Category Archives: gluten-free
My friend Kathy told me I need to write more. So, I comply.
Though I struggle with feeling irrelevant in this age of blogs that are perfectly photographed, engagingly-written by self-assured experts in every imaginable topic, she tells me that I do have a niche, and I fill a role… I’m still not 100% certain what that role is, nine and a half years after I started blogging.
I’m also going to — at Kathy’s urging — start to journal more on the things about which I cannot write publicly. I find that, as my children grow toward adulthood, I can’t really disclose to the faceless masses — or even friends I know and trust in real life — many of the things that truly weigh down my heart, as they are often not my secrets to divulge.
Then, when all of these thoughts and feelings and words are teeming in my mind, considered but unwritten, everything else seems like fluff — truly irrelevant and not worth the time invested in writing a blog post.
This, however: Worthwhile. To me, at least.
I did something this past weekend that I’ve never done before: gone on a girlfriends’ weekend with no kids and no husband. Well, I haven’t done anything like that since I’ve been married. For Mother’s Day, my husband surprised me with a trip to the Portland area, to see some dear friends. I had been semi-planning this trip for, oh, about a year… But, with my oldest son’s high school graduation, my second son going to Civil Air Patrol Encampment in June, a house that sucks up our remodeling budget and most of our discretionary income, a family camping trip to plan, and more — always more — I was certain that it wouldn’t work out. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had been scheming with my friends. He’s a good man.
So, while my headcold-ridden husband stayed home with our six children, I flew to PDX, and went criss-crossing southern Washington and northern Oregon with three friends for four days. Mountains! The beach! Gardens! Farmer’s market! City! Country! We packed a great deal into a short period of time.
One friend, Dee Dee, traveled up from the desert — though not the same flight as me — and we met our two friends who used to live here, but who now live in the Portland area.
This time is a treasure to me. I have no great love for the Phoenix area… Yet, as my husband says, it is the land of our anointing. It’s where God has us, and where He has blessed us. We have not plans — not any hopes, even — of ever living elsewhere. There are far too many attachments here in the desert: our beloved church, my husband’s job of 24 years, nearby family (though no one remaining who actually lives in the Phoenix area)…. So, it’s a hard balance, something I’ve struggled with — with varying degrees of success: I long for green, for water in creeks, for rain, for tolerable weather… Yet, I cannot give in to discontentment. It wants to eat my heart, and I can’t let it. I won’t.
So, any trip outside the desert is a delight, and this one was particularly so.
In my absence, my husband bought me a second-hand rototiller, so all things considered, it might have been the Best Weekend Ever.
My other favorite times:
- Hanging out in Allison’s home, with her hubby and their two sons. The living room is on the second level, and it is like being in a tree house, with massive windows on two walls, tall trees surrounding the property. We curled up, kicked back, scritched the ears of her two Westies, and chatted for hours.
- Eating. Every restaurant in the Pacific Northwest has a gluten-free menu, and even the gelato at the grocery store (Chuck’s, I think it was called) was labeled as g.f. We also ate at an Iraqi restaurant, which I wish I could transplant here.
- Kathy made a delicious dinner for all of us, which we ate in her back yard. As we waited for the meal, we had hors d’oeuvres of fresh blueberries, plucked from the bushes in Kathy’s yard. Blueberry bushes. In her back yard.
- Just the friendship of other women who know and love each other and have similar values… I feel rich in the blessings of friendship. And we laughed a lot. And exclaimed over the same things. We’re all alike enough to enjoy most of the same things, but different enough that conversation is enlightening and lively, and we learn from each other.
- On Sunday morning, as we drove to the Oregon Garden, Allison — the driver — made an executive decision that we would worship and pray aloud. We did, for about an hour — praying for each other, our families, our churches — three represented by the four of us… And we listened to the Housefires. Time flew. And then right at the end, as we were drenched in the Spirit, someone up the way started backing a 60-foot Winnebago into a driveway, and a lady strode purposefully onto the two-lane blacktop highway and held up her 5″ palm, telling us to stop. This struck all of us as hilarious, because, really… we couldn’t see the Winnebago, and we would have been lost without her direction. We were so grateful. (Much laughter.)
I must return. We’re already making plans, the four of us, to do so.
I clipped the original recipe for this toffee from the Arizona Republic in 2002; it’s attributed to Lee Ann DeGrassi. However, I use more almonds in the toffee than she called for, and she had no temperatures listed, and some of the instructions were really unclear. So, I’ve altered it a bit.
I know this recipe seems LLLOOONGGGGGG. There are two reasons for that: Firstly, it takes a long time. If you’re pressed for time, don’t make toffee. The second reason is I’ve included a lot of parenthetical information — stuff I’ve learned the hard way, and I’m trying to spare you from ruining your expensive ingredients and wasting your time by ruining the toffee!!
I typically make a triple recipe of this. For a pan, I use heavy duty aluminum foil and fold long ends together, crimping them and folding them twice, kind of like rolling them. Smooth out very flat, especially the middle area where you’ve folded the two pieces together. Then, I fold up the edges triple-thick, about 1 1/2″ high, to form a giant pan. If you want, you can get all mathy with it. I get out my measuring tape and figure out the square inches… The recipe calls for two 9″ x 13″ pans, which is 234 square inches. My giant aluminum foil pan is 24″ x 30.5″, so 732 square inches. So, I knew a triple recipe would fit just fine.
makes 7-8 lbs
- 5 cups C&H (or other white cane) sugar — no raw or unwashed sugar; it needs to be free of all molasses and totally white
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/2 lbs (10 sticks — yes, that much) SALTED butter
- 3 cups raw almonds, whole shelled
- 36 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (typically, three bags)
- 3 cups raw almonds, rough-ground (I use a Cuisinart Mini-Prep)
- Shortening to grease your pans (I use Spectrum organic non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening)
Large pan (6-8 quart)
Long-handled, sturdy wooden spoon or wooden or metal spatula
A candy thermometer
A silicone basting brush (please, you don’t want to risk the thick melted chocolate pulling hairs out of your standard basting brush, believe me!!)
2 – 9×13″ baking pans with a lip on the edge OR heavy duty aluminum foil
Several bath towels with which to line your counter top
Smooth out 3-5 bath towels on a wide counter top or table. Grease two 9 x 13 inch baking sheets and line with parchment paper (or fold heavy-duty foil, as mentioned above, to make a big pan, grease and line with parchment paper). Place pan(s) on the towel-lined counter top. I cracked our quartz counter top one year because it wasn’t insulated. So, please! Use those towels!!
Cut each stick of butter into 3-4 chunks and set aside.
Combine sugar and water in a 6-8 quart pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring gently but constantly, until the mixture reaches 231° on a candy thermometer. Add butter slowly, stirring gently while you add, until all the butter is melted. (I kind of slide each chunk of butter down the spatula I use for stirring so I don’t get splashed by boiling sugar-butter!)
Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook, stirring every five minutes or so, until the temperature reaches 260° degrees. This will take 30-60 minutes. Then, stir constantly until the temp reaches 270°. (I use a long-handled metal spatula to stir — so my hand is far away from the boiling mixture, and so that I can thoroughly scrape the bottom of the pan so no sugar burns on the bottom.)
When the temperature reaches 270°, add the 3 cups of whole, raw, shelled almonds, about 1/3 of them at a time, stirring with each addition. Continue to stir constantly until the thermometer reads 290°. (Note: Toffee must reach a minimum of 285° to set. It can go up to 300° degrees and still be toffee, however, the hotter it gets, the more you risk burning the whole batch. So, I cook it to 290°, to ensure a good set, but to not risk burning.)
Take out the candy thermometer and quickly but carefully pour the toffee into the waiting pan(s). Do not spread it; the toffee will level itself. (If you try spreading it as it cools, the butter can separate from the toffee and it will ruin the whole batch.) Use a silicone scraper to get all of the toffee out of the hot pan, scraping the bottom of the pan first (it burns there the fastest — you want to get the toffee out before it burns).
Cool for about 20-30 minutes. (You want the toffee to have cooled to a non-liquid state but still be hot enough to melt the chocolate.) Sprinkle half of the chocolate chips on the slightly cooled toffee. Wait five minutes for the chocolate to soften and melt. With a silicone basting brush, brush the chocolate over the surface of the toffee to coat. Then, evenly sprinkle half of the ground almonds over the surface. With gentle pressure, press the ground almonds into the chocolate. (Otherwise, when you turn the toffee over, half of the almonds will fall off.)
Let cool thoroughly — 3-5 hours or overnight. When the toffee is completely cooled and the chocolate has rehardened, break into very large pieces and turn over, putting the toffee back together like a puzzle. Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave or over a double broiler until JUST melted — do not overheat. Then, pour the chocolate over the toffee and spread around with the silicone basting brush. Sprinkle the remaining ground almonds on top and press in.
Wait until the chocolate is completely cooled and firm, then break into serving-sized pieces. You may need to drop the toffee on the counter top from a few inches’ height to break it. Then, eat all the crumbs and give the big, beautiful, tasty pieces to friends and family and they will love you forever and drop hints like, “I hope you’re making toffee this year!”
I almost did it.
Something I’ve never done before, and I almost pulled the trigger.
Yesterday, I went on a whirlwind three-store shopping trip, purchasing everything in one go so I could just stay at home and bake and cook today and tomorrow in preparation for Thanksgiving. Knowing I had four pies to make, and knowing what a PITA* it is to make g.f. pie crusts, I sought out the freezer case of Sprouts, my local natural-foods grocery store. I stood there, looking at the empty section where the gluten-free pie crusts should have been, and glanced at the price tag — $4.99. I’m not sure if that was for a single crust or a double-pack. In any case, they were out. Cheap-o that I am, the price tag dissuaded me, anyway. I just couldn’t spend $10-20 on something that I knew I could do, myself.
Four pie crusts are now made and in the fridge, waiting for filling tomorrow.
I thought I’d share how I am able to successfully roll out and transfer gluten-free pie crust into the pie pan without it breaking into a dozen pieces.
(This is NOT a recipe — use any g.f. pie crust recipe or mix.)
1. First, plan on 1 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour per crust. “Normal” recipes for a 9″ crust will use only 1 cup of flour. However, it is helpful to roll your crust just a LITTLE thicker than wheat-based crusts. Also, it is often useful to have just a little extra dough to work with. Gluten-free dough dough doesn’t adhere to itself as well as wheat-based dough, so your edges (before you trim — see below) will be more raggedy. Rather than fret about not having enough dough, just allow for extra on the outset. (Also, below, I’ll tell you what you can do with the left-over dough.) I use six cups of mix for four crusts.
2. Secondly, but most importantly, you need parchment paper, the kind used for baking. I have tried this with wax paper and with plastic wrap, as well, but it is really only successful with parchment paper.
3. Gather your lump of dough — mine is speckled because I put some unblanched almond meal in with my mix of flours — in the middle of a square of parchment paper. A pastry mat with guidelines is helpful, but not necessary.
4. Gently, with even pressure, roll the dough into a roundish shape, aiming for a circle 12-13″ in circumference — the size of dough needed for a 10″ pie. (The parchment paper I have is 13″ wide. So, my circle nearly touches the edges of my square of parchment.)
5. Turn your pie pan over upside-down, and center it on top of the circle of dough. 6. Slide your hand under the parchment, keeping your hand as flat against the counter top as possible, gently lifting paper, crust, and pie pan. Place your other hand on top of the pie pan (which is, again, upside-down, so the palm of your hand is against the bottom of the pie pan). So now, your hands are sandwiching the paper, crust, and pan. Spread the fingers of your hand that is underneath as wide as possible to support the dough, and quickly flip your hands over.
7. Leaving the parchment in place, gently press the dough into place, snugly against the sides and bottom of the pan. Then, gently remove the parchment paper. The beauty of parchment is that the dough adheres just enough to keep the crust intact while you flip, but not TOO much, so that the parchment peels cleanly away.
10. Fold the outer 1/2″ or so of the pie crust against itself, pinching gently, so that you have a double-thick top edge of your unbaked pie crust. Gluten-free dough WILL be more crumbly than wheat-based crust, so smooth the top edge of the crust as you go, until you have a sort of blunted top edge.
And, voila! You’re done with your unbaked pie crust with an edge that is standing up high enough to support most deep-dish pie recipes. And if your recipe isn’t for a deep dish pie, you’ll probably just have the edge of the crust standing tall, surveying your beautiful homemade pie.
You can pre-bake — also called blind baking — your crust as directed by a recipe (like for lemon meringue pie), or use it as is for pumpkin or pecan, or any other pie that starts with an unbaked crust. Or, you may refrigerate or freeze the crust until you’re ready to use it (make sure it is nicely sealed in plastic wrap so that the crust doesn’t dry out).
One note about pre-baking: Definitely use pie weights (or beans or rice) when pre-baking a gluten-free pie crust. Depending on the flours used, many g.f. flours (especially the whiter ones — starches and rice flours) can shrink during baking. Using a weight helps minimize this.
12. Lastly, you can give any leftover trimmings of dough to the aspiring baker(s) in your home, and set her free with a rolling pin and cookie cutters. Place the shapes on an ungreased cooked sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake at 375 degrees F until lightly browned, about 16 minutes (depending on your pan, and how thick the crust-cookies are).
*This is as close as I will come to cussing on this blog. Or in real life, for that matter.
On Saturday, my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, picked a Really Big daikon radish from the fields at Crooked Sky Farms during CSA Member Day.
My husband Martin asked me, doubtingly, “What are you going to do with that?”
I replied, “I’m pretty sure you can make kimchi out of daikon.”
Martin gave me one of those looks and said, “I hope you don’t expect me to eat that.”
I think the grand count is now up to six or seven things I’ve made in our nearly-20 years of marriage that he doesn’t like. Maybe eight. I think his presupposition that he won’t like radish kimchi is based solely upon reputation, and report of friends who have gone to South Korea on ministry trips.
I found a recipe, and I’m making it right now — waiting for 30 minutes while the cubed radish “sweats”.
I’m really happy with all the ingredients. Nearly all of them are organic: the daikon, of course; the green onion; the dried red chile; the sugar — all from Crooked Sky Farms, save the sugar. I’ve also used sea salt, fresh garlic, and gluten-free soy sauce, simply because I’m out of fish sauce.
I just realized that I do not have fresh ginger, so my kimchi will be ginger-less.
And that big daikon only made one quart plus about 1½ cups of kimchi. I’m only fermenting the quart container. The end result didn’t seem as “wet” as the recipe suggested, so I ended up pouring all the “radish juice” back into the mixture. From other fermented items I’ve made, the veggies must all be submerged in the liquid, and it took adding it all back in to bring the liquid to the top of the quart jar.
I had the thought, “I wonder if slightly adventurous cooks in Korea get a hold of, say, tomatoes, and determine that they will make ketchup, that ubiquitous and widely eaten American condiment.” And their spouses look askance and wonder if they have to eat it.
The author of the recipe suggests that kkakdugi pairs well with a simple bone-broth soup. Sounds good to me; I have bone broth in the fridge right now! I wonder which of my family will eat Korean Ox-Bone Soup accompanied by Kkakdugi… I’ll try to remember to report back.
On a tangential note, there is a lady in the weekly small group Bible study I attend, and one of her daughters is a health-nut. Nearly every week, my friend will report to me of the inedible culinary disasters her daughter has created in the name of health. When I make a dish, I simply cannot make it in the name of health alone; it must actually TASTE GOOD. What’s the point of cooking your asparagus in coconut oil if no one enjoys the flavor, and it ends up in the trash? (Personally, I think coconut oil is over-used. However, that is a tangent to my tangent.) I’ve only brought snacks twice in the last number of months, and both times, she asked repeatedly, while eating with gusto, “This is gluten free?? It’s healthy??” To which I usually reply, “Well, it’s not healthy, as it has way more sugar than anyone should be eating. But, it’s gluten-free and it’s nearly all organic.” She just can’t believe that homemade goods can be better-for-you AND tasty. I believe that they should be tasty. I don’t believe in eating something solely because it’s good for you; food should be enjoyed.
I’ll admit it: In this age of expert home food stylists and Pinterest beauty, I’m hesitant to post new recipes. I snapped a pic of this with my phone, not my Nikon SLR (I don’t own a Nikon SLR or any other fancy camera). It’s not gorgeous. But, it is SO VERY delicious that I had to share. And, it’s just in time for Thanksgiving. Hopefully, it will become a wintertime staple in your home, as my family has proclaimed it must be in mine.
This recipe calls for a 2½ lb butternut squash, but you can use any orange-fleshed winter squash: baking/pie pumpkin; Hubbard; Delicata; Kabocha; Red Kuri, and others. Personally, I wouldn’t use acorn squash or spaghetti squash. But, just about any other variety would do wonderfully. You can even substitute yam. You may also use MORE than 2½ lb. You could use up to four pounds of squash without tampering with any of the other ingredients.
I implore you not to substitute any other ingredients. This perhaps may seem like an odd mishmash of ingredients, but when it comes together, it’s perfect: savory, sweet, a bit spicy, warm, bright, FRESH. However, if you do find any subs that work beautifully, do return and comment here!
Also, recent research has shown that it’s more important than ever to buy organic winter squash!
Winter squash is a vegetable that might be especially important for us to purchase organic. Recent agricultural trials have shown that winter squash can be an effective intercrop for use in remediation of contaminated soils. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), including pyrene, fluoranthene, chrysene, benzo(a)anthracene and benzo(a)pyrene are unwanted contaminants. PAHs are among the contaminants that can be effectively pulled up out of the soil by winter squash plants. When winter squash is planted as a food crop (as opposed to a non-food crop that is being planted between food crop seasons to help improve soil quality), the farmer’s goal is definitely not to transfer soil contaminants like PAHs up into the food. But some of that transfer seems likely to happen, given the effectiveness of winter squash in mobilizing contaminants like PAHs from the soil. For this reason, you may want to make a special point of purchasing certified organic winter squash. Soils used for the growing of in certified organic foods are far less likely to containundesirable levels of contaminants like PAHs. ~from The World’s Healthiest Foods
In other words, squash does an excellent job of decontaminating the soil: It pulls contaminants from the soil as it grows. However, where do those contaminants go?? Very likely INTO the food you’re eating. You can wash the outside of a conventional squash, or peel it. But, you can’t wash the flesh of the pesticides and other contaminants that the growing plant has pulled from the ground.
Butternut Squash with Apples and Cranberries
makes 12 servings
- 12 oz nitrate-free bacon, chopped
- 3 oz shallots, sliced thinly (about two large cloves)
- 2½ lb organic butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and diced into ¾” cubes
- 4 small Granny Smith apples (or other tart apple), cored, peeled, and diced small
- 1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries (you can use unsweetened just as well)
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh sage (plus more for garnish)
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1½ tsp ground allspice
- zest of one lime
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat, cook chopped bacon and sliced shallots, stirring often, until bacon is crisp. Set aside to cool slightly. Do not drain.
- In a large, heat-proof bowl (such as a glass or ceramic bowl), toss together the diced squash, diced apples, dried cranberries, minced fresh sage, sea salt, allspice, lime zest, and white pepper.
- Scrape the bacon, shallots, and rendered bacon fat over the squash mixture and toss to mix well.
- Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish (or two medium-sized ones), and spread evenly.
- Cover tightly and bake for 40-50 minutes, stirring once, or until the squash is tender.
- Garnish with additional chopped sage (or Italian parsley, cilantro, or other pretty green).
- Serve hot.
Ah, those artichokes… Who knew they could be such trouble-makers?
My seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, is still recovering.
Actually, it’s not the artichoke’s fault.
Having a wee bit of organic gardening experience under my belt, I can often (not always, but often) discern the difference between beneficial insects and harmful ones. More squeamish minds may disagree, but it always pleases me when I see a beneficial, crawling in the weekly produce I get from Crooked Sky Farms. It just makes me think, “The food is alive! It was just picked!! These bugs are HAPPY here! It’s a GOOD bug!!”
I usually scoop up these little garden treasures on a leaf and have one of my kids go deposit it in my own garden. Lately, I’ve been telling them to put the bug right on one of my dill plants, which are now in bloom and are (hopefully) operating as an aphid trap plant…
However, during a recent family dinner, while Audrey was happily peeling back the petals of her ‘choke, dipping each in mayo, she encountered a ladybug. A dead one. Dead from me cooking it, encased in its previous home. Loud wailing ensued, along with accusations of heart-heartedness, “HOW COULD YOU KILL A LADYBUG?? HOW COULD YOU COOK HIM???”
And of course, being seven, she is just not letting this drop. It has been nearly a week now, and she still isn’t letting me live it down. “Remember the cooked ladybug I found? Mommy, why would you cook a ladybug? Couldn’t you have found him first? I don’t ever want to eat a ladybug. I don’t think I want artichokes anymore. If you make artichokes, will you please make sure that all of the ladybugs are out of their homes? Open up each artichoke and check it first. Please don’t cook anymore ladybugs.” And this patter is still frequently accompanied by tears.
And, yes, this is the same daughter who will no longer eat pork, since we read Charlotte’s Web about a year and a half ago.
In related news, I think the CSA members are getting tired of artichokes; quite a few traded in their allotment of five. As the CSA coordinator and host, I’m the recipient of the cast-offs. Plus, I think the farm shipped extra yesterday. The result?? I have FORTY-SIX artichokes. Forty-six. Plus, they’re all quite small. Not quite babies, but still, quite small. I’ve been looking at my crate of ‘chokes, and decided that I needed a new recipe.
I usually prepare artichokes by the fairly standard method of cutting off the top 1/2″, steaming cut-side-down in salted water to which I’ve added lemon slices and garlic cloves…. Then dipping the leaves (petals, actually) in mayo (homemade is best, of course, but I usually purchase mayo from Trader Joe’s — all natural, in a glass jar).
I decided to Google “cooking small artichokes” and one of the first options that popped up was this:
Immediately, it made me reconsider the bounty, and that so many artichokes aren’t a bad thing at all…
The recipe, Sautéed Baby Artichokes, calls for Herbes de Provence — of which I have none. I will cook these tonight, and use minced fresh basil instead, and subbing pecorino romano for the called-for parmesan cheese.
In the meantime… I’m trying to give away 20 of the artichokes on Facebook, but the only takers so far are from out of state. 😀
When I was a child, my mother — an only slightly-recovered hippie — was a health nut. At least I thought she was a health nut. I spent my childhood thinking, “When I have kids, I will let them drink Kool Aid and put Twinkies in their lunch boxes!” I was tired of peanut butter and honey on whole wheat bread, sliced apples, and plain potato chips in my school lunch. I envied other kids’ white bread and jelly, sweetened applesauce cups, and the lovely, perfectly-formed, hermetically-sealed chocolate cupcakes with a swirl of white icing adorning the top. I was certain she was skewed in her perspectives and couldn’t wait until I could make my own decisions about what I ate.
Given my own experiences, I have been quite surprised about my own children’s apparent buy-in to my own health nuttiness, which has MORE than raised any bar my mom ever set.
Here are a few things from just this past week:
I tend to worry that when my children see commercials for junk food on TV, they’ll be swayed. It turns out that concern is misplaced, at least with my six-year-old, Audrey. Upon seeing a McDonald’s commercial the other day, she remarked, “The box for a Happy Meal is more nutritious than the food inside!!” This made me laugh! And, NO, I have never said anything like that. As far as I know, this is her own analysis.
- My 15-year-old, Ethan, went home with a friend after church on Sunday. Upon his return, he reported to me, “Guess where we went for lunch after church? Taco Bell. Jacob became very exasperated with me because I didn’t understand the menu and he had to explain the whole thing to me.” We couldn’t remember the last time Ethan had been to Taco Bell, which in his own mind, ironically enough, is even an even more nefarious food-offender than McDonald’s. “I had a Burrito Supreme. It wasn’t very good. It was about 30% water.” Well, at least it hydrated him…
- I published this tidbit on my Facebook page; forgive the repeat, if you’ve heard it already. My four-year-old, Fiala, ran a fever for about 48 hours. No other symptoms. I saved a (gluten-free) cake pop from a little friend’s Saturday birthday party. I took Audrey, but Fiala missed out, though the mother of the birthday girl sent us home laden with a goodie bag. Fi keeps asking to have the cake pop, which she calls a “lolly cake”. At the best of times, her body has a hard time handling sugar, so I told her she has to wait until well after her fever is gone. “Why do you have a fever?” I asked her. “Because my germ-fighters are working HARD!!” she said. “And what makes germ-fighters weak?” I asked. “Sugar!!!” she replied with no hesitation at all. I was proud of her for remembering all my indoctrination, even if she still wants the cake pop.
I’ll admit it: I crave junk food from time to time. Lately, what has been haunting my wishful ponderings has been the sickly sweet orange chicken dish, found at “fast casual” Chinese restaurants, like Panda Express. I last had Panda’s orange chicken more than ten years ago, and I still remember… If there was a gluten-free version sold somewhere, I’d probably gobble it up. So, perhaps it’s best for my sugar-intake that I haven’t found it anywhere.
A couple of days ago, a bloggy friend sent me a recipe for Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken from The Comfort of Cooking. Perhaps you’ve seen it; it’s been making the rounds like wildfire, thanks to some fabulous pictures and Pinterest. I looked at it and thought, “That is a LOT of honey.” I buy semi-local honey, from The Honeyman in Prescott Valley, Arizona. It’s raw, thick, and amazingly delicious. It’s also expensive. My thought was, “A cup of honey is worth roughly $2.75.” I’m sorry, but that’s too much invested, honey-wise, into one recipe.
I also thought, “Two pounds of chicken? That’s not going to feed my family.” Along those lines, my friend Tina mentioned that she had doubled the chicken and the recipe had still turned out well.
Another thought: “KETCHUP??? In an already sweet recipe?? Hmmm… I’m not going to do that. Tomato paste and apple cider vinegar would be better.”
Then, “Only a half cup of onion? Crockpotted onions are amazing. Needs more onion.”
And then, I looked in my freezer and saw a half container of orange juice concentrate that I keep specifically for cooking. The gears in my brain, especially the ones marked Fiddling with Recipes, started whirring.
And the resulting recipe was so different than the original that, while I freely admit I used it as a launch pad, I thought I could probably safely call it a new recipe.
The resulting recipe was also AMAZING and TASTY. When I sampled the first completed spoonful, I about melted. So perfect. So, so perfect. Granted, it’s not as sweet as Panda’s orange chicken; I think you’d need to throw in two or three cups of sugar to accomplish that. However, it’s orangey-enough and sweet-enough to satisfy the cravings. I was a bit afraid that it would be too spicy for my little girls, ages 4 and 6. They made comment about the spiciness, but each of them simply picked up a cup of water and braved their way through, as the flavor was compelling enough to keep eating. Everyone — all seven of us — really loved this recipe. It received thumbs up and requests for me to make it again in the future.
One more recipe note: You may notice that ½ teaspoon of citric acid is called for. “Wha…?” may be your response and you may be tempted to omit it. PLEASE DON’T. Let’s call it the Secret Ingredient. Citric acid enables you to taste the tang of the oranges. It’s a must. If you have a Sprouts in your area, you can find it in the bulk spice section for less than a dollar per ounce. It can also be found in the canning section of any well-stocked grocery store. Or, if you have a cheese-making store nearby, they will certainly stock it, as well.
OK. One more recipe note: The only mixed reviews were about the cooked orange peel in the recipe. Some loved it, some picked them out.
Spicy Orange Chicken (Crockpot, Gluten-Free, Casein/Dairy-Free)
Prep time: About 10 minutes.
Cook time: Four hours
8-10 fresh or thawed boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4-6 chicken breasts (3-3½ pounds)
sea salt and cracked pepper
one medium onion, chopped
½ cup honey
½ cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup gluten-free soy sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste — 1 tsp will make it noticeably spicy but not HOT)
1 small orange, divided use
5 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 lb.)
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
5 tsp corn starch
1/3 cup water
½ tsp citric acid
2 tsp sesame seeds
3 green onions (scallions) chopped
2 cups uncooked brown rice
4 cups water
Cut chicken pieces in half, lightly season with salt and pepper, and place in the bottom of a Crockpot. Turn Crockpot on high.
Chop onion and place on top of the chicken.
In a glass bowl, gently heat honey in a microwave until thin. (Alternately, you can place the container of honey in a pan of hot water until warmed through.) Into the warmed honey, whisk the orange juice concentrate, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, minced garlic, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Pour atop the chicken and onions. Cover and cook on high for two hours.
Slice the orange in half, and slice each half very thinly. Set aside half of the slices for garnish. After the chicken has cooked for two hours, add the remaining slices to the simmering chicken, stirring to mix. Turn Crockpot to LOW. Cook for one hour.
After the chicken has cooked for an hour (for a total of three hours), the chicken should be very tender. Break up the pieces, still in the Crockpot, with a wooden spoon. In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup water, the corn starch, and citric acid, combining well. Stir into the simmering chicken, mixing well. Then, stir in the chopped carrots and red bell pepper.
As brown rice needs to cook for about 45 minutes, start it now: In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the brown rice and four cups of water. Bring to boil, then cover and turn heat to low, simmering the brown rice for 45 minutes.
Continue to cook the chicken and veggies on low for an additional hour (a total of four hours), stirring occasionally, breaking up more chunks of chicken as you stir until you have a shredded consistency, as in the picture above.
Ladle shredded chicken, veggies, and sauce into a serving dish. Garnish with the remaining orange slices, sesame seeds, and chopped green onion. Serve over hot, cooked brown rice.
So, I’m hesitant to post any more recipes as there has been an explosion in foodie blogs with fabulously styled pics that people can post to Pinterest and drool over while they are inspired…
Here’s my pic to go with this recipe:
You may just have to believe me that this is an excellent recipe. I have five children, and it is challenging to find or create a recipe that EVERYONE loves. However, all seven of us were fighting over who could have thirds of this. (In the end, no one had thirds. We saved enough for my husband to take to work with him the following day with his lunch.) My six year old, Audrey, who is not a particular fan of cabbage said, “You know what makes the red bells and the carrots and the cabbage taste so delicious? It’s the sauce.” I thanked her for her excellent review, and decided that I would post this recipe, even without a Pinterest-friendly photo.
Indeed, “the sauce” is what makes this slaw taste wonderful. It has a flavor that is classic enough to make it taste like “real” coleslaw, but healthy enough that you may never again return to sugar-laden slaw again… I have made our slaw like this for years, with no regrets.
Creamy Lemon-Honey Slaw
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely grated
1 small-to-medium head of green cabbage, shredded
1/3 cup honey (preferably raw and local)
3 Tbsp organic lemon juice
2 tsp dijon mustard (I love Trader Joe’s!)
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup real mayonnaise (again, we use Trader Joe’s)
Into a glass container, measure the honey. Warm (in either a pan of hot water or in the microwave) the honey so that it is thin. While still warm, whisk in the lemon juice. When incorporated, whisk in the dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. When incorporated, whisk in the mayonnaise until the dressing is smooth.
Gently fold in the red bell pepper, carrots, and cabbage.
Our family eats out about once every two weeks. We have a slim selection that is gluten-free, stuff everyone will eat, and isn’t too pricey. I got an ad in the mail for a nearby place — Genghis Grill, a Mongolian-style barbecue. The food looked good, so I went on the website.
It was hard to find, but I eventually stumbled on a PDF that, among other things, lists the ingredients for all of their sauces. Three of them (Sweet & Sour; Dragon — which is a sweet & spicy chili-garlic sauce; and Roasted Tomato) are listed as “gluten-friendly” — meaning they have no gluten ingredients. I thought, “Great. But what about the meats? And the veggies?” so I contacted the company.
They called me this morning — a GREAT customer service rep named Jax — turns out she is the Director of Culinary R&D — and she said that the ONLY meat that has gluten is the “Khans Krab” (it’s imitation made from fish and wheat starch — no surprise there). None of their meats, marinades, veggies, etc., have gluten. They don’t use soy sauce (which almost always contains wheat) in any of their marinades, though it is present in their fried rice and in their gluten-containing sauces. She also said that if you let them know that it’s for a “food allergy”, they will clean the grill AND use a clean wok AND even cover your food while it’s cooking with a bowl to limit cross-contamination. In addition, all of their spices are “clean” — 100% spice, no fillers like maltodextrin or starches. Jax said that they take food issues seriously. I really appreciate that. They are very aware of the potential of cross-contamination, so they don’t make the claim of 100% gluten-free, but I REALLY appreciate the efforts they’re making, and you can be sure we’ll be eating there some time in the near future.
So, you could use white or brown rice, ANY protein (minus the “crab”), ANY vegetable, and one of three gluten-friendly sauces. In the limited world of g.f. eating, that’s actually quite a selection.
Additionally, unless I’m missing something, all of the sauces that are gluten-free are also dairy-free.
I think all of this will compel me to ignore the “cutesy” spellings using “Khan” throughout their website and menu.
Do any readers have experience with Genghis Grill?