Christmas Angel

AngelAbout fourteen years ago I decided to replace our star tree-topper with an angel. Not just any angel either. It had to be a brunette. Of course, all I could find were blonde angels. It seemed the stores were conspiring against me.

In the midst of my search, I could not figure out why I was so determined to find such a specific angel for my tree. After all, an angel is an angel, yeah?

I finally found her after a week of traipsing around town to every store carrying Christmas decorations.

Once I had her on the tree and she was looking down at me, it hit me. She is the representation of a friend I lost the year before the week of Christmas. She was sick for many years before she passed away and I was lucky she decided to surprise me by showing up at mine and Chaz’s wedding reception.

She had a sturdy shoulder for leaning on, an open ear for listening, and a rational mind for giving advice. She was my first best boss ever and her kids always made me laugh. She was creative, crafty, and a great cook. Her salsa is the reason why I hate salsa, because no salsa is as good as hers.

She was my first experience with dealing with food restrictions. She visited me back home and I wrote down everything she could not have then worked out a menu of what she could have. She was amazed with what I came up with. It was the least I could for her after all she did for me.

Christmas was hard to look forward to for so many years. It still is with all the losses I have experienced around Christmas since then. Just when I think it is all okay, someone dies.

But that is how it is right? God calls us all home sooner or later and even the celebration of his son’s birth does not stop him. The best I can do is hold their memories in my heart.

My tree is not complete without that angel on top. I can go without decorating my tree, but the angel needs to be there even if a part of her lives in me.

Right after she surprised me

Right after she surprised me

Damn Lucky

car accidentThis happened two weeks ago.

My car spun and a semi-like blue delivery truck loomed large in my windshield then the headlights of oncoming traffic in the morning hours. I collided with the back of the delivery truck in the spin and glass flew through the inside of the car. Cold air bit through me while adrenaline pumped like mad through my system.

I could not form a full thought and my fingers shook while trying to dial my phone. Who was I calling again?

Thankfully, a witness pulled over, checked on me, and called 911 before leaving with her young daughter for an appointment. The driver of the truck and the guys that were with him were fine.

My brain was so frazzled I did not think to check the damage on the car other than the two windows. My body was stiff and sore for several days and my adrenals crashed, but not too hard. Traveling to Las Vegas for my family reunion was not easy, but I did it.

I caught a gastrointestinal virus while with my family and spent two days holed up in the hotel room. As I type this, I am plagued by something respiratory less than a week later. Weakened immune system to go along with my weakened adrenal state.

Insurance is totaling my car and I am now faced with the decision to look for a new car or to make do with just Chaz’s car. I do not like buying cars. It tries my patience. The whole idea of looking for a new car stresses me out, a stress I most definitely do not need. However, sharing a car has its own stressors.

Then I look at this picture of my car that I took when Chaz and I returned from our trip and removed all my stuff from the car and I think, I walked away from that in one piece. As big as the truck was and given the road conditions I could have gone through the guard rails, the car could have flipped, and/or other cars could have hit me after the collision.

I am damn lucky. Everything else will take care of itself in time.

Chicken & Gluten-Free Dumplings

Chicken & DumplingsI never gave too much thought to chicken and dumplings until I moved to Kentucky. My mother rarely made it when I was growing up and it is not something you find in Hawai`i.

My MIL seemed to make it often though. She did the rolled dumplings. I was used to drop dumplings. I made them a few times, but drop dumplings are easier. Less to clean up!

I have worked on this recipe for the last two years trying different all-purpose gluten-free flour mixes and different measurements for the ingredients. The flour mix you use does matter. I am giving you two options: an all-purpose mix and measure your own flours. The all-purpose mix will give you a lighter, fluffier dumpling, especially if you use bacon fat. The measure your own flours will be a bit denser.

You can make this over the stove or in a slow cooker.

Chicken (or turkey) & Gluten-Free Dumplings – serves 4-6

1 pound cooked chicken or turkey, chopped

1 onion, diced

2 or 3 large carrots, quartered & sliced, OR 1 bunch small carrots, sliced

3 celery stalks, halved lengthwise & sliced

9 – 12 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried thyme OR 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt to taste

1 cup frozen peas (or fresh)

2 cups Hodgson Mills All-Purpose Gluten-Free flour OR 2/3 cup brown rice flour, 2/3 cup sorghum flour, and 2/3 cup tapioca flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 – 3/4 cup dairy-free milk or cream

2 tablespoons bacon fat (melted), olive oil, or soy-free Earth Balance (melted)

Add chicken, onion, carrots, celery, chicken broth, thyme, bay leaf, and salt to a large pot or slow cooker. Simmer for an hour over the stove or on low in a slow cooker for 4 – 5 hours. The larger your carrot pieces, the longer you want it in the slow cooker.  Before the end of the cooking time, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Add in the fat/oil and dairy-free milk. Start with 2/3 cup of the dairy-free milk and slowly mix in more if needed. You want the dough to be thick. If it is thin, you will end up with pot pie instead. At the end of the cooking time, remove the bay leaf and add the peas. Drop the dough in by tablespoon. Cover and cook for 15 minutes more on the stove or 30 minutes more in the slow cooker. If you want to thicken your soup, add a little milk to the remaining dough mix in the mixing bowl to create a slurry and add it to the pot.