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Where in the World is Carol?

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

Watch for Carol's new cookbook, Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner's Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking. Now available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.com

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!

What is Carol Reading? A Peak into Her Library

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.

Gluten-Free on PBS-TV: Nightshades

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 on PBS-TV

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: [1] Nightshades, [2] Kale, and [3] 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 (Cauliflower) Potatoes

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

[1] 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.

[2] 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

Kale Chips

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.

Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns

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

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.

Buns

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

Egg Wash

1 large egg

1 tablespoon milk of choice

Frosting

¾ cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk of choice

Drop of lemon extract (optional)

[1] Generously grease 11×7-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving 2-inch overhang on two ends for easier removal.

[2] Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in warm milk and set aside to foam for 5 minutes.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] 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

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

Gluten-Free Pasta: More than 100 Fast and Flavorful Recipes with Low- and No-Carb Options: a new cookbook by Robin Asbell

If you love pasta, you will love Robin Asbell’s new cookbook, Gluten-Free Pasta: More than 100 Fast and Flavorful Recipes with Low- and No-Carb Options. And this recipe for Quick Jerked Pork with Creamy Collard Noodles will win your heart.

Gluten-Free Pasta by Robin Asbell

Gluten-Free Pasta by Robin Asbell

How I Met Robin

I’ve known Robin for several years: she’s famous for her deliciously creative cookbooks and we attend the same conferences where we both promote whole grains for a healthy diet.

But we really bonded when we were both guest chefs for a week at the famed Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico. I was teaching gluten-free cooking to guests and conducting training sessions for the spa staff, while Robin was delighting guests with her outstanding vegan cooking. We both used vegetables and herbs straight from the Ranch’s incredible organic garden, right outside the awe-inspiring cooking school building. You have to see La Cocina Que Canta (the kitchen that sings) to believe it; it looks like a large hacienda, but the kitchen is set up for group, hands-on classes. It is gorgeous, romantic, boasta a fountain in its courtyard, and has its own kitty-cats that keep guard over the property. It would make a dream home!

But back to Robin’s book. As she says, “…if it’s pasta you’re craving, there’s a whole world of noodles just waiting to be twirled around your fork: homemade fresh pastas, Asian rice-based noodles, and quick GF boxed brands.” And Robin makes it all possible. Click on Robin on TV to see her make pasta.

A Few Notes on Robin’s Recipe

When I prepared this recipe, I used Tinkyada fettucine, but you can use your favorite brand. For those who want low-carb options, Robin suggests skipping the pasta altogether and stripping 1 ½ pounds fresh zucchini into thin strips, either with a vegetable peeler or a mandolin. She cautions that this zucchini pasta releases moisture as it sits, so its best to prepare the zucchini strands just before dinner and just heat them gently right before tossing with the jerked pork sauce. Also, be sure to cut the collards in very thin strips, as the recipe directs, so they cook quickly.

Quick Jerked Pork wth Creamy Collard Noodles

Quick Jerked Pork & Collards; Photo by Jason Varney

You can find Robin’s book wherever books are sold, and of course, at Amazon.com .

Quick Jerked Pork with Creamy Collard Noodles

Reprinted with permission from GLUTEN-FREE PASTA © 2014 by Robin Asbell, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group

Robin says: “Jerk is the Jamaican barbecue, long marinated and slowly smoked over special woods from allsice trees. We can still enjoy the flavors of jerk seasoning in this faster version, made with lean, quick-cooking pork tenderloin. Collards are similar to the callaloo greens eaten on the island, and they make a whole meal out of this easy pasta.”

8 ounces GF fettucine

½ medium habanero chile, or to taste

3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

½ teaspoon ground allspice

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 bunch scallions, tops and bottoms trimmed

½ teaspoon fine salt

1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup canned coconut milk, well-shaken

1 bunch (12 to 16 ounces) collard greens, sliced into ¼-inch strips

1 large Roma tomato, seeded and diced, for garnish

[1] Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a blender or food processor, puree the chile, thyme, allspice, vinegar, scallions, and salt. Scrape it into a bowl and add the pork. Toss and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

[2] Cook the pasta according to package directions, checking for doneness 3 to 4 minutes before the package directs. Check often and when it reaches al dente, drain immediately.

[3] To finish, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the pork in batches if necessary, to avoid overcrowding the pan (reserve the marinade). Sear undisturbed on one side for a couple of minutes, then flip the pork pieces. Sauté until the pork is cooked and feels firm when you press it. Add the leftover marinade to the last batch of pork in the pan, and cook until the pan is dry, less than a minute. Transfer the pork to a plate and keep warm.

[4] Add the coconut milk to the pan and stir over medium heat to deglaze all the browned spices. Add the collards and toss to coat and soften slightly, then add the pasta and carefully toss to coat. Serve topped with the pork and garnished with the diced tomato. Serves 4 to 6

Whole Grain Breakfast Pancakes

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

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

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

Carol’s Tips:

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

March is National Nutrition Month: Eat More Beans

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.

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Using Beans and Lentils in Gluten-Free Cooking

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies are easy desserts.

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).

How Much?

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.

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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!

Gluten-Free Beignets

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.

Gluten-Free French Beignets from Carol Fenster

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.

Beignets

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

[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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).

[5] 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.

Carol’s Tips

[1] 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.

[2] Use a candy thermometer following manufacturer’s directions to monitor the oil’s temperature.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[4] Beignets are best eaten right after frying, while still slightly warm.

Enjoy!!!

Slow-Cookers: Great for Easy Gluten-Free Meals

Gluten-Free 101 Cookbook

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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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

Eating on the Wild Side for Optimum Health

I’m a fan of Science Friday on National Public Radio (NPR), so when I heard an interview with the author of Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health I was intrigued and immediately downloaded the book to my iPad.

Apples

Choose Apples Wisely for Optimum Health

The premise of the book is not just “eat more fruits and vegetables” but rather “which varieties of fruits and vegetables to eat for optimum health and how to prepare them.” I will give you some idea of what I learned, but I suggest you get your own copy of the book to learn more.

While gluten-free isn’t the focus of this book, I’m always interested in improving the nutritional quality of my diet and I learned a ton—especially about two foods I eat often, garlic and apples.

Garlic

It was the author’s discussion of garlic on NPR that grabbed my attention. You probably know that garlic offers several health benefits: the author mentions antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, anticlotting, and anticancer. But these benefits are seriously inhibited if the garlic isn’t prepared correctly…and most of us (including me) have been doing it wrong.

Instead of just tossing the whole, peeled garlic clove into the pot, you should mince it finely with a knife on a cutting board or better yet, use a garlic press (even though Julia Child disdained the garlic press and said that it was used only by “non-cooks”). And, then let the minced garlic stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before cooking it. Otherwise, the heat destroys the garlic’s health benefits.

What’s going on here? Garlic has two compounds: one is a protein fragment called alliin and the other is a heat-sensitive enzyme called alliinase. In the intact garlic clove, the two compounds are isolated in separate compartments, but they need each other to make garlic good for you. They don’t commingle until you mince the clove, but then they need at least 10 minutes of “mingling” time at room temperature to produce garlic’s health benefit, which is called allicin. I’m hauling out the garlic press!

Apples

I always thought the nutrient value of all apples was about the same, regardless of variety and how they’re prepared. It turns out that I should be more discriminating because apples vary considerably in their nutrient content. Amazingly, one of the most popular varieties in stores, Golden Delicious, is one of the least nutritious. It has far fewer antioxidants than other varieties such as Granny Smith (the most nutritious of the common varieties which include Braeburn, Cortland, Discovery, Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, Liberty, Melrose, and Red Delicious).

In the grocery store, select apples with the reddest skins. The red color comes from direct exposure to sunlight while still on the tree, which gives the apple its allotment of phytonutrients. The green Granny Smith is an exception to the color rule but still remains extremely high in antioxidants.

Here are a few other things I learned about apples: When choosing apple juice, choose cloudy (which indicates the presence of 4 times more phytonutrients) rather than clear. Unpeeled apples offer 50 percent more phytonutrients than peeled apples, so eat the peels (which I do). But, apples are one of the most pesticide-sprayed fruits, so choose organic (which I do). To preserve nutrients, store apples in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator rather than the countertop. And, a freshly-picked apple is healthier although I don’t plan to plant any apple trees in my backyard (as the author suggests!).

Eat Wild, When Possible

I also learned that many of the most popular fruit and vegetable varieties are not the most nutritious versions. In fact, wild varieties (which probably drove the author’s choice of the book’s title) are often healthier than domesticated versions. This is because breeders have used domestication so produce can withstand shipping, prolong storage, and reduce blemishes rather than preserving their nutrient value. The author suggests seeking out hard-to-find varieties in farmer’s markets or U-Pick orchards, whenever possible.

The Bottom Line?

I must confess I have been short-changing my diet all these years, at least in these two foods. How about you? In this new year of 2014, I resolve to make every food I eat the healthiest it can be—with Eating on the Wild Side as my guide.

Announcing Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking

I take great delight in making it easy for beginners to prepare their favorite gluten-free meals.

Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner's Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking

That’s why I am especially happy to tell you that my new cookbook for beginners, Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking, is now in bookstores and natural food stores (and of course, on Amazon.com)

Watch for My Blog Tour

Visit my colleague Amy Green’s marvelous blog for a Lemon Bar recipe and her view of my new book. And, see Sueson Vess’s Special Eats blog for another review. Thanks, ladies!

Many of my other colleagues are blogging about my book in February, so stay tuned to find out where you can win a copy.

My Philosophy About the Book

I believe that living a gluten-free lifestyle can be fun, delicious, and easy. But it wasn’t always that way for me. Like other beginners, I was baffled by unfamiliar ingredients and new cooking techniques when I first adopted a gluten-free diet in 1988. My advantage, however, was that I already had some cooking skills, so the kitchen was not foreign territory to me—as it is for some of you.

Given my own experience and hearing from you, I recognized the need for a cookbook that makes it easy for beginners to make a simple and positive transition to cooking. So, my book explains how to select and work with gluten-free ingredients, how to continue eating healthfully, and how to master basic gluten-free cooking techniques, such as baking delicious breads or rolling gluten-free pizza dough—all with easy-to-follow instructions.

Gluten-Free 101 Has Recipes You Miss the Most

One of the first things newly-diagnosed patients tell me is how much they miss their favorite foods such as pizza, bread, and pasta— and all-American desserts such as brownies, cakes, and cookies. And they miss childhood favorites such as meat loaf, macaroni-and-cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and comfort-food casseroles. So the book focuses on familiar dishes, but introduces time-saving, simple shortcuts and tips that are especially helpful to beginners.

Examples of Tips, Shortcuts in Gluten-Free 101

For example, using my “cold-oven start,” French baguettes bake in only 30 minutes. Pizza crusts can be baked ahead and frozen, ready for topping at a moment’s notice. I show how to use time-saving appliances such as a slow cooker for beef stew and a food processor to blend cookie dough in seconds. I give tips for handling sticky gluten-free bread dough and shaping gluten-free piecrust so breads and pies look perfect and taste delicious.

Get Your Copy Now

The book contains 175 recipes for everyday favorites with more than 25 beautiful photos to show how the finished dish looks, which is especially important to beginners and each recipe also offers nutrient content. This book joins my award-winning cookbooks— 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes and 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes, all from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishers. You can buy your copy at bookstores and natural food stores or at order at Amazon.com. Send me your postal mailing address and I will send you a signed bookplate that you can paste in the book so you have a signed copy.