Hi, I'm Kim

Hi, I’m Kim Christensen, M.Om., Dipl.OM, L.Ac. I’m a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and owner of Constellation Acupuncture & Healing Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Back before going to school and becoming a healthcare practitioner, Affairs of Living was my creative outlet while healing from chronic health issues. These days, I'm in a new phase of life, and this website is no longer updated.

Want to stay up to date? Check out my new website www.constellationacu.com.

Recent Posts

Subscribe to RSS headline updates from:
Powered by FeedBurner

Site Search

Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

Entries in Recipes: Main Course (42)


Amaranth Basmati Pilaf with Cumin and Scallions, Easy Zucchini Curry (gluten free, vegan)

I am always a sucker for spiced pilafs and tasty vegetable curries.  This is my latest favorite combination.  The pilaf uses a mixture of brown basmati rice and amaranth, a high protein, very tiny seed.  The amaranth lends a slightly nutty and sticky texture to the rice, and everything is delicately flavored with fragrant spices.  Amaranth is full of amino acids and healthy protein, and this is a great way to add it to your diet.  As for the curry, it is just a quick little number I whipped up, featuring tender vegetables swimming in a flavorful chickpea flour sauce.  Chickpea flour is a natural for thickening curries, adding a nutty flavor and thick, creamy consistency.  Full of vitamins, minerals, and loads of flavor, both these dishes are great by themselves, but are perfect served together.   Enjoy!



serves 4

1 c brown basmati rice, soaked 6-8 hours
1/4 c amaranth grain
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods, bruised
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
4 scallions, sliced into 1/4" pieces, and white, light green, and green parts separated
2 tsp coconut oil, ghee (not vegan), sunflower oil, or other high-heat oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
water or stock for cooking (see instructions for quantity)
optional: 1 inch piece ginger, minced
optional: 1 cinnamon stick

  1. Rinse and soak rice for 6-8 hours in fresh water.  After soaking, drain and rinse, and set aside.
  2. Heat ghee/oil in a saucepan or in a pressure cooker kettle over medium-low heat, then add cumin and mustard seeds, and stir to coat with oil.  Heat until they start to pop.  If adding minced ginger, add now, and saute.
  3. Add cardamom pods, white and light green parts of scallion and chopped garlic, and saute over low heat until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Set chopped green scallion tops aside.
  4. Add brown rice and amaranth, and saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and nutty smelling.
  5. Add water, salt, cinnamon stick (if using) and cook rice...
    • If cooking in a rice cooker: transfer to rice/spice mixture to cooker and add recommended amount water per manufacturer's instructions.  Cook and steam per user's manual.
    • If cooking in a pressure cooker (my favorite): add 2 1/4 c water and cook at 15 lbs pressure for 12 minutes.  Turn off heat and let rice steam for 20 minutes before removing cover.
    • If cooking on the stove top, add 2 1/4 c water, cover, and simmer on low for 30-40 minutes, until water is absorbed and grains are tender.  Turn off heat and let steam for 20 minutes.
  6. After rice has cooked and steamed, remove cover and fluff with a fork.  Remove cinnamon stick, if added. Stir in green scallion pieces, put cover back on, and let sit for a minute or two to wilt scallion.
  7. Serve immediately!


serves 4

While this curry is wonderfully flavorful on its own, in an ideal world, I would add a little heat - like a green chili, or a bunch of cayenne.  Unfortunately,  I can't go there right now.  But if you can, and you like heat, go to town!
3 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced (about 2 1/2-3 cups)
3 small carrots, sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 c frozen peas
2 c napa or savoy cabbage, chopped (cabbage or greens can be substituted)
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 T ground coriander
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp dill
2 T toasted chickpea/besan flour
2 c + 1/4 c water
1-2 T ghee (not vegan), coconut oil, sunflower oil, or other high heat oil
1 tsp ume vinegar OR salt to taste
optional: 1 green chili, chopped
optional: fresh chopped cilantro
  1. Wash and prepare vegetables as directed.
  2. In a dry skillet, toast chickpea flour over medium low heat until fragrant and nutty.  Remove from skillet, transfer to a bowl, and set aside.  If you don't want to toast it, no worries - toasting just adds a deeper flavor.
  3. Heat ghee/oil in a large saucepan  Add cumin and mustard seeds, and heat over medium-low heat until they pop.  Add turmeric, and stir until it bubbles.  Add onion and stir, adding a bit more ghee if dry. Saute 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add carrots and zucchini, coriander, cardamom, dill, and 1/4 c water.  Stir to mix, and saute for 2-3 minutes.  While it sautes, dissolve chickpea flour in 2 cups of water.
  5. Add water to saucepan, bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, add cabbage, peas, and chili if using, and cook uncovered until vegetables are tender and sauce has thickened.
  6. Add ume vinegar or salt to taste, and let cool 2-3 minutes before serving.  Serve over pilaf or other grain dish, or with flatbreads.



Gluten Free Holiday Recipes: Wild Lentil Loaf, Parsnip Gravy, Amazaké Pumpkin Custard with Apple Cider Gelée, Quinoa-Wild Rice Stuffing, and more!

Hooray for Thanksgiving!  Hooray for gluten free, allergy-friendly holiday food!

Holiday time is always the hardest for those of us with dietary restrictions, right?  Well, no fear.  Here are some of my favorite recipes that are just right for holiday get-togethers, from tasty goodies for the appetizer table to delicious gravy and to a sugar free, gluten free, vegan pumpkin pie.  A handful are new, but most are pulled from the archives.   Christmas will be big this year with a lot of family coming to Minneapolis, so expect Round 2 closer to Christmas!  In the meantime, enjoy these!

All recipes follow the following restrictions:
  • gluten free
  • soy free
  • corn free
  • egg free
  • dairy free (ghee may be used occasionally, sub oil of choice, and might be used yogurt used in a few older recipes)
  • cane sugar free
  • peanut free
  • yeast free
  • potato free
  • citrus free
  • tomato free
  • vegan/vegetarian (with exception of dairy)
Appetizers & Snacks
Wild Lentil Loaf  - NEW! see recipe below 
Vegetable Sides

Lacto-fermented vegetables 
These are perfect for a relish tray and help aid digestion of heavy meals.

Stuffing/Dressing a.k.a. CARB FEAST
Wild Rice & Quinoa Pilaf  - NEW! see recipe below
Waffle Stuffing: dice up waffles and use them like bread cubes in any traditional stuffing recipe! Sprouted Quinoa Millet Waffles,  Savory Wild Rice Millet Waffles with Garlic and Rosemar

Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie with Crunchy Crust and Cashew Whipped Cream
Amazaké Pumpkin Custard with Apple Cider Gelée - NEW! see recipe below
Apple Pear Streusal Cake
Plum Apricot Tart (substitute apples, pears, or cranberries instead of plums and apricots!)
Wild Lentil Loaf

Wild Lentil Loaf

yield 1 large pan, approx 6-8 servings

This looks like a lot of instructions, but it really is easy!  Rice and lentils can be made 1-2 days in advance if necessary.   Mixture can be assembled and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking.  A make-ahead miracle!  The texture is very moist, but is sliceable and delicious covered with parsnip gravy.  Leftovers are awesome hot or cold.
1 1/4 c dry red lentils
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c dry wild rice/brown rice mix, soaked 6-8 hours OR 2 cups cooked
1 c brown rice flakes, quinoa flakes, GF oats, or GF bread crumbs (I used brown rice flakes)
1 handful brown rice flour + 2 T brown rice flour
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated (or one additional carrot)
1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 T dry thyme
1 T dry rosemary
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 T flax seed meal + 1/3 c water
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
olive oil
a couple handfuls raw sunflower seeds, toasted
2 T brown rice flour or other GF flour for dusting
  1. Rinse rice and soak for 6-8 hours.  Rinse, then cook per desired method.   I used a pressure cooker (2 cups water for 20 minutes at 15 lbs pressure).  
  2. Pick through and rinse lentils.  Cook the lentils on a stove top with 2 1/2 c water, the bay leaf, and minced garlic for about 15 minutes, or until lentils are totally tender and water is fully absorbed, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Remove bay leaf.  
  3. Preheat oven to 375* F.  Oil a 2.5-3 qt square or rectangular dish and dust with 2 T of rice flour.
  4. In a microwave or on the stovetop, heat water and flaxmeal until a thick and gooey gel forms (1-2 minutes).  Stir vigorously with a fork a few times, then let cool completely.
  5. Toast sunflower seeds in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until golden and fragrant.  Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
  6. Add olive oil to the saucepan, and heat over medium-high.  Add cumin seeds and sauté until fragrant, then add onion and celery, and saute for a few minutes. Then add carrot and parsnip and saute for an additional 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and fully cooked.  Add a little broth or water and cover if you notice the mixture is getting dry or cooking slowly.  Remove from heat.
  7. Mix 2 cups of rice, the lentils, and flax goo in a large bowl until smooth. Put 1 cup of rice/lentil mixture and half the sauteed vegetables in a blender and puree until smooth, and return to the bowl.
  8. Add the rest of the vegetables and all the remaining ingredients and stir, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Mixture should be super thick.  
  9. Pack the mixture firmly into pan, and then sprinkle with sunflower seeds. At this point, you can bake immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking.  If you let it sit, the flour and flakes absorb the moisture and the loaf sets very well.  
  10. Bake covered for about 45 minutes at 375* F, then uncover and let bake for about 15 minutes, until top is crisp and sunflower seeds are golden brown.  NOTE: if you had it in the fridge and it went in the oven very cold, it may take longer to bake and get warm.  

Parsnip Gravy

yield 3 cups

This gravy benefits from the rich flavor and velvety texture of pureed parsnip and onions.  Serve on lentil loaf, over cooked grains or veggies, or on top of mashed cauliflower or potatoes.

3 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
3-4 c broth/stock or water, divided
2 T olive oil
2 T sweet rice flour, white rice flour, or millet flour
salt and pepper to taste
optional: itty bitty pinch of nutmeg
  1. Peel parsnips and thinly slice.  Steam until tender, then put in blender.
  2. While parsnips steam, saute onions in a saucepan with a little olive oil over medium heat until browned and tender.  Put in blender with steamed parsnips.  heat about 1/2 c broth in the saucepan until simmering, swirl around, and pour into blender.  Puree until smooth.
  3. Heat 2 T olive oil in the saucepan, warm over medium heat, then add flour and stir.  Cook until flour starts to brown and smells nutty, then gradually add about 2 c broth, whisking constantly.  Bring to a scald, then reduce heat.  Gravy should start to thicken.  Simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly to prevent burning.   
  4. Add pureed parsnip mixture and whisk until smooth.   Simmer a couple of minutes, adding more broth as necessary to reach desired consistency and stirring often.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and if desired, just an itty bitty pinch of nutmeg.
  5. Serve warm drizzled over lentil loaf, or use on cooked grains, steamed vegetables, or anything else!

Wild rice and quinoa create a chewy, wonderful texture for a pilaf

Wild Rice & Quinoa Pilaf Stuffing

serves 8-10

This stuffing uses whole grains instead of bread, but is still full of all the same delicious flavor.  Stuff inside a bird, or serve on the side - either way, it is sure to satisfy.
3/4 c wild rice
3/4 c quinoa
water for soaking
water/broth for cooking
1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c carrot, grated
3/4 c celery, thinly sliced
10 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 c fresh parsley, minced
1 T dry thyme
1 T dry rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp allspice
salt and pepper to taste
optional: handful toasted nuts/seeds
optional: handful dried fruit (apricots, currants, raisins)
optional: diced apple
optional: 1-2 T maple syrup
  1. Place quinoa and wild rice in separate bowls with 3x as much water as grain.  Soak for 6-12 hours. 
  2. Rinse grains (rub quinoa together while rinsing) and drain.  
  3. Cook wild rice: I like to cook wild rice in a rice cooker or pressure cooker.  If using a rice cooker,  cook as directed in your owner's manual.  If using a pressure cooker, follow directions for rice.  I cooked mine for 15 minutes at 5 lbs pressure, placing wild rice grains and 1 1/2 c water in an oiled pan, and placing the pan and 2 c water in the cooker. If cooking in a saucepan on the stovetop, add 2 c water and rice to pan, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer.  Cook until all water is absorbed and grains are tender.  Remove from heat and let steam about 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  4. Cook quinoa: Place quinoa in a saucepan, add 1 1/2 c water/broth, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about 15 minutes, or until all water has been absorbed.  Turn off heat let sit covered for about 10 minutes.  Remove cover and fluff grains with a fork.
  5. Peel and grate carrot, thinly slice celery, and thinly slice scallion.  If using apple, peel, core, and finely chop.  
  6. Heat oil in a large saute pan.  Saute celery for 1-2  minutes, then add carrots, scallions, and chopped apple (if using), and saute until everything is tender.  Add spices and stir to coat.
  7. Add cooked grains to pan, stirring to mix, and heat mixture over medium heat until evenly warmed through.  Cover and add a little extra broth or water if mixture is getting dry.  
  8. Serve warm.  If desired, sprinkle with toasted nuts/seeds or a handful of dried fruit before serving. 

This dessert has a crystal clear layer of apple cider gelée - beautiful!

Pumpkin Amazaké Custard with Apple Cider Gelée

yield 1 9" round custard, approximately 8-12 servings

This dessert looks elegant, tastes amazing, and is incredibly easy to make.  As always, it is gluten free, egg free, dairy free, and soy free, but there's also no added sugar and it is low in fat.   A layer of apple cider gelée adds a special twist, but the custard can be served just as well without, if desired.  The perfect allergy-friendly dessert that all your guests will enjoy!

1 c amazaké base + 1 c milk substitute OR 2 cups Grainnaissance Amazake Shake OR 2 cups grain puree (see NOTES below)
2 T arrowroot starch + 4 T milk substitute
2 tsp agar agar powder OR 4 T agar agar flakes
2 c cooked pumpkin or squash, packed (I used butternut!)
1/4-1/2 tsp stevia extract powder (start with less, then add more to taste if desired)
1 T coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or other light tasting oil
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped OR 1/4 tsp vanilla powder OR 1 tsp GF vanilla extract
1 T mesquite flour, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp cardamom OR 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Cider Gelée (do not serve with gelée if on strict ACD)
1 1/2 c apple cider or apple juice
3/4 tsp agar agar powder OR 1 1/2 T agar agar flakes
Make the custard:
  1. Puree amazaké and milk/water in blender until totally smooth.  Strain mixture into a saucepan through a fine sieve to remove any unblended chunks, and set aside.
  2. Put 2 cups of cooked squash in the blender, along with oil, spices, salt, and vanilla, and set aside.
  3. Sprikle agar flakes/powder over amazaké in saucepan, and heat to a simmer over medium heat without stirring.  Then simmer for two minutes, stirring gently until agar is totally dissolved.  Dissolve the arrowroot in 4 T cold milk substitute, and add it to the amazaké mixture.  It will thicken immediately -simmer 1-2 more minutes, stirring constantly.  Mixture will be VERY thick.
  4. Immediately transfer amazaké mixture into blender, and puree all ingredients until smooth.
  5. Pour into an 9" x 1 1/2" round tart/flan/cake pan with a drop bottom or a springform pan.  If your pan is not non-stick, lightly oil the sides of the pan before pouring it in.   Smooth top with a spoon or rubber spatula, and drop pan lightly on counter top a few times to remove air bubbles.  Let sit in a level place for about 30 minutes.  If serving custard without layer of gelée, transfer to refrigerator, let chill 4 hours, then serve.  If serving with gelée...
While it sets, make the gelée:
  1. Pour cider into a small saucepan and sprinkle agar agar powder/flakes over the top.  Heat to a simmer without stirring, then stir and simmer for about 2 minutes, or until agar is totally dissolved. 
  2. Add vanilla if using, and stir again to mix.  Pour into a cool bowl or measuring cup, and place in refrigerator to cool for 10 minutes.  Don't let sit too long, or it will start to set!
  3. Once it has cooled, gently pour cooled cider mixture over custard.  Let sit in level spot for about 20 minutes, then put in the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days.
To serve, remove ring, place on serving platter, and slice into wedges just before serving.  If desired, top with a blob of something creamy (whipped cream/cashew cream/coconut cream/rice cream/some other creamy thing) of your choice. It is really tasty with Coconut Bliss Coconut Milk Ice Cream!  

  • If you do not have amazaké, make a grain puree:  blend 1 cup of very well cooked grain with 1 cup of milk substitute until totally smooth, straining to remove chunks.  I tried this recipe again with leftover mixed brown and wild rice blended with rice milk, and it worked great!  I would recommend using grain that has been cooked with a higher than usual amount of water so it is very soft and very well cooked.
  • If you do not have a drop bottom pan, you could make this in an pie tin, and just serve slices of it like pie.  
  • For individual servings, spoon mixture custard cups or molds and let set, and topping each serving with equal portions of cider gelée as desired.



Low-Carb Shepherd's Pie (gluten free, dairy free, potato-free, ACD-friendly, vegan option))


I am a huge fan of savory pies.  To me, a pie is like a gift, the crust a wrapper for wonderful secrets underneath.  You never know what delights are hiding under a tender crust or a layer of something potato-like!  Savory pies are so satisfying, so nourishing, so darn delicious; I love them.  I love sweet pies too, but those are a bit more limited to me right now, so I'm channelling all my love to the savory end of things.


My mom made these amazing vegetable pies when I was young, full of root vegetables and peas and onions, and topped with tasty crust.  I made vegetable pies pretty often back when I lived with roommates, using our communal vegetable stash and whipping up delicious spelt crusts mixed with herbs.  But once I started living alone, I kind of stopped making pies, because they seemed like overkill - one big pie lasts a LONG time when you live by yourself.  Recently,  however, I've gotten back on the pie kick, especially Shepherd's Pie.  I never made Shepherd's Pie all that often back in my pie-making days of old, I made crusted pies more often, because to be honest, I'm not all that crazy for potatoes and I really really really like crust.  Now that I no longer do the gluten, making a crust is a little more challenging.  NOw, don't get me wrong, I make some killer pastry crusts - I just recently made a savory squash and broccoli pesto galette with a buckwheat olive oil crust, and it was a wild success.  But generally, crusts become just a little more challenging.  Additionally,  I'm trying (desperately) to limit my carb intake, so coming up with a crustless, lower carb solution for my pie seems like a good idea.


Enter the potato-free Shepherd's Pie, using a mixture of steamed and pureed cauliflower and parsnips in place of the potato.  Using cauliflower isn't a new idea - there are tons of recipes out there for cauliflower Shepherd's Pie - but I like adding a couple parsnips to the mix.  Parsnips add just a hint of sweet starchiness, without being too carby, resulting in a rich, velvety, creamy texture.  This cloud of heavenly white fluff sits atop an herby mixture of ground turkey, onions, celery, peas, and Brussels sprouts.  If you don't like/have some of those vegetables, substitute some other vegetable - anything will work!  Savory pies are an amazing way to use up all those vegetables lying around in your crisper drawer; even the wiltiest and wobbliest vegetables are imbued with new life once mixed with meat, herbs and spices.  Vegetarian or vegan?  Substitute cooked lentils or beans for the ground turkey!


The best part is that it is quick to prepare.  From start to finish, it takes just over 30 minutes.  Not bad, huh?  Serve with a large greens salad and some lacto-fermented vegetables, and you've got a wonderfully nourishing, healthy meal in no time.  Leftovers keep really well in the fridge for a few days, so make a batch and save for lunches later in the week.

LOW-CARB, POTATO-FREE, DAIRY-FREE TURKEY SHEPHERD'S PIE (gluten free, ACD-friendly, dairy free, vegan option)

serves 4 hungry people or 6 kind of hungry people

1 head cauliflower
2 parsnips
1 pound ground turkey/other ground meat (VEGAN OPTION substitute 2-3 cups cooked white beans, lima beans, chickpeas, or lentils)
2 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or substitute equal amount other vegetable)
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup fresh parsley,  minced
2 tsp dry tarragon
2 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp Herbamare or sea salt
1-4 T olive oil
1 1/4 c broth/stock, divided

  1. Wash and peel parsnips, and wash and chop cauliflower.  Steam until tender, and place in blender/food processor with 1/2 c broth, 1/2 tsp salt, and, if desired, 1-2 T olive oil (the olive oil adds a bit of richness and body and wonderful flavor).  Blend until totally smooth and creamy, and set aside.
  2. While vegetables steam, heat 1-2 T olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the ground turkey and brown over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.  Add onion, celery, Brussels sprouts, herbs, and 1/2 c broth, and stir to mix.  Cover pan with cover or foil tent and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding peas when vegetables are nearly done. If mixture gets dry, add additional 1/4 c broth.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat. [time saving hint: while vegetables/meat cook, puree steamed cauliflower/parsnips!]
  3. Transfer meat mixture into a high-sided casserole dish.  Spread cauliflower-parsnip puree evenly over the top.
  4. Broil until top is golden brown and mixture is heated through.  Serve immediately!



Not-So-Scary Curried Lima Bean Hot Dish (vegan, gluten free, grain free, ACD)


Last week we had our annual Halloween potluck at the photo studio!
So, you know what means...
Here in Minnesota, casseroles are referred to as "hot dishes".  Minnesotans are always looking for some excuse to gather and eat hot dishes, and Halloween kicks off a series of holiday season excuses like no other time of year.  We really know how to do it up at the photo studio, and put on a pretty darn good potluck.

***If you want to read some funny stuff about the history and culture of Minnesotan hot dishes, continue on, attentive reader.  If you just want the recipe and none of my longer-than-usual blather, go right on to the bottom of this post.***

I like to think of hot dishes as casserole's  folksy cousin, something patently Minnesotan, born out of church basement potlucks and neighborhood get-togethers.  The native habitat of the hot dish is on a lines of mismatched folding tables (a.k.a. card tables) awkwardly butted up next to each other. Ah yes, card tables provide the tabula rasa, if you will, for a wide array of culinary artistry.  But inevitably, the hot dish is the steadfast hero, lined up front and center.  Pulled from church cookbooks, old magazines, and tattered index cards unearthed from dead great aunt Bertha's recipe box, these recipes provide the grounding force between deviled eggs, spinach dip, Jell-o salads, and dessert bars.  And truly, the most authentic Minnesotan hot dishes don't even have recipes, falling back on the old dump-whatever-you-find-into-a-dish-cover-it-with-hashbrowns/onions/tatertots/breadcrumbs-and-bake-it-for-1-hour-at-375* method.

Hot dishes are characterized by a heavy reliance on some common ingredients, things you can find in the bottom shelves of your pantry, the back corners of your freezer, or in those generically labeled packages at discount wholesale grocery stores.   We're talking French's french fried onions, cream of whatever soup, ground meat, canned tuna, breadcrumbs, tater tots, mayonnaise, hashbrowns, frozen corn or peas, canned tomato products, sour cream, egg noodles, celery, and very few spices.  These basic ingredient building blocks get mixed and matched with all sorts of other things, leading to a wide array of regional and familial hot dishes.  I can't tell you how many versions of Spaghetti Pie, Tater Tot Hot Dish, and Cheeseburger Hot Dish variations I've seen in my day.

Despite all this variation, the hot dish experience is always characterized by an element of mystery.  You are just never really sure what exactly is in that pan; a gloppy scoop of one hot dish looks and tastes remarkably identical to a gloppy scoop of another.   Why?  Because improperly used canned tomatoes and cream of whatever soup both have the freaky ability to completely and totally obliterate any pre-existing distinguishing characteristics.  Once covered in sauce, anything could be hiding under that veil of hashbrowns or breadcrumbs.  Sure, there's probably some canned corn in there, or maybe a little onion, but as for the rest, your guess is as good as mine.  Is it cabbage?  No, wait, it must be an egg noodle!  Or is it just congealed condensed soup?  Oh, who knows, just turn your head, think of England, and take a big cold bite.

What, you ask?  Cold?  HA!  You though hot dishes were supposed to be hot?  Well yes, that's how they are supposed to be eaten, but rarely does this play out as intended.  No, hot dishes are usually cold when you get to them.  Either they were made in advance, and the cook underestimated the amount of time needed to reheat it, finally giving up, and resigning to arriving 30 minutes late with a hot dish still cold in the middle, and having to battle for space on that crowded card table. The other option is that the hot dish came warm and delicious, but has since been sitting out on that table all afternoon, getting gloppier and crustier by the minute.  Someone has inevitably picked around all the mushrooms, leaving a big pile in one empty corner of the casserole pan, and someone else has taken all the crunchy French friend onion topping (the best part), leaving a naked, cold, messy pile of creamy goo.  Jerks!

Yeah, I've always thought the name "hot dish" to be a terribly ironic misnomer.

Some families eat hot dishes regularly for meals, but my family was not one of these families.  I think my parents were overloaded as children on hot dishes, and they never made them for my brother and me.  The closest we got was my mom's incredible homemade vegetable pie, filled with root vegetables and covered with a tasty crust.  I didn't even eat green bean casserole until college at a friend's house.  Crazy, right?  Having been deprived the horrors of bad hot dishes as a child, I have begun to explore fancy, healthy versions of hot dishes as an adult.  The joy of it all!


A sucker for tradition and always up for a challenge, I decided to bring a hot dish to this years Photo Studio Halloween Potluck.  Last year I brought a delicious roasted root vegetable and red quinoa pilaf, which was met rave reviews.  But I couldn't possibly repeat last year's potluck contribution this year!  That's like wearing the same dress to the Oscars two years in a row.  No, no, no, I needed something new, something with flair, but rooted in the hot dish tradition of the fine state I call my home.  And most importantly, it needed to be something I really want to eat, because it will most likely be the only thing I will be able to eat on the potluck table, aside from the old standby of the always-present raw vegetable plate.  Thank GOD for the raw vegetable plate, it is has saved me from blood sugar crashes at parties more times than I can count.

Ah yes, the joys of food allergies and party food.  Hey, we can still go and have fun, we just need to be more careful, right?  And make sure we bring a long plenty of safe food.

So, I started thinking about ingredients.  Oddly, my mind went almost immediately to lima beans. Limas are delicious, and totally amazing for your body, but a pretty unlikely choice for a potluck - they are not what I would call a "popular" food.  Far too many people were subjected to poorly prepared lima beans as children, scarring them for life and preventing them from ever trying limas again.   I know people who are SCARED of lima beans.  This is totally unacceptable, in my opinion, and I am bound and determined to show the world the innate beauty of the lima.   Not only do they taste good, they have a creamy texture, they have a fun shape, and get really BIG when they cook.  Like all beans, they are chock full of fiber and protein, can help stabilize blood sugar, and contain loads of iron and calcium.  Limas also help to naturally detoxify sulfites,  are a good source of manganese, which helps your body produce antioxidants.  But sadly, limas have the hurdle of an undeserved bad reputation working against them.  I figured that if I could disguise limas in something like a hot dish, where not knowing what you're eating is widely accepted, I could trick people into eating and actually enjoying lima beans.

"HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA!" I cackled, as I put the beans in a bowl to soak, reveling in my well-minded but somewhat devious plan.
I didn't know what the hell I was going to do with those limas, but like I said way up at the top of this lengthy post, the most authentic hot dishes just involve dumping a bunch of stuff together, covering it with something, and baking it.  So, I dove in.  I thought something that involved zucchini, kale, and some of my killer homemade curry powder sounded like a good idea. Maybe a red pepper thrown in for color.  And for the cream of whatever substitute, I thought I could puree cooked lima beans with broth for a thick and creamy sauce.  And why not throw in little green baby limas too?  And of course, for authenticity, I topped it all with chickpea-flour coated onions.  I actually assembled it the night before, and cooked it at work the next day - a make-ahead miracle!  When I pulled it out of the oven, I couldn't WAIT to try it!


So, how did it go over?

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED:  People ate it! I had but one little serving left over!  PEOPLE OVERCAME THEIR FEAR OF LIMAS AND ATE MY HOT DISH!

The texture was great, the colors were fantastic, and the creamy lima bean gravy was wonderful.  I loved the flavor.  The crispy onion topping was delicious, the made it look just like a traditional hot dish!  It elicited multiple positive comments from coworkers, hooray! Not as many as last year's roasted root vegetable quinoa thing, but c'est la vie.

The only photo I got was the rather terrible one at the top of this post, but you can see that my hot dish was positioned between the gluten bombs of traditional mac & cheese to the left and a never ending stream of crackers and breads to the right.  I thought I was going to get a contact stomach ache from all the gluten at that table.  Ick (I came out okay). However, the chicken wings behind my hot dish were gluten free, brought by a gluten-intolerant photographer I work with.  I couldn't eat them because they had 8 million other ingredients in them that are on my no-no list, but I'm glad our GF items could hold down the table together.

Who knew lima beans would go over so well at a potluck?


yield 1 9"x13" dish, and serves lots and lots

1 c dry lima beans, soaked overnight
1 1/2 c frozen baby limas
5 smallish zucchini, thinly sliced in half moons
3 cups raw kale leaves, thinly sliced and packed
1 red bell pepper, roasted and chopped
2 T arrowroot flour
2 c vegetable broth or bean cooking liquid
1-2 T curry powder, depending on how spicy and how much curry flavor you like
1 tsp salt
2 T cumin seeds, divided
2 sweet onions
2 T coconut oil or ghee or other high heat oil
1/3 c chickpea flour
1/4 c water

Soak dry limas overnight, drain and rinse, then cook by desired method.  I cooked mine in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes at 15 lbs pressure.  If cooking on the stovetop, cook with 2 1/2 c water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until all water is absorbed or beans are tender, probably about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350*. 

Drain beans, reserving any remaining bean cooking liquid, and set beans aside.

While beans cooks, slice zucchini and kale, and roast the red pepper.  I describe how to roast peppers at the bottom of this recipe post.  Once roasted, remove skins, and chop.

Place beans in a blender with 2 c of broth or bean cooking liquid, arrowroot flour, curry powder, and salt.  Blend until total smooth. Spread a small amount of bean gravy in bottom of pan, then layer in a layer of zucchini, then kale, then red pepper, then baby frozen limas, then a sprinkling of cumin seeds.  Spread a layer of the sauce on top of the vegetables, and add another layer of vegetables and cumin seeds, followed by another layer of sauce.  Finally, spread the last layer of vegetables and sauce and seeds.

Mix together garbanzo flour and water in a small bowl, and let sit.  Thinly slice onions into half moon shapes.  Heat oil until hot, then add 1 T cumin seeds and heat until fragrant.  Turn down heat, and add onions, stirring to coat with oil.  Cover, and let sweat over medium low heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove cover, and pour on garbanzo batter, and stir.   It will stick to your pan, but keep stirring until onions are coated and garbanzo batter thickens around the onions and everything is kind of thick and goopy.  Remove from heat, and immediately spread onions evenly over the top of the casserole.

Bake covered for 1 hour at 350*, then uncover and let bake an additional 15-20 minutes to allow onions to become browned and crisp.  Let cool about 10 minutes before digging in. 
NOTES: can be made the day before, stored in the fridge, and baked the next day.



Summer Spaghetti with Zucchini-Cashew "Alfredo" Sauce (gluten free, vegan, dairy free, soy free)

Every summer, we are left with more zucchini than we know how to eat, and we tire of it. We roast it, we saute it, we steam it. We shred it, slice it, and puree it. We use it like pasta, we add it to breads, we use it as filler in anything and everything. I've started using it in smoothies to get a nice creamy texture. It shows up everywhere.

I like pureeing raw zucchini, cooking the puree, and using it as a milk substitute in baked goods. Then not long ago, it dawned on me that this creamy zucchini "milk" could be used in place of milk in other things - like creamy soups, smoothies, or sauces. The idea for an alfredo-style cream sauce was born. I've been kicking around that concept for awhile, and finally had the chance to give it a shot last weekend when I was home visiting my family. The secret ingredient is soaked cashews, which add a rich flavor and velvety texture to our perennial garden favorite. Soaked and blended cashew cream does something magical when you cook it: it thickens, just like dairy does. Perfect for making thick sauces.

Creamy and rich, my zucchini-cashew "alfredo" sauce was the perfect finish to al dente brown rice spaghetti and an abundance of fresh farmer's market summer vegetables and garden herbs. The sauce had a great thick texture, creamy white color, and an awesome flavor, and was a breeze to make. It totally passed the test with my parents, who both went in for second helpings. My mom enjoyed it as is, but my dad, a true Wisconsite, added a bit of parmesan cheese to his bowl. What can I say, the man loves his cheese.
Besides loving my "alfredo" sauce, they were both really impressed with the Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti. So impressed, in fact, that I left them the rest of the package. I'm always trying to get them to eat less wheat, so I was happy to support future wheat-free meals! After they both noticed that they did not slip into a wheat pasta-induced food coma or suffered heavy cream sauce-induced digestive troubles after our lunch, I think wheat free meals will become a bit more frequent. As for me, I was thrilled and thought the whole meal was fabulous. This was the first "alfredo" style spaghetti I'd eaten in probably more than five years. I'd given up
cream sauces and pasta ages ago because they made me feel so dreadful. It was wonderful to eat creamy pasta and feel great, instead of wanting to go curl up and die somewhere! We all finished lunch satisfied and happy, and with just a little leftover.

I can't wait to try variations on the sauce (see below for my ideas). I think the sauce should freeze well, so make big batches with all that zucchini from your garden, and throw some in the freezer for another meal. The pasta-alfredo-vegetable formula has endless opportunity for variation - I can't wait to try other combinations! Boasting with fresh flavors and rich textures, this spaghetti alfredo is done right, done light, and done darn delicious. Even the leftovers were good - I ate them cold, on the road, driving back from Wisconsin to Minnesota. As I went into a gas station that had a McDonald's attached, and saw (and smelled) what everyone else was eating as road food along Hwy 29, I liked my spaghetti alfredo even more.

SUMMER SPAGHETTI WITH ZUCCHINI-CASHEW "ALFREDO" CREAM SAUCE (gluten free, vegan, dairy free, soy free)
serves 4

8 oz Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti (or other tolerated pasta)
2 cups "alfredo" sauce (recipe below)
1 small or 1/2 large sweet onion
1 bunch Swiss chard (or spinach, kale, or other greens)
1 fennel bulb
1 small zucchini
4 small carrots
1-2 T olive oil
handful fresh basil leaves
optional garnishes:
torn basil
toasted cashews, pine nuts, or almonds

Prepare alfredo sauce according to directions below.

Prepare vegetables. Thinly slice onion. Remove rib from chard, and slice on diagonal into 1/2" slices. Cut the leaves in half lengthwise, stack, roll, then thinly slice across the roll to julienne. Quarter the fennel bulb, then slice. Slice the carrots into 1/4" diagonal slices. Slice the zucchini into 1/4" half moons. Thinly slice basil leaves.

Cook spaghetti according to directions on packaging, then rinse well with cool water.While spaghetti is cooking, heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, and saute a few minutes, then add chard ribs and carrots, and saute a few more minutes. Then add zucchini, and saute a few more minutes. When vegetables are nearly done, add chard leaves and a little water, cover, and steam until tender.

Add cooked pasta to saucepan with vegetables. Then add warm alfredo sauce and basil leaves, and stir to mix over low heat.  Transfer to serving bowl(s) and garnish as desired. Enjoy!
Possible variations:
  • Switch out your greens: use spinach, kale, or other greens in place of Swiss chard
  • Try using other combinations of vegetables: green, red, purple, or yellow peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, squash, pumpkin, shallots...
  • Garnish with chopped olives, capers
  • Season with other herbs, like dill, chives, or rosemary

ZUCCHINI-CASHEW "ALFREDO" CREAM SAUCE (gluten free, vegan, dairy free, soy free)
yield 2 cups

1 large zucchini, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 3 cups chopped)
1/2 c raw cashews, soaked 2 hours
1 tsp dehydrated garlic flakes or 1-2 whole peeled garlic cloves
1 c water
1 T South River garbanzo bean miso (or soy miso, if tolerated)
salt and pepper, to taste

Soak the cashews in fresh water for 2 hours. Drain and rinse, and place in blender.

Peel and chop the zucchini, and add to blender with garlic and 1 c of water. Puree until totally smooth and creamy.  Transfer to saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until cooked through and thickened.

Right before serving, take out about 1/2 c of the sauce and stir in miso paste until evenly mixed. Add miso sauce back to saucepan and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm on lowest heat until ready to serve.
Possible sauce variations:
  • Serve over pasta, grains, vegetables, or beans, use in casseroles or pot pies in place of "cream of whatever" soup, or use as a fondue style dip
  • use broth or stock instead of water for richer flavor
  • Béchamel-style sauce: omit garlic and add a pinch of nutmeg (start with 1/4 tsp)
  • Rich and creamy red sauce: puree in roasted red peppers or marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • Wine sauce: try using a bit of white wine instead of water when blending
  • Creamy green goddess sauce: puree in greens and herbs
  • Mushroom sauce: add sauteed mushrooms to sauce, pureeing half of them and adding the other half to the saucepan
  • Onion sauce: add caramelized onions to blender and puree
  • Herb sauce: add a variety of fresh herbs
  • Vegetable sauce: for a chunky vegetable cream sauce, add finely chopped cooked vegetables to saucepan and cook with sauce - broccoli would be delicious!
  • Here's a total change of pace: what about omitting the garlic, adding vanilla, cocoa/carob, and a little sweetener of choice? It would be like a thick chocolate sauce. You could even use hot coffee or a grain-coffee substitute instead of water for a mocha effect. I NEED TO TRY THIS!

Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 9 Next 5 Entries »