Gluten-Free Success in the Kitchen

For my second try at real cooking, I decided to stay away from meat altogether and found a perfect sandwich recipe.

As I’ve mentioned before, my sandwiches are usually pretty simple – peanut butter on toasted gluten-free bread. I never put a lot of thought into lunch so I figured this sandwich could help change that.

The recipe for Arugla-Pear Focaccia Panini comes from Carol Fenster’s “1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes.” I think you can find a recipe for almost anything in this book – it has 700 pages!

I did adapt the recipe a little, something that I learned can be important from the last time I cooked. First, I used bread that I already had instead of making the Focaccia. I wanted something that I could make quickly so preparing a special bread wouldn’t have fit my goal.

Second, the recipe calls for a Panini press. I definitely don’t own one of those so I made the sandwich more like a grilled cheese with a little bit of cooking oil on a frying pan. Then I pressed the spatula down hard onto the bread to flatten it out.
Carol Fenster also suggests flattening the sandwich out by putting a heavy skillet on top if you do not own a Panini press.

But before all that I put the sandwich together. The recipe called for a little bit of spinach, Swiss cheese, very thin pear slices, red onion and a special spread (the recipe for the spread is in the cookbook) all layered between two slices of bread. After the sandwich was assembled, I put it in the pan on the stove for a few minutes, flipped it and cooked it for another minute or two. Overall it was a very simple recipe that did not require much more time than it does to toast bread and then put some peanut butter on it.

I did have to go out to get a few of the items because they were not all things that I had at home.

The sandwich tasted great and was not like anything that I have previously tried. I would never have thought of using pears with onions and cheese on a sandwich.
I would definitely make this sandwich again! Another lesson I learned is that I can create interesting and different meals that aren’t much harder than very basic things I’m used to. The key is just to get a little creative and think outside the box.
I know I have said I want to make healthy meals, but once I opened the cookbook I used for this recipe, I couldn’t resist some of the desserts. So that’s what’s up next!

Dinner’s ready, gluten-free that is!

As part of my plan to learn how to cook while home from college this summer, I attempted to prepare my first, real complete dinner meal last week.

I made Chicken Satay with Peanut sauce, which seemed like a good choice because I wanted something simple but more interesting than plain grilled chicken.

It was a bit of a risk because I get squeamish touching uncooked meat. Actually, once I see raw meat I have trouble eating it even after it’s cooked. I know that if I want to learn to cook – I’m not a vegetarian and don’t have trouble eating meat others make – I have to get over it.

I started preparing the meal around 4 pm, mixing together sauce and cutting the chicken while holding it down with a fork so that I didn’t have to touch it. Then I put the raw chicken into a Ziploc bag with the sauce and refrigerated it. Two hours later I took out the chicken, stuck a few pieces together on skewers and put it on the grill. The recipe said to leave the chicken on for about four minutes, but I ended up keeping it there for close to twenty. With the chicken pushed together on skewers it didn’t cook as fast as the recipe said it would. When it was finally done, I spread on a peanut sauce I had made while the chicken was cooking.

For a side dish I made Hamburger Helper’s gluten-free fried rice. I left out the chicken in the recipe on the box since I was serving it with the Chicken Satay. Overall I thought that the fried rice was pretty good.

The Chicken Satay was a little less tasty to me. If I ever make it again I would not put the chicken on skewers or add the peanut sauce at the end. The skewers took too much effort and time. While grilling the chicken, the skewers burnt and broke off so that I had the stick new skewers in most of the pieces at the end anyway. The sauce was a little too spicy and thick for me. Changing the sauce recipe by adding more water and less crushed red pepper could help fix that.

I made the dinner for my whole family and my mom said that she liked the meal a lot, but that might have had more to do with the fact that she didn’t have to cook for once.

While the recipe was a change from plain chicken and rice, I can’t say that I would definitely make it again. At school I know I would not have enough time.

But I did learn a few things, like the fact that sometimes you have to change a recipe a little to make it work for you. I also found out not everything will go smoothly.

Don’t worry, though. I am not giving up in my attempt to learn how to cook. Next time I think I will stay away from meat – just not ready for it yet. I found a recipe for Spinach, Pear Panini that sounds pretty good. I’ll let you know my next experience in the kitchen goes.