N is for Nuts-Pecan Mushroom Fish

Almond, Brazil, cashew, hazelnuts, hickory, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, pine nut, walnut. But not peanut, that is a legume.

chipmunk-with-hazelnut photo by Gilles_Gonthier

Eating 1.5 ounces, or about 1/3 cup, of nuts five times a week reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease. And this amount does not cause weight gain. Click here for pictures of how many of each kind of nut are in one ounce.

Nuts are high fiber, high in healthy fat, a good source of vitamin E, and are cholesterol free. If you are interested, NutHealth.org has a chart with tiny print of specific nutrients in each kind of nut.

It is easy to add 1.5 ounces of nuts to your day. They make quick and tasty, nutritious gluten free snacks. Buy them raw or roasted, just check the label for any added gluten containing flavorings.

Or add nuts to any salad, top a casserole, garnish vegetables or even thick soups!

Equally useful is substituting ground nuts for bread crumbs. Gluten free breadcrumbs are either very time consuming to make from scratch, or mighty expensive to buy. Nuts are a great alternative that add lots of flavor, healthy richness, and tummy pleasing satisfaction.

Ground nuts are wonderful in meatloaves and meatballs. Or as toppings for fish!

Below is an adaptation of my grand prize winning recipe, substituting ground pecans for bread crumbs. I truly like version better than the original.

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pecan-mushroom-fish-with-tomatoes photo by vsimon

Pecan Mushroom Fish with Tomatoes

Serves 4

8 oz fresh mushrooms                         

2 tablespoons oil

½ cup ground pecans                           

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced              

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 pound tilapia fillets or other thin fish   

Pulse mushrooms in a mini food processor until finely minced.

Cook mushrooms until dry and slightly browned. Cool.

Mix mushrooms, oil, ground pecans, herbs, salt and pepper together.

Pour tomatoes into an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle in the balsamic vinegar and mix well.

Top tomatoes with fish. Top fish with mushroom mix.

Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, or until fish flakes, topping is browned, and tomatoes are bubbly.

Notes                                                                                                                    If your tomatoes are not at the peak of summer flavor, you can add some diced dried tomatoes to give it an extra punch of flavor. No need to hydrate them before mixing with the fresh tomatoes. The dried ones will soften as the dish cooks.

Use your favorite herbs. This is a mild flavored, family friendly recipe, and fun place to experiment. Basil, green onion, oregano, tarragon and thyme all work well here. Or substitute 1-2 tablespoons of dried herbs for the fresh.

Unwrap and expose the mushrooms to direct sunlight to greatly increase the Vitamin D.

Cook the mushrooms in a cast iron skillet to increase the iron.

Please share your favorite way to enjoy nuts.

J is for Jam

Everyone’s first thought is to spread jam on toast. And many gluten free breads certainly benefit from it. But there are other fun ways to use jam.

  • As a filling between cake layers.
  • Warm it and serve as a sauce over ice cream.
  • Serve with soft cheeses and crunchy rice crackers.
  • As a filling for crepes. See Montina crepe and jam recipes below.
  • Make a pan sauce for chicken or pork chops. Cook the meat as you like and remove from the pan. Add a few tablespoons of jam to the drippings. You can cut the sweetness with a bit of vinegar, lemon juice and /or mustard. Pineapple jam is good with chicken, apricot is good with pork. Or use your favorite flavor.

Last year my husband made raspberry jam for the first time. We always freeze berries, but that alone could not keep up with the huge harvest. So to get out of a jam, he made some! By late summer, we had a shelf full of wonderful jewel tone Christmas gifts.

raspberry-jam-jars photo by rusty grass

Making jam is really very easy. Homemade jam is just fruit and sugar, lots of sugar. Even recipes that claim they are low sugar have a lot. Some fruits also need pectin so they will thicken to jammy goodness. You can buy that at the grocery store. Be sure to follow their directions exactly.

What is the difference between jelly and jam?                                             Jelly is made from fruit juice and sweetener. Jam is made from crushed fruit and sweetener. Jam is chunkier and may contain seeds.

What is the difference between store bought and home made?                 Store bought jellies and jams often have high fructose corn syrup and may have preservatives. Recently, mercury was found in high fructose corn syrup and some of the products made with it.

I am not a fan of many of the jellies and jams offered in the supermarket. When you make your own, you will see how much sugar is added. A lot, did I mention that before? But at least it is not contaminated.

Vince’s Raspberry Jam

Adapted from a recipe on www.recipezaar.com posted by Pam in B.C. We like the combination of sweet and heat, so Vince added some cayenne.

Yield: 6 half pint jars. I think the diamond pattern jars are special.

4 cups mashed red raspberries, start with about 6 cups whole berries

4 cups sugar

½ teaspoon cayenne, optional

Sterilize jars, lids and rings in boiling water. Or a dishwasher if it has a sterilize cycle.

Put berries in a very large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring to full boil, the mixture will easily double in volume. Boil for 2 minutes.

Add sugar, stir constantly. Boil for 6 minutes.

Remove from heat. Be careful, the hot jam is like lava. Fill two jars with jam. Add the cayenne to the rest of the batch if desired. Fill 4 more jars. This way you get some slightly hot jam and some not.

Screw on lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 5 minutes.

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crepe-pan-and-Montina-blend-crepe photo by vsimon

Montina Crepes

Adapted from Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition

Yield: about 8 six-inch crepes

½ cup Montina  flour blend, other blends work well too

½ cup milk

¼ cup lukewarm water

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons canola or walnut oil

2 teaspoons sugar

Using a whisk, mix it up in container with a pour spout. Or use a blender and whirl for about a minute. Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.

The old wheat recipes needed this time to give the gluten time to relax. We need the time to allow the fiber in the Montina flour to soak up the liquid. The batter will be thicker and smoother after the resting time.

You can test to see if your pan is hot enough with a droplet of water. If it dances on the surface, it is hot enough. I like to use a 7” steel crepe pan. But any shallow pan will do.

Give the batter a good stir. Oil, or melt a bit of butter in the hot pan. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter in the pan. More is not better, you want a thin coating. Lift the pan off the heat and swirl it, so the batter encircles the pan. Cook for just a few minutes. The underside will brown and the top will set. Flip the crepe over and cook for about another minute. Remove this crepe to a plate while making the rest.

To serve, spread with jam and fold into quarters. You can garnish with a bit of powdered sugar if you like.

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Montina-blend-gluten-free-crepes-with-raspberry-jam photo by vsimon

Crepes can be cooled and stored for future use. Layer between sheets of wax paper and store in the fridge for up to a week. Or in the freezer for longer storage.

What is your favorite filling?

I is for Iceberg Lettuce

Umm. The much maligned iceberg lettuce is not very nutritious you say. I completely agree. If iceberg lettuce is your primary vegetable, you need to explore the colorful world of greens. But we will save that for another post.

Since iceberg lettuce is naturally gluten free, how many times has it been suggested as a substitute for a bun? I see many eyes rolling. A greasy burger between two slippery iceberg leaves is just not the same.

The best use of iceberg lettuce is a decorative vessel for salads. In the 60’s when my mom wanted to serve something fancy to bridge club, she served squares of fruited Jell-O. They were usually red, with fruit cocktail, made in a 9×13 pan. The squares were placed on a leaf of iceberg lettuce, and then topped with a dollop of mayo. Mom still loves that, I still think it is awful.

Or, the also retro, salad of a wedge of iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island Dressing comes to mind. This is still offered at some steak houses. It is tasty with a juicy steak and a baked potato. And easy enough for the restaurant to make gluten free. Here is a recipe to make your own dressing and treat yourself at home.

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iceberg-wedge-with-Thousand-Island-Dressing

photo by vsimon

Thousand Island Dressing

Adapted from my marked up 1973 edition of Joy of Cooking.                           This version is chunkier.

1 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s and Best foods brands are gluten free)

¼ cup catsup (Heinz brand is gluten free)

¼ cup minced stuffed green olives

¼ cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped green pepper

2 tablespoons chopped chives

2 diced hard cooked eggs

Mix it up. Serve over wedges of iceberg lettuce or hard cooked eggs. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Note: products change from time to time. Always read the label to determine if it is still gluten free. At the time of this posting, Hellmann’s, Best Foods, and Heinz websites have helpful gluten free listings.