gluten-free

Food Prep – Beans: Soaking, Cooking, & Freezing

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I tend to use a lot of beans in my recipes, whether it’s chili, soups, or a side dish! I’ve used cans, but there is something about seeing that viscous liquid coating the beans that always makes my stomach turn. No matter how much I rinse my beans, I can’t get that vision out of my mind! Some years ago, when I was single, I’d soak and cook and freeze my beans in 2 cup portions for use whenever a recipe called for beans. I got out of that habit due to convenience, but now I’m back at it!

On my last grocery trip, I purchased four 1-pound bags of dried beans – pinto, black, great northern white, and kidney. I rinsed then soaked the pinto, white, and kidney beans for about 20 hours, changing the water and rinsing the beans once throughout to ensure that those nasty gas causing agents were being eliminated. Once they were done soaking, I cooked all 3 varieties on the stove-top, adding a little kosher salt, onion powder, and a bay leaf to each pot. Once they were done cooking, I measured 2 cups into each pint sized freezer bag, which gave me approximately 3 cans per pound of beans. Each 1-pound bag of beans cost me about $1 while a can of beans can is just under that most times (& sometimes more, depending on the variety!)

Beans, beans!
Beans, beans!

I labeled each one and stuck them in the freezer for use. No thawing is required if adding them to a soup or chili. They will thaw while cooking.

Next up is chickpeas and black beans! For my chickpeas, I’ve always cooked those using Alton Brown’s method and they always come out perfectly! I use those chickpeas to make my own hummus as well as for use in Budget Bytes’ quick curried chickpeas! Soaking and cooking your own beans can be a little time consuming, but it can save you so much money over a year’s time (if you use beans like I do!) and it is so much better for you. Canned items contain so much in the way of sodium and preservatives which can mean bad things for your overall health.

Note: If cooking kidney beans, make sure that you cook them completely through! They contain phytohaemagglutinin which is a toxin that causes severe gastric distress resulting in nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea!

Here are some helpful links if you’re interested in cooking and storing your own beans:

Kitchen Treaty | How to Cook Dried Beans & Freeze Them for Later
Whole Foods | All About Beans
Lifehacker | Cheat Sheet: Soaking & Cooking Dried Beans

Have you ever tried cooking and freezing your own beans? What have you used them for? What’s your favorite bean to cook with?

Budget Bytes – Ground Turkey and Kale Soup

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One of my favorite recipe sites is Budget Bytes. It is a great site that contains tons of recipes that can easily be made on a budget. Whether you’re looking for soups, sandwiches, seafood, poultry, Mediterranean, gluten free, vegetarian – whatever you’re in need of, you can find it at Budget Bytes. I have discovered some favorites and new staples over the past several months such as:

Unstuffed bell peppers
Homemade chicken noodle soup
Tandoori chicken dinner
Yellow rice chicken skillet
Easy oven fajitas

Every time I create my 2 week meal plan, you can bet that there will be at least 3 or 4 recipes from Budget Bytes. The latest recipe I tried was the sausage & kale soup. However, since I am not a fan of cooking with pork (or Italian sausage, in general), I decided to sub a pound of ground turkey which I browned with a little cracked red pepper and kosher salt. Yum!

A side note on prep – on my last grocery trip, I purchased spinach, spring mix, and kale for use in green smoothies. I’d rinsed them and stored them in our freezer for easy use in the mornings (and to prevent it from going to waste!) My kale was already rinsed and ready and frozen. In addition, I’d spent part of my Saturday and part of my Sunday soaking, cooking, and storing beans in 2 cup portions (approximately the size of a can). I’ll post more on that in the near future. In the recipe, Beth at Budget Bytes also suggested chopping and freezing carrots and celery which I did as well!

Now here I must admit – I really enjoy hand chopping my veggies. I don’t always love it, but most times, I do. I just got a new food processor back in December, but sometimes I just want larger, more uniform pieces. I chopped my carrots, celery, onion, and minced my garlic and I was ready to rock.

Minced garlic, chopped garlic, onion, & celery
Minced garlic, chopped garlic, onion, & celery
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Ground turkey and veggies sauteeing in olive oil
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Frozen kale and my cooked & frozen great northern beans
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Adding that delicious frozen kale!
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Adding the white beans

Now, she does note in the recipe that you can use vegetable or chicken base, and I opted for vegetable since it’s predominantly veggies & there was no chicken in the recipe. I love using Better than Bouillon’s bases and I have their vegetable, chicken, and beef bases.

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Better than Bouillon organic vegetable base

They are so flavorful and really save me money! Instead of paying for cans of broth, or sodium & MSG laden cubes, I have these organic bases! Good for the wallet and the body!

Now, I didn’t get a picture of the soup when it was done, but it was pretty good. I had to adjust the seasonings by adding kosher salt, white pepper, and some onion powder. I would not put it in my frequent rotation, but I can see myself making it again & would definitely play with the seasonings more! However, I do like that it was very quick & easy to put together, naturally gluten free (watch your broth ingredients always to make sure!), very nutritious and chock full of delicious vegetables. Our bodies appreciated it and our budget did too.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten Free & Delicious!)

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DSC06165One of my favorite go-to recipes for my husband, for friends, and for events is Tollhouse’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. I cannot tell you how many batches upon batches of cookies I have made in the past several years with that recipe! It always gets rave reviews and I always have to confess that it is no recipe concoction of my own! After I decided to bid gluten adieu, I tried the recipe using King Arthur’s GF multi purpose flour (& no xanthan gum, mind you) and ended up making some flat cookie patties! Ha! They tasted great, but sorely lacked dimension.

A close friend of mine, Enrica, sends me a lot of great gluten-free dessert pins, for which I am so thankful! One of the recipe pins she recommended a while ago was a recipe for chewy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. What!? I was hesitant for a moment, breaking away from my tried & true Tollhouse recipe (I am still determined to make it work!), but I’d decided to try it. I purchased some gluten free oats, put them in my Ninja blender, and decided to try these out.

Note: Bob’s Red Mill does make a gluten free oat flour, but once I found out that oat flour is just oats ground into a powder, I decided to do it myself. It ended up being much less expensive & more economical for me to purchase a 2 pound bag of oats versus a 1 pound bag of oat flour. Tip: Bob’s Red Mill offers a $1 off coupon. Click here to access it!

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The recipe was certainly easy, didn’t call for other flours, and required no xanthan gum. And the taste of the cookies – outstanding! The texture was assuredly different from the Tollhouse cookies due to the oats, but I didn’t care – they were delicious! They passed the husband test too! I brought some to our church for our staff and they enjoyed them as well. I have made them a few of times since the first, sending some to my family and they were a hit with them too. These cookies are not ‘good for gluten-free’; they’re just good!

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The only thing I would do different is refrigerate the dough, but that’s it! Even without chilling the dough, they came out wonderfully!

Going Gluten Free! Again!

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I am not really good at blogging frequently. One look at my blog and you have probably figured that out. Now that school is out for the Summer, time looks different, so hopefully my posts will be more frequent. (And by frequent, I am hoping at least 1 weekly!)

gfreeAbout 3 months ago, I decided to get back to my ‘gluten-free roots’, haha! I was gluten-free in 2010-2011. I’d noticed that when I ate certain items with wheat, I’d have some strange reactions so I decided to eliminate that from my diet. I had blood work done to test for celiac sprue, which came back negative at the time, but I knew how consuming gluten made me feel. When I moved to Austin in late 2011, I let go of my gluten-free diet and started to consume it again. I didn’t have the same reactions so I thought that maybe I was in the ‘clear’ and it was just a temporary intolerance. Breads, cakes, and cookies were my friends again! Or… so I thought.

Due to several reasons earlier this year, I decided to do some research and conduct my own personal experiment. I went gluten-free for a couple of weeks. I attended small group during that time where spaghetti and bread was being served. I decided to partake, thinking I’d be okay. Not even! Later that night, I felt horrible. I felt sluggish & exhausted for days, nauseated, and my body ached pretty badly. Those were just a few of the things happening to me! I thought to myself, If this is how I feel after eating gluten now, how has my body been reacting internally all this time? I decided at that moment to completely go back to being gluten-free.

Has it been difficult? Yes! Some of the restaurants that my husband and I enjoy have some amazing bread! Hello, Olive Garden! Hello, Longhorn Steakhouse! And oh, how I miss eating naan when we have Indian food. However, I know that this has been the better option for my health. I do feel a lot better these days, and I can tell when I’ve been ‘glutened’. Because I have been gluten-free these past few months, my body has a strong reaction when I do eat it. I have been finding new ways to make the foods & sweets that I have enjoyed. One thing my husband and I like is homemade spaghetti. In addition to wheat pasta, our local grocery store offers corn pasta. I have been using this when I make spaghetti and it has gone over well.

What about chocolate chip cookies?! Thankfully, I have a recipe for those that uses oat flour. Slowly, but surely, I am finding healthier, gluten-free ways to enjoy the things I miss. For any of you that are considering going gluten free, I thought I’d share some of my favorite substitutes and recipes that have been in frequent rotation. I’ll also share some of the not so great substitutes! Look out for those in my next post!

Are you gluten-free (or considering it)? What have been your experiences?