Monday, June 30, 2008

The First of Many Vegan Gluten-Free Food Fests

Since my friend Katie just went vegan, and I just went gluten-free, we decided that a gluttonous food fest was in order to celebrate the wonderful food we can still eat and feel good afterwards. Several of us came together, each with a different piece of the meal.

We started with this amazingly delicious Tofu Curry Cheesecake, courtesy of Heidi and Ben. Well, actually, we started with some powerful wine punch (also courtesy of Heidi and Ben), which was accidentally made stronger by the addition of some home-brewed dandelion wine from Justin's uncle (which Katie thought was dessert wine - oops!), so by the time it was time to start appetizing, I know I was feeling pretty ready for some food to be in my stomach! This is a savory cheesecake that is cooked slowly in a crock-pot for anywhere from 4 to, in this case, 7 1/2 hours, and is then served with Mango Ginger Chutney slathered all over it. We ate it spread over Hazelnut Nut Thin crackers. All I can say is, wow. I don't think anyone who is not vegan or gluten-free could possibly complain about a lack of flavor in this appetizer.

We slowly moved on to the main course and salads as we drank wine and chatted. There were two fantastic salads that night. Tracy brought a mixed greens and veggie salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, and Suzuko and Greg brought a quinoa-chickpea salad.

They were both just as good as they look! Tracy's salad was full of crunchy, delicious bell peppers and tomatoes, and the quinoa-chickpea salad was so light and flavorful, I really could not get enough of it.

I brought marinated tofu with a Moroccan dried fruit compote and rice, which was originally a recipe for Moroccan chicken, but I think it transferred very smoothly to be a vegan and gluten-free recipe! The flavors came out nicely, and the slightly sweet flavor of the fruit compote balanced nicely with the spices used to marinate the tofu.

And last, but absolutely not least....dessert. These were divine lemon cheesecakes with sliced strawberries on top that Katie and Justin concocted. This one is the gluten-free cheesecake made specially for me (thanks, Katie!), but the others had little crusts on them. I know the picture is a little blurry (it was getting dark at that point in the evening), but believe me, the photo does not do justice to how good this tasted.

Clearly this will need to be an evening that is repeated often, given all the delicious dishes people came up with even with, and because of, the ingredient restrictions! I can't wait to see what the next one brings. I will follow this post with recipes soon!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Cheesy" Broccoli Rice with Slivered Almonds

Tonight I made a dish that started out as a risotto, but because I am currently obsessed with the wonders of Tofutti dairy substitutes, turned into a wonderfully cheesy dish that would work well as a side or all on its own. It was a very creamy, yet amazingly light, rice dish that had a very pleasantly nutty crunch.

"Cheesy" Broccoli Rice with Slivered Almonds

1 1/2 tbsp. Earth balance
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 1/2 cups broccoli
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. thyme
2 cups Pacific chicken or vegetable broth + 1/4 cup broth or water (if needed)
1/4 cup slivered almonds (walnuts would also work well)
Pepper to taste
Garlic salt or sea salt, to taste (if desired)
1/4 cup Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese"
1-2 tbsp. Vegan Parmesan Grated Topping, to taste

Melt the Earth Balance Buttery Spread in a large saucepan and saute the garlic for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir, then pour in the 2 cups of chicken broth, 1/4 cup slivered almonds, and thyme. Add any other spices you think would go well in this dish; this is just how I made it. I would imagine that oregano, basil, rosemary, or parsley would also add a nice touch. Bring to a boil and cover, reduce heat to very low, and steam the rice for about 15 minutes. At that point, taste rice to see if it is done, and if it isn't, add 1/4 cup more chicken broth or water. Cover again and steam until the rice is done. Melt 1/4 cup Tofutti into the rice, then add 1-2 tbsp. Vegan Parmesan Topping to taste. Season with pepper, garlic salt, or sea salt to your own taste.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes in a Garlic "Butter" Sauce

Today I felt like twirling pasta. And when I walked into the kitchen, the first thing I saw was the package of plum tomatoes that I had bought 3 days ago and which were silently reprimanding me for letting them slowly waste away. So, that was that.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes in a Garlic "Butter" Sauce

4 - 5 oz. rice pasta (I used Trader Joe's Rice Sticks, which are shaped like linguine)
16 oz. plum or cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional; only if you want a little kick)
1 1/2 tsp. Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
1 tsp. minced garlic

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Wash the tomatoes and pat dry. If you prefer to have smaller pieces that are more spread out in the dish (which I think would have made this better), slice each of them lengthwise into halves. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and add the olive oil and dried spices and toss them all together. Place the tomatoes onto the baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. If they finish roasting before the rest of this is done, remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil salted water for the pasta. Add the rice sticks, bring back to a boil, and cook for 6-8 minutes (I think I took mine off the burner right at 7). While the pasta is boiling, melt the 1 1/2 tsp. Earth Balance Butter Spread in a small sauté pan with the 1 tsp. minced garlic. Sauté for about 4 - 5 minutes and remove from heat. Drain the pasta well and put it into a large serving bowl. Add the "butter"/garlic mixture and then the roasted tomatoes (be sure to get all the tomato juice and olive oil from the bottom of the pan!!) to the bowl and toss together well. It took me a couple of minutes to incorporate all of the spices throughout the pasta. Ready to serve! I sprinkled a little Vegan Parmesan Grated Topping on mine. A simple meal with only a few ingredients, yet the flavors are so wonderful together that it tastes complex.

Makes 2 large servings.

Simple Brown Bread

And who said that gluten-free people can't have bread? And for that matter, delicious bread??

I am not responsible for this recipe; it is the recipe for Simple Brown Bread found it in 125 Best Gluten-Free Recipes. Thank you, Donna Washburn and Heather Butt!! I am very impressed with how it turned out, and when I saw it actually rising, and when it smelled like real bread as it was baking, I was one very happy person. I think I waited approximately 1 minute after it came out of the oven before slicing a piece off for myself and smothering it in cashew butter and maple butter. I just wanted to share this cookbook as a resource for anyone else who is looking for some delicious gf recipe ideas.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer Fruit Crisp

I went to my parents' house last night for a belated Father's Day celebration, and when I got there, I found that my mom had made a special gluten-free apple crisp for dessert! She had adapted a recipe from a Cooking with Kids cookbook to make it and used the only gluten-free flour she had on-hand, which was potato starch. It turned out to be wonderful, and even my brother liked it (most of my family politely decline when I offer them a taste of anything gluten-free), so much so that he even had seconds! I thought this was a delicious dessert, and if you omit the egg and substitute Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or something comparable), you could easily adapt this to be a vegan recipe (although my mom said that the texture would suffer without the egg and might not be crumbly anymore). Also, feel free not to use only apples; this recipe would be wonderful with pears, peaches, or any other fruit (or combination thereof). My family topped theirs with ice cream, and I used my Vanilla Rice Dream (which is perhaps the only food I can leave at my parents' house with absolutely no concerns about someone else eating it!). So here is my mom's adaptation of the recipe:

Summer Fruit Crisp

10-12 cups sliced apples (or other fruit)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
1 cup + 5 tbsp. potato starch, divided (or your favorite gf flour/flour blend)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. gf baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 375 F. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.

Grease the inside of an 9''x13'' square baking pan with Wesson Oil. Take 1/3 cup sugar and 3 tbsp. potato starch and mix together. Mix the fruit with this mixture (10-12 cups of sliced apples). Pat the fruit into the bottom of the pan. Then take about 1 cup potato starch + 2 tbsp. and mix with 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt and mix together well. Beat one egg in a separate bowl and mix it into the dry mixture first using a fork, and then use your hands to mix it further until it turns into a nice, crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples. Bake for about 30 min., check for doneness, and if it needs more time, turn it around and bake for about 10 more minutes until brown on top and the sides are bubbling. Turn the oven off and let it sit in the oven until you are ready to serve it; this is best eaten warm. Top with vanilla ice cream or Vanilla Rice Dream (and sprinkle cinnamon over the whole thing, if desired).

**I have also seen recipes for gluten-free crisps using Quinoa flakes, or if you tolerate gluten-free oats, you could top this with one of these as well.

**If you prefer to make a smaller crisp, I believe the original recipe called for using 6 cups of fruit with an 8"x8" pan, so you could probably just halve the entire recipe in that case.

Creamy Vegan Pasta con Broccoli

I don't know if anyone else remembers Rich and Charlie's, an Italian restaurant in the St. Louis area that closed a few years back. In fact, I'm not even entirely sure that there isn't still one of them open somewhere around here, hiding in West County or some other part of St. Louis that I rarely visit. My family used to go there often when I was younger. It was considered a treat in my family to go there, not just because of the amazingly good salad (which is a lot like the Pasta House salad, but much better), but also because their sauces were the best we could get anywhere. My favorite was Pasta con Broccoli, and even though you can find this at other Italian restaurants now (again, Pasta House), the version at Rich and Charlie's remains my favorite. I haven't had this kind of pasta in a very long time, given that it's filled with gluten and tons of dairy, but last night I decided to attempt a replication. And here's what I got:

Perhaps it was my starved palate talking, but I think it's pretty close to the real thing. And even if it is a little different, it was still delicious on its own! 

Vegan Creamy Pasta con Broccoli

1 1/2 cups brown rice pasta shells
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 1/2 tbsp. Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/4 cups mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese" (can be purchased at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods)
1/4 cup rice milk (or plain soy, almond, or hemp milk)
1/2 - 1 cup gluten-free tomato sauce, to taste (I used Trader Joe's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara)
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp. Vegan Grated Topping (Parmesan flavor), to taste
1/4 - 3/4 tsp. garlic salt, to taste
Pepper to taste

Cook the pasta al dente as directed (I boiled mine for about 9 minutes). Drain, rinse with cold water, remove from heat, and cover.

While the pasta is cooking, boil another pot of water and add the broccoli florets to the pot. Bring to a boil again, and cook for 4 minutes until it is lightly crunchy. Drain, remove from heat, and cover to retain heat.

In a large sauté pan, melt the Earth Balance Buttery Spread with the minced garlic, then add the chopped mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms for 4-7 minutes, then add the cooked broccoli to the pan and stir into the mushrooms. Continue to sauté for about 2 minutes longer. Add the 1/2 cup Tofutti, rice milk, and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, and let it all melt together. The sauce will appear a little strange at this point and it might look like the Tofutti is separating into unappetizing chunks, but give it a few more minutes and it will melt into a beautiful cream sauce. At this point, taste the sauce and if desired, add more tomato sauce by the spoonful until you reach your own desired balance of flavors. Sprinkle the pepper and garlic salt into the sauce (or if you would prefer less sodium, garlic powder) and again, test to your own taste. Then add the 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp. of Vegan Parmesan Grated Topping. I fiddled around with the taste quite a bit until I found the right balance for me, so feel free to do the same. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for about 5 more minutes until you are happy with the consistency. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix together. Serve immediately, sprinkled with more Parmesan if desired. Makes 2-3 servings.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Roasted Chicken Sandwich

I had to share this sandwich with you, because I just got done eating it and am now sad that there is none left. Even though I know that most of the people reading this blog right now are NOT gluten-free, you could easily just make this with whatever gluten-filled bread you have on hand. I know that some people wait a while before attempting to enjoy gluten-free bread because they fear that it just won't taste like they want it to, but I pretty much just dove right into the world of gf breads and baked goods as soon as I started the diet and have been very pleasantly surprised at how tasty (albeit different) a lot of them are.

I came across this recipe from Ginger Lemon Girl as I was scouring the various gf blogs out there, and modified it oh-so-slightly to make it non-dairy. To do this, I omitted the 1/2 cup instant non-fat milk and increased the sorghum flour to 3/4 cup and increased the millet flour to 1/2 cup and followed the rest of the recipe exactly as it appears. I will probably continue to experiment with it, but it definitely turned out pretty well and had the springy bread feel when it was finished baking. I have been eating sandwiches all week for lunch on this delicious bread! Today I made this one using some leftover Baba Ghanoush dip I had bought at a Mediterranean grocery last week (this is a garlicky roasted eggplant spread that is creamy, a bit like hummus). Regular or garlic hummus could certainly be used in its place in this sandwich.

Roasted Chicken Sandwich with Avocado, Spinach, and Baba Ghanoush

2 slices of your favorite gf sandwich bread
2-3 slices gf roasted chicken or turkey (I got mine from the deli at Dierbergs)
1/4 avocado, mashed
3-4 tbsp. Baba Ghanoush or garlic hummus (TJ's hummus varieties are ALL gf!)
Baby spinach leaves
1-2 tsp. creamy cashew butter
Salt and Pepper

Smear the desired amount of avocado on both slices of bread, then spread the Baba Ghanoush or hummus over that, and salt and pepper each side lightly. Fold one of the slices of chicken up to fit the bread and place it on one side, and then spread the cashew butter across the chicken, then place the second slice of chicken on top of that. Add the spinach and put the other piece of bread on top. I'd recommend cutting it in half because it gets a little hard to manage with all the ingredients loaded onto those tiny pieces of bread!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Spring Greens with Fried Egg and Herbed Rice

This is my first post on a food blog, ever. I started this blog after being put on a gluten-free diet by my doctor;  I had already given up most dairy several months before. I typically get a pitying look when I tell people about this, but it really isn't as bad as people think. I can still have lots of delicious meals, and now I feel good after eating them. And this is a way for me to chronicle the successful meals and share the recipes with others, since I have already benefited so much from the ideas and blogs of other the other geniuses at work in the gluten-free community.

My friend Lisa came over last night, and because we were a little pressed for time, we decided to throw something quick and easy together for dinner. It turned out to be fantastic! She brought some bok choy, and I had kale from the farmer's market, so we turned it into a layered assemblage of ingredients (which makes any food look fancier). I loved the contrasting flavors of this simple meal, and it was so easy to put together that I'm sure I'll be eating this again soon.

Sautéed Bok Choy and Kale with Fried Egg and Herbed Rice

3/4 cup Jasmine rice (or your favorite rice)
Fresh chives, oregano, and thyme
2-3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2-4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
2-3 cups kale
2-3 cups bok choy
2 large eggs
Salt and Pepper
1-2 hot chilies (optional)

Cook the rice according to the directions (we used about 3/4 cup of dry Jasmine rice and had more than enough for the two of us). When the rice is completely steamed, add fresh chopped herbs (thyme, oregano, basil, chives), salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and replace lid until ready to serve.

Wash bok choy and kale, and chop off any rough ends of the stems. Heat approx. 1-2 tbsp. olive oil with 2 - 4 cloves garlic in a large pan or pot, depending on your taste. Place whole or chopped bok choy and kale in the pan, sauté for about 5 minutes, and add 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth. Cover and cook on medium-high until the broth starts to bubble, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let steam for about 10-12 minutes until the greens are wilted and bright green. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can add one or two hot chilies or a dash of crushed red pepper to the broth while it is cooking if you would like this to be a little spicier. However, these greens are pretty delicious on their own, and you don't want to eclipse their natural flavors too much.

When the bok choy and kale are almost done, begin to heat another frying pan to low-medium heat and coat with cooking spray or olive oil. Salt and pepper the bottom of the pan if desired, then crack two eggs into the pan and fry until the whites are cooked and the yolk is still soft and runny.

Place a bed of rice on your plate, then add a heaping of the kale and bok choy, and finally, place the egg on top. Serve. Appreciate its beauty. Enjoy.