Stuffed Eggplant

One of my (and my grandson’s) favorite vegetables is eggplant. I’d stuffed zucchini but never an eggplant but this turned out very luscious, a classic combination of an onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato base with rice. It’s a great side dish or add some protein, like sweet Italian sausage, and make it a main dish.*

Serves 2 (or double to serve 4). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and cut in half:

One medium to large eggplant

Score the middle, being careful not to cut through the skin, leaving about a half inch of meat around the edges. Use a spoon to scoop out the meat to leave a “boat”. Salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place in a greased baking dish and bake for roughly 30-40 minutes until the meat is softened and slightly browned.

While the boats are cooking, heat in a large skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced sweet pepper (any color you like)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Eggplant meat, chopped

Sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the pepper is softened. Add:

8 ounces finely diced tomatoes (half a can)

2 cups cooked brown rice

3 tablespoons of fresh basil, chiffonade

1 tablespoon avocado oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook until heated through before removing from heat.

When the eggplant boats are ready, stuff them with the filling, sprinkle with:

2 tablespoons grated non-dairy parmesan cheese

Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes before increasing the oven heat to broil. Broil until the cheese is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve.

*To make it a main dish, reduce the rice to 1 cup and add 1 cup ground Italian sausage.

TIP: This is an Italian stuffed eggplant. For a more Moroccan style, leave out the basil and cheese and instead add:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 cup roasted pine nuts (or pumpkin seeds)

Pinch of date sugar

Brown Rice Crispy Squares

The brown refers both to the color of the squares and the type of rice cereal. I’ve gotten out of the habit of recommending specific brands in my recipes but I’m making an exception here. The 365 brand from Whole Foods of Brown Rice Crisps contains only 2 gms of sugar per 1 1/3 cup serving which is about as great as we can get with any brand or type of cereal. Since there’s no sugar added in this recipe, just a couple of dates, that’s a fairly good ratio. And these squares are actually healthy, full of fiber, and a serving of fruit to boot. Never mind that they are also tasty.

You’ll need:

1 cup (8 ounces) of dried prunes, figs, or other dried fruit that your family likes

2-5 medjool dates depending on how sweet your family likes their snacks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

sufficient hot water to cover the dried fruit

2 tablespoons carob (or cocoa) powder

1 cup nut or seed butter

6 cups brown rice cereal

In a medium bowl soak the dates and dried fruit in the hot water at least 20 minutes or until they are rehydrated and soft. Line an 8″ square baking dish with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Place the dried fruit, dates, and vanilla extract along with 1/2 cup of the fruit water and the carob powder into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Heat the nut or seed butter in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted. Add the pureed fruit and heat an additional 20-30 seconds. Put the cereal into a large bowl and pour the nut/seed butter mixture over it. Stir to combine and coat all the cereal. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and press the cereal down, spreading it out to cover the entire dish, until smooth and even in the baking dish. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

TIPS: Add some carob or chocolate chips, minced dried cherries, freeze dried strawberries or bananas, etc. to enhance the taste and add more deliciousness to the squares. Spices would work as well, perhaps some cinnamon, allspice or cardamom.

Pumpkin Seed Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies are one of the most popular cookies on the planet but not for those of us with nut allergies. If you can use pumpkin seeds, this may be a cookie for you to try. I’ve been using pumpkin seed butter now for several years. It’s a very different taste, very nutty and earthy. I prefer the butter made from roasted pumpkin seeds but raw is also available; as one might expect, the roasted is brown while the raw is green in color. I haven’t been able to find pumpkin seed butter in a store so I order it online from Amazon where they have several varieties available. I’m sure a google search would find it available elsewhere online if you prefer not to use Amazon.

Just like regular peanut butter, pumpkin seed butter is available in sweetened and unsweetened forms. I prefer the unsweetened which is what is used in this recipe. If sweetened is used, reduce the amount of sugar in the mixture. Makes about 12 cookies.

You’ll need:

1/2 cup date sugar

1/4 cup warm water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup pumpkin seed butter (room temperature)

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4-1/3 cup carob chips (or if you can use them chocolate chips)

Prepare a medium size cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper sprayed with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium size bowl, mix together the date sugar and the water, stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla, whisk until smooth. Add the pumpkin seed butter, flaxseed, flour, salt and mix until combined. Add the chips and blend. Scoop out the dough by tablespoons and shape into balls and then flatten. Place about an inch apart on the cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes. These cookies won’t raise or spread much. Store in an airtight container or freeze if there are any left!

Pumpkin Donuts

Pumpkin is a favorite flavor of mine anytime of the year, not just over the holidays. And pumpkin is a natural soother of an upset stomach so it has health benefits as well. Here’s a pumpkin donut recipe that has the spices of a pumpkin pie, mixes up quick and easy and bakes in about 10-12 minutes. Topped with a maple glaze, to die for!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size bowl whisk together:

2 tablespoons avocado oil

3 tablespoons non-dairy milk

2 tablespoons aquafaba

2 tablespoons maple syrup (use the real stuff here)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

1 teaspoon vanilla

When well mixed whisk in:

1/2 cup date sugar

To the bowl add:

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup all purpose gluten free flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have the mixed, you can use the individual spices – 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon allspice)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

TIP: If you want the pumpkin taste stronger than the spices, reduce the spices to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Blend until combined with a spoon. Let sit for a few minutes while you grease the donut pan(s). It will make 6-10 donuts depending on how large you make them. Using a 1 gallon food storage bag, spoon the donut mix into the bag and zip it shut. Cut off one corner and pipe the donut mixture into the donut pan(s). Bake 8-14 minutes depending on how large the donuts are (I made only 6 donuts so baked them the full 14 minutes.) When the tops are set, they are done.

Remove from oven, let cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

While the donuts are baking make the maple glaze:

In a small bowl whisk together:

1/4 cup vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance soy free)

1/2 cup powdered monkfruit sweetener (Lakanto makes one that Whole Foods or Amazon carries)

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon non-dairy milk

1/2 teaspoon vinegar

2-3 shakes of salt (or a dash!)

When the donuts are still warm, dip one side into the glaze. If you want to make them really decadent, top them with crumbled (cooked!) bacon right after dipping. Let sit at least a half hour for the glaze to set. When dry, the glaze is really not that visible, just shiny.

Quick and Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

I made some Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken today (see my second blog of the day) and had a little substitute soy sauce left over so thought how about some fried rice. One of my favorite dishes, my mother always made it with bacon and eggs but of course, not able to do that anymore. So this one is fairly easy and quick if you use frozen brown rice (I love the packets from Trader Joe but many markets now carry frozen pre-cooked brown rice, just don’t use the instant – all the good stuff is gone and you’re left with just carbs!). Checked the freezer and the pantry and sure enough had a nice variety of vegetables so decided to give it a try. Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have in your pantry or freezer.

In a 10″ skillet heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium onion sliced

3 stalks celery sliced on the bias

1/2 cup grated carrot

1 cup frozen French cut green beans

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 small can, drained bamboo shoots or sliced water chestnuts

Cook over medium heat for several minutes, stir once or twice to make sure vegetables cook evenly. Then turn heat down to medium low and cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add 1 1/2-2 cups cooked (or frozen) brown rice, stir to combine and cover to heat the rice another 3-5 minutes. Add:

2-4 tablespoons soy sauce substitute

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon red chili flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Stir in the sauce and the dish is ready!

Easy Creamed Turkey Soup with Vegetables (dairy-free, gluten-free)

This is an easy way to use up extra turkey (or chicken if you prefer). I didn’t have a lot of soups growing up because my father wasn’t a “soup” guy. But a long-time friend really loved creamed soups and when she was dying of cancer, one of the few things I could always get her to eat was my cream of chicken or turkey soup. So here’s the recipe revamped without the dairy or gluten.

In a medium size Dutch oven, heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced turnip and/or parsnip

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon dry sage

Saute over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add:

2 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour and stir to mix and absorb all the fat. Let cook for several minutes before adding:

2 cups chicken or turkey STOCK (use stock not broth for a stronger flavor)

1 small bag of mixed vegetables (if you’re like me, remove the corn; wish someone would make mixed frozen vegetables without corn!)

Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer until vegetables are cooked, 10-15 minutes.

The soup will thicken while it simmers so stir occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

When the vegetables are cooked, add 1 cup of non-dairy milk and 1-2 cups of cooked brown rice. Heat and serve.

Variations if you don’t care for sage or tumeric, or just want a different taste!

Italian: Add 1 tablespoon diced garlic and substitute thyme, basil, marjoram, and/or rosemary for the sage and tumeric.

Indian: Use a peeled and diced sweet potato instead of the turnip/parsnip. Add 1 tablespoon of curry powder instead of the sage and before the flour. Curry powder needs to develop its flavor so cook it for a few minutes before adding the flour and stock.

Mushroom: Add a 6-8 ounce box of sliced baby bella or whatever mushrooms you love instead of the mixed vegetables.

Vegan: Use vegetable stock instead of chicken or turkey and delete the meat. Add a drained can of your favorite beans.

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.

Quinoa and Rice Cereal with Fruit (dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan)

I grew up in New Hampshire and my mother was always very frustrated with me in the winter because I absolutely refused to eat any type of hot cereal.  I remember distinctly back in the 1950s and 1960s that Maypo was the go to hot cereal along, of course, with oatmeal.  Not for me!  I hated hot cereal, it was always so slimy in my mouth.  Probably the way my mother cooked it.  My mother would be so upset with me now to see how much hot cereal I eat during the winter.  This is one of my favorites.  I used to buy expensive quinoa and rice cereal already premade, just add the liquid and cook it.  Now I make my own; so easy and it can be done with the new overnight refrigerator technique.  I give you the stovetop version here.  Makes two servings.

In a medium saucepot:

  • 1/2 cup white quinoa
  • 1 small pear diced
  • 8-10 blackberries or raspberries (blackberries don’t break up as much as raspberries so I usually use those and its fine to take them out of the freezer and add them into the pot frozen)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash or two of salt

In a blender, blend until mainly smooth:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cold water

Add this to the pot, cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently.  This will thicken   quickly because of the fruit so be sure to stir often.  Keeping it covered insures that the quinoa cooks.  When the quinoa looses its white sheen, its cooked.  If its too wet, cook uncovered for a few more minutes.

Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup if the fruit hasn’t gotten it sweet enough.  You can also feel free to add a tablespoon of ground flax, some chia seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, etc.  Or substitute an apple for the pear.

To use the overnight refrigerator technique, put all the ingredients into a large mason jar, shake to mix (or stir), and refrigerate overnight.  Heat up in the morning and enjoy.

Savory or Sweet Seed Crackers (dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free)

Sometimes the best comfort food is something small, quick and within reach.  These seed crackers fit that need for me since I can’t have anything pre-made like store-bought cookies or crackers.  The savory crackers go well with hummus, guacamole, or other dips and even with some non-dairy cheeses.  The sweet ones are tasty by themselves or with some hemp cream.  And with both of them, you can vary the herbs and seasonings to fit your taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the savory or sweet crackers, put in your food processor:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup water

Process until blended and the rice is broken down, adding small amounts of water as needed.  The amount of water used will depend on the moisture in your rice and quinoa. The mixture should have a dough consistency.  Remove half from the processor and form into a ball.  Make a hollow in them middle and add herbs such as:

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Need herbs into the dough.  Place dough on a piece of greased parchment the size of your baking tray (preferably one without sides so you can slide the rolled out dough onto the sheet easily, before and after baking.  Place a second greased parchment sheet on top and using a rolling pin or heavy can, roll out dough until very thin.  The thinner you can make it, the crispier the crackers after baking.  Place on baking sheet, remove top layer of parchment and bake 20-25 minutes.  Remove from over, flip over (this is always difficult for me and I usually end up with some of the dough underneath so I have to pull it open again but if you’ve cooked it long enough, this is easily accomplished), and cut into cracker sized squares.  Put back into the oven for another 20-30 minutes until crackers are crispy and browned on the edges.  If you have some that are thinner than others (usually the middle of my crackers are slightly thicker), remove the thinner ones and continue cooking the thicker ones until they are dry and crispy.

For the sweet crackers, you should have left half the dough in the food processor.  Return the bowl to the processor and add:

  • 2 tablespoons carob or cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon monk fruit powder
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hulls

Process until well mixed; you shouldn’t need to add more water but if you do, add it by tablespoons being careful not to get mixture too wet.  Remove from processor, and follow rolling and baking directions above.