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Where in the World is Carol?

Carol's in the kitchen, cooking up recipes for and

Coming October 7, 2014: Carol's latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, wherever books are sold, including pre-order at

Join Carol at the Bookworm Bookstore, Edwards, CO for a Gluten-Free Homemade Holidays book-signing and tasting of recipes from her new book, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes. For more information, November 13 at 6 PM; tickets are $10. Hope to 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!

One-Pan Mexican Skillet Beef & Rice from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes

 Are you time-challenged?

Mexican Skillet Beef and Rice from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes; Photo by Jason Wyche

Mexican Skillet Beef and Rice from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes; Photo by Jason Wyche

I remember when I would rush home from work after a long commute and head straight to the kitchen to start dinner. We had to eat quickly because there was always the inevitable homework for my son, office work for me, and—on some nights—a school or community meeting to attend.

Early on, I decided that we would not sacrifice our health by skipping meals or resorting to TV dinners or simply snacking over the kitchen sink. So, I made time to sit down and eat a meal at the table. Of course, I had my repertoire of quick recipes for nights like this but I would have loved the recipe for this one-pan dish back then.

I strongly believe in planning ahead (such as having cooked rice and browned ground beef on hand for this recipe), but I know that even the best intentions go astray. I read recently that home cooks who plan the week’s meals still tend to “fall off the wagon” by mid-week so that Thursday and Friday are more likely to be take-out meals or hastily-assembled affairs.

I can relate to this: it takes discipline and commitment to adhere to a weekly meal plan, especially if you are extremely busy. But I also feel strongly that what we eat is the most profound thing we do to our bodies, so I still prepare our own meals as often as I can. I hope you do too.

Try this quick, easy dish called Mexican Skillet Beef and Rice (from my new book, 100 BEST QUICK GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES). It’s got loads of flavor from the chili powder, oregano, and cumin plus protein from the ground beef. You serve it right from the skillet, so no extra serving bowls to wash. Super-easy, boldly flavorful, it is sure to become one of your family’s favorites. You can get your copy of 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes wherever books are sold.

Mexican Skillet Beef & Rice
Excerpted from 100 BEST QUICK GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES © 2014 by Carol Fenster. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

This dish is for really busy nights, when you want dinner on the table right away. Serve it with a tossed salad, along with corn tortillas wrapped in damp paper towels and heated gently in the microwave. This is a good way to use up leftover cooked brown rice that you’ve stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Or, quickly cook instant brown rice while browning the ground beef.

8 ounces lean ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion or 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
½ cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or ½ teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 can (14- to 15- ounce) can pinto beans or black beans, rinsed and drained and rinsed
1 can (4- ounce) can diced green chiles
2 medium Roma or plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

[1] In a large skillet, cook the ground beef and onion over medium-high heat until browned, about 5 minutes, stirring to crumble the beef. The beef will be more flavorful if it is fully browned and all the liquid has evaporated.

[2] Add the water, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and salt and stir to combine. Stir in the rice, beans, and chiles and heat to serving temperature, about 5 minutes. Top with the chopped tomatoes; garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately, right from the skillet.

STORAGE: Refrigerate leftovers, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days.

Makes 4 servings
Preparation time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Per serving: 520 calories; 29g protein; 8g total fat; 28g fiber; 85g carbohydrates; 21mg cholesterol; 234mg sodium


Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies: Quick Decadence from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes

This cookie has a history behind it (as many of my recipes do). Years ago, I sent my marvelous editor, Linda Ingroia, a box of Christmas cookies. 

Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes

Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes; Photo by Jason Wyche

It was a chocolate cookie recipe that I had been working on because my family loves chocolate.

At the time I was working on my huge tome, 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes, and she asked, “Is this recipe in the book? Because—if it’s not, it better be.” I had not planned on including that recipe in this massive book because it already had lots and lots of cookie recipes. But I love my editor and her uncanny sense of what should go into a cookbook, so I quickly added that cookie to the line-up and it has become a huge success.

So, when I began selecting recipes from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes to be adapted for my latest book, 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes, I knew this could easily be adapted to be a refrigerator cookie and save precious time for busy cooks.

What is a Refrigerator Cookie?
It is a cookie whose dough can be refrigerated (or frozen) then sliced and baked as needed, using as much of the dough as you like (and keeping the remainder refrigerated or frozen until you need it). Or, if you prefer, shape the dough into balls and freeze them. I served these decadent little gems recently to dinner guests and they were enticed by the lovely chocolate aroma wafting from the kitchen as we finished dinner. Served slightly warm and gooey, they are mouthwateringly decadent.

The benefit for busy cooks? You make the dough ahead of when you need it, roll into a log and refrigerate (or freeze in balls). Then slice it off in ½-inch thick slices. All you have to do is place the balls or slices on a baking sheet and bake; they’re ready in less than 12 minutes. Serve them warm while the chocolate chips are still slightly melted. This will become a family favorite and perfect for unexpected guests who drop by during the holidays. So make a batch and be prepared during the holidays.

Excerpted from 100 BEST QUICK GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES © 2014 by Carol Fenster. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Refrigerator cookies come together in two basic steps: First, make the dough, and chill or freeze it. Next, bake as needed when you want. By planning ahead, you can have cookies in about 15 minutes. If you don’t have sorghum flour, use the same amount of brown rice, millet, bean, or amaranth flour—or whatever flour you prefer.

21 ounces gluten-free bittersweet chocolate chips (at least 60% cacao)
5 tablespoons (about 1/3 cup) butter or buttery spread
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
[1/2] teaspoon pure vanilla extract
[1/2] cup sorghum flour
[1/4] teaspoon baking soda
[1/4] teaspoon xanthan gum
[1/4] teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

[1] In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat 9 ounces of the chocolate chips with the butter in the microwave on Low power for 1 to 2 minutes, or until melted. Stir until well blended.

[2] In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer on low speed until thick, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt, and beat into the eggs on low speed until no flour streaks remain. Beat in the chocolate mixture. Stir in the walnuts and the remaining 12 ounces chocolate chips. The dough will be very soft. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for 2 hours.

[3] When thoroughly chilled and solid, shape the dough into 2 logs, each 1 [1/2]-inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap to hold the shape, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Or, shape the dough into 48 walnut-size balls with your hands, place in a plastic freezer bag, seal tightly, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

[4] When ready to bake, place an oven rack in the middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375⁰F. Line a 13×18-inch baking sheet (not nonstick) with parchment paper. Cut twelve [1/2]-inch-thick slices from the log and place on the baking sheet; or place 12 walnut-size balls on the baking sheet.

[5] Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or just until the cookies look shiny and the crust starts to crack. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the pan; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Serve or store.

STORAGE: Refrigerate leftovers, tightly covered, for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

Now available wherever books are sold. Makes a terrific gift.

Now available wherever books are sold. Makes a terrific gift.

Makes 48 cookies
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Baking time: 10 to 12 minutes

Per cookie: 110 calories; 2g protein; 7g total fat; 1g fiber; 13g carbohydrates; 15mg cholesterol; 22mg sodium

100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes Cookbook Saves Time — The Essential Ingredient in Healthier Eating

Most of us cite “lack of “time” as the main reason we don’t prepare more of our own food. But living a gluten-free lifestyle means we can’t always grab a sandwich at a corner deli or the local drive-thru. We often prepare more of our own food to stay safe. We all get 24 hours a day to live our lives, but we gluten-free folks spend a disproportionately higher amount of those 24 hours involved in food preparation. I wrote my latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, to save you time. It publishes today, October 7, so look for it on store shelves or at Amazon.

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice; Photo by Jason Wyche

Now here’s the good news: We’re better off preparing our own food. Read on….

Time as the Essential Ingredient?
We all know that cooking means assembling ingredients into dishes we like to eat. Survey information gathered for the Seattle Obesity Study suggests that people who spend more time preparing and cooking meals are more likely to have healthier diets. So, time is yet another ingredient.

They found that people who prepare their own food eat one-third more fruits and 18 percent more vegetables, per week. Furthermore, families who prepare their own food spend about $7 less per family member, per week. For a family of four, that’s $28 that can be spent in other ways. Over the course of a year, that weekly savings of $28 grows to almost $1500. Just imagine what you could do with an extra $1500 per year!

The study goes on to say that planning is one of the keys to success for health eating. I totally agree; in my talks with people around the country I sense a reluctance to plan grocery lists, do the shopping, and make a meal plan for the next week. Yet, time and again, time spent in planning turns out to be a key factor in eating well. In concluding, the study suggests using slow cookers and that’s my focus in today’s blog.

Slow Cookers: A Home Cook’s Best Friend
I am a big fan of slow cookers. I don’t have extensive experience with them, but they play an important role in my own kitchen. Although I cook many different foods in my slow cooker, I use it primarily for soups, stews, and meats. I use slow cookers in my brand new book, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes.

Slow cookers (the term “crockpot” is a trademarked brand name) are a wonderful invention, but they are more of a “time-shifter” than a “time-saver.” The slow cooker doesn’t measure, cut, or brown the food—you still have to do that. But slow cookers allow you to schedule WHEN you perform those tasks. To me, the best thing about the slow cooker is that it cooks for you while you do something else. It won’t boil over, burn the food, or dry it out. A slow cooker allows you to be gone all day, or do other things while the food cooks untended. That’s a huge help when it comes to how you spend your hours in meal-preparation.

Here is one of my all-time favorite recipes—Red Beans with Rice—modified to work in a slow cooker, from my brand new cookbook 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes. The book makes a terrific gift, too. Enjoy!!

Slow Cooker Red Beans with Rice
Reprinted with permission from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

You can cook this dish in a pot on the stovetop, but it is so much easier to just let a slow cooker do the job for you. To really speed things up, plan ahead to have cooked brown rice waiting in the fridge for a quick reheat. I use a salt-free Cajun seasoning by Spice Islands; if your seasoning contains salt, reduce the recipe’s salt to 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste. Leftovers are great!

1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 to 3 teaspoons prepared store-bought gluten-free Cajun seasoning blend
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste
2 gluten-free andouille sausage links, cut into [1/2-inch rounds (I use Boar’s Head)
1 cup dried red beans (not kidney beans)
4 cups water (or more as needed)
2 dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste
4 cups hot, cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

[1] Place the onion, celery, garlic, Cajun seasoning, salt, brown sugar, hot pepper sauce, and sausage in a 4-quart slow cooker.

[2] Pick over the beans to remove stones or debris, then rinse thoroughly and add to the slow cooker. Add the water (it should cover the ingredients) and simmer on Low for 6 to 8 hours, until the water is absorbed and the beans and rice are tender. Taste and add more hot pepper sauce, if desired. Serve over hot cooked brown rice, sprinkled with the parsley.

STORAGE: Refrigerate leftovers, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.
Makes 4 servings (1 1/4 cups each)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Slow Cooker time: 6 to 8 hours

Per serving: 495 calories; 10g protein; 8g total fat; 17g fiber; 89g carbohydrates; 10mg cholesterol; 798mg sodium

Now available wherever books are sold. Makes a terrific gift.

Now available wherever books are sold. Makes a terrific gift.

One More Thing….Join Me at the Bookworm at Edwards, Colorado, November 13, 2014: 6 PM
If you are in the Edwards, Colorado area please join me at 6 PM at the Bookworm Bookstore for fun, some tips from me, and tasting recipes from my new book, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes. Hope to see you there!


Quick, Easy Shrimp, Sausage, and Pineapple Skewers from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes

I am about to give birth again… to my latest cookbook! One week from today, October 7— my 12th cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, will be on store shelves.

Carol's new book in stores October 7.

Carol’s new book in stores October 7.

One of the joys of writing a cookbook— in addition to eating all of the food during recipe-testing—is that I learn so much. As I researched the idea of “quick” recipes, I took a fresh look at my own kitchen habits and thought about what busy people want from a “quick” cookbook. I came up with several tips, one of which I use in today’s blog.

Use Flavorful Ingredients
One of my tips is to use extremely flavorful ingredients. What does that mean? It means selecting ingredients that are boldly flavored or spiced……such as mustard, vinegar, or, as in today’s recipe: sausage and chili sauce. Yes, you could assemble several ingredients to approximate a sausage flavor or a spicy chili sauce. But by using these ready-made (and gluten-free, always check the labels) store-bought ingredients you save precious time in gathering, measuring, and then cooking together the many ingredients that would ordinarily go into a homemade sausage or homemade chili sauce. Though pineapple is a simple, naturally gluten-free fruit it holds its own in flavor and adds some delicious sweetness that contrasts nicely with the spicy sausage and chili sauce.

So, here is this super-simple recipe that can be assembled the night before (or let the kids do it) and can be grilled outdoors or indoors —and they are ready in only 5 minutes—on a ridged grill pan.

One More Thing….Join Me at the Bookworm at Edwards, Colorado, November 13, 2014: 6 PM
If you are in the Edwards, Colorado area please join me at 6 PM at the Bookworm Bookstore for fun, some tips from me, and tasting recipes from my new book, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes. We will sample these Shrimp, Sausage, and Pineapple Skewers, plus some of the book’s desserts. Hope to see you there!

Shrimp, Sausage, and Pineapple Skewers
Reprinted with permission from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes  by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Shrimp skewers are easy to make and cook quickly because shrimp and sausage chunks are small. Andouille sausage is highly flavorful, and the sweet pineapple contrasts deliciously with the spicy chili glaze. Be sure to soak the wooden skewers in water for 20 to 30 minutes to prevent them from catching fire on the grill.

Shrimp, Sausage, and Pineapple Skewers

Shrimp, Sausage, and Pineapple Skewers; Photo by Jason Wyche

1 pound extra-large raw shrimp, cleaned, peeled and deveined, with tails on
4 gluten-free andouille sausage links, cut into 1-inch chunks (I used Boar’s Head)
1 can (14- ounces) can pineapple chunks, well -drained
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
[1/2] cup chili sauce (I used Heinz)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
[1/4] teaspoon honey or agave nectar
Dash of hot pepper sauce, or to taste
8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes beforehand

[1] Thread all of the shrimp together on skewers (about 3 or 4 to a skewer), so they will cook at their own speed and won’t overcook. Then thread the sausage chunks, pineapple chunks, and bell pepper chunks alternately on the remaining skewers.

[2] In a small bowl, whisk together the chili sauce, lemon juice, honey, and hot pepper sauce until blended.

[3] Place a barbecue grill about 6 inches away from the heat source. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the skewers on the grill and cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 4 to 5 minutes, and the other items are heated through, generously brushing the skewers with the chili sauce during the last minute of cooking. Remove the food from the skewers and serve immediately.

STORAGE: Refrigerate leftovers, tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 2 days.

Makes 4 servings (2 skewers each)
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Grilling time: 5 minutes

Per serving: 345 calories; 27g protein; 13g total fat; 3g fiber; 28g carbohydrates; 192mg cholesterol; 365mg sodium


A Decadent Twist on Apple Pie

Fall is here, apples are at their best, and the aroma of apples baking in the oven is both comforting and enticing. A recent article on heirloom apples caught my eye in the Denver Post and, all of a sudden, I craved apples!


Fall is apple time!

Fall is Apple Pie Time
Of course, you can make a traditional, two-crust Apple Pie, but here is a super-simple No-Bake Caramel Apple Pie from the Denver Post.

Although the original recipe is not gluten-free, it will be if you use easy-to-find, gluten-free versions of all the ingredients. Warning: It is extremely decadent, and doesn’t cut into clean slices. But it is so darn good, you won’t care about that!

The pie is basically apples cooked with caramels and spices, piled in a crumb-crust (use gluten-free cookies rather than graham crackers or look for gluten-free graham crackers by Kinnikinnick or Outside the Breadbox here in the Denver area) and top it with whatever you like: crushed cookies, chopped nuts, and mini-chocolate chips were used in the Denver Post recipe. Personally, I like crushed toffee-chocolate bars such as Skor, butterscotch or white-chocolate chips, and then perhaps Pamela’s Ginger or Chocolate cookies. If you plan Halloween wisely, maybe you will have leftover candy for this pie.

Even though the pie is “no-bake” you do have to cook the apples before putting them in the crust. Here are some tips for which apples to use and some secrets to a good apple pie filling. They may not all apply to the above recipe, but will be very useful when you make a traditional two-crust pastry apple pie.

Secrets to Baking Success in Apple Pies
Pre-Cook the Apples
Cook’s Illustrated magazine says to pre-cook the apple filling before making pies. They recommend simmering the filling ingredients for about 15 to 20 minutes on low heat (or until the apples just start to break down). Apparently, when gently heated (and the key is “gentle,” not to exceed 140°F or you won’t get the desired result), the pectin in apples is converted to a heat-stable form that keeps them from becoming mushy when cooked further in the oven. Who knew?

An added benefit is that our gluten-free pastry pie crusts don’t stand up well to prolonged baking, so pre-cooking the apples helps reduce baking time. Also, precooking the apples shrinks them down a bit and you can fit more apples into the pie crust if you like a really big, high pie (which I do!).

Use a Blend of Apple Varieties
These same experts recommend using a blend of apples in pies, rather than just one variety. Some apples remain firm, others get mushy. Some diminish in flavor from baking, while others actually improve. For baking, they suggest equal parts of both tart and sweet apples…such as Granny Smiths, Empires, or Cortlands for the tarts and Yellow Delicious, Jonagolds, or Braeburns for the sweets.

Sweeteners, Spices, and Flavorings
For sweeteners in pie, use two-thirds white and one-third brown sugar, rather than just white sugar. The molasses in brown sugar adds a hint of caramel that complements apple flavor. Maple syrup or apple cider (reduced to half by simmering over low heat) provide nice flavor, too. A squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of lemon zest provide acid to highlight flavors and balance sweetness. A quarter-teaspoon of salt heightens flavors.

Spices are such a personal thing; I have a heavy-hand when it comes to spices but you may prefer a milder approach. For some, just a quarter-teaspoon of cinnamon is all they need. Others want more variety, so they add one-eighth-teaspoon ground allspice and maybe a quarter-cup of finely chopped crystallized ginger. For a spicier pie, add one-eighth teaspoon ground cloves, along with the cinnamon and allspice. Or, if allspice isn’t your thing, use the same amount of ground nutmeg. Of course, you can just use apple pie spice (a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice) and use as much as you like!

In Conclusion
This is a very decadent dessert, so I’m not even going to post the calorie count (you don’t want to know!!). But, once in awhile, it’s OK to indulge…so go for it!!!

Silvana’s Gluten–Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen- New Cookbook

If you’re among the many gluten-free folks who ALSO can’t tolerate dairy, then Silvana Nardone’s new cookbook, Silvana’s Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen is for you.

Silvana's Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen: Timeless Favorites Transformed

Silvana’s Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen: Timeless Favorites Transformed

We cookbook authors write cookbooks for different reasons, but Silvana’s goal was to make food that her young son, Isaiah, could safely eat. So, she wrote this cookbook, as well as an earlier one called Cooking with Isaiah. Our gluten-free community benefits from Silvana’s fresh perspective on making our own gluten-free food and I have always welcomed new authors because I think we all need choices in the food we eat. Silvana’s new book provides lots of wonderful choices!

Her book has fantastic recipes for many dishes—illustrated by enticing, mouthwatering color photos— but my favorite section is the Dairy-Free Basics section at the end of the book. Here, Silvana shows us how to make our own dairy-free substitutes…such as buttermilk, condensed milk, whipped cream, dulce de lech, sour cream, yogurt…and many more. I think this is very important because many cookbook authors don’t give us alternatives to dairy, even though a huge percentage of us can’t tolerate dairy of any kind. So, thanks Silvana for making our lives much easier… and tastier!

Being a lover of coconut and extremely fond of whipped cream, I was particularly intrigued by her recipe for Dairy-Free Whipped Cream. So, here it is; it’s fabulous!!

Dairy-Free Whipped Cream

Reprinted with permission from Silvana’s Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen by Silvana Nardone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

1 can (13-ounces) full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water

Spoon the solid coconut cream from the top of the coconut milk into a medium bowl. With an electric mixer, whip the cream together with the confectioner’s sugar on medium high speed until stiff peaks begin to form. Whip in the salt and water. The whipped cream can be refrigerated in a resealable container for up to a week. Makes 1 ¼ cups in about 5 minutes.

Silvana’s Tips
[1] Thai Kitchen’s brand of full-fat coconut milk yields the most consistent results. Like Silvana, I have found that the low-fat versions of coconut milk just don’t work.

[2] That tiny little teaspoon of water at the end makes the whipped cream nice and billowy, so don’t forget it.

[3] For best results, place the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer before you start whipping.

[4] You can make this whipped cream even lighter by whipping in up to ½ cup store-bought marshmallow crème for every 1 cup coconut cream.

Yes, You Can Bake Bread Even When You Are Time-Challenged

Of all the foods we crave on a gluten-free diet, bread is always at the top of the list.

Focaccia Flatbread is a quick, easy bread with loads of flavor.

Focaccia Flatbread is a quick, easy bread with loads of flavor.

We gluten-free folks really love our 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, etc.

But there’s something special about baking your own bread… the aroma, the hands-on feel, the pride in serving something you made yourself. Plus, you have complete control over what goes into it and how it looks.

Help is on the way!

I wrote my latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, to help you if you want to cook your own food at home but have limited time. So throughout the book, the recipes illustrate several principles to shave precious time from meal preparation.

Help Heat Penetrate More Quickly in Baking
One of these principles is to bake the item in a manner that allows the heat to penetrate more quickly to the center, thus baking the contents faster. This works beautifully with bread dough. Here’s how it works:

Try My Focaccia Flatbread
Focaccia is one of my most popular recipes because it is virtually fail-proof and extremely tasty because it is studded with flavorful Italian herbs. But the traditional version requires mixing, then rising, and then baking… which can take far more time than a busy cook can spare. So, I applied the principle of baking it so the heat penetrates more quickly. In this case, instead of baking it in a 7×11-inch pan I spread the batter more thinly in a 9×13-inch pan…producing more of a flatbread because it is somewhat thinner, but still packs that lovely Italian Focaccia flavor.

Start Bread Dough to Bake in a Cold Oven
The second technique—which applies only to certain sizes of yeast breads—is to start the flatbread dough to bake in a cold oven. I know this defies everything we know about baking bread. But, trust me, it works beautifully in my KitchenAid oven and should work in yours….unless it is a gas oven or a quick-pre-heat type. Then, do the usual rising of the dough in a room-temperature place until the dough is doubled and then bake in a preheated oven.

Why does a cold-oven start work? For thin or small loaves (such as French baguettes, breadsticks, pizza, and this focaccia) the bread rises as the oven preheats which shaves significant time. It works in these smaller, thinner breads because the heat can get to the center more quickly and it still browns the crust very nicely. It DOES NOT work with standard-size loaves of bread such as 4×8-inch or 5×9-inch pans because there is simply too much mass (bread dough).

Give This Flavorful Bread a Try
Imagine serving this flatbread with an Italian spaghetti dinner or lasagna; it is the perfect complement to a quick dinner. See the recipe headnote on preparing the dough ahead. Or, speed things up by pre-measuring the dry ingredients the night before so you can mix the dough right away when you start preparing dinner. Prepare the remainder of the meal while the Focaccia bakes. Enjoy!

Carol's new book in stores October 7.

Carol’s new book in stores October 7.

 Focaccia Flatbread
Reprinted with permission from  100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)
Focaccia is a cross between flatbread and pizza. Here, it is spread in an ultra-thin layer for a shorter baking time. Or, make the dough up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake—but be sure to use cold milk and eggs. This bread is delicious dipped in extra-virgin olive oil—just like they do in restaurants.

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup warm (110°⁰F) milk of choice
1 1/2 cups Carol’s Sorghum Blend (see below)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in your palm
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese or soy Parmesan, for garnish (or use shaved Parmesan)

[1] Make the flatbread: Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm milk. Set aside to foam for 5 minutes. Generously grease a 9×13-inch nonstick pan (gray, not black).

[2] Whisk together the flour blend, xanthan gum, rosemary, salt, and onion powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast-milk mixture, the eggs, olive oil, and vinegar and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the dough thickens, about 1 minute. The dough will be soft and very sticky.

[3] Transfer the dough to the pan and smooth the top with a wet spatula into a thin layer. Sprinkle with the topping ingredients: the olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt, and Parmesan cheese.

[4] Place the pan on the middle rack of a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400°⁰F. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the bread is lightly browned. To serve, cut into squares or tear into pieces while still slightly warm. (Or, to serve to a group place the pieces on a platter and garnish with arugula, as in the photo.)

STORAGE: Store leftover flatbread at room temperature, tightly wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 2two days. Then freeze in the foil for up to 1one month. Thaw at room temperature in the foil and, if desired, reheat on Low power in the microwave oven in 10-second increments.
Makes 10 servings; per serving: 110 calories; 3 g protein; 3g total fat; 1g fiber; 19 grams carbohydrates; 38 mgs cholesterol; 181 mgs sodium

Carol’s Sorghum 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.

Carol’s New Cookbook: 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes–Coming Soon

As I travel around the country at speaking engagements, book signings, and trade shows I hear this comment over and over, I don’t have time to cook. How can I get a meal on the table in 30 minutes or less?”100BestQGFRcover9780544263710_hres

So, after many requests, I wrote a book of quick recipes—and quick means the dishes can usually be prepared in 30 minutes or less. It is called 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes and includes many of our old-time favorites such as meatloaf, sloppy joes, pasta dishes, one-pot meals, and slow-cooker meals. I also offer quick and easy desserts such as cupcakes, cheesecake, and refrigerator cookies.

Make a hot breakfast with my “Muffin in a Mug” that “bakes” in the microwave in 60 seconds. Even breads such as French Baguettes and Focaccia can be made quickly with my special techniques (including starting the bread to bake in a cold oven—unusual, but it works perfectly in my KitchenAid oven). In other words, you don’t have to do without the foods you love, even if you are time-challenged. I’ve made it easy for you to quickly prepare your favorite foods with the recipes in my new book.

What Do You Mean, “I Didn’t Have Time to Eat Dinner?”
I’ve always worked outside the home but always cooked dinner for my family each evening. That’s how I was raised and back then I thought everyone cooked their own dinner. Apparently not!

When I was a new bride right after college, we moved far away to a state where we didn’t know anyone. Eager to make new friends, we began socializing with a nice young couple we met at church. We agreed to meet them for a night of bar-hopping —a common social event back then (but not one I recommend now).

Growing up in a family where all of our meals were eaten at home, I naively thought that’s what our friends would do before joining us. So, as usual, my husband and I ate our home-cooked dinner that evening before meeting our new friends…only to hear them say when they arrived, “We didn’t eat dinner…we didn’t have time.” I was shocked; I had never skipped a meal in my life and I honestly didn’t know people who did that!

My family had always put mealtime first; in fact, our social and school activities revolved around mealtime. We didn’t have slow-cookers or microwaves back then to reheat food, so it was either eat the meal at dinnertime while it was still hot or reheat it slowly in the oven….or eat it cold. (In case you’re wondering, my gluten intolerance didn’t surface until many decades later, so gluten wasn’t an issue when I was growing up.)

My Philosophy
We are all strapped for time, but I honestly think that the food we eat is the most important thing we do to our bodies. So, it is important that we make at least some time to nourish our bodies and stay healthy. And, for us gluten-free folks we must eat wisely; in other words, food we prepare ourselves in our own kitchens is the safest and usually the healthiest.

Why is that? We have control over the ingredients and the standards under which the food is prepared. Plus, research shows that when we prepare our own food we usually consume fewer calories as well as less fat and sodium. So, it pays to prepare your own food and my book makes it easier for you to do that.

Get Your Copy of 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes
My book goes on sale in stores on October 7, but you can pre-order a copy of 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes at or Barnes & Noble, or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Gluten-Free Brunch at Panzano Restaurant for a Good Cause

If you live in the Denver area and would like to eat a safe, delicious gluten-free brunch at a restaurant staffed by an award-winning, celebrity chef ….then join us for Brunch on Sunday, September 21, at Panzano Restaurant in the Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver.

Gluten-Free Focaccia is served at the brunch.

Gluten-Free Focaccia is served at the brunch.

Executive Chef Elise Wiggins and her staff have assembled a special brunch menu (including gluten-free and vegetarian options), that showcases the mouthwatering dishes that Elise and Panzano are known for. Elise herself is gluten-free, so she and her well-trained staff handle gluten-free diners with ease. I dine in this restaurant often and even take out-of-town (gluten-free) guests there and they are always amazed and delighted about the whole experience.

What’s On the Menu?
We will start with an appetizer platter of prosciutto, cheeses, duck mousse, cranberry spread, and pears (believe me, these foods complement one another perfectly and it’s almost a meal in itself). For your main course, you can choose from 4 delicious, gluten-free options including Eggs Benedict, Eggs and Sausage, Fruit Plate with Muffin, and Caesar Salad with Salmon. There will be plenty of gluten-free muffins and focaccia bread. I have tried all of these dishes and they are delectable. As a special treat for dessert, the Panzano staff will demonstrate and serve Raspberry Blintzes—all in the cozy, intimate Panzano Wine Cellar, downstairs.

What is the Purpose of the Brunch?
The brunch is a fundraiser for Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) of Colorado. Proceeds will fund scholarships for college students in Colorado as well as our work with local children through Green Tables, a farm-to-table initiative. Our scholarship winners will join us so you can meet them and guests are encouraged since the event is open to the public …everyone is welcome!

But we need to know how many of you are coming, so please see the details below and send an email to to make your reservation by September 15.

Location: Panzano Wine Cellar at Hotel Monaco, downstairs, 909 17th St., Denver, CO 80202
Date, Time: 11 AM – 1:00 PM, Sunday, September 21, 2014
Cost: $48 per person (bring cash or check made out to Les Dames)
Reservation Deadline: September 15, 2 014
Parking: On Sundays, the lot next to Panzano is only $5; or only $6 valet parking at Hotel Monaco front door, 1717 Champa St.
Attire: Casual
Questions: Carol Fenster, or 303.741.5408

What is Les Dames d’Escoffier International?
Named for legendary French chef, restaurateur, and culinary writer Georges Auguste Escoffier, LDEI is a world-wide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality. Established in 1986 and based in Louisville, KY, the organization has more than 1,500 members in 29 chapters across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Induction into LDEI is by invitation only and, in addition to scholarships, LDEI focuses on education, advocacy, mentoring, and initiatives such as Green Tables.

Like other LDEI members around the world, Colorado’s chapter is highly diversified and reflects the multifaceted fields of contemporary gastronomy and hospitality. For example, Colorado’s members include cookbook authors, restaurateurs, journalists, radio talk show hosts, professors, chefs, sommeliers, distillers, vintners, caterers, dietitians, and nutritionists.

For more information on the scholarships awarded by the Colorado chapter of LDEI, visit The next round of scholarships will be awarded in early 2015, so watch the website to see the 2015 application form.


Carrot Cake for the Small, Gluten-Free Household

I’ve long had a fascination with why we crave certain foods. We know certain dishes hold fond memories …for me, Chili reminds me of my childhood since we ate it often and it was the first dish I prepared for my husband (mainly because it was the only dish I knew how to make). Turns out, the seasons may play a role, too.

Carrot  Cupcakes

Carrot Cupcakes

Seasons can influence our choice of dessert flavors, according to a website called Restaurant Hospitality. Their research shows top picks for sweet treats change with the temperature. For example, Carrot cake is the most popular spring flavor, pink lemonade leads for summer, caramel apple is the fall favorite and winter brings a craving for snickerdoodle (although Red Velvet and Chocolate are not far behind).

Reading this research made me crave Carrot Cake, even though the research says it is a spring choice and we are now in late summer. Usually, I think of it as a heavier choice for fall weather, but who am I to argue with the research and besides.. I wanted some now!

So, I turned to my 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes cookbook (it has everything!) only to find the typical large, Bundt-cake recipe. But for our two-person household I didn’t want a huge cake sitting around for days. So, I pared down the full-size Bundt cake to yield 6-cupcakes or a small, 7-inch round cake.

This means my husband and I can enjoy two cupcakes and I can freeze the rest for another day. Or, as I did this time, I delivered the remaining 4 cupcakes to my next-door neighbor as a surprise treat (since their daughter recently adopted a gluten-free diet). They were happy, I was happy, and all ended well.

Adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Most carrot cakes—one of America’s favorite flavors according to recent research—are huge. Yes, there are lots of ingredients in this recipe but that’s what makes this cake so yummy, so don’t let a few extra minutes of measuring stop you from enjoying this treat. This recipe makes 6 cupcakes or a 7-inch cake, a smaller recipe than the typical large Bundt cake but perfect for small households.

3/4 cup Gluten-free Flour Blend (see below)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained very well (save the juice)
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, divided

2 tablespoons cream cheese or cream cheese alternative, at room temperature
1 teaspoon milk of choice (or more if needed for a spreadable consistency)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Generously grease a 6-cup standard nonstick (gray, not black) muffin pan or line with paper liners. Or, grease a 7-inch nonstick springform pan (with removeable sides) and line with parchment paper.

[2] In a small mixing bowl, whisk the flour blend, sugars, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt until well blended; set aside.

[3] In a medium mixing bowl, place the egg and oil. Add enough water to the reserved pineapple juice to equal 2 tablespoons and add to the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the flour mixture on low speed just until no flour is visible. Add the carrots, pineapple, coconut, and 1 tablespoon of the chopped walnuts and beat on low speed until completely blended. Divide the batter evenly in the muffin cups or spread evenly in the springform pan.

[4] Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes or the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack and then remove from the pan and cool completely on the wire rack. Be sure to remove the parchment from the bottom of the cake.

[5] Make the frosting: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, milk, and vanilla with a spatula until very smooth. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the frosting is smooth, adding more milk—a teaspoon at a time—until it becomes spreadable. Spread the frosting on each cupcake (or the cake), sprinkle with the remaining chopped walnuts, and serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers. Makes 6 cupcakes or one 7-inch cake

Per cupcake or 1 of 6 cake slices: 325 calories; 3g protein; 12g total fat; 2g fiber; 53g carbohydrates; 37mg cholesterol; 184mg sodium

Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 ½ cups sorghum flour or brown rice flour
1 ½ cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour
Whisk together and store, tightly covered, in a dark, dry place.