Gluten-Free Chicken Cordon Bleu, with Boneless Thigh Meat

There are a lot of gluten-free breading recipes out there using either 1) pre-packaged conglomerates of stuff with dodgy ingredients or 2) crushed tree nuts, usually almonds.

Well, many tree nuts are problematic for me, and I know that the ones I care most about are off my food plan – pistachios and pine nuts.  Other ones seem to be likely as well, but I really don’t miss those.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to limit nightshades — potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplant — all of which I love.  These, however, are non-critical to eliminate entirely, just severely limited, so I will make recipes containing these hither and yon. No nightshades today…

chicken cordon bleu, chicken thigh, recipe, gluten-free, tree-nut-free

Rolled oats coating on the left, unsweetened coconut flake coating on the right.

For this Cordon Bleu recipe, you can use boneless skinless chicken breast, of course — but if I’m changing things around to be gluten and tree-nut free, I might as well go with that more flavorful cut I prefer:  a good boneless, skinless (in this case) chicken thigh.    Mind you, a good chicken breast cordon bleu is one of the few forms of chicken breast I actually find moist enough to consider seconds on, and the ham and cheese moisture and yummy taste certainly doesn’t hurt!

recipe, chicken cordon bleu, chicken thigh, Paleo, gluten-free, tree-nut-free

Coconut flake Chicken Cordon Bleu

I tested two types of outer coatings, both rolled oats and coconut flakes, as described below.  I have to say, for me, the rolled oats won, but the coconut flake coating is suitable for those who wish to dine strictly Paleo.


The ham used.


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time:  Skillet – 15-18 minutes each round.  Oven – 20 minutes.
Rest Time:  5 minutes
Serves:  1 or two Cordon Bleus per person.
Special equipment: toothpicks, cooking rack.
Leftovers:  re-heat in oven for continued crispiness.

Gluten-Free Chicken Cordon Bleu, with Boneless Thigh Meat

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat cut away.  (Go ahead and use the breast meat if you prefer.  Get the thin-cut slices.)
  • 4 thin slices of a quality sliced ham (I like Applegate’s brand; they make an effort to raise/source their animals more humanely.)
  • 4 thick slices of Swiss cheese – thin enough for flexibility
  • 1 teaspoon (or so) of Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon (or so) of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or so) of powdered mustard  (I used a spicy Oriental mustard simply because that’s what was available.   The end result had a bit of tang that wasn’t “hot”.)
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • arrowroot powder/starch, about 1/3rd cup.  (Rice flour is also gluten-free, and is also easier to find, if you don’t care that the recipe be Paleo.)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • the outer coating:  about 1/3rd cup of either:  unsweetened coconut flakes (Paleo) or gluten-free rolled oats, NOT instant, nor steel-cut.  Break up the rolled oats using a mortar and pestle, or put some in a freezer bag, and run something heavy over them.
  • Grapeseed (or other high temp) cooking oil.  Safflower oil in a pinch.  Note – the use of coconut or avocado oil (which are Paleo, unlike the grapeseed or safflower) for this is simply too pricy!  The amount will depend on the size of your skillet.  Add enough so that the oil comes up about 1/3rd the height of the meat you place into it.

As with anything chicken, wash your hands and equipment early and often!!!

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Set everything up before you start handling the chicken, for sanitary reasons.  Have a bowl or plate for the arrowroot flour, a small bowl for the beaten egg, another bowl or plate for the coconut or oats.  Pull out several toothpicks and set them aside.  Add half the thyme, dried mustard, garlic powder, and ground pepper to the flour, the other half to the coconut or oatmeal, and mix.  Pull out some plastic wrap and set a strip of it aside.

Pull out the chicken and lay it out flat on your meat cutting board.  Assuming you’ve already cut away and discarded the fat, now cut off any of the knobby bits that stick up from the thighs.  (Reserve these for something like a stir fry  with lots of veggies for a base!)

Place the sheet of plastic wrap over the meat, and pound down with a blunt object.  Yes, there are specialized tools for this, and they probably don’t cost much, but improvisation is even cheaper!

Discard the plastic, and layer the slices of ham over the chicken thighs (or breast).  Follow with the Swiss cheese.  Cut away any bits that overhang the base chicken.  (Add to the center of the chicken if you feel there is room.)  Smear with 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard per thigh.

Roll the thighs/ham/cheese up tightly, and secure with one or two toothpicks.

Roll the thighs around in the seasoned flour mixture so that all parts are covered.

Dip and roll in the beaten egg.

Roll in the crumbly mixture (coconut or oats).

Heat up the oil in your skillet so that a drop of water sizzles, and then some (do not allow the oil to smoke).  Note that the hotter you can get the oil, the less greasy your food will be!  Add the thighs — as many as your skillet size fits comfortably.  Allow to cook about 4-5 minutes a side, and then do two or three minutes each edge.  The crumbs should be a crispy toasty brown.

Remove from the skillet onto a couple layers of paper towel, to absorb extra grease.

In your baking pan – put a rack down so that the underside of the thighs remain crispy.  Place the cordon bleus in here, edges not touching each other.   (Hmm, what IS the plural of cordon bleu, or is there one?)

Bake 20 minutes (maybe only 15 if breast meat) at 350 F.

Remove from oven, allow to rest for five minutes.  Remove tooth picks and serve.


Both the coconut flake and the rolled oats were good.  I seriously preferred the rolled oats with this treatment, however.   This is the way I will be doing this dish in the future. 

Suggested serving sides:  Rice pilaf?  Steamed broccoli or broccolini with butter and fresh Mediterranean herbs?   A nice hearty salad with mixed greens and cukes and whatever may be in season, tossed with fresh tarragon, EVOO and red wine vinegar?

recipe, chicken cordon bleu, chicken thigh, gluten-free, tree-nut-free

recipe, chicken cordon bleu, chicken thigh, gluten-free, nut-free

Lay down the ham, then lay down the cheese… (The item at upper left in each photo is the leftover nubs of chicken thigh… soon to be wrapped up and away.)

Final notes:  If you are fine with gluten consumption, sub in regular wheat flour for the arrowroot.  Sub in finely-crunched up dry breadcrumbs — making your own will limit the amount of weird additives in your meal — or Japanese panko for the coconut flakes / oatmeal.  (I personally CAN eat gluten – at least at “reasonable” levels — but I prefer to limit my intake to what I eat dining out, if at all possible.)     

PS:  I’m not sure if coconut is considered a “tree nut”.  I digest coconut just fine, while a friend of mine cannot digest either coconut or tree nuts.  

PPS:  The kitchen (and house!) smelled mighty fine after!

recipe, chicken cordon bleu, chicken thigh, gluten-free, tree-nut-free

Chicken Cordon Bleu, rolled up and ready for coatings

recipe, chicken cordon bleu, chicken thigh, gluten-free, tree-nut-free

Frying the coconut pair.

recipe, chicken cordon bleu, chicken thigh, gluten-free, tree-nut-free

For some reason, the oatmeal ones were giving me photography issues. But here’s as good as it got…

Come join the fun at Fiesta Friday, with our hosts Caroline, and Tania.

And have some more fun at Real Food Fridays!


Posted in Cooking, Meats | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Once and Future Kitchen…

I have mentioned in a few posts that I’m currently building a home (which I had naively hoped would have been ready by the very latest, late last summer or early autumn).

It is a log home, one level but with a walk out basement.  I am in some regards seriously downsizing into it — but this does not count the kitchen.  The kitchen is UPSIZING.

Kitchen plans

To left of sink: Dishwasher. To right: trash and recyclable bins. Straight up: induction range. Hood still needs to go overhead. Prep area in front of window — contractor’s boom box will vanish. Upper cabs to left: coffee, tea, mugs. On counter underneath: beverage station – coffee maker, grinder, SodaStream.  PS: Sink faces the dining area, and has a good view out the window beyond.

Right now, I have a very dysfunctional kitchen built in 1968 or 1969, when the assumption was we’d all be eating TV dinners quickly and without fan-fare, heated in the oven.  It is small and poorly-planned, which is why a lot of the food I am serving is photographed out of doors.  Move the clutter?  Move the meal?  Which is quicker???  (I like eating it before it turns cold.)

Currently, my basic prep area is on TOP of the range.  There is a counter to the left and to the right of the range — 12 inches wide, in each case.  On the left side, it is my collection of oils and vinegars and tamari.  On the right side, it’s my knife block and some more condiments.  I store large platters in a dresser drawer in a spare bedroom.  I also do some prep work at the dining room table.

There are two duplex electrical outlets — The one is used by the fridge, and is by that counter to the right of the range, allowing no practical use for the other portion of that duplex.  The second is near the sink, and I’m constantly switching out plugs for:  microwave, coffee maker, coffee grinder, mini-food processor, immersion blender, George Foreman grill.  Weaving the cords in and among the dry goods containers (rice, oatmeal, coconut flour, lentils…) as needed.

There’s more, (in less space) but let’s get back to the good stuff!


Looking in from dining entry area. Over that range (that will also have a vent hood…) is a small upper cab for cooking oils, salt, pepper, garlic powder. You know, the essentials. To the right of prep area is Prep Sink. Compost will be collected in a bucket under that sink. Doorway leads to future pantry. To the right of that — landing zone for groceries, with a spare condiment upper cab above. Fridge of course, with lower freezer compartment.

I’ve enjoyed consulting with others about ideas, and having many lower drawers rather than too many lower cabinets seems to be a great idea.  I was also talked into having a prep sink — and that the notion of food from the fridge should go to the sink (prep in this case), then to the prep area, then to being cooked.  And that a landing zone before the fridge is way handy.  So, I did all that.

And, being as I am tall, and sometimes my back goes out, having seriously functional upper cabinets is also a grand notion.  Hence, my floor plan is semi-open, not OPEN to the universe.  (Besides, on the opposite wall, I will be hanging artwork.  I like artwork… )


Some of the image to the left got cut off, but immediately off-screen is the fridge. Straight ahead is the book shelf (there will be another board in there) for cookbooks. The right wall is sage green, NOT remotely that bluish stuff.  Colors on-line can be deceptive!  Lots of cabs here for dishes and glasses, with the most frequently used items closest to the viewer (and to the dish washer when it unloads). On the counter will be (from back to front) the George Foreman grill, the toaster oven, and then the microwave. (Yep, all the contractor stuff there will GO.)

The drawer under the counter-top in the most recent photo, the one closest to the viewer:   Daily silverware.  The one back further away:  Asian accouterments, and the shish-kebab implements.  Lowest cab:  the combo lobster pot/hot water canner.  As well as a Dutch oven, a yogurt maker, and various implements I’m not keen to keep on the counter top.

The kitchen will be set up for far better photography – I may even consider doing a video or three.   Light will be better, and will be properly controlled.  There will be pendant lighting over the prep area — probably not necessary in the summer, but in the winter it gets dark mighty early.  Also over the sink, to get those dishes clean.  (Not everything goes into a dishwasher.)

I’ll get a full-sized food processor,  and a few other items.  I’d really like a pressure canner, as I will be growing a lot of my own food outside during the warm months.

This house has indeed been designed around the kitchen!


When will I move in?

Dunno.  The house just got propane heat (next year I will be adding solar), and the plumber is there this week connecting the septic and the fixtures.  Not sure when the electrician will be back, and there’s some up-to-code sheetrocking left to do in the garage.

I’ve already started moving (non-valuable) stuff up there — to places out of the way in the house.  I can finally get my platter collection out of a back bedroom dresser drawer!!!





Posted in Cooking | 9 Comments

Gluten-Free Bean Pasta with Mussels and Spinach

If it were a stew or soup, I’ d be inclined to leave the mussels in their shells, but in this case, they’ll be cooked, removed, and returned to the pasta when the pasta is ready for them.

recipe, gluten-free, chickpea pasta, spinach, mussels

Chickpea pasta, spinach, mussels, and seasonings.

Garlic, dried oregano, and ground pepper will finish this off nicely, plus a pat or so of butter (or a splash of EVOO, if you don’t do dairy).

The chickpea pasta I’ve been using has 25 grams of protein and 13 grams of  fiber per serving.  I’m happy with that.

This is an extremely quick recipe.  Ah, yes, kudos for those!

Prep Time: not significant.
Cooking Time:  Mussels — 5 minutes.  Pasta — see package (no more than 10 minutes)
Rest Time:  None.
Serves: 2, as a main.  More if served as a side.

Gluten-Free Bean Pasta with Mussels and Spinach

  • 1 bag of mussels — usually a pound or two in the shell
  • 1 8-ounce pack of frozen spinach
  • 4 ounces gluten free pasta (I use chickpea bean pasta here)
  • 1 generous tablespoon butter (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and ground pepper to taste.
  • Some optional ideas at the end of this recipe!

Cook the mussels in boiling water, leaving ample room for mussels to open as they cook.

Allow mussel water to froth and that water in the pot to rise, about an extra minute.

Drain mussels and run cold water over them.

Get another pot of water ready, and put the opened package of spinach in at the bottom.  Set to boil.

While this is coming to a boil, de-shell the mussels, saving mussels and discarding shells.  Also, discard any unopened mussels!!!  They may have been dead prior to cooking.  No need to find out… Anyhow, if they get overcooked, they tend to get rather dry.

When the pot with the spinach starts to boil, add in the pasta, and stir it to mix in with the spinach.  Allow to cook to the time it says on the package.  Bean pasta will go soggy rather quickly, so keep an eye on the time.

Drain the pasta/spinach, pushing out excess liquid.

Add to a large bowl.

Immediately add the de-shelled mussels, butter (or EVOO), and the seasonings, and mix.

Serve while hot.

Some other options:  a couple good tablespoons of grated Parmesean cheese would be tasty to add at the end.  I also had considered using fresh sage, rosemary and thyme  for seasonings, instead of the oregano — for a good Simon & Garfunkel ambiance!  (But alas, what remained was no longer fresh…)  You can also flicker some red pepper flakes on top, to taste — or let people add at their whim at the table!

recipe, gluten-free, chickpea pasta, spinach, mussels

I found this to be very filling.

PS:  Leftovers — I’d nuke within three days, with some cheese on top…   Or splash on a bit of broth (to keep things moist), then nuke.

Visit the Link Party at Fiesta Friday!  Hosts are:  Linda and Jhuls.

Visit the Link Party at Real Food Fridays!






Posted in Cooking, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Offal Time Again: Beef Tongue Lettuce Wraps

I grew up in a household where my parents served us beef tongue, as I’ve mentioned in the past.  Mother was the one who usually cooked it, and she wasn’t the parent noted for going “strange” in the diet, so tongue was normal and not adventurous.  Dare I say it — it was (and still is) Comfort Food!  Yes, more so than mac and cheese.  Yes, seriously.

While the tongue Mom would make had its antecedents in the Pennsylvanian/Kentuckian regions of this country, and her recipe definitely had roots in her Germanic background, our family moving to New York City also promoted tongue in our diet.  Jewish delis in the city featured tongue, and so it was easy for my parents to procure, and cook it for themselves. And being offal, the price was extremely affordable at that time.  (There are only a few Jewish delis left in NYC that have it on their menu — I consider those places to be VALID Jewish delis.  The others — I simply suspect they are impostors…  Or maybe they’ve bowed to the signs of the times…)

And, if you want to think about it, this food that most folks I know today would shrink from — back at the turn of the (previous) century, bison were slaughtered for a variety of oft-nefarious reasons in the far West – but one of the few culinary reasons for the slaughter was for the tongue, which was shipped east for food.  Unfortunately, much of the rest of the meat would usually be left to rot, and would be a reason Native peoples often starved.  (The Indians/Natives of the Great Plains appreciated the nutrient density of organ meat over regular muscle meat, by the way.  Tongue, heart and liver — they typically ate these organs first when they had the option.)

Back when I was growing up, tongue was usually bought/found smoked, but that’s somewhat harder to find these days, and I’m content with it smoked or not smoked today.  Today, I get my beef tongue from local farmers, and I seriously love it.   I have to say, it is one of my favorite cuts of beef.  Tongue.  Let’s see, what else:  A good brisket, slow cooked with veggies (added later on) for 10-11 hours on low.  A good rib-eye, grilled rare. Flank steak, seared medium rare.  Skirt steak, done Mexican or Tex-Mex.  Tongue, crock-potted with vinegar or pickle juice, and clove-based seasonings.   There we go.  Comfort!

recipe, appetizer, beef tongue, mustard, lettuce wrap, goat cheese, apple

Tongue lettuce wraps, waiting to be wrapped!

Tongue Lettuce Wraps

Prep Time:  Maybe 10 minutes to set up the tongue, already cooked; 20 minutes to roll up the wraps.  
Cook Time:  Tongue will take 4-4.5 hours in a slow cooker set on low.
Rest Time:  About 20 min.  Allow to chill so that the lettuce doesn’t get soggy from the heat.
Serves: As an appetizer, plan on two wraps per person.  Unfortunately, there will be some folk who won’t touch these!  (Their loss.)
Leftovers?:  Possibly, refrigerate up to a day – otherwise the lettuce will get limp anyway.


  • 1 cooked tongue (you won’t need all of it for this recipe; reserve 1/4th pound, skinned.
  • lettuce leaves — choose a lettuce that has a solid leaf that you can use as a wrap.  Iceberg works, but so does butter lettuce, Boston, or Romaine.  There may well be others.  Some lettuces will remain crispy longer than others.
  • Mustard:  Dijon, Kosciusko, or horseradish mustard.  To taste.
  • soft goat cheese.


(Cook the tongue — I prefer the crock pot these days, and I cook it on high for 4 – 4.5 hours, but if you are doing it while at work or something, do it for 8-9 hours on low.  Have seasonings and vinegar in with the water in the crock pot – ideally, use leftover dill pickle juice.  It imparts a great flavor.)

Remove tongue from crock pot and allow to cool for 20 – 30 minutes, then remove skin from the tongue.  If you wait until the tongue is room temperature, the skin will be harder to remove.  Basically, wait for it to be just cool enough that you can manipulate it without burning yourself.  Discard skin.

Slice thin, and reserve a center portion for the upcoming recipe.  I like slicing it to about 1/4 inch segments.  While any of the meat will work, I tend to go for a center portion of the tongue because I find its flavor and texture to be the most optimal here.

recipe, lettuce wrap, tongue, goat cheese, mustard, apple

It’s a wrap! (I took these with me on a short road trip about a month ago, for dinner)

Enjoy!  The contrasting flavors will complement each other.










Posted in Appetizers, Cooking, Meats, Offal | 2 Comments

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Onion, Smoked Gouda – Thanksgiving

To one and all, hope you had a grateful Thanksgiving!  (Whether you are in the US — or Canada, which does this thing earlier in the fall — or not, there’s always a space to be grateful about the good things about life and living).

I’m thankful for good friends and family, and for essential good health.

I brought the following to a large gathering of folk in Massachusetts, not all that far from where Arlo Guthrie had that “Thanksgiving dinner that could not be beat”.  The hosts supplied the turkeys and I think some of the pies.


Prep Time:Depends on the necessary slicing & dicing.  About 40 minutes?
Cook Time: 30 minutes for the pan roasting, and up to an hour for the baking.
Rest Time: 5 minutes.
Serves:  Medium sized pot luck with LOTS of food.|
Leftover friendly:  Yes, either in the oven or nuked.  


Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Onion, Smoked Gouda

Note, the measurements are approximate.

  • 30 ounces of Brussels sprouts, shaved (de-stemmed and cut into slivers)
  • ½ pound bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced coarsely
  • 4 or 5 ounces fresh cranberries
  • Fresh thyme, sage to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup cranberry-infused Balsamic vinegar
  • 4 ounces shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 4 ounces sliced smoked Gouda cheese

In a really large skillet (or do it in batches) cook half the bacon, as a layer, using a splash guard.

Remove bacon, allow to drain on a paper towel. Pat dry, break up pieces, and put in a large bowl.

Add half the onion and half the sprouts to the skillet with the bacon grease.

Allow the onions and Brussels sprouts to roast, stirring occasionally.  Add about half the seasonings to the skillet.Stir again.

When they begin to brown, and both veggies are cooked through, add half the Balsamic, and mix further, another 3-4 minutes, allowing some of the liquid to cook off from the Balsamic.

Remove to drain on more paper towels, patting this dry.

Mix the veggies in a bowl with the bacon (crumpled).  Do reserve some bacon separately.

Follow the above steps above again, with the remainder of the bacon, sprouts, onions, seasonings and Balsamic.

Mix all together.

In a small pot of water, add the cranberries and heat them until they are cooked – only a few minutes.  They will split their skins.

To a baking pan, add about half the veggie and bacon mix, interspersing with cranberries, reserving some for the end.  (A slotted spoon will drain them off nicely).

Now, scatter the shredded cheese over the top.

Add the rest of the veggie/bacon mix.

Add the spare bacon atop this.   (OR reserve that spare bacon for ATOP the the next layer…)

Cover with a layer of cheese slices.

Finish off with the rest of the cranberries.   Set aside until ready to bake.  (If you are doing this the day before serving, simply wait to add the final layer of cheese and the few remaining cranberries until the day you plan to serve.)

Bake, covered, for 40-50 minutes at 350 F, remove cover for last ten minutes, continue to bake, and serve hot.  (If you are travelling and bringing this somewhere, save this baking step for when you reach your destination, making sure your host/hostess has oven space.  We’re dining in a community kitchen, so there was space!)

Thanksgiving, recipe, Brussels sprouts, Gouda, bacon, cranberry

Ready for the oven

PS:  Can’t find cranberry Balsamic vinegar?  Find a complementary fruit-based Balsamic and use that.


White Cranberry-Pear balsamic vinegar, from

To make vegetarian:  Use butter instead of bacon grease, and perhaps add some sliced water chestnuts  for crunch.

I was inspired by the below recipe, although the author boiled frozen Brussels sprouts, and I pan-roasted  fresh ones.  What I took was the idea of adding bacon and adding smoked Gouda.   I knew before this popped up in my feed that I’d wanted to do something with this wonderful vegetable that I’d hated in my childhood.  Because I’ve grown to appreciate it, in all its roasty goodness!  (Hmm, I’d always liked cabbage and broccoli???)


Two turkeys, sliced and ready for our devouring!

I am thankful to be able to share this recipe with Fiesta Friday, and the two co-hosts, Julianna and Hilda.  I am also grateful to share with Real Food Fridays!



Posted in Cooking | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Veggies

For many in America, mac & cheese is “comfort food”.

We didn’t grow up with it as such, which is why I usually put the word “comfort” into quotes.  One man’s comfort is another’s discomfort…

skillet mac and cheese, pasta, gluten-free, recipe, vegetarian

Discovering a comforting macaroni and cheese dish.

When we did have it, it was something the parents quickly prepared from a box and baked (they did add more cheese) prior to going out and leaving us at home with the sitter.  This could be a desirable outcome, but it all depended on the identity of said sitter.  It certainly wasn’t a “sit around the table and enjoy together” meal.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a really enjoyable baked or casserole mac and cheese, even when made from scratch — excepting the lobster mac and cheese my brother once made, but that was because that dish was very top-heavy on the lobster!    (If I remember correctly, there were also some tasty and complementary veggies in the mix, too.  Bell peppers, I think.)

I finally ran into a skillet mac and cheeese, at work of all places.  The cafeteria was serving to-order skillet mac and cheese — the noodles already prepared and still a bit au dente, and you’d get up to four types of cheese, and a variety of veggies, and some voluntary hot pepper flakes to add atop the finished product.  I think one of the reasons I liked it was for a similar reason to liking my brother’s mac and cheese — it’s not just noodles and cheese!  In this case there are some good, tasty veggies in place!  And no added bread crumbs (starch added to starch… really?).  So anyhow, for me the skillet is the way to go.

recipe, skillet mac and cheese, vegetarian, gluten-free,

Getting onions underway

This was so good I actually re-created this a couple times with some wheat-based pasta someone dropped off for me while my ankle was broken.   Now, I am making it again, with a few adaptations (they didn’t use sherry at work) in gluten-free mode for this blog.

It’s very rich — it’s not for every day dining.  And I can’t think of a good short cut for vegan meals, as you really need the meltiness of real cheese.  (There is now a pea-based cheese substitute, so for those who don’t do soy, look into that — but I doubt it is “easy” to make that melty and exciting, especially without excipients.)

recipe, skillet mac and cheese, vegetarian, gluten-free,

Plus shrooms and snow peas…

I also don’t recommend fat-free or reduced-fat cheeses as any number of other excipients and sugars are added to those for “mouth-feel” (1% fat milk is not 1% of whole milk, after all — whole milk is 3.5% fat)!  As for pre-shredded cheeses — they add anti-caking stuff to that — pull out the kitchen tool and do it yourself.  The extra work will help keep you from deciding to make this every night!  You could shred it, but laying into the cheese with a knife is quicker and works just as well.

recipe, skillet mac and cheese, vegetarian, gluten-free,

And, plus sherry and cheese…

Except for the optional red pepper flakes, this recipe is nightshade-free.  Leave them off, if you desire.  The sherry can be omitted, too – sub in an equal amount of low sodium vegetable broth.

For the pasta I chose a type made from chickpeas — black bean pasta would also work, or a rice-based noodle.  Follow the package directions, and note that for bean-based pasta, the moment you go from au dente to very soft is much quicker than with wheat-based pasta.

recipe, skillet mac and cheese, vegetarian, gluten-free,

The rotini shape sounded appealing…

Prep time:  10-15 minutes
Cook time:  around 15 minutes, depending on level of onion browning
Rest time: Not needed.
Serves:  2-3 as a main.  5 as a side.
Leftover friendly:  Store in microwaveable container in fridge.  
(It is likely you can also re-heat in oven in appropriate container.)
Suggested side:  Tossed salad drizzled with a homemade unsweetened vinaigrette.

Skillet Mac and Cheese with Veggies

  • 4 ounces of pasta noodles (chickpea, bean, rice — or whatever)
  • Quality cooking oil, one tablespoon.  I used avocado oil, which I source from Costco/BJ’s.
  • 1/2 large onion.  (Slice thin and chop coarsely)
  • 4 ounces button mushrooms (or add in some shiitake!),  Slice and break up large pieces.
  • 4 ounces snow peas. (Break in halves or thirds)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry (or low sodium boxed vegetable broth; or your homemade veggie broth).
  • 8 to 10 ounces total of a variety of meltable cheeses.  (I used Monterrey Jack, Gruyere, Fontina and just a little smoked Gouda – these all add their own flavor signature, and the Jack is for additional creaminess.)
  • The leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon (sub in 1/4 teaspoon or so of dried if necessary, but it’s not quite the same.  You can play with oregano or other herbs, too.)
  • Optional red pepper flakes, to taste.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Prep all the veggies, and get some water ready for the pasta.

In a medium large skillet, heat up the oil, and add the onions.  Cook them to at least translucent — you can continue the process until they are well-caramelized, if you wish.

Add in the mushrooms (they will soak up the oil, which is why I start with that much).  Cook until done.

Start the pasta water to boil, and add the snow peas to the skillet, along with the salt and pepper, and stir, about one minute.

Don’t overcook the snow peas — add in the sherry (or veggie broth), and then the cheese.

When the water boils in the pot, add the pasta to the pot, and cook ON THE AU DENTE SIDE as per box directions.

Stir the skillet ingredients, reducing heat to a simmer so that you don’t overcook the snow peas or scald the cheese.  Make sure everything melts.  Add the tarragon and the optional red pepper flakes.

Drain the cooked pasta and flip it into the skillet, and continue stirring until everything is mixed appropriately.

Plate and serve, or let folks serve themselves.

For four people (as a main), size up accordingly, and use that LARGE skillet!


Instead of snowpeas or mushrooms, there is a whole world of other veggies to explore in this dish.  Of course, different veggies will require different cooking times.  Frankly, adding veggies is a highlight to mac and cheese, turning a pedestrian dish into a delight.  Ideas:  Bell peppers of various colors, broccoli, broccolini, shaved Brussels sprouts, slivers of golden beets. asparagus… we could go on…  Oh, and onions could be replaced by leeks… 


Visit the Link Party at Fiesta Friday!  Hosts are:  Linda and Jhuls.

Visit the Link Party at Real Food Fridays!




Posted in Cooking, Mushrooms, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chicken Heart and Cheese Omelet

Yes, I know not everyone shares my love of certain types of offal, and they’re welcome to pronounce it “awful”.   If you don’t want to use chicken hearts (or can’t find them), feel free to use a portion of leftover boneless skinless chicken thigh from another meal (fat removed).

omelet, recipe, eggs, chicken hearts, cheese

A hearty breakfast earlier this week.

Hearts are really muscle, very dense muscle, and very low in fat content, yet high in nutritional punch.   Heart is actually one of my favorite “cuts” from most any animal where I’ve tried it and when it has been cooked properly — yes, I see you looking at me with questioning eyes…  That’s okay!

With chicken hearts, as with any other part of chicken, they need to be thoroughly cooked.  I have a couple sources where I can buy a small batch – use some of them for other recipes, but reserve three or four per partaker, for breakfast.  This is probably about an ounce, or maybe a little less.

There is usually a little external fat that the butcher may leave on the outside upper portion of the hearts — cut that off and discard.

As for cheese — any good melty cheese you like is good — cheddar, Fontina, Gouda, smoked Gouda are especially recommended, but let what you like or have to hand be your guide.  I’ll mention what I used.

recipe, omelet, chicken heart, cheese

Prep station on the bamboo cutting board

French-style omelets never are allowed to brown.  I’m copacetic with a little browning, but  the eggs getting crunchy are right out.  The sauce the omelet will cook in will encourage a bit of browning, if only simply from the coloring of the tamari or the coconut aminos.

To the recipe!

Prep Time:  10 minutes.
Cook Time: 15 minutes plus or minus a minute or two.
Rest Time: not applicable.
Serves:  Recipe listed as per each person – multiply ingredients as needed.
Leftover Friendly:  Not really.

Chicken Heart and Cheese Omelet

  • 3-4 chicken hearts, fat cut off and discarded.
  • 1-2 pats of butter (or 1/2 teaspoon healthy cooking oil – I recommend avocado or coconut oil, but I’m okay with the occasional use of grapeseed oil).
  • garlic powder and ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or coconut aminos
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ounce, more or less, of thin-sliced meltable cheese.  (I had smoked Gouda to hand.)
  • 1 green onion/scallion, chopped.
  • 1 sprig fresh tarragon coarsely chopped  (or 1/8th teaspoon dried tarragon flakes)


Prep the veggies — chop the scallions fine, and the fresh tarragon coarsely.  Prep the cheese as needed.

Take those fat-cleaned hearts, and slice them into thin slices, somewhere between 1/8th and 1/4th inches thick.

In a small skillet (assuming this is just for one person — size up if you are doing two people, natch!) heat your butter or fat on medium heat.  Meanwhile, beat up the eggs in a small bowl.

When the cooking oil/fat is hot (a drop of water sizzles) add the sliced chicken hearts, garlic powder and ground pepper.  Allow to pan fry until done, stirring as you work, about five minutes.  Add the tamari/coconut aminos, and allow the hearts to cook another minute.  Remove the meat to a plate.

Without cleaning the skillet, return it to the heat, wait a moment for the skillet temperature to re-equilibrate, and add the beaten eggs.  Cook until they mostly harden.  With just two eggs, I feel no need to flip, but I do use the spatula to move the eggy stuff around, so that everything eventually cooks through.

recipe, omelet, eggs, cheese, offal, chicken hearts

This is the canvas upon which breakfast will be spread

Drop in the bits of heart, then the cheese, then the tarragon, then the green onion/scallion.  Reserve a small portion of scallion for omelet ambiance atop, later.

recipe, omelet, eggs, chicken hearts, cheese

Lay it on me!!!

Fold omelet in half, and let cook further, watching for all the cheese to melt, and the egg to cook completely.

Plate, and serve with the remainder of any scallion on top of the omelet.

This recipe is probably shocking people over at:  

Fiesta Friday.  (Co-hosts Antonia and Petra

Real Food Fridays.



Posted in Breakfast, Cooking, Offal, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments