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!

TBT-Lost in Translation, the foreign language of food allergens


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I originally wrote this post in June of 2015.  Since then, I have pretty much licked all of these issues.  Gluten and dairy free products were all a foreign language to me.  But now I speak fluent gluten and dairy free.  

I love to cook.  When I started this journey of being gluten and dairy free, I had no idea that I would face not only the thrill of victory, but also the agony of defeat.  Novice that I was, I naively thought, oh, how hard can it be to cook gluten and dairy free dishes?  I will just substitute gluten free flour and non-dairy milk.  Well, as they say, you can’t always get what you want.

There is a lot of trial and error; and a lot of wasted time and money.  There are several things I have tried more the once before throwing in the towel.  I try to give things a fair shake before I give up.  And being a Capricorn, I am very stubborn and tenacious.  But sometimes you just have to face facts and move on.

These are some of the things that I believe just don’t translate well:

Pancakes 

Hubby loves pancakes.   I could take or leave them but every once in awhile I get a craving.  My first attempt tasted like a cross between wallpaper paste and paint.  It would have been good if we wanted to redecorate.  I noticed that the batter was very thick.  I tried these with both rice flour and gluten free Bisquick.  After the second attempt was an utter failure I just gave up.   Oh well, there is always Denny’s.  At least for him.

I have since discovered the perfect gluten free pancake recipe, thanks to King Arthur Measure for Measure flour. 

French toast 

I may not love pancakes but I do love French toast.  I tried this a couple of times and it just disintegrated.  Gluten fee bread just doesn’t hold up.

I can make french toast; the key is to not soak the bread for too long.  I don’t make it often, but it can be done!

Grilled cheese 

Another favorite and something I really miss.  Dairy free cheese is just not the same.  And toasting the bread ahead of time just defeats the whole purpose.

I do make grilled cheese.  The biggest problem that I have is that the cheese does not melt.  

Cheesecake 

I think this was just my most epic fail.  Dairy free cream cheese in a word-yuck!   I dont want to talk about it.

I found an excellent no-bake dairy free cheesecake recipe.

Gluten free soups

I was so excited when Progresso came out with gluten free soups.  But when I went dairy free they had to be crossed off my list.  They all contain dairy.  At least the ones my local stores carry.   And since they are not separated from the regular soup, I don’t have an hour to stand there and read labels.

I still avoid canned gluten-free soups.  You can make gluten-free cream soups really easily on your own.  And chicken noodle soup with gluten free pasta is easy to make too.  

Pasta

Now don’t get me wrong, some of the gluten-free pastas are good.  But the texture leaves something to be desired.  And forget pasta salad.

Both Ronzoni and Barilla make really good gluten free kinds of pasta, but I still can’t make pasta salad.  

These are just a few of my experiences with gluten and dairy free disasters. If there is one lesson to be learned it is that you have to be able to let go and move on.   That is the hardest thing of all, not only in dealing with food intolerance but also in life.

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.

Some eggcellent facts about eggs


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Eggs are the perfect food.  They are full of protein, vitamins and minerals.  They are easy to make in a thousand different ways.  But eggs get a bad rap.  I am here to set you straight on some egg myths, courtesy of Eat this, not that!

I want to say here that if you can find a local farm that pasture raises their chickens, seek it out and get your eggs from them exclusively.  I realize this is not always an option.  But I can tell you from experience, once you taste the difference, you will never go back. Pasture raised eggs are lower in cholesterol saturated fat and contain higher levels of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamins B9, C, and D.

Cage-free eggs may not be from cage-free hens

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Many consumers assume the “cage-free” label on egg cartons means the chickens laying these eggs have the ability to roam around a field. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth. “Cage Free” only means hens are required to have a minimum of 120 square inches per bird, which is not even double the area of conventional battery cages. Hens often still exclusively live indoors, either in large barns known as aviaries or crammed into bigger “enriched” cages that allow for some natural habits.  

“Free-range” hens also often never step outside.  They are often provided a “small door” with limited access to the outside, and that door is often not large enough to accommodate a large flock.

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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.

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In the news: A gluten-free diet can cause heart disease. Or can it?


 

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Is it junk science?  Judge for yourself!

 

 

This post is meant for informational purposes only.  The opinions and views herein are strictly my own. 

Science and the media have done it again; a new study by BMJ is making headlines.  It basically states that eating gluten free diet increases your risk of heart disease, and you should only stop eating gluten if you have celiac disease.

Depending on which website you click on, there are different excerpts of the article. Some show that only those with celiac disease should be gluten free.  This is why you need to read more than one source to get the full picture.  At first, I was really angry to see that those of us with non-celiac gluten intolerance were left out again, until I found the article posted on CBS.com.   But it turns out that the person who did the study did acknowledge that part of the population.

But does a gluten-free diet contribute to heart disease?

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