Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I'd post my "First Year, Gluten Free" roundup, but lots of you have been down that road already. I'll just say thanks to God, the universe, my patient family and friends, and my gluten free blog buddies for helping me through this year. I love being healthy again. Some mysteries remain, but they are manageable. I feel good every day.

The week between Christmas and New Year has passed in a flash. I still have a few more vacation days, and I plan to enjoy them at a leisurely pace.

In chicken news, I ran into my buddy, Big Lar. He's a developer and owns the land where the winter farmers market sits. He's offered some valuable re-used materials for my chicken coop project. Thanks, Larry!

I joined Facebook so I could be an official friend of the Chatterbox Jazz Club. In only two days lots of friends, old and new, have checked in on my wall. I'm lovin' Facebook!

I'll be enjoying an early New Grist beer at the Chatterbox this New Year's Eve. I hope to see lots of my pals in the after-work hours.

I wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sounds like summer . . .

But it's not! It's an unseasonably warm December 27th. I started my leisurely Saturday with a trip to a new farmers market. When I returned home I did a little gardening. IN DECEMBER!

Indianapolis has a relatively new Winter Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at 25th and Central, in the renovating Mapleton Fall Creek neighborhood. I had just run out of the apples I picked from my neighbor's tree, so I decided to check it out.

I had lots of varieties to choose from. I bought some Grimes for baking and a couple of good red apples to eat fresh. I got to use one of the three new shopping bags I got for Christmas. Two are nylon and fold up into tiny bundles. One even has a clip so I can attach it to my purse or belt loop. The third is a big canvas shopper from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville store. I love them all!

I saw these funny fingerling potatoes. Their odd shapes reminded me of ginger root. The same stand offered beautiful winter squash. But I've still got plenty of potatoes and squash from my own garden, so I settled for photos.

Sunset Acres had samples of all their cheeses. I tasted several and decided on the horseradish white cheddar and the white colby. Yum! I also picked up some Fromage a Trois goat cheese featuring a white layer, a sundried tomato layer and a pesto layer.

My last stop was the chicken and egg stand. I bought these beautiful brown eggs and got to see photos of their chickens and Quonset hut-like mobile chicken coops. Their free range chickens are protected by a hard-working guard dog and a puppy in training. The grown dog is training the puppy. The humans just watch in awe. Hawks and eagles are their most dangerous predators. So the dogs watch the ground and the sky. Good dogs!

I talked to my friend, Kyle, who is organizing a downtown food co-op. I might plant extras of some vegetables so I can be a supplier. My dragon tongue beans and sungold orange cherry tomatoes are real eye-catchers, and tasty, too!

I stopped by the homes of a couple of friends on my way home. I still have lots of summer cherries in my freezer and decided to share the wealth.

It was 67 degrees when I returned to Kay's Leaning Tree Farm. We'd had some rain, so the ground was a bit muddy. But it seemed like the right time to move a couple of rogue asparagus plants from the front yard to the asparagus patch in back. I'd been meaning to get around to that chore for eight years. Dormant roots, wet soil, perfect! I hope they like their new home.

It felt great to have a summer-like day in late December. Today we're back to a high in the 30's. It's winter again.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Is this gluten free?

Why, yes it is! My Key Lime Pie passed the holiday-with-wheat-eating-relatives test! It had been a year since I'd enjoyed a piece of pie for dessert. So I was probably the happiest about eating pie. But none of my relatives left even a crumb on their plate.

The crust was confusing part. I can't eat any packaged cookies, even the gluten free ones. And all the cookie recipes call for baking soda, which is off my list. So I decided to bake up some vanilla cookies without baking soda. I was just going to turn them into crumbs.

Crumb Crust Cookies

1 C butter
2 1/2 C sugar (Next time I'll use 2 C)
vanilla scrapings from 1/4 vanilla bean pod
2 eggs
3 C brown rice flour
1 t salt

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla. Add eggs. Beat well. Blend in flour and salt. Roll into balls and flatten the balls slightly. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet at bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Remove when they just start to brown around the edges.

*Note: They were a little dense and my crumbs were a little big. Next time I'll try whipping two of the egg whites and folding them in last. I hope that will give me a lighter cookie.

Key Lime Pie

1 C cookie crumbs (I ground mine in the food processor)
4 T melted butter

Press your gooey mixture into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Cream layer
1/2 C fresh lime juice
4 egg yolks
1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Separate the eggs and put the yolks in the mixing bowl. Whip them until they are creamy light yellow. Add the lime juice and milk. Beat until it thickens. Pour into cooled pie shell. Bake for about ten minutes while you make meringue.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites until they are stiff. Add 6 T sugar. Beat until the sugar dissolves. Spread the meringue over the creamy layer of your pie. Be artistic! Bake another 10 minutes and remove pie when the meringue is nicely browned. Let the pie cool at room temperature for a couple of hours before refrigerating.

My mom made these polar bears to decorate her yard for Christmas. The bears entertained neighbors and passersby, and their photo appeared in our local newspaper. They are constructed of papier mache and painted with exterior latex (house paint.) They are nearly weather-proof. One of the bears was seen wearing a plastic bag over his head during a recent rainstorm. Thankfully, the paparazzi missed that moment.

Welcome home, Cousin Kathy! Missed you! She's on the right. I'm on the left. As you can see, my side of the family is "cheekier" than Kathy's side. My puke green sweater with fur collar was maybe the second bold fashion statement I've made in my whole life. I wore it all day and all night on Christmas Eve. I attended three different Christmas celebrations that day. Christmas Eve is my birthday, and it was a really happy one! Who needs birthday cake when there's Key Lime Pie?!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The countdown continues

It's December 17, one week before Christmas Eve. I have to cook two more dinners for the finals-frenzied sorority girls, then take leftover perishibles to Second Helpings. I'll join in some holiday gatherings over the weekend. Then my brother and his girlfriend will arrive on Monday.

I checked out my fridge, to see what I could offer to mainstream gluten-eaters. Eeeek! I was seriously short on condiments! I'm afraid my brother might have a panic attack if he opened my refrigerator to find no ketchup, mayonnaise or barbecue sauce. I've only enjoyed ketchup a few times in the last year. I made two batches (about 3/4 cup each) from my garden tomatoes. Turns out my gluten free diet doesn't require much ketchup. But I think every refrigerator should contain a bottle. It's a food comfort issue.

Early on, I tried every organic and health food store ketchup I could find. No luck. Reactions to all. I hadn't found a canned tomato sauce that worked for me, so I decided it was time for more research. I found some Muir Glen organic tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, with only one ingredient - tomatoes. No reaction, yay! So I cooked up a batch of ketchup, then turned half of it into barbecue sauce.

On to the luxuriuos creaminess of mayo! I've tried making it by hand whisking. That worked, but took a long time. I tried using my stick blender. Didn't work out for me. And it's tough to whip one egg yolk in the KitchenAid mixer. Hmmm. Okay, how about two egg yolks? How about if I unscrew the mixing bowl and hold it just a little higher so the whip can reach the yolks? Score! Double batch!

Kay's Mayonnaise
(Makes a little over 2 C)

2 egg yolks
4 1/2 t cider vinegar
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t fresh lime juice
2 C canola oil

Whisk the egg yolks in the stand mixer using the whisk attachment. Hold the bowl just high enough for the whisk to do its job. It's tricky!

Combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar and lemon juice in a cup or bowl. Stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.

Add half of this to the egg yolk and whisk a few seconds until incorporated.

Measure the canola oil into a measuring cup with a spout. Pour a couple of drops of oil into the egg mixture. Then pour a couple more drops. Screw the mixing bowl back onto its stand and run the whisk at med-high speed. Then pour the first cup of oil in a very thin, slow stream down the side of the bowl.

When the mayonnaise is very thick, add the rest of the vinegar mixture. Whisk some more.

Add the remaining oil in a slow steady stream while the whisk is running.

Voila! Sandwich and potato salad heaven!

I added a little (maybe 1/2 t) dry mustard to 1/4 c mayonnaise to make a tangy spread for ham sandwiches. It needs to sit in the fridge for a few days to mellow before using. I might spice it up a bit by adding a dab of the vinegar from my jar of horseradish.

After a trip to Trader Joe's to stock up on chemical-free bacon, I'll be ready for company! I really envy those of you who can just go to the store and buy a jar of whatever condiment you need!

And just for fun, here's a photo of my Delta Delta Delta alumnae group. I'm in my pink Christmas tree sweater. We had our Christmas brunch and auction last Saturday. We had fun and raised some money for local collegiate chapters. Irma's famous rum cakes brought a pretty penny! Several members were sidelined with the flu. Hope you're feeling better, girls!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All this goodness for $3.88!

There's a little produce market I visit frequently. It's called Wilcher's and it's sort of the Big Lots of fresh foods. The prices are always great, but I never know what I'll find. So I used to stop in every week before my trip to the grocery store. But I haven't had a regular schedule for grocery shopping lately, so I've been skipping that stop. Wilcher's closes at 6:00, and I've been shopping on my way home from late nights at work. So I just pay the grocery store prices.

Fortunately, my mom shops there too, and alerted me to some deals. So I went there three days in a row. The first day I bought two boxes of bluberries for $1.00. The second day I got all the lovely produce in the photo for $3.88. The third day I bought two HUGE pointsettias for $3.00 each. I gave them as gifts before I took any photos. Oops!

I froze the bluberries for a holiday cobbler. I ate every one of the red raspberries right out of the box. They tasted like June! Last night I oven roasted the baby beets and ate them with a dab of goat cheese and some toasted pecans. They were sweet like fruit or candy! I squeeze an orange or two for a glass of juice before breakfast. I used the celery for a re-do batch of my wild rice soup.

I love Wilcher's!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Goals . . . how oddly mine have morphed

Sally over at Aprovechar is wondering what new physical goals to set, now that she has reached some previous goals. First, congrats Sally! You're the butterfly now - light, beautiful and mobile. It's been encouraging to follow your blog and watch your transformation. I'm happy you have taken charge of your health and made dramatic improvements.

Nearly a year into gluten-free living (my anniversary is Jan. 1,) my goals have also changed dramatically. Healthwise I'm feeling nearly normal. I can get through a tough day's work and still have energy for my own projects. I put in 12 hour days of hard work in the garden all summer and was rewarded with delightful harvests. I rescued my flower beds after five years of neglect due to ill health.

My attitude has improved along with my health. Most days I'm a pretty happy camper. I have enough energy for fun after five years of struggling to just make it through my work days.

My new lifestyle has brought new goals. Funny what can happen in a year . . . really! Laugh-out-loud funny!

Here's the entertaining list of my current goals:

1. I want to raise my own chickens and eat fresh eggs every day. I've found a couple of "chicken mentors." I want to build my coop and chicken yard with recycled (reused, really) materials. I'm circulating my materials list, so the right cast-offs can come my way.

2. I want to raise my bowling average to the 120's. I had a couple of lucky games during the last league. I'd like to figure out what I did right and do it more often. I'd also like new bowling shoes. I bought my current shoes when I was puffed up like an Oompah Loompah. They are too big now. Like my pants - ha ha!!!!! (BTW - I'm taking 14 pairs of too-big pants to the resale shop today.)

3. I'd like to try out for the Naptown Roller Girls, Indy's fairly new roller derby team. I'm pretty sure I'll be the only 52 year old at tryouts. I'm a good skater, and the uniforms are really hot! I went to their 2009 calendar party last night and I sooooo want to be in one of those calendar shots. They definitely celebrate their strengths, with perfect lighting, of course. The biggest challenge of this endeavor will be finding a new career, or a job that provides health insurance. But that's on a different goals list.

4. This is a really short-term goal. I want to drive half an hour north and get arrested by Erik Estrada. He's back in uniform with the Muncie, IN police department! He did a reality show with the force there and made some friends. He's back this weekend to help them out with some fundraising. I don't generally break any laws, but maybe I could, just this once!

Of course, I have other goals. They are not as much fun as these goals. I'll save them for a less entertaining post.

Since I don't have a roller derby calendar shot yet, I'll leave you with a this photo from our bowling banquet. I'm on the left, with fellow bowlers Rebecca, Rich and Christianna. Rich is about a foot and a half taller than Christianna, so she's standing up on the stage. It was a really fun bowling banquet!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I ended up baking a new loaf of bread while watching Rudolph. Before Thanksgiving, I found a couple of bags of white rice flour marked down to half price. I'd been using brown rice flour for months, but I couldn't resist a gluten free deal. So I bought them and used them in place of my usual brown rice flour. After three days of eating the foods I'd made, I noticed my vision was blurry . . . again. My vision has been clear since about May. So it took a couple of days for me to realize that white rice flour was the new item in my diet. And it's puzzling that I would react to white rice flour, but not brown rice flour. But it's an easy fix.

It pains me to throw out homemade food with expensive ingredients, but I'm getting used to it. So I abandoned the pizza, bread and soup I'd made with white rice flour. My eyes seem to be back to normal today. I made a fresh loaf of bread with brown rice flour and potato flour, and I'll try the soup again, with brown rice flour. It's a great soup!

Minnesota Wild Rice Soup

3/4 C wild rice
1 onion, diced
1 C celery, sliced
1 4 oz. can mushrooms
1/2 C butter
1 C rice flour (choose your own color!)
8 C chicken broth
1 C diced chicken
Salt & pepper to taste
1 C milk or half & half (I used goat milk.)
2 T sherry or white wine (I left this out.)

I started by making a big vat of chicken stock. I haven't found a store-bought version that agrees with me. I miss the convenience, so I made enough to freeze some for future soups. Since I need a "do-over," I'm glad I made extra.

Simmer the wild rice in 2 C water for about 4o minutes.

In your soup pot, saute onion, celery and mushrooms in butter until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in flour until mixed in. Do not brown. Heat the chicken stock and stir it in slowly until the mix is well blended. Stir in drained, cooked rice and chicken. Season. Heat thoroughly. Stir in milk or half & half. Add sherry or wine and heat gently but do not boil.

I needed some flavor for my stock, so I cut some Italian parsley and par-cel from my frozen garden. Worked just fine!

I used my adorable pastel carrots. I love them! I'm planting twice as many next year!

I started preparing Christmas treats in my work kitchen at school. The sorority girls will have their party next Monday (eeek!) so I need to make a couple of items every day. I love making the treats, but fixing their dinner feels like an inconvenience this time of year.

First I stirred up a big jar of hot cocoa mix. They'll need a comforting hot beverage for late night studying. The recipe I used included non-dairy creamer. The first ingredient listed is corn syrup solids. As soon as I opened the pack, a cloud of dust rushed up. Since I stay away from corn and corn products, I put on a mask right away and turned on the big exhaust fan. I mixed a double batch in a gallon zip lock bag, to inhibit the spread of corn dust. I had one of my house boys taste-test a cup of cocoa when the mix was done. He said it's lots better than the mix that comes in packets.

Hot Cocoa Mix

2 C powdered milk
1 C sugar
1/2 C cocoa
1/2 C non-dairy creamer
4 shakes of salt

Mix well and store in a pretty jar. To make cocoa, add 3 to 4 T mix to a mug of boiling water. Add marshmallows, whipped cream or both!

I also tried a very easy, and mostly allergen-free peanut butter fudge. My houseboy taste-testers liked it, and couldn't tell there's no cream or milk.

Peanut Butter Fudge

1 C creamy peanut butter
2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1/4 t vanilla

In a pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Let boil for EXACTLY one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla. Have it measured out and ready. Mix well and pour into 8 x 8 greased pan. Cool and cut into squares.

My notes on this recipe say that natural peanut butters don't work well. I used Peter Pan for this batch. I'll test drive it at home with one of the brands I can eat. Smucker's Natural is the thickest of the peanut butters I eat, so I'll try that one first.

Happy holiday baking!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's the big day!

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is on tonight! I always kick off the holiday baking season while watching Rudolph. I almost know it by heart. I know when to step away from the chocolate because I'll have to shed a tear or two. Copyright laws prevent me from posting a photo of Rudolph and Burl Ives' Snowman, but just the sight of them cheers me up and puts me in a Christmas-y mood.

This will be the first gluten free Christmas Rudolph and I will share. So my recipes will change, but not my spirit! I might stir up some homemade hot chocolate mix to warm the hearts (and bodies!) of friends and family. I might roll some truffles into perfect round delights. I might bake some vanilla cookies to use for the crust of my Christmas Key Lime Pie.

Rudolph reminds me that even my oddities can have value. He lets me treasure my role in my little universe (which is looking a bit like the North Pole since we've had a little snow!) He reminds me to love unconditionally. And he lets me sing along, even though I can't carry a tune.

Rudolph with your nose so bright, won't you light my kitchen counter tonight? He never lets me down! Let the festivities begin!

I started my gluten free journey last January 1. I'm glad I've got 11 months of adjusting behind me. I've come a long way. My brain has found detours around wheat-laden roadblocks. My heart has found joy in improved health. And . . .

All my hair has grown back! No bald spots to hide with ingenious comb-overs! Every Christmas for the last five years, my mother has said, "Don't worry, dear. I'm sure your hair will grow back by next Christmas." At long last, next Christmas has arrived!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Snacks - hot, gooey ones!

Last Sunday was the last race of the Nascar season. I joined my favorite race fans at Rich's house for our now-traditional celebration. Rich deep fries a boatload of turkeys, Cajun style, and we all bring a show-off side dish. I can't try even a bite anymore, but I remember each and every returning favorite.

My most popular contribution in past years was the Bacon Monkey Bread from the Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner. It's made with "whump" biscuits, the kind that come in a tube you whump on the counter to open. That bread goes mighty fine with deep fried turkey! Alas, no more baking powder for me. So I can't even try to convert this recipe to gluten free.

Jenni always brings these spicy, gooey treats she calls Hot Mamas. They are deeee-lish! And entirely free of leavening agents. So I decided to give them a gluten free try. The conversion was a success! I'll be making these again and again!

Hot Mamas

2 lbs. grated cheese (I used Monterey Jack and sharp white cheddar.)
1/2 C hot peppers, sliced thin (I used some salsa peppers from my garden. Jenni uses jalapenos.)
2 eggs
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk (Go ahead, try it with rice milk, hemp milk or coconut milk!)
1/2 C white rice flour

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan. Layer cheese and peppers in the pan. Mix the eggs milk and rice flour in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the cheese and peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. The top should just barely start to brown around the edges.

I liked it so much, I decided to try an Italian version. I added sun dried tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms and green onions. Wish I'd had some basil left, but the frost got mine a few weeks ago. I threw in a little provolone cheese. I liked this version as much as the spicy one.

I know the recipe sounds like these would be dangerously similar to the dreaded mini quiche, but the texture is quite different. These little bars are a whole different animal.

Because I am in "ocean withdrawal," and have no coastal vacation scheduled, I'll leave you with a photo of the full moon rising over Carolina Beach I took in June, 2007. Ahhhh. I can almost feel the sand under my bare feet . . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I got tired of reading sausage labels months ago. With my long list of forbidden ingredients, it became one futile exercise after another. I cooked bacon with my eggs. I used it on my pizzas to add that salty pork taste I craved. But then . . .

My fennel blooms turned to seed . . . almost. I like them a little green. I get all the flavor of fennel seed without the crunch of the dry seed. And the sage I'd cut weeks ago was dry, ready to rub between my palms. The two herbs that give sausage its distinctive flavor were right outside my back door. So it was time for me to enjoy sausage once again, without all the frustrating label-reading.

I ground some pork shoulder with my grandma's old meat grinder. I fried it with salt and pepper. Then I added my little green fennel seeds and rubbed the sage leaves over the pan.

I cooked it until the fennel seeds lost their green color.

Then I scrambled some eggs and buttered a fat slice of toast. I love me some sausage and eggs for breakfast!

I froze the rest of the tasty crumbles for later use on pizza. I've been craving a sausage and mushroom pizza since January. I think I'll take my own slice to the last night of bowling next Monday. Yes, I'm still in the "pizza and beer" league. I usually grab a snack before I leave home, so I'm not hungry when the pizzas arrive. And All Star Bowl ordered a case of Red Bridge gluten free beer just for me. So bowling night is not painful like it was when I first went gluten free. I'm enjoying it. I even hit a new personal best - 183! That's 23 points higher than my previous best. My average is 108, so that was a really good game.

Until today, November has been a really dry month in Indiana. Birds have been flocking to my little pond. Daddy Cat noticed the trend and found a good hiding spot for birdwatching.

A few weeks ago, after we roasted marshmallows over my great bonfire, Rich tossed a bundle of short copper pipe pieces into the hottest part of the fire. It turned the flames blues, greens, purples and reds. That was a really good fire!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Shine on, shine on harvest moon

Fall's abundance continues at Kay's Leaning Tree Farm - my root crops, green tomatoes ripening in baskets, all the mysterious squash, and now persimmons!

Persimmons are very pretty, before they ripen. They aren't ripe enough to use until they are nearly mush. I've eaten my cousin Carol's persimmon pudding on many Christmas Eves, but I had never cooked with persimmons myself. I had a bonus day off on Thursday. So I embarked on my first ever Persimmon Day.

My mom returned from visiting a friend and said, "Jiggs' persimmon tree is loaded! Maybe next year you can work persimmons into your new gluten free diet."

I said, "Next year? No way! I'm off on Thursday. Let's take a field trip!"

So we headed half an hour south to Franklin, IN. It was a beautiful fall day, still in the 70's.

Jiggs, on the left, and Mother posed in the front yard.

This is Jigg's preferred mode of transportation in her neighborhood. I love it!

I'm always prepared to climb a fruit tree to pick fruit, but Mother had told me that you don't climb a persimmon tree. You shake it. If the fruit won't fall, it's not ripe. So Jiggs pulled a long-handled push broom out of her garage and knocked the branches. We all picked up the fallen fruit. Some was pretty mushy. I came home with three plastic grocery bags half full of mushy persimmons.

With instructions from Cousin Carol, I put the mushy persimmons in a screen wire collander and mashed them with a wooden spoon for hours. I ended up with 6 cups of pulp and a really sticky kitchen. I froze the pulp in zipper snack size bags. They hold one cup. So I'll be ready for future recipes. After an entire day devoted to persimmons, I just had to bake something. I decided to try persimmon bars.

Persimmon Bars

1 C persimmon pulp
1 C sugar
1 C coconut milk (you can use any milk that suits you)
1/2 C soft butter
2 T vanilla (I used some vanilla bean pulp)
1 1/2 C white rice flour
2 eggs
2 T baking soda (optional, I react to baking soda so I left it out. Worked great!)
1/2 t cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together. I did this by hand. Pour into a greased and rice floured 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 for about an hour. The bars are done when they are firm. I jiggled the pan. When the middle didn't jiggle, I took them out of the oven.

Note: I think these bars would be great with a nut meal and butter crust, and/or with a streusel topping.

I found a new product at the Georgetown Market on their recent Gluten Free Day. They had lots of samples and product reps on hand. Unfortunately, the samples all contained forbidden ingredients. So I didn't get to taste anything. But I'd been looking for a coconut milk with no guar gum. All the canned coconut milks I've seen have a tiny bit (less than 1%) guar gum. I found this powdered version from Let's Do Organic that lists only one ingredient: coconut. I found it after I'd made the persimmon bars with canned coconut milk. I plan to test drive the powdered one with my next batch.

After our persimmon picking, we drove farther south to The Apple Works in Trafalgar, IN. A friend I saw at my college reunion said her goats are part of the petting zoo there. So I got to pet some goats. I also saw my first alpacas. They also had some pretty chickens and I liked their chicken coop. I wish I'd taken my tape measure and made some drawings. Hickory trees shaded the path from the apple store to the petting zoo. I picked up a couple of handfuls of hickory nuts. It was a good day!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


A whole herd of these pumpkin-like squash mysteriously appeared on my back stoop on Halloween. No note. No phone call. Spooky! They appeared to be freshly cut from their vines, so I bet they're from a big-garden buddy.

I grabbed the biggest one (about the size of my head) that looked most like a pumpkin, and took it to The Chatterbox. I planned to carve a scary face and leave it for a Halloween night decoration. So I spread my newspapers on one of the patio tables and tried to cut the top off. I could not! That baby was solid! I needed a crowbar to pop the lid. Further exploration showed the seed core was about the size of my fist. The flesh part was nearly three inches thick! Oh, what beautiful flesh it was! This squash had a higher calling than decoration. It was destined to be dinner!

I'm sorry David, Chatterbox owner, missed the comical carving attempt. He was home donning his Sarah Palin costume for the evenings festivities. I hope there are photos!

After seeing the inside of the squash, I'm betting it was from my buddy, Rich. I bet it's this year's incarnation of his family's (ahem) illegitimate squash. His grandma saved seed her whole life. Now he and his dad save seed. The squash has cross-polinated every summer for gerenations. They never know what the squash will look like when they plant the saved seeds. But it's a good bet it will be tasty in all pumpkin recipes. I've had their illegitimate squash before. That year the flesh was orange. This year it is more yellow.

I brought my squash home and baked it. I cut the flesh off the lid piece and diced it. I baked it with some brown sugar, butter and a squeeze of lime juice. It was so delicious I ate all I could. There's enough left for two more meals! That was just the lid! The rest of the squash will become soup or a casserole or a dessert - maybe all three.

Here are some Fall sights around Kay's Leaning Tree Farm.

This is my little sugar maple. I caught a glimpse of it while pulling okra stalks out of the front garden. My bonfire pit is just to the left of this photo. I'll cut down my sorghum stalks today, so there's another entertaining fire in the making.

My burning bush is really on fire!

A few anemones popped open to cheer me. I guess it's Indian Summer.

This is the seed pod on my unusual dogwood.

The raccoon has been gleaning my last tomatoes. Of course, he washes them in the pond before eating. He spits out the seeds. That's okay. A flock of robins used my pond for a bird bath this morning. They ate the seeds.

Daddy Cat says, "I don't know who brought them. They just appeared. Halloween magic, I guess."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sorghum Experiment #1

I had a lot of committments in September and October. Not much time to play with my food. The last event on my schedule was Tuesday night. It's done! They're all done! I finally had a free evening!

So I gathered up my bouquets of sorghum and tried to figure out how to proceed. I was pleased with my first sorghum harvest, but it wasn't really edible yet.

I pulled some of the grains off the stems. Each grain was surrounded by husk or chaff. I needed to remove the chaff and separate it from the grains. So I rubbed the grains between the palms of my hands and had a little bowl of kernels and husks. Hmmm. I could pick all the kernels out by hand, wearing the strong reading glasses I keep in the bathroom to use when plucking my eyebrows.

I was sure there must be an easier way, so I called my mom. She said to stand outside on a windy day and toss the grains and chaff in a pie pan. The wind would carry the chaff away and the grains would fall back into the pan. She said that's how they winnowed grains in the old days. Hmmm. I think by "the old days" she meant Biblical times.

Since it was a calm night, I gathered small handfuls of grains and blew on them. Sure nuf! The chaff blew out and I was left with just grains. In only 30 minutes I had about 1/4 cup! Thankfully, that's all I needed.

For my first experiment, I wanted to grind sorghum to the texture of corn meal and use it for frying fish. One filet would do. I found out I'm allergic to corn back in January. I grew up on fresh-caught bluegills dusted with corn meal and fried. I've missed that down home taste.

So I ground my little kernels in in the coffee grinder. The texture was pretty close to corn meal! I dusted a catfish filet and fried it up.

Voila! Down home fish dinner! It only took about TWO HOURS! Ha ha! Good thing I wasn't starving. That two hours didn't include sweeping all the chaff up off the kitchen floor.

Here's the sugar maple that brightens my view from the dining room window. It was just a wispy little sprig when I moved here. I'm glad it survived the tornado and has filled out nicely.

My rainbow Swiss chard is the last color in my gardens outside the back door. I had to reroute the ridiculous squash vines several times to protect the chard. The squash vines have succumbed to the frost, but the chard still stands tall.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

After the first frost, before the first hard freeze

I've been cooking up a storm lately! I peel apples nightly, and stash little containers of applesauce in my freezer. I've made a bazillion apple crisps, and I'll make another one today.

I've had my first ever gluten free party! Twenty-some people came over for steaks on the grill, a big bonfire and a few fireworks. I've had a lot of bonfires, but this was the best fire ever. Rich brought over a whole trailer full of well-seasoned pine. He'd taken it to his woodpile after my tornado, six years ago. By the end of the evening, we had a HUGE pile of glowing logs. It was hypnotic. We couldn't look away. We kept all the food outside, and my house was safe from wheat. Sorry I couldn't taste all the pitch-in dishes everyone brought, but I'm sure they were delicious as usual.

Yesterday I cooked a big brunch for a homecoming reunion at the sorority house at Butler. This is my 13th year of cooking for the Alpha Chi's. I was happy to see some old friends. Those young college girls have grown up to be lovely ladies.

I can't eat anything I fix in the wheat-kitchen at Butler. So I was hungry when I got home. I decided to treat myself to some comfort food. I still have baskets of ripening tomatoes from the garden. A few of my basil leaves were protected from the first frost. I had some mushrooms and zucchini in the fridge.

So I started with this.

I made a red marinara and a yellow one.

I sauteed sliced mushrooms and zucchini strips in brown butter with a little cayenne. I browned some ground beef and shredded some mozzarella. I assembled all my ingredients into a lasagna with a layer of creamy ricotta.

Here's my yummy lasagna. It was a puzzle to figure out the order of the layers. I wanted to keep my red and yellow sauces separate, and I wanted to to taste every ingredient in every bite. I ended up using three layers of zucchini strips, and assembled the mushrooms in a layer as well. I was thoroughly comforted by the gooey goodness.

Without cutting flowers, I've had to look underground for photo opportunities. I call this one "Carrot Britches."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stone Soup

Remember the old fable about the man who made soup by boiling a stone? It was a fabulous soup because everyone around found something to add to the pot, even though they first said they had nothing.

The gardening season should have ended by now, but my garden offered up some bonus produce. So I made myself some stone soup.

These are my back steps covered with cucuzzi squash vines. I'm having a party next weekend, so I'll need the steps. I cut the vines and harvested about 50 tiny squashes.

The babies look like furry green beans. They are very tender. I also picked some tomatoes, okra, a few green beans, peppers and pulled a couple of carrots and onions.

The gluten free bloggers have been pulling out their soup recipes lately. Cindy at Cindalou's Kitchen Blues posted a great looking pepper chowder that inspired me to concoct a similar fall pot of goodness. I used all the "bonus" produce my garden had to offer.

Kay's Stone Soup

2 chicken thighs, no skin
3/4 C pork pan drippings, defatted
2 C water
2 carrots
2 sweet peppers
2 (sort of) hot peppers - I used Salsa peppers, which are pretty mild on Cindy's pepper chart
2 stalks of celery
2 small onions
12 green beans
20 tiny squash
1 C diced fresh tomatoes, with juice
6 okra, sliced in chunks
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 T chopped Italian parsley
Salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne to taste
Fresh chives for topping

I boiled my chicken thighs in the water and dipped off most of the fat. Then I added the pork pan drippings. I de-fat and freeze all my pan drippings for later use. I shredded my chicken and added it to the broth. I sliced and diced and added and tasted until the soup was perfect. The okra thickened it a bit.

I had a bowlful for supper. I'm saving the rest for a couple of days. We've had unseasonably warm weather in Indiana. On Tuesday or Wednesday our temperatures will drop like, well, a stone. I'm sure it will taste even better then.

I got to use my homegrown paprika for the first time in this soup. It has a lot more flavor than the stuff I buy at the grocery. I can't wait to sprinkle some on deviled eggs.

I cut my ripe paprika peppers in half, removed the seeds and dried them in the dehydrator. Then I broke the dry peppers into pieces and ground them in my coffee grinder. I don't drink coffee and never dreamed Mr. Coffee could become such a valued friend. This is a great little spice grinder!

Daddy Cat says, "Cook more meat. Don't need no stinkin' vegetables!"

Instead of a flower photo, you get a picture of me. I'm in the pink. Saturday was my 30th college reunion. It was 83 degrees, so I didn't get to wear a new homecoming sweater. I did, however, get to buy some new skinny jeans. They're the same size jeans I wore in college. Yahooey! I'm with my pals Nancy, Dee and Rick. I really enjoyed the weekend festivities. We had great weather, a good turnout and we won the football game 63 to 3.

And thanks to Rachel at The Crispy Cook for giving my blog an E for Excellent award! I am honored. I joined the gluten free blogging community because you have all been vital in my lifestyle transition. I'm glad you tune in to see my garden photos and share in my continuing journey. Check out her blog for links to other award winning sites.