Sunday, June 29, 2008

Salmon with Saffron Rice

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I won the husband lottery. Mine (called H) loves to cook and he is a natural in the kitchen. Before I went gluten-free, he actually cooked dinner for our family more than I did... much to our delight!

The restrictions on gluten-free eating pose a real challenge to my husband's extensive culinary repertoire, and since H is passionate about wheat flour, I've done a lot of my own cooking since last December.

Still, being a great and loving guy, he tries to cook gluten-free for me whenever he can. Tonight one of our children was feverish and I needed to tend to him, so the very good man of our house made this exceptional dinner (recipe below). H asked me to call his homemade recipe "Simple Salmon", but I think he's way too modest. It was sensational!

Sensational Salmon with Saffron Rice

What you need:


1 pkg Whole Catch Frozen "Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Fillets" (12 oz)
2 tbsp olive oil
butter (approx 1.5 tbsp)
fresh ground pepper from mill (to taste)

Saffron Rice:

2 cups long grain white rice
1-2 pinches of saffron
1 tbsp butter
4 tsp chicken bouillion
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion

How it works:

H recommends that you use either fresh salmon or the Whole Catch brand of frozen salmon fillets available at Whole Foods markets. If you are using frozen fillets (as we do, thanks to the high cost of fresh wild salmon) you should plan to defrost it in warm water for approximately 10 minutes or so while you begin your preparations for the rice.

Once your salmon fillets are defrosted, remove them from the packaging and take off the skin. Next, coat both sides of the fish completely with fresh ground pepper from a mill. Set fish aside.

Place a (preferably cast iron) 10 inch skillet on the stovetop. Heat approximately 1 tbsp olive oil and 1.5 tbsp butter at medium heat until pan is hot but not smoking. Place fish in pan, sear it on both sides (approximately 1 minute each side) and then turn the heat down to low and allow it to cook 6-10 minutes. You will know it is done when the flesh changes color and becomes slightly blackened on the outside.


Dice one small onion and three cloves of garlic into very fine consistency. Heat a 3-quart pot (cast iron or stainless steel) at medium temperature, with about 1 - 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sautee them well until onions change color (but do not allow to carmelize). Add 2 cups of long grain white rice into the olive oil/onion/garlic mixture and brown it for 1 - 2 minutes. Next, pour in 4 cups of water and add 4 tsp of chicken bouillion (cubes or paste). Add 1 tbsp of butter and 1 - 2 pinches of saffron. Bring all ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat to low (or medium low, depending on your stove) and allow to simmer covered for 20 minutes. You will know the rice is done when all liquid has evaporated and it has a light, fluffy consistency.

This spice is so delicious, it's no wonder Saffron retails from $500 to $5000 USD per pound!

Lovely Summer Chicken Sandwich

Doesn't the picture just say it all?

Lovely Summer Chicken Sandwich

What you need:

1 slice frozen rice bread (I use Kinnikinnick's Italian Rice Tapioca Bread)
A toaster
1 slice thinly sliced chicken
(Try Applegate Farms Organic Roasted Chicken Breast... it's gluten free!)
1 ripe salad tomato
1/4 to 1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 tsp gluten free dijon mustard (to taste)
1/2 tsp gluten free mayonaisse
salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 4 thin slices of sharp white cheddar cheese

How it works:

Toast the bread. Put it on a plate. Use a knife to cover the bread with mayonnaise and then mustard. With the same knife, spread the avocado slices on your toasted bread. If you're using cheese, it would be the next layer. Then, add a slice of chicken breast. Top your masterpiece with thinly sliced ripe tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.


Gluten Free Groceries!

For at least ten years, taking a trip to the grocery store has been a sacred experience for me. Long before I ever heard about celiac disease or the dangers of gluten, I worked to heal my body from a different disease through diet and exercise. Walking into the warm and inviting atmosphere of mom and pop grocery stores, as well as larger natural foods chains such as Henry's markets and Whole Foods began to feel cathartic all on its own. I grew to love, love, love my weekly shopping trips. They feel more like pleasure cruises to me.

To be honest, I have trouble going into "regular" stores like California's Vons or Albertsons chains now... they always seem to have the air conditioning running too high, and I don't really like the sterile feeling of the white walls. I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like I can even smell the chemicals in all of the processed food they sell as I walk down the aisles.

Meanwhile, when I go to my favorite grocery stores the walls are often paneled with wood, refrigerated sections are kept to a minimum, there is warm lighting and decent indie music mixes playing on the loudspeaker. Depending on where you look there are flowers for sale, homemade candles, earth-friendly cleaning products, amazing bakery sections... mmmmmmmm.... it makes me happy just thinking about it!

I've been so fortunate that the timing of my diagnosis with gluten intolerance jibed with a sudden American interest in gluten free and low carb diets. Everywhere I shop, I can find at least one (and generally a selection of) gluten free brand(s) for the product I need. Friends often ask me, "Isn't your diet difficult? Isn't it hard to find the ingredients you need?"

The answer is simply, no. I find it very easy to locate and purchase everything I need to live a happy gluten free existence that keeps me full three meals (well actually, more like five) a day! That being said, living gluten free is definitely more expensive than eating "normally". I can totally understand how following my diet might be a little rough for people on a very limited weekly grocery budget. I hope that gets better soon...

...and I think that it might! I am thrilled to say that Trader Joe's market - long known for its economical pricing - has really embraced the gluten free diet and offers a wide, wide, wide variety of gluten free foods and ingredients in their stores. You can also check out this comprehensive SIX PAGE listing of gluten free Trader Joes products!

At my local Trader Joes store, they are especially great about labeling foods that do not contain gluten ingredients, like this:

or this:

The one caveat to this is that I found a few things such as barbecue sauce and salsa in my local Trader Joe's today that had been labeled "No gluten ingredients used", yet when I read the ingredients on the back of each container they clearly read: "Produced in a facility that also processes wheat", etc. Which would, of course, mean that the products could be contaminated with gluten... so they aren't really gluten free after all. As always, it's important for celiac sufferers and folks with gluten intolerance to be ultra-vigilant about ingredients and processing. I told the store manager about the problem, and it seemed like he understood. We'll see if their labeling changes.

Still, I've got to say I'm thrilled that the Trader Joes brand is taking gluten free so seriously. They've even got a brand new granola on the market:

May you enjoy your trips to your local grocery store or farmer's market as much as I do!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Surprisingly, Chevys

One of the most frustrating parts of following a gluten free diet is definitely trying to go out to dinner when you're hoping for a simple, inexpensive meal. Since I follow the gluten free restrictions very closely, I have to scrutinize menus carefully and sometimes find myself having weird, uncomfortable conversations with my waiter or waitress - trying to find out whether or not there is hidden gluten in the meal I am ordering.

So far I've found that when we go out to high end restaurants (my definition by California prices, somewhere between $18 - 25 an entree) I generally encounter no problems and the service is considerate. The real challenge occurs when my husband and I are trying to say, grab a quick bite to eat before going to see a movie. We don't want to pay $80 or $100 for a 40 minute meal on our way to the mall... we just want to fill our bellies with a reasonably good dinner for a reasonably low price.

For a while we were going to Pei Wei, a subsidiary of P.F. Changs... but I found that I got sick on their meals four times in a row. There was also the time that I ordered their Spicy Chicken without the vegetables (since it is clearly printed on their gluten free menu to do so as they are cooked in water with pasta) and my server informed me that "the kitchen says the vegetables are fine now," but then checked with her manager and discovered that "the kitchen got it wrong" and they had to re-prepare our entire meal. Sigh.

Anyway, tonight my husband and I were starving and wanted to get some decent food fast... so when he saw the Chevys sign from the freeway, he suggested that we give it a whirl. I wasn't convinced.

All I have to say is... WOW! What a surprise! The ambiance may not be very "romantic" in these chain restaurants and the music they were playing tonight was way too loud and lame... but seriously, you couldn't ask for more attentive service and better gluten free food!

When our server came to the table, I told her I was thinking of ordering steak fajitas without the tortillas but that I had a problem with gluten intolerance. She said, "Oh yeah, celiac right? My roommate's mom has that too. You can't have anything with gluten in it right? Let me make sure they don't cook that steak in soy sauce."

At which point, my husband gave me a huge "See, Chevy's was a great idea!" grin.

A few minutes later, she returned to our table beaming. "The chef says he has some unmarinated steak and would be happy to make you the steak fajitas, gluten free."

Almost the moment she left our table, the chef himself appeared! He was a tall Latin man with a white cooking smock and a towel on his shoulder, covered in beads of perspiration from the warmth of the kitchen. I wish he had told us his name!

He approached our table and said, "Are you the table ordering the steak fajitas, gluten free?" We affirmed. "I will make you black beans, corn tortillas and unmarinated steak. I will prepare all this dinner for you myself." With which, he smiled and returned to the kitchen.

The restaurant floor was packed, every table full, and yet the chef had made time to leave the kitchen just to assure us that he would personally see to it that my meal was gluten free! I can name a lot of 4 star restaurants we've been to where service wasn't nearly as good as this!

Best of all, my dinner was absolutely delicious and I relished every bite. Seared fajita meat, tomato salsa, guacamole, corn, beans and rice... I'm getting hungry again just remember how great it was! I truly regret not having had a camera with me, I would have loved to have taken pictures of the food. It was presented beautifully on sizzling metal.

So here is my whole-hearted plug for your local Chevys restaurant. Their menu is of course not completely gluten free, but with a staff so warm hearted and attentive - ready to go the extra mile to make sure you stay healthy and that they don't contaminate your food - Chevys deserves to rise to the top of your gluten-free fine dining list!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Calm That Craving Pizza

In the past I've thought product placement (like Coca Cola) in movies and television shows was ultra-cheesy, ultra sell-out. The funny thing is, now that I eat a gluten free diet and know how difficult it is to find delicious gluten free products, I have a lot more appreciation for companies that manufacture food and beverages.

As anyone who lives a gluten free lifestyle can tell you, all flours are not created equally. Flour mixtures are even more unpredictable. Gluten free baking mixes, brownie mixes and pancake mixes vary widely. Two different mixes for pie dough may contain a bewilderingly different mix of flours (sorghum, chickpea, potato, corn, rice, etc.) in different proportions. I have tried mixing flours and xanthan gum myself, and it is hard to do well. It really is a nifty trick to find a balance of gluten free flours that can not only hold together like regular wheat flour AND also taste good.

That is why I now feel so enthusiastic about product placement in this blog... because even though it may be a little cheesy, you may actually really want to know about outstanding gluten free products that I run across.

Tonight's company is called Kinnikinnick, and you can find them on the web here. They create a wide variety of baked goods that you can pick up in the freezer section of most Whole Foods type stores.
I have enjoyed their Tapioca Rice Bread and White Sandwich bread for quite a while. However, the product that has me dancing is their 7-inch Pizza Crusts which come in bags of four.

We threw a huge picnic this past weekend for my sons' birthdays and ordered three 28-inch pizzas - cheese and pepperoni - to feed our guests. It isn't often these days that I really yearn for foods that I can't have... but I will admit that I was really jealous of the three year olds eating slice after slice of greasy cheese and pepperoni pizza. It looked and smelled amazing.

Later in the day, I decided to try and sate my craving the best way I could... so I went on a field trip and discovered these fantastic gluten free pizza crusts at my local market:

Once I returned home the entire process of putting the pizza together and cooking it (start to finish) took less than 30 minutes... and the results themselves were not only delicious, they were heart warming.

The pizza crust itself turns out to be light and soft, crisping nicely on the outside but retaining tenderness on the inside and under the sauce. I highly recommend them! (For one of my new pizza recipes using Kinnikinnick crusts, click here!)

Calm That Craving Pizza

What you need:

To make one individual pizza... (multiply proportionally to make more)

1 7-inch Kinnikinnick Pizza Crust
1/4 cup Fresh crushed tomatoes (blended in Cuisinart)
1/4 cup gluten free tomato sauce or marinara sauce
1/4 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded or ground
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and separated from stems
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil
parmesan cheese to taste

Optional: 4 thin slices of salami or sausage, or 1/4 cup sauteed ground beef

How it works:

Preheat conventional oven to 375 degrees F. Place frozen pizza crust on stainless steel cookie sheet. In a small saucepan, pour approximately a tablespoon of olive oil and let heat at medium temperature until warm but not smoking. Add minced garlic cloves and sautee until the aroma begins to exude - but do not let it turn brown. Turn down to medium low. Add fresh blended tomatoes and marinara sauce, Italian seasoning and pepper. Sautee for approximately 2 minutes, stirring frequently - do not let boil.

With a wooden spoon, pour sauce on pizza crust. This should be to your personal taste - some people enjoy a lot of sauce, others do not. Next, rip up fresh spinach leaves and scatter them on top of the spicy tomato sauce. Sprinkle fresh mozzarella cheese liberally across pizza (again to taste). With your fingers, scatter the black pepper evenly on top of the mozzarella. Finish preparation by grating a small amount of parmesan cheese on top of the entire concoction.

If you are a meat lover, add your salami, sausage or sauteed ground beef between the sauce and spinach layers.

Bake in oven 10 - 15 minutes, until cheese is well melted and crust begins to brown slightly. Let sit for a minute outside the oven before slicing and serving.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Southwest Cilantro Chicken

I am fascinated to discover (thanks to that cilantro is actually a name used in North American countries to describe the leaves of the coriander plant. In all the time I've been cooking with both dried coriander and fresh cilantro, I never had any idea that the two are related.

One thing I love about this plant, especially now that I am a mom of two little boys who put everything in their mouths, is that all parts of it are edible... and delicious! It is a very popular and versatile herb, used in a wide variety of world cuisines ranging from Mediterranean to Asian to Latin American.

We tried to grow cilantro in our garden last summer and were disappointed when all of our plants bolted in a short period of time. Tonight I read that if their roots consistently stay at a temperature above 75 degrees F, cilantro plants will tend to bolt more quickly - becoming bitter in taste. That explains a lot, considering how warm the summer months were inland last year.

Interestingly, cilantro has been used in the past as a folk medicine to treat insomnia and anxiety. Perhaps this is why now that I have thoroughly enjoyed the spicy Southwest cilantro chicken we ate for dinner tonight I feel so contented and ready to sleep.

We hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as ours does...

Southwest Cilantro Chicken

What you need:

4 chicken thighs (or 1.5 lb chicken pieces) with skin
Crushed black pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste
3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (may be minced in Cuisinart)

1 large shallot
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp Trader Joes lemon pepper (or to taste)
2 medium sized red peppers (minced)
1/2 of a small fresh lemon (= approx 2 tbsp lemon juice)

How it works:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Heat a large, deep frying pan (preferably all cast iron or stainless steel) at medium-hot temperature. Salt and pepper raw chicken liberally and then place each piece in pan without butter or oil. Fry each side in pan for approx 5 minutes, until outer layer of meat turns white. Center may still be a bit pink.

Use Cuisinart to mince or finely chop cilantro leaves. Once they are prepared, place the minced leaves on a plate or wooden board. When chicken pieces have been fried on both sides, use tongs or a fork to dredge each chicken part through the plate of cilantro (on both sides). When the chicken is extremely covered in cilantro, place it back in the frying pan.

Next, set the entire pan (still uncovered) in your oven which should now be fully preheated. Bake the cilantro chicken in the oven for approximately 20 minutes (begin to check it around 15 min) until it is fully cooked. Turn each piece of chicken over in the pan about halfway through that time so that the sides are cooked evenly.

While the chicken is baking, either finely mince by hand or use your Cuisinart to grind up the 4 garlic cloves, shallot and red peppers. They should end up a very fine consistency. Set them aside in a bowl.

When chicken is fully cooked, remove it from pan (but do not drain juices from pan) and place it in a sealed container so heat and moisture will not be lost. Set aside. Then, placing pan back on top of stove, turn burner on to medium heat and add the garlic-shallot-red pepper mixture to the chicken oils. Add chili powder, fresh lemon juice and (if desired) lemon pepper to taste. Sauté at medium heat 3-4 minutes or until the small bits of red pepper are soft.

Serve chicken on plates partially covered with the spicy southwest pepper sauce. This meal will be excellent with short grained brown rice, although we enjoyed it with spiral rice pasta as well. Garnish with cilantro leaves as desired. Grilled corn on the cob would be a lovely side.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Challenge Me To Make Your Favorite Recipe Gluten Free!

Discovering and trying out new gluten free recipes may be one of my favorite pastimes right now... however, creating my own recipes from scratch takes more time and patience than I generally have at the end of a long day taking care of my kids and dad. Like I've mentioned before, as a chef, I am still very much a "work in progress".

For this reason, it often works best when I find an outstanding recipe for "normal", traditional food and experiment until I find a way to make it celiac friendly.

So I've been wondering - does anyone have a fantastic family recipe that I could try to adapt into something equally delicious and gluten free? It is always fun to figure out how to substitute different flours, thickeners and spices to make a timeless classic into a modern post-gluten classic!

If so, please email them to me (either privately or through this blog). You can also post them as a comment, if you'd like to share them with all readers.

I will then get started trying to re-invent them! I'll post my progress online and make sure to give you full credit for your original recipes... taking lots of pictures along the way! Thank you so much for your submissions!

Let the creative cooking begin.

What is gluten anyway?

"I don't think there is any gluten in this..."

Famous last words. If you suffer from celiac or gluten intolerance, you have probably already experienced at least one meal prepared for you where the chef (with the best of intentions) completely forgot - or maybe never even knew - that one of the main ingredients contained gluten. Like the time my mother-in-law made an amazing "gluten free" beef stew and then described over dinner the beer she'd added to flavor it.

If you're one of the many kind hearted people who would like to make a gluten free meal for someone you care about but need more information about how to avoid gluten... read on!

So, what IS gluten?

The quick and dirty definition: A protein found in wheat, barley and rye (and other related grains) which is also often used in the fermentation process to augment the chemical reaction. Oats are usually avoided (although they do not contain gluten) because they are typically processed in facilities that also process wheat or other such grains... however, it is possible to find oats that have not been cross-contaminated.

Why does it matter? What harm can it do?

Despite Biblical tradition that bread is the staff of life, for some people it can be very harmful. People who suffer from celiac sprue or gluten intolerance cannot handle gluten, which damages their small intestine when they come into contact with it. For a really terrific definition of gluten and its effects, click here: Entero Lab: Outstanding Explanation of Gluten and Celiac.

What kind of foods contain gluten?

  • Most breads

  • Most pastas

  • Most cereals

  • Malt vinegar

  • Soy Sauce

  • Vegetable gums

  • Fermented alcoholic beverages such as beer

How can a product like soy sauce contain gluten? My soy sauce does not contain wheat or other grains!

In many cases, grains are used to process other ingredients. This means that there can be "hidden gluten" in your food that is not directly indicated on the label. A good rule of thumb: if it doesn't specifically say gluten free, it probably isn't.

These things generally contain hidden gluten:

  • Soy sauce (unless it states gluten free on the label)

  • Vegetable gums

  • Malt or malt flavoring (unless made from corn)

  • Vegetable protein (unless made from soy or corn)

  • Flour products (unless made from pure rice, corn, potato, soy, tapioca or sorghum flour)

  • Modified starch or modified food starch

Other tricky words to look out for (indicating gluten) when you are looking through an ingredients list: emulsifier, starch, flavoring, stabilizer

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Gluten Free Tarragon Chicken with Red Peppers and Asparagus

I’ll be honest and admit that before I began to eat a gluten free diet, I rarely cooked with herbs and spices. I’ve always been big on fresh chopped garlic and onions, and basic spices like salt and pepper, but nothing more exotic.

Since I began to learn about cooking for celiac and gluten intolerance, I have gotten to know and love my herb and spice cupboard… enough to understand why spices represented riches as precious as precious metal long ago.

Tarragon, also known as Artemisia dracunculus, is pretty darn cool. A whole variety of folklore surrounds tarragon – for example, some say that the ancient Greeks used it to cure toothache since it has natural anesthetic properties. In the Middle Ages it was called Dragon’s Wart and used as a pharmaceutical for snakebite, supposedly since it’s roots looked like snakes.

Unlike other herbs, tarragon was not used for cooking until fairly recently – first in Southern Russia. This may be why I love it so much, since my family on my mother’s side hails from the same geographic area. The taste of tarragon relaxes me greatly and I savor its bittersweet flavor. In any event, this herb was brought ca. the 1500s from Russian kitchens into English ones, and I suppose the rest is history.

Most tarragon sold for cooking today is grown in France, and many recipes specifically call for French tarragon. If you don't have the French kind though, don't worry. I believe that any tarragon is better than no tarragon!

Gluten Free Chicken Tarragon with Red Peppers and Asparagus
Adapted from Alex Haas’ Every Day Low Carb Cooking

1 package organic chicken thighs (6 pieces)
2 teaspoons tarragon
Organic Grapeseed oil (a few tablespoons, as needed)
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large handful of thin asparagus stems
1 ½ teaspoon "Better Than Boullion" Chicken base
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
Finely chopped garlic

Optional: Dijon mustard to taste

How It Works:

In a deep saucepan, sauté chicken thighs in grape seed oil over medium high heat until the meat turns white. Sprinkle with half of the crushed black pepper while cooking, and turn meat over so that it is cooked evenly on both sides. Add Sauvignon Blanc, chopped red pepper, chicken base and half of the tarragon.

When it boils, reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add cream, remaining tarragon and (if you are mustard fan) Dijon mustard to taste (no more than 1 tablespoon). Let it simmer uncovered 10 minutes until it thickens.

About 10 minutes before your chicken will be done, begin to sauté your asparagus stems and chopped garlic in grape seed oil.

Serve tarragon chicken and asparagus on a bed of long grain white rice cooked in chicken broth with whole garlic cloves.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gluten Free Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread

When I first started to experiment with gluten free flours and alternative sweeteners six months ago, I had several memorable kitchen disasters involving rice flour. One in particular - an attempt to make banana bread - stands out in my memory as being a tragic waste of perfectly good ripe bananas. The main problem was with the flour. The baked dough had turned into a gritty, chewy, heavy thing. My husband patiently consumed one bite and announced, "Yeah, I still really prefer regular white (wheat) flour". He then went to get a bowl of ice cream. Our two year old son, ever the diplomat, said: "It yucky mommy!"

Recently though, I have discovered the wonders of xanthan gum. As explained by Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, xanthan gum is made from the outer layer of a tiny inactive bacterium called Xanthomonas campestris. It has the uncanny, gluten-like ability to hold small particles of food together. Thanks to this, nearly all gluten free baked goods that you will find in alternative stores such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats, or even Trader Joes involve a bit of this powdery white substance.

With a special thanks to xanthan gum, I am proud to present my new original recipe which was a HUGE hit with all of the men in my family today. At last, I have mastered banana bread! (This is much to the chagrin of my waistline, as I ate no less than six pieces by myself.)

Delicious Gluten-Free Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread

1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 cups Whole Foods 365 brand Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle mix
(which contains xanthan gum)
3 extremely ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 tsp gluten free vanilla
2 squares 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bar (I use Ghirardelli)

How it works:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In food processor (or with hand beaters) mix butter with both types of sugar until smoothly blended. Add bananas, eggs and vanilla and continue mixing until fully blended.

In separate bowl, combine gluten free pancake & waffle mix with teaspoon of baking powder. Then slowly begin to add this flour blend to the liquid banana mixture. Stir by hand until mixture develops a thick, stretchy texture and flour is fully integrated.

Melt 2 squares of chocolate. Pour banana bread mixture into a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan. Gently stir chocolate into the banana bread mix in a circular direction, creating a swirl pattern.

Place loaf pan on center rack of oven, uncovered. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. In my oven, it took exactly 50 minutes.

Let cool down for at least 10 minutes before serving.



Substitute 2 cups of gluten free baking mix or rice flour for the 365 brand pancake mix. Then add 2 teaspoons of gluten free baking powder (instead of one) and 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum.

The rest of the directions remain the same. Baking time will now be longer - approximately 1 hour total. In my oven, this version of the bread took 1 hour and 10 minutes in the oven until the toothpick came out clean.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spicy Chicken and Rice

Chicken Rub:

1/2 - 3/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
5-6 cloves garlic
1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 tbsp cumin
salt to taste
2 tsp fresh ground ginger, optional (to be added to spice mixture)

Main Course

8 chicken thighs, with or without skin
1 large yellow onion
2 cups long grain white rice (or basmati)
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2 tbsp butter
1 medium sized red pepper
2 fresh vine ripened salad tomatoes
Fresh cilantro (a handful)

How it works:

In a food processor, combine chili powder, turmeric, garlic, black peppercorns, cumin and salt. Grind until it forms a powdery, fluffy mixture.

Measure sour cream and pour it into bowl. Add spice mixture and blend well.

Cut long thin slits into chicken thighs, which will allow them to more fully soak up the marinade.

Then coat them on both sides with a generous portion of the sour cream/spice mixture.
Cover bowl and place in refrigerator 1-2 hours minimum.

Melt remaining butter in a large, deep sautee pan. Sautee chicken pieces at medium heat - in two batches until chicken is 3/4 done (brown on outside but possibly still a bit tender in the middle).

Add rice, chicken broth, water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Cook for 20 - 30minutes or until rice is done and water is evaporated.

While rice and chicken are cooking, slice yellow onion into thin rings using a sharp knife. Sautee them with thinly sliced red pepper strips, until peppers are soft but not mushy. Set onions and peppers aside and use to garnish main course (once it is finished). Top with fresh cilantro according to taste.

As an aside, you may desire to place lovely fresh tomato slices on your plate to provide a complementary flavor. My husband added a touch of balsamic vinegar to his fresh tomatoes, making them even more tangy and delicious.

An Introduction

I have always loved food and appreciated good cooking. That being said, my own repertoire as a chef has generally been very simple and more focused on using fresh organic ingredients than following recipes.

Growing up, my mother and brother were the "chefs" of our family. For the last six years I have been blessed by the incredible culinary skills of my husband and his mother. I've picked up a few things here and there, but mostly I've washed a lot of dishes as my appreciation for the infinite number of delicious meals I've been served.

Quite simply, even the people who love me would never think of me as a talented cook. I muddle through, learn as I go, and am grateful just to have food to eat.

That is... until recently.

Six months ago I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance, and my world turned upside down. Gone were the days of pastries (oooh - cheese danishes!!!!) and pasta, my favorites. Cooking became more challenging, and cooking for myself was a sudden imperative. With all of the apparent restrictions of a strict gluten free diet, I was compelled to search for a way to continue eating well.

Initially I gave up not only gluten but also dairy, sugar, corn and potatoes. Now that six months have passed and my Hashimoto's thyroiditis has resolved, I have allowed a small amount of the latter four foods back into my diet. A very, very small amount. Gluten remains (and will remain) banished forever.

Thanks to the work of a handful of wonderful women whose blogs I read religiously: Karina's Kitchen, A Gluten Free Guide and Gluten Free Girl I have been experimenting with gluten free cooking. I am learning about alternative flours like sorghum and tapioca. I am figuring out the nuances of rice pastas. For the first time in my life begun to s-l-o-w-l-y become an excellent cook. I really love my time in the kitchen... and was amazed when a few weeks ago a close family friend actually asked me for my recipe!

So even though they have never met me, I thank these three wonderful chefs for inspiring me to love spices and take real pride in making dinner for the first time in my life. And to you, my readers, I say: If I can do it, anyone can.