Helping others, Helping yourself

I mentioned before in my posts about my daughter who is facing some serious eating issues. She is intolerant to gluten, lactose and dairy products. Although she has tested negative for any known disorders, her health continues to concern our family. Recently, her doctor suggested she try an elimination diet to determine the foods that are really causing her the most problems.

I am proud she has taken this step and hope she will discover what is causing her stomach issues. As part of the diet she has decided to blog about the experience. Her blog "galvanizedintoaction" is a daily accounting of her struggles to maintain an ordinary life while experiencing an elimination diet. Take a few minutes to read her blog. Hopefully this diet will help her and maybe even help others who might be experiencing similar eating/health issues.

Did I mention she is a senior in college majoring in Interactive Design, a catcher on the softball team and holds two jobs?


Better than Bouillon Cubes

My family really loves soup, so during the fall, winter and spring, I make a lot of soup. As anyone good cook knows the stock makes so the soup so I tend to make my own. Whenever I have more stock than I need, I always freeze an ice cube tray or two of stock for those times when I need just a little to complete a dish. Once frozen I pop the cubes in a ziplock bag or container. This timesaving tip is super easy to do and rest assured your recipes will taste so much better!


Gluten Free Short Ribs

I continue my quest to find delicious gluten free meals I can make for my daughter and that satisfy my husband! I was flipping through the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine the other day and came across her Short Rib Potpies. What peaked my interest was the fact that potatoes replaced the typical pie crust. I looked at the recipe carefully and found a few additional problems which might negatively affect my gluten free daughter. The first is the inclusion of stout and the second is the addition of flour. So, I trotted off to the local liquor store looking for a replacement for the stout. I was directed to Bard's Beer, the original sorghum malt beer. What a find! It has a fantastic flavor and taste. Even my husband couldn't tell the difference in the completed dish. The substitute for the flour was easy-cornstarch.

I like to make individual potpies so everyone gets their own share of the delicious topping and filling. Of course, I used my Lock and Lock "Zen and Lock" ceramic containers. I did notice on  Lock and Lock's website the Zen series has been replaced by "Silby" Ceramicware. The difference is that the Zen series has florals on it and the Silby is all white. Anyway, Lock and Lock is one of my favorite products for cooking and storage. I have a number of their products and I am always finding new ways to use them. One of the biggest benefits of the Ceramic container is that you can bake in it, serve it right at the table and store leftovers easily in the refrigerator using the patented Lock and Lock lid that snaps into place.

Here is my gluten free version of the Martha Stewart recipe. Enjoy!

Braised Short Rib, Wheat-free Beer, and Potato Potpies

4lbs boneless short ribs, cut into 2 inch pieces
salt and pepper
3Tbs cornstarch
3Tbs safflower oil
1medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
5garlic cloves, thinly sliced
212oz bottles wheat free beer
2rosemary sprigs
1lb cipollini onions, peeled
6medium russet potatoes (3.5 lbs)
Extra-virgin olive oil or Wegman's Basting Oil, with Garlic and Herbs for brushing
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Dredge the short ribs in cornstarch, coating all sides. Transfer to a large plate using kitchen tongs. Brown the meat in a Dutch oven on medium high heat.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add yellow onion to Dutch oven and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Add garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Return meat to Dutch oven. Add stout and rosemary. Bring to a simmer. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 2.5 hrs.
3. Remove Dutch oven from oven and add cippolini onions. Braise until meat is tender and onions are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Shred meat using 2 forks. Season with salt and pepper. Divide filling among 8 (1-cup) mini casserole dishes or transfer to an 8-cup gratin dish.
4.For the Topping: Raise the oven temperature to 375°F. Peel potatoes and very thinly slice each on a mandoline. Arrange potatoes over meat to form tight concentric circles, working around the edge and overlapping each potato by three quarters. Brush lightly with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. To make clean up easier put the dishes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until topping is golden and filling is bubbling, 45 minutes for mini potpies, 1 hour for large.


Easy summer vegetable casserole

For years, our family has enjoyed "Zucchini Casserole", a relaxed tian of layered vegetables. I typically used a slicer for the squash and onions, but the tomatoes need a knife, especially if they are nice and ripe. The dish cannot be easier to put together and always turns out delicious. Now who wouldn't want that in their cooking repertoire?

Zucchini Casserole
Serves 6

A quick and easy side dish for summer’s bounty, delicious with any grilled meat.

2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 medium sweet onion (Vidalia or other), thinly sliced
6 ripe medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup Panko breadcrumbs
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 tbsp. assorted chopped herbs (parsley, basil, thyme)
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup olive oil or 2 pats of butter diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a medium size-baking pan, layer zucchini, onion, yellow squash and tomato slices. Sprinkle with some of the Panko, cheese, herbs, garlic and pats of butter or drizzle of olive oil and salt and freshly ground pepper.
2. Continue layers until ingredients are used up, ending with tomatoes. Top with pats of butter or a drizzle of olive oil.
3. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven. Bake 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese and let stand 5 minutes before cutting into squares.

NOTE: You can easily make this gluten-free and dairy free by eliminating the butter, substituting a vegan grated cheese and using gluten-free breadcrumbs.


Early Autumn Apple Salsa

I received another shipment from Lock and Lock as part of their Supporter's Program. Each time I get a shipment, I get super excited to see what goodies are in the box. Honestly, it is just like Christmas morning! In the box this month I received one of Lock and Lock's newest products Lock and Lock "Air" Airless Container. This product prevents air from reaching your food and deters bacteria growth. So, your treats should stay fresh longer.

The container is really genus. Once you have "locked" the container lid on, you press lightly on the center of the lid until your hear a beep. This removes air from inside the container. Then lift the air release valve on the lid to release all of the air. A small hissing sound will let you know that the air is being pushed out. Set the convenient date dial and you are all set.

Of course, I had to try it out immediately. So I thought to myself, what would be a good use for this container? The answer, an original recipes for Early Autumn Apple Salsa inspired by a trip this morning to our local Farmer's Market. As I walked the market, my eyes spied some gorgeous Gala apples from a local orchard. I knew I already had some sweet and hot peppers from my Dad's garden, Vidalia onions, cherry tomatoes and a bunch of cilantro. So for me, salsa was the natural choice. My husband and I decided earlier in the day to have a halved turkey breast for dinner since my daughter was coming home from college for the weekend and since she is a following a gluten free, dairy and lactose free diet, gravy was definitely not on the menu!

I remembered my basic salsa recipe and decided to make some timely substitutes to switch it up. Here's the recipe:
Early Autumn Apple Salsa
2 Gala apples (or use your favorite), quartered and seeded (I left the skin on for a little extra fiber).
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 sweet onion, halved and quartered
1 small green pepper, seeded and quartered
1 small hot pepper, seeded and quartered
small bundle of cilantro, washed and trimmed
2 tbs fresh lime juice
1/8 cup white raisins
salt and pepper to taste

As you prepare all the ingredients, add it to the bowl of a food processor. Process using the pulse setting a few times. Scrape down the bowl and add the raisins. Pulse a few more times and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to your Lock and Lock Airless Container and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Makes about 3 cups.

Serve with your favorite light meat or use it as a healthy snack with tortilla chips.

NOTE: Adjust the heat level of your salsa by adding additional hot peppers. If you are a garlic fan, consider adding one or two peeled cloves to the mixture before processing.

A little more about Lock and Lock for anyone who has not heard about them yet. Lock and Lock was established in 1978 and has grown into a global commodity. The containers are  produced from a new material with no BPA so it safe for humans and the environment. They have a wide range of products including a great range of storage containers, ceramic cookware, storage containers, water and tea bottles and so much more. One of the best things about the company is that they are always participating in sales so anyone can try the product at very reduced costs. They even have happy hour deals twice a day where you can really find some great deals. Lock and Lock has also partnered with some of the online marketers so it does pay to keep your eyes out for deals from KG Deals, Groupon and others.