Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to reality, work and school...

I finally feel like I am coming out of the storm that was in my head after my son's celiac diagnosis. I have my cooking groove back. We even made a trip out to the midwest and hosted friends at our house without any incident. I feel more grounded, more myself. I grilled pizza for the first time in a long time! One gluten free and one not. No cross contamination! Yay! Now I just need to figure out who to make my own gluten free pizza dough and how to make my gluten filled pizza dough without feeling like I have to scrub down the entire kitchen so no flour cross contaminates anything! We also met with my son's nutritionist at Children's, who made me feel good, like we are on the right track. Woo hoo! Let's just hope his blood tests in the fall come back showing that the diet is working! Fingers crossed.

Anyway, back to the food! End of summer and early fall still leaves plenty of time to grill. I love to grill pizza, sausages, steak, chicken, pork, salmon, shrimp, corn, green beans, zucchini and I could keep going. To make our grill gluten free, I scrubbed it down and then turned all the burners on and let everything just cook off for about 30 minutes. When I grill something with gluten, like pizza, I usually cover that section of the grill with foil and go through the heating process before the next time I grill. I'm probably going a little overboard, but better safe than sorry!

I'm starting to see my favorite fall foods in the grocery stores...butternut squash, acorn squash, I can't wait! That however means its also back to school and for me back to work! My kids will all be in school full day so that means three lunches to make, everyday. I have to also send a snack for my 1st grader and donate bulk for the class for the twins and make sure Paul has a selection of gluten free snacks at school. My entire Friday was basically spent at 2 different grocery stores and I still didn't get everything! Luckily the 2nd store (Big Y) has a Kid's club, where the kids are happy to play the Wii while I shop, but of course make the sitter buzz me while I'm in the middle of checking out because they have to the go the bathroom :)

Here is what my menu plan looks like for back to school week, starting with tomorrow, Tuesday (the first day of school!):


Breakfast - oatmeal and fruit (if I find the energy tomorrow I will make THIS one in the crock pot over night, if not it is Chex gluten free oatmeal packets. (Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often grown and/or processed with wheat, so you have to make sure it is gluten free if you need that).

Lunch - Leftover asian noodles (used rice noodles and gf soy sauce with leftover grilled chicken for dinner on Monday night),  hummus with carrots and fruit

Dinner - Grilled cheese and french onion soup in the crock pot. I have adapted the recipe linked from my earlier blog post and just throw everything in the crockpot (substitute white balsamic for the beer) for 6-8 hours on low.

Snacks - yogurt, grapes


Breakfast - hard boiled eggs with fruit

Lunch - ham and cheese or sun butter (hopefully the kids like it! I have never used it before) and jelly sandwiches with fruit. (I use Udi's bread for Paul)

Dinner - pancakes [King Arthur Flour's GF pancake mix or Bisquik's GF pancake mix are the best I've found so far, until I make my own blend :)] and sausage with fruit

Snacks - cheese and crackers, bananas


Breakfast - cereal and fruit

Lunch - turkey and cream cheese roll ups, celery, sunbutter and craisin  "ants on a log" and pretzels

Dinner - Pasta with meatballs (going to try ronzoni gluten free) and the meatballs are Mama Mancini's Gluten Free from the fridge section in Shaw's. I add some fresh ricotta and basil. Yum.

Snacks - yogurt, plums


Breakfast - Toast with peanut butter and honey and fruit

Lunch - ham and cheese or sunbutter and jelly sandwiches with fruit OR Leftovers

Dinner - Pizza (I usually use Udi's GF crust for the kids and whole foods or trader joe's pizza dough for Tim and I) served with salad  or carrots and hummus and fruit.

Snacks - celery, cream cheese and craisin "ants on a snow covered log", pirates booty

Coming up...if the cold weather starts to set in, chili with zucchini cheddar corn bread and my butternut squash soup! all in the crock pot :) Stay tuned! I'm writing down my ingredients now so will actually have measurements for recipes!

Good luck with the new school year everyone! You can always ask Mamma if you need any new ideas or have a question about what to make! Just email me at

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Gluten Free's really good. Really!

I know, I know, some of you still think gluten free is a fad and many think it doesn't taste good. For us that is definitely not the truth. It has not changed my menus as much as I thought it would. It just changes the preparation and how I shop. I don't use the same ketchup for example or hot dogs or soy sauce, but I still use all those items. They just have a gluten free version. Some gluten free versions of things are the same but some are not. By process of elimination and good advice :) we are figuring out what works for us. Betty Crocker's gluten free brownie mix...Goooood! Bob's Red Mill pancake mix...not so good.

Tonight we had some delicious (if I say so myself) grilled chicken, green beans and potato salad. I marinated the chicken (drumsticks and thighs) in one part olive oil, one and a half part balsamic vinegar (Trader Joe's told me that theirs is gluten free), one garlic clove (minced), teaspoon onion powder, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary from our garden or a 2 tablespoons of dry. Throw them on a hot grill to sear on both sides then move to top rack of grill to cook on indirect heat. Use a meat thermometer to make sure its cooked through to 170-180.  Takes about 20-30 minutes.

For the green beans Karina, Tim and I cleaned them by snapping off the ends. I tossed them with 2 Tbsp olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, 1/4 tsp onion powder and a dash of garlic powder. Made an envelope out of foil and enclosed the green beans in them and put them on the grill. On direct heat for first 3-4 minutes then turn burners off and grill for another 5-6 minutes.

The potato salad was leftover from the 4th of July party we went to a friend's house yesterday. Hannaford's cleverly put the bags of small potatoes next to each other. One was yukon gold (white), other was red potatoes (red) and lastly purple potatoes (or blue). Of course I fell for that marketing ploy and bought a bag of each :) I boiled them in salt water and then tossed with one 4 oz Fage plain greek yogurt (GF) with a couple of squirts of Stop and Shop Honey mustard (GF) and a couple of chopped sprigs of dill from our garden. Even better today. I kept a small bowl of the potatoes without dressing aside, because my kids don't like it.

Nice way to end a beautiful day. Sunny and low 80s with a nice breeze. Wish everyday could feel like this. Summertime :)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A New Food Adventure...Gluten-free not just trendy but necessary

This has been my longest hiatus from posting since I started Mamma's Cooking over 6 years ago. This blog has morphed along with the changes in our family. Initially, I blogged about making food for my first baby. Then it went through her toddler years with the addition of her twin brothers and my back and forth working outside of the house, working from home and periods of hard work as a stay-at-home mom. That boomerang has continued for the past 4 years as I strive, like many, to find that balance between career, home and self.

If you follow me on Facebook you will have seen some of the recent changes to our family diet. Our weekly pasta nights, quesadilla nights, pizza nights and pancake Sundays have been turned upside down. My son, Paul, was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that effects the stomach and esophagus. He had stomach issues for a while, we tried cutting out dairy to no avail and I asked his doctor to test him. Autoimmune disorders, including Celiac, run in my family. Today there is a simple blood test that can tell you if you are likely to have celiac. An endoscopy can confirm it. Let me tell you how fun that was with a 3 year old stubborn boy who hates being told what to do! The Celiac diagnosis is a blessing in disguise. Yes, I'd rather he did not have it, but if he gets "glutened" once it is not going to require an epi pen or hospitalization for an allergic reaction. Rather, if he is continually "glutened" it will have severe consequences for his health and growth. 

I thought gluten-free was just a trend. Everyone is going gluten-free. There are people, like Paul, who need to be completely gluten-free and others who do it to help them eat less processed food and live a healthier lifestyle. It has made us eat healthier. It also costs a lot more but we wouldn't think twice about paying for a medication, so why not pay more for gluten free foods to keep up health?

It has been overwhelming, but will be manageable. We eat lots of the same items, just healthier versions. Sure, Paul asks sometimes for Goldfish or cake, but there are so many alternatives these days that he is easily appeased and distracted. Visiting other people's houses and eating out are a challenge, but nothing that we cannot overcome.

This is a copy of the email we sent to family when we discovered the diagnosis, 

"Hope you all are well. We are settling in back at home after a whirlwind trip to Disney World last week. The kids had a blast! Fortunately and unfortunately, just before we left we got an official diagnosis of Celiac disease for Paul. He has had stomach issues for months and we have tried various things, but knowing that celiac and autoimmune diseases run in the our family, Marie pushed to have him tested and there is something to be said for a mother's intuition :) 

We just wanted to give you all a little information on Celiac if you are interested in learning more. We do not expect when we visit your homes for you to be fully prepared for gluten free meals. We will have a travel kit so we make sure to keep Paul safe. Unfortunately even a crumb can set off a flare up once gluten has been fully removed. We even had to buy a separate toaster, utensils, plates, tupperware, cutting boards, etc for our kitchen! Gluten is in things you wouldn't even think of like ketchup, soy sauce, mustard, some candies,some ice cream and more. He can't even have things made on equipment that may have wheat. Oats are a good example of something that is naturally gluten free but is often grown in the same fields and processed in the same factories as wheat, so it must say gluten free on the box/bag or else it is not safe.

We are trying to teach Paul not to accept food offered without asking first if it is gluten free, but for now are just not letting him accept offered food. He doesn't fully understand yet, but with the help of our GI and nutritionist at Children's and his teachers and nurse at his pre-school he will adapt :) 

If you have any questions, let us know."

We have been grilling a lot and eating brown rice pasta and taco shells that are gluten free. We found a great gluten free pizza crust (Udi's) that works really well until I figure out my own recipe. We  still have pizza night, taco Tuesday and pancake Sunday, just modified. There are so many wonderful foods that are naturally gluten free, we just need to make sure that they are not processed with any wheat, rye, barley or related products. 

Paul is now feeling better, smiling, potty trained!!!!, and enjoying life as a healthy 4 year old. My new bucket list and food challenges will come, but this year keeping everyone healthy is first on our minds. I hope you'll stay with me as I document this journey.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bucket list completed and new goals for 2014!

Fourth day into the new year and we are sitting in the house with piles of snow outside warming up after the final round of shoveling. Feels like deja vu from all the storms we had last February. While my kids play bowling on the Wii and my husband is working from home, I am taking a few minutes to give you an update on my cooking bucket list of 2013...oh wait, Neil wants milk and Karina already wants a snack...So back to the bucket list...What's that Paul? You want some juice?...and this is why I haven't written a blog in a few months. If I get a chance before complete meltdowns from cabin fever occur, I also want to write my goals for my 2014 cooking bucket list and some new projects.

2013 Cooking Bucket list - COMPLETE!* (and I did 5 of them in December again)

1.  Boerevors sausage (South African farmer's sausage)
I made 5  batches of this sausage tweaking the recipe each time. Over the holidays my dad and I made the best batch so far! That recipe will be a family secret for now :) 

2.  Souffle
I made a chocolate souffle using Martha Stewart's recipe as a guide. Didn't rise as much as I wanted it to, but it was gone in 10 minutes! 

3.  Melk tert (a South African milk tart)
I used my mother's recipe and it was delicious. Instead of making a crust, I used the mini phyllo shells, which got a little soggy in the fridge overnight. Next time I would either serve them immediately or use the crust in the recipe if making ahead.

4.  Pasta 
I ended up make canneloni and filling it with ricotta and spinach and serving with tomato sauce. Delicious! Not as thin as they would be had a I used a pasta machine, but thin enough. Karina and I rolled and rolled and rolled until thin. I made a version of a dish I had last year when I went to Mario Batali's Eatly in NYC. 

5.  Carbonara
This was delicious! The whole family loved it. I mean, bacon, eggs, cheese, peas and pasta. You really can't go wrong. Traditional is with spaghetti or linguine noodles but the kids chose the orecchiette.

6.  Filet a whole fish
I cleaned and filleted a red snapper. It wasn't pretty, but I did it and turned it into the most delicious ceviche!

7.  Ceviche
This was my favorite. "Cooked" the snapper in lime juice for 4 hours and tossed it with avocado, tomatoes, a little red onion, olive oil and cilantro and ate it with tortilla chips. LOVED IT! Karina even loved it. Now that I've done it once though, I will definitely ask the fish monger to clean and filet it for me. Make sure you tell the fishmonger that you are making ceviche and want a fish that was brought in that morning. Call ahead. It is worth it!

8.  Paella
This was also a family favorite. I made some spanish chorizo from scratch, brined the chicken using smoked paprika and cumin. Everything  came out great, except the mussels. I didn't time those right and some didn't open enough. I will definitely make this again!

9.  Octopus* - Did not do this the Octopus that were available were on the "Avoid" list of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch.

10. Jam
So I may have copped out a little on this one, but I never said I would do canning :) I just simmered a bunch of berries over the summer that were on the verge of going bad. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries cooked with a little bit of water, balsamic vinegar and sugar. It was delicious on ice cream and on toast for breakfast.

11. Yorkshire pudding
This was delicious! I will definitely be making this again. It is super easy. So much easier than I thought it would be. I looked at a couple of recipes and used this one from I didn't make a roast that night, so I replaced the beef drippings with beef stock and served it with some leftover sausage and squash.

12. Cream puffs
I used one of my South African cookbooks for this and it was fairly successful. The best discovery was the "mock" pastry cream recipe from the de Villiers, Cook it and Enjoy It. You just whip together a little butter with sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Amazing!

For 2014 I have created a bucket list for the year and I'm starting on an ambitious project of cooking a recipe from one of my cookbooks each week, that I have not made before. I have 50 cookbooks, so that gives me 2 weeks off :) Hopefully I will have time to blog about it. If not visit my Facebook page to get updates! 

Cooking bucket list for 2014:

1. Rusks (think South African biscotti)
2. Macaroons
3. Scones
4. Brussel Sprouts (I've never cooked them. My husband loves them, so I'm taking one for the team so my kids won't inherit my food prejudices :) )
5. Pretzels
6. Poached Salmon
7. Beef Wellington
8. Coq au Vin
9. Khachapuri (a Georgian cheesy bread)
10. Duck (not necessarily a whole duck, we'll see how adventurous I feel)
11. Tortillas
12. Chilaquiles (My favorite Mexican breakfast!!) 

Happy New Year everyone! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm still here and still cooking

Hello everyone! I am still here, grilling, spending time with the family and working. I'm hoping to kick the blog up again this fall!

As we head in to the end of summer, I pledge to write again. I have been cooking and taking photos, so watch for fun school lunches, easy dinners, easy entertaining meals, breakfasts and more! I will finish my cooking bucket list, even though I haven't started it yet! I will enter new worlds (for me) of technology like instagram and ramp up my presence on Facebook and Twitter. So stay with me! If there is anything you would like me to write about or try to cook for you all, send me a an email, or like me on Facebook and tell me there!

The picture above is a pork sirloin roast marinated in an Asian-style sauce and basted each time I turned it on the grill. I served it with cooked spaghetti, extra sauce (not used to marinade) and steamed broccoli. The Asian-style sauce is a version of one of my go to sauces, but with a minced garlic clove added and a little extra brown sugar to caramelize on the outside. Make sure you keep some of the marinade aside to use for basting and for tossing with the noodles.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Getting kids into the kitchen

Finding time to blog is proving to be harder than finding time to cook lately. Whether its dealing with sick kids, sick Mamma or Daddy, long mornings playing outside, working and getting all of our chores done, there always seems to be something more to do. I am trying more and more to get the kids involved in the kitchen, so I can have time to be in there myself. Here are some ideas for how to get your kids to help you cook when you don't want to kick them out of the kitchen and be on your own :) I tell my kids there is one rule to cooking with Mamma in the kitchen and if they don't follow it, they don't get to help - "Listen and do exactly what I say." This has been surprisingly effective. Karina was kicked out of the kitchen on 2 different occasions and now does exactly what I say, in the kitchen at least.
1. Let them stand next to you and watch. This way while you are cooking, as you are about to do something think about whether or not they can try it and let them try. Even my 2 and half year olds can add a pinch of salt or sprinkle a seasoning that comes out slowly. Break an egg into a dish and let them pour it in. If you need to add water, let them fill the cup and pour it in. It does take a little longer but gives them a great sense of accomplishment.

2. Let them mix. Slowly, slowly, slowly :) Then Mamma has a turn and goes fast, fast, fast. Then its their turn, slowly, slowly, slowly. Mamma's turn, fast, fast, fast. You get the idea.

3. Let them shake. If you need to coat something, like chicken or vegetables with seasoning, put it in a plastic bag, close it and let them shake it.

4. Let them have a task all to themselves. This can be as easy as have them get their plates (non breakable ones), cutlery, napkins, cups, etc. ready. If they can use the sink without flooding the room, have them wash the vegetables, scrub potatoes or just press the spinner on the salad spinner.

5. Let them press buttons. When using the coffee grinder, blender or food processor let them press the button. Whenever I make smoothies, they know as soon as the mini food processor comes out and clamor all over me to get to press the button. Hold them up and tell them what numbers to press on the microwave.

Use your imagination or just think of things you don't like doing and realize that now you have someone who will probably love doing it :) Its not always foolproof but, if they have a hand in making it, they are more likely to eat it.

Here is a recipe for my kids' new favorite lunch or easy dinner:  

Corn pancakes, hot dogs and broccoli with peas:
1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
1 Egg
2 Tbsp of shortening, melted (I used melted butter, since that was all I had in the house)
3/4 cup Milk
Handful of Shredded carrot (or zucchini or broccoli, whatever vegetable you like or just leave it out)
Hot dogs (I use all beef hot dogs, use whatever you like)
Broccoli florets (fresh or frozen, whatever you have. Use any vegetable you like or think your kids might eat)

Make pancake mix on side according to box (or use your own favorite corn pancake recipe). You can let the kids mix it. Then add in the shredded vegetables if you are using them. Turn your griddle on or whatever you use to make pancakes and spray with cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 cup of mix for each pancake onto the griddle once its hot. Cook the hot dogs however you like to, on the grill, boiled in water, sauteed in pan. Steam vegetables or roast in oven. I like to roast the broccoli for 10-15 minutes after its been tossed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This even works with frozen broccoli.

I have been working on some cooking contests, trying to cook some of my Pinterest pins and fine tuning my meal planning. I'll post more about those in the next couple of months and hopefully will get further along on my bucket list. Enjoy the start of spring!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dinner in a hurry

With our new winter schedule, like many of you, I am once again trying to get back into a menu planning groove. Dinner more often than not is a rushed affair complicated by potty training two toddlers and a 5 year old who just wants to help in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, these are all great things, but when you are trying to get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, spending 10 minutes in the bathroom every 10-15 minutes while trying to figure out what you can delegate to a 5 year old without putting her in danger of burning her hands or cutting off a finger, is a challenge.

One of the twins also wants to help in the kitchen, so it is taking even more planning on my part to figure out what tasks I can give them, because I really want them to be involved and interested in their food. Many nights however, I politely shoo them out of the kitchen and turn on the TV or some music and that gives me about 10 minutes to get myself organized. Why is it that they can entertain themselves fine earlier in the afternoon, but if I really need to get food on the table, they can't do without Mamma :)

My lofty goal is to take 15 minutes to plan our meals for the week on Monday nights while my husband is giving the kids a bath, since I mostly go shopping on Tuesdays. I have been writing it directly into my planner (yes, I know I'm old school and inefficient and still carry a hard copy of a day planner even though most items are on my Iphone calendar too, but I like to see it writing).

Here is an example of a week:

Tuesday: Roast chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions and spaghetti squash. I based mine on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis but used what I had on hand for the vegetables. I roasted the spaghetti squash separately.

Wednesday: Pinterest recipe that is simple, few ingredients and tastes amazing!! Pad Thai. You can keep it vegetarian like the recipe or use leftover chicken, shrimp, steak, whatever you have. I used the rest of the roast chicken and rice vinegar instead of lime juice because I forgot to add limes to my grocery list. Still tasted great.
Thursday: What Karina calls "Eggy Pie" aka Quiche. You can make your own crust (don't be afraid! Its easy with the food processor and this recipe from Gourmet) or store bought is perfectly fine. Whip up about 5-6 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk or cream, salt, pepper, 1 minced garlic clove. I added in the leftover potatoes, carrots and onions from Tuesday night's dinner and a couple of handfuls of spinach, a diced tomato, some bacon and feta. If you don't have any leftovers to throw in, chop a jar of artichokes and you have a delicious spinach and artichoke quiche. I cook or heat up the filling (bacon, spinach, artichokes, onions, etc) first while the crust is baking. Then I take the crust out of the oven, pile the filling in it and then pour in the the egg and milk mixture. Drop some feta around the whole pie and sprinkle with mozzarella on top and bake. I can never get the timing right. It took about 40 minutes to cook. I had some hungry, grumpy kids on my hands, so fended them off with oranges :)

Friday: Take out Chinese food :)

Saturday: Shepherd's pie. Made this ahead for Tim and the kids because I had a fun girls weekend in NYC :) I made mashed potatoes with half sweet potatoes and half russet potatoes. The meat I ground myself and was a mixture of pork and beef. I LOVE my new KitchenAid grinder attachment! Ground meat just tastes so much better, more fresh when you grind it yourself, not to mention you know exactly what's in it. Take's 10 minutes and is worth it!

Sunday: Pumpkin pasta bake. I also made this before I left for my trip, since I knew I would be home just in time for dinner. I just boiled some curly q noodles according to the package, drained them. In the same pot, I added about a jar of sauce (Bertoli Tomato and Basil), 1/3 cup of chive cottage cheese, 1/2 small can of pumpkin puree (make sure its not pumpkin pie filling! just plain pumpkin. Trust me. I've made that mistake before), salt and pepper. Mix it all together and heat for about 5 minutes. Put in casserole dish, cover with shredded mozzarella.

Pastas, rice pilaf in the rice cooker, fresh fish, frozen cooked shrimp, kielbasa, frozen Trader Joe's meatballs, store bought mashed potatoes, zucchini, steak and squash that can be made in under 30 minutes are what I tend to make dinners from when I'm in a pinch. 

 Keep safe New Englanders! Here is a link to food safety guidelines if your power goes out. I have both crock pots going right now to cook a roast and sausage and potatoes so we will have some cooked food to eat, which I can store in my garage since it will stay below 40 degrees and I don't want to lose my last batch of boerewors!