Category Archives: Rice

Asparagus, Kale, and Mushroom Brown Rice “Risotto”

veggie risotto blog

This past weekend was filled with a few more meals eaten out than usual. Meals of the slim-on-vegetables variety. While I enjoyed what I ate, I was ready for lighter fare. I opted to break out my brown rice, and load it up with all the fresh spring vegetables I could find. Which, after my Saturday trip to the farmer’s market, was quite a lot. I’m notorious for buying every pretty thing I see at the market, and then wondering how in the world I will manage to eat it all before it goes bad.

I don’t cook with brown rice all that often. I like it – especially short-grain – but frankly, I often feel like the 40-45 minute cook time is too long. Which is funny, because honestly, making dinner usually takes me at least that long, once you factor in the dishes I am doing beforehand (from our lunches taken to work) and all. If I simply throw the rice on the stove to cook first thing, then tend to the dishes and the rest of the prep for this dish, it honestly doesn’t take any “extra time” at all. Dinner still happened at “normal” time. It was well worth it.

I mean, check out that result. The brown rice is nutty and slightly chewy, and holds up perfectly to this ”risotto” style dish. With a ton of vegetables, and just a splash of cream to tie it together, it’s light and flavorful, and fresh, and plenty filling enough to be considered a main dish if you choose. And while it does have some dairy, it’s easily made dairy-free and/or vegan with a few simple swaps.

So go ahead – go gangbusters at the farmer’s market! Throw caution to the wind! Grab all the fresh green veggies that catch your eye. Throw them all together in this risotto, and you’ll be sure they’ll be enjoyed, rather than ending up sad and forgotten in the crisper. You won’t be sorry.

Print Recipe

Asparagus, Kale, and Mushroom Brown Rice “Risotto” (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

2 1/4 c stock (chicken or vegetable)

1 c short-grain brown rice

2 T butter or olive oil

4 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered (or cut into eighths if they are large)

1 green onion, minced

1 small head green garlic, minced (can use 2 cloves of regular garlic if you don’t have green garlic)

1 t fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1/2 c white wine

8 oz asparagus spears, cut into 1/2-inch lengths

8 oz frozen peas, thawed

1 c chopped fresh kale (I used Red Russian, but you can use any variety)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T butter or olive oil

1 T cream (can use almond, soy, or coconut milk for vegan)

2-3 T shaved parmesan (omit for vegan)

1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Add rice and reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook for 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.

Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add butter/olive and allow to heat for a minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Add the green onion, garlic, and thyme leaves and sauté an additional minute or until fragrant. Add the white wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has evaporated. Add the asparagus, peas, and kale and sauté for a minute or until the asparagus is bright green and heated through.

Add the rice and stir in, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Finally, stir in the butter/olive oil and cream. Serve, topped with parmesan and fresh parsley.

Serves 4.

 

Arroz Con Pollo

arroz con pollo

Somehow, it seems that I never managed to make arroz con pollo. It just never appeared on the “to do” list. Obviously, this was a terrible oversight on my part. Now that I’ve made it, I’m not quite sure how I got by without it all these years.

I realized that I’d made this oversight this past week, (Okay, so I was watching Top Chef and one of the chefs made Spanish arroz con pollo. Top Chef is one of my guilty pleasures.) and started to research recipes. I looked at Spanish versions, Cuban versions, and all sorts of other variations. Some recipes called for a ton of peppers, some, none at all. Some called for long grain rice, others, short-grain. Some used saffron, some annatto, and some turmeric. A few versions called for olives, and I even came across a recipe that used beer. After my research, I then decided to compile snippets of each recipe and make my own. It leans towards Cuban, but I won’t attest to its authenticity, as I’m not Cuban and have not had the pleasure of enjoying any Cuban food other than what has come out of my own kitchen. (Someone should really help me rectify this…are there any good Cuban restaurants in Dallas? Can someone fly me somewhere where there are good Cuban restaurants, please?) But regardless of origin, it was a hit with my husband and me. We ate until our bellies were full, enamored by the flavorful, slightly sticky Valencia rice with its aroma of saffron and tomato. The chicken was tender and echoed the same flavors as the rice. The jarred roasted red peppers added a perfect piquant punch that complemented the creamy, sticky rice.

Comfort food at its finest. We’ll be having this again, I promise!

Print Recipe

Arroz con Pollo (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 3-4 lb chicken, cut into 8 parts

1 t dried oregano

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t black pepper

3/4 t kosher salt

1 T red wine vinegar

2 T olive or coconut oil

1 c finely chopped onion

1/2 c red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c tomato puree

1 c white wine

3 c chicken stock

1/4 t saffron threads

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 lb Valencia or other short-grain rice (Arborio is an acceptable substitute)

1 c frozen green peas, thawed

Jarred roasted red peppers, for garnish (optional)

Blot the chicken dry with paper towels. Toss the chicken in a large bowl with the oregano, cumin, pepper, salt, and red wine vinegar. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil to medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or other casserole dish. Brown chicken pieces all over, 2-3 minutes per side. (I did this in batches) Set chicken aside on a platter.

Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the remaining oil in the Dutch oven, and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook for another minute. Add back the chicken, wine, chicken stock, and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the rice in a fine-meshed strainer and rinse until water runs clear. Drain. When the chicken has simmered for 25 minutes, add the rice and stir in. Bring to a boil again and reduce to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. (If you peek in on it and it seems too dry, you can add a bit of water and stir.) When it’s just about finished, stir in the peas.

Garnish with roasted red peppers and serve.

Serves 4-6.

 

Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Before I went gluten-free, I would often treat myself to Vietnamese for lunch. A gigantic bowl of steaming pho and summer rolls could turn even the most difficult of days into a better one. There is something just so satisfying to me about the bold, in-your-face flavors of those two dishes. They’re addictive, but in a good way.

But after going gluten-free, I’ve had trouble finding a good pho shop. While many ingredients in both pho and summer rolls are gluten-free, there are still a lot of hurdles. The hoisin sauce often used in the pho is full of gluten. Who knows how they prepared the broth. And while most rice noodles are indeed made with just rice, some aren’t. So I usually opt to make my own.

Summer rolls, or salad rolls, are a fresh roll consisting of an assortment of vegetables, rice vermicelli, and possibly a meat or seafood, all wrapped up in rice paper, and served cold or at room temperature. They’re not deep fried like egg rolls. Not sure how they arrived at the name “summer roll”, but it fits – they are so perfect for a hot summer day. I could eat tons of them.  Like I said, they’re addictive.

These rolls take a bit of preparation, but once you have all of the ingredients ready, they’re fairly simple to assemble. And they keep well for a day or two, which is a nice bonus. They might keep longer, but I wouldn’t know – I’ve never had them last that long!

Print Recipe

Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce (gluten-free, dairy-free)

For the rolls:

1/2 t fish sauce (can use gluten-free soy sauce instead)

1/2 t fresh lemongrass (can use lime zest instead)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil

8 oz medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

6 oz dried rice vermicelli

16-18 round rice papers

1 head of green leaf lettuce, leaves separated and torn into 2-3 inch pieces

1 c julienned carrots

1 c julienned red bell pepper

1 c julienned cucumber

1 c julienned daikon radish

1 mango, cut into thin slivers

18-24 each mint leaves and basil leaves, or substitute with Thai basil, if you can find it

For the dipping sauce:

1 t olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced finely

3 T gluten-free soy sauce

1 T honey

1 T chili garlic sauce

1/4 c creamy peanut butter

1/4 c water

In a medium bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, grated lemongrass, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the shrimp and stir to coat. Marinate the shrimp for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water. Remove from heat, add the rice vermicelli and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and add olive oil, swirling to coat. Cook the shrimp in a single layer on the skillet for about 2 minutes, flip, and cook until shrimp is cooked through and pink, another 3 minutes or so. Remove and allow to cool a bit. When cool enough to handle, slice the shrimp through down the middle of its back.

Place about 1 inch of room temperature water in a large baking dish. Get all of your ingredients ready for assembly. Dip a rice paper in the water for about 2 seconds. Lift and allow water to drip off. Place on a clean, dry work surface. Blot off the top with a paper towel. (You’ll want to blot your work surface in between rolls as well)

Lay 3-4 halves of the shrimp in a line near the bottom third of the rice paper. Top with a leaf of lettuce, vermicelli, and the veggies and mango, topping with a mint leaf and basil leaf or two. Starting with the side closest to you, roll the roll tight, tucking the sides in periodically as you go, stopping halfway to tug back on the roll to tighten. Once rolled up, the paper will seal onto itself. Transfer roll to a platter and cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying. Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients.

For the dipping sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat and add oil and garlic. Saute for a minute or until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well, until warm. If the sauce is too thick, add more water.

Makes about 4 servings.

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto

Risotto, to me, is an ultimate comfort food. It’s creamy, starchy, and warm – all attributes of comfort food in most people’s minds. And while this version is gluten and dairy-free, and relatively low in undesirables as far as healthfulness is concerned (it’s not comprised of processed foods and has a moderate amount of healthy fat), it’s still on the “special occasion” list for me, as it is a less-healthy grain than say, brown rice. That being said, this is deliciously indulgent without wrecking your waistline. And with the bright flavors of lemon and fresh herbs, it’s also a lovely dish for spring.

I originally found a lemon risotto over at What’s For Lunch Honey, and this recipe is based off of Meeta’s. Of course, I adjusted to my needs and what I had on hand, much to our delight as we sat down for dinner the other night. With a few seared scallops to top our risotto, suddenly, all was right with the world. We slowed to savor each bite – the scallops were so unbelievably sweet, which elevated the sunny notes in the risotto. It was a comfort dish for sure, but a lighter version – one that definitely welcomes spring.

Seared Sea Scallops with Lemon Herb Risotto, inspired by What’s For Lunch, Honey

1 quart of chicken or vegetable stock

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 carrots, diced

1 t fresh thyme leaves, minced

1 c Arborio rice

1/2 c light white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

2 lemons, zest and juice

Salt and pepper to taste

2 T chopped fresh parsley

1 T chopped fresh tarragon

1 lb sea scallops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil

2 T hulled pumpkin seeds (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring stock to a simmer. In a large skillet or low-sided saucepan, heat oil to medium heat and add onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme. Saute until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. If vegetables start to color, lower heat – you want them soft, but not brown. Add rice and continue to saute for another minute or so, stirring, to make sure each kernel is coated with oil. Add wine and deglaze pan, stirring to ensure any bits are scraped up. Cook, continuing to stir, until wine is nearly evaporated. Add a ladle-full or two of the stoc into the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is nearly absorbed, and add another ladle. Continue with this process until the rice becomes plump and gives up a lot of starch, making the rice appear creamy. This should take about 20 minutes. Once your rice is nearing done, bite into a piece to check the doneness. In the center of the rice grain, there shouldn’t be more than a pinhead-sized white dot. This is al dente.

Meanwhile, while you are stirring your rice and it’s nearing done, pat the scallops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat another skillet to medium-high heat and add oil. Once hot, add scallops and allow to cook undisturbed for a minute, or until scallop releases easily from the skillet and has a golden brown crust. Turn over and sear the other side. Be careful not to overcook the scallops – you want them to be slightly firm and not mushy, but you definitely don’t want rubbery. This should only take a few minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Once your risotto is al dente, add lemon zest, juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add herbs and stir in. Serve immediately in low, shallow bowls, and top with a few scallops. Sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds over as garnish, if desired.

Serves 4.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger: Gluten Free For Good and Sauteed Lettuce and Brown Rice Bowl

This month, Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger kind of snuck up on me. Lexie at Lexie’s Kitchen was hosting, and I read her announcement a week ago. I realized I hadn’t picked a blogger to adopt, and I knew that I was going to be swamped with a training class for work all week, leaving next to no time to cook. I really wanted to adopt Melissa at Gluten Free For Good, so I started scouring her site for recipes. I’ve made a version of her red chile enchilada pizza before with Udi’s crust (a deliciously evil treat!), but I didn’t have time for that. A long while back, I’d made a version of her sweet and spicy moroccan stew, and the warming spice blend in that recipe really tugged at me, but there was no time for that either. And then I came across her sauteed lettuce and brown rice bowl. I had lots of leftover romaine lettuce in the fridge that needed to be eaten, and while I was regularly incorporating it into green smoothies (a great alternative to the in-a-hotel conference/training breakfast, which usually consists of some variety of pastry or donut – while everyone else was likely crashing from an overload of sugar, my brain was primed with a nutrient-rich breakfast), there was more available than I could feasibly blend before it went bad. I decided that I’d whip up this recipe one evening for dinner – it wasn’t complicated, and it came together very quickly.

I already had cooked brown rice in the fridge (this is an often occurrence for me), so preparation simply consisted of chopping a bit of vegetables. I omitted the cheese in the recipe to make it dairy-free, but generously topped it with toasted sunflower seeds and some chopped parsley. It was a light dish, with a bit of crunch left in the ribs of the lettuce, but the wilted portions were silky and gave the dish a lovely textural contrast. The sesame seed (gomasio) topping really elevated the dish, reminding me of a lighter version of an Asian-style sauteed bok choy or other green. I enjoyed the leftovers the following morning, cold, topped with a bit of cold sliced egg omelette. Delightful, and it kept my belly happy all morning.

Melissa’s blog is one that I always enjoy reading. She shares recipes, sure, but perhaps even more valuable are her nutritional and health-based stories. I loved her “fuzz” post – worthwhile reading for anyone looking to keep their bodies free from stiffness and inflammation and generally happy and healthy. And her “does my butt look big” post was not only entertaining, but so much so that I couldn’t help but share with my husband. (who responded with a non-chalant “yeah, I already knew that” type of response – as if he always knew his “big-butt” wife was smart. I didn’t complain.) Melissa is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to health, nutrition, fitness, but most importantly, overall well-being, and she has a knack for making this information readily available to the average Joe. I still have more of Melissa’s recipes that I’d love to try – her pumpkin pecan boyfriend bait being my first choice. (I’m a sucker for anything pecan.) Soon, I hope, this will appear in my kitchen – because for me, pumpkin and pecan are year-round good!

Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger: Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

This month I adopted one of my favorite gluten-free bloggers – Tom and Ali of Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. Their blog is full of delicious gluten-free healthy options, many of them also vegetarian/vegan and dairy-free. I also happen to own their cookbook,  which also happens to be one of my favorites. When it came time to pick my ”adoptee” for Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger this month, I figured I was way overdue to actually blog about their wonderful recipes.

When browsing the recipes on their site, I happened to come across a wild rice dressing recipe that caught my attention. While it is after Thanksgiving, I actually gave away all of my turkey leftovers this year to family members. Lucky for me, I bought an extra turkey, and so this past Sunday, we had Thanksgiving 2.0 at our home, just so I could then make delicious recipes with the leftover meat. But I didn’t want an exact duplicate of our Thanksgiving dinner – and so this wild rice dressing was just the thing. I halved the recipe (which still made quite a lot!), and opted to simply bake it all in a casserole dish. It came out so beautifully – I love the nuttiness of the rice, the crunch of the pecans, and the sweetness of the apple and cranberries. I could eat it for breakfast – no joke. It was that good.

Not that it’s any surprise – every recipe I’ve tried from Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen has been good! Ali and Tom share amazing raw “caramel” apple dip that would make any kid (and adult) smile. Their nori rolls are a great way to enjoy a light and healthy lunch. If you haven’t checked out Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, I highly suggest insist that you visit. You won’t be sorry!

Gluten-Free Holiday: Thanksgiving Favorites – Vegan Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole

This week’s Gluten-Free Holiday is all about Thanksgiving Favorites, and is hosted by Shirley at Gluten-Free Easily. Shirley is sharing a delicious no-fail pie crust over at Gluten-Free Easily, and is giving away multiple copies of two amazing books. Just look at how awesome this pie crust is. And no rolling of the dough. I love Shirley for her super-simple recipes! Definitely check it out. She also shares other amazing Thanksgiving recipes and tips that are sure to make your big day easier!

photo courtesy of Shirley Braden of Gluten-Free Easily

 

Vegan Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole

 

But first, let me share with you about a new-and-improved version of a Thanksgiving favorite in our home. As much as I love to experiment with recipes, sometimes (at least, with our family), Thanksgiving isn’t the time to spring a “new” version of a favorite. At least, not with everyone. And if it’s a variation, it still has to have the “feel” of the original dish, or else I might risk someone missing out on their once-a-year comfort foods. My broccoli cheese rice casserole is one such dish. I’m sure you’ve heard of the dish before; it ranks up there with green bean casserole in popularity around this time of year. And traditionally, it’s a dish filled with processed ingredients – a can of cream of mushroom soup, some processed cheese food, and frozen broccoli. In years past, I improved the dish (and made it gluten-free) by replacing the canned soup with a homemade mushroom soup. Everyone loved the depth of flavor that soup provided, and I couldn’t make anything else but that dish.

Fast forward to this year. This is my first dairy-free Thanksgiving. I knew I would be making a broccoli cheese rice casserole regardless, but I truly wanted to partake in the dish as well. In the back of my mind, I knew that if my dairy-free version failed, I’d concede and make the processed-cheese version. But I had to try to make it gluten-free and vegan, and make it taste good enough to please the dairy-eaters at the Thanksgiving table. Making a dairy-free “cream” of mushroom soup would be pretty easy. But a dairy-free version of the famous processed cheese? How would I go about accomplishing that?

This is when I remembered a post on The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. Ali was reviewing Alisa Fleming’s book, Go Dairy Free, and she posted a recipe for dairy-free nacho cheese sauce. I’d made it before (for nachos), and it was quite tasty. I opted to try it as an “unprocessed” processed cheese substitute. And to my delight, it worked! The casserole was so similar in texture and taste, I was delighted. When Matt came into the kitchen, the casserole caught his eye, and he asked for a bite. Of course, I indulged him, and he loved it. My husband exclaimed that if I hadn’t told him it was dairy-free, he wouldn’t have known the difference. It was tasty. My switcharoo had worked!

So while this is no longer an easy “dump-and-go” recipe, it is much improved from the preservative-laden, gluten and dairy-filled version of the original casserole. (Besides, in my mind, Thanksgiving is a time to share dishes that might take a bit more labor in the name of love!) A hint – the soup and the cheese sauce can be made ahead of time and frozen. Just thaw and use in the recipe as usual. Also, the casserole can be assembled and refrigerated overnight, keeping the actual work on Thanksgiving day to a minimum. This is my plan, as I also am in charge of the turkey (I use Alton Brown’s Good Eats turkey recipe every year – it is always so moist and delicious, I hesitate to want to change!) and a myriad of other gluten-free dishes!

What are some of your gluten-free Thanksgiving favorites? What will you make this year? Visit over at Gluten-Free Easily and share, and enter for a chance to win these amazing cookbooks:Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O’Dea

and The Spunky Coconut Cookbook by Kelly V. Brozyna

 To enter, head on over to Gluten-Free Easily and check it out!

 

Vegan Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole

 ¼ c Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread (or grapeseed oil)

½ c chopped yellow onion

16 oz frozen chopped broccoli

1 c vegan “condensed” cream of mushroom soup (recipe follows)

1 ¼ c vegan nacho “cheese”

2 c cooked long-grain rice (I used Basmati)

¼ t celery salt

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3 c Daiya cheese (or other non-dairy cheese)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt buttery spread in a large sauté pan at medium meat. Add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Add broccoli and sauté, stirring occasionally, until no longer frozen. Add soup, nacho cheese, and rice. Stir and allow to warm through. Add celery salt, salt, and pepper to taste. Transfer to an 8X8 baking dish. Sprinkle with Daiya cheese. (can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point, just cover with plastic wrap.)

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

 

Vegan “Condensed” Cream of Mushroom Soup

2 T grapeseed oil

¾ c chopped shallots

1 lbs white mushrooms, sliced

1 lbs crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 t fresh thyme leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 c cream sherry

3 T potato starch

1 c vegetable broth

½ c almond milk

¼ t freshly ground nutmeg

Juice of ½ lemon

In a large saucepan, heat oil to medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add mushrooms and thyme leaves, and sauté for 7-8 minutes or until mushrooms release their juices and get soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add sherry and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices are nearly all evaporated. Add potato starch and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add broth and stir. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree the soup using a stick blender (or puree in batches using a regular blender), and place back over heat. Add almond milk, nutmeg, and lemon juice and stir well. Season to taste with salt as needed.

(For a regular, non-condensed soup, add an additional 2-3 cups of broth)

Gluten-Free Fall Specials: Adzuki Beans and Rice

Have you ever visited Iris over at The Daily Dietribe? If not, what better time than now? The Daily Dietribe is full of gluten-free, allergy-friendly, healthy recipes, and honest discussions of weight loss, self-image, and healthy living. I’m a subscriber, that’s for sure. I always anxiously await her posts. So when she asked if I could create a guest post for her blog, I happily agreed.

You see, Iris is currently in the middle of a big move and a big life change – one worth celebrating. She is moving from the East Coast to Washington state to pursue a Masters in Nutrition at Bastyr University. I commend her. A cross-country move alone is a big decision; to continue education is even bigger!

I decided to share my recipe for masala-spiced adzuki beans and rice for her Gluten-Free Fall Specials, as the dish is humble, comforting, and warming – all attributes I seek out in the fall. Additionally, it’s a healthy recipe – vegan, gluten-free, and full of nutrients. Head on over to The Daily Dietribe to check it out!

Lamb Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash or Zucchini

 

I love stuffed vegetables. I think it’s because of the whole meal-in-one-package appeal. Or maybe it’s like a surprise is hiding inside an already delicious vegetable. Or maybe the real truth is that the flavors meld and do wonderful things in the oven, and the results are greater than the sum of their parts. Whatever the reason, I felt that it was worth turning the oven on in the middle of July so I could enjoy the lovely mix of fresh flavors in this dish.

We’ve been eating a lot of lamb again lately. In May, we purchased another whole, organically raised, grass-fed lamb from Good Earth Organic Farm. This has to be the best lamb my husband and I have ever tasted. I’m sorry to say that I have not really shared a lot of recipes that I’ve made with it. That’s not on purpose, I promise. There are just days when the camera doesn’t seem to make its way to a plate of food before the food is eaten at our house – especially when lamb chops are involved. And many times, I neglect to write down the recipe as I go. Before the chops are gone, though, I will promise you that I will share my no-fail way to make perfect lamb chops. It’s simple, easy, and delicious.

Anyway, today, we’re not talking about lamb chops. We’re talking about the ground lamb I used for the eight-ball zucchini found at the farmer’s market. I love to embrace the flavor of lamb by adding fresh, bright flavors – herbs work well here. I am growing lemon thyme in my garden this year, and it pairs beautifully with lamb. If you don’t have lemon thyme, regular thyme or rosemary also work well. I went with my instinct on the rest of the seasonings, feeling that a bit of Mediterranean flair would work in my favor. I incorporated za’atar (a spice blend of sumac and sesame seeds) and a touch of cinnamon. The result was bursting with flavor, and without the addition of cheese (a popular ingredient in many stuffed vegetables), it was light – perfect for a summer meal.

If you can’t find eight-ball squash, don’t despair. Making boats out of zucchini would work well, or you could also use bell peppers, or even tomatoes. When winter squashes start appearing in the coming months, I can imagine this stuffing in an acorn squash would also be amazing (that’s when fresh rosemary would really play well). Yum. I’m hungry again just talking about this!

Lamb-Stuffed Eight-Ball Squash

4 eight-ball squash

1 T olive oil

¼ c red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

½ t lemon thyme leaves

6 oz ground lamb

1/2 t za’atar

½ t ground cumin

1/8 t cinnamon

Pinch crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c cooked brown rice

½ t lemon zest

1 T lemon juice

1 T parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the tops off of the squash and with a paring knife and/or a melon baller, scoop out the insides of the squash, leaving about ½ inch of flesh in tact. Chop the insides and set aside. Place the squash on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 4 minutes. Remove and place squash in a baking pan (I used an 8X8 inch glass baking dish). Season the insides with salt. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 minute. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the tomato and chopped squash “insides” and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down. Remove and set aside. Season the ground lamb with za’atar, ground cumin, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Wipe the skillet clean and add ground lamb. (if your lamb is really lean, you might need to add additional oil to the pan first.) Saute until meat is no longer pink. Add the sautéed vegetables and the rice to the pan and stir. Add lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in parsley.

Spoon the filling into the squash. Top with the squash “lids”, if desired. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until squash is tender.

Serves 4.

Kids In The Kitchen: Fried Soft-Shell Crabs and Fried Rice

Yesterday morning was Brandan’s turn to visit the farmer’s market and pick out his “ingredient” for his turn in the kitchen. This time of year, the markets overflow with fresh vegetables and fruits – you can turn your head left and right and see onions, garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, peaches, zucchini, peppers, watermelon, berries – just about anything you could want. As we walk in, I ask Brandan if any of these things sound good to him. He mutters “not yet”, and then asks “Can we buy a raw onion so I can just eat it?” Struggling with my own “blech” factor (I’m okay with raw onion in small amounts, but to eat one whole, like an apple, seems bizarre to me), I tell him he can get one if he’d like. Then he spots the stand – an older gentleman is selling Gulf seafood.

We talk with the gentleman for a few minutes. Brandan has already gazed at his menu and has set his heart on soft shell crabs, although he’s never eaten one. I ask about the safety of the seafood from the Gulf (because isn’t this everyone’s question, lately?), and he assures me that he receives seafood from unaffected areas. However, the future of this is somewhat uncertain. I ask him how many crabs he has available. He has six. They’re frozen – not my first choice, but there was zero chance of talking Brandan out of this one. I purchase them all.

In an effort to then remind Brandan that we need a rounded meal, we head towards another booth, where a farmer has a staggering array of fruits and vegetables. He has both fresh white and fresh bi-color corn available, so we buy a few ears. We also pick up a huge orange-fleshed watermelon. Arms loaded (I also had my CSA share bag, plus a pork shoulder roast and about 12 pounds of beef short ribs – they were on special at Truth Hill Farms for $1.99/lb - I only did not take all that they had because a couple standing next to me wanted some), we stagger to the car and head home.

The gentleman selling the crabs told us that his favorite way to prepare them is to batter them and fry them for sandwiches. I ask Brandan if he would prefer to fry them or grill them – the only two ways I knew off the top of my head to prepare soft shell crabs. Brandan wishes to fry them. So then comes the question – how? Do we want to make them all gluten-free, or not gluten-free? My husband suggests that we fry one gluten-free first, and we prepare the rest using regular flour. This will be the first time I’ve allowed regular flour in my house since going gluten-free. Brandan thinks this is fine, and I agree.

I understand that there are a lot of different ways those with gluten intolerance handle their kitchens. Some are totally gluten-free. Some aren’t. For those that are not, there are even varying degrees of gluten-free, and most will say that there are some practices that occur in their kitchens to limit cross-contamination issues. My kitchen until yesterday only allowed packaged gluten-containing foods – breads, granola bars, cereals, an occasional frozen pizza, etc. If anything was to be cooked that contained gluten, there are a few pots, pans, and utensils in a designated drawer – the “gluten” cooking items. If someone was cooking with gluten and made a crumb-y mess, the area was always thoroughly cleaned before I’d go anywhere near it with food I was consuming. With the reintroduction of a small amount of flour into our kitchen, I knew the cleaning and cross-contamination potential would have to be addressed.

Brandan and I talked about the importance of thoroughly washing his hands, not flinging the flour around in the air and everywhere on the counters, and why we had to be sure that we followed the cooking in a certain order – the gluten-free crab had to be cooked first. With a few reminders along the way, we managed through it. I ensured that my freshly fried crab went covered, in the microwave, just so it could stay safely away from any potential airborne flour. And afterwards, the kitchen was cleaned top to bottom – the cabinets wiped, counters cleaned, and every appliance wiped down thoroughly. Even knobs were cleaned.

 Sounds like a lot of work just to fry a bit of crab? Perhaps, on a normal day. But after some long conversations with myself (and my husband), I want to be sure the “Kids in the Kitchen” times are about the kids. They’re not about my issues – and while I will always explain, if needed, that whatever they dream up might either a) not be enjoyed by me, because I can’t eat the gluten or dairy (and I explain where that ingredient lurks, so they gain understanding), so they can be prepared, and not disappointed, when I can’t share in the enjoyment of their food, or b) opt to make a modified version for everyone, or a modified version for me. I don’t wish to encourage or discourage either way - because these special times with the kids in the kitchen are about teaching them that cooking can be fun, and showing them how to prepare food for themselves. My goal here is to arm them with some knowledge and confidence to cook, so that when they are on their own, they realize that there is a better, cheaper, and healthier way than the drive-thru or frozen, packaged, prepared meals. As they don’t live at our house 24/7, and they don’t suffer from the same issues I do, I don’t focus on gluten-free living with them. (They get their healthy, mostly gluten-free meals when it’s Mom’s turn in the kitchen!)

Anyway, on to the meal. We served the crabs with the fresh corn (none for me, as I’m realizing that corn gives me issues as well. Sigh.) and fried rice. Yes, a bit of an awkward combination perhaps, but it tasted good, and it was Brandan’s choice, after all! He happily gobbled up the crab, and laid claim on all of the leftovers of the fried rice, insisting he was going to take it to his grandfather to show how good it was – “better than Papa’s,” he exclaimed. He had plans to tell Papa how he made it. I might have been beaming, just a little.

 

Fried Soft-Shell Crabs

1-2 quarts canola oil

6 soft shell crabs, cleaned

2 c gluten-free flour blend (I used a high-protein flour blend from a Living Without recipe, but you could use any gluten-free flour mix)

1/4 t cayenne powder

3/4 t fine sea salt

Lemons, for serving

Preheat the oil to 375 degrees in a large, heavy dutch oven. Meanwhile, mix together the flours, cayenne and the salt. Dredge each crab, one at a time, in the flour, and drop in the hot oil. Fry for 3 minutes or until golden brown and the crab is cooked through. Remove and allow to drain on paper towels. Season with additional salt if needed, and serve with lemons. Serves 4-6.

 

Meatless Fried Rice

3 T olive oil or peanut oil

4 eggs, scrambled

2 T chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 c cooked, cooled leftover rice (freshly steamed rice will not work – it will only turn into a sticky, gluey mess)

1 c peas (if frozen, thaw first)

2-3 T gluten-free soy sauce (I use San-J wheat-free tamari)

2 t sesame oil

Sriracha, for serving (I use Huy Fong)

Heat about 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or a large skillet until shimmering. Add the eggs and scramble quickly, until almost set. Remove and wipe pan clean. Add additional oil to pan and saute onion for 1 minute. Add garlic and saute for an additional 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir, and spread out into a single layer. Turn heat to high and allow rice to fry, undisturbed, for a minute or until you really hear the grains sizzle. Stir and spread out again, and allow to fry undisturbed for a minute. Add peas and stir, and add soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir and allow to fry, undisturbed, one more time. Add eggs and stir, and then taste to see if additional soy sauce is needed. Serve, drizzled with Sriracha if desired. Serves 6.

Note: This is not a hard-and-fast recipe. I rarely measure, and I often add additional vegetables to my fried rice, such as carrots, green onions, ginger, or even asparagus, bell peppers, or zucchini. The possibilities are endless – it’s a great way to eat up leftover bits!