Rice Crispy Bars

This is a rice bar that is carob rather than marshmallow based so it’s much simpler to make. Quick and easy it makes a tasty treat. I cut them, put several into a baggie and put them in the freezer so I can take one out when I really need something sweet.

Prepare an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper. Into a medium size bowl place:

1/3 cup avocado oil

2/3 cup tahini (thicker rather than thinner tahini) or pumpkin butter (or any seed or nut butter you like)

1/4 cup agave or coconut nectar, date or maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 teaspoon mint extract if a minty flavor is desired)

Whisk together until smooth. Add:

1/2 cup carob powder (or cocoa if you can have it)

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or any other seed or nut chopped that your family enjoys)

1 1/4 cup puffed rice cereal (or any puffed cereal your family likes)*

Stir to combine. (*More or less cereal may be needed depending on the consistency of the butter added.) Spread in the prepared dish and put in the freezer for 1 hour or until it is solid when you lift the parchment paper out of the dish. Slice and enjoy!

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.

Coffee Energy Bites

In a medium to large bowl combine:

Ever look for something, not much, you just need a little something to lift you up in the middle or towards the end of your day? These will work – full of energy (and carbs), these bites will get you going and the whole grain oats and flax will sustain your energy for awhile. Easy to make, variable by your taste, and chock full of flavor, can’t beat the combination!

1 cup whole grain gluten-free oats (organic if possible)

1/2 cup ground flax

1 tablespoon instant coffee granules*

1/4 cup dried berries (small pieces work best but not powder)

1/4 cup carob chips (or chocolate if you can have them)

Mix to combine evenly. In a small bowl stir together:

1/2 cup tahini (slightly thick better than runny)**

1/4 cup honey, agave or coconut nectar, or maple syrup depending on taste

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the oat mixture and stir with a large fork to combine. Mixture will be slightly sticky but shouldn’t be too sticky. It should easily stick together when pressed into your hand. With DRY hands, form into roughly 1″ balls. I found I had to rinse off my hands every 2-3 balls to keep the mixture from sticking to me instead of itself! Should make 20-24 balls. Store in airtight container.

*I used 2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules and after eating several of these bites, I’ve decided it was a little too much coffee – they taste a little bitter to me so depending on your love for coffee, add 1 or 2 tablespoons.

**I used tahini because of my nut allergy but feel free to use any seed or nut butter you like. But if you use a really thick butter, add a little water or liquid sweetener to it to thin it slightly. If your tahini is too thin, add a little more of the dry ingredients.

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.

Ratatouille Lasagna

Here’s another recipe for a ratatouille dish that’s scrumptious! This idea comes from Vegan Cocette. I don’t generally make lasagna, too many steps and too much time but this one is fairly easy and not everything has to be made at the same time. Some things can be made ahead of time and then just assembled which takes very little time. First make the ratatouille, then the béchamel sauce, (Italian sauce if used) and lastly cook the noodles, gluten-free of course. If you don’t want the carbs from the brown rice lasagna noodles, I found one made from hearts of palm at Whole Foods (Whole Foods brand) which has very few carbs and calories. Several other noodle types are also available. Italian sausage can be added to either the ratatouille or the béchamel if desired. This makes a very large pan so choose a baking dish that holds at least 3 quarts and is 5-6 inches deep. I don’t need to serve 8 so I made it in smaller dishes and I froze some (uncooked, covered with plastic wrap and foil).

First make the ratatouille.

Peel and slice:

1 large or 2 small eggplants

On either a paper towel or a cooling rack, place the slices of eggplant and generously salt on both sides. Place a cookie sheet or tray on top of the eggplant and weight it down with several large cans. Let sit at least 15 minutes but 1 hour is better. Rinse off the salt and dry thoroughly and cube. In a good size pan, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoons olive oil

When hot (shimmering) add:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed

2 small zucchini, cubed

2 small yellow squash, cubed

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Optionally, depending on taste can be added:

1 sweet pepper, seeded and diced

6 ounces of sliced mushrooms

Stir to combine, cover and cook over medium low heat until vegetables are slightly softened, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Add:

16 ounces crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. While the ratatouille is simmering, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat over medium:

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add:

1/3-1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (enough so it looks like a soupy mashed potato mixture but all the oil is absorbed)

Whisk in the flour and let it cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add:

2 1/2-3 cups non-dairy milk (any milk EXCEPT soy)

Cook over medium low heat until thickened, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. When it starts bubbling, reduce heat to low and add:

3/4 cup non-dairy mozzarella or parmesan cheese, grated

Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes while the cheese melts, whisking occasionally, being careful not to let it burn on the bottom so heat may need to be reduced further.

Lastly, cook the noodles in a large pot (8-10 quarts) of boiling water. When the water comes to a boil add:

1 tablespoon salt

10 ounces gluten-free lasagna noodles (the Whole Foods Heart of Palm can be used without cooking)

Cook the pasta per package instructions. Rinse thoroughly with cold water after draining so that the noodles don’t stick together. Then assemble the lasagna by starting with some ratatouille on the bottom of the baking dish which should be at least 5-6 inches in height to accommodate the layers. Second add a single layer of noodles, then a layer of béchamel, layer of noodles, layer of ratatouille, layer of noodles and lastly a layer of béchamel. Place on a baking tray lined with foil and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes so that the layers set up before serving. Serves 8.

before baking

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.

Carob Zucchini Cake

So much zucchini, what to do with it all! Not a bad dilemma to have. Here’s a way to use some.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 9×13″ baking dish or line it with parchment paper with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. In a large (and I mean large!) bowl, mix together:

2 cups date sugar

2 1/2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 cup carob powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

Add and mix well:

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (1 smallish medium sized unpeeled)

In a smaller bowl, using an electric mixer, beat:

6 tablespoons aquafaba

Until double in volume, then add:

1/4 cup date sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat on highest speed until stiff peaks form – the mixture shouldn’t move when you move the bowl on its side.

In another small bowl combine:

1/2 cup unsweetened fruit sauce: pear, apple, peach, plum etc.

1 cup avocado oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup oat milk

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Whisk to combine thoroughly. Make a hollow in the middle of the dry zucchini mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly making sure all the dry mixture is combined. Add the whipped aquafaba and carefully fold it into the rest of the batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake approximately 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

This is a very dense, moist (if not overbaked) rich cake so once cooled, cut into small squares. Freezes well. If more decadence is wanted, top with carob ganache and serve with non-dairy whip or vanilla frozen dessert of choice. I served mine with some plum coolee.

TIP: It would be more like zucchini brownies if baked in a roll cake pan (this is a large “cookie” sheet like pan except it has higher sides). Baking time should reflect size of pan so the larger and shallower the mixture, the less baking time needed.

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.