Monday, April 12, 2010

Sizzling Surf and Turf Pasta

Recipe Title: Sizzling Surf and Turf Pasta
Recipe Link:
Status: Approved
Rating: 8/10

Jen's Notes: This recipe is not specifically gluten-free, but it's easily made that way by substituting gluten-free pasta. The prep for this is pretty simple - just slice up the chicken and dice the garlic. If you start the pasta at the same time as the chicken and shrimp concoction, it should all be ready at about the same time. You can have this on the table in twenty minutes, no sweat. Always a nice thing on week night!

If you can't find chili paste, you can also substitute garlic chili sauce, found in the Asian section of most supermarkets. If you go this route, and you aren't a garlic fanatic like me, you'll probably want to cut back on the amount of diced garlic. Also, if you don't like spicy food, cut the chili paste back to 1 or 2 tablespoons. I used the full three tablespoons, and the result was extremely spicy.

We really enjoyed this dish - the combination of shrimp and chicken is unusual but tasty. The recipe recommends adding some salt to the final dish, but I think this could be cut. I added about a teaspoon of kosher salt, and found the mixture to be a little on the salty side. I also would have liked for some veggies to be mixed in there, so I think next time I'll add some spinach so that this is a complete meal.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Start to Finish: 25 minutes

This Week's Menu - 4/12/2010

Here's a quick look at what I'll be cooking up next week. Check back later for my reviews!

Sizzling Surf and Turf Pasta

Guiltess Gluten-Free Pizza

Chicken and Artichoke Enchilada Bake

Friday, April 9, 2010

Product Review: Pamel's Bread Mix and Flour Blend

Recipe Title: Pamela's Amazing Bread
Recipe Link:
Product Link:
Status: Approved
Rating: 10/10

Jen's Notes: One of these days, I'm going to start taking my own food pictures. Soon, my lovelies, soon.

In the mean time, you can occupy yourself with another product review from your favorite reviewer (right? right??). As you know, I've been trying to find a great bread recipe so that my adoring husband can have a sandwich for lunch. So far, it hasn't gone too well. So this week, I did the unthinkable.

I bought a mix.

I know, I know. It's shocking. I've always been a from-scratch kind of baker, and here I am buying a mix. It broke my heart to do it, but what kind of wife would I be if I let the hubby eat plain old meat cheese for lunch? See, you couldn't do it either. But enough chatter. On to the review!

Short summary: Awesome. It was easy-peezy to make, especially if you have a bread machine. I would recommend whisking your eggs together first, as always. Then it's just dump liquids + mix + yeast into the bread machine pan, set to desired cycle and go do something else for three hours. Really, the hardest part about making this recipe was hauling out the bread machine and getting the pan snapped back into place.

The flavor, you ask? Incredible. This was, much to my chagrin, the best gluten-free bread I've had so far. With last week's pudding catastrophe still fresh in my mind, you can only imagine the joy I felt when I watched the dough start to come together in the bread machine, and it actually looked like dough! Real, honest-to-goodness dough. And it tastes like bread too. Yes, it even works for sandwiches. Hubby has been happily having real sandwiches all week with this bread. This bread is still a bit dense, so he only uses one slice of bread folded over. I'm going to try adding an extra egg to see if that lightens things up a bit.

My only complaint is the price. The mix (at my grocery store, anyways) is about $6 per small bag, and that bag only makes one loaf. So the quest for the perfect bread recipe will continue, but I've promised hubby to keep making this bread until I can find a suitable from-scratch alternative. I'm planning to do some fiddling in the kitchen this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled!

Also, I'll throw in a little side review today. If you're like me, and have problems slicing bread evenly, you might want to consider getting a slicer. I spent an hour or two searching online, and I believe I've found the most bang for your buck in Rival's Fold-Up Food Slicer. It's only $40, and it allows you to set the slicer to your desired thickness. It folds up too, so that makes it a little easier to store. Hang on to the instruction book for awhile, though, or you might forget how to put it back together (I did). I didn't have any problem using it, and one nice feature is that you have to hold down two buttons together to get the blade to turn -- definitely a plus if you have a little one running around, and you don't want them to sever their limbs. I can't speak to its durability just yet, since we've only had it for a week, but I like it quite a bit so far. You will need to order it online, though, because Wal-Mart doesn't carry it in the store.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 3.5 hours
Start to Finish: 3.5 hours + 5 minutes

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

White Bread for Bread Machines

Recipe Title: Gluten-Free White Bread for Bread Machines
Recipe Link:

Status: Needs Work
Rating: 1/10

Jen's Notes: This recipe was pretty easy to make. Based on the reviews that I read ahead of time, I decided to pre-mix the ingredients before putting it into the bread machine. I also chose to substitute tapioca flour for the soy flour since I didn't have any soy flour on hand. The mixture came out extremely liquidy - more like pudding then anything resembling bread. So I added another cup of white rice flour, based on the advice of another reviewer. That definitely thickened the mixture up somewhat, but it was still on the thin side. I decided to let it ride, however, and see how it turned out.

One note I will make is that, if your buttermilk is not at room temperature, you can probably nuke it in the microwave but only for a very short time period. I nuked it for a minute, and the milk curdled. So I ended up letting it sit for awhile anyway.

After nearly four hours in the bread machine, I pulled out my loaf of bread. Epic fail. The top of it looked like someone punched it. The sides were very tall, but the middle was sunken in quite a bit. We decided to hang onto it for the next day anyway, just in case it tasted good but didn't look pretty. Unfortunately, it tasted horrible. I didn't actually get to eat any of it because my husband threw away the entire loaf after taking one bite.

Now you might wonder why this hasn't been moved over to the VETOED category. Mostly, it is because I am determined to find a good recipe for bread without using a mix. I refuse to spend $6/loaf on cardboard pre-made loaves, and the $6/bag of baking mix doesn't leave me feeling too happy either. So I think I want to play with the recipe a bit before giving up on it completely. I don't recommend making this recipe according to the directions linked above - you'll only be throwing away money.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes
Start to Finish: 4 hours, 10 minutes

Product Review: Pamela's Chocolate Brownie Mix

Recipe Title: Pamela's Irresistible Chocolate Brownies
Recipe Link:
Product Link:
Status: Vetoed
Rating: 3/10

Jen's Notes: On Easter Sunday, I decided to try out the gluten-free brownie mix that's been sitting in my pantry for a few weeks now. We were going over to my mom's for Easter lunch, and I knew there would be at least one dessert there that was just chock full of gluten. So it seemed like a good idea to have a (hopefully) tasty alternative for my husband.

The brownies were pretty simple to make. One nice thing about this mix is that there are a variety of recipes on the bag, so you should be able to make them with whatever ingredients you have on hand. There's a recipe using butter, another using only oil, etc. The cook time, however, was quite a bit longer than the 18 minutes prescribed by the recipes on the bag. Mine ended up cooking for about 30 minutes before the toothpick came out clean.

When it was all said and done, though, the flavor was just not there. The texture was grainy, but I could have lived with that if that was the only problem. The brownies also had a strange metallic aftertaste. I felt a bit like I was munching on aluminum foil. Chocolately aluminum foil, at least. According to my brutally honest little brother, this was the "worst thing you've ever made." These brownies turned out to be QUITE resistable, contrary to the recipe title. Only four of us were brave enough to try one, and none of us liked them. The other half of the brownies went into the trash.

Another complaint I had was the amount of brownies produced. This didn't end up being an issue for us, but considering that the mix was $6, I would like to get more than eight normal-sized brownies out of it. Imagine if we had actually liked them -- it wouldn't have made enough brownies to feed everyone, and our holiday crew is only 8 people (in my family, feeding everyone requires 2x per item per person).

If you are feeling creative, you might be able to make this edible by adding some sugar or honey to the mix, or maybe adding a cream cheese frosting. If you're going to use this mix, you'll need to do something to cover up that metallic flavor. As for us ... well, you know you'll be the first to know when I find some tasty brownies!

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Start to Finish: 35 minutes

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chicken Breasts with Wild Mushrooms, Marjoram & Marsala

Recipe Title: Chicken Breasts with Wild Mushrooms, Marjoram & Marsala
Recipe Link:

Status: Approved
Rating: 9/10

Jen's Notes: Another great-tasting, easy-to-make recipe today! I made this for dinner last night, along with some green beans and homemade mashed potatoes. Picky husband took one bite and said he loved it.

There were very few bumps in the kitchen while making this. I only have a few recommendations for this recipe:
  • If you have thick chicken breasts (which seems to be the trend these days), cover them while they are cooking so they don't take forever to cook completely.
  • You may want to add some potato or corn starch to the sauce to get it to thicken properly. I followed the instructions in the original recipe exactly, but I ended up adding some potato starch to get it to thicken up the way I wanted. Keep in mind that it will thicken up a little more when you remove it from the heat, but not a tremendous amount.
  • To save a little cooking time, start the sauce in a separate skillet after you get the chicken going. Then, once the chicken is done, transfer the sauce to the chicken skillet so it can absorb all the chicken goodness.
  • Homemade mashed potatoes work really well with this - just pour a little of the sauce on top of the potatoes before serving.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time:  20 minutes
Start to Finish: 30 minutes

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chewy Granola Bars

Recipe Title: Chewy Granola Bars
Recipe Link:
Status: Approved
Rating: 9/10

Jen's Notes: I brought these granola bars with me to work today so that I could have a healthy snack instead of raiding the vending machine. There were a few substitutions made:
  • Subbed sorghum flour for teff flour
  • Subbed dried cranberries for mission figs
  • Subbed cashews for walnuts

I tried two different grocery stores, but I was unable to find any teff flour and Whole Foods was closed. So, I decided to sub sorghum flour instead. I have no idea if this was the best substitute I could have used, since I am still pretty new to this gluten-free baking stuff. However, it did work and the outcome was very tasty. I really wanted to make this recipe verbatim, but fate was against me yesterday. First, I couldn't find teff flour and then the store was out of dried figs. I happened to have cashews on hand, so I used those instead of spending money on walnuts.

This recipe seems like one of those wonderfully versatile recipes. I plan to try Whole Foods this weekend to get some teff flour and make these again - I suspect that will make a significant difference in the flavor, and probably bump it up into the 10/10 category. But I think it's also nice to know that you can sub another kind of flour if you need to, since sometimes these whacky GF flours can be hard to find.

This is a great recipe to be creative with! Use whatever combination of dried fruits and nuts that you like - change it up from time to time so it doesn't get boring. I personally love dried cranberries and cashews, so that was a great combo for me. Preparation was pretty easy, but I skipped the food processor step and I don't think it made much or any of a difference.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Start to Finish: 30 minutes