Thursday, November 29, 2012

thankful thursdays - thanksgiving wonderfulness

Thanksgiving is always that time of year when it's easy to be thankful for the little things. All the little traditions that make everyday life so fun: the movies, the fall leaves, the decorations, the time with family, even if via Skype. The cozy blankets and the autumn smells and the Black Friday shopping and the fun! Even the stress of planning my first gluten free Thanksgiving was totally worth it! It was every bit as delicious as we were hoping it would be.

77. Beautiful Japan (Oirase)

78. Tools that save so much time as energy! This baby saved me hours of chopping today.

79. Yearly family traditions that never get old. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

a gluten-free thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a hit!

I will admit, I was worried.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year and I was already feeling a bit blue about the whole thing, knowing that we'd (again) be spending it away from family. So messing up my first gluten-free Thanksgiving meal was not (do you hear me? NOT) an option!

Luckily, my fretting was in vain, because it was the best Thanksgiving dinner we've had since moving away and having to learn how to cook it all myself.

On the menu:

Turkey, of course! We roasted a lovely free-range turkey, stuffed with various fruits and vegetables. It was the most moist turkey we've had in a while.

Stuffing! My mom's favorite stuffing has all the best stuff. It's got celery and carrots. It's got onions and spices. It's got pancetta (which we found for the first time since we have lived here! Someone's looking out for us!!) and Italian sausage.

The tricky part was going to be the bread. I have been trying to bake a perfect loaf of bread since I was diagnosed as a Celiac in June...and it hadn't happened yet. I've made runny bread. I've made grainy bread. I've made perfectly cooked bread that tasted like cardboard (in fact, I would have preferred the cardboard).

Luckily, I discovered Jules gluten free flour, just in time. My first loaf of her bread was so good that I thought about NOT making stuffing so I could use the bread to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Yes, I'll admit that's a bit crazy, but I haven't had a piece of GOOD bread since June! I held out, though, and the stuffing turned out to be A-MAZ-ING.

Green Bean Casserole... Some of you already know the torment that cream of mushroom soup has brought upon me this month. Luckily, I had worked out how to make it already and was able to whip up my homemade-from-scratch cream of mushroom soup for the casserole. Then, I used a recipe from another gluten free friend for the casserole itself. It was the best green bean casserole I have ever tasted! It didn't have that fake-tasting onion topping. Instead, it had real grilled onions with gluten free coating. (The recipe is at the bottom of this post if you want it! You can do whether you're sticking to an allergen-friendly diet or was that good.)

Mashed Potatoes. Thanksgiving isn't complete without mashed potatoes. There was really nothin' special about them; just plain ol' mashed potato-y goodness.

Cranberry Sauce! This year I made orange cinnamon cranberry sauce. It was surprisingly easy to make and it was fabulous. I usually don't like cranberry sauce, but I enjoyed this one. (The recipe is at the bottom.)

Pumpkin Pie and Gingersnap Ice Cream... Last week, I made homemade graham crackers for a Saturday-night-bonfire. They were great for s'mores and I used the leftovers for my pie crust. Delicious! I also saved a bit of my graham cracker/gingersnap dough to use for some ice cream to go with the pie! I used my typical vanilla ice cream recipe (recipe below) and added pumpkin pie spice to give it a nice flavor. Then, as it was churning, I added ribbons of the gingersnap dough. Oh goodness, the pie and ice cream together were a bit of Thanksgiving heaven!

So, we made it through our first gluten-free Thanksgiving, and will reap the benefits of not having to cook for the next several days!


Green Bean Casserole, courtesy of Angela Glunt, my Thanksgiving hero!

**I substituted some Oikos greek yogurt in place of the sour cream since I have issues with lactose. I also used lactose free Kraft Mozzarella and vegan buttery spread instead of real butter.**

Casserole Ingredients: 

1 large bag of frozen green beans. (NEVER used canned!)
1 C. of Sour Cream
10 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (divided)
Morton Brand: Nature's Seasons to taste
1 Med. yellow onion, chopped and sauté in butter
3-4 fresh Garlic cloves or 1 Tab canned, minced and sauté with onions
4 oz jar of pimientos with liquid

Topping Ingredients: 
3-4 cups Corn or Rice Chex cereal. (I used corn and it was really good, not too overpowering.)
3 or 4 stalks Green Onions chopped
Garlic Salt with Parsley-to taste
Onion Powder- to taste
*Blend cereal and seasonings in food processor until well chopped then add onions last and pulse until blended. 

*Mix all ingredients in large bowl until everything is well coated. Put mixture into large greased casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 365 for 30 minutes, then add Topping and continue to bake for additional 10-15 minutes.

Cranberry Orange Sauce, Courtesy of the Food Network


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 orange, zest cut into strips and juiced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature or cool and refrigerate. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream (Note: I use an ice cream maker for this recipe!)


  • 14 oz. coconut milk (I use Goya - it's certified gluten free)
  • 1 cup almond milk or soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • Seeds of one vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

  1. Chill coconut milk and almond milk for at least a half hour prior to making. (Also, make sure you have your ice cream maker prepped.)
  2. Mix all of your ingredients in a blender and pour it into your ice cream maker.
  3. It takes about 20-25 minutes of churning, depending on your ice cream maker. 
**If you want to add toppings, wait until ice cream is about 2/3 of the way through the churning process. Then slowly add toppings to ice cream maker.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

beef stroganoff, for the win! (a cream-of-mushroom-recipe)

For about three weeks, I have been craving stroganoff. Not anything fancy, just plain ol' cream of mushroom soup with ground beef and noodles (maybe some spices thrown in for good measure).

The problem is that our commissary doesn't carry any gluten free cream of mushroom soup. So online I went, only to find how difficult of a mission this would be. Not only do I need it to be gf, but it needs to be lactose free as well. I could find one or the other, but not both. Not anywhere.

So for three weeks, I have been craving in vain. Finally I decided I would just make it myself. It couldn't be that hard, right?

Oh, when will I learn?!

I found a lovely recipe for homemade cream of mushroom soup. The only drawback is that to make it, you have to have condensed milk.

Of course, our commissary does not have lactose free condensed milk. Lactose free milk? Yep. But not condensed.

So back to the interwebs I went, to search for a recipe to make condensed milk.

Why, oh why?!

Many of my searches for condensed milk used evaporated milk or milk powder as one of the ingredients. Really, internet? In this day and age, with all the allergen-friendly food recipes out there, there isn't an easier way??

After getting over my initial rage annoyance, I began looking at how-in-the-world one makes evaporated milk.

So I evaporated, and I condensed, and I creamed. FINALLY, I had some cream of mushroom soup to put in my stroganoff!

I was seriously worried at this point that it wouldn't taste like 'real' stroganoff and that the hours of torment and hard work were all for nothing.

Luckily, I was wrong! It was delicious, and now I will forever know how to make my own cream of mushroom soup completely from scratch.

I have put both recipes here, so if you have found this post on a frantic search for gluten free/lactose free cream of mushroom soup, you won't have to look any further!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • One small can of mushrooms (or a handful of fresh ones), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (or to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder 
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 8 ounces condensed milk** (see below for substitution)
  1. Using a blender or food processor, blend all of your ingredients. Pulse until mushrooms have reached the consistency you prefer. (I like them nice and small, so I tend to pulse longer than you might want to.)
  2. Pour into a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl and microwave for two minutes. Remove from microwave and stir. Then, microwave for another minute. 

Condensed/Evaporated Milk (makes approx. 8 oz)

  • 14-16 oz milk. This can be regular milk. I used Lactaid milk to cut out the lactose. I have not yet tried this with almond or soy milk, but probably will in the future.
  1. Put milk in a saucepan on the stove and bring it to a simmer. The purpose of this is to reduce the water, thus making your milk thick and creamy. Make sure to keep the milk from boiling in order to keep it from curdling, and make sure it doesn't get scorched on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Continue simmering and stirring until milk has reduced by about half.

If you are in a hurry, I have tried out this substitution and it's worked well. Instead of using condensed/evaporated milk, use 3/4 cup of milk and 3 tablespoons of softened butter instead. (Last time, I used 3/4 cup of almond milk + 3 tablespoons of vegan buttery spread and it worked like a dream.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

bittersweet thanksgiving

Time's a rollin' and it's already that magical time of year where the leaves are changing, the snow starts to fall, and everything just seems a bit more whimsical. For anyone who doesn't know me well, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

I love that this day has evolved to mean more than it once did. I know it seems odd that we as a nation celebrate a holiday to commemorate our forefathers invading an already-inhabited land, eating their food, and then spreading diseases to the natives who were kind enough to help them.

We are more than our mere history, though, and this holiday now inspires much more. It's about family. It's about friends. It's about coming together and being truly grateful for all the blessings we have in our lives. 

In my family, it's about being together and spending the day full of parade-watching, cooking, decorating, and celebrating the holiday. There is laughter, warmth, and often the arguments that make our family what it is

I think it's one of the few things I truly miss about living in the states. Obviously, we miss our friends and families, we miss the ability to shop in stores we are used to and eat at our favorite restaurants. Missing out on some of those things is worth it when we look at the wonderful adventure we are having here in Japan. We have met amazing friends, learned about unique cultures, and have seen so many sights we only dreamed of seeing.


Thanksgiving will be kind of bittersweet for us this year, knowing that we can take part in all of our favorite traditions, but won't get to do it in the company of our families. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

what i'm loving wednesday

I've got so much to say and so very little time to get it onto the blog! With report cards and parent teacher conferences, buying a car, making and changing vacation plans, and way too many family emergencies, it seems like there just hasn't been time to step away and breathe!

So here's a quick "What I'm Loving Wednesday" post to sum up the past few weeks:

I'm loving the beginning of the holiday season and all the traditions that go with it! Halloween parties, eggies in a basket and V for Guy Fawkes Day, plans for Thanksgiving...

I'm loving Jules Gluten Free flour, which has now changed my outlook (most days) on having to live gluten free. I actually MADE PIZZA! Those of you know have followed this journey know that my mission in life for the past few months has been to make a pizza. Not just something edible, but something that I'd feed to my non-celiac friends. And, my friends, it IS possible! 

I'm loving my new (well, new-to-me) car! Just about everything in this car is efficient, and it just suits my personality to a tee.

I'm loving iMessage. The fact that so many of our family members now have iMessage is SO wonderful. Knowing I can text family and friends, despite being in a different country, is such a blessing.

And last for today, I'm loving fall. *Sigh.* The leaves and trees are so dreamy and surreal. I can't get enough of them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

thankful thursdays - blustery bliss

The time between the summer heat and the first snow are glorious here. Autumn storms brought rainbows, hailstones, and gusts that made us break out the blankets and hot chocolate! We used the indoor time to experiment with some recipes and I FINALLY made a pizza that tasted decent!

72. Rainbow on the flight line.

73. Solace in the form of waterfalls and autumn forests on my monitors.

74. Hot apple cider and warm pajamas on a cold, blustery day.

75. Finally having a good pizza recipe! Egg and turkey sausage pizza.

76. Finally finding a car in great condition that we could afford. It should do nicely when the snow comes!