Tater Tots

I know, I know, another fried recipe! I try not to fry too many things because it’s not the healthiest way of cooking but some things, like potatoes, just love being fried. And they taste soooooooo good! I found a recipe for “Grown Up Tater Tots” in my aquafaba cookbook* and thought I’d give them a try. Of course, I had to make it my own, for some reason all my life, I’ve never been able to follow a recipe exactly, always changing something about it to make it my own and this one is no exception. The recipe, depending on the size of the potato you use and the size of your “tots” will make 10-12 pieces.

You’ll need:

1 large baking potato

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon vegan margarine

2-3 tablespoons potato STARCH

1/4 cup aquafaba

1/2 to 2/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4-1/3 cup non-dairy parmesan shreds (Follow Your Heart makes an excellent one)

Olive Oil, about 2 cups to fill a skillet 1/2″

First, naturally, peel and dice the potato. Boil until soft (be sure to always start boiling potatoes in cold water so that they cook evenly and only put in enough water to cover them with about 1/4″ to spare). Add a little salt to the water as well. This should take only about 10-15 minutes; be sure to reduce the heat once they come to a boil to medium. Drain and be sure there’s no water left in them.

Mash the potato (I used my immersion blender) but a ricer or masher will work as long as there are no lumps in the potato. It needs to be very smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used my herbamare instead of salt), the vegan margarine, cheese, and the potato starch. Stir to combine. The final mixture should hold together in a ball but it might be a little gummy. If it’s too gummy or soft, add another tablespoon of potato starch.

Place the aquafaba in a shallow bowl and the bread crumbs, seasoned with some salt, pepper, garlic powder and the paprika in another bowl.

With wet hands, using about 1-2 tablespoons of the potato mixture, roll into logs, repeat until all the mixture is rolled. Then roll each log in the aquafaba being sure to moisten all sides. Roll in the seasoned bread crumbs. I suggest you do each one in both processes before doing another log. Wet your hands frequently (I actually wet them between each log, washing off the breadcrumbs).

Heat the olive oil to about 375 degrees. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, the oil will shimmer when it is close to the right temperature. If you heated it on high, be sure to reduce it to medium high before adding the tater tots. Cook each tot for approximately 3-5 minutes per side or until golden brown. If the tots are getting too dark too quickly, your oil is too hot and will cause the tots to burst.

Remove them from the oil when browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes, onto paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve as a side dish or use as a topping for a casserole.

TIP: To make them more flavorful, add some finely diced green onion or chives; bacon bits; or a small piece of non-dairy cheese in the middle of the log – or even all three! If you’re a fan of parsley, some dried parsley would also work well in these tots.

*Rebecca Coleman, Aquafabulous; 100+ Egg-free Vegan Recipes Using Aquafaba (Toronto, Canada: Robert Rose, 2017)

Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato) Oatmeal Cookies

My husband’s favorite cookie was oatmeal. After looking though dozens of oatmeal cookie recipes, this one came out first in the ones I thought sounded really delicious and easily converted to allergen free. With a food processor, it was very easy to put together and turned out delicious! As with many cookie recipes that are allergen free, these should be flattened before baking and bake a little longer than most cookies.

In a small pot, bring to a boil:

12 ounces of dates with sufficient water to cover them

Once they come to the boil, remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, put into a food processor:

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds

Blend until the seeds are well ground but not turning into butter, larger chunks are okay. In a medium bowl, blend:

2 cups quick cooking organic gluten-free oatmeal

the ground seeds

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

Place the cooled dates into the food processor along with:

2 cups cooked pumpkin or sweet potato or a 15 ounce can of pumpkin or sweet potato puree

1/2 cup of the date boiling liquid (or if a fruity flavor is desired, 1/2 cup of any fruit juice)

Blend until smooth. Add the date/pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and blend until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Let the dough sit for 15-20 minutes so that the oats and chia seeds can absorb some of the moisture in the dough. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2-3 medium cookie sheets with parchment paper.

When the dough is ready, scoop by tablespoon onto the baking sheets and flatten the cookies with the back of a wet spoon. Depending on how it’s measured, the dough should make 2 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.* Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes depending on size and thickness or until the outside of the cookie is golden brown. I found getting the cookies as thin as possible leads to a cookie that is browned and crispy around the outside and chewy on the inside. Cool on baking sheets and then store in air tight container.

*I actually used about 2 tablespoons per cookie and the dough made 29 cookies.

Carob Orange Tapioca Pudding

Used to love vanilla tapioca pudding as a child. Hadn’t thought of it in years. You know the kind, with the nutmeg on top, all creamy with the little balls of tapioca. There was a restaurant in Derry, New Hampshire, when my husband and I lived there that still served it. Don’t know if they’ve survived the pandemic. So anyway, I wondered about other possible flavors for tapioca pudding and happened upon a recipe for orange and changed it up a bit, obviously replacing the whole milk and white sugar. Pretty easy to make, but not something you can walk away from!

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil:

1 cup water

Stir in:

1/4 cup small tapioca pearls

Reduce heat to medium low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the water is gone and the tapioca pearls are swollen and translucent. Add to the pot:

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons unsweetened carob chips

the tapioca pearls just cooked

Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens (it will still be fairly loose), about 3-5 minutes. Stir in:

juice and zest from 1 orange

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Let cool slightly before spooning into individual serving bowls or glasses. Cover and chill. Makes four servings. It can be eaten warm but is much better after it’s sits overnight and firms up.

Curried Popcorn

If you’ve only ever had microwave popcorn, you really don’t know how good popcorn can be. It’s very easy to make on the stovetop once you know the rules:

  1. Start your pan (a deep-sided pan with a lid, preferable glass so you can see the popcorn) on high heat
  2. Add oil and let it come to a shimmer
  3. Add popcorn and seasonings, like curry
  4. Cover with lid if clear, if not leave uncovered
  5. When you see the popcorn start to sizzle, turn the heat down to medium low and cover
  6. Shake the pan occasionally and leave the cover at an angle so the steam can escape
  7. When there’s 3-4 seconds between pops, turn off the heat but don’t move the pan from the burner
  8. Let it sit for several minutes
  9. Remove the lid, add salt and put it in a bowl

It’s really that simple. In my 12″ high-sided skillet, I use:

1/4 cup avocado oil

1/3-1/2 cup popcorn

1 teaspoon curry powder

To keep the curry powder from burning too much, add the popcorn before the curry. If you’ll be buttering your popcorn after it’s popped (not a good idea because liquid really makes popcorn soggy), don’t use as much oil in the beginning. I use avocado because of it takes a high heat before smoking and has a mild flavor but any oil will work.

Carrot Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are delicious, moist and tender, with that warm cinnamon flavor. When I make them again, I’m going to chop up the grated carrot that I buy at the store. The pieces inside the cookies were cooked but the ones on the outside still had a little bite to them. And I felt they were a little sweet for my taste so I’m going to eliminate the agave next time but my daughter-in-law will think they’re just right – the sweeter the better. Very quick and easy to mix together, no mixer needed, just a spoon and two medium size bowls. Makes 14 cookies.

Prepare a cookie sheet(s) by covering with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine:

2 tablespoons ground flax

1/3 cup aquafaba

Stir to mix thoroughly and then let sit for at least 5 minutes. While the flax gel is forming, in another medium bowl mix:

1/4 cup white rice flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

2 tablespoons tapioca flour (or starch)

2 tablespoon sorghum flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 cup quick cooking gluten-free oatmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix thoroughly. Whisk into the flax gel:

2 tablespoons avocado oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup maple syrup (or 1/3 if you prefer not to use the agave)

2 tablespoons agave or coconut nectar

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry (or vice versa doesn’t matter which way). Stir to combine but don’t overmix. Stir in:

3/4 cup grated carrots

Cover with plastic wrap making sure the plastic wrap sits directly on the cookie dough. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Drop the cookie dough by 2 tablespoon scoops. I used wet hands to shape the dough into flattened disks. The dough doesn’t rise much or spread so it needs to be flattened before baking. Wetting hands keeps the dough from sticking. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm to the touch. These cookies won’t brown much. Cool on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container on the countertop.

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.

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.

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.

“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.