Thursday, June 12, 2014

Two Gluten Free Rhubarb Bars to try this year

There are always so many recipes passing around facebook, and mostly I ignore them.  There are three or four main reasons I tend to ignore even the tastiest looking ones.  1) They are not usually Gluten Free; 2) Much of the time I can't think clearly enough to follow a recipe; 3) The additional cost of special ingredients, even things like chocolate chips are often a luzxury; and 4) I don't need the tempation of treats and sweets lying around.

But isn't there something irrisistable about rhubarb in the spring?

I took the time this to translate two really yummy looking rhubarb recipes into gluten free.  Oh, and they're also sized up a notch.  I've not had time or rhubarb to try them, since I'd just frozen and cooked up anything that was ready when these two recipes came along.  Feel free to try them and let me know how they turned out.  I'll be trying them in a couple of weeks.  Our rhubarb plant should be good and full by the time we return from vacation.

GF Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars
Preheat oven to 375°F.

  • 2 ½ cups GF flour mix*
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter or fat of choice (I use equl parts lard and coconut oil)
Spread into jelly roll pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Rhubarb Layer
  • 3 cups chopped rhubarb
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup GF flour mix
Mix together and bake for 15 minutes.

Cream Cheese Fillin
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
Whip together until fluffy.  Pour over rhubarb and bake for 25 minutes.

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1/2 tbs vanilla
Spread over hot bars.

GF Rhubarb muffins with Struesel topping
Prepare 3 muffin pans as desired, greasing or papering. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  • 6 c GF flour mix*
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 ½ tbs. baking powder
  • 1 tbs.ground cinnamon
  • ½ tbs baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tbs xanthan gum
Mix together.
  • 1 c fat (½ c coconut oil and ½ c lard)
Either cut into dry ingredients, or melt and cool slightly, then add with liquid.
  • 3 cup sour cream
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbs. pure vanilla extract
Wisk together and stir into dry ingredients.
  • 4 cups rhubarb, diced small
Stir into batter.
Spoon into greased or papered muffin cups. Fill to just over level with top of muffin cups.
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Sprinkle over muffins before baking.
Bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes.

*Note re Gf flour mixes:  If your mix already has xanthan gum or baking powder in it, you may have to tweak the amounts of these ingredients. I use the Kelli and Peter Bronski's mix from their cookbooks and their No Gluten, No Problem blog.  This mix has a small amount of xanthan gum, but no baking powder.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It's a Beautiful Imagination!

"I'll play slapjack with you."
"Ok, but we have to play with Lilian and Alyssa, too."
"Who are Lillian and Alyssa?"
"They're my two friends.  See?"  Donna pointed to a black dog beanie baby and a pile of fur.
Sophie looked up at me rather quizzically.  Then returning her attention to Donna, she replied in a skeptical tone of voice, "Lillian ... is ... a tail."

Donna is without younger siblings today, since Joe took the other three littles along to his parents' house to attend a cousin's funeral. 

I was left here with Clara, Sophie, and Donna.  Matt is at his two week annual training for the Marine Corps.  Louisa and Elsie are working nights; so they sleep all day.  It's kind of like a vacation for me.

I was not sure, though, how Donna would do without any other littles.  My kids have never had to be alone, to find things to do to occupy themselves on their own. 

But I needn't have worried with Donna.  She came out first thing on this gloomy rainy morning, dressed in one of the princess dresses.  She had a little beanie baby friend and a tail.  A black fur piece of tail from some preserved animal pelt.  She held up the tail and showed me the "ears" and the "nose."  And introduced me to Lillian. 

Then she proceded to enact all sorts of stories with these friends.  After many other adventures, "they" decided to play slap jack. 

Alyssa won. 

Donna showed me several times throughout the game how thick Alyssa's pile of cards was growing.  She had me look to see how eagerly Alyssa jumped onto the card pile when a jack came up.

Poor Lillian just couldn't compete.  She lay lazily off to the side and did not seem altogether engaged in the game.

Eventually Sophie finished the drawing she was doing nearby.  Apparently She felt bad for Donna having to play slap jack alone, as Sophie naively thought.  And so Sophie offered to play with Donna.

"I'll play slapjack with you."
"Ok, but we have to play with Lilian and Alyssa, too."
"Who are Lillian and Alyssa?"
"They're my two friends.  See?"  Donna pointed to a black dog beany baby and a pile of fur.
Sophie looked up at me rather quizzically.  Then returning her attention to Donna, she replied in a skeptical tone of voice, "Lillian ... is ... a tail."

Sophie was very patient and kindly played with Donna.  And her two friends.  At some point Sophie and Donna decided it would make the game go a little better if each of them "acted" one of the friends.  Apparently Donna had a few extra rules with which Sophie was unfamiliar, because I heard the following interchange:

"What kind of rules do you have?  I've never played with these rules."
"They're the Poptropica rules."


I got a phone call, and had to leave the room.  But when I returned, Sophie was gone.  But Donna, Alyssa, and Lillian were still playing cards.  This time Go-fish.  It's so fun to watch her asking her friends if they have one or another card, and then she looks at their cards and answers.  And in turn, she asks on behalf of one of the others for some card the friend needs.

Just now Donna exclaimed, "I'm winning!" 

Oh? really?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A morning walk

To the Clearwater River
I took a walk today.  Google tells me I went 1.8 miles down the road and 1.8 miles back.  

The first mile or so was wonderful.

I listened to the birds sing. 

I heard Gayle's cattle lowing. 

And I was heartened by the gentle soughing of the summer breezes.

I watched the flock of ducks lift off from the wet spot in Ryan and Tyler's field.  I listened to them calling to each other as they circled around briefly, only to land again further on.

I was stalked by a killer bird.  Not really, of course.  But I don't know for sure what kind of bird it is.  But each year, those things drive me nuts.  When they have a nest near the road, they swoop and dive to frighten away anyone who comes near.   And they are quite large.  With a big, long, frightening looking beak.  The kind of resemble a woodcock, but bigger, and with longer legs.  The last few years there have been so many of them dive-bombing anyone who walks along the road.  The one today was not too unnerving.  He or she circled above me squawking and fretting.  But thankfully, I must not have a scary enough threat for the bird to need to resort to the dive-bomb technique.

I don't know what it is with me these days.  I used to be energized by exercise.  But now it just drags and drags.  It's all I can do to make myself keep taking each step and continuing on.  One more step, Mary.  One foot in front of the other. 

I sorely missed my walking ladies this morning.  We usually just do three days a week, but I'm trying to get in five days of exercise each week.  So that leaves me walking alone on some days.  And I find the steps drag by terribly on those days.

But so it goes.

The first part of today's walk was tolerable, because of all the novelties.  I was listening to all the fun summer sounds.  I was breathing the lovely summer air.  I could see the blue sky after several gloomy days, and feel the warmth of the stregthening sun.

Then I started to get tired and bored; and I just wanted to be done.  I felt like a spoiled child. 

"Whyyyyy can't I just be home.?"

"Whyyyyy am I doing this anyway?"

But I wasn't yet to the bridge.  That's where we ladies usually turn around when we walk to the south.  If we're feeling wimpy, though, or pressed for time, we might turn around at the mile road a short distance before the bridge.  That point is 1.5 miles from home, so we get a three mile walk. 

Which is good.  Better than nothing.  And today, since I was alone, I really wanted to turn around there.

Just when the temptation to turn around was pulling strongest, though, I saw an approaching car.  As is typical around here, I waved as the car passed.  But instead of a neighborly wave back, the driver gave a friendly tootle on her horn. 

And I realized it was Louisa.  My Louisa.  My steadfast oldest daughter coming home from her night shift at McIntosh Senior Living Center. 

And that gave me the motivation to carry on.  If Louisa can work all night long, caring for others, and still drive her thirty miles home, I can make it walking those extra few hundred yards on a beautiful sunny morning.

Eventually I did make it to the river.  It was somewhat more interesting than usual this morning.  Because of all the recent rains, the sloughy areas nearby were draining into the river.  And making a rushing sound.  I could almost imagine that the brown sluggish muck that is called the Clearwater River was a clear and shallow mountain stream franticly traveling over round stones and jagged rocks.  

First I peered over the east side of the bridge.  Nothing much to see, but I took a moment to enjoy the sound.  The west side is more picturesuqe.  One this side there is a home nearby.  The river takes a graceful curve.  There is an area of trees branching along this part of the stream.  One can imagine a mystery or two waiting in the unexplored hidey holes along the shoreline.

And today, today!  I saw something I'd not seen before.  Flowing from grasses to the north came two small streams.  Very little streams, mind you.  I could just see the paths where the water had thinned out and washed down the grasses.  Two small streams.  Perhaps each only six or seven inches across.  The grasses still arched over these streams, so that although I could tell where the water was running through, I could not see the water.  I could hear the water rushing down the five or eight foot drop from the level of the prairie down into the river.  At the mouth of one of these small streams the grasses opened up.  The stream widened out a few more inches.  I descried the flowing waters.  Minute ripples and eddies at the confluence of the wetland run-off and the river. 

I peered at this little world.  I imagined it in miniature.  Hmmm, maybe I me an I imagined it enlarged.  As if I was in miniature.  The size of a small bird,perhaps.  Then this little world would resemble the mountains and valleys and waterfalls of my native Washington.

But the romance only lasted a moment.  Imagination can only go so far.  I breathed deeply of the last vestiges of the fading notion, so that I could carry it with me along my way. 

I turned homeward. 

For the 1.8 mile walk home again.

I was treated to one new sound on the way home.  At first I was perplexed. Why is the blackbird on the wire making such a strange noise?  It was like a small growl or a scritching sound. 

But it was a trick of the morning air.   The sound was really coming from below.  From the waters of the roadside ditch.  It was the croaking of a frog or toad, singing his morning serenade. 

"Scrrrr-itch.  Scrrrr-itch.  Scrrrr-itch."

A half mile or so further on, a whole host of frogs sang to me from the ditch as I passed by.  Such a fun sound.  I looked at that ditch, green with the new growth of grasses and cattail.  The water reflected the blue of the summer sky.  I spied not a hint of the amphibian villagers that were singing to me.  They were there somewhere.  Perhaps hundreds of them.  Hidden among the springtime stems and leaves.

All too soon, I was past Frogtown.  My steps once again began to drag.  And I realized again, with chagrin, that I am growing old.  Instead of feeling invigorated by my morning walk, I simply wanted to be home.  I craved it.  I could feel my feet aching.  My shoulders hunching in fatigue.  

It would have been different with my walking ladies, but Tuesday is not our walking day.  When I have those ladies along, I can walk and walk.  We talk and talk.  And encourage each other with our friendship.  And before we know it, we've finished our miles or minutes, or whatever our goal for the day. 

As I neared home today, I could make out something out of place in the driveway near Matt's truck.  One of the girls, I supposed.  I kept my eyes on that blur.  And soon I could perceive motion.  Whichever child it was appeared to have seen me nearing also.  She came down the driveway.  And began to cross the church parking lot. 

By that time, we were near enough to wave.  When we got near enough to holler to each other, Stella said, "I'm trying to see if my baby steps or your big steps will win."

And so began our little game.  I lengthened my stride just a bit.  When she saw that her baby steps were not going to get her to the mailbox in time, she also lengthened hers.  A few more strides and we were still neck in neck.  I ran.  She ran.  And my longer legs got me to the mailbox one stride before she arrived. 

We laughed.  And hugged.  And smiled.

And walked hand in hand, back through the parking lot, up the driveway, toward the house.

It's good to be home.