Divine Gluten Free
 
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The new herb garden takes over!
I've been quiet on here the past couple weeks- but trust me I haven't abandoned this project. Unfortunately the first meal out for the new year I got glutened- and pretty bad. Actually, worse than I have in a long time. We went out to a big chain restaurant, yes I know a big "no-no"- but we frequent this place about once a week, and usually they are great about following directions...Apparently not for lunch that day. Then it seemed once I was down- I was down and wasn't coming back up to healthy. A small sinus bug has since turned into a sinus infection and bronchitis- so while I had some time in the kitchen in the last couple weeks, I didn't feel like coming to the computer afterward.

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The problem with not feeling well, besides the obvious- means that I tend to want to cook, bake or create things in the kitchen. This isn't to say I want to eat it - I just want to be able to bake the cookies, feel the warmth and enjoy being in the kitchen. It has always been a comfort for me, and old co-workers liked when I was feeling blah- because I'd bring the goodies into the office for them to enjoy.

But my energy level wasn't there this time around- someone drained it all away. So with the little bursts of energy this weekend I instead went to the grocery store(s). I think I had idea in my head that our cupboards were empty (I'm a secret food hoarder when I'm ill!) and proceeded to do what I felt would be needed to fill them. I'm happy to report, our cupboards are over full now, our fridge is stuffed, our freezer is full and although there is some space in our deep freeze I'm ok with that. While I was out shopping I thought it was time to start an herb garden again. I had one a couple year back and used it for months- until an unfortunate incident with some bleach and a fly killed what was left in the little pots. I miss the fresh herbs, being able to grab them and use them in dishes. I have dried herbs and spices by the dozens, taking over the fridge and part of a cupboard- but sometimes nothing beats fresh. So a couple of new pots, and some freshly planted ones- by next month I will have parsley again! :)

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Garlic Caper Chicken
One of the few meals I did end up making last week was one that has become a regular in our house - Garlic Caper Chicken. A couple years back (maybe a few now) when I asked my boyfriend what he'd want for dinner the next day he answered "something with chicken, garlic and cheese". None of my recipes had that combination of ingredients - I did a Google search for recipes and still came up empty. I went down to the local grocery store and walked around a bit and stumbled upon capers. It had been a long time since I had had capers, years probably- but their vinegary bite and touch of salt intrigued me. I purchased the capers and some stock and went home and  got creative. I didn't solve the need for cheese with the recipe- instead that came into the meal with homemade mac and cheese. This simple recipe has become a weekly staple at our house, one requested by friends and family and a great comfort meal when we're not feeling good.

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Chicken and Dumplings
Being sick wasn't a complete waste in the kitchen though- I did experiment with one new recipe- Chicken and Dumplings. It's one of those "warm you up from the inside" type meals and sounded great with this cold weather and being sick. This recipe is still being tweaked- I used a base recipe for German potato dumplings- they worked but aren't exactly what I was looking for. And the recipe didn't translate the best. So it's a work in progress. I have to say the base soup I made for it was fabulous- savory and warm all at once. Look for this recipe coming soon!

I'm starting to feel back up to speed- and once all pistons are firing again I will be back in the kitchen working on new items and recipes. I believe homemade pasta is next on the agenda.


The Garlic Caper Chicken Recipe can be found in the Entree section.

Chicken and Dumplings... well it will be posted when it's finialized.
 
Happy New Years! 12/30/2010
 
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Creamy Spinach Dip
New Years Eve is tomorrow- while most people are preparing for their parties, or getting ready to attend parties- us gluten intolerant, celiacs and gluten free have to worry if there is anything we can at at the upcoming celebrations. It sounds simple enough - food- but we all know that it can be a big pain.

If you are hosting the party, or are going to the party- you need to make sure there is something you can eat. I've gone to several parties over the years and just politely said "no thank you" to everything that has been offered, because quite honestly it's easier than explaining why I can't eat it, or worse yet why it doesn't work if you just take the bread off. I don't want to go into the un-pleasantries of explaining celiacs, what it can do to my body or hear one more person say "OH I would DIE if I couldn't eat bread"- they really don't appreciate when I come back with "Well I WILL die if I eat bread".  So instead I bite my tongue, politely decline any food and make sure I have food plans for before or after the get-together.

But the question is why should we have to do this at all? Even if your host doesn't ask you to- bring something you can eat. Something quick, good to eat and that others wont have a clue is gluten free or not. Bring two serving dishes- a smaller one for yourself (and your family if needed) and a larger one for the party. This prevents yours from being cross contaminated. It may make a few people raise their eye brows but it's better than getting sick.

A really great recipe to bring along with you Spinach Dip. It's a staple at parties and is a hit at restaurants and other venues. My recipes for Spinach Dip I made over 10 years ago, long before I cut gluten out of my diet - actually I think it was the same year I first heard about celiacs through a news article. My best friend at the time and I were constantly going out to eat- and we'd always order Spinach Dip as an appetizer. I was getting sick of recipes that used Mayonnaise and weren't properly cooked, paying $8 for a small serving, and having to pick out the artichokes.

It was about the same time that I was hosting my weekly "Taco Tuesday Night"- a dinner that started on a Tuesday with Tacos- and shortly morphed into weekly dinners on any day with anything for dinner. The name stuck, just everything else changed. I was hosting New Years at my new apartment that year and wanted a nice spread that we could eat while were playing games, drinking and listening to music. I decided I must have Spinach Dip that year for the party.

I searched for recipes, all having mayonnaise, artichokes and other ingredients I didn't want or didn't think it needed- finally I took the main parts and made my own. I created a recipe that has 5 basic ingredients, can be made quickly, can be added to and adapted, and best of all was delicious.

This Spinach Dip recipe I take to family parties each year and it is quickly gobbled up (even by those who claim to hate spinach!). I'm asked repeatedly for the recipe and have given it out over the years.

So if you are going out this year- consider taking this Spinach Dip recipe! I have three variations included if you decide to purchase the recipe later- but for now, start the New Years with a yummy Spinach Dip!

Creamy Spinach Dip


Ingredients

8 oz        Cream Cheese
8 oz        Mozzarella Cheese
8 oz        Chopped Spinach (fresh or thawed)
1              Large Yellow Onion
3             Roma Tomatoes

Directions
  1. Chop onion and tomatoes and place in a medium sized microwave safe bowl.
  2. shred the mozzarella cheese and add it to the bowl with the chopped vegetables.
  3. Add the spinach and cream cheese to the bowl and give it a quick mix.
  4. Place the bowl in the microwave on high for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the microwave (careful it will be hot) and mix together. If the cheese and cream cheese aren't completely melted continue to microwave on high in 1 minute increments until you are able to mix it together smoothly.

This dip is quick and easy to make, and can be enjoyed hot or cold. Try it on corn chips, with fresh gluten free bread or even as a pizza topping.

The Creamy Spinach Dip Recipe with tips and variations can be found in Starters.
 
 
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Chocolate Chip Cookies
Now that the craziness of the holiday season is over I can start focusing getting back in the kitchen again. It's been a busy last couple weeks and I haven't been able to work on this as much I as I wanted.

The last few years at the holidays I have spent two full weeks in the kitchen preparing cookies for friends and family. Dozens, upon dozens of cookies from Chocolate Chip to Pfeffernuesse were made, packaged and given away as presents. Platters of cookies would be waiting out for when our guests arrived - and not only were they gluten free, but they were sugar free and dairy free to accommodate other allergies/issues within the family.

We were lucky enough to host the holiday party at our place. Despite all the work that went along with it, I really enjoyed it. It also gave me the peace of mind knowing that the food I was going to eat was going to be safe.

This year, the party was shifted back to our respective families houses, or local restaurants that were between our homes. Since there wasn't any pressure to bake this year I decided to tackle something I hadn't had a chance to yet- Candy. I swore I wasn't going to do any baking- that was until I remembered the sugar/dairy issue.

So last week I started to work on candies- Sugar plums, Caramel, Rock Candy, Peppermint Patties and a Toffee recipe that almost ruined the kitchen. Most everything came out beautifully (except that toffee of course). I packaged up everything in tins to take to the first of our eight holiday parties and got tins ready for the rest.

I'm not sure why- but it continues to amaze me how easy it is to make things. From Semifreddo to Stews- things that we pay top dollar for at restaurants and stores- that will make us sick. I find the simple joy of making items and knowing they'll be safe for me and our household to eat without artificial preservatives and all that other junk.

When I make baked goods- I'd rather use real butter than margarine. The studies keep flipping back and forth on which is worse for you- and I'd rather have the real flavor and proper baking outcome that comes with butter. Unfortunately- not all of my baking I can use butter in. The Chocolate Chip Cookies I did end up baking (my dad's favorite) had to be not only sugar free but also dairy free - and since I don't keep wheat flour in the house, by default they were also gluten free.

For the cookies I have started using Soy Margarine. If you cream it for a few minutes with the sugars (I had to use Baking Splenda and Splenda Brown Sugar) it will act just like regular butter. I was pleasantly surprised at how light and fluffy the cookies came out this year. I put large dollops of dough on the parchment and the whole batch only made 18 cookies- but since they really were for 1 person I didn't think this was going to be an issue. They actually ended up being so large- they needed a tin and a plate.

My Dad was nice, and decided to share his cookies with other family members on Christmas. No one could tell that they were gluten free, let alone dairy free or sugar free. A little kitchen magic for the holidays!


The recipe for the Chocolate Chip Cookies as well as many others can be found in: Desserts

I have added a large selection of recipes to each section of the site - with more to come soon! Whenever possible I have put an image taken of the food prepared. I will be updating each recipe as I am able to get images of the completed product.
 
Holiday Baking 12/17/2010
 
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Sugar Plums
One of the most daunting things when you are going gluten free is the holiday season. Not only do you have to consider what you can eat, if your food has been prepared properly, or even how to make a treat that you can share your guests will enjoy and not say turn their nose up to.

One recipe that is a great option is Sugar Plums- yes, just like the songs! They are sweet, spicey and a great addition to any holiday table. And there is an added bonus that they use mostly natural sugars, fruit and are completely dairy free.

I will admit they are probably not what your guest are use to as far as holiday treats, they are not the over processed candy we've grown use to. But the sweet and savory flavors will make you crave them even when the holiday season has long passed.

Although these aren't exactly candy, their small size lends them to that category. You can find the recipe here: Candy