“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.

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

“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.

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)

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.

Vegetable Fritters

It’s not often that you’ll find me giving you recipes that require frying. Too much oil is as bad for a diabetic as too many carbohydrates or sugar. But I just couldn’t resist this recipe when I found it. And once I cooked them up, oh my, I did eat too much for lunch today! I did fry them but I think if I cook these again, I’ll probably oven fry them with a lot less oil (see tip at the bottom of the recipe).

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cups grated Russet potato (1 medium large potato) – soak the grated potato in cold water for 5-10 minutes to get out as much starch as possible since the starch is not a friend to fried foods, the cakes will brown better with less starch. Drain and dry with paper towels to get out as much of the moisture as possible*

1 cup grated sweet potato (about 1 medium)

1 cup grated carrots (about 1-2 medium) – I used the pre-grated from the store

1 cup grated red onion (onion has a lot of moisture so be sure to dry thoroughly with paper towels before adding)

If you have a food processor, this is the time to break it out and use it! It’s the easiest way to grate the potatoes, carrot and onion. In a large bowl, mix the above. Then add:

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup chickpea flour (DO NOT USE ALL PURPOSE GLUTEN-FREE FLOUR; many have potato starch in them and we just tried to remove the starch from the potato!)

1/4 cup aquafaba

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (depending on how dry your mixture is)

Mix together until combined. If the mixture is too dry and won’t hold together, add the non-dairy milk. If the mixture is too wet and won’t hold together, add the tablespoons of flour until the mixture will bind together. Using a 1/4-1/3 cup measure, form into balls.

Heat over medium high heat in a 10-12″ skillet:

1/2-3/4 cups oil for frying (the oil should come up the side of the pan about a 1/2 inch)

When the oil is glistening, take a ball, flatten it and gently place it in the oil starting with the side nearest you. Being sure to not crowd the skillet, add additional flattened balls. Cook on the first side about 4-6 minutes until golden brown, turn and cook the same on the other side. If the fritters are browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Then flip the fritter again and cook an additional 2-3 minutes on the first side. The cooking time will depend on how thick the fritters are; the thinner the less time they need to cook. Remove to a paper towel and salt immediately. Do not leave the fritters on the towel too long or they will get soggy. They can be placed on a cooling rack (on a cookie sheet) in a 200 degree oven to stay warm while the rest of the fritters cook.

  • * If like me, you don’t eat much potato, other than sweet potato, grated parsnip could be used instead

TIP: To oven fry, place the flattened balls on a greased (spray with non-stick spray) cookie sheet (with sides). Lightly spray the tops of the fritters with the non-stick spray) and bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20-25 minutes. Turn over half-way through the bake.

Easy Lentil Pilaf

I can say that I generally don’t eat anything that I don’t make from scratch, mostly because there are very few pre-made or pre-packaged foods that don’t have something in them that I can’t eat (often it’s soy or sunflower lectin). So it’s not going to happen very often but — I have discovered a wonderful side dish (or main dish) that tastes great and has no allergens! As long as you can eat lentils, this is something you should try. High in protein and low in carbohydrates, lentils are a great addition to a meal. I’ve become addicted to Tolerant’s Organic Riced Red Lentil Pilafs. They’re ready in about 20 minutes, taste great and two of them, the Asian Ginger and the Spanish Style Paella, don’t have any soy in them. I know I was surprised too that the Asian Ginger is soy-free!

Being who I am, of course, I can’t just make it per package directions. So here’s what I do with these pouches of goodness. Serves 4-6.

In a 9″ skillet, add:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

When hot, sauté:

6-8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I like shitake)

1/2 cup diced onions

When the mushrooms are browned and onions translucent, stir in:

2 cups mushroom stock (or any other stock you have on hand, chicken would work well)

1 cup frozen or fresh peas

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Bring to a boil. Add:

1 packet Tolerant Organic Riced Red Lentil Pilaf

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 9-12 minutes until the water is gone. Stir every few minutes, especially when the water is almost gone. Remove from heat, cover and let sit 4-5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!

Quick and Easy Vegetable Fried Rice

I made some Chinese Sweet and Sour Chicken today (see my second blog of the day) and had a little substitute soy sauce left over so thought how about some fried rice. One of my favorite dishes, my mother always made it with bacon and eggs but of course, not able to do that anymore. So this one is fairly easy and quick if you use frozen brown rice (I love the packets from Trader Joe but many markets now carry frozen pre-cooked brown rice, just don’t use the instant – all the good stuff is gone and you’re left with just carbs!). Checked the freezer and the pantry and sure enough had a nice variety of vegetables so decided to give it a try. Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have in your pantry or freezer.

In a 10″ skillet heat:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium onion sliced

3 stalks celery sliced on the bias

1/2 cup grated carrot

1 cup frozen French cut green beans

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 small can, drained bamboo shoots or sliced water chestnuts

Cook over medium heat for several minutes, stir once or twice to make sure vegetables cook evenly. Then turn heat down to medium low and cover. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add 1 1/2-2 cups cooked (or frozen) brown rice, stir to combine and cover to heat the rice another 3-5 minutes. Add:

2-4 tablespoons soy sauce substitute

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon red chili flakes or hot sauce (optional)

Stir in the sauce and the dish is ready!

Easy Spicy Barbeque Beans (dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free, vegan)

Being a New England girl, I’m not accustomed to barbeque beans; we are famous for our Boston Baked Beans where I come from (see recipe under side dishes). Since beans are a great source of protein and generally lower in carbs than many side dishes, I’m trying to use them more often as a side dish. Here’s a recipe that’s quick and easy (takes longer to make the sauce than the beans!).

Feel free to use any bean your family likes. And if you have time and prefer dried beans, soak them overnight or boil them for about an hour before adding the sauce, and the recipe is just as easy.

In a small saute pan mix:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 small jar tomato paste

1/4 cup vinegar (I use rice but any kind will work)

1/4 cup maple, agave, or coconut nectar, or honey

2 tablespoons molasses

Salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 to 1 teaspoon

1 teaspoon-1 tablespoons hot sauce (or cayenne pepper)

sufficient bean liquid to thin the sauce

Heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onions and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook a minute more, about 5 minutes all together. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, mix thoroughly, and simmer over low heat for about a half hour. For a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender before mixing in:

1-2 cans (or about 1 1/2 cups dried beans that have been soaked or boiled) beans (I used red kidney beans because those are the ones I like but feel free to use any beans you have on hand).

The sauce makes enough for 2 cans of beans but I used only 1 and froze the other half of the sauce.

Serves 4