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."