Monday, May 13, 2013
Foodie faithful, I appreciate your patience with me for the past few months. It’s been a crazy year at my university, which has left me precious little time for thinking about food–or, truth be told, for being in the kitchen at all. The past week has seen The Hubs and I headed out for end-of-year social events three nights in a row. The past couple of months have seen the Foodie children fending for themselves more often than they probably have in the past two years combined. Fortunately, they’re both pretty adept in the kitchen and nobody starved.
But. I’m happy to report that the spring semester is over, spring grades have been turned in, and the summer has almost officially begun. As soon as the Foodie children have finished the school year–and as soon as The Girl makes it through high school graduation–our summer break will be off and running, complete with regular trips to the farmer’s market and, with any hope, more Adventures in Produce.
In the meantime, I’m going to share a go-to recipe that gets me through a hectic dinner hour on a fairly regular basis: Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes. It’s a one-dish meal that requires minimal prep time–basically, the only prep involved is peeling and cutting up a few potatoes. That’s it. Best of all, everybody in the Foodie family loves it: The Girl loves anything that includes roasted potatoes, and The Boy likes chicken any time it doesn’t involve bones.
This recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They’re cheaper if you buy them with the skin on and remove it yourself, but of course that adds prep time–and when I know I’m going to be in a hurry, I just spend the extra bit of money on convenience. Otherwise, though, it’s worth taking a moment to pull off the skin. (It’s not hard, and it really doesn’t take that long.) If you prefer to substitute white meat chicken for the chicken thighs, just cut chicken breasts into halves and use them instead. You’ll probably want to reduce the baking time a bit, though, to keep the chicken from drying out, since white meat has a lower fat content.
Sometimes I’ll add a splash of citrus to this recipe by squeezing half a lemon over the chicken before baking–lemon and rosemary are a terrific combination. The Boy prefers this dish without the lemon juice, which isn’t surprising. If you’d prefer the potatoes to be steamed, rather than roasted, you can add half a cup of chicken stock to the baking pan just before you put it in the oven–or substitute white wine for the chicken stock, if you have it on hand. And don’t worry about adding wine to a dish your kids will be eating for dinner, since the alcohol evaporates during the baking process.
Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 or 4 large russet potatoes
1 T. olive oil
2 T. fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp. dry)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into bite-size chunks. (Try to get the chunks close to the same size, so they'll cook evenly.) Toss the potato pieces with the olive oil; add half the rosemary, then stir to coat. Dump the potatoes into the prepared baking pan and spread them in an even layer.
Set the chicken thighs on top of the potatoes. Spray them lightly with the non-stick spray, then sprinkle the remaining rosemary over the chicken. Season both the chicken and potatoes with salt and pepper.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
A few weeks ago, The Hubs surprised me with a new bread machine. We’d had another one years ago, when the Foodie children were small, but in those days baking bread was the last thing on my to-do list–somewhere after taking the Foodie children to/from day care, getting them something to eat before they starved to death, bathing the Foodie children, reading them bedtime stories, doing laundry, etc. etc. I made the occasional loaf of bread on the weekend, but not often enough to justify taking the bread machine with us when we moved from Missouri to Texas. It was one of many things that disappeared as the result of a massive pre-moving yard sale.
Fast forward twelve years or so. Now that I’m trying hard to stick with a gluten-free diet, bread is a serious issue. Store-bought gluten-free bread is pricey, to say the least, and although I’ve found a brand I like, it’s hard to justify spending a small chunk of money on bread that only I will eat. When The Hubs surprised me with the new bread machine, I decided to aim for making bread that the whole Foodie family can enjoy.
I started with this recipe from Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef. I left out the last four ingredients, since I was trying to make a basic loaf of bread–and it turned out beautifully. The bread was crusty and chewy and delightful. Everyone loved it. I thought, perhaps, I’d solved my bread dilemma. And then, sadly I discovered that my body doesn’t like sorghum flour. Every time I ate a slice of the bread, I’d end up with a stomach ache. It took awhile for me to make the connection between the bread and the stomach pain that came back every time I ate it, but once I made that link, I realized I’d have to start looking for another recipe.
Which brings us to this: Buttermilk Bread.
As you might be able to tell from the photos, this bread is more similar to basic white sandwich bread. The crust is soft, not crispy, which makes it easy to chew–a plus, if you’re feeding small children–and also makes it a bit of a treat for the Foodie children, who very rarely get to eat white bread. (The Boy, in fact, says “It tastes like bread.” Given his super-sensitive taste buds, I’d call that a rousing endorsement.)
The batch featured here was made with a cup of brown rice flour and a cup of white rice flour. You can also use two cups of white rice flour, if that’s what you have on hand–the loaf I made with only white rice flour turned out fine, though it dried out quickly. This recipe also calls for powdered buttermilk, which I found on the baking aisle of my local grocery store. Buttermilk gives this bread a bit more flavor than the recipes I tried using regular powdered milk.
A few things to keep in mind, when it comes to making gluten-free bread in a bread machine:
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions for baking gluten-free bread in your bread machine. Some machines have a gluten-free setting; some are programmable; others suggest using a particular program. Mine suggests the Basic setting, which seems to work fine.
- Keep in mind that the temperature of your ingredients is crucial when you’re making bread (gluten-free or otherwise.) Your eggs need to be at room temperature; your water should be a little too warm to touch comfortably, but not so warm that you can’t stick your finger in it. If these ingredients are too cold, your yeast will be unhappy.
- And speaking of yeast: be sure it hasn’t expired. Yeast is a living thing, and it will die if it sits in the cupboard too long.
- However, remember that gluten-free breads generally don’t rise as much as wheat-based breads. This is because gluten-free flours are heavier, and because gluten is what helps wheat bread hold its shape and height. If your loaf turns out shorter than you expected, don’t despair. It will still be tasty.
- Also remember that gluten-free breads don’t brown in the same way wheat-based breads do–the top of your loaf will likely remain rather pale. Don’t overbake your bread by putting it in the oven for additional baking time. Gluten-free breads dry out quickly, so make your peace with the pale top crust.
- Remove gluten-free bread from the bread pan as soon as it’s finished baking and allow it to cool on a baking rack. Letting the loaf cool in the pan will leave you with soggy bread.
- Finally, remember that gluten-free breads need to cool completely before you eat them. Otherwise, the bread will crumble when you try to slice it–and, more importantly, the texture will be gluey. Warm bread is just one of the things a gluten-free diet can’t accommodate.
This bread holds up well in the toaster, works well for sandwiches, and will last for a couple of days if you keep it covered in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 cup powdered buttermilk
1 tsp. salt
3 T. sugar
4 T. butter, melted, slightly cooled
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. dry yeast
In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Whisk them together, then set the bowl aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter and the eggs. Add the lukewarm water and whisk again. Pour the combined wet ingredients into the bread pan of your bread machine.
Spoon the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients, but don't stir. Sprinkle the yeast over the dry ingredients, then set the bread pan into the bread machine.
Bake the bread according to the manufacturer's directions for baking gluten-free bread in your bread machine. Remove the loaf from the bread pan as soon as it's finished baking and allow it to cool completely before eating.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Cherry Almond Bread makes a delicious breakfast option.
When the Foodie children were younger, our mornings were easy enough to navigate—or, as easy as mornings ever are. For several years, both kids went to the same day care center; then to the same elementary school. They got up at the same time, got dressed at the same time, ate at the same time. We rushed to get out the door some mornings, but we were, at least, rushing on the same schedule.
And then, The Girl went to middle school.
When The Girl started sixth grade, her school day started almost an hour later than her brother’s. Suddenly, it made no sense for both kids to get up at the same time—especially since The Girl had started to guard her sleeping time in the way teenagers often do, resisting the call to get out of bed and start preparing for the day, sometimes four or five times. It was clear our schedule had to adapt to the changing dynamics of our family.
One thing I knew for sure: I didn’t want our mornings to resemble those I remembered from my own teenage years. I grew up with a father who had retired from military service, in a family where flexibility was rare and being on time was valued above all things. Loosely translated, this meant “ten minutes early.” I was always the first kid at the bus stop, waiting in the cold for everyone else to show up, often on the verge of frustrated tears. From the moment I was out of bed, I was rushing—even when I was on schedule. If I was ready to leave the house ten minutes before I actually needed to, my mother called that morning a success.
How to avoid that kind of manic morning pace in the Foodie household? The trick, I thought, was to figure out a way to respect each of our schedules and preferred ways of getting through the morning, while getting everybody where they need to be on time. No small job, to be sure. But I realized I had to learn to think of our mornings as four separate routines working together for the benefit of each family member—not as a single, well-oiled machine. After many years of trial and error, here’s our current routine:
I’m a clock-watcher. (What can I say? My mother won.) I get up when the alarm goes off at 6:20. I feed the cats and make the coffee. I check Facebook and watch the morning news while the coffee brews. I drink a cup before I head off to wake the Foodie children, at precisely 6:55. Then I get dressed and put on make-up, eat breakfast, pack my lunch, brush my teeth. I touch base with the Foodie children, to double-check their schedules and find out who needs a ride home from school. I’m out the door and on my way to work by 7:40.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins: Portable and tasty.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, The Girl will stay in bed as long as possible—long after her alarm goes off and even, yes, after I’ve come in to wake her at 6:55. Trying to prevent this by cajoling, threatening, tempting or bribing simply serves no purpose. It used to drive me crazy that The Girl would roll out of bed twenty minutes before we needed to leave the house, but now I concentrate on the fact that she has never once been late for school (or work). She’s never made anyone wait for her, either. She gets excellent grades, excellent enough to earn a full academic scholarship at her first-choice college, and she’s been promoted to a management position at her weekend job. These are the really important things about her. If it bothers me that she looks like she’s just rolled out of bed when she leaves the house (because, face it, she has), that is my problem to deal with. No one else seems to care.
When The Girl leaves the house to meet her carpool, yogurt smoothie in hand, she’s doing exactly what she’s supposed to do, just not the way I would do it.
The Boy couldn’t be more different from his sister. Like me, he’s a clock-watcher. Unlike me, he’s a little more relaxed about the clock. He rarely gets up right when I call him at 6:55, but by the time The Hubs makes a second call, around 7:10, The Boy is usually ready to go. (If he’s not, I swing by his bedroom on my way to get my breakfast and remind him of the time. This always does the trick.) He takes his ADHD meds, eats some breakfast, watches a bit of the Today show. When 7:40 rolls around, he heads to his bedroom to dress for the day. After that, because he’s still waiting for his meds to kick in, some combination of the following takes place: he brushes his teeth, plays with the cats, combs his hair, notices the cat hair on his shirt, uses the lint roller, gets the dog to do her tricks, gives her a treat, opens the blinds, takes out the trash or the recycling. No matter what else is going on, at precisely 8:05, The Boy reminds his father that it’s time to hit the road.
Which is not to suggest that The Hubs is always ready to leave the house at 8:05. Oh, no. Of the four Foodies, The Hubs is by far the least conscious of the clock. The early years of our marriage featured many heated discussions about the virtues of being on time (read: ten minutes early) vs. the merits of not wasting time on waiting for other people to show up when you could, instead, have spent that time at home, getting ready. Over the 24 years we’ve been together, though, we’ve negotiated a peace treaty. It goes something like this: if you’re the only one who will be late, be as late as you want. If you’re going to make someone else late, you need to be on time. And, to The Hubs’ credit, The Boy has never once been late for school. He’s walked through the door of his first class exactly as the final bell is ringing, but he’s never been marked tardy.
When I was an exhausted parent of toddlers, a friend with teenage sons once told me “I know this is hard to believe now, but the day will come when your biggest challenge is getting your children out of bed.” I dreamed of that day. Now that it’s arrived, I try to face that challenge while keeping in mind what’s really important: starting the day on a peaceful note and looking forward to coming home again in the evening, to a home where each person is respected and loved.
This post is part of BlogHer’s Rush Hour Tips editorial series, made possible by Got Milk?
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Photo Credit: Emily Barney
Happy Easter, if you’re an Easter-celebrating foodie! Today began in traditional style, with church services and Easter brunch. Now that the Foodie children are in their mid- to late teens, though, our days of hunting Easter eggs are long behind us–and since none of us need to eat large quantities of candy, I didn’t make Easter baskets for the Foodie children, either. All of this left the day feeling a little anti-climactic, once brunch was over, and I spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out how to make the day feel special again.
I considered special desserts. I considered Foodie family favorites. And that’s when I remembered The Girl mentioning her desire for fried chicken–something she gets to eat only when we go out for dinner, since deep-fried anything is a rarity in our household. The Boy is usually a fan of chicken in its strip or nugget forms, so I figured he’d be amenable to this version of oven-fried chicken. Coupled with the fresh ears of sweet corn I bought from Straight From the Crate, my local year-round farmer’s market, I had the makings of a dinner that looked ahead to summer, which is reason enough to celebrate.
This preparation of Tortilla-Crusted Chicken relies on the coating for crunch, since the chicken is baked instead of fried. When it comes to the tortilla crumb coating, you have several options: tear corn tortillas into quarters and use your food processor to turn them into crumbs, or place corn tortilla chips in a large plastic bag with a zippered top and crush them with a rolling pin. (Keep in mind that tortilla chips are usually salted, which will eliminate the need to add salt later.) Alternatively, you can just buy a package of tortilla crumbs at your favorite grocery store–they’re usually near the packaged bread crumbs, on the baking aisle. Corn tortillas give you a gluten-free coating with lots of texture.
In order to make sure your chicken stays crispy on all sides, fit a wire rack inside a cookie sheet to allow the hot air from the oven to circulate– otherwise, one side of your chicken will be soggy, which does serious damage to the fried chicken vibe. The coating for this chicken will not be as thick as what you’d find on battered chicken, but you can always thicken it up by dredging the chicken lightly in flour before dipping it in the beaten egg. I skipped this step because I wanted to minimize breading and highlight the corn flavor of the tortillas.
The Girl was very impressed with this chicken, even though it wasn’t fried. The Boy would have liked it better if I’d cut the chicken breasts into strips or chunks and breaded each of them separately, which would be easy enough to do (and would also shorten the baking time, if you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table.) This time around, I left all four chicken breasts intact so they’d bake at the same rate. Strips or chunks will need only 10 to 15 minutes in the oven.
4 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup corn tortilla crumbs
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 T. dry parsley
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fit a baking rack into a baking sheet that's slightly larger; lightly coat the baking rack with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a wide, shallow bowl, combine the tortilla crumbs and spices. Use a fork to distribute the spices throughout. Season this mixture with salt and pepper, then set aside.
In a second bowl, beat the two eggs. Working with one chicken breast at a time, dip each into the beaten eggs, allowing excess egg to drip off. (It helps to do this with one hand and keep the other dry.) Set the chicken in the bowl of tortilla crumbs, pressing down slightly. Use your dry hand to flip the chicken breast, coating the other side with crumbs and pressing down again. Transfer the coated chicken breast to the prepared baking rack. Repeat this process with all four chicken breasts.
Spray the tops of the chicken breasts with cooking spray, then transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts, until the juices run clear or the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
I’ve been enjoying a week of Spring Break with the Foodie family which, this year, coincided with two important occasions. First off, Daylight Saving Time–I don’t enjoy missing that hour of sleep, but I definitely do enjoy the fact that it stays light until later in the evening. Life is so much more pleasant when you aren’t driving home from work in the dark, feeling like the whole day got away from you. Plus, in this part of the world, those extra hours of sunlight mean that everything suddenly starts budding and blooming and turning that particular shade of green that only appears in early spring. Yesterday I discovered a whole little family of wildflowers growing behind my garden shed. (How they’re growing back there in near-darkness, I don’t know, but it makes me happy to know they’re brightening that corner of the yard.)
Second, and more importantly (from a Foodie perspective, anyway), was Pi Day. What is Pi Day, you ask? It’s March 14th, 3.14, the day on which we celebrate a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, by eating a circular food with a homophonic name: pie. Last year, I celebrated by making Raspberry Cream Pie with Almond Crust. This year, I decided to make this Meyer Lemon Cream Pie.
On the morning of Pi Day, I made a trip to the north-central part of town for a haircut. While I was in that neighborhood, I made a stop by my favorite specialty grocery store and bought a loaf of my favorite gluten-free bread, among other things. I happened to notice a package of frozen gluten-free pie crusts in the freezer case, which seemed like an appropriate purchase for the day, so I decided to give them a try. My hopes weren’t terribly high, but I couldn’t help thinking how much easier my life would be if a prepared gluten-free pie crust were actually available to me. (You don’t know how much you’ll miss things like mediocre pre-made pie crust until, suddenly, you can’t eat it.) When I got home, I pre-baked the pie crust while I made the lemon filling and hoped for the best.
Sadly, though, the pie crust was a huge disappointment, both in taste and texture.* It appears that I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and figure out how to make a gluten-free pie crust from scratch.
The filling, though–oh my. As I’ve mentioned before, Meyer lemons are less tart than the lemons you’re probably used to using. Combined with sour cream, vanilla, and a few other choice ingredients, they transform into lemony bliss. I made regular old whipped cream for the topping, though I’d recommend stabilizing your whipped cream topping if you’re going to take this pie anywhere other than your kitchen table. Whipped cream doesn’t hold up for long at room temperature, and it’s easily stabilized: just whip the cream until soft peaks start to form, then add a tablespoon of cornstarch, or add a tablespoon of unflavored gelatin–dissolved in about 3 tablespoons of water and heated in the microwave for 30 seconds, then cooled to room temperature–at the same point, when you add your sugar. (The softened gelatin should look something like an egg white.) Your whipped cream will end up nice and thick, it won’t weep, and the cut slices of pie won’t gush all over the place.
When it comes to cream pies, though, I kind of like them to gush all over the place, so I didn’t bother with stabilizing the whipped cream. As I’m sure you can tell.
I didn’t include lemon zest in this recipe because I wanted to preserve the very creamy texture, but I did add a sprinkle of zest on top, just for color. I also added a few fresh raspberries because, hey, it’s Pi Day. Everybody likes to dress up for special occasions.
* You will note that I’m not naming the brand of this disappointing pie crust. That’s because my policy, in life and in blogging, is to say nothing at all if I can’t balance out the negatives with positives, and in this case I really can’t. Also, bad publicity is still publicity. I’d prefer to let bad pie crust languish in obscurity until, inevitably, it disappears from the market on its own merits.
Meyer Lemon Cream Pie
1 pie crust, baked for half the recommended time
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1 tsp vanilla
For the topping:
1 cup whipped cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Meyer lemon zest, for garnish (optional)
Fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or lower the heat to 350, if you've used a higher temperature for baking your pie crust.)
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar and sour cream; whisk again, until all the ingredients are incorporated. Add the lemon juice, a little at a time, then the vanilla, whisking after each addition.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and set the filled pie on a cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the center of the pie is set. (When you jiggle the cookie sheet, the center will be wiggly but not liquid.) Let the pie cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 3 hours.
Just before serving, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue whipping until you can see the beaters making tracks through the cream. Cover the cold pie with the whipped cream. Garnish with the lemon zest and raspberries.