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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Easy Caesar Salad Dressing recipe

When I went to culinary school, I remember when we learned how to make Caesar salad table-side. It was always delicious, but the raw egg in the dressing always bothered me, especially after taking the Food Sanitation course. Salmonella is scary!

Some recipes call for coddled or partially cooked eggs. Sure, you might kill some of the bacteria but it also seemed like a lot of effort. Another food sanitation revelation was that commercial mayonnaise is not a bacterial culprit; fresh mayo is another story since it's made with raw eggs. Commercial mayonnaise uses pasteurized eggs and plenty of vinegar; acid is an inhibitor to bacteria. So, although your grandmother may have told you anything with mayo can make you sick, in today's times, it's actually closer to the opposite.

So, instead of using raw or even partially cooked eggs in my Caesar dressing, I started using mayo. It gives the dressing a wonderful creaminess and is "safer" than raw eggs. It's also super easy if you have a mini-food processor; if you don't, just mince the garlic finely and whip ingredients with a whisk.

My family loves creamy dressing, especially this one which is fresh and bright. Don't make the assumption that I did which was that kids won't eat salad. My children constantly surprise me with what they will and won't eat. I just keep trying.

If you think your children won't eat salad, one of the best bits of advice is getting them involved in the process. Let them help pour in the ingredients and after you carefully put the top on, let them press the button. Worry less about the mess and more about the fun and learning that is happening. Get a big bowl with a salad fork and spoon, toss in some lettuce, some dressing and let your kids do the rest. I hope you enjoy this one.

Fresh and Easy Caesar Salad Dressing
Makes 1 cup or about 8-10 servings

1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 c regular mayonnaise
1/4 c grated parmesan (or any hard Italian cheese like Romano)
2 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp Kosher salt or 1/2 tsp table salt
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a small food processor and blend for 1-2 minutes being careful not to overprocess; the mayo can "break". Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Toss with crisp, romaine lettuce pieces and shredded carrots (optional). Skip the croutons unless you have them in the pantry.

This dressing keeps for a few weeks in the fridge.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe

Who would have thought that you could use the term "gluten-free" and "tasty chocolate chip cookie" in the same sentence? Up until recently, I didn't think you could either! Even now, as I write this article, I just want to take a bite out of one of those cookies. Lucky for me, I put a bunch in the freezer so I actually could do that!

I use Twitter to get the latest gluten-free news and see what's happening with those whom I follow. I found a link to a link to a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies, apparently from Alton Brown. I admire him as he always looks at the science of cooking and baking. But, if I'm not mistaken, I don't think he's been baking gluten-free for 3 years. When you have been doing this a while, you know what to look for and can make adjustments accordingly.

Although the original recipe is his, here's my take on it. I hope it yields you with happy eaters.

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

8 ounces unsalted butter
2 cups brown rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tbl tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c light brown sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbl whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I like Guittard which are gluten-free)

1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat or in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. Once melted, pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to cool slightly.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

3. Add both of the sugars to the bowl with the butter and using the paddle attachment, cream together on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

4. Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, approximately 1 hour.

5. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

6. Scoop out rounded tablespoons and place on parchment-lined or silicone baking mat-lined sheets. Arrange about 9 to 12 cookies per sheet.

7. Bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating the pans after 8 minutes for even baking. Make sure cookies are browned. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on the pans for 3 minutes. Carefully, move the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. Store cooked cookies in an airtight container or in the freezer in a freezer-safe bag.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Beef Chili recipe

One day, when I opened the pantry, I noticed some dried black beans. It made me think of chili and then I remembered I had some sweet potatoes I needed to use up. I pulled out a pound of ground beef from the freezer and decided to make a sweet potato, black bean and beef chili the next day. The bonus was also having cilantro and sour cream in the fridge, too.

This recipe (and accompanying videos) highlights some great techniques; how to saute vegetables to get the most flavor and how to brown meat. The sweet potato adds a nice touch but you could just as easily leave it out. Cooking the beans fresh is another option when you have the time. I served this chili over polenta. It would also be good on top of rice, a baked potato or just plain. And if you want to create this as a vegetarian option that's easy; just leave out that step.

Watch the video here for how to make this dish.

Watch the video here for how to rehydrate beans "quickly", tips on browning meat and how to use a smooth edge can opener.

Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Beef Chili
Serves 4-6

1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp each pepper, oregano, and coriander
1 tsp each cumin
2 Tbl chili powder
1-2 carrots, chopped or about 6 baby carrots, chopped
1 medium or 1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt
1 lb of lean ground beef or turkey
2 cups of black beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can of tomato sauce
1-2 cans of water or broth (pour liquid into each can to get all of the tomato out)
1-2 Tbl tomato paste
Additional salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar if needed

1. Heat a large pot to medium. Add oil and then onion and give it a quick stir or shake. Sprinkle with herbs and spices (not the salt), stir and cook while you chop the carrot and sweet potato. Do not stir the onions very much. Just once every few minutes so they aren't sticking or burning.
2. Add the carrot, then the sweet potato and cook another 5 minutes.
3. When veggies are soft, add garlic and salt and cook for 1 minute. Remove from pot and place in bowl.
4. Make sure the pan is hot again and add ground beef. Drop the meat in small pieces into the pan and do not stir; press down slightly. Do not crowd pan. Once browned, turn over and cook other side. Once the other side is cooked, use a spoon to cut the meat into smaller pieces. If the meat is browned, the dish will have more flavor.
5. Once the meat is cooked through, add the veggies, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, water and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook 20-30 minutes. If the chili looks dry, add more water.
6. Taste chili and adjust the seasonings. Add salt to taste as well. If the chili is spicy, add some sugar.