Cucumber Boats

It’s getting very hot here in Minnesota, will hit the mid-90s this coming week. I wanted an easy, lighter meal and had seen cucumber boats on-line stuffed with tuna salad. These work best with regular cucumbers but I generally buy either the English or the mini cukes so that’s what I used. If you also use the mini cucumbers, pulse the salad in the food processor for a few seconds to grind it up. It fits in the smaller boats much better that way. Any kind of salad will do – I made some curried chicken salad but tuna would also work.

First thing, prepare the salad:

1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed from the bones and pulsed in the food processor for a few seconds

4 stalks celery, chopped

1/4 to 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (or walnuts if not allergic)

Mix the dressing in a separate bowl:

1 to 2 tablespoons green curry paste

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup vegan mayonnaise (if not allergic to eggs, feel free to use any mayonnaise)

2 teaspoons mustard

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sriracha (optional)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic granules

1/4 cup dill pickle relish (optional)

Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and stir to incorporate. Salad is ready. Next, peel and cut lengthwise:

12 mini cucumbers (probably 2 regular sized cucumbers)

Using a small spoon, remove the seeds to create the “boats”. Fill with the salad and serve. May be garnished with sliced scallions, chopped chives or chopped parsley.

Vegan Carrot Spice Cake

I’m updating this recipe. Just spoke with my son and daughter-in-law who said it was good but it wasn’t sweet enough! I admit, I don’t like my desserts as sweet as most people so I’ll adjust the recipe so that those of you who want a sweeter cake can still use this recipe.

I love carrot cake but I love my carrot cake to be more like a spice cake with some carrots in it. So unlike most carrot cakes, I add more spices. If you don’t, feel free to stop with the cinnamon. I was easily able to divide this cake into two bowls and mix some ground walnuts into one bowl (for my son and his family) and some chopped dates and pumpkin seeds into the other for me. This cake only takes one bowl and is fairly easy to mix even for me with 2 rotator cuff tears.

First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2, 8″ baking pans (I used one square and one round so that I knew which was which!). In a medium-large bowl, combine:

3 tablespoons ground flax

7 tablespoons warm water (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon)

Whisk to combine and then let sit for 5 minutes or so to form flax gel. When ready add to it:

1/3 cup avocado oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

Whisk or stir to combine and then add:

1 scant cup unsweetened fruit sauce (apple, pear, peach, oh pineapple would be good) [I actually only had 7/8 of a cup and it worked fine]

1/2 to 1 cup date sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Stir or whisk to combine. Add:

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

Stir or whisk to combine (by now the whisk will be having a difficult time so use a hand mixer if necessary). Add:

1 cup grated carrots

1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour

1 cup oat flour

Stir to combine adding another 1/4 cup of non-dairy milk if necessary. Stir in:

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, feel free to mix it up using chopped pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and/or dates, chopped raisins, cranberries, or dried pineapple also work (Optional)

Spoon the batter equally between the two pans and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (I would actually bake it about 5 minutes more after the toothpick comes out clean). Don’t worry if it’s slightly overbaked since gluten-free baked goods take longer to cook than regular ones, it still comes out fine.

Remove from oven and let cool, on a cooling rack, for 15-20 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely before frosting or serving. For faster cooling, place in the refrigerator for about a half hour. Serves 8-12.

Vegan “Cream Cheese” Frosting

One just has to have cream cheese frosting on carrot cake! I’ve tried several nut-free, tofu-free recipes for vegan cream cheese and none of them worked very well until I found this one, delicious! Of course, if you don’t care for sweet potatoes, it may not be your cup of tea. It uses white flesh sweet potatoes which are starchier and not as sweet as the ones we’re used to here in the U.S. They can be called Japanese, Hannah, or Batata.

Wash, peel and dice:

1 large or 2 medium-sized white flesh sweet potatoes

Since we don’t want to add any liquid to the sweet potatoes, it’s very important that they are steamed rather than boiled. Steam until fork tender. Place in a small to medium bowl. Using a potato masher, mash and then measure out 2 cups.

Transfer the 2 cups to another medium bowl (or the same one if it used all the mashed potatoes). Add:

1/3 cup avocado oil

Juice from one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/8 teaspoon salt

There’s the basic recipe for vegan “cream cheese”. To make it into frosting, whip in using a hand mixer:

1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup, agave nectar, honey, etc.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Will frost two layers of a naked cake (no frosting on the sides).

Vegan “Cream Cheese” Frosting

One just has to have cream cheese frosting on carrot cake! I’ve tried several nut-free, tofu-free recipes for vegan cream cheese and none of them worked very well until I found this one, delicious! Of course, if you don’t care for sweet potatoes, it may not be your cup of tea. It uses white flesh sweet potatoes which are starchier and not as sweet as the ones we’re used to here in the U.S. They can be called Japanese, Hannah, or Batata.

Wash, peel and dice:

2 medium-sized white flesh sweet potatoes

Since we don’t want to add any liquid to the sweet potatoes, it’s very important that they are steamed rather than boiled. Steam until fork tender. Place in a small to medium bowl. Using a potato masher, mash and then measure out 2 cups.

Transfer the 2 cups to another medium bowl (or the same one if it used all the mashed potatoes). Add:

1/3 cup avocado oil (coconut would also work)

Juice from one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/8 teaspoon salt

There’s the basic recipe for vegan “cream cheese”. To make it into frosting, whip in using a hand mixer:

1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup, agave nectar, honey, etc. (or more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Will frost two layers of a naked cake (no frosting on the sides).

Chicken and Rice with Caramelized Onions and Cranberries

This recipe is quite involved and takes some time but it’s not a difficult dish to make. And to be sure, every minute spent on this is well worth the effort! The herbs and spices used amp up the flavor profile and adding some freshly grated lemon zest and lemon juice at the end takes it over the edge! Rather than adding the lemon juice at the end, some sliced lemons on the side would also work.

First, peel, cut in half and then thinly slice:

2-3 medium-sized sweet onions

If you don’t have sweet onions, add 1 teaspoon date sugar when you cook them. Let them sit while heating a medium-sized Dutch oven over medium heat with:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When the oil is shimmering add:

1 1/2 to 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs or boneless, skinless chicken breasts

that are seasoned with:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

If using skin-on, bone-in thighs, cook skin side down. Loosely arrange chicken in pan (may take more than one batch). Brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Remove to a plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons oil from the pan before adding the onion slices. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently until well caramelized (browned). If not using sweet onions, here’s where to add the:

1 teaspoon date sugar

It can take 25-30 minutes to caramelize the onions because they need to cook slowly so that they don’t burn, we want them browned – caramelized, not burned. Once the onions are ready, add to the pot:

4 garlic cloves, minced (about 4 teaspoons minced garlic)

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme)

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (or cardamom, nutmeg, or allspice)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

Sauté for about 30 seconds until the herbs and spices are fragrant before adding:

6 ounces sliced mushrooms (Optional, peas would also work)

2 cups chicken stock or bone broth

the browned chicken pieces and any juices on the plate

If using skin-on thighs, be sure the browned side is up. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Add to the pot:

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice*

1/3 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries but raisins or dried cherries would also work)

Stir in the rice and fruit, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked. Most of the liquid should be gone from the pot so be careful not to burn the dish. Remove the chicken from the pot, moving the pot off the heat and re-cover so that it stays hot. Remove skin if using skin-on chicken and let sit for 8-10 minutes before slicing the meat (and removing the bones if using bone-in chicken). Add the chicken back into the pot along with:

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon juice

3 tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley (Optional)

Stir to combine. Reheat until the chicken is heated through and serve. Serves 4-6.

*I used pre-cooked brown rice in my dish so I cooked the chicken 30 minutes before adding the frozen rice and then cooked it only an additional 10 minutes.

Since I don’t care for cilantro and don’t think much of parsley either, I sprinkled some green onions on top of my dish.

Easy Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)

The Chicken Bible strikes again! I had a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and wondered, what am I going to do with these? So out came the Chicken Bible and this recipe struck my fancy. I love fried foods but don’t make them often because of the mess, all that fat and because they are especially unhealthy for diabetes. Nothing shoots up glucose levels more than fried foods. We’ve all got to indulge in something sinful now and again so I thought I’d give it a try. Turned out very easy to make, the only part I didn’t like was, of course, cleaning up after frying. If you have a deep frier use it instead of a skillet on the stovetop! Makes 2-3 servings.

First, make the marinade by combining in a medium bowl:

1/4 cup soy sauce substitute

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons date syrup

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Whisk to combine before adding:

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds (6-8) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed off and cut into 1″ wide strips*

Stir to combine chicken with the marinade. Let sit on the counter for about 30 minutes. While the chicken marinates, prepare the pans needed as well as the dredge. So, line two medium baking sheets with parchment paper, set one aside and place a drying rack on top of the second and place 2-3 layers of paper towels on top of the drying rack. Set aside. In a pie plate or large soup plate, place:

1 cup tapioca starch (cassaba flour, corn starch if you can have it, potato starch, or arrowroot would also wok)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Whisk to combine and set aside until chicken is ready. When the chicken is done marinating, using tongs, pull out all the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip back into the bowl and place it in the tapioca starch mixture. Using your hands, coat each piece individually and place on the first baking sheet (the one with just the parchment paper), being sure to knock off any excess starch. Repeat until all the pieces are coated. Set aside the marinade for later use.

Next, in a 12″ skillet with high sides or a small Dutch oven, heat 2-3 inches of:

Oil (I used a mixture of olive and avocado but feel free to use your normal oil)

Be sure to also use a thermometer so that you can heat the oil to 375 degrees and keep it between 350 and 375 while cooking the chicken. While the oil heats, look over the chicken. If there is still patches of white starch, using a cooking brush (or spoon) brush with the marinade to moisten.

When the oil is to temperature, using the tongs, place individual pieces of chicken into the oil from back to front (place them in the oil away from you then towards you). Don’t overcrowd the oil. It took three batches to cook all my chicken. Cook about 4-6 minutes depending on thickness, turning over once. Place on the second baking sheet (the one with the paper towels) using either the tongs or a slotted spoon. Salt lightly as you remove them from the oil. Serve the chicken with lemon wedges – don’t squeeze the lemon on them until you serve them or they’ll get soggy! I served mine with some air fried zucchini squash slices – delicious. See recipe under side dishes.

*With the thigh skin side up (that’s the side that has the film over it), long side towards you, slice crosswise into 1″ strips. You should get about 4 slices per thigh. Don’t worry if some come out in triangles, cubes, etc., since some pieces will come off the main parts of the thighs.

More brown food! Can’t seem to get away from it.

Spicy Curried Carrot Soup

Quick, easy, and delicious, this soup with warm your stomach. It has that comfort food vibe with great flavor. Using pre-shredded carrots is what makes it so easy. Either regular orange carrots or rainbow carrot shreds will work. Add some lemon zest on top and a lemon wedge on the plate to add some freshness and lighten the spiciness of the soup. Serves 2 but easily doubled.

Put a 4-quart pot on over medium heat and add:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat until shimmering before adding:

1 small onion, finely diced

Cook the onion until translucent and then add:

1/2 to 1 teaspoon curry powder (depending on how spicy you want the soup)

Stir the curry powder into the onion and heat until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add:

2 cups shredded carrot

Stir to coat the carrots in the onion and curry mixture before adding to the pot:

1 to 1 1/2 cups stock (I used chicken bone broth but a mild vegetable broth would also work and keep this soup vegan; want to cover the carrots completely but not drown them)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (to taste)

Cook over medium low heat until carrot is softened, about 20-25 minutes, covered. Put the carrot mixture into a blender and add:

1/2 to 1 cup oat milk

Start with the 1/2 cup and add more if the mixture needs to be thinned to your taste. If the carrot mixture is really hot, cover the top of the blender with a kitchen towel and don’t fill it more than 1/2 full or you’ll have an explosion of hot soup all over your counter! Start blending on the lowest speed and as it purees, increase slightly. Should only take 30-45 seconds to blend. Serve with lemon zest and a wedge of lemon on the side. Serving it on the side allows the person eating that bowl to add as little or much of the lemon as they like. [I learned this trick from a Vietnamese chef and it really does mellow out the curry.]

Lemon Chicken Soup with Vegetables

Chicken is one of my staple proteins. I had some chicken breasts in my fridge that needed to be used but I didn’t have time today to do a lot with it. Chicken soup I thought! Quick, easy, not too much work. Then I thought about the lemon beurre blanc sauce I made a few nights ago to go with some fish and thought I love chicken and lemon. It won’t be too hard to put them together. This soup is the outcome of that thought process. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

First, heat a small Dutch oven over medium high heat. When it gets hot, add:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When the oil is shimmering add:

1 small onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 cup shredded carrots

3-4 ounces sliced mushrooms (any kind you like)

Stir to combine and let cook reducing heat to medium until the vegetables begin to soften. Add:

6-8 ounces white meat chicken, cut into bite size pieces

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Stir so the chicken goes to the bottom of the pot, or as much as possible. When chicken is browned, add:

2 teaspoons minced garlic

approximately 1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest of one large lemon)

3 cups chicken stock

8 ounces of small pasta like elbows (I used green lentil safari)

8 ounces whole chickpeas

Stir to combine, cover, reduce heat to medium low so that the stock is on a low boil to cook the chicken and pasta, about 12-15 minutes. While it’s cooking combine in a small bowl (2 cups):

1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from one large lemon)

1/2 cup oat milk

2-3 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour

Whisk to combine the flour. When the pasta and chicken are cooked, add:

1/2 to 1 cup frozen peas

Cook for 3-5 minutes longer to cook the peas before adding the milk mixture. If necessary pour the milk mixture through a small sieve to keep any flour lumps out of the soup. Stir the soup to mix in the flour and continue stirring for 2-3 minutes while the stock thickens and the flour cooks. Stir in:

2 tablespoons honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4.

Of course you can add any vegetables your family likes. Asparagus would work very well in this soup as it goes great with lemon. And rice would work as well as pasta depending on taste.

Lemon Chicken with Asparagus and Chickpeas

My grandson and I made this the other night. He ate two helpings! Very simple to make and quite delicious especially if you like chicken and lemon like we do.

First, dry and trim any fat from:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Cut each breast into large chunks then salt and pepper to taste. Heat in a 12″ skillet with high sides over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When shimmering add chicken chunks, brown on every side. Remove to a plate and add to the pan:

1 pound asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces

Sauté 2-3 minutes before removing from the pan. Pour off oil in pan to leave about 1 tablespoon. Add:

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons minced garlic

3 teaspoons lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Sauté just until the coriander becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add:

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons lemon juice

chicken breasts along with any juices on the plate

1/2 can (about 1 cup) drained and mashed chickpeas*

Reduce heat to medium low or low and cook just until the chicken registers 175 degrees or is completely firm to the touch, about 10-15 minutes. Turn the chicken several times while cooking to ensure an even cook. If the sauce is reducing too much, reduce heat to low and/or cover the pan to keep in the remaining sauce. When chicken is cooked, remove to the plate and add the asparagus back into the pan to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until just tender. Stir the chicken back into the pan. Serve over rice, garnish with fresh parsley or green onions. Makes 4 servings (unless you’ve got someone like my grandson around!).

*If you like the texture of whole chickpeas you can also add the other half can whole when you add the asparagus back into the pan towards the end.

Baba Ghanoush

Yes, another eggplant recipe! And a very simple dip to prepare; the hardest part is roasting the eggplant and that’s not especially difficult, just time consuming. I can’t tell you exactly what size eggplant to buy – you’ll want about 2 cups of eggplant pulp. The 3 oriental eggplant I used only gave me about 1 cup of pulp so I would recommend a medium to large Italian eggplant for this recipe or else adjust the other ingredients to the amount of eggplant pulp you roasted.

First, roast the eggplant by slicing it into 1″ slices. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray or brush the eggplant slices with olive oil then turn them over and repeat. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

While the eggplant is roasting, in a small skillet heat:

2 tablespoons avocado oil

1 teaspoon cumin

Heat only until you can smell the cumin, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Remove the eggplant and let cool slightly before peeling the skin from around the outside of each slice. Place in a food processor and add:

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon minced garlic

salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

the cumin and avocado oil mixture

Pulse until smooth, spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with dried or fresh parsley. If desired, sprinkle with olive or avocado oil as well. Serve with gluten-free pita or quinoa buns (see recipe below).

Quinoa Buns

I thought these sounded interesting – avocado and quinoa with lime juice? Who puts lime juice in a bread? But I thought it sounded like it might be a good vehicle for the baba ghanoush. And it sounded very easy to make so I gave it a try and it actually is delicious but just be miserly with the lime zest or it overpowers the other flavors in the buns.

In a medium to large bowl combine:

1 1/2 cup quinoa flour (if you don’t have any but you have quinoa, simply pulse in a food processor to make flour from the raw quinoa)

1/4 cup gluten-free oat flour

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a smaller bowl mash:

1 whole large ripe avocado being sure to take out any brown bruise spots which won’t mix into the batter

Add to the avocado:

1-2 tablespoons lime juice (juice from 1 lime)

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1 tablespoon honey

3/4 cup water

Using a whisk or hand mixer, combine the wet ingredients until fairly smooth. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. It’s a sticky dough so using wet hands shape into 6-7 balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten to about 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle with more sesame seeds and let sit while the oven heats to 425 degrees. Bake about 25 minutes total, turning the buns over at 15 minutes to brown both sides. Test with a toothpick for doneness. REMEMEBER GLUTEN FREE BREADS CAN BE GUMMY SO EVEN IF THE TOOTHPICK COMES OUT CLEAN, THEY STILL MAY NOT BE COOKED THROUGH. Cool completely before cutting.

Eggless Hollandaise Sauce

This is a very easy recipe to make, unlike egg yolk and butter based Hollandaise which can break very easily. But even without the egg yolks and butter, it has an unctuous mouth feel and an almost umami satisfaction. It’s a simple white sauce with some added vinegar and lemon zest. Great for topping asparagus (I used white, sorry the photo doesn’t have more color, I have to limit my intake of green vegetables), peas and onions, chicken or turkey breast instead of gravy, or almost any fish (although you might want a little more lemon with fish).

In a 4 cup or larger saucepan, whisk together:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (best to grate with a microplane rather than a box grater) [this comes to the zest of about half a lemon]

pinch paprika (wasn’t enough for me so I added about 1/4 teaspoon)

3 tablespoons of gluten-free all purpose flour

Dash of sea salt

This should whisk to a fairly smooth consistency except for the lemon zest. Slowly add while whisking:

3/4 cup cold non-dairy milk (any kind except soy which won’t thicken)

Put over a medium heat and whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. When it’s quite thick, whisk in:

1/2 cup non-dairy milk

Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 8-10 minutes until the sauce is again somewhat thick (thinner than pudding), it should coat the back of a spoon. Serve hot, makes 1 1/2 cups.

TIPS:

*I added several dashes of herbamare to my sauce

*Gently brown some minced garlic in the oil before adding the remaining ingredients for a roasted garlic flavor (this won’t have a creamy smooth mouth feel)

*Some thyme, Italian herbs, or other herbs in small amounts would work well in this sauce and give it a slightly different flavor. Sage would be good if you want to serve it with chicken or turkey.

*For an eggless “Eggs” Benedict, pour over some Canadian bacon and tomato slice(s) on a gluten-free English muffin for a hearty breakfast.