Cooking Techniques: Shrimp Scampi


“Maude is a giraffe…. George is a goat.”

When I was in high school, my geometry teacher wanted to impress upon us the importance of having all the facts. He wrote on the board, “Males are taller than females. George is male. Maude is female. Therefore, George is taller than Maude.”

He then turned around and asked us if this was a reasonable supposition. We, of course, all nodded in agreement. He then turned back to the board and wrote, “Maude is a giraffe. George is a goat.”

I was reminded about Mr. Budnitsky’s teaching, when I received an email this evening asking a funny question. Someone had purchased the recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine and wanted to know what I thought about their recipe for shrimp scampi. The friend hadn’t liked their version but since Cook’s Illustrated is supposed to be the expert for proper cooking, she wanted to know my thoughts.

First, I want to say that if one is going to spend money on a cooking magazine, you cannot go wrong with a magazine like Cook’s Illustrated. The folks who create the recipes are from America’s Test Kitchen, and this means they actually do test their recipes, over and over and over again, and not only that, but they tell you all about it which gives you plenty of food for thought — pun intended.

That being said, I do agree with my friend that I sometimes find myself wondering, too, about the presumptions that the testers/cooks make about people’s palates, because occasionally I actually disagree with what they say is the best way to make a certain dish. There are presumptions the testers/cooks make about what people like or dislike.

For example, they frequently comment that overdone poultry is not tasty. This fails to take into account, that for some cultures, the only “tasty” way to eat poultry is what Cook’s Illustrated would consider overdone. Does that mean those cultures are “wrong” about poultry? I would say, “No.” Rather, it means palates and tastes differ from person to person and culture to culture.

Shrimp Scampi is no different. Ironically, the name is a redundancy because scampi means shrimp, so we’re really saying Shrimp Shrimp. That fits, though, because it implies an abundance, and the number of different types  of recipes that exist for scampi is quite abundant. Do you want prefer olive oil or butter? Do you like only garlic or garlic and onions? Do you want a thick sauce to coat the shrimp or a thinner sauce to run over noodles? Do you even want noodles or do you prefer scampi plain or with rice? Do you coat the scampi with bread crumbs? Do you want to season it with basil or thyme or something completely different? Do you like a lemony sauce or more of a white wine taste or a balance? However you answered each of these questions, I guarantee you, you’ll find a recipe to match your palate.

I have a simple recipe I use which you can vary to your hearts content….

Shrimp Scampi


  • Shrimp, 12 to 16 ounces (Decide whether you want to use raw shrimp or cooked shrimp. Raw means you usually have to peel and devein the shrimp. If you have cooked shrimp you can usually just throw them into the sauce at the end. Either way, about 12 to 16 ounces of shrimp is usually a good amount for dinner for four with leftovers.  If you use raw shrimp, you’ll simmer the shrimp midway through the recipe. If you use cooked, you’ll just add the shrimp at the end.)
  • Olive oil or butter, 2 tsp (Do you prefer a buttery sauce or an olive oil sauce? I usually use a combination where I saute with olive oil in the beginning and then add vegan butter at the end.)
  • Aromatics: Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced – 1/4 to 1/2 cup; Onions, diced, 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup (Think about the taste you’re going for: Do you want a deeper, mellow garlic flavor in which case you should roast the garlic before preparing your scampi.  Or do you want more of a garlic bite which means you should saute fresh garlic as you begin preparing the scampi. Do want just a garlic taste or do you  like onions, too. How much of one or the other or both flavors do you want? Vary the combination and amounts to match your tastes.)
  • Flavorings: White wine or chicken broth or a “shrimp” sauce, 1 cup (What is your taste preference? Some folks like a wine sauce; others prefer just to use broth. Many folks want the broth to taste “shrimpy”, in which case you should use raw shrimp and simmer the shrimp in wine or broth to flavor it.)
  • Seasoning: Basil, thyme, oregano? 1 tsp dried or sprigs of fresh; red pepper, black pepper? 1/4 to 1/2 tsp (What do you like for seasonings? If you prefer one over another, choose that. If you use dried, you should begin the scampi with the dried herbs. If you use fresh, don’t add the herbs until midway. Do you like the bite of red and black pepper? How much? Vary the additions and amounts to your liking.)
  • Lemon juice, 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup (Do you like a lemony sauce? if so, how lemony? Vary the amount to your liking or omit altogether.)
  • Cornstarch, 2 tsp (If you want a thicker sauce, you should mix 2 tsp of cornstarch with the lemon juice or if you’re omitting lemon juice, with the same amount of water.  If you like the sauce to be more of a liquid, then omit the cornstarch and simply cook down the sauce until it’s reduced.)
  • Vegan Butter, 1 to 2 tbsp (If you want a buttery sauce, you can add butter at the end. Many recipes will call for 1/4 cup or more of butter. I find that one to two tablespoons is more than sufficient.)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Prepare shrimp if raw by peeling and deveining. If using cooked shrimp, make sure it’s defrosted and tails are removed.
  2. Put olive oil or vegan butter into a large pan, along with the chosen aromatics (garlic, onions or both) and seasonings if they are dry (basil or thyme or oregano). Saute over medium low heat for one to two minutes if the garlic is roasted and if onions are frozen, two to three minutes if using fresh garlic and onions, stirring continually.
  3. Add the flavoring (white wine or broth). If using raw shrimp, add the shrimp and cover the pan. If using already cooked shrimp, simply simmer the liquid. Either way, you’ll simmer for about five minutes. If using fresh herbs, add them now to the simmering sauce. If using raw shrimp, remove the now cooked shrimp from the liquid before proceeding with the next step.
  4. Mix the lemon juice, cornstarch, red pepper and black pepper and add to the liquid. Stirring continually, cook until the sauce begins to thicken. This will only take about a minute or two. If you’re going for a buttery sauce, as soon as the sauce thickens, add the pat of vegan butter and stir until it dissolves.
  5. Add the cooked shrimp to the sauce and coat them well.
  6. Serve the scampi over broccoli, rice, or pasta, or serve it as is.





Recipe Revamping: Oatmeal Crumb Cake

“But it’s a craving….”

When I was pregnant, I never craved the unusual combinations like pickles and ice cream. I always craved one type of food. So, with my oldest I couldn’t eat enough whole grain bread, which was odd because I tended to prefer rice to bread as a norm – probably the Asian influence. With my middle child, I wanted vegetables all the time – fresh, cooked – how didn’t matter, but quantity did. My youngest seemed to want protein, chicken in particular, which struck me as ironic since with my middle child, I couldn’t eat chicken without feeling sick.

It’s been years since I’ve been pregnant, but I find that from time to time my body will crave something for days, and I usually take it to mean that I’m missing some nutrient or vitamin that my body needs.

Last week I wanted oatmeal. I couldn’t stop thinking about oatmeal, but I really wasn’t in the mood for eating a straight bowl of oatmeal. The weather was nice and sunny, and oatmeal for breakfast has always struck me as a cold weather food.

I started looking around for an oatmeal cake, but I discovered that most oatmeal cake recipes don’t actually have a lot of oatmeal in them, and the oatmeal cake recipes I found seemed to call for a lot of sugar, butter, and eggs. So, I set to work revamping a recipe….

Original Recipe:

Cake:  1 1/2 cups butter, 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking soda

Crumb topping:  2 cups flour, 3/4 cup light-brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups butter

Revamping the Recipe:

  • The oatmeal/flour ratio and substitution: Since I wanted a cake which had a lot of the goodness of the oats, the first thing I did was swap the oats to flour ratio. I opted to use 2 1/2 cups of gluten free rolled oats with 1 1/2 cups of gluten free sorghum flour. For the topping, I added 2 cups of gluten free oats to the recipe and cut the flour down to 1 cup of gluten free sorghum flour.
  • The butter: 3 cups of butter is just nuts! I decided to use 1/2 cup of vegan butter in the cake and added 2 1/2 cups of mashed, ripe bananas instead to help make the cake moist without all the fat. (You won’t taste the bananas in the cake, which was good for me because my middle child doesn’t like bananas but loved this cake!) For the topping I cut the butter to 1/2 cups of vegan butter, so that overall the new recipe had 1/3 the butter of the original.
  • The eggs:  4 whole eggs seemed a bit much so I decided to use only 2 eggs, but I added 1/2 cup of a homemade buttermilk (1/2 cup soy milk plus 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice) to keep my liquid amounts the same and to keep the protein I’d be losing from the extra eggs.
  • The sugar: Since I don’t use refined sugar, I swapped out coconut sugar for the refined sugar and cut the amounts, using only 1 cup of coconut sugar in the cake and 1 cup in the topping.
  • The spices: The cake didn’t call for any flavoring other than salt and vanilla. I cut the salt in half to 1/2 tsp, increased the vanilla to 1 tbsp, and added 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp ginger. For the topping, I increased the cinnamon to 1 tsp.
  • The pan:  The original recipe called for baking the cake in a 9 x 13 pan.  I opted to use a 11 x 15 pan to increase the ratio of cake to crumb topping.

The results were wonderful. Everyone who tried the cake loved it, and my children decided it was their new breakfast choice and have asked me already if I can make it again, now that they’ve finished off the original. The complete recipe is below for anyone who wants to try it.

Oatmeal Crumb Cake


1/2 cup vegan butter

1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas

1 cup coconut sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup soy (or other milk) plus 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

2 cups mashed ripe bananas

1 tbsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup sorghum flour

2 1/2 cups gluten free rolled whole oats

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

2 tsp baking soda

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup sorghum flour

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup vegan butter

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and either grease or line a 11 x 15 pan with parchment paper.
  2. Blend the butter with the 1/2 cup of banana and coconut sugar; then add the eggs, milk with lemon juice, rest of the banana and vanilla.
  3. Combine the flour, oats, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and baking soda.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Combine the oats, flour, coconut sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry knife cut the butter into the dry mixture until all the butter is incorporated and crumbly clumps are formed.
  6. Evenly distribute the topping over the cake.
  7. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is golden brown. The cake would have puffed and will be firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.
  8. Serve immediately or at room temperature. Keeps well on the counter top for days.


Creative Cooking: Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

“They do look older!”

In our school district the fifth graders spend a week away from home, experiencing nature and science with their teachers. Having been through this before, when my youngest left for his trip, I wasn’t overly concerned. Some of the other parents, however, were anxious because this was their first time sending off a child, and they didn’t know what to expect.

I found, though, that sharing simple reassures from my own experience helped – the 1 to 8 teacher to student ratio, the highly competent and skilled onsite staff, being with friends and teachers whom they’re already comfortable with….

And I promised them that when their children returned, that not only would they have survived but that they’d come back having grown from their experiences. In fact, I told them that, even physically, their children would look older when they step off the bus. So, I had to chuckle when we picked up our children, and sure enough, several parents said to me, “They do look older!”

When I received an email this week, asking how in the world someone could create their own allergy-friendly recipe, it occurred to me that my response would be the same as it was to the parents….

Reassurances: Once you begin experimenting, the knack will come to you. As with everything, practice is the key, and you already have what you need. Refer to the early posts on this site about the standard ratios and patterns which exist for all baked goods. Re-read the information about individual ingredient substitutions. When you know that a cake always takes about 2 cups of flour and that you can substitute a ready-made gluten free flour blend in a certain ratio, experimenting does not need to be scary.

Promises: You will grow in your ability to create your own recipes simply by experimenting. The practice itself will give you a feel for what does and doesn’t work. Might a recipe fail? Maybe… but as Thomas Edison said about the light bulb, “I have not failed. I just found 1,000 ways that didn’t work.” Culinary mishaps are simply learning lessons.

I know, though, from many, many conversations, that folks will still be apprehensive about “experimenting” despite reassurances and promises, so I thought I’d walk folks through a recent experiment of mine.

Over the summer, I thought I had a coup because an online site was selling the allergy friendly chocolate chips I like for a ridiculously low price. I ordered several bags but was dismayed when they arrived because the company had simply shipped them in a plain box despite the 90 degree weather. The chips had completely melted and then re-solidified in square lumps. The company credited my money back to me, but I was still left with chocolate chunks instead of tiny individual chips.

Last week, my husband asked me if I could bake something for a colleague at work. I decided cupcakes would be good because they’re portable, and I could give some to the colleague and still have some for the children at home. I looked in the fridge and the pantry to see what I had on hand. Several zucchini were beginning to look a little sad, so I figured I should use them, but I wanted to jazz them up a bit. Mini chocolate chips would do the trick, but of course, when I went to the pantry, I only found my solid chocolate blocks.

Thinking I could break it, I started whacking at the block with a hammer, only to discover that the solid chocolate was stronger than me and the hammer. The few chunks I managed to break apart told me that I’d be there forever trying to created little chips. So, I pulled out my food processor. Obviously that would do the trick. I popped the chunks in and whizzed the blade.

Well, let me tell you now: When chocolate has been melted and re-solidified, and you pop it into the food processor with the hopes of creating little chips… you won’t get chocolate chips. You’ll make your very own sweetened chocolate powder. A 10 oz block will make 1 1/2 cups of chocolate powder, in fact. 1 1/2 cups of chocolate powder which I didn’t want to waste but wasn’t quite sure what to do with.

Not to be deterred, though, I plowed on. An average cupcake recipe usually takes about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of flour. I knew that if I swapped out 1 1/2 cups of that for the chocolate powder, my recipe simply wouldn’t work, because the chocolate powder wasn’t dense enough and lacked leavening, so I decided I’d just have to add it to the flour and then increase my liquid ingredients, because I knew that in cake recipes, the dry and liquid ingredients are always equal.

The chocolate powder plus the flour (I used a homemade mix of garbanzo bean, sorghum, potato and tapioca flours) came to 3 1/2 cups so I opted to use 1 cup of a homemade soy buttermilk (to add protein and help with leavening), 1/2 cup of unsweetened orange juice (to complement and bring out the zucchini and chocolate flavors), 1/2 cup safflower oil, 3 eggs (increased them from the usual 2 to 3 because the eggs and flour ratio are usually the same and whole eggs because I wanted a moist, dense cupcake), and 1/3 cup of agave (wanted a little sweetener but didn’t need a whole lot because the chocolate powder was sweetened).

My next consideration was the leavening powders. I knew that one needs about 1 tsp of baking powder and/or 1/4 tsp of baking powder per cup of flour, so I’d need something equivalent for the 3 1/2 cups of flour/chocolate powder. I decided to use a mixture of 2 tsp of baking powder with 1 tsp of baking soda (because I wanted my cupcakes to rise but not rise so high that it would sink, and a mixture does that best). I opted to add some spices – cinnamon, allspice and clovers – as well because they’d complement the chocolate and orange flavors nicely.

The final step was to think about the “sugar”. Most cake recipes call for two cups of sugar. I had already added 1/3 cup of Agave, so I knew I could cut back on the sugar to about 1 cup, but I didn’t want to use sugar because I never bake with it. Increasing the Agave at this point, though, would mess up the ratio of dry to liquid ingredients, plus make for a denser cupcake than I wanted; so I decided to use coconut sugar (which would help brown the cupcake nicely).

My experimental recipe was done, and I could only pop it into the oven and hope for the best.

They came out delicious. The chocolate powder made for a milder chocolate taste and for a lighter cupcake than if I had used melted chocolate.  My kids want me to make them again and sooner as opposed to later.

Yes, they could have flopped because it was an experiment, but using the knowledge I had about recipe patterns and ratios, I could methodically work my way through the changes, and the results were worth it.

If you begin experimenting, I both reassure you and promise you that you will find the same results.

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes


1 1/2 cup chocolate powder*

2 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend**

1 cup coconut sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 eggs

1/2 cup safflower oil

1/3 cup agave

1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice

1 cup soy milk mixed with 1 tbsp lemon juice***

2 cups loosely packed shredded zucchini

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with liners.
  2. Mix the chocolate powder, flour blend, coconut sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  3. Blend the eggs, oil, agave, orange juice and buttermilk well and the zucchini to the wet mixture.
  4. Combine the dry and wet ingredients until the dry ingredients are fully moistened.
  5. Evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups. They will be quite full.
  6. Bake until the cupcakes are puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Check at 15 minutes and adjust the time accordingly. Mine took about 25 minutes.

* A 10 oz solid chocolate bar processed in the food processor will yield the desired amount of chocolate powder.

** I made a homemade blend of garbanzo bean, sorghum, potato and tapioca flour, but you can use what you’d prefer.

*** It doesn’t have to be soy milk; you can use whatever type you’d prefer. Just be sure to add the lemon juice to make it a buttermilk.





Summer Veggin’: Spinach

website spinach

“Don’t you want to be strong like Popeye?”

My generation was one of the last to grow up on a diet of Popeye cartoons and canned spinach. We’d dutifully watch Popeye eat his spinach so he could be strong; and then our parents would pile canned spinach onto our plates, believing we’d magically like it simply because we watched Popeye eat it.

When I became older, I realized that it wasn’t spinach that I didn’t like. It was “canned” spinach which was the problem. As a general rule, canned vegetables are less appealing because the process necessary for canning makes the vegetables lose their vibrant color and natural vegetable smells and gives them a softer texture and a tinny taste.

There are valuable socio-economic reasons for canned vegetables, though, so I’m not here to knock canned vegetables. I am, however, saying that if you were a child of certain generations you may find that you actually like particular vegetables you never have before if they are freshly prepared as opposed to canned.

Spinach is one of those leafy greens which is not only quite high in necessary nutrients your body needs but it is extremely versatile. As well, if you still find that you’re not all that fond of the taste of spinach, even in it’s fresher form, spinach is easily disguised.

There are basically two general types of spinach, a thicker, more rippled variety and a smoother, flatter variety with hybrids of every variation in between. For folks who have may have some concerns about their spinach liking, I’d advise trying baby spinach first. Picked at a younger stage, baby spinach is more tender and slightly “sweeter”.

A common mistake folks make with spinach is overcooking it. Whether you boil, steam, saute, grill or broil spinach, you should always remove the spinach as soon as it begins to wilt. If you do so, the spinach will continue cooking from the residual heat and be at the perfect texture. If you let the spinach continue to cook until it’s entirely wilted, then when you remove it from the heat, it will continue to cook and become overdone.

Another mistake is that folks forget that fresh spinach will cook down to a fraction of the volume. A pound of fresh spinach will yield about a cup of cooked spinach. So, if you’re using a recipe that calls for cooked spinach, you need to make sure to purchase the appropriate corresponding fresh amount.

A cost-saving tip: If you are simply adding spinach as part of a cooked dish, like a soup or a lasagna or a frittata, go ahead and use frozen chopped spinach. It’s cheaper and just as nutritionally beneficial. Frozen spinach has also already been “cooked” so you don’t need to do anything to it, other than add it straight to your recipe.

Some ideas for using spinach:

1. Fresh in salads: Adding fresh spinach to a salad bumps the nutritional value of your salad and adds another dimension of taste. You can also make straight spinach salads. My children like to mix arugula and spinach, top it with roasted chicken and strawberries, and drizzle with a little bit of balsamic vinegar.

2. Additions to a main dish: You add flavor, texture, and nutrients if you add chopped spinach to just about anything you already make: lasagna, frittata, soup, seafood cakes, hamburgers, pasta salad, casseroles, bean dishes, etc…. There is no limit to what you can add spinach to. I especially like spinach on a pizza.

3. In desserts: Adding vegetables to desserts not only increases the nutritional value, but they tend to make moister desserts which also have a depth of flavor you don’t get without them. Pureed spinach can be used in cakes, cupcakes, brownies, puddings, etc…. Nowadays many recipes with spinach can even be found online, so you won’t even have to create your own.

4. Additions to dips and sauces: Spinach adds texture and flavor to any dip, salsa, or sauce. If you have a white sauce you really like, turn it into a spinach white sauce. If you have a sour cream dip recipe you like to make, add spinach. If there’s a salsa recipe you enjoy, add spinach. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll actually like these with spinach in them.

5. To boost smoothies: Smoothies are the popular thing now. Adding spinach to whatever type you’re making adds nutrients which you wouldn’t get just from a fruit smoothie.

6. Simply as is: Sauteed spinach is a wonderful side dish to a meal, and what’s really great is that you can create any flavor combination you want for sauteed spinach. You can saute spinach with a little bit of olive oil and garlic. You can saute spinach with sesame oil, ginger, and soy sauce. You can saute spinach with curry powder and butter. You can saute spinach with mustard seeds and chili peppers. You can saute spinach with other veggies like mushrooms or carrots or onions. Your creative cooking imagination can really kick into gear as you experiment to see what tastes you prefer.



Cooking Techniques: Fish

Wonder twins activate!

If you are of a certain generation in the U.S., you probably grew up watching the Hanna Barbera Saturday morning Super Heroes cartoon. In this particular cartoon, all the super heroes are working together to save the world, and the wonder twins are a boy and girl team whose powers must be activated by the two of them connecting in a certain way.  When they do, they become one unit which is better equipped to fight evil than if they had remained separate.

I thought about this the other day when a mom wrote in about my last super foods post, asking whether I had any suggestions for how to get her children to like fish. In my experience folks tend to either like or not like fish, but I do believe there are ways to get your children to tolerate fish. The trick is to combine ingredients in such a way that they become something better than the fish by itself.

Some Suggestions:

1. Coat the fish: Most children will eat fish sticks, but storebought fish sticks aren’t necessarily the healthiest and while they do make gluten free versions now, they don’t always meet other allergy needs. You can, however, make your own coating for fish. Use the type of wholegrain bread which fits your dietary and allergy needs and simply process them in your food processor to make bread crumbs. The best crumbs are flavored, so add fresh or dried herbs of your choosing and/or garlic and/or onions and black pepper as you’re zooping the bread crumbs.

The healthiest way to cook breaded fish is to bake it in the oven. If you crinkle up aluminium foil and use it to cover a shallow baking pan, your fish won’t stick the way it would otherwise. Coat the aluminium foil with a little bit of a healthy plant oil like olive oil before placing your breaded fish onto the pan.

For the fish itself, you can use beaten whole eggs or egg whites or a type of milk as your liquid for which the breading can stick to. I recommend double coating your fish for the best adhesion and taste. You can either double coat it with the bread crumbs or what I prefer is to coat the fish first with flour such as garbanzo bean or sorghum or gluten free oatmeal which I’ve mixed with some herbs and black pepper, and then I coat it with the bread crumb mixture.

After your fish is laid out on the pan, use a brush to lightly coat the top with olive oil so you’ll get that nice crunchy texture that kids tend to like.

The best way to bake the fish is at a high temperature such as 400 or 425 degrees for a shorter length of time. Most fish bakes in less than 10 minutes, as long as they’re not too thick.

When serving the fish, you can make up sauces for your children to dip with whether it’s a fancy homemade ketchupy type or a tartarish sauce or a yogurty, fruity type. If you have a few options, you increase the chances of your child finding a combination he or she likes.

2. Glaze the fish: The most common complaint folks tend to make about fish is that it’s fishy, so when making fish for children, you want to give them a different flavor that they can taste instead.

One of my children’s favorite glazes for fish is simply a mixture of soy sauce, agave, garlic, onions, and ginger. I mix the glaze well and let the fish marinate in the sauce for at least half an hour in the fridge. Then I either bake the fish, broil it, or grill it. Broiling or grilling the fish will allow the sauce to cook directly onto the fish. Baking it will make a liquidy sauce which you can spoon over the fish when serving.

You can experiment with different types of glazes. Maybe your children prefer something fruity and you could use an all fruit jam as a glaze. Maybe you like the taste of balsamic vinegar and want to make a glaze with that. Use your children’s taste buds as your guide.

3. Top the fish: If your children don’t really like fish but love salsa or spinach dip or tartar sauce, put it on top of the fish you cooked so that your children are eating something they like with something they’re not as fond of.

My children love when I put a roasted eggplant dip onto broiled fish. I make this dip where I chop up one eggplant into one inch pieces, mix it with a little bit of olive oil, and roast it for 10 minutes at 500 degrees, turning once or twice during the cooking time. I then puree the roasted eggplant with minced garlic and onion, black pepper, and one 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted but sometimes just plain or the versions which have herbs or garlic and onions mixed in.

When the fish is done broiling, I put as much of the eggplant dip as each child wants on top of the fish, and they love it.

When making a topping for your children, think about what they like. If they like salsa, experiment with different types of salsas, whether store-bought or homemade. I like to make a pineapple salsa where I simply puree up tomatoes, pineapple, onions, garlic, peppers, fresh cilantro and cumin. Sometimes we use mangoes or peaches instead. All are tasty on fish.

4. Stuff the fish: My children like stuffed fish because then you taste more of the stuffing than the fish. You can use leftover actual stuffing. You can cook up a mixture of spinach and vegetables with herbs and a type of cheese. You can even stuff the fish with fruits like dried figs or sauteed apples.

There are couple of ways to stuff fish. The traditional way is to put the stuffing ingredients on the fish and then to roll the fish up around the stuffing. Another way is to layer some fish in a pan, top with the stuffing mixture, and then top the stuffing mixture with a second layer of fish. Either way works. For both, simply bake in the oven until the fish is fork tender, usually about 20-30 minutes. For fish which is stuffed, I suggest baking at a lower temperature like 350 or 375 degrees.

5. Sauce the fish: You can top fish with just about any type of sauce. Tomato sauce, a white sauce, a cheese sauce, a spinach sauce, a tartar sauce – whatever your children prefer. One of the ways my children like to eat fish is when I bake it with a pureed, saucy salsa with cheese sprinkled on top.

Another way is when I make up a spinach sauce where I whisk 2 cups of soy milk with 1/4 cup of sorghum flour and slowly cook it over low heat until it thickens. Then I add 10 oz thawed frozen spinach, garlic, onions, oregano, and thyme. When the spinach has begun to warm, I add a couple tablespoons of Tofutti dairy free cream cheese. It makes a wonderful sauce for just about any type of white fish.

The key to getting your children to eat fish is to find something which they like to pair with the fish. Then the fish becomes more than just fish to their taste buds.

Cooking Techniques: Potato Salad

website potato salad

“I’m turning into you!”

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest was home from college, so I asked her to help me at a concert my middle child was performing in. At the end of the concert she came to me in the concession kitchen and said, “I’m turning into you! I just did a sweep of the auditorium, cleaning up everyone else’s trash, and now I’m behind the counter serving cake to everyone!”

A parent who overheard my daughter’s remarks, commented on what she had said, and it sparked a conversation among a few parents about the types of folks who helped behind the scenes. At one point, someone said, “No one thinks much about the custodian until he’s out sick, and the trash isn’t emptied.”

I was reminded of that comment this weekend as I prepared food for a cookout we were going to have. I had asked my middle child what she thought I should make to go with the burgers, hot dogs and chicken, and she replied, “Potato salad.” Her answer surprised me because she doesn’t like potato salad.

When I questioned her about her reply, she said, “It’s a barbecue. If you don’t have potato salad, people will ask where it is.” As I thought about what she said, I realized, she was right. No one has ever asked me to actually make potato salad, but there have definitely been plenty of times when I’ve had a barbecue without potato salad where someone has said something like, “Oh, no potato salad, huh?”

It may be because people are just used to potato salad being at barbecues. It may be because potatoes have always been a tasty complement to meat, which is what usually serves as the main course at barbecues. Whatever the reason, potato salad is the humble dish, which like the sick custodian is usually only noticed if it’s missing.

Potato salad, however, is a dish which folks should consider with more thought. Potatoes are high in fiber if you eat the skin, have nutrients like potassium and vitamin C, and are a good source of complex carbs. Potato salad in particular is nice because it can be inexpensively made, easily stretched to feed a crowd, and can be made in a variety of ways to suit different tastes. Potato salad is also very allergy friendly because unless you’re allergic to potatoes, how you choose to dress it and what additions you add can easily be done around any food allergies you might have.

Potato Salad Tips:

1. Type of potato: The choices abound for potato salad. Traditionally, potatoes are categorized as starchy (think Idaho potatoes), waxy (think red potatoes) or all-purpose (think Yukon-Gold potatoes). Starchy potatoes fall apart easily, so if you prefer a creamier, more mashed type of potato salad, these work best. Waxy potatoes hold their shape well, so if you prefer a firmer potato salad with squares of potato to bite into, you’ll want to use these. If you’re looking for something in between, all purpose potatoes are just the thing. You can also mix different types of potatoes which is what I do, because the starchier potatoes form a creamy base for the firmer waxy potatoes which provide something to bite into.

2. Potato cooking method: There are basically three ways to cook potatoes for potato salad – boiling, baking or high heat roasting. If you prefer your potatoes to be a little wetter, boil them. If you want them to be fluffier, bake them. If you want a concentrated potato flavor, roast them.

If you want your potatoes to have a firmer texture while boiling, mix the water with vinegar, about 2 tbsp for every 2 cups of water you’re using. If you bake the potatoes, you can choose whether you want to scoop the insides out of the skin or make the potato salad with the skin. If you roast the potatoes, the crunchy skin adds a nice complexity to the potato salad.

3. Additions to potato salad: Anything goes with potatoes. You can add vegetables of any type – celery, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes…. You can add meat – sausage, bacon, chicken, eggs…. You can add fruit – apples, pears, mangos…. You can add cheese. The only limit is your imagination. Experiment and see what you prefer taste-wise.

4. Seasonings: Potatoes are versatile. You can flavor them as you’d like. Dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary are more traditional. Cumin or coriander or turmeric add a new and different taste. Paprika and black pepper and parsley and dry mustard are always good favorites. As with the additions, experiment and see what your taste buds like. Adding leeks or chives or garlic punches up the flavor. Sticking with just salt and pepper allows more of the potato to come through. Adding something like a zucchini relish adds a twist to the flavor. What’s great is that you can choose.

5. Dressing: Dressing the potato salad is always fun. You can make a creamy dressing which usually utilizes ingredients like mayonnaise or yogurt or cream cheese or creamy salad dressings or sour cream. You can also make a vinaigrette dressing which uses plant-based oils like olive oil or safflower oil mixed with vinegars like red wine or apple cider or white. Sometimes I like to simply add fresh lemon juice to slightly mashed potato salad, and it’s quite lovely.

Dressings can be tangy or sweet or zesty or mild. You choose and change it up as you want. What’s important is to mix your dressing with the potatoes while they’re still slightly warm so the flavors will meld with the potatoes while the potato salad is cooling in the fridge. If you making a creamy dressing with yogurt or mayo, let the potatoes cool slightly longer so the dressing doesn’t melt and separate.

6. Garnishes: When you’re ready to serve your potato salad, it’s always nice to add a little something because the flavors, though, they meld in the fridge, do tend to flatten out a bit. So, give your potato salad a good mixing after you remove it from the fridge, and add a little something to freshen the flavor, whether it’s a little bit of mint or chopped up pieces of bacon or a little more dressing or a drizzle of fresh lemon juice. And then enjoy!


Cooking Techniques: Popovers

“But that’s not appropriate.”

A friend from the city was visiting and heard my son hysterically laughing while reading our local newspaper. She commented that he must really enjoy the comics.

“Oh, he’s not laughing over the funnies,” I said. “He’s reading the police log.”

The look on my friend’s face was priceless! She clearly was wondering whether she had misjudged me as being a sound parent and how best to tell me that my son was going to grow up to be a psychopath if he found the police log funny!

So, I showed her the paper. Examples of true police log reports from papers in my local area:

“Goat running loose ate a pair of pants. Owner of pants declined pressing charges against goat.”

“Man waiting in line for Cabela’s to open cut in line. He was spoken to. All was well.”

“Report of annoying phone call. Mother-in-law was calling. Police explained they could do nothing about it.”

“Road blocked by 14 chickens. Traffic was backed up for 20 minutes until chickens finished sunbathing.”

“Unsecured trash barrel taken. Discovered in back yard of a neighbor. Child using it as a horse.”

“Back porch light went out. Al Qaeda suspected.”

Once my friend read that week’s police log, she understood why my son was laughing, and we had an interesting discussion afterwards about the difference between “crime” in the city and where I live.

I was reminded of this conversation recently as my son and I made popovers this weekend. Popovers are a wonderful addition to meals which people don’t often think about, because their perceptions of them aren’t always in line with reality.

There’s a myth out there that popovers are difficult to make, and if you google popovers, many sites talk about the “secrets” to making perfect popovers. This, I believe, feeds into the perceptions that people hold, so then folks opt to make muffins instead or to purchase bread from the store.

The truth is that popovers are ridiculously simple to make, and you can adapt them to make a variety of popovers for any occasion. Plus they’re fun. Children love them because they literally pop-over from the pan.

What’s important to know about popovers:

1. Cooking: You want a hot oven temperature so I always preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Once you put the popovers into the oven, you don’t want to open the oven until they are done which is always 30 minutes in a regular sized muffin tin. When they’re done, just remove the popovers from the tin and if not eating immediately put them onto a cooling rack so moisture won’t condense on them. If eating immediately, you can put them into a nice bowl lined with a pretty towel.

2. Mixing: You want to mix the eggs together before adding the other ingredients, but you simply blend them with a fork for a minute or less until the eggs are mixed. No need to make them fluffy or frothy or airy. Just a nice uniform color to the eggs, and then you add the rest of the ingredients.

3. Measuring: I find the best way  to make popovers is to transfer the batter into a large spouted measuring cup so I can easily pour the batter equally among the muffin tins.

4.  Ingredients: A popover is just eggs, milk and flour. For a muffin tin that makes 12 popovers, you’ll always use an equivalent to one cup of eggs, 2 cups of milk, and 2 cups of flour. Since I like to be a bit healthier, instead of 4 large eggs (which should yield a cup) I opt to use half whole eggs and then add enough liquid egg whites to make a full cup. For the milk I’ve used soy, flax, and rice milk without any issues. For the flour, to be gluten free, I either use sorghum flour, arrowroot flour, or a mixture of both. For seasoning, I use 1/2 tsp of salt and then depending on the type of popover, an additional herb or spice.

5. Pan: A simple muffin tin is all you need whether it’s a 12 muffin one or two six muffin ones. It’s important to grease the muffin tins. You can use butter, oil, spray, shortening – it doesn’t matter what, but you must grease the pan so the popovers can rise and pop without sticking to the pan.

6. Variety: Popovers can be adapted. You can add any herb or spice. You can add cheese. You can add finely grated vegetables. My kids really like it when I make the popovers with pureed vegetables or fruit. I used puree squash or pumpkin or applesauce or bananas in place of some of the milk, and they come out quite delicious.

For eating, you can top the popovers with butter or jam or fruit butters. You can also cut them open and fill them with food like chicken salad which is incredibly tasty in a popover!

Below I’ll include two recipes I make often for the family. Enjoy!

Squash Popovers


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease either a 12 muffin tin or two six muffin tins.

2. Whisk 2 cups of flour of choice (I like 1 cup of sorghum flour with 1 cup of arrowroot flour) with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp cardamom. Set aside.

3. Using a fork mix the equivalent of 1 cup of eggs (4 large whole eggs, 1, 2, or 3 whole eggs plus enough liquid egg whites to make 1 cup) just until the eggs are light and uniform in color.

4. Add 1 1/4 cup milk (I prefer flax or soy milk) and 3/4 cup cooked, pureed squash to the eggs. Whisk just until blended. There will be lumps, and that is how you want it.

5. Transfer the batter (which will be thin and runny) to a spouted measuring cup large enough to hold all the batter. Evenly divide the batter among 12 muffin tins.

6. Put the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Do not open the oven door at any time during the 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, you can pierce the popovers to release the steam and then remove the popovers to a wire cooling rack or towel-lined bowl or directly to the plates.

Tarragon Popovers


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease either a 12 muffin tin or two six muffin tins.

2. Whisk 2 cups of flour of choice (I like to use 2 cups of sorghum flour for this recipe, but mixing half sorghum and half arrowroot or using all arrowroot is fine, too) with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp dried tarragon. Set aside.

3. Using a fork mix the equivalent of 1 cup of eggs (4 large whole eggs, 1, 2, or 3 whole eggs plus enough liquid egg whites to make 1 cup) just until the eggs are light and uniform in color.

4. Add 2 cups milk (I prefer flax or soy milk) to the eggs. Whisk just until blended. There will be lumps, and that is how you want it.

5. Transfer the batter (which will be thin and runny) to a spouted measuring cup large enough to hold all the batter. Evenly divide the batter among 12 muffin tins.

6. Put the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Do not open the oven door at any time during the 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, you can pierce the popovers to release steam and then remove the popovers to a wire cooling rack or towel-lined bowl or directly to the plates.




Recipe Makeover: Ginger Snaps

“What do you mean they aren’t new?”

You know you’re getting older when your childhood comes back in style. First, it was the clothes. That bell bottoms actually became the rage again is beyond comprehension. Then my husband’s high school students began to talk about Bruce Springsteen as if they had discovered him. Finally, my children’s cartoons and toys gave deja vu a whole new meaning. Holly Hobbie, Transformers, Power Rangers, Strawberry Shortcake and Gang… though more hip than the ones I grew up with, they are familiar nonetheless.

For the most part, nostalgia has made these returns good things, but when my daughter and my niece came to me with the Strawberry Shortcake Berry Yummy Cookbook, I knew that whatever recipe they wanted to make would not bring immediate joy to my heart.

Sure enough, they wanted to make Ginger Snap’s Gingersnaps. For folks who might be unaware, there is a difference between gingersnaps and the ginger cookies most people make these days. Ginger cookies are thick, soft, gingery, molasses cookies. Gingersnaps are thin, crisp cookies flavored by ginger. Essentially, the difference is in the molasses to flour ratio, but that difference creates two very distinct cookies.  Gingersnaps are so-called because they are supposed to literally snap when you break them in half, and they were very popular when I was a child.  How to substitute gluten free flour and replace the sugar and dairy without sacrificing the “snap” of the cookie was going to be tricky.

We put our brains together, though, and in the end we created a rather pleasing gingersnap cookie which all the cousins enjoyed immensely.

The original recipe:

2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 egg, 1/4 cup molasses.

Revising the recipe:

1. Flour: The types and variety of gluten free flours abound, and finding the right combination, along with whether to use potato or arrowroot or tapioca starch, took some work. We finally decided that a mixture of gluten free oat flour, sorghum, and coconut flours with potato starch and a bit of xanthan gum worked the best.

So, I made up a large batch of the following which would yield enough flour to make two batches of the cookie recipe: 1 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 1 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1 cup potato starch, 2 tsp xanthan gum.

2. Sugar: Usually I like to use Agave because I can use so very little of it. For one cup of sugar, I could use a scant 1/4 cup of Agave. Agave, however, would provide moistness which we wanted to avoid for gingersnaps. My second choice would normally be to use stevia, but stevia has a distinct flavor which wouldn’t combine well with the ginger. In the end we decided to use coconut sugar because we were already using the coconut flour, and it would complement the ginger well. In addition, the glycemic index of coconut sugar is very low.

3. Butter: Normally I would replace the butter with a plant-based oil because it’s healthier, but we would have the same problem of adding unwanted moisture. Since we were using the coconut sugar and flours, it might make sense to use coconut oil, but coconut oil wouldn’t provide the spreading of the batter which is necessary for a gingersnap to be thin and crispy. So, finally we decided simply to stick with “butter” and use the vegan, soy-free version offered by Earth balance.

4. Molasses: Since I try to reduce sugars as much as possible, we opted to replace the regular molasses with date molasses. It’s still higher in sugars than I’d like but it has less than regular molasses and at least has the advantage of being made with dates. Plus it’s only a scant 1/4 in the recipe, so overall what we’re adding per cookie isn’t much.

5. Egg: Since we don’t have an issue with eggs (currently) we opted to leave it as is for our version, but I tried making it with ground flaxseed mixed with water as an egg substitute, and the batter worked just as well.

Gluten and Dairy Free Gingersnaps

(makes about three dozen cookies)


2 cups gluten free flour blend*

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 cup vegan butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg or 1 tbsp flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water

1/4 cup molasses

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

3. Cream the butter. Add the coconut sugar and vanilla. Mix well.

4. Add the egg (or flaxseed mixture) and beat well.

5. Slowly add the molasses while mixing on low.

6. Gradually add in the flour in small increments and beat until well combined.

7. Drop dough by level tablespoons onto the cookie sheets, making sure to leave space for them to spread.

8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cookies have browned and spread.

9. Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the cookie sheet. Then remove them with a spatula to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. It’s important that they cool completely, because that’s what will harden them and give you the “snap”.

* Gluten Free Flour Blend:1 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 1 1/2 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1 cup potato starch, 2 tsp xanthan gum. (Will make two batches of cookies)  


Menu Suggestion: Reusable Rice

website rice

“Do you want to learn?”

I was 22 when my husband decided to teach me how to ski. He bought me the perfect ski bunny suit in my favorite color – purple – and made sure I had lessons before attempting any hill of substance. Unfortunately, the lessons I learned didn’t transfer well once I took to the bunny slope and started going faster than I was able to control.

Within a few minutes I was careening past children and their parents, unable to recall any of the lessons about how to slow myself down. I tried to turn my skis, which caused me to tumbled head over heels and landed in a heap off to the side. Fortunately, no bones were broken in my fall, and all might not have been lost if it weren’t for that one young man….

As I laid there on the snow, wondering whether I would even be able to get myself up without any help, a young gentleman, I think about my age, came to a stop next to me, pushed up his ski goggles and laughed. Truly. He laughed at my plight, and then he sped off down the hill.

By the time my husband caught up to me, I had worked myself into a rather fine tizzy, and I’m sorry to say that I refused to go back on the slope and try again. My pride had been bruised, and at the young age of 22, I hadn’t learned yet that I might regret making decisions in haste for the wrong reasons.

When I received an email today from a woman who was tired of making mistakes in her cooking, I thought about my skiing experience. I was quick to give up, and as a result I lost out on the opportunity to join my husband in an activity he really enjoyed. More than that, my husband eventually lost out on something he really liked doing, too, because as the years went on, he would want to do something with me as opposed to without, which resulted in him skiing less and less.

This particular woman wanted to give up cooking because she felt she was wasting food every time it came out wrong. In this case, she’d made mushy and overcooked rice which her children refused to eat as it was. As I thought about how to respond, it occurred to me that she needed more than me simply giving her instructions on how to cook the rice correctly. She needed ideas which could “redeem” the “failure”. So I told her that she hadn’t failed but that she now had perfect rice for dishes she could make later in the week for the family to eat.

For example:

1. Rice Parmigiana: If you have rice which is overcooked or even simply leftover from another meal, it’s perfect for making a parmigiana. Simply whisk a couple of eggs or egg whites with a little bit of milk and herbs like oregano and basil and mix in your leftover rice with real or vegan parmesan cheese. In a greased deep dish layer the rice alternately with thinly slice tomatoes and real or vegan mozzarella, ending with the tomatoes and mozzarella. Put the dish into a larger dish and pour hot water halfway up the casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour or so until the cheese is melted and browned and the casserole is hot and bubbly.

2. Rice Pudding: If you’re looking for something warm and creamy on a cold night, chocolate rice pudding is just the dish. If you’ve overcooked your rice, so much the better. For six cups of cooked rice, I mix in a shallow pan 2 cups of “milk” (cow, soy, flax, rice, etc… all work) with 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp vanilla, and 2 tbsp cornstarch. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Usually only about five minutes. Stir in 1 cup mini chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life allergen free ones.) Stir in the rice and mix until the milk mixture is fully soaked into the rice.

3. Rice cakes: If you want a side dish which is slightly different, take your overcooked rice, mix it with green onions or leeks, garlic powder, black pepper, and ground ginger. Finely chop veggies like peppers, zucchini, carrots, squash, etc… and add them to the rice. Whisk together a couple of eggs or egg whites and add them to the rice mixture, and make little rice patties. Cook them in a shallow pan in some olive oil until they’re browned on both sides.

If you want to make the cakes with protein, mix in canned crabmeat or tuna or salmon or chopped up pieces of ham, chicken or beef.

4. Chicken Rice Soup: When making soup with rice, the problem you normally run into is that your rice is too hard because it didn’t cook long enough in the soup or it becomes more and more overcooked as the soup is reheated. If you have overcooked rice, freeze it in batches of 1/2 to 1 cup, and then when you make your famous chicken soup, before you’re about to serve it, drop in the frozen rice and let it warm up in the soup. The rice will be just right.

5. Rice crusts: Overcooked rice is perfect for making a rice crust. I often make a rice crust for quiche. Simply mix your rice with a beaten egg or egg whites and herbs and, if you like, real or vegan cheese. Pat the rice mixture into the grease bottom of your pan and pour your quiche mixture over the top and bake as you normally would.

Rice crusts are also good for meat dishes. I will make a rice crust and fill it with the filling I normally use for chicken pot pie or shepherd’s pie and bake it in the oven until bubbly.

In addition, rice crusts are great for tomato tarts. Mix real or vegan ricotta with eggs or egg whites and herbs to the consistency you like. Spread the cheese mixture over your rice crust, top with fresh tomatoes and fresh basil and bake for about 30 minutes in a 350 or 375 degree oven.

6. Stuffing: Overcooked rice is wonderful as a stuffing for your favorite veggies. Mix the rice with chopped up veggies and/or meat and/or cheese with herbs of your choice and stuff into zucchini or squash or peppers or pumpkin or eggplant or artichokes or tomatoes or cabbage or mushrooms or kale or etc….




Cooking Techniques: Entree Souffles

website souffles

“I’m afraid I’ll make it and it will deflate.”

I’ve never quite understood the fear and awe people have about and for souffles. One, a souffle is simply an egg bake. It’s a vertical, airy one, but it’s an egg bake nonetheless, which if you think about it, isn’t really all that special. Yes, it looks pretty when it’s puffed, but if I had a dime for the number of times people have eaten a souffle for the first time and been disappointed because it’s just an airy egg bake, I’d be quite wealthy.

Two, somewhere along the line the myth arose and has been perpetuated that only the best of the best can keep a souffle from deflating and that if your souffle deflates, you are somehow a failure as a cook. The factual truth is that a souffle is going to deflate, no matter what you do or how good a cook you are. Julia Child’s souffles deflated. Really, they did. You can’t defy gravity, especially if you’re making an egg bake vertical instead of horizontal. You just can’t.

Why do you think the restaurants always bring souffles out immediately, straight from the oven and make the first cut into it within literal seconds of presenting the dish? Because they know it’s going to deflate, and they only have a few minutes to showcase it! I know, because I worked in restaurants and brought out those souffles!

Honestly, souffles are not difficult to make. They simply require some time and patience. A couple of hints to help with the cooking process, though:

1. Having your ingredients at room temperature: The airy texture of a souffle is achieved through the use of whipped egg whites, and egg whites whipped the best when they are warm, and the whipped eggs incorporate better into the other ingredients when they are warmer as opposed to cold.

2. Use the right baking dish: In order for a souffle to rise, a round, glass casserole dish which has a good depth to it with a straight edge is the best. Your souffle needs to rise upwards, so you don’t want to use a dish that is shallow or too long in diameter; and you want the dish to have a straight edge so the souffle has the support it needs while it rises. If you have a dish which is the right dimensions but doesn’t have a straight edge, you can insert parchment paper into the dish to create the straight edge you need.

I use a casserole dish which is 7 inches in diameter and 3 inches in depth/height to make a souffle which feeds a family of four to five. Often you’ll find that recipes call for you to use individual dishes, 6 or 8 ounces in size, because the smaller the souffle, the easier it is to rise. If you have enough little dishes, then by all means, use them. If you don’t, though, using a dish like the above works well.

3. Be sure to prepare your pan as needed: Because a souffle needs to rise, it is important that you provide something for the souffle to stick to as it rises. Most of the time, your recipe will call for you to grease the pan and then coat it with an ingredient like bread crumbs. This is because the bread crumbs are coarse enough to provide texture for the souffle to cling to as it rises.

4. Keep your ingredients lightweight, small and dry: If you are making a vegetable souffle, it is best to finely chop your ingredients so they can easily incorporate into the eggs without weighing them down. I often make a souffle when I have leftover cooked vegetables and/or meats I want to use up. I simply plop the leftovers into my food processor and chop them into small pieces for use. If your ingredients are excessively wet, squeeze the liquid out, because wet ingredients are heavier than dry.

5. Be creative with your spices and herbs: Souffles are simply eggs mixed with whatever your filling is, so any flavor you want will come from the spices and herbs you add. Sometimes people are hesitant to try something besides salt and pepper with their eggs, but the addition of chives or tarragon or nutmeg or thyme creates a savory taste which complements eggs really well.

6. Use cream of tartar: When whipping egg whites, a little bit of cream of tartar goes a long way. Cream of tartar is an acid which helps your whipped egg whites to hold their proper form and shape as needed. Many times if folks have a problem with their souffles it is because they overwhipped their eggs, and the eggs began to lose their hold. The cream of tartar helps to prevent that loss of hold if you do accidentally overwhip. If cream of tartar isn’t something you have on hand, lemon juice or vinegar will do the same trick.

7. Use equipment properly: When whisking egg whites, you need to make sure your bowl is absolutely clean and dry. Even a tiny amount of water or stuck on food can make a difference in how well your eggs beat up. Also, if your mixer has a special wire whisk attachment for eggs, use that instead of the regular beater. The wire whisk allows for more air to be incorporated into the egg whites.

8. Know when to stop: When you begin whisking egg whites, they will be liquidy and clear. As the eggs begin to incorporate air and the protein strands begin to uncoil, your eggs will turn white and foamy, will double in size and will become stiffer. When you can lift your whisk and the egg whites stick out at a 45 degree angle like a little wave, your eggs are done.

9. Be patient with the egg whites: When you incorporate the egg whites into your vegetable mixture, you want to take your time. Add the egg whites a little at a time, and gently fold the whites into the mixture, using a simple S method: You gently run a curved spatula around the sides of the bowl, gathering up a bit of the egg whites and gently scoop down the center to mix the egg whites into the mixture. You repeat this slowly until all the egg whites are incorporated into the mixture.

10. Think lighter: The one thing about souffles is that they often use a lot of eggs, and as we all know, too many yolks are not always the healthiest for us to eat. I usually use just a couple of whole eggs and the rest is liquid egg whites, and the result is still a nice souffle which has less cholesterol and calories and fat.

11. Don’t skip the sauce: Most souffle recipes require that you mix your vegetable and/or meat ingredients into a cream sauce. Folks can be tempted to skip this to save on calories or because of worry about allergies. Don’t. The sauce coats the vegetables and allows it to incorporate more easily into the egg mixture. I have found that you can use any type of milk that works for you and that you can lighten the sauce by omitting the use of oil.

12. Be realistic: If you follow all the tips, your souffle will puff up beautifully while cooking and will come out of the oven nice and tall, but know that within minutes, gravity will take over and slowly the souffle will fall. Just enjoy those few moments and the taste of the dish itself as you eat!

Vegetable Souffle


1 cup cooked, finely chopped mixed vegetables, drained or squeezed of any excess liquid (I use leftovers from other meals like spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, etc…)

1 tbsp minced onions

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup liquid egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup “milk” (soy, flax, rice, cow: all work)

2 tbsp “flour” (sorghum, oat, garbanzo bean, whole wheat, etc…)

1 tsp mixed herbs and spices (I like to mix tarragon, thyme, black pepper, and nutmeg – 1/4 tsp of each)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole dish 7 inch in diameter and 3 inch in height with your favorite method (olive oil, vegan butter, etc…) and coat the dish well with bread crumbs. (I use Ian’s gluten free bread crumbs or make my own in the food processor with Udi’s gluten free bread.)

2.  Mix the finely chopped vegetables with the minced onions and set aside. (Be sure to squeeze out any excess liquid from the vegetables.)

3. Separate the yolks from the whites of the two whole eggs, and add the yolks to the vegetable mixture.  Add the whites to the liquid egg whites. You should have 3/4 cup of egg whites for your use.

4.  In a large, shallow pan, mix the milk with the flour and herbs and/or spice choices, whisking well to incorporate the flour and seasonings into the milk.

4. Cook the milk mixture over medium low heat, stirring continually, until the mixture begins to thicken.  Should only take about five minutes in a large, shallow pan.

5. Stir the vegetable mixture into the sauce and allow the mixture to cool slightly.

6. Put the liquid egg whites into a clean mixing bowl and stir in the cream of tartar. Using the wire whisk attachment to your mixer, whisk your eggs until the whites  double in size, are foamy and white, and when you pick up the whisk, the eggs are stiff, tilting to a 45 degree angle.

7. Slowly add the egg whites to the vegetable mixture, incorporating a little at a time, using a curve spatula and moving gently in an S motion, around the edge, down the center, until all the egg white is mixed into the vegetables.

8. Gently spoon the souffle mixture into your prepared dish, and carefully tap the dish once or time to level it.

9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. The souffle will have risen and be puffed, dry and firm, no longer wet.

10. Remove and serve immediately.






Simple Pleasures: Cranberry Scones

website scones

“May your troubles last as long as your New Year’s resolutions.”

When my husband and I married, one of my two newly minted degrees was in Psychology, and having gotten married in late December, our first New Year’s celebration came upon us pretty quickly. Being a wise 22, I decided we could do resolutions “better”. So, I made up a three page chart which would assess how our year had been physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually, stating that we’d then make goals under these categories for our new year, both individually and for us as a newly married couple.

It’s a testament to my husband’s sainthood that he humored my insanity, not only that evening, but over the course of the year as I continued to drag out the bedraggled sheets to assess how we were doing.

When our second New Year’s came around, my husband very gently asked me whether we should assess the successfulness of my better resolution experiment before we embarked on another year of it; and of course, what we discovered is that we hadn’t done any better with our resolutions than we had any other time in our lives.

What it had done, though, was to make us more conscious of the fact that a better life is all about those daily decisions, not the one time a year ones; and for those of us trying to be healthy and take care of our allergies and be in better shape and wanting to love better, it’s what we do each day that makes the difference, not what we simply say we want to do on January 1.

So, for today’s post, I’m sharing another simple pleasure recipe for scones. In the past, I wouldn’t make scones because normal versions use a lot of butter and cream, and they took too much time and required more effort than I liked to expend. Over time, though, I realized that there were ways to make them healthier and that I could make drop scones instead which took much less time and effort. These cranberry ones don’t take much time to make, and you get lots of good health benefits from the cranberries, protein and fiber, which is one way you can improve your health today on your first day of 2015.

Gluten and Dairy Free Cranberry Scones


12 oz bag fresh cranberries (I actually keep them frozen in my fridge so I can just pull one out when I need it)

1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

2 tbsp Agave

1/3 cup vegan butter

2/3 cup flax milk mixed with 2 tsp lemon juice (You can use another type of milk if you prefer)

1 cup vegan ricotta

1 tbsp coconut sugar

1/4 cup safflower oil

2 tbsp Agave

3/4 cup sorghum flour

3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour

2 cup Gluten free brown rice blend (I use Authentic Foods)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

2 tbsp coconut sugar

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In your food processor, chop up your fresh or frozen cranberries with the orange juice and agave. Set aside.

3. Measure out the vegan butter and put it into the freezer while you are assembling the rest of the ingredients.

4. Mix the flax milk with the lemon juice and let is sit for a minute while you mix the ricotta with the coconut sugar.

5. Add the milk mixture to the ricotta mixture, along with the safflower oil and agave. Set aside.

6. Mix together the sorghum, garbanzo bean, and gluten free flour blend with the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and coconut sugar.

7. Take your butter out of the freezer and cut in the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives until the flour mixture is a bit crumbly.

8. Gently stir in the cranberries so they are coated with the dry ingredients.

9. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Quickly mix the batter up just until the dry ingredients are moist.

10. Drop the batter by 1/4 cup onto the lined cookie sheets, and bake for about 20 minutes. The scones will be puffed and golden. You may eat them immediately while warm or cool the scones on a wire cooling rack for later eating.

NOTE: Your cooking time may vary, depending on your measuring cup. I usually use a deep cup so it takes 20 minutes, but once I used a shallower cup and the scones took less time, so be sure to gauge accordingly. Basically you want your scones to be puffed and airy and cooked through.


Simple Pleasures: Grilled Cheese

“No, nothing flashed.”

Over the holiday I was fortunate to survive three different episodes of what the doctor diagnosed as heart failure due to anaphylaxis, and I’m sorry to share that, at none of those times, did my life flash before my eyes.

I have always been curious as to what exactly would flash: my entire life? all the good memories? all the bad? the childhood ones I can no longer remember? my most recent days? The movies and songs talk about your whole life being seen, but honestly there’s not that much time between when you first feel that first tightness and your breathing stops. How could your whole life possibly flash?

In my case, my brain seemed most preoccupied with the fact that I wasn’t getting any more air into my lungs, and the only conscious thought I remember having is concern for my children if I actually died on Christmas day of all days. It would be bad enough for them to lose me, but to ruin the rest of their Christmases to come just seemed to add insult to injury.

Fortunately, I am alive and well, and I’m wondering if the flashing of one’s life may actually be all the reflection you tend to have after almost dying. Things I’ve not thought about in years have come to the surface, and I find myself thinking about whether there is anything I need to consider doing before I do die.

One of the things I did was to scribble thoughts in reaction to recent events in my life and to send them off to everyone I know, telling them how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate them. The other thing I did was to finally make a vegan grilled cheese sandwich.

Now, this may strike folks as slightly absurd, but when I developed my dairy allergy, I lost out on one of the simple pleasures in life: a hot, gooey, grilled cheese sandwich, the type mom used to make for you when you were little and had had a bad day. Because I’ve not had much fondness for the “fake” cheeses, I’ve opted to forego having grilled cheese sandwiches. After recent events, though, I decided that life is to short to deprive myself of the simply things one can enjoy.

So, I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light which they created to make a lower fat, less calorie grilled cheese sandwich, though, of course, using all “real” dairy ingredients, and I have to tell you: Life is worth living! *grin* It was gooey and creamy and delicious, and I was very happy at lunch today.

So, I invite you to indulge as well, and below the recipe, I’ll share the thoughts I shared with the people in my life, because although it’s not a recipe for a meal, I’m thinking it’s a good recipe these days for life. (Hopefully folks will be able to open it. I’ll add it under my “thoughts” section, too, just in case….) Happy New Year!

Gluten Free Vegan Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Choose your favorite gluten free bread (I used Udi’s Soft and Hearty Whole Grain bread). In a bowl mix 2 tbsp of vegan cream cheese with 1 tbsp vegannaise and 2 tbsp Daiya shredded mozzarella. Chop up baby spinach and fresh tomato (strain the juice out) and mix into the cheese mixture. Spread the mixture onto one of your slices of bread and top with the other. In a shallow fry pan which has a lid, put 1/2 tsp of olive oil, and set your sandwich into the pan. Cover with the lid and cook over the lowest heat setting until the first side is golden brown and the cheese is starting to melt. Flip the sandwich (if needed add another 1/2 tsp of olive oil for the second side). When the second side is golden brown, move the sandwich to a plate and let is cool for a few moments before indulging.

Today Is the Day