Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coconut Carob Brownies

Sometimes a girl just needs chocolate. We crave it, desire it, sometimes just need it. But what do you do when you are told you are allergic to it? Well you either cheat and suffer the consequences or you find an alternative. I now crave, desire and need peanut butter almost as much as non-allergic people crave chocolate. However, when peanut butter isn't enough, there is a wonderful thing called Carob.

Carob comes from a flowering tree that is part of the pea family. The tree produces pods, and it's the ripened pods that we get carob powder from. In eastern areas it's used as sweetener and more recently it's used as a chocolate substitute. Most carob is considered gluten free, however, double check your source as carob chips are sometimes made with barley.

When I am craving chocolate, I tend to cheat and eat chocolate macadamia nut brownies made by my favorite gluten free bakery on the mainland, Panne Rizo. But the other day, one of our local health food stores, Lifestyles Market, had a flier with a recipe for brownies using coconut flour. So I thought I would give it a shot and add some of those yummy macadamia nuts in it to top it off and replace the chocolate with carob so that I wouldn't have to suffer the consequences and boy are they ever delicious!

Coconut Carob Brownies
-Adapted from Lifestyles Market flyer recipe

1/3 cup of Coconut Oil
1/2 cup of Carob Powder, sifted
6 eggs
1 cup of Sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup of Coconut Flour, sifted
1/2 cup of whole Macadamia Nuts

In a small sauce pan melt together the coconut oil and carob powder over low heat. Once it is well blended, remove from heat and let cool. In a bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients (except the nuts). Then add the melted carob/coconut oil mixture into your bowl and whisk until there are no lumps in the batter. Stir or fold in the nuts. Pour the batter into a pre-greased 8x8x2 inch pan and place in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

I topped my brownies with half a bag of Pamella's Vanilla Frosting to which I added about a 1/4 of a cup of sifted Carob Powder to.

Below is a picture of how the brownies turn out if you use shortening and a convection oven instead of coconut oil and a regular oven. They turn out more like a light chocolate cake instead of a denser brownie. Still pretty tasty!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sizzling Stir-fry

What do you do with a fridge full of vegetables that are about to go bad? Or how about ... what do you do when you need a quick easy meal on the go? What's great as left overs for lunch the next day? That's right, you guessed it, it's stir-fry!

You might be wondering how you make stir-fry if most of the Asian sauces you are used to using contain wheat in them, and that is a good question. The answer to which is simply San-J. This company makes a whole big line of Asian sauces based on wheat free tamari and several of their products are certified Gluten Free by the Gluten Free Certification Association. All of their products that I have tried so far are very good and having them as an option, definitely help out when trying to make a yummy tasting stir-fry.

My boyfriend and I like to make stir-fry's when we are trying to make something healthy and full of vegetables for a change. It's also fairly quick and relatively inexpensive as well (depending on your ingredients). I remember one time we were discussing why on earth he
would make your own food, when he could get a burger for less than 2 dollars at McDonalds. The stir-fry helped me argue for a healthier dinner because for 10 dollars you could get 4 meals out of your stir-fry (dinner for two, plus lunch left overs) which is on par with McDonalds, considering one hamburger does not fill him up. Plus, it's a great way to get in all of those vegetables that we tend to lack in our diets on occasion.

Here is the recipe for the last Stir-fry that I made:

Pork Stir-fry

GF Soy Sauce (tamari or braggs)
GF Teriyaki Sauce
1 medium Purple Onion, sliced
Ginger and Garlic to taste
1 lb of Pork, cubed or in strips
1 Red Pepper
1 Orange Pepper
1 handful of Baby Carrots
1 handful of Crimini Mushrooms
1 head of Broccoli
1 bunch of Green Beans (trimmed)
1 bunch of Bean Sprouts
1 bunch of Baby Bok Choy

An hour before or longer, marinate cubed pork in a 2 to 1 mixture of Teriyaki (2 parts) and Soy Sauce (1 part) with some garlic and ginger to taste.

In a large oiled frying pan or wok, heat sliced onions (med-high heat). Once the onions are softened add in the marinated pork and cook until the onions are golden and the pork is no longer pink in the middle. At this point you can add more sauce, ginger and garlic, depending on how saucy you like your stir-fry. Then add the vegetables which take the longest to cook first, such as the carrots, green beans, and mushrooms. Once the carrots are nearly fork tender, add the remaining vegetables stir frying until cooked and mix well to get the flavour of the sauce.

Now all that is left is to plate it with rice or noodles and if you like you can garnish with cashews or sesame seeds.

This recipe can be adjusted to your tastes and what's on hand. Grab left over vegetables, use chicken or beef instead of pork, fancy it up with shitake mushrooms, etc. Let your imagination guide you!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zero 8

Photo: André Tremblay, La Presse

Oh my dreams are coming true, only in the wrong province! I've been dreaming of opening up an allergy friendly restaurant, here in Victoria, but I have no business experience, no financing and no restaurant experience, so my dream is a ways away for now.

However, I've heard that there is a new restaurant in Montreal (again wrong province, but it's a start!) called Zero 8. It's called that because it has eliminated 8 of the 9 common allergies out of their restaurant completely. They follow strict checks to ensure none of the allergens ever enter the restaurant, so if you and your family have various allergies, this is the restaurant for you. For once, it is not a complicated task to eat. Also, even though only the wheat is considered an actual allergen, this restaurant includes all gluten as a whole (barley, rye, oats, malt) when eliminating allergens.

Wow, if only I lived near Montreal!? Has anyone actually been there to confirm or deny what a great place this is?

Follow this link to watch a video about the new restaurant: Zero 8 on CTV

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gluten in your bathroom?

The day the doctor tells you that you can no longer consume gluten, the first thing you do (other than cry yourself to sleep) is go through your kitchen cupboards and fridge and throw out everything that is no longer safe to eat. One thing that we don't always do, or are directed not to worry about is going through our bathroom cupboards as well.

Initially I was told that you don't have to worry about hair products or make up, because you are not ingesting them and absorbing gluten through the skin doesn't impact our digestive systems. However, now that I've been gluten free for a few years, I've started to make sure it's not in any of my toiletries. I noticed after switching shampoos that I was get contaminated a lot and I couldn't figure out why. Then I realized that my new shampoo had wheat in it. One thing I do in the shower is wash my hair and then immediately scrub my lips to get rid of flakes, especially in the winter. So here I was, unintentionally contaminating myself on a daily basis. I now have a gluten free shampoo from that is fantastic.

It's an especially good idea to go through your toiletries if you have small children around who are Celiac. Small children will eat anything, and even though the amounts of gluten that may be in your lipstick or body wash may be so small that they won't cause a reaction, it's probably a good idea to make sure that product is gluten free in case they eat the tube of chap stick or something silly like that.

I'm notoriously bad for forgetting about the medicine in my bathroom cupboards as well. After a few months, I came across a posting about gluten free medicine and that little sp
ark went off in my head. The one that says, "Oh yeah, I guess I eat/ingest medicine and it should be safe too." Luckily for me, Advil and most of the other products that I use are already safe, but make sure you find out what starch or filler is being used in your medicines, or they may just cause you more grief than aid.

I don't want to sound like a sales person right now, but I do feel that I should mention a company called Arbonne. Only a few short months ago, I had never heard of the company, and now I am a loyal customer. They are not for the frugal in mind as the initial cost of their products are not cheap, however, the products last much longer than their cheap counter parts, so in the long run they are a better deal.

What got me hooked on Arbonne is the product itself. Sure, the at home parties with wine and goodies

and a room full of chatty woman is fun, but it won't make me come back and by more. The product is the only thing that can do that, and it has. I use their Clear Advantage skin care line (which is gluten free) and a few weeks after using it, my Mom made a comment on a recent photograph saying that my skin looked like it was glowing in that picture. I had noticed a difference in myself, but it was nice to know that it was noticeable to others as well.

I also use their Intelligence Shampoo line. It will make your hair so incredibly soft that you can't stop touching it. The Lemon Scrub smells delicious, and is actually really great at removing grit and grime from your boyfriends work dirty hands. In fact, the men in your house might start trying to steal your stuff. One big seller is that all of their products are vegan and not tested on animals. They are, unfortunately, not all gluten free ... but they do have many products that are gluten free. Just ask them. They are very helpful and friendly and will provide you with lists of safe products to use.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lemon Hazelnut Green Beans

Every Thanksgiving dinner needs vegetables. Why not make them super tasty? Here's another recipe from Canadian Living which needs no adaptions:

Lemon Hazelnut Green Beans
-by the Canadian Living Test Kitc

1 bag of fresh Green Beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons of Butter
1/3 cup of Hazelnuts, chopped
rind from one Lemon

Boil or steam green beans until tender-crisp. Remove from heat and drain. Chill beans in cold water and drain again. In a skillet, melt butter and add hazelnuts until lightly toasted (golden). About 5 minutes, or when it starts smelling really good! Throw in your lemon rind, and add in your green beans. Mix and cook for another 5 minutes until heated through. Voila! Now you have some yummy smelling and tasting vegetables to go with your turkey.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Please Pass the Stuffing

Holidays with such a strong focus on food can be a bit daunting for the newly diagnosed Celiac. Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and Easter all have a part of them that is dedicated to food. Food which is often off limits to those who have to eat gluten free. For Halloween it's all that delicious candy, Easter bunnies might have a hard time trying to feed a Celiac who is also partially allergic to chocolate (myself) and then Thanksgiving and Christmas are filled with stuffing and gravy, which are loaded with gluten.

My first Thanksgiving, my Mom made me a rice based stuffing. It was good, but just not the same stove top boxed stuffing I knew and loved. So the following Christmas I endeavored to try making stuffing from scratch and us Energ-e Gluten Free Bread instead. I don't think I've ever eat the bread straight up, as it smells incredibly yeasty ... however, it is great to toast and use as stuffing. My Mom had big doubts about how this stuffing was going to turn out, so she made regular stuffing for the rest of the family and mine was the optional version. Well, ever since that infamous day, our family only eats one kind of stuffing ... the gluten free kind! Everyone liked my stuffing so much that they demand I make it now instead of their old traditional stuffing. Score one for team Celiac!

The year that I made the stuffing, Canadian Living
came out with a themed magazine and I used several recipes from it and they all turned out brilliantly, even if I had to make one or two minor adjustments to them. Here is there stuffing recipe which I adapted.

Spinach, Bacon and Cashew Stuffing in Acorn Squash
-Adapted from Canadian Living Magazine

6-10 Slices of Bacon, chopped
1/3 cup Butter
1 large Yellow Onion
1/4 Fresh Sage, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 bag of fresh Spinach, trimmed (or 1 pac
kage of frozen spinach)
1 loaf of Energ-e GF Bread, cubed
1/2 coarsley chopped Unsalted Cashews
1 cup of GF Chicken Stock
3/4 cup Whipping Cream
3 Eggs
4-6 Acorn Squash

Start by preparing the stuffing portion firs
t as it requires time in the refigerator, then we'll move onto the squash. First you will need to cube all of your GF bread and place it on a cookie sheet. Then put it in the oven and toast it, perhaps 15 minutes at 350 degrees F ... you'll have to keep a close eye on it so that it doesn't burn. While your bread is toasting, you can cook the bacon on medium heat. Remove it from the pan and drain it on some paper towel (set aside).

In the same pan melt the butter and fry up the onions, sage, salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp each). Next slowly add the spinach until wilted. Place this mixture in a large bowl along with the bacon, toasted bread and chopped nuts.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together whipping cream, chicken stock and eggs. Pour this over the bread mixture and mix well. Place the stuffing mixture into the fridge and allow it to soak up the liquid for about an hour. If you leave the stuffing in it's bowl, remember to stir it occasionally to allow even coating, or pour it into a large baking dish for even distribution.

While your stuffing is sitting, prepare the Acorn Squash. Wash the outside skins, cut them in half, scoop out the inside to rem
ove the seeds and make the opening a little bit wider, sprinkle with salt and pepper and then place cutside down on a foil lined and greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F and then remove from the oven.

Once the both the stuffing and squash are ready, flip the acorn squash over and fill them with the uncooked stuffing.
Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Don't forget that Acorn squash comes in a variety of colours. So if you want to spice things up visually, get a mixture of yellow, green or green and white squash.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chocolate Cheesecake Interlude

Well I promised I would put up a few thanksgiving related recipes and there will be a few more to come, but I thought I would post this chocolate cheesecake recipe as an interlude first.

My boyfri
end's birthday is coming up and I wanted to hold a surprise party for him. With his roommates help, that's exactly what I did. His favorite dessert is chocolate cheesecake, so that is what I made for his birthday cake. I've never made a cheesecake before, not even before I was diagnosed with Celiac, so I was very nervous of how my concoction would turn out. I browsed a bunch of recipes and pulled a little from one and a little from another. Not the best idea for a first time cake, but it worked!

Everyone at the party said that my cheesecake was delicious and no one had any idea it was gluten free until they noticed
I was eating it too. My boyfriend was especially impressed, saying that it tasted exactly like his favorite chocolate cheesecake from the store and really liked the chocolate leaves that I made to decorate it. The cheesecake was a bit much for me as I'm lactose intolerant and technically not supposed to eat chocolate either, but damn did it taste good. Try it yourself!

Chocolate Cheesecake

1 pa
ckage of Panne Rizo GF Chocolate Walnut Cookies
3/4 cu
p melted Butter
1 tablespoon Sugar

1 cup of Ricotta Cheese

2 cups of Cream Cheese

3 eggs

1/2 cup Sour Cream

1/2 cup Sugar

1/4 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract

2 tablespoon Carob Powder (or cocoa powder)

1 cup melted GF Chocolate Chips

To start place the gluten free cookies in a plastic bag (ziploc) and smash the cookies with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer. Once the cookies are a nice crumbly consistency, place them in a medium sized bowl. Add melted butter and sugar and mix well. Using a spatula place the cookie mixture into the base of a pre-greased cheesecake pan. If you like more crust, double the recipe.

Now in a food processor, mix cheeses and eggs, until well mixed. Then add sour cream, sugar and almond extract and mix well. Pulse in carob pie. Pour this mixture into a large bowl and fold in melted chocolate with a spatula. Pour the filling into the cheesecake pan, on top of the crust. Place the cheesecake into a pre-heated 400 degree F oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower the temperature to 300 degrees F and bake for another 60 minutes. It's a good idea to place an empty cookie sheet on a rack below the cheesecake to catch any drippings. Once the the cheesecake is finished baking allow it to cool in the oven for up to 3 hours to prevent cracking. Next chill for 6 hours or overnight before removing sides of pan.