Thursday, November 30, 2006

Play-Doh and Gluten Sensitivity

One of the most interesting "fringe benefits" of living gfcf means that your learn about some of the hidden places where common allergens are found. It's also funny when your friends report to you when they've found gluten & casein in unusual places. My friend Stephanie has become a gfcf detective over the past year or so that we've been friends. She is very inquisitive, always asking about the diet and what Zoe's food limitations are (Steph brings her kids over to play with my kids sometimes, and she likes bringing sweets for the kids occasionally).

She called me today to ask me if I was aware that Play-Doh contains gluten. I knew about it, but gluten doesn't bother Zoe if she touches it--only if she ingests it. Ayden likes playing with Play-Doh, but since he is not gluten sensitive I don't worry about it. Whenever Zoe comes in contact with it, or other gluten-containing clays, I make sure she thoroughly washes her hands with soap and water to avoid contamination. You know how it goes: kid plays with clay, kid chews own fingernails, puts fingers in mouth, you get the idea.

I gave Stephanie some more information to think about today, which has nothing to do with gluten. Steph's daughter has a peanut allergy, and Steph mentioned that she was going to go to Chick-Fil-A with her kids. Now, I LOVE Chick-Fil-A. Their fries are gluten free (Take that McDonald's and BK), and the fried products are fried in peanut oil, which is much healthier than the partially hydrogenated oils most fast food places use. But I had to tell my buddy about the peanut oil because of her daughter's allergies--I wanted to make sure she didn't get her daughter anything fried from there because of the potential for allergic reaction. So, it's grilled chicken and a carrot & raisin salad for her daughter.

Steph and I are destined to become the Cagney and Lacey of food detectives.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

Now that the revelry of the Thanksgiving holiday is over, it's back to business as usual here at Casa de Flamenco. I've given myself permission to wait another week before I start to obsess over Christmas preparations; so this week is all about having fun at home with the family and not getting all wrapped up (no pun intended) in holiday stuff.

I'm planning to bake a little something to surprise my daughter with when she gets home from school. About two weeks ago, I made Zoe and Ayden some delicious peanut butter cookies; I got the recipe from one of my favorite gluten-free bloggers, Gluten Free Girl. Her link is listed on the right. The cookies had just the right balance of crispness, chewiness, and melt-in-your-mouth yummines.

Oh, and the hubby did not miss out on the cookie action, believe me. He ate several of them, accompanied by a ginormous cup of his outstanding coffee. My husband is a total coffee snob! He has beans shipped to him from the company we used to buy from in NYC; and he grinds the beans fresh every time he makes a pot. I've been officially spoiled to the point where I don't even make coffee anymore--his just tastes better.

I could use some coffee right now; too bad my husband already left for work.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Turkey Withdrawals

Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law's was lots of fun! The kids had a great time, the weather was nice (so we actually got to use the patio), and the food was delicious! It was a nice, relaxing day--especially since I had done all my food prep the day before (including all the gfcf goodies). I was very mindful not to overdo it at the dinner, so I didn't do the eat till I feel bloated thing. I was very proud of my show of restraint.

But there is one problem--I have no turkey leftovers. I love Thanksgiving, partly because I get to get my turkey on this one day of the year. Since I did not make my own turkey I am missing my leftover turkey for sandwiches, soups, and the like. My husband does not share my enthusiam (or zeal) for turkey, so when I told him that I planned on buying a small turkey to roast here, he just rolled his eyes and said, "whatever."

So today I'm off to the supermarket for a Thanksgiving redo. I figure I can get a small turkey, make a small batch of gfcf stuffing, some type of green veggie, and a nice dessert. Then after my family eats their second turkey dinner of the year, I can go to bed with visions of turkey pot pie dancing in my head; gfcf pie, of course.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gobble Gobble

Today I'm taking care of all baking in preparation for tomorrow's feast at the in-laws' house. I've got desserts, both gfcf and not, and my homemade cranberry relish done--and it's only 3:30. Yipee! Tomorrow will be all about relaxing and enjoying time with my husband and kiddies. No stressing for me this year!

I'm not going to get to see my family (mom, brother, grandmother, stepfather, uncle) until Christmas, which is pretty sad. I haven't had a Thanksgiving with my mom in twelve years; I always had to work over the holiday, so making the trip to her was never an option. Now that I've transitioned into staying home full-time, I thought I'd get to have turkey with Mom. Alas, it wasn't meant to be this year, but hopefully next time. Actually she'll only be a two-hour drive from me starting in January, so the trip will be much shorter. Right now the long drive can be torture. Try driving for 6 hours with two rowdy kids and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Arroz con Gandules

I thought it would be a good idea to post a recipe for arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) since I raved about it in my last post. Trouble is, when I asked my mother-in-law for the recipe she gave me the response most lifelong home cooks give. "Oh you know, put a little bit of salt, water, rice to cover..." You can see where I'm going with this. The lady doesn't measure ingredients--ever! So what I decided to do was to take a recipe for the dish from one of my favorite cookbooks, and make adjustments based on what I've learned from watching the mother-in-law make it.

There are two Puerto Rican cookbooks in our home. One is Puerto Rican Cuisine in America by Oswald Rivera. The other is Cocina Criolla by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli. It was given to my mother-in-law as a wedding present back in 1960, and she still uses it. I'm fortunate in that she's been kind enough to allow me to borrow it from time to time. It's a real treasure. The book is in Spanish, so it takes me a few minutes to figure out some of the ingredients. I hear the book is now available in an English translation.

Arroz con Gandules
adapted from a recipe by Oswald Rivera
special thanks to Rebeca C.

1 can pigeon peas (I like the Goya brand)*
2 cups rice
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 lb. salt pork, rinsed under cold water and diced
1/4 lb. lean cured ham, rinsed under cold water and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbs. chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olives (with pimentos)
2 Tbs. capers
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbs. dry white wine
salt to taste
2 cups water

*Note: If you decide to use dry beans, soak 1 lb. of beans overnight and cook until tender. Drain, setting aside 2 cups of the cooking liquid--you can use that in place of the 2 cups water.

1. Wash rice and drain.
2. Heat oil in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven. Brown salt pork.
3. Add ham and cook until golden crisp (on medium heat).
4. Add onion, peppers, cilantro, garlic,cilantro, olives and capers for about 5 minutes, or until onions begin to appear translucent.
5. Add tomato sauce and cook about 3 minutes.
6. Stir in rice, add peas, water (or reserved liquid), wine, and salt.
7. Bring to a boil, uncovered, until water begins to be absorbed by the rice.
8. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
8. Remove from heat and let rice sit about 10 minutes prior to serving.

Friday, November 17, 2006


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The family and I will be gearing up for some Thanksgiving festivities here shortly. There are two things I like about Thanskgiving; one is cooking for family and friends, and the other is (no surprise here) that we party! And when there's a party that usually means dancing, so you can guess what I'll be doing come Thursday evening after I take my tryptophan-induced nap. This is a good thing, because I'll need some physical activity to burn off all the stuffing and pies that will no doubt be part of our family's celebration.

My husband's not really a turkey fan (sacrilege!), but his mom typically makes his favorite dish of hers, which is arroz con gandules. It's yellow rice with pigeon peas; the dish includes ham, onions, peppers, garlic--you know, typical Pilgrim fare. A Puerto Rican family's Thanksgiving dinner really isn't complete without it. And you thought mashed potatoes were the only way to go, huh? Did I forget to mention that the dish is gfcf? And my kids love it. Okay, I love it too--and nobody cooks it as well as my mother-in-law does (Sorry Mom).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What? No Pumpkin Pie?

I got a note from Zoe's teacher letting me know that on Monday, her class and the class next door are going to have a Thanksgiving feast. They're asking parents to send in ingredients for the dishes they (the kids) are going to help prepare. The teachers will provide the turkey and plates, etcetera. From what I was able to glean from the note the class will be eating turkey (gravy on the side), cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, green beans and mixed veggies, rolls, and sweet tea. The teacher added on my note to let her know what Zoe could eat from the list, and informed me that I could send substitutes that are appropriate for my daughter to eat.

Man, I love her teacher. She's really good about giving me the heads-up on these things early so I can prepare. I'm going to need all the time I can get, because 99% of that menu is off limits to my kid.

My idea is to make some side dishes that I can send portions of to school and freeze the rest, so I can take them with us when we go to Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law's. Both the school Thanksgiving feast and the dinner with my in-laws will feature items that are either laden with butter or stuff that's got both gluten and casein. Hey, can't say I blame them; I loves me some rolls with butter, and don't even get me started on how much I love stuffing.

So here are some of the ideas I've come up with so far:

GFCF cornbread stuffing
Veggies with no butter
GFCF rolls
Chocolate cake

I know, pumpkin pie is conspicuously absent from my list. There's a good reason. Last year after my daughter realized that she couldn't eat pumpkin pie (which is a Thanksgiving staple), she insisted that I come up with a recipe for it and make one especially for her. After all, it's tradition! So I labored long and hard and made a delicious soy pumpkin pie with a rice crust. It looked, smelled and and tasted quite good. I put a slice of pie on a plate and handed it to my precious firstborn, she took a bite, looked at me and said, "I don't like it." She at that moment realized that she didn't like cinnamon; and seeing as how cinnamon is a major player in pumpkin pie, that meant no pumpkin pie for Zoe. Fortunately my husband and son eat anything I put in front of them; they made short work of that pie.

Speaking of pies, I have been asked by my sister-in-law to bring some pies to her dinner. I'm going to be a busy girl come next week.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drama at Casa de Flamenco

I didn't post yesterday; I'm disappointed because I'm really enjoying getting into the habit of writing on here daily. Believe me, it wasn't by choice. We've had quite a bit of drama here so I wasn't in the mood for writing (and I certainly didn't have time for it).

My husband was on his way to play at a wedding on Sunday morning when he was in an accident. The car he was driving (his mom's) was struck in the rear. By a DRUNK/STONED driver! Can you believe it? Here it is, 10 a.m. on a Sunday and some lady is drunk and hits my husband. Fortunately, my husband's injuries do not appear to be severe. He's got some neck and back pain but it certainly could have been much worse. The driver of the car was arrested at the scene, and her car was impounded. My mother-in-law's vehicle has damage to the trunk and bumper, and of course the insurance people always take longer than expected to resolve these things. Oh, and here's the bonus: the driver of the vehicle that hit my husband gave the arresting officer her insurance information--and according to that insurance company, she doesn't have insurance with them!

So we are in the middle of dealing with all sorts of insurance people, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs (just kidding), and trying to navigate with one vehicle. We're still waiting for the insurance company to give my MIL a rental car, so I'm driving her and my husband to work and my daughter to her therapy appointments. Hopefully the rental situation will be settled today so I'll have one less person to drive around.

I'm just so grateful that my husband wasn't more seriously hurt in this accident; the car thing is quite low on my list of concerns, although I don't want my MIL to be inconvenienced by all this either.

I forgot to mention that my husband's $10,000 concert guitar was in the trunk of the car at the time of the accident. It appears to be working fine, although we're going to have it looked at to make sure there is not structural damage. My husband is more worried about his "baby" than himself.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Technology is a Fickle Friend

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For some odd reason, Blogger does not like when I attempt to post more than 1 photo in a single blog entry. I discovered this by accident today, when I posted an entry with both the photo of this cake as well as the photo of my rocker kid (see below). If you viewed the entry in Internet Explorer, the photos appeared one above the other, and all looked fine. However, if you use Mozilla Firefox, the two pictures appear side by side, and it makes my blog look--well, funky. So I'm posting the picture of the cake separately so as not to upset whatever forces exist in the internet world that conspire to make my site look weird. I'm going to try to figure out why this crap happens, because it is annoying. If anyone out there has a good (simple) explanation for why this happens, feel free to let me know. I stress the word simple because anyone who knows me knows that computer stuff just isn't my bag, baby.

In the meantime, I'm going to just curse at my computer.

We Came to Rock

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I thought I'd share a photo of my daughter with her new guitar. She is over the moon about this new instument--after all, it is PINK!! Zoe is psyched and ready to start her own band.

After she jammed for a little while, she celebrated by eating the last of her birthday cake, all by herself.

Fortunately, They Left Me Some

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Today I made this delicious skillet cornbread, which we ate for breakfast. As my husband, kids, and mother-in-law dug in, my husband looked at me and asked, "Hey, did you want to take a picture of this for the blog first?"

What a sweetie.

We didn't devour the whole thing; therefore, here is the only decent photo I could get of my cornbread. It looked so pretty and round when it came out of the oven. And it was delicious.

This remaining bit of cornbread did not survive past lunchtime. My husband warmed it in the microwave, poured some honey on it, and dug in.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Perfect Snack

I love Larabars. They have officially become my favorite snack. I am proud to say that, because most of the snack food I have eaten for much of my life is loaded with the trifecta of poor eating: high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and refined sugars. It took me a while to really start listening to my body; when I did, I realized (finally) that I was filling it with junk. To be fair, I do still occasionally dabble in junk food--after all, some of that stuff does taste really great. But I am learning with time that my body will stage a mutiny if I fill it with too much lousy food.

So, now I have found something that is delicious and healthy that I can eat and not feel bad--or sick--about. Those of you who avoid refined sugar will be happy to know that this raw food bar contains no refined sugar. In fact, most of these bars have 5 ingredients or less: and sugar is not among those ingredients. They all contain nuts, a great source of monounsaturated fats, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Larabars are a great source of fiber. They're gluten free, dairy free, and soy free. My favorite flavors are the Cocoa Mole' and the Cinnamon Roll. My husband says the Cherry Pie flavor is his favorite.

Tomorrow it's back to Wild Oats for me to pick up some more. I may have to start ordering them online by the case.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

By Bread Alone

I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better today. So much so that I decided to bake a loaf of bread for Zoe. And seeing as she was out of bread, I figured it was time to make some; otherwise, she wouldn't have any for lunch tomorrow. The bread was quite good; it had a pleasant aroma and nice texture. The kids both liked the taste, which is good since they're going to be eating it over the next few days. The bread recipe comes from the book Cooking Free by Carol Fenster. I highly recommend it. The book is full of recipes for multiple food allergies and sensitivities including gluten, dairy, sugar, and eggs.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Happy Birthday My ***

Well, I promised myself that nothing would get in my way of posting every day during the month of November. That was, at least, until yesterday--when I was struck down by a stomach illness so severe, I likened the pain to the middle stages of active labor. Oh yeah, that's right--I said it. It was that bad. My mind remembered my Lamaze breathing, and it helped me yesterday. But only so much.

My dear hubby prepared for me what we not-so-lovingly refer to around here as a "dirt shake". It's a drink prepared using a powdered herb and husk mixture that we buy from an herb company that sells supplements from the Amazon. This shake is nasty; I'll spare you the details of how gross it is. The good news is that it helped settle my stomach long enough that I was actually able to get some sleep.

I still don't know where this virus came from---everyone else here seems healthy. It's possible that one of our party guests was ill and left me one heck of a party gift. It could just be that after all the hard work over the last week, my body finally cried, "Uncle!" I'm just hoping the worst is over.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Warm Feeling In My Belly

This is my favorite thing to eat for breakfast these days. It's warm and comforting on a cool morning, and it's a great alternative to grits (my husband grew up in the South, so I've eaten more than my fair share of grits in the time we've been together). You can dress this cereal up any way you like. Personally, I like serving it with a little cinnamon and vanilla, a squirt of agave nectar for sweetness, and some chopped walnuts or almonds. Oh, and if I've got some raisins or dried cranberries or cherries, I might add those too. It's very chilly here tonight, so I'm pining away for something warm--I guess that's why I'm thinking about a hot breakfast even though it's 9:45 p.m. Ahh.

P.S.Tomorrow's Election Day, everybody. Make sure to get out there and vote!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Party All the Time

The birthday free-for-all was today, and all I can say is whew! Man am I exhausted. Playing hostess for close to thirty of our nearest and dearest is a tough job. My mother-in-law was kind enough to help with much of the cooking, but there was still plenty to do, from baking the gfcf cake and some other assorted goodies, to prepping the house, to schmoozing with our guests. I'm pooped! I haven't loaded the photos from the party onto my computer yet, therefore I will have to reserve the photos for tomorrow.

The cake I baked was delicious! For the sake of saving time, I bought a mix from Wild Oats; it was Pamela's Chocolate Cake. I added one extra egg to the mix, as the directions said it would make for a lighter cake. It definitely did! It was moist and flavorful, not too heavy either. I coupled it with a homemade frosting I made which I colored pink per my daughter's request. The frosting is pretty simple:
1/2 c shortening
1/2 cup cf margarine (or all shortening)
3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. corn syrup
2 Tbs. soy milk
and one teeny tiny drop of food coloring

Oh, I forgot to mention that sometimes I will add just a tad of almond extract for a change in flavor. You could probably do the same with peppermint extract, though I've never tried it--my kids aren't too big on mint.

One other thing--my daughter got one gift that was a HUGE hit in this house. My husband is a musician (classical guitar) who started out like many other musicians--playing in a rock band that he started with friends (He still owns his electric guitar, and plays is for fun--and a few gigs--from time to time). My daughter is learning to play classical guitar as well. A friend gave my daughter an electric guitar for her birthday. And not just any guitar--it is a Fender Squire with Hello Kitty on it! Oh, and by the way, it is pink! My little girl says she is ready to rock out with her dad--and says she wants to start a band too. Hilarious, and so cute!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"C" is for Cookies

Yesterday I went to my local Wild Oats store to pick up some of our usual fare, but I decided to grab two or three new things to try. I'll be sharing reviews of these products as my kids, husband, and I try them. One of those items has already been tried--and promptly devoured--by my daughter, so I guess we know which item to review first.

Nana's Chocolate Munch Cookie Bars have become kiddie crack in this house. They are gfcf, but they also have no refined sugars, no hydrogenated oils, no cholesterol, no eggs, no soy, no corn, and no cane or beet products. I know, I know; I wondered what was in them too. They are awesome! They are sort of a cookie/brownie; they're dense and chewy. My son found it a little dry, which is true--it tended to crumble a little bit more than I expected it to. My daughter loved them--in fact, she ate four of the five bars that came in the package (My son and I shared the other one). My daughter happily ate them, all the while dipping bits of cookie in her glass of soy milk.

Sadly, my hubby did not get to sample these; he'll just have to wait till I get another box. Poor guy, all he got to do was ogle at the empty box and wonder what sinful goodness used to reside inside.

Tomorrow we are having a birthday party for my daughter, my husband, and me--all our birthdays are in the first week of November. I'm making a gfcf chocolate cake for the occasion. I'll share the details after the party.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Birthday Girl

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Today, my little girl, you are nine years old. I knew my life would be forever changed by your entrance into this world, but I didn't know how much. Everything I know about being a parent I learned by just being your mom.

I'm still learning.

Adopting a gluten-free/casein-free lifestyle for you was an important decision in helping you achieve better health. It was a tough transition at the beginning. But you've always been a trooper; and with the exception of a few missteps, you've been gfcf for nearly five years. What a journey it has been. And because of that incredible--and sometimes very challenging--journey, this blog was born.

Thank you for being such a terrific kid. I'm very lucky to be your Mom. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thai Curry Beef and Coconut Rice

Today is my husband's birthday; he is officially OLD (just kidding, honey). In honor of my beloved, I made one of his favorite dishes for dinner tonight: Thai Curry Beef and Coconut Rice. Coconut milk is gluten free, and it makes a great base for the curry sauce. By the way, you can use chicken instead of beef if you're staying away from red meat.

Thai Curry Beef

1 1/2 lbs. of beef for stir-fry
1 red pepper, julienned
1 yellow onion, sliced into half-moons
a handful of cilantro, chopped
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk
1/2 to 1 Tbs. red curry paste*
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 Tbs. Fish sauce (available in the ethnic foods aisle of your market)
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1/4 cup chicken stock

In a large saucepan, combine coconut milk and curry paste and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, chicken stock, and beef. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Add the vegetables (reserve cilantro for garnish) and cook for about 5 minutes more, or until beef is cooked and veggies have reached desired tenderness. Top with cilantro. Serve with coconut rice (see below).

*Let your taste preferences be your guide when using curry paste. We like our food spicier here, so I use a full Tbs.; you can get away with less and still get great flavor. Personally, I would not use more than 1 Tbs. for this dish. If you want it spicier, you may want to add hot peppers to this dish.

Coconut Rice

2 cups Jasmine Rice
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk, plus enough water to equal 3 cups of liquid
1 tsp. salt

Bring coconut milk, water, and salt to a boil in pot. Add the jasmine rice and bring back up to a boil. Cover and turn the burner down to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pizza! Pizza!

I'm a Brooklyn girl, born and raised. If there's one thing Brooklynites know about, it's pizza. There were no fewer than 20 pizza joints within a three-mile radius of my high school. I was more than a little bummed out at the prospect of depriving my kids of such a tasty treat. After all, cheese + tomato sauce + bread=heaven (add some yummy toppings and we're talking ecstasy).

My favorite gfcf reference book, "Special Diets for Special Kids," has a recipe for a pizza (see below) which I make regularly for the kids. You can buy a gluten free pizza crust mix if you don't feel like making the crust from scratch. The Gluten Free Pantry makes a nice one. Make sure that when you buy the cheese for this that you check the ingredients carefully. Many alternative cheese products contain casein, so be careful.


2 1/2 cups Rice flour
1/4 oz. GF quick rise yeast
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Xantham gum
1 1/4 cup Warm water
1 Tbs. Honey
3 Tbs. Olive oil
1 cup Pasta sauce
mozzarella style soy cheese
Cornmeal ( if tolerated)
Your favorite pizza toppings

Combine flour, yeast, salt and xantham gum in a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup of the water, olive oil and honey. Work the dough with your hands (it will be soft and crumbly). Add just enough of the remaining 1/4 cup of water to hold mixture together.

Knead the dough in a bowl for five minutes. Cover, and let the dough rest for ten minutes.

Lightly grease a 12" pizza pan and sprinkle with a small handful of cornmeal. Flatten dough into a round disk and press dough into pan.

Top the pizza with sauce and your favorite toppings, then bake in a 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted.

I know I promised a photo of this pizza today, but I am still recovering from Halloween, so I'll try to photograph and post it tomorrow, when my hands are steadier(once the sugar buzz has subsided).