Weekend Fit for a Foodie

 

                                                                     Weekend Fit for a Foodie  
                                  
My gleeful selfie-photo at Julia’s house.        My Butternut Squash recipe is at the end of this post.
I’m back from a food-oriented weekend in the Boston, MA area.  I stopped in Cambridge to see where Julia Child lived and cooked.  I was hoping to see a plaque honoring Julia, but there was only a sign discouraging cars from stopping…you can’t stop a foodie from taking photos, including my most gleeful selfie ever.  I later had dinner at Harvest Restaurant, where I had dined many years ago. Before Sara Molton was a TV chef, she used to chef at Harvest and she also in Julia Child’s Cambridge kitchen.

          
Beet, cheese and cranberry appetizer.         Artic Char on black rice with vanilla sauce.
The meal was as good as I remembered, especially the sauces.  My dinner companion and I shared a beet appetizer that was the star of the meal.  I took this photo after we ate half of it.  My entrée was Arctic Char on a bed of black rice entrée: check out those “balls of vanilla sauce” that were a standout element in the dish.  We finished with a trio of homemade ice cream flavors: chocolate, maple and raspberry sorbet.  Ice cream is always a good gluten-free dessert choice.   When dining out, be prepared to ask questions about the gluten-free options.  By the way, the waiter was very attentive to my gluten-free needs.

Soup Anyone!?! My main purpose this weekend, was to attend a cooking class.  And, with all the snow we are getting in New York, I couldn’t have chosen a better topic.  Luckily, the class was sandwiched in between several snow storms!

Challenges of ADD  If you have read my posts, you know that my blog www.countrykitchenchaos.com  focuses on two main topics besides food: gluten-free living and attention deficit disorder (ADD).  My life is framed by these challenges and special gifts, both of which I’ve learned to appreciate.  Yet, I still need ways to manage my time and organizational issues.  My gift enables me to envision a creative marketing plan in no time; but I can have trouble sticking to a daily schedule.  Alas, getting my culinary business, Country Kitchen Center up and running is a challenge.  (Of course, this is true for any new business.)

               
A Demo on cutting onions.                                      Helen and Andrea. It’s fun to be a student.
Cooking Class in Action 
I got to attend a cooking class that is held in a home kitchen. I was excited to see how Helen conducts her classes, as I also use a home-based kitchen for my classes.  I always learn best when someone can model a task. In this case, how to organize and run a cooking class.  Helen had everything set to go and the class flowed smoothly.

She concurrently make three diverse soups.  The soup class a “watch and learn” class in which we followed the myriad steps of preparation, demonstration and taste evaluation.  I’m a hands-on teacher/student, but I could see the value in having students observe and then practice in their own kitchen.  She also did several demonstrations, including one on the use of salt in food dishes.  I liked that demo.

  Bouillabaisse with aioli toast.
The soups included a fish stock based Bouillabaisse.  I brought my own gluten-free bread and Helen was careful to toast my bread separately, and then spread the aioli before touching any gluten bread.  Another soup was a velvety, roasted butternut squash soup, with a pomegranate reduction.

The last soup, made in a pressure cooked was a smokey lentil soup.  All were delicious and beautifully presented.  If you are interested in finding out more about Helen’s cooking classes, check out her website www.helenrennie.com  for her own recipes.  I will give you my own version of a butternut squash soup.  I also roast the vegetables, which caramelizes them and brings out the sweetness.  Helen showed us an easy way to peel the squash, which I will include in the recipe below.

The Take-Away  After the class, Helen graciously sat with me and talked about how she started and built her business.  My conversation with Helen was an example of true networking and hands-on learning.  I thank her for reaching out to a fellow cooking teacher.  She has given me much “food-for-thought” in building my food business – and making soups!  Merci beaucoup.

   Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with sour cream and toasted nuts

Ingredients:
1 medium Butternut squash, peeled and cut into wedges
1 sweet potato, cut in half
2 apple, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
2 onion, peeled and cut into wedges
olive oil for coating vegetables
4 cups broth: vegetable or chicken

optional: 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

For Serving:
sprinkle per serving walnuts or pecans, small pieces toasted
1 teaspoons per serving Sour Cream

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prep ingredients and coat with olive oil.
Spread out in a single layer on baking tray.
Bake about 30 minutes, until all is nicely browned.
Puree in blender with a little broth until smooth.
Put soup, remaining broth and optional butter in a medium pot. Heat and serve.
Top with a dollop of sour cream and toasted nuts.

Notes:
Butternut squash – cut off top & bottom, peel from end to end, cut peeled flesh in half then cut into thinner pieces (triangles & rectangles)
Apples – cut top & bottom off, use peeler or knife to remove peel, cut into wedges, removing core
Onions – remove brown papery layer, cut into half
Coat all with olive oil  in a large work bowl and lay in 1 layer on tray.
You can use a blender wand, but the soup will not be a smooth if you use a regular blender.

Tips:
This soup can be a first course or a main dish, in which case follow with a salad and cheese course. 

 

                            

Comments and information:  Let me know how you like this winter soup pleaser…Post your soup photo with comments to this blog. www.countrykitchenchaos.com 
For more information about our gluten-free classes, workshops and consultation services go to our website: countrykitchencenter.com    In addition, you can email me at ckc@countrykitchencenter.com
Off-site classes:  We do classes at our kitchen center, as well as at the homes of host-students.  If you are interested in hosting a class, please call or text Andrea at #646-670-7699 to learn about the benefits.

 

 

 

 

As good as it gets, gluten-free buttermilk pancakes!


Country Kitchen Ch
aos focuses on two topics, close to my heart and daily life: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and gluten intolerance and gluten allergies.  Someone might say it is a lot to deal with, but it has given me challenges that make the best of my life. As a person with ADD, I am always dealing time and organizational issues.  When I cook, I must be organized and specific with my cooking instructions.  If I want to double a recipe, then I write down the new amounts, otherwise I will make a mistake.  Mostly, I write the new amounts in a column, to the right of the one in the cookbook or on a printed computer page and put a 2X above the new amounts. If my eyes are straying to the single batch column, then I place a paper over it.   I doubled this pancake recipe since one batch is not enough for any pancake loving person. You can freeze any extra pancakes and have a tasty fast weekday breakfast.  You certainly won’t get gluten-free pancakes at any fast-food restaurant!

This weekend, I made amazing gluten-free fluffy buttermilk pancakes.  They fit my credo:  as good as regular-gluten food. I had a bottle of my favorite brand, “Kate’s Creamery – Real Buttermilk” and wanted to make a breakfast dish using it.  If you haven’t tried it, do so…it is the best thing to making it yourself!  I tweaked a pancake recipe from 1000 Gluten-Free Cookbook by Carol Fenster.  You can use her sorghum based flour blend or another all-purpose gluten-free flour mix. In either case, keep a gluten-free flour mix on hand for quick breakfasts and other baked recipes.

Here’s my method for making these pancakes, which are sure to be a family favorite.  Mix & blend well the dry ingredients.  In a separate large, liquid measuring cup, mix well the wet ingredients.  I added a little more buttermilk since the batter was too thick, but you may need to adjust it each time you make it.  It should be thick, but still pour slowly from the measure cup. I added two yellow organic, sliced bananas (save the really ripe one for your baked goods).  I also added 1/2 cup small pecans pieces; which increases the protein content. I gave it a spice boost with a bit of cinnamon.  Pancakes give you lots of room to play with your favorite flavor palette.

I mostly cook with cast iron pots & pans.  I have a griddle pan that covers two burners and can cook a small bunch – about 2 to 4 at a time.  Cast iron can over-heat quickly; keep a close eye on the heat level and even your first pancakes will be good ones.  When you make the pancakes, have some butter or oil melted and ready to brush your griddle. I use a silicone brush, one of my favorite tools.  Fill a scant 1/4 cup with batter and slowly pour it onto the hot griddle.  Cook until top side bubbles, then use two metal spatulas to flip the pancake.  Lift with one spatula and keep it from sliding as you turn it.  The second side will brown very quickly.  In no time, you will be enjoying a wonderful, hardy breakfast.  I serve the pancakes with real maple syrup and a touch of sour cream.  I get my syrup from local maple producers, one of the perks of living in upstate New York.  It’s also where I base my gluten-free cooking school, Country Kitchen Center.  Check out my website for details.  If you would like to schedule a class, check out my website: www.countrykitchencenter.com  and/or email me at ckc@countrykitchencenter.com.  I’ll be glad to touch base with you and assist with your gluten-free questions.

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups  all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
1/4 cup  sugar
2 teaspoons  baking powder
1 teaspoon  baking soda
1/2 teaspoon  salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup  buttermilk
1/4 cup butter
2  large eggs
2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2  bananas, sliced
1/2 cup  pecans, small pieces
Additional butter or oil, melted, for cooking

In a medium mixing bowl, measure & mix the dry ingredients, from flour mix to xanthan gum. In a 4 cup liquid measure cup, whisk wet ingredients until smooth.  Gradually add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Gently incorporate the bananas and pecans using a large wooden spoon.  Make sure all the flour is well mixed.  Let stand at least 5 minutes.
Heat griddle, lightly brush with melted butter or oil. Dip greased 1/4 cup into batter, level and quickly pour onto griddle.  When bubbles appear on top side, about 2-3 minutes, use 2 spatulas to turn and cook until bottom is brown, about 1 minute.  Continue until pancakes are done.  Serve immediately or keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

Tips for making pancakes
Have your ingredients all prepped and the workspace ready.
Use cast iron pans and two spatulas for a better technique.
Pre-set your table.  Warm your food plates in a 200 degrees oven and keep cooked pancakes warm too.

 

Lentil, Feta & Pecan Salad or how to organize a tasty salad.

Countrykitchenchaos is about cooking and baking good, simple food. “CKC” is as much about dealing with time and organizational problems. As a person with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), I know how these problems can create chaos and stress in the kitchen. Anyone can learn how to work effectively in the kitchen. I used to be an armchair cook; I read cookbooks and culinary magazines, but I seldom cooked. I was intimidated by the myriad steps in the cooking process.  Learning how to be organized has helped turn me into a relaxed and focused cook.

Are you one of those cooks who never use a written recipe?  You look in the fridge, pantry or – if you are lucky – your own vegetable garden and use what your freshly grown ingredients. I do that sometimes and it is how I come up with my own recipes.  Other times I use recipes. After all, they have been developed and tested (hopefully), and the percentage of success can be quite high! Recipes can help you find inspiration instead of making the same dish over and over again.

I have a huge cookbook collection and will read through the entire book, savoring each recipe and culinary photo.  I also use the internet to search for recipes. If I make it and like it, I save it. But, here’s the rub: have you ever had trouble reading or following a recipe?  Following a recipe can be a daunting process for myself. And, if that recipe is on my iPhone, it’s small and hard to see. I usually can not read a recipe through and memorize all ingredients and steps. If the cooking steps are lumped together in big paragraphs, I might miss a step. I might also confuse the steps, especially in baking. Since baking is a science, such confusion is a big problem!!

So, what do I do when I cook from a recipe. First, I read it through to see if I want to make it.  I imagine the steps and methods required to make it.  If I choose to make it, I annotate the recipe, separate the steps so they are easier to follow. If it’s a baking recipe, I will make a bracket to denote ingredients that are mixed as a sequence of steps. The bracket method also helps me remember the ingredients and steps better. Sometimes, I insert numbers in the directions, when a new step begins. This helps a lot when the directions are lumped together.

I also figure out what kind of equipment I need (including items that are not mentioned in the recipe) and I write them down on my recipe notes page.  The recipe may tell you to use a bowl, but it works better if you know what size bowl you need. I take out the equipment and set it up in my work area. Then I don’t have to look for equipment when I’m in the middle of a step.

Here’s another helpful tip: it’s a must to check and see if I have the ingredients on hand. Keep a place handy for your shopping list.  In these technical days, I like to keep my shopping list in my iPhone. You might even keep an inventory of ingredients on hand, but that’s an entire project, so I tend to keep ingredients grouped by what kind of recipes I use them in.  For example, I group sweet and savory spices separately. I keep my flours together, my grains together, my cheeses together, etc., etc.

Today I am going to share a recipe that I especially like, Lentil Feta Pecan Salad. It is a great combination of ingredients and it is also gluten-free. Yes, I am also gluten intolerant!! I made the lentil salad to take to a retirement party.  When I’m ready to cook, I line up the ingredients in the order I will use them. Did you ever think there was so much to do with getting ready to cook.  But, it takes the pressure off the cooking process when you prep thoroughly. I don’t always take the time and then I regret it. And, much of successful cooking is in the organization and preparation.  Of course, good ingredients are also  a must for the best tasting food.  I’ll be posting more on organization and methods, but let’s get down to the business of cooking.

LENTIL FETA AND PECAN SALAD (inspired by In A Vermont Cookbook, by Amy Lyon & Lynne Andreen)

Serves 10 – 12

Ingredients
1 LB. Package French lentils
4 Quarts water
1 Cup chopped pecans, toasted
1 LB. Feta Cheese
5 Scallions, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh, flat parsley.
1 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 Cup white wine vinegar
2 Cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper.

Directions
1) Rinse the lentils in a colander.
2) Add the lentils to boiling water and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Pour into the colander and rinse. Let cool.
3) Place the cooled lentils in a serving bowl. Add the pecans, feta cheese and scallions.
4) Make the salad dressing in a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half the dressing over the lentil mixture. Use a large spoon to mix together. Add the additional dressing as necessary to make it well coated. Garnish with parsley sprigs.IMG_0445