Gluten-Free Pear-Apple Crumble

Anyone who knows me knows that I prefer desserts with lots of butter, flour, sugar, eggs, sour cream and/or cream cheese.  I also tend not to like ingredients that seek to “mimic” these traditional dessert ingredients (no tofu or quar gum or applesauce or tapioca in my baked goods).  Which means I’m fairly certain that a “vegan dessert” will never come out of my kitchen.  And certainly my own intolerance for “artificial sweeteners” (in all of their guises; they give me migraines) will keep plain old white and brown sugar in my pantry indefinitely.

On the other hand, when a recipe requires only minor variation to go from “traditional” to “restricted diet,” I’m willing to give it a try.  Just as I was getting ready for Autumn Apple Crisp season, I stumbled on several recipes for “Gluten-Free Fruit Crumbles”  that use ground quinoa in place of flour.  I’m a fairly recent, but enthusiastic, convert to quinoa, so I keep a supply of it in the pantry (well actually in the refrigerator).  Once I figured out that my mini-chopper would not grind quinoa but my spare (and well-cleaned) coffee grinder would, I was all set to give “gluten-free dessert” a try.

Here’s what I came up with:

Pear-Apple Crumble with Gluten-Free Oat-Quinoa-Pecan Topping Recipe

Pear-Apple Crumble

My Year as a Twins Fan

After years as a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, I “let go” for a year and joined Twins Territory.  I gave it all I have: listened to or watched most games, participated in game chats, bought Twins gear, went to several games.  Overall it was a great season.  Certainly, in terms of wins and losses, much better than most Cubs’ seasons.

So why do I feel even worse today, after the Twins were swept by the Yankees for the second ALDS in a row, than I ever did after a Cubs’ losing season?  I’m afraid some deeply held beliefs that “true Minnesotans” hold, but that my New Jersey-born/Chicago-raised soul just can’t accept or comprehend, may have infected Twins Territory and are contributing to their inability to win in the postseason.  (Perhaps it is also time for me to move, but I’ll save that for another post.)

In his post-game press conference last night, Ron Gardenhire said “I’m very proud of this baseball team.” Yes, he was basing this assessment on winning the division. Well, that’s a goal they’ve accomplished six of the past 10 years.  And all but once they have lost in the first postseason series, by either three games to none, or three games to one.  SO what exactly makes him so proud?  I certainly don’t feel proud of the way the team has played over the past several weeks.

I can only conclude that his pride in his team (and the resignation that many Twins fans express about the Twins’ inability to win in the postseason) stems from one or more of the following common Minnesota Codes of Belief and Conduct:

  • Minnesota Nice (my def.:  overt polite friendliness and courtesy which is designed to avoid all confrontation and which seeks to conceal a basic passive aggressiveness and resistance to change)
    For the Twins this seems to take the form of rarely sweeping a series (it wouldn’t be nice to show up the other team) and easing up in a game once they get ahead by a few runs (ditto).  Dear Twins, you are being paid lots of money to win ballgames.  Please don’t feel bad for the other guys (who are also being paid lots of money).  Sports involves confrontation.  If you feel bad about that and bad about winning you are in the wrong business. And Gardy & Andy . . . I don’t care if the pitcher says he’s “fine” . . . it’s your job to pull him BEFORE the other team gets ahead by six runs, even if it hurts his feelings!
  • “All our children are above average” an extension of Minnesota Nice which declares it “unseemly” to point out that some people are better at some tasks than others and rewards “trying hard” equally with actually accomplishing a task.  (One Minnesota College which shall remain nameless refuses to be part of Phi Beta Kappa because it requires identifying the “best” students and setting them apart with an honor!)  Gardy’s most frequent excuses for losses take the form of “we didn’t get it done”  (GEE, REALLY?  I didn’t know that from the zeros on the board!) I can’t be certain from this sort of response whether the manager and coaches really don’t KNOW what fundamentals are missing from their ball players’ repertoire or whether they just don’t communicate well enough to point out to the players exactly what needs work.  I’m afraid that perhaps “just try harder next time” is the extent of the constructive criticism provided.  I WAS encouraged to read that Gardy recognizes some of the reasons why the Yankees are so successful: “They’re always looking in. They pay attention to everything. It’s not like they’re robots out there. They pay attention to the game. . . . They do a very good job of getting those guys ready over there.” There is NO reason why Twins can’t achieve the same level of preparation.
  • Upon pain of death, shunning, or firing, do not express emotion of any kind. Frankly, baseball can be a rather boring game.  For most of three hours, very little happens.  One way players can help alleviate potential fan boredom is by acting like they actually enjoy what they are being paid substantial sums of money to do.  Say what you will about the faults of Sammy Sosa, but when he entered the playing field (by RUNNING out to RF and acknowledging the fans) everyone knew his attitude was “GAME ON.”  Twins fans like to say that the (cheer)leading happens in the dugout and we don’t necessarily get to see it.  I WANT TO SEE IT!!! Show me that you care about the game and the fans.  Be FIERCE.  Not mean, not nasty, but definitely emotionally engaged in the game.  (One thing I definitely did NOT miss while Justin Morneau was out with his concussion was that stoic blank stare he usually wears throughout a ball game.) Yes, Gardy occasionally gets tossed  for arguing with an umpire, but those rare expressions of emotion are not enough to provide energy throughout a 162-game season.

All of which leaves me with the not-so-long-anymore offseason to contemplate whether to return to Twins Territory next year, or go back to my “loveable loser” Cubbies, who even when they are losing seem to be able to show me that they enjoy this game I love AND that they really WANT to win.  Tune back in April to learn my answer.

Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta and Variations

Baked Chicken Florentine Pasta and Variations

A local restaurant used to make this great Chicken Florentine Pasta with a yummy garlic cream sauce that I loved.  Last time I ordered it to go it was dry and not very yummy at all.  SO, I decided to try to make it myself.  Then I got carried away, threw in several other ingredients and ended up with something a bit over the top.  Below is the dish I actually made, along with some suggested, simpler variations . . . Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (12 oz.) dry pasta (I used Penne Rigate, but anything substantial will do)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbls. oil
  • 1 tsp Penzey’s Florida Seasoned Pepper (this is a combo of pepper, lemon and orange peel, garlic and onion, but feel free to use any salt free seasoning that works well on chicken)
  • 3-5 oz. baby spinach, cleaned
  • 1 tsp. Italian Herb Seasoning (or a combination of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and cracked rosemary)
  • 1 oz sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in 1/2 cup of boiling water (or approx. 1/3 cup of the oil soaked variety), drained & julienned (optional)
  • 6 oz. jar marinated artichoke heart quarters, drained (I cut each one in half, but feel free to use as is) (optional)
  • 4 oz. goat cheese (optional)
  • 4 Tbls. butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 Tbls. flour
  • 3 cups milk and/or half&half
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

There are three basic components to this dish: pasta, a chicken and vegetable sauté, garlic cream sauce, each prepared separately and then baked together in a 3-quart casserole.  You can make the parts one at a time and set aside or all at once, depending on your stovetop-juggling skills.

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease a 3-quart casserole.

Heat 3-4 quarts of water to boiling.  Salt or not as you prefer.  Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box/bag and according to your preferred tenderness.  Drain, set aside.

While the pasta is cooking and you prepare the other ingredients, marinate the chicken in the 2 Tbls. oil and the Florida Seasoned Pepper.

If your sun-dried tomatoes need rehydrating, make sure you have done that.

Prepare your garlic cream sauce: Melt the 4 Tbls. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the minced garlic and cook gently for about a minute.  Do NOT let it brown or burn!  Gradually add the flour to make a roux.  Once all the flour is added, cook for 1-2 minutes to cook the flour.  Now gradually add the milk or half&half, whisking or stirring frequently.  You want a medium-thick cream sauce.  Once the sauce will coat the back of a spoon (or is the thickness you desire), turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.

Prepare the chicken and vegetable sauté: Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and its oil/spice marinade.  Cook until the chicken has lost it pinkness.  Stir in the Italian Herb Seasoning and the sun-dried tomatoes.  Stir in the artichoke hearts.  Toss in the spinach; cover and cook until the spinach wilts.

Assemble: Combine the pasta and the chicken/vegetable mixture.  Place half into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle on half of the goat cheese.  Add the remaining pasta mixture and the remaining goat cheese.  Stir gently to combine.  Pour the garlic cream sauce over the entire contents of the casserole dish.  Once again, stir GENTLY to combine.  Finally, sprinkle the grated mozzarella over the top.

Cover and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbly.  You might want to remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to brown the top.

Notes & Variations

  • Technically, Chicken Florentine is just chicken and spinach in a cream sauce served over rice or pasta.  Thus, the other vegetables in the sauté are “optional”.  Same with the goat cheese.  I loved how they all combined in the dish I made, but feel free to simplify as your wallet and palate dictate!
  • I love baked pasta dishes because the time in the oven gives me time to relax, talk to guests, make a salad and/or do some dishes.  If you prefer, I’m fairly certain you could combine everything as described above and just serve as is without baking.  You might want to make the cream sauce a bit thicker (it thickens up a bit in the oven).
  • For those of you cutting calories, if you add a bit a water to the sauté and stir the goat cheese into the warm sauté after everything else is cooked, you should have enough of a “sauce” to serve over the pasta without making the cream sauce at all.

Enjoy!

Copyright © 2010, Lucinda DeWitt