Gluten-free on the Road and a slow cooker mashed potato recipe!

Cooking in a kitchen that is not your own can be nerve wracking! Whether your home kitchen is fully gluten-free (GF) or not, cooking at a vacation rental or someone else’s house requires an extra level of preparedness to be safe.

If the house is close by, one option is to make the meal at your own house and bring it with you. When driving for a trip, I pack a Rubbermaid tub with the cooking essentials. If we are sharing the house with others, I make sure everyone knows that that box is only to be used for gluten-free cooking.

Checklist for Cooking Meals in a Non-GF Kitchen:

  1. Aluminum foil (and lots of it!) – this can cover cookie sheets, serving platters and grills and wrap around food to keep the chance of cross-contamination low. Don’t forget a sharpie to mark GF as needed.
  2. Cutting board (Bring a large wooden cutting board to double as a serving platter for you’re your Thanksgiving turkey if needed)
  3. Frying pan
  4. Pasta pot
  5. Colander
  6. Paper plates and bowls
  7. Plastic cups
  8. Plastic forks, spoons and knives
  9. Chef’s knife (transport it in a paper towel tube)
  10. Spatula
  11. Whisk (I have used a plastic fork instead of whisk many times, so bring it only if you have space)
  12. Mixing spoon that can double as a serving spoon
  13. Gallon and sandwich size Ziploc bags or containers for leftovers
  14. Chicken stock
  15. GF flour
  16. Sugar, salt and pepper, condiments and other herbs that you like to keep separate
  17. Aluminum cake pans, casserole or bread pans, if needed
  18. Crockpot or crockpot liners (When not using the crockpot, I use the bowl as my mixing bowl for other recipes)
  19. Cheese grater

To separate items in the refrigerator, either designate a separate shelf (the higher the better) and/or a drawer. If it’s a small amount put it in a small Rubbermaid bin.

This seems like a lot. I know. It’s a mobile kitchen. If you are not going to be cooking entire meals, then you will not need all these items. Everyone’s checklist will look different depending on what you are cooking. Keep your recipes simple and bring only what you need to make your recipes. If you are flying, consider buying cheap or one-use versions of what you might need at your destination.

An easy way to keep things simple while on vacation is to make a one pot meal in a crock pot. It will feed a crowd, allow you to enjoy the day and can easily be made gluten-free. This is especially important on holidays. Here is a mashed potato recipe you can make entirely in your crock pot.

Slow Cooker Mashed potatoes

Ingredients

About 6 medium yellow potatoes, washed and diced

1 ½ cups milk

3 Tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

4 ounces of cream cheese, optional

Directions

Add potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper to slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Add cream cheese if you like cheesier mashed potatoes. Mash or whip with handheld mixer. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed and it is ready to serve. To keep warm, pour about 1/4 cup of milk over top, cover and set on low or warm until service. Then just mix in milk and its ready for some gravy!

How do you cook gluten or allergen free when you are traveling? You can try my easy chili  or pasta with mascarpone recipe.

Shepherd’s Pie, easy meal for the freezer or a for a friend

Spring is in full swing! Some days here in New England are 90 degrees and others barely reach 60. Having delicious comfort food meals in the freezer for you, your guests or to bring for a friend in need is very helpful. Shepherd’s Pie is one of my favorites. I love it. It is one of the few ways I can get my kids to eat mashed potatoes! They eat many things and eat potatoes in most other forms, but for some reason mashed potatoes are in their mind, a form of torture that I save only for them 😉

Shepherd’s Pie is great to bring to new parents who need a meal or a friend who has just moved or had surgery. It is great to bring to a potluck or serve at a graduation celebration. It is naturally gluten free by using cornstarch instead of flour to thicken the meat sauce. No one will miss the gluten.

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

3 pounds of ground meat (beef, pork or turkey…I often use a mixture of beef and pork)

1 white onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 sprigs thyme

1 cup of beef stock

2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

5 russet potatoes, diced

1 teaspoon of salt

2/3 cup of milk

2 Tablespoons cream cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon of paprika

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown meat in large high rimmed, oven safe sauté pan.  Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and thyme. Stir occasionally and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. In a small bowl mix stock, vinegar and cornstarch. Pour into meat mixture. Combine and cook on medium to low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add potatoes and salt to stock pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for about 20 minutes. When potatoes are soft, drain and add milk and cream cheese, then mash together. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Spoon mashed potatoes over the meat mixture and smooth out with spatula. Top with a sprinkle of paprika and place in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes. Serve!

If you plan to freeze or gift the shepherd’s pie, first pour the meat mixture into a foil casserole dish and then smooth potatoes over the top before cooking.

For a fancy twist, you can make baked potatoes and scoop out the insides, make mashed potatoes with the insides and then spoon the meat mixture into the skins. Simply cover with mashed potatoes and bake. Twice baked shepherds pie..mmmm!

What is your favorite meal to freeze? What is your favorite meal you have received in a time of need? Here are some other freezer meals or meals to bring a friend:

Gluten-Free Stuffed Shells

Meatballs

Meatloaf

Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-cheese

Sweet Potato Enchiladas

 

 

 

 

Gluten-free Stuffed Shells for a Party

Graduations, end of school year parties and summer holidays are all upon us. It can be a challenge to host a celebration at your house if you have celiac disease or have a family member with it. It doesn’t have to be! Here are some of my ideas for hosting a large gathering that is completely gluten free and no one will even miss the gluten!!

A tray of stuffed shells are a great way to feed a crowd. I was so excited when browsing at my local Italian specialties store (Alfredo’s) and I found an entire end cap filled with different shapes of imported Italian gluten-free pasta. I bought a 1 pound bag of shells, which made 2 large casserole dishes of stuffed shells. Others have found this pasta at Marshalls, TJ Max or Homegoods. The recipe below is for half of the bag. I made the other half with about 8 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained instead of zucchini and froze it for another time.

Gluten-free stuffed shells

Ingredients

2 small zucchini, shredded

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper

½ teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

About 24 ounces of ricotta cheese

4 to 5 ounces of cream cheese

8 ounces of mozzarella cheese, shredded

About 40 ounces of canned tomato sauce (I like to use part diced and part sauce)

½ teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of ground black pepper

4 to 5 fresh basil leaves, torn

¼ cup shredded cheddar

½ pound of shells (I used ½ a pound of imported Italian GF shells from La Fabbrica Della Pasta)

Directions

Cook pasta according to package. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté zucchini with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a bowl mix the ricotta, cream cheese and 4 ounces of the mozzarella. In another bowl mix tomatoes, salt, pepper and basil leaves. Mix cooked zucchini with the cheese mixture. Pour a layer of tomato sauce in bottom of casserole dish. Then fill each shell with 2-3 Tablespoons of the cheese mixture and place in dish.

Cover with the rest of the sauce, rest of the mozzarella and the cheddar. Cook covered with foil for 20 minutes and uncovered for 20 to 30. Serve or Freeze.

You can serve this with your favorite grilled hot dogs, chicken or ribs and a salad. Cut up a watermelon, put out a large bowl of Pirate’s Booty, Skinny Pop and Cape Cod Chips, serve Hoodsie’s so you don’t have to scoop any ice cream or have popsicles (Outshine or Wegman’s brand are gluten free) and you are all set for a gluten-free party! What is your favorite party food?

Meatloaf Two Ways

Meatloaf is really comfort food at its best. What is better than meatloaf? Meatloaf meatballs! This recipes tells you how to make both from the same mixture. I’m a big fan of making more than I need since it is doing the same work for double recipe. That means I can put something in the freezer to easily pull out one night when I need a quick meal.

Meatloaf (Bulk recipe)

Ingredients

2 pounds of ground beef (top round or sirloin)

1 pound of pork sausage (Wegmans sells 1 pound tubes that are labeled gluten free)

½ cup of gluten free bread crumbs

1 clove of garlic, minced

½ of a red onion, grated

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

½ cup of milk

2 eggs

½ cup of ketchup

1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar

3 Tablespoons of honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together all the ingredients up to and including the eggs.  Make a small patty and cook it, so you can taste for seasoning. Repeat with more seasoning if needed.

For Meatloaf:  Once seasoned to your liking, split the meat mixture in half. Form two loaves of meatloaf. Place them on a metal cooling rack over a baking sheet. Make the sauce by mixing the ketchup, balsamic vinegar and honey together in a small bowl. Pour a couple of tablespoons of sauce over each loaf, then brush to cover. Cook in oven for 50 to 70 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 160 degrees (FDA Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures). Take out of the oven and brush again with sauce. Serve with mashed potatoes and asparagus or polenta and green beans.

For Meatballs: Once seasoned to your liking, make one and a half to two inches in diameter meatballs. Heat a large skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil in it.  Sear each meatball and place on a metal cooling rack over a baking sheet. Cook in oven for about 20 minutes. Check your largest meatball close to the center and make sure it is cooked through.  Serve with the sauce for dipping. Tip: you can keep the meatballs warm by placing them in a slow cooker on warm or low with a little beef stock (enough to cover bottom of pot, not meatballs).

You can make either of these methods to feed a crowd or make one of each and freeze half. I know, I know, some of you don’t like making such big batches 😉 Make a 1/2 batch and let me know how it turns out!

For my family, it works for me to cook in large batches when I have time, so for those many times that I cannot cook, we have something delicious and homemade to pull out of the freezer.

As a family with a child who has celiac disease, our take-out options are limited and often more expensive, so having easy meals in the freezer are a life saver for our busy lifestyle. It helps that we have a large deep freezer in the garage. What are your go to bulk meals?

 

Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

The calendar may say it is spring, but walking outside into 16 degree temperatures this morning, it definitely did not feel like spring! While the weather is still chilly, warm up inside with a new spin on mac-n-cheese. This recipe combines my favorite spinach and artichoke dip with gluten-free pasta. The first time I ever made it I simply used the leftover dip from a party and mixed it with the cooked pasta. Great way to use up leftovers, however making it from scratch as a pasta dish is even better!

Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese

Ingredients

1-12 to 16 ounce package of your favorite GF pasta

1/3 cup of butter

¼ cup of Cup4Cup gluten free flour

2 cups of 2% milk (you can use whole milk)

3 ounces of cream cheese

1 Tablespoon brown spicy mustard

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Juice of ½ a lemon

1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

4 to 6 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1-10 ounce jar of artichokes, drained and chopped

8 ounces of cheddar, shredded (the Alpine Cheddar from Cabot works really well)

Directions

Prepare pasta according to directions on the box. In a large shallow pan, melt butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for a few minutes and then add the milk. Whisk together until all the lumps are out.  Stir in cream cheese, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add spinach and artichokes. Combine and heat through, then add cheddar. Mix to melt the cheese and take off heat. Add drained pasta and serve.

Spring warmth and fresh recipes will come soon enough! For today, I will sit on the couch under a warm fleece blanket and watch movies with my daughter (home sick with strep) and dream of spring. What are you most looking forward to in the spring?

Balsamic Honey Mustard Slow-Cooked Pork Loin

School vacation is over!! While there have been weeks in the past where I have felt sad that school vacation is over, this time, as I drove away, I turned up the music and was literally dancing in my seat! (Sing Justin Timberlake’s, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” when you read that paragraph) Anyway, now back to the routine of cooking and writing (and lots of laundry).

Using your slow cooker is always a great way to have a delicious meal waiting for you when you get home. I especially like to use it on Saturdays when we are running around with errands, parties and basketball games. The aroma that awaits when walking in the door is heavenly.  This pork loin is comfort food at its best. I kept this easy and served it with polenta and microwaved frozen peas on the side. A gorgeous comfort meal with very little effort!

Balsamic Honey Mustard Slow-Cooked Pork

Ingredients

3 to 4 pound pork loin

1 ½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 ½ Tablespoons of olive oil

4 medium shallots, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

2 cups of beef stock

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoon agave syrup

1 Tablespoon of honey mustard

Directions

Rub the salt, pepper and thyme all over the pork loin. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sear the pork loin on all sides.

Place pork in your slow cooker.  Add shallots, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes.

In a measuring cup, mix together stock, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and agave. Pour mixture into skillet with the shallots and garlic, mix and cook for 5 more minutes. Pour liquid, shallots and garlic over the pork in the crock pot. Rub the honey mustard on the top of the pork loin. Cook on high for 1 to 2 hours. Turn slow cooker down to low for 4 to 6 hours. Or cook it on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Gravy

Ingredients

Cooking liquid from slow cooker

3 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon agave syrup

2 Tablespoons of cornstarch

2 Tablespoons of softened butter

Directions

Pour all the shallots, garlic and liquid from the slow cooker into a high sided skillet after the pork is done. Bring to a boil. Add the balsamic vinegar and agave. In a small mug, combine the butter and cornstarch. Whisk the butter and cornstarch mixture into the gravy. Cook about 5 minutes until thick. Pour through sieve into your favorite grave boat (I like to use a travel coffee mug! keeps it warm.)

Looking for other slow cooker ideas?  Check out some of my favorites here.

Make it Hawaiian

Adding pineapple to a dish can transform it to a tropical delight! My family’s love of “Hawaiian” food has grown over the years. We started with Hawaiian pizza (ham and pineapple). Then came the Hawaiian hot dogs. This is now a barbecue must have! Slice a hot dog down the middle and stuff with crushed pineapple. Wrap each hot dog with bacon and grill until bacon is cooked. Easy and delicious!

I recently rediscovered kielbasa. It is a great protein that makes a quick, easy and cheap meal! Of course, I had to make it Hawaiian 🙂

Hawaiian Kielbasa with Rice

Ingredients

1 ½ cups of rice

3 cups of broth or water

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

5 pieces of bacon, chopped

½ of a sweet onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 ½ bell peppers

1 kielbasa, diced

8 ounces of crushed pineapple

3 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Directions

Cook the rice with the broth/water, onion powder, salt and pepper and garlic powder in your rice cooker or on the stove top. Add the oil and bacon to the pan. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add onion, garlic and bell peppers. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the kielbasa and heat through. Add the pineapple, soy sauce and brown sugar, cover and cook for 5 more minutes and it will be ready to serve.

This is a perfect quick weeknight meal or even for entertaining. It would be a great meal for a certain football game on Sunday night 🙂 I’m planning on making  wings and pulled pork on gluten-free pretzel rolls (from one of my favorite sources, Gluten Free on a Shoestring) along with some carrots and hummus and maybe guacamole. What are you making? Making anything “Hawaiian”?

Guacamole, Dip and more Superbowl Ideas, oh my!

As many of you know I am not the biggest football fan 😉  I enjoy cheering local teams though and since I live less than 20 minutes from Gillette Stadium (and shop at the Trader Joe’s in its shadow!), I am looking forward to next Sunday!  I always love a chance to cook, so here are some recipes and ideas for your Superbowl Sunday feast.

This is my favorite Guacamole recipe! Use it on its own to dip your favorite tortilla chips into or add it to a layer dip. You’ll see my idea for a layer dip below.

Guacamole

Ingredients

2 – 3 avocados (depends on size, 2 large or 3 small)

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon of black pepper

4 Tablespoons finely chopped tomatoes

2 Tablespoons of minced red onion

1 handful of cilantro, chopped finely

Directions

Add avocado, lime, salt, cumin and pepper to a medium sized bowl. Mash together with a fork. Add tomatoes, onion and cilantro. Mix together. Add more lime juice if needed on top to keep guacamole from browning.

If you want to make a layered dip, here is an idea:

Take a can of black beans and mash with a fork and place on the bottom of your serving dish.  Place a layer of the guacamole. Take 8 ounces of sour cream and mix with 1 teaspoon of chili powder. Add that as the next layer. Top with 1 cup of shredded cheddar, cilantro, chopped olives and chopped tomatoes. Let sit in fridge for 2- 24 hours. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or add it to a tortilla with some shredded chicken or pork.

Dip, chips, wings, meatballs, ribs, chili, pulled pork, Rainbow pizza or grilled pizza…you name it! There are so many options for your football feast. Desserts? Make these Chex Crispy Bars, Ice cream sundaes, brownies or cupcakes and frost with chocolate frosting and then pipe white frosting to look like laces. Simply having chocolate chip cookies or a bowl of M & Ms or rolos or hershey kisses would be plenty!

What are you having Sunday night for the Superbowl?

Easy Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs

If I want to have a quiet dinner in my house, I serve ribs. My kids love them. Especially one of my boys. He loves to talk, but put some ribs in front of him and he will be completely silent and just eat and eat and eat and eat 🙂

Ribs are best when cooked low and slow and they practically fall off of the bone. This recipe will make your house smell amazing and wow your family at dinner or friends at your next tailgate or game day gathering!

Slow Cooker Barbecue Ribs

Ingredients

15 ounce can of tomato sauce

1 clove of garlic (minced)

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 Tablespoon chili powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

6 Tablespoon of brown sugar

3 Tablespoons of honey mustard

3 Tablespoons of soy sauce

5 Tablespoons of cider vinegar

3 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 rack of ribs (2 to 3 pounds), brined

5 sprigs of thyme

3 small onions, sliced

Directions

Mix all ingredients together, except for ribs, thyme and onions.

Turn your slow cooker on high and add the ribs. Pour half of the sauce on the ribs, reserve the rest of later. Add thyme and onions to slowcooker as well and mix with the ribs and sauce.

Cover and cook on high for 1 hour and 30, minutes and on low for another 2-3 hours.  Take ribs out, put on platter and top with the remaining sauce.

You don’t have to brine the ribs, but do it once and you will know why I brine all my pork and poultry. I have even tried it with beef, using pickling spices and it had a mild corned beef flavor. Delicious!

Serve with the apricot wings I posted earlier in the week and some easy appetizers if making for a party. For dinner, I often serve it with polenta and green beans.

Swedish Meatballs

Over the past couple of months I have written about Bahn Mi Meatballs, Taco Meatballs, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Stuffed Italian Meatballs, Greek Meatballs and even Simple and Plain Meatballs waiting for your own favorite sauce.

One of the favorites in our family is Swedish Meatballs. This is a perfect, stick to your ribs kind of meal perfect comfort food for this weekend while you are watching football, warming up after a day on the slopes or just coming home after a day of carting your kids around to all their different activities.

Swedish meatballs

Ingredients

About 2 pounds of meatballs, thawed (You can use these Plain and Simple Meatballs)

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

½ of a medium sweet onion diced

1 clove of garlic minced

6 Tablespoons of butter

6 Tablespoons of flour (I like to use Gluten Free Cup4Cup)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves, optional

1 teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of pepper

3 cups of chicken or beef stock

1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice

½ cup of heavy cream

 Directions

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and cook onions and garlic until translucent. Add butter, flour and spices. Whisk until butter is melted and flour is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in stock, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice until thickened. Add heavy cream. Stir to combine. Add meatballs and heat them through.

Serve with your favorite noodles or mashed potatoes. I even had the leftovers on top of gluten-free buttermilk biscuits the next morning (a play on biscuits and gravy) to fuel up to shovel the foot of snow we got the night before. I’m testing the biscuit recipes and will share them with you soon!

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