You Can Have Your Lasagna And Eat It Too…Spaghetti Squash Basil Pesto Lasagna!

Like most people, I love carbohydrates. I don’t necessarily crave eating sliced bread, but items like pita and hummus are high on my list. I am a huge lover of cakes and cookies and try not to eat too many of them or make my own (which I still end up eating a lot of, darn it!) and every once in awhile, although I often forget about it because I don’t keep a bunch of pasta in my home, I love a good pasta dish.

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But these days, people are trying so hard to stay away from gluten and starch based carbs, I find myself perusing the internet for recipes I can find that are “like pasta” or “like bread” without the gluten. I am surprised by how creative people have become. I see pastas made from quinoa, carrots and zucchini. I also see many “like pasta” recipes that use spaghetti squash. I have used spaghetti squash a zillion times as a pasta substitute, but when I saw a few recipes using spaghetti squash as lasagna, I decided to try to concoct my own.

I can recall my mom making lasagna when I was a child and I always thought it was delicious, but nowadays, that dish would be a little too heavy in my book. All that pasta! All that cheese! It could still be made, but perhaps eliminating one of the two? Well, I highly doubt anyone wants to eat a lasagna without the cheese (let me know if you do and that will be my next project), so I figured finding a substitute for the noodles would be a better option. Spaghetti squash was a great substitution, and at 40 calories a cup, plus added fiber, vitamins and minerals, I figured it would work out well. Just be sure to strain your cooked squash noodles as best as you can, otherwise the dish will come out a little watery.IMG_4511

I also used jarred tomato sauce for this recipe, but feel free to make your own, specifically the one I have posted on this website. You can also use jarred pesto if you are pressed for time, but this homemade recipe I used below is amazing and gives the lasagna that extra zing, if you know what I mean. I also added ground turkey meat to my tomato sauce because I like the extra lean protein, but if you are a vegetarian, you can leave that out and the dish will still taste amazing.

Spaghetti Squash Basil Pesto Lasagna

1 spaghetti squash, halved and cooked

1 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup walnut basil pesto (recipe also below)

1 1lb. whole milk sliced mozzarella, sliced into 1/4″ rounds

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and pepper to taste

Basil Walnut Pesto (optional)

2 cups of fresh organic basil

1/4 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 tsp of sea salt

Blend all these ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender and set off to the side. This pesto can be used for many things, but I HIGHLY recommend using it for this dish.

Directions for making this lasagna

Cut uncooked spaghetti squash in half, place halves face down in a baking pan filled with 1/2 inch of water, cook on 400F for 45 minutes

While the squash is cooking, if you want to make your own tomato sauce, use my Homemade Tomato Sauce recipe or use marinara sauce in a jar

I also sautéed ground turkey in to my tomato sauce, so that is an option if you want to add more protein to your meal

Prepare your batch of basil walnut pesto

Slice your mozzarella into 1/4″ pieces

When the squash is done, take it out of the oven and leave the oven at 400 F.

Let the squash cool for 5 minutes.

Scrape out all the squash and place it in a strainer, gently pressing it to release some of the liquid.

In a casserole dish, lay the squash at the bottom.

Add the tomato sauce.

Add the basil pesto. Spread evenly throughout the dish.

Top with sliced mozzarella. Use enough slices to cover the entire dish.

Place dish in the center of the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown.

Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Thoughts On Natural Products Expo West Coast 2014…Savory Sells!!

This is my third year working at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim and although much is still the same, there were a few pleasant (and not so pleasant) surprises this year.

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I had the pleasure of attending the Expo East earlier this year. It was easy for me, because I was staying in the hotel connected to the expo. Every day, I would get up, walk to the expo, handle my work, collect samples and head back to the hotel to rest.

The Expo West has over 3,000 exhibitors showcasing their wares and probably 10 times the attendance that Expo East has, and that was definitely seen and felt by myself and other attendees this year. Transportation to and from the expo seemed much more difficult than I had remembered and parking seemed a lot more scarce. But I guess that means a lot of people wanted to be there, which is a good thing for all the exhibitors.

There were a few key trends in this year’s expo. Some are new trends and some are not. One of the major trends I spotted that was not new was the use of “plant-based”, along with “paleo” and “gluten-free” items aplenty. Brands such as Vega tout their plant based proteins, MegaFood has its plant based whole food vitamins,Image 7 Natural Vitality has their plant sourced minerals, etc. etc.

There also appeared to be a fair amount of meatless meats. Beyond Meat had samples of their tacos made with “beef”, but the one meatless meat I thought was kind of cool was made by Neat. They have a soy-less (yay!) gluten-free meatless mix that uses garbanzo beans and pecans. There were a few other brands, but I did not have the time (or the stomach space) to try them all.

One major new trend I saw at this years expo was the abundance of SAVORY foods. Last year there was so much sweet, it was kind of cool to see this new trend kick off. One of my favorite savory items was a honey mustard trail mix bar created by KIND. They have a new line out called STRONG, which focuses on savory nut bars with honey mustard, jalapeno, thai, and barbecue flavors. They are actually really delicious and better for someone with a savory tooth who has that “salty” craving. I also was able to sample Kettle Brands new sriracha flavored potato chips as well as a sriracha flavored popcorn and a kale flavored popcorn, both very savory and very interesting. I am not quite sure when and where these will be in stores anytime soon, but if I find out before the savory connoisseurs of Los Angeles do, I will keep you posted.Image 1 Image 6Image 5

Another new item I was able to sample was Phoney Baloney’s coconut bacon, which is essentially pieces of bacon seasoned with savory spices to give off a sort of “bacon” flavor. I can tell you for a fact I have seen this item at Whole Foods, however, they added new flavors to the line, like a candied version, which is not in stores yet.Image 2

On the supplement end, I was not able to spend as much time in that segment as I would have liked, but I can say that whole food based supplements, such as MegaFood (which I mentioned before) are big right now, as well as digestive enzymes (which I needed after all that weird food combining!) and the ever popular probiotics supplements. I did not visit many of these booths for samples, but did see a variety of them as I walked the floor in my free time.

Of course, I cannot forget about the quinoa, chia and chocolate. There are always new varieties of these products. I met a company at the NEXT Pavilion, which is the floor for brand new items, called Iheartkeenwah, Imagewhich sells an all natural quinoa cluster snack. They had a variety of flavors, and how can you go wrong with a chocolate sea salt quinoa cluster? I know a packaged good is a packaged good, but I applaud this company and others for trying to create a snack that is better for the masses, because let’s face it, people are going to snack, so I would rather see them eating IheartKeenwah over Oreos. At least the ingredients are as natural as they could get while keeping the product tasting good.

Another inspiring item was a green juice line by Vibrant Earth. There were TONS of green juices and cleanses at the Expo this year, but this one stood out to me because the girl who created the line was from Colorado like myself and is also a registered dietitian. What she created is a juice line like most others, juices with kale, carrots, ginger, beets, spinach, etc…but the one ingredient she added to all her juices is flax oil. The flax oil is high in antioxidants and Omega-3’s and helps with digestion, transport and absorption of the nutrients in the juices. I thought this was very clever, seeing as I haven’t seen a juice yet besides this one that thought of including the healthy fat for vitamin absorption.

Anyhow, this blog could become a novel if I let it, but overall, the expo is a great place to see what is new in nutrition and it was fun for me to network and make new contacts. Unfortunately, I was sick for the last day so I was unable to get as many samples of products as I would have liked, but I did enjoy my time and hopefully next year I will attend the show either with a product of my own or with the backing of a corporation or company of my own.

The Life Changing Loaf Of Bread…Definitely A Creative Spin On An Old Staple

Calling this bread “life changing” is rather drastic, but that was the name it was given by people who created it before I attempted to copy them. Initially, when I saw this recipe appear for the second time on the Internet, I grazed over it and decided to skip it, because, quite frankly, I just thought it had too many expensive ingredients and would take too long to put together. However, I had a girlfriend post it to my Facebook page and tell me she tried it and how amazing it was, so then I got curious and decided to give it a shot.

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There are a few pros and cons to this bread. One of the cons is if you are on a budget, all the nuts that are required can add up at the grocery store check out line. However, on the pro side, you are probably not going to eat more than one slice of this bread at a time because it is so dense and rich with nutrients…so I say, splurge, the taste and variety of ingredients is worth it, at least once. You probably won’t eat more than once piece for another reason…all the nuts and seeds make this “bread” super high in fat. Yes, it is good fat, but it will add up, so be careful!

I also learned you can exchange different nuts and add dried fruits and other things to vary up the taste or consistency. I added dried mission figs to my bread because I was forewarned by my friend who told me about the recipe that otherwise, the bread is just wayyyyy too nutty.

You might wonder how this bread stays together with no flour, as I did, and it happens to be because of the psyllium husk powder. Psyllium husk powder (or seeds, depending on what you use) is super high in soluble and insoluble fiber and binds together all these lovely ingredients without flour. It is also great for your digestive system, so people who have a hard time…going…this bread will get you going instead of clogging you up. Good to know, right?

This bread can be made right in the pan. I will admit I did not have the flexible silicone loaf pan, so mine was a little more difficult to get out once it was done cooking, either invest in the pan, or I suggest using some sort of cooking spray on your loaf pan before adding the ingredients. Another thing you could try (and I may next time around) which would change the texture and look of the bread entirely, is to blend the ALL ingredients in a food processor before putting them in the loaf pan so it is more doughy. I am not positive how that would turn out, but I do feel it may come out of the loaf pan more clean than mine initially did.

Another great thing about this bread is you can substitute ingredients you don’t have. Some people use almonds instead of hazelnuts, mixed oats instead of rolled, dried fruits, chocolate chips, etc. You can pretty much do whatever you want. The best thing about this bread is it doesn’t have any questionable ingredients, no chemicals or additives. It is high in fiber and protein and is gluten free and vegan. Because you are supposed to let the ingredients sit for 2 hours or more in the water and coconut oil mixture, every ingredient is soaked for optimal nutrition and digestion. This bread makes a great snack or can be used in a meal. You can also store it in a container for up to five days or freeze it.

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread

1 cup sunflower seeds

½ cup flax seeds

½ cup hazelnuts or almonds

1 ½ cups rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped dried mission figs ( you can omit the fruit, but I like the added sweetness)

2 Tbsp. chia seeds

4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)

1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)

1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)

3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil ( I used Kelapo, but any unrefined brand is okay)

1 ½ cups water

Directions:
1. In a loaf pan (flexible silicon recommended, which I did not have!) combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. I let mine sit about 3 hours. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!

A Very Short Guide To Eating Paleo Goodies…And A Picture of Some Very Delicious Paleo Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread…

So this past weekend I participated in a mud race/obstacle course called Tough Mudder. It was based in Temecula, so I shared a house with a few other people for the weekend. One of the guys who stayed at the house is a devout follower of the paleo diet. For those of you who are not familiar with this type of eating, it is generally a diet based on real foods and is sans grains. That’s right, no quinoa, no rice, no bread…this diet is generally healthy fats, lean proteins and lots of green vegetables.Image 3

However, there is also some room for “Paleo goodies” or as some call it, “Paleo junk.” These items usually include baked goods, like cookies, muffins and breads. The catch is that they are made from healthy ingredients that don’t have any flour or chemical substances in them, like coconut oil, almond flour, ground cashews, coconut milk, dairy-free chocolate, etc. However, one must be reminded that these items are called “goodies” or “junk” for a reason….they are extremely high in calories and FAT! Yes, it is usually good fat, but if a person is not active or overeats any of these paleo treats, just like a non-paleo cookie, eventually the calories add up and you will get fat. You may not feel as full or bloated if you are a person who is irritated by grain-based products, but you will not get skinny binging on paleo chocolate chip cherry muffins or paleo waffles with cashew coconut ice cream, so just be mindful of that.Image 2

I made the following recipe because the guy who stayed at this house we all rented for the weekend made these paleo muffins for us to try out for breakfast one morning. They were amazing and I wanted to see if after my last failed paleo attempt I could redeem myself. Of course, once I got home after buying the ingredients, I realized I do not own a muffin tin ( I will have to fix that!) and ended up just making this a bread instead. It turned out amazing, and I think it is because this recipe has the correct amount of pumpkin to coconut flour ratio, and the last recipe did not specify for me the ratios, so I guessed.

I am not going to write the recipe here, just post a picture, and let you know that the recipe is at www.paleomg.com under PALEO PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS. Totally worth a try. The spices and chocolate chips (non-dairy, soy or nut based….I was surprised at how delicious they taste!) make these a worthwhile goodie to have in your home, or to share with friends and family over the holidays. Plus you can freeze or refrigerate them and have ONE piece/muffin every day as a treat and not feel guilty.