One of the first recipes I attempted to convert when I went gluten free was pumpkin bread. I had recently found a recipe I’d loved and was determined not to give it up. Needless to say, the resulting bread was a disappointment. Disappointing enough I gave up on GF pumpkin bread. It was edible. It tasted good, particularly for my first attempt at GF baking. But it wasn’t the bread I remembered.

Fast forward 3 years. My 3 yr old and I are shopping at Trader Joes and she spots the sugar pumpkins. She wants one because her brother came home with one from a school field trip the week before. When we get home, initially she’s just happy they both now have sugar pumpkins; however, it doesn’t take long before she’s curious about why it is called a “sugar” pumpkin. I explain that this is the kind good for eating–so she decides her pumpkin needs to be eaten.

I manage to convince her that she doesn’t want to eat it raw and that it should be baked. Next I have to convince her there isn’t time to cook said pumpkin that evening, that we can’t have it for dinner or dessert. (I failed. There was much tears and gnashing of teeth).

However, this afternoon we (I) succeed in baking, pureeing, and transforming the pumpkin into a fabulous pumpkin cake and my faith in pumpkin baked good is restored, even gluten free ones.

And my daughter, thank goodness, after all that did think the cake was delicious. It didn’t hurt that we added chocolate and white chips to the recipe and served it with ice cream.

Fall, to me, feels like the beginning of the new year. School begins and summer habits must be reshaped. The air takes on a smell of decaying leaves and even chimney fires and evenings grow quieter. Patterns and routines are regained. And so I find myself revisiting menu planning. My first born has made it successfully through the first week of kindergarten and I’ve made it through the first week of packing lunches; however, dinners involved too much food made by others (i.e. Thai food, take out Gf pizza, etc).

I also find myself, like last year at the beginning of fall, hitting a low ebb physically. I’m tired and achy and I’m not sure why. Last year I went to a nutritionist and a massage therapist who specialize in abdominal massage in hopes of continuing to aid my body in healing after years of living with undiagnosed Celiac. This year as I approach the third anniversary of my diagnosis I mostly feel confused and discouraged as to why I don’t feel better. (It might possibly have to do with my energetic 5 and 3 year olds or just possibly with the effort I’ve put into starting my own business this year but it seems to be something more than even those account for).

I hope to regain some energy so I can savor this favorite season of mine and I so I’m going to return to the basics: enough rest and good food. So, on to the menu plan! It looks like this week’s Gf Menu Plan Monday item is apples. Since a friend just gave me a bag of local apples and our tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes, I’m going to try my hand at a Green Tomato and Apple Pie. If anyone has a favorite GF pie crust recipe, please pass it on. I’ve made OK crusts so far but nothing outstanding. I’m still hunting.

Ok, the rest of the week:

Monday–Roast chicken and potatoes w/ sauted red chard

Tuesday–spaghetti w/ green salad w/ the option of eating the sauce over spaghetti squash

Wednesday–Thai stir-fry w/ jasmine rice

Thursday–homemade GF pepperoni pizza using Bob’s Red mill mix

Friday–fried green tomatoes (yes, we have a lot that aren’t ripening this cool Seattle summer), grilled corn cut off cob and mixed w/ bell peppers sauted w/ bacon…and I’m not coming up with a meat to go with it. Maybe make a salad, cook a few extra strips of bacon, and call it good.

Speaking of good food, I just learned a gluten free dessert place is opening walking distance from my home! One more reason the season feels it is full of new beginnings.

As excited as I’ve been about gluten free cooking and recreating favorite recipes, I am discovering that the kitchen is not my favorite place to be. Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy cooking and I’m not half bad at it. The problem is that I enjoy a lot of things that are all vying for my attention. Summer has finally arrived in the NW, the days are deliciously long, and cooking just hasn’t been my highest priority. I think about menu planning but most days we winging it. (That isn’t to say we are not eating well. Last night we had a rich dinner of Southern goodness, tonight tacos with homemade corn tortillas, and Monday involved pasta, stuffed chicken and a marvelous red sauce).

All this to say, these days being outside as much as possible with my kids is winning…as well as those four papers I have left to write for my classes on Professional Ethics and Issues of Abuse. So I dream of creating amazing recipes that I photograph and post every week…but I have to admit that it isn’t happening. I like having flour on my fingers but I’d much, much rather have them covered in acrylic paint. This past week I just completed a large painting for a friend and found such, well, life in the free time (read: children’s nap time) that I spent creating, brush in hand. I must find more time for that. And so my creativity in the kitchen will be more of trying out the recipes of others. I’m really glad I named this site conviviality because I think it still encompasses the ideas of the things I am passionate about, mostly coming together with other people over good food or good conversation or good art or, best of all, all of the above.

I’ve not been blogging because I thought of this as a food blog and I have been writing and painting and playing and, sadly in many moments of these days, just getting by because of still being anemic. However, I find myself longing for a place to write the ice berg tip of the things I love, or to share the quotes that are swimming in my mind that day and need a little more air, or to speak out on something that struck me as beautiful and as deserving of a larger audience.

And I still want to post some recipes from time to time.

So here’s to this being a blog about food, and about painting, and about the things and people that move me and reveal beauty to me.

David Boyd Ramsdale 1947-2008

Last year around this time I took a wonderful trip with my in-laws to a beach just up from Myrtle Beach. The eight of us (my mom and dad-in-law, me and spouse, kids, and sis-in-law and spouse) stayed in a large airy cottage within easy walking distance from the waves and the sand. It was a comfortable, relaxing time and being with everyone felt like home. On one of our last evenings there, while we were sitting out on the back porch enjoying port and pipes and one another’s company my father-in-law expressed his gratitude for his grown children and for the life partners they had chosen. The genuine gratitude he felt for his family was so obvious, and I felt honored to be included.

This April my dad-in-law passed away suddenly from a bacterial infection. When he died, my husband and 2 year old were already at his side in North Carolina. Jeff had expected to help his mom through his dad’s recovery and his transition home from the hospital. Instead, I was suddenly flying across the country with our one year old to join Jeff and his family as they prepared for dad’s memorial.

The photo above is of Dad R. holding my daughter last summer. He was a great Pop-pop and loved his grandchildren well–my children. He loved me well. We didn’t see each other frequently since we lived on opposite sides of the country, and way too often my in-laws came to visit right after I’d come through something particularly stressful (new baby, just finishing up a load of papers, etc) yet he loved me and was grateful for me with all my flaws. And he wasn’t perfect either–he could rub me the wrong way–yet he was passionate. He loved the Frog and Toad stories and passed that love onto my son. He owned a couple of kayaks and it was great sharing that experience with him through waterways in South Carolina. He was in his element in the home he and my mom-in-law had created for themselves, a place with a pond and a wood you could wander in for hours gathering back the scattered thoughts that get lost in the race of daily life. Spending time together at their home in the days after his death was as refreshing as it was grief filled. There is such peace there.

And yet I know that home is such an empty place for Mom R. right now. Next week is their 40th wedding anniversary. Thankfully, Mom will be in Indiana on that day with my sister-in-law celebrating the birth of her lovely daughter. Life continues and is passed on. I know my sister-in-law will remember her father well to her daughter. My husband and I will remember him well to our children every time we read Frog and Toad to them, every time we sit down in the evening to have a cup of tea with candles and NPR’s Hearts of Space for ambiance, and every time we return to wander his North Carolina woods.

And in his honor and memory, thought it but one small gesture among many, this week I decided it was time to attempt the best darn lasagna I’ve ever made. If you wanted to make him happy, you couldn’t miss with a hot pan full of fat noodles and sauce. Dad, this is for you.

GF Lasagna

Prepare preferred spaghetti sauce. This is what I made:

1 lb ground beef

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 medium onion diced

One 28 oz can of diced tomatoes

One 14 oz can of tomato sauce

2 small cans of tomato paste

2 tsp dried basil

About 3 tsp dried parsley (tho I bet it would be better with a couple handfuls of fresh)

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp fennel

Dash of red pepper flakes

Salt and ground pepper to taste

2 zucchini cut into circles then quartered (optional)

Brown hamburger and saute with onion and garlic in a pot large enough to simmer a fair amount of sauce. Stir in other ingredients and simmer for at least half an hour. An hour or more is optimal. Close to the end of its simmering time, preheat the oven to 375. Mix together:

2/3 c grated parmesean

8 oz shredded mozzerella

15 oz ricotta

1 tsp dried oregeno

salt and pepper

Pull out a 9×13 pan. Pour some warm sauce in the bottom to keep the noodles from sticking, up to a cup. Put down a layer of GF lasagna noodles on the sauce then cover the noodles with half of the cheese mixture. Pour another layer of sauce (1 to 1 1/2 cups) on the cheese layer, top with more noodles, then spread on the rest of the cheese mixture. Top the cheese with sauce, add another layer of noodles. Top the noodles with just enough sauce to keep it moist and then use a mix of grated parmesean and shredded mozzerella to cover the sauce and create a top cheese layer.

This is a pretty saucy lasagna and the pan will be full. Cover with foil, spraying the foil with cooking spray before hand to prevent it from sticking to the cheese. Bake in preheated over for 25 to 35 minutes, removing the foil in the last few minutes to let the cheese brown on top.

Eat as much as you like and freeze the rest to enjoy on another day.

This week’s menu is finally happening, but not until Tuesday. I’m looking through our cupboards and thinning them out. I think I am finally figuring out what the pantry staples of our gluten free life are. Initially I had to try everything. I’ve finally found my favorites as well as what I have time for on a regular basis. Maybe next week I’ll actually make a list of what is regular eating in our house, snacks and meals, as well as what I benefit from (almost) always having on hand. I’m enjoying other bloggers (such as Gluten Free Mommy, Gluten Free Cooking School and Book of Yum) posting on how they manage their food bills since this is something I’ve had little success at but am ready to begin to tackle.

I will put up a post later this week with a recipe for lasagna.

Short and sweet, the menu:

Monday we grilled out with friends and had chicken kebobs w/ peppers and onions and mushrooms, potato packets with rosemary and leeks, and this amazing salad that had all sorts of fresh herbs in it. Mmmm.

Tuesday: left over aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower), dal and rice.

Wednesday: GF lasagna

Thursday: community dinner with a friend whose house hosts these on a regular basis.

Friday: bean soup and cornbread

I hope to make white bean hummus today (TJs has an awesome white bean hummus but it has soy sauce in it). For the kids one of these days I’m going to make a pasta with homemade cheese sauce, broccoli, carrots and peas. It is a fun kid friendly recipe so I’ll try to get that one posted.

Woodland girlCheers!

My two year old (very soon to be 3!) frequently gets the phrases “Thai food” and “tofu” mixed up. In fact tonight–just for the fun of it–I think he was saying “Thai-fu” at the dinner table. Thankfully, he loves both. Me too, and I’d love to have more success at Thai home cooking. So far it has been “good enough” but not the great stuff I can get at some Thai places around here. However I found a recipe tonight that I was pretty happy with and I wanted to put the link here so that I would know how to find it in the future. It was a recipe for Thai stir fry with peanut sauce and tofu. Mostly it was marvelous. It needed a little salt or extra soy sauce and probably a lot more heat. I also think it would have been better with chicken. And, I also tossed some Thai basil in just long enough to wilt it.

I keep hoping to put up a weekly menu and return from my hiatus. Soon.

Tomorrow I am leaving on a trip I did not expect to take to North Carolina. Thanks to a dear friend’s help I was able to bake a loaf of bread in the flurry of packing up myself and my baby daughter. It will be my first time traveling gluten-free. I admit I’m a bit nervous about it. I have a bag full of nutritious snacks for my day of air travel, but nothing I have is going to feel quite like a meal. I know I will have to keep it simple during the week I’m not at home.

Does anyone have a good tip or story that might help me stay well and well fed? I typically love to travel and I’d love to feel confident about traveling as the new GF me.

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