Posts tagged ‘gluten-free’

January 6, 2012

My Favorite Noodle Dish—Ever

This is that dish. Which dish? That dish. The one you pine for when you’re away at camp for the very first time. The one you want every time you visit home. The one you crave at midnight when you’re seven months pregnant. Yes, that dish. The one that makes everything in the world right again, because it’s comfort and home wrapped in a warm bowl. For some of you, it might be lasagna, chicken pot pie or your mom’s fried chicken. For me, it’s this Chinese noodle dish, better known as “wat tan hor” or “char hor fun” in Cantonese. I grew up with it in Singapore and Malaysia, where you could get it at every hawker center in town. Even though my mom never cooked it, it holds a special spot in my heart—and, well, my gut. A delicious egg gravy with seafood and vegetables is poured over pan-fried rice noodles to create gastronomical bliss. It’s something you wish you could bathe in. Before fluids were outlawed on airplanes, I used to have my mom buy the dish from a little hole-in-the-wall in Atlanta and bring it to me when she came to visit.


In my family, we’ve renamed it Fat Noodle, after the thick, flat rice noodles that are in the dish. For years, I resigned myself to only getting to eat it whenever I visited home or went overseas. But then, one day I decided I had to try to make it myself. The first few times, it was embarrassing. Yes, it was edible, but nothing like the real deal.


After tinkering with a little more rice wine here and and a tad more oyster sauce there, I created something close to the perfect combination. I learned along the way that the secret to a good egg sauce is to turn off the heat immediately after cracking the eggs into the wok. Then you stir quickly, but with just a few strokes to break up the egg. If you leave the heat on, the sauce curdles and gets lumpy.

In my recipe I use shitake mushrooms, which is not traditionally in the dish but I think it adds a nice butteriness. Admittedly, my version of Fat Noodle is not as good as what you get in the streets of Penang, but it’s more than a respectable substitute. And definitely good enough to make you blow your low-carb diet. Added bonus: it’s gluten-free. Yes, the kids love it, too—especially as leftovers in their lunchbox.

The recipe follows the photo. If you don’t like seafood, try chicken, pork or beef.

Wat Tan Hor (Pan Fried Rice Noodles with Egg Gravy and Seafood)



1 package of fresh rice noodles

1 1/2 TB light soy sauce

1 1/2 TB dark soy sauce

1 1/2 TB peanut oil


1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 lb. large scallops

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. garlic, minced

1/2 TB peanut oil


1 1/2 TB garlic, minced

1 cup carrots, sliced 1/4″ thick on the diagonal

6 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1/2 lb. baby bok choy, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 TB oyster sauce

1 TB soy sauce

1 TB Shao Hsing rice cooking wine

1 tsp sugar

3 1/2 TB cornstarch

3 large eggs

Separate the noodles into individual strands and place them into a bowl. Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok or pan and put in a third of the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 TB light and dark soy sauce over the noodles. Stir-fry to keep the noodles from sticking. Remove the noodles after they turn a light brown color. Make sure they’re heated all the way through but not overcooked, otherwise they’ll get mushy. Repeat with the next two batches of noodles and add peanut oil as necessary. Set aside and cover with foil. Wipe out wok.

Toss the shrimp and scallops with the sesame oil and minced garlic. Heat 1/2 TB peanut oil in wok over high heat and stir-fry shrimp and scallops until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Wipe out wok.

Stir 1 cup chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and cornstarch in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok. Add the garlic and stir-fry quickly for 15 seconds. Add carrots, mushrooms, stems of baby bok choy and stir-fry for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves. Pour in three cups of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and scallops back into the wok. Stir chicken broth-oyster sauce mixture and pour into wok. Wait for it to simmer and thicken into a gravy. Crack the three eggs into the wok, turn off the heat and stir quickly with just a few strokes to mix the egg into the gravy. Do not overcook the eggs or the gravy will turn lumpy.

Put a helping of noodles on a dish and ladle the warm gravy over it. Indulge.

December 2, 2011

The Golden Age of Gluten-Free?

My husband ate my blog post. Literally.

I like to take pictures of all the food I post, but I couldn’t this morning because the leftovers traveled down my husband’s gullet last night while I was snoozing. That also meant no leftovers for S for lunch. So instead of bragging about the delicious Chinese noodles with pork and peanut sauce I made, I thought we’d discuss gluten. (Hopefully, the noodles will return in another post later this month.)

There’s a fascinating, well-reported article in the New York Times this week entitled, “Should We All Go Gluten-Free?” and though it’s pretty lengthy, it’s worth a read. While my family does not maintain a gluten-free diet, I do try to limit everyone’s intake by opting for wheat alternatives like brown rice pasta and rice crackers. Last year, the kids and I went grain-free for six months, which of course eliminated all gluten. Did we feel better? Yes, to some extent. But it was hard to tell what the culprit was, because we were completely grain- and dairy-free.

I considered going gluten-free again after we got home from Portugal because the kids’ eczema had gotten much worse. I couldn’t put my finger on it. While we were away we really didn’t eat that much dairy, which I do know incites C’s eczema. Even S’s eczema, which is usually well under control, was scaly, angry and fiery. The only thing I could come up with was bread. They served it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then, there were the croissants and myriad of pastries. Of course, my kids took every opportunity to indulge. How could I blame them? After all, European bread is something different altogether. It’s so much lighter and fluffier. Is it the result of flour with a significantly higher gluten content? I don’t know. But I do think the gluten is to blame for all the dry patches.

The article in the New York Times talks about the growing prevalence of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance and how gigantic corporations, like General Mills, are responding to the need for more gluten-free products in mainstream grocery stores. Is gluten-free here to stay? It sure looks that way.

Are you or your family gluten-free? If so, why? If not, do you think it’s just another fad diet? Let me know.

November 7, 2011

Tuscan Chickpea Soup

It’s looking like it’s going to be a week of leftovers for lunch. And it’s starting with the Tuscan chickpea soup I made last night.

After we got home from Portugal, I went a little crazy at the grocery store because our refrigerator and pantry were so barren. Now, everything is stuffed to the limit—a good problem to have—but I’m also a bit stressed about cooking all the meats and vegetables before they go bad. My plan is to cook large batches of dinner and send the leftovers for lunch the next day. It really is the easiest solution. That way, I don’t have to think about lunch.

Years and years ago, I found the recipe for a Tuscan chickpea soup in the October 2001 issue of Cooking Light. It is a simple recipe that yields great results. Plus, it freezes really well. I will admit, it’s nothing exciting, but that seems to work well for the kids. The recipe calls for water, but over the years I’ve switched to chicken broth to give the soup a bit more richness. I’ve also doubled the amount of tomatoes to give it more flavor. And because I’m always trying to get more kale into our diets, I like to chop up some kale and throw it into the soup as it simmers. If I’m out of kale, I use baby spinach leaves. Since they wilt pretty quickly in the soup, I add them at the last minute. Lastly, I like to serve the soup with grilled chicken or Trader Joe’s chicken-apple sausage. The sausage comes fully cooked in the refrigerated section. I usually warm it on the grill or in a skillet.

Don’t forget to sprinkle the grated parmesan or pecorino over the soup. It makes a big difference!

Tuscan Chickpea Soup (adapted from Cooking Light)


2 TB olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tsp. fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 (15 1/2 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 (14 1/2 oz.) cans diced tomatoes undrained

Chopped kale (optional)

1 -2 TB balsamic vinegar

6 TB grated fresh Parmesan or Pecorino Romano


Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the broth and the next 6 ingredients (broth through kale, if using), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Place 2 cups in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Pour the pureed soup into a bowl. Repeat procedure with 2 cups soup. Return all pureed soup to pan. Stir in the vinegar, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Spoon soup into bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese. Yield: 6 servings.

November 4, 2011

Beef and Cabbage Casserole

Let me preface this by saying, I’m typically not a fan of casseroles. But this one is actually good—and worth sharing. It doesn’t call for canned cream of mushroom or canned cream of chicken. And it’s neither overly salty nor low on flavor. It’s super simple and tasty, a lazy woman’s version of cabbage rolls.

I happened upon this recipe when we were on a grain-free diet last year. The kids liked it so much that they asked me to bring it back after our diet was over. Now, that tells you something. I also made it for my friend, R, and her kids. She tells me it has made its way into their weekday dinner rotation.

The recipe is adaptable, so you can include rice if you’d like, which is more like true cabbage rolls. Or, if you’re on a grain-free diet, like GAPS, Nourishing Traditions, or Paleo, just stick with the beef (I like to use ground bison) and cabbage. In either case, don’t leave out the cloves and cinnamon—it’s what makes the dish stand out. Serve with a salad or on its own. After all, your kids are getting plenty of vegetables from the cabbage.

This morning, as S was watching me pack leftovers in her lunch, she asked me, “Can I have a bigger piece of casserole?”

Happiness is your child asking for more cabbage.

Beef and Cabbage Casserole


1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt

15 oz. tomato sauce (I like the organic strained tomatoes that come in a tall glass jar from Bionaturae)

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. thyme

1/4 tsp. basil

4 to 5 cups cabbage, shredded


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet with the onions and the garlic. Drain off the fat. Add the remaining ingredients except cabbage to the meat mixture and simmer for 10 minutes.

Put half of the cabbage into a 2-quart casserole dish, top with half the meat mixture, top with the remaining cabbage, and finally top the cabbage with the remaining meat mixture. (The casserole dish will be rather full, but that’s okay because it’ll all cook down.)

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

*** Note: If you want to include rice in the casserole, I suggest 1/2 cup of uncooked rice and 1 cup of water. Add it at the same time you’re adding the spices and tomato sauce. Then, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Continue with the recipe as follows.

October 19, 2011

Oatmeal Snack Bars

S has been complaining that the grain-free bars I make are too sweet. Really? This is coming from the child who would love nothing more than to eat a bowl of icing. But, okay, I like bars, so I’m game for finding a new recipe. I prefer to stay away from wheat, when we can, so these super-easy oat bars from sounded interesting. There’s no sugar or flour, just oats, dried fruit and a bunch of nuts and seeds. If you’re sensitive to gluten, use gluten-free oats. (I’m a fan of the ones from Bob’s Red Mill.)

The verdict? It’s a keeper. But I will be playing with it some, trying different nuts, fruits and coconut. S thought they weren’t sweet enough (The other bar is too sweet and this one not sweet enough. Ack!), but C liked them. And I had two with my cup of coffee this morning. For the next go-around, I’ll add 1/4 cup of honey or brown sugar.

Note: These have the texture of a dense muffin, rather than a crunchy cookie. Recipe follows the photo.

Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars (from


1 1/2 c. rolled oats

1/2 c. chopped nuts (any variety is fine – walnuts, almonds, etc.)

1/2 c. dried fruit (again, any you like is fine – raisins, cranberries, apricots, dates, figs)

1/4 c. seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flax or sesame)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. kosher salt (I think you could eliminate this or cut it to 1/2 tsp., esp. if you don’t add a sweetener)

1 1/4 c. skim milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix wet ingredients.

Pour wet into dry. Stir to combine.

Pour into a 9X9 baking dish either coated in cooking spray or lined with parchment.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Cut into squares.

October 7, 2011

TJ’s Chicken Taquitos

Last week when I was at Trader Joe’s, the store had its chicken taquitos on demo. And since I had C and S in tow, the kids insisted that we try them. At first I cringed, but after looking at the ingredients I realized they’re pretty benign. Both kids loved them, so I gave in to S’s pleading and dropped them in my cart.

This morning I was glad to have them in the freezer, because I was out of the usual staples and didn’t have any leftovers. So, I dropped two in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, I smashed up half an avocado and mixed in a little salt and lime juice. The lime gives the simple guacamole some nice acidity, and prevents it from turning brown. Then, I cut up an apple and washed some green and red grapes. Lunch? Check.

October 6, 2011

Cooler Weather Calls for Venison Chili

Soups and stews aren’t just great for cooler weather; they also pack really well as leftovers for lunch the next day. In general, S really likes soups and stews. But she burned out on them a couple of years ago, when I packed soup for lunch nearly every day. So, I’ve been slowly bringing them back in.

Yesterday’s cold rain, a rare occurrence in sunny San Diego but apropos for the day Steve Jobs died, was a good reason to make chili. I figured it would warm my hands and feet, and comfort my heavy heart after hearing about the death of the creative genius that changed the way I and millions of others thought about and used computers—as well as design.

Earlier in the week, I had scored some frozen ground venison at Sprouts for $7.99/lb., and it came in handy for this recipe. After a quick Google search, I discovered an easy recipe for venison chili from Emeril Lagasse. Initially, I followed the recipe to the letter, but after the tomato/beef broth/red wine base had simmered for 45 minutes, I realized there wouldn’t be nearly enough for the amount of ground venison I had. I quickly doubled the base and added a can of kidney beans, which was just the right amount of liquid. The recipe I’m including below is the original recipe. I recommend doubling the liquids and spices.

The entire family loved the chili, and the kids had no idea it was venison. I served it with a dollop of sour cream on top, cornbread on the side and sautéed kale. S asked for me to pack it in her lunch today, with a baked potato. I heated the chili and put it in a Thermos container for soups, and then I wrapped a baked potato (or in my case, microwaved) in foil and put it in a separate stainless feel container. That way, she can pour the chili over the potato at lunch.

Venison Chili (from Emeril Lagasse)


4 strips bacon, diced

2 1/2 lbs. leg or shoulder of venison cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used 2 lbs. ground venison)

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

2 garlic cloves crushed

1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine

1 TB tomato paste

1 TB chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground oregano

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 24-ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 cup beef stock

salt and pepper

1 cup grated Sonoma Jack cheese


In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and transfer to paper-lined plate to drain. Add the venison to the hot oil in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally and in batches if necessary, until well seared. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic and sauté over medium-low heat until tender. Stir in the wine and the tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the dry spices, chopped tomatoes and the beef stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is very thick and flavorful. Add the venison to the pot and cook, stirring, until just cooked through and hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve with the grated cheese.





October 3, 2011

Grain- and Dairy-Free Breakfast Bars

The kids have been craving something sweet, and okay, okay, so have I. Last year when we were on a grain-free diet, an acquaintance shared the recipe for these delicious breakfast bars. But, really, they’re anytime bars. They’re great for breakfast, snack and dessert. Best of all, they’re very easy to make and super delicious. Feel free to use honey or agave nectar, and I’ve even used butter when I was out of grapeseed oil. I challenge you not to eat the entire pan.

Breakfast bars

Preheat to 350 degrees.


1 1/4 c. almond meal or almond flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 c. grapeseed oil (grape seed oil gives a buttery flavor to these bars)

3/4 c. honey

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 c. pumpkin seeds (unsalted/untoasted)

1/2 c. sunflower seeds (unsalted/untoasted)

1/4 c. almond slivers (unsalted/untoasted)

1/4 c. raisins

1/4 c. dried cranberries

1/4 c. to 1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)

In a small bowl, combine almond meal or flour, sea salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, combine grapeseed oil, honey and vanilla extract. Stir dry ingredients into wet. Mix in shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almond slivers, raisins, cranberries and chocolate chips. Grease an 8″x8″ baking pan with grapeseed oil  or use coconut oil spray. Firmly press dough into baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

September 14, 2011

Leftover Pasta with Meat Sauce and Salad

It’s leftover day! Hooray! I sent S to school with some pasta and meat sauce with zucchini. And, we had some leftover Moroccan Chicken Salad from California Pizza Kitchen. The salad is chock full of goodies such as butternut squash, beets, dates, egg, avocado and toasted almonds. Together, the brown rice pasta and salad made for a complete lunch.

Whole Foods had some wonderful grass-fed ground beef on sale last week ($4.99/lb.!), and it was delicious in our pasta sauce. I also added some garlic, chopped onion, zucchini, oregano, basil and organic strained tomatoes from Bionaturae. Not quite as easy as a jar of pasta sauce, but almost. It tasted super fresh!Pasta with meat sauce and CPK's Moroccan Chicken Salad

September 13, 2011

Greek Salad with Smoked Turkey

Evidently, I’m not just a glutton for good food—I’m also a glutton for making my life more difficult. I was more rushed than usual this morning and pleased with myself that I put together a yummy, nutritious lunch. But then, I remembered I had to photograph it, too. Add to that: the light was bad, I needed to get gas before I could take S to school, and I couldn’t find her favorite water bottle. Did I mention I’m not a photographer and don’t play one on TV? Blah, blah, blah. Okay, I’ll take that advice I’m always giving to my children: stop whining.

Today’s lunch was inspired by a dinner I made last week. For weeks, I’ve had tomatoes and cucumbers coming out my ears because of my CSA. One morning as I was shopping at Trader Joe’s, the feta caught my eye and all of a sudden I realized I should be making Greek salads. And I mean real Greek salads—the kind that remind me of my honeymoon. The kind that don’t have lettuce in them. That night, I cut up a bunch of cucumbers, tomatoes, olives and parsley. And I snuck in some chopped red onion. For the dressing, I mixed fresh lemon juice with olive oil and added some dried oregano, salt and pepper. I tossed the salad with the dressing and then topped it with feta. The kids loved it. Simple, fresh and I used up a bunch of tomatoes and cucumbers.

This morning, I had a quarter cup of leftover quinoa from last night, so I made a Greek salad again and threw in the quinoa. I included some smoked turkey breast (sans nitrates/nitrites) on the side to give S more protein. And at the last minute, I grabbed a handful of sesame rice crackers so she could scoop the salad with them. The chopping made for a little more work than usual, but now that everyone is out the door and at school it seems worth it. It all took about 10 minutes. For snack? A nectarine and a Trader Joe’s Nutty Chocolate Granola Bar. By the way, those little bars are the perfect combination of sweet and savory.

And, yes, S made it to school on time.

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