Eggless Recipes

Easy Sweet Potato Lasagna

Serving of sweet potato lasagna on white plate with basil leaf garnish.The other day I saw a recipe for sweet potato lasagna online that looked good and would also be an excuse to use my Vegetable Sheet Cutter, so I uploaded it to my recipe planner, thinking I might make it and share it here if it turned out well.

A few days later I opened up the recipe and actually read the ingredients and, in what seems to be an emerging pattern, immediately changed everything about it and made a completely different thing. At least it still has sweet potatoes.

In all fairness to me, the original recipe contained tofu and nutritional yeast, a combination that I had a Very Bad Experience with once. I’m not vegan, so I’m gonna leave that trauma in the past where it belongs.

The other thing is, the recipe wanted me to make sauce from scratch. I get it; lasagna is kind of a big deal thing that grandma made and it can be very special. But most of the time my M.O. with cooking is to streamline things as much as possible. There are so many great organic jar sauces available now, so I say save the extra work for a weekend when you have access to good tomatoes.

In the end, I didn’t use the Vegetable Sheet Cutter. I had very large sweet potatoes and it looked like it was going to be a battle to get the skewer through them, and I was afraid of damaging the attachment or skewering myself. The next best thing would be the mandoline, but I hadn’t used mine in a long time (confession: I’m afraid of it) and discovered it was broken. I ended up slicing the potatoes with a trusty chef’s knife. Alton Brown would approve of my lack of gadgetry. That said, I’d recommend the mandoline because you’ll need to get the potatoes very thin.

Note: You can use an egg in the filling. Since we have the egg allergy, I used VeganEgg egg substitute.

Easy Sweet Potato Lasagna

Olive oil
VeganEgg egg substitute (recipe for 1 egg), or 1 large egg, beaten
16 ounces shredded mozzarella, divided
15 ounces ricotta
Pinch of grated nutmeg
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1 pound ground beef
1 32-ounce jar of marinara sauce
8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
Italian seasoning (optional: I like Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset)
Freshly grated Parmesan
2 very large or 3 medium white sweet potatoes, sliced thin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 13×9-inch baking dish with olive oil.
Mix the egg substitute. (I use a blender.) In a food processor combine the egg substitute, ricotta and 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella. Grate in a pinch of nutmeg. Process until just combined. Add baby spinach and process until all the spinach is chopped, but don’t overprocess.
In a large skillet, brown ground beef, breaking into small pieces. Add sauce and mushrooms and cook over medium heat until mushrooms are cooked but not overcooked. Sprinkle in Italian seasoning if desired.
Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover bottom of dish with a layer of sweet potato slices. Top with a layer of spinach mixture, followed by a layer of the marinara mixture. Repeat with remaining layers. Top last layer of marinara mixture with remaining shredded mozzarella.
Cover with nonstick aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and increase heat to 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

Panko-Crusted Chicken with Creamy Lemon Sauce

Now that I’m at an age where my body seems to be pretty much stuck in rebellion mode, I try to watch my carb intake most of the time, though I suffer from occasional attacks of half-marathon training and then I’ll eat more carbs until I get injured and lose my excuse.

My approach to pasta dishes goes in stages depending on my current seriousness-of-diet situation, ranging from zoodles (desperation) to gobs of white flour (out of control), and looks something like this:

Zoodles or spaghetti squash
Butternut squash or sweet potato noodles
Half zoodles, half brown rice pasta
Half zoodles, half whole wheat pasta
Brown rice pasta
Whole wheat pasta
Stealing my son’s mac and cheese

As I live with two guys who’d rather stay near the bottom of the above scale and I don’t like making extra dishes if I don’t have to, I usually end up making whole wheat pasta and just eating a small portion. If it’s a special occasion or a weekend, I might bust out the pasta maker and crank out some whole-wheat pasta. Otherwise, my family really likes Alma’s whole wheat pastas, an Italian brand sold at Publix. The Organic Whole Wheat Angel Hair works well with this recipe.

This is sort of a mish-mash Frankenrecipe riffing off of a recipe for Creamy Lemon Chicken Parmesan from eatingwell.com. I simplified the chicken a bit, removed the eggs (due to son’s egg allergy) and cooked it in the air fryer. I also threw some cornstarch into the sauce to help thicken it.

Two pieces of fried chicken breast with lemon sauce over angel hair pasta

Panko-Crusted Chicken with Creamy Lemon Sauce

1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 to 1 1/4 pound thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Cooking spray
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
1 package whole wheat angel hair pasta
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Combine panko, ¼ cup Parmesan, Italian seasoning garlic powder and salt in a shallow dish. Pour 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil into another shallow dish.
2. Preheat air fryer for 3 minutes at 375 degrees on the Air Fry setting. Spray air fryer and multi-layer rack lightly with cooking spray. Dip each chicken breast in oil, then panko mixture. (You may want to use a deeper bowl or large plastic bag for the panko so you can shake the chicken and thoroughly coat it.)
3. Place a layer of chicken on the crisper plate, spray the tops lightly with cooking spray, then add the multi-layer rack and place the remaining chicken breasts on top. Cook for 10 minutes, pause the air fryer and carefully turn the chicken over. Cook another 5-8 minutes until golden brown.
4. While chicken is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, lemon juice and salt to the pan. Bring to a boil. Whisk flour and cornstarch, if using, into half-and-half and add to the broth mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced by about half and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
5. Place chicken over pasta, spoon sauce over and sprinkle with parsley and grated Parmesan.

Eggless Air Fryer Breakfast Pockets

Lately I’ve been playing around with my new air fryer a lot. Partly because it’s a fun new gadget, partly because some of the things I’ve made in it so far have been amazing, such as baked potatoes and chicken wings.

Another thing I’m always messing around with is trying to make eggless versions of things that my son, who’s allergic, would like to eat. I recently posted about discovering VeganEgg, which is pretty much the answer to an eggless cook’s prayers. It looks, acts and even smells like real eggs.

I decided to try to make an eggless version of breakfast pockets in the air fryer, which, if they worked, would make a great go-breakfast for my son. These turned out to be such a hit with both my son and my non-allergic, non-vegan husband that we didn’t have any left for go breakfasts. So I guess that’s a win.

We’re not vegetarian so I used turkey sausage, but veggie crumbles would easily work if you don’t eat meat.

Two triangle-shaped pastries on a white plate.

Eggless Air Fryer Breakfast Pockets with VeganEgg, sausage and cheddar.

Eggless Air Fryer Breakfast Pockets

Cooking spray
4 ounces breakfast sausage
4 tablespoons VeganEgg egg substitute
1 cup ice-cold water
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoons melted butter, or ghee
2 8-oz packages Pillsbury Crescent dough

Spray a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray and add sausage. Cook until no longer pink, breaking into crumbles with spatula.
Eggless_Air_Fryer Breakfast_PocketsAdd cold water to blender then VeganEgg powder. Blend well. Mixture will resemble cake batter.
Spray a medium skillet (heavy stainless works best) with cooking spray. Add VeganEgg mixture and cook over medium high heat, breaking into pieces with spatula, until water has mostly evaporated and mixture resembles scrambled eggs.
Remove from heat. Add sausage crumbles to VeganEggs and stir until evenly mixed.
Remove dough from packaging and separate into triangles.
Divide sausage and egg substitute evenly among 8 triangles. Top each with 1 tablespoon of shredded cheddar. Top with remaining 8 sheets of dough and crimp edges with fork. Brush with melted butter or ghee.
Insert crisper plate into air fryer and insert basket into unit. Preheat 3 minutes to 400 degrees on Air Fry setting, then place two pockets on crisper plate and cook for 3 1/2 minutes or until pastry has risen and is golden brown. Repeat with remaining pockets. Serve warm.

 

Yes, You Can Make Eggless Scrambled Eggs

Occasionally when posting recipes I’ve mentioned that my son is allergic to eggs. He’s 14 years old now, so over the years I’ve learned how to make an eggless version of just about everything he wants to eat, except, of course, eggs. It broke my heart when he asked me what an omelet tasted like and I couldn’t make that for him.

Don’t even talk to me about tofu. Here’s how that went: Extensive research of tofu omelet recipes. Chose recipe that seemed to embody all prevailing ingredients and had most appealing photo. Cooked omelet. Tasted omelet. Scraped entire omelet into trash. Realized recipe supposedly tasting like eggs was created by person who hadn’t had one in years, if ever.

VeganEgg_egg_substitute

It looks like an egg carton, but you’ll find VeganEgg in the baking aisle.

So I went on as always, frustrated because no one had invented an egg replacer that acts like an egg.  Then I spotted an egg carton-shaped container on the shelf in the baking aisle at my grocery store. Brilliant marketing move on the part of Follow Your Heart for VeganEgg because I’m thinking something’s wrong! These eggs should be refrigerated! I picked it up, read the label, and with much skepticism, tossed it in my cart, thinking if it couldn’t really make scrambled eggs, I could still use it in baked goods like my usual powdered egg replacer.

My son was excited and wanted me to make the scrambled “eggs” as soon as possible. I was worried about getting his hopes up. First of all, my experience with vegan products has often left much to be desired (I’m looking at you, “cheese”). Second, my son is a very picky eater, and often it has to do with texture. With a powdered product to make eggs, a texture he’s never experienced before even when it’s the real thing, I figured chances of success were slim to none, but I had to give it a shot.

The result? A miracle. VeganEgg takes a little longer to cook than eggs, but it ends up looking pretty much like the real deal. The instructions said to whisk the water and powder, but I mixed it in the Nutribullet because, I don’t know; I put everything in the Nutribullet. I added a little salt while cooking it, then finished it with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar to up my chances of approval. My son the picky eater asked for pepper, then proceeded to gobble the whole thing, and he asked for it again a couple of days later. I don’t know how to explain how this makes me feel after having watched him not be able to have eggs like everybody else for all these years.

VeganEgg_egg_substitute

VeganEgg egg substitute starts out looking like yellow cake batter.

VeganEgg_egg_substitute

VeganEgg egg substitute, scrambled. I found that a heavy stainless steel skillet works best; it took longer to cook them in a nonstick skillet.

The next week I made french toast, another thing I’ve never been able to replicate without eggs, using the recipe on the back of the VeganEgg package. Again, skeptical. Again, miracle. This wasn’t just good vegan french toast. This was some of the best french toast I’ve ever had, period. My husband, not vegan, had four slices. My son loved it and has eaten it again since.

I haven’t tried making an omelet with it. Supposedly you can, but I’m not sure I have the patience to wait around for an omelet to cook when it’s going to taste the same.

You can still find the recipe for Classic French Toast on VeganEgg package, and they recently released The VeganEgg Cookbook, which I can’t wait to check out.

 

Eggless Zucchini Cannelloni

When I was single and lived alone, I ate a lot of frozen dinners. They had names that included “Lean” (because low-fat was healthy) and “Healthy” (because healthy was healthy), so clearly this was the right thing to do. I remember running into someone at the grocery store with my cart full of low-fat frozen dinners, low-fat snacks and diet sodas and they commented, “Wow, you eat healthy!” and they weren’t even being sarcastic.

These days I don’t eat a lot of frozen dinners, but I was recently reminded of one I really liked back in the day.

I got a KitchenAid Vegetable Sheet Cutter attachment for Christmas and was searching for things I could make with zucchini that my son would eat. I ran across a photo of beef-filled cannelloni with a white sauce and immediately recalled that favorite frozen dinner, and became obsessed with trying to create a zucchini version of it. I think this comes pretty close. It is not low-fat ’cause I’m not into that anymore. It is eggless, so you could probably throw an egg into the filling and make it more firm if you’re not trying to feed a teenager who’s allergic to eggs and suspicious of vegetables. He ate it all, so I’m calling this one a win.

Zucchini Beef Cannelloni by Laurie Sterbens

Zucchini Beef Cannelloni with Bechemel Sauce

Cannelloni

1 pound large zucchini, sliced into sheets
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced celery
1/4 cup minced carrot
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces lean ground beef
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup beef broth
1 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Bechamel Sauce

1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 dash paprika
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice zucchini using Vegetable Sheet Cutter. Cut into 4- to 5-inch sheets and place on paper towels. Sprinkle with a little salt and set aside, then press with paper towels to remove excess moisture before filling.
3. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet. Add onion, celery, and carrot, and cook over moderate heat until softened. Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is no longer pink. Add wine, and reduce for 1 minute. Stir in broth. Add herbs, bay leaf, and salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover, and reduce until almost dry. Discard bay leaf. Set aside to cool.
4. Transfer the cooled meat mixture to a large bowl. Stir in mozzarella.
5. To make bechamel sauce: In a small saucepan, add milk. While whisking, slowly add in flour. When blended, add salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and and stir in Parmesan.
6. Spoon 1/4 cup of the filling down the center of one zucchini slice, roll to enclose the filling and place in a buttered gratin dish. Repeat with the remaining zucchini slices and filling, arranging in single layer. Ladle the bechamel sauce over the cannelloni, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with a bit of paprika.
7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbling. Run under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat for 2 minutes, or until golden.

Adventures in Air Frying

I recently got a new air fryer and I love it. Loooove it. (It’s a Ninja.)

When I first got it, I uploaded some of the more appealing recipes from the product website into my meal planner and went looking on Amazon for a cookbook. There aren’t many—this is a fairly new gadget and air frying is apparently still kind of Wild West as far as recipe development and cookbook publishing.

Then I started looking around for things I already make that would be better in the air fryer. (At this point watch out; stand still for too long in my kitchen and I will air fry you.)

There have been more hits than misses, but here is what I’ve learned so far:

Holy salt shaker, Batman. Some of the recipes I tried from the cookbook I found had waaaay too much salt. Admittedly, I try not to use too much salt when cooking, but I also eat out a lot and I know the difference between well-seasoned and way overboard. My theory here is the early air-fryer adopters are people trying to reform unhealthy diets that probably included things like fast food and they’re used to a lot of sodium. Question the salt quantities in some of the recipes out there.

Everyone is right about the chicken wings. Some people don’t use this machine for much else and that’s understandable. You could keep yourself busy making all kinds of delicious chicken wings. The first time I made air-fried buffalo wings, my picky 14-year-old gobbled a whole plate of them and pronounced them better than his second-favorite wing purveyor. I guess that makes me tied for first, but since I’d never tried to make wings before, I was pretty happy. Skin-on chicken thighs are also amazing in the air fryer.

Fried fish is going to be a learning process. Or I may just respect the fish and throw it in the deep fryer, which I’ll have to drag out anyway for the hush puppies.

Vegetables can be strange. So far I’ve cooked two non-potato vegetables: Broccoli and brussels sprouts. Here’s the thing. I actually like these vegetables. Some people don’t, so for those people it could be an improvement to blast them to ashes, I don’t know. I found them … interesting as an appetizer, maybe, but I think I prefer my brussels sprouts roasted and my broccoli gently steamed or stir-fried. Maybe I should air-blast some beets. I hate beets.

The air fryer makes the best baked potatoes ever — crispy skin, fluffy inside, and they cook in under half an hour. We like the skins with olive oil and salt, but I found that with the air fryer the skin gets crisper if you do this after cooking them.

I also had great results with panko-crusted chicken breasts, which turned out nice and crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside.

resized_20190210_1929521

Air-Fryer Panko-Crusted Chicken Breasts

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups whole wheat panko crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (the powdery jar stuff)
2 teaspoons Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine panko crumbs, Parmesan and Northwoods seasoning in a shallow bowl and stir well. Add olive oil to another bowl.
Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees on the Air Fry setting. When preheated, spray cooking tray and multi-layer rack with cooking spray. Cut chicken breasts in half, then dip each in olive oil and toss in panko mixture. Arrange half of chicken pieces on bottom of the air fryer, add the multi-layer rack and place remaining pieces on top. Cook for 10 minutes, pause and carefully turn pieces over with tongs, then cook another 8-10 minutes.

2 Great Recipes Using Cauliflower Rice

Laurie_Sterbens_Jambalaya_with_Cauliflower_Rice.jpg

Cauliflower rice works great in Jambalaya.

In my last post  I shared how I make cauliflower rice that’s more al dente and less cruciferous-crunchy than other recipes I’ve tried.

You: Why are you still talking about this? I hate cauliflower.

Don’t worry; I won’t keep trying to push cauliflower on you if you’re staunchly pro-starch. That would be dysfunctional. Besides, I’ll be busy trying to get my husband to like bacon so I can make this meatloaf. However, if you’re on the fence, haven’t tried cauliflower rice yet or just learned how to make it and aren’t sure what to do with it, here are some ideas.

Cauliflower rice is perfect with stir-fries, especially with a few healthy sprinkles of coconut aminos (or soy sauce, if you’re not avoiding soy and sodium). But try throwing it into a Cajun recipe and the cauliflower flavor takes a backseat to the spices. You may not scream, “You’re lying! This is rice!” but you’ll save a lot of calories and carbs without feeling like you’re choking down a bowl of vegetables.

Caul.chart

Nutritional information from http://www.calorieking.com.

You can also sub pureed cauliflower for the grits in your favorite Shrimp and Grits recipe. I like this recipe for Deep South Shrimp and Sausage from Cooking Light. Serve it over cauliflower pureed with a tablespoon of butter, an ounce of half and half and a half cup of shredded Parmesan cheese.

If cauliflower’s working for you and you want to step up your game, you can try cauliflower pizza crust or cauliflower tortillas. I’ve only tried the pizza crust once with modest success. You have to make sure to squeeze as much water out of the cauliflower as possible to make it work, and you need to let it cool first so you don’t burn your hands. I may have skipped that last part. Ouch.

And then there’ s cauliflower “steak.” Okay, here I have to draw the line. Not even the most imaginative application of umami-inducing seasonings is going to make me look at a slab of cauliflower and confuse it with sirloin. That said, roasted cauliflower can be a great thing. Clean Eating offers up its take on cauliflower steaks here.

Jambalaya with Cauliflower Rice

1 recipe Cauliflower Rice 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 ounces andouille sausage, chopped
2 tablespoons sliced green onions

Prepare cauliflower rice and set aside.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in bell peppers, paprika, salt, oregano, ground red pepper and black pepper; sauté 1 minute.
Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Add shrimp, sausage and cooked cauliflower rice; cover and cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry with Cauliflower Rice

This recipe (minus cauliflower rice) is from Paleo Grubs, where it’s called Simple Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry. It’s delicious and not difficult, but since it involves more than 5 ingredients and chopping and mincing, not including the cauliflower rice, I deleted “simple” from the title when I saved it to my recipe planner.

1.5 lbs. sirloin, thinly sliced
4 tbsp coconut aminos, divided
4 tbsp red wine vinegar, divided
3 tbsp chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp arrowroot flour
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
4 carrots, diagonally sliced
3 tbsp coconut oil, divided

1 recipe Cauliflower Rice

Place the sirloin in a small bowl with one tablespoon each of red wine vinegar and coconut aminos and toss to coat. Let marinate for 15 minutes at room temperature.

Meanwhile, whisk together 3 tablespoons each red wine vinegar, coconut aminos, and chicken broth. Stir in the garlic, ginger, arrowroot, honey, and sesame oil. Prepare a separate small bowl with 1 tablespoon of water and set it next to the stove along with the garlic sauce.

Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place the steak in the skillet in a single layer. The meat should sizzle; otherwise the pan is not hot enough. Cook for 1-2 minutes per side to brown, and then transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to the skillet. Stir in the broccoli and carrots, cooking for 2 minutes. Add the water to the skillet and cover with a lid. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove the lid and cook until all of the water has evaporated.

Add the garlic mixture to the vegetables and stir to coat. Add the beef back into the pan and toss until the sauce thickens and everything is well coated. Serve immediately over cauliflower rice.

 

Kinder, Gentler Cauliflower Rice

17834863_10213048136377311_5256907209492004099_o

This recipe for Cashew Chicken is an excellent reason for cauliflower rice.

About a year ago, my husband and I did a 30-day Paleo challenge.

  • Pros: Lost some belly fat, found great new healthy recipes.
  • Cons: Lots of planning, prep and cooking, not super travel-friendly, not cheap. Also not supposed to have dairy or alcohol. More on that later.

For the uninitiated, the Paleo Diet is based on what humans ate before the Agricultural Age and way before our current era, the Additive Age. The theory is that the human body wasn’t meant to process agricultural products, especially now that the food production industry has turned even originally healthy foods like grains into bionic alien pseudo foods. You’re supposed to eat clean, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish and organic produce and avoid processed foods, grains, legumes, dairy and refined sugar.

I eventually failed dairy because coffee and cheese, but I definitely felt better without grains. Now I just try to eat Paleo during the week with limited dairy. Also not sure which era was when we learned about fermented grapes, but I’m pretending that happened.

paleo_house_divided

A house divided: Not everyone was on board with the Paleo plan.

The first thing you’ll learn when you go Paleo is that there are a lot of recipes out there trying to make something good you used to eat, like pasta, out of a vegetable you’re not that attached to, like zucchini. That low-carb classic, faux mashed potatoes made with cauliflower, is still around. Rice is another Paleo problem, and people have turned to cauliflower to solve that, too.

At first I was not a fan. Rice is a starchy comfort food, so, ideally, it shouldn’t break your teeth. Most recipes say pulse it in the food processor until it’s the size of rice, then saute it in oil, but all I got was warmer, oilier, mostly raw cauliflower.

I found that partially steaming the cauliflower first results in a softer, more rice-like texture.  Here’s how I make it now:

Cauliflower Rice

1 head cauliflower, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place the chopped cauliflower in a microwave-safe dish with 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high for 8 minutes. Remove immediately, uncover and allow to cool.

Place 1/2 of cooled cauliflower in a large food processor and pulse until it resembles rice. Repeat with remaining cauliflower. Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add cauliflower to skillet. Saute 5 minutes or until desired tenderness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

(Note: When this post was first published, cauliflower rice was a new thing. Now you can find pre-riced cauliflower in the produce section, which takes you right back to the non-steamed, too-crunchy problem. However, now there are also bags of cauliflower rice in the frozen vegetable section, which you can just throw in the microwave, and they are a win. I like Green Giant. The bags are small, though, so I usually use two.)

 

Chicken Parmesan with Crunch and a Little Kick

Heart-shaped ravioli and chicken parmesan with red sauce on a white plate.

Chicken parmesan with heart-shaped ravioli, because it was Valentine’s Day.

First of all, ignore the heart-shaped ravioli, unless it’s Valentine’s Day again and it’s time for heart-shaped ravioli. If that’s the case, I made the ravioli below with this recipe using a small heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Today I want to talk about chicken Parmesan. (That’s the little cheese-covered thing below the ravioli. Trust me, there’s crunchy breaded chicken under there.)

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of chicken Parm that is breaded, fried, and then covered with sauce and cheese and baked. I always wondered why you would want to bother with breading and frying something if you’re just going to make it all soggy by covering it with liquid and baking it. I like to make it my mom’s way, which had a nice contrast in textures between the crispy breading, melted cheese and marinara sauce. I’ve healthied my version up a little, using oven-fried chicken with a whole-wheat panko coating. Mom didn’t have panko back in the day.

I also like to put in a little surprise secret ingredient: I stick a little sliver of pepper jack cheese under the mozzarella. Not so much that you’re going, “Hey, a burrito!” Just enough to add a little kick.

I start with oven-fried chicken adapted from the Oven Fried Chicken with Almonds recipe in the South Beach Diet Cookbook. I use whole wheat panko crumbs instead of breadcrumbs and change the herbs according to whim. Also, the original recipe calls for pounding chicken breasts, but I’ve found that it’s quicker and easier to buy thin-sliced chicken breasts. You don’t have to go through the mess of pounding (though my son really liked that part) and the chicken seems to turn out more tender.

Chicken Parmesan

1 cup whole wheat panko crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup raw almonds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pound thin-sliced chicken breasts*
Pepper jack cheese, sliced
Mozzarella cheese slices
Marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a food processor, process almonds until finely chopped. Add panko crumbs, grated Parmesan, garlic, salt, oregano, and pepper. Process until combined. Empty mixture into a medium bowl. Pour olive oil into a shallow bowl.
Dip chicken breasts in olive oil, then dredge in the panko mixture and arrange on a baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until thermometer inserted into the center of a piece registers 170 degrees.
Top each piece of chicken with a small slice of pepper jack cheese and top with sliced mozzarella. Allow cheese to melt, then top with marinara and serve.
*There will be enough breading for about two pounds of chicken, if you want to open another package. I just use what comes in a standard package, which is usually a little under a pound and a quarter.

How to Make Eggless Homemade Ravioli

Uncooked ravioli squares lined up on parchment paperRecently I’ve had a couple of people ask me how to make homemade ravioli. Okay, it wasn’t all that recently. It was before the holidays, when I typically make a lot of ravioli. However, during the holidays I generally don’t have time to do anything more than make the ravioli and post a show-offy picture on Facebook, then collapse from exhaustion. Now that I’ve recovered, I thought I’d share my totally non-expert thoughts on making ravioli.

Though I’ve been known to make occasional random batches of ravioli here and there year-round, we have a tradition of having it on Christmas Eve at our house as part of our Feast of the Two Fishes. (This is based on the Italian tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but as we are a small family and only two of us are part Italian, we’re down to two fishes. Actually, they are usually crustaceans and bivalves, if you want to be exact, but hey, at least we have a tradition.)

I’m not sure when this got started, but clearly it was sometime after I learned to make ravioli, and then found a really good butternut squash ravioli recipe, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse. I usually pair it with broiled shrimp and scallops with just a touch of Cajun seasoning on them.

As I said, I’m no expert in pasta making. From what I’ve been able to determine so far, my ancestors hailed from every western European country except Italy, so I’m not sure where I got my affinity for Italian food. If you want to learn about ravioli from an expert, check out this video from Laura Schenone, author of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and FamilyThe Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family (Norton, 2008). I also highly recommend the book.

To paraphrase the book jacket, Schenone has clearly mastered “… the mysteries of pasta, rolled on a pin into a perfect circle of gossamer dough.” That’s not how I do it, and to be honest, I’ve never had anyone fall out of his chair raving about how gossamery my pasta is. However, they do gobble it up and ask for more, and my way is a bit faster and easier, so I’ll share it. Note: My son is allergic to eggs, so I use Mario Batali‘s recipe for Eggless Pasta.

Things You’ll Need

Before we get started, I’d just like to say a thing or two about ravioli molds. I have a ravioli mold that makes a dozen medium-sized ravioli at a time. It’s easier than cutting them out individually and pressing them together, but the drawback is that it sometimes allows for air pockets. These are considered uncool among the ravioli crowd, I believe because they can cause the ravioli to break open. A friend tried a ravioli stamp and wasn’t crazy about it. My dream tool would be a ravioli pin like the one Schenone uses in her video. But then we’re getting into rolling-out-circles-of-gossamer territory, so it may be a while.

Instructions

First, make your filling. If you make the full recipe for Batali’s pasta, you will have enough for a batch of butternut squash pasta and a batch of another. I make cheese (recipe below). You can also halve the recipe for lesser occasions.

Next, make the pasta. The traditional method calls for piling your flour in the center of a cutting board, making a well in the center and adding your water (or eggs, if using) a little at a time, stirring with your hands, and then kneading. My method calls for piling the flour in a large food processor and adding water a little at a time with the processor running on a low speed. As soon as it comes together, take it out and divide into two balls. Cover one and set aside. Knead the dough by running it through the pasta machine on the widest setting 8-10 times. Cover and set aside. Repeat with remaining pasta. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.ravioli2 (2)

To fill the pasta, roll it through the pasta machine at increasing settings until it is thin but not so much that it won’t hold filling. I usually stop at level 4 or 5. Lightly flour the pasta mold and lay the dough across it. Use the plastic thingy that comes with the mold to make indentions for your filling. Using a small (teaspoon-sized) cookie dough scoop, fill each section. Cover the ravioli with another section of dough. Seal the ravioli by rolling with a rolling pin, starting in the center of the mold and working outward. Flip the mold over and gently remove the ravioli. Place the ravioli in a large dish sprinkled with cornmeal (I also use wax paper between layers). Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Chill in refrigerator until ready to cook.

To cook, simply drop in boiling water until ravioli floats to the top. Many people recommend salting the water for various reasons. I’m going to leave that up to you.

Cheese Ravioli Filling

Makes enough filling for 1/2 of Mario Batali’s Eggless Pasta recipe.
8 ounces ricotta
4 ounces shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch nutmeg
Mix ingredients in food processor or by hand.

%d bloggers like this: