Cook Kindly

Adventures in cooking and navigating a gluten-free life.


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Stuffed Peppers

We adapted About.com’s Stuffed Peppers with Ground Beef  recipe, to make a scrumptious, heart-warming meal. In the words of my 6-year-old nephew “deee licious, man!” This is just the kind of meal a girl needs as the fall weather settles in with tell-tale signs that the snow is not so far off. Here in Minnesota we’ve been having beautiful 60-70 degree days, with perfect sleeping weather (mid-40 degree) nights. It’s a wonderful, crisp time of year that just begs for a hot, soul-soothing type meal, and this is it. Besides, what’s not to love when the veggies, meat, grains, and dairy are all packed into an edible holder??? Now, if only that meant no dishes.

These stuffed peppers took some time to prep, probably not the most convenient week-night meal, although  you could do some prep-work the night before. We, of course, did not plan ahead very well and ended up eating dinner rather late as a result. Good thing there was football on to keep us distracted.

Per usual, I adjusted the recipe compared to the one we found on About.com.

Ingredients

Stuffed Peppers

4 green bell peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil

2 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (double-check that it’s gluten free)

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice (I cooked up one cup of dry rice, so however much that ends up being)

shredded mild Cheddar cheese, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, optional

Steps: Cut the tops off the peppers and clean out the insides. Chop up the tops from the peppers and add to the chopped onion and celery. Place peppers in a large pot of salted water, bring to a boil and reduce the heat, simmer for 5 minutes. Drain peppers and set aside.

Brown the meat in a large skillet, drain meat and set aside. Using same skillet, heat the olive oil until hot, saute onions, peppers, and celery until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, crushed garlic, oregano, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk egg with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the ground beef, cooked rice and 1 cup of tomato mixture (in hindsight, I would have added all of the tomato mixture here – *see the note below). Mix well.

Stuff peppers with meat mixture and place into a 3 quart dish (I used our large Dutch Oven). Pour remaining tomato sauce over the stuffed peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes, adding cheese on top for the last 5 minutes, if desired.  Bon Appetite.

*The peppers were delicious made with just a cup of sauce mixed into the meat and the rest of the sauce poured over the top. However, the sauce was thick, and not super saucy, both Ryan and I thought the sauce would be better mixed into the meat, then stuff the peppers and pour any remaining meat/sauce over the top, spilling into the dish. I thought the meat mixture could have used a little more sauce too it. I also highly recommend topping these with cheese, it added a gooey level of comfort to this amazing dish.

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Crockpot Chicken Tacos

 

While I was doing a little Pinterest perusing, I came across this recipe, which looked so delicious, and upon examining the recipe, super easy! Thanks to My Chocolate Therapy for posting this yummy Crockpot Chicken Tacos recipe. Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t tweak the recipe at least a little bit. I’m sure My Chocolate Therapy’s 3-ingredient version is delicious as well. I have to say, this chicken crockpot taco dish was outstanding! Honestly, Ryan took one bite and ran upstairs to kiss me!

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

Chicken – raw & thawed (I used 3 very large chicken breasts, probably about a pound)

2 envelopes of taco seasoning (double check the ingredients to make sure it’s GF. I used one regular and one spicy taco seasoning packets)

2 cups of salsa (whatever you like, I used Pace’s Medium Salsa)

1 bag of frozen corn

1 small can of diced green chilies

1 can (drained) black beans

Pour the salsa and taco seasoning into the crockpot, stir to combine. Add in chicken breasts (I spooned some of the sauce ontop of the chicken). Top with corn and green chilies. Stir to mix everything together. (Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the black beans, they’re coming). I am so NOT a morning person, so I prepped this whole meal the night before (except for the beans, again, they’re still to come). My chicken breasts were actually still semi-frozen when I put the whole crock-pot bowl back into the fridge, but I figured this still gave the chicken plenty of time to marinate in the sauce.

So, like I said, I’m SOOO NOT a morning person. I got up for work the next day, and remembered to plug the crockpot in, but forgot everything else in the fridge. Yikes! So, I had to run home over lunch to put dinner on. Luckily, 4 hours on HIGH was perfect for cooking the chicken to tender deliciousness. According to Chocolate Therapy, you can cook on low for 6-8 hours. This is where the new-fangled crockpots come in handy, being able to set the crockpot to cook for a certain number of hours and then switch to WARM, genius!

Ok, so 4 hours after my mid-day dash home to start dinner, the crockpot magically switch to WARM until I arrived back home. The aroma in the house was intoxicating. I love food, but I was REALLY excited to EAT dinner that night. Yum! I got out a cutting board and two forks to shred the chicken with, but when I speared the first chicken breast, it melted into stringy pulled-chicken goodness. I literally shredded the chicken in the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients. Super easy, I practically stirred the chicken into shreds. I drained the black beans, gave them a quick rinse and threw them into the crockpot, while still on WARM. After about 10 minutes, dinner was ready.

I warmed a couple of corn tortillas in the microwave for 10 seconds, then layered cheddar cheese and the chicken taco mixture on top. I recommend letting some of the juiciness run off before adding the chicken mixture to the taco, it was a little soupy. The flavor dimension was fantastic. I ended up eating my taco with a fork, though, as it was a bit messy.

Honestly, I think you could reduce the amount of salsa in the recipe to help with the juice-factor, or just serve using a slotted spoon. I’m also curious about adding in some chicken stock and making this into tortilla soup.

I’m a big fan of bring left-overs for lunch. Even before going gluten free, I wasn’t a huge cold sandwich for lunch kind of girl. But, since becoming gluten free, I find that quick, easy, and nutritious lunches are that much harder to figure out. The chicken tacos made an excellent lunch served over rice.

 


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Another Resource Find

This is excellent! Although, not an exhaustive listing, the Celiac Disease Foundation has listed many products that are gluten free. You can search by food type, such as snacks or cereals. Although a lot of products on the list are more specialty brands, many of them specifically gluten free brands, there are still some great resources here. For example. I learned that both Coco Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles are gluten free. Score!

Like I said, there are many gluten free foods that are NOT listed here, but at least this gives some ideas and a start at finding gluten free options, especially if you’re looking for something specifice: http://cdfresourcedirectory.com/


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Chicken Curry…the easy way.

 

 

I really enjoy ethnic foods – Asian, Indian, Mexican, and so on. One of our go-to fast and easy meals is to make some jasmine rice in our trusty rice cooker (read: no attention necessary) to serve up with chicken in a simmer sauce. We have found some tasty simmer sauces from Patak’s Original Simmer Sauce. We really like the Jalfrezi Curry and Tikka Masla flavors. This time, we tried the Dopiaza Curry sauce with tomato, onion, roasted cumin and spices. The way Patak’s describes the Dopiaza Curry sauce is: It’s like marinara with an Indian accent. How true! The sauce is sweet, bold, and tangy. Although I prefer the Jalfrezi Curry to the milder Dopiaza Curry sauce, this sauce was still bursting with flavor. The Jalfrezi Curry happens to have a little more heat, which is right up my alley. None the less, these simmer sauces make for a fast and delicious meal. Not to mention, many of them are Gluten Free!

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ImageFirst, we cook up jasmine rice in our Oster Rice Cooker. Honestly, before we had a rice cooker I thought it was a silly, unnecessary kitchen appliance. Then, we got a rice cooker from my sister and brother-in-law for Christmas. Then, angels sang. No more boiled over rice in the microwave. Just pour the rice and water into the rice cooker, push down the lever and forgeh-abott-ittt (in my best Italian mobster voice). When the rice is done, the cooker beeps and automatically switches to warm. Viola.

While the rice is cooking, cube up some raw chicken, and toss it into a frying pan, add the simmer sauce. Stir. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce heat, and let the dish simmer for a while (whatever the directions on the bottle say). It’s an easy to wander away for a short while type cooking meal. Just make sure to check in and stir from time-to-time. Once the recommended simmer time is up, serve over the rice. Quick, easy, and delicious!

I don’t know about you, but the few times we’ve tried to tackle Indian cooking, we ended up with mediocre results. Somehow, the spices remain rough ground particles, with a closer resemblance to sawdust than the buttery smooth flavors I enjoy at Indian restaurants. Luckily, these simmer sauces allow us to enjoy those lovely Indian flavors at home. The combination of spices brings such a depth of flavor to the meal, a real comforting, home-cooked experience. Do you have a favorite simmer sauce, or quick go-to meal?

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Dining Out…a success story.

Picking a restaurant when you’re eating gluten free can be a challenge. Once a flexible try-anything type eater, I now find myself scrutinizing over restaurant websites and menu choices. Last night, I met a friend for dinner. Determining where to go was a bit of a challenge. I searched local “gluten free friendly” restaurants on urbanspoon.com. I have found urban spoon to be a nice resource in narrowing down restaurant options, however a gluten free friendly listing on urban spoon does not say much about what gluten free options that restaurant offers, and I have found other restaurants that are gluten free friendly, but not listed as such on urban spoon. It’s an imperfect tool, really. I have visited gluten free friendly (on urban spoon) restaurants that have offered slim pickins for a gluten free diner…forget about getting a full meal at some of these places. Even calling ahead doesn’t always give you the full picture of what you can eat. 

Ok, so long story, well, long… my friend and I settled upon The Good Earth in Roseville (MN). A local restaurant that focuses on natural, homegrown, good food. I had dined there once before, knew their reputation of being very food-consciencious, and I felt pretty confident in getting a good gluten free meal.

Although the Good Earth did not have a separate gluten free menu, or any call-outs on the menu for what options were gluten free, I was very happy with our restaurant choice. Our waiter was very helpful and knowledgeable about gluten and what options I had.

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My first meal choice was a curry dish. The waiter explained to me that the curry sauce contained hoisin, which had a small amount of gluten in it. If I could tolerate a little gluten, that would be fine for me to order. If not, I should pick something else. Not really knowing my tolerance level of gluten, I opted for a burger instead.   The waiter offered me gluten free bread, in place of the bun (no way, gluten free bread!), he also offered us gf tortilla chips and hummus instead of the standard bread basket. This was awesome!

As we waited for our meals, my friend and I chatted, and she asked me what the best gluten free restaurant I had been to so far. Without hesitating, I said “honestly, Chipotle.” She smiled “really?” “Yep” I said, “I can eat everything there, except the tortillas. So, a burrito bowl with anything or everything on it.” My second dining out go-to is Noodles & Co, for their Pad Thai (although the possibility of cross-contamination is much higher at Noodles).

I wish I would have taken a picture of my meal last night, but I was hungry and engrossed in conversation with my good friend. I would highly recommend The Good Earth for anyone in the twin cities area. I had the Good Earth Burger:

All natural beef, caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms, avocado, gruyere cheese, sunflower sprouts and a red pepper aioli with tarro chips

The burger was flavorful and succulant. My gluten free bread was soft and airy. Everything was scrumptious. This was by far the best sit-down restaurant gluten free experience I’ve had so far. My visit to the Good Earth greatly surpassed my gluten free dining expectations. Well done, Good Earth, well done.


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Gluten Free Dining Out & Travel Resources!

I cannot even begin to express how EXCITED I AM RIGHT NOW!!!! Goodness, sorry for the shouting. I am nearly jumping up and down in my chair as I type this!

I was gluten free google searching, and came across a few resources that are AH-Mazing!

First off, you can go into google maps and search “city” + gluten free… and find gluten free restaurants. Seriously, this is an invaluable resource for traveling! Now, I will warn you that I recently had back-to-back disheartening experiences with restaurants that said they were gluten free friendly, where I left feeling under-fed and over-charged. So, I would still recommend doing your due-diligince in asking questions before settling in to dine anywhere.

I also came across a few other websites that I’m pretty excited about:

Searching for a restaurant that’s sensitive to certain eating restrictions/allergies: allergyeats.com

Other gluten free travel resources: glutenfreetravelsite.com

A good source for substitutions based on allergies/intolerances: http://www.livingwithout.com/resources/substitutions.html

I’ll leave you withthose new-found resources for now. Hope you find a little surprise or excitement to your day, too!


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Super Fast Chicken

When I first tried eating a gluten free diet I had a hard time finding adequate breakfast foods, I existed on eggs of any kind. I refused to spend a small fortune on gluten free flours or mixes to make any muffins or breads. Here I am 2+ months invested into eating gluten free and adopting this eating lifestyle long-term. I still struggle with missing some of my favorite foods. I struggle with eating out, but mostly I struggle with the lack of convenience in eating gluten free. Gone are the days of eating frozen pizza on nights that I don’t want to cook. Gone are the days of quick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a mid-day snack. Gone are the days of eating bagels at the occasional morning meeting.

So here I am, eating eggs when I don’t want to cook. Having rice cakes with peanut butter and jelly for breakfast. Snacking on cereal when there’s milk in the house. I’m making adjustments in my go-to food repertoire. I’m finding new solutions and trying out new recipes.

I have been searching for granola bar-type recipes, for on-hand and easy-to-take-along snacks. Still working on that. I even bought gluten free baking mixes. The gluten free bisquick actually makes pretty good pancakes. But, it’s a work in progress.

ImageTonight, I wanted a fast, easy dinner. No fuss, no muss.  I threw a sweet potato into the oven. After the potato cooked for close to an hour, I cubed up a (very large) chicken breast, sprinkled with salt and pepper, then sauteed it in a small amount of olive oil with garlic. Just as the chicken finished cooking, I tossed in some dried bay leaves (I would have preferred sage, but I didn’t have any), a few capers and about a tablespoon of margarine. I let the butter melt, and took the chicken off the stove to serve along side my baked sweet potato and some peas. It was a delicious, and quick meal.

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