Like many people, a lot of the meals I prepare each night for dinner are inspired by a recipe I’ve found online and then altered – in our case, I change the recipe to accommodate our food allergies, ingredients I have available, and general preferences. Both of the Italian meals below started with recipes inspired by Weight Watchers (a favorite source of mine for healthy meals), but were substantially changed to suit our allergies and preferences.
Dinner #1 – spaghetti and meatballs – is easy peasy lemon squeezy as my kids would say. I had a whole bunch of gluten-free breadcrumbs that my mom had recently given to me that I needed to do something with. So, meatballs came to mind. My breadcrumbs already had a lot of Italian seasonings mixed in, but I added more – dried oregano, parsley and Parmesan – to the mix. In my opinion, meatballs are never flavorful enough, so I try to add as much seasoning as I can. Next, I added an egg to help keep the meatballs together, and a whole pack of lean ground turkey. I use ground turkey instead of ground beef in almost all of my recipes, for the following reasons: 1) my husband cannot tolerate beef ever since he was bitten by a tick a few years ago and developed a meat allergy; 2) beef is super greasy to me; 3) beef gives me heartburn/indigestion. I make exceptions for the occasional restaurant hamburger, but that’s about it.
After I mixed my ground turkey, seasoned GF breadcrumbs, and egg together, I put a whole bunch of meatballs in neat little rows on my heavily cooking-sprayed pan. It somehow worked out evenly, which rarely happens.
Into the oven, where I cooked the meatballs at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, turning them occasionally. One thing to remember when substituting turkey for beef if you are following a recipe, is that the amount of cooking time could be different – turkey must be cooked all the way through to be safe to eat. I made the meatballs a little earlier in the day, and popped them in the fridge, so it was easy to put dinner together once we were all super hungry and impatient. I just added my already-cooked meatballs to some jarred sauce on the stove while my GF spaghetti cooked, and dinner was ready in 10 minutes.
Dinner #2 – a new favorite – gluten-free rotini with turkey sausage and spinach. This was easy and filling; my problem with pasta is that I never feel full unless I eat too much of it. I feel like I can use a lot less carb-heavy pasta when there are other interesting fillers rounding out the meal. I began by browning turkey sausage with onions – this is always a delicious combination. I used turkey sausage because I find pork sausage too greasy, but you can definitely use pork if you prefer.
While the turkey sausage and onions browned, I chopped up some baby spinach to add some volume to the meal. I added the spinach, and once it wilted (doesn’t take long), I added half a jar of leftover basil tomato sauce I had in the refrigerator, and some chicken broth (water would work fine too) to help make the sauce a little thinner. I let all this cook together and meld while my gluten-free rotini was boiling on another burner.
Once my rotini was finished, and the sauce was all mixed together and warm, I combined the two into one big delicious pot. Not pictured: the healthy dose of parmesan cheese we added at the end!