Brown Rice Crispy Squares

The brown refers both to the color of the squares and the type of rice cereal. I’ve gotten out of the habit of recommending specific brands in my recipes but I’m making an exception here. The 365 brand from Whole Foods of Brown Rice Crisps contains only 2 gms of sugar per 1 1/3 cup serving which is about as great as we can get with any brand or type of cereal. Since there’s no sugar added in this recipe, just a couple of dates, that’s a fairly good ratio. And these squares are actually healthy, full of fiber, and a serving of fruit to boot. Never mind that they are also tasty.

You’ll need:

1 cup (8 ounces) of dried prunes, figs, or other dried fruit that your family likes

2-5 medjool dates depending on how sweet your family likes their snacks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

sufficient hot water to cover the dried fruit

2 tablespoons carob (or cocoa) powder

1 cup nut or seed butter

6 cups brown rice cereal

In a medium bowl soak the dates and dried fruit in the hot water at least 20 minutes or until they are rehydrated and soft. Line an 8″ square baking dish with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Place the dried fruit, dates, and vanilla extract along with 1/2 cup of the fruit water and the carob powder into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Heat the nut or seed butter in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until melted. Add the pureed fruit and heat an additional 20-30 seconds. Put the cereal into a large bowl and pour the nut/seed butter mixture over it. Stir to combine and coat all the cereal. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and press the cereal down, spreading it out to cover the entire dish, until smooth and even in the baking dish. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

TIPS: Add some carob or chocolate chips, minced dried cherries, freeze dried strawberries or bananas, etc. to enhance the taste and add more deliciousness to the squares. Spices would work as well, perhaps some cinnamon, allspice or cardamom.

Smothered Pork Chops

One of my favorite things my mother used to make was smothered pork chops. She’d dump a can of cream of mushroom soup on top of pork chops in a baking dish and then sprinkle that with a package of dry French onion soup mix. Bake it and voila – moist and tender pork chops with a great gravy already made. Well, those days are past and I can no longer have the French onion soup mix or canned cream of mushroom soup. But as many of you who have followed me for awhile know, cream of mushroom soup is one of the easiest soups to make (see the recipe under Soups and Salads). For this smothered pork chop recipe, I used a variety of mushrooms in the soup recipe and it really enhanced the flavor of the pork chops. I always have at least one 2 cup bowl of this soup in my freezer ready for use in recipes like this.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a baking dish to hold the pork chops and mushroom soup. For 2 servings:

2 thick cut pork chops (at least 1 inch thick) – if thinner chops are used, cook only 20-25 minutes

Heat in a 10″ skillet, 1 tablespoon olive oil and sear the chops on all sides (including the skinny ones!). I cut slashes in the fat side to allow the fat to render out. Place the chops in the baking dish and cover with:

2 cups of cream of mushroom soup

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the pork reaches 145 degrees. My mother always served these with mashed potatoes but I prefer brown rice. Mashed sweet potatoes would also work or any type of noodle.

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

New Home Page!

I’ve spent the last several weeks adding tags and categories to all my recipes so that adding a search button to the home page will allow visitors to my site to search all the recipes for whatever food they want to cook. So if you are on the home page and want to look for recipes with, say, mushrooms, you can search on the word “mushroom” and tah dah, a search page will list all recipes that include mushrooms.

I’ve also added listings of most recent posts along with a section on followers so visitors might see who else is looking at my blog and perhaps visit your blogs as well. And lastly, which I think is perhaps the least helpful, is an archives of all my blogs by date. If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning and saw a recipe in say, January 2019 but you don’t remember the title or if it was under entries or side dishes, this listing should be helpful.

I hope you’ll find the changes on the home page useful. Thanks for following my blog and I will continue to try to make improvements.

The other thing I’ve been doing the last few weeks, which is something I do about every two years (for the last 30 years!), is working on a recipe for gluten-free bread that doesn’t include eggs. I’ve tried three so far, one came out like a brick which is normal for the recipes I’ve tried in the past. Another actually did rise slightly and was not as dense as most gluten-free breads I’ve tried to make, but tasted awful! The third one just didn’t work at all, didn’t rise, didn’t taste good, nothing! But I’ll keep working on it. I’ve pulled out all my old issues of Gluten Free and More as well as all my cookbooks and I hope to come up with a good tasting, less dense, loaf in the near future. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

New Pages

Now that there’s 100+ recipes on the blog, I’m going to start adding pages.  In the coming weeks, I’ll put up pages on non-dairy milks, gluten-free flours, sweeteners, and thickeners and stabilizers.  Pages will provide different things but give basics on how to use each and what works best in different situations.

For example, when making a sauce or pudding where non-dairy milk needs thickening, soy is not the best alternative since it’s almost impossible to thicken or when a delicate flavor is needed, rice milk is the best.  Or, when baking a cake, a mix of gluten-free flours works better than using just brown rice flour.  Another example, while monk fruit powder is a great sweetener, it doesn’t mix well with cranberries.

Here’s the start of the gluten-free flour listings:

Almond Flour: 

Uses: Good for cookies and course grained cakes; adds a sweet and nutty flavor to baked goods

 Storage: Should be stored in the refrigerator or a cool, dark place

Basic Ingredient: It’s made from grinding almonds so can be course in texture  

Nutritional Properties:  High in protein, vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids.

Other:  Not allergy friendly for people with nut allergies or sensitivities; course texture not right for all baking uses

Amaranth Flour: 

Uses: Mostly used in cereals, pastas, pancakes, biscuits, crackers, bread and cookies; absorbs fats so a good thickener or flour for high-fat baked goods; nutty flavor but can leave a bitter aftertaste

Storage:  Store in the refrigerator or a cool, dark place in air tight container

Basic Ingredient:  Amaranth flour was widely used by the Aztec and Inca civilizations of the pre-Columbian Americas. It is produced by grinding seeds from the amaranth plant into a fine flour.

Nutritional Properties: High in protein, lysine, methionine and iron; twice the calcium per ounce as cow’s milk

Other:  Use in combination with other flours

I hope you’ll find these pages useful.  

Creamed Onions and Peas (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan)

My mother always made creamed onions for Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was one of my favorite side dishes.  I’ve taken the fat, dairy, and gluten out of it but I think its just as good as the original.  I’ve taken it to holiday dinners and everyone always enjoyed it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a casserole dish.  In a quart saucepan combine:

  • 3/4 cups non-dairy milk (don’t use soy but any other will work but remember this is a savory dish so you don’t want a sweeter milk; hemp or rice work well)
  • 3/4 cup of the juice drained from your jarred small white onions (or if you’ve used fresh small white onions that you boiled first, use 1 cup of the boiling liquid) [if you don’t have 3/4 cup of the drained liquid, add non-dairy milk to make up the difference]
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown rice flour

Whisk into the milk and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Steam:

  • 12 ounces of frozen peas

Once you’ve drained the peas, add them along with 1 15 ounce jar of small white onions (after you drain the liquid into the sauce above) (or 1 1/2 cups if you used fresh ones) to the sauce.  Mix well and pour into the greased casserole dish.  For a topping, you can use 1/2 cup of gluten-free bread crumbs mixed into 1/4 cup of olive oil with some herbs, salt and pepper OR 1/2 cup of shredded non-dairy cheese.  Or, even better, use the onion and bread crumb topping used for the Green Bean Casserole but mix in a 1/4 cup of shredded non-dairy cheese.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, sugar-free, soy-free, vegan)

This is a very moist muffin, almost decadent in flavor with all the spices added.  Yet with the garbanzo beans ground into the wet ingredients, it has some protein along with the carbohydrates.  Its sweetened with dates so there’s no added refined sugar.  Because its gluten-free, it needs to cook a little longer than a regular muffin and it also needs to be made in regular muffin/cupcake pans rather than the jumbo (or the teeny ones would work but you’ll get more than the dozen).  And its versatile, you can make it with pumpkin, sweet potato, or butternut squash (or a mixture of squashes).

Prepare 12 muffin/cupcakes by grease and flouring them.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, combine until smooth:

  • 1 cup drained garbanzo beans
  • 2 cups (or 15 ounces if you’re using canned) pumpkin, sweet potato or squash
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates (using the ones mixed with flour will help dry the batter)
  • 1/2 cup dried prunes (or you could use dried figs)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Meanwhile in a large bowl combine:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates

When the wet ingredients are well mixed and all solid bits are broken down, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and hand mix until all the flour is combined.  Divide as evenly as possible between the muffin cups and bake for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of your muffins.  If you’re using the teeny muffin pans, baking time will probably be only 10-12 minutes.  These are so tasty that they don’t need cream cheese or butter but can be eaten just as baked.  Be sure to let them sit 10-15 minutes after removing them from the oven so that they dry out a little more in the baking pan.

Lasagna Rolls (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free)

This is a comfort food for me that I haven’t had in years because the original recipe I used called for jumbo shells or manicotti, neither of which I’ve been able to find in my local grocery stores in gluten-free form.  They are available on Amazon.com but since I didn’t have any today, I used some lasagna noodles – I tried two kinds, Tinkyada made from brown rice and Explore made from pea protein.  When cooked, they both tasted about the same, like lasagna noodles so in the future, I’ll probably use the Explore because it has a higher protein and lower carbohydrate count.  This is really quite an easy recipe to make.  And you can either use a marinara sauce or the mushroom béchamel recipe given here.  If you wanted to make this a vegan meal, Kite Hill makes an almond milk ricotta cheese which you can use to make a vegan filling.  

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  For the  lasagna noodles mix:

  • 1 pound ground turkey, not turkey breast which will be too dry OR you can use 1/2 pound ground veal or a pound of hamburger.  If you use veal, also add 1/2 pound ground pork.
  • 2 teaspoons ground sage (you’d probably want to use thyme, marjoram, or another herb if you use a different meat)
  • 1/4 cup shredded non-dairy cheese
  • 1/4 cup ground mushrooms (this adds moisture to the mix)
  • 1/4 cup  minced onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I used about a 1/4 teaspoon of each)

Cook 10 (depending on which noodle you decide to use) lasagna noodles per package directions or when the water boiled, I added the noodles and when it came back to a boil, I cooked them for 3-4 minutes, then turned off the heat and covered it for another 3-4 minutes.  Be sure when you remove them from the pot to run cold water over them so that they don’t stick together. (I had to pull apart the Explore noodles since they stuck together in the boiling water.)

For the longer, brown rice noodles, cut them in half so that you have two equal sized pieces from each noodle.  The Explore noodles, I just used a larger portion of the meat to fill each one.  Take approximately 1/4 cup of meat mixture, shape it into a log to fit in the noodle side to side rather than lengthwise.  Be sure that you’ve put a good amount of sauce into your baking dish before you add the rolls because they will stick to the bottom of the baking dish.  Line the rolls up in the baking dish with the ends side of the noodle on the bottom.  Once you have them all in the pan, add more sauce to the top, non-dairy cheese shreds if you like, and bake at 350 degree for 45 minutes if your oven isn’t pre-heated or 30 minutes if its to temperature.

For the Mushroom Béchamel Sauce, put into a saute pan:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6-8 ounces of sliced mushroom, or you can dice them if you prefer
  • 1/4 cup of minced onion
  • 2 diced garlic cloves

Cook until soft, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Stir in:

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage (again, if you’re using veal or hamburger, use a different herb)
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free brown rice flour

Let this cook for a minute to get the flour incorporated and then add:

  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (anything other than soy)

Cook until the milk gets hot.  This will thicken in the oven as the noodles and meat cook so it doesn’t need to be thickened on top of the stove.