Thursday, December 29, 2011


It has been a whirlwind around here for the last week or so and I have barely cooked. There was a solid 10-15 minute block of time on Christmas Eve where I tried to help with the cooking, but my eyes were closing as I was working and I had to be forcibly sent to the couch for a nap. So have I baked, yes. Oh my yes, but cooked? Not so much. NB: in the last two sentences I have typed cookied instead of cooked each time and had to go back and fix it. Clearly there has been some rewiring of my brain following the week o' baked goods.

Last night all I could think of was clean, fresh, non-butter infused flavors. Something hearty and warming though (because have you been outside? It is insanely cold out there) but not rich or creamy or anything like that. Stellacarolyn's vegetable soup sounded so tempting but I was a bit short in the vegetable departments so instead I turned to Lidia. I adapted a barley and bean soup to make it a bit less labor intensive and it is so delicious. Tomato soup, but better. Vegetable soup, but with fewer pesky vegetables. I am so very happy it made an excessively large quantity.

gluten-free adaptation at the end...

1 C chopped turkey bacon
1 C chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
5-6 baby carrots (maybe 2 if using full sized?)
2/3 C crushed tomatoes (from can)
8 C chicken stock
2 baking potatoes, peeled and diced
2/3 C barley
3 bay leaves
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
about a cup of small white beans, rinsed and drained (or pick your own bean!)
olive oil
1/4 C parm (which I skipped because I accidentally over salted)
salt and pepper

In a large stock pot, crisp up some turkey bacon. I cooked mine on medium for 8-10 minutes. Remove the bacon, but not the lovely bacon leavings. Toss in the chopped onion and again cook for 8-10 minutes. Toss the onion in the bacon fat so it gets all golden. In a food processor, combine the garlic and carrots with 2 T olive oil. Mix until it is very smooth. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and carrot mixture to the pot and cook for 2 more minutes over medium low heat. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 8 more minutes. Then add the stock, the potatoes, the barley, the bay leaves and the rosemary. Bring up to a boil and the reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste at this point. Add the beans and cook for 10-15 minutes more. I served mine with little toasts with mozzarella broiled on them, but as long as you have some delicious bread to soak up the sauce, you'll be all set. If adding the parm, I would mix it in right before serving. Sprinkle the reserved bacon on top.

to make gluten-free:
Make sure you're using a gluten-free chicken stock and bacon (believe me, your bacon really shouldn't have gluten in it, if it does you really need to look into better bacon). Barley is a wheat product, so you can substitute rice instead. I'd use about 1 C cooked rice. The rice should be added at the very end, after the beans. I don't like to cook rice directly in soup because it can take on too much water.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Chaos

It's possible I have stumbled on a fool proof diet for the holidays. It so happens that I may have made a slight error this year when I was deciding how much I could reasonably bake for Christmas. The result is something in the neighborhood of seven dozen decorated butter cookies and gingerbread cookies. And now I honestly don't even want to look at another cookie ever again. This means that my mother, my aunt, my uncle, my husband and my cousin all need to eat around 17 cookies each. Sounds reasonable to me.

I am not making much (any?) of tonight's dinner though, so I might just undo all the good I'm doing by skipping the cookies. As in years past, we're doing a buffet of appetizers. Luckily by we, I mean my uncle and my mother. That's my favorite kind of we. I'm not even sure of the whole menu, but what I do know, I'm happy to share.

Christmas Eve Menu:
Empanaditas filled with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese
Deviled Eggs
Anne's Stuffed Mushrooms (I was truly hoping to have that recipe for you, but the making of them was snatched out of my hands).
Spanish Tortilla
Chorizo in Puff Pastry
Pork pie - the original version, although I've made it with turkey too.
Shrimp in garlic sauce

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Past

Every other year, my grandparents would come for Christmas. I went to school exactly one block away from my house. From school, you'd cross the street, walk to the end of the block and turn the corner. As I approached that corner I would be so excited hoping for a glimpse of their car parked in front of our house. Nana and I had a special Christmas ritual when she came; we'd make the bows for all the gifts. Since she and Grampy drove down from Cape Cod, they'd have wrapped the presents, but bows would have been smooshed on the journey. Nana and I would sit down with long strings of ribbon and she'd show me just how to make the first loop over my thumb, then each loop to the side growing in size until the bow was finished. We'd staple the middle and tape our handiwork to each gift. It was something special we always did, just the two of us. I didn't often cook with Nana. The treats at her house were usually made and waiting when I arrived, but I do remember making applesauce with her. Once you're old enough to be trusted around a stove, it's the perfect thing for a child to make, since other than the chopping and peeling, all the stirring, tasting and sweetening and spicing can be done by even the smallest of cooks. NANA'S APPLESAUCE

2 apples (although make as much as you want!!)
1 t lemon juice
1 T water
1 tsp sugar (although this you should change depending on how sweet your apples are and how you like your applesauce).
1/2 t cinnamon

Peel, core and chop your apples (this is the job an adult needs to do). Put them in a saucepan on the stove. Add the lemon juice and water and let the apples cook down until they are soft and mushy. Add the sugar and cinnamon, I wrote you how I like it, but this is a perfect experiment for beginning chefs to try adding a bit more of each until it's how they enjoy it. You can serve it homestyle or make it smoother by putting it through a food mill or mashing it with a potato masher.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mood Mexican

On Friday, Ryan and I went out to one of our favorite local Mexican spots. When we got there, the place was dark. The sign on the door read: We've moved. I was still trying to process it when I read the next sign. Turn around. Across the street, light poured from the windows and the door swung open as people bustled in from the cold. Their new space is beautiful, so much nicer than the cafeteria level decor they'd had for the last 20+ years (yes, I've been going there for that long). We'll definitely be going back more often now that it's a pleasant place to eat. I had enchiladas, which were completely delicious. Of course, it also reminded me that I have a homemade enchilada recipe which is also completely delicious. And which I've been keeping from you due to sheer laziness and a lack of decent photos.

See? Messy. They really only look so sloppy because I used queso fresco instead of cheddar or monterery jack. It's delicious, but it certainly isn't pretty. But these enchiladas are really tasty and will definitely tide you over just in case your favorite Mexican place hasn't just moved to a lovely, cosy new spot.

adapted from Cook's Illustrated May & June 2005 issue

1 1/2 T vegetable or corn oil
1 onion chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 T chili powder
2 t ground cumin
1/2 t salt
2 t sugar
12 oz of chicken, I used breasts but you could use thighs
1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
3 oz of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce - this was about 4 peppers for me
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated for filling plus 3 more for topping
corn tortillas

In a large pan, heat the oil to medium. Add the onion and cook until it's softened and starting to brown about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and sugar and cook stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Chop the chicken into bite sized slices and add to the pan. Toss it so it is coated with the spices. Then add the tomato sauce and a 1/2 C of water. Chop up your chipotles and add them along with the adobo sauce. Bring it up to a simmer and stir to make sure the chicken is all separated so it doesn't clump together. Cook, stirring frequently for 6-8 minutes. Try to separate out about a cup or so of sauce, by shoving the chicken to the side, so that you have a bowl of mostly sauce and a bowl of mostly chicken mixture. If you really want you can strain the sauce, but it is a huge pain in the ass and makes me dread making the recipe. Also, it is a nightmare to clean the strainer after. So feel free to go informal with it. Remove from heat, pop in the fridge to cool.

Preheat your oven to 300. Spray the tortillas (10 of them) with cooking oil. You can brush it on if you don't have a spray. Make sure you get both sides. Pop them on baking sheets in the oven for 4 minutes, until they are pliable. You can roll cold tortillas they will break on you. Once you take them out, increase the oven temp to 400 degrees F. Okay, get a large baking dish, a 13x9. Cover the bottom with a thin layer of sauce. Then take the chicken mixture and mix it with your shredded cheese. Fill the tortillas (I scooped the filling into all the tortillas and then rolled to make sure I was being fair about the filling). Then roll each one up and tuck it into the pan. Cover with the remaining chicken-free sauce. Finally, sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saving a Favorite

As we sat newly stuffed in front of our Thanksgiving dinner plates, I was already cataloging the leftovers. And when I mentioned ragout my father's face fell. He hadn't thought about ragout. It's not one of the big, obvious in your face things that he can't eat like pasta or pizza. It's just one of his childhood favorites that happens to have homemade dumplings. I reassured him without even being sure of what I could accomplish. I promised that I would come over and make him ragout and that it would be okay. And of course I went over and made it and much to my great relief (and I'll admit, amazement) it really was okay. More than okay. It was completely saved. So just in case someone else out there is longing for some chicken and dumplings that are safely gluten-free, here's my nana's ragout:


For the soup -
1 C onion, chopped
1 C celery chopped (I mince mine because Ryan does not like celery)
2 C carrots (cut into disks, coins, whatever you call them)
5-6 C chicken stock (or turkey stock) preferably homemade
salt and pepper
2-3 T olive oil
1 T sage
1 T thyme
approximately 2 C of chopped leftover chicken or turkey. Use what you have. The dumplings will make up for it if you don't have enough. You can use chopped white meat or all the little bits you have, it's up to you.

For the dumplings -1 C stock - cooled
2.5 C gluten-free flour - I used Annalise Robert's mix, which you can either find in her cookbook Gluten-Free Baking Classics or purchase it ready mixed from Authentic Foods.
salt and pepper

Pour the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion and celery and cook on low for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, carrots and whatever chicken or turkey bits you're add. Add salt and pepper for taste. This recipe takes a lot of salt, so taste carefully. Bring the stock almost to a boil. While you're waiting for it to boil, make the dumplings. Use a cup of cool stock (I usually set it aside before I start cooking) and mix it together with the gluten-free flour and about a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Add about 2 t fresh thyme to the dumplings if you like. The thyme is completely inauthentic, but it is tasty. The dough will be sticky and hard to work with. Roll out the dough between two pieces of Saran Wrap, you can use cheaper rice flour to assist in the de-sticking of the dough. If you don't get it thin you will have yucky gloppy dumplings. When it's thin (maybe less than a 1/4 inch thick?) slice in 1" squares. These can and will be very irregular, some will sort of stick as you pick them up, I sort of use the knife to scrape them up and then drop them in the soup as described below. Don't worry about the irregularity, it gives the soup character. When the stock is very hot but not boiling, Add the thyme and sage and throw in the squares of dough and cook for 3-5 more minutes until the dough is cooked.

The soup is better on the second or third day because the flavors will meld.


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