Anyone can be "the family chef". You just need good recipes and techniques! Chef Amy Fothergill shares her best recipes with you for quick and easy dishes with an emphasis on gluten-free.

Get information here about her cookbook, The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tastefully Simple provides true to its name

True to its name, Tastefully Simple provides easy-to-prepare foods that require only two items and three steps (or fewer) to prepare. They recently launched a line of gluten-free mixes that are both tasty and simple!

Thank you to Tastefully Simple for providing samples for me to try. My opinions are my own. 

Below you'll find the company's product descriptions followed by my pictures. The mixes were all super easy to assemble and yielded great results. One thing you should be aware of is that the products were not made in a dedicated gluten-free facility and some of the products contain dairy. I made adjustments as needed. 

Gluten-free beer bread: calls for one egg and gluten-free beer or sparkling water. I used gf beer; it was really easy to make. It was a bit on the sweeter side and we found it better toasted. I would have liked it with melted cheese or pesto spread. My kids didn't love but then again, they are not beer connoisseurs! It would be good for appetizers with something else in my opinion.
Makes 13 servings. 13.9 ounce pouch. Kosher.

Gluten-free fudgy brownie mix: loaded with real chunks of fudge. Simply add butter (or oil) and eggs. Again, very easy and tasty. I made this and brought to a function. No one knew it was gf. 
Makes 16 servings. 18.8 ounce pouch. Kosher.

Gluten-free cinnamon apple cake mix: glorious cinnamon-spiced goodness. Just add eggs and apples. Although this cake took a bit more effort to make it was absolutely our favorite hands down. I shared some with a friend and they were quite enthusiastic. I added some chopped nuts along with the apples. I would make this again in a heartbeat!
Serves 9. 16.5 ounces. Kosher.


Gluten-free vanilla bean pound cake mix: flecks of vanilla bean. Just add water and butter. Yes, this was an indulgence and one that my dairy-free daughter could not have. I brought this to a function for sharing and everyone loved it. I would say this runs a close second to the apple spice cake above. I would like it better if there was no dairy.
Serves 8. 14.8 oz. Kosher. 

Depending upon your level of sensitivity (remember, they are manufactured in a plant that also uses wheat), these gluten-free mixes are both delicious and easy to make. If you are interested in possibly being entered for a give-away, leave a comment!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The best gluten-free chicken tenders

Without a doubt, these are better than anything I or my children have ever had in a restaurant! Well, in my humble opinion, that is. When I make these, I make a double batch. We use half for the meal and I either freeze the rest or use it for lunches or leftovers.

You can use this recipe for fish or almost any other protein, even tofu! For our family, I use a dairy substitute like almond milk to make it dairy-free. Although a few years back some people thought eggs were in the dairy category, they actually are not. Dairy refers to anything that comes from a cow. I'm also providing an egg-free substitute as well as this can be another allergen many children and even adults can't tolerate.

Want something a little more sophisticated? Try serving them with an apricot Dijon sauce (yes, that's in my cookbook, The Warm Kitchen) or a sriracha or sesame oil mayo. Getting ready for the game? Toss these with your favorite buffalo wing sauce. So many possibilities! Does your child like ranch dressing but can't have dairy? Try Follow Your Heart's vegan ranch dressing.

Give it a try and don't be afraid to fry these. I fill a big pan with about 1/4"-1/2"of oil since I don't fry too often. It's so worth it. Let me know how you like them.

For more gluten-free recipes like this, check out my cookbook, The Warm Kitchen!

Gluten-Free Chicken Tenders 

Makes about 12-16, depending upon the size of the tender

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenders

2 tablespoons white rice flour
2 tablespoons potato starch
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp each black pepper

1 large egg or egg substitute (see below)
1 tablespoon milk or milk substitute, plain and unsweetened

2 cups gluten-free corn flakes, crushed or ground in a processor (measure first, then crush)

1-2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Egg Substitute: to make 1 egg, mix 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons warm water in a bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes.

  1. Slice chicken breasts into strips; if using tenders, proceed to the next step. Pat dry if wet.
  2. Mix flour, starch, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Place egg or egg substitute and milk in another shallow bowl and beat lightly. Place corn flake crumbs in another shallow bowl.
  3. Bread the chicken. Take 3-4 pieces of chicken and first dip in flour mixture. Shake excess. Dip in egg and then corn flake crumbs. Place breaded chicken on plate or tray until all chicken is coated.
  4. Place 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan. Heat to medium heat. Add one piece of chicken to the oil. If chicken does not make a sizzle sound, let the pan heat up more. Add chicken pieces but don’t crowd pan. Don’t move chicken; allow to brown. Turn once and cook until heated through. Place on a piece of paper towel on a plate and place chicken on this plate to absorb some of the oil. Use more oil if needed.
  5. To keep tenders warm or to crisp up, place tenders on a baking sheet and place in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Serve with So Simple Tomato Sauce, Spicy Orange Sauce, or Barbecue Sauce (see cookbook). 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Massel stock makes chicken-less stew taste like chicken

I was first introduced to Massel's bouillon and stock products earlier this year when they asked me to do a few blog posts after reviewing their products. At home, I like to use products that are gluten-free and dairy-free for my family and without a lot of added "stuff". What I didn't know at the time was that all of their products are also vegan. Wow! What a concept. See my first review of Massel's products  here along with their story.

When I was trying to think of what to make, I remembered a recipe from my cookbook that might be the perfect test; a chicken-less stew that tastes like pot pie. In the past, I had made it with milk to make it vegetarian but hadn't tried vegan.

This is a sponsored post and products were provided by Massel. All opinions are my own.

I love this recipe for a few reasons. It was easy. I started cooking at 6:00 pm and had dinner on the table by 6:40 pm. The active cooking time, when I had to be at the stove, was about 15 minutes. I shaved off some time by using Trader Joe's pre-cut mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery). If you had to do that yourself, add maybe 5 more minutes. Another reason I liked it was the whole family asked for seconds. That's always a good sign. I cooked some Mrs. Glee's crazy noodles (my review is here) right in the stew so it became almost like a chicken and dumpling styled dish. These noodles, also vegan, are made from beans. So the third thing I liked about the dish was the high protein, low carb content. Oh wait, there's a fourth. It was so easy, my husband did it with very little direction.

I liked the Massel stock because it was quick to make and very flavorful. I've tried both the bouillon and the stock and liked both of them. So, wait no longer. Get ready. Here's the much anticipated recipe! I posted additional (useful) photos after the recipe. Enjoy. Please leave a comment as well. It's nice to know someone is reading the blog and hopefully getting useful information.

Like the products but want to try them first? Stay tuned for a Massel product give away. Remember to sign up for blog posts via email (don't worry, I don't post very often!) and keep in touch with me on Facebook.

Hearty Chicken-less Bean Stew
Makes 4-6 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
½ medium to large onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon dried poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1-15 ounce can white kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups Massel chicken-style broth
2 cups milk substitute, plain and unsweetened
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup frozen peas and/or corn

  1. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, poultry seasoning, and pepper. Without stirring too often, allow to cook until the onion is soft and lightly browned. This gives the stew good flavor. Add salt. Cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add beans and broth. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes.
  3. Add milk substitute and stir. Slowly bring to a simmer.
  4. Stir the cornstarch and water mixture. Add to the pot and stir. Add peas and/or corn. Simmer about 5 more minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
  5. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.

Saute the veggies and seasonings first.

Drain the beans and prepare the broth.

Finished stew before the noodles.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vegan Polenta tastes great with Massel Bouillon

I suppose we all get used to brands and products that we like. But, as we know, sometimes change is good.

When Massel approached me with an opportunity to review their products, I was curious since I had not tried it before. I liked the fact that their products are clean, free of things like gluten, dairy, MSG and preservatives.

This is a sponsored post and products were provided by Massel. All opinions are my own.

Thank you to Massel for providing the following information:

The story behind Massel
Massel’s products might be new in the US, but it’s the top selling bouillon in Australia and was launched thirty years ago as the first all-vegetable bouillon and the first bouillon with no added MSG in the world. Massel bouillons and seasonings have always been gluten-free.

Massel uses premium vegetables and herbs, extra virgin olive oil and pure sea salt from the Great Southern Ocean, the cleanest ocean in the world. Massel bouillon makes great tasting stocks, broths, soups, stews and sauces, and it’s an incredibly versatile seasoning as well. You can use Massel bouillon and seasoning as a flavor boost for risotto, polenta, quinoa or couscous. You can mix it with extra virgin olive oil and use to bake vegetables, or substitute for salt in any recipe for a tastier, healthier result.

You can check out Massel on Facebook for great gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan recipes or visit MASSEL.COM to learn more about their products.

When the samples arrived, I wasn't sure what to try first; veggie, beef, chicken or turkey. I didn't notice right away that after each of these words on the label was the phrase "style"; these are all made with vegetables. Now I was really intrigued. It's actually fun for me since I love a challenge.

My first recipe to tackle was making a flavorful polenta without dairy. I was getting ready for a party with at least one guest who can't tolerate any dairy. That means no butter, cream, milk or cheese. Olive oil gives the polenta a great texture but it also needs flavor. The veggie bouillon seemed like it would work, so I gave it a chance.

Based on the feedback from the guests, the vegan polenta was a big hit. It was served with a roasted red pepper sauce which was equally as delicious. I included that as well.

I hope you will give this recipe a try and give Massel a try as well. If you are wondering where you can buy their products, use this link.

Look for another post from me soon. I'll be making a hearty chicken-less stew from my cookbook with a Massel product. For now, enjoy the polenta!

Grilled Vegan Polenta Circles
Serves 4-6

3 cups water
2-3 Massel veggie bouillon cubes
1 cup coarse polenta
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 2 teaspoons
1/2 - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium to large pot. Add bouillon cubes. Stir until the cube is dissolved. While water is boiling, slowly add polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper (start with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and add more if necessary).
2. Lower heat and simmer until thickened. If bubbling, lower the heat. Stir occasionally. Continue to cook the polenta until thick (about 15-20 minutes) and pour into a greased baking pan.
3. Let cool for 10-15 minutes or refrigerate until the next day, covered.
4. Heat medium to large sauté pan over medium heat. While the pan heats, cut polenta into circles. Place the circles on a plate.
5. Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan. Add polenta and fry on each side until golden brown. Serve immediately with the red pepper sauce.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

2-3 red bell peppers
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves (if you want something less pungent, roast them first)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Roast the red peppers directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blackened all over.
2. Immediately transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or place them in a brown lunch size bag and fold it up. Let cool about 10-15 minutes. Peel the peppers and discard the skins, seeds and cores.
3. In a food processor, combine the peppers with the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Puree until very smooth. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper if needed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is Your Mini Chef Ready for Prime Time?

Some people get fired up about cooking early in life. I know, I did. My mother always had something simmering on the stove when I was little and this greatly inspired my own early kitchen endeavors. Now I see my children expressing an interest in cooking as well and this makes me excited to be passing the cooking gene to the next generation.

If you've ever watched Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri on Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook Off you know the level of enthusiasm that goes into this kid-centered Food Network production. Now the team is putting out a casting call for kids ages 8 to 13 for the show's second season and is looking for children with captivating personalities who have a passion for the culinary arts.

Maybe you know someone who fits this description? If so, you can apply through the website, here. The deadline is April 18, 2014.

Happy cooking and good luck!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dairy-free cooking tips

Whether you eat dairy-free out of choice or necessity, you'll find different substitutes out there based on what you're making. I cook and bake gluten and dairy-free for my family and I.  While I refer to the substitutions as dairy-free, it's actually casein that we're avoiding. Casein is the protein found in milk that many people cannot tolerate. Here are my top tips for how to get through it.

Drinking Milk
Please don’t believe the Dairy Board. We don’t need milk; we need calcium. Yes, milk has a lot of protein but there are other sources for that as well. There would not be so many dairy intolerances/allergies if our bodies needed milk. I am not a scientist, nor a dietician but my personal feeling is that we are probably drinking too much milk which is why, now, many of us can’t tolerate it. So, if you can’t drink milk, what is there?

Today there are many options:

•    soy (but I cannot tolerate)
•    rice (a little too thin for drinking)
•    almond (I like it but not good for those with nut allergies; here is a video on how to make it)
•    coconut (one of my preferred milk subs; very creamy)
•    flax (this is a new one; look for it in your supermarket's refrigerated section)
•    hemp (some people love this but it has an aftertaste I don’t care for)
•    oat (not a bad sub but for those with a gluten intolerance, it might not be an option)

Did I miss any? That is a pretty comprehensive list. Many of these milks come in different varieties like vanilla and chocolate. Many also have added sugar. Sure it tastes better, but you might not need the extra calories. My daughter’s favorite is unsweetened vanilla flavored almond milk and uses it in her cereal. Hopefully you can find a substitute that you like.

Also, if you are also avoiding gluten, be sure to check the label before purchasing any soy milk. Some brands contain gluten from a barley extract!

Cooking with Milk Substitutes
Drinking sweetened milk can be tasty but you don’t want to cook with it! Make sure to check the label and look for plain, unsweetened milk for cooking with 1 gram of sugar (or less). If soy is not a problem for you, it’s one of the best substitutes for milk in things like soups and creamy stews. Coconut is a close second as well. I have started making my own almond milk occasionally and recently tried it in a creamy mushroom sauce. You could not tell it was not dairy! Rice milk is very thin so you might need some extra fat or some extra thickening. You can thicken it by either cooking it down a bit or by adding a slurry (equal parts of a starch like corn and water). There are also many creative milk substitutes like cashew cream and avocados. It all depends upon what you are making. Try experimenting with some different ingredients.

Baking with Milk Substitutes
For baking, if you use a sweetened alternative milk, you might need to reduce the sugar in the recipe by 2-3 tablespoons. If you find the finished product sweet in anyway, it’s acceptable to reduce the sugar. As far as type of milk, I prefer to use milk substitutes with some fat in them so the baked good is not too dry. This is why I prefer coconut or almond milk. For things like pancakes and waffles, almost any milk will do.

Dairy-Free Substitutions for Desserts
Many traditional dessert recipes use butter so finding a good alternative is important.

Common substitutions:

• There are butter substitutes which are sold in a stick. These can be used in place of butter in cookies but honestly, they aren’t my favorite. You have to use what you like.
• Vegetable shortening, like Spectrum™, works really well in cakes and for frosting. I like the organic variety that is not hydrogenated. Keep it at room temperature. When I make cakes, I usually beat the butter or shortening with the sugar to get the batter fluffy. The shortening should be slightly warm to make this process easier.
• Coconut oil works really well in madeleines. It’s not bad in cake but can make it a bit greasy due to its low melting point. Make sure to heat it first so it is easy to measure, then cool slightly.
• For baking, you can usually substitute a vegetable oil like canola or sunflower for the butter, even if the recipe does not call for melted butter. I have successfully used safflower oil instead of butter for cookies. The texture will be slightly different. Always test your recipe.

Dairy Substitutions for Cooking

For cooking, use olive or another vegetable oil instead. For something with more mouthfeel, use coconut oil. The virgin coconut has a coconut flavor. If you don’t like that flavor, use the non-virgin.

Check out some of my recent blog entries for more ideas for cooking dairy-free

Easy tamale pie: gluten-free and dairy-free
Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Tuna Noodle Casserole 
Gluten-Free (and dairy-free) Rolled Sugar Cookies

Monday, February 17, 2014

You Get Much More Than Lemonade With This Cookbook

Buy the book from Amazon here
The name "The Lemonade Cookbook" might lead one to believe that the cookbook is about making lemonade. If you are not from the Los Angeles/Southern California region, you might actually think this. However, those from the area are probably more familiar with the cafeteria style eatery that features fresh, family-friendly dishes (umm, sound familiar?). Lemonade is described as modern cafeteria where visitors enjoy a rotating daily spread of deliciousness, offers fresh fare that tastes as though every culture is stirred into the pot.

And that's what you will get with the book. Author Chef Alan Jackson has a style I can relate to as well. Besides being the father of 3 children, he is a successful restaurateur; he has opened 12 locations since the first one in 2007. He saw the need for quick, affordable food that was also healthy. What does a guy like Jackson do? He created a chef-driven approach to dining.

What I like most about the recipes in this book is that I want to make most of them. The photos are vibrant and detailed and the recipes are not too complex. The page below is one of my favorites; just a simple photo of different cuts (although I do have to admit it gave me a flashback to culinary school). Don't be intimidated with something like this; you do not have to be a chef to use this book.

I also like how the book is laid out. When is the last time you saw "braises" as a chapter? You can also find market vegetables, land + sea, soups and stuff, and of course, lemonade (which is harder to type than you would think; I keep typing "lemondade").  

Since we eat a gluten and dairy free diet, I wasn't sure whether or not I would be able to use these recipes. After flipping through the book, I quickly realized it would be easy to make substitutions. For example, I used almond milk instead of regular milk and gluten-free breadcrumbs in the buttermilk chicken. For the salad, I used gluten-free tamari for the soy sauce; that was easy. Most recipes can be adapted easily. 

So, my recommendation is yes, buy this book if you like to cook. Get ready to be inspired. Feel free to put your own personal spin on the recipes. I don't think Chef Alan will mind. 

Photo of Buttermilk Baked Chicken, courtesy
of The Lemonade Cookbook

My version of the chicken dish

Photo of Edamame, Snap Pea, Sesame Vinaigrette courtesy of The Lemonade Cookbook

My version of the salad with green beans and snap peas
As you see from the photos above, my versions are pretty darn close, even with my variations. Below are the recipes provided by the Lemonade Cookbook. Thank you for also providing me with a book for this review.  Enjoy!

Buttermilk-Baked Chicken
From The Lemonade Cookbook by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli. Copyright © 2013 by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.

Serves 4

Amy's Notes: I made my own buttermilk with almond milk and vinegar (add 4 teaspoons vinegar to a 2 cup measure and then fill with milk to the 2 cup mark). However, I think 1 1/2 cups would have been enough. I used less tabasco since my kids are sensitive to spice. I used a gluten-free panko bread crumb. I might not have dried off the chicken breast well enough; it was soggy. However, if it was completely dry, I didn't know how the chicken would stick to the panko. Might have to try it again. I love-love-loved the flavor of the chicken and will definitely do this again. 

2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as tabasco
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
1 onion, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed

4 (6-ounce) skinless boneless chicken breast halves

2 cups panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil

To prepare the Marinade, in a large mixing bowl whisk the buttermilk, mustard, hot sauce, paprika, salt, onion, and garlic together to combine. Put the chicken in a plastic storage bag, add the buttermilk mixture, and smoosh the chicken around to thoroughly coat in the marinade. Press out the air, seal the bag, and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, preferably up to 2 days.

When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the Marinade, wiping off any excess buttermilk, and discard. 

Season both sides of the chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the breadcrumbs out on a flat plate. Press the chicken breasts into the bread crumbs to completely coat all sides, shaking off the excess.

Put a cast-iron or ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is shimmering, lay the chicken in the pan—you may have to do this in batches. Sear for 3 minutes on each side. Nestle the seared chicken breasts side by side in the skillet. Transfer the skillet (and chicken) to the oven and bake for roughly 20 to 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the crust is golden.

Edamame, Snap Pea, Sesame Vinaigrette 
From The Lemonade Cookbook by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli. Copyright © 2013 by Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC.

Makes 4 cups

Amy's Notes: I try to avoid soy beans so I used green beans instead. I did not have black sesame seeds so I used regular. I substituted scallions instead of chives and the shallot. I also added a drop of honey to the marinade as it was tart.

½ pound sugar snap peas (2 cups), ends trimmed
2 cups shelled edamame (green soybeans), frozen, thawed, and cooked
1 large shallot, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
½ cup sesame vinaigrette
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding a tray of ice cubes.

Blanch the snap peas for only about 2 minutes; they become tender very quickly. Using a slotted spoon, remove the snap peas from the water and plunge into the ice bath to “shock” them, i.e., to stop the cooking process and cool them down right away. This procedure also sets the vibrant green color of the peas. Drain the snap peas in a colander.

Put the blanched snap peas in a mixing bowl. Add the edamame, chives, and vinaigrette, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, salt, and pepper, tossing well. Serve chilled.

Sesame Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

Amy's Notes: I made half of this recipe and still didn't need it all for the recipe above. 

½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, mustard, soy sauce, canola and sesame oils; season with pepper. Whisk or shake to blend. Keep any left-over vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.