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, March 26, 2013

Strawbunny Smoothie recipe

Thanks to Kendra Thornton for the guest post and providing the following recipe. This sounds fun! 

The Strawbunny Easter Smoothie Treat
On one of my former travels, my husband and I went on a fabulous vacation to Las Vegas. It's a beautiful city full of excitement and commotion. It's no wonder that the city draws millions of people every year. It was a nice change from the usually cold and windy weather of Chicago. Although I love where I live, Las Vegas was a welcoming change of pace.

However, one of the most memorable parts of the trip was the smoothie I had at the Cosmopolitan, ranked amongst some of the top hotels in Las Vegas. It was one of the best smoothies I had ever had. Not only was it refreshing but also it was extremely flavorful. I love how it has just the right amount of sweetness without it being overpowering. Strawberries are one of my most favorite fruits so I love how this smoothie uses it into its recipe. But the best part of this smoothie is the presentation.

To help celebrate this year's Easter with you all, I want to share this recipe and maybe it will become a favorite in your family as well. The following recipe's proportions make about 2 cups of the smoothie. The recipe is incredibly simple and easy without any complicated steps. The ingredients include the following...

Strawbunny Easter Smoothie:


- 1(1/2) cups of frozen strawberries
- 4 tsp. of low-fat vanilla yogurt (for dairy-free, add extra milk alternative and 1 teaspoon of sugar)
- 2 tsp. of peanut butter
- 1/2 cup of skim milk (for dairy-free, use a milk alternative)
- Marshmallow (Bunny) Peeps

The only step of this recipe is to put all the ingredients into the blender and mix. One tip is to only put a few strawberries into the blender at a time, as it will make blending easier. If your strawberries are exceptionally large, make sure to cut them into smaller pieces so that the mixture blends more smoothly. Keep the blender going as you continue to add in a few strawberries at a time.

Presentation is key with any special holiday meal, drink, or dessert. I like to make it more festive by serving a glass of this on top of a plate of Easter grass. I usually put some chocolate eggs sitting on the bottom sitting on top of the grass. It's the perfect centerpiece to be placed in the middle of the kitchen table on Easter morning. This breakfast decoration never ceases to bring smiles to my children's faces every Easter morning after they wake up.

I hope you enjoy this treat just as much as my family does this holiday…enjoy!

Kendra Thornton is a travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, proud wife and mama of 3. I am a long time travel expert who has been packing my bags and traveling the world since I was 3 months old! I've found my utmost desire in life is right here in my own home. I have mixed my excitement for travel by bringing the taste of authentic cuisine to my own home with some of my unique recipes. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Healthy Lunch Challenge

When I was asked to create an example of a healthy gluten-free lunch for the ladies of Easy Lunch Boxes and Crunch a Color, I jumped at the chance. It was easy for me because this is what I (try to) do 5 days a week.

I have been using Kelly Lester's Easy Lunch Boxes (ELB) since 2010 (see my review here). I still have the original containers and only now have to replace one of the lunch bags; it’s gotten a lot of use! I find them very convenient and easy to use. The bag fits either two ELB plastic containers or an ELB container, a metal container (if needed) and a thermos for hot food. When we get home from school, my kids help by putting the containers and/or thermos in the dishwasher. I even have a special place on the top rack where they fit perfectly.

I think the Crunch a Color game is great. If you have picky eaters who don’t like to try new things, this might be the solution. The game is meant to make healthy eating fun. We have all had our challenges getting our kids to eat a well balanced meal. I love that Jennifer Lee and I share many things in common including children of similar age and dealing with some times opinionated eaters (that's a nicer way to say it, isn't it?). We even got together to put on a "Healthy Cooking Tips for Busy Moms" cooking class to benefit Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.

So, what was for lunch? Just a few of my favorite things. Believe it or not, my kids love Caesar salad. They will order it almost every time we are out (hold the croutons, though) so this is one of my go-to lunch meals. I make my Easy Caesar Dressing and keep it in the fridge for a few weeks (get the dairy-free version here). This way, it’s easy to grab whenever I need it. I will add other veggies like shredded carrots, cooked broccoli or cucumbers, depending upon what’s in the fridge. The croutons are simply Udi's gluten-free whole grain bread which are cut into cubes, oiled and seasoned and toasted until golden brown.

I have a new favorite chicken recipe which uses Just Cook Food’s (a local San Francisco company) Herbed Coffee rub. For every pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs, I add 1 teaspoon each of the coffee rub and olive oil. I stir it around and let it marinate for about 20 minutes. Then it’s onto the grill for about 10-15 minutes. You can also bake it on a tray in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes. Since this dish works well, I usually make 2-3 pounds and then use it for 1-2 other meals besides lunches. You would not believe how much my 9 year old son eats!

Lastly, the "dessert" is one of my homemade gluten and dairy-free blueberry muffins. Making muffins and quick breads dairy-free is actually quite easy; substitute vegetable oil for the butter and any alternative milk (like soy, almond, or coconut) for the milk. No problem! If you don't have dairy restrictions, simply use the regular version.

I used the Crunch a Color cards to see how I did for this lunch. Based on the numbers, I think I did pretty well! I hope this post inspires you to change it up for your lunch. Thank you, ladies, for including me in your challenge!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gluten-free Dairy-free Blueberry Muffin recipe

Whether you make your own gluten-free flour mix or buy one like Auntie’s Flour Blend, it’s easy to make really tasty muffins. You just need a fool-proof recipe!

I’ve been making these muffins for about 5 years. When my daughter was first diagnosed with a gluten and dairy sensitivity, I put my best foot forward and figured out the perfect combination of ingredients to create a moist and flavorful end product. There are a few rules, though, that are important to follow. Here are my suggestions:

Gluten-free Muffin Tips

  • Tip #1: Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl first. Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add wet to dry. This is generally always the process with baking.
  • Tip #2: If you use a pre-made flour blend, make sure to look at the ingredients. For example, if the flour mix already has xanthan gum, you don’t need to add that to the recipe.
  • Tip #3: You can vary the sugar based on how sweet you want the muffin to be. I usually use just over ½ cup which seems to be perfect. Over ¾ cup is too sweet for me.
  • Tip #4: For easy and consistent portioning when making muffins, use a hinged-type ice cream scoop (also known as a scooper). These can be found at restaurant supply stores in different sizes.
  • Tip #5: Always test muffins 1-2 minutes before the recommended time in case your oven is hotter than normal. Instead of using a toothpick to test for doneness, press your finger into the muffin. When it springs back, it’s done. If it leaves an indentation, continue to bake and test in 1-2 minute intervals.

Gluten-Free Dairy Free Blueberry Muffins 
2 cups Amy’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if using a mix which includes this)

2/3 cup milk substitute
2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice
2 large eggs
1/3 cup melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup organic sugar or other natural sweetener
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (keep frozen until ready to use)

Optional: 2 tablespoons gluten-free instant oats

Tip: if using fresh blueberries, make sure they are dry; otherwise they might sink to the bottom.

1. Preheat oven to 375F and prepare pans by greasing well or lining with paper cups.
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (first 5 ingredients).
3. Place the milk substitute and vinegar and lemon juice in a glass measuring cup. Set aside for a few minutes.
4. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs briefly. Add the oil, sugar, and milk substitute.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Mix the batter briskly for 5 seconds to help the gum to gel.
6. Fold in blueberries. Portion out muffins or loaf, filling about 2/3 full. Optionally sprinkle muffins with oats (see photo).
7. Bake mini muffins for 12-15 minutes or regular muffins for 18-22. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Remove from pan and cool. Leftovers can be stored at room temperature for 1 day. After 1 day, store in the refrigerator. Muffins can be frozen in an air-tight container for about 3 months.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Top 10 Food finds at the Winter Fancy Food Show 2013

Forgive me. The Winter Fancy Food Show was in January, 2013. I'm finally sitting down for my review. Of the 80,000 products, these are the ten that stood out. Some are new and some are sort of new. Hopefully they will help you in some of your food purchasing decisions! There were so many, I included a few at the end as well (and I still probably left off another 10!).

Note: although I write a lot about gluten-free food and try to only eat those items that don't contain gluten, these items may or may not be certified gluten-free.

Here it goes, in no particular order:

1. Just Cook Foods
This was probably one of my favorites of the show. I have used the Gimme Steak for tri-tip and the Herbed Coffee rub for chicken. They served carnitas pork with the Herbed Coffee rub; it was one of the best things I had all day. I love that they are local, their spices are delicious yet approachable (my kids really like them), and that they have a great story. I would suggest you try them.

2. Oren’s Artisan Nut Blends

 He’s a caterer from the Oakland, CA area. I hope he's successful. The nut blends are well thought out, very flavorful, and not too spicy.

3. Stack Wines
It might not be the best wine, and that's okay. The concept is super fun and makes me want to go on a picnic.

4. Bar Gelato by Naia
How fun is it to have gelato? It’s like a walk through the streets of Rome. Well only if it’s good and Naia is good. They also offer their gelato on a stick, great for picking up in a store when there’s no sign of a gelateria nearby. Get information about the gelateria side here.

5. Pittas Halloumi
If you have never had halloumi and if you like grilled cheese, you should try this cheese. Hopefully it will be available in Trader Joe’s later this year. Halloumi is almost like tofu but with a creamier texture. It holds its shape and can be served many different ways.

6. Toffee Talk
It’s pure and simple. It’s really good toffee. If you see it, buy it! It’s not low-fat or low sugar but it tastes just like toffee should.

7. Desiderio Chocolates

It’s not too often that you can find a caramel that is made without milk. My daughter eats dairy-free and really misses them; sea salt caramel was one of her favorites. Although it’s not certified gluten-free (it’s made in a shared kitchen with gluten ingredients), it’s something she can tolerate since she does not have Celiac disease. I hope I can find them in a store near me.

8. Pacific Beach Peanut Butter
It’s not often that I stop and actually talk about peanut butter but this brand is really tasty. I especially liked the CinnaYum which combines their very fresh tasting peanut butter with ground cinnamon. When I need something sweet, I grab a spoonful and feel satisfied (even though there’s no added sugar!).

9. Sabatino Truffle Risotto
Technically I had this last year but I made the mistake of not writing down the name or taking a photo. They also make a truffle macaroni and cheese. I loved the risotto, and even though I make my own, would use this product.

10. La Quercia Meats
I know some of you say “umm, bacon…prosciutto…salami.” If you do, you should check out this brand  of artisan crafted cured meats (available in my local store). I really enjoyed the Prosciutto Tamarind and the Lomo. Check them out.

Some other honorable mentions:
Foamz: Fruit-infused foam to top your favorite beverage

People may poke fun at Guy sometimes but I think this sauce would be great for pizza: pepperoni marinara!

KO Ketchup-more for adults but very tasty. They had the best "booth" which really was a food truck!

Literally Fresh Ginger Ale. Loved the...freshness and think it could make a great cocktail. Would probably cut it a bit with some sparkling water since it's sweet. When I asked, they said they are working on it but the sugar does help to preserve it.

Who would have thought that parchment paper would make me stop but it did.Love the professional look of the cups and you can use the bags to make your own microwave popcorn! Oh yes, you can use the bag to make fish en papillotte as well.

Loved these pureed sauces/soups which can be found in the freezer section. Nice to talk shop with the chef while I was there.