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.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Easy tamale pie: gluten-free and dairy-free

A few years ago, I made a version of tamale pie where I made tamale dough and put something in the middle (honest, I can’t remember; it might have been chili inside). I’m not sure why that went out of my rotation. More recently, I made a tamale pie as more of an experiment with black beans and salsa on the bottom and tamale dough on top. That was a huge hit.

I was in a “conversation” with another mom blogger on twitter about tamale pie and she asked if it was dairy-free too. One thing I don’t use is any cheese or butter because my daughter is sensitive to dairy. I know this would be really good with cheese inside but it's not an option for us. So, I made it a little creamy with coconut milk instead.

It’s gluten-free in the sense that it does not have any gluten ingredients. However, when I was doing some research I found that some of the masa mixtures can be contaminated either in production or delivery. If you are Celiac or intolerant, make sure the masa is “clean” as this is one potential way gluten can sneak in. I used Minsa masa for tamales.

What I like about this recipe is the method; I am the queen of technique! The filling can be anything you want. I would suggest something that is not too dry so that the filling is still moist. The filling was kind of soupy but it was perfect after being cooked. The dough is really easy and even easier to make dairy-free. Once everything is measured, it took less than 10 minutes; maybe closer to 5. After the dough is prepared, get it in the pan right away and into the oven. Since it has baking powder in it, it will start reacting once the liquid is added.

The recipe for the filling made about a cup more than I needed but I didn’t mind as I saved that for another meal for one of my kids. If you want something even quicker, see the note below in the filling instructions. And of course, enjoy!

Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Tamale Pie 
(omit chicken for a vegan version)

1 teaspoon olive oil
1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
About 1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons salsa or pico de gallo (I used some I had leftover from a taqueria visit)

1 cup plain unsweetened milk substitute
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
2 cups corn, cooked, fresh or frozen and thawed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro and/or 2 tablespoons salsa
Note: You can skip steps 1-4 and use about 2 cups of cooked chicken seasoned with some Mexican seasonings and/or add more salsa to the filling. Or, for a vegan version, omit the chicken, start on step 5, and add another can of black beans.

1. Make the filling. Heat a 3 quart sauté pan to medium (one that has high sides). Add oil and swirl in pan. Add chicken thighs. Sprinkle seasoning over chicken (salt, pepper, oregano, chili powder and cumin). Do not move chicken in pan.
2. After about 5 minutes, turn over and cook another few minutes.
3. Add broth and salsa (if you don’t have salsa, just add the broth), bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook about 1 hour or until tender.
4. Remove chicken and cut up into bite sized pieces. Strain broth and use for next step. Reserve what is in the strainer and add to chicken. Cool.
5. While the chicken is cooling, thicken the milk substitute. I use coconut milk from the carton, not can, for this dish. Heat up the milk until almost hot. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water. Add this to the milk and stir. Continue cooking until thickened. Cool slightly.

6. In a medium bowl, add chicken, corn, black beans, cilantro, salsa, and coconut milk. Taste the filling and make sure it’s seasoned well. If necessary, add more salt, salsa, cilantro, or spices. Set aside. It should be “wet”. Remember, you might have extra filling.

Tamale Dough
3/4 cup shortening or butter, softened
3 cups masa for tamales (some brands might not be gluten-free; always check with the manufacturer)
2 teaspoons baking power
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 13”x9” pan (I used an oval baking dish that was slightly smaller).
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the shortening or butter until fluffy and smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (masa, baking powder and salt). Slowly add the chicken broth and mix until fully incorporated.

4. Add the masa mixture to the shortening or butter. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or electric mixer, making sure all of the shortening is mixed in.

5. Place half of masa mixture in the bottom of the pan and spread evenly. Add enough chicken mixture to cover the masa and spread on top; reserve extra filling for another use. Top with the remaining masa mixture and spread evenly.

Top with a greased piece of foil and place in the oven. Bake 40-45 minutes covered. Dough should be cooked and mostly firm.
6. Let rest 5-10 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Ways your children can help in the kitchen

I was looking at some of the photos in my upcoming cookbook, The Warm Kitchen, and stopped on the page with my daughter's hand helping with the gluten-free tortillas. I looked at it and recalled she and I making one of her favorite dishes. It got me thinking about how important it is to have kids help in the kitchen and become involved in the process of prepping.

My friend Jennifer Lee over at Crunch a Color has a blog devoted to involving your kids in the kitchen and developed a game to encourage healthy eating at the dinner table. Having them help in the kitchen is one strategy for getting your kids to eat better. They are more likely to eat what they cook or have helped prepare.

I think the number one thing you need to do in the kitchen with your kids is keep them safe. I would suggest the following 3 things at a minimum. Keep them away from:

  • Raw meat (if they might eat or lick it)
  • Anything hot (after a friend’s 9 yr old daughter had a terrible accident with a hot cup of tea, I’m much more strict about what my kids do in the kitchen)
  • Sharp knives, unless they are being supervised
With that being said, my son has helped me roll meatballs, my daughter has helped cook pancakes, and both have used knives; with me standing next to them. So, use this list based on your judgment and your children since you know them best. I hope this encourages you! Check this blog for great family-friendly recipes.

10 Ways Children Can Help in the Kitchen

1. Make salad/rip lettuce: Make sure their little hands are clean and then get them to work. They can rip lettuce with their hands, spin the salad spinner (a favorite in our house) or add veggies to the bowl. I assumed my kids would not eat salad until they were older but my neighbor (with slightly older children) offered my son salad at 2 years old. It is now a staple in our diet.
Check out this post.

 2. Mash things that are not hot: I remember when my daughter was born, I was looking for ways to give my son extra attention; having him help me cook was one way I did that. While I was trying to make dinner, I propped him up on a stool with a bowl and some cooked (but not hot) potatoes and let him go to town. Other things that can be mashed: cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli, bananas, or even strawberries for shortcake.
Try this delicious gluten-free banana crunch muffin.

3. Cut with a plastic knife: I never thought a toddler could cut broccoli, but I was proved wrong (see above photo). A friend stood nearby and watched her while we cooked dinner. She loved "helping" and it kept her busy. I'm not sure if I would have given this task to my son; my daughter was always much calmer and I trusted her. Make sure what they are cutting is soft like melon, a peeled cucumber, broccoli, mushrooms, etc. 

4. Stir a sauce: If you are making a sauce either for dipping or for a marinade, let your child watch you measure and then allow them to mix it up. Often times, I would pour the ingredient into the cup or spoon and she would pour it into the bowl. Both of them love to use a whisk to mix it up.
Try this recipe for Duck Sauce.

5. Baste meat: Although this is an activity that requires more supervision (no finger licking allowed!), using a brush to baste chicken, fish, or beef is a lot of fun!

6. Roll meatballs: Recently, while making dinner, I realized I just needed some help. I got my daughter to prep the salad (she's 7 now) and my son to roll the meatballs (he's 9) while I mixed the meat and portioned it out on the tray. For some reason, my daughter has always liked to roll meatballs, too. It was such a satisfying experience to have the 3 of us in the kitchen working on dinner. You don't want to do this with a child who is too young and who might eat the raw meat or lick their hands; supervision is most definitely suggested.

7. Measure flour and/or ingredients: When you are making things like pancakes, waffles, muffins, or even, cookies, it's really okay if not everything is exact. I would rather have my kids in the kitchen helping than worrying about making the perfect dish. There's no doubt; this is something my daughter likes to help with rather than my son. Now she has learned how to level off the flour and the baking soda or powder, measure sugar (her favorite ingredient), and use a liquid measuring cup. A lot of this takes patience when they are young but will pay off later.
Making your own pancakes is easy! If you are not GF, here's a recipe for whole grain pancakes.

8. Roll dough: There's a reason why playdough is so popular; kids love to roll things. Now, maybe you don't want them rolling your famous holiday pumpkin pie but there's always something they can do like the extra pastry or pizza dough or even cookies. They can use a regular rolling pin, kid's one, or just their hands. Just keep an eye on what goes in their mouth if the dough has anything raw in it like eggs.

9. Mix a batter: Whether it's pancakes or pudding, give them the whisk, paddle, or spatula and let them go to town. Just make sure the batter stays in the bowl!
Why not try French toast? It can easily be adapted to gluten-free

10. Decorate cakes or cookies: Make cake and cookie decorating more fun and less like Cake Boss. Let them add color, candy, frosting, etc. Just be careful to not over do it on the sugar!
Here's a post on regular gingerbread cookies and icing.

Do you have any more to add to this list? If so, please leave a comment!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Canyon Oats provides wholesome on-the-go breakfast alternative

We are all busy, whether or not you have a family. Breakfast can be one meal we skip or just grab something convenient which isn't always healthy.  Have you considered a cup of oatmeal? One wholesome breakfast alternative comes from Canyon Oats -- a family-owned business located in Powell, Wyoming.

The hot cereal got its start in a coffee shop and roaster in St. George, Utah and began with simple, whole ingredients: rolled oats, sea salt, cinnamon, and golden flax seed. The company soon expanded and began rolling in maple sugar, almonds, tart cherries, cranberries and walnuts. More wholesome ingredients packed in convenient, on-the-go style cups.

I brought some samples home from a gluten-free expo (thanks Canyon Oats!) and the consensus was "delicious" and "yummy."

Need another selling point? The company’s oatmeal products are gluten-free! Oats don’t contain gluten naturally, of course, but many commercial vendors produce their oatmeal in facilities that also manufacture wheat—producing enough of a contamination to potentially harm a consumer who has severe gluten sensitivity.

The cups are sold across the country at select coffee shops. Check out the company’s website for purchase locations or to order the product online. Might be a good option on your next busy morning.