Gluten-free Egg-free Italian Meatballs

Buckle up. These are amazing… Three people have told me that. Low carb, no eggs, no gluten. This is my new go-to recipe for meatballs. It does have dairy. I just hope they freeze well. More on that in a few days and I will update. 

So…  the chicken meatballs I developed a few weeks ago weren’t tender at all, so I decided to step back and try a recipe with ground beef.  After a bunch of recipe research, I decided to use ricotta cheese for moisture. This recipe is also centered around a 1.5lb package of ground beef from Costco. This recipe makes 30 meatballs, which is about perfect considering I only wanted to use one pan. This would be awesome with my rutabaga pasta. If you do that, note that this recipe includes the sauce for the meatballs. Each serving is 5 meatballs…

Gluten-free Egg-free Italian Meatballs

  • Servings: 6
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  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 2.5 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon Wildtree Smoked Tomato and Mozzeralla Blend
  • 1/4 cup Wildtree European Dipping Oil – Balsamic
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • One 15oz. container whole milk ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup potato flakes
  • One 24oz. jar marinara sauce
  • 6oz water
Grab the largest saucepan that you have that has a good lid. By the end of this recipe, you will be cramming 30 meatballs in it and it’s best if they can fit in one layer. I used our large cast iron pan and a copper lid that happens to fit it.
Get your big food processor out. Trust me, this recipe is worth the clean up. You’ll also need two small bowls. In the first bowl, mix the flax seed and water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. In the second bowl, mix the 1/4 cup European Dipping Oil and the Smoked Tomato and Mozzeralla Blend.
Allow both to sit while you start adding ingredients to the food processor.
Put the cutter blade in the food processor bowl. Combine the following ingredients on in the food processor bowl: ground beef, ricotta, parsley, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and potato flakes. Add both the flax seed mixture and the dipping oil mixture and pulse to combine. You want to pulse it enough so that everything is mixed. It will look like a pinkish paste when you are done, and that is OK!
Preheat the stove to medium-low heat and grab a cutting board and two dinner plates. Use a spoon to scoop out small portions of the meat mixture and put them on the cutting board. I find it easiest to work in batches of 10.  Make 10 meatballs and then start them browing in the pan. While those are browning on one side, make 10 more meatballs and put them on the first dinner plate. Flip the meatballs over once using a silicone spatula. These are so tender that they will fall apart unless you are very careful. Let them brown on the second side. Don’t worry about the pinkish hue that’s left around the middle because they will finish cooking in the sauce later. They should look like the photo below. Remove them to the second dinner plate and start browning the second batch.
Continue until all three batches have been browned. Scrape the bottom of the pan, add the marinara sauce and the 6oz water (I put the water in the jar and shake it up to loosen any good stuff that is left). Put all the meatballs back in the pan and allow them to come to a simmer.
Turn the heat to low and cover the pan. I simmered mine for 10 minutes before they came up to temperature (145F).  They will firm up and shrink a little bit.  You can freeze small portions of these in Ziploc containers.  I doubt we’ll have any to freeze.  Yes, they are that good.  OK.  I set aside some to freeze because I want to make sure they bounce back alright.
IMG_9819 IMG_9820

Low-carb Dairy-free Beef Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s pie is one of those dishes that seems easy to make without dairy, until you realize how tough it is to make a good creamy mashed potato without milk, butter, or cream. Since I’m not a proponent of strange ingredients, those vegan butter substitutes kinda scare me. Add the extra challenge of making it low carb and compliance with Ideal Protein (by using mashed cauliflower), and the whole thing becomes exponentially harder. After a lot of research and thinking, I’ve finally cracked the creamy mashed cauliflower recipe. See the link here for the recipe.

To make this recipe for shepherd’s pie, you’ll need at least half the recipe for my mashed cauliflower. In fact, that recipe is so good that I’m going to at least double it next time I make it.  It does require the food processor, so I’ll have to do it in batches, but that’s ok with me.

This dish can be assembled and refrigerated up to two days before you plan to eat it. It’s also a good candidate for freezing, although you have to either freeze one of your good dishes or use disposable cake pan. This would work well in a disposable 8″ or 9″ square cake pan.

Low-carb Dairy-free Beef Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 6
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  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef, between 85% and 90% fat
  • 1 teaspoon powdered onion
  • 2 teaspoons Wildtree Garlic Galore OR use granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Tip: by it in a tube and don’t struggle with canned tomato paste ever again.
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce. Make sure that you pick one that is gluten free.  I like Wan Ja Shan Organic Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce.
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini, about one small zucchini.
  • 1 turnip, cut into 1/4″ cubes.


Grab a large frying pan, chef’s knife, cutting board, and a 8″ or 9″ square baking pan, preferably one that’s not too shallow. You’ll also need a box grater.

You’ll need at least one half recipe of the mashed cauliflower listed here. If you’ve previously frozen the mashed cauliflower, make sure that you’ve thawed it out prior to starting. If you plan to freeze the shepherd’s pie, I suggest making the mashed cauliflower the day before and putting it in the fridge in a storage container until you are ready to assemble everything. Never freeze things twice…

Brown the ground beef over medium heat in the frying pan. While it’s browning, chop the turnips and grate the zucchini. Once the ground beef is no longer pink, add all the spices and vegetables. Cover, lower the heat to low, and let the mixture cook until the turnips are tender, about 15 minutes.

You are now ready to assemble the casserole. Spoon the meat mixture into the baking dish, then top with the mashed cauliflower. You can top it with parsley or sprinkle with paprika.

Bake at 400F until the top is browned nicely and it’s heated through, about 20 minutes. I normally broil it at the end for a few minutes. Tip: Use a teaspoon to make little fluted edges around the edge of the baking dish. This will allow the heat to escape so that you don’t have a bubbling giant mess on the bottom of the oven.


Serve with your favorite vegetables.



Meal planning tips for a Sunday

It’s Sunday and that means meal-planning day.  We aren’t doing a large Easter thing today. I’m going to focus my energy for a few hours on getting ready for the week and planning out dinners for tonight, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I think sometimes people feel overwhelmed by meal planning because they think you have to do a ton of it at one time. Just start small and work your way up. I only feel like planning half the week right now, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

For me, the proteins are always easy because I do freezer cooking. If there is a day that I’m not prepared for, we simply grab a rotisserie chicken. Since today is planning day but not a giant cooking day, I like to think about pouring my energy into one or two side dishes that will do double duty for me during the rest of the week. For side dishes during the week, most of the time I simply match the veg cooking style with that of the main dish. I am low carb and B and D aren’t, so that just means I cook one additional veg for them that I don’t eat.

Here is my plan for today and the first half of the week.

Today: make chicken/vegetable soup for lunches. I will make mashed cauliflower, some for tonight and extra knowing that I’ll be making a shepherd’s pie some day this week. I’ll probably cook up the ground beef and assemble the shepherd’s pie for Tuesday. I might also assemble some tortellini/meatball freezer meals for Dylan, since that’s been his favorite meal lately on “choice night”.

Here are planned meals:

Sunday: steamed veg (carrots, broccoli, and green beans) + rotisserie chicken + mashed garlic cauliflower.

Monday: Weather is forecasted to be nice, so I’ve already pulled out the freezer meal for Wildtree best burgers. With this we will have grilled veg. (zucchini, asparagus, and bell peppers). Organic frozen fries for hubby and child.

Tuesday: GF, DF, EF shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower topping… Steamed veg (carrots, broccoli, and green beans).

Wednesday: Wildtree Lemon Rosemary chicken + roasted veg. (turnips, brussels sprouts). Hubby and child get roasted potatoes and carrots.
I’ve already pulled my two freezer meals out for tomorrow and Wednesday and put them in the “meat bucket” in the fridge. See picture… Basically it’s a plastic container that is big enough to hold the normal-sized meat containers from grocery stores. Mine is Sterilite and I found it at Walmart.  Our rule around here is that we have to think about meals every Sunday. I’m not allowed to buy fresh meat while there is something in the meat bucket, unless it’s something that I plan to prep during the first half of the week.

Today I will be buying ground beef and various vegetables. I was considering having the shepherd’s pie on Wednesday, but just rearranged so that I cook the meat today and we eat it on Tuesday. I didn’t want that much time to go by with the dish sitting in the fridge. I’m about to hit send on my Instacart list, but I’m just going to a mental run-down of needed staples in addition to the meals that I have planned through Wednesday.  I just added yogurt drinks, sandwich bread, kefir, red wine vinegar, and some other things to the list…

Please post your recipe planning advice/tips.  And if anyone finds a modern version of this wonderful thing featured on Downton Abbey, please let me know!




Make-ahead Individual Beef and Cheese Burritos

So you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Wait, that’s not low-carb and again it’s not wheat free… ”  Here is another individual freezer meal that I developed to feed the child when we need something fast.

Make-ahead Individual Beef and Cheese Burritos

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 lb organic ground beef.  I prefer getting ground beef from a local butcher that grinds the meat in the store.  If you don’t have a place like that near you, go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  I’m a huge fan of a Trader Joe’s trip when I’m making a bunch of freezer meals.
  • 1 package large flour tortillas.  The larger the better.  Seriously…  You’re going to fill these up with beef and cheese and then roll them up.  The Trader Joe’s ones are the best I’ve found.  They expire quite quickly, which means that they don’t have strange ingredients and preservatives. Another reason to make a bunch of these to freeze. Whole Foods also sells a large organic flour tortilla here in Colorado.
  • 1 teaspoon Wildtree Fajita Seasoning.  If you don’t have this on hand, use a good fajita seasoning.  I like Wildtree b/c it doesn’t have any strange fillers, wheat, or corn flour. You can also use Penzey’s.
  • 1 teaspoon Wildtree Garlic Galore Seasoning, or powdered garlic.
  • 1 12 oz package Mexican style shredded cheese.  We like a lot of cheese in our burritos, so I buy two bags when I’m making freezer meals.  I like this one from Trader Joe’s or the Whole Foods 365 Mexican shredded cheese.

Cooking day directions:

Preheat a large frying pan on medium.  Cook the ground beef until brown and then stir in fajita seasoning and garlic seasoning. I don’t add any liquid to the mixture.  Set aside but leave on the stove. You want the meat mixture when you do assembly.

Set up a work area and begin assembly.  Take a tortilla and put it on a large dinner plate. I run my hands under a running faucet and sprinkle water on both sides of the tortilla. Place the plate with the tortilla in the microwave, and microwave on high each side for 12 to 15 seconds. Once the tortilla is warm, transfer the plate to a cutting board.  Fill the tortilla with a handful of cheese. Don’t put cheese all the way to the edge.  You want some tortilla left on the end that you are going to fold.  Add heaping 1/3 cup measure full of beef. Fold up like a burrito. (See pictures.)

Wrap it in plastic wrap and set aside. Once you’ve done all of the burritos, put the individually wrapped burritos into a Ziploc gallon freezer bag.  Label with content name and date.  (Hint: label the bag before you fill it with the burritos).  Also, see this link for my handy freezer inventory.

Reheating directions:

Simply place one burrito on a microwave-proof plate and cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave on 70-80% power for about 90-120 seconds, flipping half-way through. Enjoy!

Recipe note: You can easily double or triple this recipe. Each serving makes approx. 6 large burritos. You can increase the spice level or make the meat more flavorful by adding other spices. I’ve kept this simple, tasty, and delicious for a kid’s taste buds. My husband often eats these at midnight snacks. I’d much he eat this than junk.

Make-ahead Individual Freezer Cheeseburgers

So you’re reading this and you’re thinking, “Wait, that’s not low-carb and it doesn’t look wheat free either…”

Sometimes I want something that I can throw in the microwave when the babysitter is coming.  I used to buy the frozen cheeseburgers by a popular company that sells diet food.  They come in packs of 6 and they cost something like $8 for 6.  Let’s just call those “WW frozen burgers.”  While they don’t have terrible ingredients, I did decide one day that I could do a better job of making them myself.  You see, I really like to control the ingredients in my cooking and would prefer that things only contain ingredients that we can all pronounce. And so my individual freezer cheeseburgers were born.

I’ve written a few blog posts now, so you’ve probably seen me list Wildtree ingredients in my recipes.  If you’re wondering what Wildtree ingredients are, check out for more information.  I like them because they don’t have any fillers or weird ingredients.  The one common complaint is that the final dishes need a little extra salt.  Remember that salt is not your enemy if you eat mostly unprocessed food. In fact, I have to eat extra salt everyday or my blood pressure can be too low.  That happened to me after I stopped eating crackers, cookies, and other processed food a few years ago.

I’ll put together a “top ten” list of common Wildtree ingredients that I use in a few days.

Make-ahead Individual Freezer Cheeseburgers

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 lbs organic ground beef.  I prefer getting ground beef from a local butcher that grinds the meat in the store.  If you don’t have a place like that near you, go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  I’m a huge fan of a Trader Joe’s trip when I’m making a bunch of freezer meals.
  • 1 tablespoon Wildtree Rancher Steak Rub.  If you’d like to place an order, please contact me. You can also use a good all-purpose, low-sodium seasoning like Mrs. Dash.
  • 1 tablespoon Wildtree Natural Grapeseed Oil or other grapeseed oil.
  • 1 package small burger buns.  My son likes both the Trader Joe’s pull apart square dinner rolls and the Pepperidge Farm Potato Slider Buns.
  • 1 package organic cheese slices.  I like the ones from Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods 365 brand also has some organic cheese slices.

sliced-cheese tjs

Cooking day directions:

Preheat the oven to 375F and grab a 9×13 cake pan. Mix the ground beef, seasonings, and oil in a large ziploc bag.  Don’t mush it around too much or the meat will get tough.  Press the meat mixture into the cake pan and put in the oven.

Cook for about 6-10 minutes until the temperature reads 145F on a meat thermometer. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Set up a work area and begin assembly.  When I’m using smaller buns, I have to fold the cheese over to make it fit. I simply fold all the corners in so that they meet in the middle. Flip the meat out onto a large cutting board and cut it up so that it will fit into the buns.  The exact number of burgers you get will depend on the size of buns that you are using. Assemble the burgers with meat and then cheese on top.

Wrap them individually using plastic wrap, and then place in a Ziploc gallon freezer bag.  Using a sharpie, label with content name and date.  (I’ll be blogging about my freezer meal inventory soon, and will add a link to that when it’s complete.)

Reheating directions:

Simply place one cheeseburger (unwrapped!) in a microwave-proof bowl and cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave on 70-80% power for about 45-50 seconds, flipping half way through.  Top with ketchup (or “catsup” if you want to annoy my son) and any other desired toppings. In our family, ketchup is the only condiment allowed on a burger. Enjoy!

Meat thermometer…

I’m a huge fan of having a good meat thermometer.  In fact, it’s one of the few kitchen gadgets, other than a good chef’s knife, that I think everyone should own.  This is the one that I own and I absolutely love it. I’ve had it at least 6 years and it’s still going strong.  Thermoworks RT600C Super-Fast.