Tuna Salad But Different

Image   Sometimes I am looking for that impressive recipe to blog about when I should look at what I just ate for lunch.  Cobbled out of leftovers and yet very satisfying and yummy.  I needed a quick Sunday lunch.  Reaching into the fridge I pulled out some leftover tuna salad made with sweet pickles and a small amount of rice pilaf made with an incredible variety of rices from brown short grain to wild to red and all shades and sizes in between.  It looks beautiful, I love the flavor of it, and the texture is just chewy enough for my liking.

Then I found a baggie of steamed broccoli florets.  Bingo. I laid down a bed of cold pilaf and spread a mound of tuna salad on top.  To the side was a few of those chilled broccoli florets.  I had some raspberry vinaigrette which I poured around the rice and on the broccoli. And there it was.  Simple, satisfying and different from previous combinations of tuna/rice/broccoli.  I have made tuna casseroles or stir fries but I never put tuna salad on cold rice before.  Genius if I do say so.  I have no picture to share as I sat at the kitchen table munching it down while I read my book.  Tasty and it was all gone before I realized that this simple meal was worth sharing with you on my blog.  

 I am sure you could modify it to your taste in rice pilafs. I used a fancy Yarlsburg rice pilaf made with a touch of vegetable bullion in the water.  Whatever you prefer or have around.  And it was just simple homemade tuna salad.  My usual is made with light tuna, well drained of the water; which the cats and my dog fight over. I like light as it is softer and mixes up into something that sticks to the bread better than say albacore tuna would. I put light mayo, some Dijon mustard, a bit of finely chopped onion and some chopped sweet gherkins in it.  Make it how you like it.   If raspberry vinaigrette is not your thing, use whatever vinaigrette floats your boat.  Don’t pour it on too thick or it will swamp the rest of the dish.  Just enough to moisten the rice and the broccoli.   Now dig in and enjoy this simple healthy gluten free meal full of protein, green vegetables and brown rice. Surprisingly filling and with a piece of fruit you have a decent lunch made in moments! 

Brownies To Love, GF Yes, Big Flavor Yes!

ImageLet me do you a favor by sharing a brownie recipe that every one who tastes it falls in love with the delicious flavor and perfect texture of these bars.  Plus, bonus points as it is pretty easy to make. You do need to first make some of the brown rice flour mix recipe, which is at the end of the recipe. All of the ingredients can be purchased at Wegmans. Everyone who tasted these fell in love and begged for a few to take home!

Excellent GF Brownies
Ingredients:
– 2/3 c brown rice flour mix
– ½ tsp salt
– ½ tsp baking powder
– ½ tsp xanthan gum
– 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
– 4 oz semisweet chocolate
– ½ c unsalted butter
– 1 ¼ c sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 3 large eggs
– ¾ c chopped walnuts

Directions:
Heat oven to 325 F, with rack in middle of oven. Line bottom and side of 8 inch square pan with foil, spray with cooking spray. Mix dry ingredients in small bowl. Melt chocolates and butter in heavy medium sauce pan over low heat. Remove from heat, whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy. Add flour mixture and whisk just until incorporated. Stir in nuts. Pour into prepared pan, bake 45 minutes until test (I use a steak knife or my fancy long tester skinny metal stick) in middle of pan comes out with wet crumbs. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, remove from pan by lifting out foil. Cool completely on rack and then cut into squares. Store in fridge for up to 5 days or freeze-wrapped in plastic wrap and foil.
Frankly, you won’t have much left over by the end of the second day! I dare anyone to find these out as GF until you tell them! Happy snacking 🙂

Note: I sometimes add a 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the flour mix to add extra kick to these kick ass brownies!  I took them to my god daughter’s house for the dessert this past weekend and they were a huge success.  Gone in a flash!!

Brown Rice Flour Recipe
Ingredients
– 1 c brown rice flour (I suggest Bob’s brand, which is ground finer than other brands)
– 1/3 c potato starch (not potato flour; you can also buy this at an Oriental grocery store)
– 3 tbsp tapioca flour
Directions
Mix all the flours in a big jar or bag.  If it isn’t used in less than 3 months I suggest you store it in the freezer.

Posted originally in June 2014, some changes made for this posting.  This recipe comes from Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts.

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The Many Stages of Being Celiac

Before I get started I should say that my writing can be kind of unscientific and I amsure others have different ideas as to stages we go though in life…. And I have to add that some of these stages which I describe overlap quite a bit in my opinion. If you read all my blog postings you are fairly familiar with most of these stages.

First I was in the stage of “total disbelief.” The “No Way this disease can be happening to me” phase! That was for about three days.

Next I was my “denial” stage. I decided that I WILL eat some wheat no matter what. I might cut back a tad; less pasta, a few less slices of toast! I had to give this stage or concept up once I knew much of anything about celiac disease. Still, I was denying to myself that I had to totally give wheat up and fast. I ate more of it regardless of what I now knew as the dire consequences. I was also pretty angry over having to let go of my bestie friend, wheat.

Then it was the acceptance of what must be. I called this my “Farewell Wheat Tour”, knowing I was going to definitely give up all wheat, rye, barley and like products. This choice led to much gorging on wheat items. Pasta was for dinner every single night for a whole week. Lots of wheaty bread….more muffins…more, more, more! This continued until I was positively sick as a dog/horse/idiot!

The “reality” phase of reading up on celiac went on during the Tour phase. But I was still in denial that I shouldn’t be gorging like I was. So no matter what I read I kept stuffing down the pasta, perogies, bagels, etc!

Along came the “toss” stage. This was where I gave away flour, tossed crackers, cleared all wheat cereals out of the house. This went on and on and on. It was amazing how many kinds of pasta I possessed. Ditto for myriad types of flours I could no longer ingest.

During this I was also in the “experiment” phase, early trials. I tried GF oatmeal cookies and was ridiculously pleased that they were tasty. I tried some bread, not so yummy. I was still eating some wheat but I had moved into hardly any more wheat baking and the new GF baking experiments.

The last week of wheat was chock full of lasts. Last bagel, last perogies, last tiny pearl pasta, last Italian bread, last beer, last wheat tortilla. It was a sad painful time in more ways than one!

I started writing my blog and entered a phase of “GF sharing.” Sharing how it felt to give up wheat. Lamenting, being sad and low over this loss. Then, the beginning of the rest of my life as a wheat free person. Exciting, scary, difficult and challenging which overlapped the sad and low feelings.

I should say that the dietitian and many books state that you should not give up bread and pasta but replace them with GF breads and pasta if you want to be successful in the transition to a GF lifestyle. So you have to work at this process of transformation to GF foods.

I would like to think I am now in the “be positive” phase. I do try hard to be positive and dwell on the fun of trying new recipes. It is indeed an adventure to be GF. There is a lot to read in books and on line…on celiac, wheat intolerance and about this idea of modern wheat as a poison in your body. Lots of GF recipes for me to attempt. Many cooking GF firsts in the past two months: first English muffins, first quick bread, first French bread, first tart, first gravy and so on. Since I always loved baking a wide array of treats and cook meals from scratch I had many firsts to do and have not gotten to a lot. It can be frustrating as GF dough is squishy and mushy and cannot be formed the same way as wheat dough. Some things are very similar; quick breads, muffins and gravy. Some like French bread are very different to construct. No more kneading or shaping. It is more of a glopping experience!

As I work at becoming adept at GF cooking and baking I take joy in the learning experience and some thrill at my successes. This will be my “can do” phase and I am planning for it to last a long, long time. I do think anyone can cook GF. The breads are rather easier to construct as there is little or no kneading or forming. If you can measure carefully, follow recipes closely and spoon in soupy dough you can do it! I have started a new recipe book for GF items and have a pile of Xeroxed recipes that need a ring binder home. I debate even keeping my binder of breads and desserts but can’t bare to part with it…not yet anyway.

My dad was a chemical engineer and I find myself channeling him when I do these transformations. I am on my third try to make my favorite breakfast cookies. I think it is almost as good as they were when they had wheat flour.

So, if you are starting GF or know someone who is celiac, some of these stages might strike an accord. I suggest you family members should be helpful, speak positively and eat some of whatever they make! Well, a few bites anyway, even if it is yucky. Be tactful if they are new to baking which is often the case for new celiac patients and their families. Go easy on them in this transitional time as
everyone in the family adjusts to eating GF. Help them be positive and reach the “can do” stage of their new life. You will be glad you did when they bake you some banging good brownies that no one will ever guess are GF! 

 Originally posted in April 2013.  I have made those brownies many times in the past year.  They are my easy go to GF dessert….Image

Some Great GF Options for Baking

My three fav GF cookbooks:

  1. Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts
  2. The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread by Bette Hagman
  3. More from the Gluten Free Gourmet by Bette Hagman

The first one is my fav.  A must have!  Most of my baking is out of there; everything was very good so far- too many to list here…  For basic white bread I bake a white bread recipes from the second book; not made much else from there but like this bread a lot. Have made 3 variations so far.  I slice ½ the loaf and keep it in the freezer for when I want some.  I freeze part of each thing I make for later; doesn’t keep all that well.   Bread thaws by slice quickly.  Just wrap well, label it with a date and what it is and use within a few weeks.

For cookies I make oatmeal ones, biscotti and brownies.  I eat cookies right out of freezer; crunchy good. The brownies are phenomenal; see later post.

I  found an amazing GF French Bread recipe on food.com –excellent.  Makes two loaves, freeze one.  It does stay fresh for about 3 days if you wrap it up well.

Elizabeth Hasselbeck has 2 books out on GF; I made her coconut raspberry muffins; really good too, almost like a cupcake!  I also love “The Gloriously GF Cookbook” by Vanessa Maltin- full of ethnic stuff particularly Italian, Asian and Mexican recipes.

The national celiac site; celiac.com is good; has recipes too.  There are scores of celiac support websites and blogs; do a websearch and investigate.

I buy flours from Wegmans and two health food stores; Freys in Hellertown and Queens Nut Shop – back behind Airport Road is good too.  I like to go to Echo Hill Country Store out in Fleetwood; great place for bulk flour, GF pasta and rice mixtures; incredible selection there and good prices for those things.

There are some support groups; one that meets the second Tuesday of each month in Phillipsburg at the hospital.  And one in Allentown at Sacred heart H; 4th Tuesday; 4/23 [The first one is now moved to Shoprite in Phillipsburg, Starting April 3, 2014.]

Let me know if you ever want to go to either with me; easier to go with a friend! I am going to the one in Philipsburg next week to check it out.

Bob’s brown rice flour is highly recommended as it is finer ground than others.  Bob makes many good flours as well as GF oatmeal.  Still, I got some white bean flour at Echo Hill which I use for bean flour in recipes; works perfectly. These days I use a lot of brown rice flour in my baking- the Baking Classics cookbook has several flours that are based in brown rice flour.

You can use white rice flour to flour cake pans, thicken gravy, and to to make white sauce.  You can’t bake with it alone but there are lots of flour mixes you can pre-make with a wide variety of freaky flours.  I have used the brown rice bread mix in Ms Robert’s book to bake bread although so far I like the breads in Ms. Hagman’s bread book better.   I made a big bag of the mix which I can measure out flour mix, add yeast and the wet ingredients and get bread rising in less then ten minutes. I take leftover GF bread and dry in a low oven and grind into bread crumbs in my blender; commercial ones are like out of cornmeal; not tasty!  A good place to keep your homemade GF crumbs in freezer.

I suggest you keep some pastas around for feeding those in your family who are not GF when you make spaghetti.  Heat two separate pots of water and boil up both kinds as GF pastas are very expensive.   Frankly, white rice pasta is not that great tasting; go for brown rice pasta over white rice every time.  Some one gave me a package of corn spaghetti I want to try. 

Best of luck going GF; just do it!  You will feel better!

This post was originally published April 1, 2013.  I have updated some of these things since then as to what I recommend….Image

 

Chocolate Almond Cloud Pie…Oh My!

chocolate puddingSo I had this chocolate cookie crumb pie crust I bought a couple of months ago. I wanted to use it before it got stale. What to make…. Well, I have a fantastic cookbook, all pies, nothing else. By Farm Journal, published in 1981 but it has the vibe of the 1950’s. Lots of interesting combo fruit pies and chiffon pies like you never heard of. I found this recipe for a chocolate rum pie. The premade cookie crust could sub in for a traditional pie crust which the recipe called for. I had all the ingredients except the cream. And the rum flavoring…and the pudding mix and some whole milk….but I thought it sounded tasty and worth a trip to the grocery store for all the other items.

It was! Not hard to make either. I threw it together in three easy steps. It was one of those recipes where the sum of the ingredients is far tastier than the components would lead one to believe. Everyone devoured their slice. People took slices home. My mom was eager to keep a second slice….for tomorrow. This enthusiastic audience caused me to mention it on facebook. I got all these likes and a few hungry comments. The buzz of happy responses led me to decide to share my version of chocolate rum pie. I have renamed it Chocolate Almond Cloud Pie.

The name comes from the fact that it is as light as a fluffy cloud and from my love for my older sister who died nearly a year ago. Margie’s love of pie was renown in our family and I am absolutely sure she would have adored this pie. Whip some up this weekend and woo your family with chocolaty goodness that should please everyone.

Chocolate Almond Cloud Pie

Ingredients
1 pre-made chocolate cookie crumb crust, GF
1 pkg chocolate pudding, the kind you have to cook
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cocoa
1 cup slivered almonds, divided
1 1/3 cup heavy cream, divided
1 tbsp dark rum
4 tsp. sugar

Pour the almonds into a frying pan, no oil and toast them, stirring constantly. Alternately you could do this in the oven at a low temperature but I prefer the frying pan. Stop when they are medium brown, try not to let too many get black on the sides.

Cook the filling; put 2 cups whole milk into a medium sized and heavy sauce pan, Then add the dry pudding mix, the corn starch and the cocoa. Stir with a whisk as it heats. Once the mixture is bubbling all over the surface turn off the heat and add the rum. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill until cooled. Take ½ cup heavy cream and whip. Add this to the pudding and whisk until blended. Take 3 tbsp of almonds and set aside for garnishing the pie later. Sprinkle the rest of the toasted almonds over the chocolate pie crust Gently spoon it into the pie shell on top of the toasted almonds. Chill at least 2 hours until set and cold. Whip the rest of the heavy cream in a chilled bowl, adding the sugar near the end of the whipping. Gently put dollops of it all over the pudding top. Sprinkle the reserved almonds on top. Enjoy!

Cooking for Easter, GF of course….

eggsEaster: holidays will be a major test of eating GF in and out of the house.

First off, this Easter I had company, my two sisters came to visit. A major test as they have never eaten GF and they can be a tough sell at meals sometimes. On Friday I made GF pasta for shrimp cannelloni with a saffron cream sauce which is a favorite recipe of mine, a good test choice…. I made the pasta sheets too thick to easily roll up with filling inside. It was pretty tricky to roll out in my Atlas pasta machine because of it’s sticky texture and I quit the rolling thinner process too soon. I think I will flour the dough a bit more as I run it through the tighter settings on the machine. It was pretty close in taste to wheat homemade pasta. Check off the pasta on my bucket list of things to try making GF!

I made a GF French bread Friday that was almost as good as any you could buy. You just glop the messy bowl of dough onto a French bread curved sheet and it rises and bakes to look pretty darn good! Check. One of my sisters asked for the recipe as she wants to eat less wheat. That is a major recommendation when Elaine asks for a GF recipe as she is pretty picky about her French bread! I made a meatloaf on Saturday night with GF bread crumbs inside it which were created in my blender from dried up GF bread slices. As good as ever…and not even a slice left for a sandwich today….check! We had a pear clafouti Saturday night – a sort of pear custard in a big tart pan, tasty and GF! Every scrap of it was eaten, Check! I made gravy Sunday to go with the pork tenderloin. Check. And for Sunday dessert I made a yogurt tart covered with fresh slices of orange. My crust was lauded by my mom; had ground almonds in it and almost like a shortbread cookie. I promised to make it again in May with local strawberries sliced on top….check, Check!

So I successfully fed my family three GF meals this holiday weekend and I was no more stressed out than normal visits in the past. The GF thing is getting easier. I find that if a recipe has flour in it I just use white rice flour and that is a really good substitution – gravies, white sauces, thickeners. And my go-to cook book is Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts. It has not failed me yet! What I love about the recipes is that they are the foods I grew up eating and like to make for company but now GF. If you are trying to go wheat free it is an absolute must buy. I have read that if you want to be GF as a permanent change you can’t give up bread and pasta, you just need to eat the same foods but with no wheat. This cookbook makes that eminently doable! Have a great week and try something GF if it is offered to you. You might be surprised at how good it is.

So…eating out…I happened to go to two different Panara Breads this past week. At the counter of the first one we happened to be waited on by the manager. I asked her for the GF menu. She said they had none. She said “What do you want to have?” This was a bit hard to respond to when she just told me she couldn’t give me even a paper with GF menu items on it. I said how about the Mediterranean Salmon Salad thinking this would be GF. She went and got a big ring binder. She paged through it and read off the long list of ingredients in the salad. She would not let me read it for myself! So… as I thought, it was GF, and therefore I enjoyed the salad down to the last sliver of almond! I averted my eyes as my man ate his baguette along with his boring chicken Caesar. He was openly envious of my lush salad full of a variety of tasty ingredients, all GF.

A few days later my family went to a different Panara for lunch on Easter Saturday. I asked again for the GF menu. I was told there was none. This server did not offer any suggestions or get out the big binder! I went for my fall back position and got another Mediterranean Salmon Salad. I found they had used the romaine they use in the regular Caesar so it wasn’t nearly as tasty as the one I had earlier the same week.

The thing that gets me is I could swear I read on line that Panara has a “secret GF menu” that you can ask for! It is so secret even the managers don’t know about it! How tough would it be to type up a two page menu showing how certain things could be GF; leave off the croutons, baguette gone, etc. And really, I have a few excellent GF bread recipes I could share with their research chefs. Panara could lead the industry by putting GF on their main menu; just set aside a couple of pans for GF and make a few loaves a day! Easy peasy. Would be a winner for Panara and their customers who surely have family members trying to eat less wheat. Listening Panara??
Have a great healthy eating week!! I know I will….

Originally published in early April 2013.

Wheat, Wheat, Where Aren’t Thou?

ImageWheat, wheat everywhere I look, I find wheat in my food shopping expeditions. It is not that much fun to keep on ranting but I can’t seem to escape this one ingredient! Wheat was in my Heinz 57 sauce, now given away. And worse yet, it is in my Turkey Hill, light recipe, Skinny Minty ice cream. It is in all cookie dough ice creams. As I said before, wheat is in Campbell’s tomato soup, and pretty much all their soups as well as many Progresso soups! I did find a Progresso cream of mushroom soup that is GF which is such a great find for cooking and just eating as soup. I wonder why Campbell’s can’t thicken soups with corn starch or rice flour?

It was in my bottle of soy sauce, so I had to throw it outand get some new GF soy sauce by San-J. And yes, it is in my white vinegar. Upon some research the celiac.com site says distilled vinegar is safe for those who want to be GF. Still…in the comments underneath I found a number of people who have celiac who say distilled or white vinegar makes them ill. So I think I will keep my white vinegar for cleaning only purposes. Other vinegars are all safe except one; malt vinegar which I already gave away. I am hoping to still eat most pickles. Of course, they have some sort of vinegar in all of them so I will see what eating dill spears does for my tummy.

Wheat is ubiquitous. Meaning it seems to creep into most processed foods. As I walk through the grocery store whole aisles seem off limits. I have to look very hard for cold or hot cereals that I can eat. Chex cereal brand come to mind as a great choice, just stay away from the bran or whole grain versions. Corn flakes has wheat in it unless you get an organic brand; just a tad pricy and rather hard to crunch on. Still it made a dandy fried chicken coating. Oatmeal should be safe but unfortunately so many mills that process oats also process wheat which can contaminate it…. Breaded foods in the freezer aisle must be passed up too!

I can’t much go down the snack/pretzel aisle nor the cracker and cookie aisle. They are all too, too depressing. No more fig newtons, pretzels or a host of snack bars. The list goes on and on. Premade frozen foods are all off limits as are canned premade stuff or mixes. All seem to have forms of wheat in them which rule them out for me. Of course, the bread and bakery areas are a total loss as are bread crumbs, hot dogs and all pastas. Rice mixed with pasta in the little box is a no no and I can’t even make matzo ball soup. You don’t have to be Jewish to love that and I am sad over the loss of something so comforting.

No more couscous or any of my favorite pasta shapes and no more homemade pastas when I eat out. Worse yet, no ravioli, pot stickers or perogies. Disaster!Still, people tell me there are far more GF pasta choices than there were ten years ago. So far I like brown rice pastas far more than white rice pasta. I want to try the corn blend spaghetti next.

Wheat is in my vodka. Time to give it away. And in some liquors – there is a yummy Irish cream one that I tried last weekend and then found out I can’t enjoy ever again…. It was in my Josh Early chocolates and in the Victoria’s chocolates I got this Saturday as an early Easter gift! Both of which I deem major bummers.

I have to think about what I eat so much more these days. I can’t just grab a frozen meal for lunch and head off to work. I have to plan ahead for what I have in terms of meals particularly breads. I have found myself baking GF bread at ten pm as there was nothing in my house for lunch the next day. I now love that I can keep a few slices of GF bread in my freezer so I am always prepared for a quick meal. Can’t buy Hot Pockets, not until they make a GF version! All my favorite frozen meals are all off limits too for now. I am hoping more big companies jump on the gluten free bandwagon and make versions I can eat. One can hope anyway….

Peace and think of me when you are chowing down on some cheese and potato perogies…..boo hoo hoo!

Originally published March 25, 2013.