Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Make it without gluten

Cathi Litzenberger shares a tasty gluten-free recipe for minestrone along with a delicious squash stuffed with quinoa

I’ve spent the last four days in Seattle at a business conference, and because of time restraints and limited menu choices at restaurants, I discovered that times like this can be challenging for anyone on restricted diets. That’s my excuse for breaking my eating regime. It is time for me to get back to eating more home-cooked meals with recipes that are gluten-free, sugar-free, lactose-free and maybe even dairy and egg-free, but  still delicious.

I was looking for comfort foods and have two such dishes to offer this week.

Gluten-Free Minestrone

2 tsp. olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, diced

1 can (28 oz/796 ml) diced tomatoes with juice.

1 can (14 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup diced cooked GF ham

1 cup GF chicken or vegetable broth

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup packed spinach, trimmed and coarsley chopped

1 cup cook small GF pasta, any shape

1/4 cup snipped fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parmesan cheese, optional

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add carrots, celery, garlic and onion; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until tender but not brown.

Add zucchini, tomatoes with juice, beans, ham, broth, and tomato paste; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Top with grated parmesan cheese (optional).

Variations: Substitute equal amount of shredded cabbage or cooked green beans for the spinach. Substitute 6 slices GF bacon, chopped, cooked crisp, or 1 cup diced cooked chicken, beef, or turkey for the ham.

Pecan and Quinoa-stuffed Squash

2 small acorn squash

2 tsp. olive oil

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tbsp. snipped fresh sage

1/2 cup snipped fresh parsley,

3/4 tsp. dried marjoram

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

With a small knife, pierce each squash through to the centre in four places. Place 1 squash on a paper towel in the microwave. Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes,  turning once or until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from microwave and let stand for 5 minutes. Repeat for second squash. Cut squash in half crosswise and remove seeds. Trim a small slice off the bottom of each to allow them to sit flat. Place hollow side up in lightly greased baking pan and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté celery, onion and sage for 6-8 minutes or until just softened. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, marjoram, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in quinoa and pecans.

Spoon mixture evenly into squash halves. Bake in preheated oven at 375 F 15 to 20 minutes or until tops are golden.

Variation: Substitute wild rice for the quinoa.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.