Thai “Peanut” Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

My obsession with eggplant has been demolished and replaced with spaghetti squash. Such a versatile vegetable, low in carbs, and good either as a “spaghetti” type vegetable or as a mashed squash. In this instance, it’s used as a spaghetti. And of course, I’ve left out the peanuts and substituted tahini but really any seed or nut butter will work in this recipe. And feel free to adjust the last four ingredients in the sauce to meet your family’s tastes. I used a lot more of the red curry paste because I just didn’t taste it at the prescribed amount.

First, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut in half:

1 small to medium spaghetti squash (size depending on how many you want to feed)

Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and place face down on a baking tray. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted into the skin side of the squash. Baking time will depend on the size of the squash. When tender, set aside to cool while you make the sauce.

In a medium size saucepan, combine:

1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (if you can have coconut milk, it would work well here)

2/3 cup tahini, sunflower, pepita, or other seed or nut butter

1/4 cup date sugar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy substitute for vegans)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons red curry paste (I used about 2 tablespoons)

Whisk to combine thoroughly although some heat may be needed to break down the seed or nut butter. Cook over medium high heat until it reaches a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a 12″ skillet, heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Cover and cook until the carrots and peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Using a fork, scrap the flesh from the inside of the spaghetti squash from end to end. Add to the skillet with the other vegetables along with 1/2 to 1 cup of the sauce. At this point, add:

1/4 cup chopped parsley (OPTIONAL)

Toss and cook for 2-3 minutes until squash is heated through. Serve with chopped nuts or seeds (I used roasted pumpkin seeds, delicious!). With a small squash as a side dish, serves 4.

This recipe makes about 3 times as much sauce as is needed for the dish. I spooned the remainder into 1 cup canning jars and put them in the freezer.

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.

Crusted Tilapia

I’m always looking for new recipes for fish. This one is very tasty and very easy to make. It reminded me of fried fish but is baked in the oven. That’s because of the high fat content in the mayonnaise. Feel free to use any fish, adjusting the proportions to fit the size of your fish portions. I used tilapia but the original recipe used halibut so it works for pretty much any fish. Simple and quick to make. Serves 4.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix:

3/4 cup mayonnaise*

1/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

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

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and basil (or 1 teaspoon of each fresh, chopped)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk to combine. In a non-stick baking dish** (again size depends on type of fish you use, mine was a 9×12), arrange:

1 pound of fish filets (with the tilapia, that’s four large pieces)

Spread the mixture equally over each piece of fish, covering the top completely. Bake in preheated oven 20-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish (the tilapia is quite thin and only took 20 minutes). Serve with lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

*If you’re allergic to eggs like me, there are now several brands of vegan mayonnaise available which are delicious and work well in this recipe.

**There’s enough fat in the mayonnaise so greasing the pan isn’t necessary.

Salmon Pasta Salad Revisited

Every July 4th my mother would make what she called simply, salmon salad. It was a mayonnaise based pasta salad with canned salmon, crab and baby shrimp. I made one and put it on this site last year or the year before with a vinaigrette base. So now that I’ve found a vegan mayonnaise I can eat that doesn’t contain eggs or soybean oil, I decided this year to update this salad because it’s one of my very favorites. My mother always served blueberry muffins with it but I figure who needs all those added carbs! so I just serve the salad with the addition of more vegetables than just the onion and celery my mom used. Hope you enjoy this as much as I do. By the way, feel free to use a 16 ounce can of salmon, cleaned if you don’t have access to the fresh!

Bring an 8 quart pot of water to the boil, salt the water generously and add:

4 ounces gluten-free shells (you can use elbows or any other shape but my mom always used shells)*

When the pasta is about 2 minutes from being cooked add:

1-2 cups frozen peas (unless you have wonderful fresh peas!)

When the pasta is cooked, drain into a large colander and rinse with cold water until cool. I will often fill the pot I cooked the pasta in with cold water (it takes several times before the pot cools off) and then place the colander in it after I’ve sprayed the heck out of the pasta with cold water. I leave it in there for only about 5 minutes before it’s cool enough to add to the mixing bowl. While the pasta boils (or the water), heat an 8″ skillet over medium high heat with:

1 teaspoon olive oil

Add skin side down:

8 ounce (or so) salmon filet

Cook the salmon for 3-5 minutes on the skin side and then turn. Note, if it doesn’t come right off the skillet, it’s not ready to turn. Cook on the meat side for 2-3 minutes and then flip again to the skin side. Cover and reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of your salmon steak. Remove from heat, uncover and move the salmon to a plate to cool. When cool, flake with a fork and add to the vegetable mixture.

In a large mixing bowl (I actually use a 2 gallon plastic container), combine:

3-5 scallions, sliced on the diagonal

5-6 stalks of celery diced

1 medium, peeled and diced (and I also seed mine) cucumber

8 ounces of crab meat

8 ounces of baby shrimp (if you can eat them, I can’t so I leave them out)

In a smaller bowl combine:

1 1/2 cups vegan mayonnaise

2 tablespoons dill pickle relish

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice

NOTE: I had a half bag of snow peas left over from the Moo Goo Guy Pan so I destringed them, cut them in half (or thirds if really long) and added them with the peas to the boil – delicious! Some diced jicama or water chestnuts would also go very nicely in this salad.

Whisk to combine and then pour over the vegetables after adding the pasta, peas, and fish in the mixing bowl. Stir to combine and then cool in the refrigerator for about an hour to let all the flavors meld. I like to serve it over some lettuce or as I did now, pea shoots. Serves 4-6.

*Whole Foods makes wonderful organic chickpea shells. Only 37 grams of carbs per serving which is quite good for pasta, along with 21 grams of protein. And note, we only use 2 servings instead of 4 so it cuts down on the total carbs per serving even more.

Turkey Imperial

I enjoy turkey just as much as chicken and it’s always a nice change from the chicken grind. But it can be very dry if overcooked. Here’s a recipe that comes out moist and delicious! Lots of flavor and very easy to make if you can find turkey breast fillets. If not, use chicken breasts, remove the tenderloin and pound out the breasts to about 1/2 thickness. Serves 4.

4 turkey breast fillets or 4 chicken breasts pounded to 1/2 inch*

Preheat oven to 425 degree and spray a large baking dish with non-stick spray. The fillets or breasts should fit comfortably in the dish without touching. Salt and pepper the meat and set aside. In a small bowl mix:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/3 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes a great one)

4 tablespoons olive or avocado oil (or vegan margarine or butter melted)

1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme)

2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley)

1/2 teaspoon Herbamare (or sea salt)

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix to combine making sure all the bread crumbs are moistened. Spread evenly over the fillets or breasts. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the fillets are 160 degrees and the crumbs are well browned. Serve with a sauce:

1 cup chicken or turkey stock

1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice (NOT soy)

whites of 3 scallions diced

2 teaspoons spicy mustard

Whisk mustard into the stock mixture and heat in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot add a slurry made with:

2 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour

1/3 cup non-dairy milk

Whisk the slurry into the stock mixture and continue whisking until it thickens, about 2 minutes.

Be sure to put the sauce UNDER the fillets so that the crumb mixture stays crunchy. Garnish with the greens from the scallions.

*If the turkey fillets are too thin (want about 1/2 inch thickness), stack several, I think I actually had to stack 3 in one case. If the turkey is too thin, it will get dried out before the topping browns.

Easy Creamy Asparagus Soup

I love asparagus. It’s my favorite vegetable. But alas, again it’s one of those things I shouldn’t eat anymore. Not allergies this time but due to a medication I take. So green asparagus is out! But what about white asparagus. Tastes just like the green stuff but for me it’s a definite YES! Feel free however, to make this soup with the green asparagus remembering that your’s won’t look like mine.

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat:

2 cups vegetable broth* (or chicken stock)

1 pound of asparagus cleaned and cut into chunks**

Cook over medium heat until the asparagus is tender, the length of time will depend on the size of the asparagus used, smaller pencil asparagus will obviously cook much faster than the larger stalks.***

Remove about half of the asparagus pieces to add back into the soup once it’s blended. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender if you don’t have an immersion one****, blend the stock and asparagus until smooth. Remember if you’re using an immersion blender to turn it off before lifting the blender out of the soup mixture so that it doesn’t splatter all over the stove (and you!).

Whisk together in a small bowl:

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (any kind other than soy which won’t thicken), I suggest using oat so it doesn’t interfere with the taste of the soup

1 tablespoon gluten-free all purpose flour

Make sure there aren’t any lumps in the milk mixture before adding it to the soup. Bring the soup back to a slow boil and stir until it thickens, about a minute. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the pieces back into the soup, season with salt and pepper to taste and add:

1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley)

And it’s ready to serve! Add any protein you like, I added some diced chicken breast but some white beans would also work. Makes approximately 4 1cup servings. Garnish with some cut scallion greens or chives (instead of cutting them with a knife, I use my kitchen scissors, much easier).

*I generally like to use stock rather than broth but in this instance if using vegetable, we don’t want the strong flavor of mushroom to overpower the asparagus so a lighter broth works best, preferable one without mushrooms.

**If you are using a larger stalk asparagus, add the largest pieces to the stock/broth first so that the smaller pieces don’t get too mushy since those are what you’ll probably want to save out before blending and add back into the soup

***The larger stalks often times have very thick skins so peel them with a potato peeler before chopping and adding to the stock/broth.

****If using a regular blender the mixture will either need to cool down a bit before blending or hold down the lip of the blender with a kitchen towel to prevent it flying off when you turn on the blender as it releases the hot air from the mixture and will pop that cover right off if you’re not careful. I always try to cool the soup first when using a regular blender, much safer!

Chicken Bouillabaisse

Traditionally, this French stew (although it’s more of a soup) contains fish and shrimp. Here’s one that varies since it’s made with chicken. It’s fairly easy to make and tastes delicious. Longest time is the oven time but even so less than 90 minutes and it’s done, mainly because it uses cut up chicken pieces. Serves 4-6 depending on the size of your chicken pieces, the cooking time will also vary because of this as well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large Dutch oven, over medium high, heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Pat dry and then salt and pepper:

6 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on OR

8 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on

(or a combination of both, about 3 pounds of chicken total)

Add to the hot oil, skin side down and brown, 5-8 minutes per side. Remove from the oil and add:

1 large leek, sliced and cleaned

1 small fennel bulb, halved and sliced thin (discard the stems although save some fronds for garnish)

Reduce heat to medium and cook until the leek is tender and the fennel begins to soften. Stir in:

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon all purpose gluten-free flour

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Stir into the vegetables and cook for about 30-45 seconds. Whisk in:

3 cups chicken stock

Whisk until the sauce is smooth. Add:

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

1 cup sliced carrots OR 1 cup potatoes cut into pieces

1 strip of orange peel, about 2-3 inches long

Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken parts, skin side up trying to keep them above the liquid so that the skin stays crispy. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs 170 degrees. Remove from oven. Turn the broiler of the oven on and broil the chicken until the skin sizzles and gets crispy (I had to remove the chicken from the Dutch oven to do this since they kept sinking into the liquid).

Stir in:

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Serve with the fennel fronds as garnish.

Scallops with Seasoned Breadcrumbs

I think scallops are my very favorite seafood, well maybe lobster runs a close second. They are definitely much easier to find in Minnesota than Maine lobsters! My very favorite way to cook scallops is to broil them wrapped in bacon and then serve with a side of maple syrup (are my New England roots showing?). I wanted to try something different and it turned out very flavorful, delicious, and oh so quick and easy to make. If you can handle a knife and a fork, you can make this!

I used sea scallops and cut them in half to make disks but I think this breading would work as a topping for any fish. If using bay scallops obviously don’t cut them and bake them for 10-15 minutes instead of the 18-20 minutes.

Heat oven to 425 degree. Spray the bottom of a glass baking dish large enough to hold 20-24 scallop disks. Arrange in the bottom of the dish:

10-12 large sea scallops, cut in half to make 20-24 disks

In a 2 cup bowl mix together:

3/4 cup gluten free bread crumbs

2 teaspoons diced parsley

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon herbamare

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pumpkin seeds (if preferred use sesame, sunflower, etc.)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Spread the breading mixture evenly over the scallops. Into a cold skillet add:

6 ounces bacon, chopped (optional)

Brown and then drain on a paper towel before sprinkling the bacon bits on top of the breading. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

I served it with a tossed salad that included tomatoes and avocado.

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.

Lemon Garlic Chicken Drumsticks

One of my favorite Italian dishes is lemon chicken. Here’s an recipe that’s easy to make and ready in less than an hour. And need I add delicious! I think this is, like many Italian foods, going to taste even better tomorrow when I eat the leftovers. Serves 4.

You’ll need:

8-10 chicken drumsticks*

Herbamare (herbed sea salt) and pepper (available at specialty grocer stores, Whole Foods or Amazon)**

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons vegan margarine

Zest of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons juice

3 teaspoons minced garlic

Fresh parsley for garnish

Salt and pepper the chicken and let sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes so that it won’t be ice cold when you cook it. In a 12″ skillet, heat the oil and margarine over medium high heat until margarine starts foaming. If the chicken is too wet, be sure to dry with a paper towel, remember – wet meat doesn’t brown well and will spit oil! Reduce heat to medium and sauté chicken, turning to brown on all sides, this should take 6-8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low (I actually started out on medium low but the drumsticks were getting too brown so I reduced my heat to low), cover and let cook 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Turn the chicken every 5-7 minutes making sure to move them around in the skillet as well.

In a small bowl, mix the grated lemon zest and juice along with the garlic. When the chicken is cooked, pour this mixture over the chicken, turning the chicken to be sure the sauce coats the pieces on all sides. Take off the heat and cover, let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Garnish and serve.

  • * Chicken breasts would also work
  • ** Substitute sea salt mixed with some thyme, marjoram, and basil (or an Italian herb blend)