Tater tot Mexican Casserole


IMG_0127

 

We love Nachos in our house, but it’s always good to try new recipes.  I came across this recipe and thought, huh, I wonder how this would taste with tater tots instead of tortilla chips?

I used Mrs. Dash taco seasoning in this dish-it is gluten free and not too spicy. It is also salt-free.  Ortega also makes gluten free taco seasoning mix.  I used OreIda tater tots; they are also gluten free.  On with the recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 packet taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup water
4 cups frozen tater tots or enough to cover the top of the pie plate
water for taco mix*
1/4 cup dairy free milk of choice
1 egg
2 cups dairy free shredded Mexican blend cheese (or any cheddar blend)

Instructions

Grease a 9 or 10 inch pie plate with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef in oil until starting to brown. Add onion and pepper.  Cook until beef is no longer pink, and onion and pepper start to soften.  Drain fat.

IMG_0123

*Add taco seasoning mix and amount of water called for on the package.  The amount may vary depending on the mix you use.   Follow package directions for cooking the meat and taco mix together.  Cool for 2 minutes.

IMG_0124

In a large bowl, whisk together egg and milk;  add cheese and stir until combined.  Add in beef mixture and mix until combined.  Turn into greased pie plate.

IMG_0125

Top with tater tots and bake for 37 to 39 minutes, or until filling is set and tots are golden brown.

IMG_0126

Let cool 10 minutes.  Serve with toppings such as sour cream and salsa.

Tips:

  • Be sure to read labels when choosing taco seasoning mix.  They are not all gluten free
  • Brown your beef by flattening it out in the pan, and browning one side.  Turn over and brown on the other side.  Then break up beef to complete browning.
  • You can omit the red pepper if you like, but it gives a nice sweet taste.
  • Check your tater tots label to make sure they are gluten free.  Some companies add wheat
  • I did not measure the tots-I just used enough to cover the top of the pie plate.
  • You can omit the taco seasoning.  Here is a recipe to make your own.
  • I used Go Veggie Monterey Jack blend.  You could use a Daiya cheddar block and shred it yourself.

We really enjoyed this and will be adding it to the meal rotation.  It gets the hubby seal of approval!

 

 

Review of Enjoy Life Foods Proburst Bites, Soft Baked Minis and Baking Chocolate Snack Packs


IMG_0115

 

 

I received free samples of the products I am reviewing here from Enjoy life foods. This in no way influences my honest opinion of their products. 

I have been singing the praises of Enjoy life foods products since I began writing my blog almost two years ago.  Their soft baked cookies were one of the first products I fell in love with when I went gluten free.  When I began baking gluten and dairy free treats, I came to rely on their delicious dairy-free chocolate chips.

I would like to share some information with you regarding Enjoy Life Products:

  • ALL of their products are certified gluten-free and are free from the top 8 most common allergens (wheat, dairy, egg, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish).
  • ALL of their products are verified Non-GMO, certified Kosher and Halal, and made with no artificial ingredients.
  • Their Baking Chocolate Snack Packs are single-serve pouches of their Baking Chocolate – perfect as a topping or on-the-go chocolate fix. They are also certified vegan and paleo-friendly.
  • Their ProBurst Bites™ are packed with 6-7g of plant-based protein per serving and are certified vegan.

Today I will be reviewing their Proburst Bites, which are a relatively new product, their Soft Baked Mini Snickerdoodles, and their Baking Chocolate snack packs.

 

IMG_0116

Sunseed Butter Proburst Bites

These bites are relatively new to the Enjoy Life family of products.  I have been wanting to try these.  Most protein bites I have found have either nuts or dairy in them, which precludes me from trying them.  I am so glad the Enjoy Life added these to their lineup. They are tasty indeed.  They have a nice, smooth, nutty taste (from sunflower seed butter) and are not too sweet, with a hint of chocolate.  They would be great for traveling when you need a snack on the road that is gluten and allergen free.

Soft Baked Minis Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are one of my favorites.  I love Enjoy Life snickerdoodles, and I am glad to see them available in minis.  Again, a great travel snack.  They are just as good as their bigger cousins; soft, sweet and bursting with cinnamon.  Delicious.

Baking Chocolate Snack Packs

What would I do without Enjoy Life dairy free chocolate chips when I make my pumpkin bread and chocolate cake with ganache?  Now I can just eat the chips out of the bag, not that I haven’t done that before!  They make the best chocolate ganache you have ever tasted and will satisfy your chocolate craving.  You will never know these are dairy free!

If you are looking for a chocolate or dessert fix, look no further my friends.   Enjoy life foods products are delicious, free from most allergens, and are reliable.  What more could you possibly ask for?

Gluten free Cornbread sausage stuffing


IMG_0332

 

I have written before about this stuffing in other posts, but I have not actually done a dedicated post about it.  This recipe is a bit involved, but it is easy.  It just has a lot of steps.  It’s easier if you make the cornbread the day before.

Stuffing, or dressing, depending on where you are from, is an essential part of Thanksgiving.  It is also an essential part of a good old fashioned chicken dinner.

The original stuffing recipe is for a full pan of cornbread.  I usually only use half of the pan, as it is only my hubby and me.  You will have leftover cornbread to snack on.  If you are making this for a crowd, go ahead and use the full pan.  You will need 3 cups of broth if you do.

I have done a how-to video, which you can watch below.

How to make gluten free sausage cornbread stuffing

Here is my version for half of the original recipe:

Cornbread Ingredients:

1 cup gluten free Bisquick
1 cup fine ground cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Instructions for making cornbread

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl

 

IMG_0110

mixing dry ingredients for cornbread

 

Mix together wet ingredients in a large measuring cup

 

IMG_0111

mixing wet ingredients for cornbread

 

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix completely, making sure that all dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

 

IMG_0112

incorporating wet ingredients into the dry ingredients

 

Pour batter into a greased 8×8 baking pan, and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool, then cut into squares (this will make it easier to cube later)

 

IMG_0113

batter into the pan, ready for baking

 

 

IMG_0114

after baking

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut 5 pieces of cornbread into cubes and put in a single layer on a non-stick foil-lined or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until dried out.  Make sure not to burn it! It’s ok if it’s browned.

 

IMG_0335

toasted cornbread

 

 

Ingredients for stuffing

6 oz ground sausage
one small onion, chopped
one small granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken broth (use 3 cups if making a full pan)
one egg ( you can leave this out)
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Instructions for making stuffing

Put your bread cubes in a large mixing bowl

In a large skillet, brown sausage in one tablespoon vegetable oil until no longer pink.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same skillet, heat an additional tablespoon of vegetable oil.

 

IMG_0334

sausage, onion and apples after sauteing

 

 

Saute onion until soft.  Add in the apples and saute until apples are soft.  Add spices and pour over bread cubes.  Mix to combine.

Mix together chicken broth and egg, and pour slowly over bread cubes, allowing chicken broth to be absorbed.  This may take a few minutes.  Mix until bread softens and starts to hold together

 

cornbread mixing

mixing the cornbread

 

Turn into a greased casserole dish and dot with dairy free spread.  Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, stirring once to ensure entire casserole is hot.

 

IMG_0333

ready for the oven

 

Tips:

  • You can use your favorite cornbread recipe in this stuffing, but you don’t want it to be too moist.
  • You can leave out the egg-I forgot it and it turned out just fine.
  • I left out the celery as I don’t care for it.  Celery seed will give the same flavor.
  • I left out the carrot.
  • You can make the cornbread the day before.  You can even toast it the day before. Store in a ziplock bag in your pantry.

Don’t be without your favorite stuffing ever again!

#TBT retro recipe for crockpot chicken


TBT

 

I still use this recipe at least once a month.  It will give you the most mouth watering, tender and tasty chicken you have ever eaten.

When I was a little girl, every year on my birthday, my mother would ask me, “what do you want for your birthday dinner?”  And every year I would answer, “chicken and rice”.  To this day, chicken and rice is my favorite meal by far.  It brings back warm memories of childhood and reminds me of more carefree days.

In my book, chicken is one of the most difficult things to nail.  A smaller version of the Thanksgiving turkey, the breast meat often dries out before the dark meat is done.  Nothing is worse than dry poultry.  It conjures up that image from the movie Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase sticks his knife into the beautifully brown turkey only to be greeted by a blast of dry air and desiccated meat.   This has happened to all of us at least once.

Or you think your golden bird is done and remove it from the oven too soon only to find it is still pink.   So you cut it up and nuke it.   Nothing like overcooked, rubbery chicken!

I usually avoid cooking a whole chicken for this reason, and stick to chicken parts-particularly thigh meat.  They are easy to cook and alway turn out moist.  But sometimes a whole chicken is the only thing that will do, especially if you are expecting people over for dinner or want extra meat for salad or soup.

How to solve the dilemma of the dried out chicken?  Read on McDuff!!

During my usual of browsing the internet, looking for new recipes and methods, I came across a great crockpot recipe for whole chicken.  Crockpot recipes can be overcomplicated and time-consuming, as you often have to do pre-cooking of meats and vegetables.  Not this one.   It couldn’t be any easier.

  • Start with a 4-6 pound chicken.  Anything smaller will dry out, even in the crockpot
  • slice one onion and spread out on the bottom of the crockpot-this will prevent the chicken from sticking
  • you can use a crockpot liner if you wish (I do for easy cleanup)
  • take your chicken out of the package-DO NOT RINSE IT!  This will spread bacteria!
  • Drain chicken of all blood and pat dry
  • season as you wish-I used thyme, sage, Mrs. Dash original blend and salt and pepper to taste
  • No need for butter, oil or broth
  • place chicken BREAST SIDE DOWN in the crockpot (this is the secret)
  • turn crockpot to high for one hour
  • after one hour turn to low and cook for an additional 3-4 hours or until drumsticks are loose and chicken falls off the bone

That’s it!  You will have to check the chicken for doneness since it is upside down-this might require you to remove it.  Or you can cook breast side up, but the breast meat will be much moister if you cook it upside down.  The chicken cooks in its own juices.   Depending on the size you will have to modify the cooking time.  Chicken cooks more quickly in a crockpot than a beef stew would.   My six pounder barely fit in the crockpot but a smaller chicken would be easier to check for doneness.

The only drawback is that the skin will not crisp.  You can either remove it (still tastes good so this is up to you) or crisp it under the broiler if you wish.   You will never taste a moister,  more flavorful chicken.

Don’t forget the gravy!

Crockpot Sausage ragout


sausageragupasta1

 

There’s nothing better than low and slow cooked pasta sauce.  I remember my mother making her sauce with sausage and meatballs.  I also remember the mess all over her kitchen.  That won’t happen when you use a crockpot to simmer your sauce.

I was going to make this bolognese sauce, but it has a lot of ingredients, including milk.  I wasn’t sure that dairy-free milk would work in a reduction with tomatoes, so I decided to whip up my own recipe, using sausage instead of ground beef.

This recipe makes about six servings.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground sausage
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 cup red wine or broth
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash original seasoning
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda*

Instructions:

Line a 6-quart crockpot.  Remove sausage from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking to allow to come to room temperature.  This will aid in the browning process.

Pat sausage dry with paper towels.  Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a half tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering.   Place ground sausage in the pan and allow to brown, about five minutes. Do NOT disturb the meat.  When you see a brown crust starting to form, flip the meat over to the other side and let brown an additional 3-4 minutes.  Begin breaking up sausage and cook until no longer pink.  It’s very important to thoroughly cook the meat here.  The crockpot won’t get hot enough to cook it through.  Remove sausage to the crockpot.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the additional half tablespoon olive oil to the pan and cook onions until soft.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add wine or broth to pan, and let reduce by half, scraping up any browned bits from skillet.  Pour remaining wine or broth and any browned bits into crockpot.

Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings on top of meat and onions.  Stir to incorporate.

Set crockpot on high and cook for 20 minutes.  Reduce setting to low and continue to cook for additional 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

*If sauce is too acidic, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in the last hour or so of simmering.  The sauce might bubble a little-that’s ok.

Serve over your favorite gluten free pasta.

You can’t overcook this sauce.  The longer it simmers, the better it gets.  And of course, it gets even better after a couple of days.

My husband raved about this sauce.  You will too!

Surprising gluten free foods


surprise-jpg-w300h104

 

We all miss our favorite foods since going gluten and dairy free.  But did you know that some of those foods that you thought you might never eat again are available in gluten and dairy free versions?

Since the explosion of the gluten free craze partnered with the internet, you can get just about anything in a gluten and/or dairy-free version.

This list is not going to include the usual products.  Listed below are gluten free foods that really surprised me with their availability.  I have not tried all of these products.  I have tried those with an asterisk.  I also have to admit that I placed an order while writing this post……

Gluten free Pennsylvania dutch pretzels*

If you are missing out on the office pretzel day, you need not miss out any longer.  These were pretty good.  You can microwave them which means you can bring them to work with you.

Gluten free puff pastry

These do contain dairy, but it’s pretty great that you can get these.

Gluten and dairy free ice cream cones

These would be great with dairy free ice cream

Gluten and dairy free frozen apple pie

This would be a great time saver on Thanksgiving.  There is a pumpkin version too.

Whoopie pies

Who would have thought?

Chinese dumplings*

Ordering from the link above there is no minimum.  If you order from feel good foods, there is a 6 box minimum.  Believe me, these are worth every penny.  See my review here.

Gluten free french fried onions*

It took a lot of searching to find these.  They are exactly like Durkee french fried onions.

There you have it.  Have you found surprising gluten free foods?  Please share!

 

Hit and miss with Ian’s gluten free


review of ian's gif.gif

It’s great when you can find a company that you can rely on for consistent gluten free products.  There are a few out there, like King Arthur, that deliver the goods.  Then there is Ian’s gluten free.  All of their products are free of most common allergens.

I have tried several of their frozen and packaged products, and I would like to share my reviews with you, so that you can make informed choices.   Of course,  my tastes are subjective.

Ian’s fish sticks

ANAF_FishSticks_8oz_FACE

It’s hard to replicate breading in a gluten free version.  If you grew up with Mrs. Pauls or Gorton’s fish sticks, you will be sadly disappointed.  These taste like cardboard.   There’s no getting around it.

Chicken Nuggets

gf-Non-GMO-Organic-Chicken-Nuggets-new

You’d do better with Tyson gluten free nuggets.  Again, these taste like cardboard.

French Bread pizza

ANAF_FrenchBreadPepperoni.png

These are no threat to Stouffer’s.  The crust gets really tough if you microwave these.  The cheese is gooey and has a weird texture.  Pizza is one of the things that’s almost impossible to replicate.  I have struggled with this for months and have pretty much given up on ever eating a decent slice of pizza again.

Panko bread crumbs

ANAF_Breadcrumbs_Parmesan_FACE.jpg

These were pretty good, with a nice spice blend.  They were crunchy, but did not adhere well to my chicken cutlets.  I would still recommend these.

Croutons

Croutons_5oz_Kale.jpg

I was really amazed to see gluten free croutons at my local store.  I think the whole kale thing is a gimmick, but having said that, these are absolutely delicious.  They really nailed it.  They are crunchy, but not hard as a rock.  I am really impressed with these.

So there you have it.  You should try these Ian’s products and share your reviews here.

 

Review of Enjoy life Plentils and two other new products


new product reviews

One of the best things about writing a blog about gluten and dairy free living is the opportunity to try new products, and to share my reviews with all of you.  This past week, I ordered a few new items to try from Amazon.

I want to start by reviewing Enjoy life Plentils.  I am a big fan of Enjoy life foods; especially their chocolate chips.  A few months back, I reviewed another similar type of snack food, Beanfields, which are made of beans. You can see my review of those here.

Plentils are made from lentils.  They are crunchy, savory and slightly salty.  I ordered the Margherita pizza flavor from Amazon, as they are not available in my area.

plentils

I can’t say they really remind me of pizza, per se.  The first thing you get when you open the bag is a strong whiff of parmesan; not that that’s a bad thing!.  There is no dairy in these.  I’m not sure how they pull that off, but I am really impressed.  They do not taste like lentils at all.  In fact, they really remind me of pork rinds.  They are delicious!

Several months ago, I did a review on NOwhey mini chocolate peanut butter cups.  I was not impressed with them.  They had no discernable peanut butter taste.  I thought that maybe because they were so small, that the lack of filling precluded me from giving them a fair review.  So I ordered the regular size cups.

nowhey peanut butter cups

Forget about “losing your cravings for Reese’s”.  They don’t even come close.  The filling is lacking any sort of flavor.  They use sunflower seed butter, but don’t add anything resembling the filling of a Reese’s peanut butter cup.   The chocolate is okay, but nothing to write home about.

I do want to say that I give them kudos for providing allergen-free Easter chocolates.  I have not tried them, but kids and parents will be thanking them when the Easter Bunny visits.

My last review is of Udi’s Rye bread.  I have been trying to find this bread for months; I had to order it from the glutenfree shop.   It’s really hard to find.  I miss rye bread, and this comes pretty close, caraway seeds and all.

udis rye

Udi’s is a pretty reliable brand.  The only issue I have is with the big holes in their bread, which they can’t seem to fix.  But it is one of the few brands that doesn’t have honey,  agave or inulin, all of which I have to avoid.

So there you have it;  three new products for you to try.  Please share your reviews!

Welcome new followers for March 2017


picgifs-welcome-2-566738

 

Welcome to all my new followers for March.  My blog continues to grow with your support!  You should check them out:

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 3.12.12 PM

Also, a warm welcome to my new followers by email!

Easy gluten free carrot cake


IMG_0103

 

I haven’t had a slice of carrot cake since I went gluten free.  Since there are only two of us, making large, 9×13 or multi-layer cakes is not practical.  I found a really good recipe at my go-to, Kingarthurflour.com.

This recipe uses their gluten free baking mix instead of regular gluten-free flour.  I did not use all of the add-ins in the recipe.  You certainly can.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Mix
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (in place of oil)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (in place of molasses)
  • 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and grated carrots (use food processor)
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8×8 square baking pan with cooking spray.

Mix together dry ingredients, except carrots and other add-ins in a large bowl.

 

IMG_0092

dry ingredients whisked together

Mix wet ingredients together in a glass measuring cup.

 

IMG_0093

wet ingredients whisked together

 

Slowly pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking to incorporate dry flour.

 

IMG_0094

use a whisk to mix ingredients together

 

IMG_0095

this is what batter should look like before add-ins

Stir in carrots, raisins, and any other add-ins.

 

IMG_0096

after add-ins

Scrape batter into prepared baking pan

 

IMG_0097

ready for the oven

 

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and cake is slightly browned

 

IMG_0098

it should look like this

Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 4 oz dairy free cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons dairy free spread, softened
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Add cream cheese, spread, vanilla, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment.

 

IMG_0099

add all ingredients except sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer 

 

 

With the paddle attachment on low speed, beat cream cheese and spread together until creamy and incorporated.

IMG_0100

Beat in the sugar and continue to beat until creamy.  Add a dash of dairy-free milk if it’s not spreading consistency.

Spread onto your cooled cake.

IMG_0102

Refrigerate at least two hours to set.

Slice and enjoy!

Tips:

  • I replaced the oil with unsweetened applesauce.  You can use butter, oil or dairy free spread
  • I left out the nuts, coconut, and pineapple
  • make sure your dairy free spread is softened; I ended up with lumpy frosty, though it still tastes good
  • Check the cake after 30 minutes for doneness
  • I used baby carrots, but you can use whole carrots

This cake is moist and really good.  I would definitely make it again.  Please share your results if you make it.