Friday, March 12, 2010

Tortilla Soup

I buy free range chickens in the fall at our farmers' market and freeze them for winter. They are tremendously different from supermarket chickens. I find that they have a lot less fat and a lot more flavor. Generally one chicken gives us at least 5 meals. I roast the chicken the first day, in a covered pan with potatoes and vegetables. The carcass goes into the slow cooker overnight with water to make stock. I strain the stock in the morning, put it back into the slow cooker, and add vegetables during the day to make soup. Here's the latest soup we made.

About 2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade with chicken pieces
1 onion, sliced fine
3 large carrots, diced
2 small crookneck squash, in small pieces
6 cloves garlic
dried chipotle pepper (either a whole pepper or about 1 tsp crushed pepper)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp vegetable broth seasoning (I use Seitenbacher)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1/2 c dried black beans, cooked

Using some of the chicken fat from the degreased stock, or some olive oil, saute the onion, carrots, squash, and whole garlic cloves. Add cumin seed, crushed chipotle pepper (if whole is being used, just add it to the stock), and other seasonings. Add to stock. Add black beans. Cook about 30 minutes, or about 4 hours on low in slow cooker.

Serve with toppings of choice, such as:
  • fresh cilantro
  • grated cheese
  • corn tortilla crisps (brush corn tortillas with oil, slice into strips and then in half, and bake for about 10 minutes at 425F, until slightly golden)
  • pumpkin seed kernels
  • diced avocado
  • lime juice or lime wedges

Gluten-Free Month

I am trying an experimental gluten-free month to see if it has any impact. Since day 2, I've felt unusually uncongested.

I was really disappointed when I started to look at GF cookbooks. Most cooking isn't a problem, but baking, of course, relies entirely on wheat. Barley flour has gluten in it, so that's out. Ditto for rye. Most GF recipes use a combination of a grain flour and grain starches (such as cornstarch), which have very high glycemic indices. There are some recipes that use alternatives such as chickpea flour or almond flour.

I thought I did a fairly good job of balancing my diet before, but it is really surprising how often I would reach for something that contains wheat. There are many foods that I like to eat on something - and that something usually was a form of bread. Hummus, avocado, almond or peanut butter...

Thus far, I've tried 3 GF recipes. 2 were successful: some simple chickpea flour crackers, and some GF corn muffins. The pizza base recipe that I tried (cornmeal and millet flour) was an abysmal failure.

Overall, my assessment is that eating GF is not easy, but neither is it extremely difficult. Certainly dining out would be more difficult than eating at home. I find that taking all the wheat out of my meals means I eat a lot more vegetables - and, significantly - a LOT less sugar, because sugar tends to be in many things made with wheat.

If you have any favorite GF recipes, I'd love to try them!

What's the most difficult dietary change you've made?