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:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Off the Handle: "The World's Only Good Fruitcake"

This is a picture of a throw that I thankfully finished in time to present to Katie and Andy for Christmas.  I started it right after their wedding, and finished it four months later.  Ever notice how the more time and effort something takes, the more proud you are of the finished product?

That twisted fringe is a favorite of mine for this type of project.  Very durable, and no unraveling!

But this isn't a knitting blog....

The cake below is something that takes a while, but it is not quite as labor-intensive as the pierogi from the last post.  I made it last year because we needed a substitute for traditional fruitcake, which my brother loves to serve on Christmas Eve.  I'm not clear where I got my inspiration for this particular recipe.....I think it was from the Silly Yaks list again.  Like everything else I do, I made my own personal changes and this is the result from two Christmases worth of baking. 

John, who never cared for traditional fruitcake, was very enthusiastic about this cake.  He refers to this as "the world's only good fruitcake"  ....hence the nickname.

Gluten-Free Fruit-Full Christmas Cake
(a.k.a., “The World’s Only Good Fruitcake”)
(serves 16)


Almost 2 lbs (or 4 cups) cut-up, dried mixed fruit (cherries, cranberries, apricots, golden raisins, cut-up prunes, dried figs….whatever suits your fancy) (Note: Don’t use fruit from bulk bins due to the possibility of cross contamination with gluten. Inspect your packages….and don’t use the fruit if it says anything like, “manufactured on equipment shared with wheat.”)

1 cup brandy, divided into 2/3 and 1/3 cups
¾ cup butter, softened (1 ½ sticks)
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 ¼ cup Bob's Red Mill GF biscuit & baking mix (has xanthan gum and baking powder in it)
          (note from 12/2011:  Bob's Red Mill worked better than a different mix used this year!)
1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup apricot jam


Place dried fruit and 2/3 cup brandy in a bowl with a tight-fitting cover.
Let it sit at least overnight (or up to 1 week), stirring/shaking it occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8” round, 3” high cake pan.
Line bottom and sides of pan with one sheet of parchment paper. (I scrunch it in.)

Using a heavy duty mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl and beat again until it’s uniform in texture.

In a separate bowl, mix the baking mix and spices. Add this to the butter-sugar-egg mixture and blend. Add your marinated fruit and stir until it’s well-combined.

Scrape this mixture into your parchment-lined pan. Press it into the pan and smooth the top surface with wet fingers. Sprinkle the slivered almonds evenly on top, and press them into the batter slightly with wet fingers. The batter may be even with the top of your pan. That’s okay.

Bake your cake for approximately 1 ¾ hours. A tester inserted into the center needs to come out clean. Pour the remaining 1/3 cup brandy over your hot cake.

Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before transferring it to a plate.

Place the apricot jam in a microwaveable custard cup. Microwave it on high for 30 seconds or until warm. Spread this over the top of your cake. Allow it to soak in a while and cool, then you can cover it with plastic wrap for storage.


You will need to start this cake at least 1 day ahead.
Use a serrated knife and a sawing motion for slicing purposes.
Store it covered, but beware: everyone will continually nibble at this cake!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Pierogi

Like the star on our tree?

Last year we couldn't find gluten free pierogi for our Christmas Eve dinner.  It was our first year dealing with gluten issues and we really didn't know what we were doing!  I asked the "Silly Yaks" list, which has been a wonderful source of information, which led to this recipe, which I continue to tweak.  If you know more about gf pierogi than I do, please drop me a line and let me know any tips.  I'll surely appreciate it!

This is a wonderful team-building experience for the holidays! 
Try making pierogi with your gluten free loved one!

HH's Gluten Free Pierogi  (makes about 2 dozen)

1.  Make your filling:

Take 2 lbs of potatoes and boil them until soft.  Drain.
Mash them with ~6 oz of sharp cheddar cheese
and some salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.
The mixture will be stiff.
Set it aside.

2.  Make your dough:

Put in your heavy duty mixer:

2 cups Bob's Red Mill GF flour blend,
1 cup rice flour,
2 tsp xanthan gum, and
1 tsp salt. 

Blend these dry ingredients.
Add 2 beaten eggs and blend.

Add about 2/3 cup of cold water in a thin stream, blending all the while.
You want to just add enough water to get the mixture dough-like.
I needed just an extra tablespoon or so for this year's batch.

3.  Assemble the pierogi:

Put the dough on a plate, covered with a damp cloth.

Have ready:
The plate, the dough, and a damp cloth,
lots of counter space,
lots of wax paper,
      (Note from 12/2011:  A silicone mat was very helpful to roll the dough on!)
a full can of cooking spray,
your rolling pin,
your dough,
a knife for lopping off pieces of dough to roll,
a 4-inch diameter crumpet ring,
a spatula for picking up your circles of dough,
your filling,
a plate to do the filling on,
a teaspoon for putting on the filling,
a fork for sealing, and
a platter to put the pierogi on.

Roll out the dough
between two pieces of wax paper sprayed with cooking spray,
to "pasta thickness."
You will need to frequently change the wax paper and spray it each time.
Cut out 4-inch circles with the crumpet ring.
Pass this to your pierogi partner who will fill it.

The pierogi partner places a small amount of filling near the center of the circle
and then folds the circle in half,
sealing the edges with a fork.

4.  Take a break:

Eat up the remaining mashed potato mixture for lunch or a snack.

5.  Cook the pierogi:

Heat up your cast iron skillet.  Have a pair of TONGS ready.  Do not use a spatula. 
These are slippery little devils!  (Ask how I know.....)

Using a combination of olive oil and butter, saute the pierogi until brown.

(This year I used some Earth Balance margarine.)

(I have previously been afraid to boil these, figuring it is safer to brown them in the pan to keep them from falling apart!  In 12/2011, however, I boiled a few for 3-5 minutes, or until they float, and they were fine!)

6.  Cook up onions:

Chop up 1-2 onions.
Saute these in olive oil/butter, also!

7.  Layer your dish.

Layer the cooked pierogi in a microwaveable dish
with sauteed onions, and
a little bit of water.

Another idea is to layer it in a small crock pot if you only need to hold it a few hours.
In general, heat up when you are ready to eat them, unless you are eating them right away.

Don't omit the water!  The pierogi will be hard without it, especially if you are using a crock pot.

Another idea is to layer it in a small crock pot if you only need to hold it a few hours.

Here are some photos:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Chicken Curry Stew

I am tired today.  I have been doing some holiday baking, wrapping, shopping, and card-writing.  There is still a lot more to do.  I am sure the reader can relate.

Today John went off with his friends for a little holiday sightseeing and shopping in Newport.  I told him I would have a nice dinner when he came home, for him and his friends.  What to serve four young adults when you aren't quite sure when they are coming?

The crock pot is tailor-made to days like this.....

This was the second time I made the following chicken curry stew.  When you see a range of amounts, it reflects the first time I made it and the second time I made it. 
(I added more vegetables for more diners.) 

I never used coconut milk before this recipe, and was pleasantly surprised at how this came out!

HH's Chicken Curry Stew
(Serves 6-8)

Put the following in your crock pot:

1-1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into chunks,
1 onion, chopped,
1 to 2 potatoes, cut into small chunks,
9 to 16 oz frozen baby lima beans,
zero to 16 oz of sliced carrots (or baby carrots),
1 cup to a full 13-oz can of light coconut milk,
1 12-oz can diced tomatoes (I like mine fire roasted!),
1 Tbs cumin,
1 Tbs curry powder, and
1 tsp salt.

Mix it up.

Put the cover on your crock pot. 
Set it to high for 5 hours, or low for 10 hours.

Wave bye-bye as you allow your crock pot to do the work.
Serve with some parsley or cilantro on top as a garnish.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Easy Unwind Ahh-melet

Brrr!  Baby, it's cold outside!

And it's busy these days!

Recently I got home from my Zumba class to an empty house. 
I wanted a nice dinner but no fuss.  It was just me that night.  Hmmm....

I took out my 6-inch cast iron skillet and whipped up a nice omelet right on the spot. 
It was easy, fast, and satisfying. 
The 6-inch size turned out to be perfect for a one-egg omelet. 
(BTW, the 8-inch was perfect for a two-egg omelet when I made one earlier.)

Easy Unwind Ahh-melet

In a 6-inch skillet, heat up 1/2 Tbs oil on medium heat.

Scramble up an egg with 1 Tbs water
(This is a trick we learned years ago at a food show.  It makes the egg fluffier.)

Add the egg-water mixture to your pan. 

Sprinkle the egg with garlic powder and your seasonings of choice
(I like Italian seasoning.)

Once it's looking kind of set, layer on your filling. 
Check your refrigerator....what do you have? 
I cut up a mozzarella stick and sprinkled it all with parmesan to make a cheese omelet. 

Carefully fold the omelet over and let it cook a minute or so.

Flip it over and cook it a little more.

Light a candle.  Serve with your favorite relaxing music. 
I turned on Josh Groban. 
I also recommend a nice cup of decaffeinated tea. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: Take-Along Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

In Manchester, Connecticut, there is a local icon known as "Shady Glen."  They have fabulous ice all-time favorite brand.  UConn ice cream is a close runner-up, to me.   This is understandable, since Shady Glen learned to make ice cream from UConn. 

This little elf reminds me of the holidays.  At each of the two Shady Glen locations, elves are painted on a mural on the wall.  Time stands still in these soda fountains.  The waitresses wear old-fashioned waitress dresses.  Soda is made with syrup and soda water.  The real thing. 

You can see this guy is enjoying an ice cream treat as well as a "crispy cheeseburger."  The recipe for the crispy cheese is a carefully guarded secret.  Some day I will have to figure out how to do this.  I will put it in a gluten free bun. 

The ice cream, purchased in a pre-packed half gallon container, in appropriate flavors like vanilla and pumpkin, worked out fine for my GF family member.  I definitely recommend them.  Pumpkin is my personal favorite. 

Anyway, do you know what smart elves make to bring to Christmas parties?

They are quite busy getting ready for the holidays.  There are cards to write, presents to wrap, decorations to assemble, and menus to prepare.  They need something easy to bring to a potluck gathering.

Enter:  the delicious but simple Kielbasa and Sauerkraut!!!

Peter knows this is an easy dish.  "Honey, we're going to -----'s for their annual Christmas party!  I told them we'll bring kielbasa and sauerkraut."

This is good. 

The last party we went to, I had no leftovers to bring home.  If you use a brand of kielbasa that is gluten free (I happened to use John Morrell), you have a gluten free dish until the rest of the group descends on it.  Before we left for the party, I set aside a plate for John to have when he was home the next day.  He appeared to be eternally grateful.  We have yet another party to attend in a few days, and I will do the same then.

HH's Take-Along Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

Take 3 14-oz gluten free kielbasas.

Slice them into 3/4" slices.

Take one 2-lb package of refrigerated sauerkraut.  Cut a corner off the bag and drain it.  Fill the bag once with water and drain it again to reduce the salt content. 

In a crock pot, layer:

1 cut-up kielbasa,
1/2 the bag of sauerkraut,
another cut-up kielbasa,
the rest of the sauerkraut, and
the last cut-up kielbasa.

Cover.  Cook 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.

Bring to your holiday party!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Apple Pie Minus the Crust

This is a photo from Newport, RI, last weekend.  It's so beautiful to go along Ocean Drive and look at the water.  You can see my shadow as I took this photo.  It was pretty cold outside, however, so we didn't linger much.

We enjoyed an event put on by the Newport Winery, where you get to taste the wines and other goodies from vendors.  We got some nicely decorated bottles to give for the holidays.  I also picked up a pretty bracelet from a sweet school-aged girl who was selling her wares as her mother sat by her.  You have to hand it to this enterprising young lady!

Most of the food items at a place like this are not gluten free, but one vendor sold spiced pecans that are all gluten free.  I got a prepackaged bag from him.

Vegetables, fruits and nuts are naturally gluten free.  I have started making more and more fruit desserts for this reason.  If you take a pie recipe, skip the crust, and use GF flour, tapioca or cornstarch for a thickener, you have a pretty healthy dessert that is lowfat.  Yesterday I made this one.  It came out great.  I used the 10-inch cast iron skillet and put the dessert into dishes as soon as it was fairly cool.  If you want to allow it to sit longer than that, you can use a regular pie plate.  Don't store foods in your cast iron skillet!

Apple Pie Minus the Crust

(Serves 5-6)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease your 10-inch skillet or a pie pan.

Combine in a large bowl:

6-7 cups peeled and sliced cooking apples,
1/2 cup sugar,
2 tsp cinnamon,
2 Tbs quick cooking tapioca,
1/4 cup raisins,
1/4 cup craisins, and
1/4 cup water.

Pour this mixture into your skillet or pie pan.
Bake 30 minutes uncovered.
Cover with a sheet of foil and bake 15 min. more.
Spoon into 5-6 dessert bowls.

Top with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

This picture doesn't really do it justice.  The tapioca didn't really look like that.....the resulting dish was smooth and tasty!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flying Off the Handle: HH's Family Favorite Beef Stew

This garlic press has a story. 

Look closely at it.  After you read the story you will want one.

See the little garlic papers?

A number of years ago, I went to a Pampered Chef party.  (No affilliation.)

The Pampered Chef consultant demonstrated their remarkable garlic press.  You put a garlic clove in it, without bothering to peel the garlic clove.  Press it through...and presto!  The garlic presses out, the paper stays in!

"Cool," I thought.  "I didn't know you could do that.  I have a good quality garlic press at home, and I'll bet that will work fine."

I went home. 

I tried it.

Apparently, a "good quality garlic press" may not be the best garlic press!

I called the Pampered Chef consultant.

You see the results above. 

This tool is made by Zyliss, by the way.  For what it's worth....

I decided to make our "family favorite" beef stew recently.  I have used other beef stew recipes but my family has always favored this one.  I found it was easy to use gluten free flour in this recipe.....I just substituted it 1:1; and the stew was just fine.  No worse....just as delicious.

Anyway, I had a lot of garlic in my cabinet. 

I went a little overboard on the garlic.  (Can you go overboard on garlic????) 
That darn press makes it so easy.....

HH's Family Favorite Beef Stew

Serves 6, at least....reheats well....

Place 1-2 lbs. of lean stew beef in the crock pot.

Add 1/2 cup GF flour (I used Bob's Red Mill) and stir to coat the meat.

Add:  1/2 tsp pepper,
1 1/2 cups beef broth,
1 tsp GF Worcestershire sauce,
2 cloves garlic (or equivalent of garlic powder)....or more?
1 tsp paprika,
4 carrots (sometimes I use a pound!), sliced....or even a pound bag of baby carrots....
2 onions, chopped (somehow this tastes better),
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks,
2 tsp Gravy Master, and
1 tsp Dijon mustard.

Stir it all to mix.

Cover and cook the equivalent of 10-12 hours on low (or 5-6 hours on high).

Optional additions:
   One can chick peas (garbanzo beans)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Quick and Easy Vegetable Rice Medley

I have been getting a lot of Christmas shopping done.  I also started wrapping, placing the finished items in Katie's old room.  Today Peter is putting up the outdoor decorations; I will place the candles in the windows and the wreaths on the doors.

Here is a quick and easy recipe that I devised when the kids were small.  Easy to ensure it's gluten free, reheats like a charm, tastes delicious.  Try it during this busy time of year!

HH's Quick and Easy Rice Vegetable Rice Medley

Take your 12-inch skillet.
Cook 1 chopped onion in 1 Tbs olive oil.
Add 1 cup of rice.  I used "Royal Blend".  Cook and stir to let it brown slightly.

Look at your rice container's directions.  How much liquid does it recommend for one cup of rice?  Mine recommended 1 1/2 cups of liquid, so I used 1 cup of GF chicken broth, 1/2 cup of water, and one GF chicken bouillon cube.  When I have used "converted rice," I used 2 1/2 cups of water and two of the bouillon cubes.  What you use depends on what you have on hand....but I always use either bouillon cubes with water, and/or chicken broth.  (You want a flavorful dish!)

Add your liquid stuff to your pan.  It will immediately careful!!!  (Go slowly and step back!)

Add some parsley for color.  About a tablespoon.

Cover and simmer 10 min.

Add 2 cups of frozen vegetables.  I used peas with mushrooms.

Add 1-2 cups of cut up cooked chicken or ham, if desired.  For today's version I cut up 12 oz. of little ham steaks.  Other times I have used a 9-oz package of Purdue "Short Cuts." 

Cover again and simmer 10-20 min more on low, or until the liquid is absorbed.  You need to keep an eye on it to make sure the temperature is right and you stop cooking when it's done.

Add 1/4 cup parmesan; mix well and serve.