Cheesy Shells and Sausage – Instant Pot (gf)

Serves 6-8


4 tablespoons butter

2 large shallots, diced

2 pounds Italian sausage links

– I use 2 packages of Johnsonville Mild Italian links

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

               – I use the minced garlic in a jar

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

2  cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth

3/4 cup white wine

– this is 1 single serve mini bottle

1 package (10 oz) cherry or grape tomatoes

2 boxes (8 oz) Banza gluten free pasta shells

               – or 1 pound traditional shells

8 ounces baby spinach

1/3 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese

               – plus more for garnish

1 package (5.2 ounce) Boursin Garlic & Fine Herb cheese

               – or 5 ounces cream cheese


Add butter to Instant Pot (6 quart) and press “Saute” and adjust so it’s on the “High” setting.

Melt the butter until sizzling then add the shallots. Let the shallots soften while stirring for 2-3 minutes.

Add the sausage, garlic and Italian seasoning and cook while intermittently stirring for about 4 minutes. The sausage does not have to be cooked through at the end of this step.

Stir in the chicken broth, wine and tomatoes. Stop stirring and add the pasta. There will be no more stirring until the end. With the back of a spatula, spread the pasta evenly and lightly press into liquid. The upper most layer of pasta will not be covered with liquid, and that’s ok.

Pile the spinach on top. It will look like a lot of spinach – don’t worry – it’s not.

Secure the lid on the pot and ensure the vent arrow is pointed to “sealing.” Re-set the pot by canceling, or unplugging and plugging back in. Press “manual’ or “pressure cook” on High for 6 minutes.

It will take time for the pot to come to pressure before counting down the 6 minutes. (Mine takes 10/15 minutes).

Once the pot runs out of time (and beeps that it’s finished with the 6 minutes), carefully release the pressure.

Open the pot and using a rubber spatula carefully fold in the cream, parmesan and Boursin cheeses.

Serve! Top with extra parmesan cheese.


Christmas Crumb Coffee Cake (gf)

Our six-year-old son, and his three-year-old little sister, were wide-eyed with anticipation of Santa coming to our house. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we had assembled our obscenely huge tree, adorned our home’s exterior with lights, seen Santa at the local shopping center, purchased gifts, decorated cookies, and now the big day was upon us. Christmas Eve mid-day Mass led to a special meal with family, then finally, bedtime.

I had emotionally prepared myself for bedtime being filled with joyous anticipation. Mentally reminding myself to have more motherly patients than usual, and fondly remembering my youthful excitement at their age.  Bath time was my first clue that this evening was not shaping up like I had envisioned. For one, my daughter was so tired from the day’s activities; it seemed she likely forgot about the possibility of a fleeting overnight guest, and became a sleepy noodle right before my eyes. I think she was dreaming before the last words of bedtime prayers were muttered.

My son was warm. This wasn’t really out of the ordinary, because he is my warm kid. But… he also had that ‘look’ about him. I can’t explain the look, except to say every parent knows what their child looks like on the brink of a fever. Pushing some water his way and feeling his head, I determined, or perhaps it was wishful thinking, that he was tired like his sister and just needed to sleep.

Around midnight, just before heading to bed, I snuck into their rooms for one last check before I retired for good. (It’s a habit from the beginning of my motherhood journey.) The girl was snoring away. The boy was hot. Very hot. Looked like he just got out of the shower hot. His hair soaking the pillow, his Christmas flannel pajamas damp to the touch, I fetched a fever reducer and water and returned. I woke him up and he immediately started whining he was hot and I helped him out of his pj’s, down to his underwear. With the fever reducer on board along with a good amount of water, the fever came down rather quickly and I finally – utterly exhausted – fell into bed.

I heard my bedroom door creak first. I cracked my eyes open to determine the time. Morning already. I shut my eyes again, playing possum.  Soon, I felt the presence of a little body standing on my side of the bed. They never wake their Dad up. It’s always me. I waited for the eventual tap-tap-tap of tiny fingers to wake me, and little whispers of “mama?”



I groan, “uh huh?”

Six year old, “Santa came!”

… and just as I opened my mouth to reply “Oh really?!”

He continued, “…and I think he undressed me!”

My eyes flew open and I saw him standing there, in his underwear. No fever.

It’s not Christmas in our house without this crumb coffee cake, and a re-hash of this amusing story…

Christmas Crumb Coffee Cake (gf)

Serves 8-10

Topping Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 1/3 ounces sugar
  • 2 1/3 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces gluten free flour blend

Topping Method*

Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, or a medium bowl with a whisk, combine all topping ingredients except flour. Whisk until smooth. Fold in flour with rubber spatula until flour is no longer visible. Set aside.

*It’s important to make the topping first. The rest time allows the flour to absorb moisture, which prevents a grainy mouth-feel in the finished product. Topping can be made hours to 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate if making in advance.

Cake Ingredients                                                                         

  • 6 ounces gluten free flour blend                                                             
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Method

Adjust oven rack to one slot higher than the middle, and preheat to 325 degrees.

Prepare 8” or 9” square baking pan by lining with parchment paper, making a ‘sling’ with several inches of over-hang on two sides for easy removal later. Spray with vegetable oil. For more instruction on parchment slings, visit

(Pictured: crumb coffee cake made in mini loaf pans in lieu of 8” square baking dish.)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour blend, sugar, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum on low until well combined, about 30 seconds.

Adding butter about one tablespoon at a time, mix until this batter resembles crumbs, and chunks of butter are no longer visible. This will take 1-2 minutes on medium/low speed.

Add the remaining cake ingredients (sour cream, eggs + yolk, and vanilla) and adjust the mixer setting to medium/high. Blend for 30 seconds, scrape down the bowl, and blend for another 30 seconds.

Transfer the batter to prepared baking dish and smooth evenly. Crumble the topping in pea to marble size pieces over the top of the batter. This will be a thick layer of crumb.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Crumbs should turn golden brown and cake tester should come out clean.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove from pan using the parchment sling for assistance. Cut with serrated knife and (optional) dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Leftovers should be wrapped in air tight plastic. Remove plastic and warm each serving individually in microwave for 15-20 seconds.

‘Stuffed’ Cabbage Casserole (gf)

Stuffed Cabbage Pic

In the wake of COVID-19, a local company who normally supplies restaurants with produce, has opened to the public for drive-through pick-up. I thought I’d give it a try this week! The box I received contained a great mix of surprise veggies, one of which was a head of cabbage. Not really a cabbage fan, I reached out to see if anyone had a good recipe. My friend R.H.M sent me one – and I trust her with my life, so I tried it!

The kids had three helpings each… Here is the recipe, revised with my changes.

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Mexican Shredded Beef (gf)


2-3 pound boneless beef chuck roast

1, 7 oz can diced green chilies

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt (original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon and I find that too salty)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 lime


Place the roast in a slow cooker. In a small bowl combine everything except for the lime. Spread mixture over the beef in a thick, layer. Cover and program the cooker to low for 8 hours, or high for six hours.

Remove beef from crock post and shred with a fork. Finish/freshen with a squeeze of lime.

Hosting Your Friend With Celiac Disease

I was joking with a friend the other day that my husband has never been to their house. I, being the running partner of ‘Mighty M’, had been to her house many times for various training runs. Her husband laughed and said, “well, we don’t want to kill you. We don’t exactly have a gluten free kitchen”.

That got me thinking. If I charted my dinners with friends both pre-celiac diagnosis and post, would the line plummet? Yes, it would.

I don’t blame my friends. Loving me enough to not want to kill me is very nice. But, is there a way to inform them, and your friends, in the ways of hosting a person with Celiac Disease? I thought, “yes”. So let’s get started.

question-mark-1105892_1920Preliminary Investigation

Chances are good your friend not only has Celiac Disease, but also has other food restrictions. Don’t let this scare you! Ask your friend, even if you think you already know, about these needs and take notes so you don’t forget.

Planning The Menu

Think about your courses, one at a time, as to not get overwhelmed. Do you have a go-to meal? Perhaps it can be modified to accommodate your friend.


Let me just say, salad and fruit seems to be the purgatory of people with Celiac Disease. When we try to eat outside of our homes, these two items are sometimes (I’ll venture to say most times) the only offering. So, go beyond those choices. How about Prosciutto Wrapped Figs, or Artichoke Dip with gluten free chips or crackers.

Main Courses

If you have an omnivore, your favorite proteins will probably work. Normal cuts of chicken, beef, pork, fish and turkey are all naturally gluten free. Watch out for sausages or any other processed meat. How about trying Stealhead Trout with Rosemary or Beef Roast with Vegetables? trout3


Starches and veg can vary from simply roasting potatoes and seasonal vegetables in the oven to more elaborate dishes such as Mushroom Risotto or a Mock Mac and Cheese.


Here is where things can get tricky… SO MANY desserts contain gluten and many gf desserts are below par by far. Not only that, but purchasing gluten free flour blends can be an investment.  This is where your prowess in the kitchen, and consideration of your available time needs to be considered. If you have the gift of time, maybe a Pineapple Up Side Down Cake – I guarantee your friend with Celiac disease hasn’t had one of these in a long time! If this isn’t your bag, then I have (or, rather Aldi has) a solution for you. Their Live G Free line of cake, brownie and bar mixes are really quite good. Just follow the instructions on the box, and read through my preparation tips to eliminate possible cross contamination.

Pineapple Finished

Let’s Not Forget About Drinks!

Refer to my first tip, Preliminary Investigation, and find out what your friend likes to drink. Chances are, if you are close friends, you already know. But, ask again to make sure. Try to steer clear of mixed and blended drinks like Long Island Iced Tea or Margaritas. With so many ingredients, this is playing with fire. Adopt the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid) and serve wine, hard cider, flavored seltzer or soda. Be aware that most sodas are gluten free, but look out for root beer because some brands are not.


Read Labels

Gluten is not just limited to flour-based items. Malt, barley, and rye are all glutenous and dangerous to a person with Celiac disease. Other surprising places gluten hides includes:  Soy Sauce, oats, oat flour, rice cereals, pre-cooked/prepared rice products, bouillon cubes, sauces, malt vinegar, and pre-mixed seasonings. Other ingredients that should raise a red flag are listed here. Again, if in doubt, ask your friend!

Great Substitutions

Gluten free options have taken over our grocery isles and some are really good. For instance, Barilla Gluten Free pastas are very nice, and Crunchmaster crackers are delicious.

Danger Will Robinson! (Cooking in your kitchen)

You have planned your menu, read the labels and finished your shopping… now what?

Cross contamination in your kitchen is now the most dangerous part of the operation. Let’s talk equipment…

Your oven and grill: Just because it is super hot does not mean gluten is not hiding. To denature a gluten protein to the point of elimination the recommended minimum temperature is 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. After the heating process of the oven, use a wet cloth with metal tongs to wipe down the racks. For the grill, use metal tongs with crumpled foil to scrub the grates (don’t use your normal grill cleaning utensil – that probably has gluten on it).

Toasters should not be used no matter how ‘clean’.

Crockpots or slow cookers can be used, but ask your friend is they are comfortable with this, or use a liner.

Pots and Pans: Non-stick pots and pans and seasoned cast iron should never be used to cook gluten free food. Although these look clean, the coating certainly contains gluten. Stainless steel or thoroughly cleaned enameled cookware can be used.

Utensils: Soft plastic (like rubber spatulas) and wooden utensils should not be used unless brand new. Metal/stainless steel and hard plastic works well as long as they are thoroughly cleaned.

Cutting boards and other surfaces: Wooden cutting boards should not be used. Plastic cutting boards are typically ok as long as they are washed thoroughly. If you are still nervous about this, try disposable cutting sheets.

Foil is your friend: Cookie sheets, serving platters or anything else you might think is questionable can be carefully covered with heavy duty foil. Disposable aluminium products are also really great for cake pans, casseroles, breads, etc. Once cleaned, they can also be recycled, so that’s a bonus!

Residue: Give all your surfaces, cookware and dishes a once-over. Are they clean? Do they have dishwasher residue?

just-do-it-1432951_1920.pngYou Can Do This!

Don’t be nervous, just be thorough. Remember to ask your friend if you have any doubt (they are happy to answer your questions, believe me!) and don’t be offended if they watch over your shoulder in the kitchen or ask to see labels. Speaking of labels, keep all the packaging for review – don’t trash cans and cartons until well after they have left.

Sit Back and Enjoy!

Your friend is going to LOVE your hospitality and be grateful for your efforts!



Classic Chili (Gluten Free)

2016-02-11 14.20.18Classic Chili

I think I was meant to be a hibernating mammal. The only thing I can think about during these cold days of winter is sleeping. And soup. Hot, filling, stick-to-your-ribs, soup.

I have many requirements for soup. They must be flavorful, even the spoonfuls void of the main ingredients. They have to be easy so I can walk away (or run eight errands) without things going array. Last, they have to be just as good when made gluten free, my family can tell when substitutions go wrong.

I present to you this chili. It gets an A+ in all categories, and is a great gluten free alternative to the chili served at that fast food restaurant featuring a little girl with red pig tails. Put it in your slow cooker and come home to a cozy meal. Post-meal nap is optional, but highly recommended.