the holy grail [recipe: gluten-free chicken nuggets]

I’ll admit it: sometimes my kids eat at McDonald’s when we’re out and about.  They like McNuggets, I like calm children, peace prevails in the minivan.  Our celiac diagnosis has forced us to plan ahead more for weekend lunches.  We have to tote our own PB & J and grapes and magic pouches of fruit and veggie puree; we can’t just stop in for a quick Happy Meal.   Even at home, I had a big bag of frozen chicken nuggets to make things easy for the babysitters.  Gluten-free chicken nuggets do exist, but they come in an 8-ounce box for about $6.00 and they aren’t that great.  I decided it was worthwhile to try making my own.* 

Finding a toddler-friendly method turned out to be quite a process.

At first I thought I could get away with a baked chicken tenders technique.  I dipped little chunks of chicken breast in egg and then in crushed, seasoned Corn Chex, then baked it.  Rejected.

I baked chicken chunks that hand been dipped in egg and then in seasoned corn meal.  Rejected.

I baked chicken chunks that had been dipped in egg and then in seasoned GF flour, then sprayed with cooking spray.  Considered, but rejected.

I gave up on the baking.  Frying is not my strongest area of cooking expertise, but I tried it.  I fried chicken chunks that had been dipped in egg and then seasoned GF flour.  Considered, nibbled, but rejected.

Finally, I gave in and did something I’d said I wouldn’t do: I put the chicken in the food processor.  And that made all the difference.  It’s gross and messy, but in our house I think it’s worth it.  Plus, really, once you get going it’s not a big deal.  Next time I’ll double the recipe and freeze some for future lunches. [Recipe follows cut]

Little man ate six.

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if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

Even for twins, our boys have always been pretty tiny.  They’ve been riding the first or 0.5th percentile for quite a while now, sometimes even lower.  With less than two months to go before their third birthday, they’re still well below 25 pounds.  They eat pats of butter while we’re cooking, and I encourage it.

At our first visit, the gastroenterologist suggested that we start giving Carnation Instant Breakfast  Breakfast Essentials to pack in some extra calories and protein.  We bought some on the way home from that very appointment.  It’s an understatement to say it was a hit.  They started requesting it several times per day.   We upgraded from the convenient packets to the more economical canister.  We made up new rules and procedures for how their “chocolate milk” would be measured and mixed (anyone who’s ever had a toddler knows exactly what I’m talking about).

Last Thursday, mere hours after our latest weigh-in, I was cleaning up the kitchen and happened to notice that the last ingredient listed on the Instant Breakfast canister … was wheat starch.

Wheat starch!  Could the thing we’re giving them to help one issue be causing others?

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pizza, improved

My brother sent me a new GF pizza crust recipe a few weeks ago.  We liked it so well, I’ve made it three times already.  Forget the Bob’s, all hail the Chebe!  You start with a Chebe bread mix, add rice flour, eggs, oil and baking powder, and wind up with something that just might make you forget about wheat.  For starters, it’s a dough that you can knead and stretch. 

Then after you cook it up?


Not only did the toddlers eat 2-3 slices each, but the husband gave it his Official Seal of Approval too.  It was as chewy as my old wheat crust, it re-heated well, and it tasted good.  Their secret is a modified tapioca starch, which is almost impossible for home cooks to find.  That’s OK, I’ve stopped worrying and learned to love the mix.

I didn’t change anything from this Serious Eats recipe, but making it three times has given me some wisdom to pass on. Continue reading

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silver lining #3: humor

These days whenever they’re suspicious of a food we’re asking them to try, the boys won’t say they don’t like it.  No, they’re clever:

“That broccoli’s not good for my tummy.  It has too much wheat in it.”

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a link and a promise

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  I ran an evening workshop for 20 tutors and two days later an evening event, dinner included, for 500 folks from the school where I work.  I had my first-ever night away from my daughter (and the boys too); we all survived (and I got to eat some guilt-free gluten).  I took the kids and myself for much-needed doctor’s visit and still managed to eat well. 

What I haven’t managed to do is write a single word.  I need to get better about taking pictures, too, especially now that 1) I found my camera! and 2) the days are getting longer so I can now photograph dinner in natural light.   Let me do a quick round-up and swear to do better.

My birthday came last weekend.  Instead of making a cake for myself (a friend did a nice one from a GF mix), I made one for a dessert auction.  I wish I’d taken a picture, because it was gorgeous: layers of GF lemon pound cake sandwiched with raspberry jam, lemon curd and cream cheese icing.  The top was a swirl of lemon curd and raspberry.  The best part?  This cake was got some of the highest bids and earned $450 for Camp Ten Trees

This weekend I’ve done a ton of un-photographed, un-written-about baking.  Yesterday I made scones AND my husband’s birthday cake with my favorite flour blend.  This morning I de-veganized these doughnuts by subbing an egg for some of the applesauce.  And then tonight there was pizza with this crust.  It’s definitely closer to my awesome wheat crust than anything I’ve tried yet, but next time I’ll make it with yeast instead of baking powder. 

And next time I’ll take pictures and I’ll write about it.  I promise.

Finally, a bread report: Continue reading

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the secret [recipe: GF vanilla pound cake]

I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free baking for seven years, but it’s only in the past month that it’s become a regular habit.  And it’s only in the past month that I’ve started a thorough investigation of the gluten-free products that are available in stores.  What I’ve learned so far is that most of the ready-made stuff is pretty unimpressive–even the items I’ve heard other GF folks say is the best.  And most of the stuff I’ve been making is pretty delicious.  I think this is less because I am a kitchen goddess (clearly, no) and more because:

  1. The stuff I make, we’re eating fresh from the oven.  Items at the store can sit for weeks.
  2. I’m not afraid to use butter, sugar and eggs.  A lot of gluten-free manufacturers seem to want to be all things to all people.  I know that many food sensitivities go hand-in-hand, but we don’t need things to be vegan or soy-free or whatever, so I use everything except gluten (and tree nuts, to which I’m allergic).

Stabbing to see if hes done is the best part.

Both of which should perhaps be obvious factors in making baked goods tastier.  And both of which make it all the harder to stop myself from eating this pound cake.  We baked it on a whim yesterday when the boys dug up the Bob the Builder cake pan from the back of some cabinet.  It was good last night, and even better for breakfast today.  I really hope someone comes soon and takes it away from me.  Continue reading

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silver lining #2 [recipe: GF cinnamon rolls]

We ate it all before the day was over.

I’d predicted that going gluten-free would force me to do more cooking.  I was right, and it’s mostly been fun.  If we can’t go out for brunch, I can make something just as good and cheaper (and in my pajamas).  On Saturday we had friends over for fruit salad, bacon, scrambled eggs and this awesome cake, which I made using Namaste flour blend, fat-free plain yogurt, and a simple glaze of orange and lemon juice with powdered sugar instead of the ganache.  

Im not a real food blogger because I used the same plate two days in a row. Also, I used a camera phone and lousy lighting. What do you want, Ive got 3 toddlers.

Sunday was even stickier, and the cooking project was even more ambitious.  The baby youngest was up at 5:30, so we had plenty of time to work on these cinnamon rolls.  I even took the time to work out the ratio of flours I wanted to try, though that part isn’t required. 

The most important thing I figured out was how to roll the dough without making an enormous mess (just a moderate one).  We’ll get to that later, but from the top, here’s what I did: Continue reading

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