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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!!
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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.

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!

Panzanella Salad

One thing is for sure at this time of year:  tomatoes take over gardens, Farmer’s Markets, and the grocery store produce aisles.

Gluten-free bread, tomatoes, and fresh basil make a delightful bread salad.

Gluten-free bread, tomatoes, and fresh basil make a delightful bread salad.

One of my favorite ways to use tomatoes is an Italian bread salad known as Panzanella. Originally a dish devised by frugal Italian cooks to use up stale bread, it has evolved into a classy dish that goes far beyond bread, tomatoes, and basil dressed in an olive oil and vinegar dressing. And, it is absolutely gorgeous as you can see in the photo.

I serve this vibrantly colorful dish to rave reviews by dinner guests every summer and although you can serve it year-round, it is best when made with the best tomatoes you can find, which will be summertime. Whether it’s from your own vines, the Farmer’s Market, or generous neighbors the quality of this dish depends on the tomatoes. And it is a great way to use up gluten-free bread.

I have to warn you: If you serve this to guests, make plenty because they will love it and you’re likely to run out. They don’t care if it is gluten-free; it just tastes that good!

Panzanella: Italian Bread Salad

Reprinted with permission from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Wiley, 2008)

This is my favorite summer salad and guests happily devour it. It is very colorful and the pleasing crunch of the bread cubes contrasts nicely with the soft, juicy tomatoes. I often vary it by adding marinated artichokes, olives, and baby spinach (and occasionally shrimp or chicken for a main dish) but this is the basic version I start with.

6 slices white gluten-free bread

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, washed, stemmed and halved

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, chopped (or more to taste) plus a few leaves for garnish

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large 9×13-inch baking sheet (not nonstick) with foil. Cut crusts from bread (use them for bread pudding or stuffing) and cut remaining bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Place bread cubes in a large bowl.

[2] In a small pan, combine 6 tablespoons of the oil, butter, 1/4-teaspoon of the salt, and garlic in a small pan and cook over low heat until the butter melts, stirring to blend ingredients thoroughly. Pour the oil mixture over the bread cubes and quickly toss to mix well. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on the baking sheet.

[3] Bake 10 to 20 minutes or until the bread cubes are golden and fragrant, stirring and turning cubes occasionally halfway through for even browning. The amount of time required to brown bread cubes varies depending on the bread you use, so watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the bread cubes cool slightly on the baking sheet. The toasted bread cubes should be used within the next 15 minutes for best result

[4] In the same large bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the remaining 1/2-teaspoon salt, vinegar, and pepper. Add the bread cubes, tomatoes, and onion, and chopped fresh basil and toss until blended. Serve immediately, garnished with additional chopped fresh basil leaves. Makes 4 servings.

Carol’s Kitchen Notes: How to Handle Tomatoes without Bruising Their Egos

[1] Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, rather than refrigerated because the cold makes them mealy and diminishes their flavor.

[2] Experts say that tomatoes stored stem-side down stay fresh longer. Apparently, the scar where the stem is located releases moisture and provides an entry point for mold and fungus.

[3] Store tomatoes in a single layer, not on top of each other. I put mine in a flat tray on my countertop where they add a pretty, colorful touch to my kitchen.

[4] When my grape or cherry (my favorite variety) tomatoes start to shrivel, I cut them in half, toss with olive oil, and spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry in the oven. A setting of about 200°F is ideal. If you have a convection oven, use that setting at 200 degrees. Or, use a dehydrator specially designed for drying food. The amount of time it takes depends on the size and moisture of the tomatoes, so watch carefully. When dry, cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Then freeze in resealable freezer bags. Use them in soups, salads, sandwiches… any recipe that needs dried tomatoes. I rarely soak them in water to reconstitute, but you can if you like.

 

 

Make Chimichurri for Big Flavor

Make The Green Sauce, Mom

Chimichurri made from fresh herbs.

Chimichurri made from fresh herbs in Carol’s garden.

 

Years ago, my son found a recipe for a “green sauce” that he loved. So, I made it for him frequently as he was growing up. I didn’t know it then and the recipe never referred to this name, but it was a variation of Chimichurri—a piquant sauce from South America made of herbs, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and a little chili pepper— traditionally used on grilled meat, such as steak.

I have since lost that recipe. But as summer gets underway and my herb pots start flourishing—and with my love for bold flavors—I want this flavorful food in my diet.  I use parsley in my version, but I have seen Chimichurri made with a wide variety of herbs so feel free to vary yours to suit what’s growing in your herb pots or garden. The chlorophyll in the parsley keeps the Chimichurri looking green, so keep a little parsley in your recipe for that reason. But try also using some fresh oregano or basil or chives, depending on what’s available.

Chimichurri as Marinade in Addition to Sauce

One clever way to use Chimichurri is to reserve three-fourths of it to use as a sauce at serving time, but marinate your meat overnight in the remaining one-fourth (discard the marinade after you remove the meat). That way, your meat absorbs some of the flavors before grilling. As summer grilling season gets underway, you will use this sauce again and again. Enjoy!

Chimichurri

Adapted with permission from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Wiley, 2008)

This is an excellent way to use herbs year-round, but especially in the summer when you may have them growing in your backyard. Chimichurri is naturally gluten-free and transforms a plain old steak into something special. But, if you’re vegetarian, I’ve even used it with tofu, so give it a try.

1 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, whole

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

 Place the parsley, oil, vinegar, garlic, paprika, cumin, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper and in a food processor and pulse until combined but leave a few chunks for texture. Refrigerate until serving time, but let stand at room temperature about 20 minutes before serving. Makes about 1 cup.

Layered Bean-Tortilla Casserole for Two

Ever walked in the door after work and wondered, “What’s for dinner?” Research shows that by 4 PM on any given day, about 75% of us don’t know what we’re cooking for dinner that night.  Personally, I have found myself in that situation more than once.

Here is a last minute meal idea. The ingredients for this quick and easy casserole are likely to already be in your pantry, fridge, or freezer so dishes like this flavorful Layered Bean-Tortilla Casserole can come together with little effort or planning.

Layered Bean-Tortilla Casserole. Photo by Tom Hirschfeld

Layered Bean-Tortilla Casserole. Photo by Tom Hirschfeld

Everyone raves about this casserole, including Faith Middleton and her radio crew when I was interviewed on Faith Middleton’s Food Schmooze on WNPR Radio. It is designed to be a light meal for two people, making it perfect for empty-nesters or couples or newlyweds. As Faith suggested, why not make this a brunch dish and serve with some Cava. Sounds good to me.

Layered Bean Tortilla Casserole

Text excerpted from Gluten-Free Cooking for Two ©2017 by Carol Fenster. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Packed with hearty beans, this casserole is already a filling vegetarian main dish. But if you want to make it even heartier, add ½ cup of cooked diced chicken or pork—or cooked ground beef. Feel free to vary the ingredient proportions, for example, using more cheese—this dish is fail-proof. When we are extra hungry at our house, I make a casserole for each of us.

3              6-inch gluten-free corn tortillas

1/2         can (15.5 ounces) black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1/3         cup Mexican salsa or salsa verde (I like Herditz or La Victoria)

1/2         cup fresh or frozen corn

4              ounces (about [1/2] cup, shredded) Monterey Jack cheese or cheese substitute

1/4         cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided

Garnishes: sour cream or sour cream alternative, chopped fresh avocado, green onion, and black olives

[1] Preheat the oven to 425⁰F. Generously grease a 6-inch round cake pan (I use a glass pie pan or a cast-iron skillet). Place a tortilla on the bottom of the pan. Top with one-third of the beans, one-third of the salsa, one-third of the corn, and one-third of the cheese. Repeat twice more with remaining tortillas and remaining beans, salsa, corn, and ending with the cheese. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Cover tightly with aluminum foil (or a lid).

[2] Bake the casserole, for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 more minutes. Cut in half and serve immediately. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and your chosen garnishes.

Makes a 6-inch casserole, two servings.

Per serving: 435 calories;  24g protein;   19g total fat; 10g fiber; 46g carbohydrates; 50mg cholesterol; 648mg  sodium

TIPS FROM CAROL

[1] This dish is equally good made with either pinto beans or black beans, and I’ve even made it with white kidney beans (known as cannellini beans).

[2] Personally, I prefer La Victoria Chunky Salsa Verde but hubbie likes red salsa but either works great.

[3] This is a great make-ahead dish. Just assemble the casserole, cover with foil, refrigerate, and proceed to Step 2. Bake for 25 minutes rather than 20 minutes.

Grow Your Own Herbs for Huge Rewards

Fresh Herbs are a Good Thing

“Is it time yet?” Every spring—when the weather starts to turn warm—I ask myself this question as I ponder when to plant my herbs. My concern is frost.

Sage plant in Carol Fenster's herb garden.

Sage plant in my garden.

Depending on where you live, the last frost was long ago or still about to happen or never happened at all. Here in Denver, we’re advised to wait until after Mother’s Day to plant anything and every year that I don’t follow those instructions, I regret it. This year, I didn’t obey the experts. We had a very mild winter and I was just sure we were done with frost by early May. So I planted my herbs on May 6, then it snowed on May 17. They survived, barely!

I Love Fresh Herbs; You Should Too

More Flavor: Everyone knows that I love fresh herbs. Herbs add flavor to our food—no matter what diet you follow, gluten-free, Paleo, vegetarian, low-fat or whatever. They can be used decoratively in floral arrangements as well as food garnishes and they also have medicinal qualities (e.g., sage tea for sore throats or thyme tea for respiratory congestion).

Save Money: Growing your own herbs saves money. A package of fresh herbs at the grocery store costs about $3 (or more if organic).  An herb plant may cost that much at the nursery, but is likely to yield about 10 times that amount over the course of the summer. So, growing your own herbs makes sense economically. If you grow too much, share your bounty with friends and neighbors. When I travel during the summer, I ask my neighbors to use my fresh herbs while I’m gone.

Sensory: And, then there is the purely sensory enjoyment of fresh herbs. One of my favorite summer experiences is stepping outside my kitchen door to the herb pots on my patio and clipping fresh herbs to use in preparing dinner that night. I use basil, oregano, sage, and rosemary in Italian dishes, savory, dill, and thyme in stews, and of course, I use parsley and cilantro in almost everything but especially as garnishes. I even use fresh-cut herbs as fillers in flower arrangements, or sometimes I just put a bunch of herbs in a small vase and that serves as the centerpiece when I’m entertaining.

How to Grow Herbs for Maximum Yield

Follow directions for your zone and fertilize accordingly. Location (in relation to the sun) is critical. Some herbs, such as rosemary, thrive in lots of sun while others, such as basil, can’t tolerate too much.  Where I put my plants in relation to the shade and time of day is critical to how well they fare throughout the summer. I have found that my northeast-facing patio is an excellent location because it gets the morning sun, but is then shielded from the harsh afternoon sun by the shade of my house. You will need to experiment to find the best place for herbs at your house.

Pinch new growth regularly— just above a node or joint in the stem—to maintain a healthy, bushy plant. I found that this is especially important with basil, one of my favorite herbs. Don’t let it produce seeds or flowers (called bolting) so pinch those off right away. Remove any withered or yellowed growth. 

Water according to what the plant needs; some can tolerate drier soil while others like it wetter. Read the directions that came with the herb plant or look it up in a gardening book or the Internet.

Storing Fresh Herbs

When you pick a whole bunch of herbs from your garden or buy a lot at the Farmer’s Market, store them properly to prolong their freshness. Store fresh herbs with cut ends in a glass of water in fridge OR wrapped loosely in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. Leave the end of the plastic bag unsealed to allow for some air circulation.

So, Plant Your Own Herbs

I hope you’re encouraged to plant your own herbs this summer. Whether it’s herbs in a huge garden or herbs in small pots, you’re bound to enjoy huge rewards.

24 Gluten-Free Hours in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Land of Enchantment.

That’s what it says on the license plates in New Mexico. All I know is that I’ve been enchanted by New Mexico for a very long time. There is something about the clear blue sky, mountains, pinon scent, and the ever present green chiles in many foods that lures me in. Whenever I can manage a visit (which is about once a year), I go to my favorite restaurants. This time, I was passing through on my way to tape some shows for  “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” at PBS station KENW-TV in Eastern New Mexico. Santa Fe beckoned to me and I couldn’t resist.

We (husband Larry and I) had less than 24 hours in Santa Fe before flying from Albuquerque back to our home in Denver. So, I plotted our restaurants in advance to make the most of our time. I chose three favorites that we’ve visited many times before.

La Boca

After taping 3 shows that morning, we arrived at La Boca, known for its Modern Spanish Cuisine.  Chef James Campbell Caruso, a James Beard award nominee several times, offers a Happy Hour where appetizers are half-priced. Almost everything is gluten-free, so eating here was a breeze.

Larry & Carol at Inn of the Anasazi Restaurant.

Larry & Carol at Inn of the Anasazi Restaurant.

 

La Boca Chicken Skewers

La Boca Chicken Skewers

Plus, if you ask, they serve their own gluten-free bread which I have eaten several times. The restaurant has been acclaimed by the New York Times, the Food Network, Travel and Leisure, and Esquire, to name a few. It is excellent and usually full every time we visit.

After driving for 4 hours, we were famished. But, first we started with Blood Orange Sangria. This isn’t La Boca’s recipe, but it is really good. Then we turned our attention to the menu. We started with a bowl of superb olives, then added Tacos, Chicken on skewers (fried in rice flour, not the usual wheat flour), Bacon-wrapped dates, and finished it off with La Boca’s fabulous Chocolate Pots de Crème.

La Boca tacos.

La Boca tacos.

Because we were there during Happy Hour, our bill was less than $60 which was extremely reasonable for this feast.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon-Wrapped Dates

Last year, we stayed at the marvelous Antigua Inn, but they were full this year so we just stayed at a non-descript place on Cerrillos Road.  If you can stay at the Antigua Inn, I really recommend it. It will be memorable!

 

Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi

We started the next day with breakfast at one of our favorite breakfast spots: Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi. The Anasazis (translates into “the ancient ones”) populated this area centuries ago, yet mysteriously disappeared.

This restaurant is a very upscale place, and the menu choices are tantalizing. After much deliberation, I chose the Applewood-Smoked Ham Benedict with Chipotle Benedict.

Applewood-Smoked Ham Benedict with Chipotle Hollandaise Sance

Applewood-Smoked Ham Benedict with Chipotle Hollandaise Sance

Larry chose the Huevos Rancheros. This is a very gluten-free-friendly restaurant, so my Benedict featured house-baked gluten-free bread rather than the usual English muffin. It was absolutely wonderful and beautifully-plated, as the photo shows.

After breakfast, we visited a market that I’ve noticed for several years called Kaune’s Neighborhood Market on Old Santa Fe Trail. It is an upscale market, with several gluten-free choices. In fact, I found a new bread from Flax 4 Life called Toaster Buns. They are heavy and dense (the way I like them) and should be cut in half before toasting. Slathered with Almond Butter and a smear of jam, they are a delightful change of pace for breakfast.

La Casa Sena

Our final meal was in the courtyard of the lovely La Casa Sena (this place was actually someone’s home long ago). The weather was in the 70’s, sunny like most New Mexico days, and the menu was very appealing. Like the other restaurants, many of the dishes were naturally gluten-free.  I decided on the Beef Oxtail-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. It was extremely good, but I was saving room for the dessert—Three Chocolate Mousse, which was beautifully plated and a work of art in itself.

Three Chocolate Mousse

Three Chocolate Mousse

After three superb meals in less than 24 hours, we drove to Albuquerque for our flight home with happy memories and fully-sated taste buds.  As we flew over Santa Fe, I noticed the contrast of snow-capped mountains, red-brown soil, pinon-forested hills, and the low-slung adobes that characterize Santa Fe. The lure to come back was already starting! We’re planning our next visit soon!

Chocolate Cake in a Cup: Cooking for Two

I vividly remember my first encounter with a microwave oven back in the 1970’s. Our hostess was serving a custard-based homemade pie on her silver-rimmed china. For some reason, she decided to heat each slice separately in her brand-new microwave oven.

Chocolate Cake in a Cup from Gluten-Free Cooking for Two. Photo by Tom Hirschfeld

Chocolate Cake in a Cup from Gluten-Free Cooking for Two. Photo by Tom Hirschfeld

Silver-rimmed china is not microwave-safe, so she had to delicately transfer each slice of pie to a microwave-safe plate, gently reheat it, and then delicately transfer it back to the china…..trying desperately to keep each slice intact (which was not always successful). Looking back, this was probably not the best use for a microwave oven.

Today, microwave ovens are commonplace and used in far more appropriate ways than reheating custard pie. For my latest cookbook, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two, I knew I had to include this easy chocolate cake that is “baked” in a microwave oven in 60 seconds. It forms two perfectly-proportioned desserts, just right for two people.

This cake is so simple that anyone could whip it up. Even age-appropriate children could prepare this for Mom (or Grandma) for Mother’s Day. The best part is there’s no waiting. By the time you find a fork in the silverware drawer, this cake is ready to eat. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cake in a Cup

Text excerpted from Gluten-Free Cooking for Two ©2017 by Carol Fenster. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

These cute little individual cakes microwaved in coffee cups are just perfect for couples, and they are super quick. They can be eaten right out of the cup, once they’ve cooled a bit.

1/3 cup Carol’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa (not Dutch-processed)

¹/8 teaspoon (dash) baking powder

¹/8 teaspoon (dash) salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon water

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Powdered sugar or chocolate syrup, for garnish

[1] Generously grease 2 shallow, microwave-safe 6-ounce (¾-cup) coffee cups. (My coffee cups are 3¼ inches in diameter and 2¼ inches high. The batter may spill over the edge during baking if you use a smaller cup.)

[2] In a small bowl, whisk together the flour blend, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until well blended, and then whisk in the egg, oil, water, and vanilla until smooth. The batter will be soft. Divide the batter between the two coffee cups and place the cups on saucers or plates to catch any drips.

[3] Microwave on medium-high (70%) power for 50 to 60 seconds. The cakes are done when they look firm and are no longer shiny on top. They will continue to cook after they are out of the microwave. The cooking time may vary depending on the wattage of your microwave oven. Cool slightly before eating right out of the cup, dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with chocolate syrup — or both!

Makes 2 cakes

Per cake: 335 calories; 5g protein; 17g total fat; 3g fiber; 42g carbohydrates; 94mg cholesterol; 215mg sodium

Carol’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups brown rice flour (or sorghum flour)

1 ½ cups potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour

Whisk together until thoroughly blended. Store, tightly covered, in a dark, dry place for up to 3 months.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Crispy Southwestern Tacos

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Crispy Southwestern Tacos

Here in the Southwest, we observe Cinco de Mayo (May 5) seriously, a day of celebrating Mexican heritage and pride. While it has some significant roots in the history of Mexico, this date is also a good excuse to indulge in Mexican food and have a little fun—and it’s an excellent excuse for a margarita. Since it falls on a Friday this year, we expect some serious partying in Denver.

Crispy Beef Tacos

Crispy Southwestern Tacos from Gluten-Free Cooking for Two by Carol Fenster

We celebrate Cinco de Mayo with many foods, but one of the most family-friendly is simple tacos. My grandkids love them, adults love them, and they are colorful and versatile.  You can use beef, as I do here, but we often use ground turkey instead and no one’s the wiser.

Also, May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, so let’s all celebrate how far we’ve come in our awareness of Celiac Disease.

Crispy Southwestern Tacos

Anything goes when it comes to tacos. I usually use leftover cooked meat (such as browned ground beef or shredded pork) in the fridge or freezer, but you can use browned ground turkey as well. You can also use soft white or yellow corn tortillas. Just check the label to make sure they are gluten-free since some corn tortilla brands also include wheat. This recipe makes 6 regular-size tacos; simply double the ingredients to make 12 tacos.

3/4         cup browned ground beef or turkey (or shredded pork)

Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

1 ½ to 2 teaspoons chili powder, or to taste

1/4         cup diced red onion

1/2         diced tomato 

1/4         cup store-bought Mexican salsa

1/4         cup shredded cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese, or a mixture of cheese

1/2         cup shredded iceberg lettuce (or lettuce of your choice)

1/4         cup chopped fresh cilantro

4            crisp gluten-free corn taco shells

[1] In a small skillet over medium heat, toss the browned ground beef with the salt and pepper (if using) and chili powder and then heat to serving temperature.

[2] For each taco, layer the beef, onion, tomato, salsa, cheese, lettuce, and cilantro in a taco shell. Serve immediately. Makes 6 tacos.

Per taco:  505calories;  23g protein;  32 g total fat; 6g fiber; 33g carbohydrates; 79mg cholesterol; 466mg sodium

Sheet-Pan Supper: Gluten-Free Cooking for Two on PBS-TV

i recently taped three segments for a show that has aired for over 40 years called “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). It is taped in the lovely state-of-the-art KENW-TV 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.  I always have a great time and look forward to these taping sessions.

With PBS host Sheryl Borden, KENW-TV, "Creative Living with Sheryl Borden"

With PBS host Sheryl Borden, KENW-TV, “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden”

I was promoting my latest cookbook, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). The goal of the book is to help small households prepare the foods they love, using two-serving recipes. This eliminates leftovers and significantly reduces waste. Did you know that Americans throw away 30 to 40% of our food?  When you cook right-size meals for two people, you will automatically cut down on food waste.

Cooking for Two

Cooking for two was the theme of all three segments:  [1] Cornbread, [2] Sheet-Pan Dinner of Roasted Fish & Vegetables; and [3] Tiramisu. (I will offer recipes for the Cornbread and Tiramisu in later blogs.) 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.

Sheet-Pan Supper of Roasted Salmon & Vegetables

Writing this book was fun and very appropriate for me because my husband I are empty-nesters.  Every recipe was something that we could use in our own lives and I no longer cook with full-size (4-to 6 servings) unless we are having guests.

One of my favorite recipes for two people involves cooking an entire dinner on a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet. It is called a “sheet-pan supper.” This is not a new concept, but one I had never tried until recently. Now it is one of my “go-to” dinners.

It basically consists of roasting the entire meal—potatoes, salmon, and vegetables—on the same sheet, leaving almost no dishes to clean up. If you choose colorful ingredients, it is also a gorgeous dish to look at because the “pink” of the salmon contrasts beautifully with the red and yellow tomatoes and the green asparagus. The idea of sheet-pan roasting is to first roast the foods that take longest to cook (in this case, potatoes) on the sheet, then build on those foods by adding the vegetables and fish on top and finish roasting it all together.

Sheet-Pan Supper of Roasted Fish & Vegetables

Sheet-Pan Supper of Roasted Fish & Vegetables

 

Sheet-Pan Supper of Roasted Fish & Vegetables

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

 Making meals the “sheet-pan” way works especially well when cooking for two because an entire meal fits in one 9×13-inch pan. You begin roasting the food(s) that take longest to cook such as potatoes, adding additional foods (fish, vegetables) later, since they cook faster.  If your vegetables are especially delicate (or if you prefer them steamed) layer them under the fish. 

1/2         pound (2 cups, about 6 potatoes) small Yukon gold potatoes or fingerlings, halved 

1              tablespoon olive oil

3/4         teaspoon dried herbs of your choice (I like oregano or tarragon for this dish)

1/4         teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4         teaspoon salt

1/8         teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2              5-ounce salmon fillets

1              cup thin asparagus in 1/2-inch pieces

1/2         cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1              fresh lemon, cut into 2 halves, for garnish

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425⁰F.  Line a 9×13-inch nonstick (gray, not black) rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly grease or use a 10-inch greased ovenproof skillet.

[2] In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes, [1/4] teaspoon of the herbs, and smoked paprika with the olive oil until well coated. Arrange evenly, cut side down, on the baking sheet and roast 20 minutes.

[3] Arrange the salmon, asparagus, and tomatoes on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with the remaining [1/2] teaspoon herbs and the salt and pepper. Continue to roast until the salmon is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish. Serve with lemon wedges, for garnish.

Preparation time: 10 minutes. Roasting time: 30 minutes. Makes 2 servings

Per serving: 345 calories; 33g protein; 12g total fat; 4g fiber; 29g carbohydrates; 74mg cholesterol; 374mg sodium

NOTE: You can also vary this dish: instead of potatoes, use cauliflower flowerets. Use cod or sole instead of salmon, 1/8-inch red bell pepper strips instead of tomatoes, or broccoli florets or snow peas instead of asparagus—and monitor the roasting times accordingly. Generally speaking, the thinner and less dense the food, the shorter the cooking time. So, put the more delicate vegetables under the fish. You can also vary the herbs. I often use thyme, but tarragon or rosemary would be nice. If you have it, fresh dill would be superb.  The smoked paprika is something I use in many foods because it lends a nice depth to the flavors. You could also try smoked salt to replace it.

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 here. The segments I taped will air during the 2017-2018 season, so check your local PBS station for air times.

For more information about the contents of Gluten-Free Cooking for Two, go here.

 

Cooking for Two: Gluten-Free Carrot Cake Cupcakes

As a child, I looked forward to Easter—but not for a child’s usual reasons (dyeing Easter eggs, Easter candy, new Easter dress, Easter dinners with my aunts, uncles, and cousins). Nope.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes for Two

Carrot Cake Cupcakes for Two

For me, it was the food. One of my favorites was a giant Carrot Cake baked in a Bundt pan, slathered with Cream-Cheese Frosting. My mother only made that cake for special occasions so it was a real treat.

My mother was one of 12 children, so there were plenty of people to eat that huge cake at these large Easter dinners. In fact, I grew up with nearly 40 first cousins in my small community so there was nary a crumb left on the plate.

 

Carrot Cake Cupcakes: Perfect for Small Households

Today, I still love Carrot Cake. But a full-size Carrot Cake for just the two of us (we are empty-nesters) is just too much food. But why should I give up eating one of the most heavenly desserts on earth when the solution is to simply bake smaller versions?

For the Carrot Cake, I scaled down my huge Bundt cake version to just 6 gluten-free cupcakes. There are lots of ingredients in a Carrot Cake, so there was a lot of kitchen math to make sure each ingredient remained in balance with the others and tastes great. Now I’m sharing the recipe with you. It is perfect for any small household (empty-nesters, couples, newlyweds, roommates, etc.)

 

Get The Carrot Cake Cupcake Recipe; Or Listen to My Interview with Faith Middleton on Food Schmooze

Last week, the delightful Faith Middleton—from the radio show Food Schmooze on WNPR in Connecticut—interviewed me about my new book and declared that these Carrot Cake Cupcakes “need to be on every Easter buffet table.”

If you would like the recipe, it is reprinted for your convenience at Faith Middleton Food Schmooze. (You will also find two other small-scale recipes from this new book: Asparagus Soup and Layered Bean-Tortilla Casserole.) If you like, you can also listen to the radio interview at that same link.

 

Introducing My New Cookbook, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two

I also downsized another 125 of my favorite full-size recipes to serve two people and it became my latest cookbook Gluten-Free Cooking for Two, which publishes this month.  To learn more about the recipes in this book, go to my website.

 

Happy Easter! Enjoy these Carrot Cake Cupcakes!

 

Gluten-Free Cooking for Two – new cookbook

I was preparing dinner one night when I had a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious):

Gluten-Free Cooking for Two

Gluten-Free Cooking for Two

I realized that I live in a two-person household, yet I’ve always cooked for the standard family-of-four. That worked well when my son was growing up because he ate all of the leftovers, but now my husband and I are empty-nesters. Full-size recipes yield too much food, my husband dislikes leftovers (meatloaf! again?), and I hate wasting food.

Raised by depression-era parents (clean your plate!), my upbringing instilled a sense of guilt about wasting food. So, after scaling down all of my recipes I now prepare just enough food for two people and we have far less waste at our house.

I transformed all of this information into my latest cookbook, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two. The book has a wide variety of dishes: entrees, breads, breakfasts, soups, and desserts to entice you. Learn more about the recipes at my website.

I believe that everyone deserves food that is nourishing and suits their needs, regardless of special diets or household size. If this is you, then my new cookbook is right for you.

This is what I learned from converting 125 of my favorite full-size recipes to serve two people:

[1] Start with a Recipe for Two Servings 

It is so tempting to just wing it and halve a 4-serving recipe to serve two. Trust me— it doesn’t always lead to success because not all ingredients scale down proportionately. I recently halved a simple 4-serving recipe for Butternut Squash Soup, just to prove my point. (After all, how hard could this be?) Well, the soup was under-seasoned and the ratio of liquids (broth) to solids (butternut squash) was “off” making the soup too thick. After I added more seasoning and more broth, the ingredients were balanced and the soup was perfect. Clearly, even the simplest recipes might need tweaking when downsizing them to two servings.

Balancing ingredients is even more important when scaling down recipes for baking. (How do you measure 1/3 of an egg?) My mother’s fail-proof chocolate cake—which I baked for decades—is the perfect example. I thought scaling down this recipe to fit a 5-inch cake pan would be a “piece of cake.” (Sorry, I just had to say it.) Instead, a dozen tries later, I finally balanced the ingredients to produce a miniature replica of the cake that has brought my family so much joy. 

The moral of this story? Unless you like kitchen math and hours of experimentation, use a two-serving recipe to start with for best results.

[2] Think Small for Big Benefits

 Small-scale cooking requires a different mind-set. You cook only what you need, using ingredients and utensils that seem impossibly small (e.g., 1/3 cup flour instead of 2 cups or a 3×5-inch loaf pan instead of 5×9). It’s almost a “dollhouse” mentality because the utensils and food are so darn cute. But the payoff is big! No leftovers and no food waste. Right-size recipes also prevent over-indulgence and offer automatic portion control if you’re trying to cut calories.

[3] Measure Accurately; No Eyeballing

Eye-balling is risky in small-scale cooking. This is because the overall volume of the ingredients is incredibly small, e.g., some batters barely measure 1 cup. So, even a tablespoon too much (or too little) of flour or liquid can upset the balance of wet-to-dry ingredients. In other words, the margin for error is quite small so correct measuring is critical.

Measuring small amounts of salt, seasonings, and leavenings requires precision. Rather than standard measuring spoons which are too big, use mini-measuring spoons for 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64 teaspoon (the spoons are labeled as dash, pinch, smidgeon, or drop, respectively).  You can find them in the baking aisle of grocery stores, in kitchen stores, or online.

[4] Use Small-Scale Baking Pans

Make sure you have the right pans. You can keep your 9×13-inch baking sheet for cookies or 5×9-inch pan for Brownies. But you may need to invest in additional, small-scale pans. For example, many recipes call for a straight-sided 2-quart saucepan (4-inch sides, 6-inch diameter) because it is just the right size to surround the entrée in enough liquid so it doesn’t boil dry.  A shallower pan lets the juices evaporate too quickly and can lead to a dry dish.

In baking, use the suggested pan because the volume of dough/batter and the baking times have been carefully calibrated for that particular pan. Baking times are usually shorter than usual because smaller pans allow the heat to penetrate to the center of the dish more quickly than with larger pans.

 [5] The Benefit of Cooking Small

Once you get the hang of it, cooking small becomes a way of life. Your payoff is fewer leftovers, less wasted food, and happier husbands.

******Carol Fenster now cooks all of her meals in two-serving portions and is the author of 14 cookbooks, including, Gluten-Free Cooking Two (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). She blogs at www.CarolFensterCooks.com. Her website is www.CarolFenster.com.