String Beans and Mushrooms with Garlic Sauce

Far easier to make than eggplant with garlic sauce, string beans with garlic sauce is a much more commonly found Chinese dish. It’s just as tasty, sweet and tangy but since the string beans are not deep fried, don’t need to be salted and let sit to lose their bitterness, or dredged in corn starch, the dish is so easy to construct, taking just minutes. Pre-steaming the beans or using frozen ones makes it even quicker to prepare. Many vegetables lend themselves to this process – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

First prepare the beans by steaming or thawing them – any color string beans works equally well:

1 pound fresh or frozen string beans (I used yellow [or wax as my father always called them])

Remove the stems and steam for approximately 3-5 minutes until starting to tenderize but still have a bite, like al dente pasta. In a 12″ skillet, over medium high heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When the oil is shimmering hot, add:

6 ounces mushrooms

Sauté the mushrooms until lightly browned and tender. Add the string beans and remove from heat. In a small saucepan (2 cup size), heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 small shallot, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 small can mild green chilis

Cook until the shallot softens before adding:

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup soy sauce substitute

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon date syrup

Stir to combine. Make a slurry of:

2 teaspoons corn starch or arrowroot

1 tablespoon water

Add to the sauce and stir until the sauce thickens. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 5-7 minutes. Add to the string beans and mushrooms and reheat the vegetables over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Garnish with scallion greens and serve.*

*I actually only used half the garlic sauce so put the other half into a 1 cup jelly jar and stuck it in the freezer for the next time I need it.

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

Carob Zucchini Cake

So much zucchini, what to do with it all! Not a bad dilemma to have. Here’s a way to use some.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 9×13″ baking dish or line it with parchment paper with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray. In a large (and I mean large!) bowl, mix together:

2 cups date sugar

2 1/2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour

1/2 cup carob powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

Add and mix well:

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (1 smallish medium sized unpeeled)

In a smaller bowl, using an electric mixer, beat:

6 tablespoons aquafaba

Until double in volume, then add:

1/4 cup date sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat on highest speed until stiff peaks form – the mixture shouldn’t move when you move the bowl on its side.

In another small bowl combine:

1/2 cup unsweetened fruit sauce: pear, apple, peach, plum etc.

1 cup avocado oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup oat milk

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Whisk to combine thoroughly. Make a hollow in the middle of the dry zucchini mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly making sure all the dry mixture is combined. Add the whipped aquafaba and carefully fold it into the rest of the batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake approximately 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

This is a very dense, moist (if not overbaked) rich cake so once cooled, cut into small squares. Freezes well. If more decadence is wanted, top with carob ganache and serve with non-dairy whip or vanilla frozen dessert of choice. I served mine with some plum coolee.

TIP: It would be more like zucchini brownies if baked in a roll cake pan (this is a large “cookie” sheet like pan except it has higher sides). Baking time should reflect size of pan so the larger and shallower the mixture, the less baking time needed.

“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.

Carob Chip Zucchini Bars

Grate the zucchini and put in a colander for about an hour before starting these bars to get out some of the liquid out of it or the bars will be too wet and get gummy. I weighted the grated zucchini down with a plate and a large can of tomatoes. Then blot between some paper towels. Makes 16 bars.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13″ baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl combine:

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice (or 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg)

In another medium sized bowl combine:

3/4 cup pear sauce (or apple sauce) unsweetened

3/4 cup maple syrup (or 1/2 cup agave or coconut nectar)

1/3 cup avocado oil (or other light oil)

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini (2 small zucchini)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well with a large spoon. Stir in:

3/4 cup carob chips (or chocolate chips)

1/2 cup hemp hulls (or chopped walnuts if nuts are possible)

Pour or spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading as evenly as possible so that the batter cooks evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the pan. Cool completely before cutting.

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

I know, another eggplant recipe! I can’t help myself, it’s so good right now. My local grocery has such fresh ones on hand, I just have to buy them. This recipe traditionally should be made with Japanese eggplants but they are hard to find. I used to get them at the farmers’ market when I lived in Massachusetts, haven’t found them here in Minneapolis as yet. So I used the common oval eggplants. Look for ones that are narrower, they’ll have fewer seeds and be a little less bitter. Also make sure when purchasing eggplants, that the stems are still green and the eggplant is firm to the touch. And always buy the ones with the inward flower end rather than ones with an outward end, they will also be less bitter.

Because this recipe was made using 2 oval eggplants rather than the Japanese, the proportions will be different if you happen to find the long, skinny kind. So double the eggplants needed if you strike it lucky and are able to use the Japanese. They also won’t need to be peeled!

First, peel and cut into bite size pieces:

2 oval eggplants, medium sized (about 6 cups of meat altogether before salting)

Place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with:

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sea salt

Mix thoroughly and set aside for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer is better. After they have sat, rinse thoroughly with water to remove the salt and then dry as thoroughly as possible with paper towels (or a clean kitchen towel). It’s not possible to remove all the water from eggplant since the meat acts like a sponge with any moisture. When dry, toss with:

1 tablespoon corn starch (or tapioca starch)

Mix thoroughly and then repeat with a second tablespoon of starch.

Heat in a large skillet (or griddle if you have one):

1/4 cup olive oil

When shimmering add the eggplant and cook on medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes until browned then turn to brown the other side, cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove pieces as they are browned and set aside. When all the pieces are well browned, and crunchy, and the skillet is empty, make the sauce.

In a medium skillet heat over medium:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot add:

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped white scallions (slice the greens for garnish)

1 teaspoon minced green chilis

Cook for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add:

1/2 cup soy sauce substitute (see recipe under sauces and condiments)

1/4 cup water

Stir to distribute and let cook for a minute or two while making a slurry with:

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon corn or tapioca starch (or arrowroot)

Add slurry to the skillet, stirring constantly until sauce is thick. Stir in the eggplant chunks. Remove to a serving plate and garnish with the greens from the scallions and some white sesame seeds. Makes 4 servings.

TIP: Add some diced chicken, beef, pork, tofu, etc., to make this a complete meal.

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

Raspberry Crumble Bars

Well, after my fall, I’m recovering nicely and can finally stand on my bad leg for more than 10-15 minutes without it starting to throb. So, of course, the first thing I had to do was COOK! I haven’t cooked anything in almost 2 weeks and I was going crazy! I know I put up a recipe for raspberry bars a few months ago but I saw this one and it’s a lot healthier without all the fat or quite as many carbs as the other recipe. Hope you enjoy it as much I do.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare an 8×8 baking pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray and then lining with parchment paper (spraying the pan allows the paper to stick and makes pressing the crust layer into the pan much easier, especially since the paper should be one solid piece because we’ll use it to lift the finished product out of the pan to slice).

For the crust, in the bowl of a food processor combine:

1 1/4 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup millet flour (or sorghum flour)

1/2 cup date sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients before adding:

1/4 cup honey (or agave or coconut nectar)

1/2 cup seed or nut butter (I used pumpkin seed butter but tahini, almond, etc., would work)

1/4 cup ground seeds or nuts (or hemp hulls) **OPTIONAL

Pulse to combine. If mixture is too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water. We want a mixture that sticks to itself, at least a little bit when squeezed together. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. In a medium bowl mix:

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries*

2 tablespoons lemon juice (about half a lemon)

2 tablespoons date sugar

2 teaspoons corn starch (or arrowroot)

Stir to combine. Spread over the crust covering it completely and try to make the raspberry filling as even as possible. Top with the remaining 1/3 of the crust mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is golden brown. It’s very important to cool the bars completely before cutting. I cooled mine on the counter for several hours and then put it in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours.

*While I used raspberries, any fruit can be used for the filling – blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, apples, pears, peaches, etc. If using fresh fruit, reduce the corn starch (or arrowroot) to 1 teaspoon.

Oatmeal and Pear Cookies

This are very easy to put together and tastes delicious. Per usual, I can’t eat apples, peaches, nectarines, etc., but if you can, this cookie would work with any of those fruits, probably cherries as well. Just be sure that the fruit is not overripe or the mixture will be too wet.

In a medium bowl, combine:

1 tablespoon ground flax

1/3 cup aquafaba

Whisk and let sit for at least 5 minutes then add:

2 tablespoons avocado oil (or coconut oil)

1/2 cup agave or honey (or date syrup)

1/2 cup diced pears (or other fresh fruit)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine and add:

1 cup quick gluten-free oats

3/4 cup all purpose gluten-free flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum)

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir until all the dry ingredients are mixed into the wet. Set aside and let sit for 45-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a large cookie sheet by covering it with parchment paper (or a silicone mat). Scoop by tablespoon the cookie dough placing cookies at least 1 inch apart (they don’t spread). Bake for 13-15 minutes. Makes approximately 18 cookies.

“Irish” Potatoes

I hit 200 recipes on the site the other day! This is a recipe I learned from a dear departed friend of mine. She called it Irish potatoes. Easy side dish to prepare and very delicious. My grandson would rather have this with a meal than practically anything else. He especially likes to have the leftovers for breakfast the next day with eggs (and bacon if his mother will let him!).

For 4 people, I use:

2 medium to large sized russet potatoes, peeled and diced*

2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (I had some purple on hand but any sweet potato will work)

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 sweet peppers, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the diced potatoes in a pot of cold water, just covering the potatoes, and cook until a fork will pierce but not split the pieces. If the potatoes cook to fully done, they will be mushy when you fry them.

In a skillet large enough to have a single layer of potatoes (about 12″) heat over medium heat:

1/4 cup of olive oil (or other if preferred)

Add:

Diced onion

Diced pepper (I used the yellow and orange because I can’t digest the green)

Cook until the onions and peppers are softened. Add the potatoes and garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for about 3-5 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes before turning and repeating. A crispy outside and soft inside is what we want here but hard to achieve if you flip the potatoes too often or too soon. Also difficult if there’s not enough oil in the pan. Might have to reduce the heat if the sweet potatoes start to brown too quickly (they will burn easier than the russet chunks). The dish is ready when a majority of the potatoes are crispy and golden brown. Feel free to garnish with chopped parsley.

*Try to make the dices roughly the same size so that they will all cook at the same speed. Having large and smaller pieces will give you mushy fried potatoes since the smaller ones will cook so much faster.