Sunday, April 21, 2013

Easy Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake

My friend Krystal loves red velvet cake. I think I've made at least four at her request over the past couple of years. Krystal recently found out she needed to start eating gluten-free. Of course, I've shared lots of tips and recipes with her. When her youngest son's first birthday was fast approaching, she asked me to make a cake... you guessed it... red velvet - but this time it had to be gluten-free. She certainly wasn't disappointed with the result. None of her family or friends seemed to notice the cake was gluten-free either! I call it a success.

Easy Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake
1 bag Pamela's Gluten-Free Classic Vanilla Cake Mix*
1 package instant chocolate pudding (Jello brand is gluten-free)
3 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup water
2 tablespoons red food coloring

for the cream cheese frosting...
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar

*Pamela's is my favorite. But you can use any gluten-free vanilla cake mix. Or if you don't need your cake gluten-free, you can just use any vanilla or white cake mix.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray two 8 inch round pans (or 9 inch round pans) with non-stick cooking spray. You could also use this batter for cupcakes. Simply line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl using an electric mixer until just combined.

Divide the batter between the two prepared round pans (or between 18 cupcakes).

Bake for 26-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (18 minutes for the cupcakes).

Allow the cake or cupcakes to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting...

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand-held electric mixer), cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Mix on low (be sure you use the lowest setting or powdered sugar will fly everywhere!) until the sugar is incorporated and the frosting is creamy.

Place one of the cakes on a cake plate. Level the top of the cake using a serrated knife if needed. Add enough of the frosting to make about a 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch layer of filling. Level the second cake if needed. Place the second cake upside down (so the flat bottom faces up) on top of the filling. Spread remaining frosting on sides and top of the cake. If you are making cupcakes, simply frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting using a knife or spatula.


Store cake in the refrigerator. Enjoy!!!

Here's what the decorated version looked like for Rocco's first birthday...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Whole Wheat Cheddar Jalapeño Muffins

I usually want to turn to something sweet and baked for breakfast - like a muffin or scone or cookie or cake. Mark would rather have something savory and with protein - like an omelet or burrito or huevos rancheros (his way is probably healthier). I decided to try to meet in the middle... a savory muffin for breakfast that's whole wheat and, therefore, a little healthier than my desired sugar-filled (but luscious) breakfast of choice. The result was fantastic! These little cheddar jalapeño muffins are delicious and easy to make. If you wanted to make these even healthier, you could use a little less cheese. But I think they are absolutely perfect just the way they are. If you want something sweet, you can add some fresh fruit to accompany this tasty muffins.


Whole Wheat Cheddar Jalapeno Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 cups grated cheddar cheese (you could also use a jack/cheddar mix)
3 tablespoons diced fresh or pickled jalapeño
12 fresh or pickled jalapeño rounds
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat and all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and butter.

Pour the liquid mixture into the large bowl and stir gently to start combing the two. Toss in the cheese and diced jalapeños and mix until the jalapenos & cheese are incorporated evenly into the batter. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups (I use an ice cream scoop to get even amounts into each cup). Top each muffin with a slice of pickled jalapeño and some freshly ground salt & pepper.

Bake the muffins at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. 

Serve warm with a little butter if desired. You can also reheat these muffins for a few seconds in the microwave (if they last that long).


recipe adapted from who adapted it from (two of my favorite bloggers!)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Three Cup Chicken

Randomly, I started getting this magazine in the mail. I never ordered it, never had even heard of it. Actually, I thought I'd be getting Food and Wine magazine (one of my favorites). The magazine is called 'Eating Well.' It's full of healthy recipes. I decided to give some of them a try... this is my first attempt... Three Cup Chicken (also never heard of this dish... apparently it's a Taiwanese classic). It's delicious. You should try it... it's easy, fast, yummy, and healthy!

Three Cup Chicken
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons rice wine or white wine (or even a red wine... whatever you have on hand)
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 whole star anise
1 bunch scallions
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch by 1/2 inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

Combine the broth, pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, wine, 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil, honey, and star anise in a bowl. Finely chop 2 tablespoons of the scallions and reserve for garnish. Chop the rest of the scallions into 1-inch pieces and add to the bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, garlic, and minced ginger. Brown the chicken on both sides (about 2 minutes per side).  Then pour in the reserved sauce and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thickened slightly. Garnish with chopped scallions and chopped fresh basil.

Serve with quinoa or rice and steamed broccoli. Enjoy!

adapted recipe from Eating Well, April 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Nutella Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been seeing these all over the place online lately - my favorite blogs, pinterest, food and recipe sites... So I decided I needed to give them a try. I was sure that I would like them... no doubt about that - I love chocolate chip cookies and I sometimes just eat a big ole spoon of Nutella (oops my secret is out). These cookies are just do luscious, so decadent, so perfect.... make them right away. I promise you won't be sorry. I promise the extra steps will be worth it.


Nutella Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies
about 1/2 cup Nutella (for the filling)
1 cup butter, browned
2 1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

First, place the Nutella in a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with about a 1/2 inch hole cut in one corner. Squeeze dollops of Nutella onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper, place on a flat plate or baking sheet, and freeze for an hour or two. This is really an essential step. If you skip this, it will be very, very messy to fill the cookies with the Nutella.

To brown the butter, place the butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter and continue cooking until a light brown (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and allow the butter to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, blend together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. In a separate large bowl, use an electric or stand mixer to cream together the cooled butter and sugars. Add the egg and egg yolk, vanilla, and yogurt and mix to blend. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes. 


Using a small cookie scoop if you have it, spoon out about 2 tablespoons worth of dough and form into a ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Create an indentation in the dough and place one of the frozen Nutella dollops in the center. Form the dough around the Nutella to seal it in. Repeat with the remaining dough and Nutella dollops, spacing each ball of dough about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes (don't overbake). Remove from oven (optional: sprinkle on some course sea salt for extra luscious flavor if you like) and allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk ! (or with your favorite glass of wine)

recipe adapted from

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Slow-Cooked Spicy Adobo Pork

I'm a big fan of making pulled pork in the slow cooker, but I kind of get tired of using the same recipe over and over again. I love the Cuban pulled pork (that's the one I probably make the most)... it's relatively plain and can be made into a classic Cuban sandwich or a barbecued pork sandwich by simply adding bbq sauce or I can use it in a carnitas taco with guacamole. I also made this korean pork taco recipe which was absolutely phenomenal. When I ran across this recipe on, I decided to give it a try. Her recipe doesn't use the slow cooker, but it was easy to adapt. It is delicious! You've got to give it a try. I created a simple barbecued pulled pork sandwich, but you could also make this a gluten-free dinner by putting it in a corn tortilla with your favorite salsa or guacamole and some cilantro.

Spicy Adobo Pork
5 pound pork loin or pork roast
1 large onion
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cans Dr. Pepper
salt & pepper

Halve the onion and remove the outer skin. Slice the onion thinly and add to your slow cooker. Trim excess fat from the pork loin and sit the meat on top of the onions in the slow cooker. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of the pork and season with salt & pepper. Add the chipotle peppers and the sauce (if you like spicy, then add the whole can... but if you don't want the pork to be too spicy or if you're serving it to kids, just use half of the can). Pour in the Dr. Pepper and put the lid on. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 to 7 hours on low until the pork is tender and pulls apart easily. Shred the pork with two forks (or I like to use a pair of kitchen shears to separate and cut the meat). 

Pile a generous amount of pork onto a toasted roll (I found these fresh-baked onion rolls at my local market - yum!). Drizzle with your favorite bbq sauce. Enjoy!

slightly adapted from

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gluten-Free Lemon Rosemary Scones

My first attempt at these scones was a bit of a flop, I tried creating a combination of gluten-free flours that just didn't work (the looked were flat, thin cookies... Mark called them "scookies"). So I decided to go with a pre-mixed gluten-free all purpose flour and they were the perfect scone consistency. I highly recommend the artisan flour blend by Pamela's brand. It should be available in many super markets in the baking aisle. If you don't care to make these gluten-free, you can simply substitute all-purpose flour for the gluten-free and omit the xanthan gum. These are a perfect spring treat - at breakfast or any time of the day. The lemon and rosemary compliment each other beautifully.

Gluten-Free Lemon Rosemary Scones
3 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (Pamela's Artisan Blend is the best)
2/3 cups sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon minced rosemary
Zest f 1 lemon
Lemon Rosemary Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
dash salt
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup milk (to thin as needed)

To make the scones...
In a small bowl, combine the cream, egg, rosemary, and lemon zest. Allow that mixture to sit for about 20 to 30 minutes. This gets those yummy flavors blended.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder,  and salt. Cut the butter into the flour using two knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles a course meal. Mix in the egg and cream mixture using a fork.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and shape the dough into a rectangle that's about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. Cut into six smaller rectangles and then cut each of those in half diagonally to create triangles.

Place the triangles onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

While the scones are cooling, mix up the glaze...
In a large bowl, mix the powdered sugar with the lemon zest. Add the lemon juice and a dash of salt. Add about 2 tablespoons of milk and stir until smooth. You may need to add a little more milk to get the glaze to a drizzling consistency.

Using a knife or offset spatula, top each scone with some of the glaze and allow it to drip of the sides a bit. Allow the scones to sit on the wire rack so that the glaze can harden. Store in an airtight container or enjoy right away!

slightly adapted from

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Gluten-Free Coconut Pancakes with Flax

Here's a healthy and delicious gluten-free pancake. If you're in a hurry and want to whip up gluten-free pancakes, try Pamela's pancake mix (available at many stores these days). Pamela's has THE BEST mixes for gluten-free eaters. If you have a few extra minutes, you should absolutely try these pancakes. The flax adds omega-3s, fiber, and minerals to your otherwise un-nutritious pancake. You can serve with fruit and maple syrup or make your own fruit syrup like my mom did when I was a kid... Just take about 1/2 cup of your favorite fruit jam or preserves, place in a microwave safe bowl (or a coffee mug) and microwave for 30 seconds or until warm and pourable (boysenberry is my favorite).

Gluten-Free Coconut Pancakes with Flax
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons potato flour
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
3 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted, plus more for the griddle

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, flaxseed meal, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and melted 1/4 cup of coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl and whisk until just combined. Add a tablespoon of extra milk if needed to thin the batter.

Heat your griddle or flat skillet and add some coconut oil to the griddle. Place about 3 to 4 tablespoons of pancake batter on the griddle. When bubbles form on the surface of the pancake (about 3 minutes), use a spatula to flip the pancake and continue cooking another 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. (I used an ice cream scoop to get uniform pancakes. I can also fit about three pancakes on my griddle to cook at one time. Depending on the size of your griddle or skillet, you may need to cook one pancake at a time. While you are cooking the rest of the pancakes, keep the pancakes on a plate in the oven on 250 degrees to stay warm.) 

Serve with toasted coconut, fresh berries and maple or berry syrup. Enjoy!

recipe from

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Penne with Shrimp & Spicy Tomato Sauce

This pasta is a quick and tasty meal perfect for a weeknight. It's not too heavy, so it's great for a nice warm spring or summer day. Enjoy it with a simple green salad and some fresh bread.

Penne with Shrimp & Spicy Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped parsley
3/4 pound penne
1 pound medium shrimp
freshly shaved parmesan, optional for serving

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice with the paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes (adjust amount to desired level of spiciness), ginger, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and chopped parsley.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the penne pasta until al dente (about 10 minutes). Add the shrimp and cook until opaque and cooked through (about 2 minutes longer). 

Drain the pasta and shrimp. Toss with the tomato sauce. 

Garnish with a sprinkle of extra parsley and freshly shaved parmesan cheese.


recipe slightly adapted from

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Caramelized Onion Dip

Have you made onion dip in the past with a container of sour cream and a packet of dried onion soup mix? Same idea here, but much more decadent - can a dip be decadent? Well, this one is definitely delicious. And the smell of the onions caramelizing in your kitchen is divine (in my opinion). I prefer to serve the dip with sweet potato chips, but you could serve it with "regular" potato chips or fresh raw vegetables too. 

Caramelized Onion Dip
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese (1 package), softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped italian (flat leaf) parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until  they reach a nice golden caramel color (about 25 minutes). Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes more). Allow the onions to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the onions to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, parsley, onion powder, and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Stir in the onions and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary (feel free to add salt & pepper or a bit more onion powder or Worcestershire sauce if desired). 

Serve at room temperature with chips. Enjoy!!

Note: If you serve the dip too cold, it will be too  stiff and the chips won't hold up to dipping.

recipe from