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Where in the World is Carol?

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

Carol's book, Gluten-Free 101, won 1st prize in the Cookbooks-General category of USA Best Book Awards.

August 20, 2015: 5-8 PM Book-signing for Art Hop at Covered Treasures Bookstore, Monument, CO

September 26-27, 2015: Book-signing at Holy Cross Abbey Winery Fall Festival, Canon City, CO

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!

Focaccia Flatbread

Of all the foods we crave on a gluten-free diet, bread is always at the top of the list. But many of us assume that there isn’t time to bake bread when we barely have time to get dinner on the table… let alone fuss with yeast and rising, etc. But there’s something special about baking your own bread… the aroma, the hands-on feel, the pride in serving something you made yourself. Plus, you have complete control over what goes into it and how it looks.

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

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

Focaccia Flatbread: The holidays are here and holiday entertaining needs bread, so my gluten-free Focaccia Flatbread is perfect when you want bread but don’t have a lot of time. This recipe is in my latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, to help you if you want to cook your own food at home but have limited time. So throughout the book, the recipes illustrate several principles to shave precious time from meal preparation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin Spice Trifle for Thanksgiving


Pumpkin Spice Trifle

Pumpkin pie is the usual pie of choice at our house for Thanksgiving, but this year I plan to defy tradition and serve this gorgeous Pumpkin Spice Trifle.

What is a trifle?
The British define it as a cold dessert of sponge cake and fruit covered with layers of custard, jelly, and cream. But that’s just a guideline, not a mandate. So, I made my own version using the flavors of pumpkin pie. Rather than cake, I use cookies. Rather than custard, I use a combination of pumpkin and whipped cream or topping. The dish stands up better if you use whipped topping, however.

Glass Trifle Bowl
The one thing you will need that may not have is a glass trifle bowl. This is a straight-sided glass bowl set on a pedestal. They are sold at kitchen stores, but also in discount stores. The shape of the bowl is important because the layered ingredients show through. Once you have all the ingredients assembled, a trifle goes together quickly and it is a good opportunity to display your creativity because it is gorgeous no matter what you do!

Long ago, I demonstrated a trifle at a gluten-free conference as part of my cooking demonstration. I actually made a trifle in my hotel room, right before my talk so I could show the audience what it looked like before I began the demonstration. So, if I can make one in my hotel room you can easily do it in your kitchen!

Pumpkin Spice Trifle
Reprinted with permission from Carol Fenster at
This is a stunningly beautiful dish, one that will entice your guests. It is easily made first thing in the morning and then chilled, leaving you to concentrate on the rest of the meal on Thanksgiving Day.

1 can (15-ounces) pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
6 cups whipped topping, such as Cool Whip (or nondairy Soyatoo or coconut-based So Delicious Coco Whip) or whipped cream
2 packages Pamela’s Gluten-Free Ginger Cookies, coarsely chopped (save 2 tablespoons for garnish)
2 cups store-bought gluten-free Vanilla Pudding
3 tablespoons dark rum, (optional)
1 can (11-ounces) mandarin oranges, thoroughly drained (save a few for garnish)
1 cup chopped pecans, divided
[1/2] cup dried cranberries, divided plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger, (optional, but it really adds flavor)

[1] In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat the pumpkin, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, the pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and salt until well blended. With a spatula, gently fold in half (one eight-ounce tub) of whipped topping until thoroughly blended.

[2] Spread half of the pumpkin mixture evenly on the bottom of a clear, straight-sided glass serving bowl (at least 3 ½-quart capacity) or a trifle dish. Sprinkle half of the ginger cookies over the pumpkin. Arrange half (one 11-ounce can) of the mandarin oranges on top. Spread the Vanilla Pudding on top of the oranges and then sprinkle with half of the chopped candied ginger and half of the pecans.

[3] Spread the remaining pumpkin mixture evenly on top, then sprinkle with the remaining gingersnaps (or crumbled gingerbread) and scatter the dried cranberries around the edges of the bowl. Add the remaining candied ginger and pecans, the remaining can (one 11-ounce can) mandarin oranges, and then cover with the remaining tub (8 ounces) of whipped topping. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours before serving.

[4] Just before serving, sprinkle the remaining crushed cookies on top and garnish with remaining mandarin oranges and a sprinkle of dried cranberries. Serve immediately and refrigerate leftovers.

Per serving: 310 calories, 2 grams protein, 16 grams total fat, 1 grams fiber, 13 grams saturated fat, 38 grams carbohydrates; 157 mgs sodium; 0 mgs cholesterol

Gluten-Free Viking River Cruise on the Danube River

Everybody needs a Dragan! Someone who presents you with a menu at breakfast so you can choose your gluten-free lunch and dinner options. And, then when you sit down at those meals your chosen foods just magically appear. Bliss!

Vienna's St. Stephens Cathedral

Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral

Gluten-Free Food on a Viking River Cruise
I had that wonderful experience on a Viking River Cruise down the Danube River in Europe last month. Dragan is  the Maitre d’ on the Viking Legend ship and he was superb. He had a thorough knowledge of special diets so I was in good hands. In cooperation with the Executive Chef Marios and the Pastry Chef, Dragan made it possible for me to eat usually-forbidden foods such as Fish & Chips, Monte Cristo and Cuban Sandwiches, and Wiener Schnitzel; and Desserts such as Apple Strudel, Tiramisu, and Chocolate Cake. I had bread at every meal and discovered the new Dr. Schar’s Artisan Baker Multi-grain, which was one of the best sandwich breads I’ve ever eaten.

Breakfast was served buffet-style, with many choices—eggs, bacon, potatoes, fruit, yogurt, etc. Waiters brought me gluten-free bread at every meal. At lunch, we started with a buffet-style salad bar and then ordered our main dishes from the waiters. There were plenty of choices and I was amazed at how efficient everything is.

For example, waiters carry iPhones and enter your order by noting your menu choice, your table, and your seat at the table and transmitting that back to the kitchen using the ship’s Wi-Fi. For my special diet, my cabin number was how they tracked me.

Dinner offered a variety of options: beef, pork, fish, seafood, and chicken—plus vegetarian options. I had the feeling that Viking really tries to meet the special diet needs of its passengers. One night I had Pork Medallions, another night it was Chateaubriand, Shrimp, and Salmon—were just a few examples. The food is attractively plated, though I noticed an absence of the usual garnishes we commonly see in the U.S. Portions at all meals are reasonable, which I really appreciated (rather than the huge plates we see in the U.S.)

Salmon  Dinner

Salmon Dinner

Austrian Dinner
One special night in Austria, Executive Chef Marios treated us to an Austrian meal. My special gluten-free plate included Wiener Schnitzel, something I only get to eat if I prepare it myself OR my lovely daughter-in-law does it for me. In fact, I learned how to make it from her! The male waiters were dressed in lederhosen (leather britches) and the female waiters in dirndl dresses. Accordion players serenaded us while we dined. It was really fun and the staff seemed so eager to have us experience their traditional food.

As part of this special night, we toured the kitchen which was a model of efficiency. All of our food was prepared in this small space although Chef Marios told me that he shops for fresh produce when we are docked at a city.

Gluten-Free Apple Strudel
And, now for the Apple Strudel story.

Gluten-Free Apple Strudel

Gluten-Free Apple Strudel


Dragan, Maitre d'

Dragan, Maitre d’

Earlier in the day of the Austrian dinner, we watched a demonstration of how to make Apple Strudel. Of course, it used phyllo dough and I couldn’t taste it. But I casually asked Dragan if there was gluten-free strudel (knowing this was unlikely). He replied, “I’ll see what I can do.” After we were back in our cabin following dinner (about 9 PM) there was a very assertive knock on the door. (Did I mention that Dragan is a very big guy—at least 6’ 4”and very muscular? So, I knew it wasn’t our 100-pound Asian steward). I opened the door to find Dragan holding a plate of gluten-free Apple Strudel. And, he apologized for not having it ready at dinner! I was overwhelmed by his caring attitude. Of course, I devoured it on the spot. In case you’re wondering, the Pastry Chef used a pastry crust rather than phyllo dough but it was absolutely delicious and I was so grateful.

 Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises are best known for their white longships that slowly cruise down rivers (although they are introducing ocean cruises), frequently advertised on Downtown Abbey or other PBS-TV shows. It is one way to see Europe—if you like to unpack your suitcase and stay in the same room for the duration of your trip, have your itinerary pre-arranged for you, and visit churches, castles, and Old Town areas. This is decidedly not how my husband and I usually travel in Europe, where we rent a car, arrange our own itinerary, and often stay in a different hotel each night.

Our preferred style is not for the faint-hearted, but we are comfortable with it—even though taking a car into European cities is sometimes difficult if not downright impossible, especially in the Old Town areas. This time, however, we wanted to visit some Eastern Europe countries and felt that the most comfortable way (language, driving, etc.) was by river cruise and it worked out beautifully.

Where We Went
We began our journey with a 3 day visit to Prague, a city that’s been on my “bucket list” for years. Then Viking transported us by bus to the ship in Passau, Germany where our cruise began and continued on down the Danube River through Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary. Along the way, we could see castles high on the hills overlooking the Danube. We passed through many locks, which are fascinating in themselves.

Prague is in the Czech Republic—half of the former Czechoslovakia, which split in 1993 to become two nations: Czech Republic and Slovakia. Prague is small, but charming. We stayed at a large, very comfortable Hilton Hotel with a huge breakfast buffet (gluten-free bread, too) and each dish was labeled with allergens. I was really impressed, plus they had soy milk for lattes and gluten-free pasta. Waiters speak English, so communication was easy. We toured the Old Town section of Prague by bus, foot, and then by pedi-cab, which was really fun.

We even found a Starbucks in the Old Town where I enjoyed a soy latte. At lunch, my husband had a “pig knuckle” which looks like a small ham, with bone. Huge!! I had duck legs, accompanied by gluten-free Focaccia bread instead of the usual dumplings or red cabbage. The dumplings obviously contained wheat but I never did find out why the red cabbage was off-limits. The servings were huge!

Salzburg, Austria
Known as the birthplace of Mozart and where “Sound of Music” was filmed, this is a lovely city by any standards. But it also has a health food store (known as Reformhaus) just a few steps from Mozart’s birthplace in the Old Town area. So, I stocked up on Dr. Schar breads (couldn’t find the new Artisan Baker Multigrain)and sweets to tide me over. We had lunch at Café Tomaselli, a touristy place but with a great location so we could do some serious “people-watching” on the square. The café’s gluten-free options were limited, so I had ham and eggs for lunch.

Farmers Market in Salzburg

Farmers Market in Salzburg

Nearby was a Farmer’s Market with lovely displays of fruits, vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, etc. A real feast for the eyes!

Vienna, Austria
One of my favorite cities, we walked to St. Stephen’s Cathedral and around the Old Town area. Known for its music, we attended a Mozart concert in a converted stock exchange building. The nice thing about this cruise was that a bus delivered us right to the door of the building and we left our coats on the bus. Convenient!

A city tour by bus gave us an overview of Vienna, but it will leave you yearning to return and explore in more detail. I’ve been to Vienna before and enjoyed the Opera House and all of the historic places this beautiful city has to offer. If you go, allow plenty of time for this lovely city.

Budapest, Hungary
I wasn’t prepared for Budapest’s beauty. It is actually two cities, divided by the Danube. Buda on one side, and Pest (pronounced Pesht) on the other. When you sail into port at night, you are greeted by the city dressed in stunning lights. One of the pretties sights on the whole trip.

Budapest at Night

Budapest at Night

As with Vienna, leave plenty of time to explore this sophisticated city. We got a good overview of both cities by bus (with excellent tour guides) but a city this beautiful deserves more time than we could give it.

Getting Ready to Travel, Gluten-Free
Preparation is key to successful travel. I gathered my Dining Cards in Czech, German, and Hungarian (although I never had to use them, since English is quite common). I did a web search for health food stores and restaurants in case I had time to visit them. I also packed lightweight clothing so I could layer it for the colder locations along with a lightweight raincoat. Temperatures were in the 40’s at night, and 50’s during the day. We had sunny skies and no rain, so I didn’t need that umbrella I also packed.

Lufthansa Airlines Gluten-Free Meals
I preordered a gluten-free meal for the trans-Atlantic (Denver-Frankfurt) portion of the trip and this worked nicely, both going and returning home. The meal was plain (grilled salmon or chicken), yet filling and got me through the flight (although I quickly tired of the rice cakes!!). One unexpected benefit was that I received my meals before the other passengers.

Oat, Blueberry, and Walnut Bars

Carol Fenster's vegan oat bars use gluten-free oats and oat bran from Bob's Red Mill..

Vegan oat bars use gluten-free oats and oat bran.

 Oatmeal. The word invokes images of home, wholesomeness, and all-American goodness. When I was growing up, we ate cooked oatmeal every day for breakfast. Every. Single. Morning.

The only time it differed is when my mother forgot the salt. On rare occasions, she would fry slabs of leftover oatmeal (like a pancake) and we would drizzle homemade maple syrup and melted butter on top. That was a real treat! So, given my background, you can see why oats evoke lots of memories.

There was a time when oats were off-limits for the gluten-free diet because they could be contaminated with wheat. Thanks to several manufacturers we can now buy various forms of gluten-free oats and oat bran that are grown and processed in controlled settings to make them safe for us. So, here is a delicious, easy dessert that uses oats. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Oat, Blueberry, and Walnut Bars
adapted from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)

Blueberries, cinnamon, and walnuts team up with rolled oats and oat bran to make a hearty, flavorful bar that is also quite versatile. Feel free to change the filling—-it is equally delicious using raspberry, fig, or strawberry jam. Or, use your favorite nuts such as pecans, almonds, or pine nuts. These bars are also vegan and freeze and travel well.

1/2 cup butter or buttery spread, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla, divided
1 cup GF Flour Blend (see below)
3/4 cup GF rolled oats*
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup GF oat bran* or ground flaxmeal
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup blueberry jam
*Check with your physician before eating gluten-free oats.

[1] Place rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously grease 8-inch square nonstick (gray, not black) metal pan. Or line pan with aluminum foil, leaving 2-inch overhang for easy removal. Grease foil.

[2] In medium bowl, combine melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in flour blend, rolled oats, brown sugar, oat bran, walnuts, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until thoroughly blended, then press 1 ½ cups of mixture firmly on bottom of pan.

[3] Stir remaining teaspoon of vanilla into blueberry jam until smooth, then spread evenly on top. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture evenly on jam, then pat to make smooth and even.

[4] Bake until top is lightly browned and firm, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool bars in pan for 30 minutes on wire rack. If using foil lining, invert pan onto large cutting board and remove foil before cutting into 16 squares. Otherwise, serve bars directly from pan. Makes 16 small bars.

Per serving: 175 calories; 2g protein; 7g total fat; 2g fiber;27 g carbohydrates; 16mg cholesterol; 119mg sodium

GF Flour Blend
1 ½ cups sorghum flour
1 ½ cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour
Whisk together and store in a dark, dry place.

Upset the Apple Cart with This Twist on Apple Pie


Enjoy Apples!

Fall is here, apples are at their best, and the aroma of apples baking in the oven is both comforting and enticing. Of course, you can make a traditional, two-crust Apple Pie, but here is a super-simple No-Bake Caramel Apple Pie from the Denver Post.

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

No-Bake Caramel Apple Pie – What’s In It?
The pie is basically apples cooked with caramels and spices, piled in a crumb-crust (use gluten-free cookies if you can’t find gluten-free graham crackers) and top it with whatever you like: crushed gluten-free cookies, chopped nuts, and mini-chocolate chips were used in the Denver Post recipe. Personally, I like crushed toffee-chocolate bars such as Skor, butterscotch or white-chocolate chips, and then perhaps Pamela’s Ginger or Chocolate cookies. If you plan Halloween wisely, maybe you will have leftover candy for this pie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, Pastry Pie Crust
Wondering about gluten-free pastry pie crusts? Each of my cookbooks has a no-fail pastry pie-crust recipe. Or, use one of the gluten-free pie crust mixes such as Bob’s Red Mill. For a visual guide to shaping gluten-free pie crusts, see my website for my video on making Pie Crusts.

How Do You Like Your Brownies: Fudgy or Cakey?

A kitchen conundrum that really fascinates me is the issue of fudgy versus cakey brownies.

Fudgy Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies

Fudgy Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies

Fudgy or Cakey?
Some people prefer the rich, dense decadence of the fudgy type, while others want their brownies more like a light, airy cake. Personally, I will devour either kind but—given a choice—I choose the fudgy version.

The folks at Martha Stewart Living explored the science behind these two choices in a recent magazine article and on their website.

The Science
They boil down the science on brownie texture to this: All brownies are made of the same basic ingredients: butter, eggs, chocolate, flour, and sugar. However, it is the ratios or proportions of each ingredient that make all the difference in texture.

In their series, Kitchen Conundrums, they lay out the basic rules for choosing a brownie texture:
[1] For a fudgy brownie use more butter and chocolate, but less flour.

[2] For a cakey brownie use less butter, but more flour—plus a little baking powder for leavening.

[3] Keep the amount of sugar and eggs the same in both versions.

[4] Bake fudgy brownies for 2 to 5 minutes less than cakey brownies.

[5] Their analysis is on gluten brownies, so I add a fifth tip: add 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum to make sure the brownies don’t crumble.

You can use these general guidelines to tweak your own gluten-free brownie recipe, or follow the Martha Stewart version (but add xanthan gum for less crumbling). To watch brownies being made in the Martha Stewart kitchen, go here.

How Does My Brownie Recipe Stack Up?
When I look at my own Brownie recipe from my book, Gluten-Free 101, I see that it really leans more toward the cakey version. So, how can I modify it to be fudgier? I will follow the same steps that Martha suggests, but make these adjustments:

First, I will reduce the flour to ½ cup, omit the baking powder, and reduce the xanthan gum to 1/8 teaspoon. Second, I will increase the butter to 1 stick (1/2 cup) and omit the water or coffee. Third, I will bake the brownies for 2 minutes less than the original 20 minutes, or just until they look barely set, knowing they will continue to cook after they are removed from the oven. Of course, my new fudgy brownies will be thinner than the original because there is no baking powder to make them rise.

Carol Fenster’s Chocolate Fudgy Brownies
Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

This is my new fudgier version of my original Brownie recipe. Be forewarned: it is intensely chocolatey. This version is plain, but feel free to add chocolate chips or nuts for added variety.

½ cup Carol’s Sorghum Blend (see below)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or buttery spread, melted and cooled
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

[1] Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease an 8-inch square nonstick pan (gray, not black). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, cocoa, salt, and xanthan gum until well blended.

[2] In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on Low speed until well combined. Add egg and vanilla; beat until thoroughly combined.

[3] With mixer on Low speed, add the dry ingredients. Mix until just blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

[4] Bake 18 minutes. Cool brownies before cutting. Makes 16 small bars.

Per brownie: 150 calories; 1g protein; 7 g total fat; 1g fiber; 24g carbohydrates; 27 mg cholesterol; 75 mg sodium

Carol’s Sorghum Blend
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
Whisk ingredients together until well-blended and store (tightly covered) in a dark, dry place.

It is Pumpkin Spice Latte Time!

Every fall, one “flavor” gets a ton of attention.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pumpkin Spice Latte


In fact, one sure sign that Fall has arrived is the Pumpkin Spice Latte, which returns to Starbucks with regularity. If you are a coffee fan—as I am— then this 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!

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 is controlling the sugar, since I find the Starbucks version 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!

FODMAP-Friendly Gluten-Free Shrimp Risotto

There has been a lot written about FODMAP-friendly foods recently.

The Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free Cookbook by Marlisa Brown, MS, RD, CDE

The Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free Cookbook by Marlisa Brown, MS, RD, CDE

Just what are FODMAPS? The word itself is an acronym that includes: Fermentable Oligo-Di-
Monosaccharides and Polyols. FODMAPS are actually sugars and are found in many foods. It is believed that, for some people, sensitivity to FODMAPS is the source of their discomfort. If you believe you may be affected by FODMAPS, the question is “How do you prepare food that meets the requirement of this diet?

My friend and colleague, Marlisa Brown, a dietitian who practices in New York has the answer in the 2nd edition of her very helpful book, The Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free Cookbook. Marlisa is not only a registered dietitian, but also a certified diabetes educator and chef. Her company is called Total Wellness, Inc. and her clients include some of the most famous people and companies in the U.S., plus she studied at the Culinary Institute of America. So, I trust what she says and I’m glad to have Marlisa and her book as a guide to help people avoid FODMAPs if they (and their health professionals) think this is the right diet for them.

Here is what’s in Marlisa’s book:

• Over 100 Delicious Gluten-Free Recipes
• Allergy Information for Top Allergens on Every Recipe
• Vegetarian and Vegan Highlighted
• FODMAPs Recipes Highlighted
• Kid Friendly Snacks
• Comfort Food Classics
• Quick Weeknight Dinners
• Color Photos
• Holiday Recipes, Appetizers, Luscious Desserts, and more

For more information, go to Marlisa’s blog. I know you are anxious to try one of Marlisa’s delicious recipes so here it is:


Shrimp Risotto (FODMAP-friendly)

Shrimp Risotto (FODMAP-friendly)

Shrimp Risotto
Reprinted with permission from The Gluten-Free, Hassle-Free Cookbook, 2nd edition
By Marlisa Brown MS, RD, CDE, CDN
A classic Italian rice dish.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine (optional)
3 cups (24oz) gluten-free low sodium chicken broth
1 cup green peas
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

[1] Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the shrimp are just opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl to cool.

[2] Return the pan to the heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes.

[3] Add the rice and stir until coated about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the wine is absorbed.

[4] Add a ½ cup of the broth to the rice stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed. When the rice is almost dry, add another ½ cup broth and repeat the process. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed.

[5] Stir in the peas, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and lemon zest and reserved shrimp. Serve immediately. Serves 6

Nutritional information: 238 calories, 15.3 grams protein, 29.1 grams carbohydrates, 6.6 grams fat, 69.6 milligrams cholesterol, 656.9 milligrams sodium, 1.8 grams fiber, 77 milligrams calcium, <1 milligram iron

FODMAPs: To make FODMAP-friendly, omit onion and replace with chopped green onions.
Omit the garlic and use garlic infused oil.

Allergy Tip: Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free, Peanut-Free, Fish-Free. Double check the chicken broth for soy. To make milk free, use a milk free cheese substitute for the Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Risotto turns glutinous when held too long so you should serve it right away.

Too Much Zucchini? Make Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread!

Summer is waning here in Colorado, but it is still warm enough for certain crops—such as zucchini. Here is a delicious way to use it up—Zucchini Bread! Bake several batches and freeze for later this winter.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

Gluten-Free 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.

Chocolate Cookies from Grape Skin Flour at Holy Cross Abbey Winery

Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Cookies Made from Grape Skin Flour

Looking for a delightful way to spend a lovely Fall day in Colorado? I will be the guest author at the fabulous Harvest Fest at Holy Cross Abbey Winery in the Royal Gorge Country of Canon City, Colorado on September 26 and 27.

Come see me! There will be music, food, many booths to explore, and of course—wine-tasting.

I will be serving special gluten-free chocolate cookies, using flour made from Chardonnay grape skins. These flours are darker in color so they are perfect for chocolate cookies. Grape skin flour can be made from any varietal of grape, with each lending its own uniqueness. It contributes antioxidants but can have an astringent taste, so using it in small portions, as in this chocolate cookie, is a perfect way to use it. You can find grape skin flour online or in specialty stores. I use a brand called Whole Vine, which comes from the wine country in California.


Adapted from 100 BEST QUICK GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES © 2014 by Carol Fenster.
Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
If you don’t have grape skin flour, use the same amount of sorghum, brown rice, millet, bean, or amaranth flour—or whatever flour you prefer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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