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Low-Sodium

Italian Meatball Casserole Dinner

Since it came out terrific, I had to share the recipe for this week’s Italian Meatball Casserole. I started a new series here on the blog called Weekly Meal Plans (see HERE). This recipe was listed for Thursday night. It is one of the best low-sodium meals I have made so far!

I used a recipe from Modern Low Carb Recipes as the basis for the meatballs, but modified the sauce and toppings. What I loved about their meatball recipe is that the meatballs tasted so close to Italian sausage, minus all the salt and fat.

Assembling The Casserole

Make the meatballs first, so that the flavors of the seasonings and the ground pork can meld together in the fridge.

Missing from photo – the red wine!

 

I mixed the ground pork with the seasonings and red wine in the clear bowl, then put it in the fridge for a few hours.

Then, I assembled the meatballs, placed them on a cookie sheet, and returned to the fridge until I was ready.

 

 

Next, I turned to creating the sauce.

meatball
My favorite starter for marinara sauce

 

The sauce cooking

 

Browned the meatballs

Assembling the casserole

 

Ready for the oven!

15 minutes later, I added the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, basil, and parsley, then returned it to the oven for another 15 minutes.

And it’s ready to eat!

The Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup Italian cheese blend
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, small balls or slices into 1/4″ slices
  • 8 oz. fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 cloves minced garlic, divided
  • 1/2 chopped onion, divided

Instructions

Combine ground pork, red wine, and the next 4 spices in a medium bowl. Mix with your hands and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Use a melon baller to scoop meatball mixture into similarly sized meatballs and roll by hand into a round shape. You should have 18-20 meatballs. If not making right away, return to refrigerator on a cookie sheet until ready to use.

In a medium saucepan, add Pomi tomatoes, Italian seasoning, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1/4 cup of chopped onion. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened.

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add remaining onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add meatballs to skillet and brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble the casserole: add half of the sauce to the bottom of a 13 x 9″ low-sided casserole dish, then place meatballs on top of the sauce, evenly spacing them in the dish. Pour remaining sauce over the meatballs and top with Italian blend cheese. Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes.

Remove casserole from the oven, place mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese in spaces between the meatballs. Top with chopped parsley and basil. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Without pasta

 

With pasta for the hubby

 

This turned out to be a delicious meal! I couldn’t wait to share it with my readers.

The Migraine Relief Plan Book. A Review and my Progress.

Hey everyone! I hope you are enjoying your weekend. We’re in the throes of summer here with triple-digit heat. The one positive thing about it is that our pool is really warm and that makes for fun evening/night swims!

So, a month ago, I shared that I’d been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease. It’s a rare disease that affects the vestibular (balance and hearing) system, causing tinnitus, vertigo, and hearing loss. The biggest challenges have been adapting my diet, due to the diagnosis. Namely, a low-sodium diet, to eliminate caffeine, and restrict alcohol consumption.

Recently, I came across a book called The Migraine Relief Plan that was highly recommended for those suffering from migraines, chronic headaches, vertigo, and Meniere’s disease. The aim of the relief plan is to reduce inflammation within the body that contributes to these and other conditions. I thought “What do I have to lose?” and ordered the book a few weeks ago.

The Migraine Relief Plan Review

I’m at the end of Week 3 of the plan now (I skipped ahead a week as I explain below). I wanted to give a review of the book, share my thoughts on the book, and what’s ahead in the coming weeks of the plan.

One of the things I really like about the book is that it takes a very slow approach to the plan. It’s also well-written, organized, and easy to follow. At the beginning of the book, the author shares her medical journey, how she came to create the plan, and write the book. You’ll be astounded at the depth of the author’s research and her commitment to learning everything she could about how to help herself and others. Another thing I like about the book is that its concise. The plan starts on page 37. Each week is a chapter and they range from 5 to 12 pages long. I almost forgot to mention that there are over 75 recipes in the book, too!

My Progress

So far, I’ve started tracking my symptoms/foods on an easy sheet I created (Week 1). I cleaned out my freezer (Week 2) and worked ahead and cleaned out my pantry (Week 3). My pantry and freezer were relatively compliant as I had cleaned them our after my diagnosis.

What’s ahead: Week 4 will be to clean our my fridge and switch out my snacks to approved plan foods. Week 5 will be to switch over my breakfasts to approved plan foods.

So, what are the foods approved and excluded on this plan? Well, the plan is sugar-free, gluten-free, and low-sodium. There are other foods omitted because they are known triggers for migraines, headaches, vertigo, and Meniere’s.

The plan sounds challenging, I know. It is not forever. It takes about 6 months: 2 months of transitioning to all approved foods, and 4 months on the plan itself. Then you can add back foods as you determine if they trigger your symptoms or not.

I’m Committed!

I admit to feeling intimidated about following this plan. I’ve shown little will-power in the past when it came to diets. But, my health and well-being are riding on overcoming the effect of Meniere’s disease as much as I can. So, I am 100% committed to completing this plan. If you suffer from issues related to inflammation, such as auto-immune disorders, headaches, migraines, etc. I hope you’ll join me!

Meniere's
The book

I purchased my copy on Amazon. Here is a link (I receive no profits off your purchase) to it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Migraine-Relief-Plan-Transition-Headaches/dp/1572842091

 

 

New Challenges To Face?? Bring Them On!

I thought I would share a challenge I am facing. We all face challenges in life and they’ve ultimately helped make us into who we are today. Stronger, wiser, smarter, and more adaptive.

Recently, I was diagnosed with Ménière’s (or Meniere’s) Disease.

I’d never heard of Meniere’s Disease until about two months ago. It is a chronic, incurable vestibular (inner ear) disorder that causes episodes in which you feel as if you’re spinning (vertigo), fluctuating hearing loss with a progressive, permanent loss of hearing, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and fullness or pressure in your ear.

The disease is rare, affecting only .2% of the population. I’ve actually had symptoms of Meniere’s for a year, but it wasn’t until early April – after our Caribbean cruise – that my symptoms became acute.

Here are two visuals. Your ear and auditory system is on the left. The visual on the right is a close up, cross-section of the blue portion on the left.

Challenges

The Effects of Meniere’s

Changes

The diagnosis required me to make immediate lifestyle and dietary changes. I adopted a low-sodium diet (less than 1500 mg of sodium a day) and eliminated caffeine and alcohol. Whether I’ll be able to enjoy my usual glass of wine is up in the air. When my symptoms are manageable, I’ll be able see if it affects my symptoms. I also have to carefully monitor my water and potassium intake due to the diuretic I am taking.

I’m Still Gonna Be Me!

The reason I’m going into all this is twofold. The first, is to be real with what is going on with me and my life. When we see people’s blogs it often appears that they have the perfect life. I certainly don’t. But I do love my life, even with this curveball I’ve been thrown.

The second is that the recipes I’ll be posting going forward will be a little different from what I’ve posted before. I will be adding a lower-sodium option for all of my recipes (unless they are already low-sodium). I’ll need to tweak some of my favorite foods, like pizza, to find a way to make them lower in sodium. Maybe I’ll have to settle for veggie pizza, without cheese? Cheese has a lot of sodium. In fact, reading nutrition labels and studying restaurant nutrition facts is mind-blowing. Many restaurant meals have over 2500 mg of sodium!

Wait..That Means No Coffee?!

Giving up caffeine was hard. I treasured my morning cup of coffee. Now, I usually have a cup of herbal tea. A few months ago, I discovered Great Earth’s Sweet & Spicy tea and I’m obsessed with it! It’s so good, caffeine free, and doesn’t contains any sugar. It reminds me Fireball, except it’s alcohol-free. It makes a great iced tea, too.

Another challenge with my new diet is finding low-sodium and no added salt foods. Have you ever looked at the sodium content in canned foods? Sheesh. I’ve been pleased to find many no-salt canned foods. Especially black beans, white beans, and pinto beans. They’re high in potassium, which is essential to my new diet.

I also need to spread out my minimal sodium consumption throughout the day. That is something I have to keep in mind when meal planning.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Last weekend, I cleaned out my pantry and fridge. Out went the sodium-filled canned goods in my pantry. I replaced them with my new, no-salt added ones. That night, I made awesome lower-sodium Italian Sausage Spaghetti. I don’t know exactly how much sodium was in the Italian sausage because I bought it at our local university’s farm store.

For the recipe, I used the sausage, Pomi tomatoes, dried Italian seasoning, garlic, two tablespoons of double-strength tomato paste, and a cup of water to make the spaghetti sauce. I let it simmer on the stove for almost 3 hours. Then I added in some gluten-free noodles and we had a great dinner. I skipped making garlic bread. There’s a lot of sodium in bread and I knew there was already some in the Italian sausage. I felt it was a good trade-off.

For more information on Meniere’s Disease: http://vestibular.org/menieres-disease

Are you having challenged in your life recently? Post your comments below 🙂