Cook Kindly

Adventures in cooking and navigating a gluten-free life.


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Convenience

One of the hardest adjustments when going gluten free is the lack of convenience foods. There are some options, but by-and-large they either are not that great or they cost a small fortune. There are nights when you just don’t feel like cooking and want to throw a frozen pizza in the oven. Or nights where you need a quick meal on the table before heading out the door again. Those nights can be tough for a gf-er. On those nights, we do a lot of eggs in my house. My almost 3-year old prefers them scrambled with cheese, please.

Even canned soups often contain gluten, but stay tuned for my secret weapon in my Chicken Wild Rice hot dish, coming soon.

We do have a go-to meal that never fails to please. A meal that comes together quickly, without planning ahead. Drum roll, please… Spaghetti & meatballs. Yep, frozen, pre-made meatballs – gluten free. Taa daa!  Sam’s Club sells a 6 pound bag of Daily Chef meatballs (double check that they are gf, because they carry more than one kind), and I guarantee you there is always, always a bag in my freezer.

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Simmer a few (or a dozen) meatballs in spaghetti sauce, while boiling up your noodles. I love Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta noodles. They taste great and are reasonably priced, plus they come in a 16 oz bag (most gf noodles come in 12 oz packages). Once  the noodles are cooked al dente (literally meaning “with tooth” or having a bite still), drain the noodles and mix with the sauce. The starch in brown rice noodles is different than traditional wheat flour noodles, they tend to clump together & get hard. My secret, always toss your pasta with the sauce, the noodles maintain their texture better.

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Spaghetti & meatballs is a fast and convenient meal that’ll please the whole family.


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Chocolate Chip Muffins – Quick and Easy

I’m always challenged when it comes to gluten free baking. I don’t really like to measure or follow instructions terribly closely, which makes me a better cook than a baker. So, when I find an easy recipe that produces excellent results, I’m thrilled! These muffins are quick and easy to make, plus I usually have all the ingredients on-hand. Now that’s what I call a recipe for success (badum-bum-ching). In all seriousness, though, these muffins are quite easy to whip together and don’t require a huge time commitment.

Muffins are such a quick and easy on-the-go breakfast or snack.

When I first made this recipe, I followed it exactly, the results were good, although a touch dry. I thought about the 1:1 swap of apple sauce for oil and decided to give it a go. The result is a moist, spongey crumb, a really delicious muffin. Plus, it’s less fat, yahoo!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Muffins

(revised recipe, original from Quick Cooking Jan 2000)

Chocolate Chip Muffin

Chocolate Chip Muffin

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups of Gluten Free all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup skim milk

1/3 cup apple sauce (or 1/3 cup oil)

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use mini chips)

In a large bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients. In a small bowl beat egg, milk, and oil. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill muffin tin (either greased with cooking spray or lined with baking cups) 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Enjoy.


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These are a few of my favorite things…

Eating Gluten Free is not always easy or convenient, but…it’s getting better. More & more restaurants and grocery stores are carrying gluten free options, some even at reasonable prices. Gasp! If you buy gluten free food, you  know what I’m talking about. Below is a list of a few of my favorite gluten free (I-always-have-them-in-the-house) items.  Of course, there’s always fresh fruits and veggies, un-seasoned meat, and eggs.

gluten-free-brown-rice-pastaFirst and foremost, I want to thank Trader Joes for carrying a variety of gluten free noodles at an oh-so-reasonable price. This was one of my earliest and still most loved gluten free finds! The brown rice pasta is similar to the taste and texture of wheat pasta, although over-cooking does lead to extremely soft noodles, so a little caveat there. If I’m making a noodle casserole, I undercook these guys by a couple of minute, so they have a better bite once the casserole is done in the oven. If I’m cooking a Mexican-type casserole or something with a stronger sauce that can handle it, I use corn noodles, as they tend to keep their bite better.

GF brownies

Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownies

A new love of mine is the Krusteaz Gluten Free Brownie Mix. Sam’s Club sells them in a 3-pack for just barely more than the price of one mix at the grocery store. Yahoo! These brownies (non-gf neighbor tested and approved) taste like the real gluten-ridden deal, complete with a moist and chewy consistency. Yum. I’ve dressed them up with peanut butter swirl, too…ah-mazing.

Speaking of, Sam’s Club and Costco both are carrying Gluten Free all purpose flour blends these days. Personally, I don’t buy the individual flours and mix my own, I take the easy route and buy the all purpose variety, works fabulously.

EssentialEverydayLogoThe other Sunday, during my weekly grocery shopping trip, I cruised through my local Cub Foods freezer aisle to scope out gf breakfast options, when I found a nice surprise. Cub Foods’ owned brand Essential Everyday Gluten Free Waffles. For a reasonable price (around $3.00 a box) you get 8 waffles that are light and crisp. That’s 2 more waffles than most other GF frozen boxed waffles for the same or less cost. Plus, I’ve noticed some other frozen waffles can be a little soft or floppy, these waffles are nice and crisp, great for on-the-go waffle & peanut butter breakfasts.

This list would most definitely not be complete without my hands-down favorite GF bread. I’ll even eat this as bread, whereas other gf breads I’ll only eat as toast. It’s moist, soft, and chewy. I’ve found a few places carry it frozen, which contributes to the dryness, but Target sells this amazing bread in the bakery section. Canyon Bakehouse Bread, so delicious.

image001That completes my favorite things list for today, if you’ve found any super-awesome gf foods, leave a comment to share with your fellow readers.

Thanks.


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Adjustments

It’s been so long since I’ve posted, I don’t even know where to begin on updates.

We built a house, it’s lovely and wonderful and felt like home the day we moved in.

We had a baby, he’s 7-months old already, and crawling and standing, and smiling and giggling. He’s amazing and the happiest part of my day.

I’m still eating gluten free. I have experimented with eating bits of gluten here and there, with not-so-great results (I know, you GFers are thinking “Duh, lady!”) A 3 day shooting-pain from my shoulder to head headache isn’t worth a peanut blossom cookie. That’s for certain. I’m not a Celiac, so I feel like I may tolerate some gluten, I have yet to discover what my threshold is, however. I can tell you that I greatly miss beer, real beer. I drink GF beer, and it’s ok, some are better than others. I just miss the deep bodied beers, the choices of different tastes and depths of beer. Some day, maybe some day.

As I navigate being a new mom and eating GF, I try to experiment, but time is limited, and so is money, so I do my best to make intelligent and semi-safe experiments. Like meatballs. I made my own, substituting crushed up Rice Chex cereal for the breadcrumbs. The meatballs turned out great, except the tiny little clumps of Rice Chex tasted gummy.  Next time I plan to try to make the meatballs without the Chex to see how they form together. Who knows when the next time will roll around, with all the chasing a mobile 7-month old I do these days. Plus, I found that Sam’s Club now carries  Gluten Free Meatballs in their freezer section. Yes!

I still struggle with the cost of gluten free foods compared to non-gluten free foods. I’m overly excited at any coupon I find for a GF item (Target just gave me a coupon to try GF pasta from Barilla, I hope to do that soon). I’ve learned that Van’s Waffles and Udi’s bread are significantly cheaper at Target than at Cub Foods, so I try to only buy those items at Target. I found a co-op reasonably close by that has delicious GF pizza crusts. Personally, I’m not a fan of Udi’s frozen pizza, to me it tastes like carboard with tomato paste on top, and for far too much dough (pun intended, haha).

I’m going to try to update recipes and things I learn a little bit more frequently, going forward. I’d love to hear from any readers on tips or tricks or recipes you have, too!

 

 


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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Although there are gluten free bakeries and the grocery store even offers some gluten free baked goods options, I still steer pretty clear of baked goods now that I’m gluten free. Maybe I’m cheap, since I don’t want to pay $6+ for a couple of frozen donuts or muffins. Maybe I’m nervous they’ll taste terrible and I’ll feel guilty for “wasting that money” (hey, it happened on a $7 tiny frozen gluten free pizza that tasted like cardboard with tomato paste on it). Or, maybe the cost is just an excuse to deny myself those not-so-healthy options. Whatever the case may be, since going gluten free I definitely wait until I really REALLY want a baked good before allowing myself one. I’ve determined that I prefer baking my own to buying the frozen grocery store items (which I have never tried, so I’m not knocking ’em). But, with baking, I get to make what I want to make. Tonight, I ventured into muffin land… chocolate chocolate chip muffins, to be exact. 

I remember many Easter and Thanksgiving mornings my family would meet my grandma and cousins at Perkins for breakfast. Of course, at Perkins with your breakfast order you always have the option of toast, pancakes, or a muffin. Naturally, I would get a muffin to go (for breakfast the next day). More often than not, that muffin choice was a chocolate chocolate chip muffin, dusted with powdered sugar. Certainly not the healthiest choice, but oh-so-good.

For me since being gluten free, I generally don’t miss my previous gluten loves. Although, I do miss the convenience of it all. But, once in a while, I’ll see a past love and feel a tinge of sadness, and sometimes a craving that I wont be able to shake, which leads me to a google search and some baking.

Thanks to Gluten Free on a Shoestring for posting this recipe. http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/chocolate-breakfast-muffins/

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Tonight, I knew I wanted muffins. I couldn’t think of what kind to make (feeling lazy as Ryan and I had came to the end of our grocery shopping and not wanting to traipse back through the store to figure out a muffin flavor ingredient to buy). We were already in the baking aisle, so Ryan suggested his favorite kind of muffin, one with chocolate chips. So, I grabbed a bag of mini-chocolate chips and we headed for the check out. (Yes, we were grocery shopping at dinner time, and we were both hungry already.) After dinner, I pulled out the iPad and started my muffin recipe search. My first google search pulled up a few options, but they required xanthum gum (an ingredient I have yet to try out). So I decided to narrow my search: Better Batter chocolate chip muffins. (I have a few boxes of Better Batter All Purpose Flour Mix in the pantry). Ding! I found Chocolate Chocolate Chip muffins using Better Batter flour (without the need for any xanthum gum or other weird ingredients I didn’t have on hand.

I followed the recipe instructions straight through (although my milk was not room temp, and I didn’t shake it, I stirred it) and I added mini chocolate chips. I also made 14 muffins, instead of the suggested 12. The batter was like whipped marshmallow cream, pretty thick and sticky. I filled up each muffin cup how I normally would (pre-gluten free days), about 2/3 full, but I had a LOT of batter left after my 14 muffin cups were full. So, I decided to top each muffin tin off with a bit more batter. Interestingly enough, my baked muffins came out with nice peaked muffin tops, similar to their gluten relatives.

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These muffins were pretty easy to make, look delicious, and should satisfy any chocolate craving. And they are amazing…moist, gooey, chocolatey goodness.


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Five Guys Burgers & Fries

As any gluten free eater knows, eating out can be a challenge, especially when you’re not in a familiar place. Friday afternoon Ryan and I were running around the state working on things for the house. Around lunch time I pulled out my phone to find a gluten free option. I googled “gluten free” + the city we wanted to eat in. Lucky for me, google came through, linking me to the Urban Spoon page for that city’s gluten free dining options. I read off a few choices, and ultimately we decided to try Five Guys Burgers & Fries.

If you had known me in college, you would be surprised that I would pick a burger place for lunch. Oh how times change. Back then, I was a pseudo-vegetarian. I ate mostly vegetarian (especially when I was cooking), but would eat meat on occasion (especially if someone else was cooking… I didn’t like to be a burden). Ha, how times have changed. Now, I often find myself ordering a burger without the bun, well, because sometimes that’s the best option when dining out gluten free.

At any rate, we walked into Five Guys to see the place pretty packed, bags of potatoes running down the center of the restaurant. It looked 50’s-esqu with checked tile on the walls. I quickly read through the menu, they only offer a few burger options (with & without cheese, bacon) or hot dogs, and you add your toppings. They also make pretty good hand-cut fries. I ordered a gluten free cheese burger with grilled onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. Ryan got a double with the same toppings + jalapenos. We ordered a medium fry to share.

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I was busy reading all the signs on the walls, touting how great Five Guys is to notice, but Ryan informed me that the entire food crew changed gloves and cleaned off the food prep surfaces to make my burger. How awesome is that?!?! Not only did we find a place that I can eat the french fries, but they also take that extra step to ensure a safe meal for me. Thank you so much Five Guys!

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Once we got our food, I was so ready to dig in, and wasn’t disappointed. The burger was juicy and fully loaded with my chosen toppings. The fries we hot, salty, and well, there was a lot of them. We devoured our lunches with smiles on our faces. I have to admit that I am partial to crispy french fries, which generally you don’t get with hand-cut fries. Although the Five Guys fries were not crispy, they were very tasty and satisfying. All-in-all, I give Five Guys 5-stars for their tasty burgers and fries and quick custom-made fare.


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Apricot Kielbasa Slices

When you’re gluten free and you need a dish to share for a potluck, or you want a tasty hot hors devours, what do you bring? Well, the frozen meatballs cooked in a delectable sauce is pretty much out. But, what about Kielbasa? Oooh, goodness! I found this recipe while hunting for an Oktoberfest snack to bring to a friend’s party. Personally, I’m a big fan of kielbasa sausage, and I’ve been able to find lots of flavor varieties that are gluten free. Both my local Cub Foods and Sam’s Club carry plenty of gf options.

Thanks to Taste of Home, where I found the original recipe for this gf snack.

  • 1 pound fully cooked kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Directions

  • In a large skillet, brown sausage; drain and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet; cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Return sausage to the pan; cook for 5-6 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm. Yield: 4 dozen.

You can make this dish and keep it warm in a crockpot, or you can be (lazy) like me, and just make the whole dish in the crockpot (cooking at least until hot). I do think the smokey kielbasa flavor is enhanced by browning the sausage first, but certainly that depends on the time you have and your personal taste.

Taking this dish beyond just a snack, I’ve served the kielbasa in apricot sauce over rice and made a meal out of it (with a veggie either on the side or mixed in, broccoli is delish). It’s sort of a German take on orange chicken (a favorite of Ryan’s & mine).

I wish I had pictures to share, but this dish is so yummy, I ate it all!