Blog Archives

Bison Albondigas Soup

albondigas blog

Spring in Texas is fun. One day, we have temps in the mid-90s. The next, it’s in the 60s, with lows in the upper 30s. It’s shorts one day, and the next, you’re dragging out a jacket again to keep off the morning chill. I suppose it could be worse – I know many of you received snow yet again this past week.

For those days when I have fresh vegetables in the garden already, and yet get a cold and rainy spell, this soup does the trick. It’s fresh and light, thanks to the herbs and green onion, but it’s also warming and filling. It’s a perfect bowl of spring, nourishing and healthy, and great for giving me much-needed energy to work in my garden. It’s also pretty kid-friendly. I mean, who doesn’t like meatballs?

Today is another day filled with rain, followed by a couple cooler days. While I’m sure it’ll be overly hot all too soon, I’m going to enjoy the cooler temps with a bowl of soup. Wouldn’t you?

Print Recipe

Bison Albondigas Soup (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 lb ground bison or lean ground beef

1/3 c raw long-grain rice

1 T chopped fresh mint

1 T chopped green onion

1/4 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 egg, beaten

1 t kosher salt

1/4 t black pepper

2 T ghee or olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 1/2 c pureed tomato (can use fresh or canned)

3 c chicken stock (if you follow a gluten-free diet and purchase store-bought, be sure to read labels)

2 c peeled red potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice

1 c carrots, sliced about 1/2-inch thick

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large bowl, add the bison, rice, mint, green onion, parsley, egg, salt and pepper. Mix well with hands and form small meatballs, no larger than 1 inch. Place on a platter and stick in freezer for 10-15 minutes, just to firm up a bit.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the ghee or olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 7-8 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and jalapeno and sauté again for another minute. Add the tomato and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Remove the meatballs from the freezer and add them, the potato, and the carrot and bring again to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender and the meatballs are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with cilantro sprinkled over.

Serves 4.

Grilled Asparagus with Feta, Almonds and Basil

grilled asparagus blog

Sometimes, you need something that really brings the spring feeling to your plate. For me, asparagus is that “something”. Asparagus means winter is over. That the green things are growing again, and that I can expand my fresh vegetable intake beyond root vegetables, winter squash and cabbage. The beginning of spring vegetables, to me, is the greatest time, because it speaks of all the delicious, fresh things to come.

Now, I feel somewhat guilty saying this, but I’m ready for the winter to be over. It’s been cold even down here in Texas (and I certainly know that it doesn’t even compare to what those of you in the north have endured!), and for longer than usual. I’m embracing spring. I’m ready for rain, thunderstorms, and green, growing things. For now, I’ve temporarily forgotten that with springtime comes our barrage of gigantic Texas insects, followed by all-too-warm temperatures. Come August, when it’s 100 degrees for days on end here, I’ll be wishing for the cold once again. But right now, I’m ready for the warmth.

So in order to encourage spring to come along, I grabbed some asparagus and uncovered my grill. It’s finally light enough in the evening that I can grill without needing a flashlight. (Come on, tell me I’m not the only one that’s done that!) Truth be told, I love grilling. It’s quick and easy, and there’s one less dish to wash when you’re done. It also imparts a lovely flavor to just about anything.

In this case, a brief visit to the grill makes this asparagus tender and full of flavor. Toss it with some lemon juice, almonds, feta (omit for dairy-free/vegan), and basil, and suddenly, you’ve taken an already-fresh flavor and completely kicked it up a few notches. It’s bright, fresh, and definitely is that “something” that brings spring to your table.

It really only takes a few minutes to make, and is totally worth every moment. I enjoyed this as a side dish on a mundane weeknight, but it’s certainly dressy enough for company, or even for a holiday dinner – Easter or Passover Seder (served with a vegetarian main or fish dish), perhaps?

Print Recipe

Grilled Asparagus with Feta, Almonds and Basil (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

2 t extra virgin olive oil

1 t lemon zest

1 t lemon juice

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T crumbled feta cheese (omit for dairy-free/vegan)

2 T sliced almonds

1 T chopped fresh basil

Preheat grill to medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour over the asparagus, and season with salt and pepper.

When grill is hot, place asparagus in a single layer over direct heat on the grill. Close the lid and grill for a minute or two, and move so that the other side of the asparagus spears touch the grill. Continue to grill just until tender (the time may vary depending on the thickness of your spears and heat of the grill). Remove immediately. Toss asparagus spears with feta, almonds, and fresh basil and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms, Plus Videos For Veggie Success!

roasted balsamic mushrooms

You’ve made a decision. You want to eat more vegetables. But after eating salads for a few weeks, you’re sick and tired of the same old thing. You want to try a new vegetable, so you browse the produce aisle, and you grab something different. Some spinach. Cabbage. Maybe Brussels sprouts, or some crimini mushrooms. You’ve told yourself “I’m going to cook this!” and you put it in your basket. It goes home with you, and you stick it in the crisper drawer in the fridge.

And there it sits. And sits.

Aaaaand sits.

See, you had the best of intentions. You really did. But that new vegetable? Frankly, it’s intimidating. Outside of the norm. You just don’t know what to do with it! So it remains in the fridge, alone and forgotten, until it has turned into a mushy, slimy mess in its cellophane bag. After a time, you guiltily throw it away, and resolve to do better next time.

Sound familiar? An alternate version of the story involves you browsing the produce aisle, but feeling so overwhelmed by the intimidation (“I don’t know how to cook any of this stuff!”) that you ultimately come home with a baking potato and a bag of salad for the third week in a row.

I’ve been there. I understand. When we’ve already expended so much energy throughout the day focusing on getting kids ready for school, working, dealing with emergencies, ungrateful bosses, traffic, and less-than-ideal weather, we just can’t deal with the “new vegetable” thing. Even if our heart is in the right place.

It just seems so…hard.

That was the premise for the recent string of YouTube videos I’ve been sharing lately. Because I know that for many of us, cooking from scratch alone is uncharted territory, and even if we know how to make a few things, we are often hesitant or just don’t have the energy to do something that seems daunting. A new vegetable, or any food, really, often seems daunting! I’m hoping that through these videos, that we can together change that thought process. Because honestly, a vegetable shouldn’t be so scary, right?

Each of these videos (feel free to browse around and subscribe to my YouTube channel) showcases a simple way to prepare a fresh vegetable using very few ingredients, and 5 minutes of preparation time, max. The videos aren’t super-fancy; my kitchen isn’t perfect and I’m often in comfortable clothes. It’s not perfectly polished. My dogs make cameo appearances sometimes, as they’re often hoping I’ll drop something tasty on the floor. Moral of the story is: This stuff is totally down-to-earth and doable. Even at the end of a long day. I promise!

This week, I’m sharing one of my favorite ways to make roasted mushrooms. These mushrooms I’ve shared before a few years ago, but I come back to them time and again. After all, they’re easy. You can toss mushrooms with some herbs and garlic, and when you’re ready, throw them in the oven. Then, 20 minutes later, you take them out. The end. Finito. That’s all you have to do.

But in case you don’t believe me, you can watch the video and see for yourself.

See? That’s not so bad, right? Ready to make them for yourself? Here’s the recipe!

Print Recipe

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, sugar-free)

1 lb fresh crimini mushrooms

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼ c extra virgin olive oil

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 t fresh thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ c fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss the mushrooms with the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Roast until the mushrooms are juicy – about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and toss with the parsley while still warm.

(hint: to streamline your meal, you can prepare this recipe up to the point where you would put it in the oven, and instead refrigerate for a few hours. Then, when it’s time, just pop in the oven as directed.)

Serves 4.

 

 

Adventures in Curry-Making, or How to Make a Disaster of Your Kitchen

beef curry

So there I was, this past Monday night, with lofty goals of making a beef curry. I’d prepared the curry paste the day before to save time, and I grabbed my pressure cooker. The recipe I was using as a guideline (it’s rare that I actually follow a recipe – I tend to make a lot of changes along the way) suggested I would be braising my beef shanks for 2 1/2 hours. Since this was a weeknight, I figured a 45 minute stay in the pressure cooker would do the trick nicely.

And so it began. I browned the beef, and placed it in the pressure cooker along with a generous helping of coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass, and cilantro. Things were smelling good, and I was salivating at the idea of such a flavorful curry that would be gracing our plates in about an hour. I get really excited about curries of all kinds. There is just something so wonderful about an intense mix of spices and flavors that, when simmered for a bit, they really get to know one another and emerge as more than the sum of their parts. It’s comforting and soul-satisfying, and it’s why I have several recipes hanging around this blog, such as this Kerala-style Curry or this Shrimp Cauliflower Curry. A good curry sends me to my happy place.

Well, my (older generation, super-simple) pressure cooker began to heat and spit some steam, so I lowered the temperature a bit. I then set to chopping cauliflower for a side dish in my “prep area” towards the right of the stove. About 10 minutes had passed, and that’s when it happened.

Suddenly, the pressure cooker exploded with a loud “BOOM”, and shot off to my left, across the floor. I squealed. And then just stared, motionless, at the disaster in front of me. My husband (who was in our living room), moments later, asks me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” I mutter, dumbfounded. So he asks again, worry in his voice. “Baby, are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m fine.” I say, rather flatly, given the situation. I was in a bit of shock. “It exploded.”

The mess was horrendous. There was coconut milk on every surface to the left of where I’d been standing – on the cabinets, on the counter, on the stove (on the burner, smoking a bit and turning black, thanks to the sugar), on the floor, on the walls, and even on the cabinets and the books on top of the cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen from the stove. The smell of fish sauce permeated the air. By some miracle, I had none on me at all. Later on, I would realize that I was rather lucky. That pressure cooker could have flown in my direction and bruised or burned me, or worse.

I quickly picked up the pressure cooker and set it back on the stove, with the beef and about half of the sauce still inside. My husband joined me, and we started cleaning. It was about then that I started to realize just how absurd the whole fiasco was. I laughed at it. Laughed at the coconut milk under the cabinets, laughed at how disgusting the floor was, giggled at the cilantro stuck to the wall inside my combination laundry room/pantry at the end of our kitchen (a good 12 feet away, at least), and joked about how we’d be finding this mess for months. Any other night, an event of this magnitude might have brought me to tears, but in that moment, it was pretty darn funny, and laughing was all I could do. It took us about an hour to get the kitchen back to some semblance of order. I mopped twice, and came back home the following day to mop again so I could get rid of the film left by the coconut milk.

Needless to say, we didn’t have curry that night.

However, I did manage to salvage that beef and remaining sauce. I stuck it in my smaller, 4-quart slow cooker and stuck it in the fridge. In spite of all that happened, I still wanted curry. Also, I detest throwing away food. So the following night, I asked my husband to take the slow cooker out of the fridge and turn it on high for a few hours when he got home. (He’s typically home an hour or two before I arrive.) I was going to resume this curry-making, for better or worse.

Thankfully, it was worth the trouble. Well, maybe not worth the trouble of the whole pressure-cooker-explosion thing, but it was worth salvaging the meat for another night. The slow cooker finished the braising job beautifully, and with a relatively quick finish in my skillet, we had a deliciously spicy, silky beef curry. There are a few things I’d do differently, if I was to make this again (and I’ll share those notes in the recipe below), but we were both more than satisfied, with happy, full bellies and that sense of calmness and peace that accompanies a good curry. It was a tad salty (even though I reduced the fish sauce), and of course, due to the explosion factor, the amount of liquids actually used in the cooking process are approximated. So this is definitely not a perfected recipe at this point, but I felt I had to share with you, if for the story alone! But all in all, it was worthy of seconds by my husband, so I declare it a winner.

Now, the next question is: Does anyone have a good (safe) pressure cooker recommendation? One requirement – it must not explode.

Print Recipe

Spicy Beef Curry, adapted from Bon Appetit - this is what I did, but I am giving you notes to adjust for better flavor next time.

Spice Mix:

3 whole cloves

1 1/2 t coriander seeds

1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick

1 whole star anise

1 t cumin seeds

seeds from 2 green cardamom pods

1 t kosher salt (I would probably use 1/2 t next time)

1/4 t ground cayenne (I would reduce this to 1/8 teaspoon or omit, as the resulting curry was plenty spicy!)

Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Add cold water to cover, then drain. Place spices in large wok or skillet. Dry-roast over medium heat until dry and fragrant, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to spice grinder. Add salt and cayenne; grind to fine powder.

Curry Paste:

10 small chiles de arbol, stemmed

about 25 cilantro stems

1 c chopped yellow onion

6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 piece of ginger (about 1 1/2 inches long), thinly sliced

1 1/2 T grated lemongrass

Place chiles in small saucepan; add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Combine cilantro stems, onion, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass in large skillet. Add 3/4 cup water. Cover skillet and cook until ginger is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Scrape vegetable mixture into a small food processor. Add drained red chiles. Blend, adding enough reserved chile soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls to form smooth paste. Stir in spice mix. If you are making this the day before, transfer to bowl, cover, and chill.

For the beef:

3 T coconut oil, divided

2 1/2 lbs cross-cut beef shanks (each about 1 1/2-2 inches thick)

2 cans coconut milk (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

2 cups beef or chicken stock (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

About 25 cilantro stems

3/4 c fish sauce (I would use 1/2 cup and increase the stock next time – or if using a slow cooker, I’d use 1/4 cup)

1/3 c coconut palm sugar (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

1 1/2 T grated lemongrass (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

1/4 c fresh orange juice

1/4 c chopped roasted cashews

1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a large skillet (if transferring to slow cooker) or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the beef with salt and pepper. Brown the beef, searing until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer beef to plate. Add the coconut milk, cilantro, fish sauce, coconut palm sugar, and lemongrass into the slow cooker or Dutch oven. If using a slow cooker, add the beef and turn on high for about 3-3 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender and pulling away from the bone. If using a Dutch oven, bring the liquids to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and add the beef. Cover and allow to simmer for about 2 1/2 hours or until beef is tender and pulling away from the bone.

Transfer beef to a plate to cool. Strain braising liquid using a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in the Dutch oven or a large skillet over medium heat. Add the curry paste. Stir until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved braising liquid and bring to a boil. Add the orange juice and beef. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is silky and clinging to the beef. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve beef curry with steamed long-grain rice, such as Basmati, garnished with chopped cashews and cilantro.

Serves 6.

    Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

    pan seared brussels sprouts

    A few weeks back, I shared in the Eating the Food group that I was having pan-seared Brussels Sprouts along with some eggs for breakfast. This started a conversation not only about Brussels Sprouts (and their deliciousness, of course) but also about getting more vegetables into your breakfast. I must confess: I don’t always get veggies in first thing in the morning. I do enjoy them (especially with eggs), but it just doesn’t always happen. Of course, that realization got me thinking and inspired this post about getting more vegetables into your day.

    So I’ve been motivated once more to be sure I’m giving vegetables their due. While I have no issues in the spring and summer, when I go to the farmer’s market and come home with more vegetables than any normal human can possibly consume in a week, (What can I say? They all look SO GOOD and I get starry-eyed and have to bring them all home with me.) winter-time makes vegetable consumption more difficult. This is when I focus on those veggies that are longer storage varieties, such as root vegetables, winter squash, cabbage, and of course, Brussels Sprouts, so they still taste fresh. I also try my hardest to make these veggies easy to make, so I’ll be more likely to consume them even on busy weeknights.

    Pan-searing is one such way to accomplish that “easy-to-make” goal. It only takes a few minutes and really highlights the natural sweetness of the Brussels Sprouts, thanks to the caramelization that happens in the pan. They’re delicious alongside meatloaf and mashed potatoes, pork chops, or even with eggs at breakfast. Even if you’ve previously shunned Brussels Sprouts, I encourage you to revisit them with this method. You might just find them not only tolerable, but they could become your new favorite veggie!

    For step-by-step instruction, check out my “how-to” video on YouTube for these Brussels Sprouts (and feel free to subscribe, so you won’t miss an episode!):

    Print Recipe

    Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts (gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

    1 1/2 T coconut oil

    1 lb Brussels Sprouts, sliced roughly into 1/4 inch thick slices

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium heat. Add coconut oil and allow to melt and coat pan. Spread out sliced Brussels Sprouts into a single layer in the skillet. Allow to sear without moving for about a minute, or until the sprouts start to brown. Stir around to flip the sprouts and brown the other side for another minute or so. Continue to stir every so often, spreading the sprouts back out, until they are browned on edges and just tender throughout. (Total cooking time is about 5 minutes.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Serves 4.

    Autumn Kale Salad with Apples and Candied Pecans

    kale salad thanksgiving

    If your Thanksgiving menu is anything like mine, it’s filled with the traditional fare: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, rolls, casseroles, pies, and more. All of these dishes are iconic, and I wouldn’t leave any of them out for anything. But honestly, it’s all so heavy. So when I’m brainstorming for vegetable or additional side dish ideas, I want something a little lighter to balance it all out. Something fresh. Something green.

    Now I know kale has been the latest darling in the “healthy eating” industry. I’ve posted recipes with kale before. I love it, personally, and eat it because it tastes good to me. But lately kale is everyone’s favorite “detox” vegetable. I’m not a believer in detoxing – I have juiced and such in the past, and I enjoy the flavor. I sometimes even feel the green juices give me a boost of energy. I will admit, in the past I did have a touch of obsession with ensuring I got what was in reality a crazy amount of greens into my body on a daily basis, thinking I was healthier for doing so. (I wasn’t healthier…) I’ve since backed off and have listened to my body and just focus on whatever vegetables are fresh and sound good to me at the time. (And sometimes, that’s kale!) But I’ve never believed that squeezing juice out of fruits or vegetables somehow “detox” your body – that’s what your liver does, all on its own. It doesn’t mean that the vegetables, including kale, don’t have great vitamins and such – they do. They’re just not magical.

    Anyway. I digress.

    Thanksgiving. And this salad. It’s fresh. It’s easy. It can be made in advance. unlike lettuce-based salads, and can still hold its crunch. In fact, I find it’s tastier made a bit in advance of eating. It allows the lemon juice to really meld and mingle. With the sweetness of the apples and cranberries, and the candied pecans, it’s a lovely autumn salad. Most of all, it’s a great, refreshing addition to your Thanksgiving menu.

    Print Recipe

    Autumn Kale Salad with Apples and Candied Pecans (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free)

    1 bunch kale, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

    1 T olive oil

    A couple pinches of kosher salt

    1 carrot, julienned

    2 stalks celery, sliced

    1/4 c dried cranberries

    1 crisp apple (such as Honeycrisp), cut into 1/2 inch dice

    1/4 c flat-leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped

    1-2 T lemon juice

    Candied Pecans (recipe follows)

    Drizzle the olive oil over the kale, and sprinkle with salt. Massage the oil evenly over all of the kale leaves. Add the carrot, celery, cranberries, apple, and parsley, and drizzle with a bit of lemon juice. Toss well and taste. Adjust salt and lemon juice as desired. Top with candied pecans and serve.

    Serves 4-6.

    Candied Pecans (gluten-free, vegan)

    1 t coconut oil

    1/2 c raw, shelled pecans

    3 T brown rice syrup

    A couple pinches of kosher salt

    Dash of cinnamon

    In a small skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the pecans, brown rice syrup, salt and cinnamon. Stir to coat completely. Keep stirring over heat until sugar bubbles and clings to pecans, pulling away from the pan and becoming “drier”. Once everything really seems to stick together in a “glob”, remove from heat and turn out to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spreading out the pecans as much as you can with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool completely and break into small pieces.

    Almond-Coconut Granola

    almond coconut granolaSchool has been in session for a few months now. Chances are, the kids are tiring of the same ol’ stuff that is being packed in their lunchboxes. Sure, those bags of gluten-free crackers and applesauce cups were exciting in August, but now that it’s November, they’re old hat. You’re in need of something new. Something reasonably healthy. And something you wouldn’t mind packing in your own lunch, because, let’s face it: you’re tired of the same ol’ stuff as well.

    Enter homemade gluten-free granola.

    This almond-coconut granola is unlike most granola recipes. First of all, there are no oats. There’s also no butter or oil either. It’s supremely easy to make – simply mix up the ingredients, spread out on a baking sheet, and bake for a few minutes. And the results far outweigh the effort involved. You are rewarded with a slightly sweet, crunchy mix filled with almond-y, coconut-y goodness. It’s perfect for snacking, or for topping yogurt or even making a parfait. I personally have never gotten past eating it straight out of hand. It’s also nearly gone in just a few days every time I make it. It’s very more-ish. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Print Recipe

    Almond Coconut Granola (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)

     1 1/3 cups almonds, toasted and chopped

    1 brown rice cake, crumbled (equals about ½ cup) (I used Lundberg rice cakes)

    1/8 teaspoon salt

    ¼ cup chopped pitted dates

    ¼ cup large unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted

    1 tablespoon chia seeds

    1/3 cup brown rice syrup (I used Lundberg brown rice syrup)

    1/8 teaspoon almond extract

    1/8 teaspoon coconut extract

     Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, add almonds, brown rice cake crumbles, salt, dates, coconut flakes, and chia seeds. Pour brown rice syrup, almond and coconut extracts over and toss to combine everything and get everything coated evenly with the syrup.

     Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Spread mixture out on the baking sheet evenly. Bake for 15-18 minutes, stopping to stir every 5 minutes or so, to ensure even cooking. Allow to cool to room temperature and store in an air-tight container.

    Cheater’s Ratatouille, or Pesto Zucchini, Tomato and Eggplant Bake

    I love ratatouille. It’s an awesome dish that seems to just sing the highest notes of the end of summer and the start of fall. (Yes, I realize it’s now officially fall. Around here, however, it’s still in the mid-90s, and so it’s still very much feeling like summer.) It’s fresh, but comforting.

    But alas, it takes some time. Especially if you want it to look pretty. (My recipe was more on the tasty side, less on the aesthetics.) Let’s face it – we don’t always have that kind of time.

    That’s where this cheater’s version comes in. It’s not exactly ratatouille. It’s streamlined – just zucchini, tomato, and eggplant. Plus a not-so-secret ingredient:

    Pesto.

    I love to make pesto. It can be easily made dairy-free (like this Basil-Walnut Pesto) or you can go for the traditional basil, Parmesan, and pine nuts version. Or any version you desire, really. But often I make a great deal on the weekend, and then scramble to find ways to eat it up during the week. This “ratatouille” is one such way to make great use of pesto. If the pesto is already made, then it’s a cinch to put together – just layer the vegetables, smear some pesto in between layers, and pop in the oven.

    Then, as soon as it’s not mouth-scalding hot, then devour!

    So while it’s not a traditional ratatouille, it’s a flavor punch for sure. So call it ratatouille, or call it a pesto zucchini, tomato and eggplant bake if you prefer. Whatever you decide, be sure to call me to dinner when you make it.

    Print Recipe

    Cheater’s Ratatouille/Pesto Zucchini, Tomato and Eggplant Bake (gluten-free, dairy-free if using vegan pesto)

    1/2 lb sliced zucchini

    1/2 lb sliced tomato

    1/2 lb sliced eggplant

    Salt and pepper

    1/2 c pesto (for vegan/dairy-free, try this Basil-Walnut Pesto)

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Alternately layer zucchini, tomato slices, and eggplant in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and spread a few spoonfuls of pesto evenly over the vegetables. Repeat with another layer of vegetables, salt, and pesto. Keep repeating until you use all of the vegetables and pesto.

    Bake for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and bubbly.

     

    Homestyle Meatloaf

    Meatloaf. It’s one of those polarizing meals, it seems. Most people either hate it or love it. Personally, I think that has a lot to do with what meatloaf you grew up eating – some people had some unappetizing versions that haunt them forever. (Or maybe it was those bad memories of the song “I Would Do Anything For Love” that’s so haunting?)  In my mind, though, there is only the ultimate comfort food version of meatloaf, packed full of flavor, warming, and the perfect neighbor to a big pile of mashed potatoes on your plate.

    My Mom wasn’t a great cook, but she had a few dishes she made that were definitely family favorites. Her meatloaf evokes fond memories for me. While my version is likely quite a bit different than hers, one thing remains a constant – the ketchup topping. I’ve opted instead to use a corn syrup free version – and sometimes might even make my own – but it’s still ketchup. Sure, there are more refined ways to top a meatloaf. But in my opinion, meatloaf isn’t about refinement. It’s about comfort. And by the way my family manages to devour the entire pan, I’d say comfort wins.

    Homestyle Meatloaf (grain-free, dairy-free)

    1 small onion

    1 celery stalk

    3 cloves garlic

    1 carrot, peeled

    1 T olive oil

    1/2 lb spicy ground pork sausage

    1 lb ground beef

    1 lb ground pork (or another pound of ground beef)

    1 egg plus 1 T chia meal

    ¾ c almond flour (can substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs or oats)

    1 t kosher salt

    1 ½ t freshly ground black pepper

    2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped (1 t)

    2-3 leaves fresh sage, leaves chopped (1 t)

    1/3 c minced fresh parsley leaves

    2 tsp plus 1 dash Worcestershire sauce

    1/3 c ketchup (I like to use either Annie’s or Organicville, or sometimes even make my own)

     

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

     Cut onion, celery rib, garlic, and carrot into large pieces. Place in a food processor and blitz until the vegetables resemble a coarse paste.

     In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add vegetable mixture and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

     In a large bowl, combine the sausage, ground beef, ground pork, eggs and chia seed meal, almond flour, vegetable mixture, salt, pepper, herbs, and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire. Form into a loaf and put into loaf pan. Mix remaining ketchup with dash of Worcestershire sauce, and cover loaf with sauce.

     Bake loaf for one hour.

    Pear Buckwheat Cake

    It’s been a while since I’ve made a rustic cake like this. Something that could be as welcome at a breakfast or brunch table as after dinner. Something your grandmother might make. Something unpretentious; something that just says “Hey, it’s late summer, sit down and enjoy some pear cake.”

    I’d picked up some small pears at the farmer’s market, and they sat around in my kitchen for about a week. I knew I wanted to do something with them, but wasn’t sure what. I wasn’t up for making jam. (Although I need to sometime before pear season is over – I’m out of habanero pear from last year!) I opted instead for cake. After all, who doesn’t like cake?

    Buckwheat happened to be the perfect compliment to the subtle sweetness of the pears. Now, I am not really a fan of store-bought buckwheat flour. It’s really strong in flavor. However, if you take raw buckwheat groats and grind them (I use my Vitamix), the flour that results is much lighter in flavor – something that’s more readily accepted by the gluten-eaters. It also doesn’t overwhelm the pears. And even if your flour isn’t powder-fine (mine wasn’t), there’s no residual gritty texture once the cake is baked. Buckwheat flour isn’t for everything, but in this cake, it was lovely.

    Of course, if you don’t have access to raw buckwheat groats, you could simply substitute sorghum flour or superfine brown rice flour. I haven’t tried these substitutions myself, but since they are similarly weighted flours, I imagine they would substitute pretty well. Don’t have pears? Apple slices would make an equally delicious cake. The beauty of a cake like this? It’s opportunistic. What you have available is what you use. (That’s often how many recipes appear here, to tell the truth!)

    Print Recipe

    Pear Buckwheat Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

    6 T vegan butter, softened

    ¾ c plus 2 T sugar

    1 large egg

    1 t vanilla extract

    ¼ t almond extract

    ½ c buckwheat flour (raw buckwheat groats ground)

    ¼ c sweet white rice flour

    ¾ c arrowroot starch

    ¼ + 1/8 t guar gum

    2 ½ t baking powder

    Pinch salt

    ½ c coconut milk

    1 T grated lemon zest

    About 1 lb pears, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced

    Confectioner’s sugar, for serving

     

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-inch springform pan and dust with sweet white rice flour.

    Beat the butter and ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and beat for about a minute on medium.

    Whisk together the flours, baking powder, guar gum and salt in a bowl. Add the flour to the butter mixture a little at a time, alternating with the coconut milk, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for at least another minute or until everything is well mixed. Add the lemon zest and mix in.

    Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan and spread out evenly with a spatula. Arrange the pear slices in a circle on the top of the batter, starting at the edge of the pan and standing them on end with the narrow point in the batter. Fill the center with as many slices as you can fit. They should be close together. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

    Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake (not the pears) comes out clean.

    Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack, removing the outer ring after about 10 minutes. Once completely cool, serve, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.