Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Make Best Ever Gluten Free Turkey Dressing (Stuffing)

Trust me when I say when you eat this stuffing, there is virtually no discernible difference between the regular and my gluten free recipe.

At first, one might wonder why a person would bother with trying to create gluten-free turkey dressing. Considering the fact that turkey dressing is little more than bread and seasonings, I found it quite a challenge to find a gluten-free alternative. The answer here is quite simple: my mother has celiac disease, which renders her body unable to properly digest gluten. That is rather unfortunate, considering gluten is in practically everything--and especially everything concerning Thanksgiving faire.

Dressing is one of my mother's favourite things about Thanksgiving holiday in America, and I was determined to concoct something for her that she could eat without making herself sick. These days, as more and more gluten-free products become available, I found it surprisingly easy to find exactly what I needed. The clue is knowing how and where to look. Even in a relatively small town where I live (about 50K people) the local Wal-Mart has a Gluten Free section. While they didn't have anything labeled "bread crumbs" or "croutons", they did have something labeled "Bagel Chips." I had found my answer!

While Glutino manufactures more varieties than just "original", I wasn't certain how the bagel flavouring would make everything else taste, so I opted for a plainer choice. The ingredients for the stuffing are as follows:

Best Ever Gluten Free Turkey Dressing (Stuffing)

1) Two 6 oz. boxes Glutino brand Original bagel chips
2) One 32 oz. container Swanson's Chicken Broth. (Swanson's is gluten free and I got the 33% less sodium variety)
3)  Veggies of choice. I chose to add the following:
     a) One large yellow onion, chopped
     b) 8 oz. celery, chopped (about 1/2 of one bunch)
     c) 8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
     d) 8 oz. baby carrots, sliced into discs
4) Sage seasoning (to taste, but add in 1/8 tsp. increments)
5) Poultry seasoning (to taste, but add in 1/8 tsp. increments)
6) Table salt (to taste)
7) Black pepper (to taste)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare the onion. Chop the onion. Make sure that the pieces are large enough so they can have some room to "cook down" (they shrink in size in the oven) but not so large you have a huge mouthful of onion when you take a bite. Place chopped onion in large mixing bowl.

3. Wash and prepare celery for chopping. Chop in 1/8th inch to 1/4th inch sections. Add to large mixing bowl with onion.

4. Rinse button mushroom. Slice in 1/8th inch sections. Add to large mixing bowl.

5. Rinse baby carrots. Chop in 1/8th inch discs. Add to large mixing bowl with other ingredients.

6. Remove silver packages from bagel chip boxes. Cut a small slit in the side to let air escape. Place silver bag (with bagel chips still inside) into a resealable gallon-sized bag. Seal the bag. Lightly crush the bagel chips inside the bag. DO NOT CRUSH INTO A PULP. This will result in you having horrible stuffing that turns into a gluey substance as it gets cooked. Pieces of bagel should be approximately 1/2 inch wide or larger. Add crushed bagel pieces to the other ingredients in the large mixing bowl.

7. Add sage, salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to dry mixture.

8. Add 12 oz. of Swanson's Chicken Broth container to the other ingredients. Stir thoroughly until bagel chips are just moistened.

9. Fill small roasting pan with stuffing mixture. Pour remaining Swanson's Chicken Broth over dressing mixture, making sure to evenly distribute it across the top. Cover with aluminum foil.

10. Place pan in center of oven and cook for 35-45 minutes, or until vegetables have lost their crunch, but are still firm. 

11. Remove from oven. Let cool for 10 minutes. Fluff and stir dressing with two spoons, almost like you're tossing a salad. Spoon dressing around prepared turkey on a platter, or by itself in bowls or on plates. I'm not kidding when I say it will be some of the best stuffing you have ever tasted and nobody will be able to tell it's gluten free! Bon appetit! Yield: 12 servings.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Last Call - All Aboard for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2


I cannot, in good conscience, as a self-proclaimed Harry Potter wizard, allow myself to close this chapter upon my life without posting and dedicating a blog to all of you fellow wizards.

I have to admit I went to the cinema with a lot of doubts. I was so anxious they would utterly screw up the final film and that I would hate it. It kept me awake most of the night.

Ironically enough, I had passed up a midnight release ticket, because I was attempting to be "responsible" for work the next day and was planning on getting a good night's sleep. All of my anxiety made that virtually impossible. I honestly didn't know how on earth I'd make it through work the next day, anxiety mounting, in anticipation to head to my 7:30 PM showing.

The highlight of my wait in line was when the usher/ticket girl told me to put my wand away because, apparently, during earlier showings, there were incidents of people stabbing one another with their wands. I scoffed. "I'm a wizard, I know how to handle a wand. People who stab others with wands are clearly the worst kind of Muggles, otherwise known as Twilight fans who are trying to stake each other."

Her response?

"Ha ha, no. Put your wand away."

I harumphed and walked to my theatre. Some people have no sense of humour.

You see, I'm very, very proud of my wand. It is a true Alivan's original, sent to me by my best Welsh mate 2 Christmases ago. My redwood wand means the world to me, as it is a symbol of love and friendship born of the Harry Potter fandom. But I digress.

Long story anxiety was largely for nothing, as I absolutely adored the film (mostly). It was a fitting way to close the series, and the ending music was what made it all the best.

Short story long, it pains me greatly to see the end of this era. In the words of Oliver Boyd, there will never be another one like this. Ever again.

It feels as if even the likes of Pottermore and even the possibility of new Potter books will fall short of the magic that the "First Cast" has managed to spin. That for whatever reasons, anybody who comes "second" will be somehow less impressive than that which we've built up in our hearts, minds, and souls as the end-all, be-all, quintessential Harry Potter experience.

Part of me wants to jealously guard my experience, something I consider almost sacred, and to shut myself off from anything new.

But a larger, more accepting, more creative part of me says..."what if"? What if I give this thing a chance? What if I continue to write fan fiction and wizard rock, and what if I continue to meet new and wonderful people, despite the end of this era?

So to those of you who are wondering "What now"... In the words of a wizened old wizard, we must do more than exist...for "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." I'm going to twist Dumbledore's words into the corollary... "It does not do to dwell on [the past] and forget to live."

I suppose that's what I love most about this fandom--this wonderful, glorious, magical Harry Potter fandom. It has adapted and changed with me, rolled with the punches, so to speak. And heaven knows I've gone through many different phases of life in the past 7 years.

Harry Potter led me to find many trusted and lovely people during those years...and many of them--it might even be you, reading this right now--have stuck with me through to the very end. Just like the Marauders did for you have done for me. I don't know what I would have done without many of you. Suffice it to say I will be forever grateful you've become part of my Harry Potter Continuum.

It might be the end of one era, but it's the beginning of everything else. And so we open by closing with a bang and a tear. I love you all. <3

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dear Jo Rowling - My First Encounter with Rowling's Magic

Dear Jo Rowling,

Where to start? Probably at the very beginning. First of all, this post is dedicated to the very lovely and talented Susan Sipal, and her blog, Harry Potter for Writers. Another blogger/writer gal named Brooke, inspired me to write my own version of the following post, Encountering Magic for the First Time.

Like Brooke, I too, had a problem with Harry Potter lovers. I thought it was utterly ridiculous that so many people could get so very into a simple "children's book series," and I found myself feeling sorry for them. I even openly mocked and laughed at people who were into Harry Potter.

Also like Brooke, I much preferred to write more "logical" stories and I loved reading horror/mystery novels as well as science-fiction. The closest I ever got to reading a full-on fantasy series was in high school, when I read "A Wrinkle In Time" by Madeleine L'Engle...and even that was considered far more sci-fi than fantasy. I'd attempted to read both "The Hobbit" and "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" as a tweenager. I was horribly disappointed with both series because I found them slow, dull, and boring, even at the age of 11. Star Trek was more my speed.

It wasn't until I was 26 years old that I at last allowed myself to read the Harry Potter series. I was bored, alone, recovering from an illness at my parents' home, and had nothing to read except religious texts, self-help books, and religious self-help books. My father, who is somewhat of a fuddy-duddy had listened to the Potter novels on tape, so I figured...what have I to lose?

Ever since I read the participle "thank you very much" at the end of the first sentence in Philosopher's Stone, I was hooked--irrevocably and hopelessly hooked.

I felt like Harry needed me to read his story, that if I didn't continue on with him through his adventures as quickly as I possibly could, that something even more terrible might happen to him. I wound up reading all 5 books in 8 days.

So many events in my own life paralleled his in so many ways...that I found myself identifying with him more and more. This boy was making it through so many destructive forces in his life--and it was a beacon of hope that I needed so desperately.

Allow me to reverse a bit. Remember when I said I was at my parents' home because I was recovering from an illness? I had caught pneumonia, which in turn caused me to miss so much work that I lost my job, which in turn caused me to lose the lease to my own place.

Before moving back in with my folks, I became so distraught that I was literally in the process of going to take my own life...when I was stopped. Thus the illnesses I was recovering from were every bit as physical as they were mental. I was sad and angry and any other feeling you can possibly imagine.

In my suicide survivor support group, we were encouraged to find a hero--somebody we could picture in our minds any time we found ourselves getting caught-up into suicidal ideation--and Harry Potter had become mine, at a time when I needed a hero the most.

It sounds a bit ridiculous when I try to explain it, but Harry Potter and Jo Rowling quite literally saved my life. My story does not end there, however. This is just the beginning of how Rowling has helped me.

Fast forward seven years. I am here now, as a wizard rocker, fan fiction writer, a better friend, and overall better person than I ever thought it was possible for me to be--at least back in 2004. Thank you, Jo, for your brilliance and fortitude in getting your story published. I would likely not even be around today were it not for Harry Potter.

Love and Sincerity,
Rae Carson

Monday, January 11, 2010


A funny thing happened on my way to post my first blog here. It was translating to HINDI, of all things. Luckily, it did not take me too long to notice this nor did it take me too long to discover how to disable this "feature". I don't know Hindi, nor am I personally aware of anybody who does. So. Yeah. Onward!

One of my resolutions for this year, for lack of a better term [not that I really ever make resolutions, I think they're pointless and when I fail to attain them it makes me feel like dirt] is to blog more. Would you believe I originally invented this blog title nearly a year ago and have yet to post a single thing on it? Yeah. Fail.

Cherie [my stepmother] needed me to judge for a speech/debate tournament this past weekend. It was held at ISU, my old Alma Mater. It was weird traipsing about the ol' stomping grounds, considering I haven't been to college in over 6 years. I attended ISU for 5 years, and in a lot of ways, it was as if I hadn't even left. Precious little had changed on the campus, with the major exception that they had built the Rendezvous building smack in the center of everything. It is the huge monstrosity, a multi-functional building that you can't call just "dorms", "classrooms", or a "student union". It is a bizarre amalgam of all 3 things, plus a few others of which I am not aware. Impressive building? Yes. But perhaps not in the way the university wished it to be.

Everything about the tournament was centralized in the SUB [student union building]. I lucked out in that I only had to travel to upper campus once to judge a round, and it was half a round at that. The BEST part was that I got to judge the "championship" round of duo interp. Eight of the finest teams of the tournament were mine to judge! In 3rd place was a team of boys who did the most hilarious parody of Twilight that I have ever seen performed by high schoolers. They made me laugh so hard, it brought tears to my eyes. I think my favorite part was when "Edward" said to "Bella", "This is the skin of a KILLER! *thrusts out chest* and Bella responds with, "OMG, BUT YOU'RE SO BEAUTIFUL!!! *practically starts weeping at Edward's feet*. The audience, including myself, was positively roaring with laughter.

The first place were a guy/gal team who wrote and performed their own version of "A Series of Unfortunate Events." They had impeccable timing, unparalleled characterization, and never missed a single cue. They also had fabulous volume, crisp actions, high energy, and used the entire stage area. In three years of judging, I don't think I've seen a finer team perform, and I was ecstatic when they were awarded the first place trophy for their event. The other two judges in the final round must've felt they merited the top spot as well. It's always nice to see those who deserve it the most get rewarded!

The weather for the tournament the first day was colder than Dante's hell. I'm glad I wore my alpaca-knit hat! It was warrrrrm!

Another random thing to blog about... one thing you readers may or may not know is that in honor of Harry Potter and the Yule Ball, several different balls like unto it are held around the world. Some of them are fundraisers, most of them are formal, but all of them are generally huge events which center entirely around the Harry Potter universe and typically have one or more live wizard rock bands on hand to play for the dancing and entertainment.

One ball in Ohio is entitled the "Crystal Ball" and it boasts about being hosted in "a real castle". My WELSH friend and I both looked at the picture of this so-called castle. Although a beautiful structure, it makes a laughable castle! Being as my friend Jessome is from the United Kingdom, and lives within 10 minutes of 3 different actual castles, she's rather an authority on this particular subject.
These, my deprived fellow Americans, are castles!!!
Castle 1
Castle 2
Castle 3