Mushroom Risotto (Gluten Free)

Mushroom Risotto

(Click here for Mushroom Risotto PDF)

The musty, damp air. Songbirds belting their tunes. Tender wildflowers peeking through the rich soil. These things all lead me to one thought. It’s mushroom season!

Let me come clean right now. I hate mushrooms. At least, that is what I thought. For. Years. They are slimy. They taste like dirt. They make my teeth squeak.

Then Mystery Man and I dined at Artist Point, a restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge at Disney World. He ordered the Smoked Portobello Bisque. After listening to the chorus of yummy slurps and ‘Mmmmmms,’ I asked him for a taste.

So is this what mushrooms are supposed to be all about? It was pleasant. Actually, more than pleasant. Meaty, mouthwatering, deep flavors aroused my tongue. In a possibly trendy, probably hipster (but I don’t know, I’m not that cool) word, Umami.

This was the beginning of a whole new culinary road. Mushrooms. I started considering menu items that contained them. I never again dismissed a recipe that called for them. In fact, now I cook with them often, and this is one of my favorite side dishes. (I serve it with Pan Fried Pork Chops or Steelhead Trout).




Mock Manicotti (Gluten Free)

Mock manicotti

Mock Manicotti (pictured with Meaty Marinara Sauce)

The human brain can connect tastes and smells to memories from long ago. I do not question that logic one bit, especially since there are certain recipes that make my heart my heart sing.

The joy in this dish comes from my early days with Mystery Man. (You can catch the entire history here, here and here).

In between dances we would sit at a table, catch up on the day’s happenings and enjoy a drink. Gin and Tonic for him, Corona with a lime for me. The conversations were all over the place. Cooking, movies, our families, and dance steps were weekly topics. I was not par­ticularly attracted to Mystery Man and neither him to me. We were friends, dance partners, nothing more.

On more than one occasion, Mystery Man mentioned he liked to cook, was good at it, and was known to host a dinner party or two. I laughed it off, until one day the topic turned into a little friendly competition. I’ll cook for you, then you cook for me. We’ll see who can bring the heat.

The competition so intense, we went from one dinner each, to two, then three… In fact I think we are still competing (but I’m winning, for the record).

This dish (in it’s original manicotti shape) was one of the first Mystery Man made for me. It had the best balanced blend of cheeses, the pasta was cooked to perfection, and he had picked up a bottle of wine that complemented the course. He was proud, but not smug, and I was secretly impressed.

For some reason I had forgotten about this dish, until last week Vintage Thread brought a version over for dinner. She used the Tinkyada Lasagna noodles and rolled them for a faux manicotti. It worked beautifully. I dug out Mystery Man’s recipe this week and used Barilla Penne Pasta in a layering method. It worked beautifully, too, and in both cases, my heart sang.




Rosemary Citrus Turkey

Miso Turkey

When Mystery Man and I built a house an acquaintance of ours warned us it could be the beginning of the end of our marriage. What she didn’t know was how like-minded the two of us are. I think we are the only people on the planet that actually enjoyed the process. Choosing the structural plan, flooring, cabinets, fix­tures, and brick color were all a breeze. Visiting the job site every day, we were excited to see even the smallest progress. It was a fantastic time.

The most fun was moving in, especially the kitchen. I could actually stretch out my arms in every direction and touch nothing but air. A far cry from the tiny apart­ment kitchens I had endured for the last seven years. It even had a pantry. A pantry!

I looked forward to messing it up, cleaning it up, and preparing exquisite meals for our friends and family. I especially could not wait to break in the new shiny double oven with a convection fan and a control panel that looked like the Star Ship Enter­prise.

For two years I baked and baked. Cookies, breads, cakes, potatoes, and casseroles. The only thing I did not make well was meat. Any kind of meat. When I did, it was tough. Over­cooked. Chewy.

I blame my father.

I know that sounds unfair. Just throwing blame on him because that is what people do to their parents when they fail. But seriously, it’s HIS fault.

You see, my father liked his meat very, very well done. If there was a tint of pink left he was unhappy. Many of waiters grimaced, eye-rolled and sighed as they walked from the table with a rejected steak. At home he would fire up the grill and cook the meat his way, there was never a question of how you liked yours. So this is how I learned, by watching him. Like I said it’s my father’s fault, God love ‘em.

Then one day everything changed. Mystery Man and I were preparing for a holiday dinner party and I wanted to make a turkey. Deciding that a good quality digital meat thermometer was my ticket to a perfectly cooked bird I started researching the best brands. Deciding on one, I presented Mystery Man with my choice and told him of my intentions of a trip to Williams Somoma the next day.

That is when he said to me “Don’t we have one of those in the drawer? It came with the oven.”

“Uh, what?!” I walked over to the oven and stared at the Star Ship Enterprise panel. There, under the timer button was the word ‘Probe’. That November I perfected turkey with the help of hours of internet searches, a good brine, and a meat thermometer that had been there all along.

Rosemary Citrus Turkey

One 12-15 pound turkey (Remove stray quills, neck and giblets. Set aside for another use if desired.)

1 gallon water
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon caraway seed
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper

Roasted Turkey
1 Large Onion. (peeled and sliced 1 inch thick, separated into rings)
2 Tablespoons fresh Rosemary (or 1 Tablespoon Dried Rosemary)
1 Garlic Clove (through a garlic press, or grated on a micro-plain.)
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
1/2 Cup Miso Paste* (this can be found in a plastic squeeze bottle in the Asian food isle)
*to make this gluten free, substitute plan hummus
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
2 Lemons (1 sliced 1/4 inch thick into rings. 1 quartered.)
1 Red Bell Pepper (Seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings)
1/2 Teaspoon Seasoned Salt
1 Orange (Quartered)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Flour
3 Celery Stalks (including leaves, chopped into 1 inch pieces.)

1 Large Poultry Bag (Reynold’s oven roasting bag)
Large roasting pan with rack insert
Kitchen twine
Turkey lacers
Large soup kettle for brining


Brining the turkey

•    When to start. Twelve hours + the recommended roasting time + thirty minutes rest time.  Please be aware that this is really a ‘stuffed’ turkey, so allow for the recommended time for a stuffed bird on cooking charts. (Meat thermometer temperature should register 180 degrees at the thickest area of the thigh.)

12-16 lbs = 2 to 2 1/2 hours

16-20 lbs = 2 1/2 to 3 hours

20-24 lbs = 3 to 3 1/2 hours

•    In a large pot mix together water, salt, sugar, rosemary, caraway, garlic and pepper. Stir well to dissolve all sugar and salt.
•    Add the turkey, breast side down (if possible). Add water to cover entire bird, if necessary. Refrigerate for 12 hours. (In a pinch for refrigerator space? In Ohio, the weather normally permits leaving the turkey in the cold garage.  If need be, a large cooler and a plastic water-tight bag can be used to brine the turkey if you are not in a cold climate. Pack ice around the bagged turkey and secure the lid.)

Roasting the turkey

The following can be completed one day in advance:
•    Prepare the Onion as described. Put about 1/4 of the Onion in a food processor.  Place the remaining in a gallon zipper-sealed bag and refrigerate.
•    To the food processor add the rosemary and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped, just short of becoming a paste.
•    Add black pepper, poultry seasoning and miso paste (or hummus) to the food processor mixture and pulse until smooth. Add melted butter and blend well. This mixture will appear curdled, and that’s ok. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, and up to a day in advance.
•    Prepare the 2 Lemons, Red Bell Pepper, Orange and Celery as described. Add to the  gallon zipper-sealed bag (with onion) and refrigerate for later use.

When you are ready to roast:
•    Place oven rack in lowest position and preheat to 350 degrees.
•    Rinse turkey and place on a large cutting board, or clean work surface. Pat dry with paper towels.
•    Working from the large cavity, run fingers under the skin to loosen. Try to loosen the skin from the meat in the breast, thigh and drumstick areas without tearing the skin.
•    Once all the skin is loosened, push the miso (or hummus) butter into these areas using a spoon, your fingers, or any combination of the two. This is a messy task, but the more chilled the butter mixture is, the easier it will be to deal with.
•    Take the bag of produce your prepared earlier out of the refrigerator.
•    Place a lemon slice inside a pepper ring and slide it under the skin with the butter mixture. Repeat, one on each breast, and one on each drumstick. Use remaining lemon and pepper slices to fill in any empty gaps.
•    Sprinkle turkey cavity with seasoned salt and stuff with lemon and orange quarters, squeezing juice into the cavity as you go.
•    Fold the neck skin up over the cavity and secure in place with turkey lacers or long toothpicks. Tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string and tuck the wings under the body, using  turkey lacers if needed.
•    Rub the turkey skin with olive oil.
•    Place flour in oven roasting bag and shake it around.
•    Place bag on roasting rack (which is nested in the roasting pan) and layer the bottom of the bag with onion and celery slices (and any other produce left over).
•    Place turkey in oven roasting bag and close it with the tie provided.
•    Roast until a meat thermometer temperature should register 180 degrees at the thickest area of the thigh. Remove from oven and let the bird rest for thirty minutes.
•    Carve the turkey and enjoy!

Sweet Potato, Apple, Cranberry. Perfect Trifecta.

Sweet Potato Side2

Because I have an undying love for apples, I have decided to continue the trend and share another recipe featuring these autumn beauties. 

The other day I was talking with a friend and she mentioned how overwhelming it can be in the produce department with all the new apple varieties. “What ever happened to Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious and Granny Smith?” While I agree that it can be confusing, please remember that in general, apples are apples. I know, I know. I am about to be burned at the stake by foodies near and far. But, I really do think that some of us (even me, on occasion) get hung up on the small stuff. This is the time of year apples are cheap, so if you haven’t heard of that-variety-over-there before, pick one out, take it home and give it a taste. Is it sweet? Sour? Bitter? Crunchy? Soft? Most importantly, do you honestly like it?

My friend listened to my answer, smiled, then asked if I could just help her skip to the end of the process and tell her what to buy. I figured she is not alone, so I put together this list to help.

 There are over 7,500 apple varieties.

I have scavenged my local grocery stores and listed the most widely available here in the mid-west.

* Indicates variety can be used for either baking or sauce, but they appear in the category where they perform the best.

Baking Apples

*Braeburn, *Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Melrose, Mutsu, Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Rhode Island Greening, Rome Beauty, *Winesap

Sauce Apples

Gravenstein, Ida Red, *Jonamac, *Jonathan, Liberty, *Maiden Blush, McIntosh, *Newtown Pippin (should be cold-stored for 1-2 months before eaten to reduce bitterness), *Snow


Sweet Potato Side

Sweet Potato, Apples & Cranberries

Makes 4 (small) servings

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bit-sized pieces
1 medium granny smith apple, cored, peeled, and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

(sugar and cinnamon for dusting)

Preparation A:
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Place in a Ziploc brand steamer bag and seal.
• Microwave on high for 8-9 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
• Allow bag to stand for 1 minute before pour contents into a serving dish.

Dust with sugar and cinnamon to taste.


Preparation B:
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Place in sauce pan and add 1/4 cup water. Cover.
• Steam over medium heat for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
• Remove from heat and let stand for 1 minute before transferring to a serving dish.

Dust with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Spiced Applesauce Snack Cake (Gluten Free)

Applesauce Cake

I often wonder why pumpkins get all the glory in the fall. Maybe it’s because the green mermaid company started squirting the flavor in everything, or maybe it goes all the way back to that little cartoon-kid and his obsession with the ‘great’ one. However it started, I find it disheartening that the ‘other’ fall flavor doesn’t get much credit.

Growing up at the farm house, my spring, summer, and fall were filled with visions of apple blossoms, bees, buds, and finally tiny round green promises that I watched grow into big beauties.

In the fall our lawn was never mowed in the straight lines and patterns that I so often enjoyed creating on the John Deere. Instead, there where zigzags. Swaths of grass cut on strange angles were evidence of my trips back and forth to the tree line so I could pick another snack off a low branch. The neighbor’s horse benefited, too. A handful of imperfect apple always made it across the fence to old JoAnn as I roared by.

We had many varieties of trees. Early apples, mid-season, and late, we were rarely without the fruit from August through October. This translates to a lot of apple recipes in my family. Here is one of the most recent – don’t let the Gluten Free label put you off, it will surprise you, and delight you. Maybe we can all work together and give the apple her glory days back.

John Deere

Spiced Applesauce Snack Cake


7 ½ ounces gluten free flour blend*

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

3 large eggs

½ cup granulated sugar (3 ½ ounces)

¼ cup light brown sugar (packed) (1 ¾ ounces)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

¾ cup applesauce (unsweetened)

1 teaspoon vanilla

(Optional – local apple butter for topping.)

*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)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set oven rack in the center position.

Lightly grease one 8 inch square cake pan, or two bread loaf pans. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of pan(s) and line the bottoms. Lightly grease parchment as well.

Whisk together gluten free flour blend, baking powder, baking soda and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl (do not use stand mixer for this recipe) whisk eggs, sugars, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves until well combined and eggs are light in color. Slowly add melted butter while whisking until combined. Incorporate apple sauce and vanilla. Last, add the dry flour mixture and thoroughly combine. Mixture should be smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Bake until cake tester comes out clean – about 30 minutes – rotating pan(s) half way through baking time.

Cool completely before storing. Cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored for up to three days in the refrigerator.

Meaty Marinara Sauce (Gluten Free) (Slow Cooker)

It’s so good I missed the photo op…


There are several things that makes this Meaty Marinara Sauce one of my go-to meals. First off, it uses one of my favorite things – a slow cooker. Second, my other business is on full throttle, and that means I have little to no time to put a meal on the table every night. But since I have expensive taste, going out to dinner regularly is not healthy for the wallet, let alone my waist line. The third and final reason? I think I was Italian in another life.

My friend Vintage Thread gave me the original recipe and, me being me, couldn’t leave well enough alone. So I tweaked it here and there, and now I make it in large quantities and freeze it in four-person portions. It’s quick, easy, and hearty. Just what we need right now in the Midwest where the weather seemed to take summer, pole vault right over fall, and land us firmly in winter.


Meaty Marinara Sauce

1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb spicy sausage
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 onion, diced
2 – 15 ounce cans tomato sauce (Hunt’s brand or better)
2 – 12 ounce cans tomato paste (Hunt’s brand or better)
2 envelopes (approximately 1.5 ounces each)Italian spaghetti sauce seasoning mix (McCormicks or Lawry’s brand)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon oregano (freshly minces, or dried)
1 clove garlic (pushed through a press, or minced very fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
4 cups water

•    In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat until no longer pink. Cook the onions until soft and translucent. Drain well and transfer to slow cooker.
•    Stir in all remaining ingredients and set slow cooker on Low for 8 hours.
•    Serve with pasta and top with Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Freeze left overs in one cup servings for later use. To thaw, place in refrigerator overnight or microwave for 2 minutes at 50% power. Transfer to sauce pan to heat on stove top until pasta is ready and sauce is hot.

Pineapple Up Side Down Cake (Gluten Free)

Pineapple Finished I felt yucky. My health issues were getting in the way of my day-to-day activities and I knew I had to do something about it. It had been eight months and it was time to admit there was a problem. I finally (and reluctantly) went to see my doctor. After a month-long process of tests, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in February. When I tell people about my health issue and my new diet restrictions I get two reactions. The first is a horrified look, and something along the lines of ‘Oh my God, I could NEVER live without pasta’. Followed by, ‘Wait, don’t you run a bakery out of your home?’ Ok, first. Yes, you can live without gluten-infused pasta. There are a lot of substitutions available and I am lucky to live in a country where they are so readily available. And second, yes, I do run a bakery out of my home and it is a big challenge. This is why I am slowly but surely transforming all of my products to be gluten free. While I am busy morphing my product line, there are still other very important items to attend to. Like cravings. This week I really, really wanted some Pineapple Up Side Down Cake, and it didn’t help that  this came in the mail. Pineapple So I got to work… Pineapple1 and this happened… Pineapple Slice Pineapple Up Side Down Cake (Gluten Free*)

*Make this from scratch like I did, or use a boxed gluten free yellow cake mix. The method remains the same.


1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored

3/4 stick unsalted butter

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar


3 ounces white chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces

5 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend**

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon xanthun gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs, separated

Pinch cream of tarter

3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup sour cream


**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)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees, set oven rack to middle position and grease a 9″ cake pan.

Make Topping

Use the handy dandy pineapple corer/slicer, or cut pineapple crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.

Melt butter in sauce pan.

Add brown sugar and simmer over medium heat, stirring, five minutes. Pour caramel mixture into prepared cake pan. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in desired pattern.

Make Batter

Microwave chocolate and butter together in a bowl, thirty seconds at a time until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes). Set aside to slightly cool.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour blend, baking powder, xanthun gum, salt and baking soda.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites and cream of tarter on medium speed for 1 minute. Turn speed up to high and whip for another 1 minute.

While the mixer is running, slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form. This will take 2-3 minutes.

Transfer egg whites to clean bowl.

Put (your now empty) bowl back and add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds.

While mixer is running, add 1/4 cup sugar, then turn the speed up to high. Whip for 2 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium and add chocolate mixture and sour cream. Mix for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold egg white mixture into batter until no streaks remain. Spread batter over pineapple/caramel mixture in baking pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center should bounce back slightly when touched.

Cool on a rack for one hour. Invert cake onto serving plate. Some puddles of caramel might be visible. These will be absorbed by the cake within minutes.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two days.