Trending Tries: Grain Free Pumpkin Pancakes

My kingdom for a pancake….

Often people will ask me why I create my own recipes, and the simple answer is, “Because I have to.”

This weekend is a perfect example. I wanted to make pumpkin pancakes but for a variety of reasons my oldest currently needs a diet free of grains and sugars. “Not a problem,” I thought because there would surely be a recipe online I could use.

I was mistaken. There are indeed recipes, but they were either crepe recipes masquerading as pancake recipes (FYI that pumpkin mixed with eggs and a tbsp of flour is a crepe, not a pancake); orange colored pancakes (FYI that taking your pancake recipe and just adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pumpkin only makes orange tinted pancakes); or pumpkin pancake recipes using nut flours and lots of sugar or maple syrup and/or fat to cook them.

So, in the end, I once again had to create my own recipe to accommodate my family’s dietary and allergy needs. The result is below, and they were quite tasty.

Grain Free Pumpkin Pancakes


2 cups pureed pumpkin

4 eggs

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup grain free chickpea flour

1/2 cup grain free cassava flour

2 cups unsweetened dairy free milk mixed with 2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

1/4 cup melted non-dairy butter

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Whisk together the pureed pumpkin with the eggs until smooth.
  2. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, chickpea flour and cassava flour, and blend well. Will be thick.
  3. Combine the milk with the lemon juice or vinegar and stir well, letting it sit for a minute, before adding to the pancake batter. Whisk until the batter is completely smooth.
  4. Slowly whisk in the melted butter.
  5. Add the baking powder and baking soda and blend well.
  6. Let the batter sit for 15 to 30 minutes while you heat the griddle.
  7. Heat a griddle at 325 to 350 degrees or a skillet on the stove on medium heat. If either is nonstick, no additional greasing is needed. If neither are nonstick, then you’ll need to grease your pan with your preferred method.
  8. Pour 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and let it cook for a minute or two until the edges become dry. Flip and finish cooking on the other side for 30 seconds to a minute. Your pancake will rise and be golden on both side when they are done.
  9. To keep the pancakes warm, put them into a glass container with a lid and put them into a preheated oven on the lowest setting (mine is 170 degrees). To cool, put them on a wire rack, and then stack them in a container to keep in the fridge. To reheat, just popped them into the toaster or in the microwave. They freeze well, too.

Trending Tries: Rhubarb

“I don’t like change….”

When you are raising children on the autism spectrum, you spend a lot of time helping them to learn how to adapt to change, which is not an easy feat. As we are all aware, life is nothing but change. If we are lucky, the changes are gradual, giving us time to adjust, but many times the changes are unexpected and take us by surprise.

The last year and a half has brought many changes for the entire world, some of which we have all experienced together, while others have been unique to individual lives, families, countries.

I have noticed a trending change in how people are thinking about food. The pandemic has provided not just the time to consider eating habits but the thought that maybe our eating habits are not as they ought to be. As such, people I have known to always be staunch meat supporters are suddenly vegan. People who never cooked at all are now experts in homemade, whole grain bread baking. Others have realized that the cause of many of their health issues are due to the foods they have been eating and are adjusting their diets. Still more folks are trying foods they have never eaten before.

Recently, the conversations I have had with folks have centered around rhubarb. Rhubarb has been around for a long time but mostly ignored by people I know whose response to rhubarb is usually, “Oh, you mean the purply-green thing which looks like celery but isn’t?” If folks are familiar with rhubarb, it is only as part of a strawberry, rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb, however, is a good source for vitamin K, antioxidants and fiber. It is also extremely versatile, useful for more than just a strawberry, rhubarb pie. During the summer, it is plentiful in both markets and many people’s yards because it is so easy to grow.

This summer, our family has been making rhubarb, lentil soups and rhubarb cake, both of which I will share in this post.

Rhubarb, Lentil Soup


1 lb dried lentils, rinsed and picked over

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp minced ginger

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 cup thinly sliced petite carrots

1 cup quartered and diced zucchini

2 cups finely sliced rhubarb

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp salt (if your broth is unsalted)

6 cups choice of broth (vegetable, chicken, etc.)

Cooking Instructions: 

  1. Rinse, check, and drain the lentils. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot (I use my Dutch oven), heat the olive oil, and saute the onions, garlic, ginger, and curry powder for a minute to release the flavors.
  3. Add the sliced carrots and zucchini and saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the rhubarb and saute for 5 minutes until they are soft.
  5. Add the lentils, black pepper, and salt. Stir well.
  6. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 45 minutes until the lentils have swelled and the soup has thickened.
  8. Serve with a garnish of chopped green onions.

Rhubarb Cake


3 cups gluten free oat flour

¾ cup sweetener (I use coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener blend)

2 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

1 cup vegan butter

4 eggs, beaten

¼ cup gluten free oat flour

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp salt

1 cup dairy free milk (I use unsweetened soy or oat or flax)

¾ cup sweetener (I use coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener blend)

4 cups thinly sliced rhubarb

¼ cup sweetener (I use coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener blend)

1 tsp cinnamon

Optional: 1 cup finely diced strawberries

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a pastry blender or a food processor, blend the oat flour, sweetener, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter until you have coarse crumbs.
  3. Remove 1 ½ cup of the crumbly mixture, and set aside.
  4. Pat the remaining flour mixture into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan, and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. While the crust is baking, mix together the beaten eggs and oat flour until very smooth.
  6. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, milk, and sweetener. Set aside.
  7. Blend the rhubarb with the sweetener and cinnamon (and strawberries if using).
  8. When the crust is done, evenly spread the rhubarb over the crust, and pour the egg mixture over the rhubarb.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly on top.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes until the topping is golden and the eggs have solidified.
  11. Eat warm or cooled as is or with dairy free frozen vanilla dessert.

Corona Cooking: Gluten, Dairy Free White Chocolate Cake

“For when….”

Last week, very dear and caring friends of mine brought me a basket designed to cheer me up during a difficult time. They had attached notes to every day items which began with “for when….” For example, “For when life just plain stinks,” was taped to a roll of deodorant. As my children and I unpacked item after item, reading each accompanying note, not only did we laugh but we felt the love that had gone into putting together the basket for us. Our difficult situation felt a bit more bearable, knowing we were not alone and that we had support.

So many times in life, we are in need of a “pick me up”. What that looks like can vary. Sometimes watching a comedy movie alone does the trick. Other times, we need to be with friends and have a good cry. Some people go for a run and let the endorphins do the trick. Others listen to their favorite music or go for a walk and enjoy nature. For other folks, indulging in a piece of chocolate works.

For me, I like to cook or bake something special. As anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows, I tend to be a lazy cook who likes to make things quickly and efficiently. When I am in need of a “pick me up”, however, then I prefer to make something which requires time and will be “beautiful” when it is done.

So, a few weeks ago for my birthday, I decided to make a white chocolate cake, which requires time and patience, if you want to make one which is gluten and dairy free and which has a reduced amount of sugar. In order to not have a cake which is pasty tasting, hard as a brick, and flat, it requires careful steps and whisking and folding in egg whites. It is well worth the effort, though, so “for when you need something special”, here is the recipe.

Gluten, Dairy Free White Chocolate Cake


Four 1.4 oz No Whey white chocolate bars (if you are not allergic to dairy, regular white chocolate bars are easier to find)

1/2 cup vegan butter

2 cups gluten free flour, sifted* (I use King Arthur’s gluten free whole grain blend)

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Four egg yolks (separated from the whites, which you will also use)

1 1/2 tbsp gluten free vanilla extract

1/4 cup Truvia/cane sugar blend (reduces the sugar by 75% but still has a little to support the cake structure, and is great because you can use so much less of it – original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar!)

2/3 cup vegan sour cream

Four egg whites (separated from the yolks you already used)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 cup Truvia/cane sugar blend

*Note: When “sifted” comes after the ingredient, it means to measure the flour and then sift. If you do not have a sifter, you can shake the flour through a wire meshed colander or you can whisk the flour for a couple of minutes with a wire whisk. You basically want to de-clump and add air to the flour to lighten it.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line three 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. Break up the white chocolate bars into pieces and place them into a microwave safe bowl with the vegan butter. Microwave for a minute and stir until completely melted. If not melted, microwave in 20 second intervals until you can stir the white chocolate to a smooth, melted form. Set aside and let it cool.
  3. Mix together the sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a mixer whisk together the egg yolks with the vanilla for a minute until the yolks are smooth.
  5. Add the the 1st 1/4 cup of the Truvia blend and whisk for a minute until well blended.
  6. Add the sour cream and blend for another minute.
  7. Stir the white chocolate mixture and add to the wet ingredients. Whisk for a couple of minutes until well mixed.
  8. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend well.
  9. Remove the batter to a large bowl which can accommodate the batter doubling in size, and clean and dry the mixing bowl.
  10. In the mixer, add the egg whites with the cream of tartar and begin to whisk. As the egg whites start to become frothy, slowly add in the 2nd 1/4 cup of Truvia blend. Continue to whisk the egg whites until they are white in color, doubled in size, and when you pull the whisk up, the egg whites form a peaked wave.
  11. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter. If you haven’t folded egg whites into batter before, a large, flexible rubber spatula is the best tool, and as already mentioned, you should have put your batter into a large bowl with plenty of space for folding the egg whites. You gently scoop your egg whites onto the top of the batter in your bowl. Then, using the flexible spatula, you slowly slice down the center of the egg whites until your spatula hits the bottom of the bowl. Then, scoop around the inner circle of the bowl, gathering some of the batter in with the egg whites, and then fold both over onto the top. Repeat this motion until all the egg whites are incorporated fully into the batter. It is important not to rush the process and to resist the desire to simply stir the batter. You will deflate the egg whites and defeat the purpose. Folding in the egg whites adds air and breadth to your batter so it will be light and airy when it bakes.
  12. Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and bake at the preheated 325 degrees until the cake layers are puffed, golden, pulling away from the sides, and when you touch them they spring back. Usually this takes about 15 minutes, but I always start with 10 and check.
  13. Cool the cake layers in their pans for at least 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack and then remove the layers from their pans and allow them to cool completely on the wire cooling racks.
  14. Frost as desired. (For our cake, I made a lemon frosting and put raspberry All-Fruit in between the layers. Then I topped it with mint leaves which I “sugared” by cooking them on the stovetop with a mixture of water and a little bit of agave.)

Corona Cooking: Cinnamon Spice Belgian Waffles

“You have to look….”

Six weeks ago, I was checking out Broadway shows for the trip I had planned almost a year ago for the family to celebrate my birthday in May. We were going to go to NYC before my my eldest moved to CA for a job, my middle child left for an internship, and my youngest busied himself with summer college classes. Six weeks later, our trip is cancelled, our oldest has no idea when she will be moving to CA, and our middle child is waiting to hear if her internship can occur virtually. Only my youngest remains undisturbed because his classes are still going to be online.

Add health issues for my husband, concern for relatives with the corona virus, and trying to adapt life and work in a virtual world, and the adage, “Count your blessings,” can become a bit difficult at times. I was recently reminded, though, by friends who live in other countries with limited access to water, shelter and food and who are struggling with disease and death in magnitude in addition to the pandemic that we must always be looking for blessings to count.

So, I listen to people talk about going for long nature walks and spending more time with their families and learning to bake bread and any number of other “didn’t have time for before” things people are now doing, and I am once again reminded that counting blessings is about looking for them in the first place. If we take the time to look for the positive, the silver lining, the pockets of sunshine, most often we will find them.

Recently our family was thankful that we have had more time for “special” breakfasts as a family. With no early morning rushes to get to school or work, breakfast has become a time for leisure together and for making pancakes or French toast or waffles.  The other day I made gluten, dairy free Belgian waffles which we topped with unsweetened dairy free vanilla yogurt and berries. It was a wonderful way to start the morning, so I share the recipe here for anyone with Belgian waffle makers. They can also be made as regular waffles in a normal waffle maker, too.

Cinnamon Spice Belgian Waffles


2 cups whole grain gluten free flour blend, sifted (we used King Arthur whole grain blend)*

1/3 cup garbanzo bean gluten free flour, sifted (we used Bob’s Red Mill)*

1/3 cup ground flax seed

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups unsweetened dairy free milk (we used soy but oat or almond or flax will work, too; don’t use rice milk)

1/4 cup plant based oil (we used extra light olive oil but any plant based oil will work)

3 eggs (if you want to use a substitute, I would recommend whisking 3/4 cup chick pea liquid)

* Note: A reminder that if the word “sifted” is after, then you measure before you sift. If you see the word “sifted” before the flour, then you sift before measuring.

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Prep your Belgian waffle maker according to instructions.
  2. Measure out the gluten free and garbanzo bean flours and sift. If you don’t have a sifter, you can sift by pushing the flour through a wire mesh basket or taking a whisk and whisking the flour until it is no longer clumped and has some air incorporated into it.
  3. To the flours, add the ground flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and baking powder. Mix until well blended.
  4. Mix together the milk, oil and eggs.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and blend until completely smooth.
  6. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Use the batter to make waffles according to your waffle maker instructions.
  8. If you need to keep waffles warm, put in a single layer on a cookie sheet in the oven on your lowest heat.
  9. Serve with unsweetened yogurt and/or berries and/or maple syrup and/or jam, and enjoy!

Corona Cooking: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

“It depends on your perspective….”

For many of us, the topsy-turvy daily changing world we are currently living in as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic is not welcomed. We fear for more than just our physical health. The closing of schools can exacerbate familial tensions. Mandated work leave may bring financial hardship. Social distancing can increase already felt isolation. Much stands to be lost, both globally and locally.

Yet, for just as many, this is an opportunity to embrace rest from the stresses of the daily grind and routine. Some see this as a time to be with family members we have too little time for in the midst of the usual “rushing here and there” lives we live. Others have been taking the unexpected time at home to spring clean or to create or to try something new. Many have been connecting more via social media, encouraging one another, even as social distancing prevents physical gatherings.

Perspective is an interesting concept. It refers to the view from which someone considers something, and recently I realized just how different my perspective is from a well-known cooking organization. “Ground-breaking recipes” in bold letters hailed my attention across the grocery aisle. I wondered what they had learned which those of us who had been cooking gluten free for years did not already know.

On the positive side, I was glad that this particular organization had created a gluten free issue of their magazine. It seemed to me, they’d been slow to do so. As I read through their recipes and suggestions, they appeared to offer good advice and had great tips, a couple of which I actually hadn’t tried myself before. They even had a short section at the end about those who are dairy sensitive as well as gluten, offering some ways to alter their recipes.

Where I took issue, though, was very bald statements they made about the fact that in order to create tasty gluten free food, only white rice flour should be used, that if you deviate from their homemade versions of flour blends you do so at your own risk, and that only a few of their recipes should be amended because the butter, whole eggs, and sugar were necessary. Since white rice flour has absolutely no nutritional value, and few people have the time to make their own homemade flour blends, and even more people are trying to eat healthier with less butter, whole eggs, and sugar, I found myself a bit put-out overall by the magazine.

And since I have a bit of time on my hands these days, I decided to see if I could literally make the magazine eat their words. I took one of their recipes for a dark chocolate cupcake and altered it to see if the difference was as stark as the magazine indicated it would be. My test-eaters agreed it was not, and that they actually preferred the version I had created. So, I share it here with you now, in case you, too, have some unexpected time to bake.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes


1 cup safflower oil

3/4 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips

2/3 cup Hershey unsweetened Special Dark cocoa powder

1 1/4 cup King Arthur whole grain gluten free flour blend

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup liquid egg whites

2 whole eggs

2 tsp gluten free vanilla

1 cup coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener blend

1 cup non-dairy milk (soy or oat or flax)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin/cupcake tins with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large microwave safe measuring cup, melt together the safflower oil, dark chocolate chips, and unsweetened cocoa powder by microwaving for a minute and stirring until everything is smooth and completely melted. Set aside to cool.
  3. Combine in a bowl, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the egg whites, eggs, vanilla and coconut or monk fruit sugar until well mixed.
  5. To the large bowl of liquid ingredients, add the cooled chocolate and milk, blending well.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the the liquid and stir until all ingredients are completely incorporated and mixture is smooth.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the lined tins.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes until the cupcakes are puffed, dry and firm to the touch.
  9. Remove from the tins and allow the cupcakes to cool on wire cooling racks.
  10. Eat as is or frost with desired frosting.



Holiday Happenings: Chocolate Peppermint Drops

“It’s how you look at it….”

I am always amazed by the zeal with which folks I know begin the new year. For them, January is a time for resolutions, and if not resolutions, at least new opportunities. Since I have operated on a school year schedule for so many years, that energy tends to come to me in September. By January, I am usually tired, and after putting things on hold for the holidays in December, January is fraught with playing “catch-up” to everything I am behind with.

This year, I am so behind due to health issues my husband has been having that the Christmas gifts I received are still sitting underneath my sideboard in the dining room, waiting to be put away, along with random other Christmas items which did not get put away with the Christmas decorations.

The positive to this problem is that one of the items which my daughter found was leftover candies from the gingerbread house decorating the children did in December – peppermint candies to be specific – and the lovely thing about peppermint candies is that their red and white coloring perfectly matches a Valentine’s theme.

So, my daughter decided to use those peppermint candies to make chocolate peppermint drops which added a special treat to this new month of February and provided just enough energy that two of my Christmas presents got put away!

Chocolate Peppermint Drops


1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (we used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

1/4 cup Hershey’s unsweetened special dark cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegan butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg (a large egg equal to 1/4 cup)

2 oz dark chocolate, melted and cooled

crushed peppermint candies

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
  3. Cream the vegan butter in a mixer and add the coconut sugar, blending well, scraping down sides as needed, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla, egg and cooled, melted chocolate. Blend well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet.
  6. Roll level tablespoons of cookie batter in the crushed peppermints and place them on the prepared cookie sheet, about one inch apart.
  7. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until the cookies have puffed slightly and begin to look drier and cooked.
  8. Remove the cookies to a wire cooling rack and allow them to cool.
  9. Enjoy when they are done cooling.
  10. To keep them fresh, put them in a sealed tupper ware to store.

Healthy Habits: Easy Allergy Friendly Company Meal


This past weekend, my family traveled to New Jersey to celebrate my niece’s First Communion. The reception afterwards was at a beautiful, well-reputed restaurant where my brother had rented a room, complete with a buffet of assorted options from seafood, beef, and chicken to pasta and rice to salads and roasted vegetables. Of the ten items to choose from, I could eat three. The rest were all cooked in butter.

Fortunately, my brother had arranged for a special plate to be made for me, but it can be sad to be the odd person out, watching folks enjoy food you can’t have. This experience was fresh in my mind when a friend called to ask if there was something quick and easy she could make that would also be a “nice, company meal” because she was hosting a dinner where one person had severe food allergies. No wheat, eggs, dairy, nut, soy, or citrus foods could be served.

I applauded her desire to make something which everyone could eat and immediately thought of one of my go-to meals, chicken and vegetables. This may seem like a ho-hum meal to serve company, but if you roast whole carrots with sliced zucchini and bake tender, seasoned chicken breasts and serve both with a beet sauce, the experience becomes more than ho-hum, and if you look at the pictures, the food looks pretty, too, which enhances the appetite.

What’s even better, is that the entire meal takes only about 45 minutes from beginning to end to make, which gives you plenty of time to hang with your guests. While the veggies roast, you work on the chicken, and while the chicken cooks, you work on the sauce.

Company Baked Chicken Breasts and Roasted Vegetables


2 lb bag of whole carrots, peeled (normal size, not crazy, huge ones)

Zucchini, sliced lengthwise into quarters, about size to eight medium-sized ones

6 chicken breasts, 4 ounces each (palm size portion, not crazy, hormone-induced size)

olive oil

onion powder

garlic powder




red pepper flakes

black pepper

1 1/2 cups cooked beets (I buy precooked, ready to go ones in the vegetable section)

1 cup unsalted, no sugar chicken bone broth (I find this at my local grocery store)

1 tsp minced garlic

2 tbsp chopped onion

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground ginger

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Lightly coat the carrots with olive oil and place into a large oven proof pan which will hold the carrots in a single layer with space left for the zucchini to be added.
  3. Roast for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrots.
  4. Remove the pan, stir the carrots, lightly coat the zucchini quarters in olive oil, and add them to the pan.
  5. Roast for 5 minutes, remove the pan and stir, adding onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, tarragon, red pepper flakes and black pepper – all to your liking.
  6. Roast for another 5 minutes and arrange the vegetables on an oven safe, serving platter, and set aside. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees.
  7. While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper and lightly brush olive oil on both sides of the chicken breasts. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with the onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, tarragon, red pepper flakes and black pepper – to your taste and liking.
  8. Cover the chicken breasts with another piece of parchment paper, tucking the ends in around the chicken into the pan.
  9. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes.
  10. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it sit, exactly as it is with the parchment covering it, and turn down the heat to 300 degrees. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes to reabsorb its juices.
  11. Put the veggies which have been transferred to an oven safe serving platter into the oven to finish cooking while the chicken sits for the 10 minutes.
  12. While the chicken breasts are resting and the veggies are finishing, put the cooked beets into a blender with the bone broth, garlic, onions, cumin and ginger, and puree until completely smooth.
  13. Pour the sauce into a microwave safe, serving pitcher, and microwave for a minute at a time until the sauce is warm.
  14. After the 10 minute resting time, remove the parchment paper from the chicken, remove the veggie platter from the oven, and serve both with the warmed beet sauce.




Hashing it Out: Veggie Hash

“You seem to like to take the easy way….”

Folks who have been following this blog know that every once and a while I branch out of baking to post “how-to’s” about food other than baked goods. Usually that is because someone asks me a question which I think others might like to know the answer to as well. This week someone read a couple of posts of mine and asked an interesting question about hash.

If you are not familiar with hash (or know it only as the shorten form of hashish, a stronger form of marijuana), hash is a dish that began as a way of stretching meat during times of scarcity. You take leftover meat, dice it up, and add diced potatoes (because potatoes were filling and cheap) and anything else you can dice to make the dish more satisfying. Almost every country has its version of hash, which comes from a French word meaning “to chop”.

Over the centuries, the versions of hash recipes which exist has exponentially grown with every type of meat or poultry and potatoes variations being explored. In more recent years, folks started adding vegetables and tofu and legumes to make the hash more “healthy” and edible by non-meat eaters. This week, someone asked me, though, “The recipes for hash seemed to require so much work! All that cutting and chopping. You seem to like to take the easy way. How would you make hash quick and easy?”

I just had to laugh. Someone who knows how lazy a cook I am! School nights are always a rush at dinner time because of the children’s activities or my and my husband’s meetings, so yes, I do find ways to make meals quick and easy. Folks who have read other posts know that I love my crock pots, and many days of the week, meals are crock pot dinners which were assembled in the morning and ready to eat at dinner time. When that is not possible, though, then something like hash for dinner is perfect as long as you have ready-made items on hand.

For quick and easy hash, I keep diced potatoes in the fridge. Simply Potatoes is the brand I usually purchase at the store because it stores well in the fridge. Because we usually make a vegetarian version, I also stock the freezer with frozen, chopped kale or swiss chard or collard greens or spinach, and I keep cans of no salt and no sugar added petite diced tomatoes in the pantry. In the spice cabinet I have freeze-dried fresh herbs, onion powder and pepper, and in the fridge, I keep diced garlic. All this is all one needs to make a quick and easy vegetable hash. Should you want a meat version, then make the hash on a night when you have leftover meat or poultry from another meal which you can just add near the end of the cooking time. When I make hash, I can have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Vegetable Hash


Olive oil

two 20 oz packages of Simply Potatoes with Onions (or another brand)

one 20 oz package frozen, chopped kale, collard greens, swiss chard or spinach

one 29 oz can of no salt, no sugar added petite diced tomatoes

Freeze dried or fresh Herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, dill, rosemary, marjoram, etc…; if you use dried herbs, you should add them with the potatoes so that the flavors have time to meld)

Black pepper

Onion powder

minced garlic

Optional: add leftover chopped meat or poultry or rinsed, canned beans or tofu

Optional (which is how we eat it): Serve the hash with a cooked egg atop of it

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a large, shallow pan, on the stove top, put just enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the diced potatoes and cook the potatoes until they are browned on all sides. To brown potatoes well, you need to let them just sit and cook. They will stick to the pan, but that’s what you want. That is how the crispy coating is formed. Just use your spatula to unstick the potatoes and turn them. Any browned crusty pieces which stick to the bottom of the pan will come up later when you add the greens and tomatoes.
  2. After the potatoes have browned, add the frozen chopped greens and cook through, stirring frequently, until the  greens have thawed.
  3. Drain the canned tomatoes and add the tomatoes without the juice to the pan, along with herbs of choice, black pepper, onion powder and minced garlic, all to your taste liking. (I don’t add salt because the store bought potatoes have more than enough salt in them for the entire dish, but if you like things saltier, that’s your call.) Mix well and let the hash simmer, stirring every once and a while, for about five minutes until the browned crusty pieces have come off the bottom of the pan and mixed in with the hash.
  4. If adding the meat, do so now and cook just until everything is thoroughly warm.
  5. If eating as a vegetarian dish, serve as is. If eating it as we do, fry eggs hard or over-medium and place one on top of each serving of hash.
  6. Enjoy!



Recipe Makeover: Hummingbird Cake

website Hummingbird cake

“Do you know what a hummingbird cake is?”

If it weren’t for the fact that I had just learned about the hummingbird cake a few months ago, I might have answered my friend with, “Huh?”

As it was, though, Southern Living had just included that cake in a special collections magazine last Spring which I had read, so I responded with a more intellectual, “Actually, yes, I do. Why do you ask?”

Apparently my friend needed to make a hummingbird cake for a reception, but it needed to be dairy, gluten, and nut free, and she needed it for the evening of her phone call to me.

For anyone not familiar with this delectable cake, it is essentially a banana-pineapple cake, first introduced in 1978 by a Mrs. L.H. Wiggins who had sent it to Southern Living. The original recipe called for 3 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 cup salad oil, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, one 8 oz can of crushed undrained pineapples, 2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, and 2 cups bananas.

Southern Living recently posted the recipe again in the special collections magazine I mentioned where they made two versions: A layer cake recipe which was the same as the above only they decreased both the nuts and oil to one cup; and a bundt cake recipe which cut the oil from the original recipe in half but only reduced the nuts by 1/2 cup and interestingly decreased the bananas by 1/4 cup and the salt by 1/2.

My friend wanted to make the new bundt cake version, only allergy friendly. Since I happened to have ripe bananas which I’d been hoping to use anyway, I set to work creating a cake for her to use.

Original Hummingbird Bundt Cake from Southern Living

1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 3 cups all purpose flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 large beaten eggs, 1 3/4 cups mashed bananas, one 8 0z can crushed undrained pineapples, 3/4 cup canola oil, and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Hummingbird Cake Makeover:

1. Pecans: Since this version needed to be nut free, I opted to use Enjoy Life’s allergen free mini chocolate chips. It seemed like the recipe needed something to add, and my personal theory is that you can’t go wrong with chocolate chips. If folks don’t want chocolate, I would suggest chopped dates which would give the cake the same texture as if adding nuts.

2. Flour: Since the cake needed to be gluten free, the question was what type of flour. For a bundt cake, you don’t want a flour which is too heavy, but at the same time you need some structure to the batter, so I opted to use half of the Authentic Foods gluten free blend which is made of brown and sweet rice flours and half Bob’s Red Mill gluten free blend which is made of garbanzo and fava bean flours. Folks can use whichever gluten free flour blend most liked, though. Next time I might try Cup4Cup’s whole grain blend which I like for a flour blend which I haven’t made myself.

3. Sugar: My friend didn’t say anything about sugar, but since I don’t even have sugar in the house usually, except just enough for my husband’s coffee, I chose to use Agave, half the amount needed of sugar. Since I was using the Agave, I knew that I’d need to think about a way to balance the wet and dry ingredients so I reduced the oil which I’ll talk about in a moment. For folks who would rather use something similar to sugar, I’d recommend coconut sugar, if there are no coconut allergies, but then folks should keep the oil as is and not decrease it.

4. Oil: It was a great relief to see that Southern Living had decreased the original 1 1/2 cups of oil to 3/4 cup, but I was thinking we could do even better. Since I was using the Agave, I decreased the oil to 1/2 cup, and instead of using a canola oil, I opted for safflower oil.

5. Eggs: Since three whole eggs are a lot, I used one whole egg mixed with 1/2 cup of liquid egg whites. For folks who may need this recipe to be free of eggs, I suggest mixing 3 tbsp of golden ground flax seed with 9 tbsp of water and letting it sit for five minutes to thicken. Since the flaxseed won’t provide the rising eggs afford a recipe, I would also add 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to the recipe to create a chemical reaction with the baking soda.

6. Bananas and Pineapple: Because both bananas and pineapples have good nutrients, I simply kept those as they were in the original recipe.

7. Flavorings (salt, cinnamon, vanilla): Since Southern Living had decreased the salt already to 1/2 tsp, I kept that as is, but I added ground ginger and nutmeg to the cinnamon for added flavor, decreasing the vanilla by 1/2 tsp so the flavors wouldn’t be competing but complementing.

8. Baking soda: Since the cake would be a gluten free cake, I increased the baking soda by 1/2 tsp to make sure the bundt cake wouldn’t be too heavy and dense, and I added vinegar to create a chemical reaction to help with the rising of the cake.

Hummingbird Bundt Cake


1 whole egg with 1/2 cup liquid egg whites or 3 tbsp golden ground flax seed mixed with 9 tbsp water

1 3/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about four medium bananas)

8 oz can crushed pineapple, not drained

1/2 cup safflower oil (if using Agave; 3/4 cup if using coconut sugar)

1 cup Agave or 1 cup coconut sugar (can use up to 2 cup coconut sugar if someone has a sweet tooth)

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups gluten free flour blend

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips or 1 cup chopped dates

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

2. Whisk the ground flax seed with the water and set aside if using that. Otherwise, follow the next step with eggs.

3. Mix the bananas, pureed pineapple, oil, agave and vanilla. Add the egg mixture or flax seed mixture, and blend well.

4. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Add the chocolate chips.

5. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients with the tablespoon of vinegar, and whisk well.

6. Scoop the batter carefully into the prepared pan. Tap the pan on the counter to even the batter out.

7. Bake for 60-70 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. I would suggest checking the cake around 45-50 minutes and then gauging how much more time is needed.

8. Cool for 15 to 25 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

9. After the cake has cooled, drizzle your favorite topping over it to make it pretty. Southern Living used a glaze of cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. I opted to keep the cake plain but my children suggested that next time I drizzle it with melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips.







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.





Menu Suggestion: Tetrazzini

What about a dinner suggestion?

I opened up my email the other day and found a note, thanking me because this young mother had found my blog and used the advice I had given my friend to make quiche for brunch for her in-laws,  and it was apparently a success for her as well. Now, however, she wanted to know if I had any good suggestions for a dinner entree to serve to company which could easily accommodate food allergy restrictions.

Within in two seconds, I had the perfect suggestion: Tetrazzini.

If you’re not familiar with tetrazzini, it’s a pasta dish which incorporates protein and vegetables into the pasta with a creamy white sauce. With the exception of mushrooms which every recipe you’ll find seems to have, everything else is pretty much up to your imagination and available food staples.

For a company dish, it’s perfect because you can assemble the dish ahead of time and then just pop it into the oven. It’s filling so you can simply add a salad to accompany it, and it’s pretty when it comes out of the oven. For folks with allergies, it’s highly adaptable.

Some thoughts on Tetrazzini:

1. The pasta: Almost every recipe you’ll find online has too large a pasta to protein/vegetable ratio. For your health and for good eating, I recommend cutting the pasta by half for any recipe. When I make the dish for company in a large 9 x 13 pan I cut the 16 oz of pasta to 8 ounces. Your ratio of protein and vegetables to pasta will be healthier but it’s also tastier in my opinion.

Also the usual pasta used is a long noodle like spaghetti. I like to use small shells because they capture the sauce in their crevices well and are easily spoonable and mix well with any meats and vegetables you add. Ancient Harvest has a gluten free quinoa small shells which taste really good and have a wonderful texture.

2. The meats and vegetables: You can use just about anything in tetrazzini. The most popular meats are turkey and chicken. For company, if there are no seafood allergies, I like to use cooked frozen shrimp. It’s easy and it makes the dish special. The nice thing about tetrazzini is that it’s a great dish for using up your leftovers, so feel free to be creative with whatever you have on hand. You can even use firm tofu. You should cut the tofu into small squares and saute them on all sides first, though, before adding them to the dish.

The same goes for the vegetables. As I mentioned above, a key ingredient in most tetrazzini recipes is mushrooms, but you can leave them out if you don’t like fungi. I happen to adore mushrooms, so I usually use mushrooms and asparagus or broccoli because I like the flavor and color combination. Again, whatever leftover vegetables will work. I’ve often just chopped up leftover zucchini, squash, peppers, etc… and thrown them in with good results. The key is to make sure your vegetables are bite-size.

3.  The sauce: The sauce for tetrazzini is just a basic white sauce, so for folks with food allergies, it’s easily adaptable. While many recipes will call for butter, you can substitute olive oil or use a vegan allergy friendly butter. I prefer the taste of olive oil and the added health benefits. For the milk, I’ve found just that other “milks” work just as well, though I tend to use either flax or soy milk myself. For the flour, just about any type will work. I’ve used garbanzo bean, sorghum, gluten free oat, and brown rice flour with success.

Many recipes call for you to just use a cream based soup like cream of celery or broccoli or chicken. You can always go this route as well. It’s certainly easier than making your own white sauce and if you don’t have to worry about sodium or allergies, the taste doesn’t suffer in any way.

4. The seasoning: Most tetrazzini recipes just call for salt and black pepper. I usually omit salt and add thyme, oregano, and paprika. I also use garlic and onions for flavoring.

5. The topping: Many tetrazzini recipes call for a topping but the topping varies. Some say just to put cheese on top, usually parmesan. Others use a nutty topping with almonds combined with the cheese. Some call for bread crumbs. Some just tell you to top with chopped green onions. It’s really up to your tastes and preferences. There’s a lot of vegan parmesan-style cheese these days. I like to lightly saute gluten free bread crumbs in a little bit of olive oil with herbs and mix in the vegan parmesan with the crumbs with some garlic and evenly spread that on top of the tetrazzini because it then gives a little crunch to the dish plus it makes the casserole look pretty.

Shrimp Tetrazzini


8 oz Ancient Harvest Quinoa small shells

2 tsp olive oil

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

one bunch asparagus, cut into bite size pieces

1 tbsp minced onions

1 tsp mince garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp sweet white sorghum flour

2 cups flax or soy milk

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves

1/2 tsp paprika

16 oz thawed frozen cooked shrimp, tails removed

1 tsp olive oil

1/2 cup gluten free bread crumbs

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 cup vegan parmesan

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.Thaw shrimp and remove tails.  Set aside.

3. Prepare the shells as directed on the packaging. Drain and rinse well with cold water.  Set aside.

4.  In a pan saute mushrooms over medium-low heat with 2 tsp olive oil for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the chopped asparagus with 2 tbsp water, the minced onion, and the garlic. Saute for another 4 minutes and remove from heat.

6. In a pan heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Whisk in the sorghum flour and cook, stirring for a minute. Slowly add the “milk”, whisking continually until the flour is fully mixed into the milk. Cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring continually, about five minutes.

7. Add the pasta, mushrooms and asparagus mixture, and shrimp to the sauce and blend well.

8. Pour the casserole into a 9 x 13 pan.

9. Saute the bread crumbs with the olive oil and oregano for a minute or two. Mix in the paremsan and evenly spread the bread crumb mixture over the tetrazzini.

10. Bake the casserole for about 20-30 minutes until the dish is warmed through and the sauce is bubbling.





Recipe Makeover: Wacky Cupcakes

website wacky cake

“It’s just not wacky enough.”

The saying is that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and certainly for families in the Depression and World War eras, lack of rations led to the creation of what we know as wacky or Depression cake. These are cakes made without eggs and milk which were scarce, and today many people with egg and dairy allergies have turned to them gratefully for countless number of birthday and family parties.

The email I received yesterday, though, made me laugh because it said, “Unfortunately, the recipe just isn’t wacky enough for my family.” This particular person also needed the cake to be gluten and sugar free in addition to egg and dairy free.

And I’m finding that to be a common problem among folks who send me emails. The world has come a long way: grocery stores, online sites and even restaurants carry gluten free products, nut free foods, dairy free items, and sugar free versions of just about everything. Unfortunately, for the person who is allergic to more than one of these, it can still be difficult to find foods which meet all the needed “free” criteria.

So, this morning, I took a gander at reworking the two recipes sent to me. I had signed up to bring some allergy friendly desserts to the Teacher Appreciation luncheon my children’s elementary and middle schools were hosting, so I decided I’d use the recipes to make cupcakes.

The first recipe sent was for a plain wacky cake calling for 3 cups of all purpose flour, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp vinegar, 2 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, and 2 cups of water.

The second recipe was for a chocolate wacky cake calling for 3 cups of all purpose flour, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder,  3/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp vinegar, and 2 cups cold water.

For both recipes, it just called for mixing everything together.

The Makeovers:

1. The flour: Since it needed to be gluten free, I had to decide which type of flour blend to use. Since the recipe is already compensating for the loss of eggs with the use of vinegar and baking soda, I was concerned about the batter’s ability to rise. As such, I decided that Bob’s Red Mill Biscuit and Baking Gluten Free Mix which is a blend of garbanzo bean flour, rice flour, cornstarch, xanthan gum, and baking powder would be best.

Why? Because 1) the mix of rice and garbanzo bean flour would allow for the higher fiber and protein without being too heavy; 2) the mix already has the xanthan gum in it which means one less item to mix in myself; and 3) the extra baking powder would help to compensate for the lack of leavening ingredients.

Folks who can have gluten could always use a white whole wheat or red whole wheat to boost the nutrients and fiber in the recipe.

2. The sugar: I decide that I would opt for two different sugar substitutes. For the chocolate wacky cake, I used coconut sugar because I wanted to try a dry substitute and because I thought the brown sugar flavor of the coconut sugar would complement the chocolate flavor better. I used a one for one substitute.

For the plain wacky cake, I opted for Agave, wanting to experiment with a liquid substitute. Also, I had decided I’d turn the cake into a chocolate chip spice cupcake which I felt the Agave would complement better. For the Agave, though, I used half the amount of called for sugar, and added 1/2 cup to the amount of flour needed to counter the extra liquid.

3. The oil: Because I prefer healthier plant oils, I chose to swap the vegetable oil with other types. For the chocolate cake, I used a blend of olive, grapeseed and canola oil which would lend a fruity undertone to the chocolate flavor. For the vanilla cake, I chose to use safflower oil to lend some flavor without overpowering it to the vanilla.

4. The vinegar: Since the recipe didn’t specify, I was presuming they were calling for regular distilled white vinegar. Since I prefer to always add a little “something”, I decided to use a raspberry vinegar for the chocolate cake and an apple cider vinegar for the vanilla cake.

5. The additions: I chose to keep the baking soda, salt and vanilla the same for each recipe, but I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the vanilla cake to make it more a vanilla spice cake, and I swapped the regular unsweetened cocoa powder for Hershey’s Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder to lend a deeper chocolate flavor.

I also decided to throw in chocolate chips to help give the cakes more structure. For the chocolate cake, I added a package of Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips. For the vanilla cake, though, I wanted more of the taste to exude from the batter so I put a package of Enjoy Life mega chunks into my food processor and ground them to tiny pieces which I incorporated throughout the batter.

6. The assembling: The original recipes called for simply mixing everything up. Since I wanted to make sure the batter would fully incorporate all the necessary ingredients for adding structure and leavening, I opted to do the cake batter in steps. First, I mixed all the dry ingredients minus the chocolate chips/pieces together. Then I used a spoon to incorporate the chocolate chips/pieces into the dry ingredients. Then I mixed all the wet ingredients minus the vinegar together. Finally, I added the liquid mixture to the dry mixture, adding the vinegar last and mixing until everything was well-blended. By doing this, I ensured that the effects of the vinegar would last through putting the batter into the muffin tins and into the oven.

7. The cooking: Since I needed to bake for the luncheon and because I wanted to see quickly if the structure of the batter would hold up, I opted to make cupcakes instead. I lined 24 muffin cups per each recipe with muffin liners and scooped batter into each cup all the way to the top of the muffin liner, being careful to simply scoop the batter in without squashing it down. Then I baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven, turning them halfway through the cooking time.

Upon removing them, I left them in the muffin tins for about 15 minutes before removing them. This allowed the cupcakes to begin their cooling inside the tins which allows the structure of the cupcake to gain stability before being removed. After the 15 minutes, I removed the cupcakes to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

8. The new recipes:

For the chocolate wacky cupcakes, the new recipe was: Mix 3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Biscuit and Baking Gluten Free flour with 2 cups coconut sugar, 1/2 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tsp baking soda. Then add one 10 oz package of Enjoy Life chocolate chips. Set aside. Mix 3/4 cup healthy blend oil (olive, grapeseed, canola mix) with 2 tsp vanilla, and 2 cups cold water. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture with 2 tbsp raspberry vinegar. Blend well. Gently scoop mounds of the batter into 24 lined muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Cool in tins for 15 minutes. Remove to wire cooling racks.

For the vanilla spice wacky cupcakes, the new recipe was: Mix 3 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Biscuit and Baking Gluten Free flour with 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, and 2 tsp baking soda. Food process one one 10 oz package of Enjoy Life chocolate mega chunks into tiny pieces and add to the dry mixture. Set aside. Mix 3/4 cup safflower oil with 1 cup Agave, 2 tsp vanilla, and 2 cups cold water. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture with 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Blend well. Gently scoop mounds of the batter into 24 lined muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Cool in tins for 15 minutes. Remove to wire cooling racks.