Friday, July 25, 2014

Southern Fried Okra aka Crusty Okra

Every recipe has a story and this one is no exception.  For years I struggled to make really good crispy fried okra.  In 2009, I stumbled onto a recipe that has become my go to recipe for making "crusty" okra as my granddaughters call it.  

After going gluten-free, I found that this recipe works just as well with an all-purpose gluten free flour blend as it did with wheat flour.  I am so grateful to 1 Fat Chef for posting his secret to success. The recipe belongs to him.  Over the years I have developed my own secrets for breading and frying and will share them here.

My granddaughters love the "crusty" okra.  When they visit, I try to have a Ziplock bag of breaded okra ready in the freezer to go into the hot oil.  When they were here in November 2013, I had fixed them corn as a vegetable side for Thanksgiving.  The little one informed me later that she really didn't like corn.  When asked what she did like without hesitation she said okra.

The conversation soon turned to breakfast for the next morning and the youngest said she wanted okra for breakfast.  Now that is loving it!  We did settle on more of a breakfast thing with the promise of "crusty" okra for dinner. 

Southern Fried Okra

1 quart fresh okra, washed
2 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten free)
1 teaspoon seasoning salt or Cajun Seasoning
 fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 to 1 1/2 cups stone-ground yellow corn meal
1 egg beaten
canola oil
coarse salt

Cut tops off okra pods and cut the pods into 1/2 to 3/4 inch rounds.  The tail of the pod can also be used.  Place the cut okra into a 2 quart container with lid.  I use my Season Serve Serve Container from Tupperware.  Sprinkle the okra with the flour, seasoning salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Place the top on the container and shake to thoroughly coat.  Remove the top and check to make sure the okra is lightly dusted with flour.  This is the first secret to success.

Once the okra is lightly dusted remove from container using a Frying Strainer.  Shake out excess flour and return flour to Season Serve Serve Container.  Making sure the okra has a light dusting is the second secret to succeeding.

Pour the beaten egg over okra, place top on container and shake, shake, shake.  Sprinkle 3/4 to 1 cup of the stone-ground yellow corn meal over okra and shake, shake, shake.  Add additional corn meal as needed.  The okra should be coated and "dry" not wet. 

Making sure the oi is ready and frying in small batches is the final step on the journey to really good "crusty" okra.  Preheat oil to 400°.  If you don't have a frying thermometer, place the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil.  If it "sizzles" the oil is ready.  I always test it with a piece of the breaded okra.  When the okra browns and rises to the top it is done and the oil is ready.  The okra should be fried in small bathes as not to cool the oil down. 

As the okra cooks it will brown, even gluten free, and rise to the top.  Remove okra from oil with strainer and place on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with coarse salt to taste and enjoy!  The recipe makes about 4 to 6 servings.


Note:  The okra can be breaded and frozen for later.  To freeze I place on a cookie sheet and do a quick freeze.  Then bag the okra for later use.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cornbread Time

Cornbread has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Growing up Southern probably has something to do with that.  For me cornbread was always cooked in a cast iron skillet.  A little bacon grease was put into the pan, the pan placed in the oven to preheat while the cornbread batter was mixed, the melted grease poured into the batter.....sizzle, sizzle, sizzle.

A friend recently was on a search for a cornbread recipe using corn flour.  Seems that corn meal, one of the main ingredients in cornbread, isn't available world wide.  Stop to consider for a moment ingredients.  What goes into cornbread?  Cornmeal, flour (usually), baking powder, eggs and milk.  Some type of sweetener possibly but southern cornbread isn't usually sweet.  If sugar is added maybe a touch or so.  After living out west I learned to make cornbread with all sorts of wonderful ingredients.  There is green chili, cheese, jalapeƱo, cream corn, etc.  I even learned about the joys of blue corn meal.

Well as a true Southern I had never making cornbread with corn flour but I was game.  I did an on-line search and thanks to Oprah, found a recipe.  For those of you who know me know, I don't follow directions well.  I did some presto change-up and came up with a winning cornbread muffin recipe.  In has a nice crust which was important as well as a nice texture.  

Corn Flour Corn Muffins

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 c. gluten-free flour blend (I used Pamela's Artisan Flour Blend) or
all-purpose gluten laden flour can be used
1 c. corn flour
1/4 c. coarse grind yellow cornmeal
1 T. baking powder, gluten free
2 t. sea salt
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, beaten
1 c. milk (I used almond milk.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and lightly flour a 12 tin muffin pan or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Melt butter in small saucepan and allow to cool while mixing batter.

In a medium bowl combine  flour blend, corn flour, baking powder, sea salt and brown sugar until combined.  Add in beaten egg and milk.  Mix well and then add in melted butter.  Stir until thoroughly blended.  Scoop mixture evenly into the prepared muffin tin and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.  For gluten free the internal temperature should be 210°.

Allow to cool for a few minutes and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Can be served fresh from the oven or frozen and reheated later.  

If baking gluten free make sure all ingredients are labeled as such.  Bob's Red Mill sells a gluten free corn flour and Calumet Baking Powder is gluten free.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Remembering Back When

Here we are with almost half of July gone.  Hard to believe.  Where oh where does the time go.  

The other night Hubby and I had dinner with friends and the conversation turned to the start of a new school term.  It seems that schools are ending their summer breaks earlier each year.  Teachers in my area will be returning to school on August 1 with students soon to follow.  All of us were reminiscing and commented that for us school always started after the Labor Day holiday.   My comment to this was that we started after Labor Day because we all grew up in the south and schools of our era were not air-conditioned.

This led me on a walk down memory lane.  I grew up in North Alabama with a few short stints in Chicago.  As a child schools were not air-conditioned and neither were homes, churches or cars.  I remember an aunt who had an air conditioning unit in her home.  After a hot, hot walk to her house I would walk into a chilled house and after a visit found myself walking home in the hot, hot sun.

Churches opened windows and had fans.  No not electric fans.  Paper fans where you would cool yourself off by creating a cool breeze fanning your face with the paper fan.  Cars?  You rolled down the windows if you or the driver didn't mind getting hair mussed.  

Times have certainly changed.  I am presently sitting in my house with the sound of the air conditioner humming away.  I still enjoy shutting off the air-conditioner in the early morning or evening to enjoy the cool crisp air.  My first car was a 1963 Pontiac Catalina and yes it did have air-conditioning.  I'm not sure when things started to change but I do know that my high school had air-conditioning or we would have been goners as it didn't have any windows.  

Summer is a great time for cooking lighter.  Combine a lighter meal with the grill and you have a winner.  Today we enjoyed a delicious recipe that I found on Eating Well.  Here is my take on that delicious dinner salad. 

Buttermilk-Brined Chicken Breast Salad

 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 shallot or 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (A mixture of oregano, rosemary and thyme worked well)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (I really didn't measure just gave the bottle a couple of shakes. So I'm guessing.)
1/2 teaspoon (generous) of freshly ground black pepper

Salad and Dressing:
2 to 3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (Same mix as used for brine.)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (Again a guess.)
1 clove garlic, peeled
Pinch of sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 to 5 cups shredded leaf lettuce

In a plastic Ziploc bag combine the ingredients for the brine.  Place the chicken in the bag, seal and put in refrigerator.  Allow to marinade for 4 hours to 8 hours.  Remove chicken from brine, pat dry and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  While chicken is resting preheat grill to 400 degrees and prepare salad.  

To a large salad bowl add 1 tablespoon olive oil, red-wine vinegar and fresh herbs.  Finely grate garlic clove into bowl.  Add in sugar and black pepper.  Whisk together until thoroughly combined.  Add in washed and dried shredded lettuce tossing to coat.

Rub both sides of the chicken with a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Place on grill and cook with lid closed for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until chicken registers 165 degrees F.  Remove chicken to a clean cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Divide the dressed lettuce between 2 chilled plates.  Top with sliced chicken and enjoy.  I served this with fresh bread for a delicious and satisfying Sunday meal.

It is always fun to reminisce but I am so thankful for my modern conveniences.   

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Belated 4th of July

I know my 4-legged baby is glad that it is over.  While there are still some firecrackers going off, the major portion of the explosions are over with.  Hubby and I shared a nice quite 4th.  He worked in the yard while I cooked and typed recipes for our church cookbook.  Finally got the typing commitment completed and thought it might be nice to share dinner today.

Yes, I live in the south and can see myself reverting back to my southern roots.  Dinner around my part of the world is the mid-day meal.  The evening meal is supper.  Since we are retired we generally have the larger meal of the day around 1:00 p.m.   This time of the year fresh produce it abundant.  I grew up eating this wonderful squash casserole that of course was loaded with gluten.  The casserole had tender yellow squash, onions and some type of canned cream soup.  It was then topped with per-packaged stuffing mix that had been tossed with butter.  Yummy!

Let's see....I think the only thing that didn't contain gluten was the squash, onion and butter.  I have looked for awhile to find a nice substitute that I could do gluten free.  So many called for cracker crumbs.  Well I finally stumbled on to a recipe at Taste of Home for Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole.  Yes, I made lots of changes to the recipe and the end result was awesome!  I have now made the recipe twice and this time I remembered to take a photo of the finished dish.

Cheesy Summer Squash Modified by PaulaG

4 to 5 small to medium yellow squash
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 T. mayo
2 T. plain yogurt
1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. gluten free corn flakes, crushed slightly
1 T. butter, melted
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Hungarian Paprika

In a small saucepan add squash, onion, salt to taste and 1/4 c. water.  Bring to boil over medium heat.  Cover pan and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 5 minutes or until squash is barely tender.  Drain.

In a medium bowl beat the mayo, yogurt and egg together.  Add in drained squash/onion mixture and cheddar cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper and pour into a 1 quart casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Toss the corn flakes with the melted butter and sprinkle over casserole.  Lightly sprinkle with Hungarian Paprika.  

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  

This makes 2 to 3 nice servings.  I served it with southern fried okra, pickled beets and cornbread with green onion on the side.  Pure comfort food.   Make sure to use tender, young squash that is small to medium in size.  

May have to do a post with the gluten free southern fried okra and cornbread.  I'll save that for another day.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Cost of Being Gluten Free

WOW!  What a whirlwind month.  I have had the amazing opportunity of being with my granddaughters for 3 weeks this month.  Tiring but oh so fun.  The oldest was here the first of the month to attend Aquarium Camp.  After the first day she was planning on attending next year and her enthusiasm continued throughout the week.  Money well spent.

I had a week to rest up before I headed to their place for the week and then I brought them back home with me for a week of fun, sun and Vacation Bible School.  I have some wonderful childhood memories of attending Vacation Bible School or VBS as it is often referred to.  We had arts and crafts, a Bible story or 2, sang songs and had cookies with Kool-Aid.  This was the days before food allergies.  The staff this year had a real challenge and with the number of food allergies the children had.  They handled it very well and deserve a round of applause.  While VBS has evolved somewhat the principle is pretty much the same.  The girls had a great time and I am so thankful to all the volunteers who made this a positive experience for them.

On Thursday night it was Family Night.  A great time for family and friends to learn about the VBS process.  What the children were doing and for the children to share with their families the fun times they were having.  When there are 300 or so children enrolled there is a potential of 600 plus individuals at Family Night or even more if the grandparents attend.  

The adult helpers were asked to help defray the cost of Family Night by bringing a couple of packages of cookies.  Being gluten free I am sympathetic to the needs of people on special diets.  A package of gluten free cookies is very pricey.  A small package with maybe 18 cookies or so is well over $5.  Ouch!

Thanks to King Arthur Flour, I always have cookie dough preformed and in the freezer.  King Arthur has a cookie mix where you beat in butter, egg, water and your own add-ins.  Depending on the size of the cookie and the amount of add-ins it will make several dozen cookies.  In my opinion nothing beats a deliciously gooey chocolate chip cookie warm from the oven.  Nestles  has semi-sweet chocolate chips that are gluten free and since I love chocolate I usually buy a large bag at Costco and store in the freezer. The price of the chips is around $9. 

On the King Arthur Flour website the price of the mix is $6.95.  Often times the mixes can be purchased with 20% off or free shipping is offered making the cookies more economical than store bought gluten free cookies plus they are better tasting.  To make the cookies, simply follow the directions on the box, use a cookie scoop and form into balls which can then be placed on a cookie sheet and frozen.  When firm I put them in a ziplock baggie for storage.  Warm cookies anytime!

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Frozen Dough

1 box of  King Arthur Flour Cookie Mix 
1/2 cup butter, vegetable oil or coconut oil; softened
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons water
1 to 3 cups add-ins (I usually use 3 cups.)

Using a stand-mixer and large bowl beat half a box of the mix with the  butter or oil.  Add in egg and water, beat until fluffy.

Beat in the remaining cookie mix, scrapping sides and bottom of bowl to make sure it is completely incorporated.  Stir in your add-ins.

The add-ins can be chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit or a mixture depending on dietary restrictions.

Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, form the dough into balls, place on cookie sheet and freeze until firm.  Package dough into ziplock bag, label and date.  When ready to bake, remove the quantity desired, place on parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between and allow to defrost for 20 to 30 minutes.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake in preheated oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until browned.  Allow cookies to cool on pan for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.  

Cooking the well chilled dough makes for beautifully formed cookies.  

Well, VBS is over for this year.  The girls are back at home with Mom & Dad.  The house is super quite.  Yesterday we were able to take them to church with us.  It was wonderful.  Thank you Mom & Dad for allowing us to have this special time with them.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

WOW!  I am so overwhelmed at the response on Moving Forward.  It goes to show how much we all loved the forums and how much they will be missed.  I wanted to take a little time to remember the special times we all shared on Zaar and then later on

I joined Recipezaar to learn and expand my culinary skills.  A group of non-judgmental people gave me some wonderful recipes to try and through the discussions I gradually participated in I learned so much.  The first recipe I posted was a super simple recipe for Vegetable Soup on The Double.  The recipe was a collection of leftover items plus a bag of boil in bag brown rice.  A friend on mine on the site made the recipe look so inviting.  Thank you Annacia.

I haven't bought boil in bag rice in years and it is truly amazing how much my pantry changed and my spice cabinet bulged.  As you can tell by the photo, we not only had some amazing home cooks, but we also had some amazing home cooks that are fabulous photographers.

 Then there were the games.  The first game I checked into was Newest Zaar Tag.  The game was designed to get recipes without reviews a review.  This game also encouraged us to continue to post new recipes.  I remember how nervous I was stepping into the game and making my first tag.  I also remember well receiving my first review as a result of the game.  It was so exciting.

Of course once you have a review on the recipe what comes next.  1-2-3 Hit Wonders.  That game was followed up with Give Me Five and then Zaar Starz where recipes with more than 5 stars could be tagged.  Over the last 10 years I posted over 700 recipes, reviewed and photographed over 3,000.  My first food photos were a little pathetic but just like everything else I got encouragement from people on the site and in the Photo Forum.  Leslie gave me a real boost when she thought one of my photos looked like a "Rita" photo.

The first cooking competition I entered was Ready Set Cook aka RSC.  I think that was around RSC number 5 in June of 2004.  I developed several recipes for that contest as we didn't have a limit on the number that could be entered.  Wonders of wonders, I didn't win that contest that honor went to Susie D and Tejas Chipotle Pizza.  I did get an Honorable Mention for Summer Squash Slaw.  I entered RSC up until number 18 when claimed the contest.  I never won but I did have loads of fun and September of 2005 I developed the winning Best Vegetarian Recipe, Mediterranean Pizza with Caramelized Onions

There were many more contests and events over the years.  Pick a Chef fondly known as PAC. My 3 Chefs and of course Zaar World Tour (ZWT).  Zaar World Tour was the brain child of NcMysteryShopper and Leslie with help from lots and lots of people.  I participated in ZWT from the first year through last year when I was a second year Tour Guide.  The most memorable year for ZWT was the second year when I was on The Pantry Raiding Divas.  We were a wonderful group of women that bonded.  We didn't win the contest but we had so much fun.

As it turns out yesterday Liza Schattenkek, Director of Digital Programming, sent out an email.
To all my loyal hosts past and present,

I have some news I need to share with you before it gets out to the rest of the world: The Forums are not coming back. As we've all known for a long time, the Forums software was outdated and simply too old and they finally, completely and utterly broke down. The team tried to resuscitate them, but they were too far gone. Right now the curtain page (with an updated message soon) will be up for 3 more weeks and then the Forums will be back, but as a read-only version. We want you guys to be able to get all your stuff, copy and paste what you want, etc…before they are gone for good so we are going to put them back up, but we don't have the ability to make them interactive anymore.

I know this is beyond frustrating for all of you who have given so much time, love, care, energy and cooking smarts to the site and also made so many great friends. We do plan to bring you a new community experience, but it's not ready yet and the timing is unfortunate that there has to be a gap between the two things.

I'm sending this to all of you from my email account because I felt you deserved a personal explanation and definitely needed to know before word is communicated out to the masses. You are all really special, hilarious, hard-working amazing people and cooks and I feel lucky to have worked alongside you for so many years.

For some of you, I'm sure this will be the straw that broke the camel's back and if that is the case, I get it, and I hope to see you on Facebook or some other external site. If you do decide to stick around for the recipes, reviews and other exciting things to come (and I hope you do!), then I'll enjoy seeing you here too.

THANK YOU for always, always, always making Recipezaar and then a better place.

Yes, the forums are broken.  They will not be returning as the interactive forums that I will always remember.  I made wonderful friends along the way and I am so looking forward to the next chapter in Food Friends and Fun.  Susie D will be doing some Beta testing starting this coming week.  If you are interested let her know.  She is looking for a good mix of people from various places.