Gluten Free Camping Done Right

Gluten free camping food is such fun to make!  I love coming up with unique and delicious foods that are considerably more indulgent yet still stay in my personal dietary guidelines. I just returned from my first camping trip of the season.  I am getting a late start this year. I have had too many other weekend activities that have kept me from pitching my tent. Oh wait…. I don’t have a tent!  Ha!  I did learn my car is the perfect camping vehicle and even snuggles two people in quite nicely with a bit of elbow room.  I learned a lot in this first camping trip which created moments of deep reflection.  It is one of the reasons I have such a fondness for weekends in the woods; it brings me back to a balanced place where I feel grateful and peaceful.

I certainly felt “tipped” often enough on this trip.  It is not just my first of the season, but my first since I have moved and have had my stuff stored away.  My busy week prior to leaving did not give me time to pick up my camping gear until the day before I was to head out.  I just packed it in the car and that is where it stayed until we unpacked it at the campground.  Assuring my camping friend I had everything we needed, imagine my surprise when we started setting up camp and discovering I actually did not have some things we needed.  This fell on the heels of some other pretty crazy debacles that delayed us even getting to our spot until almost dark.  We laughed a lot about all of it along the way until it became clear we were missing some vital items.  It took me some time to remember that “M” and I had gone through all of our camping gear and downsized last fall when we were done traveling for the summer.  We got rid of a lot of equipment, deciding we would replace it later with more space efficient items for the next season.  That is now and considering what happened in my life between that time and today, there is no way I would have remembered this took place.  After laughing hysterically at the craziness of everything that took place just to get to our peaceful spot, we settled in and got creative with what was available, only running to the little market down the road for propane.  We made it work.

Digging through those camping buckets unearthed a plethora of painful memories as I reflected on the journey and experiences that led me to where I am today.  “Blessing upon blessing has reigned down on you”, just said to me last night by a friend; this is true. Where I am today is nothing short of miraculous in my opinion.  I have been lifted and gifted in the most beautiful ways.  I love right where I am in my life.  Dare I say I feel like I am truly living my dream.  I certainly feel like I am on that path.  But, I had to take some time to reflect again on what happened that lead me here today.  I had to process some thoughts, rehash a few things, reflect and let go a little more.  I had my own personal burning ceremony early one morning.  After quietly celebrating to myself for creating a successful fire, I spontaneously threw a word search book “M” had given me for Christmas into the flames.  It had gone into my “take with me belongings” when I moved, but I just stored it away on a shelf forgetting about it until I was packing for camping.  I love doing word search puzzles when camping.  Sitting at the fire, staring at that book next to me dredged up only anger and betrayal.  I said a few things out to the Universe, dropped it into the fire and let it burn.  I found a long purple knit thing in a bucket that “M” had made; an aborted attempt at a scarf I think, and we had used it to tie things.  I wrapped it around my fire poking stick and dropped it into the flames as well.  I love the powerful symbolism of this ritual and upon completion I felt lighter, more relaxed.  It feels great to close the book on that chapter of my life, however, six months later I am no more enlightened on why it ended.  It matters less and less.  It still astounds me the same.  I have come to my own closure and am comfortable in my truth.  It will likely never cease to make me shake my head in dismay because while I have definitely had my share of awful experiences, what I just went through is absolutely the most cruelty I’ve experienced by another human being; one that declared their love for me on a regular basis.  It simply makes no sense and it was so wrong.  I now see even more clearly the painful world “M” lives in that would move her to be so callous.

In the flames of the past, I recreate my current experiences and my future.  Just as stunning as the ending of my relationship and what I thought was my future, is the astonishing beginnings that have cultivated since this has happened.  The doors began to open before I even moved from “M”‘s house.  I have had continued remarkable experiences.  I cannot help but be grateful, often in a deep and moving way.  When I come full circle in my thoughts, I rest in grace.  My reverence for life is more profound.  I have found my balance again.  My trips into the forest always bring enlightenment.

With some heavy stuff getting processed, I am glad we came well stocked with the fixin’s for some great gluten and dairy free meals that were delicious and comforting.  Eating this way while camping can be easy with just a little preparation before heading out.  I like to pre-mix ingredients into plastic zip bags as much as possible, making it much easier to prepare at the camp site.  There was some good food eaten around the campfire, along with plenty of enjoyable conversation.  As well, there were many opportunities for silence and reflection.  Even with the harried experience of getting to the site and our lack of proper equipment, in many ways this was a successful first camping trip of the season.  I look forward to the next time and being much more prepared!!

I did learn that I can throw stuff together pretty darn quickly and am always successful at making things work with what I’ve got.  Camping, like life, is a learning experience.   The serenity and grace of my surroundings brought me back to center.  All is truly well in my world.

Check out some of the yummy food we ate and take in the beauty of our gorgeous Oregon forest.

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Keeping It Real Farmer’s Market Ratatouille

I rocked out one of the most colorful dishes I have created in a long time.  I was invited to a BBQ this past weekend and brought this dish to share.  I live so close to the city’s largest Farmer’s Market and the season is bountiful with gorgeous produce.  I was up early and filled with energy.  I was excited to head over to the Farmer’s Market for ingredients to prepare my dish. The morning was crisp and temperatures were refreshingly mild.  The walk was lovely.

I plucked the prettiest veggies from my favorite farmers displays with a mission.  I had my list and was prepared!  In the end I switched up what I had intended for this dish because I was drawn in by the beauty of baby yellow tomatoes.  Instead of using a marinade for this dish, I decided to use all fresh tomatoes.  ‘Tis the season for them!   Abundant tomatoes of all colors and varieties were enticing and beautiful.

It is rare that I bring a dish to an event that has ingredients I cannot eat.  However, this BBQ was different.  I would be the only one with dietary restrictions and the hostess, who is also a gracious and considerate friend, had special foods just for me.  Isn’t that so sweet? It was really fun to prepare this dish and I did pick through a bit and eat the vegetables I knew were safe for me.  It was delicious!!

It was a relaxed and enjoyable evening of interesting conversations that ranged from childhood memories of being in the kitchen with family cooking up favorite, traditional dishes to American culture and race relations. Fascinating topics went around the table! We ate, we laughed, we complained of the heat.  We went between the shaded picnic area in the backyard to the air conditioned kitchen intermittently.  It was a fun night and I am happy to say my dish received a lot of compliments so I think it was a success.

One of my favorite phrases of the night was “when we talk, we keep it real”.   As the conversations changed to more sensitive subjects, one person wanted to keep it going safely, so that was his “rule”.  Say what we feel nicely, honestly and keep it real.  I completely enjoyed that preface along with his occasional reminders that this is the best way to communicate with each other.  People must keep it real.  Seems that is becoming the theme in my life these days.  I have to say, it is a refreshing and much more honest way to move through the world when you keep it real.

I had a small container of leftover ratatouille that I took over to my bff’s house so she could enjoy the market fresh deliciousness.  I knew I would not eat it and I certainly did not want this fantastic dish to go to waste.  This dish was truly a farm to table kind of dish.  I am deeply grateful to our local farmers for their hard work in growing this healthful food and bringing it to my neighborhood market for me to enjoy.  Sowing and sharing harvest; now that is about as real as it gets.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Way

On the way, every day I see beauty with every step.  Never dull, always ordinary.  I notice.  I see artistry.  I see elegance.

There is nature all around me.  Peaceful quiet.  Happy morning chirping from high in the trees.  Sights of wild life and intoxicating scents.  I forget I live in the city sometimes.

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On the way I find moments of awe;  spirit awakening, deep gratitude, heart overflowing reverence for my walk in this world as I continue toward my destination.

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On the way seems very ordinary yet so incredibly enlightening.  Every day, on the way I feel a profound appreciation for this; my neighborhood and my journey to here.

Boston Bonanza

It's a Portland thing

It’s a Portland thing

I recently returned from a whirlwind mini vacation to Boston where I spent time visiting my daughter and seeing as many sights as we could jam in to my short stay.  It was so much fun!!!  I love Boston and I especially love the T subway system.  That transit system is fabulous, in my opinion!  It allowed us to see all the amazing places my daughter had planned for me to experience.  I enjoyed seeing nearly every neighborhood I wanted to meander, as well as a trip to the beach; all on the T!!  The weather was gorgeous and I always have such a great time hanging out with my kid.

We had casually talked about a trip to see her, but I didn’t think it was the right time to travel across the country considering my recent circumstances.  It just felt too stressful. However, as things smoothed out for me and with now stable housing that would keep me in Portland, my daughter took the chance and booked the ticket.  She wanted to give me a break from everyday life with all I have gone through and you know what?  She was so right!!  Being distracted in the best kind of way was exactly what I needed.  I am so grateful to my girl, who has become quite an amazing young woman.  She has an incredibly generous spirit and a big heart for her mama, which makes me feel so happy.  Considering some tumultuous adolescent and young adult years, we have developed a close bond of mutual respect and admiration.  I am deeply proud of the woman my daughter has become and I relish our time together.

Knowing I wanted a good food experience during my stay, my daughter had a list of reviewed places that offered gluten free, dairy free dishes.  We were regularly dashing off to various restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs to peruse their menus, always excited to try an impressive new dish.

There are so many wonderful places to eat gluten free and dairy free in Boston.  It certainly is not as prevalent as Portland, and there is a bit more planning involved to find the establishments that cater to my dietary preferences.  Some of my favorite places to eat that offered the easiest menu for me or were willing to customize an order for me are worth a mention here.  They are all on my “must visit” list each time I go to Boston.  Besides offering my kind of food, generally the staff and overall environment of each of these businesses is an awesome in it’s own way.

Thinking Cup, Day 1 The Theater District Location

Thinking Cup, Day 2 North End location

Thinking Cup, Day 2
North End location

Thinking Cup deserved two visits.  This trip I got to try out a new location in the Theater District.  Both locations offered to customize my breakfast sandwich and both were equally amazing.  I had smoked salmon with an egg on gluten free toast, one had arugula.  What really makes this a must visit place is their absolutely heavenly hazelnut lattes.  They are the first shop in the Downtown Boston area to offer Portland originated Stumptown Coffee; my personal favorite.  They make their own roasted hazelnut paste to use in these lattes and I have to say, it’s simply fantastic.

SUSHI!!!

SUSHI!!!

Avana Sushi is a tiny hole in the wall place in Boston’s Chinatown.  By appearance, it is one of those places that I would not consider without the high recommendation of someone who has already been there.  It sits in a tight corner of a space that is also occupied by other equally small, squeezed in businesses.  There are just four tables and 5 counter stools.  One of the tables sits at the edge of their kitchen.  It’s an experience!  I wouldn’t recommend this place to someone who experiences claustrophobia because this space is small!  What they manage to prepare and plate is simply amazing.  This is some delicious and fresh sushi for a fantastic price.  The line that develops into the lobby and spills out onto the street is proof this place is worth a visit.

Sweet Lavender coconut based frozen dessert on top of a gluten free cone!! My first ever!!!

Sweet Lavender coconut based frozen dessert on top of a gluten free cone!! My first ever!!!

Fomu (premium alternative ice cream) has totally got it right.  This ice cream is d.i.v.i.n.e. !!!  After my happy dance subsided about my first gluten free cone, my first taste of this creamy goodness made me stop walking because all my concentration had to be with my palate.  Seriously, so good.  Boston has one up on Portland, where there is no exclusive vegan ice cream shop.  I fantasized a kick starter business for a while on this idea!  We are missing out here in P-town. I will crave this delicious dessert until the next time I can satisfy it in Boston.  This place is definitely worth a visit.  Additionally, the staff are lovely to watch at their skill and will happily share their knowledge.  It is a fun place that takes me right back to childhood ice cream memories!!

Life Alive

Life Alive

This place is fantastic!  It was my first visit to this place located in the Cambridge area.  My daughter was really excited to take me here.  Their menu boasts some unique and tantalizing dishes that are organic, therapeutic and nurturing for the body and soul.

whole food goodness!

whole food goodness!

I wish I  could remember the name of this delicious salad I had, but as you can see from the picture, it is filled with some whole food goodness. We enjoyed this lunch outdoors on a warm, sunny Boston day.  It was a perfect afternoon!

Other establishments worth mentioning is Ula Cafe in my daughter’s neighborhood of Jamaica Plain.  Sadly, I have no pictures of the most incredible gluten free coconut macaroon I have ever tasted.  We walked to this cafe’ for a morning cup of coffee and I discovered them in a display case while waiting in line.  They were so moist and full of coconut flavor goodness.  The edges were perfectly caramelized crispy and chewy.  It was ridiculously good.  When we walked back on my last day in Boston to get one more, we learned they were all gone.  It was a specialty item for Passover.  I am so glad I got to enjoy one before they disappeared!

Fresh and colorful!

Fresh and colorful! Canary Square offered a pretty amazing and tasty beet salad dish that was beautifully plated.

The Friendly Toast is worth the trip to the Cambridge area strictly for the eclectic experience you will have.  People will wait for over an hour to enjoy dining here.  They have huge portions of comfort classics and I must admit, their classic egg breakfast is pretty heavenly. IMG_3211

kitchy eclectic decor!

kitchy eclectic decor!

My trip to Boston was outstanding.  It was the break I needed.  I came home with such a completely different perspective on my situation.  I feel more solid in my future and I am a lot calmer; more accepting.  My daughter and I both got exciting news while I was visiting.  She will begin working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the leading research institutes in the country.  My daughter will be working among some of the top scientists and I am so proud of her!  My news is still developing, but I can definitely say it will be life changing!  Stay tuned!

Life is moving on and I am feeling good.  Everything happens for a reason and I am finding mine moment by moment.  Crazy how life works, isn’t it??

Bread, Soup and Adventures in Oregon

Oregons open roads

Oregons open roads

My sweetie and I are adventurers at heart.  One of the many things we cherish together is our passion for new discoveries in the ordinary. Ordinary Oregon is a wide open palette of cleverly hidden gems intertwined through rural towns you’d never think to venture toward without a purpose.

Some days we just want to get out of the city.  Holidays, such as our recent President’s Day provided the opportunity to do just that. With a rough idea of our desired journey, our goal was to find a body of water and a forested area to meander and picnic.  Oh, and to find the most commonplace small-time, local quick stop store where we could buy our Powerball ticket.  It’s one of the fun things we do when we take day trip adventures.  We like to believe one of those small nameless mini markets hold the winning piece of paper!  It is silly fun.

Our local weather is back to the usual rain.  We saw plenty of it on our drive, including hail!  We did get the pleasure of a few sun breaks that added to the charm of our day.  We even saw the most perfect rainbow.  By the time I grabbed my camera to get a picture, dark clouds covered it and it was gone.  That was a beautiful rainbow.   Moments later we rounded a bend to discover these beauties grazing in the shrubs.

A mama & her baby

A mama & her baby

Filled with the wonder of nature, we continued on our day, cruising through small town Oregon, enjoying lush landscapes and sweeping farm land.  We found our body of water and our forested paths. We saw covered bridges and broken down barns blanketed in moss and ivy.  We discovered that there is still a lumber industry that appears to be thriving in Oregon. It gave us thoughts to ponder and created lively conversation.  Did you know there is a Liberal, OR?   We wondered if we were the only liberals around!  We laughed.  We enjoyed each other. We got lost in the succulent array of green that our state boasts and revived ourselves in our day of exploration. IMG_1437 IMG_1446 IMG_1447

As we sat in our camper van with the clattering rain on our roof top, we also satisfied our hungry bellies and warmed our insides by enjoying a thermos of piping hot Carrot Soup with homemade gluten free bread.

Dairy free Carrot Soup

Dairy Free Carrot Soup & homemade Gluten Free Bread

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Our picnic view

The food was outstanding and so was our day.   Home and refreshed, I am ready for this week feeling relaxed and more connected with the world around me.  I love our all around Oregon adventures.  I am grateful too, for the time to feel connected with my sweetie in the midst of this frazzled, mixed up thing called life.  

Check out this recipe if you want to make your own thermos of soup for your next outdoor adventure–

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2007/09/carrot-soup.html

My variation was using cumin powder instead of curry powder, I added a cup of chicken broth and a 1/2 cup of almond milk for a little creaminess.

The bread was a surprising success!!  I found this recipe in my folder recently.  It was emailed to me by my son who was attending Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute in Charlotte, NC.  He was taking a bread making class and had a few lessons on using alternative flours.  I rarely have a loaf of bread turn out this amazing.  It tastes as good as it looks.  The texture is fantastic and holds up well to toppings as well as dipping into soup!

Enjoy this creation by following this recipe exactly.  I found this to be the most successful way to have a beautiful loaf of bread.  I cannot give proper credit to the author of this recipe other than to say it came from one of my sons classes!  It is a delicious recipe.

Gluten Free Bread

2 cups rice flour ( I used brown rice flour)

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups water

1 package dry yeast

2 eggs

1/4 cup canola (or other) oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Using an electric mixer, combine all ingredients. The dough will resemble a thick batter. Scoop into an oiled 9×5

loaf pan & smooth the top. Brush with a light coating of oil. Loosely cover with plastic wrap & side aside to rise until dough is even with the top of the pan; about 1 1/2 hours. (mine didn’t rise all the way but was still great!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and bake until golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 30 minutes before slicing.  Freezes well.

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