Valentines, Birds, Minx, Crab Balls, String Kings, and the Morning After


Valentine’s Day arrived bright and beautiful, and cold, for our biennial bash. However, that made me quite happy  … my porch refrigerator would be at the ready and our house would stay cool enough (dancing people generate a lot of heat!). My husband volunteered to go pick up “my” centerpiece and I continued with party preps while waiting for our out-of-state friends to arrive. Right after the first couple arrived, he walked in with a flower arrangement that was NOT my centerpiece. A standard-sized vase held purple roses and red carnations. He admitted he didn’t think that it was my centerpiece, but, of course, he didn’t inquire further or call me.  ??  Gotta love him! I called the florist. The staff member I spoke to knew immediately which arrangement was mine … “oh, right, yours was the silver bowl with the hearts on it … no problem, we’ll bring it to you and swap them out.” A few minutes later my centerpiece arrived and it was as spectacular as ever. The florist, our friend, Larry, makes floral arrangements not found in an FTD catalog, but are ones you’ll be thrilled to receive. This one was an overflowing mix of calla lilies, huge yellow and pink roses, forsythia, draecena, ivy, and birds of paradise. In the grayness of winter, having such a creation gracing your table will make you smile every time you see it.

Our overnight guests, visiting from three different states, arrived hours before the party. We were delighted to see them all! Five out of six had never been to our house before. They included two couples who we met on our travels many years ago (and have traveled with since) and the new wife of my husband’s college buddy. They all insisted on pitching in with the last of the party preps and were incredibly helpful during and after the party. They ran errands, chopped ingredients for the recipes to be made that day (oh, how I love having my own sous chef!), polished silver (yes, can you believe it?), washed dishes (always worthy of note), wiped up spills, swept up broken glass (I was the one who dropped a platter putting it away!), etc. It was like having a staff of six—wow! You guys know who you are and you are all fantastic! Of course, the best part was catching up, laughing, and celebrating being together while we worked.

Of course, I am a fanatic about having lots of great food—homemade and GF—at our parties. I make the bulk of the food and let really good friends help out by bringing their favorite gluten-free dishes. The menu is finger foods as much as possible. This time I had prepared old standbys like tamari barbecue chicken wings, spicy meatballs, crab ball, chicken salad puffs, and spinach artichoke dip. (The recipes for these are naturally gluten free or I easily adapted them to be gluten free. I will share these in upcoming posts.) Others brought appetizers such as bacon-wrapped scallops, and a variety of dips and spreads served with veggies or crackers  … curried cream cheese and chutney, black bean dip, and creamy Rotel sausage dip. Desserts were my flourless chocolate cake, turtles, peanut butter cookies, brown sugar chocolate chip cookies, and one girlfriend’s fabulous creme brulee. All the food I had prepared was in place at the start of the party except for the crab ball. I had actually made two (one for reserve to pull out later), but I had to wait until a very helpful friend showed up with gluten-free crackers. I’ve stated before that I don’t buy much processed GF stuff, but I do need crackers on occasions like this one. Our grocery store doesn’t carry GF crackers of any kind, so my friend picked up some in town for me.  The GF rice and nut crackers I use work out okay, but to be honest, I am still searching for some nice buttery gluten-free crackers with a taste like Keebler’s Townhouse crackers. (That brand went so well with my crab ball before I went gluten free. Please share your recommendations in comments below!)

flowers-valentines-day-013-13Guests began arriving right at our start time of 8 pm with thoughtful hostess gifts in hand—like specially chosen bottles of wine and delightful flowers. This year I received a lovely purple orchid in a copper vase from one friend. Mom and Dad had given us a classic bouquet of red carnations, white mums, daisies, red Gerber daisies, and eucalyptus. My mother-in-law gave us red roses as did our next-door neighbors. I also received a begonia, and not just any begonia. First, this one was beautifully packaged in pink tissue paper with hearts. As my friend handed it to me, she told me that it was a pink minx begonia. It was the most beautfiul begonia I’d ever seen … with tiny, delicate pink flowers and a silver dusting over pink leaves.  (It was only after the party that my friend told me that she’d grown it from a cutting. I was, and remain, very impressed. However, she says it’s easy to take care of and propagate.)

Part of the party fun for me is seeing what everyone will wear. I always wear a dress and heels because I just have to dance in a dress and heels. (Always have and always will.) My husband, on the other hand, always wears jeans and a t-shirt. (Much deliberation goes into just the right t-shirt though. No, I am not kidding.) There were a few cocktail dresses and more heels (far spiffier than my basic black pumps), plus some super cool purses. Handmade blouses from Mexico. Button-down shirts and khakis. Hawaiian shirts, jeans, and sneakers. Animal print jackets. Cowboy boots. Sequined sweaters. Fleece. The diversity in the clothes mirrors the diversity of the crowd. Lively, interesting, and engaging folks. We love them all and are, likewise, lucky to be counted as their friends.

A few minutes after 8, the band began playing. We’ve almost always found our bands months before our parties. Our first Valentine’s Day party here, we didn’t even plan for any music. But our dear friend and talented blues performer, Gaye Adegbalola, surprised us and graciously entertained us. What a treat that was!  Since then we’ve been fortunate to host some excellent bands over the years. (Well, other than one of our early Valentine’s Day parties where we hired a band sight unseen and music unheard through a booking agent. We had to keep telling them to take a break and even when they were playing, we were pushing friends up to the mike to sing—they were THAT bad.) We usually book our bands months in advance after giving them a fairly thorough checkout. One band, Bill Kirchen and Too Much Fun, was even nominated for a Grammy right AFTER we had booked them. Sadly, they didn’t win the Grammy, but they remain a phenomenal band. (Are you old enough to remember Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen? Bill played lead guitar in that group and he still does “Hot Rod Lincoln” like nobody’s business. If interested, you can read more here about Bill’s history.)

This time,  at the end of December (only six weeks before the party—yikes!), several different circumstances had us without a band. Time to get serious. I checked out our local newspaper’s entertainment section for December and started checking out bands that had played at local venues and listening to their clips on their individual websites. I also had to check out other factors, like: band size, type of music, and cost. We always want a smaller band that plays really good music we can dance to, but not a dance band, mind you. After several websites and listens, I found the String Kings. Three people … check! I listened to several songs on their website … and I listened again and again. They sounded really good … check! Then I clicked over to their schedule and found out they were open on Valentine’s Day … check! And, as fate would have it, they were playing 8 miles from our house at a local venue for New Year’s Eve. We contacted them and arranged to slip in for just four songs. That was all we needed … they would definitely be our party band!

When they showed up at our party, their bass guitarist who also does most of the singing was very hoarse. So, all the singing fell to the lead guitarist. He did a wonderful job as did the whole band. The crowd said they were one of our best bands ever and we agreed! As you can see from the pictures, everyone danced the night away! Although the setting wasn’t quite as psychadelic as this photo (taken of us and the band by our friend from Durham), the mood was fun and festive and all the valentines greatly enjoyed themselves. Our son and two of his travelin’ buddies even showed up for their first Valentine’s party experience (now that they are all past 21, that’s allowed). I think they surprised themselves by the good time they had—even praising the band. Our son, who is also GF, loved having all the safe food choices. dowell-valentine-pic-31

Right after midnight, String Kings played their last tune and we said our good-byes to our guests. Time had flown by … as it always does when the best events are taking place. After some clean up and getting everyone settled in comfortably, I got a fire going in the woodstove. Then,  the very last thing I did before going to bed was to pull the Banana Maple-Nut Muffins out of the freezer.

gluten-free hash brown casserole, gluten-free breakfast recipes

Hash Brown Casserole Gluten Free Easily

The next morning I got up, turned on the oven and popped in the Hash Brown Casserole that I had prepared the day before. Then I whipped up my Volcano Pancake recipe and put it in the oven beside the casserole. So easy. And, off to the shower, I went. By the time everyone had finished their showers and were greeting the day and each other, the Hash Brown Casserole, Volcano Pancake, and Banana Maple-Nut muffins (warmed for just a few minutes in the oven) were waiting on the sideboard for them. We set out the big jug of maple syrup that our friends had brought us from Vermont (plus some maple cotton candy–who knew there was such a  thing?!). We also shared a mixture of our honey with butter as another choice for topping. Coffee and O.J. rounded out the meal. There was oohing and ahhing over the lovely, light volcano pancake and quieter, but still obvious appreciation for the hearty hash brown casserole. Of course, the Banana Maple-Nut Muffins were enjoyed as well.

gluten-free oven pancake, gluten-free puff pancake, gluten-free German puff pancake, gluten-free breakfast recipes

Gluten-Free Volcano Pancake

While we ate, we chatted about the highlights of the party, everything going on in the world, and future travels where we might meet again. Everyone kept returning to speculation on how many folks had been in attendance the night before. I finally got out my guest list and did the official count—60. That’s actually a small crowd for one of our parties. But, less people left more room for dancing comfortably. :-)

Our friends were heading out right after breakfast. I divvied up the remaining muffins and sent each couple off with some. Our friends from Vermont were going to Washington, D.C. for more sightseeing (they had done some on their way down on Saturday). The two other couples were headed back home to North Carolina and South Carolina, respectively, with Sunday evening events to attend. After the last car pulled away at noon, my husband and I turned to each other and said “We did it!”  Then we gave each other congratulatory hugs on another successful Valentine’s Day party. Ah, the relief of sweet success.  And, then about a half hour later, we took a nap. Next Valentine’s Day party … February 19, 2011. ;-) Until then, enjoy these recipes!

Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole
Recipe type: Breakfast
This recipe came from Joan Harrington via the celiac listserve and is reprinted with permission.
  • 6 cups frozen hash browns, thawed (I used Ore-Ida brand)
  • 2 cups diced ham or sausage
  • 4 green onions, chopped (or dried onion)
  • one-half of a green pepper, diced
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  1. Layer the first five ingredients in the order shown in a greased 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan. Sprinkle casserole with salt and pepper. (I also sprinkled some cayenne pepper for a little "bite.")
  2. Mix the eggs, milk, and sour cream together and pour over the other ingredients.
  3. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown.
~ I often prepare this casserole the day before and keep it in the refrigerator until baking time. I think it could easily be adapted to include other favorite ingredients. Once I accidentally grabbed diced celery and added it before I realized it wasn’t green pepper. Party preps can make a girl a bit crazy, you know? Then I went ahead and added the green pepper, also. Luckily, you couldn’t even taste the celery. More veggies, right? LOL

Volcano Pancake
Recipe type: Breakfast
This recipe was adapted from a Taste of Home recipe. It's sometimes called a puff pancake or Dutch baby. I like to think of it as a popover in pancake form. Can it get any better than that?
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (non-dairy should work)
  • 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour mix*
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter or margarine, melted
  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs.
  2. Add milk, flour, xanthan gum, and salt; stir until smooth.
  3. Pour butter into a 13 x 9 x 2 baking pan. Add batter.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
  5. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and top with syrup. Or for a different taste as perhaps a side dish with dinner, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.
~ Any gluten-free all-purpose flour mix should work. It's possible that certain flours by themselves might work, too, versus a mix---like rice flour or buckwheat. I used my usual gluten-free all-purpose flour mix that I make ahead and then what I need for each recipe. I mix the following in a huge bowl and then divide into canisters or airtight containers: 3 lbs Asian white rice flour (Asian white rice flour is very finely ground) and 2 lbs cornstarch (Argo is gluten free).

Not just gf, but gfe!

This post is linked to What Can I Eat That’s Gluten Free?Sir Ham-a-Lot Leftover Ham Recipes, and Gluten-Free Tuesdays.

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


45 Responses to “Valentines, Birds, Minx, Crab Balls, String Kings, and the Morning After”

  1. V-Grrrl on February 26th, 2009 6:41 am

    I am so impressed you served that breakfast the morning after your party.

    We had a wonderful time.

  2. Shirley on February 26th, 2009 8:27 am

    V–Ah, thanks! It was all in the making ahead of time for the hash brown casserole and banana maple-nut muffins. And, the volcano pancake is so easy to put together. :-) I am so glad you guys came. We enjoyed having you!! You even made the picture cut. ;-) (It would have been better to get face shots of the two of you, but moving targets you know! LOL)


  3. Kay on February 26th, 2009 8:49 am

    Looks like a great party!

    The Volcano Pancake sounds deee-lish! I got some maple syrup for Christmas and I’ve been looking for new things to pour it over. Thanks!

  4. noble pig on February 26th, 2009 12:32 pm

    What an absolutely wonderful night! So, so fun. Volcano pancake? That is so cool.

  5. Absolutely Not Martha on February 26th, 2009 2:52 pm

    hi! just wanted to mention that I’m doing a post about favorite gluten free food products on absolutely not martha. I’d LOVE to hear what yours is–just leave me a comment (if you haven’t already).

  6. glutenfreeforgood on February 26th, 2009 4:33 pm

    Oh my gosh! Commander Cody — that was in a different life.


    Sure looks like you all had a great time with great food. Oh — and a bunch of flowers! Very nice.

    Rock on, Shirley!

  7. Shirley on February 26th, 2009 9:08 pm

    Kay–It was! :-) Every time I think back on it, I smile.

    Hope you enjoy the Volcano Pancake! Let us know what you think when you make it.


  8. Shirley on February 26th, 2009 9:11 pm

    Cathy–Yes, thanks! It’s something we (and our friends) look forward to months in advance. It’s funny when on an “off” year, people say excitedly (and hopefully), “Is THIS the year?” We have to tell them, no, not this year. Then they always say we should do it every year, but every year would make it too much work and not as special.

    If you have an oven with a glass door that Volcano Pancake is really fun to watch puff up. :-)


  9. Shirley on February 26th, 2009 9:19 pm

    Melissa—LOL on Commander Cody. Yeah, back in the day (a little before my time, too … hubby is a bit older LOL). I do remember Hot Rod Lincoln, but it was still played on the radio from time to time so that’s probably where my knowledge comes from. ;-) I have to say hearing Bill play it live is a special treat for all. String Kings played top 40-style rock and everyone’s favorites along those lines, but also did some very neat Johnny Cash related songs that were actually very cool.

    I’m rockin! (Well, actually I am back in my mellow state at the moment. LOL)

  10. Naomi on February 28th, 2009 6:14 am


    Kelly at the spunky coconut suggested that you might like to host a month of ‘Go Ahead Honey it’s Gluten Free’. I need hosts for April and June if you would be interested.

    Thanks for your lovely comment on Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried.

    x x x

  11. Shirley on February 28th, 2009 10:11 am

    Hi, Naomi–Thanks so much for visiting GFE! Wow, I am truly honored by your invitation! I have a speaking engagement at the beginning of April so I’ll opt for June, please. Thanks so much to you AND Kelly! I’ll put this super fun event on my calendar now and we’ll chat more by email. Your blog is wonderful! This GF blogging community is beyond compare IMHO! :-)

    Thanks again!

  12. Lisa on February 28th, 2009 11:15 am

    Hi, Shirley

    Wow, your party looked fantastic, lots of fun and good food!

    I’m dying to make the Volcano Pancake, when you say 1 cup of GF flour, do you mean your flour mix or any GF flour I have around the house, such as white or brown rice flour, etc?

    Just curious, before I whip it up!

  13. Shirley on February 28th, 2009 12:18 pm

    Lisa–Hi there! Thanks for the kudos on the party. :-) It’s always such a blast for us and our friends … something to look forward to for sure.

    I’ve just updated the recipe to show “GF flour mix” and noted the mix I use. I usually note that in my recipes that require GF flour, but forgot this time, so thanks so much for asking the question! I think any GF flour mix will work. Rice flour (finely ground white or brown … or even buckwheat) alone could even possibly work, but most of us have found we like to use a mix/blend. So give it a try with your favorite GF flour or blend and please let us know how it turns out. It’s fun and so tasty. :-)

    Happy breakfast baking!

  14. Absolutely Not Martha on March 1st, 2009 1:25 pm

    thanks, shirley, for telling me your gf fave(s). btw, these recipes are something i may need to feature soon on anm!

  15. Shirley on March 1st, 2009 6:51 pm

    Jackie–I enjoyed seeing what others had to say. That would be fun if you featured my recipes on your blog.


  16. Kelly on March 5th, 2009 10:07 am

    Sorry I’m kind of late here, but I just had to say it looks like it was so much fun! And I love the recipes! BTW is that you in the black and white dress? It’s fun to be able to see you :-) Sometimes I think I could be somewhere, and pass someone I talk to in here, and I would never even know it! Ya know? :-)

  17. Matt on March 5th, 2009 1:43 pm

    I am also late here, and I agree that it looks like an incredible party with some well-reflected recipes.

    I just started the meds so I should feel better soon!

  18. Shirley on March 5th, 2009 5:41 pm

    Kelly–A little late is just fine … I was way late posting about the party, so we’re even. ;-) It was a blast and I think you’ll enjoy adapting those recipes to meet your family’s needs.

    Yep, that’s me in my polka dots cutting a rug with my sweet husband. :-) I know exactly what you mean. Years ago I was in an online group and most of us didn’t have pictures posted and it was quite a surprise to see each other in person when we finally met. We flew to a friend’s cabin in a state none of us lived in. It was quite an adventure, but a wonderful one! And, many of us remain friends and stay in touch today!


  19. Shirley on March 5th, 2009 5:45 pm

    Matt—Late is good. It’s those pesky people who come early to the party that bother me! ;-) Thanks so much! It was definitely party food and not the kind of food I’d want to eat every day or even all at once very often, but we all enjoyed it.

    Thanks so much for an update on your progress—I am hoping the next time you report in, you’ll be feeling terrific!


  20. Linda on October 10th, 2009 12:25 pm

    Those are two great sounding breakfast recipes. My family would really like them both (except for the green peppers). Thanks for sharing them as part of What can I eat that’s gluten free.

    • Shirley on October 10th, 2009 2:32 pm

      Hey Linda–I hope you all will enjoy them when you make them. :-) It’s easy to leave out the green pepper in the casserole. This a pretty easy, adaptable recipe. I actually added chopped celery to it (that was leftover from making chicken salad) by accident the day of our party and you couldn’t even taste the celery … it still tasted great. The volcano pancake is always a treat. Glad to get in on the fun over at your What Can I Eat That’s Gluten Free? weekly roundup. ;-)


  21. Liz@HoosierHomemade on April 7th, 2010 3:37 pm

    Looks like you had a blast! Thanks for sharing the casserole recipe! I bet my house full of men would love it!
    Thanks for joining in the fun at the Sir Ham-A-Lot Party!

  22. Mary on October 17th, 2010 8:42 pm

    Dear Shirley,

    I honestly keep thinking that eventually I’ll make one of your recipes and *won’t* love it, but it hasn’t happened yet! I made the volcano pancake for breakfast this morning, and it was delish! I was nervous, because it was very soupy when I poured it into the pan, but it turned out so, so well! I used Earth Balance soy-free, dairy-free margarine and coconut milk (the kind that’s the consistency/thickness as cow or rice milk, not the thick coconut milk that comes in cans).

    I haven’t made the hash brown casserole yet. I haven’t figured out what to substitute for the sour cream since we are gf, dairy-free and soy-free. I’m thinking about plain coconut yogurt.

    Thanks for all the great recipes! You should write a cookbook.


    • Shirley on October 17th, 2010 9:34 pm

      Hi Mary–Well, that is great news that you keep having such success with my gfe recipes! I try to share only the best ones. :-) I’m so glad that you once again had success making this recipe dairy free. Thanks for the note on the coconut milk, too. I’m assuming that you mean So Delicious coconut milk. That’s the only one I know of that is non-canned. I haven’t tried it yet, but would like to.

      I think the coconut yogurt is a great idea as a substitution for the sour cream. Let me know how it turns out!

      Thanks so much for your wonderful feedback, Mary. I think I would like to write a book on living gfe and/or a cookbook. ;-)

      • Mary on October 19th, 2010 9:18 am

        Hi Shirley- Yes, I use the So Delicious coconut milk. It is great for baking!


        • Shirley on October 20th, 2010 8:44 pm

          Hi Mary–Thanks so much for confirming that’s the coconut milk that you use! :-)


  23. carrie @ on December 15th, 2010 3:05 pm

    Thank you SO Much for sharing this on my breakfast roundup this week! YUM! I really can’t wait to try that puff pancake! I’ve had several recipes like that before I was gf! I never thought to make a gluten free version! So easy too! Yum!

    • Shirley on December 15th, 2010 7:34 pm

      Hi Carrie–My pleasure! :-) I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t become one of your favorite breakfast dishes (or dinner … or lunch … or a snack LOL). Looks like you’ve had a great week for your part of our Gluten-Free Holiday event! So many things can be converted to gluten free … easily. ;-)


  24. Becky on February 27th, 2011 11:47 am

    I made the volcano pancake this morning. I don’t recommend using a stoneware pan. It tasted good, but didn’t “volcano”. It did puff up, but not quite like a popover normally does.

    • Shirley on February 27th, 2011 11:43 pm

      Hi Becky–Welcome to gfe! :-) I’m glad you enjoyed the pancake, but sorry that it didn’t puff up nicely for you. I admit I don’t use stoneware in baking. I’ve even tried baking stones for cookies and not had good luck. A Pyrex pan works nicely for this recipe though.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  25. Kim on January 24th, 2012 10:39 pm

    I make the Volcano Pancake once a week. Today I used half sorghum flour and half King Arthur glutenfree multi-prupose flour. The pancake puffed up more than it ever has before! I think it made a difference putting it in a smaller dish – one size down from 9 x 13 (my dish doesn’t have the measurements on it). In the past it hasn’t risen very much, but it still tastes good. I was thinking what would happen if I put ranch dressing mix or pesto mix in the batter? I have put bacon and tuna in corn muffins. What would happen if I put bacon or tuna or chicken in the batter? I think I would have to double the recipe to accomidate the extra ingredient as my Volcano Pancakes come out so thin. What about putting blueberries, strawberries, apples or pears in? Oh and I use the Volcano Pancake as the main and only course with our family of three.

    In the Hash Brown Breakfast casserole I use broccoli instead of green peppers. I burp green peppers. I have also used dry roasted brown rice instead of hash browns. The next time I make it I am going to try diced hash browns instead of shredded.
    I just found out I am gluten intolerant in March of 2011.

    Thanks for all the recipes!

    • Shirley on September 29th, 2013 12:50 pm

      Hi Kim–You posted this lovely and detailed comment SO long ago and I somehow missed it :-( … I am so sorry! And thank you for taking the time to leave such a wonderful comment! I’m glad you’ve had success with both recipes and have lots of new ideas on variations. You’ve probably tried them all by now! ;-) Hope that you have continued to do great with gluten-free living! :-)


  26. gina on September 29th, 2013 10:09 am

    i made the volcano pancake this morning..i halved the recipe, but i think next time i might use 2 eggs. Is it supposed to be eggy? If thats what the end result is, i guess i got it right! I thought it might taste a little more like a zeppole, but it

    • Shirley on September 29th, 2013 11:56 am

      Hi gina–Welcome to gfe! :-) Yes, I would say that it is a bit eggy like popovers and the like. I had to look up zeppole. Boy, do those look good! I think those would be more like my Party Puffs, which are similar in that they are a puffy, choux pastry type recipe, but they are slightly less eggy in taste. Thanks for sharing your feedback and, sure, keep tweaking the recipe until you get the results you want! ;-)


      • gina on September 30th, 2013 8:01 pm

        oo..thanks,im definitely going to try the party puffs! And yes, zeppoles are sooo yummy! ;)

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