Gluten-free Blueberry Buckle

            “Advice from a blueberry: Be well-rounded. Soak up the sun. Find beauty in small things. Live a fruitful life. Be a good pick. It’s OK to be a little blue. Make sweet memories!”—Ilan Shamir


“Mom, why do you only make Blueberry Buckle for Christmas Brunch or when we have overnight company? Why can’t you make it more often . . .like when I come home this weekend?”


I was talking with my daughter, Madelyn, on the phone. She was coming home for a long weekend break from college this past fall. Her point was valid, I conceded, I did save Blueberry Buckle for special occasions. In the end, I agreed to make it this delectable breakfast treat more often, including the weekend when she came home.


My husband, John, and I first discovered Blueberry Buckle in the early nineties when we frequently traveled to Staunton, VA, either as a weekend getaway, or as overnight stop on the way to or from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In Staunton, we most often stayed in a bed and breakfast called, The Kenwood, and owned by the late Ed and Liz Kennedy.


Ed and Liz were complimentary pair. Ed, as best I recall, was scientist who retired from Corning. He was widely traveled, well read, and collector of nonfiction magazines such as the Smithsonian, American Heritage, and National Geographic to name a few. Happy to talk about nearly any given subject or offer advice for nearby historical sites, hiking trails, or scenic sites, Ed played the perfect gregarious host.


Meanwhile, Liz, a retired nurse who spent her life working in inner-city Boston hospitals, was more reserved. She was happy to remain behind the scenes cooking breakfast, knitting, or watching baseball. That said, John and I visited their B & B so often, that over the years, Liz warmed to John and me, and often talked with us as much as Ed.


It was Liz who gave me this recipe for Blueberry Buckle. She preferred baking recipes like Blueberry Buckle that could be made ahead, cut into individual servings, and frozen. Then, she could take the amount needed the night before to thaw, and warm them in the morning. She served often served blueberry buckle with some form of protein, a fresh bowl of seasonal mixed fruit, and the customers’ choices of juices, coffees, and/or teas.


I feel privileged to have this recipe because it was Liz’s policy to not share her recipes with customers at least not when they first began their business—and, we were their very first customers (but that is a different story for another day.) In fact, because we were frequent guests of their establishment, Liz would often come out after breakfast, sit down with us, and would talk for hours if we let her.


We enjoyed knowing Ed and Liz. We considered them friends. They were special people, and I think of them each time I make this recipe. Sharing recipes, such as this, is one of the reasons we love to travel—getting to know people from different geographic locations and experiencing “their” foods that we would have otherwise never before experienced.


While the recipe I share with you is mostly true to Liz’s original version, I have made a few minor adjustments. First, and most obvious, I replaced regular all-purpose flour with a gluten-free version. If you do not need a gluten-free version, then by all means, use your favorite flour. Additionally, Liz did not use orange extract—it is a “trick” I learned from other recipes with blueberries. Thus, feel free to leave it out or replace it with another favorite extract. (I have even read Blueberry Buckle recipes that use lemon zest instead of any extract.) Finally, feel to use other types of berries, shredded apples, or even rhubarb in place of blueberries—you may then want to play with various additions to the cake batter, such as cinnamon, vanilla extract, etc.


From my home to yours, I wish you an abundance of happy, healthy, and homemade meals. . . and a vacation adventure filled with wonderful people and new foods to try!


P.S. You don’t have to save this recipe for overnight guests or once-per-year events. Just ask my daughter!





Gluten-Free Blueberry Buckle


Cake ingredients:

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup shortening (or plant –derived replacement)

1 egg (or equivalent egg replacement)

½ cup favorite milk

½ teaspoon orange extract

2 cups gluten-free all purpose baking flour (I prefer cup-4-cup brand.)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)


Topping ingredients:

½ cup sugar

1/3-cup gluten free flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup soft butter (or equal plant-based equivalent)



Begin by measuring and setting aside ¼ cup butter (or plant based replacement) to allow it to soften.

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Prepare 9 x 9 square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or coconut oil.

Begin with cake ingredients by thoroughly mixing ¾ cup sugar, shortening, and egg.

Stir in milk and orange extract.

In separate bowl, blend together gluten-free flour, baking powder, and salt.

Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Carefully blend in blueberries.   (If using frozen blueberries, you can gently shake them in a zip lock bag with a bit of flour to prevent, or at least reduce, the batter turning purple.)


Spread batter into pan.


Reusing now empty dry ingredient bowl, (no sense dirtying another bowl) stir together dry topping ingredients: ½ sugar, 1/3 gluten free flour, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.


Once dry ingredient well mixed, stir in butter with fork, mashing and blending until soft crumbly topping forms.


Sprinkle the topping over batter.


Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. (Please note, if using frozen blueberries, you do not need to thaw; however, the buckle may take a bit longer to bake.)

Serves 9, but recipe can be doubled as I frequently do this.

Further, once cut into squares, it’s great to freeze ahead for quick morning reheats.



Two types of gluten-free flour that I have used.

Stop and Smell the Roses

“But listen to me. For one moment quit being sad. Hear blessing dropping their blossoms around you.”—Rumi


“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”—Henri Matisse


My Dad, Step-mom, Pam, and I were standing on the sidewalk outside of a quaint, downtown artisan shopping area of Huntington, WV, known as Heritage Station, a former B & O train station. It was a grey, chilly day, and we had just enjoyed breakfast in a charming coffee shop/diner. We were in the midst of saying our goodbyes when an unknown, well-dressed, young lady approached us rather quickly with her arms full of parcels.


“Would you watch these for me, please, while I run inside?”


Without hesitation, we agreed, and she quickly placed down two boxes of beautifully arranged roses, a bottle of wine, and two glasses. She rapidly walked away, the irony of her rhythmic clickety-clack shoes were not lost me as we stood near an old train engine staring at the stunning bouquets in front of us.


Pam and I immediately began smelling and gently touching the fragrant petals. We were careful not to disturb the actual arrangements, as it was clear these flowers were for a special occasion.


The nameless female remained away for several minutes while the three of us continued to admire the brilliant garnet and snowy-white roses, mixed with an unknown multi-petaled crimson flower, and surrounded by varying shades of greenery. The vividness of these flowers was such a stark contrast to the overcast day surrounding us. I felt the gnawing tickle within the recesses of my brain sensing there was a lesson here for me to unearth; but it would take months for my heart to understand the divinely inspired message.


When my daughter was quite young, she would wake up fully charged and ready to go. Every day was an adventure for which she eagerly embraced. Even before eating breakfast and getting dressed, she would run about the house in her pajamas on those pint-sized legs full of energy, brimming with a perpetual smile, incessant talk, and an easy to find giggle. As the day progressed, it didn’t matter how neatly she was dressed, or how tidily I fixed her hair, by day’s end, her clothes were rumpled and stained while her hair was tousled and wildly flowing. This was because she whole-heartedly threw herself into engagement with any activity or person that came her way. It didn’t matter if was rainy, sunny, snowy, cloudy, spring, or fall—she loved life.   And while, I rarely got the stains out of her clothes, I savored her enthusiastic, radiant energy even if it did wear me out at times. I often wished I could bottle up her spirit and inject it into others, including myself, during moments of difficulty.

My daughter was not old enough to have created stories in her mind. You know, the on-going loop that often plays in our heads. Stories such as, “I’m such a klutz;’ “I never do anything right;’ “I’m not good enough;” “They don’t like me;” “Today is a bad day;” “I have so much to do;” “I’m poor, rich, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty . . ..” The story titles are endless. And, if you’re like me, the “story” frequently plays like a broken record in the mind repeating the same line over and over.


Recently, I encountered another gorgeous array of roses and multi-petaled flowers, only this time it was in the midst of a setting in which the majority of people were teary-eyed and sad. Suddenly, it hit me. We are all meant to be roses for one another in the garden of life.


We were divinely created by the one true Gardner to bud, bloom, and blossom while our feet are planted on this earthen soil. Therefore, from day to day and from situation to situation, we are often called upon to roll up our proverbial sleeves and get a little dirty, to engage with others, to offer a smile (or even a giggle) to another being, or to remain open to the possibilities, shifts, and changes in the day in a manner similar to which my daughter embraced life when she was a toddler.


Like the roses in the bouquets; we are individually layered with petals of beauty—think of them as gifts or talents. From the person who adds order to a house, office, or building by cleaning it, to the stylist who cuts and/or colors hair; from the garbage collector that keeps our surroundings clean; to the office administrator who contributes a seamlessly streamlined sense of organization—we are all created to add color and wonder to this world. Perhaps, then, we might want to consider acknowledging and honoring our Supreme gardener with words of thanksgiving and appreciation on a regular basis.


As I type these words, I am writing to myself as much as I am you, Dear Reader, because I, too, get wrapped up in my own head of narration. Frequently, I read suggestions regarding the practice of keeping a gratitude journal—which is an excellent and positive practice—as a way to refocus the lens of the mind. In fact, I have tried to keep one on several occasions, but have never fully made it a habit. Therefore, I am challenging myself, and you too, with the following notions.


  1. Recognize when you have drifted off into story-land. Then, gently remind yourself that just as the gray clouds covered the sunshine on that autumn day with Dad and Pam, it doesn’t mean the sun wasn’t present.
  2. Reframe the story. “Yes, I am often klutzy, but look at all the wonderful movements my body is capable of doing;” or, “Yes, this day seems challenging, but I can take it one step at a time.”
  3. Recognize and state in that moment of your story-loop at least one event, thing, or person for which you are grateful, such as “I am grateful for my morning coffee.” “I am thankful for my car that transported me safely to work.” “I appreciate the unexpected and thoughtful text I received from a friend this morning.”


There is a saying about taking time to smell the roses that is well-worth remembering. So often, however, we focus solely on the daily thorns and irritations of life, rather than notice all numerous positives that also occurred. Although mindfully attempting to interrupt our monkey-minds of stories a few times per day with moments of gratitude may not eliminate life’s thorns; it might, however, offer a bit more perspective, allowing us to navigate those sharp, negative events with a little more grace and ease, and serve as a reminder that life is as short as the rose bud. And, in the end, when we look at roses, it is the bright blooms we first notice and appreciate, not the thorns.




The Purple Cast

“Dear one, I know that you are suffering, that is why I am here for you.”—Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love

“Jesus wept.”—John 11:35

As a kid, I took great pride in my Bible quiz knowledge. One of the various bits of trivia for which I knew the correct response was, “What is the shortest verse in the Bible?” Answer: “Jesus wept.” Yet, I never pondered its real meaning as youngster.



When my daughter, Madelyn, was quite young, she loved romping on the bed in the bedroom that belonged to my husband, John, and me near her bedtime. She giggled and squealed as her flaxen hair was tousled about as if it were party streamers while she bounced energetically on her knees, expending her last bits of energy.


One full-moon evening, Madelyn made her usual mad-dash scramble up the traditional hope chest at the foot of our bed and over the ornately carved foot-post at the end of our bed when I heard her cry. I had been walking behind her, but had paused to pick something off the floor, so I did not observe her ascent. Instead, I looked up in time to see she was falling, and her cry was different—not the typical sounds of short-lived pain from an unexpected stumble.



Hustling towards Maddie, I scooped her up, and began to hold her close, but immediately withdrew my arms because it made her cry more. I attempted to find a way to take her into my arms without creating more pain. No matter how I adjusted my hold, she continued to screeched. Something was very wrong, my mom gut told me.


Later, during the process of moving Maddie to the car, placing her into the child safety seat, and carrying her into the hospital emergency room, I found myself constantly fumbling and inadvertently instigating more of her pain. My heart hurt every time I did this.


I hurt on two levels. One, I simply could not take her pain away. Secondly, in my attempt to comfort and/or give her help, I often caused more pain. Each howl of pain was as if I had the wind punched out of my gut. Why couldn’t I make her better? No answers came as tears stung my own eyes.


The reality was I could not, per se, make her better. I was not in control. In fact, as much as I’d like to think I am, I am not in control of life—at least with regards to others’ and events. I can only control my thoughts, my actions, and my reactions to situations. And, if I am honest, my thoughts are often a mess of clouds because I feel deeply and struggle to rise above those feelings. Thus my actions and reactions often fall short, just as they were on the night we discovered Maddie had a broken arm.


The more I tried to hold her close to me and offer what I thought was comfort, the more I was compressing her right forearm where the break had occurred. It was only at the hospital, when she decided to sit on my lap facing away from me, so that she could lean her head back on my chest allowing her arms to dangle freely that her cries were allayed. Later, the staff would surround her tiny arm with a large air cast to protect it and allow her to sleep until we could see an orthopedic doctor the next day.


Maddie’s arm needed the space the air cast provided.   It allowed her body to rest, so her body could begin the process of repairing her broken bone.   Once the glittery, purple cast was later in place, she had a more firm armor of protection to allow the unseen God-created healing process to occur.


She wore that cast for weeks. It caused her skin to itch. Around the ends, where there was white fabric, it became gray and dingy—no matter how hard we tried to keep it clean. Additionally, a smell began to emanate from the cast after a few weeks. In spite of all of these perceived negatives, an unseen, miraculous work was ongoing underneath that faded purple cast.


Within six weeks, her arm was healed enough to remove the cast. The skin underneath was pale and withered looking. Furthermore, her arm was a weak from disuse, and the fine motor muscles of her hand had lost a bit of their dexterity. Time and space was still required for the final curative steps.


Through it all, John and I were with her. We helped when she really needed it, but we also encouraged her to do as much as she could independently including dressing, feeding, and playing. It was her right arm, and she was right handed, so it would have been a great disservice to do everything for her.


So it is with life. There are times when our loved ones are suffering, hurting, and experiencing unbearable pain. We want so badly to take their pain away from them that just as I did to my daughter. We push so hard to help, to say the right thing, or do the right thing that we unintentionally create more pain and/or suffering for our Dear one.


Often, our loved ones need our presence, but nothing more. They need to know they can lean against us, as Maddie did on me in the emergency room and allow their pain to just be. And just as I sat in that hospital waiting room with Maddie and John, putting our faith in unknown doctors, so too must we put our faith in the Divine. We may not understand why they have to suffer, but we can lean into our faith for support just as Maddie leaned against me, and I leaned against John on that long ago night.


Lastly, just as Maddie’s arm needed space and time to heal, so it is with suffering, pain, and illness. Neither John nor I could see all the extraordinary healing that was occurring in Maddie’s arm even when, from my outwardly senses, it appeared nothing was improving. We could not control the pace at which it was restored either. Yet, her body was mending at the precise God-created pace. And, just as John and I encouraged Maddie to do as much as she could independently to maintain some strength and deftness despite her injury, so too are we maintaining or building strength and resilience through suffering.


I cannot explain the “why” of human suffering. It still painfully wounds my heart and gut when I see other hurt. I often weep at the sight of seeing much pain especially when it comes to those near and dear to me. I want to take their pain away. I want to take control, but I cannot. And so, this is one of the many faith lessons on which I must continue to work and ponder; however, I am comforted with the knowledge that even Jesus wept upon seeing his loved ones hurting.




Observe, balance, take action, surrender

            “Each of one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them—we can love completely without complete understanding.”—Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through it and Other Stories


“Women think and talk like wires running in multiple directions,” explained a friend and co-worker, Holly, in a conversation one day after work. I am paraphrasing her words, but the gist of her point reminded me of one of my current wiry mental dilemmas: How to love, or, at the very least, be open to others with whom I either strongly disagree with their viewpoint or dislike their behavior choices?

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It began as my ongoing mental struggle with how to best traverse through what I perceive as numerous negative global and national events/personalities. Then, my mind began its wiry twists of thought further wondering how to best navigate perceived negative situations with those whom I am close. This was not easy.

Perhaps I am the only person with this current predicament, but I suspect, based upon my public observations, there others silently pondering this. For example, during a recent college visit, my husband, John, and I took our daughter, Madelyn, and her friend, Eden, to one of the town’s locally owned restaurants for dinner. Behind us, we could hear a strident political conversation dominated by a vociferous, and seemingly pompous, man. His words were issued in a manner allowing all surrounding tables to overhear his opinion. Dinner companions of this unknown man seemed to be held quietly captive as he used his bully pulpit to literally and figuratively bang the dining table.


Typically, we can overlook a person like this, especially, when his high opinion of his own words was strengthened by excessive alcohol. Sadly, our ability to engage and converse with Maddie and Eden, however, became inhibited by this man’s rants. We could see diners at nearby tables who were also struggling to talk and often sent aggravated glances towards the vocal man. Meanwhile, at our own table, each time one of us would start a sentence, this man would spew more hyperbolic views. John had had enough; he prepared himself to turn and face this intruder. Thankfully, it became clear that this narrow-minded man and his dinner companions were preparing to leave, so John remained seated and held his tongue. Once departed, it still took time for the cloud of abhorrence to dissipate from this otherwise lovely dining establishment.

A week later, John and I sat in church listening to our pastor encourage parishioners to remember that all people are children of God, and it was our job to love everyone regardless of their situation, opinion, or other circumstances. Ouch!


I cognitively understand his directive, but from a gut level, I find this difficult. Sure, I can overlook the man in the restaurant and forgive him from a distance, but what about family, friends, co-workers, and other with whom there is close contact? How is it possible to unconditionally love everyone? The wires in my mind wrestled, wrangled, and tried to wrap around this predicament, but the concept seemed elusive.

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As Divine Providence would have it, a podcast, to which I listened some time later, offered a bit of advice for my dilemma. While the speaker’s words were more directed at dealing with a negative work environment, my wiry-mind broke it down and connected it to my own questions regarding unconditional love for all. Here are my take-aways.

Observe: Hold your tongue and judgment. Operate from a point of compassion and attempt to withhold your personal view of “how things should be”. See the real reality, as it is, without interjecting judgment and/or condemnation.

Balance: Balance the words and/or actions not from the place in your head that is reminding you of, “how it should be,” but, instead, allow the mind (and body) time to digest and assimilate the perceived negative words or actions. This may mean remaining quiet and not immediately responding. Try to look at it from the other person’s point of view—even though it doesn’t agree with your personal view.

Take Action: This is the tricky part. After time for true reflection, is there something you can do about this? For example, with regard to a political policy in which you disagree, are there specific actions you can take to positively impact or change the situation? Can you actively and positively engage to make a difference? If so, follow through. If not, then rest your faith in our High Power.

However, if it’s a person close to your heart, ask if their belief or behavior is life threatening. If it is, is there something you can do? If so, take action. If it is not life threatening, then take no action. It is worth remembering that mistakes, falls, and blunders are often life’s best teacher. Thinking that we know what is better for others by trying to help, offer advice, or even control whittles away at a person’s autonomy and, possibly, self-esteem. Instead, we must trust in the other’s ability to find their own answers and their own path while loving and supporting their highest image of themselves—not ours.

Surrender: Finally, surrender to the moment, the situation, or the person—they are not for us to control. It is not for us to understand everything. Instead, we would be wise to embrace Hillesum’s words and work on peace within ourselves, allowing that inner peace to radiate out towards others and towards “our troubled world.”

Finally, if I am to be honest, these four actions seem lofty and easier said than done. Still, I believe, they are certainly worth not only pondering, but also worth attempting to put into practice. Life, after all, is a practice, and whenever we do point, three fingers remain pointing as us. Therefore, reflecting upon what our personal actions and words communicate might be of greater benefit.