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.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The New Rice Krispy

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE rice krispie treats and would eat them everyday if you gave me the opportunity. But now, as a mom, I evaluate every snack and although I do allow my children to have special treats, I try to avoid a lot of processed food and especially things made with refined sugars. When I do make rice krispie treats, I use brown rice cereal instead. I really like Barbara's brand.

If you know me, you know I make a lot of my evaluations by reading labels. Here are the ingredients of the brown rice cereal: Organic Whole Grain Brown Rice, Organic Fruit Juice Concentrate (Apple, Peach, Pear or Pineapple), Sea Salt.

If you look at the label of Kellogg's Rice Krispies, here are the ingredients: Rice, sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup, malt flavoring.

By the way, my doctor recommended avoiding products with malt flavoring because they are known to contain gluten. One more thing to worry about.

There are 3 reasons I buy the Barbara's cereal which I think you should consider as well when comparing brands:
  • Look for whole grains-the difference between white and brown rice
  • Look for higher levels of fiber (this goes hand in hand with the whole grain)
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup
Ok, this post isn't even about that so let me move on. I'll address high fructose corn syrup another time.

Because of my daughter's gluten sensitivity, I buy different cereals now. One cereal we all like is Perky's Nutty Flax. On the box, there is a recipe for Perky's Nutty Power Bars. I made the recipe once (of course not following the directions at all!) but I did like it. I made it again with some adjustments.

And here's how I look at it when I give it as a snack. It's a whole grain product, no refined sugar, good fat from the sunflower or nut butter...not too bad. Yes, a half of a cup of raw carrots would be better but I'm comparing this to a store-bought cereal bar or cookie.

Now, as for flavor, it seems like everyone likes these; moms, kids and even picky toddlers! Remember with every recipe, the first time you make it, it might seem hard but make it a few times and you won't think about it. I hope you like it.

Flax Cereal Bars*
1/2 cup Sunflower or Nut butter**
1/3 cup brown rice syrup (I only found this at Whole Foods)
1/4 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 box Perkys Nutty Flax Cereal
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I like Guittard)
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

*(I found that the whole recipe is too much so I cut it in half)
**(I've made with sunflower and cashew butter; both are good and you can get either at Trader Joes')

Heat first four ingredients over low heat. Mix with a whisk until combined and smooth. In a large bowl, combine cereal, chips and nuts. Add syrup mixture and mix well until combined. Press into a greased 8"x8" pan. Let cool before cutting. Cut into 2"x2" squares.

I think she likes it...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Best Gluten-Free Brownies

Do you remember some of the products like "I can't believe it's not butter!" or "I can't believe it's frozen yogurt!"? Well, get ready for "I can't believe these brownies are gluten-free!".

I have been cooking and baking gluten-free since July 2007 when a doctor told me that one of the reason's for my daughter's eczema was due to her diet. Some of you know this whole story already. Well, in a quest to keep things simple, I've been experimenting with many different recipes of all types: pancakes, muffins, cakes, pasta dishes and brownies. I have even found a few boxed products that I feel work well. But, as always, when compared to homemade, well, there is no comparison.

I thought I had found a good one with the Whole Foods Gluten-Free Brownie Mix. But when I looked at the ingredients, I noticed there was a lot of sugar. Hmm, I want something easy but I still want control of what my family is eating. So, I played around with a bunch of different recipes until I came up with this. Even if you're not gluten-free, I promise you'll like them. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Brownies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips like Guittard
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Place the chocolate and the butter in a glass measuring cup and cook in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted. Allow to cool slightly. Add the canola oil.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flours, sugar, agave nectar, eggs, salt and vanilla, whisking until they are mixed together. Finally, pour in the melted chocolate-butter-oil mixture and stir, carefully, with a rubber spatula, until the mixture has become smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until toothpick comes out slightly wet. If it's dry, the brownie will be dry. Next time, cook for less time. If it's too wet, it will be too gooey. It might take you a few times making this to get it right but once you do, you'll be happy with the results.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Yummy, Yummy in my Tummy!

Yes, that is what my 4 year old said tonight of dinner. And what was it? An easy, tasty dish that was ready in less than 31 minutes (just in case Rachel has that 30 minute thing copyrighted!):
Grilled Italian Sausages served on top of Lentil-Rice Pilaf with Peas.

My family really likes sausages (remember, I am Italian and my husband is English). But today, some sausages are, well, made of undesirable ingredients. So, I stick to home-made (i.e. made by the butcher) and brands like Niman Ranch. I tend to select sausages which have less fat like turkey or chicken. I love to pan fry them or cook them on the grill. If you are cooking them on the stove top, don't stir them too much; make sure you get good browning.

The pilaf I sort of made up. I wanted something that would go nicely with the sausage so rice and lentils came to mind. Those are two great ingredients to keep in the pantry. I wanted some veggies in the dish and felt the peas would be a nice addition. I could have used broccoli or zucchini as well. It all sort of came together.

What I liked is that I started cooking at 5:20 and we were eating at 6:00, once the food cooled a bit. I also liked the fact that this one dish had carbs, protein and a vegetable. When I meal plan, that's usually my goal. And, of course, the fact that it's gluten-free just makes it that much better (my daughter has a sensitivity to gluten).

Here's the recipe for the pilaf. I hope you will try it.

Lentil-Rice Pilaf with Peas
Serves 4

3 cups of chicken or veggie broth
1/3 cup brown lentils, rinsed
2/3 cup white rice
Few strands of saffron
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 Tbl butter

Heat broth to boiling in a medium size pot. Add lentils, rice and saffron. Stir, cover and bring back to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook 15-18 minutes. Remove cover and stir, making sure there is plenty of liquid. If there is not, add 1/4 cup more. Add frozen peas and stir. Place cover back on and raise heat to bring back to a simmer. Continue to cook until liquid is absorbed and lentils are cooked. At the very end, add the butter and stir. You can also use a good quality olive oil.

This can be served as a main course (for two people) or as a side dish with grilled sausage or chicken.