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.

Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Another recipe adapted from my chicken bible. If you don’t like green food, this isn’t the recipe for you! LOL! Either boneless skinless breasts or thighs can be used, just be sure to trim off any fat. It’s a fairly quick and quite simple recipe and if you like cilantro and limes, you should really enjoy this recipe. I don’t like cilantro so I used flat leaf parsley which also worked.

Put a 12″ skillet on medium heat and when hot add:

1/3 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

Roast in the dry pan until aromatic, about 7-10 minutes, being sure not to burn the seeds. Remove to a bowl and add to the skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

Cook over medium high heat until onion softens, about 3-5 minutes. Add:

6-8 small tomatillos, peeled, washed and chopped

3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (leaves removed from the stems) or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 can mild to medium jalapeno chilis, drained and diced (4-6 ounces)

1 1/2 cup chicken stock

And most of the seeds, reserving about 1 tablespoon for garnish. Cover and cook over medium heat until the tomatillos have softened, about 10 minutes. Add:

4 small chicken breasts or 6 thighs, boneless and skinless, fat trimmed

Salt and pepper the chicken before adding. Push the chicken into the sauce so the pieces cook evenly. Flip them over midway through cooking. Cook the chicken in the sauce for 15-20 minutes depending on size of the chicken pieces (to 160 degrees). When cooked, remove to a plate, cover and let sit while the sauce is finished.

In a blender, combine:

1 cup cilantro (or parsley)

juice from 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon date syrup (or date sugar)

Sauce from the skillet

I ladled the sauce into the blender until most of it was in before pouring the remainder from the skillet. This will be HOT so be sure to cover the blender lid with a towel before blending. Blend until almost smooth, about 1 minute.

Arrange chicken on platter and ladle sauce over, garnish with the reserved seeds. Serve with rice and remaining sauce.

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.

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.

Zoodle Salad

I do love zucchini noodles. I remember when I first discovered Whole Foods in western Massachusetts, they had grated zucchini on their salad bar and I used to love adding it to a salad. Like many recipes I blog, this one is totally adjustable for your family’s taste. Here’s the vegetables I used.

In a medium size bowl, combine:

3 cups zucchini noodles

1 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup green onion slices

2 tablespoons sliced jalapeno peppers (seeds removed)

In a small bowl mix the dressing:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy substitute (see recipe under sauces)

2 tablespoons date sugar (or syrup)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Whisk together until smooth. Pour over the vegetables and mix well. Chill before serving. Makes 6 servings.

TIP: To make this a main dish, add 1 cup of diced cooked chicken or sautéed tofu (or tempeh).

TIP: Jicama or water chestnuts would add some crunch to this salad or even some diced cucumber.

Savory or Sweet Seed Crackers (dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free)

Sometimes the best comfort food is something small, quick and within reach.  These seed crackers fit that need for me since I can’t have anything pre-made like store-bought cookies or crackers.  The savory crackers go well with hummus, guacamole, or other dips and even with some non-dairy cheeses.  The sweet ones are tasty by themselves or with some hemp cream.  And with both of them, you can vary the herbs and seasonings to fit your taste.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the savory or sweet crackers, put in your food processor:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup water

Process until blended and the rice is broken down, adding small amounts of water as needed.  The amount of water used will depend on the moisture in your rice and quinoa. The mixture should have a dough consistency.  Remove half from the processor and form into a ball.  Make a hollow in them middle and add herbs such as:

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dry parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Need herbs into the dough.  Place dough on a piece of greased parchment the size of your baking tray (preferably one without sides so you can slide the rolled out dough onto the sheet easily, before and after baking.  Place a second greased parchment sheet on top and using a rolling pin or heavy can, roll out dough until very thin.  The thinner you can make it, the crispier the crackers after baking.  Place on baking sheet, remove top layer of parchment and bake 20-25 minutes.  Remove from over, flip over (this is always difficult for me and I usually end up with some of the dough underneath so I have to pull it open again but if you’ve cooked it long enough, this is easily accomplished), and cut into cracker sized squares.  Put back into the oven for another 20-30 minutes until crackers are crispy and browned on the edges.  If you have some that are thinner than others (usually the middle of my crackers are slightly thicker), remove the thinner ones and continue cooking the thicker ones until they are dry and crispy.

For the sweet crackers, you should have left half the dough in the food processor.  Return the bowl to the processor and add:

  • 2 tablespoons carob or cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon monk fruit powder
  • 2 tablespoons hemp hulls

Process until well mixed; you shouldn’t need to add more water but if you do, add it by tablespoons being careful not to get mixture too wet.  Remove from processor, and follow rolling and baking directions above.