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, February 21, 2009

Cheddar Cauliflower Au Gratin recipe

I've had plenty of days when I bring my children to the grocery store with me and I really regret it. What should only take 5 or 10 minutes of my time, takes 20 minutes or longer. There's countless "Not today, honey" and "We have cereal at home" as well as "Don't fight!" I often leave with twice as many things as I had planned on buying. Ahh, the joys of motherhood and tests of my patience...

But, luckily, there are those times when they come with me and provide wisdom and good judgment. This was one of those days.

We usually start in the produce aisle. Seems innocent enough but they really want to put everything in the cart. Since I already know the inventory at home, there's a bit of negotiation. As I was perusing the produce, the kids saw this orange vegetable that looked like cauliflower but I'm one of those people who, when faced with an unknown item in the produce aisle, turns her head and looks for the old comforts of carrots and broccoli.

This vegetable was labeled cheddar cauliflower. Both kids enthusiastically pleaded with me to put it in the cart. It was so pretty and orange, I decided to go against my normal grain and buy it. Just looking at it, I thought, well, I can steam it and bake it in the oven with cheddar and some milk. Cheese usually makes everything taste good anyway, and with that name, what else could I do?

When I got home, I was curious. What was the deal with this orange vegetable? This is what I learned:
  • It was first discovered in Canada in 1970
  • Over the years, it was crossed with a white variety to create a delicious, high vitamin content cauliflower
  • The curds contain approximately 25 times more beta carotene (Vitamin A) than white cauliflower
  • Cheddar cauliflower is creamier than the white variety making it easy to serve mashed.
Ooh, sounds exciting. So, when I began dinner that night, I did just what I planned. See the recipe below. The night I made it, I had some extra barley and I used that as a base. You'll see that in this picture but I didn't include it in the recipe.

Next time you are in your grocery store, consider trying cheddar cauliflower and expanding your horizons.

Maybe they'll think there really is cheddar in the cauliflower...

Cheddar Cauliflower Au Gratin
1 head of cheddar/orange cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 Tbl olive oil or melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Steam cauliflower in a steam basket in a pot or a rice cooker. Cool slightly.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Prepare a casserole dish by spraying with non-stick spray or lightly coating with oil or butter.
4. Place cauliflower in dish. Pour milk over and then top with cheddar.
5. Mix breadcrumbs in a bowl with oil or butter, salt and pepper. Place breadcrumbs on top of cauliflower. Bake 15-20 minutes or until breadcrumbs start to brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Organic Crock Pot Vegetable Soup

I had already posted a crock pot soup recipe but I wanted to make a super simple one. That one is this. As you see in the picture, the only real effort with this soup is chopping the veggies and opening one can. Once you do that, you'll have a delicious and super-nutritious soup 3 to 6 hours later, depending upon which setting you use.

I consider this soup to be organic. All of the ingredients are organic, except the seasoning which accounts for 1 tsp. Then again, I'm not moderated by the QAI.

If you want to lower the cost of this dish by a few dollars, use 2 qts of water instead of the broth. Add extra salt, at least 1 tsp. And speaking of salt, you should add to taste. The more flavor from the broth and the veggies, the less you need. But, if you taste the soup and it tastes "flat" or bland, add salt. With this amount of soup, add 1/2 tsp at a time until it tastes good. Your family can also add their own salt to their taste, too.

If you want to make it completely vegetarian, use the water option or vegetable broth. Remember, you can always make your own vegetable broth with veggies, water and salt. That's a good way to reuse veggie scraps as well. And if you have other veggies in the fridge like broccoli, zucchini, peas or peppers, add those to this soup. But wait until the last 30 minutes. Otherwise, those vegetables might get too soft and disintegrate.

The cooking time will vary depending upon what setting you use. This really depends upon whether you are starting it at 8a and coming home at 4p or starting at 2p and want to eat around 5p. Either way, check the beans to make sure they are cooked before serving. It might need less time than what is suggested. You want to ensure the hard beans are soft. Doing it this way means you don't have to soak them, either. Most beans, if cooked for 2-3 hours at a simmer, will be soft enough.

I hope you'll give this a try. If you don't have a crock pot, use a big pot on the stove. When I cook something on the stove for a long time, I do it when I know I will be home. The crock pot is different.

I literally threw the ingredients in a pot and 6 hours later, this is what it looked like. See below for the recipe.

Organic Crock Pot Vegetable Soup

1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 cup bean & grain mix
1 can diced chopped tomatoes
1 32 oz carton chicken or veggie broth
1 tsp salt free seasoning (or any blend)
2 cups water

Add all ingredients. Cook 6 hrs on low. Add 8-10 oz frozen organic chopped spinach and 2 cups cooked pasta at the end. Add salt to taste. Serve with extra virgin olive oil, like California grown Bariani, and fresh grated Italian cheese.

Get ready to eat. Mangia!

"Better than a Box" Brownies

Make these brownies in less than 45 minutes start to finish

There is nothing like a good brownie. I grew up with brownies from a box. I loved making them and eating them. At some point, someone, somewhere brought to my attention that most boxed brownies don't even really taste like chocolate. No way. Really? The next time I saw one of these "not really chocolate" chocolate brownies, I tasted it. I used my senses and not my eyes. Hmm, it was good, sweet, and dark but...not really that chocolately.

I then did some research and found the ingredient listing of one of the more popular brands:

Sugar, Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid) Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Corn Starch, Salt, Carob Powder, Artificial Flavor, Nonfat Milk. Contains Wheat and Milk.

Not as much chocolate as I would have, I looked for an easy recipe. I came up with the following, after playing around with a couple of recipes. I've made some adjustments and am happy with the results (as are most friends I serve this to!).

I put this recipe in the category of "healthy" because the ingredients are whole and I've cut the sugar down quite a bit. And healthy is all relative. Although I'd like to make a meal of these, a little square is a nice treat. As long as you don't overdo any treats and you are eating a balanced diet, in my opinion, you deserve a brownie once in a while.

I've included lots of pictures to give you an idea of how to do it. Start it at 5pm, they will be in the oven by 5:30 and out by 6:00. If dinner is done at 6:30, pour a glass of milk and enjoy!

"Better than a Box" Brownies

½ c semi sweet chocolate chips, like Guittard
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbl unsalted butter (you can use 6Tbl butter instead of using the oil)
3 Tbl canola or vegetable oil
3 eggs
¾ c white organic sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c unbleached white flour
½ tsp salt
½ c semi sweet chocolate chips

1. In a microwave safe bowl, place chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate and butter. In 30 second intervals, microwave butter and chocolates, stirring in between until chocolate is melted. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Add oil.
2. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. This temperature helps to cook brownies more evenly. Spray an 8”x8” pan with non-stick spray. You can also line the pan with foil if you want to be able to remove the whole brownie from the pan, and then cut into pieces.
3. In another bowl, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Mix in the chocolate from step 1.
4. Add flour, salt and chocolate chips and mix until blended. Pour into square baking pan and use a spatula to get out every last drop.
5. Bake about 27-31 mins. It’s done when a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist chocolate on it but is neither dry nor very wet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ravioli & Sausage Soup

One night last week, when it was time to make dinner, I went to the freezer. I saw ravioli and frozen spinach. I remembered I had chicken sausage in the fridge as well as tofu and chicken stock. 20 minutes later, dinner was on the table.

I know some times it's hard to see dinner when you open a cabinet but keep soup at the top of the list. Sure, I like to make chicken soup from scratch once in a while but it's not realistic unless I plan it. To make life easy, I usually keep a few containers of organic chicken broth in the pantry.

Soup can be a great one-pot meal, too. I find that if I add the spinach or chard to the broth, my children just sort of eat it. I know for all of you, that's not an option; some children will pick it out. Do the best you can. They are bound to get a few residual nutrients even if they do.

Here are a few ideas to make that chicken broth just a little more exciting:
  • Boil pot stickers in broth and add mixed frozen vegetables at the end with a dash of sesame oil
  • If you have any leftover rice, pasta or potatoes, use that with veggies and protein
  • Look for leftover or need-to-use protein in the fridge; saute raw protein like sausage, chicken or ground meat but use the broth to cook seafood like shrimp
  • If cooking raw vegetables in a broth, add the hardest veggies first, like carrots, and then add the softer veggies, like zucchini, toward the end
  • I know I'm Italian but there's nothing like good quality olive oil and some freshly grated Italian cheese like Grana Padano or Peccorino Romano on top (except when making the potsticker version!)
Ravioli and Sausage Soup
Serves 4

1 or 2 Italian pork or chicken sausages (like pesto, mild Italian, or sun-dried tomato)
1 32 oz carton of organic chicken broth
about 1/2 pound cheese ravioli (I like the Genova brand mini ravioli the best; great flavor)
1 10 oz box or 1/2 bag of frozen, chopped organic spinach
4 oz firm tofu, cut into cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated cheese

1. In a large pot, cook sausage until brown. Remove and cool slightly. Slice and keep warm.
2. Place carton of broth in the pot along with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil.
3. Once broth is boiling, add ravioli and cook for 5 minutes, 1 or 2 minutes less than recommended time.
4. Add frozen spinach and tofu. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Add sausage.
5. Serve in big bowls topped with olive oil and cheese.