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:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Coconut Macaroons

I like turtles.  I like the saying, "Behold the turtle.  He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out." 

This turtle is in my garden.  It isn't real, but in the Spring, we sometimes see painted turtles when we go for a walk.   The females come up from the water to lay eggs somewhere.  This year I was driving my car home from grocery shopping when I spotted a fairly large turtle crossing the road.  It was not a major road, and there were no cars behind me, so I stopped, put on the emergency flashers, and scooted the turtle off, into the grass.  My good deed for that day. 

When we first needed to have gluten free treats, I thought about what things are naturally gluten free.  I investigated a bunch of coconut macaroon recipes and tweaked/combined them to make my own.  Go ahead and stick your neck out on this one.....coconut has never been my favorite food; it rather ranked with cauliflower and celery as things that I don't love but don't hate, either.  Until I tried these.  These are moist and chewy.  I think my technique keeps them from being too crumbly.  I have since tried coconut macaroons from the store and there is no comparison, even if you don't need to have them gluten free. 

HH's Coconut Macaroons

Preheat oven to 350.

Take one 14-oz pkg plus one 7-oz pkg of Baker's Angel Flake coconut.
Mix it with one 14-oz can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk,
and 1 tsp vanilla.
You need a nice sturdy spoon for this!  (Remember....slow and steady wins the race!)

Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Yes, do it.  You will be glad you did!

Use a spoon to pull out 1" glops of mixture.  Mold it with wet fingers and put it on your parchment.  I tend to get 46 cookies.  They look like little wooly white turtles, all lined up. 

It's fun to get creative here and sprinkle some of the macaroons with cinnamon or cocoa powder.  The cocoa powder adds a nice touch!  Some recipes suggest putting mini chocolate chips in the mixture; I topped a few with a single Baker's semi-sweet chocolate chunk piece. 

Bake 11 minutes.  Allow to cool on parchment in pan.  Consume.  Store remainder covered in the refrigerator.  John says they also taste good frozen.....


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kielbasa and Veggies

Last night Peter and I went to another car show.  It was a beautiful evening with a nice breeze.  Perfect!

Personal touches are important everywhere.  Peter's 1935 Ford Pickup has my personal touch, which is a hand-knitted sweater on the greyhound hood ornament.  Here it is:

Pretty snazzy looking vehicle, too!

The other day I put my personal touch on Kielbasa in the 10" skillet.  Here's what I did:

Kielbasa and Veggies

Heat up 2 Tbs. olive oil in the 10" skillet.
Add 2 potatoes, cut into small chunks.
Cook for 5 minutes, stirring every once in a while.

Turn to low and cover with a lid.  (Any lid will do.  Look around the kitchen for one that fits from your other pots and pans.)  Turn the heat to low and cook 10 min. more.

Increase the heat to medium low.  
Add 1 pepper, cut up, and 10 oz Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced.
Sprinkle on 1-1/2 tsp. garlic pepper seasoning.
Cover and cook 10 min. more.

Add 1 14-oz Hillshire Farms Turkey Kielbasa, sliced into 3/4-inch slices.
Pour on 1/4 cup red wine mixed with 1 Tbs gluten free Worstershire Sauce
(Lea and Perrins is good).
Cover and simmer 10 min.

Uncover, stir, and simmer 10 min more.

Serve!  (Total of 45 min. cooking time.)


FYI, it went over pretty well.  There were no leftovers....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Round-Like-the-Moon Sour Cream Coffee Cake

On Saturday night Peter and I went to my cousin Nancy's birthday party.  It was on Sheffield Island, which is a 30-minute ferry ride from Norwalk, CT.  They had clams and mussels, then your entree of chicken or beef or whatever, with grilled vegetables.  It was a fun evening.

We took a tour of the historic light house there.  The sun was setting and the moon was rising.  The full moon was actually yesterday, but Saturday's moon seemed full enough!  I was overtaken by the beauty of the moonlight sparkling on the water.  I took lots of photos.  Here is the best one, I think:

I find the moon to be fascinating.  I mark my calendar with the dates of the full moon, but I don't necessarily pay attention to it until the moon is out in all its glory and making me breathless. 

I guess I like round things.  I like the moon and hand-made pottery bowls and cast iron skillets.  

I have a new 6" skillet and have been thinking how nice it would be to have an array of recipes for making smaller-sized gluten free cakes in it.  Small cakes that I don't need to push on people to eat it up so it doesn't go bad.  A nice dessert for 3 or 4 people, with a couple of pieces left over for the next day.  (My family doesn't tend to eat big servings of dessert.)

I played around with it a few times, and although I am still working on it, I had success with this recipe.  It came up a little high in the pan, so sprinkling a topping on it was rather tricky, but it was moist and not crumbly, even two days later.  Here is what I did:

  Round-Like-the-Moon Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 6" cast iron skillet.

Mix 3/4 cup gluten free pancake mix (I used Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten free Dreams),
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and
1/4 cup sugar.

Add 1 Tbs. oil,
1 tsp vanilla,
1 egg, and
1/2 cup sour cream.

Bake 20 min.

Meanwhile, mix until crumbly: 

3 Tbs sugar,
1 Tbs. Earth Balance margarine, and
3 Tbs. mini chocolate chips.

Top the cake with your mixture.

Turn on the broiler and broil a few minutes to set the topping.  (My cake was probably at least 6 inches from the broiler.)

Let it cool, and serve.  If you have any left over, do not store it in your pan; instead, transfer it to a plate and cover with plastic wrap. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Key Lime Pie

Today it is so humid out that this is what all the windows in my house look like:

You would think we are living in Florida!

I was in Florida in late March.  We were in the Clearwater area.  We had a really nice time learning about sea turtles and manatees.  We saw manatees in the wild and took pictures.  We watched dolphins gracefully jumping in the bay.  It was fascinating to a northerner like me!

At dinner one evening and I ordered key lime pie for dessert.  As I enjoyed it, I could only think, "I can make this for John."  So I went home and tried a recipe.  It was okay, but not exactly what I had been looking for.  Then I found a different type of filling.  I combined that with my own pie crust and WOW.  This was it!  I have since made this key lime pie 3 or 4 times.  It is not low calorie or low fat, so make your servings on the smaller side.  Before we begin, however, I have found these cookies to be wonderful for the crumb crust!

HH's Key Lime Pie

Preheat your oven to 350.

Take one 8-oz package of GF cinnamon cookies,
and whirl them in a food processor until they are little crumbs.
Add 6 Tbs of melted butter and whirl again.

Press into a pie dish and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a whisk to blend:

2 14-oz cans of sweetened condensed milk,
3/4 cup of key lime juice (this can be hard to my local market they had it hiding with the mixers!), and
1/2 cup sour cream

Pour this into the hot crust and pop it back in the oven for 6-7 minutes.  Seriously. 
That's it.

Chill.  Serve with whipped cream on top. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summertime Sausage Frittata

On Monday I took a fun class on making pinch pots.  We learned about the art form of "wabi-sabi," which involves an appreciation of things that are imperfect.  Like me. 

I made three little pinch pots as we listened to a story about wabi-sabi with our eyes closed.  I was pretty happy with the way they came out, asymmetry and all: 

They will get fired, and next week I can paint them.

It is another busy week.  Today I took off from the onions and peppers idea in my last post, and I created another quick dinner from leftovers!  Knowing it doesn't have to be "perfect" is quite a relief sometimes....

Summertime Sausage Frittata  (serves 3-4) 

Heat a 10" skillet on medium.

Add 1-2 Tbs olive oil.

Add 1/2 onion, chopped;
1 pepper, chopped; and
some garlic pepper seasoning (to taste).

Cook and stir for a while, until the colors of the pepper look bright and shiny. 

Add 2 cooked sausages, sliced.

Simmer it all together a little. 
Meanwhile, beat four eggs.

Pour the eggs over the mixture in the skillet.
Let it cook a little while.  Turn on the broiler.
Turn off the stove (that's the part I forgot to do today....).
Place your cast iron skillet under the broiler (not too close!) until the top looks "done."

Take two pieces of sliced Cabot cheddar cheese.
Break it into little pieces.
Scatter the pieces on top of the egg mixture.
Broil a little more....watching closely so it doesn't burn.

Remove.  Cut into four pieces.  Remember to turn off your broiler.  Serve!


One nice bonus of the cast iron skillet is that it is perfect for under the broiler.  :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Skillet Onions and Peppers

We have a birdhouse.  Peter got it for me last year as an anniversary gift.  We were happy when house wrens moved in.  They are cute and have a pleasant song.  Here is a house wren: 

About a month after the house wrens established their home, we heard a big ruckus outside.  After a brief fight, house sparrows moved in.  Here is a house sparrow: 

The house sparrows tend to be those birds you find everywhere, like at McDonald's, or living above store entrances.  They have an annoying "cheep."  No song.  But I am biased at this point.....

I didn't like the way they just took over. 

John and I tried to drive them away by spraying them with water (using a super soaker), but we soon found that these guys are *very* persistent.  When I saw them procreating in my tomato plants, I decided that was too much.  On the fourth of July, 2009, we took down the house and made a smaller hole (exactly one inch in diameter) of metal, so they couldn't enlarge it.  Here is the house:

The house sparrows could not get in, but they don't give up easily.  It took weeks before they finally left.  The wrens were back in business.

This year, a similar situation ensued, although the sparrows attempted to set up house earlier.  Beats me why they continue like this.  They positively can't get in.   On the day in early July that we visited Old Sturbridge Village, a full battle was raging.  The wrens were dive-bombing the sparrows, who sat on the house like it was their own.  Sometimes they were fighting on the ground.  It wasn't pretty.  I came home and looked outside for any carcasses.  Thankfully, none were found. 

The wrens won.  They have been nesting peacefully for a number of weeks now.  The cool thing is that the babies are hatched.  If you sit outside and listen, every so often you will hear a lot of noise coming from the house.  When you look up, you will see a parent at the door, bringing food to their cherubs.  It makes me happy. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here is a recipe that makes us happy.  It's easy to cook up some onions and peppers in the 8-inch cast iron skillet, then throw them on pasta.  Yum!  Eat and smile!

Skillet Onions and Peppers

Heat 1-2 Tbs Oil in a skillet on medium-low.

Add:  1 cut up green pepper, and one cut up onion.

Increase heat to medium.

Add salt-free garlic and pepper blend to taste (I used McCormick).

Cook and stir every so often, about 15 min. total.

Top your cooked pasta with these veggies, then put on some sauce and cheese.  Smile!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Blueberry Sauce

John went to an open mic night last night.  He played guitar while his friend, Steph, sang.  After them, another friend of his, Laura, played keyboard and sang.  For one of these songs, John joined her, playing his new melodica.  Here is what a melodica looks like:

Tonight my parents will be coming over for pizza.  We often invite them for this.  It's a nice way to see each other, and they enjoy it. 

Remember the blueberries?  My Dad loves blueberries.  Mom doesn't.  I can't figure out how anyone can not love blueberries, but there is no accounting for taste....

So for dessert, I made this lemon cake, purchased from my local Whole Foods Market.

I know Mom likes lemon cake. 

I will top this cake with a blueberry sauce, from a recipe that I have been using for years.  We put it on pancakes, ice cream, or cake.  Mom can skip the sauce if she chooses.  This cake is delicious without it.  To me, the blueberries will harmonize with the lemon in the cake.   Here is the recipe for.....

Blueberry Sauce

In a small saucepan, combine

1/4 cup sugar
1Tbs cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1tsp lemon juice

Gradually stir in 1/2 c. water

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil.  Add:

2 cups blueberries, rinsed  (either fresh or frozen)

Continue stirring until sauce reaches a boil again. 
Reduce heat; simmer 5 min.

Serve warm. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Blueberry Skillet Cobbler

I am lucky to live in an area where we have berry and apple farms.  In the summer it's fun to "pick-your-own" blueberries.  I put on some insect repellent, don a hat, and arrive early in the morning. 

Blueberries amaze me.  All that flavor and nutrition in one neat little package that I don't need to peel or prepare any more than rinsing them off.  Okay, if you step on one it can stain the carpet, but if you catch it early you'll be okay. 

I have seen a few cobbler recipes for the cast iron skillet, and decided to create my own gluten free version.  Here is what I did:

Blueberry Skillet Cobbler

3 Tbs butter or margarine
3 Tbs. oil
1 cup gluten free pancake mix (I used Cherrybrook Kitchen)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
4 cups blueberries, rinsed

Preheat oven to 350.  Put the butter and oil in a 12" skillet, and put it in the oven while it is heating. 

Combine pancake mix, sugar and cinnamon.  Add vanilla and milk, using a wire whisk to make it smooth.  Pour the batter into the hot pan, right over the hot oil mixture.  Sprinkle blueberries evenly over the batter. 

Bake 25-30 min, or until top is browned and batter is set.  Cool somewhat.

I really like the way this came out.  We ate half of it, and then I took the remainder out of the pan and stored it in the refrigerator.  (I understand you shouldn't store foods in a cast iron skillet.)  The next morning, the cake took on a grainy quality, which complemented the berries beautifully.  I almost liked it better!

Unfortunately, a day after berry picking my muscles were as sore as can be.  Regardless, I plan to go picking again.  The rewards are too great!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No-time quick dinner

It is a busy week.  On Sunday, I had a shower for Katie.  The tables looked beautiful with the flowers that Phyllis, Andy's mom, provided. 

Everything went great.   Our local Hilton Garden Inn did a wonderful job.  Katie looked absolutely radiant. 

I also have been taking a bunch of classes provided by my employer during the summer months for teachers.  I love to learn, so I signed up for eight.  Yup, eight.  How can you go wrong when they are free? 

The only downside is that most are packed into this week and next.  Add to that the fact that I am trying to do some decluttering, and we have company coming tomorrow, and there are wedding tasks.....well, yesterday there weren't many minutes available for cooking. 

I threw a small ham steak on the 8" pan, and heated that up.  Add a salad with cheese, dried cranberries, etc.  It was pretty good!

I have been heating up some water to boiling in a separate pan as the cast iron skillet is active on the stove.  When I am done with the skillet, I pour some hot water in....then, after dinner, it is still warm and seems to make for an easy clean-up!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Pesto

I have been taking a class, trying to learn more about using my little digital camera.  It pales in comparison to the DSLRs that others have, but at least it is portable.  While learning about the macro feature, I took this photo of my ring:

And here is Katie's engagement ring:


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here is a gem of a recipe!  Every summer I grow basil outside my door.  I developed my own way of making uses slightly less oil, and it doesn't use pine nuts (since no one seemed to care about having them).  When using it with rice pasta, however, the pasta frequently fell apart.  I changed my method to sprinkle the cheese on yourself, and that seems to help. 

HH's Pasta with Pesto

In a food processor, whirl up:

2 packed cups basil leaves, washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt

Process to a paste.

Toss with 12-16 oz pasta (previously cooked....).  If it's semolina pasta, I then add:

1/2 cup parmesan

and toss again.

However, for the more delicate rice pasta, simply sprinkle on extra cheese to your own serving. 

I always like to add cracked pepper to the top of my own.  Yum!


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heaven Burgers

Today I went with friends on a "field trip".  We went to a well-known yarn establishment in Northhampton, MA, known as "Webs."   (   (My friend, Meliney, affectionately calls Webs "Yarn Heaven.")  After shopping a few hours there, we had a nice lunch out, and I didn't get back home until it was time to make dinner. 

Last weekend, my brother asked me if I have used the Shetland wool he brought me direct from Scotland.  It's beautiful.  It's in the blue family, my favorite.  But we knitters tend to have something known as S.A.B.L.E., or "Stash Aquisition Beyond Life Expectancy."  It's true.  And I haven't started a project with the yarn from George yet because there is so much yarn calling to me from my stash.

I pulled out the yarn, which I had previously swatched.  It is time.  Do a simple pullover, I told myself.  Just do it.  I pulled out some books and found a pattern.  What detail could I work in to make it special?  Perhaps a different edging at the neck, cuffs and neckline?

I had an idea of an eyelet row with a rolled edge.  Here is my practice swatch, and my attempt at the edging.  The edging is at the top of this photo. 

I like the edge, but when I actually do it I think I will add an extra knit row after the eyelet row before making the purl row and then the rolling edge. 

If this is all strange lingo to you, please just scroll down to my recipe.... 

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dinner had to be quick.  I stopped at the grocery store and got some beef burgers.  I put my 12" skillet on the stove and heated it up.  By trial and error, I found that medium-high is the best point on my stove for this.

A little bit of olive oil to coat the pan, then the burgers, a few minutes on each side.  When they were done, I topped each burger with a slice of red onion and some avocado.  Toppings were either salsa or ketchup.  John likes the salsa.

With cooking, as in knitting, the details can make or break it.  I had just been to yarn heaven, and I wanted a burger worthy of burger heaven.  John had a friend over, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food.  I hope you enjoy it, too!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eggs and Home Fries

A short while ago, we had company.  My cousin's daughter, Trish, lives in Albuquerque.  She came across the country to the east coast just to see her relatives!  I hosted a cookout of burgers for her, her husband, the three kids, my parents and my brother.  It was a nice evening.

Our daughter, Katie, is 23.  She is a certified teacher and is getting married soon.  She took the youngest, a 3-year old girl, to do some crafts in the basement.  They used glitter glue to make pictures.  She warned me to be careful of pictures drying on the treadmill when I went there in the morning.....and here is one of the things I found.

I wasn't sure if it was for me or not, but I do answer to "Mom" so I took it and posted it in my kitchen.

Soon after that, Katie noticed it and remarked something to the effect of this:

"I told Victoria to make something for her mom, because whatever you do, your mom will like it because you made it.  It doesn't have to be perfect."

Um.....was this intended for me, or for Trish?

Me!  :) 

Well, that made my day....

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Here is another thing that moms do:  When your local family-run coffee shop (Ken's Corner) closes for summer vacation, and you aren't sure the other area restaurants will be diligent enough to avoid cross-contamination with your gf food, then your mom will make breakfast after Mass on Sunday. 

I fired up my 8" and 12" skillets.  I heated up some olive oil in both....fried up half an onion in the smaller one, then added a can of sliced potatoes and spices.  The larger pan got to fry the eggs.  Good grief, they slid off better than the nonstick pan that I formerly used! 

It's nice to have someone else pour my coffee on a Sunday, but this was fun for a change. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Fruit Cobbler

We went to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts yesterday.  It's a fun place to visit.

I shot the above photo as Peter, John and I sat sipping lemonade and eating cookies.  I had previously bought John a delicious cookie made by "Liz Lovely" in Vermont.    These cookies are fabulous.  I got them in a local coffee roasters.  Excellent texture and flavor!!

Here is another photo from OSV to wish you a happy Independence Day.


For the holiday tomorrow, I will be making a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler.  This recipe is a big favorite in my family.

Basic Fruit Cobbler Recipe

Makes one 9 X 13 pan, approx 8-12 servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray your baking pan with cooking spray.

Mix in saucepan:

6 cups fruit
~¾ cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

Taste and adjust for desired sweetness.

When it’s all bubbly and soft, mix in a small bowl:

3-4 Tbs cornstarch, mixed with an equal amt. of cold water

Stir this into the fruit mixture, stirring constantly. 
The mixture will look like a sloppy pudding. It will thicken a little more as it cools after baking.

Pour into prepared pan.

Mix in a separate bowl:

2 cups biscuit mix (GF or regular) (I like Pamela's)
¾ cup milk
1 Tbs sugar
1-2 Tbs oil

Drop the biscuit mixture by spoonfuls onto fruit.

Sprinkle the biscuits with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar.

Bake 25-30 min.

Serve warm or cool, with whipped cream on top if you'd like. 


If you are using rhubarb, you may need twice as much sugar. Always taste test.

If you are using apples, you probably need half as much cornstarch.

Start with less, and you can always add another tablespoon if it isn’t thick enough.


The whole thing gets eaten up quite quickly!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grilled Sandwiches

Okay, I have to fess up.  Last night, John politely asked,

             "Mom, what was in that potato pie?"


He felt signs of having been "glutened" both after our dinner on Tuesday, and after having leftovers for lunch the next day.  It wasn't really severe or long-lasting; he estimated it was about a 5 on a scale of 1-10. 

After wracking our brains, I decided the only thing could be my pan. 

My 10" pan is the only cast iron skillet that I have been using which I did not purchase new just for gluten-free cooking.  I figured that I probably used wheat flour in the skillet once, perhaps twice.  Ever.

Even with that, when John needed to go gluten free I did scrub it out with soap.  We have since had potatoes and gluten-free flatbread from that pan with no ill effects.  But nothing that I made filled the sides of the pan.

Until now.

So, today I took a Brillo pad, and scrubbed it twice, especially up the sides.  I don't think I got quite down to bare metal, but the soapy stuff looked pretty brown from the residue I got off.  I will re-season and try again.

If it doesn't work, you will know!

The moral of this story?  Get new pans if you must be gluten free.  Either that or really strip it down and re-season.


Last night I looked in the fridge and it was pretty bare except for some Cabot Cheddar slices and some leftover red onion.  I decided to make "panini." 

Our sandwiches, not needing to be gluten-free, go on my panini press.  John's, however, can't be next to ours.  Which is precisely why I bought this little thing when I saw it in my nearby TJ Maxx:

It fits perfectly into my 8" skillet!

I was able to nicely grill a sandwich on Aleia's GF bread, with cheddar cheese, red onion, and some jarred roasted red peppers.  I just used some olive oil to grease the pan a little, and put the stove on medium.  It did a good job.  We had that with baked beans on the side. 

I was kind of upset about the night before and didn't remember to take a picture of his sandwich. 

And - for the record, he was fine after that meal!