A Gaggle of Girls
I'm a divorced mom of 3 gluten-free daughters. We've outgrown dairy, soy, egg, and corn allergies, but still deal with a berry allergy in my youngest.
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Archive for January, 2008

postheadericon Sausage, Rice, and Black Bean stovetop casserole

This recipe is based on a similar oven-baked casserole. The original is wonderful. But if you are short on time, it is lovely to have a delicious, warm dinner ready in about 30 minutes!

This is a delicious gfcf, gluten free, family-friendly recipe! It is also (if you double check ingredients!) a wheat free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, tree nut free, peanut free, fish free, shellfish free, corn free, and top 8 allergen free recipe.

Black Bean and Sausage stovetop casserole


  • Splash canola or other cooking oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced/pressed
  • 1 1/3 lb raw Italian sausages, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1 can corn (omit if you cannot tolerate corn)
  • 2 15oz can(s) black beans (drained)
  • 2 cups water
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes (or petite diced)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 2 pinches kosher or sea salt

In a large soup pot, warm enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until they become tender.

Add sausage slices, and continue to cook, stirring frequently. Continue cooking until they become browned.

Pour rice into the pot, stirring so the rice absorbs some of the flavors from the sausages and onion/garlic.

Add all other ingredients, stirring. Turn heat up to a boil, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

When it boils, turn heat down to low, and cover. Set timer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally while it is cooking.

Serve on plates or in bowls with some steamed veggies or a salad.

postheadericon Under $10 meals – Beef Stir fry

Stir Fry dinner

Sometimes money is tight for everyone, and if you are following a gluten-free or allergy-safe diet, food can get really expensive! This is especially true if you end up buying prepared foods, but it’s also true for others who cook every meal. I take joy in the canned products we can eat – beans, water chestnuts, tomatoes, etc. A few little shortcuts make meals a lot easier. This is my kick-off recipe in my “Under $10″ category. Yummy, quick, and not expensive. Enjoy!

This is a delicious gfcf, gluten free, family-friendly recipe! It is also (if you double check ingredients!) a wheat free, dairy free, egg free, tree nut free, peanut free, fish free, shellfish free, and South Beach friendly recipe (without the rice).

This is one of my favorite “Under $10 for 5 people” meals. This is a big hit here, especially the rice. My youngest daughter calls the bean sprouts noodles!

Beef Stir Fry


  • 1 1/3 lb beef. Don’t buy “Stir Fry Beef”, buy a lean, boneless cut (London Broil works well) and slice it yourself.
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 1 knuckle sized piece of ginger, skin removed and minced or grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • splash canola (or other cooking oil)
  • 2 cans pre-sliced water-chestnuts
  • 1 large can bean sprouts
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
  • GF soy sauce (La Choy, Braggs Amino Acids, or Wheat-Free Tamari work well)
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine or other rice


Slice the beef into thin strips (1/8 – 1/4 inch) about 2 inches long. Set aside.

Start cooking the rice, according to package directions.

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and ginger, and sauté until tender.

Add beef, and stir quickly. OXO Good Grips Tongs are a great way to move the food around easily.

When the meat starts to brown, add the broccoli. Shake some soy sauce over the meat and veggies (just enough to add flavor, people can always add more at the table).

When the broccoli starts to turn dark green, add the drained water chestnuts and drained bean sprouts.

Quickly stir it all together, until it is all hot. Bring to the table with rice and extra soy sauce. Yum!

Follow the “Read More” for the money breakdown – Read the rest of this entry »

postheadericon Basic Marinara sauce with variations

I feel like I’ve been making marinara almost my whole life (my grandmother’s family is from Sicily). I’ve changed it a bit as I’ve grown older and changed myself. At this stage in my life I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible, while still retaining good flavor. I play somewhat fast and loose with seasonings, so be sure to taste test along the way! This amount makes enough to feed a family of 5 with some left over. It’s easy to half or double as needed.

This is a delicious gfcf, gluten free, family-friendly recipe! It is also (if you double check ingredients!) a wheat free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, tree nut free, peanut free, fish free, shellfish free, corn free, top 8 allergen free, vegan, vegetarian, and South Beach safe recipe.

Polenta with marinara and sausages


  • 2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes, or 1 crushed, one petite diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2+ tsp basil
  • 2+ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 shake red pepper flakes
  • 2 pinches Kosher or Sea salt
  • a few grinds pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • splash white wine

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Sauté the onion and garlic, watching that the garlic doesn’t brown or burn. Sprinkle the spices over the onion and garlic, stirring them together. (Dried herbs will intensify their flavor if warmed like this)

Add a splash of wine, and after the wine has sizzled, add the 2 cans of tomatoes. Add salt and pepper and a bay leaf. (The wine is, of course, optional. However, flavors can be carried by fat (oil), water, acid (tomatoes), and alcohol. My best sauces are always the ones with a splash of wine.)

Turn the heat up to High, and stir occasionally, waiting for the sauce to come to a boil. When it boils, turn it down to low or medium-low, allowing it to simmer.

Let the sauce simmer for at least an hour to let the flavors develop.

Make some polenta or pasta (we like Tinkyada Spaghetti), and serve with a nice salad for a delicious dinner!

If you have leftover sauce, it freezes very well! I will sometimes make a double batch just to have some in the freezer for a quick and easy meal later.


  • Pizza Sauce: Add about 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes with the other spices. Let boil a few minutes longer to reduce (concentrate) the sauce. If you cook off some of the extra liquid, it won’t make the pizza crust. Another option is to use 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained, in addition to the 1 can crushed tomatoes – then there is less liquid in the sauce.
  • Vegetable Sauce (or, not-quite-rattatouille): peel and dice 1 small eggplant, slice a handful of mushrooms, and dice a summer squash and a zucchini. Add the vegetables after the onion and garlic have started to soften. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have started to soften. Return to the above directions, starting with adding the wine.
  • Meat Sauce: After the onions start to soften, add 1.5 lbs ground meat. Cook until meat is browned, then follow other steps.
  • Sauce with Sausages: Before you begin cooking, cut 1.5 lbs uncooked Italian sausages into circles. (Choose sweet or hot sausage as desired) Add sausages after onions begin to soften. Stir and cook until browned, then follow the other steps.

postheadericon Pumpkin Custard

My middle daughter was looking through a cookbook she received as a gift recently (Felicity’s Cooking Studio (American Girls Collection), and wanted to make something from it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of the ingredients or time needed for the different treats. After a lot of discussion, we ended up adapting Felicity’s Baked Pumpkin Pudding into MG’s Pumpkin Custard!

This is an easy recipe, and it tastes delicious. Most of our family dislikes pumpkin pie, but this recipe was richer, and we all loved it. Compliments are a great pay-off for a kiddo’s hard work!

This is a delicious gfcf, gluten free, family-friendly recipe! It is also (if you double check ingredients!) a wheat free, dairy free, soy free, tree nut free, peanut free, fish free, shellfish free, and corn free recipe.

Happy Cook


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can pumpkin (16oz) – NOT pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • several grates nutmeg (1/4 – 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350. (if your meal is cooking at 375, this is a forgiving recipe. just check on it earlier)

Choose an 8 inch round casserole dish, and add the eggs. With a fork or a small whisk, whisk the eggs until well combined.

Smoothing the top

Using a spatula, add in the pumpkin and combine with the eggs. Add the spices (my daughter especially likes grating the nutmeg!), and mix well.

Add the molasses and mix together. Scrape down the sides and smooth the top of the custard so it’s even.

Bake for 1 hour – the custard should be set, like a quiche. Allow to cool for a little while, then scoop into ramekins. Yum! This served 5 happy diners, with enough left for one or two more.

postheadericon Polenta that’s kick-yourself simple

We, like everyone else we know, are finding ourselves on a tighter budget because of the cost of gas and heating oil. My daughters love polenta, and while I am Italian, I always thought it was too tricky to make from scratch. I mean really, would they be selling it in rolls at the store for $3 or more if it was easy?


Polenta is incredibly easy to make, and while it requires a bit of time, it’s done in under an hour. You need to simmer your marinara for a while anyway, so let it simmer while the polenta bakes. There’s very little work involved after the first few minutes other than being in the house while the oven’s on. I have adapted a recipe for polenta from The Silver Spoon, a fabulous cookbook for anything and everything Italian. I bought the cookbook for everyone at Christmas a couple years ago, and we’re all still cooking our way through it!

This is a delicious gfcf, gluten free, family-friendly recipe! It is also (if you double check ingredients!) a wheat free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, tree nut free, peanut free, fish free, shellfish free, top 8 allergen free, and vegan/vegetarian recipe.


Home-made polenta
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups cornmeal (I use fine-ground, but a courser grind is more traditional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • (optional)2-3 shakes basil or oregano or Italian seasoning
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F

Bring the water and salt (and spices if using) to a boil in a large saucepan or medium-sized soup pot. Make sure you have enough room in the pot to add the cornmeal.

While the water is boiling, drizzle olive oil over the bottom of a 9×13 pan or two smaller pans.

Whisking Polenta

When the water boils, sprinkle in the cornmeal with one hand, and whisk it into the water with the other hand. Whisk carefully so there aren’t too many lumps, and watch out for spitting cornmeal, it can burn. (You may want to don your Kevlar® gloves for this part!)

Once all the cornmeal has been whisked into the water, you will have a nice cornmeal mush. Pat it into the oiled pan(s) with a spatula, then drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Slide it into the oven, and set the timer for 45 minutes.

Polenta with marinara and sausages

Check the polenta – the top should be a bit crisp, and the edges golden brown. Slice and serve with a sauce. You’ll never buy the other stuff again!

Serve this with a lovely side salad and marinara and sausages (if not vegetarian). Mmmm… One of my daughters prefers the polenta plain, then eats the red sauce and sausages with a spoon!

postheadericon Warming Italian Vegetable and Chick Pea Stew

This hearty soup was inspired by a few things – my husband bought about 3 times the amount of ground beef that I normally buy, I had some odd amounts of vegetables around, and I was very chilly and wanted a warm soup with a new flavor. This cooks reasonably quickly and is a full meal in a bowl – a lot of bang for your buck!

This is a delicious gfcf, gluten free, family-friendly recipe! It is also (if you double check ingredients!) a wheat free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, tree nut free, peanut free, fish free, shellfish free, corn free, top 8 allergen free, and South Beach phase 2 safe recipe.

Soup's on!


  • 1.5-2 lbs ground meat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots (or 8 baby carrots) cut into rounds
  • 1/2 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 TBS olive or canola oil to coat bottom of pan
  • 2+ tsp basil
  • 2+ tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • pinch kosher or sea salt
  • couple grinds fresh pepper
  • 1 splash wine (optional)
  • 1 summer or zucchini squash, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach, or about 5oz frozen spinach
  • 1 28oz can diced Tomatoes
  • 1 14oz can chick peas (about 2 cups)
  • 4-6 cups water or broth

Warm the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot, and bell pepper. Sauté until it becomes tender.

Add ground meat to the vegetables and stir intermittently until the meat is browned. While the meat and vegetables are cooking, add salt, pepper, and other spices.

When the meat is browned, drain off some of the fat and add a splash of wine to deglaze the pan. Add all the ingredients except the water, and stir.

Add 4 cups water, then 1 cup at a time until it looks soupy – the exact amount of water will vary. Bring to a boil.

Simmer for about 15 minutes, check seasoning, then serve.

My whole family loved this, and one of my girls asked for extra broth!

postheadericon Dairy-free and Soy-free baking tips

In general, I find baking dairy-free reasonably easy – there are a lot of alternatives out there, and in general dairy-free baking doesn’t alter the recipe – be it Gluten-free or not. Eggs are another story, but we’re not going there today! I use Fleishmann’s Unsalted margarine (Kosher Pareve, no dairy, no casein) as a 1:1 substitute for butter when I bake. I use Soy Garden or Earth Balance tubs (both Vegan and Kosher Pareve, no dairy, no casein) margarine in place for butter in stove-top cooking. I use Spectrum Shortening for any shortening needs, but Crisco is also dairy-free.

I use rice milk, soy milk, water, or coconut milk (usually the latter) in place of any milk in baking. To make “sour cream” or “buttermilk” or even “yogurt” when its called for in recipes, I add 1TBS of lemon juice or vinegar per 1 cup “milk”, and it works just right in baking. Coconut milk works especially well for anything that needs more substance – ie: sour cream or yogurt substitutes. If you need “cream”, you can chill a coconut milk can, which separates it into a solid and a liquid. Scoop out (and heat) the solid, and you have the texture of cream, as well as the fat to carry flavor. Savory foods won’t taste coconutty, but sweet foods will have a bit of coconut taste, depending on the amount used (ie: if you use 1/4 cup coconut milk to 2 cups chocolate, no one will notice).

Once you are soy-free, things become more complicated. The liquid changes are the same, but the margarine changes aren’t. In some areas, Fleishmann’s sells a tub-product called “Fleishmann’s Light”, and it has no soy or dairy. The Fleishmann’s Unsalted that I currently use has soy oil, which is OK for some people who are avoiding soy, and not OK for others. If they aren’t available in your area, you can order them at Kosher.com.

For soy-free baking, I use Spectrum Shortening in place of butter/margarine. Spectrum Shortening can be found in most large grocery stores in the Health Food aisle, or in any health food store – including Gluten-Free Mall online. It worked well for me in baking and cooking, but it doesn’t have quite the same flavor, and is most definitely not a table spread. Flax oil worked as a “liquid butter” topping for my kids, but that might not work for everyone.

For a completely dairy-free and soy-free margarine, you want to start keeping your eyes out for Kosher grocery stores and even some Kosher delis. At Passover, they will sell Mother’s Margarine (Passover Version), which uses cottonseed oil as a base. It’s not an optimal oil in general, but it is allergy-safe. Many Kosher grocery stores keep the Kosher for Passover Mother’s Margarine in stock year-round. You can also order it online at various Kosher supply stores such as Kosher.com. As we get closer to Passover, it will be easier to find.

Chocolate is another one thats difficult if you’re soy-free. Most chocolate has soy lecithen, which is like soy oil – safe for some and unsafe for others. The EnjoyLife chocolate chips are soy-free, and most health food shops stock them – including Gluten-Free Mall online. This is another area where Kosher for Passover comes in handy – if you live in an area with Kosher grocery stores, you can get soy-free chocolate during the Passover season. Chocolate Emporium has lovely Dairy Free and Soy Free (and Gluten-free) treats near Passover – usually their treats have soy lecithen, but they are soy-free during Passover for religious reasons.

I need to edit some recipes to link back to this, and explain the substitutes that have worked for me over the years. We have now been at least somewhat dairy-free for 9 years, Gluten-free for 5 years, and during those 5 years we have been (at different times) soy-free, egg-free, corn-free, and now berry-free.

Do you have any dairy- and soy-free baking/cooking tips? What did I forget?

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