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!
Some people wolf down their food while others take forever to consume a meal. Which one are you?
I must confess I was a fast eater for most of my life, until I learned how detrimental it is to successful digestion. Long ago, in my quick-paced corporate life I would hurriedly eat lunch at my desk so I could get to my next meeting or appointment. Today, I have more control over my schedule and I try to practice mindful eating as often as I can.
This portion of chili served in a white bowl looks larger, due to the sharp color contrast than if it was served in a dark-colored bowl.
What is Mindful Eating?
A recent article in Environmental Nutrition newsletter addressed the topic of mindful eating. What is mindful eating? It’s paying attention to what you put in your mouth, rather than absent-mindedly eating something without giving it your full attention.
This is not a new concept. Rancho La Puerta Spa & Resort in Mexico—where I’ve been fortunate to visit a few times and teach gluten-free cooking classes— sets aside a special room for those who want to eat in silence so they can devote their full attention to the dining experience. I’ve never taken advantage of this experience but hear that it’s a good introspective exercise.
Of course Mom was right when she said “chew your food” but here are more thoughts from the Environmental Nutrition newsletter:
Slow Down and Incorporate Your Senses
Take time to savor your food by noting its color and appearance. Is it homey and inviting…such as a mound of mashed potatoes, or brightly colored and stimulating…such as fresh carrot sticks or sliced red bell peppers?
How does it feel in your mouth? Smooth, like gravy, or bumpy and lumpy like green peas or corn. If your food is touchable (I don’t recommend feeling the mashed potatoes on your plate!)…for example, if you prepare the potatoes yourself… note how they feel in your hand as you methodically peel them.
And, above all, note the taste of your food. Is it mild, sharp, salty, bitter, sweet? Chew slowly and take time for the taste to register in your palate. However, Mireille Guiliano in her book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, says we only really taste the first few bites of a particular food. All subsequent bites are more about filling our tummies than delighting our taste buds. So, French women savor those first few bites and then put their fork down, rather than continuing to mindlessly eat the entire portion. Interesting…..
Pay Attention to Size and Color of Dinnerware
Experts suggest downsizing your dinner plate from the standard 12-inch to a 10-inch size. They say that the bigger the dinnerware, the bigger the portions we give ourselves. It seems we have this need to fill up that empty space on the plate, and then we feel obligated to clean our plates, as well. In fact, using a 10-inch plate reduces calorie consumption by 22% for that meal. Good news if you’re trying to lose weight.
Choose dinnerware with sharp color contrast to your food. For example, red marinara-tossed pasta served on a white dinner plate makes the food portion look larger to our brains. So, we’re satisfied with eating less. In fact, experts say this can reduce the amount you serve yourself by 21%. Again, good news if you’re trying to reduce your food intake.
Switch serving spoons to smaller sizes; people using a larger serving spoon can serve themselves up to 57% more ice cream than those using a smaller spoon. They also recommend eating with chopsticks, but that doesn’t really work for me… too much work!!!
Turn off the TV, radio, iPad, and any other electric device that impinges on your brain. Avoid reading while you eat (although when I dine alone, this is one of my greatest pleasures). The idea is that your mind is totally focused on the pleasure of eating. And, if you’re dining with your family, it encourages everyone at the table to talk with each other rather than eating with one eye distractedly glued to the TV or texts on the iPhone. In other words, fully engaging in the meal increases the pleasure you gain from consuming it. Personally, I like to play music while I’m dining so if that music comes from a radio, then I’m in favor of having it on in the background. In fact, restaurants use music to influence us but that is a topic for another day.
Keep Serving Bowls in the Kitchen, not the Dining Table
Since we eat at our kitchen island, this doesn’t work for us because that serving bowl is still in sight. But the idea is to put the food on the plates in the kitchen and then carry them to the table, rather than eating family style where everyone serves themselves from a larger vessel. But I think this is only relevant for families who are trying to cut down food consumption for weight-loss reasons.
In fact, I often recommend serving a dish in its own vessel because it’s easier and cuts down on clean-up afterwards. So, do what works for you. Frankly, I love the down-home feel of people serving themselves from big platters and bowls of food. Maybe that’s my Midwestern up-bringing! And, I’m the grandmother of 3 kids without weight issues so I want to encourage them to eat, not discourage them.
So, are you a mindful eater or a gulper? Take these ideas and see which ones work for you, with the goal of making eating a more pleasurable experience.
I am a voracious reader. In fact, it’s my favorite pastime; it educates me, entertains me, and calms me at the end of a hectic day. I consume several books per month and I am always looking for my next good “read.”
Carol's favorite book, at the moment!
I like to keep several books ready and waiting on my iPad so I can read anywhere, anytime: bed, airplanes, waiting rooms, or just lazing by the fireplace on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
As you might guess, many of the books I read are about food, but not all of them. Sometimes, I like to lose myself in a good, well-written novel whether it’s about food or not.
So, here is a list of what I have read recently in hopes that some of these books might appeal to you too.
BOOKS RELATED TO FOOD, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney
A look behind the scenes of a busy NYC restaurant and what REALLY goes in the kitchen, from the viewpoint of the sous (second) chef. Eye-opening, for sure.
Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us by Murray Carpenter
I am a coffee lover, but I didn’t know about the role of caffeine in coffee as well as other foods and how it affects our bodies. Enlightening….
Steeped in Evil (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs
A light, easy-to-read murder mystery set in a tea shop. You will breeze through this one.
52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander
A chronicle of how one man became obsessed with bread-baking, eventually taking him to a secluded monastery in Europe to learn the secrets. Fun, educational, but not about gluten-free bread…darn!
The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander
A humorous account of the author’s attempts to grow the perfect tomato in a perfect garden—and how nature, critters, and other obstacles hampered his quest.
BOOKS NOT RELATED TO FOOD, BUT STILL A GOOD READ
Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Despite the title, this book is not about food but refers to an award-winning photograph of food taken long ago by the heroine that made her famous. Now, she’s older and dealing with aging issues and declining fame, plus a little love interest with a younger man to make things even more interesting.
Thrive: the Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington (Of Huffington Post fame)
A good book to help you get your priorities straight. We don’t all have access to the resources that someone of her position has, but we can learn from her experience nonetheless.
The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit
Little has been written about the women behind the men who developed the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos, NM, during World War II. This account looks at how the women, especially the wives and their families, fared during this tumultuous and life-changing era.
Finally, here are two books from one of my favorite authors, Adriana Trigiani
Lucia, Lucia: A Novel
The life of the child of an Italian immigrant; it gives us a glimpse of a young woman who wants a career in an era when it was not common after World War II. A love story that goes awry.
The Supreme Macaroni Company: A Novel
Despite its name, this book is not about macaroni at all. You will have to read the book to find out why the author gave it that name. It’s about a young woman who runs a custom-shoemaking shop in NYC and how she meets and then loses the love of her life—all while growing her business.
When you watch cooking shows on TV, you probably don’t think about all the preparation behind the scenes. Having taped several TV shows over the years, I can tell you that they are a lot of work. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek:
Gluten-Free on PBS
Each year, I tape three segments for a show approaching its 40th year called “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). It is taped in a lovely studio with a great kitchen on a university campus in New Mexico. Sheryl is a delightful hostess, always curious about how we prepare gluten-free food, and she is a joy to work with.
Carol Fenster with Sheryl Borden on PBS
This year, I was promoting my latest cookbook, Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking.
Nightshades, Kale, and Red Quinoa
I selected a simple theme for each of the 3 segments:  Nightshades,  Kale, and  Red Quinoa. Despite simple themes, preparing for these tapings takes a lot of planning and preparation. You should see my “to-do” list! Before I leave, I write the script for each segment, emphasizing the main points that Sheryl and I will focus on. I fly in the day before, do the grocery shopping, and get as much ready as possible such as chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, and so on so we’re ready to tape when the studio opens the next morning. Then an assistant helps with last-minute details during taping. It is not like the Food Network, which has a huge cast. But we have lots of fun and the staff is terrific.
Substitutes for Nightshades
Many people can’t eat nightshades, a category of vegetables that includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and so on. Nightshades contain an alkaloid called solanine, which is inflammatory for some people with conditions such as arthritis. For this segment, I focused on tomatoes and potatoes— probably the two most common nightshades in our American diet.
I discussed how to replace tomatoes in certain dishes. For example, toss pasta with basil pesto instead of marinara. Or, spread a pizza with basil pesto instead of pizza sauce. You can also use hummus instead of pizza sauce on a pizza crust. After all, pizza doesn’t have to be red!
Mashed "Potatoes" made from cauliflower.
Mashed potatoes are very common in our American diet, but what can you eat instead? I demonstrated how to make imitation mashed potatoes using mashed cauliflower, a dish that is extremely popular these days.
Mashed (Cauliflower) Potatoes
Mashed, cooked cauliflower magically transforms into an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes for those who can’t tolerate white potatoes. On the plus side, this substitute has fewer calories, a lower glycemic index, and it’s a great way to eat more cruciferous vegetables. This dish is naturally gluten-free; use the substitutes mentioned in the ingredient list to make it dairy-free as well. Adapted from www.GfreeCuisine.com.
4 cups chopped (1 ½ pounds) white cauliflower flowerets
1 whole garlic clove, peeled
¼ cup half-and-half or milk of choice
2 tablespoons butter or buttery spread, such as Earth Balance
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream or sour cream alternative, such as Vegan Gourmet
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese or soy Parmesan, such as Galaxy
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Salt and freshly ground white (or black) pepper, to taste
 In medium saucepan, steam cauliflower and garlic over boiling water until very tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain cauliflower and garlic very thoroughly and pat cauliflower dry with paper towels.
 In food processor, immediately puree hot cauliflower and garlic with half-and-half, butter, sour cream, Parmesan, and onion powder until very, very smooth. Add salt, pepper, and more Parmesan, if desired, and serve hot. Serves 4. Makes 2 cups.
per serving: 115 calories; 3 grams protein; 8 grams total fat; 2 grams fiber; 5 grams saturated fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 21 mgs cholesterol; 96 mgs sodium
For the second segment, I focused on kale. A member of the cruciferous (cabbage) family, kale is the darling of the nutrition world these days. I discussed all the different forms in which kale can be purchased (raw, frozen, fresh whole leaves, fresh chopped, and kale chips). Kale chips are very popular, so I demonstrated how to make homemade Kale Chips, which cost a fraction of what you would pay in a store.
Red Quinoa Salad
For the third segment, I discussed Red Quinoa. It’s just like regular quinoa, but red—which means that is has more anthocyanins from the red pigments. I demonstrated how to make Red Quinoa Salad with Beets, Pomegranate Seeds, and Clementines, a gorgeous, super-healthy salad that is a wonderful source of protein because quinoa contains all 8 essential amino acids, which makes it a powerhouse of nutrition. And, quinoa is naturally gluten-free so it’s a great food for our gluten-free diet.
Where to Watch “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden “
“Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” airs in all 50 states in over 118 PBS stations in the U.S., Canada, Guam, and Puerto Rico. For more information, go to http://kenw.org/creative-living-home-page. The segments I taped will air during the 2014-2015 season, so check your local PBS station for air times.
Well, it’s that time of year again. Just like we want Irish Soda Bread on St. Patrick’s Day, we want Hot Cross Buns for the Easter season.
Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns from Carol Fenster
For some people, it just isn’t Easter without Hot Cross Buns, although history suggests they were traditionally baked and eaten on Good Friday. According to Wikipedia, sharing a hot cross bun with someone else is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if you recite this poem while sharing:
“Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be.”
The “cross” of frosting on each bun is supposed to ward off bad spirits as well as mold. Chances are good, however, that mold won’t be an issue since you’ll gobble these treats soon after they are baked.
Hot Cross Buns
adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Wiley- now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)
A tradition at Easter, these delectable lightly-spiced buns can also be enjoyed year-round.
3/4 cup warm (110°F) milk of choice
1 packet (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs (about 2/3 cup), at room temperature
1½ cups potato starch
1½ cups Carol’s Flour Blend (see below)
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon guar gum
¾ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice
1/8 teaspoon each ground cloves and nutmeg
¼ cup unsalted butter or buttery spread, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
½ cup dried currants or cranberries
Brown rice flour for dusting
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk of choice
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk of choice
Drop of lemon extract (optional)
 Generously grease 11×7-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving 2-inch overhang on two ends for easier removal.
 Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in warm milk and set aside to foam for 5 minutes.
 In large bowl of heavy-duty mixer, beat eggs on Medium speed until thick and foamy and then reduce speed to Low and add yeast-milk mixture and remaining sugar, potato starch, flour blend, xanthan gum, guar gum, salt, spices, melted butter, and vinegar. Beat in ingredients until blended, then increase speed to medium and beat one minute or until mixture is thoroughly combined and slightly thickened. Gently stir in the dried fruit.
 Use 1 ½-inch metal spring-action ice cream scoop to measure 15 equal pieces of dough. Dust pieces of dough with rice flour and with very lightly oiled hands, gently shape each into round ball. Place balls very close together in prepared pan in 3 rows of 5 each for a total of 15 rolls. To make the egg wash, whisk together the egg and milk until very smooth, then brush it on the tops of the rolls. Cover lightly with foil (don’t let foil touch dough), and let rise in warm place (75°F to 85°F) until dough is just level with top of pan.
 Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until tops are lightly browned, then brush rolls with egg wash again and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 200°F when inserted into the center of roll.
 Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes on wire rack. To serve on platter, use edges of parchment to lift rolls from pan (discard parchment) and cool another 10 minutes on wire rack then transfer to serving platter to cool completely.
 To make frosting, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and lemon extract (if using) until very smooth; it will be fairly thick. Transfer glaze to heavy-duty plastic food storage bag, cut 1/8-inch hole in one corner, and pipe an “X” or “cross” on each roll. These are best eaten on same day they are made. Makes 15 rolls.
Carol’s Flour Blend
1 ½ cups brown rice flour
1 ½ cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
Whisk together thoroughly and store tightly covered in a dark, dry place.
Carol’s Kitchen Notes
 Be sure to cool the buns completely before adding the frosting “cross,” or it will simply melt and slide off into oblivion. The buns can be reheated in a Low microwave, but they are best eaten on the same day they are made.
 The reason that you tightly pack these buns into the pan is so they rise higher rather than spread out. But this also means that the sides of the buns don’t brown. I have tried it both ways and believe me, arranging them tightly in the pan works better for our soft gluten-free dough than trying to create individual buns that brown on all sides but spread out too much while baking.
 The dough may seem impossibly soft, but dusting the balls with rice flour makes it easier to shape them with your hands into a smooth ball.
 My favorite place to let dough rise is my warming oven, which has a setting for this. You can also use your microwave oven: place 1 cup water in a glass Pyrex measuring cup heat on High for 1 minute. Leave water in the oven and place the pan of dough inside (no need to cover since it is a moist, airtight enclosure). The nice thing about using a microwave is that you can see the bread rising through the window. Other places to let bread rise are the top of your dryer (while it is running, the metal frame heats up a little), or on a heating pad, but be sure to cover the bread with foil to avoid drying out, which is an especially big problem for me in dry Colorado. You can also use your regular oven by turning on the light which generates some heat, but don’t let the temperature rise above 85°F or you will dry out the crust and the buns won’t rise.
 The reason that I use both xanthan gum and guar gum is that there is a natural synergy between these two gums that produces a better texture. Gum experts (yes, there is such a specialty in the baking world!!!) verified this fact. If you can’t find guar gum in stores, order it from www.BobsRedMill.com. If you prefer to use xanthan gum only, use 2 teaspoons.
March is National Nutrition Month and, to celebrate, my goal is to get more nutrients into my diet. Whole grains add excellent nutrients, so here is an easy, delicious way to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Blend them into one of America’s breakfasts―pancakes―and you have a sure-fire winner. Plus, it is a great way to use up small amounts of leftover cooked whole grains.
Whole Grain Breakfast Pancakes
How Much Should I Eat?
The Whole Grains Council suggests at least 3 to 5 servings a day. That may seem like a lot, but remember that a serving of cooked whole grains is only one-half cup. If you eat whole grains as a side dish, you probably eat more than one-half cup (more likely 1 cup) so right there, you’ve got 2 servings. If you eat 2 of these pancakes you’re getting ¼ cup (half of a serving) but that still counts!
Whole Grain Breakfast Pancakes
Recipe by Carol Fenster, author of Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)
1 cup cooked whole grains (amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat millet, quinoa, teff, or wild rice)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon melted butter or buttery spread
1/3 to ½ cup milk of choice
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup Gluten-free Flour Blend (see below)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
Oil for frying
 In medium bowl, whisk together cooked grains, egg, butter, 1/3 cup of milk, and vanilla until well blended. Whisk in flour blend, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum until well-blended. If batter is too thick, add remaining milk, a tablespoon at a time, to reach the desired consistency.
 Heat 1 tablespoon oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop batter by ¼-cupfuls in batches to skillet. Cook until light golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, then turn and cooked through. Serve with warm maple syrup, jam, jelly, or your favorite preserves. Makes 8 small pancakes.
 If you family resists whole grains, try adding just a little at first (perhaps ¼ cup) and gradually increase that amount. This recipe uses one cup so the grains are more obvious. Brown rice or millet will be lighter in color and milder in flavor than other whole grains such as amaranth, quinoa, or teff. Each grain will lend its own unique flavor and character to the pancake.
 Transform these pancakes into a savory dish for supper; add a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley or thyme) and reduce the sugar to 1 teaspoon. Serve your favorite gravy or meat sauce on top.
 If you’re short on time, mix this batter the night before but leave out the baking soda. Refrigerate overnight. Just before cooking, stir the baking soda into the batter. Pancakes in a hurry!
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.
Beans are one of the unsung heroes of the food world. In fact, I call them the “Rodney Dangerfields” of nutrition because “they don’t get no respect” and they’re often the butt of jokes (pardon the pun). But they should be a big part of a gluten-free diet. Why? One good reason is that March is National Nutrition Month.
Using Beans and Lentils in Gluten-Free Cooking
Why Eat More Beans?
The nutrients in beans are especially important to our diet because gluten-free versions of commonly-fortified wheat foods such as breads, cereal, and pasta are rarely fortified. In fact, they are often made with flours that are not nutritionally equivalent to wheat. In other words, beans can help fill in those nutrient gaps.
I personally like beans because they are almost the perfect food—naturally gluten-free, jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber―and they are very low in fat. They help us add fiber to our diets, making it easier to reach the recommended 25 to 38 grams per days. Plus, they are extremely inexpensive and available in all stores in a wide range of varieties.
Free Booklet on How to Use Beans
I use beans in all my cookbooks (see my books on right-hand side of my blog home page) in many versatile ways: soups, stews, salads, casseroles, and baked goods such as muffins and brownies. But I also co-authored (with Shelley Case, RD) a free, downloadable 26-recipe booklet called Pulses in the Gluten-Free Diet to show you how to use beans in all forms of baking and cooking. It was commissioned by a Canadian organization called Pulse Canada. The term “pulse” is commonly used in Europe and Canada; in the United States pulses are typically called beans so I use that term in this blog and in my books. I also use them in my weekly online subscription service at GfreeCuisine.
The Versatility of Beans
Beans are very versatile. For example, bean flour ―such as chickpea (also known as garbanzo) or white bean―can be used to make breads, cakes, cookies, and bars. You can also grind cooked beans into purees with a food processor and then use the puree to replace some of the fat in baked goods.
I’ve been known to add pureed beans to desserts such as brownies (see photo)
Pureed beans or bean flours can make Chocolate Brownies stay moist longer.
to boost the nutrient content. The advantage of using bean flours and bean purees is that they add moisture to baked goods and prolong their shelf life so they don’t get stale as quickly. Pureed beans (or lentils) can also be used as a binder in savory dishes such as meatloaf. And, if course we love hummus (a dip made from chickpeas).
Experts recommend 1 ½ cups of beans per week. Stretched out over 7 days, that’s hardly ¼ cup per day… an amount easily achieved. When beans are the main ingredient…such as my homemade chili…it’s easy to get at least half of the weekly quota in one meal.
Tips on Using Beans
The booklet discusses how to prepare dry beans from scratch in time-saving ways, such as using slow-cookers. If you choose to use canned beans, however, buy low-salt brands or rinse the canned beans until the water runs clear to remove 35 to 40 percent of the sodium.
Finally, if you aren’t accustomed to eating beans start adding them to your diet slowly…perhaps in ¼ cup increments so your body adjusts gradually to the increased fiber as you gradually work up to the recommended 1/12 cups per week. And, drink plenty of water to handle the increased fiber. So eat more beans and download your free copy of Pulses in the Gluten-Free Diet today!
Today is Fat Tuesday. About this time every year we read about New Orleans and its fabulous food―including beignets―and, immediately, I want a beignet! Luckily, they’re not hard to make.
Crispy Biegnets are mouth-wateringly delectable.
Beignets are like doughnuts—fried and dusted with powdered sugar—but without the holes. Typically served in groups of 3 and liberally dusted with powdered sugar, these delectable little pillows are similar to the sopaipillas served in Mexican restaurants and are quite easy to make. Despite their association with New Orleans and Mardi Gras, they are appropriate any time of the year, so try this recipe.
Adapted with permission from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Wiley, 2008)
Serve beignets with the darkest, richest coffee you can find such as a coffee-chicory blend for authenticity. New Orleans’ restaurants traditionally serve them with Café au Lait (dark coffee and heated milk).
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 2 to 4 tablespoons warm (110°F) water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup Carol’s Brown Rice Flour Blend (see below)
3/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter or buttery spread, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Brown rice flour for dusting
Canola oil for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
 In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of the sugar in 1/2 cup warm water and stir in yeast until thoroughly mixed. Set aside 5 minutes to foam.
 In a large mixing bowl, combine flour blend, potato starch, sweet rice flour, xanthan gum, salt, and remaining sugar in large mixing bowl. Add yeast mixture, butter, and vanilla. Blend with electric mixer on low, adding remaining 2 to 4 tablespoons of warm water (a tablespoon at a time) to form thick but soft dough. Or, place all ingredients in food processor and process until thoroughly blended and dough forms a soft ball. Whether using a mixer or food processor, the dough should come together in large chunks or one ball when it reaches the proper consistency and it should be smooth and shiny when gathered into a ball and kneaded with your hands.
 Wrap half of dough in plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Roll other half of dough to 8-inch square of 1/8-inch thickness between sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap that are dusted with rice flour. To prevent slipping, place a wet paper towel under bottom plastic wrap to anchor it. Cut in 2-inch squares, trimming away any ragged edges.
 Heat the oil to 370 to 375°F at a depth of 4 inches in a heavy-duty saucepan on the stove or an electric fryer (following manufacturer’s directions).
 Use a slotted spoon to gently slide squares of dough into hot oil (to avoid splattering). When dough rises to the top, turn over to help beignet puff evenly. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, turning several times to encourage even browning (about 1 to 2 minutes total cooking time). Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining half of dough. Serve immediately with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Makes about 24 beignets.
Carol’s Brown Rice Flour Blend
1 ½ cups brown rice flour
1 ½ cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
Whisk together thoroughly and store tightly covered in a dark, dry place.
 Fry only a few beignets at a time to keep the oil temperature from dropping. Let the temperature return to 370-375°F between each batch. I use a tall, narrow heavy-duty saucepan (about 6-inches wide across the top which allows me to fry about two beignets at a time.
 Use a candy thermometer following manufacturer’s directions to monitor the oil’s temperature.
 If the beignets don’t puff up, it might be due to the oil temperature being too low OR the dough rolled too thin or too thick. Be sure the dough is 1/8-inch thick for best results.
 Hot oil is dangerous and the beignets fry up quickly so stay focused. Don’t leave the hot oil untended.
For safety, keep children and pets away from the hot oil.
 Beignets are best eaten right after frying, while still slightly warm.
Beef Stew in a Slow-Cooker. Photo by Jason Wyche
I have had a slow-cooker in my pantry forever. But I must confess, it (or more correctly…they, since I’ve had several different models over the years) had sporadic use. When I had 2-hour-daily commutes to work, it came in handy for Beef Stew (see recipe), soup, beans, etc. to assure a hot dinner that night. It is my favorite way to make marinara sauce. Yet, it could languish on my pantry, unused, for months.
Lately, I’ve used my slow-cooker for whole cuts of meat, such as the Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder Roast in my new cookbook Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking. The cut slow-cooks in a flavorful orange-juice based broth, and we simply slice it for dinner. Leftover pork is shredded later in the week for tacos and any leftover tidbits of pork go into a green-chile pork stew by week’s end. I love the time I save by cooking once, yet eating many times. I recently cooked a whole chicken (in my new oval-shaped model, perfect for a small whole chicken), following the manufacturer’s directions and it turned out great.
Although I think of slow-cookers as winter-time appliances, they are wonderful for summer because they release less heat into your kitchen than a full-size oven. Given my renewed delight with slow-cookers, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
Slow-cookers: Time Shifters More than Time-Savers
Slow-cookers are a wonderful invention for time-starved cooks—whether they’re gluten-free or not— 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 you can perform these tasks when you choose (either the night before or in the morning). Also, the food cooks without your attention, rather than having to stir a pot on the stovetop or check a dish in the oven over the span of several hours. Experienced slow-cooker users know that planning ahead is critical, so always leave time to prep the ingredients.
Choose the Right Size for Your Family
Based on the number of servings you need to feed your family, use the size that allows you to fill the slow-cooker about half full, but no more than two-thirds full. An overfilled slow-cooker won’t cook food quickly enough, raising food-safety issues, while an under-filled slow-cooker can burn food. Generally, a 5- to 6-quart cooker works for most purposes, but if you cook for a larger crowd, a 7-quart version may be better. I often use a 4-quart size when I’m cooking for just the two of us.
Decide What Features are Important
Slow-cookers range from very basic to having lots of bells and whistles. Some slow-cookers switch to Warm when the cooking is done (so the food doesn’t overcook); others have multiple heat settings (to suit the food being cooked) and programmable timers (to control cooking time length). Most have glass lids (to see the food without lifting the lid and losing precious heat).
Some are round or oval, while others are square (which may fit better on the shelf). Older and smaller models don’t have removable crocks (like the kind I started out with years ago), but today’s crocks (also called inserts) are removable and dishwasher-safe. On some models, these inserts can be used to both brown meats on the stovetop and cook the food in the slow-cooker, eliminating the need for a separate skillet for browning. Decide which features are critical and be prepared to pay for more features.
Maximize Flavor in These Ways
You can just add all the raw ingredients to the pot and let them cook. But, browning ingredients such as beef, poultry, and onions will lend deeper flavor to the food, especially if you deglaze the pan with some of the liquid from the recipe and add it to the slow-cooker. This technique captures those flavorful browned bits, called fond, from the bottom of the skillet so you can add them to your dish.
And, you may need to bump up the seasoning (perhaps up to twice as much, depending on the recipe) because prolonged cooking time tends to dilute flavor. So, one teaspoon of oregano may translate into 1 ½ teaspoons or more.
Don’t add too much liquid; the meat doesn’t have to be totally immersed because the cooking process forces ingredients to release liquid, thereby diluting the seasonings.
Final Tips for Success
Don’t peek! Heat escapes every time you lift the lid and it takes awhile to regain the proper cooking temperature ….which slows down the whole process. It’s best to use a recipe formulated for slow-cookers because all of the factors you need to keep in mind are built into the directions. Enjoy!
Beef Stew in a Slow-Cooker
Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound lean beef stew meat, cut in [½]-inch cubes
[1/2] teaspoon salt, or to taste
[1/4] teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 (14-ounce) can gluten-free low-sodium beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
4 small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cups peeled baby carrots
1 tablespoon gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1[½] tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried, or to taste
[1/2] teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 small garlic clove, minced
[1/4] cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
1] In a medium heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Season the stew meat with salt and pepper, add to the skillet, and cook until all sides are deeply browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the beef to the slow-cooker. Add the beef broth to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, to scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the broth to the slow-cooker.
 Add the tomatoes to the skillet (chop them if they’re too big for your taste) and heat to boiling, then add to the slow-cooker. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the parsley to the slow-cooker and stir to combine.
 Cover and cook on Low until the vegetables and beef are tender, 8 to 9 hours. For a thicker stew, transfer about [1/2] cup of the cooked potatoes to a small bowl just before serving and mash them thoroughly with a fork; stir back into the stew. Remove the bay leaf and serve hot, garnished with the parsley.
Per serving: 300 calories; 21g protein; 14g total fat; 4g fiber; 24g carbohydrates; 46mg cholesterol; 477mg sodium