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Crock Pot “Dump” Meals

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I’m convinced that this is the answer to all my problems: Crock Pot “Dump” Meals. Ok, not really the answer to ALL my problems, but a really valuable tool for simplifying life a bit. “Dump” meals are the ones where you dump a bunch of ingredients into the crock pot, turn it on, and 6-8 hours later, voila! Food – hot and ready to eat! Here’s the key – most dump recipes, also called “Freezer-to-Crockpot” meals, can be prepped ahead of time and frozen in freezer container or bag, without cooking them first.

We’ve talked a lot here about doing batch cooking and using the freezer to store prepared food for future meals, but this is even easier. All that is required is to put raw food in freezer bag, label, and place it in the freezer. And pulling a bag out of the freezer and dump the contents into the crockpot? Easiest thing ever!

*Pro tip – freeze the food in a shape that fits into your crockpot or else allow several hours for the package to thaw before cooking it.

Here’s a super simple recipe to get you started:

Honey-Rosemary Chicken

Place in a freezer bag:

4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbs rosemary, chopped

1 tsp salt

When you’re ready to cook:

Empty contents of freezer bag into the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

It really doesn’t get much easier than that, people! Serve it with salad or steamed veggies on the side, whatever you like, and enjoy the fact that dinner cooked itself!

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Tuesday Tips – Preserving Your Gluten-Free Flours

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Preserve those pricey flours in the freezer.Did you know that flour can go bad? Whole grain flours are especially at risk, as they contain more natural oils and fats that can become rancid. And any flour is at risk of getting small bugs in it, as it is impossible to completely remove the insect eggs from the flour. Ew. You already know that it’s cheaper to buy flour in bulk, and if you’re making your own gluten-free flour mix, you’ll end up with several pounds each of a bunch of different flours. (I counted one time and discovered that I had eleven different kinds of flour in my house at one time. I may have an obsession with collecting gluten-free flours.) That’s a lot of flour to use up, and the likelihood of it going bad in my house is pretty high. It’s no savings to buy in bulk if you have to throw half of it away due to an invasion of pantry moths.

The quick tip for this Tuesday is to freeze your flours. Yes, our favorite kitchen tool here at Food Allergies on Ice is the solution once again! Keeping the flour very cold helps to keep the oils from becoming rancid, and keeps those tiny insect eggs from hatching. It’s also a dry, airtight space which helps the flour stay dry (obviously important!) and prevents bug invasions. (You know, in case the kids leave the back door open and a bunch of flies come in. Again.) Of course, you can use this trick to preserve gluten-containing flours as well.

One caveat to the freezer trick, though: make sure your flours come up to room temperature before baking with them or your recipes may not turn out as well. Here’s what I do: my bulk flours are in a box in the freezer. I pull out the box and mix up 2 kg of my All-Purpose GF flour mix at a time. That’s enough for a week or two of baking and it stays in an airtight container on my kitchen counter. The box of bulk flours is returned to the freezer for safe keeping until the next time.

Pretty simple, but this simple trick will help you save money and make tastier food. I call that a win!

Produce – Preserving the Harvest

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It’s a busy season for our food-allergic household. While fruits and veggies are naturally free of gluten and most allergens, we find that much of the grocery store produce is contaminated with corn*. So, we try to purchase as much as possible from our local farmers’ market, in addition to growing our own fruits and vegetables. That means, of course, that we need to preserve the fresh food now so we’ll have it over the winter.

The best website I’ve found to help with this is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. This comprehensive website is hosted by the University of Georgia, and is a collaborative project between universities in the Cooperative Extension System. I’ve found their information to be far more reliable and trustworthy than just reading a random blog that looks like it was made in 1980 and purports to have the secret to making apple jelly just like Grandma used to do. Those websites are fun to read for the folk wisdom they contain, but when it comes to food safety, I’ll trust Cooperative Extension instead, thank you very much.

So far this year, I’ve frozen peaches, grape juice, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and chard. I’ve canned grape jelly and applesauce, and dried tomatoes and some fruit leather, too. As the season moves on, I’ll be working on squash, more apples, and rose hips. Because this is all locally grown produce, I’m able to ask the growers directly about their food, ensuring that it is is allergen-free for my family.

Not everyone has time to grow and preserve large quantities of food like we do, but nearly everyone can take advantage of the great prices on in-season produce and put up a batch of something. Check with gardening friends, too. Someone may be more than willing to share their abundance with you. Last year, I had baskets of squash to give away. This year, I have way too much broccoli, and I’m so sick of it, I’ll give it to whomever wants it! Friends of mine had so many apples, the weight of the fruit was breaking the branches, so they were more than happy to share with us, to the tune of nearly 200 pounds of apples! (There were still many more apples on the tree!)

So if you’ve noticed that things are a little slow at the blog lately, rest assured that I haven’t been slacking. I’ll be back to posting more allergy-friendly recipes just as soon as the frosts hit, and this year’s harvest is safely stashed away.

* Produce is often coated in corn-based wax to preserve it or sprayed with corn-derived ethylene gas to help ripen it.

Friday Fab or Flop: Flexible Corn- and Gluten-Free Tortillas? Part 2

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Part 1 is here if you missed it.

Well, it’s been a busy week putting up garden produce. I’ve picked and/or processed green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, grapes, peaches and apples this week. So I haven’t been baking to say the least. We had enough gluten-free, corn-free tortillas from last week’s batch that I didn’t tinker with my recipe since my last post. Feel free to flog me with a virtual wet noodle.

To make up for it, I’m going to post the recipe as I’ve developed it so far. I have frozen these before, and they do just fine. Keep in mind this is a work in progress. If you tinker with it, I’d love to hear how it comes out for you!

Flexitillas (make sure you say this with a Mexican accent: flex-i-TEE-ya. Sombrero optional.)

1 Cup Tapioca Starch

1 Cup Cooked Beans (Navy beans are high in calcium and the right color)

1 Cup Almond Flour

Flexitillas

Tortilla dough

1 Tbsp Sugar

1 Tsp Salt

Put the ingredients in the food processor and run the machine until it purrs. (What, yours doesn’t purr? Ok, then just process until smooth. And then buy a cat.) Add some palm shortening – about 1/3 cup – and process again. You’re looking for it to turn into coarse crumbles. Add some water into the spout part of the food processor while processing and stop when the mixture starts to form dough.

Flexitillas on the Griddle

These toast up nicely!

Cook as usual by pressing out balls of dough in a tortilla press and toasting on a medium-high griddle.

Allergen-Free Teriyaki Sauce

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So, in the spirit of keeping it simple, last night’s dinner was Teriyaki-Style Chicken. It’s just sauce, chicken, and veggies. Cooked grain on the side optional. Super-easy, I promise.

Hubby found a recipe* for Teriyaki sauce on the internet that sounded yummy. Naturally, it called for several ingredients that we either can’t or don’t use. Of course, we didn’t let a minor concern like that stop us! This is where having a list of cheats really helps out.

We find that Coconut Aminos are a great soy-free, gluten-free alternative to soy sauce. It’s a pricey ingredient, to be sure, but the flavor it adds to your cooking is really hard to duplicate. (We think the cost is worth it and keep this on hand as a kitchen staple.) Tapioca starch is the easy substitute for cornstarch. A pinch of cayenne instead of black pepper does the trick nicely for us. Hubby even figured out how to use orange juice in place of the white sugar, since we don’t like to use refined sugar. The result was a fairly easy recipe that we’re going to add to our regular rotation. Cooking the veggies in the sauce with the chicken also made for an easy (and yummy) way to get veggies on the table.

Baked Teriyaki-Style Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Aminos
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 12 skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 cups chopped veggies of your choice such as carrots, squash, broccoli, green beans, peas, cabbage, celery, etc.

 Directions

  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the tapioca starch, orange juice, Coconut Aminos, vinegar, garlic, ginger and cayenne. Let simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens and bubbles.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Place chicken pieces in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish. (We used palm shortening.) Brush chicken with the sauce. Turn pieces over, and brush again.
  4. Bake, covered, in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and add veggies. Turn pieces of chicken over, and bake for another 30 minutes, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Brush with sauce every 10 minutes during cooking. Sprinkle with green onions or sesame seeds to garnish.

Serve with rice, quinoa, or other grain of your choice. Or, if you’re going low-carb like the Hubby, eat a salad on the side instead of grain.

Technically, Teriyaki Chicken is supposed to be grilled. However, by baking it, this recipe should adapt beautifully to bulk cooking as the sauce will keep it from drying out when reheating. I also want to try cooking the meat halfway, then sealing it in a baggie and freezing it. Then it should just be pretty convenient to grill it, for a bit more authenticity. Now doesn’t that sound yummy?

*Link to the original recipe here.

*Disclaimer: We are in no way affiliated with Coconut Secret and are not being compensated for mentioning Coconut Aminos in any way, not even a free sample of their product.

Squash-Tastic

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This lovely blossom will be a yummy squash in a couple weeks!

It’s that time of year again when the garden is yielding up more squash than you can shake a stick at. Squash is pretty easy to grow, and produces a lot of food, so it’s a good crop for the novice gardener.  Last year, I was given nearly 50 yellow squash starts for my garden, and as a result, I had an abundance of yellow squash for much of last summer. By the end of summer, I had mastered the art of hiding squash in a number of creative recipes.

  • Sliced thin, lightly salted, and dehydrated into squash chips (a tasty low-carb snack!)
  • Dredged in a mixture of flour, salt and herbs and fried
  • Sautéed in oil with tomatoes, white beans, caramelized onions, garlic, bell pepper, etc.
  • Steamed with broccoli and lightly seasoned with herbs for a side dish with grilled chicken
  • Boiled with potatoes and cauliflower and mashed into “mashed potatoes”
  • Roasted with potatoes, carrots and bell pepper
  • Lightly brushed with olive oil and grilled
  • Julienned into a squash/carrot/radish coleslaw-like salad
  • Chopped into lettuce salad
  • Shredded and in baked into muffins and pancakes
  • Added to soup
  • Mashed and added to spaghetti sauce
  • Lacto-fermented (aka pickled) in brine
  • Peeled into thin strips as a low-carb, grain-free pasta substitute
  • Shredded and mixed into meatloaf and chicken patties

I think the only thing I didn’t do is stuff them, and that was only because I didn’t let them get that big. I also sliced and shredded a bunch for the freezer so we could enjoy squash all year long.

This year’s garden has less squash, but overflows with broccoli instead. I’m sad to say that it is not proving to be nearly as versatile.  I’d be happy to hear your suggestions for using up broccoli or squash in the comments!

Summer Vacation

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Food Allergies on Ice is taking a brief summer vacation while Becki’s family is traveling. Traveling while accommodating complicated food allergies is always a challenge, but I’ve figured out a few things that make life easier. Zippie bags take up far less room in a cooler than plastic containers, for example. Don’t forget to bring a sharp knife with your picnic supplies – there’s always something that needs cutting. Oh, and keep baby wipes on hand at all times. Even if you don’t have a baby in diapers – it’s still a good idea.

Here is the menu for while we’re away:

Breakfasts: *Pancakes and maple syrup or sunbutter, crispy cereal with hemp milk, *muffins, *yogurt with jelly, *sausage

Lunches: Sunbutter and jelly *sandwiches with carrots and celery, turkey *lunchmeat roll-ups and avocado, tuna salad with pickle, turkey *hot dogs and potato chips

Dinners: *pizza with salad, *baked chicken with *mashed potatoes, *chicken nuggets with broccoli

Snacks: Homemade trail mix, potato chips and salsa, *orange-cinnamon bread, *muffins, rice cakes, hummus and crackers, “squeezy” applesauce, whole fruit

* Items marked with an asterisk were packed frozen

Yes, I’m traveling with small children, as you can see by my menu choices. Yes, we’re eating far too many potato chips instead of all those nice fruits and veggies I mentioned. But here’s the point: Most of this food I was able to make ahead of time and freeze. Everything got flash frozen and packed into resealable bags so I could layer the food into a cooler. This way I was able to pack enough food in our undersized cooler for 4 to 5 days. We tend to stay in the sort of hotel where we can get a refrigerator and microwave in the room, and reheating the food isn’t difficult.

Here are some other meal ideas we’ve used in the past:

Pasta with *Red Sauce (rice and pasta can be cooked in a microwave just fine)

*Soups (freezes well as long as there is no rice, pasta or potato in the soup)

*Curried Lentils/Dahl

*Chicken Stir-fry

*Meatballs

*Chicken Patties

Your turn – what are your favorite meals for on the road?

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