Holiday Reminders for Gluten Free Eaters

By Rachel Sircy

Lunch table / salad‘Tis the season for eating other people’s cooking. Unfortunately, eating with family and friends poses special challenges for those with dietary restrictions. There are a few tricks, however, that can make the holiday get-togethers more manageable.

First, talk to the host of the party beforehand!

It’s important to make your needs known well ahead of time so your host can coordinate with everyone who may be bringing a dish. It also helps to be as specific as possible. It’s tempting to want to avoid imposition, but, believe me, your fellow partygoers will feel worse if they end up making you sick.

Second, always offer to bring a dish or two of your own, so you will have something that you know is safe to eat.

I have often run into well-meaning family members who think they’re making something gluten free but end up adding gluten through an ingredient they never thought to check. There is nothing quite as frustrating as standing in front of a table stacked high with delicious food that all happens to be off limits to you. This is especially important for parents whose children have dietary restrictions. It’s difficult for adults to people eat off limits food in front of them, imagine the way a child would feel. Make sure you have safe treats for your kids!

Finally, if you absolutely can’t bring anything or speak to the host ahead of time, make sure to eat before you go.

The motto of a longtime gluten free eater is, “Never show up hungry!” Make what you’d like to eat at home and show up full, so you’re not tempted to grab anything off of the dessert table. I always think it’s a good idea to hit up the health food store for some favorite gluten free snacks and bars to keep in my car or purse. I try never to go anywhere without food, especially when I know there will be lots of delicious temptations where I’m going.

Happy holidays and safe eating everyone!

 

Our Lucky Collards

By Shannon Boatwright

img_1063It’s the new year, and we’re all eager to kick start our year with positive thoughts, wishes and goals of good health, abundant happiness, and financial security. One of my traditions is to cook a new year meal that “promotes” and “represents” all these things. Black eyed peas, collards, pork chops/ham, cornbread, and grapes are the staples for our good luck meal. My favorite is the collards. I always like to buy my collards from local farmers: they’re the best, the real deal, and even the most affordable.

img_0916

 

Over the years, family members and friends have taught me all sorts of tips and tricks to making the best collards ever. These tricks range from making sure to wash the collards 3 times (I wash mine 4 times and use some vinegar when I do the last two washes), to cutting the collards into the shape of dollar bills (I like to pretend mine are $100 bills), to putting chunks of ham in the collards as they cook.

I like to cook two batches. For one (my favorite), I just use chicken broth, good ole Lawry’s seasoning, fresh garlic cloves, salt, and pepper. This year we actually had some leftover ham, so I put some ham chunks in as they cooked to add to the flavor. The other batch I make super spicy, with pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic salt, and whatever our favorite hot sauce is at the time –whether it’s Sriracha hot sauce or Tapatio’s hot sauce.  The collards are always my favorite part of the meal because it’s something I typically end up cooking literally only once a year.

img_0941

This year I scored a total win with my parents. I actually got my Dad, who has always claimed to not care for any cooked greens, to try my collards. I had to do a little convincing, but he loves spicy things, and I think when he saw my spicy collards cooking, he couldn’t resist. Let’s just say, I got him to come around, and he officially admitted that he likes my collards! Plus, my Mama declared that my regular collards were the best she’d ever had!

img_0938

Though there has been a bit of a collards shortage this year due to the hurricanes and cold weather, you can still find some. And guess what, if you didn’t get your good luck new year meal in yet, it’s still January, so you’ve got time! I’d love to hear about any cool, good luck foods you and your family eat to bring in the new year, so do share!

Here’s to a new year full of wealth! Wealth in health, happiness, and money!

Once Upon a Time…

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

“Once upon a time…” is a game my granddaughters like to play while riding with me.  We all take turns adding to the story, and as you can imagine, their stories always include a mermaid or princess.  What fun and memories we are making!  The older three were with me this past weekend for some Nana spoiling.  The sleepover included running, squealing, laughing, playing, and ice cream cones.  I even took them bowling.  Yep, that’s right, I took them bowling by myself!  Adventurous, right?  None of this would princess-869721_960_720have been possible without my constant prayers for peace and God’s merciful grace answering those prayers.  I have faith that my life story will have a ” …. and she lived happily ever after” page.

My family, friends, and students have been happy to see me as I once was- energetic, confident, and “large and in charge!”  With two weeks of school left in the first semester, my tasks included finishing up quizzes, tests, and exams and a faculty/staff lunch.  The students stayed busy helping me freshen up the commercial kitchen for the new semester and preparing foods for practice labs.  Between the two classes, the students made Waffle Iron Brownies, Cinnamon Rolls, Buttermilk Biscuits, Chocolate Covered Strawberry or Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites, Shrimp Scampi, Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Remoulade, and Low Country Boil.  I bound their final projects: a cookbook complied of recipes used during the 18-week course. It was a proud moment for both the students and I when I handed each of them their own personal creation.  Most will keep this special memento for years to come and will use the prized standardized recipes.  Former students from my 18-year culinary arts instructing career still have theirs and keep in touch.  I thank God several times a day for this peace and renewed spirit that makes life enjoyable again after a year and a half of sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, and overcoming regrets.

So, let me share some of the recipes prepared by my students the past two weeks.  I hope you will enjoy them as much as they did.

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours.

 Chef Woods

Cheese Cake Bites

Yields 30-36

Tools and Utensils:

  • Gallon-sized plastic freezer bag or food processor with blade
  • Large metal spoon
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • ½ sized sheet pan
  • Waxed/parchment paper
  • Measuring spoons
  • Microwavable container
  • Fork

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb sandwich cookies (30 large cookies)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8-12 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted
  • Garnishes (as needed):
  • Chopped nuts, sprinkles, melted white chocolate

For Chocolate Covered Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites: 

  • 20 oz. vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 1.5 t. butter flavoring
  • 2 t. red food coloring
  • 10 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted

For Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cheesecake Bites: 

  • 1 lb vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 T. + 2 t. sugar free strawberry jello mix
  • 1 t. strawberry extract
  • 8 oz. chocolate candy coating, (bark), melted

Procedure:

  1. In a food processor or gallon freezer bag, crush sandwich cookies to make crumbs.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cookie crumbs and cream cheese to form soft dough.
  3. Line a half-sized sheet pan with waxed/parchment paper.
  4. Portion dough into 30-36 pieces with a tablespoon.
  5. Roll each portion into balls.
  6. Place formed dough on the waxed paper lined pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until firm.
  7. In a double boiler, or microwave, melt chocolate candy coating.
  8. Dip chilled cheesecake bites in the melted chocolate and place back on waxed paper lined pan.
  9. Sprinkle with optional chopped nuts or sprinkles before the chocolate hardens, or drizzle with melted white chocolate.
  10. Place the finished cheesecake bites in mini muffin papers.
  11. Refrigerate finished cheesecake bites in a covered container until ready to serve.

Waffle Iron Brownies

Tools and Utensils:

  • Waffle Iron
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Small microwavable bowl
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Whisk

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ c. Flour
  • ¼ c. Cocoa
  • ¾ c. Sugar
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 T. Water
  • ½ c. Melted margarine
  •  1 t. Vanilla
  • Pan spray
  • Toppings:
    • Ice cream,
    • Chocolate or Caramel Syrup,
    • Powdered Sugar or Whipped Cream/topping,
    • Maraschino Cherries

Procedure:

  1. Preheat Waffle Iron to 350°
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, measure and combine flour, cocoa, sugar, and salt.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, measure and combine eggs, water, melted margarine, and vanilla.
  4. Stir liquid ingredient mixture into the dry ingredient mixture, until smooth with a whisk.
  5. Lightly spray waffle iron with pan spray.
  6. Portion batter on the griddle, ¼- ½ c., depending on the size of your waffle iron.
  7. Bake the brownie batter for 1 minute or until firm enough to remove.
  8. Server warm with the suggested topping.

 

Meatloaf Freezer Meal

By Rachel Sircy

I don’t know about you, but for me, meatloaf is a comfort food. My grandmother made a meatloaf that was delicious the day of and that made the best meatloaf sandwiches the next day. So, meatloaf is pretty close to my heart. It’s also a great freezer meal.

I was raised to believe that the freezer should be considered part of your pantry. My mother has a freezer attached to her fridge, and she also has two stand-alone freezers and a deep freezer. Since my parents purchase a whole side of beef every year from some of our family friends who raise cattle (a side of beef is an entire half of a cow, BTW) they need a lot of space. My mom is also the queen of freezing stuff. If you tell my mom that you’re hungry, she’s got a dozen meals prepared and frozen somewhere in her house, so you’ll probably be told to go and get something out of the freezer and reheat it.  I utilize the tiny freezer that I have to store vegetables, fruits, gluten free bread crumbs, meat…you name it. I guess it’s in my genes.

Freezer meals are becoming increasingly popular these days. I haven’t yet braved the 40 meals in 4 hours challenge, but I do keep individual servings of soup in the fridge for last minute meals. Just pull them out and thaw in the microwave (it may take a while if the soup’s completely frozen, but much faster than making it from scratch). Soup is easy enough and very convenient if you don’t feel like cooking, or if you’ve forgotten to make something for lunch, but I wanted to try my hand at prepping a meal and keeping it in the freezer for when I’m ready to make it. Not only is meatloaf one of my favorite comfort foods, but it’s extremely easy to make any meatloaf recipe you have gluten free. Basically, the main ingredient that you need to substitute is the bread or cracker crumbs. Of course, if you use steak sauce, Worcestershire or ketchup, etc., you need to make sure it’s gluten free. Beware, I just read that many major brands of steak sauce are not strictly gluten free. Just be careful and always do some research if you’re not sure. Other than that, most of the ingredients used to make meatloaf are naturally gluten free: ground meat, eggs, onions, garlic, etc.

Now, because I don’t want to deal with a huge frozen chunk of meat which will take a long time to thaw, I decided to make mini-meatloaves. I thought that larger than a meatball and smaller than a baseball would be a good size. Each one would be roughly equivalent to a thick slice of a regular meatloaf. In order to figure out the freezing process I, of course, called my mom. She said to freeze the mini-meatloaves properly, they need to be placed on a cookie sheet and placed in the freezer to firm up. They don’t need to fully freeze on the cookie sheet, they just need to become solid enough so that they won’t break apart when you put them into a freezer bag for storage. She said that about an hour would do it. Here they are on the cookie sheet:

Pic 1

They should make for an easy dinner when they thaw. And here’s the inside of my freezer:

Pic 2

It’s tiny, but it works for me. I placed the cookie sheet on top of a tower of individually frozen soup containers. Here’s the process of freezing the soup:

Pic 3

Really, if you haven’t tried freezing meals for later, you really should. It makes for a very easy (and cheap) pre-made meal. I’ll let everyone know how my meatloaves turn out in my next post!

Kitchen Essentials

By Rhonda Woods

Hello!  I just want to take a moment to thank the Lexington Medical Center team for the beautiful video they produced for my initial blog.  I was so pleased and heard so many wonderful comments from so many viewers!  My “Sweet Husband” would be so proud of his “Bride”!

My next blog is about Kitchen Essentials.  Here is a list of smallwares I find the most useful in my kitchens, both commercial and home. This list can also serve as a wish list, because Christmas is right around the corner.  Yeah, I’ve got you covered, foodies!  I made a large plastic tote box full of baking essentials for my daughter, one Christmas.  She still has it and has added to her collection as well.

Food Thermometer (digital or bi-metallic)
Strainers, large and small (large can double as a sifter)
Bowl scrapers (I can never have enough)
Whisks (same as above)
Digital Food Scale (@ $20.00, battery operated)
Sheet pans-aluminum/stainless steel (heavier gauge or weight does not warp and last longer)
Heavy Aluminum foil
Plastic Wrap
Parchment Paper & Waxed Paper
Disposable Decorating bags OR Gallon Freezer bags
Zester
Vegetable Peeler
Dough/Pastry Cutter
Rolling pin
Set of biscuit cutters
Portion scoops (1 oz., 2 oz. & 4 oz.-make quick work for portioning cookie dough and muffin batters)
Electric mixer (counter or hand held-I love my “Big Red” Kitchenaid)
A sharp Chef and paring knife
Dry measuring cups (2-3 sets)
Measuring spoons (2-3 sets)
Food processor
Cutting boards, plastic-not wood, large & small
Mixing bowls
Cupcake pans (2)
9″ x 13″ pans
8″ cake pans (3 or more)
Off-set spatulas
Aprons (I collect them, cookbooks and magnets from my travels)

Can you tell I’m a smallwares collector…you should see my kitchen drawers and cabinets…just saying. We call them “Tools of the Trade!”

IMG_2877Here’s a picture of my “Sweet Husband” and me taken in front of the old truck he had when we first met.  It has since been lowered from the 4-wheel drive lift and repainted to cover the light blue color, named “Old Blue”  We now refer to it as “Old Blue-Green”, and it still roams the back roads of Green Swamp with a new generation of riders and hunters. 39745152_272914836856988_2960821067972608000_n

It’s hard to believe it has been almost eight months, and it does not get any easier.  Celebrating my “Big 6-0” in a couple of weeks just won’t be the same without hearing him say, “Yeah, you don’t look bad for 60!”  😇

May God bless you and your family,

Chef Woods

Autumn Chicken Salad

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Rhonda:

By Rhonda Woods

I am the Chef/Instructor for the Pelion High School Culinary Arts program.  This is my 18th year of teaching Level One and Level Two students in grades 10-12.

I began compiling recipes of my Chef Woods Facebook page when I accompanied my late “sweet husband” to his doctor appointments and chemo treatments.  He lost his short 18 month battle with Metatastic Melanoma Cancer.  I thank God for healing him and taking him home, but miss him greatly.

Cooking is and has been my stress relief.  I now get to teach others my passion for cooking…and especially baking.  So, let begin with a favorite of our faculty and staff, Autumn Chicken Salad!

Tips:

  1. Mise en place, a French term that means to “put in place”, or have all of your ingredients washed, prepped, measured or weighed and all tools. This helps prepare the recipe quickly…kinda like a food network show!
  2. Use a sharp knife for cutting. A dull knife is less safe because it takes more pressure to use than a sharp one.
  3. A food processor with a “pulse” button is your friend. Makes quick work on chopping and give you the control over how much chopping needed to be done rather than just using the “on” button.
  4. Chicken salad is highly perishable, also know as TCS food. Foods that require minimum time in the temperature range from 41 degrees F-70 degrees F. Six hours total without refrigeration, but the internal temp cannot exceed 70 degrees F.
  1. Chicken salad has a refrigerated shelf life of 7 days, counting the day it was made.

 

Ingredients

1 lb. cooked, diced white meat chicken

1 hard boiled egg

1/4 c. Onion (@1/4 of a small onion) cut into large chunks

2 ribs celery, washed and cut into large chunks

1/4 of a Granny Smith Apple, small diced

1/4 c. Dried cranberries, rehydrating is optional (just soak in some hot water to plump up, the drain)

1/4 c. Sliced almonds

1 t salt or lite salt

1/4 t. Ground or coarse black pepper

1/2 c. Light Duke’s mayonnaise

1/2 c. Light Daisy sour cream

Directions:

  1. In the food processor bowl with a blade attachment, pulse the chicken @ 6-8 times and remove to a non-reactive bowl.
  2. Pulse the onion and celery to the same consistency as the chicken and remove.
  3. Pulse the hard boiled egg 3-4 times and remove.
  4. Combine the chopped chicken, vegetable and egg mixture with the remaining ingredients.
  5. Adjust the consistency with additional mayonnaise and sour cream, and flavor with salt and pepper.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  7. Serve with crackers, bread or on a bed of salad greens.

 

Back to Basics

By Rachel Sircy

I’ve written many articles about cooking at home, but I’m going to write another one. Home cooking is an important topic for anyone wanting to go organic or gluten free on a budget. Actually, it’s an especially important topic for celiacs these days. According to a recent study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Jack Syage and his research team found that adult celiacs who were following a gluten free diet and still experiencing symptoms of celiac disease, had been exposed to 150mg to 400mg of gluten per day. Only 10mg per day is safe for a person with celiac disease, but of course 0mg is preferable!
The thing is, gluten is hidden in so many things, it’s easy to forget or get sloppy with our eating habits. Unfortunately, any sloppiness in our diet means that we are doing damage to our bodies. Gluten is hidden in so many sauces, food additives (who wants food additives anyway?), and it comes with so many sneaky names : dextrin, maltodextrin, Brewer’s yeast, malt, malt flavoring, etc., that I’m sure that I accidentally get some contamination without even knowing it. The other issue is that not everything that is labeled gluten free really is gluten free. It’s not good enough for a celiac to purchase something that says, “contains no gluten” or “no gluten ingredients used.” The ingredients of a product may be gluten free, but it also matters how the product was processed, how it was shipped and how it has been handled in the store.
Most of the gluten hidden in our diet is going to come from processed foods. If you’re new to celiac disease, or if you are still experiencing symptoms, follow this advice that a registered dietician gave me years ago when I was first diagnosed: Make simple meals. What does this mean? It means if you don’t know what else to cook, make a crockpot roast with potatoes and carrots. You need a meat, a vegetable or two and some source of starch. You don’t need to worry about purchasing processed foods. Trust me, after 10 years of gluten free living, finding out which processed foods are safe to eat – even when shopping in a health food store – still makes my head spin. So, the best thing that you can do is avoid them. Buy plain raw meats and cook them yourself. Buy plain raw vegetables and cook them yourself. Potatoes, rice and beans all work well as starches and if you purchase the beans and rice plain and dried, not only are they gluten free, but they are super cheap. This simpler way of eating (meat, veg and a natural starch) will save you SO MUCH MONEY if you are a celiac. Gluten free noodles, cake mixes, cookies, etc. are insanely expensive anyway. If you’re still sick after going gluten free or if you need to be gluten free and you’re on a tight budget, simple meal planning is the way to go.
Of course, you might be saying, that cooking every single day is exhausting and too time consuming. Here’s the thing, if you want to cook like you’re going to be the next Food Network Star, then yes, it will take you quite a bit of time. I know, because I’ve made the mistake of trying to cook that way when I worked full time. Cooking was a burden to me, then, not a joy. It’s become more fun the more I’ve had to do it. But people, we live in a world full of crockpots and my co-worker has recently been raving about how much she loves her new Insta-pot. It’s so easy to throw meat and vegetables into a crockpot and let it do all the hard work for you. We also live in a world full of microwaves. If you enjoy cooking but only have time on weekends, then cook your meals and freeze them to be reheated later. This is actually a really economical way to plan meals. The freezer is your friend. This is my freezer:
Pic 1
The individual containers in my fridge are full of soup that I made one day when I had the time. I let the soup cool slightly and then froze it in individual meal size containers. When I don’t know what to take to work for lunch, I’ve got these containers of soup that I can just grab and throw in my lunch bag. They reheat in about 3-6 minutes in the microwave (about the same time as a processed frozen meal). I also have freezer bags containing individual servings of cooked ground beef for tacos. My husband is the only one in our house who really likes it, so what we did on Saturday was to cook 2lbs of ground beef with a homemade taco seasoning and then he decided how much he would eat with a meal and he froze that amount (about 1 cup, I think) in each of these freezer bags.
Pic 2
Actually, if you’re wondering what might be a great simple meal that isn’t roast and potatoes, tacos are great. Many brands of soft corn taco shells are gluten free. I do recommend that you choose a brand that has an ingredient list that is short and that you can completely read (try to avoid anything with huge, difficult to read words which are probably chemicals and which may contain gluten). Many hard corn shells are gluten free as well, but be careful, these are usually more processed and therefore contain the potential for contamination. Most of the other ingredients for home-made tacos are naturally gluten free: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese (natural cheese, not processed! Processed cheese is likely to contain gluten), sour cream. Also, many brands of refried beans are gluten free. I go for the fat free beans, which keeps the ingredients list simple – usually just beans, water and salt. Make sure that you can read and understand all of the ingredients on the salsa that you choose, some have preservatives which may not be gluten free.
Below is the recipe for some home-made taco seasoning that is gluten free. It may seem like a long list, but it’s well worth making. I think it tastes better than a lot of packaged taco seasoning, and this recipe makes 6 tablespoons which will last a while since you only use 2 tablespoons per pound of ground beef. I also use 2TBS to season my home-made chili.
Taco Seasoning
Ingredients:
2 TBS Onion Powder
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 TBS Salt
1 TBS Chili Powder
1 ½ tsp Crushed Dried Red Pepper Flakes
1 ½ tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
1 ½ tsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Sugar

Method:
Place all ingredients in a tightly sealed container and shake until well mixed.
Makes 6 TBS of seasoning. Use 2 TBS per 1Lb of ground beef for tacos. Use to taste to season chili.

Happy Eating.

 

Quick and Easy Pizza Night

By Rachel Sircy

Well, truthfully, I wasn’t planning to write about this, but after I tried Mama Mary’s gluten free pizza crust, I thought I had better share my experience. My husband had been asking about home-made pizza recently – I make a pretty mean chicken pizza – but the thing is, I really don’t like to make gluten free pizza crusts. Somehow, the mixes always give you something weird. I really dislike the Bob’s Redmill pizza crust mix. It’s like dry, crusty bread. My favorite, as far as pizza crust mixes go, has always been Namaste, but even that wasn’t ever a normal pizza crust. It was white with greenish flecks of Italian seasoning in it. It was also the consistency of cake batter with the weirdly elastic properties of marshmallow cream. It was weird, but at least it was a kind of weirdness I could handle. Actually, I haven’t even made the Namaste pizza crust in so long, that I don’t know if the formula is even the same anymore.

So, when my husband asked for pizza, I really just wanted to hand him $5 and point him in the direction of the nearest Little Cesar’s, but then I remembered something. Walking down one of the aisles of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Cayce, I remembered seeing little personal-sized pre-packaged pizza crusts that were labeled “gluten free”. I figured they couldn’t be as bad as Bob’s Redmill, and their small size also solved another one of gluten free pizza’s big problems: leftovers.

My husband loves cold pizza – I’m not such a huge fan, even in my gluten-eating days, I disliked the way that the refrigerator turned all of that luscious, gooey cheese into something like cold leather – but cold, leftover gluten free pizza is pretty nearly inedible. Not only does the cheese turn to leather, but the something that happens to most gluten free pizza crusts that causes them to become so hard that – should you be desperate enough to try to eat a piece – you have to gnaw on the slice like a wild animal trying to peel the last bit of meat off of a carcass. And, in my opinion, reheating a gluten free slice of pizza doesn’t make matters much better. The microwave may melt the cheese, but it doesn’t do much for that awful crust. I have always hated making an entire huge pizza and pretty much having to throw out the leftovers. Yes, some of you may be thinking that you have a perfect (albeit really time-consuming) recipe for gluten free pizza crust that tastes good the next day, but here’s the thing: I’m lazy. Especially when it comes to baking. I kind of hate it. I used to love to bake before I discovered that I have celiac disease, but that love died in the first few months of going gluten free and I’ve never been able to revive it. If you want to see me at my absolute worst, ask me to make a gluten free pizza crust. Or worse yet, a gluten free pie crust. In the case of the pie crust, you might have to pick me up off of the kitchen floor because I will have fallen over, weeping.

Long story short, I decided to give these little pizza crusts a try. And it turns out that they’re pretty good. I mean, they’re not the best pizza crusts I’ve ever had, but I personally think they beat Bob’s Redmill by a mile. (Sorry to beat up on you, Bob. You’ve given us a lot of great products, but your pizza is the pits.) So, I am making a recommendation: if you, like me, are lazy and want a quick and easy pizza without leftovers, try these Mama Mary’s pizza crusts. I didn’t take a picture of the crusts in the package, because I wasn’t planning to write about them, but I took a picture of the back of the package:

Pic 1

And here’s the finished product:

Again, I found these pizza crusts in the gluten free section of the Neighborhood Market in Cayce. They’re not refrigerated, they right there on the shelf next to the gluten free snack bars and whatnot. I feel fairly certain, however, that almost any Walmart would carry them. Walmart is pretty good at having the same products in every store. Happy Eating!

 

 

 

Two Favorite Healthy Recipes

By Rachel Sircy

So, in early 2017 I discovered, thanks to some lab tests, that I had high cholesterol. I resolved to start taking charge of my health. Well, the truth is that I did and I didn’t take charge of my health. I was pretty good, by which I mean that I was better than I had been in previous years and I started taking fish oil. I never did get a good exercise routine down, which I think is due in part to the fact that I absolutely hate the aerobics dvd that I have. That is no fault of the exercise program on this dvd, it’s just that I hate doing exercises that hurt and make me sweat in the first place and I really hate doing them if I’m stuck indoors watching a video of people who are way, WAY too excited about “sweatin’ the fat away.”

Long story short: I’m still overweight and my numbers, while much better than last year – they were only borderline high as opposed to high – are still not where I’d like them to be. As you know, I’ve been trying to focus on food as medication lately. And, according to what I’ve read about the latest research in lowering cholesterol is that you have to change your diet first and then begin to exercise, not the other way around. Anyway, I’m trying to avoid too much meat and when I do eat meat, I try to pair it with dark, leafy green vegetables. Here are two of the tastiest recipes where I’ve managed to do that. Hopefully they will be of use to someone out there who is trying to lower cholesterol (or blood pressure or whatever) without sacrificing flavor:

  1. Sausage and Kale Soup: This recipe is slightly adapted from the Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups book that my mom gave me some years ago. Basically, the adaptation is that I add twice as much broth as it originally calls for, but if you like less liquid, you can always add less. It is my family’s go-to soup for any time we don’t feel well. Somehow it always makes your recovery time shorter if you have a cold. It’s a great cold weather soup, but I like it the year round. And, given the weather we’ve been having lately, you might want a good cold weather option for the dinner table:

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed.
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 lb fresh kale trimmed and chopped (I always get the bags of pre-washed and chopped kale from the grocery store, it makes my life so much easier)
  • 1 15oz can Cannellini or Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ lb fully cooked Kielbasa (Polish Sausage)
  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add 4 cups of the broth and the potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. When potatoes are tender, slightly mash them with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
  2. Add the kale (don’t freak out if it seems to take up all the room in your pot, just mash it down), the beans, the sausage and the remaining 4 cups of chicken broth. Boil with the lid on until the kale is tender.

This soup is absolutely delicious. Below is a picture of it as I was finishing cooking some this afternoon. The picture is a bit hazy because of the steam coming off of the pot. It’s going to be so good later…

Pic 1

 

  1. Mediterranean Tuna Salad: This salad is one that I found on the internet years ago and it is really, really good. I think it’s from some Mediterranean Diet cookbook. I’m not a seafood lover, I’ll be honest, but this salad has made me able to eat tuna. You can also substitute canned salmon in place of the tuna – I sometimes do this because I find salmon a bit less fishy than tuna. If you use tuna, I would recommend the solid white albacore. Also, my husband can’t stand mayonnaise and so sometimes I just mix a can of tuna with the dressing for this salad (olive oil, lemon juice and grainy Dijon mustard) and he can use it to make a tuna sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 2 5oz. cans water packed tuna
  • 1 15oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1 ½ cup diced cucumber
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped (honestly, I don’t always chop it)
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBS grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coarse ground pepper to taste
  • 1 TBS capers (optional)
  • Avocado chunks to garnish (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir in the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Season with pepper and add capers and avocado if desired.

Seriously, how easy is that recipe? It’s just chop and mix. It’s also delicious and it’s good for you. Here’s a picture of the finished product…

Pic 2

Happy Eating!

Three Easy and Giftable (and Gluten Free) Treats

By Rachel Sircy

For all you last minute people out there (like myself), I have three ridiculously easy recipes to share: Chocolate Fondue, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies and two types of chocolate bark (so I guess I really have four recipes.) Provided you make sure that the ingredients that you’re using are gluten free, these treats are simple gluten free gifts or desserts that you can give go celiacs and non-celiacs alike. I promise that no one will know that these things are gluten free. I’ll give you hints in each of the recipes as to which ingredients you need to be careful with.

  1. Chocolate Fondue: One year for our anniversary, my sister-in-law brought my husband and I a plate of fresh strawberries and two small bowls of chocolate fondue. It was a simple, elegant gift and the best part was that it didn’t clutter up our house afterward. Rather than giving ornaments or little trinkets, try food. It’s great while it last and the best part is, it doesn’t last forever.

 

Ingredients:                1 Cup Heavy Cream

                                      12 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate (I prefer Ghiradelli chocolate baking bars or chocolate chips. They aren’t super expensive and the quality of chocolate is just better than most other common brands in my opinion. Plus, Ghiradelli dark and semisweet chocolate are made without gluten and in a clean factory. NOTE: the same is NOT TRUE about Ghiradelli white chocolate bars or baking chips. They are not celiac safe per the Ghiradelli website.)

                                      1 tsp. Vanilla

Method:       Heat Cream in pan (careful not to boil) until very hot. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until melted.

For Dipping choices, you can use fresh fruit – strawberries and bananas work well. You could also use cookies (store bought or homemade, just as long as their gluten free) and marshmallows. Actually, you can pretty much dip anything in chocolate. I would eat my own hand if it were covered in a good chocolate.

  1. Peanut Butter Blossoms: Probably everyone has this recipe because these are the easiest cookies ever to make. But, I thought I’d share because sometimes I find that those really simple things that everyone knows how to do are the things that nobody writes down the recipe for and then people like me – who don’t know how to do them – get stuck. Everything in this recipe should be gluten free as long as you stick with pretty simple peanut butter (don’t go for the weird flavored stuff they have out now, though some might be GF) and DON’T let anyone use your PB! I always take a permanent marker and write GF all over my peanut butter jars when I get them home from the grocery store.

 Ingredients:               1 Cup Peanut Butter

                                      1 Cup Granulated Sugar

                                      1 Tsp Baking Powder

                                      1 Egg

Method:       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream Peanut Butter and Sugar together in a bowl. Beat in Baking Powder. Add egg and mix until well combined. Roll into balls (smaller is better) and roll in white sugar. Place on baking sheet and press with fork. Bake 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes on baking sheet, then cool if you want plain cookies. If you want to make the PB Blossoms, however, transfer the cookies directly to a plate after they’ve rested on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. This will ensure that they cool more slowly, but won’t make them soggy or anything. Use your favorite type of Hershey’s kiss (read the label to make sure it’s GF, but I think most kinds of Hershey’s Kisses are) and press them into the still warm cookies. The Kisses will melt, but then they will re-solidify when cooled. Letting them melt initially, however, makes them softer and makes them stick better in the PB cookies.

 

  1. Peppermint Bark: This has been a staple for me for years. No matter how much you make it, people will never turn it down. And you can do slightly different things with it. Sometimes I make it with just white chocolate. Sometimes I drizzle dark chocolate over the white chocolate for some contrast and once I even made it with just dark chocolate, and it wasn’t half bad. I know that lots of people make Peppermint Bark, but like I said, people will never turn it down. And, in chocolate barks like this, the quality of ingredients can make all the difference. I’ve had really fantastic Peppermint Barks and some that were not so great. I ate them all, of course, but you remember the really, really good ones.

 Ingredients:                12 oz white chocolate (Alas, Ghiradelli is my favorite, but it’s not celiac-safe. According to what I’ve looked up on their website, Nestle Toll House white chocolate chips claim to be gluten free and that is generally what I use. It’s a slight sacrifice in quality, but it’s better to be safe than sorry)

                                      5 Candy Canes, Crushed (Bob’s candy canes are gluten free and their peppermint candy canes are pretty delicious)

                                      ½ Tsp Peppermint Extract (I used Pure Peppermint oil that I bought at Earthfare. It was kind of expensive, but it will last for a long time and it has a great, strong flavor.)

                                      4 oz Semi-Sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate  (Optional)

Method: Melt white chocolate in a large double boiler, when it is melted, add peppermint extract. Spread chocolate out over a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and sprinkle candy cane bits onto the chocolate. Let cool in refrigerator or freezer. When white chocolate is cooled, melt dark chocolate in a double boiler and spread over the cooled white chocolate, if desired. Cool and then break apart the bark into bite-sized pieces.

  1. Cookies ‘n Cream Bark: This is one that I kind of came up with myself because my favorite candy bar used to be Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy bar. This was something that I had to give up when I found out I had celiac disease. Necessity (or junk food cravings) is the mother of invention. So, I just put the two ingredients that I really loved together and it worked out wonderfully. Here’s a picture of the bark and the big chunks of cookie in the strata:

Ingredients:                 12 oz. White Chocolate Chips

                                      1 package Gluten Free Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (I always use Glutino Brand, but you could also use Kinninnick and I think Schar Brand and Walmart both have their own GF chocolate sandwich cookies)           

 Method: Crush cookies in a bag. Melt chocolate in double boiler, add the crushed cookie bits and spread out onto a cookie sheet line with wax paper. Chill in the fridge or the freezer.

 

Hopefully, these help with any last-minute GF guests that show up at your house or with anyone you need a small, last minute gift for. Merry Christmas!