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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Author Archives: Jovina Coughlin

You may have family or friends visiting for the holidays who follow special diets. If you plan ahead and with just a few ingredients changes, many of the Thanksgiving recipes can be adapted to meet the needs of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and low carb diets. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Everyone.

Vegan Gravy (or Regular or Gluten-Free)

Kitchen Bouquet is a browning sauce that you can find in the grocery store next to the A1 and Worcestershire Sauce. It helps to add a brown color to the gravy. There are several brands of browning sauce available, but I use this one. Since 2006 this vegan sauce has been gluten-free. It is made from a base of carrots, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, celery and onion.

You can use this same recipe for everyone by make a second batch and using chicken broth in the second batch for regular diets. To make this gravy Gluten-Free, use gluten-free cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Gluten-free gravy also works for low carb dieters.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
2 heaping tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet, optional

Directions

Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cook until the mushrooms are soft and brown, and most of their liquid is evaporated.

Stir in the flour with a whisk and reduce heat to low. Cook for another minute or two.

Slowly add the vegetable broth while whisking to reduce clumps. Then add in the salt, pepper and thyme and whisk again.

Stir in the Kitchen Bouquet, if using.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir until it reaches the desired thickness, about 5-10 minutes.

Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing

To make this recipe gluten-free use cornbread instead of Italian bread in the recipe. The gluten-free cornbread recipe is below.

Ingredients

8 cups Italian bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, diced
2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried poultry seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and the sausage.

Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula, until light brown, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl of cubed bread.

In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and peppers, cook 1 minute and, then, add the mixture to the cubed bread.

Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

Place the stuffing in a large baking dish and bake in the oven for the last hour that the turkey cooks.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

This can be made several days ahead.

Ingredients

2 cups (264 g) coarsely ground yellow cornmeal (gluten-free)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square or round pan, and set it aside.

In a large bowl, place the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and whisk to combine well.

In separate bowl, mix the egg, butter, buttermilk and honey, and whisk to combine well.

Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top, golden brown around the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely and cut up into cubes.

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing

Ingredients

3 cups sourdough wheat bread (made without dairy or eggs) cut into cubes
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 leek white part only, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large rib celery finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until all moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes.

Add sage and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are well browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Add leek, celery, garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, and chopped pecans.

Add stock to the bread cubes and fold in the cooked vegetables until evenly mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Transfer mixture to a greased baking dish cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake with the turkey until hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and crisp on top, about 10 minutes longer.

Vegan Stuffed Squash

Serve this dish instead of turkey for your vegan or vegetarian dinners.

To make this recipe for non-vegans, add a ½ cup of cooked lean ground pork to the stuffing.

Directions for preparing the squash:

Cut a thin slice off from the top & bottom of one acorn squash (just enough to leave a flat edge, so the squash can stand up on both ends).

Cut the squash in half, horizontally, so you have two bowl shapes. Scoop out the membranes and seeds and discard.

Place the squash in a baking dish cut-side up. Brush the inside with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Roast the squash for about 30 minutes.

Filling

Combine the following:

2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons diced celery
1/4 cup diced, peeled pear
1/4 cup diced, peeled apple
2 tablespoons fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup cooked brown rice

 

 

Place the filling mixture in the partially cooked squash halves. Place the filled squash in the oven and bake 20 minutes.

Easy Vegan or Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin filling can be used for either pie.

Ingredients

Pat-in-the-Pan Vegan Crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Vegan Pie Filling Directions

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan and up the sides.

A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top.

Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pat-in-the-Pan Gluten-Free Crust

1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil (or alternative oil)
5 tablespoons cold milk (or cold plant milk)

Gluten-Free Pie Crust Directions

Mix together the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Blend oil and milk together in a separate bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine.

Place dough into a 9 inch pie plate and press the dough firmly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.

Place the pie crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Filling Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all the pie filling ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust and bake for about 60 minutes.

The crust should be golden brown and the filling should still be set.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set overnight.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

Crust

2¼ cups almond flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar substitute (1:1 with sugar)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten

Filling

2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup 1:1 sugar substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs at room temperature, beaten

Directions

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients until a dough forms.

Press the dough into 9-inch pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the beaten eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, spices and sweetener. Mix well.

Add the heavy cream until fully combined.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick (or knife) inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

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Shrimp Scampi

Be sure to purchase US wild caught shrimp for this dish.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
14 -16 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan.

Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine, salt, black pepper, red pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook 2–3 minutes or until lightly pink. Turn the shrimp over and cook for another minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Mushroom Risotto

(2 large side-dish portions)

Ingredients

1 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 cup mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat, to keep warm.

Drizzle the olive oil over the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot, and place it over medium heat. Add the butter and allow to melt.

Add the garlic, onion and mushrooms and sauté until all are soft.

Add the Arborio rice and mix to coat with oil, allowing to cook for about one minute.

Ladle 1 cup of chicken stock over the rice, stirring until it is absorbed by the rice.

Continue adding chicken stock and stirring until the risotto is creamy and the rice grains are al dente – soft but a bit firm on the inside.

This will take about 15-20 minutes. Before serving, stir in Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Zucchini with Parmesan

2 servings

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini, washed and trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half again lengthwise. Then cut each piece in half crosswise for a total of 8 pieces.

Arrange the zucchini in an ovenproof dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Lightly brush with the olive oil.

Season with the salt and pepper. Mix the Parmesan and garlic together; then sprinkle over the zucchini.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the zucchini are tender and the cheese is browned.


Having leftover baked ham is a good thing. There are so many tasty dishes to make with the leftovers. I think I like these dishes even better than the original. Here is the link for the post on baked ham.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

2 servings

Ingredients

2 boneless chicken breast cutlets
2 slices leftover baked ham
2 slices (2 oz) Swiss or Gruyère cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil

Breading Mix

2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons almond flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place each breast on a cutting board and make a horizontal slit through the thicker side, cutting almost to the opposite side.

Place a ham slice and a cheese slice in each pocket, leaving a 1/2 border. Seal chicken over the filling.

In a shallow bowl, mix the egg with the milk.

In a shallow plate, combine the flour, almond flour, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Carefully dip each piece of chicken first in the milk mixture, then in the crumb mixture to coat.

Place chicken in a baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Combine melted butter and oil, and drizzle half over the chicken; turn breasts over and drizzle with the remaining butter mixture on the other side.

Bake about 30 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time, until lightly browned on the outside and cooked through.

This dish goes well with oven roasted asparagus.

Ham and Cheese Egg Muffins

Egg Muffins make an easy, portable, and tasty breakfast that’s packed with protein and are good-for-you.

Makes 12 egg muffins

Ingredients

8 large eggs
½ cup refrigerated egg substitute (Egg Beaters)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cubed leftover baked ham
1 cup shredded cheddar, Italian blend or mozzarella cheese
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup golden (or red) grape tomatoes, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together the eggs, egg substitute, salt and seasonings. Stir in the ham, cheese, bell peppers, tomatoes and green onions.

Spray a standard 12 cup muffin tin with olive oil cooking spray.

Using a muffin scoop, pour the egg mixture filling into each cup filling them to the top.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes until cooked through and puffy.

Ham & Cheese Omelet

2 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
3-4 slices of baked ham, cut into smaller pieces
2 slices of American, Cheddar or Swiss cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Melt the butter over low heat in a skillet or omelet pa. Add the sliced ham and cook until hot and beginning to brown slightly.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the cream and some black pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the ham.

Cook until the eggs begin to set. Place the slices of cheese over the eggs. Cover the pan and let cook until completely set. Uncover the pan.

Fold half of the cooked egg over the other half to form a half circle. Let cook a minute or two and then serve.

 

Stuffed Peppers with Ham and Cauliflower Rice

These little ham stuffed peppers are great for lunch. The recipe can be doubled and tripled. You can also use regular rice if you prefer.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 small bell peppers
1/2 cup cauliflower rice
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 ounces shredded mild Cheddar or American cheese
1/2 cup diced baked ham
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Black pepper to taste

Directions

To prepare the cauliflower rice:

Wash and cut a head of cauliflower into small pieces.

Put the cauliflower pieces into a food processor and process it until it is in rice-size pieces.

Reserve 1/2 cup for this recipe and use the remainder for another dish.

Cook the whole peppers in 2 cups of lightly salted boiling water for 3 minutes.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and then drain the peppers.

Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds and white membrane. Reserve the top slice.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a skillet, sauté the onion and celery in butter until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the cooking water and shredded cheese.

Stir until blended; add ham, cauliflower rice, parsley and pepper.

Fill peppers with the ham mixture and top with the pepper lids.

Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray and place the peppers in the dish.

Bake the peppers until the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes.


The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Syria. This series continues with the country of Lebanon.

Stretching along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon’s length is almost three times its width. As it stretches from north to south, the width of its terrain becomes narrower. Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate characterized by a long, semi-hot, and dry summer, and a cold, rainy and snowy winter.

The country’s role in the region was shaped by trade. Lebanon is named “the pearl of the middle east.” It serves as a link between the Mediterranean world and India and East Asia. The merchants of the region exported oil, grain, textiles, metalwork, and pottery through the port cities to Western markets.

Lebanon was heavily forested in ancient and medieval times, and its timber, especially cedar, was exported for building and shipbuilding. Although Lebanon’s diverse and abundant plant and animal life suffered a heavy toll during the country’s lengthy civil war, the post-civil war period was marked by the rise of fledgling environmental groups and movements that worked toward the creation of protected areas and parks in Lebanon’s ecological areas.

Lebanon has a heterogeneous society composed of numerous ethnic and religious groups. Ethnically, the Lebanese compose a mixture Phoenicians, Greeks, Armenians and Arabs.

Meat kebab, falafel, baba ghanoush, muhammara, hummus, sambusak, rice, tahini, kibbeh ,pita. Halal food. Lebanese cuisine.

The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of grains, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten, it is usually lamb.

Many dishes in the Lebanese cuisine can be traced back thousands of years to eras of Roman and Phoenician rule. More recently, Lebanese cuisine was influenced by the different foreign civilizations that held power. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, such as cooking with lamb. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. The French introduced foods such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 16th century AD, and croissants.

Most often foods are grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil and vegetables are often eaten raw, pickled, or cooked. Herbs and spices are used in large quantities. Like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons and what is available. In Lebanon, very rarely are drinks served without being accompanied by food. Similar to the tapas of Spain and aperitivo of Italy, mezze is an array of small dishes placed before the guests. Mezze may be as simple as raw or pickled vegetables, hummus, baba ghanouj and bread, or it may become an entire meal consisting of grilled marinated seafood, skewered meats, a variety of cooked and raw salads and an arrangement of desserts.

Salads may include tabbouleh, fattoush and kebbeh. Patties such as the Sambusac and stuffed grape leaves are often included. Family cuisine offers also a range of dishes, such as stews, which can be cooked in many forms depending on the ingredients used and are usually served with meat and rice vermicelli. Lebanese flat bread, called pita, is a staple at every Lebanese meal and can be used in place of a fork. Although simple fresh fruits are often served towards the end of a Lebanese meal, there are also desserts, such as baklava. Although baklava is the most internationally known dessert, there is a great variety of Lebanese desserts.

Lebanese Dishes To Make At Home

Pita Bread

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading/forming
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1⁄2 cup of warm water. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the salt in 1 cup of warm water. Add the flour and turn the mixer on.

Slowly add the yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix until the dough combines (it will be sticky), about 2 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place on a lightly greased sheet pan. Coat lightly with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and knead for 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 (5 oz.) pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Cover the balls with plastic wrap, being careful not to let the plastic wrap stick to the balls (you can do this by placing coffee mugs or short glasses on the sheet pan). Let the balls proof for 15 minutes.

Lightly dust one piece of dough at a time on both sides with flour.

Push the dough out with your fingers in a circular motion to create a disk that is approximately 5″ in diameter and 1⁄2″ thick.

Using a lightly floured rolling-pin, roll the dough in a clockwise motion to get it to 7″ in diameter and 1⁄8″ thick.

Transfer the dough to an inverted lightly floured sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 3 minutes.

Flip the bread over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the bread and cover with a damp towel. Let the bread sit for 10 minutes, or until cooled.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

When ready to serve, lightly brush the pitas with the remaining olive oil and grill for 1-1 1⁄2 minutes on each side.

It should be warm but still pliable. Cut the bread into wedges and serve.

Labaneh

Thick, tart, and creamy yogurt-like cheese, is eaten with olive oil, pita bread and za’atar.

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 cups whole milk
1 cup plain yogurt
Kosher salt, to taste
Olive oil, for serving

Directions

Bring milk to a boil in a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan fitted with a deep-fry thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool until the thermometer reads 118°F.

Transfer 1 cup of the milk to a bowl; whisk in yogurt until combined.

Add yogurt mixture to the saucepan and whisk until smooth; cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (ideally 70°F-75°F) until thickened, 6-8 hours.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth; set over a bowl. Transfer yogurt to the strainer; let drain at least 8 hours or overnight.

Transfer to a serving dish. Season with salt and drizzle with oil. Add olives and za’atar, if desired.

Spiced Chicken And Tomato Kebabs

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup plain yogurt
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons crushed saffron
1 teaspoon ground coriander
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 plum tomatoes, cored
Ground sumac, to garnish
2 limes, halved
Pita, for serving

Directions

Stir together the yogurt, juice, oil, zest, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron, coriander, garlic and onions in a large bowl; add chicken and toss to coat.

Chill for 4 hours.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, heat a gas grill to medium-high or a heat broiler to high.

Skewer chicken on 4 metal skewers and skewer tomatoes lengthwise on another skewer.

Grill chicken and tomatoes, turning often, until the tomatoes are soft and charred, about 7 minutes, and the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle skewers with sumac; serve with limes and pita.

Garlicky Lentil Salad

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, rinsed
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring lentils and 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan.

Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in an 8” skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft, 7–8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining oil, lemon juice, cumin and allspice. Pour the garlic mixture over the lentils.

Add parsley. mint and season the lentils with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve lentils at room temperature.


Having cookies on hand during the holidays for family members and friends who have special diet concerns makes for easy and thoughtful entertaining. All the recipes below are easy to make, are small batch and freeze well in air tight storage containers. They are delicate until cooled, so it is important to let the cookies cool and set on the baking sheets before removing them to a rack or kitchen towel to cool completely. Once cool, they are easy to handle. My husband does not have any special diet needs, but he tested all these cookies for me and said, “they were great”. So even if you do not have special diet concerns, you can enjoy these cookies also.

Vegan Ginger Almond Cookies

Makes 16-18 cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of almond flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons molasses

Topping
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, grated
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds

Directions

Combine the first five ingredients (flour-cinnamon) and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the almond butter, maple syrup and molasses until thoroughly combined.

Add the dry ingredients and beat well to combine.

Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before baking

Preheat oven to 350º F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper

Combine the grated ginger and chopped almonds in a shallow dish.

Using a cookie scoop form the cookie dough into balls and roll the cookie dough ball over the crystallized ginger/almond mixture.

Flatten the cookie balls lightly with your hand, and place them on the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake about 12 minutes – oven temperatures. Rotate the pans halfway through the cooking time.

Allow cookies to cool on the pans for ten minutes before moving them to a wire rack or kitchen towel to cool.

Low Carb-Gluten Free Almond Logs

Makes 16 -18 cookies

Ingredients

1 stick salted butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar substitute
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups finely ground almond flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds, chopped

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degree (F) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the butter, salt and sweetener until fluffy. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and blend well.

Add the almond flour and beat until just blended to a stiff dough.

Using a cookie scoop, form the dough into balls. Roll each ball into a 3 inch log.

Spread the chopped almonds in a shallow container.

Roll the logs in the chopped almond pieces.

Place the logs on the prepared cookie sheets and bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheets for about ten minutes before moving them.

Remove to a kitchen towel to cool completely.

Nut Free Sugar Cookies

Makes about 16-18 cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup colored sugar or sprinkles, for topping the cookies

Directions

Preheat the oven 375 degrees F and line two cookie sheets with parchment.

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mix.

Add flour, mixing thoroughly.

Using a cookie scoop, form the dough into balls.

Dip the top half of the balls in the colored sugar.

Place the cookies on the prepared cookie, sheets two inches apart, and gently press down on the cookie to lightly flatten.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through baking.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheets for about ten minutes before moving them.

Remove to a kitchen towel to cool completely.

Egg and Dairy Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 20 cookies

Ingredients

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
8 oz unsweetened applesauce
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F and line two cookie sheets with parchment .

Mix sugars and applesauce together. Cream well. Add flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix well.

Add oats and chocolate chips. combine.

Using a cookie scoop drop the balls of dough on the prepared cookie sheets. These cookies do not spread.

Bake about 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time.

Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheets for about ten minutes before moving them.

Remove to a wire rack or kitchen towel to cool completely.


With winter just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to warm up with recipes made with November’s seasonal ingredients. check the charts above for what is in season. You will find several recipes below that incorporate seasonal produce. Fruit choices start to diminish but November’s offerings of quince, pomegranate, pears and apples work in both sweet and savory dishes.

Low Carb Pumpkin Bread

This bread is also gluten-free.

I have a bread pan that measures 12 x 6.5 inches and I prefer to use this pan when baking quick breads. Baking quick breads can be tricky because they don’t always cook right in the middle and sometimes they come out too dry. This pan spreads the dough out more and makes good-looking serving slices.

Ingredients

3 cups finely ground almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 cup sugar or 1:1 sugar substitute
6 large eggs
15 oz can pureed pumpkin
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a second bowl, mix the melted butter, sugar, eggs and pumpkin until smooth. Stir wet ingredients into dry.

Spray a 12×6.5 inch or a 9×5 inch or two 8×4 inch bread pans with cooking spray.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the pan and sprinkle the top with the chopped nuts.

Use a rubber spatula to lightly press the nuts into the dough.

Bake the 12 inch pan for 45 minutes and the other pans for about an hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the bread for ten minutes. Remove the bread to a rack to finish cooling.

Chicken Pot Roast

Serve this dish with noodles or mashed potatoes.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 small onion, diced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small carrot, diced
3-4 lb organic chicken
Salt and pepper
Chicken stock

Directions
Heat the oven to 325°F. Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven over medium heat.

Add the garlic and vegetables and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the thyme and bay leaf.

Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the pan (breast-side up) and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add enough stock to a reach a depth of 1 inch.

Cover the pan tightly with foil or a lid, then place the pot in the oven and roast for 1 ½ hours, basting occasionally with the pan juices.

Increase the oven temperature to 350°F, remove the lid and continue to bake for 20 minutes more, to allow the chicken to brown.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board. Remove the bay leaf.

With a hand-held immersion blender, puree the sauce and vegetables in the pot to create a sauce.

Adjust the seasoning and reheat the sauce. Slice the chicken and serve with the sauce.

Cauliflower Puree

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
2 ounces Italian fontina cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean and trim the cauliflower, breaking it into medium-sized pieces.

Place in a microwave safe bowl with the cream and butter.

Microwave, uncovered, on high for six minutes.

Stir to coat the cauliflower with the cream/butter mixture. Microwave for another six minutes on high.

Remove from the microwave and put into a high-speed blender or food processor along with the cheese. Puree until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the cream and butter to your preference. Reheat just before serving.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops

4 Servings

Ingredients

Pork Chops
4 boneless pork chops (about 1 ¼ lbs; 1/2-inch thick each)
4 slices bacon (not thick cut)
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

Apple Cider Vinegar Sauce
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Directions

Let the pork chops come to temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.

Trim the fat off of the pork chops and wrap a piece of bacon around each one, securing it with several toothpicks.

Rub each chop with a 1/2 teaspoon of oil over both sides and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.

Add the pork chops on the side with the bacon, placing them right next to each other to keep them upright.

Cook for 1 minute per side until all the bacon is brown.

Place the pork chops flat in the pan to cook the top and bottom surfaces, 3-5 minutes per side depending on the thickness.

Remove the pork to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute for 1-2 minutes or until they begin to soften.

Add the chicken broth and thyme to the pan and stir.

Add the vinegar to the pan and stir, scraping up any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the sauce by half and add the butter and brown sugar. Cook and stir until they are incorporated into the sauce.

Place the pork back in the back in the pan and heat for a few minutes, turning the pork over after a minute or two, so they can be coated in the sauce.

Seasoned Baked Rutabaga Fries

Ingredients

1 rutabaga, peeled and sliced into very thin “fries”
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Kosher salt and coarse black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Use a metal sheet pan and place it in the oven while the oven preheats.

In a large Ziploc bag, mix the cornstarch with the garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, salt and pepper and shake to combine.

Place the rutabaga fries in the bag and shake to evenly coat them. Add the oil and shake again.

Arrange the fries on the hot sheet pan so they are not touching.

Bake 15 minutes and turn the fries over. Bake another 10 minutes or until the fries are brown and crispy.

If the fries are getting too dark too fast, reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.)


I have special menus for the dinners that I like to cook during the holiday season. This post is one of them and in the weeks to come, I will share some of my other holiday menus.

Beef Tenderloin

What size tenderloin should you cook? I always figure a half-pound of boneless meat per person. If any of it is leftover, that is just fine but like a good Italian, we have to make sure we have enough food for everyone. For the recipe below, I used a 3 lb. beef tenderloin. I usually buy them when they are on sale and save them for special occasions. It is my favorite cut of beef. Recently, I bought 2 and cut each in half and froze each half separately. The cooking directions are the same no matter what size tenderloin you cook because the width of the meat determines the cooking time. Since a tenderloin is very lean, it benefits from having a sauce served with it.

Ingredients

6 servings

Beef

3 lb beef tenderloin (size will depend on how many people you are serving)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
Olive oil

Wine Sauce

6 tablespoons butter
½ cup shallots (3 medium)
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth

Mushroom Caps

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spray a metal roasting pan with olive oil cooking spray.

I use a metal pan for this dish so that it can go on the top of the stove to make a sauce after the beef is finished roasting.

Tie the beef with kitchen string and place the roasting pan.

Coat with olive oil. Sprinkle coarse salt and cracked pepper evenly all over the meat. Add the mushroom caps to the pan.

Roast the beef for 30 minutes for medium-rare (25 minutes for rare and 35 minutes for medium).

Remove the pan from the oven, place the meat and mushrooms on a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Allow the beef to rest for 10 minutes.

To make the wine sauce:

Place the empty pan on the stove top over low heat.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan and add the shallots; cook about 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Add wine; cook about 4 minutes until reduced slightly. Stir in the  broth. Heat to boiling.

Reduce heat to medium-low; cook about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup.

Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, with wire. Pour into a serving bowl.

Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.

Potato Gnocchi

6 servings

Ingredients

2 medium baking potatoes, cooked and peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cups 00 (Italian) flour or all-purpose flour

Butter Sage Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large fresh sage leaves, cut into slivers
Salt
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Dice the cooked potatoes and place them in an electric mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment mash the potatoes. Add the salt and pepper.

Mix the egg and ricotta together in a small mixing bowl. Add to the potatoes in the mixer along with the flour.

Mix until thoroughly combined and the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a floured board and knead a few minutes until smooth. Divide in half. This recipe usually comes out to weigh about 2 lbs.

Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is time to cut the gnocchi.

Wrap the other half in plastic and place in a freezer zip-lock bag. Freeze the dough for another time. This dough freezes well.

Defrost overnight in the refrigerator when you want to use it.

To shape the gnocchi:

Divide the dough into golf ball sized pieces, and roll each piece into a log about the thickness of your thumb on a lightly floured surface.

Cut into 1 inch pieces.

Take a fork and place it against one side of each gnocchi to make a fork design on each and continue with the remaining pieces.

Place the prepared gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Place the butter in a large microwave glass mixing bowl and heat in the microwave until melted.

To cook:

Carefully drop the gnocchi into salted boiling water and remove them with a wide spider or a slotted spoon immediately as they float to the surface.

Allow the water to drain back into the pot. Place the gnocchi in the bowl with the melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Add the cheese and sage. Mix carefully and serve.

Creamed Spinach

6  servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and pepper

Directions

In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the garlic and onion for a few minutes, until the onion softens.

Add the cream cheese, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Cook over medium heat until the cream cheese is melted.

Whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Squeeze all the water from the defrosted spinach and add to the cheese sauce.

Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Serve immediately.



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