No Special Equipment Required for Gluten-Free Cooking, but Some Gadgets are Fun!

If you’re new to gluten-free cooking, you’ll be relieved to learn there’s no special equipment required to make a delicious gluten-free chocolate cake, Gouda muffin, or meatball from scratch. Everyone I know has everything needed already in their kitchen. With that said, there’s no hiding the fact that some gadgets are fun!
mixer
If you have a sharp knife, whisk, grater, food chopper or blender, you have all you need to make most recipes. If you want to bake, it’s also helpful to have a dough blender, and a mixer. I’m not big on small electric appliances, so I have an inexpensive food chopper, but no electric food processor, blender, mixer, juicer, toaster, rice cooker, waffle iron, or even coffee maker.
waffle
I drink coffee, but use a French press and make waffles using an antique cast iron waffle maker. Admittedly, my waffles might fare better with a nonstick waffle iron, but I love the simplicity and durability of the one I have. While I don’t want a bunch of appliances lining my countertops, I must confess that there are a few gadgets I love to use!
grater
Cube Grater
Last weekend I was grating garlic for scalloped potatoes using a small box grater. Made by Microplane®, this 3-sided cube has 3 different blades. None of them are specifically made for garlic, but I got a great result anyway.

The bladed cube comes in a slightly larger translucent cube marked with measurements. Grate your cheese, chocolate, or coconut into the larger cube and measure it at the same time! Add the top and you have an automatic storage container.

I like having tiny grated pieces automatically trapped in a container where I can easily scoop them into a teaspoon. I also love the efficiency of the blades. This tool just works well which makes it a pleasure to use.
zester
Zester
While we’re on the subject of Microplane graters, I’ve used my zester on a regular basis for years. Again, it works well! There’s nothing more frustrating than buying a kitchen tool that looks great, but doesn’t do the job. None of those will be making my list.

Rotary Hand Mixer
I use a rotary hand mixer for cake batter, whipped cream, and meringue. It looks a lot like an egg beater, but it’s much heavier and capable of mixing a thick batter.

Just before I moved into my first apartment, my father acquired an assortment of pots, pans, dishes, cups, metal mixing bowls, and kitchen tools from a restaurant. Seems this restaurant owed him some money that they didn’t have, so he decided to collect in what was available – kitchen and dining equipment. The timing was good. I needed to outfit an apartment, and Dad didn’t really want to sue.

The hand mixer I use today, came from that transaction. I used the pots and metal mixing bowls for years. They weren’t attractive, but they were large and functional. All that’s left now is the mixer. I’m grateful to have it. It’s a workhorse!

Dough Blender
Of the several dough blenders in my drawer, an old one with a red handle is my favorite! I found it in my mother’s kitchen. Like all of the old implements I use, it’s sturdy. I find the wires more effective for cutting fat into flour than the metal blades on a more modern model I own.
pitcher
Funnel Pitcher
The day I poured boiling water across my hand while attempting to fill a French press, I learned that I might need some assistance with my pouring aim. A funnel pitcher fits the bill. It’s easy to fill dessert glasses with panna cotta or create the perfect pancake using a funnel pitcher. I like these pitchers so much, I’ve given them as gifts so other people can like them too.

Looking back at this list, it appears that I like sturdy, functional, tools that work well. That sounds right. I don’t really care whether they’re new, old, or in between as long as they have the other characteristics.

I can make do without these tools and still create delicious gluten-free food, but a well-crafted utensil heightens my cooking experience and I like that. Hopefully, you have favorites that make your kitchen time more pleasant. If not, feel free to check out my favorites!

https://us.microplane.com/kitchen_en_us/cubegraterfamily.html

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sometimes You Have to Stop in Order to Start

Today is a great reminder that sometimes you have to stop in order to start. I am organized, efficient, and a solid multitasker with the ability to make long-term and short-term plans at the same time. I can make a great backward timeline. I am known as flexible, resourceful, and a problem solver, but today I am spinning.
spin
There are simply so many things on my schedule requiring input from so many people in such a short time frame, that It’s hard for me to slow my mind down enough to begin anything. When I do, I see the 10 other related things that must be handled and I feel like quitting before I start.

I know it would be easy to send me organizational tips, instructions on setting boundaries, encouraging affirmations, and reminders that this too shall pass. I’d prefer you show up with a home cooked gluten-free meal, clean up my kitchen, fold the laundry, wash my car, fill it with gas, pick up the mail, collect from my two renters who are behind, locate the contractor who keeps failing to show up, and contact the bank about the suspicious activity on my account while I attend to the lengthy list that remains.

Sometimes life is overwhelming. Each of us has a limit to what we can handle — physically and emotionally. A little difficulty helps us develop resilience, but too much can send our defenses springing into action. Those defenses may look like many things, but they often involve disruptive or destructive behavior: failing to follow our health regimen, drinking too much, acting demanding or controlling, hoarding, neglecting responsibilities, fighting, aligning with dangerous people, seeking to be rescued, playing the martyr, excessive spending, and more.

As my morning reminded me, it’s better to recognize how I’m feeling and stop before I hit the point of spinning out of control. I know it sounds crazy to stop everything when there’s too much to be done. After all, how will you make up that time?

While you won’t get more time in a day, stopping will allow you to be more productive as you move forward. Over time, that will make up the difference. Today, after deciding that a 30 minute wait on the line with the bank was not how I wanted to spend my time, I walked away from my desk and my list and worked out. Paying attention to my breath and my workout allowed me to recenter my focus.

When I came back downstairs, I began doing one task at a time and marking them off the list. I may not get done with today’s list. I may have to work late, or reschedule something later this week. I may have to say no to something I really want to do. I’m not going to worry about any of that right now. Until 5pm, I’m simply going to work diligently down my list. At the end of the day, I’ll see where I am and adjust accordingly.

Experience has taught me that I’ll typically have accomplished way more than I believed I could. It also has taught me to be kind to myself. At the end of the day, I will rest if I’m tired — at least for an hour or two and I will be open to renewal.
trees
It’s easy to deny ourselves renewal when there’s no time for a vacation or a full day off, but renewal is available in small doses all around us: noticing how good the breeze feels, watching an herb garden grow taller and smell wonderfully appetizing, receiving and embracing appreciation or a compliment, enjoying the sunset, laughing, or learning something new.

At the end of each day, I write down the things that made me feel good that day. Armed with these lists, I can intentionally repeat and build on those things so that I gradually feel good more often in spite of many current unexpected and difficult life events.

Like yoga or gratitude or shame resilience, building good feelings can be practiced. Like other practices, the more I practice the more proficient I become. And who doesn’t want to become more proficient in feeling good? I just have to remember that sometimes I have to stop in order to start.

A Baby Food Mill Can Provide Peace of Mind

kitIf you have a family history of food allergies or intolerance, a baby food mill can provide peace of mind because you know exactly what’s in the food your baby is consuming. My mom suffered from what we then called Hay Fever to the extent that her nose ran all the time and would get raw from wiping it with tissues. She solved the raw nose problem by walking around with silk panties hanging out of her nose. I kid you not and I wish I had a photo. Maybe you’ll believe me if I show you this current photo of her with a diaper on her head. She says she was cold. Don’t ask me.
mom
At the time, I can’t remember her attributing the, let’s call it, Silk Panty Situation to foods. It seemed to be more an allergy to ragweed or driving the truck when it was time to haul hay. The latter part resulted in me learning to drive very early and having my first wreck, passengers included, when I was 9. But that’s another story altogether. Back to our discussion of allergies…

When Ben was a tiny baby, he suffered from constant congestion. I mean significant congestion that made it difficult for him to breath through his nose. His pediatrician put him on asthma medication. That made him hyper, fussy, and kept him from sleeping. After a few exhausting weeks of a constantly awake, crying baby, I decided there had to be a better solution.

Through some trial and error, I figured out that if I would avoid dairy products in my diet, Ben’s congestion would disappear. This made some sense. By then we already knew that James did not tolerate dairy well. I decided that I could go without ice cream for a year while I breastfed if it meant Ben could breath without meds and I could get a night’s sleep.

James’ history, and subsequently Ben’s, wasn’t the only reason I followed the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for food introduction to prevent allergies, my sister had a history of turning beet red when she consumed foods containing basil or magnesium. I wanted to make sure that I gave the kids the best chance I could to avoid problems in the future.

As they currently do, the APA then recommended breast milk only for the first 6 months. Once it was time to introduce solid food, I opted for the most control possible over the ingredients and invested in a baby food mill. That simple device allowed me to know exactly what I was feeding my children and it was easy on the budget. I could feed James & Ben the same food their dad and I were eating, but in a baby friendly form.
baby food grinder
Baby food mills are still a good option for the same reasons. While it’s now much easier to buy organic baby food from the supermarket, many brands are only 95% organic, some contain preservatives, and the cost ranges from 23¢ to 48¢ per ounce. When you get to Stage 2 foods, most prepackaged options are blends that may or may not appeal to your child thereby limiting your selection and their nutrient variety.
green grinder
There are many brands of food mills and they come in several shapes and sizes. Most are small enough to be easily carried along on an outing and some even come with a travel pack. In the most common design, you pull the top bowl section upward, fill the tube below with food and as you turn the handle, the food moves up into the bowl section ready to feed to your infant. The components then come apart to be cleaned in the dishwasher.
white grinder
If you want the option of using the mill for other food processing jobs, you can choose an OXO model with 3 interchangeable blades. There are electronic versions as well if you’re a fan of specialized power kitchen gadgets.
oxo
Once you’ve chosen the model that best suits the needs of your family, all you have to do is fill it with freshly prepared food – organic when possible and devoid of sugar, as well as excessive salt or fat. According to the AAP, new eaters only need one or two tablespoons of food at a time increasing to 3 – 4 tablespoons as the child grows. They also recommend that you avoid feeding an infant under 4 months old fresh spinach, beets, green beans, carrots, and squash because of the naturally occurring nitrates. If you follow their recommendation of breast milk only for a minimum of 4 months, this should not be an issue.

There is no evidence that introducing foods in a particular order will prevent allergies. In order to quickly recognize an allergic response, it is best to introduce foods one at a time and feed only that food for 2-3 days before moving to the next food. If your child experiences, diarrhea, rash, vomiting, congestion, hives, or irritability that disappears once a particular food is removed, your child may be allergic to that food.

For those of you who are celiac or have gluten intolerance in your family, your children are at increased risk of being gluten intolerant due to shared genetics. Because gluten intolerance causes an immune response, it is not the same as an allergy. It may be best not to introduce any baby cereals other than possibly rice and oats until the child is older, if at all.

While I can’t say James and Ben are a representative sample of kids who grow up eating table food rather than packaged baby food, they are both chronically healthy. Using a baby food mill helped keep me on budget and give me the peace of mind that I was providing them with the best nutrition possible.

Judging by these photos of James’ first meal of solid food, he was well prepared for the event and satisfied by the content!
jamesone
james 2
james 3

Check out these food mills:

http://www.kidco.com/products-page/preparation/f810/

http://ep.yimg.com/ty/cdn/happybaby/kidcofoodmillinst.pdf

http://www.kidalog.com/categories/Mealtime/

http://www.munchkin.com/fresh-feeding-starter-set.html

http://www.oxo.com/p-476-food-mill.aspx

For more information regarding infant feeding suggestions and guidelines, see these resources:

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx

http://ebooks.aappublications.org/content/nutrition-0

https://brightfutures.aap.org/pdfs/Guidelines_PDF/6-Promoting_Healthy_Nutrition.pdf

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/3/784.full

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Don’t Like Peeling Butternut Squash? Then Don’t!

I love butternut squash.  I like it oven roasted, mashed, as part of a tart, as a soup, boiled in beef stew – you name it, I’ll gobble it up.  I love it in spite of the fact that my knives always seem to be dull and it has a tough covering.

Some of my friends tell me they avoid cooking this squash because it’s just too much trouble to peel.  To this I say, then don’t peel it.  A moderately sharp knife should cut a butternut squash in half when you use a little elbow grease. Once you’ve managed that, you’re well on your way to using it in some tasty preparations like these:

One of my favorite ways to prepare butternut squash is to oven roast it. I preheat the oven to 425º, clean the skin, remove the seeds, and cube it in one-inch cubes with the skin left on. Then I place the squash on a cast iron baking sheet skin side down, drizzle with olive oil, top with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and roast for about 40 minutes. The skin gets brown and adds some pleasing texture to the squash.

Oven roasted squash is delicious by itself, but it becomes decadent when I take the hot squash from the oven, remove the thyme, then toss the squash with bleu cheese crumbles and Sahale Valdosta Pecans. This pecan blend contributes a bit of tart, sweet, and spice to the dish with its addition of cranberries, black pepper and orange zest.

If you like to share, this combination makes a great choice for a potluck contribution. You can roast the squash while you’re getting dressed for a party, then toss with the cheese and pecans just before you walk out the door.

Yesterday, I included butternut squash in some beef stew that I simmered for about an hour before serving. I prepared one-inch cubes in the same manner I described above, leaving the skin on. After an hour of cooking, the skin was perfectly tender and added enough body to the squash for it to hold its shape and keep from disintegrating into the broth. Because I had added a significant amount of red pepper, it was nice to have the natural sweetness of the squash to balance the heat.

Even though butternut squash is a winter squash, I find it in the supermarket all year long. That means it’s available in the summer for a bit of barbecue variety. Just clean the skin, slice in half, remove the seeds and core, then slice in large wedges, season, and throw on the grill.

The more experience you gain wielding a knife against this pale orange nemesis, the more comfortable you may become peeling the squash. That will open the door for a whole new set of preparations. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to throw one in your shopping cart.  It doesn’t have to be peeled to be delicious!