Archive for ‘Gluten-Free’

February 5, 2018

My Heart Will be Filled With Love and My Tummy With Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

My heart will be filled with love and my tummy with chocolate for Valentine’s Day! I’ll be keeping DJ, my 18-month-old grandson on Valentine’s Day this year. Along with a card, I’m giving him a real, working stethoscope. He’ll get to listen to his heart while we talk about hearts and lungs and friendship and love. Valentine’s Day holds many natural lessons. The chocolate, I’m saving for myself.

If your Valentine is gluten-free, you may be tempted to shower him/her with flowers, jewelry, movie tickets, or stethoscopes rather than food. There’s nothing wrong with any of those. Sometimes they’re my choices as well. But if you really want to score points, take on the challenge of cooking a homemade gluten-free dessert. It won’t be as hard as you think, and the thoughtfulness and effort are certain to touch the heart!
brownie and punch
Since chocolate is a tradition for Valentine’s Day, brownies can be a good choice. The only specialty products needed for the following recipe are a small amount of almond flour and coconut flour. These flours are widely available in regular grocery stores. (The almond flour may be called almond meal.)

If you cannot find almond or coconut flour in your area, they are available from, King Arthur Flour Company, Inc. or big box online retailers like Walmart and Amazon. All of the other ingredients are regular baker’s chocolate, brown sugar, butter, and the like.

There’s no special equipment needed to make this gluten-free Cooking2Thrive recipe, but a heart-shaped cookie cutter can add some romance to the finished product. Just wait until the brownies are cool before you cut them.
recipe card
12 brownies

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, rough chopped
1/2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, rough chopped
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup blanched almond flour
3 tbsp coconut flour + enough to flour baking pan
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Place butter, chocolate, and honey in sauce pan.  Heat over low until melted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool for 3 or 4 minutes.  

While chocolate is melting, whisk together almond flour, 3 tbsp coconut flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.  

Once chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, add vanilla, brown sugar, and egg to it and mix well. Add chocolate mixture to bowl with flour mixture and combine. Stir in walnut pieces.  

Pour batter into prepared 8 x 8 pan. Bake in 350° oven for 18 – 22 minutes. Cool on rack for 15 minutes. Slice and serve.

It’s always comforting to have a gluten-free dish prepared by someone you trust, and food really does taste better when it’s prepared with love.

Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day filled with love and chocolate!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

January 30, 2018

Back to Basics in the Kitchen

We often talk about cooking here as if you’ve been cooking all your life, but today we’re going to get back to basics. While my mom didn’t cook much when I was growing up, my grandmother did. I spent enough time cooking fresh food and baking from scratch to feel comfortable with the tools and the terms. That’s not true for everyone my age and certainly not for everyone my kids’ age.

In some circles cooking has come to mean popping a packaged meal in the microwave or heating precooked entrees or vegetables in the oven. I’ve seen posts in which a description of baking from “scratch” included a cake mix.

Reducing the amount of prepackaged, convenience foods you eat can help lessen your consumption of chemical additives, sodium, manufactured fats, and sugar. It also means you may have to perform a few additional “cooking” related tasks.
If you’re not familiar with cooking terminology, translating a recipe into a dish may seem daunting. Removing some of the mystery can help you get past the feeling that you can’t cook because you don’t even know what the words in the instructions mean. Today, let’s explore some basic cooking terms and techniques so you can be on your way to becoming a great cook!

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to prepare a wide variety of foods for boiling, steaming, baking or broiling. Peeling, slicing, chopping, dicing, and mincing only require a knife. But what are they?
Peel – Remove the outside skin from vegetables or fruits.
Slice – Cut a thick or thin, flat piece of something like fruit, vegetable, bread, or meat.
Chop – Cut food into irregular pieces of similar size to each other. Chopped pieces are typically larger than diced or minced.
Dice – Cut food into cubes between 1/8″ and 1/2″ in size. If size is not specified, use 1/4″
Mince – Mincing is like dicing, but the pieces are smaller.

When preparing vegetables and fruits, you’ll use these techniques over and over again.

Sometimes you may not want a cooked or raw vegetable to retain its shape at all. You can then use a food chopper or processor to grind or purée it. Grinding reduces the food to tiny particles. Puréeing means the food is processed until it’s smooth. You don’t have to have an electronic appliance to do this. A cooked vegetable can be mashed, then put through a sieve to create a purée.

Once you’ve prepped vegetables and meats, you may want to add heat in order to boil, steam, sauté, bake, broil, roast, grill, or braise.
Boil – To submerge in a boiling liquid at or above the boiling point of water.
Steam – To place food above boiling water in a pot or pan using some kind of rack or basket and a cover so that steam cooks the food.
Sauté – To cook a food quickly in oil and/or butter over high heat.
Bake – To cook using dry heat in an oven or on heated metal or stones.
Broil – To cook quickly using high heat from above the food.
Roast – To cook using dry heat with a temperature of at least 300 in an environment in which hot air from an open flame, oven or other heat source envelops the food, cooking it evenly on all sides.
Grill – To cook directly over live, high heat flames.
Braise – To cook slowly in a small amount of liquid in a covered container in the oven or on a burner.
Brown – To give a cooked surface to meat or flour. Also to turn a brown color in the oven.

Sometimes you’ll want to parboil, blanch, simmer, scald or blend.
Parboil – To briefly boil in water until food begins to soften.
Blanch – To briefly place food in boiling water, then immediately move it into cold water. 
Simmer – To cook in liquid at a temperature just below a boil. 
Scald – Refers to both dipping into boiling water, and heating milk to just below the boiling point.
Blend – To mix ingredients together thoroughly often using a beater, mixer, or blender.

You may be instructed to dot a casserole with butter before baking it, or to baste a turkey while it roasts. If so, here’s what to do:
Dot – Cover the top with small pieces of butter.
Baste – Spoon, brush or pour drippings or liquid over a food before or during cooking.

When you begin baking from scratch, you’ll commonly see instructions to sift, mix, cut in, whisk, flour, fold, and knead so let’s prepare for that:
From Scratch – To make from the very beginning without using already prepared ingredients.
Sift – Use a device made of a metal cup with a screen at the bottom that contains a mechanism to force the flour through the mesh.
Mix – Combine items to form one mass.
Cut In – Work solid fat into dry ingredients with a pastry blender until evenly distributed.
Whisk – Beat or stir with a whisk.
Flour – To dust a pan the shortening in a prepared baking pan with flour.
Fold – To delicately incorporate one substance into another substance without releasing air bubbles.
Knead – To work a dough by mixing, stretching, and pulling with the fingers and mashing with the heel of the hand.
Other common actions are grating, whipping, and garnishing. Let’s explore those terms:
Grate – To rub firm food on a tool with small, rough, sharp-edged holes grater to create small pieces.
Whip – To beat vigorously to incorporate air and cause expansion.
Garnish – To decorate a dish with something attractive and flavorful.

Now for the important question – Can we use these terms to make a great snack for the Super Bowl?

Of course we can! It’s winter. Let’s make chili!

Chili Sallie
Serves 8

1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 fire roasted sweet peppers, seeds removed, diced
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
2 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
3 1/2 – 4 cups tomato juice
1/3 cup stewed tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Sauté onion in olive oil in large pan until translucent – about 5-7 minutes. Add the jalapeño and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add red peppers and ground beef to the pan and brown. Once beef is browned, sprinkle with chili powder and stir until all the meat turns red. Add beans, 3 1/2 cups tomato juice, stewed tomatoes, and the balance of the spices.  

Stir and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add the balance of the tomato juice if needed as the chili cooks down.
Serve hot.
Now that you have a guide to more than 30 common cooking terms and have had a chance to see them as they appear in a recipe, you can build on this knowledge as you gain experience and confidence.

Never feel bad about having to look something up. Many chefs have used books and kitchen experience to become successful. And remember, you don’t have to be a chef to be a great cook!

December 4, 2017

Dump Soup – Perfect for a Lazy Day

This morning, I’m making dump soup. I’d like to say it’s because I’m having a relaxing day with nothing else to do. The truth is, I’m sick. I don’t feel like standing in the kitchen, but I want some soup to sip on.
The good news is, I have remnants of broccoli, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, carrots, celery, fresh rosemary, and ham in my refrigerator — all left over from last weekend’s family meal prep. I also have a bag of small red onions I picked up on sale. The other good news is that the broccoli has already been cleaned, the potatoes were peeled & sliced for scalloped potatoes (but wouldn’t fit in my dish), and the tomatoes were chopped for a salad. I can just dump everything in a pan, no prep required!!!!

Dump soup, unlike a carefully prepared stew, doesn’t require chopping. It doesn’t require potatoes that haven’t turned dark. You don’t need to cut the leaves off of the celery or pull the rosemary off its stem. You can just dump cleaned veggies in a large pot, season with salt, pepper, garlic (dump some fresh in if you have it), and any other herbs or spices that compliment your flavor profile, then add meat & water.
Any leftover or uncooked meat will work — ham, chicken, and bacon are my favorites. Dump soup is a great place to use chicken or turkey necks, hearts, livers, and gizzards. It’s the perfect excuse to skip closely trimming a ham bone. Leaving some meat on the bone will add even more flavor to the soup. If you don’t have meat handy, mixing some chicken stock in your water will deepen the flavor of the vegetable broth.

If you’ve ever made chicken stock, you know that once the broth is flavored, you remove all of the chicken and vegetables because they’re overcooked and have given most of their flavor over to the broth. Dump soup is the same. What you’re going for initially is a flavorful broth. Slowly simmering your mixture for 3-4 hours will result in a rich broth. The lengthy cooking time is another reason it’s perfect for a lazy morning or a day you’re stuck at home doing chores.

After 3-4 hours, dump in whatever you’d like to chew on in your soup. First, remove all the meat, vegetables, and herbs. I don’t worry about straining out little remnants, but you can if you want a clear broth. Today, I’ll probably dump in some brown rice, but pasta, quinoa, or lentils are good options as well. If I felt like spending more time in the kitchen, I might add chopped vegetables and/or meat.
I’ll serve today’s dump soup with some ratty looking gluten-free biscuits I threw together this morning. I keep the dry ingredients mixed up so that on days like today, I all I have to do is cut in some shortening and add the milk and buttermilk. That means it takes about 5 minutes to mix the biscuits and get them in the oven. Obviously, I didn’t take much time rolling or cutting these! A piece of fresh fruit will round out the meal.

And I’ll have plenty of everything left for tomorrow. Of course, I hope I’m feeling better by then but you never know. Having something warm and comforting already prepared makes me feel less anxious and able to rest more easily while I try to get ahead of this virus. There’s also something comforting about the delicious aroma filling the house.

In a matter of minutes, I cleaned out 80% of the contents of my refrigerator, made the house feel comforting, and created several meals — all by making dump soup. Not bad for a morning when I’m mostly lying around watching TV!

November 13, 2017

The Holidays…Already? How About a Cornbread Salad!

Can it really be the holidays…already; how about a cornbread salad? It would be an understatement to say this year has flown by. I’ve been running full speed ahead the whole time so it seems like only 6 months have passed. Now it’s time to get my mind and menu ready for Thanksgiving. I’m not sure I’m prepared, but that’s probably beside the point. I have to get ready anyway.

In my family, the Thanksgiving crowd varies widely from year to year. Some years I’ve hosted 26 and some years there have only been two of us. That means every year requires a slightly different plan. This year my plan is to keep it simple, but I also want to keep it interesting!
Instead of cornbread stuffing, I think I’ll try a cornbread salad. I found this recipe in my mom’s recipe scrapbook. It was cut out of a newspaper and it’s called Mississippi Cornbread Salad. The recipe calls for cornbread mix.

In order to make it gluten-free, I’ll start with a Cooking2Thrive cornbread recipe.

Make some cornbread

1/4 cup shortening
1 cup yellow corn meal
1/2 cup white corn meal
1/2 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk

Place shortening in cast iron skillet & put in oven to melt while you mix batter. In a medium bowl, mix together white and yellow corn meal, sorghum flour, sugar, and salt. Add baking powder and mix thoroughly. Add egg, milk, and buttermilk. Stir just until mixed.

Remove skillet from oven. Swirl melted shortening around in skillet until sides are coated. Pour hot shortening into batter and stir. Place batter in hot skillet. Place skillet in oven and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove skillet from oven and place on rack to cool. Turn cornbread out of pan.

Gather the salad ingredients
Once the cornbread is cool, I’ll crumble it. In the meantime, I’ll gather the other ingredients:
bell pepper
One envelope of Ranch style dressing mix. (Hidden Valley does not currently contain gluten)
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup gluten-free mayonnaise
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped orange or red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onion
4 cups cooked pinto beans, drained (or 2 16-ounce cans)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3 1/2 cups whole kernel corn, cooked & drained (frozen, canned, or fresh)
10 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

Make the dressing
In a small bowl, make the dressing by combining the dressing mix, sour cream, and mayonnaise until blended. Set the dressing aside.

Combine tomatoes and peppers
In a second bowl, combine the tomatoes, bell peppers and green onions and toss gently.

Assemble the salad
I’m going to assemble the salad in a large trifle bowl, but any 3-quart bowl will do. Place half of the crumbled cornbread in the bowl. Top with half of the beans, the tomato mixture, the cheese, the bacon, the corn, and the dressing. Repeat with a second layer. Cover and chill for 3 hours.

That’s it. The salad is done. Now, since I haven’t tried this yet, I can’t tell you if it’s going to be good, but all of the ingredients go well together. My only question would be one of proportion. When I make a combination like this, I eyeball it and add veggies until it feels right to me.

I’m fine with preparing a dish for the first time and serving it to guests. That doesn’t mean the recipe always turns out perfectly. It just means that I don’t worry too much about a failure. I’ll have plenty of food on the table even if I have to throw one dish in the trash. If it’s good, but not great, I’ll improve it next time.

So, let’s give this simple, interesting recipe a try and see whether we should make it a tradition! Join me?

Follow-up note: I made this salad for Thanksgiving. It was good enough that I have plans to come up with a Cooking2Thrive version that we’ll tweak and test until it’s better than good. After all, we always aim for superior deliciousosity!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”