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.