Polish Night at the Markowskis: Gluten Free Pierogies and Paczki

Gluten Free PierogiesThis is a once in a blue moon type of dinner. First of all, the Polish weren’t exactly known for eating light. Second of all, these are kind of labor intensive. The problem with gluten free dough is that it doesn’t stretch, which is really what you need to be able to do things that are stuffed. Another problem is that it doesn’t puff up in the same way that wheat flour does because it has a delicate structure. It’s like the difference between building a house out of mud versus building a house out of steel (the mud being gluten free flours, and the steel being flour with gluten). You can get a fluffy sort of texture with gluten free flour, but it is a delicate structure. Gone are the days of that crisp crack of the outer layer of bread with the stretchy, airy inside. But, hey, I’m getting over it. Sort of. So, we had a friend of ours over last night for dinner. He’s Italian and whenever he comes over, we make Italian food. Larry wanted to give him something different and make him a traditional Polish American dinner. Our gluten free dinner was gluten free pierogies with a dairy free cheese filling, gluten free ‘rye’ bread (it had caraway seeds in it to mock the rye taste), some gluten free kielbasa and lots of sauerkraut and horseradish. Ugh. It was tasty, but it really is a stomach killer. We’re all moving a little slow today. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget the gluten free paczki for dessert (a Polish donut). I did make ‘regular’ food for the boys, but my daughter and I had the gluten free.

If you’re up to a challenge, try the pierogies sometime. They’re a good substitute for regular pierogies, a little chewier than regular ones, but just as tasty. I used a brand of cheese called Daiya, but you can use whatever you want, even regular cheese. Daiya is expensive but worth it. It’s not something I buy very often, but good for a special occasion. The dough for the pierogies is very delicate, so be patient and use lots of dusting with rice flour. A bench scraper works well for moving the dough around. For cutting out the cirlces, I used a cup from Cumberland Farms (which is a convenient store in our area), but you can use anything that is 3″-4″ wide. The soup take out containers from our local Chinese restaurant is about the same width. I hope you give it a try sometime. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
Filling:
1 ½ C. Mashed Potatoes (about 2 potatoes, boiled and mashed)
7 oz. Dairy Free Cheddar
3 ½ oz. Dairy Free Havarti Style Cheese
1 Tbsp. White Rice Flour

Dough:
2 C. Tapioca Flour
1 C. White Rice Flour
¾ C. Potato Starch
½ C. Arrowroot Starch
2 ½ Tsp. Baking Powder
2 Tsp. Xanthan Gum
¼ Tsp. Salt
1 ¼ C. Water
2 Tbsp. Oil
¼ Tsp. Vinegar
2 Large Eggs
Extra rice flour for dusting

Directions:

For the filling: Do the filling first, so if you are boiling the potatoes, the filling will be cool when you fill the pierogies. In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Using a 2 tablespoon scoop, scoop balls of the filling onto a cookie sheet and shape into football shapes. You want to make at least 24 scoops.
For the dough: In a large mixing bowl, add the tapioca flour, white rice flour, potato starch, arrowroot starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Mix thoroughly. In a 2 cup measuring cup, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and eggs. Mix well. Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Beat on medium for about 1-2 minutes, until thoroughly combined.
Have a cup of water handy and a cup of rice flour for dusting. Split the dough into fourths. Wrap 3 of the balls of dough in plastic wrap. Dust a board well with rice flour and place one ball of dough on the board. Make sure your hands, rolling pin, and board are coated with rice flour. The dough will be very sticky at first. Roll out dough thin, to about 1/16” thickness. Cut into 4” circles.
With wet fingers, wet the outside edge of the dough circle. Place a football shaped potato filling onto the dough circle and fold over. Pinch the edges closed. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, dusted with rice flour. Repeat with remaining dough. You should be able to get about 6 pierogies out of each quarter of dough. Cover prepared pierogies until ready to cook.
When ready to cook, fill a large Dutch oven about half way full with water. Generously salt the water. Bring water to boil. Drop in the pierogies, one by one, cooking only a few at a time. Boil on medium high heat for a few minutes, until the pierogies float. Remove from water and drain well.
At this point, the pierogies can be eaten, or you can pan sauté them in a little butter mixed with olive oil. Serve with sautéed onions. Makes about 2 dozen pierogies.

More Bacon, Please: Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts – It’s What’s For Dinner

Bacon Wrapped Chicken BreastsReally, I’m not a total bacon nut. Yes, it probably does make most things taste better, but, really, I don’t sprinkle bacon on everything we eat. My family, on the other hand, probably would if I would let them. I guess there’s a show called United States of Bacon (or something like that) that my husband and kids were watching and they saw bacon wrapped chicken thighs and were kind of gaga over them, so here’s my stab at the recipe. Okay, so I only had boneless breasts, so I used those instead of chicken thighs, and I made up a stuffing that I use as my regular go-to stuffing for stuffed mushrooms. I found a gluten free brand of barbeque sauce, so I didn’t need to make my own: Dinosaur BBQ Sauce is gluten free (there are some others, but Dinosaur was the most affordable and the only name brand one there), and I used the honey garlic sauce because I thought it would compliment the sausage stuffing well. This turned out really good. It’s more like a Saturday night recipe, though, because it is a little time consuming. Wrapping the breasts in bacon isn’t the easiest thing to do and it takes a little patience. In terms of cooking, it really is an overall easy recipe. It just takes a little bit of time. I served them with smashed yukon gold potatoes and it was a nice mid-week meal. Hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, pounded thin
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed
½ lb. Mushrooms, chopped
1 Shallot, chopped finely
½ Cup Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
½ Cup Chicken Broth (gluten free)
6 Tbsp. Shredded Dairy Free Cheddar Cheese
18 Slices Thinly Sliced Bacon
¾ Cup Barbeque Sauce (gluten free)

Directions:
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the sausage. Break up sausage while cooking. When almost done, add the shallot and cook until translucent. Add in mushrooms and cook for about 5-10 minutes, until mushrooms are thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat. Add in the bread crumbs and chicken broth and stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 375º.
To stuff the breasts: lay out each breast. Place about 1/3 cup of the stuffing over the breast. Top with 1 tablespoon of cheese. Roll up the breast and wrap with 3 pieces of bacon. Brush with barbeque sauce. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes. Baste again with barbeque sauce about half way through the cooking time. Turn the oven to broil and broil for about 3-5 minutes, until top is slightly caramelized. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings (very generous servings: we each only ate about ½ of a breast).

Buckwheat FettucineI only make pasta once in a blue moon. I don’t know why I do it so little, but really when pasta is so cheap, and you can generally get pretty good pasta, it just doesn’t seem worth it. Well, that was until now. Gluten free pasta is a lot more expensive and the taste isn’t always wonderful. Corn pasta – yuck. Brown rice pasta is pretty tasty, but it is expensive. I’ve always wanted to try making my own noodles, so, of course, Valentine’s day would be the perfect time to do it. I made wheat fettucine for the men of the family and made these soba noodles for my daughter and me. These probably aren’t completely soba noodles, but I’m not into soba etiquette, so I’ll call them soba because they were made with buckwheat. I like these hearty noodles. I served them with some sauteed chicken and mushrooms, and a dairy free alfredo sauce. It was a nice valentine’s treat and good for my heart too. I threw together the alfredo sauce, so I’m not adding the recipe here, but I’ll figure out what I did and I’ll post that recipe soon. Until then, enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 Cup Potato Starch
½ Cup Buckwheat Flour
½ Cup Brown Rice Flour
1 Tsp. Xanthan Gum
3 Large Eggs
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Directions:
In the bowl of a food processor, add in the potato starch, buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, and xanthan gum. Mix thoroughly. In a small mixing bowl, combine the eggs and olive oil. With food processor running, slowly drizzle in the egg mixture. Process until the mixture pulls together and eggs are fully incorporated into the dry mixture. Remove from food processor and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Cover with an inverted bowl and let rest for about 30 minutes. When rested, cut the dough ball into 3 pieces and roll out until flat enough to pass through a pasta machine. Start at the widest setting and pass through a couple of times. After each time of passing through, I fold it in thirds and pass it through again. Diminish the setting and pass through a few times. Keep diminishing until desired thickness. Cut into desired shape. You can either cook immediately. If cooking fresh, cook in salted water for a few minutes until soft to the bite, but not mushy.
If you are not cooking it fresh, you will need to let the noodles dry. First, hang the noodles and let them dry until slightly dry and hard to the touch, but still pliable. (I used a clothes hanger and hung them from my kitchen light fixture.) Soba Noodles Hanging
Remove to a baking sheet and let dry overnight. You can toss them with a little white rice flour to prevent sticking. To cook, cook in salted boiling water for about 8-12 minutes, until desired doneness. Cooking time will vary according to how thin you make your pasta.
Makes 8 servings.

Dairy Free ‘Parmesan’ Cheese

Dairy Free Parmesan CheeseThe one last link to make for a perfect Friday Night Pizza Night: Dairy free ‘parmesan cheese’. Man, I could eat this by the spoonful. I tried a couple of different variations. One of them turned out to taste like a powdered cheddar that will taste good on popcorn, but that’s for another post at another time. This one is about as close to parmesan as I could get. It has that slightly smokey, salty, nutty flavor like parmesan does. I hope you try it sometime. It tasted great on top of the pizza, really gave it a little bite like parmesan does. It’s also easy to make. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
½ Cup Almond Meal
2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast Flakes
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Seeds*
½ Tsp. Fine Sea Salt
¼ Tsp. Smoked Salt

Directions:
*To toast the sesame seeds, put into a small sauté pan over medium high heat and stir until the seeds start to pop and smell fragrant. Be careful not to over-cook because they will burn fast.
Add all ingredients to a small food processor or coffee grinder and process until it looks like parmesan cheese (kind of like gritty snow).