Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm baaaaaaack!

OK - so in the past week or so I've had to wrestle with Blogger to get my log in information back because it's been so long.... and when I was able to log in, I realized just how long it's been since I've blogged.  My last post was around Christmas in 2010.  Whoa.  In that time frame, I was in the midst of selling my townhouse and Stefan & I were buying a new house.  To say the least, it ended up being a very stressful sale and purchase transaction.  The entire move was very hard, and the whole process left me scarred for a little while... ha :)  Needless to say, blogging took a back seat and our world turned into one weekend project after another.  I'm not saying that the weekend projects have stopped... but I've been cooking a lot since the holidays and I realized how disappointed I was that I wasn't sharing some of the recipes.

Another trigger that brought me back into blogging is that my Mom was recently diagnosed as Celiac.  (Hi Mom, I know you're reading!!)  Poor Mom had a rough winter... back in March she started to get violently sick and spent some time in the hospital.  The doctors were unable to figure out what was causing her to be so sick... it was extremely frustrating.  They tested her for everything under the sun and never once considered that she could be Celiac, since her blood tests for Celiac Disease antibodies were coming back negative.  Once she started a strict gluten free diet, she started to get better... and now, 4 weeks later, she's feeling like her old self again.  Probably even better than her old self... and I couldn't be happier.  So part of what brought me back here is that I know Mom's reading, she likes my cooking ideas, and I want my 5 years of gluten free survival experience to help her and others like us.  You realize really quickly that gluten free cooking is not that hard - you need to use mostly fresh ingredients and there are occasionally some swap outs.  You also need to find stores and brands of prepared foods that you can trust.  But I've done all of that, and I've never once felt deprived in my eating.

So that's where I've been and where I'm going.  I hope that you'll follow along and take some of my ideas into your own kitchen.  Enjoy!

Soup's On!

In a quest to find healthy, one-pot meals that are both comforting and delicious, a clear winner is soup.  Even though we're getting into warmer, summer-like weather, it's been rainy, which makes soup slightly more appropriate!  Lately, my green obsession has been kale.  It's not a green that I grew up eating... in fact, I didn't really eat many greens or vegetables growing up.  My poor mother would rejoice when I ate a forkful of spinach!  Anyway, kale is one of those greens that holds up well in a soup because it doesn't fall apart and get mushy when cooled and reheated like spinach would.  A great combination that I've found is Italian sausage, kale and some type of bean.  Lentils are a great option, but I've found the combination of white beans and kale to be my favorite.  In an effort to make this soup as healthy as possible, I decided to use ground turkey breast to make a low fat turkey sausage.  Here's what you'll need:

Roasted Garlic, Turkey "Sausage", White Bean & Kale Soup

Turkey "Sausage"
  • 1 lb. ground turkey breast (99% fat free)
  • 2 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning (McCormick)
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted (yes, the entire head of garlic)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • I cup of diced pancetta (or bacon)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 3-4 ribs of celery, diced (including the leafy greans)
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 T tomato0 paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 1 quart, or 4 cups, low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 15 oz. can of white beans
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 pound kale greens, thinly sliced
  • freshly grated whole nutmeg, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
First, you'll need to preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Take your head of garlic and slice the end off lengthwise.  Lay the head of garlic cut-side up on a sheet of foil and season with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Wrap the foil up in a small packet and toss it in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, when the garlic is roasted, soft and sweet.

In the meantime, take your sausage seasoning mixture - the fennel seed, Italian seasoning, black peppercorns, red pepper flake and salt - and grind it finely in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.  Sprinkle the seasoning mixture and olive oil over the ground turkey breast meat and stir it together so the meat is evenly coated.  The "sausage" is done.

So to start the soup.... heat up a large cast iron pot and add the olive oil, over medium heat.  Drop the pancetta in the pot, and let it render out for a couple of minutes.  Once the pancetta darkens in color, crank up the heat to medium/high and add the turkey "sausage".  Allow it to brown on at least one side and break it up with a wooden spoon into bite-size pieces.  Once the turkey is substantially cooked through, add the onion, carrot, celery and fresh herbs.  Add salt and pepper to help sweat out the veggies.  Keep the veggies on medium/high heat for about 4-5 minutes.  Once your garlic is roasted and cooled slightly so you can handle it, squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves into the pot and add the tomato paste.  Smush the roasted garlic cloves and tomato paste with your spoon, and stir it into the mixture so it is evenly distributed and becomes fragrant.  Then add the white wine to deglaze the pot.  Scrap up the brown bits of goodness and allow the wine to cook out for a minute or so.  Add the quart of chicken stock and 2 cups of water, and some salt and pepper to taste (keep seasoning along the way).  Cut the lemon in half and juice the entire lemon into the soup.  Drop the halves of lemon into the soup to simmer.  Don't skip this step!  The lemon adds so much flavor to this soup!!  Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the soup.  Bring the soup up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Add the thinly sliced kale in batches - season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg on each layer, then stir the kale into the soup until it wilts down.  Once all of the kale is added, keep the soup at a simmer for about a half hour.

This soup is delicious on its own, or with some gluten free rolls or french bread on the side for dunking.  I've found that the two best ingredients to boost the flavor of any soup are lemon and nutmeg.  The lemon balances out the flavor to the broth and the nutmeg creates a slightly spicy warmth.  We just scooped out a bowl of soup and topped it with some grated parmigiano reggiano and black pepper.... and dinner was served!

It's delicious, low in fat, naturally gluten free and high in protein and vitamins.  This batch will make about 6-8 servings, so be ready to have plenty of leftovers for lunch.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Ever since I saw Giada make this recipe, I realized it was a perfect candidate for a GF cookie transformation.  It was actually quite easy to adapt to GF and I made a few other slight modifications here and there (I've made these with dried cranberries before and they are awesome!).  For Christmas I make a big double batch (which is the recipe that you'll see below), but you can easily make a big batch and freeze half in a log wrapped in plastic wrap so you can slice off a few of these anytime you'd like!  So here's my signature Christmas cookie recipe that I'm excited to share with everyone:

Apricot & Nut Cookies with Limoncello Icing
2 sticks of salted butter (at room temp)
1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp limoncello liqueur
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups almond meal (i.e. almond flour)
1 cup Pamela's GF pancake & baking mix
1/2 cup sweet sorghum flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup dried apricots, cut into a small dice
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 T limoncello liqueur

For the cookies, start by creaming the butter and sugar together, adding the vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon.  Mix until it is light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated.  On the side, whisk together the flours, xanthan gum and baking powder in a separate bowl and slowly add it to the mixer on a slow speed until it is just mixed together well.  Stir in the chopped apricots and toasted nuts and transfer the dough to an appropriately sized bowl.  Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours, or a minimum of one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and scoop the cookies onto a baking sheet in even rounds.  I used a mini ice cream scooper.  Make sure each one is a nice round ball, because they melt down in the oven.  Bake them for approximately 12-15 minutes or until they begin to brown on the edges.  Cool the cookies on a cooling rack overnight.

For the icing, stir together the powdered sugar and limoncello until it totally combines and comes together in a thick glazey icing.  Drizzle or blot it on top of each cooled cookie, as much or as little as you'd like.

I hope you enjoy these cookies any day of the year!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Since going gluten free, I had to give up drinking beer... which I didn't really mind too much since it's full of calories and makes you belch and pee a lot.  But it's one thing to CHOOSE not drink beer very often and it's a totally different idea to be UNABLE to ever drink real beer again.  There are a few really great GF substitutes out there, but they are super pricey and hard to find in the stores.  A fairly good alternative has always been hard cider, like Woodchuck. All it's made with is fermented apples and it has always said naturally gluten free right on the packaging.  The only issue with hard cider is that it is very high in sugar and calories, so I try to drink it sparingly.  One idea I've really been brainstorming with is ways to cook with hard cider... so here is my first experiment with fall flavors and hard cider:

Hard Cider Braised Chicken
4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp poultry seasoning
kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
2 T olive oil
1 large Granny Smith apple; peeled, cored and sliced thinly
2 small McIntosh apples; peeled, cored and sliced thinly
1 vidalia onion; peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
1/2 lemon; zested and juiced
1 T fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg (approx. 1/8 tsp)
1 bottle Woodchuck Hard Cider (12 oz.)
1 cup chicken broth
1 T butter
1 tsp tapioca starch

Heat up a large cast iron dutch oven or a large high sided skillet with the olive oil.  Season the chicken with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning.  Add the chicken and sear the meat for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until it's nice and brown on both sides.  Remove chicken and set aside on a plate.  Add the onion, apples and thyme and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Lower the heat and let the onion and apples sweat out and begin to soften.  Now add the garam masala, cinnamon and lemon zest and stir to combine.  For those of you who haven't used garam masala before, it's an indian spice blend that includes cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon.  It's very fragrant and balances the sweet and savory flavors that I'm going for in this dish.  Next add the hard cider and chicken broth and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the pan, nestling it into the liquid so that it is just shy of being completely covered.  Bring it up to a boil, put a lid on the pan, lower the heat and simmer for about 45-50 minutes.  At this point the chicken will be cooked all the way through, tender and very moist.  Remove the chicken to a serving plate and crank up the heat under the pan to reduce the sauce.  Take the room temperature butter and tapioca starch and smash them together in a small bowl so that it is combined well and add it to the sauce.  Whisk together and then stir the entire sauce.  Let it bubble away until it thickens to a desired consistency and taste for seasoning (adding salt if necessary).  Turn the heat off and stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice, then serve the chicken with the sauce and apple mixture poured all over the top.  I served this with a very simple rice pilaf dish that finished it all off nicely.

This dish was a very pleasant surprise... I honestly had no idea how it was going to come out... it was dancing the line between savory and sweet, and it had the potential to be a total fail.  But we really enjoyed this one - there was definitely a sweet aspect to it, but two things made it work - the freshness from the lemon juice added at the end made all of the flavors really pop.... and the small amount of butter added to the sauce at end made it a bit more smooth and finished.  I would definitely try this again.... maybe with pork chops... and maybe the addition of some fresh, sliced fennel would really make this recipe soar even higher!  Enjoy...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pizza Night!

Let's be honest... who doesn't love meal "theme" nights (Stefan)??  But seriously, who doesn't love pizza night?  The convenience of having a pizza delivered to the house was a luxury that I had to give up when I went gluten free.... until I became brave enough to start making my own pizza.  I started with the mini pizza crust shells that they sell frozen at the store.  I would dress them up with my favorite toppings and it would satisfy the craving temporarily.  But I didn't find true gluten free pizza bliss until I found Chebe - this is hands down, the best, easiest and tastiest gluten free pizza crust mix out there.  It mixes up quickly... rolls out pretty well... bakes up nice and thin.... and it has a nice crispy/chewy texture that lets you fold your slice just like regular pizza.  Love it!  I was always one who enjoyed thin crust pizza, so this is right up my alley.

Sausage Pizza
This recipe is a bit different from the others, since I've omitted the amounts of each item.  Pizza is a pretty forgiving food to prepare (even when it's bad, it's still pretty good).  I like to use minimal sauce and lots of toppings and cheese - but maybe you like the reverse.  So play around with it and enjoy it - that's the beauty of making pizza for yourself, at home!  The Chebe crust needs to be prepared as directed on the package.  When I roll mine out into a circle, I like to bunch and crimp up the edges a bit so that the edge acts as a barrier to keep all the toppings inside.  The crust needs to bake for about 10 minutes before adding the toppings, then another 15 minutes once the toppings are added.  I like when the edges start to brown a bit.  Yup.... now I'm hungry for pizza!

I love Pizza Night!!!!  A couple of slices and a glass of red wine.... talk about a great Friday night!

Go get Chebe mix and treat yourself to pizza again.  Trust me.... DO IT!  :)  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Comforts of Fall....

Wow, it's been almost a month since my last post.... but have no fear, this DOESN'T mean I haven't been cooking!  Now that the fall is upon us, it's time to switch gears a bit - less grilling and more slow cooking on the stove top and in the oven.  What says comfort more than an indulgent meatloaf smothered in gravy?  Over the summer, I made little mini turkey meatloafs that were healthy and cooked up in 15 minutes in a mini muffin loaf pan... so, now that October had finally rolled around, I knew it was time to make a true, full size, stick-to-your-ribs meatloaf.

Italian Style Meatloaf
2 tsp fennel seed
2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 small carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 T sun dried tomato paste (I used Amore brand)
1 T Italian herb paste (again, Amore brand)
1 T Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrin's)
1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
3/4 cup GF bread crumbs (see Note **)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 T Heinz ketchup
1 1/4 lbs lean ground beef (93% lean)
1 1/4 lbs ground pork
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

** Note:  about the GF bread crumbs - when I buy frozen gluten free bread, I pull out the ends of the bread loaves and store them in a plastic freezer bag - when I need bread crumbs, I toast these slices well and zip them in the food processor.

For the meatloaf - preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Get out a large mixing bowl and put the ground beef and pork into the bowl, breaking it/mixing it up lightly.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Then, drop your dried rosemary, fennel seed and red pepper flakes into a spice grinder to get a coarsely ground mixture - sprinkle this mixture over the meat.  Then to prepare the vegetables to add to the meatloaf, heat up a medium saute pan with the olive oil.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and saute over medium heat until the veggies begin to soften - about 5-7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let the veggie mixture cool slightly before adding it to the meat in the mixing bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients - tomato and herb pastes, Worcestershire sauce, grated cheese, bread crumbs and eggs.  Mix up the meatloaf using your hands until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed, but being careful not to overwork the meat.  Gather the meat mixture together and form a long loaf in a lightly greased pyrex baking dish.  Add the ketchup to the top of the meatloaf and spread it all over so that the meatloaf gets nicely caramelized on top.  Bake in the oven for about an hour, until the juices run clear.

Once the meatloaf comes out of the oven to rest for 10 minutes, you can begin on the gravy:

1 T butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 T gluten free flour (I used the Namaste all purpose flour)
1/4 cup marsala wine
1 cup beef broth
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter into the olive oil and add the shallot - cooking for a couple of minutes until softened and fragrant.  Season with salt & pepper.  Sprinkle with gluten free flour and mix well until the flour begins to bubble and thicken.  Add the marsala wine and beef broth and whisk vigorously to mix and deglaze the bottom of the pan.  Once the mixture begins to thicken, whisk in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and do some final taste testing for seasoning.  Add salt & pepper if needed.

I served this meatloaf with a very simple salad of mixed greens.  It was delicious - the quick gravy was very tasty for being prepared in only a few minutes and I loved the way all of the ingredients in the meatloaf added an important step in making the final product.  Every ingredient was intentional and critical in making this an "Italian Style" meatloaf.  Try this out to warm yourself and your family up on a cool fall evening.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Stefan!

Sunday was Stefan's birthday and to celebrate, he made a last minute decision the week before... he made an appointment for oral surgery and had 2 wisdom teeth removed on Thursday.  YAY!  Immediately, my selfish reaction was "Great, there goes his birthday weekend and my plans to go out for a nice dinner on Sunday!"  Once I stopped thinking about how this would inconvenience me, I realized that I needed to go out and stock the house with soft foods.  I filled the fridge with yogurt and pudding and jell-o and those great Bolthouse Farms smoothie drinks.  Good stuff - I redeemed myself!  But I was still faced with the dilemma of how to deal with the birthday dinner.  It was clear that it would make more sense to cook something at home, but what do you cook for someone who can't eat anything that exceeds the consistency of baby food?  Pureeing a dinner is only really a good option when it is appropriate to do so.  I was inspired by the autumn weather and decided to try to make my own take on butternut squash soup.  And I have to say, I hit this one out of the park....

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)
1 whole butternut squash
1 vidalia onion, diced into large pieces
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or just smashed
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp garam masala (indian spice blend of coriander, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon)
kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
canola oil (a total of about 4 T or so)

Preheat your oven to 425°.  Cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise and place on a baking sheet with the flesh side facing up.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with about 1-2 T of canola oil.  Place in the oven and roast for approximately 45 minutes.

Heat up a medium stock pot and add about 2-3 T of canola oil.  Add the onions, fennel and garlic - season with salt and pepper and stir to begin sweating the veggies.  Cut up the carrot and parsnips and drop them into the pot also.  Season again with salt and pepper and lower the heat slightly so that the veggies soften slowly.  Stir occasionally, but let them go for about 15 minutes.  Once the squash is done remove from the oven and scoop out the seeds (and discard).  The squash should be soft enough to scoop out the flesh.  Add all of the roasted squash to the pot with the sweating veggies.  Stir together and then add enough stock to cover the veggies (about 4 cups).  Bring it up to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, puree the entire soup mixture in batches (as large as your machine can handle).  I was able to do this in two batches in my Cuisinart food processor.  I added the nutmeg and garam masala at this point.  I really went crazy with the puree because I didn't want any surprise chunks in there.  Add it back to the pot and simmer until you are ready to serve.

No cream at all and this is one of the richest and creamiest soups I've ever tasted.  You really appreciate the taste of the parsnips and fennel, as those aren't traditional ingredients in a soup like this.  The hint of spices gives it that distinctly autumn taste and I'm glad I didn't have a heavier hand with the spice.  It was very well balanced.  I also garnished with a dollop of plain nonfat greek yogurt mixed with a few dashes of hot sauce. Delicious and surprisingly filling for a pureed soup.  He loved his birthday dinner and didn't even need a fork or knife to enjoy it :)