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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.

Join Carol at the National Western Complex, Expo Hall level 2 in Denver on April 21,10:30 am during the GFAF Expo Conference. See you there!

Gluten-Free at Rancho La Puerta Spa & Resort

One of the prettiest places on earth is just an hour south of San Diego, CA: Rancho La Puerta Resort & Spa, voted “World’s Best Destination Spa” by Travel+Leisure magazine for the 3rd year in a row. This lovely, 3,000 acre haven, developed by Deborah Szekely and her late husband over 70 years ago, is the only destination-spa I’ve ever visited.

Spas are, by definition, a luxury. But there’s a way to enjoy a slice of this remarkable place for one day at only $235 per person. It is called Saturday at The Ranch; a bus picks you up at Balboa Park at 7:30 AM and an hour or so later you’re touring the grounds, taking fitness classes, getting a massage, hiking, dining on fabulously healthy, delicious food, and engaging in a hand-on cooking class with the Ranch’s cooking school Executive Chef Denise Roa.

A Day at Rancho La Puerta

Our day began bright and early; up at the crack of dawn to make sure we didn’t miss our 7:30 AM bus. None of us got motion sickness on the beautiful but curvy road from San Diego to Tecate, in the Baja, California. After a brief tour of the Ranch, where we admired the lovely foliage, blooming plants, Southwestern architecture, and many art sculptures, we explored the grounds. That’s me by the fountain, one of my favorite spots.

Carol at Rancho La Puerta

Carol at Rancho La Puerta

Rather than have a massage or take a class, I chose to wander the around and enjoy the gorgeous weather and spectacular views from as many vantage points as I could find.

Lunch

Every meal at the Ranch is super-healthy and lunch is no exception. It is served buffet-style, so you help yourself to mounds of lettuce greens (grown right there), topped with whatever vegetables are in season from their own garden. Protein was in the form of tuna salad, dessert was fresh apples from their orchard. Although it is not a weight-loss type of spa, every dish is labeled with calorie content as a guide. But you can eat as much as you want, so I enjoyed a huge plate of greens and vegetables, one of my favorite types of lunch.

Cooking at La Cocini que Canta (The Kitchen that Sings)

Despite all the fun we had throughout the day, the highlight for me was the 3-hour, hands-on cooking class with Executive Chef Denise Roa, a fabulous ambassador for the Ranch’s healthy focus. She is lovely, articulate, and extremely knowledgeable about food.

The class began at 4 PM and the kitchen was ready for us. All of our ingredients were organized by work-stations and our group of 16 quickly divided into small groups, each assigned to a dish. The meal was a Fish Taco Bar, complete with hand-made masa-based corn tortillas, a variety of salsas, rice and mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, cactus (nopales) salad(see photo)

Nopales (cactus) leaves ready for roasting

Nopales (cactus) leaves ready for roasting

, and guacamole. The fish was shrimp and calamari brought in from the Pacific Ocean—tossed in spices and peppers for full flavor.

Fish Taco Bar at La Cocina que Canta Cooking School

Fish Taco Bar at La Cocina que Canta Cooking School

Dessert was healthy, but delicious: Almond-flour cookies with fruit compote. And, a lovely red-wine sangria was the perfect touch. We also drank hibiscus tea, rice milk, and plain water infused with lemon verbena.

Naturally Gluten-free

But here’s the best part: the entire meal was naturally gluten-free. Chef Denise feels that it is easy to eat gluten-free if you cook your own food and don’t eat processed foods. Only a couple of us in the class actually required a gluten-free meal, but the others simply didn’t notice the absence of gluten.

Each dish was authentic Mexico, made from scratch and then served buffet-style. Chef Denise’s staff had all the fresh produce from the garden washed and apportioned at our stations, but it was our job to actually make the dish so there was what resembles “organized chaos” as we all began chopping, peeling, cooking, baking, and frying…..at once. Luckily, the kitchen is organized around a huge island that we can all stand around to work so there was room for everybody.

I was assigned to making Roasted Guero Peppers (see photo), a light yellow, fairly mild pepper that I’d never heard of before.

Roasted Guero Peppers

Roasted Guero Peppers

Like many of the other dishes, its preparation was quite simple: roast in a skillet in some olive oil until lightly charred, mix with sautéed onions, lime juice, and soy sauce and let sit for a few minutes. We ate them whole with our tacos, and they were delicious!

Rancho La Puerta’s 6-Acre Organic Garden

Usually, part of the class process is to walk through the gardens before the class starts and gather herbs, vegetables, fruits—whatever is in season. That means that we hand-carry freshly picked items—with the dirt still clinging to the roots—directly into the kitchen to wash and prepare for dinner. That’s a process that many people (unless they have their own garden) don’t get to experience. Talk about eating locally!!!

But tonight, Chef Denise wisely advised us that the prettiest time of the day to visit the garden was just before sunset when the wind died down, the birds sang, and the light was better for photos. So, after dinner was prepared, sangria in hand, we strolled through the garden to see things I’ve never seen before: pomegranates growing on trees and persimmons growing on bushes. What a treat to see this! And, then plants I’ve seen before but always admire: small eggplants, rows of Romaine lettuce, 5 different kinds of basil, leeks, yellow carrots that Chef Denise pulled from the soil (see photo),

Rancho La Puerta Organic Garden

Chef Denise Roa pulls carrots from garden.

rinsed off with water right there in the garden, and we ate them (tops and all). They were so fresh-tasting.

After dinner, we said goodbyes to many new friends and our wonderful Chef Denise and her crew and walked into the balmy night to our bus to begin our trek back to San Diego. It had been a jam-packed day, but relaxing, rewarding, and most of all, delicious. On my way out, I noticed that my book,

Carol's 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes at  Rancho La Puerta
Carol’s 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes at Rancho La Puerta

1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes, was on the reference shelf at the cooking school. It was a good day!