Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Allergy-Free Thanksgiving: Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving could be a challenge for someone with food allergies. Think about all the classic recipes: green bean casserole with cream soup...sweet potatoes with a crumb topping...mashed potatoes with flour-thickened gravy...and let's not forget stuffing/dressing.

I'll tackle the sweet potatoes. There are yummy alternative recipes for the rest out there on the net, and in print. Living Without just did a holiday special edition with a whole spread of gluten-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving recipes (sadly, not all of them are egg-free, the major allergen in our house). The Gluten-Free Goddess also just posted a collection of gluten-free, mostly vegan Thanksgiving sides.

Anyway, the sweet potatoes. Our traditional recipe involves a lot of butter, coconut, brown sugar, and a crumb topping. A crumb topping made with flour and nuts. The thing I have noticed about gluten-free all-purpose flour (at least the brand I have been using), is that it sometimes has a, well, beany taste in its unbaked form. Licking the beaters after making a cake is not as sinfully delicious as it once was. I didn't particularly want to stake my Thanksgiving sweet potatoes on flour that might give questionable results in this usage.

With that in the back of my mind, and with an idea from the last go-round with food allergies, I decided to try sweet potatoes with apples. It's a blessedly simple idea, and comes together very fast. I fixed it in the twenty minutes I had one evening between the time I got home, and the time we had to leave for a community Thanksgiving dinner, although the sweet potatoes were already cooked. At that dinner, someone at our table raved about how good the sweet potatoes were, unaware that the harried cook was sitting across from them. I love unsolicited compliments!

Sweet Potatoes & Apples

2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
4-5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
6 tablespoons butter or acceptable margarine, divided (I couldn't give up all the butter!)
4 tablespoons brown sugar

While 3 tablespoons of the butter are melting in a medium skillet, peel, core and slice apples. An apple corer-wedger makes quick work of this step. When the butter is melted, add the sliced apples and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples are softened and slightly caramelized.

While the apples are cooking, dice the cooked sweet potatoes. You can decide how chunky you want them. I made them fairly small, because I knew my 1-year-old, 2-toothed son would be eating them.

When the apples are done, add them to the sweet potatoes in a microwave-safe serving dish. Top with remaining butter and brown sugar. Microwave on High 1 to 2 minutes, until sweet potatoes are heated through and butter is at least starting to melt. Stir to coat sweet potatoes and apples with brown sugar and butter.

There you go. Super simple and quick. Yum.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Enchilada Lasagna

Since lasagna is pretty much out (at least without either driving an hour and a half to a Whole Foods Market or spending a fortune in shipping and hoping it gets here in good shape), I've been brainstorming a decent replacement. A craving for Mexican gave me an idea for somewhat of a solution. This won't replace classic Italian lasagna by any means, but it still turned out yummy enough that the kids asked to take it for "cold" lunch.

Ingredient notes: As always, read labels. Most corn tortillas (at least in my experience) do not contain flour, but watch just in case. Go for a minimal ingredient list--usually something along the lines of corn meal (masa); lard, shortening or oil; lime. If using a commercial enchilada sauce, again read labels closely. I used the recipe from Dining on a Dime, mainly because I didn't have any canned enchilada sauce in the house.

Enchilada Lasagna

9 large corn tortillas
4 cups cooked, diced chicken
16 ounces enchilada sauce (homemade or store-bought)
2-4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 small can black olives, sliced or chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x12-inch pan.

Cover the bottom of the pan with corn tortillas (about 3). They will overlap, and there will be gaps along the edges. This is okay. Spread with 1/3 of the enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with half the chicken and a good handful or two of cheese. Top with 3 more corn tortillas. Spread with 1/3 of the enchilada sauce and sprinkle remaining chicken over. Top with sour cream. It's impossible at this point to spread the sour cream without ending up with a big saucy mess, but try to dollop it to cover as much of the chicken as possible. Top with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over all, making sure the top tortillas are at least moistened. Sprinkle 1 or 2 more handfuls of cheese over top, then top with black olives.

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven to allow it to set up a little. This is good with Spanish rice or salsa rice, and corn.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tuna Casserole

One of my all-time biggest comfort foods is Tuna Casserole. My kids and I can clean out a whole 9-inch square pan, with no leftovers. However, the usual Tuna Casserole presents a problem for our new food-allergy-free diet. Our traditional recipe relies on cream of mushroom soup and egg noodles. With wheat and egg allergies, these are out. I had just about given up having tuna casserole as long as allergies were an issue, until a couple of things came together to inspire a solution.

For the first, my mother (who is low-carb) made a delicious casserole, with a sour cream base, cauliflower, sausage, chicken and celery. Yum. It was good, but it didn't really sink in to me that this was the start of a solution to the tuna casserole dilemma.

Until the second incident. I was on the way back to work after taking DS#1 back to school after a doctor's appointment, when I caught part of a show from our local(ish) NPR affiliate, KCUR (Kansas City, MO), on which Emily Farris, author of Casserole Crazy: Hot Stuff for Your Oven, discussed the 2nd Annual Kansas City Casserole Party. (You can find the podcast of the episode on KCUR's website, under Central Standard.) After listening to discussions of casseroles, including comments from a caller who was gluten-free, I realized that I did still miss Tuna Casserole, but now I had ideas.

Pretty much winging it, I decided it was high time for some kitchen experimenting. To my delight, it turned out delicious on the first try. The kids didn't even miss the cream soup and pasta, and once again, we cleaned the pan (or at least the kids did).

A note on the ingredients. I used Mr. Dell's Hash Brown Potatoes, which has the remarkably simple ingredient list: Potatoes. This could be made more cheaply with home-shredded potatoes, but I went for convenience here. The cooking time may need to be adjusted if you use fresh potatoes. For the potato chips, I used Lay's Classic, which again, has a pretty simple ingredient list. Sour cream and onion chips are also good.

Tuna Tater Casserole

2 cans (3 ounces each) tuna, drained
2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups potato chips, crushed

Put all ingredients except potato chips in a large bowl and mix well, then spread in a 8- or 9-inch square casserole dish. Sprinkle crushed potato chips over the top. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. This will get the hash browns "al dente"; for softer potatoes, cook for a few minutes longer. Makes 4 servings, or 3 if you have hungry boys.