Shop ‘Til You Drop

sarah sproutsLast time I told you all about how I was one of two semi-finalists for a shopping spree at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. Although I didn’t win the big prize, I won a substantial gift card that paid for a lot of groceries for more than a month.

My original plan for the gift card was to supplement my normal grocery budget by only buying produce, meat, sale items and a few staples every week, in the hopes that I could use the gift card for six or seven months. Then life and a lot of unexpected bills happened, and I used the card for almost all my grocery shopping. What a blessing it was!

All too soon, there was only $100 left on the gift card. Sad, right? Even though I’d been using the card for weekly grocery shopping, I still wanted it to help our budget in the long term. That’s when I devised a plan of attack.  I would use that last bit of money to royally stock our pantry with staples and go-to items. It was the shopping trip dreams are made of.

After going through our pantry, I split my dream shopping trip items into three categories:

  • Expensive staples we’re always running out of – like extra virgin olive oil and gluten-free pretzels
  • Quick meals – like ingredients to make pasta
  • Splurges – I don’t need a few bars of chocolate…wait who am I kidding? Of course I do. Other splurges were things like a tube of high-quality tomato paste and a bottle of chipotle Tabasco sauce.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 1

And here it is…the bounty of my dream pantry-stocking shopping trip.  Oh, and it cost a little more like $150.

I’ve taken individual pictures of many of the items, but here is a quick rundown, left to right: Balsamic vinegar, raspberry balsamic vinegar, two bottles of extra virgin olive oil, grape seed oil, four packages of gluten-free pasta in various shapes, rice, coconut milk, whole-grain mustard, local honey, almond butter, dijon mustard, three bottles of chicken broth, chocolate, three bottles of high-quality marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, gluten-free pretzels, gluten-free crackers and cookies, bell peppers, Tabasco sauce, bulk almonds and bulk pinto beans.

Oh and wouldn’t it have been helpful if I’d closed the back door and moved those chairs before the picture?  

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 2

 I also got some meat, but I put that up as soon as I got home. Bacon, chicken thighs and ground beef. That ham hock’s for a big pot of beans.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 3

White and brown jasmine rice, how I love thee! I also grabbed several boxes of Schar pasta. It’s my favorite pasta brand, and Italy’s number one according to the box. I love their tagliatelle.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 4Here’s where it gets really exciting – local honey, pure maple syrup, dijon and whole grain mustard. These are things I use all the time in cooking, whether it be for pork rubs or salad dressings. It always hurts the budget on shopping trips I have to buy a new $10 bottle of maple syrup, so having it on hand is amazing. Also, thanks Sprouts for carrying local honey. Way to be awesome.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 5This is my favorite chick stock. Buy it. Use it. Heck, bathe in it if you want. Allow it to change your life.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 7I splurged and got some nice pasta sauce. Emergency pasta dinners are ready to go.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 8Glutino is probably my favorite gluten-free brand. Their bagel chips are as good as anything with gluten and our house is seldom without a bag of their pretzels. Then I got Schar shortbread cookies. You’ve seen the amazing things I do to those

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 9File this one under necessity. These are my two favorite chocolate bars.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 10Sprouts has such high-quality, inexpensive produce and their produce workers are so knowledgable. They had bell peppers on sale, so I obviously bought 20. I mean five.

Produce isn’t really a pantry staple, especially because I use it up fast. However, you can dice bell peppers and freeze them. And that totally counts as a staple.

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 12

Accidental Okie Shopping Spree 11

The last thing I used my gift card for was a very special Easter dinner. My dad came up because my sister and mom were en route to Massachusetts. I made a rack of lamb, roasted parsnips and carrots, roasted asparagus, marinated tomatoes and a Schar gluten-free sourdough baguette. My dad, who is not gluten-free, said the baguette was one of the best he’d ever had.

My gift card is now empty. I keep it in my wallet, though. It’s a reminder of a lot of things – of friends and community, of God’s provision, and of the time I got to stock my pantry full of staples for a busy day, a rainy day, or a day I just need some chocolate.

Who am I kidding. That chocolate is long gone.

Get Your Camp On

I’m so excited about the coming month! I am partnering with Better Batter, one of my favorite brands of gluten-free flour, and several other bloggers for the first-ever Great Gluten-Free Campout.

skillet logo tablecloth (1)

Camping is one of those final frontiers of a gluten-free life. Once diagnosed, we celiacs first shy away from restaurants and flour-centric dishes like cookies and bread. Slowly, we find some restaurants with gluten-free options and a short list of go-to recipes, and life gets a little more normal.

But camping? You’re asking a gluten-free person to be away from their normal products, away from their safe kitchens and often times at the mercy of whoever is cooking for the campout. Frankly, it’s easier to stay home. So that’s what we do.

Not any more!

For the next four weeks, the four of us bloggers will each be creating gluten-free campout meals in four categories: breakfast, snacks or sides, in the fire (main dishes) and dessert. By the end, you’ll have an arsenal of 16 go-to recipes for all your camping needs!

I was an over-achiever and made two extra recipes, so really, you’ll have 18. 

Accidental Okie Camping 5I went out to the lake with my friend and camping cook aficionado Rick Fry. Not only is Rick a famous painter whose works are in the Oklahoma capitol, but he is also an accomplished dutch oven cook. 

Accidental Okie Camping lakeThere’s a lake just 30 minutes from my house. That’s where we set up camp and did some authentic campout cooking.

Here is a preview of what you’ll see from my blog throughout the series.

Accidental Okie Camping 6Tips about dutch-oven cooking, complements of Rick.

Accidental Okie Camping 2Gluten-free lemon blueberry almond pancakes. They were SO. GOOD.

Accidental Okie Camping 4Four-ingredient loaded baked potato salad. Yes, you read that right.

Accidental Okie Camping 1Stuffed jalapeños need no introduction in my neck of the woods. 

Accidental Okie Camping 9Cowboy meatloaf. There’s a secret ingredient.

Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s cilantro. And cheese.

Accidental Okie Camping 8Mojito punch. 

What can I say about mojito punch? It’s sparkly. It’s limey. It’s minty. It’s sweet, but not too sweet. It completes me.

Accidental Okie Camping Peach Pie 22Campside peach pie 1. Advanced version.

Accidental Okie Camping Peach Pie 27Campside peach pie 2: beginners version.

Can you guess which one Rick did and which one I did? Yeah, you guessed right.

Accidental Okie Camping 3Follow this series for the next month, and this napkin might just become your life motto.

The Dreaded Elimination Diet

Psst – thanks everyone for voting last week for the recipe to save.  The quiche won.  Look for the recipe soon.

I thought about naming this post Just Kill Me Now or something like that.  But the reality is that the more I’ve thought about our elimination diet and the more research I’ve done, I’m actually really excited and hopeful.

Yes, we’re doing an elimination diet.  It’s 21 days long.  It starts today.  We’re not eating corn, soy, sugar, gluten (The Professor is eliminating gluten – Jackie and I have severe gluten intolerance and eliminated it years ago), dairy, peanuts and eggs.

There are several reasons we’re embarking on this adventure.  Jackie, my sister who is living with us, is also gluten-free and has been still having a lot of symptoms associated with food intolerances.  She went off dairy for a few days and a lot of things cleared up.  Since we both have gluten intolerance, there’s a pretty good chance that if she has other intolerances, I do too.  Also, once you have one food intolerance, you’re likely to have or develop others.  (Thanks Mom and Dad…your genetic lottery aspirations have exceeded your expectations).

One of the big symptoms of a dairy intolerance is bad hay fever allergies.  My allergies are so bad that at least once a spring my eyes swell shut, and I get allergy shots once a week.  I’ve also had a lot of weight gain due to bad reactions to birth control pills, and I’m up for trying this.  The Professor also has been having some health issues, and the doctor recommended an elimination diet.  So, the writing was on the wall.  We all need to do this, and we’re all at the point where we’re ready to commit.

All I have to say is this:  If I am allergic to dairy, I will probably lock myself in my house and cry for a few days.  Fact.

We’re following two books.  The first is the Virgin Diet by JJ Virgin.  I read the book this weekend and was intrigued by her explanation of why she recommends eliminating these seven foods.  They are the seven highest food intolerance foods.  They’re foods that are often times associated with healthy living, and so sometimes people who do have intolerances to these foods end up sabotaging themselves because they’re eating the things worst for them.

She has a quiz that lists common food intolerance symptoms.  You get two points if you have occasional symptoms and four points if you have frequent symptoms.  0 – 5 means you probably don’t have many or any food intolerances, 6 – 14 points means you may have mild food intolerances, 15 plus means you have a high likelihood to have quite a few food intolerances.  I scored  48.

I’m also reading and gaining recipes from The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook by Annalise Roberts and Claudia Pillow, two of my gluten-free heroes.  In addition to the Virgin Diet’s focus on food intolerances, both books focus on eliminating foods that cause inflammation within the body.

So here we go.

Step one was researching.  Because Jackie has been spearheading this, I asked her to make a meal plan for the week. As we went through recipes in both books, we caught the vision for great meals that wouldn’t make us feel deprived.  Tonight we had chicken fajitas with a bunch of peppers and onions and fingerling potatoes.  Later this week, we’re having Dal and brown rice and a Greek salad. The more we researched, the more we saw that this could be done.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comNext, the perishable items went to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.  Farewell cheese.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comBecause we will be systematically adding items back into our diet, we put the currently unsafe non-perishable foods into a bin in the pantry so we wouldn’t be tempted.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comThat’s where the bread and tortillas used to live.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comThen we went shopping.  It was quite a trip.  I anticipated it being more expensive to set the foundation for a new way of eating, and it was.  But I think our weekly budget will be back on track after this week.

I was thankful to find dairy free and sugar free chicken broth.  Also we found some great pre-seasoned and safe meat at Sam’s.  Putting all the groceries on the table before unloading was a neat visual reminder that although we’re temporarily eliminating so much, we won’t starve.  In fact, we will be eating amazing, yummy food!

elimination diet | accidentalokie.com

Jackie’s going to make us some kale chips.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comTo set us up for success, I prepared all the veggies.  I peeled and chopped the carrots and stored them in water because Pinterest told me to.  Apparently it keeps them crisp.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comWhen I saw this carrot, I wished I had a snow man.  It is the perfect snow man nose.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comCarrots, green onions and lettuce are ready to go!

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comAnd the whole fridge is stocked!

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comThis weekend I also made roasted red pepper hummus, which will provide a great snack throughout the week!

We’ll let you know our progress.  Because this is a true elimination diet for food allergies, there can be no cheating or all the work is void.  If you have food allergies or have done similar diets, give us tips.  We need them.

Rock the Vote

As you probably know, my recipes are step-by-step with lots of photos.  Why?  Because I think step-by-step recipes are super useful and uniquely suited to the blogging medium.  Also, I hope that many gluten-free newbies read my blog and are less intimidated about jumping head first into the world of g.f. cooking.

But sometimes, I mess up.  It’s true.  I know you’re shocked.  Take a moment to sit down if you need to.

You see, sometimes I get everything set up to blog about a recipe.  I buy the ingredients, start the prep and take the pictures.  But somewhere along the way, I forget to continue taking pictures. Usually this happens if I’m making a meal for company, and I get rushed at the end.  Or my blood sugar is low and I’m on the dangerous tight rope between lightheaded and hangry (hunger-induced anger = hangry).  It’s a dangerous place, my friends.  Just ask The Professor.  He’s been caught in those crosshairs before.

This reminds me of a picture I saw on Facebook a few days ago.

hungry

Can I get an Amen?

So, anyways, my point.  I have a few awesome recipes whose photos just sort of unceremoniously ended before the recipe was finished.  They’re amazing recipes, but I wouldn’t normally blog about them because they’re missing some of the step-by-step pictures.

This was making me sad though.  Because, I mean, they’re some of my favorite recipes.  So I’ve decided to feature one of these recipes, and I’m letting you decide!  Right now, they are on the Island of Misfit Blog Posts, and you have the power to set one free!

Vote in the comments section by Friday, February 15th.  Whichever recipe wins will be featured on Accidental Okie!

Recipe 1: Roasted and Caramelized Vegetables with Sesame Seeds and Rosemary

One of my favorite exports from New Zealand.  Filling and economical and oh so good.

roasted veggies

Recipe 2: Quiche

There’s a secret ingredient.  Spoiler alert: it’s in this photo.

quiche

Recipe 3: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

The party food of kings…or of all my friends.  One of the two.

datesSo rock the vote.  Save a recipe!

Cast your vote for which one to save by Friday!  If you’re having trouble voting on the blog, vote on Facebook or my Twitter feed.

Thanksgiving Superlatives

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Who else is still wearing (or longing to be wearing) stretchy pants?  Because I am.

Thanksgiving day was good and busy.  The Professor and I drove down to Dallas to my parents’ house who hosted Thanksgiving.  It was a small group – my parents, The Professor and me, one of my best friends Alex and her mom, and my grandparents, Grandmommy and Grandaddy.  My sister Jackie was in Massachusetts visiting her boyfriend.

Here’s all the girls.  On a related note, I’ve decided to grow out my bangs.  They never stay where I want them to.

Thanksgiving used to always be at Grandmommy’s, but a few months ago she declared she was too old to host Thanksgiving and Christmas.  There was weeping and gnashing of teeth from my cousins and me, but we will get through it together.

All in all, it was a great day.  We ate a lot.  Cooked a lot.  Laughed a lot.  Watched a lot of football.  Did some Black Friday shopping.  The day was too busy to take step-by-step pictures of our recipes.  Instead, I present to you the inaugural Accidental Okie’s Thanksgiving Superlatives.

And just so you don’t think I’m infallible, we’ll start with this one:

Most Failed: Unset Pecan Pie

I’m not sure what happened.  Well, that’s not true.  I do.  I know exactly what happened.  I didn’t cook it long enough, and also had the broiler on for a few minutes to toast the Brussels sprouts, making the pie look deceptively done.  So we pulled it out.  It wasn’t set.  Like really not set.  So we scooped it with a spoon and ate it anyways.  We’re courageous like that.

Best New Side: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Thanksgiving

Did you know Brussels sprouts were Julia Child’s favorite Thanksgiving side dish?  My parents bought some on the stalk, so we made them instead of green beans.  They were delightful, and made me realize what I dislike so much about Thanksgiving food: everything is sweet.  Sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, carb-centric stuffing and mashed potatoes, rolls and desserts.  Having the slightly bitter Brussels sprouts brought perfect balance to the meal.

We made a variation on the Barefoot Contessa’s roasted Brussels sprouts, only I broiled them hot and fast for about 15 minutes, flipping them a few times, and I cut every one of them in half, no matter how small the sprouts.  The inside of the sprouts get delightfully crisp and yummy.

Best Extra: Citrus Plate for Water and Tea

This was one of those things I did while things were baking and I had some down time.  If I had been in a hurry, they would have been dumped in a bowl, but doing them ahead allowed me to make them oh so pretty.  There were oranges for the iced tea and lemons and limes for the ice water.  Everyone loved them, and snacked on the oranges.   It was a win-win-win.

Most improved: My Stuffing Recipe

I changed my stuffing recipe up a bit this year, and I loved the results.  I halved the corn bread to just one batch, doubled the celery, used a whole pint of sliced mushrooms and a whole bag of Craisins.

Most Likely to Change Your Life: Pomegranate Hazelnut Fall Salad

I made my pomegranate hazelnut vinaigrette salad dressing.  It was so scrumptious atop a salad of romaine lettuce, pomegranate seeds, pepitas (peeled pumpkin seeds), and ribbons of shaved Parmesan cheese.  I ate more salad than anything during dinner.  On a related note, I had more room for cake.

Worst Timing: Um, Everything

Okay, someone enlighten me.  What is your strategy for getting oven things cooked while the bird hogs the oven for hours and hours?

Best Averted Disaster: Kitty Thanksgiving 

My mom and I were stuffing the bird while my dad worked on one of the other dishes.  The Professor was doing one of six loads of dishes of the day.  I look away from the turkey for a second because a strange movement catches my eye.  And what do I see?  Lyla, my sister’s cat, running from the dining room, through the kitchen and to the garage.  With a flopping bird in her mouth.

Everyone dropped what they were doing and we all descended on Lyla, shooing her outside the house.  She saw this and tried to make a break – very alive bird still in her mouth – to the stairs.  We caught her, got her in the garage, and she lost grip of the bird, who promptly flew away to safety.

We still don’t know the answer to the following questions:  When did Lyla bring the bird into the house?  To what rooms did she take the bird?  How did she sneak it by us in the first place?  And, did she want her own kitty Thanksgiving?  I guess we’ll never know, but we all think the averted disaster was our Thanksgiving miracle.

Most Important Meal of the Day: Breakfast

This year, I made Paula Deen’s French toast casserole recipe, using a loaf of Udi’s Cinnamon Raisin Bread.  It was delicious.  Actually sitting down and eating breakfast ended up being a good idea.  The casserole and a big glass of milk filled me up.  I didn’t snack while cooking, and was actually hungry when we sat down for lunch.  Breakfast is definitely staying next year.

Best Non Traditional Dessert: Carrot Cake

My mother had a brilliant idea.  Brilliant.  We made carrot cake for dessert.  Carrot cake is for Easter in our family, but the cake was a perfect complement to Thanksgiving’s rich and scrumptious flavors.  Plus, let’s be honest, who can say no to fresh cream cheese pecan frosting?  I know I can’t.

We modified my mom’s recipe with Better Batter Gluten Free Flour, and it turned out perfectly.  There were no other modifications – just a one-to-one ratio of flour to Better Batter, oh and halving the salt.  Always half the salt when modifying a gluten-free baked item.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  I was too busy eating it.

Best Black Friday deal: Modern Family Season One for $13

I love that show.  The first episode where Cam holds up the baby to Lion King music.  The ever-broken step.  The quotes.  Oh the quotes.

“I collect antique fountain pens. I’m quite adept at Japanese flower arrangements. Ikebana. And I was the starting offensive lineman at the University of Illinois. Surprise!”

“I design high-end electroacoustic transducers.  That’s just a fancy way of saying I get things to make noise.”

Best Friday Night: EVER

I had the greatest post-Thanksgiving Friday ever.  Shopping (mostly window shopping, although I did buy a berry bowl since Marcy told me to), a massage, cream cheese and jalapeno stuffed pork tenderloin, and a Duck Dynasty marathon.

It’s time to get The Professor to grow a long, sexy beard.  (sarcasm)

Best Thanksgiving Travelers: Charlie and Pippa

Charlie and Pippa have always gone to Dallas with us, so they’re great travelers.  Pippa always sits in the driver’s seat.  Charlie got relaxed enough to sleep on his back on my lap.  It was good times.  We love our kitties.

Best Texas moment:

Of course I’m the Accidental Okie, but I’m also an eight-generation Texan.  Every once in a while I see proof of this that blows me away.  Here was one of those moments.  This conversation really happened.

Sarah: Did you hear that Larry Hagman died?
Dad: (Calls his dad to pass on the news and then gets off the phone).
Sarah: Did Grandaddy know?
Dad: Yeah, he and Uncle Don had lunch with Larry’s brother last week, and he said that he wasn’t doing well.

Larry Hagman’s family is from the small town where eight generations of my family are buried.  Larry was in the same class as my great aunt Lou.

I hope your Thanksgiving was great, as well.  Tell me your superlatives!

Gluten-Free Holiday Cooking Tips

Thanksgiving Painting

While originally written for Thanksgiving, this cooking guide works for any holiday or gathering – Christmas, New Year’s parties, Easter – where you are hosting a bunch of people!

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in spring of 2006.  Fall 2007 was my first Thanksgiving, and I was scared.  Feeling sorry for me, my dad bought me an early Christmas present – my navy blue KitchenAid mixer.  I still use it today.  I also took a cooking class by Claudia Pillow, co-author of this book, which was incredibly helpful.  The next years have been an exercise in trial and error.  There have been successes and failures.  Lessons have been learned along the way.

Because so many Thanksgiving standards contain gluten, I would bring my versions to our family’s big Thanksgiving celebration.  That’s a lot of food to bring – stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, desserts.  Over the years, I learned what I was willing to do on Thanksgiving – the modified standards that were a must-have – and those I could do without.

My family got the hang of it too.  My grandmother now makes her candied sweet potatoes with gluten-free flour and thickens her gravy with corn starch.

While I don’t have the grocery budget or the time to cook Thanksgiving standards for all of you (sorry), I still wanted to give you tips for having a successful gluten-free Thanksgiving, especially if this is your first gluten-free holiday, or if you’re having a gluten-free guest over to your house this year.

General tips:

  • Are you brand new to the gluten-free world?  Here’s my gluten-free starter guide.
  • Read all the labels.  Here are just a few foods you’d never guess have (or might have) gluten: canned chicken broth, ice cream, soup mixes, salad dressings, marshmallows, chewy candy like Twizzlers.  Information on deciphering labels is on my starter guide.
  • Whether you are the gluten-free guest for a large Thanksgiving gathering or you are cooking for a gluten-free guest on Thanksgiving, do not expect to have every dish gluten-free. The meat, a few sides and at least one dessert will be sufficient.  If you’re hosting and cooking the food, then it’s easy to make everything gluten-free.
  • Be thoughtful to make small changes that will easily make a dish gluten-free.  Use tapioca starch in gravy or gluten-free marshmallows in candied yams, for example.  If you’re cooking a turkey with a browning bag, use gluten-free flour in the bag – any gluten-free flour without xanthan or guar gum will do.  I usually use brown rice flour.
  • Hosts: never ever think “Oh, it’s just a little flour.”  Just 1/8th of a teaspoon is enough for me and many of my fellow celiacs to have a full-scale reaction.
  • Buy gluten-free rolls.  Udi’s and Schar both make great rolls.  Against the Grain makes a great baguette.
  • Let the gluten-free guest serve him or herself first.  Give them their own butter dish that is not contaminated by bread crumbs.  Remind your guests to keep each serving utensil with its appropriate dish.
  • Feeling crunched for time or intimidated about your first gluten-free attempt being on Thanksgiving?  There is no shame in utilizing mixes and other shortcuts!  My favorite gluten-free mixes these days are King Arthur flour, which are now carried at Target.  You can read my reviews of King Arthur gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mix and yellow cake mix here.  Also, dress up gluten free store-bought cookies, like I did here.
  • Speaking of shortcuts – gluten-free pie crusts are available at most health food stores.  I love Whole Food’s gluten-free pie crust.

Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe

Nothing says Thanksgiving like stuffing.  Unfortunately, nothing says gluten like stuffing.  Have no fear, you can modify your favorite homemade stuffing recipe into your new gluten-free standard.  There are a few simple tips:

  1. Make a flourless cornbread recipe.  You’ll find about a thousand variations online.  They just use corn meal.  Make two batches a day before you prepare the stuffing.  Make sure your corn meal says gluten-free on the box, and don’t use white corn meal.  (White corn has a small amount of natural gluten and some people including yours truly react to it).
  2. One of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving is Grandmommy drying cubed bread for her stuffing.  She dries it overnight so it is dry and crisp and ready to be included in the stuffing.  You do the same with gluten-free bread, but it takes substantially longer to dry out.  Dry it out for a day, turning occasionally, but still be prepared to stick it in a hot oven while the bread crumbs truly dry out.
  3. A key to making great stuffing is starting out with a moist stuffing mixture.  To get the gluten-free mix to the proper moistness, prepare to use two or three or four times more liquid than normal.  This means keeping a very close eye on the level of saltiness.  I usually dilute low-sodium chicken broth.  Be prepared to use a lot more broth!

Here is my stuffing recipe.  It’s really good, but you can also use the tips above to modify your favorite stuffing recipe!

Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 batch gluten-free corn bread, two round nine-inch pans, baked, crumbled and dried out
  2. 1 loaf gluten-free bread (12 ounces), cut into cubes. I use Udi's White Bread
  3. 1 pound pork sausage, crumbled and pan fried - you can use sage, normal pork breakfast sausage, spicy Italian...really whatever kind of sausage you want.
  4. 4 tbs butter
  5. 1 large onion, diced
  6. 1 pint sliced mushrooms
  7. 2 c. sliced celery
  8. ½ tsp. salt
  9. ½ tsp rubbed sage
  10. 1 tsp thyme
  11. 1 c. pecans or hazelnuts
  12. 1 c. Craisins
  13. 4 - 6 c. low sodium, gluten-free chicken broth – enough to get it VERY moist
  14. * adjust the extra veggies, dried cranberries and nuts as you wish. I think I always end up putting more of everything. I like my toppings.
Instructions
  1. Cube bread and dry in a 350-400 degree oven until they're dry and toasted, about 30 minutes, flipping occasionally. Crumble cornbread, let dry overnight.
  2. The day of: Cook sausage and crumble. Set aside. Use a tablespoon or so of the sausage drippings and butter to sweat (sautee, but so they're still crunchy) the onions, mushrooms and celery, adding in the spices and salt. Quickly toast the nuts in a dry frying pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the crumbled corn bread, bread cubes, sausage, sautéed veggies, nuts and craisins. Moisten the stuffing with chicken broth until it is thoroughly moistened. Think soggy. If you don't add enough broth, the stuffing will be dry and mealy. Be careful with chicken broth. Canned chicken broth many times has gluten. Check the label.
  4. Cover with foil and bake at 400 for 1 hour. This is a wonderful recipe. My favorite part are the Craisins! They add a sweetness and color.
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

Autumn Salad

Make a big naturally gluten-free salad!  My fall salad with pomegranate hazelnut vinaigrette, lettuce, pomegranate seeds, green onions, pumpkin seeds and Parmesan cheese will have no one missing the gluten!

Gluten-Free Gravy

Make a roux just like you normally would, but use tapioca starch flour or sweet white rice flour.

Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole, oh how I miss you.  I usually skip this side because it is a lot of work.  I made it the first Thanksgiving after my sister was diagnosed with gluten intolerance because I wanted that Thanksgiving to be full of good memories for her.  (Best big sister award, or what?!)

Here’s the recipe I use.  It’s pretty good.  It takes forever.

This dish is something that over the years I decided wasn’t a priority for me.  I now prefer a simpler green bean dish with steamed beans and bacon.  Because what’s better than bacon?

Candied Yams

Candied yams or candied sweet potatoes are a classic, and easily modified to be gluten free.

Namaste Spice Cake Mix

Quick Pumpkin Bread

Make this quick pumpkin bread!

One pack of gluten-free spice cake mix – I use Namaste
1 egg
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin
Up to 1.5 cups of pecans and golden raisins, your preference.

Bake per the cake’s instructions.

Pecan Pie

Gluten Free Baking Classics by Analise Robers contains the world’s greatest pecan pie recipe ever.  Buy it.  Bake it.  Love it.

Banana Bread

Make my gluten-free banana bread.  It’s a perfect breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.  And it makes a great on-the-go breakfast for Black Friday, too!

Do you have any more questions, suggestions or advice?  Put them in the comments section.

Two Things: The Ill-Fated Cake Ball and A Christmas Announcement

Thing 1: The Tale of the Ill-Fated Cake Ball

A few weeks ago, my friends and I had a cake ball making night.  My friend Ashley hosted it.  She was showing me the cake balls which she had pre-rolled for us to decorate.  In a flurry of excitement, she told me about the gluten-free cake balls and the vanilla cake balls at the same time.  I got confused.  And I ate a whole cake ball.  A whole glutened cake ball.

Now let me explain something to you – I am really gluten intolerant.  It is not a lifestyle choice, a fad or a psychosomatic thing. Here are my reactions:

  • A few crumbs or cross-contamination – acne-like rash on face for about a month.
  • 1/8 a teaspoon of a gluten-containing ingredient – Vomiting for four hours.
  • Any more than that – A week of vomiting/other unfun stuff that I will not write about on this blog, ever.

This cake ball contained more gluten than I’ve ingested cumulatively in past six-and-a-half years.  Thankfully, I realized that I ate the wrong cake ball within just a few minutes.  When the discovery was made, my friends and I all looked at each other, all wondering what I should do, and all of us knowing what had to be done.

So I excused myself, went to the bathroom, turned on the loud vent fan, and gagged myself until I puked.  I did it twice, you know, just to be sure.

It felt just like the after-school special I once watched on bulimia. (The very after school special that taught me how to gag myself).  There I was, hunched over the toilet, turning on the fan to dull the noise, sticking my fingers down my throat.  Yes, I decided, I was a cautionary tale.  Only mine was about eating a cake ball, not a life-threatening eating disorder.

In my moment of desperation and melodrama, all I could hear in my head was the Jessie Spano I’m So Excited freak-out song she sings after becoming “addicted to caffeine pills”.  Yes, children of the 80’s, you all know what I’m talking about.  She screams “I’m so excited, I’m so excited.” And then falling to a heap of tears and early-90’s fashion, she’s caught by Zach Morris, and finally she lets out, “I’m so, I’m so SCARED.”

So I was glutened, and then I was throwing up, and then I was laughing to myself about Saved By the Bell.  But somewhere in there, it worked.  I didn’t have even the smallest reaction.  I was very proud of my mental fortitude.

BTW – bulimia isn’t funny, and if it’s something you struggle with, please find someone to talk to.

Thing 2: Christmas Blog Series!

Get excited because my first guest blog series starts tomorrow!  During the month of November and a bit of December, I will be hosting guest blogs every Tuesday and Thursday.  I’ve asked friends from all stages of life, from all around the world, and with diverse tastes, to suggest ten Christmas present ideas.  My guest bloggers are men, women, young moms, hip grandmas.  Some are stay at home moms, some have Ph.D.s.  They hail from Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Massachusets, Australia and England.  Some shop at Pottery Barn and others make their own gifts.

As the guest posts have rolled in over the past week, I have been so inspired by everyone’s amazing gift ideas, and I know you will be too!  So tune in every Tuesday and Thursday.

Make sure to follow my blog by clicking the follow button on the right hand column so that you don’t miss a single Christmas list!

Sometimes A Win is a Win

I made a big dinner two nights ago.  It was supposed to be an amazing blog post based on a recipe I’ve made a few times before – pasta with a bacon mushroom béchamel sauce and sauteed veggies.

But this time it was an absolute disaster.

It started out good – bacon and a Dutch oven.  What could go wrong, right?

Everything, apparently.

I wanted to have a bit of bacon flavor in the veggies.  That didn’t work.  Greasy, burned bacon grit quickly coated my beautiful bell pepper and zucchini.  I ended up rinsing the veggies out in the colander.  It semi-salvaged the operation.

Next in Operation: Kill Dinner, I mistimed the beautiful Tinkyada pasta.  It was a mushy mess.  I rinsed it in cold water to stop the cooking process, which made it a cold, mushy mess.

And the béchamel sauce took a lot longer to thicken.  By the time it finished, the veggies were cold and didn’t reheat like I thought they would when intersected the hot sauce.

The cold pasta probably had something to do that. 

The mushroom flavor didn’t infuse into the sauce like I hoped.  Then my camera’s battery died, so now I can’t even salvage a tutorial on making a gluten-free roux out of the whole mess.  It was a total fail.

We ate it for dinner because A – we have a food budget and B – I didn’t have time to make anything else.  Shockingly, the next day when I was forced to eat it for lunch, the microwave didn’t magically transform the food into a culinary masterpiece.  It was still gross.  And mushy.  And a little lukewarm – but that one was my fault.  I guess I didn’t put it in the microwave long enough.

After we ate our icky dinner, we had to go straight to Bible study.  No time to clean the kitchen.  We got home and went to bed, and then got up and went to work the next morning.  (After I cleaned cat diarrhea off the floor).

Sorry – TMI.

And so yesterday when I got home, I was faced with an ethical dilemma: clean the kitchen or make dinner for The Professor, who was on the way home from a long day of teaching all day at school and then going to the local community college where he teaches a college class – because he’s an amazing provider like that. 

I chose making dinner.

And slightly redeemed myself with a half bag of sweet potato fries and a quick grilled chicken salad with apples, pecans, Parmesan cheese and a walnut-pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette recipe I’ve been tweaking for a post on fall salad dressings.

It was really good.  But then my kitchen looked like this.

Nights like these cause me to pause and redefine my definition of wins.  Some nights, you get the whole kitchen clean – floors mopped and everything.  And other nights, you’re lucky to get the perishables put back in the fridge and the dishwasher running. 

That’s okay because a win is a win.

Sometimes a win is making an edible dinner.  And that’s okay, because a win is a win.

My kitchen doesn’t look like this anymore, but it’s not perfect.  I’m okay with that.  I’ll take my wins where I can get them.

Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo – In Review

Imagine going to a place where you can eat everything.  There are no labels to read, no grand inquisition before ingesting a morsel, no blank stares when you mention your gluten intolerance.  No nothing…except enjoying.

The Gluten-Free Allergy-Free Expo in Dallas was an amazing group of like-minded individuals whose own journeys with gluten intolerance led them to create gluten-free companies.  I almost didn’t go after a very busy few weeks, but my mom convinced me to come, and The Professor even drove me down to Texas.  I’m so glad I went.

With more than 60 vendors, a few dozen cooking classes and many new friends, I think it would be information overload to go through everything.  So I present to you a list of my favorite moments, lessons and new friends.

Best Starstruck Moment

I met Naomi, the founder and owner of Better Batter, a flour blend I’ve reviewed.  It was inspiring to meet someone who became such a strong advocate for her son that she created her own company.  I love the Better Batter flour blend and their company philosophy.  And guess what, Naomi has read Accidental Okie!  What?!?

My favorite moment talking to Naomi was at the very end of the conference.  My mom and I looped around to the Better Batter table one last time to get a few boxes of flour.  Naomi was excited to see us and asked us to tell her all about the best new products we saw throughout the day.  Rather than seeing the other booths as competitors, she saw them as part of a community – part of her community.  I was proud to be a part of the gluten-free community at that moment.  Even though the different companies are vying for part of the market share, they’re also a group of companies founded by people with a personal connection to gluten intolerance.

As a testament to how much I like Naomi and BB, I even published this picture, which is horrible of me!

Best New Gluten Free Product

I found my new favorite thing.  Pistachio Lemon Biscotti.  It’s sweet.  It’s savory.  It’s perfect.  The base of the cookie has subtle hints of ginger.  Then there’s the spicy rosemary and black pepper, the crunch of the pistachio and finally the sweetness of the raisins.  I ate them plain, but they would be wonderful with sharp chèvre cheese or with a spicy chai latte.

The cookies are not baked in a gluten-free facility, so that will be a deal breaker for many people.  I am super sensitive and did not have a reaction.  You can order online at their website.

Best New Cookbook and Gluten-Free Friend

A few weeks ago, a girl named Karen replied to one of my tweets.  I checked out her website, Blackbird Bakery, saw a recipe for gluten-free cheese souffle, and I knew we were destined to become friends.

Not only does she make a gluten-free cheese souffle, but she feeds it regularly to her son.  I aspire to someday have offspring with such refined pallets.

Karen has written an amazing gluten-free baking book.  She is such an inspiration.  Most of the recipes I cook are savory recipes.  This is because I cook by taste, smell and feel more than from recipes.  Karen, on the other hand, is a super precise, mad scientist in the kitchen.  Since being diagnosed with gluten intolerance ten years ago, she estimates she’s done 100,000 recipe tests.

Her cookbook contains a photo for every recipe in the cookbook, and the recipes range from standards like cookies, to scones and biscuits, to an array of French pastries.

I went back and forth on buying the book.  I have a lot of gluten-free cookbooks, and I don’t bake a lot.  But then I saw the recipe for cottage cheese muffins with hickory smoked bacon and cheese, and I knew that the book must be mine.

I haven’t cooked anything from book yet, but I’m anxious to try!

Best Meeting

The first Thanksgiving I was diagnosed, I went to a gluten-free holiday cooking class taught by Claudia Pillow.  Claudia and her sister Annalise are the authors of the gluten-free cookbooks that are the basis of all my knowledge.  After going gluten-free to support her sister who is a celiac, Clauda became so interested in the impact of going gluten-free that she went back and got her Ph.D. in nutrition.  That first Thanksgiving, Claudia saved my life.  She was my gluten-free life boat who equipped me to make holiday standards like pecan pie, stuffing and gravy.  It was great to see her at the conference!

Along with her website, Claudia works with a company that makes raw, gluten-free foods called Hail Merry.  She sent me home with a package of chocolate macaroons to sample!  They were amazing.  She suggested that I smush them into a pie pan to use as a crust for a chocolate pudding pie.  That was the plan.  But then I ate them before I made a pie.  They are delectable and after I ate a few, I didn’t have a sugar rush.

By the way, if you want to learn how to bake that pecan pie, buy this book!

There were even more exciting meetings and booths at the GFAF Expo.  If you can go next year, I highly recommend it.  Along with resources, it was a reminder that we are part of a community that is banded together, advocating for each other and making huge strides in medical research, recipes and product accessibility.

After You’ve Been Diagnosed with Gluten Intolerance

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2006.

It was before there were multiple types of Udi bread – or any great gluten-free bread – readily available at multiple stores.  Before many restaurants had gluten-free menus.  Before you could buy gluten-free cupcakes at the neighborhood cupcake shop.  Before you said “gluten free” and anyone knew what it meant.  Before regular grocery stores had gluten-free pasta or Target carried gluten-free cookie mixes.

After nearly twelve years of stomach problems, chronic illness and social embarrassment, I finally had answers. But now there were new problems.

Would I be able to eat at a restaurant ever again?  What about the routine of eating during the busyness of real life – schedules, graduate school, work, last-minute get togethers with friends.  What about my favorite comfort foods, like the chicken and dumplings recipe that’s been in my family for five generations.  And then there were the things that graced our table on special occasions – green bean casserole, carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies, stuffing at Thanksgiving.  I thought about the future and the celebrations I hoped would come.  And then I sat on my sofa and cried, wondering if I would ever eat cake at my wedding.

That was six years ago.  Since that time, I’ve modified my family’s chicken and dumplings recipe, learned how to navigate daily life with relative ease and minimal pity parties, I’ve mastered gluten-free sauces, and all while I’ve felt better without the poison in my system.

If this is the boat you find yourself in, here are some tips to help you.  This is not an exclusive list, but it is what worked for me.

1. Know the basics

Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, barley and contaminated oats.

Those are the easy ones.  Then there’s all the ingredients in which gluten hides.  Modified food starch, food starch, cereal, wheat starch, malt flavoring, and wheat protein.  And that’s just scratching the surface.  Here’s a comprehensive list.

Foods on the high suspect list are: lunch meat, some already-cooked frozen chicken, bbq sauce, soy sauce, many brands of canned chicken broth, beer and malted alcohol, salad dressings, fake “krab,” ice cream, low-fat dairy like low-fat butter or low-fat sour cream, powder sauce/dressing mixes like taco seasoning or Alfredo sauce mix, fruit flavored candies like Twizzlers, pudding, and gravy.  Really, anything that comes in a package is suspicious.

In just a few months, you’ll be able to read a label in two seconds flat!

2. Clean Out Your Kitchen

Throw out your wood cutting boards, which harbor bits of bread crumbs in the boards’ grain and cuts.  Scrub the burned off bits on your cookie sheets (or just replace them).  Buy a new toaster.

If you have non-celiacs in the family, set up controls in your kitchen.  In my house, the only wheat is The Professor’s bread.  I make his sandwiches on paper towels and then throw the paper towel away.  We go through a lot of paper towels, but it’s a small price to pay.  We also have his and hers peanut butter, so that I don’t get peanut butter laced with bread crumbs.

Donate gluteny items to the food bank: cereal, bread crumbs, sauce mixes, spice mixes, enchilada sauce, bread, toasters, canned soup, pasta.  It’s all got to go.  If you go gluten-free by just forgoing bread, and still eat gluten in other forms, you’ll never get better and you’ll never see how you feel after your body is completely empty of gluten.  It’s all or nothing.  Some people may find that they are low on the gluten intolerance spectrum and can tolerate a little gluten, but before jumping to that conclusion, you’ve got to go completely off.

3. Restock Your Kitchen

I think I’ll do an entire blog post about this, but here are the basics:

  • Bread – Udi’s Flax & Fiber is my favorite, but there are a lot of great options out there.
  • Cereal – most Chex cereal is gluten free, so are Cocoa Pebbles.  They also have gluten free Rice Crispies.  If you head over to the health food store, you’ll find a plethora of choices.
  • Flour Mix – more on that soon
  • Gluten-Free chicken broth.  Yes, many brands of chicken broth contain gluten.
  • A few boxed baking mixes while you’re getting your gluten-free sea legs on
  • Gluten-free spaghetti, corn tortillas and other pantry staples
  • Gluten-free soy sauce
  • New butter, peanut butter and jelly – and anything else that could be harboring cross-contamination from double-dipped knives.

4. Gather Resources

Find books and websites you like.  Here are a few of my favorites

  • Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts – this is my go-to book for baking (Except for chocolate chip cookies.  I prefer my recipe, but my sister prefers Annalise’s recipe).
  • Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern – this is my favorite of Shauna’s books because she so eloquently explains the attitude of acceptance and adaptation needed to successfully venture into this gluten-free world.  If food can make you sick, food can make you better.  Her book goes through the very real mourning process, and the renaissance she experienced with food.  Check out her website too!
  • Gluten-Free on a Shoestring – this is my favorite new blog

The best resources I found after diagnosis were people – friends who also have gluten intolerance.  They were the bearers of tips, givers of recipes, and incredible encouragers.  Find a local support group, make it known far and wide that you’ve been diagnosed.  You’ll be surprised how many friends of friends you meet.

5. Make Some Cookies…Immediately

www.accidentalokie.comThis is a photo from my local Target!  Can you believe it!  I think I counted nine different gluten-free brands!

Yes, go make cookies.  Now.  Or brownies.  Or cupcakes.  Now.  Hope is not lost.  In the emotional days after diagnosis – when you have no idea what to eat, how to cook, where to eat, what to tell your friends –  it’s an important reminder that life won’t be as different as you think.  Make some cookies.

I have a few favorite mixes that are great for a pinch, when in the midst of a pity party or when you’re new to all this:

I haven’t tried all the gluten-free mixes, so please give me your reviews in the comments section.

6. Change the Way You Grocery Shop

You have two choices: exist on expensive, high-fat, high-sugar gluten-free processed foods whose tastes vary from great to horrible, or change the way you shop and think about food in general.  That’s a tall order, I know, and I am not trying to minimize how difficult this is.

This change means shopping for ingredients, not convenience foods.  It means trading your favorite brand of taco seasoning mix for salt and cumin and chili powder.  It means shopping the perimeters of the grocery store.

It also means getting savvy of the gluten-free friendly brands.  Kraft, for example, labels any gluten item.  Even if an ingredient list says modified food starch, you can know that it is made from corn or potatoes or tapioca.  That means Kraft olive oil mayo is safe.  So is Jell-O pudding!  And Kraft brand ranch dressing.  Rather than researching the gluten content of every bottle of salad dressing, find a few safe standards and stick with them.  Develop your gluten-free grocery list.

7. Change the Way You Think

There’s thinking changes that need to occur.

First, change your definition.  When someone says gluten free, most people start racking their brains for gluten-free alternatives – gluten-free cookies, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free shortcrust, gluten-free cream of mushroom soup.  People forget that a lot of what they eat is already gluten free.  Chicken with olive oil and lemon pepper is gluten free.  Pork tenderloin with balsamic vinegar is gluten free.  Salmon with dill and butter is gluten-free.  Baked potatoes are gluten-free.  Rice (not rice mixes) is gluten free.  Keep it simple.

Second, change your expectations.  Everything will be different.  I remember Shauna James Ahern’s words in her book, Gluten Free Girl.  She said that foods might taste better or they might taste worse, but no matter what, they will taste different.  Release yourself from the expectation that through your superior gluten-free baking skills/voodoo magic, everything will be the same.  It won’t.  On the flip side, you won’t be sick either.

There was a long time that being gluten free was incredibly hard – where every day was an obstacle of where and what to eat.  Then one day, I woke up and it wasn’t about what I couldn’t eat.  It was about what I could eat.  The world opened up – fresh fruits and veggies, new grains like quinoa, every type of rice, fresh herbs, exotic spices, pomegranate syrup, homemade salad dressings, rich gluten-free soy sauce, the world’s best pie crust.

And yes, wedding cake.

Gluten-free friends, what are your tips?  Do you have any favorite mixes, recipes or resources?  Let us know in the comments!