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, March 28, 2012

Green smoothies: The new fun way to drink your veggies!

 Thank you to Hilary Greenleaf for the complimentary e-book for use in this review.

Author Hilary Greenleaf brings new meaning to the idea of drinking your troubles away. She asked me if I’d review her latest book, The New Green Smoothie Diet, and I must say Greenleaf really pours on advice and nutritious recipes in a pretty digestible 35-page read. Available in both hard copy and e-book form, Greenleaf writes that the key to her green smoothies is combining fruits and vegetables in a respective 60 to 40 percent ratio so you can get the benefits of each while avoiding the often-bitter taste of raw vegetables. She offers information on maintaining good, general health as well as tips and recipes for specific interests ranging from hair care to cancer prevention. Trying to lose weight? Trim off a few pounds with the help of a Blackberry Lettuce Smoothie. Want to ward off that nasty cold that’s been going around? Then The Mighty Citrus Smoothie should do the trick.

The handy thing about smoothies is that it’s so simple (and fun!) to pack in a ton of colorful nutrition in such a condensed space. Many fruits and vegetables give us vitamins A and C, plenty of fiber and countless antioxidants and other disease-fighting benefits. If your kids turn their nose up at raw kale maybe they wouldn’t mind drinking a naturally sweetened version in a fun cup or pretty glass. For example, I think most kids will be delighted with the mauve color of the Energy Booster Smoothie and will likely not notice the spinach flavor so much.

As long as you’re not expecting Jamba Juice, you should be quite satisfied with the natural sweetness level of these smoothies. For kids, Greenleaf recommends upping the fruit portion to 70 percent until they get used to the flavor. You can also sweeten the concoction with natural, fruit-sugar containing mango or pineapple or by squirting in some citrus juice. Greenleaf actually discourages the use of fruits that naturally contain a lot of sugar, but if a little orange or mango juice helps my kids swallow their leafy greens, I’m pretty happy!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quinoa and corn cakes recipe

I'm going to really try to not tell a super long story so you can get right to this recipe. Promise.

A friend of mine brought me one of these a few weeks ago; she had just made a batch and I was very excited to try them. I pictured it being more like a crab cake when she described it but it was closer to a griddle cake since it's flat.

My 6 year old daughter was in the room when she arrived with the sample. I'm thinking, "Oh yeah, it's doesn't have sugar. My daughter won't want this." Wrong.
"What's that, Mama?" she asked.
"Something with quinoa; I don't think you'll like it." (it smelled so good, I really did not want to share this).
"Can I have some?"
"Sure honey" and I gave her a piece.
"Uhmm, that's good!" she says "Can I have more?". At least she has good manners.
"Of course, you can. I'll give you half." but inside I was like, really? You want this? Woe is me. Never assume what your kids will and won't eat. I think I said that.

So, I got the recipe from my friend. It had come from her sister who had gotten it from a magazine in Southern California so I don't know the exact source. I did change some of the amounts and ingredients as well. If I find out where it came from, I will update the post.

I made the quinoa cakes the next week. Surprisingly, everyone (8 year old son and husband included) loved them. What a great way to get some healthy protein for us all! I hope you will give it a try.

Quinoa and Corn Cakes
Makes about 10-12

1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (you can also use all water or broth)
1 large egg
1/2 cup corn (if using frozen, thaw slightly before adding or add to cooked quinoa)
2 scallions, finely chopped (white and green)
1/3 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)
1/4 cup The Family Chef's gluten-free flour blend (or all-purpose flour for non gluten-free)
2 tablespoons corn flour (the fine type, not coarse like polenta)
2 tablespoons milk or milk substitute
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

1. Cook quinoa. If quinoa has not been pre-rinsed (check package), rinse briefly under cold water. Add quinoa, water and broth to a small to medium sized pot with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover. Cook 10-12 minutes or until all of the water has absorbed. Cool slightly.
2. In a medium bowl, add egg and beat. Add remaining ingredients including quinoa but not the vegetable oil and mix with a spoon or rubber spatula/scraper. If mixture is very wet and won't hold together, add another tablespoon of the flour mixture.
3. Place a thin layer of vegetable oil in a medium to large non-stick pan. Heat pan to medium. When pan is hot, add 1/4 cup of the quinoa mixture and press down with a spatula to make a griddle cake. Make sure to leave room between each one. Cook about 2-3 minutes or until one side is golden brown. Flip over and cook the other side. They don't always stay together perfectly but that's ok; they taste great.
4. Serve cakes immediately or at room temperature, plain or with a tomato salsa.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vegetable and bean soup recipe

One thing I'm good at is looking in the fridge and seeing a meal I can create. One friend said to me once "You look at a cucumber and see 5 ways you can use it. I look at it and see a cucumber." Well, that's why I'm here!

On this particular night, I had lots of veggies in the fridge, a few cans of beans, and a can of diced tomatoes. I always keep gluten-free pasta and chicken broth on hand so to me, that said soup. I cut up the onions, carrots and celery and sauteed them while I opened the cans of beans and diced some other veggies. In well under an hour, dinner was served much to the delight of my family on a chilly night. To learn how to make soup, check this blog entry.

Don't think healthy cooking has to be complicated; it doesn't. But you do need to keep a few things around. My go-to items for soups are:
  • Onion, carrot and celery
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Beans like garbanzo, black, kidney and cannellini or great northern white

You can always add other ingredients like vegetables, diced tomatoes, lentils or split peas, pasta or grains. Salt is essential for flavor along with some seasoning. The basic steps are:
1) Saute the onions, carrot and celery with seasonings.
2) Add broth, beans and any other liquid ingredients (for example, diced tomatoes) and simmer about 20-30 minutes.
3) You can cook pasta, grains or rice in the soup as long as there is enough liquid. Cook based on the amount of time it takes to cook the item (10 minutes for pasta, 20 minutes for rice, etc.).
4) Add fresh vegetables like broccoli, beans or cauliflower during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Other harder veggies like sweet potatoes need longer to cook. Add them before.
5) Taste at the end to make sure there is enough salt.

I suppose you can call this a minestrone soup but I like to focus on the extra veggies. Try this any night of the week. I think your family will love it and you!

Vegetable and Bean Soup
Serves 4-6

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon each pepper, oregano, thyme

2 cloves chopped garlic (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 quart vegetable or chicken broth plus 2 cups water (omit water if if you aren’t cooking any grains, pasta or rice)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained

2 cups cooked or 1 cup dry small pasta like little ditalini, shells or elbows (I use gluten-free)
1-2 cups total assorted chopped vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, zucchini, red pepper or kale

1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2-3 Tablespoons pesto

1.    Heat large soup pot to medium first. Add oil, then onion, carrot, celery, and seasonings. Stir once and cook, stirring only occasionally, making sure vegetables don’t burn but that they are browning. Continue cooking until the vegetables are golden and softened.
2.    Add garlic and salt and cook for 1 minute.
3.    Add broth, water, all of the beans, and diced tomatoes. Simmer 20 minutes uncovered.
4.    Add dry pasta, rice or grain to the soup and cook until done (base additional cooking time on how long the item takes).
5.    Add additional veggies and cook another 3-5 minutes or until the veggies are soft.
6.    Top each bowl with grated Italian cheese and/or pesto. Enjoy!