Posts Tagged frugal

HEB Gluten Free Products

    HEB is a Texas-based company with headquarters in San Antonio. This organization is very generous in support of The Caring Place (TCP) in Georgetown with their daily donations of bread and support of other TCP programs. They have also been long term suppliers of my most basic gluten-free grocery needs.

    I needed to replenish my Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free cornmeal in order to make several pans of GF cornbread to be served at the Annual Soup Supper to benefit TCP (where Don and I both volunteer). Our nearby HEB on Williams Drive carries a good selection of these products.

    While I was shopping there I decided to check out their brand of pasta that Clara had tried and told me about. I was really curious because Don and I had been on the HEB product taste-testing panel quite some time ago. Also, as a volunteer in The Caring Place food pantry I often hear comments from people trying to manage gluten-free about how expensive it is. This is what I found.

HEB Brand Pasta & Sauce - All Gluten Free

HEB Brand Pasta & Sauce - All Gluten Free

Prices on March 1, 2011:
Gluten Free Fusilli $1.99
Gluten Free Spaghetti $1.99
Garlic & Herb Pasta Sauce labeled Gluten Free $1.89
Traditional Pizza Sauce labeled as allergen: milk $1.50
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Corn Meal $3.58

    I also picked up Udi’s Whole Grain Sandwich Bread while I was there since there were only three slices remaining at home from the previous loaf. Price wise this one is in my ‘luxury item’ category. But it is handy to keep in the freezer for when I don’t have time to put together something else for the carb portion of a meal or snack.

    For staying healthy, whether you must eat gluten-free or not, a balanced diet is always in order. It takes planning ahead so that the right stuff is always available: in the fridge, in the pantry, in the car, wherever. It is critical to prevent a tumble over ‘The Gluten-Free Edge’ that lurks nearby. Given that criteria I can always rationalize a ‘luxury item’ 🙂

Gretchen

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Sweet Potato Obsession

SOS Kitchen Challenge

SOS Kitchen Challenge

    The SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient for November is sweet potatoes, another one of my favorites! SOS (i.e. Sweet or Savory) is hosted by the fabulous duo Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs  and Kim at Affairs of Living. Be sure to check out their SOS Kitchen Challenge sites for lots of yummy recipe submissions that are sure to inspire you. It is due to my obsession with this veggie that The Gluten-Free Edge has long had an entire recipe category labeled Sweet Potato.

    I was working on a sweet- potato-coconut-pecan biscuit recipe back in March about the time they went out of season here in Texas. They are still on the to-do-someday-list and Ricki’s Sweet Potato Biscuit post reminded me that I need to get back to that soon (like when they are still in season). 😉

    However, currently the Thanksgiving menu is on my mind along with other events so I am going really simple with something that I used to take along to the office with me back-in-the-day when I was employed as a data consultant.

    What do you do to stay healthy with very little time to spend on yourself? You take it down to the essential elements of food, sleep, and exercise. One of those food elements was the sweet potato, which became my best mid-morning snack. As long as that was tucked in my lunch bag waiting for break time I could easily bypass any confection that came along.

Sweet Potato Obsession
Sweet potatoes (mid-sized)
Vanilla extract (in a dropper bottle)
Almond extract (in a dropper bottle) optional
Cinnamon (in a salt shaker)
Truvia packets

    Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly and trim if necessary. Dry them off and then stab with a sharp knife several times to create steam vents as they can explode otherwise (quite messy to clean up). Place them in your microwave and set the timer for five minutes initially.

Scrubbed, Trimmed, Ready to Cook

Scrubbed, Trimmed, Ready to Cook

    There is a learning curve here as sweet potatoes vary greatly in size, shape, and moisture content and microwaves vary greatly in power. So you must be prepared to keep that little sharp knife on standby to test them every so often until they are tender enough through-and-through to mash up with a fork.

    They are very hot and steamy when they first come out so allow them to cool while you do something else. Then split them down the middle and cross-hatch the insides leaving the skin intact as part of your eventual packaging. Sprinkle with the Truvia granules, cinnamon, and a few drops of vanilla. The vanilla adds the flavor illusion of marshmallows melting on top of a sweet potato casserole. Note: the dropper bottles save on spilling and cleanup – my eye-hand coordination was never reliable.

Baked, Split, Scored, Seasoned

Baked, Split, Scored, Seasoned

    Half of a good sized sweet potato may be enough for your snack or if they are small then pack up a whole one. I kept a saucer, mug, and metal spoon in a desk drawer so I could have a cup of coffee and snack that didn’t taste like it came out of a deli bag.

Finished, Wrapped (and one already gone)

Finished, Wrapped (and one already gone)

Gretchen (Mom)

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Tastier Than That Canned Pasta

   It was a novelty when first introduced and kids loved it – they still do. Something about canned pasta and tomato sauce appeals to kids and many grown-ups still choose it. It is one of the categories that we keep stocked at the local food pantry.
   One day I was thinking about how many children are affected by gluten issues and how easy it is now to prepare gluten-free pasta and that led to ‘how could you make this at home?’ Mentally scanning the pantry I realized all of the makings were right there.
   Thinking in the vegan mode I was going to use lentils (which I have loved ever since Mom’s lentil soup). But it became a meat based version once Don realized that I was preparing pasta. His culinary base is pasta, or as he refers to it, ‘the world’s major vegetable’ so it was prepared to be appealing to his taste as well as mine. Tinkyada pasta is so good that he always wants some of it.
   Isn’t this the gold-standard for gluten-free options? Something that is so good that nobody asks “where’s the gluten?”

Pasta About to Happen

Pasta About to Happen

Easy Gluten-Free Pasta and Sauce
Sauce:
1 medium onion, about 1/2 – 3/4 inch dice
1 Tblsp. olive oil for sautéing
Sprinkle of sea salt
12-oz can of tomato sauce (Hunt’s)
1/2 tsp. each of dry ground oregano and thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
2-3 Tbsp. gluten-free barbeque sauce (Kansas City Classic™)

Protein Option:
3/4 – 1 lb. ground meat
Or:
1 cup dry lentils, cooked until tender

Pasta:
1/2 lb. dry whole grain gluten-free pasta (Tinkyada)

    Prepare the sauce by first sautéing the onion (and ground meat if preparing that option) in the olive oil. Add the seasonings and sauces. Cattleman’s Kansas City Classic™ sauce is gluten-free  and it is an optional, although wonderful, sweet-smoky addition. It does contain corn syrup, high fructose and regular, so some folks may reject it for that reason. I can easily rationalize its use by thinking of it as a flavor element – it’s not like we are slugging down shots of sauce.
    While the sauce is simmering gently prepare the pasta. One of the things I love about Tinkyada pasta, aside from the excellent taste and texture, is the absolute ease of preparation  . When ready just drain (no rinsing), add the sauce containing your choice of protein, combine and serve. Make a double batch if there are more than two of you because leftovers are just as good if not better than freshly prepared!

Gretchen (Mom)

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Poached Egg on Toast

   One of the breakfasts that Don used to cook on Sunday was poached eggs on toast. We didn’t have it often so when we did it was a real treat. In recent years I tried poached egg on rice cake, on cooked brown rice, on socca (a gluten-free pancake made from chickpea flour), on spinach, plain on a plate, and there was never a home run on the substitute for toast. There were some wraps I bake that are very close to toast in flavor and crumb but they do not soak up the egg like proper toast.
   This breakfast was one of the first things that I thought about with the sliced white bread from Faith’s Place Bakery that I was raving about earlier this week. Six remaining slices went into the freezer for future use and this morning one of them came out for the breakfast treat of long ago.

Fried Toast
   Homemade bread does not fit my toaster because it does not adapt to various slice sizes – the toaster is older than any of my children. I learned about ‘fried toast’ many years ago in Georgia at a little roadside diner. Friends and I had stopped for breakfast. As one of the ladies bit into her toast her eyes lit up and she exclaimed ‘fried toast, they made fried toast!’. This was explained as a very old Southern custom but it was not one I had heard of at that time or since. Even then it seemed exceptional.
   If you do an internet search for ‘fried toast’ you mostly get variations on recipes that call for egg and milk. Don also makes that version and we call it French toast (I don’t know why). There is an English video that explains how to make ‘fried bread’ with cooking oil which is very similar (as part of a ‘full English breakfast’). Wikipedia describes several variations of  ‘Fried bread’.
   But the Southern version of ‘fried toast’ is just buttered bread that is grilled briefly on each side in a skillet until it is as dark as you prefer. And that is how I made the toast for my poached egg. It didn’t take any longer than Don’s bread in the toaster. With the poached egg quivering on top it made quite a presentation. And don’t you know, I forgot to take a picture!

Mom

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Van’s All Natural Waffles

   Every now and then when trying a new gluten-free food, sometimes homemade, sometimes commercial, a taste memory comes rushing back. Do you remember toast – that elusive slightly sweet smell and the crunch with tiny, savory little crumbs brushing your tongue as you chew?
   Last year a batch of flat bread that must have been baked a little long did not want to roll. It filled the pan like a very thin pizza crust without toppings. One piece was chewy and tasty but as I was somewhat perplexed at the result the remainder was cut up and frozen. I thought about it for a while and later I put a piece in the toaster to defrost it and experienced toast for the first time in years. And that is what happened with the rest of the batch. Now, if I want my egg on toast when Don is cooking poached eggs then I make up a batch of that recipe.
   More gluten-free food is becoming locally available at the mainstream grocery stores and I was at my local HEB looking for a specific brand of bread and/or pizza crust that was supposed to be there and had been highly rated. None of that was to be found but there were several flavors of these Van’s waffles. My waffle taste memories go way back when my Dad used to make a production out of baking waffles on a Sunday morning. In the freezer there were apple and blueberry variations available but I wanted to taste the basic waffle without embellishment so I chose the Van’s All Natural Flax version.
   One of those waffles popped right out of the box and into the toaster even before the rest of the groceries were put away. That toasty aroma filled the air. The stress of shopping always makes me hungry and it took a bit of control not to burn myself trying to take a quick bite. It was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. So another one went into the toaster but this time I was thinking sandwich. A single paper-thin slice of ham and a small slice of cheese were wedged in between the two sides of the waffle that I had pried apart with the aid of a fork and a sharp serrated knife.

Van's All Natural Gluten Free Waffles

Van's All Natural Gluten Free Waffles

      This is what I call ‘fast food’ out here on The Gluten-Free Edge! For a quick out-the-door breakfast grab one of these waffles and a cup’a whatever starts your day the best.

Mom

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Monday in the Kitchen

Carrots
   Who remembers anymore what carrots look like fresh out of the garden? It came as somewhat of a startle when a large sack of carrots- roots, frost bit tops, mud, gnats and all showed up in the food pantry last Friday afternoon. The carrots themselves were fat and beautiful but I knew we would have to work fast to get them distributed. We divided out two pound bags and started giving them out with food orders. There was not the usual flood of clients that day (a rare occurrence) so we gave them out to all comers who stopped by the window. At the end of the shift Ann and Megan had already left and I didn’t have time to write up a note and put that one last lonely bag in the fridge. So I brought it home to reacquaint myself with basic veggie preparation.

   Into the sink with all of them, spray hard to soften and rinse off most of the mud, and untangle the tops (they were a large, green&brown, unruly fright wig mass) – they filled up the sink. Then I cut off the roots and carefully picked out the good green tops and threw away the brown ones. The roots were scrubbed with a brush to remove the last bits of mud from the crevasses, the greens were rinsed again and all of it set aside to drain. The top part of the carrot where the greens join the root was too hard to clean so that bit was trashed as well.

Tops to the Trash

Tops to the Trash

   Why bother with saving the greens? As I learned after my previous post on Carrots the green tops are not only edible but they are fabulously nutritious and all of that is usually thrown away by the time carrots arrive in the produce section of your grocery store as I was notified by the World Carrot Museum.

All Cleaned Up and Ready to Cook

All Cleaned Up and Ready to Cook

Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf
I hadn’t cooked quinoa in quite a while – too busy with baking experiments and other activities. But when I came across this recipe at Karina’s Gluten-Free Goddess blog for Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf something clicked into place. Mushrooms and green peppers in the fridge?, check, garlic?, check, parsley?, no but I have used carrot tops as a substitute before – so I really, really had to make this dish!

Time Out for Lunch!

Time Out for Lunch!

All About Stevia
   Ricki’s blog, Diet, Dessert, and Dogs is one of my favorite reads. Today she had a very interesting discussion going, All About Stevia. This product is something I have been playing with since Rita bought me a bottle of Sprout’s brand of liquid stevia over the holidays. So far I really like it as a sweetener in my lattes, both café latte and chai latte. The recent recipe for Banana Coconut Muffins has been well received by my taste test crew – with no added sugar, the sweetness all comes from a banana and that liquid stevia. And finally I have really gotten into Ricki’s super healthy creation Chia “Tapioca” Pudding. I’ve been having it most mornings for a couple of weeks.

Chia Seeds
   Chia has a fascinating nutritional profile and is now starring as one of the newest ‘super foods’. Soaked chia seeds are gelatinous in texture and a spoonful of chia seed mixed into liquid will set up as a soft pudding. I use 1/2 cup of warm almond milk adding one tablespoon of chia, eight drops of stevia, and four drops of vanilla. When set aside for several hours it becomes very much like a tapioca pudding because of the swollen seeds. They are seeds and may not be suitable for consumption by anyone that has texture issues! Chia is available pre-ground and if you plan to use ground chia I say buy it that way – I keep both on hand. My attempt to grind them with a mortar and pestle would make a good you-tube comedy – not one of the seeds were ground; instead they popped out all over the counter like a flea circus. The whole dry seeds are extremely hard and also have a static charge – not easy to chase and gather them back up.
   Ground chia is one of several substitution possibilities for replacing egg in baked goods for vegans or for those folks with egg allergy. Sprouted chia seeds can be used in salads and for sandwiches as well as on your Chia Pet.

Neglected Bananas
    Four weeks ago I bought bananas to ripen for banana muffins and possibly banana bread. Two batches of those Coconut Banana Muffins later and there were still four v-e-r-y ripe bananas hanging out in the guest room. So this afternoon I conjured up a new recipe that I had been thinking about, put it together, and I’ll post about it tomorrow. It’s been quite a long day in the kitchen.

Mom

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Cabbage Casserole

   When Don used to travel for work and I was at home at the house in the woods with only the cats for company, cooking everyday for myself was not a priority. There were too many other projects going on around the place. This was my home-crafted bookcase period (eventually seven of them), learning to crochet afghans and throw rugs, and attempting to landscape in caliche soil with alkaline well water compounded by the persistent Central Texas wildlife and blistering heat.
   Cooking this hearty casserole that lasted several days freed up more time for those other endeavors. This was (and still is) one of my favorite combinations. It is easy to adjust the seasonings to your own preferences or seasonal vegetables. This can be cooked in a crockpot, in the oven, or on the stovetop and for me that usually depends on the weather. If it is winter the oven or stovetop adds more warmth to the house. In summer the crockpot helps to avoid that.
   This week’s batch omitted the rice (the post-holiday low-carb version) and with no rice to be cooked the casserole only needs reheating to serve.

Cabbage Casserole

Cabbage Casserole

Cabbage Layer –
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds cabbage, thinly sliced (at least 6 cups)
(Sometimes I add grated carrots or other veggies languishing in the fridge)
Sea salt and pepper
1 teaspoon thyme (from a jar)

Meat Layer –
1 pound extra lean ground meat – we used turkey
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Sauce –
1 can diced tomatoes
3 ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon basil
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 packet or cube of instant bouillon (whatever flavor you prefer)
8 ounces water (if you use rice)

Rice (optional) –
1/2 cup converted rice, dry

Cabbage Prep:
Place all ingredients in a very large skillet or pot and sauté until the cabbage is bright green and onions are transparent.
Meat Layer Prep:
Cook all ingredients until all traces of pink are gone and set aside. Grocery stores now carry pre-seasoned ground meat and sometimes I just cook up a package of the lean ground turkey with Italian seasoning (ever lazier – that’s me).
Sauce Prep:
Puree the tomatoes in a blender. Add the other ingredients and blend.

Assembly and cooking:
Layer these ingredients into a casserole starting with 1/3 of the cabbage, followed by 1/2 of the meat, 1/2 of the rice, cabbage, meat, rice, and finishing with the cabbage. Pour the sauce over all and work it into the casserole layers with a spoon. Bake it at 350*F for 45 – 60 minutes – checking to be sure the rice is done.

This batch provided enough for two hearty dinners for both Don and me – we don’t call it leftovers we call it planning ahead!

Mom

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