Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gluten Free Chinese Food?

My teen-aged daughter loves Chinese food. When I say she loves Chinese food, I don't mean that she likes to have it every so often. I mean that she has a passion for it. She was saddened to read that her beloved soy sauce contained gluten. It was a very sad moment in time for her. At that moment, I knew I had to find a way to give her a gluten free alternative to one of her favorite foods.

I began to research for options and learned that there is a gluten free, organic soy sauce available! Luckily, I was able to find it locally so I did not have to wait for shipping.

My daughter had also requested that we buy tofu and try that, so I read all the labels and found an acceptable tofu. Later that afternoon, my husband and I went on to prepare a beautiful meal for my daughter consisting of fried tofu, fried rice, and a nice green salad. She was thrilled!

The recipe I used is adapted from another website. The changes made were very simple, I read all of the labels to make sure there was no gluten in any of them, used gluten free soy sauce, and organic sugar instead of the agave nectar. We have stopped using agave because it appears to be no better for our health than high fructose corn syrup.

For the pork fried rice, we used a Food Network recipe to guide us. There really were not any substitutions needed for this recipe. I just made sure to double check all of my ingredients to ensure there is no gluten.

Even though I have been great about removing all gluten from our home, I am still super cautious about reading all labels not only when we make a purchase, but also again as I go to use the product. Maybe I am being overly dramatic here, but I am so terrified of being "glutened". I do not want to return to the physical state that I was in prior to removing the gluten from our diets. I guess I can never be too careful. Perhaps my being so diligent in reading labels will serve as a good reminder and help my daughter make better food choices when I am not there to guide her. I don't know, but it is what I do to feel confident that we are eating purely gluten free.

So, the meal was a complete success. I don't know how I feel about the tofu, I am still reading about soy products and trying to determine if we should avoid that as well. Additionally, it is one of the things that can potentially irritate the bladder, so I am not sure that I want to eat tofu often if we have it as a meal again in the future. Still thinking on that one. We shall see. I suppose Rome was not built in a day. I can take a little bit of time to evaluate things and get some more advice from my urologist.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gluten Free Croutons

In trying to move towards eating healthier, I have gone back to trying to have at least one salad a day with our meal. Usually this is at dinner time. My mother used to have us eat salad each night with dinner. Many nights she would place hot peas and carrots over the salad with ranch dressing. It was something we knew would be there at almost every dinner meal. I had gotten out of the practice of eating salads, but the truth is, I love to eat them.

As an adult, I prefer to eat salads with spinach leaves, but I also enjoy other salad greens. I tend to avoid the iceberg lettuce of my youth and choose salad greens that contain more vitamins through darker leaves as well as a richer taste. We also try to add many different bright colors to our salads - bright red tomatoes and bell peppers, and orange carrots. My daughter loves to eat turnips and radishes on her salad. The more colors that are in my salad, the better it seems to taste. I love the crispness and the light crunch from the different vegetables as I chew them. It seems therapeutic to me to sit down and eat a nice leafy salad filled with vegetables. It is peaceful and tends to calm me.

Although, we have also taken to adding nuts and seeds to our salads, I still missed my croutons. Even though I have never been one to add a lot of them on my salad, I enjoyed adding a few or even taking a few saltines and crumbling them up on top of the salad for that extra little texture and flavor. But now, being gluten free, I felt deprived of that special little touch on my salad. For a while I simply told myself to quit complaining. My health is certainly much more important than a silly little crouton.

And then, today as I looked at the heels of bread from our fresh baked loaf of gluten free bread, I remembered making croutons each night when I worked as a waitress at the country club in Mississippi. I mentioned this to my husband who quickly took the crusts that are less than popular in our household and cut them into small squares. Then he melted a little butter in the microwave. Placing the gluten free bread cubes into a small glass casserole dish. Dabbing the melted butter onto the squares with a brush, before sprinkling a little garlic powder onto the bread crumbs was all that the bread crusts required before he placed them into the oven on 250° for about 15 - 20 minutes or until crunchy.

Tonight, our salads had beautiful, golden, buttery, garlic flavored croutons on top of our salad. And all was good.

NOTE: These croutons would also be wonderful on a nice hot soup.

Anasazi Beans

I believe I have mentioned previously that I love the flavor of beans. So naturally, when I came across a new type of bean that I had never eaten before, I became quite curious and had to try it. Anasazi Beans do not require soaking and cook in about 2/3 of the time that it takes for other beans to cook. These beans come from the Anasazi Indians who were cliff dwellers. The beans were discovered within the ruins in the early 1900's.

Anasazi Beans

2 1/2 cup Anasazi beans (rinsed)
6 cups water (make sure beans are well covered)
1 ham hock (smoked)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 medium onion, diced (I used Walla Walla Sweet)
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (optional)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper


Saute onions in skillet until limp, translucent, and slightly brown along the edges. Place in crock pot along with beans, water, salt,pepper garlic powder, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, and ham hock.

Turn crock put on high. Cook for 3 hours checking regularly to ensure there is plenty of water (should always cover the beans by at least 1/2 inch of water).

Anasazi beans are delicious served with a slice of gluten free corn bread, a few gluten free tortillas, or rice.

Tonight, we ate our Anasazi beans over a bed of jasmine rice, sprinkled with hemp seeds. We also enjoyed eating a buttered slice of the gluten free potato, rosemary, garlic bread that we picked up last night at our local CSA. Delicious!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Local Foods, Fresh Eggs, GF Bread

One day my husband I were talking about the cost of cage free organic eggs in the grocery store. We had just paid $4.60 a dozen for those eggs. It seems because the word "organic" was printed on the egg carton, the price was nearly doubled. Reviewing our grocery purchases of late, nearly all of our grocery purchases had doubled or tripled what we were used to paying. Our budget was way overextended and we needed to find somethings that can be done to lower the costs of our foods.

As always, when I am looking for answers, I began to research. Finally, I came upon the answer. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the best way to lower costs of foods without having your own little farm in your backyard. I reviewed the different farms in my area and came across one that is not too far from where we are currently living. They have fresh cage free, organic eggs for $2.35 a dozen. That would surely lower our egg costs I thought as I continued reading the list of foods offered through this program.

Cheese, milk, fruits, vegetables, and gluten free bakery products! A local bakery is offering gluten free products through the local CSA. I noticed that they even offered whole grains and beans. I was so excited. I simply had to place an order. Not all CSA's are set up to where you can choose your own supplies, many of them have a program where you pay a certain amount of money (your fair share) and receive a box each week of whatever the farmers are offering.

This particular program is not exactly like a CSA. It is more flexible. You simply review their offerings by Tuesday morning of each week and place your order, paying online. Then you go pick up your order each Thursday evening. This organization brings several farmers and local organic merchants together. The prices are much lower than what we would be paying in the store.

I am excited to say that we placed our first order and today was our first pick up day! When we arrived, we were presented with two reusable shopping bags of food. The person who was there distributing the food gave us a few extras because it was our first order, organic tuna, about a pound of brussel sprouts and a butternut squash. They were so pleasant to deal with and there was no standing in line. We are sold!

For this to work best for us economically (we still do need to drive about 35 miles each way), we have decided that we will only order every two weeks. Even so, we are predicting that we will be saving quite a bit on our groceries. Due to this, my grocery planning will need to be at least two weeks in advance so I can adequately account for our needs. We are looking forward to spring and summer when even more fresh organic and local fruits and vegetables will be available through our local CSA.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GF Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini was one of the few foods I enjoyed eating in the school cafeteria at lunch time. I remember those nice cheesy bites of chicken, creamy sauce, and noodles were so delicious to me as a child. Growing up, my family did not eat a great deal of pasta. My father was strictly a meat and potatoes man. We did on occasion eat spaghetti, but not often. I believe that must be why I have such a love for pasta, it was something new to me, something special when I became an adult and moved out on my own.

I remember the first time I made Chicken Tetrazzini in my own home. A lady from church had provided me her recipe to use after I tried it at one of the church potluck dinners. I remember being so excited to be making this dish for myself. Back in those days, I could not afford the white wine and many of the other ingredients she suggested, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Today, I am thankful to be able to make the recipe as she shared it with me, with only a few small adaptations I have made over the years such as the addition of both peas and spinach and converting it to gluten free. This recipe is very rich and uses a good bit of butter, but it is simply delicious.

Chicken Tetrazzini

1 whole chicken or 4 cups chicken cubed
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cups milk
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups very dry white wine or sherry
Zest from one lemon
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
2 cups Fresh Spinach leaves, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen baby peas
1 onion, diced (I prefer to use a sweet onion such as Walla Walla or Mayan)
8 oz. Sliced Brown Crimini Mushrooms
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
1 tbsp Fresh Rosemary leaves, crushed
1 bunch flat parsley leaves, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 tsp. Paprika
1 1/2 cup grated Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Romano cheese blend
1/4 cup Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
1/3 cup Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour)
1 pkg (12oz) Gluten Free Rice Spaghetti Noodles


1. Place whole chicken into large pot full of water on stove, boil until cooked, approximately 1 hour. Very carefully, remove chicken from water, reserving the water as it is now a wonderful homemade chicken broth. Place chicken on a glass pie plate with edges or other glass container to cool.

Once chicken has cooled, remove skin and bones. Chop up chicken into bite sized pieces. You will need 4 cups. Place the 4 cups of chopped chicken into a bowl and set aside.

Strain reserved chicken broth from above to remove fat and other particles. I usually strain mine through twice to remove all of the impurities from the broth. A paper coffee filter works nicely for this, as does this.

Note: If you buy larger chickens like I do, package up remaining chicken to be used for a different recipe and place in refrigerator.

2. Pre-heat oven to 425°. Place 2 tsp butter into a skillet and melt on medium-low heat. Place mushrooms in skillet to sweat, turning periodically. When the mushrooms turn a nice dark golden brown color, add the onions, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and an additional 2 tsp. butter to the skillet with the mushrooms and saute on medium heat until the onions become translucent.

3. Add the wine to the skillet and cook until the wine evaporates. Place the vegetable mixture into the bowl with the chicken. Set aside.

4. Using same skillet, place 2 tsp. butter into the skillet along with all of the spinach. Cover with glass lid. Let spinach wilt, lifting lid occasionally to turn the spinach leaves. The wilting process only takes a few minutes. Stir in wilted spinach in the bowl with the chicken mixture.

5. Place pot of water on to boil.

6. Melt 4 tsp. butter in same skillet. Add flour and whisk for a few minutes, then add milk, whipping cream, strained chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, continuing to whisk so the liquid will not scorch. Once at a boil, turn temperature down to a simmer. Continue to whisk. The liquid will start to thicken a bit. Cook on simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add to chicken mixture, stir in well.

7. The pot of water should be boiling by now. Drizzle some olive oil into the pot (approx 4 tsp.). Drop in noodles (do not break in half). Set timer according to instructions on the box for al dente. Strain and rinse immediately with cold water.

8. Place noodles in a separate bowl and toss with olive oil (approx 2-3 tsp) to keep noodles from sticking.

9. Mix noodles and chicken mixture together with parsley flakes, and gluten free bread crumbs until all ingredients are well incorporated.

10. Grease a nice big casserole dish well. Pour chicken and noodle mixture into casserole dish. Top with grated cheese blend and then sprinkle with paprika.

11. Place casserole dish on top of a cookie sheet and into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is a nice golden brown color.

We enjoy eating our Chicken Tetrazzini with a nice green salad drizzled with a fruity vinaigrette dressing, and some steamed broccoli with red bell peppers on the side.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Since we are not making dinner tonight, I decided I would go ahead and post the recipe from the Jambalaya that we made this weekend. This is my own recipe that has been altered just a tad to make it gluten friendly. I have used it for years. The changes made were minimal, so there is virtually no real difference in taste, but lots of difference to my health. For this I am thankful!

NOTE: Most people use celery in their Jambalaya, however, my sweet husband does not care for it in his food so I omit the celery. Instead I add extra bell peppers. You can raise the recipe to 1 whole green bell pepper plus 3-4 celery stalks if you prefer.


4 chicken breasts (skinned, bones removed, boiled, diced - reserve broth)
4 cups chicken broth (use packaged broth if needed)
1/2 pound Andouille sausage (sliced into bite sized pieces)
1 1/2 pound shrimp, medium (peeled and de-veined)
1 large can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
4 tsp butter
1 medium onion (medium diced)
1/2 bell pepper, green (seeds removed, diced)
1/2 bell pepper, red (seeds removed, diced)
1/2 bell pepper, yellow (seeds removed, diced)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoon Gluten Free Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Thyme
1/2 tsp. Oregano
4 cups cooked white or brown rice


1. Boil chicken. Reserve chicken broth. Remove chicken from pan and dice into bite sized pieces. Place chicken and broth into a large crock pot.

2. Cut Andouille sausage into bite sized slices. Place into skillet on medium. Cook until there is a slight char on the edges. Place cooked Andouille sausage into the crock pot with the chicken and broth.

3. In skillet, combine onions and bell peppers in skillet with 4 tsp butter. Saute until limp, translucent, and slightly brown along the edges. Add the garlic and cook for just a little bit longer, maybe 1-2 minutes. Dump into crock pot.

4. Add Gluten Free Worcestershire sauce, thyme, oregano, Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning, sea salt, and bay leaves along with can of tomatoes to crock pot. Turn onto high. Cook for 4 hours checking to ensure it has not dried out. Keep water level just above ingredients by at least 1/2 inch. Add water as needed.

5. Remove bay leaves.

6. Serve over cooked rice.

Many people like to add hot sauce such as Tabasco to their jambalaya. I tend to season the meal lightly and allow each individual the opportunity to spice it a bit hotter in their own bowl. This way it works well for everyone.

Good to serve with corn bread. While I do not have a recipe for this yet, we have simply used the Bob's Red Mill Corn Bread Mix to make ours.

To make the rice, we use jasmine rice in a rice steamer. We substitute chicken broth in place of the water. You can use minute rice, boil in a bag rice if you prefer. I find the chicken broth adds a richer flavor for the beans and rice. You could use a vegetable broth instead if you are vegan or water if you are trying to lower the cost.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fondu Night!

Our potluck get together with friends went really well last night. As luck would have it, we also have a fun night of fondue planned with a few couples for a pre-Valentine's Day celebration this evening. Luckily, fondue can be done gluten free.

Traditional Cheese Fondue

½ lb grated Gruyere cheese (rind removed)
1/2 lb grated Emmentaler cheese (rind removed)
1 clove garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon kirsch
pepper and nutmeg to taste


1. Grate the gruyere and Emmentaler cheeses. In a medium bowl, mix the Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese with the cornstarch and toss.

2. Rub the inside of a medium saucepan with the peeled garlic clove. Throw away the garlic. Pour the wine and lemon juice into the garlic rubbed pan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Stir the cheese mixture into the wine one small handful at a time. Make sure each handful is completely melted before adding another.

3. Season with the nutmeg and pepper. Stir in kirsch (be careful to only use amount given, does not taste very good if you toss in extra - I learned this the hard way once).

4. Using a plastic spatula, pour into a to a cheese fondue pot. To keep warm, place a few tea lights or a fondue burner underneath the fondue pot stand.

Things to Dip into the Cheese Fondue:

--apples cut into cubes
--pears cut into cubes
--GF Crusty bread cut into cubes
--cooked chicken cubes (I quick cooked mine in a skillet with just salt and pepper)
--Potato cubes - roasted ( I use fingerling potatoes roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary)
--Steamed broccoli, cauliflower, peppers
--Cooked pieces of ham and sausage

Provide each person with a fondue fork and a small plate. I also served a nice green salad with the meal so the participants were provided a regular fork as well. The wine that we used to make the fondue went really well with meal.

Chocolate Fondue

12 0z Baker's Chocolate - semi-sweet
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. Brandy

Chop up the chocolate into tiny pieces. Over a medium heat carefully heat up the cream until it is simmering then lower the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until all chocolate is melted. Take off heat. Add Brandy and stir until smooth - no lumps of chocolate.

Using a silicone spatula pour into a fondue pot, keep warm with a few tea light candles, in my experience, the fuels are too hot so using a couple tea lights is better and does not burn the chocolate.

Things to dip into chocolate fondue:

--GF Pound Cake - we loved this recipe by Gluten Free Easily. It was easy to do and tasted just like a gluten one would in our opinion. Our non-gluten free friends did not even notice a difference!
--Banana slices
--Orange segments
--GF Muffins
--GF Cookies
--GF Marshmallows
--GF Cheesecake

While fondue night is fun and easy to do, it can be a mess to clean up. Do yourself a huge favor and remove the cheese from the pan and wash it immediately after the meal. Don't wait until the next morning to do this or you will have a mess to contend with.