Is anyone else feeling the need for comfort food? I sure am!!
A few weeks ago my sister made the “Lightened Up Squash Mac and Cheese” recipe from The Chew website and cookbook. It looked yummy, but I only had a tiny bite (because gluten and dairy). Ever since I’ve been wanting to try a gluten-free and dairy-free version. Made it tonight. Excellent!!
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (gluten-free and dairy-free)
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, add butternut squash, stock, milk and garlic. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
Once the squash is tender remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Blend using an immersion blender (you may need to transfer it to a deep bowl to prevent splatters). Alternatively, use a regular blender. Blend until smooth.
Stir in about 2/3 of the cheese until melted. Set aside until pasta is ready.
Meanwhile, heat shortening in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and dried herbs. Cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
When pasta is done, drain and add it directly to the cheesy squash mixture. Stir until everything is combined and melted. Stir in remaining cheese just before serving.
Serve with the toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. Garnish with chopped parsley (if using fresh).
The original recipe uses both Gruyère and Parmesan cheese in equal measure, so feel free to modify as you like.
I burned the bread crumbs so served it without them. It tasted great.
My mom and I agreed that next time we would prepare it earlier and then bake it in a 300°F oven with some of the cheese and/or buttered breadcrumbs or crushed potato chips on top.
The amount of salt will vary according to how salty your “cheese” is. I added 1/2 tsp salt and a shake of pepper to the squash.
Those of us with food sensitivities often are confronted with social food situations where we know “if I eat any of this, I’ll be sorry later” . . . but we want to be polite. So we pick the things that seem “relatively safe.” I’m pretty good at avoiding the likely culprits. And lucky for me, I won’t end up in the hospital if I am accidently exposed to gluten, dairy, or corn. But that doesn’t mean I won’t suffer: intestinal distress (gluten), sinus trouble (dairy), hives (corn).
My choice when I need to rebalance and cleanse my system is what I call Indian Comfort Food, two ayurveda-inspired porridges that soothe and restore: Kichari (aka kitchari, khichdi, and many other variations) and Savory Farina. Try one or both of these recipes and your body will thank you! (Recipes adapted from information obtained at an Ayurvedic Cooking class at Health Through Ayurveda.)
Kichari with Sweet Potato and Chard
1/2 cup split yellow lentils (moong dal) or red lentils (masoor dal)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
4 cups chard (swiss, red, or rainbow, about 1/2 bunch), stems removed, sliced or torn into bite-sized pieces
Salt to taste
Rinse split lentils until water runs clear. Soak 4 hours or overnight; drain and rinse.
Get water boiling if it isn’t already.
Warm oil in large sauce pan or Dutch oven. Add cumin seeds and ginger and sauté for 1 minute. Add drained lentils. Sauté for another few minutes. Add 4 cups of boiling water and pinch of baking soda. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile measure out remaining spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, cardamom), prepare sweet potato, and rinse rice.
When beans are mostly cooked (after about 20 minutes), add rice and sweet potatoes. Add remaining 2 cups boiling water.
In a separate small pan, heat 1 Tablespoon oil. Add spices. Warm over low heat just long enough to release aroma. Be careful not to burn. Add to bean/rice/sweet potato mixture.
Continue cooking at a simmer until rice is done, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add chard. Cook until greens are wilted and combined with the rest of the ingredients (5-10 minutes).
Salt to taste.
The original recipe called for a pinch asafoetida (hing) added with the cumin seeds. I tried to find hing that didn’t also include gluten and/or corn starch. Unfortunately, my body reacted to the one product I found that said it was gluten-free in a way that told me there was something in it that I shouldn’t be eating . . . so even though this is a traditional “healling” ingredient in Indian/Ayurvedic cooking, I omit it.
If you can’t find small split lentils, you may be tempted to use regular split peas (yellow or green). Unfortunately, those require MUCH longer to cook. I’m really not sure how to best modify this recipe to use them. There may be other kichari recipes on the web that use those larger split peas. (See slideshow above for a picture comparing the different types of lentils.)
Kale, spinach, or other leafy greens can be substituted for the chard.
Sometimes I heat all the spices at the beginning (with the cumin seed and ginger) rather than waiting until later. The flavor is a bit different and there’s a greater danger of burning the spices, but it can work (and leaves one less pan to wash and frees up one more burner).
The original recipe claimed that this recipe “Serves 2-3.” I usually get 5-6 serviings out of it.
[2021 update] I never figured out what the baking soda was supposed to be doing, so I now omit it and add 1/2 tsp of Ajwain instead. Ajwain is an Indian seed that “tempers the effects of a legume based diet” 🙂
In a small cast iron or non-stick pan over medium heat, lightly the brown rice farina, stirring frequently until the farina is light brown in color. Remove toasted farina to a bowl and set aside.
Melt the coconut oil or ghee in the pan over low heat. Add the Spice Blend. Let spices warm for 10-15 seconds. Add vegetables and a small amount of water. Stir. Cover and cook vegetables for 5-7 minutes.
When the vegetables are cooked, add the toasted farina and stir to coat.
Add 1 cup boiling water and a dash of salt.
Cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring frequently as farina thickens.
Combine all the spices in a glass jar. Use 1-1/4 teaspoons (or a heaping teaspoon) for each serving.
I’ve only made this dish one serving at a time, but it should work if the ingredients are doubled/tripled/quadrupled. You might need to adjust water quantity, spice quantity, and/or cooking times. [2021 update] I now always double this recipe (so 2 cups water, 1/2 cup farina, 1 cup veggies, 2-1/2 tsp spice blend all in a slightly larger pan or sauce pan). Works fine and somehow doubling gives me 3 servings instead of two.
Other vegetable options: chopped onion, minced ginger, chopped yam or sweet potato, asparagus, leafy greens, or whatever else sounds good.
I’m guessing this dish could be made with other grains (e.g., wheat farina or grits), but I haven’t tried that. You might have to adjust cooking times.
[2021 update] I’ve also made the double recipe with 2 cups of leftover cooked rice instead of the farina (reduce the water). And I sometimes throw in a couple of scrambled eggs to make a really yummy Rice Bowl.
WOW! That’s quite a bit of information. Please let me know (in the comments) if anything needs clarification.
Today I baked the latest in my attempts to develop a gluten-free version of my old favorite “Raw” Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. This time I used Cybele Pascal’s Allergy Free French Apple Cake as a place to start. Her main innovation is pre-cooking the apples. I added raisins, walnuts (so no longer “top allergen free”), and spices (so less French, more American) to her recipe and made several other changes to make it corn-free. Below is what I did. Consult the links above for the original recipes.
3 medium baking apples (approx. 1 lb.), peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and then sliced crosswise (I used Cortland apples and ended up with 3 cups of apples)
2 teaspoons brandy (optional; I had Grand Marnier, so used that)
3/4 cup shortening (I use Spectrum Organics Palm Oil Shortening)
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup diluted coconut milk (see notes below)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
Place apple slices in a microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave 3 minutes or until apples are slightly tender and pliable. Toss with brandy and lemon juice, and set the pie pan on a wire cooling rack to cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the springform pan with a 9″ round piece of parchment paper and grease the parchment paper. Sprinkle the sides and bottom of the pan with a little gluten-free flour mix, tapping out any extra, and place the springform pan on the baking sheet.
In a small bowl, combine flax seed meal with warm water. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should thicken into a gel similar in consistency to eggs.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour mix, guar gum, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Set aside.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), combine shortening, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until well combined.
Add flax seed mixture and vanilla. Mix until blended.
Reduce the speed to medium and beat in one-third of the flour mixture. Mix until blended.
Add half the coconut milk, mix until blended.
Mix in half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining coconut milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the walnuts and raisins. Then gently fold in the cooled apples.
Pour the batter into the springform pan; spread to the edges of the pan and smooth the top.
Bake for approximately 60-75 minutes in the center of the preheated 350°F oven, until the center of the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack. Loosen the outside of the springform pan and gently release, using a small knife to separate the edge of the cake from the edge of the pan, if necessary. Set the cake, still on the pan bottom, on a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour.
My everyday dairy-free “milk” is diluted coconut milk. I take a 14 oz. can of Aroy-D Coconut Milk (according to the information on the can this brand is made from only coconut and water, not preservatives or additives), pour it into a 1-quart container, add 14 oz. of water, and shake. So a 50/50 mixture of coconut milk and water. Feel free to substitute whatever form/brand of dairy-free milk you like.
My original Apple Cake recipe included Cream Cheese Frosting. I’ve chosen not to frost today’s cake, but if I did I would use the following recipe:
3 – 4 Tablespoons diluted coconut milk, as needed for smooth consistency
Cream the shortening, coconut manna, salt and vanilla until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar in several batches, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the coconut milk, one tablespoon at a time until the frosting is the consistency you prefer. Continue beating until smooth, light, and fluffy. Makes enough for 12 large cupcakes, an 8″ layer cake, or the top and sides of a 9″ single-layer cake.
The original version of this recipe was thought to be a “DeWitt Family Recipe”; but turned out to be an “extended-family recipe”. It was written down by Ruth Smith, my Uncle Dick Dailey’s mother and then passed from my Aunt Rosemary (DeWitt) Dailey to my mother Dolores (Chioccarello) DeWitt. To make it truly inter-generational, I added a touch of my own—walnuts in the topping. Now I’ve revised it to be gluten-free / dairy-free / corn-free. The original made a 9″ x 13″ cake, which is usually too much for just me, so I’ve listed the ingredients for a 9″x9″ version as well.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease pan. (I also add some parchment paper and then grease that, but it’s not essential.)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, guar gum, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt). Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together topping ingredients (flour, guar gum, brown sugar, cinnamon, shortening & nuts). Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and brown sugar. Add egg(s).
Measure out the coconut milk.
To the shortening/sugar mixture, gradually add the dry ingredients alternately with the coconut milk. Mix on low until combined, then for 2-3 minutes on medium speed.
Fold in the rhubarb.
Spread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping mixture over the batter.
Bake for 40 minutes at 350°F. Cool on a rack.
The Gluten-Free Flour Blend I use most often is from Authentic Foods. It is a blend of superfine brown rice flour (which you can buy separately from Authentic Foods), potato starch, and tapioca starch. If you want to blend your own, the proportions (to make 3 cups) are:
When I heard my family out on the East Coast was having Eggplant Parmesan (aka parmigiana di melanzane, or melanzane alla parmigiana) for Christmas dinner, I got a taste for eggplant . . . only I needed a gluten-free, dairy-free option. So I searched for “Vegan Eggplant Rollups,” then melded what I found into the following recipe. For a first try it was amazing!!
Prepare the mushroom/spinach filling: Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic and stir until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until they release their moisture and start to brown. Add spinach and olives and cook until heated, stirring frequently. Add Italian Herb Seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
If you haven’t already done so, prepare the Cashew Cream Cheese and heat the tomato sauce.
Thinly slice the eggplant lengthwise. The slices should be approximately 1/4″ thick. I used my OXO mandoline slicer set at 1/4″ (though the slices seemed thinner than that). I ended up with 19 slices from my two eggplants.
Line two cookie sheets with paper towels. Spread out eggplant on the cookie sheets (it’s okay if they overlap a bit). Sprinkle both sides of each piece with salt. Let sit for 15-20 minutes to release moisture (and bitterness). Pat dry.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange eggplant on parchment-lined baking sheets. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake 8-10 minutes until tender and pliable, but NOT fully cooked.
Gather all your prepped ingredients at your assembly area:
Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking dish (glass or ceramic, not metal).
Spread each slice of eggplant with a thin layer of cashew cheese. Then spread a small amount (approximately 1 Tablespoon) of spinach mixture over the cheese. Roll up and place seam-side down in baking dish.
NOTE: I ran out of spinach filling after 15 rollups, so the last four (on the bottom right in the picture) are filled only with cashew cheese & vegan mozzarella.
Once all the rollups are in the dish, top with the remaining tomato sauce and the vegan mozzarella cheese. Cover tightly with foil.
Bake until tender, about 60 minutes. (I removed the foil for the last 10 minutes to get them nice and browned.) Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
NOTE: this is not exactly what I did for Christmas. I made this recipe again later (to use on pizza!) and liked the second version better, so that is what I’ve written down here.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 2-4 hours, then drained
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of salt
pepper and/or herbs (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or mini-chopper. Blend until smooth and thickened. You may need to stop a few times and scrape down the sides of the processor. These proportions worked well as a spread. If you want to use this as a “dip,” add more water or some coconut milk (or other non-dairy liquid) until it is the consistency you like.