Shhhh . . . Secret Sauce!

Okay, so it really isn’t a secret . . . if you’ve heard of it so I will share my knowledge of it with you.

The greatest addition to my culinary endeavors has now become a staple in my cupboard. It is called fish sauce. I don’t, however, use just any fish sauce as through use and research have discovered the best one around is called Red Boat Fish Sauce.

It is an interesting addition to just about any savory dish as you don’t so much taste a difference but ‘sense’ an added level to the meal. The best price I’ve found is on Amazon where it still seems a bit pricy BUT you only use a few drops to taste and a bottle lasts a long time. The best one, to my taste, comes from Viet Nam and the ingredients are only anchovy and sea salt. Take a word of advice, if you decide to try it, don’t smell it until you have used it the first time because . . . Well, consider, it is pretty fermented fish and . . .

A quarter of a teaspoon added to spaghetti sauce actually makes you wonder how you managed with spaghetti sauce up to that moment. I’ve used a few drops in regular vegetable noodle soup and always add a bit to any rubs I put on meats to be roasted.

Anyway, I thought I would share what secret sauce I depend on to make my own secret sauces!

Oodles of Noodles . . .

When we had to go gluten-free for my husband’s sake, it curtailed some of our convenience shopping. Gluten-free pasta is only, usually, as the price and the price is higher for a relatively good-tasting pasta. One brand actually had a pretty good egg noodle gluten-free version but it tended to fall apart a bit and cost over $5 for 12 ounces.

Our favorite meals have always been either chicken or beef soup enriched in taste with the addition of egg noodles. I discovered two gluten-free flours that actually work great on making homemade egg noodles and the noodles hold their shape and you can’t tell the difference between the gluten types. I will now share my ‘secret’ with you! Better Batter Gluten-Free flour has been a staple in my cupboard for the last ten years. I have made birthday cakes and cookies using it and have never been found out even from gluten-loving friends. However, for homemade egg noodles, Authentic Foods – Steve’s GF Bread Flour is my all-time favorite for making those noodles now.

BUT, how does one make gluten-free egg noodles? I was hoping you’d ask as it is one of the easiest recipes in the world and works with either the recommended gluten-free flours or regular flour if you have no dietary restrictions. I have to warn you, however, the recipe is one where you might have to make minor adjustments as you go along as dry/wet weather can change the outcome otherwise.

Basically . . .

2 cups of our flour of choice – gluten-free or regular
Eggs . . . I say just ‘eggs’ as this could take anywhere from four to six eggs before you obtain a malliable dough. The dough should be kneadable but not stiff or wet. It should be relatively easy to roll out and if you have to struggle to do so and feel your biceps getting painful exercise, you probably should have added a bit more egg.

That’s the recipe. To be adventurous, you can add a bit of paste-type bullion for more flavor or some dried herbs that might enhance the flavor of the soup or stew you are serving it with.

As for the rolling out, you can go really thin or a thicker version. A pizza cutter is great for quickly turning your dough into strips. ALSO, if you are making something like a vegetable soup and you would like a bit of pasta to add some more substance to the finished produce, you can use tiny cookies cutters for circles or even a suitable lid from some handly bottle in yoru cupboard.

Once you’ve made all your decisions on the pasta use, etc., start the rolling out and place the cut dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet so they can dry a bit, In fact, you can made the noodles earlier in the day and with a few lengths of papertowel to cover, let them sit on the counter until you need them for dinner.

If you are using the noodles for soup, add them to the soup pot before serving. Keep stirring when you put them in to cook to prevent sticking. They usually take about three to five minutes and they are ready.

If you want to have the noodles with stew, just before you are ready to serve dinner, bring a big pot of salted water to a medium boil, add a couple tablespoons of olive and stir in your noodles to keep them separated, drain, rinse with cold water and then either add them to your stew or serve the stew over a portion of the noodles.

What to Do With Those Pesky Vegetables

Since we starting cutting carbs from our diet, it left us with an abundance of dinner time vegetables to plow through. My goal in life is to make coming to the table and seeing vegetables a treat and not an enhanced desire to sneak out later for a large order of fries and cola.

Seriously, we always have had vegetables on the dinner plate but with the absence of those fries, rice, and pasta, more have been added and it has been my job to make them something to look forward to come the dinner hour.

I’ve mentioned in other postings about roasting Kale (the #1 favorite to date!), sauteing carrots, and topping steamed/cold green beans with fun dressings. My lasted culinary attempt (tried twice and won family awards twice now!) is baked cauliflower. It is a very easy preparation and doesn’t need attention until the timer goes off.

One large cauliflower, broken down into medium to large florets
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Brown Mustard
Nutritional yeast*
salt/pepper to taste
Finely diced green onion or shallot
AND – this is where it gets personal! Check your herb/spices and see what might go well for the seasoning. I’ve used ground caraway, garlic salt, granulated onion, Basil, Rosemary, etc. Every family has their favorites. (Want more options? Check our The Spice House https://www.thespicehouse.com/ as not only do they have an extensive selection, they tell you about them!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place your prepared cauliflower in a large bowl and mix with the vinegar, mayonnaise, and mustard and mix to coat the cauliflower. You don’t want to drown it. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, again, and place on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden, JUST fork tender, and with some slightly charred edges. Serve!

*Nutritional yeast can be found at Walmart or the health store. It adds a mild cheesy flavor, a bit of texture, and a multitude of B vitamins.

Eating Healthy Isn’t All THAT Bad!

My husband has some dietary concerns so I’ve spent my almost 34 years with him evolving our meal menus to keep him in good health. In the course of my research and new recipes, we have learned to enjoy a lot of vegetables, etc., we never thought we’d ever find in our kitchen.

When I was growing up, frozen vegetable started appearing in the markets. If you are of an age to have tasted the first attempts a frozen peas, you will understand why a lot of us grew up hating anything with the word ‘vegetable’ in it!

Fortunately, I had somewhat discerning children who usually ate their vegetables without TOO much complaint especially if said meal was followed by cake or ice cream. These days, it is a rush to serving yourself vegetables as my children will take the majority of them. It only took years of me experimenting and finding ways to make the dreaded vegetable portion of dinner tasty.

These days, everyone’s favorite cooking method for vegetables is cutting squash, cabbage, broccoli, etc., into chunks, tossing them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other herbs and spices that sound good to you. (Want a really good source of great herbs and spices? https://www.thespicehouse.com/). You lay the prepared vegetables out on a parchment paper line baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until there is a slight browning and they are JUST tender. You can have grated Parmesan on the table for a tasty addition.

I never ate Kale until about five years ago. Now it goes into salads, soups, stews, and often gets roasted for a fun, vegetable side dish. Easy, too! Just tear the leaves in large pieces from the woody stem and soak in a bowl of water with a fourth cup of vinegar for about five or ten minutes, rinse, and pat dry. You can do this ahead and roll the rinsed Kale in paper towel, cover in saran wrap, and refrigerate until needed. In a large bowl, toss the leaves with enough olive oil to give it a LIGHT shine. You don’t want to drown it. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. So many choices to be had from the spice shelf! Arrange the leaves on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the leaves are crisp to the touch.

Savory Cookies

Crackers are great with soup but a homemade savory cookies takes the points. And, such recipes can be adapted to whatever cheese or seasoning you have on hand.

Savory Cheddar Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon hot mustard powder
4 ounces sharp cheddar, grated finely
1 stick softened butter

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Blend together the cheese and butter until relatively smooth. Mix in the flour mixture by hand or with a dough blade with your mixer. Mix until it forms a ball.

Divide the dough in half, form each half into a cylinder, wrap in clear plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least three hour or overnight. (A great make-ahead idea that can be baked just before dinner or the arrival of guests)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove cylinders of dough from the refrigerator (if you froze them, take them out 30 minutes early) and slice them into even discs and place about an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheet for ten minutes and then place on cooling rack.

These are nice to go with soup, salads, stews, or just for a lunchbox snack.

If you are gluten-free, Better Batter gluten-free ‘four’ mix or Authentic Foods – Steve’s GF Bread Flour works well, cup for cup.

Easy Thanksgiving Side Dish!

Okay, I’m old school in that no matter the reason for the meal, there will be either a salad or some sort of vegetable dish in attendance. I recently realized that the lowly and often misunderstood Brussel Sprout can claim a place of note at the dinner table.

Welcome Brussel Sprout Dish

2 pounds of cleaned and trimmed Brussel Sprouts
2 large green apples, unpeeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced in medium pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil . . . or more depending on your tastes
1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar (check the vinegar aisle at the store)
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
Zest of one lime and one orange
Salt and Pepper to taste

Tose the sprouts with all the ingredients making sure everything gets a shiny coat of olive oil. Place in a baking dish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are just tender. Taste for seasonings and serve.

My Favorite Discovery!

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before but I can’t help grinning everytime we have fried fish or chicken and do it without flour and still get a great ‘crisp’ on it and a very satisfying crunch. AND, what we use is low carb and good for you, too, fewer calories. It is Whey Protein Isolate! Just scoop out what you need, season it like flour and there is your future crispy coating. You just dip your fish or chicken into someĀ  beaten egg, coat with the seasoned whey stuff, and fry. It works well for onion rings, too.