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 cost 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 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 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 chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup of cooked 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 will 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 regular 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 white onion, cut in half moons 
    1/4 cup olive oil ( or less)
    Himalayan salt to taste
    4 cups Tabatchnick or similar type vegetable broth

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees
    Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet
    Toss the cherry tomatoes and onions in olive oil 
    Place on parchment paper
    Sprinkle with salt to taste
    Roast for 40-45 minutes until onions are slightly reddish
    Remove vegetables from oven. 
    Allow to cool. 
    Placed cooled vegetables and all juice into 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.