This blog features news on local food finds, tales from home cooks and inspiration to help you have fun in your own kitchen.
Home Cooking with Shirley Braden
Home Cooking is a regular feature on The Front Burner that offers a peek at how home cooks around the Fredericksburg area work in their kitchens. If you’d like to answer our questionnaire, download it here and return your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org with a digital photo of yourself, or pass it along to anyone you think would like to participate.
Tell us who you are and why you cook.
I cook for many reasons. I’m a wife, a mom (albeit an empty-nester), a daughter, a friend, a gluten-free support group leader, food blogger, and someone who enjoys cooking, especially baking.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Quick, easy and gluten-free.
Oh, this sounds bad, but my website, Gluten Free Easily, is the one I go to most often, pulling up my own recipes that I’ve adapted from numerous sources. Otherwise, I read tons of food blogs, many of them written by personal friends, and I’m always looking for fresh ideas in newspapers and magazines.
What is one dish on your menu this week that you’re excited about?
Chicken tortilla soup. It meets my quick, easy and gluten-free cooking style, plus it’s delicious and perfect for our current weather!
What is one thing that must be in your pantry at all times?
Ooh, tough one. … It’s a toss-up between chocolate in the form of cocoa or chocolate chips and chickpeas. I love chickpeas, especially roasted chickpeas. Just a little olive oil, salt, spicy seasoning, like cayenne pepper, are all that’s needed to make me happy. I’ve even made a flour-less chocolate cake using chickpeas before. It was delicious and much healthier for you than most chocolate cakes.
What one kitchen gadget could you not live without?
I’m a firm believer that one does not have to have a lot of kitchen gadgets to cook well. I put my mini-chopper to good use, even using it to grind cashews enough to make cashew nut butter.
It’s 6 p.m., the people in your household are hungry and you just walked in from work and need to get something satisfying on the table as soon as possible. What’s your favorite thing to whip up in this situation?
A tuna melt. These are one of my husband’s favorite sandwiches, so not only is it quick and easy, but it’s also a treat. I eat mine with no bread, or occasionally use a leftover gluten-free popover to serve as my bread.
It’s a snowy Sunday, you’ve just done the grocery shopping and have the rest of the day to spend in the kitchen cooking a meal that will bring comfort. What’s for dinner?
Definitely soup. I have a soup I call my Everything Soup. I keep one or more freezer containers of leftover broth, veggies, and meat (each container looks like a cross-cut section of an archaeological dig with all the layers and different “materials”) and I save roast chicken carcasses. I start by making homemade stock using the chicken carcass, water and some apple cider vinegar to pull out the calcium from the chicken bones. After I let the pot simmer for a while, I pour the contents through a colander into another soup pot. I put the stock back on the burner and extract the chicken and de-bone it, saving all the meat. (A chicken carcass will yield a lot of meat!) I add veggies to the stock to simmer in order of cooking time from longest to least, adding seasonings and the chicken toward the end. The soup never comes out the same, but it’s always similar in taste and comfort, and very nourishing.
What is your favorite dish to make for pot-luck dinners?
Garlic lime chicken is a very easy dish to make that everyone enjoys. It’s actually a recipe from Leanne Ely, the creator of Saving Dinner, a menu mailer site.
Do you have a favorite food source in the Fredericksburg region?
My shopping options are fairly limited where I am located. I’m often away on weekends, but when I’m home on Saturdays, I love to visit our award-winning King George Farmers’ Market to pick up greens, squash, fresh flowers, seafood and more. It’s a fresh and fun experience and adds much to my cooking, baking and green smoothies.