National Celiac Awareness Day

Today is National Celiac Awareness Day. Celiacs is an autoimmune digestive disease that is triggered by eating the protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten damages the small intestine and, if left untreated, can develop into osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer.

I have Celiacs and have been gluten free for over a year now. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel a ton better.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my dear wife, our friends, and our families for helping me stay gluten free. They’ve made a lot of adjustments and sacrifices to keep me healthy, and I truly appreciate that.

Here are some resources for gluten-free sites, restaurants, products, and recipes that we’ve had good luck with:

Against The Grain Gourmet – We just served their baguettes to a bunch of friends and no one could tell they were GF.

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness – A non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for celiac disease research, education, and screening.

Udi’s – Best GF bread and pizza crust I’ve ever had.

King Arthur Flour – Now offering a whole line of GF baking mixes.

Northland Celiac Support Group – A Minnesota support and educational group for folks with Celiacs. Their dining guide has saved us more than once.

San-J – Gluten-free tamari and teriyaki sauces that taste a whole lot better than the Kikkoman we’d been using.

Bob’s Red Mill – Extensive line of GF flours and mixes as well as GF steel-cut oats.

Coborns Delivers – A grocery delivery service in central Minnesota with an extensive GF selection.

Red Bridge Beer – Yay, I can have beer again!

Trader Joe’s – Seven pages of GF products. Having one of these nearby has been a real boon.

Gluten Free Girl – Excellent recipe and a wonderful perspective on living gluten free.

Gluten Free Goddess – Tons of very tasty GF and dairy-free recipes.

Amazon Gluten FreeGreat place to find GD products if you don’t live near a co-op or major grocery store.

Penzeys Spices – Excellent products and only a couple of their soup bases have gluten. All their herbs and spices are gluten-free.

Gluten Free National Restaurants – There are more and more national chains that have GF menus. We’ve had good dining experiences with Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang’s, Big Bowl, and several restaurants in the Lettuce Entertain You chain.

Mixed Berry Pretzel Icebox Dessert

Hats off to Noble Pig for their Mixed Berry Pretzel Icebox Dessert! I had all but forgotten this childhood treat until I spotted the recipe on their blog. I sent it to my dear wife and she made a gluten-free version for us.

The original recipe makes a 9×13 pan. This version is downsized to an 8×8 pan, perfect for a smaller dinner party or as a “just us” dessert for the week.  She made half the crust, but the full cream cheese topping as listed (because who can ever get enough cream cheese goodness?!).  She also used just one box of jello and half of the fruit (about two cups total, it doesn’t have to be exact).

Crust

1 cup finely crushed pretzels (used Glutino)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

8 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
7 ounces plain thick Greek yogurt (regular yogurt will be too thin)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (3 ounce) packages strawberry gelatin
8 ounces frozen sweetened sliced strawberries, thawed
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Grease an 8×8 baking pan. Finely crush the pretzels in a food processor. Add the sugar and melted butter and pulse until combined.

Press the pretzel mixture into the baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack.

While the crust is cooling, use a stand mixer on medium speed to beat the cream cheese and sugar together until well blended. Fold in the yogurt and vanilla. Spread the filling over the cooled pretzel crust. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin in 1 cup of boiling water. Let the mixture cool until it begins to get syrupy, about 15 minutes. Stir in the fruit and pour over cream cheese filling. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. We made this the day before and let it set up overnight.

We served this last weekend and everyone wanted the recipe. Thanks Noble Pig!

Happy Holiday! – No Crust Coconut Pie

I’m the only gluten-free member of my clan. For family gatherings (like this upcoming 4th of July weekend), my dear wife makes this pie so we can all have dessert and I won’t feel left out. Ain’t she the best?

This is adapted from Penzeys One, Volume 3, Issue 6, 2009.

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
2 eggs
1  1/3 cup sugar
1  1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup flour (we used Pamela’s Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix)
2 cup milk
3 cup shredded coconut (we like natural, unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Pour into an ungreased 9-inch pie plate (this dessert doesn’t need a pie crust- it makes it’s own) and bake at 350°F until browned, about 35-45 minutes.

Let cool before slicing. Run a thin knife around the rim of the pie plate before cutting.

Have a fun 4th!

Shrimp & Corn Chowder

This hearty chowder is adapted from a recipe in the February, 2010 edition of  Real Simple. Add a green salad and this makes a great weeknight dinner.

6 slices bacon
2 leeks,(white and green parts), chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 T. all-purpose flour (in our kitchen, we used Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix to make it gluten-free)
1-8 oz. bottle clam juice or Penzey’s seafood stock
3 cups whole milk
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (15.25 ounce) can corn, drained
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Louisiana-style hot sauce
Kosher salt and black pepper

Cook bacon slices in a large saucepan until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Use the pan drippings to cook the leeks and fennel. Season with 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the flour and add the clam juice, milk, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes.

Chop the bacon and add to the pot. Stir in the shrimp and corn and cook until the potatoes are tender and the shrimp and corn are heated through, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

We served this with quesadillas for scooping up the broth.

Turkey Pozole

pozole_112209P1020484

This is one of my favorite dishes to make with leftover turkey. Since I almost always do our bird on the Big Green Egg, the meat has a smoky richness that goes great with the peppers and spices. Make the stock up ahead of time and this can be a quick dinner.

8 quarts cold water
1 turkey carcass
1 (20 ounce) can hominy (Juanita’s if you can get it)
1 (4 ounce) can green chilies
2-3 dried chipotles, chopped
1-2  jalapenos, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried cilantro

Put the carcass in a large stock pot and cover with water. I use a strainer insert to make removing the meat easier. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 to 4 hours.

pozole_112109P1020481

Remove the insert and set the the meat aside to cool. Bring the stock up to a low boil and add the hominy, onions, garlic, chilies, and spices. Reduce heat and let simmer while you take the turkey carcass apart. Roughly chop the meat and add to the stew. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to blend the flavors.

Serve with corn chips, a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkling of cojita cheese.

The Best French Onion Soup

frenchonion_110709P1020421

My dear wife and I enjoyed adapting this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated (free online membership required). I know it looks a little putzy and time-consuming (that’s Cook’s Illustrated for you), but the soup is exceptional, and by caramelizing the onions in the oven you really cut down the hands-on time. To make it even easier, we split this into a 2-night cook; preparing the onions the first night while we made dinner, and then finishing the soup in about an hour on the stove top the next night.

It’s been so cold, dark, and rainy around here this week that this soup really hit the spot – rich and filling with a clean onion flavor. It’s so good that the only change I would make (other than maybe trying in on the Big Green Egg ;)) would be to caramelize double the amount of onions and freeze half of them off for a quick meal later.

The Soup

3 tablespoons butter
6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds)
2 – 3 cups water
1/2 cup dry sherry or red wine
4 cups chicken broth (we used Pacific Natural, which is gluten free)
2 cups beef broth (Pacific Natural)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper

The Topping

1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices and lightly toasted (we used Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix)
8 ounces shredded raclette or swiss cheese

Directions

Heat oven to 400°F and adjust the rack to the lower-middle position.

Halve the onions and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Try to stick with yellow onions as this dish needs their lower sugar and stronger, more complex flavor.

frenchonion_110709P1020409

Grease a large Dutch oven and add the butter, onions, and salt. Put in the oven and cook, covered, for 1 hour.  Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, making sure to scape the bottom and sides. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and cook for another hour. Again, remove the pot and give everything a good stir. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown (about 30 to 45 minutes).

Remove the pot from the oven. At this point you can let the onions cool in the in the pot and refrigerate for a day or so before continuing with the recipe.

Move the pot to the stove top over medium-high heat. Continue cooking the onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until all the liquid evaporates and the onions brown (about 15 to 20 minutes).

Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust of fond (about 6 to 8 minutes). Scrape the tasty brown goodness back into onions.

Deglaze the pot with 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until the water evaporates and pot bottom has formed yet another dark crust (another 6 to 8 minutes).

Add another 1/4 cut of water and deglaze the pot again, cooking until the water evaporates and pot bottom has formed yet another dark crust (another 6 to 8 minutes).

One more time – deglaze and cook until the water has evaporated and the onions are very dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates (about 5 minutes).

Stir in all the the broths, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any remaining bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.

Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

frenchonion_110709P1020414

Adjust oven rack 6-8  inches from broiler. Set individual broiler-safe bowls or crocks on baking sheet and fill each about 3/4 of the way up with soup.  Top each bowl with a few baguette slices and a heavy sprinkle of cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and gotten a little brown ‘n’ bubbly around edges (about 3 to 5 minutes).

Serve immediately with more bread for dipping.

Green Beans & Red Pepper Potato Salad

My version of another fine recipe from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse cookbook. Not your typical Sunday picnic potato salad. The mustard and the hot sauce gives this version a welcome kick. Dinosaur makes this with asparagus, but fresh green beans make a fine substitute.

1 pound red new potatoes
1/2 pound green beans
1 large red bell pepper, seeded
1/2 medium red onion, slivered
1/4 cup spicy brown or Creol mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
11/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Louisiana-style hot sauce

Scrub potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, cut into 3/4 inch chunks, and toss into a large bowl.

Trim beans and cut into thirds. Blanch in boiling water for a minute until tender-crisp and bright green.  Drain, rinse with cold water,  and toss into the bowl with the potatoes.

Slice red pepper into strips and cut strips in half. Add to the bowl along with the onion.

Combine mustard, vinegar, oil, sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl and whisk well to combine. Taste and add hot sauce as needed.

Combine veggies and dressing and give the salad a good stir. Refrigerate at least half an hour to let the flavors mingle. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Country Eggs Benedict

This is a gluten-free variation of my favorite breakfast – biscuits and gravy.

Ingredients

1 pound pork breakfast sausage
2 cups milk
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I like Pamela’s Amazing Bread Mix or Gluten-Free Pantry Country French Bread Mix)
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 gluten-free waffles (I used Van’s Frozen Wheat Free Buckwheat – sweet and tasty)
4 eggs

Directions

Cook sausage in a large skillet until uniformly brown. Do not drain. Add sage, red pepper, salt, and black pepper and stir to combine. Add flour and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until flour forms a roux and begins to brown. Remove pan from heat and stir in milk a little at a time. Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally until gravy comes to a simmer and starts to thicken. Reduce heat to low.

Prepare the eggs. Any style is fine, but I really like them fried sunny side up with runny yolks. Toast the waffles and then top with eggs and sausage gravy.

Gluten-Free Egg Rolls

I love Asian takeout food. I’ve been lucky that we have 2 takeout places close to us that have gluten-free menus. I can get all of my favorites – General’s Chicken, Singapore rice noodles, kung pao, and pad thai. The only thing missing is egg rolls. I can’t find takeout (or even frozen) GF egg rolls anywhere.

Finally, my dear wife suggested that we try and make our own using the rice paper wrappers that are typically used for spring rolls.

Ingredients

1 pound ground pork
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
2-4 carrots, grated
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (gluten free)
2-3 Tien Tsin peppers
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground Szechuan or black  pepper
1/4 teaspoon 5-Spice Powder

1 package round rice paper wrappers (about 30 wraps)

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok until it’s hot and starts to shimmer. Add the Tien Tsin peppers and fry 2-3 minutes until very dark brown, but not burnt. Remove peppers and reduce heat to medium.

Add pork, garlic, and onion. Cook until the pork is evenly browned.

Add the cabbage and carrots. Mix well and cook until the carrots start to soften and the cabbage is a bright green.

Remove pan from heat and add Hoisin sauce, salt, pepper, and 5-Spice powder. Mix well to combine. Let filling cool for 30 minutes.

Assembling the egg rolls goes a lot faster if you have 1 person soaking the wrappers and 1 rolling the egg rolls. Dip wrappers one at a time into pan of hot water to soften – 30 seconds or so. You want them pliable, but not so soft that they tear.

Lay the wrapper on a tea towel. Spoon about a 1/4  cup of the filling onto the lower half of the wrapper. Fold the bottom edge of the  wrapper over filling, fold over both sides, and continue rolling. Place seam side down on a sheet of parchment paper.

We baked our egg rolls for about 10 minutes at 350°F. You can also deep-fry them in small batches, cooking until they are golden brown and crispy (about 3 minutes).

Pancetta Polenta Pizza – Meat in a Minor Key

Meat around our house usually appears in the form of a steak, slab or roast. So when my wife proposed making this Mark Bittman pizza recipe that claims to serve 4 but only calls for a scant 4 ounces of meat, I was more than a little skeptical. In the end, the pancetta added a great depth and wonderful pork flavor to the already rich and crispy pizza.  It was a big hit.

Ingredients

1 cup coarse cornmeal
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped pancetta
1 pound spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush a layer of olive oil on a baking sheet.

Combine milk with 2 1/2 cups water and a large pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just about to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and add cornmeal, whisking to prevent lumps from forming. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until the polenta thickens and it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan like thick oatmeal.

Stir 1 tablespoon oil into the cooked polenta, then pour it out onto the oiled baking sheet. Spread the polenta out until it’s about  1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let cool. When it’s no longer hot, cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for an hour to firm up.

Once the polenta is chilled, bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to brown and crisp on edges. While the polenta crust is cooking,  heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and pancetta is nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Remove onion, garlic, and pancetta out of pan and set aside. Add spinach to skillet and saute until it releases its water and pan becomes dry. Add the pancetta mixture back into the pan, stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the polenta crust from the oven, sprinkle with gorgonzola, then spread pancetta-spinach mixture evenly atop cheese. Top with basil and tomato slices, then drizzle with another tablespoon olive oil. Put pizza back in oven for 2 minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and pancetta and veggies are warmed through. Cut into slices and serve.