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Why I buy bagged onions | Cooking for 1

Cooking for 1: Buy bagged onions

One-derful Kitchen is a series of kitchen and grocery tips for those of you who find yourself making Single Lady Suppers (or other meals for one). It can be tough to shop for one when food is packaged for families. This is a series where I share tips and tricks to help you learn how to save money and reduce food waste from expiring or extra food.

I can’t be the only person that buys an onion for a recipe, uses half of it, puts the other half in the fridge and forget it is there for 2 weeks. (Maybe I sliced or diced a whole onion and only needed part…or I left half intact but every other time I cooked I needed a whole onion).

Or the only person who lives alone and doesn’t make a big batch of something to eat all week.

When cooking for one, the onions that come in bags are typically smaller, so they work better than large onions for small batch cooking

The stupid easy solution? Buy bagged onions. They’re often half the size (or less) of the onions you buy individually, making them just right for cooking 1-2 servings. Making a big batch of something? Just use 2 small onions in place of one large one.

Onions are one of the few things I don’t mind buying by the bag because they are used in my kitchen pretty regularly. Plus, they do have a relatively long shelf life, so for someone who cooks a few times a week will easily go through a bag before they go bad.

a recipe for a simple, delicious roast chicken

Sunday Roast Chicken

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?)

a recipe for a simple, delicious roast chicken

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.

Sunday Roast Chicken
Recipe Type: Dinner
Author: Jamie Oliver
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 20 mins
Total time: 1 hour 30 mins
Serves: 6-8 servings
An easy roast chicken is a must have in any cooks arsenal. This classic, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is a great basic to have in your rotation.
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


Won’t you be my GFF?: Gluten-Free Forever Summer 2015 Issue [Sponsored]

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.


I might have a food magazine problem…@gffmag being my latest favorite…

A photo posted by Mary Fran Wiley (@frannycakes) on Aug 31, 2015 at 5:35pm PDT

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.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies (Gluten-Free)

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.

peanut butter jelly time!

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.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies (Gluten-Free)
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Jamie Oliver
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 55 mins
Serves: 12-15
Brownies are one of the easiest items to translate from gluten-full to gluten-free. Simply using your favorite all-purpose blend will get you great results from most conventional recipes. This recipe, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food, is decadent in all the right ways.
  • 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)
Make the custard
  1. 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.
Make the brownie batter
  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. These are best made the night before – they fall apart a little when they are too warm.
*This recipe might not work with non-dairy milk.[br]**I use Cup4Cup gluten-free AP flour, but you can use your favorite blend (as long as it has xantham gum, expandex or other binder already mixed in and isn’t a baking/pancake mix).


Kitchen Strategies for Cooking for One

Eating and cooking for one is hard work. (I mean, this whole adulting thing is hard – I had broccoli and a protein bar for dinner last night because I just couldn’t bring myself to cook when I got home after dance class).

Food at comes in package sizes designed for people cooking for families – a can of beans is way too much for a one-lady bean salad. Packages of chicken sausage come with 6 sausages. I don’t know about you, but I am never in the mood to eat 6 of the same sausage in a week. Recipes are designed often times to create 4 or more servings. And again, I hate eating the same meal over and over until I run out. Maybe it’s the curse of loving to cook.

1. Reinvent your leftovers

This is one of my favorite things to do. Roast a chicken on Sunday, turn the meat into tacos on Tuesday and curry on Wednesday. Save the carcas and make some bone broth. Make a little extra rice for your curry and make fried rice on Thursday and maybe even a little rice pudding.

I used leftover rotisserie chicken to make a butternut squash and chicken curry.
I used leftover rotisserie chicken to make a butternut squash and chicken curry.

2. Go to the meat counter

Buy one steak or 1-2 sausages. It’s ok to get just 1/4 of ground meat to make yourself a perfect burger rather than burgers for a crowd. They will even do things like break down a chicken for you or split a pork chop so the cooking time is less.

3. Frozen produce is your friend

It costs less than fresh and lasts much longer. It makes popping together a dinner easy (no prep! always better when you are cooking for one.) Now, I still buy fresh when I can buy 1 pepper or 1 mango, but that 2 pound bag of fresh cherries is probably not a good (economical) purchase, but the bag of frozen ones still make a perfect cherry pie. This is also how I buy the fruit for most of my breakfast smoothies (although, I do make smoothies nearly every day with the help of The Blender Girl’s Smoothie book & app).

Rotisserie chicken, leftover sorghum, frozen peppers, chili garlic marinade/sauce
Rotisserie chicken, leftover sorghum, frozen peppers, chili garlic marinade/sauce

You can even use frozen produce to help you reinvent your leftovers into buddah bowls. Toss the leftover grains and proteins in a container, add some frozen veggies and some sauce. By lunch, the vegetables will have thawed and released enough moisture to rehydrate the grains and leave your sauce saucy when you give it a minute or two in the microwave.


4. Pick recipes that use the same ingredients in different ways (and don’t be afraid to halve a recipe)

This is one way that you can make sure that you don’t end up with half a can of chickpeas hanging out in your fridge. This is a reason I love cookbooks so much – they have ways to use ingredients that I might not have thought of before. (It also keeps my phone/iPad out of the kitchen and a safe distance from a hot stove). I’m also not afraid to halve a recipe. Why make 4 serverings when you can make 2? It just requires a little math. Or, you need cannelini beans for a salad but have half a can of chickpeas? Use those instead. Recipes are just guidelines. Feel free to be adventurous!

5. Make and freeze batches of food in single-serve portions

Not going to lie, there is very often a backlog of pancakes in my freezer. I love popping them in the toaster on days I want more than just a smoothie for breakfast or when breakfast for dinner cravings hit.

This strategy can be used for things like meatloaf or quiche- you can bake it in muffin tins rather than loaf pans for easy portioning and freezing (or you can make a full-size version, slice and wrap each slice individually). You’ll have some fast, grab & go meals ready at hand. If you’re less confident with swapping ingredients or shrinking a recipe, this is a great way to make use of your cookbook library or even just use a full can of beans and not wonder how to halve an egg.

cookbooks i'm loving - august 2015

5 Cookbooks I’m loving Right Now

I have a cookbook problem habit. I read them the way so many people read novels and magazines. I mean, have you seen my cookbook shelf?

You know you are a designer when this system of cookbook organization made the most sense.

A photo posted by Mary Fran Wiley (@frannycakes) on May 25, 2014 at 7:44pm PDT

This summer, I have few new cookbooks hanging out that I really am loving. (Even Cecelia the Cat is loving them!)

#ceceliathecat is reading cookbooks today. She particularly approves of @theblendergirl and @anneliesz’s new books

A photo posted by Mary Fran Wiley (@frannycakes) on Jul 19, 2015 at 7:16pm PDT

The Blender Girl Smoothies

by Tess Masters

Tess is a dear friend of mine, and I loved her first book and her app, so I had pretty high expectations for this book. In the few short months it has been out, it has become indispensable in my kitchen. (I make smoothies nearly every morning for breakfast and I need clever ideas to keep me smoothies from getting boring).

Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea

by Annelies Zijderveld

This book is just beautiful. The photos are beautiful. The words are beautiful. The recipes are delightful. Each recipe infuses the flavor of tea in creative ways. A perfect book for any tea lover, any baker or really, any food lover.

Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food

by Jamie Oliver

Ok, so it’s been out for almost a year, but Mammacakes bought this book for me a couple weeks ago. It’s pages are filled with recipes that are a bit more involved and not quite suitable for single lady week night dinners, but I can’t wait for an excuse to dive into these recipes. The photos are gorgeous (as expected) and every recipe is begging to be made. (This is not a gluten-free cookbook, so there are some adjustments that need to be made to many – but not all- recipes). The peanut butter & jelly brownies are on my to-bake list.

Sweet Apolita Bakebook

by Rosie Alyea

Another gluten-filled book, this one requires some confidence in baking gluten-free to adapt from (or a bag of Cup4Cup and a mild sense of adventure). But the cakes are just stunning. Most of the recipes are built from a library of items such as cakes, buttercreams and sauces leading to beautiful results.

My New Roots

by Sarah Britton

This stunner is gluten-free and a delight. It is a celebration of fresh, healthy ingredients – but those items look just as good as every single one in the celebration of butter and sugar above. This book inspires (and resembles) the way I cook each and every night for myself. Get it & be inspired to eat better without sacrifice.

cookbooks i'm loving - august 2015

What cookbooks are you loving at the moment? (because you know my collection needs more!)

a recipe for gluten-free coconut chocolate chip muffins | from Mary Fran Wiley

Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

My kitchen and I have been at odds lately. A place that has been a sanctuary my entire life suddenly started to fill me with dread. I let my brain fill itself with a healthy dose of imposter syndrome and I let the prospect of a pile of dishes convince me it wasn’t worth the effort.

But then Mammacakes had summer break and she started texting me pictures of all the things she was baking for my dad. Muffins. Pies. Cakes. More pies. Quick breads. All the things she taught me how to make. The things we used to bake together from the time I was old enough to stand on a chair and peer into a mixer.

The longing to be back to the whir of Old Faithful and the desire to fill my apartment with the scent of fresh-baked goodness crashed over me like a wave. (Having a nearly too-ripe bunch of bananas was also a bit of an incentive…)

I thought I’d end my baking hiatus with some muffins. Decadent, tasty muffins. Dessert for breakfast.

do you know the muffin man?

Muffins. Simple food. Easy to bake, no mixer required. Infinite possibilities.

the muffin man? - gif from Shrek

They really are a blank slate – ok, and an excuse to make a dessert-like breakfast. (From what I remember of regular, gluten-full muffins, even bran muffins were a sweet treat…although that was 10 years ago…).

gluten-free banana muffins in tray

Scrounging around my kitchen (as one does at 9pm when they decide to bake), I gathered up bananas, coconut flakes and chocolate chips. I was well on my way to some epic cupcakes gluten-free muffins. Except, I was out of sugar. And butter.

I needed muffins. I needed to bake. I had to figure it out and you know they say necessity is the mother of invention. Another perusal of my pantry led me to honey and canola oil. These muffins would not have been such a success had I used the butter and granulated sugar. Can we call it fate? I think so.

Experimenting with coconut banana chocolate chip muffins. Dairy & refined sugar free. #bakefaster

A photo posted by Mary Fran Wiley (@frannycakes) on Jun 14, 2015 at 5:19pm PDT

The unofficial muffin taster gave these muffins high praise (both in person and on the insta).

The recipe makes a dozen muffins and they freeze well, so you can wrap them individually and defrost them any time you need a perfectly decadent breakfast or a breakfast on the run.

a recipe for gluten-free coconut chocolate chip muffins | from Mary Fran Wiley

Gluten-Free Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins
Recipe Type: Breakfast
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Feel free to swap out the mix-ins or add to them, but you want to keep the volume about the same. too many more ingredients can cause the muffins to fall apart.
  • 280 grams (2 cups) gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup (80ml) canola oil or melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup (120ml) honey
  • 2 eggs, preferably at room temperature**
  • 1 cup packed mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk***
  • 30 grams (⅓ cup) sweetened coconut flakes, plus some to sprinkle on top
  • 45-55 grams (¼-⅓ cup) chocolate chips****
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius). Line on 12-muffin or 2 6-muffin tins with papers or grease the pans. (I always use papers – they make cleaning up easier)
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, honey and eggs. Make sure you beat it well. Mix in the mashed bananas, milk and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix with a large spoon until just combined. Stir in your coconut, chocolate chips and any other mix-ins you are using.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between all the muffin cups, filling each cup about two-thirds full (I like using a squeezable ice cream scoop to keep things even and clean). Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a little spare coconut. Bake muffins for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  6. When the muffins are done baking, set the pan on a wire rack and let them cool for 15 minutes. Remove them from the pan and allow to finish cooling on the rack (or eat a few warm…) These will keep for several days in a sealed container or up to 6 weeks in the freezer.
*I use Cup4Cup gluten-free flour for nearly all my home baking. These muffins will work with the original flour or up to a 50/50 blend of their original flour and wholesome flour blend. If your blend does not include Xanthan gum, add half a teaspoon xanthan gum and half a teaspoon of ground flax.[br]**If you want to make this recipe vegan, a flax or chia egg should work. The result will be a denser muffin that would benefit from letting the batter rest an hour before baking.[br]***I only keep unsweetened almond milk on hand, but any unsweetened non-dairy milk or regular 2% or skim milk will work.[br]****Double check your chocolate chips as not all brands are gluten-free. I always use Enjoy Life chocolate chips to be certain what I am making is safe.