Quick and Fancy: Gluten-Free Store-Bought Cookies with Lemon Curd and Nutella

cookiesYou’re having a baby shower or a football watch party, and you know a few gluten-free attendees will show up.  Maybe you’re having a gluten-free friend over for dinner.  Or maybe, like me, you’re the gluten-free one and you’re having mid-week dinner guests and you’ve got no time to bake something.  What do you make for dessert?

I’ve got the answer for you.  It is simple and easy and yummy and pretty.  And those are all good things.  Can I get an amen!

Start by grabbing some gluten-free cookies from the store.  Gluten-free store bought products have gotten so good in the (nearly) seven years since I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.  There are so many great options.

WithOutWheat Cookies

I chose WOW (With Out Wheat) Lemon Cookies.  They are soft and chewy with big clumps of sanding sugar on top that give the perfect crunch, and their lemon flavor is intense.  I love them.

Dr. Schar Cookies

And Schar Gluten-Free Shortbread cookies.  These are so good.  They’re not too sweet, have a perfect crunch and a subtle design that looks oh so fancy with the toppings soon to come.  Side note – these are the perfect replacement for Nilla Wafers in gluten-free banana pudding.

lemon butter

Next, assemble your toppings.  To go with the lemon cookies, I made my quick and easy lemon curd – or lemon butter, as they call it in New Zealand – a few hours before dessert.  You can also buy lemon curd.  Homemade is better though.  And cheaper.  This recipe is so simple and fool-proof.  It also is good and tart!

The recipe is at the bottom of this post.

Nutella

And for the shortbread cookies, I used Nutella.  You can’t get any easier than this, people!

lemon curd on gluten free cookie

Place the chilled lemon curd into an icing bag or plastic baggie.  I had some leftover disposable icing bags from a failed attempt at decorating sugar cookies past project, so I used those.  Cut off the tip of the bag and put big, pretty dollops of lemon curd on each lemon cookie.

Nutella on cookies

Do the same with the Nutella, placing it in the center of the cookie, so it’s surrounded by the pretty design.  Oh and use a fresh bag.  Nutella is good.  Lemon curd is good.  Lemon curd and Nutella?  Not so much.

powdered sugar

Sprinkle with a touch of powdered sugar for that extra special touch.  Don’t do this on the plate you’re planning to use to serve the cookies.

cookies

And voila!  Perfection.  Easy perfection.

I hope this post makes entertaining gluten-free friends easier for you!

Lemon Curd Recipe
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup lemon juice
  2. 5 1/2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  3. 1 1/4 c. sugar
  4. 2 tsp lemon zest
  5. 4 eggs
  6. 1/3 tsp kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Zest lemons with a zester or microplane, being careful to not get the white pith. Squeeze the lemons over a mesh strainer to catch the pulp and seeds.
  2. Melt butter. You want the butter to be fully melted, but not piping hot.
  3. In a heavy sauce pan, whisk together the butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and salt. Add the eggs, continuing to whisk.
  4. Over a medium flame, cook the lemon curd, stirring the entire time. Once it starts to get hot and the slightest bit bubbly, cook it for about seven additional minutes. Never stop stirring - this ensures the curd at the bottom of the pan doesn't burn. When you're finished, it should be thick and glossy.
  5. Allow to cool down and then refrigerate before use. You can make this a day ahead.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

Sushi Rice Bowl Recipe

I love me some sushi…well, wimpy sushi of the Philadelphia roll variety.

There are several sushi consumption options available to me: I can buy sushi from one of the sushi places in town.  But by the time you buy a few little rolls, you’re looking at $18 including tax and tip.  That’s a lot for a quick dinner.  Or I can make sushi from scratch, but rolling sushi takes a long time.  It’s not a week night sort of endeavor.

The predicament left a big sushi-shaped hole in my heart…until one fateful night when everything changed.

{{Dramatic reenactment}} I was trying to find a creative use for leftovers after making sushi rolls for company.  My guests stayed late and I was too tired to distribute each ingredient into its own little bag where – if I’m being honest – it would go to die after being forgotten in the fridge.

Not knowing what else to do, I threw all the leftovers – rice, julienned veggies, smoked salmon, spicy tuna sauce – into a container.  In my exhaustion the next morning, I grabbed it out of the fridge and took it to work for lunch.

I was expecting the result to be the sushi equivalent to the Island of Misfit Toys – a cacophony of unwanted sushi bits.  But I was wrong.  It was amazing – the taste of a perfect sushi roll.  The ease of a rice bowl.  The sushi rice bowl was born.

To make your own sushi rice bowl, first get some sushi rice going.  Click on the link for a full tutorial.  Sushi rice is simultaneously easy to make and persnickety.  You just have to know a few secrets, and then you’ll become a sushi rice master.

What do you love in sushi?  I love cucumbers.  Peel them and cut them thin, long slices.

And avocado. Yum.

And green onions.

I also would have blanched asparagus, but all the stores were out, which I attribute to a conspiracy against my dinner.  Or asparagus was out of season.  One of the two.

Other options: mango, red bell pepper, and anything other veggies you want.

Boil shelled edamame per the directions on the package – about 5 minutes after the water reboils.  Give them a beautiful flavor by adding a splash of gluten-free soy sauce into the water.  Mmmmm.  When the edamame is finished, drain it.  It’s ready to go for dinner.

Make spicy tuna sauce.  It’s mayo and sriracha sauce.  Add the sauce until you’ve reached your spiciness preference.  Sriracha is super spicy, so start slow, add, taste, adjust, repeat.  My mix is about 1/2 cup of mayo to 1 tsp of sriracha.  After you make it a time or two, you’ll be able to make it by sight, gauging how pink you want it.  The darker the color, the spicier.

A little dollop of this on your rice bowl will make the flavors of the rice and toppings come alive!

Crumble up smoked salmon. You can buy this in the deli or fish section of most stores.  One four-ounce package costs about $5 and goes a long way.  You could also use shrimp or crab or even teriyaki chicken, or any of your favorite sushi meat ingredients.  If you’re a vegetarian, of course you can skip this.  Sushi rice bowls are all about you, your preferences and your creativity!

I don’t recommend using raw fish.  Remember – the raw fish used by sushi restaurants is sushi-grade.  It’s not a slab of raw tuna from the grocery store’s dollar meat bin.  If raw fish is a necessity to you, and you have access to sushi-grade fish, more power to you.  But please be super cautious.

Serve up other sushi necessities: soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi.  I happen to think wasabi tastes like spicy dirt, so I did not serve it up. I put the pickled ginger right on my rice bowl.  Others like to mix it with their soy sauce for a more subtle flavor.

If you are worried about missing the taste of the nori (the seaweed sushi wrappers), you can buy shredded nori at the Asian market to sprinkle on top.  It looks like seaweed confetti.  Nori is not my favorite thing, so I don’t bother with this step.

This is not The Professor’s favorite meal.  I last made it when he was out of town, and my friend Amy joined me for dinner.  Chick food + girl time = pretty place settings.  And just to make sure we’re being cross-cultural, we have Japanese food served on a Spode Blue Italian pasta bowl and chopsticks from a Vietnamese market.  It’s very authentic.

Set your table with the rice and all the toppings.  Assemble to your preference.  And enjoy!

The final product is fresh, healthy and beautiful!

Tell us in the comments – what would your perfect sushi bowl contain?

Sushi Rice Bowl Recipe
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 batch sushi rice with vinegar mixture
  2. 1 - 2 avocados
  3. 1 small cucumber, peeled and julienned
  4. 1/4 c. sliced green onions
  5. 1 bag shelled edamame, boiled until tender and drained
  6. 1 package smoked salmon (avoid the black pepper and Cajun flavors)
  7. 1/2 c. spicy tuna sauce - a mixture of mayo and sriacha to your preferred spiciness
  8. Any other sushi-appropriate veggies, fruits or meats! Use your imagination.
  9. Soy sauce (gluten-free soy sauce if you're gluten-free)
  10. Pickled ginger
  11. Wasabi
Instructions
  1. Make rice, prepare veggies, fish and sauce. Boil the edamame per the package instructions.
  2. Serve while the rice and edamame are hot. Let each person assemble per their own tastes. Enjoy!
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Cookie Mix Review

Do you remember in My Best Friend’s Wedding when Julia Roberts is explaining to Cameron Diaz that she’s crème brûlée, not Jell-O?  Well in most things I’m crème brûlée.  I inadvertently pick out the most expensive thing in the store every time.  My favorite china is $500 a place setting.  As I explained to my friend Emily one day about my decorating style – I don’t like shabby chic.  I like chic!  But when it comes to dessert, I’m Jell-O, metaphorically speaking.  My favorite dessert – most absolute favorite – is a perfect chocolate chip cookie.  There is no gold-leaf studded chocolate mousse that can come close to a perfect chocolate chip cookie.

I have a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve mastered, but every once in a while I need a mix.  Mixes are quick and easy and not messy.  They usually only make half a batch, which let’s face it, many times is a good thing.  Gluten-free baking mixes are more expensive than baking from scratch, so I use them sparingly.  This one was about $6.  However, if you’re new to the gluten-free world, or if you’re not gluten-free but wanting to bake something for a friend (in which case I’d like to say thank you for your intentionality on behalf of all celiacs!!!), grab a mix.

When I learned that King Arthur was venturing into the gluten-free world, I was thrilled.  Pre gluten-free diagnosis seven years ago, I used King Arthur products and loved them.  They’re the gold standard of flour.  True to their reputation, the nice people at King Arthur did not disappoint.  Of all the gluten-free cookie mixes out there, the King Arthur Gluten-Free Cookie Mix has to be my favorite.

There’s a few things I like.  First, the cookies bake well and taste amazing.  The flour mix is not gritty.  There is no aftertaste, no saying “this is good for gluten-free.”  No, these are just plain good.

Second, the dough tastes good.  Bad tasting cookie dough usually means the flour mix contains a bean flour.  Bean flours have beautiful consistency, but they taste like, well, beans.  The bean flavor cooks off after the dough is completely baked.  I, however, like chewy cookies, and chewy cookies are not cooked long enough to cook out the bean taste.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had bean-flavored chocolate chip cookies.  I have, and it’s not pretty.

Third, there are no chocolate chips in the mix.  My first reaction to this was something like – What? I have to buy chocolate chips, too?  Then I thought about the freedom inherent in this mix philosophy.  I can use semi sweet or dark chocolate.  If I’m making cookies for one of my gluten-free, casein-free friends, I can use casein-free chocolate chips.  I can add nuts and adjust my chocolate chip measurement so that my cookies don’t have too many mix-ins.  The flour mix has a brown sugar base, so I can use this for any brown sugar-centric cookie recipe, adding anything from M&Ms to peanut butter chips.  Yes, this is a very flexible gluten-free cookie mix!

The box has very specific instructions, which I recommend you follow.  It starts with creaming together half the flour mix and the stick of butter.  I learned about this baking strategy at the Gluten Free Allergy Expo.  The idea is to get every grain of the dry ingredients coated with butter so that the butter acts as a buffer between the grains of flour.  This method prevents the cookies from becoming dense.  Next add an egg and some water.  I forgot to take a picture of this part, but I promised it happened.  Mix that in.  Then stir in the rest of the flour mix.

Next is where you get to use your imagination.  The box says to use one to two cups of add-ins.  I ended up using a little more than that – probably two and three-quarters total of semi-sweet chocolate chunks and pecan pieces.

Next, the recipe says to smush the cookies down so they’re not mounds.  Bake in a 350 degree oven 10 – 12 minutes.

And, tada!!!!  I kept them in for about 10 minutes and then let them sit on the hot pan outside the oven for another minute or so.  This makes the cookie crunchy on the bottom and chewy in the middle – also known as perfect.

Look at this!  The cookies actually look like the picture on the box.  I’ve made these several times.  They are consistently wonderful.

It’s good to be Jell-O when it comes to dessert because there is nothing better than a perfect chocolate chip cookie.  King Arthur – thanks for making such a great mix!  You get two thumbs up from The Accidental Okie!

Sometimes A Win is a Win

I made a big dinner two nights ago.  It was supposed to be an amazing blog post based on a recipe I’ve made a few times before – pasta with a bacon mushroom béchamel sauce and sauteed veggies.

But this time it was an absolute disaster.

It started out good – bacon and a Dutch oven.  What could go wrong, right?

Everything, apparently.

I wanted to have a bit of bacon flavor in the veggies.  That didn’t work.  Greasy, burned bacon grit quickly coated my beautiful bell pepper and zucchini.  I ended up rinsing the veggies out in the colander.  It semi-salvaged the operation.

Next in Operation: Kill Dinner, I mistimed the beautiful Tinkyada pasta.  It was a mushy mess.  I rinsed it in cold water to stop the cooking process, which made it a cold, mushy mess.

And the béchamel sauce took a lot longer to thicken.  By the time it finished, the veggies were cold and didn’t reheat like I thought they would when intersected the hot sauce.

The cold pasta probably had something to do that. 

The mushroom flavor didn’t infuse into the sauce like I hoped.  Then my camera’s battery died, so now I can’t even salvage a tutorial on making a gluten-free roux out of the whole mess.  It was a total fail.

We ate it for dinner because A – we have a food budget and B – I didn’t have time to make anything else.  Shockingly, the next day when I was forced to eat it for lunch, the microwave didn’t magically transform the food into a culinary masterpiece.  It was still gross.  And mushy.  And a little lukewarm – but that one was my fault.  I guess I didn’t put it in the microwave long enough.

After we ate our icky dinner, we had to go straight to Bible study.  No time to clean the kitchen.  We got home and went to bed, and then got up and went to work the next morning.  (After I cleaned cat diarrhea off the floor).

Sorry – TMI.

And so yesterday when I got home, I was faced with an ethical dilemma: clean the kitchen or make dinner for The Professor, who was on the way home from a long day of teaching all day at school and then going to the local community college where he teaches a college class – because he’s an amazing provider like that. 

I chose making dinner.

And slightly redeemed myself with a half bag of sweet potato fries and a quick grilled chicken salad with apples, pecans, Parmesan cheese and a walnut-pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette recipe I’ve been tweaking for a post on fall salad dressings.

It was really good.  But then my kitchen looked like this.

Nights like these cause me to pause and redefine my definition of wins.  Some nights, you get the whole kitchen clean – floors mopped and everything.  And other nights, you’re lucky to get the perishables put back in the fridge and the dishwasher running. 

That’s okay because a win is a win.

Sometimes a win is making an edible dinner.  And that’s okay, because a win is a win.

My kitchen doesn’t look like this anymore, but it’s not perfect.  I’m okay with that.  I’ll take my wins where I can get them.

Roasted Okra

My parents are both part of the first generation in their respective families to not grow up on a working farm. This means that I, a second generation city girl, have one and three-quarters feet planted firmly in suburbia and one big toe at home in the dirt.

I remember picking okra at my grandmother’s house. My mom’s parents live in a small country town in Texas between Fort Worth and Waco. When we picked okra, it was so fresh that we couldn’t touch it without gloves because the okra’s fuzz would make our hands itchy.

My grandma fries okra in a cast iron skillet with a mixture of squash and onions that have been dredged in milk and eggs and coated in seasoned corn meal. My favorite part was always the okra – the real taste of the vegetable. And it always left me wondering how to eat okra in some other non-fried preparation.

I discovered roasted okra and the world changed. Cut in half lengthwise, the toasted, shriveled seeds and crispy browned edges crunch in your mouth. Slicing the okra allows the inside seeds to become crisp.  It also removes even the smallest hint of sliminess that many find unpalatable about okra.  The flavors are layered – simplistic and symphonic. Roasting brings out the okra’s peppery taste while the crunch of kosher salt and the subtle flavor of olive oil add more delicate flavors.

Wash and completely dry your okra. If you’re smart, you’ll wash your okra in advance. If you’re like me, set it on a tea towel and dry it off. If it’s not dry, the olive oil and salt won’t stick. This little trick has improved all of my vegetable roasting efforts.

Now is a good time to get your broiler going so it’s nice and hot.

Chop off the top and then slice the okra down the middle. It helps if you have pale, sausage fingers and florescent fingernail polish.

See these big, crunchy seeds? They become extra delectable when roasted. That’s why I slice all of my okra except for the littlest pieces less than an inch long.  Slicing also helps get rid of that sliminess that’s given okra a bad rap.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Do not add pepper – the okra has a beautiful, natural peppery taste on its own, and you don’t want to mask that.

Mix the okra around so that it is evenly coated with olive oil and salt. The okra should glisten with olive oil on all sides, but not be overly oily. The salt should be evenly distributed but not perfectly. This is a low-stress veggie. You can toss the oil and salt with the okra in its own bowl, but if you gingerly toss everything on the pan, you won’t have to wash the bowl. And that’s a win in my world. After you’ve tossed, rearrange the okra so the pieces are seed-side up.

Put the okra on one of the upper drawers under the broiler until it’s crispy. Pull the pan out of the broiler and flip the okra with a big spatula, let it broil again until the opposite side is crispy. The time will vary for every oven, the intensity of your broiler and the rack level you ultimately choose. For me, it takes between 5 to 7 minutes per side. Please watch very carefully to make sure your precious, delectable okra doesn’t burn.

And voila! Perfection. I served my okra with a baked potato and leftover steak. Look at those crunchy seeds!

Roasted okra is a gateway drug to other exciting ways to eat okra. Once when I was making roasted okra, I ate a piece of it raw. And it was good! Really good. One of my favorite snacks at work is sliced raw okra. I have a picnic container of salt hidden away in my desk. I sprinkle a bit on each piece before I eat it.

Oh okra. You are the new asparagus.

Roasted Okra Recipe
Print
Cook Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb fresh okra - or more!
  2. 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1 tsp kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Turn on broiler.
  2. Rinse and dry okra. If it’s not completely dry, the olive oil and salt won’t stick.
  3. Chop off the tops and then slice the okra lengthwise. Slicing the okra allows the inside seeds to become crisp. It also removes even the smallest hint of sliminess that many find unpalatable about okra.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and mix together so the okra glistens with olive oil on all sides and the salt is evenly distributed.
  5. Broil on both sides until equally crispy and browned, about 5 minutes per side. Every oven is different, so keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.
  6. Adjust the amounts as needed. These are so good that you may find that 1 pound isn’t enough!
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/
A printable recipe card is available at Tasty Kitchen.

Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo – In Review

Imagine going to a place where you can eat everything.  There are no labels to read, no grand inquisition before ingesting a morsel, no blank stares when you mention your gluten intolerance.  No nothing…except enjoying.

The Gluten-Free Allergy-Free Expo in Dallas was an amazing group of like-minded individuals whose own journeys with gluten intolerance led them to create gluten-free companies.  I almost didn’t go after a very busy few weeks, but my mom convinced me to come, and The Professor even drove me down to Texas.  I’m so glad I went.

With more than 60 vendors, a few dozen cooking classes and many new friends, I think it would be information overload to go through everything.  So I present to you a list of my favorite moments, lessons and new friends.

Best Starstruck Moment

I met Naomi, the founder and owner of Better Batter, a flour blend I’ve reviewed.  It was inspiring to meet someone who became such a strong advocate for her son that she created her own company.  I love the Better Batter flour blend and their company philosophy.  And guess what, Naomi has read Accidental Okie!  What?!?

My favorite moment talking to Naomi was at the very end of the conference.  My mom and I looped around to the Better Batter table one last time to get a few boxes of flour.  Naomi was excited to see us and asked us to tell her all about the best new products we saw throughout the day.  Rather than seeing the other booths as competitors, she saw them as part of a community – part of her community.  I was proud to be a part of the gluten-free community at that moment.  Even though the different companies are vying for part of the market share, they’re also a group of companies founded by people with a personal connection to gluten intolerance.

As a testament to how much I like Naomi and BB, I even published this picture, which is horrible of me!

Best New Gluten Free Product

I found my new favorite thing.  Pistachio Lemon Biscotti.  It’s sweet.  It’s savory.  It’s perfect.  The base of the cookie has subtle hints of ginger.  Then there’s the spicy rosemary and black pepper, the crunch of the pistachio and finally the sweetness of the raisins.  I ate them plain, but they would be wonderful with sharp chèvre cheese or with a spicy chai latte.

The cookies are not baked in a gluten-free facility, so that will be a deal breaker for many people.  I am super sensitive and did not have a reaction.  You can order online at their website.

Best New Cookbook and Gluten-Free Friend

A few weeks ago, a girl named Karen replied to one of my tweets.  I checked out her website, Blackbird Bakery, saw a recipe for gluten-free cheese souffle, and I knew we were destined to become friends.

Not only does she make a gluten-free cheese souffle, but she feeds it regularly to her son.  I aspire to someday have offspring with such refined pallets.

Karen has written an amazing gluten-free baking book.  She is such an inspiration.  Most of the recipes I cook are savory recipes.  This is because I cook by taste, smell and feel more than from recipes.  Karen, on the other hand, is a super precise, mad scientist in the kitchen.  Since being diagnosed with gluten intolerance ten years ago, she estimates she’s done 100,000 recipe tests.

Her cookbook contains a photo for every recipe in the cookbook, and the recipes range from standards like cookies, to scones and biscuits, to an array of French pastries.

I went back and forth on buying the book.  I have a lot of gluten-free cookbooks, and I don’t bake a lot.  But then I saw the recipe for cottage cheese muffins with hickory smoked bacon and cheese, and I knew that the book must be mine.

I haven’t cooked anything from book yet, but I’m anxious to try!

Best Meeting

The first Thanksgiving I was diagnosed, I went to a gluten-free holiday cooking class taught by Claudia Pillow.  Claudia and her sister Annalise are the authors of the gluten-free cookbooks that are the basis of all my knowledge.  After going gluten-free to support her sister who is a celiac, Clauda became so interested in the impact of going gluten-free that she went back and got her Ph.D. in nutrition.  That first Thanksgiving, Claudia saved my life.  She was my gluten-free life boat who equipped me to make holiday standards like pecan pie, stuffing and gravy.  It was great to see her at the conference!

Along with her website, Claudia works with a company that makes raw, gluten-free foods called Hail Merry.  She sent me home with a package of chocolate macaroons to sample!  They were amazing.  She suggested that I smush them into a pie pan to use as a crust for a chocolate pudding pie.  That was the plan.  But then I ate them before I made a pie.  They are delectable and after I ate a few, I didn’t have a sugar rush.

By the way, if you want to learn how to bake that pecan pie, buy this book!

There were even more exciting meetings and booths at the GFAF Expo.  If you can go next year, I highly recommend it.  Along with resources, it was a reminder that we are part of a community that is banded together, advocating for each other and making huge strides in medical research, recipes and product accessibility.

Thai Beef Recipe

Thai Beef or Larb is one of my favorite recipes.  It’s on our dinner rotation, especially when my mint garden is thriving.  Because it’s just enough interesting and just enough tame, it’s become my go-to meal when taking dinner to people who’ve just had babies – which seems to be all of my friends lately.  The ingredients of this recipe – rice, ground beef, onions, fish sauce, sriracha, lime juice – are staples in my kitchen, which makes this recipe cheap and quick and available.

My friend Heidi gave me this recipe from her friends from Thailand who were in America going to seminary to prepare to go back to Thailand and minister to people in their culture.  I feel like this recipe has a heritage, and being from Thai people, it is the real deal.

Over the years, I’ve made modifications to make the recipe my own.  I started preferring the red onion to the shallots, and liking my onion sliced quite thick.  Rather than using chili oil and cayenne pepper, I opt for sriracha sauce – I love its spice and smokiness.  Sriracha also has two ingredients that make any condiment better – sugar and vinegar.

Get the rice cooking first.  It will take longer than the Thai beef.  I like sushi rice without the vinegar mix or jasmine rice.  Traditionally this recipe is served on a bed of lettuce, so you can go that route too.  To take it in a totally different direction, I think it would make excellent filling for lettuce wraps, but if you do that, cut the onions smaller.

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.comGrab mint from your garden.  Mint is the only thing I can successfully grow, so this sentence is exciting for me to write.  Normally all I grab from my garden are dead brown things – evidences of my brown thumb. You can also buy mint.  Rinse it, dry it on a dish towel, and then strip the leaves by pulling your thumb and fingers down the stems.  Give the leaves a rough chop.

It’s important to prep this first.  Washing and drying and stemming mint takes longer than you think it will.  And this recipe goes fast, which is why I love it!

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.com

Slice an onion or a bunch of shallots.  I’m lazy, so I use an onion.  Slice with the grain of the onion.

Get a wok (or a big pan) nice and hot with a tablespoon or so of oil.

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.com

Cook the onions hot and fast so they still have a little crunch but they’re caramelized on the outside.  I got the nice color on the onions by making sure the pan was very hot and then by resisting the urge to stir the onions constantly.

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.com

When your onions are just about ready, add a few cloves of garlic and cook for just a minute or so.  Garlic burns easily, and once it’s burned, it turns bitter and gross, and there is nothing you can do to salvage your dish.  So watch it carefully.  This is also where you could add the 1/4 tsp of ground cayenne pepper, but I skip it because I’m a wimp.

Remove the onions, but don’t rinse out the pan.  It would be sad to lose all that oniony goodness.

With your pan still hot, begin browning the ground beef.  I use 96/4 ground beef.  It’s low enough on fat that I don’t drain it, but if you use a higher-fat ground beef, drain it after it’s browned.

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.com

While the beef is browning, make a mix of fish sauce, sugar, a splash of soy sauce, sriracha sauce and lime juice (or lemon juice).  Confession – I use the bottled lime juice.  Sorry Barefoot Contessa.  I have failed you.

Fish sauce is essentially ground anchovies and water.  It is the way Thai food is salted.  At a specialty store, you’ll find a small bottle for $4 or $5.  If you go to an Asian grocery store, you’ll get a huge bottle for $1.  I recommend the huge bottle.

This sauce looks pretty gross.  Don’t be fooled.  It tastes so good!

After it’s browned, add the lime/fish sauce mix.

Make sure the to get the meat browned before you add the sauce.  If you don’t, the acid in the lime juice will partially disintegrate the meat.

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.comKeep cooking until the meat is done.  Now it looks like this – which looks sort of gross and too saucy.  Do not fear.  Amazing, life affirming things are about to happen.

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.com Add back all the onions and the mint.  Now there is the perfect amount of sauce, and it’s very pretty!

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.comSprinkle on extra sriracha sauce to customize your spice level.  You can also serve it on lettuce instead of rice.

I enjoy serving with green beans that have been sauteed with garlic.

thai beef recipe - www.accidentalokie.comI made a double recipe, part for The Professor and me, and part for some friends who just had a baby.  It’s the perfect meal to take.  Package up the meat mixure, the rice and a steamer bag of frozen green beans.  It’s always been a hit with my friends.

Thai Beef Recipe
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Ingredients
  1. rice
  2. 1 lb. lean ground beef
  3. 1 bunch of mint, stemmed and chopped
  4. 1 red onion or 6 medium shallots
  5. 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  6. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  7. 1 tbsp sugar
  8. 4 tbsp lime juice
  9. 4 tbsp fish sauce
  10. 1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce (if you're gluten-free)
  11. sriracha sauce to taste - start with 1 tsp
  12. 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (I skip this part because it's too spicy for me)
Instructions
  1. Get rice cooking. Wash, stem and chop mint. Mix the sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha sauce in a bowl. Slice onions and brown onions hot and fast with the vegetable oil. Add garlic and cayenne pepper for the last minute of cooking. Remove onions and brown the meat. After it's partially cooked add the sauce mix and cook until the meat is finished cooking. Add back the onions and then the mint.
  2. Serve with rice and green beans. Make sure to have sriracha sauce at the table so people can spice their meal to taste.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

After You’ve Been Diagnosed with Gluten Intolerance

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2006.

It was before there were multiple types of Udi bread – or any great gluten-free bread – readily available at multiple stores.  Before many restaurants had gluten-free menus.  Before you could buy gluten-free cupcakes at the neighborhood cupcake shop.  Before you said “gluten free” and anyone knew what it meant.  Before regular grocery stores had gluten-free pasta or Target carried gluten-free cookie mixes.

After nearly twelve years of stomach problems, chronic illness and social embarrassment, I finally had answers. But now there were new problems.

Would I be able to eat at a restaurant ever again?  What about the routine of eating during the busyness of real life – schedules, graduate school, work, last-minute get togethers with friends.  What about my favorite comfort foods, like the chicken and dumplings recipe that’s been in my family for five generations.  And then there were the things that graced our table on special occasions – green bean casserole, carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies, stuffing at Thanksgiving.  I thought about the future and the celebrations I hoped would come.  And then I sat on my sofa and cried, wondering if I would ever eat cake at my wedding.

That was six years ago.  Since that time, I’ve modified my family’s chicken and dumplings recipe, learned how to navigate daily life with relative ease and minimal pity parties, I’ve mastered gluten-free sauces, and all while I’ve felt better without the poison in my system.

If this is the boat you find yourself in, here are some tips to help you.  This is not an exclusive list, but it is what worked for me.

1. Know the basics

Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, barley and contaminated oats.

Those are the easy ones.  Then there’s all the ingredients in which gluten hides.  Modified food starch, food starch, cereal, wheat starch, malt flavoring, and wheat protein.  And that’s just scratching the surface.  Here’s a comprehensive list.

Foods on the high suspect list are: lunch meat, some already-cooked frozen chicken, bbq sauce, soy sauce, many brands of canned chicken broth, beer and malted alcohol, salad dressings, fake “krab,” ice cream, low-fat dairy like low-fat butter or low-fat sour cream, powder sauce/dressing mixes like taco seasoning or Alfredo sauce mix, fruit flavored candies like Twizzlers, pudding, and gravy.  Really, anything that comes in a package is suspicious.

In just a few months, you’ll be able to read a label in two seconds flat!

2. Clean Out Your Kitchen

Throw out your wood cutting boards, which harbor bits of bread crumbs in the boards’ grain and cuts.  Scrub the burned off bits on your cookie sheets (or just replace them).  Buy a new toaster.

If you have non-celiacs in the family, set up controls in your kitchen.  In my house, the only wheat is The Professor’s bread.  I make his sandwiches on paper towels and then throw the paper towel away.  We go through a lot of paper towels, but it’s a small price to pay.  We also have his and hers peanut butter, so that I don’t get peanut butter laced with bread crumbs.

Donate gluteny items to the food bank: cereal, bread crumbs, sauce mixes, spice mixes, enchilada sauce, bread, toasters, canned soup, pasta.  It’s all got to go.  If you go gluten-free by just forgoing bread, and still eat gluten in other forms, you’ll never get better and you’ll never see how you feel after your body is completely empty of gluten.  It’s all or nothing.  Some people may find that they are low on the gluten intolerance spectrum and can tolerate a little gluten, but before jumping to that conclusion, you’ve got to go completely off.

3. Restock Your Kitchen

I think I’ll do an entire blog post about this, but here are the basics:

  • Bread – Udi’s Flax & Fiber is my favorite, but there are a lot of great options out there.
  • Cereal – most Chex cereal is gluten free, so are Cocoa Pebbles.  They also have gluten free Rice Crispies.  If you head over to the health food store, you’ll find a plethora of choices.
  • Flour Mix – more on that soon
  • Gluten-Free chicken broth.  Yes, many brands of chicken broth contain gluten.
  • A few boxed baking mixes while you’re getting your gluten-free sea legs on
  • Gluten-free spaghetti, corn tortillas and other pantry staples
  • Gluten-free soy sauce
  • New butter, peanut butter and jelly – and anything else that could be harboring cross-contamination from double-dipped knives.

4. Gather Resources

Find books and websites you like.  Here are a few of my favorites

  • Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts – this is my go-to book for baking (Except for chocolate chip cookies.  I prefer my recipe, but my sister prefers Annalise’s recipe).
  • Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern – this is my favorite of Shauna’s books because she so eloquently explains the attitude of acceptance and adaptation needed to successfully venture into this gluten-free world.  If food can make you sick, food can make you better.  Her book goes through the very real mourning process, and the renaissance she experienced with food.  Check out her website too!
  • Gluten-Free on a Shoestring – this is my favorite new blog

The best resources I found after diagnosis were people – friends who also have gluten intolerance.  They were the bearers of tips, givers of recipes, and incredible encouragers.  Find a local support group, make it known far and wide that you’ve been diagnosed.  You’ll be surprised how many friends of friends you meet.

5. Make Some Cookies…Immediately

www.accidentalokie.comThis is a photo from my local Target!  Can you believe it!  I think I counted nine different gluten-free brands!

Yes, go make cookies.  Now.  Or brownies.  Or cupcakes.  Now.  Hope is not lost.  In the emotional days after diagnosis – when you have no idea what to eat, how to cook, where to eat, what to tell your friends –  it’s an important reminder that life won’t be as different as you think.  Make some cookies.

I have a few favorite mixes that are great for a pinch, when in the midst of a pity party or when you’re new to all this:

I haven’t tried all the gluten-free mixes, so please give me your reviews in the comments section.

6. Change the Way You Grocery Shop

You have two choices: exist on expensive, high-fat, high-sugar gluten-free processed foods whose tastes vary from great to horrible, or change the way you shop and think about food in general.  That’s a tall order, I know, and I am not trying to minimize how difficult this is.

This change means shopping for ingredients, not convenience foods.  It means trading your favorite brand of taco seasoning mix for salt and cumin and chili powder.  It means shopping the perimeters of the grocery store.

It also means getting savvy of the gluten-free friendly brands.  Kraft, for example, labels any gluten item.  Even if an ingredient list says modified food starch, you can know that it is made from corn or potatoes or tapioca.  That means Kraft olive oil mayo is safe.  So is Jell-O pudding!  And Kraft brand ranch dressing.  Rather than researching the gluten content of every bottle of salad dressing, find a few safe standards and stick with them.  Develop your gluten-free grocery list.

7. Change the Way You Think

There’s thinking changes that need to occur.

First, change your definition.  When someone says gluten free, most people start racking their brains for gluten-free alternatives – gluten-free cookies, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free shortcrust, gluten-free cream of mushroom soup.  People forget that a lot of what they eat is already gluten free.  Chicken with olive oil and lemon pepper is gluten free.  Pork tenderloin with balsamic vinegar is gluten free.  Salmon with dill and butter is gluten-free.  Baked potatoes are gluten-free.  Rice (not rice mixes) is gluten free.  Keep it simple.

Second, change your expectations.  Everything will be different.  I remember Shauna James Ahern’s words in her book, Gluten Free Girl.  She said that foods might taste better or they might taste worse, but no matter what, they will taste different.  Release yourself from the expectation that through your superior gluten-free baking skills/voodoo magic, everything will be the same.  It won’t.  On the flip side, you won’t be sick either.

There was a long time that being gluten free was incredibly hard – where every day was an obstacle of where and what to eat.  Then one day, I woke up and it wasn’t about what I couldn’t eat.  It was about what I could eat.  The world opened up – fresh fruits and veggies, new grains like quinoa, every type of rice, fresh herbs, exotic spices, pomegranate syrup, homemade salad dressings, rich gluten-free soy sauce, the world’s best pie crust.

And yes, wedding cake.

Gluten-free friends, what are your tips?  Do you have any favorite mixes, recipes or resources?  Let us know in the comments!

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

I remember the first time I decided to make gluten-free banana bread.  It was fall.  I dreamed of the days when I’d eat a piece of buttered, hot banana bread and drink a cup of hot tea for breakfast.

Those were the days – back before I learned that gluten was the poison wrecking my body.  But those days were gone.  There was no way I would ever find a good gluten-free banana bread recipe, so I thought.  Boy was I wrong.

There’s something you need to know about me and gluten-free baking.  Often I take the path of least resistance.  I want it to be as simple as possible.  I’m not as cool as the Gluten-Free Girl, who bakes by weight.  I may try it someday, but for now I don’t bake enough to learn.  I do make my own flour mix, but beyond that, I’m lazy.  Sorry to disappoint you.

I remember searching the internet for gluten-free banana bread recipes.  They were horrible.  Obscure flours.  Random ingredients.  Pictures of dry, mealy banana bread.  I didn’t think I’d ever find a recipe.  And I was right.  I didn’t.  I made my own.

I took the banana bread recipe I’d used for years and made a few modifications.  It was perfect.  It was beyond perfect.  It was soft and chewy in the middle and crusty on the top.  And it reminded me that a gluten intolerant life was still a sweet life.

Years later, banana bread at the start of fall is still a reminder of the simple pleasures that do not end when a gluten-free diet begins.

Better Batter flour

This go around, I decided to experiment with Better Batter, a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix.  I wanted to experiment with it for several reasons:

1. I occasionally get calls from people needing advice on modifying a recipe because they’re cooking for a gluten-free friend.  I’m not going to recommend that they go buy $30 worth of ingredients needed to make a flour mixture.  It’s good to be able to recommend a quality all-purpose flour mix.

2. Better Batter is a company worth supporting.  On their website, they offer financial aid purchasing options for gluten-free families on food stamps or gluten-free families who have members undergoing expensive autism treatments (a gluten-free diet has been shown to help people with autism).  Being gluten-free is a financial burden on The Professor and me.  I can’t imagine what it is like for a family below the poverty line.

3. I’ve seen it used on Gluten Free on a Shoestring, one of my favorite gluten-free blogs.

4. Better Batter has xanthan gum already mixed in, so it’s perfect for novices.  Also, it doesn’t have salt.  It’s a big pet peeve of mine – salt in gluten-free mixes.  Gluten-free baked goods become too salty fast.  This is why using unsalted butter is imperative, and why I like adding my own salt.  Thank you very much.

Making banana bread starts with ugly bananas and preheating your oven to 325.  This recipe cooks for a long time, so if you have suspicions that your oven runs hot like mine, now is a good time to buy an oven thermometer.  You don’t want to burn your banana bread.  That would be tragic.

This is also a good time to grease and flour your pan.  Make sure to use gluten-free cooking spray and gluten-free flour.  I hate this step and always procrastinate it.  Don’t do that.

Cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the bananas, eggs and vanilla.

I didn’t take a picture of the opened over-ripe bananas.  They looked like parasitic space worms from a Star Trek episode I watched a long time ago.  I didn’t want you to have to see that.  Enjoy this pretty picture of sugar instead.  Plus I’m confident that you all know what sugar and butter looks like.

My friend Elizabeth made this for me for Christmas two years ago.  Homemade vanilla.  It’s way good.

I was really pleased with the texture of the Better Batter flour.  It wasn’t the slightest bit grainy.

This is my banana bread secret ingredient, given to me by my bestie, Sarah, and her husband, Jon.  It is the best cinnamon ever.  In fact, the label says that you should use only a 1/3 of the called for amount because it is so strong.  Directions which I whole-hardheartedly ignore.

If you are not using a mix and instead using flour and xanthan gum, it’s especially important to mix the wet and dry ingredients separately so that the xanthan gum gets good and incorporated into the flour before it hits the liquid.  Liquid activates xanthan’s gluten-mimicking sticky goodness.

Did I mention that this is chocolate chip, pecan banana bread, also known as the path to world peace.

Add your chocolate chips or pecans (if you want those) after everything’s good and mixed.  Throw into your pan and bake for a looooooong time.  Until a knife comes out cleanish.  If it’s been cooking for more than an hour and fifteen minutes and your knife is still a little doughy, take the bread out.  You don’t want it to get dry, and it will continue to cook as it cools.  Mine usually cooks for an hour and fifteen minutes.

The result with the Better Batter was perfection!  If you’re gluten-free and looking for a quick dessert, or if you have a gluten-free friend you want to cook for, I recommend Better Batter for banana bread and other quick breads.

I also used Better Batter to make chocolate chip cookies and sweet corn fritters.  Those reviews and recipes will come soon.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread Recipe
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Ingredients
  1. 1 full stick of unsalted butter (or casein-free margarine), softened to room temperature
  2. 4 large, ripe bananas, mashed
  3. 1 1/4 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
  4. 2 large eggs
  5. 2 cups gluten-free flour mix and 3/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum OR 2 cups Better Batter mix.
  6. 1 cup granulated sugar
  7. 1 cup of chopped nuts and chocolate chips (optional)
  8. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of cinnamon
Instructions
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 325
  2. 2. Grease and rice flour a 9-inch loaf pan.
  3. 3. Blend butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy.
  4. 4. Add vanilla, eggs and bananas.
  5. 5. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl; add slowly to banana and butter mixture.
  6. 6. Add nuts, if desired.
  7. 7. Blend batter until well mixed and then turn into loaf pan.
  8. 8. Bake for 70-90 minutes or until edges are browned and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean(ish).
  9. 9. Remove from pan and allow to cool.
  10. 10. Put it on a pretty plate. Make yourself a cup of tea and eat, feeling very fancy and special.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

Roasted Beets Recipe

People say they don’t like beets, but what they mean is they don’t like pickled beets.  Pickled beets, the ones in the canned vegetable aisle, have a particular taste.  They’re sweet, but more than anything, they radiate that unmistakable pickled taste.  Roasted beets are nothing like that.

Roasted beets are sweet.  Some of their edges are caramelized.  Cooked with kosher salt, they have a salty crunchiness, and they have the beautiful undertone of olive oil.

Roasted beets are the perfect food.  Their subtle sweetness is paired perfectly with feta in salads, or with herbed cream cheese on sweet corn fritters or on burgers if you’re in the Antipodes or if you’re me.

Here is how you roast beets.  First, and this is important, change clothes.  Change into something you don’t care about getting ruined.  There’s a reason beets have been used as dye for thousands of years.  Oh, and turn your oven on to 400.

I got orange beets and then forgot to cook them.  A few weeks later, I got red beets.  The orange beets were a little mushy, but they were fine to cook.  Beets are low maintenance and forgiving like that.

Give the beets a good scrub with the brush you use to scrub potatoes.

Cut off the heads and the tails.  The tails are the rat tail looking root thing.

Aren’t they so pretty!

Cut them into halves or quarters…or smaller if you want.  I was in a hurry, so I cut them in sixths.  The smaller they are, the faster they cook.  If you cut them in half, they’ll take an hour to an hour and a half, or so.  Cut into sixths, they took about 30 minutes.

Drizzle them with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, and then wrap them up good and tight in foil.

This step is important.  Put your foil-wrapped pouches into a pan.  They can sometimes leak, and an oven full of burning beet juice is not a happy oven.

Let them roast.  If you’ve cut them up, check them after 30 minutes or so.  A knife should go in with minimal resistance.

Cut off the skins.  (The orange beets’ skins caramelized, so I left them on.  I’m not sure if that’s okay, but I didn’t die, so I guess it was fine.  Just be sure to give them a really good scrub at the beginning).

PS – pardon the blurry picture.  By this time, my guests had arrived.  I was cooking and entertaining and taking pictures of my food.  Thankfully, it was my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who came over.  And they already know that I’m weird.

And voila!  Roasted beets.

They’ll change your life.  Oh and public service announcement: if you eat a lot of red beets in a short period of time, they’ll change everything that comes out of you magenta.  Everything.  Sorry for the TMI, but the first time I ate a lot of beets, I thought that I was dying.  And I don’t want that to happen to you.

Roasted Beets
Serves 4
Roasted beets are sweet, carmelized and amazing. They pair well with feta in salads or herbed cream cheese on corn fritters!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 bunch ofbeets
  2. Generous drizzle of Olive OIl
  3. 1 tsp kosher salt
  4. Pinch black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Scrub, head and tail and cut beets into halves, quarters or sixths, depending on how much time you have to cook the beets.
  3. Wrap part way in foil. Drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Wrap foil the rest of the way so the beets are completely enclosed. Place package in a cookie sheet to catch any possible spills, and place in the oven.
  4. Roast at 400 degrees until a knife goes in easily - a minimum of 30 minutes for small cuts of beets. Up to an hour and a half for whole or halved beets.
  5. Enjoy on salads, burgers or as a side!
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/