FeaturesFeb/Mar 2014 Issue

Take Comfort In Your Gluten-Free Food

Nourishing recipes for belly and soul

Ever notice how your mood can drive your food choices—soup when you’re feeling under the weather, a warm casserole or hearty stew on a chilly night? Often equated with dishes that are creamy, easy to digest and emotionally fulfilling, comfort food is just that, food that feeds the body and the senses. It satisfies and soothes, evoking pleasant sentiments and sometimes even stirring childhood memories. Unquestionably, comfort food epitomizes the belly-brain connection.

These recipes of traditional favorites are guaranteed to fill you with nutritional goodness while they elevate your mood. All are gluten-free and can easily be made dairy-free, too. Enjoy each as a complete balanced meal—meat, vegetables and starch—or go vegetarian by replacing the meat with additional veggies and substituting the beef or chicken broth with vegetable broth.

These cozy dishes will pique the palate and lift the spirit. They’re favorites at my house and I suspect they’ll become favorites at yours.


Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie

Photo by Oksana Charla

Shepherd’s Pie


A one-dish meal of lamb and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes and garnished with caramelized shallots, this shepherd’s pie takes comfort food to a new level, engaging all the senses. It fills the belly and warms the body. This recipe calls for chicken broth instead of heavy cream, reducing calories but not flavor.


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds ground lamb
-Salt and pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons rice flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1½ cups gluten-free chicken broth
3 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1½ teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
-Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup frozen peas

Mashed Potatoes

3 large (about 2 pounds) russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, cut in thin wedges
2 tablespoons butter or dairy-free substitute
⅓ cup gluten-free chicken broth
-Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the lamb, a third at a time, and cook until all the pink is gone. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked meat to a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe out the pan to remove excess fat. Repeat until all the meat is cooked. Set lamb aside.

2. Wipe out the pan and add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Set over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and parsnips and sauté until they begin to soften and brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an additional minute.

3. Return lamb to the pan with vegetables. Sprinkle with rice flour, stirring to coat, and brown slightly. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth, rosemary and thyme. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring until mixture begins to thicken. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Fold in peas.

4. Place mixture in a 9x13-inch baking dish or 2-quart oven-proof casserole pan. Set aside while making potatoes.

5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Wipe out the skillet.

6. To make mashed potatoes, place potato cubes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook about 10 minutes or just until fork tender.

7. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet and sauté shallots until lightly browned. Set aside.

8. Drain potatoes. Stir in butter and add chicken broth. Mash until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste. Fold in half the browned shallots.

9. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over lamb mixture and top with remaining shallots.

10. Place in preheated oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are slightly brown and filling is bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Each serving contains 510 calories, 27g total fat, 9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 83mg cholesterol, 339mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 6g sugars, 25g protein, 18Est GL.


Photo by Oksana Charla

Traditional Restaurant Favorite

French Onion Soup


This classic soup is usually off limits for those who dine gluten-free, owing to a little flour that’s usually added to the soup and the topping of crusty bread. This make-at-home version is deliciously gluten-free and it can easily be made dairy-free—just replace the cheese with an equal amount of dairy-free alternative.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or additional olive oil
3 Spanish onions, thinly sliced (about 8 cups)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
⅓ cup brandy or dry sherry
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons rice flour
8 cups gluten-free beef broth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-Salt and black pepper, to taste


3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
8 thick slices gluten-free French bread or other bread
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese or dairy-free alternative
-Fresh thyme, for garnish

1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat olive oil and butter until butter has melted. Add onions and sauté 10 minutes over medium-high heat or until softened and beginning to take on color. Add garlic and sugar and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add brandy, thyme and bay leaf and sauté 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over onions, stirring to blend. Cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth, a little at a time. Stir to blend. Add mustard and salt and pepper. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes.

3. To make croutons, heat olive oil and garlic in a skillet. Add bread slices and sauté on both sides until browned slightly. Remove to a plate.

4. Set oven to broil. Ladle soup into individual heatproof crocks. Top each with toasted bread and then a generous handful of cheese. Set crocks in the oven and broil until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before serving.

Each serving contains 364 calories, 24g total fat, 9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 44mg cholesterol, 807mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 8g sugars, 15g protein, 11Est GL.

Consistency Matters
If your soup or stew is too thick for your liking, add some broth to thin it out. To thicken, puree a portion of the ingredients and add this back to the dish; alternatively, create a slurry with equal parts cornstarch (or arrowroot) and broth; stir this mixture into the
boiling liquid.


Photo by Oksana Charla

A Cozy Supper

Pasta e Fagioli


The American term for this hearty Italian stew is pasta fazool. A wholesome, one-pot dish of tomatoes, beans, ground meat and pasta, this is wonderful served with gluten-free French bread and a green salad. Use any short cut of gluten-free pasta. For a vegetarian version, omit pancetta and ground chicken and use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. Garnish with dairy-free cheese if you’re avoiding dairy. This recipe is even better the second day but make the pasta just before serving.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 ounces pancetta, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ pounds ground chicken or turkey
3 teaspoons dried parsley or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups gluten-free chicken broth
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite-cut tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (16-ounce) cans red or white kidney beans or combination, rinsed and drained
2 cups dried gluten-free elbow pasta
⅓-½ cup grated Parmesan cheese or dairy-free alternative

1. In a large pot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and set over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook just until edges begin to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, onion, celery and garlic to the pot. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften but do not let them brown. Add chicken and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook until chicken is no longer pink. (Break up pieces with the back of a spoon as it cooks.) Add parsley, Italian herb blend, oregano, bay leaf and red pepper flakes and sauté briefly. Add chicken broth, tomatoes and juice, tomato paste and beans. Simmer covered 10 to 15 minutes.

3. In a separate pot, cook pasta in salted water until chewy but not soft. Drain. Add to stew if serving right away and serve with cheese on the side. Alternatively, ladle stew into individual bowls, adding a portion of cooked pasta and some cheese to each serving.

Each serving contains 415 calories, 17g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 83mg cholesterol, 729mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate, 10g fiber, 7g sugars, 28g protein, 18Est GL.

TIP Corn pasta is more durable than rice pasta but both get soggy if allowed to sit in warm liquid. Add pasta and cheese to this stew immediately before serving.


Satisfying Meal

Sweet Potato and Roasted Corn Chowder


Chowder is a hearty, wholesome soup with chunky ingredients suspended in a milk-based broth. Here, vegetable puree and coconut milk create delicious creaminess without dairy.

2–3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 ounces hickory-smoked bacon, chopped
1 large leek, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, roughly chopped
3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
4–6 cups gluten-free chicken broth
-Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (13.6 ounce) can light coconut milk


2 tablespoons olive oil
2½ cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed
-Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup finely chopped red pepper

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a very large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add bacon and sauté until it begins to brown. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve.

2. Add remaining oil and sauté leeks, carrots and bell pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, garlic and chipotle. Cook and stir about 5 minutes.

3. Add enough broth to cover vegetables. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper, to taste. Add cooked bacon.

4. Simmer, partly covered, over low heat, stirring often, until sweet potatoes are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out 3 to 4 cups of vegetables and set aside.

5. Use an immersion blender to puree remaining soup. Alternatively, ladle some soup into a blender and puree in batches. Add back chunks of vegetables. Stir in coconut milk. Return soup to low heat. Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired. If chowder is thicker than you like, add additional chicken broth until you reach desired consistency.

6. To make garnish, heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn and sauté until kernels are lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Stir corn kernels into chowder and serve hot, topped with finely chopped red pepper.

Each serving contains 248 calories, 11g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 7mg cholesterol, 514mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 8g sugars, 5g protein, 13Est GL.

Tasty Comfort

  • Comfort foods are meant to go down easily and not challenge the taste buds with a high profile of spices. These recipes are tasty in their own right but, if desired, here’s how you can step up the flavor.
  • Spicy sausage. Cook and drain off grease. Then stir the meat into the pot.
  • Red pepper flakes or chipotle chili powder. Sprinkle over the soup, stirring to blend.
  • Reduce the liquid. Simmer soups and stews uncovered for a period of time to reduce the liquid and intensify the flavor.

Photo by Oksana Charla

Flavorful and Filling

Pizza Pinwheels


Pizza is everyone’s go-to food, ideal for casual gatherings of family and friends, particularly sports fans when there’s a big game. A spin on traditional pizza, this recipe puts the fixings inside the dough for easy handling. Serve with extra pizza sauce for dipping. This recipe is egg-free and can be dairy-free with a cheese substitute. Leftovers can be reheated in a 350°F oven for a few minutes.


3 tablespoons olive oil, divided, more for brushing dough
6 ounces baby spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
3 teaspoons minced garlic
¾ pound spicy sausage or ground beef
1 (12-ounce) jar good quality gluten-free pizza sauce, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese or dairy-free alternative
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese or dairy-free alternative


3 cups high-protein flour blend of choice
1 tablespoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1⅓ cups warm water (105°-110°F)
2 tablespoons olive oil, more for brushing dough
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. To make the filling, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and sauté until wilted. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet and sauté onion and garlic over medium-high heat until golden and soft, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and crumble sausage into the pan. Sauté until meat is no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with the back of the spoon. Drain off grease. Add back spinach. Then set aside to cool while making the dough.

3. Place an oven rack in the lowest position in the oven. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly oil paper and set aside.

4. To make dough, combine high-protein blend, xanthan gum and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and blend well. Add yeast and blend.

5. In a small bowl, combine warm water, oil, honey and cider vinegar. Add to dry ingredients. Beat at medium-high speed 3 to 5 minutes or until dough thickens.

6. To assemble, set the dough between 2 sheets of well-oiled plastic wrap and press it into a 10x16-inch rectangle. Remove the top sheet of plastic. Spread ½ cup pizza sauce evenly over the top of the crust, leaving a 1-inch border around all sides. Sprinkle sausage mixture evenly over sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese or dairy-free alternatives.

7. Starting on the 16-inch side, gently roll the dough up tightly, using the bottom layer of plastic wrap to help. The roll should be about 3 to 4 inches thick and 16 inches long. Lift roll in the plastic wrap and transfer it to prepared cookie sheet. Remove the plastic wrap as you unroll the dough onto the baking sheet. Brush dough with olive oil.

8. Place in preheated oven and bake 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.

9. Let stand 5 minutes after baking. Cut into slices. Serve with remaining pizza sauce.

Each serving contains 489 calories, 27g total fat, 9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 46mg cholesterol, 1054mg sodium, 46g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 4g sugars, 17g protein, 29Est GL.

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