Category Archives: Italian Inspired Recipes

Italian Vegetable Sauce pairs with spaghetti squash

Image: Italian Veggie Sauce

Looking for a little comfort food on these cold winter nights? Want to keep on your Meatless Monday plan? Look no further!

This yummy meatless sauce with Italian seasonings and zucchini pairs well with spaghetti squash to give you a delicious and low carb alternative to pasta. While it comes in a little higher in carbs than I usually aim for with my recipes, it is still only 13.5 net carbs per serving.

If you’re just not into a meatless sauce, then feel free to add ground beef and/or Italian sausage to the dish. It works great either way.

Italian Vegetable Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1/4 cup Onions, chopped
3 Sweet Mini-Peppers
1 teaspoon Garlic
1 15-ounce can Diced Italian Style Tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning Blend
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 ounces Red Wine
3 cups Spaghetti Squash
1 cup Zucchini, diced
1/2 cup Mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Spinach, fresh

Preheat oven to 385 degrees (F.)

Cut the spaghetti squash in half, remove the seeds, rub with a little olive oil, and place face down on a foil-covered baking pan. Bake for about 40 minutes until a fork inserted into the squash goes through easily. Remove and set aside to cool.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil, then add onions and garlic. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes until the onion sweats. Add tomatoes, seasonings, and wines. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then lower the heat to simmer and cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be thickening. Add zucchini and cook about 10 minutes until it is almost tender. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook another few minutes.

Use a fork to separate the spaghetti strands of the squash and warm in the oven or a microwave for about three minutes.

Add the spinach to the sauce and stir it in until it is limp.

Put 3/4 cup of spaghetti squash on a plate, and top with 1/4 of the vegetable sauce. Grate Italian cheese over the top. Serve with a salad.

Makes 4 servings.

Image: Nutrition Info


Meatless Pizza Monday

Photo: Zucchini, Eggplant, & Beets Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? And what do we miss when trying to stay low carb? You betcha! Good news. We have pizza crust alternatives that work very well for making pizza. If you haven’t tried any of these, give them a shot. First, there’s the cauliflower crust, which you can make yourself or now buy at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. For that matter, you can order them online from Amazon. However, check the carbs on these as some of them are higher than making them yourself.

You can also make a pizza crust using low carb flour. I use LC Foods Pizza and Calzone mix to make this delicious crust, but I have also used DCC All Purpose Flour to produce an equally good, but slightly sweeter crust. You can also use a large portobello mushroom as a pizza base. While white meat chicken makes a great pizza base, that doesn’t work so well on Meatless Monday. You can also use a low-carb tortilla to make a fairly crispy crust, but be careful not to overcook it.

For this recipe, I’ve provided the toppings only and the carb count is just for them, so add in the count for the pizza base. My pizza recipe makes two personal-size pizzas, but you can make a larger eight-inch pizza and cut it in half. I like to cook my pizza on a rack since that allows the underside to brown evenly as well as the top. I really like this combination of vegetables and seasoning, but you can adapt it to others if you like. When buying pasta sauce, check the carb count. I used one that comes in at 3.5 net carbs for 1/4 cup.

Zucchini, Eggplant, and Beets Pizza Toppings

2 small Pizza Crusts
1/2 cup Zucchini, 1/4″ slices
1/4 cup Golden Beets, diced
1/4 cup Japanese Eggplant, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Spinach, fresh
1/4 cup Pasta Sauce
1/3 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb Seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F.)

Cook pizza crusts for 5 to 10 minutes if it isn’t already partially cooked.

Cook diced beets in a microwave for one minute. You can use the zucchini and eggplant raw or sauté them in a pan with a splash of Olive Oil for a couple of minutes to soften.

Spread 2 tablespoons of the Pizza Sauce on each pizza crust. Arrange the zucchini and eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then distribute the beets on top of them. Arrange enough spinach leaves over the tops to cover them. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned.

Serves two.

Photo: Nutrition Count for Pizza Toppings

Links to recipes for Low-Carb Flour Pizza Crust and Cauliflower Pizza Crust.

Creamy Tuscan Chicken for Two

Photo Creamy Tuscan Chicken

I make most of the meals at my house into small portions for two people. This is the case with this recipe for delicious creamy Tuscan-style chicken. If you want to make it for more people, it’s easy to double the amounts. If you have one very plump chicken breast, you can probably cut it across the middle as if you were butterflying it to make two chicken pieces. If the chicken is too thick, over 1/2″, then you should cut it to thinner slices, so it cooks thoroughly.

This recipe uses sun-dried tomatoes, but you can also use about six to eight cherry tomatoes cut in half.

Creamy Tuscan-Style Chicken

3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup Spinach, chopped
1/4 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Add olive oil to a medium-sized skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken pieces for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until they are browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the skillet, add heavy cream, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. If you are using cherry tomatoes, add them in now also. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon until the sauce begins to thicken. Add spinach and the sun-dried tomatoes and stir them in. Turn to a simmer and cook until spinach begins to wilt. Add the chicken and any juices on the plate back to the pan and cook another three or so minutes until the chicken is heated.

Makes two servings. Serve with riced cauliflower or zucchini noodles. I served mine with a delicious riced golden beets side dish. Recipe follows.

Image: Nutrition Info


Savory Riced Golden Beets

Photo: Riced Golden Beets

I’ve tried the frozen riced purple beets, and they are yummy with the earthy taste that the dark beets have and make a great side dish. However, I prefer golden beets with their lighter flavor. So, I riced up a beet and added a little chicken broth and seasoning. Voila! Delicious couscous-like pearls of delight. Along with the chicken, they really provided that extra touch of the Mediterranean flavor.

1 medium-sized Golden Beet, cleaned and peeled
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (optional)
1 tablespoon Butter

Rice golden beet in a food processor, using the pulse until it is the size of rice kernels. You can also use a grater to grate the beet, but the food processor is much easier.

In a small skillet, melt butter then add riced beets. Add about 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat until the water almost evaporates. Add the chicken broth, seasoning, and salt, reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook until the beets are done about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir often and add additional water if they get too dry.

Makes two servings.

Image: Nutrition Info

A quick bread recipe to end the month

Photo: {an of focaccia bread

Want a quick and easy bread to make? This is a focaccia-style flat bread that can be made into sandwiches, a soup or stew bread, or just toast and butter to serve with jam and tea. Unlike focaccia, this is a flat bread made without yeast. All the rise in it comes from the eggs and a little bit of baking powder.

I used CarbQuick, a low carb flour that behaves a little like Bisquick, but with lots fewer carbohydrates. You can also make it with almond flour or any other low carb flour. I also used a little coconut flour in it, but I wouldn’t recommend making the whole thing with coconut flour.

Focaccia-style Flat Bread

2 large Eggs
1/4 cup Egg whites
1/4 cup Canola Oil
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings, crushed
1 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 cup Carbquick
2 tablespoons Coconut Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F.) Prepare a small baking pan (about 10×6-inches) by cutting a piece of parchment paper to fit. I used a toaster oven-sized pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and seasonings together. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, and oil together. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until they are combined. Use your hands if needed. Add the Parmesan cheese and mix it into the dough.

Turn the dough into the baking pan and spread it evenly across the pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 6 slices of bread.

Image: Nutrition Facts


Creamy Italian-style Lemonade Ricotta Cheesecake

Photo: Ricotta Cheesecake

It’s Fall here in Reno, and it’s welcome as this is my favorite time of year. I love watching the trees turn, attempting to salvage any pears from my tree before the birds get them, and tasting all the wonderful flavors that come with the season. Pumpkin is back in all the restaurants, but there are other fantastic seasonal squashes coming up as well. I plan to be experimenting with more new recipes over the next few weeks, so look for that.

In the meantime, I spent most of September in Las Vegas house/dog sitting for my friends who jetted off to their home they are renovating in France. Sounds so posh, doesn’t it? The house in the country in France. I may even get over to see it when they are completely through with the massive renovation. Anyway, I didn’t do much creative cooking while I was there, keeping mostly to the basics and trying to get my body reset to a tight low carb diet.  However, I did experiment a little with this wonderful recipe for an Italian Ricotta Cream Cheesecake. It is adapted for a smaller cake and I use sugar-free lemonade mix in it to give it a very lemony flavor that is sensational. As a bonus, I created it in both a baked form, and as a quick microwave version that serves two. Both are delightful.

Italian-Style Lemonade Ricotta Cheesecake

Adjusted to low carb and adapted from the original recipe by Rene Averett. Find the original at All Recipes.

6 oz. Cream Cheese
1/3 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Sugar Substitute
2 Eggs
2 teaspoons Sugar-free Lemonade mix
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Low Carb Flour
3 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 cup Heavy Cream or Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F.) Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a 6″x6″ cake pan and spray with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and ricotta cheese until well mixed. Add the sugar, eggs, lemon mix, vanilla, flour, and butter. Mix until smooth and creamy. Stir in the heavy cream or sour cream last.

Pour the mixture in the cake pan and smooth.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave for another 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool before serving.

Place a plate over the top and flip the cheesecake onto the plate. Cut into six slices. Tastes delicious with a tablespoon of sugar-free strawberry jam on top or top with whipped cream.

Makes six servings.

Nutrition information per serving:
Calories: 272.8 Fat: 26.8 g Net Carbs: 2.6 g Protein: 6.7 g

Photo: Microwave Ricotta Cheesecake

Microwave Lemonade Ricotta Cheesecake

2 oz. Cream Cheese
2 tablespoons Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon Sugar Substitute
1 Egg
3/4 teaspoon Sugar-free Lemonade mix
1/8 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Low Carb Flour
1 tablespoon Butter, softened
2 tablespoon Heavy Cream or Sour Cream

In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and ricotta cheese together, blending as much as possible. Stir in the sugar, egg, lemonade mix, vanilla, and butter. Mix well, then add the flour and cream. Stir until mixed in.

Spoon 1/2 of the batter into a microwave safe 1/2 cup ramekin, then spoon the rest into another one. Put one ramekin in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds. Remove and stir the batter to smooth any lumps from it. Put back in the microwave and cook another 40 seconds. Check to make sure the cake is baked all the way through. If not cook, another 15 seconds.

Repeat baking with the second ramekin. Once cooked, cover both with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. Serve in the ramekin.

Makes two servings:

Nutrition Information per serving:
Calories: 276.4 Fat: 26.4 g Net Carbs: 2.8 g Protein: 8.1 g

I hope you try this and love it as much as I did. I took the photos in Las Vegas and had to adjust to available cooking pans, but I  hope to make it again soon and will get better photos then.