Gluten Free Spaghetti and Mushroom Meatballs

gluten free spaghetti and meatballs

Mushroom Meatballs and Tinkyada Spaghetti photo by vsimon

This recipe appeared on the Healthy Eats blog as a guest post. But the post has disappeared, so I’ll recreate it here.

You can sub many things for bread crumbs in meatballs and meat loaf. But my favorite is finely minced mushrooms. They are healthy, low cal, and enhance the meaty flavor.

And if you are into hiding veggies, they will never give you away. No colored specks, they look just like meat.

Meatballs

These mouthwatering meatballs are half meat and half mushrooms. This makes the meatballs so tender, even with the leanest meat. You’ll be sure that many mushrooms won’t mix into the meat, but they will.

You need to be gentle when simmering them in the marinara sauce. Keep the simmer low and don’t disturb them for about 15 minutes. By then the meatballs will be “set” and you can carefully slide a metal spatula under them and turn them.

Marinara

Use your favorite gluten free brand. I like Classico, we also like the Classico jar with measurements on the side. The website says they are not recommended for canning. But we save them and use them in the water bath canner all the time. (This cannot be a recommendation. Do this at your own peril.)

There are many other gluten free kinds of marinara available. Be sure to read the labels. And you can make your own of course.

Gluten Free Spaghetti

There is an explosion of choices now. I counted 8 different brands of spaghetti in the ever-expanding gluten free section of my regular grocery store today.

What you really want to know is:

What is available in my store?

How can I be sure it is gluten free?

Does it taste, look, and behave like “regular” pasta?

How much is it?

Gluten free is such a hot trend now that Bon Appétit did an article on their top three gluten free pasta brands. Two were from Italy, available online, and very pricy. Seven or eight dollars for 8 ounces, without the added shipping costs. That works out to about $15 dollars a pound. For that price, I prefer to treat myself to really good steak instead.

One brand in BA’s top three is Ancient Harvest Supergrain Quinoa Pasta. No spaghetti in the store today, but they did have linguini. Close enough to give it a test (taste) drive. Suggested retail is 2.99 for 8 ounces. A bargain, sold!

When you open the box, there is a surprise inside. It’s yellow, a combo of quinoa and corn flour. The directions say to cook for 6-9 minutes. Six minutes was truly undone. Eight minutes was perfecto. There is a small window to get this right.

Ancient Harvest Quinoa corn spaghetti

Ancient Harvest Supergrain Quinoa Pasta photo by vsimon

My review

Ancient Harvest Supergrain Quinoa Pasta vs. Tinkyada 

Some will like the sunny color of Ancient Harvest, others may think it is just wrong. The flavor and texture are fine. A few of the strands stuck together and didn’t soften as much as the rest, despite stirring during cooking. Nutritionally, this pasta offers more fiber and iron than other gluten free pastas.

Caution

Ancient Harvest Supergrain Pasta comes in two varieties. One is gluten free and one is not- a combo of quinoa and wheat. At first glance, the boxes look nearly the same. My store stocked both in their gluten free section. Oops! And guess which one I grabbed first, bought, and cooked? Double oops! Be sure to thoroughly read the label and buy the gluten free kind.

Tinkyada

My old time favorite gluten free pasta is Tinkyada. It is my standby and is in the meatball picture. For a long time it was the only real contender in gluten free pasta. Readily available, reasonably priced, similar in taste and texture to wheat. Made with brown rice and additional rice bran, it is bit paler, softer, and blander than wheat pasta.

And some folks prefer it to wheat pasta. Families with a few gluten intolerants and some not, easily switch to Tinkyada pasta. Suggested retail is $3.96 for 16 ounces. The best deal yet.

Tinkyada takes longer to cook, about 15 minutes. With a bigger window to get it just right. And since it is rice based, even brown rice, it is lower in fiber than Ancient Harvest pasta. Despite being whole grain, rice is pretty low in fiber. Tinkyada has 2 grams fiber per serving, Ancient Harvest 4 grams.

Tinkyada makes only gluten free pasta. So you do not have to worry about buying glutinous pasta. I am going to stick with Tinkyada.

Gluten Free Spaghetti and Mushroom Meatballs

Yield: 6 servings

Meatballs

1 pound fresh mushrooms

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

1 tsp dry mustard

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (or a mix of oregano, basil, and rosemary)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (1/2 teaspoon if you like it spicy)

1 egg

1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)

Sauce

24 oz gluten free marinara sauce

Spaghetti

8 oz gluten free spaghetti

Garnish

additional parmesan, optional

Pour marinara sauce in a large sauté pan with a lid. Large enough to hold the meatballs in a single layer. Use two pans if you need to. I like to have the marinara on a low simmer before I shape the meatballs, so I can put them in the sauce as I shape them.

Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor until they are the size of grains of rice. You might have to do this in batches.

In a large bowl, mix up all the meatball ingredients. Your hands work best for this. Shape into 18 meatballs.

Cover and simmer meatballs in sauce for about 15 minutes without disturbing them. Gently turn and cook 10-15 more minutes, or to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Meanwhile cook gluten free spaghetti according to package directions.

Drain spaghetti and place on dinner plate. Top with 3 meatballs and sauce. Garnish with parmesan if desired.

Make ahead

This dish freezes well. I package leftovers in lidded, stackable glass or ceramic containers. I prefer just 1 or 2 servings per container because they thaw and warm faster than larger amounts. Simply pull several containers from the fridge if you need more servings.

Layer spaghetti, then the meatballs, and sauce on top. Cover, date and label each container. Cool thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze. Thaw in the fridge overnight and warm in the microwave for just a few minutes per serving.

Dinner’s ready!

Z is for Zucchini

beef and zucchini meatloaf

beef and zucchini meatloaf photo by vsimon

Are you playing ring and run, leaving sacks of zucchini on your neighbor’s porch yet? When they ripen in the garden, it seems like they grow 5 inches a day.

Here is a suggestion. Use grated zucchini in place of breadcrumbs in meatloaf. I routinely use minced veggies to tenderize and moisten meatloaf. Your meatloaf will be half meat and half veggies!

Beef and Zucchini Meatloaf uses zucchini, onion, and mushrooms. Topped with additional sliced zucchini, and glazed with preserves and mustard to make it fancy. Fancy meatloaf, does that sound funny to you too?

You cannot hide the zucchini, nor would you want too. Some kids (and adults) will notice those green specks. But you can hide the mushrooms and onions if you process them fine enough in a food processor.

Choose the leanest meat

The original recipe called for ground turkey and that works well. But I like to use naturally grass-fed beef. Whether you choose beef or turkey, choose the very leanest you can find.

This meatloaf is beyond moist; it is juicy because of all the veggies. And it is low fat, not at all greasy, because of the lean meat.

Increase the vitamin D

This has nothing to do with zucchini. But I cannot resist sharing this every time I get a chance. You can increase the vitamin D in the mushrooms! Unwrap them and put them in the sun for 5 minutes. They make vitamin D when exposed to the sun just like we do. Amazing!

sliced beef and zucchini meatloaf

sliced beef and zucchini meatloaf photo by zsimon

Beef and Zucchini Meat Loaf

Adapted from turkey and zucchini meat loaf at epicurious.com

The glaze gives this dish a sweet and tangy flavor. And the sliced zucchini are so much fancier, and prettier, than plain BBQ sauce.

Serves 4-6

ingredients metric measures
2 medium zucchini, about 10 oz. total 300 gm
1 small onion 150 gm
8 oz mushrooms 240 gm
1/4 cup fresh basil 10 gm
1 pound lean ground beef 480 gm
1 large egg 50 gm
1 teaspoon salt 5 gm
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 gm
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1 gm
1/4 cup apricot preserves 60 ml
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard 20 ml

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Process 1 zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and basil in a food processor. If you only have a mini processor, do each veggie individually and add the basil to one. There is no need to rinse the processor in between. Whirl for a few seconds, to get small pieces. If you must, you can even process to a paste, with no identifiable bits.

Put the processed veggies, ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, and garlic powder into a large bowl. Mix thoroughly by hand. Put meat mixture into an 8×4 inch loaf pan, or 4 mini loaf pans. Flatten the meat mixture so the topping will not slide off it while it cooks.

Thinly slice remaining zucchini and layer on top of the meatloaf.

Stir preserves and mustard in small bowl to blend. Spread glaze over top of the sliced zucchini.

Bake meat loaf 45-60 minutes, to an internal temperature of 165. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before slicing.

How do you use zucchini?

Are you Vitamin D deficient?

 

We often think of vitamin D and its role in bones. But it is important in all tissues and cells. So it follows that vitamin D deficiency effects all tissues and cells, not just bones. If we increased our intake, could many cases of cancer, type 1 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, or autoimmune diseases be prevented? New research shows this is possible.

Who is effected?

Many researches believe there is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. So everyone should be aware of their intake and blood levels. But some groups are more likely to be effected. These include people who have fat malabsportion or inflammatory bowel disease, the elderly, those with dark skin, those with obesity, and infants that are exclusively breast-fed.

 

How much do we need? Don’t we get enough form the sun?

Vitamin D is often called Vitamin Sunshine. Our bodies make vitamin D when we are outside on a sunny day. But many of us spend precious little time outdoors. And when we do, northern latitudes, smog, sunscreen and clothes J limit the amount of sun exposure we get.

 

The current recommendations are 400-600 IU, depending on your age. This could come from food or supplements. But there is mounting science recommending 1,000 IU per day for adults. Some say 2,000 IU is better, again for adults.

 

Natural food sources

The only foods that naturally contain significant amounts of Vitamin D are oily fish. These include herring, catfish, salmon (wild has more vitamin D than farmed), mackerel, sardines, tuna and eel. Cod liver oil is especially rich in vitamin D, but it tastes awful.

 

are surprising in that they develop vitamin D when exposed to light, just like we do! They are the only fruit or vegetable with natural vitamin D. Simply remove the wrapper and place in sunlight for 5 minutes. A serving of 4-5 button mushrooms goes from 15 IU to 400 IU of vitamin D.

 

 

Fortified food sources

Milk has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1930’s, and the bone disease rickets has largely disappeared here. Americans get most of their vitamin D from fortified fluid milk. Skim, reduced fat and whole milk all have added vitamin D, 100 IU per 8 ounces. You need to drink four 8 oz glasses a day to meet the current recommendation of 400 IU per day.

 

This is often problematic for many since lactose intolerance often goes hand in hand with gluten intolerance. Lactose free milk is available, it is a bit sweeter than regular milk. I like it on cereal because it sweetens my breakfast a bit without adding sugar. Yogurt and cheese are often recommended as low lactose dairy sources. They can provide you with calcium, but not vitamin D. It is not usually added to these products.

 

Theoretically, you could meet your vitamin D needs with a steady diet of wild salmon, milk and mushrooms. Am I kidding? Yes. It could make a lovely meal, but I wouldn’t want to eat it everyday.

 

 

photo by lsimon

So supplements are needed. And some people will need higher doses than others.

 

 

 

Are you vitamin D deficient?

Ask your doctor for a blood test to measure your vitamin D levels. Be sure to ask for the total 25(OH)D test. This is also called “25 hydroxyvitamin D”. Other vitamin D tests aren’t as accurate for determining deficiency.

 

If you are deficient, start with a D3 (cholecalciferol) supplement. It is the most active form of vitamin D. And it is readily available. Rechecking the blood test in a few months will show if your dose is adequate.

 

Or visit Grass Roots Health and their D Action research project. They are a group of scientists, institutions and individuals committed to solving Vitamin D deficiency and improving health. D Action offers in-home blood testing, for a reasonable fee. They recommend 25(OH)D blood levels between 40 and 60 ng/ml. Some prominent researchers believe the blood level should be higher yet for optimum health. You could even contribute to their ongoing 5-year project researching vitamin D levels and disease risk.

 

Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute also has a very useful webpage covering on all things vitamin D, with links to research papers.