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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gluten-free, dairy-free creamy pasta sauce


It’s strange how you almost wake up one morning feeling…normal… and you aren’t quite sure when feeling sick ended and when normal began. I discovered over the past few weeks that I’ve been feeling just that: normal. Such a strange word.

But, I can’t tell you how happy I am to feel healthy and energetic! I am still somewhat conscious of the symptoms I used to have and smile with delight when I realize I am not experiencing them anymore. I giggle, in fact, sometimes.

I also giggle when I come across things reminding me how far I’ve come in 6 months; how eating and baking and cooking gluten free is second nature, and how I am no longer surprised that gluten free baked goods are not a second-rate substitute for their wheat-flour cousins.

I also hope that anyone who might even have the slightest inkling they are gluten intolerant to try eating gluten free for a while…see what happens. The earlier you go gluten free, the faster your body will recover. And there’s no need to suffer or “deal with” your symptoms. Check out the information on celiac symptoms on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website.

I was surprised to learn some of the symptoms I had been “dealing with” all my life were related to gluten, such as unexplained chills or heat flashes, feeling overly tired after eating, and migraine headaches. The best one though? I have always felt that I was just a tad overweight, and no matter how much I exercised and watched my diet, I couldn’t get rid of my protruding belly. Now, I pay zero attention to my weight, because, well, I have far bigger things to think about. I eat twice as much as I used to and work out half as much. And I need to wear belts to keep my pants up. My experience is common; many people who have struggled to lose weight (often they are much heavier than I ever was) aren’t necessarily breaking the “less calories taken in than burned” rule, their bodies are having a difficult time metabolizing their gluteny food.

I started eating gluten free relatively young; many don’t discover they have celiac until well into their 40s or 50s. They’ve spent too many decades buying into the symptom solutions American culture feeds us. Headache? Take a pill. Indigestion? Take an antacid. Tired? Drink more coffee! Unfortunately, the longer you wait, sometimes the more damage is done and the longer it takes to heal.

In what feels like a relatively short period of time, I have begun to feel healthy, and my doctor has taken me off one of my medications. Hooray! I don’t need it anymore! I was taking 6 of these a day (2 pills 3 times a day), so my pill box looks blessedly empty these days. And – here’s the really good part – I can start testing other foods, such as dairy, corn, and soy, to see if I can tolerate them.

In the meantime, I created an anti-inflammatory diet friendly pasta sauce (no tomatoes, cheese, or red pepper), using a zucchini the size of my forearm! Don’t be put off by its green tint – when you mix it up with some pasta and vegetables, it feels, and tastes, like a creamy pasta sauce. Pictured above, I didn't even use pasta; I tossed it with french green beans, quartered artichoke hearts, and chickpeas. Even better, try pouring your mixture into a casserole dish, sprinkle sliced almonds on top and bake!

Zucchini pasta sauce:

1 LARGE zucchini, cubed into about ½ inch pieces
½ large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped finely (see note)
Seasonings, to taste (I used sea salt, ground pepper, and basil)
Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften. Add garlic and sauté for about a minute more. Add the zucchini and reduce head to med-low. Season as you desire. Cook covered for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is good and tender.

Remove pan from heat. Scoop zucchini mixture into a blender or food processor, small amounts at a time, until smooth (it took me about 3 or 4 rotations and my blender is very weak).

Pour over pasta, bake in a casserole, or save for later use! If you are using it immediately, you may need to re-heat it in a saucepan before you pour it over pasta, depending on how much the mixture has cooled.

Enjoy!

Note: I tend to use a lot of garlic, so adjust to your tastes

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