Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gluten-Free Pizza

I've posted before about my history with pizza, along with my recipe for a quick-and-dirty method for a pizza substitute. But now I'm here to tell you that I've finally tried out the real thing... and I LOVE it. I made my first GF pizza a couple of months ago, and I've made it once about every 2 weeks since then (which in my house means it has become a major staple). I've discovered that at least 2 of my girls can handle enough cow cheese to have them eat genuine pizza, and for my other daughter I just top it with goat or sheep cheese instead. She loves it and never knows any different. I told my husband she's going to be a cheese snob when she grows up.

But anyway... about the recipe. I've tried Bob's Red Mill pizza mix a couple of times now, and it was pretty good, but didn't make as much as the recipe I'm about to share. (Plus, though I haven't done the exact math, I'm sure it's probably more expensive to buy it in a mix... and you know I can't stand for that, right?!) I've tried a few different recipes besides that, and most of them turned out pretty well, but not necessarily great. This one is the best so far. Pretty sure I'm sticking with it for a good long while. It does have quite a few flours to mix together, but once you've built a gluten-free baking flour collection, these should pretty much all be in your cupboard, I think. These are all fairly inexpensive for gluten-free flours (around $4-6 each for a 1-2 lb. bag). You can substitute something else if you want, though... just make sure you substitute flours for flours and starches for starches.

Adapted from the recipe found here.


PIZZA CRUST

Ingredients:
¾ c. brown rice
¾ c. white rice
½ c. millet flour
½ c. sorghum flour
1 c. tapioca starch (or corn starch, but tapioca makes the dough lighter)
½ c. potato starch
¼ c. almond meal
1 tbs. xanthan gum
1½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar for proofing yeast
1 packet active dry yeast*
1 1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs
5 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbs. honey

Preferred equipment: Stand mixer**
Note: This recipe makes 2 large thick-crust pizzas, or 2½ large or 3 medium thin-crust pizzas. This recipe should be easily halved. (It was halved in the original version.)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 170° (for rising). Prepare pizza pans or baking sheets by greasing and lightly dusting with extra rice flour.

2. Add dry ingredients (not including yeast or sugar) to a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Using a whisk is helpful.

3. To proof the yeast: Add the yeast, sugar, and about ¼ c. of the warm water to small bowl. Mix and allow to sit for about 3-5 minutes, until it thickens slightly and gets a little fluffy.*

4. While the yeast is activating, mix together eggs, oil, vinegar, and honey in a small bowl.

5. Place the dry ingredients in the stand mixer. Make a well in the center, add the egg mixture, and mix a bit. Add yeast and mix.

6. (The following is straight from the original author.) “At this point, gage the liquid level. You want the dough to look like stiff cake batter. The dough should still hold the swirls of the mixer, but it should be shiny and not dull. Add the rest of the water slowly until the right consistency is achieved. ...since different brands of flour and measuring techniques vary, it is best to eyeball this and add the water slowly to get the texture you want. You will get good at knowing what gluten free pizza dough is supposed to look like.” Now from me: I probably added a bit too much water the first time I used this recipe... The dough was more “shiny,” but it did not hold the swirls of the mixer. The downside of this is that the dough may turn out a little more doughy and not as crispy (though this was not my experience the first time I tried it... I thought it turned out great!). The positive side is that it was MUCH easier to handle while I spread it out on my baking sheet. More on this in the next step...

7. Turn off the oven. Divide dough and scoop it out onto your pizza pans or baking sheets. Now is the part where the consistency of the dough will make a difference. If you made the dough with the “correct” amount of water, you will want to dampen your hands with water or olive oil in order to spread it out. This can be a little tricky as the dough will be very sticky. However, if you have slightly more damp dough, you can flatten the dough slightly (yeah, this will be messy at first), then sprinkle some rice flour over the dough before spreading. You will likely want to be pretty generous with your sprinkling... I used about ¼ c. of flour per crust. So you won't have to stick dirty, doughy hands into the flour, I recommend pouring ½ c. or so of flour into a cup so you can sprinkle on a little more as needed as you go along. This may all sound a little more complicated, but actually I found it much easier... Also, I prefer a little flour dusting on my crust vs. an oil brushing. You could always brush it with oil after spreading if you want anyway.

8. Once the dough is spread evenly over the pans, place in the warm oven to rise for about 30-40 minutes. The author of the original recipe claims it works without a rise time as well, and actually turned out crispier and fluffier for her. However, see my note below at the * mark.

9. Turn the oven up to 400° and pre-bake the crusts for about 10 minutes. (If you are making multiple crusts, you may want to switch racks halfway through to allow even baking.)

10. Remove from oven and add toppings as desired. (See pizza sauce recipe and topping suggestions below.) Place back in the oven and cook for about 7-12 more minutes, or until desired doneness of toppings.

*I tried using a special “pizza dough yeast” this last time, which claimed it did not require rising time. I wasn't super happy with the results... The dough didn't rise very well. I may have added a little too much liquid, or I may have needed another packet of yeast. I think next time I will try fixing one of these issues, or I may just give the dough time to rise. I also didn't activate the yeast first, so I may do this as well, though the packets claimed that they didn't need proofing. All I know is that it worked a lot better for me the first time when I used regular yeast, proofed it, and allowed the dough to rise. The crust was fluffy, a little crispy, and not too gummy or spongy. The crust with the pizza dough yeast bubbled up a little and was delectably crispy around the edges (I also made it thin-crust-style this time, so that may have help with that), but it was a little flat and more moist-looking in the middle. Considering it was so thin, it didn't matter too much, but I wouldn't make it this way again with a thicker crust. Also, I may not have cooked it quite long enough or hot enough this last time, so my directions above reflect the changes I would have made to rectify this.

**If you don't have a stand mixer, it is still possible to make this dough, but it is a good deal more difficult. The dough likes to climb up the beaters and makes it very difficult to mix, but with a little patience, it can be done. You may want to make a half recipe instead, though.


PIZZA SAUCE

Ingredients:
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
½ c. ketchup
¾ c. water
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. oregano
¾ tsp. salt (or less if there is already salt in the tomato paste)

Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix thoroughly. (This may look like too much water at first, but trust me... it will work.)

Makes enough sauce to cover as much pizza as the above recipe will make. It will be a little thin if you make the thin-crust pizza, so you may want to add another half a recipe if you like a lot of sauce. I thought it was a fine amount, though.

Topping Suggestions (in case you haven't made pizza before or haven't done it in a long time like me):
* One 16-oz. block of mozzarella cheese will cover two large pizzas pretty generously.
* Half a small bag of pepperoni will cover one large pizza generously, or two pizzas moderately. Since not everyone likes pepperoni around here, I actually split my bags into thirds and froze the portions I wasn't using (since we never eat it except on pizza). Apparently my kids like pepperoni more than I thought, though, so next time I'll probably do it in halves.
* Half a medium onion, one smallish green pepper, and about 4 oz. of mushrooms (5-6 medium) makes a perfect amount to cover one pizza (in my book anyway). I'm not a big fan of olives, but you can always add those, too, plus the pepperoni to make one smashing premium pizza.
* A sprinkling of fresh basil leaves is awesome, too, if you happen to have a basil plant in the back yard.

And though you will obviously pay more for a homemade gluten-free pizza than if you were making it with gluten, you probably will still pay less than if you were ordering out. And anyway, homemade pizza beats Domino's any day. :-)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cornbread Muffins

Fall is on the way, complete with the cooler weather that calls for warm, comforting meals like chili... Which reminds me, I need to post another of my favorite chili recipes...

But anyway, the natural companion for chili and other warm meals is of course... cornbread. Who doesn't love munching on that crumbly goodness, normally slathered in some butter and honey (often mixed together as "honey butter" in my house)?

Of course, when you are gluten-free and you have been used to making cornbread from mixes, you quickly realize that just because it has cornmeal as a main ingredient doesn't mean it is gluten-free. Not to worry... plain old brown rice flour is a pretty good substitute for wheat flour in pretty much any recipe. But as I learned last night, you can make superior cornbread if you use just a few extra ingredients (including some tapioca starch that I finally found and tried out!) to bump up the quality of the flour substitution.

I've made cornbread GF style many times, but this time was definitely the best. It didn't crumble and fall all to pieces when you tried to put butter on it. Heck, I think it held together even better than my old homemade cornbread with gluten normally did. Plus I made it in muffins, so it came in a convenient little package that I didn't even have to cut! Definitely doing that again in the future.


Recipe adapted from this one from Allrecipes.com.

CORNBREAD MUFFINS

Ingredients:
1 c. buttermilk*
½ c. butter
½ c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 c. cornmeal
1/3 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. tapioca starch (corn or potato starch will work, but tapioca is finer)
1/3 c. sorghum flour
½ tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt


*Can be made using milk or milk substitute plus 1-2 tsp. of white vinegar or lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes before adding to batter.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease muffin tin (or 8-in square pan). If not using true buttermilk, prep using milk and vinegar or lemon juice (as described above).
2. Melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Allow to cool a bit.
3. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. (Using a whisk is helpful.)
4. Whisk eggs into butter and sugar. Add this mixture and buttermilk to dry ingredients and mix well.
5. Pour into prepared tin (or pan). Bake for 20 minutes for muffins (or about 30-40 min. for bread, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). I recommend turning the tin or pan about halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly as mine does!

These are pretty tasty by themselves (especially while fresh and warm), but I couldn't resist adding butter and honey on mine. Mmm...!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fried White Fish with Quinoa

I surprised myself about a week ago with a new recipe that turned out more nicely than I could have hoped. I've thought about holding off posting this recipe until the next time I make it, but since it's about time I posted a new recipe, and since I probably won't be making this again for at least a couple of weeks (I forgot a few of the ingredients at the store this week and I'll be out of town next week), I figured I might as well put it up. I am sure to make it soon after I get back, though, because I have been craving it ever since I finished it off! I'll add a picture to this post at that point. (Updated 9/17/11 with picture!)

It was one of those nights when I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner until I meandered into the kitchen about an hour before dinnertime to check out what ingredients I had handy. (I am usually more of a planner than this, but these days happen to the best of us, right?) So, I had some white fish in the freezer... some mushrooms... some capers left over from another recipe... some quinoa in the pantry, and other random products that I usually have hanging around the kitchen. I peaked at Allrecipes.com for some inspiration, and saw something about fish with capers and tomatoes. All I had was diced tomatoes... Could all those ingredients come together somehow? I donned my "Chopped" thinking cap, and the recipe below was born. I honestly couldn't believe how well the flavors combined and how much I liked it. If you try it, let me know what you think! (And put me in my place if you disagree with my taste buds... but I am practically drooling right now thinking about this.)


FRIED WHITE FISH WITH QUINOA

Ingredients:
1 ½ lbs. white fish (I used 3 skai fillets)
3/8 c. brown rice flour
3/8 c. powdered Parmesan cheese*
¼ tsp. pepper
1 ½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ c. milk (or milk substitute)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 egg
vegetable oil (enough for frying)

1 c. quinoa
1 ½ c. chicken broth**
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes
¼ c. capers, drained

2 c. chopped mushrooms
1 c. chopped onions
½ tbs. butter or oil

Directions:
1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa, broth, tomatoes, and capers. Bring to a boil, lower heat; cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. (If this sits for a while or even completely cools, it should still taste fine. I actually preferred it that way.)
2. While quinoa is cooking, combine milk, egg, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Then on a large plate or in a large bowl, combine flour, cheese, pepper, and thyme. If fish is soggy (as it will be if frozen and defrosted), pat dry with a paper towel. Dip the fish in the liquid mixture, then coat with the flour and cheese mixture.
3. In a large saucepan, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan by about a quarter or half an inch. Fry fish until the breading is golden brown, and fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. (Cook time will vary depending on type and thickness of fish, but should be around 3-5 minutes per side.)
4. In a separate pan, saute mushrooms and onions in ½ tbs. butter or oil until crisp-tender (about 3 minutes).
5. Plate by placing a serving of quinoa down, then a portion of fish, then topping with mushrooms and onions. Enjoy!

*Sorry... While this recipe is low on dairy, it is not totally dairy-free. The cheese definitely adds a lot to this dish in my opinion, but if you can't have it, I would try using about this much more rice flour, cornmeal, or some other grain flour, and adding ½ to 1 tsp. salt.
**This is the main reason I didn't post this recipe right away... I think the liquid here needed adjustment. I used 2 cups of broth, and it was a bit too watery. If you want a more accurate measurement, I would drain the juice from the diced tomatoes into a measuring cup, add it to the pot, and then reduce the 2 cups of broth by that amount. (I'm estimating the tomato liquid would be about ½ a cup, hence my 1 ½ cups of broth recommendation above.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spicy Fajita-Style Chicken Rub

I often find myself wanting to make chicken fajitas, but I rarely think far enough ahead to actually marinate the meat. Gotta wait till next time, right? Wrong! This rub will have the chicken ready to cook within about 10 minutes. And I actually surprised myself with how good it tasted. Even my picky 2 and 4-year-olds gobbled this up and asked for seconds! I should have thought to take a picture beforehand, because we ate it all up last night... no leftovers. Oops!

(Edited 9/12/11 to include picture):


SPICY FAJITA-STYLE CHICKEN RUB

Ingredients:
1 ½ tsp. rubbed sage
1 ½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. oregano
½ tsp. thyme
1 ½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper*
2 lbs. chicken breasts
2 tbs. vegetable oil

Directions:
Pound chicken to even thickness, about ½ to ¾ inch. Rub both sides of each piece of chicken with spice rub. Heat oil in a large skillet and pan fry chicken over medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. After removing from pan, let sit for at least 15 minutes to seal in the juices. Cut into slices for fajitas or just good ol' chicken strips.

* This was enough pepper for my kids and me (who don't like things terribly spicy), but it could use a little extra pepper or some cayenne if you like a lot of spice. The chili powder and paprika do add a little kick, though. And my husband, who adds Tabasco sauce to pretty much everything, didn't seem to think it necessary to add anything extra. :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Waikiki Meatballs

I tried this recipe a couple years ago when I found it in my good ol' Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and it was an instant hit. (Here is a copy of the original recipe on Allrecipes.) I obviously had to alter it to make it gluten-free, but I changed a few other things as well. The main thing I changed was the sauce -- I like a little more sauce than the original included, so I make about a half recipe extra. I also reduced the sugar, because the original was much too sweet for me, especially considering it already has big chunks of pineapple in it that are plenty sweet. Finally, I added the zucchini because it seemed to be sadly lacking in veggies. A bit more zucchini than what I added wouldn't hurt, actually!

[Picture coming soon]

WAIKIKI MEATBALLS

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. ground beef
2/3 c. crushed GF cracker crumbs*
1/3 c. minced onion
1 egg
1/4 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbs. cornstarch
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. white vinegar
2 tbs. water
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 (20-oz.) can pineapple chunks -- drained, juice reserved
1 tbs. olive oil
1/3 c. chopped green bell pepper
1 c. chopped zucchini

4-6 servings cooked brown rice

Directions:
1. Combine beef, cracker crumbs, onion, egg, milk, ginger, and salt. Mix thoroughly and shape into meatballs. Place on a broiler pan and cook at 350º for 20-25 min. (May be somewhat pink inside after 20 mins, should be cooked through at 25 mins.)
2. While meatballs are cooking, saute pepper and zucchini in oil in a large frying pan. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, brown sugar, vinegar, water, soy sauce, and reserved pineapple juice. Stir until smooth. Pour into same pan as used for veggies. Cook, stirring consistently (a whisk would be good), until mixture thickens and boils (about 5 min for a cool pan, but if pan is still warm from veggies, this will only take 1-2 mins). Stir in meatballs, pineapple, and veggies. Warm over medium heat until everything is heated through. Serve over rice.

*I normally use Trader Joe's "Savory Thins" (rice crackers). Other options: GF bread crumbs (may want to add about 1/2 tsp. extra salt), or GF ginger snaps. If using ginger snaps, reduce or omit ginger, depending on how gingery the cookies are. I used Trader Joe's GF ginger snaps, which have a very strong ginger flavor, and was able to omit the ginger altogether.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

I don't think that most spaghetti sauces include gluten, but hey... some of us are just picky enough to make our own. Orrrr... we forget it at the store and decide to make something up on the fly. Take your pick.

My favorite spaghetti sauces are the ones that include a bunch of chunky vegetables. Unfortunately, my children do not share in that preference. In fact, if I give them spaghetti sauce with bits of onion and pepper in it in particular, they will either refuse to eat it, or they will pick all of the veggies out before consuming. I'm not sure where these children came from, because they don't take after me OR my husband in this respect. I'm hoping they will grow out of it.

But in the meantime, I was left with this predicament as I pondered my homemade spaghetti sauce. Do I leave the veggies out and lose my desired flavor, or do I leave them in and have a battle at the dinner table over uneaten food? Solution: include the veggies, then pour the whole thing into the blender or food processor before adding to the girls' pasta. I know you are probably all thinking "Duh!", but I was pretty proud of that idea. Worked like a charm, too! Not a peep of complaint over unwanted veggies in the sauce. And it was still pretty darn good, too. (I left a bit of the chunky stuff out for myself, and I thought the kids' version might have actually been better.)

Anyways... on to the recipe...

HOMEMADE SPAGHETTI SAUCE

Ingredients:
* 1 tbs. olive oil
* 3 large cloves garlic
* veggies as desired (I used 1/2 a large green pepper and 1 small onion, both diced. Other ideas could include chopped mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, or whatever you like)
* 1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
* 1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes
* 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
* 1-2 tbs. of fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried basil
* 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
* 1-2 tsp. salt
* 2 tbs. wine or vinegar (whatever kind you prefer -- I used white vinegar because other vinegars and wines have been bothering me lately for some unknown reason)*
* 1/4 c. apple or white grape juice

Directions:
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Saute garlic and veggies until tender. Add tomato products, seasonings, and liquids. Stir well. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer about 30 minutes for best flavor. Puree in a blender or food processor if desired.

* I probably would normally have added wine but for the reason above. Also, my husband is a huge fan of vinegar, so he enjoys the extra little tangy zip. This is a slightly more tangy spaghetti sauce rather than much of a mellow or sweet sauce, but we certainly enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Taco Scramble

Ever wanted a taco, but didn't want to bother with the hassle of eating it out of a crunchy (falling apart) taco shell or a soft corn (falling apart) tortilla? Or perhaps, like me, you don't like to bother with getting all the different veggies and fixings out so that everyone can build their own custom taco, which only results in more mess to clean up and more leftovers (that will probably never get eaten) because you weren't sure how much to put out.

Meet the one-stop taco. My family first came up with the idea for this dish while we were in the Virgin Islands, so we called it "Virgin Gorda beef." But since no one would understand what that is, I'm calling it "taco scramble." Basically, it's most of the stuff you'd want in a taco, without the shell, in an easy-to-clean-up mixture.

Observe:

This is a tasty, filling meal that is made even more desirable to me because I don't have to put it away leftovers in 10 separate little baggies... Just scoop and dump it into one container! (Minus the container for lettuce or rice, anyway.)

TACO SCRAMBLE

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
3 large stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 a large green pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup water
1 packet or about 2 tbs. taco seasoning
1 tsp. oregano
1 (15-oz.) can beans (black, pinto, kidney... whatever suits your fancy)
1 cup frozen corn (optional)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
lettuce and/or rice as desired
shredded cheese (optional)

Directions:
1. Begin browning beef in a large frying pan. Add onion, celery, and pepper and cook until beef is browned and veggies are almost tender. Drain beef fat.
2. Add water and seasonings and bring to a boil. Lower heat. Add beans and (if desired) corn. (To be honest, I definitely would have added corn, but I didn't think about it until after I made the meal and took the picture above. Doh!) Simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is mostly absorbed and beans and corn are heated.
3. Remove from heat. Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Serve as is, or over lettuce or rice (or with added lettuce over rice... whatever). Top with cheese if desired.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fresh Salsa

Okay, so I was a little "take it or leave it" with that last recipe, but THIS one, I can promise you, will not disappoint. This is from my sister Katie who married a man from Texas under the condition that she would learn how to cook good Mexican food, and she definitely delivered on that promise. I'm not positive where she got the recipe or whether she made it up, but wherever it came from originally, it is daaaang good. When we have a family gathering in the warmer months, this salsa almost always makes an appearance, and it usually DISappears within about 10 minutes of being out on the snack table. Katie usually has to make one batch for snacking before the meal and another batch for the meal itself, because the first batch won't last till then. I made it myself for the first time last week, and until then I had not realized how easy it was! I will definitely be skipping the store-bought stuff from now on when I want a chip dip. Normally, the store-bought stuff gets used once and then goes bad in the fridge, but I finished this off by myself within a few days. And uhh... I guess I ate it up so fast I forgot to take a picture. Whoops. I'll get back to you on that.

FRESH SALSA

Ingredients:
1 large can whole tomatoes (29 oz.)
1/2 sweet onion
5-8 garlic cloves
1/2 to 1 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed
1/2 to 1 (depending on size) bunch cilantro
1 tsp. salt or to taste

Directions:
Rough chop all ingredients and then purée in a blender or food processor until fairly smooth. (You will probably want to go ahead and mince the jalapeño fairly fine, especially if you are using a food processor, just to make sure you don't leave any large chunks.)

That's it!!!

Just a couple of additional tips on handling jalapeños if you have not done it before: do handle them with care. They are kind of deceptive little dudes that make you think you are just chopping a small green pepper until 20 minutes after you're done chopping them and your fingers are on fire. Gloves are really recommended when chopping jalapeños, but if you don't have any, make sure you wash your hands immediately and thoroughly after handling them, and while you still have the juice on your hands, be VERY careful not to do anything like rubbing your eyes or touching someone else. And just in case you are very unfamiliar with jalapeños, the seeds and the little whitish ribs on the inside are the hottest parts, so be sure to remove them if you don't want a whole lot of heat.

And there you have it!

Tuna Noodle Casserole

One of the first things I learned how to cook was my family's version of tuna noodle casserole. Since I started this blog, I've tried several times to tweak or re-invent the formula my family used, yet I keep coming back to making it the same old way. I think it's the tanginess of the relish and mayo... I kept trying to make it more savory, but I missed the tang. It's very simple, nothing that's going to wow anyone -- basically just tuna salad over pasta -- but to me it's a "comfort food." Plus it's super easy. And considering I have three kids 4 and under, easy is always good.

The one major deviation that I have taken from the family's traditional recipe is that I leave out the cheese. Back in the old days, the cheese was pretty much the centerpiece of this dish. It was almost more like a glorified mac 'n' cheese that happened to have some tuna thrown in. Since I went off dairy for my nursing babies' sakes, I had a hard time enjoying this meal for a while. Now after a few years off dairy, I believe I've gotten the formula down to where I usually enjoy it just fine without the cheese, but I will admit I do enjoy an occasional sprinkle of parmesan on top. So, below I've included the basic recipe and some additions that I like to toss in to make it more interesting.

And just FYI, this is pictured in a bowl, but it probably really belongs on a plate. But I mix up the tuna in the bowl, and I figure since it's already dirty I might as well eat out of it and save a plate.


TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE

Ingredients:
1 lb. package gluten-free pasta*
3 cans tuna
1/4 c. mayonnaise (or to taste)**
1/4 c. relish (or to taste)
A few tbs. milk or rice milk (optional)
Additional veggies (optional, see step 4)
Approx. 1 cup shredded cheese (optional) OR Parmesan cheese to taste

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Remember to salt water generously and rinse pasta with cold water after cooking. (This will stop the cooking to keep the pasta from becoming mushy as rice pasta tends to do, and it will rinse off the slimy residue often left by the ricey pasta water.)

2. While pasta is cooking, mix tuna with mayo and relish in a smallish bowl as you would a tuna salad.

3. When pasta is finished, return it to the pot. Add tuna and toss. (Using a fork will help break up the tuna and mix it in more evenly.) If you would prefer this meal cold, and if you added more mayo than suggested so that it helps moisten the noodles, feel free to enjoy as is. Otherwise, I usually add a few splashes of milk and heat until the moisture is absorbed and the noodles are reheated.

4. If you are not limited by dairy allergies (or the calorific implications of added cheese), I will say I always thought it was quite tasty with some cheese added on top. You may add it to your individual dishes if you like your cheese more firm, but I always liked mine totally melted, so I would add it in with the milk when I reheated the noodles. To be honest, I've been off dairy so long now that too much cheese kinda grosses me out, so topping it off with a little parmesan works just fine for me. I also sometimes like to add in a cup or two of cooked peas, and/or some diced and sauteed veggies. (I usually have just done onions, but things like peppers, celery, and mushrooms would do nicely. Ooo... mushrooms... I need to try that!) My girls are not huge fans of added veggies, though, so most of the time I just make it without any of the additions above.

*I've used many different types of rice pasta -- spaghetti, macaroni, penne, rotini... They all work.

**Use however much you'd normally mix with 3 cans of tuna. This is one of those recipes where I never measure anything. For me, it usually ends up being 2-3 heavy scoops with a tablespoon. Same goes for the relish.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

As Lesson in Shelf Life of Gluten-free Products

So you know how most homemade products with gluten in them can last on the counter for about a week or so and still taste fine? Yeah... it doesn't work that way with gluten-free. Why yes, I did learn this the hard way.

An unusual thing occurred this last weekend when a single blueberry muffin lasted in a container on my counter for about 3-4 days. And by "lasted," I mean it was not eaten that day or the next day, which is what almost always happens.

I believe I made the muffins on Friday morning. So come Monday morning, I was looking for something to have for breakfast. I was thinking about making another batch of muffins, but I figured I might as well eat up that last muffin first. It looked okay (though I probably should have taken it as a bad sign that there were a few fruit flies hanging around it), so I took a bite.

It is difficult to describe to you how NASTY spoiled food tastes, other than to say it was the second most disgusting thing I have ever tasted in my life. The first most disgusting came from a very similar situation, where I tried a bite of gluten-free cornbread that had been sitting out on my parents' counter (though covered) for about 4-5 days. Cornbread lasts at least about that long, right? Haha... WRONG. Not gluten-free cornbread, anyway. I felt bad for practically spewing it back out and immediately rinsing out my mouth right in front of my mom (who had just told me the bread should be fine), but folks... it was NASTY!!!! Rancid would be a better word. Given another 24 hours, that muffin probably would have equaled if not surpassed the cornbread in nastiness.

So the moral of this story is: if you will eat your homemade gluten-free goods within about 24 hours, you're fine. Maybe 36... I'm pretty sure I've eaten some things the following night after I made something one morning. But any longer than that, PLEASE do yourself a favor and refrigerate it!!! I hear it should last about 4-5 days in the fridge. I kept a coffee cake in the fridge for a week, and it was okay (though a bit dry), but since muffins are a bit more moist, I wouldn't advise keeping them that long.

Just eat your muffins up, kids.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Four-Bean Taco Chili

I can't believe it's been nearly 3 weeks since I last posted. Oops.

I also can't believe I haven't posted this recipe yet. It has been one of my favorites for several years, and was the only chili recipe I used until I discovered the turkey chili that I posted a while back. As you may have noticed with that recipe, I believe that chili should contain beans. But it should also contain a good portion of meat. This chili does both just right. It does not have the nice variety of vegetables that the other one contains, but it is still delicious and hearty. And I LOVE how quickly it comes together (around 20 minutes from start to finish). I often like to serve it mixed with brown rice, but it tastes great alone, too!


FOUR-BEAN TACO CHILI

Ingredients:
2 lbs. ground beef
3 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
2 c. water
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (8 oz.) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles (optional)
2 tsp. each cumin, chili powder, and salt

Directions:
In a large pot, brown and drain beef. Combine all ingredients in pot. Boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 min.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pizza Toast

I have often felt that my kids have somehow been missing out on a part of life because they have never eaten pizza. Growing up, my parents would get pizza for lunch almost every Sunday, so pizza and childhood seem to some degree intertwined for me. (Not to mention the fact that, as a teenager, I would eat frozen pizza several times a week for lunch as well. *cringe* I seriously can't believe how bad my diet was back then...)

Anyway, I was pushing my 2-year-old on the swing today and asking her what she would like for lunch. Jelly sandwich (on gluten-free bread)? No. Lunch meat snack plate? No. (Those were the only two readily available choices, so I started getting silly.) Pickles? No. Salami? No. Pizza? Yes! Hmm... well... ???

The real problem with giving my girls pizza, however, is not the dough -- I can make a gluten-free crust if I need to. The real problem is the cheese. Everyone in our family except for me has issues with dairy, and since I am still nursing my youngest, I stay mostly away from it for her sake. Fortunately, though, none of us are extremely allergic or sensitive, so I do occasionally let my girls have a little bit of something with diary -- like a handful of normal chocolate chips or M&M's. I think perhaps theirs is more of a lactose intolerance.

With this in mind, I remembered that I had some Kashkaval sheep cheese in the freezer. I don't know much about it, but it is semi-hard and tastes tangy and somewhat sweet, similar to cheddar. And -- who am I kidding? -- the only reason I bought it was because it was made from sheep instead of cows, so it has less lactose. So I figured I'd try some on a little "pizza." And remarkably, it worked even better than I'd hoped. It had seemed a little strong when I'd tried it on other things before, but against the tomatoey sauce, it balanced quite nicely. Mmm... I want more...

So anyway, if you can have dairy, you are one of the lucky ones. If you can have just a little dairy, or some form of non-cow dairy, you are in luck with this recipe. If you can't have dairy at all, I am so sorry... you'll have to have yours without cheese. (Unless you can stand soy "cheese"... ick.)

PIZZA TOAST

Ingredients:
4 thin slices gluten-free bread (I used fresh-baked Pamela's)
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/4 c. ketchup
1 c. Kashkaval sheep cheese (approx.)
garlic powder
Italian seasoning
ham, fresh veggies, or other toppings (optional)

Directions:
Lay bread on a cookie sheet. (I may toast it first next time.) Mix ketchup and tomato paste; distribute between the pieces of bread and coat evenly. Sprinkle each piece of bread with a light dusting of garlic powder; repeat with Italian seasoning. Add cheese and toppings. Set on middle-to-low rack of over and broil on high (500º) for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and toppings begin to look toasted.

Note: I only used ham for topping this time, but if I use fresh veggies next time, I will likely sautee them for a couple minutes so as not to let them stay too raw for my taste.

So to conclude my story, my girls tasted "pizza" for the first time today. My 2-year-old liked it pretty well, and my almost-4-year-old claimed she liked it, but only picked the topping off a few pieces. Sad to say, even in the case of one of my favorite childhood dishes, their will is usually fixed against liking (or sometimes even trying) anything new. :-p

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lentil Soup

I tend to make a lot of meals based around meat. Since my husband is trying to reduce his meat consumption, however, I have started to try to make more meatless meals. Fortunately, I already had this recipe in my back pocket. It is a snap to put together, and I always forget how delicious it is until I taste it again. Simple, but satisfying. It also makes a great freezer meal.

And just FYI, the portion in the bowl below may look a little small (at least compared to some of the other portions I've pictured), this was actually my second bowl of it last night... I forgot to take a picture of the first.


LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients:
1 cup lentils
6 cups water or broth*
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped celery (I often use a little extra)
1/2 c. chopped carrots (ditto)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 diced tomatoes or one (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
salt & pepper to taste*

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Let simmer, covered, for one hour or until lentils are soft.

*I normally use half water, half broth, and add 1 tsp. salt. Pepper is easier to do "to taste," I think, and less of a problem if you guess wrong. :-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chicken Veggie Pasta

I have tried this dish a few different times, and I think I have finally hit upon a formula with which I am pleased. Of course, my children refused to touch it (as they do with most new dishes), but 2-and-3-year-olds are not the easiest to please. *I* liked it anyway. I guess my husband will be the judge when he gets home to eat the leftovers... And you can let me know how you like (or dislike) it if you happen to try it. ;-)

**Update: My husband gave it an "I would definitely eat this again." He is not picky, but this about as effusive as it gets from him. ;-)


CHICKEN VEGGIE PASTA

Ingredients:
1 16-oz. bag rice pasta (I used rotini)*
1 recipe Creamy Soup (cream of chicken variation)
1 cup frozen peas, cooked
2-3 cups fresh or frozen broccoli
4-5 medium carrots, chopped

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package directions, remembering to salt the water generously. Rinse pasta with cold water.
2. In separate pots, boil or steam broccoli and carrots until tender but not mushy.
3. Make Creamy Soup, cream of chicken variation, using 2 cups of chopped cooked chicken. Add peas to soup.
4. Place pasta in a large bowl or casserole dish. Add soup mixture and stir to combine. Add veggies and mix well. If you do not have dairy allergies, a bit of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese sprinkled on top of this dish would do nicely.

Makes 6 servings.

*Note: If you are a non-gluten-free eater using recipes from this blog, you may want to reduce the amount of pasta used in this recipe. Pasta with gluten seems to swell a lot more than rice pasta, hence yielding more of the cooked product. I would use maybe 2/3 to 3/4 of a 1 lb. bag, or enough pasta to make about 6 servings.

Creamy Soup

Recipes will often use a cream-of-whatever soup as a base, which can be problematic for the gluten-free and/or dairy-free eater. After trying a couple store-bought soups and a few of my own recipes, I finally stumbled upon one that I love -- where else? -- in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, as part of their "Deep Dish Chicken Pie" recipe. Of course, I had to alter a few ingredients, but I have successfully used this super-simple base in several dishes so far, and I like it better than anything else I've tried.

CREAMY SOUP

Ingredients:
2 tbs. butter
1 c. mushrooms (optional)
1/2 to 1 small onion (optional)
1/2 to 1 c. celery (optional)
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk or milk substitute (I've used rice and soy milk successfully)
1/3 c. rice flour
1 tsp. spice mix of choice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, melt butter and saute veggies until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add flour, spice, salt, and pepper; stir till well mixed. Add broth and milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, about 1-3 minutes.

Variations:
* For cream of mushroom soup, use 1 c. mushrooms, up to 1 small onion, and 1/2 c. celery for veggies, and 1/2 tsp. thyme + 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning for spices.
* For cream of chicken soup, use up to 1 small onion and 3/4 c. celery for veggies, and 3/4 tsp. sage + 1/4 tsp. thyme or marjoram for spices. Add 1 to 2 cups chopped cooked chicken to finished soup and heat through.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mexican Skillet Rice

Pardon my absence... It has been a busy week or two with an anniversary, relatives coming into town, and then traveling out of town with the family for a last-minute 5-day vacation. *ahem* Anyway...

I tried this recipe out of Taste of Home magazine a couple weeks ago, and it was quite delicious! I will definitely be making it again.


MEXICAN SKILLET RICE

Ingredients:
1 egg, beaten (optional)
1 lb. chicken breasts or tenderloins, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked rice (jasmine or long grain suggested, I used brown)
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 c. frozen corn, cooked*
1 jar (7 oz.) roasted sweet red peppers, drained and sliced
1 jar (8 oz.) taco sauce**
2 green onions, chopped (optional... I left these out)
1/4 c. minced fresh cilantro

Directions:
1. (If omitting the egg, skip to step 2. I used it, but it really didn't add much... I'll probably omit it next time.) In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir egg over medium-high heat until set. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same skillet, stir-fry chicken and onion in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the rice, beans, corn, peppers, taco sauce, and green onions; heat through. Stir in the reserved egg. Sprinkle the rice with cilantro.

Serves 6.

* Original recipe calls for 1 can (11 oz.) Mexicorn, drained. I already had the frozen corn on hand, so I used that instead, and I doubt it made any difference.
** I found a basic brand with no gluten ingredients listed. I can't guarantee that every brand will be gluten-free, but I doubt there would be a problem with a product like this as long as no gluten ingredients are listed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Adapted from a recipe in Gluten-free Girl and the Chef.

APPLE CINNAMON MUFFINS

Ingredients:
1/2 c. starch* (I used half cornstarch and half potato starch)
1/3 c. rice flour** (I used half brown, half white)
1/2 c. other gluten-free flour(s)*** (I used half soy and half millet)
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum (could probably get away with 1/2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. guar gum
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tbs. oil
3/4 c. applesauce
3/4 - 1 c. peeled, diced crisp apple
1-2 tbs. water, milk, or extra applesauce (if necessary to moisten batter)

Directions:
1. Mix flours and gums. Sift. Add remaining dry ingredients and stir.
2. Mix wet ingredients in a seperate bowl. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add, mixing until just combined, adding extra moistening ingredients if necessary. Stir in apples.
3. Fill muffin tins about 1/2 full. Cook at 325º for about 30 minutes, or until muffin tops begin to turn golden brown.

* Original recipe calls for tapioca starch.
** Original recipe calls for sweet rice flour.
*** Original recipe calls for half almond flour and half teff flour.

Verdict: I did not like these quite as well as Pamela's, but they were still very good. A different combination of flours would likely yield a different taste. The second time around, I used part flavored applesauce (wild berry flavor), and they were even more tasty!

Gluten-Free Baking from Scratch

To be honest with you, I have used gluten-free mixes in almost every single thing I have baked so far. Yesterday, I made my first true foray into making something completely from scratch (apple cinnamon muffins). To celebrate the occasion, I thought I would share pretty much the extent of my very limited knowledge on baking gluten-free from scratch.

And now I will immediately cop out and quote from Gluten-free Girl and the Chef, which has been my chief source up to this point:

"The main difference between gluten-free baking and the more traditional kind is that you must combine flours to bake gluten-free. [...F]or the most part, you will need at least three flours. One of the three should be a whole-grain, a solid base: sorghum flour, brown rice flour, garfava flour. The next should be a starch, to lighten up the mixture, since gluten-free baked goods tend to be dense: potato starch, tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour), cornstarch, or arrowroot powder. The third flour should have a particular personality you want to add to your baked goods."

So for the sake of my list-making mind, let's review...

Bases: brown rice flour, garfava flour, sorghum flour.
Starches: cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot powder.
Other flours: almond, amaranth, arrowroot, coconut, mesquite, millet, oat (make sure it's gluten-free), quinoa, sorghum, soy, sweet (or glutinous) rice flour, teff, white rice flour.

Just FYI, contrary to the sound of the name, "glutinous" rice flour has nothing to do with gluten, but rather glue, because of its stickiness.

And another note, I'm not sure the particular base flours above are a hard-and-fast rule. The original muffin recipe didn't include any of these.

The following are notes about the particular flours from the book:
"Amaranth flour has a soft texture and slight malt flavor. We like it in cookies and cinnamon rolls.:
"Almond flour adds protein and a bit of fat for flavor."
"Coconut flour adds taste to baked goods, but it sucks up all the moisture around it, so you have to play with the amount of liquids in your treats."
"Millet flour makes a great crumb."
"Quinoa flour is savory and great in quiches."
"Teff flour is the finest-textured flour in the world, so during baking it almost melts, which helps to bind together muffins and quick breads."

These particular authors tend to use a lot of almond and teff flours, which sound great, but they are a fair bit more expensive than other flours, so I haven't tried them yet. (Well, except for the almond flour that I bought about 2 years ago, used a few times in random cooking experiments, and then let the rest go bad. Bummer.)

If you want a gluten-free all-purpose mix, these authors suggest mixing equal parts sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and sweet rice flour. Another favorite of theirs: 40% brown rice flour and sorghum flour, 60% potato starch, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, and cornstarch.

A couple more important ingredients in gluten-free baking are xanthan gum and guar gum. These are both used as -- what else? -- a gum-like substance in baking, to help bind the flours together and keep your baked goods from falling apart. They are expensive, especially xanthan gum, but fortunately you only need a tiny bit per recipe. I have not personally had experience with trying to bake without them, but I have heard that it will generally end up as a crumby mess.

How much? Some guidelines from About.com:
* Bread and pizza dough recipes: Add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum per cup of gluten-free flour used in bread and pizza dough recipes.
* Cake, muffin and quick bread recipes: Add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup of gluten-free flour used.
* Cookie and bar recipes: Add 1/2 teaspoon (or less) xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup gluten-free flour used.

In most recipes, I have almost always seen both xanthan and guar gum together, with 2-4 times more xanthan gum than guar gum.

Note: Xanthan gum is corn-based, so if you have corn allergies, you may need to avoid it.

Annnnd... that's about all I know. I'll keep you updated on my favorite flours and baking adventures.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

This recipe was handed down from my sisters... I'm not sure where it came from originally. I've altered it just slightly, mainly by using mixed veggies instead of green beans to add a wider variety of flavor. This is definitely a favorite of my husband's and mine. My kids are picky about pretty much everything but hot dogs and ham these days, but even they eat this fairly well. Besides tasting good, I love it because it includes so many veggies that I don't have to prepare any on the side!

SHEPHERD'S PIE

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef*
1 med. chopped onion
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
¼ tsp. pepper
salt to taste (I use about 1 tsp.)
½ tsp. each basil, oregano, and thyme
¼ c. water
mashed potatoes** (using about 5-6 medium potatoes)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. In a skillet, cook beef and onion until onion is tender and beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat, drain fat, and place in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.
3. In a separate pot, cook mixed veggies. Drain and add to beef mixture. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper, salt, spices, and water.
4. Drop mashed potatoes in mounds on top. Smooth mounds if desired.
5. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for about 30-35 min. or until veggie / meat mixture is hot and bubbly. Optional: if potatoes are not yet turning slightly golden-brown on top, place under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until desired level of browning is achieved.

Alternate cooking instructions: The above is the way I have always made this dish. But I just now noticed that my recipe has different directions... hah! Following these directions, you add everything except the mashed potatoes into the pan where the beef was cooked and bring them to a boil. Then transfer into the casserole dish and continue with step 4. This will decrease baking time to about 20-25 minutes. I will probably try this next time I make it and alter this recipe accordingly if it works better.

* Also works well with turkey. If using turkey, add ½ tsp. sage instead of oregano.
** To make mashed potatoes dairy-free, I normally use rice or almond milk and dairy-free butter spread like Earth Balance or Smart Balance (make sure it says "dairy-free" or "vegan"). Yellow or yukon potatoes work especially well. Make sure you salt the boiling water generously!

Turkey Meatballs

These meatballs are great with spaghetti or by themselves. I often serve them along with lentil soup (recipe to come soon). They also freeze well, so they can serve as a great meal or snack when you need something quick and easy!

TURKEY MEATBALLS

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
1 egg, beaten
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs. parsley flakes
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. gluten-free bread crumbs or crushed crackers (optional)*

Directions:
Combine all ingredients. Shape into balls (about 1 inch each). Broil on high for 9 min.; flip to other side and return to oven for 4 min. OR cook at 350° for about 25 min or until cooked through.

* I often add these for a slightly bready taste and moister texture, but the meatballs work fine without these as well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Better-Than-Oreo Chocolate Cookies

While experimenting last summer with an ice cream maker that my husband got me for Christmas, I decided to try my hand at making a gluten-free cookies 'n' cream ice cream. (I'm not talented enough to give you a dairy-free ice cream, sorry. I just made it with regular cream and lactose-free milk, since I think lactose is the main problem for most of the family.) I'm pretty sure I actually never got around to making the ice cream. But the chocolate cookies I discovered in the process were almost as good as the cookies 'n' cream would have been.

I adapted this recipe for Homemade Oreo Cookies to make it gluten-free. This recipe gives instructions for adding the cream filling to these cookies, but I found them tasty enough without it. You can check it out if you want to try the filling... I'm not sure if it would work without real butter if you have dairy issues, but they do look pretty good! We like the plain chocolate cookies, which have a nice slightly-chewy texture and freeze well if you want to conserve them for longer. (If you are like me, you'd better put them in the freezer soon or you will eat them all in a flash.)

For those without dairy problems, I'm betting they would be positively delish if you add some vanilla ice cream in place of the cream filling...


BETTER-THAN-OREO CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Ingredients:
1¼ c. Pamela's Pancake & Baking Mix*
½ c. cocoa
1 c. sugar
5/8 c. butter or butter substitute (½ c. plus 2 tbs.)
1 large egg

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Combine first three ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Beat in butter, then egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
3. Place rounded teaspoons of batter and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten dough.
4. Bake for 9 minutes in preheated oven. Set on rack to cool.

* If you use another flour or baking mix, check whether or not it already contains baking soda, baking powder, and / or salt. (Pamela's does.) If not, I'm guessing you will need to add 1 tsp. baking soda, ¼ tsp. baking powder, and ¼ tsp. salt.

Turkey Chili

Adapted from the allrecipes.com recipe here: Terrific Turkey Chili. Along with a few minor changes, I added the beans and corn. It just doesn't seem like chili to me without beans, and the corn adds a nice note of sweetness and crisp texture that is just plain yummy! I've only made this a few times so far, but it is already one of my all-time faves.


TURKEY CHILI

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 batch taco seasoning
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz.) can beef or chicken broth
1 (16 oz.) can salsa
1 (14.5 oz.) can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 (14.5 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

Directions:
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble turkey into the pot, stirring with a wooden spoon to break apart as much as possible. Season with taco seasoning mix, coriander, oregano, and tomato paste, and mix until meat is evenly coated with seasonings. Continue cooking, reducing heat if necessary, until turkey is well browned.

2. Pour in beef broth, and simmer to reduce liquid slightly, about 5 minutes. Add salsa and tomatoes, and continue cooking at a moderate simmer for ten minutes. Adjust the thickness at any time you feel necessary by adding water.

3. While chili is still cooking, heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion and green bell pepper, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, or until onion is translucent and bell pepper is lightly browned. Add onion and bell pepper to the chili, as well as corn and beans. Continue cooking at a very low simmer.

4. In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, and cook stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the zucchini to the chili, reduce heat, and continue cooking 15 minutes more. Again, adjust the consistency with water as needed.

The author of this recipe suggests adding sour cream, sliced green onions, and cheese to the individual bowls, but because of our diary issues I didn't add any of these. It tastes delicious just as it is. I can't stop eating it! Mmmm...

Taco Seasoning

Copied from allrecipes.com: Taco Seasoning I. Since taco seasoning packets very often contain dairy and/or gluten, I have found this recipe to be a very useful alternative. This recipe makes the equivalent of one packet.

TACO SEASONING

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper*

Directions:
In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients. Store in an airtight container.

* I reduce the amount of pepper to 1/4 or 1/2 tsp. to make it less spicy for my kids. It's plenty flavorful either way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pamela's Blueberry Pancakes

These are made using the recipe on the back of the Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix bag (recipe available here). For blueberry pancakes, I add 1/2 c. frozen blueberries, a tsp. of lemon juice, and about 2 tbs. extra pancake mix (because the condensation on the frozen blueberries thins the batter a little). Pamela's suggests adding the berries just before flipping, but I don't see a problem with adding them right into the batter. I saw an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" recently where Bobby added the blueberries to his batter and the challenger added them on the griddle, and Bobby's pancakes won, so... ;-)


I am mostly adding this post and picture to give hope to those who may just be starting out on the gluten-free diet. You can still eat great food!! These pancakes happen to be the best I've ever had, with or without gluten. (Except maybe IHOP... but I bet if I cooked these with butter instead of cooking spray, they would be just as good!)

Quinoa Black Bean Salad

I came up with this recipe last summer when I was bored with plain quinoa and threw a few more things in on a whim. I was super excited with how it turned out! My husband and some of his family that were visited enjoyed it as well. My oldest daughter is not a fan of quinoa, but if I remember correctly, even she ate it. (She does love beans.) Unlike most grains, quinoa is a complete protein, so while this dish is light enough to be considered a salad, it is hardy enough to fill you up pretty well, too. (I've eaten the leftovers for breakfast a few times!)

NOTE: If you've seen / copied this recipe before, I changed it slightly to add more beans. Pretty sure this is how I made it originally... I just forgot how many cans of beans I used when I copied down the recipe.

QUINOA BLACK BEAN SALAD

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 medium tomatoes
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 (15.5 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice

Directions:
1) Rinse quinoa. In a small saucepan, combine quinoa, broth, minced onion, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer about 15 min. or until broth is absorbed.
2) Meanwhile, dice tomatoes and chop parsley. Place these in a medium bowl and add black beans.
3) When quinoa is finished, let cool a bit before adding to the bowl. Drizzle oil and lemon juice over the salad and mix. Serve warm or refrigerate for an hour or two to serve cold.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sausage Frittata


BASIC SAUSAGE FRITTATA

Ingredients:
½ lb. ground sausage
1 small onion
1 small green pepper
8 eggs
¼ c. milk
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
½ c. cheese (optional)

Directions:
1. In a large, oven-safe frying pan, cook sausage over medium high heat. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
2. Using the same pan with reserved sausage drippings, saute onion and green pepper for about 1-2 minutes, till beginning to soften but not yet tender.
3. Meanwhile, lightly beat eggs in a small bowl with a fork or whisk. Add milk, salt and pepper.
4. Return sausage to pan and mix with veggies. Reduce heat to medium. Add egg mixture and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until eggs appear to be well set underneath. (They can still be runny at the top.)
5. Heat oven broiler to 450°. Place pan on middle rack of oven. Cook for about 5-7 more minutes, or until top of frittata has set. If you can eat dairy and want to add cheese, add it after frittata has set and cook under broiler for a few more minutes, till cheese is melted.
6. For a slight crisp on top (if it is not crisp already), move pan up to top rack and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until beginning to turn a light golden brown. (Keep your eye on it, because it can burn quickly!) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Note: This is my own recipe, so if you try this, please let me know if you have any problems or can think of any improvements!

A Quick Note

I should mention briefly that although I have been cooking gluten-free for about 2 years, I realize I still have a ton to learn. I've collected a fair number of recipes so far, but I do tend to repeat the same things quite a bit. I love to search for and try new recipes, though. I'm thinking of this blog as basically the sharing of my recipe box with you, and I would love it if any of you have any suggestions for me. And for those with more experience than me, I would love for you to impart your wisdom. :-)

Sample Gluten-Free Meal Plan

When I started eating gluten-free, I already had a fair amount of gluten-free dinner plans under my belt, but I had a more difficult time finding things to eat for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is especially challenging, particularly if you are also eating dairy-free. And if you grew up like I did, you may be used to eating cold cereal every morning.

I allowed myself to eat cereal with oats at first, so I didn't have to eliminate my Trader Joe's O's, Honey Nut Cheerios, and other such things right away. When I got more serious and removed oats from my diet, I was pretty much stuck with Chex, Chex, and... more Chex. Blah. I will admit that a few things like Trix and Cocoa Puffs (which are not labeled gluten-free but don't specifically contain gluten ingredients) occasionally passed through our doors, simply because I was so sick of the monotony. (I still eat these on some rare occasions... shhh!) But yeah... if you want cold cereal that is specifically gluten-free -- and actually contain some valid nutrition -- your choices are extremely limited.

When I became pregnant with my third, I realized that a couple bowls of Chex in the morning was not going to hold me over till lunch. So, even though it meant losing the convenience of being able to make and eat breakfast in a span of 5 minutes, I began to expand my horizons. And I am glad I did. I don't normally plan my breakfasts out like the menu below or vary my choices this much in a single week, but what is below pretty much sums up my breakfast options.

As for lunch, I most often eat leftovers from a dinner the night or two before, but I will occasionally eat one of the meals below, and I often feed one of these to my kids. Of course, they would be happy to eat hot dogs and chicken nuggets for practically every meal, but that's another story...

Day 1
Breakfast: Eggs
--Scrambled, boiled, fried... whatever we are in the mood for.

Lunch: "Snack plate"
--My mom used to give us these all the time. Usually consists of lunch meat (I use Hormel, which is preservative-free and gluten-free) and a sampling of 2-3 of the following: frozen vegetables (cooked), baby carrots, pickles, apple slices, grapes, almonds, gluten-free pretzels, etc.



Day 2
Breakfast: Muffins

Lunch: Sandwiches
--I use Pamela's or Udi's bread with Hormel lunch meat or peanut / almond butter and 100% fruit jelly.

Dinner: Tacos (with homemade seasoning)


Day 3
Breakfast: Quinoa or oatmeal
--I buy organic quinoa in a 4-lb. bag at Costco (can't remember the exact price, but I think it is around $12). It is pretty plain when cooked with water, but tasty with chicken broth.

Lunch: Hot dogs
--I like to make sure I get hot dogs that are nitrate-free. (You can read about why to avoid nitrates elsewhere.) Trader Joe's has great hot dogs (about $4), and there are some other good brands, such as Applegate Farms, available at health food stores. But the cheapest and most commonly available are Oscar Mayer Selects. (My favorite is the hardwood smoked turkey variety.) They sell for around $3-$3.50 at many local grocery stores.

Dinner: Julie's chicken*


Day 4
Breakfast: Pancakes or waffles
--Both these can be made with Pamela's mix, but I often use Trader Joe's frozen waffles if I'm in a hurry.


Dinner: Turkey chili


Day 5
Breakfast: Egg salad on toast

Lunch: Spaghetti

Dinner: Chicken roaster


Day 6
Breakfast: Sausage frittata


Dinner: Meatloaf*


Day 7
Breakfast: Homemade granola*
--Excellent over cow or goat yogurt, with berries on top, if you are not too sensitive to dairy.


Dinner: Chicken pot pie*


Oh, and for a quick snack, I am particularly fond of Nature Valley's new gluten-free nut bars, available in almond and peanut varieties.

*Recipe to come shortly.

Muffins

These are my variations on the basic muffin recipe on the back of Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix. If you use another flour or baking mix, check whether or not it already contains baking soda, baking powder, and / or salt. (Pamela's does.) If not, I'm guessing you will need to add about 1½ tsp. baking powder, and ½ tsp. each salt and baking soda.

CRANBERRY MUFFINS
2½ cups Pamela's baking mix
¾ cup water or rice milk (vanilla works best)
1 tbs. lemon juice
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbs. vegetable oil
½ cup water
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ginger
1 cup dried cranberries

If using milk, combine rice milk and lemon juice. Let sit for 5 minutes to sour it a bit (optional). Mix in remaining ingredients, adding a few tbs. more water if batter is too thick. Pour into muffin tin, filling cups a little over half full. Bake at 350º for 20-25 minutes or until tops of muffins start to turn golden brown.

Makes: 12 muffins.

Notes: If you use Pamela's, you may notice that I left out 1 tsp. vanilla. As you may know, most vanilla contains gluten, so a celiac will have to buy vanilla that is specifically labeled gluten-free. These are available at health food stores for around $10 per bottle. I used to use this type of vanilla in my muffins, but I got into the habit of making them so often that I could go through a bottle of vanilla about every 2-3 weeks. I hated to pay that much, so I switched back to using regular vanilla for a while. It is probably so little gluten that it doesn't do me much harm personally, but one day I decided to just try muffins without the vanilla. I couldn't taste any difference. And if you are dairy-free and use vanilla-flavored milk, you have your vanilla flavoring right there. Voila.

Update 6/23/11 -- I've discovered that McCormick and some other brands of regular vanilla are now labeling their products "gluten-free." I don't know whether these are truly celiac friendly, but I'm glad vanilla makers are making an effort to appeal to gluten-free consumers! I actually found a huge 16-oz. bottle of vanilla at Costco labeled "gluten-free" for about $6 or $8 (can't remember the exact price), as compared to a 2-oz. bottle I got at the local grocery store for $4. I'll take that! You may be seeing a resurrection of vanilla in my recipes from this point.

Another note: I've added some oil to these recipes because I think they are more moist and tasty that way, even without added butter.

And speaking of milk, you'll notice that I did say "water or milk." The Pamela's recipe calls for water. I used milk for a long time of my own accord, but recently I've been noticing how quickly we go through rice milk around here with five people drinking it (myself, my husband, and all three of my girls), and rice milk isn't exactly the cheapest thing in the world. So I switched to water, and the Pamela's recipe was right -- it tastes just fine that way, too. I still do add the lemon juice, though.


BLUEBERRY MUFFINS
2½ cups Pamela's baking mix
¾ cup water or rice milk
½ tbs. lemon juice (optional)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Same directions as above.


BANANA MUFFINS
2½ cups Pamela's baking mix
½ cup water or rice milk (vanilla works best)
½ tbs. lemon juice (optional)
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbs. vegetable oil
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 bananas)

Same directions as above.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jessica's Most Frequently Used Product List

On my most-frequently asked questions list: "What type of [bread, pasta, flour, etc.] do you recommend?" Wonder no longer. Here are the products that I use most frequently. (Please note my warnings for those with true celiac or other allergies.)

Substitutes for gluten-containing products:

* Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix -- around $11 / 4-lb. bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 3, around $5-$6 / 24-oz. bag on Amazon and elsewhere. I avoided buying this mix for about a year of my gluten-free eating, unsure that I would use it very much. Finally, I tried it out, and I have not looked back. I purchase three 4-lb. bags on Amazon at least every two months. We use this stuff up like crazy. It works great as an all-around quick-rise baking product, for uses from pancakes to cookies to quick breads and muffins. The only drawback for some people is that it does contain some dairy and other potential allergens (like almonds). It doesn't seem to bother my girls, though, and even one of my nieces who is significantly more sensitive to dairy can eat it in moderation. But please don't sacrifice me to the allergy gods if it causes some people to react to the dairy. If you need a dairy-free flour mix, my sister recommends Better Batter, which sells for around $11.50 / 2.5-lb. box on Amazon. (I am unfamiliar with the price elsewhere.)

* Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour -- around $2.25 / 24-oz. bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 4, around $3-$4 elsewhere. This is the flour I use when I need to throw in a small amount into a recipe as a thickener, to make a roux, etc. I don't generally use it in baking (the Pamela's mix covers that), but it is nice to have around as a substitute in recipes that call for a small amount of wheat flour. It generally acts fairly well when used 1 for 1 in place of wheat flour. Warning: although many Bob's Red Mill products are labeled "gluten-free," some celiacs still react to this company's products. Other brown rice flours are available if you are extremely sensitive.

* Udi's whole grain bread -- around $6 / loaf (available at some Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and other health food stores). This is the best sandwich-like bread I have found. Unlike many gluten-free breads, it is not gritty and does not crumble as easily as other brands. Gluten-free bread is not going to be very elastic in general (because gluten is what gives bread its elasticity), but this bread is about as elastic as you can get with gluten-free. And it tastes pretty darn good, too. I am picky about my gluten-free bread substitutes, and this one really is good. It is a bit pricey, so I don't buy it often, but it is certainly handy to have around in case you need a quick and portable meal like a sandwich.

* Pamela's Bread Mix -- around $4.50 / bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 6, around $5-$6 / bag elsewhere. This homemade bread is so yummy I feel like I could eat the whole loaf when it's straight out of the oven. It is a bit heavy, so not as suitable for sandwich bread, and it tends to crumble more easily when it is not freshly baked. It also contains sorghum flour, which can tend to make you gassy... But it really is quite worth it in moderation. Even gluten-eaters enjoy this bread.

* Tinkyada pasta -- around $3-$4 / bag, available at health food stores and many other stores that sell health foods. (I buy it at Super Walmart.) When I first started having digestive issues, I switched from regular to whole wheat pasta. I quickly grew to love whole wheat and despise white flour pasta. When I cut out gluten, I quickly grew to love brown rice pasta even more than I loved whole wheat. Some gluten-free pastas can be rather mushy and flimsy, but this brand really holds up well and can be cooked to a nice al dente. I use the spaghetti noodles in particular.

* Trader Joe's penne and rotini -- around $2 / bag. Honestly, this brand doesn't taste quite as good as Tinkyada, but the price difference is significant enough and the taste difference is minimal enough that I can make the compromise. I don't use TJ's spaghetti anymore, though... the difference in taste and texture is a lot more noticeable.

* Trader Joe's gluten-free waffles -- around $2 / box of 8. These are not my favorite taste-wise, but they are handy when you need a quick breakfast, and you can't beat the price. There are other more tasty brands out there (such as Van's), but they generally run for at least $3.50 per box of 6, so I usually stick with TJ's. (The Pamela's pancake mix makes a mean Belgian waffle when you in less of a hurry, though.)

* Glutino's mini pretzels -- around $7 / large bag or $4 / small bag (available at locations from Whole Foods to some Super Walmarts). You'd never know they were gluten-free. Seriously. While on car trips, I have to keep my gluten-eating husband away from them or he will consume half the bag by himself. They are on the pricey side, but they are definitely worth it if you love pretzels. I just try to make them last as long as possible so I don't have to buy them that often.

* Trader Joe's Savory Thins (brown rice crackers) -- about $2 / bag. Nice, cheap crackers, perfect when you are in the mood for a snack. These also work nicely as a substitute for bread crumbs when crushed.

* Trader Joe's Gluten Free Ginger Snaps -- about $2 / bag. These cookies have been a staple in our household since I began eliminating gluten. I've tried another brand or two of ginger snaps, but there really is nothing that quite matches the real gingery bite of these cookies. When I need a grain or cookie fix, a few of these babies do the trick.

* Pamela's Simplebites Mini Cookies (chocolate chip) -- about $2.40 / bag with Amazon's Subscribe & Save deal on pack of 6. Super yum. I bought another brand of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies recently (because they were on sale and we were out of these), and they just didn't match up at all. Like the pretzels, you would never know these are gluten-free. And in case you were wondering, I love chocolate. And I love cookies. And did I mention super yum??!

I also use McCann's Irish oatmeal when I need oats, but I don't use it very often. For some reason, I dislike the taste of their rolled oats when used as oatmeal. They taste different than your standard Quakers for some reason (perhaps because they are lacking in gluten contamination?). I do enjoy their steel-cut oats, but don't make them very often because I'm not usually patient enough to wait 30 minutes for oatmeal.

For mixes for things like cake, brownies, pie crusts, etc., I haven't used anything often enough to have a favorite brand, but some brands I have tried and liked are Gluten-Free Pantry, Namaste Foods, and of course Pamela's.

Substitutes for dairy-containing products:

* Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Drink -- around $3 / half gallon. I know it doesn't taste like milk, and I don't generally drink it plain, but it's my personal favorite milk substitute when I want chocolate milk or something to pour over my cereal. I've been using it and giving it to my girls for nearly 4 years now, and now whenever I taste regular milk, it actually kinda grosses me out (the cow's milk, that is).

* Rice Dream Enriched Original Rice Drink -- around $3-$4 / half gallon at some Walmarts and Target stores. Tastes about the same as TJ's rice milk. I prefer the enriched original version, but the vanilla is good too if you want some extra flavor, especially in baking.

* Earth Balance Buttery Spread (original or soy free) -- around $3-$4 / 15-oz. tub, available at health food stores and many stores that sell health foods. I buy it at Super Walmart. I can believe this is not butter, but after having avoided dairy for so long, I actually like it a lot better than butter in most cases.

* Smart Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread -- around $3-$4 / 13-oz. tub, available at health food stores and many stores that sell health foods. (The tubs I've bought lately don't look anything like this one, though... I think they must have redone the design lately.) I can't seem to find this at Super Walmarts I've visited, but I've found it at our local grocery store for $4, and normally can I find coupons. Tastes about the same as Earth Balance.

I also occasionally use various brands of coconut, almond, or soy milk if I'm using it in a recipe that calls for whole milk or cream, since these other milks are noticeably thicker than the rice milk.

My sister has her own list of her gluten-free favorites, a few of which I haven't tried yet, so check it out if you're interested! http://themaincourse-ck.blogspot.com/2011/02/best-gluten-free-products.html