Fellow Family Kitchen blogger, Julie, recently introduced us to new book Cooking for Isaiah by founding editor-in-chief of Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine, Silvana Nardone. And what a find! This ingenious gluten- and dairy-free cookbook, filled with gorgeous photography and easy recipes, is a must-have for any family. Yes, ANY. Even those not following allergy-free diets. The recipes are that good.
And, of course they are: Silvana is, first and foremost, a mom feeding her family. That’s evident in her recipes. They are sophisticated, but fun; relaxed and easy; adaptable for gluten-full families; and obviously written with love.
Intrigued by Silvana’s story—she had to suddenly change her family’s diet to accommodate her son Isaiah’s gluten and dairy intolerance—I chatted with her to learn more.
I was especially curious about balancing the nutritional needs of one family member with her family’s tastes. After all, Silvana owned an Italian bakery at one point! As the mom of a family with a taste for gluten-full food, how did she make the shift delicious and practical for everyone?
Do you eat exclusively gluten- and dairy-free, or just at home?
When I’m home, I’m 99% gluten free. I’m always developing gluten- and dairy-free versions of classic American flavors so occasionally I’ll bring something into the house with gluten to see exactly how the finished food should taste and look. Then I know if I’ve nailed my recipe 100%. Outside of the house, I avoid gluten for the most part. I’ll only eat it if I know something is really worth it. As for dairy, Isaiah has been able to slowly reintroduce it into his diet now that his body has healed from the damage caused by his gluten intolerance, so the whole family eats dairy, but in moderation.
How has reducing gluten and dairy from your diet made you—and the rest of the family—feel?
I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. All I know is that one day Isaiah had dozens of warts on his hands and knees, and when I removed gluten from his diet, the warts disappeared. Period. I also know that he gets fewer colds, his dark circles under his eyes have lightened and he has tons more energy. When I avoid gluten, the same is true for me, plus I’m less bloated and I sleep better.
What are the key pantry staples for going gluten-free?
Having a gluten-free flour blend you can trust is crucial. In my house, the same is true for a gluten-free pancake mix. It took me two months to figure out the blends that are in my cookbook, but they were key. My blends are neutral in flavor and color so they hold the integrity of whatever I’m making. Now all I have to do is mix up a big batch, then I’m ready for anything.
What are your favorite or most unexpected substitutions?
After we dumped everything onto our dining room table that contained gluten and dairy, I looked to see what was left. There were a couple of hidden gems in there: a can of cannellini beans, pureed, became my ticket to creamy, rich corn chowder and a box of Rice Chex, crushed, became my instant breadcrumbs for giving chicken tenders a nice crunchy coating.
Do you have any advice for folks who don’t necessarily have a medical reason to go gluten- or dairy-free, but are curious?
Depending on the reason you’re removing gluten and dairy from your diet, you should always listen to your body. You should eat what feels right to you. If you’re not feeling like yourself, it can help to take a break from certain foods. I find that when I choose to make any change in my diet, I’m more conscious of what I’m eating overall. Sometimes, that’s all if takes to feel better.
One of my favorite recipes in Silvana’s book is for Oven-Fried Frito Chicken Fingers with Honey-Mustard Dip. It’s an easy, but sophisticated take on family comfort food that speaks to her mission of making sure that her family doesn’t miss out on favorite foods because of Isaiah’s intolerance.
To get more gluten- and dairy-free recipes, including Silvana’s favorite—Hash Brown Belgian Waffles with Apple Sausage and Fried Eggs—check out her new book Cooking for Isaiah or visit Dish Towel Diaries.
Oven-Fried Frito Chicken Fingers with Honey-Mustard Dip
by Silvana Nardone, from Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals
extra virgin olive oil, for greasing
6 c corn chips, such as Fritos, coarsely crumbled
salt and pepper
3 lg eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 lbs (750 g) chicken tenders
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with olive oil. In a shallow bowl, combine the corn chips, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and & 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs. Coat a chicken tender with the corn chip mixture, dip into the eggs, then coat again with the corn chip mixture; place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, honey and lemon juice; season with about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve with the chicken fingers.
*Note: You can swap tortilla chips for the Fritos and use store-bought salad dressing, barbecue sauce or just plain ketchup in place of the honey-mustard dip.
The above is an excerpt from the book Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals by Silvana Nardone.
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