Tater Tots

I know, I know, another fried recipe! I try not to fry too many things because it’s not the healthiest way of cooking but some things, like potatoes, just love being fried. And they taste soooooooo good! I found a recipe for “Grown Up Tater Tots” in my aquafaba cookbook* and thought I’d give them a try. Of course, I had to make it my own, for some reason all my life, I’ve never been able to follow a recipe exactly, always changing something about it to make it my own and this one is no exception. The recipe, depending on the size of the potato you use and the size of your “tots” will make 10-12 pieces.

You’ll need:

1 large baking potato

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon vegan margarine

2-3 tablespoons potato STARCH

1/4 cup aquafaba

1/2 to 2/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4-1/3 cup non-dairy parmesan shreds (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

Olive Oil, about 2 cups to fill a skillet 1/2″

First, naturally, peel and dice the potato. Boil until soft (be sure to always start boiling potatoes in cold water so that they cook evenly and only put in enough water to cover them with about 1/4″ to spare). Add a little salt to the water as well. This should take only about 10-15 minutes; be sure to reduce the heat once they come to a boil to medium. Drain and be sure there’s no water left in them.

Mash the potato (I used my immersion blender) but a ricer or masher will work as long as there are no lumps in the potato. It needs to be very smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used my herbamare instead of salt), the vegan margarine, cheese, and the potato starch. Stir to combine. The final mixture should hold together in a ball but it might be a little gummy. If it’s too gummy or soft, add another tablespoon of potato starch.

Place the aquafaba in a shallow bowl and the bread crumbs, seasoned with some salt, pepper, garlic powder and the paprika in another bowl.

With wet hands, using about 1-2 tablespoons of the potato mixture, roll into logs, repeat until all the mixture is rolled. Then roll each log in the aquafaba being sure to moisten all sides. Roll in the seasoned bread crumbs. I suggest you do each one in both processes before doing another log. Wet your hands frequently (I actually wet them between each log, washing off the breadcrumbs).

Heat the olive oil to about 375 degrees. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, the oil will shimmer when it is close to the right temperature. If you heated it on high, be sure to reduce it to medium high before adding the tater tots. Cook each tot for approximately 3-5 minutes per side or until golden brown. If the tots are getting too dark too quickly, your oil is too hot and will cause the tots to burst.

Remove them from the oil when browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes, onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve as a side dish or use as a topping for a casserole.

TIP: To make them more flavorful, add some finely diced green onion or chives; bacon bits; or a small piece of non-dairy cheese in the middle of the log – or even all three! If you’re a fan of parsley, some dried parsley would also work well in these tots.

*Rebecca Coleman, Aquafabulous; 100+ Egg-free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba (Toronto, Canada: Robert Rose, 2017)

Stuffed Tomatoes

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a couple of days. The other main activity in my life is learning the craft of screenwriting and I’ve been at a virtual screenwriting summit all weekend. Just ending today so I have a little time to put up an old recipe of mine that I learned from a friend who was a caterer. Very easy to do and can be used as an appetizer or an entrée. Stuffed tomatoes can be stuffed with any kind of salad you like, egg, chicken, ham, etc. Tip from my caterer friend, use your food processor to process the meat into a well grated product so that it’s easier to stuff into the tomato, especially if you’re using very small tomatoes. It can also be put into a piping bag to fill the tomatoes. Use any size of tomato you like. I prefer to use Campari tomatoes, large for smaller tomatoes and large enough for 2 bites, a good size for an appetizer. If I’m making this as an entrée, a larger tomato is of course needed, like a Big Boy.

If you want the tomatoes to sit neatly on the plate, you can cut a very small amount from the bottom. Just be careful not to cut through the meat of the tomato.

Begin by making the salad. Put into the bowl of a food processor:

1 pound of ham, 1 large chicken breast, 8-10 hard boiled eggs, etc., cut into large chunks

1 large celery stalk, cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons dill relish (this is a sugar free relish; for a sweeter salad, add a little sweetener rather than use a sweet relish which contains sugar)

1-2 scallions, cut into large pieces

Blend until the meat is in small pieces. Add:

1/2 to 2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise

Blend until well mixed, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before finishing processing. Remove the completed salad to either a piping bag or a medium bowl.

For the tomatoes:

16-20 Campari tomatoes

36-48 grape tomatoes

or 2-4 large tomatoes

Begin by washing the tomatoes.* Then cut off the very top of the stem end of the tomatoes. Then, using a small sharp knife, cut around the inside of the tomato next to the meat and use a sharp ended spoon to scoop out the seeds and veins of the tomato.

Set the tomatoes on a paper towel, upside down so that some of the moisture drains out. Leave for about 5 minutes before filling. Place on a plate, garnish with scallions, chives, or thin slices of dill pickle.

*I hope all my followers know that you should NEVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator! Take this from a girl who grew up on a farm. Refrigerating them steals their flavor and also toughens the skins. Also when buying tomatoes, smell them. If they don’t smell like a tomato, they won’t taste like a tomato. Same with most fruit that has a distinct odor like strawberries.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Salad

Every once in a great while I buy a rotisserie chicken at the store because, like everyone, I just don’t feel like cooking. I bought one several days ago and like so often happens, found I couldn’t eat all of it before it would spoil. In those cases, I usually dice up the chicken breasts and freeze them for later use. It’s amazing, I don’t understand why, but when cooked chicken is frozen, it makes such a better chicken salad than fresh chicken. Perhaps because it’s really cold? Anyway, try putting the diced chicken in the freezer for about an hour before making the salad and let me know if you agree with me that it has a better taste.

For the salad:

2 rotisserie chicken breasts diced

3-4 celery stalks, diced

2 tablespoons dill relish (or up to 1/4 cup depending on taste)

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, or diced jicama, or diced water chestnuts (just looking for more crunch)

1 avocado, diced

For the dressing:

1/2 to 3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (depending on how much chicken there is)

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon herbamare (herbed salt)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black (or white) pepper

2 tablespoons honey (or agave or coconut nectar, or date syrup)

Mix all the ingredients and serve with lettuce. Garnish, if you have some, which I didn’t, with chives or scallions. Also, it’s delicious with sliced fresh strawberries or tomatoes. Makes 4 servings.

Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Oatmeal Cookies

My husband’s favorite cookie was oatmeal. After looking though dozens of oatmeal cookie recipes, this one came out first in the ones I thought sounded really delicious and easily converted to allergen free. With a food processor, it was very easy to put together and turned out delicious! As with many cookie recipes that are allergen free, these should be flattened before baking and bake a little longer than most cookies.

In a small pot, bring to a boil:

12 ounces of dates with sufficient water to cover them

Once they come to the boil, remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, put into a food processor:

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds

Blend until the seeds are well ground but not turning into butter, larger chunks are okay. In a medium bowl, blend:

2 cups quick cooking organic gluten-free oatmeal

the ground seeds

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Place the cooled dates into the food processor along with:

2 cups cooked pumpkin or sweet potato or a 15 ounce can of pumpkin or sweet potato puree

1/2 cup of the date boiling liquid (or if a fruity flavor is desired, 1/2 cup of any fruit juice)

Blend until smooth. Add the date/pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and blend until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Let the dough sit for 15-20 minutes so that the oats and chia seeds can absorb some of the moisture in the dough. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2-3 medium cookie sheets with parchment paper.

When the dough is ready, scoop by tablespoon onto the baking sheets and flatten the cookies with the back of a wet spoon. Depending on how it’s measured, the dough should make 2 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.* Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes depending on size and thickness or until the outside of the cookie is golden brown. I found getting the cookies as thin as possible leads to a cookie that is browned and crispy around the outside and chewy on the inside. Cool on baking sheets and then store in air tight container.

*I actually used about 2 tablespoons per cookie and the dough made 29 cookies.

Carob Orange Tapioca Pudding

Used to love vanilla tapioca pudding as a child. Hadn’t thought of it in years. You know the kind, with the nutmeg on top, all creamy with the little balls of tapioca. There was a restaurant in Derry, New Hampshire, when my husband and I lived there that still served it. Don’t know if they’ve survived the pandemic. So anyway, I wondered about other possible flavors for tapioca pudding and happened upon a recipe for orange and changed it up a bit, obviously replacing the whole milk and white sugar. Pretty easy to make, but not something you can walk away from!

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil:

1 cup water

Stir in:

1/4 cup small tapioca pearls

Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the water is gone and the tapioca pearls are swollen and translucent. Add to the pot:

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons unsweetened carob chips

the tapioca pearls just cooked

Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens (it will still be fairly loose), about 3-5 minutes. Stir in:

juice and zest from 1 orange

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Let cool slightly before spooning into individual serving bowls or glasses. Cover and chill. Makes four servings. It can be eaten warm but is much better after it’s sits overnight and firms up.

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.

Curried Trout

I try to eat more fish but somehow it doesn’t always seem to happen. I found some fresh trout at the store yesterday and wondered about different ways to cook it. This is the one I found; of course, those of you who’ve been following me for awhile know my addiction to curry! I wondered since I’d never thought about curry and fish prior to finding a recipe but decided to give it a try. And it is delicious! Adds a spicy flavor to the fish which is quite tasty and baked in the oven keeps it nice and moist. I used trout but I’m pretty sure any milder fish will work. I also bought some flounder that I put in the freezer, maybe I’ll try currying it next week. Very easy and cooks in about a half hour depending on the thickness of your fillet.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking dish large enough to hold the fish.

Dry with a paper towel:

2-4 fish fillets (1 – 2 pounds of fish)

Place in the baking dish, skin side down. Whisk in a small bowl:

1 1/2 – 3 tablespoons vegan margarine (butter if you can have it) or avocado oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

If cooking 2 fillets, use the smaller amount, 4 fillets use the larger. If margarine (or butter) is used, spread evenly on the fillets. If oil is used, pour evenly across the fillets. Bake 15-20 minutes for thinner fillets and 30-35 minutes for thicker ones. Serve on a bed of rice or lentil pilaf with a tossed salad.

I cooked my fillets for 30 minutes.

Curried Popcorn

If you’ve only ever had microwave popcorn, you really don’t know how good popcorn can be. It’s very easy to make on the stovetop once you know the rules:

  1. Start your pan (a deep-sided pan with a lid, preferable glass so you can see the popcorn) on high heat
  2. Add oil and let it come to a shimmer
  3. Add popcorn and seasonings, like curry
  4. Cover with lid if clear, if not leave uncovered
  5. When you see the popcorn start to sizzle, turn the heat down to medium low and cover
  6. Shake the pan occasionally and leave the cover at an angle so the steam can escape
  7. When there’s 3-4 seconds between pops, turn off the heat but don’t move the pan from the burner
  8. Let it sit for several minutes
  9. Remove the lid, add salt and put it in a bowl

It’s really that simple. In my 12″ high-sided skillet, I use:

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/3-1/2 cup popcorn

1 teaspoon curry powder

To keep the curry powder from burning too much, add the popcorn before the curry. If you’ll be buttering your popcorn after it’s popped (not a good idea because liquid really makes popcorn soggy), don’t use as much oil in the beginning. I use avocado because of it takes a high heat before smoking and has a mild flavor but any oil will work.

Raspberry Chicken

I do love raspberries but it never occurred to me to use them in savory dishes. This one takes some time to make the sauce but it’s so succulent and rich, the time is worth it. The sauce can be made ahead and frozen. In fact, with the chicken I used, I had an extra 2 cups of sauce when I was finished so I put it in the freezer for another time. The recipe may not be a fast one to complete, but it is fairly easy to make. And very easy to enjoy! I used a little vinegar and honey but if you can have white wine, feel free to substitute one cup of white wine for the vinegar and honey. Makes 4-6 servings.

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil:

32 ounces of chicken stock

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Boil for about 15-20 minutes until the stock is reduced by half. Add:

1 cup cranberry juice

3 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen)

2 tablespoons seasoned vinegar (this is a vinegar which has a small amount of sugar and seasonings added)

2 tablespoons honey

Boil until reduced by half, about 30-45 minutes. Strain the sauce to remove most of the raspberry seeds. Return to saucepan and return to heat, low heat. Make a slurry with:

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons cornstarch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot

Add the slurry to the sauce, increasing the heat to medium, and stir until the sauce thickens, about 2 or 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, simmer. While the sauce is reducing, cut into chunks:

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts

In a ziplock gallon storage bag combine:

1/2 cup all purpose gluten free flour

1/4 cup tapioca or casaba flour

1/2 teaspoon herbamare (or sea salt)

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

When the sauce is ready, add the chicken to the mixed flour and shake to coat all the chicken chunks. Heat in a large skillet:

1/2 cup olive oil

When the oil is hot (shimmering in the pan), add the chicken chunks individually, shaking off any excess flour, and cook, turning once, for 2-5 minutes depending on the size of the chunks or until cooked. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the oil and add to the sauce.

Serve over brown rice or mashed potatoes. Garnish with fresh raspberries and scallions.

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.