Mussels for a Weakling

I mean, I'm not THAT weak. Although I was never able to pull myself up on the handlebars in gym class. 

Water in the glass, wine right from the bottle. Hashtag classy feels appropriate.

Water in the glass, wine right from the bottle. Hashtag classy feels appropriate.

Mussels! A restaurant-quality dish that you don't have to spend 1 spend a lot of money at a restaurant and 2 can make pretty quickly at home. There are all sorts of fun recipes for mussels - fra diavolo, in a cream sauce, in beer (not for us!) - but my favorite is just some simple mussels in a white wine sauce. Not only does this save us from having to use a cart at the grocery store, so we don't have to fight other pushy people in a cart battle-to-the-death/checkout lane, but it means we have some leftover wine that you must drink from the bottle. Don't waste a glass!

Serves: 4 

Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 lb mussels (1 lb per person)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups dry white wine for recipe
  • Remaining dry white wine for you (and a guest or two if you're feeling generous)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 diced or minced shallots (dependent on how lazy you are)
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (I use a little sprinkle, use what you can handle!
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (gluten free) or water

As you may have noticed, the ingredients are a lot of "a little bit of this, a little bit of that" so I highly recommend jamming to this as you gather them. For the Monica, Erica and Ritas  that make your mussels so great.

 

Instructions

  1. Scrub and debeard mussels. This is honestly the most work you'll have to do. While debearding the mussels, I highly recommend using something stronger than your two fingers to try to pull that hanging string out - maybe a paper towel between your pointer finger and thumb? I'm really open to suggestions here so please comment with what you do! Discard any broken or lousy looking mussels.
  2. Add butter and olive oil to a large pot and turn on medium.
  3. Once butter and olive oil have melted a bit, add red pepper flakes, lemon zest and shallots until fragrant, about a minute or two. Add onions and cook, another 5 or so minutes, stirring throughout.
  4. Add wine (minding the potential for a splash near your moneymaker [face]!), stock/water and mussels, then cover your pot and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. With both hands (and potholders!), hold either end of your pot and attempt to give a shake in one fluid motion. This is a bit trickier than it seems, since you don't want to shake too hard and break any shells, but you do want to try to cook everything evenly. Practice in front of the mirror if you'd like, but this seems to be a skill acquired only through true practice. So I hope you like eating mussels every day kids. Cook for another five minutes or until almost all shells are open.
  6. Serve mussels in bowls with parsley on top and black pepper, discarding any broken shells or mussels that didn't open (shame on them). Enjoy with some g-free bread and all that wine you didn't use for your recipe. Honestly I am such a fan of mussel broth I could eat it with a spoon, so if that's what you resort to you're my kind of friend.

Pasta and Meatballs

There are few things as comforting as pasta and meatballs. When my dad was recently diagnosed with Celiac I think the first type of food our family thought we'd have to cut out was Italian. Now, we're big meat and potatoes Irish people, but don't come between us and our carbs - particularly when they involve sauce ("gravy" in some places according to Guy Fieri but I'm sorry guys that grosses me out).

What else do you think of when someone mentions spag(h)ett-i and meatballs?

Luckily though, Barilla makes some solid g-free pasta - it tastes like normal pasta to me so I would HIGHLY recommend. There's plenty of g-free jarred tomato sauce as well (although I'm a big fan of my simple sauce to come soon), so this family fave is still on rotation.

Too hungry to take the picture with the penne in the box!

Too hungry to take the picture with the penne in the box!

My dad actually did the honors with these bad boys, adapting a Betty Crocker recipe as follows:

Feeds: 5

Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs (we used 4C, below)
  • 1/4 cup milk (we use whole or 2% - anything else is water)
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 egg
  • Jarred (or Kerry's special) gluten free pasta sauce
  • 1 box/12 oz gluten free pasta (we use Barilla gluten free penne)
  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil; spray with cooking spray. Bring pot of water to boil and cook according to directions.
  2. In large bowl, mix all ingredients. Shape mixture into about 16 meatballs. Place 1 inch apart in pan. Heat sauce (in microwave if you hate dishes or in a pot if you're civilized - no judgement here).
  3. Bake uncovered 18 to 22 minutes or until no longer pink in center.

Serve with loads of cheese and glasses of (again either 2% or whole there is no debate) milk!


"New" Basics

Whether you just found out you have Celiac or you're thinking of making a snack for a friend who can't have gluten, you should start your cooking adventure with these "new" basics in mind. Cooking for someone who can't have any gluten or even traces of gluten means you have to rethink what you're cooking with. The "Shopping" section of this site covers brands and different "g-free" products, but you should take stock of any items you were planning on using first. Seemingly minor products - think soy sauce and blue cheese - are now questionable in the world without gluten. 

For those who have friends/family or were themselves diagnosed with Celiac, the first thing you'll want to do is raid your kitchen/pantry. Flavored rice, tortillas, beer (I heard that, no swearing), sandwich meat from the deli, canned soup - everything should be double checked. All purpose flour is a definite no, and you are correct that your pretzels should head out the door as well. At my house we piled up all these items that were no longer bueno and donated them, which you could do a a local supermarket, food bank or other nearby donation center. Then it's on to the tricky part - finding and buying clearly gluten free food.

In some stores you'll find gluten free food without a problem - my local Hannaford and Shaw's have dedicated aisles. At those stores and others though - Trader Joe's and Whole Foods I'm lookin atchu - there's a seeming disarray of G-Free products mixed among everything else. While this can make the process seem a bit more normal since you're not limited to one aisle, it also can lead to a bigger headache. Who decided that certain gluten free chips are in the G-Free aisle while the other half are in aisle seven? And why did you do that Steve? It's always Steve.

My local Wegman's has a mix of the above, with a G-Free aisle as well as products around the (mall-size) store, but I forgive them because they have little "G" markers on all of their products that are certified gluten free. This also saves time since it you don't have to check to see if there's any risk of cross-contamination either!

And who doesn't have name tags amirite

And who doesn't have name tags amirite

Once you have all your new special g-free products, make sure to read up on how they should be stored. For instance, I followed America's Test Kitchen's gluten-free flour blend, which includes a range of items that have different storage instructions. To save myself the google each time I whip them out, I cut name tags into four pieces and labeled them.

Finally! You're good to go. Credit to you for getting the prep over with now - go enjoy a g-free bev (okay fine you can have two).