Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zuppa Toscana

We have been on an Italian kick when it comes to cooking lately. It's a good thing we figured out how to make it gluten free! I have a serious affinity for the Olive Garden but while they do have a gluten free menu, my favorite things aren't all on it of course. There isn't one within about an hour of here anyway so I have taken to the internet (and experimentation) to help.

My all time favorite dish there is Zuppa Toscana. Yes, it's just a soup but I frequently ordered just the soup, salad and breadsticks specifically for this soup! I found the recipe recently on Tuscan Recipes but, sadly, I am lazy so I altered it just slightly. SO SO SO good. I served it with a Mediterranean salad and homemade dressing.

Zuppa Toscana

  • 1 Tblsp olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian Sausage (GF)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 slices bacon, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 10 cups water with 5 bullion cubes (GF) OR 10 cups Broth
  • 3-4 large potatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 - 1/2 bunch Kale, torn into bite size pieces

Saute the sausage, pepper flakes, onion, bacon and garlic over medium heat in a large soup pot until sausage is no longer pink and onions are softened. Add water and bullion or broth and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes are softened. Add cream and kale, heat through and serve!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Post-Easter Split Pea Soup

Easter has come and gone. I hope everyone had a fabulous day however you celebrate, if you do at all. We had a huge Easter dinner, just the four of us and relaxed aaaall day. Since this NEVER happens I relished every moment. As part of dinner I made Ham with Rum Glaze.

I just realized that I have never posted that recipe. How sad! It's soooo good! Okay, I will post it in the next few days I promise.

Anyway, there are only four of us and that was a HUGE bone-in ham. "What am I going to do with all this HAM?" I asked myself. The cats were listening too and had their own ideas but I chose to feed the humans with it. Enter: Split Pea Soup.

This is NOT a unique recipe. This is a family one handed down through generations that I made a couple tweaks to but not many. This is probably identical to others but I wanted to share anyway.

Mama's Split Pea Soup

  • 1 bag dried split peas
  • 1 ham bone (preferably with a little ham still attached)
  • 3-4 Tblsp olive oil
  • 2 stalks celery, minced
  • 2 carrots, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 10 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Chopped ham (optional)

Saute the celery, onion, garlic and carrot in the olive oil for around 5 minutes over medium high heat until the onion and celery are softened. Add the peas, ham bone, broth, water and pepper. Cover and cook on medium for around an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Remove the ham bone and add the chopped ham (if using). Turn off the heat and serve. I usually serve it with a Spring Mix and Spinach Salad.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Salad Dressings Galore!

Pom is my future Food Network Star. At not-quite-ten years old, she made us dinner last night with NO help from ANYONE. This wasn't a hot dogs and canned veggies kind of meal either. She made from-scratch gluten free Gnocchi with a Buttery Parmesan sauce. She made Spring Salad with Oranges and Olives served with a fresh, from-scratch Vinaigrette Dressing. The best part? IT WAS REALLY GOOD!!! I am the proudest mama EVER!!!

I was also really proud of her when she said, "Mom, thanks for teaching fractions. That would have been hard without that!" Sniff, sniff. I teared up a bit there.

I started thinking while devouring the salad. (Did I mention how really yummy the salad and dressing were?) Salad dressing is one of those really tough things for gluten free kids. Ranch, in my experience, is an all around FAVORITE, but only a handful of brands sell it gluten free. (My favorite there is Litehouse). Homemade dressings though. Those are easy. And cheap. And did I mention easy? Really. So here are a few of our favorites. And yes, Pom's first homemade dressing is included. :)

Pom's Fruity Vinaigrette

(these measurements are approximate...apparently she didn't measure and it was TOTALLY from her head...SO proud!!)

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • Juice of 1 mandarin orange (juiced by hand)
  • Juice of 8 strawberries (again by hand)

Mix it all together. SERIOUSLY good.

Mom's Raspberry Balsamic

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raspberry balsamic vinegar

Mix well. This is Diva's favorite.

GF Low(er) Fat Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 4 oz GF blue cheese, crumbled (mine comes pre-crumbled, I just use the whole package)
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (NOT low fat)
  • 1/2 cup Sour cream (NOT low fat)
  • 1 cup fat free 1/2 and 1/2
  • 2 Tblsp Tarragon Vinegar **
  • 1/2 tsp (or so) garlic powder OR 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (I use a garlic press)
  • 2 -3 Tblsp chopped fresh dill
  • dash of freshly ground sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a mixer*** or processor. Note that it is lowER fat, not fat free or even necessarily very low fat.
**Make your own Tarragon (or any herb) Vinegar by boiling white vinegar and steeping tarragon in it for a couple of weeks in a cool, dry place. Strain into decorative jars and use or give as gifts.

Gorgonzola Dressing

  • 2/3 cup fat free 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3-4 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced (I use a press)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients in a mixer***.
This was inspired by a Giada recipe and happens to be ultra yummy on a BLT salad.

Ranch Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup fat free 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tblsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • dash paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tblsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh dill

Mix all together in a mixer***. This is DH's favorite.

***I swear by Pampered Chef. In many areas but particularly here. Every dressing ever made in my kitchen is made by one of these. Measure, mix, pour and there are even recipes ON the side of it!! I love, love, love this thing so much in fact that I own three. Two to ensure I can always have a variety of dressings on hand and one for my camping gear.

Now you can have salad at any time!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Moist and fluffy GF Strawberry Cupcakes...No REALLY!!!

Have you ever felt an overwhelming need to do something different? I feel that nearly every day when it comes to cooking. This is not always a good thing for my poor family but sometimes it is a wonderful thing!

We are on book 3 in the Narnia series, The Horse and His Boy. In it, the main character is fed sherbet, though it is pointed out that sherbet used to be more like juice. So we made floats with raspberry sherbet and juice but I had another idea for the sherbet.

I wanted strawberry shortcake but I haven't figured out how to make shortcake gluten free yet and I really didn't want to play with it last night. So instead I took plain old gluten free cake mix and doctored it up ... a lot. It was AWESOME. You have to try it.

MOIST, ultra good texture, a guest was actually concerned about Pom when she tried to get her own. It was very yummy too. And here is how it's done. It could probably be done with other flavors as well. We will have to try it!

I, um, have to apologize, still and again, about the photo quality. One of these days I will get that charger.

Gluten Free Strawberry Cupcakes

  • 1 box gluten free cake mix
  • 2/3 cup really soft sherbet
  • 1/2 cup sprite or 7-up
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 fresh strawberries, diced
before adding the cake mix

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put liners in a muffin tin (or grease the tin if you choose not to use liners)
Beat all ingredients at medium speed until combined and pour batter into liners.
Bake for about 20 minutes. (as directed on the box)

Just before devouring.


We served them sliced in half and topped with fresh whipped cream and sliced fresh strawberries. YUMMY.....