My mom, sister, and I have all been using this banana muffin recipe for years because it makes the absolute best banana muffins. I was determined not to give up on one of my favorite recipes just because it contained flour and after two tries came up with a gluten-free version that tastes just as delicious as the original (promise). This time, I made the original recipe for a friend who had just given birth and then a gluten-free batch for me. It was cool to cook them side by side; their appearance and texture was identical!

For variety, I made some with pecans, others with chocolate chips, and even saved a few to top with homemade cream cheese icing and serve as cupcakes for a friend who was turning eighteen! Needless to say, the double batch of muffins disappeared within three days. My family ate both the regular muffins and the gluten-free ones and wasn’t able to tell the difference. I call that success!

I hope that your family enjoys these as much as mine!

Best Banana Muffins (Original Recipe)

Mix together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder

In a separate bowl mash and mix:
5 large ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Then add the following ingredients to the wet ingredients above:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup of chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Gently mix the flour and baking powder mixture into the wet ingredients being sure not to over mix. Bake at 375 degrees until tops are light brown (about 20 minutes).

Best Gluten-Free Banana Muffins

3/4 cup almond flour (keeps them moist and delicious)
3/4 cup quinoa flour (packs in the protein!)
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (helps hold the muffins together)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

In a separate bowl mash and mix:
5 large ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Then add the following ingredients to the wet ingredients above:
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup of chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Gently mix the flour and baking powder mixture into the wet ingredients being sure not to over mix. Bake at 375 degrees until tops are light brown (about 20 minutes).

Gluten-free muffins next to the regular muffins. Bet you can’t tell the difference!

A super moist Gluten-Free Banana Muffin loaded with pecans and chocolate chips.


Here are a few tips I gleaned while in culinary school and use whenever I make soup (which is almost once a week in the cold-weather months):

1. Chop your ingredients into small, equally sized pieces so that with every bite you taste the complexity that each element adds to this soup.

2. Peel your veggies before chopping them, otherwise, the peeling will add an unwanted bitterness to your soup (I left the peeling on the potatoes and turnips this time for color).

3. Always sweat your vegetables before adding liquid to your soup. To sweat vegetables, slowly cook them on medium heat in a little olive oil (or bacon fat) to allow the moisture to ‘sweat’ out of the veggies and intensify their flavor. Cook them this way until they are tender but not mushy.

4. Add the vegetables to the pot from hardest to softest (those that are hardest will take longest to cook).

5. Consider the flavors you want to highlight and use more of those ingredients. For example, mild leeks will be the most prominent vegetable in many soups while celery will play a lesser role as it can quickly overpower a dish.

6. Try using leeks instead of onions when making soup. They’re nice and mild and are a delicious addition to most soups.

7. Season as you go. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper after you’ve sweat them and then again once your soup is nearly finished.

8. Don’t be afraid to use salt. If your soup seems to be missing something first make sure that you have added enough salt. Once you have enough salt then you can begin to adjust your other spices. Most of the time all you’ll need is a little extra salt to highlight and draw out the flavors you’ve developed.

Vegetable Soup

Last year, Chef Patrice taught us how to make something he called “Potage Cultivateur” which is just a fancy way to say incredibly good vegetable soup. I recreated this soup in a huge stockpot to serve guests tomorrow and made enough to also freeze for when Liliana arrives in March.


2 slices of Bacon (chopped)
4 tablespoons of Olive Oil
3 medium sized Leeks (chopped and soaked in cold water to remove sand)
4 Carrots (peeled and chopped)
3 medium Turnips (chopped)
4 medium sized Red Potatoes (chopped)
2 stalks of Celery (peeled & chopped)
1/3 head of Cabbage (chopped)
Salt and Pepper to taste
28 ounce can of chopped Tomatoes
5 cloves of Garlic (chopped)
2 Bay Leaves
2 boxes (approximately 64 ounces) of vegetable or chicken stock

Put a few tablespoons of olive oil and chopped bacon in your pot. Cook the bacon on medium-low heat to render the bacon fat. Rendering means that instead of browning the bacon it cooks slowly to allow as much of the fat to seep out of the bacon and into your pot as possible.

Next, cut the white part of the leek along the length of it, remove the woody piece in the middle of the stalk, chop it into small pieces, and rinse the pieces. To best rinse your chopped leek, place your pieces of leek into a bowl of cold water. After a few minutes remove pieces with your hands and you’ll find that sand has sunk to the bottom of the bowl leaving you with clean leeks floating at the top.

Add the turnips, carrots (for sweetness), and potatoes and then add your softer vegetables and garlic. Add some kosher salt and pepper. Make sure that there’s enough oil in the bottom of the pot so that the veggies won’t stick. After a few minutes of sweating your vegetables, add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and stock (homemade, boxed, or made from soft bullion cubes). The ratio of stock to veggies should be fifty-fifty. In other words, the stock should just barely cover the top of the vegetables. Cook your soup on a low heat, covered for about 30 minutes. Taste one last time to make sure that you’ve added enough salt. The soup will be ready when the vegetables are tender.

Makes enough soup for about 12 people.

The girls placing the chopped leeks into a bowl of cold water.

Sweating the Vegetables.

Vegetable Soup!

As I continue my quest to find gluten-free substitutes that are comparable to the ‘real thing’ I find some winners and some definite losers (say, for the example, the free-of-every-yummy-ingredient chocolate mouse I made earlier this week that ended up getting dumped down the drain). This morning I made gluten-free Pecan Rolls using a dry mix from Chebe that I found online. Apparently, in Brazil they make their cinnamon (or pecan) rolls with tapioca flour, instead of wheat flour like we do here in the U.S, so these rolls are a natural substitute for those of us unable to eat wheat.

I’m sure that I could make these pecan rolls easily from scratch but the mix is so simple I’m not really tempted to make it harder than it needs to be. Since there’s no yeast or eggs (things that make dough rise) the dough is dense and chewy like a bagel.  When rolled thinly and filled with gooey ingredients it come out of the oven light and chewy. There’s no rising time involved so once you’ve mixed and rolled out the bread it only takes 16 minutes to bake.

I followed the instructions on the box when making the dough but customized the rest. I recommend rolling the dough thin (using cornstarch to prevent it from sticking to your counter top) and sprinkling the following mixture over the top:

1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1/4 cup raisins

Roll the dough tightly, cut it every 1 1/2 inches and place into greased muffin tins (for adult size rolls).  I also made kid-sized pecan rolls using mini-muffin tins so that the kids felt like they have something just their size. To do this I cut the smaller ends of the roll every 3/4 inch and placed the rolls into mini-muffin tins.

Bake according to the instructions on the box.

For the icing whip together:
6 oz. cream cheese
1 cup powder sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk

Spread over the cinnamon rolls when they come out of the oven and serve immediately.

Brazilian Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing.

Ok, so I’ve hesitated to post this recipe because it’s so stinking easy to make I’m almost embarrassed to call it a recipe. After eating this several times at my mom’s house, who’s the queen of yummy go-to meals, I made it for my family. Bella, who was recovering from a stomach bug, seemed magically cured when she tasted it and even asked for thirds!

So here’s what you’ll need:
1 bag of shredded hash browns (I use Simply Potatoes. They’re gluten-free and can be found in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.)
1/2-3/4 of a log of breakfast sausage (I use Jimmy Dean)
1-2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the hash browns according to the package (I find it easiest to brown them in a little oil in a non-stick pan). In a separate pan, brown and drain your sausage. Once both are fully cooked mix the sausage into the pan of hash browns and top with cheese. Cover the pan for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt and voila, you’re done!

Mom usually serves this with an apple salad (recipe to come) which is a light and sweet compliment to this heavier dish.

Twice baked potatoes are always a big hit in our house. They take a little time to prepare so I usually make enough to last for two meals and often recruit a friend (or child =) to help me assemble them. This time Bella, Sophia, and our friend Emily all got in on the action.

These potatoes can be assembled in advance and refrigerated for several days. I like to make them in the afternoon and serve them as the main dish with a side salad the first night and then a few nights later serve them as a side dish accompanying grilled meat.

I use non-fat Greek yogurt when making twice baked potatoes because it adds a sour cream like creaminess without the fat and adds some extra protein. I load the potatoes high with as many vegetables as possible and top them with a little crumbled bacon for extra flavor. These potatoes are surprisingly filling and so good that my kids don’t seem mind the vegetables.

Be sure to make your mashed potato filling while the potatoes are still warm. I’ve tried to bake the potatoes in advance and found I was unable to get the desired creaminess from the potatoes once they had cooled.

Here’s how I make twice baked potatoes:

6 large russet (baking) potatoes (coated with olive oil and salt)
1/4-1/2 cup warmed milk (start with about a 1/4 of a cup and add more to achieve your desired consistency)
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

Top with:
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 chopped green pepper
3 chopped spring (green) onions
3/4 cup diced (or halved cherry) tomatoes
8 pieces of cooked, crumbled bacon

Poke a few holes in each potato (with a fork or tip of a knife) then lightly coat them in olive oil and kosher or sea salt. Bake at 350 until tender (about 1.5 hours). Remove from oven.

Once the potatoes have cooled enough to be handled, slice them in half long ways and scoop out the middle. Make sure to leave a few centimeters of potato attached to the sides of the potato skins to help keep their form.

Place the inside of the potatoes into a mixing bowl along with milk, butter, greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Mix these ingredients making sure that you don’t over mix them otherwise your potatoes will become overly starchy and sticky. Add more milk if necessary. The consistency should be slightly firmer than mashed potatoes.

Gently fill the potato skins with the mashed potato mixture. Top each potato with cheese, vegetables, and bacon. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or refrigerate until ready to bake.


Mixing the butter, milk, Greek yogurt, and potatoes.


Emily hard at work ‘stuffing’ the potatoes.


Bella joins in to help top the potatoes with cheese and vegetables.


Dinner Is Served: Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes with a fresh salad.

When my siblings and their families gather at our parent’s home we take turns preparing meals. This casserole is a hit with everyone (including my incredibly picky 17 month old nephew) not only because it’s incredibly delicious but it’s an easy one-dish meal that can be prepared in advance. I’ll usually assemble this the night before and ask that whoever wakes up first with the noisiest kid pop it in the oven for me.
Make a quick fruit salad (our kids love diced oranges mixed with shredded coconut) and you have an awesome breakfast! This recipe serves about 6-8 people so I usually double it for our crowd and cook it in a 9×13 baking dish.
1 lb bulk sausage (Jimmy Dean or other comparable breakfast sausage)
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup gluten free baking mix (I use Pamela’s. Whatever you use should have a leavening agent.)
1/2 cup corn meal
1 cup hot cooked grits
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 eggs
1 ¾ cup milk (heated)
3 spring onions (chopped)
1/2 cup of tomatoes (chopped)
Brown the sausage in a skillet stirring till crumbly; drain well. Sprinkle the sausage into a greased 2 quart baking dish and top with 1 cup shredded cheese. Combine baking mix, corn meal, grits, butter, eggs, and milk into a bowl and mix well. Pour mixture into the prepared dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake at 325 for 45 minutes (or up to an hour if it’s been refrigerated). Remove from oven and sprinkle with spring onions and diced tomatoes.
You may prepare the dish in advance and store in the fridge or freezer until needed. Allow a frozen casserole to thaw before baking.

I grew up eating sweet potato biscuits so when I looked into my frig and noticed two baked sweet potatoes left over from a few nights ago I immediately wanted to make the biscuits for myself… I mean my family.

Last year I discovered that I have a wheat allergy so I’ve begun experimenting to figure out how to convert my favorite recipes to be gluten-free. I know I’ve found a successful recipe when my husband comments on how good the dish is and that he doesn’t even miss the flour. The girls thought the biscuits were so delicious that they called them cookies. I hope that your family enjoys these as much as mine!

2 cups gluten free baking mix (I use Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix which already has leavening agents)
1 cup almond flour (great for baking. I got mine at Trader Joes)
4 tablespoons of packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 mashed (baked) sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (i.e. 1 stick) softened butter
2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and in a second, smaller bowl, mash the sweet potato and butter together (a pastry blender works well for this). Mix the flour and wet ingredients together and slowly add a little milk until the mixture is moist but not sticky.

Place a little flour down on your counter and press the dough out until it’s about 3/4 of an inch thick (I made my biscuts too thin this time). Cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter (or do it the way my mom taught me- with the top of your non-stick spray).

I baked enough for our family of four to eat that night and froze the rest (in preparation for when baby #3 arrives). To cook immediately, place on a greased cookie tray and bake for about 15 minutes.

To freeze, simply place uncooked biscuits on a greased tray and freeze until hard (for about an hour). Remove from freezer and place in a zip-lock. When ready to cook the biscuits just put them in the oven frozen and cook for an extra 5-10 minutes.


Sophia mixing the wet and dry ingredients.

Sophia pressing out the dough.