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 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

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!

Viking Ocean Cruise – Athens to Venice 2018

Greece has been on my bucket list for years, so we booked a Viking Ocean cruise from Athens to Venice this spring. We spent 5 days in the Hilton Athens, then 10 days on a cruise ship from Athens to Venice.

First Dinner in Athens

By the time we landed in Athens in late afternoon (after nearly 24 hours of travel) we were so famished that we went straight to the hotel’s dining room—even before going to our hotel room. Imagine my delight when the waiter brought me gluten-free bread (baked in-house) and seemed extremely well-versed in the gluten-free items on the menu.

GF Bread at Hilton Athens

GF Bread at Hilton Athens

It helped that he brought us free champagne to celebrate our first-time visit to Athens! That dinner turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. And, the scenic view from our hotel window was the Acropolis, off in the distance. What a terrific way to start the trip!

Greek Salad at Hilton Athens

Greek Salad at Hilton Athens

This meal featured a Greek Salad, which was different from our Americanized version. The biggest difference was the feta cheese. Notice how soft it is in the photo, less firm than our American versions. It is also less salty. The salad often includes green beans and this one also featured cooked quinoa. It was delicious!

Visiting Greek Ruins

Our sightseeing started off immediately the next morning—no time to sleep in.  After a fabulous breakfast buffet (featuring a gluten-free bread section), busses took us to the Mycenaean ruins north of Athens. That part of Greece is mountainous, volcanic, and arid so that’s why there are lots of olive trees—that’s all that can grow there.

Day Two in Athens was unplanned, so we did what we often do in new cities: we boarded a Hop On/Hop Off bus which circulated on a continuous route of scenic destinations. As the name implies, you can get off the bus at any stop you like and reboard when the next bus (usually in 20-30 minutes) appears. It is an inexpensive way to get an overview of a foreign city before deciding which points-of-interest you want to explore in depth. We have used this system all over the world (Rome, Barcelona, London, Bergen, Norway, etc.) and it works well for us.

Day Three was a day-long trip to Delphi, which was once regarded as the center of the world and the location of the Oracle of Apollo where all the wisdom was. All that’s left now are the ruins, which are really just columns of rock or marble.

Parthenon on Acropolis

Parthenon on Acropolis

Day Four proved to be the most physically-challenging of all. We climbed 80 steps to the top of the Acropolis, which is like a citadel or fortress built on a limestone hill that provides protection if invaded. The Acropolis, which is illuminated at night, is the hill itself while the Parthenon is one of the (most famous) structures built on it.

Thankfully, our hike was during broad daylight, but I realized one amazing thing: the shoes of millions of visitors have polished the steps to a smooth, yet dangerous sheen…..making them slippery and downright dangerous when wet. So, I was constantly watching where I stepped so I wouldn’t slip and fall. Notice the crane in the background: most of the Greek ruins are in need of constant repair because they are so old.

Acropolis from below

Acropolis from below

But once we were on top of the Acropolis the view was spectacular. I tried to imagine the Greeks who lived in Athens centuries ago and how they would retreat to this highest point if they were attacked. What a primitive way to live! How did they make sure they had enough food to weather a siege? What about sleeping arrangements? Disposing of waste? Clearly, I’m too urbanized!

 Serendipity in Athens

One day, we decided to abandon our guided tour and strike out on our own. We were hungry in downtown Athens, and found a small little cafe which turned out to be fantastic. We made a meal of olives, dolmades, and lots of prosciutto. The staff appeared to understand my gluten-free needs and we declared this meal a success. 





Prosciutto in Athens

Prosciutto in Athens

Dining Onboard the Viking Star

Later that day, we boarded our ship, the Viking Star. This was our 3rd time on the same ship, so it felt like returning home. The first thing I did upon entering the World Café was let the Head Waiter know my gluten-free needs. I was delighted to see GF signs on the buffet items.

GF Sign in World Cafe

GF Sign in World Cafe

One of my favorites is the Seafood Buffet.

Seafood Buffet

Seafood Buffet

Gluten-Free Bread on the Viking Star

I was served served several kinds of gluten-free bread on the Viking Star, depending on which restaurant I was in. Here are some photos:

GF Bread loaf on Viking Star

GF Bread loaf on Viking Star


GF Bread slice on Viking Star 2018

GF Bread slice on Viking Star 2018


GF Hamburger on Viking Star 2018

GF Hamburger on Viking Star 2018


Head Waiter Boban on Viking Star

Head Waiter Boban on Viking Star

My favorite head waiter, Boban, took care of my gluten-free needs and he was a delight to work with.

After 4 days of jam-packed sight-seeing in Athens, we slept in on Day 5 and took an afternoon tour to Cape Sounion, which lies at the southernmost point of the Attica peninsula. After the hectic pace of the city, it was nice to get out in the country. The Temple of Poseidon is located here.

Temple of Poseidon

Temple of Poseidon


Larry and Carol at Cape Sounion

Larry and Carol at Cape Sounion










Throughout the trip, I was amazed to see how many of our “English” words actually have roots in the Greek language. The Greek alphabet was difficult for us to read, so road signs were confusing. It’s the same alphabet used for the names of Greek sororities and fraternities on college campuses, but try reading those alphabet letters on a street sign!!!

Olives Dominate Greece

One day we toured an Olive Museum, where we learned that olives were the backbone of Greece. In most areas, the soil is too poor to grow much else than olive trees. The Greeks used olives and their oil for cooking, skin treatment, religious ceremonies, and then they burned the leftover pits and pulp for heat. The photo shows an ancient, very crude olive oil press which is how they manually extracted the oil from the olive fruit.

Olive oil press

Olive oil press

Greece’s Economy

You might be wondering about the economy? Greece is certainly is having economic problems, but our visit was unmarred by any strife. We did notice a lot of unsightly graffiti on buildings in Athens and our guides told us that young people use graffiti to express their discontent with the Greece economics and its likely impact on their future. One guide said the young people are disgruntled that their old-age pensions might be affected.  But, in general, we found the Greeks to be very welcoming and kind.

Our cruise ended in Venice, visiting Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia along the way. In all, it was a fantastic trip and I was able to “cross Greece off my bucket list.”

Celebrate a Gluten-Free Cinco de Mayo with Tortilla-Shell Salads

Here in the Southwest, we heartily observe Cinco de Mayo (May 5), a day of celebrating Mexican heritage and pride. While it has some serious roots in the history of Mexico, this date is also a good excuse to indulge in Mexican food and drink and have a little fun.

Gluten-free flour tortillas make crispy tortilla shell salads.

Gluten-free flour tortillas made crispy tortilla shell salads.

In keeping with the Mexican theme, have you ever craved those cute little tortilla shells filled with salads? I have, and then I discovered the fluted tortilla shell pans (4 to a box, around $10-$12 per box) in my local Kroger grocery store and I just absolutely had to make my own crisp tortilla shells.


[1] Place the tortilla shell pans on a rimmed 9×13-inch baking sheet for easier handling and to prevent sliding

[2] Gently press the flour tortillas into each pan with your hands, taking care not to tear the tortillas. If the tortillas have been refrigerated or are stiff, steam each one on a splatter guard set over a skillet of simmering water, covered with a lid, until soft and pliable, about 5 to 10 seconds. Then press it into the pan while it is still pliable.

[3] I tried many brands of gluten-free flour tortillas and the brand that works quite well is Rudi’s Fiesta flavor, although I have used all 3 flavors (Spinach, Fiesta, and Regular) with great success. Also, Rudi’s tortillas are fairly pliable, so you may not need to steam them. 

[4] Bake, following the instructions on your package. The time varies depending on the size of the tortilla, but will be under 10 minutes. Let the shells cool in the pan and then remove them and fill with your favorite salad.  I used a simple oil-and-vinegar salad dressing, with some extra cilantro tossed in because I love it, but you can use whatever you like. Ranch dressing would be also be great.

Crispy gluten-free tortillas bake into crispy shells.

Crispy gluten-free tortillas bake into crispy shells.


The salad in the photo contains lettuce, beans, tomatoes, black olives, cheddar cheese, avocado and some cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, but you could add chopped cooked chicken or cooked ground beef as well. Whatever makes a good Mexican filling is fine. Top with your favorite Mexican salsa and a wedge of lime and serve it with your favorite gluten-free beer. Here in Colorado, we’re partial to New Planet, brewed in Boulder, CO. If you prefer hard cider, you might try Angry Orchard.

The best part of this dish? You get to eat the shell so enjoy!!!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Homemade Gluten-Free Pepperoni Pizza

Of all the foods I missed when I adopted a gluten-free lifestyle, pizza was at the top of the list. In fact, pizza is the food I want when I’m stranded on that proverbial desert island.

 Pepperoni Pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

I didn’t eat my first pizza until I was 16 years old. Odd, isn’t it! And, frankly, I didn’t particularly care for it. But once I was in college, I became a pizza lover.

When wheat left my life in 1988, one of the first recipes I converted was pizza. The recipe below has gone through a few iterations since then and I have served it to many guests (even non-GF guests)—each devouring it with joy, not even caring that it was gluten-free because it was so good.

I have also included a recipe for pizza sauce, but you can use store-bought brands instead. And, I’m a big fan of making the dough ahead of time (maybe the night before?), which improves flavor and makes it easier to handle. Instructions are below. Enjoy!


Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

This pizza crust is so fabulous that it has received national acclaim and my family likes it better than store-bought pizza. You can hold it in your hand and it won’t crumble! The dough adheres to the pan better when it is greased with shortening rather than cooking spray. You can use store-bought pizza sauce, but mine is thicker so it won’t make the crust soggy.

Pizza Sauce (Makes 1 cup, enough for a 12-inch pizza)

1              can  (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1  1/2     teaspoons Italian seasoning 

1/2      teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

1/4      teaspoon garlic powder or 1 minced garlic clove

1          teaspoon sugar

1/4     teaspoon salt

Crust  (Makes a 12-inch pizza)

1              tablespoon active dry yeast 

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

1              teaspoon sugar

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              teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2         teaspoon salt

2              teaspoons olive oil

2              teaspoons cider vinegar


12           gluten-free pepperoni slices

1  1/2     cups (6 ounces) shredded Mozzarella cheese or cheese alternative

Pizza Sauce

[1] In a small, heavy saucepan combine all of the sauce ingredients and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Set aside.


[1] Place oven racks in the bottom and middle positions of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm milk for 5 minutes. In a food processor, blend all of the crust ingredients, including the yeast mixture, until the dough forms a ball. The dough will be very, very soft.  (Or, blend in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed until well blended.)

[2] Place the pizza dough in the center of a greased 12-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pizza pan. Liberally sprinkle the rice flour onto the dough; then press the dough into the pan with your hands, continuing to dust the dough with flour to prevent sticking. Make the edges thicker to contain the toppings, taking care to make the dough as smooth and even as possible for the prettiest crust. At first, it will seem as though there is not enough dough to cover the pan but don’t worry―it is just the right amount.

[3] Bake the pizza crust for 10 minutes on the bottom rack. Remove from the oven and brush the top with the pizza sauce.  Arrange the pepperoni slices on top and sprinkle with the cheese. Return the pizza to the oven and bake on the middle rack until nicely browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove the pizza from the oven and cool it on a wire rack for 5 minutes. At this point, you may brush the crust edges with a little olive oil (optional) or proceed to cutting it into 6 slices. Serve warm.

Makes a 12-inch pizza, 6 slice

Per slice: 295 calories; 12 grams protein; 13 grams total fat;  2 grams fiber; 32 grams carbohydrates; 35 mgs cholesterol; 856 mgs sodium

How to Shape Pizza Crust Dough

See a step-by-step guide to making gluten-free pizza at Click on Tutorials, then on Pizza 101.

Make-Ahead Pizza Crust Dough

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a pizzeria in your own kitchen? Well, that may be asking a bit much. But you can have pizza often and with little effort, with a little advance preparation. Make the pizza crust dough ahead of time and freeze it, tightly covered, for up to a month. Thaw the dough overnight, tightly covered, in the refrigerator before shaping the dough on the pizza pan following Step 2 above. Or, make the dough on weekends, refrigerate tightly covered, and bake it up to 3 days later.  The only change required for make-ahead dough is to use cold, rather than warm milk so the yeast won’t activate until the pizza goes in the oven. While the chilled dough is easier to shape, it may take longer to rise because it is cold so let the shaped crust sit on the countertop for 10 minutes to warm up a bit before baking. The sauce can also be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a week.

Bake-Ahead Pizza Crust

Remember when we could buy a pizza crust at the grocery store… the ones that are already baked and just need toppings and a warm-up in the oven? Well, you can make your own. Prepare the pizza crust dough and shape it following Step 2 above. Then, proceed to Step 3 and bake on the bottom rack of a preheated oven for 10 minutes but then―instead of adding the toppings―shift the pizza pan to the middle rack and bake just until the crust is a light golden brown and firm to the touch, about 10 to 15 minutes. (The goal is to bake it just long enough to cook the dough but not brown it so much that it burns during the final baking.) Remove the pizza crust from the oven and cool it completely on a wire rack. Then wrap it tightly in foil and freeze for up to a month.

When you’re ready to bake the pizza, remove the foil and place the pizza on a lightly greased 12-inch pizza pan. Let the crust thaw while you prepare the toppings, about 10 minutes. Add the toppings and bake on the middle rack in a preheated oven just until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes (depending on toppings). Serve immediately.


Red Quinoa Salad for March: National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month- Eat More Whole Grains

I am a devoted believer in eating whole grains, not only for their important nutrients but if they are prepared correctly they can be a low-calorie dish—perfect for weight-loss.  But setting aside time to cook whole grains requires discipline and planning, since most whole grains must be cooked from scratch and that takes precious time.

Red Quinoa Salad is Gluten-Free

Red Quinoa Salad

Quinoa: The “Mother” Grain

Since March is National Nutrition Month, I focus on quinoa today. Technically a seed, quinoa—called the “mother grain” because it is one of the most nutritious of all grains—cooks just like rice, in about 15 to 20 minutes, so it easy to plan its preparation for our gluten-free meals. That 15 to 20 minute prep time makes it one of the quickest-cooking whole grains and a good choice for busy households.

True-Food Kitchen – a Dr. Andrew Weil-inspired Restaurant

I first tasted red quinoa a few years ago at True Food Kitchen in Scottsdale—a Dr. Andrew Weil-inspired restaurant— in a salad similar to the one below.  I was hooked because the flavor of red quinoa is a little less intrusive and a little more pleasantly nutty than the regular, white-tan quinoa—and I think it’s prettier.

I’ve been tinkering with this red quinoa salad for awhile now and really like this vibrant, nutritious version that is also extremely flavorful.  Red beets, pomegranates, and spinach (or arugula) are powerhouses of nutrition and the Clementines (called Cuties) add color and Vitamin C.  Even beet-haters might like it because the beets are cut in shoe-strings and just blend in with all of the other wonderful parts of this salad. But, recipes like this just beg for tinkering so change out the ingredients as you wish and make it your own.

Red Quinoa Salad     


By Carol Fenster©

Red quinoa is much more colorful than white quinoa and—along with the vibrant colors from the beets and Clementines—this is a stunning dish, especially when made with dark green spinach for a lovely color contrast.


1 ¾ cup vegetable broth or low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup red quinoa

¼ teaspoon salt

2 small Clementines or 1 medium orange, some segments reserved for garnish

½ can (14-ounce) shoestring beets, thoroughly drained

Seeds from 1 pomegranate (about ½ to ¾ cup), reserve some for garnish

½ cup raisins or dried cranberries

1 cup baby spinach or arugula, washed and patted dry

½ cup slivered almonds (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish


1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

[1] In large saucepan, bring broth to boil high heat. Add quinoa and salt and cook, covered, until broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer quinoa to large bowl; drain any excess broth.

[2] Grate the Clementine (or orange) to yield two teaspoons zest and add to quinoa, then cut Clementine into segments and add to quinoa.  Add the beets, pomegranate seeds, raisins, spinach, almonds, and 2 tablespoons of parsley. Toss to combine thoroughly

[3] Make dressing: In small bowl or glass jar, whisk together orange juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper until blended. Slowly whisk in oil in thin stream until well combined. Add enough dressing to quinoa to coat thoroughly and serve, either in large bowl or large platter, garnished with remaining Clementine segments, pomegranate seeds, and parsley.  Serves 4 as a main dish; 6 as a side dish.

Calories per serving:  310; 11g protein; 13g fat, 4g fiber; 42g carbohydrates; 360mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cookies: Dessert Worthy of an Academy Award

From my standpoint, any occasion is a good time to eat chocolate. The Academy Awards are this coming Sunday night (March 4) and guess what? I’m serving chocolate dessert!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Of course, most of us will be watching for the “best-dressed” list, who walks the Red Carpet with whom, and wondering what the social and political gaffes will be when the stars accept an Oscar.

But my mind automatically goes to “what should we eat?” While Wolfgang Puck prepares his exotic feasts for the Hollywood elite, I’m preparing simple, yet special chocolate cookies at home. The dough is made ahead of time and chilled. I usually shape all of the dough into balls and just bake a few at a time—leaving the rest in the freezer for a last-minute dessert when I’m time-stressed. 

Another advantage of this dessert is that the cookies bake in 10 minutes, so I’m not torn away from the TV screen for very long.  May your favorite movie win!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies

by Carol Fenster

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

This recipe uses only one kind of flour (rather than a blend) and it gives you a chance to try different gluten-free flours. Instead or sorghum or brown rice, perhaps the same amount of whole grain flours such as amaranth, buckwheat, or millet flour instead.

20 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (at least 60% cocoa), divided

3 tablespoons butter or buttery spread

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup sorghum flour or brown rice flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup finely chopped walnuts 

[1] In medium microwave-safe bowl, heat 8 ounces (1 heaping cup) of chocolate chips, butter, and peanut butter on Low power in microwave oven 1 to 2 minutes, or until melted. Stir; set aside to cool.

[2] In large bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt with electric mixer on low speed until very well blended. Beat in melted chocolate mixture until no flour streaks remain. Stir in walnuts and remaining chocolate chips. Dough will be soft. Refrigerate, covered, 2 hours.

[3] Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 15×10-inch baking sheet (not nonstick) with parchment paper. Shape dough into 48 walnut-sized balls and place 12 balls, at least 1 ½-inches apart, on sheet.

[4] Bake just until cookies are shiny and crust starts to crack, about 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool cookies 2 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. Or, freeze balls up to 1 month and bake later. Makes 48 cookies

Per serving: 285 calories; 9g protein; 14g total fat; 4g fiber; 33g carbohydrates; 2mg cholesterol; 124mg sodium


Easy Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Two on Valentine’s Day

Each year I try to make a special dessert that lives up to the Valentine’s Day hype. That means it has to be rich and satisfying, usually chocolate. But since Valentine’s Day falls on a weeknight this year, this dessert needs to be super-easy—and preferably make-ahead so there’s no last-minute scramble.

Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Two

Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Two

This easy Chocolate-Orange Mousse fits the bill. I make it the night before, refrigerate it in individual servings (in the photo, I use my Mother’s china cups, but dessert bowls or wine glasses also work). When dinner is finished, there’s no last-minute plating; I just pull the desserts from the fridge, add a dollop of whipped topping (or not) and serve. At our house, dessert might also include a cup of dark-roasted coffee or perhaps a latte.

This recipe is designed for two people, so you have control over portion-size (although no one will mind if you double the recipe and indulge again tomorrow). Enjoy!


Easy Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Two

Recipe by Carol Fenster

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

This creamy dessert is equally good whether you use tofu or yogurt, but I often use yogurt to get some added calcium into my diet. Use the type and amount of sweetener that suits your family. For special occasions like Valentine’s Day, I like to add a tablespoon of liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec or whatever liqueur you like.

5 to 6 ounces (half-package) soft silken tofu or a 5-ounce tub of vanilla Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Dutch/alkali for its darker look)

3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup or agave nectar, or to taste

1 tablespoon grated orange zest, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Garnishes: Dollop of whipped cream or whipped topping and dusting or orange zest

In a blender, puree tofu (or yogurt), cocoa powder, honey, vanilla, (and liqueur if using) until very, very smooth.  Stir in zest and divide mousse between two small coffee cups, wine goblets, or martini glasses and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.  Serve, garnished with whipped cream and grated zest.

Loaded Potato Skins for Super Bowl Sunday

I once took my knitting to a Super Bowl get-together at a neighbor’s house. After that, our Super Bowl invitations seemed to taper off. Back then, I was more interested in knitting than watching a football game.

Loaded Potato Skins. Photo by Tom Hirschfeld.

Loaded Potato Skins. Photo by Jason Wyche.

Today, I’m still not an avid football fan, but if our hometown Denver Broncos are playing (as they were in 2016) then my interest heightens.

It’s All About the Food

Instead, I watch the Super Bowl for the ads.  And the food. This year I have a hankering for Loaded Potato Skins.

Loaded Potato Skins are a favorite at our house, regardless of the occasion. Even the grandkids love them and they especially like doing the “loading” (filling the crispy potato skins with as much of their favorite fillings as possible—that usually means lots of bacon and cheese!).

Loaded Potato Skins are Very Versatile

The nice thing about potato skins is that though they are small, they are quite filling. If you eat enough of them, they can almost be a meal in themselves. And, you can provide a variety of toppings that meet your guests’ special diet needs so you don’t have to prepare multiple versions of the same dish to suit everyone.

For example, for my lactose-friends I use Green Valley sour cream or a sour cream alternative such as Tofutti. For the cheese, use one of the many cheddar-cheese alternatives on the market (e.g., So Delicious, Daiya). All of them melt fairly well (much better than some of the older versions we once used).

For vegetarians, omit the traditional bacon and use vegetarian bacon (many brands at your supermarket).  Or, vegetarian versions of sausage work nicely too.

May the best team win!

Loaded Potato Skins

Excerpted from 100 BEST QUICK GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES © 2014 by Carol Fenster.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

This recipe is a fantastic crowd-pleaser but is quicker by roasting the potatoes in advance (perhaps when making tonight’s dinner?) and keeping cooked bacon strips in the freezer. I prefer smaller russets, about 3 -inches long, which gives you more crispy skin in proportion to the soft interior. If you can’t find them, cut large, baked russets into quarters and scoop a hole in the flesh to hold the fillings.

8              small (3-inch) cooked russet potatoes (about 2 [1/4] pounds), at room temperature

2              tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

8              ounces (about 1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese or cheese alternative

4              cooked bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1/2         cup sour cream or sour cream alternative

2              green onions, including green tops, sliced thinly sliced

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to broil. Slice each cooked potato in half lengthwise (or cut into quarters if using large russets). Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving about [1/4] -inch of flesh along the skin. (Use the flesh for another use.) Brush both sides of the potatoes with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the potato skins, cut -side down, on a rimmed baking sheet.

[2] Broil until the skins start to crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes (watch closely so they don’t burn). Flip the skins over and broil until the top edges just start to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cheese evenly in the potato skins.

[3] Return the potato skins to the oven and broil just until the cheese starts to melt, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the potato skins from the oven and sprinkle with the bacon. Dot each with 1 1/2 teaspoons of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped green onions. Serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings; 2 skins (halves) each

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Broiling time: 8 to 12 minutes

Per serving: 330 calories; 14g protein; 20g total fat; 2g fiber; 23g carbohydrates; 43mg cholesterol; 414mg sodium

Gluten-Free on a Viking Ocean Cruise from Rome to Barcelona

They say that tossing coins in Rome’s Trevi Fountain assures your return. Decades ago—on our first trip to Europe as newlyweds—I tossed those coins and my wish finally came true. We sailed from Rome, Italy to Barcelona, Spain on a 930-passenger ocean cruiser last month.

Rome skyline

Rome skyline

I have sailed with Viking on three previous cruises, and am impressed with how they meet my gluten-free needs and their customer service attitude. So, off we went for an adventure that also included Sicily, Sardenia, Tunis (Tunisia), Algiers (Algeria), and Valencia, Spain.


We spent two days in Rome on our own before boarding our ship, the Viking Star, and every restaurant had gluten-free options. Our hotel, the Grand Hotel Palace, had gluten-free spaghetti with clams and it was delicious. Even the breakfast buffet at the hotel offered gluten-free bread.

GF Bread at Grand Hotel Palace in Rome

GF Bread at Grand Hotel Palace in Rome

One night, we walked to nearby Il Piccolo Mondo restaurant, and they made my gluten-free Tiramisu with gluten-free cookies. After two days of seafood and pasta in Rome, I craved meat so I had a gluten-free hamburger at Hard Rock Café.

Hard Rock Cafe GF hamburgers

Hard Rock Cafe GF hamburgers

Rome is a vibrant city, rich with history and we saw all the usual sights: Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps. But the highlight was the Vatican where Pope Francis spoke to the crowds outside St. Peter’s Basilica to celebrate the Immaculate Conception. I learned that the Vatican City is somewhat like its own country within Rome and has its own government, police, etc.

The Food on a Viking Ocean Cruise

Cruise ships have an abundance of food, available in multiple restaurants at almost every hour of the day. In fact, if you miss a meal you can always order 24-hour room service to your cabin. You won’t go hungry on a  cruise ship!

Early on, I met my hero—Head Waiter Boban, from Macedonia. His job was to make sure I ate well. Thanks to his communications with the kitchen staff (99 chefs for 930 passengers) I had delicious gluten-free bread for toast in the morning and gluten-free buns for hamburgers. You can have gluten-free pizza, French toast, pancakes, and so on. Just ask a day ahead so they have time to prepare it.

Viking GF hamburger

Viking GF hamburger

There were usually at least one or two gluten-free choices for dessert, often a mousse, pudding, and the usual gelato and sorbets. Boban served me Dark Chocolate Flourless Cake and two kinds of soufflé: Dark Chocolate and Grand Marnier. 

Chocolate souffle

Chocolate souffle


One of my favorite naturally-gluten-free desserts was the chocolate fondue with fresh fruit. On my final evening, Boban brought me two desserts: my favorite Crème Brulee (flavored with bourbon) and a flourless Chocolate Cake. I know I gained weight on this cruise, thanks to Boban.

Creme Brulee on Viking

Creme Brulee on Viking

One night I ordered gluten-free Fettucini Carbonara in Manfredi’s, an Italian restaurant on the ship. I had never eaten carbonara anywhere but in my own kitchen so this was a real treat.

Spaghetti Carbonara on Viking

Spaghetti Carbonara on Viking

The Process: How You Get Gluten-Free Food on a Cruise

You need to be proactive! I notified Viking of my gluten-free needs when I booked the cruise, but it is important to “announce” your needs directly with the Viking staff right after you board the ship. I have found that this is necessary to remind them of your needs.

Your “announcement” starts the following process: Every evening, Boban would deliver the next day’s dinner menu to my cabin. I circled my choices (for appetizer, entrée, and dessert) and returned it to the dining room the next morning. When I arrived for dinner, my server already knew what my choices were and made sure I got the right dish.

We usually ate in the World Café (the buffet restaurant) which was really quite good and had two major benefits: it was super-fast because we could simply choose our food on-the-spot from the vast array of choices and it also gave us a chance to taste a wider variety of different dishes. As we progressed from country to country, the kitchen often featured a dish from that country (e.g., risotto in Italy).

Yet another advantage to the World Café is that it featured an open-kitchen so there were lots of chefs that I could ask about the contents of any dish. They were all very knowledgeable, but they didn’t hesitate to ask a superior about the dish’s ingredients to make sure I was safe. One of the new additions to the buffet since my last cruise in 2016 was that gluten-free dishes were labeled “gluten-free.”

My Tips for You
The major thing I learned about getting the food you want on a cruise ship is that you must ask. For example, on the first day right after we boarded the ship I perused the array of desserts in the buffet and only saw fruit. I wanted more. Only after three requests, each request escalating to someone with more authority and finally ending with Head Waiter Boban, did I get a delicious chocolate flourless cake. If you want other baked goods, be sure to pre-order them the day before (except for the bread, which is always on hand), because these items are not baked unless a passenger asks for it.

Final Days in Barcelona

After disembarking the ship, we spent two more days in Barcelona. It is truly beautiful and very much influenced by Antoni Gaudi, a Catalonian architect. If you read Dan Brown’s recent book, Origin, many of Gaudi’s building are featured in the book such as Casa Mila and La Sagrada Familia, which is the most unusual church you may ever see. Another overwhelming site is Montserrat about an hour outside Barcelona, where a monastery sits nestled alongside a massive granite mountain.

Paella in Barcelona

Paella in Barcelona

We ate seafood Paella twice while in Barcelona and Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with aioli) We truly loved the Spanish hot chocolate, which is thicker than American hot chocolate and has a thin pudding consistency. Churros are typically dipped in it (but they are not gluten-free, so I didn’t do this). Rich and creamy, this hot drink is not as sweet as our American hot chocolate either.

Patatas Bravas in Barcelona

Patatas Bravas in Barcelona


Hot Chocolate in Barcelona

Hot Chocolate in Barcelona

Airline Food

We flew from Denver to Toronto to Rome on Air Canada and my gluten-free meal was just fine.

Air Canada GF meal

Air Canada GF meal

However, on my return home on Lufthansa from Barcelona to Munich to Denver, they didn’t have my gluten-free meal due to a miscommunication so they gave me a few salads to tide me over. Luckily, I had some snack bars and pistachios but the moral of this story is always have food with you when you board an airline, just in case.


Baked Eggs in Ham Baskets: Perfect for Holiday Entertaining

I am often asked “How do you come up with your recipes?” Well, in the case of this beautiful brunch dish of Baked Eggs in Ham Baskets, my inspiration came from a bed-and-breakfast in Utah.

Baked Eggs in Ham Baskets. Photo by Tom Hirschfeld.

Baked Eggs in Ham Baskets. Photo by Tom Hirschfeld.


My husband and I were staying at a lovely inn near Zion National Park, one of many stunningly beautiful parks in Utah that feature “out-of-this-world” red sandstone formations. It’s hard to believe that Mother Nature carved these sometimes weird shapes, but that’s exactly what happened over millions of years. If you have never traveled there, it is worth a visit.

Breakfast featured the inn’s version of eggs baked in Black Forest ham baskets. The baskets were baked in a muffin pan, so they were perfectly round and gorgeous. I was smitten! I didn’t ask for the recipe (I never do) but I went home and created my own version, which I serve often.

During this holiday season when we’re likely to have houseguests, it’s the perfect breakfast or brunch dish. The following recipe is from Gluten-Free Cooking for Two which features two-serving recipes. But the beauty of this dish is that you can make as many baskets as you like.


Text and image from GLUTEN-FREE COOKING FOR TWO by Carol Fenster and Tom Hirschfeld. Copyright © 2017 by Carol Fenster and Tom Hirschfeld. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Years ago, I ate this dish at a bed-and-breakfast near Zion National Park in Utah and I was smitten with how pretty these baskets were, yet so easy. I went home and immediately crafted my own version. Depending on the size and shape of your Black Forest ham slices, you may need to cut or tear them so they form a ruffled border around the egg. If you’re feeling especially hungry, simply double the ingredients to make four baskets. For a Southwest touch, skip the pesto and serve with a tablespoon of Mexican salsa on top.

4              very thin slices Black Forest ham (or two large slices)

1              small plum tomato or 4 cherry or grape tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

2              teaspoons store-bought pesto (optional – but adds wonderful flavor)

2              tablespoons chopped fresh chives or parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried), plus extra for garnish

2              large eggs, at room temperature

1/16       teaspoon (pinch) salt 

1/16       teaspoon (pinch) freshly ground black pepper

[1] Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously grease two of the cups in a standard 6-muffin pan.  

[2] Gently press 2 slices of ham into each greased cup, positioning the ham so it creates a border around the edge of each cup. Divide the diced tomatoes, pesto (if using), and 1 tablespoon of the parsley in each cup. Break an egg into each cup and poke the yoke with a fork. Sprinkle each egg with salt and pepper.

[3] Bake 12 to 15 minutes for soft eggs, 15 to 25 minutes for hard-cooked eggs, or until eggs reached desired doneness.  The eggs continue to cook after you remove them from the oven, so don’t overcook. Remove the baskets from the muffin ups and serve immediately, garnished with the chives. 

Makes 2 servings

Per serving:  158calories; 17g protein; 9g total fat; 1g fiber; 3g carbohydrates; 218mgs cholesterol;  569mgs sodium

Pumpkin Spice Trifle for Thanksgiving Dessert

I know many of you are intimidated by making gluten-free pie-crust for your pumpkin pies. I agree, pie crust can be challenging and we don’t need any more stress during the holidays, do we!

Pumpkin Spice Trifle

Pumpkin Spice Trifle

So, here is a dessert that contains the luscious flavors of pumpkin pie yet requires no pie-crust skills. It is a gorgeous Pumpkin Spice Trifle that will “wow” your guests and satisfy any longing for pumpkin pie.

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 make my own version using the flavors of pumpkin pie. Rather than cake, I use ginger cookies (I especially like Pamela’s). Rather than custard, I use a combination of pumpkin puree and whipped cream or topping. The dish stands up better if you use whipped topping, however, probably because of the stabilizers it contains.

Glass Trifle Bowl
The one thing you will need that you 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 and discount stores, as well as online. The straight sides of the bowl are important because the layered ingredients can 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!

Years 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 own kitchen!

Pumpkin Spice Trifle
recipe by Carol Fenster 
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.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

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