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Biscuits gone wild

I love a nice grilled cheese and tomato soup as much as the next person, but it gets a little old when it becomes a staple. I eat it for lunch quite often on my Ener-G Light Tapioca bread alongside some Amy’s Tomato Bisque. the bisque is quite good for a canned soup, but I needed something new to accompany it.

After perusing several recipes, I decided on a rendition using Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix–my tried and true swap out for flour. I came up with something akin to the Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster, of all things. I felt a little guilty at first, but guilt never lasts very long for a gf-eater. If it tastes delicious, it’s never wrong.

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

2 cups Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 small clove garlic, grated
2/3 cup milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large mixing bowl pour in Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix and cut in butter with fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Mix in grated cheese and garlic.

Pour milk into flour mixture while stirring with a fork. Drop generous spoonfuls of dough onto a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 12 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Makes 10-12 biscuits.

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Here’s a hot tip!

When I worked for my college newspaper, a writer turned in a story with the following opening line…”Here’s a hot tip!” I happened to be in the newspaper office when the article was read by the editor. Let’s just say I’ve never started an article with “Here’s a hot tip!”…until now.

Here’s a hot tip! When I find a recipe on a web site, I e-mail it to myself (often an option on most food sites). I’m not a big fan of creating a “recipe box” for each site as they often encourage. Instead, within my e-mail account I’ve created folders to store e-mails I want to keep. One of the folders is entitled, “recipes to try.” It also works when I find something in a magazine–I find it on-line and e-mail it to myself. Voila! Since I’ve been doing this, I never forget recipes I’ve seen or have to go back searching for “such and such recipe I came across one day.” I have it at my fingertips. I love it!

One such recipe was Rachael Ray’s roasted jalapeno poppers. I wasn’t a regular consumer of jalapeno poppers in my former (wheat-eating) life, but once again, tell me I can’t have something and I’m ravenous for it. My recent trip to the south only piqued my interest in all things fried. Fried catfish, fried shrimp, fried ochre; I even saw fried corn on the cob on one menu. I couldn’t eat any of it, of course, so this recipe takes out the fried and replaces it with flav-a.

Roasted jalapeno poppers
Adapted from Rachael Ray’s recipe

Ingredients

  • 10-12 large jalapeno peppers
  • 2 ounces feta cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces shredded smoked pepper Jack cheese, or other hot pepper cheese, or extra-sharp Cheddar
    (I used pepper jack, which made them very spicy. If you want a milder flavor, substitute cheddar.)
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onion

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut each pepper off lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place on a baking sheet. If peppers do not sit flat on the baking sheet, slice a thin piece off the bottom of the pepper so it will not roll around.

Mash the feta, cream cheese, shredded cheese and onion together and stuff the peppers with the mixture.

Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and the cheese is brown at the edges and bubbly.

These little boats of bubbly goodness brought tears to my eyes, and not just because they were super spicy. Their flavor is so perfect–the cheese is tangy, crusty and hot while the pepper takes on a sweetness in comparison, just tender enough but still has a bite. You must give these a try, and that, too, is a hot tip.

It’s only fair

I can’t do rides anymore. About 10 years ago the thrill went out and the pain came in. The jerking back and forth, stomach in your throat, head banging sort of excitement is lost on me. I used to love it…the Tilt-o-whirl, the Ferris Wheel, the big boat that rocks insanely high back and forth, even the Scrambler. Remember the Scrambler? It’s aptly named. All of this free-flying fun first experienced at the Pine County Fair, along with the illicit gambling at BINGO (I didn’t know I was gambling.) were relished each summer.

No longer. Now I go for the food. Mini Tom Thumb donuts, deep-fried cheese curds, corn dogs, elephant ears and all you can drink milk are some of my earliest State Fair memories from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”–the Minnesota State Fair. Now I dine on Indiana sweet corn dipped in butter and that curly fried potato. I can’t complain. I shouldn’t complain. But I’m going to.

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that he’s taking a funnel cake tour of the Midwest. Instead of being envious (I so am.), I determined to make my own gf funnel cake as I anticipate this year’s State Fair. I’m still on vacation, so my rations were limited, but friends, I inspired myself with this little dandy. I’m not sure I’ve ever inspired myself, but when the golden brown, lacey-puffed, haphazard donut cake came out of the hot oil, I sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar (all I had) and bit into the delicate fried dough…BINGO!

I used Alton Brown’s recipe as a guide, substituting where I needed to. I’ll include his recipe here and let you know what I used instead in italics.

Gluten free funnel cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons) 6 tablespoons Land-o-Lakes whipped butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar McCormick cinnamon and sugar mix
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt I omitted because my butter was salted
  • 1 cup flour One cup Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 1 cup eggs, about 4 large eggs and 2 whites One cup egg beaters
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Powdered sugar, for topping McCormick cinnamon sugar mix

Directions

Boil water, butter, sugar, and salt together in a saucepan. Add flour and work it in until it is all incorporated and dough forms a ball. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes. With mixer on lowest speed, add eggs, 1 at a time, making sure the first egg is completely incorporated before continuing. Once all eggs have been added and mixture is smooth, put dough in a piping bag fitted with a number 12 tip. (I used a large ziplock bag and just cut a little hole in the end for piping.) Heat about 1 1/2 inches of oil in a heavy pan. Pipe dough into oil, making a free-form lattice pattern; cook until browned, flipping once (use a spatula and fork together to avoid splattering oil everywhere). Remove cake from oil, drain on paper towels, and top with powdered sugar. Continue until all of the batter is used.

I noticed that the Minnesota State Fair has a 2011 gluten-free list; this is not a commentary on the Indiana State Fair, but it would be great if all the fairs would do this. I look forward to rooting out other gf things to clog my arteries this year, but until then, my funnel cake will more than suffice. I’m so encouraged that even without all the ingredients I needed, it’s still possible to make something delicious. Never give up on trying to convert recipes to make them gluten-free. You won’t regret it!

The sun hates me.

The sun hates me and I hate the sun. We’re on day two of our beach blowout and my skin can tell the story. I pride myself in preventing the sun from ever, ever getting overly tanned or God-forbid–burned. I’m Scandinavian for pete’s sake, people. We’re meant for swimming in ice-cold fjords under overcast skies. One day at the beach in Florida and I need a holster for my Solarcaine.

The perfect solace for a red-tanned hide? Banana pancakes, of course! Perhaps that wasn’t what came to your mind. I know, but we’re at Panama City Beach and the nearest Walmart, though close, is about the busiest, most annoying Walmart I’ve ever experienced. So I made do with what I had–Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix (never leave home without it) and bananas. Oh, how a little stack of pancakes with butter and syrup can warm the heart even on an already sweltering day.

Though rolling over in bed is cringe-worthy these days, my vacation only gets better because of what? Food.

Gluten free banana pancakes

2 cups Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 eggs

2 bananas, diced

Enough water to make it the consistency you like.

butter for the skillet

Cook ’em up to golden brown in a hot skillet, baby!

Kudzu and gf pizza

We’re on our big beach vacation and just arrived at our condo this afternoon. Yesterday was a nine-hour tour in the car with our two hunyuks. (That’s what my parents always called us; not sure what it means but it seems fitting. It’s probably Norwegian or something. Even better.) The day was dotted with fighting from the backseat and several belly laughs from the front when little Owen, 4, asked, “Did we bring the Internet with us?” Yes, in fact, we did bring the Internet with us. Mommy has to blog.

It turns out that Interstate 65 is lined not only with kudzu, a viney plant that apparently covers over 7 million acres of the Southeastern US, but various eateries–some impressive, some not so much for the gluten free patron. Our stop yesterday fell into the not so much category. I was so excited to try some authentic Southern cuisine and knew that even though I couldn’t have the fried catfish, the sides would surely be to my liking. This particular establishment doesn’t believe in seasoning food. I won’t mention the name. I’m not a food critic, but I can criticize food. This did not taste good. However, we were all charmed by the big Mason jars that held our giant beverages and the server who called us “y’all.”

Today, however, we found ourselves at a familiar place–The Mellow Mushroom (pizza). Out of the kindness of my heart I told my husband we could stop so he could get something tasty and Amelia and I would find something we could eat. To my astonishment and joy, I found that they not only have a gluten-free pizza crust, it is by far the best gf pizza crust I’ve ever had. After some discussion behind the counter, it was revealed that the crust came from Still Riding Pizza (www.stillridingpizza.com). On their web site you can find out if their crust is used in any restaurants in your area or you can order your own crust to make pizza at home. I fully intend to do that. Thanks, Mellow Mushroom in Enterprise, AL for improving my culinary life and that of my young daughter. I noticed that not one restaurant in Indiana was listed…I have a new mission it seems. No one should have to say, “It’s okay,” after eating pizza, and I won’t have to anymore. Hooray!

On that note, I have to go put these crazy hunyuks to bed.

Back in the day, I used to order lasagna at Italian restaurants. It was a treat because lasagna wasn’t something I made at home very often. I realized the other day that I’ve only made lasagna once since I’ve been gluten free. The noodles I used were a brown rice variety and the result was sort of gluey. Not ideal for lasagna. It turned me off and I hadn’t tried it again until today.

After a couple hours at the pool…lasagna doesn’t readily come to mind. But…I had most of the ingredients, and in my house, that often dictates what’s for dinner. Most of the time I feel like I’m on an episode of “Chopped,” a show that features chefs who are given a basket of odd ingredients from which they’re supposed to make something delicious. I’m not a chef, so this makes it even more of a game!

I decided to adapt Rachael Ray’s “Sloppy Lasagna” recipe so I could use any kind of noodle I had on hand–in this case, spaghetti (Heartland corn and rice blend). Oh yum; I’m so glad I tried again.

Ingredients

(This recipe makes a ton–you could easily cut it in half.)

  • 2 pounds gluten free noodles of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground meat of your choice (I used Italian turkey sausage)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock or white wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes
  • A handful basil leaves, torn
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups milk, eyeball the amount
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Salt the water, then add the pasta and cook to a little shy of al dente. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot or large skillet over medium heat. Add the meat, press it into an even layer and brown it for 3 to 4 minutes before moving. Turn the meat and add the onions. Stir and cook a few minutes to soften, then add the garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for a couple of minutes, then stir in the tomato paste, wait for 1 minute then add the chicken stock or wine. Reduce for a minute more, then add the tomatoes, breaking them up as you stir. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the basil.

While the sauce simmers, in a medium sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat and whisk in the corn starch. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and nutmeg, and season with salt, pepper, to taste. Let cook for a couple of minutes to thicken, then stir in 1/2 cup of the grated cheese and turn off the heat.

Heat a broiler.

Add the meat sauce to the bowl with the pasta and toss. Layer half of the pasta into a lasagna pan and scatter with dollops of fresh ricotta cheese. Top with remaining pasta. Pour the white sauce over the pasta and scatter the remaining 1 cup of the grated cheese over the top. Put under the broiler to brown and bubble. Remove from the broiler and serve.

Mom: How can you be eight already? I feel like you were just born.
Amelia: It’s okay, mom. Eight is still young.

We had Amelia’s birthday party today (though her birthday isn’t for a week) — five cute little friends at a pottery painting place with a cute little gluten-free chocolate cake to match. Thank you, Betty Crocker. The girls loved it and no one said, “Why does this cake taste funny?” And you know it didn’t because 7 and 8 year-old girls always say what’s on their minds.

How can it be 8 years already? How can it be 8 years since the NICU? Eight years since we found out our lives were going to change completely…instantly…miraculously? Happy Birthday, dear one. We love you.