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Category Archives: Chicken

The Tenth Day of Christmas – Fried Chicken

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I only make fried chicken twice a year.  Once after Pascha and once after Christmas, so it is a treat for everyone.  You see, there are no chicken nuggets in our house, not even the gluten free varieties from the store.  At the very least they all have some pepper in them, so Buster would be left out if I bought them.  Since he struggles with feeling left out of “special” things in general because of his allergies, I don’t like to do it inside the house unless it is unavoidable.

I originally planned to prepare this meal during the Christmas celebrations, but a rescheduled church party pushed it to Tuesday instead.  In lieu of this meal the children helped make sugar plums as our festive contribution.  Buster pitted dates; Snuggle Bunny measured the fruit; Little Man added the nuts; and I added the spices.  I substituted allspice for the cinnamon.  Then I only had ground fennel, so I didn’t bother with the toasting step.  Everyone helped roll the sugar plums in coconut, then we were off to the party before I thought to take a picture.  They were so good that there were no leftovers after the party; Little Man may have single handedly finished off a third of the batch himself, as I remember him having one in each hand most of the time.  The party was lovely, but as always we left right when the guitars came out with a sobbing two year old–the sign of having too much fun.

Fast forward a few days and I finally made the fried chicken.   While the oil was hot, I also whipped up a pepper free batch of Sev with the sev maker I received for Christmas.  It took less than ten minutes and was very tasty.  Much was eaten for snacks, but we did manage to get one breakfast of Poha out of this batch.

Moreover, I have a hard time throwing away good food.  So every time I make fried chicken, I make frybread out of the leftover flour and almond milk from chicken coating.  I have no actual recipe.  Each time I add about a half teaspoon of baking powder, mix the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk together until smooth.  The batter should be a little bit thicker than pancake batter.  Sometimes I have to adjust by adding a little water or additional flour depending on the given consistency.   Then I fry the mixture about a tablespoon at a time in the oil after the chicken is cooked.  I think this may be as close to Navajo Frybread as my family will ever be able to get.

Fried Chicken
Oh, those little potato looking things to the side are really taro root.  I got both taro and malanga when I was shopping for the pasteles.  I wasn’t sure which one was the correct choice, so I bought both determined to find a way to use the incorrect one.  I roasted them according to this recipe.  I left out the peppers and used the optional curry leaves, since I had some on hand.  They were very good and the children would have eaten twice as many.

I served honey mustard for dipping.  It’s nothing fancy–just half Dijon and half honey whisked together.

Fried Chicken

1lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into nugget sized pieces
oil for frying

Dry Ingredients (more in similar proportions if necessary)
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca  starch
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
1 cup water or nondairy milk of choice (I use almond milk)
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer powder

Whisk dry and wet ingredients into separate bowls.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a pot or skillet (this cast iron is my favorite).  You will know when it is hot enough because a drop or two of water sizzles gently in the pot; if the water causes the oil to spatter violently, decrease temperature.

Dip the nuggets into the flour and the milk and then the flour again until evenly coated.  When you have 8-10 nuggets ready, you may start the first round frying assuming that the oil is hot enough.  Cook for 5-8 minutes turning regularly.  You will know that the chicken is done when it is golden brown and cooked throughout if you cut through the middle of a nugget.  It’s always the chef’s prerogative to sample the first nugget for quality assurance.

Continue until all the chicken is cooked.

Make frybread if desired.

Serve with your favorite sides.


The Eighth Day of Christmas: Corn-Free Tamales

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Most tamales are gluten free, while many are dairy free; you can also make them vegan with a seasoned black bean filling.  They are a big project, but well worth your time (if you are a fan).  Making them yourself cuts the cost dramatically, and they freeze successfully for up to a year.  It is a Mexican tradition to make tamales for Christmas.  While they can be made at any time of the year, it makes the most sense to me to make them at Christmas when all of the ingredients go on sale at the ethnic markets.  It’s also the only time of year that you can easily find banana leaves.

I started making tamales when we found out that Buster couldn’t eat peppers.  Trust me when I say that the only way to find a pepper free tamal is to make it yourself.  (Language nitpicking: Tamal is the proper Spanish singular, while tamale is the American misunderstanding of the word.)

We hit a hitch last year after we discovered Little Man’s corn allergy.  Tamales are a staple of our almost-everything-from-scratch diet.  What would I do without this emergency meal?  That’s when I found out that some tamales are steamed in banana leaves instead of corn husks.  With that hurdle passed, all I had to do was tackle the masa.  What other gluten free flour would produce comparable results?  After my experience baking, I knew sorghum reacts similarly to corn in baking.  I decided to try it.  A little tweaking later and now Little Man (and my mom) can eat tamales!

Each year I spend two days making a large batch, and then they serve as a quick meal straight out of the freezer many times throughout the year.  The first day you simply simmer the meat until it’s tender and season it for the next day’s work.  Don’t forget to save the broth too.  The second day you mix the masa, assemble the tamales, and steam them.

This website is the one I used to learn how to prepare tamales.  I simply leave out the spices that contain peppers and follow the rest exactly.  Well almost exactly…  I now skim the lard off the top of the chilled broth from the first day’s meat preparation.   Then, I use that as the fat in the masa.  I only use cooking oil after the lard runs out.  Waste not, want not.

The only special piece of equipment you need is a steamer pot.  You can buy big fancy pots just for tamales, but I just use my pasta pot with it’s large insert.

Before I get to the recipe, I must point out that tamal making is a big job.  Be sure to have at least one helper, but many hands make light work.  This year we invited friends for cooking and eating on New Year’s Day, and afterwards we sent them home with leftovers.  Thanks for coming, Patrick and Heather, we had a great time!

When I make vegan tamales, I soak and cook 3 lbs. of black beans, drain, and season them with the same spices as described in the aforementioned linked recipe.  You can also add fresh corn off 4-6 cobs to the blend for added texture–unless you are making corn-free tamales.

Also take a look at the flavor options on this site.  They even have dessert tamales.  I see experimentation in my future!

Corn-Free Tamales

1 package fresh banana leaves
prepared meat or bean filling (1.5-2 cups for this amount of banana leaves)
Warm broth

Masa (start small, you can always make more if necessary)
2 cups sorghum flour
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/3 cup lard, canola, or safflower oil
Warm broth (quantities vary by day and humidity)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wash and dry the banana leaves.  Cut them into strips about 8″ X 10-12″ and remove the tough spine if necessary.  Kitchen shears make this job go quickly.

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut in oil until well distributed.   Add warm broth about 2-4 tbsp at a time until the masa is a thick peanut butter consistency.  The masa should spread well without cracking too much.  It is very forgiving at this stage, so you can add more flour if you get it a little too thin.

On a cookie sheet warm 3-4 cut banana leaves in the oven for 2-3 minutes.  Be careful not to over warm them or they will dry up at the edges.  This process keeps them from splitting when you fold the tamales.

Spread about 1/4- 1/3 cup masa (to taste) in the middle of the leaf.  Spread in a circular motion or press down with your fingers.  Fill with about 2 Tbsp of meat or beans (to taste).

Gently fold the banana leaf around the fillings to make a long tube, then fold the ends towards the seam to make a small rectangular envelope.  Now many recipes will tell you to tie the package with cooking string, but I simply let gravity help the process and lie them on their flaps to keep them closed.

Place the tamales in your steamer and steam for one hour over medium heat.  Check the water level periodically to make sure that you don’t scorch your pot.  Don’t ask me how I know this little tip.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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I received two pineapples in my Bountiful Basket this week.  One of them was immediately earmarked for a sweet and sour stir fry.  Feel free to use whatever vegetables that you prefer along with the pineapple to make an all natural sweet and sour sauce.  Brown rice vinegar and pineapple are all you need to make a great sauce.

You can make this same recipe with your favorite meat, just make an even trade.  Shrimp and pork are good choices.  Today, I had chicken available in the freezer, so my decision was easy.

If you don’t have a fresh pineapple, you can use canned.  If you are concerned about the texture of the chunks of pineapple, pick crushed and it will practically dissolve into the rest of the stir fry.

Traditionally you dredge the meat in corn starch, but I substitute tapioca starch for little man.  I keep meaning to try a whole grain flour, but haven’t yet.  Please let me know if you find a different flour that works well for you.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

If you have some on hand, this meal is great with a sprinkling of sauerkraut.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

3 cup brown jasmine rice, cooked according to package instructions.

1 lb chicken breast or tenders, cut into 1” cubes
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup safflower oil (I like to add a Tbsp of sesame oil for more flavor)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch knob ginger, minced
1 onion, sliced
2-3 carrots, thinly sliced
2-3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
8 oz sugar snap peas
4 oz. (6-7) mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp salt, to taste
half to whole pineapple, to taste, cut in bite sized chunks
3 T. brown rice vinegar, to taste
3 T. coconut aminos (optional, sometimes I don’t have any)
drizzle honey if needed

Start the rice.

Heat oil in wok over medium high.  Dredge chicken in cornstarch, until well coated.  Place in wok and pan fry until done.  Don’t over crowd the pan or they will boil instead of fry.  It normally takes me 2-3 batches in the wok to cook them all evenly.  Remove from pan and reserve for later.

Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery to the remaining oil in wok. Add a little more oil as necessary.  Cook until almost done. Then add mushrooms and snap peas until completely cooked.

Add pineapple, chicken, coconut aminos, and vinegar. Stir until warm.  Taste, adjust salt, and drizzle a little honey if you would prefer your stir fry a little more sweet than sour.  I’ve managed to wean the kids off honey, but I used to add a little bit.

Serve over rice.

Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders with Pear-Fennel Salad

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Today has been a day full of roasting and pureeing pumpkins for the freezer.  I freeze the puree into two cup portions, chill them in the fridge, then freeze them for the next year.  I make soups, muffins, pies, smoothies, sauces, and now pancakes with the spoils of cooking all our fall decorations.  Between now and the Nativity fast, I will be processing the rest of the squashes that have been decorating my house for the last month.   I even got a great deal on some hail damaged butternut squash from a nearby chemical free farmer.  Buster has requested that we try butternut pancakes, and I think it’s a great idea.

I am also on the lookout these next few weeks for a couple of well priced turkeys for the freezer.  I cook one and shred it for quick meals after Christmas.  The other goes straight into the freezer and waits until the first round is cooked.  “Why so much turkey”” you ask.  I like variety and this time of the year is the best time to get well priced turkey.  My mom and sister are also both allergic to chicken and beef.  This method of stocking up allows me to cost effectively cook for them.  Other cuts of turkey any other time of they year are out of my price range.

Tonight’s dinner is a favorite around here.  It is fast and easy, but and is made with things around the house instead of a bottled marinade.  It is based off a meal we were served once at a friend’s house.  My very talented friend Anita, is also a wonderful cook.  Anita grilled these on skewers, but I’ve modified the recipe for the oven.  I change up the sides based on what is in the house, but oven roasted potatoes are always on the side.  It’s the green stuff that varies.  Normally I don’t make quite so many sides, but I had a little of a lot of different things and hungry tummies to fill.

Today I served the chicken over sauteed purple and white cabbage.  That cabbage was left over from last week’s spring rolls and the borscht I made yesterday.  I’m still working on the borscht post, so you haven’t missed anything.  Then I sauteed up the long beans from last week’s CSA with a little onion in the same hot pan.

This week from Bountiful Baskets, we got lots of fennel and some pears, so I tried a fennel salad for the first time.  That fennel salad outshone the chicken!  Every kid ate it quickly, and the pickiest of them said, “It was mostly good.”

Honey Mustard Chicken
Tomorrow I promise to post what we always prepare with the rest of the package bacon.  This dinner is always prepared when the next morning is not a fast day.  The kids are always excited when we have this meal, because they know what is coming for breakfast.

Honey-Mustard Chicken Tenders

1.25-1.5 lbs chicken tenders
1/3 pkg of bacon strips cut in half, 1/2 slice per chicken tender (optional)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Mine is usually already cooking the oven fries at this temperature, so it’s ready to go.

In a large (9X13) glass baking pan or casserole dish, whisk the dijon and honey with the spices and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Place the chicken tenders in a single layer in the pan.  Evenly coat both sides in the honey mustard.

Put a half strip of bacon on each chicken tender if desired.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked throughout and still juicy.  Serve with a generous slathering of the honey-mustard drippings.  Sometimes when I’ve only got lettuce for a salad I drizzle the cooled drippings as dressing.

Pear-Fennel Salad

1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced (everything, bulb, stalks, and fronds)
3 stalks celery with leaves, thinly sliced
3 pears, diced
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp golden balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1/4-1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Toss everything together in a large bowl.  Enjoy!

Penne with Spinach and Artichokes

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I mentioned this meal last week when I made Penne with Garlic and Olive Oil.  It sounded so good, that I decided to make it this week.  It was fast and easy and doesn’t need a grand introduction.

This time I grilled the chicken in my cast iron pan with a little of the oil, garlic, and onion.  Then I sliced it to serve over the pasta.   After that I tossed a variety of summer squash from our CSA to the still hot pan with a little more oil and salt for a side dish.  We had yellow squash, green squash, and small colorful patty-pans.  Don’t be afraid to get a little color on the chicken and squash while they cook.  They taste so much better with that bit of color.

Normally, I just add a side salad, but the squash was there and needed to be used soon.  Either way, it is a nice meal.

Penne with Spinach and Artichokes

1. 5 lbs Gluten-Free Penne
1/2 cup olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red onion, minced
1-2 tsp salt to taste
1 can quartered artichokes, drained
1 bunch spinach  washed and chopped
1 lb chicken breast, grilled and sliced

Start water boiling and cook pasta according to the package instructions.

While waiting for the water to boil, wash and prepare all the vegetables.

Heat the oil on medium high in your favorite deep skillet.  Add garlic, onion, and salt.  Saute until onion is translucent.

Add the artichokes, and saute for one minute.  Add the spinach to the pan and saute until wilted.

Toss the contents of the pan with the cooked pasta.  Add a little more olive oil and salt if desired.

Serve with a side salad and don’t forget to add copious amounts sliced cucumber from the CSA.


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We made it to our family reunion this weekend.  There was beautiful weather and lots wonderful food. Cousins I’d never met; the young and the young at heart!  Cousins I hadn’t seen in decades with their families in tow.  Throw in a few aunts, uncles, and grandparents and we had a nice crowd.   Meet at a nice park with lots of shade and great play equipment.  It was exactly what a family reunion should be.  We are looking forward to next year and doing this more often.  Hopefully more of the out of state family can make it in future years, too.

Our branch of the family.

Our branch of the family.



Petting the wildlife.

Petting the wildlife.



Lola, my aunt, and my adorable youngest first cousin.

Lola, my aunt, and my adorable youngest first cousin.

That brings me to tonight’s recipe.  It is a family recipe.  My step-grandmother, Myrna, is from the Philippines.  Sometimes she is called Lola, other times Mamaw, but never Great-Grandma.  That means I grew up learning to cook some of her traditional dishes.  Boy is she a good cook, too!  Pancit is the one recipe I have been able to modify to fit our diet easily.  However, if you are ever fortunate enough to try Lumpia, don’t pass up that Filipino take on the egg roll.  You won’t be disappointed.

Pancit is Filipino fast food.  These fried rice noodles have as many variations as you have imagination.  The common thread is the stir fried vegetables mixed with quick fried rice noodles.  Chicken, pork, and shrimp are all acceptable meats to use together or separately as you wish.  You could make this vegan with only vegetables and you would still love the outcome, but you might get a funny look from Lola on that choice.
Yesterday, there were celery and green onions in the pancit.  Tonight I made mine with long beans, carrots, and mushrooms.   All of the vegetables in this dish are negotiable.  I even use about twice the vegetables that Lola uses.   The one vegetable I think you must use is cabbage.  White cabbage is normally what is used, but today I only had purple.  Cut it thin so it will blend into the texture of the noodles.  Make it fifty times and it will turn out differently each time.  Try to find your favorite combination, and enjoy it very bite of the way.

These are the noodles Lola uses.  Hers have corn in them, so I use simple rice sticks in mine for Little Man.  The noodles Lola uses hold together during cooking a little better than mine do, but they both taste great.  Add a pinch of salt with every addition to the wok to ensure a good distribution of flavor throughout the dish.


8 oz rice noodles, softened in hot water and drained well
safflower oil (or other mild flavored oil, I amend mine with a dash of sesame oil)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch knob ginger, minced (optional)
1 1/2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
1 lb chicken breast, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
3 carrots, cut in matchsticks
8 oz long beans, cut in 2 inch pieces (cut on the bias if they are thicker standard green beans)
4 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken broth, warmed before use
2-4 Tbsp coconut aminos or tamari (to taste, add additional salt if you leave this out)
Salt to taste

Heat water to soften the noodles.

Heat oil in wok over medium-high.  Add the onions, garlic, and ginger.  Add a pinch of salt.  Stir fry for 3 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the wok and another small pinch of salt.  Stir fry another 3 minutes.

Add the chicken, salt, and stir fry until cooked through.  Pour chicken and cabbage mixture into a bowl and reserve for later.

Pour hot water over the noodles, soak 5-8 minutes until soft, but still al dente.  You want them to finish cooking when fried in the wok.  Drain in a colander, and set aside for the last step.

Add a little more oil to the wok, heat, and stir fry the carrots, green beans, and a pinch of salt until the green beans are tender-crisp and bright green, 3-5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cover with the lid for a minute or two.  Just don’t walk away, or everything will overcook in an instant at this step.  There is nothing worse than soggy green beans at this stage.  Pour into the bowl with the chicken mixture and reserve for later.

With the wok empty once again, heat 2-3 Tbsp oil over the heat.  With tongs quickly fry the noodles continually moving them.  At this stage you want to fry the noodles, not burn them.  If the noodles start sticking, add a tablespoon or two of broth at a time to the wok to loosen those noodles from the bottom.  Keep tossing and add in the coconut aminos or tamari to taste.

Add the meat and vegetables back to the wok.  Toss to mix well, but don’t cook too long.  Keep adding broth a little at a time as needed.  It usually takes me 1/2 cup to a whole cup of broth depending on how long I soaked the noodles earlier.  Be careful not to add too much broth or your noodles will turn soggy.  Remove from heat.

Salt to taste and serve.

Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup

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Sniffles, sneezing, coughing, and general crabbiness are still being passed around our house.  Time for chicken soup!  Many years ago, when I was first diagnosed allergic to wheat, I started looking for a safe chicken noodle soup, and there wasn’t one out there.  Even the can or chicken and rice soup off the grocery shelves has suspect ingredients.  Maybe there are some now, but I doubt they’re pepper free.  You know when they list “seasonings” on the label that likely that means “salt and pepper” at the very least.

At the same time I was developing this recipe the most readily available noodles were rice sticks.  Those skinny Asian rice noodles inspired me to go for a garlic-ginger flavor to mach the origins of the noodles.  Garlic is heralded as nature’s antibiotic.  Ginger is great for coughs and sore throats, too.  This is the best tasting cough syrup I have ever taken.

The white part of the bok choy is very similar to celery, but you can still add celery if you like. I did this time.

Chicken Noodle Soup
This recipe fills my eight quart stock pot to the brim without adding the noodles, so be prepared for plenty leftovers!  This soup also freezes well if you wait to add the rice noodles until you thaw it.  Actually, I usually put the prepared noodles into each individual bowl and pour the soup over it.  Store the leftover noodles separate from the rest of the soup to preserve the texture of the noodles.

Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup

1.5 lb. Boneless-skinless chicken thighs (or chicken breasts), diced while still partially frozen
2 T. olive oil
1 bunch bok choy, whites and greens separated, both chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 med. Onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. ground ginger (or a 1 inch knob of fresh if you have it)
4-6, diced in large chunks
4 oz (5-7) mushrooms, sliced
1-2 Tbsp salt, to taste
1 bunch green onion, sliced (optional, for garnish)
8 oz. rice noodles, softened in hot water

Heat oil over medium heat in your largest stock pot.  Saute garlic, ginger, white parts of the bok choy (and maybe celery, too), onions, and carrots for about five minutes. Sprinkle generously with salt (remember this is a big pot, and I’m not adding broth or bouillon cubes.  This is the only salt in the whole pot).  Add chicken and continue to cook for a five more minutes.

Fill stock pot with water up to about 2/3 full or to cover the chicken and vegetables.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.

Start a tea kettle to boil with water to soften the rice noodles.  Place the noodles in a large glass bowl and pour hot water over the noodles.  Cut the softened noodles a few times with the kitchen shears.

Add the mushrooms to the pot to simmer.

** This next step is really optional.  I just like the flavor and texture of the zucchini if you saute it before it goes in the pot.
While waiting for things to boil.  Heat a little extra oil in a skillet over med-high.   In 2-3 shifts ( don’t crowd the pan, or they won’t brown), saute the zucchini with a pinch of salt until lightly browned on all sides. Then add to the simmering pot.**

If you don’t want to brown the zucchini first, then just add them to the pot at the same time as the mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms and zucchini are tender, add the bok choy greens to the pot and simmer until wilted.

Place a small serving of noodles in the bottom of a bowl and ladle soup over the top.  Garnish with green onions if desired.