Thanksgiving Report 1: Allergen-Free Edition


For our 2012 Thanksgiving celebration, I cooked much of the meal for my relatives.  It was fun, and apparently successful, as I received some requests for recipes.  The only problem is that I don’t always cook with recipes.  Often, I will peruse the internet or the Wegmans magazine, and then rely on some mysterious kitchen alchemy when I actually make the dish.

This Thanksgiving, I was not cooking for a crowd.  Dinner was just the four of us at home.  With the luxury of time and some ambient lighting for pictures, I decided that today I would try to pay attention to what I was putting in the pot.  The following is our 2013 Thanksgiving menu.  It is almost all allergen free (if your allergies are the same as Jack’s).  You’ll notice that allergen-free pumpkin pie didn’t make the cut, but we did have a yummy chocolate pie in its place.

Thanksgiving 2013

Turkey:  Sometimes we go all out with a locally raised fresh turkey and the larded turkey recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.  This year we had a small 48 cents/ pound grocery store turkey.  I just salted the inside, stuffed it with apples and onions, and roasted it at 325 degrees until it was done.  (I covered it with foil for the last hour of roasting.)

Mashed Potatoes:  I use soy milk and Earth Balance spread.  I also use a little bit of tarragon.

Fancy Gravy:  See recipe below.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts:  See recipe below.

Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce:  Jack has inherited his grandfather’s taste for cranberry sauce.   Grandpa G. would serve it at every meal if he could, but we only indulge in “cranberries from a can” occasionally.

A Pomegranate:  I took David with me shopping late on Monday night . . . and we came home with a pomegranate.  This was a last minute addition, and we just ate it plain.  It lent a nice contrast to the turkey and gravy.


Brown and Serve Rolls:  Jack could not eat these.  I offered to make him cornbread, but he said it was not necessary.  (I’m glad, because I didn’t really want to make cornbread.)

Lemon Meringue Pie:  This was Tom’s request.  I have never made a lemon meringue pie, allergen-free or otherwise.  (Is it even possible to make an egg-free meringue?)  We bought this in the freezer section, and Thomas seemed to enjoy it.

Chocolate Pie:  Wheat-free, dairy-free, and egg-free, but still really good!  I also made coconut whipped cream for the topping.  I am still relying on a cornflake or Corn Chex crust for this.  Once I figure out a good gluten-free crust, I think the recipe will be blog-worthy.


It was a good dinner, and we were reminded to be thankful for the bounty in our pantry, in our freezer, and on our table.  We also paused to thank God for freedom, especially  our freedom to worship Him without persecution.

Now, without further ado, here are two of the recipes my relatives requested:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1-2 pounds Brussels sprouts

(Last year, I made 2 batches of 2 pounds.  This year, I just made one batch with 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, and 2 carrots.)

2 cloves garlic

Olive oil (About 1/4 cup, enough to coat the vegetables.)

Salt and Pepper

2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine  (I use Earth Balance.  If it weren’t for Jack, I would probably use real butter.)

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar  (You don’t need really good balsamic vinegar for this.  We keep two jars.  The “good” jar is for fresh salads.  The grocery store brand is for cooking.)

Wash the Brussels sprouts and pat dry.  Peel off any outside leaves that don’t look good.  Cut the smaller sprouts in half.  Cut larger sprouts in thirds or quarters.  Peel and slice carrots if you are using them.  Peel and mince garlic.  Toss vegetables and garlic in a bowl with olive oil.  Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees.  Stir about halfway through.

While the vegetables are roasting, measure butter or margarine and honey in a microwave-safe bowl.  Melt in the microwave and stir.  Then stir in 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

After the 20 minutes, take the vegetables out of the oven.  Stir the vegetables.  Pour the butter/honey/vinegar mixture over all.  Return to the oven for 5 more minutes.

You can also try this recipe with other vegetables.  The roasting time will vary depending on the vegetables you use.


Fancy Gravy

1 small onion

2 small to medium apples

About 1 dozen baby portabella mushrooms

Olive oil

3-4 tablespoons cornstarch  (I did not get the cornstarch right the first time.  I only used 2 tablespoons, and that was not enough.  I think I would recommend starting with 3.  If you have to use more, mix it with some cold water or broth before adding it to your gravy.)

Salt and pepper

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s Balti Seasoning to taste  (This is a sweet curry spice blend.)

About 3 cups turkey or chicken broth  (Last year, I used homemade turkey broth.  This year, I only had homemade chicken broth so that is what I used.)

Slice the onion.  Peel and slice the apples.  Wash and slice the mushrooms.  Place all three ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, salt and pepper, and sweet curry spice, and set aside.

Coat the bottom of a saucepan generously with olive oil.  Heat on medium high.  Add the onions, apples, and mushrooms, and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes.

Add the cornstarch and spice mixture, and stir to coat the onions, mushrooms and apples.  Add the broth, and turn heat up to high.  Stir until mixture comes to a boil, and then stir for one minute more.  Ideally, the gravy will be the desired consistency, and you can turn the heat to low until you are ready to serve.

If the gravy is not thick enough, you can add more cornstarch.  Just be sure to mix the cornstarch with a little cold water or broth before adding to your hot gravy.  Otherwise you will get lumps.  Add the cornstarch and cold liquid to your gravy and bring to a boil again, boiling for about one minute before checking for the desired consistency.

We serve this gravy over the turkey and mashed potatoes.  It is also good with leftover turkey and rice.  The gravy can be used with chicken, although I prefer it with turkey.


We are indeed blessed.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving weekend!






Making My Peace with Halloween

Thomas was a Minecraft Herobrine.  Jack was a pirate.

Thomas was a Minecraft Herobrine.  Jack was a pirate.

Aargh!  For many years, this was my official stance on Halloween.  If I were still an elementary school teacher, I would probably still feel this way.  Fortunately, that is not the case, and ten years of motherhood have softened me somewhat.  “There is a time for everything.”  These are words of wisdom found in the book of Ecclesiastes.  This quirky little holiday at the end of October can be a time of irritation, but I have decided it is also a good time for family fun and friendship.  We had another family over to eat soup and cookies, to go trick-or-treating, and to enjoy the evening.  That is how we spent our time on Halloween.

Captain Jack works on his sword.

Captain Jack works on his sword.

Not only did fun abound on this Eve of November, but also creativity, both mine and the boys’.  We designed costumes, we frosted cookies, we carved pumpkins, and we played with corn starch papier mache.  It was a busy week!  Our papier mache project turned into three pumpkins.  The boys kept theirs as decorations, and mine became a piñata.  Between Thomas’ braces and Jack’s allergies, the list of candy the boys can actually eat is rather short, so I filled the piñata with their favorite allowable treats.  (I also put in some light-up bounce balls which added to the excitement.)

We made three pumpkins, but only mine became a piñata.  The boys' creations remained safely intact.

Thomas works on transforming his balloon into a pumpkin.

My finished piñata, ready for the party.

My finished piñata, ready for the party.

David used a wood clamp to hang the piñata.

David used a wood clamp to hang the piñata.

The piñata, I think, was the highlight of the evening.  It didn’t even matter that it was raining outside.


Oh yes, we’re a rowdy bunch.

Just in case you’d like have your own allergen-free piñata fun, here are the directions for corn starch papier mache paste.  It’s basically like making a big batch of very thick gravy.

Corn Starch Papier Mache Paste

  • Combine  1 cup of corn starch with two cups of cold water in a quart-size jar.  Shake well until the corn starch dissolves.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.
  • Add your cornstarch and water mixture to the boiling water.  Stir constantly as you bring the mixture back to boiling and then stir for about 1 minute more.
  • Remove from heat and let the paste cool to the touch before using.

This made more than enough paste for our entire project with three balloon-sized pumpkins.  If you are doing more than one layer over a few days, keep the paste in the refrigerator while not in use.



Last Week, 8

Last week Jack and I made an allergen-free chocolate pie for Father’s Day.  It had no eggs, no dairy, no nuts, no wheat, and it still tasted really good!  It was so good, in fact, that I didn’t have a chance to take a picture.  I did, however, find a picture of the first Father’s Day chocolate pie I ever made.  (It was not allergen-free, as that was not an issue back then.  This year was the first that I figured out an allergen-free chocolate pie so we’ve had to do with other desserts in the meantime.)


I also found a picture of the little creature who gave us an especial reason to celebrate Father’s Day those ten years ago:

Thomas Henry 038

Last week we also did a little homeschool plant cell biology.  Our model cell looked like this:


I finished all of our end-of-the-year homeschool paperwork.  On the way to the high school to turn it in, Jack and I stopped for a walk at the river.


We ended the week with a string recital and picnic.  It was held at the home of another Buffalo Suzuki Strings family.  Thomas and Jack played their “Long, Long Ago” duet with Miss Klansee playing a harmony part (which would technically make the song a trio).

long long ago edit

It was a very full week and a good one too.


Easter Eggs

Easter is right around the corner, and in my opinion, there are are few things necessary for a proper celebration:  We need to sing “I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” we need Easter lilies, and we need decorated Easter eggs.   What to do when your child is allergic to eggs?  Dyeing real eggs is not an option in our house.  Fortunately, Rachel Wolf has some great alternatives on her blog, Clean.  I found her tutorials back in 2011, and we’ve used these eggs ever since.  They are cute and fun, and you may want to try them even if you don’t have egg allergies in your house.

The first tutorial is for felt eggs.  I love these.  I just used felt from the craft store, and I sewed the eggs with embroidery floss.  I did them all by hand because my sewing machine and I don’t always get along.  I let the boys sew some too.  Thomas really got the hang of it, but Jack still needed quite a bit of help two years ago.  I think I’m going to set a little basket of felt and other supplies out again in case we want to make some more this year.


The second tutorial is for paper-mâché eggs.  These are a little trickier, but if you’re up for a big, messy, art project, you can give them a try!  We had a hard time getting our dried eggs open.  We had to use a coping saw!  Also, I skipped the “toilet paper tube” step that Rachel includes because I couldn’t make it work.


Getting ready

Letting the eggs dry

Letting the eggs dry

Cutting them open

Cutting them open

We set our homemade eggs out for the Easter Bunny to fill and hide.  The said Easter Bunny has worried that the paper-mâché eggs are a bit tricky to tie closed, but I think it’s worth the effort.


I have one last link for those of you who don’t have egg allergy issues.  This idea is from Posie Gets Cozy, and it looks really neat.  I’ve never tried them so if you do, let me know how they turn out.

Do you have any projects in mind for Easter?  If so, enjoy your preparations!


How We Do Bible Time

I sat down on Sunday afternoon and planned out seven weeks worth of Bible stories to do with the boys.  I wanted to share my plan here, but I thought that first, someone might benefit from reading how we do “Bible Time.”  If my ramblings are not beneficial after all, then please just skip to the next post!


The boys and I generally have our Bible time about three or four days a week right after lunch. I try to keep things simple and enjoyable as the boys eat their dessert and I share the Biblical narrative that comprises the stories of our faith.  We focus on one story each week.  I read it, and then we briefly discuss it.  We are still at a point where childrens’ Bible story books work best for us.  Our favorite resources are  Arch Books from Concordia Publishing House and the Read and Learn Bible by the American Bible Society.  The boys enjoy these as much as any other picture books, but we do make the distinction that these stories are from God’s Word and that God’s Word is true.  Repetition of the same story for a week helps them to retain the narrative.

After the story, we work on memorizing a corresponding Bible verse.  I write the verses on index cards, and we keep them handy on our kitchen table.  Typically,  I read the verse aloud and the boys take turns reciting it back between chocolate chips.  (Jack is allergic to wheat so we just have the chocolate chips for dessert and dispense with the cookies.)  By the end of the week, the boys have eaten quite a few chocolate chips and they have learned a new Bible verse.

We also pick a verse to review each day.  Keeping the index cards on the kitchen table makes this pretty easy.  I like to think of this as my “Suzuki Bible Verse Method.”  A seasoned Suzuki violin student, Thomas knows about twenty songs now “by heart” and he can play these by memory at any time.  In much the same way, the boys are learning many Bible verses “by heart,” and I hope in the future they will be able to recall them at any time.


In addition to all this, we are also starting a bit of work on Luther’s Small Catechism.  We do this in much the same easy, conversational way.  (This we usually do after we eat pancakes for supper on Thursday evening.)

Some weeks, of course, work better than others, and sometimes we take a break altogether.  We do not, however, take a break from eating.  When we do fall out of our routine, we have an easy way to get back on track:  Oh, we just ate.  Let’s have some Bible Time before we go on with our day.




Radish Recipes

I finally pulled up a good portion of the radishes early this week.  We have really enjoyed them sautéed because they acquire a nice mild, buttery taste.  I’ve done my best to write out the recipes for you.  Please note that all quantities and times are approximate.  (I really don’t measure very much when I cook.)

The inspiration for the first recipe came from Wheat-Free Meat-Free, but I did change it a bit.  Mostly, I cooked everything longer.

Green Beans and Radishes

  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1/2 pound radishes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • olive oil, salt, pepper
  • sunflower seeds if desired.

Wash and trim green beans.  Then blanch in boiling water.  Do this by bringing salted water to a boil and then adding the beans carefully.  I boiled them for about 6 minutes.  Rinse the beans in a colander.

Slice your onion and your radishes. I sliced the radishes thinly, and then cut the slices into half or quarter circles.  Melt butter or margarine over medium high heat.  Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes.  Then add the radishes and sauté for another 5 minutes.  Add the green beans and keep sautéing, another 5 minutes.  If the vegetables look dry or start to stick, add some olive oil (and perhaps turn down the heat).  Season with salt and pepper.  Add a sprinkle of sunflower seeds if desired.

Turn the heat down to medium low and cook covered for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve as a side dish.

My second recipe is still wheat free, but it is quite far from meat free.  Actually, my first choice for pasta would be a whole wheat pasta, but since I was serving this to the entire family, we went gluten free.  I tried some of the new corn pasta from Wegmans and it worked quite well.  It had a good taste and texture.

Pasta with Radishes, Peas and Bacon

  • 1 onion
  • radishes, about 1 3/4 cups, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 pound pasta of choice (we used corn flour penne)
  • Parmesan cheese if desired

Fry the bacon ahead of time and crumble.  Slice the onion and radishes as for the first recipe.  Then, like the first recipe, melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium high heat for 5 minutes.  Add the radishes and sauté for another 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the peas and bacon.   (My peas had been sitting on the counter for about 10 minutes before I added them.)  Cook, uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Turn the heat down to medium low, and cook covered for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  During this time, cook your pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and rinse the pasta.  Then combine everything in one pot and make sure it is heated thoroughly.  Serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Even the boys liked it.

It turns out that radishes are good for you too.  They are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate, and potassium.  Of course, they might be better for you without the bacon.