Navigating the wheat free, gluten free diet

Posts tagged ‘recipe’

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara with Veggies and (you guessed it!) Bacon

Squashghetti Carbonara

If you follow this blog at all, you  may know that I’ve become a big proponent of bacon lately.  This is largely due to my friend Dennis, who bought bacon for a seafood dish a few weeks ago and has been striving to use it up ever since.  The other night he hit a home run in bacon and gluten-free pasta alternatives in his creation of spaghetti squash carbonara, which I gobbled up, the butter and egg and bacon filling my tummy faster than you can say Alex Trebek.

(We often watch Jeopardy during dinner like septogenarians).

And it only took about 5 ingredients.

What you’ll need:

-1 spaghetti squash

– 3-4 strips of bacon

-assorted vegetables of your choice (we used broccoli)

– 1 egg, beaten with a whisk or fork

-2 tbsp. butter

What you’ll do:

Preheat your oven to 375

-Poke holes into the spaghetti squash all around so it doesn’t burst while baking.  You need only to make little notches in the skin of the squash to accomplish this.

-Bake the spaghetti squash for 1 hour.

-Remove spaghetti squash from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Gently cut the squash in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon.  Use a fork to to remove the spaghetti-like flesh and set aside.

For the carbonara:

-Crisp up the bacon to your liking, and remove excess grease (as much or as little as you want . The rest of this dish is all veggie so live a little!).

– Steam the veggies any way you like (if you’re like me,  and by that I mean cheap and resourceful,  you put it in a saute pan with a little  bit of water and slap a pot cover on top of it)

– Add the spaghetti and veggies to the bacon and stir it around, making sure to coat that stuff with bacon grease. Go ahead and add a tbsp. of butter and salt/pepper to taste.

– Then, when everything is done, turn off the heat and stir the beaten egg quickly as you pour it slowly.  The residual heat will cook it some, so no need to worry about raw egg issues.  But if you are worried, you can put it on low head and leave it on after stirring for a little while.  The egg, along with a little EVOO and butter, serves as the sauce for this dish, and boy is it tasty.



Easy Poached Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary and Quinoa

I learned something this week, guys.  Poaching meat is easy!  I almost used the phrase “easy as pie,” but I never really understood that phrase because pie is kind of a pain to make.  This was way easier than pie.  And fun, in a way.  Served with quinoa and some summer squash with the reduced poaching liquid poured over the top, it was an elegant week night meal that took about 40 minutes.

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What you’ll use:

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth (you could also skip the wine and use a flavor infused broth like i did.)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp cold butter
  • lemon wedges to garnish

This recipe makes 4 chicken breasts, but I only made two and used the same amount of poaching liquid, onion, etc. and it was fine.

What you’ll do:

-Add the wine, chicken broth, rosemary sprigs, onion, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, cayenne, and lemon to a  skillet (pan should be just large enough to fit the 4 chicken breasts if you’re making that many, and deep enough to partially submerge the chicken.  Mine was not fully submerged).

-Bring to a simmer over high heat, and add chicken breasts. Turn the heat down to very low, and simmer the chicken breasts gently for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through. The chicken breast will spring back lightly when poked. Internal temp should be 160-165 degrees F.  I was a little worried about knowing when the chicken was done, but after a solid 15 minutes of poaching the chicken was no longer pink.

-When done, remove the breasts to a plate and cover with foil. Turn the heat up to the highest setting and boil the liquid for 5 minutes to reduce. Toss in the cold butter and whisk until gone. Boil for 2 more minutes and turn off heat.  Use this as a sauce for your chicken and sides.  It really packs in the flavor.

And in three steps you’re done! Quinoa is just like rice – when the liquid’s absorbed it’s done.  Topped with the sauce, it was an earthy but pleasant contrast.

Now that I can add poaching to my arsenal, I think I’ll go for braising next.  Short ribs anyone?


A Light Spring Dinner: Pork Tenderloin and Avocado Salad

Spring is springing here in Gainesville, with mild, sunny days and chilly nights, flowers and trees blooming, and more and more sundresses being pulled out of the closet.

When spring hits, my tastes change.  I crave heavy meat and potato meals less and light, refreshing meals more.  I also feel the need to slim down before summer hits and the Florida heat renders all but the shortest, airiest garments useless.

So the other night I put together a meal that was both filling and refreshing, and because I had made the tenderloin the day before, took mere minutes.

What you’ll need:

-1 pork tenderloin

-1 tbsp. cumin

-1 tbsp. paprika

-1 tbsp. chili powder

-1 avocado

-1 bag of store bought salad mix or fresh greens, whatever you prefer

-Your salad dressing of choice

What you’ll do:

-Ahead of time, rub the pork tenderloin with cumin, paprika and chili powder and sear on the stove for 2 minutes on each side, then roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees

Note: I used the oven because I don’t have a grill.  Grilling the tenderloin would be a great way to cook the pork without heating up your kitchen – and you can do this the same day that you plan to eat the salad.  Plus it adds an extra layer of flavor.

– Let the pork rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing into medallions.

-In the meantime, slice the avocado long ways and mix it with the salad greens.

-Place the pork medallions on top of the salad – if serving individually, I would go with 3-4 medallions per person.

-Top with your favorite salad dressing.  I used Italian dressing, which added a tangyness that went well with the smoky spices.

Bon appetit, and enjoy the beautiful weather!


Yummy and Unique: Chocoflan pleases all

My, what a happy week it’s been! I celebrated my 24th birthday Wednesday with  a completely gluten-free meal from Bonefish Grill that concluded a deliciously decadent GF macadamia nut brownie and a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream, followed by some low-key dancing to Motown hits at my favorite Gainesville gathering place, the Atlantic.

Then, Friday friends and I had a party, where my dear friend Miriam presented me with one of the most amazing things I had ever seen.  It was a flan.  It was a cake. It was a flancake.

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The  cake portion was made from Betty Crocker’s chocolate cake mix, but the rest was carefully and meticulously homemade, a lovely birthday surprise.  Naturally I asked Miriam to share the recipe with me so that its splendor could be shared by all.  It’s essentially making two desserts at the same time, one on top of the other, their individual flavors and textures blending to perfection in your mouth.

Here are Miriam’s instructions in her own words.  You’ll want to use a Bundt pan for this recipe, and have a roasting pan handy for the ensuing water bath.

Preheat oven to 325 (or whatever the back of the cake box recommends)

For the flan mixture, blend the following ingredients together:

1 can condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1.5 tsp vanilla
1tsp ground cinnamon
4 eggs

To prepare nonstick mold:

Put 2/3 Cup sugar in a small sauce pan, heat and stir until a caramel is achieved (do not burn!).

Pour the caramel in the mold and immediately with wooden spoon make sure the walls of the mold are covered with the caramel, which quickly hardens as it cools down.

Place the mold in a roasting pan (will use for water bath while baking)

To Prepare Chocolate Cake Layer

Prepare one box of gluten free box cake as indicated in the package, and pour into the prepared mold, even out the batter in the mold (it was kind of thick- regular box cake mixes are much more watery). Then, on top of the cake batter pour the flan mixture and cover with foil.


Place roasting pan in the preheated oven, and add hot water to cover at least half of the cake mold. Bake for 40 min and remove foil. Then bake for another 30 min or so until toothpick comes out clean.

Make sure it cools down well before attempting to take it out of the mold.

Miriam, who was born and raised in Mexico, says, “We call it Chocoflan or ‘pastel imposible’  and of course you can make exactly the same steps with regular box cake.   Always use the temperature recommended by the box.”

Happy Birthday to me, indeed.


Gluten free shortbread cookies are full of win

After reading a Mental Floss post about Girl Scout Cookie copycats, I got a real jonesin’ for some Trefoils (those are the shortbread ones shaped like the Girl Scout symbol that come in the light blue box).

The recipe called for things I already had in my kitchen, so that amped up the craving.  The primary ingredient? Two sticks of butter. Paula would be proud, y’all.

The only thing was I had to sort of wing it on how much xanthan gum to use to bind it, but my baking experiments have been so full of FAIL lately that I just went for it.  And it worked!

The cookies looked almost exactly like the recipe’s example, except bigger because I didn’t want to be hanging out by the oven all day waiting for batches of little cookies.  And even though the original recipe called for the dough to be rolled and cut out, I bypassed that and simply spooned them onto the baking pan and then flattened them with the floured bottom of a glass.

The one thing I’ll say is that the cookies, while delicious, especially with coffee or milk, tasted more like those Danish butter cookies that come in a tin than Trefoils.  I didn’t care.  They may or may not have been eaten already.


Mary Frances of Gluten-free Cooking School talks blogging, baking, bargaining

Mary Frances Pickett, creator of Gluten Free Cooking School makes me feel lazy.

She’s been blogging about gluten-free cooking since ’06 and has been quite successful at it, financially and flavorfully.  She chatted on the phone with me for a bit to give a new blogger some tips on all things gluten-free, from bread machine mishaps to saving money at the store.

When Pickett was first introduced to the gluten-free diet, it wasn’t even out of necessity.

“My husband found out in college that he had Celiac and needed to avoid wheat.  But the doctor didn’t tell him implications so he didn’t start eating gluten-free until senior year of college.  After my first son was born, I really started noticing more digestive problems and got tested; found out I didn’t have Celiac, but I did have a wheat allergy.  So I don’t have a problem as long as I stay away from wheat.”

Pickett started blogging back in 2006 sort of on a whim, having read some vegan and gluten-free blogs, and was hoping to make a little extra cash.  She blogged often for several years, but with three kids and a full-time job as a CPA, it became less and less of a priority.

When her husband began taking classes on search engine optimization, Pickett picked it up again.

“(My husband) built traffic to site way up as well as the (Google) Adsense earnings and I thought, ‘Maybe we can really make money at this.’”

In addition to their blog earnings, the couple wrote an e-book last summer that has sold about 700 copies to date.  Even with a 4-year-old, a 21-month-old and a 9-month old, Pickett still felt secure enough to quit her job in November and revamped their online cooking school.

One thing I found surprising when talking to Pickett is the fact that she has no cooking or nutrition background other than her husband’s illness and the lessons her mother and grandmother taught her growing up in Alabama.

She attributes much of her gluten-free success to that characteristic of many southern women: tenacity.

“I started out trying some (already made) gluten-free recipes.  They were alright but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results.  I’m stubborn.  I’m gonna find a way to make it good.  We’ve stopped using all mixes unless we really need it. None of the ones I’ve tried are just great. They need to taste a whole lot better.”

She doesn’t remember her very first homemade recipe, just that she made a lot of pancakes and waffles and bread early on, and has this to say to those starting out on their own homemade gluten-free baking adventures:

“Learn as much as you can about why a recipe works with wheat flour.  The flour change is not that huge of a deal if you get the other parts of it right. If you can understand what makes a bread recipe and how that’s different from a pancake recipe and when should you use baking soda – and read other recipes.  They help a lot in figuring out why a recipe works and why it’s not working.

“If testing, always follow exactly to see how it’ll turn out; then change one variable at a time.”

It took her 4 years to perfect her sandwich bread , and knew it was ready when it finally stopped falling – had some height to it – and she could eat one sandwich and be full instead of two or three.

Having gone from two major incomes to one supplemented by the blog, Pickett also had some money-saving tips to offer up.  This grad student listened carefully.

“We used to be very busy so we just bought groceries and could easily spend $1000 to $1,200 a month on groceries, and that’s with me cooking 5-6 breads a week.  I had lunch with Jenny of Gluten Free Birmingham and she said the rule of thumb is to not pay more than 99 cents per pound for produce.  If there’s not much there, you end up using vegetables you might not normally use because they’re on sale and it’s like, ‘Oh I do like rutabagas.’”

Pickett also uses Southern Savers to print out Publix coupons and never buys what’s not on sale.  She’s managed to only spend about $100-$150 in a week on groceries.

Not bad for a family of five!


Gluten-free Betty Crocker + Bread Baking Disasters

Oh, the ups and downs of gluten-free life.

On the plus-side this week, I was in line at my local supermarket when this caught my eye:

After I laughed for a minute at “Pizza! Yes you can!” I picked the thing up and threw it on the conveyor belt.  When I looked through it, I was happy to see  the ingredients in many of the recipes are both less expensive and less hard to find than some more substantial gluten-free cook books and cooking manuals.

According to Celiac Facts, gluten-free expert Jean Duane and the Betty Crocker test kitchen collaborated on the magazine-style book to create GF recipes for sweet breads, dinner rolls, pizza (yes you can!), pies, muffins, cornbread, sugar cookies, waffles, scones and even gravy.  Plus, it boasts that “The Sandwich Bread is sure to become a regular in every gluten free household.”

Well, I’m gonna have to check that last part out ASAP because, on the downside this week, I have gone through three unsuccessful loaves  of sandwich bread in my beloved breadmaker (that’s $18 worth of mix).   I have found that there’s nothing more heartbreaking than waiting for four hours, and even smelling delicious bread cooking, only to open the machine to see a half-risen, rock-hard ball of what can only be called breadfail.

Breadfail 3; a moderate success, comparatively.

I troubleshooted (troubleshot?) via the Internet for a little while, and at first thought it was a problem with the kneading blade coming loose mid-knead and causing the loaf to become malformed.  But then I made two successful loaves of Cinnamon raisin bread for some friends and decided this couldn’t be it.  After the third failed loaf (the one you see above, and actually the most successful of the three), I decided it must be a problem with the yeast activating.  I bought some new ingredients and a bag of the mix at a different store and I’ll give it a go tonight.  I’m also ordering some new kinds of mix to test out, but what I’d really like to do is make my own from scratch.

Which is why I’m very excited for my next interview, with Mary Frances of the Gluten Free Cooking School.  I intend to find out exactly how one gets started creating brand new gluten-free recipes without  going crazy (and with three kids no less!).  I’ll also be talking about the e-book she wrote with her husband, The Gluten Free Survival Guide.

Look for that in the next couple days, along with an update of my loaf-baking success or failure.  The next loaf that comes out wrong will be sent flying across the room.


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