Tuesday, January 12, 2010


January is always such a let down for me. The holidays are over and I know the months to come are going to be filled with rain, wind, and more rain. The days are short and the sun is down before my oldest is even home from school. He usually bursts in the door, drenched and winded from running up the hill on his way home.

We bought tickets to Hawaii in April and have done nothing but walk around the house singing "We're going to Ha-waii, we're going to Ha-waii" to each other. It's a much needed break from winter here in Western Washington. I'm looking forward to fresh pineapple and mango, light and sweet meals. My boys are beyond thrilled, and I have heard the oldest two whispering to each other long after they should been asleep about what they are going to do there. My middle son came to me yesterday and told me to make sure we pack lots of blankets, we'd need them for sleeping on the beach. I think we neglected to tell him that there is more to Hawaii than the beach. Such as hotels.

But, for now, we're here in rainy, windy Washington and need hearty, filling meals. In the past few years I have discovered lentils and wondered where they'd been my entire life. I love nothing more than a big bowl of curried lentils, it's fast becoming my go to comfort meal. I've been thinking a lot about my mom the past few days, and it dawned on me where my previous lentil aversion was coming from. Lentil burgers. If you were in my family around 1986 those two words would strike fear in your heart. I'm not old enough to remember any part of the tale, but it's been told so many times I have a vivid picture of how it went down. My mom is an original hippie, growing up in Eugene, Oregon and still carries that spirit with her to this day. I was so embarrased of that when I was a teenager. I love it now. Anyway, I'm guessing she thought lentils would make a perfect replacement for ground beef, to make a hearty, healthy burger. I'm not sure where that vision went wrong, but it did. Horribly, horribly wrong. She put those burgers down in front of us as we all sat around the table. We all looked to our dad for the first bite. We were smart like that. And he made it so none of us had to touch the things. One bite from him and they all went out to the dog. The dog who, bless her heart, ate anything and everything. Would not eat them. Would not touch them. And so, they went down in history.

Curried Red Lentils with Potatoes and Chickpeas

I always use fire roasted Muir Glen tomatoes in this, it adds such a nice complex flavor. You could leave the potato unpeeled if you'd like, the skin won't take away anything from this. I serve over a pile of quinoa, but basmati rice would be equally good.

2 cups red lentils
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry paste
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ginger root, minced
1 (14.25 ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear (this is very important or the lentils will get "scummy"), put the lentils and diced potato in a pot with water to cover and simmer covered until both are tender. Add more water as necessary. This usually takes me about 15-20 minutes. The lentils will loose their individual look and begin to look more mushy. That's your signal.

While the lentils are cooking: In a large skillet or saucepan, caramelize the onions in vegetable oil.

While the onions are cooking, combine the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, garlic, and ginger in a mixing bowl. Mix well. When the onions are cooked, add the curry mixture to the onions and cook over med-high heat stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatos and chickpeas and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the lentils are ready.

Mix the curry base into the lentils and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time for some comfort food

While the kids and I were up at 6 am today, we were not dressed until 11. We were quite content to lay around, sloppy and filled with pancakes and cartoons. I curled up on the couch with the babe in my elbow and my three year old brushing my hair with a child's plastic comb. We raced cars across the floor in the kitchen for an hour, while the baby ran back and forth trying to dodge the flying Ferrari's, Fords and occasional Honda. We sat close and whispered secrets to each other. Secrets about who our friends are, what our favorite colors are, and wonder of wonder, that we each have FIVE fingers on our hands. Who knew?

It's days like today that make me want to curl up with a big bowl of homemade mac 'n cheese, bubbly and sprinkled with toasted breadcrumbs on top. After getting my diagnosis I was so worried I would miss many of my old comfort foods, but I'm finding they are just as good as I remembered them, gluten free.

Today I was happy to have leftovers from dinner last night in the fridge. It was a perfect comfort food, winter food, warming food. Full of all the cheesy goodness, with none of the gluten. Admittedly, not the healthiest food in the book, but we all had a nice helping of peas and salad and figured they cancelled each other out.

Cheesy Ham Casserole

After eating a few bites of this my oldest son declared this "way better" than my old mac 'n cheese recipe. I had to agree.

1/2 cup onion
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 Tbsp gf flour blend (I use the brown rice flour mix I've referenced here many times)
1 cup milk
1 tsp Herbamare (or salt)
1/4 tsp pepper
few dashes of Tabasco
6 oz. grated cheddar cheese (I used 1/2 smoked Gouda, 1/2 cheddar. Perfect balance with the ham)
1 cup sour cream (I have found low fat Organic Valley to be gluten free)
1 cup chopped ham (also have used chicken breast with good success)
1/4 cup gf breadcrumbs (or smashed gf crackers)
2 cups cooked rice

Spread rice in bottom of 9 x 11 baking dish, set aside. In saucepan saute onion and garlic in 2 Tbsp butter over med heat until just started to brown. Add gf flour and stir for 30 seconds or so. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil, cook and stir for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and add salt, seasonings, cheese, ham, and sour cream. Pour over rice. Melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter and add breadcrumbs. Scatter over top and bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Soup kind of day

I don't know if there are many things more satisfying than feeding the small people I had a hand in creating. The sound of their small feet slapping the hardwood as they run toward the dinner table, scooting their chairs and looking at me with expectant faces as I set food in front of them. All three of my boys have big round chocolate puddles for eyes and they show every thought that races through their expanding brains. It's pretty obvious when dinner is not good.

Here in Western Washington we're in the middle of another grey, long, and slightly chilly winter. Despite the rumors it does not rain here as much as everyone thinks. Sure, it rains. But not RAIN. It's a light drizzle, enough to leave a slight frosting on your back, enough to make straight hair curly, but not enough to soak you in a matter of seconds. Sometimes I wish it would just dump and get it over with already, but that does not seem to be the Washington way. I've lived here my entire existence, so you'd think I would be used to it. And I am. But that does not mean I like it. I remember when my oldest son was about three he hated the rain. HATED.IT. He would scream the short distance from our front door to the car, a mere five feet. He would yell at those raindrops as if it were possible to stop them from falling by the sheer force of his voice. I used to tell him "baby, we live in Washington. Get used to it." He has, and I'm on to passing the advice onto my middle son.

The kids and I love our soup. Doesn't really matter what's in it - soup is good. I love to spoon each bite, balancing the bites to make the broth last the whole bowl. I love dipping my latest gf bread creation in. I love watching my oldest son tip his bowl up to get the last drop out. The hubby does not carry the same passion for soup. In fact, he actively dislikes it. Bummer, dude.

This tortilla soup recipe is one of our favorites, even the hubby likes it. I got it from a friend who got it from who knows where. I used to use flour tortillas, but found corn tortillas work just as well. If you would like flour tortillas I've included the best recipe for gf flour tortillas I've found. They roll out nicely, don't crumble and are still flexible enough to roll around the fillings you've stuffed inside.

My children's eyes light up at the sight of this soup. Yum.

Tortilla Soup

This soup is perfectly balanced with a great smooth, rich texture.

6 Tbps oil
8 Tortillas, halved and cut until 1/4 inch strips
1 large onion, chopped
4 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp Paprika
2 1/2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Coriander
2 tsp Chili Powder
6 cups Chicken broth (can use vegetable broth; I often do)
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen fire roasted. So good)
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup lightly packed chopped Cilantro leaves
1 pound cooked chicken breast, chopped (I usually replace this with a can of drained, rinsed black beans)
1 avocado, diced

Heat 4 Tbps oil in large, heavy stockpot on med-high. Add tortilla strips and stir often to evenly brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add last 2 Tbsp of oil and onion. Saute over medium heat until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until very fragrant. Pour in broth, tomatoes, salt, cilantro, and 1/3 of the tortilla strips. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

If you have an immersion blender you can immedietly blend until smooth. If not let cool for 5 minutes and process in your blender in batches, making sure not to overfill. Trust me here, I've burned my arms more than once. Add chicken or black beans (or both!) and heat for 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, and top with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese, a small handfull of tortilla strips, a dallop of sour cream, and a squeeze of lime.

This is also perfect for buffet style serving, which we do often when friends are over. This is always a hit.

Flour Tortillas

After going GF I tried every tortilla recipe I could get my hands on. I don't particularly like corn tortillas, and I couldn't get a flour tortilla recipe to work for me using gf flours. They cracked, fell apart, burned, were too thin/thick/hard. This recipe made me fall in love with tortillas all over again. These were the tortillas I was looking for. I took what I knew about making the wheat tortillas I used to make and translated it to a gf option. In my humble little opinion these are the best gf tortillas out there.

If you have a brown rice flour mixture already premade - use it. If not I mix:

2 cups brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca starch

measure out 1 1/2 cups of it for this recipe and save the rest for something else. I make this in big batches (double or triple above quantities)

1 1/2 cups Brown Rice Flour mix
1/2 cup corn flour or masa harina
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup shortning
1 cup hot water

In a bowl mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in the shortning with a pastry blender, or, like me, with your finger. Add hot water and stir until well blended.

Form into 6-8 extra large golf ball sized rounds. This is where parchment paper becomes your friend. I had never even bought a box of the stuff until I was diagnosed. In the past few months I've gone through boxes of it. It is so necessary when making gf things like this. I supposed a sil-pat mat would do the same thing.

Cut off two squares of parchment paper - about 18 inches or so. Place one ball at a time between the parchment paper and roll out until thin.

You'll want to heat your grill pan (or skillet) on high until very hot and then turn down to medium or med-low, depending on your stove. Cook one tortilla at a time about 30 seconds or so on each side until the bubbles are nice and browned.

I stack them up on a place covered with a towel to keep them warm and pliable.

Use in recipe above or fill to your hearts content.