Gluten-Free Spaghetti Squash Pizza

Low-carb, vegetable-based pizza crusts are all the rage, and I enjoy trying new combinations. So far, our household favorite is a crust made from spaghetti squash. The mildly sweet squash is very sturdy, and works well with lots of toppings.

Of course, the crust is gluten free, which makes it that much better.

Note that in the recipe below, I recommend squeezing as much liquid as possible from the squash. Really put some muscle into it as the drier the squash, the better the crust!

Potato Crust Spinach Pie

My sister, except for a brief period of time, has been vegetarian her whole life. When I took over Thanksgiving duties from my mother — something that made both of us happy — I made it a point to include a main dish that worked with my sister’s dietary restriction. That dish was a riff on spanakopita, a phyllo dough-wrapped spinach dish. I made mine as a casserole, featuring rice.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I was feeding my sister — and me — something that was making us very sick. We are both now gluten free and much healthier for it!

But I do miss that dish. It was a perfect vegetarian (though not vegan) main course, packed with flavor and nutrition. I’ve finally taken the time to recreate the dish, this time using thinly sliced potatoes in place of phyllo. As with that long-ago dish, this one was a hit (and gone the next day!).

Chicken and Ginger Meatballs

I love meatballs — there’s something, well, fun about round food. And meatballs are easy to make, even when you’re gluten free. I made these meatballs — with tasty ground chicken and a lot of ginger! — for a party at a friend’s house. There were actually three kinds of meatballs (I was feeling overachieve-y that day), but these were the hands-down favorite.

Since then, I’ve made them whenever the mood strikes (and whenever ground chicken is on sale). They’re delicious with chicken wraps or on top of rice noodles. I mix up a quick chile sauce with a bit of lime juice, chile paste, and fish sauce to pour over the noodles or as a dipping sauce. Of course, my gluten-free ponzu would work just as well!

Cachapas (Corn Pancakes)

Cachapas are a sweet and savory (and gluten free!) corn pancake from Venezuela. Traditionally, they’re eaten with a bit of butter and melted cheese (just fold them in half and enjoy!). You can customize them however you want, of course. Pulled pork, roasted vegetables, chicken — all make great fillings for your naturally gluten-free corn pancake. Adjust the size of the pancake (and cooking time) accordingly.

I like to serve mine with a simple salsa either directly over the melted cheese or as a dipping sauce on the side.

(Note: this recipe isn’t 100% authentic — I’ve developed it over time based on lots of research.)

Chicken Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of my favorite go-to dishes during the week because I always have leftover rice in the refrigerator — I make a big batch every week because it’s great for lunches and dinners. Taking a few minutes to mix up a sauce, shred some chicken, pull out some veggies, and, if I have one handy, crack an egg makes ordinary rice more interesting.

The recipe below assumes you’re working with pre-cooked chicken and frozen vegetables. If you choose to cook your chicken, make sure it’s cut into very small bite-sized pieces. Saute the chicken until nearly cooked through and set aside. Do the same for the vegetables.

Fish sauce is a key ingredient here. It adds flavor that soy sauce alone can’t create. Also, this is a lightly sauced fried rice because the fish sauce adds to much flavor. If you like more sauce, add at the end to make sure your flavors are balanced.

Sweet Potato Latkes

When life — or the season — gives you sweet potatoes, the creativity comes out. It turns out, these great veggies are pretty much in season all year round in Southern California. What I used to think of as a holiday food, served over-sweet and mushy, is now an everyday part of my cooking repertoire.

Thus, yes, allowing me to prove I can serve meals that don’t feature ordinary rice or variations on regular potatoes. Add the obligatory comments about the healthiness and lower calorie count of sweet potatoes here (and those claims are, of course true).

Since I’m not Jewish, latkes are just another way to make potatoes interesting. And since I usually have more sweet potatoes than regular potatoes on hand, well, the connection was obvious. When I searched for basic recipes, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe by my friend Sarah topping the search results (see the link in the Notes section). Her recipe was the basis for mine.

Needless to say, I make enough for leftovers during the week. Yummy!

Quinoa and Black Bean Cakes

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is suddenly everywhere. This ancient South American grain is tasty and versatile. It cooks up just like rice*. I find that quinoa absorbs flavor really well, and I really love as a stuffing for squash and peppers.

Quinoa also makes a great vegetarian patty or cake, perfect as a base for Huevos Rancheros or an interesting side dish (maybe topped with a creamy mustard sauce?).  Quinoa and black bean cakes are a great way to use leftover quinoa, with the added bonus of tasty black beans. Adjust the seasonings in this recipe to suit your palate and goals — there is no wrong way to make these!

* Seriously, just like rice — if you’re cooking on your stovetop, it’s 2 cups water or broth to 1 cup quinoa plus seasonings (salt, pepper, cumin, or whatever you like), bring to boil, let simmer for 15 − 20 minutes; if you’re using your rice cooker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for basic white rice.