Pasta Bolognese

What’s better than a bowl of pasta with a rich, unctuous, makes you go ummmmmm sauce? That’s exactly what you get with a Bolognese sauce. The centerpiece of this sauce is the meat, lots of meat with a few vegetables thrown in for good measure and not much tomato sauce. I think in large measure the rich unctuousness of the sauce comes from starting off with a quarter cup of olive oil. That builds the flavors as each is added. This will serve 6-8 people easily. Serve over whatever kind of pasta your family prefers but a larger pasta, i.e., spaghetti rather than linguini, will hold the sauce better.

In a large stew pot, heat:

1/4 cup olive oil

Over medium high heat. Add:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large or 2 medium celery stalks, chopped

1 large or 3/4 cup of carrot, chopped

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Reduce heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Remove from heat. In a large skillet with high sides, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

1 pound ground turkey

1 pound ground pork

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté stirring frequently to break up the ground meat until there’s no pink left and any juices have steamed away. Add to the vegetables along with:

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

If you choose, like I did, to use dried herbs add them now with the tomato. If you choose to use fresh herbs, add them about 15 minutes before the sauce is ready.

2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes (or 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped)

1 1/2 tablespoon dried basil (or 8-10 basil leaves chopped)

Stir to combine all ingredients, reduce heat to low simmer, partially cover (in other words leave the lid at an angle so that steam escapes), and cook for at least one hour. I actually left my sauce to cook for almost 2 hours which helps the vegetables break down and integrate into the sauce.

Before serving, stir in 1/4 cup grated cheese*

TIP: I did add 6 ounces of shitake mushrooms, just because I had them on hand and they needed to be used.

*Follow Your Heart makes a parmesan cheese that contains no coconut or nuts of any kind and tastes just like parmesan cheese, at least to me! The traditional recipe calls for grated pecorino Romano cheese.

Paprika Pork Stew

Found a great recipe for a pork stew for a slow cooker. I don’t have a slow cooker since I’m retired and can watch the stove all day when necessary. So you can do this in either a Dutch oven like I did or in your slow cooker. Either way it’s delicious, a little spicy, and can be served with a variety of sides, either mashed potatoes, spaghetti squash, rice, or pasta. It also doesn’t take long to put together, just cooks for 3-4 hours.

You’ll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 ounces pancetta or bacon

1-2 pounds pork cubed and most of the fat removed

1 medium onion diced

1 large carrot diced

2-3 stalks of celery diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt or herbamare

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (want it a little spicier, use white pepper)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (if using 2 pounds of pork, use a large 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes)

2 teaspoons sweet paprika (add more with more meat)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

In a large skillet (if you’re going to use a slow cooker) or a Dutch over, heat the olive oil before adding the cubed pork and pancetta (or bacon). Cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is browned. Remove from the pot (to your slow cooker if using one) or just set aside if not.

Add the vegetables to the pot and cook until the onion is translucent before adding the garlic. Put the pork back into the pot, add the stock and the tomatoes, salt, pepper and paprika. (If using a slow cooker, add the vegetables to the cooker once the stock has come to a boil with the vegetables so that the pan is deglazed.) Reduce heat to a simmer and, cover with the lid so that a little steam can escape, and cook for 2-3 hours or until most of the liquid is cooked off. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 3-4 hours. The meat will almost shimmer when the dish is ready.

TIP: I like a lot of vegetables in my stews so I also added 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. I meant to add a cup of frozen peas near the end but it didn’t happen. Green beans would also be fine in this stew.

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

Chicken with Rice and Vegetables

I’ve been making rice with meat for years. It’s a convenient, easy way to stretch meat when you don’t have much of it and lots of people to feed. And a great way to use up extra vegetables because it’s an adaptable recipe where any combination of meat and vegetables works fine. The recipe feeds 6 or 4 generously.

This will be my last blog post for several weeks as I now need to concentrate on finishing my screenplay which was due today but I’m not happy with it yet so have to concentrate on that for the next few weeks.

In a Dutch oven, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder (if using breasts cut into large cubes

The object is to brown the meat and build flavor as well as sear the meat to keep all the juices in it. This should take about 5 minutes, 2 1/2 minutes per side. When browned, remove the chicken pieces to a plate and add to the pot:

1 medium onion diced

6-8 stalks of celery diced

1/2 cup chopped carrots (or grated)

1 cup diced mushrooms

Sauté for several minutes until onion starts to brown. Add:

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons sweet or spicy paprika depending on your taste

2-3 bay leaves

1 cup frozen or fresh peas (if using fresh, add with the rice)

2 cups chicken stock (or, if possible, 1 cup of white wine and 1 cup of stock)*

1 tablespoon date syrup or date sugar

Stir to mix and add the chicken back into the pot along with any juices that are on the plate. Cover and simmer on low heat for approximately a half hour until chicken is cooked. Stir in:

1 cup rice (I used a wild rice blend but feel free to use whatever rice you prefer)

Simmer covered until rice is cooked, stirring frequently to be sure rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. This should cook out all the liquid but if not, cook uncovered until most of the liquid is gone. If the rice isn’t cooked but the liquid is all absorbed, add 1/4 cup stock and continue cooking covered until rice is done. Remove the bay leaves, taste and add additional salt if needed. Serve garnished with chives.

*If using wine, deglaze the pan with the wine before adding the stock. This will cook off the alcohol.

Braised Pork Loin with Figs and Pears

This recipe takes some time since the pork loin is marinated but worth the effort and wait. The gravy is lick the plate good! Now I’m thinking I should add fruit puree to all my gravies. Yum, yum. Braising cooks food slowly so be sure that the loin is well seared (browned) before cooking so that it doesn’t lose all its juices. And since I love figs and pears, and I know they go well together, I thought how about braising them with the loin. This recipe would also work with a turkey breast or apples instead of pears.

At least 4 hours before the cooking starts, put in a gallon food storage bag:

1/4 cup seasoned vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (or herbamare)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried thyme

6-8 dried figs

Add:

1 1/2-2 1/2 pound pork loin

Seal and let sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours. If you are using a chicken, duck, or turkey breast, you can put this directly into the cooking vessel – either a roasting/baking dish with a cover, or the bowl of a slow cooker.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees if the loin is going in the oven. I cooked mine on the stove top in a medium size Dutch oven. Remove the pork loin (or turkey breast) from the marinade. Dry thoroughly and rub with:

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin

In a 10″ skillet or one large enough to hold the loin, heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Turn the oil down to medium heat and add the loin (or turkey breast). Sear (brown) on all sides. Remove the meat and add to the skillet:

1 medium onion chopped

1/2 bag of baby carrots, cut into bite size pieces

1 large or 2 small (I used one small sweet and one small white) potatoes

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Add:

figs from the marinade (or 6-8 other fresh or dried figs)

Add the meat back into the cooking vessel along with:

1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock

Cover the pot or dish and cook over low heat (simmer) until the meat reaches 145 degrees for pork or 165-170 for poultry. On the stovetop in the Dutch oven, my just under 2 pound pork loin took just over an hour. When the meat is cooked, remove the meat and vegetables and add to the stock:

1 diced medium pear (peeled or not doesn’t matter)

If the meat was cooked in the oven, pour the stock into a small saucepot before adding the pear. Turn up the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the pear is soft. Add:

A slurry made with 1/2 cup turkey or chicken stock whisked with 2 tablespoons all purpose gluten free flour

Stir until the gravy thickens and the pear pieces are integrated into the gravy, this should only take a couple of minutes. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes so that the flour cooks completely. Slice the pork loin (or other meat) and place on a platter surrounded by the vegetables and figs. Pour some of the gravy over the pork and serve.

Easy Curried Pumpkin (or sweet potato) Soup

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you already know how much I love curry! If I could, I would put curry in everything. Pumpkin soup has always been a favorite so I’m surprised I never thought to put curry in it. But today, here it is. And an easy, quick, very warming soup. Just perfect for these subzero days here in Minnesota. Makes 4 -6 servings.

In a high sided skillet or a large saucepan, heat over medium heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped mushrooms

Cook until onion is translucent and mushrooms are slightly browned. Add:

1-2 teaspoons madras curry powder (I used 1 1/2 and it was almost too spicy for me)

Stir and let cook on low heat until you can smell the curry, about a minute. Add:

2 tablespoons all purpose gluten-free flour

Stir in and let the flour cook for a minute. Slowly stir in:

2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or if preferred chicken or turkey)

Cook for a minute and then add:

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree

1 cup non-dairy milk

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or just a sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice)

Combine and leave on the burner until the soup is thoroughly heated, about 2 minutes. Optional: Garnish with chopped scallions or chives.

Vegetable Fritters

It’s not often that you’ll find me giving you recipes that require frying. Too much oil is as bad for a diabetic as too many carbohydrates or sugar. But I just couldn’t resist this recipe when I found it. And once I cooked them up, oh my, I did eat too much for lunch today! I did fry them but I think if I cook these again, I’ll probably oven fry them with a lot less oil (see tip at the bottom of the recipe).

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cups grated Russet potato (1 medium large potato) – soak the grated potato in cold water for 5-10 minutes to get out as much starch as possible since the starch is not a friend to fried foods, the cakes will brown better with less starch. Drain and dry with paper towels to get out as much of the moisture as possible*

1 cup grated sweet potato (about 1 medium)

1 cup grated carrots (about 1-2 medium) – I used the pre-grated from the store

1 cup grated red onion (onion has a lot of moisture so be sure to dry thoroughly with paper towels before adding)

If you have a food processor, this is the time to break it out and use it! It’s the easiest way to grate the potatoes, carrot and onion. In a large bowl, mix the above. Then add:

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup chickpea flour (DO NOT USE ALL PURPOSE GLUTEN-FREE FLOUR; many have potato starch in them and we just tried to remove the starch from the potato!)

1/4 cup aquafaba

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (depending on how dry your mixture is)

Mix together until combined. If the mixture is too dry and won’t hold together, add the non-dairy milk. If the mixture is too wet and won’t hold together, add the tablespoons of flour until the mixture will bind together. Using a 1/4-1/3 cup measure, form into balls.

Heat over medium high heat in a 10-12″ skillet:

1/2-3/4 cups oil for frying (the oil should come up the side of the pan about a 1/2 inch)

When the oil is glistening, take a ball, flatten it and gently place it in the oil starting with the side nearest you. Being sure to not crowd the skillet, add additional flattened balls. Cook on the first side about 4-6 minutes until golden brown, turn and cook the same on the other side. If the fritters are browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Then flip the fritter again and cook an additional 2-3 minutes on the first side. The cooking time will depend on how thick the fritters are; the thinner the less time they need to cook. Remove to a paper towel and salt immediately. Do not leave the fritters on the towel too long or they will get soggy. They can be placed on a cooling rack (on a cookie sheet) in a 200 degree oven to stay warm while the rest of the fritters cook.

  • * If like me, you don’t eat much potato, other than sweet potato, grated parsnip could be used instead

TIP: To oven fry, place the flattened balls on a greased (spray with non-stick spray) cookie sheet (with sides). Lightly spray the tops of the fritters with the non-stick spray) and bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20-25 minutes. Turn over half-way through the bake.

Quick Salmon Cakes

My mother would have loved these! I tried it first with fresh salmon and they were too dry and fell apart. Using canned salmon worked much better. I topped mine with an easy lemon garlic mayonnaise sauce. They take less than 5 minutes to put together and about the same to cook.

In a medium size bowl, mix together:

10 ounces (2 small cans) salmon (I use the Safe Catch brand of canned fishes)

1/2 cup quinoa flakes (Don’t have these? Find them in the cereal aisle or Amazon. Or you could try using any other cereal flakes such as quick oats or gluten free bread crumbs.)

1 tablespoon gluten-free all purpose flour

2 green onions chopped (green and white parts)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

Stir in 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise.

In a 10″ skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Saute over medium heat 2-3 minutes until brown. Flip and repeat. TIP: You might want to cover the skillet since these will spit at you from the moisture in the cakes. If you want to reduce this and get a browner cake, coat with seasoned flour before frying.

I serve mine with lemon garlic mayonnaise which I make simply by mixing Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing and vegan mayonnaise (about 2 tablespoons dressing to 1/4 cup mayonnaise).

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!

Marinara Sauce

This is a remake of my Aunt Jean’s marinara sauce. I started making this recipe for my family as a teenager and have continued using it ever since. Many times, I made this for my roommate and son, brings back many memories.

Needed:

1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced

Cook for several minutes until onion is translucent before adding:

  • 2 garlic cloves diced
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 64 ounces of pureed tomatoes
  • 16 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley (about 2 tablespoons of each)
  • monk fruit powder, stevia, or agave nectar if needed for additional sweetness

In a large skillet, saute the onion and bell pepper for a few minutes and then add the diced garlic and the grated carrot.  Saute until softened, about 3 minutes over medium heat.  Add the red wine (or mushroom stock) and cook off the alcohol.  Add the pureed and diced tomatoes and simmer over a low heat, covered, for approximately 1 hour.  Uncover and simmer an additional 15 minutes.  Add the fresh herbs along with salt and pepper to taste and the tomato paste.  If needed, depending on your taste, add additional sweetener.