Moussaka (Greek Lasagna)

My mother loved moussaka. When I made it for her, I used ground lamb, ricotta cheese, eggs, and homemade pasta sauce. Things and times have changed so here’s one that’s dairy, gluten and egg free and uses jarred (or homemade if you have the time and desire) sauce. Just in case, I’m including my recipe for pasta sauce.

First, start the tomato sauce if making homemade by heating in a small Dutch oven:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add to it when hot:

1 diced medium onion

1 diced sweet pepper, any color

1/2 cup sliced carrots (or grated)

6 ounces shitake mushrooms

Stir to combine, lower heat to medium and cook until the onions and mushrooms are sweating and onion is translucent. Add:

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

32 ounces small diced tomatoes

16 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook over medium low heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. This gets rid of much of the water in the tomatoes so the sauce can thicken. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to low. When reduced by about 1/3, add:

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Use an immersion blender to cream most of the vegetables, leaving a few whole. I do this because then the eggplant slices sit better in the sauce but it is optional. In a large skillet, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or if you want this vegan, diced tofu)**

Cook the sausage through and then drain off the fat and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside. If using jarred sauce, this will take more than 1 large jar.

While the sauce is cooking, peel and thinly slice:

1 large eggplant

Place the slices on a large, sided baking sheet in a single layer and salt generously. Once salted, another layer of eggplant can be added on the top of the first, again salting generously. Place a slightly smaller baking sheet on top of the eggplant and then weight it down with large cans. Let sit at least 30 minutes, 60 is preferable.

After sitting, wash each eggplant slice to remove the salt and whatever liquid was expelled from the slices. Dry between paper towels. Heat in a large skillet (12 inch) or flat griddle:

1 teaspoon olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan)

When hot, add eggplant slices until the bottom is covered but the slices have room to move. Let brown for a minute or two and then turn and brown the second side. Repeat until all the slices are browned.

Still while the sauce is cooking, add to a large saucepan:

1/2 cup olive oil

Begin heating over medium high heat. Add:

3/4 cup gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour then add, 1 cup at a time:

3 cups oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk except soy)

Whisk each portion of milk into the flour and cook, whisking every minute or so, until the white sauce is thickened. It should be the consistency of a pudding or mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with slices of eggplant.* Add a layer of the meat sauce and repeat ending with a layer of eggplant (3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of sauce). There may be a little meat sauce left over. Slowly pour the white sauce on top of the last layer of eggplant (I didn’t quite have enough eggplant to cover the entire top but it still worked okay). The white sauce on mine was only about 1/2 inch thick but if your pan is deep enough, use all the white sauce, it’s that yummy on the top! Sprinkle the top with:

1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Place baking pan on a large baking sheet because if it’s full, it will bubble over and put in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the middle is bubbling. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

*Don’t think you have enough eggplant? Peel and thinly slice 1-2 medium to large Russet potatoes and place those on the bottom layer of the moussaka, using the eggplant for just other 2 layers.

**I used sweet Italian sausage but feel free to use any ground meat.

Stuffed Turkey Rolls

I found some turkey breast filets at the store the other day and wondered how to cook them without drying them out. Turkey breast filets can be either too thick or too thin; these were very thin. I used to make a turkey “napoleon” for my husband and I wondered if it would work as a roll. It not only worked, but they turned out delicious. The stuffing can be made ahead and is enough to stuff 6-8 turkey filets depending on their size. Of course, any stuffing recipe will work but I made my sausage and mushroom stuffing, adding half a pear for a little sweetness and it turned out succulent. The stuffing is the most time consuming part of this process.

Serves 3-4.

To make the stuffing, over medium a 10″ skillet, heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot, add:

1/2 medium onion, finely diced

2 small stalks celery, finely diced

1/2 medium pear, minced

3 ounces mushrooms, finely diced

Stir and reduce heat to medium low. Cover the vegetables for about 5 minutes until they are tender. While they cook, break up 2 slices of bread (I used the quick oat bread recipe on this blog). If using a different bread, be sure to crumble into small pieces. When the vegetables are soft, add them along with the oil to the bread crumbs, mix thoroughly. To the skillet add:

4 ounces sausage, any kind your family likes

Cook thoroughly, breaking it up as it cooks into a “minced” meat consistency (like hamburger). This should only take a couple of minutes. Add to the stuffing mix along with:

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground sage

If your turkey filets are square, you’ve hit the jackpot! Mine were triangular. Add about 1/3 cup of the stuffing on the longer side of the filet and pull the smaller side over it. I used bacon to wrap and hold the roll but I would suggest using porchetta instead because the bacon had too strong a flavor and almost overpowered the turkey roll.

Once rolled and wrapped, secured with toothpicks if necessary, place in a 10″ skillet with a little oil so that the bacon doesn’t stick. Cook over medium heat for approximately 2-3 minutes per side, getting all four sides.

While the turkey rolls are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in another 10″ skillet. When hot add:

3 ounces of mushrooms

1/2 medium pear, minced

Cook for a 2-4 minutes, salt and pepper to taste and add:

2 tablespoons all purpose gluten-free flour

Stir to combine so that all the oil is floured and cook over medium low heat for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour. Add:

1 1/2 to 2 cups turkey (or chicken) stock

Stir to combine and stir constantly until thickened into a gravy.

Serve the turkey rolls over mashed potatoes (or rice), adding gravy to each of the servings. Enjoy!

Caramelized Cabbage with Bratwurst

I follow another food blogger who writes about traditional German recipes and every once in a while one comes along that sounds pretty good to me and easily adapted to allergy free. As usual, feel free to adjust to your tastes. Leave out the bratwurst and the dish becomes a side dish. It would also be very good with some diced apple or pear, much like the braised cabbage recipe on my blog.

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

2 tablespoons olive oil

When shimmering add:

2 medium onions thinly sliced

12 ounces cole slaw mix (or small white cabbage shredded)

2 large baby bok choy washed and sliced into chunks

Salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon of my Herbamare and 1/4 teaspoon pepper)

2 teaspoons date syrup (or date sugar if you don’t have date syrup, or 1 teaspoon agave)

Stir to combine and then stir every minute or so to keep the bottom from burning. When sizzling, reduce heat to medium and continue stirring every minute or two until caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. The onion and the cabbage will release liquid as they cook and that needs to evaporate before the mixture can begin to caramelize. Most important to stir often once the liquid is gone. Deglaze the pan with:

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or 1 cup stock and 1/2 cup white wine if you can have it)

Add:

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon lightly crushed caraway seeds (I put them in my spice mill for about 2 pulses)

Stir and reduce heat to medium low and simmer until about half the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Sauce should thicken slightly as it reduces.

As the cabbage mixture is simmering, in a separate skillet over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

4 pork bratwurst, casings removed*

Brown on all sides then reduce heat to medium, cover, and let cook until cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. Slice into bite size pieces and add to the cabbage mixture. Be sure to remove the bay leaf before serving. Can be served over noodles.

*Feel free to use any sausage your family prefers.

Turkey Hash

Hash is a favorite of mine. It’s so tasty and so versatile. Any meat, any vegetables can be used in hash. It’s not just corned beef hash anymore! After I made the roasted turkey breast the other day, I had over half the breast left (since there’s only one of me and the recipe served 4). I’d already cooked plenty of sweet potatoes (but there’s nothing wrong with cooking more!) and had some rainbow carrots in the freezer. Hash is so easy to make, hope you’ll give it a try.

I served this with the leftover turkey pear gravy! Oh so delicious

In a large skillet (12″), heat over medium heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When shimmering add:

1 medium onion diced

3-5 celery stalks, diced

When the onion is becoming translucent, add:

2 cups diced cooked sweet potato (or white if you prefer)

1 cup cooked rainbow carrots, sliced or diced

2 not quite ripe pears, peeled and diced

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix to combine and continue cooking until sweet potatoes start to brown. Stir in:

2-3 cups cooked turkey, diced

Lower heat to medium low and cover. Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes until turkey is hot. Remove lid, stir. At this point, if eggs are allowed in your diet, crack 4 eggs on top of the hash, cover and cook until eggs are ready. Serves 4.

“Irish” Potatoes

I hit 200 recipes on the site the other day! This is a recipe I learned from a dear departed friend of mine. She called it Irish potatoes. Easy side dish to prepare and very delicious. My grandson would rather have this with a meal than practically anything else. He especially likes to have the leftovers for breakfast the next day with eggs (and bacon if his mother will let him!).

For 4 people, I use:

2 medium to large sized russet potatoes, peeled and diced*

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (I had some purple on hand but any sweet potato will work)

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 sweet peppers, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the diced potatoes in a pot of cold water, just covering the potatoes, and cook until a fork will pierce but not split the pieces. If the potatoes cook to fully done, they will be mushy when you fry them.

In a skillet large enough to have a single layer of potatoes (about 12″) heat over medium heat:

1/4 cup of olive oil (or other if preferred)

Add:

Diced onion

Diced pepper (I used the yellow and orange because I can’t digest the green)

Cook until the onions and peppers are softened. Add the potatoes and garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for about 3-5 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes before turning and repeating. A crispy outside and soft inside is what we want here but hard to achieve if you flip the potatoes too often or too soon. Also difficult if there’s not enough oil in the pan. Might have to reduce the heat if the sweet potatoes start to brown too quickly (they will burn easier than the russet chunks). The dish is ready when a majority of the potatoes are crispy and golden brown. Feel free to garnish with chopped parsley.

*Try to make the dices roughly the same size so that they will all cook at the same speed. Having large and smaller pieces will give you mushy fried potatoes since the smaller ones will cook so much faster.

Penne with Chicken and Artichokes

I eat a lot of chicken. Probably out of my 21 meals a week, I eat chicken for at least 12 of them. So finding new and different ways to prepare chicken is something I never stop doing. My brother sent me a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday and I finally made it over there (now that I’m fully vaccinated) a few days ago and imagine how wonderful it was when I found The Chicken Bible, by the America’s Test Kitchen. A cookbook with 500 different ways to prepare chicken! I’m in heaven looking through this cookbook every day searching for a new way to make my chicken taste delicious. And this one is a definite winner. If someone needs to watch salt intake, skip the olives. Serves 4.

Cut into thin strips (or chunks if preferred realizing they’ll have to cook longer):

1 pound (2 large boneless breasts, split or 6 boneless chicken thighs – remove skins before slicing)*

Dry the chicken with a paper towel and sprinkle with:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a medium Dutch oven, over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot add the chicken and cook, without stirring, until it starts to brown. Then stir and continue to cook until just about cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove to a bowl and cover. To the pot, add:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

Cook until the onion is translucent then add:

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano and thyme)

pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Cook about one minute or until you can smell the garlic then add:

4 cups chicken stock

Bring to a boil and add:

8 ounces gluten-free penne

Reduce heat to medium and continue on a slow boil until penne is al dente, about 6-8 minutes depending on the brand used. Stir frequently, sauce should reduce and thicken while the penne is cooking. Stir in:

6-8 ounces artichoke hearts, quartered (I used the vacuum packed ones available at Whole Foods but frozen will work just as well)

Cook an additional 5-8 minutes or until sauce sticks to the pasta. The sauce should be quite thick, not at all soupy (see example below). Add:

Chicken pieces

12 ounces of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size

1/4 cup kalamata olives (chopped)

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes a delicious vegan Parmesan already grated)

Cook until chicken is reheated, tossing the pasta lightly. Add:

1/4 cup chiffonaded basil leaves (roll the leaves into a log and thinly slice)

Toss the pasta once again to mix in the basil, taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed and serve.

This is not what you want, see the sauce on the bottom of the plate, too soupy!

This is what it should look like. See how the sauce sticks to the pasta.

*Whenever I need to slice chicken, if I’m using frozen chicken, I try to catch it when it’s still just slightly frozen because its much easier to slice when its partly frozen. If using fresh chicken, try putting it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Chicken Saltimbocca

If you like sage, think about your Thanksgiving stuffing, you will LOVE this recipe! I especially enjoyed the fried sage on the top, something I’d never done but oh how delicious! This recipe is fairly easy as long as each individual step is followed and the chopping and slicing is done in advance.

This recipe serves four:

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces prosciutto, sliced

8-10 large sage leaves, plus 3 tablespoons minced (or 3 teaspoons dried sage)

1 pound boneless chicken, breast and/or thighs, sliced (the thinner its sliced the faster it will cook)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 onion, minced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon all purpose gluten-free flour

3 cups chicken stock

8 ounces gluten-free vermicelli or spaghettini

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed (optional)

2 tablespoons butter substitute

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice

First, in a large skillet (or a Dutch oven) with high sides, heat, medium high, 1 tablespoon olive oil until it shimmers. Add the prosciutto pieces as individually as possible because unlike bacon, they will not fully separate as they cook, cook until crisp, about 4-5 minutes, reducing heat slightly if needed. Remove the prosciutto from the skillet and place the sage leaves in the oil and cook them until crisp, about 30-40 seconds. Place prosciutto and sage on a paper towel.

Next, dry the chicken, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet, again medium high heat, add the chicken in a single layer and cook, not stirring, until it starts to brown, 1-2 minutes. Then stir it and cook until nearly cooked through, about 2-3 minutes or longer depending on thickness. Remove to a bowl, cover and keep warm.

Add the last tablespoon of oil to the skillet and add the onions. Cook over medium heat until translucent and starting to brown. Stir in the garlic and minced sage and cook until just fragrant, about 30-40 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of chicken stock, scrape down the sides of the skillet and stir to smooth out any lumps, simmer until reduced by about half, about 5-6 minutes.

Stir in the remainder of the stock and the pasta. Increase heat to medium high and cook at a slow boil until pasta is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Stir frequently. The sauce should thicken more during this cooking.

Lastly, add the chicken back in along with the capers (if used), butter substitute, lemon zest and juice, stir to combine and cook for another minute or two until the chicken is heated. Remove from heat and add any additional salt and/or pepper that may be needed. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes and it will absorb any extra sauce into the pasta.

Sprinkle with the prosciutto and fried sage leaves and serve.

Creamy Chicken Stew with Asparagus

This is a hearty dish that will warm you through and through on those colder days. Perhaps that’s what made me think of it this past week here in Minnesota – after a wonderful few weeks in the 50s and 60s, it suddenly fell back into the 30s! Not difficult to make and so delicious to eat. Feel free to change up the vegetables to ones your family prefers.

Cut vegetables:

1 medium onion, diced

3 stalks of celery, diced

2 medium to large carrots sliced

1 large parsnip (or 2-3 smaller ones), sliced and/or diced depending on size

1 medium purple top turnip, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tablespoon pre-minced garlic)*

In a medium Dutch oven, heat:

2 tablespoons oil

Add the diced onions and celery and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables along with:

3 cups chicken stock

Simmer over medium low heat until the vegetables are cooked through. Add:

2 cups cooked and diced chicken

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces**

1 cup frozen green peas

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried marjoram

Simmer until chicken is heated through and the peas are cooked, 5-6 minutes, then increase heat to medium and add slurry made with:

3 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour

1 cup non-dairy milk (any milk EXCEPT soy)

Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Serve over pasta, mashed potatoes, or rice or even as a filling for a chicken pot pie. Makes 6 servings.

*This stew can be “summerized” by using zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, mushrooms instead of the winter root vegetables.

**If preferred, the asparagus can be cooked whole in a skillet until tender and served alongside the stew. If the stalks are quite thick, peal the asparagus before cutting into pieces.

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.