Tomato Sauce with Eggplant and Spinach

This is one of my favorite weeknight meals to make, it's quick, healthy, filling and delicious! I've made this dish with just spinach as well as just eggplant (it's also great with zucchini, or broccoli) but there's something Mediterraneanly pleasing to me about the taste and color of eggplant and spinach.

For those of you who are (or cook for) spinach haters, this is a dish that offers the healthy benefits of the green without an obtrusive, or bitter taste. I've served this dish to a spinach-phobic friend who told me that he, "actually didn't mind the spinach", a big step for him!

Like all pasta dishes, adding fresh basil at the end takes it to a new level, but if you don't have fresh basil on hand, (and just how many of us do on a weeknight in winter time?) just substitute 1 tablespoon of dried basil added with the other spices.

Tomato Sauce with Eggplant and Spinach
Serves 2-3

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion- chopped
4 cloves of Garlic-minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp sugar
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 of a medium to large eggplant (@ two cups)
1 cup of frozen spinach- thawed and drained
1/2 cup red wine
1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes
@ 3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
grated parmesan cheese to taste

Cooked Pasta (gluten-free)
• Wash the eggplant, discard the top and bottom. Lay it on it's side and slice it in about 1/2 inch round pieces
• Sprinkle all of the pieces liberally with salt on both sides, and drain for about 1/2 hour standing up, leaning against the sides of a colander
• Using a paper towel, dab away the moisture and salt from the eggplant slices
• Chop the eggplant into bite-sized (@1/2") cubes
• Heat a frying pan with the olive oil to medium high
Add the onion, saute until translucent, then add the garlic, cook for another minute or two
Next add the oregano, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes (optional), mixing all together well
Add in the chopped eggplant, stirring frequently to coat the pieces with the spices and olive oil
Next add the spinach, mixing it in well
Add the red wine, tomatoes and sugar, stir and bring to a boil
Once boiling reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
Serve over cooked pasta, sprinkle with the fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Crab Cakes

There are several foods that I have missed eating since going gluten-free four years ago, but I've got to admit crab cakes just wasn't one of them. I've been in restaurants with friends who've ordered great looking crab cakes and never even felt a twinge of jealousy, unlike (for example) when someone orders a oven-roasted pizza!

Then the other day I was looking through a seemingly bare pantry and came across a can of lump crap meat sitting next to my new package of Orgran All Purpose Crumbs and suddenly I realized that I hadn't had crab cakes in over 4 years. The GF bread (actually rice) crumbs were a gift from my mother who bought them in Buffalo, NY, and sent them to me after reading my Eggplant Parmesan posting about not being able to find any. (thanks Mom!)

After verifying that Old Bay seasoning is gluten-free I was off and had the crab cakes ready to fry in under ten minutes. I was a bit worried about them falling apart during cooking, but had no problems whatsoever. I guess between the mayonnaise, eggs and gf bread crumbs they had more than enough binding power to hold them through frying and then some. I'm happy to report that the crab cakes came out great, after eating these I can honestly say that the next time I'm out at a restaurant and see an order of crab cakes pass by I WILL be jealous!

Crab Cakes
Serves 2

Olive oil- enough to make a shallow coating on the bottom of your frying pan
4 oz lump crab meat
1/4 cup onion-chopped fine
1 stalk of celery- chopped fine
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 large eggs- beaten
1/2 cup GF bread crumbs
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Heat a frying pan to medium high, coat the bottom of the pan with about 1/4 (or less) of olive oil
Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl
Using your hands, roll the mixture in your hands and then press flat, making patties (makes 3 or 4 patties, depending the size)
Fry the patties in the oil for 4-6 minutes on each side, or until golden brown
Serve hot and enjoy!


Sicilian Style Fava Beans

When I began my gluten free diet, I started exploring food sources I hadn't used before, one of those was beans. There was a time when the only beans I cooked were in a pot of chili. Now I use them for soups, stews, salsas, salads, dips, and more! I like beans for several reasons; they are high in fiber and minerals, a great substitute for meat in a dish, provide great texture in dishes, they are really versatile and work well with many different flavor palates, not to mention that they are inexpensive!

I've got to admit that fava beans are one of the beans that I've had the least experience cooking with. While researching about them the other day I ran across a year old article on Fava Beans: A little Spring on your Plate the article talks about how fava beans (also called broad beans) are perhaps the oldest cultivated bean but is just beginning to become popular in the U.S. One reason that they haven't really caught on here may be the time-intensiveness of preparing them. For this reason I suggest buying shelled and split fava beans. There is nothing quite so tedious as shelling beans. The one exception to this would be if you can procure some fresh beans, then the shelling will be worth the effort.

The very first time I cooked fava beans was when I found them at the incredible International Farmer's Market in Decatur, GA. I brought them home and wasn't sure what to do with them. I thought of making falafel, but it seemed too involved at the time. Thinking of this bean being used in Sicilian kitchens inspired this recipe, which is basically cooking them in a tomato sauce until they become so soft, that they absorb all of the rich tomato flavors.

Sicilian Style Fava Beans

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion- diced
4 cloves if garlic- minced
1 stalk of celery- diced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 cups (before soaking) split and shelled dried fava beans, pre-soaked
1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp sugar
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock)
2 cups water
Salt to taste

Heat a large sauce pan to medium-high, add the olive oil
Saute the onion for a minute or two until it becomes translucent
Stir in the garlic and celery, cook for another minute
Add the basil, fennel seed, bay leaf, black pepper and crushed red pepper (optional), stir all together
Mix in the pre-soaked beans, stir all together well
Stir in the diced tomatoes red wine and sugar
Add the beef stock and water, stir and bring to a boil-uncovered
Once boiling reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for @ 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
If all of the water evaporates add a bit more until done cooking
The beans are done once they are no longer crunchy, but soft.
Serve over rice or pasta and a main course, or as a side dish. Enjoy!


Ground Chicken with Basil

I Love Thai Food! After my first few times experiencing the fresh, spicy and intense flavors of Thai cuisine I couldn't understand why anyone would want to settle for typical Chinese food. If I remember correctly ground chicken with basil is the very first Thai dish I ever tasted. Back in the mid-nineties a co-worker was raving about a little Thai restaurant in Greensboro, NC. She would go every Wednesday to get the ground chicken basil lunch special. Finally I went and tried it and I was instantly hooked.

Cooking Thai food at home is not very difficult, but you have to have the right ingredients. Fortunately, Thai cuisine is one of those traditions that doesn't use wheat, except for in the soy sauce that is used occasionally. One of the reasons that Thai food tastes so fresh is because of an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Another characteristic of Thai food is that it is often cooked quickly at high heat. Typically it is not something you can walk away from while your cooking.

This recipe calls for ground chicken, I actually used whole chicken breast and chopped it into tiny pieces. Thai holy basil (bai gka-prow), is also called for in this recipe, but it is somewhat obscure and especially hard to find in winter time, so feel free to use whatever fresh basil you can find and this dish will still come out tasting fabulous.

Ground Chicken with Basil
Serves 2

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken- ground (or chopped small)
1/2 cup chopped Thai chili peppers-seeds and stem removed (other hot peppers can be substituted)
2 cloves garlic- minced
@ 1 cup of loosely packed fresh Thai holy basil, chopped (or fresh sweet basil)
3 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tsp palm sugar, (or 1 Tbsp granulated white sugar)


Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat, add vegetable oil
Stir the garlic and peppers together in the hot pan, cook until garlic begins to brown.
Mix in the chicken and continue to stir non-stop for about 3-5 minutes, until all of the moisture from the chicken is evaporated.
Stir in the Fish sauce and sugar, and basil.
Mix all together well and remove from heat.
Serve over rice, enjoy!

Heart-shaped pancakes

In order to celebrate Valentine's Day early, I thought it would be fun to make heart shaped pancakes for the three girls (and woman) in my family. I used to have a great pancake sized heart cutout, but it got misplaced during our last move. I did manage to find two mini-sized heart cookie cutters. It made for some tiny pancakes, reminiscent of the "silver-dollar" pancakes I used to eat when I was little. In making these pancakes, I used my pumpkin pancake recipe and sprinkled them with chocolate chips, chocolate syrup and powdered sugar, which I told my 3 year old daughter was "magical valentine's sugar". Not that she needed to be enticed, she ate 3 mini-hearts and 3 full-sized pancakes and then asked for more, and this from a picky eater! I've gotten out-of the habit of always serving my pancakes with maple syrup. Lately I've been serving them with butter, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, a combination that blends really well with the pumpkin. The trick to making pancakes with a cookie-cutter, is to fill it to just under half way up, so that when it rises it just about meets the top of the mold, also I sprayed the inside of the mold with Pam so it releases easily.

Happy Valentines day!

I've been Tagged!

I've been tagged by Lea of

Here are the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here is my random information:

1. My first memory of food is eating canned sardines with saltines and black olives in my grandma's kitchen, I was around 3 years old, talk about salty!
2. I've more or less had a job continually since I was 11 years old when I quit a baseball team to get a paper route, within days of turning 16 (legal working age in NY) I had a job washing dishes and doing prep work at a restaurant.
3. I like to play basketball, volleyball, and street hockey whenever I get the chance.
4. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when I was 34 years old. In that previous 34 years I drank more than enough beer and ate enough pizza to last a a lifetime!
5 I like gardening, but I only really love plants that I can eat (or cook with)!
6. I've never lived in a place where it was more than a short walk to either a convenient store or grocery store.
7.I didn't become a father until I was 34 years old and its the best thing that ever happened to me, (besides meeting my wife)! I am definitely still a kid at heart.

In return I'm tagging:

Steve from glutenfreesteve
Jill from
Melanie & Liz from kill.the.gluten
Jeena from jeenaskitchen
Catherine from glutenguide
Ellen from iamglutenfree
Karina from glutenfreegoddess
Dianne from glutenfree-journey


Basil Pesto Sauce

Fresh basil is absolutely my favorite herb! I always grow it during the warm months to have a few pinches of it to grace all of my pasta and Thai dishes. But whenever I get a hold of a big bunch of it I just think of one thing: Pesto! I think of pesto sauce as an inspired mixture of explosive flavors all designed to showcase the incredible basil. Usually I like to find bunches of basil at the local farmers market, but in the winter I'm stuck buying it at the local supermarket, where it's often wilted and expensive.

The other day my wife informed me that lately everything I've been cooking is "heavy". And she's right, I'm guilty as charged! I guess I've kind of been embracing the whole winter cooking feeling with soups, stews and casseroles, dark sauces and root vegetables. To combat this, she went shopping the other day she came back with a full container of good looking basil, and I knew what she had in mind, a little pesto to lighten up our kitchen (and just on time to correspond with 70 degree weather that's blown in to the Carolina's this week).
Pesto sauce can be used for a multitude of purposes, but my favorite an the simplest is just to toss it with some pasta. The best gluten-free pasta that I've found is Tinkyada rice pasta. It has a good, unobtrusive flavor and won't (like most GF pastas) break apart, even if overcooked.

Basil Pesto Sauce

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 whole cloves garlic
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)


Spread the pine nuts on a baking pan and toast in a pre-heated oven at 325º (or toasted oven)for about 3 minutes or until slightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally. Careful not to let them burn.
Pack the basil leaves into the food processor.
Put the parmesan cheese, garlic cloves, toasted pine nuts and olive oil and crushed red pepper (optional) into the food processor.
Blend all together in the food processor until well mixed, about 1-2 minutes.
Use about two tablespoons pesto per serving of pasta, toss together,sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper and a little fresh grated parmesan cheese. Mangia!


Black Bean Salsa

I wanted to make a good dip to eat while watching The Big Football Game this weekend. I first thought of the always delicious fresh salsa, or guacamole, but then I settled on black bean salsa, which is more hearty and seems to be a better match for the Buffalo Chicken Wings that I was also making. I've made several different variations on this salsa, including cooking it, but this simple recipe proved to be a winner. As with most salsas the most important thing is to use good fresh ingredients for a clean fresh flavor.

Black Bean Salsa
Serves 2-4

2 cups cooked black beans, or one-15 oz can cooked black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 Jalapeño pepper- seeds removed and chopped small
1 medium tomato- chopped small
1/4 cup fresh cilantro- chopped fine
juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste


Mix the beans, onion, pepper, tomato and cilantro together in a bowl
Cut the lime on half through the center and squeeze each half in to the mixture
(tip: squeeze over a fork or through a small sieve to keep and seeds from dropping into the salsa.)
salt and pepper to taste
(optional) if jalapeño peppers are too spicy for you use 1/ 2 of a bell pepper (de-seeded) instead
Serve with corn tortillas, enjoy