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In Search of Healthy Italian Food

June 22, 2015

I find it a challenge to keep my meals from being monotonous when I am restricted almost completely to protein and vegetables, with a limited amount of dairy. Cooking for one is a special challenge if I don’t want to throw away a large portion of everything I buy. While fish and white meats are preferable to beef, I can have lean beef a couple of times a week. I find it handy to brown a pound or two of extra-lean ground beef at a time and keep it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer, where I can easily add small amounts to various meals. Sometimes I season it with taco seasonings, but often I leave it plain. Since I am a carb lover—particularly keen on Tex-Mex and Italian pasta—I am always looking for ways to enjoy the flavor without the carbs and grease.

Zucchini Lasagna Boats

1 medium zucchini, halved and seeded
olive oil
¾ cup browned ground beef
¼ cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 fresh basil leaf, chopped
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
¼ teaspoon dried minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using your finger, lightly smear olive oil over bottom of shallow casserole and the insides of zucchini. Mix together remaining ingredients except Parmesan cheese. (I used seasoned tomato paste. If you use plain tomato paste, add ½ teaspoon Italian seasonings to meat mixture if desired.) Stuff zucchini with meat mixture. Lightly dust with Parmesan. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

I planned to enjoy this with tomato and lettuce salad, but I realized that I was reaching my quota of protein, vegetables and dairy without a salad. That in itself is an achievement. I have trouble consuming six servings of vegetables a day.

Variations: I could have as easily stuffed tomatoes, peppers or mushrooms—large ones for an entrée, small ones for appetizers.

Feedback:
Do you have good ideas or recipes for healthy, non-pasta Italian dishes?