Christmas Pudding Part 1 (Stir Up Sunday!) (Gluten Free)

Stir Sunday Board

I sat in the Brit’s dimly lit dining room and leaned back against the upholstered chair. We started the evening in the sitting room munching on starters, sipping Trappist beer, listening to Mr. Brit’s HiFi at deafening volumes and exploring the differences in holiday music from across the pond. I adjusted the paper crown on my head and wondered if I could possibly eat any more. The food seemed endless. Turkey, stuffing, parsnips, sausages, rosemary potatoes, and on and on.

My thoughts were interrupted by Mrs. Brit entering the room with a domed-shaped cake-like edible on a plate. She poured spirits over the top and promptly lit it on fire. As the flames fluttered out, they exclaimed with a long “Hey!” and we joined in.

She served us the tiniest bit on a plate – about a tablespoon’s worth – and introduced the options of brandy butter or brandy sauce along side. I was slightly confused by the small amount on my plate. Can’t I have more? Why so little? Did she only have this bit left to share?

I gingerly took a wee bite on my fork and eagerly tasted it. WOW. This was unlike anything I had ever eaten before. This had all the notes of a fruit cake, but oh, so much better. Stronger. Tastier. It hit my taste buds like a steam roller and filled my mouth with a deep, blooming flavor. How was it possible that such a small bite had such a big impact? I immediately understood the serving size. So rich, so bold, I would only need a little before my already full stomach begged me to stop.

Since that fantastically British Christmas evening, Mrs. Brit has thoroughly educated me on the traditions of Christmas Pudding. The translations of ingredients, quirky preparation, lengthy days of steaming, the meaning of Stir Up Sunday… they all culminated to fill my new found holiday craving. She patiently took me through the whole process several years ago, and I have tweaked and adjusted since then. After all, Mrs. Brit says “there are as many recipes for Christmas Pudd as there are Brits.”

Here is mine, and I hope you take the time to make it as least once. Just be warned, it could be your new found holiday craving.

Stir Up Sunday is November 22nd this year. You have a week to gather the ingredients and work up the nerve. You can do it – I believe in you!

Stir Up Sunday Christmas Pudding Prep (Gluten Free)

Advertisements

Corn Casserole (Gluten Free)

Corn BakeAs I got older, my time at our family gatherings slowly shifted from playing hide and seek in corn fields and playing backyard baseball or kickball, to sitting with the adults and quietly taking in their conversations. The topics varied widely, but always included how much rain we had (or hadn’t) gotten, who was doing what at church, and some type of hometown or national politics. They pretty much broke all the social rules of conversation and usually things went well. But, when they didn’t, my sister and I would start talking loudly and dramatically about the current (and highly fictional) price hike in cans of creamed corn.  This cue became a family joke, and usually got the job done. But inevitably someone (usually Grandma) would fall for it and we would have to explain. Not only did “creamed corn” come up at every family gathering, this dish made an appearance, too. I have adapted it from my Aunt’s recipe to make it gluten free, and it is still as tasty as ever.

Corn Casserole (Gluten Free)

Gluten Free Roux

Roux1

November is Gluten Free Diet Awareness Month and one thing I have learned over the past three years since being diagnosed with Celiac disease is, I miss soup. I miss going to a little cafe (or even a big national chain, for that matter) and ordering a soup and salad combo while chatting with friends over lunch. These days are over for me, and not just because we all seem to have kids and crazy schedules at the moment. So, I have cracked the code and developed a way to make all your favorite soups at home that typically call for a roux made with that pesky white poison, er, I mean flour.

This roux recipe can replace ANY roux for any occasion. So break out that heavy cast iron pot, because “Soups On!

Gluten Free Roux

Eggplant Parmesan Bake (Gluten Free)

Eggplant Parmesan Bake

View and Print Here Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Grocery stores usually inspire me. Like last week, when I had no intention of making Eggplant Parmesan, and a big, beautiful, deep purple specimen caught my eye in the produce department.  I had to have it. I had to make it. I had to eat it.

There was a time when grocery stores struck fear in me. Like years ago, as a child, I took refuge under the cart just in case one of the giant ‘cost cutter’ cardboard scissor signs fell from the ceiling and cut me in half.  Or, when Mama ran over Bunny. My precious Bunny. Oh, who is he? Read on, my friend.

IMG_2191

Bunny travels. Half Dome was a favorite.

I suffered from Conductive Deafness until I was four. Just days after my first surgery Mama and I went about our usual business, which included a stop at the chicken farm for fresh eggs. The barn was lined with chickens and we stood in the market space just on the other side of a windowed wall. Mama chose her eggs, paid the lady, and turned to hand the carton to me. That was my job. To carefully carry the eggs to the car. Only I didn’t reach for the carton this time. I was horrified. Awed. Overwhelmed. I looked at her with wide eyes and asked, “Mama, what is that noise?!”  “Those are the chickens.” She replied. “Chickens make noise?” It was the first of many hearing-world revelations.

My speech therapist sat across from me. She had pulled a chair around to my side of the table and crouched down to me and smiled. My legs swung back and forth and I bounced my pink stuffed bunny on my lap. She asked me what it’s name was. “Buh-honey” I replied. “Do you mean ‘Bunny’? She asked. I nodded.

In the car on the way home, I held Bunny by the hands. His head wobbled a bit, and I made him nod ‘yes’ and shake ‘no’. I murmured his name. “Buh-honey.” I shook his head ‘no’. Louder, I tried again. “Buh-honey.” Once again, I shook his head ‘no’. Three more times. The same result. I looked out the window and watched a couple of corn and bean fields hurry by. We were almost home. Back to my friend on my lap, I tried again. “Bunny.” He nodded ‘yes!’

Cheesy Risotto (Mock Mac&Cheese, Gluten Free) (Mystery Man Part 4)

Cheesy Risotto Cheesey Arborio Rice

Skip to the recipe here. Cheesy Risotto

The Grand Canyon was brilliant. I walked down the South Kaibab Trail in the bright sunlight and carried a full pack of provisions for our trip. Mystery Man, Hockey Guy and his girlfriend, Lady Hockey, hiked along side me. It was only a 6.1 mile journey, but the elevation change was a decent of 4860 feet with little water on the trail and the sun was already baking. We had a full day of walking ahead, but luckily had a campsite along the Colorado River awaiting our arrival.

Mystery Man had just graduated with his Master’s Degree three days earlier. It had been several long years stuck in classrooms, computer labs and offices. It was time to get outside.

I knew the hiking would be challenging. It would be hot. Once we were on the trail we were at least three days from getting back to civilization. I knew all of these things and more. What I deliberately put out of my mind were the shear cliffs and dizzying views from heights I would not be comfortable. I suppressed my fears. I hiked along. Dealt with it. In fact, we were getting close to the bottom of the Canyon and I thought ‘hey, I might have put my fear of heights behind me.’

Then I saw this.

South Kaibib Bridge

Are you kidding me?!

I approached the bridge with shaky knees. Mystery Man was fully aware of this bridge, and had kept this little detail to himself. He knew I would do it – if there was no choice.

There was no choice.

The walking surface was made of grates. You could see all the way – straight down – to the moving river. The bridge was suspended between two rock faces and swung slightly in the breeze.

I laughed at my previous thoughts of overcoming my fear of heights. It was real. It was happening.

We were the only people on the trail, so I asked the others to stay off the bridge to minimize any movement. Taking a deep breath, I put my boot on the first grate, looked straight ahead and strode my short, little, tired, shaky, legs to the next grate. Then the next, then the next. It was a long bridge.

The red dusty dirt clouded the air when I jumped onto solid ground. I finally exhaled. The others had started across and where taking their time with pictures and pausing to take in the views. I peeled my pack off and took a rest on a large boulder.

They joined me at the boulder, and we soon decided our short rest was over. Darkness was just two hours away and we still had to set camp and make dinner.

Upon arriving at our home for the night, Mystery Man and Hockey Guy suddenly became slightly panicked. A camera was missing and the search was on to find it. They decided it must be back at the resting boulder and left Lady Hockey and I to set camp.

So we did.

We set camp, prepped the stove, and settled in. I was getting hungry and short tempered. It was time to get dinner on and Lady Hockey insisted we wait until they returned before beginning to cook. Where were those guys?

Finally. Boots kicked up dust into camp. Making my way to the stove to get things going, I hear Mystery Man suggest we take a short walk down to the river to take in the sights.

“I’m hungry”. I groaned.

He promised it wouldn’t take long and suddenly all three of them were prodding me along. I followed reluctantly, until we reached a path to the helicopter pad. The trail head was marked for “Authorized Personnel Only”, and with a chip on my shoulder, I refused to go further. I really, really, just wanted to return to camp, eat, and rest.

Since I was being the stubborn rule-follower, Mystery Man found a nearby overgrown path. It had thickets. I had changed out of my boots into sport sandals. He led on in front of me.

I called up to him, “If I hurt my feet, I am never going to forgive you!”

“Never?” He said over his shoulder.

“Never!” I yelled.

Just a few seconds later he stopped. The Colorado River’s edge was at our feet, and the valley colors were every shade of orange and green with the setting sun. As I took in the greatness surrounding me, my eye was suddenly disrupted by an unnatural sight. Another bridge stretched across the canyon, but this one was bigger, and there was some sort of trash or strange flag hanging from it.

I turned to Mystery Man, “What is that?”

“I don’t know. Here, check it out.” He said, and handed me binoculars.

The view was very blurry at first, and it took some time to adjust the lens in the darkening valley. I finally zeroed in on the spot. This was not trash or a flag.

Hanging on the bridge was a giant white sign. It had five words.

Jessica Will You Marry Me?

Completely stunned, I brought the binoculars down and turned to Mystery Man, who was suddenly on one knee, with a ring.

Here I was. Covered in red canyon dust. Sweaty. Smelly. Cranky. And here he was. On one knee. Asking that we spend the rest of our lives together.

“….well?” he asked.

It didn’t occur to me he had been waiting for an answer. Of course I would!

“Yes!”

A few moments later we headed for the bridge to retrieve the sign. Thoughts were flying through my head. The ‘lost’ camera, the stalling for dinner, leading me to the right spot along the river… It was all coming together and making sense. That’s when he looked at me.

“It’s all uphill from here.” he said.

“Very funny. I’m hungry.” I replied.

(We had Mac & Cheese with canned chicken for dinner. Since I can’t have Mac & Cheese anymore, I have found this recipe fills the craving, and brings back memories of the Canyon.)

Print It Here Cheesy Risotto

Cheesy Risotto

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

Ingredients

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)

Method

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!

Cheesy Mex Chicken with Fritos (Slow Cooker) (Naturally Gluten Free)

Cheesy Mex Chicken

I hopped on my bike and headed down the country road with the white bridge in site. The creek was just a short ride and I leaned my bike against the rail and jumped over it into the tall grass. I shimmy-ed down the steep bank and found a foothold on one of the large stones my sister and I placed there. It was hot and I was eagerly seeking the cool, bubbly, water in the shade under the road. I carefully made my way across by jumping stone-to-stone and landed on the large flat one that served as my shoe stool. If I ruined another pair, I knew my days at the creek were numbered.

My bare feet sunk into the wet, sandy dirt and my body instantly felt the relief. This summer was boiling and the creek was lower than usual. I patted some water on my face and started turning rocks. Crawdads, minnows and tadpoles scurried along as I inspected the creek bed.

This last week I took my daughter ‘creeking’ for the first time. While it was not at ‘my’ creek, it certainly brought back many faded memories.

Photo Credit: My friend Liz over at http://superveggiemom.com/

Photo Credit: My friend Liz over at http://www.superveggiemom.com

The summer heat is upon us, the kids have activities all over the place, and getting dinner on the table is getting harder and harder. This recipe has many perks – quick to put together, leave in it in the crock pot, no ovens to heat up the kitchen, and utterly cheesy and kid-pleasing. Add fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime and avocado, because it’s summer, and you can.

Cheesy Mex Chicken with Fritos

Ingredients

2 (10 ounce) cans Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (Original), drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (check ingredient label for gluten)
2 tablespoons instant tapioca (found in the baking isle of most grocers)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs*, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 cup Fritos corn chips, slightly crushed, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend (grated)
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed (or one package freezer sweet corn)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

Garnish
extra Fritos
diced avocado
1/2 lime, cut into wedges

*my grocer did not have these, so I de-skinned and de-boned two packs of regular chicken thighs

Preparation

Drain tomatoes. Add to crock pot. Drain and rinse beans. Add to crock pot. Stir in tapioca and cumin. Nestle chicken into crock pot and salt and pepper.

Set crock pot on low for 4-5 hours.

Remove chicken and place on cutting board. Shred into large bite size pieces.

Stir one cup Fritos, 1 cup Mexican cheese blend, corn and cilantro into slow cooker. Gently stir in chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted in.

Portion into bowls and top with Fritos, cheese, avocado and a small wedge of lime.

Notes: If left in crock pot, it may thicken too much. Add very hot water, one half cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.