Sunday, March 29, 2020

Gluten Free Tuna Noodle Casserole or Chicken Tettrazini











In these strange times when we are all staying home, a lot of people are craving Comfort Food. These foods usually come from our childhood. One of the food that I have been thinking about is Casseroles. They are not something I make often, unless you count Lasagna.  But since we are all cooking from our pantries, I thought about making Tuna Noodle Casserole. I only had this dish a few times at the house of a good friend when I was a teenager. My friend's Mom Mom was from the Mid West and casseroles were something she cooked a lot! I liked her Tuna Noodle Casserole, mostly because of the Potato Chip Topping.  So, she gave me the recipe and it was easy to make with Cream of Mushroom Soup, a little Onion cooked in Butter, cooked Egg Noodles, two cans of Tuna Fish and some frozen Peas. It was topped with crushed Ruffles and was then baked in the oven. 

But, it was  something I never cooked at home, as my Mother didn't eat Tuna and she definitely didn't like Casseroles. But, I had one ex-husband who loved Tuna Noodle Casserole and Creamed Tuna - basically the same recipe minus the noodles and served in Puff Pastry shells. His Mom's recipe, which I adapted used Celery and a dash of Worcestershire and I thought that they were good additions. I like to use Albacore Tuna because of its mild taste, but you can use Light Tuna if you prefer.

Now that I am Gluten Free, I can no longer rely on that can of Mushroom Soup, so I needed to make the Mushroom Sauce from scratch.  While doing this, I realized too that the sauce, if you used Chicken and Spaghetti instead of Tuna and Egg Noodles, was actually very similar to Chicken Tettrazini. And, you would use a bit of Sherrry instead of the Worcestershire and sprinkle Parmesan Cheese on top instead of Potato Chips. This dish is good for using up a Rotisserie Chicken or Turkey from Thanksgiving. It sounds a bit more sophisticated, but really, it's almost the same thing!

All you do is sauté some Mushrooms, Shallots and Celery in Butter and then add in some Sticky Rice Flour and Chicken Broth to make the sauce. Then add either the Tuna or the cooked Chicken along with the Seasonings and the Noodles (I use Gluten Free brands). You can make it richer by adding in some Cream. Then you simply bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes. So here's a recipe you can use two ways to make some comforting old-fashioned dinners!

Gluten Free Tuna Noodle Casserole

2 4 oz. cans of Albacore Tuna packed in water, drained
2 cups sliced Button Mushrooms
1/4 cup minced Shallot or Onion
1 large stalk of Celery, trimmed and minced
1/2 cup Frozen Peas
1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup Sticky Rice Flour
2 cups of Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Water
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup of crushed ridged Potato Chips
2 cups of dried Egg Noodles cooked according to the package directions (I used Double Yolk Gluten Free Medium Noodles)

Butter an 8 x 8 inch square pan. Heat the oven to 375 degrees

In a large frying pan, melt the Butter and add in the Shallot, Celery and Mushrooms. Cook until the Mushrooms are softened. Add in the Sticky Rice Flour and stir to combine. Then add in the Chicken Broth, Water and Worcestershire Sauce along with the Peas. Stir until the Sticky Rice Flour is fully absorbed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the mixture thickens. Then add in the Tuna and mix it in along with the cooked Noodles.  Pour into the prepared baking pan and top with the crushed Potato Chips. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the Potato Chip crumbs are browned and the casserole is bubbling.

Gluten Free Chicken Tettrazini

Follow the recipe above, except use 2 cups of cooked Chicken instead of the Tuna, omit the Worcestershire Sauce and instead use 2 Tablespoons (or more) of Sherry or White Wine (but make sure you use a bit less Chicken Broth). If you want to make it richer, use Cream or Half and Half instead of the Water. Also use a 12 oz package of Gluten Free Spaghetti, cooked according to the package directions.  And, leave out the Potato Chip Crumbs and top it with 1/4 cup of Parmesan Cheese instead.  Bake as directed above. 

Five Element Analysis

Casseroles, usually a creamy concoction of many ingredients combined together, are considered part of the Earth Element. The Mushrooms and Potato Chip Crumbs add even more Earth. Tuna brings in the Water Element along with the Worcestershire Sauce and the Egg Yolks in the Noodles. Celery and Peas contribute the Wood Element as does the Chicken Broth. The Metal Element is represented by the Shallots, the Butter and the Rice Flour in the Noodles. Only the Fire Element is missing so serve this with a side salad. 

The Chicken Tettrazini version has similar elements, but it does have more Wood since it uses Chicken, more Metal if you add some Cream, and the Fire Element shows up as that little bit of Sherry or Wine.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tomato Tum Yum Soup













Tom Yum is a soup that I frequently order at one of my local Thai restaurants. But I decided to make it myself since I had several Lemongrass stalks laying in the bottom of my vegetable drawer that needed to be used. This is actually a pretty simple soup and it's fast to make as long as you have Lemongrass on hand along with a little bottle of Thai Red Chili Paste (I use the Thai Kitchen brand) and some fresh Galangal or Ginger and a Lime.  I like to add in some sliced Shallots or Red Onion, some sliced Chicken Breast and some Tomato. It's supposed to be a thin, somewhat clear broth with just a hint of red color, but I added the Tomatoes in early with the Lemongrass so that they melted into the soup and I liked it even better!  I served it with some Jasmine Rice and it was the perfect dinner!

Tomato Tom Yum Soup

8 cups Chicken Broth (I used Swanson's Natural Goodness)
3 Lemongrass Stalks
2 - 3 large slices of peeled Ginger or Galangal 
1 Roma Tomato
1/3 cup sliced Shallots or Red Onion
1 - 2 Tablespoons Thai Red Chili Paste
1 Chicken Breast half, cut into thin slices
8 Button Mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup fresh squeezed Lime Juice
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

Cut the bottom 1/2 inch off the Lemon Grass and then peel off the outer layer. Cut off the top, leaving about 3 inches. Cut that into 1/2 pieces and smash them lightly with the bottom of a mug. 

Pour the Chicken Broth into a pot and add the Lemon Grass, Shallots and Ginger. Bring to a  boil and then turn down to a simmer. Place the Tomato onto a ladle and drop into the hot broth for 30 seconds. Remove, trim the stem end, peel and chop. Add the chopped Tomato back to the broth along with the Thai Red Chili Paste. Simmer the broth for 15 minutes. Then add in the Chicken slices and Mushrooms and cook until the Chicken is opaque. Add in the Lime Juice and Sugar and stir throughly. Serve with Jasmine Rice.

Five Element Analysis

Chicken and Chicken Broth belong to the Wood Element and the Lemongrass and Lime add even more.  The Tomato and the Red Chili paste contribute the Fire Element.  The  Mushrooms, Ginger and Sugar bring in the Earth Element and the Shallots make sure that the Metal Element is present too and the Rice is Metallic too. And, because this is a broth based soup, the Water Element is also represented. This then becomes a pretty balanced soup!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Chard Salad













I've been staying home and using up all the perishable food I bought last week. So I've been cooking up a storm. First to use up are all the leafy greens as the hard vegetables will keep for quite a while. Last night I made a Chard Salad that we really enjoyed that was dressed with a Lemony Dressing that comes form my friend Kelly. The secret ingredient is Bragg's Liquid Aminos along with some Red Onion and Garlic that marinated in the dressing. To make the Salad more colorful, I used an Orange Pepper cut up. It's full of Vitamin C - more than Oranges! And, I sprinkled the Salad with toasted Sunflower Seeds for even more crunch. It was so good that I have to share it with you!


Chard Salad

1 large bunch of Chard
1 small Orange Pepper, trimmed and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil 
1/4 cup minced Red Onion
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or Coconut Aminos)
1/3 cup Sunflower Seeds, toasted

Put the Onions, Garlic, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil and Bragg's Liquid Aminos in a salad bowl.  Stir to combine. 

Wash the Chard thoroughly to remove any sand. Tear the leafy part of the Chard off the Stalk and then tear into bite size pieces. Place in the salad bowl.  Add in the pieces of Orange Pepper and toss so that the dressing coats everything thoroughly. 

This salad can be made ahead and refrigerated. Sprinkle with Sunflower Seeds before serving. 

Five Element Analysis

Chard is a leafy green so you know that it's part of the Wood Element and the Lemon Juice and Olive Oil add even more. The Orange Pepper brings in the Fire Element and the Sunflower Seeds and the Bragg's Liquid Aminos contribute the Water Element. The Metal Element is represented by the Onion and Garlic.  So, all that's missing is the Earth Element so serve it with a main dish from the Earth Element like a Steak, if you are a carnivore or some baked Butternut Squash if you are Vegan, for a balanced meal!


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Broccoli Salad with Ceasar Style Dressing













I was in the mood for some Broccoli Salad, but I didn't want the usual sweet ones. So, I decided to make one with a Caesar Style Dressing, minus the Parmesan and it turned out wonderfully. I chopped up the Broccoli and softened it slightly by pouring boiling water over it and letting it sit for about 5 minutes. I didn't have any Anchovies so I whipped up a dressing that included Mayonnaise, a bit of Worcestershire, a bit of Fish Sauce since it's also made from Anchovies, some Lemon, a pinch of Sugar and minced Garlic. It was wonderful!  If you can eat cheese, you could sprinkle some Parmesan on top to make it even more authentic and of course some Croutons would be good as well. I loved this Salad!

Broccoli Salad with Caesar Style Dressing

2 cups chopped Broccoli including trimmed and peeled stems
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Fish Sauce
1/8 teaspoon Sugar
1 small Garlic clove, minced
freshly ground Pepper
Optional:  2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese

Put the chopped Broccoli in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together the Mayonnaise, Worcestershire Sauce, Fish Sauce, Lemon Juice, Sugar and Garlic.

Drain the Broccoli and pour the Dressing over it and stir to combine. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Toss again before serving. Sprinkle with the freshly ground Pepper and Parmesan Cheese, if desired.

Five Element Analysis

Broccoli, as a dark green vegetable, clearly belongs to the Wood Element. It also looks like little trees! The Lemon Juice adds a bit more. The Mayonnaise, Garlic and Parmesan contribute the Metal Element and the Eggs in the Mayonnaise along with the Worcestershire and Fish Sauce bring in the Water Element. The Fire Element is only represented by the hint of Pepper and the Earth Element by the pinch of Sugar. So, be sure to add foods from these two elements to round out the meal!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Savory Sausage Gravy


I have a love of Southern Breakfast foods and that includes Grits, Country Ham, Chicken Fried Steak and especially Biscuits and Gravy. Since going Gluten Free and Lactose Free, it has taken me a while to figure out how to make them differently. Biscuits are relatively easy now with the development of good Gluten Free flour blends like Cup4Cup and Bob's Red Mill 1to1 so that's covered. But making Sausage Gravy required that I substitute Chicken Broth for the Milk and I use Sticky Rice Flour to thicken it. And you know what? I like this version even better than the traditional Sausage Gravy made with Milk   Now, if you want to use Milk, go right ahead. This recipe will still work and taste great, but if you add a little Chicken Broth too, it gives it a wonderful savory taste that is so good! Another option is to use mostly Chicken Broth and then add a little Whole Cream too. I like to add a little bit of Red Onion sautéed in Ghee (Ghee is Lactose Free) to amp the flavor. I also like to add more Sausage than is traditional. It's great over toast too if you don't feel like making biscuits and this recipe can easily be doubled. If you are a fan of Sausage Gravy, I think you''ll like this version!

Savory Sausage Gravy

1/4 pound Pork Breakfast Sausage (I used Jimmy Dean Natural)
2 Tablespoons Ghee (or Butter or Oil)
2 Tablespoons Red Onion, minced
2 Tablespoons Sticky Rice Flour (Mochiko)
1 1/4 cups Chicken Broth (I use Swanson's Natural Goodness)
sprinkling of fresh ground Pepper

Heat the Ghee in a frying pan and add in the Red Onion. Cook until they soften. Then add in the Sausage and break if up with a spatula. Cook until it is no longer pink. Then add in the Sticky Rice Flour and stir until well combined. Then add in the Chicken Broth and stir. Cook until thickened and sprinkle with Black Pepper. Serve over split biscuits or toast.

Five Element Analysis

This Gravy isn't meant to be eaten by itself, but it does have some of the Elements covered well. The Pork Breakfast Sausage brings in the Water Element. The Sticky Rice Flour  Ghee and Red Onion contribute some Metal. The Chicken Broth adds the Wood Element and the Pepper makes sure that the Fire Element has a tiny bit of representation. Served with Biscuits made of Gluten Free Flour, you will be adding more Metal from the Rice Flour and some Earth from the Tapioca Starch.  Serve this with Coffee or Tea that adds some Fire and you have a fairly balanced breakfast!





Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Italian Roasted Eggplant Dip


I bought a jar of Calabrian Crushed Chilis and was thinking about what I could use it for. My first thought was a Pasta Sauce and that morphed into a pasta sauce with Eggplant and then I decided I really wanted a dip! I call it Italian only because the Chlis came from Italy. Otherwise, this dip could be seasoned with other Chilis from other areas of the Mediterranean and Middle East. And I think it would make a great sandwich spread too!

I took one large Eggplant and cut it up into cubes along with an Onion, some Garlic Cloves and some Tomatoes, tossed them with Olive Oil and Salt and Roasted them. When they were done, I pureed them in a food processor and added in a dollop of the Calabrian Chilis. It was so good!  Served with some Rice Crackers, we ate it all up. Roasting all the Garlic and Onion mellows them and the Calabrian Chilis add just enough heat to make it interesting. I will be making this again and again!

Italian Roasted Eggplant Dip

1 large Globe Eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1" cubes
1 large Onion, trimmed and peeled and cut into 1" chunks
4 - 6 Roma Tomatoes
3 Garlic Cloves
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Calabrian Crushed Chilis

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a larger bowl, toss the Eggplant, Onion and Garlic with the Olive Oil. Pour onto a large sheet pan and add the Tomatoes. Sprinkle with the Salt.  Cook for 45 - 55 minutes, turning at least once.  Let the vegetables cool slightly, then remove Tomato peels if desired. 

Put all the vegetables plus the Calabrian Crushed Chilis in a food processor (or use a stick blender in a bowl) and puree. Serve as a dip with crackers.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplant with its dark purple skin and many seeds is a Water Food. The Olive Oil adds the Wood Element and the Tomatoes and Calabrian Chilis contribute the Fire Element. The Onion and Garlic bring in the Metal Element, but they cook for so long that they get Earthy to. This simple dip is fairly balanced all by itself!


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Instant Pot Assisted Refried Beans



As you saw in my last post, I've been playing with my new Instant Pot and one of the things that I made and loved was Pinto Beans. They cooked up perfectly and were ready to make into Refried Beans in only 30 minutes. I cook all Beans without Salt as it can make the skin of the Beans a little tough. I use only Water, a Bay Leaf and an herb called Epazote to cook my Pinto Beans. This herb is often used in Mexico for cooking Beans as it helps to improve your digestion, meaning that it reduces gas, which is a god thing!  Epazote has a somewhat medicinal smell, but I love it as it reminds me of Mexican home cooking. I also have started using Lard in my Refried Beans, as I am quite enamored of it as an ingredient in Mexican food. I buy a special high quality Leaf Lard online and for those of you who worry about saturated fat, many studies show that Lard is actually very good for you!  You can use a light tasting Vegetable Oil instead if you prefer, or if you are Vegan.  I also like my Refried Beans to be somewhat pasty with chunks left in. I use Refried Beans on top of Tostadas to hold the other toppings on and of course they are an essential ingredient for Burritos. With an Instant Pot, making Beans has never been easier!

Instant Pot Assisted Refried Beans

1 cup dried Pinto Beans
3 1/2 cups Water
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon dried Epazote
1 Tablespoon Lard or a light tasting Vegetable Oil + an additional 2 Tablespoons
1/2 cup of minced White (or Yellow) Onion
1/4  teaspoon Salt
Optional:  1/4 teaspoon of Chili Powder or a pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Rinse the Pinto Beans and place into the Instant Pot. Add in the Water, 1 Tablespoon of Lard or Oil, Bay Leaf and Epazote. Seal the lid and cook on High Pressure for 30 minutes. Let cool naturally.  When ready to make the Refried Beans, drain the Pinto Beans, remove the Bay Leaf and reserve the cooking liquid. 

In a frying pan, melt the Lard or heat the Oil and add in the Onions. Cook until soft and just beginning to brown. Put in the Beans and Salt. Then mash the Beans with a Potato Masher or the back of a fork. Add in 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and cook on medium low heat until thickened, adding more liquid if necessary until you get the consistent desired. Serve immediately. If you reheat the Beans later, you will need to add a bit of Water to rehydrate them.

Five Element Analysis

Pinto Beans, like all Beans, belong to the Water Element and the Lard  or Oil adds even more, but their brownish color also makes them a bit Earthy.  The Onion contributes the Metal Element and there is just a hint of Fire if you add in the Chili Powder or Cayenne. Clearly, this is a food meant to be eaten with other foods to create a balance.