Friday, March 27, 2009

GF Microwave Caramel Popcorn

This recipe was the result of three things. First, my son made a snow globe for a kindergarten 3-D weather project, and after filling it up with corn syrup and water, I had LOTS of corn syrup left over. Second, I have been trying to think of or find recipes that are naturally gluten free. And third, I live in Las Vegas, and I spend the 6 months of the year that are blazing hot trying to avoid my oven, so I'm always looking for ways to use my microwave. I was so excited when this recipe worked.

Decadent 8-cup version.

Microwave Caramel Corn
8-16 cups popped popcorn (see note)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 unsalted butter, sliced into 4 pieces

1/8 c. light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda

(If you don't have an air popper, you can pop popcorn in the microwave. Take a brown paper lunch bag, put 1/3 cup of unpopped popcorn kernels in it, roll down the top a couple of times. Place it standing up, not on its side, in the microwave. Use your popcorn setting, or pop it for 2-3 minutes, and listen for the pops to slow down. When there is about 2 seconds between pops, or when you can see that your bag is about to overflow, your popcorn is done. My microwave has kind of a wimpy popcorn setting, so I hit it and then add 20 seconds. That gives me a full bag of popcorn, which is about 8 cups.
) Added 5/12/09: Apparently you can start a fire with a paper bag in some microwaves. I haven't had a problem, but I saw an online discussion where someone had. Anyway, you might want to check your microwave's manual or buy a microwave popcorn popper. At any rate be careful!

Once your popcorn is popped, dump it in a big bowl, shake it a little so the "old maids" fall down into the bottom. Then transfer the popcorn by hand to another large microwave safe bowl, leaving the old maids in the first bowl. Discard the old maids. Spray a large spoon lightly with pan spray and leave it with your bowl of popcorn. Tear off a couple of large sheets of waxed paper or tinfoil and spread them out on the counter.

In a 2-quart glass bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and vanilla. Heat it for 1 minute 30 seconds on high, then take the bowl out and stir it (I use a wire whisk) until it is well combined. Return the bowl to the microwave, and cook it for another minute. Pay attention, you do not want to burn it or let it overflow, you do want it to really boil. Remove it from the microwave and stir in the baking soda.
Working quickly, dribble the syrup over the popcorn. Use the spoon you sprayed and stir/toss the popcorn to coat it with caramel. Stick the bowl back in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then stir the popcorn again. Repeat this two times for a total of 1 minute 30 seconds, and 3 stirs. Spread the popcorn out on the waxed paper and let it cool until the coating is set. Store it in an airtight container.

My microwave is an 1100 watt microwave. Microwaves vary. Check the wattage on your microwave. You will have to vary the cooking times accordingly. If your microwave has less wattage you probably will have to cook the caramel and the popcorn longer. If your microwave has a higher wattage, you might need less time, or you could reduce the power and try using the same times. In any event, pay attention to it while it is cooking, use your eyes and your nose. You do not want to burn the caramel or popcorn, if you can help it, because it will make a stinky mess. Be very careful when you are handling the hot caramel; you can really burn yourself with it. You could vary this recipe by adding nuts, or other fun ingredients, to the popcorn.

Yummy 16-cup version.

Note: If you use 16 cups of popcorn you are going to have lightly coated, but still delicious, caramel popcorn. If you use 8 cups you will have decadent, sugary caramel corn. For every day snacking I usually make the 16 cup version, it doesn't mess the local diabetic up much. For a special occasion or holiday treats, make the sugary stuff. It's all really good. You could also double the caramel recipe and pour it over 16-cups of popcorn, however, you have to increase your cooking times by roughly half to get the same result.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gluten-Free Pizza

I have made a lot of homemade pizza. Most of it was not gluten free. Every Friday night was pizza night at my house, and every Friday night every one was happy (who doesn't like pizza?), and everyone ate their dinner, it was fun to have my kids help me (read: eat cheese, pepperoni and olives), and it was more economical than going out. It was fun, but it was also a strategy. Pizzeria pizza used to really mess up my son's blood sugar. But if I made it at home and used white whole wheat flour, part-skim mozzarella, turkey pepperoni, and served it with a salad, it didn't affect him more than any other meal. (Well, except for the post-pizza gluten bellyache, but we didn't know that back then.) So when my son was diagnosed with celiac, that was one of the things I mourned: pizza night with the hubby and kids.

During the first few weeks after diagnosis, we tried a few GF pizza crust mixes. They were all nasty. And then I found Annelise Roberts' book "Gluten Free Baking Classics." My husband took one bite of her pizza crust, and said, "Hey, this is really good." And now thanks to her wonderful crust recipe we are back to having pizza night.

Gluten-free pizza toppings.

For toppings, I use generally use Walmart's Great Value pizza sauce, sliced olives, and part-skim mozzarella, with Hormel's turkey pepperoni, and Canadian style bacon. They are all marked gluten free. Of course, your toppings are only limited by your imagination. (Her recipe is half whole grain, thanks to the millet and sorghum. Hormel's turkey pepperoni has been one of my favorite products for years: no one ever guesses it isn't regular pepperoni and it has 70 percent less fat in it.)

A pre-baked pizza crust.

The pizza dough is kind of like a really thick cake mix dough. The hardest part about making the pizza is spreading it out evenly in a circle. I have found that the easiest way to do that is to use a regular cookie sheet, spray it lightly and sprinkle it with corn meal. Then use an offset spatula sprayed with pan spray to spread the dough out. You let the dough rise for 30-40 minutes and pre-bake it. Then you cover it with your toppings and bake it again. The only change I've made to her recipe is to pre-bake it for 10 minutes instead of 15, and then to bake it with the toppings on it for 15 minutes instead of 10. We like our toppings a little more cooked than they were getting.

Piping hot turkey pepperoni and olive pizza.

My kids requested a "Hawaiian" pizza.

Each dough recipe makes one pizza. I usually make two pizzas for dinner. (I'd say they are about mediums.) That feeds two adults, two pizza-loving little boys and leaves ample for left-overs for the little boys' lunch the next day. I've found that you can bake two pizzas at once, but it works better if you make sure that the one that pre-bakes on the top shelf, is on the bottom shelf when you are baking your toppings, and vice versa.

For more information on "Gluten-Free Baking Classics" check out the link to the right to Annelise Roberts' Food Philosopher web site. Or check out my earlier posts about her book.

Note to diabetics: 1/8 of a pizza is 24g of carbs, before toppings. I usually give a combo bolus over an hour and a half and split it half and half.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gluten-Free Vegetable Lentil Soup

I feel so healthy when I eat this! And when the diabetic/celiac kid tasted mine and then asked for his own bowl, I really felt like a good mom. This soup is tasty and good for you.

Gluten-Free Vegetable Lentil Soup

1 T. canola oil, more or less, depending on your pan
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, chopped in small pieces
1 potato, peeled and chopped in small pieces
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
1 15-oz can of diced Italian-style tomatoes
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of lentils, picked through and rinsed if needed
2 big handfuls of fresh spinach, ripped into bite-size pieces
1 T. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste (I don't add any)
Parmesan cheese, grated

First make sure your ingredients are all GF. Heat oil in pan over medium. Add onion, carrots and potato and saute until the onion is soft. Add spices and saute for a minute. Add tomatoes, and chicken broth and lentils, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The lentils will be cooked after 30 minutes, but I like them cooked for 45-1 hour, to a softer consistency. Remove from the heat and add spinach and vinegar, give it a stir. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Makes about 10 cups.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Going gluten free at Walmart

After you go gluten free you start figuring out which companies are your friends. Having to read every label, every time you go shopping can be a real headache, not to mention time consuming. And gluten often ends up in products where you don't expect it. So I try to look for brands that I know label their products for gluten, or at least don't try to hide the gluten. I have to admit that I was surprised to find that Walmart does an excellent job of labeling their Great Value store brand products for gluten and allergens.

Pre-diagnosis, I used a lot of Great Value products simply because they were cheaper and I found them to be of very similar quality to name brands. Now I use even more Great Value items because they save me time and stress and money in the grocery store.

Here is a bottle of Great Value pizza sauce, and a can of Great Value sliced olives. Both are clearly marked GLUTEN-FREE in big letters. I used to buy Ragu pizza sauce, but the first time I read the label for gluten I decided it was probably gluten-free, but that I wasn't sure it was gluten free, and that I still had a lot of shopping and label reading to do. So I switched to the Great Value sauce. It's cheaper, it tastes good, it's labeled GF, and the only person in the family who can even tell the difference between the two sauces is my super-taster husband. Maybe some day I'll get around to calling Ragu, but for now I'm happy to use the Great Value sauce.

Gluten-free Shepherd's Pie

There are probably as many versions of shepherd's pie as there are shepherds. But this is my gluten-free version of the un-gluten free version that I used to make with a can of tomato soup. This is a quick and easy casserole; my kids like it and I always feel good about it, because even the non-vegetable lovers in the family get a healthy serving of veggies!

Gluten-free Shepherd's Pie
1 pound of lean ground turkey, not turkey breast
1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash, grill seasoning for chicken
1-15 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
2-15 oz cans of green beans, drained
4-5 cups of mashed potatoes
4 to 6 oz of shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

First, make sure all of your ingredients are GF. Crumble and brown the turkey in a large frying pan. I run the Mrs. Dash through my pepper mill to make it a little finer, but it'd be ok the way it is. Sprinkle the turkey with Mrs. Dash and cook until turkey is no longer pink. Add the tomato sauce and baking soda and stir. (The baking soda cuts the acidity of the tomato sauce.) Add the green beans, stir and bring it all to a simmer over medium heat. I usually let it simmer for 5 minutes or so, so that it's not too juicy under the potatoes. Taste for seasonings, you might want to add some salt or pepper, I don't usually add salt, but I do like pepper. Pour hot mixture into a 13x9" casserole dish, spread the hot mashed potatoes over the top, and top with the shredded cheese. If your ingredients are all hot, you can get away with tenting the top with tinfoil to melt your cheese. No oven involved. Of course you can heat or reheat it in a 350 degree oven until it is bubbly. If you are going to bake it, put the cheese on during the last 5 minutes.

If my family loved onions like I do, I'd saute half of a chopped onion and add it to the turkey burger. If you don't like canned beans, frozen or fresh green beans work, too. You can make your own mashed potatoes, but fake potatoes make this a really fast and easy dinner (make sure they are GF). I called the Mrs. Dash 1-800 number: All Mrs. Dash products are made with gluten free ingredients and on segregated lines, they are not however made in a segregated facility (they process wheat there on separate lines). This spice blend is great with poultry, but if you don't want to use it, I'd go with a spice combination that includes garlic, pepper, sweet red chili pepper, and Italian seasonings.
Note for diabetics: I usually count a serving as a section of casserole with about a 1/2 cup of potatoes on top. I bolus for 20g of carbs in each serving.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Calculating carbohydrates, and carb counts for Gluten-Free Baking Classics

Some of you may wonder about my "Notes for diabetics." My son has had type 1 diabetes and has used an insulin pump since he was 16 months old. I calculate his insulin doses based on the number of carbohydrates he eats. Commercial products come labeled. I calculate the carbohydrates per serving on homemade foods. I do this by adding the total number of carbohydrates in all the ingredients, figuring the number of servings, and then dividing the total carbs by servings. That gives you the number of carbohydrates per serving.

I have not yet baked my way all the way through Gluten-Free Baking Classics, so this list is incomplete, but here are my carb counts for some of Annalise Roberts' recipes. I haven't had any trouble with my insulin doses based on these counts, but if they give you trouble you might want to check my math.

Brown Rice Blend, 1/4 cup, 32 g
Bread Flour Mix A, 1/4 cup, 28 g
Cornbread, 1/9 of recipe 32 g
Cornbread, 1/12 of recipe 24 g
Blueberry muffins, 1/12 of recipe 33 g
Banana nut muffins, 1/12 of recipe 36 g
Banana nut loaves, 1/24 of recipe 18g
Chocolate ricotta muffins, 1/12 of recipe 36 g
Pumpkin Bread, made with 1/2 c. sugar and 1/2 c. Splenda, 1/24 of recipe 15 g
Pumpkin Bread, made with sugar, 1/24 of recipe 19 g
Pumpkin Muffins, 1/12 of recipe 38 g
Yellow Layer Cake, without frosting, 1/24 of recipe 29 g
Flourless Chocolate Cake, 1/12 of recipe 31 g
Vanilla Cupckes, without frosting, 1/12 of recipe 26 g
Vanilla Layer Cake, without frosting, 1/24 of recipe 23 g
Chocolate Fudge Cake, without frosting, 1/24 of recipe 25 g
Tart Shell Crust, 1/12 of recipe 15 g
Boston Cream Pie, 1/12 of recipe 42 g
Chocolate Chip Cookies, 51 cookies made with 1 T. cookie scoop, 15 g each
Pumpkin Cookies (from Food Philosopher web site), 4 dozen, 12 g each
Sugar Cookies, 4o cookies with sugar sprinkles, 12 g each
1 pound loaf of Basic or Buttermilk Sandwich Bread, 16 slices, 23 g each
Traditional Dinner Rolls, 12 rolls, 20 g each
Hamburger Buns, 6 buns, 40 g each
Pizza Crust, 1/8 of recipe 24 g
Buttermilk Pancakes, 8 pancakes per batch, about 22 g each

Gluten-free Taco Seasoning

I started making my own taco seasoning mix before my son was diagnosed with celiac disease, back in the good old days when we were only dealing with Type 1 diabetes. I was concerned about the amount of salt and the additives I couldn't identify in the mixes that you purchase. The first recipe makes enough mix for about 1 to 1.5 pounds of ground meat. The second recipe makes enough for 8 or 9 mixes; I make it in bulk and keep it in my pantry so that I don't have to mix it up every time I make tacos. You can make this without the salt and it tastes fine, I think it tastes better with just a little bit of salt. Make sure your ingredients are gluten free; spices generally are GF.

Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning (Mild)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. corn starch
For medium heat add 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper.
For hot add 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper.

Combine in a bowl and stir to mix.
To use, brown about a pound of ground meat (I like to use lean ground turkey. Turkey, not turkey breast, it is too dry.) Sprinkle the mix over the top and add 2/3 cup of water. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is coated and sauce thickens and clings to the meat. Serve with corn tortillas, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, and chopped tomatoes and onions or any other taco topping that you enjoy.

Big Batch Gluten-Free Taco Seasoning (Mild)
1/2 c. chli powder
3 T. garlic powder, scant
3 T. onion powder, scant
2 tsp. oregano
4 tsp. paprika
3 T. cumin, scant
2 tsp. table salt
4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. corn starch
For medium add 1 tsp. ground red pepper.
For hot add 2 tsp. ground red pepper.
Combine in a pint jar with a lid and shake well. To use, sprinkle 2 1/2-3 T. of mix over 1-1.5 pounds of browned ground meat. Add 2/3 c. of water. Cook and stir over medium heat until meat is coated with sauce and the water has cooked down.

This recipe is dedicated to my friend and sister Katie -- who grows a garden to be jealous of and doesn't eat food that has ingredients that she can't pronounce or identify. She is wise indeed.