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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

Coming October 7, 2014: Carol's latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, wherever books are sold, including pre-order at Amazon.com

Visit Carol's booth at the Annual Food Fair in Denver at the Merchandise Mart on Sunday, August 17.

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!

Gluten-Free Brunch at Panzano Restaurant for a Good Cause

If you live in the Denver area and would like to eat a safe, delicious gluten-free brunch at a restaurant staffed by an award-winning, celebrity chef ….then join us for Brunch on Sunday, September 21, at Panzano Restaurant in the Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver.

Gluten-Free Focaccia is served at the brunch.

Gluten-Free Focaccia is served at the brunch.

Executive Chef Elise Wiggins and her staff have assembled a special brunch menu (including gluten-free and vegetarian options), that showcases the mouthwatering dishes that Elise and Panzano are known for. Elise herself is gluten-free, so she and her well-trained staff handle gluten-free diners with ease. I dine in this restaurant often and even take out-of-town (gluten-free) guests there and they are always amazed and delighted about the whole experience.

What’s On the Menu?
We will start with an appetizer platter of prosciutto, cheeses, duck mousse, cranberry spread, and pears (believe me, these foods complement one another perfectly and it’s almost a meal in itself). For your main course, you can choose from 4 delicious, gluten-free options including Eggs Benedict, Eggs and Sausage, Fruit Plate with Muffin, and Caesar Salad with Salmon. There will be plenty of gluten-free muffins and focaccia bread. I have tried all of these dishes and they are delectable. As a special treat for dessert, the Panzano staff will demonstrate and serve Raspberry Blintzes—all in the cozy, intimate Panzano Wine Cellar, downstairs.

What is the Purpose of the Brunch?
The brunch is a fundraiser for Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI) of Colorado. Proceeds will fund scholarships for college students in Colorado as well as our work with local children through Green Tables, a farm-to-table initiative. Our scholarship winners will join us so you can meet them and guests are encouraged since the event is open to the public …everyone is welcome!

But we need to know how many of you are coming, so please see the details below and send an email to carol@carolfenster.com to make your reservation by September 15.

Details
Location: Panzano Wine Cellar at Hotel Monaco, downstairs, 909 17th St., Denver, CO 80202
Date, Time: 11 AM – 1:00 PM, Sunday, September 21, 2014
Cost: $48 per person (bring cash or check made out to Les Dames)
Reservation Deadline: September 15, 2 014
Parking: On Sundays, the lot next to Panzano is only $5; or only $6 valet parking at Hotel Monaco front door, 1717 Champa St.
Attire: Casual
Questions: Carol Fenster, carol@carolfenster.com or 303.741.5408

What is Les Dames d’Escoffier International?
Named for legendary French chef, restaurateur, and culinary writer Georges Auguste Escoffier, LDEI is a world-wide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage, and hospitality. Established in 1986 and based in Louisville, KY, the organization has more than 1,500 members in 29 chapters across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Induction into LDEI is by invitation only and, in addition to scholarships, LDEI focuses on education, advocacy, mentoring, and initiatives such as Green Tables.

Like other LDEI members around the world, Colorado’s chapter is highly diversified and reflects the multifaceted fields of contemporary gastronomy and hospitality. For example, Colorado’s members include cookbook authors, restaurateurs, journalists, radio talk show hosts, professors, chefs, sommeliers, distillers, vintners, caterers, dietitians, and nutritionists.

For more information on the scholarships awarded by the Colorado chapter of LDEI, visit www.lesdamescolorado.org. The next round of scholarships will be awarded in early 2015, so watch the website to see the 2015 application form.

 

Carrot Cake for the Small, Gluten-Free Household

I’ve long had a fascination with why we crave certain foods. We know certain dishes hold fond memories …for me, Chili reminds me of my childhood since we ate it often and it was the first dish I prepared for my husband (mainly because it was the only dish I knew how to make). Turns out, the seasons may play a role, too.

Carrot  Cupcakes

Carrot Cupcakes

Seasons can influence our choice of dessert flavors, according to a website called Restaurant Hospitality. Their research shows top picks for sweet treats change with the temperature. For example, Carrot cake is the most popular spring flavor, pink lemonade leads for summer, caramel apple is the fall favorite and winter brings a craving for snickerdoodle (although Red Velvet and Chocolate are not far behind).

Reading this research made me crave Carrot Cake, even though the research says it is a spring choice and we are now in late summer. Usually, I think of it as a heavier choice for fall weather, but who am I to argue with the research and besides.. I wanted some now!

So, I turned to my 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes cookbook (it has everything!) only to find the typical large, Bundt-cake recipe. But for our two-person household I didn’t want a huge cake sitting around for days. So, I pared down the full-size Bundt cake to yield 6-cupcakes or a small, 7-inch round cake.

This means my husband and I can enjoy two cupcakes and I can freeze the rest for another day. Or, as I did this time, I delivered the remaining 4 cupcakes to my next-door neighbor as a surprise treat (since their daughter recently adopted a gluten-free diet). They were happy, I was happy, and all ended well.

CARROT CAKE
Adapted from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Most carrot cakes—one of America’s favorite flavors according to recent research—are huge. Yes, there are lots of ingredients in this recipe but that’s what makes this cake so yummy, so don’t let a few extra minutes of measuring stop you from enjoying this treat. This recipe makes 6 cupcakes or a 7-inch cake, a smaller recipe than the typical large Bundt cake but perfect for small households.

CAKE
3/4 cup Gluten-free Flour Blend (see below)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
1/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained very well (save the juice)
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, divided

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
2 tablespoons cream cheese or cream cheese alternative, at room temperature
1 teaspoon milk of choice (or more if needed for a spreadable consistency)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Generously grease a 6-cup standard nonstick (gray, not black) muffin pan or line with paper liners. Or, grease a 7-inch nonstick springform pan (with removeable sides) and line with parchment paper.

[2] In a small mixing bowl, whisk the flour blend, sugars, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt until well blended; set aside.

[3] In a medium mixing bowl, place the egg and oil. Add enough water to the reserved pineapple juice to equal 2 tablespoons and add to the bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in the flour mixture on low speed just until no flour is visible. Add the carrots, pineapple, coconut, and 1 tablespoon of the chopped walnuts and beat on low speed until completely blended. Divide the batter evenly in the muffin cups or spread evenly in the springform pan.

[4] Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes or the cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack and then remove from the pan and cool completely on the wire rack. Be sure to remove the parchment from the bottom of the cake.

[5] Make the frosting: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, milk, and vanilla with a spatula until very smooth. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until the frosting is smooth, adding more milk—a teaspoon at a time—until it becomes spreadable. Spread the frosting on each cupcake (or the cake), sprinkle with the remaining chopped walnuts, and serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers. Makes 6 cupcakes or one 7-inch cake

Per cupcake or 1 of 6 cake slices: 325 calories; 3g protein; 12g total fat; 2g fiber; 53g carbohydrates; 37mg cholesterol; 184mg sodium

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

 

Gluten-Free Vegan Baking

These days, a high percentage of gluten-free people also have other food sensitivities. In other words, they don’t live with just the challenges presented by avoiding gluten… they also have to be on the lookout for other ingredients. Two of the most often cited “problem” ingredients are dairy and eggs.DecadentGFVeganBaking If you are a vegan, you already know this.

No Dairy? Easy.

Now, personally, I don’t think it is that hard to omit dairy from gluten-free cooking, even in baking. There are so many wonderful substitutes on the market that you’re sure to find one that’s right for you. Sure, those substitutes have a different taste and texture and, yes…..there is a “palate adjustment” phase as your taste buds adjust but, over time, you will come to accept them as normal.

No Eggs? Not So Easy!

But eggs? That’s another story. I never realized how important eggs are to baking until I started omitting them for my egg-allergic grandson a few years ago. And, I wrote two cookbooks that omit eggs in baking Cooking Free and 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes. It was much harder than I thought. And, when you omit eggs… along with gluten AND dairy… well, it’s even harder. Each ingredient has an important role to play and using substitutes undoes all that wonderful harmony and synergy among those ingredients.

Cara Reed’s New Book to The Rescue

That’s why I am delighted with Cara Reed’s new book Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking (Page Street Publishing, 2014). Cara gives us 125 luscious recipes for many sweets and treats, all without gluten, dairy, and eggs. There are cookies, bars, brownies, donuts, muffins, scones, biscuits, breads, pastries, and assorted other sweets such as sauces, toppings, and frosting. Enticing full-color photos show just how yummy-looking these treats really are and make you want to run straight to the kitchen.

Cara has cleverly figured out how to create moist, decadent treats that everyone can enjoy and the absence of gluten, dairy, and eggs won’t matter because everything tastes great! Among my favorites are the Pumpkin Streusel Bread (love the cinnamon) and the Hot Cocoa Snickerdoodles. But you might be tempted by the Easy Vegan Fudge or the Chocolate Almond Biscotti. You can see, I’m drawn to the chocolate choices in Cara’s book!

But one of the easiest recipes is her Nutter Butter Frosting, which can be used in so many ways… on cupcakes, quick breads, cookies, or straight from the bowl in big, heaping tablespoons when no one’s looking.

NUTTER BUTTER FROSTING
Reprinted with permission from Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking by Cara Reed (Page Street Publishing, 2014)

½ c/112 g vegan butter, softened
¼ c/65 g creamy peanut butter
3 c/360 g powdered sugar
3 Tbsp/45 ml nondairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
With an electric mixer, cream the vegan butter on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the peanut butter, and then gradually add in the powdered sugar. Add the nondairy milk and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Frosts 12 cupcakes or 1 two-layered cake.

CARA’S TIP: If you desire, you can switch to almond butter for this recipe, or if you are allergic to nuts, you can use a nut-free spread like SunButter instead. Cara pairs this frosting with her Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes in the book, but I would use it any way you like.

Thanks you Cara!!

 

 

What the New Gluten-Free Labeling Law Means for Home Cooks

By now, you are aware that starting August 5, 2014, food manufacturers must comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s Gluten-Free Food Labeling Law  by assuring that any packaged food product labeled as “gluten-free” contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. Five years overdue, we now have a universal definition.100BestQGFRcover9780544263710_hres

What Does This Mean for Home Cooks? I think it has tremendous implications because one of my most common complaints from home cooks is that they don’t have much time. So, they welcome any time-saving shortcuts such as store-bought foods and the certainty of the gluten-free label makes it much quicker and easier to choose those foods in stores.

My Mission: Get More People in the Kitchen
In fact, this plea for quick recipes led to my latest cookbook, 100 Best Quick Gluten-Free Recipes, on bookshelves October 7. My mission is to get more people in the kitchen, cooking their own food. I think eating is the most profound thing we do for our bodies, and eating healthy, safe food is extremely critical—especially when we avoid gluten.

This new ruling from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guides us when we buy store-bought foods made from multiple ingredients—such as sauces, seasonings, marinades, and salad dressings—in order to shave precious time from meal preparation. I have always felt that it is not the amount of time we spend preparing meals that matters. Rather, it is how we use our time wisely to put the best meal on the table—in a time frame that suits our busy lives— that is most important.

How the Law Affects Home Cooks
In the past—to assure safety—gluten-free people like us had to prepare most of their own meals at home from plain meats, dairy, vegetables, non-gluten grains, and fruits. Any seasonings, dressings, marinades, or sauces had to be made at home because store-bought versions contain multiple ingredients, some of which could possibly contain gluten. But of course, these items add flavor, texture, and color to an otherwise stark flavorless entrée (such as a plain chicken breast seasoned only with salt and pepper) so this definition allows us to buy gluten-free ingredients with confidence and save time in the kitchen by not having to make everything from scratch.

For example, you can buy clearly-labeled gluten-free salad dressing rather than making it at home. In this case, the culprit can be wheat-laden soy sauce which manufacturers can replace with gluten-free soy sauce—without changing the flavor or appearance of the dressing. Or, home cooks can know if they are buying a barbecue sauce that is not thickened with wheat flour, as some sauces are. Store-bought gluten-free cookies can be made into a crumb crust for pies, rather than first baking the cookies at home from scratch with gluten-free flours. In each case, you can now have confidence that the gluten-free label complies with the FDA’s definition of less than 20 ppm—not some arbitrary level set by the manufacturer.

Not only does this new “standardized” gluten-free label mean these foods are made with gluten-free ingredients, but it also means that manufacturers did not allow them to touch gluten during the manufacturing process—known as cross-contact or cross-contamination. Another benefit of the 20 ppm level is that experts around the world, not just in the U.S., regard it as safe so it is a universal definition.

Caveats to the New Law
There are some caveats. The gluten-free labeling is not mandatory but manufacturers who use the label must meet the FDA standards. That is why it is so important to read labels on everything and keep reading until you find a gluten-free brand. The new ruling does not apply to meats, poultry, and most egg products, nor does it apply to restaurants.

Have Questions?
Finally, new laws generate many questions. To help you understand the new ruling and what it does and does not cover, the FDA provides “Questions and Answers: Gluten-Free Food Labeling Final Rule”. In addition, the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America provides a dietitian’s perspective on the ruling to make it easier to understand from a consumer perspective.

So, rejoice in this new ruling, but use it as an incentive to get in the kitchen and start cooking.

Gazpacho

Fresh tomatoes are perfect for gluten-free Gazpacho.

Fresh tomatoes are perfect for gluten-free Gazpacho.

As a child I struggled to like tomatoes…I tried them plain, salted, and even sprinkled with sugar…UGH, all to no avail. Now, as an adult I adore them. Sometimes I get carried away at the Farmer’s Markets and bring home too many tomatoes. When that happens, I look for ways to use them up in a delicious way.

Gazpacho
One of my favorite ways is to make Gazpacho―a tomato-based soup that is like a liquid salad from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. It is typically a summertime dish because it is cool and refreshing and needs no cooking. There are many ways to make this delightful dish; I have a very simple version in my vegetarian cookbook, 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes, that I serve as an appetizer in over-size shot glasses.

Here is another version that we use in my weekly online cookbook, www.GfreeCuisine.com that is also extraordinarily tasty. Serve it as appetizers in whatever little dishes you have (such as shot glasses or martini glasses) or as an entrée-size in soup bowls or large wine or margarita glasses. Gazpacho’s flavor improves if it is refrigerated overnight, but chill it for at least 4 hours after making it to let the flavors meld.

Gazpacho from www.GfreeCuisine.com
Used with permission from www.GfreeCuisine.com
My favorite way to serve gazpacho is as a cute little appetizer (see photo), but it makes a great summertime lunch when the weather’s hot and you don’t want to cook.

2 cucumbers, diced
3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups tomato juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons GF Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or more to taste)
Juice of 1 lemon
Frank’s hot sauce, to taste
Garnishes: GF croutons, lemon wedges, diced avocado, chopped parsley, and sour cream

[1] In large glass bowl combine vegetables. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Add half the mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth. Combine puree with original mixture. Chill for 4 hours and serve with garnishes of your choice. Serves 4 as lunch; 8 as appetizers.

Variations
There are so many ways to make Gazpacho, but usually it is made from tomatoes. A common method is to use pieces of bread to thicken it. This means we should be careful when ordering Gazpacho in a restaurant. However, I find that using bread isn’t necessary and, in fact, I never use any thickener. If your recipe seems excessively watery, simply reduce the amount of liquid (usually tomato juice) by about 25 percent. After all, it is a soup so it should be liquid!
I rarely see this in recipes, but I like to add a pinch of sugar or agave nectar to tomato-based dishes like this Gazpacho to heighten the flavors and balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Try it and see what you think; you won’t know the sugar’s there.

How to Serve Gazpacho
Garnishes are like the “frosting on the cake.” They make our food look prettier and more enticing. I listed several possible garnishes but—if you don’t want to use them—simply sprinkle a little chopped parsley or a basil leaf on each serving and you’re good to go. For a little protein, I sometimes top the appetizers with cooked little shrimps. Very pretty and tasty!

If you are serving the Gazpacho as an appetizer, you don’t have to worry about what to serve with it. But if it is a main dish, then try serving it with a gluten-free baguette that you baked from one of my cookbooks. Or, toast any of the wonderful gluten-free sandwich breads and top with butter and a dusting of Parmesan cheese. Or, serve it with crispy gluten-free crackers….anything to provide a crunchy contrast.

How to Store Tomatoes
You probably already know that tomatoes should never be refrigerated; keep them at room temperature to preserve their texture and flavor. I recently learned that tomatoes will last longer if stored with the stem-end down which prevents moisture from escaping and mold or bacteria from getting in. I plan to try this tip with fresh peaches and apricots, too, just to see what happens (since they should not be refrigerated either).

 

Gluten-Free Bread Salad Called Panzanella: A Winner with Summer Tomatoes

One thing is for sure at this time of year: tomatoes take over gardens, Farmer’s Markets, and the grocery store produce aisles.

Gluten-Free bread, vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil make a delightful salad.

Gluten-free bread, vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil make a delightful salad.

One of my favorite ways to use tomatoes is an Italian bread salad known as Panzanella. Originally a dish devised by frugal Italian cooks to use up stale bread, it has evolved into a classy dish that goes far beyond bread, tomatoes, and basil dressed in an olive oil and vinegar dressing. And, it is absolutely gorgeous as you can see in the photo.

I serve this vibrantly colorful dish to rave reviews by dinner guests every summer and although you can serve it year-round, it is best when made with the best tomatoes you can find, which will be summertime. Whether it’s from your own vines, the Farmer’s Market, or generous neighbors the quality of this dish depends on the tomatoes. And it is a great way to use up gluten-free bread.

I have to warn you: If you serve this to guests, make plenty because they will love it and you’re likely to run out. They don’t care if it is gluten-free; it just tastes that good!

Panzanella: Italian Bread Salad
Reprinted with permission from 1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008)
This is my favorite summer salad and guests happily devour it. It is very colorful and the pleasing crunch of the bread cubes contrasts nicely with the soft, juicy tomatoes. I often vary it by adding marinated artichokes, olives, and baby spinach (and occasionally shrimp or chicken for a main dish) but this is the basic version I start with.

6 slices white gluten-free bread
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, washed, stemmed and halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, chopped (or more to taste) plus a few leaves for garnish

[1] Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large 9×13-inch baking sheet (not nonstick) with foil. Cut crusts from bread (use them for bread pudding or stuffing) and cut remaining bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Place bread cubes in a large bowl.

[2] In a small pan, combine 6 tablespoons of the oil, butter, 1/4-teaspoon of the salt, and garlic in a small pan and cook over low heat until the butter melts, stirring to blend ingredients thoroughly. Pour the oil mixture over the bread cubes and quickly toss to mix well. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on the baking sheet.

[3] Bake 10 to 20 minutes or until the bread cubes are golden and fragrant, stirring and turning cubes occasionally halfway through for even browning. The amount of time required to brown bread cubes varies depending on the bread you use, so watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the bread cubes cool slightly on the baking sheet. The toasted bread cubes should be used within the next 15 minutes for best result

[4] In the same large bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the remaining 1/2-teaspoon salt, vinegar, and pepper. Add the bread cubes, tomatoes, and onion, and chopped fresh basil and toss until blended. Serve immediately, garnished with additional chopped fresh basil leaves. Makes 4 servings.

Carol’s Kitchen Notes: How to Handle Tomatoes without Bruising Their Egos

[1] Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, rather than refrigerated because the cold makes them mealy and diminishes their flavor.

[2] Experts say that tomatoes stored stem-side down stay fresh longer. Apparently, the scar where the stem is located releases moisture and provides an entry point for mold and fungus.

[3] Store tomatoes in a single layer, not on top of each other. I put mine in a flat tray on my countertop where they add a pretty, colorful touch to my kitchen.

[4] When my grape or cherry (my favorite variety) tomatoes start to shrivel, I cut them in half, toss with olive oil, and spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry in the oven. A setting of about 200°F is ideal. If you have a convection oven, use that setting at 200 degrees. Or, use a dehydrator specially designed for drying food. The amount of time it takes depends on the size and moisture of the tomatoes, so watch carefully. When dry, cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Then freeze in resealable freezer bags. Use them in soups, salads, sandwiches… any recipe that needs dried tomatoes. I rarely soak them in water to reconstitute, but you can if you like.

Norway: Land of Fjiords and My Longest Day On Earth

“Can you move the curtain a little to the left.. no, a little to the right. There, that should keep out the sunshine.” This was our nightly ritual around 10 PM each night in Norway…adjusting the curtains in our hotel room so we could sleep without the sun in our eyes! Imagine going 10 days without seeing night or any darkness, just constant sunshine. I just returned from 10 days in Norway, a beautiful Scandinavian country that reminds me of my home state of Colorado but it also reminded me of Alaska, Canada, and Switzerland because of the mountains—and a little bit of Minnesota because of the many lakes.

Waterfall on fjiord in Norway

Waterfall on fjiord in Norway

It is a land of steep mountains, deep fjiords, and incredible beauty…and in summer, very long days. The sun doesn’t set until 11 PM and rises again around 4 AM. We happened to be there on June 21, the longest day of the year known as the summer solstice, so I can safely say that I spent the longest day of my life in Norway.

WHAT IS A FJIORD AND WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT NORWAY?

I know you’re wondering: what is a fjiord?A fjiord (pronounced fee-yord) is a long, narrow and very deep inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion.  They occur in many places in the world, but we were drawn to Norway because of its incredible beauty. We weren’t disappointed!

Fjiord in Norway

Fjiord in Norway

Our trip began in Oslo, then we traveled by a 7-hour train ride over the mountains of Norway to a harbor town called Bergen. Then we joined our tour group for a 5-day tour called “Land of the Fjiords.” Our sightseeing included gorgeous scenery in the fjiords, towering mountains, glaciers, waterfalls , and rushing streams along the roads. We traveled by bus, train, and ferry as we made our way back to Oslo, via Lillehammer—the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. It was interesting to see a 25-year-old Olympic site, compared to the mega-sites built for today’s Olympics. This trip has been on our “bucket list” for many years.

GLUTEN-FREE DINING IN NORWAY

Except for a little pre-trip reading, I knew little about Norwegian food…except that I could expect lots of fish and that Scandinavia was well-versed in gluten-free dining.  Both were true.

I had alerted our tour operator, Robinson Scandinavia, about my gluten-free diet and our wonderful tour guide, Anne Marie Reinholdt, did a superb job of making sure my needs were met. There was gluten-free bread, usually whole grain (some of the best I’ve ever eaten in Europe) at every meal….although I had to ask for it each time.

Gluten-free bread in Norway

Gluten-free bread in Norway

My favorite fish was a Norwegian catfish at the Scandic (formerly Rica) Ornen in Bergen in its restaurant, called Roast. If this is Nordic cuisine, I want more. The fish was delicious, served on a bed of delicately roasted vegetables. The staff, like most of the other restaurants we visited, understood gluten-free, spoke excellent English, and understood what foods were appropriate for me so dining was very easy.

Catfish in Norway

Catfish at Roast restaurant in Bergen, Norway

While on the tour, some evening meals were buffets and I was surprised to learn that most of the main dishes were gluten-free, even the sauces were either reduced or thickened with something other than wheat flour. So, I had lots of choices. Also, on the buffet tables there were many types of fish such as shrimp, stone crab, herring, and mussels. One day, for lunch, we had the most fantastic roasted salmon.

But the most unusual fish I ate on the whole trip was whale. It was, as our tour guide explained, a “nuisance” whale called “minke” and not one of the endangered types.  Apparently, Norwegians eat it often. It was smoked, looked like dark-colored dried beef, and was thinly sliced. It tasted like very salty fish and I can honestly say I didn’t like it at all.

It is very easy to communicate in restaurants because Norwegians speak excellent English. In fact, I never had to use my Norwegian dining card! One day, we ate gluten-free pizza at Peppes (a chain across Norway) in Oslo.  While it was good, our American versions of gluten-free pizza are better. Another day, we tried the gluten-free hamburgers at Burger King (in the Oslo train station). Again, our American hamburger buns are better, but I appreciated their effort. The main difference? The Norwegian pizza crust and hamburger bun were composed primarily of white rice flour and lots of tapioca, giving it a texture similar to sponge cake. But, as I mentioned earlier, the whole-grain breads served with meals were phenomenal.

On some days, my desserts were actually better than the rest of the people in our tour group. For example, this dense, dark chocolate

Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse in Norway

mousse was fantastic and I was the envy of everybody!!

FOODS I TOOK WITH ME

Of course, I always travel with food. My favorite muffins are made by Flax 4 Life and they are not only dense, hearty, and filling but that same density makes them extremely good for traveling. They don’t crush or break apart, even after jostling around in my purse or suitcase.  I also took a container of gluten-free rolled oats that just need hot water to make instant oatmeal, an indispensable food I always have in my carry on in case there is no edible food on the airline. I also took nuts, crackers, and some dried fruit… my usual snacks. As it turned out, Icelandair had a gluten-free meal for me, so that worked out well.

 

GETTING THERE: OUR BATTLE WITH ICELANDAIR

If you have read today’s blog this far, then you know the trip was wonderful. But, international travel is always fraught with possible disasters and this trip was no exception. Maybe you can benefit from our experience. Here is what happened:

Despite meticulous planning, a hint of potential debacle arrived in the form of a vague e-mail from our air carrier, Icelandair, two days before departure. We had flown Icelandair before with excellent results so we had no reason to expect complications on this trip.

The ominously vague e-mail mentioned a change in our itinerary, but no details—we were instructed to call the airline to book the required changes. Except no one would answer the phone, for 2 days!  From the airline’s website, we learned that the 2nd leg of our trip, from Iceland to Oslo—was cancelled due to a 24-hour mechanics strike, but the website does not allow passengers to rebook flights online. Instead, we were instructed to call the airline. But, remember… they do not answer phone calls.

We are seasoned travelers and know that there are several ways to address a problem, so we even drove to Denver International Airport (DIA)….thinking that if we could just talk to a real live person, then we could rebook the needed changes and all would be well. Unfortunately, Icelandair contracts with Lufthansa to handle their gates at DIA,—and Lufthansa is only empowered to do check-ins, not book or re-book flights.

Acting on faith, we departed Denver for Iceland making sure to carry on our luggage rather than checking it, to allow flexibility to catch another flight.  When we arrived in Iceland after a 7 hour flight, we (and 12,000 other stranded travelers on 65 flights all over the world) were again instructed to call the airline to re-book the next leg of our journey.  We were told to stand in line at the airport, but only 4 airline representatives could rebook our flights in person. At the rate they were going, we would have been standing in line for 12 hours waiting for our turn.

So, while waiting in line, we decided to try the phones one more time. After 20 minutes on hold, an airline representative re-booked our flight for the next day.  While many airlines may take the initiative to put you into a block of hotel rooms that they have reserved for just this purpose (Lufthansa says that is what they do for stranded passengers), Icelandair leaves everything to the passenger’s initiative.  Icelandair’s 24-hour strike required us to stay overnight, incurring hotel, meal, and transportation costs to and from the airport. Icelandair promises to reimburse us for these unexpected expenses, but we will see if they are true to their word.

This whole experience makes us wonder if we want to fly Icelandair again. I’m sharing this with you because you should know that, unlike flying to continental Europe where you have many more airline options or perhaps can use a train, bus, or rental car to reach your destination, Iceland is an island-nation and you’re trapped! You can’t just hop a train or bus or rent a car and get off the island. However, Iceland is a fantastically interesting country (we visited for 5 days in 2012) so don’t pass up the chance to visit—but do go knowing your options.

Melon-Peach Gazpacho with Crispy Prosciutto

Two of my favorite fruits are close to ripening: peaches and melons, grown right here in Colorado.  In fact, Colorado is known for some of the best peaches and cantaloupe in the country.

Melon Peach Gazpacho

Melon Peach Gazpacho

I like to blend the two into a cold summer soup. Some call it fruit soup; some call it gazpacho (a Spanish soup that has been reinvented countless times by creative American chefs, usually made with tomatoes). You’ll see some gazpachos thickened with bread, so that’s why it is often off-limits in restaurants, but my version doesn’t need bread for its lovely, creamy texture.

The lovely golden color and enticing flavor of this refreshing soup is enhanced with the salty, crispy prosciutto. Because it is naturally gluten-free, so you can serve it to everyone. Just omit the prosciutto for your vegan or vegetarian friends. Enjoy!!


Melon-Peach Gazpacho with Crispy Prosciutto©

By Carol Fenster, www.GFreeCuisine.com

Serve this chilled soup in pretty goblets, shot glasses, or as a luncheon main dish in bowls. Pair it up with gluten-free crackers to add a little complementary crunch.

One-half medium, ripe cantaloupe, peeled and chopped

2 medium ripe peaches, chopped (no need to peel)

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon champagne or sherry vinegar (or better yet, dry sherry)

1 small peeled and minced shallot (or 1 tablespoon chopped white onion)

5 tablespoons finely diced prosciutto (available in deli-section or dice it yourself)

Garnishes: salt, freshly ground black pepper, and chopped fresh herbs such as basil, mint, or thyme

[1] Puree cantaloupe, peaches, water, lemon juice, vinegar, and shallots in a blender until very smooth. Divide among serving dishes (refrigerate for up to day if you aren’t serving right away).

[2] In a small skillet, fry the prosciutto over medium-low heat until very crispy. Lightly sprinkle chilled soup with salt, black pepper, crisped prosciutto, and fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Note: I designed this version to serve 4 as a soup course (about ¾ cup each) or 8 as an appetizer (about 1/3 cup) in over-size shot glasses—using two peaches and one-half melon. To serve more people, simply scale up the recipe accordingly.

Per serving: 75 calories; 5g protein; 1 g total fat; 2g fiber; 12g carbohydrates; 10 mg cholesterol; 380 mg sodium

Overnight Muesli

There are some summer mornings when the last thing I want is a hot breakfast. Knowing that the day will heat up, I want something cool and refreshing to get me started… yet something nutritious and tasty.

Muesli made with gluten-free oats.

Muesli made with gluten-free oats.

Overnight Muesli is just the ticket.

I first learned of muesli back in my corporate traveling days when I ate breakfast at my hotel in Seattle. Now I make it for myself, at a fraction of the cost, and vary it as I like.

This version of muesli is made from gluten-free rolled oats (the whole grain part) and milk and yogurt (for dairy nutrients) plus a little honey and grated apples for sweetness.

It’s also perfect for busy summer days when your family—or guests—want breakfast at different times of the morning. All they have to do is reach into the refrigerator and grab one of these little gems.

I like using these cute little Mason jars, but use any vessel you like…as long as it’s got a lid to seal in moisture while the oats soak in the liquid overnight.

Enjoy!

Overnight Muesli

Reprinted with permission from www.GfreeCuisine.com* by Carol Fenster

Museli , an oat-based cereal dish commonly served in European countries, is very creamy, hearty, and filling. It is especially cute when served in mini Mason canning jars, but you can use regular cereal or soup bowls. If you use non-dairy yogurt and milk, this is a vegan breakfast.

Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Chilling time: overnight

3 [1/2] cups gluten-free granola**

2 apples (Gala or Fuji, or your choice), cored and grated (I don’t peel the apple, but you can)

8 ounces plain low-fat yogurt or soy yogurt

1 cup milk of choice

1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar, or to taste

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fresh fruit for garnish

In a large bowl, toss all of the ingredients until well blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold, garnished with fresh fruit.

Per serving: 230 calories; 8g protein; 7g total fat; 4g fiber; 35g carbohydrates; 3mg cholesterol; 77mg sodium

*Check with your physician to make sure gluten-free oats are right for you.

** Www.GfreeCuisine.com is a weekly e-booklet menu planning service that provides you with a personalized grocery shopping list.

Blackberry Coolers for Hot Summer Days

Hot summer days call for cool, refreshing beverages and I’ve got a great one for you today. First, as you can see from the photo, it is gorgeous to look at. Your guests will be impressed! But, it is also light and refreshing. Plus, it is versatile—you can also make it with raspberries instead of blackberries if you prefer. Personally, we like blackberries at our house so that’s how I usually make it.

In addition, you can use non-dairy ice cream and it is still delicious. In fact, I’m fond of coconut-based “ice cream” because I like the flavor but use what works in your household. Enjoy!!!!

Blackberry Coolers

Reprinted with permission from www.GfreeCuisine.com, Carol’s weekly online subscription e-cookbook that generates a personalized grocery shopping list just for you!

Blackberry Coolers

Cool, refreshing Blackberry Coolers from www.GfreeCuisine.com

2 cups fresh blackberries

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

1/4 gallon vanilla ice cream of choice (can use non-dairy coconut or rice versions)

20 ounces seltzer water

Fresh mint, for garnish

[1] In a small saucepan, combine all but 12 of the blackberries with the water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the berries are very soft—roughly 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

[2] Press the blackberries through a sieve set over a bowl and discard the solids. Refrigerate the blackberry mixture until cold.

[3] To serve, divide the ice cream among 4 tall (at least 16 ounce, to contain the fizzing!!) glasses. Pour the seltzer on top, then divide the blackberry mixture evenly in each glass. Garnish with the remaining whole blackberries and a sprig of mint. Serve immediately with straws and spoons. Makes 4 coolers (16 ounce glasses). For 8 small servings, use 8 ounce glasses.

per 16 ounce glass serving: 357 calories; 6 grams protein; 16 grams total fat; 5 grams fiber; 10 grams saturated fat; 50 grams carbohydrates; 63 mgs cholesterol; 146 mgs sodium