Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Total Oven Meal: Citrus Chicken and Roasted Vegetables and the Cooking Channel

The Recipes
  • I thought this would be a quick meal, but the prep takes really long. 
  • Serves 4.
Crunchy Citrus Chicken

The Ingredients:
1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange
3 c. gluten-free corn flakes cereal, coarsely crushed (I put them in a plastic bag and pounded them with the bottom of a jar)
3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
¼ freshly ground black pepper
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts

The Directions:
Zest the lemon, lime and orange. Juice half of each citrus fruit with either a juicer or by squeezing fruit in one hand while twisting a spoon inside of fruit with the other hand. Thinly slice the remaining half of each citrus fruit. Arrange fruit slices in bottom of prepared pan. Set aside.

On pie plate, combine citrus juices. In a plastic bag, combine citrus zest, cereal, rosemary, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper (or if you don't have a big enough one, just stir together in a large bowl, like we did). Dredge chicken in citrus juice, then in seasoned crumbs. Place on citrus slices and sprinkle with leftover crumb mixture. Discard any excess juice.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until coating is golden brown and crispy, a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast registers 170 degrees F (75 degrees C), and chicken is no longer pink inside.

Roasted Vegetables

The Ingredients:
3 medium carrots
2 large parsnips
1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves
½ medium rutabaga
¼ medium butternut squash
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp vegetable oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh rosemary

The Directions:
Peel carrots, parsnips, garlic, rutabaga and squash. Chop carrots, parsnips and squash into 1 inch cubes. Chop rutabaga into ¾ inch cubes.

In a large bowl, combine vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Add garlic and chopped vegetables and toss well to coat. Spread in a single layer in prepared pan and cover with foil.

Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil, stir vegetables and sprinkle with rosemary. Roast uncovered, for 25 to 35 minutes, or until fork-tender.

The Rotund Roast

My Take on the Bake
This was a sumptuous meal. The citrus flavor went well with the chicken, and it made the chicken so juicy. As for the vegetables, let's go on a faux tangent that will actually lead us somewhere:
I've never watched the Cooking Channel before, but I decided it was time since I was now cooking so much. My boyfriend and I fell in love with the show "The Worst Cooks in America." Two chefs compete to teach their own team of bad cooks to cook professionally. A cook is eliminated every round from each team. The last two cooks standing cook a 3-course gourmet meal for food critics who think that they are judging food made by the professional chefs. The winner of the best meal gets $25,000, and the removal of the title "worst cook in America." I love this show because I can relate to it so much. Mostly I laugh at how terrible the cooks really are, or reminisce about my old cooking ignorance. But now, in the midst of learning to become a gluten-free superhero chef, Wheatless Welch, I found myself making some mistakes worthy of this show:
Apparently you're supposed to roast garlic cloves whole. Instead I minced them because I was so used to mincing immediately after spotting garlic on the ingredients list. This actually made a very tasty addition to the sauce; so good I might even try it again! Okay so that wasn't "worst cook" worthy. But next I didn't cover the pan in foil, so the vegetables came out very hard. Okay so that wasn't beginning worst cooks material, but possibly episode 3 material. It's okay, cooking is life-long learning process, and sometimes mistakes like mincing garlic instead of leaving it whole lead to better-tasting results :)

Italian Bliss: Fettucini Alfredo and Eggplant Parmesian

The Recipes:
  • My dad's friend, a pure Italian, taught me these family recipes. The fettucini alfredo recipe was already written down, but I dictated the eggplant parmesan recipe by my dad's friend's memory. 
  • This is possibly my favorite meal of this whole project so far! That or the curry.
  • The eggplant parmesan takes so long to make that we started it, then made and ate the alfredo, then got back to making the parmesan.
  • You could serve either of these as lone main dishes plus a salad perhaps. The fettucini alfredo serves four, or eight if a side dish. The eggplan parmesan serves at least eight, but I don't know how many for sure.

Fettucini Alfredo

The Ingredients:
1 lb. gluten-free fettucini pasta (or something spirally like we used)
knob of butter
1 medium clove garlic
1 c. heavy or whipping cream (not Bavarian Style)
1¼ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (preferably Parmesan Reggiano)
Freshly grated black pepper to taste

The Directions:
Cook the gluten-free fettucini in plenty of boiling water. While it is cooking, melt butter in a skillet and brown minced garlic, then add in the cream. Simmer the sauce on med-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cream is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Do not let the cream come to a rolling boil or else the fat will
separate and you will lose the smooth texture of this sauce. Add ½ c. of parmesan to the cream and
continue stirring until cheese starts to melt.

When cooked, drain the pasta and place in a shallow serving dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta,
sprinkling with another ½ c. parmesan and black pepper. Toss lightly until the fettuccini is well coated.
Serve immediately.

Eggplant Parmesan

The Ingredients:
olive oil (enough for deep-frying)
6 cloves of garlic
28 oz. can (standard size) crushed tomatoes (or lots of fresh tomatoes)
6 oz. (standard size) can tomato paste
2 eggplants
2 eggs
parmesan Reggiano
black pepper
1-2 eggs
1 can buttermilk
2-3 c. gluten-free bread crumbs (we used corn bread crumbs)
parmesan (parmesan Reggiano preferred)

The Directions:

Preparing the sauce: Put a few tbsp. olive oil in a pot on medium heat. Peel 6 big garlic cloves, press garlic into pot with a garlic presser and brown slightly. Add in 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and a 6 oz. can of tomato paste. Add 5 tbsp. total for all the spice, either adding thyme, rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, basil or adding 5 tbsp. from a basic Italian seasoning shaker into pot. Boil off water if using fresh tomatoes along with paste; let the sauce get nice and thick. Put top on askew to let steam out. Turn off burner and let cool (will melt cheese if hot when making the casserole).

Preparing the eggplant: Use common eggplants with or without the skins, preferably without skins because the skins are bitter and shrink so the breading falls off. Peel off skins with a sharp knife. Cut into 5/16 inch slices. If serving for a family, use 2 eggplants; if making a big batch, use 4 eggplants. Set up slices in rows on counter and sprinkle coarse kosher salt or regular salt on one side. Then flip and sprinkle on the opposite side and let sit for 15 min. This dries the eggplant. Rinse off the eggplant slices under the sink faucet with your hands. Dry again by putting them on top of a paper towel that's on top of a rag, and blot them with a paper towel held in your hands by a rag. Put slices on a platter.

Deep-frying the eggplant: Cover pan with a bunch of olive oil, and heat. Mix 1 egg and a 1/2 can or more of buttermilk to get coagulation with the gluten-free bread crumbs (you might have to make another mix later if you run out). Place a drop of egg mix into oil to test it; the oil is heated when the egg mix fries immediately. Dredge eggplant slices with egg mix, then gluten-free bread crumbs, then fry on each side until extra browned on edges and tan in the middle (about 2 min, depending on your bread crumbs). If the slices start browning a lot faster later than they did at the beginning, turn down the heat of the oil. Take from pan when done and blot with paper towel to de-grease, using towel over paper to blot if too hot. Add another clean paper towel before putting the next layer on. Deep fry all slices and layer on top of each other on one plate.

Constructing the Casserole: Spread a thin layer of the cold tomato sauce onto bottom of pan. Then add a flat layer of eggplant. Cut some slices into quarters and use them to fill in gaps near edges.
Save small slices to put into the center of each layer. Then spread another layer of tomato paste on, shake a bit of salt over the whole layer, then sprinkle/grate on parmesan (grated short and skinny) and mozzarella (grated long and thick). Put on layers of slices of eggplant, then tomato sauce, then salt, then cheese until at least three layers thick (ours was 5 layers), ending with cheese. Put in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F and bake for 35 minutes, then take off the lid and put in for another 20 minutes, or until browned with black edges. Cool off for 20 minutes to let thicken. Serve.

The Illustrious Italian

My Take on the Bake
Wow! Eye-popping goodness! 5-star gluten-free Italian is possible! Also fattening gluten-free food is possible. I never knew eggplant parmesan was served as a casserole, but apparently its the authentic way to serve it. This tastes much better than a breaded fillet of eggplant that you get in a restaurant. Glad I could capture these native Italian "secret" recipes. I was really glad I was with my dad's friend also because he was able to modify the recipe to help compensate for the different way gluten-free "bread" crumbs behave and taste, such as adding buttermilk to the egg and adding more spices and salt to stop the corn flavor from overcoming the tomato and eggplant. 

Warning: this meal can take 3 hours, or even more if you do what we did and pause for a while to make the alfredo. A shorter but still delicious version is to deep-fry eggplant slices and serve with a slice of fresh tomato and a bit of mozzarella on top of each slice. Other fun and tasty ways to prepare eggplants when they are in abundance in the summer: make baba ganoush or grill eggplant slices with the skin still on, then sprinkle on salt and pepper.

Gluten-Free Spaghetti - Easy Does It

The Recipe: Spaghetti

All you have to do is cook the gluten-free spaghetti noodles according to the directions and heat up some tomato sauce and frozen vegetables. It's helpful to measure out how many noodles you need to use with a spaghetti serving size measurer. Remember to test the softness of the noodle before turning your burner off - it's generally been taking me a few minutes longer to cook gluten-free pasta than its directions say. Piece of cake! Peace out.

The Easy Evidence

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Swedish Meatballs, "Take that IKEA!" Edition

Swedish Meatballs
  • My Grandma taught me how to make this specialty of hers. She is 100% Swedish, so she should know. She uses the recipe from the cookbook by Wickstroms's, Chicago, Clark Street.
  • Makes 36 meatballs, about 6 servings.
  • Idea: make extra mashed potatoes while making the mashed potatoes required for the meatballs, then serve the extra potatoes as a side with dinner.
  • This recipe is made gluten-free with a few easy substitutes, as noted below.

The Ingredients:
1 lb. beef, pulsed smooth and silky (we just mixed it in the bowl with our hands)
1 lb. pork, ditto
1 beaten egg
½ c. mashed potatoes
½ c. gluten-free bread crumbs (we used a brand that made them with corn)
3 tbsp grated onions
½ tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ginger
3 tbsp butter

2 tbsp gluten-free flour (we used all-purpose gluten-free flour that you could hopefully find in the flour section of your local grocery store)
1 c. broth
1 c. half and half
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg

The Directions:
Mix beef and pork until silky and smooth. Then add in mashed potatoes, onions, brown sugar, salt, pepper, nutmeg, ground cloves, and ginger. Roll the mixture into meatballs the size of walnuts. Roll meatballs in a bowl with a beaten egg then in a bowl with bread crumbs. Sauté in a 10" skillet or an electric frying pan at 250 degrees F in butter until brown.

Make roue: Stir flour, salt, and nutmeg in a pan on high heat until it steams. Slowly stir in broth and half and half. Add meatballs to the pan. Cover and cook 10 min. 

*Alternatively, if you don't make the sauce in a 10" pan, as we didn't: preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Put meatballs into pan and cover with sauce. Bake 10 min. Stir meatballs in thickened sauce and serve.

The Homeland Hearth

My Take on the Bake
The meatballs stuck to the pan excessively, so you might want to toy with the type of bread crumb substitute to make it easier on yourself. It might've also worked better if we had used a mixer to "pulse [the meat] silky and smooth." As is it was, it took some muscle to fry the meatballs. But it was worth it! This tasted so amazing, definitely a comfort food and a delicacy all in one. After being told that the Swedish meatballs at IKEA probably had gluten in them, so I couldn't order them, I was determined to make them and enjoy this famous food from my homeland. And I did! Score for my taste buds' to-do list! They are now enjoying a new stage of happiness, and so could yours if you try this dish!

Home-made Yogurt and Freedom from the Man

The Recipe: Plain Yogurt
  • My cousins also taught me how to make home-made yogurt. They've tried out the oven method and the towel method, but finally decided on the cooler method to insulate the yogurt overnight. Learn from their wisdom.
  • My cousins recommend Brown Cow and Stonyfield plain yogurt over Dannon and Yoplait for the starter yogurt because Brown Cow and Stonyfield put more healthy bacteria in their yogurt.
  • It's easy to make this before going to bed, then wake up in the morning to put the jars in the fridge.
  • Serve with jam, honey, fresh fruit, and/or nuts.
  • Makes 5 Mason jars worth of yogurt. 
gallon of whole milk (grass-fed and organic if possible :) )
1/2 carton of Brown Cow or Stonyfield plain yogurt, or some of the last batch of this yogurt

The Directions:
1. Pour the milk into a large pot and set on med-high heat. Warm the milk up to 180 degrees F, monitoring with a meat thermometer. Continually scrape the bottom of the pot with a spatula so the milk doesn't burn. At the same time, set a kettle of water to boil.
2. Fill your sink with really cold water, put the pot of milk into the sink,  and cool the milk to 120 degrees F.
3. Use the boiling water to sterilize 5 glass jars, their lids, and a large spoon. Then pour this water into the cooler. Make another pot of boiling water and pour it into the cooler also.
4. Put a few spoonfuls of starter yogurt in each jar.
5. After cooling down the milk, cool the water in the cooler down to 120 degrees F by adding cold water.
6. Pour the milk into the jars and stir together the milk and starter yogurt, then close the jars and place them in the cooler.
7. Let sit in the cooler with the cooler lid on for 5-8 hours, with 8 hours being ideal. Then put in fridge. Ready to eat when cooled.

The Bedazzling Breakfast

Yep, I treat my plain yogurt as a plain canvas for amazingness!

My Take on the Bake
The yogurt turned out great when we made it with our cousins! They said it takes practice to get it just the right texture, but I'm sure I'll get it right in the future because I plan on practicing this dish a lot. Yogurt is a very healthy and filling breakfast that can be decked out with whatever you feel like - perfect for adding variety to your daily morning routine or for placating a picky family. Don't forget about all of the friendly bacteria this dish is adding to help your gut out :) It's also insanely cheap to make - you can  make 5 Mason jars full of plain yogurt on just one gallon of milk and half a carton of industrial yogurt. Take those 5 jars and multiply by the number of batches you make using your home-made yogurt as starter, and wham! You've got yourself a deal! My cousins called it freedom from the man because cereal is so expensive, and this helped them break "the habit."

*Note on using home-made yogurt as the starter: my cousins have only made batches from their old batches for 2-3 consecutive batches before getting lazy or forgetful and not perpetuating the (practically) free yogurt train. So I don't know if the quality of the yogurt diminishes if you perpetuate the yogurt batch train forever.