This is going to be a departure from the normal content I have posted on my blog thus far. I get a lot of questions about what I do, so I thought I might share some of the things I do “in real life”.
For this In Real Life post, I wanted to share a recent dinner I prepared for my family for my wife and I’s anniversary.
The first question you might be asking yourself is why I made my own anniversary dinner?
Simple, it seemed like the right thing to do on that day 😉
I love cooking, so I don’t mind making my own dinner, but also my wife went out to dinner with her sisters the night before so we made the decision to just eat dinner at home.
The decision about what to make was left up to me, and we hadn’t had Italian food in a while so I went with that.
Italian food is delicious, who doesn’t love it?
However, as with any cuisine, there can be ingredients that some people, including myself, choose to limit. For me, I generally steer away from gluten and processed grains. Not because they are inherently bad, but more because I prefer other foods in replace of these foods. My family also tends to steer away from dairy and eggs for the most part due to sensitivities.
So keeping things in mind, what did I make for my Italian anniversary dinner?
Wonder no more, here are all the details!
First let’s start off with an Italian staple, pasta!
No doubt pasta is delicious, not so long ago I was known for plowing through 1lb of pasta in a single sitting. These days I generally don’t eat traditional pastas, mostly because I can easily overeat it…clearly.
What do I generally eat instead of pasta?
If you have not heard of a spiralizer before, it’s a very neat little kitchen gadget. It basically can take a variety of fruits and veggies and turn them into “noodles” (and other shapes as well).
There are lots of spiralizers out there, but the best one I have used is an attachment for a KitchenAid stand mixer.
It’s very well made (out of metal) and it’s powered by the mixer itself which means less manual work, but more importantly, it’s powerful so it makes it great for spiralizing things like potatoes.
Here is a quick video of the spiralizer in action spiralizing some summer squash for my dinner.
To prepare the summer squash and zucchini noodles for this dinner I threw them in a pan along with some olive oil, garlic, and italian seasoning and sauteed them for a couple minutes. These noodles cook very quickly so it only takes a couple minutes. If you overcook them they will become mushy due to the water in the veggies, so keep an eye on them.
The other “noodles” I prepared for this dinner was spaghetti squash. It is called spaghetti squash because after it’s cooked it looks like spaghetti. Cooking this squash is really easy. Basically slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle the inside of the squash with some olive oil and salt generously. Then place each half face down on a baking sheet. Bake the squash at 400 degrees fahrenheit for about an hour. If your squash is bigger it might take longer. You know the squash is done if you can pierce the squash easily with a knife.
Once it’s done take the squash out and let it cool. Once it’s cool enough to touch, take a fork and scrape the flesh inside the squash. This should cause the flesh to come out looking like spaghetti!
Since this was a “special” dinner I made one other “pasta”, sweet potato gnocchi!
I love sweet potatoes, so this was a great little addition to our dinner (for me at least!).
This takes a little more work to make, so I only make these a few times a year if that, however the recipe only requires 3 ingredients, sweet potatoes, cassava flour, and arrowroot flour.
To make these I baked a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven just like you normally would. Once they were done, I let them cool down completely. This is important because you will be making dough out of the sweet potatoes with your hands so it will make things much more pleasant if the potatoes are not super hot.
To make the gnocchi take two cups of sweet potatoes (without the skin), 3 tbsp of arrowroot powder, and 1 ¾ cups cassava flour and mix everything together in a bowl. I find it best to use your hands to do this because it will form a ball of dough once everything is mixed together.
Once you have the dough I found it easy to break off small pieces of the dough and form into the shape of gnocchi. It probably won’t look perfect but that’s OK it still tastes great!
Pro Tip: If you have kids like I do, enlist them to help you make the gnocchi from the dough!
When it comes to cooking the gnocchi, you cook it just like you would traditional gnocchi. Just place them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Then drain the water and they are ready to eat!
Due to my love of all things veggies, I also roasted up some eggplant. Nothing fancy here, just peel the eggplant (or not), dice it, drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic and Italian seasoning. I then roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees fahrenheit for about 20-30 minutes.
As always protein should be a priority at every meal (and snack) you eat. My all time favorite protein for Italian meals is chicken parm. If you are like me and avoid gluten, then you might be wondering how I made this? Chicken parm is coated in breadcrumbs.
My favorite breadcrumb substitute is PORK PANKO!
Seriously, it’s ground up pork rinds (which are just pig skin!), and you use them just like you would traditional bread crumbs.
To make the chicken parm, I cup the chicken up into the size I wanted and coated them in a small amount of Primal Kitchen Mayo (a little goes a long way). You can use an egg and milk wash like you normally would but we try to limit eggs and dairy in our house so the mayo fits the bill for us.
Then just dip the chicken in the pork panko.
Traditionally for chicken parm you would pan fry the chicken. That’s perfectly fine, but I would suggest you use a “natural” oil rather than a seed oil which will oxidize when it’s heated. Avocado oil, coconut oil, or other animal fats would work well, but I would suggest avocado oil because it had a more neutral flavor.
For myself though, I have moved away from pan frying and instead use an air fryer (I have an Instant Pot Vortex which does a whole lot more than air fry).
In my opinion it comes out just as good (and in some cases better) and you don’t need any oil which can save a few hundred calories depending on the food. In addition, when you pan fry the chicken parm you then usually bake it, but I can just combine these two steps with the air fryer.
I just popped the chicken in the air fryer and at 400 degrees fahrenheit and cooked it until golden brown, which was about 20 minutes.
Before taking them out of the air fryer I topped them with some Primal Kitchen Vodka Sauce and some cheese. I then placed them back in the air fryer for 1-2 minutes and they were done.
Here is my final dinner, I also added a little Primal Kitchen Vodka sauce to the spaghetti squash and zucchini/summer squash noodles.
Sure it was not a “night out” at a fancy Italian restaurant, but that’s fine, not every special occasion needs to be elaborate. We still had a great anniversary dinner that was tasty, but also made of ingredients that we know suits our taste, preferences, and goals the best. It was all gluten, egg, and dairy free (the cheese we used was non-dairy due to some dairy sensitivities). There were no seed oils used if that is important to you, and it didn’t contain any “hidden” calories either.
As an added bonus my kids could help make our anniversary dinner for us!
That’s how we do Italian in the Baxter household! If you have any questions or have Italian favorites that you make at home, let me know in the comments below.
Also if you enjoy this type of “in real life” content, let me know in the comments below, I would be happy to do more of these posts. To keep up with all the content I put out, whether it is more of these in real life posts or my more traditional educational content and videos, sign up for my newsletter using the form below!