Monday, February 25, 2013

Amazing Slow-Cooker Potatoes

I needed a mostly make-ahead, quick-finish brunch recipe for after church yesterday.

Inspired by the skillets I love at Ann Arbor's Café Marie, and combining this family-favorite recipe with this technique, I ended up with mouth-watering potatoes and a great brunch-food base. Potato recipe first, and then I'll tell you how I made a meal out of it.

Amazing Slow-Cooker Potatoes

  • 2-3 lbs. thin-skinned (gold) potatoes, scrubbed, rinsed, and cut in 1/2" pieces
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed fine [optional]
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • generous sprinkling of garlic powder [optional]
  • 2 teaspoons medium-coarse salt
Put olive oil or butter in the slow cooker and turn it on high while you wash & cut up the potatoes.

Mix the seasonings together in a bowl.

When the butter in the slow cooker is mostly melted or the oil is warm, add the potatoes to the slow cooker and stir around to coat with the butter / oil. Add the seasoning mixture and stir to coat.

Put the lid on and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours.

Slow-Cooker-Potato Brunch (serves 6)
  • Slow-Cooker Potatoes, as prepared above
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 package baby spinach
  • grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half (I use kitchen shears)
  • cheddar cheese, grated [optional]
  • butter / oil for cooking
When the potatoes are done:

Cook 6 eggs in butter / oil in a skillet, sunny-side up.

Melt butter / heat oil in another pan (I used my enameled cast iron dutch oven); add spinach and grape tomato halves. Cook until spinach is wilted. 

Add spinach & tomatoes to potatoes (or vice versa), and stir to combine, along with cheese, if desired.

Top serving of potatoes/spinach/tomatoes with a sunny-side up egg.

Finish with a slice of the apple pie that your brunch guests brought. Yum!

Friday, February 22, 2013

GF Flour & Perfect GF/DF Pie Crust

GF Gluten-Free, DF Dairy-Free

This flour mix is wonderful for quick breads, pancakes, roux, etc. Use 1:1 for wheat flour substitution.

Gluten-Free Flour Recipe

Note: I don't add the baking soda or baking powder, as not all recipes call for these.

I recommend multiplying the recipe and storing it at room temp in an air-tight container.

The following flours/starches are made by Bob's Red Mill, available at Whole Foods and

White Rice Flour

Sorghum Flour

Potato Starch

Xanthum Gum (a little goes a long way, so don't like the price shock you!)

For the Tapioca Starch/Flour I use Ener G brand - available at Whole Foods,,


I got the basis for the pie crust recipe from the bottom of a Morrell Snow Cap Lard box - yes, lard. yum.

The Perfect Pie Crust
yield: 2 single crusts or 1 double pie crust

2 c Flour (Wheat or the above Mix)

1 tsp Salt

2/3 c Lard or cold Butter (in pieces)

5 or so Tbsp ice water (see note)

Note: Before I begin the recipe, I fill a small bowl with cold tap water, put an ice cube in it and pop it in the freezer. By the time I'm ready for the water, it's ice cold


Mix flour and salt.

Cut in lard or butter with pastry blender or forks until mix resembles small peas.

Add water a small amount at a time just until mixture sticks together when pressed agains the side of the bowl.

Lay 2 baking-sheet-size pieces of plastic wrap on counter. Divide mixture between each sheet. Gather plastic wrap and press dough into a flattened ball. Wrap the plastic wrap around the ball. Place both balls in the fridge to chill.

Lightly flour a Pastry Cloth and Rolling Pin Cover.

Roll out chilled pastry dough to 1/8" thick. Trim to size and invert into pie plate or freeze for later use.

Bake in pie plate at 450 degrees for 8-10 min, or follow your pie's recipe.

TO FREEZE FOR LATER USE: Place rolled dough on parchment paper and roll up paper. Place in a freezer ziploc bag. Freeze. Defrost on counter in bag, until soft enough to unroll, about an hour.


Yes, I use lard as a butter substitute in crusts for my dairy-allergic children. I tried going to a local  butcher in hopes of buying real (non-hydrogenated) lard. Unfortunately, he explained, since everyone's scared of lard, I'd be lucky to be able to buy the leaf-lard fat (to render myself) from a butcher who does their own slaughtering. Who knew. Well, there's an education for you. Real lard: Rarer than gold.

If you know of a source of real lard in the Twin Cities, please let me know!

I did find one source in Mankato: Prairie Pride Farm...also as expensive as gold (ok, not quite).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wheat Intolerance, with helpful links

About two years ago I started feeling old. I mean, older than I am. Every morning I would wake up with painfully achey joints. In addition, I was a lovely sight: swollen face and fingers. These symptoms would subside throughout the morning, but it certainly didn't make this non-morning person any more inclined to open her eyes each day.

To cut a long story short, I unintentionally cut wheat out of my diet for a couple days. When I realized I was feeling better and reviewed what I'd eaten, I started to put the pieces together.

Some further self-testing* confirmed my suspicions. Additionally, I discovered that the rebound-hypoglycemia I experienced, especially after eating high-protein whole wheat bread, was part and parcel of wheat intolerance. 

No aches, no swelling, and stable blood sugar resulting in a stable me? Yes please!

BUT WAIT I LOVE BREAD! Yes, it was hard. I would drive past Little Caesars, home of those delicious morsels of Garlic Cheese Bread, crying inwardly about how I would never again taste them. Soft pretzels, pizza, pasta (oh how I LOVE pasta), donuts, subs, tortillas (a good tortilla can be the best part of the burrito!)

I'm sure you're getting a mental image of me as a 300 lb carb-a-holic. Fortunately, I have a healthy BMI and reasonable self-control (sometimes). But I do love bread and this was no small sacrifice. 

Nearly two years down the road of wheat-avoidance (yes, I indulge every one in awhile) I have made some discoveries that I'd love to share with others trudging along this path. And, if you have any hints or recommendations, please feel free to share them!

Gluten-Free Bisquick Mix - makes great pancakes, but I don't recommend the pizza crust recipe.

Heartland Gluten-Free Pasta - amazon sells this as well, but it's much pricier. 

Bob's Red Mill - sells all sorts of flours/starches that when combined appropriately make great quick breads and pie crusts! (that will be another post)

Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers - best price at Sam's Club, but also sold at grocery stores and amazon

Bittersweet Bakery - located in Eagan, MN. All items are wheat/gluten-free! The mint brownie I had was a.m.a.z.i.n.g!

If you're looking for more information about wheat intolerance Wheat Belly is an easy, if fad-ish, read. 

Oddly enough, this book pointed me in the direction of alternative wheats. I'm sure this wasn't the author's intention (especially since he highlights how we are all dying from any and all wheat ingestion). However, I have recently tried baking bread with two of the alternate-wheat-flours he mentions: Spelt and Einkorn. Surprise, surprise, so far so good! No aches, swelling, rebound-hypoglycemia...yet. I'm cautiously optimistic, but not ruling out the possibility of greater exposure causing symptoms.

*I need to be careful how I approach any self-testing - and so do you! I'm currently pregnant with our fourth blessing and this is the first pregnancy in which my hormone levels have been normal and I'm not experiencing pre-term labor symptoms. Could this be related to my wheat-free diet? I strongly suspect so. My wheat symptoms all fall into the auto-immune category, so it makes sense to me that my hormone levels would also be disrupted by the wheat-triggered auto-immune response, and corrected by the absence of the irritant.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Allergen-Free Granola

I must start by giving credit where credit is due. I follow the bulk of THIS RECIPE, omitting the nuts.

If you have an allergy to coconut, this is not the recipe for you.

This recipe was born out of prayers for inspiration for a nutritious breakfast that everyone in our multiple-allergy family could eat. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

At the bottom I've included a list of where I've some of the more expensive ingredients, at the best price. If you know of a better price, please let me know!

For ingredients and directions for this granola recipe please see the link above, with this exception:

Omit the almonds and sunflower seeds*, substituting 1 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas), chopped. Add these at the end, along with the dried fruit, so they remain raw. I use Craisins, chopped, as the dried fruit in this recipe.

*While my children aren't allergic to sunflower seeds, they have developed hives due to cross-contamination of the bulk seeds. Additionally, I feel the sunflower flavor is overpowering in the granola. I much prefer the neutral flavor of the raw pumpkin seeds.

Baking time - Since ovens differ, this require a bit of experimentation. I found an initial bake of 13 min followed by 7 minutes to be perfect for my oven.
*Note - granola crisps as it cools. The granola is done baking when it has a light honey color. If baked past this point it will be bitter.

I've been playing around with the quantities of the sweet ingredients, trying to get them down to a minimum without compromising taste. For a start, I use unsweetened coconut flakes.

Best prices:

Coconut Oil - $18 for 29 oz ($.50/oz)

I know Trader Joe's sells this, I think it's more expensive there, but to be honest I'm not sure.

Coconut Flakes - $15 for 4, 12 oz bags

Unsweetened coconut has been hard to find. Please let me know if you know of somewhere else to find it! Additionally, these flakes are rather large and require chopping prior to adding to the recipe.

Raw Pumpkin Seeds - Trader Joe's, $6.50 for 1 lb.

This is the best price that I've found. It seems they they are universally $9/lb everywhere else.

Craisins - Sam's Club - $8 for 48 oz

Monday, February 18, 2013

DF/GF Creamy Potato & Bacon Soup

DF = dairy-free
GF = gluten-free


1 lb (ish) bacon, chopped, grease reserved
8 potatoes, chopped 1/2 - 1 inch (whatever your preference is)
1 cooking onion, chopped fine
generous dash Celery Seed
1 cup UNSWEETENED Coconut Milk (So Delicious brand has no coconut flavor!)
5 cups Chicken Broth


Boil potatoes in salted water, drain (see note, below)

Fry bacon,
Pour 4-5 Tbs bacon grease into Dutch Oven over med heat
Add onion, cook for 5 min or so, reduce heat
Add celery seed cook for another min
Whisk in 4-5 Tbs gluten-free flour. Whisk until smooth
Pour in Coconut Milk (this will cause it to thicken rapidly)
Immediately Stir in Chicken Broth, stirring until smooth

Add chopped bacon and cooked potatoes


Note: I'm sure you could cook the potatoes in the soup, but I'm leaving the house and will be putting the soup in the Crock Pot on warm for a couple hours before dinner, so I cooked them separately to make sure they were thoroughly cooked before adding to the soup and heading out.