Monday, January 24, 2011

Hot soup on a cold night

I have been on a soup kick this winter. Usually, when I think of soup, I think of lots of chopping, a LONG cooking time, and feeling hungry after I've eaten. This winter I've fallen in love with hearty, warm soups like chili, black bean soup, vegetable noodle soup, and tonight's corn chowder.

I've been spending a lot of time with the cookbook "Cooking for Isaiah" by Silvana Nardone this month. Mostly because it has accessible recipes that don't require special trips to the store or spending all night in the kitchen. Tonight I made the corn chowder from the book. I made a few tweaks, but that's another thing I love about soups. The recipe provides the base, and the rest is improvisation. I doubled the recipe so we'd have plenty of leftovers, added a clove of garlic and some smoked paprika, and used frozen corn.

One of the main draws of this recipe is the fact that it is dairy free, and doesn't use any soy or fake-dairy substitutes. The soup gets it's creaminess from white beans and potatoes. The beans also add fiber and protein to make this soup healthier than a traditional chowder. I don't have a problem with digesting dairy, but I do have the tendency to treat sour cream as a side dish, and I add cheese to everything. I love dairy, but I also know that I probably shouldn't eat as much as I do. I considered adding sour cream and cheese to the top of this soup... until I tasted it. It was perfection without the added fat and calories. I'll save those calories for dessert.

The other draw of this recipe is that it was fast. And easy! I had time to come home from work, throw together the soup, leave Ben to watch it simmer, go to yoga, and come home to delicious, creamy corn chowder. Not bad for a Monday night!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bread, with a stand mixer

Last July I went on  a quest for good homemade bread. I had some success, but determined that I really needed a stand mixer to handle some of the heavier dough. Well, I got a stand mixer for Christmas! So, for the past few weeks I've been looking for opportunities to make things that require a stand mixer.

I made two different kinds of bread, similar to my bread-making night in July. The first was the King Arthur Flour bread mix. Talk about easy, lovely bread. The bread is buttery and soft, with just a hint of flakey crust from the butter I brushed over the top. It rose beautifully, and with the Kitchen Aid to do all the work, it was a cinch!

The second loaf is the white-bean "grainless" recipe from a friend. When I tried this recipe before, the dough was totally unmanageable, engulfed my hand mixer, and resulted in a oddly shaped loaf, despite the loaf pan. The Kitchen Aid certainly took care of that problem. The dough hook took that sticky mess and worked it into a dough I could be proud of. The resulting bread was still just "okay." It wasn't light or fluffy; it didn't rise all that well; and the taste is "good enough." It will be fine as a vehicle for other things, but it's not the kind of bread that makes you believe you could live on a bread and water diet.

And so my quest continues. I can make a delicious loaf of gluten free bread, but it comes at a cost. The next leg of my quest will be to search for a bread recipe that is both easy and inexpensive. At nearly $7 a loaf, the King Arthur Flour mix is only slightly better than the bakery loaf, which runs between $7 and $8. Udi's bread is delicious and can be bought at the local Kroger, but it is in the $6 range as well and is a smaller loaf.

These prices are actually pretty good when you consider that the average increase in cost to go from "regular" to "gluten free" is 300%. I've been fortunate to find most of the things that I need to be gluten free for only twice as much as the "regular" versions.

So for now, good bread will continue to be a bit of a luxury around here, but then, that's probably okay.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cauliflower Comfort Food

When I first went gluten-free, I spent the winter craving warm, cheesy, salty comfort foods. I hadn't found an acceptable GF pasta yet, and couldn't eat rice and beans for every meal, so I got creative.

The following creation was a favorite that first winter. I got the idea from a low-carb friend who make cheesy mashed cauliflower as part of the Atkin's plan. Now, in my attempt to add more veggies to my life, I am bringing it out again. I made it last night and while it is not so pretty, it is delicious! Now, even though it is based on cauliflower, i wouldn't go so far as to say that it is "healthy." It is low-carb friendly, and makes excellent leftovers, and certainly isn't the worst dinner I could think of making. :)

Cauliflower-Sausage Bake

2 large bags of frozen cauliflower
16 ounces sausage (I like to make sure it is MSG free)
1 medium onion chopped
16 ounce container of cottage cheese
16 ounce container of sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Spanish paprika

1. Saute onion in butter in a large skillet until translucent. Add sausage, crumble, and brown.
2. Boil and drain or steam the cauliflower. Use a potato masher to mash up the cauliflower into small pieces.
3. Add the the sausage mixture, cottage cheese, and sour cream to the mashed cauliflower and mix thoroughly.
4. Mix in 1 c of the cheddar cheese.
5. Place the mixture into a 9x5 baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Dust the top with the Spanish paprika.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (or 375 degrees for 30 minutes if you're in a hurry).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

So, here it is, January 3. The day I was supposed to go back to work. The day I'm supposed to feel like tackling the new year and all its challenges, but instead I'm home sick with a nasty virus. Instead of making resolutions to go to the gym this weekend, I was resolving to get up long enough to refill my water glass, or maybe move from the bed to the couch.

This morning I woke up hungry. For vegetables! After weeks of cookies, cheese, and meat, I knew that I needed to resolve to eat more vegetables this year. Eating vegetables never seems like a problem in July, when all is fresh and green and tastes like sunshine. In the winter, it's a little harder to be inspired. I believe in eating what's in season as much as humanly possible. I have a hard time believing that the tomatoes that have been on a truck for the last 2 weeks before arriving at the local Kroger will have much flavor or nutritional value compared to the tomato from my back yard last summer. So in the winter months, I rely primarily on canned or frozen veggies. I do eat a lot of fresh onions, lettuce, and carrots from the grocery, things that typically don't have to ripen and would have held up well in the basement if I'd had the foresight to put some up for the winter.

So this afternoon, between blowing my nose, washing my hands, and using my neti pot, I made some veggie soup. Here's to hoping that this soothing soup puts me back on the right track.

Sick Day Veggie Soup

1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into small half moons
2 T butter
1c corn (frozen)
1c buttercup squash (frozen, chopped)
1 pint green beans (canned)
8 c cold water
½ package of rice sticks (noodles)
1 bay leaf

1.       Sautee onion, garlic, and carrots in butter in the bottom of a heavy stock pot.
2.       Add remaining veggies, spices, and 8 c cold water.
3.       Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until veggies are just tender, then add rice sticks.
4.       Continue to simmer until rice noodles are tender.
5.       Remove bay leaf before serving.