Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Kind of Survival Pantry

The walls are unpainted.

One of the nerve racking problems with having a lot of allergies, mostly with a corn allergy, is that buying packaged foods is a crapshoot. You cannot trust something as simple as a bottle of water, cooking oil that claims to be just the oil listed on the bottle, or frozen strawberries that claim to be just strawberries.

Food is neatly stored.
How can bottled water be a problem? In the bottling process it is not unusual for manufactures to use corn starch as a lubricant in the machinery. Since it is not an actual ingredient of the product it is not listed as an ingredient on the label. For someone with a body as sensitive as mine this means finding out too late that another packaged food item is not safe. It creates not only a situation where I often waste money, but it means pain for as much as three days.

The broken ceiling allowed mice in.
When do I find a packaged food item that works, I, then, find the store is frequently out of that item. To resolve this I took an old coal room, I had been using for a dysfunctional pantry, and made my husband turn it into a decent pantry. I can, now, buy food by the case. 

Wood panel sealed the holes.

 I'd like to conclude this post with a recipe that uses many of the type of items stored in a pantry.

Sweet Potato Soup
Optional and alternatives ingredients are in parentheses.

2 c diced sweet potatoes (butternut squash, pumpkin)
1 large diced apple
(1 Tbs minced onions)
1 stalk mince celery
Water to cover (apple juice can be used in place of an apple and water)

Cook until tender. Turn off and cool for handling. Place a cup or two at a time in the blender and blend until smooth. Return to the pot and cook on medium low heat. Add:

½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp ground rosemary
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
(¼ tsp pepper)
1 c almond milk (any milk or cream, or milk or cream alternative)

Simmer 30 minutes or until thick and creamy. Top with roasted and salted sunflower seed. I like to roast the sunflower seeds myself and add Italian seasoning and salt at the end of the roasting.

Alternative roasted toppings:

pumpkin seeds
almond slices
chopped pecans
sesame seeds

Serve with Millet Bread.

A sweet alternative, instead of Italian seasoning and salt try cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices and 2 Tbs of your choice of sweetener. Then top with one of these choices:

sauteed apples
shredded apples
shredded carrots
candied nuts
candied seeds
dried cranberries

Serve with:
sweet crackers
in bowels made from pie crust
a couple of sugar cookie

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Where I've been, and where should I go

Yellow ceiling, orange wall, purple trim

Two weeks ago a bunch of excuses captured me. I have only just escaped.

First some pictures of what I have been doing instead of writing recipes. My daughter's sixteenth birthday is Friday the 28th.. I've been helping her redecorate her room in her favorite colors. Wild, man.

purple wall, orange trim, green curtains 
green wall, yellow shelf

Husband, Ken and his Takamine 1987

Second, my husband said what I was afraid he would say about the picture of him I posted in my last blog. “That's not my guitar. That's the mandolin.” The truth is I liked the angle of the shot. So here's my hubby and his Takamine.

Finally, I have been giving some serious thought to my writing. I believe I am a writer. I have believed that about myself since I was eleven. In all that time I have been far more raw talent than educated and/or polished skill. My first love has always been to be a homemaker and I have done that for the past 33 years. I haven't regretted it. I have loved it and I am proud of it.

Ken, his banjos, and his dog, Jack  2009
However, my sons are grown and married, with children of their own. My daughter, after years of consideration has chosen to follow my footsteps into homemaking, is doing an academic/ apprenticeship home education. I have the time to be serious about what I want to do with my writing.

I have this cooking blog, but I tend to focus a lot on memoirs. I have a Tumblr where I post mostly stuff connected to the indie band Louden Swain, an occasional thing or two about the TV show Supernatural and I write about bringing peace to politics. It started as a place for my angst about politics, but I've realized that it wasn't going to bring me civil discussions no matter what angle I chose. Finally, have another blog where I post my fan fiction and other things I'm sure I'm not going to sell.

There isn't any doubt that writing is a part of who I am and from looking at my blogs I see that I lean heavily toward story telling. It is time to learn how to make money at it. The question is, and I'm posing this to my readers, do I:
a) Develop this blog into a professional gluten/allergy-free cooking blog,
b) Get serious with what I am learning about script writing in my fan fiction and have a go at being a writer for TV (a really hard business to get into, but I'm having so much fun),
c) Create a professional blog for my little stories, forsaking all other blogs, or
d) Give up blogging in pursuit of freelance writing?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Corn-free 'Cornbread?'

Have you ever watch a show called, Red Green? Click here for a segment.

I love his line. If a woman don't find you handsome, she should at least find you handy.

I have the blessing of a man I find both handsome and handy.

My husband and I had dated about a month when we decided to get married and did so five months later. A relationship moving that fast leaves a lot, let me repeat, a lot of room for getting to know each other after you're married. Which of course is the worst way to get to know each other, but it can also be filled with wonderful surprises.

One of those surprises came about a month after our wedding. We had decided no one would buy anything over thirty dollars, it was big money back then. As we were walking through Sears he spotted a $40 guitar and beg me to let him buy it. I was a bit stunned. Why would he “suddenly” want one of those. It turned out he had taken guitar lesson and he was actually kind of good at it. I didn't regret that purchase. I didn't even regret it when a couple of years later he took two unemployment checks to buy a Takamine, and then played the same song for 10 hours a day over the next week. It wore my patience a bit, but now, he plays classical and finger style. And, one of the classical songs he plays sounds like two guitars and a bell ringing. It like so cool.

No one is perfect

When it came to my cooking his compliments came with one word adjectives, dinner was remarkable, or incredible, filling. He was analytical about food. He would tell me it wasn't right, and then refuse to tell how it was wrong, for fear I would try to fix it. When my daughter and I had to go gluten-free he remained quiet and patient as I learned this new way of cooking. For a person who can eat gluten, gluten-free food just isn't the same, yet, he remains mostly quiet. As far as I'm concerned his patience and kindness in the matter made him a saint.

Not everything can be fixed with duct tape

Five years ago the cost of gluten-free flours seemed to be so high. He immediately bought me a mill attachment for my Kitchenaide. When my Kitchenaide broke, a few months ago, he rigged the mill to allow me to continue to grind, until we bought a new Kitchenaide. It's a fairly simple mount. If you're interested in making one of your own do a little online research, as a number of people have done similar things and posted their how-to.

Making Your home Feel Like a Hug

These are the things that add up and bring to life a richness which goes beyond our troubles. Placing within us the perceptive that together we can do anything. Bless your spouse by remembering the goods things and keep their heart warm by keeping the kitchen warm with home cooking.

One of our family's favorite foods which brought the comfort and warmth of home was cornbread. I posted a recipe here. Since corn is, now, ruled out I make millet bread. While like all mock recipes it is only reminiscent of cornbread. It has the hearty, homeyness cornbread brings to the table.

Millet Bread

Preheat oven to 400
Grease and flour a 9'x9' pan. (either flour will work, rice will provide a grittiness)

1 c brown rice flour
¾ c millet flour
¼ c course ground millet flour (Don't have course ground? Replace it with a 1/4 cup of millet flour.)
1 tsp guar gum
¼ sugar*
1 Tbs baking powder
½ tsp sea salt

¼ c fat (melted palm shortening)
1 c hot milk (quick almond**)
1 slightly beaten egg

Mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Place in wet additions and mix until all dry ingredients are moist. Pour into the baking pan. The batter should be thick, maybe even spongy. Gently spread batter to the corners of the pan a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. You should see cracks in the surface of the bread, just as you would with a good cornbread.

    *if you prefer agave or honey, change the recipe to 2 Tbs of sweetener and 2 Tbs of fat.
    **Quick Almond milk is 1/3 c almonds ground in the blender. 1 c of water. First grind the almond into a meal, and then with blender on low/whip let blend for 1 minute. For this millet bread recipe use boiling water.

For a Vegan Version

Omit the egg and whip 2Tbs flax seed meal and 1 Tbs starch with your choice of the hot substitute milk.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gluten/allergy-free Seasonig blends

I love herbs and spices. The smell of them have a way of reminding you of memories, home, or special events. The smell of peppermint reminds me of late September and walks in the woods, were I grew up. The smell of chili and cumin reminds me of my father cooking a large pot of pollo mole (chicken and gravy.) Let's not forget all those wonderful smells of Christmas. Tell me what season pops into your head when you think of Christmas.

While buying an envelope or bottle of season blends can be quite handy making your own fresh blend can provide moments of creativeness, a blend tweaked to your personal needs, and best of all provide one of those many ingredients that make a house a home of warmth.

The following are some of my favorite blends that meet our households allergy-free needs.

Mexican Seasoning

½ c chili powder
2 T cumin powder
4 tsp each:
onion powder
garlic powder
2 tsp sugar

To blend either run through a coffee grinder for a few seconds. If you don't have a coffee grinder place ingredients in a tightly closed jar. You will need a jar with twice the room than the space the ingredients are taking up. Now, shake well.

For mild flavor, use 1 tablespoon in a pound of ground beef or 2 cups of beans for vegan. 2 tablespoons for a spicier version.

Italian Seasoning

2 tablespoons each:

Optional 1 teaspoon of chili pepper flakes.*

Run all item through a food possessor or coffee grinder.

* pepper flakes is a part of the original recipe, but I can't have it so I omit it.

Garlic, onion, and black pepper are stand by flavors in cooking. Since I cant have any of them it became a struggle to find a replacement. I came up with:

Colleens Cooking Concoction

4 tsp Allspice powder
2 tsp Celery seed
2 tsp ground Mustard
1 tsp Thyme leaves

Grind in coffee blender until it is a fine powder.

Only 1-2 tsp are needed in your protein choice.

Pumpkin Spice Mix

Mix the following in a jar:
  • 1/3 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg or mace
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground allspice.
For pumpkin pie, add 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of spice mix to your other ingredients.

Finally this is my corn-free baking powder recipe.

Baking Powder

2/3 cup starch (arrowroot,or kuzu)
2/3 cup cream of tartar
1/3 cup baking soda

In a large bowl mix all ingredients well. Being well blended is important to the function and the storage of baking powder. Store in a pint jar. Use it as you would prepackaged baking powder.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gluten-free Cooking 'Scratch' That

When first told to take gluten out of their diet, most people feel like something you see in the cartoons. The ground beneath them is suddenly gone. They're hanging in mid-air waiting to fall. The struggle to cook gluten-free wasn't like that for me. I had already learned about dealing with a dairy-free diet and I had fell head-over-heels in love with heath food, herbs, and the vegan diet.

During the ninety's I worked in a health food store where I learned about the vegan diet. It felt so good. Veganism naturally reduces gluten, corn, and bake goods from the diet, and incorporates a larger variety of foods into the diet. Unable to stay on the diet I continued to have health issues.

So, for me, the bottom didn't fall out. It more at slowly crumbled. It started with starch. Starch, with its high pectin content, is the quickest, easiest, and seemingly best substitute for gluten. Gluten provides quite a bit of the nutrition and the strength to hold a rise in breads and cakes. Starch's lack of nutrition lead me to develop a number of my recipes free of it. Although, cakes, breads, and cookies can be made without starch, pie crusts, crackers, tortillas, and biscuits don't hold together,crisp up or roll out with it's absence.

It was after embracing starch I hit that emptiness. Potato and corn starches have larger starch molecules. The larger the molecules the better it works as a replacement for gluten. They also tend to be cheapest. Well, what do you do if you're allergic to potatoes and corn. First there is tapioca starch. It's too close to the potato family. Crossover allergy problems happen there. So, scratch that. Arrowroot starch is an excellent corn starch substitute. Turns out, it's not unusual for manufactures to cut potato starch into a batch of arrowroot, if they are a little short during bagging. Well, scratch that. Kuzu starch made from the kudzu plant costs 7USD for 3.5 ounces. Are you going to stick a cup of it in your baking? I think not! Scratch that.

With so many foods scratched from my diet, it has been an ability to cook from 'scratch' that has been the biggest help in my struggle to live with, not only a large number of allergies, but to also put together a family meal which considers other family member's allergy concerns. It helps with remembering the ingredient combinations needed to make a cake rise, or to take out out one nutritious food and replace it with another. It makes me brave enough to can my own food, so I can avoid the starch not listed on a food label, but used to make factory canning machines work smoothly without oil.

What has helped you the most in your struggle with gluten/allergy-free cooking?

This weeks highly recommended website for understanding gluten sensitivity.

The World's Ultimate Resource On: Gluten Free Diets, Gluten Free Research, Gluten Free Help, Celiac Disease, and Gluten Free Recipes. Gluten Free Society

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

10 Tips and Tricks for the insincere Dieter

  1. When adding sugar to coffee, while someone present to observe you, try to keep the conversation lively. This will make it harder for them to know just how many spoonfuls of sugar you've added.

  2. The color of fudge blends well with coffee. No one will know if you use it for creamer.

  3. Know how to spin your grammar. If you have been eating doughnuts all day say, 'This is all I've has all day.

  4. Eat small items like marshmallows and doughnut holes in pairs. If you get caught, you can claim, 'this is only the second one' you've had.

  5. When counting calories, don't tell anyone just how high you've counted up to.

  6. Look for hidden fat. You wouldn't want to miss any.

  7. Satisfy you need for a properly dressed salad. Place extra salad dressing at the bottom of the bowl, underneath the salad greens. While at the table in front of friend impress them by barely sprinkling any dressing on top of your salad. Dig deep and enjoy your delicious salad.

  8. Keep a spray bottle of water near by during your effortless exercise routine. 
    When you hear some one coming soak your skin and intensify your activity.

  9. When eating ice cream, eat straight from the box. You can then honestly say, 'I haven't eaten one dish of ice cream.” Include a note of hurt in your voice.

  10. You've only had one spoonful. Just don't tell them you used the biggest spoon you could find.

  11. Never allow dinning alone go to waste. Enjoy all the food your happy 'little' heart desires.

  12. If this blog post caused you any hearty laughter, you've had your exercise for the day. Go take a break.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I think I'm Returning to this blog

After my husband returned to work, it seemed as if, I would never again find the time to write. I am now taking that time, more and more. Just grabbing it and learning how to do it when others are making noise and bugging me. Well, everyone is old enough to take care of themselves while I take a couple of hours for writing fun.

A lot of events have happened in my life in the past two years. I'm, now, a grandmother of 4, 3 boys and 1 girl. I found that I am allergic to corn and that corn is in everything, worst than gluten. Ive been so busy with life and so disappointed by my health issues, I considered abandoning gluten-free blogging all together.

With billions of blogs and millions of them on the subject of gluten-free cooking, I've often defeated myself by thinking why bother. Well, I love to write and I enjoy cooking, and maybe, just maybe, my experiences can help someone out there on the web. So I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna write.

However, it's going to be about more than gluten-free. I have another blog for fan fiction and other writings, mostly Supernatural fan fiction, though. If you're interested it's The Barefoot Bard.