg Ronzoni Gluten Free Penne

1 can (14 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup thawed frozen corn

1 each large red and orange pepper, diced

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

1/3 cup canola oil (I used olive)

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tbsp honey

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp each finely grated lime zest, ground cumin, and chili powder

1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

1 avocado, diced (optional)

Directions:

1. Cook Ronzoni Gluten Free Penne according to package directions. Rinse under cold running water until cool; drain.

2. Toss penne with black beans, corn, red and orange pepper, green onions and coriander.

3. Whisk canola oil with lime juice, honey, garlic, lime zest, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper until combined. Toss with the penne mixture. Stir in the avocado (if using) just before serving.

4. May be served warm or chilled. To serve chilled: refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Want more information about Ronzoni’s gluten-free pastas and recipes? Visit http://www.ronzoniglutenfree.com/ for additional product information and recipes!

 

Dairy-Free Basics: How to Make Almond Milk

almond milk

When I was struggling with poor digestion, I had trouble not only with gluten and dairy, but often, I struggled with digesting carrageenan and gums, such as guar and xanthan gum. In order to avoid these ingredients, I rarely ate gluten-free baked goods that contained gums, which sometimes was difficult. But even more difficult was finding a non-dairy milk that I could use that was gum and carrageenan-free.

So I decided to make it myself.

If you’re new to dairy-free, struggle with digesting gums, or are just looking for a simple way to enjoy a non-dairy beverage without resorting to store-bought “milks”, making almond milk is an easy alternative, and only takes a few minutes of active time. In my opinion, the flavor is also superior to the store-bought milks, and you can customize the milk to be as thick or thin as you desire.

With just raw almonds, fresh water, a pinch of salt, and an optional sweetener, you can make this at home! Here’s how:

Print Recipe

Almond Milk Recipe (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free)

1 c raw almonds

3 c filtered water

pinch salt

optional: 1/2 t maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey

Add the almonds to a medium bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak for at least 4 hours and up to 8. Drain.

Place soaked almonds, 3 cups fresh water, salt and optional sweetener into a blender. Blend on medium speed until smooth and frothy (with a high-powered blender, this won’t take but a minute; with a regular blender, you may need to blend for several minutes).

Using a nut milk bag, a clean flour sack towel, or several layers of fine cheesecloth, strain the milk into a bowl or large container. Be sure to squeeze the bag or towel to get all of the milk out, leaving only the pulp behind. Discard the pulp (I find it works well in my compost pile) and refrigerate the milk. Use within 4-5 days, and be sure to shake before use.

Makes about 3 cups milk.

50 Gluten-Free New Year’s Eve Recipes

NYE collage

clockwise from top left: Swedish Meatballs, Chocolate Dipped Stuffed Dates with Spiced Nuts, Roasted Beet “Hummus”, and Chipotle Butternut Dip

Whether you’re hosting a big New Year’s Eve party or just banging a few pots and pans at midnight with your family and a few close friends, you’re going to need some grub. And New Year’s Eve grub has to be special – something a bit more than just ordering a pizza and calling it good.

Am I right?

And if you are a gluten-free household or have some gluten-free guests, you’ll want to be sure the munchies are something that’s friendly for everyone to eat. Hopefully, after browsing through this collection, you will have found just the perfect thing!

Beverages

Cranberry Glogg (grain-free, dairy-free)

Pomegranate Prosecco Spritzer (grain-free, dairy-free)

Reindeer Antlers (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Amazingly Good Eggnog (gluten-free, soy-free)

Chocolate Donut Hot Chocolate (grain-free, vegan)

Hot Cider Rum Punch (gluten-free, vegan)

Appetizers/Snacks

Green Pea “Hummus” (grain-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free)

Sweet and Spicy Pecans (grain-free, soy-free)

Sweet Ginger Sriracha Roasted Cashews (grain-free, dairy-free)

Hot Artichoke Dip (gluten-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free)

Creamy Chipotle Butternut Dip (grain-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free)

Spicy Chocolate Popcorn with Quinoa Clusters (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)

Naturally Gluten-Free Pizza Dip (gluten-free, dairy-free option, nut-free)

Perfect Guacamole (grain-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free)

Roasted Beet “Hummus” (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free)

Fire-Roasted Tomato Almond Dip (grain-free, vegan, sugar-free, soy-free)

Rosemary Caramel Almond Popcorn (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)

Spinach Balls (gluten-free, nut-free)

Stuffed Mushrooms Two Ways (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, nut-free)

Guacamole Bacon Bites (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free)

“Cheddar” Salsa Stuffed Cocktail Tomatoes (grain-free, vegan, sugar-free, soy-free)

Hold the Cheese! Jalapeno Poppers (grain-free, easily vegan, sugar-free, soy-free)

More Substantial Fare

Mushroom Pesto Pinwheels (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free)

Almond Flour Pizza Crust (grain-free, dairy-free)

Lamb Liver and Wild Game Terrine with Pistachios and Cranberries (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free)

“Texas Red” Beef Chili (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free)

Swedish Meatballs (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free)

Simple Quinoa Pizza Crust (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free)

Wings with Mole Sauce (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free)

Thai Chicken Wings (grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free)

Gluten-Free Mezze, including Baba Ganoush, Hummus, Falafel, and Lamb Kofte (gluten-free)

Pork Satay (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Pierogi (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free)

Bison Sliders with Honey Caramelized Onions (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Sweet Treats

Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies (grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free)

Maple Syrup Sweetened Marshmallows (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free)

Italian Cream Cupcakes (gluten-free, soy-free)

Coffee Sugar Pie (gluten-free)

Cream Puffs with a Pomegranate Cheesecake Filling (gluten-free)

Candied Orange Peel (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Drunk Blondies (gluten-free, nut-free)

Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting (grain-free, dairy-free)

Oreo Cookies (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, soy-free, nut-free)

Coconut Oil Kettle Corn (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, nut-free)

Cheesecake Pops (gluten-free)

Coffee Toffee (gluten-free)

Dairy-Free Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Pistachio Cupcakes in a Jar (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Chocolate Fudge Pecan Tart (gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free)

Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Dates with Spiced Nuts (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free)

 

Happy New Year to you and your family!

Gluten-Free Desserts of Christmas Past

chocolate-dates1

Chocolate Dipped Dates with Spiced Nuts

Typically each year I have more than one holiday recipe shared with you. This year, not so much. I feel terrifically behind this year, and haven’t even planned out my menu. All my presents haven’t even arrived yet (I ordered a lot online), and nothing is wrapped. I’ve purchased nothing for Christmas dinner. I suppose I should get on it before this weekend, when I’ll need to do my shopping along with the masses.

But if you’re ahead of me, as I’m sure many of you are, you’re finalizing your menu. Maybe you’re making Christmas cookies and treats with family this weekend. If so, here is a little round-up of past holiday favorites for your baking pleasure. As for me, I need to get back to my planning!

Spicy Gingerbread Cake

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake Balls

Chocolate Almond Fig Biscotti

Chewy Apple Cider Blondies

Candy Cane Marshmallows

Cranberry Multi-Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Candies and Peanut Butter Fudge

Nanaimo Bars

Chocolate-Dipped Dates with Spiced Nuts

Dairy-Free Fudge

Maple Pecan Freezer Fudge

Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pralines

Old-Fashioned Peanut Brittle

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Turkey (or Chicken) and Gluten-Free Parsley Dumplings

It’s been years since I’ve made chicken and dumplings. Early on in our relationship, my husband did more gourmet cooking than I did. Somewhere along the way, the tables turned, but he has always made his famous Turkey Gumbo. Usually, I’d save the excess broth, full of cayenne and turkey goodness, and use it to make spicy chicken and dumplings. Of course, at the time, my dumplings were biscuits from a can. But still, the dish was a once-a-year specialty, and we adored it.

This time around, I opted to make turkey and dumplings. There was no gumbo (that might happen before the year is out if I ask nicely, though), but I had leftover turkey thighs and wings in the freezer that I didn’t use for gravy at Thanksgiving. I opted instead to use them for the meat for this dish, and some chicken broth I’d made a while back. So instead of turkey broth and chicken, this is chicken broth and turkey. You with me?

Honestly, you could just as easily use a while chicken, cut up, in place of the turkey I used. It would be just as delicious, and I’m imagining it’s easier to locate a chicken than turkey thighs and wings. But whatever you use, be sure and make dumplings. Because in my opinion, it’s all about the dumplings.

Good dumplings are fluffy, pillow-y clouds of deliciousness that sop up the broth from the soup. Bad dumplings, on the other hand, are none of these things. I’ve had bad dumplings. Not the canned biscuit ones – to be perfectly honest, those were not half-bad. I’ve had bad ones at restaurants. I’ve had failures in my own kitchen when attempting to make them from scratch as well. Thankfully, these are definitely not of the “bad” variety.

These dumplings are pillow-y. Full of flavor. The parsley mixed into the dough really makes them special. While the turkey (or chicken) soup is delicious on its own, these dumplings take it to the next level. And when it’s cold and icy (like it was this past weekend here in North Texas), they warm your belly like nothing else can. They’re perfect for a day when you and the family have been outside in the cold, or just need a bit of comfort. It’s a bowl full of happy.

Turkey (or Chicken) and Parsley Dumplings (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 large turkey thigh and 2 turkey wings (or 1 3-lb chicken, cut up)

Salt and pepper

3 T olive oil

1/2 c diced onion

1/2 c diced celery

1/2 c diced carrot

1 garlic clove, minced

1 t minced fresh sage leaves

1 t minced fresh thyme leaves

4 c chicken broth

1/2 c coconut milk

Dumplings:

1/2 c superfine brown rice flour

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c tapioca starch

1/2 c cornmeal

1 T unflavored gelatin

1 heaping tablespoon baking powder

1 t kosher salt

1 c coconut milk

1/2 c water

2 T minced fresh parsley

Salt and pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season turkey or chicken with salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet for 30-45 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and allow to cool to touch.

While the poultry is cooking, in a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrot and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, sage and thyme and sauté for another minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and allow to simmer.

Next, make the dough for the dumplings. Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, gelatin, baking powder, and salt. Pour in the coconut milk and water and mix in. Add the parsley and stir in as well. Set aside.

Once the poultry has cooled, remove the skin and the meat from bones, and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and place into the simmering broth. Add the coconut milk. Stir in and taste to adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Drop rounded tablespoons of the dumpling dough into the simmering soup. Cover pot, leaving lid propped a bit open, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid; allow to simmer for 10 minutes more.

Serves 4.

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi’s Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.

Candy Cane Marshmallows

candy cane marshmallows

I was enjoying a hot chocolate the other night, and felt it was missing something. Sure, it was delicious and rich, but still, it needed a little more. Seeing as how it’s December and time for all things candy cane, I decided I would whip up some marshmallows. Candy cane marshmallows, that is.

These are easy to make. If you’ve never made or eaten homemade marshmallows, you’re in for a real treat. They’re naturally gluten and dairy-free. But unlike the bags of uniformly cylindrical Stay-Puf variety at the store, these aren’t stale and lacking in flavor. Homemade marshmallows are a real treat. A candy you would genuinely eat by itself without a second thought.

Of course, I enjoy them best on top of cocoa, coffee, or dipped in chocolate fondue (something we often do for New Year’s Eve). Typically I just make vanilla marshmallows, or if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll throw a tiny bit of almond extract in them as well. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

But crushed candy canes take them to a whole extra level of holiday cheer. They’re light, fluffy, and have a delightful peppermint essence that welcomes winter with a smile.

Toss a few in your hot chocolate, or simply munch away. I won’t tell if you just sneak a few. It’s the holidays, after all.

Print Recipe

Candy Cane Marshmallows (gluten-free, dairy-free)

About 1/2 c powdered sugar

2 T unflavored gelatin (I like Great Lakes)

1/2 c cold water, divided

1 c granulated sugar

1/4 c maple syrup

1/8 t kosher salt

1 large egg white

2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t peppermint extract

3 candy canes, crushed (I like Surf Sweets)

Oil the sides and bottom of an 8X8 inch metal baking pan and dust with powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer pour 1/4 cup of the water and sprinkle the gelatin over.

In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, maple syrup, remaining water, and salt over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Heat over medium-high heat, boiling (don’t stir) until temperature of sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees F. Remove pan from heat and carefully pour hot sugar mixture into the bowl of the standing mixer. Stir until gelatin is dissolved.

Beat mixture on high speed until white and thick and until it’s nearly triple in size, about 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a hand mixer, beat the egg white in a medium bowl until just stiff. Pour the egg white and extracts into the sugar mixture and beat until combined. Add a third of the crushed candy canes into the mix and stir to combine.

Scrape the mixture out into the prepared baking pan, trying to spread out as evenly as possible. (Don’t worry if you can’t scrape all of it out – marshmallow gets quite sticky!) Sprinkle with remaining crushed candy cane and powdered sugar.

Store in refrigerator for at least 3 hours to set.

Remove and using a thin knife, go around the edges of the pan to release the marshmallows. Invert the pan over a cutting board. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar as needed, and using a pizza cutter, cut into squares.

Store in refrigerator until ready to be served. Keeps for about a week, although I doubt they will last that long.

Habanero Hot Sauce

habanero hot sauce

Early in the spring, I planted several pepper plants – one bell pepper, one jalapeno, and one habanero. Unfortunately, cucumber-pocalypse happened, and the cucumbers dwarfed these plants. You couldn’t even see them. I thought my pepper season was a flop. But when the cucumbers gave up the ghost, and I pulled up the vines, the plants were still there. So I opted to nurture them a bit and try for a fall season full of peppers.

It wasn’t a bad season, in spite of everything. I had a good handful of bell peppers, a couple dozen jalapenos, and a couple dozen habaneros.

peppers and eggplant

Well, only a few ripe habaneros, truthfully. We had a cold snap a few weeks ago, and even though I covered my plants, the pepper plant didn’t survive, so I pulled a bunch of green habaneros. They actually ripened on the counter, much to my happiness.

Except then, I had to come up with something to do with over 2 dozen habanero peppers.

Hot sauce was the answer!

I love a good hot sauce. I’m a big believer in Sriracha and Slap Ya Mama, but would never hesitate to try a new sauce. A few drops of a good sauce can make tamales sing, turn my boring breakfast of hard-boiled eggs into a delight, and can turn a bowl of chili into my favorite meal ever. This sauce can do all of these things.

Caution: it’s not for the timid. Habaneros definitely pack a punch. Just a few drops will do. But it’s more than just searing heat…there’s a subtly sweet background, thanks to some carrot and a touch of brown rice syrup. The sweetness compliments the peppery heat of the habanero perfectly. I can’t wait to use it on everything imaginable. I may or may not be planning my meals for next week around the ability to apply this stuff.

Of course, it’s great as a homemade, edible gift as well. The holidays are coming up, and sometimes a small, homemade gift can mean a lot. I am a fan of making edible gifts, and this is definitely something you could make ahead of time, pour into a cute bottle, and give to your favorite chili-head. I happen to have one of those in my family. If I don’t eat it all myself, there might just be a bottle in this person’s future. Or maybe I just need more habaneros. We shall see.

Print Recipe

Habanero Hot Sauce (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)

About 20 habanero peppers

4 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 c distilled white vinegar

1/2 c water

1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1/4 c lemon juice

1 t kosher salt

1 t smoked paprika

2 t brown rice syrup

Before you start to handle the habaneros, please be cautious. These are pretty hot. Wear gloves when touching the peppers, or you will regret it, as the hot oils will seep into your hands. If they don’t burn your hands, then when you touch more sensitive areas (your lips, tongue, eyes, etc.) it will burn, and that’s no joke.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by cutting each pepper in half, removing the stem, and scraping out the inside and the seeds. Cut each garlic clove into 3-4 pieces. Place in a single layer on a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper and roast for about 20 minutes or until brown on top. Keep an eye on them, as you don’t want them to burn. (Another note: you may want to open up a window, as this process can get pretty fragrant. I was sneezing just a bit.)

While the peppers and garlic are roasting, place the water, vinegar and carrot in a small saucepan and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the carrot is soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Place the peppers, garlic, carrots and vinegar in a blender, along with lemon juice, salt, smoked paprika, and the brown rice syrup. Blend, scraping down the sides as needed, until completely smooth. If it’s too thick, then water and vinegar, alternating a few tablespoons at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

Taste the sauce (be careful, just a few drops would be enough!) and adjust your seasonings as needed.

Store sauce in a glass jar or bottle, refrigerated, for several weeks.

Apple Pie Spice “Un-Popcorn”

thanksgiving popcornI can’t believe I’ve never managed to share this little gem of a holiday recipe with you. I will admit, I’ve made it several times already. You’ll have to forgive me for not doing so sooner.

You see, typically the Thanksgiving holiday is a whirlwind for me. I’m often working at the ol’ day job up until the Wednesday before, and we usually have around 20+ people to feed. I try to do as much advance preparation as possible, but it’s still a busy, busy holiday.

Let me tell you, when I finally sit down after dinner, the glass of wine I decide to enjoy is often the best glass of wine ever.

Somehow, in that whirlwind, I’ve never made this pre-dinner Thanksgiving snack far enough in advance to share. Well, friends, this year is your lucky year. I’ve made it already, and so I can share it with you.

But why “un-popcorn”?

Truthfully, I love popcorn. I don’t eat it often, but when I do, I thoroughly enjoy it. You can certainly make this with popcorn. But I have some family members that cannot tolerate corn products. For those family members, I have opted to make a popcorn alternative. I promise you, it’s just as satisfying as the real deal. What do I use?

Why, rice cakes, of course!

I’ve done it before, in this “granola“. Crumbled rice cakes make an excellent stand-in for popcorn. They’re light and airy, and hold up perfectly to the caramel-y topping. I’m a big fan of Lundberg’s rice cakes – they’re gluten-free and they have versions that are lightly salted, which are my preference for a recipe such as this. And no, I’m not paid to tell you that – I just like their products.

This “un-popcorn” is easy to make – just crumble rice cakes, and then simmer maple syrup and spices, pour, toss, and bake. The result is a sweet and salty, crunchy mixture that just feels like Thanksgiving, thanks to the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. The dried cranberries and walnuts definitely help out that Thanksgiving feel as well. My personal favorite, however, is the black pepper. It’s a perfect foil to the sweeter spices, and keeps it in that “appetizer” category and away from feeling too much like a dessert.

Whether you make this with real popcorn or faux, I encourage you to add this to your Thanksgiving menu. It’ll keep the hungry masses at bay while you make the finishing touches to the big meal, and it’s very more-ish. I’m certain it’ll be a hit that will keep you coming back to it, year after year.

Print Recipe

Apple Pie Spice ”Un-Popcorn” (gluten-free, vegan)

1 package Lundberg lightly salted rice cakes, crumbled

3/4 c chopped walnuts

1/2 c dried cranberries

2 T coconut oil

3/4 c maple syrup

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground cardamom

1/4 t ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the oven racks on the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the crumbled rice cakes, walnuts, and dried cranberries and toss.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt to a boil. Add the black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg and whisk in. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 4-5 minutes. Pour over rice cake mixture and stir well, making sure everything is evenly coated.

Divide mixture between the two prepared baking sheets and spread out into an even layer. Bake on the lower and upper racks for 5 minutes, and then swap the baking sheets and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Break into smaller chunks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

Autumn Kale Salad with Apples and Candied Pecans

kale salad thanksgiving

If your Thanksgiving menu is anything like mine, it’s filled with the traditional fare: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls, casseroles, pies, and more. All of these dishes are iconic, and I wouldn’t leave any of them out for anything. But honestly, it’s all so heavy. So when I’m brainstorming for vegetable or additional side dish ideas, I want something a little lighter to balance it all out. Something fresh. Something green.

Now I know kale has been the latest darling in the “healthy eating” industry. I’ve posted recipes with kale before. I love it, personally, and eat it because it tastes good to me. But lately kale is everyone’s favorite “detox” vegetable. I’m not a believer in detoxing – I have juiced and such in the past, and I enjoy the flavor. I sometimes even feel the green juices give me a boost of energy. I will admit, in the past I did have a touch of obsession with ensuring I got what was in reality a crazy amount of greens into my body on a daily basis, thinking I was healthier for doing so. (I wasn’t healthier…) I’ve since backed off and have listened to my body and just focus on whatever vegetables are fresh and sound good to me at the time. (And sometimes, that’s kale!) But I’ve never believed that squeezing juice out of fruits or vegetables somehow “detox” your body – that’s what your liver does, all on its own. It doesn’t mean that the vegetables, including kale, don’t have great vitamins and such – they do. They’re just not magical.

Anyway. I digress.

Thanksgiving. And this salad. It’s fresh. It’s easy. It can be made in advance. unlike lettuce-based salads, and can still hold its crunch. In fact, I find it’s tastier made a bit in advance of eating. It allows the lemon juice to really meld and mingle. With the sweetness of the apples and cranberries, and the candied pecans, it’s a lovely autumn salad. Most of all, it’s a great, refreshing addition to your Thanksgiving menu.

Print Recipe

Autumn Kale Salad with Apples and Candied Pecans (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free)

1 bunch kale, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

1 T olive oil

A couple pinches of kosher salt

1 carrot, julienned

2 stalks celery, sliced

1/4 c dried cranberries

1 crisp apple (such as Honeycrisp), cut into 1/2 inch dice

1/4 c flat-leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped

1-2 T lemon juice

Candied Pecans (recipe follows)

Drizzle the olive oil over the kale, and sprinkle with salt. Massage the oil evenly over all of the kale leaves. Add the carrot, celery, cranberries, apple, and parsley, and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice. Toss well and taste. Adjust salt and lemon juice as desired. Top with candied pecans and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Candied Pecans (gluten-free, vegan)

1 t coconut oil

1/2 c raw, shelled pecans

3 T brown rice syrup

A couple pinches of kosher salt

Dash of cinnamon

In a small skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the pecans, brown rice syrup, salt and cinnamon. Stir to coat completely. Keep stirring over heat until sugar bubbles and clings to pecans, pulling away from the pan and becoming “drier”. Once everything really seems to stick together in a “glob”, remove from heat and turn out to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spreading out the pecans as much as you can with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool completely and break into small pieces.

Creamy Eggplant-Tahini Pasta Sauce

eggplant pasta

Until this past week, when we had below-freezing temperatures, my eggplant was still producing. It was a late-bloomer, as I didn’t even get my first eggplant until September. But each one I grew was gorgeous. I know I’m tooting my own horn, but seriously, take a look:

eggplant

I’m pretty proud of that. Apparently, half-ignoring your garden makes purple globes of deliciousness.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what to do with all of these eggplants. I made a Cheater’s Ratatouille a while back that was pretty delicious, but I’m the only one in the house that will eat a dish like that, and it was getting old. I wanted a way to enjoy the creamy texture of roasted eggplant, but also wanted to make it palatable to the eggplant-phobic members of the household.

I started to contemplate the wonders of baba ganoush. It’s creamy, garlicky, and luscious. I could eat a whole bowl of the stuff. Then I wondered – how would that luscious texture translate to a pasta sauce?

With a bit of coconut milk to thin, and a good, thorough blending to ensure a silky texture, this sauce was born. It’s creamy. It’s garlicky. It’s as satisfying as an alfredo sauce, only slightly more complex.

The sauce by itself is gluten-free and vegan, so if you’re not an eater of meat, then you could certainly serve it on gluten-free pasta and have a satisfying meal. I had some turkey thighs in the freezer, so I opted to cube the meat, brown it, and toss in with the sauce and pasta. You could also substitute chicken breasts or thighs with equally delicious results.

Part of me is sad to know this is the last eggplant of the season, but I was glad to enjoy it in a delicious, simple manner. An added bonus? The eggplant-phobe ate it. That’s a definite win.

Print Recipe

Creamy Eggplant-Tahini Pasta Sauce (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free)

1 large eggplant

1/3 c tahini (sesame seed paste)

scant 1 t kosher salt

2 T lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, mashed

1/8 t chile powder

1/8 t cumin powder

1/4 t smoked paprika

a half-bunch of flat-leaf parsley, plus a few tablespoons more, roughly chopped for garnish

About 1/4 c canned full-fat coconut milk

Preheat broiler of oven (or grill). Prick each eggplant with a fork several times. Char the outside of the eggplants all over under the broiler or on the grill until they look wilted, turning every few minutes.

Turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. The eggplants should be completely soft.

Remove from oven and let cool. Split the eggplant and with a spoon, scrape out the pulp. Puree in a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, until smooth. Scrape sauce into a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking often, until warmed through. Adjust seasonings as necessary. If desired, stir in cooked turkey or chicken. Toss with pasta and serve.

Serves 4.