My Father’s Favorite Father’s Day Dinner

We knew what he wanted, his favorites were easy to list. Green salad with blue cheese dressing. Sirloin steak rubbed with coarsely ground black pepper, and he would grill it himself. Sides would be baked potato with lots of butter. The skin must be buttered before baking, to make it crispy. No microwaved bakers for him. Simple steamed broccoli, again with butter. And last, but definitely not least, cherry pie with ice cream. Two crusts, traditional, only. Please no tarts, crisps, crumble topping, or extra stuff like almonds or custard. He was a traditional kind of guy.


cherry-pie-with-sorghum-crust photo by vsimon

Much of this meal is easy to do gluten free. Only the blue cheese salad dressing and the piecrust require special consideration. Recipes below.

First the dressing

This is homemade dressing with lots of chunks of blue cheese that you can actually see and taste. Manly blue cheese dressing, not the wimpy bottled kind.

So you need to find gluten free blue cheese. Here is a case where it might be easier done, than said.

There are lots of recent articles and blog posts saying blue cheese is safe. For example, Gluten Free Living magazine does a great job debunking food myths. Blue cheese is covered in the latest issue in an article by Ann Whelan. She reports that blue cheese, even made the traditional  way with mold cultures started on wheat bread, is  unlikely to have even 1 ppm gluten.

Sure Foods Living did a nice blog post on gluten free blue cheese brands in 2007. You may or may not be able to get the brands listed.

I am thrilled that most blue cheese is gluten free. But the occasional brand states on their website that their blue cheese contains gluten. Sargento’s website is one.

A call to the company found that the “quality team” is concerned that the mold culture is grown on wheat bread. They do not test the final product for gluten. My feeling is, the warning is due to an abundance of caution more than detectable levels of gluten. You must make your own judgments though. 

Do not be afraid to contact customer service for the brands available to you. In any case, it is a good idea to check with the manufacturers, as products and processes can change. Sigh.


blue-cheese photo by adactio

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup light sour cream, full fat or reduced fat

1 cup full fat Hellmann’s mayo

4 oz. blue cheese crumbles

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp dry mustard

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

Mix it up and enjoy!

This is very thick and can be used as a dip for veggies. I do not want this to be a commercial for any specific brands. But there appears to be a line drawn in the sand in the Midwest, where I am from. Hellmann’s or Miracle Whip? It is definitely either/or with very strong opinions.

We are a Hellmann’s family, never Miracle Whip. That would add a bit of sweetness that we do not care for. My husband’s family would only use Miracle Whip though. And my Dad wanted full fat, not light. This recipe can be made with light mayo, but it seems to thin out over time.

Next the pie

The really problematic dish on the menu is the pie. My mom always bought ready to bake Chef Pierre High Pies from the freezer case. It was made with wheat. She went to high school with the founder of the company. And she did not like to make pie.

I inherited that trait from her. I hate to make pie. The crust is the problem. Rolling the dough and getting it into the pan, ugh. I prefer to make crisps, crumbles, tarts, anything other than pie. So this is a real labor of love for my dad.

And I am all about improving the nutrition of the gluten free diet with wholegrain flours instead of highly refined starches. So I tried coming up with a tasty, easy to work with, mostly whole grain crust. Mind you, I did not want to make 15 versions. That is way too much pie that should not go to waste (waist). So I have one recipe to offer.


tart-cherry-pie-with-gluten-free-crust photo by vsimon

Tart Cherry Pie with Sorghum Crust

Yield: one 9 or 10 inch pie


1 cup (2 sticks) frozen butter,

*put butter in the freezer as you are getting everything else ready

1 ½ cup sorghum flour

1/2 cup sweet rice flour, plus extra for rolling the dough

6 tablespoons tapioca starch

6 tablespoons potato starch

1 teaspoon xanthan

½ teaspoon salt

½ to ¾ cup ice-cold water

Cherry filling

6 cups fresh or frozen pitted tart cherries

1 cup sugar

½ cup sweet rice flour

Make the crust

Put the flours, starches, xanthan, and salt in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Cut the butter into small pieces. Mix the butter pieces into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two forks. Work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarsely ground corn meal.

Add the ice-cold water and mix until you can mold the dough into a smooth ball, with no crumbles. Start with ½ cup water, add more, a tablespoon at a time. If you add a bit too much water, you can add a bit more flour. Shape the dough into two thick disks, wrap each in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Now comes the fun part. This dough is a bit tricky, but I think all piecrust dough is tricky. Take a deep breath and calm yourself. Generously flour (gluten free of course) a sheet of parchment paper, or a large non-stick mat. Flour the top of one disk of dough, and cover with another layer of parchment. Roll this out with a rolling pin, making sure it is big enough to cover the pie pan. Uncover the dough, gently put it in the pan, and peel off the paper. Not to worry if the dough cracks. Simply pinch it back together. Leave the overhanging dough alone for now. Set the pan aside and roll out the other disk.

Put the cherries in the dough-lined piecrust. Top the cherries with sugar and sweet rice flour. Put the top crust on the pie. Run a knife around the edge of the pie plate to remove extra dough. Crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers. Cut a pretty cherry design in the middle of the crust to let steam and lava like hot filling to escape.

Put the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any overflow.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Then turn down the oven to 350 and bake for another hour if using fresh cherries. Or up to 1 ½ hours more if using frozen cherries. You want to see red filling oozing out of the crust in spots.

Allow to cool completely before cutting.


we-liked-it photo by vsimon

I have to say this cherry pie is delicious. And making it is not for sissies. Go ahead and make a cherry crisp, crumble or tart if that is more your speed. Then top any of them with vanilla ice cream. Many are gluten free, be sure to read the label.

Or simply eat sweet dark cherries out of hand. That is a real treat too.

*Much of this post was published in the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness June newsletter.

**And it is submitted to the “Go ahead honey, it is gluten free!” recipe event. This month’s theme is manly food in honor of Father’s Day. It is hosted by Carol Kicinski of Simply…Gluten Free. Thanks Carol. 🙂

I am not sure which recipe is the most manly. Which recipe would your man prefer?

A is for Amaranth

Amaranth is an ancient crop making a new debut in the last 20 years. It is a tiny seed, mostly tan with a few black seeds mixed in. It has a mild flavor, similar to rice but without the rice aroma. And it is a nutritional powerhouse.

standing in amaranth

yours truly out standing in amaranth photo by vsimon

Ancient Aztec runners and warriors ate amaranth because it provided energy and endurance. Nutrition Data shows that 1-cup serving of cooked amaranth is about 250 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 grams fiber, and 9 gm protein. That will keep you fueled on your busy day.

It is also like taking a tasty supplement in a bowl. Certain minerals and vitamins are lacking in many gluten free foods. Not here. That same 1-cup serving of amaranth naturally provides about 30% of our iron, 10% of our calcium, 15% of our folate and 15% of our B6 minimum daily needs.

photo by lsimon

Start the day with creamy crunchy hot amaranth.

It is all about the texture. It is creamy as you expect hot cereal to be, with a pleasant lingering little crunch.

1 cup amaranth seeds

4 cups water

Put seeds and water in a saucepan and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. For even more iron, use a cast iron pan.

This recipe serves 4, and doubles well. Make enough for the week and you will easily have a quick satisfying breakfast. It thickens as it stands, so you may want to add more water before reheating. Top it with fruit, nuts and ground flax seeds for even more fiber, texture and flavor.

Use up leftover plain cooked amaranth in meatloaf or meatballs instead of gluten free breadcrumbs.

Or try popped amaranth seeds. You get light airy bits that look like tiny double snowballs stuck together. With wonderful toasty flavor and scent. Simply put a ¼-cup amaranth grains in a heavy saucepan covered with a lid. Bring heat to medium high and slide the pan side to side to shake up the grains. Once you hear a faint pop, you only need to cook for a minute or two to pop the seeds. They burn easily so remove from the heat quickly and pour into a cool bowl. They are yummy with milk as a cold cereal. Eat them quick for maximum crunch.

Updated 1-12-10 Interested in amaranth greens? Click here.

Interested in harvesting amaranth grains. Click here.




Rebirth. Every year.  

It is so miraculous! 


In the north, spring brings welcome warm winds and sun on your cheeks. And shoots of early perennials leap from the earth. In March, I inspect our garden for the earliest signs of life. In April and May, I am signing the praises of fresh tender asparagus and using it any way I can think of.


Sure, you can buy it fresh in many markets through out the year. It is often expensive and I ignore it most of the time. Too often, it looks like tired little soldiers with droopy heads. The quality of super fresh asparagus is so superior that I buy it only when I can get it from local growers. In the spring, it is olive green with a crisp snap of the spear. Thick or thin stalks, which is better? It is a personal choice, I prefer thick. And for me, frozen and canned asparagus just do not measure up.


Asparagus is a dieter’s delight. It has less than 30 calories per cup! But it is rich in iron, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamins A, C, and K. And a 1-cup serving even has 3 grams of fiber. Serving roasted asparagus is such a treat you will not feel deprived in any way.


Simple Roasted Asparagus
So spring-y, so simple, so quick.

Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.


Fresh asparagus spears, 5-7 per person
Olive or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, trim the bottom end of the spears.

Arrange the spears in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with a bit of oil and rub it around the spears.


Roast for about 10 minutes. Season to taste.


Lemon punch– sprinkle fresh lemon juice and grate the zest over the top before serving.
Orange dream– drizzle thawed orange juice concentrate over the spears. Use calcium fortified OJ concentrate for a little boost of calcium.
Sweet tang– drizzle with good balsamic vinegar when the spears come out of the oven.
Crunchy and salty crust– top spears with grated parmesan before roasting.
Soft and creamy finish– about half way through roasting, top with crumbled goat cheese.
For even more texture and nutrition– top any of the above with chopped nuts.