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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Slummin’ It with the Best of ‘Em

Gluten-free bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sammie
made with New Zealand's excellent gluten-free Freedom bread.
Yahoo! New Zealand is rife with gluten-free options not seen since we left the States, and in some ways, even better*.  We’ve missed lean, spicy turkey breakfast sausages from the US, so when I saw a package of New Zealand gluten-free sausages, on sale, I bit. 

*By far the best off-the-shelf gluten-free bread we’ve eaten anywhere is New Zealand’s Gluten-Free Freedom brand – that includes Udi's.  They make a darned fine gluten-free pizza crust, too.

Sadly, the gluten-free sausages tasted more like baloney or hot dogs than spiced breakfast sausages.  Left with 2 kilograms (2.2 pounds for us Yanks) to figure out what the heck to do with, it was time to get creative. 
  • The first few sausages went on the side with my eggs, when I first became underwhelmed by their blandness.
  • The second set of sausages I cut into rounds and cooked them into a curried egg scramble, with onions, garlic, bell pepper, scallions, cottage cheese, eggs and of course, curry (used yellow powdered curry).  It was good!
  • The third set of sausages packed some protein into an Italian style vegetable soup, with onions, garlic, bell pepper, stewed tomatoes and herbs du Provence in a chicken broth.  Again, good stuff!
  • The fourth set of sausages were a funky BBQ-flavored savory side with onions, garlic, bell pepper, stewed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and chipotle hot sauce.  I had a coup of leftover spaghetti pasta in tomato sauce, and added it, too, breaking the noodles into much smaller lengths while I cooked it. Edible, though it would be best as a side with an actual BBQ (and if I didn’t slip in too much Worcestershire), but we ate it for breakfast anyway.
  • Finally, the coup de resistance!  Wayne’s brilliant suggestion to re-enact a childhood favorite – stovetop mac & cheese with hot dogs (or, in this case, hot-dog-like sausage).  However, no easy dump-it-out-of-the-package-and-follow-the-directions from days yore – whether into packaged powdered cheese or not, that stuff just aint gluten-free!  With a bit of on-line research, combining of recipes and working with on-hand ingredients, here’s what I created beginning with this base….
Easy Gluten Free Stove Top One Pot Macaroni and Cheese
My changes are indicated as either mark-outs or in italics.  For fellow yachties – not only is this only one pot, thanks to cooking the pasta in the sauce, you use less of your precious water than when you use the traditional stovetop method  (precook the pasta in water and discard it, then add the cooked pasta to the sauce).

Ingredients
  • 1 cup hot-dog-like sausage, cut into rounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced fine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups (340 g) gluten free macaroni
  • 3 ½ cups (875 ml) milk (I used reconstituted full cream powdered milk)
  • 1 ½ cups (170 g) grated cheese (see Note)
  • 2 oz (55 g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 ½ teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) onion powder
Instructions
  1. In a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat cook the hot dogs (or sausage).
  2. Add the garlic and butter when nearly cooked.
  3. Add and stir together all the remaining ingredients
  4. Continue stirring frequently. Once the milk is steaming, but before it has come to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and place the cover on the pan.
  5. Stir every few minutes, to help the cheese to melt properly, and to keep the pasta from clumping.
  6. Continue cooking and stirring until the cheese is melted, the sauce has thickened, and the pasta is cooked to your liking.
  7. If the sauce seems thick enough, but your pasta still isn't cooked properly, add another 1/4 cup milk and continue cooking. You may have to repeat this again, this is because cooking time varies depending on the pasta and the brand.
  8. Serve immediately.

Heller’s gluten-free sausage was the ingloriously bland inspiration
for cooking creativity, here in the form of mac and cheese.  Heller's 
bacon and pastrami, however, were quite tasty.
Notes
Choose your Cheese: You can use a blend of your favorite cheeses, or your favorite cheddar. For the best melt though, use a cheese that is higher in fat and moisture. Low fat cheeses don't melt as well. If purchasing pre-shredded cheese, be sure that it does not contain any gluten ingredients.  I used a mix of ¾ white cheddar and ¼ Parmesan cheese, both freshly grated fine.

Immodestly impressed with my creativity in using up these bland sausages, I joked with Wayne that like cooking with SPAM, patting myself on the back, I declared “I do low-brow well.” 

“Darlin’” Wayne agreed with a warm, appreciative smile and a loving spank on my derriere, “You know how to slum it with the best of ‘em.” 


What are your SPAM, hot dogs or other low-brow favorites?  Please share!

Location Location
By the time this posts, we hope to be settling into  New Zealand's Whangarei area for a while.  This post was written for pre-posting December 21, 2015 while were briefly in wifi range while anchored in Whangaroa (S35.02.836 E173.44.514).

More recent retrospective posts still coming on our cruising in New Zealand's Bay of Islands and other North Island areas.

Cruising by the Numbers

Between December 2014 and November 2015 -- 11 months -- we sailed over 10,000 miles, from our starting point of Jacksonville Florida to New Zealand, our stopping point until May 2016.