Springtime Italian Pasta Primavera

Everyone loves pasta.  Everyone.

Everyone loves pasta. Everyone.

Continuing with our theme of eating healthy, here is a springtime pasta dish full of veggies and plenty of important nutrients.  It can be made to be gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, FODMAP friendly- or all of the above!  We’re sure it will become another family favorite, and although kids aren’t usually fans of chunky veggies, the versatility of making the topping separately allows some wiggle room for pickier eaters.  Don’t be discouraged by the long ingredient list, either: many of these items are probably already in your pantry.

Feel free to substitute ingredients for different dietary needs.  No matter which combination below you choose, there will be a healthy dose of benefits: the recommended amount of fiber is 15 grams or more per day, and you’ll take in 8 grams from this meal alone.  The cheese and pasta are rich in protein, the veggies in complex carbohydrates and the olive oil in healthy fat.  Who knew pasta could be so helpful?

Once the veggies are prepared, this is a quick dish that is sure to please your springtime culinary desires!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large garlic clove, chopped (leave out if following FODMAP)
3 cups whole tomatoes in can drained and chopped
1/2 cup sliced red onion (replace with chives if FODMAP)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided (or more)
1 cup spaghetti squash (see below on how to prepare)*
1 package gluten free pasta (I used TruRoots ancient grain spaghetti)
1 cup cubed zucchini
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese, divided, parmesan or nutritional yeast
Freshly ground black papper
Lemon slices (optional)

*To prepare spaghetti squash slice in half and remove seeds.  Place in a glass baking dish cut side down.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Spaghetti Squash adds a satisfying crunch to pasta dishes.

Spaghetti Squash adds a satisfying crunch to pasta dishes.

Once cooked through you can spoon out the spaghetti.
Place pasta in boiling water and cook for about 7 minutes.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oregano and garlic; saute 30 seconds.  Add red onion, tomatoes and 2 tablespoons parsley.  Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Add spinach at the end and allow to wilt, then turn off heat and cover to keep hot.

Place spaghetti in a bowl and top with vegetable mix.  Place either parmesan, goat cheese or nutritional yeast on top and allow to melt.  Can garnish with more parsley or lemon or green onions.

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Almond Coconut Cookie Joys

Here at Lighten Up, we love cookies.  A lot.  You can tell it will be a great day when Tina brings in her newest batch of these healthy treats.  The joy in this recipe is the delicious combination of sweet, creamy, dark chocolate and crunchy oats…and it doesn’t hurt that they are full of protein, fiber and healthy fats.  These cookies also have a low glycemic index, so you can avoid that usual blood sugar spike.  Used as an afternoon snack, these little guys will energize you, improve your focus and allow you the boost you need to finish the work day.  All from a cookie!

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Almond Coconut Cookie Joys

1 cup almond flour (I take almonds and pulse them until it is still crunchy)
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1 cup oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats)
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup coconut oil melted
1/4 cup earth balance melted
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup chopped 70% dark chocolate

Mix all dry ingredients together.  Add melted coconut oil and soy free earth balance.  Add almond milk. Stir together and form into balls.  Place on ungreased baking sheet that has parchment paper.  Spray parchment paper.  Take a fork and press cookie balls.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

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Let cool and enjoy!

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Gluten-Free Tortilla Pizza

Living with food allergies/intolerances is hard.  Restricted diets can sometimes make it difficult to feel as though you have a normal life.  There are those who choose to live healthier lifestyles, and then there are those who have found out about a medical condition that requires them to change their eating habits drastically.  Suddenly needing to bring your own food to social events surrounding eating is a strange adjustment to make, and while those who love you won’t mind, it’s still discouraging to have to make those preparations.

Fortunately, there’s becoming an increased awareness of the variety of dietary needs among restaurant-goers.  We now see more establishments offering gluten-free options.  Servers are no longer surprised when you ask for dairy-free adjustments to menu items.  Still, those of us who live with restricted diets want to have it become second-nature, something we don’t have to think or worry about any more.

There are options, and lots of them.  Once you learn which kind of gluten-free pasta alternative you like best, you suddenly find yourself developing new favorite recipes around that.  You start to pick up your favorite kind of almond milk without thinking twice.  You reach for different sorts of produce and try new things.

Here is one of those recipes that will become a family favorite.  It’s important that we allow ourselves to enjoy treats of old, while adjusting them to our nutritional needs.  No one wants to give up pizza.  So, today we have a FODMAP-friendly gluten-free tortilla pizza that will nourish your body and relieve your desire for your old ways!



1 Rudi’s tortilla
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 1 tablespoon pesto or 1 tablespoon cashew cream
2 cups Baby kale, spinach, bok choy chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chives
1 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese (Organic Valley)
Sliced sweet red pepper

Place tortilla on a baking sheet.  Spread either the tomato paste, pesto or cashew butter on the tortilla.

Saute the vegetables in the olive oil.  Place the vegetables on top of the sauce.  Add grated cheese or nutritional yeast to the top of the vegetables.  Place under broiler and toast until the tortilla is golden-brown.

Slice it up and enjoy!