Thursday, July 28, 2011

Flour vs corn starch

So I am still very new to cooking gluten free. I still have a whole lot of questions and even more things to learn.

Tonight I was trying to adapt this chicken and broccoli recipe for the stove top. I got to the section about adding flour to thicken the milk. My first thought? "Well, that's not going to work." I've used corn starch to thicken many sauces and gravies over the years so I figured it was a good solution. The problem? I didn't know how much starch to use vs. flour.

The box had this handy little table that showed 1 TBS of corn starch is equal to 2 TBS of all- purpose flour. Well if that wasn't super handy!

So I made the substitution. Verdict? The dish turned out creamy and and perfectly thickened.

Just thought I'd share this little lesson :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pork Fried Rice!

Jon loves pork fried rice. He always has it when we go out to eat at a Chinese buffet. I have been searching for a recipe that tastes restaurant fried rice without all the calories and msg. After several years of trial and error, I finally found it!

Jon said it was the closest recipe we've tried. It was really good. I think the combination of bacon and pork really was what made it work. I used diced leftover honey-hoisin pork chop meat and Oscar Mayer real bacon pieces.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Pork Fried Rice
Makes 4 main course servings

1-2 TBS oil
2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
4 TBS soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small red onion, diced
4 oz cooked pork, diced small
4 oz cooked bacon, crumbled
2 large carrots, shredded
2 cups cooked rice
2 TBS rice vinegar
black pepper to taste
2 thinly sliced scallions, greens only (optional)

Mix together 1TBS of soy sauce with the eggs and beat well. Heat 1TBS of oil in a large skillet or wok. Add egg to pan and soft scramble (Do not over cook the eggs. Pull them out of the pan still slightly under done).You will be adding this back to the pan later on. Set aside.

Add the diced pork and bacon to the pan. Fry until warm and crispy.Remove from pan.

Drain off all but about a tablespoon of fat. If you are using a lean mean you will not have any fat to drain off. Add remaining 1 TBS of oil if needed. Add garlic, carrot, onion, and rice and cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender and rice is starting to brown.

Return the egg and meat to the pan along with the remaining soy sauce and the rice vinegar. Mix well. Let cook for 2-3 minutes more. Season with pepper to taste. Garnish with scallions.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Turkey Club Quesadillas

When we go out to eat (which is incredibly rare) I like to get a turkey club sandwich. It's got turkey, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Usually it's served on a thick sliced bread like a good sturdy sour dough. Yum....

I was really craving one of these sandwiches the other day, so I did what I've done with most of my sandwiches for the moment(until I find a suitable gf bread recipe)- I made it into a quesadilla :)

It hit the spot. All the flavor of the original, but gluten free for my little kidneys.

The recipe is more of a guideline than an actual recipe. But I wanted to share it with you anyway.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Turkey Club Quesadilla

2 corn tortillas
shredded pepper jack cheese (any cheese you like will work)
shaved turkey breast lunch meat
cooked and crumbled bacon
diced tomato
shredded lettuce

Toast your tortillas in a dry pan or under a broiler until just golden and slightly crunchy.

Sprinkle cheese over one tortilla and melt either in microwave or under the broiler.

Sprinkle bacon, tomato, and lettuce over the cheese. Top with turkey.

Spread a thin layer or mayo on the remaining toasted tortilla. Place mayo side down on the turkey. Cut into 6 wedges and enjoy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Taco Seasoning

I like making my own seasoning mixes. I get to control what goes in them (flavor) and what doesn't (sodium). One of my favorite blends is my taco seasoning.

One of our top ways to use it(other than ground beef tacos of course) is a dry rub on chicken. Just sprinkle the meat liberally with seasoning, grill until done and enjoy. Super easy.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Dry Taco Seasoning Mix

3 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dry oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp beef bouillon granules
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all well and store in a zip top bag.

To use for ground meat tacos: 

In a large skillet, brown 1 lb of ground beef or turkey and  1/2 onion, chopped.

Add 1 small can tomato sauce and the seasoning mix. Add 1/4 cup water. Stir to combine. Simmer until thickened.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Flourless Peanutbutter Cookies

Who loves peanut butter cookies?! I do! Ok, let's be honest. I like most cookies. But I've always been a sucker for the basic peanut butter cookie with its little cross hatch design on the top and crystals of sugar shimmering around the golden edges. It's so unassuming and yet packs so much flavor.

I found a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies and decided I had to try them.Of course I had to tweak the recipe, because I can't help myself...

They turned out so good! They taste just as good as traditional peanut butter cookies.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 16 cookies

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg white
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

white sugar for rolling

Cream together the sugar and peanut butter. Add remaining ingredients. Combine well.

Preheat oven to 350.

Take a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and form it into a ball. Roll the ball in the white sugar to coat. Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Using a fork, gently press the cookie to flatten slightly.

Bake 10 minutes until the edges are lightly golden and cookies are puffy.

Remove from oven, cool 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wheat Free Update/ Lemon Buddies

So. It's been 21 days since I went wheat free to help alleviate my chronic kidney stones and kidney pain. Here's what I know-

1. I haven't felt this good in years. Probably since before my first surgery to remove some large stones that were stuck in my ureters about 6 years ago.Subsequent surgeries left a lot of scar tissue and inflammation in my ureters. (Inflammation that I aggravated, unknowingly, by ingesting wheat)

2. I don't miss gluten filled foods the way I thought I would. I have always been a pasta and bread sort of girl. So I was very sad that I would have to do without. BUT there are great companies like Heartland who make products like this:

GF pasta that actually tastes so good Jon-boy didn't even know the difference!
As for the bread, well I haven't tackled that one yet. The little blocks of "bread" I see in the supermarket scare me to death. I mean have you looked at it? It's a tiny brick. For all I know it was a brick that was spray painted to look like bread! Don't get me wrong, I am sure that there are some great products out there, but I don't want to pay $7 for that tiny little thing I don't even know if I will like. There are many gf bloggers (like Lynn) who have bread recipes that look like bread. Fluffy, white, homemade bread. I intend to give them a go and see what I can do.

In the meantime, though, I have developed a liking for white corn tortillas. They make a great sandwich wrap, both sweet (like jelly sammys) and savory (ham and cheese anyone?)

3. I have found that my body functions so much more efficiently when not trying to process wheat. Cutting out wheat meant also cutting almost all processed junk that I really liked (ramen noodles, Little Debbie snacks, and desserts) I've even managed to slim down a little bit as a result. I've lost enough "extra padding" that I was willing to cut my long hair off and donate it(What? No one wants to look like a fat toddler with a bad haircut. Sometimes when I have short hair that's how I feel! Don't judge me LOL). I love the way this cut turned out :)

4. As a cook with a fair amount of experience under my apron, I find new recipes and techniques less daunting. I was petrified when I first read my list of foods I was supposed to avoid. All I could see for a few days was "bad" food. It was difficult for me to see past that list and explore all the foods I could enjoy. Now, I embrace the challenges. I get to seek out new ingredients and culinary adventures.

5. You gotta shop around (the store). My frugal nature sometimes makes shopping a HUGE challenge. Gluten free foods that are marketed specifically as gf tend to be more expensive. That's the nature of the beast, you get to pay extra for companies to print on the package "a naturally gluten free product". But I've found that good, thorough label reading lets me find foods that are gf without the high price tag. I am blessed that I don't have to worry so much about cross contamination. I can eat foods that are processed in facilities that process wheat, dairy, and nuts. I shop the entire store reading labels as I go (just because a product doesn't say it's gf, doesn't mean it isn't. You just have to read the ingredients.) So even though it takes us longer to get through the store that it used to, it's worth it in the long run both financially and health-wise.

6. And finally, my sweet husband is very supportive. He tries not to bring a lot of the non-safe foods home that I like. He helps me find alternative foods for those I shouldn't eat anymore. And when I prepare a new dish he always gives it a go. (In the game of give and take I try to make things that are familiar to him. Example- We'll have grilled pork chops with a new side dish.)

So, friends, that's the wheat free update. I will leave you with a yummy little treat recipe for Lemon Buddies. My dad makes half the batch with lemon and half the batch with lime. Then, he mixes them together for lemon-lime buddies. Yum!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Lemon Buddies
160 calories per 1/2 cup serving

9 cups Rice or Corn Chex cereal
1 ¼ cups white vanilla baking chips
¼ cup butter or margarine
4 tsp grated lemon peel
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar

Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chips, butter, lemon peel and juice uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.

Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; gently shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in airtight container in the freezer. Best when served cold directly from the freezer.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Coriander Salmon

I'm a Midwest girl. Minnesota born and raised in fact. That means lots of fishing.

I know I've talked about this previously, but I like love fishing. And, I enjoy eating fish on occasion.My favorite fish remains fresh walleye, lightly buttered and seasoned, grilled over charcoal with crab-apple leaves/green branches adding a beautiful sweet smoky flavor.

I have prepared freshwater fish like northern pike, sunnies, and  bluegills many ways over the years. I adore a good smoked fish (trout or salmon) while sitting next to a campfire along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

About 5 years ago I started preparing other fish. We started experimenting with catfish(best cut into bite sized pieces, breaded in cornmeal and pan fried), tilapia (best all around fish for us- we like it grilled in foil packets), grouper(Jon-boy's favorite), and fresh salmon. There have been others as well, but those are the few that seem to have stuck around.

We were at Publix grabbing a few items the other night when Jon saw the Apron's Simple Meals booth. They make samples of real food. Not just a hot dog cut up or bite of cardboard pizza, real honest to goodness food. I went on my way to pick up what we needed and noticed Jon was no longer with me. He had stopped to get himself a sample. I was surprised when he came to me and said "You have to try this salmon. And make sure you eat it with the salad, it's really good!" So I tried it. I must say, I was impressed. Enough to put it on our menu and share it with you.

It's super easy to make and only took about 20 minutes. I loved that it was refreshing and filling without feeling heavy, a great summer dish.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Pan Seared Coriander Salmon
Serves 4

3 TBS ground coriander*
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
4 salmon fillets, about 1 1/2 lbs total
2 TBS olive oil

Preheat large sauté pan on medium-high 2–3 minutes. Combine coriander, salt, and pepper; then coat both sides of fish.

Place oil in pan, then add fish; cook 3–4 minutes on each side or until 145°F and fish flakes easily. May be served over Chickpea Salad (recipe below)

* If you can't find coriander, substitute ground cumin.

Chickpea Salad
Serves 4

1/2 cup canned quartered artichokes, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 bag baby arugula leaves (4–5 oz)
1/2 cup canned chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed
3 TBS red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Combine arugula, chickpeas, onions, and artichokes.

Whisk vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper until blended; add to salad. Toss and serve.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Green Bean & Bacon Salad

Last night Jon and I had grilled stuffed burgers (beautifully seasoned ground beef filled with either Velveeta cheese or laughing cow cheese grilled to perfection) with this green bean salad. I was amazed that Jon gave the beans a 9 on our scale of 1-10. I shouldn't have been surprised though, that man loves both bacon and green beans.

The salad reminded us of the green beans we used to get at a local Chinese joint, only with the bonus of bacon :)  I garnished ours with a little bit of slivered almonds. They were delicious.

What sorts of non-starch sides do you prepare for your family?

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Green Bean & Bacon Salad
Serves 6
85 calories per 

2 pounds green beans, trimmed 
3 bacon slices*
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots 
1/4 cup red wine vinegar 
1 tablespoon honey 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Cook beans in boiling, salted water 5 minutes. Drain and plunge beans into salted ice water; drain. Place beans in a large bowl.

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in pan. Crumble bacon; set aside. Add shallots to drippings in pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vinegar; cook 30 seconds, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Drizzle mixture over beans.

Combine honey, mustard, pepper, and salt to taste, stirring with a whisk. Pour over green bean mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

* I used 3 heaping TBS Oscar Meyer real bacon pieces. Crisp them up in the pan. Remove and drain on paper towel. Add a tsp or so of butter to the pan to cook your shallots.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Kar's Apple Salad

My best friend, Karlin, taught me how to make a Snickers apple salad in high school. It remains a tasty favorite of mine. Whenever I make it I am reminded her :)

Me and Kar circa 2008

There are only 4 ingredients, and you probably have them all in your pantry/fridge right now. This salad always does well at potlucks. Like so many white colored foods, it doesn't photograph well, but trust me, it's delicious.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends.

Kar's Snickers & Apple Salad

3 large gala apples,cored, peeled, and diced
2-3 full sized snickers bars, chopped*
1 small package vanilla pudding powder (I use sugar free)
8 oz light whip topping

Mix together the whip topping and dry pudding mix.

Add in the apples and snickers. Stir to coat well.

Serve well chilled.

* Snickers bars can be replaced with Butterfinger bars.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Latest and Greatest

Well, I realized the other day I haven't done a good update blog in a little while. So, here it is :)

For the 4th of July(on the 3rd of July), we went to Mom and Dad's church celebration. There were games, a bounce house, food, and music. It was a wonderful way to spend the evening.

Here are a few photos of us playing horseshoes. It was my first time. When Jon explained it was the same principles as bowling, I knew I was in trouble. And guess what, I throw my horseshoes slightly to the left, just like I do when I bowl...
Mom and her horseshoes

Jon wouldn't leave until he got a ringer. Good thing he's good at horseshoes!

We didn't attend the fireworks this year. The island we want to see them from didn't hold the fireworks this year since they are doing construction (they are building a new convention center). So we watched the fireworks on TV. Next year though, I will not be denied live fireworks on the beach, over looking the ocean. :)

A new challenge has been added to my crazy little life. My nutritionist gave me a very long list of foods I am supposed to avoid to reduce my chronic kidney stones. My biggest kidney offender- wheat. Yep, wheat.I had no idea how many of the foods I love contain wheat.Seriously, read your labels for a day or two. You will be amazed at how much wheat you eat without even realizing it.

Two other things I am supposed to avoid- all varieties of potatoes and chocolate. *Sigh* I love them both so much. But, if it means less kidney stones, I will say adieu. And, it's not that I can't ever partake in these foods, they simply need to be a treat.

I've been eating wheat free and following my list of approved foods. I can't even begin to explain how happy my kidneys are. My sweet husband has been incredibly supportive through out this dietary change.So, we'll see how this goes. If you have any tips or yummy recipes feel free to share them with me :)

We finally had a beautiful thunderstorm today! I am pretty sure that there is some invisible bubble over the city I live in. All around us it rains. (Or so the radar claims) But it seldom gets over the interstate and into my backyard. But today, God blessed us with a wonderful downpour, complete with thunder and lightening. It was music to my ears. 

Other than that, it's been pretty quiet around here. Hope you are having a delightful summer, all!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Buckeye Bars


I have had a ton of hits on my post about my dad's peanut butter buckeyes. So, when I found a similar recipe in bar form, I had to try it.

I made a pan up and brought them to a church potluck. They flew off the plate.

When I went to retrieve my dish, someone in the kitchen asked what the plate looked like. I started to say it was a square dish, but I was immediately cut off by the entire kitchen staff who said "The one with the peanut butter chocolate bars?!"

I got excellent reviews for these little bars of happiness. And now, I pass the love along to you. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Peanut Butter Bars
Makes one 9x13 pan

1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs (just over one pack)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups creamy or chunky peanut butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
12oz milk chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and peanut butter and butter and beat until combined.  Press into a foiled lined 9×13 pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes until firm.

Place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second intervals, stirring after each one, until melted and smooth.  Pour chocolate over peanut butter mixture and spread out evenly.

Chill in the fridge just until chocolate is just set and then cut into bars.  Use a sharp knife and score the cuts first, then gently cut through.  Can be stored in the fridge or at room temp.  They will stay firmer if stored in the fridge.