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.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The 5 best kitchen utensils for a parent

Ok, I will admit. I'm a gadget girl. My kitchen is fairly well stocked but I don't have everything. A few years ago, a good friend said I had to have a crock pot. I remember fighting it...until I used it. Bought one a week later.

I'm doing my best to not feel the need for a dehydrator or the speedy ice pop maker. Wish me luck in holding out. This post is about which of those gadgets I have bought over the past few years that have really made an impact in my role as "Mom" and why. Each item has a link to Amazon if you want to review or buy. Enjoy!

1) The Salad Chopper
I went to Costco this week and came home with more than intended (surprise). My fridge was loaded with organic chicken strips, edamame beans, shrimp cocktail, guacamole and strawberries. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner when it occurred to me that all of those ingredients would be really good in a salad; a chopped salad.

When the kids were around 4 and 2, I used to make them a chopped salad with corn, black beans, avocado, etc. and served it with ranch dressing. Honestly, that is how I got them to eat salad back then, I think because it was chopped and easier to eat. The could actually spear it with a fork.

Lately, I'd felt like I was in a rut so one night last week became "Chop Chop" night. I set up the "salad bar" with my ingredients and asked the kids to come to the Chop Chop restaurant. Although my son (almost 7) did not find my wit so witty, my 5 year old loved it. I put the ingredients in a bowl, added their favorite dressing, Brianna's Poppyseed, and began chopping. This utensil sort of scoops the food and then chops it between two blades. I did the same for my daughter and then made one for myself. Yummy!

The next day, she asked for another one for lunch. Hmm, maybe operation Chop Chop was a success! If you asked me 7 years ago if I thought my kids would eat salad, my answer would be no. Here's proof not to assume anything about your kid's eating habits. So #1 on the list is a salad chopper. Feel free to call it a Chop Chop and/or say that's what's for dinner. Please let me know if it works!

2) The Cuisinart
Notice I don't call it "a" Cuisinart. I have used lots of different food processors; this one is always the best. Here are 5 reasons why this is a must have: pesto, baby food, homemade coleslaw, pie crust and hummus. There are undoubtedly another 5-10 I could rattle off; hopefully this is enough to make you interested. You can also wash it in the dishwasher.

I keep mine in a bottom drawer where there is fairly easy access and probably use it about once/week. If you have one, don't let it collect dust. It wants to be your friend! Check my blog for prior posts. I have recipes for all but the slaw and the baby food. The Cuisinart is a must have in my opinion.

3) The Slow Cooker

This is one I fought for a long time. I didn't really think I needed one until I made two things in one weekend: pulled pork and a pot roast. The meat was so tender, juicy and flavorful, I thought I was in heaven. I use it to make a veggie soup with beans (see photo above). Again, hard to believe my kids would eat chard but they do when it's in soup.

For a mom, the benefits are twofold: 1) most children will eat food from a slow cooker because it's moist and flavorful and 2) it's so easy. Do some prep in the morning, push a button and dinner is ready at the end of the day. I use the Rival Crock Pot (that's their name; everything else is a slow cooker) but I don't think they make the same model that I have. Here are the features I think are most important:
  • Low and high mode
  • Settings in increments of 30-60 minutes (you can decide which mode as well)
  • Countdown clock
  • Pot that can be washed in the dishwasher
My favorite things to make in the slow cooker for my family are (besides what I mentioned above) lemon chicken, chicken stock, lasagna, bean soup, short ribs, Greek chicken, beans, and bbq pork. I really like Stephanie O'Dea's book called Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. There are great family recipes and she has an emphasis on gluten-free. My kind of girl!

4) Immersion Blender
I know that I already have the Cuisinart on my list but I just can't live without this lovely piece of equipment! Besides the immersion part, the model I have came with a whisk attachment (think fresh whipped cream) and a mini food processor (small batches of pesto or to chop chicken for salad).

The reason the immersion blender gets top billing for moms is that it's one of the best tools for making baby food, pureeing soups, making tomato sauce and creating your own morning shakes.

It's versatile and easy to use. Now that the kids are older, they can hold the top (while I hold the container) and press the button. Kids love to help in the kitchen and since the blade is usually way down in the food, it's fairly safe. Never let them near the blade, though, and make sure to unplug as soon as you are done. Oh, and when you make whipped cream in the little container it comes in, don't let go of the container. I learned that lesson the hard way.

5) Waffle Maker
I used to spend $3-4 for a box of waffles (and that was before we were eating gluten-free) until I discovered this simple, less than $30 tool that not just saved me money but became a lot of fun.

On special mornings or when we have time (usually weekends), I whip up a batch. Any leftovers go into the freezer so they can eat waffles any day of the week. I like to make my own because I can control the ingredients and flavors. My kids love theirs with cinnamon and vanilla; yours might not.

The batter is very forgiving as well. Use this recipe as your base but feel free to experiment. My only advice is to make one batch at a time. You can't always double a recipe with baking powder because the leavening is specific to the amount of flour.

Enjoy this list. I will post another entry with my 5 top foods to make for kids and why. Please leave a comment; I love to hear from my audience.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mushroom Marsala Sauce recipe (gluten-free)

I recently had a request for this sauce. It's excellent with the Lentil Loaf (meatless meatloaf) and happens to be naturally gluten-free. See below for the version made with butter and flour. Here is the gluten-free version of the lentil loaf.

This is one of my favorites; a gift to you! Please leave a comment if you like it.

Mushroom Marsala Sauce (and it's gluten-free! Make sure to use gf broth)
By Amy Fothergill, The Family Chef

2 tsp olive oil
1-2 Tbl butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp Herbs de provence
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 lbs of assorted mushrooms, sliced (Portobello, crimini, shitake, white, oyster, porcini)
1 tsp sea salt
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup of marsala
2 cups of chicken or veggie broth
2 Tbl cornstarch

1. Place large sauté pan on medium heat. Add oil and only 2 tsp of the butter, then onion, herbs and ground pepper. Cook in pan, stirring once or twice until golden and translucent.

2. Once softened, add the thicker mushrooms first like portobello or oyster. Stir once. Raise heat slightly and cook, stirring only occasionally until mushrooms become brown. If mushrooms are very dry, add a sprinkle of salt. Add the other half of the mushrooms and continue cooking until all of the mushrooms are cooked and brown. There should not be a lot of liquid in the pan; if there is, raise the heat to try to cook off the liquid.

3. Add salt and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring.

4. Add marsala and allow to cook for 1 minute or until mostly evaporated.

5. Add chicken broth and stir. Bring to a simmer.

6. In a small bowl, make a cornstarch slurry with cornstarch and 2 Tbl cold water. Add to pan and simmer until thickened. If sauce is not thick enough, make more slurry and add more. Cook for 3-5 minutes and serve. Add more butter to give the sauce a creamier consistency.

Note: If you want to make it with regular flour, add 1 Tbl butter to the cooked mushrooms (after step 5). Melt the butter, then add 3 Tbl white flour and stir. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, and add the broth. Continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes until the sauce is thickened. You should not need to add extra butter (but it never hurts!).