Friday, January 28, 2011

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chicken Pot Pie

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chicken Pot Pie 
It’s been a rough winter here in Seattle.  First I get sick, and then Ben gets sick, and then I get sick again.  The weather isn’t that bad, just damp and chilling to the bone.  I spend much of my time hunkered at my desk with blankets and a heated rice bag.  Somehow, dry 15 degree weather is easier to deal with than wet 40 degree weather.

Before this latest round of illness I got a bug in my bonnet to make a dairy-free chicken pot pie.  I adore pot pie.  The creamy rich broth and delicate chunks of chicken and carrots make me feel safe and warm and home.  Sadly, neither Ben nor I digest dairy terribly well, and those feelings of comfort are overshadowed by intestinal distress when I make it with milk.

Enter: hempmilk.  Have you tried it?  I wouldn’t drink it or put it on cereal but I adore cooking with it.  It thickens beautifully, and the unsweetened variety tastes neutral so you can spice it up any way you like.  I’ve used it with great success to make tuna noodle casserole.

When I cook with hemp milk, I almost always add a touch of tahini for depth of flavor.  Nut milks can taste rather two-dimensional.  They're passable substitutes that do in a pinch, but not something you’d seek out if you had the choice.  Tahini and a touch of wine suddenly brings hempmilk into that third dimension.

This is a simple, flexible recipe that can be modified to fit your needs.  Lactose intolerant?  Use the hemp milk but substitute butter for the olive oil and non-hydrogenated shortening.  Are you gluten-free but digest dairy just fine?  Use whole milk in place of the hemp milk and omit the tahini.

What’s your favorite chicken pot pie recipe?  How would you change this one to fit your needs?

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chicken Pot Pie

1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
2 cups chicken broth
½ onion, finely diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
6 T olive oil
½ cup sweet rice flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened hemp milk
1 tsp tahini
3 T sherry or white wine
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp tarragon
½ cup thawed frozen peas

Biscuit Topping:
¾ c brown rice flour
¾ c tapioca flour
¼ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup sweet rice flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthum gum
1 egg
½ stick non-hydrogenated shortening
3-4 cup unsweetened hemp milk

  1. Mix together brown rice flour, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, salt, baking soda and xanthum gum
  2. Cut shortening into dry ingredients until it resembles small pebbles
  3. Make a well in the center, crack the egg in, and beat it up with a fork.  Use a spoon to mix the egg into the dry ingredients
  4. Stir in the hemp milk ¼ cup at a time until combined but not soggy.  Use more or less as needed
  5. Refrigerate until ready to use

  1. Place oven rack in lower middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a medium sauce pan or dutch oven.  Simmer chicken breasts for 10-13 minutes until cooked through.  Set aside chicken breast to cool and reserve chicken broth in a bowl
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook slowly until soft, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cut up or shred the chicken.  When the vegetables are done, combine with the chicken in an 8 x 8 baking dish.  Add frozen peas.
  5. In the empty pan, heat 4 T olive oil over medium heat.  Add sweet rice flour and whisk until combined and slightly browned, about 1 minute.
  6. Slowly add hemp milk and chicken broth, stirring constantly until thickened.  Add tahini, thyme and tarragon.  Adjust seasonings as needed.
  7. Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables, stirring slightly until just combined.
  8. Drop nine biscuits over filling and back for 25-30 minutes or until don.
  9. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Spice It Up!

My horribly disorganized spice cupboard!
The variety of herbs and spices we use in our cooking has come a long way in the past 20 years.  Bay leaves, basil and salt are no longer the only spices commonly found in the American kitchen -- mustard seeds and smoked paprika now grace our shelves too.  In my cupboards alone I had upwards of fifty different seasonings crammed into corners and onto racks!  I had baggies and re-used spice jars and yeast jars pulling double duty.  I had a rack on the wall and a cupboard full of herbs.  I could always find my way around, but when my husband wanted to cook something I had to guide him through the jungle.

Well, no more!  After much thought and planning, I’ve decided purchase a brand new magnetic spice rack that is, dare I say it, alphabetized! 

Washed spice containers waiting to be filled
I shopped around for couple of months and discovered that most magnetic spice container were:
a) too expensive and b) clear-topped.  Spices look beautiful in clear containers, but heat and light oxidize spices, decreasing their shelf life.  After a bit of Googling, my lovely husband located stainless steel square containers here that were perfect for our refrigerator.

This turned into a bit of a do-it-yourself project.  I created labels on the computer and attached magnetic tape (the thick kind) from JoAnn's to the back.  We could have ordered pre-cut magnets with the containers, but for the sake of our bank account we opted to cut our own.

Refrigerator, pulling double duty as a spice rack!
The final result?  A lovely, organized spice selection that both I and my guests can navigate with ease!

The best part of having my own carefully labeled containers is that I can buy herbs and spices in bulk, which is cheaper and allows for quantity control.  Many people have had the same bottle of curry powder sitting on their self for 10, 15 or 20 years.  This is not good.  Spices are fragile and should be replaced every 6 months to a year.  Instead of buying large bottles and throwing them out when their potency has waned, try this: buy smaller portions from the bulk section and use it all up before buying more.  The secret to preventing waste (and stale spices) is turnover.

So... how do you store your spices?  What works well for you?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

French Lentil Soup

French Lentil Soup with Chicken Sausage

My mom has made lentil soup since I was a little girl.  I believe she started with the recipe for Greek Lentil Soup from Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook, but over the years (with slight tweaks here and there) it just became our family’s lentil soup recipe.

I grew up eating brown-green lentils, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered that they come in a rainbow of colors: red, yellow, light green, dark green, white and black!  Then two years ago my lovely friend Aurelia brought me a bag of French lentils from southern France and I’ve become rather... well, obsessed.

French Lentils

French lentils are smaller than the brown-green variety, hold their shape slightly better and are a bit chewier when eaten.  They also take a bit longer to cook.  In this house, any dish containing lentils is considered a quick weeknight dish because they don’t require the extended soaking and cooking of beans.  This makes the longer cooking time for French lentils a hurdle, but it's a surmountable one.  I just make sure to start the soup 10-15 minutes earlier than I would for another lentil variety, then I do something else (dishes?) during the extra cooking time.  Simple!

Nutritionally, I can’t say enough about our friendly legume.  They're chock-full of fiber, protein, and B-vitamins.  If you're at all concerned about your cholesterol, eat lentils!  Two-thirds cup of cooked lentils contains 10.5 grams of fiber, and depending on your age, sex, and health, it’s recommended you eat 20-38 grams of fiber per day.  One serving of lentils can get you halfway there. 

Italian Wedding Soup from "My Homemade Year"

Recently, I made a LOT of lentil soup to freeze.  My wonderful friend Katie has started a new project called My Homemade Year.  For the year of 2011, she is not going to buy anything she can reasonably make herself, whether it’s bread, canned tomatoes or shampoo.  She is an expressive writer, full of ideas, and she's re-inspired me to cook much of my food from scratch!  The other day, we got together and made soup.  I cooked French lentil soup, she prepared Italian Wedding Soup and we split the bounty. 

Soup for the freezer!

After just a couple hours of cooking, we finished with 4 quarts of soup each.  I freeze most of my food in canning jars because I have an extra freezer, but Katie has a neat trick for storing her soup using flattened freezer bags.  Trot over to her blog and see how she did it!

French Lentil Soup

Makes about 5 quarts

¾ to 1-pound mild chicken Italian sausage
1 T olive oil (if necessary)
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp basil
2 tsp oregano
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium red potatoes, diced
3 cups French lentils
12 cups broth or water
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Apple cider vinegar to taste.
  1. Sauté Italian sausage in a large soup pot until brown.  Remove.  If necessary, add olive oil until fat in pan equals 1 tablespoon.  Brown onions slowly over medium low heat for about 20 minutes or until they start to turn the color of caramel.
  2. Add garlic, basil and oregano and sauté 30 seconds, or until the garlic becomes fragrant but not brown.
  3. Deglaze pan with 2 cups of broth.  Add carrot, potato, lentils and remaining 10 cups of broth.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down heat to low and simmer for about 50 minutes until the lentils are soft but not falling apart.
Serve with a splash of apple cider or balsamic vinegar.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Choice: You have one, so make one!

Stop.  Think.  Choose.  Reflect.

For many people, food is a malevolent force that sneaks up behind them and yells, “Surprise!”  Somehow that bag of chips or tray of cookies made it from the cupboard all the way down your throat... and you realize afterward that may not have been the best idea. 

Hunger isn't the only reason people do this.  We all eat for many reasons, including:
  • Stress
  • Boredom
  • Control
  • Love
  • Fulfillment
  • Social acceptance
  • Necessity

The good news is that you can stop the "food assault" before it starts.  Take a moment before you reach for that third piece of pizza or container of ice cream.  Stop.  Think.  Then choose.  As a dietitian, I don’t really care what the outcome of that choice is but I want you to make it.  The food doesn’t have any feelings about being eaten, but I guarantee that you will have feelings about eating too much.  Again.

Why choose?  The act of choosing isn’t to get you to stop eating, it’s to help you take an active role in your gastronomic life.  The triple venti machiatto doesn’t have control over whether it glides down your throat--that's your call.  Decide what you want and then do it, guilt-free.  If the machiatto was a bad idea, acknowledge that fact and decide what you would do differently in the future (like a double latte).  Then move on.

Stopping and making a choice allows you to do just that.  Eventually, you'll start connecting your actions with their consequences and start to make different decisions. 

Your Plan:
  1. Stop before or during your snack/meal.  Decide what you want and how much.  Choose.
  2. After you eat, assess whether you made a sound decision.  How do you feel?
  3. Decide what you will do differently in the future.

  1. I’ve had two pieces of pizza and I'm kind of full, but this pizza is DELICIOUS and I don’t want to stop.  I’m choosing a third piece of pizza because I would find that mentally satisfying.
  2. Oh my goodness.  That third piece of pizza was too much.  I feel horrible!
  3. Next time we have pizza, I’ll remember what this feels like.  When it comes to making my choice about how many pieces of pizza to eat, I’m going to choose to have two instead of three.
Give it a shot, let me know what you think.  You can do this!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Roasted Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts

A Brussels Sprout

During the winter months, our household doesn’t eat many uncooked veggies because salad greens aren’t available locally in January and because they just don’t taste good to me.   Veggies here are braised, stir-fried, sautéed, blanched, baked and roasted!

Brussels sprouts before roasting

Do you roast veggies?  Over the holidays my mother-in-law oven-roasted sugar snap peas, which I didn’t know was possible.  Turns out, you can roast almost anything!

Broccoli before roasting

My favorite veggies to roast in the oven are broccoli and Brussels sprouts, two members of the cruciferous (or cabbage) family that are packed with nutrients.  They are both high in vitamins A, C and K, as well as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and B6.  They both contain cancer fighting compounds, including indole-3-carbinol, which has been shown to stop the growth of prostate and breast cancer cells.

Are you sold yet?  Eating veggies out of the cruciferous family is one of the best choices you can make for your health.

Cutting off the outer layer of the broccoli stem

You aren’t restricted to the tops of broccoli stalks.  Did you know you can eat the inside of broccoli stems?  Just stand the stalk up on its end and cut off the tough outer layer in four slices.  Inside is a pale green stem.  When you bite into it, you will experience an initial moistness and crunch reminiscent of a water chestnut, and after a chew or two, the distinctive sweet yet slightly sulphorous broccoli taste will appear.  Add the innards of broccoli to stir-fries, pasta dishes or eat raw in salads.

Inside the broccoli stem

Roasted Broccoli

½ to 1 lb. broccoli
½ to 1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Remove stems and slice broccoli lengthwise, approximate ½ inch thick.
  3. Toss with enough olive oil to coat broccoli but not drench it.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast on baking sheet 10-13 minutes until you can piece it with a fork.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

½ to 1 lb Brussels sprouts
½-1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash, slice off ends and peel off outer layers of  the sprout. If the sprouts are large, slice them in half.
  3. Toss with enough oil to coat, season to taste.
  4. Spread on baking sheet and roast 25-30 minutes or until sprouts can be pierced with a fork,  stirring half-way through.