There are a couple of techniques I use to make a gluten-free, grain-free lasagna: use vegetables as noodles, like zucchini or celeriac, bake all the ingredients minus the noodles and call it good, or use grain-free crépes or tortillas as noodles.
That last idea is my current favorite and it was inspired by Danielle Walker’s take on lasagna using tortillas, both on her website and in her new book, Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great. As Danielle heads off on her book tour this week I’m giving away a copy of her book, and sharing my Mexican lasagna recipe (which will be in my coconut flour cookbook due out early next year). I also took some time to interview Danielle before she heads off to visit readers around the U.S.
We have a winner: Stef Derick! Stef, your story touched me and you sound like you’re in the same situation as Danielle. I usually generate a winner electronically to keep it fair and honest, but this book needs to be in your hands, Stef. Blessings to everyone and thanks again for all the great suggestions and techniques. You all rock!
To win a copy of the book, just leave a comment on this post about your favorite lasagna or noodle “remake”, or another grain-free, gluten-free noodle dish makeover you’d love to see as a recipe. The giveaway ends next Friday, August 16. I’m looking forward to your great ideas, as always.
And now for the interview with Danielle…
How did you discover you had an auto-immune condition, and how did you find a path to health (in the way you eat now)?
I was experiencing a lot of gastrointestinal upset about the time of my wedding in the fall of 2007. After a couple of months of things not seeming right and a lot of pain, I went to the ER and then was recommended to a slew of GI doctors before ultimately having a colonoscopy that showed very severe ulcerative colitis. I talk a lot about my diagnosis and what I went through for a few years before changing my diet and starting to feel relief. The path to health was a long journey. I initially started by going off everything “white” (white flour, white sugar, white rice) at the recommendation of my of GI doctors in San Francisco. He was the first of 5 doctors that even entertained the idea of special diets helping my condition, but he still wanted to put me on Remicade and pushed it every time I was in his office. So frustrating! After trying that for a month or so and experiencing no relief (go figure because I was eating tons of whole-wheat and brown rice!), I switched to a gluten-free diet.
Still no relief. Then I found the SCD through a friend loaning me Breaking the Vicious Cycle. After being told so many times that diet didn’t matter, I basically tossed the book aside and didn’t give it much thought. Then I had a chance encounter with a neighbor who had suffered from UC for years when she was younger but hadn’t had a flare up for 2 years because of the SCD. That was enough evidence to try it. That’s when I found your blog Erica!
Anyways, there’s still a lot more to that story. In short, SCD wasn’t enough to keep me in remission and I had one of the worst flares of my life when my son was 9 months old. Most likely caused from a round of antibiotics I was put on for mastitis and then also because of the hormonal shifts and lots of dietary “cheating” during my pregnancy. I found my way to Paleo almost by chance, as my diet just happened to mirror it after cutting out a lot of foods that my naturopath found were creating autoimmune responses in my body. Mainly legumes and dairy, but I also gave up nuts and eggs for a few months as well as we worked to heal my gut.
Told you it was a long story! And there’s even 2 more pages of it in my book!
All the prepping and cooking in the kitchen can be taxing. Can you share a few tips and tricks on how to best manage shopping, cooking, and life in a way that doesn’t consume you?
I am the worst person to ask this! I am totally not organized, and even less so now that I have a toddler and this blog/book to keep up. My brain is constantly churning with new recipes so I sometimes hit up the store two times a day for new ingredients!
That said, I have been trying to get better about planning out our dinners for the week on Sundays and also using the leftovers for my husband’s lunch at work. I haven’t been succeeding very well so far, but it’s a work in progress. I sit down and go through the recipes I’ve scratched onto sticky notes all over the house and skim my Pinterest boards and pick 3 to 5 things that look good that I want to make. I try to pick things that use similar herbs and flavors so I can reuse things through the week and minimize waste.
As for the prep, I suggest making your staples twice a month and doubling or tripling recipes and keeping them in the freezer. I like to keep some muffins, a loaf of bread, ketchup and bbq sauce (all in my book!) in the freezer so I can just defrost when I’m short on time. I also make a new bottle of my basil-thyme balsamic vinaigrette at the beginning of each week and use it for our starter salads at dinner.
What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned so far from your experiences?
To continue experimenting and have fun cooking. The most tempting times for me to fall off the wagon were when things were getting mundane and the food wasn’t exciting. If we keep things fresh and constantly rotate recipes, I would much rather eat Paleo than any other way.
What is your favorite recipe for a simple meal?
Honestly, most days for lunch I eat Applegate turkey or chicken rolled up with avocado slices and Farmhouse Culture’s kraut! But our go-to simple meal is zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash with my Great Grandma Sarella’s meat sauce. It’s so simple to make and is always satisfying! Otherwise, grilling burgers is super simple and you can always just change up the toppings to make it exciting.
What are your favorite traveling snacks?
My granola goes with us on any trip. That way if I need to I can purchase a goat yogurt from a health food store and have a great breakfast. I also take my homemade fruit-by-the-foot, trail mix, and beef jerky usually. Again, all in the book!
And now for my own lasagna creation using my tortillas, and both will also appear in my next cookbook!
Mexican LasagnaThis is not dairy-free but can be made dairy-free by removing the cheese and using a dairy-free cheese substitute. Another option is to use a creamy white bean sauce like the one used here or cashew sour cream from my SCD book, page 23. If you’re following SCD, use an SCD-legal cheese such as dry curd cottage cheese, Havarti, or Parmesan cheese.
- 5 ounces (142 g) spinach leaves
- 1 cup (16 g) cilantro (not packed)
- 4 green onions (68 g)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or other cooking oil
- 1/2 pound ground chicken (or turkey or beef)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt for the chicken
- 14.5 ounce (411 g) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies (or add green chilies separately)
- 2 cups (170 g) shredded or grated Monterey Jack cheese or Pepper Jack cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)
- 6 to 8 tortillas
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7).
- Finely chop the green onions, spinach, and cilantro. You can speed up this step by pulsing all the greens in a food processor. Add the spinach in small bunches.
- Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and add the ground chicken. Break up the chicken with a spatula as it cooks.
- Cook the chicken for a few minutes or until it’s mostly cooked. Remove it from the saucepan and set aside on a warm plate.
- Add the chopped spinach, onions, and cilantro to the saucepan along with the chili powder, cumin, salt, and fire-roasted tomatoes with chilies. If you’re adding the chilies separately, add them now as well.
- Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally and then turn off the heat.
- Place the first layer of tortillas in an 8-inch x 8-inch (20.3 cm x 20.3 cm) baking dish, or about 2 tortillas so they cover the bottom of the dish.
- On top of the tortillas place a layer of the chicken mixture across the tortillas and then a layer of shredded cheese.
- Cover the cheese with another layer of tortillas and repeat the sequence. In all you’ll have three layers, about 2 tortillas in each layer, and the final layer will have the chicken mixture covered with cheese so the top layer is cheese.
- Place the lasagna in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until it is bubbling and the cheese is browning.
- Cool for a moment and slice. Serve warm. Store covered in the refrigerator for a few days, or in the freezer for a few months.
Makes 6 to 8 servings