Tag Archives: egg allergy

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.

 

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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.

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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.

Clowns and Dolls: ’50s Cakes Were Scary

wedcake10001

Judging by this image from “The Homemaker’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating,” less was not more for the brides of 1954.

This month I’m spending a couple of hours each week in a cake decorating class learning how to make flowers out of buttercream frosting, gum paste and fondant. This is my second cake-decorating class; I spent eight hours in August earning a certificate in The Wilton Method Decorating Basics.

This makes no sense for a couple of reasons. First of all, to be honest, I don’t really like cake. Sure, I can be tempted by pretty much anything chocolate, and a fresh, homemade carrot cake or coconut cake may turn my head, but for the most part, your standard office party bakery cake isn’t worth the extra calories. Plus, there’s the  icing. The day I found out bakery buttercream contains neither butter nor cream but is mostly shortening and powdered sugar was the last day I was able to enjoy those office cakes. I don’t know why, when I am so in love with butter and bacon, I’m so repelled by shortening, but I am.

So, why am I spending hours up to my elbows in powdered sugar and shortening? I have a 6-year-old son who’s allergic to eggs, and most bakeries don’t do eggless cakes.

There are a lot of cake-infested situations in a first-grader’s life. Mostly I handle this by keeping eggless cupcakes in the freezer. Whenever there’s a birthday party, I pull one out and frost it and take it along to the party so Trevor doesn’t have to sit and watch all the other kids eat cake. But Trevor has his own birthdays, and he deserves cakes that are just as cool as his friends’ cakes. OK, maybe cooler. “Happy birthday from your overly competitive mommy!”

Wilton doll cake circa 1954

Scary doll cake circa 1954: Take naked scary doll. Insert scary doll into Bundt cake. Cover cake and up to armpits of scary doll with obscene amounts of buttercream.

When my mother-in-law found out I was taking the cake classes, she gave me the book her mother had used when she took Wilton cake-decorating classes in the 1950s, “The Homemaker’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating” by McKinley Wilton and Norman Wilton. Flipping through the pages, I immediately fell in love with this book. All of the color pictures have that pastel, slightly out of focus look, like Doris Day in “That Touch of Mink.” Even though I know in reality it couldn’t be the case, I like to imagine there was a time when life’s colors were soft and sharp edges were blurred, when my son might have asked for a simple cowboy cake instead of Transformers.

Though I recognized many of the techniques illustrated in the book, it was immediately apparent that cake styles have changed in the decades since it was published. For the most part, this appears to be a good thing. Compared to today’s wedding cakes, elegantly covered in sheets of smooth fondant with restrained displays of gum paste flowers or themed patterns, wedding cakes in the ’50s were riots of buttercream, royal icing and spun sugar. Why have just one border on each layer when you can have six or seven? Lace, ruffles, roses, birds—they only stopped when they ran out of cake to cover. Intervention was clearly needed. “Harry, put down the pastry bag and step away from the turntable. These nice men are going to take you to a lovely place where you can get some rest.”

clowncake20001

Little Bobby required years of therapy after finding this cupcake clown on his plate.

Cake themes have changed with the times as well. Little boys and girls in those days would be happy with a simple piped-on rendition of an astronaut or a ballerina instead of whatever major movie marketing campaign had the biggest hold on them at the moment.

There is one cake theme that has, unfortunately, survived to this day, and that is the clown cake.

First of all, let me just say right here that I do not like clowns. Clowns are scary. Looking at both modern clown cakes (you can see some here at Cakewrecks.com) and the ones in the book, it appears that the cake decorators may have intended to make happy clowns (as though such a thing existed), but clowns are just inherently scary.

Fortunately, another scary ’50s cake trend seems to remain safely in the past, and that’s the doll cake. OK, I know there are a lot of people out there who collect dolls and love them. I had dolls, too, when I was a little girl. But as an adult I have come to realize something: Dolls are scary. Doll collections—a room full of dolls just staring at your with their lifeless plastic eyes? Scary. There was an episode of “Ghosthunters” in which the property being investigated had one room filled with dolls. Dolls in the dark. This was more frightening than the prospect of a ghost popping out, if you ask me.

For certain ’50s situations, however, it was apparently the custom to take a scary, lifeless-eyed figure, stand her up in a cake and surround her with layer upon layer of buttercream borders, ruffles and roses. Sugarcoated, but still scary.

So you won’t be seeing any clown cakes or doll cakes from me. The scariest thing I’ve done so far was when I tried an experimental tinting technique on a fall-themed anniversary cake. It was supposed to be burgundy mums surrounded by a cascade of fall-colored leaves. It ended up looking like three sea urchins on a bed of bacon strips. But we learn our lessons and move on. The only thing that matters is that every April one little guy has the coolest birthday cake ever.

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