Monday, October 21, 2013

Improv Cheesy Sausage Soup

It's a great afternoon to write. I've decided to start sharing recipes. You just don't know how challenging doing that is for me. First, I cook by the seat of my pants most of the time. And secondly, I cook by the seat of my pants! Which is my way of saying I make up a lot in the moment, I very rarely use recipes....or use them as-is only once and I am NOT good about measuring anything. I go by smells, tastes, looks, etc. It's a 5 senses thing. And for those of you that MUST use exact amounts of everything, maybe this isn't the blog for you. Or learn to lighten up and learn to generalize a little. I'm ALL about generalizations. I CAN be about details if a job requires it, but about my cooking......(shaking head). And I'm now wishing I had taken a picture of this "recipe" for you. I thought just getting a blog up and going well is challenging enough for me and I didn't expect to really be sharing recipes, thus no reason for photographs. So bear with me. If this works out, I'll try to get some pictures for future recipes.

As I've said in the past, I am a bit famous in my house for taking leftovers and making something new out of them. Doing leftovers as-is ISN'T something my family likes to do much. There's only three of us and I tend to make enough for a few lunches or another couple of people's hearty appetite. I like to make sure everyone has as much as they want. So we have leftovers. These creations from leftovers are usually my most successful dishes. Which is irritating to my husband because how often do you have the exact same leftovers so you can do it again? So most of these great meals are not only originals, but once-and-only meals. I'm going to work on that. But for today I'm going to share one of the easiest things to improvise....using leftover sauces for the base for fabulous soups. Soups are COMPLETELY improvisable. Is that a word? Well, it is today. I will try to give you the ingredients and approximate amounts of the sauce that I made for a pasta dinner and how I added to it to make soup a few days later.

I will always gravitate to creamy and cheesy over tomatoey or brothy. Although I will eat the others also. THIS recipe went with my first choice. For the base of it all, I used a jar of creamy, garlic alfredo sauce. Being glutenfree, I warn you to always look at the ingredients list when choosing the type and brand of things like this. Even if the ingredients look good, there's often the disclaimer of "processed in a facility that also processes....." or "may be trace amounts of......", which is enough for me to turn away from. But there are some good choices available. I DO often make things from scratch but other times, when I know I can get ready-made of some items, I will. I would rather talk my way thru the recipe but I know many need to see a recipe in recipe form, so here goes.

1 jar garlic, alfredo sauce (or any flavors you prefer)
1 t. onion powder
2 t. minced garlic (we love garlic)
2 heaping T. pureed pure pumpkin (yes, pumpkin. It really didn't taste pumpkiny. But you add color and GREAT health benefits of pumpkin!)
finely chopped roasted red pepper --- now I did roast them myself and I have no idea how much to tell you to use. If you like generous and enjoy. If not, use sparingly or leave it out completely. I used a couple of sizeable pieces.
2-3 cups chicken stock I often make my own from roasted chicken bones but this time I used boxed. And the amount is dependent on how much sauce you need and how cheesy or thin you want it.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Now for the soup. In a large pot add....

Saute 1 diced onion
add and brown 1 lb bulk sausage
add 1 T minced garlic
Leftover sauce
add more roasted pepper to taste (I added another couple of large pieces, finely diced)
the rest of the can of pure pumpkin (the can was approximately a 15 oz sized can)
1 box chicken broth
4 T chicken boullion
4 cups water
1 t black pepper
add approximately 1 cup milk as it simmers
chop 2 large fistfuls of fresh spinach and add to pot.
Stir and simmer for 10 minutes

Wow, I did it. I actually wrote this down as a real recipe. I encourage you to take this and make it your own. Wing it. If you don't like something about it, leave it out! Substitute something! It's not rocket science and it WON'T be horrible. I promise. My family loved THIS. And I will do my best to pull it all together and replicate it again very soon.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Visiting Non-Gluten-Free Relatives

I'm going to try very hard to not use this post as my therapy for the week. I don't know about your family, but mine is challenging. And I'm going to stop right there from going any further in explaining. But I think many of us have faced the dilemma of how to eat and deal with meals at relatives homes. Personally, I've only dealt with needing to be gluten-free for seven years. Seeing as I have a grown son, that means my side of the family never had to deal with such things for me. When its not my kitchen, my menu plans or others' desires for eating out, having a real need to be gluten-free can be challenging for us and very annoying for others.

I think it's very normal for most family members to think we can eat most of the same dishes that have been beloved traditions, just minus a small ingredient or two. But when those ingredients are glutinous, the substitutions can often completely change a dish. AND a large number of those that are Celiac or gluten-intolerant are likely to have issues with other foods, most predominantly, dairy or eggs. Again, foods that can and will totally change the outcome of many dishes when substituted. You can see how you and your needs suddenly become a real thorn in others' sides when family favorites no longer turn out the same. Some people are very intolerant of Thanksgiving dishes varying from what they grew up with or the finger foods of Super Bowls or the fancy extravagances of New Year's. But there are a number of things you can try. You might not get it right this year or even next year. But, in time, you stumble onto things that work FOR YOU. Seeing that we are looking just ahead to Thanksgiving, let's think about this a bit now.

If you will be at someone else's home, TRY to talk with them but don't demand that everything changes or caters to you. Take a look at the menu items. Which ones are the sacred cows? Would they be easy to rework? If not, don't bother trying. Think through this some ahead of time and have a suggestion for yourself and anyone else that may want to try and offer to make it. The only things you need to concern yourself with then is the possible cross-contamination of the kitchen when preparing it and maybe a special way to label your gluten-free dishes when they are out on the buffet table. And label your utensil for that item also so no one uses it to dip something else. Maybe setting the gluten-free items off to the side away from the other items would be a good idea also. Pointing out that naturally gluten-free dishes that are simple, whole foods is a very good thing might spark ideas of how a meal could be enhanced. If the kitchen, suggestions, family members are just too difficult resistant, then resign yourself to doing for yourself as needed. We have enough options these days at a lot of grocery stores and online to not be hungry. And remember, after all, it's not REALLY about the food. It's not. Family is often a double-edged sword during the holidays. But they are family. Embrace that fact. It's about them. And it's about you as part of them. Be the bigger person, if need be, and let their resistance roll off. One thing I've learned about the gluten-free path is that it changes. We continue to learn and we adapt. Even when we think we've arrived, next year will have something new in our knowledge and ability to deal with it easier. I know it all seems much easier to me this year than it did last. And the same for the year prior to that. This may be a big thing in our life but in the grand picture of things, it's a small thing. And I've heard we aren't suppose to sweat those.

Monday, September 23, 2013

12 Step for Writing?

So, hello. Yes, it's me. I need to slow down on these annual posts, don't you think? Ugh! "THEY" say writers are the worst about actually writing. I guess that makes me a TERRIFIC writer. But, I'm gonna try it again. Another gluten-free compadre on Twitter and Pinterest (@GFDougie) has lectured (I'm sure he'd say ENCOURAGED) me to do more tweeting on my gluten-free Twitter account and sharing. So, since this is the stereotypical day to start anything, I'm giving it another go. If you choose, and are on Twitter, I'm at @MilliNoVilli. I just changed it to that. I have to write it down here and there so I can find it later. Because I KNOW I'll forget it. I was quite tickled at coming up with that but it's way too kitchy for me to remember. Cool, I'm not.

Just a word of warning, I'm not one of those fancy cooks. I love cooking shows on tv, food magazines, cookbooks, cooking blogs, etc. But my own experience has no culinary schooling or even real medical expertise. I can only share what I've learned, what I like and what's going on in my own daily life. And it's not centered around my cooking or blogging. At least, not yet. If you stick with me you'll learn I'm midwestern, simple, cheap and very un-politically correct. You won't read long, lengthy, scientific rants about non-GMO foods, how eating non-organics is appalling or the scourge of red meats, sugar and butter. I grew up eating much like Ree Drummond's "Pioneer Woman" and Paula Deen...without quite so much butter. But, yes, VERY southern roots.

I didn't grow up battling gluten-intolerance or food allergies. I've been told I had some issues when I was an infant but I grew out of them pretty quickly. Fast-forward 47 or 48 yrs and I suddenly had digestive and other problems and couldn't find out why. I'm not one to go to the doctor much and after only about three different doctors not having much clue, I started researching for myself online. I concluded I needed to write down what I was eating and how I felt afterwards and when I experienced problems and what kind of problems they were. I think writing it down was key to finally seeing a pattern emerge. My body seems to take 1 1/2-2 days to fully react, making it a little more difficult to see. I started making a list of foods I seemed to be bothered by and one-by-one would take them out of my diet. With every food I eliminated the degree of being bothered would lessen. I ended up with a list of 6 foods: glutens, dairy, eggs, beans, rice, nuts. And when you consider our usual diets, eating became quite challenging. I learned that my gluten-intolerance was caused my the gluten killing off the villi in our intestines and that probiotics helps keep those healthy and active. Since I couldn't do dairy, yogurt was out. But I found an allergy-free supplement and took double doses for a few weeks to heal my "leaky gut". Once it was healed, I could get to work at improving my diet. In time, one by one, I managed to work some of those foods back into my diet. At least now and then. A little bit. Which REALLY does help when in social settings. And if I CHOOSE. I still have issues with more than just a little rice, nuts and beans. Glutens are still my worst and I really try to stay away from them as much as possible. I stumbled onto some help with dairy after visiting an uncle, who had become lactose-intolerant also. He could have lactose-free milk and said if he had some of it daily, it helped him digest a little bit of cheese or ice cream on occasion. REALLY? You know as soon as I got home I was zooming to the store for lactose-free milk! And I could also tolerate it well! YAY! So just being able to cook with a milk that tasted like milk and cooks well was SO helpful. And I also found I could do the cheeses and ice creams too. A little. Occasionally. And soft cheeses do much better than cheddar. Go figure. I have no idea why.

SO. That's a little about my journey so far. I'm sure I'll fill in some blanks now and then in the future. I will probably also repeat myself. I'm sorry about that. I seem to have come to that point in my life where I do that. I'll try to keep it at a minimum. Blessings.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cook with Imagination

I've been thinking about what I want to talk about today. I had decided, but just hadn't written yet when my tv was on The Chew and they stole my idea, lol! Well, maybe not. But it can't be said enough, so instead of changing topics, I think I'll continue on the same thought.

I've met and known of so many people these days that don't cook. And after living the past 6 years with multiple food intolerances, I am even more amazed that of this and convinced that those of us with food issues, can't NOT know how. It's not rocket science. Although the chemistry of baking, especially with alternative flours and ingredients certainly leaves me stumped. I CERTAINLY don't profess to be educated or know everything. I simply have lived with it long enough to figure out I WANT to cook again. I have alot of #FAILS and a few really good successes and ALOT that falls in the middle, somewhere. I still struggle with the expense of many of the alternative ingredients and experimenting. I'm too cheap to not be affected by throwing the failures down the garbage disposal. I have been VERY thankful to be able to get eggs and dairy back in the mix. They certainly help tremendously.

One thing I've always kinda of enjoyed is reworking leftovers. I think its fun to open up the fridge and figure out how I can make a little of this and little of that into something brand new. My family goes in spurts whether they are good about eating leftovers or not. So, if I can remake them, its helpful. You might argue that if you don't cook much, how would you know what goes together, or what spices to use. I also know alot of people that can't cook without using recipes. Personally, I only use most recipes once. If its a keeper, then the next time I start tweeking and using what I may have on-hand instead of something specific the recipe calls for.

But you eat out, don't you? Or watch The Food Network? Say you want something to taste Mexican....what seasonings are known Mexican seasonings? Cilantro, cumin, chili powder, garlic and onion powders. That's not an exclusive list, but its a good start. When you eat out, what GOES on Mexican foods? Beans, Spanish rice, lime, different peppers, corn, tomotoes, etc. Again this isn't an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. You KNOW more than you think you do!! EXPERIMENT! If your diet doesn't include dairy, obviously you avoid the cheeses or "creamies". You CAN experiment with cornstarch, potato starch, arrowroot to thicken. Or any of the many soy cheeses, milks, or nut butters and milks to substitute. I never tried the nut derived products as nuts is one of my no-no's. But I did learn that the soy versions of most of those things are VERY delicate and don't hold up long to the heat of average cooking. So just add them late in your process. I STILL will say that sticking with as many unprocessed foods as possible will still give you the best results. I often simply left out one factor to a recipe than use a processed alternative. I was usually disappointed with the result anyway. But anyway you shake it, I never found ANYTHING that was "as good as the original". It may be GOOD, but different. And the sooner you learn to let go of that expectation the happier you'll be. I know I hung on way too long!

But back to the figuring out what goes with what when cooking. One thing that has changed life as we all know it that would help you when you just HAVE to see something "official" in print, is your computer!! Google it! Ask Ask! : ) But I say give yourself a your instincts! Experiment!