Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gluten Free Chicken Ranch Mac and Cheese

Apparently I'm obsessed with pasta lately. My daughter made mention of the fact last night as I was hemming and hawing about what I should put on my weekly menu plan. She said, and I quote, "Not pasta! Please not any pasta! I'm so sick of it." Well, miss high and mighty, why don't you come up with a quick dinner for seven that is budget friendly and everyone will eat, hmm? I digress.I definitely have my favorites when it comes to gluten free pasta. I like the Annie's Gluten Free Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese because it reminds me of the Velveeta one. You know, the one that is super creamy and has the huge shell pasta in it? I used to love those. Nowadays I buy super cheap Western Family macaroni and cheese for everyone else, and for the last few months I have seen a recipe they have on the back of their box for Chicken Ranch Mac and Cheese that I have glanced at and thought, I wonder if that's any good. Last night I took the plunge and decided to try it with my Annie's Mac and Cheese.

All I did was make the pasta according to the directions on the package, then I added 1 small can of white meat chicken, 1/2 chopped tomato, and 2 T of Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing. If I had had any green onions I would have added those, too. It tasted so good to me I couldn't wait until lunch today to eat some. So I had more last night before bed! I love that this small addition makes the dish have more protein, some vegetables, and the ranch taste complements the cheese sauce really well. Quick and easy dinners? I'll take it every time.

Happy eating!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gluten Free Superfood Salad...The Jury is Out

I have been reading up a lot on nutrient-dense foods, and the same few foods keep coming up in the articles. Kale, cranberries, edamame, quinoa, and other deep, dark foods are high on the list for vitamins, protein, and fiber. Some even go as far as to call them "superfoods." And kale must be really high on the list (or really trendy), because almost every food magazine I've looked at in the last six months has had at least one recipe with kale as an ingredient. I'll be honest. I've never tried kale before. It's not that expensive and it looks really great in the produce aisle. The epitome of a dark, leafy green. But really, kale is gross. I sauteed it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, which would make any vegetable I've ever eaten taste delicious. Kale? Not so much. It basically tastes like dirt. This is coming from a girl who loves brussels sprouts, people. But it's supposed to be so good for you! Now I know how people who hate broccoli feel when their mom makes them eat it. One day I was in the kitchen and I thought I'd experiment a little bit with some quinoa because it is such a great grain to eat. I thought I'd make some up and eat it for lunch throughout the week. A brainstorm that included kale ensued, and here is the saga as follows:

1. I put 1 1/2 cups quinoa and 1 can of chicken stock + enough water to get it to the "2" line into my rice cooker. On top of that I added a handful of chopped kale and diced onion.

2. After it was done cooking in the rice cooker, I added some frozen edamame and let it steam in the rice cooker with the lid on for a few minutes, just enough to get it thawed and warm.

3. When I tasted it, it was pretty good, but I thought that the unexpected addition of some dried cranberries would round out the dish.

Here's what I did right with the salad: a) I used really delicious versions of highly nutritious foods. b) I steamed the heck out of the kale, which made it actually palatable (the chicken flavor was probably the reason). c)I love edamame in any dish, and the tangy cranberries were a great surprise.

Here's what I think this recipe needs to be stellar: a) This dish tastes really salty to me. I think less chicken stock would solve that problem. I'm just not sure how much yet. b) I'm sure the steaming of the kale for so long removed any possible trace of nutrition from it, so what's the point of adding kale? c)Although I was really proud of myself for adding these ingredients together because they are so good for me, the flavor is incomplete in my opinion. It needs some sort of herb/spice mixture added to the mix, or red peppers or Mrs. Dash or something. It's a work in progress.

All in all, it wasn't a total loss. I did eat it, reheated, for three days for lunch, so that's saying something! What about you? Have you cooked with quinoa or kale and come up with a winning recipe, if so, leave a comment telling us about it. I'm sure all of us would like to try it!

Happy eating!

Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Make Gluten Free "Okie" Gravy

I don't actually know the technical name for this kind of gravy. My mom's friend from Oklahoma had us out to visit one time and her mother made this gravy for a big family dinner, and forever after it's been Okie gravy. I hope that's not offensive or anything. We love our Okies, and it's way easier than saying Oklahomans.

Anyway, I was showing my 12 year old how to make gravy the other night, and it dawned on me that a lot of people probably don't know how to make gravy or are afraid to because they might mess up. I decided to show how I do it and, to ease your anxiety, I'm going to also point out all the things I did wrong when I made this here batch that I took pictures of. Perfect gravy is elusive, but imperfect gravy can still complement a meal.

First of all, I made a batch of pork chops that I breaded in egg and Dr. Schar's gluten free bread crumbs with a little salt and pepper. I usually brown them on both sides in some canola oil and then turn the heat to low, cover them, and steam until the pork is cooked through. I turn them once during cooking. When you remove the meat from the pan, the leftover drippings are the flavor base for the gravy. Heat the oil/drippings over medium heat until they start bubbling.Mistake #1: I used too much oil in the pan when I browned the chops. I should have taken out a couple of teaspoons of it so the gravy wasn't too greasy. Oh, well.

Next, you need to get the little browned bits of meat off the bottom of the pan so they can make the gravy flavorful and delicious. This is called deglazing the pan. This can be done with whatever liquid you want to make the bulk of the gravy with, such as water, wine, stock, or in this case, milk. I added one cup of milk and whisked the bottom of the pan to get the drippings to release. Heat this mixture to a boil.

Get out your Kingsford's cornstarch and add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of water in a mug or liquid measuring cup. You just need something with a handle so you can whisk and pour at the same time. Mix them together until the cornstarch is dissolved. This is called a roux. Pour a little bit of the roux into the gravy and whisk it constantly while it's boiling and see if it gets thick enough. If not, add a little more until you get the consistency you desire.
Mistake #2: I added all the cornstarch mixture because I wasn't focused on the gravy, I was focused on the boys fighting over the XBox in the other room. The gravy was too thick.There are two things most people forget to do when they are making gravy. One, they stop whisking and it gets lumpy. Two, they forget to taste it. Taste the gravy and season with salt and pepper until it meets your standards.
Mistake #3: Because I used too much oil to begin with, it diluted the flavor of the drippings so the gravy was a little weak.
However, I fixed my last two mistakes by adding a little bit more milk to make the gravy thinner, and I added 1/2 teaspoon of Chicken Better Than Boullion and that brought the flavor right up to where it needed to be. Imperfect gravy, still delicious. You can see in this picture how thick the gravy is on my potatoes. But I don't mind it thick as long as it tastes good.

I hope this helps someone out there who has been gravy-phobic until now. You can do it! Gravy awaits you! Happy eating!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gluten Free Hamburger Casserole...So Good When You Feel Not So Good

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I love me some good comfort food. Okay, maybe that's not a shock. Casseroles, one-pot meals, crock pots, a-can-of-this and a-can-of-that, it all makes me happy. I Actually, when I hear the words comfort food, I think of easy meals that you wouldn't be afraid to eat at home in your sweats with your hair pulled up in a ponytail and no makeup. Which is exactly what I looked like when I made this easy and yummy crock pot dinner. I am still not quite on my A-game yet, and after being sick for 16 days now, my family was really excited to eat something, anything, that wasn't microwaveable. My husband even liked it, which is a plus. (Apparently he hates my alfredo sauce but is too scared to tell me.)

I used to love eating Hamburger Helper's Potatoes Stroganoff back in the gluten days (yes, I proudly admit that Hamburger Helper was part of my cooking repertoire), and I really wanted to make something gluten free that tasted like it. This was my warm and satisfying solution.

Some folks will scoff at the ingredients in this dish and say it's too lowbrow to be considered for a food blog. Some people will think this dish looks terrible and probably tastes worse. Some people might not find the appeal in potatoes and soup cooked in hamburger all day. I disagree. All gluten free foods, including canned green beans, can have a place at the table. Who doesn't want a fast, easy way to make a delicious dinner that fills you up? And the gluten free types, we don't care so much if it's fancy, we just care if it's not toxic! And as anyone with any kind of a budget will attest, finding a way to make a package of hamburger appealing is the grand adventure for families all over America. So anyway, here's the recipe for Gluten Free Hamburger Casserole, done up right in the crock pot.

Gluten Free Hamburger Casserole
adapted from the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook

1 1/2 pounds browned hamburger
6 potatoes, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 onion, sliced
dash of salt and pepper
1 can of green beans with the juice
1 can Progresso Creamy Mushroom soup (in Utah, only available at Smith's)

Layer the browned hamburger in the bottom of the crock pot. Top with the potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Pour green beans and juice over all. Pour soup over green beans. Cook on low for 5 hours. Serve with Gluten Free Biscuits Supreme.

I cooked mine in the crock pot for about 6 hours and the potatoes were a tad overdone, but crock pot cooking times vary so check your potatoes at 5 hours and if they aren't quite done cook another hour. I ate this heated up for lunch today and it was just as good as the night before. That, if anything, makes me feel better.

Happy eating!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gluten Free Biscuits Supreme

Every once in a while I really get a hankering for biscuits. My mom used to make them for Sunday dinner and they always made me feel like all was right in the world. We'd slather our homemade raspberry jam on them and time would just stop. When I want to make gluten free biscuits I usually use a mix from 123 Gluten Free, but I was out, so I decided to attempt to make some from scratch. I turned, of course, to the Bible of cooking,
the Better Homes and Gardens Red and White Cookbook. I adapted one of their recipes that used, of all things, cream of tartar in the dough. I figured I'd give it a try because I've failed much worse in the kitchen, believe me.

I used my food processor to mix the dry ingredients together, cut in the cold butter, and add the milk. I pulsed it until it came to a ball, then kneaded and rolled it out just like regular biscuits. When they were finished baking I was amazed at how HIGH they got! Look at those layers! That cream of tartar must be a secret ingredient because I've never made any gluten free biscuits that look like this. I adapted the recipe to use more liquid, since gluten free flours have a slower rate of absorption and tend to get dry if they don't have extra liquid. Here's the super easy and fast recipe:

Gluten Free Biscuits Supreme
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

2 cups Grandpa's Kitchen gluten free flour
1 T baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup milk
extra gf flour for rolling out dough

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Pulse a few times to mix. Add butter and pulse until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add milk all at once. If mixture looks too crumbly and dry, add 1-2 more tablespoons of milk until it comes together into a ball. Remove dough from food processor and knead together a few times on a floured surface to make a ball. Roll out dough with a floured rolling pin to 1/2 ". Cut with a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Makes about 10 biscuits.

I served these with a new crock pot recipe I tried that was pure comfort food. I'll post on that one Wednesday. Of course I froze my leftovers individually in Ziploc sandwich bags to heat up later.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Easy Gluten Free Snack for a Crowd

I seem to get myself into all kinds of situations where I happen to be in charge of parties. Events, activities, get-togethers, what have you. It's so fun and I really love putting on a good shindig, but sometimes I can find myself getting stumped when it comes to treats. Especially for a crowd. That's why I like being in CHARGE of the event, not just a helper, because whenever possible I like to tailor the event to the food I want to serve. I know, that's so bratty, but seriously, it's like when you design a room: find the fabric first, then match the paint to the fabric. It's way easier, I tell you.

So a few weeks ago, I was in charge of a little activity for our church Primary, which is full of children who love a good time. It was a reward of sorts, so we got to do something fun instead of listen to boring old lessons the whole time. I put together a "Popcorn Party" where we watched a church video and everyone got a popcorn snack. We turned the lights off just like in the movie theater. This seems so simple to us adults but the kids thought it was so fun. One reason I wanted to do popcorn is that we have a couple of kids who have peanut allergies and some adults who are gluten free and I wanted to do something that would be safe for everyone. Another plus? I used air-popped popcorn and buttered and salted it myself. It cost way less than microwave popcorn, and I like the flavor of homemade popcorn better anyway. I think I spent $5 on popcorn for 60, bags included. For the labels, I just found some clip art on Microsoft office, added the text in a cute font, printed them on cardstock, and punched them out with my scallop punch. Then once the bags were full I just stapled them onto the bags after I folded them over. Cheap and easy, and the kids thought it was so cool to eat popcorn at church. What's that, you ask? Of course I had to vacuum afterwards! It's cheap and easy but definitely messy!

Happy eating!

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Still Have a Sore Throat...and I'm Still Not Cooking

Sick, sick, sick. Whatever type of plague decided to descend upon my house has apparently decided that this is a great environment to grow and prosper in. Subsequently, my appetite has gotten up and walked away with my good health. I'm realizing how essential a sense of taste is for creating a food blog, and sadly, I'm not too inspired in the kitchen right now because all I want is some Advil and a piece of toast.Recently I've been eating a lot of Udi's Whole Grain Gluten Free Bread and Udi's White Sandwich Bread with butter, cinnamon and sugar and a mug of Throat Coat tea to start my day. Obviously it's not a super-vitamin-packed meal, but it's all I can stomach for now. I'm just glad there's something I can eat that is gluten free that takes less than 10 minutes to make, eat, and clean up.

So, I thought it might be fun while I am semi-incapable of creating and photographing new recipes to hear from you about what your favorite recipes are. Do you have a simple, tasty, and most importantly, gluten free recipe you can share? You can leave a comment with a permalink to a post if you have your own blog or if it's simple enough, leave the recipe in the comments section. My family is dying for your ideas. They are getting tired of microwaveable dinners and Gatorade.

Here's to good health and the promise of a better day! Happy eating!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Super Easy Gluten Free Pasta Alfredo with Seafood

Ugh. Sickness. Everywhere I turn there's sickness in my house. Four of the seven people who live here are sick, including me. I have spent the last three days in my bed, which normally would make me really happy, but when I feel this terrible it's just not worth it. So that explains the lack of posting this week. Sorry, but sometimes life intervenes with blogging.

And sometimes life intervening causes creativity to surge, if only for a moment. When I started feeling like I was coming down with something, I thought I could make a simple pasta dish for dinner that would take 15 minutes, tops. As the noodles were boiling I realized three things. One, I had no alfredo sauce or Prego sauce in my pantry. Hmmm, how about a scratch sauce? No cream in the fridge, either, and not much milk because I hadn't been to the store for a few days. Sometimes scrounging in the pantry produces great results. I found a can of evaporated milk and a can of tiny shrimp. I had just enough Gruyere cheese left over in the fridge from another recipe to make a sauce. Whew, that was a close one. What could have been a dinner disaster turned out to be a delicious variation of one of our favorites. I thought it tasted divine, and I cooked some more noodles and added the leftover sauce the next day for lunch and it was just as good as the day I made it. Here's the super easy recipe:

Gluten Free Easy Alfredo Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 T parsley
1 can drained tiny shrimp
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

Melt butter in a saucepan. Add milk and garlic and cook over medium heat until just below boiling, stirring constantly. Add cheese and parsley and stir until melted. Add shrimp and peas and heat through. Serve over Tinkyada Gluten Free Noodles.

Happy eating!
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