Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cool Zucchini Noodles with Mighty Marinara Sauce & "Cheesy" Topping and a CookBook Review of Allergy-Friendly Food for Families

With more than 12 million Americans having some sort of food allergy, I consider myself very lucky not to have one. It's actually a point of contention between my allergist and I on whether I have a dairy sensitivity. She maintains that dairy causing mucus is an old wives' tale, while I say that she has never seen the mucus factory that I become the morning after I have inhaled most of a cheese plate. So I limit the amount of dairy I consume, but it would certainly be difficult to go without it completely like many adults and children have to--not to mention when someone is allergic to more than one food group or item. The five most common food allergies are gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs and soy, and Allergy-Friendly Food for Families: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Egg-Free, and Soy-Free Recipes That Everyone Will Love, covers all five with 120 recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, snacks and party foods.

Written by the editors of Kiwi, the bi-monthly magazine about raising families the natural and organic way, this colorful cookbook is a great resource for feeding the entire family. Each of the 120 recipes is free of at least two of the allergens and many are free of all five. Recipes are divided by colored tabs representing each allergen, so it is easy flip through and identify the recipes that meet your needs--for example, you just locate all the red tabs if there is a nut allergy in your house or all the blue for dairy, etc. Recipes are written clearly and are simple to follow, with relatively easy to find ingredients and a nutritional analysis of each recipe. The book is a sturdy paperback, 8"x9" and has 256 pages. Although not every recipe has a color photo, there are quite a few included and with the colored tabs, it makes for a bright and appealing book. In addition to the recipes, the book has helpful information on cooking with kids, making nutritious food fun, facts about allergies and living an allergen-free life, building an allergy-free pantry, and packing greener lunches. Allergy-Friendly Food for Families would be wonderful for any family or individual living with food allergies or food sensitivities and looking for safe and nutritious food that tastes good, is fun to eat, and doesn't leave a feeling of being deprived of favorite dishes.

Although I don't cook for a house full of kids, I food many of recipes appealing including Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies, Individual Egg-Free Frittatas, Edamame Carrot Falafel Pitas, Veggie Sushi Bites, Corn Chip-Crusted Tofu Fingers, Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Lentils, Greener Sloppy Joes, Spicy Mexican Shrimp Skewers, Coconut No-Cream Pie with Chocolate Crumb Crust, Butternut Blondes, Raspberry Oat Bars, Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa, WholeWheat Lemon Shortbread, Chickpea Herb Crackers, Spiced Carrot Fries, and Caramelized Double-Onion Dip.

To "road test" this book, I chose to make the Cool Zucchini Noodles, topped with Mighty Marinara Sauce. It's a simple dish that I throw together variations of all the time, but here I liked all of the finely chopped veggies they worked into the sauce recipe. The "cheesy" topping, takes the nutritional yeast flakes I regularly sprinkle on pasta dishes and adds ground sunflower seeds for a more cheese-like texture. The Kiwi Editors say, "When it’s too hot to cook, these zucchini “noodles” make a quick, nutritious meal. The sunflower seed and nutritional yeast topping add palate-pleasing nuttiness and crunch."

(You can also find this recipe at the Andrews McMeel website (here) along with one for an allergy-friendly Giant Cookie Cake)

Cool Zucchini Noodles / Mighty Marinara Sauce
From Allergy-Friendly Food for Families, From the Editors of Kiwi

Cool Zucchini Noodles & "Cheesy" Topping
Prep Time: 10 minutes
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large zucchini, peeled and ends trimmed
1 cup Mighty Marinara Sauce (recipe below)

In a food processor, add the sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast, and season with salt and pepper. Process until the sunflower seeds are the consistency of crumbs. Set aside.

Set out four plates or bowls. With a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shred the zucchini into thin strands, arranging one shredded zucchini on each plate or bowl.

Top each plate with ¼ cup of the marinara sauce and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sunflower seed mixture. Serve at room temperature.

Nutritionals: per serving: calories 151, fat 8 g, protein 7 g, carbs 16 g, dietary fiber 6 g

**In addition to zucchini noodles, I was playing around with making (raw) yam noodles with my spiralizer. I find that for a warm sauce I prefer the yam noodles lightly steamed, as they are firmer than zucchini noodles, while in cold salads or dishes I like them raw and crisp.

Mighty Marinara Sauce
Prep Time: 10 minutes /Cook Time: 30 minutes
(Serves 6)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
1 large carrot, peeled and quartered
1 stalk celery, quartered
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
salt (to taste)
1 bay leaf

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.

In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. Process until very finely chopped. Add the vegetables to the stockpot and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes and season with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and add the bay leaf. Simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, until the flavors are well-blended. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Nutritionals: per serving: calories 83, fat 3 g, protein 3 g, carbs 15 g, dietary fiber 4 g

Notes/Results: Healthy comfort food and an easy and tasty meal. The vegetables give the sauce great flavor and a thick meaty texture that makes it satisfying. It was great on the zucchini noodles, but would also be good on any favorite pasta. I really loved the cheesy topping--the ground up sunflower seeds are a nutritious way to add more substance to the nutritional yeast so I plan to continue making this topping mix. The next night for dinner, I tossed some Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs (a recent buy one/get one free grocery store purchase) into the sauce as it heated for a delicious low fat, low calorie, and no cholesterol vegan spaghetti and meatballs.

Note: I received a copy of Allergy-Friendly Food for Families from the publisher (Andrews McMeel), but I received no monetary compensation to review it. As always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own.


  1. This looks really, really good! I also have something of a dairy sensitivity - I don't get the gut problems that people with lactose intolerance get, but I do get the snotty nose and histamine reaction of an allergy when I overdo it.

  2. Those noodles (both) look so marvelous. This sounds like a good book to have around!! =)

  3. Food allergies are MAJORLY scary and I just hope that my future kids don't have them! Even if they don't, they will certainly be friends with kids who do so this book will undoubtedly come in handy!  Love the sound of that sauce...hearty and healthy!

  4. I love zucchini noodles and routinely make raw marinara sauce such as this. Super simple, super tasty and super healthy. What's not to like? :)


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