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If I had named my kids for the cravings I experienced while pregnant, I would be putting little Celery and Mango to bed tonight. Don’t go thinking, “Oh what a healthy person she must be; even her pregnancy cravings were healthy!” Amelia could just have easily been named Taco Bell Bean Burrito.

Though back then I was known to make special runs to the grocery store for mangoes, when it came to making a gluten-free version of Rachael Ray’s Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry in a Hurry, I couldn’t find the mango chutney the recipe called for. This disappointment gave birth to deliciousness when I was forced to make my own! I’m not sure I’d ever even had chutney before. Where have I been?

Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry in a Hurry
by Rachael Ray (adaptations by me)

1 cup white rice (I used jasmine rice–my fave.)
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium-size sweet potato, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced into half-moons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded Tablespoon mild curry paste or 2 Tablespoons curry powder (a generous palmful)
2 pounds chicken tenders, bite-size chunks (I used ground chicken.)
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and  thinly sliced (I used a yellow pepper.)
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
2-1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/4 cup prepared mango chutney (a couple of heaping Tablespoons) or make your own (Remember that a spicy chutney makes a spicy curry, so be careful.)
1 10-ounce box frozen peas
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions
1. Prepare white or jasmine rice according to package directions.
2. Preheat large, deep skillet over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil.
3. Add the sweet potatoes to the skillet, season with salt, pepper, and curry paste or powder, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned.
4. Scoot the potatoes over to one side of the pan and add the chunks of chicken or ground chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook, browning slightly, for 3 minutes.
5. Add the onions and bell peppers and toss to combine. Add the cornstarch and continue to cook for 1 minute.
6. Add the chicken stock, cream, and mango chutney, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
7. Add the peas and cilantro and simmer for 1 minute to heat the peas through. Serve over the rice.

I seriously ate this as leftovers for almost as week.

In the interest of keeping it real, if I had a baby today, it would be named Candy Corn.

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My house smells like pumpkin pie. It’s one of the things I love about Fall–along with burning leaves, chilly rainy days and wearing socks again. On this particular rainy fall day I had a hankering for pumpkin something…pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread. I went with muffins because a Pioneer Woman recipe was so tantalizing, I couldn’t resist.

I’m no pioneer woman. If someone told me I had to live on a ranch and raise cattle, I might cry. I’ll stick to my little animal-free bungalow in Indianapolis. Either way, gluten free pumpkin spice muffins are never a bad idea. I dolled a couple of them up for the kids–they’ll eat anything involving candy corn…and frosting, so I knew they’d at least give it a try. Big hit, muffin and all. They’re super moist and great all by their lonesome (sans candy corn and frosting).

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

  • 1 cup Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup (heaping) canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Topping
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease 12 muffin tins or use muffin cup liners.

Mix baking mix, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together oil, pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Fold gently until mixture is just combined.

Pour into a greased muffin pan, about half full. Sprinkle each unbaked muffin with cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and allow to cool. To frost or not to frost…I’ll leave that up to you.

I’m going to apologize in advance for this one. I’m sure it has been done before, but for me, a Nutella sandwich with chocolate chip cookies as the “bread” is a natural outgrowth of two favorites: chocolate and nuts. It’s impossible to have just one. Hence, my apologies.

I used the Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix chocolate chip cookie recipe (see below). Shortly after I take them out of the oven, I drop a big, luscious dollop of Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) on the underside of one cookie and top it with another cookie. Good gracious–watching that velvety chocolate squish out between the cookies is almost enough. Almost. It’s honestly one of the most simply delicious desserts I’ve had. I’m sure a scoop of vanilla ice cream wouldn’t ruin the flavor party. These would also be very cute as mini cookie sandwiches.

Pamela’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter
(I have substituted 1/4 cup of the butter with 3 tablespoons canola oil.)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, large
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix
1-1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (I like to use mini chips.)
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Directions

Yield: approximately 20 cookies
Preheat oven to 350°. Soften butter, add sugar, egg and vanilla, then beat together. Add Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix, chocolate chips (and nuts) mix thoroughly. Place tablespoon sized scoops of dough on a lightly greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until edges start to brown. Let cookies cool slightly and use a spatula to remove from cookie sheet.

Load ’em up with Nutella and enjoy!

“There’s a hole in my heart where the gluten used to be,” is a phrase I often recited both to myself and in all kinds of company. I had a hard time with the conversion. That’s no secret. If you’re a newbie to the diet due to health reasons, I’m sorry, but I’m also here to offer you hope. It gets better, and before you know it, you no longer feel deprived…only delayed. Let me explain.

When I’m out to dinner or at someone’s house and can’t have the something delicious that everybody else is enjoying with gusto, I’m disappointed for a moment. But the sadness doesn’t last because I know I can recreate it (or something just as yummy) at home. That’s the freedom that comes with learning what you can have and what is simple and delicious.

One of the easiest recipes I enjoy in place of my favorite pasta dishes at restaurants is a roasted tomato “sauce” over gf noodles. I like to call it tomato jam because it’s so sweet.

Just cut a couple of pints of cherry or grape tomatoes in half, drizzle with olive oil and about three cloves of garlic, finely chopped. Sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons of sugar and dried basil (or toss with fresh basil when they come out of the oven) and roast at 425 degrees F until the tomatoes are carmelized and release their juices. Toss with your favorite gf pasta and devour!

Amelia’s favorite teacher used to describe her preschoolers’ hearts as buckets. When something nice is said or done for someone, his or her “bucket” is filled with love. This is one of the dishes that fills the hole in my bucket where the gluten used to be.

I’m one of those people–the ones who go on-line to get ideas for their kid’s birthday cake. They look at the pictures and say, “Hey, I could do that. And I bet I could do a better job, too, because these look like a mess.” There’s a reason they look like a mess–it’s super hard.

Dear little Owen turned 5 on Friday and something special had to be done. A Lego cake seemed like the logical choice as he lives and breathes Legos. That decision was my undoing. How difficult could it be to make two rectangles with little circles on top to replicate a Lego piece? I mean, really.

Not only was I making the Lego cake, but I decided it should be gluten-free so Amelia and I could partake. Who wants to make two birthday cakes? Not I. I ended up making two 8×8 Betty Crocker gf chocolate cakes to ensure I would have enough cake for the 10 people who would be eating it. If you’ve ever made the Betty Crocker cake, you may have experienced how it sort of puffs up in the middle. Not a big deal–until you’re making a LEGO cake. I needed two flat rectangles, so I had to carve out the shapes I needed from each cake to achieve said rectangles and still have enough usable pieces to make the circles to top the rectangles. It’s as exhausting and frustrating as it sounds. And I hadn’t even frosted it yet.

I made buttercream frosting and tinted half of it yellow and half of it green. I did a “crumb coat” first, something I learned when taking a Wilton cake decorating class a decade ago. (A lot of good that did me.) It allows you to not worry about getting crumbs in the final layer while still getting a good base coat of frosting on the cake. I chilled the cakes after the crumb coat and prepared for the final coat. Already I was aware that the rectangles were resembling ships rather than Lego pieces, but I forged on. No one was going to tell me that I couldn’t make a decent child’s cake. Someone should have.

It didn’t occur to me that it might be a touch difficult to frost between those little circles I had so painstakingly cut out with a knife. My smallest offset spatula didn’t fit between the circles so I turned to the handle of a plastic fork…not the best choice, but all I could find. It sufficed, but the results were less than exemplary. And then I ran out of icing. I was saving the undercarriage of the circles for last and barely had enough to cover–I could have used another half cup of icing, but so it goes.

Five hours later and half an hour before we walked out the door to the party, I decided to pipe the word “LEGO” onto each circle in white to make it more obvious what these big bulbus lumps of green and yellow icing were. To no avail. When I walked into my mother-in-law’s kitchen wielding the cake, she said, “Oh, cute! Are they submarines?”

So I won’t be attempting another child’s birthday cake any time soon. I even hesitate to show a picture, but in the interest of full culinary disclosure, I feel I have to reveal it.

When I showed it to Owen, he said very enthusiastically, “Thanks, Mom!” And isn’t that all that matters?

Muffins and meltdowns

At our house, a new school year means meltdowns — “oh, yeah, I have homework again” meltdown, mommy crying in her cereal mini-meltdown, and a new one for us this morning–refusing to go to school meltdown. There was some kicking and screaming.

Though some aspects of school starting are out of my control, this time of year also means another round of gluten-free lunches and snacks for Amelia. I’m always trying to come up with new snack options for her to keep things interesting. I wouldn’t want to eat the same thing every day and despite her insistence that whatever I send is “fine,” I know she likes it when I mix it up.

I haven’t made blueberry muffins since before Amelia was diagnosed with Celiac. She used to like them so much, she chose them for her birthday treat one year. So I decided to whip some up with my Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix. They were a big hit with Amelia, but Owen wasn’t shy about polishing off his share as well. I won’t tell you how many I ate.

Blueberry Muffins
(from Pamela’s Products web site–www.pamelasproducts.com)

1-3/4 cups Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix
1/4 cup melted butter, or oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 to 1 cup fruit- bananas, peaches, berries, etc. (If using raisins or dried fruit, add an additional 1/4 cup water)
Optional: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Yield: approximately 6 to 7 muffins.

Mix all ingredients together and spoon 2/3 full into greased muffin pan (or use paper muffin cups). Bake in preheated 350º oven for approximately 25 minutes.

Sorry, Oprah. I need cake.

I’m feeling a little upside down and inside out these days. The kids have started back to school, but tomorrow marks the first time they will both be in school all day every day. I’m sad. Just when I’m learning to accept that Amelia has flown the coop, Owen is waddling his cute little behind out of the nest. I’m not ready.

Cake will help, right? Cake always helps. Despite what Oprah tried to teach me for 25 years, sometimes I eat to comfort myself. Don’t judge.

The Betty Crocker Gluten-free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake was just what the doctor (me) ordered. I opted out of the pineapple rings with cherry centers and chose pineapple tidbits and pecans instead.

Betty Crocker Gluten-free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1/4 cup butter

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

9 slices pineapple in juice (from 16-oz can), drained

9 maraschino cherries, drained(I substituted pineapple tidbits and a sprinkling of pecans–no cherries.)
1 box (15 oz) Betty Crocker® Gluten Free yellow cake mix

1/2 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup water

2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla (McCormick)
3 eggs

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350°F. In 9-inch square pan, melt 1/4 cup butter in oven. Stir in brown sugar and corn syrup; spread evenly in pan. Arrange pineapple slices on brown sugar mixture. Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice. (Or use the tidbits and pecans.)

2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, 1/2 cup butter, water, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter over pineapple and cherries.

3. Bake 38 to 43 minutes or until surface is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately run knife around side of pan to loose cake. Place heatproof serving plate upside down onto pan; turn plate and pan over. Leave pan over cake 5 minutes so brown sugar topping can drizzle over cake. Remove pan; cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or cool. Store covered in refrigerator.