Category Archives: Recipes

A stew by any other name…

Growing up, I always had problems telling the difference between soups and stews. My mom’s beef soup looked exactly like her beef stew, except that the soup had noodles. And her wild rice chicken ‘soup’ is thick enough to hold a spoon vertically. Same for every bowl of knoephla soup I’d ever had (all five). My grandmother’s ‘stew’ is a thin, watery broth with star-shaped noodles.

You can see the problem here.

When I got older and started getting interested in cooking (read: was forced into the kitchen by parents who didn’t want brownies as chewy as jerky), my folks would look at me weird when I pulled out the noodles to make beef stew.

And then my parents set me straight:

Soup: /n/ A culinary broth that contains large hunks of meat and vegetables that is served warm. May contain noodles or rice.

Stew: /n/ A culinary broth that contains large hunks of meat and vegetables that is served warm. Does not contain noodles or rice. Broth is often thicker than soup.

Unless your mother tells you otherwise.

See? Vastly different.

This recipe comes from the little cookbook that came with my 1970s crockpot. The same little cookbook that I had to beg, wheedle, and practically arm-wrestle my mother to surrender. My logic: ‘I only have two cookbooks, one that I can’t use because the recipes are worthless! You’d deprive your daughter of a decent cookbook, the very cookbook that came with the very crock that you bequeathed to her, all because you want one single recipe?!’

Daughterly guilt won out.


  • 2 lbs of stew beef (sirloin or round steak), cut into small-ish cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, diced
  • 1 large can (1 lb, 12 oz.) of tomatoes, sliced
  • 3-4  medium-size potatoes, peeled and cut into hunks
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 whole clove, or 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Mrs Dash, original spice blend (or garlic & herb)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 can (12 oz.) of beer, or 1 1/2 cups of water (for GF)


  1. Trim fat from meat and slice into cubes about 1 inch to 1.5 inches.
  2. Dump all ingredients into a 3 quart crock pot and mix thoroughly.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours, or high for 5-6 hours. Stir periodically.

Makes about 8-10 servings.

Goes wonderfully with my garlic and cheese biscuits.


Celiac-happy potlucks

My church has a thing for potlucks. Not a-couple-crockpots-and-a-veggie-platter, but the good old-fashioned 10-foot-spread of casseroles and hotdishes and three kinds of that fruit-marshmallow-pseudo ‘salad’ stuff and fruit punch and coffee and FOOD. Call it a Midwestern thing, or some weird holdover from our denomination’s Lutheran roots (which is also arguably a Midwestern thing), but we like finding excuses for a potluck.

Congregational meeting? Potluck!

Baby shower? Potluck!

Pastor needs to talk to more than three people in the same room without them getting distracted by shiny objects? POTLUCK!

However, when I found out that the pastor’s son-in-law is a fairly sensitive celiac, suddenly I felt guilty for every potluck we threw. I mean, what’s the point of hanging out in the church basement with massive sprawls of food if you can’t eat it? If you have to make your own little snack and bring it just so your stomach doesn’t scream “FEED ME, SEYMOUUUUUR!” while you’re chatting it up with people? For a long while, my mom and I discussed bringing something that he could eat, but since we knew next to nothing about gluten issues, we were always too scared to try it. Plus, there’s probably some special hell reserved for people who mess with a preacher’s family (right next to child molesters and people who talk at the theater.)

This last Easter Sunday was different.

This time, a tray of fruity bread sat at the end of line, pieces all buttered and laid out, and a little sticky announced “Gluten-free cranberry-orange bread.” The pastor’s SIL took a piece, nibbled it, took another piece, and then scooped as many as he could fit in his hand.

And then he went back for a second round.

Plenty of non-celiacs partook of the bread too, because maybe 3 pieces were left by the end. Because I will be DANGED if I cannot enjoy a potluck!

(And I take twisted pleasure in making others submit to my dietary restrictions, even if they are nummy and secretly good for you.)

Oh yeah, I'm going to the special hell.


  • 2 cups flour or GF baking mix, sifted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp orange zest (grated orange peel)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tbsp veggie oil
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped (Dried cranberries work too)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9x5x3″ bread pan (i.e. a normal-sized loaf). I just lined it with wax paper.
  3. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the egg, orange zest, orange juice, and veggie oil. Mix together, and then add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir all ingredients by hand just until moist. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
  6. Pour batter into bread pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until done.
  7. Remove from pan and cool.

Makes 1 normal-sized loaf, or a couple small loaves.

By the way, if you want to be able to cut the bread into slices thinner than 1/2″, let the bread cool completely. As in overnight. Or it will crumble as your nom-happy family attacks the loaf and it’ll be half-gone before you can take it in for the church potluck that you specifically baked it for.

Spring = muffins!

The sun is shining, the grass is growing, kids are out driving their bikes around the block, the birds are chirping on my patio and driving the cats nuts…and I’m stuck inside a cube all day.

Something is not right here.

I mean, besides the fact that it’s April in the upper Midwest and we’re not fighting back floodwaters and slogging through mud and muck just getting around town. It’s April and we’ve had spring for a couple months now. That is just WEIRD.

(Ask me, I think even Winter got sick of winter up here and decided to fly south just for a change of pace.)

With spring perking up all over, it’s time to put away the soups and stews and start whipping up other sorts of munchies. The light happy fruity ones that beg to be served on a little bistro table on a patio, enjoying the warm sun and cool breeze.

Too bad all my patio stuff is locked away in a garage that I can’t open ’til my apartment company fixes the door that they broke.


At least I can stilll cook!

Perfect for breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, brunch...

Another trusted Betty Crocker recipe, this time spiced up with apple and streusel crunch topping.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour or Simply Savory GF baking mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or so)
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup apple, grated (or more)

For topping:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup broken nuts
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Fill muffin pan with baking cups, or grease the cups.
  3. Sift flour/baking mix, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon together.
  4. Add shortening, egg, milk, and apple.
  5. Stir just until the ingredients are blended together, then scoop into muffin cups. Sprinkle with topping mix.
  6. Bake 20-25 min until golden brown.

Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

Of books and bread

If you couldn’t guess by the title of today’s post, I finally saw The Hunger Games over the weekend.

Didn’t quite make it during opening weekend because, well, ICFA(!) was all last week, and I’m not too keen on crowds. Agoraphobic, not quite, but I’m from the upper Midwest. Our idea of a ‘traffic jam’ is a line of cars waiting to pass a combine on a two-lane highway. However, the massive turnout for Hunger Games warms the cockles of my heart. After all the (undeserved) hype for Twilight in the last couple years, I am glad to see a decent book series finally grab the spotlight again. It gives me hope that yes, America’s youth can recognize good writing when they encounter it.

[Before the flame wars begin…I taught first-year English at a local university for three years, one that so loved its English dept (and Psychology dept) that it let our building collapse. While we were still using it. Over Christmas break. I had some really awesome students, some really horrid ones, but most broke my heart because they excelled at nothing but mediocrity. I’m still recovering from the bitterness.]

[Also, vampires don’t sparkle. Makes it easier for Buffy to find them.]


The movie was awesome, and did very well by the book. Pacing was rushed in places, but ok. The casting was amazing, with the exception of Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. He was great, don’t get me wrong, but Haymitch is all about falling down drunk and staggering upright. Which to me means Robert Downey Jr. Or Tim Hutton from Leverage. Both of those men can play drunks, and drunks with gusto!

But the one who caught my attention the most and wouldn’t let go? Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. Such charisma! Such sincerity! THAT is Peeta.

The last book-to-movie character who so embodied the character for me was Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. Now that says something.

One of the main themes of The Hunger Games is food as a form of power, of control, even of obsession. And the longer I watched the movie, the more I thought about that, and of how I would so not survive living in Panem.

Why? Because BREAD is the main staple of district diets. And is the one food group that I can barely touch without getting sick.

So, in defiance of gluten and of the fictional Capital, I whipped up these little beauties to go along with my plethora of soups and stews.

Drop biscuits that would make even Peeta proud!

Again, these drop biscuits from Betty Crocker can easily be made with regular flour or the Simply Savory GF mix. The GF ones will be extra tender.


  • 2 cups flour or Simply Savory GF baking mix
  • 3 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp shortening, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • garlic powder
  • 1-2 cups sharp cheddar, grated (NOT the finely grated stuff)
  • chives


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Sift flour/baking mix, baking powder, and salt together.
  3. Melt the butter and shortening together in a small bowl and add to dry ingredients.
  4. Add milk. If the dough looks too dry, add a little more milk, but no more than 1 cup total.
  5. Add garlic powder, cheese, and chives to preference.
  6. With a spoon, scoop up hunks of dough and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Use the spoon to help shape the dough into rounder blobs.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.
  8. Brush biscuits with butter upon removing from oven.

Makes about 2 dozen biscuits, depending on size.

Goes great with beef stew. Probably even Greasy Sae’s.

I can has waffles?

Parental phone calls in the morning do not often bode well. Especially now that I’ve moved out of the house (again), am on my own, and am otherwise not immediately available to them. Mind you, I get along great with my folks, but a girl needs her space.

So when I hear my phone go off in the wee hours of a Saturday morning (i.e. before noon), it generally means one of the following:

  • “What are your plans for the day? (So I can get you do something for me?)”
  • “We screwed up something on the computer, again, and you work for a software company, so you must know about this weird error message I’m getting…”
  • “The cat/dog/resident turkeys just did the funniest thing!”
  • “It’s 3am and I’m just calling to make sure that you’re at your place and were not just part of the high-speed police chase that ended in our yard…” (Note: True story.)

But sometimes, I get to hear this:

  • “I made waffles.”

And instantly I’m out of bed, dressed, and out the door before anything else is said. Because if there’s one thing that can wake me out of my morning stupor (besides coffee), it’s the promise of my mother’s fresh-made waffles.

She has never been one to just follow the recipe, even a simple Bisquick version, and since I’ve had to go GF, that means she’s got carte blanche to experiment.

Funny thing about me and her. We HATE to cook, but love culinary experiments.

(Of course my dad likes it too – he gets to eat them.)

Waffles with apple topping

Normally, all of our waffles came from Bisquick, because it’s easy and we’ve always had Bisquick around, and lately, we spotted a special GF Bisquick mix. (*cue Hallelujah chorus*) However, on this particular Saturday, my mom didn’t much feel like driving all the way into the grocery store for a special trip to buy said GF Bisquick. Instead, she had the Simply Savory baking mix and, of course, the Betty Crocker cookbook.



  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups normal milk with 2 tbsp lemon juice mixed in)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups Simply Savory baking mix
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tbsp veggie/olive oil
  • 2 tbsp (or more) pecans, coarsely cut or broken
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • cinnamon


  1. Heat waffle iron while mixing ingredients.
  2. Beat eggs. Add milk.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together (baking mix, baking soda, baking powder, and salt). Beat in with eggs and milk.
  4. Beat batter until smooth. You might need to add more oil until the batter is the correct consistency. (“Until it’s not sticky” – quoth my mom.)
  5. Spray iron with cooking spray and bake.

Note: The waffles will be more tender than standard Bisquick waffles, and will probably come out darker than normal.

Note note: If your waffles come out charcoal, yur doin it wrong. And need to watch the iron more.

For topping, you can use the standard butter-n-syrup, or use fruit slices in sauce (my personal fave). The pic above uses apple pie filling, which means that one little waffle is an entire meal unto itself. I’ll share that recipe as soon as I figure out how to reduce it to a more manageable size. (The original recipe calls for 10 quarts of sliced apples.)

This GF cake is not a lie

Confession time!

I am not much of a desserts person. Particularly a cake person.

Sweets and sour candies I am all over, but cake? Eh, that’s not much of a temptation. Sure, I can admire the artistry of a wonderfully decorated cake, and Cake is part of my daily internet routine, but actually eating it?

Let’s just say GLaDOS‘s offer would fall on deaf ears.

I recall shortly after the first Portal came out and the ‘The cake is a lie’ meme was still on its first tour of the internet, my friends and I were discussing how we’d manage if the game was actually real and we were trapped in it. Conclusion: one friend would be hopelessly drawn in (she has never met a cake she didn’t love), a couple other friends would do okay, but my result? No temptation, therefore no problem.

Unless, of course, said offer was of yellow cake. Pillsbury yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting.

Because, dangit, THAT CHANGES THINGS.

Along with donuts, yellow cake is one of the first and most-mourned edibles on my thou-shalt-not list. Devil’s food cannot tempt me, angel food doesn’t fare any better, confetti has nothing to celebrate, and white is just kinda meh. However, this last weekend, I had a craving. An absolute must-have-NOW craving that demanded obedience.

(Don’t laugh. I’ve had cravings that resulted in chocolate chip cookies at midnight. On a school night. When I taught class at 8am the next morning.)

(No, I am not pregnant. Just female, and kinda weird in the head.)

(Second thought, go ahead and laugh.)

So…Betty Crocker to the rescue!

Betty Crocker's Rich Yellow Cake

This recipe comes from my facsimile edition of the 1950 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, a book that has been a staple of my grandmother’s kitchen, my mother’s kitchen, and now my kitchen. We’ve yet to encounter a recipe in here that we did not like.

Now, this is the original BC recipe, with the regular flour swapped out 1:1 for the Simply Savory GF mix. If you have another GF flour mix, it should work just fine, so long as you have a 1:1 ratio or can compensate for it. And, if you don’t need to be GF and want to make the regular cake, no prob there!

Note: If your GF baking mix or flour does not have xantham gum already included in it, you will need to add some. Rule of thumb seems to be 1/2 tsp xantham gum for every cup of GF flour, so for the larger recipe below, you’d need about 1 tsp and a pinch of xantham. (Yes, I did say ‘pinch.’ I was raised old school.)


For a 9″x13″ pan, or 2 9″ layer pans:

  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups GF baking mix
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For a 9″ square pan, or 2 8″ layer pans:

  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups GF baking mix
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Grease and flour the pan(s). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream shortening, butter, and sugar together until thoroughly mixed. It should look ‘fluffy’.
  3. Beat in the eggs with a hand mixer.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients (baking mix, baking powder and salt) together in a separate bowl, then slowly add to the wet mixture. Keep the hand mixer on the lowest setting unless you want your kitchen to look like a blizzard.
  5. Slowly add the milk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Pour batter into pans.
  7. Bake layer pans 25-30 minutes; square or rectangular pan 30-40 minutes. Cake is done when you insert a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean.

This cake does not cook up the same as a normal out-of-the-box yellow cake. Firstly, normal cakes raise in the middle; this one will deflate a little. Secondly, this cake tastes NOTHING like the out-of-the-box versions – it’s very moist, not as fluffy (because it doesn’t raise), and is a whole lot sweeter.

Still not my Pillsbury mix cake, but I am so not complaining.

Rebecca’s Ham and Potato Soup

If your family is anything like mine, news of an old-fashioned BLIZZARD means you stock up on food about two days early (because everyone else will do their shopping last minute), prep up a bunch of single-serving easy-to-reheat munchies, and sit back as the snow flies.

Also, if your family is anything like mine, that means you’ll be living on leftovers for a very nice while. Because you need to make room in the fridge before you can fit anything else in it. 🙂

So in that spirit – and because I bought too many potatoes for last week’s knoephla soup – I decided that I’d try a recipe that my mother picked up from one of her coworkers and politely pushed off on me to attempt. The end result is one of the easiest soups I have put together to date, and one of the most delicious. You know those boxes of instant mashed potatoes, the ones that come in flavors like Garlic & Herb, or Four Cheese, or whatnot? This soup tastes like what those WANT to be. It’s thick, it’s creamy, and very nummy!

Mashed potatoes, in soup form!

If you have a kid who absolutely loves mashed potatoes and hates veggies, or just have a bunch of fixins left over from your Easter/Christmas/Holiday/family get-together, this recipe is PERFECT.

Oh, and like all of my recipes, it’s very GF-friendly.


  • 6 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups of water or chicken broth (maybe more)
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1 lb ham, shredded or cut into strips
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • Mrs Dash, original spice blend
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use lactose-free)
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup – 2 cups shredded cheddar, or 1 lb Velveeta


  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, combine potatoes, veggies, ham, spices, and chicken broth. You might need to add more liquid until potatoes are nearly covered.
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer until meat is cooked and veggies are tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, gradually add milk to cornstarch and stir until well blended. Add to soup and cook until soup thickens.
  4. Turn off burner and add cheese to taste. (1 cup = slightly cheesy, 1 1/2 cup = cheesy, 2 cup = very cheesy!)
  5. Stir until cheese is melted.

Makes approximately 10 1-cup servings.

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