Monday, September 26, 2011

Gluten-Free Meatballs

I'm baaaaaack! :)  New camera, memory card issues fixed, and new recipes! Unfortunately, 5-6 of the recipes I wanted to share with you were on the old memory card that is no longer with us, but I have the files retrieved. Just need to transfer them to this computer. Those recipes will be coming shortly.

My lovely husband saved a recipe for swedish meatballs from his 6th grade home ec. class because he loved it so much he wanted to make it again. His parents never made it, and he tried one time several years ago to make the recipe and the meatballs totally fell apart. About a week ago, my son started complaining that he had never eaten a real meatball with his spaghetti. I couldn't remember if *I* had ever had a real meatball with spaghetti, and if I had, I had certainly never made them myself. So, I pulled out my husband's recipe for swedish meatballs. I went ahead and followed the recipe for the most part, but if you'd like a more Italian zip for spaghetti, you could substitute some Italian seasoning for the ginger and nutmeg. Truthfully though, the spices in these meatballs are so subtle that I didn't notice them conflicting with my spaghetti sauce at all.

OK, so meatballs are hard to get a nice picture of. Ignore the "pear" napkins. We are trying to go mostly paper-free (no paper towels or disposie napkins), so these napkins were all I could find! One batch made about 36 meatballs. The picture below is how I served the meatballs. My kids like the noodles and sauce all mixed together. I served the meatballs over quinoa noodles with a side of green beans.

***Gluten-Free Meatballs
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs* (I used 3 slices of Rudi's original sandwich bread)
1 cup light cream
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 egg
Dried parsley flakes (a few shakes)
1/2 tsp. salt
dash black pepper
3 Tbsp. butter, divided

For Swedish Meatballs: dash of ginger, dash of nutmeg
For Italian Meatballs: dash of Italian seasoning

*To make soft bread crumbs, cut bread into small pieces and soak in light cream.

Cook chopped onion in 1 Tbsp. of the butter, until onions are tender but not browned. Set aside. Soak pieces of bread in light cream for 5 minutes. Scoop bread out of cream with a slotted spoon and place in large mixing bowl. Discard any unused cream. In bowl with soft bread crumbs, mix in meats, onion, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and spices for either Swedish or Italian meatballs. Mix thoroughly. Form meat mixture into about 36 meatballs (each around the size of a walnut, or about 1 1/2 inches). Melt remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter in large skillet. Cook meatballs in butter, flipping to cook evenly. You want your meatballs to be over 165 degrees internal temperature.

I cooked the meatballs in with the butter until they reached around 160 internal temperature. Since I was working the meatballs in batches, I preheated my oven to 350 and when meatballs browned on all sides, I would place them on a cookie sheet and into the oven. By the time all the meatballs were finished and had spent some time in the oven, they were well done and much of the fat baked off. Drain on paper towels. We had quite a few meatballs leftover, so I froze them for our next spaghetti and meatballs night.

Enjoy! ~It's good to be back!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When things aren't going your way

Sometimes you just have to go bananas.

Yes, I just quoted the Fresh Beat Band. I realize that makes me kinda pathetic. But, I embrace it. Why not?

So, tonight I had every intention of posting a recipe for my chicken stirfry with white sauce. I love this recipe because it is basic. You can turn it into most anything you want. It doesn't require soy sauce, so no expensive gluten free alternatives are necessary. I had planned to write a witty story about my first experience having a gluten-free Chinese meal at a restaurant and being surrounded by tables covered with fresh sugar snap peas, but it was not to be.

I took the digital memory card out of the computer and was going to try and take a picture when the memory card wouldn't stay in the camera. The camera continued to spit the card back out at me, and I was getting really frustrated. I decided the camera was broken. I would have to blog later.

I sat down later to blog and realized that the memory card was also broken. It was permanently locked, and I can no longer access any of my files. I finally got it unlocked, but am still unable to read the files on my computer. Camera, dead. Memory card, dead. Status of the scads of pictures and videos of my kids on the memory card, unknown.

Are you kidding me?!?!?!

My weekend looks to be an expensive one, and I'm hoping in the next few days I have a happy report that at least some of my picture and video files were recovered. Would you join me in hoping for that? I had many lovely food pictures to share with you, but those can be easily recreated. I'm hoping to save the pictures of my kids at my grandmother's 80th birthday party, my daughter's first haircut, and countless other things that simply cannot be recreated.

So, for now, I will be going bananas, and will also be hoping that when I go to sleep I will no longer have that Fresh Beat Band song stuck in my head. Hopefully my blog hiatus will not be a long one, and hopefully my next post will be more cheerful!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Carrot Muffins - my new favorite!

Yum! Carrot muffins are my new favorite muffin, and I'm thrilled to be able to share this recipe with you! For my readers who don't eat GF, just use 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour as a substitution for the white and brown rice flours.

I think muffins are my favorite GF "bread" product to make. Because they form a natural crust as they bake, I've found that I can skip out on the xanthan gum most of the time with no problem. My kids love having muffins for breakfast, and usually they freeze well for breakfasts on the go.

***Carrot Muffins
2 cups grated carrots (right around 4 large carrots)
3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup brown sugar (I mixed 3/4 Tbsp. molasses into 3/4 cup white sugar)
1/2 cup applesauce (I use naturally unsweetened)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 12-count muffin tin. In large mixing bowl, combine flours, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, salt, baking soda, and brown sugar. Stir until well combined. Slowly stir in 2 cups grated carrots, eggs, and applesauce until batter forms. Divide mixture evenly between 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes. If necessary, slowly go around the muffins with a knife to loosen them from the muffin tin.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sweet Onion Teriyaki Dip/Sauce

Before going gluten-free, I really enjoyed making stirfry with 1/2 cup of teriyaki baste and glaze as the sauce. I hadn't really found a sauce alternative that I enjoyed much, until tonight! I decided to make a dipping sauce for some soft pretzels I made earlier today (recipe will come in a day or two), and wasn't really feeling like the traditional cheesy sauce or anything with honey mustard. I came up with this dipping sauce, and liked it so much that I ended up making stirfry for dinner and stirring this in.

This works great as a dip or as a sauce. If you leave out the cornstarch and water mixture, I bet it would make an excellent marinade too.

***Sweet Onion Teriyaki Dip/Sauce
olive oil, for cooking onion
2 Tbsp. chopped onion (or more, as you desire)
1/2 to 1 tsp. ginger
1/3 cup soy sauce (make sure you're using gluten-free)
1/4 honey
1/2 cup water

1 Tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp. cold water

In small sauce pan, saute onion in olive oil until onion becomes tender. Stir in desired amount of ground ginger. Remove pan from heat as you add soy sauce, honey and 1/2 cup water. Return to heat. Stir occasionally until mixture begins bubbling. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water. Add cornstarch and water to soy sauce mixture, stirring continuously. Once mixture has thickened, remove from heat.

For my stirfry, I cut chicken into bite size pieces and cooked in olive oil until it was no longer pink. Then I added stirfry veggies and about 1/4 cup of water. Cover skillet and cook until veggies are desired tenderness. I had about 2 cups cooked rice in the refrigerator from a couple days ago, so I stirred that into the chicken and veggies and then added this teriyaki sauce. Quite good! Hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Scalloped Potatoes

With this recipe, I think I discovered two things at once! Not only did I make scalloped potatoes that were dairy-free and still tasted good, I think I might have discovered an alternative to using a can of "cream of ____ " soup in future recipes. Oh, I hope I'm right! Not only was this recipe easy, it also was a money saver because I didn't have to buy an expensive specialty can of soup. And, a lot of those GF soups are not only expensive, but they use heavy cream (not dairy free, and NOT good for anyone's health in any way). So, here it is! (Not the greatest picture, but they tasted great!)

***Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Scalloped Potatoes

4-5 potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk alternative should work fine)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
1/4 - 1/2 cup diced onion
1 stalk celery, chopped
3/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
olive oil, for cooking celery and onions

Preheat oven to 375. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a medium-size sauce pan. Over medium heat, saute celery and onion until tender. Slowly add in water and almond milk. Heat to almost boiling. Very gradually, whisk in cornstarch or tapioca starch, until mixed well. If any stray clumps of cornstarch or tapioca starch remain, scoop them out with a spoon. Cook until mixture thickens slightly. In a 1 1/2 - 2 quart casserole dish, layer sliced potatoes. Pour thickened, "cream of celery" soup mixture over potatoes. Bake uncovered for about an hour, or until potatoes are tender and can be pierced with a fork.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September Writers Group Topic - "Dirty Work"

Time for a little writing. :)

For this month's writers group, we were challenged to write something to go along with the theme "dirty work." We didn't have much direction, and I didn't think I would have much to write about. When I sat down to write, something welled up within me, and it just poured out. It brought back memories I had totally forgotten about!

Dirty Work - A short-lived summer job when I was 19 years old

I always try to clean up after myself when I stay overnight in a hotel room. I try not to leave the garbage can overflowing or the linens in piles across the floor. I have had people tell me, "Leave the clean up for housekeeping; that's what they get paid for." But I can't do it. So, if my kids make a mess of animal crackers, we clean it up.

You see, I spent two weeks cleaning hotel rooms one summer and it was the worst job I've ever had. My bosses demanded that I come to work 15 minutes earlier than I was scheduled, but I was never allowed to clock in for myself. I was paid minimum wage, which at that time was $5.25 an hour. At 8 AM sharp, we (all of us in housekeeping) were sent out to begin cleaning. We were told we would all be clocked in at 8, but no one ever saw it happen. Our mission was not cleaning, but to make things appear clean, and we were instructed to use as little cleaning fluid as possible. Water would have to suffice.

I will never forget the first hotel room I cleaned. I walked through the door and was horrified. Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets were strewn around the room, and mashed potatoes were ground into the carpet. I tried to make the bed, but instead saw images in magazines I wish I could forget. On the nightstand there was a picture of a woman and two children, and I assumed they were the guest's family. I had barely begun cleaning when I was whisked to the next room and told I would have to pick up the pace if I was going to keep my job. I spent hours trying to clean the filthiest rooms I had ever seen and only to be pushed along with with hardly scratching the surface.

Clocking out was the same as clocking in. We worked longer than scheduled without compensation. After two weeks, I quit. I gave no notice and went home. They altered my pay rate and found a loophole that allowed them to give me less than minimum wage.

And so, I go out of my way to help out housekeeping when I stay in hotels. The people holding down these jobs work hard at dirty and thankless jobs. I hope I make their days even just a little easier.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Oat Bars

There isn't much I can say about these bars except YUM! I bought a carton of cherries at the grocery store, but by the time I went to use them, most of them were soggy and not very good anymore. So, I wanted to find a use for the few cherries I had left. These bars were perfect! The cherries are only on the bottom layer, and they are like a little treat in each bite.

***Chocolate Cherry Oat Bars
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup pitted, diced cherries
1/4 (or less) sugar for sprinkling over cherries
1/2 cup sugar, for chocolate-oat batter
1/2 cup GF oats
1/3 cup oil, plus 1 1/2 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg
1 1/2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 8x8 baking dish. Cover bottom of baking dish with diced cherries. Sprinkle cherries with desire amount of sugar. In bowl, mix brown rice flour, 1/2 cup sugar, oats, cocoa powder, and baking powder, until combined. Slowly mix in oil, water and egg. Batter will be thick. Spoon chocolate-oat batter over cherries, using spoon to spread mixture evenly over cherries. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Bars are best after they have cooled down most or all of they way. They are a little crumbly, but I like it that way and didn't really want to add xanthan gum. If you'd like to make it stick together more, I'm sure you could add 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Roasted Red Potatoes and Veggies

Fall is just around the corner. I can feel it in the air. Even though the last few days have been unseasonably warm, there is a crispness in the breeze, and there are crunchy leaves on the ground. This weather makes me think of two things...well, three, really. 1) soups and stews, 2) hot chocolate, and 3) oven roasted vegetables.

OK, I know red potatoes aren't vegetables. But, I had almost an entire bag of small red potatoes to use up. This recipe works for anything you have on hand, or in your garden. Tonight I did red potatoes, onions, carrots, and banana peppers (though bell peppers would have been great, too). I've done it in the past with zucchini. Squash and sweet potato are great additions too. I've even thrown in some green beans or wax beans. Sometimes they get a little crisp on the ends, but they are great! You really can't go wrong with oven roasted veggies.

***Roasted Red Potatoes and Veggies
10 or more small red potatoes (or about 4 regular white potatoes), enough to cover the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish, cut into eighths (my bag was a strange mixture of size B potatoes with a few larger ones thrown in)
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into "coins"
2-3 small banana peppers, seeds removed and peppers chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp. oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Place desired chopped veggies and potatoes in 9x13 baking dish. Drizzle oil over top of veggies and potatoes, stirring to coat. Generously sprinkle salt and pepper over the potato and veggie mixture. Stir well. Bake 25 minutes, stir. Bake another 20 minutes, or until potatoes (or whatever your largest veggie is) are soft and can be pierced with a fork.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Baked Cucumber Rounds

A dear friend brought over some fresh-picked cucumbers last week, and I was eager to use them! First I baked some cucumber bread, which is nothing like zucchini bread, surprisingly! Perhaps I will share that recipe later. After the sweet bread, I wanted to try something savory. So, I made these...

And no, they aren't fried! These Baked Cucumber Rounds are a great side dish, or served as an appetizer. I couldn't stop eating them they were so good!

***Baked Cucumber Rounds 
1 large cucumber, cut into 1/4" - 1/2" thick slices (about 24 slices)
3/4 cup mayo
3/4 cup cornmeal (Bob's Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills both make certified GF cornmeal)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Very lightly grease a cookie sheet. In one bowl, mix cornmeal, salt and pepper. Put mayo in another bowl. Dip both sides of cucumber slices into mayo and then into cornmeal mixture. If cucumbers have too much moisture, pat them dry with a paper towel before coating in mayo and cornmeal. Place coated cucumber slices on baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes, turn over. Bake for another 12-15 minutes, or until breading has browned on both sides. Handle carefully as the breading comes off easily.