Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Goodies

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you are well and enjoying time with your loved ones. I am spending time with my family at my parent’s house.  It’s not very Christmassy outside with it overcast and raining all day, but it’s Christmases inside. Everyone has opened their presents and had a big turkey dinner and now we are just lounging around listening to the crackling fire …. on TV.  I love Canadian television with the burning log channel at Christmas.

My family is not very religious, but the idea of spending time with friends and family, helping those less fortunate, and just being able to enjoy yourself for a few days in the middle of winter is definitely worth celebrating.

This year for Christmas I decided to try and make homemade presents. The endeavor was actually quite fun, but also a lot of work and far more expensive then I thought it would be.  However, I thought I would share all of the gift ideas … edible or not with you today. That way you can get tones of ideas for next year and I can feel less guilty about not posting as frequently as I would like to on here.

I’ll start with the bathroom related products. The easiest product to make is room spray (air freshener). My partner despises febreeze and makes a big stink about it every time I use it to freshen up the place, so I started looking into making my own air freshener. I tried a few different versions that I found online and settled on the following recipe: 1/8 Witch Hazel, the rest water and 8-12 drops of scented oil. For Christmas I chose clove oil and does it ever work. The scent of cloves is quite strong and overpowers any other scent in the room with only one squirt.

The second bathroom product I made was lavender body scrub. I got that idea from another blog that I read regularly and it’s quite a simple recipe. Just sugar, salt, oil and scent. You can find it here: Affairs of Living

I also chose to add my flavoured pears and pear butter to the list that I made this summer and some homemade vanilla extract. I remembered reading how to make your own on a blog, but wasn’t able to find the article again. Other how to sites told me though that it is simply vanilla beans and vodka.  Most seemed to agree that 3 beans per cup was the correct ratio and since I had bottles that were half a cup, I used 1-½ vanilla beans and filled the rest with vodka. It is to be kept in a dark cool place (aka a cupboard) for about 6 weeks and shaken occasionally before it is ready to use.

Since I went a little crazy with the vanilla beans (I got a great bulk price on them) I also made vanilla sugar and vanilla salt. As I had not used vanilla salt I just kept that for myself and made everyone else vanilla sugar. That is pretty simple as you put about 2 to 3 fresh vanilla beans in with one cup of sugar or 5 to 6 used vanilla beans in with one cup of sugar. You can use the flavoured sugar in whipped creams or in coffee and many other baking adventures. Vanilla salt is made the same way and is great for sprinkling (lightly) on chocolate chip cookies.

Finally came the baked goods. I filled a tin with peanut butter balls, lemon hazelnut shortbread and soft chewy ginger cookies. The peanut butter balls are something that my grandma has made every year for us and are very similar to Reese’s peanut butter cups (which happen to be one of my favourites).  Unfortunately I just realized I left my recipe at home so I will have to post this recipe another time. But here’s a sneak peak at the peanut butter chocolate goodness any ways!

For the lemon hazelnut shortbread cookies, I had wanted to make shortbread but make them different some how. Origin bakery that I go to now and then in Victoria makes lavender and early grey tea shortbread and I was going to go with one of those, but then decided I wanted to use up my hazelnuts before they went rancid. I really love lemon hazelnut green beans, so I figured the combination would work just as well in a cookie.  So I based my recipe off of Martha Stewarts hazelnut cookies and added lemon and made them gluten free. I brought them to work and everyone loved them! They are light and refreshing and melt in your mouth like shortbread should.

Lemon Hazelnut Shortbread

1 stick (125mg) salted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1-cup sweet rice flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1-cup hazelnuts
1 egg (warmed)
Rind of one lemon
Vanilla sugar (sugar that's had vanilla beans sitting in it)

Place hazelnuts on a cookie sheet, lightly coat with oil (I used grape seed oil) and set under broiler in oven until toasted (lightly darkened and smell good). Remove and toss hazelnuts into a food processor and process as fine as you can get it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add rice flour, hazelnuts, and xanthan gum and mix well. Next add warm egg and the rind of one lemon (or half a lemon if you would like a lighter lemon flavour) and beat until dough forms.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased baking sheet. Press balls with fork to flatten. Sprinkle tops of cookies with vanilla sugar and bake for 12-15 minutes. Let cool on sheets set on wire racks.

Last but not least, I made soft chewy ginger spice cookies. Although I’ve always liked gingerbread men I’ve never been a fan of ginger snaps. I like my cookies soft and this recipe is just that!

Soft Ginger Spice Cookies

3/4-cup margarine
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg (warmed)
1/4 cup fancy molasses
4 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 teaspoon ginger powder
2 cups Bob Redmill’s Gluten Free All-purpose Flour
1-teaspoon xanthan gum
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon cinnamon
1/2-teaspoon cloves
1/2-teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4-teaspoon salt
Vanilla salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl cream margarine with sugar until fluffy. Next beat in egg, molasses, orange rind and ginger. Stir together spices, dry ingredients then add to margarine until well blended. Place in fridge for 15 minutes or until firm. Then shape into 1-inch balls, place on greased baking sheet and press balls with fork to flatten. Sprinkle lightly with vanilla salt and bake at 325 degrees for 12 - 15 min.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bailey's Banana Date Bread

Recently I’ve been inspired to dig out some of my old recipes and try to revamp some old classics. I have always loved baking, but I was never very adventurous or creative about it.  I made the occasional pie, apple crumble and banana bread and that was about it. Once in a blue moon I’d make chocolate cakes for friends or try carrot cake, but really nothing fancy and nothing beyond the recipe ... no ad-libbing with flavour or fruit or nuts.

When I started baking gluten free, I had so many baking mishaps that I gave up on it completely for a while. Then, slowly but surely I started again. Having this blog forces me to be at least a little creative and I love that. You may have noticed the lack of baked treats on here lately, and it’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve been really into almond flour these days and although the recipes that I get from books turn out great, the ones that I try haven’t been working out so well.

So when rifling through my recipe collection I found a very well used piece of paper, bent, torn and with ink bleeding everywhere. I knew that this was the recipe to convert and to go back to what I know (for now). I know Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour and I know coconut flour. The trick with coconut flour is to use little and to add a lot of moisture to your recipe to compensate for the fibrous flour.  Also, a new trick I learned recently is that working with warm eggs (not cold or room temp) gives gluten free baking the extra help it needs, when it comes to raising breads and cakes.

I bring you, Bailey’s Banana Date Bread:

1 cup Butter (softened)
¾ cup Sugar
3 very ripe Bananas
4 Eggs (warm)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 ½ cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
½ cup Coconut Flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoons Xanthan Gum
1 cup Buttermilk (I used 1 cup lactose free milk with 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
1 cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream
½ cup chopped Dates
½ cup chopped Walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add bananas, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Next add flours, baking soda, xanthan gum and mix well. Mix in milk, Bailey’s until batter is thoroughly mixed and moist. Fold in dates and nuts. Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for about an hour.  Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Over the past few days, fall has made itself abundantly clear and winter has been making some special appearances. The rain has pelted down, the windows have howled and random branches are strewn everywhere. It almost looked like it was going to snow today, until the sun came out and washed it all away. Then almost as soon as it arrived, it melted away into the darkness. It’s that time of year again … where we pushed our clocks back to give us back a few precious hours of day light in the morning. If only we were farmers and actually up that early to appreciate it? Now we drive to work in the dark and come home in the dark. Oh dreary dreary winter, how I loathe thee. And yet I love the sparkle that freshly fallen snow makes in the sunlight and the feel of crisp cool air (as long as I’m bundled up and warm that is). Winter afternoons are beautiful … winter workdays are lame.

What is nicer on a cold dark day then to warm up with a nice bowl of hot soup? This can be a challenge if you are Celiac as most canned soups are made with enriched wheat flour to thicken them. When I was first diagnosed, the idea of making soups from scratch was actually quite scary. Who had all that time and who wanted to put in all that effort? But some soups can be very quick to make and because they are made fresh, they taste that much better.

Try this one for a start ….

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
-based on Quinoa the Everyday Super Food 365 (based because I didn’t have quinoa flour)

1 vine of ripened tomatoes
2 red peppers
3 tablespoons of butter
½ a medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of Herbes De Provence
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 ½ cups of Chicken Stock (gf)
1 cup of Cashew Almond Crème
Salt and Pepper to taste

First seed and quarter the red peppers, coat them in oil and broil until soft and starting to blacken at the edges.  While that’s going, melt butter in a pot and add onion until soft and golden. Then transfer onions, peppers and fresh tomatoes (quartered) into a food processor. Let go until as smooth as possible. Transfer back into pot with remaining butter and stir in chicken stock and cashew almond crème . Season with herbes, salt, pepper and sugar and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. If your processor doesn’t make the smoothest soup (like mine) you could put it through food mill, but I like mine a little chunky :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Ah fungus... loathed by some and loved by others, it is a strange and complex organism. For some it is the taste, unique to every mushroom, and for some it is the texture, spongy yet meaty at the same time that is either off-putting or completely yummy. In my book, mushrooms are delicious and this time of year is full of many types of mushrooms.

Here on the West Coast if you drive anywhere you will see mushroom buyers. They pop up along the roads almost as readily as the mushrooms pop out of the ground after a good rain.  They buy the wild mushrooms that people pick and sell them to stores or even send them across the seas. Wonderful wild mushrooms start appearing at local grocery stores for those of us who don’t know how or where to pick them ourselves.

I am one of those people who can’t tell one mushroom from another. I went to a mushroom and salmon festival in Lake Cowichan last weekend and looked at their neat display of edible and poisonous mushrooms. It was scary how similar the edible versions and deadly versions of mushrooms were. It amazes me that people can tell the difference. My boyfriend and I have tried hunting for Chanterelles and keep coming up empty handed. We’ve had a few opportunities to learn how and where to find them, but they keep falling through. So for now I buy them at stores and mushroom festivals and dream up some tasty gluten free ways to cook with them.

Here are two ways that you can incorporate Chanterelle mushrooms into your diet …

Garlic and Chanterelle Pizza
Serves 2

2 Udi’s gluten free pizza shells
Renée’s gluten free Ranch Dressing
Minced Garlic
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Herbes De Provence
½ lb Chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Sautee sliced chanterelles in oil until softened and sprinkle with herbs.  Drain excess water and set aside.  Meanwhile , place pizza shells on a baking sheet. Generously coat pizza shells with ranch dressing and then top with minced garlic (to your liking). Next  place sliced mushrooms on top and then cover in thick layer of cheese. Bake for 6-8 minutes and enjoy!

Bacon, Leek and Chanterelle Quiche

1 gluten free quiche crust (I made the Savory Almond Flour Crust from Elana’s Pantry … using thyme instead of shallots)
3 Eggs
¾ cup unpasteurized soft goat cheese
1 leek, sliced
½ lb Chanterelle mushrooms
5 slices of Bacon, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large frying pan fry bacon, set aside to cool and then dice.  Using the bacon fat in the frying pan, fry up the sliced leeks and chanterelle mushrooms until softened.  Remove from heat, drain and set aside. In a medium sized bowl whisk eggs. Then stir in soft goat cheese, bacon, leek and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into prepared crust and bake for 35 minutes. Once quiche is cooked allow it to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving and my Dad’s birthday. It’s tricky having family members birthday right around a big holiday. You are pulled in so many directions with different family’s wanting to spend time with you for the holidays and the birthday on top of that. Two birthdays actually because my boyfriends birthday is the week before Thanksgiving so he usually combines the two over in Vancouver and go to Victoria. This year we managed to try something different and it was fun. We both went to Vancouver for his birthday and went to a play with the family and then the following weekend (turkey weekend) we went to my folks place and had a big family turkey/birthday dinner. 

It’s become a tradition for me to help decorate the dining table. This year, my partner and I went to Beacon Hill Park and collected fall foliage, garden bed a few squash from the garden and pretty much decorated the table beautifully for free. It’s nice when you can do something nice with very little cash.

Over the years, our family has stuck to a pretty standard menu of turkey, stuffing, sweet potato, mashed potato, veggies and Christmas Jell-O Salad (my brothers favourite). Recently I’ve been trying to introduce new recipes to the mix. First it was recipes for Canadian Living and this year it was recipes from The Food Network magazine. We still had our usual stuff, but this year we added a starter of Curried Butternut Squash Soup and finished with Pumpkin Parfait. Everything turned out delicious. I’ve posted the soup recipe below but if you want to make the pumpkin parfait, just used Midel’s gluten free gingersnaps and follow the recipe here: 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup in pumpkin bowls
-based on recipe by
The Food Network 

For the Bowls:
10 small baking pumpkins
Sea salt 

For the Soup:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ small onion, chopped
Sea salt
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup gluten free chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons mild curry powder 


Gluten free croutons

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Use an apple corer cut a large circle around the stem of each pumpkin. Remove the lid and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Sprinkle the inside of each with a pinch of salt. Place the pumpkins and lids on a baking sheet; roast until tender … about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and sugar and cook, stirring, until glazed, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 4 cups water and 1 cup of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the squash is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender or food processor, crack the lid to let steam 

escape and puree until smooth; return to the saucepan. Stir in the heavy cream and season with 

salt and curry powder. Pour soup into prepared pumpkin bowls and top with gf croutons, bacon 

and pumpkin seeds.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas

The other day, I wanted to make something I used to make all the time a few years ago. It was a honey lime grilled chicken recipe and it was so good done on skewers on the grill … but I couldn’t find the exact recipe I used to use. I started looking on the Internet and came across a honey lime chicken enchilada, and boy am I glad I found it.  As usual I had to convert it to gluten free and find an enchilada sauce that I had the ingredients for (so many recipes out there), so it’s pulled from several recipes and melded into mine. That’s how most of my recipes work. Sometimes it turns out great and sometimes not so much.

An instance where it doesn’t turn out so well happened last week when I pulled two really good pear cake recipes together the other day from some of my favorite blogs to read; the cake from Simply … Gluten Free and the topping from Tartellete. It was a good idea, and actually tasted really good, but was way too moist … like it’s going to get moldy in a few days moist (I think I put too many pears in it) and the sauce just disappeared into the almond cake. So at least it wasn’t a total flop, but it needs work.

But the enchilada recipe, that one worked right away and was soooo good. I wanted to make it again the next day, and the day after that, but I didn’t.  I can, however, share it with you, so that you can make it over and over again.

Honey Lime Chicken Enchilada’s


2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Light Olive Oil
1 - 7 ounce can of Tomato Paste
2 cups of Water
½ teaspoon Cumin
½ teaspoon Carob Powder
½ teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
2 tablespoons Chili Powder
¼ teaspoon Cinnamon


4 chicken breasts, cooked and cut in large chunks
4 tablespoons Lime Juice
5 tablespoons Honey
1 teaspoon Chipotle Chili Powder
6-8 Rice Wraps
Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, place pre-cooked chicken breast chunks, honey, limejuice and chili. Pulse until shredded and mixed well.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter and add oil. Then add tomato paste and water and mix. Add remaining spices (cumin, brown sugar, garlic, chili and cinnamon) and stir well.

Next pour some of the enchilada sauce in a 9x13” baking dish. Then fill rice wraps with shredded chicken mixture and wrap. Place them in the baking dish until it’s full. Pour remaining sauce over top and cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vanilla Cardamom Pear Butter

Pears. They are soft juicy and have such a distinct flavor to them, their taste so light yet flavourful is almost indescribable. Yann Martel devotes the beginnings of his new book Beatrice and Virgil to a lengthy description of a pear completely summarizing the experience of a pear with this statement “The taste of a good pear is such that when you eat one, when your teeth sink into the bliss of one, it becomes a wholly engrossing activity. You want to do nothing else but eat your pear. You would rather sit than stand. You would rather be alone than in company. You would rather have silence than music. All your senses but taste fall inactive. You see nothing, you hear nothing, you feel nothing—or only as it helps you to appreciate the divine taste of
 your pear.”

Simply put pears are delightful. There was a case of them on sale at The Root Cellar in Victoria, as they are in season and it’s there time to shine. The deal was too good to pass up, but what would I do with a case? I can barely keep four of them from going bad in my kitchen as I take them to work with me and forget them and then they become piles of rotting mush because they’re delicate skin has been bumped around too much in my back pack. If I can’t keep a few of them fresh and firm how am I going to handle a case?

Well I guess it’s time I learned to preserve/can! So this week I have spent my evenings making my first batches of canned goods. On Tuesday night I made plain canned pears, except I can’t make anything plain even on the first go, so these are set in syrup flavoured with vanilla bean and cardamom seeds. Then on Wednesday I started the process of making Pear Butter. I did run into a slight hiccup having no food mill or kitchen aid attachment to separate the skins from my pear mush so I had to put them in the fridge until the following day. That is when I bought a food mill after work and then proceeded to finish my pear butter, also flavoured with vanilla and cardamom and a little bit or Riesling White Wine. The pear butter turned out beautifully and is delicious on gluten free toast. I haven’t tried the whole canned pears yet.  The whole process is quite time intensive, especially if you are lacking in all the creature comforts of fruit peelers, food mills, and other various kitchen aids. However, it is also very satisfying. It provides you with inexpensive food for the winter and can fill up an evening … either as a fun project for yourself or as something to involve the kiddlets with therefore saving you from being stuck in front of the TV all night. Plus, if you canned it, you know its gluten free!

Try this Pear Butter and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Vanilla Cardamom Pear Butter

4-6 lbs of Pears (~15-20 pears)
½ cup Riesling Wine
1 Lemon, juiced

1 1/2 cups of Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean, sliced
1 ½ teaspoons of Ground Cardamom

First thing I learned … if you don’t have a food mill, go buy one or peel all of your pears first.  So once you’ve figured that part out … Cut all of your pears in half and remove the stems and seeds (core). Then cut them up into cubes (about 1 inch) and throw them in a pot with your wine and the juice of one lemon. Add enough water to cover the pears and boil until soft (about 20 minutes).  Once softened, drain the excess liquid and mash the pears. Then remove the skin by passing the pear mush throw a food mill returning the pears to a large pot. If you pre-peeled your pears throw them in a food processor to make a smoother consistency, but don’t liquefy. If you are using a food mill you won’t need to worry about this. Add one vanilla bean cut open and the ground cardamom. If you only have whole cardamom, throw them in but you’ll have to pass it through a food mill to weed out the seeds again. Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer on low (1-3) for about 2 hours, stirring frequently (or throw in a slow cooker on low for up to 5 hours) to reduce the mixture until it is thickened.  While the butter is reducing, sterilize your jars in a hot (boiling) water bath for 25 minutes.  Once the pear butter has reduced so that it is thick enough to spread on toast, fill jars to about ¼ inch from the top, place lids on  (do not tighten too much) and return to boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove and place on a towel to cool and dry and listen for the pops. The jars should pop when they’ve sealed. If you aren’t sure, press down the center of the lid (once they’ve cooled) and if it stays down you are good. If it doesn’t, it didn’t seal properly so that jar should be eaten right away and can be kept refrigerated for about two weeks. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cinnamon Buns

Oh cinnamon buns, glorious glorious cinnamon buns, how I miss you so. One of my favorite things to eat used to be cinnamon buns. When visiting my friend Abel in Edmonton, I would stop by a cina-bun store in West Edmonton Mall and buy a whole box of the ooey gooey perfectly soft and cinnamony buns with its glorious cream cheese icing and mow down. I wouldn’t eat them all at once, but they would disappear pretty quickly. They were a special breakfast treat or a yummy dessert.  Then of course the world ended and I couldn’t eat them anymore. I found some made by Kinnikinnik that usually has pretty good and pretty tasty products, but these were monstrous. The dough was too obviously different (and by different I mean wrong) and I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. They still make me cringe when I see them in stores.

I get cravings for the sweet sticky buns once in a while, but it’s always seemed like such an undertaking to try and make a gluten free version of them. Gluten Free Girl did a post on some but she always uses a lot of different flours and I find it difficult to find all of these flours that are actually gluten free. Most of the flours around here are in bulk or say that they have good manufacturing practices in place to prevent cross contamination but they don’t seem to be good enough for me.  Although her cinnamon roles looked amazing they still looked to daunting.  So I combined her recipe with a standard gluten filled recipe (UBC Cinnamon Buns) and replaced random things to make my gluten free cinnamon buns below. 

I will admit I’m not a fan of any recipe that requires raising dough. I am usually impatient enough not to let the product cool properly at the end of the recipe, never mind give hour long breaks in the middle of one, but if you have the time and it’s rainy and miserable outside (kind of like today) AND you have a giant bag of expired gluten free flour that you got on sale (because it was expired) to use up, well then these are the perfect things to make!

I didn’t make these with any icing as we had a guest over who was lactose intolerant and I thought cream cheese icing might kill him, but they would probably be amazing with some icing on top too.

Cinnamon Buns

1 ½ cups Vanilla Almond Milk
3 tablespoon Margarine
3 tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
½ cup Warm Water
2 ½ teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (El Peto)
2 eggs
6 cups of Bob Red Mill’s gluten free all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Xantham Gum

½ cup melted Margarine
1 cup Brown Sugar
4 tablespoons Cinnamon
½ cup chopped Walnuts
½ cup Golden Raisons

4 tablespoons more melted Margarine

Place warm water in a cup or small bowl and add active yeast, stir. Set aside for 10 minutes and then stir again.

In a small sauce pan heat up scald almond milk. Remove from heat and add margarine, sugar and salt. Whisk together then set aside to cool.

Next add yeast mixture, along with eggs to milk. Whisk until well combined. Pour this into a mixer bowl filled with 4 cups of flour and xantham gum. Turn mixer on and then add remaining flour.  Cover mixer bowl with a clean towel and set aside in a warm place* for 45-60 minutes to rise to double it’s size.

While your dough is rising you can prepare your filling. In a small bowl mix melted butter with brown sugar, cinnamon, walnuts and raisons. Set aside.

Once raised, get out a large cookie sheet. Place plastic wrap on the bottom and sprinkle with flour. Generously coat your hands and the dough in flour (it’s sticky stuff) and place on prepared cookie sheet. Cover with more plastic wrap and roll the dough out to the size of the sheet. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and coat dough with your filling.  Now start at one end of your cookie sheet and slowly roll the dough over itself, tucking it in gently (like rolling a sleeping bag) while removing the bottom layer of plastic wrap as you go. Once you have the roll of dough, cut it into 2 inch slices. Place those slices in a 9x13 pan that is coated with melted margarine on the bottom (about 4 tablespoons). Cover again with a clean towel and place in a warm place to rise another 45-60 minutes. Gluten free dough doesn’t raise as much as regular dough, but it will rise a little bit.

After the second rise, bake in a 350 degree F oven for 35-35 minutes.

*If you don’t have a warm place to raise dough, surround your mixer with hot water bottles, place dough ball bowl in a larger bowl that is filled with hot water or try rising it in the oven by pre-heating it to the lowest temperature and then turning it off (most ovens run too hot and kills the yeast if you leave it on).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Making your kitchen (and home) gluten free

Freeing your home of gluten can be a difficult thing. I know that when I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease I went through my cupboards and emptied them of everything that definitely contained gluten and maybe had gluten depending on what I had read about gluten up to that point. Little did I know that it wasn’t all about the food and that I should be looking at my medicine and cosmetics as well, and then considering cross contamination and throwing out half of my kitchenware!

It is crazy how much there is to learn about where gluten hides and to this day I’m still discovering things I should be looking at, and I’ve been gluten free for over 3 years now.

I recently discovered that my next-door neighbour is also a Celiac but she is new to being gluten free and runs a super chaotic life, so is struggling with what to eat. She mentioned making lasagna (regular) for her husband and hadn’t made anything for herself for dinner. She is why I’m writing this particular post. She reminded me of how hard it can be to go gluten free, especially when you are the only one in your household who has to.

Technically I was lucky. I was diagnosed during a time in my life where I was single and living on my own (no roommates). So when I went home to clean out my kitchen, I didn’t have to think about keeping gluten around for anyone. It’s a lot easier to do it this way, but it’s not impossible to share a mixed kitchen (gluten free and not), it’s just way easier.

So if you can convince your spouse to never bring a stick or crumb of gluten into your house ever again, you’ve solved half the battle. I haven’t been able to convince my boyfriend of this yet. But if I ever get married and if my partner ever wants to have kids then they might have to sacrifice gluten in the home, as gluten can lead to miscarriages and infertility in Celiacs … and if I wanted to have a child, I wouldn’t be taking any chances … especially with how frequently I get contaminated these days.

So back to what you do when your partner hasn’t caved to no gluten and your trying to feed your family. First things first, deep clean your kitchen, and I mean deep. Empty all of your cupboards and drawers and wash them out. Most places say hot soapy water is good enough, but I like to think you need a little acidity in there to really clean, so try a mixture of vinegar and baking soda or use straight up hydrogen peroxide. Just Google natural cleaners and you will see what I’m talking about.  Vacuum out any drawers incase the previous owner stored bread or other gluten related items in them. Wash every pot, pan, dish and utensil you own. Wash your utensil holder … those things are always filled with crumbs. Basically pretend you are moving in and clean every nook and cranny first.

Before starting to put stuff back designate part of your kitchen as either the gluten free part or the gluten part. My kitchen is mostly gluten free with one corner designated to my boyfriend where he can make his sandwiches in peace and make all the mess he wants. I loathe that corner. So many things get put on that counter and then placed elsewhere and contaminate other parts of my kitchen. So this is when I recommend duplicating things.  You will need to have separate condiments in your fridge so that when your partner double dips in the butter after making toast, you don’t get sick. Have your own: butter, jam, peanut butter, honey, ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, and cheese. I think I might go overboard and get my boyfriend his own salt and pepper when I have the chance as I’m always finding them on the crumb counter and they are the kind that sit upside down, so not so good for me. When you are putting the dishes away, please note that plastic and wooden utensils trap gluten easily and are difficult to decontaminate. This makes them ideal to give to your partner for when they crave Kraft Dinner and need a spoon to stir it with. Buy yourself new metal and glass dishware (when you have the time and money) that is easier to clean if it does accidently get contaminated. Buy new cutting boards and make sure you designate one solely for your partner’s bread. Try to buy a large one that can capture most of the crumbs. Another dish item that is difficult to clean is a strainer. Make sure to buy a new metal strainer/colander for yourself and pick up a different colour one or a plastic one strictly for the gluten lover.  Check your appliances! You are going to need a new toaster, as toaster hide crumbs from years ago at the bottom of their trays. If you want toast you’ll have to make some in the oven (if you haven’t gotten yourself your very own new toaster) or you can buy toaster bags that help prevent cross contamination.

While you are decontaminating your kitchen you will have to go through your food. Even if you are mixing environments with gluten lovers, you can still get rid of most gluten stuff (you will figure it out in time) but for now, just designate a cupboard or two for foods you can’t eat (or pass it on to friends and family). Some things are obvious, like regular pasta, bread, cookies, etc. Some aren’t as much. If you see ‘natural or artificial flavours’ or ‘spices’ you will have to contact the manufacturer to find out what’s in it. I have mostly given up on this as a lot of places give me the run around these days, so if it says it, I don’t eat it. Don’t forget to check your beverages as well. Some coffees, hot chocolates, rice milks and teas contain wheat or barley. Some places that hide gluten are pre-sliced and pre-shredded cheeses. Many products out there use flour to keep things from sticking together and that includes cheese, candies and several spices. Try to switch to a spice company that can prove they are gluten free … two good names here are McCormick and Frontier.  But don’t take my word for it; things change daily in the world of food manufacturing so check with them yourselves before switching all of your spices. If you live in Canada you don’t have to worry about caramel colouring (or so says the Canadian Celiac Association) but you might if you are in the United States. Don’t forget to chuck any old baking products you had as they are highly likely to be contaminated. Throw out your flour (duh), sugar, baking power, baking soda and any other type of product that may have come in contact with flour when baking. Then buy new stuff (making sure your baking powder and soda are gluten free).

Now that your kitchen is clean and set up here is what you’re going to do … put yourself first! Your family can eat gluten free dinners without a problem. Rice and corn pasta (including lasagna noodles) can be found at almost every grocery store out there these days and are an easy switch. No one ever notices the difference when I make it. Well that’s a lie, sometimes it can be a bit slippery and sometimes the spaghetti noodles clump, but there are ways around that (stir pot regularly breaking up clumps and rinse with cold water to remove slippery effect) and the taste is pretty much identical. Almost all dinners or entrees are naturally gluten free anyways and those that aren’t almost always have a quick fix to it.  Roast beef and potatoes, salmon and vegetables, chicken, etc are all safe to eat. My boyfriend eats gluten free dinners and is not lacking. When I go out to a class or travelling he treats himself to beer and pizza, but he does eat well when I’m around.  We eat burgers (I wrap mine in lettuce and purchase our patties from Costco because they don’t add bread crumbs or make our own), steak with cattleboyz gluten free bbq sauce (also found at Costco), stir-fries made with gluten free tamari, chicken with Montréal steak spice, roast beef with gravy thickened by arrowroot powder or tapioca starch or corn starch, rice or corn pasta and sauce, roast turkey, gluten free lasagna curries galore, quesadillas made with rice wraps, tacos with corn wraps, maple glazed salmon, quiches made with almond flour and so on. So as you can see your family can eat well and not feel ripped off in any way.

Breakfasts and lunches can be fend for yourself (if you aren’t making food for children that is) during the week and gluten free on weekends. That’s what we do here. During the week I eat glutino breakfast bars or breakfast smoothies or glutenfreeda oatmeal and on the weekends I will make eggs and bacon with gluten free sausages or Pamela’s gluten free pancakes/muffins or my boyfriend will make use cheese omelets.  Don’t ask me what my boyfriend eats for breakfast during the week … I think he just drinks coffee. For lunches, leftovers are the easiest. I also love corn thins (similar to rice cakes, but thinner and made of corn … you know kind of like their name). I use these instead of gluten free bread, as it can be so hard to deal with crumbly bread at work and on the road. Corn thins make full sandwiches with Frebe deli meats or I spread nut butters and fruit on them. Salads and homemade soups always work for lunches; so do corn chips and salsa, veggies and dip (hummus, dilly dip), rice crackers and cheese, boiled eggs, Frebe pepperoni sticks or European wieners, nuts and fruit. My boyfriend makes himself sandwich wraps with granola bars and the rare piece of fruit for his lunches.

 So as you can see you can make going gluten free work, even if you have to share a kitchen. Once you’ve eliminated all of these sources of gluten and contamination you should start feeling better soon. It also helps to put yourself first and feed yourself first because you will start to discover that dinners are easy to make gluten free and if you can’t, just feed yourself and make your partner order pizza or go to any of those fast food chains that you can’t go to. One night of fending for them selves won’t kill them and will eventually turn into a nice treat every now and then. 

p.s. don’t forget to double check your medicine and go through your bathroom products for gluten. You wouldn’t believe how many conditioners use wheat in them! And yes, I know you don’t eat conditioner, but it does run down your face in the shower and it might get on your mouth … which in turn means it might get in your mouth and in your belly. Same goes for moisturizes and make-up.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Blueberries have to be one of my favorite summer fruits to snack on. I have fond memories of them growing up.  A few of them are of my family going out with ice-cream buckets to a field of blueberries, who knows where, and collecting them. One for the bucket, one for me, one for the bucket, two for me. I’m actually surprised any got in the bucket. I can’t even remember what we did with the blueberries after we picked them. I do remember my Mom made a lot of jam when I was growing up, so perhaps it went into blueberry jam.

The most common memory though was of sweat dripping down my forehead while hiking up local mountains on hot summer days, and spotting the bushes along the trail. What better excuse to stop our journey then to snack on luscious blueberries then the berry that looks as though it’s frosted in a light coating of ice and melts like ice in your mouth oozing that wonderful blueberry flavour.

When I moved to the island I discovered that blueberry bushes were not all that common. In fact Victoria was covered in blackberry bushes. I found a new love, but still have a sweet spot for the first berry that was so abundant in Northern BC.

A coworker of mine bought a large box or crate of blueberries from a nearby farm and shared some with me. I love blueberries, but other than throwing them in muffins or pancakes I’m at a bit of loss of what to do with them. Thinking I’d find some sort of blueberry cake pudding to convert into a gluten free recipe, I searched the net and was sold on the first blueberry recipe I came across. Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake bars.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
-Adapted from Readers Digest

2 cups Almond Flour
½ cup shredded unsweetened Coconut
¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
2 tablespoons melted Margarine
2 tablespoons Grape Oil
1/3 cup Sugar
1 large Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1-½ bars of Cream Cheese (375g)
½ cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Arrowroot Powder
2 Eggs
Zest of one Lemon
1 ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3 cups Blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9x13 glass-baking dish with Pam (or oil or butter). To make the crust mix all of the liquid ingredients in a blender (margarine, oil, egg, vanilla extract) and sugar until well mixed. Then add in dry ingredients (almond flour, coconut, baking soda, baking powder and salt) until thoroughly combined. Transfer to baking dish with spatula and smooth out to make a base crust for your cheesecake bars. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. While the crust is baking blend together cream cheese, sugar, arrowroot powder (mix in a bit of water first and pour in as a liquid so it doesn’t get clumpy), lemon zest and vanilla extract. You can use the left over lemon and make homemade lemonade!

Once the crust is slightly golden and puffed up a bit remove from the oven. Place blueberries on the crust and then pour the cream cheese topping evenly over the blueberries. Return baking dish to the oven for 35-40 minutes until cheesecake has set. Cool completely before cutting and store in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for one month.