Friday, January 10, 2014

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

I've been meaning to post this recipe for a couple months, but the holidays got me, and only now am I getting back to a somewhat normal routine. During that time I made gluten-free pumpkin scones twice, and they were sooo disappointing. I made them a couple times last year, when we lived in Portland, and they were fabulous — couldn't even tell they were gluten-free! But when I made them here in Minnesota, they just didn't turn out right. The dough wouldn't come together (the air is terribly dry here in the winter-time), so I added a little extra liquid to get it to work for me. The flavor was good, but they wouldn't brown and the texture was heavy and slightly doughy. Simply under-baked? I don't think so. I can't figure it out, so if you have any thoughts or advice, please share.

Also during the holiday season, I made this apple crisp a few times, and each time it turned out great. Once, however, I made it with a dairy-free substitute instead of butter, and rolled oats instead of quick oats, and it wasn't quite as good.

There's really nothing complicated about gluten-free apple crisp. You just have to make sure you use gluten-free oats and a gluten-free flour blend in place of all-purpose wheat flour. Since there's no pastry or dough of any kind, you don't need to worry about details like xanthun gum to thicken and bind. (Although the flour blend I use happens to contain some xanthun gum, I doubt it has any effect on the crumble topping.) So, if you have a favorite recipe already, just go with it.

This is the recipe I use, which I've adjusted to my liking. It's sweet, but not too sweet, and has a little lemon juice added for tartness. On different occasions, I've used Fuji, Honey Crisp, or  Granny Smith  apples. (Granny Smith are pretty tart, so you can probably leave out the lemon juice if you use those.) Once I even threw in a pear because I was short one apple.

Sometimes I make my own gluten-free flour blend, but my favorite pre-made one is Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend. It recently became available at Costco in a 5-pound bag, and it's much more affordable than the same product (in a smaller bag) at either my local natural foods store or what the people in my area call the "gluten-free store."

Gluten-Free Apple Crisp PRINTABLE RECIPE

6 apples - peeled, cored, and sliced
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup gluten-free oats (I use Bob's Red Mill Quick-Cooking Oats)
1/2 cup gluten-free flour blend (I use Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter - cut into small pieces

1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.

2. Toss apples with lemon juice, white sugar, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Pour into a 9-inch square baking dish.

3. In a separate bowl, mix brown sugar, oats, GF flour, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Use a pastry cutter or fork to mash the cold butter into the oat-flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Spread over the apples to the edges of the dish and pat gently until even.

4. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the sides are bubbling.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas Deliciosas

Of course, my inspiration for making enchiladas was salsa – what else? I had a bunch of tomatoes that needed to be used and thought, the easiest, quickest way to use them up was to make a batch of salsa fresca. And to go with it, I decided to make enchiladas for a change.

For Halloween night, however, I didn't want to go to too much effort, so as I searched for a recipe, I decided to go for one with canned enchilada sauce. I also used canned green chiles and picked the mild versions of both the sauce and the chiles, hoping my kids might like the dish. But, alas, they did not go for it. If anyone has ideas for how to get my kids to like spicy food, I would really appreciate it. I've tried adding just a little pepper in hopes of gradually getting them to accept the heat, but no luck so far. I'm getting pretty tired of keeping the spice on the side all the time and/or making a separate meal for them.

So anyway, back to the recipe search... The one thing that frustrated me was, most of the recipes I found called for flour tortillas. Now, I thought enchiladas were supposed to be made with corn tortillas. Is that just a personal preference or is that true? Well, obviously, I googled it and a lot of people out there really think flour is the way to go for enchiladas, but it looks like, for authentic Mexican enchiladas, it's corn tortillas. So, I don't know how authentic the rest of my recipe is, but I went with corn. Besides, corn tortillas are gluten-free (although you should check the ingredients list to be sure). I found a tip online for prepping the corn tortillas too – probably not the traditional way of doing it, but it worked and brought out that wonderful corn flavor and aroma.

Here is my (probably) unauthentic recipe for chicken enchiladas with corn tortillas. Substitute flour tortillas if you must. Use left-over pre-cooked chicken, rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, or cook up a couple chicken breasts just for this. Anything should work. I like to squeeze a little lime juice over the chicken for extra flavor, but that's optional.

Chicken Enchiladas  PRINTABLE RECIPE 
Makes at least 6 servings

1-1/4 lbs pre-cooked chicken - shredded
Non-stick cooking oil spray
1 medium yellow onion - chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves - peeled & minced
1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
2 cans (28 oz each) red enchilada sauce (I used Las Palmas)
2 cups shredded cheese (M. jack, cheddar, pepper jack, Asadero, or a blend - you pick)
18 corn tortillas

1. Spray a pan with cooking oil and heat to medium. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes, until the onion starts to caramelize.

2. Mix shredded chicken with 1-1/2 cups enchilada sauce, one cup cheese, diced green chiles, and the cooked onions and garlic. Set aside (refrigerate if it's going to be awhile) while you prep the tortillas.

3. Preheat oven to 425°. Spray both sides of 6 corn tortillas at a time with cooking oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. You can then roll enchiladas (see step 4) using the first six while the rest bake.

4. Pour some enchilada sauce into a large glass casserole dish – just enough to cover the bottom. Fill each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture.  Roll up and place seam side down in the dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. Once you have filled up the dish completely, pour over another cup of enchilada sauce and top with the remaining cup of cheese.

5. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes in the pre-heated 425° oven. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

6. While the enchiladas bake, heat up any remaining enchilada sauce to serve on the side. Also serve with salsa, avocado slices, and sour cream, if you like.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thai at On's Kitchen

Meing-Kum from On's Kitchen
(photo by Tom Wallace, StarTribune)
I'm lucky to have a sister here in the Twin Cities who shares my passion for Thai cuisine. She knew right where to take me for a fantastic Thai dining experience: On's Kitchen in St. Paul. She recommended practically everything on the menu, but we narrowed it down to the Meing-Kum, Haw-Mok, Tom Yum, and Panang Curry.

Meing-Kum is definitely a new favorite for me. It's a plateful of Thai flavors: diced ginger, lime, red onion, chili peppers, peanuts, dried shrimp, toasted coconut, a sweet-salty sauce, and lettuce leaves. Our server showed us how to make a small cone with a lettuce leaf, which we then filled with a little bit of everything from the plate. The idea is to pop the whole thing into your mouth (I did it in two bites, which was probably a lot messier than the single-bite method) for a burst of flavors – sweet, salty, spicy, and sour – exactly what Thai food is all about!

The Haw-Mok was the only thing I didn't really care for. It's steamed fish with curry flavors and a kind of custardy texture. It was fine, but I wouldn't order it again. My sister, however, really enjoyed it, so it's worth a try if it sounds like something you might go for, plus the presentation – in a banana leaf – is quite nice.

The Tom Yum was excellent. I loved the flavorful mushrooms and fried tofu in the soup (you can get it with your choice of meat or tofu) and the hot & sour broth was wonderful, although I'd request it a little spicier next time. They have a scale of 1 to 10 and we got a 3-4, so there's plenty of room for more heat.

Panang curry is one of my stand-by favorites and On's did not disappoint. Again, I'd like more heat, but it was rich and delicious with perfectly cooked chicken and vegetables, mostly bell peppers. I ate the left-overs for dinner that night... Thai twice in one day makes this girl very happy!

Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of our food. I copied the Meing-Kum photo, above, from a review in the StarTribune, which can be found here: On's Kitchen Restaurant Review. The review is from April, 2011 and mentions the road construction in the area, which over two years later is still there and still a hassle, but On's Kitchen is worth it. I can hardly wait to go back and taste more!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ghost Peppers

These are Trinidad Ghost peppers (Minnesota-grown) and they are HOT – about four times hotter than a Habañero pepper! I don't know how the heck I'm ever going to use them all... I made a batch of salsa fresca the other day and used just half a pepper. Seeds and membranes (the hottest parts) were carefully removed, so actually, it was a little less than half a pepper. Honestly, I can take it pretty hot and I could go for a little more ghost pepper next time, still, not a whole one.

Other than the use of Ghost peppers, it was my standard salsa recipe: tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. It tasted pretty good. The tomatoes were home-grown (a local goat farmer gave us the tomatoes and a variety of peppers, including the Ghost peppers) providing dense tomato flavor, unlike a lot of store-bought tomatoes. Unfortunately, I think the unique flavor of the ghost pepper was masked a bit the rich tomato and by the pepper's own heat. As I got to the bottom of the salsa bowl, however, I found a little more heat, and also a subtle flavor similar to a Habañero.

My husband was in charge of grilling chicken, tortillas, onion, and bell peppers (including some purple ones – you don't see those too often), while I made some guacamole. The grilled elements turned out to be the best – they really made the meal. I sprinkled a little cheese on a corn tortilla, topped that with chicken, bell peppers, and onions, and of course, some salsa. It was delicious!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quick Dill Pickles

Experiment #1

The next pickle experiment probably won’t happen until August or September of next year, when there’s a surplus of cucumbers again. This time, my bunch of Kirbys had already been in the fridge for about a week, so I needed to come up with a use for them before it was too late. Hence, the first pickle experiment – not canned and preserved like my grandma used to make, but something simple and quick. I skimmed a few recipes I found online, but nothing was quite what I had in mind. So, I winged it.

I cut up the cucumbers, as you can see, and put them in a large glass bowl. I poured in some cider vinegar (because I didn't have any standard white vinegar at the time), added some roughly chopped garlic, several sprigs of fresh dill, kosher salt, a few chili peppers (I just slit them open as I didn’t want to add any major heat), and water to cover the cucumbers. Then I covered the bowl and put it in the fridge.

The next day, I tasted and decided they were a little bland and slightly sweet (which was not what I was going for). So, I added some salt – I couldn't think what else to do – and put them back in the fridge.

Today, they have a pretty good flavor: The salt is about right, as is the dill and the garlic. The heat is very mild (maybe a little too mild, for me). The only problem is, there’s still a subtle sweetness to the pickles. I can only attribute that to the cider vinegar. Distilled white vinegar would have been a better choice, I think.

I hope they’re still crisp and tasty when my husband gets home tomorrow, so he can try them too. I’d like to know what he thinks of them, and they’ll only keep about a week. In the mean time, we’ll be having them with ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight – an easy, picnic-style dinner for, what may be, our last hot day before the cool fall weather begins to creep in.

Any suggestions for experiment #2? Please send them my way… anytime over the next year. Thanks!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Today is Meatless Monday and Earth Day. Eat green and spread the word! Meat has more of an impact on the environment than any other food we eat. Show the planet some love today and every Monday by going meatless. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quiche with Bacon, Cheese, & Green Onions

I felt like quiche this weekend and found a Quiche Lorraine recipe online, but really, I just used it as a guide because I wanted to use up what I had on hand, like a few slices of turkey bacon, jack cheese, and green onions. Also, I love thyme with eggs and I had some, so I added that too. I didn't have cream, so I substituted a combination of half & half and nonfat milk for the cream, using 1/2 cup less liquid than called for, and throwing in an extra egg.

The quiche turned out delicious and perfectly set, so either quiche is quite the flexible and forgiving recipe or I got darn lucky with all my substitutions.

I've often made quiche with broccoli, asparagus, or mushrooms, but there's so much moisture in the vegetables that my quiche ends up kind of watery. I'm sure there's some trick to resolve this problem, but for me, it works better to leave it out and serve some nice asparagus or a green salad on the side.

As for the crust, I didn't make it myself. I used to make my own pie crust sometimes, but since going gluten-free, I just haven't wanted to deal with it. Besides, both Whole Foods and Bavaria Mills gluten-free frozen pie crusts are great. My family can't tell the difference between those and a traditional crust. In fact, as we were eating the quiche, my husband asked me, "How is it that you are eating this crust?" He had no idea it was gluten-free!

So, here you go... I hope my recipe is lucky for you too!

Jen's Lucky Quiche  PRINTABLE RECIPE 

1 pre-made (store-bought or make your own), unbaked, 9-inch single pie crust
5 slices turkey bacon - cooked until crisp, then coarsely chopped
3/4 cup shredded Montery jack cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup minced green onion
5 eggs - lightly beaten
1 cup half & half
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper

1. Place a baking sheet in the oven on the bottom rack to catch any egg spills or drips. Place the other rack in the center and preheat oven to 425°.
2. Sprinkle bacon, cheeses, and onion into the pie shell.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, half & half, milk, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour mixture into pastry shell.
4. Carefully, place quiche on center rack and bake at 425° for 15 minutes.
5. Lower heat to 300° and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean.
6. Let the quiche set at room temperature for 10 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.