Tater Tots

I know, I know, another fried recipe! I try not to fry too many things because it’s not the healthiest way of cooking but some things, like potatoes, just love being fried. And they taste soooooooo good! I found a recipe for “Grown Up Tater Tots” in my aquafaba cookbook* and thought I’d give them a try. Of course, I had to make it my own, for some reason all my life, I’ve never been able to follow a recipe exactly, always changing something about it to make it my own and this one is no exception. The recipe, depending on the size of the potato you use and the size of your “tots” will make 10-12 pieces.

You’ll need:

1 large baking potato

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon vegan margarine

2-3 tablespoons potato STARCH

1/4 cup aquafaba

1/2 to 2/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4-1/3 cup non-dairy parmesan shreds (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

Olive Oil, about 2 cups to fill a skillet 1/2″

First, naturally, peel and dice the potato. Boil until soft (be sure to always start boiling potatoes in cold water so that they cook evenly and only put in enough water to cover them with about 1/4″ to spare). Add a little salt to the water as well. This should take only about 10-15 minutes; be sure to reduce the heat once they come to a boil to medium. Drain and be sure there’s no water left in them.

Mash the potato (I used my immersion blender) but a ricer or masher will work as long as there are no lumps in the potato. It needs to be very smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used my herbamare instead of salt), the vegan margarine, cheese, and the potato starch. Stir to combine. The final mixture should hold together in a ball but it might be a little gummy. If it’s too gummy or soft, add another tablespoon of potato starch.

Place the aquafaba in a shallow bowl and the bread crumbs, seasoned with some salt, pepper, garlic powder and the paprika in another bowl.

With wet hands, using about 1-2 tablespoons of the potato mixture, roll into logs, repeat until all the mixture is rolled. Then roll each log in the aquafaba being sure to moisten all sides. Roll in the seasoned bread crumbs. I suggest you do each one in both processes before doing another log. Wet your hands frequently (I actually wet them between each log, washing off the breadcrumbs).

Heat the olive oil to about 375 degrees. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, the oil will shimmer when it is close to the right temperature. If you heated it on high, be sure to reduce it to medium high before adding the tater tots. Cook each tot for approximately 3-5 minutes per side or until golden brown. If the tots are getting too dark too quickly, your oil is too hot and will cause the tots to burst.

Remove them from the oil when browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes, onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve as a side dish or use as a topping for a casserole.

TIP: To make them more flavorful, add some finely diced green onion or chives; bacon bits; or a small piece of non-dairy cheese in the middle of the log – or even all three! If you’re a fan of parsley, some dried parsley would also work well in these tots.

*Rebecca Coleman, Aquafabulous; 100+ Egg-free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba (Toronto, Canada: Robert Rose, 2017)

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Salad

Every once in a great while I buy a rotisserie chicken at the store because, like everyone, I just don’t feel like cooking. I bought one several days ago and like so often happens, found I couldn’t eat all of it before it would spoil. In those cases, I usually dice up the chicken breasts and freeze them for later use. It’s amazing, I don’t understand why, but when cooked chicken is frozen, it makes such a better chicken salad than fresh chicken. Perhaps because it’s really cold? Anyway, try putting the diced chicken in the freezer for about an hour before making the salad and let me know if you agree with me that it has a better taste.

For the salad:

2 rotisserie chicken breasts diced

3-4 celery stalks, diced

2 tablespoons dill relish (or up to 1/4 cup depending on taste)

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, or diced jicama, or diced water chestnuts (just looking for more crunch)

1 avocado, diced

For the dressing:

1/2 to 3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (depending on how much chicken there is)

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon herbamare (herbed salt)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black (or white) pepper

2 tablespoons honey (or agave or coconut nectar, or date syrup)

Mix all the ingredients and serve with lettuce. Garnish, if you have some, which I didn’t, with chives or scallions. Also, it’s delicious with sliced fresh strawberries or tomatoes. Makes 4 servings.

Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Oatmeal Cookies

My husband’s favorite cookie was oatmeal. After looking though dozens of oatmeal cookie recipes, this one came out first in the ones I thought sounded really delicious and easily converted to allergen free. With a food processor, it was very easy to put together and turned out delicious! As with many cookie recipes that are allergen free, these should be flattened before baking and bake a little longer than most cookies.

In a small pot, bring to a boil:

12 ounces of dates with sufficient water to cover them

Once they come to the boil, remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, put into a food processor:

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds

Blend until the seeds are well ground but not turning into butter, larger chunks are okay. In a medium bowl, blend:

2 cups quick cooking organic gluten-free oatmeal

the ground seeds

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Place the cooled dates into the food processor along with:

2 cups cooked pumpkin or sweet potato or a 15 ounce can of pumpkin or sweet potato puree

1/2 cup of the date boiling liquid (or if a fruity flavor is desired, 1/2 cup of any fruit juice)

Blend until smooth. Add the date/pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and blend until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Let the dough sit for 15-20 minutes so that the oats and chia seeds can absorb some of the moisture in the dough. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2-3 medium cookie sheets with parchment paper.

When the dough is ready, scoop by tablespoon onto the baking sheets and flatten the cookies with the back of a wet spoon. Depending on how it’s measured, the dough should make 2 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.* Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes depending on size and thickness or until the outside of the cookie is golden brown. I found getting the cookies as thin as possible leads to a cookie that is browned and crispy around the outside and chewy on the inside. Cool on baking sheets and then store in air tight container.

*I actually used about 2 tablespoons per cookie and the dough made 29 cookies.

Carob Orange Tapioca Pudding

Used to love vanilla tapioca pudding as a child. Hadn’t thought of it in years. You know the kind, with the nutmeg on top, all creamy with the little balls of tapioca. There was a restaurant in Derry, New Hampshire, when my husband and I lived there that still served it. Don’t know if they’ve survived the pandemic. So anyway, I wondered about other possible flavors for tapioca pudding and happened upon a recipe for orange and changed it up a bit, obviously replacing the whole milk and white sugar. Pretty easy to make, but not something you can walk away from!

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil:

1 cup water

Stir in:

1/4 cup small tapioca pearls

Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the water is gone and the tapioca pearls are swollen and translucent. Add to the pot:

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons unsweetened carob chips

the tapioca pearls just cooked

Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens (it will still be fairly loose), about 3-5 minutes. Stir in:

juice and zest from 1 orange

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Let cool slightly before spooning into individual serving bowls or glasses. Cover and chill. Makes four servings. It can be eaten warm but is much better after it’s sits overnight and firms up.

Scallops with Seasoned Breadcrumbs

I think scallops are my very favorite seafood, well maybe lobster runs a close second. They are definitely much easier to find in Minnesota than Maine lobsters! My very favorite way to cook scallops is to broil them wrapped in bacon and then serve with a side of maple syrup (are my New England roots showing?). I wanted to try something different and it turned out very flavorful, delicious, and oh so quick and easy to make. If you can handle a knife and a fork, you can make this!

I used sea scallops and cut them in half to make disks but I think this breading would work as a topping for any fish. If using bay scallops obviously don’t cut them and bake them for 10-15 minutes instead of the 18-20 minutes.

Heat oven to 425 degree. Spray the bottom of a glass baking dish large enough to hold 20-24 scallop disks. Arrange in the bottom of the dish:

10-12 large sea scallops, cut in half to make 20-24 disks

In a 2 cup bowl mix together:

3/4 cup gluten free bread crumbs

2 teaspoons diced parsley

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon herbamare

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds (if preferred use sesame, sunflower, etc.)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Spread the breading mixture evenly over the scallops. Into a cold skillet add:

6 ounces bacon, chopped (optional)

Brown and then drain on a paper towel before sprinkling the bacon bits on top of the breading. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

I served it with a tossed salad that included tomatoes and avocado.

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.

Easy and Quick Sweet Potato Cookies

If you love sweet potatoes like I do (and my daughter-in-law does), then you’ll really enjoy these cookies. They are very moist, cakey, and the addition of maple syrup and some autumn spices, enhance the richness of these cookies. If your nut or seed butter is fairly runny, these can easily be blended with a spoon. If like my pumpkin seed butter, its thicker, you may want to use a hand mixer. Makes 12-15 depending on size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, blend:

1 cup sweet potato puree

1/2 cup pumpkin seed (or other nut or seed) butter

2 tablespoons maple syrup (or if preferred coconut or agave nectar, honey or date syrup)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

Mix until combined and smooth. Drop by tablespoon on to baking sheet. These should be fairly flat so smooth with the top of the spoon. Drop at least 2 inches apart since they will spread slightly. Bake until firm to the touch, around 12-15 minutes depending on size. Cool on baking sheet.

TIP: A few weeks ago, I blogged a recipe for pumpkin chai snickerdoodles. I sprinkled some of the spice mixture from that recipe on top of these cookies and they were delicious! However, the cookies are so moist that I recommend if you do that you want to eat them the same day. The chai mixture is what turned the tops of my cookies dark.

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.

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.