Greens For Dinner!

A favorite at our house is sauteed fresh spinach with red onion and bacon. And it is so convenient that it comes bagged and ready to use . . . maybe. Yes, most fresh spinach products claim to be freshly-washed but I never feel it is freshly-washed up to my expectations!

I’m making spinach this evening and decided to show you what you can  expect if you don’t wash and soak your spinach.

First of all, always clean twice as much spinach as you think you will need as it cooks down drastically. My cleaning method is to put it into a very large bowl, fill the bowl with water to cover the spinach leaves and then pour in a half cup to a whole cup of cider vinegar depending on how much I’m making for dinner. I stir it around a bit and let it sit for 15 or 20 minutes while I work on other dinner prep. When I’m ready for the spinach, I put a colander in the sink and put in several handfuls of spinach into it, rinse, and place on a triple layer of paper towels, usually about four ‘sections’ of paper towel long. I continue this way until I have rinsed off all the spinach. Now, look at the water left in your soaking bowl. Doesn’t look too great, does it?

 

Salad Bites?

Vegetable Soup was simmering on the stove and cheese bread was baking in the oven. It seemed that the meal needed something a bit more to satisfy a hungry husband who would have had to fight the Friday night traffic coming home from work and a daughter who is always nibbling.

Then, I remember something on Facebook where someone peeled a cucumber, sliced it lengthwise, scrapped out the seeds and then filled one side with lunch meat, greens, etc. and topped it off with the other side of the prepared cucumber and sort of an instant gluten-free sandwich. The moment had come for me to try this!

I prepared my cucumber and lay in a half leaf of Romaine, layered tuna salad with tomatoes on top of that with an extra touch of freshly ground black pepper. I ‘closed’ my ‘sandwich’. To stabilize the whole thing, I stuck in toothpicks every half inch or so and sliced between them. They were now easy to access at dinner and kept their good looks until dinner!

Gluten-Free, Believe It Or Not!

Sometimes, I look back on the ‘olden day’ and remember when a quick pasta dinner was . . . well, quick! Now, when the family gets a hankering for pasta and sauce for a Friday meatless meal, my current recipe begins with, “First, make the pasta.”! I usually end up making the sauce and preparing the vegetables for steaming before making the pasta.  That way, I can concentrate on the pasta without worrying about getting the rest of the meal ready. Although I have been known to whimper a bit, I really don’t mind doing it. Homemade pasta just tastes better. And, as I mentioned a few postings ago, companies have been kind to the ‘gluten-impaired’ and there are a lot of great gluten-free flour blends that make things almost back to normal.

This evening, my husband liked the idea of having a tomato/mushroom sauce over pasta. My daughter agreed only said to make it so she doesn’t bite into a mushroom. She likes the taste of mushrooms but isn’t crazy about the texture.

My favorite flour blend these days is Authentic Foods Steve’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend. BetterBatter Gluten-Free Flour Blend works well, too. All can be found on-line. Check the on-line Walmart store as they often have items you can find in their stores.

The recipe for homemade pasta? I’ve probably mentioned it before but just figure on about a half cup flour per person eating and then add one more cup to be sure! Add a good pinch of salt and the eggs. Now, eggs are definitely a variable in this so add them, one by one, and mix until it comes together and then knead. Roll out on a floured board (use either rice flour or the flour blend mix. Cut into strip about half an inch wide and as long as you want them to be! Spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet and let sit for about 30 minutes until needed. Bring a big pot of water to an energetic simmer, add a tablespoon of olive oil and cook the pasta gently as you add it to keep them separated. It takes about four to six minutes depending on how thick you rolled them out. Drain and rinse with cool water. Serve with your sauce of choice.

Walnut Apple Spice Pound Cake

Walnut Apple Spice Pound Cake

2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups apple; peeled, cored & finely diced (tart, green apples work best.)
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Mix sugar and oil, add eggs and beat well. Combine flour, soda and salt. Add flour mixture to beaten egg mixture. Stir in vanilla, apples, spices, and walnuts. Mix well. Spoon batter into a greased tube pan. Bake at 325 F for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Allow cake to cool to room temperature before removing from pan.

*Some of the gluten-free flour blends are ‘cup-to-cup’ measurement meaning the same amount called for in wheat flour will work with the same amount gluten-free flour.

Deconstructed Beef Pot Pie

When the children were little, making pot pies was a mistake because they would only eat the crust and forget about the meat and vegetables. Very frustrating when you carefully fill and top individual pot pie dishes only to have most of the contents returned. And, yes, cries of desperately hungry children 30 minutes later didn’t move my heart to make them a peanut butter sandwich.

The parents, on the other hand, felt that they would prefer a bit more of the crust which evolved into my Deconstructed Beef Pot Pie. Hey, I couldn’t find any laws on the books saying that the crust has to be baked on top of the meat. As you can see from the pictures, the meat gets stewed into a tender treat and the crust can be cut to order. These days, everyone wants their beef pot pie contents on the crust rather than under it. Another plus is that I don’t end up having to crowd four to six individual pot pie dishes into the dishwasher.

The crust is gluten-free and made with butter, some olive oil, and enough iced water to form a dough. I bake it at 400 degrees on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

What To Do With a Brussel Sprout!

I never even saw a Brussel Sprout until I was in my teens. At that point in my life, vegetables were something to either avoid or craftily hide before  escaping the dinner table. I asked a friend once what Brussel Sprouts tasted line and he grimaced and said, “They taste like nasty, little cabbages . . . only worse!”

After years of marriage, I found a recipe that called for Brussel Sprouts and decided to try it . . . and the family loved them!

Although I have several ways to prepare them these days, my go to recipe is simple and tasty – never a problem with leftovers! Simply put, you trim the sprouts removing the wilted leaves and stem, slice them in halves or quarters (Your call here!) and put them all in a big bowl.  Splash in about a quarter cup of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any spice or herb you have in your cupboard that sounds good. I also put in a tablespoon of nutritional yeast for the mild cheesy taste it imparts. Add a tablespoon of either cinder vinegar or  Balsamic vinegar. Toss the sprouts so they are coated with the oil and spices, etc. and place in a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees until they are browned around the edges and tender.

The ending result should look like this:

 

Ethnic Food Appropriation Night?

Not sure with the craziness of the world, but I think that we are still allowed to cook any kind of food we want in the privacy of our kitchen. Being of German heritage from my mother’s side of the family, naturally, I’m making fajitas and homemade tortillas for dinner!

Anyway, I learned a long time ago in my family meal preparation, homemade is better and less expensive. I’ve been making flour tortillas forever and no longer even follow any set recipe. When my husband had to be declared a gluten-free zone, I just switched the flour ingredient in my recipe to a gluten-free blend. Authentic Foods Gluten-Free Bread Flour Blend is currently my favorite although I still enjoy using BetterBatter Gluten-Free flour.

We decided we had a yearning for fajitas for dinner this evening. My husband only has one or two Saturdays a month off so we decided to celebrate this. I spent the afternoon with food prep and he cleaned the house for me. Since I’d rather cook than clean house and he’d rather clean house than eat the mediocre dinner he might venture to prepare, it was a good deal for both sides!

My recipe for flour tortilla? Basically, I put around three or four cups of wheat or gluten-free flour in the bowl, add a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt, combine, and then add hot tap water slowing to the dry ingredients until a workable dough evolves. I use an ice cream scoop to parcel out the amount of dough to roll out for each tortilla. I have a cast iron pan but most any frying pan would work for cooking them on both sides or until some bubbles and browned blisters show up. You want them baked but not crispy!

Hard as I try to roll them out to a beautiful, uniform circle, I usually end up with what looks like various countries removed from the map. I do have a tortilla press (More of that German heritage!) but it only makes small one and, sometimes, you need a larger size.

This is also a fun kitchen activity for mom and the children so they can see what goes into fixing a meal and be proud of the results of their efforts.