Gluten-Free Broccoli and Cheese Tots – Why I Don’t Measure

One of the things you will find incredibly frustrating about my cooking, if you try to cook along with me, is that I don’t use recipes. Well, that’s not exactly true. I don’t follow a recipe’s instructions. I take a recipe and then I riff on it. I’ll substitute ingredients and I won’t measure. Oh, and I don’t taste along the way. Ever.

It’s a problem.

Take these lovely Broccoli and Cheese Tots from as an example.

My son’s mother has Celiac disease. It is genetic and the testing for it is excruciatingly painful if you do indeed have the disease. It is possible my son has it. Consequently, he’s on a strict gluten-free diet until he is old enough to help us determine whether he has it or not. (We’ll feed him gluten and see how he reacts. That’s basically the test. I think it’s better to wait until he is old enough to explain how he feels rather than just exhibit symptoms. So, he’s GF for now.)

Instead of using seasoned breadcrumbs, as the original recipe calls for, I substituted in Van’s Lots of Everything crackers. They are made with oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa and amaranth. They are also gluten-free. (Everything Van’s is gluten-free.) The crackers are damn good by themselves or with cheese or a dip or anything else you’d use with a cracker. I’ve sampled lots of different, gluten-free brands and products. Van’s crackers are legit. Try serving them at a party. No one will even know. Trust me.

I crushed up about two handfuls of crackers and placed them in a medium –sized mixing bowl. I added in my florets, egg, scallion, salt, pepper and cheese. I mixed them well with my hands because, sometimes, you just gotta messy with your prep.


I sprayed my cooking spray as per the instructions and then took small spoonfuls of the mix to make small mounds of uncooked tots.


I cooked the tray for about 17 minutes at 400° F. I turned them halfway through and they came out looking like this:


Judge’s conclusion?

Ick. Ick ick ick and more ick.

Notice I forgot the egg white. I’m not sure if that made the difference. Maybe I didn’t use enough salt or pepper. Doesn’t matter. I have measuring cups and spoons, but the not-measuring-thing is a tradition, a practice, a technique. Sometimes that technique blasts you in the face like a diaper sprayer’s stream ricocheting off a soiled cloth.

Exactly. Ick.

Here’s the thing: Years ago, I asked my grandmother how much water and flour and lard to mix together to make homemade tortillas. “Ahh yes,” she said. “You know what, mijo? It makes me so proud that you like to cook. When I was your age, I used to cook all the time. All the time. I used to cook brisket, sausages, whole chickens, everything, mijo. Everything. And errrreybody used to come over to my house. Errrreybody. Do you remember? There was this one time…” This went on for about 15 minutes.

Finally, I got her back to the tortillas. “You just put some flour, some water, some manteca; put it in a bowl and mix it with your hands. Like that. You know what I’m talking about? Manteca? The lil bucket?”

Ugh. Lard. Yes. Yes, yes I know very well.

“Dat’s all you need to do. And some salt. Es eassy!”
“How much of each?” I asked.
“Oh I don’t meshure, mijito. Ah ha. I just put some in my hand like dat.”

Well, shit, grandma. See you measure with your hand would have been helpful if we weren’t having this discussion over the phone. Can you send me a picture? Can we do a quick Hangout?

“Oh no, mijo. I’m not on Hangouts. Do you Skype?”

I kid. I think she’s still rocking the rotary.

So, why don’t I measure? Because she’ll never tell.