November 30, 2008

Gluten Free Goulash

I've always been a big fan of goulash.  Growing up in central New York, goulash was one of my mom's staple dinners.  With so many options for gluten free pasta on the market now, the pastabilities are endless.  This is the first time I have ever actually made goulash the way it's supposed to be (slow cooked).  When I typically make a goulash-like pasta dish, I boil the pasta separately, and then add all the sauce ingredients afterwards.  What makes goulash taste so much better, is that the pasta is slowly boiled within the sauce.

The smell that filled my home as this dish cooked was amazing! I knew I was in for something special. The first bite instantly transported me back to countless dinners shared with my mother and brother. I kept picturing my brother and I devouring our goulash, while the sun slowly drifted toward the horizon outside our windows.  It was a race to the finish so that we could go back outside and take advantage of the last but of sunlight left. I love how food can help us access memories long ago filed into the recesses of our minds.

This recipe calls for Soy Sauce, which is often gluten-ous.  There are a few varieties of gluten free soy sauce to choose from, by I use "SAN-J Organic Tamari, Wheat Free Soy Sauce." Most herbs and seasoning salts are gluten free, but make sure to check the ingredients.

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 8

Goulash Ingredients
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 large yellow onions (chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves, (chopped)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce 
  • 2 cans (15 oz) diced tomatoes 
  • 3 tblsp. soy sauce (gluten free)
  • 2 tblsp. Italian seasoning (or mix Oregano, Basil, Sage)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tblsp. seasoned salt (I used Goya)
  • 2 cups uncooked gluten free elbow pasta

Goulash Directions
  1. In a deep pot, cook the ground beef on medium-high until no longer pink (breaking it up as it cooks). Spoon out the fat as it pools. Add the onion and garlic to the beef, and cook until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes)
  2. Stir in the water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, and seasoned salt. Heat till boiling, then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Stir the elbow pasta into the beef mixture. Cover and simmer on low for 25 more minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking
  4. Remove from heat, fish out and discard the bay leaves. Stir it up good to distribute flavors and return lid to pot. Let sit about 30 minutes before serving. 
  5. Devour and Enjoy!

November 27, 2008

Eating Mofongo in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!  Every year my partner Mindy and I fly to Chicago to spend turkey day with the Massaro clan.  It's an event I always look forward to, not only for the great food and company, but also to enjoy some much needed down-time amidst my busy grad-school schedule.  Right now I'm chillaxin at Melanie's house, one of Mindy's 5 sisters. The crowned pork roast is in the oven, and the two salsas I made are marinating in the fridge.  In an hour or so it will be off to the parent's to begin the feast! I think I just drooled on myself.

When I get time to relax, I begin to reminisce about the things I've done over the semester. A few weeks ago I was lucky to have the opportunity to spend time in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was awesome! I loved it!  One of the first things I wanted to do when I arrived, was venture out and sample some local foods.  Mindy and I ended up finding a great little place called El Jibarito Puerto Rico. The wait-staff were extremely friendly and helpful. I explained my gluten issues and he let me know exactly what to avoid on the menu. He seemed pretty knowledgeable about food allergies, and was happy to help me. I asked what would be one of the most traditional Puerto Rican dishes on the menu, and our waiter immediately said "Mofongo!"  So Mofongo it was!  I'm so glad too, because I absolutely loved it!  It was pure comfort food.  Mofongo is basically mashed plantain with garlic and spices, stuffed with a variety of fillings.  The mashed plantain is shaped into a bowl, then filled with things like pork, shrimp, steak, etc., and then sealed with more mashed plantain. It is traditionally served with rice and beans and salad.  I went with the waiter's recommendation, the Mofongo filled with Grilled Flank Steak ($14.95).  The spices were amazing! The steak was tender and juicy, and the mashed plantain was delicious and filling.  If you are ever in Old San Juan and you get the chance, stop by El Jibarito. You'll love it!

Here's a recipe I found that is exactly what I ate at El Jibarito. Enjoy!

  • 4 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 cups gluten free beef or chicken stock
  • oil (for deep frying)
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite seasoned filling (pork, beef, shrimp, etc.)
  • 1 tblsp. chopped garlic
  • Fresh ground black peppercorns 
  • Sea Salt
  • Cilantro leaves (chopped for garnish)

Cooking Directions
  1. Mix a handful of sea salt into a bowl of cold water and soak the chopped plantain. 
  2. Warm stock in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. Bring at least 1 inch of oil to around 350 degrees F. in a deep skillet.
  4. In the meantime, cook your meat/seafood until crisp. Remove from heat and drain.
  5. Remove the plantain from the water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Deep fry the plantain pieces until brown and tender (watch out for splattering!). Remove from oil. Flatten the plantain with a flat-bottomed glass bottle. Fry the plantains again for 30 seconds on each side, or until slightly crispy.
  6. While the plantains are still hot, take a wooden mortar and pestle, and smash them with the garlic, and salt & pepper (to taste).  Shape the plantain mash into a small bowl, making sure to leave a space for filling.  Fill the space with your favorite filling and seal with another layer of plantain.  Place on a plate and douse with warm stock and garnish with cilantro.
  7. Serve with rice and beans, and some salad. Turn on some salsa music, light some candles, and chow down!  

November 22, 2008

Gluten Free Chocolate Marshmallow Chex Bars

One of the staples of bake sales across the country, Rice crispy treats have to be one of the easiest sweets to make. Unfortunately rice crispies contains malt flavoring, and malt contains gluten, therefore completely off-limits to celiac sufferers.  Fortunately, there is ONE name brand cereal that has gone gluten free: Rice Chex. I wrote a blog a while ago about Rice Chex going gluten free, here is the link "Rice Chex Article." This is my first experiment making cereal bars with Rice Chex.  It's basic, super fast, and most importantly, EASY.  As far as the Marshmallows go, I've found most brands to be gluten free like Kraft Jet Puffed, but check the ingredients. Experiment by adding coconut flakes, nuts, M&Ms, or substitute any other gluten free cereal in this recipe.  I brought these into work. They were very popular:)

  • 6 cups of Rice Chex (no other Chex products are GF, YET)
  • 1 cup of chocolate chunks/chips (make sure GF)
  • 1 pound bag of Marshmallows (any size)
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter

Cooking Directions
  1. Throw the butter in a big pot over low heat until melted.
  2. Add the marshmallows and stir consistently until completely melted (10 minutes or so).
  3. Add the chocolate and the Rice Chex, stir until the cereal is completely coated.
  4. Scoop out the mixture and press into an 8" x 12" pan.  Press to compact. Place in fridge to cool.
  5. Once cool, slice into squares and chow down! 

November 16, 2008

GF Product Review: Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust

It has been a while since I've enjoyed a good slice of pizza.  A couple weeks back, Philadelphia hosted the National Celiac Foundation's "Gluten-Free Cooking Spree" at the Wachovia Center.  I went with my friend Katie and volunteered half a day to set up for the event.  Unfortunately I couldn't attend the event due a night class for graduate school.  I was completely bummed, since I knew it was going to be a FEAST of amazing gluten free food!  However, I was given a GF goody bag as thanks for putting my back to work. In that bag was a package of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust mix.  It sat in my cupboard for a while before I ended up trying it out.  But when I did, it was awesome!

Honestly, it was the best pizza I've had in three years (since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease)!  In my haste to devour, I accidentally missed the step of baking the crust for a while before adding the toppings. With all the sauce and toppings already laid out on the dough, I popped the pies in the oven for the time needed to pre-bake the crust, plus the cooking time for the prepared pizza. Even though I messed up the directions slightly, it still came out perfect!  I topped my pizzas with a generous amount of pizza sauce, crushed oregano, pepperoni, and shredded "Italian Mix" cheese. I used "Hormel Thick Slice Pepperoni" since it stated it was Gluten-Free on the package. One package of Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix makes two nice size pies. You are going to love this pizza crust! Two big thumbs up:)


November 13, 2008

Iced Lemon-Pistachio Biscotti

Ever since I began this blog, I've been constantly learning.  Not only have I been learning how to cook better, but also more effortlessly.  It's so true what they say about practice; the more you do something the easier it gets.  I've always loved to cook, but I used to be more cautious with culinary experiments.  Partly due to economical reasons (it's expensive to burn up prime cuts of meat), but mostly because I had no real push to improve. This blog has motivated me to expand my ability to create amazing meals and deserts, and I'm loving it!  I've been learning how to make things I never thought I'd attempt, like cheesecake, fudge, and BISCOTTI. Did I mention that I love biscotti.

I've caught the joy-of-cooking bug, and hope I'm eternally afflicted. Although I don't have any kids yet, I can imagine how hard it would be for busy parents to find the motivation to get creative with cooking. However I think it's important to try.  Turning any meal into a communal experience helps people bond in a special way.  Allowing the kids to pitch in makes it a family event that always has a happy ending (EATING!). Patterns and predictability can be comforting at times, but they can also stagnate. Personally, there is something about exploring the world of edible art that gives me a truly visceral sense of being human.

Now onto the recipe... The only laborious part of the following recipe was grating the lemon zest. I did end up doubling the recipe so I had enough to share with my co-workers, which made the zesting process twice as long, but completely worth it.  The flavor the lemon zest adds to the biscotti is unreplaceable.  I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Mix, but feel free to use any GF baking mix you prefer.

Biscotti Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup softened butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. natural vanilla
  • 2 cups gluten free flour
  • 4 tsp. finely grated lemon peel (ZESTY!!!)
  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted pistachio nuts

Lemon Icing Ingredients
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 tblsp. milk, soy milk, or lemon juice

Biscotti Cooking Directions
  1. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets and set aside (I used cooking spray).
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Using an electric mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the sugar, baking power, and salt. Beat until combined, occasionally scraping the sides. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla until fully incorporated.
  4. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Add what's left of the flour and mix by hand.
  5. Stir in the shredded lemon peel and pistachio nuts.
  6. Divide the dough in half, and using well floured hands, shape each portion into 8-inch long rolls.  Flatten them down a bit until they are about 2 1/2 inches wide and an inch thick.
  7. Place at least 3 inches apart on your prepared cookie sheets and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and tops have cracked. Remove from oven and cool on the cookie sheet(s) for 30 minutes.
  8. Take a serrated knife and cut each roll diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Place slices cut side down on the cookie sheets. Lower the oven to 325 degrees F.. Bake biscotti for an additional 8 minutes and remove from oven. Turn each slice over and return to the oven for a final 9-10 minutes, or until dry and crisp (be careful not to burn them!).
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Once cool drizzle with lemon icing and chow down!

Lemon Icing Directions
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, lemon peel, and chosen liquid until it reaches a drizzling consistency.  How easy is that?! 
  2. Enjoy!!!

November 11, 2008

Easy Cheesy Breakfast Bake

Wow, I can't believe it's been 10 days since I posted a recipe!  I've had a crazy week and a half; with paper deadlines, presentation preparations, and a trip to San Juan Puerto Rico.  It's not like I haven't been cooking and checking out great places to eat either, because I have. In fact, I have a bunch of new recipes and reviews lined up to be posted within the next few weeks.   But first, I want to share a quick meal idea.  This breakfast dish is super easy to make, satisfying, and very filling. I went with parmesan, but feel free to use whatever cheese you'd like. If you're a meat-eater, this would also be great with chopped sausage or bacon mixed in with the corn meal/grits.

  • Any 14 to 24 oz. can of chopped tomatoes (I used Hunt's with herbs)
  • 2-3 cups cooked Yellow Corn meal or White Grits (make sure it's GF!)
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheese (your choice)

Cooking Directions
  1. Cook the grits/yellow corn meal according to the directions. Stir in the paprika, sea salt and pepper
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Layer the bottom of a 9" by 12" baking dish with the corn meal
  4. Spoon a wall of chopped tomatoes around the edge of the baking dish
  5. Crack open the eggs over the center of the dish, making sure not to break the yolks
  6. Carefully place the dish in the oven
  7. Cook for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the egg whites are fully cooked
  8. Remove from oven, add a little more s&p, and then sprinkle shredded cheese over cooked eggs
  9. Return the dish to the oven and bake just until the cheese has fully melted
  10. Enjoy your breakfast!

November 1, 2008

Double Chocolate Biscotti

Although this website is in a blog format, when I first decided to put this page together, my intention was to simply provide a place for people with celiac disease and/or wheat allergies to find useful information that would make their lives easier.  When people are first diagnosed with celiac disease, it can feel pretty overwhelming.  It typically calls for a complete dietary change, and a lot more home-cooked meals.  Having the ability to go out to a restaurant with friends and family taken away from you can be pretty depressing, which is why I created the gluten free restaurant menu list that is located down the left-side column.  If you know anyone with celiac disease, or wheat allergies, or food allergies in general, let them know about that list.  And if you notice a page has been outdated, or has an "error" message, let me know so I can update it.

Besides the gluten free restaurant menu list on the left column, I also have a list of useful websites for people with gluten issues.  All of the main celiac organizations are there, as well as great sites like Traveling Gluten Free and Be Free For Me. Traveling Gluten Free is a database of gluten free eating destinations world-wide, which is a great resource for those of us who travel a lot.  Be Free For Me is a website loaded with recipes that are categorized by the food allergy/sensitivity they avoid.  It's a really cool site for anyone with any kind of food allergy. 

Now back to the FOOD!  Biscotti has lost it's intimidation factor with me. I used to think it was so hard to make, that only expert bakers could pull it off.  I now know that biscotti has to be one of the easiest baked goods to create, and the possibilities are endless!  I decided to quiet the angry chocolate monkey that is persistently on my back, by giving this recipe a double dose of cocoa.  Any high grade baking cocoa is usually safe from gluten, but it's important to read the ingredients in your chocolate chips for things like "modified food starch," "maltodextrin," and "malt flavoring." As a rule of thumb, the higher quality the chocolate chips/chunks, the less likely they'll contain fillers.  Chocolate is perfect by itself! Why anyone would contaminate good chocolate with artificial flavors and gluten-containing fillers is beyond me; but it basically comes down to money.  The less actual food ingredients it contains, the cheaper it will be to produce.

In this recipe, you can use chocolate chips or chunks depending on your preference.  You can also melt chocolate and coat the tops of each piece after the biscotti cools, thereby making it a triple chocolate biscotti!  However you do it, experiment and have fun with it:)  Food is all about sharing and sensual pleasure.  The joy is not only in eating the food, but also smelling it and looking at it.  Enjoy yourself, because that's what it's all about!

Double Chocolate Biscotti Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips or chunks

Baking Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside (I use canola oil spray)
  3. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl, and with your electric mixer, beat the butter on med to high speed for 35-ish seconds.
  4. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, and baking powder to the mix. Beat until combined, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to get it all incorporated.
  5. Beat in the eggs until combined, and then as much of the flour as you can before it gets too clumpy.  Remove the mixer and stir the remaining flour by hand. Stir in the chocolate chunks or chips.
  6. Shape the dough into two 9-inch long rolls.  Place the rolls on the prepared cookie sheets and flatten them slightly so that they're about 1/2 to 1-inch thick.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 hour.
  8. Using a serrated knife, cut each roll diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  9. Bake at 325 degrees F. for around 8 to 9 minutes.
  10. Turn the slices over and bake for an additional 7 to 9 minutes, or until dry and crisp (be careful not to burn them!).
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
  12. Make a cup of coffee for dipping purposes and enjoy!


Just So You Know...

The information presented in this blog is intended to educate and entertainment. However, I'm not a medical expert.  I also do not know absolutely everything about Celiac Disease.  What I do know has been learned through trial and error, research, and what has been taught to me by friends who also share my food-related affliction.  Please take the time to do your own research about Celiac Disease and gluten-related issues.  I have a list of links to useful resources along the left-side of this blog. Also, feel free to cross-check my statements. If you find contrary information, please let me know. Thanks so much for visiting Trav's Gone Gluten Free!