Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Comfort Food to Save the Day

So, just as I was losing hope on what can, exactly, be done on a gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, corn-free, red meat-free, yeast-free, and low-on-the-sugar-and-fruit-diet...two things came to my rescue.

First, Pesto. I have been nervous to try a pesto because a really good one usually relies pretty heavily on Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and I felt that without them, the pesto would be terribly one-dimensional and sad. But I braved it with one that looked pretty good, and it blew me away. I am bewildered and proud to announce that I did not miss the cheese at all. It called for roasting almonds in the oven, but I thought that sounded like way too much of a pain and a time-sucker. So I did a quick pulse in the food processor and roasted them myself in a skillet, which took a whopping total of maybe five minutes.

Cheese-Free Pesto

1/4 c almonds, pulsed a few times in food processor (be ready for the noise; it's ear-splitting)
3 cloves fresh garlic
1 1/2 c fresh basil leaves
1/2 c olive oil
1 pinch ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1. Roast almonds over medium heat in small ungreased skillet, a few minutes, until lightly toasted.

2. In food processor, combine toasted almonds, garlic, basil, olive oil, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Process until coarse paste is formed. This took me about two minutes.

Done! And you have yourself a killer pesto. I'm going to mass produce this over the summer and freeze it like gangbusters. Yes.

Also, you can add 1/4 c of this to sauteed onions and a 28-oz can of diced tomatoes, simmer it for a nice long time in a large skillet, puree it, and that is another awesome pasta sauce with tons of infection-fighting power, a bit of protein, and even *gasp* some green! 

This next one, I adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe that was full of gluten, cheese, and everything we can't have. This one, you'd never know you were eating gluten-free. It's so good and so, so normal.

Hearty Chicken and Noodles

2-3 chicken breasts
2 1/4c water
14 oz. chicken broth (Kitchen Basics brand doesn't contain yeast extract--I think it has the best flavor, even including non-GFCF-safe broths)
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. snipped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 c sliced carrot (4 medium)
1 1/2 c chopped onion (1 large)
3c dried wide noodles (I use Tinkyada brown rice pasta--it's the best gluten-free pasta out there. Tastes completely normal, just needs a little extra time to cook. Available at Meijer and Whole Foods, and probably other places.)
2c almond milk
1c loose-pack frozen peas
2 tbsp. gluten-free flour

1. If your chicken has skin, remove it. In 4-5 qt. Dutch oven, combine chicken, water, broth, bay leaf, dried thyme (if using), salt, and pepper. Add carrot and onion. Bring to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Discard bay leaf.

2. Cook pasta separately according to package instructions. Drain and rinse, set aside. In the meantime, remove chicken; cool slightly. Remove meat from bones; discard bones. Chop or shred chicken; set aside.

3. Return vegetable mixture to boiling. Stir in 1 1/2c milk and peas.

4. In a screw-top jar, combine remaining 1/2c milk and flour. Cover and shake until smooth. Stir into vegetable mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Stir in chicken, pasta, and fresh thyme (if using). Cook 1-2 minutes until heated through.

**This recipe originally calls for the dry pasta to be cooked in the vegetable mixture in step 3. I cook the noodles separately because the brown rice pasta releases a starch when it's cooked that is very tart. The pasta itself does not taste tart, but if the starch is released into the rest of your dish, it pretty much ruins it. If you're not a GFCF family, it's perfectly fine and probably more efficient just to cook your noodles within the vegetable mixture.

So, this dish is freaking awesome. I haven't had good comfort food in my kitchen in a very long time, and this definitely fit the bill. Try it, friends! Even if you're not GFCF, it's a great meal. It makes a bunch and stretches pretty far for the week.

My kids absolutely gobbled this stuff up.
Enjoy, friends!

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