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Best GF Mac and Cheese EVER

I have struggled to find a macaroni and cheese recipe that I like, even before I went gluten-free. Not being able to eat normal pasta made it worse, because rice macaroni tastes like glue to me. (I like thai rice noodles though, so figure.)

But I made some baked macaroni and cheese yesterday that was so good. The ultimate comfort food. Rich and warm and gooey and so, so delicious. Also, gluten-free. Your gluten eaters won’t miss the wheat flour at all.

The key, I think, is to buy quinoa pasta. I used shells. For some reason I have never had success making a baked pasta dish with rice pasta. Qunioa holds it’s texture and doesn’t get mushy. Also, it’s full of protein and really nutritious.

This is another dish that is just better if you don’t try to de-fat it. I’ve made mac and cheese with low-fat or non-fat cheese, skim milk and no butter before. It’s just not the same. I ended up just eating the whole pan trying to get the gooey comfort my brain and mouth wanted. With this, a serving is just enough.

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Spinach Shirred Eggs

Another egg recipe.

I do believe this exhausts all the fancy ways I know to cook eggs. This being the fanciest.

Shirred eggs is a fancy-pants way of saying baked eggs in cream. These are rich and delicious and way easier to make than they look.

The cream in the bottom of the cup makes the whites turn to velvet and taste as good as the yolk, or even better. No, really. Scrumptious.

The best thing about this recipe is that its totally adaptable. I’ve seen shirred eggs made with bacon or ham in the bottom of the cup. You could use a different veggie. You can also change up the kind of cheese you use.  A larger cup lets you cook two eggs at once for less clean up later.

Also, if you put these eggs in the oven and forget about them until you can smell them cooking 40 minutes later, they still taste great. They’ll have a hard yolk (as you can see in the picture), but we like them that way. Twenty minutes gives you a hard yolk, too. The only difference I saw with letting the eggs over cook was that the cheese was crunchy, instead of gooey.

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GF Chiles Rellenos

(I’m having a Saint Patty’s Give Away here. Don’t miss it!)

The grocery store had some beautiful California Anaheim chiles, so I decided to tackled de-glutenizing chiles rellenos.

This wasn’t exactly a difficult job, because the crispy part of a chile relleno is not breading, its eggs. But you know–it still needed some tweaking.

These take a little time and get a bunch of dishes dirty, but are so so very worth it. Yum. We ate them with orange pork chops, which is another recipe for another day.

Chiles Rellenos

6 Anaheim peppers

6 ounces of cheese

4 eggs

1/2 cup GF flour or baking mix

1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn

salt and pepper

1 can enchilada sauce

Turn your oven to broil. Set your peppers on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler. Let them cook until the top is charred. Turn and let the other side char. Your goal is to have all sides charred and the pepper soft.

(I chose Anaheim peppers because they looked really good and because I cook for some whimpy child palates that can’t take too much heat. Poblanos are a little more robust and are also very very good in this recipe. If you have some people who really can’t handle any heat, you could even use sweet peppers, although I’d use half per serving.)

Once the peppers are charred, let them cool until you can handle them, then remove the skin. The skin will slip right off. (The middle pepper on the plate above has been skinned.) After they are skinned, use a butter knife and make a length-wise slit from the stem to the tip, though one side only. Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds.

Stuff an ounce of cheese inside each pepper. I used string cheese because it was easy. I would have rather used pepper jack.

Prepare the roasted corn by pouring it into a hot, dry skillet. Just let it cook until it’s defrosted and then dries out and browns. You’ll actually hear it pop. When it’s done, spoon some into each pepper with the cheese, then wrap the sides of the pepper closed around it all.

Put some GF flour or baking mix (I used the last of my GF Bisquick, which worked out fine) on a plate. The flour is to give the eggs something to stick to, because the peppers are slippery.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a medium bowl and the yolks into a small bowl. Beat the whites until they form stiff peaks and the yolks until they are thick. Fold the yolks into the whites. This will give you a bowl of pale yellow fluff.

Heat the pan you cooked the corn back to medium-high with a little olive oil.

Roll one stuffed pepper at a time in the flour by setting it on the plate, cut up, and just rocking it back and forth. You don’t have to turn it all the way upside down.

Then dunk it in the eggs. You’re looking for a thick layer here.

Set the pepper in the hot oil and let cook until golden, then carefully flip (the cut will be down now) and let get it golden on that side, too. While that’s happening, prepare the next pepper. You have to be quick with the eggs, because they will start to fall and separate if you don’t.

Set all the peppers in a 9X 13 pan as they get done.

Pour a large can of enchilada sauce over them. I used green, because it’s more mild and I wasn’t going for heat. Red works well, too. So would a few cans of that Mexican tomato sauce. Yum yum.

Top with a little shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 for about half an hour. I turn the broiler on for a few because I like the cheese browned.

And there you have it, lovelies. Indulge!

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Tuna Salad (for those who don’t do mayo)

Tomorrow I have to start working on the first of five packets of work I’ll have due, one every three weeks, by the end of the semester. My plans are to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a chapter on character development in a text book called Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway, complete the exercises at the end of that chapter, work on some other writing exercises, and begin an analysis of some blogs. (More on that later, I promise.)

So, as you can see, I’m going to need something good to eat. I thought I’d share one of my favorite study treats.

I have always, for as long as I can remember, had a rather dramatic aversion to mayonnaise. Even looking at mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip…they are the same to my irrational self) makes me feel pukey. Yes, looking at it, even though it’s the smell that turns my stomach. I don’t have an allergy or anything, because I occasionally eat a tiny bit of mayonnaise mixed with something (like tuna) that smells stronger than the gross stuff, and I don’t get sick. I just plug my nose and close my eyes when I scoop out my fraction of a spoonful.

I have a mayo story. When we’d been dating about three months, Kevin and I took the kids (only Adrienne and Nick, this was about 7 years ago) to an outlet mall outside Vegas just before Christmas so they could ride the huge merry-go-round there.  We ate lunch in the food court. Kevin got some big sloppy thing from Burger King. To my utter horror (it still makes me shiver to think of it) he lifted that messy thing and literally sucked the dripping mayo from around it’s perimeter. I couldn’t do anything but stare in abject disgust.

It’s a damn good thing that I already loved him, or I would have taken a kid with each hand and left and never looked back. I’m not even kidding.

So, all of that is a long prelude to my recipe for tuna salad for anyone who doesn’t appreciate fish swimming in nasty white goo. My grandma used to make it for me, never once mentioning how silly it is to be pathological about something like mayonnaise.

Tuna Salad (without mayo)

12 ounces of albacore tuna

2 T chopped black or green olives, or a mix

2 T pickle relish

2 T finely chopped white onion

Mustard (yellow is fine, whole grain is better)

Red Wine Vinegar

1-2 T  plain yogurt

Salt and Pepper

Start by opening the cans of tuna, draining them well and putting them into a medium-sized bowl. Add the onion, olives, and relish. Mix very well, breaking up the tuna. Add about 1 T of mustard, or to taste. I love mustard, so I use at least a Tablespoon. You might want less. Add the yogurt a spoon at a time, mixing until you have the consistency you want. Dash in some vinegar and season to taste. Mix again and taste, adjust as necessary.

This makes a fairly dry tuna salad. If you want something more creamy, you could add more plain yogurt (I especially like Greek.)  It’s great on a salad. I’ve dumped it all in my Magic Bullet and made a spread which was delicious as well.

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Seasonal Cooking: Spinach with Walnuts and Feta

Deep dark spinach is seasonal to the cold weather months. It’s vitamin-rich leaves are like a promise of spring to me. Slightly bitter, heartier than lettuce, and a good compliment to the rich, strong flavors of hearty food.

When I was a kid, I hated spinach. Until adulthood the only way I ever ate spinach was nose-plugged little bites of frozen spinach out of a box. It was so squishy and bitter, we used to squeeze all the icky green water out of it to make it as small as possible before swallowing our requisite three bites without even chewing.

Then one day, when I was maybe 20, a friend made me a spinach salad. I know. I know that it’s silly that a girl from California never really enjoyed spinach salads until then. But it had bacon, and egg, and a lovely homemade dressing, and it changed my mind about spinach.

If I’d been served spinach the way I make it for my kids when I was a child, I don’t think I’d have wasted 20 years hating it. This spinach is melt-in-your mouth tender, and not at all bitter. The cheese and nuts make it special. I almost always add dried cranberries as well, but I didn’t have any when I made it this week. This is another great base recipe that you can change up to suit your tastes. Pecans would be good, instead of walnuts. Blue cheese instead of feta. Raisins instead of cranberries. Or go wild. I’ve made it with mandarin oranges and almonds. I think the key is to add something with crunch, and something chewy. And cheese.

Spinach with Walnuts and Feta

  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 cup of walnuts (or whatever nuts strike your fancy)
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta (or…well you know…choose your cheese)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper (I use lemon pepper sometimes. Yum.)
  • (I didn’t use them in the dish I took pictures of, but some kind of dried fruit is really, really good in this recipe. I love cranberries especially.)

When you get started on this recipe, you need to have everything all set up and ready to go. Because once it gets going, it gets going fast. So measure out the cheese and walnuts while a couple of tablespoons of olive oil are heating up over medium-high heat in your biggest frying pan.

When the oil is hot, add about half the spinach. The whole bag won’t fit in your pan. Toss it around in the oil and wait a minute or two until the spinach is wilted. Add the rest of the spinach and toss around again until all the spinach is wilted. It always shocks me how much the spinach reduces. And how quickly.

See that? That’s an entire big bag of spinach about 2 minutes after I started cooking it. See all that steam? That’s because spinach is almost all water. Don’t let it over cook. When it looks about like this, tender and wilted, then it’s time to add the walnuts. Just dump them in and toss, let them heat up while you season the dish with salt and pepper. I love to use lemon pepper. If you’re using cranberries or other dried fruit, add it with the nuts.

Take the pot off the heat and add the feta.  Mix it up and let the cheese start to melt a little.

I usually serve this with chicken or fish. Mmm…or steak. But it can also stand alone as a light vegetarian meal.

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Pantry Cooking: Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

This is our very favorite chili. It puts canned chili to shame.

I’m posting the winter version, but in the summer you can add all kinds of fresh vegetables (I’ve added tomatoes, zucchini, peppers…whatever strikes your fancy.) The great thing about making your own chili is you can adjust the flavoring to taste. I like spicy, but you might not. So tone it down.

It’s your chili after all!

This recipe is great for rotating stored canned beans into your diet. You can use dried beans of course (I really need to learn how to make them.) If you use canned, you can have this meal on the table in about 20 minutes.

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

  • 3 cans of beans (I used garbanzo, kidney, and black beans. You can use whatever you like, even three of the same kind!)
  • 1 can of corn (In the summer, you can use fresh of course.)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 8 ounces of tomato sauce (I used one 4 ounce can regular, and one spicy Mexican tomato sauce.)
  • sweetener to taste (I usually use honey, about three tablespoons, but we were out so I just used about three tablespoons of plain sugar. We like our chili sweet, if you don’t then adjust this ingredient to meet your tastes.)
  • chili powder to taste (I use about a tablespoon, again, adjust as needed)
  • other spices as you like (I use garlic (fresh if I have it, powdered if I don’t), salt, pepper, and cumin.)
  • other fresh veggies as desired (I had a rather elderly poblano pepper in my fridge from before we started eating seasonally that I used up in this recipe.)

I want to point out before we get started that I am aware that fresh food is best. But since I, and maybe you, keep a store of food, it’s important to A) know how to use it in a way that you and your family will want to eat and B) rotate the food into your diet so that it doesn’t go bad. This chili could be made entirely from stored food. (The onion is good, but optional if you don’t have one available.)

Okay. Chop that onion up, and any other fresh veggies you’re using, and get them softening up in the oil.

While that’s happening, open the cans of beans and corn and dump them into a strainer. Let them drain a minute, and run a little water through. You don’t need to totally rinse them.

Put the beans and corn in a pot. Add the tomato sauce, sweetener, and spices, and put under medium high heat. Stir until it starts to simmer and then turn heat down to medium. Add the onions and other veggies when they are soft. (Not browned, necessarily. The onions should be translucent.)

Cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes. This will soften up the beans and make them delicious.

Taste for spicy content, and then enjoy!

I serve it over cornbread with sour cream. Mmm…

P.S. This is another stone soup recipe. Left over meat of any kind will make it non-vegetarian. I haven’t tried it, but maybe some tofu for extra protein? Any vegetable will enhance it. Just add more tomato sauce and spices and sweetener as needed.

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Green Chile Tacos

A few weeks ago I was supposed to go out of town for four days for work.

When that happens, which it does every couple of months, Ruby goes to visit Kevin’s parents. She is their only grandchild, and they love to spoil her. She loves the attention. Kevin doesn’t have to worry about an over-night babysitter since he works the graveyard shift. We meet in the middle, in a little town called Alamo, Nevada.

There is a little restaurant in Alamo that makes delicious homemade food, and has a sweet little bakery inside. Kevin and I stopped there for lunch after his mother and Ruby left for Las Vegas. Kevin had a French dip.

And I had green chile tacos.

Oh my goodness. They were so very, incredibly delicious. Just crunchy enough, just spicy enough, and just amazing all around. I had never heard of such a thing, but I knew I had to try to make them. The restaurant is 150 miles away!

Green Chile Tacos

For three tacos you’ll need:

  • 1 40z can whole fire roasted green chiles
  • 1/4 cup grated cheese
  • 6 small corn tortillas
  • olive oil
  • toppings of your choice

I used canned chiles because fresh peppers are out of season. I’m waiting patiently (impatiently) for summer so that I can make these with fresh roasted peppers.

A 4 ounce can holds 3 full peppers. Increase the recipe as needed (of course.)

In a medium frying pan, heat a tablespoon or so of oil. When it’s hot, add the peppers and cook a couple of minutes on each side. Mine didn’t brown at all, but got pliable when hot.

Set them on a plate near by and start making the shells. Lay two tortillas on the hot, now lightly oiled and chile-flavored, skillet. Use a brush to put a little oil on the other side of the tortillas. When both sides are soft and very lightly browned, sprinkle a tiny amount of cheese on one and stack them. (This is my trick for making them stay together. You can skip it if you like, or just use one tortilla per taco. I think having two really makes a difference. It makes the taco chewier and more satisfying IMO.)

Slide the double decker shell over and put one of the chiles back on the skillet. Let it get warmed through, and then put it on one half of the shell, top with some cheese, and fold over.

Push that taco over to one side and start another one. I was able to get three tacos cooking together in one pot, but only just.

That’s it. Just let the shells cook on each side until a nice golden brown.

Tacos are scrumptious every day of the year, but in the winter the traditional toppings are not in season (no fresh tomatoes for a couple more months.) I topped mine with sour cream, salsa, and some lettuce that was hanging around from before we decided to do only seasonal cooking. (Not the freshest and in retrospect I wish I’d left it out.)

The verdict: Delicious. I think next time I’d use those three peppers to make 6 tacos, because the whole chile made a sort of double layer that slid when trying to eat the goodness. I’ll also use cabbage for a topping instead of lettuce.

These tacos work for me. And I just don’t have a post in me this morning, so there is more WFMW here.

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