Some days, I want to cook. Some days, I don’t. Some days I go to Whole Foods and buy a pile of fruit with no plan. And then I get sick of smoothies. And parfaits. So I go hunting on the interwebs for ways to use up said pile of fruit. Ways that will work for just one person. Or that don’t make me hate what I made because of the sheer amount of excess food.
It’s been a hot minute since I really took time to create a new recipe. I’ve avoided baking aside from very special requests for quite some time. It’s been partially the pain from CRPS holding me back. Dance classes have been keeping me busy. I have a job that never seems to quit.
I’ve been writing. Essays about former friends. Wellness advice that I should be following whole heartedly (rather than the half-heartedly way I follow it at the moment). I’ve been making videos about gluten-free makeup so I can learn how YouTube works. Someone told me video is the future…three years ago. Those will be making some appearances here…when I figure out exactly what “even curiouser” means when it comes to videos.
But something hit me last weekend and I wanted to bake. No. I needed to bake. I needed to mix up something sweet and I needed it to be something I hadn’t made before. It needed to be simple enough because the urge hit me at 9pm on a Sunday night. The recipe couldn’t be sized to feed an army because I live in a household of one. It had to be something I would want to eat. Something that keeps well.
I settled on a small batch of gluten-free chocolate muffins. One bowl. I wanted to bake them in my counter top convection oven. (You know, I haven’t turned on my actual oven in nearly year…). I poked around in my freezer looking for chocolate chips and came up with a bag of raspberries instead. I decided to go for it.
This recipe is what resulted. Rich. Slightly tart. Almost too decadent to be a muffin…just the way I like it. They aren’t the prettiest (I should have smoothed out the tops a little), but this isn’t a beauty pageant. This is serious food. It’s breakfast. The kind of breakfast that makes sure that I am deserving of my mom’s nickname for me when I was young – Mary Muffin. Actually, if I was a muffin, I might just be these. Or these might be me. I’m not too sure how that would go…
Ok, enough rambling. Let’s make muffins.
An epiphany came to me when I was mad that I couldn’t get my favorite meal delivery. I wanted to order chicken that could be reheated easily and that would arrive in less than 20 minutes. In the 10 minutes I took to decide which sides I wanted, all the meals sold out for the night. I was annoyed and hungry. It led me to a giant pot of my mom’s famous tomato rice soup.
My kitchen and I went through a trial separation. Ultimately, it got so bad that I didn’t do any cooking other than microwaving or boiling pasta for two months. I cleaned out my fridge last week and found some terribly old leftovers. Like, I found leftover jellied cranberries from Thanksgiving old.
Cooking was the proverbial last straw. I went to adult ballet camp for 6 days and only took 2 days off of work. I’ve only worked one week at my recommended hours in the last 4 months. Every time I have tried to take a day off, something has come up. Even days I was in the hospital for surgery. (I might have some issues with saying no and setting boundaries…). But that stress just built. And work became consuming.
I had to reassess
I was killing it at work and knocking out great work for awesome clients. You might even come across this work on Facebook and Instagram. I worked my body into the ground. My health is already not the best and I did everything I wasn’t supposed to. I worked non-stop, skipped dance classes, and I even stopped seeing friends. It got to the point that I stopped cooking and even stopped making easy smoothies. As my health got worse, the spiral deepened.
A couple weeks ago, I decided that I had to stop. I had to start making real food again. It was the fateful night that the gourmet, chef made, reheat at home meal delivery service failed me for the second day in a row. I was hungry and exhausted with nary a fresh fruit or vegetable in the house. The fridge was full of half used condiments, bottles of juice and containers of questionable contents.
Famous Tomato Rice Soup
After a large Instacart order of staples and produce and a fridge deep clean, I felt like I could make friends with my kitchen again. I started with one of my favorites, chicken & chorizo paella. I made bacon cookies to bribe a friend to watch a ballet movie with me. And I had a craving for soup. A soup that was part of the regular rotation growing up. Once, a dear friend requested that I ship it to India. My mom’s famous tomato rice soup is incredibly easy to make and requires mostly things you already have on hand.
It starts with a bottle of tomato juice and only requires rice (short grain is best), garlic powder, tomato paste, paprika and a parmesan rind or two. You can eat the soup as soon as the rice is cooked and tastes much better than something made that quickly should.
The parmesan rind is the secret to the salty depth. The soup will still be pretty tasty without this, but it will lack dimension. If you shred your own parm, you should save your rinds for soup. If you don’t use enough of the cheese to have rinds on hand, they’re incredibly cheap at the cheese counter at your local Whole Foods. 3 rinds cost me about $1.
Tomato paste intensives the tomato flavor. Tomato juice is bright and light, so including some tomato paste adds layers of depth and a bit of umami to the soup. Adding it at the beginning allows the rice to really absorb the tomato flavor.
Butter adds a richness. The recipe calls for butter rather than olive oil because of the richness and creamy mouthfeel that butter can add to the soup. Also, it starts to brown and creates a nutty undertone to the soup. You can always use olive oil if you need to make a dairy free version of the tomato rice soup.
I’ve been holding onto this recipe for months. I perfected it right before I decided to stop writing FrannyCakes and evaluate whether or not I wanted to keep putting myself out there. Read more
Ah. Back to baking and it feels so good.
When I decided to discontinue frannycakes, I was disappointed that I hadn’t shared this recipe, especially because it is one of my most requested (and personal favorite) treats. Read more
Roast chicken might be one of my favorite meals. It is simple. I mean, really, really simple. It is delicious and tastes like home. It is also one of those meals that I hadn’t bothered to tackle for quite a while. Why would a single lady need to roast a whole chicken? It’s not like I am feeding a family or trying to get some handsome fella to propose (seriously, it is a thing people do).
And then I realized that a chicken can be made into meals for the whole week. A nice roast dinner on Sunday. Grain bowls for lunch. Chicken salad sandwiches. Tacos. Enchiladas. BBQ chicken. Any number of soups or chili varieties. As a topping for a green salad. Roasting chicken is a great shortcut for meal prep and quite the economical choice. (Ugh, such an adult thing to do – when did that happen?)
I’ve now made this chicken at least a dozen times, and is in regular rotation both for dinners with friends and for prepping meals for the week.
- 1 approximately 3 1/2 pound chicken (preferably organic)
- 2 medium onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 sticks of celery
- 1 bulb garlic
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme, rosemary, bay or sage, or a mixture of those herbs
- About half an hour before you are going to make your chicken, take it out of the fridge. Your chicken won’t cook right straight from the fridge. Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9. The best part of this recipe is that you don’t have to peel any of the vegetables. Just wash and roughly chop them.
- Pile all the vegetables and garlic into the middle of an 11×13″ pyrex or other roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper – making sure you rub it all over. Prick the lemon all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs.
- Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the pan and put it into the preheated oven. Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you want to roast some potatoes or vegetables, put them in the oven for about the last 45 minutes or so.
- Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the vegetables are looking dry, add a splash of water to the tray to keep them from burning. When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest for 15-20 minutes. Cover it with a layer of foil and a tea towel while it rests. If you are making gravy, make it now.
I posted a picture of my food magazines on Instagram a little while back. It was a tower of the food magazines that I find myself going back to – sometimes just for the pictures, sometimes for the recipes and sometimes for the stories. If you look closely at that stack, the famous food glossies are noticeably absent. It’s full of magazines that are as lush and beautiful as cookbooks. It was mostly Jamie Oliver magazines, a few copies of Lucky Peach, a few issues of Cherry Bombe and my latest favorite, GFF magazine.
It’s a magazine that combines my love of food and cooking with my need to be gluten-free and my design snobbery. Everything from the choice of the paper to the style of the photography bring gluten-free eats to a level that is normally off-limits to us custom eaters.
The summer issue grabs you with perfectly fried chicken on the cover and holds you captive all the way to the no-bake marscapone cheesecake on the last page. In between there are articles and recipes for everything from elevated cook-out meals to fancy schmancy cocktails to quick things you can make from items you probably have in your pantry (my weeknight M.O. 🙂 ).
The magazine takes you on a culinary tour of gluten-free Denver (that has me planning my next vacation). Profiles of mixologists and chefs have me plotting how to make them my new BFFs. (Or maybe I can add them to my GFF crew?
If you haven’t subscribed yet, there are print and digital subscriptions available (plus back issues are available on their site so you can get your hands on a copy of the summer issue). Use the code GFFCAKES at checkout for a 20% discount!
I was provided a copy of the magazine to review, but I was a supporter early on in the Kickstarter. All opinions are my own – if I didn’t love the magazine, I wouldn’t write about it.
Every year, my friend Andi asks for a PB&J themed birthday treat…and one year, I’m terrified that I am going to run out of ideas and have to repeat. Or I’m going to end up making her a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. I threatened her with that option this year and she laughed and told me I’d figure it out…or I could always bring back a winner from the past. (So far we’ve done gluten-free peanut butter & jelly cupcakes and gluten-free peanut butter & jelly whoopie pies.) And you know repeating isn’t an option. I’ve got to keep trying new things.
I got lucky this year. A surprise gift from Mammacakes of Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food gave me a recipe to solve this year’s birthday treat dilemma. Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies.
Now, I’ve made peanut butter swirl brownies and I’ve made brownies filled with a jelly center. Why I didn’t consider combining the two before Jamie Oliver told me it was not only possible but a good idea, I don’t know. I mean, peanut butter, jelly and chocolate. All amazingly delicious things.
I mean, look at these babies. Ooey gooey. Rich, dark chocolate decadence. Blobs of jelly popping up.
Oh yes, we have a winner.
- For the custard
- 1 cup milk*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 heaping tablespoon tapioca starch
- 2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
- For the brownies
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces (225 grams) high quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend**
- 1/8-1/4 cup jelly (you don’t have to be super precise about this – you just dot small bits around the top)
- optional handful of fresh strawberries or raspberries (to match your jelly flavor)
- In a sauce pan over low heat, combine the milk and the vanilla bean paste. Meanwhile, whisk together your egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar with the softened butter and tapioca starch. Once the milk is hot, add it to the egg mixture slowly while continuing to whisk. Pour the whole thing back into the sauce pan and return to the stove. Cook this over low-medium heat for 3-4 minutes – until the custard starts to thicken. Stir in the peanut butter and remove from the heat.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line with parchment and grease an 8×12″ baking dish. Over medium heat, melt the chocolate and butter together. Make sure you keep stirring slowly and gently until everything is melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Next, add the eggs one at a time making sure you fully incorporate one egg before you add the next. Sift in your flour in 2 parts, slowly stirring until it is all combined. You never want to stir to fast or hard because brownies are supposed to be dense and fudgy – over stirring will change the texture.
- Pour the brownie batter into your prepared pan. pour the custard over the batter in blobs and swirl the two together. Next, drop small spoonfuls of your jam all around the top. (You can slightly warm your jelly first to make it possible to swirl it if you like.)
- These are best made the night before – they fall apart a little when they are too warm.