Eating GF Update September 2017

Eating gluten free can seem impossible when you first explore the possibility of giving up all sources of gluten. But then a few weeks or months you are able to make it work, you find gluten free flours, mixes, recipes for naturally gluten free meals and ones for gluten free breads, rolls, cakes, pies and cookies. After a while great food comes out of your kitchen that anyone is happy to enjoy.

composed shrimp and pasta salad

 composed shrimp salad with green goddess dressing

But, there are days that are difficult for someone with celiac.  Days where I crave a real wheat based New York bagel toasted and topped with cream cheese.  A slice of pizza from either of my favorite parlors of past years when I could eat pizza anywhere it was sold. Days where I would give anything to just walk into a hoagie shop and buy a big Italian sub with all the trimmings, not asking any questions, just forking over my money and diving into that big fatty treat with that crisp and tender roll made with wheat flour. Real puff pastry formed into crust for a dainty dessert.  Oh so many things I miss.

quiche slice

quiche with bacon and mushrooms

Still, I am so glad to be healthy. I don’t need any medicine to combat my celiac disease.  Just better food choices. And I find many things can be replicated out of gf flours and grains.  Folks are often surprised by how tasty my gf desserts are.  They are shocked by cookies that are even more delicate and flavorful made with my favorite gf flour blend. My pie crust is just wonderful, I honestly don’t miss the old one at all. And I make cobblers, crisps, waffles and pancakes.  So many tasty treats and entrees that I have swapped out all purpose flour for a gf flour choice. It can be done and it gets easier over time. I avoid eating too many processed gf foods; my preference is to cook from scratch and make the majority of my food in my own kitchen. Free of chemicals and weird things that are so unhealthy; like hydrogenated fats or excessive sugar or salt which is much better for all of my body.  So, I am doing great.

fig and greek yogurt cake

Fig and Greek yogurt cake

Please don’t feel sorry for me or anyone you know with celiac.  We are doing just fine and enjoying great food while being so much healthier.  I would much rather give up gluten than give up chocolate! Truth.

Be safe, eat well and be happy. Enjoy life.

Aside

Super Spring Salad…and Simple to Make

Sometimes I crave sweets, especially dark chocolate and sometimes I crave fruits or vegetables.  Once when I was visiting my sister Margie for the weekend she served a mixed green salad with a snappy vinaigrette that had some Dijon mustard and was just delish.  We both enjoyed it so much we had seconds instead of a dessert!

If you live salad maybe you would like my new favorite spring salad.   It is flexible so put the greens in that you love.  But one caveat, no iceberg lettuce, please.  It has minimal flavor and is the wrong texture for this spring salad.  Not to mention that it is seriously lacking in nutrients.   Image

So, to create my special Easter salad, I got a box of cleaned and washed spring greens from Valley Farm Market in Bethlehem, full of tiny leaves of a variety of lettuces as well as beet and spinach leaves.  I also got some sugar snap peas and a bunch of radishes from there.  The produce is very fresh and of outstanding quality at Valley Farm, located on Stefko Boulevard.  This bunch of radishes looked just picked and still had the greens attached.  ImageI washed them and cut the root tail off and the stems.  I cut each into ¼ inch rounds.  I cut the pea pods in half and steamed the sugar snap peas for 3 or 4 minutes, removing them from the heat just before they were done so the pods still had a bit of snap to them.  I drained them and put them and the radishes in a dish and refrigerated them for 30 or 40 minutes until they were really cold.

The greens were washed, dried in the salad spinner and placed in a large salad bowl.  Mine is translucent plastic from Target, nothing fancy!  Toss in the chilled snap peas Imageand the radish rounds.  Then sprinkle with your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

Here is my basic vinaigrette recipe.  You can alter it to your tastes and leftovers keep for several weeks in the fridge.

I use one of those Good Seasoning’s jars but add my own ingredients.  Fill it to the vinegar line with red wine vinegar, not the cheap store brand (skimpy 1/4 cup).  Then some filtered water to the water line (about 1/3 inch more or two tbsp.). Next I add ½ tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp sea salt, a ¼ tsp dried thyme, one garlic clove (peeled and mashed down a bit to release flavor), 1 tsp mayonnaise, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper and ½ tsp sugar. Then top off with some extra virgin olive oil, stop a bit before the oil line and finish it with lighter olive oil (1/2 cup plus one tbsp of olive oil).  Shake it up really well.  It tastes best at room temperature and marinate it all put together for at least an hour before you use it the first time.  Keep in the refrigerator if there is any left over. The mustard adds snap and the bit of mayo helps the dressing stay emulsified (fully blended) longer than it would without the mayo.

You can guild the lily with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you like.  This is a light and delicate salad that will complement any number of main dishes like pasta, roasted meat or fish dishes.  As I said, you can swap out the peas or radishes for other veggies like raw zucchini, carrot rounds or whatever floats your boat! I like to choose things that look fresh and are in season.  Don’t put too much of any one veggie in; you want them to be like treasures to be discovered in the nest of fresh greens you have lightly coated with a tasty vinaigrette.

Be creative and have fun making fresh, healthy and yummy salads that will round out your meal and keep you feeling great!

Chopped; Wheat Free Style!

IMG_0584Ever watch Chopped on Food Network? I love that show.  Each contestant gets 3-4 weird to normal ingredients that must be in their final dish.  The dish must be tasty, look good and they have to transform the ingredients.  I am fascinated by what they are able to create in a limited time.  Check it out sometime.

So, I often play my home version of Chopped.  But I don’t limit myself to 20 or 30 minutes nor do I ask myself to radically transform the ingredients.  My rules are that I must make something yummy for supper using ingredients I already have in my kitchen and at least 2-3 that I must include in that particular meal.  Generally I have limited time to throw it together due to my hectic work schedule.  So, sort of like a Chopped episode.  At least I don’t have 3 other chefs there trying to out cook me!

Tonight I had a package of chicken thighs, a head of cauliflower, and half a lemon to build a dinner around.  I added potatoes, onions and garlic as well as some herbs to create a lovely one dish meal that was done in less than an hour.  I started it roasting and was able to complete some chores before sitting down to a wonderful supper.  I did supplement it with a salad of kale, celery and some cooked broccoli, topped off with my own olive oil vinaigrette.  I suppose you could use another cut of chicken, just adjust your cooking time accordingly but thighs cook long and that gave my vegetables enough time to be soft and lightly browned for perfect flavor and texture.  Here is my roughed out recipe

Feeds 4

Ingredients:

One package of 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

2 Tbsp sweet brown rice flour (can use plain brown rice or sweet white rice flour)

¼ tsp paprika

¼ plus ½  tsp dried thyme

½ to 1 tsp sea salt, good sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper

1 to 2 Tbsp mild olive oil

½ a head of cauliflower, cut up into 2 inch florets

½ a lemon; make zest strips from the skin and you will use the juice too

1 medium yellow onion

2 garlic cloves

3 large russet potatoes

1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup chicken broth.

So I took the flour and put it in a large baggie, added the herbs, salt, black pepper.  Shook them up and shook each chicken thigh in the baggie briefly to coat it.  Heat 1 to 2 Tbps. olive oil in a large frying pan, when hot, add the chicken thighs.  They should not touch each other.  Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned.  I turn them with my old school metal tongs, the kind with the rounded ends, they look like weird scissors.  Perfect for turning chicken pieces.

While it browns get the veggies ready.  Spray a 9×13 glass or ceramic low sided casserole dish with canola or olive oil cooking spray.  Peel and cut the garlic cloves in half, throw in.  Wash and cut the potatoes into 1 inch wide wedges, cut them across into short wedges.  Throw in.  Cut up the onion into 1 inch long chunks, toss in.  Toss in the cauliflower florets. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil over the veggies. Drizzle the juice of the lemon over it and cut up the lemon half and sprinkle small pieces on the dish. Sprinkle them with some more thyme; maybe another ¼ tsp.  Sprinkle with more salt if you like and some fresh ground black pepper.  Nestle the chicken thighs in there, pour the chicken broth over it.  I had some homemade leftover from another meal and it was perfect for this, I even left the chicken fat in it for extra flavor.  Cover the casserole with a sheet of aluminum foil.  Bake in 375 oven for 45 minutes to an hour; until veggies are done when poked with fork and chicken pieces are also done; clear liquid only when pierced.

Dig in and enjoy the subtle flavor of the lemon and herbs with the chicken and cauliflower along with the mellow flavor of the potatoes, onion and garlic.  Simple and gluten free  and a perfect meal on a chilly spring evening.    Use your favorite gf flour for the chicken dipping.  Most any kind will work.  I am betting you could change out the veggies to suit what you have around the house.  Healthy, tasty and cheap especially if you get the cauliflower on sale.  I think I am almost ready for my Chopped episode!

The Devil Made me Do it! Deviled Eggs are a Great Snack!

So I was thinking about my favorite snacks after my recent re-posting of a snack post of last year.  There are now so many GF things to buy but frankly they are fairly expensive and full of weird stuff plus I don’t think some of them taste that yummy.  The other day my sister asked me about deviled eggs.  Then I read an article in Food Network Magazine extolling the delights of many versions of that very same classic picnic food.   You know, the one people used to carry in quaint Tupperware boxes with shallow egg half depressions.  It got me thinking and since Easter and hard boiled eggs are mere days away…I decided a post on an old favorite was in order: deviled eggs.   Image

Deviled Eggs; they are so easy to make, so old school and yet so very tasty.  They are naturally gluten free if you stay away from spice mixes or premade sauces. I don’t even use a recipe.  First I boil the eggs for 10 minutes and let them stand ten more in the hot water.  Chill and peel each egg carefully: I like to gently roll them around on the counter to crack them all over the shells.  Use the oldest eggs in your fridge for boiling; they peel easier and any size works fine.

I rinse them briefly after peeling and slice them the long way. Then dump the yolks into a shallow dish.  I add a scoop of good quality mayo, a ½ tsp or so of Dijon mustard, a splash of red wine vinegar, a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  Don’t over blend and for goodness sake don’t add too much mayo, vinegar or mustard!  Excessive mustard is particularly egregious as the egg looks okay until you pop it in your mouth and the mustard sets your tongue on fire! Start with a small amount and add more until the taste is where you like it.

Then I scoop them into the empty egg white mounding up the filling. I don’t bother to pipe them in but you can!  An easy way to do that is put the filling in a ziplock bag, zip it and cut one corner out for piping it out of there.  Lastly, I like to sprinkle some paprika over it.  Some people guild the lily with a half olive (black or green as you like) but I prefer them plain.  Eat them the same day they are made, never a problem in my family as we never ever have leftovers.  They fly out of that dish like wings are attached to each egg half!  So, once the egg hunt is over,  you will be left with some eggs and this is a perfect usage that your family will cheer for. 

If you want the fancy versions check out this month’s Food Network Magazine at the library and whip up a few of them. Let me know what tastes good and maybe I will break with tradition and allow a funky topping to interfere with past deviled egg standards. Image

 

Eeek my GF Sibling is Visiting and I Have no Clue!

It may seem daunting to make dinner for a friend who is gluten free. What can you make? How can you do that in your kitchen? I want to give you some basic advice for such a situation so you won’t feel too stressed out about it. I wrote this for my sisters and a friend who wanted to cook a meal for me last summer. Image

First, I suggest you make sure your pots/pans/cutting boards/knives/baking dishes are very clean; if you have a dishwasher run them through. Any small bit of wheat flour can be a problem so scrub up good! Especially colanders that had wheat pasta in; it sticks in the tiny holes. If you are planning on cooking GF often you should have a colander dedicated for GF usage.

Planning is everything when you are entertaining. Good menu choices for sides: anything with potatoes or rice or corn as the star is generally okay. You should check that your GF friend doesn’t have any other allergies -like to corn or dairy. Unfortunately, that is fairly common for GF individuals. So ask before you plan a menu. Also acceptable for sides are quinoa, a wide variety of beans or polenta which is made with corn. There are lots of GF pastas out there; you can make enough for everyone or just enough GF for the person who must have it. In the summer you can serve a variety of tasty salads or picnic side dishes: rice salad, potato salad, baked beans, pickled eggs and deviled eggs. If you grill do clean the grill well in advance just in case something wheaty was on it (some bbq sauces have wheat in them as a thickener). If you buy a rice mix at the supermarket check it for a GF label; a lot of seasoning packets have wheat in them. Zatarians marks which of their mixes are GF.

If your recipe for scalloped potatoes has flour in it; replace it with white rice flour, it works fairly interchangeably for thickening sauces, flouring fish fillets or meat, or for making gravy. You can buy GF bread crumbs although I personally prefer to grind up left over GF bread and freeze the crumbs. You can buy rice flour in most supermarkets and health food stores these days. Chinese grocery stores sell it too. Supermarkets have a GF area where you can find crackers, hamburger buns and a decent variety of foods to help create your meal.

Some on line resources you can check out while planning a GF meal include: http://glutenfreeresourcedirectory.com/uid/4df6c6a2-2750-4966-a17d-540b30b115c5 Also, http://celiaccentral.wordpress.com/ or: http://www.celiac.com/. There are lots of sites with GF recipes; even food.com and foodnetwork.com have gluten free recipes you can chose from.

For desserts you can always serve fresh fruit, puddings, ice cream (no cookies with cream or cookie dough ice cream!), sorbet or ices. If you want to bake a dessert there are lots of great GF recipes out there; cookies and cakes translate well to GF, sometimes tasting even better than their wheat counterparts. I put up a pie recipe a few weeks ago; the crust and crumb portions from that recipe will make a great fruit pie; just use tapioca, cornstarch or white rice flour for thickening the fruit filling of your choice. The grocery stores GF section carries cake mixes and cookie mixes so you can make a quick and tasty dessert. There are lots of recipes for flourless chocolate cake which is a chocoholics dream! And you can get GF graham crackers to make a cheese cake crust that is safe for us celiacs. Use the above mentioned flour alternatives if any wheat flour is in your cheesecake recipe as a thickener. I just got some ice cream cones that are GF. Great snack choice if your company includes little kids. There are many tasty GF dessert choices for a minimum of effort.

Honestly, you can easily make a lovely tasting meal that will be safe for your celiac friend(s). It just takes some planning and extra care in the kitchen. Step one is planning a tasty GF meal, two is purchasing GF ingredients, three is making sure the utensils and surfaces are really cleaned up well so no wheat clings anywhere, four is cooking your meal components safely in a wheat free environment and step five is relaxing with friends enjoying the delicious GF meal you lovingly prepared for your company. So, don’t hesitate when you find out someone you love is now GF. You can make a great meal without totally stressing out about how to make your food all GF. It’s as easy as one, two, three, four, five!

Originally posted in July 2013.