Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chicken Divan, gluten free

A friend of mine who is gluten free asked me a while ago to make him some Chicken Divan.  I had only had this dish once when I was a gluteny person, and honestly I didn't like it!  But I like my friend, so I decided to try.  The dish my friend's mom always made was the normal American housewife version using cream of chicken soup and mayonnaise and some lemon juice.  I do have a gluten free cream of chicken soup powder mix I have made, and I could have tried that, but I decided to do some research.  I found out that Chicken Divan was originally made using a Mornay sauce made with sherry.

The first time I made it, I just used the basic mornay sauce recipe with cheddar cheese and salt and pepper.  It was good, but somewhat bland.  My friend called his mom and she said she used a little curry powder in hers.  So I tried it again with curry powder, and added just a bit of onion powder.  I also decided to use some Italian cheese blend to amp up the flavor.

This is what we came up with and we are both very happy with it.  It isn't much like his mom's but it's very very good! (I think much better than the Chicken Divan I had years ago)

(printable recipe)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small chunks
1 quart water
¼ cup salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon curry powder
Stir together the salt and the seasonings with the water.  Add the chicken breasts to the brine solution and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
Heat 2 Tablespoons oil over medium high heat.  Add the drained chicken and sauté until just cooked through.  Remove the chicken from the pan and make the Mornay Sauce
Mornay sauce
1/3 Cup cooking sherry
1 1/3 cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon curry powder
 ½ teaspoon onion powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Combine in Sauce pan and reduce over medium heat until half the volume.  Pour out of pan and set aside.
¼ cup butter
¼ cup gluten free flour blend (I like to use 2 parts sweet rice and 1 part tapioca, it gives the best flavor/texture)
Melt the butter in the pan and then whisk in the flour, cook for a couple minutes so you won’t have the raw flour taste, but don’t brown it.


Remove pan from heat, whisk back in the reduced stock.  Add 2 cups half and half, whisk until smooth.  Return to heat and cook until just bubbly, then remove from heat.  Stir in 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.
1 bag frozen broccoli florets (family size) and ½ bag cubed hash browns.
Stir together the broccoli, potatoes and chicken, and put in a large casserole dish.  Pour the sauce over the top and top with ½ cup shredded cheese.
Bake in 350 oven for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rainbow Jello

Do you want to take an impressive treat to share with your gluten eating friends and family?  This is one everybody loves (except my one sister who refuses to eat Jello of any kind because real food shouldn't look like that).
My oldest sister learned about this treat when she got married and it has been an important part of Thanksgiving ever since.  In fact we all had to learn to make it in case she went to her in-laws, or so we could bring it to our in-laws. Some of us like it better than pie!
This will take some time, as you have to wait for each layer to set up, so plan ahead.  You can easily do it while making pies or doing other prep, as it only take a minute to make each of the layers.

(printable recipe) Start with 7 colors of jello (small boxes) and a large tub of yogurt.  I like to arrange the Jello on the counter in a line the way I want it to go into the pan.  This is a personal preference, some people like to put in in the order a rainbow would be.  I like it to be more visually stimulating so I break up the colors and try not to put similar colors together. We have always used normal plain yogurt, but my sister has started using vanilla yogurt instead.  I prefer the tang of of plain yogurt.  This year I decided to try using Greek yogurt and I liked it better, so my recipe will use Greek yogurt.  If you prefer to use regular yogurt, use 1/2 cup.
Start by spraying a glass 9x12 pan with cooking spray. Boil water (I find it's easier to start a large pot of water on the stove and keep it simmering, then I just measure out what I need for each layer).  Mix 1 cup boiling water with the first color of jello.  Stir it until all the jello is dissolved.  In another bowl, measure out 1/3 cup of the Greek yogurt.  Measure one cup of the prepared jello into the yogurt bowl.  Set aside remaining jello.  Mix the yogurt and jello until smooth and pour into the bottom of the pan. Put the pan in the fridge to set up.  Leave the remaining jello sitting out on the counter until the yogurt layer is set up.

The methodology I use to reduce the time and dishes involved is this: I use one glass measuring pitcher for the boiling water and two glass dishes for the layers.  I rinse the dishes out after each color but don't wash them (it's just jello)  I use the same measuring cups and spatula for measuring the yogurt and jello each time, as well as the same whisk and spoon.  The layers will set up faster if they are cooled down somewhat when they are poured into the pan.  When I have poured the yogurt layer into the pan, I rinse the bowl and go ahead and prepare the next color of jello.  I leave it sitting on the counter to cool.  Once you have poured the clear layer of the first color out, you can rinse that bowl and prepare the yogurt layer for the second color. 

The first layer will take longer to set up, maybe as long as 30 minutes.  The following layers will set up more quickly.  If you are unsure if the layer is firm enough to pour the next layer on, simply touch it with your finger.  If it bounces back, it's ready, if it sticks to your finger, give it a few more minutes.  When the yogurt layer is set up, pour the clear layer of the same color on top and return to the fridge to set up. Simply repeat these steps until you have made it through all the colors.

Don't use the freezer to set it up faster, the sugars will crystallize and then they don't stay stuck together when you  serve it, it turns into a mess.  
If you get distracted and forget to pour your next layer in time, it will set up on the counter.  This is why I use glass bowls to mix in, simply pop it in the microwave for a minute and stir it around again, it will melt and be smooth.
Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream, yummy!

Carrot Casserol (kinda!) reborn gluten free

This is a picture from my family cook book from 1989.  This is my Aunt Thelda's contribution to Thanksgiving dinner every year.  As you can see, it is definitely NOT gluten free!  But this is the main vegetable dish in my family, and I feel strongly that every meal needs some vegetables!  

I could easily convert this to gluten free, but honestly, (don't tell my family this, it's sacrilege) I never liked the cracker crumbs, it's a texture thing.  So the first year I was gluten free, I simply made it without the crackers and thickened with corn starch.  But...

I feel that food should be visually appealing as well as smell and taste good, I don't like monotone dinners, and Thanksgiving tends to be all monochromatic, unless you are eating green been casserole, which also isn't gluten free!  Everything is white or light brown to dark brown or orange, I want some GREEN!  So the second year, I added broccoli, and liked it quite a bit.

I recently have learned about making sauces with wine.  Now you may think it's odd to learn this at my age, but I don't drink, so I've just avoided recipes with wine, or tried substituting with broth or vinegar, which you can certainly do, but I have found that the flavor really is much better with wine.  I made some Chicken Divan for a friend recently and fell in love with the mornay sauce with sherry in it, it's a whole new flavor experience!  So this year, I'm incorporating it into my Carrot Casserole!

4 Cups sliced carrots, steamed
2 heads broccoli, cut into small crowns and steamed
1 med onion, diced
4 T butter
2 T gluten free flour blend (2 parts sticky rice flour 1 part tapioca flour)
¼ t salt
1 C half and half
1/3 cup cooking sherry
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

 Melt half the butter in a frying pan over medium high heat, and cook the onions until transparent but not browned.  Remove from pan and set aside.  
Add sherry and chicken broth to pan and cook until reduced in half.  Pour the reduced liquid into the bowl with the onion.  

Melt the remaining butter in the pan and whisk in the gluten free flour.  Cook this for a couple minutes, continuing to whisk.  Don’t allow the flour to brown.  Quickly beat in the reduced wine and onions.  It will be very thick.  Cook a couple more minutes and then add the half and half and remove from heat.  You don’t want to cook the milk too long or it may curdle.  Stir in all but ½ cup of the cheeses.  

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray, put the steamed vegetables in the dish and pour the sauce over it. Stir slightly to make sure everything is covered.  Top with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

One of the great things about this dish is that you can make it the day before and keep it in the fridge until just before dinner.  If you are cooking a cold casserole, add another 10 minutes or so to the cooking time.  

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pies Pies, glorious Pies! and all gluten free

Well, my intention was to finish the pies and get this posted last week... All of you out there with kids will understand how the best of intentions can go awry.  It started with my little guy, who came home throwing up and with a sore throat, by time he went back to school, he had spread it to his older brother and sister.  So all my time was spent taking kids to the doctor, waiting HOURS at the pharmacy and running back to Wal-mart for MORE ginger ale and chicken soup.

But yesterday, all the kids were better, so I tackled the pies.  I have always made a standard cream pie, cooked custard filling for my pies with some variations that are all me.  I was given a little feed back this year that my cream pies are just too rich (apparently there is such a thing), and could I maybe try for something lease dense and more light and fluffy.  The person who gave that feed back is just lucky he got it in before I made my pies this year, cause telling me that right after I went to all that work would have been a really bad idea!

Here is the basic cream pie recipe I have always used.  I normally make chocolate, coconut, banana and peanut butter cream pies using this recipe.  I decided to try variations in two ways.  First I made this recipe and folded in 2 cups home made, stabilized whipped cream, chocolate or vanilla depending on the flavor of the pie.  I normally double, or if I have a big enough heavy pot, quadruple this recipe, same time, more pies!

For the second experiment, I followed this recipe.  To make the peanut butter, I used melted recess peanut butter chips instead of the chocolate chips.  Honestly, the peanut butter chips clumped up somewhat, so if I had to do it again I would use either plain peanut butter, or I would melt the chips with peanut butter.

We tried the chocolate cream pies and decided that we like the traditional cream pie with the whipped cream better than the old version, it is lighter and not as rich.  But we liked the flavor of the cream cheese pie better, so I will probably use it in the future.

Since I am only making pies for 2 people this Thanksgiving, and the kiddos will all be with their dad, I decided to make all my pies in these cute mini tins.  They come with lids to make storing them easier and they are just the right size.  I cut them into 1/4 and then I can a piece of each flavor without getting sick!

For my Cheese Cake, I used some fantastic gluten free graham cracker crumbs from my local gluten free store.  If you can't get graham cracker crumbs gluten free, make a cereal crust with 1 cup crushed honey nut chex. 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup coconut.  I like to put the coconut through the blender with the cereal.  Stir in 1/4 cup melted butter, press into the pie plate and bake @ 350 for 10 minutes.
 I have this thing about raw eggs.  I simply will not eat anything with raw egg in it, so I had never tried key lime pie.  In one of my food science labs in college, we were learning how acid will make milks coagulate and we made this key lime cheese cake.  I have added a few touches of my own, but I have to say it is fabulous and easy.

 And finally, to make stabalized whipped cream (way way way better than cool whip, and easy too)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (knox)
4 teaspoons water
Stir the gelatin and the water together and let set until thickened.
Add the cream and sugar to the mixer and turn on to low speed.
Put the gelatin mixture in the microwave and cook for 15-25 seconds, stirring ever 5 seconds.  Cook it until it is clear.
With the mixer running, when the cream has started to thicken but is not quite done, slowly spoon the gelatin mixture into the cream.
Add the vanilla and mix until firm peaks form.  Make sure you do not over mix, it will turn into butter.
To make chocolate whipped cream, stir 1/4 cup cocoa powder into the sugar before adding to the cream.  This whipped cream will not go runny in the fridge, so you can keep it for several days, or decorate your pies with it. (and it's great in cream puffs!)

 And now I have enough pies and cheesecakes in my freezer to get us through Thanksgiving and Christmas and some extras for the random holiday party.

I did make several fruit pies, but those fillings are so basic I decided not to post them beyond saying that I replaced cornstarch with clear gel so that it will freeze better.

Monday, November 5, 2012

*Perfect* Gluten Free Pie Crust

I looked at the calender today and it hit me that it's November...How the heck did that happen?

I have to say that I am so in love with this pie crust, that I will use exactly this recipe again this year.  I wanted to share it again now so that we can all start baking ahead of time and enjoy the Holiday with our families.

So, what is your favorite pie?  I am always looking for new tastes and thoughts to try out, while Thanksgiving is about tradition, it is also about FOOD!  I love to add new foods to my traditions.

Happy Baking :-)

I like to start planning for Thanksgiving early.  If I don't, Thanksgiving week can be exhausting, and not at all fun!  If I am going to work full time, take care of my kids and my house and then add in making pies and stuffing and rolls and anything else I want to eat at Thanksgiving, well, it's going to be too much.

One of the struggles with the gluten free diet at a large family gathering, is that we have to make most (if not all) of the food we plan on eating, even when we are not hosting. I have learned that if I care about eating it, I better make it!

One of the great things to make ahead is your pies.  In fact I make my Christmas pies at the same time, one mess, one afternoon of work, 2 great holidays!  The crust is actually better if you freeze it.  You can make the dough and roll it out and freeze it, or you can do like I do, and make the whole pies and freeze them.  Then you just pull the frozen pie out and bake it the night before or even thanksgiving morning.  Or with the cream pies, I just put them in the fridge to thaw just before we eat dinner, I love them still a little frozen.

I went to my recipe cupboard (yes I really do have a whole cupboard full of cookbooks and recipes) and lo and behold, I could not find my pie crust recipe that I have been using for the last 3 years, URG!  I decided to go ahead and try converting a couple of recipes and seeing what I got, and we liked both well enough I'm going to post both.

One of the things I have learned with any baking or cooking, technique is at least half of the battle.  When making pie crust, the technique is very important.  I have found a balance between getting it done quickly and done right that works great for me. 

(printable recipe 1)
The first recipe I converted from another blog, Smitten Kitchen
Makes enough dough for one double-, or two single-crust pies.
2 ½  cups  flour
1 tablespoon  sugar
1 teaspoon  table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold
1 Tablespoon psyllium husk
½ - ¾ cup ice water

The second recipe is one called Perfect Pie Crust that my mother has used for years, I think she got the original from a Better Homes and Gardens cook book before I was born!
I found it as well on the Pioneer Woman blog, this is the same recipe my mom uses. 

The technique for the two recipes is identical, I will discuss our thoughts on them at the end!
  • 1-1/2 cup Butter
  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 whole Egg
  • ½ cup ice Water
  • 1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1T psyllium husk

Blend Ice and water together to make a thin slush.  Stir psyllium husk into ½ cup of ice water and set aside.

Flour blend: 3 cups brown rice flour, 1 cup tapioca starch, ½ cup potato starch, 1 T Corn flour, 1 ½  T xanthan gum

Measure 2 ½ cup of flour blend, sugar and salt into the bowl of a large food processor.  If you don't have a food processor, this step can be done in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender or with your fingers.  Mix together dry ingredients.

Cut Butter into cubes and add to flour mixture.  Turn the food processor on in short bursts until the butter is the size of peas. What gives your pie crust the flaky texture is the small chunks of butter that will be rolled into flat layers when we roll out the crust.  While you want to make sure the butter is well cut up, you want to also ensure that there are small balls of butter in your crust. 

Remove the mixture from the food processor bowl and put in a mixing bowl.  Add the ½ cup water (if you are using the second recipe you will also add the egg and the vinegar) and gently stir with your hand until it is combined.  The point here is not to mix the butter into the dough any further.  If you are using the first recipe, you may need to add up to 1/4 cup more ice water.

 The dough should form into a ball.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour.  Can you see the small beads of butter in this dough picture?

Remove only the amount of dough you will be working with from the fridge.  One trick I often use when rolling out pie crust is to roll it out between 2 sheets of wax paper.  When making a sweet pie, I like to dust my surface with powdered sugar rather than flour.  Roll the dough from the center out on all strokes.   Roll it to the desired thickness and diameter.  
I own a candy marble and it is great for rolling out pie dough.  I get it very cold by either refrigerating it or setting it out with ice on it for 20 minutes or so. I make sure it is dry then dust it with powdered sugar.
I don't like to dust with flour because I find it makes the crust tough.  To keep the dough from sticking to my rolling pin, I generously coat it with cooking oil., and re-aply if it starts to stick while rolling.  I use a dough knife to gently lift the rolled dough from the marble and fold it in half 2 times to lift it and unfold in the pie pan.  I like to lightly oil the pie plates before filling.
 For pre-baked pie shells, bake in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 25-35 minutes.
This is a picture of recipe 1.  We felt that the flavor was good, and it was flaky, it seem to be more crisp than the other.  This one is great if you have an egg allergy, as there is no egg and it's a good crust.

This picture is the second recipe.  We thought it was more tender, possibly more flaky.  Since my family can have eggs, we will most likely use this one.

The original recipe for this crust uses Crisco.  I used butter for several reasons.  First is FLAVOR! it just tastes better.  The second is that I learned in my food science class, that when done correctly, butter actually gives a flakier pastry.

IF you need to use a butter substitute (for instance if you have a dairy allergy)  use a butter flavored shortening or margarine for flavor, cut it into cubes and freeze it for a while so it doesn't blend into your flour too much.

Next I will share with you some of my favorite fillings, my cream pie recipe and some no-bake cheesecakes we always have at thanksgiving.  Chocolate peanut butter pie anyone?