Tag Archives: gluten free

Oat and Nut Cookies

IMG_9995When our thoughts drift to desserts or treats they usually go delicious and decadent but sometimes there is a desire for something sweet but healthier and guilt free.  Just seventeen days into the new year, my resolve to take control of my health through conscience eating remains vivid in my mind and explains my recent focus on recipes with less carbs, fats and added sugars.  Let’s take a moment to discuss sugar.  We have known it for many years as the culprit causing tooth decay but sugar has had a lot of attention lately as a possible cause of inflammation leading to cancer and other debilitating diseases.  This is out of my areas of expertise but for more information on this you can go to the Mayo Clinic site where there are a number of papers written on the subject.  I found it very informative and interesting.

Now that that’s covered, let’s get back to our cookies.  This treat is vegan, gluten free, dairy free and with no added sugars.  Starting to sound boring and tasteless?  Believe me these crunchy cookies are a perfect sweet and chewy bite.  You won’t even miss the sugar as the ripe banana and dried fruit lend the perfect amount of sweetness.  The base is oats and cashews although you could use other nuts if you wish.  I chose cherries for the fruit but any dried fruit would work.  If you can say “I have never tasted anything too sweet” you might want to try using dates which have a high sugar content.  A touch of honey would also work but then you could no longer claim, “no added sugars” or “vegan” if that is important to you.  Next time I make them I am going to try adding some unsweetened coconut and play with using unsweetened applesauce in place of the banana.  I say this because the banana flavor is very pronounced and I want to experiment to see if that will help some of the other flavors to better shine.  In addition, I confess, banana is not my favorite flavor of anything.

Here is how it goes down.

OAT AND NUT COOKIES                                     Makes 3 doz (small)

Recipe adapted from Yummly

Sweet and delicious guilt-free cookies with no added sugar, gluten free, vegan and without dairy.

  • 3 large, very ripe bananas
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (I used dried cherries)
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F, position oven rack in the middle of oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Combine ripe bananas, cashews, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mixture is smooth and there are little to no lumps remaining.
  3. In a bowl, combine oats with dried fruit, sesame seeds and chopped peanuts, and pour wet banana mixture into the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix together so everything is fully incorporated and combined, then, using a spoon or your hands, begin forming your cookies and transfer them to your baking sheet. Note: you can place them close together since the cookies won’t rise.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown, but centers are still a little squishy.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool 10 minutes and serve warm or room temp.

The original recipe said it would yield 1-2 dozen but I made them small and got three.  Keep in mind they do not spread so don’t worry about spacing them too far apart.  As with all recipes, using high quality ingredients will make a difference in the outcome.  The difference can be as small as the 3/4 t of cinnamon.  It may seem insignificant, but the effect of a fresh spice could be what takes a dish from OK to over the top.  Because of their freshness and variety, my favorite place to buy spices is Penzey’s and my hands down favorite favorite favorite cinnamon of theirs is the Vietnamese Extra Fancy.  Extremely aromatic, I cannot adequately express how special it is.


The high temperature for today in Southern Wisconsin is predicted to be -1 degrees with a low tonight of -13.  Yea, you read that right, MINUS those degrees.  Smelling the beans simmering in the oven is causing my tummy to rumble and I cannot wait to sit down to a steaming bowl of “red beans and rice”, with a twist of course.  Sure to warm the inners, I hope to highlight this recipe next time, so tune in.  In the meantime, stay warm and safe regardless of where you are, and keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I see a lot of love brewing in my kitchen this week and look forward to sharing it with you.  Sending warm thoughts and love from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne



New Year Chicken Chili


With the holidays now a memory, we greet the new year with reflection and resolve to implement positive changes.  For many, myself included, resolutions are often related to lifestyle changes to promote good health.  For me, this starts in the kitchen where my quest for improved health and fitness begins with diet.  Please don’t misunderstand the use of the word “diet” as I am not referring to weight loss fads, but the choices made about what to eat and how much.  One of the best ways to control what goes into your body is to cook from scratch.  This is the only way to avoid too much sugar, salt, preservatives and dyes found in most processed food.

That said, I developed today’s recipe with several criteria to guide me.  First, it had to be healthy (low-fat, good amount of protein and high fiber).  The only fat that was in this preparation was the chicken thighs, although I did trim any visible fat off before cooking. Chicken breast is less fat but tends to dry out when cooked low and slow.  The beans provide very good fiber and protein as does the chicken.  I chose pinto beans because I had some in the pantry and I really like their flavor, but you decide what pleases you.  Second, it had to be easy to make.  I chose to make it in the slow cooker as I was busy and had several things going on that day.  Certainly, this could be accomplished stove top as well, requiring a bit more monitoring.  Honestly, this was the easiest dish to assemble.  My busy day required simplicity so I decided on no “pre”  and just threw all the ingredients into the cooker and turned it on.  By “pre” I mean no pre-soak on the dried beans and no additional sautéing of the aromatics.  Perhaps I should have called it “dump chili.” Third, with the arrival of winter last week, it had to be hearty and comforting.  After all, it is chili.IMG_9929

Here is how it went down in my kitchen.




NEW YEAR CHICKEN CHILI                                                        serves 6-8

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1 ½ – 2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

1 white or yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/3 c dried pinto beans, rinsed (soaking overnight will reduce cooking time but not absolutely necessary)

4c chicken stock (may need a bit more depending on your cooker)

2 (14 oz) cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chilis (I like Muir Glen Organic)

1T ground cumin

1 ½ t dried oregano, preferably Mexican

2t sea salt

1 dried pasilla pepper (whole but shake out the seeds)

2 dried chipotle peppers (whole)

2 bay leaves

Avocado, diced scallion, grated cotija or cheddar cheese for garnish (or toppings of choice)

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker, stir to incorporate. Bury the dried chilis and bay leaves in the liquid. Cook for 6 hrs on high (may need more time if beans are not soaked overnight) or 8-10 on low.  If desired, it can be cooked in a large soup pot on top of the stove.  Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 3-4 hours or until beans are tender.  Remove chilis and bay leaves before serving.  Top with the garnishes.

Note:  This dish gets better as it sits and flavors have time to marry.  Leftovers are freezer friendly.  Save some for another busy day.

Dried Pasilla (top) Dried Chipotle (lower)

Dried Pasilla (top)
Dried Chipotle (lower)

Cutting a few corners in the prep did not in any way effect the outcome.  The dried chili peppers contributed just the right amount of smokiness and mild heat.  You can adjust the amount to your liking but I would encourage you to include at least a little as they add richness and depth to your stew. My chili had the perfect amount of heat.  For me that means it is at first not very noticeable but then settles with a subtle heat at the back of the throat.  I should mention that there are many varieties of dry chili peppers, with varying levels of heat,  on the market.  Some have a guideline on the package to determine how hot they are but if not, you can research the heat levels as rated on the Scoville chart.  Don’t be afraid.  I keep several types of them in my pantry at all times.  They offer a flavor boost and complexity to many dishes and in soups and stews, you don’t have to reconstitute, just throw them in dry.

Good food warm dog.

Good food warm dog.

IMG_9945We were warmed and comforted by this dish and were happy to eat the leftovers.  Nothing, except cuddling with a warm dog, beats a steaming bowl of goodness when those temps drop and warming the insides becomes imperative.  In addition, it is a completely guilt free meal.  That makes me very happy!

IMG_9915My wish for all is for 2016 to be a year of peace, happiness and good health.  Good eating starts in your kitchen so keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  I send my love and thoughts for healthy eating to you. If winter isn’t your thing, have heart.  The days are getting longer and the  first seed catalog has arrived.

Stay warm and be safe.  Until next time, here is one of my favorite quotes for the new year,

“Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.”  Unknown






Grilled Shishito Peppers and Other New Discoveries

IMG_9107During my recent trip to California, I did one of my favorite things, restaurant hopping with my son, Noah.  Being a chef in Sacramento, Ca. and owner of Zoncas he knows many of the restaurant owners and definitely knows where to find the good eats.  Among several places we sampled this time was a delightful vegetarian eatery called, MotherOne of their specialties is small plates so we simply put the menu aside and asked the chef to prepare us a sampling of several we could share.  Our party of five was thrilled as the dishes began arriving.  We had smoked cheddar biscuits smothered in honey butter, harissa potatoes. chili verde with roasted potatoes and my favorite, pan kissed shishito peppers.  Usually a little goes a long way for me when eating within the family of Capsicum but I could not stop eating these little beauties.  Shortly after my return, I began my market search.  Checked all my usual haunts and nothing, so I went online and discovered they are carried at Trader Joes.  The very next day I journeyed over there and eureka!IMG_9095

Shishito peppers are the Japanese cousin to Spain’s Padron peppers.  Delicately sweet and usually mild they are simple to prepare and can be eaten as a snack, appetizer or as a side.  I found this easy recipe for the grill and served them as an accompaniment to grilled shrimp.


Here is how it went down.

GRILLED SHISHITO PEPPERS                                          Makes 4 servings

Recipe by Christine Gallary

½ lb. shishito peppers, washed and thoroughly dried

1T olive oilIMG_9091

¼ t togarashi (Japanese seasoning containing chili powder)

Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon

  1. Heat an indoor grill pan or outdoor grill to medium high (about 375-425 degrees). Meanwhile, place peppers in a medium bowl, add the olive oil, and toss to coat; set aside.
  2. When the grill is ready, place peppers on the grill in a single layer, making sure they’re not touching; reserve the bowl they were in. Grill the peppers uncovered, turning them occasionally until they start to char and blister on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.
  3. Return the peppers to the bowl, toss immediately with the togarashi and salt. Serve warm.IMG_9093

Note:  Togarashi can be found in Asian markets or the ethnic section of your grocery or if you wish, you can substitute crushed red pepper, cayenne or chili powder to taste.


At the restaurant they were simply tossed in olive oil, blistered and dressed with a bit of lemon.  The grill gave them a nice smokiness and then hit with a small amount of heat from the togarashi and a sprinkling of Maldon to enhance their natural the flavor.  Yum!

While addressing new discoveries I thought I would share a few things I recently found and am really liking.  One is this ceramic grill pan.  Able to take extremely high heat, you can place it directly on the hot grill or your stove top.  With its generously high sides, it is great for grilling those little things that tend to roll around or that need to be stirred.  Another advantage is it is dishwasher safe so easy to clean.IMG_9122

A television chef, known for his grilling expertise, recommended the use of “grill toppers” when your grilling anything that may fall through the grates.  They are disposable but if washed can be used multiple times.  I would recommend hand washing as they are a bit fragile.  I used them for the peppers because I wanted the smoke to fully permeate.  On TV he said they were available at any grocery but I did not find them at mine.  I happened to run across them at Walgreen, on sale for $1.09 each in their seasonal aisle.IMG_9117

Last but certainly not least, Bees Wrap.  A sustainable food storage wrap, it serves as an alternative to plastic wrap or bags.  It is made with cloth and beeswax and can be washed and reused.  IMG_9114You create a seal by warming it with your hands and then molding it over a bowl, loaf of bread, half lemon or cheese.  The manufacturer does not recommend using it for meat.  It is available from a variety of sources online or at specialty stores.  Locally I found it at Willy Street Coop.


These little peppers and other discoveries made me happy and hopefully they will do the same for you.  I love finding things that make my culinary world easier, more sustainable, and especially, more delicious.  Whether your grilling, cooking over a camp fire or firing up the range, this season is the perfect time to keep it fresh, keep it local and keep spreading the love, one dish at a time.  Hope eI provided you with some summertime inspiration to get grilling.  Sending warm weather wishes and love your way,  JeanneIMG_9108

Fried Rice with Shrimp

IMG_8695Fried rice is a popular Asian dish uniquely prepared in many countries including, but not exclusively, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines.  It is believed to have originated in China and it is sometimes served as the penultimate dish in Chinese banquets, just before dessert.  Many popular varieties have their own specific list of ingredients but the beauty of this dish is it can accommodate any number of food combinations depending on what is available seasonally and your personal preferences.  As a homemade dish,  it is typically made with leftover ingredients (including vegetables, meat, or seafood) leading to countless variations.  Leftover rice is perfect for this but if not available, fear not.  You can make it fresh but it works best if rice is cooled before frying.  Spread out onto a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for best results.  The most common form, found in American Chinese restaurants, consists of some mixture of eggs, scallions, and vegetables with meat, seafood or tofu added at the customer’s discretion.  It is easily adapted to vegetarians or vegans.  Flavored with soy sauce, as opposed to salt, it can vary in appearance from dark brown, often seen in East Coast establishments, to a light brown frequently seen in the Midwest.  It is extremely versatile as rice serves as a blank canvas.IMG_8668

One common complaint I have with preparations I’ve encountered is it is often very oily giving it an unappealing mouth feel and adding a lot of “fat” calories.  The recipe I developed for today’s feature reduces the amount of oil used by blanching the more fibrous vegetables like broccoli requiring less time in the wok/skillet with the added benefit of setting vibrant color.


Here’s how it goes down.

FRIED RICE with SHRIMP                                             Serves 4

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis

1c broccoli florets

3T peanut or other neutral cooking oil, divided

1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 c snow peas, trimmed

3 c cooked long-grain white rice, chilled (or rice of choice)

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2T dark sesame oil

2T grated peeled fresh ginger

Favorite tool for grating ginger.

Favorite tool for grating ginger.

1/4 c soy sauce

1 1/2 T rice vinegar, preferably unseasoned

1 t Sriracha (hot chili sauce) or more if you like

3 scallions, sliced, separating the greens from the white parts

  1. Blanch broccoli until crisp-tender; set aside in a large bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add 1T oil to pan. Add bell pepper, snow peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Place vegetable mixture in a large bowl with broccoli.
  3. Add remaining 2T oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add ginger, and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add rice, and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until rice is lightly browned. Remove rice mixture from pan, and add rice to bowl with the vegetable mixture. 
  4.  Scrape any remaining bits from pan. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shrimp; stir-fry 1 minute, remove and add to rice and vegetable mixture. Stir in soy sauce, vinegar, and Sriracha; bring to a boil. Cook briefly until liquid thickens slightly. Add vegetable/rice/shrimp mixture and white parts of scallions; stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently.
  5. Serve immediately. Garnish with green parts of scallion.

This can serve as a side dish or as a main course depending what you choose for ingredients.  My preference is to represent all the food groups so I have a one pot meal, quick and easy.  Most often fried rice finds itself on the menu when I have a variety of fresh vegetables needing to make their journey from the refrigerator to stove to my belly.  Leftover proteins like chicken, pork or tofu also provide inspiration.  The sriracha provides some depth and heat, controlled by how much you use.  No sriracha in your pantry?  Hot sauce, Sambal Oelek (ground fresh chili paste), finely chopped Thai chilies or  crushed red pepper flakes could be substituted.  Even if you are shy about heat, I urge you to add a small amount as it’s another layer of flavor that contributes to the balance of the dish.  One other note about the rice.  The preparation in the photos is made with brown basmati but I have used many types of rice; white, brown, basmati,  jasmine and black depending on what was on hand and how the spirit moves me.


Whether you are an untethered soul or a traditionalist, this is a the recipe for you.  Stick to form or go crazy but keep spreading the love, one comforting dish at a time.  Spring is come and go in this part of the country but I hear ramps are on the horizon so maybe next week’s creation with include these beautiful seasonal treats.  Hanging onto hopes for the season.IMG_8717

Until next time, love flows from my kitchen to yours.  Jeanne