Ratatouille Lasagna

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

First make the ratatouille.

Peel and slice:

1 large or 2 small eggplants

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

1 tablespoons olive oil

When hot (shimmering) add:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed

2 small zucchini, cubed

2 small yellow squash, cubed

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Optionally, depending on taste can be added:

1 sweet pepper, seeded and diced

6 ounces of sliced mushrooms

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

16 ounces crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

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

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 tablespoon salt

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

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

before baking

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.

Seafood Linguini

This is a dish I’ve been making for years, thought I’d already posted it but I don’t find. It’s a nice change of pace from pasta with a tomato-based sauce. And very easy to make, just be sure not to overcook the bay scallops and the calamari! Cooking the pasta takes a lot longer than making the sauce. And of course, feel free to use the seafood your family likes best. Makes 2 servings.

First, put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Cook 1/2 box of gluten-free linguini according to package directions. Be sure to salt the water when it comes to a boil before adding the pasta.

When there’s about 5 minutes left on the pasta cooking time add to the boiling water:

1 cup green peas (thaw out if using frozen)

When the pasta is almost cooked, heat a medium saucepan with a high edge over medium heat. Add:

1/4 cup olive oil*

When the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium low and add:

1 finely diced scallion

When the scallion is translucent, add:

1/2 pound bay scallops

2 teaspoons minced garlic (for a more garlicy flavor, add more minced garlic)

1/2 pound small cleaned shrimp

Cook over medium low heat for about a minute or two, just until the shrimp are starting to color, then add:

1/2 pound cleaned and sliced calamari (I use both the parts, chop up the tentacles just a little into bit size pieces)

1 small can chopped or baby clams with the liquid**

Cook for about 30 seconds, the calamari don’t take very long at all to cook. They will change color just a little, especially the tentacles and the white slices will curl when they are cooked. Immediately take the pan off the heat, cover if the pasta isn’t quite ready.*** Add:

Juice of 1/2 lemon

When the pasta and peas are drained, put back into the pot and add the sauce. Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes so that the pasta can absorb some of the sauce. Toss, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with minced chives.

*For a lower fat sauce, reduce the olive oil to 1 tablespoon and add 1/4 cup clam juice when you add the scallops and shrimp.

**Feel free to use fresh clams in the shell but add them before the scallops and cover the pan for about 2 minutes, or until they are just starting to open, before adding the remaining ingredients.

***To avoid overcooking the seafood, I generally cook the pasta before I make the sauce. Drain the pasta and rinse to remove residual starch. Place the strainer in the pot with a little water in the bottom, cover so that there’s a little steam to keep the pasta warm while you make the sauce, and place over a very low heat.

****I used chickpea pasta and I wouldn’t recommend it for this dish. I also only had spaghetti which is a little thick and didn’t play well with the seafood. Linguini is really the pasta to use.

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.

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.

Stroganoff (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free)

I looked at a recipe for tempeh stroganoff, thought about turkey instead. It reminds me a lot of turkey tetrazzini in looks but definitely not in taste. I think this is mainly due to marinating the meat in my “fake” soy sauce and the addition of vinegar to the sauce.

When I think about stroganoff, I immediately think it should be served on egg noodles. Since I’m allergic to eggs, that’s not possible but I managed to find some pad thai brown rice noodles that worked quite well.

I used turkey in this recipe but it could be made with beef, pork, chicken or tempeh and be equally as delicious. Other vegetables would also do well in this sauce like green peas, string beans, or carrots.

Makes 4 servings.

In a medium bowl, mix:

12 ounces meat or tempeh cut into strips

3 tablespoons “fake” soy sauce (you could use tamari or coconut aminos)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes up to overnight.

In a large skillet heat:

2 tablespoon olive oil

Add meat (drained) and saute for 3-5 minutes, turning to sear. Remove from pan and set aside. Add:

1 medium onion, diced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried thyme

24 ounces sliced or diced mushrooms (I used a mixture of 3 different mushrooms)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook until the onions are soft and the mushrooms cooked. Stir in:

2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour, more or less depending on the oil in the pan

Mix in:

2 cups non-dairy milk

2 tablespoons seasoned rice, sherry, or wine vinegar

Stir until mixture begins to thicken. Add the meat. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve over noodles, rice or quinoa. Garnish with fresh parsley or chives.

Turkey Tetrazzini (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free)

After Thanksgiving, my mother would always make turkey tetrazzini.  She added, of course, cream as well as either white wine or sherry.  Since I can’t use those things, here’s my version without all that fat or any alcohol.  Feel free to use whatever pasta you have on hand.  I used a tortiglioni made from buckwheat flour that a friend recommended but I usually use spaghetti which is the more traditional pasta used in this dish.  

You’ll need:

  • 8 ounces of gluten-free pasta cooked al dente
  • 2 cups of mushroom soup (see recipe under Soups and Salads or follow directions below — you will need additional ingredients to make this mushroom sauce)
  • 8 ounces of sliced or diced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup cooked peas
  • 1 1/2 cups diced turkey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon died thyme
  • 3-4 quart baking dish
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons avocado (or other) oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons shredded non-dairy cheese
  • cooking spray for the baking dish

If you don’t have some mushroom soup already to go, use this simple alternative:

In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil.  Add diced mushrooms, celery and mushrooms.  Cover and simmer over medium low heat about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender.  Add 3 tablespoons gluten-free all purpose flour (or brown rice flour) and stir to incorporate.  Cook for a minute to begin cooking the flour.  Add 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you don’t have any vegetable stock) and 1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice (except soy which will not thicken).  Add the herbs and combine.

Combine the vegetables, pasta, sauce, and turkey in the skillet.  Pour into the baking dish.  Combine the bread crumbs and oil.  Spread the shredded cheese and then the bread crumbs over the top of the casserole and bake for approximately 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  

Chicken “Alfredo” (dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free)

This creamy, rich slightly cheesy sauce is definitely something anyone can find comforting and warming.  And so much easier to make than at least I ever thought.  I’d eaten it out but not at home thinking it was difficult and so fattening that it was to be avoided.  This is a much lower calorie dish that you can adjust to fit your tastes. Makes two servings.

“Alfredo” Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
  • 1 cup thick rice milk (blend 1/3 cup rice with 1 cup cold water)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy shredded cheese (I used a blend of cheddar and mozzarella but use whatever you have on hand; of course the traditional Alfredo uses parmesan)

Heat the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat until warm.  Add the rice milk and cream cheese and blend until cheese melts.  Add the parsley and shredded cheese and heat until cheese melts stirring frequently.

Cook two chicken breasts (or use precooked breasts from a roasted chicken or store bought cooked chicken).  I used the POW Red Lentil spaghetti because its one of my favorites and I like to add protein whenever I can.  Cook pasta per box instructions.  Drain and mix sauce into pasta.  Divide between two plates and add slices of the chicken breasts.

Cooked peas, pieces of asparagus, or other vegetables works well with this recipe.

Lasagna Rolls (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free)

This is a comfort food for me that I haven’t had in years because the original recipe I used called for jumbo shells or manicotti, neither of which I’ve been able to find in my local grocery stores in gluten-free form.  They are available on Amazon.com but since I didn’t have any today, I used some lasagna noodles – I tried two kinds, Tinkyada made from brown rice and Explore made from pea protein.  When cooked, they both tasted about the same, like lasagna noodles so in the future, I’ll probably use the Explore because it has a higher protein and lower carbohydrate count.  This is really quite an easy recipe to make.  And you can either use a marinara sauce or the mushroom béchamel recipe given here.  If you wanted to make this a vegan meal, Kite Hill makes an almond milk ricotta cheese which you can use to make a vegan filling.  

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  For the  lasagna noodles mix:

  • 1 pound ground turkey, not turkey breast which will be too dry OR you can use 1/2 pound ground veal or a pound of hamburger.  If you use veal, also add 1/2 pound ground pork.
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage (you’d probably want to use thyme, marjoram, or another herb if you use a different meat)
  • 1/4 cup shredded non-dairy cheese
  • 1/4 cup ground mushrooms (this adds moisture to the mix)
  • 1/4 cup  minced onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used about a 1/4 teaspoon of each)

Cook 10 (depending on which noodle you decide to use) lasagna noodles per package directions or when the water boiled, I added the noodles and when it came back to a boil, I cooked them for 3-4 minutes, then turned off the heat and covered it for another 3-4 minutes.  Be sure when you remove them from the pot to run cold water over them so that they don’t stick together. (I had to pull apart the Explore noodles since they stuck together in the boiling water.)

For the longer, brown rice noodles, cut them in half so that you have two equal sized pieces from each noodle.  The Explore noodles, I just used a larger portion of the meat to fill each one.  Take approximately 1/4 cup of meat mixture, shape it into a log to fit in the noodle side to side rather than lengthwise.  Be sure that you’ve put a good amount of sauce into your baking dish before you add the rolls because they will stick to the bottom of the baking dish.  Line the rolls up in the baking dish with the ends side of the noodle on the bottom.  Once you have them all in the pan, add more sauce to the top, non-dairy cheese shreds if you like, and bake at 350 degree for 45 minutes if your oven isn’t pre-heated or 30 minutes if its to temperature.

For the Mushroom Béchamel Sauce, put into a saute pan:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6-8 ounces of sliced mushroom, or you can dice them if you prefer
  • 1/4 cup of minced onion
  • 2 diced garlic cloves

Cook until soft, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Stir in:

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage (again, if you’re using veal or hamburger, use a different herb)
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free brown rice flour

Let this cook for a minute to get the flour incorporated and then add:

  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (anything other than soy)

Cook until the milk gets hot.  This will thicken in the oven as the noodles and meat cook so it doesn’t need to be thickened on top of the stove.