Pasta Bolognese

What’s better than a bowl of pasta with a rich, unctuous, makes you go ummmmmm sauce? That’s exactly what you get with a Bolognese sauce. The centerpiece of this sauce is the meat, lots of meat with a few vegetables thrown in for good measure and not much tomato sauce. I think in large measure the rich unctuousness of the sauce comes from starting off with a quarter cup of olive oil. That builds the flavors as each is added. This will serve 6-8 people easily. Serve over whatever kind of pasta your family prefers but a larger pasta, i.e., spaghetti rather than linguini, will hold the sauce better.

In a large stew pot, heat:

1/4 cup olive oil

Over medium high heat. Add:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large or 2 medium celery stalks, chopped

1 large or 3/4 cup of carrot, chopped

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Reduce heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Remove from heat. In a large skillet with high sides, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

1 pound ground turkey

1 pound ground pork

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté stirring frequently to break up the ground meat until there’s no pink left and any juices have steamed away. Add to the vegetables along with:

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

If you choose, like I did, to use dried herbs add them now with the tomato. If you choose to use fresh herbs, add them about 15 minutes before the sauce is ready.

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes (or 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped)

1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil (or 8-10 basil leaves chopped)

Stir to combine all ingredients, reduce heat to low simmer, partially cover (in other words leave the lid at an angle so that steam escapes), and cook for at least one hour. I actually left my sauce to cook for almost 2 hours which helps the vegetables break down and integrate into the sauce.

Before serving, stir in 1/4 cup grated cheese*

TIP: I did add 6 ounces of shitake mushrooms, just because I had them on hand and they needed to be used.

*Follow Your Heart makes a parmesan cheese that contains no coconut or nuts of any kind and tastes just like parmesan cheese, at least to me! The traditional recipe calls for grated pecorino Romano cheese.

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are delicious, moist and tender, with that warm cinnamon flavor. When I make them again, I’m going to chop up the grated carrot that I buy at the store. The pieces inside the cookies were cooked but the ones on the outside still had a little bite to them. And I felt they were a little sweet for my taste so I’m going to eliminate the agave next time but my daughter-in-law will think they’re just right – the sweeter the better. Very quick and easy to mix together, no mixer needed, just a spoon and two medium size bowls. Makes 14 cookies.

Prepare a cookie sheet(s) by covering with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine:

2 tablespoons ground flax

1/3 cup aquafaba

Stir to mix thoroughly and then let sit for at least 5 minutes. While the flax gel is forming, in another medium bowl mix:

1/4 cup white rice flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

2 tablespoons tapioca flour (or starch)

2 tablespoon sorghum flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 cup quick cooking gluten-free oatmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix thoroughly. Whisk into the flax gel:

2 tablespoons avocado oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup maple syrup (or 1/3 if you prefer not to use the agave)

2 tablespoons agave or coconut nectar

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry (or vice versa doesn’t matter which way). Stir to combine but don’t overmix. Stir in:

3/4 cup grated carrots

Cover with plastic wrap making sure the plastic wrap sits directly on the cookie dough. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Drop the cookie dough by 2 tablespoon scoops. I used wet hands to shape the dough into flattened disks. The dough doesn’t rise much or spread so it needs to be flattened before baking. Wetting hands keeps the dough from sticking. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm to the touch. These cookies won’t brown much. Cool on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container on the countertop.

Paprika Pork Stew

Found a great recipe for a pork stew for a slow cooker. I don’t have a slow cooker since I’m retired and can watch the stove all day when necessary. So you can do this in either a Dutch oven like I did or in your slow cooker. Either way it’s delicious, a little spicy, and can be served with a variety of sides, either mashed potatoes, spaghetti squash, rice, or pasta. It also doesn’t take long to put together, just cooks for 3-4 hours.

You’ll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 ounces pancetta or bacon

1-2 pounds pork cubed and most of the fat removed

1 medium onion diced

1 large carrot diced

2-3 stalks of celery diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt or herbamare

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (want it a little spicier, use white pepper)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (if using 2 pounds of pork, use a large 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes)

2 teaspoons sweet paprika (add more with more meat)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

In a large skillet (if you’re going to use a slow cooker) or a Dutch over, heat the olive oil before adding the cubed pork and pancetta (or bacon). Cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is browned. Remove from the pot (to your slow cooker if using one) or just set aside if not.

Add the vegetables to the pot and cook until the onion is translucent before adding the garlic. Put the pork back into the pot, add the stock and the tomatoes, salt, pepper and paprika. (If using a slow cooker, add the vegetables to the cooker once the stock has come to a boil with the vegetables so that the pan is deglazed.) Reduce heat to a simmer and, cover with the lid so that a little steam can escape, and cook for 2-3 hours or until most of the liquid is cooked off. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 3-4 hours. The meat will almost shimmer when the dish is ready.

TIP: I like a lot of vegetables in my stews so I also added 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. I meant to add a cup of frozen peas near the end but it didn’t happen. Green beans would also be fine in this stew.

Spring (or summer) Rolls

When I lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, there was a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant that introduced me to all kinds of new flavors. One of our favorites were their spring rolls! What a delicious concoction; meat, rice noodles and vegetables wrapped in a rice paper shell and deep fried. Oh so good. Generally a spring roll contains pork or shrimp and a summer roll (the unfried version of a spring roll) contains shrimp and no noodles but bean sprouts instead. Here I’ve substituted chicken but any meat (or meat substitute) would work. And they aren’t difficult to make as long as the steps are followed.

First cook whatever part of the filling needs cooking.

To a large pot of boiling, salted water add:

8 ounces pad Thai noodles (or linguini, gluten free of course!) [Optional but traditional]

Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to add to the cooked vegetables later. In a medium 10″ skillet over medium heat, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 cup of thinly sliced Chinese (or Napa) cabbage

Reduce heat to medium low and cook for several minutes until the onion and cabbage wilt. In a small bowl whisk:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon date sugar (or syrup)

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Add to the skillet and stir to combine with the onion and cabbage. Add the pad Thai noodles if used. Remove the vegetables from the skillet. Either clean that skillet or using another, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add over medium heat:

16 ounces of chicken breast, julienned (thinly sliced)

Cook, turning frequently, for several minutes, 3-5, until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat.

Let the vegetables and chicken cool thoroughly. If the fillings aren’t cool enough, they will melt the rice paper wrapper. In the meantime, prepare the uncooked fillings, any or all of the following:

1 medium carrot, any color, julienned

1 English cucumber, peeled and julienned

1 cup zucchini noodles cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup pea pods

2-3 green scallions (green parts only), cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup Daikon radish (julienned)

Avocado (julienned)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or black)

Fresh herbs can also be added such as mint or basil leaves

As you can see, pretty much any vegetable could work, even string beans! You’ll also need:

10-12 rice paper wrappers (found in most oriental or specialty stores (or Whole Foods)

When the fillings are all prepared and cooled, using a 12″ container (I used a large pie plate), fill with about 1″ of warm water, not hot, just lukewarm works best. One at a time, place a rice paper wrapper , into the warm water, making sure the wrapper is covered by the water. You don’t want to soak it, just wet it completely. You’ll notice when it’s wet enough because the marks on the wrapper will disappear. Place the wrapper on a clean tea towel (cotton rather than a synthetic or fleece towel) and dry. I picked up the wrapper at this point, carefully, so it didn’t stick as much to the towel after filling.

As you see from the photo, I broke one but it was still useable. Once dried, place some of the fillings in the middle of the wrapper, horizontally, then fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling being sure it is tight at the top. Then fold in the sides of the wrapper and roll it up from the bottom to the top. The top should stick to the rest of the roll. If it doesn’t, rub a tiny amount of water on it with your finger.

Now comes the choice – spring or summer rolls? The only difference is the frying. If spring rolls are chosen, cook all of them. I cooked half and left the others for the next day’s lunch and they totally disintegrated in the oil the next day, the rice paper didn’t hold up to being refrigerated.

If spring rolls are the choice, heat in a large, high sided skillet:

3 inches of olive and avocado oils

Heat to 350 degrees. Olive oil has a low smoke point so mixing it with the avocado (which has a higher smoke point) keeps the olive oil from burning during this process. Once the oil is to temperature, add the spring rolls being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, turning once (tongs are best for this), until golden brown. Unlike most fried foods, do not place these on a paper towel as the rice wrapper will stick to it even after fried. Instead blot lightly with the paper towel after frying.

If, like me, several of your wrappers formed holes when wrapping them in the vegetables, DON’T FRY THEM! The oil will get into the roll and it will be very greasy. Use it as a summer roll instead.

Dipping sauce (or dressing) if desired. Traditionally spring rolls are served with a peanut sauce but the restaurant always served them with a spicy soy/ginger/garlic sauce. Here are several recipes for dipping sauces.

“Peanut” Dipping Sauce:

Combine in a small bowl:

1/2 cup tahini or other seed or nut butter

1 tablespoon soy substitute

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1-3 tablespoons hot water depending on the thickness desired

Whisk to combine all ingredients.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons date sugar (or syrup)

4 tablespoons soy substitute

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

slices of red chili pepper (optional)

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup date sugar (or syrup)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Zoodle Salad

I do love zucchini noodles. I remember when I first discovered Whole Foods in western Massachusetts, they had grated zucchini on their salad bar and I used to love adding it to a salad. Like many recipes I blog, this one is totally adjustable for your family’s taste. Here’s the vegetables I used.

In a medium size bowl, combine:

3 cups zucchini noodles

1 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup green onion slices

2 tablespoons sliced jalapeno peppers (seeds removed)

In a small bowl mix the dressing:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy substitute (see recipe under sauces)

2 tablespoons date sugar (or syrup)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Whisk together until smooth. Pour over the vegetables and mix well. Chill before serving. Makes 6 servings.

TIP: To make this a main dish, add 1 cup of diced cooked chicken or sautéed tofu (or tempeh).

TIP: Jicama or water chestnuts would add some crunch to this salad or even some diced cucumber.

Chicken with Rice and Vegetables

I’ve been making rice with meat for years. It’s a convenient, easy way to stretch meat when you don’t have much of it and lots of people to feed. And a great way to use up extra vegetables because it’s an adaptable recipe where any combination of meat and vegetables works fine. The recipe feeds 6 or 4 generously.

This will be my last blog post for several weeks as I now need to concentrate on finishing my screenplay which was due today but I’m not happy with it yet so have to concentrate on that for the next few weeks.

In a Dutch oven, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder (if using breasts cut into large cubes

The object is to brown the meat and build flavor as well as sear the meat to keep all the juices in it. This should take about 5 minutes, 2 1/2 minutes per side. When browned, remove the chicken pieces to a plate and add to the pot:

1 medium onion diced

6-8 stalks of celery diced

1/2 cup chopped carrots (or grated)

1 cup diced mushrooms

Sauté for several minutes until onion starts to brown. Add:

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons sweet or spicy paprika depending on your taste

2-3 bay leaves

1 cup frozen or fresh peas (if using fresh, add with the rice)

2 cups chicken stock (or, if possible, 1 cup of white wine and 1 cup of stock)*

1 tablespoon date syrup or date sugar

Stir to mix and add the chicken back into the pot along with any juices that are on the plate. Cover and simmer on low heat for approximately a half hour until chicken is cooked. Stir in:

1 cup rice (I used a wild rice blend but feel free to use whatever rice you prefer)

Simmer covered until rice is cooked, stirring frequently to be sure rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. This should cook out all the liquid but if not, cook uncovered until most of the liquid is gone. If the rice isn’t cooked but the liquid is all absorbed, add 1/4 cup stock and continue cooking covered until rice is done. Remove the bay leaves, taste and add additional salt if needed. Serve garnished with chives.

*If using wine, deglaze the pan with the wine before adding the stock. This will cook off the alcohol.

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 Sweet and Sour Pork (or chicken or tofu) (Dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, cane sugar-free)

I do love Chinese food but its been off limits since I developed an allergy to soy. With the soy substitute I gave you last year on this blog, this is really delicious! It’s not quick but it is very easy to put together; takes longer to cut everything up then to cook. Do it in stages and use precut or frozen vegetables to make it even quicker.

Start by cutting into 1/2 inch pieces 1 pound of pork, chicken or tofu

Put the pork into a zip-lock bag with 1 tablespoon corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper [If you are allergic to corn, use 1 tablespoon tapioca or cassava flour or arrowroot]. Shake to coat all the pieces of pork and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

While the pork is sitting, prepare your vegetables. I’m giving the list of what I used but feel free to use whatever veggies your family likes.

1/2 large onion sliced

2 celery stalks cut on a slant

2 baby bok choy sliced

1/2 cup grated or thinly sliced carrot

1 medium bell pepper sliced and seeded (you could cut into chunks if you prefer)

1 small can water chestnuts

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger (be sure to mince it well because no one wants a big piece of ginger! Or you can buy pre-minced in a jar)

Mix the sauce together:

1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock (use a little more if you’d like a saucier dish but increase the thickener as well)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup date sugar (or 1/4 teaspoon monk fruit powder, 1/4 cup agave or coconut nectar)

2 tablespoons soy substitute [See recipe under sauces and dressings or use can use coconut aminos]

1 tablespoon corn starch [or cassava or tapioca flour; I wouldn’t recommend using arrowroot because it will be very slimy]

Whisk together. Tip: Put the date sugar and corn starch in the bowl first and then the liquids. Set aside.

When the pork is ready, add 2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil to a large skillet (or if you have one use a wok). When hot, add the pork in individual pieces so that each one cooks individually. In other words don’t just dump the bagful into the skillet! Turn the skillet down to medium heat and let brown for about 1 1/2 minutes before turning. It will only take about another 1 1/2 minutes for the pork to cook through. Remove from the skillet.

And the vegetables and let cook for several minutes 2-3 before turning and then give them another 2-3 minutes covered so the celery, bok choy, and carrot soften. Remove cover and add the pork back in and stir to combine.

Add the sauce and stir until the sauce thickens. This should only take about 30 seconds. And its ready to eat! Serve over rice or quinoa, or noodles.

Serves 4

Carrot Chowder (dairy-free, gluten-free)

Carrots are so versatile. Not only are they great in savory dishes like soups, salads, stews, curries, and stir-fries, but they also work very well in desserts. Here’s a great carrot soup with a hint of creamy tomato soup that’s hearty and satisfying. If you want a vegan soup, substitute the ground turkey for a ground vegan product and the chicken stock for vegetable stock.

In a Dutch oven pot, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil and add:

1 pound ground turkey or chicken, when browned add:

1/2 cup chopped celery and

1/2 cup chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent

Add 2 1/2 cups grated carrots

32 ounce can of tomato puree

1 cup non-dairy yogurt

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon thyme, marjoram, and/or basil (I use a pre-mixed Italian blend that includes all three)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon date sugar

Cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. I like to serve this with seasoned croutons (gluten free of course) or gluten free rolls. Serves 4-6 depending on if you want it for an appetizer or a main dish.

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.