Saturday, January 31, 2009

Meals we actually ate this past week (with recipes!)

Well, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I failed to follow the menu plan perfectly this week. It's been very hectic at work, and I just didn't always have time to make some of the great meals that I had planned.

So, what did we REALLY eat this week?

I actually did make Sandra's wonderful (and calorific!) cheese-stuffed was FABULOUS! My husband is a true meatloaf connoisseur, and he absolutely loved it. The meatloaf part itself is basically the way I've always made meatloaf, but I've never put a layer of cheese in the middle before. I used grated cheddar and sliced Jarlsberg for the cheese layer; it came out very well! We had enough for leftovers on Wednesday. Here is my version of the meatloaf as I made it Monday night (only slightly different), but please visit Sandra's site to see the full step-by-step recipe, beautifully illustrated with many photographs:

Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaf

1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 eggs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 medium onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
cheese (I used sliced Jarlsberg & a mix of grated sharp and mild cheddars)
more ketchup for the top

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray large loaf pan or 8" x 10" casserole dish with non stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together meats, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic powder, onion, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. Don't over mix, just mix with your hands until everything is combined well.

Divide meat mixture in half. Press one half into the pan and pat smooth, then place the cheese slices and the shredded cheese on the meat layer

Top with second half of the meat mixture, and press all around the edges to seal the cheese inside. Drizzle ketchup over the top and then bake for about 60 minutes or until meat is done.

I also made fish tacos, which is one of our favorite casual family meals:

Easy Fish Tacos

3 tilapia fillets (or other mild white fish - about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
Seasoned pepper (make sure it's gluten free! I use a Key Lime Pepper.)
butter for basting
8 corn tortillas
canola oil
your favorite toppings (grated cheeses, salsa, shredded red cabbage, sour cream, guacamole, etc)

Melt butter and use it to baste the fish on both sides. Sprinkle the fish on both sides with the seasoned pepper. Bake the fish in pan sprayed with non-stick spray at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until you can flake it with a fork (or do as we do: we buy frozen tilapia fillets from Costco and microwave them from the frozen state according to package directions). I realize that many people bread fish and deep fry it when they make fish tacos but we prefer it unbreaded.

While the fish is baking, pour oil into a small pan until it's about half an inch deep. Cook the corn tortillas one at a time briefly in hot oil over medium high heat. It will only take a few seconds per side to see bubbles forming in the tortilla if the oil is hot enough; as soon as that happens flip it over with tongs and cook the other side, unless you like your taco shells really crispy, in which case just cook the tortillas a bit longer per side. We like them to be still flexible.

Remove the cooked tortilla to a plate lined with paper towels, blot it with a paper towel to remove excess oil and bend it into a taco shell shape while still hot. Repeat.

Scoop some cooked fish into a taco shell, add cheese or other toppings as you wish, and enjoy! Makes 8 fish tacos.

I did manage to make Stephanie's Crockpot version of the Obama family's chili recipe. She found the recipe posted online, and converted it into a Crockpot recipe. I used twice as much ground meat as the original recipe called for (2 lbs instead of 1). The recipe below is my variation. The chili was very family-friendly, even after I increased the spices a bit. In other words, it's tasty but very mild, so little kids can eat it. So those of you who like your chili HOT will have to increase the spice level quite a lot.

As I combined all the ingredients in the crockpot, I noticed all of those bright colors...dark red kidney beans, bright red tomatoes, green bell pepper, translucent white onion, and the turmeric adding an orange-ish tint....really beautiful! I couldn't resist taking a picture of the chili before cooking it:

Crockpot version of Obama's Chili

1 can kidney beans
2 lbs lean ground meat

1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
5-6 medium tomatoes, chopped (include seeds and all)
4 chopped cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
2 - 3 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 T red wine vinegar


You'll need a 5-6 qt Crockpot for the chili.

I increased all of the spices from Stephanie's recipe, because I doubled the amount of ground meat. As I mentioned before, if you like your chili hot and spicy, you'll need to add a lot more spices.

First, brown
the meat on the stove top, and drain well. Stephanie says that if you use very lean meat like ground chicken you can just crumble it in raw.

Chop up the tomatoes, garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Add to the crockpot. Open the can of beans, and pour them in undrained. Add the meat. Stir in all of the spices and the red wine vinegar. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 7-9 hours, or on high for 4-5. I cooked our chili on high for 3 hours and then on low for 3 more hours.

The babies both ate it; Matthew actually asked for more! I served it over white rice as the Obamas do. My husband liked it so much, he asked me to make it again tomorrow, for Superbowl Sunday! :)

As to the remainder of the week's menu plan, I did not get around to making the Crockpot Chicken Mole, nor the hamburgers with potato salad. Friday night I was very tired from a long week and ended up taking the easy way out by using a Mrs. Leeper's gluten free boxed mix to make tuna casserole with peas and mushrooms.

Tonight was supposed to be leftover night, but we really didn't have any leftovers! So I used Tinkyada elbow macaroni to make a gluten free version of my Five-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Chicken and Broccoli. Yummy!! That's serious comfort food!

Five-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken and Broccoli


2 C cooked chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 C steamed broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 T butter
3-4 T white rice flour (superfine)
2 C heavy cream
2 C chicken broth
2 tsp salt, plus more for water
1/4 tsp ground dry mustard
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 T onion flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 C grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 1/2 C grated medium cheddar
1 1/2 C grated monterey jack
1 1/2 C grated Jarlsberg
1 C grated Parmesan
1 pound gluten free elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 3-quart casserole dish.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the rice flour. Cook, stirring (best to use a wire whisk), for about 1 minute. While whisking, slowly pour in the cream a little at a time to keep mixture smooth, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Continue cooking, and add the chicken broth a little at time while whisking constantly, until the mixture has the thickness and consistency of paint. You don't want it to be too thick, because it will thicken when you add the cheese. Note: you may not need to add all of the broth to reach the right consistency.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, dry mustard, black pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, all of the Parmesan and MOST of the other cheeses (reserve a little of the grated cheddars and Jarlsberg to sprinkle on top); set the cheese sauce aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the macaroni until al dente (i.e., until the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is slightly underdone), about 7-8 minutes for most gluten free pastas, but it varies. Drain the macaroni in a colander and return to the empty pot. Add the chicken, broccoli and cheese sauce to the macaroni; mix well but gently.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheddar cheese over the top. Bake until top is starting to turn golden brown in spots, about 20 - 25 minutes.

Friday, January 30, 2009

TGIF...and how am I doing 2 months later?

I just realized that I passed the 2 month mark (2 months gluten free) a few days ago!

I've been EXTREMELY busy at work this week, and this did create a few problems. I've had trouble sticking to the menu plan. Although I have made many of the meals I planned, I made them on different nights and had to make a couple of simpler meals on nights I came home late.

This is least I've managed to stay gluten free. Despite the previous post, in which I was trying to find the silver lining in celiac disease, I do miss being able to get fast food occasionally, and I miss being able to go to any restaurant and try any dish on the menu that looks appealing.

But I don't want to risk getting really sick. I just have to remember how exhausted I was all the time, and how bad the headaches and neurological symptoms were, and that's enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. I know that I feel better today than I did when I started the diet...that's all that matters right now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thoughts on the benefits of gluten free living

I mean the other benefits, not the obvious ones related to circumventing celiac disease and wresting your health back from its evil grasp.

Such as...just the fact that never again can you be thoughtless about what goes into your mouth, or your children's mouths. You really need to pay attention, read labels, shop wisely when you and/or your loved ones suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease. This has got to be a GOOD thing.

Also, having to prepare nearly all of your family's meals should save money in the long run, particularly for those of us who USED TO eat out fairly frequently. Yes, gluten free foods tend to be more expensive, but there's no need to buy lots of pre-made items or exotic ingredients, other than some of the more commonly used flours and mixes like Pamela's Baking Mix.

And what about all of those calories that AREN'T going straight to your hips? Such as the slice of birthday or baby shower cake that you can't eat at work, or that snack you can no longer buy from the vending machine? This is definitely a beneficial side effect!

For these and so many other reasons, I'm truly glad to be gluten free today!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Is the GF diet helping? Part II

After I babbled about my health issues in the previous "Is the GF Diet Helping?" post, a scripture came to mind....

(2nd Corinthians 12:10): "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

It's difficult at first glance to grasp what the Apostle Paul meant here...did he literally "take pleasure in infirmities"??

But I have to admit that when I reach the end of myself, when there is nothing that I can do with my limited human strength and resources, if I have the faith to rest in the Lord's hands and stop striving to FIX everything using my mortal understanding, I find a certain joy that is unattainable any other way.

He is in control.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gluten Free Menu Plan For This Week

It's almost Monday again! DH spent most of the day today at various grocery stores (Costco, Trader Joe's, etc.) so we're all stocked up and I have a plan for the dinners this week:

Monday: Cheese-stuffed meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas with garlic and mushrooms

(Sandra, you make meatloaf exactly the way I do, except for the cheese - which is a brilliant addition! But I won't use saltine crackers in the meatloaf...I'll use gf breadcrumbs)

Tuesday: Fish Tacos (made with baked tilapia, corn tortillas softened in a bit of hot oil, topped with shredded red cabbage, grated cheese, and salsa), green salad

Wednesday: Crockpot Chili (Obama Family Recipe), gluten free cornbread

(in the spirit of bipartisanship I will also have to make McCain's BBQ Ribs in the Crockpot soon! LOL!)

Thursday: Crockpot Chicken Mole, rice, corn tortillas, salad

Friday: Hamburgers with gluten free buns, potato salad, carrot and celery sticks

(I make my potato salad with small red potatoes, green onions, celery, a dressing made from mayonnaise and sour cream - about 1/2 and 1/2, dill weed, dry mustard, salt and pepper. It's simple but yummy!)

Saturday: Leftovers (or go out to eat!)

Sunday: Chicken Rice Casserole, steamed broccoli

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Is the GF diet helping?

Warning: this post is mostly a discussion of my health....could be excruciatingly boring.

OK, I figure it's time to step back and assess the big picture again; I've been on the gluten free diet for 2 months now. So, do I feel better yet?

I always have to keep in mind what so many people like myself (with multiple autoimmune diseases plus fibromyalgia) have shared in the forum on that it literally took them years to feel normal again, if they ever healed completely (some people apparently don't).

But even at this early stage I have to say, YES, I do feel a little bit better! I definitely have a little more energy; I still get sleepy during the day but my overall fatigue level isn't as bad as it was. My headaches are fewer and milder, my hand tremors are mostly non-existent. The muscle cramps in my feet, legs, hands, etc., occur very seldom now.

And my brain fog is GONE!! HOORAY!!

Those nasty GI symptoms are still with me from time to time, but the episodes of "D" are fewer and farther between; they may be happening because I've been glutened, or even because of the antibiotic I'm taking right now.

The big disappointment for me is that the conditions which keep me in a wheelchair much of the time have not improved. Not at all. :(

I still have the severe lower back pain and extreme muscle stiffness in my legs (which I've been assuming are due to fibromyalgia) that prevent me from walking very far or standing for more than a few minutes at a time. Of course, maybe I just haven't been on the gluten-free diet long enough yet?

Don't get me wrong....I do feel that ANY improvement in the way I feel makes the GF diet totally worth it! Just getting rid of the muscle cramping alone is sufficient reason!!

I will TRY to be patient!!

Recent culinary successes

Once again, I've managed to stick to my menu plan! Amazing! :)

I thought I would report on the Crockpot Indian Curry we had on Thursday and post a picture. This is the second time I've used this recipe (I LOVE curry!); it's definitely a keeper! Everyone in the family ate it, even two-and-a-half-year-old Emma, who is notorious for refusing to eat anything "out of the ordinary". Her big brother Matthew (one year older) ate a good-sized helping and asked for more.

My only deviation from the Stephanie-Rachel Ray recipe was to add 1/3 C cornstarch + 1/4 C sugar dissolved in 2/3 C apple juice at the end, just to add a little sweetness and make the sauce thicker and smoother. After adding the juice mixture, stir gently and let it cook on high for 20 minutes to thicken. Next time I will probably omit the sugar; the apple juice is sweet enough.

Yesterday morning I tried a recipe from Karina's Kitchen: Banana-Blueberry Muffin Cake. Except that I made muffins instead of cake.

They were scrumptious! (I just had two more for breakfast!) The recipe made 20 muffins; I baked them at 350 degrees for nearly 20 minutes. One note: I didn't have any buckwheat flour so I substituted superfine brown rice flour instead. This is definitely a great way to use up any over-ripe bananas you may have in your kitchen!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Brief report on tonight's dinner

WOW! That Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings recipe of Stephanie's turned out SO well! Matthew (our 3 year old) gobbled it down and asked for more!

To make the dumplings I too used Pamela's GF Baking Mix and made the drop biscuit recipe on the bag, but I increased it by half and the number of dumplings came out about right.

For the "cream of anything" soup, I used one can of GF creamy mushroom soup and then combined it with 1/2 a recipe of Stephanie's homemade substitution for cream soup.

I cooked it for a total of about 5 1/2 hours on high; I pulled the chicken pieces into smaller chunks and added the drop biscuit dough to the crock pot about 1 hour before the end.

Try'll like it! :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gluten Free Menu For This Week

Well, I actually followed the menu for last week quite well. The only thing that didn't work out was the second "leftover" night; the Crockpot Honey Lentils were very good, so good in fact that we ate them for dinner and for lunch the following day, and there weren't enough left for leftover night! So I made fish tacos instead.

Here is the menu plan for this week:

Monday: Mrs. Leeper's Gluten-Free Lasagna with ground turkey, green salad (Mrs. Leeper's is a brand that we've found at Whole Foods Market, sort of like a gluten free version of Hamburger or Tuna Helper. Add herbs and spices and cheese to them to make them a bit tastier.)
Tuesday: Crockpot chicken and dumplings
Wednesday: Gluten-free pizza (half pepperoni, half shrimp!), salad
Thursday: Crockpot Indian Curry (I have half an eggplant and some sweet potatoes I have to use up)
Friday: Broiled steak, baked potatos, and salad
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Salmon sauted with mushrooms, rice pilaf, peas and carrots

Thursday, January 15, 2009

By the way...regarding crumbs

DH and I have finally managed to get rid of old pots, pans, plastic containers, the toaster, wooden spoons, etc., plus most of the remaining gluten-containing food.

Since our adopted babies, Matthew and Emma, are really my biological grandchildren, they have a chance of having problems with gluten because I have celiac disease and their cousin Carly (my other granddaughter) has celiac disease. But I just found out recently that the kids biological father, Marcus, may have gluten issues himself, and that his brother had MS and celiac disease! The babies have the double whammy (celiacs on both sides of the family)!

Emma has the HLA DQ2 gene, so she definitely has a chance of developing issues with gluten. Both she and Matthew have skin problems, specifically eczema and keratosis pilaris, which can be associated with celiac disease.

Also DH has just been diagnosed with psoriasis, which is an autoimmune disease, so he should probably avoid gluten, too.

So I've decided that the WHOLE FAMILY will be gluten free from now on! We went to Whole Foods and bought gluten free crackers and chicken nuggets, and since I've now started making gluten free bread I think we're all set!

Therefore, when I encounter crumbs on the table, I'm no longer worried that they might gluten me! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So far, so good

I have actually stuck to my menu plan thus far! Yay!

Things are going fairly well. I haven't been glutened lately (it helps when you're cooking all your own food and you've actually created a gluten-free environment in your kitchen!).

The Thai Chicken Curry turned out very well. We all had it for dinner on Monday; Matthew loved it and even Emma ate a little bit, and she is PICKY! :)

I had some for dinner tonight, too! Yum!

A little side topic...dinner tonight was a nice ending to a TERRIBLE commute home. I live in Southern California, in Los Angeles County, so these things happen. But this was the worst I had encountered in a long time.

I had a doctor's appointment late this afternoon; I left the doctor's office at 5:00pm. I got home at 8:15pm. Please note that I live only 15 miles from my doctor's office!!!

There was an accident on the 210 freeway this morning....a tanker truck turned over and spilled tar all over the freeway. They closed the freeway in the morning and didn't re-open it until nearly 5:30pm. So every surface street for miles around was moving at approximately 1 mile per hour; after they re-opened the freeway, the freeway was moving at maybe 2 miles per hour.

I tried EVERY street, every different way to get home that I knew of and no matter what I did I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.


Sorry, I just had to VENT!!

I'm really glad tonight was leftover night!! :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gluten Free Menu For This Week

I've never tried this before, but here goes! I'm inspired to do this by Erica's blog, and others I've seen who are organized enough to actually PLAN meals! :)

Monday: Thai Chicken Curry in the Crockpot, served with brown rice
Tuesday: Gluten Free Franks and Bush's Baked Beans, salad
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Gluten Free Pasta with Marinara, Salad
Friday: Crockpot Honey Lentils
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Broiled Lamb chops, salad

The Thai curry and the honey lentils will probably make a significant amount of food, enough for leftovers for another dinner and even a couple of lunches at work, I suspect. Which is why I'm planning two nights of leftovers during the week.

Tonight I'm making barbecue chicken gluten free pizza with Erica's gf crust. Click the link and scroll down to Saturday, and follow the link found there.

Let's see if I'm disciplined enough to follow this menu plan and whether or not I post another one next week! :)

Temporary Change of Plan

DH and I are temporarily off the low-carb diet; we decided to stretch our grocery budget by eating up some of the gluten free food we already have in the pantry, such as beans, lentils and rice, instead of going to the store and purchasing lots of meat for the Atkins diet. I will be combining the meat that we already have with beans, etc., to stretch things as well.

We will still be trying to lose weight, by watching portion sizes and calories, but it will probably be a slower process.

In any case, this is just a temporary setback. We will be doing low-carb again very shortly!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I hate men! (or how the diet is going)

DH has lost 11 pounds since we started the diet on Saturday! I've lost 2 pounds!! :(

It's not fair! He's even cheated more than I have!

Oh least I've lost 2 pounds. It's better than gaining 2 pounds!

We've been eating eggs and bacon a lot for breakfast, or those low-carb cheese muffins I mentioned in the previous post. For lunch we usually have leftovers and for dinner we've eaten broiled lamb chops and broccoli (Saturday), ranch chicken and salad (Sunday), and last night we had a wonderful lo-carb gluten free pizza! The crust is made with cheese, eggs, and cream cheese (I know it sounds weird but it works); here is the link to the recipe: Deep Dish Low-Carb Pizza.

Anyway, I did cheat a little last night for the first time....we have some leftover gluten free chocolate chip cookies in the house and I just couldn't resist them.

But DH has eaten some of them since we started dieting and he STILL lost ELEVEN pounds!!

It's a bit frustrating, to say the least.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday Chicken Dinner and other stuff

I made a very simple, gluten-free and fairly low-carb dinner tonight.

I started with 4 very large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (maybe 1/2 lb per breast) that I cut in half.

I found out recently that Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (Original flavor) is gluten free, so I added 2 T. of Pamela's Baking Mix to about 1/2 C of HVR dressing.

Next I dipped the chicken breasts in the dressing mixture, placed them on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray, and sprinkled them with a mixture of grated sharp cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.

I baked the chicken breasts for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees, and served them with a salad on the side. Yummy! If I do say so myself! :)

Another recipe for cheese muffins that I made recently uses coconut flour. As it turns out, coconut flour is very low carb! There is a book out by Bruce Fife (Cooking with Coconut Flour) which has TONS of recipes that use coconut flour as the ONLY flour, so those recipes which have no added sugar (such as his cheese muffins) are OK for the low carb diet! In fact, according to my calculations, each muffin has about 2-3 grams of digestible carbohydrate. Not only that, but coconut flour is high in fiber, which is also very helpful to those of us on a low carb diet.

So it would seem to be possible to still have "bread" occasionally and still be low carb and gluten free!

Hooray! :)

Here's the recipe:

Cheese Muffins

3 eggs
2 T butter or coconut oil, melted
3 T coconut milk (I used heavy cream instead)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder (I used more like 1/4 tsp)
1/4 tsp onion powder (I used a tablespoon of dried onion flakes instead)
1/4 C sifted coconut flour
1 C sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used a bit more than that)

Blend together the eggs, butter or oil, coconut milk and seasonings in a medium bowl, then add the coconut flour and mix until there are no lumps. Fold in 3/4 of the grated cheese, and distribute the batter amongst 6 well-greased muffin cups. Top the muffins with the remaining cheese and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

These muffins may even be legal on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, since I know that both coconut flour and coconut milk are legal, and these particular muffins do not use sugar or baking powder.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First Post of 2009: Recently-tried Gluten Free Recipes

Besides the leftovers from Christmas (Christmas Eve dinner consisted of Chicken Enchiladas Verdes and Christmas Day dinner was HoneyBaked Ham and Turkey plus lots of nice side dishes), I tried a crockpot recipe this week from the Crockpot Lady, Stephanie. Actually, this recipe was given to her by Rachel Ray when she appeared on Rachel's show last any case, it's Crockpot Chicken Curry (Indian style) and boy was it good! I served it over brown rice. Check out the link to get the recipe and see a picture.

I love Stephanie's blog because all of the recipes are gluten free (one of her daughters has celiac disease).

The only modifications I made were (1) I used more chicken than she did and used chicken breast meat instead of thigh meat, and (2) I added 2/3 C of apple juice mixed with 1/3 C cornstarch and 2 T sugar at the very end to thicken and sweeten the sauce just a tad. It made a LOT of food, so we've been working on the leftovers for days now!

I've also tried two more gluten-free recipes that are now among my absolute FAVORITES: one is a recipe for bread, and this turns out SO much like "real" bread it's amazing, and the other is a recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that is also very hard to distinguish from the regular Toll House recipe.

Well, I won't be using those for myself and DH, because we will be trying to be low carb, but for the kids I do need to make bread from time to time, so I'm glad that I found a good recipe.

In any case, a Happy and Healthy New Year to All!