Vietnamese Pork Chops

This combines ingredients from several recipes I found online. Pork and chicken, along with some fish, are the only meats I eat so I’m always searching for new ways to cook them as well as vegan alternatives. This is quite an easy recipe that turns out succulent with a pleasant sour flavor from the lime squeezed on top when the chops are cooked. I’ll give you some optional ingredients along with the ones I used if a more complex flavor profile is desired and soy is an option.

In a square or rectangular dish, whisk together the marinade:

1 small shallot, minced

3 tablespoons honey or 1/4 cup date sugar

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup Hoisin, soy or oyster sauce (optional)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 stalks lemon grass (smashed and chopped fine)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Trim the fat, puncture each chop with a fork in multiple places on both sides so the marinade soaks in, and then add to the marinade:

4 – 1″ thick pork chops

Turn the pork chops so they are fully covered in the marinade. Let sit at least 20-30 minutes (or up to 1 day in the refrigerator). When ready to cook, heat a 12″ skillet over medium high:

1 tablespoon olive oil

until shimmering. Wipe the marinade off the chops and add to the oil. Sear on each side (approximately 1 minute per side) and then reduce heat to medium and sauté until the chops are firm to the touch, about 3-4 minutes per side. Watch closely so they don’t burn on either side. Remove from heat and let rest for 6-8 minutes before serving. Serve with a wedge of lime. Serves 4.

Ginger Chicken with Bok Choy

Here’s another revamped recipe from the chicken bible; if you like Chinese food as much as I do, you’ll love this one. Tangy, slightly sweet sauce, succulent chicken, and just tender bok choy add up to a savory recipe for the entire family. And I thought it was as good as anything I might order at a restaurant. Follow the steps, get the chicken and bok choy chopped, fresh ginger grated before starting and it’s a quick, easy dish to make. I sliced the chicken and put it in the marinade before chopping and grating first so it could sit and tenderize while I did everything else. FYI, want to make it vegan, use firm tofu slices instead of chicken. This dish would also be good with pork, some mushroom, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, etc. The sauce would be great with any number of vegetable/meat mixtures. Serves 4.

First mix the marinade for the chicken in a medium size bowl (at least 4 cups):

3 tablespoons soy sauce substitute*

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon date syrup

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Whisk together and set aside. Cut up:

2 large or 4 small chicken breasts (around 1 pound of chicken)

Slice as thinly as possible. TIP: Freeze the breasts for 15 minutes before cutting to make them easier to slice. Mix the sliced chicken into the marinade and let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients.

In a small dish, combine:

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

Mix the ginger mixture well and set aside. In another bowl (at least 1 cup), combine for the sauce:

1/4 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon date syrup

3 tablespoon soy sauce substitute

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes *(Optional)*

Whisk the sauce together and set aside.

Wash and prepare:

1 pound bok coy

Cut off root bottom and thoroughly wash stems and leaves. Remove as much of the green as possible while leaving the tougher white stems and branches. Slice the stems into 1/2″ pieces and set aside. Chop the greens roughly and set aside in a separate bowl. (The greens cook very quickly and will be added separately from the stems.)

Now we cook; and this is the quickest part of this recipe, only about 10 minutes until the dish is ready to serve so if cooking rice to go with the dish, put it on before you start preparing the ingredients. First, in a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When the oil is shimmering hot, add:

1/2 the chicken slices

Add the chicken pieces but not the marinade (there’s won’t be much of the marinade left in the bowl anyway). Stir the chicken constantly as it cooks through. This should only take about a minute depending on how thinly it was sliced. If the slices are more than about 1/8″, it may take a little longer. Remove to a separate dish and cover. Repeat the process with the remainder of the chicken.

Into the now empty skillet, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When shimmering hot, add:

Bok choy stem slices

I jar, drained, banana pepper slices

Cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until bok choy is softened slightly and starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Push vegetables to the edges of the skillet and add:

the ginger/garlic mixture

Stir for roughly 30 seconds in the bottom of the pan until fragrant. Add:

bok choy greens

Stir to combine the bok choy, greens, and ginger mixture and cook approximately 30 seconds until the greens are slightly wilted. Add the chicken back into the pan along with any juices and then add:

the sauce mixture

With the heat at medium high, stir constantly until the sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or scallion greens. Serve.

*If like me you are not only allergic to soy but also can’t use coconut, Whole Foods has started carrying a line of soy and coconut free sauces made by Ocean’s Halo. They have many of the same ingredients as my soy sauce substitute but also include cane sugar.

Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Another recipe adapted from my chicken bible. If you don’t like green food, this isn’t the recipe for you! LOL! Either boneless skinless breasts or thighs can be used, just be sure to trim off any fat. It’s a fairly quick and quite simple recipe and if you like cilantro and limes, you should really enjoy this recipe. I don’t like cilantro so I used flat leaf parsley which also worked.

Put a 12″ skillet on medium heat and when hot add:

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

Roast in the dry pan until aromatic, about 7-10 minutes, being sure not to burn the seeds. Remove to a bowl and add to the skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

Cook over medium high heat until onion softens, about 3-5 minutes. Add:

6-8 small tomatillos, peeled, washed and chopped

3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (leaves removed from the stems) or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 can mild to medium jalapeno chilis, drained and diced (4-6 ounces)

1 1/2 cup chicken stock

And most of the seeds, reserving about 1 tablespoon for garnish. Cover and cook over medium heat until the tomatillos have softened, about 10 minutes. Add:

4 small chicken breasts or 6 thighs, boneless and skinless, fat trimmed

Salt and pepper the chicken before adding. Push the chicken into the sauce so the pieces cook evenly. Flip them over midway through cooking. Cook the chicken in the sauce for 15-20 minutes depending on size of the chicken pieces (to 160 degrees). When cooked, remove to a plate, cover and let sit while the sauce is finished.

In a blender, combine:

1 cup cilantro (or parsley)

juice from 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon date syrup (or date sugar)

Sauce from the skillet

I ladled the sauce into the blender until most of it was in before pouring the remainder from the skillet. This will be HOT so be sure to cover the blender lid with a towel before blending. Blend until almost smooth, about 1 minute.

Arrange chicken on platter and ladle sauce over, garnish with the reserved seeds. Serve with rice and remaining sauce.

“Ratatouille” Gratin

All of us love ratatouille, one of our favorite summer side dishes, especially for my grandson. So when I saw a recipe for a summer vegetable gratin it occurred to me that if I added some eggplant to it, it would be a ratatouille in a casserole with a nice crunchy top. Sounded delicious and indeed, it turned out succulent and indeed the top was very crunchy. The most important thing is to cut the vegetables all about the same so they cook at the same rate. It does take time since getting the water out of the squash and tomatoes, and the bitter out of the eggplant takes about a half hour of sitting but that time can be used to make really delicious caramelized onions. But it’s very easy to make. While I used yellow and zucchini squash, one or the other will work.

First thing is to cut up the vegetables:

1 pound zucchini squash, smallish, about 2

1 pound yellow summer squash, smallish again about 2

1 medium eggplant, peeled (about 6″ long)

6 medium size, ripe tomatoes

Wash and slice the squash, eggplant and tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Place the vegetables on baking trays covered with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. Wash off the salt (except from the tomatoes) and dry thoroughly between paper towels to get the squash and eggplant as dry as possible.

While the vegetables are sitting, cut:

3 large or 4 medium size onion

Peel and then cut them in half and slice each half into thin slices. Should have about 4 cups of onions. Heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add the sliced onions and cook for a minute over medium high heat before reducing to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the skillet, for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. The heat may need to be reduced if they begin sticking. I wasn’t patient enough and mine didn’t get as brown as they should have but still tasted delicious.

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Spread in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Begin by layering the squash.

Now layer the eggplant on top of the squash. Next, mix together:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (pull the leaves off the tough stems)

1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper (or to taste)

Sprinkle half the mixture over the eggplant and then turn the eggplant over so that the mixture also gets to the squash. Now layer the onions on top of the eggplant and then the tomatoes on the onions.

Sprinkle the remaining mixture (garlic oil) over the top of the tomatoes and again, turn over the tomatoes so the oil can mix with the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes look a little brown. Remove from the oven and spread on top:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plain

1 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (again, pull the small leaves off the tough stems)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper)

Return to the oven and bake about 15 minutes more or until the topping has browned.

Sprinkle with:

1/4 cup roughly chopped basil

Feel free to half the recipe. The 9×13″ size will easily serve 8-10.

Moo Goo Guy Pan

We’re continuing the Chinese revisionist recipes. One of my mother’s and my favorite Chinese dishes is Moo Goo Guy Pan – a mixture of chicken and vegetables in a light sauce. Usually made bok choy, water chestnuts and mushrooms along with snow peas, this dish is a satisfying meal that covers all the nutritional bases. Other than cutting up all the vegetables and chicken, it goes together quite easily. I actually cut up everything the night before I wanted to make this, storing the vegetables in a container in the refrigerator and the chicken in a gallon food storage bag with the corn (or tapioca) starch. It was then very simple to prepare the next day.

Vegetables (feel free to substitute other vegetables your family likes, asparagus would work nicely):

1/2 medium onion, sliced

6 ounces sliced mushrooms, any variety will work

4-6 ounces snow peas with the strings removed

4-5 baby or 1 large bok choy

8 ounces sliced water chestnuts (the canned kind works fine)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in either a 12 inch high sided skillet or a wok over medium high heat. Add the prepared vegetables and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened. Remove them from the heat and set aside in a separate bowl.

Chicken:

2 medium sized chicken breasts thinly sliced (works best if the breasts are partially frozen)

2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

Toss the chicken slices in the starch and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil, over medium heat, in the same skillet and add the sliced chicken. Brown on one side for 2-3 minutes and then flip and brown on the other sides. If they stick, you’re turning them too soon. And don’t worry, making the sauce in the pan will release those brown sticky pieces from the bottom of the pan. Total, this should only take about 5 minutes if you’ve sliced them thin enough.

While the chicken cooks, prepare the sauce:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 to 1 tablespoon sesame oil (depending on your taste, this is a very strong flavor)

1-2 tablespoons fish sauce (again depending on your taste, very salty flavor)

1 1/2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Whisk to combine before adding to the cooked chicken in the skillet. Stir constantly until sauce thickens, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the reserved vegetables. Cover and let sit for 2-3 minutes which will reheat the vegetables. Serve with slivered scallion greens and rice. Makes 4 servings.

Oriental Pork and Vegetables

I’d intended to make pork with eggplant but . . . I used all the eggplant in the eggplant with garlic sauce yesterday! So instead here’s pork and vegetables. As in many of my recipes, feel free to substitute the vegetables for whatever ones your family prefers, eggplant would be great. Makes 4 generous servings.

Ingredients for sauce:

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced (or grated) fresh ginger (adjust to your family’s taste)

1 small can diced chilis (I used mild but whatever heat level your family enjoys is fine)

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot) dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

Ingredients for the pork and vegetables:

2 tablespoons olive oil

16 ounces pork, diced

2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

2-3 baby bok choy, cleaned and chopped

1 medium onion sliced thinly

1/2 grated carrots (or 2 large carrots cut on the bias)

1 medium yellow pepper, seeded and cubed

1 small can sliced water chestnuts

First, put the pork cubes into a gallon food storage bag with the 2 tablespoons of corn or tapioca starch. Shake to coat the cubes, making sure all the pork gets some starch, and set aside for 15-20 minutes (I’ve left it overnight and it worked fine).

In a large skillet, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot, add the pork cubes and fry, turning frequently to brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove cubes from the pan and set aside covered (they will continue cooking). Add the vegetables to the pan and cook over medium heat until they start to soften but still have some crunch, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the pork.

In a small saucepan or skillet, heat the 1/2 tablespoon oil then add the garlic, ginger, chilis (drained) over medium heat. After about 1-2 minutes, add the soy sauce substitute, fish sauce and sesame oil. Cook until it comes to a boil, about 1 minute and then add the slurry of corn/tapioca starch and water. Stir to combine and continue stirring until thickened, should be almost immediately. Remove from heat and pour over the vegetables and pork. Stir to combine and plate, garnishing with sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with brown rice (or white rice if preferred).

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

I know, another eggplant recipe! I can’t help myself, it’s so good right now. My local grocery has such fresh ones on hand, I just have to buy them. This recipe traditionally should be made with Japanese eggplants but they are hard to find. I used to get them at the farmers’ market when I lived in Massachusetts, haven’t found them here in Minneapolis as yet. So I used the common oval eggplants. Look for ones that are narrower, they’ll have fewer seeds and be a little less bitter. Also make sure when purchasing eggplants, that the stems are still green and the eggplant is firm to the touch. And always buy the ones with the inward flower end rather than ones with an outward end, they will also be less bitter.

Because this recipe was made using 2 oval eggplants rather than the Japanese, the proportions will be different if you happen to find the long, skinny kind. So double the eggplants needed if you strike it lucky and are able to use the Japanese. They also won’t need to be peeled!

First, peel and cut into bite size pieces:

2 oval eggplants, medium sized (about 6 cups of meat altogether before salting)

Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with:

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sea salt

Mix thoroughly and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer is better. After they have sat, rinse thoroughly with water to remove the salt and then dry as thoroughly as possible with paper towels (or a clean kitchen towel). It’s not possible to remove all the water from eggplant since the meat acts like a sponge with any moisture. When dry, toss with:

1 tablespoon corn starch (or tapioca starch)

Mix thoroughly and then repeat with a second tablespoon of starch.

Heat in a large skillet (or griddle if you have one):

1/4 cup olive oil

When shimmering add the eggplant and cook on medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes until browned then turn to brown the other side, cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove pieces as they are browned and set aside. When all the pieces are well browned, and crunchy, and the skillet is empty, make the sauce.

In a medium skillet heat over medium:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped white scallions (slice the greens for garnish)

1 teaspoon minced green chilis

Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add:

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1/4 cup water

Stir to distribute and let cook for a minute or two while making a slurry with:

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot)

Add slurry to the skillet, stirring constantly until sauce is thick. Stir in the eggplant chunks. Remove to a serving plate and garnish with the greens from the scallions and some white sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: Add some diced chicken, beef, pork, tofu, etc., to make this a complete meal.

Moussaka (Greek Lasagna)

My mother loved moussaka. When I made it for her, I used ground lamb, ricotta cheese, eggs, and homemade pasta sauce. Things and times have changed so here’s one that’s dairy, gluten and egg free and uses jarred (or homemade if you have the time and desire) sauce. Just in case, I’m including my recipe for pasta sauce.

First, start the tomato sauce if making homemade by heating in a small Dutch oven:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add to it when hot:

1 diced medium onion

1 diced sweet pepper, any color

1/2 cup sliced carrots (or grated)

6 ounces shitake mushrooms

Stir to combine, lower heat to medium and cook until the onions and mushrooms are sweating and onion is translucent. Add:

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

32 ounces small diced tomatoes

16 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook over medium low heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. This gets rid of much of the water in the tomatoes so the sauce can thicken. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to low. When reduced by about 1/3, add:

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Use an immersion blender to cream most of the vegetables, leaving a few whole. I do this because then the eggplant slices sit better in the sauce but it is optional. In a large skillet, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or if you want this vegan, diced tofu)**

Cook the sausage through and then drain off the fat and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside. If using jarred sauce, this will take more than 1 large jar.

While the sauce is cooking, peel and thinly slice:

1 large eggplant

Place the slices on a large, sided baking sheet in a single layer and salt generously. Once salted, another layer of eggplant can be added on the top of the first, again salting generously. Place a slightly smaller baking sheet on top of the eggplant and then weight it down with large cans. Let sit at least 30 minutes, 60 is preferable.

After sitting, wash each eggplant slice to remove the salt and whatever liquid was expelled from the slices. Dry between paper towels. Heat in a large skillet (12 inch) or flat griddle:

1 teaspoon olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan)

When hot, add eggplant slices until the bottom is covered but the slices have room to move. Let brown for a minute or two and then turn and brown the second side. Repeat until all the slices are browned.

Still while the sauce is cooking, add to a large saucepan:

1/2 cup olive oil

Begin heating over medium high heat. Add:

3/4 cup gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour then add, 1 cup at a time:

3 cups oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk except soy)

Whisk each portion of milk into the flour and cook, whisking every minute or so, until the white sauce is thickened. It should be the consistency of a pudding or mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with slices of eggplant.* Add a layer of the meat sauce and repeat ending with a layer of eggplant (3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of sauce). There may be a little meat sauce left over. Slowly pour the white sauce on top of the last layer of eggplant (I didn’t quite have enough eggplant to cover the entire top but it still worked okay). The white sauce on mine was only about 1/2 inch thick but if your pan is deep enough, use all the white sauce, it’s that yummy on the top! Sprinkle the top with:

1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Place baking pan on a large baking sheet because if it’s full, it will bubble over and put in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the middle is bubbling. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

*Don’t think you have enough eggplant? Peel and thinly slice 1-2 medium to large Russet potatoes and place those on the bottom layer of the moussaka, using the eggplant for just other 2 layers.

**I used sweet Italian sausage but feel free to use any ground meat.

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

Turkey Hash

Hash is a favorite of mine. It’s so tasty and so versatile. Any meat, any vegetables can be used in hash. It’s not just corned beef hash anymore! After I made the roasted turkey breast the other day, I had over half the breast left (since there’s only one of me and the recipe served 4). I’d already cooked plenty of sweet potatoes (but there’s nothing wrong with cooking more!) and had some rainbow carrots in the freezer. Hash is so easy to make, hope you’ll give it a try.

I served this with the leftover turkey pear gravy! Oh so delicious

In a large skillet (12″), heat over medium heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When shimmering add:

1 medium onion diced

3-5 celery stalks, diced

When the onion is becoming translucent, add:

2 cups diced cooked sweet potato (or white if you prefer)

1 cup cooked rainbow carrots, sliced or diced

2 not quite ripe pears, peeled and diced

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix to combine and continue cooking until sweet potatoes start to brown. Stir in:

2-3 cups cooked turkey, diced

Lower heat to medium low and cover. Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes until turkey is hot. Remove lid, stir. At this point, if eggs are allowed in your diet, crack 4 eggs on top of the hash, cover and cook until eggs are ready. Serves 4.