Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wheat-Free-Meat-Free is One Year Old!

Happy Anniversary to us; our blog is one year old today. What I lot I've learned over the last year. We've now had two full years of living gluten-free and it has gotten loads easier. Better ingredient labeling on grocery items has been a boon, but just getting over the fear that cooking without wheat flour and other glutenous items would be impossible has been very freeing.

A big thank you goes to all of my new buddies in the gluten-free blogging community for their help, recipes and encouragements. I have learned so much from you all and hope that others have been able to glean some knowledge and advice in return.

To celebrate our one year milestone, I am listing our family's Top Ten Favorite Gluten-Free Recipes of All Time below. Click on the links and you will be redirected back to the original blog post to find a delicious, gluten-free dish you can be proud to serve to anyone.

Top Ten Favorite Gluten-Free Recipes of All Time

1. White Clam Pasta - It's so easy and quick to make if you have canned clams in the pantry. Fresh clams work even better.

2. Palmer House Potatoes - Also an easy family favorite. We never have leftovers.

3. Carrot Cake - Gotta whip up this sweet treat for all birthdays and even just on demand.

4. Plantation Shrimp - This is a recent arrival on our table, but it became the barbeque item of choice over the past several summers.

5. Japanese Spinach - We never plant enough spinach in the garden to satisfy our lust for this sweet and savory recipe.

6. Lemon Bars - In pre-celiac days these were the cookie of choice in our house and thank goodness we have a wheat-free alternative recipe.

7. Sesame Noodle Salad - We've made this recipe for years and bring it to lots of parties and barbecues.

8. Sushi - The family sushi-making skills have vastly improved and we now buy pickled ginger and sheets of nori on a regular basis from the supermarket.

9. Radish Dip - When the spring crop of radishes starts pumping out, this recipe is always put to good use.

10. Salmon Burgers - This recipes messes up a lot of dishes and can lead to a lot of fishy smells in the kitchen, so we only make salmon burgers in the warmer months when the windows are open and we can grill them outside. The trouble is worth it, however. They are really delectable.

Next year I may have to change this list up a bit, as we're still experimenting with lots of new recipes and cookbooks (and snooping on other foodie blogs), but for now, these are the gluten-free culinary champions in our home. Hope you get a chance to enjoy them for yourselves!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Frugal Gluten-Free Chickpea Stew

With a lingering head cold clogging up the collective Jag sinus cavities, none of us wanted to cook, much less run to the store for dinner ingredients. Six bleary eyes lasered in on me, Chief Cook of the Household, so I was forced to stagger over to the kitchen. My trusty cookbook collection provided inspiration for using up a conglomeration of leftovers last night and it proved a success. Riffing off of a Mexican Sopa Seca recipe from one cookbook and a Moroccan stew from another, and then rolling the dice with the contents of my cupboards and many covered bowls from the fridge, I produced this tasty and frugal Chickpea Stew:

Frugal and Fragrant Chickpea Stew

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup marinara sauce (mine had red wine, chunks of onion and garlic and red bell pepper)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Diced red onion
Hot Cooked Rice

Steam up a pot of rice.

Toss everything else except the red onion into a pot and simmer, covered, 1/2 hour. If you don't have marinara sauce on hand, saute up some onion and garlic and then toss in some canned (or in season, fresh) tomatoes and simmer for 1/2 hour before you add all the other stuff.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Top with diced red onion. I added some capers too, to my bowl.

Serves 4.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Simple and Exotic Dessert

So I had this container of ricotta cheese kicking around the fridge and didn't feel like making lasagna or stuffed shells, so I prowled around for a recipe and found this delightful dessert on It's a snap to make and has a delicate blend of flavors that the two Jag adults dug, but the kids didn't really like (more for us!). Despite the unexotic name, it really was an intriguing palate pleaser and we'll make it again.


1 c. creamed cottage cheese
1 c. Ricotta cheese
1/4 c. light brown sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon (I skipped this ingredient because it reminds too much of bad fruitcake)
1-2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/3 c. slivered almonds, toasted

Combine cheeses and brown sugar. Beat until well blended. Add next 3 ingredients and 1/4 cup of the almonds; mix well. Put in serving dish or dishes and sprinkle with remaining almonds. Chill 1 hour or longer. Six servings. Delicate dessert, good after "strong" main course.

Serves 6.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pan-Fried Cod Cakes

After some weird culinary creations in the kitchen this week (a slimy Mexican pepper casserole tops the list)which I attribute to my annual coldest-week-of-the-year head cold, I did manage to produce a proper dinner with this recipe from my card file. If I had enough strength to want to wash up the components of my food processor I would probably have used that to mince up the cod cake ingredients, but I was daunted by even thinking of that potential energy expenditure and ended up just rough chopping everything with my favorite kitchen knife with good results.

The sauce, however, received horrible reviews all around so I would dispense with that next time, although I slogged through and ate it as I thought the raw garlic and lemon juice would help unclog my head. Couple with a restorative eight-hour sleep last night, I would have to say the medicinal benefits were proven in my case, but if you do not need such therapeutics, best avoid this sour sauce. A good glug of hot sauce would be an improvement.

Pan-Fried Cod Cakes

1-1/2 lbs. cod, chopped or minced
1 cup fresh gluten-free bread crumbs (I used bits of white sandwich bread and the heel of a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, raisins mostly pulled out, and the extra spice was really nice)
1 egg, beaten
1 small onion, grated
2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Olive oil
Brown Rice Flour

Sauce ingredients:

1 baked potato, pureed (I boiled up a dice potato and then mashed it)
4 cloves garlic, put through the garlic press
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste

Combine cod, crumbs, egg, onion, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Shape into 6-8 patties and dredge in flour. Heat olive oil in frying pan and saute patties, in two batches, for 3-5 minutes each side.

Make medicinal sauce out of ingredients and serve on the side, if you are sick.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pavlova for Your Sweetheart

Our two daughters have been chosen to serve as Student Ambassadors in the People to People Program, which sends kids overseas to represent America in a positive light and interact with other students and adults during the summer months. Our oldest daughter is going to check out various parts of Europe, while the youngest is going to visit eastern Australia and New Zealand. Part of the preparation for the Student Ambassador program is to learn about the culture, government and history of your destination, so as chief cook in our household I researched some Aussie and Kiwi foodstuffs and found a naturally gluten-free dessert which produced an appropriately Pavlovian response (we all drooled), the Pavlova.

According to Wikipedia, this luscious dessert is alternately claimed to have been created by chefs in both countries down under in honor of the 1920s visits by renowned ballerina, Anna Pavlova. It consists of a meringue shell topped with whipped cream and fruit. It is traditionally eaten on Christmas, but with a red fruit topping, I think it would also be a perfect Valentine's Day treat.

Pavlovas can be covered with sliced kiwis, pomegranate seeds, berries of all kinds, and even candies, but I made a Pavlova with our family fruit favorite, strawberries. This is a rich and delicate dessert best eaten immediately after making, as the meringue outer shell only stays crispy for a little while before absorbing the moisture from the cream and fruit. There was a lot of washing up to do after making this, but the results were well worth it.

Look for some more Australian and New Zealand recipes in the future as we all prepare for this traveling opportunity. The kids are also doing some fundraising for all the expenses of these trips, and we are helping them with a special sale at our Internet book site, Old Saratoga Books. We have lots of cookbooks, history titles and books in 82 different categories listed there and if you are interested in any, you can enter the coupon code PTP to get 25% off any book order.

Onto the deliciousness of the Pavlova:

I turned to the Joy of Baking website for the basic recipe. Everything turned out well, except that I found that the meringue base stuck to the parchment paper quite effectively after baking and cooling. I had to juggle two spatulas to transfer it onto a platter for cream and fruit assemblage and it ended up in several pieces. I wonder if you should grease the parchment paper or just cut a circle out of it and serve the Pavlova with the paper stuck to it for diners to remove? In any event, the breakage was not noticeable once I slathered it with whipped cream and fruit, but if anyone has any Pavlova experience, please let me know.

The Joy of Baking recipe calls for sliced fresh fruit, but I used most of a 16 oz. container of thawed sliced, sweetened strawberries, and this worked beautifully.

G'day and Happy Baking!

The Best Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread Ever

Elizabeth Barbone has done it again. She demonstrated a fantastic sandwich bread recipe at the recent Gluten-Free Food Festival sponsored by Price Chopper supermarkets in Latham, NY. She posted the recipe over at her blog and here's the link. You'll want to keep the water temperature between 100 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the yeast happy and reproducing. Follow her instructions exactly and you'll be pleased with a sandwich bread that slices beautifully and holds its shape without tumbling into bits when you pick it up to bite into your gluten-free sandwich.

Dan says it's the best gluten-free bread he's had in the past two years, so I will keep making this. I'm going to avoid the breadmaker, as ours is a vertical loaf model that always seems to sink into itself at the top. Happy Baking!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Gluten-Free Food Festival A Hit!

Last night was Price Chopper Supermarkets second Gluten-Free Food Festival at the Century House in Latham, New York and I was very pleased to attend. I was delighted to receive a reusable shopping bag filled with gluten-free products, coupons and nutritional literature and found out about another Capital District gluten-free group which has a newsletter, meetings, periodic gluten-free pot luck dinners and excellent links and information on its website. Check out the website or attend one of their meetings at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany if you are interested.

Elizabeth Barbone, author of "Easy Gluten-Free Baking", gave a cooking class on how to make white sandwich bread and a cinnamon-raisin variation, which was very informative for this (very) amateur baker. Surrounded by her beloved purple mixer and purple baking implements, she was a delightful and funny guide to the joys and hazards of gluten-free baking, so I would recommend that you check out her website or blog to learn more.

It was also a pleasure to meet my gluten-free blogger colleague, Suzanne Mangini, of Gluten-Free Saratoga. We swapped some ideas and gluten-free restaurant recommendations and then met up with Jeanne and Debbie from Saratoga Gluten-Free Goods, so Saratoga County was well-represented at this Festival. Here's a photo of Debbie, Jeanne and Suzanne, from left to right. Suzanne snapped my picture as well, but I am hoping that my humidity-frazzled hairdo will have temporarily blinded her camera before it shows up to scare people on her blog later on.

After the presentation, Price Chopper had several gluten-free vendors on hand to offer samples of their products. The big hit with me was the Shirataki Noodles, which was served in chicken broth with some sliced celery and carrots. Scrumptious! I liked the al dente texture of these noodles, as rice noodles often get too soft with the merest overcooking. These noodles are made of a vegetable called Konjac, which is grown in Japan and China and therefore safe for wheat-free diners. They are also more healthy for you than traditional ramen noodles, which are just a bunch of starch covered in salt and MSG. They are apparently now available at Price Chopper in the tofu section and come packed in water-filled plastic bags, rather unpleasantly resembling blood or IV bags. But I will be searching them out for various Asian noodle soups and stir-fries, as we enjoy these for dinner.

A big thank you to Price Chopper for hosting this event. I learned quite a bit and enjoyed meeting some of my gluten-free buddies in person.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Greens and Beans

This is an adults only favorite at our house, as the kids certainly don't want to eat fried lettuce, but I assure one and all that this is scrumptious Italian soul food that is good for every part of your body. Traditionally made with a bit of fried pancetta or bacon, we've just left that out of our recipe, but either way, it is molto delicioso.

Greens and Beans

2 heads escarole, washed very thoroughly in several changes of water
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Olive oil
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained

Heat about 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil in large frying pan. Add garlic and onions and saute, stirring, 2 minutes. Chop escarole roughly and add to pan with lots of water clinging to its leaves. The escarole will cook down quite a bit. Cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes. Add beans and stir to heat through, 5 minutes.

Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan, fresh ground pepper and salt to taste. A few dried red pepper flakes perks things up nicely if you enjoy a little heat.

Serves five as a first course serving or makes 2 hearty dinner portions.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Price Chopper Gluten-Free Food Festival

Attention Capital District residents!

Price Chopper is having a Gluten-Free Food festival on Monday, Jan. 7th from 6 pm to
8:30 pm at the Century House in Latham. I am going to go, having heard
from some buddies that the last time they did this was great. Elizabeth Barbone, author of "Easy Gluten-Free Baking" is going to be demonstrating how to make bread and there should be lots of great information and samples If you are interested, you need to call Price Chopper at 379-1617 to make a reservation.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Scallops Marseillaise

Here's another recipe from my thirty-year-old index card file which turned out to be surprisingly tasty. Not sure where the recipe is copied from, but it was easy to make and redolent of French flavors.

Scallops Marseillaise

1-1/2 lbs. sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 tsp. saffron
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons

Mix all ingredients except butter into a marinade and marinate scallops at least an hour or two in the refrigerator, turning once or twice.

Place scallops on broiler rack. Brush with melted butter. Broil 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once. I boiled up the extra marinade for a little sauce to pour over the cooked scallops and served it over steamed rice.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Gluten-Free New Year's Wish

Rachel and Dan wish a happy, healthy and more peaceful New Year to us all. I wish everyone the opportunity to kiss your family, hug your friends, walk your pets and find time to cook a long, slow, gluten-free meal!