How to Make Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls

I recently pulled this recipe out of my archives of the second gluten-free bakery I used to work at (that has unfortunately since closed) because I wanted some kind of bread to go with my first soup of the season. I helped formulate many of the recipes at that bakery and while I’ve been meaning on going back to them and refining them with what I know now, I find that many of them still hold up pretty well.

The original recipe was for pull-a-part style rolls, but when I sat down to make these again I thought, Huh, I bet they’d hold their shape better if I put them in a muffin tin. Why didn’t I ever think of that before?

They came out a little smaller and spongier than I had hoped, but directly after declaring, “they’re okay, but I could make them better,” I found myself going back for another one. My second batch turned out even tastier.

These rolls are so moist that you don’t have to toast them before eating, which is a rarity in the gluten-free world. They are fluffy, yeasty, golden brown, and look just like store-bought dinner rolls. I will never get tired of eating the sliced in half with a thick smear of room temperature butter in the middle. They are ever so slightly on the sweet side so you could probably decrease the sugar or replace the applesauce with another egg if you wanted to cut back on the sugar.

Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls

Fluffy, yeasty, moist rolls that are the perfect compliment to any meal.
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
passive 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 2 ½ tbsp sugar
  • ½ tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tbsp yeast
  • 1 ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • ½ cup hot water

Important Equipment

  • A 12-count Muffin Tin
  • A ziplock plastic bag optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to warm, the lowest setting, or “proofing” if you have that option, and lightly grease a muffin tin.
  2. Place dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix briefly.
  3. Place eggs and milk in a small container. Microwave for 1 minute or until mixture is warm to touch. If your microwave is very powerful, microwave in 20-second increments to avoid cooking the eggs.
  4. Add milk, eggs, and the remaining wet ingredients to the dry. Mix for several minutes until smooth and batter looks a little thinner. The mixture will be halfway between a dough and a batter.
  5. There are two methods for getting the dough into a roll shape in the muffin tin. The first is to simple approach as you would making muffins. Scoop approximately ⅓ cupfuls of the dough into the muffin tin. The muffin cups should be about ¾ of the way full. Even out the tops of the rolls by swirling your finger around the top in a circle, making a small peak in the center. The batter should make 10-12 rolls.
  6. Here’s the second method: Take a ziplock plastic bag and fill it with the dough like a piping bag. You can use something tall and cylindrical to help support the bag while you fill it or use your other hand. Push all the dough towards the corner of the bag and snip off the end. The hole should be about ¾ of an inch wide. Place the tip of the bag in the center of each muffin cup and squeeze until each cup is about ¾ of the way full. This technique results in pretty round rolls that are much more even in size and shape. If you’ve never used a piping bag before, I recommend checking out this video on piping technique for dough. Note: The chef in the video is using a piping tip, which is used for detail work and not needed here, and she is having to work pretty hard to get the dough to the tip of the bag, which won’t be necessary in this recipe with this very soft dough.
  7. Put rolls into the warm oven and let rise for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the rolls from the oven and increase the temperature to 325 degrees. When the oven is fully preheated, put the rolls back in and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and the center tests cleanly with a toothpick.

Note: You can also make these rolls pull-a-part style. Instead of using the muffin tin, lightly grease an 8-inch circular cake pan. With a container of water and a large ice cream scoop, scoop 8-10 rolls into the cake pan, dipping the scoop in the water between scoops to prevent the dough from sticking. The rolls will be packed tightly together and hold each other up as they rise and bake. Bake for 25-35 minutes at 325 degrees minutes until dark golden brown. Make sure to check the center with a toothpick, and if the tops are turning brown too early before the center tests cleanly, cover the pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up, and continue baking.

There you have it! Delicious, fluffy, moist dinner rolls made with very little fuss. These rolls should be eaten the day of or stored in an airtight container at room temperature. They will last 2-4 days and then may begin to lose their moisture and require toasting.

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How to Make Lemon Chicken

Years ago I had dinner at a friends’ house and they served the most incredible chicken with creamy lemon sauce and rice. To this day, I don’t know what was in that dish, but I’ve made it my life’s work to create something just as tasty. My current incarnation: Lemon chicken with sauteed green beans, lemon drenched vegetables, and broth flavored rice.

This recipe is a dish that I’m constantly evolving and updating. I recently learned a new method of cooking chicken so it will probably update again. But rest assured, if you follow this recipe, you’ll have a tasty meal that you can tweak and change to suit your own preferences:

The chicken is moist and delicious. The vegetables cook while soaked in broth and lemon juice, making the most flavorful onions and carrots you’ll ever eat. The green beans are bright green and still have a fresh tasting crunch to them. Once the chicken is done, you’re left with a reduced broth made of lemon juice, chicken stock, garlic, and juices from the vegetables. Pour this broth generously over your rice and chicken for an added treat.

Lemon Chicken and Sides

A delicious and easy recipe for lemon chicken, green beans and rice that’s overflowing with flavor.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive time 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs of chicken breast
  • ½ C lemon juice
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Sprigs of fresh thyme

Sauteed Green Beans

  • ¾ lb of green beans
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Ice
  • 1 small shallot sliced

Side of Rice

  • 1.5 cups white rice
  • 2 small chicken bouillon cubes or 1 large one

Instructions

Chicken and Rice

  1. Take a medium sized casserole dish and place your chicken breasts inside. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Take one of your garlic cloves, peel it, and push it through a garlic press (or chop it very small). Disperse the minced garlic evenly over the chicken. Liberally pour your lemon juice over the top of the chicken. If your chicken breasts are very large, cut them in half so that more surface area is exposed to the marinade and it cooks more evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate for 2-3 hours.
  2. Take your chicken out of the fridge about 10 minutes before cooking time. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Take your rice and put it in a medium-large pot along with 5.25 cups of hot water. Add your two chicken bullion cubes and place over medium heat with the lid mostly covering the top for about 30 minutes. Stir the rice periodically to ensure the bouillon cubes are fully dissolved. When there is very little water remaining in the pot, turn off the heat, and cover the pot with a lid completely.
  4. Wash (but don’t peel!) and chop your carrot and onion into medium chunks. Lift up your chicken breasts and cover the bottom of the casserole dish with the vegetables, placing the chicken on top.
  5. Take half of your chicken stock, heat it up for a minute in the microwave or on the stove, and pour it into the casserole dish over your vegetables.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes.
  7. Halfway through cooking time, take a heat safe spoon and baste the top of your chicken.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven, and carefully remove the chicken breasts from the pan, setting them aside to rest. If you are unsure whether they are cooked through, slice the fattest part of the chicken breast open and check for any pinkness.
  9. Take the remainder of your chicken broth, heat it up, and add it to the liquid in the casserole dish. Take a heat-safe spatula and carefully splash the liquid around the edges of the pan where bits of brown concentrated flavor are stuck to the pan. Use the liquid to dissolve the brown bits and mix them into the liquid. Taste it and adjust seasoning as needed.

Sauteed Green Beans

  1. This recipe is a variation on the recipe listed in my gluten-free holiday feast for two guide. I recommend starting the green beans once your chicken is in the oven, pre-chopping your garlic and shallots, and then beginning to melt your butter about 10 minutes before your chicken is due to come out of the oven.
  2. Top and tail your green beans. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Salt the water and add the green beans. Boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water. Once the green beans are done, drain them, and plop them into the ice water. Make sure they are fully submerged. The green beans can stay in the ice water until it’s time to cook them.
  4. In a large frying pan, melt the 2 tbsp of butter. Add your shallot and your other clove of garlic, both chopped small. Caramelize them in the butter for a few minutes.
  5. When the green beans are cold all the way through, pull them out of the ice water and place them in the frying pan. Toss them in the butter, shallots, and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. The green beans are done when they are heated all the way through.

A Full Meal Ready to Eat

My favorite way to eat this meal is 4-5 large slices of chicken, with the broth poured on top, a good mound of green beans, a small pile of onions and carrots to mix in with the rice and chicken for added flavor, and a large mound of rice, topped with a little butter, spoonfuls of the broth, and some extra lemon juice to make it really sing.

This recipe also makes customization really easy. You can swap out the vegetables for whatever

you like. You can use brown rice instead of white rice if you want something more nutritious.

For brown rice, put 2 ¼ cups water into your pot and bring to a boil. Add the bouillon cubes and stir until fully dissolved. Add 1 cup of brown rice, cover completely, and reduce the heat to bring the water down to a steady simmer. Simmer the rice for 45 minutes, with the lid on at all times. Turn off the heat, leaving the lid on, and let it rest for an additional 15 minutes before serving.

I stick to chicken breast for this recipe because I’m not fond of the taste or texture of dark meat, but chicken thighs will bring in more flavor. If you use chicken thigh instead, add olive oil to the marinade in the beginning. Olive oil doesn’t penetrate chicken breast; therefore, it can’t be absorbed during the marinating process, but a chicken thigh will absorb it just fine.

I hope you enjoy this recipe. If you come up with some great adjustments to it, let me know in the comments below!

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How to Make Toffee: A Comprehensive Guide

When I first set out to make my own toffee, I heard through the grapevine that toffee recipes look easy but that there is actually an infinite number of things that could go wrong and ruin a batch. Unlike cookies or soup, it’s pretty impossible to rescue ruined toffee once it passes a certain threshold, resulting in a very large amount of wasted butter and sugar.

I did a lot of research and compiled a list of all the techniques that increases your likelihood of success. My first batch came out perfect! For my second batch, I got cocky, doubled the recipe, and lost the whole lot. I learned a lot along the way, and now I can pass those lessons on to you.
This is a comprehensive guide to how to guarantee that your toffee turns out amazing on the first try. I recommend reading the whole article through first before setting out to make your toffee.

Step 1: Prepare Your Equipment

YOU NEED A CANDY THERMOMETER. This is not negotiable. You can buy these for $10-20 on Amazon or in a store that sells cooking gear. You don’t need anything fancy. You just need something that accurately takes the temperature of your food.

When you get your candy thermometer, test it to make sure it is accurate. Here’s how you do that:
At sea level, water boils at 212 degrees F, but with each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water decreases by about 1 °F. You want to find out at which temperature water boils at your elevation. This question seems complicated but you only have to figure out this information once!

Google the name of your city and elevation. Google should list an easy to find number at the top of the page. Then check out this chart to see what temperature water boils at that elevation.

Once you have your number, fill a pot with water and put your thermometer in the water. Bring the water up to a boil and carefully watch what temperature your thermometer reads when the water reaches a full boil. Make sure you are looking at the thermometer straight on. It should reach a boil right at the temperature you determined earlier.

If your water boils a few degrees below or above when expected, make a note of that. With just a few degrees of difference, you can usually add or subtract that number to the magic temperature that candy is created and be fine. If it’s 10 degrees off or more, return that candy thermometer and get a new one.

Make sure to do this test each and every time you make candy.

TIP: Make a note of how much of a difference there is between the temperature your water boils and 212 degrees. You’ll also want this information later when you’re making the candy. For example, if water boils at 211 degrees where you are, your candy will be ready at 297 degrees instead of the standard 298 degrees.

Other special equipment you will need:

  • A heavy bottom pot that is the same size or smaller than your most reliable burner
  • A non-metal heat safe spoon
  • 2-3 baking sheets, preferably rimmed
  • Parchment paper or silicone baking mats (I use Silpat mats and they’re amazing)
  • A heat-safe spatula
  • A pastry brush

Note: You’ll want your heavy bottom pot to be a minimum of 2 qts for this recipe. My 2 qt pot is JUST BARELY big enough, and I’m scared it’s going to overflow when it bubbles up every time. When the bubbles reach the top, I focus on stirring around the edges to pop the bubbles for a couple minutes until enough water evaporates and the level of liquid lowers.

Step Two: Weigh Your Ingredients

Measuring your ingredients by weight will ensure the recipe is as accurate as possible. It’s pretty frequent that 1 lb of butter is actually 1 lb only when including packaging, and you’ll lose 0.15oz by unwrapping it.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz butter (chopped into cubes)
  • 16 oz white sugar
  • 3 oz warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Toppings of your choice (toasted almonds, crushed peppermint candy, sea salt, etc)
  • 12 oz dark chocolate

This recipe makes around 2 lbs of toffee which is PLENTY to give out to friends with enough left over to keep for yourself. I don’t recommend doubling this recipe, because the longer it takes for toffee to cook, the more likely it will burn or separate. Reducing the recipe by half is fine as long as you stick to weight measurements.

Step Three: Get Ready

Prepare everything you need before diving in. Toffee is quick, detail-oriented work. You won’t have time to go looking for the pan you need later on.

I recommend having on hand:

  • All your toffee ingredients pre-measured, except chocolate and toppings
  • Your heavy-bottomed pot, heat safe spoon, and candy thermometer
  • A pastry brush and small bowl of water
  • A small pot of water, kept hot on a nearby burner, and a tablespoon
  • Two or three baking sheets covered with good quality parchment paper or silicone baking mats, and your heat-safe spatula nearby.
  • The pastry brush, small bowl of water, and pot of hot water are all tools you’ll need to prevent toffee disaster. I’ll explain how to use those later.

Step four: Make Your Toffee

Once you start this step, you’re in it for the long haul, so make sure you have 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time ahead of you. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Clip your candy thermometer to the inside of your pot, so that it will be fully submerged.
    Add the butter to your heavy bottom pot and melt over a medium-high heat. Bring the butter to a boil. Then add the warm water.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil again and add the sugar and salt.
  3. Carefully and quickly stir in the sugar with your heat safe spoon to dissolve it as efficiently as possible. Try to avoid splashing the sugar around the edges of the pot.
  4. Take your pastry brush and bowl of water and wash down the sides of the pot, thermometer, and spoon to dissolve any sugar crystals. This preventative measure will keep the undissolved sugar from reacting to the butter and separating the mixture.
  5. Stir slowly and consistently and watch your candy thermometer like a hawk. The mixture will slowly turn a golden brown and begin to thicken.
  6. The mixture should be boiling for a minimum of 20 minutes before it reaches the magic number of 298 degrees, which is when the mixture enters the “hard crack” stage. If you boil it for less than 20 minutes, your toffee will be yellow and flavorless. Be ready to get moving as soon as it hits 298 degrees because you don’t want to burn the candy.
  7. As soon as you hit 298 degrees (or whatever temperature you calculated earlier) take the pot off the stove, and quickly stir in the vanilla. Make haste to your baking sheets and pour the toffee over them, dividing the mixture up between two or three sheets.
  8. Immediately grab your heat-safe spatula and spread the toffee out thin. The mixture will cool and begin to solidify quickly so keep moving. It doesn’t have to be even or pretty. Often, thinner toffee has the best taste and texture, so don’t be afraid to have spots where the toffee is slightly transparent.

Apologies for the blurry photos. My phone is poor at focusing automatically and I was in a rush to tend to the toffee.

Tip: DON’T TOUCH THE BAKING SHEETS in the 10 minutes after you pour the toffee onto them. That sugar mixture is molten hot and your baking sheets will feel as if they’ve just come out of the oven if you touch them.

Damage Control

Convincing sugar and butter to bond is actually rather difficult and it’s very easy for things to go south quickly. Here are some things to watch out for, and ways to prevent disaster:

–Continue to watch out for undissolved sugar granules around the edges of the pot and use your pastry brush and water to dissolve them. I also pay attention to the texture of the mixture under my spoon. If it feels grainy and rough, there may be some undissolved sugar I need to tend to.

–Never drastically change the temperature of your toffee, either by suddenly cranking up the heat, or taking it off the stove, etc. Always make temperature shifts slowly.

–Don’t stir too quickly or with a metal spoon, as this will cool down the toffee.

Halting Disaster

If you start to notice pools of butter collecting on the edges of your brown sticky mixture, you’ll want to act fast. This means that the sugar and butter are starting to separate. Here’s how to handle the situation:

  • The first thing to try is to take the pot off the heat and stir constantly and smoothly (but not quickly!) to see if it re-integrates. Then slowly return it to the heat, continuing your stirring.
  • If that doesn’t work, grab your handy tablespoon and hot water that you had ready and waiting. Carefully pour a tablespoon of hot water into your toffee and stir. BE CAREFUL! The mixture will likely sputter, and hot sugar can be really dangerous. Stir in the water and see if the butter stops separating. You can add up to 4 tablespoons of hot water, one tablespoon at a time, in order to save your toffee. But if you get to 4 and you’re still seeking yellow fat creeping up at the edges, then I’m sorry to say your candy is unsalvageable.
  • If your toffee separates after you’ve poured it out, there’s no way to reverse the process.

Step five: Take a Break

Leave your toffee to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes. You’ve finished the most anxiety-inducing part. When you come back, the candy will be rock hard. How cool is that?

Step six: Prepare Your Toppings

There are many toppings you can choose from for your toffee. Here are a few ideas:

Chopped Nuts: Almonds and Pecans are probably the most popular choices. Choose how finely you want your nuts to be chopped depending on the texture you want for your toffee. For extra depth of flavor, you can toast your nuts before chopping them. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment paper, spread out your nuts in a single layer. Bake the nuts for 5-10 minutes until the nuts have slightly darkened in color and smell lovely. Don’t burn them!

Crushed Candy Canes: What a great way to make this treat holiday themed! Take candy canes and place them in a ziplock back. Put the bag on a cutting board and hit the candy canes with a rolling pin until they are broken into very small pieces. Remember, people will be taking bites of these, so you want the shards to be pretty tiny.

Crushed Pretzels: You can use the same method as with the candy canes to get these to the desired size, for a salty crunch on top of your toffee.

Drizzled chocolate: Melt a second kind of chocolate such as white chocolate, dip a spoon in and drizzle the chocolate in a zig-zag pattern over the standard layer of chocolate.

Sea salt: This is my favorite topping. Ever had salted caramel? Same idea. Just sprinkle a very light layer of salt over the toffee when it’s toppings time.

Preparing the Chocolate

Melt your chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. The best way to ensure well-tempered chocolate is to bring about an inch of water in a small pot to a simmer, place a heat-safe bowl on top of the pot (making sure the bowl does not touch the water) and place the chocolate inside of the bowl, stirring until the chocolate has melted. You can also microwave it 30-45 seconds at a time, stirring between each heating session.

As soon as the chocolate has melted, remove it from your heat source and stir to cool it down. I recommend stirring for 20-30 seconds, then walking away for a few minutes, then stirring again. To check to see if your chocolate is cool enough, dab a tiny bit of chocolate just above your upper lip. When it is ready, it should feel slightly cool on your lip.

Step seven: Assemble the toffee

Take a paper towel and carefully wipe any excess grease from the top of the toffee.
Pour the melted chocolate onto the toffee, dividing it equally between each sheet. I find it works best if you pour it into one pile, rather than over the whole sheet so that it doesn’t cool down too quickly.

Using your spatula (or an offset spatula if you have one) spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, but you want to aim for a consistent layer chocolate over the surface of the candy.

Working quickly before the chocolate sets, sprinkle your toppings over the entire slab of toffee. Err on the side of too many toppings, because some may fall off in the process of breaking the toffee into smaller pieces.

Leave the chocolate to set for at least 30 minutes until there are no wet spots.

Note: If you want both sides of your toffee to be covered in chocolate, double the weight of chocolate listed in the recipe, and repeat the melting, cooling, and spreading process a second time after the first half is set. It’s okay if your toffee cracks a little in the process of lifting it up and turning it over. It’s going to be broken into small pieces anyways.

Step eight: Breaking the Toffee

Now comes the fun part! Carefully lift your toffee off the baking sheet, peeling the baking mat or parchment paper off the bottom. Then, start breaking it!

I like to start by simply dropping it on the baking sheet with some force and then taking a segment and breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces. It’s okay if this is messy, it’s okay if they are all different shapes and sizes. Keep a good grip on both sides of the toffee as you break it, to limit the amount the chocolate and toffee break in different places.

While it’s tempting to leave it in cracker-sized pieces, toffee is very sweet and fairly rich. Smaller is better. You can always eat a second piece if it’s not enough!

Step nine: Storing the toffee

Make sure to keep your toffee in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer. If stored correctly, this toffee can last months and continue to taste just as delicious. I had a little left over from last year’s batch and it tasted just as good as a year ago!

You can buy pretty tins to put the toffee in but I like to decorate cheap Tupperware containers or leftover plastic containers that I saved and washed after eating the contents, use wrapping paper and double-stick tape to cover the labels, fill them with toffee, and give them out as personalized gifts.

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How to Make Ragu Style Pasta Sauce (And Gluten-Free Pasta)

This ragu style pasta sauce has become one of my go-to recipes. It’s an adaptation of a recipe I learned from Jamie Oliver and it requires mostly ingredients that I already have on hand around the house, the prep is super quick, and while the sauce is slowly simmering, you can sit back and relax.

Ragu sauce refers to a sauce made of many tiny little pieces of meat and vegetables. This recipe includes Italian sausage, bacon, onions, and zucchini, but you can add as many finely chopped or grated vegetables as you want. The technique involved in making this sauce makes it easy to add extra veggies while all you’ll taste is rich smoky tomato goodness.

This sauce reheats well and freezes well. I highly recommend making a large batch, approximately double this recipe, and freezing it.

To freeze your sauce, get some large ziplock bags. You’ll want the nice ones because you don’t want your sauce leaking out the top due to a finicky seal. Fill the bag about halfway with pasta sauce, squeeze the air out of the top as best you can, seal the top, and then flatten the bag out until you have an even, flat square of pasta sauce in a bag. Freeze it laid out flat, and once it’s solid, you can store it upright. Freezing it this way means that it solidifies faster, it’s easy to store, and it thaws more quickly.

Now, on to the recipe!

Ragu-Style Pasta Sauce

Summary: A recipe for ragu-style pasta sauce packed with vegetables, meat, and flavor that will become a household staple in no time. Bonus: a brief guide to gluten-free pasta.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive 45 minutes
Servings 6 people

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 2 big sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 lb bacon
  • 1 lb ground hamburger or Italian sausage
  • 1 onion
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 2 heaped tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 28- oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14- oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 28 oz water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pasta

Instructions

  1. Turn the heat up to medium-high beneath a large pot and once it’s hot, add olive oil. Chop rosemary and bacon into small bits and add it to the pot. Fry until bacon is beginning to turn crispy.
  2. Break up the sausage meat into small pieces and add to pan. Break into smaller pieces as it browns. This will take some effort. Hamburger will break down easily, but I like the flavor of Italian sausage meat better and it likes to stay in larger clumps. Fry the meat until lightly golden and the sizzling noises in the pan have increased again, approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Chop onion and zucchini very small. Add to the pot and fry for approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and water. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until reduced to a thick sauce.
  6. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt the water. Cook your pasta according to the directions. With a slotted spoon, lift the pasta directly out of the water into a bowl, or drain the pasta but save some of the water it was cooked in.
  7. Add your finished sauce to your bowl of pasta and add a splash of pasta water. Mix well. The starch in the pasta water helps the pasta and the sauce bind together and the sauce will become smooth and evenly distributed. Finish with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

TIP: Tomato paste in a little can is super cheap so it makes sense to grab that off the grocery shelf when tomato paste is needed. But if you’re like me, every time you buy it, you only use a few tablespoons, can’t be bothered to transfer the contents to a Tupperware, and the rest goes bad in the can. It’s actually worth it to spend the extra money for tomato paste in a glass jar or a squeeze tube. Some brands to look for: Bionaturae makes tomato paste in a jar and Amore, Cento, San Marzano, and Alessi all make squeeze tubes that close with a cap.

Some easy variations for this recipe:

  • Use half hamburger and half Italian sauce, or half hamburger and half ground pork sausage.
  • Replace half the meat with cooked lentils to cut down on cost.
  • Use a food processor to shred your onion and zucchini or additional veggies like carrots and cabbage to bulk out the sauce and sneak vegetables into your kids’ meal.

Gluten-Free Pasta

Because I specialize in gluten-free recipes I need to discuss the art of making gluten-free pasta and a few pasta brands. Gluten-free pasta has a reputation for being flavorless, mushy, and easily disintegrated into many little pieces.

For tasty, non-mushy gluten-free pasta, follow these rules:

  1. Stir regularly while the pasta is cooking, especially in the first couple minutes as the pasta is just beginning to soften.
  2. Never overcook gluten-free pasta. Err on the side of undercooking it so you get nice chewy al dente pasta.
  3. Once it has finished cooking, make sure to rinse the pasta in very hot water to keep it from sticking together and becoming one big pasta monster clump.

By far the best gluten-free pasta brand available is Tinkyada. They make dozens of pasta shapes, including Lasagna, fettuccine, and large shells for stuffing. They taste pretty much like normal pasta! Tinkyada doesn’t always reheat well and isn’t that great cold, so stick to making the pasta fresh when you need it like the Italians do. Tinkyada is so good I basically never reach for any other brand.

Other brands that carry gluten-free pasta that you might see are Jovial, Bionaturae, Barilla, and Ancient Harvest. I have not tried gluten-free pasta by Jovial but I’ve heard they are great and made from organic whole grain rice, which is pretty refreshing in contrast to so many gluten-free products that have very little nutritional value. I also have not tried Barilla’s gluten-free pasta, but they’re rated highly and they’re widely available in a pretty large variety of shapes. Bionaturae is just okay as it’s closer to what you would expect gluten-free pasta to taste like. I’d avoid Ancient Harvest if you can help it. The taste of the pasta overpowers whatever sauce you put on it, and not in a good way.

I hope you enjoy this ragu style pasta sauce and mini gluten-free pasta guide and that this recipe will become a staple in your household in the future.

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How to Make Gluten-Free Pizza

Gluten-Free Pizza is probably one of the most sought-after dishes in the gluten-free world. It’s so easy to buy a frozen pizza, order delivery, or even buy pre-made pizza dough and bake your own when you can eat gluten. But when you make the transition to gluten-free, freshly made pizza dough is non-existent, and frozen or delivered pizzas are rare, expensive, and not that good. It’s simply impossible to give up pizza, so how can you fill that pizza shaped hole in your heart while still avoid gluten?

Wrangling Gluten-Free Pizza Dough

One of the trickiest problems that gluten-free baking encounters is the dough issue. The thing that makes gluten-based bread products so easy to work with is that mixing even just flour and water creates a substance that’s easy to mold and form into any shape you want, bake it, and it tastes amazing! With gluten-free baking, in order to get the same texture in the final product, it’s rare the “dough” will function in the same way.

Typically gluten-free dough is soft, slightly wet, and requires water and a spatula to shape properly. That means your pizza board might not work so well for this recipe. You’re going to want a large baking sheet with a lip all the way around so that the dough doesn’t flow right off the edges. But the finished product is fluffy, yeasty, with a little bit of chew, and just delicious.

Developing a Gluten-Free Pizza Dough Recipe

This recipe was inspired by an incredible boxed mix for pizza dough by Gluten Free Pantry (which I cannot for the life of me find online so perhaps it’s no longer available in stores). I tried it out after receiving a box for free at the grocery store I used to work at. The recipe made a huge amount of dough, and my friend and I delightedly baked a gigantic pizza, only to be blown away by how delicious the crust was. It was so good that, despite the cost of the box mix alone ringing in at $6, I still bought it every time I wanted pizza.

However, as I looked over the ingredient list, I realized that I had just about all those same ingredients in my kitchen already. Using the weight of the box, the order the ingredients were listed in, my general knowledge of gluten-free baking, and a little math, I worked out a copycat recipe. A few failed attempts later and I had a recipe that tasted almost identical!

Gluten-Free Pizza

Miss pizza? Satisfy your cravings for chewy, fluffy pizza crust with this recipe for gluten-free pan-style pizza large enough to feed a family.
Course Main Course
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
Passive 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.75 C white rice flour
  • 1/2 C brown rice flour
  • 3/4 C potato starch
  • 3/4 C cornstarch
  • 2.5 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2.25 tsp yeast or 1 packet of yeast
  • 1 3/4 C warm milk
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg whites lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil

Toppings

  • Half jar of pasta sauce
  • 12-16 oz grated mozzarella and jack cheese about 2 parts mozzarella to 1 part jack cheese
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped

Important Equipment

  • Rimmed baking sheet
  • Kitchenaid or hand mixer
  • Spatula

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature it will register. I use the “warm” setting on mine, and if you have “proof” as an option, that’s even better.
  2. Place the milk in a microwave-safe container (such as a pyrex measuring cup), and heat the milk for 1-1:45 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave. You want the milk to be warm to touch but not hot.
  3. Prepare all your dry ingredients in your mixing bowl. Try to keep the yeast and the salt on opposite sides of the bowl.
  4. Beat the three egg whites in a separate small container until they are a little frothy. Add the remaining egg, the vegetable oil and apple cider vinegar to the egg whites.
  5. Once your milk is warm, set your mixer to a low setting, stirring the dry ingredients, and begin slowly pouring in the egg mixture. Once done, quickly switch to gradually adding the milk.
  6. Once the milk is added and slightly incorporated, stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and restart the mixing at a slightly higher speed until the dough is uniform in texture. The “dough” will be very silky and thick, close to muffin batter texture.
  7. Turn the mixer up to a medium-high speed and beat on medium high for three minutes. This helps activate the xanthan gum, sort of like kneading develops gluten.
  8. Lightly grease your rimmed cookie sheet. Fill a container with warm water to dip your spatula in. Scrape all of the dough out of the mixing bowl onto the baking sheet.
  9. Begin spreading the dough out into the corners of the sheet. I find using a technique similar to frosting a cake works well, where you’re not scraping the bottom but trying to always have a cushion of dough between you and the baking sheet at all times. You don’t want any see-through spots. Dip the spatula in the water occasionally to prevent the dough from sticking to it as you spread.
  10. Once the dough is spread into all the corners and relatively even and flat, push the dough to the sides of the baking sheet so that there is a small ridge around the edge of the pizza. You can define this edge by using your spatula to draw a line about 3/4 inch from the outside edge of the dough. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Irregularity looks delicious once it’s been baked through.
  11. Place your pizza dough in the warm oven or proofer for 20-minutes to rise.
  12. Prepare your toppings. I’ve suggested mozzarella, jack cheese, red bell pepper and artichoke hearts, but you can use whatever toppings you like!
  13. After 20 minutes, take the risen pizza dough out of the oven, and set the oven to preheat at 450 degrees.
  14. Add a thin layer of sauce evenly across the pizza, leaving the ridge around the edge clear of sauce. You don’t want too much sauce because too much liquid on a gluten-free pizza will make things soggy. Add the rest of your toppings however you like them. I like a very generous layer of cheese in the center and just a little bit of cheese around the edge that will turn crispy and wonderful in the oven, before adding the other toppings.
  15. Bake at 450 degrees for 13-15 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and the cheese should be bubbling and starting to brown. Cut into squares and enjoy!

This pizza reheats fairly well. It loses a little bit of texture in the microwave but is still plenty delicious, and it stays good for about a week after baking if wrapped up well. I’m interested in trying to half this recipe and put it in a standard round pizza pan instead.

I hope you enjoy this gluten-free pizza recipe! Be sure to let me know how yours turns out and what toppings you used!

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Crosspost: “What’s It Like to Have Celiac Disease?”

Hi! My name is Kella. If you’re unfamiliar with my work, you may not know that this isn’t my only blog. I have a blog with a very different structure and feel called Yopp! It is a social justice blog dedicated to civil rights education, elevating voices of marginalized people, and reducing oppression.

On it, you’ll find educational material, personal stories, critiques of common arguments, and recommendations for resources and courses of action regarding social justice. On Yopp! I talk a lot about my experience as a disabled and chronically ill person, which intersects with eating gluten-free and needing to cook, in a lot of ways.

I’ve published a new post on Yopp! today about my experience discovering that I had Celiac Disease and how validating it was to finally discover the reason for my stomach problems, lack of weight gain, and low energy.

I hope you’ll go and check it out and consider subscribing to Yopp! as well! From the post:

“In 2008, my boyfriend informed me that he was going gluten-free. The entire family on his mother’s side had Celiac Disease, he said, and he had always been in denial that he might have it too. But he told me going gluten-free had given him much more energy, made his stomach feel better, and helped him lose weight.

Hearing about my ongoing digestive problems, he encouraged me to try it. I was daunted by the idea of eliminating something so common from my diet, particularly when I didn’t have easy access to a grocery store or a car. But I set a goal for myself: Each meal, I would try to come up with something to eat that didn’t have gluten. I didn’t have to worry about the next meal. I’d start with this one. One meal at a time, I started the habit…”

Go read the whole thing. 

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How to Make Perfect Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

For years, I looked for a gluten-free cookie that fit my definition of perfect: Chewy, tender, easy to make, exactly the right ratio of chocolate chips to cookie dough. After many failed experiments, my hard work resulted in the perfect recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, which I can now share with you!

Going Gluten-Free

I got lucky when I decided to stop eating gluten, and found a spectacular cookbook, “You Won’t Believe It’s Gluten-Free,” that allowed me to sate most of my cravings and inspired my love of baking. This book has load s of single-flour recipes, making it perfect for someone new to gluten-free baking to get their start.

The very first recipe I tried was the rice-flour recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. Despite the fact that my group of friends gobbled them down in a matter of hours, I was slightly disappointed. They were fluffy and flavorful and they didn’t crumble like your stereotypical gluten-free cookie does, but I was craving a tender chewy cookie.

I spent years searching for a recipe or a store-bought version that matched my expectations, but all gluten-free cookies I could find were crispy, crumbly, or fluffy. I never found the perfect one.

Writing My Own Cookie Recipe

I decided to invent a cookie that catered perfectly to my own tastes. In addition to a tender texture, I was looking for just the right amount of chocolate chips, a dough that was easy to handle, and ingredients that weren’t prohibitively expensive: A tall order, to be sure!

I made many attempts with different liquid and flour ratios, different baking times, flattening to the cookies to different thicknesses. But I continued to turn out dome shaped cake-like cookies.

One day I stumbled on an NPR article about the science of baking cookies. I taught myself how to bake and never baked much using gluten, so many of the ideas were new to me. In it, I discovered that melting the butter ahead of time causes the cookie to spread out more upon baking, giving you a more tender cookie.

Then a stroke of brilliance hit me! I had a brownie recipe that used melted butter, and it resulted in the most lovely chewy brownies– exactly the texture I wanted to replicate in my cookies!

I started with melted butter, added the proportions of sugar, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum (the binding ingredient that substitutes for gluten) that were standard in cookies, and then I slowly added a mix of my three favorite gluten-free flours until the dough came together cohesively. It was firm enough to roll in my hand but light enough that it wouldn’t turn into cardboard.

After attempting a few baking times, I did it! I made the perfect cookie! I’ve since baked this recipe dozens of times and I never get tired of these lovely treats.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe for perfectly chewy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that is easy to make and is a perfect base recipe to experiment with and alter to make any flavor of cookie you want.
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 20 cookies

Ingredients

  • ½ Cup butter melted
  • ½ Cup brown sugar dark or golden
  • ¼ Cup white sugar
  • ½ Cup corn starch
  • Cup tapioca starch
  • Cup white rice flour
  • 1 ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ Cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut your butter into small squares before melting it, then set aside.
  3. Place all your dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and egg and mix thoroughly. Make sure to start mixing quickly, or if you have a stand mixture, begin mixing as soon as you start to pour the wet ingredients in. If you let the mixture sit with the liquid in it, the cornstarch and egg will turn into cement and lumps will be impossible to break up!
  4. Mix until an even dough forms. If dough is a little crumbly, like in picture below, add a teaspoon or two of milk or water until the dough comes together easily and the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Add chocolate chips and mix until chips are evenly distributed. You may need to mix the dough by hand a bit.
  6. Take spoonfuls of the dough and roll them into 1.5 inch balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and press them to be about 1 centimeter thick. Leave an inch in between each cookie so they have room to spread.
  7. Bake cookies on the middle oven wrack for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will look slightly underdone, because they won’t be turning golden brown on the top yet, and that’s how you want them to look! If you poke the edge of a cookie with the side of your oven mitt, they should hold their shape.
  8. Cool for 15-20 minutes before eating. These cookies are tasty piping hot, but their texture is best when the cookie is completely cooled.

Stages of Cookie Making: 

Variations on the Perfect Cookie Recipe:

Possibly one of my favorite things about this recipe is that you can easily change it to be any flavor of cookie you want and it works just as well! Here are the best variations I’ve worked out so far:

Snickerdoodles: Leave out the chocolate chips, replace ½ C brown sugar with white sugar, decrease baking soda to ½ tsp, add 1 tsp cream of tartar (for that biting taste), and add 1 tsp cinnamon. Roll the balls of dough in a mixture of 2 tbsp white sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon before pressing flat, and sprinkle the leftover cinnamon sugar over the tops.

Peanut butter: Add ½ C peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, both are great), and increase salt to ½ tsp. Chocolate chips are optional. Flatten balls of dough with a fork in a criss-cross pattern for classic peanut butter cookie look. Make sure these cookies are nice and thick when flattened for a tender cookie, or flatten them more for a more crunchy version.

Double chocolate chip: Reduce the white rice flour to ½ C+ 2 tbsp, reduce corn starch from to ¼ C, and add ¼ C special dark cocoa powder (or normal cocoa powder, but special dark is just so much richer!). Keep the chocolate chips and/or add ¼ C of white chocolate chips.

TIP: Use good quality white chocolate chips for a lovely ooey-gooey cookie. Cheap ones by Nestle or store-brand won’t melt properly. Ghiradelli has lovely quality chips but their bags of white chocolate are manufactured in a facility with wheat, making them unsuitable for those with Celiac’s disease. I settled on white chocolate chips by Sunspire as the best ones safe for me to eat.

Mint double chocolate chip: As with the double chocolate, reduce the white rice flour to ½ C+ 2 tbsp, reduce cornstarch ¼ C, add ¼ C special dark cocoa powder, add a ½ tsp of peppermint extract and add ⅓ C mint chocolate chips. Ghiradelli makes some really creamy tasty ones. This dough may need an extra teaspoon of milk to hold it together.

Ginger molasses: Add ¼ C molasses, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 2 tsp orange zest, and 1 tbsp white rice flour. When grating the orange zest, make sure you use a real zester or microplane, otherwise, the zest will be very bitter. Roll the balls of dough in white sugar before flattening and sprinkle remaining sugar over the tops of the cookies.

Egg-free: Replace egg with ¼ C of applesauce. You may need to adjust the texture by adding a bit of extra white rice flour or milk to get the dough right. The dough will seem very greasy, because the applesauce and butter will try to separate, and the cookies come out of the oven a little wrinkled, but they are still delicious.

I still haven’t nailed oatmeal walnut or plain sugar cookies that you can cut into shapes. What kind of cookie should I work on next? Let me know in the comments below!

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How to Make Gluten-Free Blackberry Pie

A friend of mine asked for a recipe for gluten-free pie crust so that he could make a pie that I could eat. When he served me the first slice he said, “When was the last time you had a gluten-free pie?” I said, “Er, probably 6 months ago?” He said, “When was the last time you had gluten free pie made someone other than you?” I paused and then said, “Never!”

I can count on one hand the number of times someone has made a pie I could eat since then! I didn’t nail down my ideal pie crust recipe for few years and now I use it for any pie, tart, or quiche that I make and it’s always a hit. It’s buttery and tender and your friends really won’t believe you when you tell them it’s gluten-free.

In this recipe, I’ll teach you how to make the basic pie crust, and then a classic Blackberry filling to make use of it. The following makes enough pie dough for a top and a bottom crust for one 9-inch pie pan.

Gluten-Free Blackberry Pie

Searching for a gluten-free pie crust that doesn't crumble or taste like cardboard? Want a classic recipe to show off your gluten-free skills? Search no further!
Course Dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Passive time 1 hour
Servings 8 people

Ingredients

Crust Ingredients

  • ¾ C butter
  • ¾ C white rice flour
  • ½ C brown rice flour
  • ½ C tapioca starch
  • ¼ C potato starch
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ C sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 egg

Filling Ingredients

  • 4 C frozen blackberries about two 1-lb packages
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ C sugar
  • Splash of lemon juice

Equipment

  • A 9-inch pie pan
  • A rolling pin
  • Parchment paper

Instructions

  1. Take your frozen berries out of the freezer to allow them time to thaw and preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  2. To make the dough: Combine all the dry ingredients and the butter in a medium-sized bowl until crumbly.
  3. Add the egg and vinegar. Mix until dough forms, making sure to scrape down mixer if the egg gets caught in the middle. If you’re using an electric mixer, the dough starts to form a ball on its own. If the mixture seems too dry to become dough, add a teaspoon of milk.
  4. Wet your hands before molding the dough into a ball and wrapping with plastic wrap, to prevent crumbling. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  5. To make your filling: Place the berries in a medium-sized bowl. Add your cornstarch, sugar, and a small splash of lemon juice to the berries and mix gently so that the berries are evenly coated. To keep the bottom crust from disintegrating too much, strain berries over another bowl for a few minutes before placing them the pie crust.
  6. Once your dough is chilled, divide it into two equal parts. Lightly spray two pieces of parchment paper with non-stick spray. Place one section of the dough between the two sheets and roll out using a rolling pin. If you’re not sure how big it should be, place the pie pan on top of the rolled out dough. You’re looking for an inch or two wider than the bottom of the pan, and it should be about ¼ inch thick.
  7. Carefully peel off top piece of parchment paper. Take your time. Flip the rolled out dough (paper and all) into a pie pan. Carefully peel the second piece of parchment off. If you accidentally tear a hole, no sweat. Just take some extra dough from the edges and patch up the hole by pressing in the excess with your fingers. Prick the crust all over with a fork to help keep the crust in place during baking.
  8. Repeat the parchment paper process with the other half of the dough.
  9. Flip the second piece of dough onto the top of the pie and adjust the alignment so that it’s centered. Press the edges of the bottom and top crust together and crimp them evenly.
  10. Bake for 40 minutes and then cover with tinfoil to prevent over browning. Bake for an additional 20 minutes until the pie is solid most of the way through.

Gluten-free Pie Baking Tips:

  • For a non-dairy option, replace butter with Smart Balance or Earth Balance. If using Smart Balance, the colder the dough, the better. Try freezing the dough, and then work quickly.
  • If refrigerating or freezing the dough before use, microwave dough for 20-25 seconds to soften before rolling out.
  • If you’re in a hurry, and your kitchen isn’t sweltering hot, you can roll out the dough without refrigerating it. Just be very gentle when you roll it out and anticipate needing to patch some holes when you flip the dough into the pan.
  • If you are pre-baking or blind-baking the crust, bake for 15-20 minutes at 325 degrees. (Blind baking is not required for the recipe above.)
  • When adjusting your own pie recipes to gluten-free, if you are making any kind of fruit pie, toss the fruit with the sugar, cornstarch and any other dry ingredients, then let the fruit strain for 10 minutes. If you keep the excess liquid, the bottom crust will weaken and it will be difficult to get a whole slice out of the pan.

Alternative Topping

If you want to use the crust recipe to make two pies without top crusts, consider replacing them with streusel. Here’s a quick recipe for making a pretty good streusel substitute gluten-free:

Gluten-Free Streusel

Course Topping
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ C white rice flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ C packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp milk

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients, butter, and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl until crumbly. Add milk and mix. If using an electric mixer, watch very carefully for the crumbs to begin to clump slightly and form larger crumbs. As soon as they do, turn off the mixer. Do not over mix or the crumbles will turn into balls of dough. In the event of over clumping, break the dough into small pieces by hand.
  2. Sprinkle over pies (or muffins!) One batch will cover 1 pie or 9 muffins.

Recipe Notes

When doubling this recipe, keep the measurements of wet ingredients the same to prevent over clumping.

Use this recipe to make fill your pie-craving after switching to gluten-free or make an extra special surprise for your gluten-free friend!

What’s your favorite kind of pie? Let me know in the comments.

 

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How to Make Perfect Easy Hot Chocolate

When I was in high school, there was a little student-run coffee shop in the cafeteria that was open during my free period. Hot chocolate was my go-to substance for stress relief and an energy boost (I’ve never liked the taste of coffee) so I made use of the shop frequently. I drank hot chocolate so frequently that I found out the staff started making bets on whether or not I would order one that day. I ordered a chai latte instead to throw them off.

Green & Black’s cocoa powder used to be my go-to ingredient for Kella’s Special Hot Chocolate, but I was later diagnosed with celiac’s disease, and even something manufactured in a facility with wheat, like Green & Black’s products, was off limits to me.

I experimented with different instant cocoa mixes, but they never quite tasted right, and I found it unnerving that just hot water mixed with a powder could create that kind of texture.

Hot Cocoa Heaven

In the next town over, there used to be an incredible place called Rosie’s Tea House. They served a traditional style high tea including tiny sandwiches, rich soup, mini cheesecakes, and a perfectly brewed pot of tea per person. During one visit there, my friend ordered hot chocolate instead of tea. They brought her an entire teapot of hot chocolate, which she offered to share with me. What followed was the most delicious, most easy to drink hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Ever since, I’ve been determined to replicate that taste and texture. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach hot cocoa nirvana again, but this recipe is so easy, tasty, and customizable that it does the job just fine. No mixes, no stove top, no fancy ingredients required. And I even developed a special mixing technique that avoids all those undissolvable lumps of cocoa powder!

Perfect for chilly weather, here's an easy-to-make delicious recipe for hot chocolate, including suggestions for how to keep this simple classic fun and interesting

Course Dessert
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 person

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp cocoa powder
  • 8 oz milk (I prefer 2% but use whatever you like)
  • ¼ tsp of vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp of other flavors of your choice optional
  • Toppings of your choice optional

Equipment

  • A large microwave-safe mug
  • A fork
  • A microwave

Instructions

  1. Measure your sugar and cocoa powder into the mug. Use a fork to combine the two, eliminating any clumps of cocoa powder.
  2. Pour a very small splash of milk into the sugar/cocoa mixture. Mix together with your fork until it forms a smooth, brown paste. Make sure to incorporate all the cocoa powder so that there are no dry crumbles left around the edges.
  3. Pour a little more milk in, and mix again until the texture is consistent. Slowly pour in the remaining milk and mix one more time.
  4. Microwave for 1 minute. (You’ll want to reduce this time if you have a powerful microwave. The mixture should be warm but not hot after the first nuking session).
  5. Take the mixture out, pour in your vanilla and/or other flavors, and mix. I don’t actually measure the vanilla, I just pour a little into the cap, and carefully add a few drops to the mug.
  6. Return mug to the microwave and heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Check temperature by taking a taste, and add an additional 20-30 seconds if needed.

Recipe Notes

Tip: DO NOT USE SPECIAL DARK COCOA POWDER or other Dutch processed cocoas. This extra dark and rich ingredient is incredible in baked goods but doesn’t dissolve properly in milk, and your drink will come out grainy.

Possible flavors to try:

  • Peppermint extract- This makes ordinary cocoa instantly taste like something special from Dutch Brothers! You only need a tiny bit. ¼ tsp is plenty.
  • Candy Cane- For a similar effect as the peppermint extract that’s loads cheaper and comes with built-in holiday flare, stir your hot chocolate with a candy cane. The peppermint candy will melt and gradually infuse the drink with its flavor.
  • Almond extract- Just ½ tsp of this will make for a really lovely, rich and indulgent drink.
  • Bailey’s Irish Cream- For an adult version, add about a shot’s worth of the original or the Hazelnut flavor. It will make you feel warm and cozy all the way down to your toes.


Toppings:

  • Marshmallows- These are obviously the classic choice. I find marshmallows taste the best if you place them on top of your cocoa, and then place the mug back in the microwave for another 20-30 seconds so that the marshmallows are nice and gooey.
  • Mini Marshmallows- A playful alternative with a similar effect!
  • Whipped Cream- Freshly made or sprayed out of a can. Either is light, fluffy, and delicious.
  • Sprinkles- Perfect way to add a fun visual theme to your treat.
  • Salted Caramel- *Drools* Do I need to explain this one?
  • Cool Whip- MY PERSONAL FAVORITE! A big scoop of Cool Whip that’s been kept in the freezer will melt slowly and turn into foam. As you take your first sip, you’ll taste the cold creamy topping contrasting with the hot rich chocolate. It’s simply the best.

Mix and match your favorite combos. The possibilities are endless once you have the basic hot chocolate down! Let me know your flavor and toppings suggestions in the comments below.

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How to Make a Holiday Feast for Two (Part 1)

A few years ago, I found myself in a unique situation regarding holidays, particularly Thanksgiving. I love food, I love cooking, and I really love holiday feasts. But I was no longer spending holidays with my family, and I had been diagnosed with celiac’s disease, meaning even a small contamination of flour could be enough to make me sick. I had plenty of friends who’d happily invite me to their Thanksgiving, but I was allergic to most if not all of the food. There was no way I was going to ask my friends to re-do all their recipes in order to accommodate little old me!

I was living with my boyfriend at the time, and he too didn’t have an automatic place to go for Thanksgiving, and while he also had invites, he didn’t want to go and leave me at home alone. So I set about developing a set of recipes that would include all the most important parts of a holiday feast, create the feeling of abundance of food, be entirely gluten-free, and be possible for just two people to cook. The amount of food in these recipes is ideal for two people to stuff their faces, and have leftovers for a few days.

Recipe Series for the Holidays

The following recipes are part of a series covering all my favorite dishes for a full Thanksgiving meal, but they could also be used for plenty of other holidays. The full series involves four hubs:

If you can’t afford to go home for the holidays, if home isn’t such a great place for you to be, if you don’t like crowds, or if you have unique food needs that are hard to get around with a table of 10, I hope this recipe series is helpful to you.

Turkey and Stuffing

First comes the question of the turkey. No way was I going to make a whole turkey for just two people! But even turkey breasts are a minimum of 3 lbs and a lot of work. A good friend of mine taught me how to make turkey and stuffing casserole (and gave me his mom’s stuffing recipe as well. Score!).

You simply prepare turkey tenderloins and place them on top of casserole dishes full of stuffing to bake. The recipe below is a great way to still get the stuffing and turkey experience in much less time, with much less work. I, of course, used gluten-free stuffing mix ( I use a local brand called Elegant Elephant) but you can use any stuffing mix you want.

Turkey and Stuffing Casserole

In this recipe series, I teach you how to make a delicious holiday feast for just two people, starting with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy.
Course Main Course
Cuisine holiday
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 standard package pre-seasoned stuffing
  • 1/2 C-1 C veggie broth
  • 4+2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped
  • C walnuts chopped
  • 4-5 crimini mushrooms chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 lbs of turkey tenderloin

Equipment

  • A basting brush
  • 1- 9X13 baking dish or 2 casserole dishes.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Melt the 4tbsp of butter in a large frying pan. Sautee the onions in the butter until clear, then add the celery. Cook until the celery is slightly tender.
  3. In large bowl place ½ C veggie broth and 1 egg. Add the stuffing and mix until moist. You’ll probably need to use your hands.
  4. Add the walnuts, mushrooms, onions, celery, and juices from the pan. Mix together, then add any additional broth needed to make the stuffing relatively wet.
  5. With a paper towel, gently pat the turkey tenderloins dry. Sprinkle both sides with pepper and salt.
  6. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter in a small container, and coat both sides of the turkey generously with it using a basting brush.
  7. Grease the baking dishes, then place stuffing evenly over the bottom and the turkey tenderloins over the top.
  8. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes at 425 degrees, or until turkey is lightly golden on top

Easy Delicious Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Mashed potatoes are a must-have for holidays. They can be a little work intensive but they are worth it. Mashed potatoes can be so delicious, but they can also easily be mediocre. I have a few tips and tricks to keep them extra tasty.

Because our turkey recipe uses just the tenderloins and cooks them over the stuffing, the result is there is no gravy in the pan after baking. To get around this issue, I used pre-made gravy mixes which also saves time and energy. There’s no shame in using a mix, and this gravy works just as well on turkey and stuffing too.

Easy Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 C heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 packets gravy mix

Equipment

  • A potato masher

Instructions

  1. Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks. The more consistent the sizing of the pieces of potato, the more evenly they will cook, and the more consistent the texture of your final dish will be.
  2. Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Always put the potatoes in before boiling the water, to ensure even cooking.
  3. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes until a fork slides into the potatoes easily.
  4. Drain the water from the potatoes and then leave them alone so the steam can rise from them for 5-10 minutes. This keeps your potatoes from getting watery.
  5. Warm your cream and butter together until the butter is melted. Once the steam coming from the potatoes has slowed down, add your cream and butter and mash it all together.
  6. Once fairly well mashed, add the milk, salt, and pepper to taste. Make sure not to over mash or the potatoes will turn an unpleasant texture. Take a taste and adjust the amount of milk, salt, or pepper to your liking.
  7. Follow the packet instructions for the gravy, which usually involves whisking the mix into 1 cup of water, bringing the mixture to a boil, and then simmering for several minutes.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

More to Learn, More to Cook

Now, hop on over to Part 2 where you’ll learn how to make Green beans, Roasted Yams, and Cranberry Sauce, and still yet to come, “How to Cook a Feast with Just Two People” which will include additional instruction on how to plan and execute a full holiday feast with just two people cooking, in only two hours!

If you want some suggestions for gluten-free desserts, check out my recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookies and Blackberry Pie:

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