Classic Chili (Gluten Free)

2016-02-11 14.20.18Classic Chili

I think I was meant to be a hibernating mammal. The only thing I can think about during these cold days of winter is sleeping. And soup. Hot, filling, stick-to-your-ribs, soup.

I have many requirements for soup. They must be flavorful, even the spoonfuls void of the main ingredients. They have to be easy so I can walk away (or run eight errands) without things going array. Last, they have to be just as good when made gluten free, my family can tell when substitutions go wrong.

I present to you this chili. It gets an A+ in all categories, and is a great gluten free alternative to the chili served at that fast food restaurant featuring a little girl with red pig tails. Put it in your slow cooker and come home to a cozy meal. Post-meal nap is optional, but highly recommended.

 

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Baked Potato Soup (Naturally Gluten Free)

Baked Potato Soup

This week little furry things came out of hibernation for a test of the weather. What was the verdict? Punxsutawney Phil ‘declared’ six more weeks of winter, however, Jimmy the Groundhog in Wisconsin predicted an early spring after taking a little taste test of the Mayor’s ear.

While I have never made life plans around a marmot’s shadow, there is always a glimmer of hope when the second of February rolls around. It is the same anticipation I feel when our local baseball team starts up their spring training. A smile washes over my face when I walk into stores and suddenly the clothing is bright and fun, and tulips are arriving in the floral shops.

Then I walk to my car and freeze my buns off. It’s still February, after all, and whether it is six weeks away or not, spring can not arrive soon enough. So in the interim I’ll embrace the frigid temperatures, because five months from now we are going to be cursing the heat and there is no way I will be putting soup on the table.

Baked Potato Soup
Ingredients:
8 Ounces bacon, chopped
3 Pounds russet potatoes, washed (Idaho works, too. Do not use Yellow or Red)
1 Large Onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cup)
2 Garlic cloves, pressed or grated over a micro plane
4 Cups chicken stock (Or one 32 ounce carton)
1 Cup heavy cream
1 Cup chopped ham
4 Cups, (plus 1 cup for garnish) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1-2 Cups instant mashed potato flakes
1 Cup sour cream (for garnish)
1 bundle green onions (chives) chopped (for garnish)

Preparation:

The faster way…
• Bake the potatoes in the microwave until soft all the way through.

The tastier way…
• Preheat your oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle to low position. Nest a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and place the potatoes on the rack. Spear each potato with a fork (about 1/8″ deep) once on two sides. Brush olive oil all over each potato and sprinkle salt on all sides. Bake for about one hour, depending on the size of the potatoes, checking them with a fork after 45 minutes. Let cool completely.
• In a large dutch oven or heavy pot over Medium-High heat, cook bacon until crispy.
• Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler or sharp kitchen knife to remove the skins from the (cooled) baked potatoes, removing wide strips. Reserve the skins. Chop potatoes into bite sized pieces and set aside. (Keep a close eye on the bacon, as to not allow it to burn).
• With a slotted spoon remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate leaving the grease in the pot.
• Add potato skins to hot bacon grease and fry until crispy, about 5-8 minutes.
• With a slotted spoon remove potato skins to the bacon plate to drain. (These will be used for garnish later)
• Add onion to remaining fat and cook until soft and golden brown, stir in Garlic and continue
to cook for 1 minute. If the bottom of the pot begins to brown too much during the potato frying or onion cooking, turn down your burner and add olive oil one tablespoon at a time until it is resolved – no more then four tablespoons)
• After the onions have softened, gradually stir in chicken stock, cream and potatoes and bring to a boil.
• Turn heat down to simmer (very low!) and cook for thirty minutes stirring occasionally.
• Remove two cups of soup and blend in food processor or blender. Return to pot.
• Add 4 cups shredded cheese and melt into soup. Add ham.
• Adjust thickness of soup with desired amount of instant mashed potatoes.
• Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with reserved bacon and potato skin garnishes, and any other desired garnish.
Suggested Garnishes: Shredded Cheese, Sour Cream, Chives, Bacon, Potato Skins

Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

I stomped up the three concrete steps and swung the screen door open to the covered stoop, stopping just shy of the threshold to kick the snow off my little boots. My sister pushes me from behind, in a hurry to escape the cold. We bust through the back door and stumble into the kitchen. The warmth of my grandparent’s house overwhelms by face and the smell of pork and sour kraut on this New Year’s Day makes my nose tingle with delight.

I shed my winter clothes and pass through the kitchen and stop at the bottom of the stairs. Aunts, uncles and a few cousins lay in various states of nap across the couches and in recliners as a football game plays out on the television. Some ‘Happy New Year’ mumbles are audible as I rush up the stairs to see my favorite cousins and their new Christmas toys.

Now that I am grown, New Year’s Day traditions have developed, and yet some have stayed the same. There are still football games. Naps on the couch. Christmas toys getting a good breaking in.

The pork no longer simmers on the stove – there is a restaurant that does a better job than I ever could. And there is soup. Not just any soup. Corn chowder with Christmas ham trimmings and bursts of corn from this fall’s harvest. Simultaneously fresh and hardy, it is a terrific way to ring in the new year.

Vintage Thread and Mr. Zoot Suit shared this recipe with us and it quickly became a must-have, not only on New Year’s Day, but any wintery cold day here in the Midwest.

Ham and Corn Chowder
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion (large) finely chopped
1 red bell pepper finely chopped
1 green bell pepper finely chopped
2 tablespoons flour (Gluten free option: 1 T. corn starch, 1 T. gluten free flour blend)
2 lbs potatoes pealed a diced (I use three pounds)
4 cups chicken stock (32 oz box)
4 cups water (I use six cups)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste (about ½ t each)
11 ounce can yellow corn, drained.
¼ lb diced ham (1 ½ c.)
½ c heavy cream (1/2 &1/2)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1-2 cups instant mashed potatoes
Paprika for garish
Preparation:
• In a heavy dutch oven melt the butter with the oil over medium heat.
• Add onion and both peppers. Cook about 5 minutes until onions are translucent.
• Add flour, stir occasionally and cook 2 minutes.
• Add potatoes. Turn heat up to high and add stock. Bring to a boil.
• Add bay leaf, salt and pepper. Turn down to a simmer, cover and leave it there for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
• Add corn and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
• Remove two cups of the soup and blend in food processor, then add it back into the pot.(or, use an immersion blender for 30 seconds in dutch oven.)
• Add ham and a touch of liquid smoke. Heat through about 5 minutes.
• Remove the bay leaf and stir in cream. Adjust thickness with instant mashed potatoes and seasonings to taste. Serve hot, sprinkled with paprika.

Meaty Minestrone Soup (Gluten Free)

Minestrone

1993

I laid there in my bed listening to the rain drum down on the farmhouse metal roof. The noise a constant low vibration with water dribbles making their way down the gutters. My room sat above the family room and every night I could here Dad thunk his recliner foot-rest into the chair and walk to the kitchen for his ice cream bed-time snack.

The savory air from dinner still hung in the air. It was full-on Autumn and the temperatures where plummeting. They were even calling for snow on Halloween this year. 

2014

The pond beyond my backyard is rippling with rain drops and the leaves are disappearing from the trees with help of the stiff breeze. My baby girl is singing in her bed, determined out out-wit nap time. My son is crunching away on his after school popcorn snack. I wonder if his second loose tooth will make it through the day or if a Golden Dollar will make it’s way under his pillow tonight. It is full-on Autumn and the temperatures are plummeting. They are even calling for snow. It’s Halloween. Time for some warm soup.

Meaty Minestrone Soup

Ingredients:
1 pound hot sausage, removed from casings
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 can green beans (reserve liquid)
1 can hot and spicy chili beans (check label for gluten)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
2 cups water
2 cups gluten free pasta or prepared rice, cooked per package directions.

Preparation:
• In a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat, brown spicy sausage until no longer pink, drain if needed, add onions and cook until softened.
• Add carrots, zucchini and celery. Stir to combine.
• Add (including all liquid) green beans, chili beans, diced tomatoes, beef stock and water.
• Stir and bring to a boil over high heat.
• Turn heat down to simmer and cook for three hours, stirring occasionally.
• Serve in individual bowls topped with cooked pasta or rice. (Do not add pasta to soup until serving.)

• Notes:
This soup is spicy, but for an extra kick use spicy or Italian green beans and/or spicy tomatoes.

Perfect for the slow cooker! Brown sausage and soften the onions. Add to crock pot with all other ingredients. Set crock pot on High for 4-6 hours.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

gumbo

At the age of nineteen I had climbed the retail ladder and accepted a Store Manager position at the educational/developmental toy store where I had worked since graduating high school. Even though I was a full time student at University, I jumped on the chance because it meant full benefits and a nice raise.

One of the first things I needed to do was hire more staff, and finding morning and day-time (quality) applicants was a challenge to say the least. Then one day a lovely lady named Jennifer walked in.

She had two boys who just started all-day schooling, and she was looking for a little job to keep her busy during those hours. Perfect. I hired her on the spot. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

Jennifer was the hardest worker. Always looking for something to do, even on the slowest days, and thriving on the busy hum of retail during the holiday months. I trusted her with all my heart and we became fast friends, even though our age difference was nearly ten years and I was neither married or a mother. I looked up to her. She had a great family, a wonderful husband and the most genuinely thoughtful and mindful boys.

I was in a very different place than her. I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment, worked forty-plus hours a week, took three college courses and dated a new guy about every six months, all the while finding time to hone my hobby of swing dancing a few evenings a week.

At the store, early morning cleaning and stocking lent itself to open conversation. We talked about life, love and family quite a bit and one particular day I was in a lurch over a boy. I looked at Jennifer and recalled her wonderful husband, children and family. I wondered how it all came into place so easily for them. So I asked.

Her response was far from ‘motherly’ which I so appreciated. She was a little matter-of-fact, and said ‘you will just know’. She expand on that a bit, and I soon realized this boy wasn’t the Ultimate Love.

A year later.

I asked her the same question.

She asked if I was talking about my dance partner. I said yes. She smirked and said ‘I think you know’.

…and I did.

Jennifer gave me this recipe and it is one of the first things I made for Mystery Man.

Gumbo

Ingredients:
1/4 cups olive oil
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons* Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium green pepper
1/2 cup green onion tops, finely chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
12 oz Adelle’s Cajan Style Andouille Sausage, chopped into bite- sized pieces (see prep notes)
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces (see prep notes)
8-10 cups water
4 cups cooked white rice (I use Jasmine Rice, two cups dry = four+ cups cooked)

*Jennifer uses 1/4 cup seasoning. This is too spicy for our family. If you can handle it, go for it!

Preparation:

• Place the chicken in the freezer and chop all the vegetables and set aside.

• Heat a large dutch oven/stock pot over medium-low and cover the bottom with olive oil. Using a flat edged spatula (metal or wooden, not plastic!) stir flour into oil constantly until flour is balled and turns to a medium to dark brown color. A burnt popcorn smell is common.

• Turn the heat to high and whisk in five cups of water. Add creole seasoning and black pepper. 3-5 more cups of water and whisk – this should be a thin gravy with no lumps.

• Turn heat down to medium-low and add green pepper, celery, parsley, onions. Let this cook for 8-10 minutes while you chop the sausage and chicken.

• Add sausage and chicken to pot and bring to a boil for one minute.

• Turn heat down to very low and cook for a minimum of three hours. Add more water if needed and add more creole if desired.

• Serve over white rice (do not mix rice into gumbo)

Notes:

This can be transferred to a crock pot and left on low all day. The secret to good gumbo – do not add anything else!

Gumbo freezes well. Place frozen block in a heavy pan and heat gently.