My Grandmother’s Apple Crisp Turned Gluten Free

Making apple crisp after picking apples in the country was a tradition I grew up with. Now, years later, I make a gluten-free crisp with apples I’ve picked in my home town.

Here’s my favorite recipe, adapted from the one my mom and my grandmother used to make.

Ingredients

4 medium, peeled, sliced, tart apples (Granny Smith or Cortland)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 cup gluten-free oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill quick gluten-free oats)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup softened butter

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a square baking pan. Place the apples in the pan. Combine the butter, flour, oats, and spices together into a crumbly mix. Sprinkle over the apples. Bake 30 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Yum!

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Making Tomato Confit

How do I prolong the fresh taste of sweet local tomatoes? A friend recently shared with me her recipe for tomato confit. Before the tomatoes are gone from your favorite local farm stands, check it out.

Tomato Confit

First, buy or pick a bunch of tomatoes (for this recipe, you’ll need a dozen), plus two heads of garlic, and fresh herbs, such as oregano, basil, or thyme. You’ll also need some coarse salt and some good quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Tomato Confit Recipe

Ingredients:

12 Roma tomatoes or small meaty tomatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or herb of your choice)
2 cloves garlic, sliced fine (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Bring a pan of water to a boil. With a sharp pairing knife, score tomatoes. Place tomatoes in a large bowl.

  1. Pour boiling water over tomatoes; let sit until skin is easily peeled, about 15 seconds. Drain tomatoes and cover with ice.
  2. Peel tomatoes when cool enough to handle. Halve lengthwise and place, cut-side up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; season with salt, pepper, thyme. optional garlic.
  3. Roast until tomatoes are dried halfway through, about 5 to 6 hours. Let stand until cool.
  4. Transfer tomatoes to a storage container; pour oil from baking sheet over the top. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

 

 

 

An Insight into Lesotho

Visiting a place and getting to know its people makes the world smaller and increases our sense of community, even when that place may be far away. Or at least it does for me. My family visited the tiny country of Lesotho (pronounced li-soo-too) just three years ago.

Highway in Lesotho

So last week, when I heard of Lesotho’s attempted military coup, I could picture the people and the place, a country where over 90 percent of the women are literate, according to UNESCO, but half the population lives below the national poverty line, and 40 percent of the people suffer from malnutrition.

Village People

Lesotho housing

For more photos and travel stories of our trip to Lesotho, check out these blog posts:

Adventures in LesothoSleeping in LesothoEating in LesothoOrphans in LesothoVisiting Our Sponsored Child in Lesotho, and Washing Clothes by the River.

Trip taken August 2011.

Chiggers and Chokecherries and Jelly

Chokecherry

For those of you who don’t live out west, and don’t live where the chokecherries grow, chokecherries are tiny berries with a big pit (relative to the size of the berry) and tart, but flavorful juice, good when made into jelly. I learned about chokecherries when I spent a summer in South Dakota as a teen.

With buckets in hand, we walked along the railroad tracks and along the Bad River searching for the tiny berries. It took awhile (at least in teenage time), but finally we had enough and stopped picking berries for a much needed swim. At home, my grandfather painted our chigger bites with nail polish to relieve the itch their tiny bites inspired.

We spent the next afternoon around the stove of our friend’s kitchen. I remember seeding the berries (that was a job!) and watching the big pot of bubbling juice. I remember skimming off the white foam and pouring the juice into the sterilized jars.

We brought jars of our chokecherry jelly home to California. Last summer, my brother discovered a jar of chokecherry jelly for sale at the general store in Custer State Park. He bought the jar and the memories it provoked back to California. I went home to Massachusetts and make Concord grape jelly instead.

If you live where the chokecherries grow, here’s a recipe to make your own jelly.

Chokecherry photo by Cindy Zackowitz licensed by CC under 2.0.

Eating Buffalo

When you’re traveling out west, in places like Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and South Dakota, you’ll likely find buffalo burgers on just about every menu. Some places offer beef burgers as well, but when I’m in cowboy country, I usually opt for a burger made from the American bison. That’s right, a buffalo burger.

Bison

Why? They’re leaner, healthier, tastier and just a little different than a burger made from beef. Buffalo burgers are lower in fat and lower in calories, and higher in protein, iron, and vitamin B-12.

Although at once near extinction, (there were less than 300 in North America in the early 20th century), the American bison has made a come back, now numbering about half a million, according to the Defenders of Wildlife. There are now several  ranches and farms in North America’s west that raise the animal specifically for consumption.

Check out this recipe, if you want to try making buffalo burgers at home. (You should be able to find the ground meat next to the natural beef at your local supermarket.) Just don’t forget to wear your cowboy hat!

Buffalo Burger Recipe, Bison Burger Recipe | Simply Recipes.

When the Badlands Aren’t So Bad

Thunder in BadlandsIf you were driving a stagecoach or on horseback and came across this expanse of arid rock, you might call it a “miserable gully,” but if you’re interested in geological features and you have plenty of water, this 244,000-acre national park in South Dakota is worth exploring.

Hiking

I’ve been to Badlands National Park several times in my life, but the most interesting and rewarding experiences have been the times I’ve stayed in the park. Last summer, we stayed in brand new cabins with AC.

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When the sun’s rays are not quite as intense, the light colored formations are not as blinding. I no longer have to squint.

And when the sun sets (as late as 8:30 p.m. in the summer), the spires take on their own personality. There is an evening program every night at 9 p.m. followed by night sky viewing through large telescopes. Every morning, just before it gets really hot, there is a ranger-led walk at 8:30.

Ranger

Be sure to check out the Ben Reifel Visitor Center where, besides learning about the rock formations and nearby floral and fauna, you can see real paleontologists working on fossils.

Badlands Visitor Center

The gift store at the Cedar Pass Lodge is one of the best in the area for finding unique and quality South Dakota items, everything from books to jewelry to herbal tea.

If you’re hungry, check out the Cedar Pass Restaurant. In addition to the Sioux Indian Fry Bread and Taco, the restaurant includes South Dakota steak and fish and many gluten-free items.

Trip taken July 2013.

Gluten Free at Fenway!

Do you love baseball and the Red Sox? Are you gluten free? Did you know that now you can have your Fenway frank on a gluten-free bun at Fenway Park?

Gluten-Free Cart

At Fenway Park, not only do they have gluten-free hot dogs, you can also buy gluten-free pizza, whoopee pies, brownies, and cookies. Oh, and their cotton candy, popcorn, soft serve ice cream, and Cracker Jacks are gluten free as well. Check out this list and this map. They even sell gluten-free beer!

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Go Red Sox!

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Have a Magical Day!

“Have a magical day!” a cheery voice said every time I spoke to someone at Disney whether it was to make reservations or just to ask a question. Although I laughed at the phrase, I had no idea then how truly magical our Disney experience would be.

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Soon we were smelling oranges while hang gliding over California on the ride Soarin,’ turning green on Mission to Mars, and traveling to infinity and beyond with Buzz Lightyear. We raced with the other Disney tourists to Space Mountain and avoided lines by following the plan outlined in The Unofficial Guide  to Walt Disney World.

Buzz Light Year

Meals were magical, too. At each Disney restaurant, the chef personally spoke to my daughter and prepared a gluten-free meal for her. We ate well and were entertained at a 1950s diner, in Polynesia (where we did the hula and watched the fireworks from our table), in the Wilderness, and even in Morocco.

But the real magic occurred on our last day before the park had even opened. When an Animal Kingdom worker heard our family had never been on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, he said, “Come with me.” Hesitant at first (we didn’t want to lose our place in line!), we followed him to the front of the line and through the gates. “This is the first family!” he said, as we walked by employees getting ready to open the park.

Animal Kingdom

“Jambo!” they said and waved as we walked by, making us feel like royalty. After our own private ride on the safari, we were given a day pass for unlimited safari rides. We sang and danced during the “Festival of the Lion King” and rode the wet Kali River Rapids, before leaving the park just as a shuttle bus arrived to take us back to our hotel. It truly was a magical day.

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Trip taken December 2005.

Tacos in Sausalito

When you’re looking for a quick bite of Mexican in the Sausalito area (just across the Golden Gate Bridge), but you’re not quite dressed for trendy and upscale, try Salsalito Taco Shop. After a hike in the Marin Headlands in January, I did just that.

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I was craving ceviche and one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, Fish, was closed (temporarily). So, Salsalito would have to do, and it did just fine. We ate on the enclosed porch near a propane heater. It was sunny but still cool, and the propane heater took the edge off. The chips were fresh and served with a green and a red salsa.

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Choosing what to have for an appetizer was easy. I ordered the ceviche, small bits of white fish marinated in lime juice on a crispy corn tortilla. Choosing which taco to order was a bit more of a challenge. Steak, pork, chicken, shrimp, oysters, beans, veggies, or fish? I ordered two: the Taco De Pescado, lightly battered and fried fish served with shredded cabbage, carrot, and pico de gallo salsa in a corn tortilla for $3.85 and Taco Salsalito, shrimp sautéed with onion and bell pepper in a garlic wine sauce in a corn tortilla for $3.90. You can add rice and beans to any order and switch the corn to a flour tortilla.

Both tacos were delicious and worth coming back for. If you don’t like tacos, don’t despair. The Taco Shop also serves burritos, taquitos, enchiladas. huevos rancheros, fajitas, and chili rellenos with a selection of Mexican beer, agua frescas, and margaritas to enjoy.

Always on the search for good fish tacos, I’ll try Boston next.

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Trip taken January 2014.

A Gluten-Free Pit Stop in New Jersey

With luck and the help of an app, we discovered a town just off I-95 in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, with a plethora of gluten-free options.

It was late, some time after 11 p.m., and we’d been driving for hours, leaving the Chapel Hill area after 2. The need to refuel got us off the highway and into a Howard Johnson’s for the night. But when the next morning’s continental breakfast only consisted of powdered sugar donuts and cereal with whole milk, we did a little research. Using the Find Me Gluten Free app on her phone, my daughter discovered a gluten-free bakery just 3 miles away. Eagerly anticipating the gluten-free crepes listed on its menu, we took the detour, parked, and walked to Wildflour Bakery/Cafe.

Wildflour Bakery/Cafe

Closed. It was Monday. Now what? We were all hungry, and the town’s main street was quiet. Half a block away, we noticed a bagel shop, and as we grew closer, we noticed a sign posted in the window. Gluten-free bagels!

Maidenhead Bagel Co.

Inside, the Maidenhead Bagel Company, the gluten diners were happy, ordering sesame, plain, and pumpkin (!) bagels all made with wheat flour. And the gluten-free diner was happy. She ordered a bagel egg sandwich (the first one she’d ever had!) made on an Udi’s bagel.

GF  Bagel Egg Sandwich

On our next trip south, we’ll plan on passing through the town of Lawrenceville to check out the cafe we missed. And next time, we’ll make sure it’s not a Monday!