KP Cooks

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks Was Easier Than I Thought

Ordinary ingredients, like ordinary cooks, can make extraordinary things.


I am a cook who generally stays in her lane — keeping with the old tried and true recipes that have held me in good stead for decades, continue to work well, and have become second nature to make. It hasn’t been necessary to alter to any significant degree how and what I cook, but rather to adapt to a little more variety and a little less quantity as the years have flown by. For this, I thank decent genes and some good luck.

Recently, a friend of ours had emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder, necessitating a 180-degree turn for him and his wife in what he can and should be eating, per his physician. They are a midwestern couple, used to throwback meat and potato meals, with a nice dessert at the end as a reward for a clean plate. Suddenly, meal planning took on a new life.

They learned because the gallbladder is an integral part of our digestive systems. Without it, things like fats and sugars should be consumed in much smaller quantities, if at all, to have a happy gut.

Because we see these friends frequently and were invited to their home for dinner a few weeks after he was discharged from the hospital, and because low-fat and low-sugar meals have generally not been part of my repertoire, I embarked on a search for an appropriate dessert I could contribute to the dinner, while respecting those necessary dietary changes.

While I’m not a dietician, these recipes fit the bill and we had an amazing evening celebrating his recovery.

Below are recipes for an appetizer, salad, main course and dessert, all perfect for a diet requiring these general restrictions.

A complete, tasty and easy-to-make meal that even this old dog loved.

Mango Salsa (bonus — it’s vegan!)
2 large ripe mangos, diced small
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
¼ large red onion, finely diced
1 medium jalapeño, seeds removed and finely diced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Pinch of salt
Juice of one lime

Place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and gently toss. Enjoy right away with tortilla chips or let it rest for half an hour so the ingredients can better get acquainted. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for five to six days.

Chopped Asian Salad with Creamy Peanut Dressing
4 cups shredded cabbage (red or green, or a combination of the two)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup celery, sliced thin
⅓ cup cilantro, minced
½ cup scallions, minced
½ cup roasted peanuts

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil 
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili paste (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
Warm water to thin (optional)

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, adding warm water a little at a time if you prefer a thinner consistency.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well to combine. Adjust seasonings if needed. Serves four.

Cashew Chicken
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil 
6 garlic cloves, minced
8 scallions, white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
¾ cup raw cashews, toasted
White or brown rice for serving

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the cornstarch until coated. Season with a little salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook half the chicken, tossing often, until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining olive oil and chicken to the skillet, along with the garlic and white parts of the scallions. Cook, tossing often until chicken is browned, 3 or 4 minutes. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan, add the vinegar and cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds.

Add the hoisin sauce and ¼ cup water, tossing until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Stir in the scallion greens and cashews. Serve immediately with white or brown rice. Serves four.

Dream Whip Dessert 

2 envelopes Dream Whip
2¾ cups cold skim milk, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 packages sugar-free/fat-free vanilla pudding mix

Beat two packages Dream Whip, 1 cup cold milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl for six minutes. Do not underbeat.

Add the remaining milk and dry pudding mixes, beating on low speed until blended. Then beat for two minutes at high speed, stopping occasionally to scrape the bottom and sides of bowl. Chill for four hours. 

Variations: Add toasted coconut, skipping the vanilla but adding coconut flavoring; chocolate pudding or banana-flavored pudding can also be substituted. This can also be the filling in a graham cracker crust for pie. Serves eight.