From the Pan into the Fire

Culinary Wanderings in Gluten Free Living

That Pesky Dried Asparagus
A while back I got some dried asparagus. We've tried it a couple of times with not so much success. It was very fibrous and inedible even when well cooked. I've been experimenting with making pasta sauces from dried vegetables for the past year and figured it was worth trying one with asparagus. When ground in the spice grinder, the dried asparagus turned into a fine powder that is perfect for my purposes. The following recipe makes a nice creamy pasta side dish that serves 2 or 3. If serving as a main dish, you might want to add a bit of protein of your choice. We made this up with Sam Mill's corn pasta which cooks fairly quickly.

Creamy Asparagus Mushroom Cashew Pasta Sauce Mix

1 cup dried asparagus pieces
1 cup loosely packed mixed dried mushrooms
2 tablespoons dried celery
1 tablespoon dried red pepper (or dried carrot)
2 tablespoons dried tomato flakes
3 tablespoons dried leeks
1 tablespoon dried shallots
1/4 teaspoon dried garlic

3/4 cup cashew meal (found at Trader Joe's) or ground raw cashews

1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon savory
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon French Four Spice (or quatre epices)
1 tablespoon salt

Grind up the dried veggies in a spice grinder or blender and dump into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the cashew meal and seasonings. Makes a bit more than 2 cups. Store in an airtight container.

To use: Add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup of mix to a 1 quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 1 and 3/4 cups pasta of choice, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and cook until pasta is done. Depending on how long it takes the pasta to cook you may or may not need to cover the pan. Sauce should thicken as it cooks.

Pasta with Pepper Sauce
It's been a number of years since my last post here. Lots of water under the bridge. I started posting after going gluten free and am now dairy free, egg free and legume free. The variety of prepared foods on the shelves within my diet range is small and the price is high but sometimes I'm just too busy or too tired to put extensive time into cooking.

Like so many others, no matter what range of the political spectrum they are in, I worry about the future and stock up on food. Mostly dried food. I guess that makes me something of a prepper except that I don't own any guns.

So to put the two together, I've been experimenting with making my own seasoned rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and soup mixes. Over the past couple of years I've come up with recipes that both my guy and I like. I will start posting them in hopes of getting feedback.

Recently we bought a box of gluten free pasta with sauce, mostly just to see how they did it so I could experiment. Before cooking it I measured out the pasta -- about 1 and 3/4 cup. An eyeball estimate of the sauce mix made it out to be between 2 and 3 tablespoons, and it included corn starch as a thickener. The directions were to cook the pasta and sauce mix in 2 cups water with a tablespoon of added oil. The sauce was a bit thin and lacked flavor. I was pretty sure I could do better.

I'm fond of pepper sauces. Peppers are my favorite food. Any time of day is a good time for peppers. Pepper sauce is great for anything -- meat, potatoes, vegetables, pasta! So off to the kitchen I went to come up with a pepper pasta sauce. My guy and I liked this a lot. It's thick and sticks to the pasta. We served it along side bratwurst cooked in cider and steamed broccoli.

Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce

2 tablespoons dried red pepper *
1 teaspoon dried celery
1 tablespoon dried tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon dried garlic
2 teaspoons dried leeks
1 tablespoon dried carrots
1 tablespoon dried potatoes (for thickening)
1/4 teaspoon aleppo pepper flakes **

Blend the above in a spice grinder and then stir in:

1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon cilantro (or basil)
1/4 teaspoon oregano (or tarragon)

Makes about 1/4 cup dry mix.

To use:

  1. Bring 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon oil to boil.

  2. Add 1 3/4 cup pasta (I used Sam Mills corn pasta, Pasta d'Oro variety).

  3. Turn burner down so that water is at a gentle boil and set the timer for the length of time specified on the package.

  4. Stir occasionally, cover it when it starts to get dry and stick to the bottom and turn down to low.

  5. Test pasta for tenderness -- slightly al dente is good. Serve and eat. Makes enough for two hungry, plump adults.

* I've been purchasing dried vegetables from North Bay Trading Company. In the product descriptions they note if the item is gluten free. Their web site is

** I bought Aleppo pepper once just out of curiosity, then I started using it in spice blends that I sell (, and now I have a ton, well ... ounces, of it left. It's fine to leave it out or use paprika or some other pepper. Aleppo is medium-hot.

Catfish Thai Style
I was looking for a different way, perhaps a little lighter in calories, to cook fish, and came up with the following. Cooking times are inexact as I was just winging this, but this worked wonderfully. The sauce is excellent and can be spooned over rice, or thickened and spooned over polenta or baked potatoes.

Catfish Thai Style

1 pound catfish fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon nam pla (fermented fish sauce)
2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon curry powder **
salt to taste
6 or 7 stems fresh cilantro

Rinse cilantro, remove the thickest part of stems (below the first leaves) and set aside.

In a non-stick skillet combine the oils, vinegar, nam pla, water, curry powder and salt. Spread the cilantro evenly in the pan. Lay the fish fillets over the cilantro. Cook on medium heat until sauce begins to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook about 5 minutes. Turn fish over, cover and cook 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when nudged with a fork. Serve immediately.

**Note: For curry powder I used Penzy's Bangkok Blend which gives a lemony flavor without adding citrus to the recipe.

Beet Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette
Beets are at our Farmers Market! This is my favorite recipe. I roast the beets Sunday morning while it's still cool enough to have the oven on, then let the beets marinate in the refrigerator all day. Leftovers are excellent the next day in lunch.

Beet Salad with Cumin

1 to 2 pounds beets

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the green tops off of the beets just above the beet without cutting into the beet itself. Place beets in a roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Roast at 375 until soft, about 45 minutes. Remove beets from oven and allow to cool. When cool, peel and slice into a bowl.

Combine vinegars, olive oil, cumin, garlic clove and salt and pepper to taste into a blender cup, blend until smooth. Pour over beets and stir gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least a couple of hours.

Makes two generous servings for beet lovers with a little left over, or 4 to 5 servings for people who only eat them occasionally.

Apple Date Walnut Cake
This is one of those spiced, fruit and nut filled cakes with just enough flour to hold it together. Serve with your favorite frozen or whipped topping or fruit syrup. Recipe is gluten free, casein free, soy free and egg free. Every bite just makes me want to eat more.

Flour Blend:
2 cups quinoa flour
2 cups sorghum flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup millet flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour


1/3 cup dried dates, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup flour blend
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon flax seed meal
3 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 apple, finely diced

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.

  2. Dice the dates. A food processor or blender speeds the process. Set aside.

  3. Measure walnuts and set aside.

  4. Whisk together flour, baking soda and powder, xanthan gum and cinnamon, set aside.

  5. Cream together the shortening and sugars.

  6. In blender, combine flax seed meal and water and process until thickened and creamy. Mix into the shortening and sugars along with the vanilla.

  7. Dice the apple and set aside. Using a food processor with several on/off pulses does the work quickly.

  8. Stir the flour into the shortening and sugar mix just until blended in. Batter will be thick.

  9. Stir in the dates, nuts and apple.

  10. Spread batter into pan. Bake for about 35 minutes until lightly browned on top, slightly pulled away from edge of pan, and cake tester comes out clean.


Replace vanilla with 3 drops bergamot mint oil.

Replace cinnamon with one teaspoon lavender. Before using, blend lavender in food processor or blender with white sugar. Replace vanilla with 1/2 teaspoon rose water. This is my favorite variation.


Feel free to play around with this recipe. I do.

Maple Glazed Onions
Although I started this blog to post gluten free recipes, in recent months I've tended more towards dairy free recipes. In a culture that tends to cover it's food in handfuls of cheese, sometimes it seems like good dairy free alternatives are hard to come by.

In our two family groups and among our friends, we have a number of food allergies, intolerances, dietary preferences and diabetes. And of course, nobody wants to eat "weird food" which is sometimes how anything gluten free or dairy free is viewed. I keep a list of "safe" dishes I can bring to family gatherings, and I've just added this one to it. Free of gluten, dairy, trans-fats, processed sugar, animal products, and relatively easy to make, this attractive side dish goes as well on a holiday table as it does next to grilled steak or chicken.

I've slightly adapted the recipe from one published in Hometown Flavor by Therese Allen. This book is a fun compendium of bakeries, cheese factories, butcher shops and other specialty markets in Wisconsin. In the days when gas was cheaper and we didn't know about our food intolerances, we kept it in the car to use as a guide on our weekend jaunts.

Peeling pearl onions is a futzy job, made easier by following directions found here.

Maple Glazed Onions

1/2 pound white pearl onions
1/2 pound red pearl onions
3 tablespoons olive oil (or flavored oil such as rosemary)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened apple cider
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Heat large skillet over medium heat (a non-stick skillet works well). Skillet should be large enough to hold onions in a single layer, or as close to a single layer as you can get. Add oil and onions. Sprinkle with salt and stir. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned and softened, about 7 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat as necessary to keep from burning.

Add maple syrup and continue to cook, uncovered, 2 to 3 minutes. Syrup will quickly thicken. Add cider, vinegar, and pepper to taste. Raise heat and bring liquid to a hard simmer. Cook until reduced to a syrupy glaze, stirring often. Remove to a serving dish and serve, or refrigerate and reheat gently for serving at a later time.

Roasted Red Pepper Simmer Sauce
For everyone who has ever picked up a jar of simmer sauce at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, read the label, sighed, and put it back on the shelf because it had dairy in it, here's a sauce for you. Easy and quick enough to make up after work, or make the sauce ahead of time. On a 5-pepper scale, this rates 3 peppers. Not blazingly hot, but also not for those with a dainty palate. Reduce or increase the cayenne to change the level of heat.

1.25 lbs boneless skinless chicken -- breasts or thighs
2 ounces onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (or use chopped, frozen onions)
1/2 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 ounce blanched almonds
6 ounces roasted red peppers (from a jar, about 2 peppers)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
3 to 4 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

In a food processor or blender, combine the onion, ginger, garlic, almonds, peppers, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt. Blend, scraping sides as needed, until a relatively smooth paste forms. Set aside.

Cut chicken into bite-size cubes and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When hot, pour in all the paste. Stir and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the water, lemon juice or tamarind paste, and black pepper. Stir in the chicken. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer gently for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over hot rice. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Blackberry Sage and Almond Salad Dressing
A leg of lamb is roasting in the oven for our holiday dinner. Outside, the temperature with wind chill is 10 below. Snow depth measures well over a foot, plenty enough to make the winter sports enthusiasts happy. I'm happy to be inside.

Early in July the wild black raspberries ripen. We spend each 4th of July in a local county park, which that day we have almost entirely to ourselves, dressed in sturdy shoes, worn jeans, and long-sleeved shirts, picking berries. They are seedier and less sweet than their red cousins, but we like them, and each year freeze as many as we can.

The Roman god Janus, for whom this month is named, looks both forward and backward, thus watching over both the ending and beginning of the year. For us, the black raspberries evoke both the summer past and the summer to come.

Tonight, this salad dressing will go nicely with romaine. Next summer, we'll grill steak to slice and serve over spring mix, and drizzle this dressing on top along with a sprinkle of toasted almonds, black olives, and sliced red onion.

Blackberry Sage and Almond Salad Dressing

1/4 cup blanched almonds
2 tbs fresh sage (1/8 cup)
1/2 cup black raspberries (frozen berries are fine)
2 tbs honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup almond oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp white pepper

Place blanched almonds in blender and pulverise. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Potatoes Paprika
Came up with this recipe a while back. It's fairly easy and goes well with baked meats for dinner, or next to eggs for brunch. No gluten, casein, or soy!

2 large baking potatoes (1 quart packed when thinly sliced)
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp salt
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

Sauté onion in oil until lightly browned. Heat oven to 350°F.

Combine brown rice flour and salt in a plastic bag large enough to hold the flour and sliced potatoes. Slice potatoes in thin slices -- if you have a food processor that slices, use it. Separate slices, place in plastic bag. Shake to coat. Spread out in a 9" pie tin.

Add broth to onion, bring just to a boil. Pour over potatoes. Grind pepper over potatoes, then shake paprika over top. Bake for about 1 hour until browned. Let cool 5 minutes, then slice into wedges.

Makes 6 servings. If desired, serve with sour cream, mayonnaise, ketchup or other condiment.

Five Years
Five Years

Sometime last month I passed the five year mark. Five years of being gluten free. So much has happened it’s hard to think about it or express it in any rational way. But the five-year mark is sort of a rite of passage and it’s good to recognize this point in the journey somehow ... so here’s sort of a snapshot of me at this point, sort of a brief, crazed reflection of the journey so far.

Continuing to become the best I can be, the healthiest I can be

Going dairy free: a harder struggle than going gluten-free

Going soy free: necessary, led to more healing

Wondering if I have to be egg free too, knowing I can and will face it if I must

Culinary adventures I couldn’t and wouldn’t otherwise have dreamed of

All the awesome, yummy food, yet success at making a great gluten free biscuit evades me

Being at odds with family and friends who largely don’t understand, believe, or care

Being grateful for family and friends who go out of their way to take up the challenge of making something gluten and dairy free anyway, and feeling honored by their effort

A ton of healing: emotional, physical, cognitive, and being grateful for all of it

Support, both giving and receiving, and being glad for both

Wanting to celebrate five years but I’ve been celebrating every day of the five years and I really don’t need the calories

Recognizing this has been the best five years of my life, with promise that life will continue to become better from here


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