28 April 2010

I’m a believer

Ok – so a soon as you write something, you’re taking the chance of having to ‘eat your words’ so to speak.

I was seriously craving a plate of spaghetti bolognaise last week. Not a shred of spaghetti in the house (‘course not – we don’t have gluten stuff in the house).

Well - ‘cept for the cave-in to the kids, the rice-based spaghetti. Craving, meet wall.

So – I crafted a truly nummy red sauce, added some browned Italian sausage, cooked up that rice-based spaghetti.

I was wrong. I admit it. I had said “I have to be honest – rice-based pastas are just NOT the same as regular pasta.” (Tortillas)

I’m gonna blame the fact that when we first started trying to get good gluten free stuff, we inevitably tried some really crappy stuff. Yea – that has to be it. Because, frankly, the spaghetti was fantastic, just the right mouth feel, just the right flavor.

The brand, you ask? Lundberg. Lundberg Brown Rice Spaghetti, to be exact!


Very yummy, very satisfying. I highly recommend. The kids did too – the sucked it up. Amazingly, this stuff even reheats well too – a trait we’ve found hard to to come by in gluten free pastas (they tend to get tough).

And we even did a traditional baked pasta dish by parboiling a bit of the Lundberg Brown Rice Penne, and then mixing with ricotta, left over sauce, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and some milk. YUM – cooked up perfectly (it was a pasta heavy week last week).

What? You want that sauce recipe? Well, it’s not really a recipe, but here ya go:

Kim’s red sauce

  • 2 Tbs good olive oil
  • 1 Tbs garlic (fresh preferred, but can use the pre-minced stuff)
  • 1 Can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 Can (15 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes (can substitute another can of crushed tomatoes, but I highly recommend using the fire roasted varieties)
  • 1 Cup good red wine (never cook with what you won’t drink)
  • 1 Tsp basil (or more to taste)
  • 1 Tsp oregano (more or less to taste)
  • 1 Tsp thyme (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 Tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tsp salt

In a heavy bottom pot, simmer the garlic in the olive oil until just translucent. Do not burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes, carefully (or you’ll end up with oil burns), and then add the rest of the ingredients, including the wine, and stir to blend. Cook over low heat partially covered for at least 1 hour. The sauce should just simmer, not boil. Stir frequently, and taste periodically. Adjust seasonings as needed to your taste.

Enjoy over your favorite pasta, or any other red-sauce friendly dish.


19 April 2010

Rice. Just Rice.

Yep. Let’s talk about something boring – rice. And NOT that part-cooked stuff they call ‘rice’. Real rice.

Rice very quickly became a mainstay in our household after the gluten issue was uncovered. We needed a side dish that was both easy to make and that the kids liked.

Our primary learning when making a big shift to more rice in the diet was that a good rice cooker is your friend. Yes, you can make great rice in a normal pot, but can you set it and forget it in a normal pot? Can you go to work and come home to a fragrantly rice-scented house?


We have this device (links to Amazon, but this can be had for less if you comparison shop):


You can view more on rice cookers on Wikipedia – research the various features and see how they fit into your lifestyle. You’ll find one that fits for your situation.

We love our rice cooker, and use it at least twice a week.

Types of rice:

There are two big categories of rice – white and brown. I could go into all the gory details of what makes them different, but other greater bloggers/journalists/media stars have done that explanation plenty of justice. Let’s just suffice it to say that the different types need different cooking lengths. Brown takes longer to cook than white (which is where a rice cooker with a timer comes in handy).

Each brand of rice cooker comes with its own set of instructions, calibrated for that particular rice cooker. Follow those instructions, but feel free to vary in some ways.


When cooking brown rice, we always cook the rice in broth of some variety – usually either vegetable or chicken (beef is a bit strong of a flavor for kids). Just substitute the amount of broth for the amount of water called for in the rice cooker instructions. The broth adds a very nice flavor to the finished rice, and often you can go with just the broth.

When we want to get creative with brown rice, we add the required amount of broth, and then add garlic, cumin and parsley, plus salt and pepper. Our kids love Mexican-style food, and this rice has a nice cumin-y flavor reminiscent of Mexican flavorings.

White rice is also great with broth – but our all time favorite way to cook white rice is to substitute coconut milk for the water called for in the rice cooker instructions. You would think the rice would be coconut-y, but it’s a delicate flavor (but your kitchen will smell magnificent). The rice takes on a bit of a creamy texture, and the taste is fantastic.

We also do white rice with saffron – but only occasionally, as saffron is expensive.

Lengthy blog post this time around – and I’ve not even gotten to risotto, and rice-based pastas.

More next time – til then, Enjoy!

11 April 2010


When you realize you have to go GF, stop eating things that contain wheat, you inevitably realize that certain of your favorite cooking style’s dishes are no longer available to you.

Then comes the ‘how do I adapt my favorite cooking style’ question.

I have to be honest – rice-based pastas are just NOT the same as regular pasta. And the corn-based ones are close, but not close enough.

Rice-based tortillas – well, they’re ok.

Especially with a male pre-teen in the house, we were hard pressed to get good substitutes/replacements for the favorite foods. There was a lot of angst going on.

Easiest GF cooking style for our family? Mexican.

You have to be careful and read each and every label, even if you’ve purchased the item before. But Mexican style cooking works quite well with a GF diet.

The best tortillas we’ve found are from Trader Joe’s. Handmade Corn Tortillas:


A warning: the ingredients list ends with “Made on equipment shared with Wheat, Milk, Eggs and Soy.”

Full ingredients:

corn, water, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), lime.

These are best done warmed in a pan – they taste like corn from the grill in summertime, and scent the whole kitchen with that aroma. Truly nummy, and so far no cross contamination problems (that we’ve detected).

Yum! Enjoy!

04 April 2010

Easter morn…

Happy Easter out there to those that celebrate it.

About 3 years ago, we started a holiday tradition of having a special breakfast. It’s a wonderful dish, but takes some planning ahead, and takes a bit to cook. That special breakfast item is something we call French Toast casserole.

The tradition pre-dates the gluten issues we’ve been dealing with for the past ~10 months.

So the first holiday post-diagnosis/discovery, (Thanksgiving), we went without (still very much learning the ropes). The result was much sadness in the household, as Thanksgiving and Christmas are eggnog holidays, allowing the production of the much desired Eggnog French Toast casserole.

So we set out to find a gluten free cinnamon or cinnamon-raisin bread with which to make the Eggnog French Toast casserole for Christmas. We tried numerous breads and bread recipes.

We found a great GF cinnamon-raisin mix from Bob’s Red Mill – and it did a great job playing the part in the casserole.

But – there are days you really don’t want to have to bake a loaf of bread just to make a breakfast item.

Whole Foods to the rescue – they have a Whole Food Bakery GF Cinnamon Raisin bread in the freezer section (or in the GF freezer section, if your local Whole Foods has a separate GF section). Tastes wonderful, and did a fantastic job this morning in the recipe.

Notes for the below recipe:

  • You can substitute the milk for either 1/2 and 1/2 (rich) or eggnog (in season, yummy but very rich).
  • This must sit overnight in the fridge – the original, gluten-containing recipe (if I remember correctly) had a shortcut to make and go same day, but GF bread absorbs a bit more slowly – so the overnight soak is a must here.
  • This takes a bit to cook – between 40 min and 1 hour. Great for when you have something to do before you eat breakfast, or for a brunch dish.
  • The leftovers freeze and reheat great – use a vacuum saver, or wrap with plastic wrap and then wrap again in foil and label. To reheat, use a microwave on medium for ~2 min, checking every min.

GF French Toast Casserole (~ 12 servings)

  • 1 Loaf GF cinnamon or cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 10 Eggs, beaten with the next ingredient
  • 1 Cup milk (or 1/2 and 1/2, or eggnog)
  • Optional: 1 Tsp cinnamon
  • Optional: Insides of 1 vanilla bean
  • Non-stick spray
  1. Cut the loaf into ~ 1 inch squares. Spray a 7x11 inch baking dish with the non-stick spray, and put the cubes into the dish.
  2. Combine the beaten eggs with the milk, and either of the optional ingredients.
  3. Pour over the bread cubes.
  4. Push the bread cubes down into the egg/milk mixture.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Just before going to bed, push the cubes again into the egg/milk mixture.
  7. In the morning, heat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Bake casserole for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until the eggs are set (the casserole will puff a bit like a soufflé).
  9. Slice into smallish servings – this is a filling dish!


03 April 2010

Oddball ingredients?

Well – strange title, I know.

I dare you to walk up to a grocery store clerk and ask for Expandex. Go ahead, I’ll wait whist they finish either looking at you like you’ve lost your mind, laughing their asses off, or refer you to the local undergarments outlet store.

And some of the other ingredients will provoke strange mental images: Mesquite flour? Charcoal flavored, right? 

You need to realize – and come to accept – that GF cooking, or to be much more specific, GF baking, will require the use of ingredients that you may never have heard of, let alone considered using (or considered using in the quantities you will now).

For illustration purposes, let’s take a look back at the second post of this blog (School lunches and sandwiches). If you’ve gotten a chance to look at the ingredients on that box of bread mix, look again. And if you’ve not had a chance to look, go do it now. I’ll wait.

Yep, that’s right – the first ingredient is ‘maize starch’ – another way to say corn starch. You’ll be surprised just how much ‘starch’ you’ll use to get the baked good you want.

It’s ok – the starches do an excellent job subbing for the structure normally served by wheat flour.

And that Expandex thing? It’s modified tapioca starch, and useful to getting the nice snap you expect out of things like crackers. Mesquite flour is made from the dried seeds of the mesquite tree. Cinnamon-smelling and tastes a bit like it as well. Here’s the source I used to obtain it.

Both ingredients were introduced into our family baking repertoire by the 1000 Gluten Free Recipes book.

The whole point of this article is to say – it looks overwhelming, all the new ingredients and terms and measurements and quantities. But – remember when you first learned to cook. Yea – it seemed kind of the same then, didn’t it? So it’s not insurmountable.

So – in thanks for reading so far, another recipe!

This is a recipe for hush puppies (YUM) that I obtained from a magazine somewhere. A non-GF magazine. The original recipe called for a 1/2 cup of regular flour, for which I substituted a 1/2 cup off Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I should add here that you can find a lot of the ingredients you may be looking for at Bob’s Red Mill store).

I also substituted the onion for shallots.

The kids DEVOURED them.

Hush Puppies (makes ~ 20)

  • 1 1/2 Cups yellow cornmeal (GF, of course)
  • 1/2 Cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
  • 3 Tbs Sugar
  • 2 Tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 Tsp salt
  • 3/4 Cup creamed corn
  • 1/3 Cup milk
  • 1 Large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Small shallot, finely diced
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • A deep-fat or candy thermometer
  1. Mix all ingredients, except the oil (and except for the thermometer, duh), in a large bowl until combined.
  2. Fill a large pot with enough oil to be 2 inches deep. Heat the oil carefully over medium high heat until the thermometer reads 350 degrees.
  3. Work in 3 or 4 batches (depending on size of your pan) – drop soup spoons full of the batter carefully into the hot oil. Fry, turning occasionally, until yummy golden brown.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove from oil and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool/drain.

Enjoy warm, and make sure you don’t leave them unattended – they may disappear!