What Life Dishes Out A Gluten Free and (almost) Vegetarian Cooking Blog

October 3, 2010

Layered Fiesta Dip and a “Falloween” Party

Filed under: Appetizers & Dips,Recipes,Vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:34 pm

It practically seems insulting to post this, since it is so ridiculous easy and has been around such a long, long time.  There are a few different versions circulating though, and I am asked for this recipe from time to time, so I am going to go ahead and share it, in the hopes that some of you out there might appreciate it and – hopefully – not be insulted.

We attended a “Falloween” party last evening, and I brought along this dip, along with my Gluten Free Brownies.  We went home with a couple Brownies leftover, but this dip was wiped right out. 

My husband tells me that this Layered Mexican Dip recipe actually originally came from the Hostess whose party we attended last night.  It was passed on to his mother back in the 70’s and then to me many years after, and it has changed through the years I have made it so that I no longer even remember the original incarnation. 

Before I share the recipe, let me share a few snapshots from the party, will you?

This party is an annual shindig and it is always so much fun, especially for the kiddos.  Each year, there is a different theme and different activities.  This year, there was a bounce house.

And pumpkin decorating.

My baby decided to keep it pretty simple.

There were more elaborate decorations on display, though.

Last year, professional face-painters were on hand to adorn the faces of the wee ones…

…and the not so wee ones.

The “I’ve Just Been Run Over” design was a big hit with both the big and the little boys.

This gathering is one of the highlights of our Autumn each year, and my boys are looking forward to the next year’s event before we even pull into our driveway on the way home from  the current year’s party!

They talked about the party tonight over Layered Fiesta Dip.  Yes, I did say that the dip I took was wiped out last night.  But I have learned through the years that nobody is really satisfied unless I make two dishes: One to take along, and one to keep at home for the next day! 

Here are the recipe proportions for a single 9 x 12 dish or a single large round platter or pie plate.  Double everything if you are making two dishes like I did.

What you need:

1 – 15 ounce can Refried Beans

4 oz block Cream Cheese, softened

1/2 cup Sour Cream

1/2 packet Taco Seasoning Mix (about 2 Tbsp if you buy it in bulk like I do)

1/2 -12 ounce package Shredded Mexican Cheese (or Colby or Mild Cheddar)

1/4 cup Chopped Green Onion

1 medium Diced Tomato

What to do:

First, spread Refried Beans in bottom of serving dish.

Combine Cream Cheese, Sour Cream and Taco Seasoning with mixer until fairly smooth.

Spread Cream Cheese mixture atop Beans in dish.

I like to leave a little of the Beans on the edge uncovered if I’m using a round plate.

Sprinkle with Shredded Cheese.

Top with Green Onions and Tomatoes. 

You can also add chopped black olives, and as much as I would love to,  my family begs me not to so I don’t.

Serve with Tortilla Chips.

This really is so simple, and so yummy!  Try it for your next party or potluck, but be sure to make an extra dish that you don’t have to share! :-)

September 22, 2010

Spicy Szechwan Peanut Sauce with Grilled Chicken, Brocolli and Peppers over Pasta

Filed under: Appetizers & Dips,Pasta,Recipes — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 7:23 am

I developed this recipe a few years back and since then, this has been a favorite in our household and a regular part of our dinner rotation.  I am constantly passing the recipe along to friends who dine at our house and the dish finds itself falling into their regular repetoire as well.  Not only is this an easy and tasty sauce to be served over pasta or rice with stir fried vegetables and chicken, but it also makes a fabulous dipping sauce for raw veggies!  

 

You’ll need:

For Sauce/Marinade:

2/3 Cup Peanut Butter (Smooth or Crunchy)

8 Tbsp Soy Sauce (Bragg’s Liquid Aminos are Gluten Free)

4 Tbsp Rice Vinegar

1-2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (depending on heat desired)

1-2 tsp Jarred Crushed Garlic (You can use fresh but be sure it is minced very fine or put through a garlic press)

Cold Water (up to 1/2 cup as needed)

For the Pasta Dish:

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

16 oz. prepared Pasta – Gluten Free or Otherwise (I like Rotini)

1 cup Brocolli Florets

1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into chunks

Snipped Chives (or sliced Green Onions)

What to do:

First, make the marinade/sauce.

Put all sauce ingredients, except water, into a bowl.

Mix with a wire whisk to incorporate.  It’s gonna seem hard to mix at first, but just keep wiggling that whisk and the Peanut Butter will start to break up.

You’ll find that as you continue whisk, the sauce will become thicker. 

Once it is thick and smooth, add water a bit at a time, and continue whisking.  You want it to reach the consistency of very heavy cream.

You can serve this immediately or refrigerate for later use.  The sauce will thicken up when cold, but is easy to thin again by bringing to room temperature or, if you are in a hurry, adding a bit more water.  The cayenne will become stronger as it sits, so be careful not to add too much if you are taste testing.  You can always mix more in before serving if you feel it needs it.

Now, grill your chicken.  You can separate out some of the sauce and spread the marinade over the breasts while cooking, or if you have time you can let the breasts sit with marinade on them in the refrigrator for a few hours.  It’s up to you!    Just don’t contaminate the sauce you will be using later with raw chicken!  That’s yucky and just plain dangerous!

Set the chicken aside, and it’s time to cook your veggies.

Heat about 1 Tbsp of Oil in a Wok or Saute pan. 

Stir Fry Peppers and Brocolli (this dish is also great with sliced carrots) until cooked, but still somewhat crunchy.

Okay, it’s time to eat!

Place a portion of cooked Pasta on each serving plate, and top with vegetables and a sliced grilled chicken breast.  Drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with snipped chives. 

Toss your plate contents together a bit, then take a bite and get prepared to be hooked! :-)

I frequently make this vegetarian-style, without the chicken.  My kids also love this sauce over plain cooked spaghetti and it’s an easy thing to keep on hand so they can throw a plate together on their own.  My husband has been know to go through a pound of cut carrots in a couple days dipping into this sauce!   Even folks who say they don’t like Peanut Butter ask for this sauce when they come over.  Try it, and please tell me what YOU think!

September 12, 2010

Gluten Free Quinoa Tabbouleh

My job has been a little too busy for my tastes lately.  Since I work from home, I usually have a fair amount of free time on my hands for cooking, baking, scrapbooking and of course, blogging!   Just think of all the free hours that add up since I save on a long commute to and from the office.  Not to mention not having to shower, get dressed, or apply makeup!  Okay, you probably think I’m joking, but on some days you just might find me chained to my desk (not to worry – only figuratively) and still in my jammies still at 2 o’ clock in the afternoon! 

On these crazy busy days, it helps to have a quick lunch ready to go so I can just grab it and head right back up to my home office.  This dish is perfect served alongside Baba Ghanoush, with a grilled pita or a few raw veggies for dipping.

Traditionally, Tabbouleh is made with Bulgar.  On a Gluten Free diet, Bulgar – which is made from Wheat – is, of course, a big fat No-No!  Yet Quinoa makes a delightful stand-in for the grain and improves on the nutritional value as well.  Unlike wheat, Quinoa’s amino acids form a complete protein, so you can feel even better about this vegetarian dish!

Have you tried Quinoa yet?  This seed (it’s not a grain) is from the Chenopodium quinoa plant.  It originated in South America and was revered among the Incas, but scorned by the Spanish colonists.  What fools those colonists were, because Quinoa is highly nutritious, loaded with fiber, and quite tasty!  It’s also easy as pie to make – it cooks up just like rice!   One of my best friends, who is Gluten-Intolerant, keeps a bowl of cooked Quinoa in her refrigerator.  She tops it with Honey and Cinnamon for a quick breakfast before rushing out the door to work on frantic mornings.  She’s a clever girl!

Okay, enough small talk.  Let’s make lunch.

You’ll need:

1 Large Bunch Fresh Parsley

1 Handful Fresh Mint Leaves (I used Lemon Mint.  If you don’t have Mint at all, you can omit it.  The dish won’t be quite the same, but still will be good!)

1 small Tomato

1 slice Red Onion

Juice of 1 Lemon

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 cup Cooked Quinoa

Salt & Pepper

What to do:

Rinse, drain, and remove tough stems from Parsley.  Then, chop it and throw it in a bowl.

So that it won’t feel left out, chop up the mint as well.  Toss it in with the Parsley.

Ditto the onion…

and Tomato.

To the bowl, add Lemon Juice…

and Olive Oil.

Now, add the cooked Quinoa and a sprinkling of salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp each).

Stir it all together.  Can’t you just smell it?

Ta dah!

You can serve this up straightaway but for the best flavor, let it sit for a while first to let the ingredients mingle.  My kids like this salad packed into a pita pocket or rolled into Flatbread as a sandwich filling.  And how awesome would this be sprinkled atop Hummous on a sandwich?!?!

Spawn #2 gives this a big thumbs up!  I hope you like it, too! :-)

September 2, 2010

Baba Ghanoush

Filed under: Appetizers & Dips,Recipes,Vegan,Vegetarian — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 6:49 am

Or Baba Ganoush’.  Or Baba Ghannouj.  Or Baba Ghannoug.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Anyway it’s spelled, this is my favorite amongst favorites of the Greek restaurant dishes.  Sure, Hummous rocks my world.  I’m very fond of Tabbouleh.  And of course, I love me some Greek Salad.  

But Baba Ghanoush holds a very special place in my heart.  It’s creamy.  It’s smokey.  It’s so satisfying and nutritious. 

And until now, I was never able to replicate the restaurant flavor at home.  I tried a few times, but each attempt was followed by a soupy, not-at-all-smoky-tasting bowl of mush which ended up in the trash.    Maybe my inability to recreate this dish well is why I held it at such high esteem among the other Mediterranean recipes.   Absense makes the heart grow fonder, they say.  (Who exactly are “they”, by the way?  Does anybody really know?)

I saw this recipe over at Tasty KitchenThe Parsley Thief had posted it, and even though I had tried to make Baba Ghanoush time and time again, the recipe caught my eye and I was inspired to give it one last chance.  I’m so glad I did, because this is the Baba Ghanoush of my dreams!

I’ve roughly doubled the recipe here, just ’cause I just can’t get enough of this stuff.

What you need:

2 Medium Eggplant (Mine were slightly overgrown fruits from my own garden)

2 Cloves Garlic, peeled

2 tsp Course Sea Salt

1/3 Cup Tahini (Sesame Paste)

4 Tbsp Lemon Juice (or the Juice of 1 Lemon)

Olive Oil

Chopped Fresh Parsley

What to do:

Prick eggplant (both the normal and mutant-looking one) with a fork in a few places and place on grill over medium heat. 

Cook, turning as needed, until nearly completely blackened all over.

Turn off grill, close cover and let cool for a couple hours.

Remove eggplants to dish, cover and chill in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Cut into eggplant and scrape flesh from blackened skin.  Or vice-versa. 

Either way, it’s going to be a slimy job, but somebody has to do it.

It won’t look pretty either.

Place the “guts” in a colandar.

It’ll be worth it, I swear.

Discard the burned skins, unless you can think of something crafty to do with them.

If you can think of something crafty to do with these, well then….move over, Martha!

Let the pulp sit in the strainer for half an hour or so to drain off excess liquid.

Place Garlic, Salt, Tahini and Lemon Juice into the bowl of your Food Processor.

Add Eggplant pulp.

And pulse until smooth and creamy.

Remove to serving dish, and drizzle with olive oil and chopped fresh Parsley.

Serve with grilled pita wedges or fresh raw veggies.

It’s not even 7 a.m. yet and I’m thinking of tossing my granola and eating this for breakfast instead!  It’s so yummy!!

 
 

August 24, 2010

Super Savory Summer Salsa

Filed under: Appetizers & Dips,Recipes,Vegetarian — admin @ 1:26 pm

No joke – this fresh and tasty salsa will have you slurping what’s left in the bowl after you’ve scooped up all the chunky stuff with your chips!   I’ve made this over several summers now, and we never tire of it.  In fact, it’s the first recipe I think of when my garden tomatoes start turning red!  We can’t keep this stuff in the house.  I made a big bowl a few evenings ago and it was finished by the next night.  I made another big bowl last night, and it’s nearly gone again!

 

You’ll need:

3 – 5 Tomatoes, to make 2-3 Cups Chopped (I used a mix of Roma and Slicing Tomatoes)

2 Slices Red Onion, quartered

2 Cloves Garlic, peeled

1/4 Green or Red Pepper

1-3 Jalapeno or Serrano Peppers, seeded (If you like it really spicy, leave in the seeds)

2 tsp Sugar

1 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Cumin

Juice of 1 Lime

1/4 cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro

What to do:

Place Onion, Garlic, and Peppers into bowl of your Food Processor.

Pulse until minced fine, then set aside.

Chop tomatoes and place in a large bowl.

Add Pepper mixture to bowl.

Add Sugar, Salt and Cumin.

Add Lime Juice,

and finally, Cilantro.

Mix together until well combined, and – if you can help yourself – wait at least a half an hour before serving.

Okay…maybe just one taste now!

For a special treat, warm up your tortilla chips for a few minutes in the oven (350 degrees) before serving.

Enjoy!

August 14, 2010

Easy Ranch Dip and Dressing – Gluten Free

Filed under: Appetizers & Dips,Recipes,Salads & Dressings — admin @ 3:18 pm

I’ve always loved the taste of the Ranch Dressings I used to eat at restaurants.  No bottled dressings could ever come close.  I now realize it’s because the really good dressings were freshly made on site, and didn’t come from a bottle.  Now that I know the secret, I can make a great ranch dip and dressing at home, with no expensive envelope mixes, which I know will taste great and is Gluten Free, too!

You’ll need: 

1 Cup Sour Cream

½ tsp Dried Parsley

½ tsp Dried Dill

¼ tsp Garlic Powder

¼ tsp Onion Powder

1/8 tsp Salt

1/8 tsp Pepper

Buttermilk (If you are making a Ranch Dressing, rather than a Ranch Dip) 

Place all ingredients into a bowl.

Stir until well mixed and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.

Serve with assorted raw vegetables.

This dip can also easily be made into a great Buttermilk Ranch Dressing by thinning the mixture with Buttermilk until it reaches the desired consistency.

August 2, 2010

Love At First Bite: Walnut & Basil Pesto

Filed under: Appetizers & Dips,Pasta,Recipes,Vegetarian — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 8:56 pm

I thought I wouldn’t like it. 

I had a somewhat vague recollection of trying Pesto years ago and from what I recalled, it was not a good experience.  But since I absolutely love Basil and Garlic, I figured it must have been the Pine Nuts that were the problem.  

As I’m sure you know, Pine Nuts are expensive!  I wasn’t willing to shell out the dough to give it another whirl when I thought there was a pretty darn good chance I would just be repeating the bad experience I’d remembered!  So, when I saw this recipe suggesting that Walnuts be used as a substitute for Pine Nuts, I figured I’d finally give it another go. 

This recipe comes from my friend Twinks over at Tasty Kitchen.  She was my first friend over at TK, and this is the first recipe I ever tried from that site. 

I am so glad I did.

You’ll need:

2 Cups Basil Leaves, washed and stems removed

3 Garlic Cloves, peeled

1/4 tsp Salt

1/2 Cup shredded or grated Parmesan Cheese

1/4 Cup Walnuts

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

What to do:

Place walnuts, garlic cloves and salt in bowl of food processor.

Pulse until finely chopped.  Then, add olive oil.

Add cheese and pulse slightly.

Now add basil and pulse a few times again.  Scrape down sides of bowl.

Replace cover and finish pulsing until well combined and finely chopped. 

Remove to serving bowl and enjoy!

You can spread this on bread like we did tonight, or toss with hot pasta.  Either way, I doubt you’ll have any leftovers.  We sure didn’t!

July 16, 2010

Pucker Up! It’s time for Pickles!

Filed under: Appetizers & Dips,Recipes,Sides,Vegan,Vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 10:10 pm

I like pickles.

But not the mushy kind that you find in the middle aisles in the grocery store.

I only like the crunchy refrigerated ones.

And the best pickles are the ones I make myself from my own garden’s pickling cukes.

Like these:

Refrigerator Pickles are very easy to make.

You just need pickling cukes…

Fresh Dill….

Kosher Salt, Peppercorns, Garlic, Vinegar and Water.

First, heat 2 cups water with 1/2 cup Kosher Salt.  Water will start out cloudy but turn clear when salt is completely dissolved.

Pour about 3/4 inch of hot brine into the bottom of each jar.

Add 8-10 whole peppercorns, a few cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed), and a few sprigs of dill leaves and flowers to each jar.

(It’s like a little terrarium in each jar!)

Add a couple ice cubes to each jar to cool solution (you don’t want to cook the cukes!).

Wash, trim off ends and cut cucumbers into spears (or chunks or slices, whichever you prefer).

Pack pickles into jars snugly.  You don’t want them too tight or it will cause the pickles to break apart.  Then, add 2 Tbsp (or more if you like the tartness) vinegar to each jar.

Fill the jar to the top with cold tap water.

Seal each jar, then give it a few shakes to distribute the flavors.

(Somebody needs a manicure.)

Label the jars with the date and leave out at room temperature for a few hours before placing in the refrigerator.

If you can help yourself, wait a couple days before eating the pickles for the flavors to develop.  These will only keep about 2 – 3 weeks in the refrigerator.  That is, presuming you don’t eat them faster than that!

July 12, 2010

A Passage To India – Part 1: Spicy Lentil Dal

This recipe came from a good vegetarian and fellow-homeschooling friend of mine, when our families were doing an Indian Feast as part of our Unit Study on the country.   I loved this dish immediately!  I pretty much demanded the recipe and have made it nearly weekly since.  It’s full of so many really good-for-you foods like Turmeric, Garlic, Onion and of course, Lentils.  This versitile dish can be served as your main course over Basmati Rice, or as a spread on freshly baked flatbread, or as a dip for chips! 

What you need:

2-3 cups Vegetable Broth

1 cup dried Lentils, well rinsed

1-2 Tbsp Canola Oil

1 Large Onion

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp Yellow Mustard Seed

1 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Turmeric

1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper

1/2 tsp Coriander

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

1 Tbsp Tomato Paste

Juice of 1 Lime

What to do:

In a medium saucepan, cook lentils in 2 Cups Vegetable Broth over medium heat until tender. 

While lentils are cooking, chop onion.  There is an easy way to do this:

Cut off stem end of onion.

Then, cut in half from root end to cut end…

…and remove outer skin.

Ooooh…they’re NAKED.

Now, cut in about 1/2 inch slices, but not all the way through to the root end.

Then, turn onion and slice the opposite direction.

Keep going…

TA DAH!  Chopped Onion – quick and easy!

Now, chop garlic. 

I can’t recommend an easy way to do this, but my preferred method is to ask my hubby to do it for me. 

He likes to play with knives anyway, just like my boys.

You can also use a garlic press or even jarred garlic, as those are my two back-up plans in the event he isn’t around and I am feeling too lazy to chop it myself.

I think my favorite step in this recipe is measuring all the wonderful, aromatic spices into a small bowl. 

It always makes me feel as if I’ve created a masterpiece.  Isn’t it pretty?

Now, heat the canola oil in a large skillet, then add the onions and garlic to the pan.

Saute for just a minute or two.  Then, add the spices. 

Warning:  This is going to smell really good.  You may need to grab a quick snack at this point, since this won’t be ready for a while.

Stir the spices around and continue to saute until your onions are translucent.

Then, add the coconut milk, tomato paste and lime juice to the pan.

Then, add the lentils.

It is with the utmost regret that I tell you I don’t have a photo of the remaining steps.

I will get better at remembering to take photos while cooking, I swear.

I just get so carried away with the cooking part to remember the photo-taking part.

I’m just not good at multi-tasking, I guess.

Again, I’m truly sorry.

Okay, so add the cooked lentils and let simmer until thickened.  You actually may have to add some vegetable broth at this point if the lentils have soaked up all the juice.  I usually add about another cup of liquid, and then let simmer until thickened back up.

Save the rest of the vegetable broth in the refrigerator (I buy mine in a 32 oz container) because you are going to need it for tomorrow’s recipe.

Fortunately, I did have sense enough to take a photo before I ate.

The Spicy Lentil Dal is up there between 12 and 3 o’clock, sitting happily atop Brown Basmati Rice, and beside Spicy Green Beans, and Indian Cauliflower.   I’ll be posting those recipes in the next two parts of this series, coming over the next couple days, so please check back!

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