Tag Archives: healthy alternative

Spinach “Meat” Balls and Spaghetti (Squash)

spinach "meat" ball Spaghetti and Meatballs… a classic. When I was a kid, this was one of my favorites. Before I converted to vegetarianism as a defiant 11 year old, I was all about Sunday Night Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs. The smells of a simmering pot of sauce gently cooking little orbs of deliciousness are deeply ingrained in my mind. So last Sunday, when I asked Mark if he wanted spaghetti and meatballs for dinner he looked at me with disbelief. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made him spaghetti and meatballs in the past 4 years. Since I no longer eat meat, I go lighter on the pasta and I’m lactose intolerant, this recipe differs from that of my childhood. The spinach balls sit atop spaghetti squash, a vegetable Mark and I have been obsessed with for the last 6 months.spaghetti squash with roasted veggies and cauliflower tomato sauce

Top those squash noodles with some balls of spinach and I’m in vegetable heaven! The “meat” balls are made of spinach, a bit of bread crumbs (gf if need be), quinoa, a binder (egg or flax egg,) onions, garlic and spices… you won’t even miss the meat. But because I’m a nice girlfriend I made Mark some pork and turkey meatballs.

Spinach “Meat” Balls over Spaghetti Squash

makes about 10-12 balls and enough spaghetti for 2-3 people


1 teaspoon of oil

1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa

1 1/4 cups of water

Spinach Dumplings (makes about 10)

1 tablespoon of oil

1 12 oz package of frozen spinach, defrosted and all excess water squeezed out with an old kitchen towel

1/4 cup of bread crumbs (gf if need be)

1 egg or flax egg (1 tablespoon of ground flax seed mixed with 2 tablespoons of water and allowed to sit in the fridge for 15 minutes.)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 of an onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like spice)

1/4 cup of cooked quinoa (from above)

1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce

1/2 cup of water

1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise

Start by cooking the quinoa. Add the oil to the bottom of a small pot. Let it heat up for a minute over medium high heat then add in the quinoa and water, stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, put a lid on the pot and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally.

While the quinoa is cooking, start to prepare the spinach balls…take a medium sized bowl and add in the spinach, bread crumbs, egg, spices, garlic and onion. When the quinoa is cooked add 1/4 cup to the spinach mixture, and stir it to combine all of the ingredients. Heat a mediums size pan over medium heat and add in about a tablespoon of olive oil. This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 375 F for your squash.

Form the spinach mixture into 10-12 balls with your hands. Place the spinach balls in the pan and brown on all sides. Once nicely browned, add in the sauce and water and cover the pan with a lid, let it simmer gently for at least 45 minutes, but I think the longer the better. Stir it around occasionally

While the spinach balls are bubbling away, line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the spaghetti squash, cut side down on the cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. The squash is ready when the flesh can easily be pierced with a fork. When it is done let it cool a little bit, then scrape a fork along the inside, from stem to stern. The squash should come apart in strings that resemble spaghetti (hence the name). Plate up your squash and top with spinach balls and sauce.


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Vegetable and Quinoa Croquettes with Spicy BBQ Sauce

Last Saturday was Switchback Brewery’s 10th anniversary and they threw a big party. They had a live band, local food vendors, brewery tours and other activities on their lawn. For $10 you got 3 beer tickets, 1 food ticket, and a newly bottled 22 of switchback ale. We also go access to specials at countless bars downtown with our exclusive wristband. All of this for $10! And it just so happens that we have our first keg of Switchback in the kegerator, coincidence?

I also broke in my new $13 crock pot with some switchback ale chili with cornmeal dumplings.

On another unrelated note… last week I lost my opal ring that Mark got me last year. I might have cried for a few days and tore apart our home and my work. I had everyone on the look out… And just when I had given up hope, Mark found it in our baggie of curry powder. Of all places! Maybe I have a cooking problem. (the worst part, I had looked in some of the other spices and the flour, just not the curry powder). My finger no longer feels naked!

We’ve been having warm weather the past few days, so a 6 mile run though the wooded part of the bike path was a must. This morning I woke up and decided to make vegetable nuggets croquettes… much more fancy sounding… to eat during the Pats game this afternoon. However, Mark and I ate them all by 11:30 am… they’re that good… but also good for you. These vegan croquettes are packed full of veggies and quinoa, breaded lightly in whole wheat bread crumbs and baked in the oven. Served with some doctored-up BBQ sauce, it’s a grown up twist on your childhood favorite: chicken nuggets with sweet and sour sauce. After a small amount of digesting, we burned them off with a 5 mile run along the lake. I ran 31 miles this week!

Vegetable and Quinoa Croquettes 

Makes about 22-24 croquettes
2 cups of broccoli florets
 1 cup of carrots, diced
 1 cup of onion, diced
 Olive oil, divided, about 1 tablespoon total
 Black pepper, divided, about 1/2 tablespoon total
 Garlic flakes, divided, about 1 tablespoon total
 Red pepper flakes, divided, about 1/2 tablespoon total
 1 russet or Yukon potato, washed and diced in 1″ cubes
 1/4 cup of quinoa, uncooked
 1/4 cup of veggies stock
 3/4 cup of water
 1 tablespoon of vegan butter
 1/2 cup of peas
 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne 
 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
 1/2 tablespoon of mustard
 1/2 cup (approximate) of whole wheat bread crumbs, you can sub gluten free bread crumbs or grind up your favorite gf crackers to keep it gf. Also look for ones low in sodium and without cheese if you want them to remain vegan.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Chop up the broccoli, carrots and onion, and place them on a foil lined baking sheet with some of the black pepper, garlic flakes, red peppers flakes and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Place them in the oven, tossing every 10 mins or so, until cooked and a bit crispy, about 30 minutes.

While the veggies roast, chop up the potato and place in a pot of boiling water. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until a fork pierces through a potato cube easily. Once the potato is in the pot, place the quinoa in another pot with some red pepper flakes and some garlic flakes. Heat over medium high heat, tossing the quinoa frequently to toast it, about 3 minutes. Then add in 1/4 cup of low sodium veggies stock and 3/4 cup of water. Stir the quinoa and potatoes occasionally. (you will have extra quinoa left over from this recipe, store in a container and add to meals that need a little protein boost)

When the veggies are done, nice and browned, scrape them and the browned bits in a food processor and pulse to chop them coarsely. When the potatoes are done, place them in a large bowl and mash them up with butter and a teaspoon of olive oil, more black pepper and garlic flakes. Add the veggies, 1/2 cup of the cooked quinoa and the peas to the potatoes, add in the cayenne cumin, curry powder and mustard, along with more garlic, black pepper or red pepper flakes, based on your preference. (I love black pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes, so I added more). Mix everything together.

Place the bread crumbs on a plate. Put the remaining olive oil (about a teaspoon) on your baking sheet (tin foil removed and discarded). Form little croquettes, I made about 1 inch diameter balls then shaped them into more of an oval shape (like a nugget). You could use a small ice cream scoop if you want to speed up the process.

Roll each nugget in the bread crumbs and place on the baking sheet. Or you can place them in the freezer, spread out on a baking sheet, not touching, and freeze for 2 hours, then transfer them to a Ziploc bag and store in your freezer until ready to use (we froze half). When ready to bake, place them in a 400 F oven for 10 minutes, or until browned on the bottom, then flip and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Doctored-Up Spicy BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle
6 small Thai hot chilies, diced very fine
1 tablespoon of mustard
1 tablespoon of sriracha
Black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of garlic flakes

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.


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Spinach and Cannelloni Bean Dip

This past weekend, Mark and I went to my parents for the weekend. They were throwing a graduation party for my brother and all my relatives, neighbors and friends were invited. I actually had some employment last week, working as a research specialist at UVM for a week and I had to work Friday night. After getting out around 8, I met Mark for dinner at Bluebird Tavern. I got an arugula salad and ratatouille. The ratatouille was delicious and chocked full of roasted local veggies… yum!

We headed down to my parents on Saturday morning. We arrived in time to help set up and prep some of the last minute food… like a killer fruit salad (blueberries, strawberries, grapes, watermelon, peaches, and pineapple). Look, there was a heart in one of the strawberries… strawberry to my heart?!?

I spent most of the party running around fetching things like serving spoons and more napkins, but I also got to see all of the people that are important to me. And the night ended with a spectacular firework show put on by my dad and his friends. Somehow I didn’t take a single picture.

On Sunday, Mark and I went to Cohen’s to get the best bagels ever and we ate them down at the beach. It was nice to have the sand between my toes and the salt breeze in my hair. I’m a total beach kid at heart… and boy oh boy had I been missing the ocean.

I made this dip for the party on Saturday, its super healthy and flavorful and it can be served with pita chips, endive spears or veggie crudité.

Spinach and Cannelloni Bean Dip

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 clove of garlic

12 oz of spinach

1 15 oz can of cannelloni beans

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Black pepper

In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and sauté for 1 minute then add in the spinach and let it wilt for 2 minutes, tossing occasionally. Let the mixture cool. Then place the spinach in a clean (old/not cared for) dish towel, squeeze out the excess water over the sink. Place the spinach in the food processor with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve with pita chips, endive spears or veggie crudité.

I served mine with Stacy’s Italian Harvest Pita Chips to rave reviews

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Grilled Veggie Pizza

So I just returned to the world of technology after spending 5 days at camp in Maine. Though I love blogging, it was so nice and refreshing to leave my phone and watch at home and unplug myself for a week. Living on “camp time” is great: you eat when you are hungry, go to bed when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light out. You “shower” in the lake with Doctor Bronner’s. And cooking is always an adventure (the grocery store is over an hour away) though I managed to run a pretty gourmet kitchen… tacos with fresh made guac, wild blueberry buckwheat pancakes, penne with veggies and a creamy chipotle sauce… just to name a few. Mark and I did a huge hike up Double Top Mountain in Baxter State Park and kayaked on the lake. And one day I went on a great 4 mile run.

This recipe is one of my favorites and is a regular in the dinner rotation, (and is easily do-able at camp). This healthier version of pizza uses whole wheat dough and is piled high with flavorful veggies and a small amount of cheese… and it’s grilled! When it comes to this recipe my philosophy is the higher you can pile the veggies on, the better. Feel free to use your favorite veggies, this is my favorite combination.

Grilled Veggie Pizza

Serves 2-4 people (depending on pizza size and hunger levels)


1 ball of pre-made whole wheat pizza dough

1 squash, cut into ¼” rounds

1 zucchini, cut into ¼” rounds

4-6 cups spinach

1 bunch asparagus, chewy, dry ends trimmed off

1 red pepper cut into ¼” rings or strips

1 Vidalia onion cut into ¼” slices and separated into rings

Black pepper

Dried basil

2 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons of your favorite Italian dressing

½ teaspoon dried basil

Few dashes of dried garlic

½ to 1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce

4-6 oz of feta or fresh grated mozzarella cheese

First preheat your grill to a medium heat. Spray your grill pan with non-stick cooking spray. I like to put mine on a cookie sheet so the spray (and later the marinade) does not get all over the place. Then slice up vegetables. Place the prepared vegetables (minus the spinach) in a gallon size zip top bag. Add the oil, dressing, pepper, bail, and garlic into the bag. Close the top and shake the bag to coat the veggies. Dump the veggies out onto the grill pan and arrange into one layer. Place grill pan on the grill. Grill for about 10 mins, turning the vegetables occasionally. When the veggies start to get brown take them off the grill.


While the veggies grill, work the pizza dough until it is about ¼-1/2 inch thick and resembles the shape of a pizza. This is tricky, I like to use my fist pulling the dough gently. I made mine in the shape of a square to fit on the grill. Place the dough on the grill and grill about 2-4 mins, until it has light brown lines on the underside. Flip (I used 2 spatulas), and grill lightly on the underside.

Remove from the heat, spread a thin layer of sauce, leaving a ½ to one inch border around the edge. Arrange the spinach in a thin layer. Pile on the veggies and top with the cheese. Place the whole pizza back on the grill for 2-4 mins to melt the cheese. Take pizza off the heat, slice up, plate and enjoy!



You can also speed up the same recipe and make individual pizzas by using whole wheat pitas (8 pitas). Follow the same instructions for the veggies but while the veggies grill, lay out each pita and top with a thin layer of sauce. When the veggies are done divide them evenly among the 8 pitas. Top each one with 1 tablespoon of feta or mozzarella. Place the pitas on the grill for 2-3 mins until the bottoms start to brown and the cheese is melted. Take them off the heat, plate and enjoy!

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