Easy and Quick Sweet Potato Cookies

If you love sweet potatoes like I do (and my daughter-in-law does), then you’ll really enjoy these cookies. They are very moist, cakey, and the addition of maple syrup and some autumn spices, enhance the richness of these cookies. If your nut or seed butter is fairly runny, these can easily be blended with a spoon. If like my pumpkin seed butter, its thicker, you may want to use a hand mixer. Makes 12-15 depending on size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, blend:

1 cup sweet potato puree

1/2 cup pumpkin seed (or other nut or seed) butter

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

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon allspice (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

Mix until combined and smooth. Drop by tablespoon on to baking sheet. These should be fairly flat so smooth with the top of the spoon. Drop at least 2 inches apart since they will spread slightly. Bake until firm to the touch, around 12-15 minutes depending on size. Cool on baking sheet.

TIP: A few weeks ago, I blogged a recipe for pumpkin chai snickerdoodles. I sprinkled some of the spice mixture from that recipe on top of these cookies and they were delicious! However, the cookies are so moist that I recommend if you do that you want to eat them the same day. The chai mixture is what turned the tops of my cookies dark.

Paprika Pork Stew

Found a great recipe for a pork stew for a slow cooker. I don’t have a slow cooker since I’m retired and can watch the stove all day when necessary. So you can do this in either a Dutch oven like I did or in your slow cooker. Either way it’s delicious, a little spicy, and can be served with a variety of sides, either mashed potatoes, spaghetti squash, rice, or pasta. It also doesn’t take long to put together, just cooks for 3-4 hours.

You’ll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 ounces pancetta or bacon

1-2 pounds pork cubed and most of the fat removed

1 medium onion diced

1 large carrot diced

2-3 stalks of celery diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon salt or herbamare

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (want it a little spicier, use white pepper)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (if using 2 pounds of pork, use a large 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes)

2 teaspoons sweet paprika (add more with more meat)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

In a large skillet (if you’re going to use a slow cooker) or a Dutch over, heat the olive oil before adding the cubed pork and pancetta (or bacon). Cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is browned. Remove from the pot (to your slow cooker if using one) or just set aside if not.

Add the vegetables to the pot and cook until the onion is translucent before adding the garlic. Put the pork back into the pot, add the stock and the tomatoes, salt, pepper and paprika. (If using a slow cooker, add the vegetables to the cooker once the stock has come to a boil with the vegetables so that the pan is deglazed.) Reduce heat to a simmer and, cover with the lid so that a little steam can escape, and cook for 2-3 hours or until most of the liquid is cooked off. Cook on high in the slow cooker for 3-4 hours. The meat will almost shimmer when the dish is ready.

TIP: I like a lot of vegetables in my stews so I also added 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. I meant to add a cup of frozen peas near the end but it didn’t happen. Green beans would also be fine in this stew.

Peking Pork Chops

I’m always looking for new ways to cook chicken and pork, my two main proteins. Here’s an easy one that’s very tasty with a hint of heat and spice.

Prepare a baking dish which will hold 2-4 pork chops without crowding by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl whisk:

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or use 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger)

2 tablespoons sugar-free ketchup

3 tablespoons soy substitute (or soy sauce if you can use it)

2 tablespoons date sugar

Salt and pepper to taste (approximately 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a dash of ground pepper)

If preparing 4 chops, double the above. In a medium to large sauce pan heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When the oil is shimmering add:

2 thick cut pork chops

Sear on all sides before adding to the prepared baking dish. Spread with the prepared sauce and bake approximately 40-50 minutes depending on the size of the pork chops.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Who doesn’t like a good cupcake? And this one is great – light and fluffy, very unusual for a gluten-free cake. I didn’t have a regular size muffin pan so I simply put the cupcakes papers in a 9×12″ baking pan instead. They didn’t all come out perfectly round but they still tasted delicious! Partnered with the Carob Buttercream Frosting, they are wonderful.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake papers in 1 or 2 regular (12 hole) muffin tins. The recipe made 14 muffins when I made it, so depending on how full you fill the papers will determine exactly how many cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk:

3 tablespoons ground flax

3/4 cup agave nectar, coconut nectar, or date syrup

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1/3 cup avocado or other light tasting oil

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

Set aside. In a large bowl, combine:

1 cup millet flour

1/3 cup chickpea flour

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1/3 cup potato starch

1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix to combine the dry ingredients. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and whisk again to combine. Don’t overmix or the cupcakes will get tough. Fill the cupcake papers 2/3 full of batter (or, if preferred, use 2 8″ cake pans lined with parchment paper and sprayed with a non-stick spray, dividing the batter equally between the 2 pans). Bake 20-25 minutes rotating the pan after 10-12 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. If making a cake, bake 30-35 minutes. Cool in the pan(s) for at least about a half hour before removing to a cooling rack. Frost with Carob Buttercream or your favorite frosting.

If a cake is made instead of the cupcakes, freeze the layers before frosting to reduce crumb.

Spring (or summer) Rolls

When I lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, there was a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant that introduced me to all kinds of new flavors. One of our favorites were their spring rolls! What a delicious concoction; meat, rice noodles and vegetables wrapped in a rice paper shell and deep fried. Oh so good. Generally a spring roll contains pork or shrimp and a summer roll (the unfried version of a spring roll) contains shrimp and no noodles but bean sprouts instead. Here I’ve substituted chicken but any meat (or meat substitute) would work. And they aren’t difficult to make as long as the steps are followed.

First cook whatever part of the filling needs cooking.

To a large pot of boiling, salted water add:

8 ounces pad Thai noodles (or linguini, gluten free of course!) [Optional but traditional]

Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to add to the cooked vegetables later. In a medium 10″ skillet over medium heat, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 cup of thinly sliced Chinese (or Napa) cabbage

Reduce heat to medium low and cook for several minutes until the onion and cabbage wilt. In a small bowl whisk:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon date sugar (or syrup)

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Add to the skillet and stir to combine with the onion and cabbage. Add the pad Thai noodles if used. Remove the vegetables from the skillet. Either clean that skillet or using another, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add over medium heat:

16 ounces of chicken breast, julienned (thinly sliced)

Cook, turning frequently, for several minutes, 3-5, until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat.

Let the vegetables and chicken cool thoroughly. If the fillings aren’t cool enough, they will melt the rice paper wrapper. In the meantime, prepare the uncooked fillings, any or all of the following:

1 medium carrot, any color, julienned

1 English cucumber, peeled and julienned

1 cup zucchini noodles cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup pea pods

2-3 green scallions (green parts only), cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup Daikon radish (julienned)

Avocado (julienned)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or black)

Fresh herbs can also be added such as mint or basil leaves

As you can see, pretty much any vegetable could work, even string beans! You’ll also need:

10-12 rice paper wrappers (found in most oriental or specialty stores (or Whole Foods)

When the fillings are all prepared and cooled, using a 12″ container (I used a large pie plate), fill with about 1″ of warm water, not hot, just lukewarm works best. One at a time, place a rice paper wrapper , into the warm water, making sure the wrapper is covered by the water. You don’t want to soak it, just wet it completely. You’ll notice when it’s wet enough because the marks on the wrapper will disappear. Place the wrapper on a clean tea towel (cotton rather than a synthetic or fleece towel) and dry. I picked up the wrapper at this point, carefully, so it didn’t stick as much to the towel after filling.

As you see from the photo, I broke one but it was still useable. Once dried, place some of the fillings in the middle of the wrapper, horizontally, then fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling being sure it is tight at the top. Then fold in the sides of the wrapper and roll it up from the bottom to the top. The top should stick to the rest of the roll. If it doesn’t, rub a tiny amount of water on it with your finger.

Now comes the choice – spring or summer rolls? The only difference is the frying. If spring rolls are chosen, cook all of them. I cooked half and left the others for the next day’s lunch and they totally disintegrated in the oil the next day, the rice paper didn’t hold up to being refrigerated.

If spring rolls are the choice, heat in a large, high sided skillet:

3 inches of olive and avocado oils

Heat to 350 degrees. Olive oil has a low smoke point so mixing it with the avocado (which has a higher smoke point) keeps the olive oil from burning during this process. Once the oil is to temperature, add the spring rolls being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, turning once (tongs are best for this), until golden brown. Unlike most fried foods, do not place these on a paper towel as the rice wrapper will stick to it even after fried. Instead blot lightly with the paper towel after frying.

If, like me, several of your wrappers formed holes when wrapping them in the vegetables, DON’T FRY THEM! The oil will get into the roll and it will be very greasy. Use it as a summer roll instead.

Dipping sauce (or dressing) if desired. Traditionally spring rolls are served with a peanut sauce but the restaurant always served them with a spicy soy/ginger/garlic sauce. Here are several recipes for dipping sauces.

“Peanut” Dipping Sauce:

Combine in a small bowl:

1/2 cup tahini or other seed or nut butter

1 tablespoon soy substitute

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1-3 tablespoons hot water depending on the thickness desired

Whisk to combine all ingredients.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons date sugar (or syrup)

4 tablespoons soy substitute

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

slices of red chili pepper (optional)

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup date sugar (or syrup)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

“Cheesy” Crackers

One of my favorite lunches used to be tomato soup with Cheezits. That cheese cracker with the tomato soup tasted so good. This cracker isn’t a cheezit but they taste very good and have a cheese taste from the nutritional yeast. And they are very easy to make in the food processor.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the food processor add:

1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour

2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Pulse to combine before adding:

1 tablespoon vegan butter or margarine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pulse until mixture is crumbly then add, 1 at a time:

5-6 tablespoons water (I needed to add all 6)

Pulse after each addition. Mixture should come together but not be sticky. This may require removing from the processor and working manually (with your hands) until combined. Place onto a sheet of parchment paper. Put a second sheet of parchment paper on top and flatten the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness or as thin as you can get it, the thinner the better! Mine was thicker in the middle than around the outside which meant I had to remove the outer pieces and continue baking the thicker middle so try to get the dough the same thickness.

Remove the top parchment paper and place the dough, lifting carefully by the bottom paper, onto a large cookie sheet. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into small 1″ squares. The outside pieces can be removed and rerolled and recut to form squares.

If you prefer a saltier cracker, sprinkle some fine sea salt on top sparsely before baking. Make some holes with a fork in each square and bake for 16-18 minutes. As I previous mentioned, if necessary remove outer pieces that are thinner and continue baking the thicker squares for another 5-7 minutes. Cool on sheet before moving to a cooling rack. When completely cooled, store in airtight container.

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.

“7” Minute Frosting

My mother’s favorite! Traditionally this was the frosting used on wedding cakes, made of course with egg whites. This revamp contains no eggs but anyone tasting this frosting won’t be able to tell the difference. Can be used just like the traditional frosting on cakes or cookies.

I just tried making this recipe again; I’d made it the first time with 1/2 cup agave nectar and it was much too sweet for me so I thought it would be okay with less but I just tried to make it with 1/3 cup and it didn’t work so I guess it needs all the sugar!

To make the frosting, in the top of a double boiler (or a heat proof bowl over a pot), over boiling water add:

1/2 cup agave nectar (or you could use coconut nectar)

1/3 cup aquafaba

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Using a hand mixer on high, beat the mixture, over not in the boiling water. Reduce the heat if the water starts to steam over the edge of the double boiler or bowl. Continue beating for 7-10 minutes. The mixture starts out totally liquid and turns into a foamy, fluffy marshmallow like substance, amazing! When the mixture is fluffy and thickened, remove from heat, add:

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Continue beating the mixture on high for another 2-3 minutes.

Carob Filled Cookies

Who doesn’t like chocolate cookies and marshmallow? But those of us with chocolate and egg allergies have long given up such things. Here’s a delicious alternative. Like most allergic friendly recipes, this takes a little more effort than the “normal” but it’s well worth the effort.

For the cookies, line a large cookie sheet (or 2 smaller ones) with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together:

1 tablespoon ground flax

3 tablespoons aquafaba

Let sit for at least 5 minutes. In a medium bowl mix with a hand mixer:

1/2 cup vegan shortening (or margarine) softened

3/4 cup date sugar

1 tablespoon date syrup

Blend until smooth and slightly fluffy. Add the flax gel and

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat until smooth. Add to this mixture:

1/3 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup sorghum flour

3 tablespoons arrowroot

1 tablespoon potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum)

2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup carob powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix until blended, dough will be crumbly. Add, one tablespoon at a time:

Non-dairy milk (I only used 1 but add another one or two if your dough doesn’t come together with the first one)

Form the dough into balls, about 1 tablespoon of the dough for each ball. Flatten them into disks making sure all the disks are the same depth so that they cook evenly. Also make them about the same size since we’ll be putting two of them together with the frosting. Bake about 8 minutes, do not overbake or they will be dry. Cool on tray for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

To make the frosting, in a double boiler (or heat proof bowl over a pot of water if you don’t have a double boiler), mix together over the boiling water:

1/4 to 1/3 cup agave nectar (depending on how sweet your family likes things, remember agave is much sweeter than cane sugar)

1/3 cup aquafaba

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Using a hand mixer on high, beat the mixture for 7-10 minutes until very fluffy and the frosting forms ribbons when whipped. Remove from heat and continue to whip for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat another minute. This should be very thick, like marshmallow! I know, when I started making it, I thought this is never going to work, but after about 6 minutes the mixture actually started to form ribbons and after 9 minutes, it was thick and creamy. Continuing the whipping off the heat will make it even thicker. Chill while the cookies cool completely and it will set up even more.

Spread about a tablespoon of the frosting on the bottom of one cookie and let sit until frosting sets up a little before placing a second cookie on the top. Repeat with the remaining cookies. This recipe will make 6-8 pairs.

Prune and Carob Squares

Here’s another bar that’s downright delicious! Not something to eat with fingers, there’s too much soft, gooey filling in them for that. Of course, if wanted, other dried fruit (like dates or figs) would work just as well as prunes and be equally tasty. And like the raspberry bars, refrigerating the baking dish overnight or even for several hours before cutting will help the crust firm up and make removing them from the dish easier.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9×9″ baking dish with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Blend in a food processor:

1/3 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds (lightly roasted)*

1/4 cup date or coconut sugar

1 cup gluten-free organic old fashioned oats

1/3 cup millet flour

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Pulse until the oatmeal mixture resembles ground nuts or cornmeal. Add:

1/2 cup avocado oil or 1/2 cup melted vegan margarine, or melted coconut oil

Pulse until the mixture begins to form clumps. If the mixture is too dry and doesn’t clump add:

up to 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time

Remove from the food processor and add:

1/2 cup gluten-free organic old fashioned oats

1/4 cup hemp hulls (or if nuts are possible, ground nuts)

Stir to combine. Pour half the mix into the bottom of the prepared baking dish and press down to make a firm bottom. Reserve the other half for the top of the bars. In the food processor bowl blend:

1 16 ounce drained can of beans (whatever kind you like, I used chickpeas but any bean will work)

2 cups prune puree**

Blend until the beans are creamy so the softer the bean used, the less time and creamier this mixture will be. Add:

1/4 cup carob powder

1/3 cup date or coconut sugar (if using dates, this added sugar isn’t necessary)

1/8 sea salt

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1 tablespoon lemon juice and zest from 1/2 lemon (optional)

Pulse until the mixture is combined. Scoop out and spread on the crust in the baking dish. Cover with the remaining oat mixture and bake 35-40 minutes until the top is browned. Remove and cool on a cooling rack until no heat is felt on the bottom of the baking dish. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before slicing.

*To roast seeds or nuts, heat oven to 350 degree, place seeds on a dry baking sheet and roast until you smell them, usually not more than a few minutes.

**To make prune puree (or puree with any dried fruit), place the fruit in a saucepan large enough to hold the fruit and enough water to cover it. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15-30 minutes depending on how much fruit used. When the fruit begins to dissolve into the water when stirred, it’s sufficiently cooked. Turn up the heat and boil, uncovered, several minutes to reduce the liquid until, when stirred, very little liquid is visible. If a smooth puree is needed, use an immersion blender. For this recipe, that’s not needed since the mixture will be going into the food processor.