Sunday, 19 August 2012

Shepherd's Pie - (with Gluten free version)

Was looking on and found lots of recipes for shepherds pie, including an upside down one which I will have to try, but they all used canned veggies and canned gravy.  Here is my version - and it is safe for gluten free diets.

What you need:  1 kg of  ground beef, (you can buy lean, but you will drain the fat, so regular is fine, too); 1 small onion, minced; 3 cloves of garlic, minced; 5 or 6 medium potatoes - (about 1 kg), scrubbed and peeled; 2 -4 Tbs butter; 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk; 2 cups of lightly steamed veggies of your choice (you can also use 2 cups of frozen veggeis) - peas, carrots, broccoli, green beans; salt and pepper to taste; 2 Tbs dried parsley flakes; 2 cups of homemade gravy. (I make gravy, or save drippings, from almost every cooked meat, and freeze leftovers for soup, stews, or recipes like this. Of course I sometimes do use mixes to add to pan drippings for gravy, but people who are gluten free  can't use those.If you are gluten free, thicken your gravy with 1/3 corn starch and 2/3 potato flour. It tastes great, and looks very much like traditional gravy.)

What you do: Bring potatoes to a boil in a large pot, and simmer until soft enough  to mash. While you boil the potatoes, brown the beef in a large skillet. Drain the liquid into a bowl. Put 1 Tbs of beef dripping back into the skillet, and add minced onion and garlic. Cook until just softened and fragrant, then add the beef. Stir well. Add salt and pepper. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish, by greasing it lightly with removed fat. (Then place the pan drippings in the fridge to let the fat congeal. You can lift the fat off and use the broth under it to add to your gravy,). Drain and mash potatoes with enough butter and milk to make a smooth mix.

Place the cooked beef, onions and garlic on the bottom of the prepared pan, spreading it out evenly. Add cooked vegetables in an even layer. Add parsley, then pour the gravy over all. Spoon the potatoes on top and spread to cover entire dish.

Bake in 350F oven for 40 minutes.  This is another one of those great comfort foods for a cold winter day.

Serve and enjoy.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Special Fried Mushrooms - (Gluten Free)

Wil makes several varieties of side dishes with mushrooms, but I usually just do this. I have no idea how it tastes, because I am deadly allergic to mushrooms, however most of my family loves them. Only one son is also allergic.

What you need: 200 gr of mushrooms per person; 1 Tbs margarine for frying; pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper per person, 1 Tsp each of dried minced onion and garlic per person; 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of crushed red chillies per person.

What you do:  wash and slice the mushrooms. Heat the margarine in a  skillet, Add sliced mushrooms and cook over med high to brown. Stir often to get all slices browned on both sides. Add all the spices, and reduce heat, continue cooking for 4 - 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Serve.

Wil cooks these on the BBQ sometimes, and if you want to do that, you will need a heavy bottomed pot which is cast iron, or enamelled iron. You do the same thing, basically, but when the browning is finished, place the pot on the top shelf of the BBQ and cover to finish cooking.

Elegant Chicken in Sauce

This one came as an accident, when trying to make something else, but I like it enough to keep the ingredients and method to use again. We had it last night, so pictures are below. This can be served over noodles or rice.

What you need: 3 chicken breasts, cut into long strips; a flour dredge* see below; 2 Tbs margarine for cooking; 1/2 cup white wine, about a cup of water, and 1 envelope of chicken stock - Oxo or similar, or 1 cup of chicken broth.

Flour dredge - here are 3 variations:(use rice or potato flour  in place of all purpose to make it gluten free).

Spicy -  1/4 cup flour; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 to 1 tsp pepper; 1 tsp each onion and garlic powder; 1/2 tsp each chilli powder, cumin and corriander - or a Tbs of a cajun blend of spice.

Herb -  1/4 cup flour; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 to 1 tsp pepper; 1 tsp each onion and garlic powder; 1/2 tsp each ground sage, rosemary, thyme and basil; 1 Tbs crushed dried parsley leaves.

Garlic Lovers - 1/4 cup flour; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/2 to 1 tsp pepper; 1 tsp each onion and garlic powder; 2 Tbs of garlic dip mix, or 2 Tbs of a garlic spice blend - such as Dean and Cobbs Spicy Garlic.

What you do:  Make the drege by mixing all the ingredients in a flat bottomed glass dish. Dip chicken pieces one at a time to coat evenly with your dredge. Place chicken pieces on a plate and repeat until all are coated. Heat a large skillet to medium high, and add margarine. Add chicken pieces in a single layer to brown. Meanwhile, add the liquids to your dredge mix, and whisk to blend all the flour. Cook in the microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Turn the chicken over to brown other side while sauce is cooking. Remove sauce from microwave, and pour over chicken in skillet. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken pieces are well done. Prepare the side of either noodles or rice while the chicken is cooking.


To serve, place a cup of noodles or 1/2 cup of rice on a plate. Add 2 - 4 slices of chicken, then pour 2 or 3 ladles of sauce over all. Other vegetables or salad completes the meal. Wil has special fried mushrooms with his. My friend K.L. came over and ate, too. She got a shock with the mushrooms, as they had more kick than she was expecting. That recipe  will be in the next post.

We also had the spinach salad with the chicken and noodles.

Easy Spinach Salad - (Gluten Free)

Spinach salad is one of the easiest ones to make, except for a bag of pre-tossed salad, (and I am know to buy those, too). The salad is colourful and has a wonderful variety of flavours. It goes with nearly any meat and starch combination.

What you need: 3 cups of washed spinach leaves; 5 strawberries; 2 Tbs of sliced or crushed nuts; a few Tbs of a mild salad dressing, (I used raspberry vinaigrette). Optional, 75 gr or so, of a mild cheese, (I used Havarti, but Brie, Bocconcini or similar will work, too.

What you do:  In a large bowl, place spinach leaves. Hull and slice strawberries, and add to the bowl. Add the nuts and cheese (if using). Sprinkle dressing on just before serving, and toss to lightly coat the salad.

Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Seafood Lasagna; or Lasagna Rolls

A great variation for seafood lovers, this recipe uses a cream sauce in place of the tomato one. Think of carbonnera!

What you need: lasagna noodles cooked and cooled - enough for 4 layers in your pan; 2 tbs margarine or butter, 2 tbs of flour; salt and white pepper to taste; 1 bottle of clam juice;  1/2 cup of dry white wine; 500 ml of coffeecream -10% butterfat; 1 block of cream cheese, softened; 1 container - 500 gr of sour cream - (or 250 gr and the same of plain yogurt, blended together); 3 tbs of  fresh, minced onion; dried herbs -(3 tbs parsley flakes; 2 tbs basil leaves; 1 tbs oregano leaves); 2 eggs; 2 cups of cooked mixed seafood - shrimp, clams, scallops, crab. lobster, salmon, cod, or any other fish you enjoy; 500 gr of cottage cheese; 300 gr of grated Parmesan cheese, 300 gr of grated mozzarella cheese.

Preheat oven ot 350F
What you do:  to make the sauce - in 1L.  large glass measuring cup or bowl, melt the margarine or butter in the microwave - about 30 seconds on high - then whisk in flour. add clam juice, wine and cream. Whisk well, then microwave for 3 minutes on high, stirring once.  Add 1 tbs minced onion, and salt and white pepper to taste. Microwave on 50% power for 3 - 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Stir in half of the sour cream, or sourcream and yogurt. Keep covered in microwave until ready to use.
Meanwhile, mix the filling. Place softened cream cheese, cottage cheese, second portion of sour cream or yogurt blend, herb blend, and eggs into a large bowl and whisk together. Add half the Parmesan chees and stir. Add seafood and fish, folding into filling mix.

To make Lasagna -  Place 1/3 of sauce into lasagna pan, layer noodles, 1/2 of seafood filling. noodles, 1/3 of sauce, noodles, reamining filling, noodles and remaining sauce. Top with remaining Parmesan and grated mozzarella cheese. Cover and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and place 4 minutes or so under broiler to brown cheese.

To do a little something different, place 1/2 of sauce in the pan. Cut each lasagna noodle into 2 shorter pieces. Put 2 tbs of filling at the end of a noodle and roll up. Repeat with all the noodles. Place rolls in a single layer in the sauce. Cover with remaining sauce. Add Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese, cover and bake as above.

Serve with green salad and garlic bread. (Also goes great with a good dry white wine.)

Traditional Lasagna

You can use your home made spaghetti sauce to make a wonderful traditional lasagna with only a few adaptions. Some of the kids prefer a simplified lasagna, which omits the spinach and cottage cheese layer, but I love the "real" deal. This is one of those comfort foods which warm you all through, on a cold winter day.

What you need: 1double batch  of spaghetti sauce, diluted with 4 extra cans of water -to make at least 12 cups-, and eliminate the thickener, so it is really runny; dry lasagna noodles - enough to make 4 layers in your pan, - (my pan takes 7 noodles in each layer, so I need 28 noodles); 1 package of frozen spinach or a small bag of fresh spinach leaves; 1 container (500gr) of cottage cheese; 3 eggs; 300 gr of grated Parmesan cheese, divided; 500 gr of mozzarella cheese, grated .

You also need a lasagna pan, or baking dish about 10 x 13 and at least 4 inches deep.

What you do: Thaw spinach if using frozen. Make the tomato sauce. While it is simmering, in a medium bowl, mix the eggs and cottage cheese. Add 100 gr of Parmesan cheese.  If you are using frozen spinach, add it to the mixture, and stir well. In another large bowl, grate the mozzarella, if you bought a block. Be aware that if you buy cheese already grated, it will contain an ingredient to stop it from sticking together - this is usually cellulose, which is another name for gound up wood. I do occasionally use bags of grated cheese, but prefer to grate my cheese at home. Once all your prepped items, (sauce, dry noodles, egg mix, spinach, cheeses) are assembled on your work surface, preheat oven to 350 F. I use uncooked noodles, which is why the sauce is so runny. It provides the moisture to cook the noodles. I have only done this with wheat noodles, so I am not sure it will work with gluten free ones. to be safe you could cook the noodles first and use regular recipe for the sauce. Assembly is the same.

Place 3 cups of sauce on the bottom of pan. Add first layer of noodles, breaking corners to fit if necessary. Add 3 cups of sauce, and second layer of noodles. Add cottage cheese and egg mixture. If you are using fresh spinach arrange leaves on top of the mixture. Add 3rd layer of noodles. Add 3 cups of sauce then last layer of noodles. Add all remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan chees, then all the grated mozzarella. It will be close to the top of the pan.  Cover pan tightly with heavy duty foil. This keeps the liquid content high, so noodles cook, and absorb the extra water from sauce.  Place into oven and cook for 1 hour.  Remove the foil, and place under broiler for a few minutes to brown the top of the cheese. Serve with green salad, and garlic bread.


This recipe freezes well, so leftovers can be cut into single servings and frozen. Alternately, the lasagna can be assembled in smaller baking pans, and frozen before cooking. If you do this, cook the noodles before assembly, and use undiluted version of sauce. 

Spaghetti Sauce

I prefer to make sauce at home rather than buy cans or jars, as I find they have too much salt and way too much sugar in them.

What you need:  1 large can of crushed tomatoes; 1 large can of diced tomatoes;1 can of water;  500 - 600 grams of lean ground beef, 1 small onion, 3 - 4 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery; your favourite blend of Italian spices, or some thyme,  cilantro or parsley, basil,  and oregano; chilli powder or sambal oelek for a little heat; a little flour (or corn starch, if gluten free) to thicken sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Optional, 1/4 cup chopped green peppers, or a small can of spicy pepper mix tomatoes. As an alternative, you could add a cup of your favourite salsa to the sauce.

What you do:  Brown the meat, with onions, garlic and  celery,  on medium high heat, in a large saute pan or Dutch oven until well done. Add salt and pepper. Drain off extra fat. Add tomatoes.  Fill one can with the water, and blend the flour or corn starch  into it. Add to pot.  Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens. Add your spices or herbs, reduce heat to lowest, and let simmer for at least 40 minutes, to allow all the flavours to meld.
Serve over your favourite pasta, like spaghetti, bow ties, etc. along with a green salad and garlic bread.

As always, enjoy.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Rice pancake - (Gluten Free)

This is a great recipe for all those on gluten free diets.  When I lived in Geneva, we had this to use up leftover rice, and I enjoy it, especially the variety that you can have with one simple mixture.

What you need:  2 eggs; 1/4 cup milk or other liquid; 1 cup cooked rice; salt and pepper, herbs and spices of choice, other toppings of your choice.  Toppings can include: 1 Tbs diced onion, 1 clove minced garlic (or more to your taste); 1/2 cup shredded cheese - of any kind; 1 small tomato diced; 1/2 small green pepper, diced; chopped mushrooms, etc - think like omlettes, you can add ANYTHING you like. This one has cheddar cheese, chopped bacon, a little 3-onion dip mix, and chopped cherry tomatoes, with a few chives from the garden sprinkled on top.

What you do:  whisk egg and liquid in a mixing bowl, and add seasonings and rice. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium, and add a little butter, or oil for flavour. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and cook about 4 minutes, then flip the cake. add all the toppings and cook for 4 or 5 minutes more, until egg is fully set. Serves 2.

As always - enjoy.