No soy/sugar non dairy creamer

Having food allergies makes life very interesting in a way that cannot be appreciated by those who don’t have food allergies. I’m not saying that in a disparaging way, just as a fact. Anyone with food allergies is nodding their head at this point.

Given soy and milk allergies, finding a coffee creamer that works is a challenge. In researching creamer alternatives I found a recipe using water, vanilla, raw cashew butter and medjool dates. My recipe is an outtake of that recipe.

In trying the above recipe there were a few things I didn’t care for. Using water instead of coffee as the liquid made no sense. It waters down the coffee which to me is counter-productive. I didn’t find the vanilla added anything. If I’m adding anything extra it is organic cacao powder with another date to counter the bitter.

My most pleasing recipe, sans cacao powder, is 1/3 cup raw cashew butter (organic), 3 medium to large medjool dates (organic) and about 1/2 cup fresh coffee as the liquid. Mince the dates and blend it all together until the dates are liquefied. According to what I’ve read this should stay fresh and viable in the fridge for 3 days. I use about 1/3 of the above in my gigantic cup with fresh brewed coffee. Mmmmm.

Awesome marinade

I’ve been working on a marinade for beef for a while.  I’ve finally got something I really like.  It’s soy and gluten free, low in sodium and really delicious.  The recipe will season two steaks but might stretch to three if the portions are smaller.  I can comfortably treat two rib steaks or three New York strip steaks with this recipe.  It would probably do steak for beef kabobs for a family of four.

Grate ½ a large bulb of elephant garlic using a fine grater.

Grate ¼ of a large yellow onion using a large grater.

Add ½ teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper and two tablespoons each of Lee & Perrin Worcestershire Sauce, red wine vinegar, maple syrup and Organic Tailgate Rub by Morton and Bassett of San Francisco (garlic, rosemary, pepper, parsley, thyme and marjoram).

Mix all that together thoroughly.  Add two tablespoons of olive oil and mix.

Put the marinade and steaks in a gallon ziplock bag.  Press out the majority of air and seal the bag.  Massage the bag until the steaks are thoroughly covered with marinade.  Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Take the steaks out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature.  Take the steaks out of the bag and scrape off all the marinade bits and dry the steaks (I use paper towels).

I cook these in a cast iron skillet on medium heat in butter until rare to medium rare.  Cook yours per your preferred method and degree of doneness.

 

A twist on split pea

I like soup.  If I make it in bulk I can freeze it in pints and have lovely soup when I feel like it.  I’m currently on a split pea kick.  Today is my fourth batch in the last couple months only today I added a new twist.

It looked so yummy . . .

The first time I bought ham for split pea soup I got the perfect ham with lovely flavor and not too much salt.  The resulting soup was eaten up REALLY fast. Ooo, it was lovely.

I was less fortunate with my second ham purchase.  It was a named brand loaded with salt which pretty much ruined the soup.  I still have some of that ham in the freezer and it took quite a while to get the soup eaten.  I will have to figure out what to do with it.

The last two times I made split pea soup I used a smoked sliced pork shank.  It is the perfect flavor.  The bone and skin add to the flavor of the soup.  You have to remove the bones and skin before serving the soup . . . or not.  Last time I just left the bones and skin in and we ate around them.  I’m not so sure I could do that feeding kids or guests.

This time I replaced half the water with Pacific Natural Food’s roasted pepper and tomato soup.  From what I can tell from taste testing as it cooks, this is going to be AWESOME soup!  <grin>

Okay, ingredients . . . 2 cloves elephant garlic, diced.  Use regular garlic if you prefer.  One medium onion (not a sweet onion, use a good strong flavored make-you-tear-up yellow) diced.  Two carrots, peeled and diced.  Two celery stalks including the leafy tops, diced.  Two bay leaves, some crushed peppercorn, some crushed allspice berry (I get them whole at the local market – use 3-5), a teaspoon of thyme, a sliced pork shank (~2 lbs).  Add a package of split peas (rinse them really well), a package of the aforementioned soup and a quart of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the split peas meet your standard of done-ness.  I like them falling apart but YMMV.

Add milk or heavy cream or a dab of sour cream to the bowls if you’d like just before serving.  Add some crusty garlic bread and you’ve got a great meal.

Variations . . . going on the principal there is no such thing as too many veges, add half a fennel root bulb.  It adds a really nice flavor.  Leeks are good as well.  Enjoy!

Update: The soup was absolutely fabulous.  I bet none of it makes it into the freezer . . .

Not graded for size

Guess which is the store bought egg

As the weather gets colder I seem to cook more breakfasts.  My favorite is a not-omelet with whatever ingredients I have at hand.  Sometimes it’s scallops and shrimp, other times it’s sausage.  At some point I’ll get pictures of the non-omelet process to share.

Chickens go through a laying/setting cycle that contributes to our very occasional lack of eggs.  Part of the derth is related to having free range chickens and dogs who love eggs . . . when they can find them.  Because smart hens hide their eggs where dogs and people can’t find them, we have a fairly consistent supply of new chicks to offset those lost to old age and/or picked off by scavengers when the dogs get inattentive.

The eggs we get range in size, shape and color because our flock is a real mix of breeds.  We have medium to small hens that are part barred rock, australorp, banty and something with feathered feet.  We now have a silky rooster who was added to our flock by a family member.  The one baby we’ve been able to identify as his looks more like a grouse than a chicken.  Very cute.

The difference between our eggs and those that come from the store is really obvious when they are cracked into the same bowl.  The store bought egg is yellow.  The free range chicken egg yolks ranges in color depending on the age of the chicken and what they’ve been eating.  The richer the color, the higher the nutrition.

The store bought egg in the bowl was a grade A large brown egg.   You can see one of  our eggs is slightly smaller and one is quite a bit bigger.

Pizza . . . well sort of

The new product
You will notice how closely (NOT) the content matches the product on the box

The result, a good representation of what pizza should look like

When you have to live gluten free, life is a series of experiments trying to replicate the experience of “real” food.  Anyone who has a food allergy knows what I mean.  You search for that perfect approximation of whatever the food is that poisons you.  For me, the ultimate is sour dough bread, though I haven’t yet started on that quest.  For now I’ll settle for decent pizza.

If you don’t have a gluten issue, you probably don’t realize it’s gluten that holds bread together while you spread peanut butter on it.  It’s the stickiness or stick-togetheredness in baked goods.  Without it, baked goods fall apart.

In my quest for better pizza I’ve tried a new product, a gluten free cheese pizza by Glutino.

In all fairness, I don’t think pizza is pizza if it doesn’t have stuff on it . . . I mean something more than just sauce and cheese.  And because I’m a “must have meat” girl, it’s gotta have sausage and/or pepperoni. I also want peppers and onions and olives . . .

So here’s the latest in the pizza experiments.

This is the first Glutino product I’ve purchased.  After opening the package, I was a bit dismayed to find the content in no way resembled the image on the box.  At that point, I considered putting it back in the box to return to the store, but I soldiered on.

After tipping off the grated cheese and jellied “sauce”, I added a rich garlic and basil laden pasta sauce, sausage, chopped green and red peppers, chopped onions and a small mountain of shredded mozzarella.  After 20 minutes in the toaster oven I had a reasonable facsimile of what a pizza should look like.

As far as taste goes, it’s okay.  My body didn’t object (most important thing).  The crust sticks together well (contrary to the splay-footed appearance when the crust came out of the box) and has an unobtrusive flavor.  My only objection was a slightly slick texture I didn’t find appealing. though the slickness made removal of the factory added sauce and cheese effortless.  The pizza is large enough for two meals (for me, YMMV).

Is this a good buy?  For me, no.  I think it’s too expensive for what I got.  There’s a gluten free crust from another manufacturer that comes in 8″ squares, 4 to a box for the same price.  Each square is big enough to feed me a serving of pizza 2 to 4 times depending on whether I add a salad or consume it alone.  That’s potentially 16 meals for the same price.  The crust flavor is good, though because there’s no rim to corral the goodies, the same content-falling-off problem exists.

I’d love a thin gluten free pizza crust with a nice hefty rim to hold in all the content.  Sans making it myself (SO not happening), I think I’m in for a long wait.

Savory Baked Salmon

Ready to pop in the oven

My dad was a commercial fisherman, so we ate fresh fish a lot.  In all the time I was growing up we never had fish cooked like this.  We always had it broiled with lots of butter, which is truly delicious, but only for the true salmon lover.

The concept for this recipe came from Greg Landwehr.  He made something like this at a barbecue at a horse event.

And you know what comes next . . . I couldn’t leave the recipe the way it originally came to me.

If you’re going to buy salmon, there are two tests for freshness.  If it’s in a package and you can smell it through the plastic, it’s not fresh.  If it’s in a fresh meat case, when the slab is picked up, the meat side shouldn’t break or split when it’s picked up.  It also shouldn’t have a strong fishy odor.

Fresh from the oven

If you live in an inland state, your best bet is to buy frozen salmon.  It was probably processed and flash frozen within hours of the catch reaching shore.  Most of that salmon is farm raised.  The freshest wild salmon is trawled (hook and line), immediately gutted, dipped in sugar water and frozen until the boat came in to dump its load.  From there it would be hauled in a refrigerated truck to the plant where it was processed.  I’ve seen frozen salmon in packages of 4 or 6 individual servings at Costco and Safeway.

If you’re really lucky, you buy it from a fisherman right at the dock.  Few of us will ever have the opportunity to do that.  If you do, the smell and integrity tests are very valid.

So here’s how you make this culinary star.

Chop onions.  Chop peppers (I use red and green).  Stir in dressing.  I’ve used mayo and it’s excellent.  Last night I used Litehouse Ranch and it was spectacular.  Put the salmon in a shallow pan with the skin down.  Smear the mix on and pop it in the over at 300° for about 20 min.  Don’t overcook.  If it flakes and is no longer pink, it’s done.

The skin will stick to the aluminum foil.  Cut the fish into serving sized pieces and lift the pieces off the skin.  We had ours with fresh corn on the cob.  Delish!

Seafood bisque

I’ve been trying to come up with a seafood bisque I could eat.  All the recipes I come across are not what I want; a gluten free, thick yet creamy bisque with excellent flavor.  I think I’ve managed it.  I’m going to make it again today to see if I’m truly on the right track.

4 tbsp butter

1 large carrot (diced)

1/4 each green and red pepper (diced)

1/4 large onion (diced)

1 large potato (peeled and grated)

Low sodium Old Bay Seasoning to taste

1 tilapia fillet (complete slice down length, cut cross-wise in ¾” wide pieces)

1 dozen petite scallops

1 dozen 51/60 count shrimp (peeled and de-veined)

1 cup milk

In a large sauce pan melt 2 tbsp butter (medium to low heat).   Add carrots, peppers and onion.   Cook and stir for as long as it takes to get the potato grated.

Add potato and remaining butter.  Stir, stir, stir.  When the mix begins to stick, add a small amount of water.  Stir some more, adding small amounts of water if sticking.  Turn the heat way down, cover tightly and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir again.  If it’s sticking, turn the heat down just a bit and add a bit more water.  The goal is to get the potatoes just cooked without adding too much water.  Once the potatoes are cooked and before they start to fall apart, pour the mix in a blender and blend it.  Don’t over-blend, you want the carrots, potatoes, peppers and onions reduced to a textured pasty liquid.

Return to sauce pan on low.  Add low sodium Old Bay Seasoning to taste.  You will want to add somewhere between 2 tsp and 2 tbsp.  Stir and taste.  You will be adding milk at the end so the seasoning flavor needs to be just a bit strong.  You could add the seasoning at the end, but the amount of stirring required to mix it in would disrupt the fish and scallops, breaking the pieces apart.

Add the seafood.  This is the last time you will be able to stir without damaging the seafood so mix it well.  Cover and let simmer about 5 minutes.

Turn the mix very gently with a spoon to ensure the seafood is fully cooked.  Add milk.  Cover and cook 2 more minutes to bring the milk up to heat.  DO NOT boil once you’ve added the milk.

Garnish with a spray of low sodium Old Bay Seasoning granules and a few drops of heavy cream.

Serves 4.

Pecan coffee cake

Pecan Coffee Cake turned over so the nuts are up

Wadly gets to eat pastry and baked goods all the time and I don’t.  <pout>  Occasionally I manage to come up with a keeper recipe that’s gluten, sugar and soy free.  This one’s a winner.

  • 1½ cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit and Baking Mix
  • 1 cup cold coffee
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup real maple syrup (not that fake corn syrup stuff)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Topping:

  • ¼ cup real maple syrup (not that fake corn syrup stuff)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • chopped pecans to cover a 9×9 dish (¾ cup, more if you want it really nutty)

Preheat the oven to 325°.  I use my toaster oven so you’ll have to adjust your time/temp accordingly if you’re using a “real” oven.

Topping – In a small (I use the smallest available) cast iron frying pan melt the butter.  Add the maple syrup, stir it into the butter and turn the heat down.  While you’re mixing the body of the cake shake the pan occasionally.  It doesn’t need stirred, it just needs slopped around in the pan.  You’ll know it’s done when it moves like gelatinous slobber (I can’t think of any other description or I’d use it).  If you undercook it, no biggy.  You’ll have a runny caramel topping.  If you overcook it the topping will be chewy . . . I like it that way.  I use this topping (same ingredients) for mixing into popcorn instead of just using butter.  It’s heavenly.

Cake – Beat the eggs.  Mix in vanilla and maple syrup.  Stir in the coffee.  Add the baking mix and baking soda mixing until smooth.

Spread the topping evenly into the bottom of a 9×9 pan.  Spread the pecans over the top of the caramel mix.  Pour the cake mix over that.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.  You can let it cool before you eat it if you’d like.  I don’t.  <grin>

Savory Chicken and Rice Soup

Savory chicken and rice soup

I spent last weekend with my brother and his wife doing geeky things.  Dan fixed chicken and rice soup for me that was totally delicious.  With the exception of the celery, carrots and peppers, this is his recipe.  It’s not fast but it is dead easy and the tastiest chicken and rice soup I’ve ever had.

If you’ve been following my recipes you know I can’t do soy.  I don’t like using bouillon cubes because most commercial bouillon cubes have way too much salt and don’t taste that great . . . and usually have soy.  That means making soup is problematic because most commercial meat stocks have soy.  That means if I’m going to make tasty soup I have to order soyless stock online or making stock from scratch.  Hello?  Ms. Lazy here . . .

There’s a new product on the market that doesn’t have soy.  It’s called “Better Than Bouillon”, it’s a paste and our local Safeway carries it.  How cool is that!?  I think Dan and Vala do most of their shopping at their local Fred Meyer and the organic meat market, so the product must be available in lots of other stores as well.  I can tell Dan and Vala have been thinking about me because they found a product with NO soy to add to my repertoire.  Isn’t it wonderful to be loved?

For this recipe you’ll need  1¼ cups of rice.  I used long grain white but you can use whatever floats your boat.  I’ve tried rice mixes and I think the flavor of the long grain white is best.  Brown rice adds a discordant flavor.  Adding some wild rice in with the white would probably work.

You’ll need a family pack of boneless skinless chicken thighs.  Dan used whole thighs and I pulled the skin, bone and fat when I cut them up partway through the cooking process while Dan skimmed off the fat.  I’m lazy.  I don’t want to have to do that much work so I’m advocating the lazy man’s way . . . boneless skinless thighs.  There are about 10 thighs in a family pack and that will make 5 quarts of nice meaty chicken and rice soup, enough to eat now, enough to put in the fridge for tomorrow and enough to freeze a couple meals for when you haven’t got the time to cook.  Freezing fractures the cooked rice, so expect that.

You’re going to need three big stalks of celery, half a big onion (I bet a red onion would add color that would be nice – I’ll have to try it next time), three good sized carrots, red and green pepper and a stock pot.

Fill the stock pot ½ full of water.  Stick it on a big burner and turn the burner on medium.  Add the following in any order:

  • half a bottle of low sodium Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base.  Trust me, this soup is so flavorful it doesn’t need the salt . . . and neither do you.
  • half an onion, diced (see the quick dicing instructions at the bottom of the potato soup page here)
  • diced celery – 3 big stalks
  • half a diced red pepper
  • half a diced green pepper
  • chicken thighs

Give it a quick stir.  Put the lid on.

The goal is to get the chicken fall-apart tender so it needs to simmer for a while.  Once you’ve got the pot simmering good turn the heat down just enough to maintain the simmer.  Stir occasionally until the chicken is tender.

Fish the chicken thighs out and set them aside to cool a bit.  Peel and dice the carrot and chuck it in the pot.  Add the 1¼ cups of rice.  Stir.  Dice the thigh meat and chuck that in the pot.  Stir occasionally.  When the rice is done the soup is done.

No kidding, this is THE most awesomely simple and tasty chicken and rice soup.  Serve it with a fresh green salad or some steamed veggies and you’ve got a great healthy low fat meal.  This soup has my mom’s seal of “good.”  I’ll make her a pot of it when she goes in for surgery.   A bit of microwaving and it’s a meal!  She should be able to manage that with one arm!

Note: This recipe was updated 3/10 to reduce water and rice and add peppers.

Potato Soup and diced onions tip.

By now you’ve figured out I like dead easy one dish foods.  I want to spend half an hour in the kitchen, not two hours and I want things to be de-lish!  Wadly’s very much a meat and potatoes kinda guy.  He has bread and apple sauce with just about every meal, so simple foods work really well for him.  This pan of soup will last us a couple meals and is excellent reheated, even frozen.  It doesn’t keep well in the fridge more than a day, so plan to use it or freeze it.

Potato soup . . . but SO much more.
Potato soup . . . but SO much more.

So here’s my fav potato soup.  The recipe uses kielbasa or smoked sausage, whichever works for you.  I use the Safeway brand beef smoked sausage as it has no soy or gluten.  Safeway’s been coming out with more processed meats without soy, for which I am thankful.

Hillshire Farm and Morrel, eat your heart out.

Put 2 tbsp of butter in a saucepan.  Turn the heat on medium to medium-low.  I’m currently cooking on a small propane  camper stove so I have the burner on high which translates to medium on any “real” stove.   You want to sauté, so adjust your heat accordingly.  If things are burning and sticking, your heat is too high.

Dice some onion.  I’d say half a medium onion or a bit more.  I can’t say exactly how much as I don’t measure.  I’ve added an onion dicing tip at the end of this recipe.

Add the diced onion to the melted butter.  Give it a quick stir.

Dice up some green and red peppers.  You don’t need a lot, say 1/3 to 1/4 of a large green pepper, same for the red.  Add these to the butter and onions.  Give it a quick stir.

Dice up most of the sausage, all of it if you want your potato soup really meaty.   Add it to the sauce pan and give it a quick stir.

Peel and dice a couple carrots.  Add them to the mix in the sauce pan, giving a quick stir.

Peel and dice three small Yukon Gold potatoes.  Continue to give the sauce pan contents an occasional quick stir as you work.

Once all the potato is diced add it to the saucepan.  Give it a quick stir.  As you’re washing up the cutting board, knife and peeler, continue to give the pan an occasional stir.  Once the potatoes start sticking to the bottom of the pan and they look like the outside of the cubes are starting to crumble away, add just enough water to fill in the gaps between the lower layers of bits and pieces in the pan.  Don’t rush adding the water.  You want the potatoes to absorb the taste of the other veges and the meat which it won’t do as well once the water’s been added.  You also want it to absorb as much of the free butter as it can before you add water.  DO NOT add so much water it comes over the top of the bits. You should be able to see the water if you tilt the pan about 20 degrees but not see the water if you’re holding the pan flat.

Once you’ve added the water, give another stir, turn the heat down to low/simmer and cover the pan.

From this point on you can stir occasionally or not.  Once the potatoes are cooked through the mess will look more like an odd white stew rather than soup.  Turn the heat off and add some milk.  You want to add just enough to make it a nice THICK soup but no more.  Give the mix a thorough stir, scraping the bottom really well and put the lid back on.  Let it sit about 20 minutes before serving.  If you’re going to serve it later and want to keep it warm, leave it on the stove on the lowest setting.

Wadly really likes this soup.  I like it because it’s darn tasty and he’s actually eating veges.

Onion dicing tip.

Cut off the stem end
Cut top off
Cut in half lengthwise
Remove skin
Slice starting at top
Stack with smallest slice on top

Slice it like cheesecake

If you want an easy way to dice onion, this is it. The first time I need chopped onion from an uncut onion I prepare it by cutting the top off the onion and just the roots off the bottom.  Cut the onion in half lengthwise and peel the skin off.

Set half the onion cut side down on your cutting board and cut slices crosswise starting at the top of the onion.  Stack three or four slices in a stack with the flat side toward your knife hand and the smallest slice on the top.  Hold the stack with your free hand and cut down through the slices like you’re cutting the wedges of a pie.  You’re done.  That’s diced onions.  Dead simple and really fast.  I only dice the amount of onion I need.  I store both halves of the onion in a ziplock bag in the fridge.  It takes about 10 seconds to have usable diced onions this way.

For me this is a no-tears method of cutting onions.  Since I adopted this technique I haven’t shed a tear chopping onions and I use LOTS of them when I cook.