I’ve been writing a lot about Gluten Free Bloggers lately. When I attended the GFAF Expo I met so many great people and came to realize just how many people suffer from this allergy. I’m intent on introducing these fabulous writers to my readers so that their work is shared. I had several great conversations with Anthony Caruso, founder of Thindulge, a passionate man about health. Not only does he take gluten out of recipes he also makes them really healthy (aka Skinny)!
Anthony grew up loving food but also found a passion for film; he has been able to combine his loves with his Company Red Dawn Productions. You can see recipes on the blog as well as links to YouTube for his latest recipe episodes. As a side note Anthony also does other film projects. He currently is directing a movie being filmed in Austin. A sitcom pilot is scheduled for production in August and a Feature film due to start production in 2013. One busy guy…but we love the fact that he has time to help the rest of us with healthy recipes! What we also love about Anthony is he takes all his own pictures!
An interesting note is at the bottom of each of Thinduldge’s recipes Anthony provides you with “The Skinny” he tells you how many calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol you saved. It’s a great way to learn to cook healthier!
Anthony and I sat down to chat over the phone, since he lives in Austin…..
Q:What is your specialty? What do you want people to know about your blog?
“I specialize in healthy comfort food. I used to be heavy and lost weight, but I hated to eat the same boring meals over and over. I then learned tricks by using everyday items in the grocery store to recreate my favorite fattening meals without any of the guilt. I want people to know about my blog because we always equate dieting (and going gluten-free) with a loss of the foods we enjoy. I want people to know they can be healthy and gluten-free yet still eat all the foods they love.”
Q:Why should people visit your blog?
“I feel I offer an unique perspective whereas most GF blogs focus on removing gluten. To me, gluten is an afterthought. I want people to know how to create faux-fattening meals… that also don’t have gluten in them. Not only that, but I am living proof that this diet will help keep the weight off and the gluten out of your system.”
Q: Are all your followers Gluten Free?
“I have a lot of followers who are not GF. Seeing as how I started cooking with gluten, most of my followers weren’t gluten free. However, now that I’ve made the switch, most have gone with me. Turns out a lot of them have relatives, friends, co-workers, etc., who are gluten-free.”
Q:What is the most popular recipe on your blog?
“Guilt-free Gluten-free Cheese Stuffed Meatballs a la Pizzaiola”
Q: You produce a lot of food videos, how did you get started?
“I started making videos because Food Network was doing a nationwide competition for the next hone cook/superstar. I did a video for a healthier version of Paula Deen’s Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf. I made it to the finals – top 15 in the country. After the great response, we kept doing them. Now that I’m gluten-free, I’m doing gluten-free videos now. I film them here in Austin with the help of my partner, Steve. The reaction has been great. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and people are writing in saying how much they enjoy the recipes. I have two YouTube channels: FoodNetworkLite and Thindulge.”
Q: Why did you start cooking?
“I started cooking in order to lose weight. I ate out a lot and felt that cooking at home would help me control what I was putting into my body. However, being Italian, cooking is in my blood. I loved to help my mother and aunts cook. Unfortunately, I was told that cooking and baking was woman’s work and wasn’t free to explore this side of myself until adulthood. Now I feel as if I’m making up for lost time and having a blast!”
Q: What is your favorite food memory?
“My family hosted Thanksgiving every year and the night before, we got to help my mom make the stuffing for the turkey. It was fun because we got to mix it with our hands and get dirty (and lick ourselves clean when we were done!)”
Q: What is your most bizarre food experience?
“I visited my sister in Arizona and they served fried rattlesnake as an appetizer. We all agreed to try it, but even though it didn’t taste bad, I couldn’t get my mind off what I was eating and just waited for my main course.”
Q: What is one tool in the kitchen you couldn’t live without?
“My food processor. If I had to make pesto by hand, I’d probably never eat it again.”
Q: What are three ingredients you have to have in your kitchen at all times?
“I use Rizopia pasta. It’s kind of hard to find, but it’s a brown rice pasta that comes in actual 1 lb. packages and is relatively cheap for gluten-free pasta. I’m also never without garlic (I’m Italian – I can’t help it!) and sun dried tomatoes. They are a great thing to blend up into a fast pesto to put on pasta, crostini, etc. ”
Q: When you need a creative food fix where do you go?
“Food Network. Usually one of the chefs there has something that will inspire me.”
Q: Who is your favorite person to cook for?
“My partner, Steve. He’s my official taste tester and will taste anything I make, even if it sounds like something he wouldn’t like. My greatest joy comes from cooking for him.”
Q: What is your favorite food moment in a …. movie?
My favorite food scene is when Lucy and Ethel are in the chocolate factory. It’s a classic scene that always makes me laugh, even if I’m in a bad mood.
Q: What is your biggest flop in the kitchen? Would you ever make it again?
“The first time I made gluten-free brownies, they tasted like cardboard and were as thin as a pancake. I did make them again and perfected the recipe, but it was so awful I had to pitch the entire pan.”
Q: What is your #1 piece of advice for novice cooks?
“Have fun! If you’re not enjoying yourself, you won’t enjoy the food. Even Julia Child made mistakes, but she always had a sense of humor about it.”
Q: What do you think is the biggest mistake people make in the kitchen.
“We over-complicate things. Cooking should be relaxed and fun, but too many times we stress about everything going and tasting perfectly.”
Italian Wedding Soup
The Skinny Healthy Version
INGREDIENTSFor the meatballs:
Olive oil cooking spray
1 1/4 pounds lean ground chicken
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian sausage seasoning blend (recommended: Savory Spice Shop)
3 tablespoons grated onion (about 1/4 large yellow onion)
2/3 cup GF brown rice bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving, if desired
3 tablespoons fat free evaporated milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
Olive oil cooking spray
3/4 large yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 quarts unsalted chicken stock (recommended: Kitchen Basics)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup small GF pasta such as annelini or stars
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
10 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the meatballs, place all the ingredients, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
With a small ice cream scoop, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray.
You should have about 40 meatballs. (They don’t have to be perfectly round.)
Spray meatballs and bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned.
In the meantime, for the soup, spray a stock pot and set over medium-low heat.
Add the onion, carrots, and celery, season with salt and pepper and saute until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.
Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook to al dente according to the package directions.
Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute.
Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted.
Add salt and pepper if needed.
Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with a LITTLE extra grated Parmesan (try it first – you may be fine without it).
CALORIES SAVED: 1137
FAT SAVED: 78g
SATURATED FAT SAVED: 26g
CHOLESTEROL SAVED: 510mg
SODIUM SAVED: 2631mg