Friday, May 21, 2010

A Family Affair

I have always loved to eat organic and healthy. My mother always said that I could eat cardboard (referencing the healthy foods) and enjoy it if I put my mind to it. In sharing my recipes with friends, I had a general response of, “Oh that sounds great! If I was gluten free than I would definitely try it!” Here is the kicker my dears, most things that I cook everyday for meals or snacks are naturally gluten free. Fruits, Veggies, Meats, Fish…all delicious and gluten free.
Becoming gluten free opened my eyes to a new world of cooking. It’s easy to throw in a dash of flour to thicken a sauce. But now, I think more about the flavor combinations and can choose from a variety of flours and thickening agents! Just because we have lived our lives so far just experiencing white and wheat flours, does not mean there aren’t a plethora of other choices out there, and much tastier too. It’s been fun to play in the kitchen with coconut flour, almond flour, and brown rice flour! Cooking is a richer experience, and I can taste it in my food.
That said, I decided to have my parents and sister over for dinner the other night. I would prepare a typical meal at my house. I am sure they were bracing themselves all day for the g-free experience. I decided my main course and dessert would be naturally gluten free to show that you really do not have to sacrifice flavors and textures to live my lifestyle. To throw in a challenge for myself, my appetizer would feature a gluten free substitute.

Now of course I made this a themed event. I wanted my table setting to reflect spring and nature since both the plants and I were going through changes. My palette would be greens and lavenders, and bring an eco country feel to the table. I used over sized plates for an easy solution to a colored charger, had multiple vases of shades of purple flowers, used my Nan’s china, and of course created cute place cards out of flowers and paper leaves. These were simple and easy. I took green construction paper and cut out leaf shapes. Then I glued on a skinny rectangular white piece on top. With a glitter glue pen (a blessing to have a 6 year old) draw the first letter of everyone’s name. The rest of the name can be done in purple sharpie. With a hole punch, punch a hole on the inside of the leaf and slide your flower on. Easy, spring place cards!

We are always very comfortable when we entertain my parents (meaning we usually eat with our plates in our laps and watch whatever sport is on in my living room), so I wanted this to be a more formal dinner. There is something special about having all your loved ones sitting around a table enjoying a good meal and wine.
I digress. I suppose we should get onto the meal.
My dinner would be comfort food since the weather has decided to turn quite chilly and I figure I won’t be able (or will not care to enjoy) a hot meal much longer. Although I am bizarre with my food selections sometimes and will want hot soup on a hundred degree day and ice cream during an ice storm.

The menu:

G-Free Bruschetta

•Honey baked brown rice bread (found in whole foods freezer section)
•Fresh Spinach
•Minced Garlic (I minced 2 cloves)
•Freshly Shaved Parmesan
•Dried Greek Oregano
•Tomatoes (I actually decided to leave these out but I know typically with bruschetta that this crime so you choose!)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw out 4 slices of the bread in the oven for a few minutes. Take out and quarter them. Drizzle each piece with EVOO. I love the taste of good olive oil so be as liberal as you want. Just do not get it soggy. Nobody likes a soggy bottom ;) Layer your spinach, garlic, and if you so choose, diced tomato. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and blanket freshly shaved parmesan on each piece. Sprinkle the oregano. Put back into the oven for another 5 min or just until the parmesan is bubbling.

Arrange prettily on a platter and serve to your guests with a big glass of wine!

Beef in pomegranate sauce over a bed of chive and buttermilk mashed potatoes
• 1 1/2 to 2 pounds grass fed beef
• Sea salt
• Light olive oil, as needed
• 1 onion, sliced
• 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice
• 1 14-oz can Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes
• 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1/8 cup pure maple syrup
• 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
• 1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
• A small pinch of cinnamon

I slow-cooked my recipe in a crock pot because it was the easiest for me and I love how it smells up the whole kitchen. When you are working all day and prepping on your lunch break, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Salt the beef on all sides. Get your slow cooker situated and turned on to High.

Heat a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides to sear in the flavor, using long tongs to turn the pieces. This doesn't take but maybe five minutes, or so. Remove the beef and set aside.

Add a small dash of olive oil to the crock. Add in sliced onion and garlic. Stir to coat with the olive oil. Place the beef on top.

Pour in the pomegranate juice, crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Stir to combine. Add the cranberries, dried herbs, a pinch of cinnamon, sea salt and ground pepper.

Stir to co-mingle ingredients.

Cover and let the magic happen- about 4 to 5 hours.

Taste Test. I did not add anything but we all have our preferences. I served mine side by side with the mashed potatoes (see recipe below) but over the top would also suffice.

Serves 4. Recipe derived from glutenfreegoddess.

Buttermilk and Chive Mashed Potatoes

• 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 small shallot, chopped
• 3/4 cup buttermilk
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons chopped chives

Cover the cubed potatoes with cold salted water in a large saucepan and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, add the butter to a small saucepan and sauté the shallot until translucent. Add the buttermilk and warm. Season with salt and pepper.
Once tender, drain potatoes, return to pot, and coarsely mash with a potato masher. This is the stress relieving part of the day so enjoy. Stir in the warmed buttermilk mixture, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chives.

Heaven on a plate. Seriously. My mother even commented how long it has been since she ate homemade mashed potatoes. Skip the box flakes and get mashing. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Brown sugar baked Peaches

I was trying to think of a fresh, spring dessert to serve my family. As I meandered through whole foods produce section I was entranced by a delicious aroma. Peaches. Oh! They smelled delicious and ripe. That would be my star of the night. And they were on sales, BONUS! I snagged 4 and the wheels in my head began turning with delight.

• 1 cup organic brown sugar
• 3 tbs melted unsalted butter, cubed
• 2 cups hazelnuts
• 4 peaches

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Kiss your significant other.

Put the hazelnuts in the blender and pulse until roughly chopped. Add brown sugar and butter in the blender until smooth. Half and pit the peaches. Make sure you carve a big enough cavity to hold your sweet mixture.

Place your peaches in a baking dish and spoon in the mixture. Bake for 25 minutes.


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