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Where in the World is Carol?

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

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

Hear Carol speak on "Gluten-Free Baking" on Thursday, April 7, 6:30 PM, for the Denver CSA meeting at First Plymouth Congregational Church at 3501 S. Colorado (in Plymouth Hall).

Welcome to Carol Fenster Cooks!

Welcome to Carol Fenster Cooks!

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

Go Broncos! Gluten-Free Super Bowl Party

Chili in white bowl provides stark contrast, making food look bigger.

Gluten-Free Southwestern Chili for a Super Bowl Party.

You can bet that most of Denver, where I live, will watch the Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on February 7. Whether you are hosting a Super Bowl party, or just want a super-easy menu for a cold winter night, this flavorful, naturally gluten-free menu is sure to be a hit. It has simple ingredients and is easy on the budget.

My motto, especially for beginners, is: “Stick to simple gluten-free recipes with gluten-free dishes that everyone recognizes and serve them in a simple way.” 

That way, you can be the confident host or hostess and enjoy your own party, without worry.


Gluten-Free Super Bowl Menu
~Southwestern Chili~
~Plate of fresh vegetables and basket of corn chips~
~Guacamole and Mexican Salsa Dips~
~Chocolate Brownies~
~Your favorite beverages~


Southwestern Chili
Adapted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

This easy chili dates back to my childhood, but I have been tweaking it for several years to reflect my family’s changing tastes.  We like it even better and, for added color and flair, have a plate of shredded cheese, sliced avocados, chopped green onions, and maybe a few halved grape tomatoes so guests can add their own garnishes. They will love it!

1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
2 cans (15 ounces) pinto or kidney beans (or both), rinsed and drained
2 cans (15 ounces) canned tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water (or more)

In large Dutch oven or skillet, combine ground round and chopped onion. Cook over medium heat until meat and onion are gently browned. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add enough water to reach desired consistency. Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight. Or, prepare the morning of the party and cook in slow cooker for 4 to 6 hours. Serve with shakers of additional spices near the slow-cooker for those who want to spice it up. Serves 6 (can double or triple)

Carol’s Tips for Hosting a Super Bowl Party
[1] Choose a simple menu that is also dairy-free, since lactose-intolerance often occurs with gluten-intolerance. Stick with high-flavor, straightforward dishes that you know how to prepare and that your guests are familiar with. It’s better to serve a simple, flavorful dish that you know how to prepare than attempt a new, complicated dish that might not meet your expectations.

[2] Plan a menu that can be cooked-ahead―preferably the day before the party (or that morning)―and then reheated before the party. I cook this chili the day before, then refrigerate it overnight to let the flavors meld. It doesn’t need thickening, so there is no conundrum about which gluten-free thickener to use instead of wheat flour. Reheated on party day and served in a slow-cooker (or cooked in the slow-cooker all day), it stays hot throughout the party.

[3] Serve a simple gluten-free bread that appeals to everyone. One of my favorites is a moist, homey[cornbread] which goes well with chili. Bake it on the morning of the party, cut into serving pieces earlier in the day, and pile high on a platter. Wrap in plastic wrap until party time to avoid drying out.

[4] Choose easily-served desserts. Luscious layer cakes are pretty, but require your full attention when cutting and plating―which takes you away from your guests and the TV. Instead, serve “grab and go” desserts such as gluten-free cookies (store-bought if you’re not a baker) or [Brownies] served on big platters. That way, guests serve themselves whenever they please, freeing you to focus on your favorite team.

[5] Make it easy for you and your guests. Serve the Southwestern Chili in a slow-cooker which allows guests to help themselves whenever they please. Place additional spices nearby for those who want to jazz it up a bit. Instead of bowls, use tall coffee cups so guests can balance food on their laps while watching TV―the cup’s narrow tops reduce spills, handles make hot soup easier to hold, and a spoon stands upright in tall cups so no need for saucers. Arrange gluten-free cookies or pre-cut brownies on a platter so guests can help themselves―and you won’t have to do any last-minute serving of dessert and possibly miss that game-changing touchdown.

Enjoy the game and may your favorite team win! Go Broncos!

Gingerbread for Two: Perfect Dessert for Winter

Cold weather means it’s baking time at my house. There’s something about winter that sends me to kitchen to create wonderful aromas and eating pleasure. This week, our cold January weather suggested Gingerbread. The spices fill my kitchen with deliciously taunting aromas.

But I’m not entertaining any guests this week and I don’t want a lot of leftovers sitting around, so I downsized my traditional recipe to serve just my husband and me. And, that’s the recipe below, a cute little loaf that will delight your senses. Enjoy!!!


Gingerbread for Two

Gingerbread for Two

©Copyright Carol Fenster
Decidedly aromatic, this spicy gingerbread fills your kitchen with delicious smells …making it the perfect dessert for a cold winter day—or anytime the urge strikes. It keeps nicely on the countertop, so you can enjoy it for a couple of days after baking. Topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a twist of lemon, it’s divine.

Makes a 3¼ x5¾-inch loaf, 4 small slices
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 to 25 minutes

[1/3] cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
[1/4] teaspoon each ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves
[1/16] teaspoon grated nutmeg
[1/4] teaspoon xanthan gum
[1/8] teaspoon baking powder
[1/8] teaspoon salt
[1/16] teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a 3 ¼ x5 ¾-inch nonstick (gray, not black) loaf pan.

[2] In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until well blended. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat in the oil, molasses, and egg until well blended, about 30 seconds. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

[3] Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the gingerbread comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the gingerbread in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, cut into 4 slices, and serve slightly warm.

Per slice: 188 calories; 2g protein; 8g total fat; 1g fiber; 28g carbohydrates; 47mgs cholesterol; 66mgs sodium

Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 ½ cups brown rice flour
1 ½ cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour
Whisk together until thoroughly blended and store, tightly covered, in a dark, dry place.

Aloy Modern Thai in Denver, CO Grand Opening, February 1

Eating Thai Food for a Good Cause at Aloy Modern Thai
Ever wondered what a restaurant does for a soft opening? I am going to be one of the first to dine at the new Aloy Modern Thai restaurant on Larimer Street in Denver for their soft opening. And, the proceeds contribute to a worthwhile scholarship program at the same time.

Aloy Modern Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

Aloy Modern Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

Our Colorado chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) is sponsoring this fun event. We will join co-owner Bo Bean for the soft opening. Bo has so generously agreed to make their first soft opening night a benefit event for LDEI Colorado’s Scholarship Program.

I am the Chair of our Scholarship Program and take great joy at awarding two scholarships each year to deserving young women in food-related careers.

Once the restaurant opens for its Grand Opening on February 1, please visit Aloy Modern Thai 2134 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205. We really appreciate Bo Bean for making this exciting opportunity available to us.


Savory Pancakes

Have you ever made a food that tasted so good you devoured it all yourself? Without even sharing it or feeding it to your family?

Savory Pancakes known as Farinata

Savory Pancakes known as Farinata. Photo by Jason Wyche

This happened to me, and the food was a savory pancake made of chickpea flour—also called socca, cecina, and farinata—from France’s Provence region and Liguria, Italy. It was so inviting that I immediately ate it all, piping hot from the oven.

What are Savory Pancakes?
We Americans are so accustomed to sweet, syrup-covered pancakes that we don’t know they can be savory too. I was reminded of this by a recent article in Bon Appetit magazine about how many restaurants now serve savory pancakes as main dishes, in very creative ways.

What are Savory Pancakes Made Of?
There are many gluten-free flours you can use instead of wheat, but my version uses chickpea flour (also known as garbanzo flour) or a combination of garbanzo and fava flour. It is high in protein and fiber and offers a mellow, nutty flavor. I like mine with chopped fresh sage or rosemary and a little onion. You bake it in a heavy (preferably cast-iron) skillet so the bottom is crispy.

How Do You Eat Savory Pancakes?
Personally, I like to treat the savory pancakes more like bread and that is why you find my recipe (below) in the Bread section of my most recent cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes. It’s in the book because it is quick (but the batter does have to rest for an hour). As bread, I bake it quickly for about 15 minutes in the oven and then cut it into wedges or simply tear it, whatever you like. It’s a rustic dish, after all.

If you like yours more like a pancake, add a little water to the batter and fry it on the cooktop just like regular pancakes in a regular skillet, rather than baking it in the oven. You can mix in anything you like such as herbs and onion, or bits of prosciutto, cooked vegetables, or spinach. The sky’s the limit.

If you go the pancake route, you can use any topping you like: perhaps a simple sprinkling of chopped fresh chives and cheese. Or sour cream and applesauce. Or savory sauces such as chipped beef or a gravy. Again, read the Bon Appetit article to get some ideas and use your creativity.

Reprinted with permission from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
Farinata is a thin, pizza-like Italian pancake made from chickpea flour and served as bread. It varies depending on where it is made, and is known as socca in France. You or your family may like it so much that you might have to make several batches. Farinata can be made in a regular cast-iron skillet, but it won’t be quite as crisp or easy to remove because of the skillet’s straight—rather than sloping—sides.

1 cup garbanzo-fava bean flour or chickpea (garbanzo) flour
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh onion or 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or fresh rosemary)
1 cup lukewarm (100°F) water
5 tablespoons olive oil

[1] In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, onion, salt, pepper, and sage (or rosemary). Slowly whisk in the water until no lumps remain; stir in the 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cover and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

[2] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F. While the oven preheats, place a 10-inch cast-iron round flat griddle or skillet, with a [3/8]-inch rim, that holds about 1 cup batter, into the oven to heat it. When the batter is ready, remove the griddle with a hot mitt on the handle to protect your hands. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into the griddle, tilting it to evenly coat the bottom. Pour the batter into the griddle, swirling to cover the pan evenly.

[3] Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the farinata is firm to the touch. Set the farinata, still in the griddle, about six inches from the broiler and broil just long enough to brown the top. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. Makes 4 small servings

Per serving: 235 calories; 5g protein; 18g total fat; 3g fiber; 14g carbohydrates; 0mg cholesterol; 550mg sodium

Black-Eyed Pea Chili for New Year’s Good Luck

Black-eyed peas are eaten year-round, but it is believed that they bring prosperity when consumed on New Year’s Day. So bake up a batch of this boldly-flavored Chili, using black-eyed peas rather than kidney or pinto beans…and may good luck rain down on you!!

Black-Eyed Pea Chili for Good Luck on New Year's

Black-Eyed Pea Chili for Good Luck on New Year’s

What are Black-Eyed Peas?
Black-eyed peas (also known as cowpeas) are actually beans so you can use them anywhere you might use beans. They get their name from the characteristic “black eye” or black spot on each bean.

You can cook up a batch from scratch, starting with dry beans which will require soaking. Or, buy them canned and be sure to rinse with water in a sieve until the water runs clear to remove excess sodium. You remove nearly 40% of the sodium that way.

Where to Buy Black-Eyed Peas?
Around the holidays, I have found them in stores in pre-cooked form in plastic tubs that only require a 10 minute boil. They’re especially fresh this way, but if all you can find is canned go with that. Again, just be sure to rinse canned beans very well.

Black-eyed peas are full of good things for your body: protein, fiber, folate… and they are low in fat. So, enjoy this coming New Year’s—or anytime!

Black-Eyed Pea Chili
Adapted with permission from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)
Whip up a batch of this flavorful chili and serve it on New Year’s Day to bring good luck throughout the coming year. Plus, you’re doing your body a healthy favor, too. If you want to be authentic, serve this chili with collard greens (whose green color represents money) and cornbread (which represents gold).

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 pound ground turkey
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) petite diced tomatoes with green chiles, including juice
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles, drained
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
[1/2] teaspoon table salt
[1/4] teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups gluten-free, low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
[1/2] cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese, for garnish

Per serving: 535 Calories ; 13g Fat; 5g Saturated Fat; 43g Protein; 12g Fiber; 68g Carbohydrates; 352mg Sodium ; 60mg Cholesterol

[1] In a Dutch oven or other deep, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey and cook until browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, chiles, onion, oregano, cumin, salt, cayenne, broth, garlic and [1/4] cup cilantro.

[2] Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes. Ladle into the soup bowls and serve immediately, garnished with a sprinkle of cheese and the remaining [1/4] cup chopped cilantro.
Makes 8 servings.

Spice Cookies for the Holidays

Ever notice how the seasons have their own smell? To me, summer is freshly-mowed grass and barbecue smoke from the patio grill. Fall is fireplace smoke and raked leaves. Spring is gently-warming soil and spring rains. But certain holidays have unique smells, as well.

Spice Cookies for the Holidays

Spice Cookies without gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, or soy

What do the Christmas holidays smell like?

For me, it is spices―like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. One whiff and I’m in the holiday mood. This is Christmas week, so these smells are everywhere.

Experts say that we encounter new smells as children, so it makes sense that the experiences we associate with different aromas conjure up childhood experiences.

The moment I smell the heavenly aroma of these spices wafting from the kitchen I am transported to happy times and ready to break out the tree decorations, address holiday cards, and wrap presents.

Gluten-Free, Plus Dairy-Free and Egg-Free, Too!

This cookie is perfect for those who avoid gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and corn and they are so delicious you can serve them to any holiday guest—or all winter long. Even if you’re an inexperienced baker, these cookies are super-easy and always a success. Don’t be put off by all the spices; they are essential for this incredible flavor.

These sturdy little gems freeze well so if you have any leftovers (fat chance!!) they can be thawed at room temperature. And, they are sturdy so they travel well and will survive the trip to Grandma’s house.

Plus, the sorghum flour and bean flour boost the health profile of this cookie with protein and fiber so you can indulge with a little less guilt. But best of all, their heavenly aroma and marvelous flavor will delight you and your guests! So get in the kitchen and start baking!

Gluten-Free Spice Cookies (without dairy, eggs, corn, or soy)
Adapted from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)

Moist and very flavorful, these cookies are perfect for snacks, cookie exchanges, or dessert for your family. Or, process them into crumbs in a food processor for a pie crust (about 1 ½ cups for a 9-inch crust) that is perfect for a pumpkin cheesecake. Adding the optional black pepper turns them into Pfeffernüsse, a traditional German treat served during the holidays.

½ cup butter or buttery spread
¼ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup sorghum flour
½ cup bean flour (such as garbanzo/chickpea, black bean)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons (turbinado or coarse) sugar, for rolling

[1] Place rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 9×13-inch metal baking sheet (not nonstick) with parchment paper.

[2] In medium mixing bowl, beat butter, molasses, brown sugar, and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until well blended. Add sorghum flour, garbanzo flour, ginger, cinnamon, xanthan gum, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, salt, and black pepper (if using) and beat until well blended.

[3] With #50 (1¼ tablespoon-size) metal ice cream scoop, shape 18 balls, roll each into smooth ball with hands, and then roll in sugar for pretty crinkly appearance. Place 9 of the balls at least two inches apart on the baking sheet.

[4] Bake just until cookies look firm and began to show little cracks on top, about 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on baking sheet on wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Bake remaining 9 cookies in same way. Makes 18 cookies.

Per cookie: 130 calories; 2g protein; 6 g total fat; 1 g fiber; 20 g carbohydrates; 14 mg cholesterol; 55 mgs sodium

Gluten-Free Pecan-Bourbon-Chocolate Pie for the Holidays

What is your favorite holiday pie?
It’s a toss-up for me when it comes to holiday pies: pumpkin or pecan. I love them both.

Gluten-free Pecan Pie jazzed up with Bourbon and Chocolate

Gluten-free Pecan Pie jazzed up with Bourbon and Chocolate

I often lean toward making pecan, mostly because my friends and relatives tend to serve pumpkin pie and this way, I will get to eat both flavors at some point during the 6 week celebration between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

A few years back, I started jazzing up my recipe to include bourbon (yes, it’s gluten-free because it is distilled) and a touch of chocolate. I’m not going to provide the calorie/nutrient information on this recipe because, trust me, you don’t want to know. Just enjoy it and resolve to live well in 2016. You earned the right to enjoy a little decadence this year!

Pie-Crust Challenged?
All of my cookbooks have a pie crust recipe. But, if you’re terrified at the thought of making your own gluten-free pie crust, try mixes from Bob’s Red Mill or Glutino. Or, if you don’t want to mix or shape the dough yourself, buy a ready-made pie crust by Whole Foods or Kinnikinnick. They are sold in ready-to-bake form in an aluminum pie pan, although I prefer using a nonstick pan (gray finish, not black to avoid burning) for better browning. This lessens the potential sogginess sometimes found in gluten-free pie crusts.

Gluten-Free Pecan-Bourbon-Chocolate Pie
Adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)
Among the most decadent of pies, this remains a favorite at my house. Yes, it’s highly-caloric, but you have permission to savor it once a year.

9-inch gluten-free pie crust (recipe in Gluten-Free 1011,000 Gluten-Free Recipes)
2 tablespoons milk of choice, for brushing on pastry crust
2 cups pecan halves
¼ cup chocolate chips
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups dark (or light) corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon bourbon or rum (or pure vanilla extract)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whipped topping

[1] Place a rack in the bottom position and another in the middle position of oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare the pastry dough as directed in your recipe or use a premade crust. Brush outer edges of crust with milk to encourage browning. Arrange pecan halves on bottom of pie crust and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

[2] Make the filling: In a food processor fitted with knife blade, combine filling ingredients and blend until thoroughly combined and very smooth. Pour mixture over pecans in pie shell. Place pie pan on a rimmed baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven.

[3] Bake 20 minutes. Move the pie to the middle rack and continue baking for another 30 to 35 minutes more or until filling is set. If crust starts to brown too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.

[4] Remove pie to wire rack and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving to make sure pie is firm enough to cut. Cut into 8 slices. Serve with a generous tablespoon of whipped topping.

Easy Gluten-Free Holiday Gift: Festive Layer-Bar Mix

Need a last-minute gift? This festive layer-bar is perfect with its chocolate crust and decadent layers. Assemble this easy mix in 3-cup glass jars and store in a dark, dry place until gift-giving time. You can also include a can of sweetened condensed milk, but for your dairy-intolerant recipients you might include a jar of your homemade sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below).

Layer Bar Mix for Holiday Gift-Giving

Layer Bar Mix for Holiday Gift-Giving

And be sure to include the instructions—printed on a festive recipe card and tied to the jar—so the lucky recipient knows how to prepare this decadent treat. In fact, why not make one for yourself while you’re at it! My version is for Christmas (e.g., candy canes) but you can tailor this to suit the occasion. For a non-Christmas version, I would try butterscotch or peanut butter chips in place of the candy canes.

1/4 cup chopped candy canes
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup crushed GF cookies (such as Pamela’s Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookies or Pamela’s Honey Graham Crackers)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or buttery spread, melted
7 ounces (half of 14-ounce can) sweetened condensed milk (see homemade recipe below)

In 3-cup glass jar with screw-top lid (a 24-ounce Classico pasta sauce jar works perfectly), layer ingredients, starting with candy canes and then chocolate chips, coconut, pecans, and white chocolate chips. Spoon crushed cracker crumbs into small plastic bag and place on top of layers. Screw on lid, cover the lid with 6-inch circle of colorful wrapping paper or cloth, tie a festive bow over the paper-covered lid, and affix the recipe card to bow with more ribbon. Store in dark, dry place away from sunlight (so chips don’t melt).

Preheat oven to 350⁰F and coat 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Remove cookie crumbs from jar and combine with melted butter. Press evenly into bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle remaining mix ingredients over crumb mixture. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly on top. Bake until chips are melted, about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 16 small bars.

Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk
Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
Quite often, gluten-free folks are also dairy-sensitive and there is no store-bought version of sweetened condensed milk that is gluten-free. So, make this easy version at home. This recipe makes the equivalent of a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, about 1 ¼ cups.

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk of choice (I like So Delicious coconut milk or Living Harvest hemp milk)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

[1] In a small, heavy saucepan whisk together the sugar, sweet rice flour, and salt until thoroughly blended. Whisk in the milk until smooth, then add the butter and heat the mixture on medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes.

[2] Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Cool to room temperature to thicken a bit more. It is best used at room temperature; can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks but bring to room temperature again before using. Be sure to keep refrigerated until gift-giving time and tell the lucky recipient that it must be refrigerated.

Half of the Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe: 420 calories; 6g protein; 13g total fat; .5g fiber; 72g carbohydrates; 36mgs cholesterol; 197mgs sodium

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

They’re back! Every holiday season, I walk into Starbucks and crave the cranberry bars in the display case. They contain a set of ingredients that I absolutely love.

Cranberry Shortbread Bars from Carol Fenster

Gluten-free Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Since I can’t even try them (they are definitely not gluten-free!), I rely on descriptions from family and friends to guide me in the kitchen. These bars call out to me every year, so I just had to develop my own version and it appears in my book 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes. I named them “Cranberry Shortbread Bars” since they’re based on a shortbread crust. Enjoy!

Adapted with permission from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)

These bars contain all the flavors I love: cranberries, ginger, white chocolate, and orange, so it’s no secret that I covet them every year when I see them at Starbucks.  For each dairy-laden ingredient, I offer a substitute so these bars are GF and DF. Make a pan and share with a friend!

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter or buttery spread (Earth Balance)
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Carol’s Flour Blend (see below)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon very finely chopped candied ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup dried sweetened cranberries, chopped
¼ cup GF white chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate chunks (King David brand is lactose-free)

1 small package (3 ounces) low-calorie cream cheese or cream cheese alternative (Tofutti or Daiya), room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped dried sweetened cranberries

½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon canola oil and enough water to form thin frosting

Per bar: 140 calories; 1g protein; 6g total fat; 1g fiber; 4g saturated fat; 21g carbohydrates; 25 mgs cholesterol; 101 mgs sodium

[1] Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 9-inch nonstick pan (gray, not black).

[2] Make the crust: In food processor, combine butter, brown sugar, orange zest, and vanilla and process until smooth. Add flour blend, xanthan gum, ginger, and salt and process until well blended. Scrape down sides with spatula. Add cranberries and white chocolate chips and process until blended again. With wet spatula, press batter evenly into pan.

[3] Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or just until edges start to brown. Cool bars 10 minutes in pan on wire rack.

[4] Make frosting: Blend cream cheese, powdered sugar, orange and vanilla extracts, and lemon juice until smooth. With spatula, spread frosting evenly over crust and immediately sprinkle with chopped cranberries. Chill bars at least 2 hours.

[5] Make drizzle: Combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, canola oil, and enough water to form thin frosting. Drizzle frosting in thin line back and forth across bars. Chill again 2 hours before serving. Makes 16 small bars.

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

Focaccia Flatbread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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