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.

Peking Pork Chops

I’m always looking for new ways to cook chicken and pork, my two main proteins. Here’s an easy one that’s very tasty with a hint of heat and spice.

Prepare a baking dish which will hold 2-4 pork chops without crowding by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl whisk:

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or use 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger)

2 tablespoons sugar-free ketchup

3 tablespoons soy substitute (or soy sauce if you can use it)

2 tablespoons date sugar

Salt and pepper to taste (approximately 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a dash of ground pepper)

If preparing 4 chops, double the above. In a medium to large sauce pan heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When the oil is shimmering add:

2 thick cut pork chops

Sear on all sides before adding to the prepared baking dish. Spread with the prepared sauce and bake approximately 40-50 minutes depending on the size of the pork chops.

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.

Orange and Maple Grilled Salmon

This marinade smells wonderful! And what’s not to smell great with fresh orange juice and maple syrup along with some fresh grated ginger. Be sure to have your butcher scale the fish so that you can cut the skin into triangle cuts before cooking without serving scales, not very edible. Makes 2 servings.

Whisk in a small bowl:

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (or you can use 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)

Salt and pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and just a shake of ground pepper

Pour the marinade into a gallon food storage bag and add the fish. Let the fish sit in the marinade for at least a half hour in the refrigerator. Remove from the marinade and dry the skin side lightly on a paper towel while heating, on medium high heat, a grill pan:

1 tablespoon oil wiped into the pan

Place the salmon in the pan, skin side down. Cook on medium high for 3-6 minutes depending on how thick the salmon filets are before turning them over (the salmon will release easily from the pan when its ready to turn over) to cook on the other side over medium heat for an additional 3-6 minutes (I usually cover the pan at this point for several minutes). And because I covered the pan to make sure the fish cooks inside, I usually turn it over onto the skin side again for a minute on high to crisp up the skin again. Ready to serve.

Pumpkin Chai Snickerdoodles

Get the feeling I’m really into pumpkin right now! I think it may be because I haven’t been feeling very well and knowing pumpkin can aid in calming an upset stomach, I’m turning to it to help me deal with stomach issues.

I’ve never had a snickerdoodle! Now that I’m allergic to chocolate (actually the caffeine in chocolate), I’m expanding my cookie horizons. Found this recipe on-line and thought it easily adjustable however, the cookies are not the easiest to make, especially if you’re new to cookie baking or don’t have a stand mixer like me. Treat them much like you would a peanut butter cookie – roll in sugar and then use a fork to flatten the balls.

Make Chai Sugar by mixing together:

1/3 cup date sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl mix:

1/3 cup aquafaba (if you don’t have a can of garbanzo beans handy or powdered aquafaba, substitute water)

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

Let sit for several minutes to form flax gel and then add:

1/2 cup vegan shortening or margarine (I use Spectrum shortening)

1 cup date sugar

With a hand or stand mixer, beat on low/medium until the mixture is combined and almost fluffy. Add:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix to combine and then add:

1 cup all purpose gluten free flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice or nutmeg

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Mix to combine before adding:

1 cup all purpose gluten free flour.

At this point, unless you have a stand mixer, it’s best to continue mixing with a large spoon or even, if you’ve washed your hands or are wearing gloves, with your hands. Mixture will be quite crumbly until all the flour is worked into the dough. The consistency reminds me of gingerbread cookies or sugar cookies. I used my hands and found the mixture combined quite easily. Scoop out by tablespoonful and roll into a ball (so you have to use your hands anyway!). The mixture shouldn’t be at all sticky but if it is, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the stickiness is gone.

Roll each ball as you make them into the chai sugar mixture and place 1-2″ apart on the cookie sheet. When the sheet is full, using a fork, press down each ball into a flat disk.* Bake 8 minutes then check. If the cookies have puffed up (domed), flatten more with the fork. Bake an additional 2-3 minutes until the outside of the cookies are firm while the inside is still slightly underdone. Cool on sheet for several minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

*If you prefer, bake the balls for 8 minutes and then flatten them with the fork. Their appearance differs and I found the ones I flattened before baking were chewier. The smoother ones were flattened before baking (on the right) while the ones flattened after baking were rougher looking (on the left).

Easy Lentil Pilaf

I can say that I generally don’t eat anything that I don’t make from scratch, mostly because there are very few pre-made or pre-packaged foods that don’t have something in them that I can’t eat (often it’s soy or sunflower lectin). So it’s not going to happen very often but — I have discovered a wonderful side dish (or main dish) that tastes great and has no allergens! As long as you can eat lentils, this is something you should try. High in protein and low in carbohydrates, lentils are a great addition to a meal. I’ve become addicted to Tolerant’s Organic Riced Red Lentil Pilafs. They’re ready in about 20 minutes, taste great and two of them, the Asian Ginger and the Spanish Style Paella, don’t have any soy in them. I know I was surprised too that the Asian Ginger is soy-free!

Being who I am, of course, I can’t just make it per package directions. So here’s what I do with these pouches of goodness. Serves 4-6.

In a 9″ skillet, add:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot, sauté:

6-8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I like shitake)

1/2 cup diced onions

When the mushrooms are browned and onions translucent, stir in:

2 cups mushroom stock (or any other stock you have on hand, chicken would work well)

1 cup frozen or fresh peas

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Bring to a boil. Add:

1 packet Tolerant Organic Riced Red Lentil Pilaf

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 9-12 minutes until the water is gone. Stir every few minutes, especially when the water is almost gone. Remove from heat, cover and let sit 4-5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!

Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken

This sweet and sour chicken is baked, not fried, so is healthier as well as delicious! The soy sauce substitute in my frig was running out of time and rather than freeze it, I decided to try a new recipe and here’s the result. Served over the vegetable fried rice (see earlier blog), this is a hearty, well balanced, fairly easy dinner. Since the chicken needs to marinate in the sauce for at least 2 hours, plan ahead. Serves 2-4 depending on how much chicken is used.

In a gallon zip-lock bag mix:

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons mustard powder

1/2 cup date sugar

1/4 dry ginger or 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust vinegar and/or sugar to your taste before adding:

1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs

Refrigerate and let marinate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×9″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Add the chicken and marinade to the dish making sure the chicken pieces don’t overlap. The marinade will cook as well so no need to worry about bacteria from sitting in the frig with chicken but if it concerns you, simply save out a 1/2 cup of marinade before adding the chicken to pour over the chicken once its in the baking dish.

Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Serve with rice or the vegetable fried rice. Garnish with scallions.

Gingerbread Waffles (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free, nut-free, vegan)

I much prefer waffles to pancakes so for my birthday this week, I bought myself a new waffle maker that has removeable plates for easier cleaning. And in one of my older cookbooks [Homemade Bread, FARM JOURNAL] I found a recipe for Gingerbread Waffles! My favorite cookie is a gingersnap or gingerbread cookie so this was a real delight!

So here’s the updated recipe. Takes a little more work than mixing up a batch of pancakes but really worth the extra effort!

In a medium bowl mix:

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed with

1/4 cup warm water

After mixing, let sit for a few minutes. While that’s working in a smaller bowl, mix:

2 teaspoons aquafaba powder (if you don’t have any aquafaba powder, use 1/3 cup aquafaba liquid)

1/3 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

And whip until stiff peaks. Set aside. To the flaxseed mixture add:

1/4 cup vegan margarine or shortening (such as Sprectrum)

1/2 cup date sugar

Using a hand mixer, beat until combined. Add:

1 cup non-dairy milk such as hemp, soy, or oat

1/4 cup unsulfered molasses

and continue beating until everything is incorporated.

Add:

2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon dry ginger (or if you don’t have any fresh ginger on hand, increase this to 1 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

Using a spoon, mix until everything is incorporated. Like with pancakes, don’t overmix, its okay if you still see a little flour or a couple of lumps. Fold in the “whites” (the aquafaba mixture) until combined, again be careful not to overmix or you’ll have tough waffles. Now you’re ready for the waffle iron.

Cook per your machine’s instructions. I cooked mine on the medium setting remembering that gluten-free baked goods often take a little more time to cook. A single recipe makes 7 good size waffles. These waffles are great served with a fruit sauce topped with some non-dairy whip or vanilla frozen dessert. However, I decided to combine my waffle with one of my other favorite things and made a plate of chicken and waffles with real maple syrup drizzled over the top. Delicious!

This is a heavy dense waffle so one is enough per person.

Easy Spicy Yogurt Chicken (dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free)

I eat a lot of chicken so I’m always looking for new ways to cook it. Here’s one that’s as delicious as it is spicy. Feel free to kick up the heat with some red pepper flakes. Using curry powder in place of the spices would work as well for an easy curried chicken.

You’ll need:

2 pounds boneless chicken (either breasts or thighs)

4 green onions chopped

12 ounces of plain, non-dairy yogurt (I used Oatly but Kite makes a nut based one which would also work)

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (you can buy already grated/minced ginger)

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric

1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon’s worth)

Spray a 9″x9″ baking dish with cooking spray. Add chicken.

In a separate bowl, mix all the ingredients except the chicken and green onions. Pour over the chicken and turn the chicken so all sides are coated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinate. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chicken for 40-60 minutes depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Top with the green onions. Serves 4.