Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Operation Yum: Adventures in Gluten Free Cooking

Hey Y'all!!  I have been 100% gluten free since November, 2012 and it has really changed my life.  I have had massive gastrointestinal issues following my gall bladder removal in 1999, and I noticed a difference in my health on the first day I went 100% gluten free.  Although this way of eating has cured my intestinal issues, it has naturally created many other issues.  A vastly limited amount of options for my immature palette is among the many.  It can be very depressing to just want a sandwich, or a fast meal out on the go - and have little to no options.  First, let me say that yes - there is gluten free bread.  But I find it repulsive, seemingly resembling a week old crumbly piece of pound cake in thickness and texture.  So, I choose not to eat it period.  It tastes so terrible to me, that I would just rather do without and remember the pillowy goodness of a squishy white Wonderbread fondly.  One thing that I find difficult to overcome in GF cooking is that the Yum is just non-existent in my life now.  It is also difficult to accomplish good texture, limit carbs, and incorporate fiber into your meals.  I find myself gravitating to the quick meals like some kind of bland meat and some veggie on the side.  While this is certainly a healthy way of eating, it is completely tasteless and I start to have an aversion to chicken breast after a while...  So I have challenged myself to try to experiment and come up with recipes that I find yummy.  I also want to try to alter existing foods that I have enjoyed for many years - but cannot eat as they are written - calling for gluten filled ingredients.

The first recipe that I set out to change and enjoy was the Pioneer Woman's Blackberry Cobbler.  I miss donuts, pop tarts, pretty much anything sweet for breakfast so badly!  Her recipe on Foodnetwork.com calls for self rising flour, however I used the gluten free bisquik instead and added 1/2 tsp baking powder with fabulous results.  I would love to show you a picture, however - I ate the entire thing in 2 sittings along with my hubby.  He thought it was delicious as well, although it had tons of sugar.  I think you could do without the last 2 TBS of sugar in her recipe and be just fine, but to each his own...  Here is her recipe from Food Network, altered for your gluten free enjoyment:

Gluten Free Blackberry Cobbler:
1/2 stick butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup Gluten Free Bisquik
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup whole milk
2 cups fresh (or frozen) blackberries
Whipped cream and/or ice cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 3-quart baking dish with butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup sugar with the flour, baking powder and milk. Whisk in the melted butter.

Rinse the blackberries and pat them dry. Pour the batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle the blackberries evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the blackberries. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 1 hour. When 10 minutes of the cooking time remains, sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the top. Top with whipped cream or ice cream . . . or both!

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/blackberry-cobbler-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

**As always, you will want to use only gluten free ingredients in these recipes, even if it is not noted to be completely gluten free.

The next thing I decided to conquer is Mexican food.  It kills me that so many Mexican restaurants use flour in all of their sauces and enchilada fillings.  Boooo!!  So off I went to conquer a few tasty recipes.  I really like chicken enchilada soup, so here is what I experimented with and it turned out wonderful!  I made a Jalapeno Green Chile Chicken Chowder and topped it with tortilla strips and sour cream (I find Daisy to be a nice gluten free brand).  Here is the recipe:

Gluten Free JalapeƱo Green Chile Chicken Chowder:
2 TBS Olive Oil
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 TBS garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced (more if you like it hot)
8 oz canned green chilies
½ can corn (you could use creamed corn for added flavor/ texture)
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
¼ tsp cumin (or more to your taste)
5 cups chicken broth {Gluten Free}
½ bunch of cilantro, cut up
2-3 cups of shredded chicken (I used 8 small tenderloins)
¼ butter (I used salted)
1/3 c Gluten free all purpose flour
½ cup mashed potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
{sour cream and tortilla strips for topping if you wish, you can find gluten free varieties}

In a small sauce pan, cook 1 large baking potato (cut into chunks) until soft, mash until smooth.  In a stockpot, cook chicken pieces, adding a dash of water to deglaze the pan as needed until fully cooked.  Leave some of the brown goodness on the pan.  Remove the chicken and set aside for now.  Add a touch or water to your pan to deglaze and add carrots, celery, onions, jalepeno’s, salt, pepper, and cumin.  Add in your olive oil.  Cook for a 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and continue cooking about 4-ish more minutes or until crisp tender.  Shred the chicken when you have a second.  Add your chicken broth to the mixture and bring to a boil.  In a separate pan, melt butter and add your flour to make a rough {sp?} cook the flour mixture stirring constantly for about 3 minutes. Don’t overcook it, just on medium heat will do fine.  Ladle about 1 cup of your hot chicken broth over to your rough mixture and whisk constantly to make it smooth.  Then add this flour mixture back to your stockpot veggie mixture and whisk until smooth.   Add in your shredded chicken, corn, green chilies, cilantro, mashed potatoes, and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add in heavy cream.  Serve with gluten free corn tortilla strips and a dollop of sour cream on top… 
**As always, you will want to use only gluten free ingredients in these recipes, even if it is not noted to be completely gluten free.

Could use a bit of hot sauce if you like it hot.  Also, if you don’t need gluten free and aren’t bothered by msg, you could add chicken bouillon for additional flavor.  I didn’t say it was healthy by any means, but tasty none the less and GF which is a plus.     If you like it chunkier, you could always add more veggies to your taste…  Enjoy!!  I used a minimal amount of GF flour because it is expensive, and added in more texture with the mashed potatoes.  The texture was great – no difference between other gluten filled chowders I have had… lol….

Happy cooking and wish me luck in these adventures!!!  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spring has sprung... well... maybe just in my house :-)

Got right to work decorating for Spring as soon as the weather warmed a bit.  It is always sunny in Texas, so it really doesn't feel like winter at all to me.  Figured late February was just fine to break out the pastel pretties!!

Unfortunately, I have to use fake flowers in my house, living with 3 cats.  I learned that lesson the hard way...

Front door decor...

Found this little chicken wire cloche at a local antique market, had to have it!!

My faux mantle display...  in the entryway - greeting everyone with some happy things!!

Adore these faux chocolate foil wrapped bunnies...  My kids never fail to ask if they can eat them...  lol...

Spring banner that I made at least 5 years ago... holding up well!!

Dining area decor...

Paid tribute to Dr. Suess on his birthday (March 2nd) with some green eggs and ham for lunch...

Jakob learned how to make Grandma Molly's recipe - he had a ball!!

Finally got around to making my version of Rachel Hall's Happy Home sign that I saw on her blog over 5 years ago...  So happy I did, and made it my own to match my decor... Love personal and homespun type of touches in my house!  It is my firm belief that decorating the way you love doesn't have to cost much, and doesn't always need to come from a store.  I just happen to like this way of decorating, many ladies prefer expensive things...  Not me...

I truly believe that the Lord has called me to be a happy homemaker, wife, and mother.  I do my best with what I've got, so you won't find Pottery Barn or anything else expensive in my home.  Just because I love to have pretty things, doesn't mean that my husband should have to work his butt off to pay for them.  So I get creative, and purchase something every once in a while.  But usually just something to go with things that I already have, that can take my existing stuff up a notch... just the way I like it...
Happy Day everyone!!!!!!!!