Gluten-Free Gingersnap Cookies

One of my favorite books when I was a young child was a holiday themed “scratch and sniff” book, The Sweet Smell of Christmas.  I remember vividly my sisters and I huddled together on the couch, toasty warm in our Lanz of Salzburg flannel nightgowns (a la Big Love–sure do miss that show!). Passing the book back and forth between the three of us, we would scratch the candy cane picture and inhale deeply to enjoy the invigorating peppermint scent. Then there was the fragrant orange, so powerful it would make my mouth water.  A whiff of the hot chocolate mug would send me running to the kitchen for my own warm treat. Each of us had a favorite scent and mine was the gingerbread man. Sweet cinnamon, ginger and cloves dazzled my little olfactory bulb to no end.  To this day, that gingerbread aroma promises all that is wonderful about the holidays–reuniting with loved ones, delicious feasts, the joy of giving.  Baking these gingersnap cookies will infuse your home with the same glorious scent and you will, no doubt, be intoxicated with cheerful enthusiasm for the coming season.  Just try it–you’ll see! Continue reading

Baked Mini Coconut Donuts–Gluten, Dairy and Yeast Free

The school’s annual “Dads and Donuts” breakfast was approaching (or so I thought) and this Mommy had big intentions.  I was going to create some amazing allergen-friendly donuts for my son to enjoy with his Daddy.  After occasionally daydreaming about making donuts for my little guy, I finally had the motivation I needed to “just do it”.

And what luck!  While perusing the Halloween aisles at Target, I happened upon this cute mini donut pan.  When I excitedly showed it to my husband and told him about my plan, he grimaced and informed me that the event had taken place that morning–(he hadn’t mentioned it, hoping I wouldn’t make him go, I presume).  In my perpetual state of haste, I had misread the date on the flyer and thought it was going to be the following month.  I felt like the most pathetic parent on the planet when I tried to explain all of this to my sweet boy.  I promised him I would make him whatever kind of donut he wanted over the weekend.  To my delight, he chose coconut. Continue reading

Tunisian Spiced Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Based on my years of experience cooking for people with various tastes in food, eggplant lovers are a minority in the good ‘ole USA.  Recently, I was out with a bunch of girlfriends for dinner at an Italian restaurant and was pleasantly surprised to discover that three out of the seven of us were big fans of this versatile vegetable, “L’Enfant Terrible” of the Nightshade family.  As one friend devoured her eggplant parm, we talked about how our husbands won’t touch it and either will our children, which means we’re not getting any eggplant action at home.

Lucky for me, I can project my cravings onto willing clients.  One long-time client in particular really perks up when I mention doing something with eggplant.  I suggested a roasted eggplant and tomato soup, thinking I would do the usual Italian version, with fresh basil and some parmesan.  At the last-minute, though, I decided to go with something more unexpected, more exotic.  Continue reading

Gluten-Free Apple Spice Muffins

“Mommy, I want to see the leaves in all the different colors,” my son begged of me the other day. “Oh, you will soon–the cool weather will come and all the leaves will start to change,” I answered hopefully (glancing at the temperature on the dashboard–only 85 in October!) They had been talking about Fall in his kindergarten class and the topic of the week was “Apples”. On one of our long drives home from therapy, I quizzed him: “Hey, Sweetie–can you name some different types of apples?” My eyes misted with pride as he shouted from his car seat, “Granny Smith and Red Delicious… and Fuji!”

Amazing, I thought to myself…this little munchkin who could not speak a word at age four, who has had to work so hard just to learn to point and then wave, to greet people and look them in the eye, to learn a wealth of vocabulary and sentence structure in 2 short years…to have him respond so articulately–well, every cell in my body sings with joy and gratitude during moments like that! Raising a child with Autism has forced me to slow down and appreciate and savor the simple things in life (sounds like a total cliché, I know, but it’s so true!) Remarkable, considering I was once one of those 100 mph., go-go-go types.

Take these apple spice muffins, for example. Pretty basic. I made these for my son’s class during apple week. Before I became a Mom, I often daydreamed (while cooking for others) that someday I would be happily baking all sorts of treats for my own child. I would be the cooler, hipper Martha Stewart. Ha! Well, fast-forward and I’m living that fantasy, but it’s just a little skewed.

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Cherry Chocolate Almond Coconut Oatmeal Bars

Running after-school errands the other day, I decided to dash into World Market to have a look around.  They usually have capers for a good price, so I moseyed over to the food aisles.  Capers were nowhere to be found, so I snagged the next best luxury–a lusty looking bar of dark chocolate studded with almonds and dried cherries, wrapped in bright red paper.  Slipping it into my cart, I told myself I’d save it for a special occasion to share with friends.  Or, if that didn’t transpire then I’d at least savor it bit by bit over the course of a week or so.

The following day, I was busy on the computer all morning and when I went to rifle around for something to eat for lunch, there it was–THE TEMPTER.   All it took was one bite… and rather than letting those little fat and calorie numbers on the wrapper ruin my indulgence, I concentrated on how seriously rich in antioxidants this “meal” was and how the almonds were protein and calcium, the cherries were fruit and a dose of vitamin C, and really, I should do this more often!!

Despite the horrible blood sugar drop later that day, creative inspiration ensued.  I wanted to recreate that same flavor combination, but in the form of a more wholesome treat and make it gluten and dairy-free, so that my son and anyone else with food allergies could enjoy.  There was even an insanely delicious jar of Central Market’s Organic Morello Cherry Jam sitting in my pantry just begging to be showcased in some divine concoction!  The following recipe is what I developed, loosely basing it on Dorie Greenspan‘s recipe for Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars in one of my favorite baking cookbooks, Baking, From My Home to Yours.  These bars are scrumptious!  Just sweet enough, the oat/nut base is the perfect toothsome platform for the tangy cherries and melted chocolate.  The coconut provides additional texture and adds another flavor dimension that is out of this world.  I highly suggest you go make these for someone you love…right now.  GO.

Recipe for Chocolate Cherry Coconut Almond Oatmeal Bars:

yields:  12 rectangular bars                       total cooking time:  40 min.

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Summer Send-off Shrimp Pasta

Having spent twenty consecutive summers in Dallas, I always know that I’m going to turn into August is going to be a firey, angry beast forcing us all to seek air-conditioned comfort indoors, preferably with a cool drink and tolerable company. Well, the past few weeks have been especially brutal, because even if it was necessary to be running around in the gawdawful heat, the threat of being taken out by tiny little ninja warrior mosquitoes rendered every errand a life or death event.

This past weekend, though, we were granted a reprieve. Fall fluttered in and Dallasites were set free. Every restaurant patio in the city was bustling, families filled the playgrounds, and the scene at White Rock Lake reminded me of a sexier, multi-cultural, barely clothed version of this:

So, now that I’ve caught a glimpse of Fall, I’m ready to throw summer a great big giant “thanks for everything–it was great, now be on your way” send-off.

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Provençal Chicken Thighs

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Ever since I was a precocious little girl in North Carolina with big pouffy pigtails, I have been completely obsessed with food and cooking. While the other neighborhood kids were racing bicycles, I would be nestled in my “pioneer fort” deep within the bushes of our residential front yard stirring a pot of twigs and dirt. With one eye looking over my shoulder for anyone who might threaten my mission, I would harness the sun’s rays and intently produce smoldering leaves with my magnifying glass. Pure six-year-old exhilaration, friends!

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