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.


Fast(er) Roasted Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes

Click here for – Fast(er) Roasted Potatoes

His scent was that of a printing press. Inky. Mixed with a bit of Old Spice. An earthy undertone brought it all together in a warm blanket of protection. Consistency. He was my short, solid, bearded, refuge. He was my Dad.

Certain memories of him are in full, vibrant color. The sounds fill my ears like a wave of warmth. I can easily  trick my brain to go there.  On his lap of his La-Z-Boy recliner. The orchard. The garden.

Especially the garden. Every time I bend over the sink and wash potatoes I go to him in the garden.

It was a damp day, but he needed the soil to give way to the shovel. If we waited, the new red potatoes would get too big. The earth too hard. So I stood by the empty bushel basket and waited for him to bring up the first blade-full of dirt. The soil gave way and little burgundy gems peaked out to the daylight. I eagerly fell to my knees and plucked them out.

He moved on down the row and brought up each mound of dirt, his smile getting bigger all the way. It was a good crop. I scooted on my little bottom and knees, filling the bushel basket handfuls at a time, pushing the dirt back into place with my bare hands.

He stood at the edge of the garden. Sweaty. Smiling. Admiring the full basket of labor. I stood up and he looked in my direction. His eyes went from my head, to my filthy hands, to my soiled clothes.

With a smirk, he said, “Your Mother’s going to kill me.”

Finish tilling garden


Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes (Mystery Man Part 3)

Buttermilk PancakesThis week is Mystery Man’s birthday and one of the things he will be enjoying is pancakes for breakfast. Unlike most gluten free pancakes, these are light and airy, and there is not a hint of grit or heaviness. I took a page from my Best Buttermilk Waffle recipe and whipped the egg whites to add extra fluff. I dare you to compare these to ‘the real thing’.

Mystery Man Part 3

Ever since he showed up in my store on Valentines Day, Mystery Man never left my thoughts for long. I hated that I thought of him so often and tried to squelch these thoughts with futile rebuttals.

‘He is such a great friend, I don’t want to ruin it’.

‘I love being his dance partner. I can’t risk losing that for just a fling’.

The mental excuses ran on and on and on. For months, upon months, and we continued to dance together nearly five nights a week.

One of our favorite places was a club called El Diablo Lounge. The owner dabbled in Swing dancing himself, and the interior was a cross between a tiki lounge and swanky 1940s Rat Pack Swing club, with sidewalk seating out front and a billiards room in the back. The booths were red leather, lighting low, and in the center, a small but inviting dance floor. We met every Thursday around nine o’clock, and joined Spunky Girl among others to dance off some energy, socialize, and catch up.

It was the middle of summer and the humidity was high. There was a particular energy in the air and the DJ was hot, playing one favorite after another.

He dipped me at the end of the song, and as I went to walk away, the first few notes of a Rumba, and the hand of Mystery Man drew me back onto the floor. He pulled me slightly closer than usual, and I smelled his aftershave and could feel the heat coming from his body. I didn’t know much more than the Rumba basic, so we whispered to me now and then.

“Walk forward”   “Come back to me”   “Follow me around”   “Step back”

For more than five minutes I followed his every lead. Felt his every touch and heard his every whisper. All the other couples on the dance floor melted away from my vision and the only thing I saw was him.

At the end of the song, breathless, and fully aware, yet unaware of what just happened, he dipped me. Once on my feet again, I squeaked out a “thank you” and we headed opposite directions – me to the billiards room, him to the front sidewalk seating.

I entered the room with my head spinning, my body overheating, and my face flushed. Spunky Girl looked at me and asked if I was O.K. “yeah. I don’t know what just happened there…” I trailed off. It was then she knew exactly what had just happened.

Mystery Man walked out to the front sidewalk, took out his handkerchief and patted his brow. Spunky Girl’s partner was standing there taking in some cooler air. “I’m not quite sure what just happened there,” he said. 

It would take Mystery Man and I another six months to figure it out on our own.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes


10 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil

*Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, pus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)


Mix flour blend, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium to large bowl. In a 2-3 cup liquid measuring cup, measure buttermilk. Add eggs and blend well with a fork. In a thin, steady stream, add melted butter while stirring. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk very well until little to no lumps remain.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low/medium for about one minute. Increase speed to medium high for an additional minute. Gradually add sugar and whip until stiff peaks form (about 3 additional minutes).

Gently fold egg whites into pancake batter until just a few white streaks remain.

Heat griddle to 350 degrees or a skillet on a medium/high burner. Brush with one teaspoon of vegetable oil. Once hot, add pancake batter 1/4 cup at a time – or make any size pancakes you wish. Wait until the pancakes have bubbles on top that have popped, and they look slightly dry around the edges. Flip to other side for about two more minutes, or until they are the desired color. Add vegetable oil to griddle or skillet as needed.

Serve with your favorite toppings!

Strawberry Pie (with bonus gluten free dough recipe!)

Strawberry Pie 1

Finish tilling gardenIt has been more than twenty years since I sat in the garden at the farm house. The wide patch of strawberries sat perpendicular to the rows of onions, potatoes, green beans, and corn, and I sprawled out in the gap in between. With my Tonka trucks and dirt movers, die cast cars and a small trowel, I mounded dirt, made roads and dug rivers. My parents spent the day bent at the waist, weeding, planting, and tending to their precious crop, and our Black Labrador wondered about. She eventually ended up huffing and plopping right down in the middle of my ‘town’. Nosing my leg for attention, I complied and drove cars up and over her like a big mountain.


I didn’t even give my husband a chance to think about it or plan something special. When I saw that my neighbor wanted to remove the neglected raised garden beds from his property, I eagerly made a deal that we (my husband!) would remove them if I could have all the (rich and beautiful!) soil they contained. “Hey, Honey…. you don’t have to worry about getting me anything for Mother’s Day! Just move these for me!”

“Fine, but you get to move the dirt.”

Raised Beds Before and After

(Here is a before and after of the rebuild/relocation.
It took me two weeks to play in, I mean move, the dirt.)

So now I have a garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, cabbage, oregano, basil, and asparagus. For those of you wondering how I planted all of that in just these two boxes? Well… I kinda, sorta, expanded to a third. And I might have two blueberry bushes now, too.

Is this my midlife crisis?

I better just eat this pie and think about that for a while.

(There are three – count em! – THREE recipes here. Two pie crusts, and the strawberry pie filling with topping.)

Strawberry Pie  (Adapted from From Cook’s Country Icebox Strawberry Pie – June 2009)

Serves 8

It is imperative that the cooked strawberry mixture measures 2 cups; any more and the filling will be loose. If your fresh berries aren’t fully ripe, you may want to add extra sugar to taste in step 2. Use your favorite pie dough or use the ‘Oil Pie Crust for Fruit Pies’ or ‘Gluten Free Pie Crust’ below. This pie is even tastier after living in the refrigerator for twenty four hours.


1 (9-inch) pie shell, baked and cooled (see recipes below)


2 pounds frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (or two 1/4 ounce envelopes of Knox Gelatine)
1 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin


4 ounces cream cheese , softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Filling Preparation:

Cook frozen berries in large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until berries begin to release juice, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until thick and jam-like, about 25 minutes (mixture should measure 2 cups, exactly). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, water, and gelatin with a fork. Let stand until gelatin is softened and mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture, sugar, and salt into cooked berry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Fold fresh berries into filling. Spread evenly in pie shell and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. (Filled pie can, and is better tasting, after refrigerated for 24 hours.)

Topping Preparation:

With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, slowly add cream in one continuous stream. Stop mixer and scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Return mixer to medium/high speed and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Serve pie with whipped cream topping. (I spread the topping over the entire pie and smooth with an off-set spatula. Others prefer to dollop the topping on each piece of sliced pie. Do what feels right to you – I won’t judge!)

Oil Pie Crust (for fruit pies)

1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons milk
1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack to the middle position.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, salt and sugar on low for about ten seconds. In a steady stream, slowly add oil and milk. Mix until dough is a sandy texture.

Transfer dough to a glass or aluminum pie pan. Pat dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Using a fork, prick the bottom four times, and evenly around the sides eight times. This will help prevent bubbling while baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is no longer moist and is starting to slightly brown.
Cool the baked pie crust on a wire rack for at least one hour before filling.

Gluten Free Pie Dough

Yields 1, 9″ Pie Shell

2 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1 1/2 tablespoons very cold sour cream
1 1/2 ounce white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
6 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend**
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon zanthan gum
8 tablespoons frozen butter cut (with a very sharp knife) into 1/4 square inch pieces

**Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, plus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)
¾ ounce nonfat milk powder (3 tablespoons)


(Notes: Use a seven cup, or larger, food processor for this single batch. If you want to make a double crust pie, do not double this recipe in one food processor batch. Take the time to do it twice, trust me. This is experience talking. Do not skimp on freezing the butter. Again, trust me on this one.)

In a small bowl, combine the ice water, sour cream and vinegar with a fork. Place bowl in freezer while you prep the next steps.

Place flour blend, sugar, salt and zanthan gum in the food processor. Combine for five seconds. Scatter frozen butter pieces over top and pulse ten times. Dollop the (very cold) sour cream mixture over top and pulse until the texture is sandy, about ten times.

Spread a large piece of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Carefully dump the contents of the food processor onto the wrap. Gather the dough into the center and work it into a solid six inch round disk. Wrap the disk tightly with the wrap and refrigerate for one hour. (This one hour resting time is important. Your dough will be sandy and gritty if you skip this step.)

Rolling the dough:

Prep your pie pan. Lightly grease the very bottom of the pie pan – not the sides. Set aside.

First rule – do not add flour!

Adding flour to the rolling process negates the resting time to rid of the gritty texture. Instead, place two lengths of plastic wrap out on the counter top. Slightly overlap them to make a continuous 18″x18″ covered work surface. Unwrap the chilled dough disk and place it in the center of your prepare surface. Cover the disk with another two sheets of wrap, again, slightly overlapping to make a continuous 18′”x18″ sheet.

Using a rolling pin, start in the center of the dough disk and roll out to the edge. Bring the pin back to the center and roll out the edge in a different direction. Do this over and over again until the disk doubles is size. Sometimes the dough will not roll out in a perfect circle, leaving gaps and cracks. Stop, remove the top wrap and pinch the dough into a circle. Replace wrap and continue to roll from the center in all directions until you have a pie shell measuring about 12″ across.

Transfer the dough to the pie pan:

Remove the top layer of wrap from your pie shell. Lift the bottom layer of wrap and slide a flat hand under the dough to the center of the circle. With your other hand, invert the pie pan over your dough and carefully turn (slowly flip) both hands over, ending up with the pie pan right side up and the dough resting inside. Work the dough into the sides of the pan and very carefully remove the (now top) layer of wrap.

Gently roll the extra dough under the edge and pinch all the way around the pan, making the design of your choice.

Strawberry Pie 3

Loosely cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for one hour, or the freezer for thirty minutes.

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake 24-30 minutes, rotating half way through, until no longer doughy and slightly brown along the edges. Cool completely before adding fruit filling.

Meaty, Cheesy Lasagna (with gluten free option)


A few months ago I was standing in the checkout line at Kohl’s with an armload of clothes for my growing-too-fast kids, and a timetable that was pushing the boundaries. Rocking my weight from one foot to another, I impatiently waited for the lovely, older lady in front of me to get situated before moving along with her bagged items, when she suddenly turned to face me.

“I smell donuts.” She said, then turned to the cashier and asked her if she smelled donuts. The cashier thoughtfully sniffed the air and said, “Yes! I do smell donuts.” They both looked at me for confirmation. I casually sniffed the sleeve of my arm. Yep, the sweet smell was coming from me. “Um, I think you are smelling me. I am a baker.”

While I thought it was a slightly odd experience, it got me thinking of how smells are so much of a memory trigger. My Dad was an Olde Spice Man. My friend Marge is lavender. Great Grandma was ginger. Mystery Man is a blend of a certain shampoo and aftershave.  And I guess I am baked treats, and if it’s not, it is most likely Italian food. Things could be worse.

Best Lasagna

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb spicy Italian Sausage, removed from casings
15 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
48 ounces marinara sauce (two 24 ounce jars) or 1/2 recipe Meaty Marinara Sauce Sauce
9 Ounce box no-boil lasagne noodles* (such as Barilla)

*Gluten free version: Use one box Tinkyada Gluten free Lasagna Noodles, boiled for 1/2 suggested cooking time, then rinsed under cool water. I have found these locally in Meijer grocery stores.

• Skillet for browning meat, 9″x13″ pyrex (or similar) glass baking dish.

• Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Over Medium/High heat and in batches if necessary, brown ground beef and sausage, breaking up into crumbles as it cooks. Drain and return to skillet.
• Add 24 ounces (half) of the Marinara Sauce to the meat mixture and combine.
• In a 9×13 glass dish, spread about one cup of marinara sauce (without meat) evenly covering the bottom of the dish.
• Now it is time to layer. Here is the order:
• Arrange 4 to 5 noodles across the dish. Overlap the noodles slightly if needed.
• About 4 cups of the sauce/meat mixture on top of the noodles.
• Evenly dot with ricotta cheese.
• Another layer of noodles, slightly press them into the pan without breaking or tearing.
• Sauce/meat mixture.
• 1/2 Parmesan cheese and 1/2 of mozzarella cheese evenly over top.
• One last layer of noodles.
• Remaining meat/sauce mixture and remaining marinara sauce.
•  Remaining cheese, making sure the cheese is spread all the way out the the edges of the pan.
• Place dish on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover dish with a foil tent, taking care that the foil is not touching the Cheese topping.
• Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
• Remove the foil tent and place back in the oven set to BROIL.
• Broil until the top is nicely browned and the cheese is bubbly, about 3 to 5 minutes.
• Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.