Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Butter Lettuce Salad with
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Over time every cook becomes known for at least one signature dish so delicious that it is requested by friends and family again and again. Whether it is your mom’s mouth-watering meat loaf or best friend Sam’s handmade ravioli, all cooks have something they do 'best'.

My husband H is a masterful cook and can take credit for many unbelievably tasty recipes. He is known far and wide in our community for his own signature work, a butter leaf lettuce salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Every time we are invited to a barbecue, dinner party or picnic and ask what we can bring, the reply is the same: "We’d love some of that great salad H makes!"

Luckily for me, balsamic vinegar is rated by Celiac.Com as gluten free. There are also many varieties of blue cheese now verified to be gluten free (although you need to carefully check each brand as some are still started with bread mold*). Happily this means that I can still enjoy H’s famous salad… and now so can you!!!

Butter Lettuce Salad with
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

What You’ll Need:

Salad for 4:

14 oz (approx 2 bags) mixed butter lettuce and radicchio
(European blend of baby greens may be substituted for equal excellence)
1 large avocado sliced into small pieces (approx 1 inch long, ¼ inch wide)
1 large vine ripened tomato
1 to 2 oz bleu cheese crumbles


Organic extra virgin Olive Oil
High quality balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground black pepper

Proportions: 50% oil 50% vinegar...
This means approx 3 tbsp oil, 3 tbsp vinegar for a salad to serve 4 people.
Approx ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper (to taste)

How It Works:

After thoroughly washing and spinning lettuce and radicchio mix, pour it into a large salad bowl. With clean hands, rip each piece of lettuce into thirds.

Next, slice avocado lengthwise into strips and then make perpendicular cuts throughout each long strip so that you have many small pieces approximately 1 inch long and ¼ inch wide.

Scatter these pieces around salad. Chop your fresh ripe tomato into pieces approximately the same size as those of the avocado.

Scatter 1 – 2 oz of gluten free bleu cheese on top of your salad.

Now it is time to create the piece de la resistance of this recipe... the balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

The most important thing to remember when making this tangy dressing is proportions. No matter how large of a quantity of dressing H is preparing, he always uses 50% extra virgin olive oil to 50% high quality balsamic vinegar.

For a dinner party of 4 people, H recommends creating a little more than 1/3 cup dressing for the salad. This means you will need approximately 3 tbsp of oil coupled with 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, poured into a serving implement made out of glass. (H prefers to make his dressing in a standard glass measuring cup.)

Now add your fresh ground pepper and begin to mix all ingredients together. In order to maximize its potential, this dressing must be stirred with a fork very vigorously and applied onto the salad before the oil and vinegar can separate.

Once your dressing is upon the greens, toss the salad very well. Don’t be afraid to use some force… even breaking apart the salad a little. H feels this allows the flavors to penetrate the greens, and mixes the avocado and bleu cheese well.

Last step, serve and enjoy immediately!

*For a great explanation about the history of gluten in bleu cheese, read this article by Alison of Sure Foods Living. (This recommendation comes from one of my all time favorite authorities on gluten, A Gluten Free Guide.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wonderful Wahoo's!

Flame Grilled Wahoo Bowl with Black Beans and Rice

I was doing some last minute shopping today for the dinner I am throwing tomorrow to celebrate my brother’s upcoming wedding… (yes, a gluten free celebration!) when my infant son began to yell, "BA, BA, BA!" In his language, this means: "Mommy, you’d better feed me within the next three minutes or I am going to get REALLY cranky and then you’ll be sorry!"

As I’ve discussed before on this blog, locating inexpensive and tasty food that is also gluten free can be a real challenge when you are away from your house or favorite grocery store, especially when you need to find it fast.

This is why I was so relieved to realize that we were only a few blocks away from Wahoo's Fish Taco. We don’t live very close to their local restaurants, so it hadn’t occurred to me to try and find gluten free food there since I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance last December. Still... fish and rice sounded like excellent protein for my son, despite his abiding love of hamburgers. There wasn’t enough time to second-guess myself so we gave it a whirl.

I’m so glad we did! My son and I each enjoyed a Wahoo’s Bowl with Flame Grilled Fish, with a side of their ahi rice and black beans. The man taking our order assured me that no gluten ingredients were used in this particular preparation of fish, and that he felt positive that our meal was gluten free. He even checked with the kitchen!

Wahoo's Green Salad... delicious!

Imagine my joy then, to return home and discover on a reputable gluten free website (Gluten Free In SD) that Wahoo’s has already been vetted by Celiac friendly organizations in Southern California and it truly is known for its gluten free fare! To see a list of all menu items confirmed to be gluten free by Wahoo’s in 2007, please click here.

It’s too bad that my family doesn’t live closer to a Wahoo’s Fish Taco restaurant… and depending on which state you live in, there are probably a lot of other readers to this blog who don’t have access to their food either. However, I do have three ideas about this:

  • Encourage your favorite local restaurant to add a gluten free fish taco to their repertoire, using all corn tortillas, black beans, gluten free guacamole and delicious white fish,

  • Check back with this blog over the next few weeks, I am going to try to develop a gluten free fish taco recipe to share with you, or best of all...

  • Contact Wahoo’s to encourage them to open a new franchise near you! (It can’t hurt to ask!) If you’ve been considering opening a gluten free restaurant, this could be your golden opportunity...

Meanwhile, despite the ever-increasing cost of gasoline I will be conspiring to bring my family back soon to enjoy another delicious meal at Wahoo’s!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Garlicky Goat Cheese Pizza
with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil

Ever since I posted my Calm That Pizza Craving recipe on this blog a month ago, I have been yearning to experiment further and improve upon it.

Here are three reasons why I love pizza:

(a) It's quick to make -- a real bonus when cooking for hungry children,
(b) Pizza is physically and emotionally satisfying to eat... and,
(c) You can eat it with your hands!

With such delicious crusts from Kinnikinnick to work with, I plan to create a whole variety of pizza recipes to satisfy everyone in my family. For example, my husband is a huge pepperoni pizza lover while our children prefer straight cheese... and I myself have been hankering for a vegetarian pizza to love. I think I’ve found it!

The secret to the seasoning here is: light on the tomato sauce, fresh with the greens. Unfortunately, canned spinach and dry basil just aren’t going to give you the same incredible taste.

Before making this pizza recipe you should know that it is deliciously rich, thanks to the goat cheese and fresh mozzarella. If you are preparing it as a main course, I would suggest complementing each pizza with a fresh green salad on the side and perhaps offering your guests a light sorbet for dessert.

Garlicky Goat Cheese Pizza with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil

What You’ll Need:

Two 7-inch Kinnikinnick pizza crusts
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, minced
½ cup sun dried tomatoes, minced
2 fresh vine ripened tomatoes (medium size)
2 oz fresh mozzarella
4 – 5 oz fresh goat cheese
10 fresh basil leaves (mince 8 of them)
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 – 4 tbsp olive oil
4 oz tomato sauce
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

How It Works:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

In a small sauté pan, heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil at medium temperature until hot but not smoking. Add minced garlic and sauté for 1 - 2 minutes until fragrant but not browned. Set aside.

Using a sharp knife or small food processor, mince your spinach, sun dried tomatoes and basil – but do each separately so that they are not all in the processor at the same time. Once these ingredients are very finely chopped, pour them all into a large mixing bowl. Add sautéed garlic and mix with a wooden spoon or fork.

Next, add your goat cheese to the mixture and blend it all together very thoroughly. The end result will be a paste that is slightly funny looking – a bit brownish and greenish, but oh my goodness it is delicious! (Once the pizza cooks, these ingredients will once again look lovely.)

In the same pan you used for the garlic warm the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and oregano at low medium temperature until it begins to bubble like this:

Place your Kinnikinnick pizza crusts on a stainless steel baking tray and douse each one with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Using a butter knife, spread the olive oil evenly across the top of the crust.

Then with the same knife, spread a thin layer of your goat cheese mixture evenly across each pizza. Keep in mind that the thicker you make this layer of cheese, the richer your pizza will be.

Spoon half of your warm tomato sauce into the center of each pizza. Then, as shown in this picture (below) add several small slices of fresh mozzarella in the center of each pizza, so that it begins to resemble the center of a flower:

Slice your fresh tomatoes into thin round slices and then cut each one in half lengthwise. Arrange the slices around your pizza so that they look like the petals of the flower:

Dust with salt and fresh ground black pepper according to your own preference.

Place pizzas on tray in your preheated oven and bake for approx 10 – 12 minutes (checking to make sure it does not burn) until the mozzarella in the center is fully melted and the pizza crust is crispy but not overly browned.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Flourless Chocolate Cake Celebration

This recipe is a celebration of many things for our family. First, my husband loves chocolate more than any food (or beverage) in the world – other than a chilled bottle of his favorite Sierra Nevada beer. And while he has been very patient with a wide variety of my gluten free brownie mixes, H never really loves any sweet dessert made without white flour – so it has been an important challenge to me to invent or adapt something chocolate-y and gluten free that would really knock his socks off.

The great news? The cake is moist, rich and ideal for dark chocolate lovers. Best of all, H loves it. A direct quote after he took his first bite... "Oh honey, you now truly hold all of the strings to my heart!"

Next, I have discovered that my body really can’t take processed sugar any more. I have all kinds of uncomfortable physical and mental reactions to it – ranging from racing pulse and sudden sweating to mild depression, anxiety and problems with yeast overgrowth. Sadly for me, many of my favorite gluten free chefs like to use white and brown sugar in their recipes, sometimes in large quantities. So sweet foods and baked goods have been tough to make from scratch.

I can do maple sugar or maple syrup in very small quantities, but no honey. H hates the taste of stevia, so that’s out… hence, my options have been limited. A few weeks ago my mother mentioned that she seems to do very well with blue agave nectar and I figured – "Hey, it’s all in the genes, right?" so when planning this flourless chocolate treat I decided to give agave a shot. The result? Victory! So far, I haven’t had any adverse reactions to it and I am very happy that the flavor (while very sweet) is also mild and subtle. It doesn’t drown out the chocolate or cocoa in this recipe at all!

Lastly, as you can see we are celebrating a new member of our family - the Nikon D40 camera that I will be using from now on to photograph the food you see on this blog. I’m going to take a class on how to use it… but already the image quality is so much better! I am thrilled that as I become a better photographer my readers will be able to experience the true beauty of these gluten free recipes… just the way they appear on our dining table!

Flourless Chocolate Cake Celebration!!!

What You’ll Need:

For Cake

6 oz semi-sweet Ghirardelli baking chocolate
2/3 cup butter
4 eggs
¾ cup and 1 tbsp organic blue agave nectar
1 cup unsweetened Ghirardelli cocoa powder

For Glaze

2 oz semi-sweet Ghirardelli baking chocolate
3 tbsp butter
¼ tsp gluten free vanilla
2/3 tablespoon organic blue agave nectar
1 tbsp milk

How It Works:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

With butter, grease a round 9 inch baking pan. Lay a circular piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan, and then (odd as it may sound) grease the top of the parchment as well. Set baking pan aside.

For cake, melt chocolate and butter at medium low temperature stirring constantly until they are thoroughly combined and smooth. Remove from heat and transfer with scraper into a fairly large bowl (or the bowl of your kitchen mixer).

Slowly pour in blue agave nectar, mixing well. Next, add eggs (one at a time) and use either a hand mixer or a whisk to make sure they are fully blended into the batter. Finally, spoon the cup of unsweetened cocoa in and again use hand mixer or whisk to blend. Make sure there are no larger chunks of cocoa powder clumping together. I used our Kitchen Aid mixer to ensure the absence of clumps.

Pour your gorgeous chocolate mixture into the greased cake pan. Bake in oven approximately 40 minutes (check between 30 and 35 minutes to make sure it is not burning if your oven tends to run hot). When perfectly baked the top will have a crust the consistency of chilled pudding and may fracture a bit. Don’t worry – the fissures will be unnoticeable when cooled and besides, you are actually looking at the cake’s bottom!

Remove cake from oven and allow to sit undisturbed for about 12 minutes. Place your lovely cake plate over the top of your pan and then invert the plate and cake so that you are now looking at the bottom of your cake pan resting on top of your cake plate. Gently remove pan from cake, and carefully peel away the top layer of parchment paper.

Glaze: Combine chocolate and butter in saucepan at medium low temperature, stirring constantly until fully blended. Add vanilla, milk and blue agave nectar and continue stirring. When all ingredients are perfectly integrated, set aside until you are ready to glaze your cooled cake.

Slowly pour or spoon glaze onto cooled cake, and use your soft scraper or a soft spatula to spread it evenly across the top of the cake. It will drip down the sides in an artistic way. Chill your cake in the refrigerator between 20 – 30 minutes before serving.

Strawberries make an excellent garnish, but really this rich chocolate treasure is a celebration in itself.

Serves 8.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chicken Breasts Stuffed With Goat Cheese, Spinach and Sun Dried Tomatoes

My husband and I went out for a special dinner last Friday at a fancy French restaurant. I’ve had good experiences with their kitchen in the past, with servers and a chef who were all sensitive to my gluten free dining needs. While scanning their menu, my eye caught upon an entrée comprised of chicken breasts stuffed with goat cheese, spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Our server checked with the chef to make sure it could be prepared without any ingredients containing gluten. He agreed to make a wine butter sauce without flour. I was so excited!

Imagine my disappointment then, when the chicken was tough, dry and lacking in flavor. It was even difficult to carve with a knife. After sharing a bite of my dinner, H said "Honey, I think you could make this recipe taste a lot better for a lot less money!"

Inspired by the challenge, I have now come up with my own version… which I hope you’ll love! (We did. Hurray!)

Chicken Breasts Stuffed With Goat Cheese, Spinach and Sun Dried Tomatoes

What You’ll Need:

4 boneless chicken breasts (sliced thickly)
½ cup sun dried tomatoes (packed or rehydrated in oil)
½ bag baby spinach (3 oz)
6 oz goat’s milk cheese (we used Chavrie, 5.3 oz)
1 tbsp basil
1 small yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 tbsp butter

Optional: handful of toasted pine nuts

How It Works:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Mince onion and garlic and set aside.

Mince basil, spinach and sun dried tomatoes. I used a mini food processor to do this, but it would work just as well by hand. Combine in a new bowl with goat cheese, adding sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Stir until thoroughly blended, don’t be surprised if you can’t see the sun dried tomatoes in the mixture (the taste is definitely there). Your mixture should look something like this:

Next, take a sharp knife and cut a slit (between 1 – 2 inches wide) in the width of each chicken breast, inserting the blade slowly and widening the slit so that you have created an opening in the middle of the chicken breast that looks like an envelope.

Fill the “pocket” inside of each chicken breast with your goat cheese – sun dried tomato – spinach – basil mixture. It is fine if you get some on the outside of the chicken breast while stuffing them. Salt and pepper each side of your chicken breast.

Heat approx 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a heavy sauté pan at medium temperature. When it is hot but not smoking, add onions and garlic. Sauté until onions are translucent.

Add all 4 stuffed chicken breasts to the sautéed onions and garlic. Cook at medium temperature approx 1.5 to 2 minutes, then turn over in pan and do the other side for the same amount of time. If there is any remaining filling, feel free to smooth it on top of your chicken breasts.

Finally, place the heavy sauté pan inside of your preheated oven and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through (it took 9 minutes in my oven which runs hot).

Remove your masterpiece and serve while still steaming hot! The filling should have turned into a deliciously creamy and bubbly affair. My husband suggests garnishing your stuffed chicken breast with some toasted pine nuts. This dish goes well with a side of rice pasta dusted with a little parmesan cheese.

Serves 4.

Mmmmmmmm..... how could a recipe containing Chavrie be anything other than decadent!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Authentic Fish and Chips

I can’t take any credit for the sumptuous feast you see pictured here, other than to share my very simple recipe for homemade chips. I found this incredible gluten free fish and chips recipe from the website of a very talented Canadian gluten free chef named Trina Astor-Stewart and it knocked our socks off! What a joy to be able to enjoy fried breaded fish and beer, for the first time in eight months! As I progress in my own cooking ability I will definitely try to make homemade salmon and chips from my own original recipe, and then post it to share with my readers… so stay tuned and for now, dive into a luxurious greasy basket of these!

p.s. It seems a little bit blasphemous for a Californian to try and create fish and chips as delicious as those made in Britain or Canada but…with respect… I’ll sure try!

Crispy Homemade Potato Chips Recipe
(to accompany Trina’s amazing fish)

What You’ll Need:

2.5 lbs small russet potatoes
Canola oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Sea salt
Cayenne pepper

How It Works:

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

Slice your potatoes in very thin rounds (as thin as a sharp knife will let you – no more than 1/8 inch thick). Heat canola oil in a wok or actual fryer until a drop of water sizzles (but does not smoke) when flicked on top of the oil. Fry potatoes for 6 – 8 minutes until golden brown on both sides, turning them over half way through to make sure they are fried evenly.

When fried, place them on a stainless steel cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and dust on both sides with sea salt, fresh milled black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Place in your preheated oven to keep warm until time to serve.

Striving Chef’s Modifications to Trina’s Outstanding Fish Recipe

In addition to the original salt and peppering of the fish, we added an additional dusting of garlic powder to both sides before dredging it in the flour mixture.

In lieu of Herbs Provencal we used ½ tsp rosemary, ½ tsp basil and ½ tsp thyme. Yum!

For maximum satisfaction, serve fish and chips with a nice cold gluten free Redbridge Beer!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Andouille Sausage

The ingredient which really makes this soup is definitely its chili powder, especially when coupled with the relatively cooler flavors of fresh cilantro, cumin, garlic and oregano. Andouille sausage and fresh basil from our kitchen garden also added something special.

Still, the memorable difference between this spicy, satisfying soup and other more run-of-the-mill black bean soups is definitely its kick! From the first taste you will feel warmth begin to emanate throughout your body. While the spicing isn’t hot enough to bring tears to your eyes, it is definitely vibrant enough to put a genuine smile on your face.

To make sure that each of your guests enjoys the perfect amount of seasoning to match their individual preference, serve this black bean soup with a topping of sliced avocado, sharp cheddar cheese and/or sour cream. This works well either added directly to individual portions or (more casually) passed around the dinner table. Sour cream will often entice timid souls who are wary of hot foods - enhancing their enjoyment without diminishing the zesty essence of your delicious dinner.

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Andouille Sausage

What You’ll Need:

Olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp fresh basil, minced
1 tsp oregano
2 cans black beans (15 oz each)
3 tsp chicken bouillon ( = 3 cubes)
3 cups water
2 stalks celery, minced
12 ounces gluten free Andouille sausage (Wellshire Farms)
3 large fresh tomatoes ( = 2 cups chopped)
½ lime (juice only)
2 tbsp tomato paste
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Thinly sliced avocado
Organic sour cream
Sea salt (to taste)
Fresh ground pepper (to taste)

How It Works:

Pour approx 2 tbsp olive oil in bottom of a stainless steel 3 quart pot, heat at medium temp. Add chopped onions, stir occasionally. Cook until translucent (a few minutes). Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, black pepper, cilantro and basil and sauté until garlic and herbs are fragrant – somewhere between 90 seconds and 2 minutes. Add chicken bouillon, water and black beans and cook partially covered between 15 and 20 minutes.

Slice Andouille sausage thinly and sauté in a separate pan with olive oil and minced celery. Add sausage, celery, lime juice, salt and pepper to the black bean mixture and turn down heat to low. Simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes or so.

After you ladle your soup into bowls, top with the aforementioned avocado, tomatoes, grated cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

Serves 6. We enjoyed golden brown polenta on the side.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Simple Spanish Rice

Looking for the perfect comfort food after a long day? Something nutritious but quick to prepare, that will warm your heart as well as your tummy?

I have the perfect dish for you. Take 15 minutes to prepare this easy Spanish rice with ground beef and peppers... and then go take a nice hot shower while it finishes cooking itself. By the time you are relaxed, dressed and ready to enjoy a glass of red wine your steaming pot will be full of this mildly spicy, flavorful dinner.

The simplicity of this meal is especially nice for people on a celiac or gluten free diet which can sometimes be time consuming to prepare. It also makes for great leftovers, and can be added to spice up a breakfast hash or scramble.

Simple Spanish Rice

What You’ll Need:

1 lb ground beef
1 large red pepper
1 small green pepper
½ large white onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup tomato sauce
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ large lemon
½ lime
Fresh milled black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups long grain white rice
4 cups water
4 tsp chicken bouillon ( = 4 bouillon cubes)
Olive oil (approx 4 – 5 tbsp)

Optional: small pinch of saffron, added when rice is boiling

How It Works:

Chop red and green pepper into small pieces (about ½ in). Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in pan at medium heat and sauté peppers with white onion. Squeeze lemon and lime into pan, discard skin and pulp. Grind a bit of black pepper (to taste) into pan. Sauté mixture until peppers have softened and onion is translucent. When finished, turn off heat and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in separate (wide) pan at medium heat and add minced garlic. Sauté until garlic is fragrant but not burned and add ground beef. Add garlic powder and dashes (to taste) of salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Brown beef mixture, then turn off heat under pan.

Heat remaining oil in 3 quart stock pot. Add rice and sauté while stirring it constantly to make sure all grains are coated with oil. Cook until golden brown but do not let burn. Next pour in four cups of water and add chicken bouillon. Stir in tomato sauce, peppers and beef. Bring all to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes until liquid is gone and rice is fluffy. Garnish with lemon wedge and cilantro.

Serves 6.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cocoa Almond Butter Cookies

On my way to the grocery store today I started brainstorming about gluten free snack foods to bring on a short road trip my husband and I are about to take. While thinking about different types of nuts I was struck by a desperate desire for peanut butter cookies! Unfortunately my doctor has recommended that I stay away from peanuts… which is actually okay, since even my very favorite peanut butter cookies tended to make me feel pretty ill after I ate them. (But oh, they tasted soooooooooo good going down...)

So there I was in my car thinking peanut butter cookies, peanut butter cookies when suddenly it hit me ~ ALMOND BUTTER COOKIES!!!

And here you have it. A little of this, a little of that and I was able to convert our favorite peanut butter cookie recipe to a brand spanking new gluten free cocoa almond butter cookie recipe. The best part? These cookies turned out to be light, sweet, and fulfilling with just the perfect amount of crumble. My husband says he likes them even better than the old-school peanut butter ones. Hurray!

Cocoa Almond Butter Cookies

What You’ll Need:

For Cookies…

3/4 cup almond butter
1 cup gluten free almond meal
1.5 to 2 cups Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix
3/4 cup Z-sweet (erythritol, a natural sweetener)
2 tbsp finely ground maple sugar
2 to 2.5 tsp natural unsweetened cocoa, to taste (We use Ghirardelli)
1/2 tsp gluten free vanilla
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg

Lightly dust with…
2 tbsp finely ground maple sugar
Cinnamon (approx 1/2 tsp, according to taste)

How It Works:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream egg, Z-sweet (or your sweetener of choice), butter and vanilla using hand mixer. Add almond butter and blend until very creamy.

In a separate bowl, combine almond meal, Pamela’s baking mix, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum, two tbsp of the finely ground maple sugar and all of your unsweetened cocoa. Stir well.

Slowly pour the dry ingredients into your egg-butter-sweetener mixture, using the hand mixer to combine very thoroughly. I mixed the dough for several minutes with our heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer but any hand mixer will work.

If you feel the texture is too creamy after using 1 ½ cups of Pamela’s and 1 cup of almond meal, add a bit more Pamela’s mix (2 tbsp at a time) until your cookie dough is firm enough to drop by the tablespoon onto your baking sheet. The less flour you use, the more moist your cookies will be… but I ended up using an extra quarter cup of the baking mix to get the right texture for my dough and they still tasted great.

Grease baking sheet and cover with parchment paper. Use a large tablespoon to drop dough onto the paper, about 12 cookies per sheet. Shape them gently into rounds and use a fork to make cross hatching on the tops.

Bake for approx 10 -12 minutes (10 min in our oven which runs hot). While cookies are baking, prepare maple sugar/cinnamon mixture for sprinkling on top. Remember that a little cinnamon goes a long way, so use approx 2 tbsp maple sugar for 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.

Remove cookies from oven and allow to sit for a few minutes to cool. Dust tops of almond butter cookies with maple sugar/cinnamon mix. Makes approx 30 cookies.

As my elder son would say (with gusto) "Yum Yum!"

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ginger Chili Salmon in Parchment Paper

Five great reasons to steam your next meal in parchment paper:

  • Moisture – all juices stay sealed inside your neat little steamy packet.

  • Flavor – as with life, when you mix a lot of tantalizing things in a confined space high passions are going to ignite and fantastic new combinations will emerge.

  • Less Mess – just imagine, your entire dinner cooks itself in one neat little paper packet which, if not strictly recyclable, can be shredded and composted!

  • Fancy – Your family and friends will be amazed when you tell them you’ve learned the French technique of cooking "en papillote".

  • Fun! What could be more fun than "unwrapping" your perfect dinner like a birthday gift?

Ginger-Chili Salmon in Parchment Paper

What you’ll need:

24 oz fresh salmon (approx 8 oz per fillet, 3 total)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (washed, de-stemmed)
2 small lemons, sliced in 1/4 in rounds
2 tbsp minced garlic (approx 6 small cloves)
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp finely minced ginger
1 large Anaheim chili pepper
6 carrots (2 per fillet)
1 tbsp gluten free SAN-J tamari sauce per fillet (3 tbsp total)
2 tbsp olive oil per fillet (6 tbsp total)
1 tbsp butter per fillet (3 total)
Parchment paper (approx 18 in per fillet)*

Optional side:

1 pkg Trader Joe’s organic polenta (18 oz)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Grated parmesan cheese (to taste)

How It Works:

Fresh wild salmon always tastes the best… but if your family is on a budget like ours, using defrosted Whole Catch Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon will work just fine for this recipe. If you are using frozen fillets, your first step should be to defrost the fish.

Next, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Put a pot of water on to boil. While it is heating, begin preparing your other ingredients. Wash and de-stem your cilantro, slice your lemons into 1/4 inch rounds, mince your garlic and ginger very finely. Wash and core your Anaheim chili pepper, but do not slice it yet. Rinse your carrots and trim their ends.

When the water is boiling, throw in your 6 carrots and Anaheim chili pepper. Blanch these vegetables in the water for approximately 2 – 4 minutes, depending on whether you like your vegetables al dente or very tender. When you have completed blanching the carrots and chili pepper, remove them from the water and slice them in half lengthwise, and then slice each of the halves in half as well. You will end up with approximately 8 thin slices of carrot and three thin slices of Anaheim chili pepper per fillet.

In a separate pan, lightly sauté your onions and ginger in olive oil until they are fragrant but not well cooked. Set aside.

Lay a sheet of parchment paper (approx 18 inches) out flat on a baking tray. Lay one third your carrot and pepper strips on the paper, toward the end of one of the widths. Slice two of your lemon rounds in half, and lay the four pieces next to your vegetables. Sprinkle a pinch of garlic over your vegetables.

Next, skin your salmon fillet. Salt and pepper it on each side, according to your taste. Place the salmon on top of your lemon slices, and dust it with another small pinch of garlic. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over your salmon and another tablespoon of olive oil over your vegetables.

Now use one third of your sautéed onion/ginger medley to sprinkle over both the salmon and vegetables until they are fairly well covered. Place cilantro leaves over both the salmon and vegetables. Pour your tablespoon of gluten free SAN-J tamari sauce over the salmon, and add one last lemon round (slice) on top of your salmon fillet. Finally cut one tablespoon of butter into pieces and place them over the entire piece of salmon.

You should have half of a sheet of parchment paper sticking out from your salmon creation. Fold this half over the salmon as though you are creating an envelope. Roll up the front ends so that the paper is tightly sealed, and wrap the rest of the paper under the weight of your salmon so that all moisture remains inside the parchment 'packet' while your salmon and vegetables are cooking.

Repeat this process 3 times (to create three packets of salmon), or as many times as you need in order to feed your dinner party. When you have finished creating each parchment packet, place them on one or more baking sheets and bake them in your preheated oven for approximately 12 – 14 minutes. Our oven runs hot, so I steamed our dinner for 12 minutes.

When you have finished steaming your salmon fillets, remove the trays from the oven. Let them sit for several minutes (4 – 6) with all ingredients still tightly sealed within their parchment packets to achieve maximum moisture, flavor and perfectly cooked fish.

Serve with rice, salad, or in our case – polenta! If you choose to make the polenta, simply warm 1 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp of butter in a wide oven-proof sauté pan. Slice your polenta into rounds, salt and pepper it lightly, and fry it until each piece is golden brown on both sides. Remove pan from heat, grate fresh parmesan over your polenta rounds, and then place in your still-hot oven for approximately 1 minute until parmesan cheese is melted and delicious.

* About the parchment paper… we use a brand called If You Care which you can find at natural foods stores such as Whole Foods Market. It is silicone coated, 100% unbleached paper, non-toxic when incinerated, quilon free, chrome free and has no heavy metals added.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sun Dried Tomato and Spinach Lasagna

A few weeks ago when I first started this gluten free cooking blog, I asked my friends to challenge me with their favorite family recipes. I wanted to see if I could adapt them for a gluten free diet - in part to expand my repertoire as a cook - but also to show that living gluten free doesn’t mean you can’t eat all the traditional foods you’ve grown up loving! It just takes making a few tiny changes here and there.

Several of my friends were kind enough to share their recipes with me (thank you so much!) and so I will be premiering them on this blog every so often, as soon as I can guarantee that these dishes still look, smell and taste fantastic despite their new gluten free status... and most importantly, that the food itself will leave my children and my readers with happy tummies while digesting.

The first three recipes sent to me were each for lasagna. It makes sense that so many people love this meal… meltingly rich, comforting and delicious. Here is the culmination of my lasagne adaptation – but I can’t take much credit. The original recipe for this gorgeous lasagna comes from the warm and inviting kitchen of my dear friend Denise.

Avitia Family Recipe: Sun Dried Tomato and Spinach Lasagna

What you'll need:

1 - 9 oz box of organic brown rice lasagna (I use Tinkyada)
2 eggs
16 oz fresh mozzarella
16 oz fat free cottage cheese
2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning (or more, to taste)
32 oz gluten free marinara sauce (approx 1 1/4 jars)
16 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
6 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 bag fresh organic spinach (baby leaves)
1 cup gluten free sun dried tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil


1 lb – 15% fat ground beef
1 cup pine nuts

How It Works:

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on the bottom of a 13 X 9 X 3 inch deep baking pan.

In a deep pot, boil lightly salted water. When it is boiling, add your rice lasagna noodles (we use Tinkyada) and allow them to boil for 16 minutes according to directions on package. (Use a timer, and when your noodles are done, strain and then rinse them in cold water. Set aside.)

Shred your parmesan if you purchased it in a block. Next, combine eggs, cottage cheese and ½ cup of your parmesan in a medium bowl. Tear or slice your mozzarella into small pieces, dividing into two cups. Slice your mushrooms into pieces about ¼ inch in width.

In a large pan, heat olive oil at medium low temperature. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. For those people using beef, add 1 lb of ground beef into the pan with the garlic. Raise temperature of pan to medium and break the beef into small pieces, stirring frequently until both the garlic and beef are half-way browned, then add your sliced mushrooms. Season well with crushed black pepper, salt and Italian seasoning (to suit your personal taste). Sauté the garlic-beef-mushroom mixture until the beef is fairly well browned and mushrooms are tender. Turn off heat under pan.

For those using pine nuts, now is the time to toast your pine nuts in olive oil on low heat…stirring them often (they should be golden brown). When they reach golden brown, turn off the heat and set pan aside.

Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your baking pan. Next, place a layer of rice lasagna noodles (slightly overlapping) in the pan. Top it with a liberal scoop of your egg-cottage cheese mixture, spread this evenly on top of the noodles. Follow up with a liberal scoop of your garlic-mushroom-(beef) mixture. Spread this on top of the other layers. Cover this with evenly scattered sun dried tomato pieces.

Now pour another evenly distributed layer of tomato sauce on the whole mixture, and then use ¾ of one of your cups of mozzarella pieces – scatter them evenly on top of the mushroom – beef – cottage cheese – sun dried tomato – sauce layers. Lastly, spread about ¼ bag of your baby spinach leaves (washed) on top of this.

Ready for the next step?

Repeat everything you just did. Ideally, you will end up with two thick layers in your lasagna. Once you have the last ¼ of baby spinach leaves carefully spread on your near-to-overflowing pan, you should use the last of your rice lasagna noodles on the very top. Cover them with your remaining sauce (a thin, not thick layer) and all the remaining fresh mozzarella (what’s left after you complete your second layer… should be about ½ cup remaining). Use your remaining parmesan (a little less than ¼ cup) to scatter across top of lasagna for taste.

To be completely clear, your layers should look like this:

(1) Sauce
(2) Noodles
(3) Egg-Cottage Cheese
(4) Garlic-Mushroom-Seasoned Beef
(5) Sun Dried Tomatoes
(6) Tomato Sauce
(7) Fresh Mozzarella
(8) Baby Spinach Leaves
(9) Repeat

Your oven should be nice and hot now!

Cover your lasagna with tin foil (ideally the 100% recycled kind) and cook it until bubbly about 50 – 60 minutes. My oven runs hot, we stuck with 50 minutes. Carefully peel off the foil and continue cooking it uncovered until all of the cheese is melted – I gave it about 10 more minutes, but you can eyeball this. Every oven is different.

When your masterpiece is finished, let it stand for about 15 minutes before you cut into it. Denise says that this recipe will be runny… but perhaps because of all the adaptations, ours didn’t seem that runny. It was soft, packed full of flavor, and quite heavenly. My husband and children devoured it and they all took second helpings. High praise indeed!

Denise suggests serving her family’s favorite lasagna over a bed of fresh spinach, topped with sautéed mushrooms, pine nuts and grated pecorino cheese. Wow!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

You would think with all of this hot summer weather that my family would be craving chilled things like cold soups and homemade ice cream. Perhaps we will feel that way next week, but today when planning our grocery list my husband and I were excited about Italian sausage and beans. We feasted tonight on this hearty soup and I can honestly say that the dinner tasted just as delicious and fulfilling in July as we expect it will in November! For perfection, serve it with your favorite salad and gluten free dinner rolls.

Just one note - thanks to the parmesan rind, pancetta, chicken bouillion and Italian sausage involved there is definitely a risk of over salting this soup... so I wouldn't recommend adding any additional salt! We're pretty crazy for fresh onions and garlic here, so I may even try adding more in the future. The kale was a great touch, as were the crimini mushrooms. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

What You'll Need:

Organic Navy beans, 2 cans
Italian Sausage, 1 lb (Sweet or Hot, depending on how you like it)
Pancetta, thinly sliced - 3 pieces
Carrots, 3 - thinly sliced
Onion, 1 medium - minced
Garlic, 6 cloves - minced
Parmesan rind (Take the rind of 4oz parmesan and use only half of it)
White wine, 1/2 cup
Kale, 3 handfuls leaves - stems removed
Rosemary, 1 tsp
Sage, 1 tsp
Bay leaf (1) - optional
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
Crimini mushrooms, 1 large handful - chopped
Crushed tomatoes, 28 ounces
Olive Oil
Chicken bouillion (3 - 4 cups)
3 - 5 tbsp water

How It Works:

Pour the tablespoons of water into deep soup pot (9.5 x 6.5) and turn heat to medium high. Trim ends off of your Italian sausages and place them in the water. Puncture the sausages with the tip of a sharp knife about once every inch or so to allow steam to escape as they boil. (I learned this technique from Alex Haas' Low Carb Cooking, and it works really well!)

Cover pot and boil sausages in the water. When the liquid has evaporated, the sausages will begin to brown. Turn them over so that both sides brown evenly. Remove links from pot and set aside, but leave residual fats in pot.

Next, cook pancetta in the remaining sausage fats - making sure not to let burn. (Another option is to cook it in the microwave.) Remove crispy pancetta and place it with sausage links. Deglaze your pot with white wine, then add minced garlic, onions and thinly sliced carrots and cook on medium low heat until onions are clear. Sautee the crimini mushrooms in a seperate pan and set aside.

Slice sausage links into thick rounds. Return them to pot, along with the vegetables, sauteed mushrooms, pancetta, chicken bouillion, crushed tomatoes, one can of Navy beans, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, bay leaf and one small parmesan rind. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered between 90 minutes and 2 hours. For best results, simmer at extremely low temperature for several hours!

When you are about 15 - 20 minutes away from serving, add the three large handfuls of kale torn by hand into bite sized pieces, and stir them into your soup. Make sure you are using only kale leaves and not the actual stems. Do not add the kale too early or it will end up very soggy and lose some of its texture. At this time you should add in the 2nd can of Navy beans.

In general the longer you simmer the soup, the fuller its flavoring will be. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaf before serving.

Serves 6 - 8. Cheese lovers may choose to top their bowl with a cloud of grated parmesan.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Using rhubarb in your cooking is like inviting a witty, sarcastic guest to join a dinner party. Its presence alone is going to bring complexity to the culinary conversation. A lot of people love its tart flavor easily while others develop an immediate dislike. Very few people have a mild response to rhubarb.

I was first charmed by the unusual magenta stalks in college in the form of a decadent pie whose memory still warms my heart well over a decade later. I’m especially fond of stewing rhubarb with berries and brown sugar, a combination of textures and tastes that is sophisticated but also comforting and cozy in a way that reminds me of homemade quilts and Charlotte’s Web.

I haven’t perfected gluten free pie crust yet and I just don’t have quite the passion for stewed apples that some folk do - so this year when it came time to brainstorm up some gastronomic fireworks for our Fourth of July celebration, the first thing that popped into my head was a warm strawberry rhubarb crumble. Somehow it seems like the quintessential American dessert. With a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a side of fresh blueberries framing its juicy crimson heart, what could be more patriotic, gooey and delicious?

Fourth of July Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

What you'll need:

For the filling...

2 cups strawberries
3.5 - 4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb stalks, ends removed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 small pinches of nutmeg

For the crumble:

1 cup Pamela's gluten free baking mix
1/2 - 3/4 cup brown sugar (to taste)
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 greased 8 x 8in pan

How it works:

Wash rhubarb stalks well, slicing off ends and stripping off strings. With a sharp knife, slice the stalks very thinly, no more than 1/8in in width. If you have access to a food processor, you might want to consider shredding or finely mincing the rhubarb that way to ensure that it ultimately cooks down to the right consistency. When done prepping, place rhubarb pieces in a large mixing bowl.

These pieces (above) are sliced a bit too thickly for the dessert - but oh so gorgeous!

Wash and slice strawberries, about the same width. Add brown sugar, cornstarch and nutmeg. Wash your hands well and then combine all the ingredients by hand until they are thoroughly mixed - this is an important touch so the berries don't get too mashed up. (If you are squeamish about touching food with your hands, feel free to use stirring spoons instead.)

Leave in bowl to sit - at least 15 minutes, preferably 30 minutes.

While the strawberry rhubarb filling is settling, combine Pamela's baking mix, brown sugar, xanthan gum and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix well. Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Pour butter into the bowl and use your hands to create a crumble. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 pan with butter. When strawberry rhubarb filling has fully set, spoon it into bottom of pan. Top evenly with dry crumble.

Place pan on the top rack of your preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. When timer rings, open oven door and place final tablespoon of butter in the middle of the crumble crust. Return pan to your oven and continue baking for five to ten more minutes. Keep a close eye on it during this time as some ovens cook hotter than others - do not allow to burn.

As your dessert nears completion, its gorgeous rosy filling will begin to bubble up through the gently browned crust.

Once your strawberry rhubarb crumble has finished baking, allow it to cool for a few minutes before topping with your favorite gluten free ice cream!

Serves 4 - 6.