Going Gluten-Free, Front Yard Makeovers, and Meat and Tacos and Meaty Tacos

I just quit that CSA I joined in my eat-all-the-vegetables January zealousness. The reasons are threefold. Number one: I signed up for the big box, the one for a family of four, because I cook for a family of four. It slowly dawned on me as the weeks went by that having four people in your family is not the same thing as having four people who are willing to eat a lot of weird vegetables in your family. I was the only one who was reliably willing to eat the stuff, and I was cooking a lot of different meals to account for the anti-vegetable faction of my family. So I looked into going down to a little box instead of the big box, but the little box is like all radishes and turnips and dandelion greens, and I want the fun stuff, not the box full of turnips. Reason number two: Andy’s already having to give up a huge swath of the foods that he loves on account of his celiac diagnosis, and I want to be able to cook him stuff that I know he’ll like in this transition period where he gets used to his new diet, and there’s no overlap between foods Andy is excited to eat and things that come in my weekly CSA box. Reason number three: there have been SO MANY recipes I’ve wanted to try while I’ve been CSA-ing and just didn’t feel like I could because that would involve buying vegetables from the store and forsaking some of the vegetables in my box. Because, literally, to get through the box we I had to eat multiple CSA veggies at every meal. So I decided to stop getting the box and to make more of an effort to just go to the farmers’ market instead. Then I can buy the vegetables I’m excited to cook, for recipes I’m excited to try.

We’re still sort of flying blind on the switch to a gluten-free diet because we haven’t had a follow-up appointment with the GI doc yet. We had originally planned to keep a few gluten-y things in the house- bread for kid sandwiches and pasta for kid lunches, but quickly realized the possibility for cross-contamination (through the toaster, the sponge, etc) was just too great. So we’re a totally gluten-free household now. This has been relatively okay. Andy has been very kind and grateful for the meals I’ve been making him, sweetly proclaiming that they’re every bit as good as the gluten-full versions I used to make. The kids called bullshit on the GF noodles we’ve tried, though Andy and I thought they were pretty great. We’ve found breads and cookies that will do just fine, and learned that Andy needs to have reliable and delicious and substantive GF snacks around, especially for when he gets hungry at work or when we’re away from home, so he’s stocked up on meat sticks and Lara bars. We have discovered to our horror that most gummies are made with a wheat-based glucose syrup (Andy’s favorite Sour Patch Kids, the ones he eats when his blood sugar is low and he needs quick sugar, are mercifully still okay). And mostly what the switch has boiled down to is that I’ve cooked a lot more meat and potato-y type stuff in the past few weeks.

Something bringing me joy in the last few weeks is a partial front-yard makeover. I love makeovers and moving furniture around and everything that makes something mundane feel new and fresh again. Also, I think it has been established that I get the itch to start a new big house project every spring. Do you wanna see some pictures?

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In the foreground- I ripped up all the grass on the side of our house and moved my raised beds to the front yard, which gets so much more sun and which is out of the reach of those menacing backyard chickens. I filled the area around the beds with pea gravel and planted and mulched a simple strip of Mexican feathergrass next to the beds (not visible in this picture) because my friend and incredible garden designer Amanda said the relative calm of a bed filled with one type of plant would be better next to the chaos of the hodgepodge of vegetables in the raised beds. In the background, Andy and I, with a whole lot of help from Otto, our extraordinary neighbor, built and stained that new front porch/deck thing, and I installed new landscaping edging in the circle around the tree and filled that area with pea gravel too. It feels calm and soothing over there and I’m so happy with the change. I’m going to plant a few bamboo muhlys on the far edge of that circle to make it an even more enclosed and protected space, which will have the added benefit of serving as a screen to block the view of the neighbors’ cars.

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We planted dill and fennel in our herb box in hopes of attracting swallowtail butterfly caterpillars and it worked! We have a dozen or more of them feasting on the dill and parsley and fennel and growing exponentially bigger every day. This morning, when we woke up, Henry said, “Let’s go check on the caterpillars!” and I said, “Oh yes! Let’s! Oh wait, I’m not wearing a bra.” And Henry said, “How could that possibly stop you?” I took the time to go put a bra on anyway, and I’m glad I did, because no less than two neighbors stopped by while we were out there to look at the caterpillars too and I was already wearing my favorite sleep leggings which are, let’s face it, disintegrating, and have huge holes along the inseams, so the bra added just a touch of class to my otherwise frazzled and unkempt morning look. Also I really have to trim that cilantro because it’s bolting.

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Caterpillar close-up just for funsies. Sorry for using the word ‘funsies.’

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Not part of the makeover but I just love the California poppies I planted in my hellstrip a few years ago. They bloom every spring and I love the way they match the trim of the house. And they’ll be a good source of nectar for our swallowtail butterflies!

Anyway! On to the food. Here’s some of the hot hits from our first fledgling weeks as a gluten-free family.

Steak, Collards, Mashed Potatoes. Andy’s ‘sorry you have celiac’ dinner. My mom bought these steaks for Andy at Costco, a 4 pack of big fat ribeyes, after I got sticker shock and couldn’t go through with the purchase. That always happens to me at Costco. I did buy a big giant bag of jerky that was only ten dollars though and on the merits of that alone I am considering getting a membership. Maybe I could buy cashews there too? Rice? I’m not sure what else. Probably mostly just a lot of jerky.

Carnitas with Guacamole and Tomatillo Salsa, Black Beans, Tortilla Chips. The tortillas and salsa and chips are from Tortilleria Rio Grande #2 on William Cannon. These corn tortillas are miles and miles better than the El Milagro ones I buy at the grocery store, and the chips and that salsa are my favorite things too. We ate through two pounds of the tortillas no problem, but now that we have to pay really close attention to cross-contamination, I don’t think I can buy them anymore because they are almost certainly cooked on the same conveyor belt where the flour tortillas are made. I gotta learn how to ask that question in Spanish and then go ask that question in Spanish because it would be really extra great if these tortillas could continue to be a part of our lives.

I went canvassing for Beto, who is the dreamiest, dreamiest Senate candidate ever. Did you know he’s not taking any money from PACs or corporations or special interests? That he’s imposing term limits on himself? That he is visiting every one of the 254 counties in Texas, many of whom have not had a visit from a Senate candidate in generations or ever? And he listens to people and is smart and funny and just the opposite in every way of ole Teddy Cruz. Even so, I hate canvassing and wouldn’t have done it except that Molly signed me up for it and I had to. And it really wasn’t so bad. Nobody got mad at us or threatened to shoot us! We met some great people and saw inside some wacky houses and met one guy who was super high and a couple people who “don’t believe in voting” (yeah, okay) and gave out buttons and did it all using a new canvassing app that’s pretty swell. So thanks, Molly! Our plan is to get deputized as voter registrars and canvass in our own neighborhoods several times between now and the election. Gotta get on it!

Smoked Salmon. Oh yeah- add this to the list of stuff I would buy at Costco if I had a membership- big sides of salmon that I can cut into single servings and hot smoke with maple syrup and apple wood chips. This is my cut of a side of steelhead and a side of salmon that I split with my mom and Christy. I ate it for breakfasts and snacks and ran out too quickly.

Gluten-Free French Toast. Gluten-free bread has come a long way since the last time I tried it. Although I still don’t think it’s great plain, once you toast it or griddle it or dip it in egg custard and fry it, it’s just fine. We like the Udi’s Soft White and the Little Northern Bakehouse Millet and Chia loaf and Cinnamon Raisin loaf.

Dandelion Green and Bacon GF Quiche. The kids wouldn’t touch it, but I thought this was pretty good, even if the dandelion greens are a little more bitter than I’d like. I sent a few slices to work with Andy and ate the rest myself, reheated in our new magically quick and wonderful and not covered in bread crumbs toaster oven for breakfasts and lunches.

Cobb Salad. One of our favorite naturally GF meals. I serve it with a tahini dressing (tahini + grated garlic + lemon juice + salt + water to thin it). And none of these facts are very exciting but I didn’t want to cut this picture out of the post because it is proof that we are eating some vegetables.

Bulgogi Beef, Crispy Roasted Kale with Tamari. Honestly the carrots have been the most relentlessly oppressive CSA item of all. I have literally 7 pounds of them in my fridge right now because we just couldn’t keep up. This meek little pile of carrot garnish in the corner of this bulgogi plate constitutes 1/6 of one carrot, and it was plenty enough for me.

Henry’s Beloved 15 Bean Soup, GF Cornbread. I just replaced the AP flour in the linked cornbread recipe with GF AP flour and it was great! Like real-life cornbread! The soup is something that Otto turned us on to, and almost every time we go to Otto’s house for a visit, Henry asks him if he has any. This time he had a bag of it (the mix of 15 dried beans) in the pantry and gifted it to us. I cooked it up with some smoked sausage and brought Otto the other half of the finished soup.

Food Lab’s Buttermilk Pancakes, GF. These were like real pancakes too! Through the miracle of science and xanthan gum, good pancakes can continue to answer the call of what to eat for dinner when I haven’t planned anything. Christy was telling me about the magical two ingredient egg + banana pancakes that they like even better than regular GF pancakes, so I wanna try those too. I just don’t have any old bananas lying around at the moment.

Pasta with Fried Lemon and Chile Flakes. This is Bionature GF spaghetti, which the very kind blogger behind The Weekly Menu turned me on to- it’s really great! Side note- her post about gluten-free restaurants in Austin gave me life after Andy’s diagnosis. We have reservations to eat at ATX Cocina for our anniversary dinner next month and I am awfully excited. But beyond just the pasta being good, I loved this fried lemon pasta recipe from Melissa Clark. Let’s put fried lemon slices in everything.

Migas Tacos. I’m just guessing here, but when it comes to giving up specific foods, I’d bet that Andy is most unhappy about having to say goodbye to flour tortillas. I did make him a batch of gluten-free flour tortillas, which he keeps in the freezer and eats with peanut butter of all things for a special late-night snack. But for our everyday run-of-the-mill now served on corn tortilla tacos, a couple of tweaks have made them seem a lot better. First- instead of just steaming the tortillas (too soggy) or griddling them (too dry) I have taken to heating them in a little bit of good salted butter. They get soft and pliable, but have better structure too, from being crisped in spots in the hot fat and they taste better too, from the added fat and salt. The other tweak is to make a quick fresh salsa by pulsing tomatoes, cilantro, white onion, and a little garlic in the food processor with lots of lime juice and some salt. This is bright and lovely and makes for a joyful addition to any taco.

And lastly, we went on our annual adventure to Sherwood Forest Faire! The bird show remains the highlight for me of every trip there, even though the presenter’s spiel is virtually identical from year-to-year. I love seeing their big old owl fly around. And this raven was new and enchanting this year- they trained him to take money out of peoples’ hands and put it in a donation box, and this was equal parts thrilling and terrifying for George.

All thrills and no terror on the carousel ride. But shortly after this, George got mopey and wanted to be carried everywhere, so we did, but eventually we realized he had a fever and we had to go, poor kid.

Before the fever, while George was still just okay to be carried around, Henry ate all the gluten at the fair.

And then managed to hook a ring on his lance on this super fantastic jousting roller coaster ride. I love the steely determination in his face in this picture.

The fair was surprisingly great for gluten-free eats. Highlights included the sausage on a stick and the most delicious and refreshing vegan pineapple soft serve of all time.

It’s late now and I’m out of things to say and a storm is rolling in and I’m gonna lie in bed and listen to the thunder and fall asleep. Thanks for all the love and help with our new gluten-free diet. Happy spring and rainstorms and poppies and pineapple soft serve and all the other lovely things to you.

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One thought on “Going Gluten-Free, Front Yard Makeovers, and Meat and Tacos and Meaty Tacos

  1. Melanie March 28, 2018 / 11:49 pm

    It’s a huge step to go from a gluten-filled lifestyle to a gluten-free one. It looks like you’re doing a great job so far!

    We also get a CSA box that often has lots of turnips, radishes and CARROTS or various brassicas in it. I’m really the only one who will eat most of them, but there’s no way I’ll eat 10 turnips every week for weeks on end, and I haven’t been able to keep up with some of the greens and most certainly, the carrots have gotten the better of me. I’ve recently come to terms with these things, and decided to give things away that I know I can’t get to, rather than continuing to stockpile my refrigerator and then feed my compost when I fail to eat these vegetables in time.

    Because of all this silliness, I’m also considering giving up the CSA delivery, despite how much I believe in supporting our local farmers. I just can’t justify $40/week on a lot of uneaten veggies…AND I just found out there’s a sweet little Farmer’s Market in Drippin’ on Wednesday afternoons. I think I’d much rather plan my meals and buy what I need, vs trying to plan meals that only one or two of us will eat, based upon what gets sent to us.

    I’m torn. I’d like to cancel it soon, but I also want to see what’s coming later in the Spring.

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