Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Gluten-free Pasta Casserole, or England Can Change

Many England cricket supporters are scratching their heads at the five-nil whitewashing the Mother Country just suffered down under. Unfortunately, the team management seems to be scratching along with everyone else.

But here's the thing. There's no need for head-scratching. The issue has been there since before the England home Ashes victory last summer. Their players are aging, have been in poor form,a nd are just plain old dog-tired from a lot of cricket.

Meanwhile, Andy Flower seems to think the answer is to do things the same way...run things his way, since that has been successful in the past. I would theorize, however, that he is incorrect. I believe much of England's past success is more a case of a combination of two things: Players in their top form, an other teams being on the downward slide. It wasn't necessarily down to Flower's system; in fact, in my mind, England would have been more successful for a longer period if they'd done things a little differently.

That's just my opinion.

The problem is, systemic things probably won't change, because of that past success. If it worked once, it will again, right?

For reasons I stated above, not necessarily.

I know changing how we do things can be scary. But it can work.

A little over a year ago, my beautiful wife staggered throughout the door, nearly passed out. She had been having some health issues, and we couldn't figure out what was wrong. Turns out this episode coincided with a visit to an italian restaurant, and lots of pasta. After some research, we discovered that my wife is a celiac. That means her body cannot process gluten. So it was either go off of gluten or get horrendously sick and cause damage to her body every time she ate.

Talk about changing the way things work. We had to abandon almost all of our previous eating habits. We could eat out at very few restaurants; we could no longer eat breads, pastas, and many other foods which use gluten as a thickening agent. No pizza. No breadsticks. No rolls. Only certain candy.

My wife had been successful for years eating a diet with plenty of gluten in it. But underneath the surface, it was eating away at her insides, damaging her system. Eventually, it caught up with her. But, unlike cricket, she had no choice: there was no going back.

And you know what? We've gotten along fine. We've eaten as good as--and in some cases better than--we did before. We found new ways of preparing our favorite dishes. We experimented and found new things to eat. We have been so successful that sometimes we have to be careful not to gain weight from all the good food we can eat.

Here's an example. This is a totally gluten-free pasta casserole which I used to make with plain old wheat macaroni.

-16 ounce package of Sam Mills (or other) corn pasta (elbow macaroni or fusilli)
-1 pound turkey
-1 jar gluten-free alfredo sauce (or make your own)
-1 packet taco seasoning (make sure it doesn't contain wheat)
-Pepper, sage, thyme
2 or 3 roma tomatoes
-1 onion
-Your favorite shredded cheese
-Barbecue potato chips (check for gluten free)

Brown turkey, spicing it with sage, thyme, and pepper to taste. Mix in the taco seasoning packet according to the directions.

Heat the alfredo sauce, adding the tomatoes and onion (all chopped). When the turkey is done, mix in with the sauce.

Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Once it is done, mix in with the sauce/turkey.

Crush the potato chips to use as a base and topping for the casserole. In a casserole dish, spread the crèches chips on the bottom to whatever thickness you think you'd like. Pour in the sauce/turkey mixture. Sprinkle grated parmesan on top, followed by a thin layer of shredded cheese. Next, spread a layer of chips over the top, then another thin layer of shredded cheese.

Bake in a 400 degree over for about 25 minutes. About halfway through, sprinkle another layer of shredded cheese on top.

There you have it, a completely gluten-free pasta casserole. I still made a successful casserole, and I even built it much the same way I always built a casserole. But I looked in no-traditional places for ingredients, and changed some very basic things about my approach.

And it works.

So, Mr. Flower, my suggestion to you is: try some new ideas, and not just at the obvious level: try some new things on the basic, below-the-surface levels, where these kinds of problems always start.

You might be pleasantly surprised.


  1. Have to try this. Might mention for the "do it from scratch" crowd that taco seasoning is, per pound of meat:
    1 light red dried chile like California
    1 chile negro
    1 or 2 (if you don't have chile negro) chile New Mexico
    1 TBS oregano
    1 tsp ground black pepper
    1 TBS ground cumin seed
    salt to taste and help the grinding in a coffee grinder

    You can add habeneros or red pepper to make it spicier, to taste. Grind it all up and it's a wheat free, fresh and very authentic taco seasoning. BTW: if you add tomatoes you have chile seasoning for something like Texas chile.

  2. Sounds like a good recipe for taco seasoning! Making it yourself further helps ensure gluten-free. The alfredo sauce I used is sold by Aldi in the States. 15 ounce jar.