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!

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)

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 Dining At Inn at Little Washington

Inn at Little Washington

This restaurant has been on my bucket list for 20 years. My husband’s milestone birthday was the perfect reason for this “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. I booked our dinner almost two months in advance using OpenTable and had no trouble securing a reservation for two. I alerted them about the birthday, and our menus featured the headliner: “Happy Birthday Larry.” Nice touch!

Inn at Little Washington

Inn at Little Washington

Dining as Theater

From the minute you walk in the door, it is a performance—much like a play in a theater. The décor is lavish with lots of color, fabric, and pattern. Each room is decorated differently (the place started out in a converted garage and simply grew as the owner added adjacent properties). Even the ceiling of our dining area was decoratively draped in fabric. There is clearly an emphasis on the “experience” of dining and making it fun and entertaining.

A romantic table at Inn at Little Washington

A romantic table at Inn at Little Washington

The History

Chef Patrick O’Connell likes theater and wants your experience to delight you. He’s been at the helm for nearly 40 years and most restaurants don’t have this longevity. Their opening night in 1978 was marred by a major blizzard and an entrée item was $4.95. Today, the cost of the multi-course meal is $218 per person. With paired wines, the cost is $343. We couldn’t drink that much wine, so we went with the $218 menu.

The Menu

The star of this experience is the food and the way it is served. There were three menu choices: traditional, adventurous (it was actually called “Here and Now”) and vegetarian. I chose the Here and Now because it looked really different. Hubby chose the traditional menu. Gluten-free bread was delicious.

Gluten-Free Bread

Gluten-Free Bread


From the start, I was reassured by the staff that they would meet my gluten-free needs. Discreetly, they swapped my “regular” water glass for a pretty blue cut-glass version and only after I asked did they admit that this was one of their ways to remind staff of my gluten-free status. Clever!

Popcorn with Shaved Truffles

Popcorn with Shaved Truffles

There are four entrée choices on each menu, but that doesn’t mean you only eat four courses. The Amuse-Bouche (it means “entertain the mouth”) featured four items and they were all delicious, but three of them were outstanding: popcorn with shaved truffles, a red pepper soup and a fried potato round filled with a cream-cheese dip. Each is served in a beautiful manner, and each time waiters placed a dish in front of me they reminded me that my version was gluten-free (and sometimes explained how it was altered to be gluten-free).

My Four Entrees

Catalan Custard

Catalan Custard

-Caramelized Catalan Custard with Foie Gras and Port-Soaked Raisins

A savory pudding with a sauteed slab of foie gras on top. Unusual, but the flavors melded perfectly and I wanted more! With all this food, each serving is quite small ….which is a good thing.

Chilled Veal Tongue with Horseradish Ice Cream

Chilled Veal Tongue with Horseradish Ice Cream

-Chilled Veal Tongue with Pickled Root Vegetables and Horseradish Ice Cream.

I was most concerned about this dish because of its unusual contents. However, it was delicious and horseradish ice cream is really good. Who knew!!

-Japanese Wagyu Beef with Potato Noodles in Fragrant Broth

As part of the “theater” effect, the waiters walk around with a large, clear glass teapot of the broth and make a great show of pouring it into your bowl of beef. Again, delicious!

-Grilled King Lamb Chop Perfumed with Rosemary

A simple lamb chop (from Colorado, my state) and it was perfect. Served with two sauces which come is tiny little pitchers on your plate. Fabulous!

Cheese and Faira, The Cow

Although we didn’t order the cheese course, here’s what happens if you do: Cameron, the Fromager/Teas Master (and he’s a delight) brings “Faira” to your table, who is a full-size ceramic cow on wheels. The cheeses rest on her back and she “moo’s” along the way. Needless to say, this is a hit with diners.


By this time, we were stuffed! But there is always room for dessert, especially chocolate dessert. So I ordered the Chocolate-Mint Surprise. There were a few small desserts served before this, including a coconut panna cotta.  But it was the chocolate dessert that was amazing.

The waiter brought a chocolate “ball”, about the size of a baseball. It rested on some grated chocolate. Rather plain looking, I thought. Then the waiter raised a gold-plated hammer over the ball and struck it, creating shards of chocolate that fell away to reveal a mousse-like filling. By this time, I am captivated and then the waiter pours hot fudge sauce on top, thus creating a decadent dessert. It was fabulous! This dessert was a great example of the “fun” atmosphere that prevailed throughout the dinner. No one was serious or stuffy. Their intent is that you have a great time while you’re eating great food.

A Goodbye Gift

But dinner wasn’t over yet. The waiter brought a gift box of goodies, including chocolates and candied fruit. And the box is a replica of the Inn. Finally, we got a brief tour of the kitchen, which is beautiful.

Dessert Gift Box

Dessert Gift Box


Our B&B was only 3 blocks away, so we drove home to find Port and Chocolate Candy in the living room waiting for us. What a night!

Gay Street Inn, Washington, VA

The tiny village of Washington, Virginia has roughly 130 people but boasts some great hotels. The Gay Street Inn B&B was a perfect choice for me because of their careful attention to the gluten-free diet. Set in a charming 1850’s farmhouse, owners Deb & Drew served gluten-free granola parfait, gluten-free scones (made by local baker Triple Oak Bakery), and gluten-free pancakes. It was a delicious breakfast, capped by a fabulous coffee. My kind of place!!

Pancakes at Gay Street Inn

Pancakes at Gay Street Inn


Scones at Gay Street Inn 2017

Scones at Gay Street Inn 2017

Greenbrier – America’s Resort

This famed hotel was also on my bucket list, so we drove another 3 hours to check it out. It boasts 240 years of history, served as a military hospital during World War II, and housed a secret Cold War bunker for 30 years. The idea was that if the U.S. was bombed, Congress could be secretly housed here for 60 days. The bunker was built as an exhibit hall for conventions at the hotel (to disguise its real purpose), but was in reality was a bunker as big as two football fields.

The hotel sits on 11,000 acres, boasts 5 golf courses, and has over 700 rooms. It is huge! What makes the hotel stand out is its extremely over-the-top décor. There is not a subtle room anywhere! Everything is decorated in lavish fabrics, lot of bold color and floral patterns. After a while, I started to crave neutral colors and discreet patterns.

After the Inn at Little Washington, no restaurant could compare from a dining perspective. I had several gluten-free choices in the Greenbrier restaurants and my favorite was a gluten-free breakfast sandwich which was quite good.


Egg-Allergies? Vegan? Aquafaba is the Answer!

Using the Liquid (Aquafaba) from Canned Chickpeas as an Egg Substitute

All of my life, I’ve been advised to drain off the liquid surrounding canned beans. That not only reduces the sodium content but also makes the beans look better without that cloudy stuff. Turns out, you might want to save this “cloudy stuff”  because experts have found that bean liquid (called aquafaba) makes an excellent egg substitute.

I always wonder about people who discover strange things like this. Who would have guessed that beating this liquid with an electric mixer would yield an egg-like result!!!

Chocolate Mousse using aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas.

Chocolate Mousse using aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas.


What is Aquafaba?

The word “aquafaba” comes from two Latin words: aqua meaning water and faba meaning beans. Hence, aquafaba. Experts say you can use the liquid from many types of canned beans, such as cannellini or navy or kidney beans and black beans, but be forewarned—the darker color of these beans will also color your baked goods. It is generally accepted that chickpea liquid works best because it has the best viscosity, so that’s what my experiments have used.

Last year, I wrote about using aquafaba to make mayonnaise. But recently, I found an excellent article by Sharon Palmer, R.D. on the Mealtime.Org website. Sharon’s insightful advice is summarized  here and I recommend that you read it, but here are a few highlights:

[1] Each 14-ounce can of beans yields about 1/2 cup or more of liquid (that can vary by brand). One-fourth cup equals one egg. You can store this liquid, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

[2] Experts say there are many ways to use aquafaba:

  • Raw: Mousse, fluffs, creams, whips, drinks, and pie toppings
  • Baked: Meringues, pavlova, macarons
  • Confections: Marshmallows, fudge, nougat, icings
  • Baking: Cookies, breads, waffles, pancakes, muffins
  • Savory: Burgers, quiches

I can’t vouch for the meringue or marshmallows, but have tried aquafaba many ways (see below).

[3] When you’re ready to use aquafaba in baking, whip it with an electric mixer until it makes stiff peaks (this may take awhile). Adding 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar helps to stabilize it so it won’t deflate as quickly. Then fold it in to your batter. Remember, each 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) equals one egg. Don’t worry if you only have 3 tablespoons; some large eggs yield only 3 tablespoons so that’s OK.

[4] Since the drained liquid contains salt, you may need to scale down the amount of salt in your recipe accordingly. Sodium content can vary a cross brands of canned beans (and some are salt-free) so this may require some experimentation with your recipe.

[5] If you’re fascinated with using aquafaba, you might visit to stay abreast of new findings.

[6] I tried several brands of chickpeas and I like Trader Joe’s, Bush, and S&W best. Use the brand you can find.

Aquafaba liquid before beating

Aquafaba liquid before beating


Aquafaba liquid after beating

Aquafaba liquid after beating

How I Use Aquafaba

I tried aquafaba in a number of ways. In pancakes, I used 1/4 cup in place of 1 egg.  I didn’t bother to whip it, just added the liquid directly to the batter. I also used 1/4 cup aquafaba in place of an egg when I made crab cakes. That worked just fine, though they seemed a little looser in texture.

In my muffins and quick bread, the crumb was a little heavier in texture but delicious nonetheless.

Finally, I tried aquafaba in one of my favorite desserts, Chocolate Mousse for Two. Instead of the usual whipped egg whites found in many mousses, I used whipped aquafaba. This means egg-allergic people or vegans can enjoy this yummy dessert. Here’s my recipe, designed just for aquafaba:


recipe by Carol Fenster, author of the award-winning Gluten-Free Cooking for Two (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)

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This makes two large servings (1 cup each) or 4 small servings (1/2 cup each). This is a mildly-sweet dessert; the only sweetness comes from the chocolate chips, so if you want a little sweeter dessert add sugar or other sweetener a teaspoon at a time to reach your desired level.

 1/4 cup aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas)

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 ounces (2/3 cup) gluten-free chocolate chips

1 carton (5 to 6 ounces) lowfat plain unsweetened yogurt (or nondairy yogurt)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon coffee-flavored liqueur, optional (or your favorite liqueur or brewed coffee)

Optional garnishes of fresh fruit, whipped topping, shaved chocolate, ice cream, or sprinkles

[1] In a medium bowl, beat the aquafaba and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on medium until it turns white and leaves stiff peaks when the beaters are pulled out of the mixture.

[2] In a microwave-safe small bowl, gently melt the chocolate chips on very low power. Set aside. Gently stir in the yogurt, vanilla, and liqueur (if using), just until  blended. Gently stir the yogurt mixture into the aquafaba or use the electric mixer on very low to gently mix together until completely blended. Divide equally between two dessert bowls, goblets, or wine glasses. Chill for 4 hours. To serve, top with your favorite toppings and serve.

per large serving without garnishes: 365 calories, 18g fat,  4mg cholesterol, 146mg sodium, 51g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 5g protein