Sesame Chicken with vegetables

I’ve talked about how much I love Chinese food and here’s another luscious, mouth watering, easy to make dish. It’s a little spicy with the chili paste (or hot sauce) and grated fresh ginger but not too spicy but feel free to leave those out if you don’t want it spicy. And be sure to check before purchasing oriental chili paste because most of them (all the ones I looked at in the store) contain wheat flour and therefore gluten. Serves 2-4 depending on serving size and the vegetables you add.

First prepare the chicken:

12 to 16 ounces boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs

Remove skin and whatever fat and silver skin you see. Cut into bite-size chunks and place in a gallon food storage bag. Add:

1/3 to 1/2 cup corn starch (or arrowroot)

Close the bag and toss the meat around to make sure it’s entirely covered by the starch. Place in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes.

In a small saucepan combine:

2 tablespoons soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces)

1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup (sugar free)*

1/2 teaspoon chili paste (or hot sauce which is what I used)

1 1/2 tablespoons date sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Stir to combine. In a small bowl whisk:

1/3 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)

2 teaspoons cornstarch, arrowroot or xanthan gum

Whisk to make a slurry and then pour it into the saucepan. Heat the sauce over medium heat, whisking often until it starts to heat up and you see a few bubbles from a slow boil then whisk constantly until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and add:

2 tablespoons TOASTED sesame seeds (you can buy them that way)

Stir in the sesame seeds and set the sauce aside. Over medium heat, heat a 12″ skillet with:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When shimmering hot, add the cubed chicken. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, spread out the meat so it’s in a single layer in the pan and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes until the meat is cooked through (time will depend on how large the cubes are). Once the chicken is cooked, pour in the sauce and mix to combine. Cover and remove from heat.

For vegetables, whatever your family likes will work. I used 1/2 cup of shredded carrots and 1/2 cup of frozen peas which I zapped in the microwave for 2 minutes before adding to the chicken mixture. But broccoli, bok choy, snow peas, celery, onions, water chestnuts, green beans, will work just be sure to cook them before adding to the sesame chicken. Or if you prefer, leave out the vegetables and serve a vegetable dish on the side. I served this over brown rice but again, Thai noodles or linguini would also work.

*For those of you unfamiliar with the product, Organicville makes a ketchup containing agave nectar instead of sugar. No one I’ve ever served it to knew it wasn’t “real” ketchup.

Thai “Peanut” Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

My obsession with eggplant has been demolished and replaced with spaghetti squash. Such a versatile vegetable, low in carbs, and good either as a “spaghetti” type vegetable or as a mashed squash. In this instance, it’s used as a spaghetti. And of course, I’ve left out the peanuts and substituted tahini but really any seed or nut butter will work in this recipe. And feel free to adjust the last four ingredients in the sauce to meet your family’s tastes. I used a lot more of the red curry paste because I just didn’t taste it at the prescribed amount.

First, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut in half:

1 small to medium spaghetti squash (size depending on how many you want to feed)

Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and place face down on a baking tray. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted into the skin side of the squash. Baking time will depend on the size of the squash. When tender, set aside to cool while you make the sauce.

In a medium size saucepan, combine:

1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (if you can have coconut milk, it would work well here)

2/3 cup tahini, sunflower, pepita, or other seed or nut butter

1/4 cup date sugar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy substitute for vegans)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons red curry paste (I used about 2 tablespoons)

Whisk to combine thoroughly although some heat may be needed to break down the seed or nut butter. Cook over medium high heat until it reaches a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a 12″ skillet, heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Cover and cook until the carrots and peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Using a fork, scrap the flesh from the inside of the spaghetti squash from end to end. Add to the skillet with the other vegetables along with 1/2 to 1 cup of the sauce. At this point, add:

1/4 cup chopped parsley (OPTIONAL)

Toss and cook for 2-3 minutes until squash is heated through. Serve with chopped nuts or seeds (I used roasted pumpkin seeds, delicious!). With a small squash as a side dish, serves 4.

This recipe makes about 3 times as much sauce as is needed for the dish. I spooned the remainder into 1 cup canning jars and put them in the freezer.

Eggplant Boats

Here’s another recipe for stuffed eggplant which would also work great for zucchini. Those of you who’ve followed me for awhile know how much I love eggplant! This recipe doesn’t use any starchy foods – no rice, pasta, bread crumbs, etc. Instead, it adds some cooked spaghetti squash to the stuffing! Delicious, very rich tasting. I didn’t but a dash of allspice (or nutmeg) would add even more depth to these flavors.

First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut in half:

1 small spaghetti squash

2 large eggplants (longer works better than rounder)

These will both take approximately the same amount of time to cook since the spaghetti squash doesn’t want to be overcooked or the strands turn to mush. Remove the seeds from the squash. Rub the halves of the squash and the eggplant with:

4-6 tablespoons olive oil total for all six pieces

Cut x’s in the eggplant and stab with a fork on the skin side (be sure to use Italian eggplant for these not Oriental ones). Place the squash skin side up and the eggplant skin side down on a large cookie sheet and bake for approximately 30-45 minutes until the squash is tender when stabbed with a knife and the eggplant is starting to turn translucent in the middle. If the eggplants are very round they will take longer to cook through.

Leave both squash and eggplant to cool a little while the filling is cooked. In an 10-12 inch skillet, heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon oil

When its shimmering (hot), add:

2 sweet Italian sausage removed from the casing (or hot if your family prefers them) [OPTIONAL]

Stir and cook the sausage until it’s almost cooked through before adding:

1 medium onion peeled and diced

1 medium sweet pepper diced

1/2 cup shredded carrots

2 teaspoons minced garlic

6 ounces of sliced shitake mushrooms

Cover and simmer over medium low heat until the vegetables are softened. Remove cover and add:

1 to 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce [see recipe under sauces or use jarred]

Cover again and leave over low heat. Use a fork to remove the flesh from the spaghetti squash, going from stem to bud end lengthwise not across the squash. It should come off in strands that look like spaghetti unless it’s overcooked. It will still work just won’t look like spaghetti in the filling. Also use a sharp spoon to detach the center flesh of the eggplant, cut it into pieces. Be sure to leave about a 1/4 inch of eggplant in the skins. Add the removed eggplant to the filling along with:

2 cups of the spaghetti squash (should be about equal to both halves of the squash depending on size)

Mix the squash and eggplant into the filling in the skillet. Place the eggplant halves on a baking sheet and fill generously with the filling. Sprinkle with:

1/4 to 1/2 cup non-dairy cheese (I used Parmesan but any cheese your family likes will work)

Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serves 4 to 6 depending on the size of the eggplant.

Chicken Canzanese

When I first say the listing for Chicken Canzanese in the chicken bible, I thought it was a Chinese dish but turns out it’s a very old Italian recipe. I’ve resized and revamped it for those of us with allergies. It originally made eight servings so I’ve reduced it to 4. I’ve also changed the white wine in the original to chicken stock plus a touch of rice vinegar and honey. Since I’m used to using dried herbs rather than fresh, I’ve also reflected that change in this recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In an ovenproof skillet (about 10-12 inches), heat over medium high heat:

1 teaspoon olive oil

Add:

1 ounce prosciutto cut into 1/4 inch cubes*

Cook, stirring frequently, until just starting to brown. Add:

3 teaspoons chopped garlic

Cook, stirring often, until garlic just starts to brown. Transfer the prosciutto and garlic to a small bowl. Dry with paper towels:

4-5 chicken thighs, skin on

Dust them with pepper to taste (no salt is necessary in this recipe because of the salt in the prosciutto. Replace the skillet on the heat and add:

1 teaspoon olive oil

the 4-5 chicken thighs, skin side down

Cook until well browned on the first side (about 5 minutes) then turn over and brown on the meat side, reducing heat to medium (about 5 more minutes). Transfer the chicken to a plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoon of the oil from the skillet (the chicken will release quite a bit of fat). Add to the skillet over medium heat:

2 tablespoon all purpose gluten-free flour

Whisk to combine and let the flour cook for about 30 seconds while whisking before adding:

2 cups of chicken stock

drizzle of rice vinegar (about 1/4 teaspoon)

drizzle of honey (about 1/2 teaspoon)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (depending on your taste)

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

dash (1/8 teaspoon) ground cloves (or add 2 whole cloves – just remember to remove them before serving)

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional depending on your taste)

Whisk to combine and cook until slightly thickened. Add the prosciutto, garlic, and chicken (skin side up) to the skillet, nestling the chicken into the sauce. Bake in preheated oven for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. After about 15 minutes check and see if the sauce is bubbling; if it is reduce oven temperature to 300 and cook until chicken is tender. Sauce should have thickened but if it’s still thin, remove the chicken from the sauce (move to a plate and cover) and cook the sauce on the stovetop for a few minutes until reduced to approximately 1 1/2 cups. Remove from the heat and whisk in:

1 tablespoon vegan margarine

1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Stir to combine and then pour the sauce around the chicken. Remove the bay leaves (and whole cloves if used) before serving. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or polenta.

*Prosciutto can become tough if fried when very thinly sliced so it’s recommended that a 1/4″ piece be used to cut “chunks” for this recipe. However, my deli wasn’t able to provide a “slab” of prosciutto because of shortages now due to the pandemic so I used the thinly sliced prepackaged prosciutto instead. Seemed to work alright but I simply chopped it into larger pieces than 1/4″.

Pork Chops with Pear Sauce and Sautéed Endive

Mostly I eat chicken but occasionally I’ve have some pork and I find it difficult to find creative ways to cook it, a plain pork chop can be so boring. Here’s one I adjusted from one I found online. I added the endive which goes great with both the pork chop and the pear sauce.

First, make a batch of pear sauce (see recipe under sauces) except instead of adding the ginger, add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of allspice (per cup of pear sauce/about 1 pear). Additionally, add about 1 tablespoon of date syrup (or 2 teaspoons of honey or agave nectar).

In a 10″ skillet, heat over medium high:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Blot dry:

2 1″ thick pork chops (or a little thinner or thicker if preferred just adjust the cooking time)

Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (granulated works best). Add to the hot oil and sear on each side (about 1-2 minutes per side) then reduce heat to medium low and cook, uncovered, for about 5-6 minutes per side or until the pork is firm to the touch. Set aside and let sit off the heat for approximately 10 minutes to rest.

While the pork rests, heat in 12″ skillet over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium sweet onion, dice

6-8 medium to large endive (slice off the lower stem end and then quarter)

Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder then cook stirring occasionally so that the onion doesn’t burn. After about 3-4 minutes, reduce heat to medium low and cover so that the lower cores of the endive soften and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until the endive cores are softened.

If you’ve premade the pear sauce as I did, heat in a small pot until hot. Pour half the mixture (about 1/2 cup) over each pork chop. Serves 2.

Gazpacho

This is the time of year for one of the best things to eat on the planet, fresh picked tomatoes! But for anyone who grows them, it soon becomes an overabundance and the issue becomes, “okay, what am I going to do with all these tomatoes?”. For many, this abundance becomes canned (or frozen) pasta sauce, tomato juice, or we even start picking them green and making fried green tomatoes (see recipe under side dishes). Here’s another tasty way to use up some of these extra tomatoes and, with the temperatures around here in the high 80s and low 90s right now, it’s also a very refreshing meal. And it will use up some of those extra cucumbers from the garden as well!

First, put on a good size pot of water to boil. Wash and cut slits (+) across the bottom (the one opposite the stem end) of:

8 medium to large plum tomatoes (use plum or Roma tomatoes because they aren’t as seedy or juicy as other tomatoes)*

While the water comes to a boil, prepare an ice bath in a large pot or bowl by filling the container about half full of cold water and then adding a tray of ice cubes. When the water boils, add the tomatoes, turn off the stove, and let the tomatoes sit for 1-2 minutes in the hot water. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into the ice bath. Let sit for a minute before peeling them. The riper the tomatoes, the less time they need in the hot water and the easier they are to peel. Peel them and cut out the stem end along with the tough part that extends into the tomato for about a quarter inch. Place them into a food processor or blender after peeling.

Pulse until coarsely chopped (or blend). I like my gazpacho fairly smooth so I used my Vitamix and made it fairly smooth. Put into a large bowl (at least 5 quarts). Pulse in a food processor or blender:

3-4 roasted red peppers (fresh can be used by I prefer the flavor of roasted peppers)

2-3 small red onions, peeled and quartered

1 large English cucumber (peeled if not organic otherwise just cut into chunks before pulsing)**

When chopped finely, add to the tomato mixture and stir to blend. Add:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic powder (if you like the taste of fresh garlic, pulse 6-8 garlic cloves along with the vegetables)

2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

1 teaspoon ground pepper

48 ounces strained organic tomatoes (or tomato juice)

Mix thoroughly and add:

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (reserve 2 teaspoons for garnish)

Chill thoroughly before serving. WARNING: This makes 16 cups of gazpacho so unless you’re hosting a large dinner party (or want to freeze some), this recipe can be cut in half. Garnish with extra chopped basil, diced cucumber and tomatoes. You can also garnish it with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream as well as croutons.

*Regular cucumbers can be used instead, just be sure to seed them before pulsing.

Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes

Delicious side dishes that the entire family will enjoy are hard to come by, especially if one believes the television commercials! Here’s one that takes a little time but is worth the effort. And it’s quite easy to adjust to a particular taste – the dill can be replaced by one of a dozen herbs or spices. Potatoes are the type of food that can be enjoyed with a multitude of preparations. I made the mushroom stuffing several days in advance, prepared the mashed potatoes for the cakes a day ahead so it cooled overnight (no one wants to try to form hot potatoes into disks!), and then assembled them on the third day. They take very little time to assemble and fry so plan accordingly. About 15 minutes before my protein was ready, I started and had them fried and salted just as the ribs were coming out of the oven.

First prepare the mushrooms. In a 12″ skillet heat over medium high:

1 tablespoon olive oil

then add:

1 small onion minced (the food processor does this very quickly and easily)

8 ounces chopped mushrooms (again, a mince is best although not required)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

When the mushrooms and onion are soft and slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes, remove from heat and add:

1 large stem dill, chopped (fronds only)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of red pepper flakes (or a dash of hot sauce) [Optional]

Set aside to cool. Peel and dice:

2-2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

Cover with cold water and boil until soft. Depending on the size of the dice, this could take 10-30 minutes. Once cooked, drain the water and mash the potatoes, being sure to remove all lumps. DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUID TO THE MASH POTATOES.

In a large soup dish or pie plate (or paper plate), mix together the dredge:

1/4 cup all purpose gluten free flour

1 tablespoon tapioca flour

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

To assemble the potato cakes, in the palm of a hand, scoop:

1/4-1/2 cup mashed potatoes (depending on the size cake desired)

Flatten until about 1/4″ thick and then make an indenture in the middle. Add about:

1-2 tablespoons mushroom mixture

Cover with about 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup scoop of mashed potatoes, spread to cover the stuffing and then lightly seal the edges of the disk to form a cake. Roll in the dredge mixture and set aside. The mixture should make 6-8 medium sized cakes.

Heat in a large skillet over medium high heat:

1/2 cup olive and avocado oil (the avocado oil has a much higher smoke point than the olive so a combination works best)

When shimmering hot, add the cakes to the oil and lower heat to medium. Fry on each side until well browned, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel and salt to taste. After a minute remove from the paper towel so that the cakes don’t get soggy. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped dill or scallions.

TIP: When I next make these, hopefully when my grandson comes to visit, I’ll add some crispy bacon bits to the mushroom mixture!

TIP 2: I think I’ll also try this recipe with sweet potatoes but it will need different handling since they are quite moister than russet potatoes. Flour will need to be added to the sweet potatoes before shaping. I’ll give it a try and let you know how it works out.

White Fish with Lemon Garlic Sauce on Sautéed Bok Choy

Any white fish will work with this recipe – cod, flounder, sole, swordfish or even sea bass (my very favorite fish!). The most difficult part of the whole recipe is roasting the garlic and that’s really very easy in the oven. If you’re not familiar with the process, here are the instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel most of the paper off the outside of the head of garlic being careful to leave the head intact. If a faster process is desired, the cloves can be separated and baked individually, it takes about half the baking time of doing a whole head. With kitchen scissors, trim about 1/4 inch off the top of the head, or each individual clove. Drizzle with 1 or 2 teaspoons olive oil per head. Wrap in parchment paper and bake for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the heads (or 15-20 if doing individual cloves). Cool then press the bottom of each clove to squeeze out the garlic. Stores in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months. Be sure to open windows or turn on the stove vent because the kitchen, and whole house if you have a small house, will be filled with the aroma of roasted garlic.

For each pound of fish, preheat oven to 350 degrees, prepare a baking dish large enough to accommodate the fish without crowding. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or coat with olive oil. Dry the fish with paper towels, salt and pepper to taste and arrange in the dish. Bake, depending on thickness, 15-35 minutes, until fish is flaky but still moist. Fish turns quite white in color when it’s cooked.

Want to make it vegan? Use firm tofu in place of the fish but fry it in a skillet instead of baking.

Make the lemon garlic sauce. In a small bowl, mix together:

1/2 teaspoon mashed roasted garlic (about 1 clove)

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise*

salt and pepper to taste

Set aside and prepare the bok choy. In a large 12″ skillet, heat over medium:

1 teaspoon olive oil, then add:

1 small onion diced

6-8 baby bok choy, cleaned and cut in half or quarters

1 teaspoon minced garlic (or some of the roasted garlic)

Cook, stirring for the first few minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and cook 5-7 minutes until the onion and bok choy are softened.

Place the sautéed bok choy in the bottom of a serving dish, add a serving of the fish. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of sauce over each fish, garnish with scallions, chives or dill (chopped). Serves 4.

*Don’t have any vegan mayonnaise? See my recipe under sauces for egg-free mayonnaise.

Greek Butter Beans

Butter, or lima, beans are a good source of protein as well as flavorful and very satisfying as a side dish. This recipe is very easy to make, especially if canned beans are used. It would work with any type of bean if butter beans are not to your taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray an 5x8x3″ baking dish. Heat over medium heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot (shimmering), add:

1 small onion diced

2 small or 8-10 baby carrots, sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until the carrots are slightly softened and the onion is translucent. Remove the cover and add:

2 medium to large fresh Roma (or plum) tomatoes, peeled and diced

2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (OPTIONAL)

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add:

1 16ounce can butter beans, with liquid (unsalted if possible)

Stir to combine and cook for 8-10 minutes over medium high heat until sauce starts to thicken. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. Top with chopped fresh parsley and serve. A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt would add some richness. TIP: If your family likes spicy food, consider adding a few dashes of hot sauce when the tomatoes are added to the pan. Serves 4.

String Beans and Mushrooms with Garlic Sauce

Far easier to make than eggplant with garlic sauce, string beans with garlic sauce is a much more commonly found Chinese dish. It’s just as tasty, sweet and tangy but since the string beans are not deep fried, don’t need to be salted and let sit to lose their bitterness, or dredged in corn starch, the dish is so easy to construct, taking just minutes. Pre-steaming the beans or using frozen ones makes it even quicker to prepare. Many vegetables lend themselves to this process – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

First prepare the beans by steaming or thawing them – any color string beans works equally well:

1 pound fresh or frozen string beans (I used yellow [or wax as my father always called them])

Remove the stems and steam for approximately 3-5 minutes until starting to tenderize but still have a bite, like al dente pasta. In a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When the oil is shimmering hot, add:

6 ounces mushrooms

Sauté the mushrooms until lightly browned and tender. Add the string beans and remove from heat. In a small saucepan (2 cup size), heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 small shallot, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 small can mild green chilis

Cook until the shallot softens before adding:

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup soy sauce substitute

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon date syrup

Stir to combine. Make a slurry of:

2 teaspoons corn starch or arrowroot

1 tablespoon water

Add to the sauce and stir until the sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 5-7 minutes. Add to the string beans and mushrooms and reheat the vegetables over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with scallion greens and serve.*

*I actually only used half the garlic sauce so put the other half into a 1 cup jelly jar and stuck it in the freezer for the next time I need it.