Announcements

Visit the new, improved www.GfreeCuisine.com. Only $7 a month, choose your weekly menu. Get a customized shopping list, organized by grocery store sections to save you time. Plus, recipes for gluten-free breads, desserts, and other treats.
Fill out my online form.

Where in the World is Carol?

Carol's in the kitchen, cooking up recipes for www.GfreeCuisine.com and www.CarolFenster.com

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

March 31, 2015: Taping PBS-TV shows for "Creative Living with Sheryl Borden"

May 2, 2015: Barnes & Noble Book Fair Book-signing at 960 S. Colorado Blvd., Glendale, CO

August 17, 2015: Denver Food Fair, more info at www.DenverCeliacs.org

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

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

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!

Carol Fenster on PBS-TV in 2015

When you watch cooking shows on TV, you probably don’t think about all the food preparation behind the scenes. Having taped several TV shows over the years, I have learned that appearing on TV is a lot of work. Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at my latest experience:

Carol Fenster with hostess, Sheryl Borden, on "Creative Living with Sheryl Borden" on PBS-TV

Carol Fenster with hostess, Sheryl Borden, on “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” on PBS-TV

Gluten-Free on PBS
Each year, I tape three segments for a show approaching its 40th year called “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). It is taped in a lovely studio with a great kitchen on a university campus in New Mexico. Sheryl is a delightful hostess, always curious about how we prepare gluten-free food, and she is a joy to work with.

This year, I was promoting my latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). The goal of the book is to prepare dishes in less than 30 minutes, though many are ready in far less time. Some TV stations provide a food stylist to prepare and plate the food attractively for the camera. However, at PBS, I do all the work to get the food ready.

How I Plan My Appearance
I selected a simple theme for each of the three segments each between 6 and 9 minutes long: [1] Coconut Flour, [2] Gazpacho, and [3] Black Quinoa. Despite simple themes, preparing for these tapings takes a lot of planning and preparation. You should see my “to-do” list! Before I leave, I write the script for each segment, emphasizing the main points that Sheryl and I will focus on.

I fly in the day before, do the grocery shopping, and get as much ready as possible such as chopping vegetables, measuring ingredients, and so on so we’re ready to tape when the studio opens the next morning. Then an assistant helps with last-minute details during taping. It is not like the Food Network, which has a huge cast and lots of people to help with the food preparation. But we have lots of fun and the staff—mostly students at the university—is terrific.

Segment 1: Coconut Flour
Of all the flours we use in gluten-free baking, I get the most questions about coconut flour. Perhaps because it is a flour with high protein and fiber? Maybe because it can be used for the Paleo baking, instead of grain-based flour? Or, perhaps because coconut simply tastes good? Or, all of the above!

After discussing how many foods are coconut-based (yogurt, waters, chips, desserts, etc.) I focused on how difficult it is to use coconut flour in baking and how important it is to use a recipe designed for coconut flour. This is because coconut flour soaks up far more liquid than other flours, so we use less of it. In fact, it takes about 4 times as much liquid to hydrate coconut flour as it does rice flour.  And, most coconut-flour recipes call for many, many eggs.. perhaps an egg for every quarter-cup of flour.

In addition, in certain types of baked goods it is important to blend coconut flour with other flours for a more pleasing result. So, experimenting on your own can result in disaster unless you follow a recipe specifically designed for coconut flour. One of the more frequent distress phone calls I get is from bakers whose baked goods have failed while trying to adapt coconut flour in their own recipes.

I demonstrated how to make Coconut Macaroons, one of my favorite cookies. They have lots of yummy sweetened shredded coconut, plus coconut flour, and coconut-flavored extract and they are super-simple. For extra glitz, drizzle them with chocolate frosting.

Segment 2: Gazpacho
For the second segment, I focused on the Spanish soup known as Gazpacho. Gazpacho is really vegetables served in a tomato-based liquid. Tomatoes are an important source of lycopene and other nutrients, plus all of the other vegetables in this dish make it truly a nutritious dish.

Though it sounds innocent, traditional Gazpacho is often thickened with bread. But I think Gazpacho tastes better without it, so I showed how to make a quick and easy Gazpacho that serves two (since I get lots of requests for small-batch recipes to meet the needs of small households. See below for the recipe. One of the goals of 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes is to offer meals that can be ready in less than 30 minutes. With this recipe, it is only 10 minutes—plus some chilling time.

Quick and Easy Gazpacho for Two
Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin, 2011)

This cool refreshing “liquid” salad is perfect for hot-weather dining because no cooking is required. I use canned tomato juice which contains salt, so if you use unsalted tomato juice just add salt to taste. Double the recipe to serve four.

Serves 2

Quick and Easy Gazpacho

Quick and Easy Gazpacho

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour

1 1/3 cups canned tomato juice, divided (two 5.5-ounce cans), divided
2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
¼ to ½ small jalapeno, seeds and veins removed, coarsely chopped (or to taste)
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 English cucumber, diced, plus very thin half-slices for garnish
½ celery rib, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided

[1] In a food processor, puree ¾ cup of the tomato juice along with the onion, jalapeno, garlic, and lime juice.

[2] Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the cucumber, celery, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, and the remaining tomato juice. Divide evenly among two soup bowls or goblets and chill for at least an hour to let the flavors meld. Serve chilled, garnished with a half-slice of cucumber and the remaining cilantro as garnish.

Segment 3: Black Quinoa Salad

I strongly believe that our gluten-free diets should include lots of gluten-free whole grains, so I always try to focus at least one segment focusing about whole grains. This year, my third segment focused on black quinoa which is related to regular, tan quinoa as well as reddish-brown quinoa.

What many people don’t realize is that we can treat cooked whole grains like mixed greens, add chopped vegetables, nuts, and fruit and toss them with salad dressing for a cold salad that tastes great anytime, but especially for hot weather. So, that is what I do in this flavorful recipe that is stunningly gorgeous, especially when served on a stark-white plate. There recipe for Black Quinoa Salad is here

Where to Watch “Creative Living with Sheryl Borden “
“Creative Living with Sheryl Borden” airs in all 50 states in over 118 PBS stations in the U.S., Canada, Guam, and Puerto Rico. For more information, go to http://kenw.org/creative-living-home-page. The segments I taped will air during the 2015-2016 season and that is a long ways away, so check your local PBS station for air times. Send me an email at carol@carolfenster.com when you see it in your area.

Luscious Coconut Macaroons

Next to chocolate, coconut is my favorite flavor. My husband does not share my enthusiasm. However, I didn’t learn this little fact until we cut the cake at our wedding reception.

In the little Nebraska town where I grew up, the same lady made the wedding cakes for every single wedding. Back then, there were only white cakes and there were no “groom’s” cakes, either. One cake for everybody!!

And, it was her tradition to add coconut flavoring to the batter. I was accustomed to her cakes and thought all wedding cakes were white and tasted like coconut.

Imagine my husband’s surprise when he bit into our coconut-flavored wedding cake. He politely swallowed the first bite, but no more. To this day, we laugh about the wedding cake he hated.

Today, I am still enamored with all things coconut and that’s why I love these Coconut Macaroons, though they are obviously not my husband’s favorites. They are so easy that the kids can make them and they are virtually fool-proof. Serve them plain, or drizzle with chocolate frosting for added decadence. Leftovers? Crumble them on pudding or yogurt. Enjoy!

COCONUT MACAROONS©
Coconut lovers, this recipe is for you! They are super-simple and gorgeous as well. 

Luscious Coconut Macaroons

Luscious Coconut Macaroons

Makes 8 small cookies
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Baking time: 20 to 25 minutes

2 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon coconut flour or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or coconut extract
Pinch salt
2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (7-ounce package)

[1] Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch rimmed baking sheet (not nonstick) with parchment paper.

[2] In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy and airy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, coconut flour, vanilla, almond extract, and salt and beat just until blended. Add the shredded coconut and beat just until well blended. The dough will look somewhat coarse.

[3] With wet hands or a #30 spring-action ice cream scoop, drop 8 balls, about 1 [1/2] inches in diameter (about 2 ½ tablespoons of dough each), 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. For the prettiest look, don’t compress the balls too much so some coconut flakes poke out from the ball and brown prettily.

[4] Bake until the cookies are browned around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then transfer the cookies to the wire rack and cool completely.

Per macaroon: 145 calories; 2g protein; 8g total fat; 1g fiber; 18g carbohydrates; 0mg cholesterol; 90mg sodium

Grain-Free Walnut Honey Cake for Special Diets or Passover

Grain-Free Walnut Honey Cake

Grain-Free Walnut Honey Cake

Increasingly, many people avoid grains altogether. Are you one of them? While avoiding gluten grains is hard; avoiding ALL grains is extremely hard—but not impossible. Whenever I have guests, I ask ahead if they have any special diet needs (or simply detest certain foods) and I try to accommodate their requests—especially for dessert. After all, who doesn’t like dessert!!

You could also serve this cake during Passover and your Paleo friends can eat it (if you use a Paleo-friendly oil rather than butter). It freezes well, too. I particularly like walnuts for this cake because of their unique flavor but ground pecans would be equally tasty.

This cake is moist because it is sweetened with honey, which is a natural humectant (that means it draws in water). It is also easy since you grind the nuts in a food processor and blend the other ingredients into the nuts—all in the same vessel—which means fewer dishes to wash. If you can find pre-ground walnuts (or pecans) you can use 2 cups.

Grain-Free Walnut Honey Cake
By Carol Fenster
Everyone will love this cake, but it is especially nice when you have guests who are grain-free as well as gluten-free. If you use buttery spread or oil, it is also dairy-free, plus there is no soy, either and if you use a corn-free baking powder, you eliminate that culprit as well. So, it can meet the needs of many guests with different special diet needs and everyone is happy.

2 cups walnut pieces (measure before grinding)
1/2 cup honey
3 large whole eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or buttery spread, melted (or your favorite oil such as canola, coconut, etc.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Generously grease; then line the bottom of an 8-inch round nonstick (gray, not black) springform pan with wax paper or parchment paper. Grease it again and set aside.

[2] Grind the walnuts in a food processor to a very fine meal. Add the honey, eggs, baking powder, butter, vanilla, and salt to the food processor and process 30 to 40 seconds. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula and process another 30 seconds more or until smooth. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

[3] Bake about 35 to 40 to minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake rises as it bakes, then falls slightly as it cools. Watch carefully toward the end because it is more likely to burn due to the honey. Cool the cake in the pan 15 minutes on a wire rack. Cut around edge of the pan with a sharp knife to loosen the cake. Release pan sides; discard paper liner. Dust with powdered sugar, cut into slices, and serve. Makes 10 servings.

Per serving: 270 calories; 8g protein; 20g total fat; 4g saturated fat; 1g fiber; 19g carbohydrates; 69mg cholesterol; 195mg sodium

Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns for Easter

Well, it’s that time of year again. Just like we want Irish Soda Bread on St. Patrick’s Day, we want Hot Cross Buns for Easter. For some people, it just isn’t Easter without Hot Cross Buns, although history suggests they were traditionally baked and eaten on Good Friday. According to Wikipedia, sharing a hot cross bun with someone else is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if you recite this poem while sharing:
“Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be.

Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns from Carol Fenster

Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns from Carol Fenster

The “cross” of frosting on each bun is supposed to ward off bad spirits as well as mold. Chances are good, however, that mold won’t be an issue since you’ll gobble these treats soon after they are baked.

Hot Cross Buns
adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Wiley, 2008)
A tradition at Easter, these delectable lightly-spiced buns can also be enjoyed year-round.

Buns
3/4 cup warm (110°F) milk of choice
1 packet (2¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs (about 2/3 cup), at room temperature
1½ cups potato starch
1½ cups Carol’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon guar gum
¾ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice
1/8 teaspoon each ground cloves and nutmeg
¼ cup unsalted butter or buttery spread, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
½ cup dried currants or cranberries
Brown rice flour for dusting

Egg Wash
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk of choice

Frosting
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk of choice
Drop of lemon extract (optional)

[1] Generously grease 11×7-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving 2-inch overhang on two ends for easier removal.

[2] Dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in warm milk and set aside to foam for 5 minutes.

[3] In large bowl of heavy-duty mixer, beat eggs on Medium speed until thick and foamy and then reduce speed to Low and add yeast-milk mixture and remaining sugar, potato starch, flour blend, xanthan gum, guar gum, salt, spices, melted butter, and vinegar. Beat in ingredients until blended, then increase speed to medium and beat one minute or until mixture is thoroughly combined and slightly thickened.

[4] Use 1 ½-inch metal spring-action ice cream scoop to measure 15 equal pieces of dough. Dust pieces of dough with rice flour and with very lightly oiled hands, gently shape each into round ball. Place balls very close together in prepared pan in 3 rows of 5 each for a total of 15 rolls. To make the egg wash, whisk together the egg and milk until very smooth, then brush it on the tops of the rolls. Cover lightly with foil (don’t let foil touch dough), and let rise in warm place (75°F to 85°F) until dough is just level with top of pan.

[5] Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until tops are lightly browned, then brush rolls with egg wash again and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 200°F when inserted into the center of roll.

[6] Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes on wire rack. To serve on platter, use edges of parchment to lift rolls from pan (discard parchment) and cool another 10 minutes on wire rack then transfer to serving platter to cool completely.

[7] To make frosting, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and lemon extract (if using) until very smooth; it will be fairly thick. Transfer glaze to heavy-duty plastic food storage bag, cut 1/8-inch hole in one corner, and pipe an “X” or “cross” on each roll. These are best eaten on same day they are made. Makes 15 rolls.

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

Carol’s Kitchen Notes
[1] Be sure to cool the buns completely before adding the frosting “cross,” or it will simply melt and slide off into oblivion. The buns can be reheated in a Low microwave, but they are best eaten on the same day they are made.

[2] The reason that you tightly pack these buns into the pan is so they rise higher rather than spread out. But this also means that the sides of the buns don’t brown. I have tried it both ways and believe me, arranging them tightly in the pan works better for our soft gluten-free dough than trying to create individual buns that brown on all sides but spread out too much while baking.

[3] The dough may seem impossibly soft, but dusting the balls with brown rice flour makes it easier to shape them with your hands into a smooth ball.

[4] My favorite place to let dough rise is my warming oven, which has a setting for this. You can also use your microwave oven: place 1 cup water in a glass Pyrex measuring cup heat on High for 1 minute. Leave water in the oven and place the pan of dough inside (no need to cover since it is a moist, airtight enclosure). The nice thing about using a microwave is that you can see the bread rising through the window. Other places to let bread rise are the top of your dryer (while it is running, the metal frame heats up a little), or on a heating pad, but be sure to cover the bread with foil to avoid drying out, which is an especially big problem for me in dry Colorado. You can also use your regular oven by turning on the light which generates some heat, but don’t let the temperature rise above 85°F or you will dry out the crust and the buns won’t rise.

[5] The reason that I use both xanthan gum and guar gum is that there is a natural synergy between these two gums that produces a better texture. Gum experts (yes, there is such a specialty in the baking world!!!) verified this fact. If you can’t find guar gum in stores, order it from www.BobsRedMill.com. If you prefer to use xanthan gum only, use 2 teaspoons.

Enjoy The “Dark” Side of Whole Grains

As our gluten-free world evolves, I’m delighted to see new and different grains come on the market. I am particularly excited about the dark grains that are increasingly available. I’m thinking of black and red quinoa, black or purple rice (and black sorghum, if you can find it). Throughout March, I am focusing on gluten-free whole grains in celebration of March as National Nutrition Month.

Whole Grain Salad Using Dark Grains

Whole Grain Salad Using Dark Grains

Why Are Dark Grains Important?
All whole grains are good for us because they contain the three necessary parts to qualify as a “whole” grain—that is, they have a germ, bran, and endosperm. This means that nothing has been milled or polished away and you consume all their nutrients when you eat them.

In contrast, white rice has been polished and milled to strip away many of the important parts, such as rice bran and rice polish, so white rice is not nearly as nutritious. (You can learn more about gluten-free whole grains at the Whole Grains Council website.)

When grains are dark—as in black, brown, purple, or red—they contain anthocyanins which are flavonoids and pigments that give food its dark color. They provide more antioxidants than white, tan, or light brown grains. However, in any recipe you can use the light-colored version of the whole grain and still have a very healthy dish.

Dark Grains are Beautiful
Aside from their health benefits, I like using these dark grains because they are so beautiful and provide a dramatic contrast again the plate they are served on AND the foods they are served with. Since we eat with our eyes, these lovely contrasts are especially enticing. In the photo, I have used black sorghum to show you what it looks like (mine was a gift from a farmer friend) with very colorful fruits and vegetables such as mandarin oranges, pomegranate seeds, parsley, and sliced almonds. The overall effect is stunningly colorful, don’t you think?

Dark Grain Salad©
Recipe by Carol Fenster
Any gluten-free dark grain will work in this colorful salad, so use what you have available. You can also use the light-colored version of these grains instead, but the salad will be less colorful. It is good served slightly chilled or at room temperature, rather than hot.

SALAD
2 cups cooked dark grain (black or red quinoa, black or purple rice, or black sorghum)
1 cup chopped celery (or diagonally-halved snow peas or thinly sliced fresh fennel)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup pomegranate seeds (or dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots)
¼ cup chopped green onion
¼ cup chopped fresh mint or parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh dill or cilantro
¼ teaspoon salt

DRESSING
¼ cup orange juice
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

[1] In a large bowl, combine the cooked grain, celery, parsley, pomegranate seeds, green onion, mint, dill, and salt and toss well to thoroughly combine.

[2] In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the orange juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and black pepper until thoroughly blended. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it thickens. (Or, shake all the ingredients together in a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid until thickened.)

[3] Toss the grain mixture with as much of the dressing as you like, adding more salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature the next day before serving. Serves 4.

 Calories: 270 ; 6g protein; 13g fat, 4g fiber; 33g carbohydrates; 245mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol

Wild Rice Salad for National Nutrition Month

In my continuing promotion of whole grains during March as National Nutrition Month, I want you to try some whole grain salads to boost your intake of whole grains. You might think that cooked grains need to be served hot to be enjoyable, but they are delicious when you treat them like lettuce: tossed with salad dressing and served cold or at room temperature.

Gluten-Free Wild Rice Salad is nutritious, colorful, and delicious.

Wild Rice Salad is nutritious, colorful, and delicious.

Benefits of Whole Grains
Why should we bother with whole grains? People who regularly eat whole grains have a lower risk of obesity, lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer. In addition, whole grains are on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet and a higher intake of whole grains is associated with lower belly fat. That’s reason enough for me!! The USDA and the Whole Grains Council recommend 3 to 5 servings of whole grains per day. One-half cup of cooked whole grains equals one serving.

Is Wild Rice a Whole Grain?
Technically, wild rice is a grass. But we talk about it in the same category as grains and it is “whole” since nothing has been removed during processing. Of course, it is gluten-free and has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. Experts suggest we should use the term “intact” rather than whole.

But Whole Grains Take Too Long to Cook!
I hear this frequently when I’m teaching cooking classes; people shy away from cooking whole grains because they take so long. That’s because whole grains contains all the parts (bran, germ, and endosperm) and that makes them tougher for water to penetrate and soften them so it takes longer for a whole grain to cook.

Tips for Cooking Whole Grains
[1] Rice cookers cook whole grains without the need for tending or stirring, freeing you up to do other things while they cook. The timer lets you know when the grains are done.

[2] Slow cookers are perfect for long-cooking grains such as wild rice or sorghum. They cook slowly overnight or while you are at work, ready to eat when you walk in the kitchen at the end of the day.

[3] Cooked whole grains can be frozen in individual portions and reheated as needed, allowing you to have several meals from just one cooking session.

[4] Salads such as this Wild Rice Salad can be made ahead: cook the wild rice the day before (I like to use a slow cooker) and refrigerate. You can also chop the other ingredients ahead of time and refrigerate them, then assemble the next day when you’re ready.

Wild Rice Salad
Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
Wild rice isn’t really rice at all, but the seed of a grass. Hearty and chewy, its nutty flavor and dark color complement the green snow peas, dried apricots, and citrusy flavors. This showy dish is perfect as a buffet dish, warm or cold.

3 cups gluten-free, low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup wild rice, rinsed 3 times and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup fresh snow peas
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

[1] In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add the wild rice and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until done, about 45 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid, then transfer the wild rice to a serving bowl.

[2] While the wild rice cooks, bring a small pan of boiling water to a boil. Add the snow peas and cook 1 minute, then drain and immerse in cold water to stop cooking. Add them to the serving bowl, along with the green onions, apricots, walnuts, and parsley

[3] In small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, orange zest, garlic, remaining salt, and pepper until well blended. Whisk in the oil until slightly thickened. Drizzle it over the salad and toss to coat well. Serve at room temperature, garnished with parsley. Or, chill it for 4 hours, let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, and then serve. Serves 4.

Calories: 300 ; 18g protein; 6g fat, 8g fiber; 47g carbohydrates; 664mg sodium; 0mg cholesterol

NOTE: Salads like this beg for tinkering: replace the snow peas with cooked edamame or thinly sliced fresh fennel. Instead of wild rice, try black rice or black or red quinoa. Instead of dried apricots, use raisins or dried cranberries. The possibilities are endless, so get in the kitchen and experiment.

Chocolate-Pear Clafoutis

During March, I am focusing on whole grains for National Nutrition Month. You may wonder how a dessert such as Claouti figures in here—it is because I make it with whole-grain, gluten-free flour. Whole grain flours are important to a gluten-free diet because they provide important nutrients and fiber.

Chocolate-Pear Clafoutis

Chocolate-Pear Clafoutis are lovely, yet so simple.

What is Clafouti?
This week, I feature Clafouti (or Clafoutis), an easy French dessert that is a cross between a flan, a pancake, and a torte and can be made with many different kinds of fruit. This version uses chocolate and pears (in season now) for an irresistible combination that is sure to please guests…..especially on a cold winter’s night when a warm dessert straight from the oven is so comforting. I have also used frozen dark (Bing or black) cherries and replaced the optional pear liqueur with Kirschwasser or cherry brandy.

Make Your Clafouti with Whole-Grain Flour
Another reason I like Claftouti is that it only uses a single flour and that flour can be anything you want. It’s an especially good recipe for trying out a whole-grain flour that might be new to your family and you want to give it a test run in a recipe that uses a limited amount. In addition to the flours mentioned in the ingredient list below, I have also used more exotic flours such as those made from grape skins…..if you can find them in specialty stores or online. Grapes may not qualify as a whole grain, but they are certainly interesting.

Clafoutis: Perfect for Beginners
Clafoutis is an especially good dessert for beginning cooks because it turns out perfect every time. Plus, mini-desserts are popular now, so these cute little treats are right in style. You can assemble the ingredients in the ramekins, refrigerate them, and then bake them while your guests enjoy dinner. The aroma coming from your kitchen signals a delightful dessert to come! By the time your guests are finished eating dinner, they can’t wait to delve into dessert!

 

Chocolate-Pear Clafoutis©

This cute little dessert is perfect for entertaining because it is already plated, eliminating last-minute cutting or slicing while your guests are patiently waiting for dessert. Feel free to vary the fruit… Bing cherries are another delectable choice paired with cherry brandy (Kirschwasser) or just use vanilla extract if alcohol is off-limits.

2 small firm ripe pears, peeled, cored, and diced
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cream or canned coconut milk or milk of choice
2 tablespoons butter or buttery spread, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons pear brandy or liqueur (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/3 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
1/4 cup whole-grain GF flour such as amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, or teff
2 tablespoons cocoa (Dutch works best, but natural works too)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sliced almonds, for garnish
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

[1] Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously grease six small ramekins (3.5-inch-diameter).

[2] Arrange diced pears in single layer in each ramekin. Set aside.

[3] In blender, process eggs, cream, butter, and pear brandy until very smooth. With blender running, gradually add 1/3 cup sugar, flour, and cocoa, and salt and process until very smooth, about 1 minute. Pour batter over pears and sprinkle with almonds and remaining tablespoon sugar.

[4] Bake until tops are puffy and almonds are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately, since they fall quickly. Makes 6.

NOTE: If you use frozen Bing or dark (black) cherries, thaw them first and use 4 to 5 cherries per ramekin.

Calories: 190; 4g protein; 7g fat, 3g fiber; 26g carbohydrates; 74mg sodium; 75mg cholesterol

Ancient Grains Go Modern: Red Quinoa Salad for 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 is perfect for entertaining

Quinoa: The “Mother” Grain
Since March is National Nutrition Month, I am promoting whole grains all month and want to 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 quick 15-20 minute prep time makes it on a good choice for busy households.

I use the term “whole grain” but after reading an article called “Grain Man” in the February, 2015 issue of Food & Wine Magazine, we could also call them “intact grains” which means they have not been taken apart, pulverized, or processed…they are the way they grew, untampered with. Quinoa is an intact grain.

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. We now have a True Food Kitchen in Denver, but I have yet to find this dish on their menu so I have to make it at home now in my own way which turns out to be vastly different than what I ate in Scottsdale.

I’ve been tinkering with my idea of a 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—is a stunning dish, especially when made with dark green spinach for a lovely color contrast.

SALAD
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

DRESSING
[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 for each of six servings: 310; 11g protein; 13g fat, 4g fiber; 42g carbohydrates; 360mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup—Paleo-Friendly, Allergen-Free

Winter is upon us. The days are cold. Something bright and cheery, yet creamy, warm, and spicy sounds just right for dinner. Crisp red bell peppers are a staple at our house all year long, but in the winter I transform them into a creamy, flavorful soup that is perfect for everyone because it is free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, peanuts, nuts, fish, and shellfish.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup is perfect for cold winter nights.

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup is perfect for cold winter nights.

Of course, if you want to add some protein, you could top the soup with cooked shrimp or crab. Or, to keep it in the vegetarian-vegan family, some cubed tofu would work nicely. If your diet permits, swirl in some basil pesto just before serving for a generous dose of added flavor as well as appealing green color.

This soup is especially pretty served in little coffee or espresso cups as an appetizer, but if it is your main course, regular soup bowls work just fine. A final note about the roasted red bell peppers: you can always roast them yourself, but the peeling and hassle can be avoided by simply buying them in a jar. They taste the same and, for a few extra bucks, they save you considerable time! Enjoy!

 

ROASTED RED BELL PEPPER SOUP
By Carol Fenster
Of course, you can roast your own red bell peppers or buy them in a jar—they taste the same. This colorful soup is especially pretty served in espresso cups as appetizers or a first course for a dinner party.

½ cup chopped roasted red bell peppers, packed
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon sugar
3 cups gluten-free low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
¾ cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon grated orange zest
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (or 1 tablespoon potato starch) stirred into ¼ cup cold water until smooth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish

[1] Place all the ingredients except the sweet rice flour, and basil in a blender and puree until very smooth. Transfer to a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.

[2] Raise the heat to medium, stir in the sweet rice flour mixture and continue to cook until slightly thickened, stirring constantly.

[3] Divide the soup among 4 soup bowls. Serve, garnished with a sprinkle of parsley or basil.
Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 100 calories; 9 g protein; 5 g total fat; 1 g fiber; 12 g carbohydrates; 0 mg cholesterol; 166 mg sodium

Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Two

If you live in a two-person household, making a full-size dessert may not be practical. Plus, making a recipe designed for just two people is a great way to maintain portion control—no tempting leftovers beckoning to you. This elegant little dessert fits perfectly into two small coffee cups, with no leftovers.

Chocolate Orange Mousse for Two

Chocolate Orange Mousse for Two

Dessert with Sentiment
Notice the china cups in the photo. I inherited my mother’s china when she died years ago. Sunday dinners (usually roast beef and all the trimmings) were served in our dining room in our circia-1900 Craftsman-style house. Afterwards, the inevitable dishwashing and drying at the kitchen sink led to more conversation with my mother. So, I look for memorable reasons to use this china—even if it is only the coffee cups for dessert—to feel my mother’s presence.

Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Two
I love the combination of chocolate and orange, so use either Clementine zest or regular orange zest. Or, leave it out if citrus is not your thing and add a drop of mint extract.

Desserts are so pretty served in cute little portions because they are so much more personal. Plus, they are already plated so there is no last-minute cutting or slicing. These chic little treats are ready whenever you are. And, you have control over portions (although no one will mind if you double the recipe and indulge again tomorrow or invite guests to share with you).

Healthy Chocolate Mousse
There are many ways to make mousse but this so-simple way is a healthy dessert with its tofu base and cocoa powder and of course, it is gluten-free. You choose the sweetener and the amount that suits you. Since soy is a legume, this dish is technically grain-free and you can opt for a coconut yogurt for a garnish to make it dairy-free. You can also dress it up with a tablespoon of your favorite liqueur that complements chocolate and orange. In other words, you’re in charge. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Two
Reprinted with permission from www.GFreeCuisine.com by Carol Fenster

5 to 6 ounces (half-package, undrained) soft silken tofu (use remainder in a smoothie next morning)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Dutch/alkali for its darker color)
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup or agave nectar or coconut nectar, to taste
1 tablespoon grated Clementine or orange zest, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons whipped cream or whipped topping or yogurt of your choice

In a blender, puree tofu, cocoa powder, honey, and vanilla until very, very smooth. (Add a tablespoon of your favorite liqueur for a festive note. I like Kahlua—but orange or chocolate liqueurs also work well.) 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, each garnished with a teaspoon of whipped cream and grated zest.

Calories: 185; 4g fat, 2g fiber; 5 g protein, 34g carbohydrates, 1g cholesterol, 13 g sodium