Butternut Chili - Spicy 'n Sweet

Gluten free chili recipe
Here's one of my favorite chili recipes, featuring cubes of 
butternut squash. Sweet and spicy. 

New Year's Day is almost upon us. Rather than wax nostalgic and dreamy about the bumpy (and enlightening) year I've had, I'd rather post a simple recipe I know you'll love. Making a pot of bean soup or chili to welcome in a freshly minted year is a tradition as old as the hills. From Italian Pasta Fagioli to homestyle southern Hoppin' John, beans somehow acquired the favorable reputation of attracting good luck.

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New Year's Eve Tiara cookies

Don't you just love wearing those "Happy New Year" tiaras? I always have. Here's a cookie to match!

  1. Using a #3 tip and white icing (light gray would work, too), outline a tiara headband and pipe "HAPPY NEW YEAR" on cookies.
  2. Thin white icing and flood headband shape.
  3. Let dry completely...several hours or overnight.
  4. Mix silver Lustre Dust with vodka (it will evaporate leaving only the silver) and paint on design with a small paintbrush. *see note
  5. Using warmed corn syrup or meringue powder mixed with water, paint over design again and sprinkle on clear sparkling/sanding sugar. (Click here for more info on applying sparkling sugar. )

* Lustre or Luster Dust is a dry powder that can be applied to add a metallic sheen to icing. The product is interesting...my bakery supply store sells lustre dust that is labeled "non-toxic" and edible, some is labeled "for decorative purposes only." Remember those silver dragees (balls) that you ate as a kid on cookies and cupcakes? Those are labeled "decorative" now, too. In my opinion, a little won't kill me. From what I understand, Europe considers all lustre dust "edible"; the US doesn't. Weird! Anyway...check your bakery supply for the "non-toxic" version.

Yay! I'm officially a foodie! :)

Check out the link to the right....bake at 350 is officially part of the Foodie BlogRoll! I am so excited! Now I have some serious computer time in store checking out all of those yummy blogs!

Vegan Banana Bundt Cake

A tasty dairy-free gluten-free banana cake.

Vegan (egg-free) baking is a mega-challenge at high altitude. Throw gluten-free and dairy-free into the equation (not to mention, soy-free, Darling- I can't even rely on tofu yogurt!) and trust me, it can be a major pain in the proverbial butt. I've dumped two previous egg-free incarnations of this recipe lickety-split into the trash. Today, however, I tweaked again. And guess what? We have a winner.

So- this one's for all you lovely celiacs, gluten-free vegans, multi-allergic sweethearts and autism spectrum angels out there (neurodiversity rocks, after all).

Big banana kisses xoxo!

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LeeAnn's Gingerbread Cookies: Cookie Exchange!

I love everything about these cookies....the squiggles, the eyes, the ribbon and the way the sunlight is streaming in on them. Thanks, LeeAnn for letting me post the picture!

Cornbread Recipe with Green Chiles + Cinnamon

Tender moist gluten-free cornbread you can bake in a skillet or a cake pan.

One of the first recipe conversions I attempted in my brand spanking new gluten-free life (begun six short years ago, December 19th, 2001) was my tired-and-true favorite cornbread recipe. Lucky for me, it converted to gluten-free rather easily. As a tender, fragile newbie to life sans gluten it gave me hope. The will to live. After all, when your beloved world of cooking, baking- and eating- is flipped upside down, a modest success in the kitchen can perk up your day. Maybe even, your week.

So when I recently discovered I needed to give up dairy and eggs as well, I flipped through recipes once again and decided to reprise my skillet cornbread- this time as an egg-free vegan version. And wouldn't you know it?

It worked.

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Flood Icing

Flood icing is simply royal icing with water added to make a consistency to "flood" or fill in the outlined design. It's best to go slow, adding a little water at a time to get to a syrup-y consistency. The more cookies you decorate, the more you'll get a feel for it. If your icing ends up a little thin (like water), add sifted powdered sugar or some leftover icing from outlining to your flood icing.

Once the flood icing is "just right", cover it with a damp towel and let sit for several minutes. Using a rubber spatula (I love these!), run gently through the icing to break up the air bubbles that have risen to the top. Now pour into squeeze bottles. These can be found in the candy making section of any craft or bakery supply store. Walmart even carries them! You could also pour the flood icing into a pastry bag fitted with a tip. I used to do this before I discovered squeeze bottles...I wouldn't recommend it, though...it's a mess! :)

Onto the outlined cookies, squeeze the flood icing in a zigzag pattern. I usually do 3 -4 at a time. Don't worry, the icing won't harden by the time you get back to it and it gives the icing time to spread. Using a toothpick, spread the icing to cover the cookie.

This is how mine look, more or less, before spreading with a toothpick.

One more!

During my last batch of cookies :), I started running low on dark green icing, so I switched up the colors and really liked the outcome.

This is it...I promise...no more package cookies for the rest of the year!

Chicken Tropicale

Festive and flavorful chicken and pineapple.

Any night's a party when you cook up this Caribbean-inspired chicken recipe. Tip: Using your slow cooker frees you up in the kitchen- not to mention utilizing your Crock Pot makes energy efficient sense year round.

Steve's been doing all the cooking of late. I know you know why, Babycakes. You're probably sick to death of hearing about it.

But do you also know how ridiculous it is to wield a sharp knife and balance on crutches and pass the balsamic vinegar in a kitchen built (obviously) for one person who (also obviously) never cooked? All the bumping-bums while making sure your left foot is touching the floor at precisely (doctor's orders) no more than 25% of your total body weight- which, truth be told, Dear Reader, has blossomed by six- er- seven and a half pounds since you've been lounging in bed every morning past 10 o'clock, eating cinnamon-laced wedges of grilled cornbread and deep bowls of crunchy maple buckwheat flakes as you cruise your e-mail?

That's right. I'm talkin' ridiculous.

So we've been eating a lot of familiar recipes and not experimenting much. Experimentation needs elbow room. And stamina. Both seem to be in rather short supply here. Which led me to remember this terrific recipe from before my no-chicken, no coconut days. It disappeared from the blog for awhile (don't ask!). So I thought it might be time to bring it back.

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Nirvana Bars- Chocolate & Coconut Bliss

This recipe is a family favorite- my chocolate-coconut cookie bar recipe. Simple to make. Sweet and gooey and bliss inducing. And most important? You can offer them at any gathering without a gluten-free apology. (Would that be, Don't ask, don't tell?) Bummed about the dairy in it? My son Alex has created his own casein-free version using condensed coconut milk. See his dairy-free recipe here.

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More Christmas baking...

The second batch needed dots...
I don't know why, but I love seeing them all stacked together like this.

Today I tried a new way to apply the sanding sugar and I really love it! (Thank you, Martha!) When I first started making cookies, it used to really bother me that when I put sparkling sugar on a cookie, it would dent the icing. The trick is to put it on dry, not wet icing!

Up until now, I've heated up a little corn syrup (light) and brushed the area I wanted to sand with a small paintbrush. This works great, but it's sticky and when you're making 200 cookies, going back and forth to the microwave to reheat corn syrup is a drag.

Here's the new way...mix a little meringue powder with water. Brush this onto the area to be sanded. It flows better, isn't sticky and dries really well. A few more hints:
  • Use a child's size paint brush. You can trim the bristles if they are fanning out too much.
  • Be sure the cookies are dry before starting, otherwise the sugar will stick to and dent the wet icing. I always let them dry overnight.
  • Pour some sparkling sugar or sanding sugar into the cap or a small ramekin. Once your cookie has been brushed with the mixture, sprinkle the sugar on top, holding it over a basket-style coffee filter. Shake off the excess over the coffee filter as well. This excess can easily be emptied back into the cap/ramekin.
  • Sanding sugar is a smaller grain that sparkling sugar...both are really pretty, but I think sanding sugar has more sparkle. I never wanted to use it because "sparkling sugar" just sounds prettier!

Karina's Gluten-Free Maple Meatloaf

Gluten free meatloaf with a maple glaze
My maple meatloaf is homespun comfort food.

I have some good news. I mean, besides this delicious meatloaf recipe. After eight long weeks of no funny business, yours in gluten-and-casein-free bliss is humming to the Stereo MC's and shuffling around our one room casita with a walker. Yup. I was officially sprung from wheelchair status today! Progress with a long o.

High-fiiiive me.

I'm one happy crone tonight. So I'm keeping this short and sweet. Here it is. It snowed today. There's a crackling fire in the kiva. A glass of wine awaits- not to mention- one of our favorite comfort food suppers. A slice of my favorite meatloaf and a generous scoop of warm Champagne Vinegar Potato Salad. Life is good.

Have a safe and tasty weekend! And be good to your bones.

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Seeing red

Red icing is probably the most difficult to make. I love AmeriColor's Super Red gel paste coloring! It doesn't take as much to get a nice red and doesn't have the off-taste like some others (Wilton).

All icing will darken over time and while drying, but it is especially true with red. Try to make your red icing at least a day in advance, cover with plastic wrap, pressing down onto the icing, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using and just give it a stir.

When making red, aim for a little lighter than you'd like on your final product. Believe it or not, the icing above turned into a perfect, bright red on my cookies. If the icing is a true, deep red before it goes on the cookies, it can turn extremely dark once dry...close to black. (If your icing is too dark, stir in some white.)

Red icing can also change in high humidity. If it's humid and you notice your cookies getting splotchy once dried, don't panic. The icing will eventually even out in color.

Sparkly Christmas Presents

The picture doesn't do justice to the sanding sugar...it is so sparkly! I've always used "sparkling sugar", but could only find red "sanding sugar" and I love it! It's smaller than sparkling sugar and really reflects the light.

The cookies are in green, white and mint, but the mint color didn't show up in my pictures. More on how to make these later....

The Best Cheesy Uncheese Sauce

Best creamy cheesy vegan uncheese sauce with no dairy
A dairy-free cheesy sauce you will love.

I've been playing around with this vegan cheesy sauce recipe for ages- trying to get it just right. And guess what? I think I got it.

Don't worry. This won't hurt a bit. Promise.

In fact, you might even thank me. Especially if you're cooking for a groovy dairy-free girlfriend. Or a hunky casein allergic BF. A cute as a button autistic angel. And let's not ignore the teeming hoards of the lactose intolerant. One just might show up for dinner one day. Hungry. You never know.

And how about those vegans? They're sprouting up everywhere, for goddess sake. What will you do? What will you feed them- besides chopped salad? Carrot sticks?


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Gluten-Free Latkes and Cinnamon Applesauce

A stack of crispy, lacy latkes

Have you made latkes lately? Latkes are fried potato pancakes made with fresh grated potatoes. Though latkes come in all shapes and sizes (via personal preference) I make my latkes thin and lacy, fried to a crispy golden brown. Oy, these are good! Maybe Mel Gibson wouldn't be such a nudnik, if he tasted these. Although if he did, he'd probably ask for ketchup.

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Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Soup

A gorgeous vegetarian soup for the soul- gluten and dairy-free

Sweet potatoes add body and a boost of color and to one of my seasonal favorites- pumpkin soup. But before I get to the recipe, Dear Reader, I just need to kvetch a little. This won't take long.

You see, I am cooking from the left side of my brain- and I don't like it one bit. Well, truth be told, I'm actually doing more consulting in the kitchen than chopping and stirring and getting my hands all nice and sticky.

Which is exactly the point.

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Berry Muffins

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Berry Muffins

You're gonna love the taste of these winter berry studded pumpkin muffins. They taste tart and sweet and grainy-tender all at once.

Yesterday we woke up to a surprise. The mesa and distant hills were powdered in white. The first snow of the season (am I ready for this?). The Kokopelli thermometer read twenty-two degrees. Extra thick toasty socks were needed. Steve made a morning fire in the kiva to warm us. Lucky for me, we had baked some pumpkin muffins this week. Tender, comfy break apart soul food for this bone-shivery goddess to nibble with her tea.

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A Trio of Tasty Turkey Recipes

Stones in my garden.

The holidays aren't easy for me.

I tried to write about it. Yesterday. I sat here for an hour rummaging through drawers of words that refused to fit together. I picked out and tossed back. I mulled in silence (this is becoming a habit). I stared at the pale desert through the window frame above my beat up blue desk.

For the first time in five weeks I limped to the studio and stopped by the Buddha garden, tilting on crutches to place a pink rock on top of a dove gray stone. If I was religious, I wondered, would this be easier? If I had faith- if I believed in an invisible father figure who would somehow comfort me with broken bread promises of purpose and protection? Or an ancient mother goddess opening her earthy arms to cradle me in her seasonal wisdom? Would I be better able to cope with the stirrings of loss and anger and self loathing that the gloss and glitz of the annual Christmas energy inevitably evokes if I simply surrendered to the collective agreement that god is in charge and every small and deep and widespread bit of suffering happens "for a reason"?

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Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Holiday Tips

Getting through the holidays gluten and dairy free can be tough. Let me tell ya. But then, the holidays were always a challenge for me because I was mostly vegetarian for decades (meaning ovo-lacto vegetarian and sometimes vegan). In truth, Gentle Reader, my holiday foods have often tended, shall we say, to be a tad different from mainstream holiday fare.

Being the wild and free goddess-in-training I was back in those golden zen-kissed crunchy pre-celiac days, I learned early on how to tweak traditional recipes and reinvent old favorites- like using coconut milk as a vegan (non-dairy) sub in whipped sweet potatoes (everyone loved this!) and subbing butter and cream with vegetable broth and crushed roasted garlic in fluffy smashed potatoes. No one missed the animal fat (unless they were just being polite).

My stuffing back then (baked as a casserole) was naturally gluten-free. I used cubes of toasted cornbread tossed with a skillet of softened onions, celery, chopped apple and cranberries seasoned with a touch of curry- then moistened with broth and baked till golden- sometimes with pine nuts or pecans on top.

Instead of serving green beans swimming in canned mushroom soup (because I never- and I mean, never- got the appeal of that goopy combination) I roasted fresh green beans in sea salt and balsamic vinegar- just until tender-crisp. Or did this simple but elegant recipe with pomegranate glaze.

Lucky for me, I enjoyed thinking "outside the box". And in my vegan years- not once- did I make a turkey out of tofu.

Who needs tofurky when you have Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas?

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Acorn Squash with Green Chiles and Equal Love

Acorn squash recipe with mild green chiles is vegan and gluten free
My kinda squash. Kicked up with green chiles.

I deeply (if not profoundly) doubt the ever expanding food blog galaxy needs yet another squash recipe, but.

I can't help myself.

Right before the Charlie Brown style tile floor smack down (aka hip incident), I threw together a flavor combo I am crazy about. Nutty for. Head over heals smack your lips and toss aside your chaste maple syrup Pilgrim traditions for. That's right. I got radical.

I added chopped roasted New Mexican green chiles to my roasted acorn squash. And a sexy pinch of cumin. A golden drizzle of fruity olive oil. Impudent changes to the way we do things around here that would have sent a certain lanky, curly-haired ex-boyfriend of mine scurrying for his cream of mushroom soup casserole. In other words, Gentle Reader, home to Mommy.

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Gluten-Free Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

Gluten free banana chocolate chip bread
Gluten-free banana chocolate chip bread. Yum.

Score one for banana bread lovers. After more than a few banana-induced mishaps (who knew baking egg-free gluten-free casein-free banana breads would prove so harrowing and unappealingly gummy and well, just plain spirit crushing?) Steve and I produced a sweet and tender banana loaf worthy of a mention.

A shout of big thanks goes out to my buddy Clare from Massachusetts (you remember Clare- she generously shared her brownie recipe with me back in the day). Clare posted her banana bread recipe on the Celiac Listserv last week. I veganized Clare's ingredients to make this recipe egg-free and dairy-free. And then, well, I simply had to add chocolate chips. After all, chocolate is goddess food.

And what's a banana without a little chocolate?

Just another naked banana.

And when you have a partner/husband like Steve (who, by the way, as you would expect, has been a champ through my hip healing process- hefting laundry, dusting (yes, that's right, dusting), bringing me mugs of hot apple cider (with a cinnamon stick!) and just plain cooking up a storm on my famished behalf)- who sweetly asks, Would you like me to grill your slice of Banana Chocolate Chip Bread?--- you blush, Dear Reader, and realize (once again) you've married the right man.

The man who knows you like your chocolate dark and melty and warm on your tongue. For breakfast.

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Beef Stew

A gluten-free beef stew recipe to warm your bones.

This recipe is a surprise- even to me. Beef stew? You wouldn't expect a Vegetarian Goddess to create and fall in love with a beef stew recipe, but that is precisely what happened this weekend. Shocking? 

Tell me about it.

Just when you think you've got your life all figured out, and your tastes and preferences arranged in a tidy packet of self-identification and veggie piety- all Hades breaks loose. Celiac. Food allergies. Broken hip.

Suddenly, your food-world view is quite literally flipped on its leafy little head. No whole wheat pasta or legumes for protein. No soy. No more savory white bean ragout, and- worst of all- no peanut butter, which means no more African Sweet Potato & Bean Soup.

So, after my orthopedic surgeon's instructions to "eat lots of  animal protein" to support the healing of my hip fracture, my husband and I decided to try our collective hands at making our very first beef stew.

The first beef stew of our marriage.

And what did I do as I spooned the first taste into my nervous, quivering mouth? Gentle Reader, I swooned like a virgin in a bodice ripper. I sighed. I slurped. Oh my! I murmured through one spoonful after another.

Wow, said my partner in crime as he smacked his lips, This is mighty damn tasty.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies and Vanilla Brownies

Vanilla Brownie? Or Cookie Bar? You decide.

First- thank you all for your kind and compassionate wishes for a speedy recovery from emergency hip surgery. Such fabulous readers you are- every one of you. As our Italian friend, Sandra, once said to us- in her dead gorgeous Tuscan accent-  

I love you too much!

I feel human again. Yesterday (day nine post-surgery) this sticky, prickly goddess got to sit inside the shower (they make these nifty portable shower seats now) and- Aphrodite-blessed relief!- indulge in twenty sexy minutes of hot steamy bliss. Hawaiian shampoo. Rainbath lather. Leg shaving!

One lesson a broken hip teaches you? It's the little things in life that count. The simple luxury of taking a shower shoots to gold star status- the genuine, beyond spectacular highlight of the day. Pulling on a soft clean shirt? Heaven. Sitting upright, freshly shampooed and moisturized with Eternity lotion? Divine. Twirling pasta in olive oil and garlic- in bed- next to your husband? It doesn't get any better than this.

And then there are chocolate chip cookies (that are egg-free and dairy-free- earning them treasured vegan status). They also happen to be gluten-free, wheat-free, bean-free, soy-free and nut-free. Perfect for all those cute-as-a-button multi-allergic tykes out there. Not to mention, gluten-free vegan goddesses.

Last night Steve helped me make these as cookie bars, in the style of my old tried and true favorite chocolate chip cookie bar recipe- and, Babycakes, they were a damn good match. I named them Vanilla Brownies. My trick was a small cheat. A dab of butter flavor extract. I don't usually turn to artificial flavors (in fact, this is a first for me), but when you are allergic to most natural flavors and buckets of other foods and your taste buds crave a buttery sweet treat, this decidedly un-foodie goddess figures--- Why the Hades not? But if it horrifies you to use it, Darling Reader- and just the very thought of it keeps you up at night worrying about the integrity of the cookie universe- leave it out. It's one quarter of a teaspoon. Sub it with vanilla. Do your thing. 

It's all good.

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Screwed! But Sparky and Esteban Save the Day

My burro Sparky

Meet Sparky.

He's my new bed and blanket companion. Looking at him makes me smile. After the fall- there's an awful lot of imagery, sensation and emotion refracting inside this more-than-slightly addled post hip surgery brain of mine (this is a thinly veiled mea culpa for any bad writing that follows) but I wanted to send out a heartfelt thanks- lickity split!- to all of you, for your kind notes and sweet messages. I cherish every one.

My world has been whittled down to a queen size bed and some 800 square feet of floor space. I must keep- totally- off my left leg for a minimum of eight weeks to give my fractured femoral neck (screwed back together with three titanium screws) a fighting chance.

If you're a betting soul, here are the odds of me keeping my own hip: 50/50.

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Update...from Alex

Hello everyone --

Late Wednesday night my mother- Karina- fell and broke her hip, fracturing the neck of the femur above the proximal line. Since then, she has been through surgery to repair the damage and is recovering well. With any luck, she and Steve will be making the transition back to the casita to continue her recovery in the comforts of home, and will be back to posting on her blog in a few days. I know she is looking forward to getting in touch with all of her friends, fans and fellow bloggers.

-- Alex

You're the hemp in my...

Just so you know? It's two in the afternoon.

And I spent the day- so far- in bed. Snuggled beneath a Pendleton blanket, cruising the information highway on Steve's laptop. Nibbling pieces of smoked salmon. Approving Spicy Comments. Paying bills. Ordering lavender pillows stuffed with rice or buckwheat [not to eat, Darling, to heat- in the microwave- till toasty and warm and soothing; therapy for this sleep-deprived blogger's crooked neck and quirky tummy still not right from her sojourn into public dining in Los Angeles].

In light of a certain individual's recent ranting (and her pondering whether to throw in the towel and head for the nearest smoke shop- conveniently located next to Saints and Sinners) this post will be a simple thank you to Certain Readers- you know who you are- for the suggestion of hemp.

Hemp, as in milk.

Hemp, as in, You're the hemp in my mate... (that's MAH-tay for those of you not familiar with Viggo's preferred caffeine source).

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My Humble Petition

(Parental warning- this post is rated PG 13)

Dear Wise and Merciful Goddess,

There have been so many gruesome failures (or quasi-semi-successes not worth sharing) in my tiny blue tiled cocina of late that I am perilously close to throwing in the towel and crying, WTF? I am spending days (yes, days!) feeling hollow from hunger because I can't find anything in the cruel pantry to eat. Especially for breakfast. And brunch. And snacks.

I can usually rustle up a tasty dinner built around potatoes or rice with a piece of fish or the one sausage I can eat. But truth be told- as you may already know in your omniscient all-knowingness- I am missing eggs and cheese like crazy this week. Dear Divine One, what I wouldn't give for one of my pasta frittatas. Or a sizzling tray of nachos. Or- Oy!- a hot and cozy slice of my roasted vegetable kugel.

With limited sources of protein to pick from- beef, pork and some fish- I am stymied at breakfast. Not to mention mid-day. And late afternoon snacks! I mean, seriously. Who wants to eat fish three times a day as my brisk and steely Nurse Practitioner (transplanted from coastal Maine, duh) advised?

And if might gently and sweetly ask, is it really wise to eat beef every day- even if it's grass fed and organic and roaming the range with Tommy Lee Jones and all that good stuff? I kinda doubt it. Not at my overheated pesky age.

As you well know, I'm no spring chicken.

Which I'm also allergic to. Here's the thing. Without my brown rice and beans, my peanut butter on rice cakes, my grabs of almonds and cashews, protein powder smoothies, and hummus? And those fast and fabulous grilled quesadillas? I am, quite frankly, more than slightly askew. Not to mention, cranky. And some days- like today, for instance? Yours in devotion is frustrated and gloomy and frankly, wicked pissed and hungry.

And I'm not going to lie about it.

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Hot Buckwheat Cereal with Cinnamon Apples

Hot buckwheat cereal- gluten-free comfort. With apples.

Nothing like a simple bowl of hot buckwheat cereal with cinnamon spiced apples to set you straight. Because winging it can get you into trouble. I know this. But I couldn't help myself. You see, I was just so (excruciatingly!) tired of pre-planning where to eat and schlepping bags of stale corn thins and green bananas that never get ripe and worrying myself into a veritable tizzy over whether or not some waiter-slash-actor might actually offer me an empathetic ear when I ask if the grilled tuna salad has an egg-based dressing.

Not to mention feeling like a stodgy old stick-in-the-mud with a neon sign on my forehead that screams High Maintenance- when I'm not. Really. (Or maybe I'm in denial and actually one of those women who only
thinks she's low maintenance, but she's really, you know, a major pain in the ass?)

So I traveled light and didn't obsess.

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How to Leave in 24 Hours


On the way to Santa Fe you get a phone call. It's for your husband. You overhear snippets and wait patiently. There is interest in another script. Real interest. Driving talk turns on a dime from the grocery list (where you just added butternut squash in bumpy cursive) to the wisdom vs. craziness of dropping the day's plans and booking a flight to LAX. You sit quietly in the hot car, squinting at the blur of sunbaked sage along the highway while your husband thinks it over (and inside you are jumping, yelling, Why not? Let's go! This is everything you've dreamed of- script meetings, casting conversations- but, really, it's his call). You do your best to embody Zen detachment.

What do you think? he turns and asks. 

You just smile. He knows what you think. You've been bitching about being under-stimulated for weeks, getting all gloomy again. Then suddenly it's a go. You're leaving in twenty-four hours. You start picking through dirty jeans and shirts. Distracted by the early morning slant of sun warming the tumbleweeds, you leave the laundry to grab a camera. Five minutes later you notice the bowl of ripe tomatoes on the blue tiled counter. You can't just leave those. So you wash them gently, slice and toss them into a roasting pan with olive oil, herbs and cloves of garlic. You add a splash of balsamic vinegar. You slide the pan into a low-heat oven.

Tomatoes for slow roasting

The house starts to smell like an Italian villa. You fold and iron and fold. You plug in your iPod Shuffle and choose 250 songs (no Sting). You think about Santa Monica and the last time you saw your son, Colin. You add some of his songs to your mix. Then you notice the roses you photographed this week (they have seen better days). You empty the pitcher. You get distracted by the beauty of the dead petals and dried leaves against the white garbage bag. You grab your camera.

Dead Roses by Karina Allrich

You air out the luggage that has been in storage since May- sliding it into the bright afternoon sun (you'll have to tip it sideways later to scoot a frantic lizard back to his usual vertical perch on the adobe wall). You wonder if the tomatoes are done. It's been two hours. Or more. You peek into the oven and inhale the slow roasted garlicky dense tomato scent.

You try not to panic about what the heck you'll eat for the next week (staying at the one hotel where you could get a last minute reservation in your price range- there's no kitchenette, no microwave). You imagine bags of chips and jarred salsa dinners. You hope Real Food Daily will have choices that are gluten, soy, lemon, nut-blah blah blah- free. But you don't really care. Somehow it will all work out. Or maybe you're just deep in denial, you think to yourself. You breathe.

Then there's the last bit of autumn roasted green chile to think about. And half a bag of small gold potatoes. One big mother of a sweet potato. And one lonely uncooked organic burger. Might as well make a green chile stew before you hit the road.

So you heat some olive oil in a pot, toss in some chopped onion, garlic, and crumbled beef, and sprinkle said ingredients with cumin and chili powder and stir until browned, humming a K T Tunstall tune. You throw in cut up gold and sweet potatoes and the last of the chopped roasted green chile. You stir up some organic beef broth and pour it in. A dash of agave. You let the stew do its stew-y thing while you contemplate which pair of sneakers to wear on the plane- Rocket Dogs or Skechers? Tough call. You'll decide later.

There are toothbrushes and socks to be packed. But first, a glass of white table wine. Then a bowl of green chile stew.

This is the part of the movie when she looks at her husband sitting by the window, back lit by sweet light, and your chest aches in recognition. You see, the thing is, you always knew it. In your heart you just knew. Those movies everyone told you were fantasy? The on-screen or off-screen marriages that crackled with mutual admiration and no bullshit and you pined for that while those closest to you clucked in favor of sticking with your marital misery because - and I quote- No relationship is perfect and every marriage takes work?

Then why, Dear Reader- this time around, after twelve easy years- does it just keep getting easier? And life just gets more interesting? It's all about the risk. And trusting your gut. Whether it's making up a soup or reevaluating your career choice, or facing down familial opposition and sexual inertia because you actually believe in true love- it comes down to this. 

You have this minute. 

This second.


What are you going to do with it?

Beef + Mushroom Stuffed Acorn Squash

A hearty stuffed acorn squash recipe- comfort food for omnivores.

Yours truly has been stewing. Not in the culinary sense, Darling. I've been stewing about Sting, and how disappointed I am with the latest news (and Oy, the photo of him ducking his head, cringing in the back seat?) about him schtupping (okay, maybe he didn't actually schtup- who knows?-maybe he innocently indulged in some lap dances in a post-concert-suffering-from-exhaustion kinda way) at the exclusive brothel-slash-strip club Relax in Hamburg, Germany, while sans wife Trudie and his six children.


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Gluten-Free Goddess in Newsweek? Rock on.

We just returned from our weekly Saturday jaunt into Santa Fe- to shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or Wild Oats, depending on our mood and our menu plans. Today's mini road trip was a tad more exciting than our usual gluten-free shopping extravaganza, however, because today we stopped by Borders and picked up a copy of the September 17th Newsweek magazine- the one featuring an excellent article on celiac disease, titled Waiter, Please Hold the Wheat by Anne Underwood.

Steve turned to page 62- to see if the buzz we'd heard was true (as I was busy fumbling in my over-stuffed shoulder bag trying to locate my reading glasses with no success). How cool is that? he said, pointing to the resource box and reading aloud, Browse more than 200 creative recipes and cooking tips from an experienced gluten-free chef.

Whoa, said I (ever the eloquent wordsmith). Pretty darn cool. Gluten-Free Goddess blog makes good.

Big congrats go to the chic and hard working Kelly Courson of CeliacChicks, the totally fab Heidi Collins, Alice Bast, and Vanessa Maltin of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and Shauna James Ahern, author and blogger at Gluten Free Girl- all featured in the article, which by the way, Dear Reader is one of the better mainstream pieces on celiac disease this gluten-free goddess has read. And I'm not prejudiced. Really.

Pick one up and see for yourself.

Sunbutter Cookies

Here's an easy gluten-free cookie recipe made with sunflower butter- a post-modern peanut-free take on those retro peanut butter cookies your Aunt Lizzie used to make. You know, with those jars of Skippy peanut butter (or was it Jif?).

Instead of using traditional peanut butter in this recipe, I used sunflower butter, which has a golden nutty flavor not unlike peanut butter, but slightly different. Kinda like peanut butter's wacky and cute brother. You know, slightly nutty. Fun. Like a bright new bike.

And they taste so good you just might want some more. Now, please.

I adapted this recipe from a peanut butter cookie recipe (submitted by Erin Smith) to Beyond Rice Cakes, an easy, fun cookbook (especially for teens and students) by Vanessa Maltin, director of outreach and programming at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Sunbutter Cookies Recipe

These tasty nibbles are gluten-free, grain-free, milk-free, peanut-free and soy-free. Phew. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah. And they're tender-scrumptious.

1 cup cold natural sunflower butter
1 cup organic light brown sugar, packed
2 organic free-range eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon bourbon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
A small pinch of sea salt, if the sunbutter is salt-free

See options below for add-in ideas.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the sunflower butter, light brown sugar and beaten eggs in a mixing bowl. Add vanilla, baking soda and salt; mix well with a wooden spoon.

If the Sunbutter you use is too wet, your dough may end up being too loose. Add a tablespoon  or two of brown rice flour to the dough, if you need to.

Pull off pieces of the dough with oiled hands and roll into 1-inch balls. Place the balls on a foil-lined or parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a fork, press the balls slightly to make a criss-cross pattern- making the cookies roughly 1 1/2 inches. Note: If the dough is still not stiff enough to do this, wrap and refrigerate for an hour to stiffen the consistency.

    Place the baking sheet into the center of a preheated oven and bake for 9 to 10 minutes, until they are golden and set. They will be soft until they cool. Cool the sheet on a rack for a minute or two before removing the cookies to a cooling rack.

    This recipe- as is- makes about 12 cookies. If you add 1/3 cup of optional add-ins, it makes a few more. Or you could just make bigger cookies. Whatever makes you happy.

    Add-in Options:

    • Try raisins, as suggested by reader Tricia- thanks Tricia!
    • Semi-sweet chocolate chips, or gluten-free white chocolate chips.
    • Chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews or macadamia nuts.
    • How about pine nuts- for a more "grown-up" cookie?


    Reader Daisy reports- this recipe works without eggs; use your favorite egg replacer. She also mentions using these cookies crumbled as a crumb crust for cheese cake or pies. Hungry yet?