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!

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.

Review of King Arthur gluten free Gingerbread mix


 

 

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I don’t usually like gluten free cake mixes.  I find that most of them are disappointing. Having said that, I am consistently pleased with King Arthur gluten-free flour, so I thought I would try their Gingerbread mix.  You can also make cookies with it.

Continue reading

Shared article-how to improve the quality of the gluten free dining experience


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I’m always happy to see articles and websites that address the concerns of those who live with gluten and dairy intolerance or celiac disease.  I have practically given up dining out due to the sheer exhaustion finding allergen-free meals causes me, and the danger of getting glutened.

Karen Broussard, the founder of Glutenfreetravelsite.com,  has written a great article outlining ways that restaurants can serve those suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease better tasting and safer meals.

Dining out can be a real challenge, especially when you are faced with either bland food or worse, contaminated food due to just plain ignorance on the part of staff.  This doesn’t have to be the case.

You can read her informative article here.

What do you think about dining out with gluten or dairy intolerance?  Please share your experience!

Delicious crock pot Spring leg of lamb


 

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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


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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.

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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:

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And here is a picture of the Better Batter version:

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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:

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

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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!