Ginger Carrot Soup

This is a soup that begins underground. Down there in the soil the ginger and carrot, (as well as the onion, garlic and potatoes) slowly absorb vitamins and minerals that make this soup so good for you. Amoung other things, ginger is great for the digestive system,a great benefit for those of us with Celiac Disease. Carrots also have numerous benefits, the most notable being that they help your eyes. I can remember as a kid eating carrots and then focusing on an object and actually believing I can see it clearer. Look mom it really works!
Packed with nutrition and flavor, ginger and carrots are one of those pairs that just naturally want to be together, each bringing out the best in the other. I hate to dispute the wisdom of the venerable Forest Gump, but peas and carrots ain't got nothin' on ginger and carrots!

In the making of this soup all of the ingredients are cooked and then they are run through the food processor. My advice here is to pay full attention when doing this to avoid hot blended carrot soup over every surface in your kitchen, something I did in the final stages of making this soup! It was remarkable how many places I found flecks of orange throughout the kitchen. I got myself so worked up cleaning up the kitchen that the only thing that finally relaxed me was a cup of this delicious soup!

Ginger Carrot Soup
Serves 4-6

2 lbs of carrots- peeled and chopped up
3"-4" inch piece of ginger root- peeled and chopped fine
1 large or 2 small potatoes - peeled and chopped

1 medium onion- peeled and chopped fine

2 cloves garlic- minced

2 stalks of celery- chopped

8 cups chicken OR vegetable stock

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup dry sherry

1 bay leaf

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cardamom (or 3-4 cardamom pods)

sea salt and coarse black pepper to taste


Heat a large pot to medium-high, add the olive oil
Saute the chopped onion for about one minute, add the garlic, celery and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring.
Stir in the sherry, ground coriander, ground cardamom (or cardamom pods), bay leaf, Salt and pepper.
Mix in the carrots and potatoes, stir all together well, cook 3 or 4 minutes.
Add the chicken (or vegetable) stock stir well, bring all to a slight boil,
Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 40 minutes.
Strain the soup, reserving the liquid and solids separately. Discard the bay leaf (and cardamom pods if you used them)
Put the solids in a food processor and mix until smooth, pour back in the same bowl with the liquid, mix together.
Serve hot, enjoy!

Stir in 3/4 cup of heavy cream 35 minutes into simmering to make this a creamy soup.


Baked Layered Polenta

Last week I took a trip to Trader Joe's to pick up some gluten-free products. I love their gluten-free rice pasta and their gluten free banana waffles which are inexpensive, and great for a quick breakfast. Among other things, I found a package of organic cooked polenta with a gluten-free label so I brought it home to check it out. Here is a link to a video review of the polenta. I have also used San Gennaro Foods organic polenta in the past. I decided rather than saute it like I normally would, I would bake it with Italian style vegetables. The result was reminiscent of a baked pasta dish, but with a more rich complex texture. Years ago I worked at an Italian restaurant, they sometimes served a very good polenta and sage appetizer. So I used this pair as a starting point. The sage got me thinking about other savory herbs, so I added fennel seeds, rosemary and oregano to give this dish the deep rich flavors I like so much in Italian casseroles and stews. I added some dried red pepper flakes which made this too spicy for the kids and my sister in-law (sorry!). If you (or someone your serving) is sensitive to spicy foods I suggest you leave out the pepper flakes. I will definitely make this one again!

Baked Layered Polenta
Serves 3-4

@12 oz pre-cooked Polenta (Trader Joe's comes in a 16oz tube)

1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/3 of a medium sized eggplant

1 cup of frozen spinach- thawed or two cups fresh spinach
2 ripe plum tomatoes, or 1 large ripe tomato
4 cloves garlic - minced

1/2 onion - chopped fine

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

1 Tbsp dried sage

1/4 tsp fennel seed

1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 Tsp dried red pepper flakes (optional)

sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

6" x 9" casserole dish

Aluminum foil


Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch thick round slices. Sprinkle with salt, place in a colander and let sit for 40 minutes (to draw out moisture and bitterness)

Heat half of the olive oil in a pan to medium heat.
Add the onion to the pan, saute for a minute until soft.
Add the garlic, sage, fennel seed, rosemary, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and the dried red pepper flakes(optional). Mix all together.
Add the spinach to the pan, cook for 2 or three minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan, set aside.
In the same pan, add the other half of the olive oil, heat to medium and saute the eggplant slices, for 2-3 minutes on each side. Set aside.
Cut the tomatoes in to thin slices, set aside.

Cut the polenta tube into 1/2 inch round slices, set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 350ยบ
Place a layer of the polenta slices(using half) covering the bottom of a 6" x 9" casserole dish.
Take half of the spinach mixture and spread it evenly over the polenta layer.
Using half of the sliced tomatoes, lay down a layer over the spinach.(see picture)
Lay down a layer of the sauteed eggplant on top of the tomatoes.
Lay down a layer of Mozzarella cheese (using half) over top of the eggplant.
Using the remaining polenta, place another layer on top of the cheese.
Spread the remaining spinach mixture in a layer over the polenta.
Beat the egg in a bowl with 1/4 cup of milk, spread the mixture evenly over the top layer. Lay down an even layer of the remaining Mozzarella cheese.
Place a layer of the remaining sliced tomatoes over top of the cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes (45 minutes total).
Let cool 10 minutes before serving, enjoy!


Mexican Hot Cocoa

We got some long awaited snow this weekend in North Carolina. It was the very first snow my daughters had ever seen and the first my wife and I had seen for at least 5 years, we were all very excited. My brother Scott came to visit and was right on-time bearing gifts of his newest chocolaty concoction; Mexican Hot chocolate. Sipping hot chocolate and watching the snow fall brought me back to my childhood, only now the hot chocolate is MUCH better! Here is his recipe:

Mexican Hot Cocoa

2 cups Powdered milk
1 cup powdered sugar

3/4 cup GF baking cocoa

3/4 cups Nestle Coffee-mate powder creamer

1 tsp Chili powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

Sift all ingredients for easier mixing.

Fill a mug 1/4 full with powder, mix well with hot water.
Stir and serve with a cinnamon stick, or with whipped cream (optional)


Black-eyed Pea Soup with Wild Mushrooms

This is one recipe that I would have never dreamed of cooking before I moved to the South. I honestly never had black-eyed peas or turnip greens (or any other kind of greens) until I was 25 years old. Black-eyed peas are supposed to bring good luck for the New Year. I've heard, and read several different versions of this, however, the one that sticks with me the most, is that black-eyed peas represent copper coins and turnip greens represent paper money; thereby bringing prosperity for the coming year. Some even say that you need to eat 365 black-eyed peas on New Years to guarantee good luck for every day! I really can't imagine eating 365 beans but I know that the result would be much less desirable than good luck!
Several years back I celebrated News Years with some friends at the beach, someone cooked up an awesome soup with black-eyed peas, collard greens and a ham hock. It was this soup that I had in mind when I bought some frozen black eyed peas and frozen turnip greens just before Christmas, intending to make this recipe for News Years Day. With the holidays being so hectic this year I never got around to actually making the soup until this past weekend. It proved to be a perfect soup to warm you up on a cold January day, with or with the superstitions! The earthiness of the black-eyed peas are complimented by the very earthy wild mushrooms, and the ham hock gives it a rich smoky flavor.

Black-eyed Pea Soup with Wild Mushrooms
Serves 4-6

2 cups of pre-soaked black-eyed peas (frozen or canned can be substituted)
2 cups of frozen Turnip Greens (16 oz package)
1 ham hock
@1/2 cup dried wild mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium Onion- chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic- chopped fine
2 stalks of celery- diced
2 carrots- peeled and chopped to bite sized
1/2 cup cooking Sherry
4 cups chicken broth (or stock)
3 cups filtered water
1 dried chili pepper (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 Tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

• Place the wild mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with warm water. Let them soak for @ 40 minutes, save the water.
• Heat a large pot to medium-high with the olive oil, Stir in the onions, cook for about one minute.
Mix in the garlic, celery and carrots cook for a few minutes, then add the dried chili pepper, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix all together well.
Next add the ham hock, sherry, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and wild mushrooms along with the liquid they were soaking in. Mix together and let cook for two or three minutes.
Now add the chicken broth and water, bring to a boil on high heat. Stirring occasionally.
Once it comes to a boil reduce heat to low, keeping it at a low boil. Cook it like this, uncovered, for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once done remove the bay leaves, chili pepper and the ham hock.
Cut the meat off of the ham hock. Discard the fat and bone, cut the good meat into bite-sized pieces and return them to the soup. (optional)
Serve and enjoy!


Real Buffalo Chicken Wings

It's amazing the way that memory and food are connected. I remember the very first time I had chicken wings, it was around 1977. At that time their popularity was still growing and were the the talk of the town in Buffalo. While my grandmother was baby-sitting me and my brothers, she ordered take-out wings. I remember that they were "medium." Believe it or not I can still remember the initial sensation of tasting that wing. I even remember exactly where I was standing in my Grandma's apartment! (the thought of it is making my mouth water now!). The hot, savory spiciness of that wing was by far the strongest flavor that had touched my seven year old mouth. Within seconds I was breathing heavily, sticking out my tongue, and asking for water, only to eat another wing just minutes later. I can remember my brothers and me repeating this process, and running around pouring water on our burning tongues until the box of wings was nothing but bones. That same year the city of Buffalo declared July 29, 1977 the first official Chicken Wing Day.

Growing up we had "wings" often and when my brothers and I became old enough we all worked in restaurants where we cooked them nightly. We experimented with different ingredients and made our own versions of "suicidal" wing sauce, something you ask for in a Buffalo restaurant if you want to dare the cook to cause you possible permanent intestinal damage. At one point we all became such wing snobs that we wouldn't just go to a specific restaurant for wings, but we would go when we knew a certain cook would be on wing duty!

There aren't actually any gluten-containing ingredients in Buffalo wings, or wing sauce. The problem with ordering wings at a restaurant is that the deep-fryer being used for the wings is almost certainly being used for numerous breaded fried foods (chicken-fingers, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, etc...) as well, making cross-contamination to gluten almost certain. So now if I want to have chicken wings I have to find a clean deep fryer. Luckily my brother Scott has one, but he lives in a different city than I do, which means I don't get to have wings very often. So this past weekend when I stayed at Scott's house for the night I told him that I couldn't remember the last time I had wings, and since I have to leave in the morning why don't we have wings for breakfast? Being the gracious host, and wing-lover that he is, he immediately consented. The wings were great, but we opted for just plain hot, not our normal suicidal version, after all it was breakfast!

A few things about real Buffalo wings; they are always deep-fried in oil until crispy, never (ever!) baked. The ingredients may vary a bit but the main ingredients are Frank's Red Hot sauce (original), and butter, and never (ever) are they breaded. The wings should be served with celery, and/or carrots. The other component of this meal is blue cheese dressing, which for the most part is NOT gluten-free. UPDATE, July, 2014: Now many blue cheese dressings are gluten free, make sure you check the label and call the company if you are unsure.
One more thing, I normally try to cook (and post) recipes that not only taste great but that are also good for you, this one hardly qualifies as healthy, but we've all got to indulge ourselves sometimes, and If I had a list of favorite food indulgences, this would make my top five!

Real Buffalo Chicken Wings

serves 2 or 3
This recipe makes medium wings, to make them mild or hot adjust the ratio of butter to hot sauce.

Needed: Gluten-free deep fryer with vegetable oil. I suggest cooking these outside for reasons of safety, cleanliness, and so your house won't smell like oil for five to seven days!

@ 20 chicken wings (actually half of a wing, with the tip discarded)
3/4 cup Frank's red hot sauce-original
1/4 cup butter

Optional ingredients *to make them hotter*
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper


Fill you deep fryer with enough oil to cover all of the wings, but leave enough room so it won't boil-over
(if your deep fryer isn't large enough make two batches with half of the wings)
Heat vegetable oil to 360 degrees, if you don't have temperature gauge, heat to medium-high.
Combine the hot sauce, butter, (& optional peppers) in a bowl or pan with a tight fitting lid, set aside.
Carefully submerse the wings in the hot oil, stir them around so they don't stick to the sides, or to to each other.
Cook for a total of about 12 minutes stirring occasionally, once they start to float to the top, let them cook for about 3 minutes more, until crispy and golden-brown
"Shake" the wings of excess oil, or let them drain briefly.
Put the wings into the bowl with the other ingredients, seal the top tightly, and shake well. Serve hot with celery, and carrots.

Good Old Baked Potato

Before I had celiac disease I never thought too much about baked potatoes. They were just something you ate with steak. Then when I started my gluten-free diet, and for a time afterwards they became an island of safe fulfilling nourishment in restaurants overrun with gluten! When adding a baked potato to the cursory salad with bland meat it would actually make eating out somewhat tolerable. I'm a pretty big guy, and a big eater, and I've never really been satisfied with a meal unless there is some kind of starch to fill me up. Now I have more confidence in what to order in restaurants, and most restaurants are more aware of gluten-free diets so it is easier, but I still have a soft place for the good old baked potato.
I always keep a few baking potatoes in the pantry for when I get home hungry from a long day and I don't have the energy to muster up my usual culinary delights. Then I just reach for the potatoes and use them like a blank canvas, similar to the way I used to pick up two pieces of bread and look for something to fill them with. Last year I was watching the food network and was delighted by the showcase of a restaurant (I can't remember where) which served everything (or anything) on a bed of mashed potatoes. Dessert was a bed of mashed sweet potatoes covered in anything sweet. Since seeing that I now think of the baked potato in much the same way, with an invitation to fill it with whatever strikes your fancy. One of my favorite toppings has been leftover taco meat with cheese (of course). Some other things toppings I've enjoyed are, peppers and onions, corn, breaded fried chicken, black bean (or any other) salsa, cooked broccoli, grilled salmon, chili, ham, bacon, spinach, sauteed mushrooms, green onion, grilled eggplant, (almost any kind of) cheese, tomato sauce with parmesan cheese, butter and sour cream (of course) and any combination of the above. Don't for get the salt and fresh cracked pepper! Last night I had peppers and onions with corn, bacon and cheese (see above photo) and it was entirely satisfying! I really don't have a recipe to post here, but it you want one you can try a data base of every type of potato recipe you could ever want.

Chocolate Waffles

This past weekend I was preparing to make my regular Saturday morning pancakes, when I had a thought, Why don't I make waffles instead? It had been a really long time since I'd made waffles, and there was a good reason for that. The last time I attempted waffles I decided it would be OK to use the awesome waffle iron we got for our wedding, despite being used for "normal" waffles countless times. I carefully washed all of the cooking area and went through every crevice with a paper towel, wiping away any build-up. Despite all of this effort I still got sick after eating the waffles. Lesson Learned! Some things like pots and pans, dishes and utensils have never given me a problem, a waffle iron is just one of those items, like a toaster, that need to be "dedicated" gluten-free.
So now that I have my gluten-free waffle iron, I'm up and running again! Once I decided on making waffles I needed to figure what to put in it to "jazz it up". I rarely like to cook food that is normal or plain, I like to look for an ingredient that will make it special or distinctive, in this case chocolate did it for me! I remember a coworker recently talking about making chocolate waffles for dessert with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce. sounds great, but maybe not for breakfast! My recipe below is not too sweet or too chocolaty, but would make a fun weekend breakfast or brunch.

Chocolate Waffles
serves 4

1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free flour mix
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp GF baking soda
2 tsp GF baking powder
1/3 cup GF cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
salt to taste
1/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup milk


Mix the GF flour, flax seed, rice flour arrowroot. baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, sugar and salt together well in a mixing bowl.
Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl.
Stir the eggs milk, and butter (or vegetable oil) into the dry mixture, mix all together well. If it's too dry you can add a bit more milk.
pour the batter into your pre-heated waffle iron, according to the waffle iron directions.
Serve with butter and syrup (or honey), or hot fruit, or chocolate and powdered sugar! Depending on how decadent your feeling! Enjoy!

Companies That Clearly label Gluten-Free Food

One of the most intimidating things that I had to do when beginning my gluten-free diet years ago was to walk into a grocery store and try and figure out what to buy. I've spent up to a half hour reading and re-reading labels from every single brand for a particular item like tuna fish. I used to carry two or more up-to-date Gluten-free product lists, looking everything up. Over time I got to know which products are reliable, and which ingredients to look out for. I still look up products, but usually on the internet before I leave the house. I also take some chances with products I'm not certain about (something that drives my wife crazy).
The other thing that is hard to get a handle on is that the ingredients for products are always changing. For example I used to enjoy eating Stonyfield organic yogurt. We would always have it in the house since my wife and kids ate it as well. Then I heard from my mother that the ingredients changed and it may not be gluten-free anymore (although you can't tell from the label). Being naturally stubborn, I went on eating it and finally after a few unknown gluten bouts with my stomach I discovered the culprit, the yogurt (duh). Anyways, that's what makes the following list so beneficial to me, even if I don't remember most of the names it is helpful to have the names of dependable food manufacturers whom I can trust in my head, this is the type of thing that gives me piece of mind!

I got this list from my mother who got it from Mike of Gluten Free in WNY.

These companies will label gluten as wheat, rye, barley or oats. For example: modified
food starch (from wheat) or natural flavoring (contains barley).

Aunt Nelly's
Libby's Balance Lipton Baskin Robbins McCormick Ben & Jerry Nabisco Betty Crocker Nestle Blue Bunny Old El Paso Breyers Ortega Campbells Pillsbury Cascadian Farms Popsicle Celestial Seasonings Post Country Crock Progresso Edy's Russell Stover General Mills Seneca Foods Good Humor Smucker Green Giant Stokely's Haagen Daz Sunny Delight Hellman's T Marzetti Hershey Tyson Hormel Unilever Hungry Jack Wishbone Jiffy Yoplait Knorr Zatarain's Kozy Shack Kraft- makes Oscar Mayer, Jello, Breyers and many other brands.