Posts Tagged ‘gluten free’

In the spirit of good health and in an effort toward minimizing our impact upon the planet, we are eating more vegetarian than animal protein based meals.  We are also taking full advantage of our winter garden to supplement our grocery shopping.  Whatever we can’t or don’t grow we try to buy at the Farmer’s Market before resorting to the local chain grocery store and we are finding quite a reduction in our food bill by observing these guidelines.

Good, wholesome fresh food is not only economical but packs a big wallop in terms of nutritional benefits and disease fighting elements.  If you decide to follow a healthful vegetarian diet with just occasional animal protein you will notice a marked savings on food bill, stronger hair and nails and glowing healthy skin tones.  No doubt about it.  So what’s stopping you?  For the new year, resolve to eat well and feed your body what it needs. You won’t regret it.  And if you are daring, you will tantalize your tastebuds.  C’mon!  Try it!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Serves 4-6 depending upon portion size

2 ½ cups black beans, cooked one day ahead OR 2-15 oz. cans, rinsed and drained

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 2 ½ cups diced)

1 medium red pepper,  julienned

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 large onion, roughly diced

3 tablespoons chili powder

3 teaspoons coriander (cumin works well too if you like it; many people don’t)

1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder or ancho chile powder for smokiness

1 teaspoon cayenne powder for heat

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 to 2 ½ cups homemade vegetable stock or store-bought if you must

(chicken stock works if you aren’t sticking to a vegetarian diet but please use

Non-fat reduced sodium products)

2 cups chopped roma tomatoes, seeded OR a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (please don’t)

1 tablespoon lime juice (NO, lemon juice isn’t the same)

½ cup chopped cilantro, flat leaf parslely, watercress or arugula depending on your taste

Non-fat, plain Greek yogurt

Prepare the garnishes (cilantro or other and yogurt) in small bowls and set aside.

Prepare your mise en place (all ingredients ready on the counter,  cleaned & chopped, spices assembled)


Heat the 2 teaspoons oil in a nonstick pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, red pepper slices and sweet potato and cook them, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften.  This should take between 5-7 minutes over a gas flame.  If necessary , add a bit more oil.

Add the spices: chipotle, cayenne and chili powders, salt and then garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds.  Be careful not to overcook the garlic as it will turn bitter.

Add the stock (your choice, vegetable or non-fat, reduced sodium chicken stock but I’m hoping you’ll use homemade goodness.)

Bring the mixture to a strong simmer but don’t cross the fine line to boiling or you will have vegetable mush.  Cover.  Reduce the heat to keep a nice simmer.  Cook just until the sweet potato becomes tender.  This should take between 10-15 minutes depending on your burner capacity.

Add the black beans and the tomatoes.  Mix well.  Add the lime juice.  Mix well again.

Increase the heat to high and return the mixture to a mild simmer immediately.  Stir often to prevent burning and/or overcooking.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 5-7 minutes.  This is not a watery chili.

Remove the mixture from the heat.

Serving suggestions: Serve in a bowl with a dollop of yogurt (or sour cream) and a garnish of green (cilantro, watercress, parsley or arugula)

Add some cornbread, jalapeno cornbread, jalapeno slices, grated white cheddar for that extra tart flavor, and it even works well with a sprinkle of pepita seeds.  Enjoy!

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Our first attempt to grow the ancient grain, Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) in our gardens proves to be successful with these healthy stalks standing proudly.

Quinoa is an ancient grass from South America where the Incas grew it as their main crop in the cool weather of the Andes.  As creative farmers, they terraced the slopes of their mountain homeland and planted a variety of crops including, tomatoes, squash, maize, melons, peanuts, chili peppers and cotton.

One unique aspect of quinoa is its nutritional value.  Quinoa is almost as complete a protein as an egg!  It also delivers some wonder vitamins, like E and B, as well as calcium, phosphorous and iron.  It is gluten-free, easy to digest and possesses a higher nutritional value than oats or wheat.

Quinoa can be eaten hot, warm or cold.  With this level of versatility, any cook can exercise creative ways to prepare it as a cereal, stuffing, salad, main course or even baked into breads.  You can even make desserts like Oatmeal Quinoa Cookies too.

Since this is our first season growing quinoa, an adventure looms ahead when we begin our harvest.  Given the size of these stalks, it’s time to begin learning how to harvest and dry those stalks now.

Oh, here is an interesting bit of trivia in case you find yourself on Jeopardy: the Incas were the first civilization to plant and harvest potatoes!

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A traditional Indian Kheema, literally ground meat, made in our kitchens is only an imitation of an authentic kheema. American cooks cannot achieve the same Indian flavors primarily because of the difference in meats.

In India drier cuts of meat, usually mutton or lamb or venison, are used and typically cooked on the bone using neck parts or shoulders. One reason for cooking the meat on the bone is the cultural difference of eating with their hands.

Additionally in India, most meals are served with breads (roti, chapati or paratha) which are used as utensils in place of forks and knives. When the meat is cooked on the bone, it is also easier to pick upand the bones filled with marrow are highly sought after delicacies.

In spite of those things, we can still make wonderful tasting kheemas from our own kitchens as I’ve done here. I’ve altered the traditional kheema recipe to suit the way I cook and according to the availability of ingredients in America. It’s also twisted away from tradition and served as a salad.

My mentor was initially appalled, especially when she noticed the orzo replacing the traditional rice, and then she tasted the finished dish.  She grinned and nodded her approval and I began to breathe again.  So here we go!

Many recipes for kheema instruct the cook to meld the aromatics and spices into a smooth paste in a food processor or spice grinder.  I do that when I’m using chicken*(see below) which necessitates marinating over night to achieve the level of flavor that I prefer.

For beef, I like to leave the ingredients in pieces that augment the texture in the finished dish and give it a particular “pop” of flavor when a cardamom seed or peppercorn crushes between your teeth.

Before cooking, assemble the following ingredients:

2 pounds fresh chuck or top round, fat and gristle removed, ground once

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, NOT olive oil

1 medium sized onion, chopped

3 tablespoons garlic, minced

3 tablespoons fresh, peeled gingerroot, minced

1 jalapeno pepper with seeds, (stem removed), chopped

3 generous teaspoons coriander powder

2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

1 tablespoon Madras curry powder or more to taste

(Do not use Asian or Oriental curry powder)

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2-3 teaspoons red pepper powder

(I use Reshampatti but Cayenne is a good substitute)

1 teaspoon white pepper powder

(You can find this at any Indian market or substitute fine grind

black pepper)

8 ounces Orzo pasta (trust me on this one)

*For a Gluten Free option, substitute pre-cooked Basmati rice or Quinoa for the Orzo.

2 cups beef broth, skimmed of all fat if homemade


4 scallions, chopped into small pieces

2 chopped, seeded tomatoes

Paper-thin slices of cucumber, about ½ of a medium cucumber

½ cup cilantro

1 cup Greek yogurt

Hot mango chutney

Spinach to line the plates or bowls

Add salt to taste, if necessary

This recipe works best if all the ingredients, including the beef, are at room temperature.

Cooking Instructions:

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the beef and sauté just until cooked and no pink appears, approximately 5 minutes.  Remove the meat to a bowl and set aside.

Reheat the same skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and sauté until aromatic, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the coriander, cardamom, curry powder, black peppercorns, red and white pepper powders and the orzo to the pan.  Stir briskly until combined and heated, about 1 minute or until the aromatics make you swoon.

Add the beef broth, stirring to combine, and bring the mixture just to a boil. It is important to bring it just to the boiling point without actually boiling the mixture. As soon as the bubbles begin, reduce the heat to medium low and cover the skillet.

Cook until the orzo is tender and most of the beef broth is absorbed.  Stir the mixture occasionally to keep it from sticking in the pan.  The cooking should take about 20-25 minutes depending on your equipment.

When the broth is absorbed, return the beef to the skillet and stir until the mixture is completely combined.  Taste and adjust your seasonings.

To plate this dish, line a plate or bowl with fresh spinach leaves.  Mound the kheema in the middle of the dish.  Arrange your condiments (cucumber slices, chopped tomato, scallion and cilantro) decoratively in rows over the kheema.

Add a dollop of yogurt with a dollop of chutney on the side of the dish.

Serve and enjoy!  Your tastebuds will dance!

* You can easily alter this recipe for chicken, if you wish.  The difference is that you would add the yogurt to the paste, and then add the chicken.  It should marinate, refrigerated, overnight.  The chicken can then be ground or cut into chunks after marinating.  At this point, cooking can proceed accordingly in the recipe above.  For vegetarians, firm tofu works very well here but sauté the tofu to a golden brown for added flavor.

NOTE:  Variations that I’ve tried and recommend are the addition of small chunks of potatoes, peas, sautéed mushrooms or cooked spinach.  Serving the kheema over lentils is also very nice.

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Occasionally, when I want to serve an expensive main course, I search for less expensive sides to even out the plate.  Last week I chose onions, but in one of those odd synchronistic moments, three of us shopped for food.  The result was a glut of onions.  In fact, pounds of onions.

Onions keep really well but we had so many onions that it was doubtful that they would all survive even with the quantity of cooking we do around here.

Each of us bought some fresh salmon also so we had plenty of main course ingredients!  That’s an easy fix though: salmon grilled, salmon cakes and salmon in frittata for breakfast.  So, I went to work on creating side dishes from onions.  This is when I became thankful for the Gratin!

A gratin is any dish wherein the ingredients are topped with cheese and/or breadcrumbs and then heated until the topping is all browned and crispy making a crunchy crust.  They are usually assembled in ovenproof, shallow containers that allow large surface areas to insure that the topping will be crisp.  A gratin can also be referred to as “au gratin” or “gratinée.”

Here’s my simple side created as an accompaniment to my grilled salmon.  It’s a simple and frugal Onion Gratinée.

Onion Gratinée

2 very large onions (mine were almost a pound apiece)

Olive oil for drizzling over the onions

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

¼ cup white wine (choose something dry like a chardonnay)

1 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (use gluten free if you are gluten intolerant)

¼-scant ½ cup Parmesan, Romano or Gruyère cheese (I had a smattering of each so I combined them into just over a ¼ cup of cheese.  It’s a loose measurement in this case.)

Optional: seasoned breadcrumbs to cover the casserole.

(If you are gluten intolerant, you can omit the breadcrumbs without compromising the flavor or quality of this recipe.)

Preheat the oven to 450˚.

Peel and slice the onions into thick rounds.

Lay the rounds in an oiled baking sheet.  Keep them in a single layer.

Drizzle the onions with olive oil or brush them to coat.

Season the onions with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  At this point, the onions should become translucent and even show a touch of golden brown.

While the onions bake, combine the wine, heavy cream and Dijon mustard in a saucepan over medium high heat, stirring to combine.  Bring the mixture to a bubbling and turn off the heat.

By now, the onions should be finished baking.  Remove them from the baking sheet and put them into your gratin pan or a shallow casserole.

Pour the cream mixture over the onions.  Return the onions to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven.

Top the casserole with the breadcrumbs (if using) and the grated cheese.  Return to the oven until the top is golden brown, approximately 10-12 minutes more.

This recipe is quite flexible so increase the quantities if necessary.  Using these ingredients, the recipe yielded 6 moderate sized servings.  You can supplement the onions with leeks and shallots too.

Serve while hot!

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As winter gives way, ever so slightly, to spring, it’s time for that seasonal pre-emptive task: cleaning the freezer and refrigerator.  Usually February is the time when I finally get rid of the last remnants of summers frozen goodies before they age too much or suffer freezer burn.

This evening, yearning for an easy and quick dinner, my goal was to use up some of those summer lingerers.  As luck would have it, I found a cup of frozen basil pesto from the last of the summer herb garden.

Dinner came together in a snap after that!  The refrigerator search yielded some leftover grated Parmesan cheese, some toasted walnuts, half a loaf of sourdough bread, and a package of chicken that was ready for cooking.

About 3 minutes of thought evoked a meal that only necessitated a few more simple ingredients!  One simple dinner of very few ingredients and less than hour to prepare is a relaxing and satisfying end to a restful weekend.

After Summer Pesto-Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce with Chicken over Penne and Fresh Spinach

(Serves approximately 4-6)

A heaping ¼ cup of homemade basil pesto (use store-bought if needed)

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced with a bit of the jar oil.

Olive oil for sautéing

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

3 cups fresh spinach

1 cup heavy cream

1 lb. penne pasta*

Fresh basil for garnish

Toasted chopped walnuts for garnish

Grated or shredded Parmesan for garnish

(Optional side: sliced, toasted sourdough bread served with fresh brushetta)

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta while you are sautéing the chicken.

Heat a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil.  Sauté the chicken until just cooked through and the pink is gone.  Remove from the heat, strain the chicken and set aside in a bowl.

Add the penne pasta to the boiling water and cook for approximately 9-11 minutes, until pasta is al dente.

Using the skillet, add the basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes to the pan.  Heat for 1-2 minutes over low heat and then add the heavy cream.  Increase the heat to medium high, stirring to blend.  When the cream sauce begins to thicken, add the chicken and stir to coat.

The sauce and the pasta should be ready at about the same time.  Drain the pasta.  Turn off the sauce.  Layer the fresh spinach in a bowl.  Top with penne pasta.  Add the sauce with chicken.

Be sure the garnishes are on the table and serve!  A sprinkle of minced fresh basil livens up the dish and makes it even more aromatic!


*For a gluten-free option, substitute gluten-free pasta for the Penne.  You can use quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta or your preference.

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When the weather is cold and we crave comfort food, this dinner is always a winner!  I don’t remember where I first found the inspiration for this recipe but I do know that I’ve been making it for well, let’s say, over a couple of decades.

This simple recipe never fails me and continually pleases everyone at our tables.  The way I see it, you can never go wrong with a good balance of flavors: sweet ‘n savory combined.  I admit, I’ve never tried to adapt it to poultry because it just seems perfectly suited for a pork tenderloin in every way.

The entire dinner from start to finish never takes more than 90 minutes including cook time, table setting and a couple of quick snapshots.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Mustard-Fennel Seed Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Apple-Onion Sauté

Serve with Frizzled Spinach sautéed in walnut oil with traditional mashed potatoes for a hearty and pleasing winter meal.

1 large pork tenderloin (about 14-18 ounces) 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard

2-3 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 large onion, sliced roughly

2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine (use apple cider if you are avoiding alcohol)

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Season pork with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the pork tenderloin and sear until all sides are brown, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes total. Transfer pork to plate.

Cool the pork slightly. Spread mustard over top and sides of pork; then press the fennel seeds into mustard.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add the onion slices and apple.  Sauté over medium heat until everything is golden, about 5 minutes.

Spread evenly in skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork atop apple-onion mixture.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast until apple-onion mixture is soft and brown and meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145°F, about 15 minutes.

Then transfer the pork to a platter and tent with foil. Let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the white wine over apple-onion mixture in the skillet. Stir mixture over high heat until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes.

Cut pork on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon apple-onion mixture onto plates. Top with pork. Spoon some of the pan juices over the pork.  Add the frizzled Spinach and Mashed Potatoes to the plate and serve.

(*For gluten-free diners, be sure the mustard is a gluten-free brand such as Natural Value Organic Dijon or 365 Organic)

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Making meals at home is an excellent way to stave off the rising cost of restaurant dining.  Occasionally, the ritual, ambiance and service in a restaurant is worth the expense.  However, these days, sticking close to home is best for our bank account.

When a hunger for sushi rises, off I go to my local Asian market.  There I find the freshest sushi grade tuna, imitation crab and also nori for my homemade sushi treats.

Sushi Rolls, Homemade

Believe me, it’s quite a savings over a local restaurant bill.  The fish in my sushi rolls cost me $9.35, the avocado and cucumber under $2.00, nori was $1.49.  My yield was about 10 sushi rolls. Try ordering that at your local sushi spot for under $13!

I created a tuna with wasabi roll and an imitation crab with avocado and cucumber roll.  I served them with a mound of steamed rice, a choice of tamari sauce or soy sauce, pickled ginger and additional wasabi.

Sushi Rolls, Homemade

Our starter was a miso soup with shitake, tofu and pea sprouts with a chopped scallion garnish.

Miso soup with Shitake mushrooms, Tofu and Pea Sprouts

Served with the soup and additional rice mound, I produced enough food for 8 happy eaters!  Wow, I feel good about that—and it was gluten free* too!

Simple elements, little cost, moderate prep time and huge enjoyment!

*Omit Asian soy sauce and opt for gluten free tamari or La Choy soy sauce.  Gluten free miso is available to Whole Foods and most natural food stores.

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