Discovering gluten-free recipes

I live alone so it’s pretty easy to get in the bad habit of eating out or buying prepared meals. However, I’ve been trying to eat healthier and do a better job of going grocery shopping more often. So, I was very pleased when our assignment required us to use ingredients that we currently have at home because my fridge and pantry were pretty full with great foods, spices and condiments (also, I had gone to the supermarket the day before class). I had a lot of fresh produce, beef, fish, cheese, Greek yogurt, several condiments, apples, bread, frozen berries, frozen mangoes, rice, beans, canned chickpeas, tapioca flour, honey, dried herbs, nutmeg and several spices.

To find a recipe, I decided to look through a book called ‘101 Best Gluten-free Foods’ which was a gift from my mom that I had never opened. As I browsed through the book, 2 recipes caught my attention: spicy roasted chickpeas and butternut squash bisque. I decided to make both as the chickpeas sounded very easy and could possibly be made while I prepared the bisque. Also, I had most ingredients required for the 2 recipes. The recipes are listed at the end of this post.

Results: I had a lot of fun cooking these 2 recipes! I had some music on while I cooked which made me enjoy even more the process of preparing each ingredient. I had to make some substitutions (noted below) but it was no big deal, I got creative and the results turned out great.The chickpeas tasted so good and I could not believe how easy it was to make them. I will definitely make this again! The bisque was also very easy and very very tasty – perfect for cold winter days.

Recipe 1: Spicy roasted chickpeas

1 can of chickpeas

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¾ to 1 tablespoon chili powder

1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper — did not have this

1 lime, cut into wedges — this added an amazing flavor to the dish!

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Combine chickpeas, oil, salt and black pepper in large bowl. Spread in single layer on 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan.
  3. Bake 15 minutes or until chickpeas begin to brown, shaking pan twice.
  4. Sprinkle with chili powder and red pepper. Bake 5 minutes or until dark golden-red. Serve with lime wedges.

Makes 4 (1/2-cup) servings

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Butternut bisque

1 teaspoon butter or margarine

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 medium butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds), cut into ½-inch pieces

2 cans of gluten free reduced sodium chicken broth, divided — substituted with broth made with chicken bouillon cubes

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Plain nonfat yogurt — substituted with Greek yogurt

Chopped chives — did not have this

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 3 minutes. Add squash and 1 can broth; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 20 minutes or until squash is very tender.
  2. Purée soup in batches in blender or use a hand-held immersion blender. Add remaining can of broth, nutmeg and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Serve with yogurt and chives, if desired.

Makes 6 (3/4 cup) servings

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Becoming the Cook I want to be!

As a newbie cook, I’m a bit daunted by this week’s assignment. I’m ancient and just learning foundational cooking skills. My history with food is limited and bland, filled with creamed foods with little color or taste. While I love my mother, she was not a cook and I did not learn on my own. Food has also been an area of control and constraint for me over the many years living with Type 1 diabetes. When I was diagnosed, food options were limited, weighed and measured to within an inch, and food was more of a threat than an enjoyment. As the diabetes field has evolved, flexibility with food has expanded exponentially. I am slowly moving along with this.  So, I’ve stocked my home with an array of foods and collected recipes to overflowing. Now is the time to move to put the food and recipes together!

Taking stock of my pantry was eye opening! I have just about anything needed – pastas, multiple types of rice, stock of every sort, collection of fairly fresh spices and frozen herbs, frozen meat, fresh and frozen vegetables, juices, dairy products, nuts of all sorts, unami options – anchovies, soy sauce, etc.

I decided to start small and safe with a recipe that was familiar – also acceptable to the varied palates of my husband and 16-year old daughter. Speed of completion was also important. Looking through foods that were available and needed to be used, I decided to adapt a family favorite – porcupine meatballs. These are meatballs with embedded, uncooked rice that’s simmered in V-8 juice for an hour. To speed this up, I browned ground beef with onions rather than making meatballs. At the same time, I cooked white and brown rice in the microwave. All was thrown together with left over V-8 juice (I made vegetable soup last week- love adding the V-8 to the stock) in a pan and heated together. During the simmer, I steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Start to finish – 20 minutes. And it was good enough to get my 16-year old to the table for dinner. Victory!

After dinner, I noticed a container of cherry tomatoes on the counter that needed to be eaten. I didn’t want to roast or make sauce out of them, so I scanned through my recipes. Creamy Shrimp stuffed cherry tomatoes (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/46561/creamy-shrimp-stuffed-cherry-tomatoes) caught my eye and took advantage of ½ bag of shrimp in the freezer and cream cheese that cried to be used. The recipe was simple and quick: 1) cut off and de-pulp the tomatoes; 2) pulverize the shrimp, cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, horseradish, and lemon juice in food processor; and 3) put the 2 together (this actually was the hardest part!). The result – tasty treat for snack and lunch tomorrow.

All in all, this was fun and encouraging. A great way to jumpstart my life as a cook!

 

Cashew Icebox Cookies - close enough!

Cashews and Parsley

No, not at the same time. Cashews and parsley were the star ingredients in two dishes I made this weekend: Cashew Icebox Cookies and … some sort of spaghetti dish.

Full disclosure: my husband does 99% of the cooking in our house. While I am capable of following a recipe and often enjoy the time I spend in the kitchen, the  hubz loves cooking and also usually has more time to make daily meals for us. Since he has been cooking at home for 15-20 years and puts a high priority on real scratch food, our pantry is quite well stocked. We’ve got pasta, wild rice, all sorts of sauces, vinegar, meats, vegetables, spices and herbs galore, etc. etc. etc. I like to bake sweet things, so our stock of flour, three kinds of sugar, and a variety of chocolate bits support that pretty well also.

And so we come to cashew icebox cookies and improvised spaghetti dinner.

Cashew icebox cookies - mise en place

Cashew icebox cookies – mise en place

I’d been wanting to make these cookies since I found the recipe in December, but not for the tray I wanted to bring to work (my coworker is allergic to nuts). By the time my husband and I made all the cookies for work, though, we had had enough and certainly didn’t need to be eating more sugar and butter ourselves. So there the recipe sat, untried and unloved, until this past Sunday.

First things first: I pulled all the ingredients and the measuring spoons and cups I’d need. The recipe called for cashews thee ways: ground, chopped, and halved, so that prep came next. From there it was a matter of combining the stuff together, chilling the dough in logs rolled in chopped nuts, slicing ’em up, and baking the things.

Cashew Icebox Cookies - rolled and ready

Cashew Icebox Cookies – rolled and ready

The tricky bit was the butterscotch drizzle. First the butterscotch pieces wouldn’t melt, then the mixture got too hot and possibly a little caramelized. It still looked good, though, so I went to transfer it to a plastic bag for piping. Too soon: the drizzle melted right through the plastic! Luckily I had had it propped in a glass, so I was able to save the drizzle to try again. As I had to leave the house just then, I decided to put the whole pot in the fridge and try again tomorrow.

The second time around things went marginally better. Now stiff with cold, the mixture was in now way ready for piping just then. So back on the stove it went, with a little milk added to keep in from burning before it could melt. This time, when I thought it was ready to drizzle, I removed the mixture from heat and let it cool for a few minutes, carefully watching to time my pouring for when it was cool enough but not yet set. Then I ran into a new issue: the drizzle didn’t want to flow out of the bag and onto the cookies. I tried cutting a larger hole in the corner with somewhat disastrous results. I did manage to drizzle about half my cookies, as well as the table around and between them (I’m reminded of mothers chiding eating babies for having “more on you than in you”). But hey – they taste good and who cares what they really look like?

Cashew Icebox Cookies - close enough!

Cashew Icebox Cookies – close enough!

My dinner on Monday went quite a bit better. The back of my box of spaghetti had a recipe for something involving bell peppers and mushrooms, neither of which I had on hand. So I just went with the things I did have: sausage (though a different kind than the recipe mentioned) and pasta sauce. The recipe didn’t mention any greens or garnish, but having recently acquired some parsley I thought “hey, why not practice those knife skills we talked about?”. While the noodles cooked, I fried my sausage slices in a bit of oil and chopped my parsley. Then, as my back-of-box recipe suggested, I poured my sauce into the sausage and let that simmer. Drain, transfer to bowl, top with sauce(age), sprinkle with parsley, and voila! A lovely, delicious, and simple spaghetti dinner.

Spaghetti plus - with fresh parsley!

Spaghetti plus – with fresh parsley!

I have to say I really enjoyed this assignment – because it encouraged me to think more creatively about what I could do with what I had!

Home Assignment #1

I live with two roommates in a house with a smallish kitchen.  We cook separately, but share a CSA and general baking supplies.  We moved together just a few months ago, bringing independently well-stocked kitchens –i.e. we have lots and lots of spices, vinegars, etc.  My part of the household pantry doesn’t have a lot of “extra” stuff beyond the ingredients I use week to week because there isn’t space.  It reduces food waste but also the likelihood of spontaneously creative meals.

I am still transitioning out of a grad school lifestyle where I spent as little time as I could spare planning and preparing meals. In light of this, I eat roughly the same thing every day.  It makes “meal planning” easy, because I don’t have to think about what to buy at the store – I just make a list to replace the items that I ate during the past week or so.  Cereal and milk for breakfast (+ maybe fruit or yogurt), sandwich for lunch (can switch up the contents or type of bread for variety), and sautéed veggies with either pasta or rice for dinner.   I keep a stash of canned goods and frozen items for when I inevitably run out of fresh stuff before going back to the store.  It does get boring, but when I try new recipes I get tired of cooking very quickly and then end up with a bunch of leftover ingredients for which I have no use.

These are two frequent “recipes” I use – the first what my meals look like when I still have fresh stuff and the second from later in the week.

Meal #1:

olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper

a bunch of vegetables (in this case: white onion, potato, green pepper, mushrooms, and tomato)

pre-cooked chicken sausage

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I was hungry when I started making this meal, so I didn’t make a side of rice or eggs – but that could be nice.  Though single portion meals are great, I would also like to get in the practice of making larger batches of food (for some reason I rarely do this when starting from fresh ingredients).

Meal #2:

1 cup red rice

garlic, onions

1-can whole-kernel corn, 1-can diced tomatoes, 1-can kidney beans

pepper-jack cheese (cut into small pieces from a block and tossed on top of the finished meal)

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I usually cook garlic and onion in some olive oil before adding the canned goods.  I had used up all of my onions, so I threw in the last of my fresh veggies instead (some mushrooms).  I didn’t drain the cans as thoroughly as I sometimes do so meal prep took longer as I waited for liquid to boil off.  I made slightly more rice than I needed for the quantity of vegetables, so the leftovers were less flavorful than the first meal.  I didn’t get the rice stuck to the bottom of the pot!

 

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Assignment 1: Healthy Pancakes

As a single and overly busy individual I find meal planning does not generally happen.  I am spontaneous when it comes to cooking.  In the past when I have food prepped I have found I made something that I cannot eat more than two days in a row.  Also I generally try recipes that are too advanced for my cooking skills.

I am in the process of moving so when taking a look at my pantry it is pretty low in stock.  I have some spices, but mostly just left overs, over ripe fruit, and other random breakfast foods of the cereal variety.  I definitely do not have the food I would like to utilize, and would like to get more basic foods in order to make simple but nutritious foods.  I have realized I have a lot of overly processed foods that have zero nutrition value and are “easy.”

On Sunday afternoon I was in need of lunch.  After surveying my kitchen I decided to make what I call healthy pancakes.  This recipe is super easy, which makes it perfect!

It involves:

2 eggs

1 banana

1/2 to 1 cup of oatmeal

Estimate cinnamon

This recipe is not only extremely easy, it is very quick.  It probably took 10 minutes to make.  It is also healthy and allows you to use up older bananas.  It is not the prettiest of meals but it does the job, and it tastes like banana bread.

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Homework Assignment 1

In general, my wife plans our meals, and she hates it. Or rather, she would LOVE to have some help. We have two teenagers, and when they were younger, she was home with them full time. Since then, she has gone back to work, about 30 hours per week. We’ve just never changed things up, and we’re both hopeful that this class will be the impetus to modify our food ritual.

The biggest challenge for me is planning ahead for meals. I get home between 5 and 6, and by then it’s often too late to try and figure out a quality dinner. So, one thing I’d like to do is get into the habit of planning for the week on Saturday or Sunday. Bringing left-overs for lunch is a must for me, especially now that I’m experimenting with a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet. It’s tough to avoid carbs at restaurants, but it’s almost impossible to add enough fat to the meal to feel satisfied.

While I’ve basically eliminated carbs, and my wife has reduced them, we haven’t forced the kids to join us. Their meals are LCHF, but they have snacks that are often carb heavy. This means our pantry is still loaded with carbs – cereal, chips, granola bars, cookies –  which makes impromptu cooking even tougher for me. But, surprisingly, I’ve not been overly tempted by the carbs and sweets in the 2 weeks I’ve been on the diet. One nice thing about the LCHF diet is the meals are really satisfying and sustaining – I’m not tempted to snack in between meals.

This week, I made an egg scramble for the breakfast for the family on Sunday. First, I crumbled left-over bacon (3 pieces) and warmed it up on the stove. I then added 6 tablespoons of butter (high fat is soooo yummy!) to the pan, and when it had melted I added 9 scrambled eggs and about a quarter cup of shredded mozzarella cheese along with a dash or three of salt and pepper. After the eggs cooked, I topped it with shredded cheddar cheese. That was breakfast on Sunday for the family. Interestingly, the kids could not taste the mozzarella. I’m also kicking myself, because I could have added diced onion to the mix – especially since I know how to cut one now!  But overall, it had good flavor and helped stretch out the bacon a bit.

It was a busy weekend for me, so unfortunately I did not get to a second recipe. I will next week though!

 

Look, Honey. I baked!

So, to start things off, let me just say that I am not known for my prowess in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, people associate me with food. I love to eat. If a new restaurant is opening the in Twin Cities, I am one of the first to be there because I love the new and the novel. This may be precisely why I do not cook much at home. It could also be because my family was the kind that rarely ate anything that wasn’t microwaved, didn’t fall lumpily out of a box, or wasn’t reheated to within an inch of it’s original state. I know that eating out or making quick, processed foods are not the best, but it always worked for me, especially when I was single and only cooking for one. Honestly, a meal of cheese and crackers at the countertop while binging Project Runway episodes was was my idea of a perfect evening.  I am happy to say, however, I am evolving a bit in the food department.

With my past in mind, you probably have an apt mental picture of what my pantry looks like. It’s stocked with numerous “quick” foods – canned soup, boxed macaroni, cereal – but also aspirational items, like pine nuts and premium pink baking salt, that disclose to the observer that I desperately want to know my way around a kitchen, if not for my own benefit, at least for my husbands. Ben is the kind of guy who can throw together a delicious meal from whatever is in our house, and I always feel guilty that I cannot return the favor when it is my turn to cook. I attribute his confidence and aptitude to being raised by a mother who believed that eating dinner out was akin to neglect, so he grew-up accustomed to meals prepared from scratch and was privy to the work that went into them.

I tried making two different recipes – one an entree and one a dessert – and I chose them because they could be made with what I had in my pantry. I struggled to have all the ingredients for even these relatively basic recipes, however. The brown sugar for the cookies had to be beaten out of the bag with a hammer, as it had hardened ages ago, to my surprise. The pasta dish involved spaghetti instead of linguine, and there was no fresh basil chiffonade because I am not yet the kind of person who would happen to have fresh basil. Having said all this, it was a lot of fun to cook, and I really did feel a certain sense of pride in what I made.

Recipe #1 Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

Here is the recipe, if you would like to see it: http://www.popsugar.com/food/Pasta-Pesto-Roasted-Tomatoes-Recipe-9110458

What was special about this recipe is that it required me to both 1.) roast tomatoes and 2.) toast breadcrumbs. While I realize this is not that fancy, I would normally never do either of these things if I was making pasta. Generally, I am so hungry by the time I start cooking it is just a race to get some sauce onto a starch of some kind so I can get on with it. Roasting tomatoes gave them a lovely flavor and added a panache to my dish, but 20-25 minutes of roasting (once my oven is warmed up) seemed like soooo long to wait! I think I would do this again, though – it was worth it and meant I was at least eating a vegetable with my pasta. The breadcrumbs, however, seemed a little superfluous. They looked nice and added a textural interest, but they were very sweet and kind of felt out of place when I was eating the dish. I did feel very accomplished, however, toasting them and adding them to the pasta, and it felt like a nice gesture, like I was telling myself, “You’re good enough for toasted breadcrumbs. You deserve the chance to feel a little classy on a weeknight. In your sweatpants.”

Recipe #2 Chewy “Cafe Style” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe: http://hostthetoast.com/best-chewy-cafe-style-chocolate-chip-cookies/

As a middle-schooler, I made chocolate chip cookies more often than I played Super Nintendo – which is A LOT. I would make a batch at least once a week, often to the delight of my family and the expansion of my pubescent waistline. I even won a “bake off” in my 6th grade Home Economics class with the recipe (which I took from the back of a Hershey’s Chocolate Chip bag but pretended was my own.) Now,  I know what you are thinking, “He said he never cooked!”. Cookies were the exception. You just had to follow the recipe, use lots of sugar, and eat a healthy portion of the dough (until that raw egg scare in the late 90’s). Cookies were always something I felt confident about, so I thought they would be a good option for my first homework assignment.

These particular cookies are “cafe style” because they are supposed to be larger than the average cookie and look “good enough for a display case”. The secret, according to the blogger who posted the recipe, is corn starch, melted butter, and the method of rolling and placing the dough. The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, though I felt tricked when I got to one of the later steps and realized you need to refrigerate the dough for an hour before baking (my husband nearly lost his mind when I told him it would be a wait- his cookie lust is legend.) The cookies themselves did come out pretty tasty, though, and I would do this recipe again. The only real confusion I had is when the recipe told me to make balls “roughly 1/4 of a cup in size”. I never understand this. To me, liquids and powders are measurable in cups, but dough is not. I see 2 sizes of cookie – “Cookie”, and “Big A** Cookie”, so telling me to use a cup as a reference point for how much dough to use is not helpful. Hopefully I will get better at this as I continue to grow in my cooking skills.