Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Question: GF in Disney World?

I do have another tasty GF recipe post coming soon, but first I need your help.

I am hoping that you all can help me with suggestions for making our upcoming trip to Disney World an easy and memorable GF experience. We visit in February and I want to begin making dining reservations soon. If you have ever been there and have helpful advise, suggestions or tips, please let me know by leaving a comment.

I have visited this website: This is pretty helpful, but there is only one entry for 2009 and a few for 2007 and 2006.

From what I have gathered, if I make reservations and indicate that I am GF, most of the sit-down dining establishments can accommodate me. Unfortunately I am going with a larger group of people that don't really want to set a schedule. As you know, spontaneous can be scary if you are GF.

But, we are talking about the Magic Kingdom here. Can I be somewhat spontaneous outside of the quick service restaurants? It would be really helpful if you have any experience with just walking into a Disney World restaurant and requesting GF. Were they able to serve you something? Was it tasty?
Thank you in advance!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gluten Free Stuffed Mushrooms

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. It was simple and somewhat traditional. Well, traditional for my family; your traditions are probably different and that is what I love about family traditions. I served a natural, free-range turkey, gravy (thanks for the help Gluten Free Girl and Chef!), mashed potatoes, and veggies (Brussels sprouts, asparagus).

And, instead of stuffing this year, I made stuffed mushrooms. Wow! They were tasty fine! I adapted the recipe from Ina Garten and they were a big hit. They would be a great appetizer to take to a party this holiday season (or anytime) .

Ina had originally marinated her mushrooms in Marsala and olive oil. She suggested that sherry would sub for the Marsala, but upon smelling my sherry, I decided that wouldn't work for my group. I used my favorite Italian vinaigrette (Garlic Expressions Classic Vinaigrette) with fantastic results. The mushrooms were tasty just with that.

Ina also called for marscarpone cheese which may not always be easy to find. I did use marscarpone, but you could substitute 1/2 part cream cheese + 1/2 part sour cream to get the right consistency.

Gluten Free Stuffed Mushrooms

16-20 large white or brown mushrooms
1/2 C GF Italian vinaigrette (I used Garlic Lovers, but any light colored Italian would work)
12 oz Italian sausage (hot or sweet)
1/4 C minced green onions (white and green parts)
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 to 2/3 C GF plain breadcrumbs (I toasted a piece of bread and processed it into crumbs)
5 oz marscarpone cheese
1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Clean the mushrooms with a dry brush or paper towel (do not wash them!). Remove the stems and finely chop. Set aside.

Place mushroom caps in a large bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Set aside to marinate.

Saute sausage over medium heat, breaking up and crumbling until browned, about 7-10 minutes. Stir in chopped mushroom stems and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add in the garlic and green onions and continue to saute for 2-3 more minutes. Add the GF breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Add the marscarpone and continue cooking until it melts into the mixture, making it creamy. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly. At this point add in the Parmesan cheese. You do this off heat so the stuffing mixture doesn't stick to the pan too much. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Allow to cool until you are comfortable handling it for stuffing into the mushroom caps. Fill each one with as much stuffing as possible. Arrange the stuffed caps in a baking dish (I used my large lasagna pan). These should be a tight, single layer. Bake until the stuffing is browned, 35-40 minutes.

Yummy! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Cake Trifle

I still haven't found a GF pie crust that I really like. Most of them have been closer to a shortbread texture than the light and flaky crust that my mom's gluten recipe makes. So, instead of trying to make a gluten-free pie this year, I decided that our Thanksgiving dinner would be capped off with a trifle.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE trifles.

What is a trifle? Think giant parfait. It is a beautiful layered dessert usually made with custard, fruit and cake. The cake is usually soaked or coated with alcohol or juice. I have skipped this step without consequence if my cake-y layer is moist enough. I love the different layers of goodness that provide the mouth with a variety of flavors and textures. Trifles are incredibly flexible and can be adapted to suit just about any occasion. And they aren't particularly fussy about proportions either. Just use some of all the ingredients and make layers. You can use pre-made puddings, pre-made cakes or cookies, boxed mixes, or make everything from scratch. It doesn't matter, the blend of the ingredients is simply heaven in a dish.

I have never made a Thanksgiving or fall themed trifle. I immediately decided to use spice cake (I used The Gluten-Free Pantry Spice Cake & Gingerbread Mix). I also contemplated making Jill's Molasses Softies because they were so good when I reviewed them. For the custard layer I waffled between a cream cheese vanilla pudding or some sort of pumpkin pie inspired layer. I ended up making a vanilla pudding recipe from scratch and adding pumpkin pie filling. It needed a but more ummph so I added a little spice and brown sugar. Now, you don't have to stand over the stove, a slave to your slow-cooking pudding. My mother always told me to stir the milk and sugar constantly while heating, but I think that was just so that I was occupied for a precious few minutes. I find that I can be a bit neglectful and just stir frequently. I have time to tend to the upcoming ingredients. But, be careful, once milk is scalded, it is done.

The resulting trifle was simply divine. All of my guests loved it and ate it for remainder of their visit.

Pumpkin Spice Cake Trifle
Cake layer:
1 box Gluten-Free Pantry Spice Cake & Gingerbread Mix prepared according to package directions, or you can use soft ginger molasses cookies or your own spice cake recipe.

Prep this cake ahead of time so that it has enough time to cool to room temperature or colder. I like to make mine well in advance and freeze it.

Custard layer:
- Fussy vanilla pudding/custard base from scratch:
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Cornstarch
1/4 tsp Salt
2 cups Milk
2 Slightly beaten egg yolks or 1 well-beaten egg
2 tbsp Butter or margarine
1 tsp Vanilla
1 large (5oz?) package Jello cook and eat Vanilla pudding (I suppose you can used instant, but I don't like the texture as well)

1 30 oz can pumpkin pie filling (not plain pumpkin)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

To prepare fussy custard from scratch: In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt; add milk. Cook and stir constantly/frequently (see above) until it is thick and bubbly. At this point you want to cook and stir constantly (this time I mean it) for a couple more minutes to ensure that your cornstarch is cooked. Otherwise your pudding can taste pasty. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes.
Add the warm mixture into the eggs by tempering; add a small amount of hot mixture into eggs stirring constantly then add this mixture to the remaining hot milk and sugar. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla.

-or-make the Jello pudding and follow the directions

To your pudding add the pumpkin, spices and brown sugar. Mix well. Set aside.

Additional layers:
1 pint whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs powdered sugar
Pamela's gingersnap cookies, crumbled.

In a chilled bowl mix the whipping cream, vanilla and powdered sugar. Whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. It is important that the cream is fairly stiff (but not made into butter) so that it will not separate or collapse when layered in the trifle.

Put it all together:
I have a beautiful glass trifle bowl that has deep, upright sides and a pedestal, but you can make this in any larger bowl.

Cut the cake or break the cookies into 1-2 inch pieces. Put half of the pieces into the bottom of your bowl. If you wanted to add alcohol, I would suggest sprinkling the spice cake with 2-3 Tbs dark rum at this point. Next, add half of the custard mixture right on top of the cake, then cover that layer with half of the whipped cream. Repeat the layers: cake, custard, whipped cream. Cover and allow to rest/marry/soak, whatever as long as you can, even overnight is fine.

Just before serving, sprinkle with crumbled gingersnap cookies. Serve with a very large spoon and try to dig all the way down to the bottom layer.

Sooo divine!

In saucepan, blend sugar, cornstarch, and salt; add milk. Cook and stir over medium heat til thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Stir small amount of hot mixture into yolks (or beaten egg); return to hot mixture; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla.

Adopt A Blogger-November

This month's edition of Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger, hosted by Sea at Book of Yum was supposed to be suitable for a Thanksgiving menu. I struggled with this one and ended up deciding to make the Potato Chowder recipe from Linda at The Gluten Free Homemaker.

What? You don't serve Potato Chowder as a side dish to your traditional turkey? Neither do I, but I usually have plenty of unused potatoes left over. You know I can't resist buying that 5lb bag; it is more cost effective. Problem is, the rest of my family members are not potato lovers. What is a cook to do? Easy, make Potato Chowder.

Linda's recipe was simple and straightforward. One needs simple after the frenzied cooking that comes with hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I followed her recipe exactly, but some things were open to interpretation. She lists bulk sausage; I used bulk sweet Italian sausage. Her potatoes were listed simply as potatoes, so I chose to use my extra Yukon Golds.

The chowder was simple to make and I did it while multi-tasking. I was making several other dishes for dinners and lunches at the same time. Perhaps that is why I over smashed my potatoes. I just kept breaking them up and before I knew it, I had almost pureed them by hand. It would be great therapy if you have some aggression to work out.

The end result was fairly tasty. I think next time I was break up my potatoes a bit less. A few chunks of potatoes would have been nice. I think the Yukon Gold's were a touch too sweet. Perhaps those starchy, high-glycemic index Russets would be better. Or, if I had used hot Italian sausage. I ended up adding a touch of cayenne pepper to counter the sweet from the potatoes and the result was great.

But, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I cooked, tasted, photographed and reviewed by following the recipe as published by Linda. Then I added Italian Kale. I love finding ways to get extra veggies "for free." I didn't mind the addition, it gave it more texture and was vaguely reminiscent of the Zuppa Toscana I miss so much from Olive Garden. Not quite the same, but similar. Maybe, someday, I will try to adapt a copy cat recipe for that.

PS I know my pics are a bit off in color. My soup is quite yellow, partly due to the Yukon Golds, but also because I couldn't remember how to change the white balance on the camera I used. I found instructions and hope to have better pics next time!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Amazing Avacado Dip

This dip is soooo delicious. Amongst my friends it is known as THE Dip or Da Dip.

Every time I take it to a party I make a triple batch and it always disappears. It is sort of like guacamole...but not. Think guacamole with a Mediterranean make-over. It has the earthy creaminess from the avocados, an acidic tang from the tomatoes and vinegar, a salty-sour note from the feta, zip from the onion and garlic and a final harmonious note from the oregano.

I used to enjoy it with pita chips, but it is equally good with corn chips. Make some for your next holiday event and watch everyone swooon.

This recipe is for a single batch and I have to laugh because a) I haven't followed the recipe in ages as it is memorized and b) I always double or triple this amount.

The Dip

1 avocado, diced
2 Roma tomatoes diced (any low-juice tomato will work)
1/4 C chopped purple onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 oz. crumbled feta

Put it all together!!! Have your bag of chips handy because now you need to adjust for taste. This is the hard part: taste, adjust, taste, adjust (you get the idea). I frequently find myself adding a little more vinegar. I don't find this needs salt as it gets plenty from the feta.

If you prefer your avocado chunky, be very gentle when mixing. If you want more of a guacamole consistency, stir with reckless abandon. :)


Friday, November 13, 2009

Gluten Free and easy: Ham and Egg Cups

Super Easy.
Fast prep
good taste
Winner in my house!

Seriously, this is easy. I can't remember where I originally got the recipe, but it was something like Gourmet Magazine. They presented it as a fancy breakfast or brunch for Father's Day or Easter. Don't let that fool you, it is easy.

Ham and Egg Cups
1 pkg GF ham (I use Applegate Farms Black Forest Ham)
shredded cheese (cheddar, swiss, gouda, gruyere)
salt and pepper, to taste
butter or cooking spray for muffin tin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat the muffin tins with cooking spray or butter. This is a must unless you have non-stick muffin pans. Egg always leaks out of the ham "cups" and is hard to remove if you don't grease things up.

Line the cups with the ham. This can be a bit tricky. I basically take the oval of ham and make a crease in the middle of one edge. Then I put it into the cup and fold the ham as needed so that it lines the pan. See picture.Add a pinch of cheese to each ham cup, then one egg. If you are brave you can crack the egg and drop it directly into the ham cup. I have had one too many pieces of shell get into the works when I do it this way. Believe me, you don't want to try to fish out a small piece of shell from amongst the shredded cheese and the ham; messy! I break each egg into a small bowl or measuring cup and then pour it from there into the ham cup. Optional: I like to break up the yolk a little bit with fork. This distributes it a little more evenly and seems to make it cook faster. If you prefer to have a runny yolk when you cut into the eggs, don't do this step.

Sprinkle a little pepper and salt if needed. I don't add salt because the ham is plenty salty for me.

Put into the oven on the middle rack, if cooking one muffin pan. Cook for 15-20 min depending on how firm you prefer your eggs. I cook these until the eggs are solid; they don't jiggle when the pan is shaken. If you prefer softer eggs you stop at 15 min or even earlier. My family is not fond of runny eggs so I must eliminate the jiggle.

To remove the ham and egg cups from the pan I recommend running a butter knife around them, between the ham and the pan. This loosens them up and makes them easy to remove.

Makes 7 ham and egg cups (or at least that is how many slices of ham are usually in one package of Applegate Farms Ham).


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walnut Spread for Veggies

With the holidays coming I have started thinking of the dips I will be taking to all the parties and gatherings. In the next few entries I will share recipes for a couple of bean dips that work really well with veggies and an amazing avocado number that always disappears.

In this post I have included the recipe for a walnut bean spread made with fresh basil. It is so delicious and it is vegan. It is a great dip to bring to a party with a tray of veggie sticks (be sure to label that it contains walnuts). I use it regularly with veggie sticks. I don't love veggies; I eat them because I am an adult and I should. This dip even makes some of my least favorite raw veggies tasty.

Walnut Spread

1 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 C chopped walnuts
1 C lightly packed fresh basil leaves (fresh is crucial)
1/4 C olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ea salt and pepper

Drain beans, reserving liquid. In food processor, combine 1/4 C bean liquid with remaining ingredients. Cover and process, scraping down sides and adding liquid as needed to make a smooth mixture. Store in refrigerator 4-5 days (I have kept it for almost 2 weeks as walnuts are a natural preservative).

Yields approximately 2 Cups.

I am certain you can substitute another nut for the walnuts. I love walnuts and I grew up with close family friends that owned nut orchards. I spent many long summer days playing in the orchards as a child. I have never tried to sub the walnuts because the flavors in the recipe blend so well together; the walnuts do not take over. I look forward to hearing about the results if you try something else.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Frosted Tomatoes

You just have to try these! They are incredibly easy to make for a very impressive dish. I experienced these at a cocktail party and it took tomatoes to a whole new level of yummy for me.

Most cooks know that a little sugar can really enhance tomatoes by neutralizing their acidity and enhancing their natural sweetness. Salt on tomatoes is pure heaven. Combine the two and make that an herbal salt blend and you have an amazing taste experience.

Are you ready for the recipe?
Frosted Tomatoes

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
2 Tbsp sugar (yes, granulated sugar)
2 Tbsp Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt

Mix the sugar and salt in a small bowl. Rinse the tomatoes and put into a medium bowl. While the tomatoes are still moist, sprinkle the sugar and salt over them. Toss a few times to coat. Spread on a cookie sheet, piece of parchment, a platter, whatever you have to spread them out so they can dry. The sugar and salt stick better this way. Serve with toothpicks if you are having them as an hors d'oeuvre.

And yes, Jane's is gluten-free. I contacted the company to verify.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Swine flu be gone!

photo by bradjward

Oh H1N1, you swine, you! You snuck into my house disguised as a chest cold on the innocent mouth and nose of my husband. You were so benign in he, your first victim, that we didn't suspect it was you. Not a temperature was taken. A brow was raised at the depth of his cough, but H1N1, we thought we were safe from you. He was able to go to work and function as normal. He was fine in days. We thought we were safe.

We held a fabulous goodbye party for a dear coworker. Thirty people, a handful of them children, came to our house to celebrate her work and wish her well in her new adventure. All the while, H1N1, you lurked in the nasal passages of my son and the bronchial tubes of my chest. We had no symptoms, yet you were there, shedding your reproductions with our every breath. How many innocent victims did you attack that evening? Everyone was exposed.

You didn't unveil your true nature until the day after the party. You unleashed your fury on my young son. The morning after the party he awoke with the terrible fever you wrought. His body pained him, his nose overflowed, his cough was deep and terrible. Hours later your vengeance hit me like a big rig truck. I was down and down hard.

Fearing secondary complications we secured a Tamiflu prescription for young C and began fighting you as soon as we could. The next day your powers began to wane in him, but you were still fighting the battle. By the second day of the prescription is was clear that C was going to win the battle and you, Swiney, were going to lose! Ha! What a mighty rapier Tamiflu was! C's fever was gone and his symptoms cleared. We waited 24 hours so your evil minions would not spread and then we took him to his daycare today. What a victory for C!

I was not so lucky. The sword of Tamiflu was not awarded to me. I had to battle your vileness on my own. But battle I did. The aches were severe; a simple touch caused much pain. Sleep avoided the entire scene leaving me restless and weary. My nose it ran like a river, my sinuses inflamed and my glands were swollen and painful. My head felt as if it would explode. And even with my best weapons, ibuprofen and the real sudafed, you seemed to win battle after battle. My fever stayed high (102) and the pains remained. I could do nothing to help myself, let alone my sweet, sick C.

Luckily my DH was able to take time off of work to help us at home. Thank you Love. You are the best!

And today things are looking better. Although your minions may be powerful, they lack stamina. The tide has begun to turn, the symptoms are dissipating and I am starting the win the battles.

Please don't get this awful flu. My DD, E, has escaped thus far. Or, if you do, may you get it mildly, like my DH.

I will be back soon. I just need to rest.


Monday, October 19, 2009

SPOOKY Halloween Banner

While this blog is primarily about my gluten free life, I never intended that to be its exclusive purpose. Occasionally I will share some other fun stuff too. Like this Halloween banner that I made to decorate our mantle.

Another BIG part of my life is as a papercrafter. While I primarily scrapbook, I also enjoy making cards and decorative items for my home.

I was inspired by a similar banner in the Scrapbook Trends 2009 Holiday Book. You can view the project and download instructions at their blog.

I did my Halloween banner by looking at the picture in the publication. First I started with 6 pennant shaped chipboard shapes that I traced from a stencil made by my very creative friend Kim. I think she got her shape by dissembling a Maya Road chipboard album that is no longer available. You can make one yourself by drawing a triangle and giving it a scalloped edge.

Next I covered each one in Halloween colored paper from various suppliers. I added bling to the edges by running a bead of Stickles around each pennant. I then decorated each one with lots of Halloween stickers, ephemera, embellishments, etc. You might say I over-decorated, but I let myself go and have fun with this project. I wanted it to be a little over the top.

Finally, I took some chipboard letters, painted them black and glittered them with some Martha Stewart Black glitter. I strung the letter pennants together by putting them on a piece of black ric-rac. Halloween ribbons tied between each letter banner added the finishing touch. Very spooky, don't you think?

Here is each letter close up. I apologize for the flash burn-out in some of them. My mantle is poorly lit for good pics without a flash. Also, in real life, they are VERY sparkly. That doesn't come through in these photos. Sigh.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fennel and feta salad with lemon vinaigrette

I love Autumn! Cool, crisp mornings blossom into sunny, warm days. Leaves burn with the fire of waning chlorophyll (I guess that is only poetic if you are a nerd like me). Long sleeves, fireplace smoke, pumpkins, and soup on the stove. Pets begin growing their winter coats, making them look plump and cuddly. And the cold weather vegetables return to the Farmer's Market. Once again Italian kale frequents my table. (Sorry, E, I know it is not your favorite right now, but someday you will like it.)

Fennel is another frequent Autumn table guest. I love it prepared many ways, but this refreshing salad is one of my favorites.

Fennel and feta salad with lemon vinaigrette

2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice (amount from half a lemon)
2 Tbs olive oil (you will taste the olive oil so I recommend using a good quality olive oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 fennel bulb, cored, stems and outer leaves removed
1/4 C crumbled feta cheese (I use the mild Pastures of Eden Feta)

In a medium bowl add the olive oil to the lemon juice by slowly pouring a light stream while whisking vigorously. This allows the mixture to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

I prepare the feta by removing the green stems and fronds, the outer-most leaves of the bulb and cutting out the core. After I cut the bulb in half, I thinly slice the fennel on my mandolin. I really like thin slices (1-2 millimeters) but slice as best you can or to your preference. Add the sliced fennel to the vinaigrette, toss to coat.

Add crumbled feta and toss gently. At this point I like to allow the salad about 20 minutes to come together. This allows the lemon juice to penetrate the fennel, pickling it slightly.

Makes 2 vegetable servings.
Stays crispy and fresh for next day leftovers.


Giving credit where credit is due:
Since I forgot to take my own picture, the fennel bulb picture is from sassyradish, via the creative commons.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gluten-free, fast, double ginger, stir-fry dinner

Oh yes, fast, simple and tasty is what we are about these days. If dinner takes longer than 40 minutes to prepare, it has to wait until the weekend to get my attention. This dinner is fast and so tasty and it is one of the best ways to get my kids to eat a lot of vegetables. It could easily be prepared without any meat or tofu at all, just add the "marinade" at the end to finish and make a nice sauce.

While a stir-fry with a lot of veggies does require a bit of prep, once the chopping is done it comes together quickly. Over the years I have perfected the timing of the prep so that we are eating in about 35 minutes from start to finish. I offer my general game plan to you so you can skip the learning curve.

Double Ginger Stir-fry
oil (peanut, canola, vegetable) -you need enough to lightly coat the pan 2 times
3-5 cups total of veggies (see below for what I used)
1-3 tsps each of minced fresh ginger and fresh garlic
1 lb marinated meat/tofu
cooked rice

Simple Marinade:
4 Tbs GF, low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs dark sesame oil (use another oil if allergic)
1 Tbs rice vinegar or sherry or lemon juice (any acidic substance would work here)
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp corn starch

1. Start the rice (especially if you are using brown rice as it will take at least 50 minutes).

2. Marinate the meat/tofu (if using); mix the marinade, cut the meat/tofu, put into bowl and stir to coat each piece. Stir occasionally until you are ready to stir-fry it. The recipe below is a marinade that my parents used since I was a kid. It is a perfect, universal marinade that I have used on all kinds of meats and fish. There is some flexibility in a few ingredients, so adjust as you see fit. My 2 chicken breasts were a whopping 1.5 lbs so I doubled the marinade recipe. We like a lot of sauce so this worked out perfectly.

3. Clean and chop the veggies. You want most of your veg to be similar in size. This makes it easier to cook and eat. For this particular batch we used a small zucchini, mushrooms, 3-colors of bell peppers, half a sweet onion, a carrot and some celery. I love a mixture of flavor, color and texture. I put all the veggies in their own little bowls so that I can add them separately.

4. Mince the ginger and garlic. Fresh ginger and garlic is what really makes this dish sing. It is good with just the powdered ginger, but if you can get your hands on some fresh ginger root, it will take this dish from good to amazing. And don't be intimidated by the prep involved. It is super easy to peel the skin from ginger with a spoon, then I thinly slice it and then chop the slices until they are a nice mince. Fresh garlic is the same story. It really adds a flavor dimension to the dish. I buy several heads of garlic, peel them all and chop them in my food processor. I store this chopped garlic with some olive oil, in a jar with a tight lid. It keeps for at least a month.

5. Get ready to fry. I have a wok, but a large frying or saute pan would also work. I like to use peanut oil, not only because it has a high smoke temperature, but because it adds one more subtle taste to the overall layers of the meal. Refined canola oil also works (refining gives it a higher smoke point). I DO NOT recommend a delicate oil like olive. I crank up the heat to high. The idea is to cook this food fast so it maintains as much nutrients as possible and keep it moving so it doesn't burn.

6. Stir-fry! This is the general way I do my stir-fries:
- drain the marinade from the meat and set aside to be added later
- stir-fry meat until done. I test this by cutting several pieces in half.
- remove the meat to a clean bowl
- stir-fry the veggies: first carrots and celery, then onions. Next is mushrooms (we like ours a little soft), now the peppers and finally the zucchini (we like ours a little firm). I would say I put 30 seconds to 1 minute between each addition, all the while stirring and moving the veg to avoid burning.
- add fresh garlic and ginger, stir-fry until fragrant
- add marinade and allow to cook/boil at least one minute, keep stirring (if you are uncomfortable using a marinade that had meat in it, just make a second batch to add at this point).
- add meat back to pan and stir-fry until hot
- serve over the rice that should be finished by now
- enjoy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

End of Summer Salad, Gluten Free

Wow, it has been a long summer for us. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the warm weather, the extra long days, playing outside in the evenings with my children, camping, etc.

What I didn't enjoy was the impact my husband's surgery had on our whole family, the deer that ate my entire garden, losing my wedding ring and finding out that our new house is a money pit.

The good news is that my husband is expected to make a full recovery and our lives have just about returned to normal. My friends have gardens and sometime share their produce. My city has a wonderful Farmer's Market where I can purchase fresh and local produce. The insurance company has finally decided to pay our claim so my ring will be replaced.

But the house is still a money pit. Right now only a few of our doors close because our hill has settled and the house has shifted. I would have thought most of that would have happened already, since it was built in 1994. We are coming to the reality that we will someday soon have to install piers under the house. We have trees that must be trimmed or removed unless we want unexpected house guests during the next strong windstorm. It scares me to think that a tree cold come crashing into our home. And finally, the people that we bought the house from didn't exactly do the upgrades with permits or up to code. Our master shower was gorgeous when we bought the house, but it turns out the waterproof liner was not installed correctly. It has been slowly leaking and causing damage. We have had to tear the whole bottom out (of course, it is a second story shower) and are now looking at ugly sub-flooring until we can (hopefully) find matching tiles and have it reinstalled and the remaining repairs made. Big sigh.

But all is not bad with our new house. We still like it very much. And the neighborhood is FANTASTIC! That brings me to my recipe for this post. Every September our little neighborhood has a pot luck BBQ. Everyone brings a salad, side dish or dessert to be enjoyed and we sit around and get reacquainted. This was our first year and it was a lot of fun. It is nice to know that all my neighbors know who my kids are and where they belong.

As you know, a potluck is a minefield for us GF folks. I can tolerate a tiny bit of cross-contamination so as long as I know the ingredients, I can eat what my friends and neighbors make. Still, I play it safe and bring something I know I can eat and will fill me up.

I made this wonderful salad that tastes like summer. It was inspired by my friend Ceri, a Celiac and wonderful cook. She made something similar for a work potluck.

I call it the End of Summer Salad because around here, corn ripens near the end of the season. It could easily be made any time of the year with frozen corn. The measurements are very approximate, I have never used a measuring device for most of the ingredients, instead I rely on taste. Make some for your lunch or a dinner at the end of a hot September day. Or, it is great for a potluck.

End of Summer Salad

1 C quinoa
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 14.5 oz can black olives
2 C fresh corn (cooked and removed from cob) or 10 oz bag frozen corn
1/2 of a mild or sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 C chopped fresh basil (I forgot to add this to my salad this time, but it was still tasty!)
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C red wine or lightly seasoned rice vinegar (this is a rough estimate and I used a little of both this time because I needed a little sweetness to balance out the sourness of my tomatoes)
1/2 C crumbled feta (certainly use more if you LOVE feta, I did)
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare quinoa according to package directions, allow to cool to room temperature. Cut tomatoes and olives in half and place into a large bowl with the quinoa, corn (thaw if using frozen), sweet onion and basil. Sprinkle with the olive oil and vinegar of your choice. Stir it all together and taste. Add salt and pepper. This is the best time to be adding more vinegar, salt or pepper, if you feel it is needed. Once it tastes right to you then add the feta cheese. Stir just until the cheese is incorporated. Too much stirring breaks it up so you don't have nice pieces to enjoy.

It is tasty cold or at room temperature. I have thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers for 2 days after I made the salad. After that the tomatoes go a bit off.

Enjoy, and thanks for sticking with me while I weathered a rough summer!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

My baby is 2!!!!

Isn't he cute? He is a bundle of personality and he keeps all of us on our toes.

Believe it or not I should be posting something this weekend or Monday. I think life will be slowing down soon.

Thanks for sticking with me,


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don't give up on me

Dear Readers,

I am so sorry for the lack of posts. This summer has really taken it out of me. My husband's surgery and the recovery has been a long process and required that I do EVERYTHING for our family and home, all the while holding down a job. I have fallen into bed exhausted for the last 2 months.

The good news is that life is slowly returning to normal.

I can tell you that it is really hard to find gluten-free friendly restaurants in Yachats, OR. But, I still love that city. It just requires creativity.

More posts coming. Soon. Really. Just give me a little more time to catch my breath.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Italian Kale with Cranberries and Pine Nuts

Don't you just love it when an inspiration turns out to be delicious? Well this one worked out well.

The inspiration came when I was strolling through the Farmer's Market. My daughter has been complaining about too many salads so I was searching for some new veggies to prepare. I saw the kale and it spoke to me. It was dark green with elongated and bumpy leaves. I have used it in soups, but never as a side dish for dinner.

I looked up recipes online to get a general idea of how to prepare it. Then I had to figure out how to season and flavor it so my picky family would eat it. Out of that came a delicious result. The kale was savory and earthy. The cranberries, pine nuts and vinegar provided a sweet and tangy counter. My husband loved it. He said he would eat it anytime I made it. That is no small miracle. He has never met a vegetable that he would ask for a second date; he only eats them because he knows that he needs to set a good example for the kids.

My 21 month old at a few pieces and went back to his "chichen". His opinion is not very reliable. Some days he eats serving after serving of veggies and other days, very few. My daughter is the pickiest of all. She ate all of hers and thanked me for not making another salad. Her seven year old opinion was that I could make it again, but she didn't love it. There you go. I think that was pretty good considering that if she were left to her own choosing, she would eat bread and fruit all day and finish off with all the dessert she could find. LOL.

Italian Kale with Cranberries and Pine Nuts

1 bunch Italian kale (also called dinosaur kale or lacinto kale)
1 Tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar (or more if needed)
dried cranberries
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted
salt and pepper

Wash the kale and dry in a salad spinner or pat with kitchen towels. It can still be fairly damp, but not dripping wet. Chop the kale into larger bite sized pieces (it will wilt significantly when it is cooked). Saute the garlic in a pan over medium to medium-high heat until fragrant (hot enough to cook, but not burn the garlic). Add the chopped kale and saute until it is bright green, slightly wilted, but still has some body and character left to it. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. At this point I plated my kale and sprinkled the dried cranberries and toasted pine nuts on top. I finished with some fresh, cracked black pepper and some sea salt.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Adopt a Blogger: Hey, that tastes good!

During the holidays around my part of the world, there is a funny, eclectic antique shop that sells the most amazing, soft and HUGE molasses cookies I have ever eaten. Well, used to eat. Those cookies are one of the first things I thought of when I found out I would be living the rest of my life gluten-free. I mourned their delicious brown spiciness. Thinking of the slight crunch of the sugary surface and the moist and delicate interior makes my mouth water. And the scent is equivalent to fall and early winter.

I have been saved from my despair; I found a recipe for Molasses Softies from Jill at "Hey, that tastes good!"
I was not going to wait until Autumn to find out if these would satisfy my annual craving. So I adopted Jill, and her cookies, for June's Adopt a Blogger event, hosted this month by Terri at Faking It Gluten Free Style. Jill has a fun blog with lots of tasty recipes. She just go married and enjoy reading about her cooking adventures.

I pretty much followed her recipe as written; the only thing you might consider a change was the addition of a pinch more ginger. I love ginger in molasses cookies! The dough was soft, but workable. It was easy to roll them into a ball, cover them in sugar and transfer to the pan. The hard part was waiting for them to bake and then cool for a couple of minutes before we dug in. The smell that filled the house promised very good things.

The results were nothing short of amazing. My husband, daughter, mother and friends raved at the smell, taste and texture. They gobbled them up and asked for more. I am a huge texture person so I noticed the rice flour texture; everyone else (all gluten eaters) did not. Other than that, they were simply wonderful!

I will be making these again when I see those gluteny discs of danger appear in the antique shop again. Thanks Jill!

And thanks again to Terri for hosting this months Adopt A Blogger. I had a lot of fun!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Comfort Food

photo courtesy of gorbould

Comfort. Webster's defines it two ways: 1 : to give strength and hope to, 2 : to ease the grief or trouble of.

I have certainly been seeking comfort during this stressful time. I have also been receiving it. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of my friends and family. I am grateful to all of you that have helped us out. And below, a recipe for some comforting lentil dal.

I want to say thank you to:
  • SP for taking E overnight the day of J's surgery. You provided her with enough distraction that she had no time to worry about her daddy.
  • TB for making us tons of yummy food. You took the time to learn how to prepare some GF meals so that I wouldn't have to worry about food. Twice you brought us such an abundance of goodness that I now have lots of leftovers stored in the freezer. One of those recipes was so fabulous and GF that I will be featuring it in a future post.
  • JP for coming a staying at the house to attend to Jeff and help with the kids so I could run to the store and stock up on much needed staples. Also, for picking up and taking E to ballet. That was amazingly helpful.
  • YB for being there after a VERY stressful day to help me get my house back in order. I know you kept asking if there was more, but what you did was such a relief, it allowed me to relax for just a little while.
  • SS for coming and staying 2 nights with us. I am grateful for the care you provided Jeff when I couldn't be there. Without you I would not have been able to take E to all her dress rehearsals and be out of town when it was required. Also for making dinner on Friday night. To come home to that delicious smell, the table set and the food lovingly prepared was truly heart-warming.
  • KA for coming over on Father's Day (thanks for sharing her DA) to "babysit" my whole family so I could go grocery shopping.
  • AG for providing some comic relief as well as helping me clean spots in the house that were neglected far too long. It was so nice to have those things taken care of. Now I can walk into the bathrooms without the dust bunnies revolting and the soap scum mocking me.
  • Mom for sacrificing your time and restoring my mental health. The cooking, cleaning, being there to attend to Jeff, the errands, etc. Too much to list and it meant the world to me.
I love you all and I am eternally grateful!

And what would a post about comfort be without a recipe for some comfort food??

These days comfort food has a different meaning. I used to reach for starchy, glutenous breads, especially sourdough with fresh, salted butter. Or oatmeal cookies. Or mack and get the idea. I know those things can be made GF, but I don't have time right now to do the research, buy the special flours and bake them.

I have to rely on something quick and easy. I found that in this super simple dal. You could easily add greens, onions, etc. to jazz this up, but it was fast, simple and delicious as is. That is what I needed. I served it over quinoa and the meal was perfected. Sorry I don't have a picture of it. I need to get in the routine of doing that.

Red Lentil Dal

1 cup washed red lentils
2 cups water
1 Tbs oil (I used grape seed, but any lightly flavored would work)
1 (generous) tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder

Bring lentils and water to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20-30 min, stirring often. Keep your eye on the lentils so that they don't dry out, or you could add more water, but you risk the dal being runny.

Meanwhile, in a small frying pan heat the oil over med heat. When the oil is hot add the cumin seeds and stir until they are warmed and fragrant. Add the remaining spices and stir for about 1 min. more. Remove from the heat and allow the spices to infuse the oil.

Stir the spiced oil into the lentils just before serving. Put the dal over rice, quinoa or your favorite grain of choice. Enjoy and be comforted.

Serves 2.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

DH is fine, hosptial food is not

My DH had spinal surgery on the 15th of June. It went very well. He was released to come home the day of the surgery. Now he is managing his pain and working on his recovery. He is expected to do very well after some down time. Yay!

The food at the hospital was an adventure. The new hospital in Springfield (Riverbend) is beautiful and the cafeteria is really nice, if you can eat gluten. I have to give them credit, they had a nice variety of salads and prepackaged dressing that would have worked for me, but I needed more. I was stressed and wanted something warm and comfortable to eat. I figured it is a new, first class hospital, surely they know how to serve the gluten free in Lane County.

Well, not really. I walked away from the sandwich deli when I didn't see any GF bread, avoided the pizza/pasta section and didn't see anything hopeful in the "Chef's Choice" section. I wandered over to the another section that had Asian and Indian fare. I was hopeful. I asked and was shown the rice (duh) and then was pointed to the obvious gluten items like breaded chicken, potstickers and egg rolls. Good start. Then it was suggested I have the teryaki chicken. Alarm bell. Does it have soy sauce in it? Yes. Is it gluten-free soy sauce or tamari? Blank stare. I walked away. I couldn't take the chance.

As luck would have it there is a Cafe Yumm on the first floor, far from the cafeteria (we have Cafe Yumms all over town and I am quite familiar with their GF fare). There I found my comfort food. I had a Yumm Bowl which is GF! Hurray for Cafe Yumm!

If you not familiar with Cafe Yumm you might want to give them a try. Their company reflects many of my personal values: sustainability, supporting local farmers and businesses, recycling and organic. Their Yumm Bowls are all gluten free and are delicious combinations of beans, rice, veggies and Yumm sauce. The combination of flavors and textures creates a soul satisfying taste sensation that keeps you filled for hours.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Oh my gosh, it has been too long! Life just keeps getting in the way: sick kid, sick computer, another sick kid, big important meetings at work....excuses, all of them. And now, my DH is going in for spinal surgery in a week. Things are just crazy around here.

Stick with me though. I have lots of GF stories to tell. I just have to find time...

We had a Chipotle Mexican Grill open in our town this week. I am so happy! I ate there two days in a row and didn't seem to have any kind of reaction.

Both days I had a Bowl. It is basically the same things that would put on a burrito, without the tortillas. It had some yummy lime-cilantro rice, black beans, carnitas, fresh tomato salsa, sour cream and cheese. I also at the guacamole and chips. Yum!

I did some homework before I went so I felt confidant I knew how to avoid gluten. I easily found a list of ingredients that contain wheat and other allergens. They supposedly have some gluten information on their website, but I wasn't able to find it. When I emailed the company they quickly responded with the information that is on their website:

"Most people wanting to avoid gluten can eat anything we serve except for our wheat burrito tortillas, our soft wheat taco tortillas, and possibly our hot red tomatillo salsa (there is a small amount of distilled vinegar in it which some gluten-oriented websites still say might be problematic, although most don't).

Everything else is fine to eat for most people wanting to avoid gluten, including our crispy corn tacos, our corn chips, and our burrito bowls (no tortilla). However, you should know that it's possible our corn may have a small amount of gluten from potentially co-mingling with gluten-containing grains in the field.

If you are highly sensitive and would like us to change our gloves, we would be happy to do that at your request. Additionally, because our folks work with wheat tortillas all day long, there may be the possibility of cross-contact in our restaurants. We encourage you to carefully consider your dining choices."

This was all okay for me as I don't seem to have problems with small amounts of cross-contamination. I had no intestinal distress, aches and pains, rashes, etc. Although I did just learn that I may be causing harm without symptoms (read this post by Melanie at "The Gluti Girls...and a Guy!). I have friends that would avoid it completely.

So, if your body can take the risk of a little cross-contamination I highly recommend Chipotle Mexican Grill .

Now, I am going to get back to my crazy life. Do any of you have suggestions for getting through the next few weeks while my husband is disabled and I struggle to maintain his health, the house, the kids and my sanity? All the while, trying not to contaminate myself with gluten? Advice is more than welcomed.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spicy Asian-style Pasta Salad

The good with the bad: the computer is recovered and I am doing my blog entry on it now. Wahoo! The bad: I am at home with another sick kid. Poor E finally caught C's virus. This is her 4th day of sick and we are all hoping it passes soon.

The good: since I am at home I can post a new recipe!

This fast and easy to make Spicy Asian-style Pasta Salad tasted amazing. The leftovers made a fabulous lunch. I made it on Sunday evening, boxed it up and took it to work on Monday and Tuesday. The noodles didn't get gummy or mushy and the veggies stayed crisp. I think the key to the leftovers is that you initially add only enough dressing to coat the noodles and veggies. The remaining dressing is held out to be poured over the salad when it is served.

I adapted this recipe from the "Bon Apetit Fast, Easy, Fresh" cookbook. I followed the recipe when it said to use balsamic vinegar and it ended up being delicious. I think seasoned rice vinegar would be a tasty substitute. I also added the garlic and ginger. For me they are quintessential Asian flavors and I can't imagine this salad without them. One other addition which I do not mention below: shrimp. The addition of some protein made this more of a main course meal for me. You could easily add tofu, tempeh or chicken.

GF Spicy Asian-style Pasta Salad:
serves 4-6

1 lb rice noodles (whatever your favorite is, this would be good with sweet potato noodles too)

4 Tbs Asian sesame oil, divided
3 Tbs honey
3 Tbs GF soy sauce
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
3 red bell peppers, seeded, thinly sliced
3 cups snow peas, trimmed
1 large red onion, thinly sliced (I used a Vidalia sweet onion and it was perfect)
3/4 C honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 C chopped fresh basil

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain very well. Transfer to large bowl.

Whisk 3 Tbs sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, vinegar and cayenne in small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt (I didn't think it needed any). Mix half of dressing into pasta.

Heat remaining Tbs oil in heavy large skillet over med-high heat. Add bell peppers, snow peas, and onion; saute until just beginning to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add vegetables to pasta. Mix in peanuts, basil and enough dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely.

Serve, passing remaining dressing separately.

I am still trying to figure out how to create a separate "printer friendly" document for you. So, for now, I am hoping that if you want to try this recipe you will be able to copy and paste from your browser.



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Glutino cookies

Wow, it has been an exhausting couple of days! I have been home with a sick toddler. He is much better now and is back to playing with his good friends while I work.

But now my computer is gravely ill and at the tech hospital. Pray for a speedy recovery. I am inputting this blog entry at work so it will have to be short and sweet.

I had every intention of telling you about one of the recipes that I have adapted to be GF, but alas, that is not possible today.

Instead, I bring you another GF product review: Glutino's Chocolate Wafers coated in Chocolate.

These were wonderful, with light crispy wafers with creamy smooth chocolate coating. The wafer to chocolate ratio was perfect. The chocolate melted nicely in my mouth. These would be wonderful savored with a cup of coffee. Not like how I ate them: standing at the counter, cramming them in my mouth for a chocolate fix while my cranky and sick toddler clutched at my legs begging to be held for the 23rd hour that day. Sigh.

They were about 4 inches long and about .75 inches wide and high. At $4.99 a box, these were quite pricey. However, if you are in need of satisfying a wafer cookie fix or even a candy bar craving, these are perfect.

Enjoy and be well,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Pancakes

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. And Mom, thanks for being my mom. I couldn't ask for more. I love you!

I started the day by sleeping in, a little. My slumber was disturbed by my oldest (E) as she came into the room to tell me I was not allowed to get out of bed. E insisted on continuing the tradition that she and my husband started a few years ago, making me breakfast in bed. After getting permission to go to the bathroom and wash up, I returned to bed just in time for her and my mom to bring in my breakfast on a tray. I had some GF cereal and a banana. Yum.

The card E made me is amazing. She put so much work into it; not a detail was missed. So sweet.

And she gave me the ultimate gift: dark chocolate. That girl knows the way to my heart.

Once everyone was up my dad and husband set to work making pancakes for brunch. For me, he used Bob's Red Mill GF Pancake Mix. As the pancakes were cooking on the griddle he added some frozen wild blueberries. He did this just before he flipped them over. The results was delicious. This mix was better than I had expected. The pancakes were light and fluffy. No grit, no aftertaste and a good mouth feel. Even the parts that did not get blueberries tasted very good. The addition of the blueberries was like icing on a cake; it made them even better. I had a little bit of butter and a touch of real maple syrup. They were a delicious Mother's Day treat. Even the glutenites in the house enjoyed them. They were indistinguishable from a standard pancake.

The rest of the family had my dad's amazing peanut butter pancakes. These used to be my favorite pancakes in the world. So moist and delicious, with just a slight peanut flavor. All that they needed was a touch of homemade jam. I missed having them, but my blueberry pancakes were great. I am going to work on adapting my dad's recipe so that I can once again enjoy peanut butter pancakes. I will post it here when I get it all figured out.

Enjoy the rest of your day Moms,


Friday, May 8, 2009

Gluten-free Starbucks

I was out running errands yesterday when I came dangerously close to a drive-thru Starbucks. Since I knew the afternoon coma would be hitting I couldn't help but pull in and order my favorite tall cappucino. Then I remembered that Starbucks had released their individually wrapped, gluten-free Velencia Orange Cake. There was no mention of it on the drive-thru menu board so I had to ask. Sure enough, they had them. I immediatly requested one and began anticipating a new GF taste experience. The cake came wrapped in cellophane to prevent any cross contamination from all the other baked goods that I used to enjoy.

Back at the office, I sat down and unwrapped my new goody. Because the cake was fairly moist I decided to use a fork, but it wasn't so moist that I couldn't enjoy eating it by hand. The first bite was delicious! It was less orange-y than I had anticipated, but had enough flavor for a pleasant citrus tang. It was incredibly moist and smooth in my mouth. There was none of that grittiness that sometimes comes along with GF baked goods. I could hardly wait for my next bite...and the next and the next. In fact, it was so delicious that I finished it off far too quickly. Well done Starbucks! I will return for another when I feel I need a quick pick me up. And at at a cost of $1.95, it shouldn't break my bank.

Of course, I do need to remember that gluten-free does NOT mean calorie free. Here is the nutritonal info from the Starbucks' website:

Nutrition Facts:
Calories - 290
Total Fat - 16g
Saturated Fat - 2g
Trans Fat - 0g
Sodium - 40 mg
Total Carbohydrate - 32g
Dietary Fiber - 4g

Whole Eggs
Valencia Orange Pulp
Orange Peel
Gluten-Free Baking Powder
Orange Oil

Thank you Starbucks! Now...can you make something GF and chocolate????

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Well, here I am. Trying to be gluten-free. I was diagnosed with a gluten-allergy (possibly Celiac, but not tested) on April 7, 2009; exactly a month ago. It has been quite a month with plenty of ups and downs. The best thing is that I feel better already.

I am no expert, but I am trained as a scientist. What that means is that I investigate and analyze (some would say too much) everything. I don’t make decisions or changes lightly. But I am NOT a medical professional. Any experiences that I recount on this blog are just that; my experiences.

I am still learning about what I can and cannot eat. I am also trying to figure out what level of sensitivity I have. Can my body deal with some cross-contamination? Do I need to go all out and have separate utensils and appliances from my gluten-y family? That answer is yet to be determined.

All I know is that I have switched to gluten-free foods within the general guidelines of the Mediterranean diet and I feel so much better.

Please join me as a experiement and play in this new gluen-free world.

Also, I have a rich and wonderful life. I will be including that on here too.