Chicken Marengo

Here’s another great recipe adapted from the Chicken Bible. Because of salt restrictions, I left out the chopped olives and brandy also isn’t allowed in my diet so that’s gone as well but I’ll list them as optional if you want to add them to your dish. It was quite tasty and fairly easy to make. Be sure to use an oven safe pan or after making the sauce, transfer the sauce and then the chicken to an oven proof dish.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop:

1 medium onion, diced fairly small

Using paper towels, dry:

4 medium size bone-in chicken breasts or 2 breasts and 4 thighs

After drying sprinkle with:

1/2 teaspoon salt (I used herbamare)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat over medium high, in a skillet large enough to cook the chicken without cramping:

1 tablespoon oil

Add the seasoned chicken pieces, skin side down and leave them alone for at least 5 minutes to brown the skin and get it crispy. Then turn and cooked for 2-3 minutes on the other side. Remove from the pan, drain all but 1 tablespoon oil from the skillet and add:

the diced onion

Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until softened before adding:

2 teaspoons minced garlic

10 ounces sliced shitake mushrooms

Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms start to soften and give off their liquid before stirring in:

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dry thyme)

Combine and then add a sauce made with:

3/4 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons tomato puree

1/3 cup brandy (Optional)

2 teaspoon hot sauce (or more if your family likes it spicier OR 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)

6 Kalamata olives, chopped fine (Optional)

Stir to incorporate before placing the chicken pieces on top of the sauce mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the breasts reach 160 degrees and the thighs register 170 degrees. Remove from oven and move the chicken to a serving platter. Add to the sauce:

2 tablespoons avocado oil

Whisk to combine and then spoon the sauce around the chicken and serve. Serves 4.

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.

Easy Moroccan Chicken

I’m reposting this recipe that I original developed in 2020 because I have some additional tips for you about it that I thought made it so much more scrumptious. Many of us can’t (and shouldn’t) eat corn. I know because I’m one. But I grew up eating corn and I do so love it. Especially when it’s corn season, like it is right now. I happened to get to the market this morning right after they’d put out a fresh batch of local corn.

If you don’t know when corn is fresh, here’s what to look for: check that the tassels are still moist or at least still have some green to them and are not turned completely brown and that the stem end is still green. If the stem end is brown, the corn is old and will have lost much of it’s flavor. Also don’t husk the corn until you’re ready to put it in the pot! A definite no no. And always steam corn, it should never be boiled.

My mother was a great admirer of Craig Claiborne, the food critic for the New York Times in the 1970s. When he published a cookbook, she had to have it. About a week later, she found a recipe in it for corn in which he said corn should be boiled. She slammed the book shut, said the man was an idiot and never read anything else he ever wrote.

Having grown up on a farm where my father wouldn’t eat corn unless he went out and picked it, husked it and brought it to my mother who had the steamer all set to cook it. And the bushels of corn that we’d blanch and cut off the cobs in September to freeze for the winter. My, it was a two-day affair.

So please, another tip, never reheat or cook corn in water. If you have frozen corn off the cob, it should be simmered in milk (such as oat milk) and some fat (of course my mother always used butter!). Corn has a milky base, not a watery one so cooking it in milk enhances the flavor.

So, today, even though I knew better, I added corn to this recipe. And of my goodness, it was so delicious and I suffered so desperately all afternoon after I ate it but the enjoyment and flavor was worth the few bad hours afterwards. Here’s the amended recipe, feel free to omit the corn if you can’t eat it.

You’ll need:

4 chicken thighs (I tried using a breast and it was tough)

1 cup salsa – use whatever salsa your family prefers, mild, medium, hot or spicy, doesn’t matter

Approximately 3/4 cup of freshly cooked corn cut from the cob (I used only 1 ear)

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon garam masala or coriander

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce [optional]

1/2 teaspoon salt or herbamare

Spray a 9×9″ pan with cooking spray. Mix the salsa, honey and spices together (I use a small whisk) and put a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Arrange the thighs on top and then spread the remaining salsa mix on each thigh. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken thighs.

It’s that easy! You can serve it with brown rice to sop up all the wonderful flavors of the salsa.

PS: I gave the rest of the corn to my grandson so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it myself!

Watermelon Gazpacho

There are about as many recipes on the internet for watermelon gazpacho as there are for regular tomato based gazpacho. Naturally sweet from the watermelon, my recipe is very simple and easy to make with just a few ingredients. Again, the most difficult part is peeling the tomatoes so get the ripest ones you can find.

First, just as with tomato gazpacho, put a pot of water on to boil. When it’s boiling drop in:

4 small Roma (or plum) tomatoes with + cut in the blossom end (as opposed to the stem end)

Turn off the heat and let them sit for just a minute or so before dousing them in an ice bath. Peel and cut out the stem end (about 1/4 inch into the tomato). Set aside.

Cut into pieces:

1 mini personal watermelon (about 8″ diameter or a little smaller)

Cut the meat off the peel and place in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add the tomatoes and blend until smooth. Add:

1 small English cucumber, peeled and cut into 3-4″ pieces

Add to the mixture and blend until smooth. At this point, there are options:

1/2 small jar of mild (or hot if heat is desired) chili peppers

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

I prefer mine pure so I just add at this point:

1 teaspoon sea salt (or herbamare)

Ground pepper to taste

Juice of 1-2 lemons, strained*

Chill and serve. Makes 8 cups.

*OR Limes if preferred.

Gazpacho

This is the time of year for one of the best things to eat on the planet, fresh picked tomatoes! But for anyone who grows them, it soon becomes an overabundance and the issue becomes, “okay, what am I going to do with all these tomatoes?”. For many, this abundance becomes canned (or frozen) pasta sauce, tomato juice, or we even start picking them green and making fried green tomatoes (see recipe under side dishes). Here’s another tasty way to use up some of these extra tomatoes and, with the temperatures around here in the high 80s and low 90s right now, it’s also a very refreshing meal. And it will use up some of those extra cucumbers from the garden as well!

First, put on a good size pot of water to boil. Wash and cut slits (+) across the bottom (the one opposite the stem end) of:

8 medium to large plum tomatoes (use plum or Roma tomatoes because they aren’t as seedy or juicy as other tomatoes)*

While the water comes to a boil, prepare an ice bath in a large pot or bowl by filling the container about half full of cold water and then adding a tray of ice cubes. When the water boils, add the tomatoes, turn off the stove, and let the tomatoes sit for 1-2 minutes in the hot water. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into the ice bath. Let sit for a minute before peeling them. The riper the tomatoes, the less time they need in the hot water and the easier they are to peel. Peel them and cut out the stem end along with the tough part that extends into the tomato for about a quarter inch. Place them into a food processor or blender after peeling.

Pulse until coarsely chopped (or blend). I like my gazpacho fairly smooth so I used my Vitamix and made it fairly smooth. Put into a large bowl (at least 5 quarts). Pulse in a food processor or blender:

3-4 roasted red peppers (fresh can be used by I prefer the flavor of roasted peppers)

2-3 small red onions, peeled and quartered

1 large English cucumber (peeled if not organic otherwise just cut into chunks before pulsing)**

When chopped finely, add to the tomato mixture and stir to blend. Add:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic powder (if you like the taste of fresh garlic, pulse 6-8 garlic cloves along with the vegetables)

2 teaspoon sea salt or herbamare

1 teaspoon ground pepper

48 ounces strained organic tomatoes (or tomato juice)

Mix thoroughly and add:

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (reserve 2 teaspoons for garnish)

Chill thoroughly before serving. WARNING: This makes 16 cups of gazpacho so unless you’re hosting a large dinner party (or want to freeze some), this recipe can be cut in half. Garnish with extra chopped basil, diced cucumber and tomatoes. You can also garnish it with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream as well as croutons.

*Regular cucumbers can be used instead, just be sure to seed them before pulsing.

Greek Butter Beans

Butter, or lima, beans are a good source of protein as well as flavorful and very satisfying as a side dish. This recipe is very easy to make, especially if canned beans are used. It would work with any type of bean if butter beans are not to your taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray an 5x8x3″ baking dish. Heat over medium heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot (shimmering), add:

1 small onion diced

2 small or 8-10 baby carrots, sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until the carrots are slightly softened and the onion is translucent. Remove the cover and add:

2 medium to large fresh Roma (or plum) tomatoes, peeled and diced

2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (OPTIONAL)

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add:

1 16ounce can butter beans, with liquid (unsalted if possible)

Stir to combine and cook for 8-10 minutes over medium high heat until sauce starts to thicken. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. Top with chopped fresh parsley and serve. A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt would add some richness. TIP: If your family likes spicy food, consider adding a few dashes of hot sauce when the tomatoes are added to the pan. Serves 4.

Ratatouille Lasagna

Here’s another recipe for a ratatouille dish that’s scrumptious! This idea comes from Vegan Cocette. I don’t generally make lasagna, too many steps and too much time but this one is fairly easy and not everything has to be made at the same time. Some things can be made ahead of time and then just assembled which takes very little time. First make the ratatouille, then the béchamel sauce, (Italian sauce if used) and lastly cook the noodles, gluten-free of course. If you don’t want the carbs from the brown rice lasagna noodles, I found one made from hearts of palm at Whole Foods (Whole Foods brand) which has very few carbs and calories. Several other noodle types are also available. Italian sausage can be added to either the ratatouille or the béchamel if desired. This makes a very large pan so choose a baking dish that holds at least 3 quarts and is 5-6 inches deep. I don’t need to serve 8 so I made it in smaller dishes and I froze some (uncooked, covered with plastic wrap and foil).

First make the ratatouille.

Peel and slice:

1 large or 2 small eggplants

On either a paper towel or a cooling rack, place the slices of eggplant and generously salt on both sides. Place a cookie sheet or tray on top of the eggplant and weight it down with several large cans. Let sit at least 15 minutes but 1 hour is better. Rinse off the salt and dry thoroughly and cube. In a good size pan, over medium high heat:

1 tablespoons olive oil

When hot (shimmering) add:

1 medium onion, chopped

2 small eggplants, peeled and cubed

2 small zucchini, cubed

2 small yellow squash, cubed

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Optionally, depending on taste can be added:

1 sweet pepper, seeded and diced

6 ounces of sliced mushrooms

Stir to combine, cover and cook over medium low heat until vegetables are slightly softened, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Add:

16 ounces crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1 tablespoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes. While the ratatouille is simmering, make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat over medium:

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Add:

1/3-1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (enough so it looks like a soupy mashed potato mixture but all the oil is absorbed)

Whisk in the flour and let it cook for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add:

2 1/2-3 cups non-dairy milk (any milk EXCEPT soy)

Cook over medium low heat until thickened, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. When it starts bubbling, reduce heat to low and add:

3/4 cup non-dairy mozzarella or parmesan cheese, grated

Let it cook for about 5-7 minutes while the cheese melts, whisking occasionally, being careful not to let it burn on the bottom so heat may need to be reduced further.

Lastly, cook the noodles in a large pot (8-10 quarts) of boiling water. When the water comes to a boil add:

1 tablespoon salt

10 ounces gluten-free lasagna noodles (the Whole Foods Heart of Palm can be used without cooking)

Cook the pasta per package instructions. Rinse thoroughly with cold water after draining so that the noodles don’t stick together. Then assemble the lasagna by starting with some ratatouille on the bottom of the baking dish which should be at least 5-6 inches in height to accommodate the layers. Second add a single layer of noodles, then a layer of béchamel, layer of noodles, layer of ratatouille, layer of noodles and lastly a layer of béchamel. Place on a baking tray lined with foil and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes until golden brown on top and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes so that the layers set up before serving. Serves 8.

before baking

“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.

Moussaka (Greek Lasagna)

My mother loved moussaka. When I made it for her, I used ground lamb, ricotta cheese, eggs, and homemade pasta sauce. Things and times have changed so here’s one that’s dairy, gluten and egg free and uses jarred (or homemade if you have the time and desire) sauce. Just in case, I’m including my recipe for pasta sauce.

First, start the tomato sauce if making homemade by heating in a small Dutch oven:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add to it when hot:

1 diced medium onion

1 diced sweet pepper, any color

1/2 cup sliced carrots (or grated)

6 ounces shitake mushrooms

Stir to combine, lower heat to medium and cook until the onions and mushrooms are sweating and onion is translucent. Add:

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

32 ounces small diced tomatoes

16 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon mixed Italian dried herbs (basil, marjoram, thyme)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook over medium low heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. This gets rid of much of the water in the tomatoes so the sauce can thicken. If it boils too vigorously, reduce the heat to low. When reduced by about 1/3, add:

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Use an immersion blender to cream most of the vegetables, leaving a few whole. I do this because then the eggplant slices sit better in the sauce but it is optional. In a large skillet, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or if you want this vegan, diced tofu)**

Cook the sausage through and then drain off the fat and add to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Set aside. If using jarred sauce, this will take more than 1 large jar.

While the sauce is cooking, peel and thinly slice:

1 large eggplant

Place the slices on a large, sided baking sheet in a single layer and salt generously. Once salted, another layer of eggplant can be added on the top of the first, again salting generously. Place a slightly smaller baking sheet on top of the eggplant and then weight it down with large cans. Let sit at least 30 minutes, 60 is preferable.

After sitting, wash each eggplant slice to remove the salt and whatever liquid was expelled from the slices. Dry between paper towels. Heat in a large skillet (12 inch) or flat griddle:

1 teaspoon olive oil (just to coat the bottom of the pan)

When hot, add eggplant slices until the bottom is covered but the slices have room to move. Let brown for a minute or two and then turn and brown the second side. Repeat until all the slices are browned.

Still while the sauce is cooking, add to a large saucepan:

1/2 cup olive oil

Begin heating over medium high heat. Add:

3/4 cup gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg)

Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour then add, 1 cup at a time:

3 cups oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk except soy)

Whisk each portion of milk into the flour and cook, whisking every minute or so, until the white sauce is thickened. It should be the consistency of a pudding or mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9×13″ baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with slices of eggplant.* Add a layer of the meat sauce and repeat ending with a layer of eggplant (3 layers of eggplant and 2 layers of sauce). There may be a little meat sauce left over. Slowly pour the white sauce on top of the last layer of eggplant (I didn’t quite have enough eggplant to cover the entire top but it still worked okay). The white sauce on mine was only about 1/2 inch thick but if your pan is deep enough, use all the white sauce, it’s that yummy on the top! Sprinkle the top with:

1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Place baking pan on a large baking sheet because if it’s full, it will bubble over and put in the oven. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the middle is bubbling. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

*Don’t think you have enough eggplant? Peel and thinly slice 1-2 medium to large Russet potatoes and place those on the bottom layer of the moussaka, using the eggplant for just other 2 layers.

**I used sweet Italian sausage but feel free to use any ground meat.

Stuffed Eggplant

One of my (and my grandson’s) favorite vegetables is eggplant. I’d stuffed zucchini but never an eggplant but this turned out very luscious, a classic combination of an onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato base with rice. It’s a great side dish or add some protein, like sweet Italian sausage, and make it a main dish.*

Serves 2 (or double to serve 4). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash and cut in half:

One medium to large eggplant

Score the middle, being careful not to cut through the skin, leaving about a half inch of meat around the edges. Use a spoon to scoop out the meat to leave a “boat”. Salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place in a greased baking dish and bake for roughly 30-40 minutes until the meat is softened and slightly browned.

While the boats are cooking, heat in a large skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 cup diced sweet pepper (any color you like)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Eggplant meat, chopped

Sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the pepper is softened. Add:

8 ounces finely diced tomatoes (half a can)

2 cups cooked brown rice

3 tablespoons of fresh basil, chiffonade

1 tablespoon avocado oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook until heated through before removing from heat.

When the eggplant boats are ready, stuff them with the filling, sprinkle with:

2 tablespoons grated non-dairy parmesan cheese

Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes before increasing the oven heat to broil. Broil until the cheese is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve.

*To make it a main dish, reduce the rice to 1 cup and add 1 cup ground Italian sausage.

TIP: This is an Italian stuffed eggplant. For a more Moroccan style, leave out the basil and cheese and instead add:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 cup roasted pine nuts (or pumpkin seeds)

Pinch of date sugar