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 31, 2013

What's new with Udi's?


 Udi's new formulated Millet-Chia bread really is soft!

If you eat gluten-free, you might think there aren't a lot of choices for bread out there. A few years ago, I discovered Udi's products and pretty much haven't gone back since. The bread in particular was so much better than most of the other gluten-free bread that was being sold. Other brands more closely resembled cardboard than anything I would put turkey upon. My kids, at 6 and 4 years old, were able to make the change as well. I noticed though, my son would eat the meat and was very often not eating the bread. We tried toasting it and that really seemed to help. No more bread waste with the exception of a few crusts here and there.

Recently, Udi's asked me to review their products. Twist my arm; ok. When I first opened the box, I saw some familiar favorites (bread and rolls), some products I had not tried before (cookies and brownies), and some things I had not seen before (a new bagel and muffin). I noticed right away the packaging was different on the millet-chia bread; I had it before but thought it was just ok. I saw the word "Soft" and thought...well, let's give it a try. I called the kids in, slapped on some butter (and butter substitute for my dairy-free girl) and let them be the judge. The jury decided pretty quickly "thumbs up". Hmm, maybe I should look a little closer.

The two new products that were sent to me might not have caught my attention right away; until I tasted them. The first was a Harvest Crunch muffin. It looked ordinary and the other Udi's muffins, honestly, seem more like cake. Surprisingly, these muffins have 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving. Hello! And the judges once again gave two thumbs up. That was easy.

The next new product was the Mighty Bagel. I saw the cranberries and thought, they won't like these. I offered each child only a 1/2 so that it would not be wasted. I toasted it up with butter and both asked for the other half. Really? After checking the label and seeing there was 8 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber (yes, Udi's, some of us moms really read those labels so thank you), I was sold. Now the only issue is finding it in my local store. Actually, once it's found I suppose we have to be concerned about the fighting that often occurs between my kids when it comes to a food they really like.

Next we tried the cookies. Well, my son and I did. The chocolate chip cookies, although soft and chewy, are not dairy-free. If you don't have that restriction, you should try them along with the brownie bites. I keep mine in the freezer. When we are going to a party or event where the dessert served will be glutenous, I bring something like this. By the time I get to my destination, it will be thawed. Crisis averted.

Udi's also sent me white bread and whole grain hamburger rolls. I must say, they are all softer than they used to be. Although they aren't new to me, I thought I would share some uses for both. I use the bread to make croutons for my Caesar salad, and also for making stuffing. On occasion, I bring the hamburger rolls with us to restaurants which I can trust. They cook a plain burger for us and place it on the bun. There are just so many lettuce-wrapped burgers one can endure.

So thank you Udi's, not just for the box of goodies, but for bringing some awareness to this mom, who some times thinks she has tasted it all. And by the way, I found the new Millet-Chia bread in my local store in the refrigerated section with the other Udi's products. When I got home, I left it on the counter. 3 days later, it's still pretty good with a little bitta butter. I hope my readers will try and enjoy some of your products.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What are your "Keys to the Kitchen"?

I’m lucky. I got to ask Aida up close and personal. If you don’t know her name, you should. Aida Mollenkamp is California-based food expert, TV host, writer, and culinary curator. She studied at the Cornell Hotel School (like me!) and Le Cordon Bleu Paris before joining where she worked behind the scenes as Food Editor. Eventually, she moved to television where she hosted her Food Network show Ask Aida (you get the pun now) and later the Cooking Channel show, foodCrafters.

I met her while she was promoting her first cookbook, Keys To The Kitchen, at a Cornell University Alumni event. The book is a modern manual to the kitchen and was published in late 2012 through San Francisco-based Chronicle Books. Over the years, she has authored more than 1,000 original recipes and continues to publish new recipes on her site, Through her work, she aims to inspire creativity in the meals you craft, the gatherings you design, and the food adventures you embark upon.

After looking through her cookbook, I would describe her style as approachable foodie. This book is good for anyone who likes to cook, from the novice to the home chef. There are plenty of recipes, variations, and how-to’s. She’s giving you the “keys to the kitchen” so you, too, can cook like a pro. However, some recipes were a little too fancy for the palette of my 8 and 7 year old (and might have taken a little too much time for someone who often starts cooking at 5:30). So, being The Family Chef, I have adapted a few of her recipes to my family’s tastes. Look for posts for a curried cauliflower and peas as well as a creamy tarragon chicken.

Here’s a short interview I conducted with her to learn more about this culinary sensation. I wish her the best of luck and hope that one day I too will be on tour for my own cookbook.

1) What was the inspiration for the book?
While a lot of cookbooks are a catalogue of recipes, “Keys to the Kitchen” is more of a kitchen reference combined with a cookbook. It’s a modern manual to the kitchen that teaches you how to shop, covers basic kitchen techniques, and then culminates with over 300 original recipes that cover everything from an elegant holiday-worthy roast to ideas for reinventing last night’s leftovers.

I wrote the book for my friends who like food but are intimidated by the kitchen because they were never taught to cook. Over and over again, I’d have people ask me the same general questions — things like how to read labels, which cuts of meat are best for which preparations, and recipes for interesting but accessible recipes. I wrote “Keys to the Kitchen” to provide those answers and to help people become better cooks, whether it’s their first time turning on the stove or the one-thousandth.

2) What is your favorite thing to cook?
That’s a hard question because it’s constantly changing. If I’m in the kitchen, it’s almost always about recipe testing so I don’t have a ton of time to cook just any old thing. I do really enjoy working with doughs and pastas because it’s a really apparent payoff as the effort and time you put in directly results in the level of quality of the finished product.

3) What are your "keys to the kitchen"?
Well, there are chapters and chapters of them in the book, including tips, tricks, and techniques I've learned over the years!
But, what it all comes down to is keeping your experience in the kitchen educational and exciting. I talk a lot about "food adventure" because I believe that  you eat three times a day so you might as well have fun with it. For people who have found themselves in a cooking rut or are intimidated by the concept of food adventure, I recommend the following:
Follow flavors you like
Don’t think of your favorite recipe merely as one dish but rather as layers and layers of flavors. With that mentality, taste and dissect the details at your next dinner.

Travel through your taste buds
Many a food lover pines for food travel adventures, but few of us can afford that reality. Instead, live vicariously through food — though you won’t have souvenirs, you’ll rack up plenty of food memories.

Buy something new every time you shop
Consider each trip to the market as a chance to explore and aim to buy a new ingredient each time you shop. Sure, you may encounter a few duds, but more often than not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and realize you actually love sauerkraut.

Think of your kitchen as a lab
Change your perspective and think of cooking not as drudgery but as your daily chance for culinary creativity. And really, it’s a lab with pretty low risk — the worst-case scenario is that the dog ends up being fed really well.

Make mealtime mash-ups
With cooking experimentation comes rule breaking, so don’t be scared — just go with it. In the last few years, all sorts of ethnic flavors have (like music) been mashed up into cross-cultural dishes — like the now ubiquitous Korean tacos. Take a page from that trend and try a spin on your favorite foods, like chorizo on a gyro, kimchi in a Bloody Mary, Madras curry spices whirred into your vanilla ice cream, or any other twist that will help you forge your own food adventure.

4) How would you describe your cooking style?
My cooking style is considered West Coast Eclectic because I take fresh, seasonal ingredients and Mediterranean flavors – the tenant of classic California cuisine – and combine them in a contemporary way. Because I grew up in Southern California I’m really influenced by the diverse cultures there – including great Korean, Persian, Japanese, and Mexican food. That said, my family’s background as French and Italian really is the backbone of my food.

5) Will you write another cookbook?
Oh, definitely. I'm not sure exactly when it will be but I loved doing it and am hope to write a few more in the future.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Natural Decadence offers many options for those with intolerances

What do you do if you can't eat gluten, dairy, eggs, or nuts and you love dessert? Your options are quite limited unless you bake everything yourself. But  now, you can buy pies and cookies that are free of those allergens and still taste amazing.

Rosa May Dixon, the head chef and co-owner of Natural Decadence, has a daughter with Celiac so she's truly tuned in to the demands on a gluten-free mom. The other owner, Milia Lando, has been a business owner in the health and wellness field for the last 15 years. In 2011 it became necessary for her to become gluten, egg, and dairy free for health reasons.

Rosa's story sounds like my own; a passionate chef who is forced to take another path due to the diagnosis of a child. However, mine was not as extreme. Her young daughter, Solea, was constantly sick, throwing up on average 17 times a day. At first she was diagnosed with failure to thrive, then misdiagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Exhausted and looking for an answer, Rosa and her husband traveled from Northern California to Stanford to meet with Dr. Kenneth Cox, the chief of the division of Gastroenterology. Cole was able to quickly confirm that Solea was celiac. She was 15 months old and in the 1 percentile for her age and weight. Within three months of the diagnosis and a complete change in diet, she was in the 87th percentile.

Unfortunately, any contact with flour or regular gluten products that Rosa brought home still was an issue for her daughter; her skin reacted from the contact. Rosa was about to end her catering business when she reconnected with, now partner, Milia Lando who had just been diagnosed with food allergies as an adult. In addition to wheat, Milia had to cut dairy, egg and nuts out of her diet. Rosa says "With my background in making pastries, Milia was encouraging me to create artisan products that were dairy, egg, nut, and gluten-free. At the time, I was really done with cooking professionally. But Milia can be pretty convincing, so after a few months we tested out some recipes and began focusing on wholesale. We started with one flavor pie in our local co-op in Arcata."

Not surprising, they were a fast hit around their hometown of Humboldt and were discovered by Harvindar Singh, Whole Foods' food forager. A year later, their pies - Lemon, Pumpkin and Chocolate - are now in Natural Grocers throughout Northern California, including 25 Whole Foods.

My family was able to try all three pies, available in small and large sizes. All I have to say is that there was some serious negotiations happening at the table. The pie crust is more like a graham cracker but that didn't stop my kids from gobbling up these delightful desserts. The fillings are like a smooth pudding and taste very fresh and natural. A line of cookies, shortbreads and graham crackers (which we tried and loved) will be available soon. My 7 year old gives the lavender shortbread a big thumbs up. I was hoping maybe she wouldn't like those.

You can get a full retail list here. Look for it in the freezer section. Don't worry; most of the items will thaw in 5-60 minutes, depending upon the size.  I hope you will give them a try. There are a lot of gluten-free and dairy-free desserts out there that people could not pay me to eat; they are tasteless and dry. This is certainly not the case with Natural Decadence.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gluten-free orange sesame beef stir fry

I was speaking to a friend today about blogging. My advice to her was that some times it's ok to just write a quick entry without spending a lot of time. That's my goal; let's see how I do (I had to write the recipe; this took the longest).

This recipe is a combination of two recipes/techniques. It's broken down into 4 steps:
1. Marinate the meat and prep the sauce.
2. Cut the veggies.
3. Cook the veggies.
4. Cook the meat.
5. Put it all together and enjoy.

I grabbed some of the veggies (cabbage, mushrooms and scallions) from the salad bar for easy prep and used cooked green beans from the fridge along with shredded carrots.  When I cook, I usually prep as I go to save time but forgot that the flat snap peas take some time to take off the string in the center. Note to self: prep the veggies first!. Once you start cooking, it all comes together very quickly.

The meat is delicious on its own so you can use this part of the recipe to make Asian beef anytime. The orange rind is added at the end so it can even be omitted it you want something less "orange-y." We served this over brown rice. My kids didn't eat all of the veggies but most of them. My son kept asking for more "chicken" (really, I did tell you it's beef, honey...sigh). Either way, it was a great family recipe that I will make again.

Gluten-free Orange Sesame Beef Stir Fry
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup gluten-free soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (dark)
2 teaspoons minced ginger (you can also use a minced ginger paste)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 lbs top sirloin, cut into strips

Stir fry vegetables, sorted in order of hardness: broccoli, carrots, red cabbage, zucchini, mushrooms, snap peas, about 3-4 cups total, more or less

Orange Sauce 
2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Oil for high heat like peanut or safflower
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sushi rice flour or white rice flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon rice wine or sherry (not vinegar)
Zest of 1 orange
Optional: hot chili oil or crushed red chili peppers
Optional: more cornstarch to thicken sauce

1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the beef and stir to coat evenly. Let stand for 20 minutes. Optionally cover and marinate overnight.
2. Prep all of the veggies. 
3. Mix the orange sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. In a wok, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly colored, 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately pour onto a plate to cool.
5. Place a wok over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, swirling to coat on all sides. Cook the veggies until just crisp, hardest to softest. At the end, add the ginger and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove and place all of the veggies in a bowl.
6. Drain the marinade. Add the rice flour and cornstarch to the meat and stir until combined.
7. Place wok back on stove and wipe out if necessary. Add 2 teaspoons oil. Add the beef and stir-fry until cooked but still slightly pink in the center, 2 to 3 minutes. 
8. Add rice wine and cook for about 20-30 seconds. 
9. Add orange sauce and veggies; bring to boil then lower the heat.
10. Add sesame seeds, and orange zest. Cook for 1 more minute and serve. If you like spicy food, add hot chili oil and/or crushed red chili flakes.
11. If sauce needs to be thicker, in a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of cold water with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Add to the beef, stirring. This will thicken the sauce. Continue simmering about 2-3 minutes. Add more water or soy sauce if the sauce becomes too thick. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Gluten-free Dairy-free Belgium waffles

I don't know about you but when I smell Belgium waffles at those kiosks, I really wish I could eat gluten. Last year I vowed to find a replacement and I must say, I nailed it. I have made it two ways; with the caramelized sugar and without. Both are still delicious and my children are very appreciative of the effort I have made (read: this is not a quick recipe but worth the wait).

This New Year's day, I thought it would be fun to make them as a treat. The crowd (both gluten-free and not) agreed it was a winner. Read through the recipe and make sure you have about 45 minutes before you want to eat these delicious waffles. The yeast gives it a unique flavor that is much better than a regular waffle. You really can't compare one to the other.

Note: for a "with dairy" version, use 1/2 cup of unsalted butter instead of the shortening and 1 cup of whole milk instead of 7/8 cup milk substitute and 1/8 cup vegetable oil.

With this recipe, mis en place (everything in its place) is very important. For example, make sure the shortening is cooled slightly and that the eggs are already separated. If you add hot shortening into the batter, it might “cook” the egg yolks. Adding oil to the milk substitute helps to replicate the fat from the whole milk in the original recipe. As always, enjoy!

Gluten-free Dairy-Free Belgium Waffles
Makes 8 waffles in a 6" waffle maker or about 8 squares (2 large waffles) in a square waffle maker

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 c warm water (105F-115F)
1 teaspoon white sugar

3 cups Amy's Gluten-free Flour Blend
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

4 ounces (1/2 cup) non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, melted and cooled slightly
7/8 cup milk substitute at room temperature
1/8 cup vegetable oil (canola, sunflower or safflower)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated (separate first, then let come to room temperature)

Optional: 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (coarse)

1. In a glass measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in the water and sugar to proof it. Set aside. After 5 minutes, it should be foamy and fragrant.
2. In a small bowl, mix the flour blend, salt and xanthan gum. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, add the yeast mixture, melted shortening, milk substitute, oil, vanilla, sugar, and egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined
4. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; when you pull the beaters out of the bowl, the peaks should fall over softly. With a rubber spatula, fold them into the batter and let stand for 20 minutes.
5. Turn the waffle maker on after 10 minutes so it is hot when the batter is ready.
6. In this next step, you need to act quickly so you don’t burn the sugar or the waffle. If you are not using the sugar, you can disregard this. Place about ½ tablespoon of sugar on each part of the waffle iron first. Scoop about 2-3 ounces of batter on top of the sugar.

Note: I used a 2 ounce hinged scooper and no sugar in this picture. When you use a round waffle iron as opposed to a square one, you will use less batter and have a bigger yield.

Top with another ½ tablespoon of sugar on each part. Close the waffle iron and cook until the waffles are golden, following manufacturer’s directions. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Amy's Gluten-free flour blend

When I started my adventure in gluten-free baking, one thing that stressed me out was the amount of flours in a recipe. It was so off-putting, sometimes I did not want to bake. I was soon rescued by a friend, Amy Andrews of Amy's Food Room, who gave me her recipe for a flour blend that she had created. Over the years, I changed it to what you see below. I am very grateful to her for getting me started on the road to successful gluten-free baking.

One of the differentiators of my recipes from others you may see is the concept of using one blend for almost everything. This flour blend can be your new best friend. I mix between 6 and 9 cups at a time (1 to 1.5 times the recipe below). I use it for bread, waffles, pancakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. with few exceptions. I almost always use it in other people's recipes.

One thing that I noticed with many recipes and pre-mixed flour blends was that these have a lot of “white” flour, for example white rice, potato and tapioca starch. My blend still has more nutritional value with the brown rice and millet; it's 2/3 whole grain. The upside is that it is light enough to create a baked good with excellent texture.

Another distinction from other flour blends is that I do not add xanthan gum to my mix for three reasons. I find that for most cakes, you only need 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum for every 2 cups of flour but for cookies, you need more like 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of flour. So it's better to mix according to the recipe. Another reason is that the xanthan gum, which lasts over a year, should be refrigerated. I don't refrigerate my flour mix for reasons of space and finding it is not necessary. Lastly, if I'm only mixing a small amount of xanthan gum with a large amount of flour, I would worry it would not get properly distributed. These are my views. If you are worried about the cost and not using it in a year, find a friend to split the bag. So, this is the secret to my success. I hope it helps.

Mix together and keep in an air tight container:
3 cups brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour or starch
1 cup potato starch (not flour)
1 cup millet flour

Here's to happy baking. Let me know if you like it.

Tip: When you measure the flour into the large container, it's ok to put in a little more or less of a flour. I have found it's ok to estimate. However, when you measure flour for a recipe, fill the cup with about half of the flour then scoop flour on top, enough so that it is heaping. Use a flat edged knife to level the cup to measure exactly.