Tag Archives: gluten-free

Cream Puffs, or, The Custard-Filled Carrot That Got My Stepdad to Use Chopsticks

Want to know what goes well, really well, with a bowl of pho?

Honoring European colonialism, I mean, the French influence in Vietnam, with a dessert of cream puffs, which we recently did to celebrate my stepdad’s birthday.

Before he met my mother, my stepdad lived on a farm in rural Washington, rode horses, and watched western movies. Definitely a meat and potatoes kind of guy.

He didn’t know how to use chopsticks. Because a cowboy needs chopsticks “like a fish needs a bicycle,” to quote U2. But this was not my mother’s biggest gripe about him.

No, her biggest complaint was that he bought his pants at Fred Meyer, which is a chain of stores we have in these parts where you can get everything from windshield wipers to ground beef to diamond jewelry.

Not to mention pants.

Obviously, this guy needed to be taught a few things. We left the pants issue to my mom. Meanwhile, one of my cousins took it upon herself to teach my stepdad to use chopsticks.

Breaking into chopstick use with small and/or slippery foods such as rice or noodles is a painful, frustrating, and humiliating manner of prolonging hunger. Only the strongest persevere. A common stereotype is that all Asians are hardworking and disciplined and can succeed in any conditions.

Hello. You’d be all of those things too if you had to depend on two glorified toothpicks to guide your food from your bowl to your mouth.

If you really want to teach someone to use chopsticks, don’t stick a bowl of bland white rice or slick noodles and tofu (protein cubes, my stepdad calls them without affection) in front of a person. Use a large, textured, slow-moving inducement.

Like cream puffs.

On that fateful day, my cousin told my stepdad that he couldn’t have a cream puff until he could pick it up with his chopsticks.

You say sadistic; we say disciplined.

The bottom line is, he figured it out tout de suite.

Cream puffs are made of choux pastry, which only sounds high-falluting and difficult. It’s actually quite easy to make, and just as easy to make gluten-free. I had a great recipe handed down to me from a friend, but it’s buried in the black hole otherwise known as my recipe binder, so I found this one from joyofbaking (not affiliated with the series of books).

I like this recipe. It’s easy. Descriptive. And the weights for ingredients such as flour are provided, which makes it a snap to make this recipe gluten-free.

And because you have to have something to put in them: chocolate whipped cream. My mother fills her cream puffs with homemade custard, which is how I’ll always love them best. I also like to use freshly whipped cream with the zest of one lemon. But Lupe asked for chocolate this time.

Sift 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

Some bloggers love to brag about the photography equipment they use. Canons and Nikons with paparazzi-quality telephoto lenses and the like. Let me tell you about my envy-inducing equipment: an eleven-year-old Sony digital camera that’s about as sleek as a circa-1995 cell phone. Thank goodness I had my sister to sift the cocoa powder and powdered sugar so I could capture these action shots.

Add the sifted cocoa powder and powdered sugar to 1 cup of whipping cream that you’ve whipped. Throw in a splash of vanilla extract.

Use a fork to split open the cream puffs. Fill away.

Make it snow indoors again.

For the cream puff recipe: joyofbaking

To make it gluten-free, substitute your favorite flour blend by weight. Here’s mine.

Chocolate Whipped Cream


1 cup heavy whipping cream (half pint)

1/4 cup confectioners or powdered sugar

1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1. Chill a large bowl in the freezer.

2. Pour the heavy whipping cream into the bowl and beat on high speed with a standing or handheld mixer until soft peaks form.

3. Add the sifted powdered sugar/cocoa powder and the vanilla extract and mix on low speed until blended. Use a spatula to wipe down the sides of the bowl.

4. Keep chilled until ready to use.


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Poo Cookies

They were supposed to look like this.

They weren’t supposed to look like this:

It was getting kind of late and I had the house to myself, so I felt inspired to bake. I gotta start ignoring that urge.

It all started with a bag of mint chips, a remnant from our holiday baking. And I thought, “I’ve made those Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies before; I bet they’d be great with mint chips.” I didn’t have enough mint chips, so I added some bittersweet chocolate chips to the bowl and put it in the microwave.

Know what happens when you mix dark brown and mint green?

I don’t think there’s enough olive green chocolate out there.

But at this point, I’m committed. The rest of the batter was in the standing mixer, and it hasn’t got all day. I thought, “Well, maybe this olive green stuff will blend into the chocolate in the batter.”

Know what happens when you add olive green to brown?

Camouflage batter. That’s what. I wish I had a picture of it. But all I could muster was a photo of the mixing bowl afterward:

I have to admit I was kind of in awe of the whole mess. I thought, “Wow. Would you look at that? Camouflage batter.” And then that Brad Paisley song, “Camouflage,” started to play in my head and it’s kind of catchy and I thought, “There’s a whole demographic out there that would love a camouflage dessert.”

And yes, I just admitted that I listen to country music. But really, after what you’re seeing here, you have to agree that my taste in music isn’t my biggest problem.

The next step in the poo cookie-making process is to roll the dough into small balls, and coat them in powdered sugar. Take another opportunity to look at the example.

Here’s what my balls of dough looked like:

Poo cookies.

The dough seeped between my fingers when I tried to roll it into a ball, so I frantically glopped spoonfuls of the stuff onto my baking sheets (one lined with parchment, one without), threw the powdered sugar on top, and shoved them into the oven.

Even when all evidence points to the contrary, I often have this hope that something magical will happen in the oven. Sort of a, “Here, I messed this up. You make it work” attitude.

The cookies on the parchment shaped up okay. As you can see in the photo at the beginning of this post, the cookies on the baking sheet coated in cooking spray did not.

I can’t say that I blame them. Would you do anything nice for me if I called you poo?

These cookies–when made correctly–are divine–gooey, fudgy, decadent. They contain no butter or flour. You’ll probably have great success with them if you follow the Pho Girl Method (aka The Learn from My Mistakes Method):

1. Don’t bake late at night if you’re not fresh late  at night.

2. Don’t make substitutions simply because you want to clean out the pantry. What works for soups and casseroles does not work for cookies.

3. Do make sure the egg whites are stiff enough before you add the powdered sugar, and then make sure the egg whites-powdered sugar mixture is stiff enough (the original recipe says it should resemble marshmallow fluff). In other words, Don’t rush the process once you’ve started. (See Point 1 for why I rushed the process.)

4. Do make sure the melted chocolate chips have cooled enough before you add them to the batter.

5. Do use the powdered sugar sparingly when you’re coating the dough balls, or you’ll feel your blood sugar skyrocket after the first bite.

6. Do not call your food poo. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

7. And here’s the biggest Don’t, which I think should qualify for Resolution #4: Don’t stand over the pan, weeping and eating poo cookies because you’re desperate for chocolate and heartbroken that you’ve wasted the ingredients.

That’s just sad.

Which might make for a darn good country song.


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Root Beer Floats

This one’s for Nacho Man.

It actually was, for his birthday.

Nacho Man will, on very rare occasions, unexpectedly come home from work with vanilla ice cream and a bottle of root beer, and whip up his signature dessert. Afterward, he will wipe his brow as though he just catered a party for 200, but chances are I don’t care because it’s hot but I’ve got something to keep me cool.

So for his most recent birthday, I decided to do the hard work and treat him. At least that’s what I told him. Because it sounded so much more thoughtful than, “I spent all my spare time reading a novel and ran out of time to bake.”

Looks pretty good to me. Except that when I examined my profile photos of the finished product, I realized that the glass was less than half full. This is not necessarily the sort of thing you realize when you’re looking at something with your eye.

One point for the camera.

Now we don’t need to be having heaping glasses of root beer floats, on account of this nacho thing we’re kind of into, so my solution:

This time, with chocolate shavings.

Hmm. This time the camera is showing me that my vanilla ice cream looks like cubed potato.

Nacho Man could care less about the type of vessel we use to serve a root beer float. I could present it in a plant pot and he’d say, “Thank you.” Which is kind of nice, when you think about it in the abstract.

But only in the abstract.

For me, putting dessert in a long-stemmed wine glass or champagne flute makes it feel grown up and sophisticated, enjoyed by the kinds of folks who eat polite-sized portions and don’t scrape out the inside of the bowl or cup like they’re scaling a fish.

Which might have to become Resolution #3.

Root Beer Floats


vanilla ice cream

root beer

whipped cream (we like Reddi Wip for these)

maraschino cherries (optional)

chocolate shavings (optional)


Put 1 scoop ice cream in a glass. Add root beer. Top with whipped cream and cherries or chocolate shavings if desired.



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Roasted Garlic Soup, Or, The Passive-Aggressive Approach to Being Left Alone

I have a friend from my former job.

Just one.

Not really. I had more than one.

Anyway, we used to joke that Pacific Northwesterners are about the most passive-aggressive group of people you’ll ever meet. In other words, we’re painfully indirect, we never say what we mean, we sigh and shake our heads and complain behind someone’s back rather than confront them about what’s bothering us, and we have a million little ways of showing you know that something’s not okay even when we say it is.

I don’t know why we do this. The group shrug. Maybe it’s rain-induced. A vitamin D deficiency.

But hopefully we all have a few people that we can be painfully honest with, people with whom it’s safe to say what you feel. For me, Nacho Man is one of those lucky people. Take, for example, this recent exchange.

“What’s this?” Nacho Man asked, peering at something in the refrigerator.

“Garlic soup,” I declared forthrightly.

“Hmm,” he said as he closed the door. “Sounds interesting.”

Do you see what he just did?

But that’s his loss. This soup is wonderful. And it’s just the meal for you if:

1. You’re a busy mom with kids hanging on you all day and you don’t have it in you to tell your significant other, “Not tonight, honey.” It’s a safe word you don’t even have to say;

2. You’re so into Twilight that you’re casting paranoid–I mean rightfully suspicious–glances at your neighbors;

3. You’ve ever stared at a pantry that’s barren except for garlic, onions, and chicken stock and walked away, defeated;

4. You love love love garlic.

Check out the recipe at smitten kitchen, then whip up a batch and savor it for lunch for a few days. This soup is warm, earthy, and garlicky without being in your face.

It’s passive-aggressive that way.

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Meatloaf Cake, Or, When Cooks Go Smug

So it was 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon and I was blasting through Amy Green‘s Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free cookbook, looking for something quick and easy. I came across a recipe for Apple Carrot Breakfast Cake and as I skimmed the ingredients list and instructions, I thought to myself, “I can do this nooooo problem.” I love having quick breads for Lupe to take to school for her mid-morning snack and this recipe looked similar enough to my muffin recipe that I felt confident.

Maybe too confident.

Too confident to read the instructions carefully. Especially the line about putting the apples and carrots and a few other ingredients into a blender or food processor.

Warning: the following image is graphic, horrific, disturbing, offensive, wrong, and unfortunate.

The saddest thing, aside from the senseless, wanton waste of apples and carrots and expensive gluten-free flours? I actually scoffed as I dumped chunks of carrots and apples into the batter. I thought, “There’s no way this is going to work. What is this author thinking? Ha. I’ll show her how wrong this recipe is when I make it and it doesn’t turn out.”

That’s right. I knew it wouldn’t work. What’s more, I didn’t want it to so I could feel superior to a published cookbook author. I laughed maniacally at my own genius, then took a closer look at the recipe.

And caught the bit about blending the apples and carrots to smithereens.

Oh, dang.

Thoroughly chastened, I gave it another go.

Ta da.

I took a moment to reflect as I bit into this cake. Here are the highlights:

a. Don’t ever assume that you’re smarter than you actually are.

b. Assume that you’re smarter than you think you are. If you think it doesn’t make sense to drop stew-sized wedges of carrot and apple into a cake batter, then listen to your gut.

c. Don’t try to be superior to others. We are all students.

d. Read instructions slowly and carefully. What’s applicable to everything from the SATs to prescription medication is good for recipes.

e. If at first you don’t succeed, laugh it off and try again. The old me would have hidden the evidence in the compost bin, but I’d like to think that I’m evolving. Plus I know that you tens of you get a bigger kick out of my food bloopers than my actual recipes. So I’m playing to my crowd.

And so, adapted from Amy Green’s recipe, which she adapted from a blender manual, is…

Apple Carrot Breakfast Cake

9 servings


2 cups gluten-free flour

1/4 cup agave (or 1/2 cup sugar)

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 extra-large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 apples, cut into wedges

3 medium carrots, washed well and chopped

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8 x 8 inch glass baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.

3. Place eggs, carrots, apples, vanilla, and agave in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until you have a smooth mixture, scraping down sides of container as needed.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined. Add walnuts if using. Pour into the cake pan and bake about 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pan.


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Potato, Kale and Sausage Soup

I’ve been making this meal for Nacho Man almost longer than any other meal…except my spaghetti sauce.

Which he dumped about a quarter bottle of ketchup into the first time I served it to him.

I married him anyway. And continued to cook for him.

We love this soup. It’s perfect for cold, wet weather, it’s got lots of color and texture, and it’s got meat. Meat! This is a big plus for Nacho Man, who won’t eat those pureed squash soups that I love because they remind him of baby food. Which I’d like to point out to him have the same consistency as ketchup.

Take one pound of mild Italian sausage and brown both sides of the casings in a soup pot on medium-high heat. Take them out of the pot and slice them.

They won’t be cooked all the way through. Put the slices back in the pot and brown both sides until they are cooked through. You might have to slice one open and eat it to make sure it’s completely cooked. Just sayin.’

You could remove the sausage from the casings and have crumbled sausage in your soup, but I like the bigger pieces. I think they balance the potato and kale. But to each her own.

These chicken sausages from PCC have only 3 grams of fat per serving. If you’re using a super low-fat sausage, add a little olive oil to the pot to prevent sticking. If you bought yourself some Jabba the Hut sausages, wipe the excess fat out of the pot after you’ve browned the meat. You want some fat for flavor, but you don’t want to feel like you’re swallowing Vaseline.

Gross. Almost as gross as dumping ketchup into homemade spaghetti sauce.

Add 3 cloves of whole, peeled garlic that you’ve mashed up a bit to the pot, along with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Saute each side of the garlic for about one minute.

Then, add 4-6 cups of stock or stock-water combo to suit your taste. If you have a little dry white wine, you can use it to deglaze the pot before adding the stock. Mmmmm.

Add 3 medium red potatoes that you’ve scrubbed well and sliced. Half a teaspoon of dried oregano would be good here, along with some salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.

Meanwhile, take a head of kale and remove the hard stems. Tear or cut the leaves into bite-size pieces, then rinse well. When the potatoes are done, add the kale to the pot.

It’s going to look ridiculous, kale-heavy, totally out of proportion. But it cooks down a lot. All that’s left to do now is stir the pot gently until the kale is blanched and cooked to your liking. Then, see if you can find those hunks o’ garlic, remove them, and serve up some soup.

I like to sprinkle a little more red pepper flakes and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on my soup. Everything’s better with Parmesan cheese.

Like homemade spaghetti sauce.

Potato, Kale and Sausage Soup

serves 4


1 pound pork or chicken mild Italian sausage

3 medium red potatoes, scrubbed well and sliced

1 head of kale, hard stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and gently mashed but still whole

4-6 cups of low-sodium stock or stock-water

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)


1. Brown sausages in a large soup pot. Slice and brown insides. If using low-fat sausages, add olive oil to prevent sticking. Wipe out excess fat, if any.

2. Add garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Saute garlic one minute per side.

3. Add stock or stock-water combination, oregano, salt, pepper, and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

4. Add kale and cook until done to your liking. Remove garlic and serve. Garnish with Parmesan cheese if desired.


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Roasted Broccoli, Or, A Mother’s Desperate Attempt to Avoid Cheese Sauce

How many of us are eating enough broccoli this holiday season? Not me, unless it’s a secret ingredient in my fudge and peppermint bark.

While Rue will down bushels of steamed or bland, boiled broccoli, I can’t get Lupe to voluntarily eat the stuff. After much coaxing and even more threatening, she’ll pinch off a millimeter with her front teeth, refusing to touch it with her lips and grimacing as she chews.

It’s a delightful sight to behold, let me tell you.

I’d become desperate. Desperate to stop throwing broccoli away. Desperate to avoid eating two servings because a certain someone has a problem with a certain vegetable.

Desperate for a win. My life is simple; my world is small. These small victories are all I have left.

Here’s my solution. Crank up the oven to 475 degrees F and set the oven grate nice and high, up close to the heating element. Toss a head of broccoli that’s been washed and roughly chopped, stems and all, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the broccoli pieces with some olive oil and sprinkle a little kosher salt on them, then slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast until they are fork tender but crisp.

This doesn’t take long. Maybe 5-7 minutes. Don’t mosey away from your oven. Don’t get on the Internet. Don’t multitask. The broccoli deserves your undivided attention.

Toss the broccoli once or twice while it’s in the oven, and when it’s done the way you like, remove it and serve immediately. You might sprinkle a little more kosher salt on it, if you like.

I wasn’t sure how this would go over the first time I put it in front of Lupe. After all, it’s her least favorite vegetable in a slightly burned form.

Rue can’t stand it. As far as she’s concerned, boiled broccoli ain’t broke. But Lupe, Nacho Man, and I love roasted broccoli. It’s smoky, crisp, and has a wonderful, complex flavor.

Which means we can save the cheese sauce for the tortilla chips.

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