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Gluten-Free Living

Gluten-Free Living: Prepared gluten-free baking mix allows holiday appetizer tradition to continue

Gluten free cheesy spinach squares and sausage cheese balls.
(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

Gluten free cheesy spinach squares and sausage cheese balls. (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

When I was growing up, one of my favorite ways to pass an afternoon was flipping through my mom’s fat, red copy of The Betty Crocker Cookbook. The full color photos felt retro, the recipes were fairly simple and, especially around the holidays, each page seemed packed with inspiration.

In recent years, Betty Crocker has joined the growing number of brands that have created gluten-free product lines. Its cake, cookie and brownie mixes aren’t bad, but I’ve grown especially fond of the gluten-free Bisquick. When it first hit the shelves, I scoffed – making things from scratch is one of my favorite challenges. But not every trip to the kitchen can – or should – be an adventure involving seven kinds of flour, every bowl in the cupboard and a laptop opened to my favorite cooking blog, especially at this time of year, when time is scarce and familiar tastes are welcome.

Bisquick has been saving time in American kitchens since the early 1930s, when General Mills brought it to market. It was the first mass-produced baking mix and, since its launch, has become the backbone of countless comfort foods. The gluten-free variety is easy to find, versatile and forgiving.

For the last few years, my mom has been using it to adapt two of our family’s favorite appetizers: cheesy spinach squares and sausage cheese balls. The generous amounts of cheese in both recipes help prevent the crumbly dryness that befalls too many gluten-free concoctions. It also makes these treats sturdy enough to freeze and reheat.

If you’re looking for health food, stop reading now. That said, it is possible to lighten these dishes by using turkey sausage instead of pork or substituting low-fat cheese. But do be sure to use real butter in the quantities called for. If you don’t, the texture may be off.

Gluten-free Bisquick is available in most major grocery stores; look near the baking mixes. Some supermarkets may also stock it in a special section devoted to allergy-friendly foods. The boxes are smaller than the traditional variety and they’re also a bit more expensive, but the convenience is worth every penny.

You’ll have some mix left over after making these two appetizers; consider using it to make pancakes or shortcake. The recipes are on the box. Or pick your favorite traditional Bisquick recipe and embark on an easy gluten-free cooking experiment of your own.

Sausage cheese balls

¾ cup gluten-free Bisquick

4 ounces raw sausage, removed from its casing

1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried rosemary

1∕8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, especially if your sausage is spicy)

½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with gluten-free, non-stick spray.

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and, using clean hands, mix and squeeze until the dough is uniform. Roll into 1 inch balls and place in rows on the cookie sheet. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove immediately from cookie sheet. Serve warm or cool. May also be wrapped tightly and frozen for later use.

Adapted from BettyCrocker.com

Cheesy Spinach Squares

2 tablespoons butter

3 eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup gluten-free Bisquick

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 cups shredded cheddar

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed well to drain

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

pinch garlic powdered

smoked paprika (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter in a 9-by-13-inch pan and place in the oven to melt. While the butter melts, pour all the remaining ingredients except the paprika into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. You may want to use clean hands to squeeze apart chunks of spinach.

Remove the pan from the oven and spread the spinach mixture on top of the melted butter. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Return pan to the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool for 15 to 30 minutes before cutting into bite-size squares. Serve warm or wrap tightly and freeze for later use.

Adapted from BettyCrocker.com

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