Friday, April 4, 2014

Comfort Food: Turkey Meatloaf

Traditional recipes for meatloaf call for ground beef, ground veal, eggs, whole milk and lots of salt, all of which make meatloaf a dish high in fat and sodium. Have you ever made a traditional meatloaf in a loaf pan? When you take it out of the oven, that block of meat is swimming in grease. No thanks.

It's easy to lighten up this classic comfort food, though, and still get plenty of the flavor and texture that makes meatloaf such a cozy kind of dish.

First, substitute turkey for the beef and veal. Use just one egg for every 1 ½ pounds of meat, and leave out the whole milk altogether. You don't really need it.

Add a blend of dried, earthy herbs and just enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together and that's it. No salt or Worcestershire sauce; let the ketchup glaze be the saltiness in the mix.

 Here's my recipe for Turkey Meatloaf, contemporary style:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray a foil lined baking dish with cooking spray

1 ½ pounds of lean turkey
1 herbal mix (listed below)
1 egg
1 ½ cups of breadcrumbs
Low sodium ketchup

Place the turkey in a large mixing bowl
Add the herbal mix and combine
Add the egg and mix it in

Add about ½ the amount of breadcrumbs and work it into the ground turkey
Add about ¼ to ½ of the remaining breadcrumbs and work them in to the meat
Add the remaining breadcrumbs and knead until the breadcrumbs are absorbed

Place the mixture into the prepared baking dish and shape into a loaf
Spread the ketchup over the meatloaf
Bake for one hour

Let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes

Serve with baked potato and sliced tomato – or whatever tickles your fancy that day

The Herbal Blend and some Variations

1 tablespoon dried onion flake
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano

The herbal blend is really the secret to taste in this recipe. Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor that fresh herbs, and hold up to the long cooking time, so use dried rather than fresh. But try different blends to find the right one for your taste.

For example, trade dried rosemary for the marjoram for a more aromatic flavor, and add a little more thyme for balance.

Try a blend of middle eastern spices, such as cumin and paprika, and nutmeg for a bit sweetness. Like a little heat in your meatloaf? Mix a dash of allspice, a dash of chili powder and a teaspoon of dried oregano for your seasonings, and balance that with a teaspoon of dried thyme.

Add a Few Veggies as Well, and Maybe Fruit

A few chopped onions, carrots and celery add texture and taste to the meatloaf, but you needn't stick with the traditional trinity of veggies. Try something different, like jalapeno peppers and corn, or chopped zucchini and onions.

If, like us, you don't like veggies in your meatloaf, make sure to add them to the dinner plate. I usually keep it simple – sliced tomatoes from the garden are my favorite. But think about add some fruit instead, such as sliced apples or put a bowl of grapes on the table and let everybody munch them at their leisure. A bite of fresh fruit makes for a nice contrast to the softer, gentler meatloaf.

And the best part of meatloaf is meatloaf sandwiches. Guilt free meatloaf sandwiches.This is comfort food, with a contemporary twist.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cinnamon Roll Recipe

One of the more challenging aspects of baking gluten free is working with dough for breads and rolls. Many gluten free recipes call for mixing the ingredients for the dough, then sort of plopping it all into a loaf pan and letting it rise, or scooping blobs of it onto a baking sheet.

Gluten is what gives dough its lift, its cohesion, its springiness. Without gluten, dough is sticky and glue-like, and kneading it is next to impossible. It's a delicate balancing act to get just the right combination of gluten free flour, leavening, and liquid to achieve a roll-able dough.

Gluten Free Bisquick, though, does seem to produce less gummy doughs and batters. I use it for my gluten free chocolate donuts and my TwoMinute Mini Cakes. But I've never used it as a flour blend for any kind of yeast based recipe.

Betty Crocker's recipe for gluten free cinnamon rolls didn't call for yeast, depending instead on the leavening agents already in the Bisquick mix. I thought the dough would be too sticky to roll out, and the rolls would be too dense due to the lack of yeast. Neither of those predictions came true.

At the end of the video, I mention the cost of the Gluten Free Bisquick Mix – in supermarkets a box can cost $5.99. With the additional ingredients, the cost of eight rolls is just over a dollar a roll. That's cheaper than paying $6 to $8 for four pre-packaged frozen rolls, but you can still get that cost down.

I have a subscription with Amazon for this product, and I get three boxes for about $11.00, which makes using the blended flour more cost effective than having to buy it in a store. There's only three cups of flour in a box, so it's still more expensive than wheat flour, but anyone on a gluten free diet already knows the gluten free flours and pre-packaged goods are far more costly.  And Obamacare doesn't cover the cost of treatment for celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Overall, this recipe is a good, gluten free recipe for cinnamon rolls. They taste great, and the dough is not only manageable, but holds the moisture through the cooking process, another issue common to gluten free baked goods. Betty Crocker and General Mills may consistently charge more for their gluten free products, but they are quality products, and this recipe produces a quality cinnamon roll.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Two Minute Gluten Free Mini Cakes

One thing about baking from scratch: It takes a lot of time. But mug cakes are made in the microwave, and that means that within a few minutes, the cake is done. So what could be better than a made-from-scratch cake ready in a few minutes?

Inspired by Anne's video for gluten free Mexican mug cake, I came up with this recipe for mini cakes. Using ramekins instead of mugs, I adapted a basic cake recipe to suit the portions and the quick cook method.

You'll need four 4-ounce ramekins for this recipe, but you can halve the recipe to make two cakes, or double it to make eight cakes.

Dry Ingredients
1/2cup gluten free Bisquick Pancake mix
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp of salt
3 tbsp gluten free cocoa powder

Wet Ingredients
1 tablespoon of flax meal with 3 tablespoons of water
1 egg
1 tsp of apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp of rice milk or almond milk

Whisk together the Bisquick mix, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and stir until the dry ingredients are well blended.

Add the wet ingredients all at once and stir until well combined.

Spray the four ramekins with a gluten free cooking spray. Fill the ramekins about half way full with the batter.

Microwave the ramekins two at a time for two minutes. Let the cakes cool for about 15 minutes before removing them from the ramekins.

And that's it. No turning on the oven, not waiting all day for the cake to cool. It's just a quick batter, two minutes in the microwave and 15 minutes to cool. And you're done.

If you want to make a cake, though, check out my recipe for gluten free chocolate cake on this blog, and you'll be able to watch the video. If you have any questions or comments about cooking or baking gluten free, please leave a comment in the comment section. I'll get back to you ASAP.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making Gluten Free Rice Krispies Treats with Kellogg's Gluten Free Rice Krispies Cereal

With raised awareness of celiac disease and gluten intolerance, more companies are offering gluten free foods. When I saw Kellogg's now offers a gluten free version of its Rice Krispies cereal, my first thought was, "Yay! Rice Krispie Treats".

So I made a test batch, following the recipe posted on theRice Krispies website, except I cut it in half. The gluten free cereal is made from whole grain brown rice, which can have a kind of earthy taste to it. I worried the treats would have a weird after taste – so I made a small batch so as not to waste ingredients.

Another reason for the smaller batch is that we –meaning my family- don't need a 9x13 pan of Rice Krispies Treats. They're best when eaten within a day, and we wouldn't eat a large pan in a day.

As it turns out, there is no weird after taste. The treats taste exactly like I remember them tasting. So bravo to Kellogg's for coming out with such an excellent product.

To make the 8x8 pan of Rice Krispies Treats:

1 ½ tablespoons of gluten free butter spread
2 cups of miniature marshmallows
3 cups of gluten free Rice Krispies cereal

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
Add the marshmallows and stir over medium heat until melted.
Add the cereal to the melted marshmallow and stir to coat.

Spread the mixture in an 8x8 pan sprayed with gluten free cooking spray.
Let the pan sit for about an hour, then cut into squares.

If you want to store any leftovers, wrap the treats in aluminum foil or store in sealed container. But eat them within a day or two.

Smaller Portions
One of the aspects of going gluten free, I've found, is that baking in smaller portions works best. Trying to bake a large batch of brownies, for example, often results in the brownies in the middle of the baking dish being undercooked, while the outer brownies are overcooked.

Gluten free bread, to, seems to have a better 'crumb' to it if the loaf is smaller. Udi's white bread, my son's favorite, is 12 ounces. And it tastes quite good, especially with hazelnut spread.
I've been buying Udi's bread, even though it's expensive, because my own attempts at breadmaking weren't all that successful. But I always tried to make a 'regular sized' loaf of bread. I think perhaps I'll try a different approach and work on something a little bit smaller.

If it doesn't work out, that's okay. I've got a whole stash of Udi's in the freezer.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Politicizing of Food

It is my contention that the gathering, preparation and sharing of food is a universal custom, and as such is a tradition capable of bringing together people of all races, creeds, colors, nations, beliefs and other conditions that these same people use to create great divides within the human species.

But no. Every race, creed, color, nation, belief, etc. etc. etc. has its own dogma to which they adhere like crazy glue on pinky fingers, and so certain people – let's use the contemporary term 'haters'- inevitably find a way to use the  entire procedure of meal-making and partaking thereof as a platform to promote their political views.

And sometimes, they bypass the whole food thing and just step into the focal point to make their points heard.

Titli Nihaan is a YouTube renowned cook. She's British. She's Muslim. She's educated and has traveled extensively. And she's a heck of a cook. She posted a video called, "The Great Bubble and Squeak Recipe." For this particular video, she introduces her friend from Israel and her friend narrates the recipe. It's a terrific video. Bubble and Squeak is a traditionally English dish, but also has Irish roots. And it's a great way to use up leftover veggies and mashed potatoes.

But here come the troublemakers. In the comments section of the video, one fool starts talking about Palestine, Israel, Jews, Arabs and some kind of political nonsense about the who, what, where, and how of who should be living where and how they should be doing it.

And so someone else feeds the troll and a whole other discussion erupts, right there in the middle of the discussion about bubble and squeak.

The haters kind of missed the point, though, which surprised me. Titli is a Muslim. Her friend is, I assume, a Jew. The Muslims and Jews are not typically recognized as allies, much less friends. Yet, here we see Titli and her friend Keren gathering, preparing and sharing food.

If every Muslim, Jew, Christian, Pagan, Wiccan, and what-all got together one morning and made Bubble and Squeak, the world would be a better place.