Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tuna Noodle Casserole and a Bonus Recipe

Tuna Noodle Casserole (or Toona Noona, as one of my kids called it) is not high class fare, but it has its advantages. It is quick, and my whole family will eat it.

Half of that changed when I came down with the soy allergy.

Canned Cream of Chicken--or Cream of Mushroom, or Cream of Celery--soup contains soy. You could make a white sauce for the casserole, but then you've changed what makes this dish most appealing--after the pasta is cooked, the whole thing takes 10 minutes, tops, if you leave off buttered bread crumbs, which we do because the kids think they're disgusting. They will eat it with crushed potato chips, though. Big surprise. Anyway. . . .

Heloise solved this one. Sort of. The Hints from Heloise column had a recipe for a "creamed soup mix" that involved dried everything, including milk. You just added water, heated it, and Presto! Quasi creamed soup. Or creamed quasi soup. Or something.

I have been known to use dried ingredients, but instant powdered milk as the main ingredient only shows up in one thing in our house (more on this later). So, what to do? Take the concept, replace the dried milk and water with real milk, and try it out. It worked. Here is our new standard:

Tuna Noodle Casserole

8 ounces shell pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs, such as Italian or Herbes de Provence (without lavender)
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seafood seasoning (optional)
2 cups milk
2 6-oz cans soy-free tuna*
1 4-oz can sliced mushrooms

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, undercooking by a minute or two. Drain. Put back in the same pan.
2. While the pasta is cooking, mix all the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Open and drain the tuna and mushrooms
3. With the pasta back in the pan, but off the heat, stir in the flour mixture. Put the heat back on to medium.
4. Stirring constantly, slowly add the milk. Heat the mixture, stirring once in a while, until it bubbles. Add the tuna and mushrooms.
5. Let sit a few minutes on low heat to give the pasta a chance to absorb some of the liquid.

*A word about soy-free tuna. It's hard to find. That "vegetable broth" a lot of tuna is canned in, is usually some combination of soy and other things. Trader Joe's has tuna in plain spring water, with salt or salt-free, and so does Whole Foods. I am told that expensive imported Italian tuna in olive oil is fine, too. If you can't find soy-free tuna, canned soy-free chicken is easier to come by, and it works in this recipe, too. In that case, you can omit the herbs and add a teaspoonful of curry powder or dried dill.

Bonus recipe:
Honey Nut Butter Candy

1 cup powdered dry milk
1/2 cup nut butter of your choice (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.)
1/2 cup honey
ground nuts, sugar, colored sugar, or soy-free chocolate shot (ha! if you can find these, let me know.)

Mix the milk powder, nut butter, and honey together in a bowl until you can't see the milk powder any more. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls. (If it's hard to handle, refridgerate for a half hour to an hour.) Roll in nuts, sugar, or chocolate shot.

You can put this in little paper cups in a box for a nice presentation. We have alternated these with nut-stuffed dates rolled in sugar for gifts. It is easy for kids to make.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hooray for the bread machine

Soy-free bread is problematical. Most of the breads on the bread aisle have soy oil. Most tortillas are out, too, unless you can find an honest-to-god fat-free one, and they are scarce. As a result, our fajitas are usually served in whole-wheat pita. Pita's usually okay.

The good news is, supermarkets are starting to sell more upscale bread in their bakery departments and they are often soy-free. My local “GIANT” sells a brand it buys frozen and bakes in the bakery. The multigrain has soy (check every label, every time) but the Italian, sourdough, country rye, semolina sesame, and olive/rosemary are all fine. Our local Whole Foods also carries several kinds of soy free bread. The bad news is, these upscale loaves are expensive. You also have to slice them yourself at home, because the slicers at the store might be contaminated from previous products.

English muffins continue to be a problem. None sold in the supermarket are soy-free. Whole Foods used to sell a Whole Foods brand that was okay, but they changed the recipe (check every label, every time). Trader Joe’s brand (“British Muffins”) is fine--for now--and they have whole-wheat.

Hotdog and hamburger rolls are impossible. We often buy “French rolls” at Safeway and use them for hamburgers but they’re not too substantial. I have not found any hotdog rolls I can use. I finally bought at hotdog roll pan from the King Arthur Flour catalogue and make them at home, when I can’t stand putting a hotdog on regular bread anymore.

Which brings me one of the best inventions of the 20th century: the bread machine. I am on my third machine right now. We only use it to make dough, then shape the dough and bake it in the oven. We use a potato bread recipe, like the one that came with the King Arthur hotdog roll pan, for hotdog and hamburger buns. (If you want your potato bread to be yellow like the supermarket loaves, add 1/16th tsp of turmeric.) For hamburger buns, just divide one pound of dough into sixths, or 1½ pounds into eighths, shape into balls, and squish flat on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Let rise until doubled, and bake at 375 for about 15 minutes.

Because we only make dough, we don’t care what brand of machine we use, or how many bells and whistles it has. This latest machine cost around $40 at WalMart, and it works just fine, although the pan is not as heavy as the ones in our earlier, more expensive machines. It even has a “beep” for when to put in raisins, which the other two didn’t.

Bread machine books abound, and recipes are all over the internet, but I have found that I can make almost any bread recipe in the bread machine if I scale it right. A pound of dough uses 2 to 2 ¼ cups of flour, and cooks in an 8”x4” pan. A pound-and-a-half loaf takes 3-3 1/2 cups of flour, and uses a 9”x5” pan. My defunct Panasonic machine’s manual recommended 7/8 cup liquid for 2¼ cups flour and that works for most recipes, although if you add whole-wheat flour, you need a full cup. I am still working out the proportions for larger loaves.

We have several favorite bread machine books. Donna Rathmell German published at least 6 Bread Machine Books through Nitty Gritty Press. (Full disclosure—one of my recipes is in Bread Machine 6.) We also like Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg & Lois Conway.

Because it is basil season, I am including my recipe for Pesto Bread. My brother tasted this at our house, and went out and bought a bread machine the next week.

Pesto Bread

2 ¼ cups bread flour (see note)
¼ cup pesto, home-made or commercial
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (less if the pesto contains salt)
1 cup water
1 1/4 tsp yeast

Put the ingredients in the machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Process on dough mode. When the dough is ready, roll out about ½” thick, roll up like a jellyroll, and put in a greased 8”x4” bread pan. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

Note: You can substitute 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 tbsp gluten powder for one of the cups of bread flour. Any whole-wheat flour works, but we favor King Arthur.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tartar Sauce and Soy-free Mayonnaise

In Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, which I got for my birthday this year, I learned that authentic Sauce Tartare is made with hard-cooked egg yolks, and Sauce Remoulade is made with raw egg yolks. That is, it is based on mayonnaise. Both have herbs, pickles, and capers, so except for the state of the egg yolks, they are virtually identical.

Well. I am from New England, and where I come from, Tartar Sauce is based on mayonnaise, mostly comes in a jar, and never saw a caper, so that's the way I like it. Now that I am allergic to soy, I can't buy it in a jar anymore, so I had to learn to make it myself. Here is the latest, and best so far (better than the stuff in the jar), version:

Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup soy-free mayonnaise*
2 Tbsp sweet pickle relished, drained
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (it is the fresh parsley that makes this so good)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 1/2 tsp minced onion OR
1/2 tsp dried onion flakes

Don't use light mayo; the sauce will be runny. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and let set a few minutes to soften the onion flakes (if using) and let the flavors mix.

*Soy-free mayonnaise is a lot easier to find these days; you can even buy Hellman's Canola Mayonnaise (Best Foods west of the Rockies) at the grocery store now. For a long time I had to go to the health food store for Hain's Safflower Oil Mayonnaise, and that is still my favorite. Hain also has a Light Safflower Oil mayo that is pretty good, and we use that most of the time. Right before passover you can buy Kosher for Passover mayonnaise in the kosher section of the grocery store, too. (Many Jews avoid legumes during passover, and soybeans of course are legumes.)

Back to the tartar sauce. Like I said, being from New England, we ate a lot of fish, fried clams, and scallops growing up, most of the time involving tartar sauce. We even ate tartar sauce with our French fries, if it was available. When my brother tasted this version, his comment was something like, "Umph. Good tartar sauce," which is high praise indeed coming from a New England male.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce is one of those products that I didn't expect to have to worry about. However, once you realize that most of them contain oil, it's obvious that soy oil is going to show up. There are a few, like Kraft original, that are okay--for now (read every label, every time)--but making your own is pretty easy. The following recipe came from my friend Belva, who is half-Cajun and half-Italian, and (need I add?) a wonderful cook.

Gurr's Great Sauce
3 cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
"a big squirt of" yellow mustard (1/3 cup?)
1 stick butter
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup soy-free Worcestershire Sauce
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 whole lemon, sliced thin and seeds removed

Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer unil reduced by half. (Belva says, "Until you can stick your face over it and still breathe." It starts off with a pronounced vinegar smell and mellows out while it's cooking.) The lemon will disintegrate into the sauce.
Makes approximately 4 cups
Great on ribs, chicken, pork chops

16 July update on soy-free Worcestershire sauce: I called the 1-800 number on the back of the Lea and Perrins label. I got a very nice Heinz customer service rep named Megin. She says there is no soy in Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce, and that they would list it in bold as an allergin if there was. Hooray! (For a while French's was okay, now it's not. Food Lion's house brand was okay the last time I bought it. )

Monday, July 2, 2007

Eating Like a Normal Person

Can you eat like a normal person with a soy allergy? Yes. And no.

By yes, I mean you can eat most foods you used to eat, like macaroni and cheese, tuna casserole, taco salad, and chocolate-chip cookies.

By no, I mean you are probably going to have to make them yourself (there are exceptions.)

When I first was diagnosed with a soy allergy, I was shocked by how many processed foods contained soy, especially when you take into account soy oil and lecithin. Many soy-allergics can handle soy oil and lecithin, but I can't. Here's a list of foods that surprised me with their soy content:
-- canned tuna (oil, or "vegetable broth")
-- canned soup (soy protein)
-- sweetened chocolate products (lecithin)
-- peanut butter (soy oil)
-- candy corn (soy protein)
-- orange or grapefruit-flavored soda (brominated vegetable oil, for that "citrusy" mouthfeel)
Soy oil is ubiquitous (I blame price supports.) Some foods are predictably off-limits, if you take into consideration that they are made with vegetable oil, margarine, or shortening:
-- most supermarket breads, including English muffins, biscuits, tortillas
-- most packaged cookies
-- most packaged crackers
-- cake mixes and supermarket cakes
-- breakfast cereals
Some products basically are oils, so they are often made from soy oil:
-- salad dressings
-- mayonnaise
Not all versions of any of the foods above contain soy. What it boils down to, is you have to read every label, every time, and make things from scratch.
I intend to write about recipes, tips, and products I have found so that I can "eat like a normal person."