Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Great Meal

A Turkey.
The other morning I woke up laughing at myself after having my first ever Thanksgiving dinner anxiety dream.  I have those dreams all the time:  the ones where I am at the beach when I am supposed to be at work or the ones where I realize it's finals week and I've forgotten to go to class all term.  In this particular dream it was three in the afternoon and my kitchen was in its everyday state of chaos when the doorbell rang and it suddenly occurred to me that there should be a nearly-done turkey in the oven and a fridge stuffed with food and where were the pies?

There are plenty of things going on in my life right now to stress me out but you know what?  Thanksgiving dinner simply isn't one of them.  And that's why I was able to wake up laughing.

It feels pretty calm this year.  We will be spending the holiday with good friends. I am much more relaxed about cooking without gluten.  There will be no family drama, no need to measure up to the checkout line magazines' hyperbolic BEST THANKSGIVING EVER.  With wine and good food and a crackling fire I predict a very fine holiday indeed.

Of course my menu isn't 100% set in stone just yet but I can pretty much plan on the following:

  • spiced nuts, good cheese, and maybe a light Campari-based cocktail, something like Nigella's Seasonal Breeze but cut with fizzy water
  • A simple roast turkey (I fussed around with brining last year and was not impressed)
  • Some variation on this stuffing. I'll pick up my GF bread from Happy Campers tomorrow.
  • Cranberry sauce  
  • Cranberry Orange Relish
  • Mashed potatoes.  With lots of butter and cream.  
  • Tzimmes
  • Some kind of green salad with dark red lettuces, pears, hazelnuts, and a nice vinaigrette
  • Crustless pecan pie (but I'll sub maple syrup for some of the sugar)
  • chocolate meringues
  • maybe one more dessert (hey, it's a holiday!)  with fruit
I hope all of you reading this will enjoy a lovely, relaxing holiday with good food and lots of loved ones.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

A busy week but we have lots of autumnal goodness in this week's meal plan:  squash and sweet potatoes and cranberry gingerbread.  Lots of slow cooking and more meat than I'd like but it will do.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Uppma Update

One of the many things I've given up since going gluten free was uppma, a delicious savory combination of wheat semolina, veggies, spices, and just all around goodness.  It's a hard one too describe....savory breakfast cereal with veggies?  I didn't get it until I tried it at which point I was hooked and made many versions of it, preferably topped with thick yogurt and a dollop of crazy-hot cranberry chutney which I realize sounds weird but it is as close to heaven as things get for me.

I've missed uppma so much.  I make a lot of poha which is kind of similar but doesn't quite hit the same note for me.  The last time we visited a local Indian restaurant for a buffet lunch I excitedly loaded my plate with their tasty uppma.  My husband looked at me like I was crazy.  I think I was, just for a minute there.  I slowly scraped my gluten-laden uppma onto his plate but nothing on the buffet was all that exciting to me (until I hit the chili pakoras anyway).

I've been sick all week and have spent way too much time sitting on my butt and not being able to taste anything.  Today it occurred to me that I had everything I needed for an uppma fest including....rice farina.  Well, why not?

There were cranberries in the freezer so I started up some of that chutney while I toasted the farina.  Then I proceeded as usual: frying cashews in coconut oil, sizzling curry leaves*, dal, and mustard seed, sauteing  a chunky red bell pepper and a pile of onions (and only one little hot chili so my husband could partake-the heat is in the chutney!).  I tossed the toasted farina back in and gradually added boiling water risotto-style until the cereal could take no more without getting gummy, added a handful of peas from the freezer, and topped the whole thing with cilantro and the fried cashews.  I served it, as I love it, with Greek yogurt and a hefty dollop of cranberry chutney and I am one happy girl today.

My slightly revised uppma recipe can be found here in all its gluten-free glory.  It's another step, but don't forget the chutney!

Bergera koenigii L.Image by adaduitokla via Flickr* Curry leaves, the only truly unusual ingredient here, can be found fresh at any Indian market. I have also found them in the occasional Vietnamese/SE Asian market. They don't taste like "curry" at all.  They have a mysterious, slightly medicinal flavor that is impossible to reproduce otherwise so do try to find them as they add something quite special to South Indian dishes.  When I locate them I buy a big bunch, rinse and shake them well, strip off the leaves, and tuck them into a freezer-bound ziplock bag.  Press the air out of the bag and they will keep for quite some time.  They are generally tossed into hot oil with mustard seeds so they can go straight from freezer to skillet. 
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

I do not for the life of me understand why it is that the simple practice of meal planning is such a difficult habit for me to adopt.  When I plan my week's meals I save time and money and avoid a fair amount of stress and even so I can't always make myself sit down and do it.

But this week I did so instead of beating myself up about all the times I didn't get to it I will try to focus on what I did manage:  a well balanced, healthy, economical set of meals that might actually go ever well with every member of this extremely picky family.

You can take a peek right here.

One way I am saving money these days is by not buying organic.  I know, I know, but right now it makes sense.  Highly sprayed crops like conventionally grown  strawberries, celery, and potatoes don't make it in to my shopping bags ever but I feel pretty safe buying non-organic melon, citrus, and onions.  I make my decisions using the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  Someday (soon, I hope!) things will turn around and I can buy all organic all the time but for now, this is good information that's helping me stretch our food dollars just a bit further.

Has this stinking economy hit your home?  How are you eating well for less?  

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

A fine pickle (or two)

I'm kind of new to pickles.

Of course I've had my share of kosher dills but I don't generally love them so I haven't explored the pickle world in great detail.Until this year.

It started with too many zucchini.

Of course.

Who knew zucchini made such fantastic pickles?

Now you do.  Every recipe I found online appeared to be some version of the zucchini pickles from San Franciso's Zuni Cafe.  I figured it must be pretty good so I tried this recipe and was absolutely hooked.  A warning, though.  Let them sit a week or so.  If you try them right away you will be disappointed but a little rest takes away the harshness of the turmeric and brings everything together beautifully.  I am pretty sure that anyone who tries these will find them absolutely delightful.

 I've also been making pickled jalapenos which I know not everyone finds delightful.  But that's ok.  I am the only chile-head in my house so I keep things like this tucked away in the 'fridge just to make things interesting. I made two quarts last month and could not stop eating them and then my dad came over and between the two of us we went through all of them in no time.  Then I made a big batch for friends in California.  And then I finally made more for myself today, tweaking the recipe just a bit. I think I've done enough tweaking to call this recipe my own.  Just please, please, please, wear gloves when you slice up the jalapenos or you will have a mighty chile burn that might just turn you against these fiery, fantastic pickles. And I don't want that.  Also, if your jalapenos are the super-hot, rip-your-head-off version I recently discovered in San Jose you might just want to scrape out those seeds with your gloved hands and discard them.

I had never made refrigerator pickles before this summer. I think I thought they were a short-cut, cheater version of pickles but keeping them out of the canning kettle means they stay bright and crisp and are a snap to make.  You can buy jalapenos pretty much year round though they aren't likely to be as cheap  or fresh as they are now.  You might want to hop to it with the zucchini pickles, though.  I don't know about where you live but here in Portland autumn is most definitely on its way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I'm all set up there now and I have a circle for food loving people. Let me know if you want me to add you!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This was both my first time making and eating paella, the classic Spanish rice dish. What's kept me away? Shellfish. Apart from the convenient fact that shellfish is forbidden to me both by Jewish law and doctor's order, the real truth is that I can't eat anything the looks like giant bugs. Absolutely. No. Way.

It's always looked to me like that beautiful saffron-colored rice might be pretty delicious were it not festooned with those giant bugs in every photo I've ever seen. I've been wondering for years what paella might taste like and I actually thought I could maybe imagine its flavor but I was not even close.

I made paella today because I found an utterly fabulous sounding recipe in Plenty, the new vegetable-focused cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi. I imagine you'll be reading more about this book here as I am quite taken with it. While vegetables are the focus of the book, they are presented in a wide variety of styles and in recipes that are a little more complex and interesting than I normally see. I quite like the way the recipes are grouped and the photography is gorgeous. This recipe in particular caught my eye as there we no bugs. In fact, though I made my version with long simmered home made chicken stock, the original calls for vegetable broth making it suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Of course I did not follow the original recipe exactly. With this many ingredients, one's bound to make a substitution or two, right? As mentioned earlier, I used chicken broth rather than vegetable because that's what I had on hand. I didn't feel like hunting (or paying) for Calasparra rice. This more authentic rice very likely makes an even better dish but I was perfectly happy with plain old US grown short grain rice. My cooking time was about 15 minutes longer than in the original recipe and I'm guessing that's because I used cheapo supermarket rice but remember--I had nothing to compare my paella to. If you have more experience, you might want to spring for a fancy Spanish rice.

If I can't be bothered to hunt down proper Spanish rice do you think I went searching for a jar of oil-packed grilled artichoke hearts?? Nope. Do we even have such a thing here? I used plain old canned artichoke hearts and I admit they did not bring much to the dish at all so maybe I'll try and figure out just what Ottolenghi was talking about the next time I make this paella.

You can see from my photos that my result was absolutely gorgeous. I'd say it was one of the prettiest dishes I've ever made. But it tasted even better. The combination of spices (saffron, turmeric, and smoky Spanish paprika) was fantastic. The artichoke hearts, fava beans, olives, and tomatoes provided something special in each bite, and the warmth of the cayenne pepper lingered gently. It's the kind of dish I love: complex but not excessively so, hearty but not heavy, and full of bold flavors.

I did use fresh saffron, smoked paprika, and fava beans. I've started buying my saffron from this guy on ebay and have been very happy with the quality of his very affordable product. I can't imagine cooking without smoked paprika but since my favorite local spice shop closed down I don't know who has the best product and price. Fava beans were new to me but I really liked the meaty, slightly chewy texture they brought to the paella.

The original recipe was published in Ottolenghi's column in The Guardian. It was then changed slightly for the book. I doubled the quantity for my version (believe me, you'll want more than 2 servings). I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Back again: meal plans!

Such a strange thing: my menu planning was going so well and them my husband lost his job and I stopped planning any coherent way. Why? Maybe because there was always an adult home to handle food prep and he would rather handle that his way than have to deal with my plans. Or something. Anyway, it's been months but he's finally got a new job--not ideal in any way but it should tide us over until something better comes along. I hope.

My sweetie will be gone all day and I will be once again in charge of pretty much all the food, not unreasonable given that I only work 12 hours a week. So, back to menu planning!

This week I've been influenced by a couple of things: I borrowed a new cookbook from the library and am anxious to try a number of the recipes. This week there will be paella and a rustic tart--now that I can make gf pie dough--hooray! Also, weather permitting, we'll be going to two different concerts in the park so a couple of our meals will be tucked into a picnic basket. Lots of blueberries and a big, important 18th birthday to celebrate as well.

Quite an introduction, no? Here's the plan.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Of all the things I despaired of never eating or cooking again I wasn't exactly worried about pie. Even with regular old wheat flour available to me I've never been much of a pie baker or eater, truth be told. I've just never gotten all that excited about pie.

But. But it's summer and there's tasty fruit everywhere and it's the Fourth of July and everyone seems to be talking pie so what to do? Once I read this post I got all fired up and decided I, too, could make a delicious gluten free pie.

I was in the mood for cherry but couldn't quite fork out $10 on an experiment so I used the remainder of last year's blueberries from the freezer, tossed with a bit of corn starch, cinnamon, and lemon zest.
Even with icy cold butter and less water than called for, my dough ended up really wet. I dusted it with white rice flour and used parchment to roll it out which worked pretty well. The dough is fragile and doesn't really want to hang together so the lattice top of my dream pie was replaced with pastry stars as they were a lot easier to move from counter to pie dish. I wasn't trying to be cute, just practical.

The result? Delicious! The crust baked up nicely and was very tasty though completely without the flakiness I associate with good pie. My husband was so happy to have pie and coffee that I think I may just have to do a little more pie baking. I might skip the food processor next time and use my old grated frozen butter trick to see if I can get some flakiness into the crust. But even if that doesn't work, I think there are more pies in my future as this really wasn't difficult, just fiddly, and my family was delighted with the results.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I've been making Claudia Roden's Orange and Almond Cake for years. I think I was initially attracted to it because it's a perfect ending to a Passover meal. I appreciate it now because it's a snap to make and always delicious, it's full of nutrients (for a cake anyway) and...I can eat it. "I can eat it" is an important food category for me these days, as you might imagine.

If you don't like the full on flavor of oranges, this cake isn't for you as it's made with two whole oranges, from juice to peel. Obviously you'd only want to make this with organic oranges as you probably don't want to feed your loved ones the food wax found on the non-organic variety.

I've made this cake for years and always used to grind the almonds myself in my trusty old food processor which made for a rustic, slightly gritty cake. Now that I keep big bags of almond meal in the freezer, I love how much lighter and more delicate this cake can be. (I use the same weight of almond flour as ground almonds in the recipe.) It's an elegant finish to any meal but it's still sturdy enough that you could keep it on the springform base, wrap it in foil, and take it along for a picnic. That's what I plan on doing, if summer ever comes.......

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

My First Gluten Free Seder

Passover is almost here, the most food obsessed in a long list list of food obsessed Jewish holidays. And what is the most important Passover food? Why the matzoh of course, the unleavened (but fully glutened) "bread of affliction" as we so fondly call it.

The matzoh is the centerpiece of the ritual part of the meal, symbolizing the haste with which our people left bondage for a life of freedom. I am not so sensitive to gluten that the tiny bit of matzoh mandated for consumption during the seder would do me much harm, but so many of my Passover recipes are for good things to spread on matzoh during the week following the seder and I don't want to give those up. I am too cheap to fork over $30 for a pound of certified gluten free oat matzoh so I decided to make my own following this recipe, using flour I ground from gluten free oats.

My other big worry was matzoh balls. Somehow I didn't see homemade oat matzoh holding up to simmering dumpling style but luckily my friend Ruth found me a recipe for a potato-almond dumpling that should do the trick thought I'll still be making the real thing for my family and guests.

This year Passover won't be much different from the way I now eat all the time. The focus, as ever, will be on nuts, dairy, eggs, meat, fruit, and veggies. I have tons of new recipes which meet the guidelines for Passover food and I think we'll eat quite well.

Our seder menu:

"regular" apple-walnut charosetLink
"Indian" Charoset (made with dates, coconut, almonds, dried apricots, and cardamom)

Mock Chopped Liver
(I hate this name so I call it walnut pate)

Salmon Pate

vegetarian broth/chicken broth + matzoh balls/gf potato knaidlach

Matzo kugel/crustless quiche for our vegetarians (haven't decided yet)

Chicken Marbella

tzimmes (baked sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, with orange and cinnamon)

Asparagus Salad

Fruit Salad

Strawberry Cake Roll

Racines Cake

Iraqi Macaroons

Post Seder Followup: Most of the meal was fantastic. I loved doing the asparagus ahead as a salad so I didn't have to worry about overcooking it.

The chicken marbella was delightful--moist, flavorful, and complex. Loved it!

The potato dumplings were fantastic. They went well in chicken soup but they also met the morning after test. I was able to pan fry them in butter with great success.

The oat matzo, on the other hand, was truly "the bread of affliction" and was just about inedible. Next year, a better gluten free matzo!
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Monday, February 28, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

Not all that exciting, really. I'm looking forward to lasagna which I haven't had since I gave up gluten. Definitely going to have that uttapam again--yum!

February 28-March 5

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's funny how things work out.....

The other day I developed a serious craving for idli which I blame on Shoba Narayan, the author of Monsoon Diary, a book I just finished which is full of mouth watering descriptions of the meals she ate growing up in Chennai (then Madras), India.

I don't really mind idli from a mix but I've had homemade and they are truly delicious: stark white, spongy, slightly sour and the perfect thing to dip in a delicious chutney. Every time I think of making my own, however, I remember the soaking and grinding and fermenting and abandon the whole plan in the realization that I should have planned ahead.

Well, for once, I did (and I'm out of mix!). I put the rice and urad dal to soak Friday evening, ground it into batter Saturday morning and left it to ferment for 24 hours. This morning I carefully spooned it it into my oiled idli stand, and made some coconut chutney while the idli steamed.
Looking forward to fluffy white idlis, you can imagine my disappointment when I unlocked the pressure cooker and found the blobs looking not much different than when I placed them in the cooker. Worse than their appearance was their gummy, unappealing texture. Thinking my batter was too wet I thickened it with rice flour and added a bit of baking powder to help the batter rise. Round 2: still gummy and nasty. Clearly it wasn't my day for idli but I still needed something to eat and got to thinking......

I knew that idli batter could also be thinned and used to make dosa, those delightfully chewy-crispy crepe-like pancakes. But I didn't want to muck around making a filling so instead, I just tossed in some finely chopped onion, cilantro, and chile, ground in a bunch of black pepper, and recycled my failed idli batter into highly successful uttapam batter.

I love idli and dosa so much that when I get a chance to eat either at a South Indian restaurant I skip the uttapam so I was not really 100% sure what I was aiming for but what I got was delicious, a thick, savory pancake which I tore into bits and dipped happily into my coconut chutney (you also see coriander chutney in this photo but it did not taste right so I ended up tossing it).

This batter makes a dense pancake that sticks easily so I used a fair amount of coconut oil in my cast iron skillet and re-applied it before flipping. I also covered each pancake with a pot lid as I cooked the first side to trap some heat and help it cook more evenly.

Though these don't have the wonderful spongy texture of idli, they do still have the tangy fermented taste. And they get on the table a lot faster than idi and require no special equipment. Despite being gluten free they are filling and satisfying and quite nutritious. Clearly I need some help in the idli department but I think I could eat uttapam pretty regularly and be quite happy.

If you'd like to give this a try, the recipe for batter and chutney is here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pumpkin Chili




This is the tastiest chili I've made, possibly ever. So good, in fact, that there's no need to top a big, steaming bowl with cheese or sour cream because the flavor is rich and complex all on its own. Plus it's loaded with nutrients like protein and vitamins and minerals and fiber (but don't tell your kids).

I stumbled across this recipe and then had to fiddle with it to make it work for my crazy weekday schedule so in to the slow cooker it went. When I came home from work everyone else had eaten and declared the chili delicious. Should I tell them that it was pumpkin puree which added sweetness and complexity?

Maybe not.

You can make this delicious chili and then its up to you to decide how to present it.

One note: if you are a lover of spicy things, you may find this a little tiny bit bland. That's what sriracha sauce is for, people. I found about a half teaspoonful swirled in a bowl of pumpkin chili to be just about right.

The recipe is here. Go make it and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meal Plan...Tuesday?

Yikes! This time I wrote the menu plan but never posted it--silly me. Most interesting this week should be the parsnip-shallot soup made my by 17 year old son. I am looking forward to trying that, for sure. Also--last night's pumpkin chili? Major hit!

The meals are all here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pretty Darned Close

When I got my gluten free sentence I handled it pretty well and the only gluten I really panicked about giving up was Jewish gluten. How in the world would I manage without my weekly challah and matzoh at Passover and hamantaschen at Purim and....bagels? No bagels? Seriously?

My first scouting trip to New Cascadia was all about the bagels--would they suffice? Sadly, no. Maybe when I've been on this crazy diet for longer they will work for me but for now I am sorry to say I don't love them. I like a good, chewy bagel but theirs are too tough for me and they have this mysterious weird flavor I've tasted in everything I've tried there. I've tried Udi's "bagels" but apart from having a hole in the center there's nothing in common with bagels. Insulation maybe, but not my beloved bagels.

Part of me knows that, because I will always be disappointed by poor imitations, I should just give up on the bready quest. But the call of the bagel is powerful and yesterday I tried some Glutino sesame bagels and was very pleasantly surprised. They still have that weird flavor present in so many gf baked goods (what is that, anyway?) but they have the right texture and they toast up nicely. At over $6/bag I don't expect to eat them often but it's nice to know there's something out there that will satisfy my need for bagels when nothing else will do.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

You know what? I didn't get it together last week and get our meals in place and it was chaos all week. So....I'm going to try really heard to stay in the meal plan groove because even when it's Sunday morning after a late night dancing it's absolutely worth it to make myself do this. And so, with that, I give you this week's meals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Little Something Sweet

In general, I'm not really much for cupcakes. They seem kind of fussy and messy and just not my thing.

But caramel cupcakes? Maybe they're worth the trouble, right?

There is no end to my love of all flavors on the caramel-butterscotch-toffee spectrum. So when I saw caramel cupcakes in my new Blackbird Bakery Gluten Free cookbook, I was intrigued enough to go buy frilly paper cupcake liners.

The cupcakes were delicious--buttery and full of vanilla flavor. Nothing screamed "gluten free!" in taste or texture. Like nearly all gf baked good I've attempted, they needed an additional 10 minutes in the oven beyond what the recipe recommends.

The caramel flavor comes entirely from the frosting which was was sweet enough to make my head ring--a little goes a long, long way and I had plenty leftover. I even added some sea salt to try and pull it back from the edge but it was still too sweet for my taste. So, a bit of a puzzle--the frosting was way too sweet but, because it has all the caramel flavor, it's kind of the focus.

Next time I will try subbing out some brown sugar for the granulated in the cakes themselves so the caramel flavor is better distributed. Maybe I could get away with less frosting...

My kids, it should be said, had no trouble with the overly-sweet frosting and declared them delicious. I found them a little less intense and pretty much perfect by the second day. Especially with a nice, steaming hot latte.

I was going to type all of this up for you but realized that it's all available on the Blackbird Bakery blog. I used half the recipe to get 1 dozen cupcakes and a copious supply of frosting. And while the cactus decorations are charming, you can see I skipped that part. One thing these cupcakes did not need is more sugar!

Meal Plan Monday

Nothing too exciting this week, apart from the fact that my boys are cooking two of the meals--hooray!

you go....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

This week will be influenced quite a bit my latest library find: The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla. You know I'm gonna have some fun with that!

We had the nihari (slow cooked beef curry) last night and it was fantastic rolled into sorghum roti. There will be a repeat performance for sure!

The rest of our planned meals can be found here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On a friend's recommendation (Thanks, Erin!) I just got Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day out of the library. I loved the authors' first book and wrote here about the ease of their no-knead method and the tastiness of the results and we went through a great deal of that fantastic bread.

Of course I have to ignore 85% of the book due to my new diet but the great news is that there are a few gluten free breads using their no-knead, slow rise technique and I can't wait to try them out. There's a Crusty Boule, Not-Rye, and a brioche which might bring cinnamon rolls back into my life.

The doughs are made in large quantities and kept refrigerated with the idea that you always have dough on hand and you just bake up a chunk when you need it. Because of this, the recipes make a lot of dough. I was anxious to try that crusty boule but realized I didn't have nearly enough tapioca starch on hand. Rather than buy another expensive packet from the grocery store I decided to go down to Bob's Red Mill and see hwo the prices compared. It seems that for the gluten free ingredients, their packaged prices were pretty comparable to the grocery store but I was astounded to realize the savings to be had in buying from their bulk bins. Quinoa flour, for example, was $10 for a 22-ounce bag but only cost $2.49/pound in bulk. I'm no math whiz but I believe that makes the packaged version about three items as expensive as the bulk per ounce. I found similar savings on other flours as well as corn and tapioca starch. I don't remember the savings being as dramatic for the regular gluteny items I used to buy but perhaps they are.

I haven't gotten to the bread baking yet--hopefully this weekend--but I wanted to take a minute to share my discovery. Those of you who live in or near Portland and follow a gluten free diet have probably already realized the dramatic savings to be had by schlepping out to Milwaukee and loading up from the bulk bins but it was news to me so I thought I'd share.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Meal Plan Monday

Here it is--oh, yeah!

We go from quiet days and visits with friends back to the old routine. Simpler meals, more reliance on our friend the slow cooker. I sure do treasure the time I get to be home in the evening to cook and eat dinner with my family but it's back to work for me, 4 nights a week.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year Hoppin' John

January 1 isn't really my new year (which we Jews celebrate in early fall) but I like to make this southern standard for the other new year's day. I do have a touch of Southern blood and I love a good tradition. While I don't really expect "Peas for pennies, greens for dollars and cornbread for gold" I figure it can't hurt, especially being a dish that packs in a whole heck of a lot of nutrients in one tasty bowl.

I have a little confession to make: I actually found a genuine secret ingredient which made this year's version extra fantastic. Our local natural foods market had a tray of truly ugly,blackened smoked turkey legs tucked in the corner of the meat cooler and, after a discussion with the butcher lady, I realized these hideous things might work magic in my hoppin' john -- plus it was fun to tell the kids I'd bought a smoked orc leg.

While my kashrut leaves much to be desired, we don't eat pork and I think that smoky, salty taste was missing from my ham hock-less beans all these years. I tossed that leg in my slow cooker yesterday with soaked black-eyed peas, some long simmered chicken broth, and a skillet full of sauteed bell peppers, celery, onion, and garlic and let it simmer all day. When I reheated it today, I shredded the turkey meat off the bone and into the stew, added a thinly sliced bunch of collard greens, and served it over brown rice with a side of gluten free corn bread. It was mild enough for the kids but I had a big bottle of my beloved Crystal hot sauce at hand and everyone was happy.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. The recipe is here.

Our hoppin' john may not bring us wealth, but I don't think I spent more than $5 (smoked turkey leg included) on the whole big pot so I figure we are most definitely starting the new year off right. Here's to 2011--may we all be healthy and happy!