Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gluten Free Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps

My wife and I made a trip to Whole Foods recently. While we were grabbing all of our usual gluten free items, we noticed a new gf tortilla. The Sonoma Gluten Free Wraps are made from dark teff. To be honest, I'm not sure I've eaten teff before so I was interested in trying them out. The Sonoma line of products comes from the La Tortilla Factory brand based in Santa Rosa, California.
I decided to test drive these teff wraps by making Caesar salad wraps, minus the croutons.
I was surprised at how close the taste and texture of these gf wraps were to regular flour tortillas. Unlike other gluten free tortillas, the Sonoma wraps were pliable and easy to roll up without splitting. The taste was very good and combined well with the Caesar salad filling. These wraps will be my tortilla of choice in the future. Give them a try if you get the chance. Enjoy!!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gluten Free Banana Nut Muffins

In an effort to take my blog to the next level, I invited a guest photographer to help me add more of an artistic look to my cooking for this post. With the exception of the picture above and the last picture, my three and a half year old daughter took all the photos for this post. We are still working on not having our fingers in front of the lens. Although, the red blur does add some unique flair to the pictures. It saddens me a little that my daughter's pictures rival the ones I take.

Quick breads and muffins are one of my favorite gluten free treats. The texture and flavor are very close to their glutinous counterparts. Lately, it seems like my family can't eat bananas fast enough before they turn brown. As a result, I've been making banana bars, bread, and muffins more frequently.

Gluten Free Banana Nut Muffins:
adapted from Joy of Baking:
1-3/4 cups GF flour mix
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 -3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (more or less as desired)
2 large eggs
1 stick butter (melted)
3 bananas (large and very ripe)
1 tsp vanilla
Pecan halves
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Start by mashing bananas. Next add melted butter, eggs, and vanilla.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl; gf flour, white and brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into wet ingredients. After mixing thoroughly, stir in chocolate chips.
Spray or line a muffin pan and fill with batter. Top each muffin with a pecan half.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.
(My artistic consultant)
Allow just enough time to cool, then stuff one in your mouth.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gluten Free Taco Soup

For this week's "What's for Dinner? Wednesday," I chose a quick and easy meal. The last couple weeks have been a bit hectic, so I needed something I could just throw together. I decided to make taco soup. I can't really pump this up to be an elegant meal. However, sometimes a hearty, tasty soup is just what you need after a long day.

Taco Soup:
2 cans of diced tomatoes (if you don't like tomatoes, like my wife, use 1 can)
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1/2 can of water
1/2 an onion (diced)
1 pound ground beef
Taco seasoning (we use McCormick's)
Combine tomatoes, beans, and water in a medium stockpot over medium heat. In a skillet, saute onions for about 1 minute then brown ground beef. Add taco seasoning and finish cooking. Add onion/meat mixture to the stockpot. Top with cheese, cilantro, green onion, and sour cream.
Serve with Fritos corn chips or corn muffins.
Easy, Easy, Easy! We all need that now and then. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

7 Things About Me

I've been tagged a couple times now to reveal 7 things about myself. It's easier for me to write about food than it is to write about myself, but here goes.

1. I'm a terrible procrastinator, which is probably why it has taken me so long to get around to doing this. As my dad would say, " If it weren't for the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done."

Brian is my middle name. My first name is James. If you happen to have the opportunity to name a child, please give them the name you will be calling them as a first name. Going by my middle name has caused more than a few headaches over the years.
3. I climbed Mt. St Helens about three years ago. It was incredible to look right into the crater (behind me in the photo.) It was very impressive to see, up close, how much of the mountain was blown away in the 1980 eruption. If you have children, I would say at least 7 or 8 years old, you should check out Ape Cave which is also on Mt. St. Helens. Ape cave is a very long under ground lava tube that you can hike through. It's very cool.

4. I finally finished my Bachelor's degree this past March. I have to admit that I've never been a big fan of being in school. Education is important, I've just never liked school. After high school, I completed two Associate degree's. I have one for Fire Science and one for being a Paramedic. You see, my line of work requires more brawn than brain most of the time, so higher education is not a priority for most firefighters. However, completing my Bachelor's degree was a goal of mine that I wanted to accomplish for a long time. So here is the irony of my life; I've never liked school, yet I now have three college degrees. To top if off, I married a school teacher.

5. I have been in the fire service for ten years now. In that time, I've delivered a baby, pulled a man from a burning house, and saved more than one heart attack victim by administering CPR and shocking them back to life. So what did I do that landed me in an article for a fire and rescue magazine circulated nationwide? What photo of me was placed in a calendar about firefighters that was sold in malls across the country? I saved a cat and the photo above (I'm on the left) was placed into a calendar. You can even buy the picture online and no I won't provide a link. My partner and I were at a house fire when we were handed a cat suffering from smoke inhalation. We grabbed our oxygen kit and revived the cat. A man began taking pictures of us administering oxygen to the cat. I thought he was a local reporter but he was actually a photographer for a national firefighting magazine.

6. I basically grew up in two different towns. My parents moved around a bit when I was younger. I was born in Puyallup, Washington, near Seattle but I spent my formative years from about age 6-13 in Aberdeen, Washington and from 13-19 in Pendleton, Oregon. Both Aberdeen and Pendleton are small towns, about 18,000 people each. Aberdeen is full of depressed loggers and Pendleton is full of depressed cowboys, they're quite similar.

7. My wife and my daughter are my whole world.

Well, there you have it, a fascinating look into who I am. Thank you to everyone who has read / commented on my blog thus far. I am really enjoying getting to know so many of you out there.
Take care,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gluten Free Cookbook Review - Part 2

I've been meaning to finish up my review of the Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook for a while now. Gluten Free Every Day is written by Chef Robert Landolphi. The introduction in the front of the book really struck a chord with me. Shortly after being married, Chef Landolphi's wife Angela began developing digestive problems, fatigue, and general aches and pains. After a period of time, it became clear that his wife was suffering from Celiac Disease. Chef Landolphi embarked on a quest to create gluten free meals that his wife could enjoy. This labor of love for his wife led him to create a gluten free cookbook. My wife and I share a similar story. Although, I met my wife just days after she was diagnosed with Celiac. Never the less, I have been on a journey ever since to create gluten free meals that my wife enjoys. Chef Landolphi just happens to be, well, a chef and he wrote a cookbook. I spray water at a fire and have a gluten free blog, close enough.

On to my review. As I stated in the first part of my review, this cookbook lives up to the title: Gluten Free Every Day. So many of the recipes are perfect for a quick weeknight meal without a ton of prep and cleanup. I have many of the ingredients needed already in my pantry which makes preparation that much easier. The first chapter of the book has a comprehensive guide to various gluten free flours, including their nutritional information. Throughout the book, there are tips, tricks, and culinary terminology definitions.

I shouldn't share any more recipes or there would be no point to buying this cookbook. However, I will tell you that the section on gluten free pie crusts is worth the price, even if you didn't use another recipe in the book. I made a "Blaspberry" pie, which is a combination of blueberries and raspberries. The pie crust turned out to be the flakiest, crispiest, most delicious gluten free crust I've ever made. I have several short comings as a gluten free pie maker but that is something I can work on.

Amazing buttery crust

The crust shrank a bit which I didn't account for, but the flavor was great.

I can only think of one thing that may be a draw back for purchasing this book. If you are a well seasoned gluten free cook, you are not going to find many recipes that are ground breaking to propel you to the next level, with the exception of the pie crust. However, Gluten Free Every Day appears to be geared toward those just starting out with a gluten free lifestyle and those seeking straight forward, fresh, quick dinner ideas. Even after ten years of cooking gluten free, I'm always up for a new, fresh dinner idea. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Strawberry Overload

We ventured out to the strawberry fields near our house recently. Our daughter tried to eat as many as she could. We were able to smuggle an extra pint of berries out of the field in her stomach. The weather was perfect, it was overcast with the possibility of some rain which kept the crowds in the field to a minimum. The whole family was caught up in the fun of being outside, getting dirty, and picking berries. Before we knew it we had picked a heaping flat of strawberries. Now we had to figure out how to eat all these between the three of us.
The first order of business was to drink a round of strawberry milkshakes. This was followed the next morning with a plate of gluten free pancakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream. (not pictured) Later in the day, I noticed a new post from Tartlette in my blog roll. The Tartlette post was a recipe for Strawberry and Rhubarb Pate De Fruit. Please check it out, the pictures are mouth watering. I decided to give the recipe a try to use up some of our strawberries. I just omitted the rhubarb.
Strawberry Pate De Fruit
adapted from Tartlette
13 ounces of sliced strawberries (just over 1-1/2 cups)
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 cups sugar (divided)
2-1/2 Tbs Certo liquid pectin
Line a 8x8-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.Slice the strawberries and puree them really well in a food processor. Strain the fruits over a heavy saucepan and add the lemon juice.(do not use a fine mesh strainer, I used a larger holed pasta colander) Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook until its temperature register 113F, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar and the pectin to the pot and slowly bring the mixture to 200F, still over medium high heat while stirring constantly. Turn the heat down a bit and keep the mixture at 200F for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat back up and slowly bring the mixture to 223F. Keep it there for an additional 2-3 minutes (turn the heat down if necessary to do so). Remove from the heat and immediately pour the mixture into your pan lined with parchment paper. Let set for a couple of hours. Cut shapes with a sharp knife and roll the pieces of pate de fruit in sugar. Refrigerate if not eating all of them at once.

Puree berries

Cook as directed above

Pour into a parchment lined 8x8 baking dish. Allow to cool for a couple hours on the counter then refrigerate. Sprinkle sugar over the top, then invert onto a cutting board. Cut into squares and coat liberally with granulated sugar. The Pate De Fruit is EXTREMELY sticky unless well coated with sugar. My pictures are nowhere near as dazzling as Tartlette's. However, the taste is phenomenal. These little squares can best be described as a supercharged fruit roll-up on crack. Unfortunately, that name isn't as elegant as Pate De Fruit, so I'll stick with that.

I still had a ton of strawberries left over, so I tried my hand at canning a few jars of strawberry jam. I am pleased with the final results of the jam. My red stained hands are exhausted and I may take a little break from eating strawberries for the near future. However, now is the time to get out of the house and pick up some fresh berries. There are so many great treats just waiting to be made. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


As I sat down to eat my piping hot teriyaki chicken stir fry that I made for What's For Dinner? Wednesday, I had a revelation. Being a parent to a three year old and being a firefighter have so much in common. Where's the connection you ask? What led me to this grand discovery? For those of you not familiar with the typical firefighting work schedule, most firefighters work 24 hours straight and then have 48 hours off. The fire station becomes a second home. In fact most fire stations are set up like homes; there is a kitchen, living room, and sleeping area. So where are the parallels to parenthood? For starters, throughout the 24 hours spent at the station on duty, firefighters try to accomplish tasks. These tasks may include: training exercises, station tours, cleaning the station, or even shopping for the days groceries. Inevitably, an emergency call comes in and you must drop everything you're doing and respond to the emergency. No big deal, after all that is what we get paid to do. As a father of a three year old, I often find myself trying to accomplish tasks at home. Do I really need to explain how that gets disrupted by a three year old? Sleep in the fire station is as good as gold. If, on the rare occasion, you manage to sleep through the night without being interrupted by two or three emergency calls, it is an amazing feeling. Sleep comes much easier at home but there are moments that require being up in the middle of the night tending to three year old "emergencies." Finally, what made me think of all this in the first place was my dinner. Food is a huge part of life in the fire station. In my department, in lieu of a pay raise twenty years ago, the city began providing a certain amount of money per person for food each day. We shop for groceries daily and eat lunch and dinner at the station during our shift. Meals at work are something to look forward to. However, I can not count how many times I've picked up a fork at work, ready to bite into a hot, perfectly cooked meal, only to have the bell ring, signalling an emergency call. After arriving back at the station 30-40 minutes later, all the food that has been sitting on the table is now cold, wilted, and lifeless. The microwave fails to rejuvenate it to it's previous splendor. Tonight, as I finished cooking and plating up this hot, fresh teriyaki chicken stir fry, I told my daughter it was time to come to the table for dinner and stop playing. What ensued was a full blown tantrum, with screaming, sobbing, and a time out for kicking at daddy while trying to pick her limp body up off the floor. Unfortunately, my chicken stir fry joined the countless meals eaten cold and half heartedly revived with a microwave.

Chicken Teriyaki Stir Fry:
4 chicken breasts -cubed
1/3 cup each of diced onion, celery, green bell pepper, carrots, and broccoli
2 cloves of garlic -minced
Teriyaki Sauce:
1/2 cup GF soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs plus 2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs Mirin - rice cooking wine
1-1/2 tsp minced garlic
1-1/2 tsp fresh ginger
Put all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat until sugars dissolve. Pour half the sauce in a skillet and add chicken and garlic. When chicken is nearly finished cooking, add the vegetables. Cook until tender. Pour over rice and add teriyaki sauce to taste.

My dinner in better times. Enjoy Hot!!!