Friday, December 26, 2008

We Survived!

As the Christmas Season is coming to a close, I am happy to announce that we survived without incidence! Ella seems to be getting used to the fact that there are things that she cannot eat that other people can. And our battles are slowly being minimized. Thankfully I have the most wonderful family who goes out of their way to make sure that Ella has a lot of options when she sits down at the dinner table. This is the first time that I can remember that Ella, did not once, beg for the food on her cousin's plate. It was a Christmas miracle! And I was even able to "sneak" Milo a dinner roll without a tantrum from his big sister! PHEW! Ella was much more focused on our apparel and whether or not we both were wearing scarves and hats. She is a girl, after all!

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter

This is another recipe that I got from I believe that it also originated from Gourmet magazine. It is to die for. Tilapia is quickly passing up Halibut as being my favorite fish to cook with. And it is much cheaper!

For chile lime butter

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh Thai or serrano chile (preferably red), including seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt

For fish

6 (5- to 6-oz) pieces skinless tilapia fillet or farm-raised striped bass fillets with skin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Make chile lime butter:Stir together butter, shallot, zest, lime juice, chile, and salt in a bowl.
Prepare fish:If using striped bass, score skin in 3 or 4 places with a thin sharp knife to prevent fish from curling (do not cut through flesh). Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until just smoking, then sauté 3 pieces of fish, turning over once with a spatula, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes, and transfer to a plate. Sauté remaining fish in remaining tablespoon oil in same manner.
Serve each piece of fish with a dollop of chile lime butter.

Chile lime butter can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before using.

Caramelized Leek Soup

This has been keeping our bellies warm this winter. I try to make it as often as I can. I originally got the recipe from Epicurious, who got it from Gourmet magazine. It is so darn good!

2 pounds leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 2 bunches)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup vermouth
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
Garnish: 4 teaspoons finely sliced fresh chives

Halve leeks lengthwise and thinly slice crosswise. In a large bowl of cold water wash leeks well and lift from water into a large sieve to drain. In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook leeks in butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until some begin to turn golden, about 40 minutes. Stir in sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Stir in vermouth and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated and most leeks are golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Deglaze kettle with 1/2 cup broth and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes more, until liquid is evaporated and leeks are deep golden. Add remaining 3 cups broth and bring soup just to a boil. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Serve soup, garnished with chives, or if you are feeling crazy, cheese toasts.

Christmas Cookies!

These are some of the many cookies that I made for Christmas, this year. I have a blast doing these each year. Now I make two versions: one with wheat flour and one, without. Gabe told me that I really could get by with just the wheat-free version and no one would know. Truly, they taste pretty darn close to one another. But I am a bit of a masochist, so I did two batches. The recipe that I have been using for years is from the Mrs. Fields Cookie cookbook. The secret is to not over work the dough and to add as little flour as possible. I am also careful to chill the dough for at least one hour so that it is nice and cold.
The wheat free version comes from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. I might get sued, but here are both recipes. I use the same frosting for both cookies...
Sugar Cookies (with wheat flour)

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt with a wire whisk.

In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer set on medium. Add the egg and vanilla, beat until well mixed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture. Blend on low until just combined. Do not over mix or the dough will be tough. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie cutters.
Place cut-outs onto ungreased cookie sheets. ( I generally place them on top of parchment).

Bake for 13-15 minutes, being very careful not to brown. Immediately transfer cookies with a spatula to a cool, flat surface. Decorate with frosting (see below) and other decorations.

Sugar Cookies (Wheat/Gluten Free)
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups Brown Rice Flour Mix (from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts)
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Add flours, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt; beat until a thick, smooth dough is formed.
Roll out dough between 2 large sheets of wax paper. Chill until very cold. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters, and chill again on a cookie sheet before baking.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until a very light golden color. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. Store in an airtight container.


Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix well.
Get mixture to the consistency of thick cream, add more sugar if necessary. Try not to let
the frosting be too wet or it will not set properly. Add 1 drop of food coloring and mix well.
Repeat for all other colors desired.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Polenta Casserole

I made this casserole for a play date a few years back and it has become a favorite. Especially now that I am trying to find things to cook, wheat-free. This is a good, quick and easy alternative to lasagna.

1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 bag of sliced crimini or brown mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large can of chopped tomatoes
1 large can of tomato sauce
teaspoon of salt, dash of pepper, pinches of basil & oregano
2 tubes of prepared polenta
1 package of marscapone cheese
2 packages of sliced fresh mozzarella (Trader Joe's)
Grated Parmesan cheese, approx. 1/4 cup

Cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cook until mushrooms are done, another 5-7 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauce. Season with salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice polenta into 1/2 inch rounds. Heat a medium sized, fry pan. Pour in approx. 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook polenta slices until edges are slightly crisp, approx. 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

Oil a rectangular baking dish. Pour approx. 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom. Layer the bottom of the dish with the cooked polenta rounds.

Top each round with a dollop of marscapone and a slice of mozzarella, and top with another polenta round.

Cover "sandwiches" with remaining sauce. Layer remaining mozzarella over sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake covered in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Serve hot.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Madness

As I wait for my second batch of sugar cookies to bake, I thought I would take a moment to update ye old blog. Life has been crazy these last few weeks. Sick kids, disappearing nannies, endless work hours, parties and on and on. Ella had her school Hanukkah party on Friday. I made sugar cookies in the shape of dreidels and Jewish stars for everyone. And I made "swap-out" wheat-free versions for her to enjoy. Unfortunately, many other parents made cookies and they were served on a platter to each of the children. Ella wanted to sample each of them. And all I had to offer was a measly bag of cookies, obviously not as cool as the rest. I tried!

The ginger cookies that I have been making are still a hit. Right now I am preparing the boxes of goodies that I make for the neighbors each holiday season. I generally make gingerbread cookies for that group, and they have always been Ella's favorite. I am glad to have an alternative to offer her this year. Another safe bet is the peppermint bark that I make. Thankfully, there is no wheat or nuts in this particular confection. Phew!

We are still in the midst of our nanny transition. Because of our situation we cannot simply hire anyone to take care of the children. Illegals are out of the question. Can you imagine the scene if Ella needed to be taken to the emergency room? Forget it! And I only want someone who has medical training or AT LEAST knows CPR. But all of that comes at a price. The nanny that we have been using is so amazing. She formally took care of a certain celebrity's child. And as that may sound very fancy-in-deed, the fact of the matter is that all it did was gave our nanny a taste for the high life. We paid her what was for us, a lot of money. But still, not enough. So even though I only have 2 weeks until my job is complete, she decided that she needed to bail on us in order to interview on other jobs. Thankfully, we were able to find a short term solution. But the stress has been beyond anything that I would like to go into. So much of this anxiety has been because I am always so worried about Ella and what she might eat. I wish that I could just walk out the door and say, "See ya!" and not look back. But it is so hard. As much as I LOVE working, this is something that I will never be able to escape.

So very soon, I will be getting back to my normal routine with the children. But I will be seeking part-time help to help me remain a sane mama! If you know anyone who might be good, please let me know. One thing is for sure, I am not going to use an agency ever again. That has been a nightmare. I will not say which agency has brought me so much unhappiness, as I am afraid to get sued. But if you live in LA and would like to know, please contact me and I will be glad to tell you!

There's the buzzer! Will be posting more later!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hell's Kitchen

Sorry I have not been the best about blogging, lately. I have been working like a mad woman, set decorating Season 6 of Fox's Hell's Kitchen. It is a tremendous amount of fun. The crew is also really, really wonderful. Normally I am majorly stressing out, this time of year. But somehow having too much to do seems to balance me out. I am hoping to do some baking this weekend. Ella's school is having their Chanukah party next Friday and I have offered to make cookies for the event. In doing so, I will also be making some wheat-free swap outs for Ella to enjoy. It will be worth it, just so that she can feel like the rest of the kids.

We have been having some nanny drama, lately. Our beloved nanny might be leaving us to work on a higher paying, longer term job. This seems to be the pitfalls of going through an agency. It is a really long and boring story, maybe I will post a separate blog about it when the dust settles. All I can say is that, as much as I LOVE working again, I cannot accept the possibility of doing it without our Hayley. She is so wonderful and I have never once worried about Ella needing her Epi-pen when I am away. So I have turned down a show for Bravo to return to being a full time Mom. At least for now.

Since I am working so much I have been exhausting my slow-cooker. When I have time, I will post some fab gluten-free recipes. Thankfully, the kids love soup. So I have been making LOTS of it!

I am also planning on adapting some of my classic holiday treats into a wheat-free version. I will post those, as well, soon!

Off to address the holiday cards and drink some egg nog...