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Just an average guys thoughts

Gluten Free Lasagna

At the request of a close friend, I am publishing my recipe for gluten-free lasagna. This is a very simple recipe and uses ingredients that are readily available. As always, check the labels of any products to make sure they are gluten-free. If you are not sure, call the manufacturer.

I will start out with the fact that this recipe is supposed to be easy. You can make the sauce from scratch and there are thousands of recipes for that available, but that is not the intent of this recipe. Speaking of the sauce, the sauce is the heart of this dish. Without the sauce, it is just mac and cheese! Although a very tasty mac and cheese, it isn’t what we are looking for.

The first ingredient is the sauce. I prefer Prego as it is gluten-free and also, in my opinion, the best “base” sauce. By base sauce, I mean that it is good to start with but almost everything can be improved upon!

As you can see, the sauce is in the pan over low heat, jut to get it warm. This is where you add spices. Oregano, Basil, Salt, Pepper, and Garlic are added. Below is the chopped garlic. Only use half of the chopped garlic for the sauce.  After a few bubbles develop, turn the heat down to simmer.

Now comes the meat. I used roughly 1 1/2 pounds of ground chuck and 3/4 of a pound of ground sirloin.

Brown the meat over medium heat. You are not trying to blacken the meat, just brown it.

After five minutes or so, drain the grease off and continue browning the meat. At this time, add the other half of the chopped garlic, salt and pepper to the meat. Cook for three to four minutes and then, drain the meat and add to the sauce.

You will notice in the picture above, that the sauce has been transferred to a larger pot. I forgot that this recipe is for two trays of lasagna and since I am only making one, we are going to have sauce left over for either spaghetti or baked ziti later during the week.

This next part is optional. Sausage. I take two mild Italian sausages, cut them out of their case and brown them. Then, using my trusty chopper, I chop  them up into fine cubes. Then they are added to the sauce.

I allow the sauce to cook for at least two hours on very low heat, tasting periodically and adding spices to taste.

Now, that the sauce is ready, time for assembly.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

 Start the assembly.

Using a glass dish, add a layer of sauce, then one row of noodles. These gluten-free noodles do not have to be boiled and this saves a lot of time as well as noodles!

The next layer is mozzarella cheese. You can use whole milk, part skim, sliced, as pictured above, or shredded. It is a matter of taste and personal preference. Below, I used sliced whole milk mozzarella cheese.

I then add a layer of sauce before adding the next layer of noodles. I have found that in several instances where I have ordered lasagna out, it was dry. This prevents that from occurring.

Time for the next layer of noodles. You will notice that the noodles are opposite from the first layer. This “interlocks” the entire dish and after it is served, keeps everything from falling apart.

The next layer is the Ricotta cheese mixture. I mix in a large bowl, one container of whole milk ricotta cheese, one egg,and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Then I “trowel” it out on top of the noodles.

Then, a little more sauce.

Now, the final layer of noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese and a liberal sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Then, it is into the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Take the lasagna out and let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Some quick tips.

Use one jar of sauce for one tray of lasagna, or do what I did if you want extra sauce for later, use two jars.

Make sure you place the lasagna on the middle rack of your oven. Recently, I made this for a friends baby shower. Unfortunately, as we had Thanksgiving turkey the week before, I forgot to raise the rack to its normal position. After an hour of cooking I smelled that horrid smell of something burning. When I took the two lower trays of lasagna out, the bottoms were burnt. I was very sad but as usual, I can fix almost anything! I waited until the lasagna had cooled in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning. I loosened up all the sides, using my barbecue spatula, broke everything loose from the bottom of the dish, and then, placed a cookie sheet on top of the dish and flipped everything over. The dish came right off and then, I scraped all of the burnt sauce and meat particles away. Then, I cleaned the dish, added some leftover sauce to the bottom of the dish and put everything back together.

As the lasagna had to be reheated anyway, everything should be fine. It was and no one knew what had happened. In fact, this post is a direct request from my friend because the lasagna was so good!

I hope everyone enjoys this as it is one of my favorite dishes. If there are any comments or suggestions, please feel free to add them and enjoy!

January 3, 2012 Posted by | Food, Gluten-Free Foods and Diet | , , , | Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Bloomin Onion!

As we did not make it to the Outback last night, I decided to make a bloomin onion for lunch today.

The ingredients and procedure can be found here. Outback Steakhouse Bloomin Onion – Recipelink.

The fist step is to make the sauce. As I was missing a few ingredients, I substituted wasabi paste for the horseradish, and chili powder for the Cayenne pepper. It came out tasting exactly the same. For the dry ingredients, I used gluten-free flour and eliminated the cumin, as some Celiacs have an issue with cumin, I am one of those.

Now to slice the onion. The wife, a few years back got me this nifty onion slicer, which supposedly, makes things easier. Go to the footnotes to see if it really helped!

Now, that the onion is breaded, time to fry! You will notice that the onion in the next picture doesn’t look like the one above. There is a reason for that, which can be found at the bottom of this post.

The directions say to fry for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Using the gluten-free flour, a little less time and temperature are necessary. I cooked this one for 9 minutes at 325 degrees.I can assure, that the onion isn’t burnt. It came out toasty brown.And after exactly 4 minutes and 20 seconds….The onion was delicious and crisp. It tastes virtually identical  to the one at the Outback.

Footnotes:

Now…some cooks would leave the above post as is and say that first time out, everything came out perfect. In this instance, that won’t be the case!

As I have never done this before, I wisely purchased three onions. The picture of the plated onion would be number three. What happened to numbers 1 & 2, you may ask? Let’s just say, you have to break some eggs before you can make a omlet, so I will now tell you what happened.

Onion number 1:

As I purchased this new 10 inch frying pan and basket, I was dying to use it. This would be where onion number one met its demise. Apparently, the thin aluminum pans are not the best at heat control. I placed the onion in the oil and went to wash off the plate. Upon my return, the oil reached a temperature of over 500 degrees basically, incinerating onion number one. Burnt on the outside, raw on the inside. In the trash it went! 😦

Onion Number 2:

Onion number 2 was doomed from the start. The handy-dandy onion slicer cut the onion right through the base, which left most of the onion in pieces. After shutting off the oil, I placed the onion, or what was left of it, in the oil and it promptly fell apart. This also allowed all of the breading to fall off and subsequently burn. Now, the gallon of oil I used was ruined! Luckily, I bought a spare gallon! 🙂

Onion number 3:

With onion number three, I nearly made the same mistake with the slicer that I did with onion number 2. So, I cut the onion half way with the slicer, then used my trusty knife to cut the remaining portion of the onion. As the oil was ruined during onion number twos demise, I brought out our 20+ year tried and true, steel pot and french fry basket, along with fresh oil!

Using the steel pot on the stove instead of the gas burner outside, stabilized the temperature and the onion came out nearly perfect.

I will fry up some chicken wings next week and hopefully get the hang of using the aluminum fry pot and then attempt this again.

All and all, a reasonable success. As it didn’t last very long, I can only assume it was good, as the wife promptly went to take a nap!

February 12, 2011 Posted by | Food, Gluten-Free Foods and Diet | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gluten-Free, Low Carb Taco Salad

At the request of Independent Beachbody Coach Mara , here is the recipe for a taco salad. The nutritional information is also posted and is as accurate as possible, and was taken directly from the labels when available. Enjoy! for whatever reason, the link will not go to Maras site, so here is the web address which you will have to copy and paste into your browser: http://teambeachbody.com/MaraAlexander

Ingredients:

  1. Ground beef (3 oz)
  2. Ortega Tacos (Gluten-Free) (1)
  3. Salsa (we get ours made fresh from the supermarket. (2 tablespoons)
  4. Lettuce, shredded (1/2 cup)
  5. Sour Cream (Daisy Sour Cream is gluten free) (2 Tablespoons)
  6. Shredded cheese from our supermarket (1/4 cup)
  7. McKormick Taco mix (believed to be gluten-free although it does contain cumin) (1 package 1.25 oz).

To prepare this you will actually use one pound of beef to mix the taco mix with. Follow the directions on the package (brown the meat, drain the grease, mix taco seasoning with 3/4 cup of water and add to meat. Simmer for 5 minutes). Put that aside.

Cut the lettuce and collect the other ingredients.

Place the lettuce down on the plate first, or you can just dump it in a bowl. Add the meat, salsa, sour cream and cheese. Add the taco shell. I broke one in half just for the picture.

Here is a picture of the shell crumbled up.

Here is a picture after everything is mixed up and ready to eat!

You can, if you are in a hurry, just put everything in a bowl and mix it up and eat from the bowl. If these are leftovers, put the plate in the microwave oven for one minute to melt the cheese and heat up the meat.

Here are the nutritional numbers:

Totals:

Carbs: 15g

Fiber: 16g

Calories: 447g

Fat: 36g

Sodium: 845mg

Substituting low-sodium cheese should drop the sodium levels. This recipe is specifically for Gluten intolerant individuals and is also low carb, which can be suitable for the Atkins diet. It is filling and for lunch, after a night of tacos, is a good use for the leftovers. 🙂

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Gluten-Free Foods and Diet | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gloom of Gluten!

Many of you that know me, know that I have had “issues” regarding my diet. I will now tell you the full story.

All through my life, I have had issues, mostly, after eating large, carbohydrate filled meals, with going to the bathroom. Without getting graphic, explosive diarrhea, constipation, having to run to the bathroom immediately after eating, to name a few, were issues that I thought were normal!

In April of 2003, Tealas mother passed away. As sad as that was, things got worse. The apartment that she was living in was filled with all sorts of “nasty” items. Decayed food, fecal matter, etc. I got the dubious honor of cleaning this mess up, which took about a week of non-stop work. Several chemicals had to be used and of course, there were the mold splotches all over the walls.

Immediately after cleaning the apartment, I began to feel sick. I developed a nagging cough, phlegm, and a host of other respiratory problems. Finally, in August of 2003, after coughing up blood, I decided, with a little prodding, that it was time to go to the emergency room. When I arrived, I said the magic phrase, “I am having trouble breathing”, which I was, and I got right in to see the Doctor.

The first thing that was done was to obtain all of my vital signs which were good. The next thing was to get a sample of my blood. When the nurse started to draw my blood, he looked at Teala, she looked at me, I looked at them, and Teala looked at me! I asked what was going on? The nurse informed me that usually, when someones blood is this color, they are being embalmed! My blood was a dark shade of purple. The next thing that was done was an O2 saturation test. Normal readings are in the high 90s. Mine was 78…which is close to death!

I was admitted to the hospital for a week long stay. When I got out, I was on a series of medications including steroids, antibiotics, and several other things. I had pneumonia, a nasty sinus infection, and a lung infection. By September of 2003, I was feeling much better. Or so I thought!

For whatever reason, now, my eating “episodes” had gotten much worse. I was also constantly getting sinus infections or some other respiratory issue. I managed to stay out of the hospital for four years. Unfortunately, I did see quite a few doctors for various issues. Allergy tests, MRIs, CAT scans, and a host of other tests, that in the long run, turned out to be useless and a waste of my time.

Now, in the summer of 2007, I had gained quite a bit of weight, which is not normal for me. I cracked the “magic” 250 pound barrier and at 5 feet, eleven inches, that makes me “morbidly” obese! I had severe bloating after eating and especially after drinking beer, severe diarrhea, cramps, and a host of other issues that in some instances required an emergency trip to the nearest bathroom, or, a change of clothes!

The final episode occurred on the golf course. A group of friends and I would play golf every Friday at one of our favorite courses, Palm Aire. This golf course had a special that ran the summer, the “Bonanza”, which consisted of all the golf you could play and, a buffet lunch that was all you can eat!

On this particular day, the lunch special was tuna salad and the beer special was Coors Light. After three helpings of tuna salad and at least as many beers, it was time to play the second round of the day. Immediately after getting out to the cart, I felt extremely bloated. I looked at my belly and it appeared as though I had suddenly become eight months pregnant! I was having difficulty breathing and by the third hole, began to throw up after every shot, and not due to the result of the shot. After nine holes, I decided it was enough and went home.

I had been reading a bunch of stuff on the internet regarding bloating and that perhaps the cause may be a clogged colon, which I highly doubted, but nevertheless, I continued reading about body and colon cleanses. Most of the stuff was all fake and the reviews were less than supportive.

Right around this time, a good friend of mine suggested that I take the 7-day body cleanse available at GNC as he had just completed it and said he felt great. I decided that, hey, it couldn’t hurt! I purchased the product and then followed the directions. By the second day, I felt like I was 25 again..well, maybe not 25 but at least a lot better than I was feeling. By the end of the 7 days, I felt great. I had no bloating, my stool was regular, and all was well.

It was at this juncture, that my Loving Wife, who happens to be a registered dietitian and has witnessed several of these episodes, suggested that I may have a “gluten” issue. I asked her, “What is that”? She explained to me what it was and then I went and did some research and  with a few exceptions, this seemed to fit.

At her suggestion, I did an experiment. I drank a can of root beer, which is on the list of drinks to avoid if you have a gluten issue. She didn’t tell me this until later! Within ten minutes of consuming the root beer, I was bloated and within a half an hour…I was in the bathroom. Two days later, I was fine. The next experiment, I made some spaghetti. Same results. A week later, I made spaghetti again..only this time, I used gluten-free pasta. No bloating and no trip to the bathroom!

It was at this point that I decided to avoid all foods containing gluten. What I didn’t know is that almost everything contains gluten! After doing a lot of research, I have remained gluten-free, for the most part, for the last three years.

Approximately one year ago, I went to see a doctor who specializes in gluten issues. As I was “clean” there were two options.

  1. Go back to eating items containing gluten for two months and get the test done, or,
  2. Take the DNA test to see if I have the gene that causes Celiac disease.

I chose the second option as I didn’t want to make myself sick just so some doctor could say “your sick”! The result of the DNA test came beck negative. I don’t have the genetic trait so, eat as much gluten as you can, is what I was told. The doctor said “I should be glad as I didn’t have Celiac”. I said to him, Yes, that is great news……..what is wrong with me”? I’d rather know than not know.

I started eating food that contained gluten. At first, everything seemed OK. After a week, the symptoms returned. In three weeks, I gained 18 pounds, was bloated, and all of the other symptoms returned. I was exhausted, had trouble sleeping, and was feeling miserable.

Back to GNC! Did the cleanse and stayed off gluten. Now, that it is after the holidays, I did one more cleanse and have started the Atkins diet and will begin a strict, well for a fifty year old with a bad knee and back, fitness regiment to “regain my youth”.  The end goal is to lose 40 pounds and to participate in the Food and Wine 1/2 marathon at Disney in October 2011. That journey will be posted elsewhere on this blog.

I plan on staying gluten-free for the rest of my life. Regardless of what the doctor has said. He isn’t the one who has to live with this disease, whatever it is. Which brings me to another issue…Doctors! How much pain and aggravation does one have to go through to get a straight answer and a proper diagnosis? I’ll have other posts regarding the two butchers who operated on my knee and elbow as well as the dentist, that so far has cost me $30,000.00 and that tab is still running!

Stay tuned…………………………

Some helpful links for other gluten intolerent individuals:

Celiac.com

Gluten Free Drinks

Gluten Free Works

Irritable Bowl Syndrome

Store Bought Gluten-Free products

January 6, 2011 Posted by | Gluten-Free Foods and Diet | , , , | 1 Comment