Saturday, February 28, 2009

Conquered Kitchen (I hope*)

I finally have my kitchen ordered so that I am not getting cross contamination. I was struggling with getting gluten from unknown sources a great deal at the end of last year. The president of our local support group told me that sometimes you have to go back to square one. I thought, What does that mean? Is she saying I should throw everything away and start over? She knows how much gf stuff costs!

So, the contamination continued, as well as the pain. Finally, I did a complete reorganizing of the kitchen. My husband built cupboards in the corner of the room that are away from all others several years ago and they have always been my baking cupboard. With care, I completely emptied and sterilized them and they have become the storage area for gluten free stuff, including my own cooking utensils; such as, whips, slotted spoons, measuring cups and measuring spoons, electric mixer, my own Pampered Chef bar pan, etc. Since these items have places where gluten could cling unseen, I have decided to only use them for gluten-free baking. I also keep my gluten free dry goods in there. It is a tall cupboard and when I am cooking, I park a stool on the floor below them and stand on it to gather what I need (the cupboards, which go all the way to the 9 foot ceilings of this old house, are above a broom closet and I can only reach the lowest shelves).

I use the same pans and casserole dishes as everyone else, but I am meticulous about checking them out to be sure they are completely clean before I use them. A person can scrub and scrub and still leave little tiny bits of the last recipe on the sides of a dish (especially stainless steel pans). I run my fingers along the inside surfaces until I am content.

My favorite baking dishes to use are clear glass, as I can hold them up to the light and see if there are any stragglers. Today I was going to bake meatballs in a pan that I knew had been used for a gluten-death cake last and though it looked very clean, when I held it up to the light, I found several places to which I needed to apply my little green scrubber, dish soap and elbow grease.
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*As long as there is gluten in the house, the battle will continue to rage.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pasta Sauces

I made some pasta this week that turned out very good. I will attempt to give instructions that are clear enough that you can try it too, if you want. Please be warned: I don't have exact quantities...I rarely cook that way. I use the method my dear Aunt Lorena (who passed away about a year and a half ago) used to describe as, "Shake, shake, shake, a little of this, a little of that..." It is a wonderful way to cook. My best advice: add what you think you might need, taste it, add more if you feel like you should. Start out with smaller amounts of seasonings and work your way up (if I go too heavy on something like, salt, for instance, I just increase the amounts of the other ingredients and enjoy leftovers). After cooking this way for a while, you get a feel for how much to add.

RECIPE #1

Chicken Broccoli Pasta

2 T butter
4 boneless chicken breasts, cut up in bite-sized pieces
Several green onions, sliced
2 to 3 cloves of garlic (use as many as you like, according to taste; I used a couple of cloves this time)
A head or two of broccoli, chopped
About a 1/2 cup gluten-free cornstarch
1/2 cup Pacific Organic Chicken Broth (this brand is gluten free) add more if you need it
Mozzarella or an Italian blend shredded cheese
Tillamook cheddar cheese
Your favorite gluten-free pasta (I used Tinkyada Spinach Spaghetti Style; this added an additional strong vegetable flavor to the dish, which we liked.)

Melt 2 T butter in a large skillet. Add the chicken and cook through. Once the chicken is cooked, scoot it to the edge of your skillet and add a little more butter and saute the green onions, garlic, and chopped broccoli for a few minutes.

Put cornstarch (adapt this if you can't use corn...Jennifer :) into a small bowl, add the chicken broth and stir until the cornstarch is well blended. Poor into the skillet and mix with the vegetables and chicken. Slowly add the rest of the carton of chicken broth, blending as you go. Season to taste. I used salt and onion powder, but I was thinking that paprika would be a nice addition. I didn't put a lid on the skillet. I just let it cook over a medium to low heat for maybe a half an hour or so, until the liquid thickened. While it is cooking, you can cook your pasta.

Probably ten minutes into that half hour, I added a the shredded Italian cheese (2 cups maybe) and about a 1/2 cup of cheddar chunks that I sliced off of the brick. When the sauce was done, it was somewhat translucent; lovely really.

This made a generous amount of sauce. Three of us had it the night I made it, then tonight we had it over potatoes, and there is still some left over.

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RECIPE #2

Just today, Sarah sent me this recipe for another cheesy sauce, which she says is a nice alternative to store-bought Alfredo Sauce*; it looks pretty yummy. In this recipe "I" means Sarah. :) For the most part, the recipe is the I received it, with a few minor changes to make it work better in this post.
THANKS AGAIN SARAH!

Sarah's Creamy Pasta Sauce

Bake boneless, skinless chicken breasts until just done (in 350 degree oven, the ones I did were still half frozen when I put them in)

Make a cream sauce:
1 1/2 c milk
1 1/2 T cornstarch
salt & pepper to taste
1 t Better Than Bouillon soup base (Becky has never heard of this before)
1 t parsley (that would be a nice addition to the recipe above also)
garlic powder to taste

Cook, stirring over a medium heat. When thickened, add about 1/4 cup Parmesan and pour over the chicken breasts (this was enough for 4, with plenty on them). Sprinkle on shredded mozzarella and return to oven to melt cheese. Serve as a main dish as is, or pour over a hot gluten-free pasta of your choice.

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*Alfredo Sauce News: my friend Betty told me recently that Fred Meyer is now carrying Road's Alfredo Sauce; it is gluten free and in that section of the store.