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What's Cooking? - Posted December 26, 2014 noon
photos by Shannon Richardson recipes courtesy of Tara Murray

Gluten-free? Yes. Taste-free? No way.

While only 1 in 100 people has actually been diagnosed with celiac disease – a severe intolerance for this spongy protein present in wheat, rye and barley – research indicates that as many as one-quarter of consumers have become interested in gluten-free foods. It’s unknown how many are chasing a dietary fad versus the number who actually have gluten sensitivity. But there’s no question that a gluten-free diet can be just as delicious as a regular diet. Tara Murray’s doctor told her she was a “poster child for celiac” upon diagnosing her in 2008, and since then this food-lover has devoted herself to perfecting the art of gluten-free cooking. Try her gluten-free cinnamon rolls, French bread, fried chicken tenders, cream gravy and chocolate cake. We’ll bet you can’t tell the difference.

Gluten-free Cinnamon Rolls

Proof yeast:
1 package yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon melted butter

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthium gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Arrowhead Mills gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
1/4 cup tapioca
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal (optional)

Wet ingredients:
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar (brown for maple taste or use white sugar)
1/4 cup cinnamon, or to taste

3 to 5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons softened cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 4 tablespoons milk or water (optional)

Grease and lightly flour pie plate with rice, all-purpose gluten-free, tapioca flour or corn starch. Cover an 11-by 13-inch cutting board or bottom of cookie sheet with plastic wrap. Dust with thin layer of tapioca flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine yeast and sugar in large mixing bowl. Microwave milk and 1 tablespoon butter until warm; whisk into sugar-yeast mixture and set aside. In medium-size bowl, sift or whisk in all dry ingredients; set aside. In small bowl whisk together wet ingredients; add to proofed yeast. Mix briefly; slowly add flour mixture. Turn mixer on medium-high and beat for 1 ½ minutes (no more than 2 minutes). Place combined dough on prepared surface and add another layer of plastic wrap. Roll out dough to about ¼ inch thick; it should cover entire board. You can now wrap dough, place in refrigerator, and finish rolls the next morning. Or, peel off top layer of plastic and spread softened butter onto dough, leaving a ½-inch untouched edge. In small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over butter. Use plastic wrap as a guide and begin rolling dough back toward opposite side (watch plastic wrap so it doesn’t get stuck). Roll tightly, then dust with gluten-free flour. Cut into 8 pieces; place into greased pie plate. Let rise for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, beat butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add in vanilla. For thinner icing, add 2 to 4 tablespoons milk or water. Cook rolls for 25 to 27 minutes or until golden brown. Ice immediately.

Makes 8 servings

Strawberry Cobb Salad with Bacon-Strawberry Vinaigrette
1 bag prepared salad greens
1 pound strawberries, cubed
1 package Boar's Head gluten-free bleu cheese
1 to 2 avocados, cubed
4 boiled eggs, sliced
3 to 5 long carrots, sliced
½ large red onion, diced
1 to 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Bacon, cooked and crumbled (Reserve bacon grease for dressing.)
1 to 2 cups honey almonds

Honey Roasted Almonds
2 cups raw, unsalted almonds
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup oil
Wax paper

Bacon-Strawberry Vinaigrette
1/4 cup bacon grease (or measure out bacon grease and fill remaining space with olive oil)
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
1 tablespoon vinegar (balsamic, raspberry or apple cider)
1 to 2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Place greens on large plate or platter. Line ingredients in rows on top of salad. Prepare dressing: whisk together strawberry preserves, vinegar, mustard, pepper and a little bacon grease until well blended. Gradually whisk in remaining bacon grease; mix well. For almonds, preheat oven to 500 degrees. In small bowl, mix honey and oil. Add almonds and let sit for 10 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove almonds to lined cookie sheet (oil-honey doesn't have to be fully strained, just not swimming). Roast for 10 minutes. Cook time is complete when almonds are golden brown; remove immediately from pan so almonds don't stick. For crunchier almonds, turn on broiler and place roasted almonds on top rack for 3 to 5 more minutes. Immediately transfer to gluten-free wax paper.

Makes 4 servings

Gluten-free French Bread

Dry ingredients:
1 3/4 cups French bread mix (1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose, ½ cup tapioca, 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal, and 1 packet unflavored gelatin)
2 1/2 teaspoons xanthium gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet yeast

Wet ingredients:
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
3 tablespoons lukewarm milk or non-dairy substitute
2/3 cup warm water or milk, depending on tolerance

Line cookie sheet or French bread pan with oil or gluten-free wax paper. In bowl of heavy-duty mixer, combine dry ingredients (including yeast). If you prefer dry milk powder or nondairy substitute, you can replace wet milk and add it here. In small bowl, slightly beat egg whites with fork, then add vinegar and oil, beating to combine. Add to dry ingredients. Immediately add milk and most of warm water, and beat on high for 3 minutes. Check after first few seconds of mixing to see if more water is needed. Spoon dough into French bread pan or onto cookie sheet in the shape of a French loaf. If necessary, smooth top with greased fingers. Cover and let rise for at least 35 minutes for rapid-rise yeast, 60 to 75 minutes for regular yeast. Bake in preheated, 425-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and loaf sounds hollow when thumped.

Variation: Add 1 teaspoon of rosemary or cinnamon to dry ingredients per cup of flour.

Make 8 to 10 servings

Gluten-free Fried Chicken Tenders and Gravy
1 to 1 ½ pound chicken tenderloins
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour (rice, potato or sorghum is fine, as well)
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Canola oil (Olive oil is not good for cooking at high temperatures.)

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons gluten-free flour
1 to 2 cups milk

Prepare coating station. In medium bowl beat eggs and 1 cup milk together. In shallow dish, combine flour and spices; whisk well. Dip chicken into egg mixture, and then cover it with flour mixture. You may repeat these steps up to three times for thicker crust. After all chicken is dipped and coated, pour about 1/8 inch of oil into frying pan and place on medium-high heat. You can test temperature by sprinkling flour on oil – if it sizzles immediately, it is ready. Place chicken in frying pan. Turn chicken every 2 to 3 minutes and cook until golden brown (typically 15 minutes total). If you are concerned the chicken is not cooked, cut center – it should be white. If there is pink, cook a few minutes longer in oil. Once chicken is cooked, turn down to low simmer and briefly remove pan from heat. Immediately put 2 tablespoons butter into chicken residue and oil. Add 3 tablespoons flour; whisk constantly until it's pasty and turns darker in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. As you whisk, transfer frying pan back onto low heat right after you add in flour. Slowly and gradually add in milk, whisking constantly for 5 to 10 minutes. (By gradually adding milk, lumps will not form.) Whisk until thickened. If gravy is too thick, add more milk. If it’s too thin, in a separate cup add 1 tablespoon flour to 2 tablespoons warmed milk and whisk until pasty then add to gravy. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Roasted Veggie Medley
2 to 4 tablespoons oil
Half head cauliflower, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
Half large head broccoli, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
5 Brussels sprouts, washed and thinly sliced
Salt, garlic powder and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line large cookie sheet with foil; drizzle with oil, about 2 tablespoons. Toss vegetables onto cookie sheet; drizzle remaining oil and spices over vegetables. Roast uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir and cook for another 20 minutes. The Brussels sprouts will crisp quickly; if you do not like an extra-crispy veggie, after the first 20 minutes reduce heat to 425 degrees.

Makes 4 servings

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Pudding Cake
1 package Kraft gluten-free instant vanilla pudding
1 package Kraft gluten-free instant chocolate pudding
1 box Betty Crocker gluten-free yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag (2 cups) Enjoy Life chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease Bundt pan with oil. In large stand-mixer bowl, beat eggs, oil, water and vanilla; slowly add instant puddings and cake mix. Mix until well combined. Stir in chocolate morsels. Pour in Bunt pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes about 24 servings

Products are constantly changing; always check ingredients to verify gluten-free. Kraft does not hide any gluten in their ingredients.

Meet the Cook: Tara Murray

“I love food,” Tara Murray says, “and I don’t like to be deprived of my food.” The guest services director for the south campus of Hillside Christian Church by day and a food blogger at by night, Tara was first diagnosed with celiac disease during Spring Break in 2008 while still a college student at Baylor University. She’d never heard of it, and at first she didn’t understand the ramifications of the diagnosis. “I said, ‘OK, so instead of four bowls of cereal a day it’s just one bowl of cereal a day?’” she remembers. “And [my doctor] said ‘No, honey, it’s zero bowls of cereal.’”

She describes what happened next as a journey of trial and error. As she cut gluten from her diet, the constant digestive discomfort she’d been experiencing her whole life began to lessen. Gone were the immediate stomachaches that arrived 15 minutes after eating. Gone were the weight fluctuations, migraines, allergies, halitosis, circulation issues, and right before her doctor visit, a dangerous combination of fainting and vomiting after meals. “Everything started clearing up,” she says. “It was incredible. After three days, I could tell the difference.” Prior to the diagnosis, many of these symptoms had been falsely attributed to a thyroid condition or gall bladder problems.

At the time, Tara was studying public relations and journalism with the hopes of going to culinary school and working in the food department of a magazine like Southern Living. After graduating, she had planned to attend Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta, Ga., only to discover that her extreme level of gluten sensitivity meant even a small amount of cross-contamination would make her sick. “I cannot cheat,” she says. “Gluten-free is my lifestyle now.”

She attended another culinary school before returning to Amarillo for a brief stint as a gluten-free baker, and then decided to join the Hillside staff and make gluten-free food a hobby rather than a career. Through plenty of experimentation, Tara has discovered ways to make her favorite dishes safe to eat. “I love chemistry,” she says. “Cooking without gluten is like a science experiment. A lot of things turned out really hard, or it would fall apart, or it would taste like dirt or rubber.” She laughs. “Tears were shed at times!”

Tara grew up eating the delicious chocolate pudding cake shown here, and was thrilled to find a way to make it gluten-free. “My friends and I in high school joked that this was our break-up cake,” she says. “It was our comfort cake.” Tara married her husband, Mark, in October of 2013, so those break-up days are far behind her. But that doesn’t keep her from enjoying the cake on a regular basis. “I’ve learned [a gluten-free diet] was not about what you can’t eat, but about what you can eat.”

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit and
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