The Hot Handle

A blog interspersed with occasional gluten free recipes.

Please note: If you have a family member who requires a gluten free diet, be sure to use a cast iron skillet that has never previously touched gluten....and if it has, scrub it all down completely and re-season, to be on the safe side.

Looking for information on Celiac Disease? There are many good sites, but here is one to get started with:
www.celiacdisease.net/celiac-disease-101.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Crazy life

My life recently has been crazy but very good.

After a number of years of my daughter and her husband living in South America, they suddenly moved back to the USA almost a year ago.  He is in a school for watch repair, and that will end in yet another year.  We don't know what will happen then, but for now, we are in heaven!  It's almost a five hour drive to visit them, and we do it approximately every other month.  I can now send her cards or even packages, or just give a quick call or text.  It's really not much more phone-like contact than before, but the ability to see her more often and to send cards (that actually reach her) is priceless.

In April, our son finally got a job that uses his many skills and talents, while also paying a living wage.  He got a new apartment in a nearby town.  He comes by regularly to do his laundry and eat dinner.  No problem with that!

Having kids that have surpassed the teenage years and have entered real adulthood is awesome.  I am proud of both of them more than I can express.  They each have unique talents, they are both extremely kind people who do amazing things, and they seem to truly enjoy our company!

This May, hubby and I celebrated 36 years of marriage.  That's pretty cool, too.  He's a total sweetheart.  I can sit and talk with him more easily than anyone.

Shortly thereafter, our daughter received her Master's degree in reading!

Following that, we went on a short cruise to Bermuda to celebrate my 60th birthday.  We are currently acting on the idea that one never knows what is around the corner, so we should do things while we can.  (Last year we took a trip to Alaska.....came back to a big mess and lots of angst, but that's a separate story.)

I had told hubby, "No party!  We're going on a cruise instead!"  He said OK.

Just before the cruise began, hubby was hired for a new position in New Haven, and he formally retired from his job at UConn.  He is uniquely qualified for this new position, and sees it not only as a challenge but as a "last hurrah" before retiring for good.  When I saw his interest and enthusiasm, what more could I say?  The grand plan (at least for the moment) is for both of us to "really" retire in two years......

Between the Bermuda cruise (which was great) and his job change, I had barely enough time at home to do laundry.  Routine household tasks were difficult to accomplish.  We visited our daughter, transferring ownership of a vehicle to her.  We went to Maine for a weekend.  We got a "new" (pre-owned) vehicle for him to commute to the new job.  We went to a car show in Bennington, VT, and stayed at an inn there.  So much fun; not much time to breathe!  The end of the school year was in full swing, and I had been careful to get as much work in as possible before the cruise, but the scheduling for the following year always gets me anxious for some reason.  I knew I could do it and I did, but wow.

We did all this to pack in summer fun before hubby's new job kicked in on June 12.  You don't want to leave work early or take lots of days off when the job is brand new!

On June 10, it was after my birthday.  Daughter and son-in-law were coming to CT for the weekend.  We were to have dinner together with my dad, brother, and son.  I had said, "We can even just grill here at home," and hubby said, "No, I think we should go out."

I figured, "Why should we pay for dessert and coffee?  We can just come back here for that!"   I made an ice cream crunch cake (GF of course) and set the table.  Hubby never said anything.

We arrived and parked across the street from the restaurant.  We walked across the street and I saw my two amazing children walking on the sidewalk toward me.  My daughter looked beautiful.....and amazingly, she was wearing a dress that had been my mother's.  Mom had worn it to my wedding 36 years ago!  

We walked into the restaurant.  Oh, look, balloons!  Someone is having a party.  Um, that's my friend.  Um, I know everyone here!  Oh my gosh!  They are having a party for me?

Hubby said daughter really wanted to have this party. She was the driving force here.  How could he say no?  So he's off the hook, and the work involved in this means more than any presents ever could.

Needless to say, after a full four weeks like this my back and neck were in knots.  It was good stress, but I'm a person who needs down time.

I was doing errands the following Friday morning and noticed a salon next to my bank.  At this salon, they also do massage.  I walked in.  Next thing I knew, I had an appointment right after lunch.  It seemed to be just what I needed!

Now I am home for the summer.....except I will be doing a bit of summer school......and my house needs a lot of attention.  I am cleaning out my closets and have a long list of things to accomplish.

Lessons learned in the last year:

  • Sometimes we just need to wait a long time for the good things to come.  
  • Enjoy the little things in life, for someday you will realize they were the big things. 
  • Life goes by quickly.  (How did we ever get this old?)
  • Appreciate your loved ones.  Tell them so.  Act like it, too.
  • Take time to meditate.  

Wishing you all a multitude of blessings in the near future....



Friday, February 19, 2016

Still here...

I have neglected this blog for a while.  Never fear, I'm still around searching for those tasty nuggets in a burned dish.  Some days are easier than others. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Searching for the Perfect Lemon Square

About a month ago, I decided to make lemon squares.


I used almond meal (almond flour) for the crust. 
I wanted the lemon part to be tangy, not too sweet.
I wanted them totally delicious.
I used fresh lemons.

What I wound up with was very tasty.
We ate them all up.
But the crust wasn't as solid as I would have liked.

Yesterday, I re-worked the recipe.
I came up with this. 


I couldn't get the photo quite right,
but the flavor and texture was just what I was looking for.
Yeah, this was just about perfect.

Lemon heaven.....

Lemon Squares                                              
(Makes 16)

Preheat oven to 325.

Grease an 8” square glass pan.

In a bowl, stir together:
¾ cup almond meal,
¾ cup GF flour
   (“Ancient Grains” by King Arthur is nice),
¾ tsp xanthan gum, and
¾ cup sugar. 

Then cut in
1 stick of softened butter (1/2 cup),
Until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.

Bake for ~20 minutes, until golden but not browned.  It may bubble up and look a bit funky.  When you take it out of the oven, let it cool a bit and settle down. 

While the crust is baking, clean up your bowl and beaters. 

Juice up 4 large lemons to get
¾  cup of lemon juice.

Zest some of the lemon peel to get about
2 Tbs of zest.

When you remove the crust from the oven, increase the temperature to 350.

Into your clean bowl, crack open
4 eggs.  Whip these up together to get them nice and frothy. 

Combine in a small bowl: 
1 ¼ cups sugar, and
¼ cup rice flour.

Mix this into your eggs, being careful to not have lumps. 
Use a hand mixer or a hand blender. 

Add in your juice and zest.

Gently pour your lemon mixture over the somewhat cooled crust.

Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until set.

Cool and refrigerate before cutting into 16 squares.

Dust with powdered sugar.  





Sunday, April 7, 2013

Brownies to Go!

Wow!  I just took an old recipe that I used to use and converted it to some GF delights.  It was very easy and delicious.  It made what my friends and I called "Blondies", and we flavored them with almond extract.  They were a staple for a little while. 

I ran across that old recipe and was also perusing a GF regular brownie recipe.  Lo and behold, the proportions were very similar.  I did an experiment with "my own thing," making blondies and brownies side-by-side.  Although the blondies seem a bit more crumbly than the brownies, they both sliced nicely.  Success!! 

I wrapped them up individually to send to my gluten free son in Albuquerque.




Gluten Free Brownies -  AWESOME – with changes to make almond “blondies”, too


Preheat oven to 350.


Grease an 8 or 9” square glass pan.


Take ½ cup softened butter (one stick)

and cream it in a mixing bowl with

1 cup sugar.


Beat in two eggs,

one at a time.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For brownies:                                                                   For almond “blondies”:


Add

1 tsp vanilla extract,                                                      Add  1 tsp. almond extract           

2/3 cup GF flour blend,                                                         1 cup GF flour blend,

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder,

1 tsp xanthan gum, and                                                        1 tsp xanthan gum, and

1/8 tsp salt.                                                                            1/8 tsp salt.



Stir in                                                                                      

6 oz. chocolate chips.                                                    No chocolate chips.



Pour into pan, and                                                            Pour into pan, and

smooth with wet fingers.                                                   smooth with wet fingers, then 

             sprinkle top with
               1-2 Tbs sugar and

~ ¼ cup of slivered almonds.


 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Bake 28-30 minutes.


Cool in pan.


Cut into 16 squares.



     


Update:  February 2016 - These are still awesome!  I made them for a baby shower and my GF friends loved them.  I made enough to send the "blondies" to a friend who can't have chocolate, and they were a hit! 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Soda Bread



Signs of Spring are in my yard!

We had friends over last night for a St. Patrick's Day dinner of Corned Beef and Cabbage (see this page). 

One of our friends cannot consume gluten, but that's easy in my house! 

For dessert, I made these delicious Almond Cookies (see this page).  I doubled the recipe here so that I could mail some to our son in ABQ, but my little food processor couldn't handle it.  Note to self:  Use a regular stand mixer for doubling the cookie recipe!



I haven't really done a lot of gluten free bread baking, so I wasn't too sure about making my own GF Irish Soda Bread.  (I'm pretty sure that other years I have purchased it from my local GF bakery, "Dee's One Smart Cookie.")  But this year I tried making it myself, and darn, it was great!


First, I pre-heated the oven to 375.

I took out my 8" cast iron skillet and sprayed it with cooking spray.

I took
1/2 cup of raisins
and poured hot (boiling) water over it, letting it sit for 5-10 minutes or so, then draining them.  This plumped up the raisins.  I was hoping this would help to make a nice, moist loaf.  Considering the good results I had, I won't skip this step next time!

In the stand mixer, I put in the following ingredients, in this order, while the mixer churned at its lowest level:

2 cups of Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour,
3 Tbs sugar,
1 tsp baking soda,
1 tsp baking powder,
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum,
4 Tbs SACO Cultured Buttermilk Blend
(it's a powered buttermilk that you can find in the baking aisle),
1 tsp caraway seeds, and
1 tsp salt.

I added -
4 Tbs softened butter, and let it run until it's blended with the flour mixture, into little pieces.

Then I tossed in -
1 egg,
1 cup water, and
the soaked raisins.

I mixed it up until blended, then plopped the mixture into the prepared skillet. 
I smoothed the top with wet fingers, then
cut an "X" into the top, as can be seen above.

I baked this for 45 minutes, turning the oven down to 350 after about 25 minutes. 
When I took it out and tested it, I found that an instant-read thermometer clocked it at 190.
The color was pretty dark,
but the loaf had that nice hollow "thump" sound when I rapped on the bottom.
I let it cool on a wire rack.

When I cut it just before dinner, I was delighted to see it looking like this:



My guest loved it so much that I sent a few slices home with her. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day,
and
Happy Spring!




Saturday, March 2, 2013

Show your love

Hubby was away for a little business trip.  You'd think he was doing the right thing, arranging his flights to take a southern route from the west coast back to New England.  However, the weather in Charlotte, NC, turned out to be worse than here.  His plane needed de-icing TWICE!


While he was gone, I sent him little texts and emails. 

It's nice to have him home again.

Today on Facebook, I was pleased to find that my daughter has been collecting all the things I have been sending her.  She lives far away, and I don't trust the delivery of anything of value, so I send cards and whatever might fit inside an envelope.  Apparently she has been creating a collage of sorts:

 
When you get down to it, it's amazing how much CAN fit in an envelope!
 
 

For my son, I like to send him packages of things he can't easily find in a southwestern U.S. college dining hall.  Which leaves just about everything, since he must keep gluten free. 

This week, I found the most amazing recipes for gluten free versions of Girl Scout Cookies here.

I immediately noticed the Tagalongs by Betsy, since I had all the ingredients right at home for that one.  This morning I got to work as hubby was encased in a metal flying machine on a messy runway.  There are many steps, and I didn't finish until mid-afternoon (he was safely home by then), but the results are awesome!

 
 



Changes I made:  I didn't add milk to the cookie mixture, and I didn't refrigerate this dough.  I just divided the dough into 36 pieces and smooshed them into a nice shape with wet fingers onto parchment paper.  (I'm amazed at the wonders of parchment paper and wet fingers with gluten free baking!)

Being a pharmacist's wife, I used the end of a pestle (i.e., mortar and pestle) to make indentations in the center of each cookie as it came out of the oven.

Please note:  A sandwich baggie is NOT strong enough to pipe the peanut butter filling onto the cookies.  (Ask how I know....)

I melted chocolate chips for the topping in a metal bowl set into a saucepan of water.  I frosted each cookie with a spatula, instead of dipping.  The chocolate didn't seem thin enough for dipping!

Move over, Girl Scouts!!

I'm sending most of these to my son, but we need some here, too!!



How do you show YOUR love?

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Easy Homemade Applesauce



Yes, we had hurricane Sandy here in Connecticut. 
Thankfully we never lost power at my house,
but family members did, so we were serving up dinners for a few days. 

After hurricane Sandy, we experienced winter storm Ari. 
Ari made a slippery mess!  It also gave me a delayed opening for work yesterday. 
It was so nice and cozy in the house, and I had a little extra time. 
There were four apples rolling around in a drawer of my refrigerator. 
I knew nobody was likely to pick up one to munch on at that point,
so I tried something "new."  I cut them up and put them in the crock pot! 
I layered:

4 large apples, peeled and cut into chunks,
a drizzle of honey,
a sprinkle of cinnamon,
a lighter sprinkle of nutmeg,
a handful of raisins, and
1 Tbs water.

I turned the crock pot to "low" and went off to work.
There was a cold drizzle as I headed there,
and more cold drizzle as I came home.
Yuck.

Once back in my humble abode, however, it was wonderful.
The contrast of my warm kitchen, with the delicious aroma of spiced apples,
to the dreariness outside, was delightful!

Sometimes we need this contrast to appreciate what we have. 

Anyway, it was a nice healthy ending to our dinner. 
I stirred it up, and divided it into three dessert cups. 

Served hot, it tasted spicy and comforting.
Served cold the next morning, it was sweet and addicting!

Next time I think I'll let it cool before serving. 

Regardless, it's all gone now. 

I'll have to do this again.