Category Archives: Appetizers

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.

Sriracha-Curry Hot Wings

Sriracha curry hot wings

Looking for a fun appetizer for the “Big Game” this coming weekend?

Honestly, I’m not even sure how of the Superbowl much my hubby and I will be watching. It’ll be on, certainly, as we don’t mind watching the Broncos, but we will always be Dallas Cowboys fans first and foremost; even though they’ve pretty much stunk up the place for many years now. Also, we are old and require an early bedtime. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have good munchies.

Even if you’re not a football fan, these wings will certainly be something to celebrate. They’re easy (no frying required), and they pack a punch of spicy flavor, thanks to Madras curry powder and Sriracha. While I may not have announced it often here, I have to confess: I am a huge fan of all things Sriracha. It’s a delicious, spicy-but-not-too-spicy condiment. When you have something that needs just a little oomph, Sriracha can be just that “thing.” I enjoy it especially on fried rice and eggs, but honestly, it’s excellent on just about anything. These wings are another such place where it compliments the curry flavor perfectly without overwhelming it. They’re complex in flavor, but easy to make and eat. Best of all, they’re finger food, and what better for a party than finger food?

What do you like to serve at a Superbowl party?

Print Recipe

Sriracha-Curry Hot Wings (gluten-free, dairy-free)

3 lbs chicken wings, drummettes and flats separated (save wing tips for chicken stock)

2 t Madras curry powder

2 t ground coriander

1/4 t cayenne powder

1 1/2 t kosher salt

1/3 c canned full-fat coconut milk

1 T Sriracha

1/2 t honey

1 t gluten-free soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack on top of the foil.

In a large bowl, add the wings. In a small bowl, mix together the curry powder, coriander, cayenne, and salt. Add to the wings and toss well, ensuring each wing is well-seasoned.

Place wings in a single layer on top of the rack, ensuring none touch. Bake on center rack in oven for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, Sriracha, honey, and soy sauce. When wings are done baking, toss them in the sauce to coat.

Serves 4-6.

 

 

 

Review: Ronzoni Gluten-Free Pasta (Recipe for Southwestern Penne Pasta Salad)

pasta salad

This post is sponsored by Ronzoni and written by me. All opinions are 100% mine.

How often do you purchase gluten-free pasta? I buy it every once in a while, but when Ronzoni contacted me about their gluten-free pasta, I’ll be honest: I was unaware that they offered it. However, I was keenly interested in learning more. After all, there are quite a few gluten-free pastas on the market that are incredibly finicky and often turn to mush at a moment’s notice. I’m always a fan of discovering a pasta that can cook up nicely, retain a good bite, and not turn to mush if I blink and leave it in the water for 10 seconds too long.

If you’re familiar with Ronzoni, you’ll know they also make regular “gluten-full” pasta. I asked them about cross-contamination, and here’s what they had to say:

“Ronzoni Gluten Free™ Pasta is also produced in a dedicated gluten free facility. When the ingredients arrive at the facility, they are verified to be gluten free and then each step in the manufacturing process is strongly controlled in order to protect the product from gluten contamination.”

Good to hear, Ronzoni!

So once the pasta arrived, I got to work preparing this lovely pasta salad recipe they shared with me. Cooking the pasta was a breeze – I just followed the instructions and it was the perfect texture. And while I’m not generally a pasta salad fan, I have to say, this pasta made a really nice salad. It was delicious at room temperature and served chilled. I brought it to my co-workers the following day and got several compliments on it! (The only person that knew it was gluten-free pasta was someone who has celiac disease.) It obviously passed the taste test of gluten-eaters, which is a good sign.

I’m definitely a fan of Ronzoni. I’ll be checking for it the next time I’m at the store looking for pasta (this weekend, in fact!).

Print Recipe

Southwestern Penne Pasta Salad, recipe courtesy of Ronzoni (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 pkg Ronzoni Gluten Free Penne

1 can (14 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup thawed frozen corn

1 each large red and orange pepper, diced

3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

1/3 cup canola oil (I used olive)

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tbsp honey

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp each finely grated lime zest, ground cumin, and chili powder

1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

1 avocado, diced (optional)

Directions:

1. Cook Ronzoni Gluten Free Penne according to package directions. Rinse under cold running water until cool; drain.

2. Toss penne with black beans, corn, red and orange pepper, green onions and coriander.

3. Whisk canola oil with lime juice, honey, garlic, lime zest, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper until combined. Toss with the penne mixture. Stir in the avocado (if using) just before serving.

4. May be served warm or chilled. To serve chilled: refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Want more information about Ronzoni’s gluten-free pastas and recipes? Visit http://www.ronzoniglutenfree.com/ for additional product information and recipes!

 

50 Gluten-Free New Year’s Eve Recipes

NYE collage

clockwise from top left: Swedish Meatballs, Chocolate Dipped Stuffed Dates with Spiced Nuts, Roasted Beet “Hummus”, and Chipotle Butternut Dip

Whether you’re hosting a big New Year’s Eve party or just banging a few pots and pans at midnight with your family and a few close friends, you’re going to need some grub. And New Year’s Eve grub has to be special – something a bit more than just ordering a pizza and calling it good.

Am I right?

And if you are a gluten-free household or have some gluten-free guests, you’ll want to be sure the munchies are something that’s friendly for everyone to eat. Hopefully, after browsing through this collection, you will have found just the perfect thing!

Beverages

Cranberry Glogg (grain-free, dairy-free)

Pomegranate Prosecco Spritzer (grain-free, dairy-free)

Reindeer Antlers (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Amazingly Good Eggnog (gluten-free, soy-free)

Chocolate Donut Hot Chocolate (grain-free, vegan)

Hot Cider Rum Punch (gluten-free, vegan)

Appetizers/Snacks

Green Pea “Hummus” (grain-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free)

Sweet and Spicy Pecans (grain-free, soy-free)

Sweet Ginger Sriracha Roasted Cashews (grain-free, dairy-free)

Hot Artichoke Dip (gluten-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free)

Creamy Chipotle Butternut Dip (grain-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free)

Spicy Chocolate Popcorn with Quinoa Clusters (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)

Naturally Gluten-Free Pizza Dip (gluten-free, dairy-free option, nut-free)

Perfect Guacamole (grain-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free)

Roasted Beet “Hummus” (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free)

Fire-Roasted Tomato Almond Dip (grain-free, vegan, sugar-free, soy-free)

Rosemary Caramel Almond Popcorn (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)

Spinach Balls (gluten-free, nut-free)

Stuffed Mushrooms Two Ways (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, nut-free)

Guacamole Bacon Bites (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free)

“Cheddar” Salsa Stuffed Cocktail Tomatoes (grain-free, vegan, sugar-free, soy-free)

Hold the Cheese! Jalapeno Poppers (grain-free, easily vegan, sugar-free, soy-free)

More Substantial Fare

Mushroom Pesto Pinwheels (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free)

Almond Flour Pizza Crust (grain-free, dairy-free)

Lamb Liver and Wild Game Terrine with Pistachios and Cranberries (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free)

“Texas Red” Beef Chili (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free)

Swedish Meatballs (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free)

Simple Quinoa Pizza Crust (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free)

Wings with Mole Sauce (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free)

Thai Chicken Wings (grain-free, dairy-free, nut-free)

Gluten-Free Mezze, including Baba Ganoush, Hummus, Falafel, and Lamb Kofte (gluten-free)

Pork Satay (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Pierogi (gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free)

Bison Sliders with Honey Caramelized Onions (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Sweet Treats

Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies (grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free)

Maple Syrup Sweetened Marshmallows (grain-free, dairy-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free, nut-free)

Italian Cream Cupcakes (gluten-free, soy-free)

Coffee Sugar Pie (gluten-free)

Cream Puffs with a Pomegranate Cheesecake Filling (gluten-free)

Candied Orange Peel (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Drunk Blondies (gluten-free, nut-free)

Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting (grain-free, dairy-free)

Oreo Cookies (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free, soy-free, nut-free)

Coconut Oil Kettle Corn (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, nut-free)

Cheesecake Pops (gluten-free)

Coffee Toffee (gluten-free)

Dairy-Free Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Pistachio Cupcakes in a Jar (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Chocolate Fudge Pecan Tart (gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free)

Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Dates with Spiced Nuts (gluten-free, vegan, soy-free)

 

Happy New Year to you and your family!

Habanero Hot Sauce

habanero hot sauce

Early in the spring, I planted several pepper plants – one bell pepper, one jalapeno, and one habanero. Unfortunately, cucumber-pocalypse happened, and the cucumbers dwarfed these plants. You couldn’t even see them. I thought my pepper season was a flop. But when the cucumbers gave up the ghost, and I pulled up the vines, the plants were still there. So I opted to nurture them a bit and try for a fall season full of peppers.

It wasn’t a bad season, in spite of everything. I had a good handful of bell peppers, a couple dozen jalapenos, and a couple dozen habaneros.

peppers and eggplant

Well, only a few ripe habaneros, truthfully. We had a cold snap a few weeks ago, and even though I covered my plants, the pepper plant didn’t survive, so I pulled a bunch of green habaneros. They actually ripened on the counter, much to my happiness.

Except then, I had to come up with something to do with over 2 dozen habanero peppers.

Hot sauce was the answer!

I love a good hot sauce. I’m a big believer in Sriracha and Slap Ya Mama, but would never hesitate to try a new sauce. A few drops of a good sauce can make tamales sing, turn my boring breakfast of hard-boiled eggs into a delight, and can turn a bowl of chili into my favorite meal ever. This sauce can do all of these things.

Caution: it’s not for the timid. Habaneros definitely pack a punch. Just a few drops will do. But it’s more than just searing heat…there’s a subtly sweet background, thanks to some carrot and a touch of brown rice syrup. The sweetness compliments the peppery heat of the habanero perfectly. I can’t wait to use it on everything imaginable. I may or may not be planning my meals for next week around the ability to apply this stuff.

Of course, it’s great as a homemade, edible gift as well. The holidays are coming up, and sometimes a small, homemade gift can mean a lot. I am a fan of making edible gifts, and this is definitely something you could make ahead of time, pour into a cute bottle, and give to your favorite chili-head. I happen to have one of those in my family. If I don’t eat it all myself, there might just be a bottle in this person’s future. Or maybe I just need more habaneros. We shall see.

Print Recipe

Habanero Hot Sauce (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)

About 20 habanero peppers

4 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 c distilled white vinegar

1/2 c water

1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1/4 c lemon juice

1 t kosher salt

1 t smoked paprika

2 t brown rice syrup

Before you start to handle the habaneros, please be cautious. These are pretty hot. Wear gloves when touching the peppers, or you will regret it, as the hot oils will seep into your hands. If they don’t burn your hands, then when you touch more sensitive areas (your lips, tongue, eyes, etc.) it will burn, and that’s no joke.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start by cutting each pepper in half, removing the stem, and scraping out the inside and the seeds. Cut each garlic clove into 3-4 pieces. Place in a single layer on a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper and roast for about 20 minutes or until brown on top. Keep an eye on them, as you don’t want them to burn. (Another note: you may want to open up a window, as this process can get pretty fragrant. I was sneezing just a bit.)

While the peppers and garlic are roasting, place the water, vinegar and carrot in a small saucepan and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the carrot is soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Place the peppers, garlic, carrots and vinegar in a blender, along with lemon juice, salt, smoked paprika, and the brown rice syrup. Blend, scraping down the sides as needed, until completely smooth. If it’s too thick, then water and vinegar, alternating a few tablespoons at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

Taste the sauce (be careful, just a few drops would be enough!) and adjust your seasonings as needed.

Store sauce in a glass jar or bottle, refrigerated, for several weeks.

Apple Pie Spice “Un-Popcorn”

thanksgiving popcornI can’t believe I’ve never managed to share this little gem of a holiday recipe with you. I will admit, I’ve made it several times already. You’ll have to forgive me for not doing so sooner.

You see, typically the Thanksgiving holiday is a whirlwind for me. I’m often working at the ol’ day job up until the Wednesday before, and we usually have around 20+ people to feed. I try to do as much advance preparation as possible, but it’s still a busy, busy holiday.

Let me tell you, when I finally sit down after dinner, the glass of wine I decide to enjoy is often the best glass of wine ever.

Somehow, in that whirlwind, I’ve never made this pre-dinner Thanksgiving snack far enough in advance to share. Well, friends, this year is your lucky year. I’ve made it already, and so I can share it with you.

But why “un-popcorn”?

Truthfully, I love popcorn. I don’t eat it often, but when I do, I thoroughly enjoy it. You can certainly make this with popcorn. But I have some family members that cannot tolerate corn products. For those family members, I have opted to make a popcorn alternative. I promise you, it’s just as satisfying as the real deal. What do I use?

Why, rice cakes, of course!

I’ve done it before, in this “granola“. Crumbled rice cakes make an excellent stand-in for popcorn. They’re light and airy, and hold up perfectly to the caramel-y topping. I’m a big fan of Lundberg’s rice cakes – they’re gluten-free and they have versions that are lightly salted, which are my preference for a recipe such as this. And no, I’m not paid to tell you that – I just like their products.

This “un-popcorn” is easy to make – just crumble rice cakes, and then simmer maple syrup and spices, pour, toss, and bake. The result is a sweet and salty, crunchy mixture that just feels like Thanksgiving, thanks to the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. The dried cranberries and walnuts definitely help out that Thanksgiving feel as well. My personal favorite, however, is the black pepper. It’s a perfect foil to the sweeter spices, and keeps it in that “appetizer” category and away from feeling too much like a dessert.

Whether you make this with real popcorn or faux, I encourage you to add this to your Thanksgiving menu. It’ll keep the hungry masses at bay while you make the finishing touches to the big meal, and it’s very more-ish. I’m certain it’ll be a hit that will keep you coming back to it, year after year.

Print Recipe

Apple Pie Spice ”Un-Popcorn” (gluten-free, vegan)

1 package Lundberg lightly salted rice cakes, crumbled

3/4 c chopped walnuts

1/2 c dried cranberries

2 T coconut oil

3/4 c maple syrup

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground cardamom

1/4 t ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the oven racks on the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add the crumbled rice cakes, walnuts, and dried cranberries and toss.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt to a boil. Add the black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg and whisk in. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 4-5 minutes. Pour over rice cake mixture and stir well, making sure everything is evenly coated.

Divide mixture between the two prepared baking sheets and spread out into an even layer. Bake on the lower and upper racks for 5 minutes, and then swap the baking sheets and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Break into smaller chunks. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

Nose to Tail: Head Cheese

head cheese

Yes. I realize the way that sounds. Head cheese. I can picture many of your facial expressions now, because I saw similar ones in the few people I told about this project face-to-face. But hear me out.

I’m a big proponent of nose-to-tail eating. After all, if we must eat a living thing – and everything we eat was once living – then we shouldn’t waste it. This means finding ways to use parts many are used to throwing away. Radish tops. Turkey or chicken bones. Broccoli leaves. And yes, a pig’s head.

I split a hog with a friend a few months ago. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying the bacon, chops, roasts, and sausage. But I’d also asked the boy (He was raising hogs for college money.) if I could have the head. He gave me two. They occupied space in my freezer for about two months before I finally carved out the time to tackle one.

When the time came though, it was a breeze. Only slightly more difficult than making stock, and considerably less tough than making a proper terrine. It was surprising how much meat really comes from a hog head. There’s a great deal from the tongue and cheeks. I had enough to fill a 9″ X 5″ loaf pan with ease. I also had an added bonus – about 7 quarts of golden, delicious, porky broth. I’ll certainly enjoy using that for soups and stews throughout the winter.

The head cheese is deliciously meaty, and somewhat rich, but not overly so. We enjoyed thin slices on crackers, accompanied by cheeses, various pickles, apple slices, grainy mustard, and an egg salad. It makes a lovely cold lunch, and a nice change to a more typical salami or other cold meat. I was glad to have made it.

But most of all, I’m glad for the experience. There’s something about making a food that most others have long forgotten, and using a part of an animal most throw away. I’m looking forward to the other hog head, although I’m more planning on dedicating that one to tamales.

head cheese overhead

 Print Recipe

Head Cheese (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)

1 pig’s head

2-3 bay leaves

12 peppercorns

1 sprig fresh rosemary

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

3 T kosher salt, plus more to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Fresh ground black pepper

Place the pig’s head in a large stockpot (I had to use my huge tamale pot to make it fit). Place the bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, and salt in the pot and fill with enough water to just cover the head.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for about 6-8 hours, or until meat is falling apart and tender.

Carefully remove the meat and bones from the stock and set on a platter. Once cool enough to touch, pick apart the meat and collagen material and place in a bowl. You can opt to include bits of skin as well if you choose. Skin the tongue and include the tongue meat as well. Chop the meat into 1/2 inch dice. Toss with the lemon juice and more salt, plus fresh pepper, until it is to your taste.

Simmer the remaining stock until it has sufficient “gelling” capability. You can test this by putting a spoonful in a small bowl and chilling it. If it gels, you’re good. If it doesn’t, reduce the stock more.

Line a terrine or loaf pan (I used a 9″ X 5″ loaf pan) with plastic wrap. Spoon all of the meat into the prepared pan. Pour in just enough of the pork stock to cover the meat, and press everything down. Wrap securely, pressing down the wrap to ensure the mixture fills the entire mold. Refrigerate overnight. Keeps for about a week.

 

Coconut Oil Kettle Corn

There are just a few days left for the State Fair of Texas. We actually visited this year – the first time I’ve been since I was a kid. It was fun – lots of things to see and do, and of course, tons of food to eat. Way more than anyone could possibly eat, much less afford. And if you’re following a gluten-free diet, there isn’t much that’s safe.

Good thing you can make a standard fair favorite at home! No, not Fried Thanksgiving Dinner (although that might be possible…). I’m talking about Kettle Corn – that deliciously salty-sweet, crunchy treat that’s so irresistible when fresh.

Sure, you can buy microwave kettle corn at the store, but it’s just not all that good. This version takes only the smallest additional effort, and it’s so worth it. Just a few ingredients in a pot, a few minutes over the stove, and a quick toss in a bowl, and you have a treat that will definitely be a favorite among kids and adults alike. It’s also an excellent, simple addition for a Halloween party snack table.

You could also fancy it up any number of ways. Toss a pinch or two of cayenne in, or cinnamon. Add peanuts or candy once you get to the stirring phase. I’d be happy with any of those variations – but the simple, basic recipe is always enough to make me happy. I’m sure you could also store the leftovers for the following day with ease, although I personally wouldn’t know. There’s never any leftovers to be had.

Print Recipe

Coconut Oil Kettle Corn (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

3 T coconut oil (I used unrefined coconut oil)

1/2 c organic, non-GMO popcorn kernels

1/4 c granulated sugar

3/4 t kosher salt

In a 3-quart saucepan with a lid, add coconut oil, popcorn kernels, and sugar. Turn on to medium heat. Stir with a spoon until sugar and coconut oil starts to melt just a bit. Once everything starts to heat up, cover the pot and shake intermittently, popping the corn, until the popping slows to 5 seconds between pops. Remove the popcorn from heat and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Immediately sprinkle the salt over and stir to coat the popcorn a bit more evenly with the melted sugar and salt. Serve.

Serves 2-4.