Vietnamese Pork Chops

This combines ingredients from several recipes I found online. Pork and chicken, along with some fish, are the only meats I eat so I’m always searching for new ways to cook them as well as vegan alternatives. This is quite an easy recipe that turns out succulent with a pleasant sour flavor from the lime squeezed on top when the chops are cooked. I’ll give you some optional ingredients along with the ones I used if a more complex flavor profile is desired and soy is an option.

In a square or rectangular dish, whisk together the marinade:

1 small shallot, minced

3 tablespoons honey or 1/4 cup date sugar

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup Hoisin, soy or oyster sauce (optional)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 stalks lemon grass (smashed and chopped fine)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Trim the fat, puncture each chop with a fork in multiple places on both sides so the marinade soaks in, and then add to the marinade:

4 – 1″ thick pork chops

Turn the pork chops so they are fully covered in the marinade. Let sit at least 20-30 minutes (or up to 1 day in the refrigerator). When ready to cook, heat a 12″ skillet over medium high:

1 tablespoon olive oil

until shimmering. Wipe the marinade off the chops and add to the oil. Sear on each side (approximately 1 minute per side) and then reduce heat to medium and sauté until the chops are firm to the touch, about 3-4 minutes per side. Watch closely so they don’t burn on either side. Remove from heat and let rest for 6-8 minutes before serving. Serve with a wedge of lime. Serves 4.

Carob Zucchini Cake

So much zucchini, what to do with it all! Not a bad dilemma to have. Here’s a way to use some.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 9×13″ baking dish or line it with parchment paper with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. In a large (and I mean large!) bowl, mix together:

2 cups date sugar

2 1/2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 cup carob powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

Add and mix well:

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (1 smallish medium sized unpeeled)

In a smaller bowl, using an electric mixer, beat:

6 tablespoons aquafaba

Until double in volume, then add:

1/4 cup date sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat on highest speed until stiff peaks form – the mixture shouldn’t move when you move the bowl on its side.

In another small bowl combine:

1/2 cup unsweetened fruit sauce: pear, apple, peach, plum etc.

1 cup avocado oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup oat milk

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Whisk to combine thoroughly. Make a hollow in the middle of the dry zucchini mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly making sure all the dry mixture is combined. Add the whipped aquafaba and carefully fold it into the rest of the batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake approximately 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

This is a very dense, moist (if not overbaked) rich cake so once cooled, cut into small squares. Freezes well. If more decadence is wanted, top with carob ganache and serve with non-dairy whip or vanilla frozen dessert of choice. I served mine with some plum coolee.

TIP: It would be more like zucchini brownies if baked in a roll cake pan (this is a large “cookie” sheet like pan except it has higher sides). Baking time should reflect size of pan so the larger and shallower the mixture, the less baking time needed.

Ginger Chicken with Bok Choy

Here’s another revamped recipe from the chicken bible; if you like Chinese food as much as I do, you’ll love this one. Tangy, slightly sweet sauce, succulent chicken, and just tender bok choy add up to a savory recipe for the entire family. And I thought it was as good as anything I might order at a restaurant. Follow the steps, get the chicken and bok choy chopped, fresh ginger grated before starting and it’s a quick, easy dish to make. I sliced the chicken and put it in the marinade before chopping and grating first so it could sit and tenderize while I did everything else. FYI, want to make it vegan, use firm tofu slices instead of chicken. This dish would also be good with pork, some mushroom, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, etc. The sauce would be great with any number of vegetable/meat mixtures. Serves 4.

First mix the marinade for the chicken in a medium size bowl (at least 4 cups):

3 tablespoons soy sauce substitute*

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon date syrup

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Whisk together and set aside. Cut up:

2 large or 4 small chicken breasts (around 1 pound of chicken)

Slice as thinly as possible. TIP: Freeze the breasts for 15 minutes before cutting to make them easier to slice. Mix the sliced chicken into the marinade and let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients.

In a small dish, combine:

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon olive oil

Mix the ginger mixture well and set aside. In another bowl (at least 1 cup), combine for the sauce:

1/4 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon date syrup

3 tablespoon soy sauce substitute

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes *(Optional)*

Whisk the sauce together and set aside.

Wash and prepare:

1 pound bok coy

Cut off root bottom and thoroughly wash stems and leaves. Remove as much of the green as possible while leaving the tougher white stems and branches. Slice the stems into 1/2″ pieces and set aside. Chop the greens roughly and set aside in a separate bowl. (The greens cook very quickly and will be added separately from the stems.)

Now we cook; and this is the quickest part of this recipe, only about 10 minutes until the dish is ready to serve so if cooking rice to go with the dish, put it on before you start preparing the ingredients. First, in a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When the oil is shimmering hot, add:

1/2 the chicken slices

Add the chicken pieces but not the marinade (there’s won’t be much of the marinade left in the bowl anyway). Stir the chicken constantly as it cooks through. This should only take about a minute depending on how thinly it was sliced. If the slices are more than about 1/8″, it may take a little longer. Remove to a separate dish and cover. Repeat the process with the remainder of the chicken.

Into the now empty skillet, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When shimmering hot, add:

Bok choy stem slices

I jar, drained, banana pepper slices

Cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until bok choy is softened slightly and starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Push vegetables to the edges of the skillet and add:

the ginger/garlic mixture

Stir for roughly 30 seconds in the bottom of the pan until fragrant. Add:

bok choy greens

Stir to combine the bok choy, greens, and ginger mixture and cook approximately 30 seconds until the greens are slightly wilted. Add the chicken back into the pan along with any juices and then add:

the sauce mixture

With the heat at medium high, stir constantly until the sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or scallion greens. Serve.

*If like me you are not only allergic to soy but also can’t use coconut, Whole Foods has started carrying a line of soy and coconut free sauces made by Ocean’s Halo. They have many of the same ingredients as my soy sauce substitute but also include cane sugar.

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.

“Ratatouille” Gratin

All of us love ratatouille, one of our favorite summer side dishes, especially for my grandson. So when I saw a recipe for a summer vegetable gratin it occurred to me that if I added some eggplant to it, it would be a ratatouille in a casserole with a nice crunchy top. Sounded delicious and indeed, it turned out succulent and indeed the top was very crunchy. The most important thing is to cut the vegetables all about the same so they cook at the same rate. It does take time since getting the water out of the squash and tomatoes, and the bitter out of the eggplant takes about a half hour of sitting but that time can be used to make really delicious caramelized onions. But it’s very easy to make. While I used yellow and zucchini squash, one or the other will work.

First thing is to cut up the vegetables:

1 pound zucchini squash, smallish, about 2

1 pound yellow summer squash, smallish again about 2

1 medium eggplant, peeled (about 6″ long)

6 medium size, ripe tomatoes

Wash and slice the squash, eggplant and tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick. Place the vegetables on baking trays covered with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and let sit for at least 1/2 hour. Wash off the salt (except from the tomatoes) and dry thoroughly between paper towels to get the squash and eggplant as dry as possible.

While the vegetables are sitting, cut:

3 large or 4 medium size onion

Peel and then cut them in half and slice each half into thin slices. Should have about 4 cups of onions. Heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add the sliced onions and cook for a minute over medium high heat before reducing to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring every few minutes so that they don’t stick to the bottom of the skillet, for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. The heat may need to be reduced if they begin sticking. I wasn’t patient enough and mine didn’t get as brown as they should have but still tasted delicious.

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Spread in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Begin by layering the squash.

Now layer the eggplant on top of the squash. Next, mix together:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (pull the leaves off the tough stems)

1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper (or to taste)

Sprinkle half the mixture over the eggplant and then turn the eggplant over so that the mixture also gets to the squash. Now layer the onions on top of the eggplant and then the tomatoes on the onions.

Sprinkle the remaining mixture (garlic oil) over the top of the tomatoes and again, turn over the tomatoes so the oil can mix with the casserole. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes look a little brown. Remove from the oven and spread on top:

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs, plain

1 cup dairy-free parmesan cheese, grated (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (again, pull the small leaves off the tough stems)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper)

Return to the oven and bake about 15 minutes more or until the topping has browned.

Sprinkle with:

1/4 cup roughly chopped basil

Feel free to half the recipe. The 9×13″ size will easily serve 8-10.

Carob Chip Zucchini Bars

Grate the zucchini and put in a colander for about an hour before starting these bars to get out some of the liquid out of it or the bars will be too wet and get gummy. I weighted the grated zucchini down with a plate and a large can of tomatoes. Then blot between some paper towels. Makes 16 bars.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice (or 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)

In another medium sized bowl combine:

3/4 cup pear sauce (or apple sauce) unsweetened

3/4 cup maple syrup (or 1/2 cup agave or coconut nectar)

1/3 cup avocado oil (or other light oil)

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini (2 small zucchini)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well with a large spoon. Stir in:

3/4 cup carob chips (or chocolate chips)

1/2 cup hemp hulls (or chopped walnuts if nuts are possible)

Pour or spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading as evenly as possible so that the batter cooks evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pan. Cool completely before cutting.

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.

Moo Goo Guy Pan

We’re continuing the Chinese revisionist recipes. One of my mother’s and my favorite Chinese dishes is Moo Goo Guy Pan – a mixture of chicken and vegetables in a light sauce. Usually made bok choy, water chestnuts and mushrooms along with snow peas, this dish is a satisfying meal that covers all the nutritional bases. Other than cutting up all the vegetables and chicken, it goes together quite easily. I actually cut up everything the night before I wanted to make this, storing the vegetables in a container in the refrigerator and the chicken in a gallon food storage bag with the corn (or tapioca) starch. It was then very simple to prepare the next day.

Vegetables (feel free to substitute other vegetables your family likes, asparagus would work nicely):

1/2 medium onion, sliced

6 ounces sliced mushrooms, any variety will work

4-6 ounces snow peas with the strings removed

4-5 baby or 1 large bok choy

8 ounces sliced water chestnuts (the canned kind works fine)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in either a 12 inch high sided skillet or a wok over medium high heat. Add the prepared vegetables and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes until slightly softened. Remove them from the heat and set aside in a separate bowl.

Chicken:

2 medium sized chicken breasts thinly sliced (works best if the breasts are partially frozen)

2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

Toss the chicken slices in the starch and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil, over medium heat, in the same skillet and add the sliced chicken. Brown on one side for 2-3 minutes and then flip and brown on the other sides. If they stick, you’re turning them too soon. And don’t worry, making the sauce in the pan will release those brown sticky pieces from the bottom of the pan. Total, this should only take about 5 minutes if you’ve sliced them thin enough.

While the chicken cooks, prepare the sauce:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 to 1 tablespoon sesame oil (depending on your taste, this is a very strong flavor)

1-2 tablespoons fish sauce (again depending on your taste, very salty flavor)

1 1/2 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Whisk to combine before adding to the cooked chicken in the skillet. Stir constantly until sauce thickens, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the reserved vegetables. Cover and let sit for 2-3 minutes which will reheat the vegetables. Serve with slivered scallion greens and rice. Makes 4 servings.

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).