‘Creamy’& Healthy Gluten Free Fish Chowder that doesn’t taste Gluten Free, nor Healthy!

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Its still running 30 degrees in ‘balmy’ Minnesota. Yeah, we do cold here in the upper Midwest. Here, it’s go cold or go home. HA!

Trying to think of what to serve up on this freaking frigid day, I hit the grocery store.

At my favorite grocery store they were tasting Atlantic Farmed Salmon. (I love tastings because I can ensured its not ‘fishy’ tasting) Next to the salmon was Alaskan Cod. Both were BOGO (buy one, get one free). I bought 2 packages of each! Tonight: Fish Chowder with Cod, potatoes, green beans and corn. Tomorrow: Salmon Croquettes. Seriously, it was a steal of a deal, and chowder sounds amazingly warm and comforting to me!

I did a quick google search in the store to get inspiration, and then came home with the intention of creating my own Gluten Free Chowder, that didn’t rely on flour.
So, here you go, a deliciously healthy version of a ‘cream’ chowder that is a snap to put together!
This chowder is VASTLY lower in fat than most recipes and it’s chalk full of protein. Is it ‘diet’ food? No, I’m not gonna lie. This is a healthier version of a normally calorie laden meal. I will confess, you will be temped to eat two bowls, just keeping it real. Cream-less never tasted so delicious!
This would be fantastic served with a fresh GF biscuits a GF French Baguette to mop up the last dribbles of broth!

**As always, read through the recipe and pay attention to my notes. If you spot an error or have any questions, please ask away in the comment section so I can fix it!

Notes:
*This recipe is flexible. Don’t like green beans or corn? Maybe add some carrots to the mirepoix, or add sautéed mushrooms, or heck, add peppers if you like them! You don’t have to use shallot, it just adds a slightly different savory note. Hate tarragon? Just use dill, or add some thyme.
*Don’t let your creativity be limited.
*I use red potatoes because they hold up a bit better under the simmer than russets or yukons.
*You can substitute halibut for the cod, or even salmon, but the flavors will be more assertive and need more assertive spices and seasoning.
*I will list ingredients I use in approximate amounts, but remember, this kind of dish is flexible. If you like onions, add a bit more. You hate them? Substitute shallots. The aromatics are there to build flavor.
**Don’t be discouraged about the length of the ingredients list. It sounds like a lot, but you likely have most of it in your pantry, and if – for example – you don’t have olive oil on hand, use all butter or try substituting coconut oil. I like the flavor of butter in this dish.
*And lastly, please, try to find sustainable fish. We want to be able to enjoy this bounty from the ocean for a long time!

Gluten Free Fish Chowder

1-1.5 Cup Onion, small diced
1 Large Shallot, small diced
1 Cup Celery, small diced
3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Tbsp Brown Rice Flour (just shy of 1/2 cup)
Old Bay Boil and Seasoning – just shy of 1 Tsp.
.5 Cup White Wine (I used chardonnay. Make sure its wine you’d drink!)
1 Tsp GF Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tsp Lemon Juice
2-3 Tsp Lobster Bouillon (I use Better than Bouillon brand) ((while this is optional, it really gives the broth a depth of flavor and seasoning that salt will not))
(optional: splash of Bragg Liquid Amino Acids, it adds a bit of savory salty, but not necessary)
4 Cup Fish Stock (boxed or homemade)
1.25 Cup Whole Milk
Dried Tarragon
Dried Dill Weed
White Pepper
Fresh Dill (also optional, but adds another fresh dimension and eye appeal to the dish) approximately 1-1.5 tbsp.
3 Cups Red Potatoes, cut into nice, big, one bite chunks.
Green Beans, cut into 1-1.5 inch sticks, approximately 1.5 Cup. (if using fresh, add with the potatoes, if frozen, add with the corn)
.5 Cup Frozen Corn
1.5 lb Cod, preferably fresh, but frozen/thawed will work too, diced into 1 inch pieces (see note at bottom)

Let’s get cooking!

Melt the butter in a 4-8 quart stock pot or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, celery, and when they begin to soften, add the shallots.
While the aromatics cook, measure wine in a 1 cup measuring cup, and add to it, worcestershire and splash of amino acids. Set aside.
When aromatics are softened (about 5-8 minutes), add the Brown Rice Flour and Old Bay. Stir, and add the olive oil if it looks dry, it likely will.
Add the wine mixture and whisk/stir to combine, letting the alcohol cook off while stirring.
Add seafood stock while whisking vigorously. It will look lumpy but keep whisking.
Add dried herbs. Start with a generous pinch of each. (A pinch is about 1/4 tsp)
Reduce heat to a bare simmer and let cook for about 10-15 minutes.
Add whole milk.
Add potatoes and beans.
Bring back to a gentle simmer, add lemon juice (really its like a splash, designed to add a bit of acid balance to the chowder).
Add 2 tsp of Lobster Boullion.
Stir to combine, then taste, and adjust seasonings, adding a dust of white or black pepper.
Let cook uncovered, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Taste and adjust the seasonings again. (the potatoes will absorb some of the salty seasonings.) At this point, you can add the additional tsp of Lobster Bouillon if needed to boost the flavor.
Add the Cod and Corn, reduce heat further to a bare simmer, cover and cook until the fish is no longer translucent. It will take 5 minutes or less.
Add minced fresh dill.
One last adjustment of seasonings, adding more White Pepper if needed.

Serve and enjoy!
My hubby always adds tabasco to his fish chowders, but this needed nothing. It was fantastic on its own.
This serves 4 easily.

****I was serving 3. I bought 2 pounds of fresh Cod, because I got one pound for FREE! I ‘guess-ta-mated’ my fish initially, at 1.5 lbs. After serving up my chowder, (making sure the bowls were chalk full of goodies) I was left with a generous amount of broth. I added the additional .5 lb back to the broth, brought it back up to temp to cook, then packed it away for another meal. You can use 1.5 lb and stretch it quite nicely to feed 4. But you can also make it protein laden and add the extra fish.

 

 


Gluten Free Mac ‘n Cheese: Christmas Party at the Horse Barn

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Well, isn’t that post title truly an example of words that you’d never expect to see together! My daughters ride horses, and so when the trainer holds a Christmas party, it just seems to make sense to have it at the barn!

As those who are gluten intolerant can appreciate, one can never be confident that foods at a holiday party are going to be safe to eat. I have entertained for decades, (oh, I hope that doesn’t date me too much!) and I can say with confidence that most parties tend to be rather unfriendly environments for those who cannot do wheat or gluten. (*2014 update: Things are slowly becoming more GF friendly!) Whether it’s potluck or cocktail party, there are loads of crackers, breads, pasta, tortillas, and hidden flour in many dips, chips and casseroles. I cannot emphasize this point enough: a potluck table is a dangerous place for those GF. We discovered quite belatedly, that the lovely ‘Stewed Apples’ a woman brought contained hidden gluten in it. After asking her for the recipe, she said she used Stouffers as the base. Here I was thinking to myself, stewed apples, cinnamon and dried cranberries, how can that have gluten? Shortly thereafter, my daughter had a reaction and I went online to check. Guess what? Stouffers Harvest Apples has wheat in it. Who’da thunk? You’d think the two of us would have learned better by now!

Back to the point, when you have dietary issues, it’s smart offer to bring something, and I tend to bring/send both a main dish as well as a dessert that is safe. I want my daughter to be able to enjoy herself. It’s hard enough being a teenager where pizza parties reign, and having to sit by and watch while they eat, so I make the extra effort to always send something for her to enjoy. Plus, I ensure it’s tasty enough that my daughter isn’t the only one digging in.

Today with temperatures being in the 20’s here, I decided to bring Macaroni & Cheese. One of my favorite versions is from the Cook’s Illustrated Family Cookbook. You can trust from Cook’s that the recipe will turn out the way they describe.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a pantry cook. I do my shopping weekly and pretty much make something based on what is either in my fridge and/or pantry. Then I proceed to modify the recipe based on what I have on hand. Today, I had on hand some sharp cheddar, jack cheese, a little havarti and swiss. Altogether it was close to the amount of cheese called for in the recipe. I used lactose free milk and substituted the pasta for my favorite brand of GF noodles – Tinkyada (Penne) Noodles. The Tinkyada holds up magnificently in cooking and just refuses to get soggy. Use whatever brand works for you, but make sure to not over cook the noodles and rinse them fully, or when you bake them in the cheese sauce you’ll end up with cheese flavored wallpaper paste, most certainly not the desired result.

*This will look ‘loose’ when you put it in the oven. That is ok, it will tighten up while baking. Do not add more noodles or it will turn out dry.

This has been a regular favorite in our family. I hope you enjoy it also.

Macaroni & Cheese (gluten free)

8 tbsp Unsalted Butter (you will use 2 tbsp melted to toss with the breadcrumbs)

2 cups Breadcrumbs (I pulse GF bread in a food processor to make my own)

1 lb Macaroni Noodles (We use GF)

1 Garlic Clove, minced or put through a press

1 tsp Dried Mustard, reconstituted in 1 tsp water

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

6 tbsp Gluten Free Flour (You can use regular wheat flour, I use Pamelas GF Artisan Flour)

3.5 cups Whole Milk (I used lactose free, please use whole or add cream to make your low-fat whole. This is mac n cheese for goodness sake, it’s not a diet dish!)

1.75 cups Low-Sodium Chicken Broth

1 lb colby cheese & 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar (I used what I had on hand, see above. I really feel it’s up to you. If this were not for a potluck, I’d have added pepper jack!)

Preheat your oven to 400 deg

Mix the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and set aside.

Boil your pasta till a dente. Drain, and rinse thoroughly. While the pasta is cooking (I’m all about time efficiency. Turn the oven on, get the water boiling, and start your sauce…)

To make the cheese sauce:

1. Melt the 6 tbsp of butter, add the garlic, mustard and cayenne. Cook until fragrant, about a minute.
2. Add the flour, whisking till smooth and well combined. I cook it about a minute to make sure there is no ‘flour’ taste.
3. Slowly add the milk and chicken broth, whisking constantly to keep from clumping. Cook it about 6 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add your cheese, still whisking to keep from clumping. 4. Add your well drained noodles, and gently fold together until well combined. (Don’t panic if it seems overly soupy. I have done exactly that, trying to spoon off some of the ‘excess’, only to have a dry dish in the end. Leave it and it will remain creamy and yummy if you don’t panic!)

Pour in to a 13×9 baking dish, top with the buttered bread crumb and bake for about 25-30 mins until bubbly and topping is well-browned.

Let sit for 10 minutes before enjoying. And then…..ENJOY!

ps) This may not be the most artistic photo, but I took it at the barn with my smart phone. As you can see, it had been 1/2 devoured and we came late after most had already eaten. Yes, it really is that good! One more tip: I have a gel pack that is microwavable which I put under the casserole dish to keep it hot. If you can find one and live in a climate like mine, I highly recommend. No power source needed!)


Finally! Gluten Free Scones worthy of Praise!

My daughter was diagnosed last year with having gluten intolerance as well as lactose intolerance. If you are tested for celiac, and you come up negative but still have issues, they put you on the elimination diet. That timing coincided exactly with the holidays. I was in a fluster. I have grown up cooking and baking with flour my entire life. Going gluten free, wheat free as well as eliminating all dairy and dairy proteins over thanksgiving and christmas was just more than a little overwhelming. Gluten is hidden under all various forms and names, and so is that dairy protein. 

Well, after 8 very long weeks we have pinned it down to Gluten and Lactose. There are pills to help with lactose, so that has been a HUGE gift to me. But gluten? That one is tougher, and as a newbie to this style of cooking it was just easier to buy pre-made or go without. (As a family, we ALL adopted this lifestyle) 

That left out something I really excel at. Scones. I make really awesome scones, just ask around. I’m not bragging, just making a statement. It’s a combination of technique and knowing your ingredients. My mouth waters just with the thought of them. A dollop of Devonshire cream or Marscapone and I kid you not, heaven on this earth. 

I have been attempting to re-create a Gluten Free (GF) version, using GF flours, mixing my own flour ratio, adding in extra fat, tweaking here and there and all were failures. I kept ending up with grainy, tough, heavy, dry and not very tasty lead bombs. The most successful attempt was tasty but like eating sand, generally not acceptable in my kitchen nor any kitchen. Then, while searching the web for tips, I saw a video for Pamelas’ Baking Mix. I actually saw it while researching for pizza crust, another thing I’ve been unsuccessful in reproducing. She was using her bread mix, but there were links to her ‘baking’ mix. I guess you could sort of equate it to Bisquick, but its not Bisquick. I proceeded to read all the reviews on it, and it received glowing comments on its ability to substitute very closely for real flour. 

Hmmmmm, I thought, maybe I can try this and see how they turn out? I scooped it as directed, I added just a smidge more fat, a little less baking powder (the mix has some in it) and mixed up a batch. It was loose, so instead of forming a disc, I used a batter scooper and ‘dropped’ it on to my sheet pans, garnished with sugar crystals and popped in to the oven. I adjusted the time to compensate for smaller scones and a looser batter. Pulled them out and put them in front of my daughter piping hot with a tub of Marscapone. 

“THESE ARE AWESOME MOM!!!!”

Dang if my heart didn’t just swell up! She had been missing my scones for months now, and I fear was getting very tired of being a guinea pig. There are some days that just ROCK as a mom, and this was one! The only downside was they looked kinda/sorta like cookies. Food, whether we want to admit it or not, is a visual experience. I wanted my scones to look like scones. That is when hubby, who I’ll confess has moments of true brilliance, said: “You need a mold”. Seriously, why didnt I think of that? I’ve seen them in my cooking magazines and I’ve always thought to myself: “Why would anyone need a mold? Just pat it in to a disc and cut it in to triangles with a bench knife”. Well, those molds may not have been designed specifically for GF scones, but its on my ‘to buy’ list as of now. 

Some days are good days, and then there are some ROCKIN good days. Making my GF daughter GF scones I could be proud of makes this a ROCKIN good day.