Archive for the ‘Gluten Free’ Category

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Monday, July 7th, 2014

I remember watching TV once when I was a kid.  If I remember correctly, it was 7th Heaven, but I can’t say with any real authority.  Sorry.  Anyway, one of the characters said something about how they made a vegetarian lasagna, and I (stupidly) said, “ew… gross!”  My mom got a little offended, or maybe she was just calling me on my picky eating BS (it’s hard to call, really), and responded with “My lasagna is vegetarian, is it gross?”

And in my stupid little preteen brain, when I thought of vegetarian, I wasn’t thinking meatless.  I was thinking veggie-full.  And my stupid little preteen brain told me that veggies were gross.

This lasagna is the polar opposite of my mom’s lasagna from back then (although since getting this recipe from my sister-in-law, she only makes her lasagna this way).  There are tons of veggies.  And meat.  It makes no sense, really.  You could make it meatless, sure.  But I prefer not to.

Lasagna Done

And it doesn’t have veggies like my stupid preteen brain was picturing.  It doesn’t have mushrooms and olives, which I still maintain are pretty disgusting.  It doesn’t even have spinach, which even my preteen self was ok with in lasagna (primarily, I’ve stopped eating spinach because I’m pretty sure I was having an allergic reaction to it, at least in the large quantities that I was eating it).  It has a really sneaky vegetable masquerading as noodles.

Say what?!

Yep.  That’s how this thing is gluten free.  Zero pasta.  We could call into question its validity as a “lasagna” at all at this point, but once you see how yummy it is, I’m not sure you’ll want to.

I like to make it in little loaf pans because that’s about exactly right to feed me and my husband for dinner.  But when I’ve had it with my family, I’ve made it in 13×9 pans, and since that’s a more typical amount of lasagna, I’ve made the recipe thus.

On this particular occasion, I made a quadruple recipe and froze a ton of little loaf pans.  My husband and I are the proud owners of a new to us freezer that is currently sitting in our living room.  More on that later.  In the meantime, know that this meal freezes extraordinarily well.  I’ll even tell you how.

Lasagna Prep

Here’s how this lasagna goes down.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 pound ground beef (optional)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 jars spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Brown the ground beef with the onions.  Add in the spaghetti sauce.  You can leave the sauce alone at this point.  Or I like to add some black pepper and fresh herbs and then just let it simmer.  This is all optional.

Peel the squash, then cut the skinnier part into thin round disks (about a quarter of an inch or less, try to be as uniform as possible).  Then cut the larger part in half vertically if it’s standing on its butt.  (I have no idea the technical terms for a butternut squash, so just go with me on this…)  Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds and what not.  Now cut these into moon shaped disks.

Spoon a bit of sauce into your pan.  Then cover with a layer of butternut squash.  Top with sauce.  Then cheese.  Then repeat.  And again.  Until all the ingredients are used up.

Here’s where you cover with foil and freeze if you’re into that.  Then you just pull it out of the freezer, thaw, and follow these other directions when you’re ready to eat.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes or until the squash is fork tender.  Then bake uncovered until the cheese is just slightly blistered.

P.S. The butternut squash really dried out my skin today, a problem I haven’t had when I’ve made this in the past.  I mean, we’re talking peeling skin dried out.  It’s gross.  If you have a similar problem, you should know that a bowl of sugar to rub your hands in and an episode of house hunters should do the trick.

A Time for Everything

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

When I was a kid, I was so obsessed with ketchup.  It went on/in everything.  From mac’n’cheese to the more conventional french fry, I was obsessed.  And then, with no real warning, our sordid love affair was over.  Ketchup was disgusting, and I didn’t want it on my hamburger, let alone my mac’n’cheese.  Everything was barbecue, those days.  And really, barbecue is an ideal dipping sauce: spicy, sweet, with a little tanginess thrown in for good measure.

And then Joel and I went to the Old Salt Restaurant in Beaufort, NC.  First, let me begin by saying that they have a fantastic gluten free menu and a staff that’s actually educated on it.  Second, they have these sea salt brined fries…

I recognize the fact that in creating a food blog, I’m signing on to be able to write about food.  But sometimes… the texture and the flavor are just absolutely so amazing, that you don’t even have words for them.  And to be honest, I’ve been chasing that sea salt brined high ever since.

Five Guys fries are not a bad stand in when I’m back in Durham.  They’ve got the flavor just right, but the texture isn’t quite there.

But the thing is, the fries weren’t even it.  They serve them with their own homemade ketchup that is unbelievable.  I just… words…. not there…

And ever since, I’m back on the ketchup wagon.  I knew I was going to have the house to myself on Friday night with a new season of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix (I recognize that I should be watching Orange is the New Black, but that’s a together show while Joel doesn’t really care for PLL).  I was out running errands, and I thought some fries with some sort of fancy ketchup would exactly do the trick.

Balsamic Ketchup

Oh man, did they ever!  Heinz has this ketchup with balsamic vinegar.  The fries were everything that prepackaged frozen fries are, but this ketchup is a game changer.

When I told Joel about it after, he wanted in on that mess.  So we manufactured an excuse to use it again: corndog muffins with tater tots (a preference of his I’ll never understand).

Corndog Muffin

Corndog muffins were a pinterest find from forever ago.  They’re the easiest way to satisfy a corndog craving, which, if you’re anything like me, come fairly regularly.  The recipe is from Iowa Girl Eats, and while I like the concept, her method simply doesn’t work for me.  A) I don’t have a mini muffin tin.  B) I have found the best gluten free cornbread mix in the whole wide world, and I really don’t see any reason to mess with that.  C) I also think we can do a smidgen better than regular ol’ hot dogs.

So let’s simplify this a bit.

Corndog Muffins

  • Prepared cornbread batter*
  • Kielbasa sausage, cut into 12 equal pieces

Pour batter into muffin tins as the recipe directs (do not overfill).  Insert a sausage piece into the middle of each filled muffin tin.  If there is batter leftover, I like to pour it into a small pan and bake plain to have with butter and honey for dessert.

* My personal favorite of the gluten free varieties is Pamela’s.  My homemade cornbread isn’t that good.  I figure if I’m having corndogs for dinner, I might as well go whole hog and treat myself with my favorite cornbread (see what I did there?).

P.S.  The combo with the ketchup.  Absolutely divine.

A Foodie’s Guide to Eating

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

An alternate title for this post could be “how to simplify meal time” or maybe even “chill out about your food”.  I always start my meal planning with the very best of intentions.  I want to eat wholesome meals full of ethically sourced ingredients that will make my mouth happy.  But then I get home from a long day of work, and $2 tacos end up happening.  Suffice it to say, I have no idea how the beef in $2 tacos is treated.  And then, those really great, really expensive, ethically sourced ingredients sit in my fridge and go bad.

 

So I decided to take a chill pill this spring.  School was really getting me down.  Things were difficult and required long hours, so I decided I needed to be practical about this.  The 30 minute meal concept just didn’t work for me.  Because 30 minute meals always take 40+ minutes the first time you make them, and that’s just way too long to spend on my feet in the kitchen when I’ve already spent all day on my feet in the classroom.  So I started looking for meals that I could make in 10 minutes or less.  This might mean 10 minutes of prep, and then an hour of sitting on my butt watching trashy TV.  I get home from work early enough in the day that that works for me.  So please note the new category to your right.  You’ll be seeing a lot more of these around here.  Even though I’m off for the summer, I’m finding that once you start making 10 minute meals and you realize how yummy and healthy they can be, it’s awfully hard to go back.

Simplify Meal Time

So here are 5 easy steps to simplify your meal time and make 10 minute meals a reality.

1.  Get the right appliances.

A blender might be nice on weekends when you’re making smoothies (I’m lying; I hate blenders), but a rice cooker will serve you well every weeknight.  You can cook a lot more than rice in it, but the main thing to know about rice cookers, is that they turn themselves off when they’re ready.  That means you don’t have to hover over the rice making sure that it doesn’t burn.  Mine is a very simple hand-me-down from my mom when my parents went all low carb.  While there are varying levels of quality, the idea that you can buy one on Amazon for less than $20 has me sold.  I know it takes up space, but really, for enabling you daily to sit on your butt and watch Pretty Little Liars while your dinner cooks, I think we can all agree that it’s worth it.

Another appliance that isn’t strictly necessary but sure is handy is the toaster oven.  My mom’s oven broke, and she used the toaster oven for so much of her cooking, that she waited months before getting it replaced.  Really, had it not been for turkey on Thanksgiving, I’m not sure she would have.  Likewise, the toaster oven can quickly heat up, shortening the overall cooking time.

2.  Get the right condiments.

I’m talking more than ketchup, mustard, and relish here.  A store-bought sauce can pack a big punch and tremendously shorten your time chopping onions and garlic and measuring soy sauce and sesame oil into a bowl.  Don’t get me wrong, homemade sauces are great.  But on a busy weeknight, a store-bought equivalent can be your best friend.  Know what your family likes.  We love the whole San-J gluten free line-up, but a good gluten free barbecue is great too.  Having the right sauce can transform meatballs, make pre-cooked chicken something magical, and help you put together meals in under 10 minutes.  That’s the goal, after all, isn’t it?

3.  When healthy, affordable, and tasty, buy pre-____________.

I’m talking prewashed and/or precut veg, precooked chicken, or any number of convenience foods with minimal additives and preservatives.  If precut veg means I’m eating more veg, it’s hard to see how this isn’t an advantage.  And while precooked chicken will probably not be as good for me as the ethically sourced farmer’s market equivalent, it’s probably a lot better for me than whatever they’re putting in those $2 tacos I love so much.

4.  When best isn’t happening, start figuring out how to do better.

I know that good is the enemy of best.  But for a perfectionist, best can get in the way of better.  My desire to be 100% ethical and organic and healthy in my food choices along with my reality of a busy schedule and demanding career, means that the choices I actually make don’t reflect that desire at all.  Instead, I need to start thinking practically here.  While I’m not suggesting anyone compromise their values, we need to be realistic.  When the ideal or the best choice simply isn’t happening, it must be unrealistic.  Maybe that means we need to cut back on our busy schedules (for me, not really an option, as most of my busy-ness comes from a career that I’m just not willing to leave), or maybe that means we need to start thinking of practical alternatives that are still better than chicken nuggets and fries.

5.  Make it simple.

My old boss used to recite a household mantra before every meal he ate with me, “something white, something dead, something green, something bread.”  Basically, a starch, a protein, a green veg, and a bread.  I tend to remove the bread for health and gluten reasons, but it’s not a bad idea.  You do not need 5 different roasted vegetables with pan-seared pork loin and a homemade balsamic reduction.  You just don’t.  A starch (rice, potatoes, pasta) with a protein (fish, chicken, beef, etc.) and a vegetable will do most nights.  And there are a thousand ways I change this up.  But making things simpler is always a good start.

I start baking potatoes, start the rice cooker, or start my pasta water boiling.  Then, I put a protein in a sauce and into the toaster oven.  And at the last minute, I might sautee a frozen vegetable or chop up a salad.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

For you to see this philosophy in action, check out this super simple recipe for Thai Lettuce Wraps.  Sure, I could have added some bean sprouts, cilantro, and carrots.  And I’m sure that would be tasty.  But, when in doubt, make it simple.  And excluding those tasty options made this a much more practical meal for me.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

  • Rice, cooked
  • Pre-cooked chicken, chopped into bite size pieces
  • Thai peanut sauce (I like San-J)
  • Lettuce (iceburg is ideal for its structure, but I had red leaf in the fridge)
  • Fixin’s (slivered cucumbers and/or carrots, cilantro, chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, etc.)

Prepare the rice in your rice cooker or on the stove.  When it’s basically done (or all the way done, as slightly cooled rice is just fine for this meal), put your pre-cooked chicken with the peanut sauce into the (toaster) oven to heat up.  Wash lettuce leaves and prepare fixin’s of your choice.  When chicken is hot, serve.

The easiest gluten free anything ever made

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

This is my first week of summer, except only kind of and not really.  The organization that I used to work for has invited me back to teach a workshop this week, which is way cool, and only sort of a bummer that I’m still having to work when I should be in summer mode.  That said, my mornings are still fully mine, and I’m really enjoying them.  I’m still waking up early, partly because my body clock has adjusted yet, and partly because I think it makes it easier for my husband who is very much not a morning person to get up.

I’m also really enjoying making breakfast (something beyond a bowl of chex).  But also, my mom just moved, and because she’s a rockstar and because I’ve consistently had a lot of trouble eating food from her kitchen, even when it’s theoretically gluten free, my mom is trying to maintain a mostly gluten free kitchen, or at least a gluten conscious kitchen.  So she asked me for a super easy, impossible to mess up recipe for some kind of gluten free baked good.  And I have a recipe that I’ve been meaning to tell you guys about for… well… over a year.  It’s my go to muffin to take into work when I’m a little grumpy.  I figure either it’ll get me out of my funk or sharing muffins with coworkers will at least make me tolerable when I am grumpy.  It’s one or the other, for sure.  It’s the sort of recipe that you can totally make on a weekday morning.  And it looks like this.

Chocolate Muffin

But my absolute favorite part about these muffins is that they don’t require that much in the way of “gluten free” ingredients.  They have a mere three-fourths cup of gluten free all-purpose flour.  My favorite for this is King Arthur, but Bob’s Red Mill will certainly do.  Whole grain variations have worked, but not nearly as well.  It’s important that you not use a “cup4cup” style flour blend, as the batter will be too runny then.

I also love how willingly these muffins take mix-ins.  Often, I’ll mix in nuts or chocolate chips (of the white, milk, or dark variety… all are amazing).  Get creative.  They are a blank canvas of chocolate-y goodness.

Chocolate Muffin from above

So mix up a dozen of these babies, dress them up in Bill Cosby cupcake papers, and share with your friends.  You won’t regret it.

Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins

  • 1 c. unsweetened applesauce (if all you have is sweetened, that’s fine, just reduce the sugar to 1/4 c.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. oil (I usually use coconut, melted, but any vegetable oil will work)
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c. gluten free all purpose flour (like King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt

Mix first four ingredients until well blended.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Spoon into prepared muffin tins.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

Ramona the Pest

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

When Joel and I first started dating, he was in the process of selling his condo in Carrboro.  When he finally did sell it a year later (this was back when the market was in pretty rough shape), he invited me along on his house hunt in Durham.  The house that he finally did end up buying has my dream kitchen in it (in a 50s retro, funk counter peninsula kinda way), a fenced in back yard, and is about a block away from a dog park.  We’re very fortunate to have a great neighborhood for walking, including a pretty rad trail.  Less than a year after Joel bought this house and quite a bit before I would move in, I was hounding (pun totes intended) Joel to get a dog.  It seemed a crime to have such an ideal house/neighborhood for a dog and not to have one.

… and then we met Ramona.  I was teaching workshops out by the coast that summer, and some of the interns and I were discussing the different dogs they had.  And then this lady who volunteered at this afterschool program said, “Are any of you looking to adopt a dog?  Because we have some dogs that really need a good home?”  And when I told Joel they had a bunch of black lab/golden retriever puppies that were going to the pound within the week if they didn’t find puppies, he was just as much into it as I was.

Retriever

Ramona’s a tough one to photograph because she’s ALWAYS moving.  I don’t know what we were really expecting with a name like Ramona.  But as much of a pest as she can be at times, I absolutely adore her.

… so when I woke up at 1 this morning because I had a nightmare where she died of this really awful disease, I wasn’t able to go back to sleep.  I had to teach today on little more than 2 hours of sleep.  Obviously not ideal.  So when I was staring at my box of chex this morning, I knew that just wasn’t going to cut it.  I considered toast with peanut butter and banana.  Not a bad option, but I really needed chocolate.

I went searching for this recipe.  And it rocked my world.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Quinoa

Remember those no bake chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies you had at VBS every summer?  This is a relatively guilt-free version of that.  It’s so rich and decadent, but the ingredient list beats out your average box of cereal.  Check it out!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Quinoa

adapted from The Everything Vegan Cookbook

  • 1/2 c. quinoa
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 T. cocoa
  • 1 1/2 T. agave syrup (or your sweetener of choice)

Cook the quinoa and milk over medium-low until the quinoa is cooked, and the milk is almost entirely absorbed.  Remove from heat.  While quinoa is still hot, stir in the peanut butter, cocoa, and sweetener.  Top with bananas or eat plain.  Serves 2.