Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cornbread Topped Chili

Pardon me while I continue my love affair with my Dutch oven and create a delicious gluten and dairy free chili with cornbread.

1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lbs ground beef
1 can (15.5 oz) of dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can (15.5 oz) of light red kidney beans, drained
1 can (14 oz) cream style corn, undrained
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
1 t paprika
Cornbread recipe and ingredients

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes. Then add the garlic and ground beef. Cook until beef is browned. Mix together the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika) in a small bowl. Add beans, corn, tomatoes, and spice mixture to the Dutch oven. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for about 20-25 minutes.

Preheat oven according to the cornbread recipe. Prepare your favorite cornbread recipe. I used the Corn Bread (corn-based) recipe from You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free! by Roben Ryberg, substituting with rice milk.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking oil. Add the chili to the pan. Pour the cornbread mixture on top. Cook until the cornbread is cooked, remembering to adjust the cooking time. If the cornbread recipe is for an 8x8 pan, you’ll want to start checking the cornbread for doneness around 2/3 of the way through the cooking time.

Makes approximately 8 portions.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More Than Just Fuel

During the week, my eating habits glorify food as fuel. Come Friday nights, I want to sit down, shut off my laptop and just ENJOY my food. Last night, I treated myself: I laid out one of my fancy place mats, pulled out my best plate, and cooked a simple yet very satisfying and tasty dinner.

Rice - courtesy of my rice maker. Two cups of rice made with three crushed garlic cloves, a bay leaf, and about 1/2 tablespoon or so of lemon juice. Adorned with cut chives from the windowsill garden.

Broccoli - steamed in a small pot on the stove. Tossed with a splash of lemon juice.

Steak - seasoned with Kosher salt and ground pepper. Cooked on the George Foreman grill for 4-5 minutes. Topped with a little more salt and pepper.

With food intolerances and allergies, it is easy to obsess and analyze every bit of food to the point where the food is never tasted or enjoyed. Having naturally safe foods is an easy way to relax and have no need to worry about whether or not the food is okay to eat. (This is much easier with a dedicated gluten and dairy free kitchen filled with products that have already had every label thoroughly read a few times!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Frontera Fresco

"Hi. Are your Chipotle Chicken tamales gluten free?"
The cashier looked at me blankly.
"I'm gluten intolerant."
She asked the chef. He shrugged.
"Your website says they are."

The cashier replied: "Then they must be."

I was tempted to walk away, but the lure of a hot tamale or two was too strong. Was it worth getting sick? I normally don't gamble but I was tempted. I was craving these tamales since the night before when I tried to go to Frontera Fresco - the Rick Bayless restaurant - at Macy's in the Loop only to be disappointed by their lunch-only hours. The website lists all of items that are made without any gluten-containing ingredients, but I would still be at risk for possible cross-contamination - especially if the two employees I saw did not know which items were gluten free. I had a less than ideal time ordering my food (and then waiting 10 minutes for someone else to come, take them out of the pot and garnish them).
The taste? AMAZING! The ground corn, chicken and spices combined for such a powerful flavor combination. And the location? I was eating in the cafeteria at Macy's. The location is kind of a big deal for me - I haven't gone to any cafeteria-style settings because it is much harder for my gluten-free needs to be addressed. I had a great lunch and enjoyed my tamales!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


...or why I spent my Valentine's Day crying alone in my apartment.

This has been a soup week for me. Even the Onion is talking about it being Perfect Soup Weather.

My mom was very excited to see that Progresso Soup's are labeled "gluten free". "You don't need to make soup any more!" Since I haven't had the greatest luck with soups and broths (many contain milk and/or wheat), I started making my own broth (which is easier than it sounds - I'm close to having a chicken broth recipe to post here - I keep changing my mind with ingredients lately! No two batches have been the same). My own broths led to my own soups filling plastic containers in my freezer. When I want soup for lunch, I move it from the freezer to fridge the night before. But now there is the option for a commercially available, conveniently labeled can of soup for a really low price! Progresso currently has quite a few options of gluten free soups on the market and their attention to declaring allergens clearly is much appreciated. I stocked up on the Garden Vegetable soups and keep a secret stash in my desk drawer at work so I have access to a quick, flavorful and filling lunch.

And for when I do not want the ease of opening a can, dumping the contents in a cup and microwaving for a few minutes: I make my own soup. I bought a soup bone and let my meet cook and stock simmer for over four hours. The next day, I quickly sliced five onions (hence the Valentine's Day tears) and started the hour and a half long process of making the French Onion soup. Near the end of the cooking time, I placed two defrosted slices of Udi's bread on tin foil and grated some Teese (vegan cheese) on top. I cooked the bread and cheese for 12 minutes at 400 degrees. After my soup was in the bowl, I placed the bread on top. The taste was good - I realized that I should have let the stock reduce some more and cook the onions just a few minutes longer, but for my first attempt at beef stock and French Onion soup, I did a great job!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lindberg Risotto

Not everything I make can be from scratch. So sometimes I have to rely on packages for variety in my meals. I came across Lundberg Risotto. Some of their options are clearly labeled as Gluten Free and Vegan on the front! Win! No flipping the box around to find something dangerous on the ingredients list!

Last night I made the Florentine: Spinach and Mushroom risotto. To jazz it up, I added some fresh mushrooms to the last five minutes of cooking. The dish was topped with freshly chopped rosemary. The risotto was good - it wasn't out-of-the-ordinary delicious - but it was an easy to make risotto that had my dietary restrictions already in mind.

Side note: I'm impressed at how well some of my herbs are doing, considering they are always sitting on a freezing cold windowsill during Chicago's winters! Growing my own herbs allows me to easily (and cheaply) add some extra flavor and color to an already tasty dish!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's in the Freezer

I've been busy working lately. Translation: not cooking.

Convenience store foods and fast food restaurants are out. God bless the freezer. And ziplock containers and freezer bags.

Quite literally, the only thing I cooked this week was two cups of rice and a grilled cheese sandwich (using Udi's bread and vegan cheese - quite tasty!). I've been raiding my freezer and finding lots of delicious meals. Too busy to cook? Have some chili. Or a stew I cooked two months ago and never had time to blog about. Or Moroccan chicken. Just move the freezer bag or container from freezer to fridge the night before, take to work with some rice or gf noodles, and heat for a minute or two. Delicious home cooked meal every time! Spice things up a bit with gluten free and vegan soup from Trader Joe's that only costs a dollar and getting through the week with very minimal damage to my checking account and every meal packed with nutrients. Well, except for the brownies I have leftover from watching the Super Glee episode on Sunday with my friends.

And of course, I'm still going to splurge and treat myself to a Chipotle rice bowl at the end of the week. :-)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wicker Park Dining

"I haven't had sushi."
"When? Today?"

I finally tried sushi! One of my friends was utterly shocked that I never had sushi...ever. So when another friend suggested going to Sushi Para in Wicker Park, I was interested. At this point, since my intolerances restrict me from a lot of foods, I can no longer afford to be a picky eater. So with an open mind and my dining card in hand, I ordered sushi. This was the time I was the most thankful to have my Triumph Dining Card! I told the waitress I was gluten intolerant and could not eat anything with soy sauce and showed her the card. While she was reading it (in both English on the reverse in Japanese) I also said I never had sushi before and asked for recommendations. I ordered one roll of the Salmon Sushi and a bowl of Edadame (which triggered two other bowls being ordered for a table of five). The sushi was really good, but I was kicking myself for not bringing any of my travel packs of gluten free soy sauce with me. I'm looking forward to being more adventerous with my sushi selections in the future.

And because my friends are all foodies and despite the whole "dead of winter in Chicago" and frigid temperatures, we went out for dessert...frozen yogurt at Forever Yogurt. I was planning on just sitting at the table with everyone, but then I noticed their nutrition information...which included allergens...with many gluten free options and more importantly for this dessert...NON-DAIRY FROZEN YOGURT!! I had the Orange Burst Sorbet with fresh raspberries on top. There were plenty of sweet toppings to chose from, but getting a fruit flavor pulls me to having more fruit. I loved sitting with my friends and eating the same thing as everyone else (except for the one smart person in our group who ordered hot chocolate). I can see Forever Yogurt being one of my favorite summer spots - the consistency of frozen yogurt is greatly missed with my dairy free diet.

Pan fried tilapia with asparagus

This was a very easy and delicious dinner with fresh flavors that reminded me of summer:

I bought tilapia filets and rinsed them and patted them dry. I very lightly breaded them with a bit of brown rice flour and freshly chopped parsley. They cooked in a nonstick pan with about 1/2 T of vegetable oil spread (instead of butter) for about 4 minutes before I flipped them and cooked for another 2 or 3 minutes.

I snapped the woody ends off the asparagus and placed in boiling water and cooked for about 6 minutes before quickly transferring them to a bowl of ice water to blanch.

Plate and squeeze some fresh lemon over the fish!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowmageddon '11 Baking

Most of Chicago shut down completely today. I worked from home and spent my "lunch hour" making gingerbread dough and then photographing the beach and park and Lake Shore Drive. Chicago was eeirely calm and it was bizarre to walk in the middle one of the busiest roads with snow drifts almost as tall as me.

The snow day afforded me the time to make the cookie dough, refrigerate it, and roll it into cookies. And in honor of the Snowmageddon, why not snowmen cookies?

It took me a while to find a gingerbread recipe WITHOUT almond flour. Finally, I found this one. The cookies were easy to make. I made two substitutions: I used an egg instead of applesauce and I used Crisco since I couldn't find palm oil shortening. The cookies are great tasting and the dough is easy to manipulate and roll. I still need to work on my rolling technique - growing up we had small boards to ensure our dough was evenly rolled. I may have to find my own...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowmageddon '11

Here in Chicago we are starting Snowmageddon - the worst blizzard in at least a decade. And the city is shutting down. My facebook news feed was littered with "work was canceled" and generic "blizzard!" statuses. And then there were the food statuses! Apparently most of the city went to the grocery store to stock up the past two days. I've heard reports from two different people that the stores were out of bananas. Really? I completely understand milk and bread, but bananas? As one of my co-workers pointed out, they are really only good for two days... But being lactose intolerant finally had a "win!" moment - rice milk has a long shelf life (I've seen up to nine months) unopened. No need for me to brave long grocery store lines since I buy plenty in advance! And bread? It's in the freezer! I still have leftover slices from Battle of the Breads.

For me, leaving work early and needing to go straight home meant that I had time to cook a proper dinner. I have been eying the pumpkin dumplings with bacon and radicchio in Cooking for Isaiah for quite some time. I bought my pumpkin around Halloween and finally bought radicchio over the weekend. And bacon? There's always some in my fridge. The recipe is fairly easy and Silvana does a great job laying out the steps since a pot and a pan are going simultaneously. My failure to mise en plas the radicchio came back to bite me since I had my back turned from my bacon and onion pan for half a minute too long and I burned my beautifully diced onion. (I'm getting the hang of dicing onions now - major thanks to Jamie Oliver!) This was a great dish and the dumplings were like softer, more flavorful gnocchi.And if you can see the street from the window, you'll notice the empty roads. I live along a major road in Chicago and everything is empty. I barely made it home because of the strong winds (had to walk through an alley and then before crossing the street I needed to hug a street light so I wouldn't blow into traffic!) If tomorrow's weather is anything like today's, I'll be spending my evening baking!