Swedish Meatballs (Gluten Free)

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I might have a problem. Every time I happen to think about these meatballs–or worse–I happen upon a picture of them as I organize my photos, I immediately, desperately, need to make them again. I might be obsessing over these meatballs (or, more specifically, these meatballs doused in this gravy). Actually, considering the bubble of joy that swells in my mind at the prospect of making a big batch of these meatballs to freeze now and pack later for those quickly-approaching camp lunches, I am certain that I am obsessing over these meatballs. That is fine with me. I think you might obsess over them too.

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So, Swedish meatballs. In this day and time, I would guess that many people’s minds would immediately think of Ikea’s famous take on this dish. I have certainly heard about Ikea’s glorious swedish meatballs time and time again. But I have never tried them. My first trip to Ikea was less than a year ago, well after I gave up gluten. So the gluten-filled meatballs and creamy gravy were definitely out of the question.

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I have no idea if these meatballs taste like Ikea’s. If you have some ground pork and would like to weigh in, I wouldn’t be opposed to an informed opinion. I do know that these little roasted parcels of chicken and pork swimming in this dreamy gravy make a dinner that lingers in my memory and kickstarts cravings at the mere thought. Honestly, I am sharing this post so that I can take the photos out of my To-Be-Posted folder and limit my encounters with the visual reminder. I am having a hard time preparing a convincing argument with myself as to why I can’t just have meatballs for dinner every night.

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Swedish Meatballs & Gravy

Adapted from The Londoner

Serves: 3-4 | Prep time: 20 min | Cook time: 30 min

For the Meatballs

  • 3 slices Udi’s white bread, thawed and untoasted (you may only need 2 if you use larger slices than Udi’s brand)
  • up to 6 Tbsp. milk, divided
  • 1 sm. yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 lb. ground pork
  • 3/4 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne, optional
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

For the Gravy

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour (rice flour, a blend, any kind that is not pure starches)
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 4 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream*
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. parsley (dried flakes, or chopped fresh)

To Serve

  • Cooked pasta or mashed potatoes
  • 1 small lemon
  • Fresh parsley

Make the meatballs

Remove the crusts from the bread slices and roughly chop into small pieces. Tear or chop remaining bread innards. Add all bread pieces to a large bowl. Add 4 Tbsp of milk and allow to soak for several minutes until bread softens and absorbs most of the liquid. If portions of the bread are still dry, add up to 2 additional tablespoons of milk, one tablespoon at a time. While the bread is soaking, add butter to a large saucepan and cook onions until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant–about 1-2 minutes. Add onion mixture to the bowl. Add meat, sprinkle over all spices. Mix well, until all ingredients are incorporated. Form meat mixture into 1 1/2 inch wide balls.

Cook the meatballs in the large sauce pan used for the onions, turning gently, until all sides are browned and meatballs are firm, about 7-10 minutes. Do not overcrowd the pan–cook the meatballs in batches if necessary. Place in oven on “Warm” or lowest setting.

Make the gravy

After the meatballs are all cooked, melt the butter is the large saucepan used for the meatballs over medium heat. Sprinkle over flour, whisking constantly. The butter and flour will come together. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the roux begins to turn golden. Add a large splash of the chicken broth. Keep whisking. The roux will bubble and hiss and clump, but that’s okay. Just keep whisking. When the mixtures smooths out, add another big splash of chicken broth. Repeat. Whisk some more. Keep up this cycle: a little broth, whisk until smooth, more broth, whisk again; until all of the broth has been added into the smooth gravy. Measure out the sour cream in a separate container. Stir in the vanilla extract and the sugar. These ingredients are both to take the edge off of the sour cream, so you get a delightful rich, not-too-tangy gravy. Stir the mustard, worchestershire, and sour cream mixture into the gravy in the pan, stirring until thoroughly combined. Stir in nutmeg, parsley, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Add a little water if it is too thick.

To serve, plate up the mashed potatoes or pasta, add meatballs and top it all off with delicious gravy. Sprinkle parsley over top. I also like a squeeze of lemon juice. Enjoy the meal and try not to obsess over these meatballs!

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Winter Has Come: Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie

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Well, we finally got a bit of snow this past week: a couple of inches evenly spaced to have just enough time to melt in between snowfalls.  Thankfully, things didn’t get too icy.  Considering the season has been positively balmy, it was a welcome bit of change.  I had the day off during the first snowfall and was struck by a cooking binge.  The end of the day found me with roasted banana bread and chicken pot pie topped with gluten-free puff pastry, with the dinner rounded out by new potatoes, green beans, and kale chips.  Yes, at the end of the day, I had plenty of dishes…but that doesn’t guarantee that they all came out well.  My “banana bread” was a ruin.  The taste was similar to what you might expect, but only if you could ignore the texture, which was remarkably akin to play dough.

I had decided to try a new flour mixture, lured by the promise of sorghum flour and millet flour, two of my favorite whole grain flours.  But while I was measuring in he various ingredients, tiny alarm bells began to ring.  Over half the mixture is starches?  Millet is the same weight as rice flour and sorghum nearly there…they can’t need that much balance.  Isn’t it supposed to be 60/40 grains-to-starches, max?  An entire quarter of the mix is potato flour…?  And there was the trouble.  Too much starches, specifically potato starch.  Of lately, I’ve been using more of it, because I love the elasticity it adds, but too much of the starch, at the least, means baked goods that rise beautifully in the oven, only to sink and shrink as they cool.  At the worst, it means playdough banana bread.

Undaunted by the failed banana bread, I figured I would try my hand at Nicole’s Gluten-Free Puff Pastry.  This rolling and turning business couldn’t be that hard…right?  Truth be told, I’m not sure if I did it right, but there was a lot of rolling and folding and chilling and pressing that left me with a (fairly) manageable dough with the butter well-incorporated.  And since I had puff pastry, I might as well make some Chicken Pot Pie for the pastry dough to top.  It’s only logical.

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Lucky for me (and M) my first attempt at Chicken Pot Pie turned out much better than my banana bread.  Truth be told, the puff pastry didn’t puff much, but it did make an extra-buttery, beautifully crunchy top shell.  My recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is inspired by Ina Garten’s–her’s was the first I stumbled upon that seemed classic.  But Ina’s recipe is huge (even though it claims to feed four), so I immediately cut it down.  And I didn’t have all of the ingredients.  It all worked out in my favor, though.  Instead of 1 1/2 sticks of butter and 1/4 cup of heavy cream, my gravy gets by on a bit of oil, a splash of milk, and only two tablespoons of butter.  Let’s just put the pie crusts out of our heads, for the moment.  But quite seriously, if you need a dairy free recipe as well, and already have a reliable dairy-free pie crust up your sleeve, this recipe is a cinch to adapt!  Chock full of vegetables and warmed gently by spices, it was the perfect dinner for the day of our first snow.

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Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 6

  • 1 prepared batch of uncooked pie dough or puff pastry, chilled
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 2 BL, SL chicken breasts)
  • 2 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (I used a packet of Trader Joe’s Better Than Bouillon)–make sure the brand is GF
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 small (or 1 large) onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I used 2 parts white rice flour to 1 part cornstarch–just trade off spoonfuls, it doesn’t need to be exact)
  • 2 Tbsp milk or cream
  • 1 c. chopped carrots, par-cooked (confession: I tossed mine in the microwave for 2-3 minutes)
  • 1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 (heaping) c. frozen peas (about 5 oz or half a bag)
  • 1 c. frozen pearl onions
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp of water for an eggwash

If pan-frying the chicken, heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large saucepan.  Add chicken and cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes or until browned and cooked through.  If roasting chicken, preheat oven to 350 degree F, lightly rub chicken with olive oil and roast for 35-45 minutes until cooked through.  Sprinkle cooked meat with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.  Turn the oven up to 375 degrees F.  Place your crust dough on the counter to come to room temperature.

While the chicken is cooking, chop all vegetables and measure out the flour mix.  Pour the chicken stock into a small pot and heat until simmering.  Add the olive oil and chopped onion to the saucepan where you cooked the chicken (or scrape a bit of the brown tasty bits from the roasting pan into a new saucepan).  Cook over medium-low heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.  Melt in 1 Tbsp of butter and then turn the heat to low.  Add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, scraping up all of the sauce from the bottom of the pan until the roux turns golden brown.  Add the chicken stock and continue to stir until thoroughly combined.  Simmer over low heat for 1-2 minutes, until thickened.  Add milk, rosemary, poultry seasoning, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper and stir until well incorporated.  Add in carrots, celery, peas, and pearl onions.  Cube the cooled chicken and add to the vegetables.  Mix well.

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish or into 4-6 individual, oven-proof dishes.  Smooth the top and sprinkle over a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/3 inch thick, larger than the top of your dish(es).  Mix the egg and water together into an egg wash and rub some of the wash all along the edge of the dish.  This will help the crust stick.  Place the dough over your casserole, pressing it gently to the sides of the dish to seal it.  Brush the entire top with egg wash and cut a slit or three to allow the steam to escape.  Place the casserole dish onto a jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with a low rim) to save your oven from any drips.  Place into the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour, until pie crust is golden and crisp and the gravy is bubbling.


Thanksgiving Recipe Round-up

Well, perhaps I’m a little behind in blogosphere standards, but its better late than never to round-up my plans for Thanksgiving!  And since today is Prep Day #1, this update can help me build up my game plan for the next 48 hours.  Look at that multi-tasking skill!

This year, my family is doing Thanksgiving on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  My mother works Thursday night, I have a shift at a major American retail store early (so early!) Friday morning, and my sister is coming home with a friend on Wednesday then switching to her friend’s house for Thursday then back to our home for the weekend.  Plus, with Monday and Tuesday as my days off, I would have plenty of time to prep the food. All in all, Wednesday was a better day to celebrate.

We’re sticking to a fairly traditional menu, but this is my first Thanksgiving tackling gluten-free traditions.  I’ll admit, last year, only 4 weeks after going “off” gluten and at the home of an old family friend, I cheated.  Considerably.  (Confession: I am a stuffing addict).  I wasn’t ready to tackle the huge task of de-glutifying traditional foods, and I wasn’t so adjusted to making the fuss necessary to keep myself safe and healthy.  I didn’t want to impose.

This year, I’m closer.  At the very least, I will be entirely gluten-free.  My mother is still making a batch of her from-the-bag store-bought stuffing mix that I was raised on.  I’ll be following along with the mix-in recipe on the back of the packaging, starting with a base of old-fashioned, flour-free cornbread.  Other than that sticking point, all of our rolls, our pie crusts, our gravies will be wheat- and gluten-free.  I’d say that is several steps forward.

The clock is counting down on my prep time, so, here is our

Thanksgiving Menu

  • Turkey (21 lbs, no brine or anything snazzy.  Just my mother’s tried & true roasting.  I’ll keep an eye out for any family secrets–we’ve never had dry turkey, and we’ve never had to brine for that moisture)
  • Gravy isn’t too hard for us, as we’ve always made gravy with cornstarch, even before I stopped eating gluten.  An extra minute to double-check that our broth was gluten-free was all the prep we needed.
  • Stuffing
    • Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing for my mom, sister, & guests with the traditional celery/onion/herb add in listed on the bag.
    • GF Cornbread Stuffing made with Nicole Hunn’s Old Fashioned Cornbread, a recipe using only corn meal.  I made the batter last Friday, and spread it into a greased jelly roll pan (the wide, flat cookie sheets with a low lip all around) and baked the bread at the same temperature for 10-15 minutes.  The bread came out moist and thin, so that every crouton will have the crispy crust.  With this stuffing, I will be trying to imitate the recipe on the Pepperidge farm bag (and maybe win over the critics for an entirely GF Thanksgiving for next year).  Look out for onions, herbs, celery, broth, etc adding to the mix!
  • Potatoes (I’ll be the first to admit: we’re going a little overboard on potatoes this year.  Ah well, ’tis the season to indulge!)
    • Mashed Potatoes mixed until smooth with onion and chive cream cheese, cream, and butter.  Any extra will be mixed up for potato pancakes to go with our eggs and turkey hash the next morning.
    • Roasted Red Potatoes With Balsamic Dressing was one of two dishes my sister specifically requested she make.  I’m a sucker for balsamic vinegar, so a second potato dish joins our table.
    • Sweet Soul ‘Taters from Ree at The Pioneer Woman.  I made this recipe once, on a whim for no more special an occasion than a Tuesday night.  It was gone by the next morning–my mother and I polished it off for breakfast.  Sweet and crunchy, this will be the bridge dish between dinner and dessert.
  • Green Beans won’t get too fussy, although I was sorely tempted to try adding bacon and shallots for a casserole.  But this year, we stick to the classic: sauté’d with butter, letting the fresh green taste keep center stage.
  • Popovers will be gluten-free, mostly because my GF recipe starts in a hot oven, and my mother’s needs to start cold.  I used a recipe modified from Living Without‘s October issue

Popovers

  • – 1 c. milk
  • -4 eggs
  • -1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
  • -2/3 c. white rice flour
  • -Dash salt 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place a 12 cup muffin tin in the oven to preheat.  Keep the tin warm until you are ready to pour in the batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.  Add tapioca starch/flour, white rice flour, and salt.  Whisk until combined and smooth.  Carefully remove hot baking tin from oven.  Lightly grease with cooking spray.  Pour in batter, filling cup s 3/4 full.  Place popovers in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees for the final 15 minutes.  It may be my old, finicky oven, or knowing my mother’s tried-and-true recipe also necessitates a temperature change, but this is the trick that works best for me.

  • Cranberry Sauce is the second recipe my sister claimed.  All I know is that it will contain oranges as well.  We also have plenty of that lovely American staple: canned, jellied cranberry sauce.  We will serve it in the perfect can shape and all.  Some traditions cannot be broken.
  • Pumpkin Pie using my riff on Bette Hagman’s Dream Pastry Pie Crust and the filling recipe on the back of the Libby’s can of pureed pumpkin.  Again, a classic.

And we have our family’s tradition of pickles (sweet and dill) and olives (traditionally black, though we’re stirring things up and adding feta-stuffed green olives to the mix) and nuts to tide over the nibblers in the last hour, when all the smells drag everyone to the kitchen, milling apprehensively as we wait for popovers to rise, for the turkey to set, as we mash the potatoes.

The pre-dinner nibbles are a bit of a mystery.  I’m not sure who first set out the dish of pickles and olives on that first Thanksgiving…most who hear this tradition look at me like I’m a little crazy.  Finally, last year, my friend from New England backed up my insistence, as her family does the same.  Maybe its a northern thing?  My dad is from New England.  Either way, I’ll have a dish out for all of my Thanksgivings.  It keeps fingers from picking at the turkey wings.

I keep going back and forth as to whether I should make another vegetable dish (or another dessert) but time will be that deciding factor.  Today (Prep Day #1) I’ll be baking the sweet potatoes, mixing the wet and dry for Sweet Soul ‘Taters but storing the two parts separately.  I’ll be mixing the pie crust dough and let that refrigerate overnight.  My cornbread has been going stale on the counter all weekend.  Tomorrow, I’ll chop all the veggies, bake the pie, and set up mise en place.  The turkey will have to go in quite early Wednesday morning, so that we can eat by 1pm or 2pm, and having everything set up in a clean kitchen will let us have a little longer to sleep.

Thanksgiving dinner.  Here we go!