Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gluten Free Chicken Salad

It's got to be getting warmer somewhere in the world...just not in Salt Lake City. We have had the wild weather swings for the last two weeks, varying between balmy 68 degree weather and complete snowstorms. Usually at this point in the year I start trying to give nature little hints that I'm ready for warmer weather, like wearing no socks and rolling up my levi's, and making picnic food. My sister in law, Jennifer, makes this really great chicken salad for family get-togethers that will blow your mind, and she has given me the recipe, but it entails things like boiling chicken and using celery which make me sigh and wish she would just make it for me. But I've come up with a pretty good cheater recipe that makes me feel like I could get myself ready for a picnic and eat gluten free, too.

Gluten Free Chicken Salad

1 cup cooked rice

1 12.5 ounce can of cooked, cubed chicken (or use leftover cooked chicken and shred it)

3/4 cup-1 cup mayonaisse (I always use Best Foods--tasty and gluten free)

1 individual serving of mandarin oranges, with the juice

2 T slivered almonds

pinch salt

pinch pepper

1/4 cup grated parmesan

Mix all ingredients together and chill. Serve over lettuce or spread on Udi's Whole Grain Gluten Free Bread.

Happy eating!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Proceed with Caution

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone named Paul Jackson, who is a fellow celiac and writer living in California. He had happened upon my blog and informed me that in my recent post about Old Spaghetti Factory I may be leading some of you astray. Paul actually wrote an article (which is posted on a Yahoo! group site, so you will have to log in with your Yahoo! account if you want to read the entire article; it's much too long to post here.) about the Old Spaghetti Factory and how it may not technically be a gluten free environment. He brings up a good point. One of the hardest parts of being a celiac, as we all know, is eating somewhere where we don't prepare our own food. When we can't see the kitchen and see the pots and pans they are using, we all take a risk. Paul gives some evidence making a case for the Old Spaghetti Factory not being reliable in their commitment to gluten free food. He reminded me to pass on to you all that if you choose to eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory, that you ask for them to cook your (albeit gross) DeBoles pasta in clean water in a clean triple-washed pot. I must admit, the thought had never crossed my mind that there may be a chance that a restaurant would use the same water for two types of pasta, however, it's our responsibility to ask for these types of accomodations when we eat out. We can't ever assume that a server or a chef knows the ins and outs of cross contamination with wheat and we have to be vigilant. (That reminds me of Mad Eye Moody in Harry Potter, "Constant vigilance!")

He also asserts that because he lives in the fast-paced California world and I live in the quiet, rural world of Utah (did you watch the 2002 Olympics? I'm just wondering...) that we have more reliable staff who are hometown types that try harder to help out us celiacs and stay at their jobs longer and get to know the clientele. To that, I say this: Good for me!. That's one of the reasons why I like living here. However, I think he's got his logic a little off. The problem isn't with the servers. I wouldn't necessarily say that waitstaff in Salt Lake City are any less transient than those folks in California, but I would say that being kind and friendly to your server is tantamount to any bit of experience they may have with gluten free food. A good server should be able to educate you about the food in their restaurant and also be able to communicate with the kitchen to get you what you need. I've eaten in restaurants all over the West, and every time I step into a restaurant, whether I've eaten there before or not, I pull my server aside at the beginning of the meal and ask them about the food. Why? Because that's my responsiblilty as a celiac. Some places have a gluten free menu and even have a gluten free part of their kitchen to make food. It never hurts to communicate with your server in an approachable, nice way. I've even consulted with a restaurant on how they can organize their kitchen to make more of their dishes gluten free and given ideas of simple things they can offer their patrons. Restaurants want our business, and sometimes something as simple as speaking up and asking questions is enough to get them to include gluten free eating in their offerings. As I tell all of them, gluten free customers are the most loyal customers in the world. If they feel safe eating there, they will come back again and again.
Happy (and careful) eating!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tree Street Grains Gluten Free Waffles

So I wrote a while back about my lovely encounter with Tree Street Grains, and since Wednesday night is always breakfast night at my house, I thought I'd share my waffles that I made from their mix so you can get excited about breakfast night at your house. I must be honest and say that I think I like these better as waffles than as pancakes. Could it be the homemade raspberry jam and Cool Whip that tipped the scales? Maybe.
I love the whole grain texture of these waffles and especially the flax. I don't know what it is about flax, it just makes me feel like I'm eating healthier. Maybe it's the texture--chewy and nutty. Mmm, mmm, good.
Happy eating!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gluten Free Ham and Chicken Divan

When I was a kid I remember two things about my mom: 1) she was always reading, and 2)she always let me choose what was for dinner. My mom is about the most avid book reader I think I've ever met. She is always reading something. As a former English teacher and librarian, I think it's sort of hardwired into her. She used to read the "Spenser" novels by Robert B. Parker, and one night she told me that she had read about Spenser making a ham and chicken divan that sounded really easy, so she was going to try it. It was one of my favorite things she ever made, rich and creamy with broccoli to boot.

The other night when I was searching the fridge for something to make for dinner, luckily I remembered Spenser and his divan when I unearthed broccoli, leftover ham, some cheese, and one of these:
It's my new favorite ingredient. I do a lot of cooking with sour cream and sometimes I feel guilty using it because it's a little fattening. But plain Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular yogurt and tastes like sour cream when used in recipes, so it seems like I may have a new best friend in the fridge. Here's how I made my version of a childhood favorite:
Gluten free Ham and Chicken Divan
2 crowns of broccoli, cut into florets
1 can of white meat chicken
about 4 ounces of diced ham (could also use deli sliced ham)
2 packets of Lipton Creamy Chicken Soup
3/4 cup water
1 6 oz. package of plain Greek yogurt
1 cup cheddar or colby jack cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer the broccoli florets in the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer ham and chicken over the broccoli. Place the two packets of soup into a medium bowl and whisk with the water. Microwave for two minutes, stir. Add yogurt, cheese, mustard, and onion. Mix well and pour over the chicken and ham. Sprinkle the top with paprika and bake for 30 minutes. Serve over rice.
Thank you Spenser and Happy eating!

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Simple Salad with Gluten Free Vinaigrette

Ina, oh, Ina! Why aren't we best friends? Or at least next-door neighbors? Every time I watch anything with Ina Garten I want to sit in that fabulous kitchen and have her make me some beautiful, simple meal that is classic, delicious, and flavorful. I guess that's why she has a show and I don't.
Anyway, Ina is always making very simple salads and giving them delicious homemade dressings, which I happen to think is a great skill for a celiac eater. You can figure out which bottled dressings are gluten free, but sometimes it's easier and safer to make your own. This vinaigrette is no exception. It's so simple I don't even think any of you will think I'm serious when I tell you what's in it.
The other day I was really hankering for a good set of flavors for my salad, so I settled on good old Romaine lettuce (nice and crunchy), mushrooms (nice and meaty), and shaved Gruyere cheese (nice and tangy). I tossed them all together and drizzled Ina's lemon vinaigrette over the top. My mouth could not stop eating.
Lemon Vinaigrette from Ina Garten
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest the lemon and juice into a small bowl. Add salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil while pouring it in a very small stream to emulsify with the other ingredients. Pour over washed, dried lettuce so the vinaigrette will stick to the lettuce.
That's it! So basic, so easy, so Ina. Classic ingredients never go out of style. What's your favorite homemade salad dressing? Leave a link in the comments section so we can all share!
Happy eating!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day To You

What do you do when it's St. Patty's day and you have 5 kids? Green Eggs and Ham, baby.

Happy eating!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gluten Free Lemon Shrimp and Pasta: How Easy is That?

You may have noticed that I never post about seafood on this here blog. There is a very good reason for that: I hate to cook seafood. I mean, I really really hate to cook seafood. I will gladly go to a restaurant and order a slab of halibut, some salmon, or the shrimp cocktail, but as far as cooking it in my own home, I vote no. But then I realized most of my blog followers and tweeps probably love fish, and I am neglecting a whole food group that most people eat all the time. I decided to try making a lemon shrimp pasta, since I love it and there are about a billion recipes for it and it seems pretty simple. Believe me, I could not stand it when I tried this recipe and found out how easy it was to get a delicious dinner on the table. Get ready for some name-dropping, and see if you can follow the trail of famous cooks to my first successful seafood dinner. There will be a quiz at the end to see if you counted how many famous cooks I'm drawing from! Just kidding, but not really.
I was reading an article in the April Rachael Ray Everyday magazine called "A Fish Hater's Guide to Loving Fish" and it listed all the reasons people hate to cook fish. I realized that I was one of those non-fish cookers. And I had almost all of the symptoms of a fish-hater: I hate the smell, I hate the feeling, I hate the eyes looking at me, I never know how to season it, and I think it's too expensive. The article had lots of great tips on how to get fish into your diet. Really, I do think it's so good for you and I want those benefits, but I'm just unwilling to make it myself. Then I was watching Giada, as I usually do, and she made lemon shrimp pasta and just used the frozen shrimp that come in a bag. She dumped them right in the pan from the bag. Genius! Then there's no touching, no smelling and no gross factor. Then I was watching Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa yesterday, as I recently have started to do, and she roasted the shrimp for her lemon pasta. There is a bit of touching, but you don't have to stir the shrimp and it looked so easy. She coated the shrimp with olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted them at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes until they were done. So easy.
I'd like to say I made up this recipe myself, but really, I based it on watching and reading three cooks whom I admire. All of their methods were so similar that I can't really tell whose part of the recipe comes in where. And it is one of those naturally gluten free dishes, and all I had to change was substituting my Tinkyada noodles for regular pasta. So here's how I did it:
Gluten Free Lemon Shrimp Pasta
1/2 package Tinkyada spaghetti
1/2 minced shallot
3 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 T olive oil
2 T butter
12-13 frozen shrimp
1 lemon
1 T white wine
2 T chopped parsley
pinch salt
pinch pepper
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Mince the shallot and the garlic. Melt the butter and the oil together in a large skillet, add the shallot and sweat for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the frozen shrimp, and arrange in the skillet so they are all flat and cooking on one side. Let cook for about 5-6 minutes on one side, then flip over each one with tongs and cook until they are pink and cooked through, about another 3-4 minutes. This seems like a long time, but they need a bit longer to cook because they are frozen. Add the zest of the lemon and juice from 1/2 of it. Add the wine, parsley, salt and pepper and stir together to coat the shrimp. Add the drained pasta right into the skillet and toss to coat pasta.
I'd say this was a total success, one, because I actually made seafood that was edible and safely cooked so that no one would die of botulism; two, because my husband ate it and actually said it was good; and three, because I'm planning on making it again for lunch today. Yay me.
Happy eating!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Martha's Got Her Gluten Free On

image from Martha

I was flipping through my latest issue of Martha Stewart Living, which came to me with darling Easter eggs on the cover, and what should I find in the food section in the back? Gluten Free recipes!Woot to Martha for getting with the times! One recipe was for Rice-Chex crusted Salmon and another was for Banana Nut Muffins. If you search"gluten free" on her website, they actually have a lot of gluten free articles and recipes already. Most of them are from Body+Soul, which I don't subscribe to, or else I would have alerted everyone sooner. Hmm, maybe a subscription is in order.
As always, I applaud any mainstreaming of gluten free recipes and ingredients. It seems so simple to me, as a consumer, that all manufacturers and restaurants and magazines have to do is add two simple words to their tagline or menu or labels to cement their relationships with customers: gluten free. I know it's much more complicated than that, since they need experts and test kitchens and people who read labels and whatnot, and the added ink cost for those two extra words, but still. One can dream. I read an interesting blog post about gluten free labeling here, at Gluten Free Living's blog. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about it. Thanks to Martha, not only for teaching me how to be a homemaker for all these years, but for being willing to give up a little page space for the rest of us.
Happy reading!

Friday, March 12, 2010

P.F. Chang's Deliciously Delectable Gluten Free Offerings

Since it's the weekend and all, I thought I'd share the fabulous eating-out experience I had this week. Before you start reading this post, let me be clear: I did not eat all this food by myself! Just in case anyone is wondering if I'm a closet gorger, let me reassure you. I shared all of these lovely entrees and dessert with my good friend Joyce, who owns Grandpa's Kitchen. We get together on occasion and critique the gluten free lunchtime offerings at local restaurants. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it, right?
To be honest, I hadn't ever eaten at P.F. Chang's until this Tuesday. Which happened to be great timing for me, because they had just added five--count 'em---five new beef dishes to their gluten free menu on Monday. I felt like one of those fans who camps out overnight to get tickets for KISS or something. Their gluten free menu is now included on the back of their regular menus. It used to be separate so you had to ask for one when you were seated, but now they are right with everything else. How's that for making us feel normal? I tried the Mongolian Beef, and it was so perfect. I can't even think of a better word to describe it. It's a little spicy and sweet, and the sauce is caramelized onto the beef medallions making it a delicious combination of candied protein that I couldn't stop shoveling in my mouth.
Then I tried the Lemon Chicken, which was chicken battered in cornstarch to make it crispy and then a slightly sweet and sour lemon citrus sauce. Divine. This one was also being shoveled. I liked that the chicken was served with broccoli, one of my favorite vegetables.
We began our meal with the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and we were so hungry they had to bring us extra lettuce (!) to finish off our chicken. These were good, the filling was pretty standard, but the fun part was the sauce we dipped them in. It's pretty amazing that they brought us gluten free soy sauce on the spot so we could do the three sauce mixing-thing they've got going on over there. If you don't know about the dipping sauce, it's chili paste and hot mustard mixed into soy sauce...mmmm. Yum.
And the perfect ending to the meal was this:
The Dome of Chocolate. I'm not kidding. That's really what it's called! It's a chocolate truffle-type dessert with berries and raspberry sauce. You could really die from a calorie coma after this one. This is one dessert that's definitely shareable.
The best part of eating out at P.F. Chang's was that when we asked about our gluten free food our server and the person who delivered the food (I don't know what their title is, but they're all over restaurants nowadays) knew exactly what was gluten free and what was available to us. There is a part of their kitchen that is dedicated to gluten free preparation, so we had no worries about cross-contamination. And the food was really, really good to boot. Since I never cook Asian food at home unless I have to, this was a great relief to me. Now if I want great Asian food, I'm minutes away from a delicious overload that is worth every last bite. Thank you, P.F. Chang's!
Happy eating!

P.F. Chang

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Perfect Gluten Free Meat Loaf

Let me begin by sharing with all of you the long and winding road I have taken with this recipe. My childhood was one where good meatloaf was always readily available. My mom made a great meatloaf recipe that was kid friendly: no crunchy onions or peppers and not too spicy. I would always ask her to make it and I think she liked that it was a one-bowl preparation and a one-pan cleanup, a huge plus for a working mom. As I grew up I used her recipe and even converted my husband to liking meatloaf. However, once I started eating gluten free foods the quality of my meat loaf went south. I just couldn't find the right substitute for the saltine cracker crumbs that went into the meat loaf. I've tried everything, from tortilla chip crumbs to parmesan cheese to almond crackers. Nothing seemed to do the trick. Many, many meatloafs have been thrown down the disposal after coming out too greasy, or too dry or too tough or too moist. I know, too moist? That's the big problem with meat loaf isn't it? Keeping it moist is a big deal, but sadly it can be too moist. I am pleased to report that after years of trial and error, I have finally recreated a moist and delicious meat loaf reminiscent of my childhood. As much as I am a proponent of using readily available ingredients from a neighborhood grocery store, I have to break with tradition and recommend an internet product. These are Dr. Schar's Bread Crumbs, available from the Gluten Free Mall. I find that when I am ordering things on the internet, I order several to make it worth my while to pay for shipping. Go big or go home is my motto. Anyway, these are a great texture and don't have much of an overpowering flavor to detract from the flavors you are putting in to your meat loaf. They hold the moisture well and keep the meat loaf from being crumbly. This recipe is an easy one-dish dinner, and I always make it even easier by adding some potatoes right into the oven with the meat loaf, so it all cooks at the same time.

Perfect Gluten Free Meat Loaf

1 lb. extra lean ground beef

1/2 cup Dr. Schar's gluten free bread crumbs

1/4 cup Kraft parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 can tomato sauce

2 T minced onion

pinch salt

pinch pepper

pinch garlic powder

1/4 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and pierce 6-8 potatoes, set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except meat and ketchup until well blended. Add hamburger and mix gently with your hands. (Combining the seasonings and bread crumbs first makes it so you don't overwork your meat and make it tough.) Spread batter into a greased loaf pan and pat down so it's even. Cover top of meat loaf with ketchup and place in oven with potatoes surrounding loaf pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with a spatula and a salad or vegetable.

Happy eating!

Monday, March 8, 2010

What to do with Udi's Gluten Free Bread: Tuna Melt

I love a good tuna sandwich just as much as the next gal, (or guy) but to be honest the last few years tuna sandwiches have lost their appeal to me. It's all about the bread. When you have gluten free bread that is not so great, you'd rather eat your sandwich fillings on anything but bread for a while. This Whole Grain Gluten Free bread from Udi's is the perfect hearty sandwich bread, and the other day I took a crack at a tuna melt. Here's the surprising ingredient that saved the day: extra virgin olive oil.

Usually when I make a grilled anything I just spread butter on it and throw it on the griddle, but this time I drizzled extra virgin olive oil on the outsides of my sandwich to see if it would do anything different. The crust came out perfectly golden and crunchy. It was so worth the price of good olive oil to get a nice, crunchy tuna melt. I've never used it on sandwiches before, so this was, I think, a great flash of inspiration.

I filled my sandwich with the things I like to have on tuna: one can of tuna, 1/4 cup mayonnaisse, 1 T sweet pickle relish, and one slice of havarti cheese. It turned out to be a great light dinner and I served it with a spinach salad. Delectable. Mmmm, thank you, Udi's, for the hearty gluten free sandwich bread that makes comfort food actually comfortable.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

America's Golden Boy

Sometimes you go along doing your jobs, and nothing special ever happens. Other times you go along, doing your jobs, and you happen to be in the right place at the right time for something amazing to come your way. Today I was minding my business in the KJZZ kitchen getting ready for my monthly TV segment, when this unassuming guy walked in and asked me what I was cooking. We chatted for a minute and when I asked him his name, he said, "I'm Billy." I had heard the Olympics mentioned and asked him if he had just come back from Vancouver. He nodded and someone said, "He's a gold medalist!" Well, didn't I feel about two inches high. I'd been chatting with Billy Demong, gold and silver medalist in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. He immediately pulled out his medals and let me hold them. No pretenses, no posturing, he just pulled them out and let me hold them. I had a moment of pride I've never felt before, being able to touch Olympic gold won by someone who represented USA in one of the toughest sports out there. And Billy Demong is about the nicest guy I have ever met. He was so down-to-earth and real, it was almost unreal. You expect someone who has achieved something like that to be walking around with an ego inflated to the size of Soldier Field, but Billy was about as regular as you get. He was genuinely interested in what I was doing and took the time to talk to everyone who wanted to talk to him. He took this picture of me in the kitchen to upload onto his Twitter page, and also because he "really liked the kitchen and was going to re-do" his own kitchen and needed an inspiration shot. In case you missed him at the Olympics this year, Billy was the first American ever to win gold in the individual combined Nordic skiing event, which is a hybrid sport of both ski jumping and cross-country skiing, and also won a silver in the team competition. He also carried the flag for Team USA in the closing ceremonies. All this came after competing in four Olympic games. Four! So much work, so much time, for a life lived in pursuit of a dream. But isn't that who we all are, deep down? He has said that he thinks "American athletes are just like anybody else. We work real hard for a real long time to earn the victories." That translates to the rest of us, I think. We all work hard. We all do the best we can with what we've got. For celiacs, we do the best we can with what we can eat, and try every day to keep a positive attitude about how we eat and invest in our health victories. That's what it's all about, isn't it? That and meeting America's Golden Boy while doing my jobs.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Let's Talk About Crostini (Gluten-Free, of course)

Every time I turn around on a cooking show they are making crostini, a fancyItalian word for toast. Do they not realize how easy they've got it with their french bread and baguettes? Simply slice away, drizzle with olive oil, and toast or broil. Spread with some sort of topping and...voila! Instant elegance on a plate. Humph. Just thinking of slicing into nice crusty baguettes makes me roll my eyes so far back in my head I can see my brain. Not out of anger, mind you, but out of jealousy! I may never eat that great of a bread again, but I sure can try to imitate it.

And while we're at it, let's not talk about my low-budget choices of crostini toppings. I think at the time when I made these I hadn't grocery shopped for a few days so the pickings were slim. But here is a great recipe from Smitten Kitchen for an Artichoke-Olive Spread to go on top of your crostini. It looks so yummy. Anyways, I started by making a loaf with this mix for pizza and foccacia bread from Blue Chip Bakers. I actually got a nice looking loaf out of it and since the dough is made for Italian eating, it had a nice flavor and a light texture, just like pizza dough. I sliced it when it had cooled, so it didn't crumble apart (ahem, love those gluten free flours) and drizzled it with olive oil and toasted it on both sides in my grill pan until nice and golden. And it looks like I toasted it a little bit too long, doesn't it? Never mind that, I think I'll blame that on the camera. Do as I say, not as I do, people. Then you can top the crostini with whatever you want to, like olive tapenade and vinegared tomatoes for bruschetta, hummus, cheese and veggies, or a spread made from cannellini beans and garlic sprinkled with chives. Of course I had to give the gorgonzola a try. Delish. These will be great to make in the summer when my tomato crop kicks into high gear and I'm drowning in tomatoes, don't you think? The point is, don't despair when your favorite old-days foods show up, create them yourself! It may take a few tries, but you'll be glad you didn't give up on finding a delicious substitute.
Happy eating!
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