Versatile Red Veggie Sauce

Recipes from a variety of cuisines call for canned tomatoes or tomato sauce. While originating in South America and Central America, tomatoes have become integrated into the food landscape around the world. After having been brought to Europe, likely by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, tomatoes were then introduced to China, India, North Africa, and of course, North America.

Because of the tomato’s presence on the world wide stage, tomatoes and tomato products are a staple in American pantries. We reach for a can of the red stuff when making pizza sauce and pasta sauce. Comfort food like casseroles, chili and soups. Shakshouka, curries, tacos, jambalaya, Greek braised lamb, enchiladas and more. And this doesn’t even begin to address all the applications for fresh tomatoes. In fact, the tomato has become so ubiquitous on the American dinner plate, it is consistently one of the most common vegetables eaten.

While this is wonderful in some regards, it’s not optimal for everyone. Tomatoes are affordable, accessible, nutritious, and as already discussed, versatile. However, it is partly because of these positive attributes that sometimes we get in a vegetable rut so-to-speak. And that isn’t a rut the vast majority of us can afford to be in. According to the CDC, only about 1 in 10 adults eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables daily. For optimal health, we would at least meet, if not exceed, this recommendation by eating a variety of vegetables. Vegetables of different colors, starchy and non-starchy, raw and cooked. By eating the same short list of vegetables routinely, we miss out on the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits other vegetables have to offer. Benefits such as different vitamins and minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and of course, taste.

In addition to eating tomatoes to the exclusion of other vegetables, there can be some other issues. For the 18-28% of Americans who experience heartburn or acid reflux, avoiding tomatoes may help relieve or improve their symptoms. Also, people with autoimmune conditions may experience an improvement in their symptoms through the avoidance of tomatoes and other nightshade vegetables.

So move over tomatoes! I’d like to introduce my Versatile Red Veggie Sauce. Use it as you would tomato sauce or diced tomatoes in recipes. I’ve used it as a base in a range of dishes from chicken tikka masala, pizza, chili, spaghetti bolognese, chana masala, sloppy joe’s, minestrone soup, tacos, casseroles and so on. I intend to share some of these recipes in the future as well.

While eating different vegetables can sometimes be a challenge, it doesn’t have to be. One way to add more variety to your veggie intake is by swapping tomato sauce for this red veggie sauce made with a blend of onion, carrot, pumpkin, beets and mushrooms plus a few “extras” for flavor and acidity.

Since the Versatile Red Veggie Sauce is intended to be used as a part of another recipe, it’s important for this recipe to be as streamlined as possible. I keep the prep to a minimum by using pre-peeled and washed baby carrots, canned pumpkin puree, pre-steamed and peeled beets, and canned mushrooms. An additional time saver would be using pre-prepared diced onion. By doing this, with very minimal prep of my own, I can cook all the veggies on the cooktop until very tender.

Then, add some cooking liquid for the last few minutes before removing from the heat. Next, the veggies go for a spin in the food processor until it reaches a nice, even, smooth consistency. Now, the Versatile Red Veggie Sauce is ready for use.

It’s a bit of a blank slate at this point. Much in the same way that tomato sauce is. To clarify, this sauce has some similar characteristics to tomato sauce, but you won’t mistake it for tomato sauce if eaten by itself. However, when used in a recipe, you may not notice any difference between the two. It’s hearty and flavorful. The vegetable flavors blend together nicely so none of them stand out individually. The mushrooms add umami, while the vinegars give some brightness and acidity – characteristic flavor features of tomatoes.

I like to have several jars in the freezer to use as a shortcut to making a meal. The Versatile Red Veggie Sauce can be used right away or frozen for use in the future. So many possibilities. Often I make a double or triple batch so I have plenty of sauce on hand. The steps to make multiple batches at the same time remain the same, but the cooking time needs to be extended in order to get the vegetables nice and tender. This is important for vegetables to achieve the right texture with the help of the food processor.

This recipe can be a highly effective way of incorporating veggies into your meals which might otherwise be a little unfamiliar or tricky with some tastebuds, such as mushrooms and beets. By using them “in” the recipe instead of “as” the recipe, these vegetables take a supporting role. Also helpful is the pureed texture of the sauce. No identifiable bits for a picky someone to identify in their dish, planting ideas about whether they like the meal or not before even trying it. Everyone wins! Of course, if you enjoy these veggies, you already know how yummy they can be!

Versatile Red Veggie Sauce

Move over tomato sauce! This pureed sauce made of carrots, onion, pumpkin, mushrooms and beets boosts the variety of veggies on your plate. Easy to make, easy to use. Swap out tomato sauce for this red beauty in pasta sauce, chili, soup, curries, casseroles and more. Great way to expose picky eaters to new vegetables in an approachable, familiar way.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Pantry Staples
Cuisine: American
Keyword: AIP, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, paleo, seed-free, soy-free


  • Food processor


Veggie Mix

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 2 cups baby carrots
  • 1 large yellow onion peeled and chopped
  • 8 ounces beets peeled and steamed, cut in half
  • 4 ounces canned mushrooms
  • 15 ounces canned pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt

Liquids and Seasonings

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar high quality
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder


  • Add all ingredients under Veggie Mix heading into medium sized covered pot over medium to medium high heat. Stir every few minutes. If vegetables start to brown, reduce heat and/or add a little water to the pot to prevent browning.
  • Cook about 30 minutes or until vegetables are quite tender. Add all ingredients under Liquids and Seasonings header to pot. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes before removing from heat.
  • Transfer food from the pot into a food processor. Blend until smooth, a couple of minutes while continuously processing. Makes about 5.5 cups of sauce or about three 15 ounce cans.


May prepare ahead of time and stored in refrigerator. Use within 3 days.
Freezes well. Thaw in refrigerator before use.
May double or triple recipe. Cooking time needs to be increased in order to ensure vegetables are quite tender. Poke with a fork to determine when done. May need to transfer in “batches” to food processor.

Mediterranean Meatballs

A little variety can go a long way towards keeping things fresh. Move over beef, pork, and chicken! There are other animal proteins to explore!

Lamb is one such option. But what to do with it? Consider meatballs.

Making meatballs or another recipe using ground meat is an approachable and affordable way to try different muscle meats such as lamb. By using 50% ground beef, or another ground meat with which we are already comfortable cooking and eating, and 50% ground lamb, trying something new feels more familiar. Sometimes we humans are funny like that. We want something “new and different,” but not “too new and different.”

Herby lamb meatballs, not eel sushi.

It can be like that with haircuts, too. But that’s another story…

Sometimes this idea of wanting something “a little different” resonates with me. If I am going to make the effort preparing something, I want to be reasonably sure my audience will eat it (and enjoy it). I want to be reasonably sure I will enjoy it.

Other times we feel more adventurous. And some of us are more food-adventurous than others by default. Whatever your mood, these Mediterranean Meatballs are a crowd-pleaser. Consider serving atop a bed of zucchini noodles to lighten-up the meal.

Mediterranean Meatballs

Soft, juicy Mediterranean seasoned meatballs made from ground lamb and beef. (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, seed-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Servings: 6 people


  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg or 2 egg yolks
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 tsp capers, minced
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 handful parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs I use Trader Joe's Rice Crumbs. Check the ingredient list on your product.


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Using a large spoon or cookie scoop, spoon out evenly sized amounts of meatball mixture. Roll with hands into round balls. Place formed meatballs into muffin pan, one meatball per muffin placeholder. Makes 20-24 meatballs.
  • Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and internal temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven. Place meatballs on clean dish. Discard fatty juices which cooked out of meatballs. Serve immediately or refrigerate for future use.


If baking in a silicone muffin pan, place silicone muffin pan on a metal baking sheet for stability.
If not using a muffin pan, simply using a metal baking sheet is an option. Placing a wire rack on top of the baking sheet, then placing meatballs on top of the wire rack before baking is even better. This will allow the fat and juices to drip away from the meatballs as they cook. Which cooking option is best depends on the gear in your kitchen and personal preference.
May prepare ahead of time, then reheat in microwave or toaster oven prior to serving. Leftovers may be stored in refrigerator for 3 days.
Freezes well. Freeze in individual layers separated by parchment paper. Allow to thaw in refrigerator. Reheat in microwave or toaster oven.

Blistered Green Beans

Sometimes the main entree steals all our attention during meal planning. So what’s a hungry human to do??

We’ve all got a limited amount of brain power for figuring out the answer to the question, “what’s for dinner?” Thankfully, side dishes don’t need to taste like an afterthought.

A welcome departure from the mundane, Blistered Green Beans are a jazzed up version of a classic veggie side dish. A little sliver of Summertime. Blistered and slightly blackened. Smoky and garlicky with a mild crunch. It’s amazing how different cooking methods give your food such different flavors and textures! These beans are super simple to make, using only a handful of ingredients. On your table and in your tummy in minutes.

Any variety of string beans will work. Feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand or find your new favorite, whether it’s traditional green beans, haricot verts (French green beans), wax beans, or Italian flat beans.

Blistered Green Beans

A jazzed up version of a classic veggie side dish. Tastes like summertime. Tastes great alongside meat right off the grill.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, paleo, soy-free
Servings: 4 people


  • 1 pound string beans, any variety
  • 1-1.5 Tbsp bacon grease
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • salt, to taste


  • Heat large skillet on medium high or high, depending on your cooktop. Add bacon grease and string beans. Stir to coat all beans in bacon grease.
  • Every minute or so, stir the beans in the pan. Allow beans to sit in one spot long enough to get some blistered and blackened spots.
  • When beans are done cooking, after about 5 minutes, add garlic and salt to taste. Stir garlic and beans for last 30 seconds to ensure garlic doesn't burn. Remove from heat. Serve immediately.


May be made with any variety of string beans – traditional green beans, Italian flat beans, haricot verts, wax beans – they will all be delicious, though may require slightly different cook times.

Perfect Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Crisp on the outside? Check. Satisfying chew on the inside? Yup. Holds up to lots of toppings? You betcha. Can you eat it one-handed? Yes, indeed. On the table in under an hour and a half? Absolutely. Yeasty, dough-like taste and texture? Double check. It may not look like much in the picture, but try it and taste it! I think you’ll agree, your quest for the perfect gluten-free pizza crust is complete.

After a trip to a pizza place (where I was not able to enjoy the pizza), I became a woman on a mission – to create a pizza crust which was allergy-friendly while satisfying my discriminating pizza palate and raging pizza craving. No small task honestly. And I’m pleased to say this one is a true winner. When we ate it the other night, the discussion at the table included the words – “so delicious,” “please make this again,” and “I sure hope you’re going to share this one on your blog.” So here it is.

No need to drag out the mixer or fancy dough hooks, no bread maker or any other fancy equipment. Mix up almost everything in a single bowl. Let it rest for an hour while you prepare your toppings (or do something else), add a final ingredient, knead the dough a few times, let it sit for 10 minutes while you stage your other ingredients, assemble, bake, and eat. Done. Homemade gluten-free pizza on the table and in your mouth in less than 90 minutes from start to finish.

I called this recipe a pizza crust, though it’s so much more than that! This dough can be used to make all manner of pizzas, flatbreads, calzones, and most likely other tasty goodies as well. Let your imagination run wild!

We made flatbreads topped with pesto, my No-Heat Italian Sausage Crumbles, caramelized onions and garlic cloves, black olives, and a sprinkle of oregano on top. We’ll be coming back to this one again and again!

Perfect Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

This delicious dough is made of cassava flour and arrowroot powder, yet has the sturdy texture and chew mimicking a traditional wheat crust. Use this dough to make pizzas, flatbreads, calzones and more! Your family will love this! (AIP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Resting Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 servings


  • 3 cups cassava flour plus extra to form dough
  • 1 cup arrowroot flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-1/4 cup water (105-110 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 2 package yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 Tbsp gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp hot water


  • In a large mixing bowl, add 3.5 cups cassava, arrowroot, garlic powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. Then add in olive oil and whisk again until evenly distributed and crumbly in texture.
  • In a glass bowl or liquid measuring cup with the 105-110 degree water, add sugar/honey and yeast and allow to sit for a few minutes until bubbling. When yeast is proofed, add water and yeast mixture to flour mixture and form dough ball with hands. Knead a handful of times, just to make sure it's evenly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area of your kitchen for 1 hour.
  • In a small cup, add gelatin and hot water. Immediately, mix to combine, ensuring no lumps. Then, as quickly as possible, pour liquid gelatin into bowl with dough. Using hands, incorporate gelatin into dough. Adding 1/4 cup cassava flour at a time, knead a handful of times again until dough is not sticky (I added 3/4 cup cassava).
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide dough into eight evenly sized pieces. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll out dough into a round disk of your desired thickness. Place on a pizza pan and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browning.


Thicker crust will be chewier. Thinner crust will be lighter and crisper. Increase cooking time to make crispier.
Leftovers can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days. Reheats best in a toaster oven (crispiness), may also use a microwave.
For paleo or AIP, use honey instead of sugar.

several varieties of citrus fruits on a plate and platter, each stopped with pomegranate and mint

Winter Citrus Salad

This celebration of seasonal fruit is the antidote to dreary, overcast winter days on a plate. Unlike the brown and gray of short December days, my Winter Citrus Salad is a feast for the eyes. Containing four different types of citrus fruits – naval oranges, pink grapefruits, pomelos, and mandarin oranges – this salad is beautiful, refreshing, and uplifting.

Oranges are a classic, staple fruit in many households, but why stop there when there’s so much variety to enjoy? Citrus fruits of all kinds have a few things in common: they’re vividly colored, bursting with bright acidity and sweetness, juicy, and oh-so fresh smelling! Take advantage of the winter growing season and try some of the others this year; I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Slices of pomelo, grapefruit, naval orange, mandarin orange, and clementine with pomegranate and mint leave sprinkled on top.

Fruit salad, while always tasty, typically makes its appearance during the summer months at picnics and graduation parties. It’s much less often that we think of fruit salad as an option during the winter. But why? With all this delicious fruit in season right now, we’ve been missing out! Bring a little pizzaz to your table this winter. Grab a sharp knife, cutting board, some fruit and try my Winter Citrus Salad!

Vibrant slices of pink, orange, red, and yellow citrus are eye-catching on a platter, especially when accented with slivers of deep green mint leaves and pops of dark red pomegranate. Not only that, but these fruits are a much needed contrast to the warm, cooked foods we often eat as winter-fare.

Close up of slices of citrus fruit with pomegranate and mint on top.

One last thing. This salad is highly forgiving. Can’t find pomelo? Tangerines or clementines look better than the mandarins? Dying to try some blood oranges? Swap out whatever citrus fruits are available or sound good. For best results, I would include a minimum of three different citrus varieties, though four or even five is definitely preferred. (I actually thought I had grabbed some clementines, but instead ended up two different types of  mandarins – oops!! Those things happen sometimes when shopping while distracted!) Also, I don’t recommend subbing in lemon or lime as these are much more sour than sweet, unlike the other fruits. Have fun with this no-cook beauty!

Winter Citrus Salad

A celebration of seasonal fruit, this salad contains slices of pink grapefruit, naval oranges, pomelo, clementines, and mandarin oranges topped with pomegranate arils and sliced mint leaves. (AIP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free, nightshade-free)
Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings


  • 1 pomelo
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • 2 naval oranges
  • 6 mandarin oranges
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves


  • Peel fruit with soft, thin, easily removable skin, like mandarins, by hand. Using a sharp knife, chop off end with stem and opposite end to create two flat surfaces. Stand up fruit on one flat end. Using knife, cut off peel in strips, rotating the fruit around in a circle until all peel has been removed.
  • Cut each citrus fruit into cross-sectional slices of even thickness. Arrange citrus slices randomly on platter or plate. Sprinkle pomegranate arils on top.
  • Chiffonade a few mint leaves (stack and fold mint leaves together, then cut with sharp paring knife into thin strips). Sprinkle over plated fruit. Garnish with remaining mint leaves.


May make in advance. If doing so, recommend waiting to cut and add mint leaves until time of serving, for freshness. Cut mint leaves can discolor on the edges.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator.

Cooked bacon wrapped pears in rows on a rectangular metal serving tray.

Bacon Wrapped Pears

Appetizers which require only a few real-food ingredients, look attractive and get gobbled up quickly are in high demand this time of year. Whether you’re attending an autumn dinner party or hosting a New Year’s Eve gathering, add these Bacon Wrapped Pears to your short list of appetizers to consider. They’re an awesome addition to just about any planned menu or potluck!

Have you ever tasted roasted pears? Fresh pears are tasty, but roasting takes them to a whole new level of yumminess! Caramelized pear tastes sweeter and more refined than the fresh fruit. And contrasting in many ways, the bacon is the perfect compliment, making my Bacon Wrapped Pears a true treat. Sweet and salty, savory and cinnamon-y. Don’t pass up this recipe, seriously. You’ll be missing out!

While the prep work is easy, it’s a bit tedious. Coring and cutting the pears is a cinch. As is cutting the bacon pieces in half length-wise. However, wrapping the individual pieces of bacon around the pear slices and skewering with an appetizer pick is the part which requires a little more attention and patience. To speed things up, I recommend creating a mini assembly line by having all the ingredients prepared and kitchen gear ready before you begin the bacon-wrapping. And, if you can recruit an assistant, more hands make for lighter work, of course!Uncooked bacon wrapped pear slices laying on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

While you can wrap the bacon around the pear slices any way you like, I think creating an “X” or “criss-cross” pattern around each pear slice is the most attractive pattern. Although, simply winding the bacon around the pear would save you a few minutes of prep time, and will obviously taste the same.

You may like to skewer each pear slice with an appetizer pick to make it easier to eat – saving the food from being manhandled on the serving tray (yuck!) and saving guests from having sticky or greasy fingers. If you stick the pick through the bacon, it may help it stay in place, too. However, this is not necessarily needed depending on how the bacon is placed. And it is easier to slide the appetizer picks through the pear only, going around the bacon. Try it both ways and see which you prefer.

Appetizer picks are superior to toothpicks, in this instance, though toothpicks will do in a pinch. Choose appetizer picks with a squared-off or rectangular post, if possible. These will work better, preventing the cooked pear from sliding or spinning on a round post on the way to your mouth!Cooked bacon wrapped pears, fresh out of the oven, sitting on a rack on top of a baking sheet.

Serve these pears warm or at room temperature – but not cold! They’re best when eaten fresh, so I don’t recommend making these far in advance. If you bake them at home, then pop them in the oven for a few minutes to reheat when you get to your destination, this works well and won’t monopolize the host’s oven space. A considerate guest is one who gets invited back. And a guest who brings these Bacon Wrapped Pears gets a repeat invite, too 🙂

Bacon Wrapped Pears

Crisped bacon wrapped around slices of cinnamon spiced roasted pear. An ideal appetizer for Fall and Winter gatherings and special meals. 
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 servings


  • 6 ripe pears, cored and cut into wedges
  • 12 oz bacon, strips cut length-wise
  • cinnamon


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Making a criss-cross pattern, wrap a bacon strip around each pear slice. Slide appetizer pick through the middle of each pear slice. 
  • Place bacon wrapped pear slices on a rack on a rimmed baking sheet (rack not necessary in order to make recipe). Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 35 minutes, or until pears are tender and bacon is cooked.
  • Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before plating or eating.


Best eaten immediately, or if covered for a short period of time and reheated in oven for a few minutes. 
Number of servings depends on number of people eating and how much other food is available. May serve more or less depending.