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

 

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)

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