Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Blondies

I’ve never had a blondie since I’ve always preferred bars made with chocolate. Now that I no longer can have chocolate, it seems like a good time to check out blondies. I understand from watching people make them on TV that they should be very dense and moist, almost fudgy, rather than cake-like. This recipe, adapted from thebigmansworld.com, doesn’t have any flour and can be made without any sweetener as well. I opted for some date sugar which I think pumpkin really needs and added some vanilla to the mixture as well but if you want to intensify the pumpkin or sweet potato flavor, a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spices would go well. Be sure to chill them thoroughly before slicing and removing from the pan. And, the smaller the pan, the thicker the blondies will be (I used an 8″ square pan for the pumpkin and an 8″ round for the sweet potato.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with non-stick cooking spray, a small baking pan (8″ or less). Put into a medium sized, microwave safe mixing bowl:

1/2 cup pumpkin seed butter (or any other butter your family likes)

Heat for about 1 minute which should thin it out a little. If you’re using roasted (brown) pumpkin seed butter or a thicker butter such as sunflower, this may take longer to melt. Add to the butter:

1 cup pumpkin or sweet potato puree

2 tablespoons carob powder

1/4 cup fine date sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes depending on the size of your baking dish – the 8″ pans took the full 20 minutes in my oven. They will puff up slightly when they are cooked. Cool on the counter for 15-20 minutes and then refrigerate and chill completely before slicing and serving. Number of pieces will also depend on the size of the pan you used – I got 9 pieces from the square pan.

Oatmeal Cookies

My husband’s favorite cookie was oatmeal raisin. These are very easy to make (if you have a food processor) and very tasty. And they don’t have very many ingredients, also a pretty good thing. If you have dried dates which most of us do since fresh dates are not always available, soak them in boiling water for 5-10 minutes to soften them before using them in this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread a medium size cookie sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor, add:

1 1/2 cups gluten-free old fashioned oats, preferably organic

1/2 cup seed butter like sunflower or pumpkin butter or tahini

10-12 softened dates, medium sized

1/4 cup date syrup (or if you don’t have date syrup, use some of the water from soaking the dates just increase the number of dates if you want a sweeter cookie)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Blend until combined and the oatmeal is partly ground and a dough forms. This should take only about a minute. Remove from the food processor to a bowl and stir in:

1/2 cup carob chips (optional)

1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Scoop out several tablespoons (to a 1/4 cup depending on how large you’d like the cookies) of the dough and form into a flat, round disc. Repeat with the remaining dough. The recipe should make approximately 12 cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake

I do love gingerbread but I also love pumpkin. This cake doesn’t have a pronounced pumpkin taste – the ginger overwhelms it so if you want more pumpkin taste, reduce the amount of ginger you add. It’s wonderfully moist and delicious served with a vanilla frozen dessert or a non-dairy whipped cream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 square or round pan (to take the entire cake out of the pan to serve, cover the baking pan with parchment paper and then grease). In a small bowl combine:

1 tablespoon ground flax

3 tablespoons aquafaba*

*Add 1 teaspoon aquafaba powder to 3 tablespoons hot water. Don’t have aquafaba powder or a can of chickpeas handy? Substitute 1 tablespoon vinegar and 2 tablespoons hot water. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or until a flax gel forms. In a medium sized bowl (at least 3 cups) combine:

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup hot (the hotter the better) water

Mix until the molasses and honey are fairly thin. In another medium size bowl (at least 6 cups) sift together:

1 cup sorghum flour

3/4 cup tapioca flour or arrowroot

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix thoroughly. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly before cutting.

Easy Moroccan Chicken

I’m reposting this recipe that I original developed in 2020 because I have some additional tips for you about it that I thought made it so much more scrumptious. Many of us can’t (and shouldn’t) eat corn. I know because I’m one. But I grew up eating corn and I do so love it. Especially when it’s corn season, like it is right now. I happened to get to the market this morning right after they’d put out a fresh batch of local corn.

If you don’t know when corn is fresh, here’s what to look for: check that the tassels are still moist or at least still have some green to them and are not turned completely brown and that the stem end is still green. If the stem end is brown, the corn is old and will have lost much of it’s flavor. Also don’t husk the corn until you’re ready to put it in the pot! A definite no no. And always steam corn, it should never be boiled.

My mother was a great admirer of Craig Claiborne, the food critic for the New York Times in the 1970s. When he published a cookbook, she had to have it. About a week later, she found a recipe in it for corn in which he said corn should be boiled. She slammed the book shut, said the man was an idiot and never read anything else he ever wrote.

Having grown up on a farm where my father wouldn’t eat corn unless he went out and picked it, husked it and brought it to my mother who had the steamer all set to cook it. And the bushels of corn that we’d blanch and cut off the cobs in September to freeze for the winter. My, it was a two-day affair.

So please, another tip, never reheat or cook corn in water. If you have frozen corn off the cob, it should be simmered in milk (such as oat milk) and some fat (of course my mother always used butter!). Corn has a milky base, not a watery one so cooking it in milk enhances the flavor.

So, today, even though I knew better, I added corn to this recipe. And of my goodness, it was so delicious and I suffered so desperately all afternoon after I ate it but the enjoyment and flavor was worth the few bad hours afterwards. Here’s the amended recipe, feel free to omit the corn if you can’t eat it.

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

Approximately 3/4 cup of freshly cooked corn cut from the cob (I used only 1 ear)

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon garam masala or coriander

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce [optional]

1/2 teaspoon salt or herbamare

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 at 350 degrees for approximately 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken thighs.

It’s that easy! You can serve it with brown rice to sop up all the wonderful flavors of the salsa.

PS: I gave the rest of the corn to my grandson so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it myself!

Watermelon Gazpacho

There are about as many recipes on the internet for watermelon gazpacho as there are for regular tomato based gazpacho. Naturally sweet from the watermelon, my recipe is very simple and easy to make with just a few ingredients. Again, the most difficult part is peeling the tomatoes so get the ripest ones you can find.

First, just as with tomato gazpacho, put a pot of water on to boil. When it’s boiling drop in:

4 small Roma (or plum) tomatoes with + cut in the blossom end (as opposed to the stem end)

Turn off the heat and let them sit for just a minute or so before dousing them in an ice bath. Peel and cut out the stem end (about 1/4 inch into the tomato). Set aside.

Cut into pieces:

1 mini personal watermelon (about 8″ diameter or a little smaller)

Cut the meat off the peel and place in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add the tomatoes and blend until smooth. Add:

1 small English cucumber, peeled and cut into 3-4″ pieces

Add to the mixture and blend until smooth. At this point, there are options:

1/2 small jar of mild (or hot if heat is desired) chili peppers

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

I prefer mine pure so I just add at this point:

1 teaspoon sea salt (or herbamare)

Ground pepper to taste

Juice of 1-2 lemons, strained*

Chill and serve. Makes 8 cups.

*OR Limes if preferred.

Raspberry Crumble Bars

Well, after my fall, I’m recovering nicely and can finally stand on my bad leg for more than 10-15 minutes without it starting to throb. So, of course, the first thing I had to do was COOK! I haven’t cooked anything in almost 2 weeks and I was going crazy! I know I put up a recipe for raspberry bars a few months ago but I saw this one and it’s a lot healthier without all the fat or quite as many carbs as the other recipe. Hope you enjoy it as much I do.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare an 8×8 baking pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and then lining with parchment paper (spraying the pan allows the paper to stick and makes pressing the crust layer into the pan much easier, especially since the paper should be one solid piece because we’ll use it to lift the finished product out of the pan to slice).

For the crust, in the bowl of a food processor combine:

1 1/4 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup millet flour (or sorghum flour)

1/2 cup date sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients before adding:

1/4 cup honey (or agave or coconut nectar)

1/2 cup seed or nut butter (I used pumpkin seed butter but tahini, almond, etc., would work)

1/4 cup ground seeds or nuts (or hemp hulls) **OPTIONAL

Pulse to combine. If mixture is too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water. We want a mixture that sticks to itself, at least a little bit when squeezed together. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. In a medium bowl mix:

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries*

2 tablespoons lemon juice (about half a lemon)

2 tablespoons date sugar

2 teaspoons corn starch (or arrowroot)

Stir to combine. Spread over the crust covering it completely and try to make the raspberry filling as even as possible. Top with the remaining 1/3 of the crust mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown. It’s very important to cool the bars completely before cutting. I cooled mine on the counter for several hours and then put it in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours.

*While I used raspberries, any fruit can be used for the filling – blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, apples, pears, peaches, etc. If using fresh fruit, reduce the corn starch (or arrowroot) to 1 teaspoon.

Easy Creamy Asparagus Soup

I love asparagus. It’s my favorite vegetable. But alas, again it’s one of those things I shouldn’t eat anymore. Not allergies this time but due to a medication I take. So green asparagus is out! But what about white asparagus. Tastes just like the green stuff but for me it’s a definite YES! Feel free however, to make this soup with the green asparagus remembering that your’s won’t look like mine.

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat:

2 cups vegetable broth* (or chicken stock)

1 pound of asparagus cleaned and cut into chunks**

Cook over medium heat until the asparagus is tender, the length of time will depend on the size of the asparagus used, smaller pencil asparagus will obviously cook much faster than the larger stalks.***

Remove about half of the asparagus pieces to add back into the soup once it’s blended. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender if you don’t have an immersion one****, blend the stock and asparagus until smooth. Remember if you’re using an immersion blender to turn it off before lifting the blender out of the soup mixture so that it doesn’t splatter all over the stove (and you!).

Whisk together in a small bowl:

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (any kind other than soy which won’t thicken), I suggest using oat so it doesn’t interfere with the taste of the soup

1 tablespoon gluten-free all purpose flour

Make sure there aren’t any lumps in the milk mixture before adding it to the soup. Bring the soup back to a slow boil and stir until it thickens, about a minute. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the pieces back into the soup, season with salt and pepper to taste and add:

1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley)

And it’s ready to serve! Add any protein you like, I added some diced chicken breast but some white beans would also work. Makes approximately 4 1cup servings. Garnish with some cut scallion greens or chives (instead of cutting them with a knife, I use my kitchen scissors, much easier).

*I generally like to use stock rather than broth but in this instance if using vegetable, we don’t want the strong flavor of mushroom to overpower the asparagus so a lighter broth works best, preferable one without mushrooms.

**If you are using a larger stalk asparagus, add the largest pieces to the stock/broth first so that the smaller pieces don’t get too mushy since those are what you’ll probably want to save out before blending and add back into the soup

***The larger stalks often times have very thick skins so peel them with a potato peeler before chopping and adding to the stock/broth.

****If using a regular blender the mixture will either need to cool down a bit before blending or hold down the lip of the blender with a kitchen towel to prevent it flying off when you turn on the blender as it releases the hot air from the mixture and will pop that cover right off if you’re not careful. I always try to cool the soup first when using a regular blender, much safer!

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.

Easy Pear Ginger Sauce (dairy-free, refined sugar-free, vegan)

A very easy thing to do with fruit that is getting too ripe and has to be used is to make a sauce with it. I had two pears that were getting over-ripe yesterday and decided to make some pear sauce. I had a small piece of ginger left over from the gingerbread waffles so I grated that into the sauce as well. Great idea, added to the taste as well as giving the sauce a little tang. And tastes great on top of the gingerbread waffles!

I used pears but any fruit would work with this recipe, with or without the ginger. If I hadn’t added the ginger, I would have used some cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, or cardamom. And it easily adjusts to the number of pieces of fruit that are ripe.

To make about 1 cup of sauce, use:

2 medium ripe pears

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (or any other spice your family likes)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Wash, core, peel,* and dice the pears into a small saucepan. Add the spice and salt, cover and simmer over medium low heat until the pears are soft, about 10 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium to boil off excess liquid, cook for about 5 minutes or until there’s no longer any visual excess liquid. Remove from heat and using a potato masher or just a fork, mash into a sauce like consistency. If making a larger batch, use an immersion blender. Serve hot or cold. The sauce also freezes very well.

If the fruit isn’t sweet enough for your taste, feel free to add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, agave or coconut nectar, or date syrup to sweeten.

*In the case of pears, if they are organic, I don’t bother to peel them because that’s where most of the fiber is in pears. But other fruits such as peaches definitely peel.