Browsing Category

Gluten Free

Gluten Free, Sauces and Condiments

Low Calorie and Gluten Free Bechamel Sauce

It is finally cold here in North Texas. Ok, I had my down coat on at 50 degrees and it is going to dip into the 30s. This probably is near shorts weather for some of you. I’m a wimp.

The cold makes me want to head to the kitchen and start making pot pies, croque madames, white pizza, roasted cauliflower with a white sauce (very Irish), and mac and cheese: warm, silky comfort foods that leave you satisfied.

Instead of a traditional rich French béchamel sauce, made by whisking hot milk into butter and flour, which makes you want to forget your new year’s resolution of eating more healthily, this version uses cornstarch to thicken flavor-infused low fat milk. The flavor imparted by onion, cloves, carrot, thyme and pepper makes a flavorful, pretty darn good substitute. Low calorie and gluten free!

This is a great little recipe to add to your cooking arsenal.

Low Calorie, Gluten Free Béchamel Sauce

3 cups


3 T    cornstarch

3c     2% milk

1       small onion

2”      piece of carrot, peeled

4″      piece of celery

2       cloves

2       sprigs of thyme (optional)

1       bay leaf

4       peppercorns, whole


medium sauce pan, measuring spoons, measuring cup, slotted spoon


Stick the cloves into the onion. Place the milk, carrot, onion, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaf in a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to extract the flavors. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out and discard the vegetable pieces. Whisk the cornstarch into another ¼ c milk to get the lumps out. Add to the flavor-infused milk. Raise the heat to medium. Whisk constantly for about 5 minutes or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.



Appetizer, Bread, Cheese, Gluten Free, Vegetables

Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue

bread dipped in fondue 20151224-_MG_3574.CR2

Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue

Do you need a great appetizer, party dip, or something fun for dinner on these cold winter nights? I have just the ticket: Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue.

Our family tradition on Christmas eve is to sit in front of a roaring wood fire and fix a variety of fondues for dinner. One item on the menu never changes: we take a 8” piece of aged filet that we rub all over with lots of salt and throw on the hot embers below the fire. This year we threw a lobster tail with butter and lemon in the coals too. Both were fantastic. I’ll tell you how to do this in another blog.

Over the years we’ve tried a variety of ingredients for the fondues. One of our favorites is Gouda with Sofrito and Habanero Fondue.

chili prociutto onions 20151224-_MG_3543.CR2

A sofrito is typically a mixture of onions, peppers, ham and garlic. With slight variations, it is the basis of many traditional Spanish, Caribbean and Latin American cooking. The sofrito gives these cuisines a depth of flavor. The bold flavors of the sofrito and hot peppers contrast beautifully with the smooth Gouda.

We make the fondues on the stove in heavy-bottom pots and bring it directly to the table. We don’t use special fondue pots for the cheese fondue. Early in the morning I go to the Village Baking Company, a wonderful boulangerie in Dallas, and pick out rye, multigrain and sourdough loaves. With the filet, lobster, and breads cut into bite-sized pieces, speared on a skewer and dipped in the fondues, the result is a rich, soul satisfying combination of creamy melted cheese, rich beef, briny lobster and the hit of just the right amount of heat. If you want this to be gluten free and/or want to add vegetables, try dipping bell peppers, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes in this creamy, spicy fondue!

Gouda, Sofrito and Habanero Fondue

Serves 4 to 6 for dinner, more as an appetizer


2T          olive oil

½ lb        Gouda cheese, grated

½ lb        Monterey Jack cheese with habanero, grated

1T          cornstarch

4 oz        prosciutto or smoked ham, finely chopped

2             scallions, finely chopped. Use both white and green parts.

1             red bell pepper, finely chopped

1             jalapeno, minced. Use less for less spicy heat

1             garlic clove, minced

1t            fresh oregano, minced or ½ t dried

1t            fresh thyme, minced or ½ t dried

¾ c         lager beer, you can use gluten free beer or ale

1T          cider vinegar



 Medium bowl, grater, heavy bottom medium saucepan or an enameled pot, wooden spoon, measuring cup and spoons.


grated Gouda 20151224-_MG_3537.CR2

Toss cheese and cornstarch together in the medium bowl.

Sauté the prosciutto, scallions, red bell pepper, habanero, garlic, oregano and thyme in the saucepan until the onion is golden. Keep an eye on the garlic so it does not burn.

fondue in the pot 20151224-_MG_3571.CR2

Add the beer and vinegar. Bring the liquid to a simmer then add the cheese a handful at a time, letting each handful melt before adding another.

I use a medium-sized enamel pot and I just leave the fondue in it to serve. If you have a ceramic fondue pot with a candle, use it!

Note: You can use all Gouda cheese and substitute 2t of finely chopped habanero for the jalapeno.

 I serve it with different breads like rye, sourdough, and multigrain. When cutting the bread into bite-sized pieces, try to have every piece have a bit of crust so it is not too soft to dip.

 Be careful when you chop any hot chili. The oil in the chili will stay on your hands even after washing so don’t rub your eyes.





Cheese, Gluten Free, Meatless Mondays, Vegetables

Eggplant Parmigiana quick/fewer calories

Eggplant Parmigiana in less than 45 minutes

Eggplant Parmigiana in less than 45 minutes

It has been raining for five days straight. It’s cold and wet. One reason to live where it can get to 104F in the summer is that it is rarely overcast for more than a day or two at a time. After five days of this I realize I’d never manage in Seattle or Ireland.

Time for comfort food. The problem with most of my favorite comfort foods is the long cooking time and the loads of calories. Enter Eggplant Parmigiana with a Craig Claiborne trick – it is warm, with a rich tomato sauce and just the right amount of parmigiano-reggiano cheese to make it lush and satisfying. It is much lighter, calorie-wise, than the old fashioned recipe and you’ll have Eggplant Parmigiana ready to eat in less than 45 minutes.

Eggplant Parmigiana – quick with fewer calories

Serves 4


2       medium globe eggplants – look for a shiny skin

1T     kosher salt

1       14oz can of tomato sauce – I use Glen Muir

1T     olive oil

2       garlic cloves, smashed, to rub on the eggplant

2       garlic cloves, chopped

½      onion, chopped

1/4c basil, fresh, chopped (1½ T dried)

1T     oregano, fresh, chopped (1½ t dried) or substitute parsley

½ to 1c freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

¼ to ½ lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced (optional)

salt and pepper


Colander, a medium saucepan, a broiling pan or cookie sheet, a medium baking pan


Turn your oven to broil.

eggplant in colander

Eggplant weeping in a colander

Slice the eggplant crosswise into ½ inch-thick round pieces. Salt liberally and place in a colander to drain for 20 minutes. The salt acts to pull the moisture and bitter flavor out of the eggplant.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent, then add the chopped garlic and stir for a minute. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the tomato sauce, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Give it a few extra grinds of pepper and don’t skimp on the salt. Tomatoes love salt. Allow to gently simmer while you prepare the eggplant. Don’t let it boil. Be sure to taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. If the tomato sauce is bitter, add 1t sugar to help balance the flavors. This is an old Southern remedy for bitter tomatoes.

Rinse the eggplant and pat the pieces dry. Rub the smashed garlic clove over both sides of each eggplant slice. Lightly salt and pepper the slices. Place on a broiling pan and place in the upper third of your oven under the broiler. Watch closely. Allow to lightly brown on both sides.

Lightly broiled eggplant

Lightly broiled eggplant

In your baking pan spread several tablespoons of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the pan. Next add a layer of eggplant slices then add tomato sauce to cover.

layering eggplant

Add a final layer of eggplant, then tomato sauce to cover. On top, sprinkle parmigiano-reggiano and dot with mozzarella till it looks right to you.

Bake at 350F for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted, hot and bubbly. Serve and enjoy.

Desserts, Gluten Free

North African Orange Cake

North African Orange Cake

I needed to make a quick gluten-free cake to take to dinner at a friend’s house. Wanting to try something a little different and a bit exotic, I looked back through my old recipe file, a large shopping bag over 20 years old. I found an easy recipe for an Orange Cake that used a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs. It is sweet but not cloyingly so. Orange, cinnamon and cloves in the syrup make a winter kitchen smell warm and cozy. Keeping my fingers crossed I substituted oatmeal for the breadcrumbs. Because the citrus syrup you pour over the cake is so sweet and orangey, I knew I could not go too wrong.

There are several great things about this recipe: It only takes a few minutes to make it, you don’t need to preheat the oven, you can make it a day or two ahead and it will stay good for several more days, it is gluten free, and the syrup is so good I use it in many other recipes: just yesterday I made a trifle with the orange syrup. Delicious!

Try this easy North African Orange Cake – gluten free

This cake takes only a few minutes to put together and can be made a day or two ahead. You don’t even have to preheat the oven.


2 oz      chopped rolled oats, or another gluten free flour

7 oz      granulated sugar, minus 2 T

3.5 oz   ground almonds ( 2T are used to prepare the pan)

1½ tsp  baking powder

7oz       canola oil or any non-flavored oil

4           large eggs

zest of 1 orange

zest of 1½ lemons

 Citrus syrup

1           orange, juiced

1           lemon, juiced

3 oz      granulated sugar

2 T       Grand Marnier or other orange liquor

2           whole cloves

1           cinnamon stick (or ½ tsp cinnamon powder)


Measuring cup, scale, measuring spoons, 2 medium bowls, small saucepan, micro planer, 8 inch cake pan and parchment paper.


Don’t preheat the oven.

Line an 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper, grease it with a shot of cooking spray or butter, then use 2 T ground almonds to coat the parchment paper.

Mix the chopped rolled oats with the granulated sugar, ground almonds, baking powder, and orange and lemon zests. Whisk the eggs into the oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix gently till combined well but don’t over-beat.

Pour the mixture into the pan and place in the middle rack of your oven. Turn the heat to 350F. Bake the cake for 40 to 50 min or until it is golden brown and a skewer piercing the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, combine the citrus syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before taking the cake out of the pan. Run a knife around the outside of the cake to loosen it in the pan, then turn the pan upside down on a plate, and tap the bottom of the pan. It should easily fall out. Remove the parchment paper. While the cake is still warm, take a skewer and poke approximately 10 holes in the cake. Spoon the syrup all over the cake.