Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Weldon's field trip to Cuquita's Restaurant!

A few weeks ago, Weldon and I spoke to the Carrollton Farmers Branch Rotary Club about living gluten-free. We were invited by restaurant owner Elizabeth Villafranca, who owns Cuquita's Restaurant and lives gluten-free herself. We had a great time meeting Elizabeth (and her awesome daughter, who baked gluten-free cupcakes for the Rotary Club that day!) and sharing our story with the Rotary Club.

About two weeks after that, Weldon was able to take a field trip to Cuquita's. I was off doing something that prevented me from joining him, but he brought back a video of his experience! Long story short: Cuquita's = good, good gluten-free dining. :) Check it out! (Please don't make fun of Weldon's Spanish. First of all, he tried. :) Secon of all, I already did.)

Special thanks to Cuquita's Restaurant and Todd Kent!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How about a fun Halloween supper?

Today's recipe is one of Weldon's, and it's one of his favorites to make!

It’s officially Autumn and the air is finally crisp in the mornings and evenings! That makes it a GREAT time to fire up the oven for some yummy baked goods and entrees! We have several we like at this time of year.

In honor of Halloween, I wanted to share one of my fall favorites. You can use it for Halloween dinner parties, and it’s sure to be a hit with the kids and the adults, Stuffed Jack-o-Lantern Peppers!

It also serve a double-duty. With Thanksgiving coming up, you can simply not carve the faces on them and they are just Stuffed ‘Pumpkin’ Peppers.

There are quite a few stuffed pepper recipes out there, and a lot of them use crushed crackers or other things that generally have gluten in them. My recipe is a hybrid of my mom's recipe and my own mad-scientist intuition. It's simple and tasty, and of course, gluten-, dairy-, soy-, and coren-free!

1 lb. grass-fed ground beef (or organic ground turkey)
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp pepper.
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup cooked rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 12oz. can of tomato sauce
4 medium size ORANGE Bell Peppers*
*Peppers obviously must be orange. :) And make sure each pepper will stand up on its own and that all will fit side-by-side inside a deep sided casserole dish together. (Think, "pumpkin patch.")

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Cook Rice. Let cool and set aside. (I recommend you prepare the rice in advance.)

  2. Prep the Peppers.
    a. Cut the tops off with a beveled edge (i.e. hold the knife at a 45 degree angle while slicing around the cap, just like you would if you were carving a pumpkin.
    b. Once cut, remove the cap and trim off the mass of seeds on the inside. Set cap aside as we will use it again. Discard seeds.
    c. Clean out the hollow pepper, removing seeds and ‘vein’ that forms the inside chambers.

  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 8 oz of tomato sauce w/ cooled rice.

  4. Add meat, salt, pepper, chili powder, and chopped onions.

  5. Mix well with the rice.

  6. Pour at least a 1 tbsp of remaining sauce into the bottom of each open pepper.

  7. Stuff the peppers with the meat & rice mixture.

  8. Using a sharp knife with a long, thin blade, carve a Jack-o-Lantern face on the best side of each pepper.
    a. IMPORTANT: When cutting shapes, do NOT remove the parts you cut out. Leave them in place on the pepper.
    b. Also, cut at least a full inch into the pepper. The chamber walls can be thick in places so you need to cut completely through the pepper walls each time.
    c. I recommend using simple triangles for eyes & nose.
    d. For the mouth, cut just the bottom parts of two inverted triangles below nose level. These are the ‘fangs’ in the mouth.
    e. Then starting wider than the eyes on the mouth level, cut a line to the top of the first fang.
    f. Then connect them in the inside part, then repeat step ‘e’ on the other side.
    g. Now simply cut an arc from the corners of the mouth down to the bottom of the ‘fangs’ and across to the other mouth corner. This allows the fangs to ‘rest’ on the bottom of the mouth for support. Remember to leave all pieces in place once cut.

  9. Place peppers side by side in an appropriate sized casserole dish.

  10. Poke a finger down the center of the open top of the pepper to create a small well inside the meat/rice mixture.

  11. Fill the well to the top with remaining tomato sauce.

  12. Place caps on the correct peppers. Make sure they fit right for correct look.

  13. If dish lid will fit, use lid. If not, cover entire dish with tin foil.

  14. Bake in pre-heated over for 30 Minutes @ 350degrees.

  15. Remove tin foil from top of dish and replace in over for another 30 Minutes. (1 Hour total cooking time)

  16. Remove from oven when ready and serve shortly after.

  17. When ready to serve, remove peppers from dish and plate.

  18. At this point, use the sharp knife to gently remove the plugs from the eyes, nose, & mouth of your Jack-o-Lanterns. (Some tomato sauce may have leaked out. That is fine. It only adds to the ghoulishness of it.)

  19. Serve.

    You can pair this with some sautéed spinach or turnip greens and arrange it as a small ‘pumpkin patch’ on the plate.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Simple Tuna and White Bean Salad

Hello from the surface of the sun, friends. In case you're not here in Texas with us, and not paying attention, just know that it's hot. I know, it's always hot in Texas in the summer. Why do we always get caught by surprise by sizzling sidewalks and dimishing lakes? This year is actually different. Not different from 1980, but different from lots of other years. We've had just about a month of temperatures at or over 100 degrees. I think most days it's actually felt like 180. No rain since June. And we're not done yet, is the thing. No end is in sight.

During the summer of 1980, I stayed at my grandmother's house for a couple of weeks. The empty field next to her apartment complex caught on fire. Everything was so dry and crunchy that the smallest spark could set off a blaze. As we all stood on the sidewalk watching the flames inch close to the apartments, a few grasshoppers buzzed out of the grass toward the crowd. Then there were more. Then there were more. THEN THERE WERE MORE! It was amazing, friends. They were like popcorn flying up out of the burning field. Thankfully, the fire department arrived and was able to put it out and keep the apartments out of danger. Which was now inundated with uprooted grasshoppers. That's how I remember that summer. So hot that the earth burst into flames and erupted with grasshoppers.

So who's turning on their oven these days? Nobody that doesn't have to, I'll tell you that. We are no different, which is why you haven't seen a post about those yummy donut muffins yet.

We've been eating lots of melon, berries, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. Things that are cool and full of water, and that don't require cooking. One of my favorite lunches is a salad made with quinoa, chopped parsley or spinach, cucumber, chickpeas, and walnuts. Dress that up with some olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, and you'll be super-happy and super-cool. This afternoon, I'm making a smoothie with blueberries and cucumbers.

Last night's no-cook supper was a very simple Tuna and White Bean Salad. (Because this is how I roll in the kitchen: simple.) Here's how I did it:

1 can of fabulous Pisces Tuna
1 can organic cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
About 1 C spinach leaves, chiffonaded (don't panic, see note below)
2-3 green onions, chopped (optional)
1/4 C olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place drained tuna in a medium bowl and casually cut into large chunks with a fork. We want the tuna to stay in chunks for this salad.
2. Add drained cannellini beans.
3. Add spinach and onions (if using).
4. Mix together gently.
5. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
6. Pour over tuna mixture and stir gently.

You can store tightly covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours if you have time, or serve immediately if you don't. It is better cold, and giving the flavors time to marry is really nice.

I served this with simple and tasty toaster garlic bread:

1. Toast a slice of your favorite GF bread per person.
2. While it't still warm out of the toaster, rub liberally with a raw garlic clove.
3. Brush with olive oil or spread on your favorite butter or butter substitute.

You can serve this salad over spinach or lettuce if you like. A side of cool fruit might be nice. Think cool and simple. That's how we'll roll in August.

Note: "Chiffonade" is a French term that means, "made of rags." It's a lovely cutting technique to use on little leafy things like basil, mint, and spinach. You end up with a lovely and flavorful green confetti. To chiffonade, you stack up 3 or 4 leaves, roll them into a tight little cylinder, then slice the cylinder. (For photos, see our friends over at Fine Cooking. I love to chiffonade spinach and add it to scrambled eggs or quinoa salad. But just think of the possibilities! How many ways could you use that fluffy green confetti? See, no need to panic. :)