Braised Pork Loin with Figs and Pears

This recipe takes some time since the pork loin is marinated but worth the effort and wait. The gravy is lick the plate good! Now I’m thinking I should add fruit puree to all my gravies. Yum, yum. Braising cooks food slowly so be sure that the loin is well seared (browned) before cooking so that it doesn’t lose all its juices. And since I love figs and pears, and I know they go well together, I thought how about braising them with the loin. This recipe would also work with a turkey breast or apples instead of pears.

At least 4 hours before the cooking starts, put in a gallon food storage bag:

1/4 cup seasoned vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt (or herbamare)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried thyme

6-8 dried figs

Add:

1 1/2-2 1/2 pound pork loin

Seal and let sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours. If you are using a chicken, duck, or turkey breast, you can put this directly into the cooking vessel – either a roasting/baking dish with a cover, or the bowl of a slow cooker.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees if the loin is going in the oven. I cooked mine on the stove top in a medium size Dutch oven. Remove the pork loin (or turkey breast) from the marinade. Dry thoroughly and rub with:

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground cumin

In a 10″ skillet or one large enough to hold the loin, heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Turn the oil down to medium heat and add the loin (or turkey breast). Sear (brown) on all sides. Remove the meat and add to the skillet:

1 medium onion chopped

1/2 bag of baby carrots, cut into bite size pieces

1 large or 2 small (I used one small sweet and one small white) potatoes

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Add:

figs from the marinade (or 6-8 other fresh or dried figs)

Add the meat back into the cooking vessel along with:

1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock

Cover the pot or dish and cook over low heat (simmer) until the meat reaches 145 degrees for pork or 165-170 for poultry. On the stovetop in the Dutch oven, my just under 2 pound pork loin took just over an hour. When the meat is cooked, remove the meat and vegetables and add to the stock:

1 diced medium pear (peeled or not doesn’t matter)

If the meat was cooked in the oven, pour the stock into a small saucepot before adding the pear. Turn up the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the pear is soft. Add:

A slurry made with 1/2 cup turkey or chicken stock whisked with 2 tablespoons all purpose gluten free flour

Stir until the gravy thickens and the pear pieces are integrated into the gravy, this should only take a couple of minutes. Cook over low heat for about 5 minutes so that the flour cooks completely. Slice the pork loin (or other meat) and place on a platter surrounded by the vegetables and figs. Pour some of the gravy over the pork and serve.

Vegetable Fritters

It’s not often that you’ll find me giving you recipes that require frying. Too much oil is as bad for a diabetic as too many carbohydrates or sugar. But I just couldn’t resist this recipe when I found it. And once I cooked them up, oh my, I did eat too much for lunch today! I did fry them but I think if I cook these again, I’ll probably oven fry them with a lot less oil (see tip at the bottom of the recipe).

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cups grated Russet potato (1 medium large potato) – soak the grated potato in cold water for 5-10 minutes to get out as much starch as possible since the starch is not a friend to fried foods, the cakes will brown better with less starch. Drain and dry with paper towels to get out as much of the moisture as possible*

1 cup grated sweet potato (about 1 medium)

1 cup grated carrots (about 1-2 medium) – I used the pre-grated from the store

1 cup grated red onion (onion has a lot of moisture so be sure to dry thoroughly with paper towels before adding)

If you have a food processor, this is the time to break it out and use it! It’s the easiest way to grate the potatoes, carrot and onion. In a large bowl, mix the above. Then add:

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup chickpea flour (DO NOT USE ALL PURPOSE GLUTEN-FREE FLOUR; many have potato starch in them and we just tried to remove the starch from the potato!)

1/4 cup aquafaba

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (depending on how dry your mixture is)

Mix together until combined. If the mixture is too dry and won’t hold together, add the non-dairy milk. If the mixture is too wet and won’t hold together, add the tablespoons of flour until the mixture will bind together. Using a 1/4-1/3 cup measure, form into balls.

Heat over medium high heat in a 10-12″ skillet:

1/2-3/4 cups oil for frying (the oil should come up the side of the pan about a 1/2 inch)

When the oil is glistening, take a ball, flatten it and gently place it in the oil starting with the side nearest you. Being sure to not crowd the skillet, add additional flattened balls. Cook on the first side about 4-6 minutes until golden brown, turn and cook the same on the other side. If the fritters are browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Then flip the fritter again and cook an additional 2-3 minutes on the first side. The cooking time will depend on how thick the fritters are; the thinner the less time they need to cook. Remove to a paper towel and salt immediately. Do not leave the fritters on the towel too long or they will get soggy. They can be placed on a cooling rack (on a cookie sheet) in a 200 degree oven to stay warm while the rest of the fritters cook.

  • * If like me, you don’t eat much potato, other than sweet potato, grated parsnip could be used instead

TIP: To oven fry, place the flattened balls on a greased (spray with non-stick spray) cookie sheet (with sides). Lightly spray the tops of the fritters with the non-stick spray) and bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20-25 minutes. Turn over half-way through the bake.

Easy Oven Fries (dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, vegan)

Who doesn’t like French fries? Crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, with or without ketchup, delicious. But all that fat! Here’s an alternative that doesn’t even need any ketchup because they are seasoned with garlic and paprika. Turn half-way through the bake so that they will get crispy on two sides.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. For 2 servings you’ll need:

3 medium russet or sweet potatoes (organic if possible)

1/4 cup olive or avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or Herbamare*

ground black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

Wash, peel and cut the potatoes into wedges remembering that the smaller the slices, the faster the cook. Be sure to remove any bruises or eyes from the potatoes. Place in a medium size bowl. Sprinkle with the seasonings and mix then add the oil and make sure all the wedges or slices are well covered with the oil. Arrange in a single layer on a medium to large cookie sheet (with sides!) and bake until tender and golden brown, 25-40 minutes depending on size of your cuts.

*Herbamare is a seasoned salt where fresh herbs are left to marinate in salt for several months. Quite flavorful.

Spicy Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Quick Bread (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free)

I really enjoy baked items that I can make without pulling out my stand mixer or even my hand mixer. This is one of those. Takes two bowls but otherwise a very easy bread to make. It’s a dense loaf but moist and tender. Perfect as a side for a salad or toasted with some non-dairy cream cheese for breakfast with your favorite protein.

Makes 1 loaf

Preheat oven to 400 degree. Generously grease a 9×5 bread pan. Mix in a medium to large bowl:

2 1/4 cups brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1 cup date sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix until combined. In a separate smaller bowl whisk together:

1 can pumpkin puree

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup oil (I used avocado oil but any oil you have will work)

2 teaspoons vanilla

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined. Before combining you might add one or several of the following:

1/2 cup chopped dates

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup hemp hulls

or 1 cup dried fruit such as currents, raisins, cranberries, etc.

Spoon into the prepared pan, smooth over the top and place in the middle of the oven. Bake 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan or on cooling rack.

Pork with Sauerkraut (dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free)

Sauerkraut was one of my mother’s favorite foods but as a child, I didn’t much care for it. Too salty for my taste! Now that fermented foods are all the rage, I thought I should try it again. At my former apartment, the dining room often served a pork with sauerkraut that was delicious, not salty at all. So here’s my version. Feel free to add diced apples or pears!

You’ll need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

16 ounces lean pork (4 chops or steaks at least 1/2 inch thick, loin)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 medium onion thinly sliced

16 ounces sauerkraut, drained

1 apple (or pear) peeled and diced

1 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 sweet potatoes peeled and cut into pieces

In a 10″ skillet with a lid, heat the oil. Dry the pork and salt and pepper to taste. When the oil is hot, brown the pork on all sides over medium heat. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the sweet potato and apple. Cover the pork with the onions and sauerkraut.

Mix together the stock, paprika and minced garlic. Pour over the pork, cover and simmer on low for at least 35 minutes. The longer and slower you cook the pork, the tenderer it will be.

Makes 4 servings.

Spicy Lentil Vegetable Soup

(dairy free, gluten free, vegan, soy free) Makes approximately 8-10 servings

Lentil are very versatile, allowing cooks to be imaginative in using them. They seem to like being pairs with a wide variety of other foods and spices. Lentils were not something we had growing up, don’t know which parent didn’t like them but my mother never cooked us lentil soup even though both parents loved pea soup. In this recipe, I’ve paired my favorite vegetable soup with lentils. There are various other ingredients you can use in this recipe, depending on what your family likes. Here’s the basics along with some variations. You’ll need:

1 3/4 cups (an 8 oz package) of lentils, no specific type, I used a mixture of green, black and brown

6 cups of liquid (water, stock, etc., I used a combination of water and vegetable stock)

1 cup sliced carrots

1 large onion diced

3-6 stalks of celery diced for approximately 1 cup

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 cup sweet potato diced

1/2 cup regular potato diced

1 teaspoon curry powder (or 2 tablespoon curry paste)

1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)

1 cup frozen peas

1 medium turnip peeled and diced

Add the oil to the bottom of a heated Dutch oven. Add the curry powder and heat for about 15 seconds or until you can smell the curry, but be careful not to burn it. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, celery, potatoes, and turnip. Once the onion is translucent, add the lentils and the liquid. You can also add the tomatoes at this point along with the peas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until lentils are tender (if you’re using sprouted lentils, they don’t take as long as regular lentils). If you use curry paste rather than powder, add it here. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend until you have the consistency you want. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper). Serve.

Variations: Don’t want vegan – use chicken or turkey stock instead of the vegetable stock. You can also add some cooked sausage (either bulk or links cut into slices) or diced ham before serving.

If you don’t like potatoes, leave them out and add 1/2 cup quinoa when you add the lentils. This will also up the protein!

Don’t like curry? Leave it out and use 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon thyme instead. Or, you can add 2 teaspoons cumin seeds and 2 teaspoons turmeric. Add either of these when you add the lentils.

Want it more tomatoie? Stir in 1 small jar of tomato paste before you use the blender.

Don’t have an immersion blender? Cool the soup in the frig for about an hour and then blend in a standard blender. You might want to leave a couple of cups whole for texture.

Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Patties (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, sugar-free, soy-free, vegan)

If you love quinoa and sweet potatoes as much as I do, this recipe is a must for your side dish repertoire.  It easy to make and delicious to eat, flavorful from the herbs and garlic as well as the sweet potato, crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.  Garnish with your favorite aioli or eat them plain.  Be sure to add lots of scallions to garnish as well since sweet potatoes love them.  I used a curry aioli which I made by adding 2 teaspoons of curry powder to 1/2 cup of hot olive oil.  Let it cool before you begin blending the aioli. Make sure you don’t heat the oil after you add the curry powder or it will burn very quickly.  Makes 6 servings (2 patties each).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  You’ll need:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, whatever color you like
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1 15 ounce can drained chickpeas
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • 1/4 cup quinoa flour
  • 2 scallions sliced for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon seasoning mixture such as Mrs. Dash
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax, preferably golden
  • 2 tablespoon arrowroot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups breads crumbs, with seasonings added — remember if you need more, you can add more but you can’t take it away or use it again once you’ve covered your patties.

Mix the ground flax with 3 tablespoons of hot water and let sit until cool.  In a food processor, add the chickpeas, garlic and onion.  Blend until well mashed.  In a bowl, put the quinoa, sweet potato puree, chickpea mixture, flour and seasonings.  In a small bowl, mix the arrowroot with the other 3 tablespoons of water (cold this time).  Combine the arrowroot and the ground flax mixtures and add to the quinoa mixture.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Spread the bread crumbs in a small baking dish (I used a small cookie sheet with sides). Scoop out the quinoa mixture by 1/4 cups (it doesn’t have to be exact).  Put the scooped mixture on the bread crumbs and cover with more bread crumbs as you flatten it.  Place on another sheet while you finish the remaining patties, make sure you wipe off excess bread crumbs.

Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and when the patties are browned, put them on this cookie sheet in a single layer. In a large skillet, put 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat (more may be needed as the patties fry).  Add the patties to the skillet without crowding and brown on each side.   When all are fried, bake them for 15-20 minutes to heat through and cook inside.  Garnish with aioli and scallions.

Sweet Potato Hummus (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan)

I love hummus but regular hummus loses all its taste when compared with sweet potato hummus!  Oh it is so good be sure to only make it when you have company to help you eat it or you’ll end up devouring the entire batch yourself in one sitting — it is really that good.  And easy to make with canned sweet potato.

In a food processor or blender:

  • 1  15-ounce can drained chickpeas
  • 1 cup of sweet potato puree
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin oil (or avocado or olive oil)
  • 2 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon papika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Blend until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.  Garnish with scallions — be generous, they add another layer of flavor and go very well with this hummus.  Serve with crackers or raw veggies (I love mine with plantain chips),  pitas or flatbread.

If you’re looking for a healthy snack that your kids along with anybody else will love, try this alternative to sweet potato hummus:

Carob or Chocolate Hummus:  In your food processor, add:

  • 1 15-oumce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup date syrup, agave or coconut nectar (add more if you want it really sweet)
  • 1/2 cup carob or cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend until smooth.

Carob Buttercream Frosting (dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, egg-free, vegan)

One of the most difficult parts of making a cake or cookies that need frosting is making a frosting without confectioners sugar.  Here’s the perfect answer!  So smooth and creamy as well as delicious.  You can, of course, substitute chocolate if desired.

In a medium sized bowl mix:

  • 1/2 cup sweet potato puree (I used canned)
  • 1/2 cup date sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, agave or coconut nectar, OR 1/2 teaspoon stevia powder OR 1/4 teaspoon monk fruit powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup carob powder OR cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup tahini or, if you can use it, nut or seed butter
  • 2 tablespoons shortening such as Spectrum OR solid coconut oil OR vegan margarine or butter

Using a hand mixer, blend until smooth and well blended.

Chicken and Dumplings (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free)

Another thing we always did with leftovers was make a stew and then either serve it with dumplings or put it in a pie crust and make a meat pie with it.    And you could easily do it with a rotisserie chicken or turkey breast from the store.  And you can adjust the vegetables to your taste, i.e., add some cooked diced turnip, parsnips or some lima beans, etc.

In an 8-quart dutch oven mix:

  • 2 cups diced chicken
  • 1 cup cooked peas
  • 1 cup cooked green beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked diced onion
  • 1/2 cup cooked diced celery
  • 1/2 cup cooked diced carrots
  • 1 cup cooked diced sweet potato

Add stock until the pot is 2/3 full; this should take 3-4 cups and needs to cover the meat and vegetable mixture.  Mix up your dumplings in your food processor:

  • 1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black or white pepper

Pulse in:

  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine OR 1/4 cup avocado oil

Once there are pea sized crumbs, add in 3/4 to 1 cup of non-dairy milk depending on if you used the margarine or the oil (I use rice milk but soy would work as well; you want a milk that doesn’t have a strong aftertaste).  Pulse until well mixed and the batter is smooth.  If your like your dumplings more flavorful, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of an herb mixture OR 1/4 cup fresh parsley to the sifted dry ingredients.

Drop by tablespoons into your boiling stew.  Cook uncovered for 10 minutes and then cover and cook an additional 10 minutes or until dumplings look dry on top.  Makes about 12 smaller dumplings or 6 large dumplings (the larger ones will take longer to cook so I usually make them smaller for ease of cooking and my husband usually eats 2-3 of them.

Remove the dumplings into a dish and keep warm in the oven while you thicken the stock.  Mix 1/4 cup of brown rice flour into 1/2 cup of cold stock until its smooth without any lumps.  Add to the boiling stew, stirring constantly until the gravy thickens.  If its too thin, make another slurry of brown rice flour and cold stock (a tablespoon at a time) until it reaches the desired thickness.  Be sure the gravy boils before you add more flour slurry since it will thicken more as it boils.  And be sure to stir scraping the bottom of the pot so that the gravy doesn’t burn on the bottom (also reduce the heat; you don’t want to do this on a high heat).

Return the dumplings to the pot and serve.  Makes 6-8 servings.