This part of my life began when my very sick partner was diagnosed with Celiac. Even the slightest exposure to gluten can make him very ill for several days, so I have pursued gluten-free options with thorough aggression. In the U.S. a recent surge of gluten awareness means we have more choices than ever, but it still means hunting and analyzing and tracking down parent companies. After several years now of doing so, I want to share my tricks and tips with others who are still struggling.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Recipe Box: Homemade Chicken Noodle/Chicken and Rice Soup

This was a mainstay comfort food of our childhood, and every Thanksgiving after the carcass had been plucked nearly clean she would get out the stock pot and make gallons of turkey noodle soup for the freezer.

You’ll need:

leftover chicken or turkey with bones
6-8 carrots
6-10 stalks of celery
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
either noodles or rice

Large stock pot with lid.

If you’re making the stock to serve with noodles use 3 stalks of celery. If you’re using rice, use the 5 stalks. As mom put it, “for some reason rice always wants more celery.” Use the whole celery stalk (leaves and all) for best flavor in the stock.

Strip any pieces of meat left on the bones.  Discard any stuffing or herbs still in the cavity.  Otherwise skin, bones, leftover pan drippings and nameless wobbly bits go in the stock pot, meat goes in a separate bowl you stick in the fridge until the stock (broth) is made.

Chop 4 carrots, 3-5 stalks of celery and onion into big chunks (about 1”) and toss into the stock pot with the bones etc. Peel and crush the cloves of garlic and add that as well.

Add water until everything’s covered. Heat to a simmer then cover, turn down to low and let simmer for 3-4 hours. You can also toss everything in the crock pot and let simmer all day or overnight, but you won't get as much stock unless you have a very large crock pot. I make this during the week in stages, first night I make the stock, the next night I make the soup.

Strain through a colander into a bowl. Go through the colander and pick off any additional bits of meat you missed the first time. Toss them in the stock pot, then discard everything else you strained out. Pour the contents of the bowl back into the stock pot or freeze to use later.

Turn the heat back up to medium until the stock is simmering.  Chop remaining celery and carrots into bite-size pieces, and add to pot.  Add the meat you set aside earlier plus noodles or rice, and simmer according to rice or noodle package directions (about 20 minutes for white rice, 40 for wild rice, 10 for rice noodles, 15 for corn/quinoa noodles). Salt and pepper to taste.

Either the stock or the soup can be frozen in freezer-bags. It’ll last longer if you make sure there’s no air trapped in the bag. The stock can be frozen in ice cube trays, then bagged for use in flavoring rice, pasta or sauces.

The traditional chicken soup recipe leaves a lot of room to play with flavors. Try adding artichoke hearts or spinach in the last ten minutes of cooking, or maybe a little lemon juice, black pepper, wild rice and fresh asparagus. Up the garlic content and add cilantro and chili peppers for a cold and flu soup. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Perfect Gluten-Free, Gum-Free Sugar Cookies (a.k.a. Cut-Out Cookies)

This is adapted from my Grandma Harris's recipe, which was a staple in our household every Christmas.  The kids would get to decorate the shapes any way we liked and we always burned a batch for dad (who still insists that he likes them better that way).

In my lack of advance planning, I found out that I don't actually own any cookie cutters.  I'm not sure how that happened!  It's possible that they were lost in the move, and I haven't attempted a gluten-free, gum-free adaptation for cut-outs since we came to Atlanta.  So these are boring old squares, waiting for yummy frosting!


1 1/2 cups superfine white rice flour
1 1/2 cups tapioca starch (plus extra for rolling)
1 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

For sugar cookies, you will also need 1/2 cup granulated sugar. For frosted cut-out cookies, you will need buttercream frosting (recipe at end of this post).


Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Cut in butter with a pasty cutter, pair of knives, or large fork until it is crumbly.
Add wet ingredients, mix well until smooth dough
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour
After it is finished cooling, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

For Cut-Out Cookies:

Dust a countertop and rolling pin with tapioca starch
Roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness
Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes
Place on ungreased cookie sheets at least 1/2 inch apart
Repeat until all the dough is used up

For Sugar Cookies:

Put a layer of granulated sugar in a bowl
Roll dough into 1 inch balls
Roll each ball in granulated sugar
Place on ungreased cookie sheet
Use a fork to press dough down in one direction, then again crossways to form a # pattern

For Both:

Bake at 350F for 8-12 minutes (less for softer cookies, more for crisper). Switch sheets after 5 minutes to keep them baking evenly. Baking time will depend on your oven. 

The resulting cookies will still be pale on top, but will be starting to brown around the bottom edges.  They will be more pale than you would expect from the same cookie made with wheat flour, so don't bake them too long and scorch the bottoms.

Let cool for five minutes, then slide a spatula under each to make sure they don't stick to the cookie sheet.  Let cool completely before frosting or handling too much.

Buttercream Frosting:

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Optional: Frosting coloring, sold in tiny jars in baking supply and craft stores. 

*for chocolate: 1/4-1/2 cup cocoa powder, to taste

 This is easiest in an electric mixer, but you can successfully make frosting by simply whipping it with a fork.  It will be much fluffier and easier to make in a mixer though.

Mix the softened butter and shortening
Mix in sugar 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until it is all incorporated before adding the next 1/2 cup 
       *tip: slow the mixer down when adding the sugar, or it will explode all over the kitchen
Mix in cocoa powder a tablespoon at a time until it tastes right for you
Mix in vanilla and cream
whip for one minute to fluff
Separate into batches for each color and mix in coloring*

*Use a toothpick to add coloring paste:  dip it into the paste, then run it through the frosting, using a fresh toothpick each time so that you don't contaminate the color.  A TINY amount goes a long way, but it will instantly stain anything else it touches (like counters, clothes, and skin).  You can use regular food coloring for pastel tints.

Frost the cookies at room temperature, but the leftover frosting lasts a week in the refrigerator or nearly forever in the freezer.  Let it return to room temperature before using again.