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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Best Pumpkin Pie

This picture is from my very first blog posting, last November. I can't believe it's been a year! I probably should redo the recipe with a healthier twist but until I do, you can access it here. Just thought I'd give you a quick link seeing as it's the season.

Have a great fall.

Bug Salad and Dead Man's Meatloaf

Yes, I said it; Bug Salad. No, no, it's not really bug salad. It's actually barley, lentils and pasta. If you know me, you know I love Halloween and that I love to make funny foods that might look kind of gross but always taste good. It's been fun having kids because now feel I can be a little sillier and get away with it.

I had always thought that a barley salad would be a good Halloween dish since this grain sort of looks like a bug when it's cooked. I was looking through the pantry and saw some black lentils (which look like little black balls) and red lentils. I decided to cook them all separately, adding broken spaghetti to the lentils to use as the worms. Of course, the only thing I forgot that was that when the red lentils cook, they turn yellow. Oh well. One other bit of advice is to cook everything separately; otherwise you'll have just a bunch of black things in a bowl.

NOTE: This recipe/post was done before I was gluten-free. To make this dish gluten-free, use brown rice instead of barley. Barley has gluten in it.

Black lentils, red lentils and barley

Here's how I did it:

In a pot, I sauteed 1/2 sliced onion in olive oil and added pepper, cumin and coriander for flavor. I then added 1 14 oz can of lite coconut milk plus another 1/2 cup of water along with 1/2 cup of barley (barley is a 4:1, water to barley, ratio). I brought this to a boil and lowered to a simmer. It cooked covered for 30-35 minutes.

For gluten-free, use brown rice. Bring 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 1/4 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Add 1 cup of brown rice and stir. Cover and lower to a simmer. Cook about 35-40 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.


Black lentils need less than a 4:1 ratio. I used 1/2 cup of lentils and 1 1/2 cups of water. I added it together, brought to a boil, lowered to a simmer and cooked uncovered for 25-30 minutes, when it was tender.

Red Lentils
This ratio is also more like 3:1 but I added extra water so I could cook the pasta. Now, I probably didn't need the red lentils but it did give the dish nice texture and flavor. I probably added about 1/2 cup of extra water. I also added about 1 tsp of coconut oil and some salt. Wow, did that taste good! I cooked the lentils for about 10 minutes and then I added the pasta. All of the water evaporated so I was left with cooked spaghetti in a creamy yellow sauce. Actually, that would make a nice meal by itself!

If this seems too complex, just cook broken pieces of spaghetti separately.

The Bug Salad
Once everything was slightly cooled,
I mixed together and added some freshly squeezed lime juice along with some chopped cilantro. Both of my kids ate it; I think they liked the name. And it was a big hit at the party I brought it to.

On any other day, this really was a good combination of flavors. It reminded me how much I like the taste of coconut as well. The research I've done points to coconut possessing more health benefits than previously believed. Coconut oil might be solid at room temperature but it does not contribute to heart disease.

Dead Man's Meatloaf
This next dish is one I make almost every year. I'll let you find your own meatloaf recipe or maybe post one later, but it's more the methodology. I think the picture speaks for itself!

Slightly reminiscent of "Oh No, Mr Bill...." Make sure to squirt the ketchup after it comes out of the oven and allow it to cool slightly so it stays together better.

I hope you have fun with these. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Not My Mom's Pot Roast

This is easy. My mom didn't really make pot roast. My memories, growing up in an Italian family on the east coast, were of risotto, bracciole, meatballs and the occasional roast beef. Unfortunately, roasts were not her forte. My dad would always ask her to under cook it "You can put it back in if it's not done but if it's overcooked, it's too late." Funny that my dad who never did more than walk through the kitchen was giving her advice! But, to this day, guess what? I remember what he said and I always check cakes, muffins and roasts before they are done. A great tip.

Sorry for the digression. When I was in college, the training was more classic; sauces, souffles, and sauteing. It wasn't until I moved to New England and worked in health care foodservice that I learned about things like casseroles and other comfort food. Prior to that, I hadn't really cooked like that. I think back then, everyone was trying to make things so gourmet (think salmon with dill sauce and chicken dijon), that they forgot about the basics. I have grown to appreciate the simplicity of the pot roast.

This past year, I was lucky enough to purchase, with some friends, a large amount of grass-fed, no antibiotics, locally raised beef from Markegard Farms. I've been very happy with the quality as well as the flavor and notice there's actually less fat (cows that are not fed grains are generally "thinner"). Normally, less fat in a piece of meat that is usually tough may not taste as good. It was not the case here. The pot roast I cooked last week was simply delicious.

It is the cooking process that really makes the difference. A pot roast is braised which simply means it is cooked with a small amount of liquid while being covered (with an option of browning first). As long as you have the time, this cooking method is so simple and easy; it's hard to not have good results.

Here's a list of some of the cuts of meat that I received which would be perfect for braising (the first four are great for pot roast):
-chuck roast
-rump roast
-boneless cross rib roast
-swiss steak
-short ribs
-beef stew
-beef shank

If you are in a store and not sure which is which, don't be afraid to ask. Most of these cuts are in 1.5-3 lb pieces which should yield enough meat for 4-6 people. Once you have the meat, the next thing to do is prep. My suggestion is to do this first thing in the morning and throw it in the crock pot. You can also use a dutch oven, like a Le Creuset pot, and allow it to simmer either on the stove or in the oven.

Before I provide the recipe, I just wanted to go over the methodology. This way, if you want to use other seasonings or liquid, you will understand the process.

1. Season
For the seasoning, you can never go wrong with salt and pepper. After that, it's to taste. I've used paprika, thyme, oregano, rosemary, garlic, cumin and chile powder. Look to see what's in the spice drawer and be creative. Pat the meat dry before you season. If you do this, you'll get a better sear since there will be less water. The searing process adds a lot of flavor. If you're not searing, it's not a big deal.

2. Sear
If you are going to sear the meat, get a big pan and heat it to at least medium, maybe higher. Add some olive or vegetable oil. Place the meat in the pan and don't move it around. Allow it to brown for 2-3 minutes per side. If you are using a crock pot, remove the meat and place in the crock pot. You can then add some water to the pan to get some of the flavors from the "fond" (that's what the brown bits are called in case you didn't know).

If you are cooking in a dutch oven, you definitely should sear the meat.

3. Veggies
Vegetables are a must in my opinion. I like carrots and onions, at a minimum, and I also add celery or turnip. If you want to add peas or potatoes, do this at the end. Actually, if you want to add any vegetable that shouldn't be too mushy, add those at the end. 6 hours of cooking any vegetable may result in great flavor but it's shape will probably be indistinguishable.

4. Adding Liquid
The liquid you use can be anything from water to broth to tomato sauce or even wine or beer. The best thing to do is experiment until you find a good balance of flavors you like. Believe it or not, you only need about 1 cup. I like to use broth bases that I keep in the fridge (it's like having a jar of bouillon). I usually use about 1 tsp of base for every cup of water. If I add anything else, it's just a small amount.

5. Cooking Process-Low and Slow
Once you have added the liquid, let it cook at a low heat for a long time. If you have a crock pot with high and low settings, you can probably cook it on high for about 4-5 hours or on low for 6-8. Check the instructions.

If you are using a dutch oven, bring the pot roast to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook 2-3 hours or until tender. Yes, the downside of a pot roast is that it is not a 30 minute meal. If you plan correctly in the morning, you can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes.

Here is the recipe I used last week. The whole family enjoyed it and went back for seconds. I hope you'll try it.

Not My Mom's Pot Roast

1.5 - 2 lb chuck roast
salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary and oregano
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1-2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup beef broth
2 Tbl tomato paste (I opened a small can and froze the rest)
3-4 anchovies or 1 tsp anchovy paste
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
2-3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2-1 cup of frozen peas, slightly thawed

1. Add all ingredients into a crock pot EXCEPT potatoes and peas. Ideally start this process in the morning.
2. Set to high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.
3. 30 minutes prior to the end of the cooking time add potatoes to pot and stir. Allow to cook for about 20-30 minutes. Add peas 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
4. Check meat by using a fork to see how tender it is. If it's not falling apart, cook longer.
5. Serve over polenta or noodles with juice from the pot.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gluten Free Waffles (and regular too)

I love making waffles for the family; even on the weekdays. I always make extra and put them in the freezer. My almost 3 year old daughter would eat them every day if I let her. She's the one with the gluten sensitivity so I've adapted a favorite recipe just for her. The thing is, these are so good, you'd be hard pressed to be able to tell that these aren't made with white flour.

Making homemade waffles serves other purposes besides a happy tummy. It is much more economical and usually less processed, depending upon the brand you buy. The gluten free variety can cost between $3.25-$3.99 for 6. When you think of the price of flour, milk and eggs, you're spending much less money when you make it yourself.

If you don't have time during the week, take one day on the weekend and make a double batch. I've read (but have not tested) that, when doubling a recipe, you shouldn't increase the baking powder or soda. Supposedly, the chemical reaction does something strange to the batter. You could always make one batch, keeping the ingredients handy, and make the second one right afterward. Or, start with doubling a batch before you make more than that to see if it works.

When making waffles, there are 2 important aspects. Make sure you have some type of acid like buttermilk or yogurt and allow the batter to sit for 5 minutes before making waffles. Once you get the batter down, you can really have fun. Whole grain, banana, pumpkin, chocolate chip, blueberry...make what ever you or your family likes. And although this recipe is gluten free, you could easily substitute any other flour.

Lastly, let's talk equipment. I've had my Cuisinart waffle maker for a number of years now. New, this unit that you see in the picture above, is around $30.00. I have also found that now that it is in a more accessible place (before the remodel, it was tucked away in a hard-to-get-to drawer), I make them at least once every two weeks. Give it a try. I think you'll like the results.

Gluten Free Waffles
makes 7 or 8 6" round waffles

2 1/4 cups of gluten free flour (I use a combination of brown rice, millet, tapioca and garbanzo)
1 Tbl baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (see note below to learn how to make your own buttermilk)
3 tablespoons Sucanat (or other natural sweetener)
2 Tbl vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Note: to make 1 cup of buttermilk, place 1 Tbl white vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Add milk, soy milk or rice milk to measure 1 cup. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. If you do this first, you won't have to wait.
1. In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
2. In another bowl, combine milk, oil, sucanat, eggs and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients to liquid ingredients, whisking together.
3. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before using. Batter will be thin; this makes it easier to pour. I usually use 1/2 cup of batter per waffle. Follow waffle maker instructions.
4. Cool before freezing.
Note: If you want crispier waffles, add more oil and/or cook longer.