August 30, 2008


In Praise of the Whisk

I don’t remember my mother ever using a whisk, so I didn’t discover its uses until relatively recently. Now it’s one of my favorite kitchen tools. I have several whisks in different sizes. The thing I use them for most often is combining dry ingredients in baking recipes. It does a great job of distributing ingredients like baking soda or spices. The second most common way I use a whisk is for making gravies or sauces. It does a great job of keeping them from becoming lumpy, and if something is lumpy, it can reduce the lumps quite a bit. The whisk is also useful for beating eggs or combining wet ingredients. If you have a whisk stuck in a drawer unused, you might want to bring it out and give it a try. If you have a different use for your whisk, I’d love to hear about it.

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes Kitchen Tip Tuesday.


August 29, 2008


The Gluten Counter

I’m sure you’re wondering what a gluten counter is. Well, it doesn’t count gluten. It refers to a kitchen type counter top and a cabinet as well. Here’s how it started…

When I was first diagnosed, my husband and I cleaned out our small kitchen. He still distinctly remembers purging my cabinet of wheat flour as if it were a highly toxic substance. However, my kitchen still contained some gluten. Since I was the only one who had to eat gluten-free I decided that the rest of the family could have their cereal and breads for breakfast and lunch, but dinner would be gluten-free. If I make breakfast for them, such as pancakes, it is also gluten free. Basically, I don’t handle wheat. About the only exception I make on dinners is when we are having hamburgers. They are allowed to put their burger on a regular bun. Any other time we have bread with dinner it is gluten-free.

So where does the counter come in? Well, I found that I was having gluten reactions more frequently than was acceptable, and the gluten counter was our solution. The gluten counter we had at the time was a moveable serving cabinet. It had a counter like surface on top with drawers and cabinet space below. Because my kitchen was small, this was placed in the dining room, and all the gluten containing food was put into it. A toaster for their bread was put on top, and that was where they fixed their sandwiches, made their toast, etc. This kept the crumbs off of my counter tops and away from my food. I noticed a big difference in how often I was getting sick, so we have continued with the gluten counter to this day.

I now live in a house with a larger eat-in kitchen. We have gotten a new gluten counter which sits against a wall at the end of the room where the table is, far from my cooking/food preparation area!

Maybe a gluten counter is just what you need, or maybe you already have one. I’d love to hear from you and find out.



Gluten-Free Mexican Lasagna

This casserole dish has been a great hit with my family and many others. It’s good for feeding a moderate sized crowd (just like regular lasagna) because you can make three or four recipes ahead of time then just heat them in the oven. Cornbread goes great with this. One recipe feeds our family of five with maybe a little leftover. Double it to make the larger typical lasagna size.

Gluten-Free Mexican Lasagna


1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. Taco seasoning (McCormick)
1 onion, chopped
1 can refried beans
8 oz. tomato sauce
Corn tortillas, cut in strips
Shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Brown the beef and sauté the onion in a skillet. Add the seasoning mix and prepare according to the package. Combine the beans and tomato sauce and place a little of this mixture in the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish (I spray it first). Add a layer of tortillas, putting them on any way you want to cover the space, but overlapping them some. Add half the beef mix, spreading it out to the edges. Sprinkle on cheese to cover (how much depends on how cheesy you like it). Spread half the remaining beans on top. Repeat layers of tortillas, beef, cheese, and beans. Top with some additional cheese, or reverse the last two layers so that the beans go on top of the beef and you end with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

 This recipe is linked to Cooking for a Crowd and  Today's Housewife.

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August 28, 2008


Gluten-Free Pancakes

Before you dismiss this recipe thinking that you don't have time to make pancakes in the morning, remember that having a mix on hand makes it easier. You can also make them ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze, then heat them up in the morning. If that still doesn't work for you, pancakes for dinner is a great hit!
gluten-free pancakes
Gluten-Free Pancake Mix

1 1/2 c. sorghum flour
1 1/2 c. potato starch
1 c. tapioca starch
1/2 c. corn flour
3 Tb. granulated sugar
3 Tb. baking powder
4 1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 1/2 tsp. salt

Combine and store in an airtight container.
To make pancakes mix together well:

1 c. + 2 Tb. pancake mix
1 c. plain yogurt or kefir
2 Tb. cooking oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Cook in a non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray. One recipe makes about 16 pancakes. My family loves these! (This recipe has been adapted from Carol Fenster's recipe in Cooking Free.)

Note: If you're not familiar with kefir, it's very easy to make and is more beneficial than yogurt. It also works great in smoothies. You will need kefir starter to get going with making your own kefir.


August 27, 2008


What's New for Breakfast--Baked Oatmeal

gluten-free baked oatmeal
I recently discovered baked oatmeal, and it has been a big hit at my house. I found a lot of recipes, and no two were alike. So I came up with my own. I might still do some tweaking on this and will let you know in the future if I find any great improvements. I’d also love to hear about your baked oatmeal recipe.

If you are on a gluten-free diet, please see my note at the end of this post about oatmeal. I made 1 ½ batches. One batch I used mainstream instant oatmeal. The half batch contained gluten-free rolled oats.

Gluten-Free* Baked Oatmeal Recipe

3 c. rolled oats
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
1 1/3 c. milk
2 eggs, beaten
½ c. cooking oil (or melted butter)
2 tsp. Vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish that is sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 40 minutes. Cooking time depends on the exact size of your dish. The half batch is spread thinner in the dish I use for it, so it cooks closer to 30 min.

baked oatmeal in a baking dish
I have read (but have not tried) that you can mix it up, put it in the refrigerator overnight, and bake it in the morning.

I have found that using the instant oats makes it hold together, more like a cake. My kids like eating theirs just like it is on a plate. The rolled oats makes it fall apart so I eat it in a bowl with milk. Either way it’s good.

*At one time oats were off limits to the gluten-free diet, but we now know that pure oats do not contain gluten. The oats you find at a regular grocery store, however, are contaminated with wheat due to growing a processing practices. Thankfully, we now have pure, gluten-free oats available to us. I have used Cream Hill Estates Lara's Rolled Oats because that is what my local health food store sells. There are others available also. Having said that, a few people with celiac disease do have trouble with oats, so begin cautiously.

View Printable Recipe


August 26, 2008


Milling Your Own Gluten-Free Flour

If gluten-free baking is something you’re going to be doing long term and you’re interested in saving money, here’s something for you to consider. Buying a grain mill is expensive at the outset, but it will pay for itself before long. I bought a Whisper Mill, which is now called WonderMill, soon after I was diagnosed and have been very happy with it. There are other brands out there which I’m sure are very good also. Don’t be fooled by its name, the Whisper Mill is not quiet, but it is not as loud as some.

Here is a picture of the mill with white rice in the hopper, and another picture of the flour. I turned on the mill, filled the hopper with rice, mixed up some frozen juice while it was milling, and about the time I finished the flour was done. It couldn’t be easier.

So let’s talk about money. The Whisper Mill will cost you $240 plus shipping. How much money you save on flour depends on how much you use and how much you pay. This week I bought a 10 pound bag of white rice for $5.99. That’s only 60 cents a pound! I bought some brown rice in smaller bags for $1.37 per pound. If you look at how much you are paying per pound ($4 for white rice?) plus shipping, it’s a lot of savings.
So far I have only used the mill to make rice flours including white rice, brown rice, white sweet rice, and brown sweet rice. The brown rice flours I keep in the freezer. If you have a mill and use it to make other gluten-free flours, I’d love to hear from you.

Since writing this post, I have begun milling sorghum. You can read about it here.



The Many Uses of Borax

Although borax is sold in the laundry aisle, I often use it in my kitchen. It is a great natural deodorizer and cleaner. I regularly use it to scour the sink, deodorize and clean the garbage disposal, and freshen up a sponge or dish cloth. It can also be used to clean toilet bowls, windows, and mattresses, but it’s not limited to the indoors. It can keep weeds and pests away. If you don’t use borax or are interested in some new ways to use it, there are more ideas and specific instructions at the following links.

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes Kitchen Tip Tuesday.


August 23, 2008


Cookies Anyone?

gluten-free chocolate chip cookie bars
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from the Nestle recipe)

2 1/2 c. gluten free flour*
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. (12 oz.) chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

*Just about any flour mix will work well, if the mix already has xanthan gum in it, don't add any more. Here's what I used this time: 1/4 c. tapioca starch, 1/2 c. potato starch, 1 1/2 c. rice flour, 1/4 c. sweet rice flour.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum in a small bowl. In a mixing bowl beat the butter, sugars and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 - 11 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Or: Spread into a jelly roll pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 20 -25 minutes. This is my favorite method because it is so much faster and the family loves them this way.


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August 22, 2008


Friday Night is Gluten-Free Pizza Night!

Gluten-Free Pizza Recipe

This recipe (along with a salad) makes enough for our family (including 3 boys, two of which are teenagers) with some extra for a couple of friends to eat with us or for leftovers. I use Pampered Chef stoneware for this. The recipe makes one bar pan pizza and one round pizza. If you don’t have stoneware, just use a medium sized cookie sheet and a round pizza pan, but bake times may be shorter, so keep an eye on it.  You can find a similar recipe for a single pizza here.

1 ¾ c. brown rice flour (can use white)
¾ c. sorghum flour
2 ½ c. tapioca starch
¾ c. dry milk powder
1 Tb. xanthan gum
1 ¼ tsp. salt
1 ¼ Tb. sugar
1 ½ Tb. instant yeast
1/3 c. oil
5 egg whites (room temp. can warm up eggs under hot water)
1 ¾ c. warm water (105-115 degrees; reserve some)

Note: I use instant yeast which can be mixed right in with the dry ingredients. You can buy block packages of it or buy the jars of bread machine yeast. If you don’t have instant yeast, you will have to add the sugar and yeast to the water, but reserve ¼ c. water because you may not use it all. gluten-free pizza dough

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add oil and egg whites and mix on low speed. Add the water until dough is thin but not watery. Let it mix a while before deciding to add more. Mix on high speed about 3 minutes. I turn my oven on to warm up for this amount of time. Divide the dough into the pans putting a little more in the rectangular one. Using a baggie sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, pat the dough out to the edges. Let rise about 20 minutes. I put it in the warm oven for 8-10 minutes, remove it to the stove top and let the oven preheat.

Make sure the oven racks have some space between them. I have pizza crust after first bakesix rack settings and put mine on 2 and 5. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. I usually switch them half way through. Remove from oven, brush a little olive oil over the surface and edges and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. These two steps help keep the sauce from soaking into the crust. Add pizza sauce, cheese and toppings. Bake about 15 minutes more. This second bake does best one at a time, or add the second one half way through the time for the first one. Because I use stoneware, I put them on the lower rack.

You can use store bought pizza sauce or try this recipe. My family prefers this one.

Pizza Sauce

Combine the following ingredients:
16 oz. tomato sauce
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tb. sugar
1/8 tsp. garlic powder

View Printable Recipe

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So Many Gluten-Free FLours

The number of different gluten-free flours we can use is amazing, but it can become overwhelming. Not only are there many individual flours, but there are so many different flour mixes, as well as mixes for muffins, breads, and other things. Here are some suggestions based on my experience.

1. Try out different flours and mixes to determine what you like.

When Bette Hagman introduced bean flours I thought is was wonderful. It gave baked goods more protein and had a better texture. The problem is that I don’t digest bean flour any better than I digest beans. Add to that the fact that my husband dislikes the taste of it and can taste it a mile away! So I stopped using bean flours.

I particularly like using sorghum so Carol Fenster’s sorghum flour blend appeals to me.

2. Decide on some basic flours that you want to use and have on hand.
flour cabinet
I use: white rice, brown rice, sweet rice, tapioca starch, potato starch, sorghum, corn flour, and corn starch. I sometimes pick up other flours to try out like the coconut flour in the picture.

3. Decide on a couple of flour mixes.  Keep them on hand and use them in any recipe, even if the author uses a different mix.

I use Bette Hagman’s basic mix for things like cake and cookies. I use Carol Fenster’s for breads. Sometimes I use half Bette’s mix and half Carol’s mix.  Some recipes I use simply have a list of ingredients and don’t use a mix.

4. Keep specific mixes on hand for things you use a lot (bread mix, cake mix, etc.).  Unless you have lots of storage space, you won't be able to store individual ingredients and lots of mixes.  Mixes can be a time saver, though.  You can save money by making your own mixes.  When I make pizza, I measure the crust ingredients twice.  Once into the mixing bowl, and once into a plastic container which I keep until the next time I make pizza.  Then I have a crust mix all ready to go.

I like to hear how you handle all those flours!

For more gluten-free recipes and tips visit Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays with a theme this week of Get the Gluten Out!


August 21, 2008


Recycle Unused Hair Conditioner

I color my hair myself, and because my hair is short, I only use a fraction of the conditioner that is provided. It's very good conditioner, but I usually don't use it again after I color. Since I colored my hair just the other day, I had this tube of conditioner in the shower, and this morning I got a bright idea. Why not use it to shave my legs! I gave it a try and liked it very well on the first leg. On the second leg I decided to try a cheap conditioner to see how it compared. It didn't. I switched back pretty quickly. The good conditioner worked great and left my legs soft and smooth. Now I know what to do with those leftover tubes. If you don't have those extra tubes like I do, it might be worth comparing the cost of using a good conditioner versus shaving cream.

For more ideas, visit rocks in my dryer - works for me wednesday.


August 20, 2008


Miniature Australian Shepherds--Great Family Dogs

A little over a year ago we were looking for a second dog. We had a collie at the time who loved other dogs and needed a playmate. I decided to look for something a little smaller than a collie and stumbled across mini Aussies on the Internet. I was a little familiar with Australian shepherds, but had decided against them in the past because they are said to be high energy dogs and can be destructive if bored or not exercised enough. But when I saw "miniature" (usually around 20-30 pounds), I decided to investigate. I figured a smaller dog would be easier to exercise, and they sounded like great family pets. I was right!

We bought Esca when he was 10 weeks old. He is a blue merle with two blue eyes and weighs 29 pounds. He was the perfect playmate for Ellie. He is a bold, lovable, ball chasing boy. By the way, my kids picked the name from a historical fiction book we had read, Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. We were so used to the name fitting the character that it wasn't until after we were all used to it that we realized everyone else thought is was a girl's name.

When Ellie died very unexpectedly last November, we knew we had to get another dog, and there was no question that it would be another mini Aussie. Emma was born just a couple of days before Ellie died and we soon had her picked out. We brought her home when she was 8 weeks old and she has been the perfect companion for Esca. Emma is very sweet. She is a red merle with one blue eye and one brown eye. She is almost 9 months old now and weighs 23 pounds. She is a cautious on-guard female who likes to bark at strangers.

our miniature Australian shepherdsBoth dogs are very family oriented. They are smart and obedient (mostly). They were both easy to house train. They are not the kind of dog who wants to run off. If they do run after something, they won't go too far before coming back. They follow me around the house, sometimes even into the bathroom!

If you're looking for a dog now or in the future, I would recommend checking into the mini Aussie.
Esca (left) and Emma (right)



Gluten-Free Bread That Will Turn Your Head

A few months ago I bought a bread machine. While reading “Gluten-Free Living” magazine I realized that I had not kept up with changes in the world of gluten-free bread. There was an article on bread machines explaining how many even have a gluten-free setting. I ended up with a Breadman machine and have been very happy. I prefer making things from scratch rather than using mixes, but so far I haven’t found a recipe that comes close to Pamela's wheat-free bread mix (the package also states that it is gluten-free).

It must be Murphy’s Law that you can make something a dozen times and it turns out great, but when it really counts, it’s not up to par. I suppose some Olympians are feeling that way too. So keep in mind as you look at this picture, that this is the worst loaf I’ve made, and still it looks and tastes good. What sets it apart from the recipes I have tried is that it stays soft for days! It could be the sweet rice flour in it. Some time I will get around to experimenting and will let you know the results.
a loaf of gluten-free bread
I have a few suggestions for using this bread mix.

(1) Add about ½ teaspoon extra of instant yeast

(2) Stay near the machine (it also has directions for mixing by hand) for the mixing part and occasionally use a spatula to scrape the sides and corners.

(3) As soon as mixing stops and rise starts, remove the paddle. This isn’t necessary, but I prefer not having the hole in the middle. I use a pair of tongs to do this. It is a bit messy and you lose a little bit of dough, but try to put as much of it back in as you can and then smooth the top.

(4) As soon as it is done set the machine to bake only for another 10 minutes. You can also program the machine to use a longer bake, I just haven’t done this yet.

If you have found any recipes that stay soft for a couple of days, I’d love to hear about it.


August 19, 2008


Diagnosis: Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. When gluten is consumed, the body produces antibodies to attack the gluten. Unfortunately, these antibodies also attack the lining of the small intestine.

When I was diagnosed in 2000, celiac disease was considered rare (1 out of 5,000 – 10,000), so getting diagnosed was not easy. I had to point the doctors (more like push them) in the right direction. Celiac disease (pronounced see-lee-ak) is considered a genetic disorder. That is what led me discover the source of my problems. I found out that I had an uncle with celiac disease and started searching for information. After reading lists of symptoms online, I knew that was it. In the end, the gastroenterologist said, “You diagnosed yourself.”

Celiac disease is no longer considered rare (1 out of 133). The change came in 2003 when the results of a prevalence study were published. For more information on that study, click here:

If you are newly diagnosed, eating gluten free can seem a bit overwhelming. The good news is that with more people being diagnosed, it has become a lot easier. There is a better understanding of what needs to be avoided, better food labeling, and more gluten-free products available. If you’re just starting out on this diet, focus on what you CAN eat. Fruit, vegetables, corn, potatoes, rice, beans, eggs and most meats are a good beginning. Summertime is a great time for gluten-free cooking. Meat cooked on the grill, corn on the cob and a fresh salad make a great meal. I like to marinade chicken breasts in Italian dressing. You do have to be careful about marinades. Always read the labels because most soy and teriyaki sauces contain wheat.

As with anything, it’s important to keep a good attitude. There are many, many people enjoying the gluten-free lifestyle. It’s also important to connect with some of those people. Blogs are a good place to connect, but even better is a local support group.
Here is a good place to start looking, but there are other groups also:

Happy gluten-free eating.


August 18, 2008


Welcome to The Gluten-Free Homemaker

Hello and welcome!

I am officially entering the blogosphere thanks to Susannah Gardner and Shane Birley, authors of Blogging for Dummies.

I hope to bring you thoughts and ideas from my life as a homemaker and homeschooling mom with an emphasis on gluten-free cooking and baking.

Please come back, but be patient since I'm just learning to blog.


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