A WCSR-free Thanksgiving

30 Nov

Yes my friends, this is stuffing! Wheat, corn, rice, and soy-free stuffing that looked AND tasted like the real thing!

Yes, Thanksgiving was last week, hence the lack of posts here and general early-winter disarray. Tre and I were off enjoying our first WCRS-free holiday with a surprising amount of success. Thanks to a number of prolific gluten-free bloggers out there as well as some good old fashioned elbow grease and family support, I was able to create a few fun treats for Tre including stuffing, chocolate cake, double chocolate cookies, and gravy for Thanksgiving dinner and dessert.

In an unexpected departure from my normal cooking routine, I packed up my ingredients and trucked across town to my parents’ house (notice in the picture no BLUE counters). I love cooking with my mom and she was super-helpful when it came to turning my almond flour and flax bread into stuffing and was welcome company on my “black Wednesday” trip to the grocery store for forgotten ingredients.

Stay tuned for recipes, but in the meantime, stay warm! Here in NY it’s getting cold!

Italian Spice Dijon Turkey Burgers — Double Onion, Double Cheese

28 Nov

Burgers have adopted a new sort of connotation for Tre and I since we no longer eat the traditional meat-and-bun, handheld burger. It was strange a first ditching the bread, but it’s given me ample opportunity to spice up traditionally bland meat patties. Between ground beef, our new favorite, ground turkey, and an assortment of fillers and toppings, burgers have become much more interesting from a culinary standpoint and I am actually forced to “think outside the bun.”

Since burgers are no longer a finger-food, I enjoy making them a bit more gourmet — placing the meat over mashed potatoes or latke, topping them with guacamole or handmade sauces, and stuffing them chockfull of spices, cheeses, and veggies to make the patties themselves flavorful.

Alright, I’ll admit that this recipe was thrown together fairly quickly for dinner one night and was never really intended to hit the blog. But another rushed Monday night dinner (Mondays are when Tre and I both have class) turned into a culinary winner and I couldn’t deprive my readers of this recipe! These burgers have onion and cheese both worked into the ground turkey meat and piled on top at the end hence “double onion, double cheese.” With the addition of dijon mustard, crushed red pepper and white pepper, they also have a subtle heat that helps take the fall chill away.

I love all the colors when you mix the ingredients and shape into patties. Not a lot of people think to add extras to their ground meats when making burgers but I consider it essential!

 

Italian Spice Turkey Burger

  • 1lb lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped (for burgers)
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, sliced (for topping)
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Pinch white pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dijon mustard
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Cooking up the turkey burgers!

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven broiler.
  2. In a small pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add sliced topping onions and cook until soft but do not over cook. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine parmesan cheese, chopped onion, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, crushed red pepper, and ground turkey. Mix until ingredients are well combined. Portion into 4 equal sized clumps and form into patties either with a press or by hand. Season patties with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Place the patties in the pan and cook on both sides, about 5-7 minutes per side until cooked through.
  5. Place the patties on a lightly greased baking pan. Top each patty first with a spread of dijon mustard to taste then add mozzarella cheese, about 2-3 tablespoons per patty, and the softened sliced onions. Broil the patties under oven broiler for about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove from the broiler and serve.

 

Getting ready to go under the broiler!

The Kitchen Essentials Series: #1 Basic Electrics

22 Nov

Part of living a gluten-free (corn, rice, and soy-free as well) means more time in the kitchen cooking for myself and Tre. In spending this time, I’ve discovered that my kitchen is just as essential to the process as the recipes and the cooking. There are a few things in my kitchen that have made the process vastly easier. These “Kitchen Essentials” are a short list of items that I’ve learned to love. Keep an eye out for more Kitchen Essentials!

“Kitchen Electrics” describes a vast genus of modern era kitchen gadgets designed to make our lives easier, while more often than not, serving as catalysts of utter frustration. A step below your larger kitchen appliances, kitchen electrics are more supplemental to cooking, and less essential though they do simplify and expedite many processes for us. They range from run-of-the-mill blenders, toasters, and slow cookers, to posh bread makers and wine chillers, to eclectic ice cream makers and juicers, to vast collections of gadgets all designed around the single process of making coffee. You no longer have to peel an apple by hand because there’s a screwy-lever looking thing that will do it for you. You no longer have to grease and heat a skillet on your stove because there’s an electric one you can just plug in. Point is, it gets a little excessive when every need you could possibly have in the kitchen is met with some “as seen on TV” electric gadget..

In the kitchen of my dreams, the navigation bar of bedbathandbeyond.com’s “kitchen electrics” section would be an itemized inventory of my cabinets. But the reality of the situation is that many of these items are both expensive and unnecessary for every day cooking. Not to mention, many of their processes can be replicated with standard utensils and my own two hands.

Yet despite the obvious frivolity of some kitchen electrics (infrared bacon cooker, anyone?), there are a few that I’ve grown quite fond of and, dare I say, could not live without. Of the expansive selection of electrics pandered to us in infomercials, department store flyers, and cooking shows (hosted by chefs who claim that their recipes can be recreated in the common kitchen yet wield $400 commercial blenders and mixer attachments), I’ve narrowed it down to 5 that have proven to be ever useful in my kitchen and relatively inexpensive.

Kitchen Electric Essentials

  1. Food Processor/Blender: I don’t actually have a separate blender, I use my food processor to do basically the same function so I list these concurrently as number 1. My food processor has helped me do everything from simplify ingredient preparation to allowing me to create entire meals in its bowl. If you’re going to squirrel away money for a solid kitchen electric, I would spend it on a nice food processor or blender. They really open doors in the culinary realm if you’re willing to splurge a little on buying one. Cheap food processors and blenders break easily and often leave people disillusioned about having them in their kitchen. But if you decide you really want to have food processor or blender, be prepared to make it a solid investment. It will be worth it!
  2. Mixer: Electric mixers, not necessarily stand ones but $20 hand mixers, have also become a kitchen essential for me. All you ever have to do is try to mix something by hand once and you’ll come to appreciate the simple effectiveness of having one of these bad boys handy.
  3. Slow Cooker: My slow cooker, or “crock pot” as they are affectionately referred to, ranks supreme when it comes to making easy meals. Although the name implies that it requires time to cook, 9 times out of 10, all you have to do is combine your ingredients and let it do its job over night. It doesn’t get much easier than that. Crock pots retail for as low as $15 and come in a range of sizes and options. At one point, I shamelessly owned 3… 2 of which succumbed to my clumsiness.
  4. Toaster Oven: Since Tre and I don’t eat bread (at least not until I find a WCRS-free recipe that works), having a standard toaster is almost pointless. I would not have even listed a toaster oven here had I not inherited one from a former roommate and come to appreciate its power in the kitchen. Good quality toaster ovens can be treated like mini versions of their full scale appliance counterparts with similar levels of performance. I’ve used mine for everything from baking small desserts, potatoes, and veggies to broiling steak and cooking half-chickens. I find my toaster oven to be most useful when I have a lot of things that need to be baked at different temperatures and don’t have time to wait for one item to finish in the oven to start another. I’d go so far to say that if you’re going to buy a toaster, you might as well just buy a full toaster oven for its range of uses not limited to making toast. They heat quickly, they can be cleaned in 1/20th of the time a regular oven requires, they use less electricity than electric stoves, and they’re kinda cute in an “easy bake oven” kind of way.

So there you have it, my dream team of kitchen electrics. While it would certainly be nice to have a more extensive collection, I’ve been quite content with these select few. For those of you who are entering your kitchen for the first time with the intent to be more serious about cooking for yourself and others, I recommend these to the highest degree to save yourself a little time and energy.

Enter Fish into the Rotation: Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

18 Nov

Filets getting ready to be put into the oven. Love that even through the pecan coating, you can still see the bright coloring of the fish.

Aside from the fresh produce section of my local grocery store, I consider the seafood counter to be the most colorful and interesting spot to shop. With cuts of fish ranging in color from snow white to deep scarlet on silvery scales, rocky displays of oysters, thick and gnarled king crab legs, and pastry-like scallops, seafood has a diverse spectrum of flavors and textures that makes for an intriguing choice in the kitchen. Although I am limited by my allergy to shellfish, I love the experience of choosing cuts of fresh fish and preparing them in ways that help them to express the flavors and nuances that make them so pleasantly different from typical meats.

Tre and I are fortunate to have a pescadería to call our own with an expansive and colorful selection of fresh fish as well as a frozen section with ample stock and prepared meals that put some of my creations to shame. Although my local grocery store (a behemoth in the north east that somehow also manages to be personal and superb in quality) has a wonderful spread, I love going to specialty stores especially when it comes to buying fish. I prefer to buy fresh, but frozen fish is a viable sub when you want to buy in large quantities or don’t know exactly when you’ll be able to prepare it.

This week, Tre and I opted for salmon and cod; two mild yet meaty fish that cook quickly and with little effort into phenomenal entrees.  Salmon especially is one of my personal favorites, from small tastes in sushi to whole fish cooked on the grill. With its bold coloring and rich texture, salmon makes a great substitute for red meats while still being filling and maintaing its own unique flavor. Salmon also boasts health benefits being high in protein, Vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Finished! We paired our salmon filets with sweet potatoes.

Unlike chicken and beef which are typically seasoned, marinated, or incorporated into other recipes, I think people struggle with exactly how to prepare fish in interesting ways. For a long time, this deterred me from entering fish into the culinary rotation for fear that I’d end up with something bland or, god forbid, fishy. However, after trying a few unexpected recipes, I began to discover that fish is not only very easy to prepare, but also, with the right treatment, quite a delicacy. One of my first-attempt salmon recipes — which also happens to be wheat, corn, rice, and soy free — quickly became a midweek favorite and has served as a reminder as to why I love cooking with fish.

Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

  • 2 medium sized fresh salmon filets, or thawed frozen filets
  • 1/2 cup shelled pecans
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash white pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp mustard (regular/dijon/spicy whichever you prefer)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lemon sliced for garnish

Honey is so pretty. It's also a fabulous sweetener with its unique flavor.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon filets in a greased baking dish and set aside.
  2. Combine pecans, garlic powder, and white pepper in a food processor and pulse to a medium coarse powder. If you do not have a food processor, crush pecans in a mortar and pestal a small amount at a time until powdered and combine with garlic and white pepper. You can also place pecans in a plastic bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Whatever gets the job done.
  3. In a small bowl, heat honey for about 15 seconds in the microwave to make it more workable. Be careful not to burn the honey. Combine with mustard. Using a spoon, glaze the salmon filets with the honey mustard mixture then cover with the crushed pecans.
  4. Garnish filets with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon slices and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes per inch of filet thickness. Switch oven to broil and broil filets for about 2 minutes to crisp the topping. Remove and serve.

This recipe also works very well with chicken. If you have skinned cuts of salmon, you can also glaze and pecan-coat the entire filet instead of just the tops for an all around flavor. Paired with mild veggies like green beans or broccoli, this makes for a wonderful and filling dinner.

Kitchen Tips: Never Toss Forgotten, Rotten Food Again. Save Your Receipts!

16 Nov

Although this does not necessarily pertain to eating WCRS-free, I have assorted kitchen tips that have helped me to become an organized, clean, and resourceful chef since becoming serious about cooking. My kitchen is one of the most prominent features of my exploration into new culinary territory and in expanding my kitchen and its use, I’ve found a couple ways to improve the overall experience. I’d be a fool not to share these tidbits along with my tips for living WCRS-free so keep your eye out for Kitchen Tips!

How many times do you go to the grocery store, buy awesome-looking fresh produce and meat with full intention of making meals all week, bring your purchases home and square them away in refrigerator drawers and then…

BAM!

Grad school/work/life happens and all the sudden it’s 3 weeks later, you’ve completely forgotten about the food you bought, you can’t remember the last time you cooked and ate at home, and you open said fridge drawers to bags of rotten produce soup, green meat, and other assorted foods long past their edible prime. OK, maybe that’s a super-extreme example. I won’t say it hasn’t happened to me considering the craziness that has been my life for the last year. But whether this has happened to you in the exact same manner as the scenario above, or even with a single piece of produce or cut of meat that you simply forgot purchasing, then you know the anguish of having wasted food that you were once excited about preparing and eating.

Call it stinginess. Some people have no problem pitching food. But between the money lost (double lost actually if I eat out instead of cooking the food I purchased) and the slightest tinge of guilt for wasting what could have been great food, I’ve sworn off pitching rotten food. No, that doesn’t mean I force myself to eat long-expired perishables or hoard decomposing produce and meat. I have simply made a pact to myself that I will never let my food get to that point.

It’s not more expensive tupperware that’s the key, or those green bags that swear they keep your produce fresh for weeks. It’s not freezing everything I bring home or turning to preservative-laden jarred goods. My secret? It’s simple really. I discovered it when I could no longer keep track of the foods I’d purchased in a sea of roommate grocery clutter in our refrigerator. In an attempt to inventory what I had, I saved my grocery receipt and taped it up on the fridge. Aside from clearing up the “who bought it” mystery, this method also helped me to keep track of what I had for use. When I’d cook with or use something, I’d either cross it off the list, or change the quantity on the receipt if I had some left. Anything left from previous shopping trips that I needed to use was written in at the bottom (since much of what I buy is perishable produce and meats). And anything general like paper towels, spices, and condiments were simply crossed off since they entered the supply rotation. The result was a neat little inventory of everything I had in the fridge replaced each week with a new shopping trip receipt.

Having my groceries inventoried like this for the last year has saved me from inevitably forgetting foods and allowing them to rot into waste. No matter how thoroughly you meal-plan, everyone has forgotten about something in the fridge or pantry. With your own list right in front of you every time you hit up the fridge, it’s easy to keep track of what you have, how old it is, and what you need to buy.

My First “Salad” Post: Greens and Beans

15 Nov

I hate salads. Salads of the green, leafy persuasion. Top it off with a gooey slice of tomato or shreds of brownish-purplish cabbage and you have created the absolute last thing I would ever want to consume for sustenance. There. I said it. Sorry Mom, sorry god, but it’s true. I hate making salads, eating salads, ordering salads, you name it. There is nothing I despise more than being half way through a salad, especially if it’s the whole of my meal, and realizing that the dressing on the first bite was the only gratifying part of the whole experience. I am perplexed by the fact that no matter how much salad I choke down, what’s left on the plate doesn’t seem to decrease ever. I will not ever order a salad as an entree at a restaurant, and will only consider consuming a small side salad if it comes with dinner simply to make an example of it. And of course, you will not ever see salad greens in my shopping cart for any reason ever… which was why Tre was so shocked to see me place a bag of escarole on the belt at Wegmans this Sunday. Without shame, he pointed at the bag and accusingly muttered “what is this!?”

I hate salads. I’ll say it again because I think of them as being little more than a foliage mechanism by which we consume salad dressing since it’s societally unacceptable to simply drink it out of the bottle. Enter what I call “Green Guilt.” No, it’s not some marketing ploy aimed at making the nightmarish task of wrangling up my recyclables and dragging them down three flights to the curb morally gratifying. It’s the feeling that I’m not getting as much “foliage” as I should simply because I’m fundamentally opposed to salads. That’s not to say I don’t eat vegetables, quite the contrary. Tre and I basically live on carrots, celery, potatoes, and peppers. Onions and garlic cameo in almost every one of our meals. Eggplant and mushrooms are some of my favorite meat substitutes. Not to mention I have a penchant for cooking with fresh herbs instead of their dried and powdered counterparts. But when it comes to the most essential and proverbial vegetable dish, salads, I opt for almost anything else.

Just how I like my salads... about to be cooked!

The escarole in my cart wasn’t going to be let off so easily, not without my hand at making it into something I actually consider palatable. For some reason, the magic of cooking transforms the salad experience for me from foliage grazing to eating a meal that was intended for human consumption. Instead of making a salad, I decided to give greens and beans an honest shot at winning my affection. Greens and beans is a phenomenal side dish, especially in the fall when you crave meals that are altogether served hot. Some people describe greens and beans as being bland in flavor, but I’m assuming they just aren’t using enough garlic. The simple version I cooked up has a mild, yet distinct garlic flavor making it the perfect complement to a spicy Italian sausage or as a topper for a basic pasta — which was how my mom used to prepare it for us.

Greens and Beans

  • 7 oz (about 4 loose cups, or one prepackaged bag) escarole or other dark salad green such as kale, spinach, or mustard greens.
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock, more or less depending on amount of greens
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Dash of crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a large, deep pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until they start to become transparent, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock and crushed red pepper to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until liquid has somewhat reduced. Add cannellini beans, stir, and return to a boil.
  3. Once mixture is boiling, add the greens to the pan. Using tongs, toss the greens in the liquid until they begin to wilt. Simmer uncovered until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat and serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

After the greens have wilted, this dish is still green.

I like to minimize the amount of time the greens are cooked so they maintain a slight crispness while absorbing some of the other flavors. Reducing cook time also helps preserve the nutrients of the salad greens.

Turkey Versions of Traditional Beef Dishes: Turkey Burgers

11 Nov

This morning while getting ready for work, Tre and I were discussing the foods I’d prepared the night before, most of which were made almost entirely of ground turkey. Tre made the astute observation that while red meat may adhere to his diet restrictions, we should not necessarily be eating it every night of the week. The shift to turkey, which I’d purchased on a whim, was very welcome and my meals had no less esteem than the red meat entrees I’d made for him before.

I’m glad Tre drew this conclusion on his own — a sign that he’s growing. Our diet is not entirely about finding substitutes for old favorites or cooking without wheat, corn, rice, and soy. It’s about maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and enjoying foods that are not only delicious, but also good for us. In the first week or two of the new diet, we were enjoying everything from ground beef burgers to filet, mashed potatoes to fried latke, parmesan to brie: comfort foods I’ll admit, to help take Tre’s mind off pizza, but not something I ever intended to become regular. Although delicious, and at times luxurious, a diet like that is both expensive and certainly not as healthy as it could be.

With an excess of 2lbs of ground turkey, I was able to wring out three separate meals, the first of which was actually a substitute for one of my own recipes. Although I love beef burgers, it’s difficult to find budget-friendly ground beef that also boasts a low fat content. 95/5 lean to fat ground beef is exactly double to cost of 80/20 at my local market and because I have a slight sensitivity to beef, I’m alright with limiting it to one night a week. Feeling a lack of creativity, I decided to revisit an early favorite, my guacamole swiss burger over latke. However, this time I opted to give it a try with my ground turkey minus the latke.

 

 

Getting ready to combine the ground turkey with Tre’s breading.

Turkey Guacamole Swiss Burger

  • 1lb lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup breading
  • 1 medium sized onion sliced
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, grated or 4 slices swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup guacamole*
  • 4 strips turkey bacon, cooked and halved
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*Guacamole was premade with 2 avocados, pitted and mashed with the juice of one large lemon, coarse sea salt to taste, pepper to taste, 1 small onion finely diced, and cajun seasoning (chili powder, paprika, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder). Store-bought guacamole or mixes will do as well.

Directions

  1. In a small pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onions and cook until they have softened and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix ground turkey with breading until combined. Divide mixture into four equal sized balls and shape into burger patties either with your hands or a patty press.
  3. In a large pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Place your turkey burgers in the pan and cook both sides until meat is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes on each side.
  4. Transfer burgers to  baking dish and place cheese on each burger. Place the burgers under your oven broiler for about 2 minutes or until cheese has melted and browned slightly. Do not over broil. Remove the baking dish from the oven and transfer the burgers to plates.
  5. Assemble by adding caramelized onions, turkey bacon, and a dollop of guacamole to each burger.

This burger was enjoyed on its own with a side of baked sweet potato. While it had almost identical flavor characteristics to the beef version, the turkey burger was much leaner and much healthier without the addition of fried latke.

Slow Cooker Series: Pulled Chicken

9 Nov

One of my only complaints in this diet adjustment process has been that the cooking required is somewhat hindered by the amount of personal time tied up by the Simon School. It’s close to impossible to scrounge up a meal at a fast food place or cafe that Tre can feasibly eat since almost everything is contaminated with wheat, corn, rice, and/or soy in some capacity. As a result, we need to cook almost everything ourselves or run the risk of simply not eating. With grad school constantly monopolizing our time and energy, it’s a relief to once and a while hand the cooking almost entirely over to an appliance such as my crock pot.

It’s difficult to argue against the merits of slow cooker dishes as they are usually very low maintenance in terms of preparation and cooking and they create strong, aromatic flavors that just don’t express themselves in dishes that are cooked for short periods of time. In my experience, I’ve had to do little more than combine ingredients in the pot and let it cook overnight for pungent and flavorful meals that span a week of lunches or dinners without becoming boring.

This was one such week where after an exhaustive meal planning session, complete with consideration for when we actually have the time to cook, Tre and I settled on a basic crock pot recipe. This time around, it was my allergy dictating the dish and we opted for a basic BBQ pulled chicken recipe — since I am allergic to pork — to be served similar to a stew.

This is my pulled chicken after shredding it and returning it to the crock pot.

Tre and I are both huge BBQ fans, more so in the Autumn I think than in the Summer. The smoky, spicy flavors from slow cooked meat in BBQ sauce brings about a comfort food warmth necessary to fend off the early Winter chill. For those of you who are lucky enough to have access to Dinosaur sauce in stores (online here also), this is my go-to for everything BBQ. The sauce has a flavor quality unlike any BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted. As the signature sauce of a NY BBQ Mecca, Dino sauce is bright and tangy and has a flavor I’d describe as being more fresh and hot than the run-of-the-mill hickory BBQ sauces that are indistinguishable from one another. I could go on all day about the aroma’s and nuances of Dino. If you’ve had it, you know. If haven’t, treat yourself and nab some at the store or online. I promise it will be worth it. For Tre and I, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Dino is gluten free and in fact, I can count all of its all natural ingredients on two hands.

With a bottle of Dino and some frozen chicken breasts, it was clear that this recipe couldn’t be any simpler. Yet despite its simplicity, it’s received high marks as being very filling and very flavorful.

Shredding the chicken after cooking

Pulled Chicken

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 19oz bottle of Dinosaur BBQ’s “Sensual Slathering” sauce OR 2-1/4 cups BBQ sauce of choice
  • Directions

    1. Combine ingredients in a slow cooker. Set the cooker on low and cook for 6-8 hours until chicken is tender.
    2. Turn off the slow cooker. Remove chicken breasts and place in a large bowl. Using two forks, shred the chicken to desired consistency.
    3. Return chicken to the slow cooker with the remaining sauce and combine.

    Tre and I literally box this up in tupperware, heat it, and eat it like a stew for lunch. Just today I was heating mine up and a coworker from down the hall stopped in to tell me my office smelled like Court Street, where Dinosaur BBQ’s restaurant is located. Like its pork counterpart though, pulled chicken can also be served on a bun as a sandwich which I also recommend highly for the non-gluten intolerant.

    Food Processor Series: Instant Oatmeal with no Unidentifiable Ingredients

    9 Nov

    Ground oats with a dash of salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon provide the base for my super quick, super easy instant oatmeal.

    Alright, I’ll be the first to admit that my inaugural adventure with the new food processor was fairly anticlimactic. This was mostly out of sheer intimidation. A blade spinning at an excess of 90 mph attached to a motor — heavy enough that I had to take a break while dragging it up the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment — is nothing to be fooled with. That, and a long discarded users manual would be of no help in determining if the jet propelled blade was properly attached and of no threat to my or Tre’s safety. Sadly, these are legitimate concerns and I’m fairly lucky thus far in my life that almost everything I’ve encountered is largely idiot-proof. This food processor is no exception, thank god, and after a dozen false starts I began to figure out how to harness its powers for good in my own kitchen.

    Thanks to my mom’s burst of culinary inventiveness last weekend (yielding oat-based “breadcrumbs” we now call Tre’s breading) and the gift of my new KitchenAid, my interest in cooking with processor ground oats was jumpstarted. Tre is not allergic to oats and, in moderation, I’ve been working this grain into our diet as a viable complex carb substitute to whole wheat. Though oats and oat products bear similar stigma as potatoes to carb-free eaters, they prove to be a better choice than simple wheat-based foods. Oats are an excellent source of dietary fiber (hence me pairing “oats” with “moderation,” semantically speaking) and have been linked to heart health, blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, athletic endurance, and even healthy weight loss.

    One of my favorite breakfasts has always been oatmeal, instant oatmeal to be specific. The kind that comes out of a wax paper pouch and becomes a meal in a matter of seconds. It’s filling, not too sweet, and has what I consider the quintessential breakfast smell. But when you start to take a critical look at the foods you put in your body, even something as innocuous as instant oatmeal is jam packed with an excess of sweeteners, color enhancers for those little mock-fruit pieces, thickening agents, and stealthily placed allergens: wheat, corn, and soy. With a newly invigorated interest in oats, I wanted to make my own brand of instant oatmeal; one whose ingredients I had complete control over with no ambiguity. Using my food processor to break the oats down a bit helped make the overall texture more creamy and less dense. This simple recipe can be portioned out into ziplock bags and cooked exactly like store-bought instant oatmeal for a quick and easy breakfast.

    Here is my instant oatmeal portioned out for 5 days of breakfasts. I used craisins as my fruit.

    Instant Oatmeal: Makes 5 individual servings

  • 2-1/2 cups rolled quick oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit such as mixed berries, raisins, or craisins
  • 5 ziplock bags or other storage
  • Directions

    1. Combine oats, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar in food processor. Pulse in short bursts until ingredients combine and oats are ground to a coarse meal. If you prefer a texture more like grits or “cream of wheat,” blend until oats reach a medium-fine texture. Do NOT blend to the point of powder.
    2. With a measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup of mixture into each of 5 ziplock bags or other storage. Add dried fruit, about 2 tbsp per bag. Seal bags and store in a cool, dry area.

    To Prepare Oatmeal

    1. Pour your 1/2 cup portion of oatmeal mix into a heat-safe bowl. Add about 1/2 cup boiling water OR add 1/3 cup water and microwave for 1-2 minutes.

    I like to make this Sunday night and portion it out for breakfast all week. The dried fruit will rehydrate slightly much like the fruit in instant oatmeal but the dish is also very good without the addition of fruit. Sometimes I’ll add a splash of almond milk when I forego fruit for a more creamy texture.

    Food Processor Series: Tre’s Breading

    9 Nov

    ***Unfortunate Update: Through trial and error Tre and I discovered that he is also unable to eat oats. While Tre can no longer enjoy this breading recipe we made for him, it may still be tolerated by other people with wheat allergies. I’m working on an almond-based substitute which I will post shortly. Hang tight.***

    Last weekend, my mother presented Tre and I with a dry concoction she called “Tre’s breading” intended to replace traditional bread crumbs in cooking. The coarsely ground meal looked almost identical to the traditional Italian bread crumbs you buy at the store, and upon taste test, offered little evidence that it was some sort of substitute. My mom, who is also invested in mine and Tre’s WCRS-free lifestyle, had taken to the pantry and her stockpile of oats to create a viable substitute for this kitchen staple. Using her food processor, she pulsed quick oats with parmesan cheese and various cooking spices into a course ground meal that looked and tasted almost exactly like its wheat-based counterpart.

    Breadcrumbs are one of those ingredient staples that you don’t think about until you realize how happy you are that you magically have them in your pantry the night you decide to make chicken parm. It wasn’t until I couldn’t use breadcrumbs that I realized what a staple they are in my kitchen. From the aforementioned breaded chicken parm, to breadcrumb-thickened meatloaf and meatballs, to a breaded gorgonzola steak topping, crumbs have always been a go-to filler for many of my favorite recipes. With my mom’s clever inception of an oat-based substitute, culinary doors that had once been closed were now reopened for enjoyment.

    Tre's breading getting ready to be a filler for meatballs and a lone turkey burger.

    Tre’s Breading

    • 1 cup rolled quick oats
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp dried parsley
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • Dash of crushed red pepper
    • 1 tbsp fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    • Dash of salt

    Adjust spices to taste, this is just my general guideline. I make this breading in increments of 1 cup unless I know I’ll be using a lot in a recipe. Because of the cheese, this must be stored in the refrigerator and has a somewhat limited shelf life.

    Directions

    1. Pour the oats into a food processor and pulse in bursts until it reaches a medium-fine meal. If you do not have finely grated parm, add it with the oats and blend together.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse a few more times until combined. You do not want to over blend into a fine powder.