Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Spicy Rice with Chicken
and Italian Sausage

Although I normally update this blog several times a week, we have been on the road driving for most of the past five days and I have not had much time for blogging. Still, I have already discovered many new gluten free snack foods and celiac friendly restaurants along our trip through the Pacific Northwest that I will definitely write up when time permits.

Our family is currently enjoying the delights of Vancouver, British Columbia. Yesterday while walking through the Granville Island Public Market, I came upon the most delicious looking freshly made spicy Italian sausage that had been created personally by the proprietor behind the counter. With these gorgeous links and a handful of fresh vine ripened red tomatoes I was inspired to create a dish tonight which warmed our bellies (and our hearts!) against a backdrop of gray skies and gentle rain.

Much more to say about our time in Canada soon... for now, I leave you with this simple hearty meal.

Spicy Italian Sausage and Rice

What You’ll Need:

2 cups long grain white rice
3 and ¾ cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce
2 chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
2 spicy Italian sausage links cut into thin rounds
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup quartered tomatoes (vine ripened)
Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Old Bay Seasoning (to taste)
Extra virgin olive oil

How It Works:

Fill a three quart pot with 3 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup tomato sauce and 2 cups long grain white rice. Set aside.

In a wide pan (preferably cast iron or stainless steel) heat a few tablespoons of olive oil at medium temperature until warm but not smoking. Add strips of chicken breast, sprinkle them with a little sea salt and pepper, and sear the meat on each side so that the outer flesh changes to a white color but the inside is still mostly pink.

When you’ve finished this step, transfer the chicken strips to your waiting pot of chicken broth, rice and tomato sauce.

Bring all ingredients in the pot to a boil, then turn down heat to low and simmer covered for 20 – 25 minutes or until rice is fluffy and all liquid has evaporated. Chicken will be extremely tender and moist.

While rice mixture is cooking, create your sauce.

In the same pan that you cooked the chicken breast, add the thin rounds of sausage and sauté over medium heat until they are well cooked.

Remove sausage from pan (set aside) but keep the grease in the pan. Add garlic and onions, and sauté until onions are translucent. Next, add red bell pepper and cook with your garlic and onions for 2-3 minutes until pepper is less crisp but not soggy.

Divide the remaining three quarters cup of chicken broth into halves. Add half of the stock, all of the quartered tomatoes and spices (black pepper, red pepper flakes, Old Bay seasoning) to your pan and simmer until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.

Now it is time to add your cooked sausage and the rest of the chicken broth. Turn heat down and simmer a minute or so, until you are ready to serve.

Serve by placing a heaping bed of tender chicken and fluffy rice on a plate and then covering it with a generous spoonful of the sausage bell pepper sauce, making sure that you add a goodly amount of the liquid in addition to the meat and veggies.

Serves 4 for dinner comfortably, 6 if you will be adding a salad and dessert.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pan Fried Salmon with Gluten Free Breadcrumbs and Summer Tomatoes

I am always so dazzled by the cooking enterprises and straight talk of Jamie Oliver, who I know is an icon for many other gluten free chefs as well. Lately I’ve been enjoying his Cook With Jamie guide, and particularly interested in learning about where all the different cuts of meat that we eat come from on the body of each animal. Heck, if you’re going to cook and eat something, you might as well understand it!

I saw a recipe in his guide for pan fried red mullet and wondered if I could freeform off of it to create something delicious with the salmon we love. My main sticking point however was the breadcrumbs. I didn’t know if gluten free breadcrumbs even existed!

Happily, they do. After some searching I found a wonderful mix by Gillian's Foods. These Italian style breadcrumbs are not only wheat and gluten free, they are also dairy free. What they do contain is an incredible herb and spice mixture that makes them the most flavorful, truly tasty breadcrumbs I can ever remember using. I’m not just saying that because I eat gluten free – even my husband the wheat maniac really loved them.

My favorite part about this meal is that it is so fast and easy to prepare, yet looks so sophisticated on a plate. You could whip a batch of this up in 30 minutes or less for your friends or family and they will think you’ve been cooking all day!

Pan Fried Salmon with Gluten Free Breadcrumbs
and Summer Tomatoes

What You’ll Need:

For Summer Tomato Salad...

A few handfuls of fresh multicolored tomatoes
A large handful of fresh basil leaves
Nice sized splash of red wine vinegar
Bigger splash of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For Salmon...

2-3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp and 1 tsp Red Mill gluten free baking flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
12 oz Whole Catch frozen sockeye salmon, defrosted and skinned

For Breadcrumbs...
1/2 cup (plus a shake) of gluten free Italian bread crumbs
zest of 1 small lemon
handful of fresh basil leaves, finely minced

How It Works:

Take several handfuls of multicolored summer tomatoes, the freshest ones you can get. Chop them up into a variety of sizes, but all small enough to eat with ease. Give them a good splash of red wine vinegar and then an even larger splash of your extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper them to taste, and mix them together with your fresh basil leaves. Set the salad aside.

If you’re using Whole Catch frozen wild sockeye salmon fillets, defrost them in warm water or by using your microwave. Next, gently remove their skin so that they are ready to cook.

In shallow bowl or on a large plate, combine your Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour with the garlic powder and fresh ground black pepper. Blend it thoroughly with the tines of a fork. Next, gently coat each side of your fish fillets with the flour/garlic/pepper mix.

Heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan at medium temperature. When oil is hot but not smoking, place your battered fish in the pan. Sauté for somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes per side, depending on how thick your salmon fillet is. One of my fillets actually took 5 minutes on one of its sides to be fully cooked. You will know it is cooked when the salmon flesh turns to a light pink color and the fat begins to turn white. Remove fish from heat.

Use about 1/3 of your tomato salad as a bed for each piece of fried fish, spreading it on your serving plate before you place the fish fillet on top. Divide the last 1/3 of tomato salad into halves and sprinkle one half on top of each of the salmon fillets.

To prepare your breadcrumbs, grate the zest of one small lemon:

Returning your pan (with its juices and olive oil) to medium heat, add the gluten free breadcrumbs, lemon zest and minced fresh basil. Fry for a few minutes until crispy but not burned, stirring frequently.

Take a spoonful of the breadcrumbs and lightly dust them over the top of each of your fillets of fish. You may end up with extra breadcrumbs left over, this is fine. They are so tasty, your guests may wish to add more of them to their plates from a serving bowl on your dining table while eating. You can also save them in the refrigerator for future use inside of a gluten free macaroni casserole.


Serves 2, ingredients may be doubled, etc. for more guests.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Amazing Peach Pie with Almond Crust

When I noticed an unassuming Authentic Foods package for gluten free pie crust mix sitting on the shelf at my local grocery store a few days ago, it reminded me of how many times I have attempted (and failed) to make pie crust since going gluten free. My pie crust mishaps weren’t tragic or even exciting - just a little too crumbly, a little too dry, a little too blah. Nothing worth reporting back about.

Still, I must not have given up on baking a gluten free pie completely... because something made me pick up this particular packet of mix and put it in my cart. Maybe I chose it because I saw they were using almond flour and I am definitely a sucker for desserts made with almond flour! Whatever the reason, I can’t tell you how surprised I was when I opened the pie crust packet and was immediately enveloped in the most wonderful odor – a combination of cinnamon, vanilla and almond. If they bottled that fragrance, I would bathe in it. Seriously.

Working with the dough was easy, although I found I needed to add quite a bit more cream than the package suggested in order to fashion dough that held together nicely. I was pleased to find that it didn’t need a long time to chill before rolling out, and once you try this pie I think you will agree with my husband that this crust complements the peach filling perfectly.

I almost called this recipe magic pie because every single bite is deliciously sweet but not syrupy, and the flavor of the ripe peaches balances the almond crust beautifully.

Amazing Peach Pie with Almond Crust

What You’ll Need:

For the filling...

3 1/4 cups sliced fresh peaches
2 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Xanthan gum
1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces and scattered over filling
organic maple sugar flakes (to sprinkle on top)

For the crust...

Authentic Foods gluten-free wheat-free pie crust mix
1 large egg yolk
Approx 4 tbsp cream (2 more tbsp than stated on package)
4 oz sweet butter

How It Works:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make your pie crust according to the directions on the back of the Authentic Foods package.

Be prepared to add quite a bit more cream than called for, perhaps as much as 2x what is required. Add the cream slowly, however, while you are mixing the ingredients - so that you don’t end up with dough that is too moist or sticky.

Roll out the crust and place in a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan. (I use butter.) Bake the crust without filling in your hot oven for the 5 minutes recommended on the package, to prepare it for filling. Then remove crust from oven, and set aside (covered) until ready to fill.

Skin your peaches and slice them in 1 to 2 inch pieces, no more than ½ inch in width. Add cinnamon, agave nectar and xanthan gum. Mix very well.

Pour peach filling into the slightly-baked pie crust. Sprinkle maple sugar and butter (cut into small pieces) over the top of the peach filling.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for another 35 – 40 minutes, checking frequently during the last 10 minutes to make sure that your crust does not burn.

When finished, the peach filling should be extremely fragrant and a bit bubbly.

Allow to cool for at least 10 – 15 minutes before serving so the filling can gel properly and baked crust will slice well.

We loved this pie without any topping, but agree as a family that it would probably be just as divine if served á la mode ~ perhaps with a simple vanilla bean ice cream or gelato.

Serves 6 – 8.

Sorry there aren’t more photos for this recipe... we didn’t know how great it was going to be until it had already baked! I’ll take more pix to add to this blog the next time I make it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Poor Man's Jambalaya

Just the name Jambalaya rolls off the tongue with an earthy rhythm... it almost makes me want to dance! There must be some music in its depths, since this yummy dish hails from the French Quarter of New Orleans.

As the story goes, in the European section of the city after the US Civil War, Spanish émigrés were trying to put together some tasty paella (just like Mama used to make it in the Old Country). Unfortunately for them (luckily for us!) saffron was not easily affordable or available. Refusing to be discouraged, they decided to substitute tomatoes for saffron... and Buen Provecho! A star was born and they called it Jambalaya.

When he took his first bite of dinner, our young son (a recently picky eater) proclaimed: "Yum, it spicy! That make me feel better!" He then wolfed down the entire plate and asked for more. So you have the word of at least one little boy that despite its heat, even small children will enjoy this gluten free version of a Louisiana Creole classic.

This super spicy meal is very easy to put together and leaves almost no mess in its wake. They often call this type of jambalaya "Poor Man's" because it doesn't use costly items like shrimp, but honestly it is so delicious you'll feel rich indeed the moment you take your first mouthful.

Poor Man's Jambalaya

What You’ll Need:
4 oz butter
6 oz chicken breast, cut into 1-2 in strips
9 oz Andouille sausage
1 ½ cup finely chopped onions
1 ½ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
1 cup minced celery
5 minced garlic cloves
2 cups uncooked rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp regular mustard

Herbs and spices:

½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried thyme leaves
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¾ tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (unless you like it really HOT...)
4 whole Turkish Bay leaves

Optional: thinly sliced scallions for garnish

How It Works:

In a small bowl, combine herbs and spices and then set aside.

Melt butter in a deep heavy pot over medium high heat. Add Andouille sausage (chopped into ¼ inch thick rounds) and chicken pieces, and sauté for 4-6 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

In same pot, add garlic, onion, minced celery and green bell pepper.

Stir vigorously until well mixed and then add all of the herbs and spices, including the mustard. Continue stirring. Sauté approximately 9-10 minutes until onions and celery are translucent and mixture is well browned. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan occasionally with your wooden stirring spoon and spatula to keep everything well mixed.

When the time is up, add both cups of rice and continue to cook stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes. There will be a lot of steam, this is alright. Keep stirring.

As soon as your timer rings, add three cups of chicken stock and one cup of tomato sauce. Bring everything to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer covered between 20 and 25 minutes.

When finished cooking, your rice will be tender but not soft and fluffy. There should still be liquid in your pot that hasn’t fully absorbed into the Jambalaya. Remove the four Turkish Bay leaves and serve while still hot. Green onions make a terrific garnish, if you like them!

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as an appetizer.

Gluten Free Snack Foods

I’ve been thinking a lot about gluten free snack foods lately. My family is about to take an end of summer road trip up to British Columbia, which from California means several long days in the car. H is particularly worried about stopping to eat in random towns along the way, especially given the constraints of my diet. He prefers to grab a hamburger here and there along the road when we take long trips, and doesn’t want to spend a lot of extra time hunting for gluten free snacks. When it comes to long driving trips, H is a big fan of the destination and not a huge lover of the journey... which is understandable for anyone who has ever driven a distance with toddlers.

Luckily for both of us, is becoming easier by the day to find gluten free foods that travel well. From cookies to crackers, your local Whole Foods Market equivalent now probably features a lot of yummy (pricey) snack food options. I truly appreciate this, even though my heart remains with foods that have been minimally (or not at all) processed.

Here are seven snack food options for long road trips that I’ve come up with so far… I will continue adding to the list as I find or create more of them.


In many ways, the banana is a perfect food. Wrapped in its own neat packaging, it stays sealed and delicious for long periods of time without mess or fuss. (Even when bananas get old, brown and soft, they can still be used for excellent banana bread!) Bananas provide a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese and Vitamin B6. They are also low in cholesterol, sodium and saturated fat.

If you eat 1 medium sized banana, you’ll essentially be eating:

• 105 calories
• 1 g protein
• 27g carbohydrate
• 1 mg sodium
• 14 g sugars

Did you notice the tricky problem with bananas? That’s right, sugar. Your medium banana has a glycemic load of 10, and is considered to be mildly inflammatory.

The good news, though (a surprise to me!) is that bananas contain both Omega 3 fatty acid (approx 32mg) and Omega 6 fatty acid (approx 54mg) – and as we all know, Omega 3 contains ALA, DHA and EPA... all great for extending your mental acuity, health and longevity. For more information on bananas, please click here.

Hard Boiled Egg

Hard boiled eggs, like bananas, cleverly travel in their own packaging from the moment they are created. Unlike a banana though, a hard boiled egg can’t sit in warmth for several days and still be edible. Especially when hard boiled, eggs have a different shelf life than fruits.

I did some research on eggs for this blog and discovered that the shell of an egg is porous. The hen adds a natural coating that keeps everything safe inside of the shell, but when eggs are processed by companies this natural coating is washed off during sanitization and replaced with a thin coating of mineral oil. The new coating will keep your raw eggs fresh in the refrigerator for many weeks – but if you place them in hot water to hard boil them, the coating is boiled off and your egg becomes porous again.

This basically means that it has no more protection against bacteria and odors. If you put your hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking it will remain edible for one week. However, if you are taking hard boiled eggs on a road trip you should plan to eat them within a few hours of leaving your home... or better yet, take along an ice chest and keep them cold so that you can enjoy them for several days.

If you eat one hard boiled egg, you will essentially be eating:

• 77 calories
• 6 grams protein
• 71% cholesterol (daily value recommended by FDA)
• Good source of Vitamin B12, riboflavin, phoshorus and selenium

Eggs and their role in human blood cholesterol are frequently misunderstood. Only about one quarter of your body’s blood cholesterol comes from your diet. The other three quarters (3/4) is produced by your body and has nothing at all to do with your diet. So while eggs are high in cholesterol they do not actually make much of an impact on your body’s blood cholesterol. It is definitely safe for you to enjoy an egg every day... and you will be enjoying a superfood whose proteins are almost 97% digestible!

String Cheese

To state the obvious, string cheese is a lot of fun. What other snack food is both squishy and stringy, and can be gently pulled apart into threads?

Happily, your silly string cheese is also pretty nutritious. One ounce of low moisture part milk mozzarella cheese (pictured here) features no carbohydrates and 7 grams of protein! It is also a great source of calcium, in addition to offering Vitamin B12 and phosphorus into your diet.

If you eat one ounce of string cheese, you are essentially eating:

• 85 calories
• 7g protein
• 0g carbohydrate
• 148 mg sodium
• 18g saturated fat

Since cheese has a fairly high saturated fat content and a decent amount of sodium, it’s probably a good idea to restrain your natural impulse to scarf down five or ten of these cute little packets in a sitting. One will do nicely, thank you!

Beach Bash Trail Mix

Got a sweet tooth? Yearning for those bad old days of Starbucks Frappuccinos and chocolate candy bars on the road?

I’m so glad to tell you that you can get your (natural) sugar fix in a completely non-allergenic way... no gluten, no casein, no soy – and that’s not all! Enjoy Life has created a yummy and sweet trail mix that is not only Kosher certified but also contains no wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, sulfites or eggs. And believe it or not, it still tastes great.

What can you look forward to? Cranberries!!!!! Apricots!!!!!!! Pineapple!!!! Pumpkin Seeds!!!! Sunflower Kernels!!!!

A handful of this certified gluten free Beach Bash mix will not only make your day, it can continue doing so over the course of a longer trip without refrigeration thanks to a shelf life of approximately 6 months!

If you eat one handful of the Beach Bash mix (approx ¼ cup) you are actually eating:

• 130 calories
• 4g protein
• 9g sugars
• 13g carb
• 0 cholesterol

Based on my experience, one handful alone will give you enough sweetness to buzz happily through your morning without yearning to eat the whole bag in one sitting.

Oh, and check this out... Enjoy Life has an outstanding ingredient glossary that tells you more about their products right here than most companies ever do!

Turkey Jerky

Turkey Jerky really takes me back... When H and I first started dating years and years ago, he played keys and guitar for a great local band that started doing big things around the country. During our first year together they toured the United States in a passenger van four times! Thanks to the need to stop for snacks a lot on these long road trips, before one tour they decided to make their own homemade beef jerky. I can still remember how long it took to marinate the meat and dry it... the delicious scent wafting throughout their entire apartment building. My mouth waters just remembering the amazing flavor of that homemade jerky (a project never repeated, for whatever reason).

Needless to say, I’ve got a soft spot for jerky.

Here are a few great reasons for you to love jerky too! Shelton's Turkey Jerky comes from free range turkeys that are raised without antibiotics. High in protein and with almost no carbs or saturated fat, a little jerky will give you the mild salt fix you’ve been craving without adding too much sodium to your diet.

If you eat one package of Turkey Jerkey (equivalent to ½ oz) you will essentially be eating:

• 50 calories
• 9 g protein
• 1g carb
• 0 g saturated fat
• 125 mg sodium

By the way, Shelton’s Poultry offers a whole range of gluten free products definitely worth sampling!

Tiger's Milk Bar - Protein Rich

Styling themselves America’s Original Nutrition Bar, my favorite Tiger’s Milk Bars have been around since the 1960s! Containing 16 vitamins and minerals and 9 – 10g of protein in any of their King Size varieties, Tiger’s Milk bars have a lot of nutrition to offer. Yes, they are highly processed. But if you can stomach that (forgive the pun), a normal 35g bar will provide you with an excellent source of B vitamins in addition to magnesium, vitamin C and iron.

If you eat one normal size Tiger's Milk Bar, you are actually eating:

• 140 calories
• 6g protein
• 18g carbohydrate
• 13g sugars
• 0 cholesterol
• 60 mg sodium

Thanks to the high carbohydrate content, allow myself one of these delicious bars a day. They are the perfect boost when my blood sugar has dropped and it is going to take a good 30 minutes or more to either find or cook a healthy gluten free meal.

In-N-Out Hamburger: Flying Dutchman or Protein Style

Photo by Doreen Orion
I really debated with myself over whether or not to add hamburgers to my healthy gluten free snack food list. On the one hand, what is a road trip throughout California without eating at least one In-N-Out hamburger? On the other hand, we’re still talking about ground up meat that has been processed and handled outside of your own kitchen.

That being said, H and I have always felt that In-N-Out is a food chain that strives for high quality in its handmade food. Using simple ingredients and cooking your order fresh when you are actually at the store both contribute to making this a ‘healthier’ fast food.

To get a gluten free In-N-Out burger you will have to order off of their secret menu. Here are a few options:

Flying Dutchman: Two hamburger patties, two slices of cheese

Protein Style: Served in a lettuce wrap, order it without the special sauce

Animal Style Fries: potatoes fried in gluten free oil (a gf dedicated fryer) with onion and cheese. If you are concerned about cross contamination, get it without the special sauce.

To read an excellent article about this, please click here.

Unfortunately the only nutritional data I could find on In-N-Out hamburger includes both the sauce and the bun, so my information is not as accurate for this one... but,

If you are eating one In-N-Out hamburger, you are sort of eating this:

• 390 calories
• 16g protein
• 39g carbohydrate
• 10g sugars
• 40mg cholesterol
• 650mg sodium

...but not really, since you won’t be having the bun or the sauce. If I can get more accurate information, I will be sure to update this post right away.