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.)


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)

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 (500ยบ) 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.


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*

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. ;-)


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

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.


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

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.

* 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.


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

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.