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:

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.

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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Maple Baked Ricotta

The trees in New England are looking great right now!

I love ricotta.  It isn't unusual for me to purchase ricotta, forget about using it, then decide I need to use it right away before it expires.  I need an EASY recipe for doing this!

The last time I had this problem, about a week ago, I researched and found a recipe for caramelized ricotta pudding.  Seemed easy enough.  Except that when I went to caramelize the sugar, something went wrong.  It didn't get caramel colored, and instead of being a nice gooey mass at the bottom of my custard cups, it was a solid brick of white. 

Enough of that.

The ricotta custard itself, however, was quite tasty. 

Hmmmm.....why not just bake the ricotta like a custard or pie filling, and leave it at that?  If I added a bit of flour, and used the right amount of eggs, it would be nice and firm to cut and serve in squares. 

The twist in this recipe comes with using maple syrup as the sweetener.  If you don't have real maple syrup, the kind from real maple trees, try substituting honey and call this Honey Baked Ricotta. 

I can see this as a dessert, but also a breakfast item, or a snack.

Maple Baked Ricotta

Preheat the oven to 350.
Spray an 8x8" square glass baking pan with GF cooking spray.

Take one 15-oz package of ricotta, and
place it in a mixing bowl with
1/4 cup of REAL maple syrup,
2 Tbs gluten free flour,
3 eggs, and
1 tsp vanilla.

Blend with a hand mixer until nice and smooth.

Pour the mixture into the pan.

Dust it with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake 30 minutes.

Cool.  Refrigerate.

Cut into 6-9 squares.

Serve drizzled with more maple syrup
(And maybe some whipped cream, like we used!)

Hubby really loved this.....we each had two helpings!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Travel Trailer dining with style!

The Hot Handle family has had a very busy spring and summer, as evidenced by the lack of posts from that time.  The summer culminated in a two week road trip from New England to Albuquerque and back, to bring our son to grad school at UNM.  We had already been thinking of purchasing a small travel trailer, and the idea of this trip got us to actually do it.  It's only 18 feet, but very comfortable inside.  It has a small propane stove which was perfect for quick skillet dinners.

We picked up local foods and used an all-purpose lid with my 10" cast iron skillet.  We carted along our own olive oil and an all-purpose mesquite spice mix.  It turned out to be a little spicier than I expected, but no one complained. 

The basic recipe (no measuring!) goes like this:  Heat up a glop (probably two tablespoons) of olive oil.  Add about 3/4 pound of meat and an onion.  Cook and stir it up a bit.  Add vegetables.  Add a little of your spice mix, until it "looks right" to you.  Cover pan and let it steam until it's all cooked through.  Uncover and cook until any excess liquids have evaporated, if necessary.  Serve.  Sprinkle with parmesan, if desired.   

I had a rule:  no leftovers were allowed.  This proved to be no problem.

In Virginia, our dinner consisted of chicken tenders, an onion, a green pepper, and snow peas.

In Tennessee, we had beef, onion, potatoes, and sugar peas.

In Arkansas, we whipped up smoked pork with onion, potato, and black-eyed peas.  (This is what the guys are enjoying in the above photo!)

In Oklahoma, we stirred together kielbasa, onion, potato, and cabbage (just a pre-shredded package of cole slaw mix). 

Once in Albuquerque, we dined three nights at a wonderful Italian restaurant that serves excellent gluten free food:  Paisano's.  I can't thank this place enough.  It was awesome. 

Now home, we are continuing the travel trailer skillet dinners, since they were so delicious.  Below is a photo of one I recently made, with chicken sausage, onion, potato and a package of frozen chopped spinach. 

If you want to find out more about our travels and life at UNM in Albuquerque, please check out John's blog:

Oh, one last thing to tell you:  we stopped - twice - at a Lodge Logic factory outlet along route 40 in Tennessee.  Couldn't resist.  I splurged and got myself the clear tempered glass lids for the 10 and 12-inch skillets.  Hey, how often am I in Tennessee?

Happy cooking!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gluten Free Ricotta Squares!

I have had quite a run of working nonstop.  Last weekend I finally had a chance to look at what has been in my refrigerator.  You know:  The stuff you realize must be used NOW, or never.

I had two pounds of whole milk ricotta, originally intended for some sort of lasagna.

John and I pulled it out.  It wasn't beyond the sell by date by much. 
We opened it, inspected it, tasted it, and googled it. 

No reason not to use it!

I totally re-worked an old recipe for ricotta squares.  Two cups of wheat flour plus a cup of chopped nuts?  No way - just two cups of almond meal.  Two-thirds of a cup of margarine?  Forget it....1/2 cup of real butter!  A few more adjustments beyond that, and my first recipe didn't look much like the one I created.  Better yet?  It was gluten free.

The look on my family's faces told me I was right on.  Very blog-worthy. 

Gluten Free Ricotta Squares
(Serves 12-16)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Put 2 cups of almond meal/flour into a bowl.
Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar
and 1/2 cup of butter (softened).

Use a pastry blender to make little dinky morsels of butter
mixed in with the dry ingredients.

Press ~3/4 of this mixture into the bottom of a 9 X 13 glass baking dish.
Put it in your preheated oven for 10 min, then let it sit for 5 min.
(Leave the oven on!)

Meanwhile, in another bowl,
mix 2 pounds of whole milk ricotta,
four eggs,
a cup of sugar,
about a teaspoon of lemon extract,
about a teaspoon of grated lemon peel, and
about a teaspoon of vanilla.

(Seriously, I didn't measure the flavorings, I just guesstimated!)

Pour this mixture over the pre-baked (and partially cooled) crust.
Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the top of the ricotta stuff.

Pop it all in the oven again.
Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the ricotta comes out clean.

Let it cool pretty much, then refrigerate.

Cut into squares.
Top each serving with a little whipped cream. 
Observe the faces as your family bites into this!

Now:  Aren't you glad you check my blog?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Listen More, Talk Less

Most of us have heard this advice:  Listen more, talk less.

It goes along with the idea that we have two ears and one mouth,
so we should listen twice as much as we talk. 

Yesterday I couldn't talk at all.

It started on Wednesday when I felt a cold coming on. 
On Friday night, we were driving home from a family gathering.
It all went downhill on that ride home.

The next day, the only way I could talk to my Dad on the phone was to have hubby put it on speaker mode, and I pantomimed or whispered information to relay to him. 

I always think it's rather ironic when the speech-language pathologist can't talk. 

We went to a fundraiser on Saturday afternoon.  I toted along a pad of paper and the above cover page.  This only worked so well.  Communication isn't a one-way street. 

My voice improved slightly in the afternoon.  That was nice, but I felt a little guilty about going against the standard advice for "vocal rest." 

On the way home, we stopped for dinner.  My voice was declining again. 
Restaurants tend to be notoriously loud, so talking to hubby, who was seated right next to me, was impossible.  All my comments had to be made by writing.

It made me very grateful for reading and writing skills.

Today I am better, kind of croaking like a frog.  Hopefully I will be able to go to work tomorrow and lead my charges in their speech and language sessions. 

So what did I learn from this?

  • Sometimes it's good to not talk, as in leaving a dumb remark alone.
  • We really do need to talk, and communication impairments are somewhat isolating, even if the rest of your body is functioning okay.
  • It's a lot more fun to sing along in church than to stay quiet because you're croaking. 
  • Be thankful for your voice!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Pins From Lynn"

I'm lucky to have an awesome family all around. 

As is noted earlier in this blog, my Mom passed away in early 2012. 
She was a cool lady.

Anyway, she left behind an impressive array of whimsical pins.
Flowers, birds, bees, animals, snowmen, butterflies, dolphins....
I and many others would purchase pins in our travels to give Mom as gifts.
She herself picked up many pins on vacations, or when seeing something special.

You never saw Mom not sporting a pin on her left lapel.

With all these pins, I had an idea.
Perhaps friends and family would like a pin or two.
We decided to have a "pin party," titled, "Pins From Lynn."

Friends and family were invited to come yesterday,
have cookies and coffee or tea, and select a pin. 
Mother's Day weekend seemed to be an appropriate time to do this in her memory.

A box was available for a free will donation
to help area patients undergoing cancer therapy.

We collected a good sum!

People really seemed to like the idea,
and I got to see some relatives and friends that I wish I could see more often.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
I hope you like this idea, too.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Brownies for Cinco de Mayo!

The recipe can be found here.
It uses Betty Crocker Gluten Free Brownie mix, and Cinnamon Chex cereal.

These are delicious!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

If you want to see a rainbow, you gotta have rain.

Hubby and I decided to go for a walk last night.  I looked out and saw that the back porch was wet, but it didn't seem to be raining at the time.  I had partially cleaned up from dinner.  I'd finish after we returned.  We should seize the moment!

After grabbing jackets, we headed down the street, looping around the cul-de-sac. We were homeward bound when we looked at the sky.

"I wonder if there's a rainbow,"  Hubby mused.  We looked around and, sure enough, a faint rainbow was in the sky, opposite the sun.

As we watched, the rainbow became clearer.  We could see all the colors, even the violet.

All I had was my cell phone, so I took photos with it.  It worked!

We stood there a while, admiring nature's beauty.  What had started as a mist was turning into a light rain.

"Oh, it's raining,"  I pouted.

"Well, if you want to see a rainbow, you gotta have rain." 

So true. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I have been bird-watching this weekend!

No, not outside.....from my computer!

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, has an awesome Red-Tailed Hawk nest webcam.
Click here to see the Red-Tailed Hawk nest.
I'm rather partial to these hawks.
(Hubby would like a few in our yard to take care of our chipmunks!)

The hawk babies are expected to hatch sometime during the week of April 13th.

As I stared at the hawks and read the chat going on, I found out about the Bald Eagle cam.
This one is in Norfolk, VA.
Click here to see the eagle's nest.
There aren't any eggs yet, but I'm sure there will be soon.
There have been some amazing close-up views of the happy couple.

Following that, I learned about the penguin cam.
It's in Sea World in San Diego, California.
Click here to see the penguins.
I laughed out loud as they waddled around.
Futhermore, I wasn't aware that they made so much noise!

My daughter loves penguins, which is why she made the
penguin ring-bearer's pillow for her wedding,
pictured above.

Finally, I found a webcam on a hummingbird nest!
Click here to see the hummingbird nest.
This is in Orange County, California.
Babies are due soon!

All this is very addictive.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

White Sauce, Gravy, and Condensed Soups

I have been doing a little research on making white sauce.

It's not any harder than making gravy!

For gravy on Thanksgiving, I have used the technique set forth by
"GlutenFreeGirl," here. 

I used her proportions of
1/4 cup butter,
1/4 cup sweet rice flour, and
2 cups of turkey stock.

I don't like my gravy too light in color, so I add Gravy Master to this.
(I understand that Gravy Master is GF.)

What do you do when you need
a "can of condensed cream of mushroom soup" for a recipe?
Those certainly are not gluten free, for the most part.

This week I made a dish that called for just that. 

I did it this way:

I melted 2 Tbs of butter in a saucepan.
I stirred in 4 Tbs of rice flour.
I let it cook a while, stirring often,
until it started looking light tan in color.
(It's my understanding that this will
improve the flavor over uncooked flour.)

Then I took a 12-oz can of lowfat (2%) evaporated milk.
I -very slowly- mixed in 8-10 oz of this, stirring constantly.
(I did have a few lumps, but I smooshed them out with a spoon.
Next time I will use a wire whisk!)
I finally added 1/2 tsp of salt.
(You may decide to add more, to taste.)

My recipe called for "cream of mushroom soup."
I could have taken a can or jar of sliced mushrooms
and stirred it into the white sauce concoction, above.
Since it was all getting mixed together, anyway,
I just put it in with the rest of my ingredients. 

If you need a cheese sauce, you can stir 4 oz of shredded cheese into this mix,
along with some paprika and a pinch of dry mustard, if desired. 

If you want a thinner sauce, not the condensed soup version,
just add more liquid.

Not too difficult!
Give it a try!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lessons from Sudoku

Last summer I decided to learn to do Sudoku.

It was hard.
I just couldn't get it.

Despite the temptation to just give it up, I contemplated on this action a bit.

Do I tell my students to "just forget about it" when faced with difficult tasks?
Do we say to kids, "don't bother if it's frustrating" as they are attempting to read?

No, we break it down into little steps.
We find what a student CAN do, and proceed from there.

It was apparent that I needed systematic instruction.
I needed a book.
I found one that explained how to work a Sudoku puzzle, step-by-step.
I did a little bit each day.

By the end of the summer, I was doing pretty well.
By December, I was bored by my newspaper Sudoku.
They were too easy!

I got myself a daily Sudoku calendar.
These were definitely harder.

A few weeks ago I ran into a brick wall.
I was having a run at Sudoku failure. 
I lost my groove!

"Okay," I told myself.
"I'll just do one a day.
If I can't get it by the end of the day,
I will ditch it and try the next one the next day."

It worked!

Sudoku has reminded me of the importance of perserverance,
of taking baby steps, and
the fact that improvement is not linear.
Backslides are sure to occur.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Time together

Hubby and I took a little day trip today.  We went to Newport, RI, again. 

This time we went to Brenton Point early in the day.  The sun shone brightly and sparkled on the water.  It was beautiful.

It was also at a lower tide, so it provided a different view than my last visit.

In the afternoon, we wandered around the shops, and waited a half hour to get a seat for dinner even though it was only 4:00 in the afternoon.  The long holiday weekend, together with the beautiful weather, apparently brought people out in droves.

It was a good day.  I think we needed that time together, too.  It seems that sometimes we all get too caught up in our day to day lives.  We need to slow down and focus on each other for a change.

I've learned that time with your loved ones is a gift.  That's why it's called "the present."

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I did it yesterday.....I made ketchup!

When I researched making my own ketchup, I found that there are two ways:

1.  The quick and easy way with tomato paste, or

2.  The real old-fashioned way with fresh tomatoes.

I rather favored the quick and easy method.
I started with a recipe, but then
I adjusted the ingredients and method to my own desires.

The original recipe is here.

I put all this in a small saucepan:

1 6-oz can tomato paste,
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar,
1/4 cup brown sugar,
1 tsp garlic powder,
1/4 tsp freshly-ground allspice,
  (I only had whole allspice, so I used a mortar and pestle to grind it.)
1 tsp salt,
1 tsp molasses, and
~1/2 cup water.

I covered it and simmered it for 30-40 minutes on LOW.

Then I put it into a glass container and refrigerated it to make it cold.

The reviews?  Everyone liked it!
No one asked for the plastic bottle in the fridge, anyway.

Here is a photo with my iron skillet potatoes (from August 5, 2010, here.).

I didn't find any specific recommendations for refrigerator life,
but I suggest using this up within a week to be on the safe side.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stuffed Cabbage Soup

I absolutely love using my crock pot/slow cooker.  What a marvelous invention!  Throw foods together, turn it on, and come home later to a meal all ready.  If you're able to set the table ahead of time, that's even better.

I was surprised that I have not posted this recipe earlier.  It's one of my favorites.

To make it:

Brown 1-1/4 pounds of ground beef in your skillet.

Mix it in the crock pot/slow cooker along with:

14 oz. of cole slaw mix,
28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes,
1 onion, chopped,
32 oz. gluten free beef broth,
1/4 cup brown sugar,
1 Tbs lemon juice,
1/4 cup of rice, and
1/2 tsp salt.

Cook about 8 hours on low. 
I usually start my slow cooker on high for about two hours at noon,
then I turn it down to low from 2-6 pm.  Dinner is usually around six.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Farm Table - Restaurant Review

Backtrack to Spring 2010:  We were heading home from a day trip.  John had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease for less than six months.  We were still figuring out all this gluten free stuff.  The last thing I wanted to do was go home and cook dinner for all of us, but I did.  As we drove along during a normal dinner hour, I fantasized about running across a restaurant that we had never seen before.  It would be appropriately titled, "Gluten Free Heaven." 

We never ran across that dream restaurant.  Until now. 

This past weekend we were heading for a trip to Woodstock, Vermont. 
On Friday evening, driving from Connecticut through Massachusetts via I-91,
we were minutes away from a new restaurant that I had spotted on Facebook,
touted as specializing in gluten free and organic foods. 
(Not everything on the menu is gluten free, but a lot is.) 

Forget the organic.  Really?  They understand gluten free?

We decided to stop there. 
Courtesy of John's cell phone with internet,
we called the restaurant and secured a reservation. 

Wow.  This place was stunning from the outside.

Inside, we were greeted by a cozy fireplace.

The wait staff wore blue checked shirts and standard blue jeans. 
The cloth napkins held the same blue check pattern as the shirts.

We looked over the menu, and asked a few questions about ingredients. 
Our server was gracious about conferring with the chef, returning with the requested information.

There was a lot to choose from. 
We could have spent sizeable amounts on dinner entrees. 
But we were heading for a weekend with lots of food. 
Lighter seemed appealing. 

We decided to share two gluten free pizzas among the three of us. 
This meal was certainly a good deal.

One pizza was with mushrooms and sauteed spinach and garlic cream. 
This proved to be quite tasty.

The other was all veggies, with artichokes, roasted mushrooms, and roasted peppers.

These two pizzas proved to be more than enough for the three of us. 
John asked for a doggie bag for the last two slices. 
These were given to us in a cool biodegradable package!

He ate these cold for lunch the following day.  I'm told they were delicious.

As I was sipping from my water glass, I remarked about its flavor. 
Turns out the water is from their own well, then filtered. 

The building is heated and cooled with geothermal technology.

We were so impressed with this place that we decided to visit it again on our way home.
We planned to stop by for Sunday brunch.
We arrived at 1:30 pm, a busy time for the restaurant.
We had to wait a short while to be seated.

John and I ordered the Cobb salad, and hubby ordered an egg sandwich.
We sat back and waited.
And waited.

We did think it was odd that our order did not come in very quickly.
How hard can it be to whip up two salads and an egg sandwich?

Soon, our waitress returned.

"The egg sandwich was not up to our standards. 
Please accept this basket of gluten free breads while you wait."

Mmmmm.  How do they DO that? 
GF muffins that are crunchy on the outside, yet tender on the inside!

Meanwhile, we chuckled and giggled. 
How does an egg sandwich not be "up to standards?"
Probably it fell on the floor, or pehaps it burned to a crisp!
(Yes, we have a sense of humor here.)

Our food was again delicious. 
All of it was certainly worth the short wait.
The salad greens were fresh.
The salad itself was lightly dressed, which suited me fine.

And guess what is served with the egg sandwich?
House-made ketchup!
Nothing from a bottle!

We all had to taste this one!

It was good.
Now I have to research how one makes their own ketchup.
This would be cool to have at a family burger night!

We will definitely return to the Farm Table Restaurant.
It's on Route 5, just off of exit 28 of I-91,
in Bernardston, Massachusetts.
(413) 648-5200

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Angels Watching Over Me

I believe in angels.

Sometimes things just can't be explained.
Some will say it's coincidence.
But how do we really know?

I have hints in the past of my deceased grandfather interceding on my behalf.

Now I have another heavenly being watching over me. 
(Technically, people who die and go to heaven become saints, not angels.)

My dear Mom passed away on January 1, 2012.
We will all miss her.

Since then, my Dad has experienced wonky things with the clocks.
He thinks it's her doing.
Then again, she always had a sense of humor.

When I came home from the burial yesterday,
I found an interesting e-mail on my work site.
It seems that a project that I requested grant money for may be reconsidered.
Did Mom whisper in someone's ear?
I'll never know, but it's a comforting thought.
Even if I don't receive the grant in the end, it's okay.

I have angels watching over me.

If you have an angel story, I'd love to hear it.
Please share in the comments below.