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, December 26, 2013

Gluten-Free Italian Knot Cookies and a little about GF living

Italian Knot Cookies and Pie Crust Thumbprints (a happy mistake)

Every year I feel like I take on a new challenge in my gluten-free kitchen. This holiday season it was Italian knot cookies. Just the smell of these brings back memories of being in Aunt Mary's kitchen in Long Island or getting cookies from one of the many bakeries we used to frequent. I had never made regular knot cookies let alone gluten-free ones so I wasn't sure what to expect. I just knew I had to try. See the recipe below; it worked! By the way, I've decided my next challenge will be making a gf cannoli shell so stay tuned.

One of the things I like to tell my students and clients when it comes to gluten-free baking is to be adventurous. You have to be willing to try recipes with new ingredients. In my cookbook, I use the analogy of learning how to cook gluten-free with being immersed in a new language:

"When you switch to a gluten-free diet, you may think you will never have that comfy 'warm kitchen' feeling again. That’s not the case. I explain it to people like language and being immersed. If someone dropped you off in a foreign country and you did not know how to speak, it would be rough in the beginning but you would eventually learn. Instead of saying “hello”, you might say “hola”, “ciao” or 'guten tag'. Instead of flour, there are alternatives like brown rice flour, millet flour, cornstarch, and potato starch. You can do this!"

Many people say to me "I could never be gluten-free; I would not want to give up the foods I love." The reply to this is you don't have to. You can still enjoy food that tastes great. Yes, you may have to get into the kitchen and be willing to experiment. Gluten-free food can be just as good. The other day a friend stopped by and tried one of these knot cookies. I would tell you what she said when she tasted the cookie but it's a family blog. ;-)

Back to gluten-free cooking. Some people don't have a choice about being gluten-free. They have to be gluten-free. 100%. No less. For them, they have to figure this out. I'm here to say if you have to be gluten-free, you can do this.

Living with celiac disease is difficult because of the potential for cross contamination from gluten-containing foods (especially at restaurants and the homes of friends, even those with the best intentions). Even foods you don't think about like vanilla and baking powder can have gluten just from how or where they are produced. Also gluten can be present on baking equipment like measuring cups and bowls. Actually, this discussion was not supposed to be an education in gluten-free. What I really want to get across is some people have to be gluten-free; others choose it. Either way, you can still enjoy food. If you have "gluten-filled" recipes, you must be willing to experiment. I find it's usually not as hard as I think it might be. The first step is...trying.

So all of this just for a recipe? Yes because this is how I feel every day about foods I haven't tried to convert yet. What if it doesn't work? What if it's not good? What if it falls apart or doesn't taste right? That's why I only recipe test when I have time and when the finished product is not intended for a special occasion. It took 2 times with this recipe, getting the right balance of flavor and texture I was looking for but even the first batch is something I would be happy to serve. The second batch was pretty amazing!

Enjoy and let yourself be free in the kitchen. I truly hope you find your kitchen to be warm again, and filled with delicious food!

Gluten-Free Italian Knot Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

2 ¼ cups Amy’s Gluten-Free Flour Blend (or a blend without xanthan gum; if your blend has xanthan gum, omit the gum below)
1 tablespoon baking powder (yes a tablespoon)
Rounded ½  teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon sea or kosher salt

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter or vegetable shortening, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon anise extract (if you don’t like anise, you can substitute with lemon juice or vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

3-4 tablespoons potato or tapioca starch for rolling

1 cup or more confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon anise extract or fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
2-3 teaspoons milk or milk substitute

Colored sprinkles or non-pareils

1. Preheat oven to 325F and prepare 2-3 baking pans by lining with either parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
2. In a small to medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a stand mixer or large bowl with an electric hand-held mixer, cream softened butter or shortening and sugar for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and mix another 30 seconds.
4. Add eggs, anise, and vanilla, mixing well. Scrape down the sides and mix another minute.
5. Add flour mixture. Mix until well blended. Mix on medium for 10 seconds. Dough should be slightly sticky.
6. Break off small, walnut sized pieces of dough and roll on the counter or between your hands to make a log about 3” long (I roll it right on the silicone baking mat). If the dough is sticky, use some potato or tapioca starch. Tie the log into a single knot so that one end is pointing up and the other end is under the cookie. Place about 12 cookies on each baking tray.
7. Bake 10-14 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through. Cookies should be just brown on top and firm.
8. Remove from the oven and cool about 3-5 minutes on the tray so the the cookies firm up. Transfer to a wire rack.
9. Once cookies are mostly cooled, make the icing. Place 1 cup of the confectioner’s sugar, anise extract or lemon juice, and vanilla in a small bowl. Start by adding 1 teaspoon of milk. Add more milk or sugar until the consistency is like a medium paste that can be poured but is not too drippy. Add more sugar if it's too thin. Either brush the icing onto the cookies or dip them into the icing, allowing excess to drip off.  Place them back on the wire rack and immediately add the sprinkles before the icing dries. Leave out for at least 2 hours so that icing is completely dry. Cookies should be stored covered at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bob's Red Mill Review

 Thank you to Bob's Red Mill for providing complimentary samples for my review.

Since beginning my gluten-free journey roughly six years ago now, Bob has been a good, supportive “friend” along the way. And while I don’t know the founder of Bob’s Red Mill very well (I did meet him though), I can attest to the products’ quality. It’s not easy to find oats, for example, that are grown and processed without any cross contamination with gluten-containing ingredients but Bob’s makes it work by sourcing their oats from a specialized farm with dedicated fields.

I only use Bob’s flours in my gluten-free flour blend and enjoy a variety of the company’s other products as well. I know there are other flours out there; I choose to use ones that I feel are easily accessible and work well with my recipes. I’m all about keeping it simple.

 A few months ago Bob’s Red Mill sent me some samples to review and I am happy to report my experiences.

The steel cut oats make for a hearty and delicious bowl of oatmeal that can really stand on its own with just a little salt to bring out the natural nuttiness. If you prefer to add sweeteners and other toppings to your hot cereal, though, Bob’s oats accommodate these additions well too.

The muesli can be served hot or cold but if you consume them cold you have to let them soak for a while in milk, yogurt or juice. When prepared cold with milk, the muesli resembles your standard granola cereal but it’s a little lighter and earthier tasting minus the high fat and sugar content found in most store-bought granola. The muesli tastes good served warm too but this really seems to pale in comparison to the steel cut oats.

The brownie mix produces some truly delicious gluten-free brownies. I’ve been able to make a dairy-free version by substituting vegetable oil for the butter (I’m not a big fan of margarine) and an egg-free version with a flaxseed-water replacement. Bob’s also makes ground flaxseed which I love as both an egg replacer as well as a way to make pancakes and bread more hearty.

While the pancake mix works well in a pinch I have to say I prefer my version, which uses Bob’s flours. You can always add cinnamon and vanilla to your pancake batter; this is what our family likes.

Overall, I’m a pretty big fan of Bob’s products and plan to continue using them in my gluten-free cooking and baking. I’m happy to see how much they have grown in the past few years.
Thanks, Bob!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Gluten-Free Falafel

The gf falafel mixture before adding flour

I'm embarrassed that I don't have that beautiful, focused in the foreground-blurry in the background photo of my completed falafel. We got so caught up in the making/eating, we forgot! I promise they looked just like what you would expect; crispy brown on the outside and greenish-flecked on the inside. 

It annoys me that 99% of the falafel found in the US has gluten; falafel are traditionally made with chick pea or garbanzo bean flour. It's also traditionally vegan; no animal products, like eggs or milk, are needed. Yea! 

So here are the important tips:
-The onion and garlic add a lot of flavor. Use less garlic if you don't like it spicy. 
-The mixture should not be wet (I made this mistake). Make sure to add enough garbanzo and/or gluten free flour to bind it together. 
-I used a combo of cilantro and parsley because that's what I had (and we all love cilantro). Use what you have. 
-Although you can bake these at a high heat, frying (even if it's just pan-fried) will give the best texture. 
-If you have more time, the traditional way to make falafel is to soak about 1/2 cup of dried garbanzo beans (so that you have the right amount for this recipe; you can always soak more) in water for 12 hours. Drain and rinse. Use this in place of the can of garbanzo beans. However, this requires at least a half of a day's worth of planning which we don't always have.
-I couldn't find fresh tahini sauce so I served it with hummus. Use what you have. It will be delicious.

-If you can't find or don't want to make fresh gluten-free pita, serve in lettuce wraps or a gluten-free roll. I like the ones from Schar. My husband brought these gluten-free pita back from the UK; they are the best I have had so far (and notice they are almost all gone).
Gluten-Free Pita from Sainsbury's, a UK based grocery store

Enjoy the recipe and don't be afraid to try these. They are easy, quick and delicious. I showed my husband how to make them so I think we have a new rotation in our household!

Gluten-Free Falafel
Makes 13-14 2” patties

1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped into 4-6 pieces
1/4 onion (or 1/2 small), cut into chunks
1/4 cup fresh parsley, rinsed and dried off, big stems removed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rinsed and dried off, big stems removed (or use all parsley)
1/3 cup chick pea or garbanzo bean flour 
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1/4-1/2 cup gluten-free flour blend (without xanthan gum)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying

1. Place all ingredients except flour blend and vegetable oil in a food processor. Puree until slightly chunky but almost smooth, scraping down the sides at least once. If it's too chunky, add a teaspoon of water and process again. Remove and place in a medium bowl. 
2. Add 1/4 cup flour blend and stir. You should be able to make patties that do not fall apart. If the mixture seems too dry, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. If the mixture seems too wet, add more flour. It should be moist but able to form into a patty.
3. Form into patties and fry in large pan with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until golden brown on each side. Serve with tahini sauce and/or hummus.