Easy microwave mushroom risotto


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Yes, you read that right.  You can make risotto in the microwave.  I didn’t think it would work, but it did, beautifully.

If you have ever made risotto, you know how labor intensive it can be.  You have to babysit it, and constantly stir the rice, adding stock a ladle at a time.  It’s a pain.  Besides, if you order it out in a restaurant, it will have butter and parmesan in it.  Why not make it gluten and dairy free, at home?  Here’s how I did it.  You can find the original recipe here.  This will take 30-40 minutes, so plan ahead.  I am giving the instructions for a 1100 watt microwave.  You can find the instructions for 700 watt microwave in the original recipe.  If you do not know the wattage of your microwave, check the owners manual, or online.

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Bechamel sauce and Green bean casserole


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I have mentioned green bean casserole in several posts, specifically about holiday dinners.  But you don’t have to wait for a holiday to have gluten and dairy free green bean casserole.

Two obstacles to making gluten and dairy free green bean casserole are cream of mushroom soup and fried onions.  I found really great gluten and dairy free fried onions here.  As far as I know, this is the only place you can purchase these.  You could make your own, but it’s really labor intensive.

Then there is the cream of mushroom soup.  I have been unable to find both gluten and dairy free cream of mushroom soup that I like.  You can make your own.  That’s where the bechamel, or white sauce, comes in.  Bechamel can be used not only to make cream of mushroom soup, but also for cheese sauce and lasagna.

I find it easier to whisk the bechamel in a skillet, but you can also use a large saucepan.

Ok, let’s get started with the bechamel recipe.

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For one cup of bechamel:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup dairy free milk
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth (this adds flavor, if you want to omit it, use 1/2 cup of milk)
1 tablespoon dairy free spread
1 tablespoon white rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon herbs of choice, for example, thyme ( for cream of mushroom soup), italian seasoning (for lasagna)

Additional ingredients for cream of mushroom soup:

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4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped

Instructions for plain bechamel:

Melt the spread in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat until bubbling.  Sprinkle the flour over the spread and whisk until incorporated.  Mix together the milk and broth in a large measuring cup.  Pour slowly over flour mixture and whisk continually until thickened.  Bechamel should be thicker than gravy, but still spoonable.  If mixture is too thick, add additional milk or broth until desired consistency.

Instructions for cream of mushroom soup:

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute mushrooms in one tablespoon of butter, until softened.  Sprinkle one tablespoon of rice flour over mushrooms, stirring to incorporate. Follow above instructions for plain bechamel.

Assembling the green bean casserole:

Ingredients:

1 can green beans, drained
1 recipe cream of mushroom soup, above
1 package crunions

Instructions:

In a medium casserole dish, add drained green beans.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Pour in your cream of mushroom soup and stir to combine.  Add half of the package of crunions, and stir together.  At this point, you can refrigerate the casserole until needed, up to one day.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  If you have made the casserole ahead, remove from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking.  Put casserole in oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until bubbling.  Add remaining crunions to top of casserole, and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until crunions are slightly browned.  Remove from oven and serve.

You might need to increase the amount of the bechamel, according to the recipe.  For each cup of bechamel, use one cup of milk, one tablespoon of dairy free spread, and one tablespoon of rice flour.

There you have it!  Green Bean casserole, fresh from your own kitchen!

Review of Namaste Gluten free Bread mix


The folks at Namaste sent me a free sample of their bread mix to review.  This review is my honest opinion, regardless of receiving a free product. 

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The search for truly good gluten-free bread has led me down some interesting paths.  I have tried mixes (King Arthur and Pamela’s), and frozen, (Udi’s, Kinnickinick, O’Doughs) and have not yet found gluten free bread that reminds me of real, yeasty, chewy and gluten-filled bread.

I have to admit, I was skeptical about this bread mix.  The directions are pretty straight forward and easy, but how would it taste?

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Here are the directions from the side of the box:

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Wrestling with my sugar demon


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One of the pitfalls of writing a food blog is weight gain.  In the past year, I have tried a couple of times to kick the sugar habit, without any lasting success.

After my husband was diagnosed with heart disease last year, we went on a health kick. We lasted a pretty long time, but I began to slip back into my habit of baking desserts and eating cookies.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not good for me, so several months back, I decided to try to go back to eating more fruit.    I only lasted about a week before I caved.

As I have gotten to be a better cook and baker in the past two years, I have posted more and more dessert recipes on this blog.  Sugar is my demon.  I fully admit it.

We really don’t know how much sugar we are eating.  Processed foods are full of it; even those foods that don’t need to have added sugar, like bread, are loaded with it.  This is how we are kept addicted.  And then there is the controversial high fructose corn syrup. Experts differ on their opinion on HFCS, but most agree that it is not good for you at all. Sugar is sugar.  And it is poisoning us.

There are 200 grams in one cup of sugar.  The daily recommendation from the American Heart Association is 25 grams or six teaspoons for women, 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men.  Just for perspective, one 12 oz. can of coke contains 39 grams, well over the daily recommendation.  As you can see, it’s really easy to go over your limit very quickly.

When I bake, I usually use a 9×9 or 8×8 baking pan and cut my cakes into nine pieces. Those pieces are not always the same size.  So if I use a cup of sugar in the recipe, which is 200 grams, each piece contains about 22 grams, give or take, depending on the size of the piece.  I usually eat at least one piece of cake a day, sometimes two.   That puts me way over my daily limit, without eating anything else.

Once I started looking at sugar content of certain foods, it really surprised me to find out that my favorite frozen fruit bar contains more sugar (15 grams) than 8 gluten free cookies (10 grams).   Just because something is made with fruit, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Speaking of fruit, eating fresh or frozen fruit is actually fine.  Because the fruit contains fiber, it offsets the natural sugar.  But can you eat too much fruit?  There are some signs that you are eating too much fruit.   If you have IBS, like I do, too much fructose can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.   Eating too much fruit can cause blood sugar spikes as well.  It’s generally recommended to eat 2 1/2 cup portions of fruit a day.

Eating too much fruit can trigger the hunger hormone, ghrelin.  Eating that fruit with protein and fat will offset that.   Eat that apple with some peanut butter, those blueberries with some full-fat dairy free Greek yogurt (but watch out, yogurt can have high sugar content), and that peach with a handful of almonds (if you don’t have a nut allergy). The fat and protein from those additions will help dampen the effects of fructose.

All of this brings me back to that sugar demon.  Can it defeat him?  I don’t know for sure, but I am damn well going to try.

May Strawberries and shortcake


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May is a great month.  Flowers are blooming, and fresh fruits and vegetables are being harvested.  The long winter is over, and we can eat delicious, fresh fruit again.

We are extremely lucky to have one of our local farms, Hill Family farm, growing fresh strawberries.

I have never liked supermarket strawberries.  They are picked before they are ripe, and are consistently on the dirty dozen produce list. 

I was lucky to get the last of the strawberries this year, so I thought, why not make strawberry shortcake?  I used to make it with Bisquick before I went gluten free, but I didn’t know if a gluten-free version would stand up to those wonderful, ripe strawberries.

I found a recipe on Betty Crocker’s website for gluten free strawberry shortcake.  I usually stick to King Arthur for recipes, but in this case, since the original uses Bisquick, I figured that their gluten free version would be the way to go.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar
2 1/3 cups Gluten free Bisquick
1/3 (5.3 tablespoons) Earth Balance dairy free sticks-chilled
3/4 dairy free milk (coconut)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut into slices.  You can macerate the strawberries the day before in some sugar to taste if needed.  The amount of sugar will also depend on the ripeness of the strawberries.  Mine only needed about a tablespoon. 
Cool whip, or dairy free whipped topping (cool whip does contain some dairy)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment.

Measure gluten free Bisquick and sugar into a medium bowl.  Cut cold dairy free spread into cubes.

With a pastry blender, begin cutting in the cold spread into the flour mix.  Using your hands, continue to blend in the spread, until the mix resembles course crumbs.  If the spread gets too warm,  put the bowl into the freezer for five minutes, or until the spread is firm again.  You want the spread to be cold, so that your shortcakes are flaky and will rise.

In a two cup measure, whisk milk, eggs and vanilla together.  Stir the mixture into the flour mixture until just blended.

Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet.  Pat into rounds, if desired.  You should have six to seven shortcakes.

Bake for 12-18 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  These will not brown on top like regular shortcakes.  

Cool on a rack until completely cool.  Place in zip lock bag and refrigerate.

To Serve:

With a serrated knife, slice shortcake in half.  They might crumble a bit when slicing. They are easier to slice when cold.

Spoon strawberries over the bottom of the shortcake and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Sit top of shortcake on top of whipped cream, and repeat with strawberries and whipped cream.

These shortcakes came out better than I expected.  They are slightly sweet, a bit crumbly and really complement the strawberries.

You can have strawberry shortcake!  It’s easy with gluten-free Bisquick!

 

 

My two year gluten free journey


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I cannot believe that I have been writing this blog for two years.  How time flies.  It seems just yesterday that I began this gluten free, dairy free journey.   I have learned a lot about not only living a gluten free lifestyle but also a lot about blogging.  I would like to share my insights with all of you.

ON BLOGGING:

  • Find your own writing style.  You will grow into it as time goes on.  Don’t try to emulate anyone else.  Your true self will shine through in time.
  • It takes time to grow your audience.  Wordpress has a wonderful community of bloggers who will support your efforts.
  • Once you have established your blog, you can grow your audience with Adwords.  I believe it is worth the small investment it takes to reach a wider, worldwide audience.
  • Don’t clog your blog up with ads.  Most people find them annoying.  If I land on a blog that has a lot of flash ads, I tend to leave that site.
  • On that same note, don’t expect to get rich.  Blog because you love it, and want to get your message out there.
  • You can blog about anything you wish.  You can make it public or private.  You don’t need experience, and you can have a free blog.  Don’t let anything stop you from expressing yourself.
  • Take some free WordPress classes.  There are numerous topics, and taking them will help you to learn about how WordPress works, and how you can get more comfortable using it.
  • If you are thinking of moving your blog to wordpress.org, do your homework. Most widgets cost extra.  You might lose subscribers.  You have to do your own website maintenance.  These are just some of the pitfalls.  But you will also maintain complete control of your content and will be able to grow.  It’s an individual decision.
  • I do believe WordPress premium is worth the $99 per year cost, if for no other reason than to be able to chat with experts when you have a problem or question.

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#TBT Retro Recipe-Chicken pot pie


When I originally posted this on May 25, 2015, I was just beginning my gluten free journey.  I was never much of a baker until I discovered that if I wanted to have my favorite treats, I would have to make them myself.

When I made this pie, I was terrified of pie crust.  I still am, actually, and have not made this recipe again.  But sometimes we do things just to prove we can, and I felt a great sense of triumph after successfully pulling this recipe, or conglomeration of recipes, off. 

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Baking pie has always terrified me.  It is the one thing I have never attempted.  Okay, maybe it’s a silly fear.   My grandfather was the birthday cake baker.  But my grandmother would bake pies- from scratch with no recipe.  Ah, those were the days!

Last week, hubby was grumbling about how awful those frozen pot pies are.  One of the things I had to give up but don’t really miss.  You know the type; all crust and no filling.  Brings to mind Mrs. Lovett-“the worst pies in London”…  So I said, “I can probably make one of those” before I could stop myself.  And unlike Mrs. Lovett, I wouldn’t be using any priest.   Just plain old chicken.

I found a recipe; one thing about the internet is there are millions of gluten free recipes.  All of the guesswork and trial and error are done for you.  I only tried converting one recipe which was a bundt cake.  It became bundt crumbs when it stuck to the pan.  So I let others cry over crumbled cake.   The pot pie recipe did come with a pie crust recipe but for some reason, it sounded complicated to me.  I wanted something easier.  Pamela’s to the rescue!

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