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!

 

 

#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!

Why you should never put your children on a gluten free diet*


 

 

stop and thinkIt’s not easy being a parent.  We all want what’s best for our children.  Which is why I feel it is important to address what seems to be a growing trend.  Parents are increasingly putting their small children on gluten-free diets, because they think it is healthier.  Let me explain why this can be dangerous.

Some children are diagnosed with food allergies or celiac disease, and this is the only time you should be cutting any food group out of a growing child’s diet.  Ignorance is no excuse here.  Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t put your child on a gluten-free diet unless your doctor tells you to.   You can read more about these reasons here.

  • Whole grains that contain gluten have lots of crucial nutrients — including B vitamins, antioxidants, iron, selenium, and magnesium. They have fiber, too, which is important for good digestion. While it’s possible to get these nutrients and fiber without eating gluten, it takes some work.

  • It can be too low in calories for growing children. Kids need healthy calories to grow, and when you cut out foods made with wheat or that otherwise contain gluten, it can be harder to get those calories.

  • It can be high in arsenic. A staple of a gluten-free diet is rice — and many rice products are high in arsenic. The rice plant is particularly good at pulling arsenic out of the soil, and there is a fair amount of it left from prior pesticide use. Arsenic in large amounts can be lethal, but even smaller amounts can lead over time to not only cancer and other health problems, but to learning problems when infants and children are exposed. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration have been cautioning parents about limiting rice and rice products in their children’s diet.

If you suspect your child has problems with gluten, get them tested for celiac.  You might also want to have them tested for milk allergies or dairy intolerance.

Gluten free is not healthy and it is really hard to maintain.  Why would you want to deprive your child unless you absolutely had to?  It is not an easy lifestyle for anyone.

If you are unsure, always consult your doctor before putting yourself, or your child on any restrictive diet.

 

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delicious crock pot Spring leg of lamb


 

roast lamb

Picture courtesy of All recipes

 

 

Spring is in the air, and with it, lamb.  We have a local farm that produces the best lamb I have eaten since my trip to Ireland.

The crockpot is my favorite cooking method for large cuts of meat. You can be assured that it is cooked through, and won’t be overcooked.

This recipe is easy and results in tender, fall off the bone lamb.

Ingredients:

1 2-3 lb leg of lamb, bone in
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1-3 cloves garlic, to taste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash original (or your favorite seasoning)

Directions:

Combine broth and wine and pour into a lined crock pot. Place lamb in the crockpot. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over lamb. Cook 30 minutes on high. Reduce to low and cook and additional five hours, turning lamb every 2 hours for even cooking (if possible), until meat is falling off the bone and is fork tender.

Slice lamb and make gravy with the cooking liquid using white rice flour.

Serve with noodles or potatoes.

This makes an easy weeknight dinner. I did not have rosemary, so I left it out. You can use any herbs or spices that you like. I did not add additional salt; the chicken broth is plenty salty. The cooking juices made a delicious gravy.

Please share your thoughts and outcome when trying this recipe.

Pot roast in the crock pot and easy gluten free gravy


IMG_0071

 

I never used to like pot roast as a kid growing up.  I would douse it with ketchup just to get it down.

As I grew up I developed a liking for a good pot roast, as long as it is not dried out.  The best way to make a pot roast is in the crockpot.

I used this recipe, modified of course!  I did not make the gravy ahead of time, as shown in the recipe.  I did not brown the meat either.  I don’t find it makes much of a difference when cooking in the crockpot.  It also streamlines the recipe, and saves cleaning more dishes.  I also cut down on the liquid.  I think there is way too much in this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 2-3 pound chuck roast, untrimmed ( you can trim it if you like, but the fat will keep it moist)
1/2 bag baby carrots
1 medium onion, sliced
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash original flavor

Instructions:

Sprinkle salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash evenly over chuck roast.  Put roast, carrots, and onion in a lined crockpot. Combine in a 2 cup glass measuring cup wine and tomato paste, whisking to combine.  Pour into crock pot over roast.  Pour broth into crockpot over roast. Cover and cook on high setting for 30 minutes.  Reduce to low and cook for 6-7 more hours,  turning about every two hours for even cooking.  Continue cooking until roast easily breaks apart with fork, or is desired doneness.

Remove roast to serving platter, along with vegetables.  Remove 2 cups cooking juices to a fat separator measuring cup.  Make gravy.  See instructions below.

Making gravy always eluded me, but I finally have it down.

How to make easy gluten free gravy:

Making gluten-free gravy is easier than you think, and you don’t need cornstarch.  The secret is using white rice flour and a lot of whisking.  You want to use this ratio:

1 tablespoon of dairy free spread and one tablespoon of rice flour for each cup of liquid

  1. Melt your dairy free spread in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat
  2. when the spread is melted and bubbling, sprinkle flour evenly over the melted spread
  3. whisk to incorporate the flour into the spread-this is your roux
  4. slowly add your broth about 1/4 cup at a time, and whisk, whisk, whisk!
  5. the flour will incorporate to thicken the gravy
  6. Keep whisking and adding broth until desired thickness is achieved.  You may not need all of the broth.
  7. Add your 1/4 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs.
  8. Serve over meat and potatoes, etc.

It really is easy.  Watch my YouTube video to see how:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvO9hI_R0f4

 

 

 

Battle of the chocolate cakes, Part 2


Several months ago, I wrote a post about the battle between the chocolate cakes, using King Arthur Measure for Measure flour and Mina’s chocolate cake mix.  Today the battle is between King Arthur and Better Batter.   I have heard people rave about it, so I decided to compare it to my favorite King Arthur gluten free flour.

I contacted Better Batter for a free sample.  They usually don’t send any out unless you meet several criteria, but after a few back and forth emails, they consented to send me a sample of their gluten free Better Batter Cup for Cup flour.

better batter gf

I used my go-to King Arthur chocolate cake recipe.  I don’t normally substitute gluten free flours in specific brand recipes, but in this case I made an exception.  You don’t want to make a recipe that’s already gluten free if you are using measure for measure gluten free flour.  It’s meant to replace wheat flour in recipes.  If you have a gluten-free recipe, use gluten-free flour.   There is a gluten-free version of this cake, but I prefer to make this one, using the replacement flour.

I made the cake exactly as directed in a 9×9 square cake pan.   The recipe is in the above link.

Here is a picture of the King Arthur version of the cake:

img_0046

And here is a picture of the Better Batter version:

IMG_0066

As you can see, the King Arthur version baked up much taller.  But the Better Batter had a slight edge in the moistness of the crumb.  I cut the cake before the ganache set, so I could write a post on it.  Oh, who am I kidding-I couldn’t wait to try it!

This is from Better Batter’s website:

better batter ingredients

For a comparison, here are King’ Arthur‘s ingredients:

King arthur ingred king arthur flour

They are both based on rice flour, but they have a slight difference in ingredients.  Better Batter has fewer ingredients.  I find King Arthur amazing in that it works in just about any cake recipe as a cup for cup replacement.   Three pounds of the King Arthur cost $9.95. Twenty ounces of Better Batter costs $8.69.  You get much more bang for your buck with the King Arthur flour.  Better Batter is a very close second.  The winner: King Arthur.

On a similar note, I have been asked by several people how to make dairy free ganache.  It couldn’t be any easier.  I use Coconut milk and Enjoy life dairy free chips.  You can see how easy it is in this video:

Watch my YouTube video on how to make easy dairy free chocolate ganache here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXSAjCvzFvE

It’s interesting to try different baking mixes to see if one edges out the others.  Of course, this is all subjective.

In any case, it’s a delicious way to try gluten free flours!  Happy baking!

 

Boston cream pie poke cake


IMG_0059

 

Boston cream pie can be time-consuming and difficult to make.  When I found this recipe for Boston cream poke cake, I had to try it out, with my own spin, of course.

This recipe is for a 9 by 13 pan.  This is too much for my husband and me, so I cut the recipe to make an 8×8 square cake.

I borrowed the cake part from this recipe from King Arthur for Pineapple Upside down cake.

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 tablespoons dairy free butter (earth balance sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups King Arthur Measure for measure gluten free flour
1/2 cup dairy free milk

Filling:

1 box instant vanilla pudding
1 to 1 1/2 cups dairy free milk (not soy milk)*

For the chocolate ganache:

1 cup dairy free chocolate chips (Enjoy life)
1/2 cup dairy free milk

Instructions:

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed, cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add in egg, salt, baking powder and vanilla; mix until incorporated.

Add flour and milk alternately, ending with flour. When last addition of flour is added, mix just until incorporated.

Scrape batter into prepared pan (batter will be thick). Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool completely before adding filling.

 

IMG_0061

Filling Cake:

Poke holes evenly in cake with the end of a wooden spoon. In glass measuring cup, add one cup milk, and slowly whisk in pudding mix until just beginning to thicken. You may need to add additional milk until pudding is thin enough to pour over cake.

Pour pudding mix over cake, and with a spatula, spread over cake, making sure pudding goes into the holes. It’s ok to have some extra pudding on top and sides of cake.  You might not need all of the pudding.  Pour extra pudding into a bowl and save for another time.  Refrigerate for one hour for pudding to set before adding ganache.

 

IMG_0060

Make the ganache:

Pour 1/2 cup milk into a glass measuring cup.  Add 1 cup dairy free chocolate chips and microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir with a whisk until smooth.  If not smooth, microwave an additional ten seconds at a time, whisking until smooth.  Let cool five minutes.  Pour over cake, spreading evenly and to edges.  Refrigerate at least one hour.

Cut cake into squares and serve.

This cake is easy and delicious.  All the taste of Boston cream pie without all the fuss.  Please comment your results in trying this recipe.

 

How to Frankenstein multiple recipes into one gluten free masterpiece


it's alive

Sometimes when you are wanting to try a gluten free recipe, whether savory or sweet, there are some components you don’t like or might be too complicated.  It can be tricky to combine two or more recipes, but it can be done.  It can be even more difficult if the recipes are not converted.

Today we will focus on sweet recipes.

The first thing you need to do is to break your finished product into components.  Let’s take for example this No-bake Oreo cheesecake.  The components for the crust are crushed Oreos and butter.  The components for the filling are cream cheese, sugar, cool whip,  vanilla, and crushed Oreos.

I don’t care for gluten-free Oreos that much, so I decided to take this recipe and make it my own.  I decided to use the graham cracker crust from this recipe.  The next step is to convert all of the ingredients to gluten and dairy free.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups gluten-free graham cracker crumbs (Kinnickinnick)
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons earth balance buttery sticks, melted

For the filling:

8 ounces dairy-free cream cheese
1 tub of cool whip (not strictly dairy free-there are dairy free whipped toppings you can use)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Okay, we’ve converted all of the components to gluten and dairy free.  Now let’s put it all together.

Instructions:

Crust:

Combine the crumbs and sugar together in a large bowl.  Stir in the melted dairy free spread until the mixture resembles sand.  Using a spatula, spread crumbs evenly over the bottom of a 10-inch pie plate, pressing up the sides.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before filling.

Optional ganache filling:

Melt 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate dairy free chips and 1/2 cup dairy free milk in microwave at 30-second increments-whisk to combine until smooth.  Pour into chilled crust.  Chill at least one hour before adding filling.

Cheesecake filling:

In a mixer with paddle attachment on low speed, beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.  Add vanilla and beat to incorporate.  Add half of the Cool Whip and beat on low-medium speed until combined.  Remove bowl from mixer and fold in remaining Cool Whip.  Pour into chilled crust, spreading to edges.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Optional fruit topping:

Top chilled cheesecake with any pie filling of your choice.  You could also use pineapple topping.

So I have combined two different recipes, and converted them to gluten and dairy free, for one delicious cheesecake.  This can be done with any two, or even three recipes.

Some tips:

  • read both recipes through to make sure the components will go together
  • convert ingredients to gluten and dairy free
  • this works best with similar recipes
  • try switching one component at a time, such as a crust type for a pie
  • don’t get discouraged if the switch doesn’t work

Please contact me with any questions you might have on switching out recipes!