Friday, May 30, 2008

Time to give up shoes and socks!

I've been waiting a long time for spring to start feeling like summer. We've had a few warmish days, but the nights have remained cool. It's certainly been comfortable. And I haven't had to turn on the air conditioner or the furnace. But my vegetable plants need some warm nights so they can start growing in earnest.

Wonder Melon toes!

A high of 80 degrees was predicted for Race Day, May 25. So I painted my toenails their summer color. I think it's called Wonder Melon. It's a good summer color! We didn't hit 80, but my feet didn't get cold in sandals. So I'm ready to give up socks for the season.

I've been busy working on my gardens all week. I've installed weed cloth, held down by strips of carpet. It's a weird look, but it works. I'll be re-carpeting the pool site as soon as I finish my planting. I've had an 8' pool for the last few years. Last fall I found a deal on a 10' pool, so I upgraded. I need a bigger chunk of carpet.

Having a pool makes my gardening life easier. I take breaks during the heat of summer days to float on my raft and read paperback novels. I only read outdoors. So the stack of books I'm dying to read is getting pretty tall. I read my first two in the lounge chair. I just finished Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved it! I'm also hooked on the Stephanie Plum series from Janet Evanovich. I found Plum Lovin' and read it in one afternoon.

I baked a ham this week. I decided to try a ham and cheese sandwich. I've had exactly two sandwiches in 2008. Both were disappointing. I was encouraged to see a new soft sandwich bread recipe from Carrie at Ginger Lemon Girl. I hope to try it on my next baking day. So I settled for my improving porridge bread.

I seem to react to every (EVERY!) pre-made mayonnaise. I'm okay with that. I warmed my sandwich, so the cheese was a little melty. It was a good little half a sandwich, but something was missing. Pickles!

I seem to react to everything that comes in a jar, box or can. So I made some easy, quick pickles with entirely safe ingredients. The next day I had another half a ham & cheese with pickles. Perfect! I've planted about 20 cucumber plants so far. I'll be happy when they start producing. I'm going to make lots of these pickles. They are crisp and delightful.

Kay's Crispy Pickles

2 C water
1 C cider vinegar
2 T sea salt (not iodized)
1 big dill head for each jar or a small bunch of tarragon

Boil water, vinegar and salt 5 minutes. Put a dill head int he bottom of each jar, then fill up with clean cucumbers, whole or sliced. Pour boiling brine into jars of cucumber and let sit 10 minutes. Pour the brine back into the kettle and boil again for 10 minutes. Pour the brine back over the cucumbers, clean the threads of the jars, and seal with lids.

While the brine is boiling the second time, bring a kettle half-filled with plain water to a boil. After sealing the jars, place them in the boiling water. Turn off the heat. Do not process the pickles. Water need not cover the jars. About a third of the jar should be above the water line. Allow the jars to cool completely in this pan of water. I went to bed, and they were perfect in the morning.

I used small jars, that added up to about a quart. My dill is tiny just now, so I used a small bunch of fresh tarragon in each jar. I used to make tarragon cornichons for my special remoulade sauce, so I knew I would like the tarragon. I'll use dill when mine grows up.

I also pickled some asparagus, using the same recipe. I use the litte ones in place of artichokes in my Greek salad. The long spears look pretty on an antipasto tray.

Daddy cat and the lettuce patch.

No, it's not a poppy, it's a peony!

My favorite show has been on tv all night - weather radar! We're having our first severe storm of the year. Sounds really severe just north of my house. Power is out, a roof blew off, roads are flooded, and trees are down. I think it would be a good time to unplug my computer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Milo, my big orange fur ball, passed away on Tuesday night. He was sixteen. I remember when my brother sent me a video titled "Baby kitties at the kitty ranch" so I could choose two from the litter of four. I chose Venus and Milo and drove over to Illinois to pick them up in a couple of weeks. We got to enjoy sweet Venus until she was three years old. Then Milo got a new sister, Minnie Mouse, a spirited waif who had been dumped at the greenhouse where I was a volunteer. She was a good addition, and especially loved the winter we got to live in Key West.

Daddy Cat was a homeless outdoor cat who was our friend. He waited two years for an indoor space to be available. I wasn't sure he would like living indoors, but he gladly made the transition. And Milo got his first brother. The girl kitties had always been in charge. I think Milo liked being on equal footing with "the new guy." He always remembered the lessons the girls taught him. And he followed their rules long after they were gone.

Daddy and I miss Milo. But I'm glad he's free of his failing body. Here are some of my favorite kitty photos.

I had some trouble cropping my old scanned photos. The baby pictures are my favorite. Venus and Milo liked every window sill.

Here's Milo in the sink, Minnie and Milo in the Trailer from Hell (which I improved to be the Trailer from Purgatory) in Key West, and Milo imitating art.

It's been another busy week around here. The weather was dry enough for gardening a couple of days. I'm still waiting to finish the new beds. They need to be tilled again, but the rain just hasn't stopped. I have a dozen tomato plants in the ground. I'll put in a dozen more. It will probably be June before I finish the vegetable beds. This year marks my latest start, ever.

Some friends and I decided to enter a 48-hour film competition. The entire project will be started and finished in 48 hours in June. Those are the rules. We draw for our genre on a Friday night, and all the films are shown at a gala premiere the following Sunday. We had our first film meeting this week, and we viewed some past entries. We're excited about this new creative challenge. The "Best Film" goes on to national and international contests. We hope to be very clever.

So those are the reasons there are no new recipes (again) this week. I wish all of you great gluten free bloggers lived in my neighborhood. We could take turns cooking and help each other out. We could share our bountiful harvests.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Breaking News!

Indianapolis will host the 2012 Superbowl! Yahooey! Are you ready for some football?

There's more good news for our city. Tech High School will get a new indoor athletic facility! It will serve as the required second practice field during the Superbowl. Then it belongs to Tech.

My parents both graduated from Arsenal Technical High School in the 1940's. I believe they still use the same gym that they did back then. Tech is a public school. They offer a variety of vocational programs, including cooking, for those who students who want to be food professionals. I'll be happy to see some future chefs have a chance to be great high school athletes.

Fresh turned dirt and blubarb cobbler

The rain missed my yard for a few days! My gardens have all been tilled, at least once. All but one need another pass. But I have one to work on! We got lots more rain on Monday night, so the rest of the beds need to dry out again. The rain brought more cold temps. The owner of my nearby garden shop described today as "a lovely March day." Weather forecasters predict our first 80 degree day for the Indy 500 next Sunday. 'Bout time!

My buddy, Rich, came over with his big Troy Bilt tiller on Sunday afternoon and spun all my dirt into submission. Bless his heart! I'm finally able to move ahead with my spring plantings. He'll till most of it again to work in compost.

I love fresh turned dirt. It's beautiful. It's black and powdery and inviting. It's a fresh palette, ready for my chosen colors. My yard looks clean and promising. I even like the smell of fresh dirt.

In celebration, I harvested a little rhubarb. I converted a long-time favorite recipe to gluten free. It started as a rhubarb torte, maybe 20 years ago. I added some blueberries about 15 years ago, and have been adding them ever since. It's been a staple at my annual spring party for years. One friend calls it "Blubarb Cobbler."

Kay's Blubarb Cobbler

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the topping ingredients with your mixer:

1/2 C softened butter (or shortening)
1 C brown rice flour
3/4 C brown sugar
1 C gluten free oatmeal
1 t cinnamon

In a small saucepan mix 1/2 C sugar with 1 T cornstarch (or 1 t arrowroot.) Whisk in 1/2 C water and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture is thick. Remove from heat and add 1 t vanilla.

Toss 2 C cut fresh rhubarb and 2 C frozen blueberries into a buttered 6 cup casserole or cobbler dish.

Pour the thickened mixture over the fruit. Stir it up a little. Spread the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake about 50 minutes, until the fruit starts to bubble up around the edges. Serve in a pretty dish with ice cream or whipped cream. Or grab a spoon and eat it right out of the pan!


I didn't have enough rhubarb, so I added a couple of chopped apples. It works with many combinations of fruit. If you'd like to use just rhubarb, double the sugar, cornstarch and water amounts that you cook on the stove.

And here's what I like in the garden today:

Upright hostas.
These were a gift from friends at the race party last year.
It's the first time they have bloomed in my yard.

Brunia red oak leaf lettuce
"I'm ready for my close-up!"

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

I've been working between the raindrops to get my gardens planted. Not much actual planting, so far. I'm creating new beds. So mostly I've been moving plants and digging up weeds in anticipation of tilling. It's slow work. It's hard work. Gardening is the reason I don't belong to a gym. I'm not looking for recreational exercise. I get a lot of exercise just keeping my yard in shape. When I get a break, I'm looking for recreational recreation.

Speaking of recreation, I gave Daddy Cat one leaf of fresh catnip. I grow it in hanging pots, so the cats don't "over-imbibe." But some seed from last year's nip fell to the ground below. It's growing like crazy!

Mmmmmmm, nip!

No, I wasn't drooling!

I'm several years behind on my weeding. I have half an acre of gardens, and the woods tries to take them over every year. Undiagnosed celiac left me puffy and bent and sickly for the last five summers. I was a little better last summer, and started my "catch up" plan.

My body was puffed up, about 25 lbs heavier than it had ever been. My joints ached. I was told my backache was sciatica, and my foot pain was plantar's fasciitis. And my joint pain was arthritis. I marveled at my Santa-like belly. It felt so foreign, it might as well have been a third foot sticking out of my stomach. I couldn't lose weight, no matter how little I ate. My eyes were constantly puffy, and my vision was frequently blurred. My hair fell out in patches. Doctors gave me first prednisone pills, then steroid injections to make it grow back. The hair that fell out was curly brown hair. The hair that grew back was straight, stark while. I'd already discovered that I was allergic to permanent hair colors. So I was dismayed at my strange appearance. I felt like I had the flu, every day. It was a struggle to make it to work, let alone work in my yard.

So that's why I got behind on weeding . Five years behind.

In March, 2007, I had two encouraging breakthroughs where my health is concerned. A doctor decided to (finally!) test me for food allergies. Wheat allergies did not show up, but broccoli, cabbage, bananas and pineapple did. I'd been eating a lot of these foods, for my health. (Ha!)

So I eliminated these foods and began to see some improvement in my general health. Not recovery, but improvement.

Then a friend of mine gave me a bottle of Mona Vie acai juice to try. I'd tried a lot of snake oil over my five years of mysterious illness. So I was skeptical. I was pleasantly surprised to find it did me some good! I wasn't quite so puffy, and some weight just fell off me. After drinking 2 ounces a day for about two weeks, my hair started growing back! It had never grown back without those awful steroids! So I knew all those antioxidants were helping.

I had more energy than I'd in four years. I could, occasionally, put in a full day of yard work. I made a plan to "save" my gardens, and got a good start on it.

I still drink Mona Vie every day. It offers the highest concentration of acai juice available. Acai is a magic berry from the rainforest. It naturally reduces inflamation. I had a lot of inflamation! Everywhere! And reducing it a little let me see how different foods impacted my symptoms. A year later, I figured out wheat was the biggest culprit. I'll settle for my self diagnosis of celiac disease. The doctors have been wrong so many times that I've taken charge of my own health. It just took me a long time to get to the starting point. And all those misdiagnoses cost me a bundle. I could have a new car with all the money I've paid doctors to be wrong.

I finally feel like I'm in the "rebuilding" stage of my life, instead of the "circling the drain" stage.

So, back to the gardens! Spring is starting slowly here in the midwest. That's okay. I've needed the extra prep time.

Last summer, I decided to consolidate some of my flower beds. I inherited 128 varieties of day lilies when I bought this house. I love them all and wanted to keep one of each. So I moved some of the plants from the back gardens to up around the pond. I installed weedcloth and mulch between the plants. I even went to southern Indiana and collected a lot of limestone. Now the plants are closely spaced, with mulch and limestone pathways in between. And I get to mow the back gardens instead of fretting about all the weeds.

This week I've spent three long days moving plants out of the garden by the front door. I disposed of five trash bags of weeds, roots and all. That bed is well-drained and gets hot afternoon sun. So I'm turning it into the okra and onion bed. They like those particular conditions. And okra is a really pretty plant. Its blooms look like hibiscus blooms, and bugs don't eat my okra leaves. I've found a compact variety of okra called "Baby Bubba." I hope it's as pretty as the taller varieties I've tried in the past.

I've worked in the dirt for ten to twelve hours for three days in a row. That's my little miracle!

For encouragement, I walk around the yard and see how my early vegetables are doing. And I visit my tiny peaches. They're smaller than my cherries this time of year. They are so cute and fuzzy!

Here's what's growing at Kay's Leaning Tree Farm:

Snow peas

Asparagus. It grows in the myrtle.
The myrtle is high enough to block the sun, so some of the spears are white.

Lettuce. This is the mixed row.

My sage is ready to bloom.


I did all my cooking for the week last Sunday. I made a pizza, baked bread, baked a chicken, and tried two new recipes. Melanie over at The Gluti Girls fixed a great potato salad for Mother's Day. It uses a vinaigrette dressing and it's quite tasty! I added some baby spinach. Carrie at Ginger Lemon Girl entered an oatmeal recipe in a contest on Gluten Free Goodness. It's in the comments section. I baked some of her fantastic apple oatmeal bars. I added a little rhubarb.

So that's why I haven't posted any new recipes of my own. I was living off other people's great ideas last week. I hope to spend lots of time in the garden again this week, and keep kitchen time to a minimum. I plan to make time to enter my oatmeal recipe in the contest. I need to convert an old favorite to gluten free. I'll get around to that when it rains, or after dark.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Spring is smacking me upside the head!

Wow! This is a busy time of year! School is out. My mom's having a garage sale. My gardens need A LOT of attention.

To celebrate the end of the school year, I got together with a couple of my former houseboys from Butler. That's Tyler on the left and Ryan on the right. Me in the middle. We're at the Chatterbox, where I know I can always find a gluten free Redbridge beer. They graduated five or six years ago. They were part of the best houseboy team I've ever had. I'm always happy to see them! I love it that these successful businessmen used to wash my dishes. Bless their hearts! They're both homeowners now, and like their professional lives. And they shared news of other houseboys. We hope to get together later in the summer, when the weather has warmed and we can sit out on the Chatterbox patio.

I've been waiting months to finish converting my kitchen to totally wheat-free. I have some wheat-free "zones." All sources of potential contamination are housed in tubs with lids. But I still cook for others, who eat wheat.

My precious cookware, gathered lovingly over the years, must go someplace else. I need to make room for a few new, uncontaminated pieces. I might invest in a rolling rack, that I can keep in another room and bring out to cook for the wheat eaters. Then I can keep my new pots and pans conveniently located near the stove. Maybe then, I won't feel like I'm camping out in someone else's kitchen.

I missed the deadline for Kid Friendly Food Friday at Ginger Lemon Girl. But I thought I'd share a fun recipe. This one falls into the "comfort food" category, as opposed to the "healthy" category. It was one of the first recipes I tried when I began to change my eating habits. I'd just found out I was allergic to corn, in addition to wheat and soy. Corn syrup is in EVERYTHING! And I was really missing snacks. So I made some of these gooey caramels using honey in place of corn syrup. They turned out great!

When I changed my eating habits, my cravings for sweets dimished pretty quickly. Within a couple of weeks, I no longer had a desperate need for sweets. I still like them occasionally. I sliced and wrapped about one fourth of this batch of caramels. I keep them in a pretty bowl and treat myself to one now and then. But I still have a big slab of uncut caramel in the freezer. I can thaw it out and slice it up when I run out.

Kay's Honey Caramels

1 C butter
2 C honey
2 C heavy cream
1 C brown sugar
1 t gf vanilla

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil. Spray it with pan coating, or rub with olive oil. Melt the butter in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the honey, cream, and brown sugar. Cook and stir frequently until the gooey goodness comes to a boil. Boil for four minutes, without stirring. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until candy thermometer reads 250 to 255 degrees. This takes about 45 minutes. So pick a good cd or tv show to keep you company while stirring.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. I make my own vanilla. I filled a pretty little bottle with rum, one of the few liquors I'm not allergic to. I added about half a split vanilla bean. It gets stronger the longer it sits.

Pour the mixture into your pan and put it ito the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. You can lick the pan and the spoon immediately!

Cut the caramels and wrap them in little squares of waxed paper. I found my large chef's knife worked well for this. I cut my own squares of waxed paper. You can roll caramels in coconut or chopped nuts before wrapping, if you like.

Caramels will be soft if stored at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Indiana Primary

It's voting day in Indiana. This is the first primary election in my voting life where my vote will count in the presidential race. It's been great!

All the Clintons have made appearances at Butler University, where I work. And Bill Clinton spoke at Beech Grove Middle School, just half a mile from my house. That's the closest a former president has been to my house - ever! John Mellencamp (pride of the Hoosier state) did a concert to support Hillary last Saturday night.

Obama shook hands at Garfield Park, also very close to my house. Stevie Wonder played (for free!) in a big downtown park last night.

My mom got an invitation to see Hillary speak at a factory on Indy's east side. Mother said she's much prettier in person than on TV. And her speech was just right. That's pretty high praise from a lifelong republican.

It's my last day of work at Butler. Finals end today, so I'm cleaning out the kitchen and taking leftovers to Second Helpings.

Then I'll be watching election returns at the Chatterbox. It will be packed! And I just found out that Hillary's "after party" will be held across the street at The Murat! That will add another degree of difficulty to parking. It's okay, I'm willing to walk!

I feel like the dogs in Moonstruck. The grandfather took them for a walk during the biggest full moon in decades and told them, "Howl! This is what you've been waiting for!"

I'll be voting before I head to work. I expect I'll see more of my neighbors than ever before at my polling place. I love being part of the process! Today, I count!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Old friends are the best!

I had a craving for something sweet. So I turned to my old friend, Betty. Betty Crocker, that is. Betty taught me how to bake, with lots of photos to guide me through each recipe.

I pulled out Mother's cookbook nearly every Saturday, from second grade on. I was allowed to try new recipes with the stipulation that I cleaned the kitchen up before dinner time. Betty was my idol. She made it sound so easy. After college, I found my own copy of her cookbook at a garage sale for $3.00. What a deal!
One of my favorites is Betty's apple crisp. So simple. So good. So I decided to try her basic recipe with a gluten free twist.

Regular granulated sugar tastes too sweet for me these days. I found milled cane juice in the Mexican food section of my grocery store. It's not not so refined, and not so sweet. And it costs less than milled cane juice at the health food store. So it has become my default sugar.

Apple Crisp

1/3 C butter, room temperature
1 C brown rice flour
3/4 C sugar, or milled cane juice
A liberal sprinkling of cinnamon
A liberal sprinkling of salt
The juice of half a lime
Five large apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and slice the apples. Place in a greased 8" x8" pan. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon. Squeeze the lime over the apples.

Place the butter, rice flour and salt in the bowl of your mixer. Mix until no lumps of butter remain. Spread the topping over the apples and press it down.

Bake about 35 minutes, or until top starts to brown.

I've also made this recipe with canned "lite" peaches. Maybe my little peach tree will give me some fresh ones to try this fall. Sometimes I add blueberries or dried cranberries to the apple variety. If you can eat nuts, I think adding some almond meal to the topping would be tasty.

Milo says, "I just know Daddy Cat is on the counter,
licking the buttery topping off the apple crisp. He's so bad! I can't look!"

My baby bibb lettuces are looking perky!

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Bazbeaux makes the best pizza in Indianapolis. They are also my sentimental favorite. They came to Mass. Ave. (my social center) early in its rebirth and helped establish it as a fun arts district.

Plus, I used to grow basil for them when I had my gourmet farm business. They liked my basil best and called it (and me) Kay Basil. I figured out I could reap the most pounds of basil leaves out of each square foot of ground by growing Mammoth Basil. I harvested just the leaves, and left the plant intact. I even washed it for them. So as not to damage the leaves, I would pick them and put the bags in the refrigerator for a few hours. Then wash, then refrigerate again before cooler-packed delivery. So they had big bags of clean basil leaves they could use as-is. I loved making that delivery because the restaurant smelled heavenly!

My Mammoth basils are just babies right now.

My favorite pizza on their menu is the Quattro Fromaggio. It has bacon, mushrooms and dallops of creamy ricotto. It also has a variety of grated aged cheeses. This was a good combination to create gluten free. I've avoided sausage and pepperoni because of forbidden ingredients, but I love Oscar Mayer Natural bacon with no nitrites or nitrates. The upscale food service pizza sauce I use at work happens to fit my requirements - no corn syrup or questionable ingredients. I didn't have any ricotta on hand, so I used little blobs of goat cheese. I shredded mozzarella, provolone and a little white cheddar to top it with. Sometimes I add fresh basil or spinach and sun dried tomatoes.

I found a crust recipe on somebody's blog. My apologies to the person who created it. When I was first searching for recipes I was quite desperate. I printed them out without noting their sources. So if this is your recipe, thanks a million! It saved me from a pizza-free life.

Oops! I almost ate it all before I remembered
to take a picture!
Pizza Crust

1 T dry yeast
2/3 C brown rice flour
1/2 C tapioca flour
2 T dry milk powder (you can sub tapioca flour or sweet rice flour)
1/2 T salt
2 t unflavored gelatin
2/3 C warm water (105 degrees)
1/2 t honey
1 t olive oil
1 t cider vinegar
*2 t xanthan gum (optional, I don't add any)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In the bowl of my stand mixer, I mix all the dry ingredients. I mix all the liquids in a measuring cup and add them. Then I beat it for about five minutes.

I grease AND FLOUR two foil-lined pie pans. I use the rice flour for this. Tapioca flour doesn't work as well. Then I oil my hands split the dough into two blobs, and work it gently into the pans.

I bake the crust for about 10 minutes. I leave the second one in the oven when I pull the first one out to add toppings. Then I top the second one and put them back in the oven for 20 to 25 more minutes, just until they start to brown. Voila! Pizza! Two pizzas!

Daddy Cat says, "I'm sorry I jumped on the counter
and ate that cheese when your back was turned. How about some bacon?"

Milo says, "Cheese? There was cheese?"