Posted in Being Healthy, corn free, gluten free, soy free

Gluten-free Italian Dinner: Pesto Chicken and Tomatoes and Rice

IMG_2078Gluten-free means you can never have authentic Italian food again, right? WRONG! There’s so much more to Italian food than pasta. Here’s one of my favorite 1-pan Italian dinner bakes that hits the rights notes with the whole family.

Ingredients (in order of use):

  • 1.5 cups white rice (long grain, jasmine, basmati, whatever)
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings already included
  • 2 cups water, chicken stock, or combination (especially if you have some you just need to use up in the fridge)
  • 2 lb. chicken breast and/or thighs, skinless, boneless (roughly 4 pieces, 1 per person)
  • 1 8 oz container of pesto

NOTE: this is the semi-homemade version, as Sandra Lee might say; you can certainly make your own chicken stock, dice your own tomatoes, and blend your own herbs into pesto if you’re so inclined.

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.

In an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish, combine the rice, diced tomatoes, and chicken stock (or water). Put in the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove and stir mixture; most of the rice will still be small and hard – don’t worry – that’s normal!

Add your four pieces of chicken. Spoon roughly equal amounts of pesto over each one – approximately 3 Tbspns – and spread to cover the chicken.

Return to oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on how large/thick your chicken pieces are.

This dish is really great for Southern American families where red rice is king; the minor change up in herb seasonings helps keep things fresh without completely blowing picking kids for a loop.

TIP: make ahead and reheat or freeze. When you thaw it out, add about 1 cup of stock or water to make sure the rice doesn’t dry out when heated in a 350°F oven for about 30- minutes (assuming thawed to room temperature.

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Posted in Cooking, gluten free

Chicken Tetrazzini

IMG_1722The night-before dinner for the Cooper River Bridge Run (Charleston, SC) demands a classic power-pasta dinner, but my runner is pretty picky about his food. Luckily he loves Chicken Tetrazzini, and I am especially proud of how pretty tonight’s dish came out!

Here are the ingredients for tonight’s dish; some notes follow regarding dietary adjustments:

  • 1 package of thin spaghetti, broken in half and cooked according to package instructions
  • 1 whole rotisserie chicken, shredded (approximately 3 packed cups of shredded/cubed protein)
  • 3 cups of vegetables (my blend is fresh mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper, chopped)
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Optional toppings: shredded parmesan, garlic panko/bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl; pour into a greased casserole dish and sprinkle desired topping. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°, 50 minutes if you made it ahead and had it in the refrigerator.

Makes 8 generous servings or 12 potluck servings.

Semi-homemade versus Traditional: This is a common dish for some semi-homemade action, using a store-bought rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled or roasted chicken from a previous night’s dinner, some frozen veggies, and canned soup instead of the homemade garlic parmesan cream sauce of a truly traditional tetrazzini.

Spaghetti versus Shapes: You’re right; it doesn’t have to be spaghetti at all. We’ve been known to use penne, bowtie, and elbow – basically whatever box of pasta is in the pantry. I can also confirm that egg noodles and even rice (gluten free!) work exceptionally well too!

More than Usual Vegetables: You may also notice that my measurements feature as much as 3X the amount of vegetable that a traditional recipe calls for. When I make a casserole, I’m looking for a truly balanced meal without needing a special side; that always means doubling or tripling the vegetables!

Fresh versus Frozen Vegetables: I also use a combination of frozen and fresh: always fresh mushrooms because canned are gross, but take help from frozen peppers and onions. When I have them on hand, I also add fresh onion and peppers to add crunch.

Sneak in a Vegetarian Meal: this dish is super-easy to make vegan. 3 cups of seitan, tofu or a blend is easily hidden by the wonderful flavors of the vegetables and the cream soups or sauce.

There are canned vegan cream soups already available. If you’re feeling especially domestic, make your own vegan and gluten-free cream of mushroom soup with my recipe, which has the added benefit of being corn free; 2 cans is approximately 1 2/3 cups of homemade cream sauce or soup.

Use mozzarella/pizza shreds both mixed in and as a topping.

Gluten-Free and Delicious: It may seem impossible if you’re new to a gluten-free diet or not kitchen-friendly, but either a great store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or and great online store like Amazon Pantry can make it super easy with prepared gluten free pastas and canned soups. I would recommend first trying this dish with Manischewitz GF egg noodles and the Pacific brand of gluten free cream soups; I find that the GF egg noodles cook up nicer than many of the GF pastas and make the transition from traditional to GF pasta easier. Toast some GF panko or bread crumbs in olive oil and fresh garlic for a superb and safe topping (it’s what you see on top of mine in the photo :-)).