6 Cooking Hacks to Make Your Kitchen More Fun in 2015

Happy New Year! As the world gets back to business this week, many will begin to work on resolutions of eating healthier, cooking more, or eating together as a family more often. If you are new to the kitchen, or just wanting to make a bit of a shift, here are 6 cooking hacks that are easy, will help you have more fun, gain a new outlook, and make being in the kitchen more enjoyable. Do you have hacks that have worked for you? Add them in the comments below! Here’s to good eating in 2015!

Speaker1. Turn off the TV & Turn on the Radio (or your iPod)

I love listening to music in the kitchen. It helps set the mood for whatever I’m creating. Maybe it’s leftover from my childhood summers in upstate New York. My Oma used to work in the kitchen while listening to a little white transistor radio that played the oldies. She’d hum and sing along, and if I was lucky enough, sometimes I would even catch her Shuffling off to Buffalo. She was a great tapper in her youth- and loved dancing until the day she died. So while you cook- grab the wire whisk and channel your inner Celine Dion, Maria Callas, or Saturday Night Fever.

 

 

Spices at the River Market

2. Change out your Herbs & Spices

Spices don’t have a shelf life, they have a ‘smell-life’. Herbs and spices flavor our food with the volatile oils they contain. Oils, that if exposed to heat and light will fade with time. If you’ve got spices in the way back of your cabinets that you haven’t used for some time- give them a sniff. If your nose isn’t immediately tingling with delight, it’s time to replace them. Remember to store your herbs and spices away from the heat of the stove.

 

Candlelight

3. Use Candlelight- at every meal

For many of us, the kitchen table is the repository for mail, schoolwork, and other activities. Our resolution is to keep our table cleaner and always use candles- even at breakfast. It elevates the mood and provides a sense of occasion even for the simplest of meals.

 

 

Cabris, France portrait project

4. Purchase 1 New Utensil

We all have hangers on in the kitchen that have passed their prime- beat-up, chipped spatulas, broken sieves, rusty measuring spoons, beat up cutting boards. Treat yourself to one new utensil that you’ll use frequently. You will feel so much happier with functional and lovely tools.

 

 

 

cleansink

5. Put the dishes away before bed

I think the Fly Lady was the first person who insisted you scrub your sink out every night before you go to bed. She has a point. It’s so much easier to find cooking inspiration when you don’t have to first clean up last night’s mess.

 

 

Cabris, France portrait project6. Cook with Company (friends, children, significant other, etc.)

Nothing makes a meal taste better than good company. Especially when it’s been prepared together. If you’re having trouble connecting as a family, or getting your children to be more adventurous in their eating habits- cook together! In my experience, children LOVE the creativity that is a natural part of cooking. They also are very proud of their endeavors and love to eat the fruits of their labor. The biggest challenge? Recognizing that little hands aren’t as accurate as bigger hands, and the mess is sometimes bigger- as are the onion or apple pieces. If you are willing to roll with that, you will be delighted at what you experience when you share cooking with those you care about (young or old!).

What gets you inspired to cook? Have a hack that’s helped you? Share below!

How to Make Macarons Part 3: *Epic* Fail

Hollow shells from over beating the meringue and cracked shells from not enough macaronage
Hollow shells from over beating the meringue and cracked shells from not enough macaronage

I don’t fail. I epically fail. Which, if you’re going to fail at all is the way to go. No half-assed, wimpy attempts that inevitably result in disaster. If you’re gonna fail, go down in flames.

Failure is not all bad. Thomas Edison went through 10,000 incarnations of the light bulb before landing on incandescent genius. Scientific studies even show that the more you fail, the faster you learn. Makes sense. So- failure in this household is not only an option, it’s expected in the name of learning. What happens when we encounter colossal failure? Well as long as nobody has been injured, it generally results in lots of sheepish laughter.

As in this week’s Macaron experiment. Boy did I blow it. I tried a different recipe because the process was simpler, and as the youngest Kitchen Diva in Training wanted to get in on the action, I figured this would be more her pace than the in-depth versions of Pierre Hermé. Of the two young ladies, she is definitely the more passionate in the kitchen. And when she saw her sister making macarons ‘all by herself’ she insisted in choosing one to make on her own as well.

This week, we used Brave Tart’s basic macaron recipe, and went for the Champagne and Roses flavors variety. Sorry, Stella- our colossal failure has nothing to do with your recipe, and everything to do with user error!

Here’s what we learned this week:

1) We definitely overbeat our meringue. Macaronage

This, in fact, was our number one issue. People always say baking is an exact science, which it is…..but, I’m finding it’s also highly intuitive, and you have to be bold enough to know when to trust your intuition.

For instance- one of the things I was very curious about with Brave Tart’s recipe is the meringue making process. Much easier for a 6yo, because you through all the sugar and egg-whites into the bowl and let ‘er rip. The addition of salt alters the flavor somewhat, but also helps stabilize the meringue (provided you don’t overdo it.) We doubled our batch, which was our first problem. Stella is very clear about how long to whip the meringue, and I went a lot longer because I wasn’t getting a big blob of meringue stuck in my whisk- the reason, I learned when I made a second attempt with the regular sized batch, was because I had too much meringue in my bowl. When I whipped again- I got an ENORMOUS blob..clue, that for me and my bowl, I likely went too long. I did, as the pictures sadly show.

2) You can simultaneously overbeat and underbeat your egg whites!

Notice the little 'nipple' on the left macaron. Not enough macaronage. The pair on the left was the only non-cracked pair from the second batch, and the only two that grew feet.
Notice the little ‘nipple’ on the left macaron. Not enough macaronage. The pair on the left was the only non-cracked pair from the second batch, and the only two that grew feet.

On batch two- I not only overbeat the meringue, I under-macaronaged! In layman’s terms, this means I over inflated the egg-whites in one step, and then failed to deflate them enough in another step. You can see this by all the little ‘nipples’ on the top of the cookies… sigh.

Brave Tart’s recipe also calls for adding the almond mixture to the egg whites, not the other way around. I’m used to adding the whites to the flour. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make a difference one way or another, but I think I was definitely more freaked out about over incorporating with the heaviest stuff on top. I think this is one reason why I didn’t macaronage long enough. In fact, the reason we salvaged any at all from the first batch was because the mini Kitchen Diva in Training insisted on mixing it herself. Apparently, she knew what she was doing!

3) Food Coloring Fades in the Oven

Eek! Houston- we have a problem
Eek! Houston- we have a problem

 

Who knew? No one was more surprised than me when the pretty pink circles came out brown, footless, and horribly cracked. Stunned, speechless. The second attempt was much pinker because I used a TON of red food coloring. Red is definitely less forgiving than yellow in the oven.

 

 

4) I really, really need a new oven

For the first time *ever* my oven temperature started fluctuating wildly. At one point it was actually the set temperature, which meant it was too hot for cooking macaron. I’m just going to have to deal with this little bit because I refuse to spend money on a new oven right now. If I buy a new oven, we will end up moving in less than 3 months. Guaranteed, and I will have purchased my dream oven for someone else. No thank you! Of course…what if we wanted to move? hmm….maybe a new oven is in order.

In Conclusion Piping the macarons

So I failed. Big Whoop. Were they delicious? Umm…… YES! Did we eat more broken, hollow, cracked ones than we should have? Hell yes. Am I going to curse myself for setting up a year of sugary, carbo-loaded, fatty baking challenges for myself? Probably. It’s too cold to run and I don’t have much self discipline to yoga on my own. A moment on the lips….

We did pick a few of the least ugly ones to try out the champagne flavored buttercream. The hollow batch still stated great- was kind of chewy, but again that’s a selling point for some. I prefer more pillowey myself, and the second batch (likely not over cooked), even in its under-macaronaged state, definitely softened to a more pillowey state.

Here’s the deal: For those of you reading this- don’t let this deter you from trying to make macarons- any macarons. Pierre Hermé is my macaron hero, but so is Stella Parks. Both are innovators, both have endeavored to simplify and demystify macarons, both are doing tremendous work by testing the boundaries of flavor and ingredients. I love this. I will probably go back to my Pierre Hermé Italian Meringue method, because for me, that feels more comfortable. Truthfully, if I had the time, I would continue to work on Stella’s method until I could perfect it-because it’s way less hassle. And, for the record (my sincerest apologies Monsieur Hermé) I don’t leave my egg whites out for a week. I don’t have the counter space. And I don’t use mineral water- I use tap water. They still taste great.

And that, my fellow kitchen adventurers, is the whole point.

Next Week: Tune in for the last installment of Le Macaron

For the time being, we'll be enjoying our champagne and roses separately.
For the time being, we’ll be enjoying our champagne and roses separately.

 

Some friends and I will be venturing into foreign territory as we develop our own macaron. What will happen? It will be an adventure.

Have you been brave enough to attempt some macarons this month? Email your pictures to adventuresomekitchen(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll post them in our final installment. Feel free to post your stories and experiences here.

How to Make Macarons Part 2: The Inca – or lost in translation

The Inca
The Inca

This is the second installment of The Adventuresome Kitchen’s 4 part “How to Make Macarons” series. Join me by posting your stories, thoughts and questions, or by emailing me a picture of what you’re working on in your kitchen!

Maybe it’s that we read the recipe 25 times. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the incredibly smooth school-day, or the fact that since I wanted my daughter to succeed at this, I took it down a notch from warp-speed and wasn’t a total spaz while I was cooking. Did you know that? I’m often a total spaz in the kitchen. A whirling dervish; a white tornado. Pots and pans seem to enter my gravitational pull and then get flung aside with enough force they could be catapulted into orbit like the Voyager heading to Saturn. I nearly set a dish-towel on fire the other day. Mr. Kitchen Diva would beg to differ and say that I did set it on fire.

In spite of the high energy in the kitchen, stuff rarely boils over, burns, spills, or catches At work in the kitchenfire. And somehow in the midst of the creative frenzy that is my brain,  I manage to take pretty copious notes. But with a Kitchen Diva in Training at the helm today, working on a complicated recipe she picked out, things had to slow down. What ensued was a luxurious afternoon spent cleaning, prepping, measuring, timing, teaching, singing, dancing, and enjoying the fruits of our labor.

 

 

Pierre Herme Macaron - The Inca

 

The elder Kitchen Diva in Training, just past 11, went for Gold- literally! She picked a lovely, somewhat intimidating macaron called The Inca. Lemon yellow with gold glitter, its filling is comprised of avocados, bananas, white and dark chocolate. We were all a bit unsure when she picked it. I’m guessing it’s not the most popular treat in the macaron shop- but it should be. Holy Guacamole Bat-Man! This filling could exist on its own as a cream pie and people’s eyes would roll back with ecstasy. It’s not too sweet, just slightly tart, and Ka-Pow! Then you’re hit with a tiny square of bittersweet chocolate. This is why Pierre Hermé is the master.

As for the process? Well, it was a little tricky. There were some language issues in this recipe that were not resolved either with editing or translation. Namely with the drying of ripe bananas. The recipe calls for 120g of ripe bananas to be ‘sprinkled’ with lemon juice and dried in a low oven for 2 hours. The recipe then says to chop it into 60g pieces for the ganache filling? Whaa? 60g is most of a banana, and there’s no way that’s going to fit in a piping tube… And, as you can see from the picture below- ‘sprinkling’ with lemon didn’t quite get the job done. Those babies went straight into the trash. Cue the whining trombones.

We tried again with the last banana we had left and tossed them all liberally in the lemon juice with much better results.. Now, I admit, perhaps the tang of the lemon might not be what Monsieur Hermé was after, but they were good, and at least they didn’t turn black!

I'm guessing these are Not exactly what The Master was envisioning.
I’m pretty sure these are not exactly what The Master was envisioning.
Take 2: These look much more appetizing. The difference? Tossed in Lemon Juice.
Take 2: These look much more appetizing. The difference? Tossed in Lemon Juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank goodness we’d read the recipe 25 times! One of the challenges I told my daughter about is that often things happen very fast in the kitchen- even when I’m not flying about at light speed. Sugar hits a temperature and has to be moved to the egg whites. Egg whites have to be whipped only so much or they go from light and fluffy to saggy and separated in the blink of an eye. If you’re prepared, and you’ve considered your work space, set up your ingredients, and know your recipe, you can tackle these timing issues with ease- and hopefully without throwing too many pots and pans into orbit. And if you’re very lucky, your macarons will turn out just like the picture!

The finished product!
The finished product!

Here are some of the things we learned today:

Piping Le MacaronI need 5- yes 5 cookie sheets to fully pipe a batch of macarons. Back to the kitchen store before Friday.

I need more piping nozzles. They definitely work better than the ziplock bag, but we had to stop during piping to replace the bags etc.. It would be much easier with 4 bags and 4 nozzles set out ready to go.

My oven is simultaneously too hot and too cold. It runs 25 degrees cold. But today while we were baking, I realized that 350 degrees for these yellow macarons was too much. They were sticking to the parchment and were slightly gummy on the inside, even when their tops showed they needed to be pulled from the oven. Ultimately, we landed on 300 degrees for 14 minutes. They peeled off the parchment with the ease of a ripe banana, and were perfect on the inside.

MacaronageChocolate colored macarons are infinitely more forgiving than lemon yellow colored macarons. There’s no hiding when they’ve been ever so slightly over done.

According to the Kitchen Divas in Training, macaron parties are lots of fun and the only way to make macarons is in a group.

The younger Kitchen Diva in Training is getting quite good at photo documentation. Most of the pictures you see today are hers, or her big sister’s.

The elder Kitchen Diva in Training really shined. She was nervous about piping,

Et Voila!
Et Voila!

macaronage-ing, working with boiling sugar, but she rocked it all, and showed herself she can do anything in the kitchen.

You’re never too old to have fun getting covered in gold glitter.

Anyone can make macarons. Yep. You read that right. It’s true. Anyone can make macarons.

Lastly- these macarons should always be enjoyed after a delicious bowl of Vegan Chili!

There are still two weeks left to join in the macaron fun! Grab a friend, or tackle it on your own. You too can master these delicious gluten-free treats! Next week, the younger Kitchen Diva in Training will be picking out one of Brave Tart’s magic creations to try in our kitchen!

Gluten Free Chicken Noodle Soup w/ Ginger & Turmeric

 In France, Rentrée signals the resumption of the regular life- the beginning of the school year, the resumption of Parliament, etc. For me, this signals the return to the things in my life that keep me grounded: cooking, eating with loved ones, chopping vegetables with my favorite knife. For the last 4 1/2 months, I’ve been directing a political campaign for a good friend of mine. To say this was all-consuming is a modest understatement. I was left with no time to sleep, eat, breathe, see my family, do laundry, clean, or read, let alone even think about cooking and writing for pleasure.

In spite of the strain, there were many discoveries we made along this journey-  for instance the oldest Kitchen Diva in Training is becoming more proficient and creative in the kitchen. She is growing up too quickly, and rapidly making the transition from little girl to young lady. And, Mr. Kitchen Diva has discovered that he’s not the schlump in the kitchen he always thought he was. In fact, he is downright impressive!

Our kitchen is changing. Cooking is no longer a solo event where I am Queen of all I survey. It has become a collaboration and a time of connection. The simplest meals take on new dimension with a dash of inspiration here, a suggestion there, a sprinkle of this and that. We have re-entered our lives transformed by the experiences of the last several months; deeply appreciative of our connection to each other and the meals that bind us together.

Our soup- an East meets West version of gluten free chicken noodle soup- is wholly comforting, and very easy to throw together. The best part? Getting reacquainted with my favorite knife while chopping the onions. Our secret for bright greens that don’t lose their color? Place them in the bottom of the bowl and pour the hot soup over them. They’ll cook perfectly without going too far- no need to lose those nutrients to overcooking.

Wherever you find yourself this fall, whether in the kitchen, on the road, or climbing mountains (physical or metaphorical); share the journey. And remember, too many cooks in the kitchen is sometimes a good thing!

Gluten Free Chicken Noodle Soup w/ Ginger & Turmeric

Serves 4 with a little leftover

Ingredients

2 small onions (1 large)

3-4 celery stalks

3 carrots

2 cups of diced potatoes

2-3 cups of diced leftover chicken

2 cups of uncooked, gluten-free pasta

3 quarts chicken stock

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ginger powder or 2 tsp minced fresh

1 tb crushed thyme

1 tsp garlic powder or 2 tsp minced fresh

ground pepper to taste

salt to taste (likely not necessary unless using low-sodium stock)

4-5 cups uncooked spinach or other greens

1 cup chopped basil

2-3 tbs olive oil

Directions

Chop onions, carrots and celery into a small dice. Heat a large stock pot and drizzle the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the veggies (not the potatoes). When the onions and celery have softened, add the potatoes. Next, add the herbs/spices. This should have the effect of making  a paste. As soon as the paste begins to stick to the pan, begin to add the stock. Add a little at first in order to deglaze the pan, and then add the rest. Add the chicken and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, add the pasta and cook 6-8 more minutes- until the pasta is just undercooked- it will soften the rest of the way as the soup cools down.

While the noodles are cooking,  place the uncooked greens in the bottom of each bowl. Just before serving, chop the basil and use it as a garnish. Ladle the soup over the greens and garnish with the chopped basil.

How to Make a Great Taco

Today, we’re going to show you how to make a great taco. Taco Tuesday, a school lunch tradition for many of us who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, has occurred with semi-regular frequency at our home, thanks to the imaginations of The Kitchen Divas in Training.  Each incarnation of Taco Tuesday is unique and based on what’s in the fridge, what’s leftover, and what flavors the girls would like to enjoy. Black beans are always served in some form, as are copious amounts of cilantro, lime, and New Mexico Red Chile sauce. The rest is entirely up for grabs.

What I love about Taco Tuesday is that everyone in the house contributes to the decision-making process and the creation of the meal. The girls shred cheese and veggies, select and add the spices, while my husband and I brown or reheat the meat and do the heavy knife-work. The girls do some knife work, but I don’t let them handle my precious chef’s knives just yet. All meals contain fresh vegetables- gotta get those greens! In fact, I like to call my tacos Hand-Salads!

This is as quick and easy as it gets around here- usually we’re ready to eat in less than 30 Minutes- take THAT Rachael Ray! We serve buffet-style so that everyone gets to choose what goes into their taco and in what proportions. If you’d like to try Taco Tuesday at your house, please take inspiration from the brief ingredient lists below, and remember the possibilities are endless. Enjoy, and have fun cooking with your family!

Meat Base

Although I don’t call for this in the recipe below- we have used additional spices like cumin, mexican oregano, garlic powder or fresh garlic, sometimes salt & pepper. Use your imagination!

1 lb of meat (could be ground beef, ground turkey, chicken, pork, shrimp)

1 onion

1 small can of tomatoes (sometimes we use the ones with green chile)

1 chopped bell peppers (if you have them on hand)

1 can of diced green chile

1 tsp (or more) of chile powder- we like New Mexico Red or Chipotle

Directions: Saute the onions, add meat and other stuff, heat through until meat is cooked, remove to a serving bowl.

Black Beans

This changes each time we serve it, but here’s what we did this week. This proportion serves 4-barely. If you like lots of beans or want leftovers add an additional can.

2 cans of black beans (if you soak your own, about 2 cups soaked)

1/2 cup shredded cheese (we’ve used all kinds, but Jack Cheese is our preference)

1 generous tablespoon of Cumin

1 generous tablespoon of Garlic Powder (We used Herbed Garlic Powder)

Directions: Drain beans, place all ingredients in a small pan and heat through on medium.

Slaw

Again, this is just what we made this week. The fresh greens change constantly. We’ve used kale, Napa cabbage, arugula, fresh lettuce (not the tasteless iceburg- blech!) spinach, thinly sliced bell peppers etc…

1/2 purple cabbage, thinly sliced into ribbons and chopped fine

4 small carrots- shredded

1 large bunch of cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

2 tbs cider vinegar (other vinegars will work just fine too, maybe not balsamic..)

juice of 1/2 lime (small)

Directions: Mix in a bowl and serve

Garnish Plate

1 or 2 sliced avocados

fresh cilantro (chopped or not)

lime quarters

New Mexico Spicy Goodness (could be red chile sauce, enchilada sauce, green chile sauce, salsa etc.)

Shredded cheese

See? I told you this was easy!! Did I mention it’s delicious and nutritious too?

Gluten Free Straw and Hay Pasta

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! While we do get on our Irish around here, today’s post will not feature corned beef, colcannon, bannocks, boxtys or any other typical Irish fare…. But in keeping with the spirit of green everything today, this fun dish includes green pasta!

This recipe for Straw and Hay pasta was re-created by my oldest Kitchen Diva in Training. She has started working on geography by checking out cookbooks from different countries and then selecting a dish or two to prepare- how cool is that? And, since this has really been her project from start to finish, it’s only fitting that you hear from the KDiT herself about the ins and outs of this special recipe. Without further ado, I present to you one of my two amazing Kitchen Divas in Training!

KD: “A”, what was your inspiration for this dish?

KDiT: I like Italian food. I liked the way the straw and hay pasta looked with two different colors- green for hay and yellow for straw, and I liked all the ingredients used.

KD: Where did this dish come from?

KDiT: The city of Siena, in Tuscany.

KD: What was the biggest challenge for you?

KDiT: I think waiting for the pasta to cook.

KD: What was your favorite part of making the dish?

KDiT: I liked the cooking part- preparing and cooking the ingredients that went with the pasta.

KD: My favorite part was taking pictures of you. Did you have fun? What part was the most fun?

KDiT: YES!! I think it’s really fun when I get to cook- I make really good food. (She says with a satisfied smile…..)

KD: Yes, you do! What did you learn?

KDit: That the pasta takes a long time to cook; that you have to be super patient so that your food comes out the way it needs to be cooked. I also learned that Italian food uses lots of fresh produce….and lots of cheese!

KD: When I cook, I don’t really follow the recipe- I use it as a guide, and I always have to change something. You stuck to the recipe exactly the way it was written. Can you tell me your thoughts about that?

KDit: I stuck to the recipe because I wanted to try something new.  I like to cook the exact recipe out of the cookbook because sometimes when you cook off of the recipe it tastes different, and not like what the recipe intended. I wanted to see what this recipe tasted like!

KD: So, do you think you want to make another dish sometime?

KDit: Oh YES!!! (I was told I had to put in the capital letters!)

This dish comes from the children’s cookbook “Cooking the Italian Way” by Alphonse Bisignano. Thanks, A! You teach me so much when you cook. Enjoy the recipe and may your St. Patrick’s Day be filled with a little luck o’the Irish! Cheers!

Straw & Hay/Paglia e Fieno

4 servings

Ingredients 

4oz thin spinach noodles, uncooked (we used gluten-free)

4oz fettucini noodles, uncooked (we used gluten-free)

3 tbs butter,

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup peas

4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup heavy cream or half n half

1/2 tsp salt

pepper to taste

1/4 grated Parmesan, plus extra for the table.

Directions

Cook noodles in boiling salted water until they are al dente. Drain and toss with half the butter. Cover and set aside.

Melt remaining butter in a large saucepan. Saute garlic until golden.  Add peas and mushrooms and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. In a separate pan, heat the cream but do not boil.

Add the noodles, cream, salt and pepper to the vegetables and toss until noodles are thoroughly coated. Remove from heat and add cheese. Serve on warm plates.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crisp Topping (gluten free)

A crisp? A pie? A crispie? “The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play..” So begins the first line of The Cat in the Hat. And, as I lay in bed this morning listening to yet another round of thunder and pouring rain, I knew that no yard work would be accomplished today. The weeds and the grass would be left to grow another six inches while I daydreamed of strawberries and rhubarb, and remembered that it was my grandfather’s favorite pie. I’ve been working on a strawberry rhubarb crisp lately, but haven’t gotten it quite where I wanted it. So I lay there contemplating the possibility of a pie with a crisp topping. Sometimes apple pies have streusel topping, would it work for a strawberry-rhubarb pie? Why not?

If you’re baking a shell prior to filling it: Preheat the oven to 375. Take a second pie plate and grease the outside. Place the greased pie plate on top of the crust and cook for 20 minutes. This will keep the crust from collapsing. Remove from the oven and gently remove the greased pie plate. Your crust is now ready for filling. If you need to keep cooking the bottom of the crust, you may prick the bottom part of the crust with a fork, and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Alternately, if you have pie crust balls, or marbles, you may use those in lieu of a second greased pie plate.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:45]

 

 

 

Gluten Free Pizza & Strawberry Spinach Salad.

Sometimes it’s just gotta be quick and easy. Delicious dinner doesn’t have to mean a two hour cooking extravaganza. Of course it’s fun to cook your heart out, but on those days when you find yourself bone tired and you still have to make dinner, give yourself permission to create something simple and flavorful. Even if it means getting a little help from the freezer. I have yet to perfect a ‘from scratch’ gluten free pizza crust. It’s coming, but when you need something fast- a high quality gluten free frozen crust that can be decorated according to your taste is a huge help! Pair it with a fresh salad from your local CSA, and you’re good to go. The girls and I were on our own for a few days and we came up with this together.  A little pizza, and a delightful farm-fresh strawberry spinach salad (Thanks for the awesome ingredients Farmer Jill!). It took about 35 minutes total and was deeply satisfying. Enjoy!

If you’re not ‘gluten free’ and you stumbled upon our blog- simply use a crust of your choice and follow the rest of the recipe! Remember, that we’re about Good Food First, here at The Adventuresome Kitchen!

Easy Gluten Free Pizza (or bruschetta for the non-dairy folks)

serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 8-inch frozen gluten free pizza crust (Udi’s is my favorite- I keep these on hand in the freezer for quick creative meals)

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

4 large basil leaves, julienned (this is a fancy word for finely chopping in thin strips- place the leaves on top of each other, roll them up lengthwise and start slicing thinly. The result will be little thin strips!)

1/2 cup shredded parmesan- (optional)

1/2 cup shredded romano (optional)

olive oil for brushing

Directions  

Pull the frozen crust out of the freezer and allow to thaw on a cutting board.

Take a pizza stone, other stoneware, or a stainless steel cookie sheet and place it on the top rack of the oven. Turn oven to 425 and allow to heat. This will heat the stone and allow the crust to cook from the top and the bottom, creating a crispy, bistro-style crust.

While the oven is heating, chop the garlic and tomato, shred whatever cheese you’d like to use, and julienne the basil.

When the crust is thawed- about 10-15 minutes- brush with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic, tomato and basil over the crust. If you are going non-dairy, I recommend combining the garlic, tomato and basil in a little bowl and drizzling a tiny bit of olive oil over the ingredients and gently blending. This will ensure that the ingredients don’t dry out in the oven.

Sprinkle the cheese on top. When the oven is ready, take the pizza- either on the cutting board or by hand- and gently slide it onto the hot pizza stone. Pull the pizza from the oven when the cheese is bubbly and is just starting to turn golden- about 15 minutes. If you’re cooking without cheese, look to see if the tomatoes are bubbling and the edge of the crust is turning golden- about 10-15 minutes.

While you’re waiting for the pizza to cook, make this colorful and delicious salad.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

serves 3-4

Ingredients    

4 cups fresh spinach, washed and stemmed (meaning the stems have been removed)

1 lb fresh strawberries, cleaned and diced

1/3 cup fresh goat cheese- crumbled

2-3 tbs olive oil

2-3 tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions

Once spinach has been washed and stemmed, rip into bite-sized pieces and place in a serving bowl. Drizzle olive oil over leaves and toss until leaves are evenly and lightly coated. I confess I eyeball this. The leaves should glisten, and if you pop one in your mouth you should just be able to taste the olive oil flavor, but the leaves should not feel oily, nor should there be a pool of oil in the bottom of the serving bowl. If you do this enough, you’ll be able to eyeball it too.

For a lovely presentation, add chopped strawberries to the top of the spinach and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Crumble goat cheese on top of the strawberries. Again, if you’re non-dairy, leave out the goat-cheese and add a little pepper. I’m a cheese head and put cheese on just about everything, but that doesn’t mean you have to!

Serve with pizza and voilà- easy, beautiful, delicious dinner!

Remember, use whatever ingredients you have on hand- out of tomatoes? Use olives or peppers. Don’t have strawberries? Use citrus, other berries, pears or apples!