Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. We have been

and unfortunately, we were too busy to take many pictures. So, I will proceed here the best I can.

A gluten free Thanksgiving will be our tradition for the rest of our lives. If you come to celebrate with us, as Paul's family and our niece Lisa did this year, you will learn you can still enjoy the dishes of the holiday and not even know we have used flours other than those containing gluten. We are still working to improve our dishes, but feel we are definitely heading in the right direction.

First menu items: 
Mashed Potatoes

We ordered two fresh twelve pound free range turkeys from our local butcher as he can promise us they are not injected with stuff.

We cooked one of the turkeys in the Brinkman smoker, using this recipe. And, because we wanted to save oven space and neither Paul nor I has ever been impressed with a turkey we have done in the electric roaster, we decided to roast the second one on the Weber gas grill. Both turned out well and we agreed we will do this again.

During those busy last minutes before the meal is served, Nick dug in and mashed the potatoes and Paul's sister, Jayne, made the gravy. We used Bob's Red Mill™All Purpose Flour for the gravy and most of the "drippings" were from the smoked turkey. We didn't even supplement with chicken broth, so we were pretty happy with our turkeys!!! And, there was a bit of a "kick" to the gravy as well, thanks to nephew Kevin's recipe for poultry rub. I feel quite privileged he shared the recipe with me. He and Chad are master chefs.

More side dishes:

Ever since Paul tasted my Mom's wild rice casserole at a Thanksgiving probably 30 years ago, we have included it in our tradition as well. For quite a few years, when we would travel up to Wyndmere to share Thanksgiving with Marlys and Paul, this dish would be my contribution to the meal. I even remember cooking it in a crock pot at a hotel in Wahpeton. No adaptations necessary to make it gluten free, either!

I have never been a fan of canned cranberry sauce, so I decided this year to give myself a gift and bought a mold at Williams-Sonoma and made this cranberry sauce.

I love the fresh taste.  The can shape is our funny tradition, so it will always remain.

Sweet potato casserole. Easy to adapt to gluten free. Fresh sweet potatoes are easy to use and way better than the canned version.

Our gluten free pie discovery this year was to make a crust by blending one package of Kinnikinnick ginger snap cookies with 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter. This was pressed into the bottom of a pyrex pie plate and topped with the pumpkin pie recipe from Libby's.  It turned out great and our gluten free ladies appreciated the dessert option.

Nick, our 23 year old son,

and his close friends from high school years have gathered at our home for years (6?) during Thanksgiving weekend to share a meal and some important bonding time. Each year Nick, Paul and I plan a menu and work together to prepare the meal for the guys. This year, Nick really pushed up his sleeves and got to work with me in the kitchen. We were all pleased with the results of our efforts.

We served:
First course: 
Carrot Soup  
Suzanne and Jon joined us for the evening, so gluten free was once again a necessity.  No problems with this course!
Second course:
Salad with Sweet Red Pepper Vinaigrette
Nick and I worked together to invent this salad dressing.  I came up with the sweet red pepper as a base and he suggested it needed balsamic vinegar to round out the flavor.  Good idea!
Main course:
Garlic Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
The boys always need potatoes.
Tuscan style New York Strip.
Being the steak fan that he is, this is one of Paul's signature dishes.  He takes down his massive mortar and pestle to grind green peppercorns with kosher salt and rubs the steaks with olive oil and the peppercorn mixture before we throw them on the grill.  EXCELLENT. Trust me.
Maple-Ginger-Roasted Vegetables with Pecans.
Nick and I peeled and chopped for quite some time to prepare this dish.  It was well worth it! I loved the ginger kick.
Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle
This was the first time I had prepared the recipe and substituting gluten free flour without trying the original recipe was a bit of a gamble. No problems! The gingerbread could have been served on its own.  It was so moist and very good. Nick made the pumpkin mousse and assembled the trifle. It was labor intensive, but I cannot recommend this recipe enough. It was a big hit. Wonderful.

What can be better than spending a day in the kitchen with your husband and son? Well, having your beautiful daughter and a houseful of great young men who love to eat sitting at your table enjoying what you've cooked! What a wonderful ending to a great day.

Today was quiet.

We munched on leftovers... Paul and Nick watched football...I worked on my recipe project...We got out the Christmas dishes...Paul asked if I had thought about making that fruit cake he liked so much last year...I had already located the recipe... Here we go!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A New Goal For Barb

To be completely honest,

I was reminded of this fact when I was putting together my recipes for Thanksgiving.  I spend considerable time reading cookbooks and cooking magazines (when I am not watching the food shows on television)

or "working" on the computer.

Anyway, while I was organizing my recipes for Thanksgiving, I realized I really do like to have

and my recipes aren't even close. 

I have torn recipes out of magazines for years because they sound appealing and I have stashed them in recipe boxes or binders.  Or, more and more, I now have stored them in different locations on my computer or recipe sites on line. Quite frankly, it is a little out of control. To locate one I'd like to cook can be a bit of a challenge.  Because we do experiment with lots of different recipes in our kitchen, I also need a system of notating what we liked (or didn't like) about a recipe. Sometimes, we'll cook something we'd just as soon forget!

So, I decided I needed a system to organize and notate the whole mess.  
I am a goal driven person, even in my retirement.

Here is my "newest" personal challenge.  I have started to organize my recipe collection to live on a website like I did for my mother's recipes. That project was the one I looked forward to the most when  I saw my retirement getting closer. I wanted to get her recipes out there for her family to have and use.

Now, it is time to get to my mess. I figure if I make an official announcement, I might stay more focused. There's only fifty or so added at this date.  Trust me, there's many more.  And, if you make any of the recipes from the collection, send me a message or email and I will add your recommendation and comments to the note section of the recipe. Many of the recipes I have not tried, they just appealed to me, so it would be interesting to know if anyone else tries one of them. This is obviously going to be a "fluid" project, so expect to see it grow.

Time to get back to chasing that carrot!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Apple Butter!

Paul asked me the other day what I would consider

Mom's homemade bread immediately came to mind.  And for me, that homemade bread would either be made into a raw onion sandwich (hey, don't knock it until you try it with sweet onions from the garden) or toasted and topped with apple butter.  Too bad they don't have an aisle for home canned goodies in the grocery store.

It just so happened that Marlys and Paul brought us a great big box of Haralson apples

when they came to our house for Lisa and my Julia Child paella dinner. They happen to be my favorite apple, sliced and eaten with just a sprinkle of salt.  However, there were just too many apples for me to eat! Marlys also happened to bring a sample of her homemade apple butter (using our Mom's recipe) with that big box of apples.

I recently purchased a new Dutch Oven, which prompted Suzanne to send me a recipe for apple butter made in that type of pot. With two reminders of one of my favorite comfort foods, I guess I had no other choice!  So, I spent the past two days turning 20 pounds of apples into homemade apple butter. Paul had the camera ready to snap pictures of the project as it unfolded.

Day One: Apple Sauce Day

I washed and cored the apples.

Some recipes indicate to peel the apples first.  I didn't for two reasons:

  1. I didn't want to peel all those apples!
  2. I like the color the cooked peels give to the applesauce.
I cooked the sliced apples for about 30 minutes.  For every dozen apples, I added a cup of water, 1/4 cup sugar and a dash of salt.

I gave the apples an occasional stir during that half hour.

When they were cooked,

it was time to put them through the food mill.

Notice, Suzanne, I am using all gluten free equipment!!

This step is a bit laborious, but well worth the effort!  Those 20 pounds of apples made about 10 quarts of applesauce.  I kept about 2 quarts to eat as apple sauce and designated the remaining eight quarts for apple butter. Time to clean up the kitchen and call it a day.

Day Two: Apple Butter Day

I divided the apple sauce into two pots, using Mom's recipe in one and an adaptation of the recipe from Suzanne in the second.  When the flavorings are added, the applesauce has to simmer slowly on the stove. Stirring every so often keeps the apple mixture from burning on the bottom.  The cast iron worked perfectly for this slow cooking process, providing very even heat without any hot spots on the bottom.

 It took several hours for the apple sauce to thicken into apple butter.  Our house smelled so incredibly wonderful all day.  It was fun to walk into the kitchen and give the pots a stir!

When the apple butter held its shape on a spoon, I considered it done.  And that sample from Marlys helped to have as a point of reference.

Next, the apple butter was placed into the jars.

After their covers and rings were in place, the jars went into their hot water bath and were processed for ten minutes.

There really is a great sense of satisfaction to hear those pings when the jars seal!

We now have sixteen jars of apple butter. Suzanne, time to fire up that new gluten free bread machine! Let's make some toast!   Or use it to sweeten yogurt, or on pancakes, or with a pork chop... Yum!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Dutch Oven

I decided I wanted needed a new piece of cookware to take when we live in the North Trail for four months. That's right. Four months in a very minimal living space (indoors). The cookware we have in the camper is not expensive.  It works, but it does not provide very even heat or allow for much temperature variation. During our summer camping, it is sufficient, as we grill almost all of our meals. But, for that extensive amount of time away from my home kitchen, I need more versatility.   A new addition to the camper needed to meet certain requirements.

  • The cookware needed to work for more than one cooking task.
  • It had to be cast iron, my cookware of choice.  
  • Handles were an issue.  Long handles make storage a problem in our minimal space. 
This 5 quart Lodge™ cast iron Double Dutch oven

has a cover that doubles as a skillet!  Two pans in one!!!  And loop handles. And I had a gift certificate that covered the entire cost of the pan!!! Perfect.

It is a one of our designated gluten free pans. We wanted to break the cookware in, so we christened it with this stew recipe, making a few changes. A gluten free flour mix took the place of the flour, which worked beautifully. I added turnips, because they were in the refrigerator.  And, instead of the tomato paste, I used some canned chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce. Why? Because they were in my pantry and tomato paste wasn't. I also turned the oven temperature down to 300ยบ and let it stew for four hours, adding the vegetables after the first two hours.  Mighty tasty, with a bit of a spicy surprise!  The pan worked fantastically. And, it was easy to clean, too.  It came preseasoned, which was a nice surprise. One should always avoid using soap in cast iron.

I am challenging myself to make apple butter this week.

Marlys and Paul brought me a huge box of these:

Haralson apples. They happen to be my favorite kind of apple in the whole world. Right from their yard.  Beautiful ones, too, I might add.  No blemishes and never been sprayed.

I will be trying two different recipes, one of my Mom's and one that Suzanne sent me.  I am posting this here to challenge myself to get this accomplished in the next few days.  Hopefully, I'll get some pictures of the process as well.

Now, I am going to enjoy this beautiful Indian summer.  Finally.  We deserved it after that entire month of October!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Gluten Free Mom

Today I am venturing away from my usual on this blog/travelogue.  I have some observations to share.  Maybe I will even get a response or two as a point of discussion.  It could be a little bit of a

rant, we'll see.

A few days ago, I baked a cake.  We were having some good friends over for dinner and I wanted to make something different and new.   I found this recipe in the most recent Food and Wine magazine and decided to give it a try. As I worked in the kitchen that morning, I came to the realization I very rarely bake anything  anymore that isn't gluten free.

Our beautiful daughter suffered terribly for several years before learning/figuring out gluten was the cause of her problems. The first thing we did when she learned she had to make this life change was to deglutenize her kitchen. My husband and I spent a day with Suzanne going through her kitchen moving things out and making lists of what needed to be replaced. Gradually, her kitchen was restocked with cookware and bakeware she can use without worry.  It was an interesting process to go through and step one in my awakening.

I have just a small comprehension of what it is like for her.  She has adjusted very well and gives me one more reason to be very proud of her. As a result of this change in her life, she has become a very adventurous and excellent cook.  Thank heavens for blogs. She has learned so much from her readings.

As a medical student doing rotations, she spends most of her days (and many nights) in hospitals.  It is difficult for her to find gluten free food in a hospital cafeteria, so she has to bring whatever she eats with her.  It would be so much easier if she could grab something to eat while on a seventeen hour shift, but that is not usually the case.

I will chicken walk a bit here. 

Eighteen months ago I had colon surgery.  When I was finally able to start a little bit of food other than clear broth, I had to state on the hospital menu card if I had any allergies/food intolerances.  I am lactose intolerant.  What their restricted diet menu had to offer was a milk based soup.  It is obvious serving dairy products to a lactose intolerant person reintroducing food to her digestive system is probably not the best idea.  Did the hospital kitchen have a lactose free menu?  No.  And there was no alternative.  They actually seemed puzzled.  I had to drink clear broth and those awful fortified juice boxes. Every transitional meal posed a problem during my stay there.  Do you think I was the only lactose intolerant patient in that hospital?  And meeting the needs of a lactose intolerant person is much easier than making certain a celiac is able to eat safely.  That is eating in a hospital, people.  What is it like out there where they aren't taking care of people's health?

That was another window into my daughter's world. 

She has learned to endure ignorance and closed mindedness.  Like being offered white bread. It isn’t whole wheat bread, so what’s the problem? And, couldn't she just eat around those croutons on the salad? Restaurant dining is difficult.  Very few restaurant kitchens are safe for the gluten intolerant.  As a result, meeting friends or family for a meal out means most of the time she has to eat before she arrives at the function and then while everyone else eats, she sips a beverage (maybe). 

Holidays are a challenge.  It’s bad enough she has to forgo some of her old favorites served at the family gatherings, she also is faced with people who don’t understand why she can’t eat the food cooked in someone else’s kitchen.  This is not something she just has to “get over” and she is not being a finicky eater.  

Step off the soap box, Barb. 

Deep breaths...

Back to the observations during my cake baking the other morning....

After we made Suzanne's kitchen safe, I walked into mine with new eyes.  How do I make my kitchen safe for my daughter to feel comfortable?  I have thirty years of "gluten" cookware.  My first step was to gradually procure a separate set of (inexpensive) cookware to use when I cook for our daughter.  I store these in plastic bins outside of my kitchen.  I keep all of the gluten free utensils (wooden spoons, cutting boards, measuring cups etc.) stored there as well. I also have an entire set of dishes and silverware stored separately to increase her comfort level. Baking powder (gluten free), baking soda, corn meal, anything that might get mixed by an uncareful scoop are also kept in separate containers.  

Having different cookware is one thing, but adapting one's cooking process is another. I vowed to myself I would be aware of everything I use in my kitchen so that when she walks into Mom's kitchen she can feel safe.  I arranged my pantry so there are now gluten free zones. Gradually, as I worked in my kitchen, I realized that every utensil I use I now question whether it is safe for her. I have had to get used to guiding people who work with me in my kitchen who haven't learned what I have learned.   Now, I can promise her it is okay.  If there is the least concern, I need to be able to tell her.  Her worries here are lessening.

That is what I was thinking as I baked that cake. It is more difficult for me to work with gluten flour in my kitchen than it is for me to work with the alternative.  I hadn't even realized it.  The expensive cookware I have accumulated over the years is the next hurdle.  I am starting to make a transition there as well. I received a wonderful cast iron dutch oven as a gift last week.  It is designated to be gluten free. Eventually, will my old cookware be stored elsewhere and these new items take their place in my kitchen?  I am guessing yes.

The holidays are ahead.  I have a gluten free Thanksgiving planned.  Our second. And, this will be our third family Christmas dinner. I have learned from these and continue to make adjustments. I know they will be excellent meals, even with the changes from the traditional menus.  If our dinners aren't potluck, people eat mostly gluten free here and usually guests are unaware.  

I would be interested to learn from others about their transition to "gluten safe zone" kitchens.   Our daughter lives on her own. If she lived at home when we had to make this transition, how would I have gone through my well stocked kitchen in a matter of hours and come out with a safe environment? Certainly others have gone through this. We read the gluten free chefs. How about more from those who live with them? Are there ideas out there from which I can learn? Can I give ideas to people new to this?

Incidentally, the apple cake was excellent.  I will make the recipe again, only gluten free.  I sent the leftover cake with our son to take to his always hungry friends.  It just didn't seem right to have it here in the kitchen.