Chocolate Souffle Cake Topped with Sweet Strawberries


The usual strawberry shortcake goes chocolate and gluten/dairy-free.  Top with fresh mint and coconut  cream”whip” laced with honey or maple syrup.

Chocolate and strawberries are always a treat. Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s olive oil cake, I freshened up the recipe by using grapeseed oil and coconut palm sugar, and a few extra touches like dark chocolate.

This dessert will please a crowd especially when native strawberries are plentiful in early summer!

  • 1/4 cup cocoa 
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Mix together water and cocoa till smooth. Microwave the chocolate chips a minute or two, until they melt, being carefully not to overheat and burn. Stir till smooth. Mix the chocolate mixtures together and set aside to cool a bit.

In a stand alone mixer or hand held, beat eggs, oil, sugar and extracts for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy.  Add almond flour, baking soda, and chocolate mixture and blend well.

Pour batter into oiled half fill muffins tins lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until puffy and set in the middle. Run a knife along the edge of each cake and invert the muffin tins when cooled onto a flat cookie sheet. Cakes will fall flat when cooled. Remove parchment paper and top the bottom side of the cooled cakes with whipped coconut cream  sweetened with maple syrupto keep this dessert non-dairy. Add fresh sliced strawberries and finish with a mint sprig if desired. Makes about 2 dozen.

Sweet Potato Maple Pecan Souffle


Serve this as a sweet side dish with your Thanksgiving meal or as a dessert paired with vanilla coconut ice “cream” for an autumn treat.

This recipe is inspired by a Thanksgiving family favorite first made by my sis-in-law Abby (who probably found the original recipe in Gourmet magazine, but not sure).

Nonetheless, I’ve “freshened up” this dish by omitting butter, using gluten free flour along with non-dairy coconut milk and cut out refined sugar.

Maple syrup makes the souffle sweat – use a specialty maple syrup for an extra boost such as bourbon or vanilla bean, being mindful to adjust vanilla and almond extracts if needed. Top it all off with coconut palm sugar and pecans for a nutty crust.

2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons oat or gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Steam potatoes on the top of a double boiler until tender. Transfer to a large bowl and whip with a hand mixer. Add olive oil, eggs, maple syrup, flour, vanilla and almond extract. Add milk. Beat until smooth.  If too watery, add a bit more flour. Place sweet potato mixture in an oiled souffle dish or several smaller ramekins. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of souffle. Bake large souffle for 1 hour or until set in the middle. Lessen baking time for smaller ramekins.

Fall Harvest Farmer’s Market Cooking Class at Homeworks on Oct 29th


Entertain with the freshest ingredients this fall in these sweet and savory dishes!

Announcing a new cooking class with all the trimmings for autumn entertaining with Barb Scala.

October 29th at 6:30pm
711 Boston Post Road
Old Saybrook CT

Great dishes for Thanksgiving sans the turkey based on garden, farm fresh and artisan ingredients while keeping dairy and refined sugars to a minimum. Delish!

Sweet and Savory Pumpkin Seed Crunch
Quinoa Sweet Potato Sliders
Roasted Butternut Squash over Wilted Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Feta
Grilled Farm Fennel Sausage with Grainy Mustard
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Mushrooms and Kale
Brussels Sprouts with Leeks, Pomegranate Seeds and Crumbled Country Bacon
Gluten-Free Apple Tart

$80.00 per person, Registration Required
(To register call Homeworks 860-388-3331)

Gluten-Free Zucchini Flower Fritters


Zucchini fritters or pancakes are great anytime!

The delicate zucchini flower can be used so many ways in the kitchen when these yellow beaties are brimming from the garden.

I go back to my Italian roots and make these fritters or pancakes  for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Serve with extra grated cheese on top and marinara sauce on the side, if preferred.

With so many brands of gluten-free pancake mixes, use the one you like. Or use an all purpose gluten-free flour like Bob’s Red Mill and follow their suggested pancake recipe found on their website.

Optional recipe for large flowers: Omit the shredded zucchini and dip the whole flower in the batter, and make like a pancake.  Remember to first remove the thistle and any no-see-ums inside.

Of course, kids love eating “flower pancakes” with grated cheese on top so you may have to make a second batch!

2 cups gluten free pancake mix, prepared
3/4 cup zucchini, shredded
2 zucchini flowers, thistles removed and flower chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated (optional)

Combine pancake batter, zucchini, zucchini flowers, basil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add shredded cheese if desired or save to sprinkle on top instead.

Coat the bottom of a cast iron or heavy skillet with olive oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Test a drop of batter on the skillet to determine desired heat to make perfect fritters which brown at the edges. Ladle batter onto skillet and brown on both sides.


Creamy Zucchini Risotto


Cheese is the accent and not the main event to this garden fresh risotto.

Aborio is short grain Italian style rice, naturally gluten free. Serve as a summer main meal with grilled zucchini on the side.

It’s also the perfect accompaniment for seared scallops or grilled shrimp off the BBQ. If desired, top with lemon zest for an extra fresh punch of flavor.

1 cup aborio rice
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups zucchini grated
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth, warmed
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup shredded parmesan or romano cheese

In a large saute pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion begins to soften. Add rice and saute for 2 minutes longer until rice is thoroughly coated. Add 1 cup zucchini and 1 cup broth and keep stirring until liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring adding 2 more cups broth, 1 cup at a time.

Add last cup of shredded zucchini, basil and wine (optional) or 1/2 cup water until liquid is absorbed. Rice should be soft and creamy. Add 1/2 cup water if more liquid is needed and saute until fully absorbed. Remove from heat, add cheese and sprinkle with more chopped fresh basil and lemon zest if desired. Serve.


Swiss Chard Lemon Ginger Bruschetta


Swiss chard and ginger snaps up a classic bruschetta dish. Omit grated ginger if you can find a specialty ginger vinegar – I used Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar.

An artisan baked baguette makes all the difference to make a sensational bruschetta.

But don’t forget your gluten free fans. Either offer “unprocessed” gluten free bread (cut slices into rounds with a cookie cutter then toast). Or serve separate bowls of the swiss chard “pesto” and chopped tomatoes with rice chips.

1 cup rainbow swiss chard, finely chopped with stems
2 Tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon basil, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 clove pressed garlic
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar, or cider vinegar
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped grape tomatoes, diced
salt & pepper to taste
1 baguette

Combine all ingredients except tomatoes and bread in a nonreactive bowl. Add more olive oil and/or lemon juice or vinegar to taste if too dry. Set aside.

Cut bread in 1/2 inch rounds. Dip brush in mixture to mop up extra olive oil and brush tops of each slice.  Toast slices on each side. Spoon desired amount of chard mixture on each slice and top with chopped tomatoes. If desired, drizzle a few drops of olive oil on chopped tomato and top off with an extra pinch of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait


Rhubarb and strawberries are early farmer’s market staples and go so well together. Skip the pie and go for an easy-to-make parfait.

Rhubarb grew out of my Grandma’s garden in the early summer and I loved the sweet-tart flavor of her strawberry-rhubarb pie as a kid. Now, I forgo the crust and have fun making these parfaits layered with  yogurt.

For extra farm-fresh taste, try sheep’s yogurt found at farmer’s markets and natural food stores. I used Turbinado sugar because it’s minimally processed and has a hint of molasses.  But feel free to substitute coconut palm sugar or approximately 1/3 cup honey. Use the best granola sweetened with honey or maple syrup.

3 cups rhubarb
3 cups strawberries
3 Tablespoons tapioca flour
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 13 ounce cans organic coconut milk or 1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice rhubarb and strawberries, tops removed, into 1/4 pieces. Add tapioca flour sugar and lemon juice and toss to combine all ingredients. Pour into a greased glass baking dish and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until fruit is soft and bubbly. Remove and let cool.

If using coconut milk, drain and whip the remaining coconut cream with vanilla and syrup. Alternately, stir vanilla and syrup into the yogurt. Layer  the dessert in a parfait glass or mason jar starting with coconut cream or yogurt and top with rhubarb mixture. Repeat to make a second layer and top with coconut cream or yogurt. Optional – sprinkle granola on top. Serves4-6

Cucumber-Pinapple Salad


Large slices make this a salad, or dice it up for a refreshing summer salsa.

1 pineapple cored and cubed, saving 1/4 cup juice squeezed from squeezing the skin
2 cucumbers; peeled, cubed and seeds removed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
4 scallions
1 teaspoon chili powder
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup packed cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine pineapple and cucumber cubes in a bowl. Add jalepeno peppers, chopped scallions including the green stems and all other ingredients. Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least one hour to soak up all the juices.

Grilled Maple-Chile Farm Pork Chops


Take a break from burgers and serve these sweet and spiced up chops at your next barbecue!

Fortunately for me, Maple Breeze Farm in Westbrook CT is close by for farm fresh ingredients. Bonnie and Bill Hall run the farm and set aside some juicy loin chops for this recipe, along with their first batch of maple syrup tapped this spring.

Adapted from Bonnie’s Maple Syrup Pork Chop recipe,  I chose to soak the meat overnight in a cider brine…. so no one will ever say I serve dry pork chops. Brush on the maple chile glaze, grill till just pink, and serve with my Cucumber-Pineapple Salad.

Note – if you can’t find pork chops at a farmer’s market or near-by farm, select the freshest loin chops you can find, preferably bone-in.

Chipotle Cider Brine
1 cup apple cider or juice
1 cup water
1/8 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup turbinado or coconut sugar
1 chipotle pepper

Place all brine ingredients in a blender and blend on medium high for 1 minute. Transfer to a shallow dish and place 2 pork  loin chops with bone-in in brine. If chops are not covered in liquid, double the brine recipe. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Maple Chile Glaze
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon chile powder or 1 chipotle pepper finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

Remove chops from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Brush glaze in a thin layer on both sides of the pork chops. Grill on both sides while continuing to mop on more glaze without charring the chops. Done when pink and juicy in the center. Optional sauce can be made with remaining glaze by adding 1/2 cup orange juice and simmer for 10 minutes. Sauce can be thickened with cornstarch or tapioca starch.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Kale and Chorizo


Offer different versions at a buffet by omitting sausage for vegetarians and further omitting cheese for vegans.

Add color and taste to your Cinco de Mayo buffet with stuffed red, orange and yellow bell peppers.

The filling is mild ’cause chorizo spices up the dish and it’s gluten-free, using rice instead of breadcrumbs. Look for sausage with no fillers. In a pinch, use fully cooked, gluten-free, no nitrates or hormone links found in most supermarkets. If you can’t find chorizo, try the cooked versions of Andouille or chicken sausage with mango. For “cleaner” eating, I prefer less cheese.

6 bell peppers, tops cut off and seeded
3 – 5 chorizo sausage links, skins removed and chopped
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 celery stalks, minced
1 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup loosely shredded kale
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 small eggplant
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon wheat-free soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 Tablespoon dried oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 – 1 cup shredded cheese  – optional (queso blanco, cheddar, Monterey Jack, goat cheese)
1 1/2 cups rice, cooked
1 cup red wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, coat with olive oil and roast in the oven 45 minutes or until a knife goes easily through the flesh. When cool enough to handle scrape out flesh and chop with a spoon.  Set aside. In a heavy skillet, brown sausage and drain fat. Remove and set aside. In a stock pot, add olive oil, onion, celery, garlic and kale. Saute until the mixture is softened. Add plum tomatoes, 1/4 cup crushed tomatoes, eggplant, soy sauce, parsley, basil, oregano and salt and pepper. Add rice and cheese. Stuff peppers and add extra cheese on top if desired

In an oven proof 9 x 13 inch glass dish, mix tomatoes with wine. Add salt and pepper and stir. Place peppers upright in dish and add pepper tops into the tomato mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.