Wednesday, October 30, 2013

GF Mama tips

One of the difficulties of GF cooking when you're a mummy of small children has to be the lack of cooking shortcuts that gluten food products afford. No cous cous, no fancy shop bread or tortillas for quick sides , no pasta you don't have to continuously stir, no ready made puff or shortcrust pastry, no supernoodles with sauce included.....I could go on and on!!  At least you can now get GF takeaways from some big chains these days, but you'll still pay a fair whack for them.

But that said, if you are organised, there are ways to make life easier and to stop you spending so much on food.  By making more yourself, you can also avoid the "siege mentality" of feeling like you have to always have lots of "free from" products in stock in case the shops run out (something I used to do all the time!)

Made-in-advance Doughs
You can make doughs (Pizza/Pie/Pasta/cookie) in advance when you have time for example at the weekend or evening when your partner is at home to look after the kids.  Why not make up a few balls of dough and keep them in the freezer then just pop one in the fridge to defrost the day before.  Cookie dough can be sliced and baked straight from frozen if you freeze it in a log shape wrapped in baking parchment and then foil. I roll out and cut my pasta dough into tagliatelle shapes and cook straight from frozen too.

Pre-dinner Prep
Slow cook oven dishes are good to prepare if your child has a midday/afternoon nap or chop the veg night before.  Casseroles pre-prepared and put in the oven, you can either put on a low temp oven for hours or just turn on the oven 1 1/2 - 3 hrs before you want to eat.  Jambalaya/Rissoto/Piella can also be oven cooked in a casserole dish. Bechamel sauce can be made in advance (which needs constant stirring) as it'll keep in the fridge for a couple of days.  This could be the base for a fish pie,  a mac'n'cheese dish or a lasagne.

Kitchen Gadgets
Microwave steamer - better than a rice cooker if you're limited on space and cheaper. John lewis do a really good medium-sized one. Cooks rice in 20 mins without any interference (stirring) so is easy to set going while you're busy doing something else. Also great for steaming fish/veg.
Food Thermos - A decent one will set you back £10 but is invaluable if you ever want to use leftover food for lunch like pasta/risotto/soup. Keep hot foods hot for 6 hrs.
Slow cooker - seriously want one of these. Although you can use conventional oven to make casserole style dishes, slow cookers use far less electricity and can be set to cook overnight/over the whole day while you are out. Some also have a keep warm function. Good for cooking cheap cuts of meat for making dishes such as pulled pork. Because things are cooked over a longer time than conventional ovens, you get more flavour.

Kid's Packed Lunches
It's easy to get sucked into doing the usual sandwiches + expensive bagged snacks/bars/crisps for lunches. But regular foods can look more enticing and snack-like if you put them into small boxes/zippy bags, compartmentalising them like a Japanese lunchbox - "Bento" style. e.g. grapes, crisps from a family pack, popcorn, crackers, clementines cut into smiley quarters, cubed sausage, cubed cheese, nuts, breakfast cereal, raisins, yoghurt and honey in small pot. There's loads of great bento ideas on the web, if you do an image search.