The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain

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Sometimes, food is just about love. That’s it. No redeeming nutritional value, no hidden veggies, no sustainability/local produce/seasonal meals considerations, just love. And usually a lot of cheese.

That’s when I turn to Lisa Fain’s The Homesick Texan Cookbook. Fain is the author of one of my favorite blogs, and after reading it, this book became my immediate go-to for anything Texan or Tex-Mex, from a perfect oil pie crust and pecan pie to chili verde and oven brisket. The amount of love and thought and effort that goes into her recipes is truly astounding, and I highly, highly recommend adding this to your bookshelf. (No one paid me to say that.) I’ve cooked many recipes from it that were easily adapted to be gluten-free, and even the Paleo among us should be able to find a few staple recipes in here that they can’t live without.

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The most recent recipe made from this book was King Ranch Casserole. I had never heard of it until a coworker from Houston brought it into the office one day, and immediately, my husband (then boyfriend) leapt on it. The King Ranch Casserole became something akin to the sour cream chicken enchiladas I made for the last Super Bowl: a quintessentially Texan dish that he was sure I couldn’t make, which of course made me even more determined to succeed…with Fain’s help, of course.

I made a few tweaks to her recipe, but it impressed both my husband and (I think) his mother. So, treat yourself — and someone you love — to a slice of this cheesy, disgusting, delicious mess. And then go make Fain’s fish tacos or something. 

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(Note. I tweaked this version to be gluten-free. And you could make it vegetarian by skipping the chicken and using bell peppers and onions instead, more of a vegetarian fajita casserole. Fain’s original online version can be found here.)

King Ranch Casserole
 
Recipe Type: Casserole
Cuisine: Tex-Mex
Serves: 12
A “Texas Lasagna” full of spice, cheese, chicken and love. You know you want it.
Ingredients
  • 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and stems removed, diced
  • 1/2 anaheim pepper, seeds and stem removed, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp masa or corn flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 10-ounce can of tomatoes with green chiles, drained (such as Ro-Tel)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 12 gluten-free corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat first tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until browned and done through, about 10 minutes per side, turning once. Remove and shred with two forks. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic, spices and masa and cook for 1 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, then reduce heat to low. Continue to cook until mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in half-and-half and canned tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Uncover the pot and stir in sour cream, lime juice and half of the cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish.
  5. Heat tortillas either in a skillet or the way I did — by wrapping them in a slightly damp paper towel and throwing them in the microwave (gasp!) for 30 seconds. Wrap in a kitchen towel to keep them warm as you work.
  6. Spoon 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of your baking dish. Layer half of the tortillas along the bottom of the dish on top of the sauce (and you can tear up some of the tortillas to fill in gaps). Add half of the chicken, half of the remaining sauce, all of the remaining cilantro, half of the cheddar cheese and half of the pepper jack cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with the cheese.
  7. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Serve. Also freezes well.
 

 

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Resolutions and Chicken Curry

cheap easy chicken curry vegan paleo options gluten-freeDid you make New Year’s resolutions? I almost never do. It seems to me if that if you want to change something in your life, you should just do it — go for it — change it, not try to force yourself to do that at an arbitrary time like the beginning of the year.

There is something symbolic and oddly satisfying about starting the new year with the best of intentions, though, with the optimism inherent in deciding that this year is going to be different. This year, I’ll make it to the gym three times a week. This year, I’ll keep up with blog posts. This year, I’ll finally read the financial magazines my husband constantly leaves around the house. This year, I’ll work harder to bring my lunch, not buy it.

Bringing my lunch is always a goal I’m working to achieve. Though I do get a break in the middle of the day for lunch, it’s also my chance to run errands, get a few extra hours in, or practice yoga. And with the price of a Cobb salad at my favorite lunch place reaching $10, it’s cheaper to bring lunch, too.

Curry is perfect for the purpose. It does have a smell, but it’s the kind that will have your officemates jealously wondering what you brought. It’s not too spicy, so you won’t spend the rest of the day smelling like it, and best of all — it has vegan and Paleo options to help you meet your other resolutions.

I borrowed most of this recipe from this one at Food52. The chickpeas were a last-second inspiration, but I love how they help stretch just a few chicken thighs into a meal that can feed you for at least three lunches. If you’re vegan, swap out the chicken for chickpeas and add the extra curry directly to the sauce. If you’re Paleo, swap out the chickpeas for extra chicken and maybe bump up the curry a little.

Whatever way you do it, it’s a delicious way to start the year off right.

Easy Chicken Curry
 
Author: Kate Wutz
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 4
A warm and comforting chicken curry with vegan and Paleo options that will help you stick to your New Year’s resolution of bringing lunch to work. Or, you know, just being an awesome cook.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 2 1/2 tsp curry powder, separated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (omit if desired)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bize-sized pieces
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (make sure it’s thoroughly blended! Shake it up.)
  • White or cauliflower rice, if desired, for serving
Instructions
  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 6-8 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add 1 tsp curry powder, remaining spices, and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
  2. Toss chicken pieces in a plastic bag with the remaining 1 1/2 tsp curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Add to pan and cook until they start to brown, about eight minutes. Add chickpeas about three minutes in.
  3. Once chicken in brown, pour in coconut milk and stir to combine. Simmer over medium-low heat for about ten minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with white or cauliflower rice, naan, or whatever your heart desires.
 
Notes
To make vegan, simply replace the chicken with another 15-ounce can of chickpeas. Add the extra 1 1/2 tsp curry to the onions with the rest of the spices.[br]To make Paleo, replace chickpeas with three more chicken thighs and continue as directed.

 

 

Chicken Quinoa Soup

chicken quinoa soup with lemon and dill gluten freeWelcome to Comfort Food Week! This week, I have three recipes designed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, even though it might be cold and sad and disgusting outside. 

Guess what, you guys? It’s cold and flu season. That means that we always have a can of chicken noodle soup in the pantry, ready and waiting for the moment someone in our house gets the sniffles.

I should say that most years we have that can of soup in the pantry. This year, I have plenty of this soup in the freezer, because it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and additive-free — unlike that can of condensed soup we usually buy. It takes a little bit of time, but not nearly as much time as you think, especially if you skip making bone broth, like I did, and buy good chicken stock at the store.

However, the bone broth does give this an extra boost of nutrition. With all of that good stuff in the broth plus the protein of the quinoa and chicken and the amazing flavor of the lemon and dill, you’ll be feeling better in no time. And if you aren’t, that’s okay too, as this recipe makes a ton. You’ll be well on your way to recovery by the time you get through this batch.

Chicken Soup with Quinoa
 
Author: Kate Wutz
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 55 mins
Serves: 8-10 servings
A perfect sick-day soup. Keep this in the freezer for when the flu strikes.
Ingredients
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 8 cups broth (homemade or carefully selected store-bought)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast chicken breast on a foil-lined pan for about 30 minutes. (You can also pan-fry, but I preferred to roast).
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and sautee for about 10 minutes, or until the onions and celery are soft.
  3. Add broth (I strained mine directly from the slowcooker into the pot). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the chicken breast is done roasting.
  4. Shred cooked chicken breast with two forks and add chicken, quinoa, lemon juice and dill. Simmer until the soup is completely heated through. Serve immediately, refrigerate for up to three days or freeze, if desired.
 
Notes
For this recipe, I used bone broth that had been made in a slow cooker with a chicken carcass, about three center-cut marrow bones, a carrot, celery and several peeled cloves of garlic. No ginger, no fish sauce, no vinegar.

 

Chicken, Chard and White Bean Soup with Bacon

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This is one of those recipes that came out of nowhere for me. There I was, picking the leftover meat off of the easiest roasted chicken ever, wondering what I was going to do with the buttload of chard I had harvested from my garden, when it it me — soup. It’s finally soup season. And I could make some with chicken and chard, and I don’t know, white beans? Yes, white beans. Very Tuscan. Awesome. 

This soup is so good that it made me wonder why I hadn’t tried chard in soup before. The reason is simple: it’s a texture thing. I sort of expected it to cook down into a huge mass that wouldn’t blend well with the other ingredients, but it didn’t. It held its texture beautifully, softly wilting but not turning mushy as I had feared. 

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White beans, chicken and the chard combine with garlic and even bacon to make a soup that is incredibly hearty and filling without being too heavy. I brought it for lunch three times last week, and it heated up perfectly each time. Plus, it’s gluten-free and dairy-free — what’s not to love?

If you don’t have leftover roasted chicken as I did, you can use the meat from a rotisserie chicken or from about three cooked chicken breasts. And if you don’t have as much time as I did to cook beans, feel free to use two cans of cannellini beans or whatever white beans you can find.

Chicken, Chard and White Bean Soup
 
Author: Kate Wutz
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 30 mins
Total time: 1 hour 40 mins
Serves: 2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried white beans, soaked
  • 5 cups water
  • 5 sliced bacon, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch chard, de-stemmed and chopped (both leaves and stems)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth (or bone broth, which is what I used)
  • cooked meat from half of a 5-pound bird, or about 3 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. First, cook your beans. Bring soaked beans and 5 cups water to a boil, and boil for about an hour and a half, or until the beans no longer have a white dot on the inside when cut open. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bottom of a large stock pot, fry your chopped bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but about 2 Tbsp of the grease, then return pot to medium heat.
  3. Add red onion and the stems from the chard. Sautee in the bacon grease until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add white wine, broth, chicken meat and salt and pepper to taste, along with the beans, chard and the reserved bacon (minus however much you want to use for a garnish). Reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour. Serve, topped with crunchy bacon pieces.
 

 

Roasted Chicken

paleo gluten-free roasted chicken

Making the perfect roasted chicken is one of those things that makes me feel like a real cook. You know, the type of person who can whip together a beautifully composed meal while looking, well, beautifully composed. Like a 1950s housewife, but without the apron. Or, hell, maybe with the apron. 

The thing is, a good roasted chicken is something that people think must be hugely complicated, but it’s not. You can make the best roasted chicken ever over three days, but you can make a perfectly decent roasted chicken in just about two hours on any night you have time. Though this might be a better weekend dish, it’s certainly possible to make this on a weeknight if you don’t mind eating late. (For an even quicker roasted chicken dinner, check out this recipe from my archives.)

In essence, the key is making sure your chicken is very, very dry. You probably want to sacrifice a few cloth dishtowels to making sure the chicken is as dry as you can make it. See, if your chicken skin isn’t dry, the skin will steam, becoming rubbery and gross. But when dry and salted, the skin becomes crisp and brown and incredibly flavorful, everything you want chicken skin to be. 

Feel free to experiment with this. It’s pared-down for a reason, and that reason is that I was deliberately trying to make the simplest roasted chicken recipe possible. But if you’re feeling fancy, tuck herbs under the chicken’s skin on the breasts, stuff the cavity with more herbs and a lemon, or get fancy with other spices rubbed in. Just make sure that skin is as dry as can be, and you’ll be happy with the results.

Roasted Chicken
 
Author: Kate Wutz
The easiest roast chicken recipe in the world. That’s it. Paleo, gluten-free.
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken, between 3 and 5 pounds
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 470 degrees.
  2. Rinse your chicken, take out the giblets and the neck and whatever else is in there. (I know, ew.) Rinse both outside and inside thoroughly, then place in a pile of either paper or cloth towels and dry very thoroughly. VERY thoroughly. So thoroughly. Pluck out any stray feather stubs, remove the giant fat deposit neat the tail, and salt liberally.
  3. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet on the stove. Place chicken breast-side up in the skillet. It should sizzle just a little. Remove from heat, and insert in oven.
  4. After about 20 minutes, you should start to hear some crackling. If you don’t, turn up the heat. After 30 minutes, the top of the breast should be browning and starting to look awesome.
  5. Quickly flip the chicken, using either giant tongs or, as Michelle Tam does, the handle of a wooden spoon inserted in the cavity. Insert back in oven and cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Flip chicken again and roast for anywhere from 15 to 25 more minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the breast and thigh measures 170 degrees and the skin is a beautiful golden brown.
  7. Remove chicken from pan and allow to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. In the meantime, you can take your shallot and wine and place them in the cast-iron skillet with the chicken drippings and cook everything over medium-high heat until you have a nice pan sauce. Carve and serve.
 

 

Southwestern Corn Soup

corn soup dairy free chowder

As soon as I see college football on the television, some inner primal urge demands things like Buffalo wings, corn chowder, enchiladas and pretty much anything unhealthy you could ever think of. It might be that, typically, that date falls right around when the nights are getting colder and I’m starting to think about winter. My inner animal is demanding I bulk up for snow season.

I bought a new down jacket today, people. Winter is coming. 

But it’s not here yet, so I decided to take advantage of some of the wonderful fresh produce that is still at the grocery store to make this creamy, comforting and flavorful soup. 

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Kale and Apricot Salad (paleo, gluten-free, vegan option)

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After three weeks straight of stomachaches, I had to do something. My wedding is swiftly approaching, to the point where everyone I see feels the need to tell me how close it is —  four weeks! Three weeks! So soon! Are you nervous? — and I knew that unless I wanted to be achy, bloated, angry and sad for the actual Blessed Event, I needed to do something.

That something was switching back to Paleo. I am pretty sure I’m not intolerant to dairy, nor do I really think I have any kind of gluten intolerance — though I will say that my skin cleared up considerably once I made the switch again. All I know is that on Paleo, I have fewer stomachaches, and while I’m positive that 100 percent Paleo is not right for me in the long term, it is until June 20.

Of course, the second I made that decision, I started craving my favorite kale and quinoa salad from a sandwich shop downtown. Continue reading