Living without gluten, casein, soy, eggs and peanuts. Living with ASD and ADHD. Life is good!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Crock Pot Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

 (This dish looks like it took all day to cook, no?  But it didn't!  My crock pot strikes again!)

School has started for the year.  I'd say this begins my busy season, but I was pretty busy all summer long.  However, I was home more this summer and will be home less this school year.  So this year will see heavy use of my crock pot!

To start the school year I thought a fairly spiffy dinner would be in order.  I had made this Arroz Con Pollo dish a little while ago on the stove top and it turned out really, really good.  I wanted to do this in the crock pot too, so here's my take on it.  I love this dish with big stuffed green olives but left them out this time in deference to the girls.  They already whimper about little tomato bits in their food - why provoke them further with big green olives?  I really do recommend the olives, though, they add a nice touch.  I got something green into the girls in the end...sliced avocado on top of the rice and roasted broccoli on the side!

 (So easy, so lovely, cooked without intervention or supervision...a sight that makes this busy mom smile.)

Crock Pot Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups long grain brown rice
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I like salsa style!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. oregano
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 - 2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, bones in and skins on, fat trimmed, rinsed and patted dry
several whole green pimento stuffed olives, if desired

Heat the 3 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pan or dutch oven over medium-low.  Add the rice, onion and garlic, stirring until the rice is browned and the onion is beginning to soften.  Scrape the rice mixture into a crock pot.  Set the pan aside.

In a bowl, combine the chicken stock through the oregano and stir to combine.  Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture, pour the rest over the rice in the crock pot and stir to combine.

Return the pan to the heat and add the 2 tbsp. of olive oil.  Brown the chicken pieces on all sides.  Place the chicken pieces, skin-side up, on top of the rice mixture in the crock pot.  Pour the 1/2 cup of reserved chicken stock mixture over the chicken.  Scatter several olives over all.  Cover and cook on low 6 - 8 hours or on high 3 - 4 hours, or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a fork.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fried Okra (Gluten Free & Vegan)

I know.  I swore I would never eat okra, and here I am posting a recipe for fried okra.  But I am a practical person, and this weekend found freshly picked okra on the counter, staring at me.  Daring me.  DH went to a friend's community garden plot to help harvest veggies and came home with the long green pods.  They were fresh, organic and free.  So I swallowed my pride and cooked okra for dinner.  

Turns out, fried okra is pretty good as long as the coating is crunchy!  I was able to achieve a fabulously crispy coating with coconut milk and millet flour that a fried okra eating friend said was really yummy.  She and Anna liked theirs plain, Megan liked hers with ketchup, and DH and I liked ours with hot sauce.  To each their own!

Fried Okra
fresh okra, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized chunks
lite coconut milk
lemon juice
millet flour
cayenne pepper   
a few cups of canola oil

First, heat the oil in a fryer (oil level should be to the fryer's specifications) or a dutch oven over medium heat to 375 degrees.  Meanwhile, stir together the coconut milk (about 1/2 can) with a splash of lemon juice.  Working in batches, toss the okra in the coconut milk mixture and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  The coconut milk will get thick thanks to okra's thickening properties - no egg needed here!

In a separate dish, whisk together about two cups of millet flour with some salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and some cayenne pepper if desired (about 1/4 teaspoon).  Toss the coconut milk-soaked okra with the millet flour mixture, coating the okra well.  Fry the okra in batches in the hot oil until it looks crispy and golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Drain the okra on paper towels, sprinkle with a little salt if needed, and serve hot. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fresh Fig Jam

 Fresh fig jam on gluten free yummy!

I have a friend who has two enormous fig trees.  She hates those trees, does not like figs and does not harvest the fruit.  When she told me she wanted to rip her fig trees out of the ground to make room for something else I nearly had a cow.  You want to do what?  Do you know how expensive fresh figs are in the stores, and you have them for free in your yard?  I will harvest your figs!  Don't rip down your trees!  

So I got my rear end over there with a big bucket and picked as many fresh figs as I possibly could, and then I got my rear end into the kitchen and made fig jam.  Do you know how expensive fig jam is in the stores, I asked my friend, and I just made scads for practically free?  She is still not convinced.  If she does choose to cut down her trees, I will take a cutting or two to plant in my yard.  Fig jam is wonderful stuff and this year, friends and family will be getting some for holiday gifts.

We enjoy fig jam on sandwiches, but you can make fig bars with it too!

For this recipe I mostly followed my tattered but trusty Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving, but I also took tips HERE on the preparation of fresh figs.  I also went HERE for a refresher on the rules of canning - if you have never canned before, I highly recommend you read that and get yourself a Ball Blue Book too.  This recipe here is also an excellent guide with pictures to making fig jam.  My Ball Blue Book specified using 6 cups of sugar, but I cut down on the sugar by two cups because 6 cups makes the jam just too sweet to my taste.  I think 4 cups of sugar makes it plenty sweet.  Maybe because of the decreased sugar, I had to add a little pectin** to my recipe.  In the end, my jam came out perfect - thick, smooth and beautiful.  Tasty, too!

Fresh Fig Jam

5 pounds fresh ripe* figs, stemmed and peeled
4 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
**1 tsp. Pomona's Universal Pectin plus 2 tbsp. sugar plus  1 tsp. included calcium water, if desired
1/4 cup lemon juice 

Prepare your jars and lids (I used 12 jars).  The jars need to be clean and sterilized and kept hot - the lids do not need to be sterilized, but they do need to be washed and to be kept hot.  I have a sanitize option on my dishwasher, so I just run the jars and lids in the dishwasher - I have to time this correctly so the jars are hot when I am ready for them.  Or you can wash your jars in the sink, then put them in a pot of water.  Bring the water to a boil, and boil the jars and lids for 10 minutes to sterilize them.  Keep them in hot water until you are ready to fill them with jam.  You can keep the lids in a smaller pot of hot water until ready to use.  If the jars are not hot when you put hot jam into them, they could break, and that is no fun.

In a large pot, combine the sugar, cinnamon and water.  Add the figs.  *You don't want figs that are so ripe they are mushy or bruised easily.  And it's okay to throw in some almost-ripe figs, as the slightly under-ripe ones have more natural pectin.  Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer.  Skim any foam off the top if necessary.  Cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until mixture thickens, about an hour.  You can mash the figs a bit to break them up into smaller bits if you wish.

Meanwhile, fill your canner with water and get the water hot.

If after an hour of cooking down the jam has gelled to your liking**, add the 1/4 cup lemon juice.  Return to a boil and boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.  

**To see if your jam has gelled, keep a spoon in the fridge.  Scoop a bit of the jam onto the cold spoon, and let the jam on it cool to room temperature.  If it is thick to your liking, that's that.  If not, then keep cooking to the gelling point.  I cooked my jam for an hour and a half and it still was not gelled enough for me, so I added some Pomona's pectin to help things along - not as much as suggested on the recipe sheet inside the pectin box, but that extra teaspoon of pectin turned out to be just perfect.  To add pectin to the jam, thoroughly mix it with the 2 tbsp. sugar and then whisk the sugar/pectin mixture and the calcium water vigorously into the hot jam.  Bring the jam to a boil and boil for 1 - 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Fill hot jars with hot jam, leaving 1/4 inch of head space between the jam and the rim of the jar.  Wipe the rim of the jar clean with a damp cloth or paper towel (debris on the rim will prevent the lid from sealing).  Adjust the two piece caps (not too tight) and place the jars on the basket that comes with the canner.  Lower the basket into the water.  The water should only cover the jars by 2 - 3 inches.  Bring the water to a boil, then cover the canner and boil for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and lift the jars out of the canner.  I put them on a towel on the counter to cool - the jars should not touch one another to allow for circulation.  Sometimes the jars seal in the canner and sometimes they will seal after you take them out of the canner - I love to hear the popping sound the lids make as they seal.  If after 12 hours you have any jars that do not seal (the bump in the center of the lid has not gone flat), store those jars in the fridge.  For all jars that seal, store in a cool dark place for up to a year.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread for the Bread Machine

The other day it occurred to me that I have not made cinnamon raisin bread in years!  How could that have happened?!  There's almost nothing that smells better than baking cinnamon raisin bread (unless it's apple pie).  As hot as it is right now, it is almost time for school to start and that means that autumn is just around the corner.  My mind is beginning to fill with all things autumn, including the memory of the way this bread smells just out of the oven.  This past weekend memory and reality met in my kitchen and smiled.  This bread is heavenly. 

Cinnamon Raisin Bread (Gluten Free, Casein Free, Egg Free)

2 1/2 cups GF flour blend (I use Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour Blend)
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins

6 tbsp. warm gelatin egg substitute
1 cup warm rice milk or other non-dairy alternative
3 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. rapid rise yeast

In a large bowl, sift together the flour through the cinnamon.  Toss the raisins into the flour mixture, coating the raisins completely and making sure they are separated and not in clumps.  Set aside.

Pour the gelatin egg substitute, warm water, oil, honey and vinegar into the bread machine pan. Pour the flour mixture over the water mixture, covering the water mixture completely. Add the yeast on top of the flour. Set the bread machine to the gluten-free setting, medium crust. Help the mixing with a spatula, if needed. Add a tablespoon of water if the mixture is too dry.  When the machine has stopped kneading, take out the kneading paddle and smooth the top of the loaf with your fingers. Replace the lid and let the bread machine do its thing.

(Lumpy but beautiful bread chock full of raisins)

Immediately after the baking cycle has finished, run a soft spatula around the sides of the bread to loosen the loaf from the bread pan.  Turn the pan upside down and gently shake to turn the bread out of the bread pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing. Store on the counter for up to two days. After two days, store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fresh Black Eyed Peas

It is hot, hot, hot!  The grass is dying, trees are losing their leaves like it's autumn, and the sun on my skin really hurts in only 15 minutes.  Nothing moves around outside past noon, even in the shade.  Our one-eyed yard squirrel, affectionately named "Chomper" by the girls, has been seen laying in a crook of one of our trees, languishing in the heat, not bothering to move away from us when we approach her, mouth wide open with a look that begs us to put her out of her misery.  Poor Chomper, I wonder how she gets water when it has not rained in weeks.  I hope she comes out tonight when I water the lawn to get a good, long drink.

About the only thing loving the heat and the relentless sun are our black eyed peas.  We got them started late, but they are one of the only things our garden is producing right now.  One of our friends who got them started much earlier has more black eyed peas than he knows what to do with, and we were recipients of so many black eyed peas that we ended up giving some of them away! 

 Shelling fresh black eyed peas on the porch, waiting in vain for a bit of rain

Surprisingly, the girls really like to shell beans.  They think it's fun to sit on the porch and chat together for an hour at a time, laughing at the way the more mature pods open up like zippers.  Sitting with them, shelling beans together, made me feel like we had been transported back in time.  I felt very old-fashioned, like the only thing we were missing were petticoats.  I marveled at the way the conversation seemed to flow effortlessly and how Anna did not get tired of cackling every time a black eyed pea jumped down her shirt.  Shelling beans seems to be good "therapy" - it inspires conversation and social interaction and it is a good tactile fine-motor activity as well.  Black eyed peas also happen to be tasty and good for your health, which makes them an all-purpose legume in our house.

I have never been a fan of dried black eyed peas or the way they turn mushy when you cook them.  However, I could be a slave to fresh black eyed peas!  Their taste is delicate and fresh and I love their texture - when they are cooked to just tender the skins pop in your mouth.  Shelling fresh black eyed peas is a lot of work, but it's so worth it!  So far, the recipe below (based on this recipe here) is my favorite way to cook fresh black eyed peas.  I make them with chicken broth and smoked sausage, but you could substitute vegetable broth instead and leave out the sausage for  a vegan version of this dish.

I like fresh black eyed peas served over sauteed greens, such as spinach or chard.

Fresh Black Eyed Peas

1 medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
about 1 pound fresh black eyed peas
chicken broth
1 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. hot sauce (I like Tabasco Chipotle)
smoked sausage, cut lengthwise into 2 inch chunks
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro, plus more to garnish
salt and pepper to taste
2 large scallions, white and green parts sliced thinly

Place the onion, garlic and black eyed peas in a pot.  Pour in enough chicken broth to just barely cover the peas - you want this dish to be thick, not soupy.  Stir in the lime juice, hot sauce, cilantro and smoked sausage.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer about 45 minutes until the peas are tender, stirring often to prevent sticking.  Turn off the heat.  Adjust the salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.  Stir in the scallions and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.  Serve hot over rice or cornbread.