Creative Cooking: Cranberry Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

“It’s your decision….”

Few of us like uncertainty. Not knowing what we should do in a situation, being unable to predict the outcome of a choice we make, having to wait upon someone else’s decision which will impact our lives.

My middle child has to decide by tomorrow between two colleges and whether or not to take a gap year. She continues to seek my advice, wanting in many ways that she did not have to choose herself. Unfortunately for her, she has a mother who believes it really does need to be her decision.

In our conversations recently, she has talked about her friends’ parents, all of whom are handling this life stage of their children differently. Some parents have issued ultimatums about where their children will go. Others have given no help to the process at all.

I like to think that I have been in the middle and not at either extreme. My husband and I have shared our thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of all her choices, but have also given our daughter the freedom to think about who she is and what she thinks would be the better choices.

Being able to take the middle ground, though, is not always easy. Extremism is a simpler path in many ways. You do not need to work as hard to consider all the options and everyone else’s thoughts and feelings.

I recently sat in on a meeting where a parent coordinating a school-wide breakfast told me that if a parent had a child with food allergies, that it was up to the parent to provide food for their child. On the one hand, I understood the parent’s position. Parents who don’t have children with food allergies are not going to think about the need for providing food which is not traditionally made. On the other hand, if an event is being put on for all students by the school, then shouldn’t the folks in charge be considering all students’ needs?

Where is the middle ground?

In this case, the middle ground is that I will be providing food for the students with allergies because I am on the committee and understand such needs. This is actually a middle ground I have been in for many years for other events, and recently I made cupcakes for a staff appreciation event which are free of the major allergens and which I thought I’d share for this post. The recipe is below. Enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Chocolate Cupcakes


3 cups Gluten free whole grain flour blend

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup Hershey Special Dark unsweetened cocoa

10 oz package Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

2 cups finely chopped dried cranberries (I give them a whirl in my food processor to make tiny pieces.)

1 cup Agave

3/4 cup safflower oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened orange juice

1 cup water

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:

3/4 cup vegan soy free butter

10 oz Enjoy Life chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate chips but you can use semi-sweet if you like a sweeter cupcake)

Frosting Instructions:

  1. Put the chocolate chips into a large microwave safe bowl with the vegan butter and heat for one minute. Stir. Then continue to heat for 15 seconds at a time, as needed, just until stirring melts all the chips.
  2. Put the mixture into the freezer for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of bowl you opted to use. The more shallow the bowl, the faster the mixture will begin to freeze. You just want the mixture to freeze around the edges and the center to still be soft.
  3. Mix the partially frozen mixture with a Kitchen Aid or hand blender, scraping down occasionally, until light and fluffy.
  4. Set aside until needed for frosting.  Just before using re-blend to make it light and fluffy again.

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 30 muffin cups with liners and set aside.

2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Add the chocolate chips and cranberries.

3. Blend together the Agave, oil, vanilla, orange juice, and water.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet with the vinegar, and mix quickly just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

5. Pour into the prepared muffin tins, and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cupcakes are puffed and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6. Cool the cupcakes on wire cooling racks; then frost and enjoy!


Recipe Revamping: Flourless Chocolate Torte

“That’s a lot of butter and chocolate….”

We had company the other night, and I wanted to make a more “special” gluten and dairy free dessert. My oldest was home for Spring break from college, and as we bounced ideas around, we thought about a flourless chocolate torte. Immediately we looked up a recipe from a well-known chef. We both had a heart attack just reading the recipe.

The recipe? 16 oz semi sweet chocolate; 2 1/2 sticks of butter; 7 eggs, separated, 1 1/2 cups sugar; 2 T. rum; 1 tsp vanilla; 1 tsp salt.

I did some research and discovered that the majority of recipes by other folks called for crazy amounts as well, but I did find that a couple of folks did use smaller amounts of chocolate, sugar and butter… not greatly decreased but less. It seemed that the difference affected the density of the torte, exactly how torte-like versus cake-like versus mousse-like one wanted the dessert to be.

In the end I decided I’d make a lot of changes, and tried two different versions. Both were delicious, but one was a more dark chocolate, cakey variety, and the other more sweet and velvety. Below are both versions.

For both, I decreased the butter as well as substituted for it, and substituted alternatives for refined white sugar (0ne recipe uses coconut sugar; the other agave and truvia). I also decreased the chocolate amounts and swapped a raspberry liquor for the rum. In neither, though, did I decrease or play with the eggs because without the flour, the eggs are essentially what makes the cake! So, my apologies for folks with egg allergies. Will work at another time on creating something similar without eggs!

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Version One: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte (Dark Chocolate-y and More Cake-like)


8 tbsp vegan soy free butter

7 ounces dairy free bittersweet chocolate

7 eggs, separated, with yolks in a large bowl and whites in a mixer

3/4 cup coconut sugar

2 tbsp raspberry liquor (optional)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 cup coconut sugar

Version Two Ingredients: Semi-Sweet Chocolate Raspberry Torte (Sweeter and More Mousse-like)


8 tbsp vegan soy free butter

10 ounces dairy free semi-sweet chocolate

7 eggs, separated, with yolks in a large bowl and whites in a mixer

1/2 cup Agave

2 tbsp raspberry liquor

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2 tbsp truvia

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and take out a 10 inch springform pan. Do NOT grease the pan.
  2. Chop the chocolate into smaller pieces and put into a microwave safe bowl with the vegan butter. Microwave the butter and chips 20 seconds at a time, until the act of stirring completely melts the chips. Set aside.
  3. In the large bowl with the eggs yolks, add either the coconut sugar or the agave and beat the eggs with a wire whisk for about 5 minutes until the eggs increase in volume and are light and frothy.
  4. Slowly add the chocolate/butter mixture, stirring continually as you gradually add all of the chocolate mixture.
  5. Mix in the vanilla and raspberry liquor and set aside.
  6. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and begin to blend on low speed.
  7. Gradually begin to increase the speed and slowly pour in either the coconut sugar or the truvia.
  8. Beat until the egg whites increase in volume, are no longer clear but white, and when you pull the mixing paddle up, the whites make peaks.
  9.  Using a rounded spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, a little at a time, until all the egg whites are completely incorporated into the mixture.
  10. Pour the batter into springform pan and bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. (The second version took closer to 45-50 minutes.) The cake will have puffed and the top will look dry and no longer glossy.
  11. Remove to a wire cooling rack and allow the cake to cool.
  12. If you are eating it soon, you can run a knife around the pan and release the bottom from the springform and decorate the cake with fresh raspberries and a small sprinkling of powdered sugar.
  13. If you are not going to eat the cake within a few hours, put the cake in the refrigerator and decorate the cake with fresh raspberries before you’re ready to actually eat it.



Creative Cooking: Pumpkin Melts

“I need to organize something….”

My middle child came downstairs yesterday and asked me if there was something she could organize for me. This may seem a rather strange request from a teenager, but for my daughter the question is one I associate with her either being stressed or wanting to procrastinate. Those are the only two times she gets into what my husband and I term her “organizing frenzy”. Given the multitude of ways a teenager could choose to deal with stress or to procrastinate, we are thankful that her method is not only harmless to herself but quite helpful to the rest of the family, and yesterday I got an organized bathroom closet out of the deal!

For me, stressing or procrastinating leads to cooking. It used to lead to cooking and eating but as middle age and extra pounds crept up on me, the emotional eating part had to go! This meant the cooking part had to be extra wonderful for dealing with the stress or giving me an excuse to procrastinate.

Right now, as a family, there is a lot of uncertainty for every single member of the family and for the family as a whole which can be quite stressful when you are someone who is type A, OCD, and control-freakish. God has been teaching me, though, not only how to wait, but all that waiting has to teach a person, which is good both for my brain and for my emotional well-being.

To help wait, though, I need something to do, and creating new recipes has become a welcome respite and oasis in the midst of the the desert of waiting. So, last week I created a cookie recipe which I had been wanting to make for a long while… pumpkin melts. I have always been disappointed by pumpkin cookies which seem to lack flavor and are dense and heavy. I wanted a pumpkin cookie reminiscent of pumpkin pie and which would literally melt in your mouth. When the children tasted these and literally said, “They taste like pumpkin pie and just dissolve in your mouth,” I knew I had hit the mark! And better yet, these cookies are gluten, dairy, nut, peanut, soy, and egg free, too!

Pumpkin Melts


2 cups millet flour

1/2 cup gluten free oat flour

2 tbsp egg replacer (just measure out the powder and add to the dry ingredients; I used the Bob’s Red Mill brand)

1 tbsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup agave

2 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (can use either fresh or canned)

1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice

1/2 cup safflower oil

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the flours, egg replacer, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Blend together the agave, pumpkin, orange juice, and safflower oil.
  4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until everything is well-blended.
  5. Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving space in between for spreading of the cookies.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes until the cookies are puffed and golden orange and slightly stiff to the touch. (Since everyone’s measuring of a rounded tablespoon is different, you may want to check your cookies after 10 minutes, and if they are “large” rounded tablespoons, yours could take more than 12 minutes. For me, a slightly rounded tablespoon of batter took exactly 12 minutes.)
  7. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for a couple of minutes before moving them to a wire cooling rack to completely cool. Be careful to get the spatula completely under the cookie when transferring the cookie because they will still be very soft until they cool completely.
  8. To store leftover cookies, layer them in a container with parchment paper and put them into the fridge. Because they have the pumpkin and no preservatives, they won’t last as long if left out on the counter.


Recipe Revamping: Chocolate Tunnel Bundt

“You don’t accept me for the way I am….”

Raising children is not for the faint-hearted. If you are a parent, you know this truth. You survive endless nights of no sleep, trying to figure out the needs of an infant whose only mode of communication is a high-pitched cry worthy of being classified as a torture weapon, only to be thrust into the tantrums of the the toddler years and the beginnings of the end as your child discovers the word, “No.”

Just when you are beginning to see growth into a complete-sentence-talking, self-feeding, potty-trained, potentially reasoning-able individual, your child begins school which forces you to learn how to navigate a world fraught with “firsts” – the first time your child’s teacher calls to say your child made the whole class cry by telling them that Santa Claus was dead; the first time your child comes home crying because someone said they weren’t his friend anymore; the first recital where your child throws up from fear.

You begin to think those years will not end, but they do, only to be replaced by the middle school years which begins a roller-coaster ride through the ups and downs of your child’s emotions where you learn that the hold the perceptions they have about themselves from the outside world seems stronger than anything you say or do as the parent in her life.

You survive those years, too, but begin to wish to be back in them when the middle-schooler turns into the high school teen who hides in his cave-bedroom, believing you have no understanding, no wisdom, no sense, no anything that you can offer to his all-knowing self. You begin to actually doubt  your abilities until the day comes when she is accepted into college, and anxiety about actually leaving home mounts, and she reverts to two year old behavior, wanting and needing mommy to hug and console and be with her at all times until she leaves.

My second child, who is going to be graduating from high school has entered this last phase, and interestingly enough, her chosen way of spending time with her mother is that she suddenly wants to bake with me every other day – this of course being the same child who has been “too busy” to bake with me for the past four years and who now seems to think I should stop everything I am doing to bake with her whenever she is emotionally distraught about college.

Of course, I do drop everything, because she is my daughter, I do want to spend time with her, and I also enjoying baking. And this weekend, I taught her how to bake a chocolate bundt which I had revamped a couple of weeks ago when this same daughter had asked that I make a chocolate tunnel bundt cake for when my mother-in-law was visiting.

The original chocolate bundt cake recipe called for 3 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 cups of butter, 3 eggs, 3 cups of all purpose flour, 3/4 cup cocoa, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup coffee, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup pecans, 1 tsp vanilla, 12 oz cream cheese, another 2 eggs, another 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup coconut, and 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips. It also called for a glaze made of 4 tbsp butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, 3 tbsp cocoa, 2 tsp vanilla, and 1-3 tbsp water.

To revamp the recipe, I swapped olive oil for the butter and reduced it to 1 cup, and switched coconut sugar for the refined white sugar, cutting the amount to 2 cups. I used King Arthur’s whole grain gluten free flour in place of the white flour, and chose to use the special dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa powder for the regular cocoa powder. I reduced the salt to only 1/2 tsp. I made a “buttermilk” with soy milk and apple cider vinegar, reduced the eggs to two, and omitted the pecans altogether.

For the filling: I reduced the cream cheese to 8 oz instead of 12, using the tofu version,  and halved the eggs to one. I also omitted the coconut altogether and used Enjoy Life chocolate chips, reducing the amount to 1 cup of the mini chips. For the sugar, I once again used the coconut sugar, and I added a tablespoon of the cocoa powder and 1 tsp vanilla to increase the chocolate taste. Finally, I chose not to make a glaze.

The result was a delicious cake which had less fat and sugar and calories as well as more protein and fiber. I’m including the recipe below for the cake which can be made as the tunnel cake with the cream cheese filling or as a plain chocolate bundt without the filling.

Chocolate Tunnel Bundt Cake


2 cup coconut sugar

1 cup extra light olive oil

2 eggs

3 cup gluten free flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

3/4 cup special dark unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup strong, cooled coffee

1 cup soy milk mixed with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

For Filling:

8 oz tofu cream cheese

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 tbsp cocoa

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

To make the filling:

Beat the tofu cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in the coconut sugar and cocoa powder, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the egg and vanilla. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan with the preferred method. I use vegan butter and then sprinkle ground flax seed which coats the pan well, allows the cake to slide out easily, and adds the omegas from the flax seed to the nutrition of the cake, not to mention a pleasant tasting, textural crunch.
  2. Combine the coconut sugar, eggs, and olive oil in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In large measuring cup, blend the coffee and buttermilk and vanilla.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the sugar/oil mixture alternately with the wet ingredients, blending well, until the ingredients are incorporated.
  6. If making just the chocolate bundt cake, evenly spread the batter into the prepared bundt pan as is.
  7. If making the tunnel cake, evenly spread about 1/3 of the batter into the bundt pan; then evenly dollop the cream cheese mixture atop the batter, making sure to leave a wall of batter on either side of the cream cheese. Then carefully add the remaining batter on top of the cream cheese filling.
  8. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with just dry crumbs. The cake will be slightly pulling away from the edges of the pan.




Creative Cooking: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

“Well, it’s not actually my birthday….”

Growing up, my family did not have birthday parties because every person’s birthday was near a major holiday which made parties a bit difficult. Either life was too busy to plan a party or everyone else was too busy and unable to come. So, we developed a family tradition of going to see a movie as a family, followed by pizza and ice cream cake.

I never really thought too much about how my family celebrated birthdays until I had children and their friends began inviting them to birthday parties. It seemed that every 3 year old in preschool was having a party, and not just any party, but a big blowout party at some special location charging exorbitant amounts of money to entertain the entire preschool class for two to three hours.

Never one to follow the trends, I was not inclined to throw a big birthday bash, but I did come to see how celebrating our children’s birthdays with others, even on a small scale, could be special. Unfortunately, two of our children were born in the summer and one just before Christmas which made parties difficult. So, we began a tradition of hosting birthday parties a month or two before their actual birthdays, which confused people but allowed our children to experience the joy of marking their birth with friends.

All my thoughts about birthdays swirled together this week when a mom asked about a dilemma she had: Her young daughter did not like either chocolate or yellow cupcakes but wanted cupcakes for her birthday party. She also is allergic to eggs, wheat, soy, and dairy, and can’t eat bananas or berries for non-allergy health reasons. The mom needed a suggestion for something which would be “special” for her daughter’s party.

I had just the thing: cinnamon chocolate chip cupcakes. Chocolate chips make everything special, or at least according to my children! And cinnamon is a different but complementary flavor that is not yellow or chocolate cupcakes. And if you add cinnamon frosting, it’s a hit with everyone, children and adults alike.

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

(makes 24 cupcakes)


2 2/3 cup gluten free flour blend (I used a whole grain sorghum flour blend by Bob’s Red Mill for this recipe)

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

4 tsp egg replacer (I used Bob’s Red Mill for this recipe)

1 cup Enjoy Life mini chips

2 tbsp ground flax seed

1/2 cup “milk” (I used coconut milk for this recipe since the girl was allergic to dairy and soy but any other type will work too)

1 cup solid “fat” (I used coconut oil but a vegan soy free butter or vegan shortening will work just as well)

2 cups coconut sugar (folks can always use sugar if that is preferable)

1 cup additional “milk” (I used coconut milk for this recipe since the girl was allergic to dairy and soy but any other type will work too)

Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins with paper cupcake liners.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and egg replacer. Stir in the chocolate chips, and set aside.
  3. Mix the ground flax seed with the milk and set aside.
  4. Cream the coconut oil (or chosen fat) with the coconut sugar (or sugar), scraping down as needed.
  5. Add the additional milk to the thickened flax seed mixture, and add the flour and the wet ingredients to the creamed sugar mixture, alternating dry and wet in batches, blending just until all the ingredients are incorporated into one another.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes until the cupcakes are golden and puffed and firm to the touch.  A toothpick inserted in the center will come out with only a dry crumb or two attached.
  8. Allow the cupcakes to cool for a five minutes in the tins, and then remove them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Frost with favorite frosting and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cinnamon Frosting: Cream 1/2 cup vegan butter or coconut oil or vegan shortening with 1 cup powdered sugar. Add 1/4 cup coconut cream and blend well. Mix in enough powdered sugar to make a soft frosting. (Usually another cup.) Chill the frosting in the fridge until ready to frost the cupcakes.


Recipe Revamping: Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

“What image represents me?”

If you have not had the experience yet of the college application process for a child in today’s world, you are bound to be surprised when you do. Unlike the applications of my day, students now are asked questions which, to me, seem a bit odd.

“What your favorite website is.” Presumably, colleges believe this is a window into a part of the students’ lives, an indication of what they enjoy, an inkling of where their time is spent…. Maybe?

“How did you spend your summer?” Another question probably designed to give insight but reminds me of those first week of school essays assigned in elementary school.

But my favorite: “If you had to pick an image that best represents who you are, what would it be?” As you can imagine, my daughter came downstairs from her room for that one.

“Mom, what image represents me?”

My wise, motherly response? “Huh?”

After she explained why she was asking and read the question in it’s entirety, my equally insightful, wonderful answer?  “Um. I’m not really sure, honey. Dance shoes since you’re a dancer? Books because you’re so studious? People since you are always serving others? That’s a tough question. Why don’t you go ask your father?”

At that moment, our son walked into the kitchen, so our daughter asked him, and his response? “I don’t know for you, but mama would be a ‘to-do’ list.”

Out of the mouth of babes, as they say….

I am famous for my to-do lists. Every project I work on, every task for the organizations I chair, every time we travel, every coordination email I send, every event I cater, every birthday party planned… literally everything I do is organized by a to-do list.

Part of it is my personality. I like structure and being organized. Some of it is the satisfaction of crossing off an item from the list and seeing your progress as the list gets smaller. Most of the reason, though, is that simply that I’m visual and if it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist as far as my brain is concerned, and I won’t remember to do it. (As you can imagine, this has become more of an issue the older I become!)

This week on my to-do list was to bake a poppy seed layer cake for a luncheon my husband and I had been invited to attend. As I rummaged through cook books and googled online recipes, I noticed that while a myriad of recipes existed, they all seemed to use a lot of butter, shortening, eggs, and/or cream cheese or sour cream, all of which are high in saturated fats and cholesterol which I wanted to avoid in addition to, of course, making the cake gluten, dairy, and nut free, so I, too, could enjoy it.

This meant rethinking a few things. So, the first thing I did was opt to make a lemon poppy seed cake, because the lemon would flavor everything and reduce the need for flavor from butter or cream cheese or sour cream. The second thing I did was choose to use egg whites instead of whole eggs. The third decision was to make a “buttermilk” out of soy milk and lemon juice to replace sour cream or cream cheese in the recipe and to cut the amount to 1/2 cup. The fourth change was to use olive oil in the cake with its good fats and a vegan olive oil butter for the frosting which had a little saturated fat but much less than butter and far more good fats. And as always, I did what I could to cut the use of sugar, confining it to just the frosting. The result was a delightfully light tasting cake which all enjoyed.

Frosted Lemon Poppy Seed Layer Cake


2 ½ cups your favorite Gluten Free Flour blend (I used King Arthur’s whole grain blend)

2 tsp gluten free baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

½ cup Truvia

1/2 cup poppy seeds

2/3 cup extra light olive oil

2/3 cup Agave

½ cup “buttermilk” (I used soy milk mixed with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (depending on size of lemons, you will need anywhere from 3 to 6 lemons; you really do want to use fresh lemons if at all possible for the best taste)

1/2 cup water

6 egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9 inch round cake pans for use. (I just line the pans with parchment paper.)

2. Mix the flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the truvia and poppy seeds. Set aside.

3. Mix oil, Agave, buttermilk, lemon juice and water. Set aside.

4. In a large mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar with the whisk attachment until thick, white peaks form when you lift the whisk.

5. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Combine well until the dry ingredients are completely moistened.  Batter will be thick.

6. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, a little at at time, until all the egg whites are fully incorporated into the batter.

7. Evenly and equally spread batter into each of the three cake pans and bake for about 15 minutes until the cake layers are puffed, golden, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Mine took 17 minutes.)

8. Cool on the cake layers in their pans until completely cool.

9. Frost the layers with the lemon frosting below, and store in the refrigerator until close to serving time. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

Lemon Frosting


1 cup sugar

8 tsp gluten free flour (I opted to use rice flour so the color would be white)

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup lemon juice (use fresh lemons if you can; depending on the size of the lemons you will need about 2 to 4 lemons)

2/3 cup milk

1 cup vegan olive oil butter (I used the Earth Balance version)

1 tsp vanilla

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a pan. Whisk in the “milk” until smooth.
  2. Over low heat, stir constantly until the mixture begins to boil and thicken. Depending on how shallow your pan is, this will probably take about 4 to 8 minutes.
  3. Once the mixture is thick, pour the mixture into a shallow glass container to cool. I find that a glass pie pan works very well. It usually takes an hour or more to fully cool.
  4. Once the mixture is cool, in a mixer, beat the vegan butter until light and fluffy, and then scrape down the sides of the butter.
  5. Add the cooled mixture with the vanilla and beat the frosting on a low speed to incorporate the mixture into the butter. It will look a bit curdled. Scrape down the sides.
  6. Increase the speed and beat until the mixture looks like a light and fluffy frosting. Its texture and taste will be similar to a whipped cream frosting.
  7. Use the frosting to frost between the cake layers and the outside and top of the cake. (This made enough frosting to generously frost a three layer cake.)



Breakfast Buffet: Spinach Strata

It’s already out of print….”

Last Saturday the writing collaborative I helped to found brought in an illustrator who gave me a wonderful book she had illustrated for an author who wrote about a girl who was gluten-sensitive, celebrating her birthday. The illustrator knew I did workshops for allergy-friendly baking and thought I’d enjoy the book. When I mentioned that it would be nice to purchase a few, she told me that the book had already gone out of print. (It was published in 2013.)

I was bummed. Not only because I wouldn’t be able to purchase more copies of the book but because there had been such a lack of interest in such a great book.

I should not have been surprised, though. My own experience has taught me that unless it affects folks personally, the impetus to consider other people’s plight and show consideration seems to be non-existent at times, and such a book would not need to be purchased by those of us who already know but by those who need to learn.

That does not mean that we stop trying to teach, though. Recently I met with the principal of our high school about a staff appreciation luncheon, and he, too, surprised me.  He asked me if I was considering staff with food allergies in my planning. Since this was the same principal who had held a breakfast for the senior students without any food that students with food allergies could eat, my astonishment must have shown on my face. He was quick to explain that he’d “learned his lesson” about food allergies, which I took to mean that a whole lot of parents must have called him about that breakfast!

Only when we continue to share will people start to come around. I have spoken so many times to the local PTO and my church that, though it has taken several years (years!), people finally have started to make changes. Not at every event, which they still need to consider, but at least at events where they know for sure that people with food allergies will attend.

Recently a local group called me to ask if I could make a breakfast dish for some folks with dairy and gluten allergies. I had the perfect hot dish which I had made over Christmas, a Spinach Strata. Made with gluten free bread, eggs, soy milk, and spinach sautéed with tofu cream cheese, it is cheesy and gooey and yummy. We had enjoyed it at Christmas, and the folks at the breakfast buffet the other day apparently enjoyed it as well.

The recipe is below so you can, too!

Spinach Strata

Best if prepared the night before and cooked in the morning.


six slices favorite gluten free bread (I used Ancient Grains whole grain millet-chai bread; I used an 8 x 11 pan; if you use a larger pan or smaller pan, you may need to adjust the slices of bread you need to cover the bottom of the pan)

dairy free mozzarella (I used about a cup of the Daiya brand but how much will depend on what size strata you may be making; you want to cover the top of the bread cubes)

fresh spinach (I used a 16 oz package of washed baby spinach; a smaller strata may need a less; a larger strata may need more, depending on how much spinach you like)

one container tofu cream cheese (I used an 8 oz container of Tofutti brand cream cheese; unless you aer halving the recipe, slight decreases or increases in spinach does not warrant changing the amount of cream cheese used)

eggs (I was making the dish in an 8 x 11 pan and ended up using six whole eggs, but the amount will vary depending on the size pan you use; you want the egg/milk mixture to cover come to the top of the spinach mixture)

“milk” (I used soy milk but you can use whatever you like; I also used a cup and a half for the six eggs because I was making the dish in an 8 x 11 pan, but the amount will vary depending on the size pan you use and how many eggs; you want the egg/milk mixture to cover come to the top of the spinach mixture; ratio is usually about 1/2 cup of milk per egg)

herbs and spices (I used black pepper, a little bit of red pepper flakes, onion powder, oregano and thyme, but you can use what suits your tastes)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Grease a pan of your choosing.
  2. Cut the slices of bread into small cubes and spread the bread over the bottom of your pan.
  3. Sprinkle the bread cubes with the dairy free mozarella.
  4. In a pan saute the spinach with a little bit of water just until the spinach begins to wilt. Add the tofu cream cheese and stir well until the cheese has melted into the spinach.
  5. Carefully dollop the spinach mixture over the top of the bread and mozzarella cheese.
  6. Whisk together the eggs, dairy free milk, and herbs until well blended.
  7. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the bread and spinach. You want the egg mixture to reach the top of the spinach. If you need a little bit more, simply whisk up an additional egg or two and add it to the pan.
  8. Wrap the dish well in plastic wrap or foil and let it sit overnight in the fridge. If making the same day, let it sit at least an hour in the fridge so the bread can soak up the egg mixture.
  9. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the strata is puffed and golden. Time will depend on the size and shallowness of your pan. My 8 x 11 pan took about 45 minutes.
  10. Leftover strata stores well in the fridge and tastes just as good when microwaved the next day.