Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy Gluten-Free-versary To Me

One year.

One year without (knowingly) having gluten.

And I expect those vegan-like superpowers (Scott Pilgrim!) to kick in any day now.  Aaaaaaany day now.

Last year was the last time I had homemade no-knead bread and cheese ravioli as my "last meal".

In a year, I have not ONCE eaten anything from a McDonald's, Burger King, Culvers, Taco Bell, White Castle, Panera Bread, Subway, KFC, Popeye's Chicken.  No gyros (the meat involves breadcrumbs).  No fast food fries (except Five Guys) since they are usually cooked in the same oil as wheat products.  For the first time in my life I've had to send food back to the kitchen uneaten because there was bread or pasta in there somewhere.  And as much as I tried to deny my problems were "just wheat" and not gluten, I've also figured out the problem IS gluten and I can only drink totally gluten-free beers.  No paczki were had by me this year.

For some people, yes, it is fad.  But no one does it 24-7 on a whim.  Trust me.

I still have to ask my mother in law to cook the stuffing outside the turkey this year.  I would guess for awhile still, I will dread a lot of parties and gatherings (outside the family) that have to do with food, because it means I have to bring my own (usually).  I'll continue to bow out of some work events and gatherings because there just won't be a single thing I can eat there.  I will continue to live in mortal fear of the shared kitchen area at work on mornings where someone brings in bagels (seriously... engineers are NOT a tidy lot and the breadcrumbs get EVERYWHERE).

But I have learned other things.  Good things.

I can now (thanks to a rice cooker) cook rice and make an awesome risotto.  I can make a gluten-free pie crust.  In home cooking, I can sub for most gluten-ingredients and stay happy.

It has very much been a love/hate year with food.  I'm trying to lean more back towards love.  And it will continue to be difficult, but hopefully, I'll come around.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oldie but a Goodie.... Sunday Gravy.

That is a happy plate.

It's always happy plates when it is Sunday Gravy night.

I originally used a recipe from America's Test Kitchen, and since the first time I have probably gotten more lazy and just do this on the fly.  It always works.

Buy a package of bone-in country style pork ribs.  By some beef that looks good/is priced right (a small chuck roast, beef shanks, flank steak - whatever looks good at the market and is priced right.  Tonight, I used beef shanks 'cause they were on sale today).  Buy a package of good Italian sausage, and a couple bottles of your favorite spaghetti sauce.

Then look in your fridge.  Have mushrooms you need to use up?  Slice up those. Zucchini?  Also a good addition.

Yes, it is going to better if you brown up your meat (but if you are really lazy, you don't have to).  You can then dump all the meat and the sauce into the cooking vessel of your choice - either a slow cooker and let it simmer all day, or in a big oven-proof pot that you will bring up to a simmer and then put into a 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

At that time, you need to fish out all the meat, degrease the top of the sauce, and then shred up the meat (slice the sausage).  Then dump it back into the sauce.

The hubby like Pappardelle with his.  For me, I did some risotto in the slow cooker.  I'd rather have risotto than most gluten-free pastas, and I can have that going in a rice cooker on the countertop so I'm not juggling stovetop space.

And even if it burns a little on the bottom of your pot, it's all good.

And it makes enough to feed an army.  A good dish if you're having a bunch of hungry people over (We always have tons of leftovers).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When life hands you something unexpected.... pickle something.

So.  Pickle Party.

(No... not that kind of pickle party.  Get yer mind outta the gutter.)

And event of people pickling thing.  Because pickles are good.

Myself, I like "quick pickles".  Things that are not intended to go into jars and storage (I plan to overcome my fear - thank you, Chuck Jones cartoons for making me forever afraid of things like pressure cookers and canning) but you make and you consume quickly.

I did not come from a family where we pickled things.  I was a child of the 80's who grew up in suburban Chicago, and my grandmothers were more than happy to prove that they were more well off than their foremothers and they didn't have to pickle things... they could go to the grocery store and buy the stuff in cans that someone else prepared.  So my parents didn't really know how to pickle anything.  So I never really learned how to pickle or jar anything.

But I do like a quick pickle.  Something that you douse with vinegar and eat while it's still fairly fresh.

I'd planned to touch on some of my top favorites... marinated carrots, pickled cherries to serve with duck, quick pickled red onions for tacos, and Asian cucumber salad.  But then life happened.

I'd planned to do my shopping for that stuff on Sunday.  But late-ish on Saturday night we got a call that my father in law was being admitted to the ER - he wasn't sure if he was having chest pains or just heartburn, and then he started having trouble trying to stand and other things.  We high-tailed it over to the ER.

Thankfully, by the time we got there, they were already 99% sure it was just dehydration and they were pumping him with fluids.  Sure enough, he started to get better fairly quickly.  But he is over 60 and diabetic and when you are that, they are keeping you in the hospital overnight.  We all stuck around until after midnight when they assigned him a room and gave him some meds that were starting to make him sleepy.  We came home.  And of course, needed to chill a bit before heading to bed.

So that shopping planned for Sunday didn't happen.

Father in law is home, has had more test run and while they did find some minor things, there are no big issues, no issues with his heart, and life has resumed a somewhat normal pace.

So at least you get marinated carrots.

I basically use this recipe.  I made it way back when the magazine issue it was in first came out, to bring to a summer party, so the recipe always reminds me of summer (although with the ingredients, you can really make it any time of the year since carrots are pretty much always in season).  I usually bump up the vinegar and ALWAYS use red wine vinegar.  And "up to two days"?  I think it tastes the best after 2 days (and it usually doesn't last much longer than that - munching on this sure beats munching on bagged baby carrots). 

Tonight it got paired with some leftover baked beans and a BLT (I've learned to not toast my gluten-free bread for sandwiches, it tends to make it way too sandpaper-like on the roof of my mouth).

Nothing super fancy and no jars for my cupboard, but for something this easy, you can make it any time you want.

Monday, August 1, 2011

'Tis the season.....

... for ice cream.

Is there anyone who doesn't love ice cream on a hot summer day?

When I was a kid, it was the extra after-dinner treat to hop on the bike and ride to the nearby Baskin Robbins and get a cone, and then try to eat it before it all melted on you.

And there was always only one flavor for me... Chocolate Peanut Butter.  It don't get much better than chocolate ice cream with a ripple of peanut butter that runs thru it.

I did a recent freezer purge.  And of course, one of my first thoughts is "I can buy some ice cream 'cause I'll have someplace to put it!" 

But the amount of times I've reacted to things lately... every major brand of ice cream has some flavor that involves malt or has some type of cone, cake or brownie hunks in it.  My rule of thumb is to not by products that look like they are made on the same lines as anything else that contains wheat.  That leaves me with no choices when it comes to ice cream.

Hey, idiot, what about the TWO ice cream inserts you never remember to put in the freezer?

Oh yeah, those.

But even with the ice cream maker AND extra insert, actually making ice cream involves bowls and pans and measuring cups, etc., etc., etc. 

Or not.

After I flubbed my first batch of plain vanilla ice cream, I was on the web and stumbled upon recipe that don't require an ice cream maker.  But you have one, you just said so!  The whole reason I had a flubbed batch of ice cream was because I did not let my insert get cool enough, so my mixture never turned into ice cream in the freezer.  And it did happen to be an all-cream mixture, and I read that I could just whip that up to stiff peaks in the mixer, I could then just throw that in the freezer and in a longer wait than the ice cream maker (but no need for an ice cream maker) I would have ice cream.

And it worked.  Oh yeah.

A bit stiff, but still good.

For my next batch, I did actually let the insert properly freeze.  And I wanted my chocolate and peanut butter fix.  And I found some recipes that further simplified the ice cream making process... 2 main ingredients.  1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 2 cups of cream.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6-7 oz melted dark or semi-sweet chocolate, slightly cooled (I like it very very choco-tastic)
1/2 cup melted peanut butter, slightly cooled

  1. Beat the cream to soft peaks.
  2. Add the condensed milk and cooled chocolate.  Mix to combine. 
  3. If you are not using an ice cream maker, beat that stuff until it is stiff peaks, then place some in your freezing container and then add a layer of peanut butter, then more ice cream, then the peanut butter, etc.  When all the cream is in there, stick a knife in the container to give it all a few swirls. Freeze for 8 to 12 hours.
  4. If you are using an ice cream maker, beat it to soft peaks and add that mixture to your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions for making ice cream.  When it is a nice soft ice cream, some in your freezing container and then add a layer of peanut butter, then more ice cream, then the peanut butter, etc. When all the cream is in there, stick a knife in the container to give it all a few swirls.  Freeze for 4-6 hours.