Zucchini and roasted red pepper gratin

Zucchini is still available in this corner of the world, in spite of the cold weather. They sit, on sale, mocking me at the grocery store. Roasted zucchini and tomatoes go so well together, you see. I can’t really eat tomatoes anymore without some discomfort, and tomatoes are no good at this time of year anyway. Then I remember: I can make a version of Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini gratin WITHOUT tomatoes!

I use roasted red pepper, which I buy in a big jar, in place of the tomatoes. They add color and moisture to the dish. Since I don’t use minced garlic, I make sure to taste the rice mixture before putting in the eggs. Feel free to add a little extra seasoning if necessary.

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1/3 cup uncooked white rice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/2 pound roasted red peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Table salt and white pepper
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1.5 teaspoons of garlic powder (if tolerated)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cook the rice. While rice cooks, coat one large baking sheet with a tablespoon of olive oil (a bit less for smaller pans). Spread zucchini slices on the baking sheets in as close to a single layer as you can. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of white pepper. Roast the zucchini for 20 minutes. Flip zucchini halfway through.

Heat large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, heat oil, then add onions, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt to pan. Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking onion until limp and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Taste bits of your dish to see if you have enough seasoning. Combine onion mixture, rice, eggs, thyme, half of your grated cheese and a half-tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl. Add a good amount of white pepper. Use the remaining half-tablespoon of olive oil to coat a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Spread half of rice mixture in bottom of dish. Arrange half of roasted zucchini on top. Spread remaining rice mixture over it. Arrange remaining zucchini on top, then the roasted red pepper slices. Sprinkle with remaining grated cheese and bake until set and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Adapted from http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/07/zucchini-rice-gratin/

Pumpkin Parfait

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½ cup plain, low fat yogurt
2/3 cup blueberries
½ cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
2 tsp. vanilla extract, separated
Optional: two teaspoons honey or molasses or ¼ dropper of liquid stevia, blended into the yogurt or pumpkin

Measure out your yogurt and pumpkin into separate containers. Blend them each with a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Alternate spoonfuls of yogurt, pumpkin, and blueberries in a wine glass or other clear glass. Serve immediately.

Fall is finally here! While the live oaks keep their color, the sweet gum trees and a few others have started to turn gorgeous. The wind is getting brisk…and I’ve been working on recipes like apple topping and mulled apple cider. Pumpkins are showing up in the supermarkets more frequently. You no longer get strange looks if you ask where the canned pumpkin is. I just had to make something pumpkin-y.

Pumpkin and parfaits were meant to be. The vanilla extract adds a sweetness and depth of flavor to both the yogurt and the pumpkin. Layered between lashings of blueberries, I found this sweet enough by itself. Feel free to add other flavors—cinnamon or cinnamon extract would be lovely, nutmeg, maybe even a hint of ginger or cardamom. If you enjoy grains, you could toast up some oats and sprinkle them on top. I would recommend eating such a creation quickly—the yogurt will get the oats soggy if you let it sit. As it stands, whether you use frozen or fresh blueberries, you can eat this immediately or prepare it the night before. Do expect a little purple effect if you use frozen blueberries overnight.

I like to serve mine in a wine glass, and you could very easily double the recipe.

Each serving has approximately 165 calories, 20 grams of sugar (mostly from the yogurt and blueberries), and 8 grams of protein.

Chamomile-Poached Tilapia with Roasted Red Peppers

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2 tilapia fillets
2 bags chamomile tea
2 bay leaves
fresh ginger
salt and white pepper to taste
roasted red peppers (optional)

Boil two cups of water. In a heat-safe container, pour the boiling water over the tea bags. Let the tea steep for five minutes. Press a spoon against the tea bags to get as much tea out as possible. Take approximately two inches of the fresh ginger and slice it thinly. Add the bay leaves to a 12-inch skillet. In the 12-inch skillet, bring the tea and ginger to a boil over high heat. Add fillets. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered 6 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
Remove the fillets from the liquid. Salt and pepper to taste; if desired, garnish with the roasted red peppers.

What’s anti-inflammatory, low oxalate, interstitial cystitis friendly, and delicious? I’ll just come out and say it: this recipe. The flavor of the fish is definitely mild, but it is moist and tender. You get the benefits of the fish AND the soothing power of chamomile, along with a hint of ginger.

Best of all, it’s a very quick cooking method, perfect for a midweek dinner. Bon appétit!

Super Salad

1.5 cups of romaine lettuce (or a blend of romaine and arugula)
½ ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1 handful alfalfa sprouts
3-4 ounces turkey or chicken breast, cut into chunks (ideally no salt added)
1 ounce crumbled feta
1 tablespoon sunflower or shelled pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon raisins
part of a roasted red pepper, cut into strips
2-3 ounces mushrooms
pinch of salt and white pepper (optional)

Prepare the vegetables; make sure everything is in bite-sized pieces, or whatever thickness you like. Take a big soup bowl and arrange the meat, feta, avocado, and mushrooms. Put the lettuce, sprouts, and red pepper on top of the mixture. Sprinkle the raisins and seeds over the salad; toss lightly.

This particular salad came about when I realized a local sandwich shop also made salads to order. I can make about two or three of these at home for the cost of one in the shop. Admittedly, the one in the shop is more convenient.

Now, let’s get into what to use to DRESS the salad. I have had perfectly lovely flavors (and no reactions) to plain old extra virgin olive oil. I also have used Bragg’s liquid amino acids. Both are very low oxalate; be warned, though, some IC patients can’t tolerate the saltiness that is the liquid soybeans. B_olthouse Farms also makes a somewhat fresh yogurt ranch dressing, but the jury is still out on whether that’s a good choice for me. I have also had this salad plain; the red pepper and sprouts gives it a nice moistness all by itself.

I REALLY like that the above ingredients are basically good to go once you rinse and cut a few things—I keep the separate ingredients in the fridge at work and assemble them at lunch time. I bet Mason jars would work a treat, too.

I like to think of salads as a grain-free sandwich. Just as you can doctor up your sandwich anyway, you could substitute any ingredients you want. To make it vegetarian, try using sliced up firm tofu or boil and roast lentils ahead of time (just remember, ½ cup of tofu or lentils is medium oxalate). Cut up cucumbers, grill some onions—whatever! What do you like on your salad?