Stuffed Winter Squash

I do love squash, doesn’t matter to me what kind, color, shape, etc., it’s all delicious. My mother used to cut acorn squash in half and fill the halves with butter and maple syrup and bake them, so good! It never occurred to me to stuff winter squash but here’s a recipe that’s succulent and almost sinfully good. It doesn’t hurt that it’s extremely easy to make either! Use whatever kind of winter squash you like (I used acorns and the recipe would have stuffed 3 or 4 (so 6-8 halves).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve and seed squash, the number will depend on what kind you use and how big a hole will need filling. Rub the inside of the squash with:

1 tablespoon olive oil (2 if you have more than 4 halves)

Place each half, meat side down, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 40-60 minutes or until fork tender.

While the squash bakes prepare the stuffing. In a 12″ skillet, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

6-8 ounces chopped shitake mushrooms

1 bunch scallions (8-10), sliced (put 1/4 cup aside for garnish)

Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add:

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (mild or hot depending on your family’s taste)

Cook, crumbling the meat as it cooks, until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add:

1 1/2-2 cups cooked quinoa, again depending on how much stuffing you need for your squash halves (I used a bag of frozen cooked quinoa from Whole Foods)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Cover, reduce heat to medium low and cook until the quinoa is heated through and the garlic tender, about 3 minutes. Keep warm until the squash is cooked.

When the squash is tender, remove from oven, turn meat side up and fill the cavity with the stuffing. Garnish with reserved scallion greens and:

2-4 tablespoons (depending on how many halves you have) date syrup (honey or maple syrup).

Serve immediately.

Crispy Sticky Asian Chicken Wings

Like ribs, wings are high on my favorite foods list. I usually just bake them and barbecue sauce them (see recipe under Appetizers and Snacks) but I wanted to do something a little different today so I found three or four recipes for Asian wings and took what I liked from each to get you this divinely mouth-watering succulent wing recipe. In fact, I enjoyed them so much I went to the store and bought another package of wings just so that I could make them again! If you want to make them a meal, serve with cooked rice and some sauteed bok choy (see recipe under side dishes).

First, if your wings are whole, cut off the mini pointed section (the wing tips) and then cut the wing between the mini wing and the drumette. Throw the wing tips in the garbage and the other two parts into a gallon food storage bag. You should have about 2 pounds of wings.

Second, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a medium size baking sheet by spraying it with non-stick spray. Next, add to the bag:

1 tablespoon all-purpose gluten-free flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika (more or less depending on your taste)

Seal the bag and shake to coat the wing sections. Place each piece on the prepared baking sheet. Best to make sure they don’t touch. Bake for 30-40 minutes. While the wings bake, prepare the sauce. Mix together in a small saucepan:

1 teaspoon avocado oil

1 teaspoon ginger juice (don’t have ginger juice? Peel and finely mince a thumb size piece of ginger)

1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons chili sauce (depending on the heat level you want in your wings)*

2 tablespoons honey

2-4 tablespoons date sugar, depending on how sweet and sticky you want them

1/3 cup soy sauce substitute

1/2 tablespoon minced garlic

Whisk together and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes until slightly reduced. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the wings are cooked, remove from the pan to a medium size bowl and pour over the sauce.** Mix together with a serving fork or large kitchen spoon. Add:

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Move to a plate and garnish with:

1/2 cup sliced scallion greens

Serve hot.

*I used 2 teaspoons and it was quite spicy but not overly hot, just the way I like it. And the addition of the sesame seeds and scallions help cool the wings a little.

**I used only half the sauce for my 1 1/2 pounds of wings.

Chinese Dumplings

When I worked at Arizona State University, the chair of the department and I shared the same birthday so we’d go out for lunch annually on our birthday. There was a little Chinese restaurant near campus where we’d devour several orders of pot stickers and a soup bowl of hot and sour soup. I’ve been checking every grocery store I go to and I couldn’t find gluten-free wonton wrappers but a check on-line found a recipe. So, although this process is somewhat lengthy, the dumplings are well worth the effort.

First, make the wonton wrappers by combining:

1/2 cup all purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1/2 white rice flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon guar gum

Whisk together the dry ingredients then stir in:

1/2 cup boiling water

Dough will start to come together. Add:

2 tablespoons cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Stir to combine, kneading with hands if necessary. Form into a ball, cut in half. Place one half under plastic wrap to stay moist while working with the other half. Roll the dough into a log then cut into 12 pieces, about 1 tablespoon each. Roll the pieces into balls and place in a sandwich bag until ready to fill. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Next, make the filling. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse:

8-10 scallion whites

6 ounces shitake mushrooms

1/2 cup shredded carrots

Pulse until well ground. Put into a medium bowl with:

3/4 pound ground turkey (or pork)

3 teaspoons date sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces)

1/2 teaspoon ginger juice (or freshly grated ginger)

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine, cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to fill the wontons. Using a bamboo steamer (or a steamer basket or pot but you won’t be able to cook as many at once), place over water on the stove. Take one dough ball, place between two pieces of plastic wrap, and using a small rolling pin (or any can), roll out to about a 3″ circle. Place about 1 tablespoon filling in the middle. Using the plastic wrap, bring the sides of the wonton wrapper together in the middle. Pick up the ball and gently press the edges together to seal the dumpling (these can be either round or rectangular). If the dough is dry, wipe the edges with a small amount of water to moisten and seal. Place in the steamer and repeat until the steamer is filled, without the dumplings touching the edges or each other because they will stick as they cook. Bring the steamer water to a boil and cook the dumplings 10-12 minutes. Serve with a sesame garlic sauce and garnish with the scallion greens.

Sesame Garlic Sauce:

1/4 cup soy sauce substitute

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon date syrup or honey

1/4 teaspoon chili sauce or red pepper flakes

Chicken with Bok Choy and Red Peppers and Crispy Noodle Cake

Here’s another recipe adapted from the Chicken Bible. It’s somewhat spicy due to the abundance of freshly grated ginger as well as just a 1/4 teaspoon Vietnamese chili sauce.* The original recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes so use those if you can’t find a chili sauce that works for your family. I also cut back slightly on the amount of freshly grated ginger – the original recipe called for 1 tablespoon but I used only about 1 teaspoon and it was sufficient for my tastes. This is a recipe that may sound difficult and complex but if you follow the steps, it’s really quite easy to make and oh so worth the effort – just as good as any dish in your favorite Chinese restaurant.

First, cut up everything:

1 pound bok choy (I used three medium sized baby), cut off the stems and cut into bitesize pieces and then separately chop the greens and put them in a separate bowl

2 small sweet red peppers, cut in thin slices

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced as thinly as possible (if the breasts are partially frozen, they will slice much easier although the hand holding the meat will get quite chilly!)

1 garlic clove minced

about 1″ of fresh ginger peeled and grated to produce roughly 1-2 teaspoons

2-3 scallions, slice at an angle, add the white parts to the bok choy stems and peppers and set the greens aside in a medium bowl

Next, mix together in a medium bowl:

1 tablespoon soy sauce substitute

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon date syrup

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon cornstarch (or arrowroot)

Whisk together and add the sliced chicken. Mix to ensure all the chicken is coated with the marinade. Refrigerate until needed.

Third, put on a pot of water to boil:

6 quarts water in a large pot

When the water comes to a bowl, add:

1 teaspoon sea salt

9 ounces of noodles (I used brown rice pad Thai noodles)

Cook for only 3 minutes until el dente (or the amount of time on the package of your noodles). Drain and add to the bowl with the green scallion slices. Mix to combine. In a 12″ non-stick skillet, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add the noodle/scallion mixture and spread out in the pan. Use a strong spatula (or I used a bacon flattener) to flatten the noodle mixture in the pan (see photo below). Cook 5-7 minutes until browned and then using a large spatula, flip and brown again on the second side 5-7 minutes. Remove to an oven proof plate and stick in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.

Now, in a small bowl mix together:

2 tablespoons olive oil

the minced garlic

the grated ginger

In another small bowl make the sauce by combining:

1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce substitute

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1/2 tablespoon date syrup

1/4 teaspoon chili sauce or red pepper flakes (or hot sauce!)

1 teaspoon cornstarch (or arrowroot)

Stir to combine. Set aside until needed. Pour into the empty skillet and heat:

2 teaspoons olive oil

Add:

sliced chicken (and marinade)

Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly and turning frequently until the meat is cooked, about 2 minutes. Remove to a dish and set aside. Into the same skillet heat over medium heat:

the olive oil mixture with the garlic and ginger

When hot, add:

the bok choy stems

red pepper slices

scallion whites

Cook over medium high heat stirring frequently until they just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add:

the bok choy greens

Cook just until the greens begin to wilt, add the cooked chicken along with any juice in the dish. Whisk the sauce mixture to be sure it’s still combined and pour over the chicken in the skillet. Stir continuously until the sauce thickens about 30 seconds and the chicken is reheated. Remove the noodle cake from the oven and cut into wedges. Serves 2.

*I had a lot of difficulty finding a chili sauce that didn’t contain either sugar or soy. I finally located one (at the 4th store I checked!) – Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam Chili Garlic Sauce. It’s VERY hot so the amount used should be to the level of your taste buds. I don’t mind spicy but super hot is not to my liking therefore the recipe calls for just 1/4 teaspoon.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Salad

I often buy a rotisserie chicken, it’s a quick and easy meal. I’m careful of course, all rotisserie chickens are not equal. I read the ingredients until I found one that had no soy, canola, or corn oil. But since I live alone, this chicken always has lots of meat left over. I do so love chicken salad but even that can get boring when always made the same. I’ve added curry powder and made curried chicken salad which is delicious but I recently tried using a sweet and sour dressing, much like one used for coleslaw. Delicious, very easy and tasty at the end of summer when we’re getting tired of the same old salads.

I like to pulse my cooked chicken in my food processor to produce a slightly chunky chicken. Don’t take it to the extent of puree, just a fairly rough chop, almost like cooked ground chicken meat. For 4 servings, dice or pulse:

2 cooked chicken breasts, of medium size

Remove from food processor or cutting board into a bowl. Dice or pulse:

4-5 stalks celery, cleaned and quartered

4-5 scallions, cleaned and quartered

1/2 cup shredded carrots (or diced carrots)

Add to the chicken meat. I also add:

1/2 cup cooked baby peas

Mix these ingredients together. In a separate smaller bowl make the dressing using:

1 cup vegan mayonnaise

1 good dash hot sauce (optional)

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons honey, agave nectar or date syrup

2 tablespoons dill pickle relish (or minced dill pickle)

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the dressing to combine and then add to the meat mixture. Mix well, chill and serve over a bed of mixed greens. Tomatoes and avocado on the side are a nice addition to this meal. I’ll often also garnish my chicken salad with pumpkin seeds or mix into the salad sesame or poppy seeds.

White Fish with Lemon Garlic Sauce on Sautéed Bok Choy

Any white fish will work with this recipe – cod, flounder, sole, swordfish or even sea bass (my very favorite fish!). The most difficult part of the whole recipe is roasting the garlic and that’s really very easy in the oven. If you’re not familiar with the process, here are the instructions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel most of the paper off the outside of the head of garlic being careful to leave the head intact. If a faster process is desired, the cloves can be separated and baked individually, it takes about half the baking time of doing a whole head. With kitchen scissors, trim about 1/4 inch off the top of the head, or each individual clove. Drizzle with 1 or 2 teaspoons olive oil per head. Wrap in parchment paper and bake for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the heads (or 15-20 if doing individual cloves). Cool then press the bottom of each clove to squeeze out the garlic. Stores in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months. Be sure to open windows or turn on the stove vent because the kitchen, and whole house if you have a small house, will be filled with the aroma of roasted garlic.

For each pound of fish, preheat oven to 350 degrees, prepare a baking dish large enough to accommodate the fish without crowding. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or coat with olive oil. Dry the fish with paper towels, salt and pepper to taste and arrange in the dish. Bake, depending on thickness, 15-35 minutes, until fish is flaky but still moist. Fish turns quite white in color when it’s cooked.

Want to make it vegan? Use firm tofu in place of the fish but fry it in a skillet instead of baking.

Make the lemon garlic sauce. In a small bowl, mix together:

1/2 teaspoon mashed roasted garlic (about 1 clove)

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise*

salt and pepper to taste

Set aside and prepare the bok choy. In a large 12″ skillet, heat over medium:

1 teaspoon olive oil, then add:

1 small onion diced

6-8 baby bok choy, cleaned and cut in half or quarters

1 teaspoon minced garlic (or some of the roasted garlic)

Cook, stirring for the first few minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and cook 5-7 minutes until the onion and bok choy are softened.

Place the sautéed bok choy in the bottom of a serving dish, add a serving of the fish. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of sauce over each fish, garnish with scallions, chives or dill (chopped). Serves 4.

*Don’t have any vegan mayonnaise? See my recipe under sauces for egg-free mayonnaise.

String Beans and Mushrooms with Garlic Sauce

Far easier to make than eggplant with garlic sauce, string beans with garlic sauce is a much more commonly found Chinese dish. It’s just as tasty, sweet and tangy but since the string beans are not deep fried, don’t need to be salted and let sit to lose their bitterness, or dredged in corn starch, the dish is so easy to construct, taking just minutes. Pre-steaming the beans or using frozen ones makes it even quicker to prepare. Many vegetables lend themselves to this process – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

First prepare the beans by steaming or thawing them – any color string beans works equally well:

1 pound fresh or frozen string beans (I used yellow [or wax as my father always called them])

Remove the stems and steam for approximately 3-5 minutes until starting to tenderize but still have a bite, like al dente pasta. In a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When the oil is shimmering hot, add:

6 ounces mushrooms

Sauté the mushrooms until lightly browned and tender. Add the string beans and remove from heat. In a small saucepan (2 cup size), heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 small shallot, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 small can mild green chilis

Cook until the shallot softens before adding:

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup soy sauce substitute

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon date syrup

Stir to combine. Make a slurry of:

2 teaspoons corn starch or arrowroot

1 tablespoon water

Add to the sauce and stir until the sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 5-7 minutes. Add to the string beans and mushrooms and reheat the vegetables over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with scallion greens and serve.*

*I actually only used half the garlic sauce so put the other half into a 1 cup jelly jar and stuck it in the freezer for the next time I need it.

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.

Oriental Pork and Vegetables

I’d intended to make pork with eggplant but . . . I used all the eggplant in the eggplant with garlic sauce yesterday! So instead here’s pork and vegetables. As in many of my recipes, feel free to substitute the vegetables for whatever ones your family prefers, eggplant would be great. Makes 4 generous servings.

Ingredients for sauce:

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced (or grated) fresh ginger (adjust to your family’s taste)

1 small can diced chilis (I used mild but whatever heat level your family enjoys is fine)

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot) dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

Ingredients for the pork and vegetables:

2 tablespoons olive oil

16 ounces pork, diced

2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

2-3 baby bok choy, cleaned and chopped

1 medium onion sliced thinly

1/2 grated carrots (or 2 large carrots cut on the bias)

1 medium yellow pepper, seeded and cubed

1 small can sliced water chestnuts

First, put the pork cubes into a gallon food storage bag with the 2 tablespoons of corn or tapioca starch. Shake to coat the cubes, making sure all the pork gets some starch, and set aside for 15-20 minutes (I’ve left it overnight and it worked fine).

In a large skillet, heat over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot, add the pork cubes and fry, turning frequently to brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove cubes from the pan and set aside covered (they will continue cooking). Add the vegetables to the pan and cook over medium heat until they start to soften but still have some crunch, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the pork.

In a small saucepan or skillet, heat the 1/2 tablespoon oil then add the garlic, ginger, chilis (drained) over medium heat. After about 1-2 minutes, add the soy sauce substitute, fish sauce and sesame oil. Cook until it comes to a boil, about 1 minute and then add the slurry of corn/tapioca starch and water. Stir to combine and continue stirring until thickened, should be almost immediately. Remove from heat and pour over the vegetables and pork. Stir to combine and plate, garnishing with sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with brown rice (or white rice if preferred).

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

I know, another eggplant recipe! I can’t help myself, it’s so good right now. My local grocery has such fresh ones on hand, I just have to buy them. This recipe traditionally should be made with Japanese eggplants but they are hard to find. I used to get them at the farmers’ market when I lived in Massachusetts, haven’t found them here in Minneapolis as yet. So I used the common oval eggplants. Look for ones that are narrower, they’ll have fewer seeds and be a little less bitter. Also make sure when purchasing eggplants, that the stems are still green and the eggplant is firm to the touch. And always buy the ones with the inward flower end rather than ones with an outward end, they will also be less bitter.

Because this recipe was made using 2 oval eggplants rather than the Japanese, the proportions will be different if you happen to find the long, skinny kind. So double the eggplants needed if you strike it lucky and are able to use the Japanese. They also won’t need to be peeled!

First, peel and cut into bite size pieces:

2 oval eggplants, medium sized (about 6 cups of meat altogether before salting)

Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with:

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sea salt

Mix thoroughly and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer is better. After they have sat, rinse thoroughly with water to remove the salt and then dry as thoroughly as possible with paper towels (or a clean kitchen towel). It’s not possible to remove all the water from eggplant since the meat acts like a sponge with any moisture. When dry, toss with:

1 tablespoon corn starch (or tapioca starch)

Mix thoroughly and then repeat with a second tablespoon of starch.

Heat in a large skillet (or griddle if you have one):

1/4 cup olive oil

When shimmering add the eggplant and cook on medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes until browned then turn to brown the other side, cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove pieces as they are browned and set aside. When all the pieces are well browned, and crunchy, and the skillet is empty, make the sauce.

In a medium skillet heat over medium:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped white scallions (slice the greens for garnish)

1 teaspoon minced green chilis

Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add:

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1/4 cup water

Stir to distribute and let cook for a minute or two while making a slurry with:

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot)

Add slurry to the skillet, stirring constantly until sauce is thick. Stir in the eggplant chunks. Remove to a serving plate and garnish with the greens from the scallions and some white sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: Add some diced chicken, beef, pork, tofu, etc., to make this a complete meal.