Thai “Peanut” Sauce with Spaghetti Squash

My obsession with eggplant has been demolished and replaced with spaghetti squash. Such a versatile vegetable, low in carbs, and good either as a “spaghetti” type vegetable or as a mashed squash. In this instance, it’s used as a spaghetti. And of course, I’ve left out the peanuts and substituted tahini but really any seed or nut butter will work in this recipe. And feel free to adjust the last four ingredients in the sauce to meet your family’s tastes. I used a lot more of the red curry paste because I just didn’t taste it at the prescribed amount.

First, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut in half:

1 small to medium spaghetti squash (size depending on how many you want to feed)

Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and place face down on a baking tray. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted into the skin side of the squash. Baking time will depend on the size of the squash. When tender, set aside to cool while you make the sauce.

In a medium size saucepan, combine:

1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk (if you can have coconut milk, it would work well here)

2/3 cup tahini, sunflower, pepita, or other seed or nut butter

1/4 cup date sugar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy substitute for vegans)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons red curry paste (I used about 2 tablespoons)

Whisk to combine thoroughly although some heat may be needed to break down the seed or nut butter. Cook over medium high heat until it reaches a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a 12″ skillet, heat over medium heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Cover and cook until the carrots and peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Using a fork, scrap the flesh from the inside of the spaghetti squash from end to end. Add to the skillet with the other vegetables along with 1/2 to 1 cup of the sauce. At this point, add:

1/4 cup chopped parsley (OPTIONAL)

Toss and cook for 2-3 minutes until squash is heated through. Serve with chopped nuts or seeds (I used roasted pumpkin seeds, delicious!). With a small squash as a side dish, serves 4.

This recipe makes about 3 times as much sauce as is needed for the dish. I spooned the remainder into 1 cup canning jars and put them in the freezer.

Mushroom Stuffed Potato Cakes

Delicious side dishes that the entire family will enjoy are hard to come by, especially if one believes the television commercials! Here’s one that takes a little time but is worth the effort. And it’s quite easy to adjust to a particular taste – the dill can be replaced by one of a dozen herbs or spices. Potatoes are the type of food that can be enjoyed with a multitude of preparations. I made the mushroom stuffing several days in advance, prepared the mashed potatoes for the cakes a day ahead so it cooled overnight (no one wants to try to form hot potatoes into disks!), and then assembled them on the third day. They take very little time to assemble and fry so plan accordingly. About 15 minutes before my protein was ready, I started and had them fried and salted just as the ribs were coming out of the oven.

First prepare the mushrooms. In a 12″ skillet heat over medium high:

1 tablespoon olive oil

then add:

1 small onion minced (the food processor does this very quickly and easily)

8 ounces chopped mushrooms (again, a mince is best although not required)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

When the mushrooms and onion are soft and slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes, remove from heat and add:

1 large stem dill, chopped (fronds only)

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of red pepper flakes (or a dash of hot sauce) [Optional]

Set aside to cool. Peel and dice:

2-2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes

Cover with cold water and boil until soft. Depending on the size of the dice, this could take 10-30 minutes. Once cooked, drain the water and mash the potatoes, being sure to remove all lumps. DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUID TO THE MASH POTATOES.

In a large soup dish or pie plate (or paper plate), mix together the dredge:

1/4 cup all purpose gluten free flour

1 tablespoon tapioca flour

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

To assemble the potato cakes, in the palm of a hand, scoop:

1/4-1/2 cup mashed potatoes (depending on the size cake desired)

Flatten until about 1/4″ thick and then make an indenture in the middle. Add about:

1-2 tablespoons mushroom mixture

Cover with about 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup scoop of mashed potatoes, spread to cover the stuffing and then lightly seal the edges of the disk to form a cake. Roll in the dredge mixture and set aside. The mixture should make 6-8 medium sized cakes.

Heat in a large skillet over medium high heat:

1/2 cup olive and avocado oil (the avocado oil has a much higher smoke point than the olive so a combination works best)

When shimmering hot, add the cakes to the oil and lower heat to medium. Fry on each side until well browned, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel and salt to taste. After a minute remove from the paper towel so that the cakes don’t get soggy. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped dill or scallions.

TIP: When I next make these, hopefully when my grandson comes to visit, I’ll add some crispy bacon bits to the mushroom mixture!

TIP 2: I think I’ll also try this recipe with sweet potatoes but it will need different handling since they are quite moister than russet potatoes. Flour will need to be added to the sweet potatoes before shaping. I’ll give it a try and let you know how it works out.

Greek Butter Beans

Butter, or lima, beans are a good source of protein as well as flavorful and very satisfying as a side dish. This recipe is very easy to make, especially if canned beans are used. It would work with any type of bean if butter beans are not to your taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray an 5x8x3″ baking dish. Heat over medium heat in a 12″ skillet:

1 tablespoon olive oil

When hot (shimmering), add:

1 small onion diced

2 small or 8-10 baby carrots, sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until the carrots are slightly softened and the onion is translucent. Remove the cover and add:

2 medium to large fresh Roma (or plum) tomatoes, peeled and diced

2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (OPTIONAL)

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add:

1 16ounce can butter beans, with liquid (unsalted if possible)

Stir to combine and cook for 8-10 minutes over medium high heat until sauce starts to thicken. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. Top with chopped fresh parsley and serve. A dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt would add some richness. TIP: If your family likes spicy food, consider adding a few dashes of hot sauce when the tomatoes are added to the pan. Serves 4.

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” 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.