Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Meet Jenny!

I was taught to cook by my grandmother at a very young age. My grandmother is also my inspiration for attending culinary school. I am currently a junior at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, studying culinary nutrition and hope to become a registered dietitian after graduation. I graduated with my associates degree culinary arts in November 2012. I was diagnosed in 2008, at the age of 26, with Celiac Disease and have been cooking and baking gluten-free ever since. I started my website, Creative Cooking Gluten Free right after my
diagnosis. I knew very little about the disease, but I knew I had to get really creative with my cooking, hence the name of my website. My time at culinary school has helped me hone my skills as a chef and recipe developer. I also co-founded and am the vice president of a gluten-free group on campus where we raise awareness of Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance/sensitivity. I love cooking all foods from different regions, but love cooking with Asian flavors the most. This probably stems from my slight obsession with the Asian cultures, cuisine, and diet. Thankfully, Bryan loves Asian cuisine as much as I do, we could live on it, and almost do. On my website, you will find many "regular" recipes that I have reformulated to be gluten-free, especially those from P.F. Chang's. My favorite recipes include a version of a P.F. Chang's classic: Beef a La Sichuan and my grandmother's meatball recipe. These two dishes scream comfort food to me but for very different reasons.

I currently lives in RI with my boyfriend Bryan (who has his own dietary restrictions) and our awesome ten-year old Jack-A-Bee Penny that we adopted last year.

P.F. Chang’s Beef a La Sichuan

Sauce Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce (I use San-J)
2 Tablespoons gluten-free Hoisin sauce (I use Dynasty)
1 Tablespoon garlic chili paste
1/2 teaspoon Chinese hot mustard
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili oil/or Mongolian Fire Oil (made by House of Tsang), optional
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Stir Fry Ingredients:
3-4 medium celery stalks, julienned
2 medium carrots, julienned
1 pound flank or sirloin steak sliced thin
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup peanut oil or canola oil (you may use less if using a non-stick pan, I only use about 1/4 cup)
Green onion stems, optional
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or whole Tien Tsin Chinese chili peppers)
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

Mix all of the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Julienne your carrots and celery and set aside. It is important to get these done first because when it comes time to stir-fry them, it is a very quick process.

An important step is “velveting your beef” – thinly slice your beef and place in a bowl. Add the cornstarch and toss to make sure each piece is thoroughly coated. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Rinse the beef free from all cornstarch and pat dry – you do not want any moisture, or the oil will splatter when you add the beef to the pan.

In a skillet (or wok), fry the sliced meat in hot peanut (or canola) oil until crispy to your liking. Remove from the oil, drain on paper towels.

In the same pan (or wok) add the sesame oil and the following ingredients in this order: celery, crushed red pepper flakes (or Tein Tsin Chinese chili peppers), followed by the carrots. Do not overcook these ingredients – you want them to be nice and crispy.

Add the fried meat and green onions.

Add the sauce and bring to a fast boil, cook for 1 minute and serve immediately over white or brown rice.

This last step should take only 3-4 minutes – it is a very quick process so be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn't overcook.

I sliced my beef a little bigger than P.F. Chang’s does but not by much and didn't fry it as much as they do. Sometimes the beef can become a bit tough when it is fried for too long, so I left mine a little tender but it still had a slight crunch to it.

The veggies were perfect – like the directions above say DO NOT OVER COOK them, they are supposed to be nice and crunchy. This process goes very quickly.

I drained off most of the remaining oil from frying the beef before adding the sesame oil and veggies. I didn't want it to be too oily.

The recipe called for chili oil but I couldn't find it anywhere around me (my grocery stores aren't so good with stocking “international” cuisine products) so I left it out and didn't miss it at all.

The sauce was created from memory so if you have had it more recently and attempt to make it at home please adjust the measurements to your liking.

I cooked this in a wok but you can use a large sauté pan.

Gram’s Meatballs

(Just a little bit of a note: my grandmother has made this recipes for so many years, none of us are quite sure of the exact amounts, but I’m going to include some that I find work best in the gluten-free version.)

1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs – use 2 slices of gluten-free bread and pulse in a food processor until fine
1/2 teaspoon water
1 pound of ground beef (or 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground pork – the method I prefer)
1 egg
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan 
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)

In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs and about 1/2 teaspoon of water. You want the crumbs to be moist but not wet. This will help with the binding process in the meatballs. 

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well, but do not overmix.

Roll meatballs to your desired size.

Stove top: cook the meatballs in tomato sauce over low to medium heat until the meatballs are cooked.

Bake: you can bake the meatballs in the oven to your desired likeness.

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