Blog Archives

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!

2010 World Cup South Africa – Bobotie

This Friday, June 11, 2010, marks the opening day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup games, held in South Africa. Soccer is the most widely played and enjoyed sport around the world, and it’s certainly the most popular sport in our household. My husband has played nearly his entire life, growing up in city leagues, playing for school, and enjoying adult amateur soccer, both indoors and out. He introduced me to indoor soccer – I started playing about 9 years ago (my previous experience was only a single season as a kindergartner – many years ago!), and while I’m not likely to be called up to the WPS anytime soon, it’s a great way to stay in shape, challenge myself, enjoy time with friends, and blow off steam. At home, we subscribe to a lot of specialty cable TV stations, just so my husband can watch as many of his beloved Chelsea games as he can. Of course, when we tune in this Saturday to watch the United States play England, we’ll be cheering our Team USA the whole way.

In anticipation of the upcoming games, I realized I knew next to nothing about South African cuisine. So I worked to educate myself. Turns out, South African cuisine is a “rainbow of cuisines” (as described by Wikipedia), as it is comprised of a variety of sources and cultures, including the cuisines of the indigenous people of South Africa, such as the Khoisan and Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho-speaking people, Indian and British immigrants and their cuisines, the cuisines of the Cape Malay people, and cultures such as Portuguese Mozambique. This makes for a wide variety of dishes and tastes. I was unsure of where to start, so I found one of the most popular dishes in South Africa – bobotie.

Bobotie is a meat dish consisting of ground/minced beef or lamb topped with an egg “custard”. The spices remind me of Indian and Malaysian cuisine, with the use of curry and turmeric, but the inclusion of nuts and fruit reminds me of other African dishes. While it takes a bit of time to make, the dish is relatively straightforward. I sifted through recipes, and decided upon a Martha Stewart recipe that looked tasty. I served it with a cinnamon basmati rice, also a variation on her recipe, which was full of flavor and enticing aromas. It was a tasty meal, and a perfect introduction into South African cuisine. I certainly plan to make another dish or two soon – does anyone have recommendations?

If you wish to browse other South African recipes, check out Meeta’s Monthly Mingle – South Africa Roundup over at What’s For Lunch, Honey? Those dishes all look inviting!

Gluten-Free Bobotie, adapted from Martha Stewart

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped finely

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped coarsely

2 T minced fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

1 t ground turmeric

1 1/2 T Madras curry powder

2 lbs ground beef or lamb (I used lean ground bison)

1/2 c (1 oz) slivered almonds, toasted

4 slices gluten-free bread, crusts removed (I used Udi’s whole grain sandwich bread)

1 3/4 c whole milk

2 T mango chutney (or apricot preserves)

2 T fresh lemon juice

4 large eggs

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1 t finely grated lemon zest

4 dry bay leaves

Cilantro and mango chutney as accompaniments (Martha also suggests lemon or lime wedges and unsweetened coconut)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add onions, apple, and ginger, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add turmeric and curry powder and stir to combine. Add the ground meat, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in almonds and cook for 2 more minutes.

Tear the bread into large pieces and place in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let stand until the milk is absorbed. Add the bread mixture to the ground meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Stir in mango chutney and lemon juice, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed, adding salt and pepper.

Spoon ground meat mixture into a 6 to 8-cup shallow baking dish. Whisk eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest, and remaining milk in a medium bowl. Pour over ground meat mixture. Place bay leaves in dish, pressing into filling just a bit. Bake until set around edges and center is no longer runny, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with accompaniments and cinnamon basmati rice.

Serves 6.

Cinnamon Basmati Rice, adapted from Martha Stewart

1 T unsalted butter

1 c raw basmati rice, rinsed

1 whole bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 crushed green cardamom pod

2/3 c raisins

2 c water

salt and pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and saute until each grain is shiny and coated with butter mixture. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, and raisins to saucepan. Add water and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes more. Fluff and remove bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Daring Cooks: Risotto and Homemade Chicken Stock

When I read that Eleanor of Melbourne Food Geek and Jess of Jess The Baker chose risotto as the Daring Cooks’ challenge this month, I was excited. I love risotto – I’ve made a lot of variations, including a squash risotto I’ve made many times since this posting. Risotto is a definite family pleaser around here – and why not? It’s creamy, luscious, filling - the ultimate comfort food! But it’s only fairly recently that I discovered what can really make such a difference in the finished risotto, taking it from already-quite-delicious to oh-my-this-is-amazing. No, it’s not a fancy, expensive, hard-to-find secret ingredient.

It’s homemade chicken stock.

Yep, an unassuming, almost free ingredient (if you plan correctly) makes a key difference in your risotto – or any recipe calling for stock, for that matter. Why? Well, canned stock, while satisfactory in a pinch, is insipid and lacking in the robust flavor that homemade stock can provide. When I make stock, I rarely follow a regimented recipe. Over time, I freeze leftover vegetables – carrots, celery, onions, etc., roasted leftover chicken bones, backs and wing tips from breaking down whole chickens. (I also buy chicken feet just for stock – they add a luscious gelatin, giving the stock more body.) I simply dump approximate amounts of vegetables, chicken bones, and parmesan rinds if I have them, and simmer, simmer, simmer until the stock has taken on a wonderful golden brown color and bursts with flavor. The wonderful thing about this is that it takes little effort on my part. It’s a great thing to make when I’m busy around the house, tending to other duties.

Anyway, back to risotto. For the challenge, I opted to make two risottos – one savory, one sweet. The savory risotto was straightforward – nothing fancy, just quality ingredients throughout. I was glad I kept it minimalistic, as I think this was the best risotto we’ve had to date. Sometimes, simplicity wins.

As for the sweet risotto, I would like to try again at tweaking the recipe further. In spite of the combination of flavors, the resulting risotto was rather one-note. I think adding the lemon zest towards the end of cooking would have made a difference in the brightness of flavors, and I may try for that next time. I also would love to try to add cardamom to the spices for additional depth of flavor. Still working on it, so if I come up with an amazing version, I’ll definitely share it with you!

Chicken Stock

1 lb chicken feet

1-2 lb chicken bones (leftover roasted bones are even better than raw)

1 onion, cut in half (don’t bother to peel)

2 carrots, chopped roughly (don’t bother to peel)

2 celery stalks, chopped roughly

1/4 c parsley (you can even use stems)

2 rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if you have them)

Place all items in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 4-5 hours, or until reduced nearly by half. Strain to remove bones and vegetables. Pour in glass jars and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. Scoop fat that has solidified on the top of the stock. The stock should be nice and gelled. You can freeze for months, or use within a week if refrigerated.

Risotto

5-6 cups chicken stock

2 T olive oil

2 T butter, divided

2 T minced onion or shallot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c Arborio rice

½ c white wine

¼ c parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ c fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Warm stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep warm.

In a large, shallow pan, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. When melted and starting to bubble, add onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes and add garlic. Saute an additional minute. Add Arborio rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until grains are turning white. Add white wine and stir through rice, cooking until nearly dry. Add 1 ladle of warmed stock and stir often, cooking until nearly dry. Repeat this process until the grains of rice are plump and start to give off a creamy texture (this should take about 20-30 minutes). You won’t have to stir continuously, but you should be stirring the rice at least every minute or so. When grains are just shy of al dente, add just a bit more stock, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and the parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve when rice grains are al dente, but not mushy, garnished with a bit of parsley.

Serves 4.

Sweet Risotto

1-2 T butter

1 c Arborio rice

1/4 c marsala

2-3 c milk plus 2 c water, warmed

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 c golden raisins

1/4 c currants

zest of 1 lemon

3-4 T agave nectar

3 T mascarpone cheese

1 T amaretto liqueur

1/4 c chopped almonds

In a large, shallow pan, heat butter over medium heat. When melted and starting to bubble, add rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until grains are turning white. Add marsala wine and stir through rice, cooking until nearly dry. Add 1 ladle of warmed milk/water mixture, vanilla bean, cinnamon, raisins, currants, agave nectar and lemon zest and stir often, cooking until nearly dry. Add another ladle of milk/water mixture, and repeat this process until the grains of rice are plump and start to give off a creamy texture (this should take about 20-30 minutes). You won’t have to stir continuously, but you should be stirring the rice at least every minute or so. When grains are just shy of al dente, add just a bit more milk/water and the mascarpone cheese. Taste and season with additional agave nectar as needed. Serve when rice grains are al dente, but not mushy, garnished with chopped almonds.

Serves 4.

My First Blogiversary and Surprise #7

crumble and surprise #7 020

Tasty Eats At Home turns 1 year old today! I cannot believe how much my blog has changed in the past year. When I decided to start this blog in 2008, it was a rather impulsive decision. I was rapidly becoming passionate about food and cooking at the time, reading anything and everything “food-related” that I could. I recently had become aware of Elise’s blog at Simply Recipes (the only food blog I was aware of at the time), and was impressed by her vast collection of recipes, mostly from her family. I thought to myself “What a great idea. I could share my recipes with my family and friends!” And with that, Tasty Eats At Home was born. Little did I know of the vast food blogging community that existed!

Since Tasty Eats At Home’s birth, I have created 84 posts (this will be #85). But more than mere numbers, these posts represent a lot of things to me. I debated a few weeks ago on whether or not to keep all of my posts. Some of the earliest recipes I am no longer terribly fond of, and some are without photos. Of those early posts that do have photos, they are not exceptional by any stretch. But after some consideration, (and some tweeting about it on Twitter!) I have decided to keep them all. Each post represents a moment in my life, and together, they represent the growth in my cooking abilities, my photography, and most of all, my writing. As frustrated as I can be at times when the photography just won’t work for me, or the right words just won’t come, I can look back and realize that Tasty Eats At Home is in a continual state of growth, and for that, I am proud.

Of course, Tasty Eats At Home would not be what it is, if it weren’t for the amazing support I have received. My husband constantly brags about Tasty Eats At Home to everyone he encounters, and that warms my heart. He is also my #1 critic of the dishes I prepare, helping me to grow and stay focused. My family is more than happy to help eat the dishes whenever they can as well, and critique accordingly! And to all of my fellow food bloggers – I can’t thank you enough for all the advice, recipes, and ideas we’ve shared!

But lest you all think I’ve gotten a big head, I wanted to share with you a recipe that in my mind and heart, brings everything back down to earth and close to home. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you: Surprise #7.

What is Surprise #7?

From what I can recall, there was a time when I was a child when we didn’t have much. My parents had to figure out how to feed three kids on a very limited budget. In addition, there were times my Mom was unavailable to make dinner, so the responsibility fell to my Dad. Dad was trying out various creations, only to have several of them fail to impress the kids. Determined, he created yet another budget-friendly dish: a concoction of rice, beans, ground beef, tomatoes and spices. This dish unanimously passed the “kid approval” test. We pondered what to call it…and after settling on “Surprise #7″, it was written down, and appeared on the menu on a regular basis. (Why Surprise #7? I don’t really know. I don’t recall Surprises #1-6…maybe they were the bad ones?)

Last night, I re-created this dish for our family. It is a very adaptable recipe. My version added frozen corn, and I used tomato puree rather than Dad’s choice of chopped tomatoes (I have some picky eaters in my household that will not eat tomato chunks). I also substituted brown rice for Dad’s white rice. It’s a tasty, no-frills, comforting dish that is quite kid-friendly, and with a few pantry staples on hand, can be thrown together in very little time. Perfect for feeding a hungry family on a budget – no wonder Dad created it!

Sometimes, re-visiting a dish from your childhood can invoke a lot of thoughts and feelings. Surprise #7 caused me to really think about Tasty Eats At Home and what cooking and food means to me, and so many of us. Cooking is an art, an expression, if you will. We all need food to nourish our bodies, but cooking allows food to become more than just a requirement – it morphs into an enjoyable, pleasureable experience. So we share the joy of cooking with others, with our friends, with our families, and it becomes a form of togetherness, and a way of connecting with one another. Creating Tasty Eats At Home has given me a way to more deeply connect with the joy that cooking brings to me and my family.

 Surprise #7 (adapted from my Dad)

1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb lean ground beef

14-oz can tomato puree (I used El Pato Tomato Sauce – it’s a tomato sauce with chiles, garlic and onion)

2 T chili powder

1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained

1 c frozen corn

2 T pickle juice

3 c steamed brown rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large, heavy skillet to medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onions, and saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add ground beef, breaking into small crumbles with your spoon or spatula, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add tomato sauce and chili powder, and stir. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, and add beans and corn. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes more or until everything is hot and your corn is cooked through. Add pickle juice and rice, and stir to incorporate. Salt and pepper to your liking. Optional: serve with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.

Serves 5-6, or maybe only 4 if you have hungry teenage boys.

This post has been linked to The W.H.O.L.E. Gang’s “Hamburger Helper” recipes.

Thai Curry Chicken Stir-fry

Here I am again, experimenting with asian food. This is not an authentic Thai recipe, but the flavors used are common in a lot of Thai cooking. Don’t be overwhelmed by the long list of ingredients, once you get started, everything cooks fairly quickly.  Once served, Sriracha (an asian hot chili sauce) is a great condiment if you like extra heat.

2 c chicken broth

1 T coarsely chopped cilantro stems

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 T minced ginger

2-3 star anise

 

1 jasmine rice

1 ½ c water

½ t salt

 

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into thin slices

1 t thai red curry paste (you can find this in the asian section of many supermarkets)

1 T peanut oil

1 T minced shallots

1 T minced garlic (1-2 cloves)

1 T minced ginger

3-4 thai bird chiles or 1 serrano chile, minced

4-5 shitake mushrooms, sliced

4 heads baby bok choy, chopped

1 t cornstarch

1 t soy sauce

1 T fish sauce

½ t brown sugar

1 lime

½ c chopped cilantro

6-8 basil leaves, chopped (preferably thai basil)

 

In a small saucepan, heat broth, cilantro stems, garlic, ginger, and star anise to boil, reduce to simmer. Let simmer 15-20 minutes, and strain using a fine-meshed sieve. Keep warm.

 

Heat water and salt in a medium saucepan to boiling, add rice. Stir, reduce heat to low and cover, cook for 15 minutes.

 

Mix thai red curry paste with chicken, set aside.

 

Heat a large skillet or wok to medium high heat. Add peanut oil, heat until shimmering. Add shallot, garlic, ginger, and thai chiles to skillet, cook for 2-3 minutes or until beginning to color and soften. Add chicken, and cook until chicken is just opaque, 3-4 minutes more. Add mushrooms and bok choy, stir to ensure even cooking. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. In a small bowl, whisk 1 c chicken broth with cornstarch. Add chicken broth mixture, soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar to skillet and stir. Turn temperature to low, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding chicken broth if sauce is too thick. Squeeze lime juice into sauce.

 

Serve rice with stir-fry, and sprinkle cilantro and basil on top.

Serves 4.

Saffron Veggie Rice

I dislike a lot of the boxed rice dishes they sell at the stores, most are loaded with salt. This is a tasty alternative, and is easy to make. This is wonderful with baked chicken.

2 cups steamed rice (al dente)

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 T butter

1 T olive oil

1 t saffron water (see note)

1 carrot, minced

2 t garlic powder

1 t onion powder

2-3 T minced fresh parsley

1 c chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat saucepan to medium heat. Melt butter and olive oil in saucepan. Add carrot, cook until softened. (4-5 minutes) Add garlic powder and onion powder, stir. Add cream of chicken soup and half of chicken broth, stir. Turn heat to low. Add rice and stir. (Add more chicken broth as necessary to achieve smooth texture, you don’t want the rice to be dry or sticky.) Add parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and warm rice through.

 

Note: saffron water can be made by steeping a few threads of saffron in a few tablespoons of water. This leftover water can be frozen for future use, and will stretch the use of the saffron, which is quite expensive in stores.