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xo Gluten Free Lover xo bio picture

my two loves . . .

Hello! My name is Kathryn - a Georgia girl and bona fide bread lover. Well, that is until I met and fell in love with Justin. Let's be real, I still LOVE bread and all things gluten-ful, but have given up that life for a gluten-free one - because now, I am a gluten-free lover.

I have always loved food. Cooking it, eating it, discussing it. I hope you'll try some of the recipes I've posted and you'll see - gluten-free cooking is accessible and delicious!

Sides & Salads

Green Peas - Creamed Corn

Split Green Peas - Creamed Corn

I hate that it’s been so long since my last post, but a lot has been happening in the last 2 months. Work was absolutely CRAZY during July (I got promoted. Again!). I hosted a family Sunday supper for my dad’s birthday. J and I got engaged!!! We threw a “backyard party” last weekend after J’s band played a gig – and a tree crashed through the roof – during an out-of-nowhere thunder storm. Needless to say, I haven’t been cooking a whole lot and I’ve been pretty exhausted. But, here I am, ready to get back into the groove!

As I mentioned, in mid July we invited my parents, my brother and his wife over for Sunday Supper to celebrate my dad’s birthday. (The above picture is from said supper.) I was in a nostalgic mood so I planned a decidedly Southern meal. Baked ham, creamed corn, peas, my Grandmother’s corn pones, and fresh Georgia peaches and raspberries with vanilla ice cream for dessert. This one meal lead to several fantastic recipe creations in my kitchen. First of which, are the corn pones I fondly remember eating at my Grandmother’s table.

Grandmother’s Corn Pones (GF version)
makes about 30

Grandmother's Corn Pones

Grandmother's Corn Pones

1 1/2 c yellow cornmeal, minus 1 1/2 T
1 1/2 T baking powder
pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 – 2 c boiling water
cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper, and oil in a large, non-reactive bowl. Add boiling water, 1/2 c at a time, stirring to combine, until “just enough to dip by spoonfuls.” (That’s a direct quote from Grandmother’s recipe. Basically, you want the cornmeal mixture thick but liquid enough to easily dollop onto the baking sheet.) Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and drop tablespoon size dollops of cornmeal mixture on to the baking sheet. Spray a fork with cooking spray and lightly press down on the pones to flatten. Dot the top of each pone with margarine or butter and bake for 25-28 minutes until they begin to turn golden brown. If using two baking sheets, rotate them (top to bottom) halfway through cooking. The pones can be frozen and toasted to reheat.

Split Green Peas
serves 6 (with leftovers PERFECT for making pea soup – One of the inspired recipes I mentioned. I’ll post it soon.)

1 lb. dried green split peas, picked over
6-8 c water
1-2 tsp Cavender’s Greek seasoning

Cover peas with water in a medium or large pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Partially cover, lower heat, and simmer for 30-50 minutes until peas are tender or done to your liking. (I have to say, I wanted to make fresh field peas but I couldn’t find any, so I was stuck with dried. While I thought they were fine cooked this way, I seriously preferred the pea soup I made using the leftovers a few days later.)

Creamed Corn (from Joy of Cooking)
serves 6

5-6 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob
1 (generous) T butter
1 c heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the corn (including any milky juice from the cobs) and saute for 5 or so minutes until the corn begins to brown slightly. Add the cream and stir to combine. Simmer for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The next recipe is for Tomato Salad and I was inspired to make this because we had 8 huge tomatoes from J’s boss’ garden that I was worried would spoil if we didn’t use them immediately. (To give credit where it’s due, they tasted better than they looked.) Anyway, I served the salad alongside cheddar mac and cheese and they went perfectly together.

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad (dressing inspired by Joy of Cooking)
serves 4

2 1/2 – 3 c chopped, ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic, pasted* with Kosher salt
1/3 c red wine vinegar
3/4 c olive oil
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make the dressing: *To paste the garlic, mince the garlic clove and top it with a pinch or two of Kosher salt. Mash this into a thick paste with the side of a large knife, smearing the mixture back and forth. Add the pasted garlic, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to a glass jar (or salad dressing bottle) with a tight fitting lid. Add the olive oil and shake vigorously until well blended. Add the herbs and shake again. Put the chopped tomatoes in a serving bowl and top with enough dressing to coat well (you should have a bit of dressing left over). Serve at room temperature.

Sunday Supper Table

Sunday Supper Table

I know there isn’t any food in the picture of the table, but I just wanted to share it with y’all. It was our first meal using the hand-me-down dining table and chairs that my parents gave us – I was so proud! (I think J was proud too, not so much about the table setting, but more so about having my family in our home.) Finally, I want to share a simple but delicious garden salad recipe that uses the same vinaigrette from the Tomato Salad recipe above, minus the fresh herbs.

Garden Salad
serves 4-5

Garden Salad

Garden Salad

1 medium head red leaf lettuce, rinsed and spun dry
1 large ripe tomato, diced (yes, another tomato from J’s boss!)
2 medium (or 1 large) carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into bite sized pieces
Half of a large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (or use half of an English cuc, if you can afford a $2 cucumber…)

Vinaigrette:
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, pasted
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 c olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the dressing: combine all ingredients in a salad dressing bottle with a tight fitting lid and shake well until thoroughly combined. For the salad: Roughly chop the lettuce and put it in a large serving bowl. Top the lettuce with the vegetables and season lightly with salt and pepper (if desired). If you plan to eat all of the salad in one sitting, dress the salad in the serving bowl. If you’re planning to save some for later, I recommend dressing the salads individually.

I hope you enjoy! It’s good to be back!

Introductions are in order…

Khao Pad Moo preperation

Today’s recipe, Khao Pad Moo, comes from SarahKate Abercrombie, a Georgia girl living in England with her husband, and author of her own food blog called Abercrombie & Feast (how cute is that?!?!). SarahKate grew up in the same small town where my mom’s family lives. Growing up, I’d spend part of every summer with my grandparents, and SarahKate and I would always play together. (I’m not actually sure how we ended up playing together…I guess my Aunt Pam new SarahKate and I were the same age, so she arranged it? It makes sense because I have 3 boy cousins and an older brother and only 1 girl cousin, Amanda, whom I love dearly. She’s six years older than me and, needless to say, we didn’t really start “hanging out” together until I hit my late teens. Speaking of, I have to give a shout-out to Amanda, she’s probably my most loyal reader!) Anyway, several months ago, Aunt Pam told me about SarahKate’s blog and I’ve really enjoyed catching up with her through our shared love of food.

I took a ton of pictures because my kitchen looked so organized and what I imagine a real chef’s kitchen to look like. I’ll try not to post all of them!

Khao Pad Moo (see SarahKate’s recipe HERE)
serves 2

2 T peanut oil
1 small onion, diced
1 chili, diced (I used a jalapeno – SKate, is that what you mean by “chili”?)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
About 1/4 lb pork, cut into small pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 small carrot, diced
1 handful snow pea pods, diced
1 1/2 c cooked white rice, cooled
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 T soy sauce (SKate, is “seasoning soy sauce” different than regular soy sauce?)
2 scallions, diced
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Sriracha chili sauce and lime slices, for serving

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and chili and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Move the onion, chili, and garlic to the side and add the pork. (Allow the pork to cook for about a minute before stirring, otherwise you’ll have pieces of pork stuck to the pan.) After the pork sears on one side, you can start tossing it around the pan, eventually mixing it in the with onion mixture. Cook the pork about 3 minutes or until no longer pink, then add the carrots and saute a couple of minutes. Add the snow peas and saute for a minute or so. At this point, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the rice, then add the sugar and soy sauce and stir to combine thoroughly. Turn off the heat and add most of the scallions and the lime juice, stir. Taste for seasoning. Serve garnished with the remaining scallions and Sriracha chili sauce.

Khao Pad Moo

Khao Pad Moo

I made some slight alterations to SarahKate’s recipe. I don’t have a wok and I have an electric stove (bummer, I know) and I’ve read that a flat bottom skillet does better with an electric stove than a wok because of the heat distribution. (I would give anything for a gas stove, but that’ll have to wait till J and I can afford to buy a house.) Also, she puts egg in this dish and I’ve mentioned before that I don’t do egg in my Asian rice/noodle dishes. I’m not sure why that is exactly; I love eggs on their own, but when they’re scrambled with rice/noodles and veggies and meat – not cool. My cooking times were longer than SarahKate’s, I chalk that up to using a skillet instead of a wok, but who knows. I have to say, this dish is delicious! I preferred it with the spicy Sriracha sauce and the additional spritz of lime. YUM. I wish I’d had cilantro to sprinkle on top. I think that would add another nice layer of flavor and it just seems like a natural partner to the fresh lime juice.

I hope you’ll go visit Abercrombie & Feast! SarahKate has countless recipes and tips to share, not to mention fabulous stories. Her husband is a brilliant photographer and (I think) provides a lot of the mouth-watering pictures on her blog.

Fiesta! Chicken and Rice.

J and I love Mexican food. I mean – seriously LOVE Mexican food. Especially tortilla chips and queso….mmmmmm…J makes a mean queso dip. Anyway – (to save money) I’ve started cooking more Mexican meals at home. And not just your typical tacos (another of J’s specialties), nachos, and quesadillas. I’ve been experimenting with more traditional, more complex dishes.

Okay fine, this recipe falls somewhere in between. It is fairly simple to make but more sophisticated, Mexican fare.

Fiesta Chicken and Rice

Fiesta Chicken and Rice

I especially love this recipe for two reasons:

1. J is the resident “grill master” around here and even though I hover, and wince, and make suggestions – he has the final word. Since we got our grill, about a year ago, J has been practicing and practicing to become the afore mentioned “grill master.” It hasn’t been a totally smooth ride. There were plenty of black, charred steaks that bled when sliced and chicken so dry, it took your breath away. But now, my dear friends, J is owning his “grill master-ness.” The fiesta chicken was grilled perfectly and I’m just so proud of him for working so hard and for it really paying off!
2. I finally came up with a Mexican rice that I love. I’m kind of picky when it comes to Mexican rice. I don’t like big chunks of stewed tomatoes. Nor do I like my rice overly sticky and mushy. I’ve tried three or four recipes before this one and they were all disappointing to me. J is always supportive, but I was not pleased. Now, I am pleased.

Fiesta Chicken and Rice
serves 3

For the rice:
1 c raw Jasmine rice
1 3/4 c water
1 1/2 cubes Knorr chicken bouillon (or the amount of bouillon to make 1 1/2 c broth, according to package directions)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp tomato paste
Kosher salt

For the chicken:
1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (should be three split breasts)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
about 1 1/2 tsp ground thyme*
about 1 T chili powder*

Take the chicken out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before you want to put it on the grill. Season, on both sides, with salt and pepper. *I didn’t actually measure these spices when I made this dish, so I’m guessing here. I gave the chicken a light dusting of ground thyme and a healthy dusting of chili powder. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Meanwhile, bring 1 3/4 c water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add 1 tsp Kosher salt, the Knorr bouillon, and the tomato paste, stir to dissolve. With the water at a rapid simmer, add the rice, cumin, and coriander, and give it one last big stir. Cover, drop the heat to low and cook for about 18 minutes or just until the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes, or until ready to serve (don’t wait too long or it’ll get dry). I’ll have to get J to write up his tips for grilling sometime.  Although he’s not so great with “writing down recipes” or knowing exactly how long things take. We’ll see! When the grill is ready, place the chicken breast on the grill and DON’T MOVE THEM! (Some people brush oil on the grate before putting the food on. I think that creates a lot of smoke and not a lot else. It won’t hurt, so go for it, if that’s your type of thing. When I need oil for grilling, I brush olive or vegetable oil on the food itself before seasoning.) Grill for 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is firm when you press it with your finger. You’ll want to turn the chicken several times during cooking and the best rule I know about grilling is don’t move or flip the meat unless it releases from the grill easily. If you have to fight to get the meat off the grill, you’ll ruin it. So just go with the flow. When the chicken is done, remove from the grill, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and set aside to rest.

As you can see, I served the chicken on top of some “sauteed peppers and onions.” Well, they were technically peppers and onions but had been frozen and when cooked, they turned out mushy and even though the flavor was solid, it couldn’t compensate for the disappointing texture. No matter! The chicken was really flavorful and, oh my, was it moist!! The rice was intense and unmistakably Mexican in flavor. All the different spices, in the rice and in the chicken, blended well without being repetitive. Part way through grilling, J was so excited to eat, he came in from the backyard saying “this is gonna be a fiesta!” in a sing-songy voice, thus, Fiesta Chicken and Rice was born.

Meat & Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes - Grilled NY Strip - French Green Beans

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes - Grilled NY Strip - French Green Beans

I’ve got two meals to share with you. As you may have guessed, they both include meat and potatoes. Both are fairly simple and include components that either make great leftovers or use up leftovers. The first I’ll talk about is the grilled NY Strip steak we had with easy mashed potatoes and even easier frozen French-style green beans.

Grilled NY Strip
serves 2

Grilled NY Strip Steak

Grilled NY Strip Steak

1, 16 oz NY Strip steak
Kosher Salt
Adornetto’s Italian seasoning

Prepare a charcoal grill, light, and heat to medium-high. Take the steak out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before putting on the grill (I pull the meat out when J lights the grill) and season both sides with a bit of salt and a nice coating of Adornetto’s seasoning. Allow the steak to sit and absorb the seasoning before grilling. When the grill is ready, place the steak on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes per side for medium-rare to medium, or until desired doneness. Remove from the grill and allow to rest, covered with aluminum foil, for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice in half and serve.
*I’ve mentioned Adornetto’s seasoning before. It’s an Italian seasoning blend from one of J’s best friend’s wife’s family. It is one of my absolute favorite seasonings to use and the ingredients are: salt, granulated garlic, black pepper, sugar, paprika, onion, turmeric, cornstarch, and other spices.

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
serves 6

3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
2-3 T margarine
1/2-3/4 c 2% milk
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice the scrubbed potatoes into large chunks and put in a large pot. Cover by an inch with cold water. Place on the stove over high heat, add 1 T Kosher salt, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 25 minutes or until very tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes and add them to a large glass bowl. Break them up slightly with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 T margarine and 1/4 c milk. Begin to mash, making sure to incorporate all ingredients well. Add another tablespoon of margarine and another 1/4 c milk (or more as needed) and mash until you reach desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Serve hot. (If you are not ready to serve the potatoes immediately, sit the glass bowl over a pot of simmering, not boiling, water – do not allow the water to touch the bowl – and cover with aluminum foil. They can stay warm like this for no longer than 30 minutes.)

Here is a link to the so simple recipe I always use for frozen veggies.

Bratwurst and Sauermash

Bratwurst and Sauermash

Bratwurst and Sauermash
serves 2-3

1 lb fresh turkey Bratwurst (make sure it is gluten-free)
1, 14-15 oz can sauerkraut
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried mustard
2-3 c leftover mashed potatoes

Preheat a charcoal grill to medium heat. Remove Bratwurst from packaging and brush lightly with olive oil. Allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. When the grill is ready, place the sausages on the grill and cook for 12-15 minutes turning occasionally, until browned on all sides and cooked through. Meanwhile, reheat mashed potatoes in the microwave, adding butter or margarine as necessary to add creaminess. Add sauerkraut with juices to a medium saucepan over medium to medium-low heat. Season with pepper and dried mustard and stir. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Remove Bratwurst from the grill, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with a generous helping of mashed potatoes on the bottom, top with whole Bratwurst links, and finally, top with sauerkraut.

This was a very satisfying dinner. Better suited for the colder months perhaps but still very delicious. Plus, it’s an affordable meal. It was for us, at least, because we found the Brats on sale. But, come on,  potatoes and canned sauerkraut – very affordable!

Oven Fried Chicken

This recipe is still “in the works” but I wanted to share it with you anyway. About six months ago, I mentioned that I’m working on a cookbook. While that’s still true, now that I have a full time job, it’s taking me a lot longer than I expected. One of the recipes I plan to include is fried chicken and this is sort of a precursor to the recipe I envision ending up in my cookbook. It’s a “lighter” version of typical fried chicken, obviously because it’s baked in the oven, but also because I used boneless skinless chicken. The marinade, seasonings, and breading will remain pretty much the same and it’s a great method to know because it can be really versatile. (I’m bummed that the picture turned out so bland but just know that the flavor is – to. die. for.)

Corn on the cob - Mashed Potatoes - Oven Fried Chicken

Corn on the Cob - Mashed Potatoes - Oven Fried Chicken

Oven-Fried Chicken
serves 4-6

4-5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs (or whatever cuts you like)
3 c buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c cornstarch
3 T Adornetto’s* Italian seasoning
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 eggs
2-3 c Glutino dried bread crumbs
Cooking spray

Put all of the chicken pieces in a large glass bowl, season with salt and pepper, and cover with the buttermilk. Make sure all the chicken is submerged, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line up three large, shallow dishes on the counter. Combine the cornstarch, Adornetto’s seasoning, and cayenne in the first dish. Beat the eggs in the second dish. Put the bread crumbs in the third dish. Have two baking sheets ready near the breading station. Take a piece of chicken out of the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned cornstarch. Next, coat the chicken in the egg. Finally, coat the chicken in the dried bread crumbs. Place the breaded chicken on the baking sheet and repeat the process with the rest of the chicken pieces. When all the chicken is breaded, place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to allow the breading to set. Remove the baking sheets from the fridge. Lightly coat both sides of the chicken pieces with cooking spray and place in the oven. Cook for 25-30 minutes until the breading is golden brown and the chicken is firm when you press it with your finger.
*Adornetto’s Italian seasoning isn’t actually available for purchase. We got it as a parting gift from the wedding of one of J’s best friends. Use your favorite Italian seasoning blend.

This fried chicken is so flavorful, you won’t believe it. J and I were blown away with our first bites. Marinating in buttermilk is the first key to full-flavored chicken and seasoned cornstarch is the second. It was tangy, juicy, tender, with a crunchy coating. Usually a white meat guy, J especially loved the boneless skinless chicken thighs. (Now, every time he sees someone on Food Network cooking with boneless skinless thighs, he asks if I’m mad that they stole my idea. Isn’t he adorable?!)

Here is a slight variation of my Oven-Fried Chicken recipe.

Oven-Fried Chicken, Take 2

Oven-Fried Chicken - Take 2

Oven-Fried Chicken - Take 2

serves 3

5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2-3 c buttermilk
1 c cornstarch
2 T Adornetto’s Italian seasoning
3/4 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 c quinoa flakes
1/2 c Glutino dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs
cooking spray
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the chicken thighs in a large glass bowl, season with salt and pepper, and cover with the buttermilk. Make sure all the chicken is submerged, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line up three large, shallow dishes on the counter. Combine the cornstarch, Adornetto’s seasoning, cayenne, and baking powder in the first dish. Beat the eggs in the second dish. Combine the quinoa flakes and bread crumbs in the third dish. Have a baking sheet with a rack in it ready near the breading station. Take a piece of chicken out of the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned cornstarch. Next, coat the chicken in the egg. Finally, coat the chicken in the flakes/breadcrumbs. Place the breaded chicken on the rack in the baking sheet and repeat the process with the rest of the chicken pieces. When all the chicken is breaded, place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to allow the breading to set. Remove the baking sheet from the fridge. Lightly coat both sides of the chicken pieces with cooking spray and place in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes until the breading is golden brown and the chicken is firm when you press it with your finger.

Corn on the Cob (fast and easy)
serves 2

Remove the husks and silks from two ears of corn. Place the ears in a small baking dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 5-6 minutes. CAREFULLY remove the plastic wrap from the dish, there will be a lot of steam. Serve the corn with butter or margarine, salt and pepper.

[Click HERE for the mashed potato recipe.]

Angel Food Strawberry Shortcake

Angel Food Cake with Cool Whip and Strawberries

Angel Food Cake (from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster, PhD)
serves 12

1 c powdered sugar
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c potato starch
1 c egg whites at room temperature
1 tsp cream of tarter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the lower-middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set an ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom nearby. If the pan bottom is not removable, line it with parchment or wax paper. In a bowl, sift together the powdered sugar, cornstarch, and potato starch 3 times; set aside. In a large, clean mixing bowl, place the egg whites, cream of tarter, and salt. With the mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until they become frothy. Start adding the dry ingredients, a tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until the eggs form stiff peaks. Stir in the almond extract and vanilla extract. With a wide spatula, gently fold in 1/4 of the remaining dry ingredients at a time, until they disappear into the egg whites. Transfer the batter to the tube pan. Run a butter knife or chopstick through the batter a few times to break up any air bubbles. Bake 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and continue baking until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when pressed firmly, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Quickly invert the pan onto its prongs or invert the pan over the neck of a wine bottle so that air can circulate all around it. Let the cake cool completely, about 2-3 hours. To unmold the cake, run a sharp knife around the edge between the cake and the pan, being careful not to separate the golden crust from the cake. Slide the cake out of the pan and insert a knife between the cake and the removable bottom to release, or peel off the parchment or wax paper, if used. Place the cake, bottom side up, on a platter. Cut slices by sawing gently with an electric or serrated knife. Serve immediately.

I wish I could tell you that the angel food cake tasted as good as it looks in the picture. (Adding the cool whip and strawberries helped it go down easier for me, but it still wasn’t great.) To me, it tasted like egg whites. J claims he really liked it and I witnessed him eat several large pieces without any toppings. But I maintain that it just wasn’t right. Now, I’ve never made gluten-full angel food cake, so I’m not speaking from experience, but I’ve eaten gluten-full angel food cake and the flavor is subtle and delicate. The flavor of my gluten-free angel food cake was egg-y and off-putting. I’m going to be very honest here, I think the cookbook I got the recipe from is a lousy cookbook. This is the second dessert recipe specifically from this cookbook that didn’t turn out well. (You may remember the “Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake” fiasco from Christmas, where she didn’t mention when to add the chocolate to the batter…) I will admit that I may have under beaten the egg whites a touch – but how can I really be to blame when the only mixer I have is a hand held that I bought at Kroger for $9.99?!?! Also, I don’t think I let it cook long enough but after 40 minutes it was browned and felt very firm when I pressed it with my finger! (I’ll also admit that even though the top was brown it was more of a tan brown than golden brown.) So, maybe we were both a fault. But the final straw for me is that she says to “place the cake, bottom side up, on a platter.” What?!? Unless she had given direction to smooth out the top before baking to ensure a flat top, why would she ask me to flip it over? (I don’t have a picture of the cake as a whole, but trust me, the top was not flat.) After having searched the internet for “uneven, rippled” angel food cakes, I couldn’t really find any, they were all very flat and unappealing looking, to be honest. To me, there’s something very homey about an angel food cake with a textured top crust. Anyway, I think I’ve gotten of track…The main thing is, I was disappointed with how it turned out, especially because J requested it for his birthday. I am determined to try again and to be successful. Not only is angel food cake one of J’s favorites but it’s my brother’s favorite as well. It’s light and good for you, as far as cakes go, and I inherited on of my Grandmother’s tube pans, so it’d be nice to have this one in my repertoire. Enjoy the picture, folks. That’s all there is, for now.

P.S. If you know of a GOOD gluten-free angel food cake recipe, or a gluten-full recipe (I’m getting pretty adept at converting), send it my way.

Barbecue

I have several recipes I want to share including one BBQ staple in particular; potato salad. I have finally come up with a potato salad recipe that I simply adore. Mustard Potato Salad has always been my favorite and I finally came up with the perfect recipe! There is not a picture of the Barbecue Chicken we ate with the potato salad because it didn’t look so great (burnt to death on the outside) but that wasn’t our fault! I blame the recipe – I can’t even believe I’m saying that; it’s a Barefoot Contessa recipe! The grill was too hot but the marinade is also to blame.  In any case, we will try again, after all Summer has only just begun! First, though, is a recipe I’m still tweaking but I hope y’all will let me know what you think!

BBQ Sausage

BBQ Sausage

BBQ Sausage
serves 6 as an appetizer

1 1/4 lb fresh Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (some varieties contain gluten)
Cooking spray
2 c Barbecue sauce (recipe below)

Spray a medium-large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally, or until no longer pink. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the barbecue sauce over low heat until warmed through. When the sausages are just cooked through, remove the pan from the heat, briefly, and cut the sausages into 2-inch pieces. Return the sausage pieces to the pan and the pan to the heat. Pour the barbecue sauce over the sausage and simmer, covered, for at least 10 minutes or until ready to serve.

As J and I ate this for dinner, I kept wishing I had something to soak up the sauce. My first instinct was polenta. I also thought mashed sweet potatoes – but maybe too sweet? Or plain mashed potatoes – Yukon Gold, perhaps? Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions of what to serve underneath that might add the substance to make this an entree rather than an appetizer. Next time, I’m definitely trying the sausage and sauce over a bed of creamy and thick polenta.

Barbecue Sauce (based on the recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
makes 1 1/2 quarts

1 1/2 c chopped Vidalia onion (1 very large onion)
1 T minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/4 c plus 2 T vegetable oil
10 oz tomato paste
1 c cider vinegar
1 c honey
1/2 c Worcestershire sauce*
1 c Dijon mustard*
1/2 c soy sauce*
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the onions are translucent but not yet browned. Add the rest of the ingredients stirring after every third ingredient, or so, to combine thoroughly. Simmer uncovered over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator (keeps for 2 months).
*Read ingredients carefully. These items typically contain gluten.

Mustard Potato Salad

Mustard Potato Salad

Mustard Potato Salad
serves 6-8

5 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (and peeled, if desired)
2 ribs celery, diced
4 scallions (white and green parts), chopped
2 heaping T sweet pickle relish*, slightly drained
1/2 c mayonnaise* (recommended: Duke’s)
3 heaping T yellow mustard*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the diced potatoes in a large pot and cover by 1 inch with cold water. Bring to a boil, add 2 tsp salt, and cook for about 20 minutes until tender and just beginning to break down. Drain and set aside to cool. Stir together the celery, scallions, pickle relish, mayonnaise, and mustard in a large bowl. Add the slightly warm potatoes to the dressing and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine thoroughly. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 1/2 hours or overnight. Serve cold.
*Check the ingredients carefully!

Man, oh, MAN – is this good! It’s sweet and tangy and crunchy and everything I hoped it would be. I read some recipes that used pimentos instead of or along with the sweet pickle relish and that would be good too. A lot of varieties of sweet pickle relish actually contain pimentos, so there you go!

Hope everyone is enjoying the Summer so far! Stay tuned for more, I’m feeling very inspired these days…

Hamburger Mania

Since summer is just around the corner, I’ve been experimenting with hamburger recipes and I think it’s going well! The first recipe I tried was ground beef mixed with diced onions, Worcestershire sauce, egg, bread crumbs, etc. It reminded me of meatloaf. Don’t get me wrong, I like meatloaf, but not when I want a hamburger. It just wasn’t right. Then I decided to give my Dad’s simple yet delicious hamburger method a try. Ground beef patties seasoned with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or a “Cajun” spice blend. (I like Tony Chachere’s.) Those were, of course, delicious but, I still wanted to come up with “My” hamburger recipe. Then I found some inspiration on a bottle of A1. We love A1 around here and between that and Worcestershire – I prefer A1. The burgers were juicy, thick, and flavorful. They were the best burgers J and I have ever made. Ever. I have to give J credit. He grilled them beautifully and I am very proud. Here is my current go-to hamburger recipe:

Hamburgers
makes 3 burgers

1 lb ground beef
1/4 c A1* steak sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Toppings as desired: cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Place the ground beef in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lightly mix the beef with a fork. Add the A1 sauce and continue mixing with a fork until just combined. Form into three equal sized patties and, with your thumb, make an indention in the center of each patty. (This prevents them from bulging when grilled.) Grill the burgers about 7 minutes per side for medium.

*Original flavor A1 is gluten free. But always read the label – you never know when they might change something.

Hamburger - Grilled Vegetables w/ Vinaigrette - Old Fashioned Potato Salad

Hamburger - Grilled Vegetables w/ Vinaigrette - Old Fashioned Potato Salad

Yes, we use GF sandwich bread for a bun. It’s toasted, so it’s good. A warm, soft, gluten-free hamburger bun would be ideal, but I haven’t come across any. I haven’t come across any GF bread that’s soft and squishy, for that matter. Obviously we opted for cheese – we usually do. I’m a sucker for good ol’ American cheese but every once in a while we’ll change it up with Swiss or Pepper Jack.

Grilled Vegetables with Vinaigrette (inspired by Giada De Laurentiis – her recipe)
serves 3-4

2 large portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
1 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/4″ thick slices
1 large red bell pepper (or whatever color you prefer), sliced into four “flat” pieces
3-4 T olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh basil
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary

The grill - on a snowy day.

The grill - on a snowy day.

Preheat the outdoor grill to medium heat. Brush the sliced vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, on both sides. Place on preheated grill over indirect heat. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, turning occasionally. While the vegetables are cooking (or make ahead), whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and herbs until well blended. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a platter and top with enough vinaigrette to coat (serve any leftover vinaigrette at the table.)

We grilled the vegetables along with the hamburgers. Since we usually only cook for the two of us, we’ve been trying to think of other things to grill so as not to waste the charcoal and space. (We have a wonderful Weber charcoal grill my parents so graciously gave to us a while back. The best part? It’s green!!! My favorite color…)

Old Fashioned Potato Salad (from Barefoot Contessa at Home)
serves 6-8

3 pounds small red or white potatoes
kosher salt
1 c mayonnaise (not all mayonnaise is GF – I like Duke’s, regular NOT light)
1/4 c buttermilk, milk, or white wine
2 T Dijon mustard
2 T whole-grain mustard
1/2 c chopped fresh dill (I substitute parsley)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c diced celery
1/2 c diced red onion

Place the potatoes and 2 T salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam for 15-20 minutes, until tender but firm. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon and whole grain mustards, dill/parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle (but still warm), cut them into quarters or halves, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl and pour enough dressing over them to moisten. (As the salad sits, you may need to add more dressing.) Add the celery and red onion, and a bit more salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

I really love this potato salad. It’s not a traditional Southern potato salad (which is my favorite kind) but it’s full of flavor and crunch. I find that the recipe makes WAY more dressing than I need or use but I’ve never “let the salad sit” which Ina suggest will make the salad dry. In any case, I’d recommend either using more potatoes or making a bit less dressing – OR, better yet, think of some way to use the leftover dressing! I have not thought of anything…As I mentioned, I use parsley because I don’t especially like fresh dill and the parsley is a wonderful substitute.

Jerk Turkey Burger - Mango Slaw - Baked Beans

Jerk Turkey Burger - Curry Coleslaw - Baked Beans

Jerk Turkey Burgers with Curry Coleslaw (adapted from Food Network Magazine, April 2010)
serves 4

1 lb ground turkey
1 T jerk seasoning
1 small green apple, peeled and grated
1/2 c chopped scallions
1/4 c dried bread crumbs (Glutino is a good brand)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c mayonnaise
2 T cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
1 T Indian curry powder
5 c shredded green cabbage (1/2 large head)
1-1 1/2 c shredded carrots (about 2 carrots)
olive oil

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Mix the turkey, jerk seasoning, apple, 1/4 c scallions, bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a large bowl using a fork. Form into four 1-inch thick burgers and with your thumb, make an indention in the center of the burgers. Refrigerate. Whisk together the cider vinegar, honey and curry powder in a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the cabbage, carrots, and remaining scallions, season to taste with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate. Lightly brush both sides of the burgers with olive oil and grill until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Top the burgers with Pepper Jack cheese, if desired, and allow to melt. Serve with curry slaw on the side (or on top of the burger).

The original recipe calls for the slaw to go on top of the burger. I chose to eat mine on the side but J ate his burger with the coleslaw on top and he seemed to think it was pretty amazing. (I’m a hamburger purist. Cheese and mustard are usually the only toppings I want on my burger.) These burgers are really fantastic. FULL of flavor and actually very juicy. I haven’t had a lot of turkey burgers in my time, but I was sold on these. We love Jerk seasoning, though, so that might have something to do with it. Also, I want to try and explain the gloriousness of the curry coleslaw. I happen to love curry to begin with but I NEVER would have thought to season coleslaw with it! Oh my god, is it amazing. Spicy and sweet to the Nth degree. Crunchy and unmistakeably coleslaw. I – WE both just loved it! (It might even be good with some raisins thrown in, if that’s your type of thing…)

Baked Beans (short-cut version of my Dad’s recipe)

1, 28 oz can “Original” flavor Baked Beans (doesn’t matter which brand, just make sure they’re GF)
1/4 c yellow mustard
freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium to medium-low heat. Cover and simmer slowly until heated through, at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

Y.U.M. I grew up eating baked beans this way – well, actually…Here’s how my dad usually makes them. He uses a bigger can of beans, like the next size up, and more mustard. He also adds diced onion (preferably Vidalia), I would guess about 1/4 c. Cover with foil and bake in a glass baking dish in a 350 degree oven until hot all the way through. I’ve also seen him heat it in the microwave (covered with plastic wrap), so whichever way you want is fine. They are the best “easy” baked beans, EVER!!! I bet truly baked beans, like baked for 3 hours or something, are to die for, but seriously, who has time for that?

So, those are the hamburger recipes I’ve been playing with. I hope maybe I’ve inspired you to break out the grill and celebrate the coming season!

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

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My love for the Barefoot Contessa is no secret. Her recipes are thoughtful and flavorful and her style of entertaining, elegant. She inspires me on a daily basis. I am thrilled, then, to tell you that I have discovered one of her most delightful yet overlooked recipes. Indonesian Ginger Chicken. It is so simple, you will laugh when you read the recipe. The flavor is strong, salty and sweet, without being over powering. It paired perfectly with the Jasmine rice I made to go alongside. I have to admit, I struggled when deciding on a vegetable. I ended up choosing String Beans with Shallots – always a favorite – but even that was a little off. I truly believe (and this is usually against my rules) that carrots, or Corn, or PLANTAINS! would be fantastic with this meal. As I said, it is usually against my rules to serve rice and a starchy vegetable exclusively with the entree. You need freshness to cut through the meal (assuming you’re entree is something more substantial than steamed chicken or fish). That said, this meal calls for rice and something else…..starchy.

Indonesian Ginger Chicken (from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
serves 4-6

1 c honey
3/4 c soy sauce (make sure it is not made with wheat)
1/4 c minced garlic (8-12 cloves)
1/2 c peeled and grated ginger root (about a 4-inch piece)
2 chickens, (3 1/2 lbs each), quartered and backs removed

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in a large, shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 1/2 hour. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees. Continue baking for 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh and the sauce is a rich dark brown.

*Here’s what I did: The guy at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market chicken counter didn’t speak English well enough for him to understand that I wanted to buy two chickens, each weighing 3 1/2 pounds. So, I settled for one four pound chicken and one – organic – three pound chicken. They were both Bell and Evans chickens (which Ina recommends in her cookbook,  in this very recipe) and I didn’t even know it when I bought them! The Dekalb Farmer’s Market is amazing. It can be overwhelming, but truly, an awe inspiring place. (That’s where I got the miniature roses in the picture!) As the man behind the counter and I are miscommunicating about chickens, I notice a sign: We can no longer cut chickens on request. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Huh. Well, I was going to ask him to quarter both chickens, but I guess not…I’d never done it myself, but I wasn’t scared, you know? I wish J had been around to witness me quarter and remove the backs of two chickens. It was pretty awesome. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult. Not all of it, but getting the spine separated from the ribs – I’m sorry. How about this, if you want to discuss butchering chickens, email me.(I wish I had a video clip of Ina Garten quartering a chicken. I’ve watched her do it so many times, I felt totally confident on my first try.)

Seven pounds of chicken is a lot. I cannot imagine what size baking pan she used! I used 2 glass baking dishes and thought it worked out pretty well. Before cooking the chicken, I left it on the counter for about 25 minutes to come to temperature. (I have what may actually be an irrational fear, that a glass baking dish straight from the fridge will crack, if not shatter, when put straight into the oven. Call me crazy.) Once I flipped the chicken, halfway through cooking, I basted the chicken a bit and continued basting every so often until it was done. Yum. So good, so good, so good. And then there was the Basil Jasmine Rice…

Indonesian Ginger Chicken - Basil Jasmine Rice - String Beans with Shallots

Indonesian Ginger Chicken - Basil Jasmine Rice - String Beans with Shallots

Basil Jasmine Rice
serves 3

1 hearty cup of raw Jasmine rice
1 3/4 c water
pinch of salt
1 T butter or margarine
8-10 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. (I actually use a small, bright yellow, cast iron pot that was my Dad’s. He always made rice in it and I do too – it’s perfect for rice.) Add salt and butter and stir in the rice. Lower the heat immediately, cover, and simmer according to package directions. (I’ve seen it as long as 40 minutes and as short as 12, so it depends on your brand.) Cook just until all the water is absorbed and fluff lightly with a fork. Stir in the chiffonade of basil and allow to rest, covered, for at least 5 minutes, or until ready to serve.

I have seen Jasmine rice in Kroger, y’all. It’s not hard to find. Try it – it’s fantastic. It’s rice that has great flavor and doesn’t get sticky! Love, love, love Jasmine rice!

String Beans with Shallots (from Barefoot Contessa Family Style)
serves 6

1 lb French string beans (haricots verts – or the skinniest green beans you can find), ends removed
Kosher salt
2 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
3 large shallots, diced
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes only. (About 3 minutes if using thicker green beans.) Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water. Heat the butter and oil in a very large saute pan (12-inch diameter) or large pot and saute the shallots on medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain the string beans and add to the shallots with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, tossing well. Heat only until the beans are hot.

This whole meal was so delicious! I actually think it got better and better with each bite. I’ve made the Basil Jasmine rice several times since this meal and it goes so well with so many things! I have to say, the Indonesian Ginger Chicken was not my favorite as leftovers, so I recommend either making half a recipe or making it for a crowd.

Deliziosa Cucina Italiana

Rotelle with Vodka Cream Sauce

Rotelle with Vodka Cream Sauce

Let’s talk Italian, y’all! I have a new recipe, a Rachael Ray inspired classic, and a work in progress that I want to discuss. A little back story: Before I met J, I was a bona fide gluten lover. Any kind of bread or pasta – if it had a crunchy breaded crust, I was sure to put it on my dinner plate. I’m Southern, after all. “Deep fried” is practically another way of saying “I’m from Georgia”. In any case, I quickly learned that if J and I were going to make it as a couple, I would have to relinquish my love affair with gluten-ful food. It was hard at first, I’m not going to lie. Any time we went out for a meal, I stocked up on the gluten – flour tortillas, anyone? (Sometimes I still allow myself that luxury but honestly, my body is losing it’s tolerance for gluten.) It took us moving in together for me to fully commit to a gluten-free life. And while I still have a weakness for freshly baked biscuits and fried okra (I may never get over those two) I have been fully converted to gluten-free pasta. Quinoa Ancient Harvest pasta, that is…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Quinoa Ancient Harvest is BY FAR the best gluten free pasta in my experience. If you haven’t tried it yet you’re missing out.

[My Inspiration]: You-Won’t-Be-Single-For-Long Vodka Cream Pasta (from Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals – honestly, I can’t stand the titles of her recipes, especially this one, but J and I came up with our own name since we’re already together: You’ll-Never-Be-Single-Again Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce)
serves 4

12 oz short cut pasta, such as QAH brand rotelle
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 c vodka
1 c chicken broth
21 oz crushed tomatoes (3/4 of a 28 oz can)
1/2 c heavy cream
10-12 leaves fresh basil chiffonade
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1-2 T of salt, a splash of olive oil and the pasta, stir. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, butter, and when the butter melts, add the shallots. Saute the shallots for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Carefully add the vodka and cook to reduce by half, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a steady simmer then reduce the heat to low. Season with salt and pepper and cook the sauce until slightly thickened, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the cream. When the sauce returns to a simmer turn off the heat and toss the pasta into the sauce. Toss until the pasta is completely coated with the sauce, add the basil (reserving some for garnish) and stir to distribute. Serve immediately garnished with more basil.

It amazes me how flavorful the sauce turns out. You can taste the vodka but it isn’t overwhelming nor does it get you drunk. Combined with the tomatoes it’s just such a special flavor. You don’t need any cheese or any meat because the sauce packs a real punch on it’s own. J has asked on several occasions if we could have it with chicken but I really think that chicken wouldn’t add anything to the sauce and in fact, it might take away from the flavor somehow. It is a bold sauce that easily stands on it’s own and would be great for company. You could serve it with a nice salad although I’d probably use a simple dressing so as not to compete with the spectacular vodka cream sauce.

Ham Macaroni & Cheese

Ham Macaroni & Cheese

So, this version of Mac & Cheese is very similar to the last one but with some changes. I plan to make a few more until I reach my desired final product. I made this for company and it was well received, but to be honest, I was not satisfied. J said he liked it better than the first one, so I guess that’s progress but it still isn’t perfect. Luckily, mac & cheese is one of those dishes you can make a million different ways and it’s a classic, so let the experimentation continue! (PS, thanks to Tristin for coming over and enjoying the test results!)

Ham Macaroni & Cheese
serves 6

1 lb QAH elbow macaroni
1 qt milk (I use 2%)
6 T unsalted butter
2 1/2 T cornstarch
8 oz Gruyere cheese (grated)
16 oz extra-sharp, white Cheddar, reserving about 3/4 c (grated)
7 oz thickly sliced smoked ham*, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 3 qt baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1-2 T of salt, a splash of olive oil and the pasta. Cook according to package directions. Drain well. Meanwhile, heat the butter and the milk (reserving 1/4 c) in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until the butter is completely melted, stirring occasionally. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1/4 c milk to make a slurry. While whisking, add the slurry to the hot milk and butter. Cook for 3 minutes or so until slightly thickened. Turn off the heat and add both cheeses to the thickened milk mixture and stir well to melt the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Remember: the pasta is very well salted and the cheese and ham are both pretty salty, so don’t over salt.) Add the cooked macaroni and the diced ham and thoroughly combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, top with the remaining cheddar cheese and put into the oven. Cook for 30-35 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the top is slightly browned.

Ham Macaroni & Cheese

Ham Macaroni & Cheese

As you can probably tell from the picture, I didn’t add the extra cheese on the top – oops. I also forgot to preheat the oven before getting started, so the ready-to-go mixture sat in the pan waiting for at least 20 minutes and I think the cheese and cornstarch started to separate which resulted in a grainy texture in the finished product. I liked the ham a lot. It adds great flavor and another layer of texture, which is always nice – keeps things from getting boring. I can only say that I messed up so many steps because I was distracted by wanting to be a good hostess to our dinner guest. I should have assembled the whole thing the day before so I could have been a better hostess but you live and learn. I still would have liked more flavor and here’s what I plan to do to accomplish that: saute 2 shallots in olive oil and add with the ham. (In fact, I might add the ham right in with the shallots at the very end of cooking to brown the edges a bit, couldn’t hurt, right?) Also, I want to try adding some red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. J has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t LOVE the Gruyere, so I think I’ll try using only cheddar and a mild cheddar at that. The sharp tangy-ness isn’t really working for our taste buds – we want creamy cheesiness more than anything. (*To make this mac & cheese relevant to Italian cuisine: use diced pancetta in place of the smoked ham. I would recommend sauteing the pancetta before adding it. Personally, I wouldn’t use pancetta but only because I’m not a huge fan of the way it tastes. It’s like bacon only not as good because it isn’t smoked. On that note: cooked, thick-cut bacon would be awesome in this dish.)

Italian Sausage all'Arrabbiata

Italian Sausage all'Arrabbiata

Italian Sausage all’Arrabbiata (Italian Sausage with “Angry” Sauce)
serves 2-3

2 T olive oil
1 1/4 lb hot Italian chicken sausage*
1, 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3/4 – 1 c water (using it to rinse the tomato can)
1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
6-8 fresh leaves basil chiffonade
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Freshly shaved Parmesan (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until completely cooked through. Remove to a plate and set aside. (Add a bit more oil, if needed, but there should be enough in the pan.) Add the onion and saute for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking and burning. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and water. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, stir and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat slightly and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the sausages to the sauce making sure to completely cover the sausages. Return the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered for an additional 15 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency. Just before serving toss with the basil chiffonade. Serve hot with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Italian Sausage all'Arrabbiata

Italian Sausage all'Arrabbiata

I made this amazing, simple dish this past Tuesday evening while J was at band practice. I bought the sausage from the farmers market and since we didn’t have any peppers to make Sausage, Peppers and Onions, I decided to go with tomato sauce. I made this up as I went along and the whole time, I honestly thought, “This will be good enough for dinner, but I probably won’t even write a post about it…” Boy was I wrong. The sauce is divine! It is the PERFECT amount of spicy (if you like things spicy, that is) and the basil adds a nice, bright freshness. J ate some as soon as he got home and said the only thing missing was a hoagie roll. (I keep reminding him that I will get to bread at some point. I’ve never even made gluten-ful bread, let alone gluten-free! It’s going to take some time, people…) It is crucial that you cook the sausage in the pan before making the sauce because all the flavor gets into the onions and into the sauce as it simmers away. Just FYI, your stove will get messy – there’s no way around it. Sauteing sausages and simmering tomato sauce just do that to a stove. It is 100% worth it, though – and coming from a clean freak, that should say a lot.

One last thing: BUON APPETITO!!!

*Always check the ingredients when buying sausage. You’d be surprised how many are not gluten-free – although, there are quite a few brands that put “Gluten-Free” right on the label!

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Behold, the most magnificent chicken dish ever. The recipe is Ina Garten’s and I believe it to be the best meal I’ve ever cooked – well, so far. There are quite a few steps but they are all relatively easy and you only use one pot, so the clean up is minimal. I was even able to make this meal on a weeknight. Of course we didn’t eat until after 9 o’clock but what with the time change, it didn’t seem that late. Ok, let me answer the inevitable question first. Yes, I actually used 40 cloves of garlic. A good amount of them are on the small side plus they cook for a long time, so they turn out completely soft and actually quite sweet. They are just delicious. I served the chicken with leftover mashed potatoes (I’m just going to go ahead and say it; mashed potatoes are a MUST with this dish) and steamed green beans.

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (from Barefoot in Paris by the incomparable Ina Garten)
serves 6

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
2, (3 1/2 lb) chickens, cut into eighths
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 T unsalted butter
2 T olive oil
3 T Cognac, divided (I used a more affordable “no-name” brandy)
1 1/2 c dry white wine
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 T cornstarch (Ina calls for 2 T all-purpose flour)
2 T heavy cream

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain the garlic and peel. Set aside. Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don’t want to pierce the skin with a fork. If the fat is burning, turn down the heat to medium. When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to saute all the chicken in batches. Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat (to medium-low – Ina doesn’t specify, but that’s what worked for me) and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. (It took at least 10 minutes.) Add 2 T of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices from the plate and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is done. (Because the liquid didn’t cover the chicken completely in my Dutch oven, I basted the top pieces a few times during cooking.)
Remove the chicken to a serving dish or platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 c of the sauce and the cornstarch and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes. Add the salt and pepper to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland. Pour the sauce and garlic over the chicken and serve hot. (Reserve some sauce in a gravy boat for the mashed potatoes.)
*Ina says: To prepare ahead, refrigerate the chicken with the sauce and reheat over low heat before serving. This meal would be great for company, by-the-way.

I made this last week before I had the chance to explore the Dekalb Farmers Market for the first time, so I didn’t have the right chicken pieces. I did NOT want to chop up 2 chickens myself and so I ended up using 3 breasts and 10 thighs. (I have since been to the farmers market and it is Mecca. The selection and prices CANNOT be beat and I look forward to my first meat purchase there. The meat department is to-die-for.) This uneven mix of pieces is probably what caused my pot to be so full, so if you use what the recipe calls for you should be fine.

Steamed Green Beans - Chicken with Forty cloves of Garlic - Mashed Potatoes

Steamed Green Beans - Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic - Mashed Potatoes

Look at that plate! It is stunning! Miraculous! Show stopping! Ok, I’ve gotten carried away, but I’m telling you – the entire meal was perfectly composed. (I under-cooked the green beans by like 45 seconds, but other than that, superb!) J’s plate was even more full than mine, if you can imagine, and we both cleaned our plates. And I mean CLEANED OUR PLATES. If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought we licked them clean. For leftovers a few days later (we were out of potatoes and beans) I made some white rice to go under the chicken and sauce. It was pretty good. It tasted kind of like gumbo or something.

I’m telling you – make this for your family or for your next dinner party. It’s even good for spring. It’s not too heavy and tastes fresh and lively. Ina recommends serving it with couscous (too bad it’s not gluten-free) and I bet that would be amazing. You could try quinoa mixed with herbs and lemon instead, to make it gluten-free-friendly. Either of those would make a great side if you served this in Spring or Summer. I told J I can’t wait to make this next time his parents are in town. I think they (and you!) will just love it!