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Carol's latest book, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two, is now available. Designed for small households, each perfectly-proportioned recipe serves two people. You will eliminate unwanted leftovers and reduce waste when you cook right-size meals with the 125 recipes in this book. Enjoy!! Celebrate with me!!! Gluten-Free Cooking for Two has won two awards: named one of ten "Best Gluten-Free Cooking Books in 2017" by Healthline.com and won a Silver Medal in the 2017 Living Now Book Awards in the "Natural, Nutrition, Organic, Vegetarian" category.
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Where in the World is Carol?

Carol's in the kitchen, cooking up recipes for her next cookbook and www.CarolFenster.com

Watch for Carol on "Creative Living with Sheryl Borden," a PBS-TV show airing on your local PBS station during 2017-2018.

Join Carol at the National Western Complex, Expo Hall level 2 in Denver on April 21,10:30 am during the GFAF Expo Conference. See you there!

Welcome to Carol Fenster Cooks!

Welcome to Carol Fenster Cooks!

I have had a love affair with food since I was a small child.  But I didn’t understand that it was the very food I loved that made me ill. When I learned that gluten was the culprit, I left my corporate job to start Savory Palate, Inc. where I specialize in gluten-free, allergen-free, and vegetarian/vegan cooking. I believe that eating food is the most profound thing we do to our bodies each and every day. So my mission is to help everyone eat well and I love my job!

Easy, Last-Minute Holiday Gift Idea

Need a last-minute gift? This festive layer-bar is perfect with its chocolate crust and decadent layers. Assemble this easy mix in 3-cup glass jars and store in a dark, dry place until gift-giving time. You can also include a can of sweetened condensed milk, but for your dairy-intolerant recipients you might include a jar of your homemade sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below) or a can of Let’s Do…Organic brand sweetened condensed milk that is made from coconut milk.

Layer Bar Mix for Holiday Gift-Giving

And be sure to include the instructions—printed on a festive recipe card and tied to the jar—so the lucky recipient knows how to prepare this decadent treat. In fact, why not make one for yourself while you’re at it! My version is for Christmas (e.g., candy canes) but you can tailor this to suit the occasion. For a non-Christmas version, I would try butterscotch or peanut butter chips in place of the candy canes.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

LAYER BAR MIX IN A JAR
1/4 cup chopped candy canes
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup crushed GF cookies (such as Pamela’s Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookies or Pamela’s Honey Graham Crackers)

INGREDIENTS TO BE ADDED BY GIFT-RECIPIENT
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or buttery spread, melted
7 ounces (half of 14-ounce can) sweetened condensed milk (see homemade recipe below)

ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE GIFT-GIVER
In 3-cup glass jar with screw-top lid (a 24-ounce Classico pasta sauce jar works perfectly), layer ingredients, starting with candy canes and then chocolate chips, coconut, pecans, and white chocolate chips. Spoon crushed cracker crumbs into small plastic bag and place on top of layers. Screw on lid, cover the lid with 6-inch circle of colorful wrapping paper or cloth, tie a festive bow over the paper-covered lid, and affix the recipe card to bow with more ribbon. Store in dark, dry place away from sunlight (so chips don’t melt).

BAKING INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE GIFT-RECIPIENT
Preheat oven to 350⁰F and coat 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Remove cookie crumbs from jar and combine with melted butter. Press evenly into bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle remaining mix ingredients over crumb mixture. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly on top. Bake until chips are melted, about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 16 small bars.

Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk
Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
Quite often, gluten-free folks are also dairy-sensitive. If so, look for store-bought version of sweetened condensed milk that is dairy-free such as Let’s Do…Organic made with coconut milk. If you can’t find it, make this easy version at home. It makes the equivalent of a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, about 1 ¼ cups.

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk of choice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

[1] In a small, heavy saucepan whisk together the sugar, sweet rice flour, and salt until thoroughly blended. Whisk in the milk until smooth, then add the butter and heat the mixture on medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes.

[2] Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Cool to room temperature to thicken a bit more. It is best used at room temperature; can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks but bring to room temperature again before using. Be sure to keep refrigerated until gift-giving time and tell the lucky recipient that it must be refrigerated.

Half of the Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe: 420 calories; 6g protein; 13g total fat; .5g fiber; 72g carbohydrates; 36mgs cholesterol; 197mgs sodium

 

Gluten-Free Pecan-Bourbon-Chocolate Pie

What is your favorite holiday pie?
It’s a toss-up for me when it comes to holiday pies: pumpkin or pecan. I love them both.

This year, for the first time ever, I’m ordering my Thanksgiving pies from a gluten-free bakery. A new one opened just a block from my house (Wave the Grain) and I want to try the pumpkin and pecan versions.

Gluten-free Pecan Pie jazzed up with Bourbon and Chocolate

Gluten-free Pecan Pie jazzed up with Bourbon and Chocolate

But I will probably still make homemade pies for Christmas, probably this pecan pie that’s jazzed up to include bourbon (yes, it’s gluten-free because it is distilled) and a touch of chocolate. I’m not going to provide the calorie/nutrient information on this recipe because, trust me, you don’t want to know. Just enjoy it and resolve to live well in 2019. You earned the right to enjoy a little decadence this year!

Pie-Crust Challenged?
If you’re horrified at the thought of making your own gluten-free pie crust, try a store-bought mix. Or, if you don’t want to mix or shape the dough yourself, buy a ready-made pie crust at your favorite natural food store. They are sold in ready-to-bake form in an aluminum pie pan, although I prefer using a nonstick pan (gray finish, not black to avoid burning) for better browning. This lessens the potential sogginess sometimes found in gluten-free pie crusts.

Gluten-Free Pecan-Bourbon-Chocolate Pie
Adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)
Among the most decadent of pies, this remains a favorite at my house. Yes, it’s highly-caloric, but I give you permission to savor it once a year. The addition of bourbon and chocolate elevate this holiday favorite to new heights, but you can omit them if you wish. Enjoy!

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9-inch gluten-free pie crust (recipe in Gluten-Free 101, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes)
2 tablespoons milk of choice, for brushing on pastry crust
2 cups pecan halves
¼ cup chocolate chips
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups dark (or light) corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon bourbon or rum (or pure vanilla extract)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whipped topping

[1] Place a rack in the bottom position and another in the middle position of oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare the pastry dough as directed in your recipe or use a premade crust. Brush outer edges of crust with milk to encourage browning. Arrange pecan halves on bottom of pie crust and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

[2] Make the filling: In a food processor fitted with knife blade, combine filling ingredients and blend until thoroughly combined and very smooth. Or, blend with an electric mixer until very smooth. Pour mixture over pecans in pie shell. Place pie pan on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven.

[3] Bake 20 minutes. Move the pie to the middle rack and continue baking for another 30 to 35 minutes more or until the filling is set. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.

[4] Remove pie to wire rack and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to make sure pie is firm enough to cut. Cut into 8 slices. Serve with a tablespoon of whipped topping.

Focaccia

Of all the foods we crave on a gluten-free diet, bread is always at the top of the list. Especially homemade bread. But many of us assume that there isn’t time to bake bread when we barely have time to get dinner on the table, let alone fuss with yeast and rising times, etc.

Gluten-Free Focaccia

Gluten-Free Focaccia

Personally, I love the aroma is bread baking in the oven. But when I’m baking bread for just my husband and me I don’t want a full-size recipe. I want just enough bread for us. So, when I wrote my recent cookbook, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two, I included a small recipe for Focaccia just for the two of us. So, here is my small-batch version.

FOCACCIA

Reproduced with permission from  Gluten-Free Cooking for Two by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)

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Focaccia is a flatbread, similar to pizza. One of the easiest yeast breads you will ever make, this downsized recipe is full of flavor. It makes a 4×8-inch loaf that is about 1 1/2-inches high. Like most gluten-free yeast breads, this one is best when eaten the same day it is baked.

DOUGH

1             teaspoon active dry yeast

1              teaspoon sugar

[1/3]      cup warm (110°F) milk of choice

[3/4]      cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)

[1/2]      teaspoon xanthan gum

1              teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or [1/2] teaspoon dried (crushed in your palm)

[1/4]      teaspoon onion powder

[1/8]      teaspoon salt

1             large egg, at room temperature

1              tablespoon olive oil (plus more for the pan)

1             teaspoon cider vinegar

TOPPING

2              teaspoons olive oil

[1/2]      teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or [1/4] teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

[1/8]      teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt

1             tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese or soy Parmesan, for garnish

[1] Make the dough: In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm milk. Set aside to foam for about 5 minutes. Generously coat a 4×8-inch nonstick pan (gray, not black) with olive oil.

[2] In a medium mixing bowl, beat the yeast-milk mixture and all of the remaining dough ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed until blended. The dough will be very soft and sticky.

[3] With a wet spatula, spread the dough evenly in the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and let rise at room temperature (75⁰F to 85⁰F) until the dough is doubled in height, about 30 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle the dough with the topping of oil, rosemary, salt, and Parmesan cheese.

[4] While the bread rises, place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400⁰F. Bake the bread until the top is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 8 slices with an electric or serrated knife before serving slightly warm.

per serving: 110 calories; 3 g protein; 3g total fat; 1g fiber; 19 grams carbohydrates; 38 mgs cholesterol; 181 mgs sodium

Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)

1 ½ cups potato starch (not potato flour)

1 cup tapioca flour/starch

Whisk together until thoroughly combined and store, tightly closed, in a dark, dry place.

Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread (Vegan, Too)

Fall is here and I love it! The crisp cool air, the longer shadows, the colorful leaves. But most of all, I love the smells.

Pumpkin Bread for  Two

Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread for Two

Every time I walk into a Starbucks coffee shop I want a slice of their yummy-looking pumpkin spice bread that smells so heavenly because of all those wonderful spices. 

But there are only two of us in my house, so a full-size loaf is too much. Many of you have said you agree with me: you don’t want to bake a standard-size loaf that will spoil before you can eat it all. And, some of you tell me you don’t have enough room in your freezer.

So here is my small-batch version that can be egg-free (vegan), if necessary. But first, a little background on small-batch baking.

Small Batch Baking for Small Households

Today, more Americans are living in small households, such as 28% of the 115 million “solo” households in 2011, compared with 26% in 2000. According to USA Today, the largest jump is among seniors who are part of the 77 million baby boomers that become “empty-nesters” when the kids leave home.

In my travels around the country, I meet other “family” configurations: two-roommate households, one or two members within larger families who must eat differently than the rest of the family, and so on.

The Importance of Precise Measuring in Small-Batch Baking

What I have learned from small-batch baking is that precise measuring is even more critical to success here than in standard-size recipes. Scaling a recipe that serves four down to two servings isn’t as simple as dividing everything in half. Far from it!

In some ways, small-scale recipes needed even more testing than regular recipes because there is a smaller margin of error. Lack of precision here or there can throw off the delicate balance between liquid and dry ingredients. So, when this recipe calls for 1/16 teaspoon of baking soda be sure to use only that amount which is half of 1/8 teaspoon. If you plan to do lots of small-batch baking, invest in a set of mini-measuring spoons so you can be precise.

What Do Those Mysterious Terms Mean?

In some recipes, you may see mysterious terms such as a “pinch” or “dash.” Here’s what those terms mean:

TAD = 1/4 teaspoon

DASH = 1/8 teaspoon

PINCH = 1/16 teaspoon

SMIDGEN = 1/32 teaspoon

DROP = 1/64 teaspoon

Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread for Two

Recipe by Carol Fenster, author of Gluten-Free Cooking for Two (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)

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I always crave the pumpkin spice bread at coffee shops. Here is my small-scale version. Your kitchen will smell heavenly and this cute little loaf also make a great gift for a gluten-free friend. For an egg-free version, omit the egg and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water instead.

1 large egg, at room temperature

[1/2] cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

3 tablespoons canola oil

[1/2] cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)

[1/3] cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

[1/2] teaspoon baking powder

[1/2] teaspoon xanthan gum

[1/4] (rounded) teaspoon salt

[1/16] teaspoon baking soda (pinch)

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 tablespoon chopped raw pumpkin seeds

[1] Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Generously grease a 3 1/4 x 5 3/4-inch nonstick (gray, not black) loaf pan.

[2] In a small bowl, whisk together the egg (or 1 to 2 tablespoons water for egg-free), pumpkin, and oil until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice until well blended. With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until blended. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds evenly on top, slightly pressing them into the batter with your fingers.

[3] Bake until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the bread and cool on the wire rack for another 10 minutes. Use a serrated knife or an electric knife to cut into 6 slices and serve slightly warm or at room temperature

Makes one 3 ¼ x 5 ¾ -inch loaf; 6 slices

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Baking time: 35 to 40 minutes

Per serving: 165 calories; 2 grams protein; 8 grams total fat; 1grams fiber; 23 grams carbohydrates; 31 mgs cholesterol; 165 mgs sodium

 Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups sorghum flour

1 ½ cups potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour/starch

Whisk together until well blended and store, tightly covered in a dark, dry place.

Homemade Dill Pickles (for non-canners)

Homemade Dill Pickles

Homemade Dill Pickles are gluten-free and don’t require canning equipment.

Summer’s garden bounty is in full-swing and Farmer’s Markets are bursting at the seams with lovely fresh produce. I always buy far more than I need, but I just can’t resist.

One of the vegetables that beckons to me is small, Kirby cucumbers—just right for pickling. In fact, sometimes they are labeled “picklers” and I found some at a local Farmer’s Market near my home. But the thought of hauling out all of the usual canning equipment to make pickles does not excite me at all.

In other words, I’m not a canner.

Instead, I make my dill pickles the quick way—overnight—brining in the fridge. One taste and you’re hooked: the flavor is fresh and “dilly” but low in sodium because you control the salt. And, I just step outside to my patio to pick fresh dill but you can find it in supermarkets in the produce section. The best part to me, besides the flavor, is that the pickles are crisp and crunchy.

Here is the easy recipe for these delicious pickles, which keep for about a week in the fridge. Don’t worry, they won’t last that long!

HOMEMADE DILL PICKLES

By Carol Fenster

Choose the small, Kirby cucumbers for this recipe for the best results—they fit more easily in my canning jars. This small recipe makes enough for two small (16-ounce) jars, but use whatever size jars fit your pickle length.  I prefer using fresh dill from my backyard herb garden, but you can use dill seed.

3 small pickling (Kirby) cucumbers

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

2 sprigs (about ½ ounce) fresh dill (or ½ teaspoon dill seed)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ small onion, sliced

1 cup water

¾ cup white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon sugar

[1] Wash and quarter the cucumbers lengthwise into spears and divide evenly between two canning jars. Divide the peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill, garlic, and onion evenly between the jars.

[2] In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved and then divided evenly between the two jars. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Keeps for 1 week, refrigerated. Makes 12 pickles.

Per pickle:  16 Calories ; 0g Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 1g Protein;1g Fiber;4g Carbohydrates; 48mg Sodium;  0mg Cholesterol                   

Gluten-Free Scones for Afternoon Tea

Of all the gluten-free breads I love, scones are the hardest to find in restaurants and stores. So, when my niece asked for an “Afternoon Tea” theme for her baby shower, we agreed that scones would be on the menu. I made my gluten-free recipe from my cookbook, Gluten-Free 101, and served it to everyone.

Gluten-Free Scones

Gluten-Free Scones

WHAT ARE SCONES?

For some of us, scones are a mystery. What are they? They are simply British biscuits, though a little sweeter. They can be round (like a biscuit) or triangular (or even square). Mine are triangular because of the way I bake them. They are typically served with Afternoon Tea, but are appropriate anytime—including breakfast or brunch.

Scones usually contain dried currants (miniature raisins) but actually can contain anything you like. I think dried fruit works better than fresh, so instead of the dried currants you could use dried blueberries (with lemon zest) or dried cherries (with chopped almonds) or dried cranberries (with orange zest). Or, use any flavorings you like. I even saw a Greek-style spanakopita version online recently.

SCONES, STRAWBERRY JAM AND CLOTTED CREAM

Scones are typically served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, which is really like spreadable whipped cream—without the sugar. I found that store-bought clotted cream was seriously expensive, but relatively easy to make at home—if you have the time.  So, I used this recipe for clotted cream and it worked like a dream. Just remember, it takes 24 hours so plan ahead.

Baby Shower Foods

Baby Shower Foods

THE BABY SHOWER

My niece loves sweets, so alongside the scones we served brownies, strawberry shortcake, lemon bars, and petit fours (little icing-dipped squares of white cake). We chose a butterfly theme, so I sent a colorful paper butterfly home with each guest as a memento. But of course, the star of the day was that darling baby girl.

Gluten-Free Scones

Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)

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Makes 8 scones.

1/3 cup unsalted butter

½ cup + 2 tablespoons milk for brushing on scones

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 ¾ cups gluten-free flour blend, see below

½ cup tapioca flour

2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup dried currants

[1] Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line baking sheet (not nonstick) with parchment paper.

[2] In food processor, process the butter, ½ cup of the milk, and egg together until well mixed. Add sugar, flour blend, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Blend just until mixed. Toss in currants and pulse twice. Dough will be soft. 

[3] Transfer dough to baking sheet, patting with wet spatula into 8-inch circle, ¾ -inch thick. Be sure the dough is uniformly thick across the circle. This allows the scones to brown evenly. Brush with remaining 2 tablespoons of milk.

[4] Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until deeply browned. Remove from oven, cut into 8 wedges with serrated knife and pull the wedges away from the center so the innermost edges can crisp up a bit. Return to oven for final 5 minutes of baking.  Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Best served warm. 

Per serving: 240 calories; 3 grams protein; 7 grams total fat; 2 grams fiber; 4 grams saturated fat; 43 grams carbohydrates; 269 mgs sodium; 40 mgs cholesterol

Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups sorghum flour

1 ½ cups potato starch or cornstarch

1 cup tapioca flour

Whisk ingredients together and store, tightly covered, in a dark, dry place.

Wild Rice Salad for a Cool July 4th

Here in Mile-High Denver, the July 4th week promises to be super-hot. So, I’m planning to have cool, nutritious salads on hand for my guests—like this Wild Rice Salad. It is packed with protein, has lots of flavor, and looks pretty too. It pairs with anything, but I plan to serve it with grilled fish and chicken.

I plan to make it ahead of time by cooking the wild rice in a slow cooker (to cut down on heat in the kitchen) but you can cook yours on the stovetop if you wish. Once made, the salad keeps for a day or two (although the green vegetables might fade a little).

Happy July 4th to you!

Gluten-Free Wild Rice Salad is nutritious, colorful, and delicious.

Wild Rice Salad is nutritious, colorful, and delicious.

Wild Rice Salad
Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
Wild rice isn’t really rice at all, but the seed of a grass. Hearty and chewy, its nutty flavor and dark color complement the green snow peas, dried apricots, and citrusy flavors. This showy dish is perfect as a buffet dish, warm or cold.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

3 cups gluten-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup wild rice, rinsed 3 times and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup fresh snow peas
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

[1] In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the wild rice and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until done, about 45 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid, then transfer the wild rice to a serving bowl.

[2] While the wild rice cooks, bring a small pan of boiling water to a boil. Add the snow peas and cook 1 minute, then drain and immerse in cold water to stop cooking. Add them to the serving bowl, along with the green onions, apricots, walnuts, and parsley

[3] In small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, orange zest, garlic, remaining salt, and pepper until well blended. Whisk in the oil until slightly thickened. Drizzle it over the salad and toss to coat well. Serve at room temperature, garnished with parsley. Or, chill it for 4 hours, let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, and then serve. Serves 4.

Calories: 300 ; 18g protein; 6g fat, 8g fiber; 47g carbohydrates; 664mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol

NOTE: Salads like this beg for tinkering: replace the snow peas with cooked edamame or thinly sliced fresh fennel. Instead of wild rice, try black rice or black or red quinoa. Instead of dried apricots, use raisins or dried cranberries. The possibilities are endless, so get in the kitchen and experiment.

Tips for Cooking Whole Grains
[1] Rice cookers cook whole grains without the need for tending or stirring, freeing you up to do other things while they cook. The timer lets you know when the grains are done.

[2] Slow cookers are perfect for long-cooking grains such as wild rice or sorghum. They cook slowly overnight or while you are at work, ready to eat when you walk in the kitchen at the end of the day.

[3] Cooked whole grains can be frozen in individual portions and reheated as needed, allowing you to have several meals from just one cooking session.

[4] Salads such as this Wild Rice Salad can be made ahead: cook the wild rice the day before (I like to use a slow cooker) and refrigerate. You can also chop the other ingredients ahead of time and refrigerate them, then assemble the next day when you’re ready.

Berry Ice Cream Pie

This Berry Ice Cream Pie is perfect for summer. Read on for how to keep one in your freezer for hot summer nights when you want a cool dessert.

Berry Ice Cream Pie

Berry Ice Cream Pie is perfect for summer.

Berries, Berries, Berries

One of my favorite things about summer is the berries.Whether it’s strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries….there is something so marvelous, so mystifying about these perfect little orbs, so intricately designed and colorful.

As a child, however, the beauty of berries didn’t fully register on me as we knelt down in the hot Nebraska sun to pick those luscious strawberries in our farmyard garden before the rabbits or birds ate them or the deer trampled them.

Today, I buy my berries at the grocery store or farmer’s market, and then look for ways to use them. One of my favorite desserts is to fill a pastry crust or cookie crumb crust with a berry ice cream or sorbet and then make a sauce from the fresh berries.

Here is a quick, easy dessert….at least once it’s made, it is so quick and easy to just pull it from your freezer and serve it on a hot summer day. So, keep one of these in your freezer and you’re ready for anything.

Berry Ice Cream Pie©

Choose your favorite seasonal fresh berries as the theme for this ice cream pie. Here, strawberry ice cream, topped with strawberry jam and fresh strawberries is delightful. Or, follow the same idea with raspberries or blackberries or blueberries.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Basic Pastry Crust for a 9-inch pie, single crust (gluten-free storebought, or see any of my cookbooks for a recipe)

1 quart gluten-free berry ice cream, softened enough to spread in pie crust

1 cup gluten-free chocolate chips

1 cup berry jam of choice (I use strawberry jam in the photo)

2 cups fresh berries to complement berry jam (I use fresh strawberries in the photo)

[1] Place racks in the bottom and middle of the oven. Prepare the Basic Pie Crust dough as directed in any of my cookbooks. Divide the dough in half (freeze remaining half for another dessert) and roll the dough to a 10-inch circle between two sheets of plastic wrap. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap, invert the crust into a 9-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pie pan, and remove the remaining plastic wrap. Trim the edge and flute it decoratively. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork to let steam escape.

[2] Bake the crust on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Shift the pie crust to the middle rack and continue baking just until the crust and edges become firm and are lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Watch carefully at this stage to avoid over-browning. Remove the crust from the oven and sprinkle the bottom evenly with chocolate chips. Cool completely on a wire rack.

[3] Spread the softened ice cream evenly in the baked crust. Wrap tightly and freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

[4] To serve, thin the berry jam with enough hot water to make a sauce. Cut the pie into 8 slices and drizzle the sauce on top, garnished with fresh berries. Makes 8 slices.

NOTE: See Carol’s Pie Crust 101 for her pie crust tips.

Gluten-Free in Santa Fe, NM: Corn Fungus Anyone?

We have been to Santa Fe, NM every year for decades, and try to visit in the spring—before the summer crowds.  We decided to make this visit a “road trip,” so we drove through Great Sand Dunes National Park outside Alamosa, CO. These sand dunes are 75 stories high, created by Mother Nature. They are both beautiful and mysterious, but well worth the visit.

Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa, CO

Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa, CO

Santa Fe boasts many fantastic restaurants, but we always eat well no matter where we are in New Mexico. This time, I tried “corn fungus” so read on for more details.

First Stop, Lunch at Abiquiu Inn in Abiquiu, NM 

Famous painter Georgia O’Keeffe lived in the pueblo (village) of Abiquiu, NM. At the Abiquiu Inn I had a wonderful lunch, which would be easy to replicate at home.  It was simply 3 fried corn cakes (like polenta), layered with guacamole and topped with Pico de Gallo and a nice, spicy sauce. This would be a perfect dish for vegetarian entertaining and doesn’t even need a recipe.  

Vegetarian Corn Cakes

Vegetarian Corn Cakes

Dinner at La Boca in Santa Fe

One of our favorite restaurants is La Boca. It specializes in Spanish tapas, accompanied by various selections of sherry.  We shared Paella, and I loved the gluten-free bread, offered with copious amounts of olive oil. It is a very small restaurant, but we always manage to get a table without reservations.

GF Bread at La Boca 2018

GF Bread at La Boca 2018

Dinner at Hotel Santa Fe

This hotel is partly owned by the Picuris Indian tribe, and we love its intimate feel and great location within walking distance of the plaza. Dinner was a tasty Stuffed Poblano Pepper filled with beans, corn, and tomatoes and served atop a bed of rice.

The Hotel Santa Fe also features a lovely outdoor dining patio and, if you choose, you can dine inside an authentic tepee by candlelight.  

Teepee Hotel Santa Fe

Teepee Hotel Santa Fe

And, the hotel provides a free taxi, which is actually a refurbished London cab and loads of fun to ride in.

London Cab Hotel Santa Fe

London Cab Hotel Santa Fe

Breakfast at Inn of the Anasazi

We always have breakfast at the Inn of the Anasazi because it is so reliably delicious. This time, I chose the Huevos Rancheros, which were perfect. The ambience of this restaurant, which is located inside the hotel, is delightful.  

Huevos Rancheros at Inn of the Anasazi

Huevos Rancheros at Inn of the Anasazi

Lunch at La Casa Sena

One of our favorite lunch spots is La Casa Sena, an old adobe house surrounding a lovely dining area with fountains and trees. It is just a block from the plaza.  I had a cool, tasty melon gazpacho and then fried calamari, (gluten-free, dredged in rice flour rather than wheat flour).

Fried Calamari at La Casa Sena

Fried Calamari at La Casa Sena

 

La Casa Sena Dessert

La Casa Sena Dessert

My dessert was a scrumptious combination of chocolate mousse, banana semifreddo, garnished with popcorn and caramel sauce. The crunchy texture of the popcorn really complemented the dish. This photo, shaded by the trees, doesn’t portray this dessert very well… but trust me, it was fabulous!!

Dinner at Sazon, the best meal of the trip

We always try at least one new restaurant on each trip. This time, Sazon caught our eye. Highly rated, its chef is Fernando Olea who once headed the now-closed Epazote restaurant years ago.  The food is Latin American-inspired and the décor is warm and inviting.

I decided to be adventurous and chose an appetizer made of corn fungus, called huitlacoche in Mexico where it is a delicacy. Served as a paste on small corn tortillas, it has a really strong, pungent taste but wasn’t really that bad. That said, I don’t plan to order it again.

Huitlacocohe at Sazon

Huitlacocohe at Sazon

Dinner was a Stuffed Poblano Pepper, which many layers of flavors coming from the dried fruit, nuts, and the mixture of ground lamb, pork, and beef. The restaurant specializes in mole sauces, and it was fun to sample them (only one of the 6 wasn’t gluten-free). It was a fabulous dish, with many different flavors that harmonized to make a superb dish.

Stuffed Poblano Pepper at Sazon

Stuffed Poblano Pepper at Sazon

 

Moles at Sazon

Moles at Sazon

As usual, our trip ended way too soon and it was time to drive home to Denver. Without many stops for food or gas, it is about a 6 or 6 ½ hour drive on I-25 and we made it home with fond memories of Santa Fe. The only question is, “when can we go again?”

Viking Ocean Cruise – Athens to Venice 2018

Greece has been on my bucket list for years, so we booked a Viking Ocean cruise from Athens to Venice this spring. We spent 5 days in the Hilton Athens, then 10 days on a cruise ship from Athens to Venice.

First Dinner in Athens

By the time we landed in Athens in late afternoon (after nearly 24 hours of travel) we were so famished that we went straight to the hotel’s dining room—even before going to our hotel room. Imagine my delight when the waiter brought me gluten-free bread (baked in-house) and seemed extremely well-versed in the gluten-free items on the menu.

GF Bread at Hilton Athens

GF Bread at Hilton Athens

It helped that he brought us free champagne to celebrate our first-time visit to Athens! That dinner turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. And, the scenic view from our hotel window was the Acropolis, off in the distance. What a terrific way to start the trip!

Greek Salad at Hilton Athens

Greek Salad at Hilton Athens

This meal featured a Greek Salad, which was different from our Americanized version. The biggest difference was the feta cheese. Notice how soft it is in the photo, less firm than our American versions. It is also less salty. The salad often includes green beans and this one also featured cooked quinoa. It was delicious!

Visiting Greek Ruins

Our sightseeing started off immediately the next morning—no time to sleep in.  After a fabulous breakfast buffet (featuring a gluten-free bread section), busses took us to the Mycenaean ruins north of Athens. That part of Greece is mountainous, volcanic, and arid so that’s why there are lots of olive trees—that’s all that can grow there.

Day Two in Athens was unplanned, so we did what we often do in new cities: we boarded a Hop On/Hop Off bus which circulated on a continuous route of scenic destinations. As the name implies, you can get off the bus at any stop you like and reboard when the next bus (usually in 20-30 minutes) appears. It is an inexpensive way to get an overview of a foreign city before deciding which points-of-interest you want to explore in depth. We have used this system all over the world (Rome, Barcelona, London, Bergen, Norway, etc.) and it works well for us.

Day Three was a day-long trip to Delphi, which was once regarded as the center of the world and the location of the Oracle of Apollo where all the wisdom was. All that’s left now are the ruins, which are really just columns of rock or marble.

Parthenon on Acropolis

Parthenon on Acropolis

Day Four proved to be the most physically-challenging of all. We climbed 80 steps to the top of the Acropolis, which is like a citadel or fortress built on a limestone hill that provides protection if invaded. The Acropolis, which is illuminated at night, is the hill itself while the Parthenon is one of the (most famous) structures built on it.

Thankfully, our hike was during broad daylight, but I realized one amazing thing: the shoes of millions of visitors have polished the steps to a smooth, yet dangerous sheen…..making them slippery and downright dangerous when wet. So, I was constantly watching where I stepped so I wouldn’t slip and fall. Notice the crane in the background: most of the Greek ruins are in need of constant repair because they are so old.

Acropolis from below

Acropolis from below

But once we were on top of the Acropolis the view was spectacular. I tried to imagine the Greeks who lived in Athens centuries ago and how they would retreat to this highest point if they were attacked. What a primitive way to live! How did they make sure they had enough food to weather a siege? What about sleeping arrangements? Disposing of waste? Clearly, I’m too urbanized!

 Serendipity in Athens

One day, we decided to abandon our guided tour and strike out on our own. We were hungry in downtown Athens, and found a small little cafe which turned out to be fantastic. We made a meal of olives, dolmades, and lots of prosciutto. The staff appeared to understand my gluten-free needs and we declared this meal a success. 

 

Olives

Olives

 

Prosciutto in Athens

Prosciutto in Athens

Dining Onboard the Viking Star

Later that day, we boarded our ship, the Viking Star. This was our 3rd time on the same ship, so it felt like returning home. The first thing I did upon entering the World Café was let the Head Waiter know my gluten-free needs. I was delighted to see GF signs on the buffet items.

GF Sign in World Cafe

GF Sign in World Cafe

One of my favorites is the Seafood Buffet.

Seafood Buffet

Seafood Buffet

Gluten-Free Bread on the Viking Star

I was served served several kinds of gluten-free bread on the Viking Star, depending on which restaurant I was in. Here are some photos:

GF Bread loaf on Viking Star

GF Bread loaf on Viking Star

 

GF Bread slice on Viking Star 2018

GF Bread slice on Viking Star 2018

 

GF Hamburger on Viking Star 2018

GF Hamburger on Viking Star 2018

 

Head Waiter Boban on Viking Star

Head Waiter Boban on Viking Star

My favorite head waiter, Boban, took care of my gluten-free needs and he was a delight to work with.

After 4 days of jam-packed sight-seeing in Athens, we slept in on Day 5 and took an afternoon tour to Cape Sounion, which lies at the southernmost point of the Attica peninsula. After the hectic pace of the city, it was nice to get out in the country. The Temple of Poseidon is located here.

Temple of Poseidon

Temple of Poseidon

 

Larry and Carol at Cape Sounion

Larry and Carol at Cape Sounion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the trip, I was amazed to see how many of our “English” words actually have roots in the Greek language. The Greek alphabet was difficult for us to read, so road signs were confusing. It’s the same alphabet used for the names of Greek sororities and fraternities on college campuses, but try reading those alphabet letters on a street sign!!!

Olives Dominate Greece

One day we toured an Olive Museum, where we learned that olives were the backbone of Greece. In most areas, the soil is too poor to grow much else than olive trees. The Greeks used olives and their oil for cooking, skin treatment, religious ceremonies, and then they burned the leftover pits and pulp for heat. The photo shows an ancient, very crude olive oil press which is how they manually extracted the oil from the olive fruit.

Olive oil press

Olive oil press

Greece’s Economy

You might be wondering about the economy? Greece is certainly is having economic problems, but our visit was unmarred by any strife. We did notice a lot of unsightly graffiti on buildings in Athens and our guides told us that young people use graffiti to express their discontent with the Greece economics and its likely impact on their future. One guide said the young people are disgruntled that their old-age pensions might be affected.  But, in general, we found the Greeks to be very welcoming and kind.

Our cruise ended in Venice, visiting Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia along the way. In all, it was a fantastic trip and I was able to “cross Greece off my bucket list.”