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

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

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

Welcome to Carol Fenster Cooks!

Welcome to Carol Fenster Cooks!

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

One-Pan Mexican Skillet Beef & Rice Dish for Busy Weeknights

School is back in session and your time just got even more precious. I remember the days when I would rush home from work after a long commute and head straight to the kitchen to start dinner. We had to eat quickly because there was always the inevitable homework for my son, office work for me, and—on some nights—a game or school/community meeting to attend.

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

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

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

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

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

Let the quick, easy dish below become one of your late-week recipes. It’s got loads of flavor from the chili powder, oregano, and cumin plus protein from the ground beef. You serve it right from the skillet, so no extra serving bowls to wash. Super-easy, boldly flavorful, it is sure to become one of your family’s favorites.

 

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

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

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

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

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

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

Makes 4 servings

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

Clafoutis: Easy French Dessert Using Plantain Flour

Of all the desserts in my cookbooks, Clafoutis (pronounced Clah-fute-ee) is the recipe I most often recommend to gluten-free newbies.  It’s easy, fool-proof, very versatile, and just sounds so “chic” with its French sound.

Bing Cherry Clafoutis with Plantain Flour: Photo by Tom Hirschfield

Bing Cherry Clafoutis with Plantain Flour: Photo by Tom Hirschfield

With Clafoutis, you can use any flour you like, which allows many people with diverse appetites to enjoy it. So, for example, a person who is new to the gluten-free diet can make a dessert that pleases everyone— including someone who follows a Paleo diet or is dairy-free or avoids grains.

Clafoutis is not only a delicious dessert, but it doesn’t require a blend of flours, just one single flour. As you know, I am always experimenting with new flours. And, I usually turn to Clafoutis as the recipe that allows me to experiment, but always with a successful outcome. Last week, I experimented with plaintain flour, so here is what I learned.

Plantains on the left, compared to bananas on the right. Very similar looking, but do not taste the same.

Plantains on the left, compared to bananas on the right. Very similar looking, but do not taste the same.

Plaintain Flour

What is plaintain flour? It is made from plantains, those banana-like things you see in the grocery store that may be green, yellow, or black. In the photo above, they are a greenish-yellow. Plantains are actually a fruit but, unlike most fruits, we consume them cooked rather than raw. They are often associated with Puerto Rican foods and I have eaten them in Mexican restaurants—boiled, baked, and fried.

If you ever accidentally purchase plantains (thinking they were bananas) your first taste will tell you they’re not bananas. They taste starchy and bland, sort of like potatoes. That bland flavor allows them to be quite versatile. And, it makes plantain flour ideal for gluten-free baking because of that neutral flavor and light color.

I bought my plantain flour from Barry Farms via Amazon, but it is available in some natural food stores and even WalMart. I suspect its availability varies by region. It costs about $4 per pound, but will likely vary by where you buy it.

How To Use Plaintain Flour

Plantain flour is a light tan in color and virtually tasteless. However, that light tan color might add a somewhat darker tint to your baked goods, depending on how much you use. I have seen lots of recipes online, such as pancakes, cookies, cakes, breads, cakes, etc. for using plantain flour, but as I mentioned before I like to try new flours in a recipe I already know.

In the recipe below, I use plantain flour as a single flour. But in most other baking, I would use it to replace about 15-20% of my flour blend. That way, I get some of the advantages of plantain flour, but retain the advantages of the flours in my flour blend.

I noticed that it clumped up when mixed with liquid, so be sure to whisk it vigorously or beat the batter with an electric mixer. It also helps to blend the plantain flour with other dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients. I didn’t notice any flavor change in the Clafouti, but that’s because plantain flour is bland.

Why Use Plantain Flour

The primary reason is that it’s gluten-free, of course. And it adds variety to our gluten-free diet. But also, it’s grain-free, so it’s useful for Paleo diets.  Plantains are high in fiber, potassium, and— in lesser amounts—magnesium and some B vitamins. While plantain flour isn’t a nutrient powerhouse, it does have other nutrient advantages. For more information about the nutrients in plantain flour, go here and here.

 

Clafoutis

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

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Clafoutis is a French dessert that can use any type of flour, thus making it ideal for gluten-free diets. It is simple, delicious, always turns out right no matter how it looks, and lends itself to many variations. Bing cherries are featured here, but I have used figs, apricots, peaches, pears, and nectarines. I used plantain flour but you can use your flavor single flour. It can be served hot or cold, but I prefer it hot—with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. I like to bake it while we eat dinner, so we can enjoy its enticing aroma during dinner and enjoy it fresh from the oven.

1/2         cup Bing cherries, drained

1              large egg, room temperature

2              tablespoons milk of choice (the richer the better), room temperature

1              tablespoon canola oil

1              teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract

2 1/2      tablespoons sugar, plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling (or your favorite sweetener)

2              tablespoons plantain flour (or your favorite flour such as amaranth, millet, sorghum, or teff flour)

1/16       teaspoon salt

2              teaspoons sliced almonds, for garnish

1              tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting

[1] Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Generously grease two 3 ½ x1 ¾ -inch (4-ounce) ramekins.

[2] Arrange cherries in a single layer in each ramekin.

[3] In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla until very smooth.  Then gradually whisk in 2 ½ tablespoons of the sugar, flour, and salt until very smooth. Divide the batter between the ramekins, sprinkle with almonds, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar.

[4] Bake until the tops are puffy and the almonds are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings:

Per serving:   270calories; 5g protein; 11g total fat; 2g fiber; 39g carbohydrates; 94mg cholesterol; 146mg sodium

It’s Back! Pumpkin Spice Latte: How to Make Your Own

It started right after Labor Day at Starbucks, which seems a little early if you aren’t a lover of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. But I am, so every year I look forward to this flavor and aroma. 

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Latte

If you are a coffee fan—as I am— then this early start is good news since I love that Pumpkin Spice flavor. More about that word “flavor” later.

Pumpkin is Everywhere!
It appears that we are a pumpkin-loving society! That unmistakable pumpkin flavor shows up in pie filling, coffee, yogurt, milk, desserts—even dog food. (Yes, you read that right.) Pumpkin-flavored dog food fetched more than $12 million in 2014. If you would like to see where we spent our dollars on pumpkin-flavored food last year, see this Nielsen data. This might make good cocktail-party conversation, you never know!

And, now you can find (gluten-free Pumpkin Spice Cheerios–for a limited time only.

History of Pumpkin Spice Latte
Do you know the history of the Pumpkin Spice Latte? When it was developed in 2003 by the Starbucks lab, they weren’t sure it would catch on. But it became an instant hit and by 2006 it was even available as pods (K-cups) for home brewers. By 2007, other coffee chains began offering it and the Twitter handle of #PSL appeared. According to CNN, today the Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte has 85,000 followers on Twitter.

Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Latte
If you want to make your own Pumpkin Spice Latte or PSL, we can thank the Food Network for this recipe. One of the things I like about making my own PSL base is controlling the sugar, since some lattes are too sweet for my tastes.

Make Ahead and Keep on Hand
Using the recipe from the Food Network as a base, you can modify your homemade latte as you like. Certainly less sugar for me! And, while I love nutmeg, I prefer less than this recipe uses so I cut it in half. You may have other preferences, so try the recipe and see how you like it. Of course, your homemade version will be gluten-free because you control what goes into it.

Another great thing about making your own is that you can make a base (all the ingredients except the coffee and milk) and store it in the refrigerator. Then heat the milk and coffee (or, steam the milk if you’re lucky enough to have an espresso machine that also froths milk) and stir in as much of the base as you like. Using whipped cream on top is up to you (I don’t usually do that, except as an occasional treat). And, a final dusting of grated fresh nutmeg (or cinnamon) is the perfect touch. And, of course, your homemade version will be much cheaper.

Pumpkin Flavor without the Pumpkin?
Notice that the Food Network’s recipe contains real pumpkin. It may surprise you to learn that many “pumpkin-flavored” items don’t have any pumpkin in them at all. Of course, foods such as Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Bread contain real pumpkin, but most commercial coffee drinks do not. Have you ever tasted pumpkin by itself? It is actually quite bland and not necessarily that inviting. In fact, it’s awful. However, when blended with all those wonderful spices it is absolutely divine.

Wondering what to do with the leftover pumpkin? If you make a lot of lattes, you will use up a 14-ounce can in a few days. Store any leftover pumpkin, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to a week and use it to bake gluten-free Pumpkin Bread.

Happy Pumpkin Spice Latte!

Zucchini Bread: Great Way to Use Summer’s Bounty

Summer is waning here in Colorado, but it is still warm enough for certain crops—such as zucchini. This is the season where you wonder why you planted so much zucchini. Or, you find surprise piles of zucchini on your doorstep from kind neighbors who want you to share in their bounty.

One year, I grew zucchini just for the blossoms. Of course, when you remove the blossoms, there is no zucchini. A hard lesson to learn!

If you have lots of zucchini here is a delicious way to use it up—Zucchini Bread! Bake several batches and freeze for later this winter.  It travels well, too, so I often take some on the plane.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

ZUCCHINI BREAD
Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy, Gluten-Free Cooking by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)
Though often maligned, most of us like zucchini in bread so bake a batch and enjoy this classic.

2 cups GF flour blend (see below)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 medium or 2 small)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or your favorite nuts)

[1] Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously grease three 6×4-inch nonstick (gray, not black) loaf pan(s).

[2] In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda until well blended. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed until light yellow and frothy, about 30 seconds. Add the oil and vanilla and beat on low speed until well blended. With the mixer on low speed, beat the flour mixture gradually into the egg mixture until the batter is smooth and slightly thickened. The batter will be very stiff, but then beat in the grated zucchini and it will become softer. With a spatula, stir in the raisins and nuts. Spread the batter evenly in the pan(s).

[3] Bake until the tops are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool the bread in the pans 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove the bread from the pan(s) and cool completely on the wire rack. Slice with an electric or serrated knife and serve slightly warm. Makes 3 small loaves

Per slice: 270 calories; 3g protein; 13g total fat; 2g fiber; 38g carbohydrates; 31mgs cholesterol; 237mgs sodium

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

Melon-Peach Gazpacho with Crispy Prosciutto

Summer is about to end, but here in Colorado the days are still deliciously warm. Two of my favorite fruits are about done for the season, but still available: peaches and melons, grown right here in Colorado.  In fact, Colorado is known for some of the best peaches and cantaloupe in the country. The cantaloupe we look for is Rocky Ford, but any variety will do and I’m growing fond of Tuscan cantaloupe.

Melon Peach Gazpacho

Melon Peach Gazpacho

I like to blend the two into a cold summer soup. Some call it fruit soup; some call it gazpacho (a Spanish soup that has been reinvented countless times by creative American chefs, usually made with tomatoes). You’ll see some gazpachos thickened with bread, so that’s why it is often off-limits in restaurants, but my version doesn’t need bread for its lovely, creamy texture.

The lovely golden color and enticing flavor of this refreshing soup is enhanced with the salty, crispy prosciutto. Because it is naturally gluten-free, so you can serve it to everyone. Just omit the prosciutto for your vegan or vegetarian friends. Enjoy!!


Melon-Peach Gazpacho with Crispy Prosciutto

By Carol Fenster

Serve this chilled soup in pretty goblets, shot glasses, or as a luncheon main dish in bowls. Pair it up with gluten-free crackers to add a little complementary crunch.

One-half medium, ripe cantaloupe, peeled and chopped

2 medium ripe peaches, chopped (no need to peel)

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon champagne or sherry vinegar (or better yet, dry sherry)

1 small peeled and minced shallot (or 1 tablespoon chopped white onion)

5 tablespoons finely diced prosciutto (available in deli-section or dice it yourself)

Garnishes: salt, freshly ground black pepper, and chopped fresh herbs such as basil, mint, or thyme

[1] Puree cantaloupe, peaches, water, lemon juice, vinegar, and shallots in a blender until very smooth. Divide among serving dishes (refrigerate for up to day if you aren’t serving right away).

[2] In a small skillet, fry the prosciutto over medium-low heat until very crispy. Lightly sprinkle chilled soup with salt, black pepper, crisped prosciutto, and fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Note: I designed this version to serve 4 as a soup course (about ¾ cup each) or 8 as an appetizer (about 1/3 cup) in over-size shot glasses—using two peaches and one-half melon. To serve more people, simply scale up the recipe accordingly.

Per serving: 75 calories; 5g protein; 1 g total fat; 2g fiber; 12g carbohydrates; 10 mg cholesterol; 380 mg sodium

 

Banana Flour, Anyone? It’s Gluten-Free!

In my summer quest to experiment with new flours, I recently stumbled across banana flour. It seems that anything can be made into flour, and that includes bananas. Except that these aren’t your ordinary ripe yellow bananas from the grocery store. No, they’re unripe green bananas and they’re peeled, sliced, and dehydrated before being milled into flour.

Banana Bread made with Banana Flour

Banana Bread made with Banana Flour

 

WON’T MY BAKED GOODS TASTE LIKE BANANA FLOUR?

My first thought was: “Won’t my baked goods taste like bananas if I use banana flour?” Oddly enough, though you may detect a slight banana taste in the raw flour and perhaps a corresponding banana aroma, that all dissipates during the baking process. The most surprising thing to me, however, was the color. I expected an off-white color (like the banana flesh itself) but the flour is actually tan, not white.

WHERE TO BUY BANANA FLOUR

The main company is Zuvii Banana Flour, formerly known as WEDO Banana Flour. The website is www.BananaFlour.com. Another excellent source is Let’s Do Organics by Edward & Sons, a company I have known for a long time. I have not found banana flour in my local natural food stores, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find it in yours. It is easily ordered from Amazon or the Zuvii website.

WHY USE BANANA FLOUR?

You may ask:  “Why should I use banana flour?”  Here are a few reasons to consider:

Gluten-Free

It is gluten-free and can be used in many types of baking, including cakes, cookies, bars, pancakes, waffles, and bread. However, its tan color will slightly darken any baked item. So, I would not use it in a white or yellow cake or in sugar cookies, unless you don’t mind the darker hue.

I used it in my own recipe for Banana Bread (see below) and was pleased with the outcome (see photo). In this small recipe, I simply replaced two tablespoons of my flour blend with two tablespoons of banana flour, and the recipe did not require any other adjustments. However, experts warn that banana flour (like coconut flour) soaks up a lot of liquid, so if you are making a large recipe you may need lots more liquid.

I also used it in a Pancake recipe from the Zuvii website and noticed that the flour lumped up, so using a blender (as the recipe suggests) is a good idea. The pancakes had a sweet, wholesome taste with no hint of banana flavor. The pancakes were darker in color, which was to be expected.

 If you aren’t using a recipe that you’re familiar with, then I suggest that you use one from the www.BananaFlour.com or www.EdwardandSonsrecipe.org  websites rather than trying to design your own recipe. The manufacturers suggest that you can use less banana flour, perhaps 2/3 cup for every cup of flour blend called for in your own recipe— but that’s hard to translate without some experimentation. So again, use a recipe that’s designed for banana flour for best results.

Health Benefits

Healthwise, banana flour contains potassium, just like ripe bananas. But more important is its resistant starch, which is not digested in the small intestine. According to the Zuveii Banana Flour website, resistant starch in banana flour:

* “resists” breaking down into sugars, resulting in lower blood sugar levels

* helps you stay full and burn more fat

* lowers pH levels in your colon, guarding against DNA and cell damage

* is a prebiotic which promotes the growth of good bacteria and feeds our cells

However, the Zuveii website cautions that the benefits of resistant starch are only available under 140 degrees, so if you’re baking with it (such as the Banana Bread below) you may not reap all of its benefits. Instead, they suggest stirring some into your morning smoothies or use it in no-bake cookies or bars.

Paleo-Friendly and Allergen-Friendly

The groups most likely to find value in banana flour are Paleo diet followers and bakers who seek an alternative starch to replace potato starch or cornstarch. Increasingly, I find people who don’t tolerate starches, so banana flour (which is grain-free and not related to potato) may be a substitute—but again, it requires lots of experimentation to successfully replace potato starch or cornstarch in baking.  The function of these starches is to lighten the baked item, and banana flour may not offer this feature in your baking.

 BANANA BREAD FOR TWO (made with banana flour)

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

For efficient measuring, I place the banana flour in a ½-cup measuring cup and then add the Gluten-Free Flour Blend to reach ½ cup. Level off the mound of flour with a knife.

1              large egg, at room temperature

1/3         cup mashed overripe banana (about 1 small)

2              tablespoons canola oil

2              tablespoons banana flour

6              tablespoons Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below, or use your own Paleo-friendly blend) )

1/3         cup sugar (or preferred sweetener)

1/2         teaspoon cinnamon

1/2         teaspoon baking powder

1/2         teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4         teaspoon salt

1/16       teaspoon (pinch) baking soda

2              tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans

[1] Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Generously grease a 3¼ x5¾-inch nonstick (gray, not black) loaf pan.

[2] In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the egg, banana, and oil until smooth.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda until well blended. With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually beat the flour mixture into the egg mixture just until blended. Stir the walnuts into the batter. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

[3] Bake until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the bread and cool on the wire rack for another 10 minutes. Use a serrated knife or an electric knife to cut into 4 slices and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Makes a 3¼ x 5¾ -inch loaf: 4 slices

Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups brown rice flour (or sorghum flour)

1 ½ cups potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour

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

Homemade Dill Pickles (without the “canning fuss”)

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

Homemade Dill Pickles

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

One of the vegetables that beckons to me is small, Kirby cucumbers—just right for pickling. In fact, sometimes they are labeled “picklers” as they were this past weekend when I bought some at the Vail Colorado Farmer’s Market. But the thought of hauling out all of the usual canning equipment to make pickles does not excite me at all.

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

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

HOMEMADE DILL PICKLES

By Carol Fenster

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

3 small pickling (Kirby) cucumbers

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

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

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

¼ small onion, sliced

1 cup water

¾ cup white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon sugar

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

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

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

Tigernut Flour

Tigernuts have been around for a few years, but it wasn’t until this summer that I took some time to fully experiment with it in my baking and cooking.  I know summertime isn’t always the best time for some of you to bake, yet for me it’s a time to slow down and explore new areas of cooking.

Cornbread with Tigernut Flour

Cornbread with Tigernut Flour

I’ve had tigernut flour on my radar for quite awhile, so here is what I learned:

What are Tigernuts?

Despite the name, tigernuts are not really nuts at all (and they’re not from tigers, either). They are the tubers of a grass that grows in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean. The flour that is ground from these roots is naturally gluten-free and Paleo since it comes from a root, not a grain.

Gluten-Free Living magazine says in its blog (August, 2015) that tiger nuts are “high in fiber, iron, potassium, protein, magnesium, zinc and vitamins E and C, tiger nuts were the primary food of our ancient ancestors who lived in East Africa between 2.4 million and 1.4 million years ago, according to a 2014 Oxford University study. One ounce of these crunchy root vegetables contains 40 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake.” By my calculations, that means that just 1 ounce contains 10 grams of fiber. That’s a lot!

That same blog article goes to say “Tigernuts are also high in natural sugars, healthy fats, and resistant starch which reaches the colon intact. Resistant starch promotes prebiotic growth and supports a healthy immune and digestive track. It can also lower blood glucose levels and improves insulin sensitivity.”

Tigernut flour tastes slightly sweet and nutty—although I think the term “nutty” can be interpreted in many ways. Suffice to say, tigernut flour is pleasant-tasting and won’t dominate flavor-wise. However, it is a light beige in color and so it may slightly “color” your baked goods. You can find it in natural food stores or order online.

How Do I Use Tigernut Flour?

Knowing that this flour is high in fiber and sugar gives us some hints about how to use it. Its high fiber content means it’s slightly grainy so I would use it in foods where you want “crunch” such as cookies,  bars, pancakes, and so on.  It’s high in sugar, so you might be able to reduce the sugar in your recipe. And, its resistant starch is a good thing but avoid using too much in case it upsets your digestive tract.

Like all gluten-free flours, tigernut flour needs to be used in combination with other flours. Some Paleo bakers combine it with tapioca flour or coconut or almond flours.  I’m fond of my own grain-based flour blend (sorghum or brown rice flour blended with potato starch and tapioca starch), so my approach is to replace some of my flour blend with tigernut flour in a recipe that I’m already familiar with rather than starting from scratch with a brand-new recipe.

If you are Paleo, you should rely on a Paleo-based recipe and then modify it to include tigernut flour.

Given all of these traits of tigernut flour, I am more likely to use it in sweet items, rather than savory, because of its natural sweetness.  So, I would use it in cookies (maybe biscotti?), bars, a cookie-crumb (or graham cracker) pie crust), or even breakfast pancakes and smoothies. 

For savory dishes, I might add some to burgers (either meat or veggie), or a no-bake pie crust made from savory crackers and tigernut flour (perhaps as a crust for quiche), or even cornbread (see below) or other quick breads. This doesn’t mean it won’t work in other savory dishes, but my experiments were confined to sweeter dishes.

CORNBREAD (WITH TIGERNUT FLOUR)

Adapted from Gluten-Free 101 by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)

Cornbread is a staple at our house. It bakes quickly, allowing us to have fresh bread with our meals more often. I especially like it with soups or stews, but it also nicely rounds out a light salad. I use ¼ cup of tigernut flour in this recipe, but you could increase it to ½ cup if you like.

1 ¼ cups cornmeal

¾ cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)

¼ cup tigernut flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup water, at room temperature

1/3 cup canola oil

[1] Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously grease a 4×8-inch or 8-inch round or square nonstick (gray, not black) baking pan.

[2] In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour blend, tigernut flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda until well blended. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat in the eggs, water, and oil until just blended. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat until the batter is slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. The batter will be the consistency of thick cake batter. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

[3] Bake until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the corn bread in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 12 servings (1 slice each)

Per serving:  180 calories; 3g protein;  8g total fat; 2g fiber; 26g carbohydrates; 31mg cholesterol; 290 mg sodium            

Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups sorghum flour or brown rice flour (color of cornbread will be lighter with brown rice flour)

1 ½ cups potato starch

1 cup tapioca flour

Whisk together until thoroughly blended. Store, tightly closed, in a dark, dry place.

 

 

 

Have You Tried Coffee Flour?

At our house, the whir of the coffee grinder is a familiar sound. My husband, also known as “Latte Larry,” is an expert at making coffee lattes. For the best flavor, he prefers to grind his own coffee beans just before “pulling” an espresso shot. 

Chocolate Banana Bread with Coffee Flour

Chocolate Banana Bread with Coffee Flour

My morning coffee routine is also precise. I grind the coffee beans fresh just before I make my coffee using the old-fashioned “pour-over” method, which brews a single cup at a time. I savor every sip.

Now that summer is here, we are drinking cold-brewed coffee on ice with a splash of NutPods dairy-free creamer. Then, there’s the coffee ice cream in my freezer and the brewed coffee that I add to my baked goods to accentuate the chocolate flavor. I even enjoy coffee-flavored candy.

Given the above, I guess you could say we are coffee aficionados at our house. 

COFFEE FLOUR

So, when I heard about coffee flour I was excited. Then I accidentally found Baker Josef’s coffee flour at Trader Joe’s, so I just had to have it.  In my nearly 30 years of gluten-free cooking, I’ve worked with just about every gluten-free flour on earth so coffee flour was destined to be my next experiment.

WHAT IS COFFEE FLOUR? WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

 You may not realize this, but coffee beans actually grow inside a coffee fruit on trees (see photo).

Coffee Cherry

Coffee Cherry

I once toured a coffee farm on the Big Island of Hawaii and was amazed at how beautiful the coffee trees are. They sort of resemble cherry trees. In the past, the pulpy fruit (the red part in the photo above) that surrounds the coffee bean has typically been discarded. But some really smart folks realized if this pulpy fruit is dried and pulverized it can then be used as flour in baking.

What does coffee flour taste like?  The package describes it as a fruity, roasted flavor.  I’m not sure about the “fruity” part but there is definitely a “roasted” flavor with undertones of coffee.  And, I’m not sure that simply tasting ground coffee fully prepares you for the flavor of a brewed cup so tasting coffee flour isn’t a good predictor either. I think it’s the blending of the subtle coffee flavor with the other ingredients that make it worthwhile to use coffee flour in our food.

For an interesting history of how one company came to make coffee flour, go here.

HOW DO YOU USE COFFEE FLOUR?

The most obvious way to use it is in baking. Experts recommend substituting 10-25% of the flour with coffee flour.  For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of gluten-free flour blend, then replace anywhere from 3 Tablespoons to 8 Tablespoons of the gluten-free blend with coffee flour.

Despite this recommendation, my advice is to first try the lowest amount (3 Tablespoons) and see how it works for you. The high fiber in coffee flour means that it absorbs more liquid than our usual gluten-free flours so you may need to add more liquid (perhaps 10 to 25% more liquid) for proper batter texture. Also, too much coffee flour might significantly alter the flavor of your baked items. As with many things in life, too much of a “good thing” isn’t good.

But which baked goods? I would suggest using it in recipes that you are already comfortable with rather than trying a brand-new recipe. So, I looked at my own recipes to see which ones might work. Coffee flour is dark brown, so I would avoid using it in light-colored foods. Since chocolate and coffee pair well, I started with my chocolate recipes and offer one here, with the coffee flour measurement included:

Chocolate Banana Bread with Coffee Flour

By Carol Fenster

This small, but mighty recipe is very versatile because you can use whatever add-ins you like and vary the fruit juice―both of which are very good for you. There are lots of flavors going on here: chocolate, banana, coffee, cinnamon but this recipe gives you a chance to try coffee flour and see how you like it. For a no-sugar-added bread, omit the tablespoon of sugar. Enjoy!!

1 small ripe banana, mashed

1 large egg, at room temperature

1/3 cup prune juice or pomegranate juice

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon coffee flour

7 tablespoons gluten-free flour blend (see below)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/4 teaspoon salt

Add-ins

1/2 cup gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup each finely chopped nuts, raisins, coconut, and dried cranberries (make sure total equals 1 cup)

[1] Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Lightly grease two nonstick 3 ¼ x 5¾-inch mini-loaf pans.  

[2] In a medium bowl, beat together the mashed banana, egg, juice, and oil with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended.

[3] With the mixer still on low speed, beat in the coffee flour, flour blend, cocoa, sugar (if using), cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt until smooth. Stir in the add-ins. With a wet spatula, spread the batter evenly in the pans.

[4] Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (or with only a bit of melted chocolate on it), about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, remove the bread from the pans, and cool completely before cutting. Makes about 5 to 6 small slices per loaf.

Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups sorghum flour or brown rice flour

1 ½ cups potato starch (not potato flour)

1 cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)

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

Here are some other recipes to try:

[1] Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies http://www.carolfenstercooks.com/index.php/2014/10/chocolate-refrigerator-cookies-quick-decadence-100-quick-glutenfree-recipes/

[2] Pumpkin-Chocolate Marbled Loaf with Orange Glaze http://www.carolfenstercooks.com/index.php/2017/01/pumpkin/

[3] Chocolate Cake with Almond-Coconut Crust  http://www.carolfenstercooks.com/index.php/2011/02/chocolate-cake-with-almond-coconut-crust/

[4] Chocolate Brownies  http://www.carolfenstercooks.com/index.php/2012/04/chocolate-brownies-glutenfree-decadence/

[5] You could also try coffee flour in hearty breads or muffins. Or, in smoothies, truffles, puddings, and mousses. In flourless recipes, I would use this rule-of-thumb: for every serving use ½ teaspoon of coffee flour and make sure it’s thoroughly blended into the ingredients.

[6] Here is a measurement tip: In the Chocolate Banana Bread recipe above, I placed 1 tablespoon coffee flour in a ½ cup measuring cup and then added the gluten-free flour blend on top and leveled it off with a knife. This automatically gave me 7 tablespoons of gluten-free flour blend and with the tablespoon of coffee flour already in the cup it automatically equaled 1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons.

THE BENEFITS OF COFFEE FLOUR

Nutritionally, coffee flour can be a powerhouse (see Nutrition Facts here www.coffeeflour.com).  But it also a matter of how much you consume, which isn’t a lot in baked goods.

However, environmentally, coffee flour uses up a product that would ordinarily be discarded into rivers and it also provides financial payback for the coffee-growers. For the gluten-free community, it provides more variety and some wonderful taste experiences.

Although the bag of coffee four is not labeled gluten-free, it was found to be gluten-free by www.glutenfreewatchdog.com

 

 

Chocolate-Berry Breakfast Pizza

Chocolate Berry Pizza is perfect for special, gluten-free breakfast.

Chocolate-Berry Breakfast Pizza

When I was growing up, I can honestly say that I never ate chocolate for breakfast. Not once! We certainly ate it at other times of the day, but never breakfast. But as an adult, I have a new motto:  “Who says you can’t have chocolate for breakfast?”

How about a decadent chocolate pizza for breakfast?

My standard pizza recipe is the answer—sweetened up a notch—becoming the base for chocolate, berries, and nuts. And it is just plain gorgeous, as well.

When I originally developed this recipe, I had hoped to use Nutella or Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend as the chocolate—which European kids grow up eating, much like American kids eat peanut butter. But I found it wasn’t as easy to spread, perhaps needing some warming in the microwave before it became “spreadable.”

So, I turned to chocolate chips which were much easier to handle. I think you will like this decadent breakfast.

Chocolate-Berry Breakfast Pizza 

Recipe by Carol Fenster© www.CarolFenster.com

This is the same crust as my famous Pizza, but with additional sugar (plus cinnamon and vanilla) to make the perfect base for lovely spring berries, resting on a layer of yummy chocolate.  Dusted with powdered sugar, it makes a gorgeous dish.

Makes a 12-inch pizza

YEAST MIXTURE

1              tablespoon active dry yeast 

3/4      cup warm (110°F) milk of choice

4              teaspoons sugar, divided

DRY INGREDIENTS

2/3      cup brown rice flour, plus more for sprinkling

1/4     cup potato starch

1/4       cup tapioca flour

1  1/2     teaspoons xanthan gum

1/8      teaspoon ground cinnamon              

1/2      teaspoon salt

LIQUIDS

1              tablespoon canola oil, plus extra for brushing the crust

1/2       teaspoon vanilla

TOPPING

1              cup gluten-free chocolate chips, or more to taste

1/2     cup fresh berries, such as raspberries or sliced strawberries OR dried fruit such as apricots, cherries, blueberries, or cranberries

2              tablespoons slivered almonds (or your favorite nuts)

Powdered sugar, for dusting

[1] Place oven racks in bottom and middle positions of oven. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in warm milk for 5 minutes. In food processor, blend yeast mixture, remaining sugar, oil, and vanilla until dough forms very soft ball. (Or, blend in medium bowl, using  an electric mixer on low speed.)

[2] Place pizza dough in center of greased (no cooking spray; it hinders spreading dough on pan) 12-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pizza pan. Liberally sprinkle rice flour onto dough; then press dough into pan with your hands, continuing to dust dough with flour to prevent sticking. Make edges thicker to contain toppings, taking care to make dough as smooth and even as possible for prettiest crust.

[3] Bake pizza crust 10 minutes on bottom rack. Remove from oven and brush edges of crust with a little canola oil.  Place pizza on middle rack and bake until edges are nicely browned, about 10 minutes—depending on your oven.  Watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove pizza from oven and sprinkle with single layer of chocolate chips (or warmed chocolate-hazelnut spread) to completely cover pizza crust. Return to oven and watch carefully as chips melt. Remove from oven and top with berries and almond slivers. Let pizza stand until it cool enough to handle (about 5 minutes), then cut and eat warm, dusted with a little powdered sugar.