Stuffed Tomatoes

Sorry I haven’t blogged in a couple of days. The other main activity in my life is learning the craft of screenwriting and I’ve been at a virtual screenwriting summit all weekend. Just ending today so I have a little time to put up an old recipe of mine that I learned from a friend who was a caterer. Very easy to do and can be used as an appetizer or an entrée. Stuffed tomatoes can be stuffed with any kind of salad you like, egg, chicken, ham, etc. Tip from my caterer friend, use your food processor to process the meat into a well grated product so that it’s easier to stuff into the tomato, especially if you’re using very small tomatoes. It can also be put into a piping bag to fill the tomatoes. Use any size of tomato you like. I prefer to use Campari tomatoes, large for smaller tomatoes and large enough for 2 bites, a good size for an appetizer. If I’m making this as an entrée, a larger tomato is of course needed, like a Big Boy.

If you want the tomatoes to sit neatly on the plate, you can cut a very small amount from the bottom. Just be careful not to cut through the meat of the tomato.

Begin by making the salad. Put into the bowl of a food processor:

1 pound of ham, 1 large chicken breast, 8-10 hard boiled eggs, etc., cut into large chunks

1 large celery stalk, cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons dill relish (this is a sugar free relish; for a sweeter salad, add a little sweetener rather than use a sweet relish which contains sugar)

1-2 scallions, cut into large pieces

Blend until the meat is in small pieces. Add:

1/2 to 2/3 cup vegan mayonnaise

Blend until well mixed, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before finishing processing. Remove the completed salad to either a piping bag or a medium bowl.

For the tomatoes:

16-20 Campari tomatoes

36-48 grape tomatoes

or 2-4 large tomatoes

Begin by washing the tomatoes.* Then cut off the very top of the stem end of the tomatoes. Then, using a small sharp knife, cut around the inside of the tomato next to the meat and use a sharp ended spoon to scoop out the seeds and veins of the tomato.

Set the tomatoes on a paper towel, upside down so that some of the moisture drains out. Leave for about 5 minutes before filling. Place on a plate, garnish with scallions, chives, or thin slices of dill pickle.

*I hope all my followers know that you should NEVER store tomatoes in the refrigerator! Take this from a girl who grew up on a farm. Refrigerating them steals their flavor and also toughens the skins. Also when buying tomatoes, smell them. If they don’t smell like a tomato, they won’t taste like a tomato. Same with most fruit that has a distinct odor like strawberries.

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.

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.

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

“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.

Carob Filled Cookies

Who doesn’t like chocolate cookies and marshmallow? But those of us with chocolate and egg allergies have long given up such things. Here’s a delicious alternative. Like most allergic friendly recipes, this takes a little more effort than the “normal” but it’s well worth the effort.

For the cookies, line a large cookie sheet (or 2 smaller ones) with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl whisk together:

1 tablespoon ground flax

3 tablespoons aquafaba

Let sit for at least 5 minutes. In a medium bowl mix with a hand mixer:

1/2 cup vegan shortening (or margarine) softened

3/4 cup date sugar

1 tablespoon date syrup

Blend until smooth and slightly fluffy. Add the flax gel and

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat until smooth. Add to this mixture:

1/3 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup sorghum flour

3 tablespoons arrowroot

1 tablespoon potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum)

2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup carob powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix until blended, dough will be crumbly. Add, one tablespoon at a time:

Non-dairy milk (I only used 1 but add another one or two if your dough doesn’t come together with the first one)

Form the dough into balls, about 1 tablespoon of the dough for each ball. Flatten them into disks making sure all the disks are the same depth so that they cook evenly. Also make them about the same size since we’ll be putting two of them together with the frosting. Bake about 8 minutes, do not overbake or they will be dry. Cool on tray for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

To make the frosting, in a double boiler (or heat proof bowl over a pot of water if you don’t have a double boiler), mix together over the boiling water:

1/4 to 1/3 cup agave nectar (depending on how sweet your family likes things, remember agave is much sweeter than cane sugar)

1/3 cup aquafaba

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Using a hand mixer on high, beat the mixture for 7-10 minutes until very fluffy and the frosting forms ribbons when whipped. Remove from heat and continue to whip for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat another minute. This should be very thick, like marshmallow! I know, when I started making it, I thought this is never going to work, but after about 6 minutes the mixture actually started to form ribbons and after 9 minutes, it was thick and creamy. Continuing the whipping off the heat will make it even thicker. Chill while the cookies cool completely and it will set up even more.

Spread about a tablespoon of the frosting on the bottom of one cookie and let sit until frosting sets up a little before placing a second cookie on the top. Repeat with the remaining cookies. This recipe will make 6-8 pairs.

Mint Double Carob Chip Cookies

I revamped this recipe because chocolate and mint is a combination that my grandson absolutely loves! And I have to admit, they are pretty good. Be careful or you won’t have any batter to cook, the raw dough is that tasty!

Makes 24-30 depending on the size.

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Put parchment paper on the bottom of 2 cookie sheets (unless you have a large one that will hold 2 dozen at a time). Lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small, heat safe bowl, soak 16-18 dried prunes in boiling water (approximately 1 cup should be enough). Be sure all the prunes are covered. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. While they are soaking, put together the flour mixture in a gallon food storage bag mix:

1 2/3 cups millet flour

1/3 cup sorghum flour

2/3 cup chickpea flour

2/3 cup arrowroot

2/3 cup potato starch (NOT flour)

Seal the bag and shake to thoroughly mix the flours. Be sure to refrigerate the unused flour mixture.

In a medium size food processor add:

Prunes

2 tablespoons of the prune soaking water

1/2 cup date or coconut sugar

1/3 cup agave, honey, date or coconut syrup

1/2 teaspoon mint extract (or about 2 dozen fresh mint leaves torn)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon vinegar

Blend until the prunes are smooth and the mixture has combined. Don’t worry if the prunes are entirely smooth since they will continue to blend with the next steps. Add:

1/3 cup avocado, sunflower, palm, or coconut oil (melted)

Blend again until the mixture is smooth. If the food processor is large enough add (if not scrap the prune mixture out of the food process and into a medium size bowl and add the dry ingredients):

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour mix (see above)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 cup carob powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pulse until the flours are combined. Remove the dough from the food processor and stir in:

1/4 to 1/3 cup unsweetened carob chips

Mix thoroughly. Using a tablespoon measure or small cookie scoop, measure out the dough and form into approximately 1 inch balls (although slightly sticky, it’s easy to shape into balls using damp hands). Place the balls on a cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart and, again with a slightly damp hand, flatten them to about a 1/2 inch in depth. Bake for 8-10 minutes; 8 minutes will give you a chewy, fudgy, softer center while 10 minutes will be chewy but not as fudgy in the center. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.