Oriental Spare Ribs

(Dairy free, soy free, gluten free, sugar free)

One of my favorite foods – spare ribs! Probably because all summer my father grew the pigs for our winter table and the treat was always the ribs. I had them so rarely growing up, just that one time every year, so now that I’m grown I cook them as often as I possibly can. I had to give up Chinese style ribs when I developed my soy allergy but with the soy sauce substitute (see sauces), I’m now experimenting with some of my favorite Chinese dishes like ribs. The recipe is very simple to make and prep time is short but cooking time is longer to get that bone tender rib that we all love.

You’ll need for 2 servings, depending on how many ribs you can eat!:

1 full rack of ribs (I prefer the St. Louis style, more meat, less bone)

6 tablespoons chicken stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce substitute (or use real soy sauce if it doesn’t bother you)

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

6 tablespoons date syrup (or agave, coconut nectar, etc.)

1 teaspoon molasses

Cut the ribs into individual sections. If you have a cleaver, you can chop them into 3 pieces for each rib but this isn’t necessary. Mix the liquid ingredients together.

If you have a crock pot, you can cook them on high for 2-4 hours. Put the ribs in the pot then cover with the sauce. If you don’t, like me, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, spray your casserole or oven safe dish with olive oil, add the ribs and the sauce. Use a covered dish so that the sauce doesn’t all boil away during cooking. I turned them every 20 minutes since my dish didn’t allow them to all be completely covered. Cook in the oven 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Once cooked, pour the remaining liquid into a saucepan and boil down until syrupy. Pour over the ribs to serve. At this point, you can top them with sesame seeds or chopped green onions.

HINT: Ribs can be very fatty. I cooked mine, poured off the liquid and then refrigerated them separately overnight. The next day, dinner prep was simple. I heated the ribs in a low oven while I removed most of the fat from the sauce and then boiled it down. I then poured it over the ribs, and heated them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Green Beans with red onion and garlic (dairy-free, soy-free, vegan)

This is a very easy recipe for a delicious side dish. I just love green beans any way I can get them and this is a recipe that happened because I had a half red onion left and a bag of fresh green beans and decided to put them together. The sweetness of the onion pairs very well with the savory green beans. I used fresh green beans but frozen would work just as well. And of course, if you have yellow (or wax as we called them in New Hampshire) beans or even purple string beans those could also be substituted.

You need:

1 pound fresh or frozen string beans, any color

1 medium red onion (or if your family likes lots of onion use a large one)

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

If you’re using fresh string beans, prep them by cutting off the stem end; wash and dry thoroughly. In a 9″ saute pan, heat the olive oil and then add the onion and garlic. Saute several minutes until onion starts to soften then add the string beans. Cover and cook 10-12 minutes over medium heat, stirring several times. If your family likes “crunchy” string beans like my grandson, you can uncover when the beans are tender, increase the heat to high and saute them for a few minutes, leaving them alone, to brown.

Spicy Lentil Vegetable Soup

(dairy free, gluten free, vegan, soy free) Makes approximately 8-10 servings

Lentil are very versatile, allowing cooks to be imaginative in using them. They seem to like being pairs with a wide variety of other foods and spices. Lentils were not something we had growing up, don’t know which parent didn’t like them but my mother never cooked us lentil soup even though both parents loved pea soup. In this recipe, I’ve paired my favorite vegetable soup with lentils. There are various other ingredients you can use in this recipe, depending on what your family likes. Here’s the basics along with some variations. You’ll need:

1 3/4 cups (an 8 oz package) of lentils, no specific type, I used a mixture of green, black and brown

6 cups of liquid (water, stock, etc., I used a combination of water and vegetable stock)

1 cup sliced carrots

1 large onion diced

3-6 stalks of celery diced for approximately 1 cup

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup sweet potato diced

1/2 cup regular potato diced

1 teaspoon curry powder (or 2 tablespoon curry paste)

1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)

1 cup frozen peas

1 medium turnip peeled and diced

Add the oil to the bottom of a heated Dutch oven. Add the curry powder and heat for about 15 seconds or until you can smell the curry, but be careful not to burn it. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, celery, potatoes, and turnip. Once the onion is translucent, add the lentils and the liquid. You can also add the tomatoes at this point along with the peas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until lentils are tender (if you’re using sprouted lentils, they don’t take as long as regular lentils). If you use curry paste rather than powder, add it here. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend until you have the consistency you want. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper). Serve.

Variations: Don’t want vegan – use chicken or turkey stock instead of the vegetable stock. You can also add some cooked sausage (either bulk or links cut into slices) or diced ham before serving.

If you don’t like potatoes, leave them out and add 1/2 cup quinoa when you add the lentils. This will also up the protein!

Don’t like curry? Leave it out and use 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon thyme instead. Or, you can add 2 teaspoons cumin seeds and 2 teaspoons turmeric. Add either of these when you add the lentils.

Want it more tomatoie? Stir in 1 small jar of tomato paste before you use the blender.

Don’t have an immersion blender? Cool the soup in the frig for about an hour and then blend in a standard blender. You might want to leave a couple of cups whole for texture.

Moraccan Chicken

With all my food allergies, I eat a lot of chicken so I’m always on the lookout for new, interesting chicken dishes. I don’t know how many of you subscribe to the magazine “Simply Gluten Free” but I’ve been a subscriber since their very early days when they were titled “Cooking Without.”

This last issue had a recipe for easy Moraccan Chicken which I thought sounded interested and it turns out it is very delicious. I’ve changed the recipe slightly to meet my tastes and decided to share it with you. Several cautions – cook in a slow cooker if you want but if you do it in the oven like me, be sure to cook at 350 degrees. I screwed up this time and used 375 and even with watching it closely and cooking no more than 1 hour, the top still scorched. So in the oven, be sure to cook at no higher than 350. It should only take 3/4 to 1 hour to bake.

You’ll need:

4 chicken thighs (I tried using a breast and it was tough)

1 cup salsa – use whatever salsa your family prefers, mild, medium, hot or spicy, doesn’t matter

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon salt

Spray a 9×9″ pan with cooking spray. Mix the salsa, honey and spices together (I use a small whisk) and put a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Arrange the thighs on top and then spread the remaining salsa mix on each thigh. Bake.

It’s that easy! You can serve it with brown rice, mashed potatoes or celery root.

Orange Chicken (dairy free, gluten free, soy free, egg free, sugar free)

I love Chinese food but since I’m allergic to soy I don’t get it very often. There’s a small Chinese restaurant in central New Hampshire that I visited frequently when I was there last year where they were willing to cook meals for me without any soybean oil or soy sauce. My selection was, of course, limited due to my other allergies but it made me hungry for more.

I recently found a recipe for Orange Chicken and decided I could adapt it if only I could find a substitute for soy sauce, such a staple in Chinese food. So, for those of you who can’t use soy, like me, I’ve got an alternative here for that as well. The recipe is a little complex but if you follow it step by step, its easy enough to make a great dish.

The soy substitute works well in this recipe and I’ll probably try it out on different dishes in the future. Make it ahead. It will freeze which is nice since most recipes call for only a little soy sauce at a time.

In a small saucepan mix:

1 1/2 cups bone broth – I used mushroom but beef would also work

3 teaspoons vinegar

1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses

2 teaspoons date sugar (or date syrup)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by half. Cool.

For the orange chicken, to serve four:

3/4 chicken broth

Zest and juice of 2 oranges

1/4 teaspoon monk fruit powder

6 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce substitute

2 teaspoons diced garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle (use more if you like it hot)

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

5 teaspoons corn starch (if like me, you have trouble with too much corn, you can use arrowroot, tapioca or cassava here as well) mixed into 2 tablespoons water to make slurry

1 cup arrowroot, tapioca, or cassava flour

1 tablespoon aguafava powder mixed into 1/2 cool water (or you can use 3 egg whites)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups olive oil (or any oil you can use)

First, whisk the broth, grated orange zest and juice, the monk fruit powder, vinegar, soy sauce substitute, garlic, ginger, and chipotle in a large saucepan until thoroughly mixed. Transfer 3/4 of the mixture to a large zip-lock bag, add chicken, and toss to coat. Get the air out of the bag by sealing it most of the way and then pressing the bag. Finish sealing bag and refrigerate for at l hour.

While the chicken marinates, bring to a boil the rest of the sauce. When it comes to a boil, whisk into the sauce and continue whisking until the sauce is clear and thick. Set aside.

In a large Dutch oven heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Beat the aguafava (or egg whites) until soft peaks, add cream of tartar.

Combine the arrowroot with the baking soda, salt and pepper in a large zip-lock bag.

Set up 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or paper towels on the bottom of the tray and put a cooling rack on top of the paper in one of the baking sheets. Drain the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. In parts, don’t try to do all the chicken at once, coat it with the beaten aguafava (or egg whites), then toss into the bag of flour and shake to coat. Remove chicken from the bag shaking off any excess flour. Place the chicken on the baking sheet without the rack.

Add the floured chicken one piece at a time to the oil and fry until golden brown 3-5 minutes, turning chicken as needed. You should be able to fry 1/3 to 1/2 of the chicken at a time. Transfer to the wire rack. Be sure to bring the oil back to 350 degrees between each batch of chicken.

Reheat sauce until simmering. Add chicken and serve immediately over rice. Some cut scallions add to the dish. You can also add to the sauce some sautéed onion and celery, water chestnuts, broccoli, bok choy, etc.

Honey Mustard Pork Chops (Dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free)

My mother used to make pork chops covered with onion-soup mix and cream of mushroom soup.  I loved those pork chops and have been trying for years to find a recipe that I could eat that would produce such juicy, succulent pork chops.  And I think I’ve finally found one!  This recipe adds some spice (I like to use spicy brown mustard) along with a slight sweetness to a juicy chop.  I serve it with some of my celery root and parsnip mash that’s been reheated in a skilled until crispy brown.

This recipe is for 2 chops but can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many chops are needed.

In a small bowl mix:

  • 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  •  2 tablespoons honey (I like to use raw organic honey)
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil

Grease a 6×9″ baking dish.  Trim excess fat from the pork chops.  Add the chops and spread with half the honey mustard mixture.  Turn over the chops and spread with the remaining mixture.  Marinate at least a half hour but I’ve left them as long as overnight.  The vinegar in the mustard will tenderize the pork so the longer you let them marinate the better.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the chops for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your pork chops and then remove and turn the chops over.  Be sure to test with your finger or a spoon to determine if the chops are cooked (a done chop with have no give when pushed with a spoon or finger).  If my chops are almost done after turning over, I put them under the broiler to brown the top for 3-5 minutes.    A 1-bone chop takes roughly 20 minutes total.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes to rest before serving.

Fish and Rice Stirfry (Dairy-free, Soy-free, Gluten-free)

I’m always looking for new ways to use fish.  Fish is one of those proteins that I love to eat but don’t often like to cook.  This is a quick recipe that really highlights flavor.  Its well balanced nutritionally, very filling, and can be adjusted to serve the tastes of anyone.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  •  6-8 ounces white fish, diced
  •  1/2 cup diced onion
  •  1/2 cup shredded carrots
  •  1/2 cup cooked peas
  •  1/2 cup diced celery
  •  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  •  1 tablespoon dried parsley (or 3 tablespoons fresh parsley)
  •  Scallions, cherry tomatoes, etc. for garnish
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  Salt and pepper to taste
  •  Juice of a half lemon

In a large hot skillet, add the olive oil, onions, carrots, and celery.  Saute over medium heat until celery and carrots are softened.  Add the fish and cook thoroughly.  Add the rice, quinoa, peas, and herbs.*  Stir to combine.  Heat through, spritz with the lemon juice and serve with whatever garnishes you like.  This time of year, my first garnish is always tomatoes although this year, without my husband’s garden, I’ve had to find fresh tomatoes in the markets.

*Other additions, depending on your tastes, could be some diced peppers, sweet or hot; some hot sauce or chili oil; Old Bay seasoning or other herbs; and perhaps, since I’m now living in Minnesota instead of New Hampshire where this seems to be like seafood back east, some wild rice instead of the brown rice and/or quinoa.

Hash (dairy-free, gluten-free)

Anytime we had left over meat of any kind, my mother or I made hash from it.  My favorite is probably ham while my mother really liked red flannel hash made with corned beef.  It can be served with gravy, ketchup, horseradish sauce, or even plain with a poached or fried egg on top.  The vegetables added can also vary depending on taste and what’s in the frig or freezer.  I like to use sweet potato but again, any potato will work just fine.  It could also be made with just vegetables for a vegan hash.  In my eyes, any way one makes a hash is delicious with the crispy potato, tender meat and tasty vegetables.  The English version of Chinese stir fry!

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1/2 diced celery
  • 1 cup diced and cooked potato
  • 2 cups diced and cooked meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ham, tofu, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup cooked peas
  • 1/2 cup cooked carrots

In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the onion and celery until softened.  Add the potato and cook until potatoes are browned.  Add the meat and vegetables and stir well.  Cook until heated through.  Add salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.  I used my salt-free mixed herbs.  Top with gravy, ketchup, etc. or serve plain.  My mother always fried eggs to go on top of her hashes but for those of us allergic to eggs, that’s not an option.

Braised Cabbage (dairy-free, gluten-free)

My mother loved braised cabbage; this was her go-to winter vegetable when she was tired of peas, carrots, green beans or corn.  She always used red cabbage but any cabbage will work.  The onion adds a little tang and the bacon a smoky flavor.  I add pear; my mother always used apple.  Either will add some sweetness to the dish and, when combined with the fat from the olive oil and bacon, give it a full-bodied richness.  Prepare the onion, bacon, and cabbage ahead of time and this takes around 15 minutes to cook.  Makes 4 servings using a 3-4 inch cabbage.

In a large saute pan, add:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped uncooked bacon (whatever bacon your family likes works fine) — IF your bacon is very fatty, don’t use the olive oil

Cook until bacon is browned.  If you have more than a couple of tablespoons of fat in the pan, drain some off. Add to the pan:

  • 1 cup chopped onion

Cook until onion is softened.  Add:

  • 4-5 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (any vinegar works but if white is used, a little less vinegar would probably be good unless your family really loves the taste of vinegar)

Cover and braise 5-7 minutes until cabbage is softened, stir once or twice during cooking.

Add 1 diced apple or pear and cook another minute or two until fruit is soft (the apple may take a few minutes more than the pear).  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup.  Add salt and pepper to taste, stir well, and serve.

Tahini Carob Chip Cookies (dairy-free, gluten-free, refined cane sugar-free, egg free, vegan)

Remember those chewy, nutty peanut butter cookies from our younger days? These are very reminiscent of those but are healthy and so easy with just five ingredients. Feel free to substitute any nut or seed butter you can use such as sunflower or pepitas.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Put in your food processor:

  • 1 cup tahini (or any nut or seed butter), use a thicker tahini rather than a runny thin one or your cookies will not come out chewy
  • 1 cup date sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of aguafava (or 1 egg if you can use eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Process until smooth and then remove from food processor into medium bowl and stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of unsweetened carob or chocolate chips. Scoop by tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheet, flatten with fork (or spatula) and bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. You want them crispy on the outside but chewy in the middle so when the middle is set and the outside browned, they are done. Makes 10-15 cookies.