Wine and Cheese

My ultimate dinner. Mostly it's about the wine and cheese. The fruit, because you need something fresh, and the bread and sausage for something with good chew to it. The bread is this baguette, smeared with roasted garlic butter and toasted. Perfect any time, but especially wonderful eaten on the porch, basking in the day's last rays of sunshine.

Dinner at Our House

Dinner at our house right now is, well, hectic.

Last winter, I wasn't working quite as much as I am now, so I was home to make an exquisite dinner every single night. Dinner was a lot more relaxed then.

Now, thankfully, I'm working quite a bit, but that does put a cramp on dinner. Meal planning is essential - otherwise we'd be eating eggs and toast every night. I sit down on Friday, plan out dinners for the week, and do groceries. Then, over the weekend, I prep as much as possible. There's always a list on the refrigerator that goes something like this: cook onions, cook broccoli, make cookies, roast beef...and so on. Everything goes into little pyrex dishes, and when I'm really on top of my game, each dish gets a label. Last but not least are the directions. I type up the meal plan and the directions to assemble each meal and post it on the fridge. That way, Mike can fix dinner while I'm on my way home since he usually gets home before me.

Sometimes it works like a dream. When I walk in the door, there's a glass of wine on the kitchen table waiting for me and Mike is just finishing plating the food. On those days, it's amazing. I don't have to think. All I have to do is sink down into my chair and enjoy dinner with my love.

Other days, it's a disaster. The directions aren't clearly written, or I haven't explained what a ramekin is, or where the water goes, and eggs en cocotte turns into mushy green scrambled eggs. On those days, we laugh. I'm so lucky to have found a man who can laugh at himself, although we're always laughing together.

If all this weren't enough, we've finally found a rental house that suits our needs. In fact, it's a bit big, but we're going to enjoy stretching out after being cramped in a tiny apartment. I can't wait to use my kitchen for real (I did use it to make mint chocolate chip ice cream the other day). But all that means is that we're in the midst of a crazy move, there's not enough time in the day, and I can't find the damn frying pan.

Still, wherever we are, we eat some dinner together. Whether we're sitting on the couch, at the kitchen table, or out on the patio, we find some time to sit together and relax. Sometimes it's a fancy treat, like lobster, or a quick and simple meal like pasta primavera. Wherever we are together is home.

Did I mention all our meals are completely gluten-free? They are. It took me a while to get into my groove where I could throw any old thing together and call it dinner. It took me even longer to adapt my old standby dinner recipes to be gluten-free. I have Shauna and Danny Ahern to thank for that.  Reading Shauna's first two books and her blog helped me realize that food is just food, something to be grateful for, something to enjoy. And her writing always keeps me glued to the page. Then there are the recipes - often a joint collaboration - that speak to my sensibilities about food and just plain make my tummy happy.

So I'm thrilled that they have a new cookbook. I can't wait to sit down and read it, cover to cover. I know new dinner ideas are just waiting for me, and when all the dust settles, we'll be sitting on the porch, enjoying our little family dinner.

Blood Orange Torte

There's a gluten-free company that sells its sweets at my Whole Foods, and it's all I can do to not give in to the temptation every time I pass by their cakes, tortes, and brownies. And at six bucks for a single serving, they sure don't come cheap.

So I made my own. Using this recipe, but instead of mixing blackberry coulis into the frosting, I took the juice of a blood orange, a tablespoon of sugar, reduced it down to a syrup, and folded it into the frosting. It's darn good, super rich, and has a light orange taste - not unlike the chocolate oranges we used to gobble up as kids.

Mike's only complaint? "You make too many yummy treats and I only get to eat one a day." And this one will last quite a while, since a little sliver is all you need.


Opportunity is missed by most people because it arrives dressed in overalls and looks like work.

     -Thomas Edison

First Baby Ducks!

If you didn't already know, ducks are just about my favorite animals ever. Especially baby ducks. I saw the first ones of the year last night, and just about lost my head. Here they are, for your enjoyment.

Ribs & BBQ & Such

Last weekend, Mike and I went to Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse for lunch. There are two locations here in Utah, although it is a Texas-based company.

It's a fast-food sort of place where you order right when you walk in the door. One thing I really liked was that the main menu had stars next to every item that contained gluten. We went while they were fairly slow, but the guy who took our order was great about taking down that we didn't want any rolls, as well as making sure that Mike's macaroni and cheese was separate from everything else.

We split a 3/4 pound plate of pulled pork, pulled beef, and jalapeno sausage. It was just the right amount of food for two. The plate also came with two sides, so I had coleslaw and Mike had macaroni and cheese. All their barbecue sauces are gluten-free too. The pork was definitely better than the beef, but the jalapeno sausage was also excellent. The  coleslaw was so-so. While I know I can make better BBQ at home, it's nice to have an option to eat it out on the town every now and then, and we're looking forward to eating there again.

The worst part of the whole thing was that I was planning on making ribs and macaroni and cheese that very night. I'm pretty sure Mike wouldn't have minded eating the same thing two meals in a row - especially when it involved macaroni and cheese - but I decided to put it off until the next night.

And it was a good thing, too. I made this recipe for the ribs, more or less (less hot sauce, water to make up the difference), and my macaroni and cheese recipe, which was premade in the freezer. While I'm always disappointed about how hard ribs are to eat, these were tender, juicy, and pretty flavorful. Worth the seven-hour wait, and definitely a good option for later on.

Flaky Pie Crust

I have to admit, I never used to care much for pie crusts in my pre-gluten-free days. It always seemed so uninteresting, so bland, just something to hold in pie filling. Graham cracker crusts were a different matter, of course. But on the whole, pies and quiches didn't really appeal to me because they were wrapped up in such an awful crust.

Not so anymore. I've been making quiche almost every week. It's the perfect vehicle to use up leftovers, plus it can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I usually make a quiche on the weekend, then eat it for breakfast all week long. Sometimes, when I don't have time to fix dinner, it's great to just be able to heat up a slice of quiche, and dinner is served.

I've been using this crust recipe for the whole time, but I've made so many changes to it that mine is a completely different beast, so I thought I'd share it here. Unlike the pie crusts of old, this one is flaky and buttery and I just can't seem to get enough of it.

And if you've always thought pie crust is too hard, you couldn't be more wrong. Once you get the hang of it, you can crank one of these bad boys out in twenty minutes or less.

Flaky Gluten-Free Pie Crust

  • 1/3 cup millet
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon psyllium husk
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a pie plate using butter and any gluten-free starch (corn, tapioca, doesn't really matter).

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the butter pieces are about pea-sized. Mix in the eggs, then the lemon juice, and then the cream, about a tablespoon at a time. You want the dough to come together to form a ball, but still be slightly dry, not wet and sticky. Avoid overmixing - you don't want to break up the butter too much, or the crust won't be very flaky.

Once all the ingredients are incorporated, roll out the dough between two pieces of waxed paper. You want the crust to be a little more than a quarter of an inch thick. Peel off the top layer of waxed paper, put the pie plate facedown on the dough, then flip it all over, gently pressing the dough into the plate.

Peel off the remaining waxed paper, then quickly smooth out any holes in the crust using extra dough. You want to be quick so the heat from your fingers doesn't melt the butter. Keeping the butter cold and working quickly helps you get that flaky crust. Use the tines of a fork to pierce holes in the bottom of the crust, and if you like, press down the edges of the crust to get a fluted look.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Voila - you have a pie crust ready for any filling you can think of!

Here's what the mixture should look like after you've cut in the butter. Some folks use two knives or even their fingers, but I prefer a pastry cutter.

Dough ready to be rolled out

 Waxed paper keeps it all together and helps the dough keep from sticking to the rolling pin.

The hardest part...just go for it! No matter how good you get at it, there will always be some piecing together, so don't worry if it's not perfect. Even Julia had to work at it.

Use extra scraps to fill in the holes.

I love a nice fluted crust...

Poking holes in the crust helps keep the bottom nice and flat

And there you have it! A crust, just begging for some filling!


It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Outdoors and In

Pictures from a local mall. I have mixed feelings about it, but there's no denying the place has some incredible design.

The mall has a retractable roof, so it's open-air when the weather's nice, but indoors when it's not.

I particularly love the grates.

Spring Hike - Neff's Canyon

It's solidly spring in the valley, and we've got a crazy little puppy with a bad case of spring fever. We've got it too - we're ready to get hiking again.  So recently we decided it was time to take a hike. We went up Neff's Canyon, and brought Odie along.

His new backpack is way too big for him, but he seemed to like it well enough. Some folks say it's a great thing for border collies - makes them feel like they have a job to do and  the added weight gives them extra exercise. As soon as we get one the right size, it'll be a win-win.

The canyon was lovely, and not a bad hike at all. Odie had a blast, running around us in circles, and we worked on some new tricks with him.

There's still plenty of snow up in the mountains. It looks like the ski resorts might be open all the way through July this year. As the trail got steeper, there was also more shade - meaning more snow. Odie didn't mind at all, but since we hadn't brought poles with us, we decided it was better to sit down and eat our lunch before turning back.

 We had a nice little lunch beside a lovely pool of water. Odie, of course, was very interested in both lunch and the water.  A nice hike to kick off the season.

Food Feud

I have so many thoughts about food right now...

About how paranoid and militant adherents of diets can be.

About how we don't like others who claim to be on such a diet, but then "cheat"

Especially with a gluten-free diet, it makes me cringe when someone says "Oh, I'm supposed to be gluten-free like the doctor told me, I guess I just have to get back into it," and then grabs a slice of cake.

About how righteous we can get, not just about diets, but how our food is produced.

I just wanted to share this article. While it doesn't get into the restricted diets issue, I think it does an awesome job at laying out the major issues with food production in our culture.

Bread Soup

A bastardization of these soups...delicious. Bread and cheese tossed in just when it's time to serve.


Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and how you do it.

            -Maya Angelou

Good Surprises

When I think of flowers from the South, I think of magnolias. I see the great big magnolia tree by my grandmother's house - the one that had low-hanging branches perfect for climbing, then hiding away for a few hours while I read a book.

I had a friend who lived in the Appalachian mountains who had trouble keeping her magnolias alive, and I always chalked it up to the colder winters she experienced. So when I moved to Utah, I thought I'd never see a magnolia again.

I was wrong.

First, I was surprised to see them at my garden center. This is a pretty sensible place, so I thought they must be out of their minds to sell something that couldn't make it through a Utah winter. But it turns out some varieties are pretty coldhardy - withstanding temperatures as low as -30 F. So then I thought maybe it was something just at the garden center, and nobody around here would actually plant one.

Wrong again.

I've been spotting blooming magnolias all over the place. None as big as my grandmother's, but not unlike the little varieties my mother has in her garden. What a good surprise.

Pinterest Fail

Ah, Pinterest. Like so many others, I find it at once incredibly useful and terribly depressing. Why don't my projects come out like that? Why can't I shoot photos that well? 

I have an answer. I don't stay at home all day, I don't have unlimited resources, and this stuff I do is just a hobby. That doesn't mean that I don't care if it looks nice (I do), but it does mean that if a project's not working out, I go to plan B.

Like this recipe, as seen on Pinterest. I was going to make some stellar tortillas, and then make an awesome bacon-avocado-egg wrap with them. 

So I mixed up some batter, poured it in the pan, and let it do its thing. So far so good.

Until I tried to flip it.

Ick. And guess what - it tasted wayyyy too much like coconut for me.

At least my avocado was pinterest-worthy. And a nice change from looking at pictures of perfectly manicured hands curled around a bottle of nail polish.

So instead of my pinterest-inspired wrap, I had bacon, eggs, avocado, and a toasted gf English muffin. Maybe it wasn't perfect or even pinterest-worthy, but it was delicious.

And ultimately, isn't that the point of enjoying life? Not so much to show others how good it looks, but to actually enjoy it...


Lately, I've become obsessed with tree branches. They've been bare all winter, and still are. But occasionally I notice a slight shift - they're finally coming back to life.

Sometimes it's just the silhouette of the branches against the early morning sky.

 Or against the afternoon sun.

Sometimes I see drops of water from spring rains still clinging to the branches.

Then there are the tiny leaves starting to form - so perfect and green and bright.

And last, but certainly not least, are the flowers. Finally, the flowers.

Hot and Sour

Even though it's solidly spring now and the weather's getting better by leaps and bounds, we still have chilly days where there's nothing better than a hot soup. And boy, is this soup hot - in a good way.

I bet it could be hotter if you like it like that, but it was plenty hot for me. I used leftover pork and beef stock instead of chicken broth (it was in the freezer, and it's pretty light anyways). No tofu because I didn't have it, and for the Thai chile sauce I used the totally inauthentic chipotle and crushed red peppers in my spice drawer. 

It was both delicious and filling, and good the next day too.


Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn. My God, do you learn.

            -C.S. Lewis

First Daffodil

In February, I went home to Virginia for some wedding planning. My mother's daffodils were already in full bloom. 

Then I came back to my real world. To Salt Lake City, where snow still covered every visible thing, and daffodils were still a long way off. 

You'd think I'd be happy to just see my mother's daffodils, but it was disheartening to see spring and then be dragged right back to winter. Everybody said the long wait for a Utah spring would be well worth it. I don't know about that, but I do know how glad I am to see my own daffodils starting to bloom.

I've been watching them poke up through the snow for the last couple of weeks. Finally the snow has melted. Daffodils have been blooming elsewhere in the city for a week or so now, but mine just popped into bloom yesterday. (My garden doesn't get much light...)

Believe it or not, these are the first daffodils of my very own. I've been gardening for a couple of years now, but this is the first time I've had the foresight to plant daffodils in the fall and wait for them to come to life.

I planted about 25 - what I thought was a lot for a small patch, but I find myself wishing I'd planted them all over the garden...


I know Valentine's Day is long gone. Heck, I don't even like hearts! But when I started this project, I also bought some red sweaters from the thrift store.

None of the pictures really do this color justice. It's deeper and richer than these pictures. But I just had to make felted hearts. For each heart, I cut two identical heart shapes from the felted sweater sleeve, and then sewed them together using blanket stitch. For the first one, I embroidered the outside, and left the blanket stitch on the outside. For the second, I turned it inside out once I'd done most of the stitching, so it was a more finished edge.

For both, I used the trimmings from some of the sweaters - cuffs, seam allowances, whatever wasn't smooth stockinette - as stuffing. I just added the stuffing towards the end of the sewing-up process, and then tried to keep it all in as I finished seaming.

And here it is, yet another pincushion too pretty to hide!

Mystery Flower

About the same time the crocuses started blooming, I saw this guy.

Looks like an iris, but is the height of a crocus and not much bigger.

A crocus-iris hybrid or just a miniature iris? I'd be interested to know the answer, but I'm just so glad to finally see flowers that the question doesn't bother me too much.