Blogs > Suddenly Gluten Free

One mom's journey into a gluten-free kitchen after her son was diagnosed with celiac disease and autism. Get gluten-free recipes that even the pickiest eater will gobble up and learn how to plan meals for people with special diets.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dipping into the new year

A new year is approaching and I'm excited for it. New days await us, and it's a good time to reflect on what we are leaving behind and plan for better times ahead. And what better way to do that then with your closest friends and family?

Hopefully, the company you keep on New Year's Eve is aware of special diets. And the good news is, it's not difficult to snack gluten-free. Volunteer to bring a dip or munchie or, if you're hosting friends, know that it's easy to create a cost-effective, healthy, gluten-free spread.

Here are some suggestions:

The dip:
Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Spread (adapted from Weight Watchers)
1 jar roasted red peppers in water, drained
4-5 ounces feta cheese
2 bricks cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat Philly)
3 sprigs fresh dill
1 clove garlic
fresh ground pepper

Put all ingredients into food processor and blend. Store in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The chip:
Crunchmaster's multi-seed crackers go really well with this dip. I found them at Westborn in Berkley and Kroger. Just a great cracker and looks just like the "wheat" variety. Your guests won't miss a thing.

The dip:
Guacamole (photo at top)
3 semi-ripe avocados
1/4 sweet onion, diced small
1/2 beefsteak tomato, diced
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste

Cut avocados in half and remove the seed (with spoon or by stabbing with blade of a large knife, twisting and pulling out seed). Spoon out avocado flesh and place on cutting board. Cut into medium sized chunks and scrape into large bowl. Use board to cut onions and tomatoes and add to bowl. Squeeze lime over guac mixture and add garlic and salt. Depending on the texture, either mix with a spoon, or mash with a fork. I like a chunky guac, so I don't mash it.

Tip> Make sure avocados are not too mushy. Look for ones that still have some green on the skin, but have give when you squeeze it gently so they are good enough to stay in small chunks but not too hard so they are not creamy.

The chip:
I prefer Garden Fresh Gourmet tortilla chips. They can be found almost anywhere in the metro Detroit area, as they are made in Ferndale. Also good are Tostito's Scoops, especially for a chunky dip.

The dip:
I like Sabra the best. I can not make one as good as that because I just have not mastered the art. And another note on this brand, I have not received confirmation that it is gluten-free. I got the "we can not guarantee that this product is gluten-free, but it is made from gluten-free ingredients." My son is very sensitive and he has never had a problem, so I can just tell you that from our experience it has been a safe snack. For those of you who would like to take a stab at hummus-making, here is a recipe:
  • 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
  • 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

The chip:
Hands down the best thing to dip into hummus are cucumber slices. Simply wash and cut 2 cucumbers into "chips" for a healthy and crunchy dipper. My son's favorite, though, are Glutino crackers. He likes to take little spreaders and put them on the round crackers all by himself.

Other suggestions:
Layer beans mixed with Penzy's Taco (or recipe here) seasoning (go with chicken taco seasoning for dairy-free), tomatoes, sour cream (Tofutti for dairy free) and black olives in a 9-by-11 dish for a festive dip. Another good tex-mex dip is a can of black beans, a cup of corn and a 1/2 cup of salsa. Don't forget a veggie tray and a fruit salad make nice munchies everyone can eat.

Remember, most distilled liquor is gluten-free, so drink responsibly. Revisit my post on the topic here. Also, many local stores (Hiller's, Mug and Jug, some Krogers and Whole Foods) carry gluten-free beer. Revisit my beer review here.

So, cheers to you 2010. And may the New Year be full of food, friends and fortune.


Friday, December 17, 2010

For the holidays

One week to go before Christmas and it's time to preheat the oven. Whether it's baking cookies for friends and neighbors, treating yourself at the end of a hectic day or simply warming the house with smells of sugar and spice, do yourself a favor and pull out the gluten-free flour and mix up a holiday confection.

1. Chocolate Chip Muffins (photo at top)

I'm not a baker, by all means, but sometimes I get lucky. In a desperate attempt to entertain the kids earlier this week when snow and ice kept them indoors and out of school, I pulled out all my recipe books and decided we were going to make muffins from scratch. Even if they turned out awful, I was convinced it would be a fun activity that would keep us busy for a while. I was right about the fun. And fortunately I was wrong about them turning out awful.

Even with two rambunctious boys in the kitchen, and with my limited baking skills, these muffins turned out to be scrumptious, chocolate masterpieces. The kids had fun measuring the ingredients and scooping the batter into the muffin tins (the batter is thick, so it was easy for them to make it to the cups without spilling). We have been eating them all week as on-the-go snacks. I can only imagine how good they would be Christmas morning.

This version is adapted from Carol Fenster's Giant Chocolate Chip Muffins recipe in "Gluten-Free Quick and Easy." Make these now and freeze them -- you won't be sorry.

2 cups gluten-free flour blend (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (we used Almond Breeze)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips (we used Enjoy Life)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper cupcake tins.
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium until mixture thickens slightly. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each about 2/3 full. Makes about 17 muffins. Bake 27-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Serve warm or cool completely and freeze in plastic storage bag.

2. Cutout cookies

My little one has been pretty excited about Santa this year. Every night he asks me if we should set out cookies and milk. I decided I'd better have something prepared for the occasion. I found a box of 123 Gluten Free Sugar Cookie mix (which is also dairy, peanut and soy free) $1 off at Kroger and decided it was time to act. Even at $1 off, the price was steap, but the results proved I didn't waste my money. The cookies were soft and buttery and delicious.

Warning:Follow the directions carefully if you use this brand. I put the dough in the fridge overnight and cut the cookies a little thicker (see photo above), as the dough is VERY fragile. Also, you'll want to use a Silpat and a razor thin metal spatula for the same reason. The box says the dough yields 40 cookies, but it is closer to 30 unless you have a super small cookie cutter.

For frosting, I used the basic confectioner's sugar recipe found on the back of most powdered sugar packages. Here it is Boldif it's not:

In medium saucepan, mix 2 cups confectioner's sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk or milk substitute. Heat on low until sugar melts, whisking and adding 1 tablespoon milk at time until desired consistency. Turn off heat. Will thicken substantially as it cools. I like to spoon some into a few bowls, add color and let it cool slightly before frosting. As it cools completely, it should harden on top of cookie.

These were a hit at the school's holiday party and we will be sure to leave one for Santa!

3. Rice Crispies Tried and True

Whether bringing a treat to a holiday party, keeping special snacks on hand to make the season bright or just want a project to do with the kids, you can't beat Rice Crispy Treats. It's so simple to melt a bag of marshmallows (Kraft is gluten-free), a stick of butter (or Earth Balance) and mix in a full box of gluten-free rice cereal. I let the kids pour in the stuff. One day I will let them form little animals or shapes, but this batch was for a preschool party!

Here's some fun things to do with the mix, but I simply spread the mix into a Pyrex and refrigerated overnight. In the morning, I used a spatula to pry the whole rectangle out of the pan and plopped it on my cutting board and cut the whole shabam into squares. Easy and fool-proof. TIP: Dip a wooden spoon in ice water and use to spread into pan. The cold, wet surface won't stick to the gooey mix.

Remember, Kellogg's Rice Krispies are NOT gluten-free as they contain barley. Try Erewon or Nature's Path found at Hiller's and Whole Foods. Also beware the label "wheat free." Some organic brands are wheat-free, but NOT gluten-free.

* * * * *
Now that I have a few treats up my sleeves, I can turn off the oven and wrap a few presents. I'm not Betty Crocker yet, but I'm trying to blend in for the holidays. Santa has cookies, the kids are done with their parties and I'm hanging up the apron for now. I still haven't mastered fudge or complex cookies yet, but I've got the basics down.

I have no complaints so far.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meat and potatoes on such a winters day

The weather outside surely is frightful, but having time to spend in the kitchen is delightful. Especially during this time of year.

While the temperature drops along with soft flakes of snow, I'm fine with staying in and preparing a healthful meal for my family.

Nothing is better for them than a warm, hearty meal at the end of the day. And nothing says hearty to me like a good ol' meat-and-potatoes meal. The simple protein, veggie, starch approach to the end-of-the day meal is a good one to follow if you are eating gluten-free. An economical way to end the day, fill your freezer with chicken breast, beef cuts and pork tenderloin for a quick go-to during weeknights in.

Potatoes, rice and quinoa are great gf starch staples and meat dishes are easy to prepare. Steam or roast your favorite veggies and you have a no muss, no fuss meal to eat as you stare out at the winter wonderland.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Beef Stroganoff
1 teaspoon olive oil
1-2 pound cut of beef (such as sirloin or tenderloin) cut into thin strips

1/2 sweet onion, chopped into large pieces

A 32 ounce box chicken or beef broth (such as Kitchen Basics)

salt, pepper to taste

3 tablespoons dried mustard

1 small can tomato paste

1 small package of mushrooms, sliced (optional)

Sour cream for topping (optional)

Cut and season beef. In large skillet, brown meat in oil. Drain and add onions and mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes, then add broth and mustard. Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until beef is tender. Stir in tomato paste with large spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan. Return to a simmer for 5 minutes, stir and remove heat. Add sour cream if desired and serve over gluten-free pasta or rice.

* * *

Another meal that's quick, easy and filling on a cold winter day can start with a whole chicken breast. I sliced mine into two pieces one night and simply covered them with sauce in a casserole dish. San-J offers a variety of sauces, marinades and dressings that make meat-and-potato meals a snap. I baked my pork in San-J's gluten-free Sweet and Tangy sauce next to a few sweet potatoes. I simply steamed some broccoli and mashed the potatoes with some applesauce to go with it and we were all pleased with the results.

Saucy Chicken (photo at top)
1 whole chicken breast chopped into two pieces
1 teaspoon oil
One 10 ounce bottle of cooking sauce (check out San-J's list
here), reserve 3 tablespoons for drizzling

Place chicken in casserole dish and cover with sauce. Cook at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Slice and top with reserved sauce.

Here is another recipe for pork using Sweet and Tangy sauce. Also try out San-J's gluten-free soy and tamari sauces! I was pleased to find these existed gluten-free and found both at the Royal Oak Kroger.

Stay warm and eat well. Link

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Use what you got, lose the stress

Stress. It's all around us.

We are living in a 24-hour, plugged-in and every-changing environment. On the bright side, the world is at our fingertips. On the flip side, the ever-flowing information from our Smart phones and laptops never escapes us and can feel like a far stretch from the modern "convenience" it was intended to be. At no time is this dilemma more evident than during the holidays. And as I always say, special diets make it THAT MUCH more stressful.

So, this holiday season, I'm thinking ahead and utilizing my resources. I'm also trying not to make things too complicated. It will be a combination of taking it easy and taking advantage of the information that streams to me.

Easy: Make dinner simple. Pizza night with steamed broccoli. We like Buddy's if we're out, Amy's (at most grocery chains, but find the soy cheeze variety at Meijer and Hiller's) and Kinnickinnick crusts with sauce and cheese (such as Vegan Gourmet found at Whole Foods). Another easy dinner solution? Breakfast for dinner. Pull out the pancake mix, add some pumpkin puree left over from Thanksgiving or some applesauce for extra sweetness and nutrition. Make a smoothie and some scrambled eggs and enjoy an easy and cheap meal reversal.

Resource: My sister-in-law is a wonderful mother and aunt. During a holiday gathering, she handed me a bag of chocolates from Amanda's Own Confections for my picky eater. My niece has a peanut allergy and she went out of her way to order chocolates for the occasion that they all can have: nut free, dairy-free, gluten-free. Check out the website here. Also check out the Chocolate Emporium for a special gift for someone. I know I appreciated it!

Easy: Expecting a rough week? Think ahead during any downtime, be it a Sunday, afternoon or after-bedtime adult time. Cook up a batch of chili or bake some muffins. You will thank yourself when you are rushing the next day. Check out this very simple and delicious recipe from Rold Gold Tomatoes, a local company that uses tomatoes grown at a variety of Michigan farms. Here is what they sent me about their product: "Red Gold generally does not contain wheat, oat, barley, or rye. Ingredients containing one of these, such as flour, would be identified on the back panel. They also do not use corn sweeteners in their canned tomatoes, which can contain corn gluten." Very easy.

Think-ahead Chili
2 cans (14.5 ounces) Rold Gold Diced Tomatoes Chili Ready with Onions
1 (15 ounces) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounces) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10 ounce package frozen kernel corn
2 teaspoons chili powder


  • In large saucepan, combine tomatoes, garbanzo beans, black beans, corn and chili powder; mix well.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Cool and store in individual storage bowls, or in a large bowl for a meal the next day. Goes well with Bob's Red Mill corn muffins.
Resource: Get yourself a cookbook for the holidays! I recommend "The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free." This one is a resource you will go back to. Anne Byrn takes gluten-free mixes from Better Crocker, King Arthur, Whole Foods and others and makes them into masterpieces. There's gads of photos and directions for dairy-free versions of frostings, cakes, cookies, muffins, bundt cakes and everything you would ever want to bake in an easy-to-use format with room for notes on what worked and tips that you learned along the way. There is advice at every step, even how to share and freeze your goodies.

Easy: Don't bake it yourself! Kevin Brand of Breadsmith of Bloomfield Hills recently sent me home a sample of Gluten Free bread (photo at top) from his shop. I sliced it up and froze it for toast and sandwiches, but it could easily be served with appetizers at holiday gatherings. The shop takes extra steps and tests the bread to assure there is no gluten contamination. He says the products are dairy-free but do contain eggs. Brand says the bread is: "available fresh baked from my shop every Thursday by advance order only. Orders must be in by 2 p.m. Wednesdays. The advance order is for two main reasons. First I'm trying to keep the retail price affordable since this product is a need not want. Second, seeing as that we are a gluten facility I can't have the product sitting in my store and therefore I don't want any extra other than what is ordered for that day." Check out the Breadsmith at Maple and Lahser or here.

Resource: Use that phone of yours! Look up restaurants, call them and ask about gluten-free menus. Take photos of things you enjoy or dislike while out and about and take notes. Write down shopping lists, look up sales, look up recipes and of COURSE, for everything you need there's an app for that. Get gluten-free recipes, lists of restaurants and my favorite is the GlutenScan iPhone application that offers a gluten-free safety status, complete product and ingredient information and allergy warnings. GlutenScan allows you to call a product manufacturer at the touch of a button. Searchable by product name, category or UPC, GlutenScan gives users unprecedented access to a database of over 30,000 food products and more than 10,000 manufacturers when they need it most – while shopping at the store
. Check out a really good list of apps here.

I like this new age -- and it stresses me out. But hopefully in the thick of things I will find clarity. Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Feast for all

It's very easy to get hung up on food.

This is especially true for those of us with special diets, or cooking for someone on one. A simple meal, snack or treat must be analyzed and scrutinized before determining if it is safe to pop into our mouths. The simple act of eating is anything but. So yes, it is always forefront on our minds. I often sigh in exasperation at the thought of planning a meal, and it is an all-family commitment to keep on track so our little one stays healthy and at his best.

As Thanksgiving, the biggest "food" holiday of the year, approaches, all my hangups are front and center. To ease these fears, I am cooking a large chunk of the feast myself. I'm
going to cook some food ahead, make a lot of veggies and stuff the bird with gluten-free stuffing. I am finding it not to be the feast of burden I made it out to be. Some family members are bringing dessert, "regular" dressing and sides that fit their desires. But the bulk of the feast will be allergen free.

With the main courses and sides free of gluten, I can make sure my picky eater can experience the meal and be part of a tradition that is as much about health and working together than it is about food. Just as the pilgrims had to learn a new way of life to keep themselves fed and nourished, we once were like those first settlers who came to a strange land. Today, I am happy to say that I no longer feel like a stranger in a New World, but rather like an everyday Squanto. I feel I am kneeling in the dirt teaching others my ways of cooking food and searching for meals that nourish everyone. I am happy to share what I have learned over the years both here and in my kitchen. And I'm finally confident enough to share the bounty.

I hope as we feast this year we will give thanks to those who came before us, overcame obstacles and sickness and put all their efforts onto a table shared by all.

The turkey

Truth be told, I would rather not handle the turkey. And fortunately for me, my parents will be taking on the bird. I will be making the stuffing, however, and have prepared a batch of Bob's Red Mill cornbread for the staple. I plan to make a simple stuffing with onions, celery, dried cherries, sage and cornbread. I am hoping to also include sausage but am having a heck of a time finding gluten free and msg free (msg gives me migraines) sausage. I know Hormel's Little Sizzlers sausage is free of both, but didn't see it at either Meijer or Kroger near my home.

If I was making the turkey myself, I think I would do a brine. Martha Stewart's turkey looks the best. Here is her recipe.

Corn Bread Stuffing
1 package corn bread mix, premade
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground sausage (see above), optional
1 onion, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup dried cherries
Dried salt, pepper, sage, thyme to taste
1 cup chicken stock (such as Kitchen Basics)

Cut cornbread into 1-inch cubes a day ahead and set out so they are dry.
To make stuffing: Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium low heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not brown. Add sausage (if using) and cook until sausage is fully cooked through. Stir in thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Add sausage mixture to cornbread and toss to blend. Slowly pour in stock and toss to moisten. Use to stuff bird or cook on the side.

Here are some safety guidelines from the USDA on preparing a stuffed turkey.

On the side: Spread stuffing in a buttered or oiled 9x15-inch baking dish. Cover and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until top is crisp and golden.

The veggies
I know a lot of people like green bean casserole on Turkey Day, but we actually skip it. After all, the Native Americans and Pilgrims didn't have cream of mushroom soup in 1621! Green beans are delicious steeped in boiling water for 5 minutes, then tossed into a pan with olive oil, sliced garlic and diced tomatoes. Saute for 5-10 minutes and they are good to go. Or, serve up a bowl of plain steamed beans with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a pat of buttery spread. Top with slivered almonds for a little something extra. You'd be surprised how many people enjoy pure, steamed veggies. My grandmother always made a heaping bowl of steamed carrots cut on the angle. I didn't tell my mom, but they were always my favorite!

I am planning corn, steamed carrots and string beans on the menu, and also this squash recipe from The Associated Press (use buttery spread in place of the butter if making dairy-free):


Servings: 8

5 1/2 pounds acorn squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

5 tablespoons butter

16 large fresh sage leaves

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the squash and simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well in a colander, then return the squash to the pot, cover and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the butter begins to bubble, add the sage leaves.

As the butter browns, fry the sage leaves on both sides (turning them as needed) until crispy, skimming any solids off the butter as needed, 3 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the sage leaves to a paper towel to drain. Set aside.

Coarsely chop half of the sage leaves and add, along with the browned butter, to the reserved squash. Stir over medium heat until the squash is well coated with butter and heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the squash garnished with the reserved whole fried sage leaves.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 191 calories; 67 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 19 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 5 g fiber; 130 mg sodium.

Mashed potatoes are easily gluten free. Just boil and blend with either butter and milk or buttery spread and milk substitute. Salt and pepper to taste. For extra flavor, try boiling the potatoes in broth.

For my feast, I'm also serving my son's favorite: whipped sweet potatoes.

Whipped Sweet Potatoes
3-4 large sweet potatoes, baked in the oven until soft About 1 tablespoon butter 1 cup applesauce Salt, pepper to taste

Remove skins from hot potatoes (handle with care, they can burn your hands) and put in large food processor with other ingredients. Whip until smooth. Serve immediately, or place in a casserole dish and warm for feast time.

Cranberry sauce
Don't by the can, make it fresh. "It's so easy," my mom says. And it is. Just dissolve about a teaspoon (or more if you desire) of sugar into about a cup of orange juice in a medium saucepan. Add a bag of fresh cranberries and simmer until berries pop. Pour into serving bowl. Done.

For pumpkin pie, I enjoy the Basic Pastry for Single- or Double-Crust Pie recipe. It comes from Carol Fenster's "Gluten Free Quick & Easy" cookbook. I modified it because it calls for a mix of ingredients I never seem to have on hand. I find using a flour blend from the store (like Bob's Red Mill) with a mix of starches and flours works well. Make sure tapioca flour is included in the blend.

1 2/3 cup gluten-free flour blend
1/2 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon guar gum (may be included in mix, too)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cane sugar, divided
1/2 cup shortening, Crisco or buttery spread
1/2 cup milk (soy or rice work fine)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Mix dry ingredients in food processor, 2 tablespoons sugar and shortening. Mix well and then add milk and vinegar. Blend until ball forms and remove dough from processor. Flatten into 1-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from refrigerator and knead until warm and pliable. Roll half the dough to 10-inch circle between two pieces of plastic wrap dusted with rice flour. Remove and place place on bottom of pie plate. Fill with filling and bake 25-30 minutes in 375 F oven.

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, ginger, allspice
1/3 cup sugar or 3 tablespoons honey
3 beaten eggs
1 cup lite coconut milk

Pumpkin bars:
But this year went even more simple. I bought a box of 123 Gluten Free Sweet Goodness Pan Bars at Kroger. I added a can of pumpkin puree and voila, pumpkin bars. It was pricey but fills a full 8-by-12 pan with bars. I made it ahead of time (photo at right) and topped it with powdered sugar frosting (recipe on sugar package: just melt butter or buttery spread in sauce pan, add a teaspoon of vanilla, and 2-3 cups of powdered sugar. Melt and add just enough milk or milk substitute for desired consistency. Will harden a little when cool).

Did you know? In 1621, the pilgrims shared a feast with the Wampanoag that was gluten and casein free. The supply of flour was long diminished before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, so there was no bread or pastries (including pumpkin pie) of any kind at the first Thanksgiving. It is reported that they did eat boiled pumpkin and created a type of fried bread from corn. Also, there was no dairy because there were no domestic cattle at the early settlement. The feast is likely to not have even included turkey (and definitely not stuffing) and likely was made up of fish, berries, lobster, dried fruit, clams, venison and plums.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Don't toss the seeds

We carve our pumpkins on Halloween day. They are fresh and ready for lighting during trick-or-treating and it's a fun holiday custom. This year, I'm saving the seeds for a delicious gluten-free snack.

Pumpkin seeds have a nutty flavor. They satisfy salty and crunchy cravings and are a good energy-packed snack to munch on while you're on the go. Experiment with flavors for a variety. Try Cajun seasoning on your seeds, or cinnamon and sugar.

Pumpkin seeds are a nutritious snack, packed with minerals and an excellent lean source of protein, as well as beneficial polyunsaturated fats that nuts don't have. The seeds contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. For more on pumpkin seed nutrition (without salt), click here.

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

1. Scoop seeds and pulp from a medium to large pumpkin and separate into a large colander. Rinse under cold water, picking out additional pulp and strings.

2. Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and roll seeds around pan with hands to coat. You can also spray with Pam (non baking is gluten-free).

3. Sprinkle with salt or desired spices and bake at 325 F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.

4. Let cool and store in an air-tight container or large plastic bag.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pot of witches' stew

It was a Sunday afternoon and we anticipated a long day. The kids were dressed in their finest Halloween garb and were anticipating a ghoulish adventure at Huckleberry Railroad in Flint. I packed a few treats (such as Enjoy Life chocolate bars, Glutino pretzels and gummies) I knew were safe, some Celiac Specialties doughnuts and we were off.

The sun was shining and the kids were in high spirits as we joined other little monsters gathered at the Genessee County park for the event. They started off sluggishly holding our hands and dragging their feet but after merely moments, they perked right up.

A lineup of 20 trick-or-treat stations did to them what 2-3 cups of coffee do to me the morning after working the afternoon shift at the paper. Add a 40-minute train ride and my little ones were pretty scary themselves. All the Starburst candies, Skittles and Smarties (all passed out at the event!) had my picky eater living up to the name of his alter ego of the day, "Buzz" Lightyear.

A dose of "real" food was needed so that he would come down from outer space in time for bed. Good thing we planned ahead.

Grandma and grandpa came armed with a pot of potatoes, carrots, green beans and tomatoes around 11 a.m. We dumped it in a large slow cooker, added some broth and plugged our brew in. When we got home around 5:30with a car full of ghoulish and hungry trick-or-treaters, it was bubbly and delicious and just what we all needed for goblin after an afternoon of outdoor fun.

I grabbed some slices of bread from the Breadsmith* to serve with the feast. It was a hearty meal we all were looking forward to after our jaunt through the many candy stops, hay maze and train trip of the day. And a few of us even ate a few more bites of candy afterward ;)

Happy Halloween!

Witches' Stew
1-2 pounds lean beef (grandma used sirloin), cubed
1 can diced tomatoes
4-5 whole carrots, cut into large chunks at an angle
1 pound small russet or white skin potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound green beans
2 stalks celery
Olive oil
1 box beef stock (such as Kitchen Basics)
Dried spices to taste (we used Penzeys Beef Roast Seasonings), such as paprika, garlic, savory, basil, thyme, salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 bay leaves

Brown beef in about 1 teaspoon olive oil for about 5 minutes. Transfer into large stock pot or slow cooker. Add can of tomatoes to pan and scrape bottom to get all the beef drippings up. Pour tomatoes and scrapings into pot. Add remaining ingredients and season. If cooking in large stock pot: Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook at least 1 hour or until beef and vegetables are tender. If cooking in slow cooker: Turn to medium setting and cook 4-6 hours. Serve with bread or rolls of your choice.

* We recently received a loaf of gluten-free sandwich bread from the Breadsmith in Bloomfield Hills. The owner told us the bakery takes every precaution to assure there is no cross contamination. The bread is baked in the morning before any other bread is prepared and is tested for gluten contamination, packaged and stored separately. We have had no problems with the bread and I anticipate receiving more information about the Breadsmith's gluten-free breadmaking practices. It was soft and tasted like homemade bread I would have made in my own oven. I will post updates when they come to me!