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Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Made Easy

Yes, folks, you read that right. Thanksgiving can be easy, even when cooking gluten-free. Wondering how to make a stuffing that’s gluten-free but appealing to everyone at your table? Need a recipe for pie? How about some gluten-free bread (you know, the stuff that isn’t as dense as a rock)? And how to pull it all off?

Well, friends, I’m here to share some of the best, latest, and greatest recipes to help you make everyone happy. Grab a snack and open up Pinterest, because I’m sure you’ll need to pin some of these babies. And once you’ve gathered your recipes and made a menu, be sure you set up a schedule (especially if you’re hosting – I’ve made a schedule for years now, making many things in advance, to save time and sanity). That way, you can be sure your Thanksgiving holiday will go as smoothly as possible. I can’t promise that old Aunt Pam won’t tie one on that evening, or that your brother Phil won’t throw things across the living room when the quarterback for (insert favorite football team here) throws an interception, but at least you’ll have good gluten-free eats.

 

Appetizers:

Savory Sweet Potato Pie

Raw Cultured Cashew “Cheese”

Savory Gluten-Free and Vegan Crackers

Main Dishes:

Cider-Glazed Brined Turkey with Apple Brandy Gravy

How To Cook a Pastured Turkey

Butternut Squash Baked Risotto

Side Dishes and Salads:

Rutabaga Gratin

Vegan Broccoli “Cheese” Rice Casserole

Vegan Butternut Macaroni & “Cheese”

Green Beans with Smoky Pecans

Broccoli-Walnut Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Make-Ahead Stuffing and Gravy

Gluten-Free Cauliflower Piccata

Maple Sweet Potato Puree

Classic Kale Salad, Fully Loaded

Dijon Brussels Sprouts with Proscuitto

Baked Goods:

Mochi Garlic Roll Puffs

Top 20 Gluten-Free Bread Recipes

Gluten-Free Soft Dinner Rolls

Desserts:

Kumquat Crostata

Best Pumpkin Pie Ever – Crustless, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free

Pumpkin Caramel Cups

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Maple Pecan Freezer Fudge

 

Looking for more Thanksgiving round-ups, full of amazing recipes? Check these out:

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes and Tips

The Biggest Gathering of Dairy-Free Thanksgiving Recipes (many gluten-free too)

Last-Minute Canadian Thanksgiving Recipe Suggestions

50+ Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Daring Cooks: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Our May hostess for The Daring Cooks’ challenge, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

I’m no stranger to gumbo. Every year, my husband makes Emeril’s gumbo turkey ya-ya around Thanksgiving, and if we’re lucky, another pot at New Years’ Eve. It’s delicious. It’s also one of the few gumbos out there that doesn’t have okra and file powder in it, so it’s more to my husband’s tastes. The entire family looks forward to that gumbo.

When I went gluten-free, I asked him to make the gumbo gluten-free so I could enjoy it. This took some trials to get right. You see, the base of any good gumbo is the roux – that mix of cooked flour and oil that browns and adds so much flavor to the gumbo while thickening it. You can find just about any gluten-free flour can thicken a soup, if you put proper amounts in it, but finding a flour that browns similarly to wheat flour is a bit tricky. Regular rice flour failed – it was gritty, never soaking up the oil, and ultimately burning. Eventually, though, we got it right. When I saw that this month’s challenge was gumbo, I realized I was overdue in sharing this gluten-free gumbo version with you.

Since it’s May and not November, turkeys are scarce in the grocery stores. So in this instance, I substituted a similar amount of whole chickens. I have no real preference for one over the other – both were delicious. But what really made this gumbo, in my opinion, was the delicious cajun smoked sausage I found from a local rancher, Rehoboth Ranch. (In fact, I sourced the chickens from them too!) That, plus some andouille from Applegate Farms, really added a ton of high-quality flavor (not just salt, like the way cheaper sausages tend to taste). Also, in the past, the white meat from the poultry had a tendency to dry out, as it spent too long cooking. To compensate for this, I removed the chicken breasts, and only poached them for about 20 minutes when making the stock. This way, they were cooked through, but not overcooked. A bit fussy? Perhaps. But gumbo is a longer, more intricate dish anyway. Why not take one extra step to improve the flavor? This is optional, of course. If you decide to make this, you can totally leave the birds intact.

The result? It was a hit – again. We had a few family members over, and there wasn’t much left over. (Gumbo leftovers are divine when you take them for lunch – just saying.) Just the right amount of heat, deeply savory, and full of complex flavors from a long simmer and of course, that roux. Gumbo is a comfort food for sure; at least, in my book it is.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, adapted from Emeril Lagasse

3 small chickens (about 9-10 lbs total) – you can opt to cut them into quarters and remove the breast meat

10 cups water

2 medium-size yellow onions

2 ribs celery, cut into a few pieces

2 bay leaves

1 T salt

1 1/2 t cayenne powder

1 c vegetable oil

3/4 c sorghum flour

3/4 c sweet white rice flour (sweet white rice flour is much finer than regular flour, so no gritty texture)

2 c chopped yellow onions

1 c chopped bell pepper

1 c chopped celery

12 oz andouille sausage, cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced thinly

1 lb smoked sausage, cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced thinly

2 T chopped green onions

2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley

Steamed white rice for serving

Put the chicken (reserve the chicken breasts), water, quartered onions, celery pieces, bay leaves 1 tablespoon of the salt, and the cayenne in a large, heavy pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, partially covered, until the chicken is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the breasts and continue to simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Remove thechicken, strain and reserve the broth.

In a large, heavy pot or a Dutch oven, over medium heat, combine the oil and flours. Stirring slowly and constantly, make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, chopped celery, and sausages. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are very soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the reserved broth and stir until the roux mixture and broth are well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken and pick the meat off the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Coarsely chop the chicken meat. Add the chicken. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Skim off the fat that has risen to the surface with a spoon. Stir in the green onions and parsley and serve the gumbo in individual soup or gumbo bowls.

Serves 10-12.

Kids in the Kitchen: Fried Turkey

Fried turkey? In April? Yes, that’s what I thought too. But after talking Brandan out of many other (more expensive and difficult to source) ideas (Rattlesnake? Eel? Yes, there is no doubt, the boy has an imagination. If it is an animal, then he’s wondered if it could be food.), this one was doable. In my mind, there’s a seasonality to frying a turkey (and if we’re being honest here…and why wouldn’t we be…I prefer a well-roasted turkey to a fried one). That’s generally the consensus in this country, as evidenced by the lack of abundance of turkeys in the stores. With a little luck and scrounging around, I managed to find one that was in the 18-pound range. Larger than I had hoped for, but it would do.

Here’s the rub: turkey is cheap. Even in April, the turkey I purchased was 88 cents a pound. (It was a conventional turkey – I would have loved to obtain a free-range, local turkey, but again…they’re seasonal.) Frying a turkey, however, not so much. Buying enough peanut oil to fry a turkey raises the price. Mind you, nowhere near the price obtaining eel in the Dallas area, much less the price of rattlesnake (Which can be free if you hunt your own, but since I wasn’t equipped to do that, I’d have to fork over $80+ a pound online. Not happening.) However, the thrill and experience Brandan would get from dropping a gigantic bird into a deep pot of oil was well worth the price. In addition, my preference for roasted bird is outnumbered by the rest of the family, who loves the fried stuff. This would be a delicious treat for the family.  (And with luck, I could make use of the leftover meat for some enchiladas – another family favorite.)

So we got started. While many recipes for fried turkey call for brining, injecting all sorts of concoctions, and/or rubbing the bird down with a spice mixture (and trust me, they sell a lot of preservative-laden, most-likely-gluten-filled products out there to help accomplish these tasks), we opted for simple. I brought out a jar of my favorite BBQ spice rub mix (minus the sugar), and we rubbed down the turkey with the seasoning. Other than that, no further preparation was needed. Once the oil was hot, we dropped the turkey, and waited. And checked the temperature of the oil, waiting for it to come up. And waited. It wasn’t coming up. It was windy that day (we’ve had day after day this spring of very high winds), and so I was afraid that the wind was keeping the flame low. We tried to block the wind to no avail. The oil was still reading around 200 degrees F. Finally, my husband suggests to check the temperature of the turkey. (It wasn’t nearly time to start checking yet, but I agreed that we should try.) That’s when we discovered the oil thermometer was inadvertently stuck, just slightly, into the bird, thus preventing an accurate oil reading. Whoops. We remedied the situation, discovered that the oil registered an accurate 350 degrees F (that’s more like it!). Thankfully, the oil wasn’t higher than 350 degrees, as we could have entered into dangerous territory! Before we knew it, the turkey was ready to remove and allow to rest.

For Brandan, the resting was the hardest part. The aroma was incredible, and the skin was so crackly. The bird looked good. However, we managed to restrain ourselves (minus one or two small pieces of the edges of the skin) until it was carving time. That’s when the boys in our house are suddenly immensely interested in what’s going on in the kitchen, and start hovering around the carver (that’s me!), waiting to swipe a morsel from the plate. I’ve learned to work swiftly.

How was our turkey? Well, in spite of my previous opinions about turkeys in April, it was quite good. The breast meat was unbelievably moist and flavorful – the best part of the bird, we agreed. Brandan enjoyed a wing and a leg. There wasn’t much conversation from him at the table – he was too immersed in his meal. Everyone eating that evening was more than pleased. Some of the dark meat was a bit dry, as the turkey was in the oil legs-down, so they most likely got more heat exposure than the breast. In spite of that, it was still quite tasty. While I do hold true to my opinion about roast turkey over fried, I will have to say – this was a good bird! And yes, we made enchiladas the next day with leftovers, so it was double the pleasure.

Lesson learned? Next time, I will be sure to not stick the oil thermometer into whatever I am frying!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Fried Turkey

1 whole raw turkey, 16-18 lbs (make sure it isn’t basted with butter or any gluten seasonings – check the label or contact the company) (a smaller bird can be used, and even preferable, as the legs might be less prone to overcooking)

Barbeque spice rub mix (omit the sugar) – I used about 1/2 cup for our large bird, but you can use less for a smaller one

About 3 gallons of peanut oil or other high-heat frying oil

A turkey fryer and propane burner

Before starting, place your still-wrapped turkey inside your fryer pot. Fill with enough water to just cover the turkey. Remove the turkey, and look at how much water remains in the pot. This is how much oil you will need to use. (You don’t want to measure too much and risk a hot oil overflow disaster!) Pour out water and dry the pot well.

Pat the turkey dry and rub seasoning all over bird, including inside the cavity. If you have a wire holder with which to lower the turkey in the oil, place the turkey on it now.

Pour required amount of oil into your pot (I used a little less than 3 gallons). (Do this outside, away from an overhead cover. You might opt to place a large board or cardboard underneath to catch splatters.) Place the pot on the burner and light the burner. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Make sure you don’t leave the oil unattended.

Once oil is at temperature, carefully lower your turkey into the oil. Bring the oil back up to temperature (325 – 350 degrees is optimal). Your turkey should take about 3 minutes per pound to cook (my turkey took roughly an hour). Start checking the turkey’s temperature about 2/3 of the way through by inserting an instant-read thermometer deep  into the breast. Once it reads 170 degrees, remove the turkey and set it in a roasting pan to rest, covered with foil. Rest for about 30 minutes and then carve.

Moist and Herb-y Turkey Burgers

Lately, we have been focusing on lighter, healthier fare. Why? Well, why not? For one, the weather (The forecasted high temperature today is 106 degrees!) begs us to leave the oven off and keep the kitchen cool. The sooner I can turn off the stove (if I turn it on at all) and get dinner on the table, the less the air conditioning has to work. In addition, we would like to not have to work so hard at keeping our waistlines from expanding. Salads are great, but we can not live by salad alone. This is where burgers come in.

But in keeping with the lighter, healthier fare, (and because ground turkey was on sale) I opted for turkey burgers. Now, I have made many a burger in my lifetime. Turkey burgers, however? I’m not as experienced. I was worried that my burger would end up dry and bland. I knew I wanted to throw in a lot of herbs to boost the flavor without added fat (and because the garden is overflowing right now with herbs!). As for the remedy to a dry patty, I turned to Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. Amy participated in a burger contest last year (she was a finalist!), so I knew she was a great source of information. I found a turkey burger recipe on her site, and found the secret – mushrooms. I had mushrooms in the fridge, and so I took a cue from her and threw them in the food processor. In addition, I remembered that I’ve used almond flour as a bread crumb replacement in meatballs and meatloaf in the past, and it always boosted the moisture when compared to other “breadcrumbs”. I played with the flavors a bit, and hoped my herb-y turkey burgers would come out well.

The result? These burgers are on the regular meal rotation! The husband raved about them - and when you can get my husband to enjoy turkey burgers, and not simply rate them as “okay, for turkey burgers” (and secretly wish they were beef), then it’s a recipe worth repeating. They were moist, with just the right amount of fresh herbs, and plenty of flavor from the cumin and dijon mustard. I even splurged and enjoyed mine on a Kinnikinnick bun. (Yes, Tasty Eats At Home sometimes buys pre-made buns. See reasons to keep kitchen cool above.) It was mighty tasty.

Herbed Turkey Burgers

About 6 oz mushrooms, processed until finely chopped in food processor (about 1/4 c)

1 lb ground turkey

1/2 c almond meal/flour

1 egg

1 T flaxseed meal

1 T chopped fresh parsley

2 sage leaves, chopped

1/2 t chopped fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme)

1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary

1 t dijon mustard

1/2 t ground cumin

2-3 T olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, gently mix the mushrooms, ground turkey, and the rest of the ingredients together. (I do this with my hands.) Heat a skillet to medium heat and add a bit of the olive oil. Pinch a small, marble-sized ball of the burger mixture and place it in the skillet. Brown on each side until cooked through, and taste. Adjust seasonings to the rest of the mixture as needed. (This is a great way to ensure you don’t make a bunch of bland patties – I do this for meatballs and meatloaf as well.) Form into 4 patties.

Add additional oil to the skillet. (Alternatively, you can use a grill pan or even your grill outdoors. If grilling outdoors, you might opt for a grilling basket for burgers, as these burgers are more fragile than beef burgers and more apt to fall apart. You might also try freezing them for 30 minutes before grilling to keep them together.) Place the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes per side, until browned. Check the internal temperature of the burgers, and cook until the center reaches 165 degrees F. (You might choose to put a lid over the skillet and turn the temperature down to allow the burgers to cook through.) Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Place on a gluten-free hamburger bun (or go bunless!) and top with desired condiments and toppings. I opted for dijon mustard, soy-free mayonnaise, lettuce, onion, and tomato. If you opted to go bunless, then this patty would taste delicious on top of field greens and tomatoes, with a bit of balsamic vinaigrette or honey mustard dressing.

Turkey Enchiladas

Yes, it’s another “leftover turkey” post. Not because I have that much turkey. (I might after Thanksgiving though – and if I do, I’ll happily make these again.) I’m sharing this post with you because they’re that good. Honestly, they are good any time of year, with just about any filling. Leftover chicken? Great. Ground beef, turkey, pork, chicken? Awesome. Beans and cheese? Wonderful. In fact, I make a version of these throughout the year using ground beef or turkey and a can of black beans. The beauty of the recipe is that it’s flexible. I like flexible.

I’ve posted enchiladas here before. (and here.) And while those are both good recipes, (I’ve since subbed in corn tortillas to make them gluten-free. Besides, corn tortillas are just better in my opinion.) I have worked throughout the year to improve upon them. Specifically, I’ve worked to improve the enchilada sauce. Why? Because I can’t leave well enough alone. I always have to improve, experiment, and explore flavors. I wanted an enchilada sauce that intrigued the taste buds with a wonderful depth of flavor and a nice heat – not too hot. Finally, I have found it. I think. At least, for now.

This sauce does not use tomatoes in it, as some Tex-Mex red sauces do. Instead, I have opted to use a number of various dried chiles as the base. I could wax poetic about my love for dried chiles. They store in my pantry quite well. They smell amazing. The flavor they contribute is far superior to any store-bought chile powder.  In my opinion, they are worth the extra time and effort to use them. I found quite a few varieties at Wal-Mart, but you can usually find the widest variety at a grocery that caters to the Latin American community. You can also find them online. In this sauce I used a combination of ancho, New Mexico, guajillo, pasilla, and chipotle peppers. You can certainly streamline and use fewer varieties, or change it up and use other chiles, but I enjoyed the combination – it added depth and complexity to the sauce.

Another note – when toasting the chiles, it’s probably a good idea to open a window or two. The aroma of the chiles can be overpowering – it makes me sneeze! Again, totally worth it – promise!

These aren’t quite authentic Mexican enchiladas, nor are they true Tex-Mex. I’d like to think I made a new “Tex-Mex” version, taking what I love best about both cuisines and interpreting it in this delicious version. Whatever they are, I hope you’ll agree that they are a wonderful way to enjoy your turkey leftovers!

3 dried chipotle chiles

5 dried guajillo chiles

3 dried New Mexico chiles

3 dried pasilla chiles

3 dried ancho chiles

2 T olive oil

1/2 onion, sliced (I used red, but you could use any variety)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

salt to taste

1 lb leftover turkey, shredded (can substitute chicken, browned ground beef/chicken/turkey, or additional beans)

1 t ground cumin

1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

4 oz cream cheese

2 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese (or a mix of cheddar and monterey jack)

salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable oil for shallow frying

12-16 corn tortillas

Cilantro and sour cream for garnish (optional)

Begin by removing the stems and seeds from the chiles. Tear the chiles into large pieces. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium heat (I used my trusty cast-iron skillet). Heat another medium saucepan full of water to a simmer. Place the chiles, skin-side up, a few at a time, on the dry skillet. Toast for about 10 seconds and remove and place in the saucepan. Repeat with remaining chiles, toasting in batches. Allow chiles to simmer in water for 20-30 minutes or until soft. (Make sure that the chiles are covered with the water. I usually use a spoon or a spatula to keep them submerged.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, bring a skillet to medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add onions and garlic. Saute for 10 minutes or until soft. If they start to brown, reduce heat a little.

Remove chiles from the soaking water with tongs and place in a blender, leaving the water in the pan. Add the onions and garlic, leaving as much of the oil in the skillet as possible, and add about 1 1/2 cups of the chile soaking liquid. Blend until smooth, adding more soaking liquid if needed. The sauce should resemble the consistency of canned tomato sauce. Pass the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve and discard the pulp. Pour the strained sauce back into the saucepan and place on low heat. Salt to taste.

Add the shredded turkey to the remaining oil in the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Season with cumin, and stir occasionally until heated. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the chile sauce into the shredded turkey, and add the beans, cream cheese, and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Salt and pepper to taste. (If you’re using ground meat instead, you can brown it in the oil, and follow the rest of these steps as written.)

In a small skillet, add enough frying oil to cover the bottom of the skillet by 1/2 inch.  Heat oil on medium heat until shimmering. Fry tortillas, one at a time, 7-10 seconds on each side of the tortilla. Lay tortillas on paper towels to drain. (This process helps make the tortillas pliable and less likely to tear and break when rolling.)

To assemble the enchiladas, dip a tortilla into the chile sauce and remove, allowing excess sauce to drip back into the saucepan. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of the shredded turkey mixture in a line down the center of the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla and place it seam-side down in a 13X9 baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Top with a bit more sauce down the center of the enchiladas, and sprinkle the shredded cheese over.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I sincerely wish the best for you and your family this holiday. Be happy, safe, and enjoy the gifts of life. I am thankful for all of you! Without you, there would be no Tasty Eats At Home. Have a wonderful holiday.

Chipotle Orange-Herb Chicken

chicken, chipotle chicken, asparagus 015If only I could find an excuse to put chipotle in everything. Okay, okay, not really, but I do love the stuff, in case you haven’t noticed. (See here, here, and here, just as a small sample) In fact, just about anytime I’m looking for an in-your-face, bold taste, chipotle does the trick. Smoky and spicy, it adds an unbelievable amount of dimension to a dish.

Take chicken, for example. Chicken is nearly a blank canvas, something one flavor with any combination of herbs and spices, and create a seemingly endless number of dishes. Soy, ginger, and garlic? Asian chicken. Oregano, basil, tomato, garlic? Italian chicken. But what about orange juice, chipotle, sage, thyme, and rosemary?

You get chipotle orange-herb chicken.

Not exactly a traditional mix of flavors, but who says we’re trying to be traditional here? Sweet, spicy, smoky, with a nice fresh background flavor from the herbs – this is a tasty chicken that’s sure to please. In addition, if you use cut-up chicken and marinade the night before serving, this dish bakes up quickly enough to make it a weeknight choice. I used a combination of thighs and drumsticks (they were on sale, and I prefer the flavor of dark meat), but of course, you could use any cut you wish. (you could even use boneless, skinless breasts – just lower the cooking time accordingly)

This recipe was inspired by a chipotle orange chicken that Elana shared at Elana’s Pantry. (Elana has a wonderful array of gluten-free recipes.) I increased the amount of chipotle a bit (we like spicy food at the Tasty Eats At Home residence), and I subbed the dried herbes de provence for fresh herbs, but largely left the original recipe in tact. If you have small kids, you might choose to lower the chipotle, but this should be a great family-pleaser, one that is easy on you, too! I served this dish with a generous helping of steamed asparagus with lemon zest (recipe to come soon, stay tuned!).

Chipotle Orange-Herb Chicken, adapted from Elana’s Pantry

4 lbs bone-in, cut-up chicken, or a combination of thighs and drumsticks

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary needles

1/2 t fresh thyme leaves

1/2 t chopped fresh sage leaves

1/4 c agave nectar or honey

1 t kosher salt

2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced

juice of 2 oranges

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place chicken in a 9X13 inch baking dish. In a small bowl, mix garlic, herbs, agave, salt, chipotle, and orange juice. Pour over chicken, turning chicken over to coat. Cover dish and place in refrigerator for minimum of an hour, up to overnight.

Remove from refrigerator, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Serves 4-6.

Chicken Curry

chicken curry 030

In the middle of the day last Thursday, I realized that the dinner I had planned to make was not going to work without a trip to the store. I had already used some of the key ingredients to make it earlier in the week. (I hate when this happens. I write down ”cilantro” on the grocery list, not remembering that I need to purchase enough for two dishes, and then I come home with just a single bunch, screwing myself out of the second dish. I only had a smidgen left. So much for planning meals out for the week.) I did not have the desire to go to the store, and I didn’t have the time or the creativity to consider creating something out of the available pantry ingredients at home. I was headed down the road towards a) frozen gluten-free pizza, or b) take-out. Neither of which sounded like a winner.

And then I receive an email. Actually, two emails, from my wonderful grandmother. (Yes, that grandmother.) She was looking through a magazine and found two recipes she thought I would like to try. One was a flourless almond torte, (which I will have to make soon!) and the other? A chicken curry. I looked through the recipe, and realized I had all of the ingredients on hand. It looked as though it was a quick dish to throw together too…an added bonus on a weeknight.

This recipe just goes to show you that you don’t always have to spend hours in the kitchen, or have a long list of ingredients and complicated steps to make a delicious dish. This curry was bright, with a good amount of heat to it (but not too much!). The flavors of the masala made this dish feel as though it was a comfort dish I’d turn to time and time again, without the heavy, calorie-laden sauces that accompany most “comfort dishes.”

A big thanks to Grandma, as she saved the day!

Adapted from Guideposts:

2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 t masala (recipe follows)

1 t fresh ginger, grated

2 t fresh garlic, grated

1 small onion, diced

4 T olive oil

salt, to taste

1 small tomato, chopped

1 c frozen peas

A few sprigs of cilantro leaves

Combine chicken, masala, ginger, garlic, and onion in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add salt. Mix well, making sure chicken is fully coated. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Over medium heat, warm the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the marinated chicken and cover skillet. After about 10 minutes, stir chicken, and add tomato and peas. Allow ingredients to simmer over medium heat until fully cooked, 5-10 minutes more (depends on the size of your chicken pieces).

Serve over steamed Basmati rice and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serves 4.

For the masala:

1 1/2 t cayenne pepper

1 T paprika

1/4 t cumin

1/4 t ground coriander

1/4 fennel seed, crushed or ground

1/4 t garam masala

1/4 t turmeric

Combine all spices thoroughly. Store in a jar for up to three months.

Rosemary Roast Chicken

Food 1817I have a love/hate relationship with Texas summers. The hate part – it’s not even July yet and we’re already dealing with near-100 degree temps. I’m not ready yet for the heat. You would think, after spending my entire life in Texas, I would get used to it, but I never do. I simply wish I had a swimming pool in our backyard so I could spend my days lazily relaxing in the cool water. Until then, I retreat to the cool A/C in our house and hope October arrives soon.

Then there’s the love part. What’s to love? The farmer’s markets are overflowing with so much bounty, I feel like it’s Christmas! There are squashes galore, onions, beets, blackeyed peas, herbs, and even the tomatoes are beginning to arrive with regularity. I have to exercise control when I visit, so that I don’t purchase more than I can handle, but boy, it’s a treat!

One of my new favorite vendors at the McKinney Farmer’s Market, though, is not a farmer. You see, there is a little ranch not too terribly far from me called Rehoboth Ranch. Rehoboth Ranch raises grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured poultry and Berkshire pork, without antibiotics or other drugs, without growth hormones, without chemicals. There are no confinement houses for any of the animals, and the beef and lamb are never fed grain. These are happy animals, folks. And happy animals mean happier (’cause the meat is so delicious!), healthier people. The quality of the meat and poultry that comes from Rehoboth Ranch is simply superb. On Saturday, I purchased a fresh chicken.

How do you prepare superb chicken? This is the time that simplicity is key. You don’t need to season with a lot of complex spices, and you don’t need a heavy sauce. Pastured, happy chicken such as this is tender and flavorful without much adornment. So, as much as I realize I have already posted a recipe on roast chicken, I think I need to share one that is simpler, but perhaps even more tasty. This recipe is perfect for a premium chicken such as the one I had on hand. It takes virtually no time to prepare before throwing in the oven. And the flavor? Unbeatable. The skin turns out so perfectly salty and crisp, and the bird is incredibly juicy. (Whatever you do, please don’t throw away the skin. I don’t care that you’re on a diet, this is the best part!) Since I have the oven on already, I usually roast some fresh squash or zucchini to serve on the side. (I manage to squeeze in a small dish alongside the chicken!) With very little work, a perfect dinner is served. And it was well worth heating up the kitchen, even in the summertime!

What you’ll need:

1 chicken, preferably naturally raised

salt and pepper

2-3 sprigs rosemary, broken into small 1-2 inch pieces (you could also use a different herb, such as thyme or sage, if you choose)

To prepare the chicken for roasting:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator, and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Do a thorough job, as water will only steam the chicken, and you won’t get a crispy skin. Season all over with salt and pepper, seasoning a bit more on the fleshiest parts, such as the breasts and thighs. Place rosemary sprigs all over chicken, gently patting them so that they “stick” to the skin. If you have extra sprigs, you’re welcome to throw them in the cavity at this point. Truss the legs, and tuck the wings under.

Place the chicken on a roasting pan, with a rack, breast-side up. (if you don’t have a rack, you can place the chicken atop some celery and carrot sticks, just so long as the chicken has the opportunity to get some air underneath it. More air underneath chicken = more even browning and more crispy, delicious skin.) Place in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until skin is browned. Turn oven down to 375 degrees, and continue roasting until juices run clear, about another 30-45 minutes or so. Check it regularly as it’s nearing done, you don’t want to overcook the bird, or the breast will be dry. Remove the chicken from the oven.

Rest the chicken for 15 minutes, tented with foil. Carve and serve.

Don’t forget! You only have until June 27, 2009 to enter your comments for your chance to win in my giveaway! Check it out!

Chicken and Fried Wild Rice

food-9581

Heidi Swanson, of 101 Cookbooks http://www.101cookbooks.com/ and author of the book Super Natural Cooking, inspired my variation on traditional fried rice with her fried wild rice recipe. Fried rice is something that is easy, fast, and for me, addictive. I can’t stop eating it. One caveat: I am referring to good fried rice. The fried rice I’ve encountered in most Chinese take-out places is boring and not all that appetizing to me. But making it at home? I could eat bowlfuls. Best of all? It’s adaptive. It’s creative. You take a bit of leftover rice, and basically, you throw in whatever is around. Leftovers repurposed! That’s a cheap meal I can cozy up to.

 One “rule” to follow: use leftover rice. If you try to steam some rice right away to make fried rice, no matter what kind of rice it is, you will end up with a goopy, mushy mess. When rice sits overnight in the refrigerator, it sort of “dries out”, making it perfect to fry up. So next time you’re making rice, just make a point to make extra so you can have fried rice the next day.

Otherwise, the ingredients are up to you. I used a wild rice and brown rice blend instead of my usual jasmine rice. Figured I could benefit from the added nutrition, and I love the textural (and visual!) variety that wild rice provides. You can use just about any type of rice you have. Next time, I think I might seek out a bit of asparagus instead of peas and carrots for some variety. You could reduce the chicken to 1/2 pound rather than the full pound. Or substitute shrimp, or tofu, it’s really all about preferences and what’s available. If you have leftover cooked chicken, that could be easy and would make the recipe go even faster, as you could eliminate the marinade steps entirely.

Last but not least, I have mentioned Sambal Oelek several times in various recipes. As this is a new ingredient to some, I attempted to take a picture of my bottle in an effort to help you all locate it in the store. (The label is shiny gold, so it doesn’t photograph all that well.) You can find it in the Asian section of many grocery stores. Huy Fong seems to be one of the common brands. They also show that you can order it on their website. http://www.huyfong.com/no_frames/oelek.htm This stuff is amazing though, if you like spicy foods. I love it. I had to put a little spoonful in my own bowl of fried rice, just to personalize it a bit.

sambal oelek

And now, for the fried rice recipe. This serves about 4. (note: can be gluten-free, if you use gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce)

For the chicken:

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 t sambal oelek (chili paste)

1 clove garlic, minced

½ t ginger, minced

1 T tamari or soy sauce

1 t sesame oil

 

For the rice:

2 T sesame oil

4 eggs, scrambled

1 small shallot, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 t ginger, minced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

½ c frozen peas, thawed

2 T chopped red cabbage

2-3 c cooked wild rice mix (preferably refrigerated overnight)

1 t fish sauce

1 t tamari or soy sauce

Small handful of torn cilantro leaves

 

Place the chicken with the sambal oelek, garlic, ginger, tamari/soy sauce and sesame oil in a Ziploc bag and seal. Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove from marinade, pat dry with paper towels.

 

Heat a wok or large, deep skillet to medium-high heat. Add ½ t sesame oil, swirl to coat pan. Add eggs, and scramble in pan, cooking for about 30 seconds or just until the eggs set. (they will still be just a bit runny) Remove from pan and set aside.

 

Add an additional ½ t sesame oil if necessary. Add chicken to pan, spreading out into the thinnest layer possible. Leave chicken untouched for 2-3 minutes, or until the chicken browns. Turn chicken over to brown all over, and cook until no longer pink, 4-5 minutes total. Remove chicken and set aside.

 

Lower heat to medium. Wipe pan clean, and add remaining sesame oil. Swirl to coat pan. Add shallot, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add rice, and turn heat up to high. Spread rice out in pan, and let sit, untouched, for 1 minute. Add chicken, eggs, carrots, peas, and cabbage. Stir again, and let sit untouched for another minute. Add fish sauce and tamari/soy sauce, and stir to incorporate. Taste. Does it need more salt? Add more tamari/soy sauce. Does it need more sesame oil? Then add another ½ teaspoon or so. Stir one last time, and leave it untouched for another minute or so, until the rice is really toasting on the bottom of the pan! Then remove from heat, sprinkle torn cilantro leaves over, and serve.

Ponzu Grilled Chicken with Stir-Fried Vegetables

food-9201I feel as though I’ve been in a slump lately. A cooking “mental block”, if you will. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I have. It’s just that it seemed as though a lot of what I was cooking was either uninspired, boring, or otherwise just not all that wonderful. It wasn’t from lack of trying…it was just…a slump. So I was quite glad when I made this dish tonight, as I felt it was a joyous release from the previously mediocre dishes coming from the kitchen! (Okay maybe I’m dramatizing this a bit, and maybe it was just that I was craving some good ol’ Asian flavors!) But whatever the reason, this dish will definitely be one that will make the weeknight menus in the future. It was relatively fast, uncomplicated, healthy, and tasty. All good reasons to make it again in my book!

Ponzu shoyu is a Japanese citrus-based sauce. It’s basically as if you took soy sauce and married it with a few lemons. It’s nice and tangy, sweet, and salty all at the same time. It’s easy to find, just visit the Asian section of your grocery store. It makes a good substitute for soy sauce when you want some of those added tangy flavors to your dish.

Sambal oelek, or garlic chili paste, is one of my favorite condiments. We have a huge jar (Huy Fong brand) in our refrigerator. Back in the day, you would have to go to a specialty Asian grocery store to find this stuff. Now, I’m pretty sure you can find it in just about any grocery store. It’s great stuff. Spicy and full of flavor, I can’t help but use it in lots of marinades and to kick my stir-fry up a notch after it’s been served on my plate.

Anyway, on to the recipe. I served this with brown rice to round out the meal. You can use any steamed rice or even noodles. And as for the vegetables, feel free to substitute or add any additional vegetables you might like in your stir fry. Peas, mushrooms, onions, or even some red pepper would all taste great. Also, I think next time I marinate the chicken, I might add a bit of sweetness to the marinade, maybe a teaspoon of agave nectar or a bit of brown sugar. We’ll just have to see how that turns out!

For the chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/3 c bottled ponzu sauce

½ c peanut oil

1 T sambal oelek

 

For the sauce:

2 T ponzu sauce

2 ½ T rice wine vinegar

1 T agave nectar or honey

1 t fish sauce

2 t cornstarch

 

2 carrots, peeled and sliced about ¼ inch thick

1 large head of broccoli or two small heads, cut into florets

 

1 T peanut oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 t minced ginger

1 small thai pepper, seeded and minced

2 T mirin or sake

1 t sesame oil

 

Accompaniment: Steamed brown rice

 

Put the chicken, ponzu sauce, peanut oil, and sambal oelek in a Ziploc bag and allow to marinate 4 hours or overnight.

 

Place the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk to incorporate. Set aside.

 

Blanch the vegetables: Prepare a large bowl with ice water. Set aside. Fill a saucepan large enough to hold the carrots and broccoli with water. Bring water to a boil and add carrots, then broccoli. Allow to boil for 2 minutes, and immediately drain vegetables and place them in the ice water bath. This will allow the vegetables to stop cooking. Once the vegetables are cooled, drain them from the ice water.

 

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and discard marinade. Grill chicken breasts, about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through.

 

Heat a wok or deep skillet to medium-high heat. Add peanut oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic, ginger, and thai pepper, and stir-fry for a minute. Add mirin and stir for about 30 seconds. Add vegetables and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add sauce and stir. Cook until sauce thickens and vegetables are tender (but not mushy!), another 3-4 minutes. Stir in sesame oil.

 

Serve chicken breasts, sliced, on top of steamed brown rice and vegetables.