All posts filed under: Food & Drink

Christmas recipe fix: Raisin Mumbles cookie bars

Last week, a dear friend of mine sent me a blurry photo and recipe with this hilarious comment: “This recipe is my Christmas recipe nightmare! A favorite of my husband and youngest son but a living mess to make EVERY SINGLE YEAR. My son and my sister-in-law made it this year and this is the debacle. Burned on the edges, underdone in the middle, left the oven a smoking mess, and the dog had a go at it as well. This recipe is very old—handed down from Grandma Betty. It certainly could stand some updating!” She added: “And it’s too many cookie bars! No one can eat an 11 x 15 pan of raisin mumbles!!” (To which I replied, genuinely, “Oh, it’s supposed to be bars?!”) I’ve often said that I love to cook but I don’t really love to bake—baking typically requires precision, not my forte. But cookie bars seemed doable … and  the challenge enticed me. Here’s what happened. Skip to the finished and delicious recipe below! I started by cutting the recipe roughly in half—and …

Kitul nectar: a new (old) organic sweetener

A few weeks ago, I received a sample of a new product called Cocotrella, made by Ceylon Pure. It’s a gluten-free, nut-free, sweet and luscious spread made with just two ingredients: kitul nectar (more on that below) and coconut butter. Before I even got it into my mouth, Cocotrella’s impressive certifications caught my attention: USDA Organic, certified Fair Trade, Non-GMO Project verified, plus it’s naturally vegan and gluten free. But the real payoff is the taste and mouth feel—even though it looks a little grainy, it’s fabulously smooth and melts on the tongue, with a just-right toasted caramel flavor and a hint of coconut. The company likens it to Nutella as a sweet spread, but I think Cocotrella tastes SO much better. It’s perfect for paleo pancakes or apple slices. And don’t judge me if I simply eat it with a spoon. Traditional crop in Sri Lanka Aside from Cocotrella being just plain delicious, the product immediately intrigued me because I’d never heard of kitul. Turns out it’s a fascinating crop with an interesting history …

3 surprising reasons to love the paleo diet

My article Mythbusting the Paleo Diet is now live on DeliciousLiving.com! Check it out and let me know what you think. In case you haven’t heard of it, the paleo diet involves eating only foods that existed in the paleolithic, hunter-gatherer, pre-agricultural era. That means grass-fed meats and wild fish; fruits and vegetables, including their healthy oils; and nuts and seeds. Paleo eating eliminates all dairy, legumes, and grains. (Because it’s grain free, paleo is naturally gluten free.) Here are 3 surprising reasons to love the paleo diet, which I learned while researching and writing the Mythbusting piece—and from my own experience. 1. The paleo diet may be crucial to weight loss. Dave and I have been eating what we call “mostly paleo” for a few years now, focusing especially on the low-carb aspect. Dave combined carb-cutting with increased cardio exercise to lose weight. The results: After being a yo-yo dieter for most of his life, he lost 40 pounds and has kept it off. And his cholesterol, which hovered above 220, fell to 180. His doctor, who had been advising …

Homemade chicken stock

Now that you’ve made Perfect Roast Chicken, you’ve got a picked-clean chicken carcass. Don’t throw it out; make your own chicken stock! It’s incredibly easy (and gluten free), saves money, and tastes way better than store-bought broth. If you don’t have time to make stock right away, just toss the carcass and giblets in a zip-top bag and refrigerate the whole thing for a day or two (or freeze) until you’re ready. Ingredients: 1 chicken carcass (plus raw giblets if you have them) Optional but really good: A couple of onion wedges, a couple of celery stalks with leafy tops, and/or a couple of carrots, cut into large chunks 5-6 whole peppercorns 1 dried bay leaf Directions: Place the chicken carcass, plus giblets if you have them, in a pot. If possible, add a few vegetable chunks (including celery stalk leaves, which have a ton of flavor). Toss in a few peppercorns, too, and maybe a dried bay leaf. Add enough water to cover—depending on the size of your pot, that’ll be around 8-12 cups. Bring the pot to …

Roast chicken recipe: gluten-free, paleo, and perfect every time

Perfect Roast Chicken with Caramelized Carrots People often ask me if I have a favorite dish to cook. This is certainly a top-5 contender. The secret, I’ve found, is the high heat (425 degrees) and the timing. If you calculate accurately—15 minutes per pound plus 15 minutes, exactly—you’ll be rewarded with a moist but cooked-through chicken with nice crisp skin. I’ve roasted a lot of chickens over the years, and this is the only method that works every single time. A few more notes: The caramelized carrots are a delicious addition, but if you don’t have carrots, use a small metal roasting rack to lift the chicken off the pan a bit; or if you have neither, skip it. It’ll still cook just fine. If you also want baked potatoes (and who wouldn’t?), put them in the oven at the same time as the chicken. The high temperature isn’t optimal for baked potatoes—the skins get a bit tough—but it’ll work. Or try cubed potatoes: Place in a separate pan coated with cooking spray or olive oil, toss with more olive oil and …

Chicken Oregano recipe: simple, healthy, gluten-free, paleo

This year I’m embarking on a plan to record my simplest, most frequently made, gluten-free, and usually paleo recipes. First up: Chicken Oregano Serves 2-3 This is a great weeknight dish that’s easily doubled to feed more people. I originally got this recipe (like so many) from my mother-in-law, a classic and talented homemaker. I’ve since modified it a bit to reduce the oil and add more garlic salt and oregano. Remember to always wash your hands after touching raw chicken and before touching anything else. Oh, and there’s no need to wash and pat dry chicken or any other meat before prepping it; in fact the USDA recommends against it because it actually increases the risk of spreading bacteria. Cooking, not washing, will kill any potential pathogens. After cooking, use the extra pan drippings to drizzle in a baked potato or over cooked brown rice; you won’t need butter! Ingredients: 1/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin or regular) 2 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed but bottled will work; I use Santa Cruz Organic) 1/2-1 teaspoon garlic salt (0r garlic …

5 tips to choose a wedding menu

On October 18, we celebrated my daughter and new son-in-law’s wedding in Purcellville, Virginia. I could go on and on about every detail — the gorgeous setting at Shadow Creek Weddings & Events; the most beautiful wedding flowers I’ve ever seen, thanks to the unflappable Barbara Von Elm of Growing Wild Floral; the well-researched wine and all-Colorado beer selections (my husband’s job); and of course the heartwarming gathering of family and friends to witness God’s hand in uniting two wonderful young people. But let’s not forget one thing. I’m a food writer and editor. I wanted to be sure we fed people well. And not just well, but memorably well. My daughter put me in charge of choosing and working with the catering and event service, which was far and away the biggest budget item for a wedding of this size (about 150 guests). After a lot of research, we settled on A La Carte Catering & Events based in Haymarket, Virginia. Let me just say up front: Good call. I lost count of the number of people who told me that this was …

Wild Duck Pate

It’s finally fall again. And my husband, Dave, is happy because fall ushers in hunting season. I could write a lot about lessons learned while being married to a conscientious, deeply ethical, nature- and animal-loving hunter (in fact, he’s the first hunter I ever met, way back in college). But I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say that over the past three decades, I’ve had to learn how to cook a lot of wild game meat — mostly dove, duck, goose, and pheasant. This Wild Duck Pate recipe is without a doubt our favorite game-meat creation to date. It’s a labor-intensive recipe, but trust me, it’s worth the effort. People go absolutely nuts for this when we serve it at parties. One guy recently asked me if I knew its street value. Unfortunately, this recipe does not work with domestic, store-bought duck, which is much fattier and milder than wild duck … so you’ll have to make friends with a duck hunter. Bosley’s Wild Duck Pate 3/4 pound (24 tablespoons, or 3 sticks) butter, …

Mountain strawberry shortcake recipe

One person’s invader is another person’s honored guest. A friend of mine wages war against the rangy “mountain strawberry” plant that creeps into her Colorado lawn every summer. Despite the cute little berries, she considers this native plant an invasive pest and she works hard to eradicate it from her garden. But last week, during my visit to Sun Valley, Idaho, my aunt Sandy delightedly pointed out the very same plant in her garden and rejoiced over the many miniature strawberries dotting the vines. “The French call these fraises des bois,” she gushed, “and they’re considered a real delicacy because of their concentrated flavor. One of my French friends couldn’t believe we had them growing wild on our patio!” That afternoon, Sandy’s gardener harvested a cup or two of the precious berries. I made Sandy’s “best-ever” shortcake recipe, and she whipped up her special version of fresh whipped cream (secret ingredient: sour cream). That night for dessert, we feasted on Mountain Strawberry Shortcake. Shortcake recipe (originally from Bon Appetit, July 2006): 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 8 tablespoons sugar, divided 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 …

Why you should never trust (every) recipe

I’m psyched that a piece I wrote for Sunset magazine’s blog is now on the site! Titled “Why you can’t trust every recipe on the internet,” it’s a lighthearted look at a common problem — published recipes that may or may not work in a real kitchen — plus tips on what you can do about it. Though online recipes are proliferating faster than you can say “gluten-free cupcakes,” the resources for testing those recipes are drying up. As the LA Times asked in a recent article: “Is recipe testing a vanishing art?” I’m afraid the answer is yes. Needless to say, this can be frustrating and costly for the home cook, so I hope the blog gives you some useful guidelines in your own recipe adventures. And please leave a comment about recipe sites or publications that you particularly trust. I can say from experience that Delicious Living and Sunset are both excellent sources.