Happy Chinese Gluten New Year

I have about a million things to tell you, but no time to do it. Between getting back on my play date game (which I was never on, apparently) and researching play schools for Little Guy (which he says have to be “blue”), I have had about zero time to update.

Fancy play date picnic.

What snacks look like when I’m on my play date A game. Of course this only happened once.

In my spare time (i.e. LG’s naps) I’m attempting to edit my novel AND take an online real estate course. By the time LG passes out at 10pm (yes, because of the long and vitally important naps) my brain is completely zapped. I’m lucky if I can stay up long enough to watch the last season of Breaking Bad, which I’m woefully behind on (no spoilers please) and gives me nightmares. I kind of wish I never started the show. It’s like a train wreck, and I can’t look away even though I really want to. At least there’s Jesse.

One of the many stretches of the show's imagination.

One of the show’s many far fetched concepts.

Anyway… another thing that kept me and my brain busy recently was Bunky’s first class trip of the year, which happened to be a celebration of Chinese New Year… at a Chinese restaurant. UGH. Sure, they have rice noodles. But most are doused in GLUTEN. I kind of freaked about this for a while. Why do class trips have to be food related? And not just food related, but completely food focused. What about kids with food restrictions, life threatening allergies, celiac? Why not take the kids to a museum or an indoor play space? But no. It had to be Chinese food.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to Lilli and Loo, the only GF chinese I've heard of.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to Lilli and Loo, which apparently has great GF options.

I had planned on making Bunky a similar menu including lo mein, but ended up giving her leftover baked ziti (always better the second day, B says and it’s true), chicken noodle soup, and GF fried rice similar to this recipe. Dessert was Turkey Hill Vanilla (GF – I called ahead and checked online), so at least I didn’t have to worry about that. Or so I thought. More on that in a bit. Here’s a clue:

Ours was not GF, obvs.

Ours was not gluten free, obvs.

Backtracking a bit, when my husband and I first heard about this trip, we were both angry and deflated. Angry about the concept, deflated that our kid might feel left out – again. We debated about not sending her to school that day. We considered giving her a choice. But neither felt right. She’d definitely feel left out if she didn’t go, right? And I don’t want her to think opting out is the automatic response

Food related activities and celebrations will be part of her life forever, and she has to learn how to navigate them, not hide from them. But I realize now how important it is that I don’t hide from them. That I teach her how she can enjoy these events. That they may be challenging at times, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid them.

Homemade brown fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

Homemade fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

And so I worked my butt off to make the trip a success, to help her feel included, amid all the oohs and ahhs over the fragrant egg rolls, fried wontons, shrimp dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

I used my best British accent when serving her our food, grabbed a soup bowl and spoon before they could gluten-ize it, and kept an eye out for flying crumbs and roving gluten-y fingers. The kids are her table were sweet, and I kept an eye out for their needs as well, but mostly my attention was on Bunky. It paid off. She had fun, I think.

She ate everything I brought, and we donated some extra soup to a friend.

She ate everything I brought, and then we donated some extra soup to a grateful friend.

I feel like I was pretty chill during the whole thing, except for one teensy weensy moment at the very end when the waiters brought out trays of gluten free vanilla ice cream in plastic cups… with gluten fortune cookies on top. I might have said, “Oh shit” but I’m not sure. I leapt out of my seat and asked for a plain ice cream. One waiter tried to pry the cookie off and hand the cup to me, but I said no.

Luckily, I had packed some Lucy’s allergy free cookies in my bag, just in case. So while Bunky waited for her uncontaminated ice cream, she happily munched on a cookie. Then I used the rest of the cookies to make her a gluten free ice cream sandwich. Score.

Lucys-Cookies1

Loving the new Snack and Go combo packs!

She was also thrilled with my stop at the local Hello Kitty store. (Oh holy moly, the store was AWESOME.)

I easily could have bought way, way more.

I easily could have bought way, way more cute stuff.

All in all, it was a success. Not every event will go so seamlessly, but it’s nice that this first one did.

Up next (as in tomorrow) – first sleepover. Say WHAT?!

(Luckily my sweet little homebody will be coming home in the evening. At least that gets me out of figuring out breakfast. Geez.)

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to work on the recipe posts currently simmering in my brain. There’s GF gnocchi (not homemade), one pot dinners, and Risi Bisi, a rice cooker dream.

How do you handle non GF friendly events and outings? Do you bring your own food, eat beforehand, or skip it all together? If your kid has celiac or a gluten intolerance, how do you help him or her feel included?

Broccoli + Cheese = Love, right?

flickr, La Grande Farmers' Market

flickr credit, La Grande Farmers’ Market

Bunky loves broccoli. It’s true! Yes, I know I said she’s picky. She is. Trust me. The caveat is that it has to be dipped in cheese sauce. Preferably a cheese sauce in a vivid orange color. (I did mention in this post that she’s a cheese-etarian.)

Fair enough. So the equation is this:

Broccoli + cheese = love

If you follow logic (which I don’t, usually) it would seem like a no-brainer that Bunky might also like a creamy, cheesy, broccoli soup. To give her some credit, she didn’t shoot me down right away. In fact, she appeared open to the idea. It was just when she tasted the soup that it went downhill. Blecchh, was her response to what I know to be a DELICIOUS soup. I know this for a fact since I was the only one who ate it.

No matter. If you follow the above equation then YOU will love this soup, I know it. Unless you’re a picky-as-hell four-year-old whose food options are dwindling by the day (the hour!) you should give this recipe a shot.

I was inspired by this beautiful dairy free cream of broccoli soup from Happy Little Feet made with coconut milk and avocado – yum! But since my girl doesn’t like the taste of coconut milk, I knew I’d have to modify it. Also, I needed cheese. So I found this recipe (the author also includes an intriguing breakdown of a popular cafe’s version, showing just how unhealthy it is versus homemade) and melded the two in my brain (and in the pot) to create what you see below.

soup bowl

It’s a mild soup, meaning no onion or major spice action, but it’s smooth, creamy and delicious. The broccoli and cheese give it plenty of flavor and love (see equation above).

*Since I had a feeling I might be the only one eating this soup (sigh), I halved the original recipe from 8 cups of broccoli down to 4. Please feel free to double everything for a bigger batch of soup.

Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1 big clove garlic, smashed
  • 4 cups broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces (I defrosted a bag of frozen florets)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper (if you have it, if not no worries)
  • 1+3/4 cups of chicken (or veggie) broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1+1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 ripe avocado*

Directions:

1. Add the butter to a large stock pot over medium high heat until melted. Saute celery about 5 minutes. Add garlic for about 2 minutes.

The players, ready to go.

The players, ready to go. Um, except for the avocado which I forgot to add.

2. Then add broccoli and stir to coat well with butter. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper and white pepper. Add broth. Turn up the heat, bring to a low boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook covered (with lid on) until broccoli pieces are soft, about 15 minutes.

*If you feel like adding the avocado, do it right before you use the immersion blender. I totally forgot so I can’t really say if it’s worth remembering, but I liked the idea of adding a shot of protein and creaminess.

So pretty and green.

Keep stirring because nothing smells (or tastes) worse than burned broccoli.

3. Remove from heat. With an immersion/stick blender, puree soup to desired consistency, or process in a regular blender, in batches, taking care not to burn yourself. Return to pot, off heat, stir in cream, dijon, nutmeg and cheese. Stir to combine and melt cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings. If soup needs to be reheated, reheat slowly and do not allow it to come to a boil. Serve immediately.

Looks good to me. Just don't ask my kid to eat it.

Looks good to me. Just don’t ask my kid to eat it.

It’s kind of a miracle that I made this soup at all, considering I made it AFTER nap time. This is Little Guy “keeping busy” while I attempt to not burn the broccoli.

leo making messAnd trying to crawl up my leg. Not helpful. But kind of cute.

leo attack

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian MammaEat.Live.Make, and Gluten Freed R.D., and One Creative Mommy’s Gluten Free Monday link up. Click the links to find more great GF recipes.

gffridays featured

Pumpkin Soup in the Country

One of Bunky’s, and my, favorite fall books is Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper. It’s a gorgeously illustrated story about three bickering pals, Duck, Cat, and Squirrel, who live in a hollowed out white pumpkin and make delicious pumpkin soup.

Every time I read it, I want to eat the soup. The author makes it sound, and look, so good. But I’ve never made it until now.

The recipe I made is adapted from Gluten Free Girl and The Chef to fit my (picky as hell) family. I thought I had a fighting chance with Bunky, but not surprisingly she didn’t like it. My husband, however, said it was The Best Soup he EVER had. This is coming from a guy who doesn’t throw out gratuitous compliments. Also, we were totally annoyed with each other at the time, so clearly the soup had to be AWESOME.

I think Duck, Cat & Squirrel would approve.

Pumpkin Soup adapted from Gluten Free Girl and The Chef

Ingredients

5-pound sugar or pie pumpkin
4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 large carrot, peeled and large diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and medium diced
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated is best, regular is fine
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream (sub coconut milk for DF)
2 tbsps butter** (skip this for DF)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Carefully cut the top off of the pumpkin and cut it into quarters. (I used two smaller pumpkins.) Scrape out the seeds and the innards and set the seeds aside*.

Place the pumpkin quarters in a baking dish and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft enough to scoop with a spoon. Let cool to room temperature. Scoop the pumpkin flesh from the pumpkin and set aside.

2. Place a soup pot over medium heat. Pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the carrot and garlic to the hot oil and cook. Stir frequently so the garlic browns lightly but doesn’t burn. Cook until the carrot is somewhat softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the sage and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the sweet potato, nutmeg, and bay leaf to the stockpot. Pour in the chicken broth and pumpkin flesh. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sweet potato is fork-soft.

It’s burbling away. Looks witchy, doesn’t it?

3. Remove pot from heat. Take out bay leaf. I also took out the chunks of garlic, but you can leave those in if you’d like. Carefully, use an immersion blender to puree soup to desired consistency. It can be a little chunky if you like, or very smooth. Mine was mostly smooth with a bit of texture.

WARNING – be careful not to splash yourself with hot soup while blending. Transfer to a large serving bowl first if you prefer, and then return to the pot once blended. If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender or Cuisinart and then back to the pot.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream and butter. Put soup back in pot (if not there already) and bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Let simmer until soup is thickened to your liking (about 10 minutes).

* If you want to bake the pumpkin seeds, spread them on a baking sheet and lightly coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake in the oven with the pumpkin, until the seeds start to brown (5 to 10 minutes). Remove from oven and season with salt.

For some reason I am unable to roast pumpkin seeds. I either over or undercook them. They are never edible. Don’t let my own failure stop you, though. I’m sure the soup would be lovely with some sprinkled on top.

My husband and I enjoyed this soup for dinner and lunch the next day. I was concerned about how to transfer the leftovers for the ride home, but turns out my worry was unnecessary. There was not a drop left.

A delicious, warm lunch.

My new plan for our country weekends is to make soup or stew the first night so we can all enjoy a warm lunch the next day. This way we can cut down on our cold sandwich intake. I just need to find a recipe everyone will enjoy. Having 2 out of 4 family members give it the thumbs up isn’t bad, but next time I’m shooting for at least 3.

Let me know if you make this soup. It takes some time, but it is SO worth the effort. Check out the original recipe if your family tolerates more spice and onion. You could also add some freshly grated ginger to heat it up. Oh, that sounds good…

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mama, Eat.Live.Make, and Gluten Freed R.D., and One Creative Mommy’s Gluten Free Monday link up. Click the links to find more great GF recipes.