Bow to the Queen of Carbs

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Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin Filling

This is my salute to hot lettuce wraps, to which my family loves, but to which I am not a particular fan. I like my lettuce wraps cold and refreshing or a bit offbeat, as in Thai lettuce wraps, composed of toasted coconut, peanuts, chilies, and other toppings. However, this is far less time consuming, is perfect for a weeknight meal (or a snack), and can be varied in many ways. If you happen to have baked tofu, as I did, this meal comes together in about 15 minutes. The sauce is assertive, so if you don't have any baked tofu lying about, pan fried tofu, steamed tempeh, fried tofu, or even chickpeas would work here. If you are not vegan, I imagine any light protein of choice would be good here.

Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin Filling

Half a block of Baked Tofu
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 large onion or 1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 small knob ginger, grated
2 Tbsp sake or mirin
1 tsp agave or other sweetener
3 tbsp GF Hoisin Sauce, storebought or homemade
2 tsp smooth dijon mustard, like Grey Poupon
4-5 iceberg lettuce leaves
chopped mint & cilantro (optional)
small handful salad greens (optional)
mung bean sprouts (optional)

Prepare baked tofu or protein of choice. Dice into small bite sized morsels. Bring a small pan over medium-low heat, and add the onions, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger (grated directly into the pan). When the onions are softened, add the sake and agave and let it reduce until most of the liquid has absorbed or evaporated, about 1-2 minutes. While it is reducing, mix together the hoisin sauce and the dijon mustard in a small bowl and add to the pan. Incorporate the sauce into the vegetables and remove from heat when they are appropriately glazed.

Add the baked tofu to the mixture and let sit while preparing your lettuce leaves. Into each leaf and some salad greens, a bit of the mint and cilantro mixture, and mung bean sprouts. Top this with the hot filling. Serve immediately

Makes 4-5 wraps.


Tofu $1.25 (Half of a $2 box of tofu + Soy Sauce glaze)
Onion $.20 ($.40/lb)
Red Pepper $.50 ($1 each)
Garlic $.05 ($.50 for 3 heads)
Ginger $.05 (guestimation)
Sake $.20 ($3.79 for a large bottle)
Hoisin Sauce $.05 (GF storebought clearance, guestimation)
Dijon $.10 ($3 clearance for large bottle)
Lettuce $.40 ($1 per head, 4 leaves used)
Mint $.50 ($3 for a small organic package. Ouch)
Cilantro $.03 (3 bunches for $1)
Salad Greens $.23 ($3 for a large container, guestimation)
Mung Bean Sprouts $.20 ($.79 for package, small amt used)

TOTAL=$3.76 ($2.80 bare bones), $.75-$.94
per serving

Cassoulet with Baby Limas, Potatoes, and "Buttermilk" Biscuits

Cassoulet is my version of lazy food when I have almost no fresh veggies in the house, have very little time and when I'm hungrier than heck. My love of cassoulet began in my vegan years (I can't say I've ever had a meaty version) when it took a million fresh veggies and over an hour to get into the oven. Needless to say, I've shortened the process and in my house, one cassoulet is never the same as the next. It's the kind of meal based on a formula and not on actual ingredients. For me, the only things that say the same is the thickened thyme gravy and the biscuits baked on top. Other than that, it varies depending on what I have in the fridge and freezer and in the warmer months, what's in the garden. It is, without a doubt, the definition of quick and easy (and nutritious!) comfort food.

Cassoulet with Baby Limas, Potatoes and "Buttermilk" Biscuits

1 tbsp oil
1/2 large onion or 1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 medium waxy potatoes, diced small
3 tbsp dried thyme
3-5 oz. button or cremini mushrooms
splash of red wine
6-12 oz. frozen baby lima beans
2 tsp bouillon + 2 cups water OR vegetable stock
2 tbsp corn starch + 2 tbsp water
salt to taste

1 3/4 cup GF Flour Mix
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk + 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an oven-safe skillet (preferably cast iron) heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the diced onion and carrot until they begin to soften and release their juices. Add the diced potato (make sure they are of uniform size) and cook until the liquid has covered the potatoes. Add the thyme and cook veggies for another 1 to three minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until the mixture begins to adhere to the pan and required a little bit of liquid to deglaze, about 3 - 5 minutes.

Add splash of red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to make loose anything that has stuck. Add the frozen limas (I recommend the lesser amt unless you absolutely love limas) and immediately add water and bouillon or stock. Mix the corn starch and water in a separate bowl and add to the liquid. You may need to add more bouillon--adjust the thickness to your preference. Once it has reached that point, remove pan from heat and begin making biscuits.

Pour milk into a measuring cup and stir in the vinegar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten free flour mix, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Add the shortening. With your hands mix in the shortening until evenly distributed (it should feel a little sandy). Add the milk and vinegar mixture to the flour and mix with a spoon until well combined. Mixture should be sticky, yet a little fluffy from the corn meal. With a cookie or muffin scoop (or a spoon), add the biscuit mixture in balls on top of the cassoulet. Make sure the batter does not touch.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 - 20 minutes. If worried about overflow, place a baking sheet below the skillet. Biscuits should be golden and firm to the touch. Serve immediately

Makes 8-10 pancakes

Oil $.04 ($2 bottle has 95 tbsp)
Onion $.20 ($.40/lb)
Carrot $.10 ($4 for 5 lbs organic)
Potatoes $.27 ($8 for 15 lbs)
Thyme $.20
Mushrooms $.85 ($2.85/lb)
Red wine $.05 (less than 1/8 cup of a $5 bottle)
Frozen Limas $.79 (12 oz package)
Bouillon $.20 ($2.50 per jar)
Cornstarch $.03 ($.99 package)
GF Flour $3.25
Cornmeal $.08
Sea Salt $.001 (also not typo--$3 for 5lb bag )
Baking Powder $.10
Shortening $.10 ($2 large container)
Milk $.09 ($1 for half gallon *sale + really good coupon)
Vinegar $.10

TOTAL=$6.45, $.64-$.81
per serving

Perfect Blueberry Pancakes

Pancakes are easy. For regular gluten eating people and for gluten-free people. You see, my theory is that gluten-free people over think the humble pancake. They start messing with a bunch of different flours and add eggs and then they begin to wonder if they need extra leavening and before you know it, the uncomplicated meal becomes way too complicated. First rule--you don't need a lot of flours to make pancakes work. You just need a relatively high starch ratio (I use my own semi-all purpose mix). Second rule--don't mess around with eggs. Go vegan here even if it's not your inclination. Vegan pancakes are beyond easy and don't require any egg replacer. Third rule--for this recipe, keep it simple. I used blueberries, but you could use any fruit you want. Or skip the fruit altogether. I guarantee they'll taste like the pancakes you used to have pre-diagnosis. Fluffy, light, and absolutely delectable. I'll post more specialized pancakes in the near future. Because, really, I eat a lot of pancakes. Brunch is kind of my thing. Go make some pancakes!

Note:If you don't have the GF mix already pre-mixed, try using 1/2 cup sorghum, 1/2 cup tapioca starch, 1/6 cup millet and 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (or guar gum). This should equal 1 1/6 cup. Reduce the milk to 3/4 cup (keep vinegar the same) and if the mixture is too thick, add more milk 1 tbsp at a time until you reach the right consistency.

Perfect Blueberry Pancakes

1 1/4 cup GF Flour Mix
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup non-dairy milk + 1 tsp mild vinegar (or use buttermilk if not vegan)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 - 1 cup blueberries

In a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and all the wet ingredients. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and well-incorporated.

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium low to medium. Using a 1/4 cup, pour pancakes one at a time onto the skillet and cook until the pancake puffs and bubbles form and the top looks semi-dry. This should take 3 -5 minutes depending on your heat source. Flip the pancake and cook for approximately anotther 1 -3 minutes. Remove from heat and smother in pure maple syrup, fresh fruit, or whatever your fancy.

Makes 6-10 pancakes

GF Flour $2.25
Baking Powder $.10
Granulated Sugar $.15 (lazy guestimation)
Sea Salt $.001 (also not typo--$3 for 5lb bag )
Oil $.04 ($2 bottle has 95 tbsp)
Milk $.16 ($1.30 for half gallon *total score by the way*)
Vanilla $.15
Blueberries $.83 ($2.50 for 12 oz

TOTAL=$3.68, $.36-$.61
per pancake

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

The pressure of January has officially hit: everyone is telling you to exercise, eat properly, and of course, they offer you some magical way to disappear the extra pounds you've gained over the holidays. So I just wanted to put my opinion out there...while all of that may be good (I know I indulged over the holidays) I'm still going to "indulge" in a muffin or two. While some may claim that carbs are evil and that baking is making you fat, these muffins are loaded with good grains like sorghum, quinoa and millet (with very little starch). They're also (almost) vegan and while I wouldn't eat a ton of them, we can all feel pretty good about a muffin like this. They're not low fat--fat really is required to make gluten free baked goods work, but they're loaded with some pretty good stuff. So I'm going to relax, sip some tea, read a book, and eat a muffin. And ignore most of the diet craze that'll eventually disappear as reality hits the masses.

My camera was charging while I was making these, so I don't have full pictures to show. But I can tell you that these muffins are seriously good. My mom, who hates anything baked with blueberries, said this was the best blueberry muffin she's ever had. It is soft and has a nice, moist crumb and perfect texture. I sincerely hope you'll try making these--they're definitely worth spending 30 minutes making.

You can make these completely vegan by subbing out the buttermilk for 1/2 cup non-dairy milk soured with 1 tsp of vinegar.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

1 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 rounded cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1-1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 6 oz container of Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk (moo-cow or non-dairy)
1 tsp vanilla
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 1/4 cup hot water

Mix together dry ingredients, from sorghum to brown sugar. Add wet ingredients straight into the dry. Mix well. Consistency should be that of a wheaty-muffin batter. Semi-stiff, but wet.

Spoon into 12 muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Muffins are done when golden brown and a toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean.

Serves 12

Sorghum Flour $1.60
Quinoa Flour $.62
Millet Flour $.52
Cornmeal $.08
Tapioca $.51
Xanthan Gum $.10
Baking Powder $.08
Baking Soda $.003 (that's not a typo--$.50 box has 94.5 tsp)
Sea Salt $.001 (also not typo--$3 for 5lb bag )
Brown Sugar $.70 (total guestimation)
Oil $.10 ($2 bottle, don't feel like doing the math)
Buttermilk $.28 ($2.30/qt, 1 qt=4 cups)
Milk $.36 ($1.20/pt, 1 pt=2 cups)
vanilla $.15 (total guestimation)
lemon $.25
Egg Replacer $.28 (guestimation $.28 is cost for 1 oz)

TOTAL=$5.63, $.47
per serving (muffin)

Mac and Cheese to Die For

This is neither healthy, nor cheap, nor particularly quick. In fact I'm pretty sure that it's quite possibly the most unhealthy thing you can eat and one of the most expensive things I'll ever make. It is however dangerously tasty, so be careful who you share this with! Naturally, it makes enough to feed the entire Russian army. If the arms wants to fall into a serious food coma, that is. If you, however, are smarter than I am, you could halve this recipe. Please halve this. This made enough sauce for at least a pound and a half of pasta, if not two. And trust me, you do not want to make that much. I ended up freezing the remaining sauce, dubbing it "crack & cheese sauce". Ah, so fitting.

There are a lot of mac recipes out there, some using at least three ridiculously expensive specialty cheeses. I watch way too many cooking shows (I only have 7 or 8 channels) on public television and I'm always appalled at how expensive it would be to make the classic childhood favorite. Of course, the childhood favorite most of us remember comes from a blue box. I was the unfortunate sister of a boy who ate from that blue box almost every day. So I have mac issues--but this stuff is helping me get over it. See? The cost of this mac will negate those pesky psychotherapy fees and cure your childhood issues with siblings who eat terrible food from blue boxes. I'm such a pal.

Anyway, I use two cheeses, one is definitely specialty (gruyere), but you could probably bring down the cost by using medium white cheddar instead of extra sharp. If you also halve the recipe, you could probably make this for between $7-$9. Which ain't bad. Unfortunately, I made it for almost $20. Ouch. Oh, whatever. We can all live a little from time to time. I certainly don't want any pasta for like, the next month. At least. (And for that cost, I probably can't afford to...) Let's make this sucker!

You're gonna need some gluten free macaroni. You could break convention and make it with something else too. But I figure I couldn't call it mac & cheese if I make it with rotini.

Now you have a choice. You could make yourself some breadcrumbs or leave it out. Mac sans breadcrumbs cuts costs, but they're really a nice addition. I decided to try Karina's savory waffles and they worked beautifully. You could use any gf crumbs you wish, but please don't use cornflakes. That's just sacrilege.

After you make your waffles, you're going to cut them up and toast 'em up in the oven for awhile. I did mine for around 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees. Keep in mind they're not going to brown like regular bread. But they'll get nice and crisp and dried out. Which is what we want.

Now throw the toasted waffles into a food processor. Or a blender. Or stomp on 'em. Or whatever to make them like crumbs.

They'll look something like this. Hooray!

You'll need around a cup of them. The rest you can process and throw into a freezer bag for a later use. Please then put the freezer bag into the freezer. Just covering my bases.

Now while that's toasting, or after you're done processing, measure out a pound of pasta and throw it into some salted boiling water to cook. You should take it out a few minutes before it's done so that it won't be overcooked when we throw the whole shebang in the oven at the end.

Now we're going to start grating our cheese. I used pungent cheeses here, but as I mentioned before, I think you can get away with medium white cheddar.

Of the 2 lb chub (is that the right word?) I used this much...around 18 ounces or so. I'm not exactly exact. That made no sense.

My mac just got done. It's still a little crunchy. Perfect!

This is all the grated white cheddar. It looks like a huge amount, well, because it is. And this ain't a light version!

This is Gruyere. Which you know, because you can probably read. You need a strong flavored cheese. Well, I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference if it wasn't strongly flavored, but I'm just going to pretend the previous statement is true. It's critical to my mental state.

This is also a lot of cheese. Keep hungry children and adults away from your cheese or bad things might happen.

Now grab a few tablespoons of butter and melt it in the microwave. I know people who don't believe in microwaves and I'm feeling bad for them at this moment. This butter, by the way, is Land o Lakes Tuscan Butter, which is basically butter plus garlic and herbs. I liked this flavored stuff here, but you can get the same effect by adding herbs and spices you want. Or just use plain butter. Whatever floats your boat or is in your fridge!

Mix the melted butter in with your bread crumbs and set aside. This will be divine when all is said, done, and poured.

Now grab some milk. Apparently I'm the only one who doesn't know that Vitamin D milk actually is whole milk. That's what I get for rarely eating dairy and pretty much never buying real milk.

Remember when I said this makes a ton of sauce? Well that's going to become apparent when you pour 5 1/2 cups of milk into a pan to warm. Then you'll wonder what you've gotten yourself into. And those floaties in the milk are from using the same spoon as the butter.

Now in another pan, melt 6 tablespoons or so of butter.

Don't forget to have your spices all nice and thrown together in a bowl! And don't skimp on the cayenne! You won't be able to taste any heat.

Anyway, when your butter starts bubblin', add the premixed flour, 1/2 cups at a time until you meld in the entire 2 cups.

Your roux will look like this. No worries--the butter will absorb it. You need the whole 2 cups!

You're going to incorporate the now warm milk into your roux, stirring until you can get all the lumps out. Now listen to me closely. You're going to stir this sucker until it starts to thicken and bubble. And you're going to think that it will never thicken. But leesten to me: it will thicken. I stirred mine for a good 15 or 20 minutes before it started to thicken up. Hallelujah.

When you're finally at the thick stage, contain your excitement and add all those spices.

Now begin adding the cheeses in stages. Reserve a little for the top of the casserole. It's essential I tell you!

See this glorious sauce? This is crack & cheese sauce. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Now dump your pasta in a bowl. A very large one. It's going to have some serious company.

Dump in half of the sauce. This will probably be enough to coat the mac and still have plenty of extra sauce to soak in.

Just like that. It looks GOOD!

Now grab a large casserole dish. I love Pyrex dishes. Which is why I have no room in my cupboards.

Pour in the pasta and sauce and cover the top with the reserved cheese.

Now throw those buttered breadcrumbs over the top. Throw it in the oven until the whole thing is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are golden brown and crispy. It took me around 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Hot from the oven! Beautiful isn't it? And it smells divine...

Way better than that crap from the box.

The smell can't compete with the taste. Please make this--halve this. It's a splurge worthy dish.

Mac & Cheese to Die For

1 cup gluten free bread crumbs
8 tbsp butter (1 stick), 2 for breadcrumbs
1 pound (16 oz) gluten free elbow pasta
18 oz sharp white cheddar
8 oz Gruyere cheese
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
5 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups gluten free flour mix (nothing sweet)

Prepare the gluten free breadcrumbs. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and mix with the crumbs and set aside. Cook pasta until a few minutes from being done. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop cooking.

Grate the cheeses and prep the spices and throw in a convenient bowl. Pour milk into a large pan over medium heat to warm up. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 6 tbsp of butter in a large saucepan. When it bubbles, add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until well combined. Remove milk from heat and slowly incorporate the milk, stirring out any lumps that appear. Stir continuously until mixture becomes thick and bubbles.

Add spices and slowly incorporate cheeses into mixture, reserving a bit for the top of the casserole. Remove sauce from heat when everything is well combined. In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta and about half the sauce, or enough to coat the pasta well. Pour pasta and sauce into a large casserole dish, topping with reserved cheese and the buttered breadcrumbs. Cook for 30 minutes until the pasta is hot and the topping is golden brown.
Reserve extra sauce for another use.

Serves 10-12 with enough sauce for an extra batch

GF Breadcrumbs $1.50
Gruyere $5.93
White Cheddar $6.75
Whole Milk $2
Spices ($.10)
Pasta $2
butter $.50

TOTAL=$18.78, $1.56 - $1.87
per serving (This doesn't include the leftover sauce)

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