charcoal waffle ornament

Would you like some coal with that Christmas? photo by vsimon


I have gotten really good at making charcoal.

And become a danger in the kitchen.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at the stove as I was reducing apple cider. There was a thick column of smoke leaving the pan. The pan and it’s contents  immediately went outside, leaving a trail of smoke behind me, stinking up the kitchen. The heavy stainless saucepan was salvaged later, with a lot of scrubbing.

Surprisingly, the smoke detector didn’t go off.

Today it was waffles. I am using up my formerly vast collection of gluten free whole-grain flours. These were going to be Quinoa Cocoa Waffles. But I had only a little of quinoa flour left, so I had to mix in the rest of the teff flour, and then some amaranth flour to get the necessary 1 cup measure.

I made 4 squares without incident. We put a chocolate chips into each well and kept them warm in the toaster oven. The bittersweet chocolate got all nice and melty. We slathered peanut butter over the liquid chocolate. It got all nice and melty too. Vince put some  maple syrup (real of course) on his waffle. I skipped it since I didn’t want the extra sweetness.

Meanwhile I put the remainder of the batter in the waffle maker and sat down to enjoy a lovely lunch while we watched FoodTV.

You can guess what happened.

Two shows and an hour later I got up to do the dishes. Darn, I could see that the waffle maker was still plugged in. There was only the faintest acrid smell. And I was afraid to open the lid for fear of another column of smoke. The ceiling is white, I’d like to keep it that way.

Inside was a nice piece of charcoal though. And I did check the smoke detector.


charcoal waffle photo by lsimon

And BTW, the other waffles were delicious.

Rhubarb Sauce


Bite on a stalk of cool spring rhubarb and feel your mouth pucker up. As the weather turns to summer heat, the stalks loose some of their puckery tang.

 Rhubarb is often a love it or hate it food. The mere mention of the word usually elicits a reactions, a smile or a grimace. Or a comment, ya or nay.

Only the stalks are edible. They can be green or red, the red is prettier. Good quality chopped rhubarb is available in the freezer section year round.


Rhubarb is an excellent source of bone building vitamin K. And it has 2 grams of fiber per 1 cup serving. It is also less than 30 calories per cup. But you will need to add sweetener to it. Sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, honey, and sorghum or maple syrups all work well. You can also use Splenda, or the new stevia based sweeteners to avoid adding extra calories. Since the sourness of the stalks change over the growing season, it is a good idea to start with less sweetener and add more only if needed.


Rhubarb Sauce

4 cups chopped fresh or frozen red rhubarb

½-1 cup sweetener of choice

½ cup dried cranberries, dried cherries, or raisins (optional)


Put rhubarb, and dried fruit if using, in a medium saucepan. Add just enough water to keep the rhubarb from sticking to the pan. Fresh rhubarb might take ½ cup. Frozen might not need any, it oozes moisture as it heats up. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft. The soft pieces will be whole one minute, and completely fall apart a minute later. I like some chunks, so I take it off the heat as soon as it is tender. Add sweetener to taste.


If you have an abundance of rhubarb, make sauce and freeze it for later use. It freezes well and can be a welcome addition to next winters meals.


Rhubarb sauce is excellent with roasted pork or lamb. Or as a topping for ice cream! Veggies for dessert? When it tastes this good, why not?





Does this have gluten in it?

“What about chocolate chips?”


Recently, I received this question at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness  Ask-the-Nourish-Chef.


Learning how to read a label for gluten containing ingredients is one of the first survival skills people with gluten intolerance need to master. Look for the obvious-wheat, rye, barely, and most oats. Then the less obvious.


Think about the manufacturing process. Cross contamination during manufacture is an important consideration.

I went to my cupboard to look at the label on 60% cacao bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips. It looked good. No gluten there.


Ingredients: Unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin.

Manufactured on the same equipment that also makes products containing milk.             

Made in a facility the uses peanuts and tree nuts. 


Because I was responding to a consumer question, I wanted to be sure about all their kinds of chocolate chips. The website did not provide any ingredient or allergen information. No FAQ page either. So I called the company. In this instance, I had to leave a message. I encourage all of you to regularly call manufacturers. Do not be shy. Ask them if their product is gluten free and how they manufacture their products. And  please, put this information on their websites. Sometimes you want to check something at 10pm on a Thursday night. Especially when it comes to chocolate.


A company representative called me back the same day and told me over the phone the following information. It was a lot to take in. So I asked that she email me the specifics and she helpfully provided the following information.


Thank you for contacting Ghirardelli Chocolate. In June 2008, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company started production of a new milk chocolate bar, Luxe Milk Crisp, which has a product containing barley malt as an ingredient.


As a result, the line on which our chocolate bars and squares are produced, will now share a common line with barley gluten.



The chocolate chips (60% Bittersweet, Semi-Sweet, Milk Chocolate, 58% Gourmet, 72% Gourmet, and 100% Gourmet) line and powder line (hot chocolates and baking cocoas) will remain free of gluten ingredients. 


As mentioned on the phone, our Classic White chips are produced in a separate facility which is not gluten-free.


Ghirardelli takes the following measures to reduce cross contamination on our production lines: lines are cleaned between the changing from one product to the next and the first two batches of any product made are disposed of and not packaged.

It is interesting to me to see how companies handle potential cross contamination. Having dedicated gluten free facilities is the safest. But I feel comfortable when I speak with knowledgeable staff and know company policies. In this case, I especially like knowing that the first two batches are disposed of.  

Please excuse me now. I need to put a handful of those gluten free dark chocolate chips directing into my mouth and let them melt slowly. Mmmm.