Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

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Homemade mac ‘n cheese, it does the trick every time. And better yet, it doesn’t have to be over-the-top or complicated in the least, which is especially great these days since I am not in the mood for complicated whatsoever.

The sauce is simple and comes together pretty quick. Butter and white rice flour make a roux, and once that has been combined, salt, pepper, dijon mustard, and milk are whisked in until bubbling. I used a spatula to check every minute or so for flour that hadn’t yet whisked in. By the time it was bubbling, all was combined and well. Once bubbles form, reduce the heat and add the cheese (so much cheese!), reserving half a cup for topping.

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While the sauce is forming, cook gluten-free pasta according to package directions. I used Lundberg brown rice elbow macaroni and let the noodles boil for 8 minutes, adding a drizzle of olive oil to the water to help reduce sticking. Once cooked and drained, place back into the pot to combine with the cheese sauce.

After the cheese sauce and noodles have been combined, place mixture in an 8×8″ baking dish. Top with reserved cheddar cheese and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes (or until your preferred level of cheesy brownness has been achieved).

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This could easily be a meal in itself, but I went full Donna Reed and served mine with turkey meatloaf, peas and carrots. Sunday supper at its finest.

Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese (serves 4-6)
**could easily be non-GF by subbing regular pasta and flour**

Ingredients:
1 16oz package gluten free pasta (I used Lundberg brown rice elbow macaroni)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup white rice flour (other GF flours could work well here, though GF all-purpose would be best)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. In a small pot on medium heat, melt butter. Once melted, add flour and whisk to combine until a paste forms. Add salt, pepper, dijon mustard, and milk. Whisk until well combined, but continue to check for roux that may not have whisked in. Bring mixture to a bubble, but not a boil. Once bubbling, reduce heat to low add 1 cup of parmesan and 1 cup of cheddar, reserving the remaining cheddar cheese for topping.

While sauce is forming, boil pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain and place back into pot. When cheese sauce is ready, pour over pasta and gently combine with a spatula.

Place pasta and cheese sauce mixture into an 8×8″ baking dish and top with reserved cheddar cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until your preferred level of browning has been reached.

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Easiest Enchiladas Ever! {Gluten-Free}

I love, LOVE enchiladas, yet somehow forget how easy they can be. I whipped up a batch this week and am so glad I did. Now they are back on my list for easy weeknight dinners – which everyone needs a few of those in their pocket, right?

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A few months ago I found a new enchilada sauce at the farmers’ market I go to. Frontera (as in Mex-Mex Grill) now sells tons of sauces and marinades and I love them all. The list of ingredients is pretty short and the sauces have way more depth of flavor than your traditional canned enchilada sauce. Try some out for your next enchilada/taco/fajita/etc night. Your taste buds will thank you!

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The process is simple. You will need 2 packs of Frontera’s Red Chile Enchilada Sauce (I like mine saucy!), 1 pound of cooked ground turkey (brown the night before for an even quicker meal), 1/2 an onion (chopped), 8 corn tortillas, and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, mix together ground turkey, chopped onion, and one pack of enchilada sauce. Divide evenly between tortillas. Be careful not to overfill tortillas, you will want to make sure they can be rolled and placed seam side down in the pan without unrolling. If you any mixture leftover, you can sprinkle on top of your enchies.

Once enchiladas are assembled, pour over second pack of enchilada sauce and sprinkle shredded cheese. Bake for 30 minutes and top with sour cream, if desired. Enjoy! (I promise you will.)

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My Favorite Steak Salad

Working in numerous restaurants over the years has given me ample opportunity to mentally bookmark some of my favorite tricks and dishes. This salad is one of those favorites.

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While there is a basic template for this recipe, it’s really versatile and can be changed up to suit your mood. The original recipe called for bleu cheese, but I went for goat cheese this round. (Crazy, I say!) The other staple ingredients are: flank steak, romaine lettuce, caramelized mushrooms, sautéed portobellos, and your vinaigrette of choice.

My steak marinade can differ depending on what’s available in the fridge. For this steak I used olive oil, Dale’s, tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), brown mustard, and fresh minced garlic.

I also like to make my own vinaigrette. I’m never a big fan of what I can buy at the grocery store, so making my own is immensely more satisfying (and contains much fewer ingredients!). My vinaigrette recipe also changes depending on what ingredients are available, but is usually a combo of olive oil, vinegar (red wine or balsamic), fresh minced garlic, mustard or lemon juice, and salt/pepper.

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I had started caramelizing my onions while the steak was marinating. Once the onions were really soft, I threw in the mushrooms so that they could soften as well. The steak was cooked the steak in a cast iron skillet, but any preparation would work well here.

The salad is best when steak and veggies are still warm, the cheese gets all melty and everything melds together really well.

Flank Steak Salad (serves 4):

1.5-2lbs flank steak
sweet onion, sliced
8oz portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
Dale’s, splash
tamari, splash (or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp brown mustard (we used Gulden’s)
salt and pepper
1 head romaine lettuce
4oz crumbled goat cheese

Red Wine Vinaigrette (serves 4):

4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp brown mustard
salt and pepper

Combine 1 tsp olive oil, minced garlic, Dale’s, tamari, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk. Pour over steak and let marinate for 20-30 minutes. In the meantime, cook onions over med-low heat in 1 tsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Once onions are soft, add in portobellos and reduce heat to low. Cook steak to desired temperature and let rest for a few minutes. If dressing has not been made in advance, combine all ingredients in a sealed container (I opted for a mason jar) and shake until well combined. Carve steak into bite-size pieces and assemble remaining ingredients. Enjoy!

Let’s Thai Something New

Freezers are our friends. So are crock pots. Combine the two appliances and you may just find yourself with a dynamic duo, especially on a weeknight. Or a Saturday.

A dear and lovely friend (you know who you are!) gave me an e-cookbook that is based on the aforementioned duo. It was created by Stephanie at Mama and Baby Love and you can find it here. I broke it out this week and made not one, but two of her super convenient recipes. I bought all the ingredients on Sunday, prepped, and froze.

Today’s feature? Thai Chicken Curry. I’d been in need of a reason to use curry and this was a dang good reason.

My only issue was that I did not realize until this week that I may have a smaller than some crock pot. Or maybe I need to let my freezer bag sit out a bit before trying to fit a frozen solid rectangle into an oval pot. Fortunately I had a few extra minutes this morning and let said ice brick thaw out in a 500 degree oven, but it was not my preferred method. No bigs. Now I know and can prepare this week’s meals with (hopefully) more finesse.

I added in a couple fresh herbs for the last 30 minutes or so. Basil + cilantro–another dynamic duo.

The dish was delish. I served it over rice with lots of broth. Winner, winner, Thai chicken dinner.

Friday Night Life

Is a post still a post if you forget to capture it on camera? Sure. That is why we have the internets.

Just about every Friday night Tex and I enjoy ourselves a baked potato dinner. It’s simple. It’s inexpensive. It’s the ultimate comfort food. Our toppings of choice? Butter, sour cream, chives (from our herb garden), bacon bits, and most recently…French’s Cheddar French Fried Onions. Yep, those little gems that you top your green bean casserole with are an amazing addition to most anything, including omelets.

classic

I have recently come to terms with the fact that I crave habit, consistency, and schedules. Maybe this isn’t a surprise to most people, but it took a while for me to own it. I always thought that spontaneity was key to keeping life fresh and exciting. Maybe to some degree, but not on a daily basis. This girl needs to know what’s going on. It just makes things easier.

top this

Believe it or not, that segue meant something. This weekly baked potato is way more than a baked potato. It’s a ritual. A way to unwind. Something to look forward to with my pal each week. It helps to keep things sane around here (or up here, in my head).

fluffy

 

*all images via pinterest

There’s a lesson here.

 

The blog has been on the forefront of my mindbrain all week, though I have little show for it in the way of recipes. There will be  all kinds of things coming to fruition tomorrow night, but what good does that do for my need to post on Friday? Little to nothing, that’s for sure.

I came up with what I thought was a fail-safe super delicious meal planned for Tuesday night. I was so excited. Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breast. Sounds lovely, right? Maybe it could have been. Maybe one day it can be. Sadly, Tuesday’s version was a bit sub par.

I take full responsibility, I do. It was later than I liked, seeing that dinner was at least an hour away; therefore there was a bit of rushing. (I was also pretty worn out from yoga and my reflexes are a bit off afterwards. Just ask Tex about the two tacos I dropped on the floor the following night.) When I’m in a hurry, I take shortcuts that I wouldn’t normally take (and certainly do not advise). Like using your hand to steady the chicken breast that you’re splitting with a sharp knife (don’t do it!). I painfully realized this mistake with the knife slipped across the raw chicken breast and into my left thumb. Blood, salmonella, it was a mess. While I bandaged my thumb (and tried not to pass out), Tex took over the remaining chicken cutting duties.

I still stuffed, yes I did. However, injury muddied up my brain and I forgot to add a bit of acid to offset all that salty brine. The original plan was kalamata olives, goat cheese, spinach, and tomato, with lemon slices on top. The actuality was kalamata olives, goat cheese, and spinach. Oops.

It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t close to what I wanted. The cooked olives had a very strong smell, too strong for me. On the bright side, the cheese was good, and the leftovers made a nice sandwich when tucked into a toasted pita with a little light mayo and champagne mustard. Still, there was a little too much of something for me to really love it.

Next go ’round…Brie, tomato, and bacon? Now that’s a flavor profile I want to be apart of all day long.

The moral of this story? Don’t take shortcuts of the dangerous and unsanitary variety. It just leads to a week-long bandaged thumb and a disappointing dinner.

Garlicky-Cinnamon Sweet Potato Fries

All that yummy indulgent goodness from the weekend needed to be balanced out, and not just through arm binds and downward dogs. Last night we dialed it back on the sugar and made grilled salmon, sauteed green beans, and sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries, in all their simplistic glory, can be stressful without a few tips that I find invaluable (probably because I tried too many times to make the dang fries without them and was miserable).

1. Crank it up. The heat, that is. Don’t be afraid of high heat. I cook these bad boys at 375 for about 30 minutes (flipping each and every one halfway though) and then let them sit under the broiler for a few minutes. Seeing that they’re baked, they lack the utter crispiness of real fries. A little faux-broiler crispy is as close as I’ve gotten.

2. Parboil, parboil, parboil! Have you ever tried to slice a raw sweet potato? Evenly? Finger-slicing anxiety, uneven fry anxiety; you’ll need a prescribed something-or-other just to get through the process. Parboiling is the prescription. Depending on the size of the sweet potato, you’ll need to submerge it 15-20 minutes. It just needs to be soft enough to get a knife through, but not so soft that the slices become mush.
Plus, even fries=even cooking. This is a much more achievable french fry situation when you are working with a parboiled sweet potato.

3. ‘Tis the Season. Don’t be afraid! Get in your spices and get crazy. I went with a very light coat of olive oil, garlic, cinnamon, and kosher salt. Not matter how fancy your seasonings get, there is never shame in dunking them in ketchup. No shame.

There you have it. Maybe you knew all of these things already. I wish I’d known them years ago because sweet potato fries would have been a whole heck of a lot less scary.

Crock Pot Taco Madness!

A crock pot is an amazing thing; I just can’t say this enough. The results are never cease to blow my mind. Recently we took a big ol’ hunk of beef (pot roast meat, me thinks), a bottle of Miller Lite, some garlic, cilantro, salt, and pepper, and the result was to die for. We needed some crunch to top these bad boys off, so I made a quick and easy cole slaw with light mayo, red wine vinegar, cilantro, lime juice, pickled jalapeno juice (from the jar), and salt/pepper. To hold it all together, we went with 6″ corn tortillas (40 calories each, what?!)– on a side note I will be purchasing more of these soon; they are so good to use for wraps, especially when thrown in the office toaster oven to get them crispy.

This dinner has most certainly made it to our dinner ‘Top 10’, though Tex claims every new crock pot recipe is my new favorite food. I’m fairly confident I can give any good taqueria a run for its money. Or maybe a Bobby Flay Throwdown–is that show still on? I sure hope so.

Taco Magic

Crock Pot Shredded Beef:
2 lbs beef roast
(1) 12oz bottle Miller Lite
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper

Place entire roast in crock pot, pour beer over top, add cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Creamy Cilantro-peno Cole Slaw:
1 cup shredded cabbage (we went the pre-bagged route)
2 tbsp light mayo
1 tbsp pickled jalapeno juice
Squeeze or two of lime juice
salt/pepper
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar (I added this last so that I could control the creaminess, feel free to adjust to suit your tastes)

Combine mayo, jalapeno juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper until creamy. Add cilantro and red wine vinegar until desired consistency is reached. Toss with cabbage and pile as much on your taco as possible!

Mini Post: I Love My Crock Pot

I love my crock pot. It’s a magical thing that I neglected for far too long. A thing I left up in a cabinet, lonely and unused, unaware of all its potential–I mean, what can a high and low switch really do? Not much besides a dinnertime miracle or two.

Take this unassuming pork loin. A little soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, ginger, garlic, and…

Holy moly! Possibly the best pork loin I have ever had, and maybe my new favorite thing ever. (Sides not included. It’s not really magic now.)

Queen of Quinoa (burgers)

I’ve tried quinoa a few ways and am always thrilled with the outcome and versatility of the grain, though grain might not be the best word since it is closely related to spinach and beets, less commonly known as chenopods.

At any rate, I decided to try my hand at quinoa burgers. I looked at a few recipes before coming up with my own. With a few binding ingredients and enough moisture, you can really flavor them however you like. I went the cheesy-garlic-chive route, topped with spicy hummus and stuffed in a toasted pita, and was deeply pleased with the outcome. I’m not entirely sure if they got better over time, or if I just loved them that much, but they made an excellent leftover lunch when reheated in a toaster oven. In the end I was sad we only made five, though ten really probably would have been too many. Maybe not.

Quinoa (and lots of it).

Zucchini makes any burger better, I am convinced of it.

Grated zucchini, chives, and garlic.

Pre-patty

Let the grilling begin!

Golden brown perfection.

The perfect ensemble.

Quinoa Burgers (serves 5, or two plus really awesome leftovers!)

Ingredients:1/2 dry c quinoa, cooked
1/4 c part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 c shredded four-cheese blend
1 egg, plus one egg white
2.5 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1.5 tablespoons whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 small zucchini, grated and drained of excess water
2 chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil, for cooking
Whole wheat pita pockets
Spicy hummus (I like Sabra’s Supremely Spicy)

Directions:
Boil 1 c salted water (it’s always 2:1 with water to quinoa), add quinoa and reduce heat to medium low. Allow water to be absorbed and quinoa to become fluffy, approximately 20 minutes.

Once the quinoa is slightly cooled, place in a large mixing bowl and add cheeses, eggs, flour, breadcrumbs, zucchini, chives, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend with a fork, making sure mix is not too soupy and will form a patty. If you need, add more flour, a 1/2 teaspoon at a time–you do not want to make the burgers too dry! Form mix into five patties, approximately 1/2 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 350 and heat a large skillet over medium-high and coat with a portion of olive oil (you will want to have some left for round two). Place patties in heated oil and cook until golden brown, approximately 4-5 minutes on each side.

While the burgers are cooking, place pitas in the oven to toast, maybe 5 minutes. Fill each pita with 1 tablespoon of hummus and a fresh, hot quinoa patty. You’re in for a real treat, friends! I’ll be making these again soon.