ZUCCHINI SWISS CHARD PESTO GRATIN

This is a quick easy dish to make if you need to use up the last of the summer zucchinis.  With this dish you could use store bought pesto and marinara sauce or you can make your own.  For the marinara sauce I used this one.  If you make homemade there will be leftover sauce that can be frozen for another use.
2 large zucchinis, sliced 1/4 inch thick- first cut the ends off to carefully slice lengthwise
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cups chopped swiss chard
1 cup cottage cheese - we use lactose free
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 big Tblsp. pesto
1 egg - whisk well
Salt and pepper to taste
marinara sauce
gluten free bread crumbs
grated Parmesan cheese
Heat up a frying pan on low medium heat with a good drizzle of EVOO.  Add the chopped swiss chard, and saute until tender, about 8 minutes, then transfer to a bowl to cool.
Add more EVOO to the pan and turn the heat to medium.  Add in batches the sliced zucchini lightly browning each side about 2 1/2 min. per side, and transfer to a plate.  While doing this heat up the marinara on a low simmer.
Then add the cottage cheese, beaten egg, pesto, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to the swiss chard mixing well.  To a casserole dish, spread a layer of marinara sauce and top with a few zucchini slices.  Then add a layer of the swiss chard/cottage cheese mixture, a handful of gluten free bread crumbs, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Repeat the layers using up all of the zucchini finishing with the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, bake uncovered about 30-40 min. until bubbly and golden.

Oh how I love Italian Food. What I love is, Italians keep their food simple, without any fuss or complex ingredients, always using fresh ingredients and as a result their food is always delicious.  Jamie Oliver once said he was born in the wrong country....I very much think the same thing!
This recipe was quick, easy, elegant and delicious.  What makes this dish so easy is you can make up the polenta the day before or the morning of.  You can also use leftover marinara sauce or use a store bought jar of marinara if you are in a crunch for time.
How this recipe came about is years ago we had this dinner in a restaurant and I fell in love with it.  That was back in the day when I did not know anything about anything in regards to cooking.  However, I never, never forgot about this wonderful meal. This dish would be wonderful cut into smaller portions as an appetizer too.  Anyways, for whatever reason, this recipe popped into my head the other day and I thought .... yes .... it is time to give it a go.  So happy to go down memory lane...and how delicious it was too.
TO MAKE THE POLENTA:
1 cup of milk (we use 2% lactose free)
2 cups water (plus keep extra water on hand)
1 Bay leaf
salt - be generous
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup Parmeasan cheese
Combine milk, water, generous amount of salt to season, and bay leaf in a good sized pot.  Bring to the boil on low medium heat.  Add in the polenta - whisk well, then turn down to a good simmer.  Now using a wooden spoon continue to stir well.  Keep stirring for a good 30 minutes.  I added in total at least an extra 1/2 cup of water a bit at a time continuing to stir.  When it feels smooth to taste remove from the heat and add in the Parmesan cheese mixing well.
Lightly oil an  8 1/2 x 12 inch glass casserole dish with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Transfer the cooked polenta to the casserole dish spreading out evenly.  Allow to cool 20 min. then refrigerate until 30 minutes before it is to go into the oven.
MARINARA SAUCE:
one  796 ml/28oz can of organic crushed tomatoes with basil
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 minced garlic cloves
fresh cracked pepper
2  generous Tblsp. finely chopped Italian Parsley, and fresh Basil
Heat up a sauce pan of low heat with the EVOO.  Add in the minced garlic, and fresh cracked pepper.  Saute until fragrant - a minute or 2.  Pour in the crushed tomatoes, and add the finely chopped parsley and basil stirring to combine.  Take the casserole dish of polenta out of the fridge and put aside.  Keep the marinara on a low simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 min. and remove from the heat.
Other ingredients:
130 grams herb crusted goat cheese
Grated Parmesan Cheese
10 asparagus spears - cut in half
While the marinara is simmering, blanch the asparagus for 1  1/2 min. drain and add to a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain well and pat dry with paper towel.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Add a few generous ladle fulls of marinara sauce on top of the polenta - spreading evenly.  Then a generous layer of grated Parmesan cheese, topping with the blanched asparagus.  Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese through out the dish.  Bake for 20 minutes, then turn on the broiler for another 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes.
To plate:  Add a small ladle full of marinara sauce to your plate, then add a slice of the baked Polenta Asparagus Goat Cheese.  It is amazing how a few simple fresh ingredients can create a delicious wonderful meal.  Enjoy!  We sure did.

This recipe is similar to my Mung Bean Stew - with a few changes/additions.  It is said that mung beans are a legume that are heart healthy, they help to reduce cholesterol, are the least gas forming of all legumes, and they also assist in improving/balancing digestion.  It is my goal/hope for 2018 to eat this dish at least twice a week.  Eating vegetarian meals is an easy way for me to shed a few pounds - always a good thing, plus I love all lentils and curry so this should not get too boring. There is lots of flavor in this dish making it mighty tasty too.
If you soak the mung beans early in the morning or over nite (soak 8 hours) you are good to go.  In terms of preparation - it took about 40 minutes prep/saute time - then the rice was cooked separately, while the mung beans/vegetables took another 35-40 minutes to cook.  In my busy week, this should be something I can handle and with leftovers the next day that should reach my goal with a free day of cooking to make things easier.
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tblsp. cumin powder
1/2 Tblsp. mustard seeds
1/2 Tblsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. Madras curry powder - mine was not spicy hot
1/2 tsp. garahm masala
2/3 cups mung beans - soak 8 hours, and drain
1 large tomato, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tblsp. minced ginger - to taste
1 1/2 cups chopped orange yam
1 cup chopped carrots
salt to taste
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1 large bay leaf
3/4 cup frozen peas
huge handful of chopped cilantro
cook 1 1/4 cups Basmati rice in 2 1/2 cups water
Heat up a dutch oven on low medium heat with the EVOO.  Add the mustard and coriander seeds, sauteing until the mustard seeds start to pop.  Add in the cumin, curry powder, garaham masala and saute until fragrant.  Then add in the onions, garlic, ginger, tomato continuing to saute for another 5 min.
Pour in the water, adding in the mung beans, carrots, bay leaf and yams stirring well.  Season to taste with salt.  Bring to a simmer lid on for about 35 min., then while the rice is cooking, remove lid and keep on a simmer.  When rice is almost done add in the peas, and chopped cilantro to heat through and serve over the cooked rice.  A dollop of organic yogurt is a lovely addition.  This is a dish that will taste even better the next day.

Years ago, there used to be a cafe/restaurant in town that served the most heavenly gluten free Mexican Pie.  We didn't get to that part of town very often, but when we did this would be our lunch.  Basically, it was an Enchilada - but the corn tortillas were stacked on top of one another, with the most delicious filling.  It was cut like a piece of pie, heated and served with Enchilada sauce on top.  I could never figure out how they made it "stick" all together.  In remembrance of their Mexican pie - this is my version but as an Enchilada.
We were very happy with the results.
By the way, this recipe left extra filling and Enchilada sauce.  It would be great with scrambled eggs or in a frittata for breakfast or lunch.  It is even good cold!
Bake a 1 lb yam at 350 degrees heat - scrub, poke with a fork a few times, wrap in tin foil.  Bake 45-50 min. or a bit longer, you want it mostly cooked but still firm.
ENCHILADA SAUCE:
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Roux:   To 2 Tblsp. Sweet Rice Flour add: 1 tsp. chili powder, 1  1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, 3 tsp. garlic powder - mix well
156 ml. can tomato paste
2 cups unsalted vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
Heat up a medium sized pan on medium heat with the EVOO.  Heat the pan a good 5 minutes.  Then sprinkle in the flour/spice mix, whisking well - for about 2 minutes.  Slowly pour in the vegetable stock - whisking non stop to remove any lumps.  Add in the tomato paste, whisking well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer on low heat and cook about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
FILLING:
cook 1/2 a cup of basmati rice and once done add to a large bowl
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
chopped caramelized yam
14 oz. can black beans drained and rinsed well
3/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 oz. can mild green chilies
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup salsa
3 green onions chopped
3 cups grated aged cheddar cheese, divided
Smoked paprika, salt and pepper
12 gluten free corn tortillas
Once your yam has baked unwrap the foil to allow to cool until it can be handled to peel.  Then chop it up into 1/2 inch size pieces.  Heat a pan on medium heat with the EVOO.  Add the yams to the pan and season with a light sprinkling of smoked paprika.  Season with salt, and cook about 15 minutes until lightly caramelized.
Add the yams to the rice.  Then add in the drained/rinsed black beans, frozen corn, cilantro, mild green chilies, cumin, salsa, green onions and 2 cups of the grated cheese.  Season with salt to taste and mix well.  (please ignore the thumb interference in this picture)
Heat up the corn tortillas.   This is best done in 2 batches.  I use very damp, wrung out paper towel.  Stack the corn tortilla between the moist paper towel - then heat on high 1 minute in the microwave oven.
Lightly oil a large casserole dish.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Fill each corn tortilla with enough stuffing, but leave room to roll.  Place seam side down into the casserole dish.  Cover with Enchilada Sauce and then sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese on top.
Heat uncovered for about 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
This is the leftover amount of filling and Enchilada sauce...ahem....there would have been more, but yours truly kept diving in to "taste test".  Not!  Just being a piggy 🙂

I love lentils cooked any way - especially in soup.  The other day was a particularly busy day and on my way home from town I had one more stop to make at our local health food store.  Once in the door, something smelled heavenly (I was starving too as it was lunch time).
Our local health food store is owned by a lovely Iranian gentleman and his wife.  I asked him what smelled so good, and he pointed to a crock pot on the counter that was filled with Lentil Soup.  So then I asked him if it was gluten free.  He said all of his food is gluten free and this soup was also vegetarian and vegan.  Yayyyy gluten free soup!  He said that it was simple, good food.  Groceries in the bag, a take out bowl of soup in my other hand, time to go home.  Once the groceries were put away, I eagerly sat down to have the soup.  It was delicious!  Very simple flavors, in fact, I'm not even sure what kind of spices he used.
So today's recipe was inspired by this lovely gentleman's Lentil soup.  One thing is for sure:  I will definitely be going back to his store for more!
3/4 cup red lentils
3 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large shallots, chopped
3 large minced garlic cloves
2 Tblsp. finely chopped ginger
1 tsp. Curry Powder - I used my favorite - Cartwrites
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
1  28 oz. can whole tomatoes (place a sieve over an 8 cup glass measuring cup. slice up the tomatoes, give the sieve a good stir a few times and drain all the liquid into the measuring cup. This gave me 2 1/2 cups tomato liquid, then add enough water to reach the 7 cup level)  For a thicker soup, add 1/2 cup less water.
3/4 cup diced celery including leaves
1 cup diced carrots - about 1/2 inch in size
3 medium leeks, chopped
Heat up a frying pan on low medium heat with the EVOO.  Add the chopped shallots, garlic, and ginger.  Saute for 5 minutes, then add in the curry powder and continue to saute 1 more minute.  Season with salt.
Transfer to a med/large crock pot and add all of the remaining ingredients stirring well.  Cook on high for 1 hour, then turn to low and cook for 8 more hours.


UPDATE:  we had this again the other day, but we had run out of wild rice so had it without....and it was even better!
Recently I had read an article on the health benefits of cashew nuts.  When cashew nuts are soaked and pureed into a luscious smooth mixture it is a perfect addition to soups of all kinds. Then I found this recipe from Sarah, of Making Thyme For Health.  Wow, this takes cream of mushroom soup to a whole new level - it was truly delicious.  No need for real cream - personally I think this is better.
I did change the method, made it gluten free, and used a couple of different ingredients so will do a recap here. (If using a bouillon cube or powdered stock seasoning double check that it is gluten free - there are many on the market that are not) For the original recipe please check out Sarah's lovely blog Making Thyme For Health.  Many thanks Sarah, your recipe is a winner!
For the cashews it is recommended to use a high powered blender, which always makes me think of a Vita Mix or a Blendtec - neither of which I have.  I used my old faithful Cuisinart and it worked like a charm.
2/3 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup wild rice
2 Tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large shallots, diced
3/4 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery with the leaves
4 minced garlic cloves
2 cups diced crimini mushrooms
1 tsp. salt
fresh cracked pepper
3 Tblsp. lite gluten free Tamari sauce
1 tsp. dried Thyme
2 tsp. fresh minced Sage
2 Tblsp. fresh minced Italian parsley
1 large Bay Leaf
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 Tblsp. nutritional yeast
1 Tblsp. arrowroot powder
1  1/2 cups homemade vegetable stock
If you did not want a Vegetarian/Vegan soup, organic chicken or beef stock would be lovely in this recipe too, just omit the nutritional yeast.  It would also make a great base for a seafood/clam chowder.
Cook the wild rice in 1 cup of water - on a low simmer, lid on for about 45 min.  Once cooked, and all the water is absorbed remove from the heat, lid on and set aside.
Add the cashew nuts to a medium sized heat proof bowl.  Cover with 2 1/2 cups boiling water and allow to soak 30-40 min.  Drain and add to your blender.  I added some of the almond milk a bit at a time and kept on liquefy until it was completely smooth (use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender with each blending process).  Once completely smooth, add in the rest of the almond milk, nutritional yeast, and arrowroot powder. Blend well, and transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat up a pot or dutch oven on low medium heat, and add in the EVOO.  Saute the mushrooms until nice and golden.  Season with the salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Add in the diced carrots, celery, shallot, garlic, thyme, fresh sage, fresh parsley and saute about 8 minutes.  Add in the homemade vegetable stock, tamari sauce and bay leaf, bring to a simmer, lid on and cook until the vegetables are tender - about 10-15 minutes.
Then add in the cashew/almond milk mixture, and the wild rice.  Stir well until combined and re-heat through - keep stirring as it will thicken.  Remove the bay leaf and serve piping hot with a sprinkle of fresh minced parsley.  Enjoy....we sure did!

Thought I would post this early as beautiful fresh tomatoes in our neck of the woods are not too far away. With an abundance of heirloom tomatoes making stewed tomatoes is a great way to use them up.  Although for weeks on end we just eat them fresh off the vine.
We do not do much in the way of canning in this household, but we do like to freeze as much fresh produce as we can.  This will be lovely in the dead of winter for soups, stews, and pasta dishes. (I made these last year too - so yummy!)
6 cups chopped tomatoes - slice in half, then quarters, then in half (I used a mix of yellow, red, green heirloom tomatoes)
1 large onion chopped
1 celery stalk with leaves, diced
3 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup diced green pepper
a good handful of minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
pinch of sugar
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Wash the tomatoes and remove the outer core.  Peel the tomatoes with a soft peeler or blanch the tomatoes to remove the skin (here is a method to blanch tomatoes). Chop all of the ingredients and add to a big pot, then add seasonings.
Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Keep on a low simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasonings.  Remove from the heat, and after 30 minutes transfer to 2 cup sized jars and fill to 3/4 full.  This recipe made 3 jars...so double or triple up the recipe if you have tons of tomatoes.  Refrigerate until cold, then freeze until ready to use. This was so tasty, I could eat it right out of the jar!

Wow, did this dish ever exceed my expectations.  It was YUMMY.  With the Quinoa and Yams I also used cooked Mung Beans - a powerhouse of nutrition in a small bean.  This is a dish that would be great for lunch or dinner - served at room temperature.  It will get even better the next day.  Next time I make this dish, I will make the Quinoa, Mung Beans and the Yam a day ahead of time to have on hand - then it will be super easy to put this dish together after a long day at work!
3/4 cup mung beans
1 large orange yam - 1 lb in weight
1 large bay leaf
1/2 cup of Quinoa
3 Tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1 large onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. diced Anaheim pepper (or more if you like heat...I am a wimp when it comes to heat, & what I will do with the rest of a large Anaheim pepper, I have no idea!)
1 rounded tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. dried garlic powder
cilantro
1/2 cup water
Toppings:  minced cilantro, diced tomatoes, yogurt, salsa (chopped avocado would also be a nice addition)
First cook the Mung beans:  add the beans to a medium sized sauce pan and cover with at least 2-3 inches of water and add the bay leaf.  Bring to a  boil, lid on, and turn down to a simmer - cooking about 25 minutes, or until tender.  Drain through a sieve removing the bay leaf and set aside.
To 1/2 cup of Quinoa add 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, lid on and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit 5 min. then fluff with a fork and set aside.
Scrub the Yam, poke some holes into it with a fork, wrap it in tin foil and bake in a 350 oven for 1 hour. (it will not be cooked through at this point.  Remove from the oven and open up the tin foil, allowing to cool until it can be handled to peel.)
Chop the Yam into 1/2 inch or so pieces and set aside.  Heat up a large cast iron pan with the EVOO.  My pan takes about 6 minutes to heat thoroughly on medium high heat.  Add the yams and cook each side about 6 minutes until nicely golden brown.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Turn the heat down to low, and add in the chopped onion, pepper and minced garlic.  Saute about 10 minutes until the onions begin to show a little color.  Add in the cumin, garlic powder, salt and smoked paprika continue to saute about 3 more minutes.
Add the cooked mung beans, quinoa, yams and 1/2 cup of water, stir to mix well.  Check for seasonings.  Add a huge handful of chopped cilantro and serve right away with the toppings.

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