Layered Vegetable Baked Pasta (gluten-free Vegetarian Lasagna)

Now that it's officially winter I'm thinking more and more about baked and roasted dishes. And one of my all-time favorite baked dishes is lasagna. I could eat lasagna three times a day and not get tired of it, (and have!). The only trouble is getting a hold of gluten-free lasagna noodles. I've seen and used them before, but most stores only carry gluten-free- penne, spaghetti, and sometimes rotini. Not a big deal, I simply substitute a layer of penne pasta for the lasagna noodles. It still tastes great, the only downside it that you can't officially call it lasagna.

Last night I got home from visiting the in-laws for Christmas. I was tired and was planning to heat up some left overs, but while taking inventory of my fridge I found an eggplant that would soon be on it's way out if I didn't use it soon. That got me thinking. Next I found some ricotta and mozzarella cheese, and that was all the inspiration I needed to cook up a tray of baked goodness!

First I made a simple tomato sauce, here is a link to my recipe. link to my recipe. If you don't have time you can used a good jar of sauce. I recently used Classico sweet basil sauce and it wasn't too bad. I made this dish with eggplant, green peppers and spinach, but you could also use zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, or just about any other vegetable that strikes your fancy. Or you can substitute 1 lb. of ground beef seasoned with garlic and onions for the vegetables to make it a meat lasagna.

Layered Vegetable Baked Pasta (Gluten-Free Vegetarian Lasagna)
Serves 3-4

8 oz GF Penne pasta
2 cups tomato sauce
olive oil
12 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 small eggplant (or 1/2 large eggplant)
1/2 large green pepper, cut into bite sized strips
1 cup frozen spinach OR 3 cups fresh spinach
1 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp fennel seed
Salt and pepper

5" x 9" x 2.75"(deep) baking pan


• Wash the eggplant and cut it into @ 1/4 inch round slices. Salt each side of the eggplant and lean each piece against the side of a colander to drain for 40 minutes.
• Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the GF pasta until not quite done, strain and set aside.
• Using paper towels wipe away the moisture and salt from each side of the eggplant, sprinkle the eggplant with pepper, dried basil, and oregano. (about 1 Tsp of each)
• Heat a frying pan with @ 2 Tbsp olive oil to medium, saute the eggplant, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side add more olive oil of the pan gets too dry.
Put the cooked eggplant aside, in the same hot pan heat another Tbsp of olive oil. Add the green pepper strips, and sprinkle with the remaining, dried basil, oregano, parsley and fennel seed as well as salt and pepper to taste. cook for 2 or 3 minutes.
• Stir the frozen spinach in with the pepper and spices, mix all together and cook until the spinach is fully thawed (if using fresh spinach cook until all is wilted). set aside.
• Mix the egg in a bowl, add the ricotta cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, mix all together well.

Preheat oven to 350º
Using a 5" x 9" x 2.75"baking pan assemble the layers in the following order.
1/3 of the tomato sauce
1/2 of the pasta
1/2 of the spinach/pepper mixture
1/ 2 of the cheese mixture
1/2 of the eggplant laid flat
1/3 of the tomato sauce
Remainder of the pasta
Remainder of the spinach/pepper mixture
Remainder of the cheese mixture
Remainder of the eggplant laid flat
Remainder of the Sauce
top with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

• Cook covered at 350º for 30 minutes covered, cook an additional 15 minutes uncovered.
• Let it cool about ten minutes before serving. Mangia!


Merry Christmas!

Christmas picture of our girls! My talented wife, Lynley came up with this concept and took the pictures and I did the photoshop work. It took four separate photos to make this picture work.


Almond-Apricot Stuffing

The holidays are a difficult time to be Gluten-free! Everywhere I go there seems to be piles of cookies, cakes, pies, candy, and more cookies. A few years ago I would have simply had two or three of everything! Now I glance over to see what I'm missing and see if, by chance someone has left some fruit out! Sounds really lame, I know. The one consolation is that I now weigh 30 lb. less than what I did before I went on the gluten-free diet. 30 lb. of weight that I didn't need, all from to cookies, cakes, pizza and beer!

As someone with is greatly restricted as to what I can put in my mouth during the holidays it is a consolation that there are some things that I can eat and will taste just as they should, thankfully stuffing is one of those things. I made this recipe for thanksgiving this year and no one suspected it was gluten-free. I've always liked fruit in stuffing, in the past I've used apples, pears, or dried cranberries, but there is something special about dried apricots, they are intensely sweet and bursting with flavor. These days we are told not to stuff our turkeys because of the risk of bacteria, but there's nothing like stuffing cooked right in the bird. If you choose to stuff the turkey just make sure to use a thermometer to insure that the temperature in the center of the bird is at least 170 degrees F.

Almond-Apricot Stuffing
Serves 6-8

1 loaf Gluten-free bread
8-10 dried apricots
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup chicken (or Turkey) stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 stalks celery- chopped fine
1 medium onion- chopped fine
3 cloves garlic- minced
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp white pepper (or black)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley (or 1 Tbsp dried parsley)
1 Tsp dried tarragon
1 Tbsp chopped Fresh Sage (or 1Tsp dried sage)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Separate the slices of bread, place them on a pan uncovered and leave them out overnight, or few a few hours.
Cut the dried bread into about 1/2 inch cubes, set aside.
Preheat oven to 350º
Heat a large pan to medium heat, melt the butter, but don't let it burn.
Stir in the onion, garlic and celery, saute for about one minute.
Mix in the apricots, sage, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper. Mix together well.
Add the chicken stock and white wine, bring to a slight boil.
Mix the bread cubes and almonds, stirring and coating them with the liquid and seasoning.
Transfer all to a roasting pan, cover and bake in the oven at 350º for 45 minutes, serve and enjoy!

Happy Holidays!!!!

Split Pea Soup

We've been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather lately. Last week we broke several high temperature records here in Raleigh, NC with a high of eighty degrees! Well that all changed this weekend when the cold and wet weather set in. That's all the reason I needed to cook up a nice hot pot of soup, split pea to be exact. It's hot, hearty and bursting with flavor. You can find split peas in the grocery isle with the dried beans, but unlike the other dried beans, these don't have to soak before cooking, making this much less time-consuming than other bean soups. This recipe may also be a good use of the post-holiday ham bone that sits unused in most peoples refrigerators. I've added potatoes to this to make it even more hearty and filling, this is definitely a "soup that eats like a meal".

Split Pea Soup
serves 4-6

1Lb. dried split peas- rinsed and picked through for debris
2 Tbsp olive Oil
3 cloves garlic- smashed and chopped fine
1 medium onion- chopped fine
2 stalks celery- chopped fine
2 carrots- skinned and cut to bite-size
1 medium potatoes- skinned and cut to bite-sized
1 bay leaf
1 Tsp sea salt- or to taste
2 Tsp Pepper
1 Tsp dried Thyme
4 whole Cloves
1 Tsp Jamaican Allspice
1 Ham hock - or ham bone with meat
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups filtered water

Heat olive oil in a large pot to medium, stir in onions, cook about a minute until soft.
Stir in garlic and celery, cook for another minute, add the salt, pepper thyme, cloves, bay leaf, allspice and ham hock.
Add the rinsed split-peas, and carrots. Heat and mix all together well
Pour in the chicken stock, water and potatoes, bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
Once boiling reduce heat to to a simmer, cook uncovered for 1 hour stirring occasionally.
Remove Bay leaves, 4 cloves and ham hock. Remove the meat from the ham-hock, cut to bite size and return it to the pot (optional)
Take about 1/4 of the total soup and run it in a food processor or blender until smooth, return it to the pot and stir all together, serve.


Simple Tomato Sauce

One of my favorite things to eat is good old tomato sauce over pasta. This past Sunday I made my dad's sauce. The recipe was passed down from his grandfather to his father, my dad continued the tradition. I always make this sauce on Sunday's when it's cold out while watching football in the background, that's exactly how my dad made it. Growing up we ate his tomato sauce every Sunday during the cold months (most of the year in Buffalo, NY!), and the leftovers on Tuesdays. This is a sauce that needs to cook for a minimum of 6 hours. When it's done it is worth every minute, but who has time to cook a 6-8 hour sauce? Having said all that I'm NOT going to post the recipe here, (I've got to reserve some secrets!) But I will post a delicious, simple and quick homemade tomato sauce with fresh clean flavors that is much better than the sauces you can get in a jar.

Simple Tomato Sauce

15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic- chopped fine
1/ 2 cup onion- chopped fine
1/3 cup red wine OR cooking sherry
1 Tsp sugar
1/2 Tsp pepper
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp fresh basil- chopped OR 1 Tsp dried basil


Heat a pan to medium-high, add olive oil.
Add onion, saute for a about 1 minute. stir in garlic, salt and pepper, and dried basil, cook for another minute (if using fresh basil it doesn't go in until the very end)
Mix in tomatoes, wine, and sugar, bring to a boil.
Once boiling reduce heat to low, simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve over rice or corn pasta, sprinkle with fresh basil, and parmesan cheese, enjoy!


Asian Style Ginger Vegetables

There is no comparing fresh ginger to the powdered ginger you can get in the spice isle. Powdered ginger definitely has its place in cooking and baking, but the young fresh root (actually a rhizome) is indispensable in Asian cooking. When using fresh ginger I use a vegetable peeler to just barely remove the tough exterior skin because the most tender part lies just beneath. When choosing ginger at the store look for one that is crisp with smooth, unblemished skin.

Using authentic ingredients makes a real difference when cooking Asian food, and making gluten-free Asian food requires even more specific products. Using normal soy sauce is out! Many people don't know that soy sauce is brewed with wheat, it is far-from gluten free. I once got into a argument with the elderly owner of a Thai restaurant over whether or not there was wheat in soy sauce, he kept telling me "there is only soy in it", finally I said, "OK, whatever you say, just please don't put any in my food!" I've used a few different products as a soy sauce substitute, but by far my favorite is San-J's Organic Wheat Free Tamari. It is very similar to soy sauce, just a bit thicker and darker.

I love to "play" with different Asian flavors, spices and vegetables. I've made this recipe several times with sight variations, but the following seems to work the best. I'm recommending using green cabbage but, red cabbage is great as well but it can turn the entire dish purple.

Asian Style Ginger Vegetables
Serves 2

@1- 1/2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp Tamari, or GF Soy Sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth or stock
1 tsp white (or black) pepper
1 Tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1 cup of green peas (thaw if using frozen peas)
1 cup fresh carrot, julienned
1 medium piece of zucchini, julienned
1/2 cup fresh green cabbage, julienned


Heat a frying pan to medium-high, pour in peanut oil
add the onion, cook until soft (about 60 seconds), stir in the garlic and ginger and pepper, cook for another minute or so.
Mix in the Tamari, chicken broth, and brown sugar, bring to a slight boil.
Add the peas, carrots and zucchini, reduce the heat to medium low, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the cabbage, cook for another 90 seconds.
Serve hot over rice (I recommend basmati) as a main course, enjoy!

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

I hate to post two recipes with the same ingredient back to back, but I feel compelled to by my sheer love for the eggplant! Known as Melanzane in Italian, a word derived from the Latin mala insana, or "mad apple" because it was originally thought to be poisonous, being a member of the nightshade family which includes the deadly belladonna and jimson weed.Technically the eggplant is a Fruit, due to the fact that it has seeds. if you want to learn more about eggplant check out this link to, for more information than you will ever need.

In the process of looking up more information about eggplant I found out that in some middle eastern cultures eggplant is so prominent that it can be served in every course. In one story a foreign visitor in a Middle Eastern country, after eating a large meal asked for, "just plain water, if you please, without eggplant." Which brings me to my recipe for today, a marriage of two middle eastern staples; eggplant and chickpeas: roasted eggplant hummus.

Hummus makes a great ap
petizer or snack, it's inexpensive, quick and easy to make. Hummus has large amounts of iron and vitamin C, It also is a good source of protein and dietary fiber. I've got to admit that not everyone loves hummus, it seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" things. Some people are crazy about it there is even a blog only about hummus! The first time I heard of it was when I was 17 years old and I was working at a health food stand called The Juicery in the middle of Delaware park in Buffalo. It was part of my job to mix huge batches of Hummus. We served it on pita bread with feta cheese and an awesome Miso dressing (which I would kill to get my hands on!) I worked at the Juicery for two years and never liked the hummus at all, and frankly didn't understand it, or why anyone would like it. Well luckily my experience with food and my palate has grown since then, and I've come to appreciate it for the rich and tasty food that it is.

Roasted Eggplant Hummus

1 15 oz can chickpeas- rinsed and drained OR 2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled, and chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley OR 1tsp dried parsley
fresh eggplant


Wash Eggplant, lay sideways on the cutting board, remove the stem and cut 5 or 6 thin round slices (1/8")
Sprinkle salt and pepper and rub olive oil on each side of the pieces, place on a baking rack and place under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes on each side, remove before it burns. Set aside.
Combine all of the ingredients, including the eggplant in a food processor.
Run the food processor, until all of the ingredients mix together, if it's too dry to turn add a little water until it processes.
Serve with corn chips or potato chips or fresh veggies, enjoy!


Eggplant Parmesan

One ingredient that is hard to cook without is bread-crumbs. I have only had gluten-free bread-crumbs one time, I haven't been able to find any since. I have tried to make them from dried-out gluten-free bread, but it never worked well. I wasn't about to let a lack of bread crumbs keep me from having breaded fried dishes like chicken parmesan and one of my favorites, eggplant parmesan! In place of the bread-crumbs I used a combination of dried herbs, fine-graded parmesan cheese and my secret ingredient, potato chips! Last night when I made eggplant parmesan I went to the deli section and bought three, one ounce bags of plain Lays potato chips, I crushed them up right in the bag before mixing them with the herbs, spices and cheese. We had company for the meal, and they never suspected that they had anything besides normal bread-crumbs until I told them after the meal. I would be curious to find out if anyone out there has used other bread-crumb substitutes successfully? Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, but it needs to be prepared correctly or it can be bitter and mushy. After washing and cutting the eggplant (into 1/2" thick circular discs) I always sprinkle salt over both sides, and stand them on end, leaning against the side of a bowl to drain for at least 30 minutes. Doing this pulls out the bitterness of the eggplant and drains off excess moisture, preventing it from becoming mushy.
I like to serve my eggplant parmesan over a bed of pasta with a homemade tomato sauce, with fresh grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil. However it's good without the pasta and with sauce from a jar (if you must) as well.

Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 4

2 medium Eggplants
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
3 eggs
Olive oil

2 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
2 Tbsp Dried parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
@ 3 oz plain potato chips- crushed fine
1 Tbsp black pepper
salt to taste


Wash the eggplant, discard the top and bottom. Lay it on it's side and slice it in about 1/2 inch round pieces.
Sprinkle all of the pieces liberally with salt on both sides, and drain for about 1/2 hour standing up, leaning against the sides of a colander, or leaning against the outside of a bowl on the cutting board.
While the eggplant is draining, mix together the basil, oregano, garlic, parsley, parmesan cheese, crushed potato chips, salt and pepper in a large bowl, set aside.
Pour the 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour into a dish, set aside.
Beat together the eggs in a bowl, set aside.
Using a paper towel, dab away the moisture and salt from the eggplant slices, set pieces on paper towel.
Now we'll set up a "breading station" line up the flour plate, eggs, and bread-crumbs in that order, Dip each piece of eggplant in the flour, covering it, then in the eggs, covering it again, and then place in the bread-crumb bowl, sprinkling the bread-crumbs over each side, set each piece aside on a plate. Repeat the same process for all of the pieces.
Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a pan on medium until its hot. carefully place 3 or four pieces of breaded eggplant (depending on the size of the pan) in the hot oil. Cook on one side until the bottom becomes golden brown (about 3-5 minutes). carefully flip the pieces over and cook for a few more minutes until the other side becomes golden brown. Once done place on a plate with a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
Repeat process with the remaining pieces of eggplant, replenish and reheat the olive oil between batches as it will absorb into the eggplant while cooking.
Serve with tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, and/ or over Gluten-free pasta and MANGIA! (Eat! - in Italian)


Baked Sweet Potato Fries

This recipe is easy to make and it is a good one for kids, there is something about kids and french fries! We often make these fries for lunch for our children. They taste really great and are actually good for you. I used to fry the sweet potatoes in oil, they taste awesome this way, but they aren't as healthy, and frying anything in my kitchen makes the whole house smell like a fast food restaurant for days! At our house fries are always served with ketchup (my wife and kids wouldn't have it any other way), but another serving suggestion would be to melt a little butter and stir in some honey and dip the fries in the mixture. I've had it this way in restaurants and it tastes great.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries Serves 2
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise (like steak fries) -see picture
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tsp white pepper (or black pepper)

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 Tsp basil

1/4 Tsp oregano


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil in a large bowl.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together, coating the sweet potatoes with the olive oil and spices.
Lay out the fries in a baking pan in a single layer. Place in the oven uncovered.
Bake the fries flipping them over every ten minutes for 40 minutes or until potatoes turn golden.
Sprinkle with a little extra salt and serve with ketchup, or according to your taste.
Note: the fries won't really get crispy, but they will be delicious!


Delicious Brussels Sprouts?

I cooked for a dinner party Saturday night and we had a great time. My father-in-law said the blessing before the meal, Here is an excerpt, "...bless this food we are about to receive, even though brussels sprouts are a part of it!"

I think that most people share his sentiment about brussels sprouts. My brother told me that they are so good for you that they have to taste bad. When I was growing up we had them once a week because they were my father's favorite vegetable. My brothers and I never liked them because they were always taken right out of the freezer, cooked hard and put on a plate with some margarine (ugh!). I think one of the worst things that has been done to brussels sprouts is to have them available frozen, or canned (yuck)! The absolute best way to get this vegetable is right off of the stalk. Be careful not to over-cook them which tends to cause the sulphur-like taste that many people find undesirable.When cooked correctly they should have more of a nutty flavor.

The recipe that I made Saturday night was given to me in passing by a co-worker, and it turned out excellent. After serving it I got some great compliments, including "these are the best brussels sprouts I've ever had" and "I never knew brussels sprouts could taste like this." Even my father-in-law had a second serving, and that's saying something!

Balsamic-glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
serves 4

1/4 Lb. sliced Pancetta (Italian Bacon)
1 Lb. whole Fresh Brussels Sprouts
1-1/2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup chopped Green Onions
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the bottom off of the brussels sprouts and remove the tough outer leaves
Bring a pot of salted hot water to a boil. Once boiling drop the brussels sprouts in for 4 or 5 minutes. Strain and put aside.
Cook pancetta on both sides in a pan on medium-high, cook until until crispy.
take pancetta out and place over a paper towel to drain. Once cool, crumble, or chop it up and set it aside. Save the remaining liquid/fat, leaving it in the pan.
Bring the same pan back up to a temperature of medium-high, and toss on the brussels sprouts. Cook for a few minutes, coating the brussels sprouts with the liquid, add salt and pepper to your taste.
Mix the balsamic vinegar into the brussels sprouts, cook for about 4 more minutes.
Transfer the brussels sprouts into a serving bowl, toss with the crumbled pancetta, and green onion. Serve!

White Wine Apricot Sauce over Sauteed Beef

The other day we went to stay with a friend out of town and arrived late. Being thoughtful she knew we would be hungry when we arrived so she left a huge strip steak to thaw on the counter for us. It looked great but I wasn't sure how to cook it. My first choice would have been to grill it, but no grill was available. I also could have broiled it, but instead I trepidatiously choose to fry it in a pan, using the juices from the pan to make a sauce to cover it with. I looked around the kitchen for the makings for a sauce and found a big bag of dried apricots. I remembered I once worked at an Italian restaurant that made a chicken dish with an awesome apricot sauce, so I decided this was the way to go. I don't know if its the deep orange color or the sweet-tangy flavor, but here is something about the apricot that just seems to capture the harvest season for me.

I think I first had dried apricots when I was just a toddler, its one of the foods that remind me of my grandmother who first taught me to cook. I vaguely remember her making something like an apricot glaze or frosting for a cake with them, but most fondly I remember eating them right out of the bag. A few months ago I brought a bag of dried apricots for the purpose of making a sauce with them, but ended up eating them as they were. Next time I buy dried apricots I'll be sure to buy plenty for cooking and for eating plain!

This is a simple sauce with a rich and fruity flavor that's not too sweet, it would be a great compliment for chicken or pork as well. I served this over a bed of fresh spinach for a low-carb late dinner, but it would go very well over rice, or with sweet potato.

White Wine Apricot Sauce over Sauteed Beef
Serves 2

@1 Lb tender cut of boneless steak (pork or chicken can be substituted)
6-8 dried apricots- chopped small
8 oz white wine
2 cloves garlic- chopped fine
1/2 onion - chopped fine
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tsp corn starch
few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
sprinkles of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle the meat on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a dash of GF Worcestershire sauce, let sit for about 20 minutes before cooking.
Heat a skillet to medium heat, add olive oil
Saute meat until roughly cooked half way through, about 10 minutes depending on thickness, flip over in the pan.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan, saute for two minutes. Add the chopped apricots, about 6 oz of the wine and salt and pepper to taste, mix around, incorporating the scrapings from the bottom on the pan.
Cook the meat until done, for beef you can cook to how done you like (I prefer medium-rare), for chicken or pork be sure to cook all the way through. Remove to a cutting board.
Whisk the remaining wine in a bowl with the corn starch, stir until there are no lumps. Stir into the pan. Bring to a slight boil, and reduce to simmer. Stir occasionally for a few more minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. remove from heat.
Cut the meat into 1/3" long slices, drizzle the sauce over top and serve.

Eggs in a Basket

This fun and quick little breakfast is a variation on over easy eggs, this is definitely comfort food! I like eggs over easy but don't really enjoy them without bread to dip in the runny yokes (the best part!). This morning I remembered that I made Gluten-free pancakes the other day and had a few left over so I decided to try them with with the eggs. I cut a hole in pancakes and fried the eggs snug in the hole. Along with a strong cup of Sumatran coffee this made for a tasty and satisfying breakfast!. This would also be great with syrup.

Eggs in a Basket
serves 1

2 gluten free pancakes (GF waffles or bread can also be used)
2 eggs
Salt and pepper

Heat frying pan to medium, butter the pan.
Cut a hole about 2" (5 cm) in diameter in the middle of each of the pancakes
Place the pancakes on the pan, break an egg into each hole, salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for about 2 minutes, them flip the pancakes using a spatula.
Cook for about 2 more minutes, or until done, serve hot and enjoy!

Baked Acorn Squash stuffed with Bean Salsa

After reading
Gluten-free goddess' blog about acorn squash I got inspired to finally cook the acorn squash that was starting to gather dust on my counter. Her recipe looked awesome, but somewhat complicated, and as usual I didn't have a lot of time with two little ones running around my legs.
I sometimes make bean salsas to go over my baked sweet potatoes, so I thought why not over an acorn squash? Also this seemed like a good paring since beans go well with with brown sugar, and brown sugar is a natural with acorn squash. I made this last night and brought it to work to eat for lunch. As I was heating it up I was getting eager to see if it would be a success or a failure. Well I'm eating it now (on my lunch hour) and I'm pleased to announce that it's as good as I hoped! I just wish I had taken a picture of it before I ate it because it was so colorful, but I really didn't know it would turn out so good!

Baked Acorn Squash stuffed with Bean Salsa
Serves 2

1 Acorn Squash

1 Jalapeno pepper- de-seeded and chopped fine
1/2 sweet onion - chopped fine
1 tomato - chopped small
1- 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (or one can of beans - rinsed and drained)
1-1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º
Cut the Squash in half in so that the top and bottom are on separate half's.
Scoop out and discard the seeds using a spoon.
Place the squash open side down, on a baking dish in 1/2 inch of water.
Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.

Mix the jalapeno pepper, onion, tomato, beans, cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl, set aside.

After the squash is cooked drain the liquid,
Turn the squash open side up and put a few pats of butter (or to taste) on each piece.
Scoop the salsa over the squash, return to the oven for 15 minutes and serve.

Chipolte Tacos

Tacos have become a staple of the American diet. What once was purely a Mexican food has practically become an institution. In many homes "taco night" is a once a week tradition. Kids love them, they are easy to make, and they are fun to eat!
I first came across the chipotle pepper (pronounced
Chee POTE lay) at the international farmers market in Atlanta. I was looking for a pepper that would give me lots of flavor with out too much heat. Chipotle have definitely got the flavor! These are actually jalapeño peppers that have been smoked. They have a rich smoky flavor that infuses into the foods they are cooked with. A word of warning though these peppers are hot (considered medium on on the Scoville scale). I love spicy food, but my children don't. Therefore, for cooking tacos, I remove the seeds and then only use half of the pepper. I've had some trouble finding these peppers in North Carolina, the only place I've found them so far is World Market.

Chipolte Tacos

1 lb. ground Beef or Turkey
1/2 onion-chopped fine

2 cloves garlic- minced

1 Chipotle pepper cut-up fine- (remove seeds or use 1/2 pepper to reduce spiciness)

1 tsp lime juice

3/4 cup water

2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional ingredients:
1 cup of cut corn

Several sprigs of chopped fresh cilantro


Serve with:
Corn Tortillas, either soft or crunchy
Chopped Lettuce
Diced tomato or Salsa

Shredded cheese

Sour cream

Put ground meat in to a medium sized, pre-heated pan(medium heat), cook the ground meat until brown on both sides.

Transfer the meat to a colander and rinse it with warm water (to rinse away all of the fat)
Return the rinsed meat to the pan and add the water, onion, lime juice, garlic and chipotle. stir and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.
Add the ground cumin, oregano, cinnamon, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir all and bring to a boil.
Add cut corn (optional)
Reduce heat to simmer and cook @ 10 minutes. let cool a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro (optional).

Serve in corn tortillas with the lettuce, cheese, sour cream, tomato and/or salsa or however you enjoy your tacos!

Interesting Information...

I recently met a woman at my local grocery store who was stocking up on Gluten-free cereal. She shared some really interesting information with me. She said that her daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease. After that she went ahead and had her whole family tested including all three of her kids, her husband, and herself. They all tested positive for Celiac! No one in her family had known anything about Gluten intolerance previously.

She went on to say that her sister works at the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.
They have some recent results from studies in Europe that indicate that as many as 30% of the population of some countries may be affected by Celiac Disease!!! Can you imagine that! Now, I don't know how accurate this information is, but just think of the implications of these numbers. Ten to fifteen years ago it was thought 1 in 10,000 people were affected, then about five years ago they determined that 1 in 133 people had Gluten intolerance, but to think of 30% of the population is mind-shattering, it makes me want to go out and open a gluten-free restaurant chain! These type of numbers would also vindicate my mother who thinks anyone who has an illness that lasts more than a few days should get tested for Celiac disease (love you mom!).

The other piece of information that the woman from the grocery store shared with me is that the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center will send out a free Gluten-free care package to anyone recently diagnosed, including food samples and information about how to start a gluten-free diet. Here is the link to apply.


Corn Tortillas with Peanut Butter and Banana

I've stopped keeping Gluten-free bread on hand. I use to stock up on it, but I would never use it. In the back of my mind I was probably thinking that there would be some kind of mass shortage! The cost of a loaf of gluten free bread has also made it less desirable for me. My attempts at baking bread haven't gone so well, and I don't have a bread machine. The whole experience has led me to re-think bread and what its purpose is. The purpose I seemed to miss the most was to hold together ingredients that I wanted to eat in my hand and be portable, in other words a sandwich! Gluten free breads seems to lack the consistency to do this well. So I decided to use soft corn tortillas. You can buy them at most stores and they are a great alternative for holding my sandwiches together, converting them into delicious wraps. I do recommend that you look into the brand you use. I currently am using Tam-X-ico's! White Corn Tortillas, by La Bonita Ole' (in the refrigerated section) which are good and inexpensive. Before that I tried Ole' Corn Tortillas, by Ole' Mexican Foods (in the non-refrigerated section) and they made me sick.

If I need to eat something "on the go" or for a quick snack I reach for the bag of corn tortillas I keep in my fridge. With these "wraps", I've made just about every kind of sandwich one can think of. However my favorite is peanut butter and banana. It is rumored that Elvis flew from Memphis to Denver in the middle of the night once to get a good peanut butter and banana sandwich! Although I can't say I would do the same I can understand stand his passion for this tasty treat. Unlike Elvis I don't fry mine in bacon fat, therefore it is actually good for you, and kids love them. I eat these in the afternoons at work to give me a boost of energy and fight off cravings for the bowl of candy bars calling to me. I usually make two of wraps, the recipe below yields one wrap.

Peanut Butter and Banana on a Corn Tortilla Wrap

1 round soft corn tortilla
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 of a banana
@ 1/2 tsp of honey
@ 1/4 tsp cinnamon


Toast the corn tortilla in a toaster oven for @90 seconds, or on a hot pan for @60 seconds on each side. Place the peanut butter in the center of the tortilla. Cut the banana in half and then cut in half again lengthwise. Place a quarter of the banana in top of the peanut butter. sprinkle with cinnamon an drizzle with honey. Tuck in the two sides of the tortilla and roll it up loosely (see picture above). Serve and enjoy!

GF Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe is probably the easiest gluten-free cookie you could make, and arguably the best! In my book you just can't beat peanut butter and chocolate! Remember the old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial from the 70's "your peanut butter got into my chocolate! You got chocolate in my peanut butter!, Mmm, delicious! (que announcer) Two great tastes that taste great together!" -haha I love it!

I think I first got this recipe from the G.I.G. (Gluten Intolerance Group) I was a part of when I lived in Atlanta. It's not intimidating for my non-celiac relatives to make these for me when I visit because there's no messing with Gluten-free flours, (a daunting prospect for even the most accommodating friend or relative!)

I prefer to use less chocolate chips and two eggs, but I'll post the recipe as I originally received it. As you can see from the picture, my 3 year old is a huge fan of these!

GF Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup Peanut Butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1 egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)


Pre-heat oven to 350º.
Mix all together in a mixing bowl. Stir well. place teaspoon sized "dollops" on a baking pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool and serve.

Pumpkin Pancakes

I usually like to make pancakes for the family to sit down and enjoy together on Saturdays. I always add some type of fruit to the pancakes. This weekend (after finding out that pumpkins are fruit!), I was inspired to make pumpkin pancakes after reading this posting

Being a bit tired (before my first cup of coffee) I pulled out a bag of trusty Bob's Red Mill GF pancake mix. I followed the recipe and added the following:

• 1 cup pumpkin (baked 30 min at 350º and chopped fine), or 1 cup canned pumpkin
• 2 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
• 1 tsp allspice
• 1/2 cup apple sauce
• 1/2 cup brown rice flour

The pancakes were quick to make and came out awesome.

Chicken Broth

Buying gluten-free chicken broth is a real pain. Forget about the old days of using bouillon cubes. Finding a gluten-free canned broth is rare or impossible and buying boxes of broth is expensive and you can easily end up throwing it out if you don't use it within a few days, that is why I started making my own chicken broth. Once I make it I freeze it in ice cube trays (perfect one ounce containers) and keep the cubes in an air-tight container in the freezer to use whenever I need them for soups and sauces or stir-fry. I also use this broth often to give flavor to rice.

These days since the price of chicken breast is so high I just buy whole chickens. I cut-up the chicken, set aside the leg quarters, wings and breasts and use all of the rest (except the excess fat) for the broth. Often I'll include one of the breasts in order to use it for chicken salad (my wife's favorite). I like to make the broth and let it cook while I'm working in the kitchen on other things since it doesn't require much attention. Here's my recipe:

Chicken Broth:

yields about 4 cups broth

Cut pieces of uncooked chicken, including neck, bones, etc...
2 cloves of garlic- smashed
1/2 onion- cut in large pieces
1 carrot- peeled, cut in large pieces
1 stalk of celery, including leaves-cut in large pieces
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
@1 Tsp salt
1 large bay leaf

Several sprigs of fresh parsley or other fresh herbs (optional)


Fill a medium sauce pan around three-quarters full of filtered water
Add all of the ingredients and bring to a boil
Once it boils reduce it to simmer and let it cook for 1 hour uncovered
Occasionally remove the foam that forms on the surface with a slotted spoon.
Once done remove from heat, put a top on and let it cool and place
it in the refrigerator to cool.

Later, discard the layer of fat that forms on the surface, strain and it's
ready to use, or freeze for later


Pumpkin Soup

When did pumpkins stop becoming food in our culture and became strictly decoration? what a waste! When I was growing up we always carved several pumpkins, baked the seeds and threw out the rest. Then we would buy canned pumpkin to make pies with.

Tonight I made a great pumpkin soup with only the discarded parts (carved out mouth, nose, eyes) from our jack-o-lantern. I cut the tough skin off of the discarded pieces and pureed them in the food processor with a little water.

Not only does pumpkin taste good it is also really good for you!
The Nutrition of Pumpkins and Pumpkin Seeds

This is the fourth year in a row I have made this recipe. Each year it evolves a bit, and has become distinctly Asian in flavor. Once it was done I had to heavily persuade my 3 your old and my wife to try it. once they did they both finished their bowl and asked for more!


Curried Pumpkin Soup

Preparation time: 15 min, cooking time: 30 min
Makes: serves 4-6


1small onion- chopped
2 cloves garlic- minced
2 Tbsp butter
1Tbsp fresh ginger -chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp celery seed
2 tsp pepper (I prefer white pepper for this recipe, but black will work)
@ tsp salt
1 bay leaf
2 cups pureed pumpkin (or 1 can of pumpkin)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp sugar
4 cups Chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot or tapioca powder)

chopped chives, or green onion (as garnish) optional


Heat a large pot to medium, add the butter. add the onion, garlic,
ginger saute until the onion is translucent

Mix in the curry, nutmeg, celery seed, salt, pepper and the bay leaf
Stir in the pumpkin, sugar Stir in the broth and bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes
lower the heat to simmer and remove the bay leaf
Stir in 1 cup of the milk continue cook over low heat for
a few minutes.

In another bowl, stir together the remaining milk and the cornstarch until dissolved, then add it to the pan.
Stir until thickened and bubbly, cook a couple more minutes.

Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with chives, delicious!

Jamaican Jerk

I usually don't use spice mixes, but one I always have on hand is Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. In the past I have used Helen's Tropical Exotics-All natural Jerk Seasoning, but I recently came across Sauer's Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (

Last night I didn't have a lot of time to season the chicken breast I was preparing so I sprinkled the chicken on both sides with the Jerk seasoning and right away sauteed it in a pan and the chicken was incredibly flavorful! My kids loved it and it wasn't at all spicy.

I've made this dish a few times before and it's always comes out great.
(picture: Braised jerk Chicken with spinach and carrots over rice)

Jerk Chicken breast with Braised Apples: (serves 2)

I recommend serving this dish over rice and with a vegetable
It goes well with ginger carrots, sauteed spinach and corn.

2 medium skinless/boneless chicken breasts
1 large apple (or 2 medium)-cored and cut in slices (granny smith preferred)
2 cloves garlic -minced
1 cup onion - cut up
1/4 cup Sherry cooking wine
@1/4 cup olive oil
@1 TBSP Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
@1 tsp garlic powder

Saute pan with a fitted lid

sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt/pepper, garlic powder, and most of the jerk seasoning, let the chicken sit @ 20 minutes for the flavors to absorb

Heat a saute pan to medium/medium high, and add olive oil.

Cook chicken breasts in the pan for about
3 minutes on each side

Stir in the onion and garlic to the pan, saute with the chicken
for 1 minute

add the apple, Sherry wine, and the rest of the Jerk Seasoning,
mix all together

Cover the pan, lower the heat to simmer and let it cook
for 15- 20 minutes.

Serve over rice, and enjoy!

Gluten free Halloween Candy

It's Halloween time, here comes the candy!
This is the just the begining of a long season (ending with Valentine's day) where candy is available everywhere you turn. We all know that candy isn't good for you, that being said it's hard as hell to resist. I put together a brief collection of popular halloween candy so the next time you pass that bowl of goodies at your office you won't have to wonder, "Is that gluten-free?" I will say that many of these products are produced in facilities that also produce products that contain gluten, so proceed with caution. Being the chocolate lover that I am I usually stick with a few safe ones (for me): Hershey bars and kisses, Reese's peanut butter cups, and Snickers. (remember to always check the ingredients on the label as they sometimes change.)

Farley’s candy corn
Spangler picture pops
Jellybelly candy corn
All Starburst
All M&M's (EXCEPT the blue package of crisps)
3 Musketeers
Milky Way Dark Chocolate Covered almonds
Snickers Bar
Snickers with Almond
Snickers Cream molded
All Dove Chocolate
Necco Mary Janes
Hershey Kisses
Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar
Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar with Almonds
Jolly Rancher Candy
Jolly Rancher Lollipops
Almond Joy
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
Reese's Pieces
York Peppermint Patties
Heath Bar
Mr. Goodbar
Babe Ruth
Nestle Milk Chocolate
Oh Henry!
Sweet Tarts
Butterfinger BB's
Tootsie Rolls
Tootsie Pops
Tooties Peppermint Pops
Blow Pops/Super Blow Pops
Charm Pops
Sugar Babies
Sugar Daddy Pops
Junior Mints
Charleston Chew Junior Charms
Original Hot Tamales
Hot Tamales Fire
MARSHMALLOW PEEPS Pumpkin, Spooky Cats and Ghosts
MARSHMALLOW PEEPS DelightFills and Cocoa Cats Snack Pack
Topps Ring Pops
Topps Push Pops
Topps Juicy Bugs
Topps Juicy Drop Chews
Topps Flip & Dip Push Pop
Topps Baby Bottle Pops


Gluten free food

As someone who loves food and cannot eat gluten, (wheat, rye, barley and oats) I do not subscribe to the notion that I should make food that uses substitutes for those ingredients, therefore creating substandard facsimiles of the foods I could once eat. Rather I choose to focus on creating dishes that are based on ingredients and traditions that do not use gluten ingredients and are entirely satisfying in their own right!

food lover

When people ask me, "why I love to cook?" I simply reply,
"because I love to eat!"
When I was younger I loved to cook and eat Italian food, which is my heritage. Next I discovered Southwestern foods with all of its incredible spices that are borrowed from the Mexican tradition. For years I was obsessed with Thai and Vietnamese food and hunting down the ingredients to make
those flavors come to life. I also enjoy Indian, Cuban, as well as the traditional flavors of Louisiana, Greek, North African, Chinese, Mexican and French Cuisines. Having said all of that, I still keep going back to my first love of Italian food. There is something beautiful about the simplicity of garlic sauteing in olive oil, the beginning of so many savory dishes!