Friday, September 30, 2016

Butternut Squash Parmesan


I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy butternut squash, especially when it's in season and plentiful in the fall. This Butternut Parmesan casserole is simple and unique. I would have never thought that cheese would pair well with the squash! But it really does!

I got the idea from Trader Joe's. They sell a frozen Butternut Squash Parmesan package,  but its not gluten free. The other day when I was shopping, they were offering taste samples. Everyone was raving. So, I thought I would try to make my own gluten free version. I looked at their ingredients to get some ideas. I was happy with my final product. I'll never know if it tastes anything like the one at TJ's.

Butternut squash is a low fat vegetable that is rich in Vitamin A ( good for the eyes), has more potassium than a banana per cup, provides a fair amount of fiber, Vitamin B-6 and other vitamins and minerals as well. It's a healthy vegetable to add additional nutrients to a gluten free diet.

I've already received 3 butternut squash from my CSA farm. I usually bake my whole squashes so I don't have to peel them.  I also make Apple Cider Glazed Butternut Squash,
and of course I also make soup- some savory, some sweet- like my Butternut Apple Soup or my 

This time I decided to try something totally different. I peeled and cut my squash into cubes, tossed it in some vanilla extract and three different cheeses: Parmesan, Gruyere, and Swiss. I also thought about topping it with my almond and coconut sugar topping before I baked it but forgot- maybe next time.  See below for the nut crunch topping recipe if you would like to use it.

Shortcut: If you do not want to peel and cut your own butternut, Trader Joe's ( and other places) sells packages of cubed butternut squash. You will need 6 cups or 2 packages from Trader Joe's.

OMG- the aroma of the vanilla with the squash was amazing when I removed it from the oven! 

It's a light delicious side dish that is sure to please any butternut squash lover!

Author: Judee Algazi @ Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Prep Time: 15 minutes if peeling squash, 2 minutes if buying squash precut
Steaming Time: 15 minutes
Bake time : 15-20 minutes
If you buy precut squash, the entire process with baking is half hour-


6 cups of butternut squash, cubed
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of vanilla extract
3/4-1 cup of freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4- 1 cup of Gruyere and Swiss shredded cheese combo ( from Trader Joe's) 
Optional: nut crunch topping ( see recipe below) 


Using a steaming basket steam the butternut squash until tender. Remove from pot and place in a deep bowl. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss the steamed butternut squash with vanilla extract until well coated. Then toss in the cheeses and mix well.  Place the mixture in a deep baking dish. If you are going to use the nut topping sprinkle on top now. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble. 
Serve immediately. 

Nut Crunch Topping: 
Ingredients for the topping: 
1/2  cup of raw almonds
1/4 coconut sugar ( available in health food stores) it looks and acts like brown sugar but is lower in carbs.

Place the raw almonds in a food processor . Process on an off bursts until the nuts become chopped small ( about 3 bursts).  Place in a bowl and toss in the coconut sugar. Sprinkle on top of the casserole before the final baking.

Steam the squash using a steaming basket

If you prefer, you could roast your squash instead of steaming.

Sweet, aromatic, and delicious- probably even better with the nut crunch topping!


1. You could steam your squash or 
2. Roast your squash in the oven at 400 degrees. ( Toss in some olive oil first-) until squash is tender. Then assemble and bake until cheese is bubbly.
3. This freezes well 
4. The vanilla is subtle but really adds something - don't omit it
5. If roasting the squash, you could toss the squash in some olive oil and rosemary before roasting-

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Recipe

Sephardic Jews traditionally serve stuffed foods for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)  like these delicious stuffed grape leaves. I use a simple vegan filling that is also gluten free.

It seems like yesterday that I was on the picturesque coast of Greece, enjoying the scenery and the delicious food. One of my favorite Greek recipes is for Stuffed Dolmades or stuffed grape leaves. They are absolutely delicious but can be laborious to make until you have some practice making them. However, once you get the hang of rolling the grape leaves, you are good to go and will have one of the most delicious naturally gluten free appetizers or side dishes ever!

My husband comes from a Middle Eastern/Greek/Turkish background, so stuffed grape leaves are a staple at all of our all of our holiday meals! My 91 year old mother in law ( Nona)  stuffs her grape leaves with meat and rice, my sister in law ( Danielle)  stuffs some of her grape leaves with meat and some with a vegan stuffing ( thank you Danielle ) , and I ( of Eastern European descent and inexperienced)  used to just open a can of vegan stuffed grape leaves from BJ's or an import from Turkey of vegan rice stuffed dolmades! After all our years of marriage, I've finally learned to make my own.

Of course when I used to open a can, I doctored up the ready made variety. I put the cooked stuffed grape leaves in a skillet, add 1/4 cup lemon juice and a little water and cook them down for 20 minutes until nice and juicy and lemony! The stuffed grape leaves in the can are a great substitute for making the real thing. But- of course they are not as delicious as the real thing. 

99% of the recipes on my blog are always fast and easy recipes; this recipe is the 1% that is not . This recipe can be time consuming for the novice- but worth it! I suggest making a small quantity the first time you try to make them. This is my vegan/gluten free recipe for the real thing when I want to take the time and put out the effort-

Judee @ Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Assembly Prep Time: 30-45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes + 45 minutes to boil the grape leaves
Serves: 6 for a side dish ( 4 each)

25 grape leaves ( they are sold in jars in water in some supermarkets or Middle Eastern or Greek ethnic stores)
2 cups of cooked rice ( Basmati, brown, or white)
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 cup finely chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup of chopped onion
2 cloves of chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Optional: 2 Tablespoons of pine nuts
Juice of 1 large organic lemon ( 1/4 for the filling, 3/4 of the juice to cook the stuffed leaves in the skillet)
Cracked pepper to taste


    Open the jar of grape leaves. Remove 25 leaves very carefully so they don't tear. Fill a sauce pan with water, place the grape leaves in the sauce pan, bring to a boil and boil away for about 35-45 minutes. The grape leaves from the jar ( especially from the Middle East)  really need to soften up. If you skip this step, your final product might be tough and chewy instead of soft and flavorful.

    While the grape leaves are boiling to soften them, prepare your filling.

     Filling/Stuffing : 

    In a large skillet, sautee the onions until soft, add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, and black olives and cook for another minute or two stirring constantly. Remove from heat and mix in the cooked rice, parsley, salt, pepper , and lemon juice. Stir well and set aside to use as your stuffing.

    Allow leaves to cool and then get ready to stuff them.

    How to fold the grape leaves: It's like wrapping a present.

    Step 1: Lay one grape leaf flat with the vein side facing up

    Step 2: Place 1-2 teaspoons of filling in the center near the stem

    Step 3: Fold in the two sides and then roll it up tightly

    Step 4: Place the rolled filled leaf in a rimmed skillet ( place  the leaf face down to hold in the filling)

    Step 5: Place the rolled grape leaves in a skillet in a tightly knit circular design- see photo

    Step 6: Cover with lemon juice and water and cook covered for 15 minutes on medium heat ; uncover and cook out liquid for additional 5 more minutes.

    Serve immediately or serve at room temperature.

    Gather and then roll up 
    Place in a circular direction in a large skillet tightly until pan is full

    My notes:

    1. These freeze well
    2. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days ; serve warm or at room temperature
    3. I get frozen spice cubes in the freezer case at Trader Joe's and some supermarkets
        I get frozen garlic, cilantro, ginger, and basil cubes. I just add them to recipes.
    4. Sephardic Jews are Jews that originated from Spain -
        Mizrachi Jews are Jews that were from Middle Eastern Countries-
        Ashkenazi Jews are Jews with origins from Eastern Europe.
    5. My husband and his parents and grandparents were born in Cairo, Egypt- His prior ancestry is from Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, Italy, Turkey and Greece. Stuffed foods, especially stuffed grape leaves,  are popular through out the Middle East.
    Easy Fall Soups that you can make in under 25 minutes

    1. Brussels Sprout Soup in 12 minutes ( my favorite) 

    2. Golden Cauliflower Soup in 25 minutes

    3.  Creamy Avocado Zucchini Soup in 25 minutes

    Pin It Please leave a comment so I know you stopped by. Scroll down to the end of the post and click on comments.

    linked to : Healthy Vegan Friday

    Thursday, September 8, 2016

    Chilled Tomato Soup Shooters

    Bring on the party with these delicious tomato soup shooters!
    Served at room temperature or chilled, these shooters are the great way to get any party or meal started and they are one of the best tomato soups ever! 

    With just 5 ingredients, preparation is a breeze! The recipe meets my criteria for health, ease, convenience and taste. It's made from real food, is naturally gluten free, and vegan.

    In addition, it makes a fun presentation and can be served without heating- a real plus when you are trying to juggle last minute details for a dinner party!

    A shooter is just the right amount of soup for a big meal. Who wants to fill up on the soup when you have a full meal coming?? And you really get to enjoy the exceptional flavor when you are limiting the quantity.

    Get Creative
    Or you might want to serve them as part of your appetizers at a party or other gathering! Paired with some cheese and crackers, it's delicious! You could also top the shooters with some fresh salsa, a touch of tabasco, some chopped cilantro, or a celery stick. Personally, I like mine plain without any garnish!

    A tasty broth is key
    I used organic cherry tomatoes, organic red and white onions, garlic, olive oil, Himalayan salt and vegetable broth. The key is to use a really tasty vegetable broth.

    For this soup, I used Tabatchnick vegetable broth. It has a great flavor and really enhances the flavor of the tomatoes and onions. I get it at the regular supermarket. It sometimes is found in the Jewish food section. 

    In addition, I roasted the tomatoes with the onions and garlic to bring out the sweetest flavor of the vegetables. When the vegetables finished roasting, I allowed them to cool. Then I blended them in my Vitamix with 4 cups of vegetable broth. 

    Depending on the size of your shooter container, you should get a minimum of 12-15 shooters per batch. 

    Author: Judee Algazi @ Gluten Free A-Z Blog
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Roasting Time : 45 minutes
    Blending Time: 3 minutes
    Serves: About 12 shooters

    1- 16 ounce package of organic cherry tomatoes
    1 large juicy summer tomato, cut in quarters and then quarters again ( 8 pieces) 
    4 cloves of fresh garlic ( I use 2 frozen garlic cubes from  Dorot ( found at Trader Joe or Supermarkets)
    1 medium red onion, cut in half moons
    1 medium yellow onion, cut in half moons 
    1/4 cup olive oil ( or less)
    Himalayan salt to taste
    4 vegetable broth

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees
    Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet
    Toss the cherry tomatoes, summer tomato, garlic, and red and yellow onions in olive oil 
    Place on parchment paper
    Sprinkle with Himalayan salt to taste
    Roast for 40-45 minutes until onions are slightly reddish
    Remove vegetables from oven. 
    Allow to cool. 
    Place roasted vegetables with their juice into a strong blender like a Vitamix with 
    4 cups of vegetable broth. 
    Blend until completely blended. 
    Store in a glass Mason Jar in the refrigerator until ready to serve
    Divide between 12-15 shooters.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2016

    Roasted Carrot Soup with Ginger, Turmeric, & Cardamom

     I love ethnic spices, especially in soups. This roasted carrot soup is rich in warming spices of ginger, turmeric, and cardamom with a touch of cooling coconut milk. This easy soup is low in calories, low in fat, vegan, and and naturally gluten free ( like all my recipes) 

    I received carrots, onions, and potatoes this week as part of my CSA farm share. I immediately started to think soup!

    Roasted veggies make easy and flavorful soups
    One of my favorite and easiest ways to make soup is to use roasted veggies as my base. I got the idea when I had a significant amount of vegetables in the refrigerator, and we were leaving for vacation. I needed to find a way to cook the veggies and freeze them. I decided to roast them all. The result was a deliciously tasty blend of incredibly flavorful veggies. 

    My daughter in law Wendy said, " Why don't you just blend those roasted veggies in the Vitamix with vegetable broth." That's exactly what I did and to my surprise I ended up with a  quick and simple soup that tasted outstanding.

    That is how I started using roasted vegetables as a base for my soups. Roasting vegetables brings out the veggie's sweetest flavor and adds a wonderful richness.  

    It's is so easy too. 
    To make this soup, I simply lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper, cut up my carrots into spears, sliced my potatoes, and sliced my onion. Tossed the trio in olive oil and Himalayan salt or sea salt, spread them on the lined cookie sheets and then baked at 400 for about 45 minutes until the veggies were done. While the veggies were roasting, I was free to do other things.

    When the veggies were ready, I allowed them to cool, then tossed them into the Vitamix with 4 cups of flavorful vegetable broth and the spices. 

    Spices add flavor, nutrients, & antioxidants 
    If you like ginger, turmeric, and cardamom, you will love the intriguing taste of this light aromatic soup. There are many reasons to include spices in your cooking. Natural spices are very high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and vitamins. Unfortunately, processed foods often contain artificial flavoring and coloring which not only does not add to our health, those artificial products may actually interfere with our health. 

    My husband gave the soup an A+ ( of course he loves all my soups) and ate it with leftover triple bean salad. it seemed like the perfect soup for the beginning of September.  

    Author: Judee Algazi @Gluten Free A-Z Blog
    Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
    Roasting Time: 45 minutes
    Blender Time: 2 minutes

    1 pound of carrots, sliced into large sticks
    2 medium potatoes, sliced in thick rounds
    2  large onions, sliced in thick half moons
    1/8 cup of olive oil or olive oil spray
    Himalayan or sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
    4 cups of vegetable broth
    1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or substitute graham masala ( different flavor) 
    Optional: 1 Tablespoon of coconut milk added to each bowl

    Directions for roasting
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
    Slice the vegetables 
    Place vegetables in a large mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil . 
    Distribute over the cookie sheets. 
    OR place veggies on the cookie sheets and spray generously with olive oil spray ( if spraying, you will have to do this one more time after 20 minutes of roasting) 
    Roast for 45-50 minutes until all veggies begin to be soft but roasted.
    Remove and allow to cool. 

    Directions for assembling soup: 

    1. Place 2 cups of cooled roasted carrots, 1 cup of roasted onion, all of potatoes ( and any juice from roasting) into the Vitamix or strong blender. 

    2. Add the turmeric, ginger, and cardamom ( or graham masala if you prefer) along with the vegetable broth. 

    3. Process until smooth. 

    4. Add to bowls and mix in 1 Tablespoon of coconut milk to each bowl and garnish with the leftover roasted carrots ( chop them to bite size) and onions which are caramelized from the roasting. 

    5. This soup also tastes good chilled

     My notes: 
    *** Personally, I really like this soup cold! Make it, refrigerate it, and eat it cold-. If you like hot soup, then by all means heat it up.

    I like this soup with either seasoning- cardamom or graham masala. 

    ***I am defending my right to offer real food natural recipes that are naturally gluten free. If you are looking for substitutes for cookies, cake, crackers, breads etc - it is not the focus of the recipes on this blog. I feature naturally gluten free recipes that are health giving and promote a healthy gut!

    Thursday, September 1, 2016

    Healthy Bean Salad In Under 10 Minutes

    Thank you Shirley at Gluten Free Easily! I could't have asked for a more delicious, health conscious fast and easy recipe for dinner tonight. I just didn't feel like cooking, but needed something quick, yet healthy, for dinner. I found this quick bean salad that can be made in under 10 minutes on Shirley's blog. ( Another few minutes for the dressing)

    This recipe has everything I love- chick peas, kidney beans, and black beans, chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, chopped red peppers, cilantro optional. In addition, there is a homemade citrus dressing that enhances the recipe.

    7 Reasons I love this recipe: 
    1. No cooking involved
    2. It's a quick and easy meal
    3. Lot's of fresh summer produce
    4. It's high in fiber and nutrients
    5. It's vegan, gluten free, and allergy friendly
    6. It can be made in advance
    7. Makes a beautiful colorful presentation and tastes great

    No cooking - Sometimes I just don't want to cook! It's already hot outside, so why heat up the kitchen.

    Can be made in advance- make it in the morning, the night before, or just whip it up in 10 minutes before dinner. It will be easy and delicious no matter when you make it.

    It's a meal- Beans are high in protein, so this salad can be eaten as an entree for a light dinner or if you want something more- make a baked sweet potato to go with it.

    Fresh summer produce- summer tomatoes, red pepper, red onion are still really flavorful and plentiful- this salad gives you yet another way to use your summer produce from your CSA, farm stands, or your own back yard!

    High in fiber and nutrients- Beans are not only high in protein, they are also very high in fiber. This recipe is a great way to include more healthy beans into your diet. In addition, the tomatoes, pepper, red onion, and cilantro add even more vitamins to the mix. I'd say this is a pretty nutrient dense salad.

    It's vegan, allergy friendly, and gluten free- This salad is allergy friendly as well as healthy! Made from all real food ingredients, it meets gluten free, grain free,  egg free, and dairy free standards

    Perfect recipe for company or a pot luck- This recipe is served at room temperature, so if you are having company or want to bring it to a pot luck, there is no need to worry about reheating when it's time to serve it. It also is allergy friendly making it a perfect choice for a pot luck!

    Makes a great presentation- The finished product is colorful with the blacks, reds, and greens- it looks vibrant and inviting,

    Pin it now -don't lose this recipe- I would classify this recipe as an under 10 minute recipe. This is a recipe you don't want to lose, so pin it right now to make next time for a pot luck or a fast dinner.

    My notes:
    ** I buy organic canned beans that have no BPA in the cans
    ** If you have more time cook your own beans for the recipe
    ** I cook beans in the crock pot
    ** Eat over rice for a heartier meal ( buy frozen rice at Trader Joe's if don't want to cook)

    Prep Time: 10 minutes for salad + 5 minutes for the homemade salad dressing
    Cook Time: None
    see recipe at : Gluten Free Easily

    How to Make Great Guacamole

    Thank you Vicki for this fabulous naturally gluten free recipe that is full of flavor and vegetables. Whenever we have a family get together, my good friend Vicki ( by request) always brings her homemade guacamole. For some reason, her guacamole is a crowd pleaser. Mine is usually good, but hers is actually great every time. I finally asked her for her recipe and am sharing it with you today.

    A great guacamole recipe starts with a perfectly ripe avocado.
    Choosing a ripe avocado can be tricky. Picking ripe avocados to use for guacamole reminds me of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

    Sometimes they are too soft,
    sometimes they are too hard ,
    but sometimes they are just right!

    But how do you know? Here is how to pick a perfect avocado for guacamole. 

    A Simple Trick to tell if an avocado is ripe

    One simple way to tell if an avocado is ready to be used for making guacamole is to remove the stemThe stem will reveal the condition of the avocado flesh without having to open the avocado. 

    1. If the stem comes off easily - the avocado is ripe- but is it too ripe?
    2. Once you remove the stem, if under the stem, it appears white- it is perfect
    3. If under the stem, it appears brown- the avocado is too ripe and probably will be brown inside and won't be usable. 

    Now Let's Talk Health- 
    Avocados are an important source of healthy fats that are really good for you. 
    They are also high in fiber and loaded with vitamins. So, guacamole makes a tasty and healthy snack or appetizer at a party. Guacamole is allergy friendly as it is gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and egg free. 

    Do You Like Cilantro? 
    Vicki's guacamole recipe calls for cilantro. If you do not like cilantro , you can leave it out completely. Personally, I think it adds a great taste. 
    However, I know there are those that hate it. 

    Did you know that cilantro tastes like soap to some people? It actually is has to do with their genes. Some people are genetically predisposed for cilantro to taste funny to them. So, if you are one of the 14% of the population who just can't stand the taste of cilantro, there is a good reason!

    The New York Times ran an article called, Cilantro Haters, It's Not Your Fault and 
    The Huffington Post ran this article, Science Explains Why Cilantro Tastes Like Soap for Certain People  

    How do you feel about cilantro? Do you love it or hate it

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: None

    2 Haas type avocados, peeled and sliced. Need Help?  How to peel and cut an avocado
    2-3 large organic tomatoes, diced
    3-4 scallions, chopped 
    1/2 bunch of organic cilantro, chopped
    Himalayan Salt and Cracked pepper to taste
    Juice of 1 large organic lime ( Trader Joe's sells them by the bag very economically) 

    In a large bowl, mash the avocado, then add the tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro. Add the juice of 1 large lime and mix gently. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. 

    Optional: you could add some chopped up cucumber if you like

    My notes: 
    **If you are not sure how to peel and cut an avocado check out this link:  How to peel and cut an avocado
    ** If you make the guacamole in advance, place the avocado pit in the guacamole to keep it from turning color.

    I'm linking this post to my list of weekly blog carnival