Easy Light Italian Dressing

I like a variety of salad dressings, makes salads more interesting if they don’t always taste the same. I generally use a small canning jar but if you have a glass jar that you’ve emptied of whatever that’s at least 1 cup in size, wash it out and keep it for making dressings. I find it easier to shake for a few minutes rather than whisking.

In a small 1 cup jar, add:

1/2 cup avocado oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar (or whatever vinegar your family likes)

1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey (or 1/4 teaspoon monk fruit powder)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Italian herb blend

Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously for several minutes.

Want creamy Italian dressing? Simply use a little larger jar or whisk in a bowl the above with:

1/4 cup non-dairy yogurt, sour cream, or vegan mayonnaise

Orange Sauce

You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan margarine
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free flour (all purpose or brown rice works best)
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind

In a small saucepan, heat the orange juice and honey along with the vinegar, salt, orange rind and stock. 

Mix together the margarine and flour into a paste.   Add to the simmering sauce using a whisk so that you don’t get any lumps.  Continue cooking sauce until thickened, only a couple of minutes.  Its now ready to serve.

Green Goddess Dressing

This is a great dressing for any salad you want to put it on. If you want it creamy, add some vegan mayonnaise to the recipe. Yum, yum!

In a food processor put:

  • 1 ripe avocado, skinned and pitted
  • 1/4 cup dried parsley, or 1/2 cup fresh parsley (you can add more if you like parsley; not one of my favorite herbs so I didn’t use much)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (or lemon juice if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons ground pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water to get to dressing consistency, 1/4-1 cup (my dressing came out fairly thick and I used 1/2 cup of water)

Blend until creamy and all ingredients are combined.  Here, again, I used some roasted whole coriander seeds that I pulsed in my spice grinder so they were not fully ground and the pumpkin seeds were also only partially ground.  This added some crunchy texture to the dressing.

Simple Curry Sauce (dairy-free, gluten-free)

This is a very easy sauce to make using a curry powder; I prefer the Madras curry powder. If you’re adventurous and want to make your own curry powder, there are a number of recipes and videos on-line (YouTube especially) which show the process.

In a small sauce pan, heat

2 tablespoons oil

then add

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of curry, depending on your taste and cook for approximately 30 seconds until you can smell the curry. 

Add 2 tablespoons all purpose gluten-free flour.  Whisk and cook for several minutes. 

Whisk in 3/4 to 1 cup (the amount of milk depends on how thick you want your sauce) of your favorite milk (coconut milk works great here but rice, hemp, almond also work fine).

Soy Sauce Substitute (soy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free)

I do so love Chinese foods but not an easy thing to find these foods that don’t contain soy. Harder yet to cook them without an alternative other than coconut aminos. Since I’m also allergic to coconut, that doesn’t work for me! So here’s a recipe for a substitute that isn’t as salty but adds that umami we crave with Chinese foods. I frequently make a double batch and freeze it in small 1/4 cup portions since it will last in the refrigerator only about 3-4 weeks but freezes very nicely.

In a small saucepan mix:

1 1/2 cups bone broth – I used mushroom but beef would also work

3 teaspoons vinegar

1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses

2 teaspoons date sugar (or date syrup)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by half. Cool.

Easy Ragu Sauce (dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free)

Who doesn’t love pasta? And for me, I love it all ways but with a ragu sauce, one of my all time favorites. I remember as a teenager, baking Italian bread to go with a spaghetti supper, ripping pieces off the bread and tasting the sauce, telling myself it was to make sure it was seasoned correctly but actually just because I love the sauce more than the pasta!

If you want to make this even quicker and easier than my recipe, begin as I did but instead of adding canned tomatoes and tomato paste, mix in a large jar of ready made tomato sauce (I happen to be addicted to Rao’s Sauce for Sensitive Diets).

This recipe will serve four. In a medium, deep saucepan, heated over medium heat, add:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound Italian sauce, any type your family likes be it pork, chicken, or vegan (if using links, take the sausage out of the casing or slice after cooking)

Cook the sausage until browned (I always think of Anne Burrell when I say that – love her saying, Brown Food GOOD!). Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Add to the frying pan:

1 medium or 1/2 large onion, diced

1 sweet pepper diced, any color

1/2 cup grated carrot

6-8 ounces sliced or diced mushrooms (any type you like)

Cook until onions are translucent and mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add:

1 small to medium zucchini, diced

1-2 small yellow squash

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Stir the vegetables and cover the pan. I used summer squash but feel free to substitute any vegetables your family likes; I’ve even used small frozen Brussel sprouts. Cook 8-10 minutes until the squash are softened but not mushy. Add the sausage back into the pan along with:

1 32oz can tomato puree

1 16oz can small diced tomatoes

2 teaspoons Italian spices (oregano, thyme, basil)

This is where a large jar of prepared tomato sauce could be substituted (cooking time would be reduced to about 10 minutes and it would be ready to serve). Simmer for 30-45 minutes and add:

1 small can tomato paste

1 tablespoon agave nectar

Stir making sure the tomato paste is incorporated. Cook about 5 more minutes and serve with pasta.

Easy Pear Ginger Sauce (dairy-free, refined sugar-free, vegan)

A very easy thing to do with fruit that is getting too ripe and has to be used is to make a sauce with it. I had two pears that were getting over-ripe yesterday and decided to make some pear sauce. I had a small piece of ginger left over from the gingerbread waffles so I grated that into the sauce as well. Great idea, added to the taste as well as giving the sauce a little tang. And tastes great on top of the gingerbread waffles!

I used pears but any fruit would work with this recipe, with or without the ginger. If I hadn’t added the ginger, I would have used some cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, or cardamom. And it easily adjusts to the number of pieces of fruit that are ripe.

To make about 1 cup of sauce, use:

2 medium ripe pears

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (or any other spice your family likes)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Wash, core, peel,* and dice the pears into a small saucepan. Add the spice and salt, cover and simmer over medium low heat until the pears are soft, about 10 minutes. Uncover and increase heat to medium to boil off excess liquid, cook for about 5 minutes or until there’s no longer any visual excess liquid. Remove from heat and using a potato masher or just a fork, mash into a sauce like consistency. If making a larger batch, use an immersion blender. Serve hot or cold. The sauce also freezes very well.

If the fruit isn’t sweet enough for your taste, feel free to add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, agave or coconut nectar, or date syrup to sweeten.

*In the case of pears, if they are organic, I don’t bother to peel them because that’s where most of the fiber is in pears. But other fruits such as peaches definitely peel.

Carob (or Chocolate) Ganache (dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegan)

If you want a quick and easy, but still very tasty, topping for ice cream or cake, here’s a simple carob ganache recipe.  If you like things a little sweeter, add a little more monk fruit powder.

Heat in a small saucepan:

  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice 

Put in a small bowl:

  • 1 cup unsweetened carob chips
  • 1 teaspoon monk fruit powder

It only takes a minute to heat up the milk.  When it is hot, pour it over the chips.  Stir vigorously for a couple of minutes to melt the chips and incorporate the milk.  Add:

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Stir to combine.  Your ganache is ready.  Use quickly as it will harden up in just a few minutes.  To use as “Hot Fudge Sauce” simply increase the milk to 3/4 cup.

Gluten-Free Gravy (dairy-free, gluten-free)

In New England, gravy is a necessity with any roasted meat dinner.  Gravy is very easy to make with some boxed meat stock (or vegetable stock).  I’ve been known to make lumpy gravy but that’s easy to fix by putting it through a sieve.

In a small saucepan:

  • 1 1/2 cups of stock (be sure to use stock for the most flavorful gravy)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons of brown rice flour mixed into 1/2 cup of cold stock or water (depending on how thick you like your gravy)

Whisk to mix and keep stirring until the gravy comes to a boil and thickens.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes before serving.

Of course, the best gravy is made from the pan drippings.  I often put some stock in the bottom of the pan when I roast a chicken or turkey and then after removing the bird from the roasting pan, I add more stock and bring the pan to a boil.  Once its boiled for a few minutes, scrape the bottom so that you get all those flavorful pan drippings and then you can pour it into a saucepan, let cool slightly and then pour it through your fat separator.  Put it back into your saucepan, measure out 2 cups (or increase the flour in proportion to the amount of liquid), heat the stock and follow above directions.

Cranberry Compote (dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan)

Nothing goes better with a roasted chicken or turkey than some cranberry sauce.  Since I can no longer eat the canned kind, I’ve learned to make my own.  And its really quite easy to do.  Increase or decrease the sweetener to your taste.  I like mine a little tart but my husband likes his a little sweeter so I usually break the batch in half and add a little more sweetener to his.  Freezes quite well.

In a medium saucepan:

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed), cleaned [remove any cranberries that aren’t perfectly round and intact]
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar (OR 1/2 cup honey OR 1 teaspoon monk fruit powder OR 2 teaspoons stevia)
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • juice of one orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (I prefer allspice but if you don’t, feel free to use cinnamon, nutmeg, or even ground cloves)

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries burst and the compote begins to thicken.  This should take about 15 minutes.  Be sure to remove from the heat as soon as it thickens or you’ll lose the pectin and it won’t gel.  Once its cooled, you can grind it in your food processor or blender for a smooth sauce or leave it whole for a chunkier version.