Planning a Gluten-Free Trip for the Holidays? Read This First!

We love to travel. Most of our trips are to national parks and monuments for a combination of history, geology, and hiking. We're lucky to live in a state with a ton of national parks, but they are all spread out, so you never quite know what you're going to find.

Being gluten-free does throw a wrench in our plans now and then, but we always manage to have fun, and I always manage to eat gluten-free.

How? A little bit of planning, a little bit of luck, and a little bit of being willing to throw everything out the window when things change. Let me show you how.

For a road trip, I always pack a cooler with my essentials. Flying? Try a collapsible cooler or one of those cooler bags. Plus, we always make sure to book a hotel that has a fridge and a microwave, so if all else fails, we can make a quick trip to the grocery store.

Before you go anywhere, research the web for restaurants that might serve gluten-free food. I've found that you can't rely on just one website to find gluten-free restaurants, so I use a multi-tiered approach. I keep a little travel journal that lists what I've found for the area we're going to visit, so I have a condensed guide to refer back to while we're trying to decide what to eat.

If there's nothing to be found on the web, then you've got to get creative - learn how to order gluten-free at a restaurant that has no idea what gluten is.

If, after all this, you still can't find a gluten-free meal in town, head to the grocery store. Don't think of it as a chore - you're on vacation! Instead, think of it as a chance to have a picnic. Grab whatever you think counts as gluten-free picnic food, then head out to a scenic overlook and go to town!  Often these meals are way better than restaurant meals anyways - you get to enjoy the scenery you came to see, hang out with your friends and family, plus it costs less than eating in a restaurant! (Just be sure to pack out all your trash - you don't want to attract unwanted pests to picnic areas.)

This week, I'll be sharing some of the trips we've taken to national parks and monuments, plus what we've found to eat along the way. Some places are definitely better than others on the gluten-free spectrum, and I'll share that too.

Do you have any gluten-free national park experiences? I'd love to hear about them!


Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.

Robert Louis Stevenson

In Full Bloom

Roses have always been my favorite flower. They were the flowers my parents gave me after dance recitals, the flowers that graced my grandmothers' and mother's garden, the flowers that I dried to draw, and (embarassingly) wear in my hair to school. I just love roses. 

I've never had much luck with keeping potted roses alive. I really don't think they're meant to live in pots anyways. And since we rent, I'm really not one to invest in a rose bush only to leave it behind when I move again.

Luckily, our new house has great big rose bushes. They've been badly pruned, but as soon as they came into bloom, I stopped worrying about that and stopped (to literally) smell the roses.

New Toy

You might have noticed it in a previous post...I have a new toy! A gorgeous (and huge) marble slab! A generous wedding gift from my cousin and his wife. I'm already loving it, and can't wait to make flaky pie crusts on it!

Mistakes are Fine by Me

So there seems to be this huge divide between Pinterest people and anti-Pinterest people. When it first came out I was in the former category, but then migrated to somewhere in the middle. Why? At first, it was copyright issues. Then, I realized that the same couple hundred things were making their way around and around and around and around. There wasn't anything new to see. And lastly, everything on Pinterest is so darn perfect. Who actually does that? Marketers quick to jump on the newest trend.

Now, I'm not knocking all the wonderful bloggers out there who really do make gorgeous arts and crafts and take wonderful photographs to boot. But mistakes are just fine by me. 

Take this dessert. I had intended to make a variation on my coffeecake, but the changes I made turned what was supposed to be muffins into a crumbly sticky mess. No matter. Scrape as much as you can out of the pans, and pop it in the freezer. You'll find some use for it. 

Like this: toast up the ruined coffeecake, whip up some cream, and top with raspberries. Instant dessert. (I'll even admit to having this for breakfast.)

See? Mistakes can lead to good things. When I obsess over being "Pinterest-worthy," I forget that mistakes can lead to valuable creative experiences. But only if I let them. Which is why mistakes are fine by me.

Have you made a mistake that led to a great discovery? Tell me about it!

Creamy Polenta and Chorizo

I love planning out my meals, but sometimes it slips my mind and I need to work with what I have in the fridge. This meal was one of those occasions. What do you do with mushrooms, onions, and chorizo that you haven't done a million times? Polenta.

There's really not much of a recipe for this one, since it's so simple. The mushrooms and onions were already cooked in the fridge, so it was just a matter of heating them up, and cooking the polenta and chorizo.

I used this recipe as a starting point, but used nearly half cream instead of water to get a rich, silky, creamy taste to the polenta. I also found myself using a bit more water. Then I let the polenta chill in the refrigerator, then fried spoonsfuls of it in bacon grease. I'm pretty sure the bacon grease was what made the dish so amazing.

Then I topped the fried polenta with the mushrooms and onions, as well as a little chili sauce.

Then some shredded cheese.

Then the cooked chorizo and some sliced scallions.

A delicious way to welcome the coming of summer!


The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.

- William Morris

Scape-Basil Pesto

If you're at all like me, you obsess over finding seasonal goodies at the farmer's market. Scapes are one of those things for me. Their crazy stalks look to strange to have come from this planet, and their delicious flavor fills my dreams all winter long. 

Scapes have one of the shortest seasons of all, so when you see them, you'd better snap them up if you're at all interested. There are so many simple ways to prepare them, but with this one, you can extend the season just a little bit.

Simply take your scapes, chop them up, and throw them in a blender with some basil, salt, and plenty of olive oil.

The result? A delicious scape pesto you can freeze for when the scapes start to take over your dreams again.

Work with it like you'd work with any pesto - on sandwiches, over pasta, with meat - the sky's the limit!

Spring Green Pasta

Scapes are finally here! I know they've been popping up for other folks, but this climate is a bit on the chilly side, delaying our seasons by a few weeks. 

So when I stopped by the farmer's market last weekend, I was thrilled to see garlic scapes, the flower stalk of hardneck garlic. They have the texture of asparagus, but a mild garlic flavor. Pure bliss, if you ask me.

Scapes have such a short season, it's best to snap them up whenever you see them. And you won't find these crazy veggies at the grocery store. You've got to go to the farmer's market.

When it comes to cooking them, simplicity is key. A little oil and some heat are really all you need. This dish came together in less than twenty minutes. It's not really a recipe, so go on instict - are you cooking for one, or ten? Just make sure you have the right amount of pasta, and as much of the other ingredients as feels right to you.

Spring Green Pasta

Trim and chop scapes to about one inch long each. Add to pan with some olive oil and caramelized onions* and saute over medium heat.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add your noodles of choice, and cook until al dente.

When the pasta is almost done, toss a handful or two of fresh shelled peas in with the onions and scapes. Pour in a tablespoon or two of heavy cream, let it come up to a simmer, then turn off the heat.

Strain the pasta, then add it to the pan with the vegetables and cream. Toss, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then plate and enjoy!

*I keep them in the fridge for just such an occasion, but you could also use raw chopped onions here

Put down that GMO corn and soy!

If you haven't figured it out already, I've got serious issues with GMOs. I buy organic whenever I can. My issues range from environmental concerns, to patent issues, to vague concerns that they just aren't tested enough before they're unleased on the unsuspecting public. Sheesh, I sound like a hippie right now.

But there's now a study that shows that GMOs might make for achy tummies. Check it out. The jist is that pigs fed GMO corn and soy had more stomach inflammation than pigs who weren't. It's just one study, but it's exactly the kind of information we need if agribusiness keeps pushing these products on our farmers and ultimately on the consumer.

Yet More Goodies

I'm slowly cooking my way through Gluten-Free Girl Everyday, and boy, is it good. This time around, I made half a recipe of pizza dough. Half of that made two "personal" sized pizzas (they were just a tad big) and the other half made flatbread.

The pizza was topped with garlic butter (instead of tomato sauce) mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, and scallions. The crust was crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside. Just the way I like it.

There was just enough left over for four smallish pieces of naan, something I thought I'd never have again. (At least not that tasted good.) It needed just a touch of salt once it came off the skillet, but it too was excellent.

Like most gluten-free baked goods, these really taste good when they're warm. But boy, are they good.

Bubbly Cowl the Second

I enjoyed making my first Bubbly Cowl so much that I had to make a second one...

Really, I had some yarn that needed using, and I thought it would look good in this stitch pattern. I also made some mittens to go along with the cowl - since I'm always bundling up in handknits in the wintertime, it's nice to have a few matching pieces.

Of course, now that it's nearly summer, these will go in the handknit box for next winter, but I thought I'd document them before it slips my mind.

Odie wanted to join in the photoshoot, but then he got distracted by a bird...

I did have to modify the stitch pattern for the mittens, which were worked in the round.

The cuff is a simple k1p1, and the thumb is worked by placing stitches on a holder, casting on new stitches, finishing the hand, then picking up stitches for the thumb. I know there must be a shorter name for that, but it slips my mind right now.

The yarn is British Sheep Breeds DK Undyed.


All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know a thing or two about chocolate chip cookies. They've always been my favorite, so when I went gluten-free, that was the first recipe I mastered. I found a decent recipe, and tweaked it over and over again until it was truly my own. (I've even changed it more since then, to add more flaxseed meal.)

So I wondered what all the fanfare about the chocolate chip cookie recipe in Gluten-Free Girl Everyday was all about. Sure, her recipes are amazing, but a chocolate chip recipe is a chocolate chip recipe. Or is it?

There are a million ways to think about gluten-free baking. I'd always thought you needed a gluten-free starch like cornstarch or tapioca starch, or at least white rice to balance out the lower amounts of starch in gluten-free flours. But clearly, I was wrong.

Using equal parts teff, millet, and sorghum (I was fresh out of buckwheat so used sorghum instead), this chocolate chip cookie recipe needs nothing, and I mean nothing to balance it out. It's great. Even though I had to omit the hazelnuts due to a tree nut allergy, these cookies were a-maz-ing.

My only complaint? I could eat them all day.

I think I'll put my recipe on the shelf for a bit and enjoy these.

Radish Avocado Toast

Have some radishes you don't know what to do with? Roast them. Then slather them on some crusty (gluten-free) bread, top with avocado slices and sea salt, and you're in for a treat.

Best eaten on a shady porch, although a spot by the window will do as well.

Roasted Radishes

I didn't think much of radishes until I decided to grow them a few years back. Why I decided to grow something I didn't like, I can't remember. (I do think it's a great strategy for trying new foods - the emotional investment in getting a vegetable to grow makes it taste that much better.)

Anyways, as the radishes started to come in I had to figure out what to do with them all. I'm not a huge fan of them raw - I can never slice them thin enough, and they're really just too peppery for me.

But roast them, and I'm in heaven. It's easy, can be done while you're cooking something else in the oven, and keeps pretty darn well.

Did you know radish leaves are also edible? I'm not a huge fan unless they're so young that the radishes haven't formed. I usually compost the leaves, but one of these days I'll try a pesto. Or better yet, I'll see what happens when I roast them. Radish leaf chips, anyone?

Radishes straight out of the dirt are best, of course, but the grocery store radishes work just as well. That's what I've been using, since I haven't had the garden space to grow radishes lately.

Roasted Radishes

The onion and garlic are optional here, but I love the way the flavors all meld together, so I usually use them. 

1 bunch radishes, washed, stems and leaves removed
1 small onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice the radishes to about 1/2 inch thick. Layer the radishes and onion in a baking dish. Tuck in the garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast for about an hour, stirring everything around once or twice during cooking.

Great as a side dish, or over toast.


Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.

-Robert Louis Stevensen

Kitchen Diaries

It seems like there are so many excellent food books coming out right now. I'm cooking my way through Gluten-Free Girl Everyday bit by bit, I can't wait to read Cooked, and I'm learning how to grill with Where there's Smoke.

Even so, I stumbled across an article about Nigel Slater's writing and decided to pick up a copy of Kitchen Diaries. I don't know how I missed his writing before, but I'm hanging on every word. It's wonderful to know I'm not the only one who gets down when there's no fresh produce, or who takes pleasure in a picnic of odd food on occasion. 

If I hadn't already blown my book budget for the month, I'd have each and every one of his books on order right now. I guess it's a good thing though - I've spent all my money on truly great cookbooks, without a dud in sight. There are worse things.

Sunny spot

Sometimes I wonder about the stereotypes we pin on animals. Like cats sleeping in a sunny spot, dogs lying by the fire, and so on. Odie loves to sleep in a sunny window or all over our clean laundry just as much as any cat.  Don't get me wrong - he's definitely a dog - as this shot was taken after he wore himself out running all over the backyard chasing his frisbee.