Category Archives: Dessert! There must be dessert!

Avoiding Pumpkin Pie mistakes: To avoid cooking up a foamy disaster, mix in the right order.

Ask me how I know.  It’s not the food science education, but it should have been.

Last Thanksgiving I made two pies.  The first one was the Official Pie for Thanksgiving dinner, and it was a damned good thing that I took my time and followed the directions (for once).  It was a thing of beauty, and tasted like one too (thanks, back of the can and crushed Mi-Del gluten free ginger snaps mixed with butter and ripped apart in the Cuisinart).  Not very tall, because I used a glass pie plate, but still awesome.

This post is not about that awesome pie, but about the second pie.  Ever have a pie come out like this?

Well.  I was in a mighty big hurry the second time I made pie, which was in the middle of the holiday rush.  I bake cookies a lot, and I’m used adding eggs and sugar first.  Whipping those together creates bubbles — helpful in rising cookies and cakes using steam, but absolutely NOT what you want when making a pumpkin custard, which is at the heart of pumpkin pie.  The bubbles probably held together because of the egg whites, and as they rose they made that hideous foam that, though still kind of edible, destroyed the texture and look of the pie.

Beating the eggs allows the yolks to properly work as binders between water and fat, and it also prevents some of the bubbles from forming when you add in the pumpkin along with the sugar.  Lesson learned.

I dislike following directions, but there’s a reason why Libby’s has had a well-used pumpkin pie recipe for so long.  It works. So read the can each time, and with any recipe you use, don’t add the eggs first.   Also, low heat and patience, my friends.



Groundwork Coffee, North Hollywood Station

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


11275 Chandler Blvd.,

North Hollywood, CA 91601

Hours: Mon – Sun: 6:00 am – 8:00 pm

Kitchen Hours: Mon – Sun: 6:00 am – 5:00 pm

Contact: (818) 423-2626 |

Oh, and if you buy a bag of coffee or a box of whole leaf tea, you get a free drink with that.  The atmosphere is hipster-rich and completely friendly; includes gluten-free options like chocolate chip cookies and some iffy looking gluten-free granola bars.  Plugs for devices abound, and people sit with complete strangers often when the seat across from some lady or chap happens to be open.

Parking on the weekend is best about a block away near the park (across from the fire station) — free on Sundays.  Don’t park in the Metro lot unless you have a Tap card and feel like spending $3.  If you take the Orange line, it’s RIGHT THERE before you have to run down the stairs to catch your train to Hollywood or downtown.  Let everyone else run and take a minute to catch some liquid joy.

Gluten free IKEA

Gluten free cake with tea? Yes please. Really good creamy with chocolate gluten free cake? Thanks very much indeed. I’m sure they have food too, like I think the vegetarian meatballs are gluten free… But I was a bit preoccupied.


Gluten Free Bakery in Los Angeles

Well, it wouldn’t have been a week off without some deliciousness.  So while we were out…


Karma Baker is out in Westlake Village, but I think they are also carried at markets like Erehwon. Gluten free AND Vegan, they are a favorite of some of the Kardashians. So if you want to see one of their assistants (or them, who knows), drop on by and try this excellent peanut butter and chocolate brownie. This is just half. Because we like to share. Silly, that’s not why. It’s just so we could have half of something else!


What? Karma Baker makes DONUTS?! Yep. That one in the back is a Unicorn donut. They’re vanilla underneath, but you can also get chocolate. My favorite, and only if fresh, is the cinnamon sugar. My boss brought me these, because she is extraordinary and thoughtful. We returned for more. Because we are little piggies.


Flower Child in Santa Monica has BOSS brownies (not vegan, but gluten free), and really excellent chocolate chip cookies. They’re about $3 each, and huge, which is a pretty good deal. They also have $5 coconut chocolate pudding with optional coconut and almonds. You might think it’s too expensive to try but don’t be a cheapskate, because it’s excellent. Then take a trip upstairs to sit, or get up there and see the awesome bathroom whether you need to go or not. You need to go. They have other stuff here, but, uh, we didn’t look. If you go on Wed. or Sat. there is a swell farmer’s market and you can eat something on the shore like we did. Or just come here. It’s always good to have choices…


20170612_151310~2 Winner of the Gluten Free doughnut category: FONUTS on 3rd and Crescent Heights near the Farmer’s Market (You can walk.  Really.). They’re DEEELICIOUS.  Try the lemon.  We are massive chocolate lovers, and we recommend the lemon.  It’s THAT good.


Fonuts are delicious but here’s some guidance from them: All Gluten Free and Vegan Fonuts contain Almond flour and are made on premises which contain nuts, dairy, flour and other products containing gluten. We are not Gluten Free Certified, however we take the utmost care in preventing cross contamination.



Littlejohn’s is in the Farmer’s Market, and has been there since…forever, roughly.  Know why?  Fresh fudge, that’s why.  That 1/2 lb. hunk of Rocky Road is for my mother, who informed me upon hearing that I secured some for her: “Ooh, that felt like a big hug.”  Right.  Now you know where I get it from.  Because the other slab of peanut butter and chocolate is for us.  Duh!  Not dairy free, but gluten free, thank heavens.


The last breakfast hurrah (eggs on toast with cheddar, white potatoes, easy homemade stuff to avoid Sunday Funday lines at..anywhere in L.A.) before the inevitable week-long sugar restriction to recover from this week.  But remember, I did this for you!

What to eat at Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee Company

The official drink of The Voice, and my husband. They should have a platinum card for guys like him.

There’s a lot out there about what NOT to eat, but how about a post about what constitutes a good choice?

Starbucks has a lot of food and drink with under 400 calories, which is a good caloric neighborhood, beverage included, when you’re making a stop to fuel up.  If you’re watching your calories, it’s a good idea to choose a beverage very, very low in calories (iced tea with one packet of sugar or one pump of sugar, coffee with one sugar and a very small hit of cream) if you’re having a snack.  I would keep the snack at or below 200 calories; you need to save room for other healthful foods throughout the day.

I will assume you are looking for a drink and a nibble…

  • First, remember that whipped cream adds 45-100 calories depending on the size of the drink.  If you want whipped cream, the obvious choice is the smaller-sized drink (the short with whip is 45, give it up: a grande has 60 calories for the whip and is more realistic).
  • Each pump of syrup adds a teaspoon of sugar, which is about 20 calories.  Caramel drizzle adds 15 calories, and chocolate adds just 5.
  • Protein/fiber powder adds 30 calories and is entirely unnecessary (only adds one gram of fiber?!  Let’s have bakery instead!).

Beverages (200 calories or less):

  • Iced brewed coffee or tea.  Get it without the added syrup, or just one pump, and add milk or soy milk.  If you add the milk, and choose nonfat and Tall, it’s 80 calories.  If you’re feeling spartan, a plain iced tea or coffee contains 0 calories.
  • Continue reading

Small change #11 Split dessert the selfish way

When we dine out and the server delivers dessert in the form of 1/4 of a pie, we have a tendency to abdicate responsibility for our ability to finish whatever is put in front of us (“I didn’t put that on the plate, I’m just the lucky recipient!”).   In fact, this is part of the reason many people enjoy dining in restaurants.

It’s probably a good idea to split dessert.  The caveat: Never share a plate. That thing where they deliver the enormous slab of cake and 4 forks inevitably leads to an eating contest to get the delicate sliver at the tip, then the icing off the back…you get the picture.

Ask for your own plate, or to have the thing pre-split.  Tell the server you aren’t good at sharing.  They always seem to believe me when I say it..

If your partner eats like a raptor and goes after yours, you can always stab at him/her a little with your fork, though I don’t recommend this on a first date (unless there won’t be a second date or they seem litigious about being assaulted with a fork).

What?  You are eating with someone on some diet who doesn’t want dessert or is just not really human and doesn’t have a sweet tooth?  Don’t forgo dessert because of them.  Order dessert and ask to have it split, with the other half placed in a to-go container.  Tomorrow there will be more dessert for you! If, while you enjoy your guilt-free serving, you notice sad-doggy looks, they won’t belong to your happy face.

Always leave a good tip for a server who goes the extra mile.  They’ll be thrilled to help you get that torte into a to go container next time.

New Diet for 2013? Start with common sense.

December through January is the time for diet books, diet articles, and all form of marketing New Year’s resolutions vying for your attention.  With all the sweets around the office since the introduction of leftover Halloween candy, the potlucks and special meals with family and friends, the parties and the timeless winter pairing of hot chocolate and well, chocolate, they’re probably barking up the right tree.  No new diet books in March?  That’s because most of you will have given up on the gym membership (but are too lazy or forget to cancel the membership billing your credit card every month) and the stupid fad diet you were so excited about when the year began.  This is not pessimism; it’s statistical truth, and one I’d like you to avoid.

I’ve got nothing to sell you, but I’d like you to consider the following dietary advice:


  • Get rid of junk food/trigger foods in your house.  If you’re eating enough Cheetos to single-handedly support the company, it’s time for them to go (and by this, I mean any food you cannot stop eating once you start).  What about your family?  Both you and they can seek the food elsewhere (single-serving bag when out, yes, but in the house, NO.  See?).  
  • Understand that you are not a human garbage can.  It was a proud moment for me when I discovered that I could toss the extra shortbread cookies I didn’t want to be eating and wanted out of my house.  Or compost.  You don’t have to eat things because they’ve turned up, gotten left over, etc.  Toss them. Continue reading

Big Gulp: American symbol of freedom?

“Hey, down here. Yeah, it’s your butt calling. Drink less of that crap, will you?”

New York City, which has over the last few years become the center of public health policy (they were the first to ban added trans fat and to start labeling menus with calorie and fat content), is proposing a ban on giant sodas.

Public health officials emphasize that consuming large quantities of sugary beverages contributes significantly to obesity, and that large cups contribute to higher consumption.  This is correct.  The beverage industry is carrying on like it’s the end of freedom and capitalism as we know it, as the purveyors of foods with added trans fat and higher calories carried on before them as they faced public health legislation.

Regulating public health can impact the ability to turn a profit, but only if businesses refuse to change their business model.

The Double Fudge donut has 130 calories and 7 grams of fat — about the same as a cookie. Woo-hoo!

Starbucks, for example, faced new menu regulations last year requiring them to disclose the calorie and fat content of each bakery product in their prominently displayed cases.  The bakery case entices while the beverage-seeker awaits, but a blueberry scone becomes a harder sale with a tag warning the consumer that it’s a 460 calorie indulgence.

Their solution?  The words mini and petite.  Little doughnut, fewer calories.  Little scone, fewer calories.  They also introduced oatmeal with optional toppings, and released a pamphlet highlighting the food offerings under 350 calories.

It seems to be going all right: in June, Starbucks acquired LaBoulange Bakery to continue to increase its bakery offerings while keeping a bigger piece of the pie, so to speak.

Sugary drink aficionados, just know that when you fill up the cup, you are likely to drink what is inside rather than water, whether the cup is 8 oz. or 64 oz.  Cutting back here is an excellent way to lose weight, it’s true.  Cutting back on your insulin spikes is an excellent way to prevent diabetes and heart disease as well.

But if you’re worried about losing your freedom, you can rest easy knowing that 7-Eleven will still be allowed to sell its 1.3 L Big Gulp (Double Gulp?) because grocery and convenience stores are exempt from the ban.  You can also buy two sodas at the restaurant if you insist, but judging by the amount of money soda makers are using to fight this, you probably won’t.

If the ban passes, you should look for some changes.  Beverage makers will come up with healthier solutions, perhaps sold in bottles on the side.  The American capitalist spirit never dies, it merely reinvents itself to better suit the needs of its consumers.


Oh, Oh, I know! Pick me! Pick me!!

Does this look like a cup of blueberries or a tomato?

Here’s the deal with cookies and other processed foods that contain added vitamins and minerals:

  • They might be all right, but usually they don’t taste as good as their fattier, more deliciously made, unfortified cousins.
  • You might be all right with that idea, but I kind of doubt it, so…
  •  Out of a sense of deprivation and an added sense that this is some kind of health food, you will overdo.  If two cookies are 130 calories with 5 grams of fat, for about the same calories and fat you can have ONE regular cookie that tastes like possibly the best thing on Earth, and then go ahead and

Blueberries, tomatoes, and most of the naturally high sources of vitamins and minerals contain fiber as well, but as important, they contain important phytochemicals (phyto: plant) that work together in ways we don’t yet fully understand to promote health.

It’s not the WhoNu (can we NOT SPELL?!) cookies that bother me as much as what you won’t be eating when you consume too many of them.  The FAQ on WhoNu’s web site suggests they might know a bit about this, as there is a caution about getting used to eating more fiber.  Two cookies contain 3 grams of fiber, and you need 25 (women)-38 (men) grams of fiber a day.  Three grams, or one serving, isn’t going to send you running to the bathroom but a heap of these cookies to the uninitiated colon sure will.

Also, and it doesn’t promote this as a health claim on the label, but many of their cookies are a “good” source of saturated fat.  You know, the stuff that raises cholesterol levels, clogs your arteries and kills ya?

Blueberries and tomatoes, carrots and their juice, oatmeal and spinach don’t have any of that.  Who knew?

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie!

It was rough last year not having pumpkin pie.  I was in the midst of discovering I’d likely been sick because of a gluten intolerance (correct = dang!), and had to live without it.  This year I decided to live big and make my first pie ever, and a pumpkin one at that.  I wanted a serious pumpkin pie, but with a totally rockin’ pie crust that didn’t even attempt to be a flaky regular one.  I love the crust from Hugo’s, and set out to duplicate it.

A quick Google search landed me at Gluten Free Goddess, Karina’s excellent web site featuring some great gluten free recipes (great in that they do not try to recreate glutenous counterparts but reinvent them entirely.  Try the Vegetarian Garden Loaf and be stunned, shocked and amazed.  This is now my mother-in-law’s go-to recipe, and everyone loves it — meat eaters, vegetarian, etc.).  Hugo’s pumpkin pie has a ridiculously good crust with pecans, coconut, and cinnamon.  Karina had already worked on imitating the crust, so I tried hers.  Not exact, but perfectly fab the first time out, and absurdly easy to make.

The pie was not absurdly easy, but the promise of one shined like a beacon.  Which is a good thing, because this bad boy proved a bit of work.  For the pie, I wanted the real thing: a custard pie made with eggs, cream and milk but flavored with pumpkin.  I turned to the most reliable source for this sort of recipe, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  The recipe calls for uniting a simmered pumpkin mix with a pre-baked crust.  The flavor was perfect, but after blasting the pumpkin mixture in the Cuisinart then simmering it, the recipe called for whipping eggs in the food processor before  adding the mixture slowly back into the Cuisinart for another round.

While this might have been an attempt not to soil every appliance in the kitchen, this method resulted eggs that were overbeaten (5 seconds, that’s all it took!) and the end mixture both overflowed the machine (a mess) and created a foamy pie that tasted great but was more like a pudding.  Overbeaten eggs won’t help a pie set (they usually give structure).  I highly recommend testing recipes before taking them anywhere for this sort of reason.  And of course, I was combining two recipes…

For the final round, I used the Cuisinart for the crust and the initial pumpkin mixture, but after simmering the mixture I added it to the slightly warmed bowl of my stand mixer containing my wire-whipped eggs.  (I warmed the bowl by adding warm water, letting it sit for a moment, then adding room-temp eggs).  The pie came out perfect and despite the extra bowl, created much less mess.

Also, because pumpkin pie batter is so thin, it’s easier to fill the pan or pie  half way, then once it’s on the oven rack, add the rest of the batter.  I have a

Kaiser LaForme springform (best pan, no leaks) but not overflowing the mix while pushing the damned thing into the oven was a challenge both times I made it.

This was a serious treat,  especially after I whipped the remaining cream to put over the top (a little sugar, a little vanilla, a few minutes with the stand mixer, Voila!).

Forgot to show a slice with whipped cream.  That’s because we were too busy eating it!