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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.

Join Carol at Bob's Red Mill, April 21, 5-7PM, in Milwaukie, OR for "Gluten-Free Pastries, Cakes, Breads, for Parties, Weddings, Showers, Graduation, and Afternoon Tea. Sign up at Bob's Red Mill website.

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!

Cloud Bread

If you are gluten-free, grain-free and on a low-carb diet, you may have heard of Cloud Bread which is making the rounds on the Internet. I first saw it on the Dr. Oz TV show where it was demonstrated by famed chef Rocco DiSpirito and immediately realized that this recipe could fill an important void for some people.

Cloud Bread

Cloud Bread

What is Cloud Bread?

It is an extremely light, airy flatbread…hence the name Cloud Bread. It is as light as a cloud (if one could eat a cloud, that is!). If you are a fan of heavy, dense whole-grain breads like I am then this one might not excite you.  But this bread is super-easy and only uses 4 ingredients, so it may be a life-saver for some families.

But if you are grain-free and gluten-free (and also dairy-free), then it might be a suitable substitute for traditional breads. It bakes up in 10 light rounds. If you put two of the rounds together, they resemble flat hamburger buns so you could make a sandwich with them. Or, you can eat them as flatbread as an accompaniment to a meal.

Find the recipe for Cloud Bread here  

Nutrients per each round of bread: 37 calories, 3g fat; 2g protein, 1g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 61mg cholesterol, 30mg sodium

Carol’s Tips for Cloud Bread

Since I didn’t invent the recipe, I can’t reprint it here. But I can give you some tips for making it better:

[1] I followed the recipe exactly as printed online. Be sure to bring the cream cheese to room temperature, or it won’t blend into the eggs.

[2] The breads are not that flavorful, so you could toss in finely chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or basil into the batter. Or, sprinkle them with poppy seeds or sesame seeds…or whatever you like to make them more interesting. But if you like plain bread, then don’t add anything.

[3] If you are also lactose-free, use Green Valley cream cheese which has the lactose removed.  It behaves the same as regular cream cheese in baking and measures the same.

[4] Some other recipes for Cloud Bread call for 1 teaspoon baking powder, which I haven’t tried.  I would blend it in with the eggs, cream cheese, and sugar. It will probably make the bread rise higher, but I don’t think the breads need it.

 

 

Three Fabulous (Gluten-Free) Days in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Antigua Inn

Imagine a beautiful 100-year-old adobe house—conveniently located near the famous Santa Fe square—that has been remodeled to preserve its heritage, but with every modern convenience imaginable. Then add in a chef who understands gluten-free cooking and offers the most fabulous breakfasts, and you have the perfect Bed & Breakfast. That’s how I spent 3 days last week in the Land of Enchantment, otherwise known as New Mexico.

Antigua Inn kitchen

Antigua Inn kitchen

We visit Santa Fe at least once a year, mostly to enjoy the fabulous food. This year’s visit coincided with our wedding anniversary so we chose a special Bed & Breakfast, the Antigua Inn. It was mentioned in Food & Wine Magazine so I knew it was good. But we were amazed at how special this place is.

Beautifully restored, this lovely house features every modern convenience despite its 100-year old heritage. 

Notice the gorgeous kitchen in the photo.

But it was the warm hospitality and superb, gluten-free food that I want to tell you about.

 

Gluten-Free Breakfasts at Antigua Inn

The first morning we had gluten-free mini-Quiches made with non-dairy ingredients and it was fabulous. Baked in cupcake pans, the quiche had a hint of green chile (a must in New Mexico), accompanied by house-smoked bacon, fried polenta, and a lovely fruit salad. And, the coffee was superb—made from hand-roasted beans you can order at Antigua Coffee Company.  They also offered gluten-free toast, but I already had plenty of food!

Mini-Quiches

Mini-Quiches

The second morning, we ate Blue Corn Pancakes with blueberries and pine nuts (called pinon in New Mexico). Gluten-free and dairy-free, they were some of the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. They were served with gluten-free sausage and a marvelous yogurt parfait topped with gluten-free granola. I was in heaven!

Blue Corn Pancakes

Blue Corn Pancakes

On the third morning (as if it couldn’t get better!!) we had gluten-free, dairy-free Huevos Rancheros—one of my favorite breakfasts. With bacon and fried polenta, and the usual fruit plate it was absolutely delicious. On top of these marvelous breakfasts, there were gluten-free treats such as Biscochitos (cookies).

Huevos Rancheros Antigua Inn 2016

Huevos Rancheros Antigua Inn 2016

Other Gluten-Free Dining in Santa Fe

Santa Fe is known for its fabulous food, so finding gluten-free options was easy. One of our favorites is La Boca with chef James Campbell Caruso, an 8-time James Beard Chef of the Southwest nominee. We love his tapas and always have a glass of sherry too since the restaurant’s theme is Spanish. Our favorite dish was Paella. But I also had house-baked gluten-free bread that I used to sop up the delicious liquids from a bowl of Mussels. An incredible meal; in fact, we went to that restaurant for lunch the next day, too.

Radish & Rye was recommended to us by the Antigua Inn and it was our second fabulous dinner. The menu features local, farm-to-table fare and it was upscale and superb. The staff was extremely well trained. I had salmon and a tossed green salad that was incredibly fresh and lovely. I would go to this restaurant again.

Our third dinner was a “dive” compared to the other two restaurants but a fun experience nonetheless. Called Tune-Up Cafe, it was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri. It features food with an El Salvadore-style touch, such as a Pupusa which was delicious. I also had a Tamale wrapped in a banana leaf. The ambience shouts “dive.” The café is very small, noisy and cramped. But we knew that before we went. The food is not fancy but delicious and I would go there again.

All in all, Santa Fe did not disappoint! I will be back next year!

Egg-Free Mayonnaise from the Liquid in Canned Chickpeas

May is Food Allergy Awareness Month. Eggs Are a Severe Allergen.

Egg allergies can be quite serious. I know from experience: My grandson is allergic to eggs. We carry an Epi-Pen at all times and watch his diet carefully. I prepare his food without eggs, including items like pancakes. But I find baking without eggs very difficult, much harder than baking without wheat.

So, whenever I read about replacements for eggs or egg- based foods, I listen.

Egg-Free Mayonnaise Made from Chickpea Liquid Called Aquafaba

The first time I heard of this idea I couldn’t believe it. It uses the liquid that surrounds a can of chickpeas which is called aquafaba. Really? Mayonnaise from the lowly chickpea (or garbanzo bean)? But then I tried it, and I liked it.

The idea comes from the Serious Eats website and its primary chef, J. Kenji López-Alt. Plus, I have read his book The Food Lab. He has a marvelous way of explaining what happens in a kitchen in a simple, easy-to-understand way. So, I knew that if he liked this egg-free mayonnaise, then I would too.

Kenji explains that aquafaba is the protein-rich liquid surrounding canned chickpeas. As he says, “It’s pretty amazing stuff—you can whip it into stiff peaks like a meringue, use it to leaven pancakes and waffles, or make light sponge cakes, all without any eggs at all.”  This is good news for those of us who cook for people who can’t eat eggs.

I plan to try the meringue later, but I was most intrigued by the fact that aquafaba can also be used to make mayonnaise. So, below is the link to Kenji’s mayonnaise recipe. Enjoy!

Egg-Free Mayonnaise Recipe

You can find the recipe here:

Carol’s Tips
[1] Kenji uses SW brand of chickpeas, which has a milkier, thicker composition (more viscous) than the brand I used which was Simple Truth by Kroeger stores. The next time I make it, I would use SW brand.

[2] Two garlic cloves make this a very garlicky mayonnaise—which really limits its use to savory dishes. I often use mayonnaise in my Waldorf salad, where garlic is inappropriate. In fact, I think this mayonnaise is really closer to aioli, a garlicky Mediterranean sauce that resembles mayonnaise. So, I would either omit the garlic OR use only a portion of a whole garlic clove for a mild, but not overpowering flavor.

[3] Be forewarned, your mayonnaise might not thicken as much without the garlic. The recipe makes a looser, thinner mayonnaise. If that’s OK with you, fine. Or, add 1/8 teaspoon of guar gum to the finished product for a thicker consistency.

[4] Be sure to add the oil only AFTER you have pureed the other ingredients. This is necessary to create a good emulsion so the mayonnaise stays together.

Grain-Free Orange Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Grain-Free Orange Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Grain-Free Orange Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Special Occasion Cake Without Gluten, Dairy, Grain

There are a number of special occasions in the Spring— Easter, Passover, Seder, Mother’s Day, graduations and so on— at which many of us will either host or be a guest at a meal in which the dessert needs to be grain-free, leavening-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

I have the perfect dessert for this occasion—a flourless cake made with almond meal and sweetened with orange marmalade. This cake turns out moist and flavorful and—when garnished with a drizzle of chocolate sauce—reassures those with food sensitivities or special diets that it is possible to “have your cake and eat it, too!”

Why Grain-Free?

There is a great deal of interest these days in grain-free baking, partly due to the Paleo diet. We also see interest during holidays where we celebrate with friends or loved ones who have special diets.  Right now, we have graduations, weddings, bridal showers, etc. Other people simply feel better when they avoid grains. In this case, almond meal (or other nut meals made from pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts) is perfect for baking. It can also be called almond flour; if you can’t find it, grind 2 cups of blanched almonds in the food processor to make almond meal. If the almonds are whole, the skins will make the cake darker in color and not as pretty so it’s better to use blanched or slivered almonds, which have the skins removed.

How to Serve This Cake

To garnish it, I dust the cake with powdered sugar and eat it plain or garnish it with a drizzle of your favorite store-bought chocolate sauce/syrup, with some pretty raspberries and fresh mint for garnish. It is so moist that it keeps very well on the countertop for a couple of days, although this is dangerous since you will find yourself grabbing a slice throughout the day as you walk by. Trust me….it is irresistible.

Grain-Free Orange Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Wiley, 2008)

This is the perfect dessert for those occasions where guests have a variety of special diets; it’s fail-proof, gorgeous, and delicious. You can even bake it ahead of time, freeze (tightly wrapped) and thaw on the countertop before serving at room temperature.

1 ¼ cups store-bought orange marmalade

2 cups almond meal

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

5 large whole eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt (optional)

4 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

Store-bought Chocolate sauce, fresh mint leaves, and fresh raspberries, for garnish

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350?F. Generously grease an 8-inch nonstick (gray, not black) springform pan and line it with parchment paper. Grease again; set aside.

[2] In a food processor, process the marmalade, almond meal, brown sugar, xanthan gum, eggs, vanilla, and salt (if using) for 30 to 40 seconds. Scrape down the sides with a spatula, and blend again 30 to 40 seconds or until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

[3] Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cover with foil during the last 20 minutes of baking to avoid overbrowning, if necessary. Cool the cake in the pan 10 minutes on a wire rack. Gently run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Remove outer rim. Cool the cake completely on the wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate and remove parchment paper. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, fresh mint, and fresh raspberries.

Gluten-Free Serendipity on the Oregon Coast

Do you believe in serendipity? I do. Numerous times, events happen that—strange as it sounds—turn out unexpectedly for the best. The experts define serendipity as something that happens by chance, but unexpectedly turns out in a happy way.

Sunset on Oregon Coast

Sunset on Oregon Coast

Here is what happened to me:

My husband and I were vacationing in Cannon Beach, a resort town on the Oregon coast that is famous for its unusual haystack rock formations. I was in Oregon because I taught a gluten-free class at Bob’s Red Mill Cooking School in Portland and we were enjoying a few days on the beach before returning home to Denver.

After a day of sightseeing near Astoria to the north, we were driving south on Highway 101 (the only main thoroughfare along the coast), hoping to have dinner in Cannon Beach and then a nice quiet night by the fireplace in our hotel room—with the sound of the ocean in the background.

Sadly, a fatal accident blocked the highway and we had no choice but to return north 7 miles to the next town—which happened to be Seaside, a community not exactly known for gourmet dining. We were frustrated, to say the least.

Google to the Rescue

I “googled” the term “upscale dining” and a few restaurants popped up, with Maggie’s on the Prom at the top. It is located within the Seaside Oceanfront Inn, with Maggie’s being the only fine-dining oceanfront restaurant in the whole town. We sat in our car outside the restaurant, read all the reviews of the restaurant, and finally decided we would give it a chance. I had my doubts, since the reviews were mixed.

Gluten-Free Serendipity at Seaside Oceanfront Inn

What a delight! The restaurant faces the ocean, with outdoor dining on a patio. But it was raining so we opted for a table indoors. Our waiter was fabulously helpful and I had my choice of delicious dishes that I rarely get to eat in a restaurant such as clam chowder, crab cakes, and calamari. Obviously, the chef understood the gluten-free diet.

Chocolate Mousse at Maggie's on the Prom, Seaside Oceanfront Inn

Chocolate Mousse at Maggie’s on the Prom, Seaside Oceanfront Inn

But the best part was the Chocolate Mousse, three tiers of luscious chocolate heaven topped with a drizzle of raspberry sauce. Easily the best dessert of the trip! Thoroughly sated, we began our journey back to the hotel.

As it turned out, the highway was closed for 4 hours, we had to take a detour that added another hour to our trip, but we were happy campers at having found this little gem of a restaurant. I would return in a heartbeat!

The moral of the story?

Sometimes, especially when traveling, it’s best to just go with the flow and let events happen. In this case, our story had a happy ending.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Crispy Beef Tacos

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Crispy Beef Tacos

Here in the Southwest where I live, we observe Cinco de Mayo (May 5) seriously, a day of celebrating Mexican heritage and pride. While it has some significant roots in the history of Mexico, this date is also a good excuse to indulge in Mexican food and have a little fun—and it’s an excellent excuse for a margarita. 

Crispy Beef Tacos

Crispy Beef Tacos

We celebrate Cinco de Mayo with many foods, but one of the most family-friendly is simple tacos. My grandkids love them, adults love them, and they are colorful and versatile.  You can use beef, as I do here, but we often use ground turkey instead and no one’s the wiser.

Crispy Beef Tacos

Anything goes when it comes to tacos. I usually use leftover cooked meat (such as browned ground beef or shredded pork) in the fridge or freezer, but you can use browned ground turkey as well. You can also use soft white or yellow corn tortillas. Just check the label to make sure they are gluten-free since some corn tortilla brands also include wheat. This recipe makes 6 regular-size tacos; simply double the ingredients to make 12 tacos.

3/4         cup browned ground beef or turkey (or shredded pork)

Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

1 ½ to 2 teaspoons chili powder, or to taste

1/4         cup diced red onion

1/2         diced tomato 

1/4         cup store-bought Mexican salsa

1/4         cup shredded cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese, or a mixture of cheese

1/2         cup shredded iceberg lettuce (or lettuce of your choice)

1/4         cup chopped fresh cilantro

4            crisp gluten-free corn taco shells

[1] In a small skillet over medium heat, toss the browned ground beef with the salt and pepper (if using) and chili powder and then heat to serving temperature.

[2] For each taco, layer the beef, onion, tomato, salsa, cheese, lettuce, and cilantro in a taco shell. Serve immediately. Makes 6 tacos.

Per taco:  505calories;  23g protein;  32 g total fat; 6g fiber; 33g carbohydrates; 79mg cholesterol; 466mg sodium

Lentil Underground: A Case for Eating Beans and Legumes

Lentil Underground? What is that, a crime organization? When I first heard of this book during an interview with author Liz Carlisle (a Michael Pollan protégé), on Splendid Table I thought I misunderstood. But since I’m a huge fan of pulses (which includes lentils, but also beans and legumes such as peas) I listened anyway. I am glad I did.

Enjoy Beans in This Quick Main Dish (photo by Jason Wyche)

Enjoy Beans in This Quick Main Dish (photo by Jason Wyche)

The Story Behind the Book

The story behind the book, Lentil Underground:  Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America, began forty years ago when corporate agribusiness told small farmers to “get big or get out.” But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien took a stand, becoming the first in his conservative Montana county to plant a radically different crop: organic lentils.

Why lentils? Lentils make their own fertilizer and tolerate variable climate conditions, so farmers aren’t beholden to industrial methods that require chemical fertilizers. Today, Oien leads an underground network of organic farmers who work with heirloom seeds and biologically diverse farm systems. Under the brand Timeless Natural Food, their unique business-cum-movement has grown into a million dollar enterprise that sells to Whole Foods, hundreds of independent natural foods stores, and a host of renowned restaurants. You have probably seen these legumes in stores and may have a bag of them in your pantry. Most importantly for us—they are gluten-free.

Why Lentils Are Good for You

While I support farming methods that restore the soil, I’m more intrigued by the importance of underrated legumes in our diet because they are so good for you. Here is a brief summary of these benefits; for more details read here and here:

*full of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals

*facilitate weight loss

*reduce cholesterol (when eaten regularly)

*have a low glycemic index (they break down slowly in the digestive tract)

*help people feel fuller, sooner, and the fiber in these foods “may reduce the absorption of fat.”

How to Prepare Legumes

 I will add another benefit to legumes: they taste good and are amazingly versatile. But the question most people have is: “How do I eat them?”

To answer that question, Pulse Canada (a Canadian industry association) asked noted dietitian Shelley Case, RD and me to write a booklet about the various ways to prepare them, ranging from using them in salads, main dishes, and ground into flour for baking. In Canada (and Europe), they use the term “pulses” to collectively include beans, chickpeas, legumes, and peas. So, Shelley and I produced this booklet, which is free here .

Using Beans and Lentils in Gluten-Free Cooking

Using Beans and Lentils in Gluten-Free Cooking

Meanwhile, enjoy this quick, one-skillet dish that features beans:

Mexican Skillet Beef & Rice

Reprinted with permission from 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

 This dish will become one of your go-to choices for those nights when you need dinner on the table pronto. You control the heat with the spiciness of the salsa (mild, medium, or hot), so choose accordingly. It is very colorful to serve it with avocado slices and sour cream.

8 ounces lean pork sausage

2 cups tomato juice

2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup Mexican salsa, plus more for garnish

2 cups corn tortilla chips

½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese or cheddar cheese or both, or cheese alternative

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 small head iceberg lettuce, chopped

[1] In a large, heavy, deep skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up with a spatula, until deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Pour off the fat and drain the meat on paper towels to remove excess fat. Return the meat to the skillet.

[2] Add the tomato juice, beans, and salsa and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the tortilla chips. Sprinkle with the cheese and cilantro, cover, and heat over low heat just until the cheese melts, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately over a bed of lettuce, garnished with a drizzle of salsa.

Per serving: 480 calories; 20g protein; 23g total fat; 14g fiber; 49g carbohydrates; 34mg cholesterol; 778mg sodium           

 

Maple Syrup: Not Just for Pancakes

 Maple syrup is one of life’s little pleasures. Most of us are familiar with this delicious nectar from maple trees, but we typically think of it only in relation to pancakes and waffles. But wait…. there’s much more to maple syrup.

Gluten-Free Granola Sweetened with Maple Syrup

Gluten-Free Granola Sweetened with Maple Syrup

Benefits of Maple Syrup
According to the Huffington Post, maple syrup is 100% natural, pure and free of any coloring or additives. Boiled down directly from tree sap, which is harvested from maple trees towards the end of winter, pure maple syrup is an unprocessed product of nature. White sugar, for example, is typically derived from sugar cane, and processed and purified before being sold. Because maple syrup is not as highly processed, it contains higher levels of potentially beneficial nutrients including calcium, potassium, sodium and copper, making it an excellent sugar alternative.

In addition, pure maple syrup does not contain high fructose corn syrup, a modified sugar substitute commonly found in processed syrup brands that may also contain additives like artificial flavorings and coloring agents. So, I always look for pure maple syrup so I know I’m getting the real thing.

Other Uses for Maple Syrup
Besides pancakes and waffles, maple syrup can be used in other ways, such as
-sweetening sauces on meats, such as BBQ sauce
-drizzled over roasted or cooked vegetables such as carrots or squash
-replacing honey in baked goods; replacing white or brown sugar in baking is harder because sugars are dry and maple syrup is liquid so use a recipe that calls for a liquid sweetener for best results.
-sweetening smoothies or puddings

Maple Syrup in Granola
In addition to the above uses, one of my favorite uses for maple syrup is to sweeten homemade granola. It leaves a hint of maple flavor, but lends a lovely texture to the granola and it also browns beautifully. Try this easy recipe from www.GfreeCuisine.com, my weekly e-cookbook that is only $7 a month. And, this recipe can be tinkered with to suit your taste, so feel to change out the raisins for dried cranberries or blueberries. Instead of sunflower seeds, try pumpkin seeds and the pecans can be replaced by almonds or walnuts. Sometimes, I add dried banana chips because I like how their crispy texture contrasts with the oats. Feel free to experiment!

Maple Pecan Coconut Granola
Reprinted with permission from www.GfreeCuisine.com, a weekly online recipe and menu planning service
We keep this granola on hand everyday at the Fenster household. I like it with sliced bananas and soy milk. It is also a great breakfast when you have overnight guests, because they can just help themselves whenever they like.

7 cups GF rolled oats*, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2/3 cup coconut flakes (the large size, not tiny shredded coconut)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 tablespoons butter or buttery spread, such as Earth Balance
1 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/4 cups raisins

*Check with your physician about whether oats are approved for your diet.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

[1] In a large bowl, stir together the oats, pecans, coconut, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and salt. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the maple syrup and sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

[2] Spread the granola mixture evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent overbrowning. Remove the oven (even if it doesn’t appear crunchy, it hardens while it cools.)

[2] Cool the granola for 20 minutes. Mix in the raisins. Store for up to one week. Makes about 20 small servings.

per serving: 301 calories; 7 grams protein; 14 grams total fat; 5 grams fiber; 4 grams saturated fat; 41 grams carbohydrates; 9 mgs cholesterol; 64 mgs sodium

Gluten-Free in Arizona

It’s been a long, cold winter in Denver so we were vulnerable.

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

Snowstorms, the death of my father-in-law, family discord, and cabin fever weighed heavily upon us. Advertisements for warm, sunny skies beckoned on TV and in magazines, so hubbie and I eventually caved in and booked a last-minute trip to Scottsdale, AZ. We arrived at the Phoenix airport late at night, so we couldn’t see much but we could feel the warmth and it felt good.

Bougainville in Arizona

Bougainville in Arizona

But the next morning, wow!! Brilliant red bougainvillea was everywhere, birds were singing, and the grass was green. Surrounded by all this beauty and sunshine, I still wondered: How was I going to eat for the next 4 days?

Well, as it turns out, in the greater Phoenix area it is as easy to dine gluten-free as it is in my hometown of Denver. Of course, I checked GlutenFreeTravelSite.com and Findmeglutenfree.com before I left home. However, we were not always near the recommended restaurants, so I just “winged it” much of the time. Yet, I had some great meals. Read on for details.

Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas
This was our home for 4 nights and I was bowled over the first morning when the chef offered to order in gluten-free pancake mixes, etc. for me. As it turned out, I declined his offer because we had other breakfast plans but I was impressed at the customer service.

Tonto Bar & Grill, Cave Creek
The hotel concierge steered us to this restaurant, located on a golf course in Cave Creek, AZ—about 25 miles north of Phoenix.

Tacos at Tonto Bar & Grill

Tacos at Tonto Bar & Grill

Cave Creek is an old mining and ranching town and embodies the wild, wild west; it’s worth a visit. Tonto’s is famous for their “al fresco” dining, right on the golf course and the food was terrific. Both of us ordered the Puerto Nuevo tacos, with Mexican shrimp. The filling came in a sizzling-hot cast-iron bowl and we assembled our own tacos with corn tortillas that were gently steamed in a waxed paper so they stayed warm and moist throughout the meal.

Chocolate Cake at Tonto's Bar & Grill

Chocolate Cake at Tonto’s Bar & Grill

But they blew me away with dessert: Vegan Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Coconut Ice Cream.

Bink’s Kitchen + Bar, Scottsdale
I searched for James Beard-nominated chefs and found this restaurant just blocks from our hotel. Chef Kevin Binkley was a finalist for the “Best in the Southwest” award. Lots of vegetables on the menu, so I chose a Beet Salad for my first course, followed by Brussels Sprouts for my main course—both were divine.

Beet Salad at Bink's Kitchen + Bar

Beet Salad at Bink’s Kitchen + Bar

 

Brussels Sprouts at Bink's Kitchen + Bar

Brussels Sprouts at Bink’s Kitchen + Bar

Of course, I was feeling very virtuous after eating all those vegetables. A Starbucks latte for dessert, and I was a happy camper!

 

Picazzo’s Pizza, Sedona
Sedona is magical, mystical, and beautiful. If you are anywhere close, take the time to visit. It is about 2 hours north of Phoenix, but worth the drive. We had pizza at Picazzo’s; frankly, I like my own pizza crust better but it was fun to see what restaurants do with gluten-free pizza crust made in-house. But the real winner here was dessert: a huge Chocolate Brownie baked in its own cast-iron pan so it’s still warm when they bring it to the table. Wow!

Chocolate Brownie at Picazzo's

Chocolate Brownie at Picazzo’s

 

Gluten-Free Pizza at Picazzo's

Gluten-Free Pizza at Picazzo’s

 

Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House, Cave Creek
While at Tonto’s the previous day, we learned of this sister-restaurant just a mile away. So, on our way home from Sedona, we stopped there for dinner. It is named after a famous ranching family that settled in this area in the late 1800’s.

The restaurant was gorgeously decorated and offered an extensive gluten-free menu, but I was most impressed by the house-made 3-seed bread: quinoa, flax, and sunflower seeds. It was fabulous and I ate the whole loaf myself. I was still full from my huge pizza lunch in Sedona, so I just ordered a salad… but the bread completed my meal!

Cartwright's Gluten-Free 3-Seed Bread

Cartwright’s Gluten-Free 3-Seed Bread

 

ZincSalad2016

Zinc Salad

Zinc, Westin Kierland Shopping District, Scottsdale
We have eaten here before and loved it, drawn mainly by the Truffled French Fries which are drizzled in white truffle oil and dusted with Parmesan and fresh parsley. I could make a meal of this, but I complemented it with a light, crab salad which was perfect. Like most of the other restaurants we dined at in AZ, we ate outside because the weather was lovely.

Blanco Tacos + Tequila, Scottsdale
This was a last-minute decision, near our hotel, and easy to drive to so we took a chance. Well, it turned out to the happening spot….. packed so full that we had to wait 45 minutes for a table. But the tacos were great and I had no problem with gluten-free choices. I wouldn’t go here on a Friday night again (too busy and noisy) but I would go when it’s less busy.

What is the Best Meal of the Trip?
“What is the best meal of the trip?” That’s the question I pose to my husband on each and every trip. We agreed, hands down, that Tonto’s won. The tacos were superb, the outdoor dining was perfectly situation right off the beautiful golf course, and the service was terrific. I would go there again in a heartbeat.

Red Quinoa Grain Bowl 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. And whole grains, like this Red Quinoa Grain Bowl, are amazingly versatile. Eat them for breakfast, as a side dish, or as a main dish topped with grilled salmon or chicken breast.

Red Quinoa Salad is Gluten-Free

Red Quinoa Grain Bowl

Quinoa: The “Mother” Grain
Since March is National Nutrition Month, I am featuring this Red Quinoa Grain Bowl 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.

My Inspiration for This Dish
I first tasted red quinoa a few years ago at True Food Kitchen in Scottsdale—a Dr. Andrew Weil-inspired restaurant— in a grain bowl 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 my idea of a red quinoa grain bowl 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 (including my husband) 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 Grain Bowl
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