Friday, January 15, 2010

A New Direction

I have to laugh at myself--I haven't updated since July, and I didn't even know how long it has been?
The thing is, I've started another blog, a creative journal. I love our family blog, but don't want to clog it up with All Things Meg, so for that, I started 3 Red Balloons. There I will talk about beautiful things, and writing, and design, and food (naturally). If you are at all interested, please visit I also have plans early this year to post recipes online somewhere--I will post that here as well, when it happens (hopefully soon!).
Happy New Year!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Now for Something Completely Different

Recipes! On a cooking blog!
Looking back on my recent posts it is apparent that:
1: I am learning enough about food to be dangerous, but not enough to feel authorized to really write a food blog
2: Not everyone reads cookbooks for fun.
3: I like baking and making dessert more than making dinner (I'm not sure that's apparent from my posts, but it's true)
4: I still make dinner, and enjoy it, and I would like to share more recipes here. I think that's the most helpful thing I can do.
5: This is helpful especially when I have so many recipes that are naturally gluten-free.

Without further ado:

Recipes. Randomly selected and highly enjoyable.

Random Recipe 1:
Chicken Fajita-Tostadas, from Everyday Food
Summer is the best time for Mexican food--tomatoes are at their best, avocados are ripe, and something about all the sun makes me think salsa.

* 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
* 2 bell peppers (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
* 1 box (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
* 1 cup prepared fresh salsa
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
* 4 corn tortillas (6-inch)
* 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
* Cilantro-Lime Rice, for serving (optional, see recipe below)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. On foil, combine onions, bell peppers, corn, 1/4 cup salsa, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.
2. Roast, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Add chicken, stir to combine, and continue to roast until warmed through, 5 minutes more. Transfer chicken and vegetable mixture to a serving bowl, discarding foil (reserve sheet).
3. Arrange tortillas on sheet. Dividing evenly, brush with remaining tablespoon oil; top with cheese. Bake until edges are golden and cheese is melted, 5 to 8 minutes.
4. Dividing evenly, top tortillas with chicken-vegetable mixture and remaining 3/4 cup salsa. Serve with cilantro-lime rice, if desired.

Cilantro-Lime Rice, if desired
a la Everyday Food

* 1 cup long-grain white rice
* Coarse salt
* 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
* 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 garlic clove
1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed and rice is just tender, 16 to 18 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine cilantro, lime juice, oil, garlic, and 2 tablespoons water; blend until smooth. Stir into cooked rice, and fluff with a fork.

When I made this, it was too strong on its own. It went well with other food, especially Refried Beans.
Have you ever made your own refried beans? You should.
You can be super fancy and cook the beans yourself. The recipe is also a great use for leftover cooked beans.
Or you can open a can of black or pinto (any kind, really) and start the refrying there.
Why are they called refried? I don't know. Even Rick Bayless doesn't really know--their name has been improperly translated from their native tongue. But refried we call them.
Refried beans are tasty with everything, and are especially good on tostadas. Mmmm.

Refried Beans, the Lazy Version*
*meaning I don't want to get up to look up the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, so here's a riff)

1-14.5 ounce makes approx. 4 servings.
Cook over medium-low heat:
olive oil (about 1 Tablespoon--enough to coat the pot, more if you like)
diced onion, to taste
1-2 cloves minced garlic, to taste
jalapeno or up to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, if spiciness is desired

Keeping beans in their liquid (if using canned), add a bit at a time, crushing with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Keep stiring and mashing and cooking until the beans are a little wetter than you want--they will get thicker as they cool.
The strong, garlicky beans are great with the fresh, zesty rice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How to Eat

We have spent the past two months on vacation and seeing family. I finally saw my where my husband grew up. It's a little town in the Eastern Sierra. We stayed at the home of a childhood friend (they were off on their own adventure in Europe). It was lovely. One of my favorite parts of the trip: eating at the local bakery. I ate almost an entire loaf of sheepherder's bread by myself, sliced thick and spread with Nutella. We wanted to spend our time outside or touring the sights, so our meals were simple. Boiled corn on the cob and fresh burgers. Boiled artichokes and pain au chocolat. Fruit with yogurt or cheese. It was delicious and simple.
The trip coupled with all the food planning that precedes and follows any big vacation, coupled with reading a book about French culture and their approach to food, has sent me deep into thought about the way we eat. The depths continued as we enjoyed a visit from B's sister and her dear family. She is a fellow celiac and foodie who has traveled a lot. Together we tried a gelato place in Fremont; ate the best ice cream of our lives on Bainbridge Island (they even have gluten-free cones); and made ensalada caprese. Walking through Pike Place and the return of our own Farmer's Market have added to my new goals and resolve.
When it comes down to it, I sound like a broken record. My goals haven't changed--eat lots of fruits and vegetables, eat fresh, have leftovers, bake something, enjoy food. But as I've learned more my approach to these goals is changing. As I've sought these goals, I have seen changes in myself. It's a slow process. Right now I'm just enjoying that I'm in a moment of clarity where I can see how far I've come--and feel excited about the road ahead.
To that question--How to eat? The part I want to focus on at the moment is how to prepare to eat. Too many times I find myself scrounging up food, hurrying to prepare dinner when everone in our house is already too hungry. For that, a few solutions:

*Decide early in the day what's for dinner. Decide by lunchtime, and note how long it will take to make.
*Start with a clean kitchen
. For me, this means at least one counter space and an emptied dishwasher so I can load as I go. Your kitchen does not have to be perfectly clean.
*Try mise en place. this professional approach means you prepare all your ingredients before you begin cooking. I love doing this with any dish that requires a lot of spices or many chopped ingredients. Setting up this way also means you read through the recipe several times and get a better sense of it.
*Set the table. With two adults and two kids we tend to do buffet style, serving ourselves in the kitchen. Now that we have a bigger table we have room to put our food on the table. I cannot say enough about eating at least dinner at the table together--sans media, of course. Whatever your family situation taking your time to eat a meal at your table helps to set it apart from the rest of your day. Meals are nourishing and can nourish us beyond our caloric needs.
*Serve meals in courses and stick to small portions. This is tres French, but it is also a suggestion from Jessica Seinfeld in Deceptively Delicous. Starting with a vegetable can get the hard part out of the way. Next the main course--grain and protein, then finishing with dessert, maybe some nice fruit. A more French approach: bread is set on the table throughout the meal and the meal might finish with a rich dessert or simply some fruit with a bit of cheese or dark chocolate.
Serving small portions--sometimes even smaller than normal--gives children the satisfaction of finishing and asking for more.
*Bring everyone in on the dinner prep. J is becoming quite adept at mixing and stirring. Dinner doesn't usually offer as many opportunies for helping as baking does, but she is very keen on setting the table for everyone.
*Try new fruits and vegetables. This is especially important for children, but also for celiacs. Trying new fruits and vegetables is the best way to expand the palette. Not up for trying a whole new fruit? Try organic or locally grown berries or nectarines and see what you think. For some things, it's worth the extra money.
*Find a bread recipe and make it regularly. Bread or muffins, even simply pancakes or waffles. There are tasty options out in the gluten-free world, but there is something magical about homemade bread. It can be time consuming--all in all the bread below takes 1.5 to 2 hours--but most of that is hands-free, just being home to make sure it doesn't burn. Muffins can be done in about 30 minutes total. Nothing rounds out a meal better than a nice slice of bread or a muffin with some fresh fruit, nutella, or fruit preserves. Recipes for bread and muffins follow.
We have to figure out what works in our own families. For me, a major goal in raising my children is introducing them to every fruit and vegetable that I can. I want eating fresh produce to be an innate part of their lives. My other major goal: find and develop good gluten-free meals. Because eating shouldn't feel like a chore for anyone, no matter their dietary restrictions.
What would you add to the list above? What makes your eating experiences more nourishing spiritually as well as physically?

Homemade Gluten-free Bread
developed by Susan Singley
You prepare this bread like a quick bread, but it includes yeast so it rises. It works just as well with all rice flour--using sorghum gives it a little more nutty flavor and umph.

3 cups rice flour OR 1½ cups rice flour, 1½ cups sorghum flour
¼ cup sugar
1 package or 1 Tablespoon dry active yeast
3½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups lukewarm water
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

1. Combine flour(s), sugar, yeast, xanthan gum, and salt in mixing bowl. Blend well.
2. Add the lukewarm water (water that is too warm will kill the yeast) and the vegetable oil. Blend well.
3. Add the eggs. Mix at highest speed of mixer for 2 minutes.
4. Bread dough should be wetter than cookie dough and stiffer than cake dough.
5. Add water till correct consistency. Usually only needs ¼ more at the most.
6. Pour dough into greased bread pan. Let rise until slightly above pans.
7. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

Makes one loaf.

Betty Hagman's Easy Gluten-free muffins*
This basic lends itself to all kinds of variety--a few ideas are listed below.

1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons shortening or butter
2 eggs
1 cup rice flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk or nondairy liquid (orange juice comes out crispier--mmm.)
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Grease 8 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin cups.
In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and shortening.
Beat in the eggs.
Sift together the flour, salt, xanthan gum, and baking powder and add to the egg mixture alternately with the milk. Don’t overbeat. Stir in the vanilla.
Pour into muffin cups. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.


Blueberry Muffins: add 1 to 1½ Tablespoons fresh or frozen blueberries
Cranberry Muffins: add 1 to 1½ Tablespoons fresh or frozen cranberries
Raspberry Muffins: add 1 to 1½ Tablespoons fresh or frozen raspberries
Lemon Poppy seed Muffins: 1 Tablespoon lemon zest and 1½ Tablespoons poppy seeds

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Four Recommendations

I'm still working on the huge entry that will appear below this entry, but wanted to write a quicker note. If you only try four gluten-free products, these are what I recommend:

Tinkyada pasta. A lifesaver, especially if your family eats a lot of pasta. You can simply cook two pots (one wheat, one Tinkyada) and make the same sauce for everyone.
An all-purpose mix--Pamela's or Bob's Red Mill. They have recipes on the back and can be used for muffins, pancakes, waffles, bread, and I think even cookies. Baking from scratch can be very daunting, especially if you have to buy all the flours, so a mix is a perfect way to get baking.
Rice Chex, Corn Chex. Gluten-free cereal that is easy to find and cheaper.
MiDel Gluten-free cookies. Because everyone should get to open a bag and eat a cookie sometimes.

Places of Note:
Whole Foods. If there is a Whole Foods near you and they have a gluten-free bakehouse, it is worth splurging on any of their products. This is not something we do very often due to the price, but their cookies and muffins are so good. Try this if you're feeling discouraged about gluten-freedom.
Wild Oats. They also have some tasty chocolate chip cookies, if they still do. I have been away from Wild Oats for nearly two years, but they have had some tasty options in the past.

A Day of Meals--Extended Version

My husband has celiac disease; our two children and I do not. I try to make gluten-free eating simpler by finding recipes and foods that are naturally gluten-free. Here is a typical day around our table.

Breakfast. We are a cereal family, and B has tried it all. For a long time he ate either Envirokidz or Nature's Path corn flakes. Van's Frozen Waffles have been another staple: B likes them okay cooked in the microwave and topped with any syrup. These are not as good as homemade, so if you try these before you try making gluten-free waffles, don't be discouraged.
Currently, we have been thrilled about Rice Chex and yesterday, I brought home a box of Corn Chex. These are the best--they're cheaper and easier to find than the specialty products, and stay crisper longer in milk. I have to say, though, I have never had to go to a health food store to find any of the above products. They have all been available at Smith's, Fred Meyer, and sometimes even Walmart. Ordering products you really like from is another option.
Another happy discovery: gluten-free oats. There are several brands out there, and all seem to be truly safe. Our favorite: Bob's Red Mill. Bob is like one of our best friends, actually--his mixes and flours are wonderful. More on that in a minute. We like Bob's oats because they are more like quick-cooking oats than the tougher steel cut oats, and B is mastering making his own granola. We haven't tried cookies with these oats yet, though I imagine they will be tasty.
Other breakfast ideas: breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs, any veggies, and cheese on a steamed corn tortilla); yogurt and fruit; smoothies; Instant Breakfast (any except malt).

Lunch. I try to send B to work with leftovers from dinner the night before. Lunch and snacks can be a tricky business. B sometimes takes soup or chili. Stagg(Hormel) and Pacific Natural Foods are favorites. We especially love Pacific Natural Foods' Tomato soups and broths. Again these products area widely available. We've also had good luck with Progresso soups. They don't say gluten-free, but if they don't have any gluteny ingredients, they seem to be safe.

Snacks (this might be more helpful for sack lunch ideas). We have tried several snack products, and I seem to like more of them than B. Rice crackers (available at Costco), and rice cakes go great with cheese, meat, spreads, and tuna. In bar form, we have many delicious options: Larabar, Mrs. May's (they have many other tempting gluten-free foods available), and KIND bars. Tiger's Milk bars are another classic option. All of these are available at, and I've seen many at Costco as well. These are kind of expensive to have everyday, but are worth knowing about. Another great option: trail mix. It's easy to make your own mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, coconut, chocolate chips...premade mixes are hit or miss, so always check the ingredients list. (The issue tends to be cross-contamination). Deli meat, cheese sticks, and Yoplait or Stonyfield Farm yogurts are favorites.

Dinner. There seems to be a basic formula for the ideal dinner: protein, grain/starch, at least 1 vegetable and hopefully 1 fruit (maybe for dessert). Learning to cook gluten-free has been the perfect excuse to cook from scratch, and because I do this everyday, I try to find simple meals. Following the above formula leaves the door open for plenty of options. We all eat gluten-free for dinner, with the exception of some mixed meals. If we're having spaghetti, for instance, I'll make two pots of pasta--1 GF, 1 wheat, and then serve with the same sauce or toppings.

Protein. every kind of meat is naturally gluten-free. The only thing to look out for is preseasoned or cooked meat. Costco sells labeled gluten-free rotisserie chickens, as do many grocery stores if you're in a hurry. Many marinades and salad dressings are gluten-free as well. We love barbecue chicken or pork, made in the crockpot. (recipe bel0w). We always have to check sauce and dressing ingredients, but we have always found something that works. Brianna's is always a favorite; Kraft also has an excellent selection.

Grain/Starch. Rice. We love medium grain Calrose (it also makes excellent flour); brown has more nutritional value and a nuttier flavor; jasmine and basmati are treats for special occasions (jasmine is what they serve with Thai food; basmati goes with Indian), and are great with anything. Wild rice is delicious (We've fallen for Lundberg, who also make different rice cakes) and also has more nutritional value. Rice noodles go well with stirfries, or as a substitute for pasta noodles. The best gluten-free pasta in the world is Tinkyada. A simple solution for mixed family dinners: make wheat pasta for the wheaties, and cook Tinkyada separately for the gluten-freebies. We have separate colanders to be especially careful. Tinkyada makes all kinds of shapes and sizes, and it never gets mushy. It also doesn't taste as much like rice as regular rice noodles.
Other starch options: baked or mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams; quinoa; polenta; and grains like millet and amaranth. And of course, corn tortillas. Steamed, fried, or baked.

Vegetables & Fruits. Salads with gluten-free dressing. Anything roasted or steamed. Vegetables (and fruits) are one area we can really relax in--they are all gluten-free! I recommend finding out what's in season. It will save money and taste better. Right now great options would be artichokes, asparagus, peas, green beans, carrots, and cabbage, among many others. As mentioned, most salad dressings are fine, but it's always good to read labels. Canned fruit, jams etc, tend to be gluten-free. Strawberries, plums, apricots are a few of the delicious offerings that come in the spring.

A word on Casseroles. There are GF casseroles out there, though I'm not as familiar with them. Basically anything with a rice base will work, just beware of using cream of anything soups--the common ones thicken with flour. If casseroles like this are a staple at your house, you may want to explore more dinner options to save yourself from cooking two meals every night. You may also find it worthwhile to look for gluten-free creamy soups, or to make your own from scratch a la Bette Hagman.

A word on Baking. The biggest hole in a celiac's life is probably baked goods. But bread and cookies and cakes do not have to be completely absent. Our house was established as a gluten-free baking zone, which means I don't bake anything with wheat. Cross-contamination is a concern, and in a mixed kitchen, that will be your biggest enemy. I still think it's possible to pull it off, if you must. There are many mixes on the market. Need a gluten-free chocolate cake or brownies? Bob's Red Mill has mixes for you. I've also heard great things about Pamela's mixes. Both companies also make mixes for cookies, bread, pancakes and waffles. If baking is still too daunting, we recommend products from the gluten-free bakehouse at Whole Foods, MiDel gluten-free cookies, and products from Wild Oats.
Flourless cakes and cookies are another option. There are countless recipes for flourless chocolate cakes, pavlova, macaroons, or these peanut butter cookies:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter

Beat eggs. Mix in sugar and peanut butter. Form into balls and drop onto a cookie sheeet. press with a fork, if desired. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.
Crockpot Barbecue Meat
Pork roast (tenderloin does well) or chicken pieces
Gluten-free BBQ Sauce of choice
1 onion, chopped, if desired

Place meat on top of onion in a crock pot. Drape the sauce over the meat, covering plus a little more. Add a little water, if desired.
Cook on high 3 to 4 hours, or on low for 6 to 8. Meat should fall apart easily when it's done. Serve with baked or mashed potatoes (or sweet potatoes for more nutrition), gluten-free cornbread (made from Bob's redmill mix or Hodgson mill gluten-free cornmeal+rice flour), roasted vegetables, corn on the cob, etc.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Word After My Hiatus

In trying to balance many projects in many areas in my life, this blog has fallen by the wayside. It may continue to be there a bit, but I want to keep it going and post at least once a week.
I wanted to find out, are there any recipes you've been searching for? Any questions you have? I have more recipes I can share but would love to address any specifics first.
So stayed tuned for...answers to your questions, delicious Mexican food, fluffy popovers, and seasonal favorites.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nonfood Allergies & Wacky Cake

J's results came back--as of now, she does not have celiac disease (phew?). We will really be able to celebrate once we have done the genetic test. I am relieved for now, but my eyebrows are raised. A negative test now means she doesn't have it now, but it doesn't mean she won't ever have it. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
J's allergy test panel came back as well, revealing that J is allergic to...dust mites. Severely allergic, it turns out. I was so busy preparing myself for my worst case scenario ("J can eat wheat, but nothing with corn, rice, or soy") that I was a little surprised by this result. Then, of course, it makes perfect sense. She coughs more in bed (a haven for dust mites). her wheeze worsened as the week with the humidifier progressed (mites love warm, humid spaces). And she didn't develop the allergy until we moved to a temperate, humid place (as opposed to high desert dryness that makes her itch like crazy).
I am so grateful that she does not have a separate food allergy we'd have to worry about at this time. Just thinking about it made me appreciate more what people with multiple food allergies have to go through everyday. Sure celiac disease is hard, but also subtracting milk products or eggs?
We faced this kind of dilemma for G's first birthday party. A dear friend of ours is allergic to peanuts, eggs, and milk. Her mom sent me this recipe called Wacky cake. It comes from the site kids with food allergies. You can find the site and the original recipe here.
I have not worked with this recipe to make any successful changes, but I'm intrigued by the possibilities of baking without dairy or eggs.

Wacky Cake
1 3/4 cups rice flour, or gluten-free blend
3 Tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vinegar
5 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to combine.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until you get a smooth batter. Do not beat.
Pour into greased and floured pan (8" square or 9" round) or 12 cupcakes. Bake in oven until tests done - about 35 minutes for cake, about 20 minutes for cupcakes.

If dairy is an option, any icing will be great. If not, a basic icing of powdered sugar and water will work beautifully.