Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gluten Free Grilled Chicken and Potato Salad

Today has not been a good day.

Thing 1. It is INSANELY hot and humid.  Insanely.  I thought I moved to NH to avoid such things.
Thing 2. The yorkie has some kind of intestinal upset and has for the last few days.  We finally made it to the vet today.  Anyway, a ten pound dog can still make A LOT of mess.
Thing 3.  I noticed a stain on the wall in the bathroom.  I thought I was so handy when I grabbed the pain the contractor had left to fix it!  Until it dried.  And I realized I had used the gloss version meant for the base boards.  So now I have a shiny stained spot!  What joy!  I did buy the right paint this afternoon, but I think I'll leave it to the Mister to fix this time....
Thing 4.  In all the mayhem, I overboiled the pot with the potatoes and made an epic mess that took ages to clean up!

So, tonight's dinner is a no-frills, no-fuss, very-little-indoor heat kind of meal.  I'm hoping this evening will be better than my day was!

I started by boiling chunked, peeled potatoes this morning, for about ten minutes, until fork tender.  I tucked them into the fridge to cool off.

When I got home from my paint adventure, I put together the marinade for the chicken.  Juice of a lemon, 3 tablespoons or olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Mix it together in a gallon size ziplock and throw in your chicken.  Stick it in the fridge for an hour or two or more.

Side note: We have had the HARDEST time finding chicken with no added broths that upset the Mister's celiac, but the Bell and Evans brand (who also make great GF prepared chicken) seems to do the trick.

Now, start chopping!  You want to make the potato salad early so it chills and the flavors come together.  I find that everyone has their own preference when it comes to potato salad.  I added 2 ribs of celery, 1/3 of a red onion, and 4 chopped up pickle slices.

On to the dressing! 1/4 cup of the juice from your pickle jar (seriously, it's tasty and already seasoned for you!, about a 1/2 cup of mayo, 3 tablespoons of yellow mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix it up, taste it, and adjust as necessary, but remember that potatoes soak up A LOT of flavor, so don't be afraid to be bold!

Side note on pickles and mustard: Pickles and mustard are usually gluten free, but because they contain vinegar, you need to double check!  Distilled and cider vinegars are gluten free, but malt vinegar is NOT.  Check ingredients labels for the kind of vinegar (or for a GF label), and steer clear of the word malt.

Add the dressing to the potatoes and veggies- stir, taste, and chill in the fridge until dinner!  Now all that's left is to grill the chicken!  Heat the grill to around 500 degrees and grill chicken until it hits 165 degrees (about 5 minutes per side).  Voila!  Dinner!

Here's to good dinners at the end of tough days :-).

Monday, July 27, 2015

How NOT to make Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

I was not going to write this post, but my darling sister says that food blogs are more interesting and useful if they chronicle failure as well as success.  So, let it be known, I was wary when I set out on the journey to make slow cooker gluten free mac and cheese.  The Mister and I have multiple store bought gluten free mac and cheeses that we like (Annie's for the box kind and Udi's for the baked kind), but it seemed so silly to be buying pre-made mac and cheese when I'm not working this summer.  And this looked so tasty:

But, let it also be known that my slow cooker and I have a shaky relationship.  I've made some tasty soups and stews, but I've also made dishes so gross (notable a spinach artichoke chicken) that I had to throw them away.  The problem with a slow cooker is that you can't taste and adjust as you go; you just have to trust.  And, when it comes to slow cookers (and many other things) if it seems to good to be true, it probably is- recipes that are too easy tend to not taste too good.

Anyway, enough about how my relationship status with my slow cooker is 'complicated' and on to my attempt to make Gluten Free on a Shoe String's yummy looking mac and cheese.

The ingredients were simple enough- it began with an egg, 3 cups of milk, a can of evaporated milk, and 2 tablespoons of rice flour.  I added sat and pepper, and dumped it in the crock pot.

Next came the pasta and cheese, and I will admit, this is where I went tragically wrong.  You see, I
like my cheddar sharp.  Cabot is my brand of choice.  But I wanted this recipe to be yellow, and I thought a mild cheddar would be more 'classic'.  So I bought the store brand.  Let me tell you, cooked for 3 hours, the store brand cheddar smells and tastes like something between glue and plastic.

The pasta was also my fault- the recipe I began from used a GF pasta made mostly of corn, but the Mister is pretty sensitive to corn, so I used our favorite rice pasta instead.  This was not a fatal error like the cheddar, BUT- I later learned that the rice pasta needed way more liquid than the other pasta does.  I added more milk after my mac and cheese had all ready 'set' and SOME parts of it were cooked well, but others were crunchy.  IF I ever attempt this again, I will add another cup of milk.

This cooked for about 2.5 hours on low, when I made my third error.  The original recipe did not call for stirring- if you ever try this- PLEASE STIR AS SOON AS YOUR CHEESE LOOKS MELTED.  Otherwise, it sets and you just have un-even cheese streaked pasta....

Now, for the positives, it 'set up' really nicely, and with enough salt and hot sauce, we both managed to eat a full serving for dinner.  It was edible; it was just sort of edible plastic..... So we ended dinner with healthy portions of chocolate ice cream to help us forget ;-).

So, lesson learned- I continue to be wary of my slow cooker and recipes that seem too easy.  I will admit that we threw away the leftovers.  I froze them at first in hopes that I would want to eat it a few days later (wishful thinking, I know), but the plastic taste was more than I could handle.  Here's to better cooking adventures next time!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Stuffed Squash Boats- Gluten Free

If you've ever grown squash in the summer time, you know that the number of squash can easily get out of hand.  This simple recipe (which can be made with squash or zuchinni) is more of a starting point than a recipe.  Don't have ground beef? Try Italian Sausage.  Don't like cheddar? Try parmesan.  Hate chili powder? Leave it out.  You get the idea :-)

Start with 3-4 summer squash.  Rinse them.  Dry them.  Cut off the ends, and cut them lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and most of the flesh.  Grease a baking sheet and lay out the squash halves.  Pre-heat the over to 375 degrees.

The filling begins with 1 diced onion sautéing over medium heat.  While that sauté, chop 4
cloves of garlic and throw them in.  I actually did not use any oil, because my pans are non-stick and the ground meat offers plenty of fat, but feel free to add oil if you need to.  Sauté the veggies until they are starting to soften.  You could also add celery and/or carrots- that would be cool and nutritious of you.

Next, add about a pound of ground beef.  Mash it, stir it, and break it up as it cooks.  You might even turn the heat up a little.  Throw in a dash of salt and pepper, and, if you like it, chili powder (about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste).

When your meat is pretty browned but not done through, you can add in some spinach (or kale, or swiss chard, or.....oh, you get the idea).  The Mister in this household was recently diagnosed with severe anemia, so now I add spinach to everything, just for good measure.  Stir it around until it 'wilts'.

Take the pan off of the heat and throw in a generous handful of cheese (about 3/4 of a cup) and stir it around until it melts.  I prefer cheddar- it melts well and adds nice flavor.  The cheese helps 'bind' the filling so it doesn't fall out of the boats!

Grab a spoon and start filling your squash.  Don't worry if you have too much filling, I tuck the extra filling around the squash in the casserole dish.  Top each boat with a little more cheese, because, well, I like cheese.

Put it in the oven uncovered for about 30 minutes (until a fork goes into the squash pretty easily).  Pull it out, plate it up, and enjoy!  We had it with salsa and sour cream with a side of chips.

And to prove you can't please everyone, here is the Mister's after plate- yup, he ate the meat right out and left the squash!  Good thing I put some spinach in that filling!

The short version:

Serves: 3       Active time: 20 minutes    Total time: 50 minutes

Olive oil or cooking spray
3-4 Summer Squash (try to choose ones with big 'bellies')
1 medium white or yellow onion (diced)
4 cloves garlic (diced)
1 pound ground beef
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1 cup cheddar cheese (divided into 3/4 cup for filling and 1/4 cup for topping)
Salsa and sour cream for serving (optional)

1. Grease a square baking dish.  Preheat over to 375 degrees.  Rinse squash, cut off ends, and cut lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds.
2.  Add onion to pan over medium heat.  Cook 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic.  Cook another 2-3 minutes.
3.  Add ground meat, salt, pepper, and chili powder.  Break up meat with a spatula as it cooks.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, until meat is nearly done.
4. Add spinach.  Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes until wilted
5. Take pan off heat.  Add 3/4 cup of cheddar.  Stir until melted.
6.  Use a spoon to fill squash boats.  Tuck extra filling around squash.  Bake until squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes.
7.  Serve with salsa and sour cream- enjoy!