Monday, April 30, 2012

Crispy Cheese Bites w/ Bean Salsa + Allergy-Friendly Food for Families {cookbook review}


title:  Allergy-Friendly Food for Families

author:  from the editors of kiwi (the bi-monthly magazine)
publisher: Andrews McMeel
soft cover: 240 pages
photos:  yes

chapters/sections:  Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner - Dessert - Snacks - Parties

fun features:  Ask the Experts section at the front of the book in which common food-allergy related questions are answered.  Fun tips on pages throughout the book such as Easy Ways to Make Any Snack Special, Recycle Your Favorite Foods! Five Ideas for Leftovers, Five Fun Ways to Serve Fruit, and All About Sugar.  There are also Cooking with Kids pages tucked here and there with basic techniques and ideas that encourage you to get the kids involved in the kitchen with topics such as Teach Your Child to Melt Chocolate, Teach Your Child to Shape Gnocchi, Teach Your Child How to Juice and Zest a Lime, Teach Your Child to Roll Out Pizza Dough, Teach Your Child How to Bake a Sweet Potato, and Teach Your Child to Frost a Layer Cake.

(a few of the many) recipes destined for my kitchen:  brown rice breakfast pudding, frankenstein sweet potatoes, garden wrap-n-rolls, buddha bowls, corn chip-crusted tofu fingers, coconut no-cream pie, sunset pops, spiced carrot fries, black bean brownie bites

my thoughts/review:  I consider myself very fortunate that I don't have any food-allergies in my family.  As a mother, I can only imagine how scary that must be.  That said, over the years, my kids have had friends in class with food-allergies (mostly nut) and so I'm not completely ignorant of the fact that they exist and they are serious.  I've found this book to be a fantastic resource in helping me familiarize myself with "options" that I can include when cooking/baking for someone with food allergies.  But what's even better, is that this book is filled with food that I would (and will) make anyway because it sounds and looks great.

It is also filled with fantastic tips, suggestions, and advice.  It includes a section in the back of the book entitled Building a Natural, Allergy-Free Pantry that lists a number of things you can keep in your pantry with allergy-free cooking in mind.  The majority of these things are basics that I already keep in my pantry such as dried beans and legumes, grains, fats, and dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.  But also included are ingredients that may not normally be in a house that isn't required to think about food-allergies on a regular basis such as Xanthan Gum, Sorghum flour, and gluten-free oats.

Although there are more food-allergies out there, this book focuses on the five most common food allergens - gluten, dairy, nuts, eggs, and soy.  Each recipe page has bold, colorful markers down the side indicating which allergens the recipe is free of (labeled with gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, egg-free).  Many recipes include "options" in which easy substitutions are listed to make it safe for a particular allergen.  Another great thing is that aside from the regular Index in the back of the book, there is also a Recipe Index by Allergen so that you can easily scroll through and find the recipes safe for a particular type of food-allergy.

I've tried two recipes so far, but don't plan on stopping there.  I can't wait to explore some of these new-to-me styles of recipes.  I would recommend this book for any level cook, especially one cooking with and for children, and those concerned with food-allergies (of these 5 varieties), or just someone who likes good food,  educating themselves on this subject, and being prepared (because you never know).

recipe(s) I have already tried:
Banana Chocolate Shakeroo
Crispy Cheese Bites w/ Bean Salsa

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
Keywords: bake appetizer cheese snack gluten-free nut-free soy-free vegetarian  cheese beans

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • ½ lb. Monterey Jack cheese, sliced ⅛" thick
for the bean salsa
  • 1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
  • ¼ c. diced white onion
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • pinch crushed red chile flakes
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • freshly squeezed lime juice
Instructions
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper.

Line the cheese slices up on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about an inch or so in between each.
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is golden-brown all over with crispy edges.

While the cheese is baking, stir together all of the ingredients for the bean salsa (salt, pepper, olive oil, and lime juice to taste).

When cheese is done, use a thin spatula to remove it to a tray lined with a couple layers of paper toweling to absorb any excess fat.

When cool, serve crispy cheese bites with bean salsa.

adapted from Allergy-Friendly Food for Families
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about the authors: Parents trust KIWI to help them raise their children and enjoy their lives in the healthiest way possible. They also know that KIWI is ahead of the curve when it comes to a green and organic lifestyle, so they can count on our trusted brand and initiatives to sift through and provide only the best news, advice, and products. KIWI understands that achieving the right balance between the ideal world and the real world can be difficult, so readers never feel scolded, only supported. KIWI helps parents make the best choices about health, food, home life, and more, so they can feel good about their families and the future.

further info: website | facebook | twitter

*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.



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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Canal House Cooking Volume N°. 7: La Dolce Vita by Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton {cookbook review}

cookbook: Canal House Cooking Volume N°. 7: La Dolce Vita

authors: Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton
publisher: Andrews McMeel
flexibound : 124 pages
photos: yes

chapters/sections: Tempus Fugit - Working Up an Appetito - A Good Day for a Big Bowl of Zuppa - Pasta - Riso - Pesce - Big Birds & Little Rabbit - Carne - Eat Your Verdure - Why Buy it When You Can Make it? - Dolci

my favorite feature: Gorgeous photographs and well thought out recipes with introductions based on their "research time" in Italy.

(a few of the many) recipes destined for my kitchen: Ricotta Gnocchi, Chestnuts Prunes & Breadcrumbs, Speck Fontina & Lemon Panino, Fonduta, Christmas Soup, Green Lasagne w/ Tomato Sauce & Fresh Ricotta, Warm Salad of Radicchio & White Beans, Gelato di Gianduia

my thoughts/review: "Recipes have a spirit, they are born of a place and a culture, and to cook well you have to be sensitive to and honor that spirit."

Hamilton and Hirsheimer rented a farmhouse with a kitchen in Tuscany in order to immerse themselves in Italian home cooking.  They observed local cooks and used local ingredients.  This book is the result of their trip.  They came home and cooked that food their way.

I really enjoyed this little book and its beautiful photographs and food.  Recommended!

recipe(s) I have already tried:
Jam Tart
Risotto Bianco
about the authors:  Christopher Hirsheimer (right) served as food and design editor for Metropolitan Home magazine and was one of the founders of Saveur magazine, where she was executive editor. She is a writer and a photographer.

Melissa Hamilton co-founded the restaurant Hamilton’s Grill Room in Lambertville, NJ, where she served as executive chef. She worked at Martha Stewart Living, Cook’s Illustrated, and at Saveur as the food editor.

further info: website |  facebook | twitter

*I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher.  All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.
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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Creamy Chicken & Spinach w/ Roasted Poblanos

A few hours ago I woke up to the steady patter of rain on the small metal awning outside of my front door.  The temperature in the house was just cool enough to warrant the warm blanket that I couldn't help but snuggle under.  Though I could hear cartoons in the distance, the air around me was still.  Everything was still except the voices inside of me.  One was urging me to turn over, close my eyes, and go back to sleep.  The other argued for the faint smell of freshly brewed coffee sneaking in from the kitchen and the call of the book on the nightstand with a book mark a quarter of the way in.

Knowing I probably wouldn't be able to enjoy sleep much longer before pitter-patter of eager feet and little voices urging me to make breakfast appeared at my side, I opted for something in between.  Keeping my slippers off, I did my best silent tiptoe to the coffee pot before propping up the pillows and tucking myself loosely back under the covers...in a seated position...next to the window that was being steadily pinged with fat rain drops and curled up with my book.
Happily I made it through one silent chapter before being detected. And the majority of a mug of warm, life-stirring liquid in my veins. Let the day begin.

Fortunately I made this rich, earthy melange of roasted poblanos, juicy chicken, and satisfying greens all smothered in a creamy sauce yesterday...and now all it needs is a gentle reheating before it gets enveloped in its toasty corn blanket.  And then I can find my blanket since the rain still beckons...

Creamy Chicken & Spinach w/ Roasted Poblano


by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: simmer entree chicken spinach Mexican
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 2-3 Tbs. olive oil
  • ~1¼ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced ¼" thick
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ~12 oz. baby spinach
  • 1 c. chicken broth/stock
  • sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 c. crema (Mexican table cream)
Instructions
Roast the poblanos directly over an open flame or under the broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, ~5-10 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit until cool enough to handle. Rub off the blackened skin, then pull out the stem and seed pod. Briefly rinse to remove any stray seeds or bits of skin. Slice ¼" thick.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Generously salt the chicken breasts on both sides and place into hot pan in a single layer. Flip when browned on the first side and cook until golden brown on the second side, as well. This should take a total of ~10 minutes. Chicken should be cooked almost all the way through (it will finish cooking in the final step). Transfer chicken to a shallow bowl. When it's cooled down a bit, cut the chicken into chunks.

With skillet over medium heat, add the onion. There should be enough oil in the pan to lightly coat the onion. If there isn’t, then add a little more. Cook, stirring regularly, until richly browned and sweet, 8-9 minutes.
Add the garlic to the skillet and cook 1 minute, then add the broth and thyme. Raise the temperature to medium-high. Cook until the liquid is nearly gone. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook until it is noticeably thicker (it’ll be a rich glaze).

Taste and season the mixture in the skillet with salt, usually ~¼ teaspoon. Stir in the chicken, let heat through for a few minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through. Serve as a taco filling with hot tortillas. Enjoy!

adapted from Rick Bayless
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Friday, April 27, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #45 Diana Kennedy - Chipotles en Adobo {homemade}

the "Gourmet" prompt...
45. Diana Kennedy- The uncompromising, adventurous Mexican culinary authority is profiled by Kemp Minifie in this issue of Gourmet Live.

Diana Kennedy was born in Loughton, Essex, UK in 1923.   She immigrated to Canada in 1953.  She's always had a bit of the travel-bug, and while returning to Canada from some of her travels that year, she visited the Caribbean where she met and fell in love with a New York Times correspondent, Paul Kennedy.  Paul's job took them to Central America and the Caribbean.  Diana used these times to board buses and visit remote parts of Mexico.  It was then that she fell in love with their cuisine.

In 1966, she and Paul moved to New York where Paul passed away only one year later.  At the urging of Craig Claiborne (food editor of The New York Times back then), Diana began giving Mexican cooking classes.  She was already traveling to Mexico 6 months out of the year, but she did hold classes when she was back in the states.  During her travels, she researched and really dove in to food and regions and wanted to capture the essence of Mexican cuisine.  Her first book, The Cuisines of México was released in 1972.  Her most recent book, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy which was released in 2010 took her 14 years to complete.
Aside from her 9 cookbooks, she has received numerous awards including the highest award that the Government of the Republic of Mexico bestows upon non-Mexicans, the Order of the Aztec Eagle in 1981.  She also was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2002.

Even now, at the age of 89, she remains active in her conservationist lifestyle (using no detergents and raising chickens and growing food conscientiously).  The preservation of local ingredients is extremely important to her.  She doesn't see herself slowing down since there are still so many things that interest her that she has not done yet!
Well.  If you know me even a tiny bit, you can probably guess that I have mad respect for Diana Kennedy, her accomplishments, and her food.  I love paging through her encyclopedic-type books for tips and techniques and recipes.  It was a hard decision figuring out what to make to honor her this week.  I decided to go with something simple - yet essential.  Living in a home where Mexican food is commonplace, I decided  to make something I use quite often, homemade chipotles in adobo sauce.  It uses two of my absolute favorite dried chiles- anchos and (obviously) chipotles.  Dried chipotles...if you can find the good ones...are insane.  I love to hold them between my fingers and let the intoxicating smoky smell fill my head.  These are so incredibly delicious.  They make a big batch that will keep well in the fridge and be ready for you to reach in and grab out some authentic Mexican flavor full of heat and smoke and earthy delight whenever your heart desires.  Mine desires it often...

Chipotles en Adobo {homemade}




by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: ~1 hour
Keywords: simmer condiment preserving vegan chiles Mexican




Ingredients (~1 quart)
  • 4 oz. (115 g) chipotle mora or morita seco chiles
  • 3 ancho chiles, seeded & deveined
  • ~1½ c. (375 ml) water
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¼ tsp. dried marjoram
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • ⅛ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • ¾ c. (190 ml) cider vinegar
  • ¾ c. (190 ml) white vinegar
  • 2 oz. (60 g/⅓ c. firmly packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. sea salt
Instructions
Pierce a tiny hole through each of the chipotle morita chiles using a thin, sharp skewer or tip of a paring knife. This allows the liquid to penetrate the chile later on. Place them in a pan or pot with a tightly fitting lid and cover well with water. Cook over medium-low until chiles are tender (but not mushy), 30-40 minutes. Drain and discard cooking water. Pick off any stems, if you wish.
In the meantime, put the anchos in a small pan, cover with water, and simmer for ~5 minutes. Drain and place the chiles in the jar of a blender. Add 1 c. (250 ml) of the water and the garlic, marjoram, thyme, cumin, and bay leaf along with 4 of the simmered chipotles. Blend to a "textured" sauce.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet and then pour in the ingredients from the blender. Fry them for ~3 minutes or so over medium heat, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan a bit to keep from sticking. Add the remaining water, both vinegars, brown sugar, and the salt. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining chipotles and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer, stirring from time to time until sauce has thickened, ~15 minutes.
Let cool and then transfer to a glass container with a lid and store in the refrigerator. If you can, allow chiles to mature/develop for ~2 weeks before using. Use in place of commercially canned chipotles in adobo sauce.

slightly adapted from From My Mexican Kitchen by Diana Kennedy
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(sources) and for further info: The New York Review of Books - Cooking with the Grand Dame of Mexican Cuisine (NPR) - Wikipedia - The Cookbook Blog (author interview) 
In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 women...one per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?



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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Risotto Bianco (...e rosso o verde) inspired by Big Night {food 'n flix}

Big Night is one of those films that I'd seen bits and pieces of here and there, yet never seen the whole thing.  And really, I have no idea why!  I'm a pretty big film buff.  And you know I love food.  Food plus film.  Foodie film.  Hellloooo.  Seems like something I should have already loved.  Fortunately, it was our "assignment" for Food 'n Flix this month thanks to Kristina of Spabettie.  So I had to make a point of actually watching the whole thing!

Now.  Little did I realize that this would actually pose a bit of a problem.  I thought I'd flipped by the film On Demand before, so I waited a bit too long to find out that it actually was not On Demand.  At least not anymore.  Shoot.  Head to the my library's website.  Ummm...nowhere in the system.  What!?  Click on over to trusty Amazon.  Oh, it was there.  But it was also 37 smackers + shipping.  Ummm, no.  So I had to do a little driving tour.  Nobody has it.  But they can order it.  Yeah, I waited way too long.  You see, I'm the kind of person that likes to have the actual movie in hand.  I would have settled for a rented copy even if I couldn't buy it.  So I went in for the last resort...and back to Amazon.  Fortunately you can buy a 24-hour rental of the film for $3.  It's not quite the same, but I went for it.  Seeing as how it the day before our submissions were due.  That would be today.  I'm pushin' it.
Now that I've actually seen it, I know I'll still be ordering myself a copy.  It is so much fun...and there's SO MUCH good food.  I want to throw a BIG NIGHT party, actually.  If you haven't seen it before, it's basically the story of two brothers from Italy who have opened an authentic Italian restaurant in America. Primo (the chef) refuses to bastardize his food.  Even to satisfy those pesky American customers with less-than-stellar palates.  I don't blame him.  Why would you want to pass up a chance to eat real Italian food!?

Anyhoo...their restaurant is in trouble (partly because of the fact that they...well, Primo...won't compromise).   Everybody goes to the hoppin' Pascal's across the street.  Live music, laughter, spaghetti with meatballs (even though "sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone"), flaming food served tableside. Pascal's gives the people what they want.  So, in a last ditch effort to save their dream, Secundo and Primo prepare a party to end all parties...a meal to end all meals...complete with amazing food, beautiful flowers, and live music (or so they thought).  This was to be their BIG NIGHT.

Although things didn't exactly go as planned, everybody was entranced by the food that Primo sent out from his kitchen.  While I would have LOVED to make a Timpano (and I will one day...), I just didn't have the time left to make it (but Kristina made an awesome one here).  I decided to go with rice in the colors of the Italian Banderia (flag) like Secundo and Cristiano served during that final meal.  And I'm okay with that.


Risotto Bianco

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Keywords: simmer side entree rice Italian
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped preserved lemon rind, optional
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • ½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • white pepper
to make a green and red layer
  • basil pesto (or other green pesto)
  • red sauce (tomato, marinara, etc.)
Instructions
Add 5 cups of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep on a low flame.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy, deep-sided pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, ~3 minutes. If using, stir in the preserved lemon rind. Add rice and stir for a minute or two, until everything is well-coated with butter.
Add one ladle full of the simmering water to the rice, stirring almost constantly. Once all of the liquid has absorbed, add another ladle full of water. Continue this process until most of the water has been added, ~20 minutes.

Taste rice, it will be done when it is tender with a firm center. Add the parmesan and remaining butter; stir until melted and combined into creamy, starchy rice. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

to make tri-colored risotto (layered like the Italian flag or Bandiera)
I divided the rice into thirds. For the white (or bianco) layer, I left the rice as-is. For the green layer, I stirred in about ¼-½ cup of basil pesto at the end. For the red layer, I stirred in enough red sauce to color it. Layer on a platter and serve.

Risotto Bianco slightly adapted from Canal House Cooking vol. n° 7
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Food‘nFlix

Food 'n Flix is being hosted over at Spabettie this month with the chosen flick Big Night.




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spinach and Citrus Salad w/ Ginger-Sesame Dressing

Carotenoids, Fiber, Lutein, Lycopene, Omega-3's, Potassium, Vitamin C, Gingerol, and Isoflavones.  I bet those were the first things that popped into your head when you saw the photo of this salad, weren't they?  Yes.  I thought the same thing.

NOT.

It was all about the deep, gorgeous colors when this was on the table.  But the same things that make this salad such a looker are exactly those things I mentioned above.  The jewel-tones of segmented grapefruit in two colors, blood orange, and apricots adorn the tender green leaves of baby spinach.  Candied nuts gleaming with a thin shell of sugar are tucked amongst these bright bursts of color.  And the musky, seductive scent of sesame oil and ginger complete the experience.

If you don't do it for the looks...you've got to make this for the awesome health benefits and fantastic flavors!

Spinach and Citrus Salad w/ Ginger Sesame Dressing


by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: n/a
Keywords: salad vegan citrus spinach ginger blood orange


Ingredients (serves 8-12)
    Salad

    • 10-12 oz. baby spinach
    • 2 ruby red grapefruit, segmented
    • 2 white grapefruit, segmented
    • 4 blood oranges, segmented
    • 4 oz. candied walnuts (see below)
    • 4 oz. candied hazelnuts (see below)
    • 4 oz. dried apricots, julienned
    • Ginger Sesame Dressing (see below)
    Quick Candied Nuts

    • ½ c. sugar
    • 1½ c. nuts (any type...I used equal parts walnuts and hazelnuts here)
    • coarse salt
    Ginger Sesame Dressing

    • ¼ c. grated ginger root
    • ¼ c. soy sauce
    • ¼ c. rice vinegar
    • ¼ c. sesame oil
    • freshly ground black pepper
    Instructions
    Salad

    Place spinach in a large serving bowl. Toss with as much dressing as you'd like (start with about half of the recipe and adjust as needed).

    Add grapefruit and blood orange segments, apricots, and candied nuts. Toss again gently. Serve and enjoy!

    Quick Candied Nuts (yield: 1½ c.)

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. Slide into oven and bake for ~5 minutes or until golden and lightly toasted. Set aside to cool a bit.

    Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium, stirring with a wooden spoon once the sugar starts melting. Stir until sugar has completely melted and medium-amber in color. Quickly add the nuts to the pan and stir quickly to coat each one.

    Turn out onto a silpat or sheet of parchment and working quickly, use a couple of forks to separate the nuts. Sprinkle with a good smattering of salt and allow to cool completely.

    Ginger Sesame-Dressing (yield: ~1 c.)

    Combine all of the ingredients (black pepper to taste) in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake it up!

    You could easily half this recipe as you probably won't use it all here...but it's so good that you might like having the extra around.

    Salad & dressing adapted from FoodTrients. Nuts slightly adapted from Simply Recipes.
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