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This past Thanksgiving I finally conquered my gluten free Mt. Everest – green bean casserole.  Frying the onions wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, thanks to the advice in this post and our little electric fondue pot.  This recipe makes enough onions for a 9″x13″ casserole, but I decided to make a half recipe since it was for our little family of four.  I froze the rest of the onions on a baking sheet, then transferred them to a bag to save for our Christmas dinner.

2013 Update: The onions freeze well and just need to be reheated in a warm oven to crisp them up before adding to the casserole.  Even though the cream of mushroom soup is not hard to make, if you can find Progresso’s GF Creamy Mushroom Soup, it works really well when brought to a boil with 1 T. GF flour to thicken it a little before mixing with the green beans.  (I added 1/8 tsp. pepper to mine this past Thanksgiving.)  However, the homemade version can be made with rice milk for dairy free folks, so it’s a good one if you have multiple sensitivities in your home.  Happy Gluten Free Holidays!

Green Bean Casserole

Gluten Free French Fried Onions

1 med. onion (I used a sweet onion, but any should work)
1 egg
1 1/2 c. milk (I used rice milk)
1 c. GF flour blend
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using a blend containing xanthan gum)
Pinch pepper
Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Slice onion into thin rings.  Halve the slices so that you have what looks like little rainbows.  Separate rings and cut outer 3 or 4 pieces in half, so you have uniform sized pieces.  (Set aside a few rings to chop for the cream of mushroom soup, if making the recipe below.)

November 2012 002

Beat egg and milk in a medium bowl.  Add onions and soak until oil is heated.

In a shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, xanthan gum and pepper.  Heat about 1-in. of oil to 375 degrees in an electric fondue pot or med. high on the stove.  (When you’re ready to fry – the oil will sizzle and pop when you flick a drop of water into it – turn down the temperature to 350 degrees or medium heat on the stove.)

While you wait for the oil to heat, line a couple plates with paper towels and gather your utensils.  I recommend using a fork to transfer the onions from the milk mixture to the flour, and using chopsticks to coat them with flour and transfer to the oil.  We used tongs to transfer the onions from the oil to paper towels.  Having separate utensils for each step keeps them from accumulating thick clumps of dough.

GF French Fried Onions

When the oil is ready, turn it down to medium and begin coating about 1/4 c. of the onions in flour, then dropping them in the oil.  Use tongs to turn onions over after a few minutes, then continue frying until golden brown.  Remove to paper towels to cool.  Continue until all onions are fried.  Set aside while you make the soup.  (I’d store them at room temperature, rather than in the fridge, so they don’t get soggy.)

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Cream of Mushroom Soup
(Equals approx. 1 can of soup – double recipe if making a 9″x13″ casserole.)

4 T. butter or dairy free margarine
1 T. finely chopped onion
6 T. GF flour blend with a pinch of xanthan gum (I used Gluten Free Pantry’s blend)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. milk (I used rice milk)
1 c. GF chicken broth OR 1 c. water with 1 tsp. Better Than Bouillon
1/4 c. chopped mushrooms OR half of a drained 4 oz. can of mushrooms

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Sauté onions in butter until soft but not brown.  (If using fresh mushrooms, sauté them with the onions.  DO NOT try to sauté canned mushrooms or they will jump out of the pan!)

Whisk in flour, salt and pepper, stirring constantly until a bubbly paste forms.  (If using Better Than Bouillon instead of broth, you can stir in the bouillon during this step and just add water instead of broth.)  Gradually whisk in the milk and broth (or water).  Stir constantly until you have a nice, thick soup.  Stir in mushrooms.

To use this soup in the traditional green bean casserole recipe, you may skip the step of adding extra milk, since this is not as concentrated as the canned soup to begin with, or add milk until it’s the desired consistency.  Add 2 cans green beans and desired seasonings according to whatever recipe you traditionally use (some add 1/8 tsp. pepper or soy sauce), stirring in 2/3 c. of your fried onions.

Transfer to a greased baking dish and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then top with another 2/3 c. onions and bake 5 minutes.  Serves 4-6.

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Awhile back I was CRAVING my favorite Chinese food, Mandarin Chicken.  But alas, there are no gluten free Chinese restaurants in town where I can go to feed my addiction.  After a disappointing search on the web for anything resembling my favorite orange sauce, I had a “duh” moment when I realized that I don’t need to make the sauce because it doesn’t contain any wheat.  A quick call to the Chinese restaurant down the road confirmed my suspicion that they sell the sauce as an optional side – for only $.89, which is cheaper than buying most jarred sauces at the grocery store!  So I drove down to the restaurant and introduced myself as “the weird lady who called about just buying Mandarin sauce,” and returned home with a gelatinous, unnaturally red, nectar of the gods.

All that remained was to fry up some chicken.  For this, I turned to my Texas grandmother’s chicken fried steak recipe because southerners know how to fry stuff.  Instead of round steak, I substituted chicken breasts that I floured, fried, and cut diagonally to look like the restaurant version.  I’m happy to report that it tasted just like we remembered (only with no MSG!), although I must confess that I’d probably eat cardboard if it was covered with that sauce.  The great thing about this recipe is that you pound the chicken flat, so it fries quickly and a little chicken can go a long way, especially when paired with a filling side dish like the one below.  (The chicken pictured is just 1 large chicken tenderloin!)

To round out the meal, I suggest the GF crock pot fried rice recipe by Stephanie O’Dea.  We. LOVE. It!  You can check out the hilarious recipe on her awesome blog, or follow the instructions for my version below.  I decided to try to make a healthier version by substituting quinoa (a gluten free grain that’s uber healthy) for half of the rice, and my husband agreed that it’s even better than the all-rice version because the quinoa seems to make it fluffier.  (If you’ve tried quinoa and been creeped out by the little round grains – my nephew calls them “eyeballs” – do try mixing it with rice because the texture is totally different than plain rice or plain quinoa.)

Even if Mandarin sauce isn’t your thing, this versatile chicken recipe would taste great with any dipping sauce.  My daughter dipped her chicken in cranberry mustard, which we encouraged because it left more sauce for us.  Check back later this fall for my Country Fried Chicken with Biscuits and Gravy variation on this recipe.  (Did I mention I have Texas roots?)  In the meantime, grab some chopsticks and boil a pot of Oolong tea because gluten free Chinese food is back on the menu!

Versatile Fried Chicken Breasts or Tenderloins

4 small chicken breasts or 2 large breasts cut in half or 8 tenderloins
Salt and Pepper
Gluten free flour blend (I used Gluten Free Pantry’s blend, but any would do)
2 eggs, beaten
3 – 4 T. milk
Canola oil for frying

Place chicken on a piece of waxed paper with plenty of space between each piece.  Place another piece of waxed paper on top and pound chicken with a meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/4-in. thick.  For best results, pieces should not be larger than the palm of your hand when frying, so cut large pieces in half, if necessary.  Blot chicken dry with a paper towel, then season BOTH sides with salt and pepper.  (You’ll be tempted to think it’s not necessary to season both sides, but trust me, it really is.)

Pour about 1/3 c. flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate and dip both sides of each chicken piece in the flour.  Set aside floured chicken, and add additional flour to the bowl for the next step.  Heat about 1/2-in. oil in a large skillet over medium high.  When it begins to shimmer, flick a little water into the oil.  If it sizzles and pops a little, you’re ready to fry.

While oil is heating, beat 2 eggs in another shallow bowl or pie plate with a fork.  Beat in 3-4 T. milk.  Line 1 or 2 plates (enough to hold all your cooked chicken) with paper towels, and get out tongs for turning the chicken.  (You want to have everything ready so you can work quickly and keep an eye on the chicken.)

When the oil is very hot (but not smoking), coat a piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then use the fork to transfer it to the bowl of flour.  Coat both sides with flour, then carefully lay the chicken the pan.  Immediately turn the heat down to medium to keep the chicken from browning too quickly.  Continue with the remaining chicken until the pan is full.  (I like to lay them in a clockwise pattern so I can keep track of which ones have been in the longest.)

By the time the last piece is in (you may have to do 2 batches or use 2 pans), the first piece should be ready to turn.  Cook the chicken for about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.  (Trying to keep them warm in the oven will result in soggy chicken.)  For a fancy presentation, cut the chicken diagonally into strips and cover with reheated sauce from your favorite Chinese restaurant (we used Quick Wok) or whatever sauce you like.  (Warning: If you order any other type of sauce, check to make sure it’s not made with soy sauce, since most Chinese restaurants don’t use GF soy sauce.)

Crock Pot Pork Fried Rice/Quinoa
Serves 4

1/2 c. enriched white rice (also called long grain rice – not instant)
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained (or another 1/2 c. rice)
3 T. butter or nondairy margarine
2 T. GF soy sauce (we use La Choy brand)
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 c. frozen peas and carrots (or whatever veggies you like)
1 c. diced ham (we use half of a 12 oz. package of Hormel’s nitrate-free cubed ham)
1 egg

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 c. water (minus 2 T. for fluffier rice) to boiling.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. salt, rice and quinoa.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.  Fluff with fork.  While rice is cooking, chop onion and gather remaining ingredients.

In a 4-quart crock pot that’s been sprayed with nonstick spray, put 3 T. butter cut into cubes, chopped onion, and cooked rice/quinoa.  Stir in remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  Add veggies, ham, and egg.  Stir until combined, then with the back of your spoon, press mixture against the side and bottom of the crock pot for maximum crispy pieces.

Cook on high for 3 hrs.  If possible, I like to stir it after about 2 1/2 hrs. and press against the sides again to get more crispy pieces.  If rice/quinoa seems too soggy, shift the lid so some steam can escape and let it continue cooking on high for another 15 minutes while the moisture is allowed to get out.   Serve with the chicken recipe above or by itself.

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“Mom, can I spend my dollar on Brussels sprouts?” my 9-year-old son asked at Wal-Mart this week, while I nervously glanced around to see if anyone overheard this bizarre question.  Whenever the kids go grocery shopping with me, I like to give them a dollar to spend in the produce section, mostly in an effort to get them to cooperate and not drive me crazy.  This has led to several discoveries of fruits and veggies that aren’t on my regular shopping list (pluets, tangelos, Peter Pan squash – I still don’t know what you do with that one) since my son, in particular, loves to try new things.  But the passionate declaration that he wanted Brussels sprouts came from our recent discovery that they – like most veggies – taste wonderful roasted!

I have bad memories of Brussels sprouts from when I was a kid because I (like most of us, probably) grew up eating boiled veggies.  While some veggies are still best boiled, like peas or corn, our family prefers most other veggies either raw (like spinach as a salad leaf) or roasted.  If you’ve never tried roasting veggies, you’re missing out!  Roasting brings out different flavors in vegetables, and they don’t require lots of fussing or fancy sauces.  We would never have thought we’d love Brussels sprouts or broccoli.  But instead of complaining about having to eat their veggies, my kids’ only complaint nowadays is that I didn’t make enough for seconds!

If you’re interested in climbing on board the roasted veggie train, I’ve got even more good news for you.  First, you don’t have to wait for fresh veggies to be in season or come down in price.  I have my sister-in-law to thank for showing us that you can use frozen veggies, and they work perfectly well.  The fresh Brussels sprouts my son saw in the produce department cost $3, but a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts only cost $1.50.  To use frozen veggies, simply cook them a little longer.  There’s no need to thaw them first.

The other good news is that it’s still cool enough to use your oven at high temperatures without affecting your air-conditioning bill, but it’s starting to warm up enough, where we live, to occasionally use the grill outside.  Since the one downside of roasting is that it’s difficult to find a main dish that can cook alongside your veggies at the high temperatures required for roasting, the availability of the grill means there are now more choices for a main dish to accompany the roasted veggies.  (That’s right, I said the main dish accompanies our vegetables!)  So here are the basic instructions for roasting, along with a few menu suggestions.

Roasted Vegetables

Olive oil – extra virgin oil loses its benefits at high heat, so use the cheap stuff
Coarse salt,  regular salt, or garlic salt (we prefer coarse salt)
Fresh ground pepper, regular pepper, or lemon pepper
Fresh or frozen veggies – if using more than one type, cut longer-cooking varieties in smaller chunks

Here are some of our favorite combinations:

  • Asparagus with coarse salt, lemon pepper
  • Brussels sprouts with coarse salt, fresh ground pepper
  • Broccoli spears or cauliflower with coarse salt or garlic salt, pepper
  • Sliced yellow squash and zucchini with chopped onions & bell peppers, salt or garlic salt, pepper
  • Potatoes with Lowry’s seasoned salt, garlic salt, pepper
  • Cranberry Orange Yams

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a jellyroll pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Place fresh or frozen veggies on pan and drizzle with oil.  Gently toss to coat by rolling veggies around in oil.   (You can do this in a bowl, but why wash extra dishes?)  Sprinkle generously with seasonings.

When you’re first starting out, try roasting just one variety at a time, until you’re comfortable with how long that particular veggie (depending on size of cut) takes to cook.  My rule of thumb is about 15-20 minutes at 450 degrees for fresh veggies, like asparagus or squash.  Frozen veggies take 20-30 minutes, depending on size.  I like to roast potatoes in small chunks for 30-40 minutes at 425 degrees.  You can roast veggies at 400 – 425 degrees if you’re cooking them alongside another meat, but you’ll need to add more cooking time.  You want to roast them until the veggies are soft and some look slightly charred on the edges (but be prepared to thumb-wrestle your husband for the yummy, crispy asparagus tips!).

Once you have a feel for roasting times, you can experiment with different blends.  I’ve even roasted frozen stir fry veggie blends from store bought packages (my favorite being a roasted asparagus, yellow squash, mushroom, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and red pepper blend).  Prepackaged blends are handy because the vegetables are typically cut in the right size for you already.  Plus, if your kids don’t like a particular vegetable, they can pick out that one and eat the rest.  My kids used to hate summer squash, but we kept making veggie medleys with squash and allowed them to eat as little squash as they wanted, as long as they ate the other veggies.  They now like squash.

Menu Suggestions
Here are a few of our favorite menu ideas and recipes to get you started (as always, everything is naturally gluten free):

  • Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries and Roasted Asparagus (the sweet potatoes and asparagus can roast together in the oven).  As long as you’re grilling the chicken, throw on some fresh pineapple slices (the directions are at the bottom of the chicken recipe) for a delicious treat!
  • Herb Crusted Grilled Pork, Rice or Lundberg Creamy Parmesan Risotto (a GF boxed mix with natural ingredients), and Roasted Zucchini or Yellow Squash (with red peppers, onions, and garlic or garlic salt).   You can find frozen chopped peppers and onions, and toss those in with your squash (even if you’re using fresh squash).  Be sure you have a large enough pan so the squash isn’t crowded, because squash is full of liquid that will come out as it cooks, so you want to leave enough room for the liquid to evaporate.  (I tried roasting zucchini with potatoes once, and the potatoes ended up completely soggy instead of nicely browned.)
  • Smothered Chicken with Roasted Broccoli and Mashed Potatoes.  If you prefer, you can make roasted potatoes to cook alongside the broccoli while the chicken cooks on the stove.
  • Chicken Scallopini with Roasted Potatoes – if you haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for?!!
  • Grilled Shrimp (brushed with garlic butter) with Linguine (tossed with minced garlic and olive oil – we like Ancient Harvest GF quinoa pasta) and Roasted Asparagus Stir-Fry Veggie Blend (frozen package).
  • Herb Grilled Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa or Cranberry Orange Yams.  The recipe link is for a rosemary herb chicken, which works well with the cranberry orange yams.  Another option, that I recently served with Brussels sprouts and quinoa, is chicken that’s drizzled in olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkled with salt, pepper, and oregano.  If desired, top with Feta cheese.
  • Crock Pot “Lazy” Barbecue Ribs or Chicken with a Loaded Baked Potato and Roasted Anything!

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If you’ve only ever eaten yams with marshmallows on top, you’re missing out!  This is one of our favorite side dishes, and you just have to try it to discover how well orange juice and cranberries complement fresh yams.  Be careful when slicing fresh yams, however, because they are hard to cut.  Use your best knife (and husband) to cut these – the skinny ones (yams, not husbands) are easier to slice.  (I bought a mandolin slicing thingy for Christmas, and I still ask my husband to cut the yams.)  But trust me, they’re worth it!

2 lbs. (about 3 skinny ones) fresh yams, peeled and cut into 1-in. chunks
1/4 c. + 2 T. orange juice, divided
2 T. butter
2 T. oil
2 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. dried cranberries (Craisins)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine potatoes with 1/4 c. orange juice, butter, oil, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Distribute evenly in a greased 9″x13″ baking dish.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour remaining 2 T. orange juice over dried cranberries in measuring cup to plump them up.  Stir cranberries and push down into juice occasionally.

Remove potatoes from oven and add cranberries.  Stir.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender (watch to make sure cranberries don’t burn).

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