Monthly Archives: March 2014

Grilled Asparagus with Feta, Almonds and Basil

grilled asparagus blog

Sometimes, you need something that really brings the spring feeling to your plate. For me, asparagus is that “something”. Asparagus means winter is over. That the green things are growing again, and that I can expand my fresh vegetable intake beyond root vegetables, winter squash and cabbage. The beginning of spring vegetables, to me, is the greatest time, because it speaks of all the delicious, fresh things to come.

Now, I feel somewhat guilty saying this, but I’m ready for the winter to be over. It’s been cold even down here in Texas (and I certainly know that it doesn’t even compare to what those of you in the north have endured!), and for longer than usual. I’m embracing spring. I’m ready for rain, thunderstorms, and green, growing things. For now, I’ve temporarily forgotten that with springtime comes our barrage of gigantic Texas insects, followed by all-too-warm temperatures. Come August, when it’s 100 degrees for days on end here, I’ll be wishing for the cold once again. But right now, I’m ready for the warmth.

So in order to encourage spring to come along, I grabbed some asparagus and uncovered my grill. It’s finally light enough in the evening that I can grill without needing a flashlight. (Come on, tell me I’m not the only one that’s done that!) Truth be told, I love grilling. It’s quick and easy, and there’s one less dish to wash when you’re done. It also imparts a lovely flavor to just about anything.

In this case, a brief visit to the grill makes this asparagus tender and full of flavor. Toss it with some lemon juice, almonds, feta (omit for dairy-free/vegan), and basil, and suddenly, you’ve taken an already-fresh flavor and completely kicked it up a few notches. It’s bright, fresh, and definitely is that “something” that brings spring to your table.

It really only takes a few minutes to make, and is totally worth every moment. I enjoyed this as a side dish on a mundane weeknight, but it’s certainly dressy enough for company, or even for a holiday dinner – Easter or Passover Seder (served with a vegetarian main or fish dish), perhaps?

Print Recipe

Grilled Asparagus with Feta, Almonds and Basil (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

2 t extra virgin olive oil

1 t lemon zest

1 t lemon juice

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T crumbled feta cheese (omit for dairy-free/vegan)

2 T sliced almonds

1 T chopped fresh basil

Preheat grill to medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour over the asparagus, and season with salt and pepper.

When grill is hot, place asparagus in a single layer over direct heat on the grill. Close the lid and grill for a minute or two, and move so that the other side of the asparagus spears touch the grill. Continue to grill just until tender (the time may vary depending on the thickness of your spears and heat of the grill). Remove immediately. Toss asparagus spears with feta, almonds, and fresh basil and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie Cupcakes

mint choc chip brownie cupcakes

Last weekend, I decided I would make something green for my coworkers in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not normally one to really celebrate the holiday in any grand style (Not Irish, and I’m not the biggest celebrator of holidays anyway, save a few. Just call me a big fuddy-duddy.), but I made an exception this time.

It started with a superb little pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream that I enjoyed a few weeks ago. I went back to the freezer to have another small helping only to find it was gone. (Teenagers in the house means this happens more often than I’d like – c’est la vie!)  But since then, the idea of these cupcakes, made with brownies and topped with frosting reminiscent of mint chocolate chip ice cream, just stuck in my mind until I decided to make them.

And so I did.

I opted for brownie base rather than just a regular chocolate cupcake because, let’s face it: brownies are better than regular cake. It’s just a fact. At least it is in my mind. Besides, I’ve always found that making brownies gluten-free is so simple, as the flour is not as much of a star ingredient in a brownie as it is in cake – instead, sugar and eggs play a chief role. And of course, the cocoa powder. Because chocolate is the chief-est of all chief roles in brownies! (Yes, I totally just made up the word “chief-est”. Let’s just go with it and move on.)

Once the brownie-cupcakes were baked, I made the frosting. It was super-simple, and because of the chocolate chips stirred in, I opted to simply smear on the frosting rather than try to carefully pipe something out. Definitely a time-saver, and it saved me from my otherwise perfection-driven tendency to spend far too long trying to execute perfectly piped frosting.

The end result was delightful. A sweet, chocolate-y treat with the pleasing, but not overpowering flavor of mint. The brownies were rich and full of fudgy chocolate. And that frosting? It was truly like my ice cream I was craving.

So even though St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone, I felt this treat just had to be shared with you. Because mint (and green food) isn’t just for March 17th. I think this would be a great treat for any time of year. I hope you agree.

Print Recipe

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie Cupcakes (gluten-free, dairy-free options)

For the cupcakes:

1/2 c unsalted butter (can use vegan buttery sticks for dairy-free)

1 c granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t peppermint extract

2/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

2 T sweet white rice flour

3 T tapioca starch

3 T superfine brown rice flour

1/2 t unflavored gelatin

1/4 t kosher salt

 

For the frosting:

1/2 c butter, softened (can substitute vegan buttery sticks for dairy-free)

About 4 c powdered sugar

2-4 T milk (use almond or coconut milk for dairy-free)

1 t vanilla extract

1/4 t peppermint extract

5-8 drops each yellow and blue natural food coloring (or until desired color is reached)

1 c mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life is gluten and dairy-free)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with 9 cupcake liners.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium heat, stirring until completely melted. Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs, vanilla and peppermint extracts, and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, gelatin and salt, and whisk those into the butter mixture until completely blended.

Portion out the batter equally into the lined muffin tin (about 1/4 cup of batter each). Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center still brings out some chocolate, but the centers are set and no longer jiggly. (You don’t want to wait until the toothpick comes out clean or the cupcakes will be dry.) Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth and start adding in the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time. Add the milk and beat until the texture is stiff enough to hold but still creamy, adding more powdered sugar or more milk until desired texture is reached. Add the extracts and food coloring and beat well. Stir in half of the chocolate chips.

Frost the cupcakes with the frosting once they have cooled. With the remaining chocolate chips, microwave in a small bowl 30 seconds at a time, and stir until melted. Drizzle the chocolate over the frosted cupcakes.

Store in the refrigerator, and serve at room temperature. Makes 9 cupcakes.

 

 

 

Oven-Baked Chicken Taquitos

baked chicken flautas

I’ve mentioned before that one of our go-to meals is a simple roasted chicken (spatchcocked) with a few simple vegetables on the side. Of course, it’s just the two of us most nights, and we generally have leftover chicken after this meal. Often I’ll throw it on top of a green salad for lunch or dinner the following day. Sometimes, however, a little creativity ekes out, and I come up with something different to make with my leftovers.

This time around, it was chicken taquitos.

Traditionally, taquitos are rolled corn tortillas filled with meat and/or cheese and deep-fried. While I do deep-fry on the rare occasion, it’s a bit of a mess and not something I’d like to tackle on a weeknight. These, however, are totally do-able, don’t make a huge mess, and are lighter to boot. You simply mix together shredded, cooked chicken, spices, and cheese (dairy-free if you prefer), and roll it up in tortillas. Place them on a baking sheet, spritz a little olive oil over, and bake. Whip up a big bowl of guacamole while they’re baking, and you’re set. (Guacamole totally counts as a vegetable, by the way, so it’s a well-balanced meal. Personally, I think I eat enough of it to count as two vegetable servings. Go me!)

They’re definitely kid-friendly to boot, as they’re a great finger food. You can even customize them to your liking. Have leftover beef or pork instead? Use it. Want more spice? Why not add more chili powder, or even a little cayenne? It’s totally up to you. I imagine even adding beans would be tasty. All I know is, this is a recipe we will use time and again. I hope you will too.

Print Recipe

Oven-Baked Chicken Taquitos (gluten-free, dairy-free option)

3-4 c shredded cooked chicken

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground chili powder

1/2 t kosher salt

1/4 t garlic powder

1/4 t onion powder

1 c shredded cheese (I prefer Monterey Jack or Cheddar) or non-dairy cheese (such as Daiya)

12-16 corn tortillas

Olive oil or cooking spray (I prefer using olive oil in my Misto)

Guacamole and salsa to serve

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, spices, and cheese.

Place the corn tortillas on a plate and cover with damp paper towels. Microwave for 30 seconds, and then rearrange the tortillas so that the bottom ones are on top, the top on bottom, the inside ones moved toward the outside of the stack, and so on. Heat again for 30 seconds, covered again with the damp paper towels. Continue this until they are warm but not hot. This will make the tortillas more pliable and less prone to cracking when you roll them.

Place 3-4 tablespoons of the chicken filling in the center of a tortilla and rill up tightly. Place seam-side-down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.

Spray the tortillas with olive oil (or lightly brush on) and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crisp.

Serve with guacamole and salsa.

Serves about 4.

 

 

Pickled Carrots and Jalapeños

pickled carrots and jalapenos

A few weeks ago, my parents took me to lunch at this little hole-in-the-wall taco shop. They’ve been visiting there for ages, and have always enjoyed the food. It’s perhaps slightly more than a hole-in-the-wall, truthfully – it’s a combination taco shop plus small Hispanic grocery and carnicería. The building is run-down, but you can tell they keep things clean. Finally, I got to experience these tacos that my Dad has been raving about for what seems like an eternity.

Truth be told, the tacos were good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely worth revisiting. I enjoyed barbacoa and lengua tacos and was a happy camper. But the real prize wasn’t even something you paid additional for. Alongside your order, they would bring you a bowl of these pickled carrots and jalapeños. We asked for extra, and noshed on these slightly sweet, subtly spicy condiments both before and during our meal. They provided the perfect brightness to offset the richness of my barbacoa and were deliciously addictive. My Dad mentioned that he’d made unsuccessful attempts to get the recipe out of the lady that makes these delicious treats. Apparently that recipe was top secret.

So, turning to me, he encouraged me to take the leftover pickles home. Why? He wanted to see if I could reverse engineer the recipe. It was a challenge I was willing to take.

The pickles were simple, but reverse engineering even a few simple spices takes careful consideration. I wasn’t 100% sure on ratios, but I took a stab at it. What resulted was quite close and equally as tasty. I could definitely enjoy having these in my refrigerator, ready to accompany our next taco night (which is practically a weekly event around here).

Of course, this will mean I need to make more. I sent home this jar to my Dad, who was all-too-happy to take it off my hands.

Print Recipe

Pickled Carrots and Jalapeños (gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, vegan)

3 fresh jalapeños

5 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal, about 1 inch thick

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/2 small white onion, sliced

2 bay leaves

10 black peppercorns

10 whole coriander seeds

1 1/4 c white vinegar

1/4 c apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 c filtered water

1 1/2 T kosher or pickling salt

1 T granulated sugar

Place the jalapeños, carrots, garlic, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and coriander seeds in a quart-sized glass jar or container. Bring the vinegars, water, salt and sugar to a boil. Pour over vegetables until covered. Allow to cool to room temperature and place lid on jar. Refrigerate 1-2 weeks or until desired level of pickling is achieved.

Keeps about a month, maybe longer, although I can’t imagine you’ll make it last that long.

 

“Buffalo Wing” Chex Mix and Giveaway!

chex mix

Update: This contest is now closed. The winner is commenter #18 – Shay! Congratulations to Shay.

March marks the beginning of that month-long craziness filled with college basketball. What makes it extra-special? This year, the NCAA Final Four is local to me! They’re hosting the finals in Dallas!

While we will be on pins and needles hoping for our favorite team to go far, I do know one thing: I’ve got a great snack, just in case we need to have a bit of a party for some crucial games. General Mills, the manufacturers of Chex cereals, contacted me and sent me a bunch of awesome Chex gear to get me on my way towards making an incredible gluten-free Chex mix recipe, just for you!

Now, most of the time I make snacks from scratch. Like this Roasted Tomato Almond Dip, for example. But sometimes, you need an easy crowd-pleaser, and there’s nothing wrong with reaching for a few good gluten-free items to make that happen. Chex mix is one such crowd-pleaser, and is easy and perfect for a party. Especially one involving beer, gluten-free or not!

And so I got to work. I made two different batches of Chex mix, actually, in the quest for the perfect “Buffalo Wing” flavor, using Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (which is gluten-free). The first batch was the easy-breezy recipe. It was tasty for sure – a bit of a kick, and it was a crowd-pleaser at my office. But it wasn’t a full “Buffalo Wing” taste. The flavor was there, but it wasn’t in your face. So I tried a second version. It took an additional step, but in my opinion, the results were well worth it. The second batch was full-on “Buffalo Wing”!

What was that additional step?

I made Frank’s Red Sauce “powder”. If you have a dehydrator, you can make this too! All I did was pour some sauce on my drying sheets, throw in the dehydrator, and forget about it for nearly a day. Then I broke off the dried sauce into chunks, pulverized it in my coffee grinder (I have a cheap one dedicated just for spice grinding – kind of like this one), and voila – I had Frank’s Red Hot Sauce “powder”. This stuff is kind of awesome, actually. I can’t wait to try it on other things. Popcorn is high on the list.

I am sharing with you both versions, so you can decide which way to go for yourself. They’re both delicious. My coworkers gobbled it up before the week was out, if that gives you any indication. And as for the gluten-free additions? Nobody knew any different. It was tasty, and that’s all that mattered.

So if you’re looking for an easy make-ahead snack and want a twist added to it, I encourage you to make some “Buffalo Wing” Chex mix! You’ll be glad you did.

In fact, General Mills has offered to give one of my readers the same fun package they gave me! It includes boxes of gluten-free Chex, coupons, a T-Shirt, some Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and a reusable tote. It’s a great package and a perfect excuse to make some Chex mix!

Here’s how to enter to win:

- Leave a comment telling me your favorite kind of Chex (and even a favorite recipe to make with it!)

- Share this giveaway on Facebook and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did so

- Tweet this giveaway on Twitter and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did so

- Pin this giveaway on Pinterest and come back here and leave me a comment telling me you did so

That’s it!! The giveaway will end at 11:59PM CST on Saturday, March 8, 2014. The giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents ages 18 and up.

 

Print Recipe

Buffalo Wing” Chex Mix (gluten-free, dairy-free-adaptable)

3 c Rice Chex

3 c Corn Chex

1 c gluten-free bagel chips (such as Glutino), broken in half

1 c roasted peanuts

1 c gluten-free pretzels (such as Glutino), broken into smaller pieces if large

6 T butter or vegan buttery sticks, melted

1 1/2 T dried parsley

1 t dried dill weed

1 t garlic powder

1 1/2 t onion powder

1/2 t ground black pepper

1 t dried chives

1 t celery salt (only use 1/4-1/2 t if you use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce powder instead of liquid sauce)

3 T Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (either bottled sauce, or use my powder recipe below for more intense “buffalo” flavor)

Add the cereal, bagel chips, peanuts, and pretzels into a large microwaveable bowl. Mix together the melted butter/vegan butter, spices, and either the liquid Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or my powdered version (preferred) until well-mixed. Toss the butter with the cereal, ensuring everything is coated evenly.

Microwave for 6 minutes, stopping to stir well at least every 2 minutes. Spread out on paper towels to cool. If desired, sprinkle more Frank’s Red Hot Sauce “powder” over to up the “buffalo” intensity!

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce Powder (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1/2 c Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

Spread hot sauce out on a dryer sheet made for your dehydrator. Dehydrate at 140 degrees F for 20 hours or until thoroughly dry. Break into small pieces and pulverize in a blender or spice grinder. Store in an airtight container.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of General Mills/Chex.  The opinions and text are all mine.

My Gluten-Free Journey: What Would I Do Differently?

photo credit: Flickr nathangibbs

I was gluten-free for over 4 years. During that time, I stumbled, I tripped, and I learned. A lot. I started with the basics. I learned things that made my life easier. I learned to navigate restaurants, and reduce cross-contamination in my home.

I have to admit, during those 4 years, I got pretty good at handling a gluten-free diet. I learned to cook wonderful gluten-free dishes, and I tasted a lot of gluten-free products and found many that were excellent.

But if I had to do it all over again, what would I do differently? How would I embark upon a gluten-free change?

Number One – I would have gone to a gastroenterologist to get tested for celiac disease before I eliminated gluten from my diet. I had the blood test and a genetic test done (both were negative), but I was gluten-free for almost a year before I saw a gastroenterologist about my digestive issues. By then, it was too late for an endoscopy test (the standard test for celiac disease) to be accurate. I don’t have celiac disease, but it certainly would have helped to go through the proper processes in order to get to the root cause of my digestive issues. (I might have saved myself a lot of time and agony!)

Number Two – I would have gotten more “chummy” with a few key restaurants that could cater to my gluten-free diet, and would have visited more often. I cooked 95% of my meals when I ate gluten-free, and while that meant I ate pretty healthily, it got tiresome. Also: I would have worked with other gluten-free friends and family more to reduce the cooking workload. Maybe we could each batch cook a few meals and swap, so we could each have different meals ready for those times when we don’t feel like cooking. When you have to adhere to a special diet, it’s a treat to have someone else cook for you.

Number Three – Related to the above, I wouldn’t have taken so long to speak up about my needs in restaurants. I would have advocated for myself from the get-go, asking all of the right questions to help ensure cross-contamination wouldn’t occur and I would get a safe meal.

Number Four – I would have practiced regular “chill out” times. Eating a restrictive diet raised my anxiety a lot. I worried when I wouldn’t be home to cook. I worried about travel. I worried every time I ate out that I would become sick. Truthfully, my anxiety probably negatively contributed to my health way more than a less-than-perfect diet, or a crumb of gluten, could have. (Note: yes, even getting a crumb of gluten can cause health issues for those with celiac disease. I didn’t have celiac disease.) More relaxation and less anxiety would have gone a long way towards a better transition into gluten-free eating. (Tip: Wine is gluten-free!)

Number Five – I would have spent more time doing thorough research into separating fact from fiction when it came to gluten. I read so much information on the internet that was false. I wasn’t sure which foods really did have sneaky gluten. I read that gluten was causing all sorts of unrelated illnesses. I also read that if perhaps, my mother just would have held off feeding my gluten for a while or breastfed me longer, I wouldn’t have these issues. There were so many fallacies out there, and I believed them all, rather than looking with a scrutinizing eye. (I’ve shared a Gluten-Free Mythbusters post to help separate fact from fiction when it comes to gluten-free!)

All in all, I went through daily life just fine on a gluten-free diet. With all of the gluten-free products out there today, plus my tendency to cook from scratch, I found it pretty easy to avoid gluten and eat a varied, healthy, satisfying diet. It’s not as difficult as it was twenty years ago, or even ten years ago!

What do you wish you knew when you first went gIuten-free? If you’re just starting out, what are you looking to learn?

Want to know more about gluten-free living? Check out my Living Gluten & Dairy-Free page!

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/community

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi’s Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.