A Family Tradition Resurrected

When I was young the family owned a commercial fishing boat in Southeastern Alaska. Fishing is seasonal and when the salmon are running you’d best be out working if you expect to catch any. With a livelihood so dependent on the fish schools and weather we didn’t take many days off in the summer. But each year on the Fourth of July we would knock off early to celebrate Independence Day.

Where we were and who we were with always varied but one constant was that we would make homemade ice cream. We stored caught fish in a hold covered with ice so the key ingredient of crushed ice was always plentiful. The ice cream maker was hand crank and took long enough to freeze that everyone got a turn, starting with the smallest person and finishing with the strong men as the ice cream got to its final stages. This personal involvement made it taste oh so much better than anything store bought. It was the best.

Fast forward to today. We still celebrate Independence Day with family and friends but over the years we had gotten away from making ice cream. Two kids with lactose intolerance put a damper on the effort needed especially since they couldn’t enjoy the fruits of their labor. Still I’ve continued to have a yearning for the homemade treat. So when I ran across a recipe for coconut pineapple ice cream, made without regular milk I mentioned it to Mom. To my surprise they still had the old ice cream maker and a tradition resurrected.

This ice cream maker is well over 40 years old.

This ice cream maker is well over 40 years old.

The recipe we used came from Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream but we adapted it for our family. It can work for your vegetarian/vegan friends too. Mom had told me that her old recipe called for sweetened condensed milk and we were curious about how this would be replaced until a little research showed us that the Cream of Coconut was not ‘coconut cream’ but a mix used often for Pina Coladas and was a thick syrupy sweet delight with a lot of potential for dairy free holiday treats. I found the Cream of coconut in with mixers in the alcohol aisle. If you buy coconut cream in the ethnic aisle it may be a completely different product more like butter or just fat and without sugar.

1 can Cream of Coconut or use just under 2 cups¾ cup canned Crushed Pineapple drained plus
2 Tablespoons Pineapple Juice
1 1/2 cup Coconut Milk (I use coconut/almond milk)
1 cup Coconut Flakes

This recipe was just right in our 2.5 quart maker. We tried it first with a half recipe and it was fine I think you could easily double it for a larger maker.

You will also need crushed ice and rock salt. Table salt will not work. Bigger cubes of ice will work but are not as easy to handle.  If you are using an ice cream maker, either electric or hand crank I recommend doing it outside because there is bound to be salt water spilled.july 4th 011


As far as the recipe goes, mix the ingredients together, best if you can do it ahead of time and then store in the refrigerator until ready to make. According to my folks, a chilled mix is best. We made ours early in the afternoon and then once it was as stiff as we could turn it we transferred the deliciousness to containers and put the freezer until we were ready. Back in the old days we would mix as much as we could then cover with additional ice and a blanket and just let it freeze harder in the mixer.100_3139 100_3142

Just like in years gone by everyone was enlisted to help including the kids and grandparents. Matthew had to be convinced that he should crank longer than 30 seconds but with Grandma’s help he got in his fair share of turns. july 4th 013 100_3150

This ice cream was so easy and so delicious that we will be making it again for our Labor Day festivities. We are excited to add this fun tradition back to our summer holidays. It is guaranteed to add good memories.  If you want to give it a try let me know what you think. And if you use a hand crank mixer be sure to send me a picture!

Curried Sweet Potato Soup–a new recipe

Every day around four in the afternoon Matthew starts roaming the kitchen looking to see what is on the menu for dinner. It makes sense then to include him in the preparation and soups are something he is likes to help make. This is a good recipe to have kids help with. 100_2380

Yesterday we forayed outside our normal routine and tried a new soup: curried sweet potato. The soup turned out so delicious I’m sharing it with you.

The idea of curry, especially to my meat and potatoes husband, was a little scary. Some people have warned us that curried foods were hot and spicy. But we are brave souls and there’s always McDonald’s just down the road if the soup was too inedible.

What prompted me to make the soup was that I discovered in our local Sprouts grocery store, a whole shelf of bulk spices. I’ve been shopping there for years and never seen it but I’m sure it’s not new. Anyway, I was able to measure out just enough of the spices and not buy whole bottles that could potentially be tossed if we didn’t like them. Here is the recipe from which I based our soup: Curried Sweet Potato Soup.

This soup is naturally gluten free and can be dairy free if you use just oil for the sauteing and a milk substitute. (If you want to cut down on the fat, don’t use so much :), you can also find light coconut milk at the Asian market or in larger grocery stores. You’re smart, you know what to do.) I used large yams in the recipe and it made enough soup for six…and that’s at two bowls apiece for the boys.


  • 3 large sweet potatoes (or yams)
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 2 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp of garam masala
  • 1 tsp of curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cans of chicken or vegetable stock (I used low salt)
  • 1 lb silken tofu firm cut into chunks
  • 1 cup of coconut milk or regular milk

Things I did different from the original recipe:

·         I have since read several recipes and they all say use sweet potatoes not yams. I can’t tell the difference and yams were on sale so that’s what we used. I also read that you are supposed to roast the sweet potatoes ‘to caramelize and enhance the flavor, well maybe… but I just cut them into big chunks and boiled them. Peel after they are cooked-it’s lots easier.

·         I didn’t use whole celery stalks; I just cut the leafy tops off a bunch and chopped them up. Celery stalks were eaten later, with peanut butter…

·         One thing I did not try but am sure would taste good is some bell peppers.

·         I have seen recipes that talk about choosing a spicy or mild curry. What I found at Sprouts just said curry powder. But, and this may be important…I neglected to write curry and garam masala on the bags so when it came time to make I took a guess that the curry powder was the more yellow one and the brownish one was garam masala. Since you use a tablespoon of one it might make a difference in the spiciness. The original recipe says that if you can’t find the garam masala you can just add more curry powder—just taste it before you go to crazy.

·         I also added tofu for protein. Husband did not know it was there until I told him. I think it adds a nice smoothness to the soup.

·         We did not use coconut milk. We drink almond/coconut milk so I just used this…I think you could add regular milk with the same effect. If your soup is too thick add a little more milk or add some water.


  • Slice the sweet potato into large pieces. Boil in water until tender. Let cool, then peel.
  • Cut up the onion, garlic and celery. Saute in your large cooking pot in margarine and olive oil until tender.
  • Add spices and heat through (if you think it might be too spicy add half and then taste-ours was not at all hot). Add your cut up tofu now. Remove from heat and let the tofu absorb some flavor for twenty minutes or so.
  • Cut up the sweet potatoes and add to your sauce pan, stirring to coat.
  • Add stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are very soft.
  • Use your hand masher and beaters or blender to blend until smooth. (I used a hand blender with great results.)
  • Add milk and stir to combine. Heat through.
  • Ladle into bowls. Add a dollop of sour cream if desired and serve with garlic toast.


Trust me. You will like this.

More Teeth News: Trying Teeth Varnish

I forgot that I talked about teeth last month. But around here, it’s all about teeth.

After a second lecture from the dentist I promised to do a better job brushing Matthew’s teeth. I know you are asking, “Why can’t he do it himself?” And the answer is simple. He does but…and as you are reading this just say out loud: One. Two. Three. Done. Yes, that is how long Matthew brushes his teeth when left to his own devices. (He does the same shaving too.) He is always pleased that he has done it himself but the thoroughness is lacking.

So we bought the Oral B with a timer and I brush in the morning while Bob takes the night job. We’ve been using the prescription toothpaste for a year too. Still according to the dentist, brushing is only part of the solution. At the his recommendation we purchased fluoride varnish. The hygienist was going to track down how to order it but after some research we discovered it was available for purchase online without going through the office.

This tooth varnish is called Duraflor. It comes in a box of 32 little brushes and dabs of varnish. It’s not inexpensive, I think I paid $65 for the box. But if it helps Matthew’s teeth it will be well worth while. (Did I tell you we already take Matthew for a cleaning four times a year instead of the normal twice?) I don’t know why his teeth are so bad. Is it genetics? Is it the Celiac Disease or just diet? Is there some connection to Autism?

In any case, it’s his lot in life to have very weak teeth that are more prone to decay. (And remember, Matthew is like a cat when turned on its back when he sits in the dental chair… lots of wiggling and worry that doom is impending…) so we want to limit the amount of work he needs and strengthen his teeth as much as possible. We limit sugary drinks and candies but to date that has not been enough.

Which brings us back to the tooth varnish. Today was our first use. The varnish is…well, varnishy… it has some kind of nasty taste and smell, though this box is labeled spearmint. It stays liquid until it hits moisture, including saliva, so its important to paint it onto dry teeth. As soon as I started I realized Matthew’s salivary glands went into overdrive so speed is of the essence. We got it on. Since there was a little leftover I painted it on my own teeth and I can attest to the flavor. Yumm…not…and it has a lagging aftertaste that is equally unpleasant.


This picture really doesn’t show the effort needed to paint it on. I need at least four hands and a tongue pusher. I am hoping we figure out a more smooth way to do this. But I’m not expecting any miracles to put it on because after all these years of teeth brushing it’s still a daily struggle.

Back again to the varnish. Hey, the stuff is gluten free. The hygienist recommends we use it once a week. I also read several reviews from people who had used it weekly initially, with great success. Eventually, they transitioned to monthly use. Oh, and here is my disclaimer: Taking fluoride has risks, as well as benefits, so does having no teeth; there are possible reactions to the varnish and there are disclaimers on the box; and you should only use on the recommendation of your dental professional.

That said, I feel hopeful that the dentist will see solid improvement at our June visit. I’ll keep you posted.

The Pizza

Last year following the first or second surgery my parents moved in to help. They had plans to spend the winter in the desert and search for gold. Instead they dropped everything, packed up all their stuff and came home. “We are family, “they said. “We’re to help.” And help they did. They entertained Matthew and kept Rebecca busy. They made sure Bob had someone to talk to and were a shoulder to cry on. They cooked and cleaned. And on one occasion they made pizza.

You may recall that our house is gluten free. That means we can’t order a pizza from the place down the street.  Because of that I keep in the pantry a gluten free pizza crust mix. We make it up and add our favorite toppings. 

One day following a chemo treatment Mom wanted to know what I could eat for dinner. (Chemotherapy can do nasty things to one’s appetite.) Surprisingly, a Hawaiian pizza sounded tasty. I must have been delirious as I remember telling Mom that it was fast and easy to make from scratch.

My parents are pretty good sports and willing to try anything so they decided this would be supper. After finding the mix Mom decided that the directions were too small. She needed help…”John, come read this for me.” Apparently, too, the directions were more complicated than they expected. Hilarity ensued as they talked back and forth questioning both the directions and then each other. “When do I add the yeast?” “How long do I mix it?” “Do I need eggs?” “You need eggs?” “What kind of oil?  –Where’s the olive oil?” “How long should it rise?” “Why is it so sticky???”

With one reading and one helping and a third searching for ingredients I thought I should help. Instead I feigned sleep and lay quietly on the couch snickering. It seemed like it took forever to get made but I’m pretty sure my memory was dimmed by the chemo and most likely I took a nap. I know it smelled delicious as it baked and everyone enjoyed it.

Now when I make pizza I always think about the one my folks made. It was funny watching their efforts. But,  what I remember most is how they dropped everything to come and keep some semblance of order in our suddenly chaotic lives.  Family–yep, glad we have them.