Monday, April 12, 2010

"Cheeze" Sauce and Chicken and Broccoli Casserole (DF)

Breakfast this morning was a bowl of Mesa Sunrise flakes with vanilla almond milk, a dash or two of cinnamon, raisins, and some cut-up dried apple pieces.  It was so good.  The combination of cinnamon with the vanilla almond milk reminded me of those sugar-filled cinnamon cereals you buy in the store.  The kids also ate some fresh fruit.

This morning was a nice, relaxed morning for me.  I spent some time on the computer and just making sure the kids were on track with school.  Then I came up with some ideas for tonight's dish-to-pass dinner at Boy Scouts.  I always have a hard time deciding what to make for these things since I know that many people don't want to eat the foods that we eat, and I feel like I want to make something that everyone will like.  To make things even harder, we had to bring a main dish as well as a side dish, and I had to take Moriah to Girl Scouts for a couple of hours, leaving little time to be creative and cook something awesome afterward.

I decided that the best thing to do would be to make a casserole of some kind, and since I already had some cooked chicken breasts and some broccoli, I figured it was time for me to create a nice "cheeze" sauce that I could use to bring it all together with some rice into a chicken/broccoli casserole.  This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time and have been putting off because I just didn't feel like I was at a point of knowing my dairy-free ingredients enough to create something delicious with them that would be a suitable substitute for cream soups and/or sauces.  However, I do feel confident now, and fully ready to embark on such a journey.  Let me tell you, my family is soooo glad I did!  This has got to be the best dairy-free cheezy saucy stuff I have ever had.  You can adjust the thickness and use it as a light sauce or a thicker sauce.  You can use it as a substitute for those canned cream soups in recipes.  You can flavor it with different herbs, garlic, etc.  You can use it to make cream of whatever soup.  This is going to be so versatile.  Tonight I used it to make Chicken and Broccoli Casserole, which I served with Honey Gingered Carrots.  Even Nathan loved it!  (My only thought of improvement with the casserole was to make sure I add enough of the sauce because the rice absorbs the liquid as it bakes, and I like my casseroles saucy.  I tried to make this adjustment in the recipe listed below, but you will have to gauge it for yourself, whether or not it's saucy enough for you.  Perhaps put a little less rice in it to begin with and then add more rice until it is the consistency you like.  It's very versatile for you to make changes as you see fit.)* 

Dessert was Gluten-Free Betty Crocker Brownies, which I made after we got home from the dinner.  Hey, I'm not perfect.  Sometimes I use mixes, like when it's 7:30 at night, and everyone around us at the dinner was eating chocolate cake and brownies, and I know I don't have time to bake brownies from scratch before the kids have to be in bed!

"Cheeze" Sauce 
1 (32 oz.) carton unsweetened MimicCreme*
5-7 Tbs. sweet rice flour (depending on how thick you want your sauce)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
5 Tbs. nutritional yeast
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 Tbs. raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. tahini
2 t. salt
1 t. curry
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 c. Earth Balance

Blend 1 cup of the MimicCreme with the garlic, onion, yeast, vinegar, tahini, salt, curry, and pepper until smooth.  Pour the rest of the MimicCreme in a medium saucepan.  Whisk the blender contents into the rest of the MimicCreme and continue to whisk over medium heat for about 10 minutes to thicken and get rid of the raw flour taste.  Stir or whisk in the Earth Balance until melted and well mixed.  Taste your sauce.  Does it need anything else?  What are you planning on putting it in?

*MimicCreme can be found at our local Down to Earth health food store.  Our Wegmans carries the sweetened version, but not the unsweetened.  The sweetened version can be used in place of cream in making homemade ice cream!  For those of you who don't live in my area, check your local health food stores and/or Wegmans.  Perhaps your Wegmans has the unsweetened MimicCreme.  Also, you can order it online or through your local food co-op.  I know it's cheaper through my food co-op than at the store.

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole (DF)
4 chicken breast halves, cut in small, bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 lbs. broccoli florets
1 batch "Cheeze" Sauce

dashes of celery salt
1/4 - 1/2 c. blanched almond flour
3 c. uncooked brown rice, cooked in rice cooker with 1 bouillon cube and 5 1/2 c. water

Mix the chicken pieces, florets, rice*, and cheeze sauce in a big pan, then spread it in a cake pan or casserole dish.  Lightly dash some celery salt across the top, being careful not to use too much since it is strong.  Sprinkle blanched almond flour on top.  Cover and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 5 more minutes.  Try putting together the ingredients and freeze it.  Thaw and bake it when you need it.

*Update 4/27/10--I will be making this casserole by keeping the rice separate from now on.  I will mix the sauce, chicken, and broccoli, baking them with the bread crumbs on top.  Then I will put rice on each individual plate, topping it off with the chicken and broccoli casserole.  This will prevent the rice from soaking up all of the sauce.
Note:  There are variables in this recipe, like the size of the chicken breast halves, if you are using frozen florets, if you use white rice instead of brown, etc.  You will have to gauge whether or not you have enough sauce for all the rice, broccoli, and chicken you intend to use.  You may want to set aside a couple of cups of the mixture before you add the sauce, and then just add as much of the reserved mix as you want.  You want the casserole to have enough sauce because as it bakes the rice will absorb some of it.  If you want to make a little more sauce, you could just add a little unsweetened rice milk and a little more sweet rice flour, but you might need to add a little more of the seasonings, as well.
                                           Mmmm.  Brownies!

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