Free-Range Grazing in My Kitchen

My family just spent a couple of days free-range grazing in my kitchen. That wasn’t exactly what I envisioned. All I wanted to do was have a large pot of something prepared before my out-of-town guests arrived so that there was food within reach if anyone got hungry.

I don’t know about your family, but you don’t ever want mine to get hungry. We don’t just get hangry, we go ballistic. It is not a pretty sight!

I settled on beef stew and bought stew meat, small purple and white potatoes, various colors of carrots, and boiling onions. So that my sauce would thicken on its own, I coated the meat with a mixture of corn starch, tapioca starch, sweet white sorghum flour, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper before browning it in olive oil.

A couple of hours later, I had traditional beef stew boiling on the stove and a plane to meet at the airport. The crew arrived hungry and started on the beef stew immediately. I threw together some cornbread. All was well.

The next morning, two more sections of the family would arrive. Instead of fixing breakfast while the LA crowd slept, I made pasta sauce enhanced with salami and pork chops with rice. At the time I thought I was prepping for the following days. That’s not how it worked out.

Somehow, as the crowd gathered food started disappearing. I brought out the left over stew and cooked gluten-free pasta to add to my sauce. Before long everyone had a plate of something. A few hours later, everyone had a plate of something else.

The snack bucket I had stocked with gluten-free pretzels, trail mix, peanut butter, crackers, and chips began to empty. Green banana eaters and ripe banana eaters grabbed bananas. The left over cornbread got slathered with honey.

Food disappeared in waves. I ran out of bowls. We grabbed mixing bowls. I cooked frozen gluten-free pizza to fill in the pasta gap once the pasta was gone. The extra salami not used in pasta sauce ended up on crackers.

The kids played, we laughed, and no one ever got hungry. In fact, no one even got fussy much less hangry. Eventually, the dishes got washed. And after a couple of days of free-range grazing, most everyone went home to graze in their own kitchens.

I still have some clean-up to do, but it was a great visit proving a little food can go a long way toward building happy families!

10 Great Gluten-Free Gifts for the Food Lovers in Your Life

giftsAs more and more people embrace a gluten-free lifestyle, you may find yourself searching to find great gluten-free gifts for the food lovers in your life. There’s no need to focus on foods with a gluten-free label. Many foods are naturally gluten-free as well as delicious. If you’re looking for ideas, start with our top 10 favorites:
1. Spices from Penzey’s
Long before I was gluten-free and it was possible to order online, I began giving Penzey’s gift packs as customer gifts. I love using the spices, so why wouldn’t I want to share! Packaged in a variety of combinations, the spices come in glass jars with black lids arranged in a perfectly tailored box for as little as $14.79. Individual spices and gift cards are also available.

2. Harry & David Pears
Harry & David managed to squeak through some tough financial times and we’re so grateful! It doesn’t get any better than a perfectly ripe Royal Riviera® Pear. I let the juice run down my chin every time I bite into one. I just can’t help it!
3. Olive Oils and Vinegars from Strippaggio
You haven’t had balsamic vinegar until you’ve tried the Barrel Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Strippaggio. And then there’s the dark chocolate balsamic, blueberry balsamic, espresso balsamic, and many more – all delicious! And we can’t forget the Extra Virgin Olive Oils flavored with basil, lemon, jalapeño, and citrus. Give a sample pack of either 4 oils or 4 vinegars for about $25.
4. Zocalo Andean Heritage Flours
The natural boxes are cute, cute, cute and the flours are totally fun to play with. My favorites are the sweet potato and mesquite flours. The products are free of soy, gluten, dairy, and genetically engineered ingredients. They’re less than $10 and available from a variety of outlets including Amazon and igourmet

5. Scharffenberger Cacao Nibs & Cocoa Powder
I use the Cacao Nibs in my cheesecake crust. They add just the right touch of chocolate. The unsweetened cocoa powder flavors my favorite chocolate cake! You can also order a variety of gift sets. A tin of sweetened cocoa, a cute mug, and a candy cane would be perfect for the hot chocolate lover.

6. Gourmet Gluten-Free Pasta from Pappardelle’s
The selection has changed since the last time I ordered, but there are several interesting options – Basil Garlic Penne, Garlic Chive Rooster Combs, Porcini Mushroom Large Trumpets, and Plain Mafaldine. Of course I’m most intrigued by the Dark Pasta Shavings that are not available this season. That’s okay. I can wait. There’s also a new 3 pack gift box for $40 and electronic gift cards to make things easy.

7. Snacks from
We order them for ourselves, why not for our friends! has a gluten-free menu link so it’s easy to choose the perfect snack of nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, candy, or veggie chips.There’s also a variety of coffees, teas, and sugar-free items, not to mention recipes and a gluten-free flour guide.

8. Taro Flavored Frozen Yogurt from Red Mango
I have no idea why a root vegetable makes for tasty frozen yogurt, but this flavor is the BEST!!! In fact, when they’re out of it no other flavor seems to suffice. Red mango yogurt retains the tangy taste of yogurt rather than the sweet taste of ice cream. For me, this is a real plus. Gift cards are available.

9. Bacon of the Month Club
We’ve ordered this for friends and they raved for years; problem is, they didn’t share a single piece of bacon with us. How crazy is that? Now there’s a specialized GF version so you don’t have to worry about the rubs and seasonings.

10. Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
Blue Bell had a brief stumble this year. We’re glad to see they’ve resolved the problems and begun shipping again. We’ve been known to spend $125 in shipping cost just to get 4 gallons of Blue Bell to James in California. He loves it that much!

As we push full speed ahead into holiday shopping craziness, I hope this list will help you save some time when you shop for the gluten-free amongst you.

Happy Shopping!

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.”

But, I’m Worried that I Won’t do it Perfectly!

Want to get started with a gluten-free regimen, but keep hearing a voice in your head say, “I’m worried that I won’t do it perfectly”? If so, then I am here to make you feel better.

I didn’t have that thought and I still didn’t do it perfectly. A few weeks after beginning a gluten-free lifestyle, I was cooking pasta for dinner. I carefully made sure I had corn pasta on hand for me and regular pasta for the boys. I cooked it in two separate pans. I had two colanders ready to drain the pasta separately.
pasta dinner

Everything was going according to plan until the timer told me it was about a minute until the boy’s regular pasta would be done. Without hesitation, I put a spoon in the pan, grabbed a pasta shell, drained away the water, and popped the pasta in my mouth to test the doneness. It was habit, pure and simple.

About the time I swallowed, I realized what I had done. I felt really stupid. I was worried that I would have to start all over again. A moment of *&@$$ing ensued. I told the boys what I’d done and how foolish I felt.

If I hadn’t fessed up right then, I probably would have kicked myself for a day, maybe weeks, and I might have been tempted to give up on my plan to remain gluten-free for a year before assessing the plan’s effectiveness. As it turned out, the boys gave me so much trouble I began to reflexively explain to them how what I had done wasn’t all that bad. I protested enough on my own behalf that I believed myself.

It never happened again. That incident scared me straight. Not only that, it was so early in the process, I didn’t even notice if it slowed down the healing. In retrospect, I’m glad I made that mistake when I made it. That was more than 10 years ago when I was suffering from an endless itchy rash, aching rotator cuff, overall weakness in my arms, horrible tummy aches, extreme tiredness, diarrhea and constipation, and my hair was falling out.

Within weeks of that mistake, my arm quit hurting, I started sleeping soundly again, and my tummy was starting to feel better. In a few more weeks, I could put my car in reverse with one hand again. My hair stopped falling out. Progress followed progress followed progress. There were some ups and downs during that first year as my body slowly rebuilt, but during each down period I felt better than I had in the previous down period.

Once I felt better, I began to have an aversion to the very thought of taking a bite of a fresh, yeasty roll or a crispy pizza crust. I felt too much association with my previous pain. Today, it’s second nature for me to pay close attention to what I’m eating and it’s habit to make sure it’s gluten-free. Of course, that can make it tortuous when I eat an extra scoop of ice cream because I’m very aware of what I’m doing.

My choices aren’t perfect – never have been, never will be. What I’ve learned is that it’s better to keep making steps forward than to punish myself for not being perfect or to give up because I made a mistake. If I had let my first mistake stop me, it is likely that I would have endured rotator cuff surgery; I would have continued to become weaker; my lack of sleep would have affected my work performance; and my mounting doctor bills would have adversely affected my finances.

Even now, ten years later, I sometimes get a little tummy ache and have a momentary remembrance of how bad I felt every day back then. When this happens, I always wonder how I could stand it? A tiny pain now is so distracting I simply can’t fathom how I could have focused enough to work through my pain when it was ten times worse. I feel so good now! I’m so glad that I made that first mistake and that I didn’t let it stop me from making my way down the gluten-free path!

Get Your Ducks in a Row with this Gluten-Free Pasta!

ducks in a row

Even your kids will want to get their ducks in a row with this duck-shaped gluten-free pasta. The raw ducks make for an enjoyable math lesson prior to cooking and an art lesson while your child eats. Made from nothing but corn flour and water,these adorable ducks can be used in soup, with a sauce, or to stretch a one-pot meal.

As often happens, I found this pasta while shopping for something else in a store I don’t usually frequent. The bright green bag full of Sam Mills Pasta for Kids boasts that these ducks are free from Gluten, GMOs, Dairy, Cholesterol, Egg, Sugar, Yeast, Soy, Sodium, and Nuts. They’re even Kosher. And they’re made in Romania for a bit of foreign flair to boot.

pasta for kids

One serving contains 194 calories, .5 grams of fat, 44.2 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams of dietary fiber, and 3.1 grams of protein. That seems like a large carb count, but the bag also promises a low glycemic index of less than 40. There are 6 servings per 12 oz. bag

After a mere 8 minutes in boiling water, the ducks are tender and ready to swim in a meat sauce or chicken soup. As long as it’s not overcooked, the pasta retains its shape nicely. Like other corn pastas, both the flavor and texture are benign. Your kids will be happy to eat it and to share with their gluten-eating buddies.

pasta in bowl

I don’t often eat pasta, but I like to have some in the house for those moments when I need a quick filler. This particular item offers a high fun factor and little to object to so it is more than adequate to fill that role.

Sam Mills offers a wide range of gluten-free products including an alphabet pasta with the same positive attributes. Once our ducks are in a row, let’s get the kids in the kitchen for some pasta and word play!

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.”