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:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chicken and Pineapple Over Rice

This is me today:

I took this photo at the Connecticut Science Center, when I took John there as a last summer hurrah before both of us headed back to classes.  He, however, is very happy to be back with his friends.  Today, I spent the afternoon doing paperwork in a second floor classroom with 95+ degrees outside and probably higher than that in my classroom.  I kept figuring that I could go home and work on the computer in the a/c, but there was too much to accomplish in person.  That wasn't fun.

I came home and puttered around a little.  I had taken some frozen chicken breast halves out of the freezer this morning, placing them safely in the refrigerator to [kind of] thaw, so they were perfect for slicing at that point.  I took my 10" skillet.  No recipe online matched what I wanted to do so I just did it. 

Chicken and Pineapple Over Rice  (Serves 2)

I took two chicken breast halves,
and sliced them fairly thin, like 1/4" wide.

I heated 2 Tbs. canola oil
and added the chicken.

Meanwhile, some rice had been started in another pot.....

When the chicken looked cooked, I added one onion, sliced into thin strips
and 1 Tbs. of "Yikes" seasoning, which is a little spicy (and I needed that today).

It needed color, so I put in one carrot, very thinly sliced.

I turned down the heat and had a half glass of wine until Peter got home.

When his car was in the driveway, I threw in one 20-oz can of pineapple chunks, drained.  This should be added at the end, since you don't want to have the acid of the pineapple eating away at your cast iron seasoning.....

Heat briefly.  Serve over rice. was so good that we forgot to take pictures.  I remembered about pictures after dinner.  So....Here is Peter's empty dish....

Sorry about that!!!  ;)

Okay, time to finish that computer begins tomorrow...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Getting a Handle on: Gluten Free at College

A guest blog by John.....

There are lots of things to keep in mind once you head off to college with your gluten problem, diagnosed or not. I spent my first year suffering (and I didn't even know it!), and things finally started getting somewhere after my diagnosis near the end of my 3rd semester. I've picked up a few main points along the way so far, and with the new semester kicking off, figured I'd pass 'em along!

First, I've learned that it's crucial in all matters to be prepared. I always make sure I've stocked up in my dorm room on bars (Lara bars, Kind bars) and cereal (anything by Enjoy Life, as well as the gluten free Chex and the gluten free Barbara's Puffins), which are very easy to bring anywhere I might need that extra food. I used to weird myself out at first, carrying in this "foreign" food to events, restaurants, and dining halls. But it's really useful until you can establish some regular dialog with the dining services staff, and always useful whenever you're out with your friends.

Next, talk to your dining staff! Make sure they know your face, your name, and your needs, and don't be afraid to speak up and take them up on their offers. At my university I was able to set up a meeting with one of the head chefs, the nutritionist, the manager of the dining hall I frequent the most, and some senior dining staff. We discussed all my food options and I learned everything I had open to me, from a special gluten free section of foods, to options I had such as calling ahead before I planned to eat, to have the staff prepare me a gluten free version of a particular entree on that day's menu. The human connection is important!

In addition, always be vigilant in the dining halls, even after consulting with the staff. You've got several thousand variables, aka the other students that are also using every single utensil and serving pieces that you touch. As cliche as it sounds, trust no one on your side of the serving line. Who knows if they touched the serving utensil for the mashed potatoes to their stuffing to pat it down? Or did they mix the ladles from the gluten-laden vodka sauce in with the gluten free marinara because they were being impatient waiting for the proper ladle? The list goes on. This is in particular important for me as I am very sensitive and the smallest bit will set me off for days.

Finally, events and get togethers with your friends don't always have to be about food. Yes it's wicked common for it to be a focus because that's just how we work. Late night pizza study session, going out to grab wings and play video games, or whatever. There's plenty to do around campus that's food free and still lots of fun with your friends, you just have to think a little bit and be creative. Hike around the trails if you're in a rural area, go see a concert, go watch a game, there's lots of possibities that you can tailor to you and your friends that still results in a great time but without all the food-related stress!

These are my main points that I find most crucial to living gluten free, with celiac disease, at the college level. It's a big adjustment, and seems almost impossible at first. But it's all about taking steps and remembering that this is your health, and you'll be able to pull it off and keep it up, because simply, you feel better when you put in the effort to get things right for yourself. It is possible and sustainable and you can do it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


This photo is of the horse I rode on the carousel at the Heritage Museum on Cape Cod a short while ago.  Sometimes I feel like I am on a permanent carousel.  Up and down, round and round.  Life doesn't stop.  Up, with weddings or babies or awards/honors....down, with illness or deaths or divorces.  Going round and round all the while, life continues on.  Sometimes it seems like there are more downs than ups, so we need to pay attention to the ups and celebrate them, no matter how small they may be.  More on that in another post.....

I forgot to mention the nice cupcakes I got for John to eat at the rehearsal dinner and wedding last weekend.  They were from Dee's One Smart Cookie, and the link is here.  Delicious jumbo cupcakes with raspberry filling.  Awesome! 

Last night I made another quick dinner of Jones Canadian Bacon, which is gluten free, eggs, and some flatbread.  I was first introduced to the idea of flatbread from the book, Food Matters, by Mark Bittman.  I always change my recipes, knitting patterns and other directions.....and here is what I wound up doing.  I changed many things, like the proportions and cooking method.  The result is an interesting mix of textures:  crunchy on the bottom, with the onion imparting a creamy mouthfeel, and a dense top of something between bread and a cracker.  Next time I think I will dust the top with parmesan or cracked pepper or sesame seeds or something to give visual interest.  I would like to try other flours, too....there are many different gluten free flour blends available!

HH's Flatbread

This is also known as "Socca."
Preheat oven to 450.

Chop 1/2 a small onion into tiny bits. 

Mix 1 cup garbanzo flour (Bob's Red Mill makes this),
1/2 tsp. salt, and
1 cup water
Use a wire whisk to make it smooth.   Set it aside for now.

Heat 1-2 Tbs oil in the 10" skillet
Add chopped onion and 1/2 tsp Herbs de Province.  This is something I picked up about a month has thyme, rosemary, savory, basil, lavender, and other stuff, too.  If you don't have this, use whatever strikes you that day.

Cook a little until the onion softens.  By this time your oven should be preheated. Pour the flour and water mixture over the onions.  Pop the skillet into the oven and bake 25-30 min.  Cut into wedges.  Serves 3-4. 


Update 10-12-2013:  Flatbread Pizza!
Today I used this basic recipe for a flatbread pizza for two. 

We were heading out for a car show in the afternoon, so in the morning I combined:
 1 cup garbanzo flour 
1/2 tsp. salt,
~1 tsp. of Italian herbs,
~1 Tbs of olive oil, and
1 cup water.
I covered this and set it in the refrigerator to allow the flour to absorb the liquid while we were away.
When we came home, I turned on the oven to 450.
I put another tablespoon of olive oil into my 10" cast iron skillet.
I put that into the oven to heat up, then I poured the batter into the hot pan.
I baked it about 22 minutes.  It looked nice.
I shifted the oven to broil.
I topped the flatbread with some tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, and grated parmesan.
I returned the pan to the oven/broiler until the mozzarella was melted.
It slid out of the pan easily.  Once on a platter, I cut it into six slices.
Okay, truth be told, I made two of these.  But one was all we needed for the two of us!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting a Handle on: Family Expansion

This weekend my family expanded.  My dear daughter, Kathryn, married her fiance, Andrew.  We had a few bumps in the road, like an aisle runner malfunction, a close call by Andy's mom as she drove back to the church to retrieve forgotten cd's for the reception, and the groom's cake falling apart......but it was all memorable and full of joy.

We kept my son gluten free by bringing a meal that the restaurant could simply heat up for the rehearsal dinner.  We got this food from a Cromwell location called "La Piastra." 
( )  Dinner at the reception was provided by "Plan B," a classy and hot spot burger restaurant in the Hartford area.  ( )  They accommodated three of our guests that have allergies or intolerances by cooking their beef burgers on a separate grill, and providing a gluten free bun for John.  I also brought him a side dish of shrimp salad.   All went well on that front.

The bride and groom drove to the reception in Peter's 1935 Ford Pickup, which we decorated with a hand-lettered sign in keeping with the occasion:

It’s bittersweet. I am *very* happy for them, but when she packed up her clothes and they were putting them in their cars I got a little choked up.  
Real life moves on….it’s only frozen in photos.

May Katie and Andy be blessed with a long and happy life together!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blackened Chicken and Vegetables

A little while back, I made a delicious dinner in my 10-inch skillet.  Here's what I did:

Preheat the oven to 425.

Heat the skillet at medium.

Spray skillet with cooking spray, or put in a little oil.

Add 1 1/4 lb. boneless chicken that has been sprinkled with Cajun Blackening Seasoning.  I used this:

Brown chicken on both sides.

Meanwhile, mix in a separate bowl:  
2 small potatoes, cut up,
2 cut up peppers,
One package (12 oz?) baby bella mushrooms, sliced,
2 Tbs oil,
and 1 Tbs seasoning.  (Remember the WOW seasoning that I talked about with the skillet potatoes?)

Remove out the chicken from the pan, and put the vegetable mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Top the vegetables with the chicken.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Check for with an instant read thermometer to ensure the chicken has reached 180 degrees.

Serve.  Have parmesan cheese on the side for people like me who like parmesan on almost everything.  Serves 3-4. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Boudro's Guacamole

In April 2009 I was happy to have the chance to visit San Antonio's Riverwalk.  We asked at the hotel desk where they would recommend that we dine to experience the local cuisine.  They immediately responded that we should head to Boudro's Restaurant.  Here is a photo of a section of the Riverwalk:

We were lucky enough to get a table for two outside, right along the Riverwalk.  On recommendation from the hotel, we ordered the tableside guacamole. 

I decided that this stuff could sustain life all by itself. 

I watched our server prepare the guacamole and could see how easy it is.  I took notes, then went home and found the recipe online.  The recipe is available here.

For the tomatoes, I just use canned roasted tomatoes,  like Hunts Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes.   I may use a tablespoon of orange juice instead of the "juice of 1/4 of an orange," and a tablespoon of bottled lime juice for the "juice of 1/2 a lime."  I use 1/2 tsp. salt.  I understand the Serrano pepper is optional. 

I think the lime really does it for me.   I usually double the recipe and use two avocados.  I have had more success when I stick to the Haas avocados....they have a nicer texture.  Delicious!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Getting a Handle on: Using Up Leftovers!

It's been a busy week.  Truth be told, I will probably be posting twice a week instead of three at this point.  However, I've been having a blast doing this.  The summer is rapidly closing in on me and the school year will begin.  Then I go back to my "regular" job, and it keeps me very busy.  But that has its fun moments, too.

Peter and I took a quick overnight trip to the Cape, where our friends Ellen and Ken have a new home.  With our friends, we toured the Heritage Museum, watched the sun set from a *very* long boardwalk, and spent a morning at the beach.  Here are some pictures to prove it:

There have been a million little details for me to attend to this week.  Last night, again, I needed a quick dinner, and I also needed to get rid of a few things in my refrigerator.  I had one more of those red peppers that I had purchased on sale, a baked potato from Dad's dinner, some cottage cheese on the verge of being get the idea.  I concocted another frittata, which seems to come out great in the 10" skillet.  Served with some toast, it's easy and great for using up all those odds and ends.   Serves 3-4.

Use-it-up Frittata

Take your 10" cast iron skillet.  Put it on your stove, set to medium.

Heat up 1 Tbs oil or butter.  I happened to use Earth Balance Margarine.

Cook up a cup or so of fresh veggies...not tomato, since my experience is that the acid in the tomato breaks down my nice seasoning on the cast iron.   I used my one red pepper, chopped.  I would have added onion, but I thought Katie might have been joining us, and she dislikes onion.  Cook until these veggies soften up to your liking. 

Add about a half cup of other previously-cooked veggies you may want to get rid of.  I added one baked potato, cut up. 

Add about a cup of chopped-up meat that you think will taste good in there.  I used about 4 oz of ham that didn't get used for sandwiches.  It was sliced thin, and I just sliced that into strips. 

Let it cook up together a little.  Meanwhile, beat 4 eggs.  This is where I added 1/2 cup of cottage cheese to the mixture.  I also added about 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, and about 1/4 tsp garlic powder.  Mix this all together.

Pour over the veggies.  Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and let it cook a while.  Meanwhile, turn on the broiler.  When the egg mixture looks like it is setting, I put the whole thing under the broiler.  Not very close....I don't want it to burn or anything.  I keep an eye on it and watch, removing it just as I see some browning. 

I let everyone know dinner will be ready soon.  When your frittata is ready, it's ready!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Lora Brody's Bete Noir

This week my Dad had a "milestone" birthday.  I invited my family over for a dinner of grilled chicken with baked potato and salad. 

What to do for a cake?  It doesn't seem right to have two cakes for a small event like this.  Who needs the stress of hoping a crumb from one cake doesn't fall on the dessert plate of your gluten free person?  And would you really want to be looking at a delicious cake that you can't eat?

When I was first married I made the most delicious cake that didn't have any flour at all.  Although you can find other flourless chocolate cakes online, I didn't see the point of trying something else when this is so good.  King Arthur Flour has it on their site, and you can find it here.

This is probably the most decadent cake I have ever made, with two sticks of butter and 12 ounces of chocolate.  But if you cut your pieces small and have it only as a special treat, this cake can fit into a healthy eating plan.  I had 8 at my dinner, but still had leftover.  I would say it could serve 12 nicely. 

Happy birthday, Dad!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Iron Skillet Potatoes

Fuschia are so lovely....the colorful cascading blossoms are one of my favorites. 

I actually got the idea for this blog while thinking of one of my favorites:  skillet potatoes!  This is what I basically previously made with my 10-inch skillet.  Easy, delicious, and gluten free, even when I didn't care about gluten free recipes.  Enjoy!

Iron Skillet Baked Potato Fries

Preheat the oven to 425. 

Cut up 4 medium potatoes.
Cut them any way you wish:  chunks?  steak fries?

Put them in a bowl with 2 Tbs olive oil.
Mix it up.

Add a Tbs. of seasoning.  I love this WOW! seasoning that I picked up in one of our jaunts to Rhinebeck, NY.  If you use your own creativity, be sure to add some salt.  Mix it up again.


Pour it all into your 10" skillet.

Place skillet of potatoes into oven for 20-25 minutes.

Stir.  BE CAREFUL because it's VERY HOT!

Put back in oven for another 20-25 minutes. 


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Getting a Handle on: Gluten Free Daytripping in South County, RI

One of our favorite day trips is a jaunt over to South County, RI.  We have a routine that we often follow, and we needed to figure out how to proceed with it all gluten free.  Here is what we did.....all successfully!

On Sunday mornings, there is a flea market in Charlestown.  You can't beat poking around all the deals to be had.  I carefully selected five glass beads for a bracelet.  John checked out all the books and musical instruments there.  Peter found a few tools.  I even got a 6" cast iron skillet there!  (Once home, Peter was very considerate, using a rotating wire brush to get off all of the rust and coating; now all I need to do is season it!)

At the flea market and at many other locations in South County, Del's Lemonade
( ) is available from trucks.  This is a frozen lemonade concoction, with little pieces of lemon peel occasionally found.  Delicious....I don't see any chance of gluten contamination here!

From the flea market, we made our way to Galilee, RI, where we had lunch at Champlin's Seafood.  ( )  The clam cakes are excellent, but not for John.  We ordered four of them for me and Peter, but John?  He ventured into a new area:  a steamed lobster! 

Eating whole animals has not been my life's mission.....actually, I characterize myself as a "vegetarian wannabe."  You know, would love to be a vegetarian but don't because no one else would join me and also because I don't believe it's immoral to eat meat.  I'm just not a huge meat eater. 

John dove right in and chomped away.  I glanced over from time to time, but concentrated on my baked flounder, which has no eyes or feet or whatever to remind me of what it actually is.

An hour or more later, we knew the lobster and the steamed potatoes were fine.  We had walked down to the beach and observed the new boardwalk.  It's very nice!

We had dessert in a place called "Brickley's Ice Cream," in Narragansett. 
( )  They were great about taking a clean scoop and getting ice cream from the back room instead of the well-used containers in the front.  Our server handed it to us with the standard precaution, something to the effect of, "we do our best to use clean equipment and avoid allergens, but there is always a chance there can be some cross-contamination."  We smiled and took the chance.  It was fine.  And we have always considered Brickley's to be one of the best ice creams in New England. 

From Brickley's we drove to Wickford, which is a beautiful little historic village. 
 ( )  There are lots of window boxes with flowers in them.  Quaint shops.  The Olde Narragansett Church.  Perfect for strolling around. 

As we were leaving to head home, we noted an area of water lilies.  At least I think they are water lilies.  I had to take a picture!