Monday, March 22, 2010

Pavlova

Last fall I went to Australia for the first time. Everyone I knew was in love with the place and had either been several times, or it had been their life long dream to go. It was never that way with me. I had always wanted to see New Zealand but never had a huge desire to see Australia. I thought it was one giant hot desert, which did not appeal to me. But then my cousin met a wonderful Australian girl and decided to move there and then eventually decided to get hitched. So the wedding was my excuse to travel the world and check out a new place.

I only got to see a small part of Australia as our trip was only about 2 weeks long, but I fell in love with what I did see. My Mom and I traveled to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island and were blown away. Kangaroo Island blew me away with the scenery and nature, while Adelaide blew me away with how much more progressive they were towards gluten free food and Celiacs!

They had similar stores to our Subways that had special gluten free wraps and they would use separate everything to make the wraps so that I could eat safely. Every coffee shop had at least one type of gluten free cookie right at the till and everyone knew what I was talking about when I brought it up. So much more aware of it than even here in Canada. I was blown away.

I still remember the day that I walked into a coffee shop and my jaw dropped when three of the six beautifully decorated cakes were actually gluten free. Instead of opting for the more traditional gluten free cakes, I chose a layered pavlova cake. I had seen them a few times, more in Australia since they and New Zealand claim that their countries developed it, and thought I should try it out. I did not regret that choice one bit. It was light, airy, creamy and sweet all at the same time.

My Mom's birthday is coming up and she wanted me to make her a cake. It's only fair being that she has made my birthday cake every year of my life. I asked her what she wanted and she said it was up to me ... so I chose to make Pavlova. I had never made it before but couldn't get that wonderful memory of Australia out of my head so I thought I would give it a shot and had a back up plan just in case. Luckily for me, I didn't need the back up plan as it turned out fantastically!

Now the Pavlova that I had eaten the first time was layered and I found a bunch of recipes that just make one giant cake, but I opted to make smaller individual ones. The process was the same, just the 'batter' was split up and it was a lot easier than I expected. You should try it for yourself!


Pavlova
-makes 8-10 individual cakes or one large cake

Meringue:
1 cup of Egg Whites (about 6 large eggs, but it's a lot easier to by the whites in cartons)
1 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 1/2 tablespoon of Cornstarch
1 1/2 cups of Berry Sugar

Topping:
500ml Whipping Cream
1/2 + 1/4 cup of Sugar
Zest of one Lemon
2 pints of fresh or frozen fruit

First preheat your oven to 250 degrees F and line a cooking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Making the Meringue is fairly simple, it just requires endless mixing ... which is a breeze if you have a kitchen aid mixer and you can just walk away from it! Start by mixing the corn starch, cream of tartar and vanilla in a small bowl. This should just add colour to the dry ingredients, then add sugar. Next place the egg whites into a bowl and mix at medium speed until the eggs become frothy throughout. Then slowly start sifting in your sugar mixture about a tablespoon at a time and increase the speed to high. Beat the egg whites until they are glossy white and form stiff peaks. The ultimate test is to turn the bowl upside down. If the meringue stays in the bowl you are good to go!

Spoon the meringues onto the parchment paper shaping to your desire and creating little indentations in the top. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check on it a few times during the baking to ensure that it isn't browning. If the colour starts to change, rotate the pan and drop the temperature by 25 degrees F. Now here's the trick, once the meringue is baked, turn the temperature off and leave it in the oven until completely cooled. This process helps prevent cracking and will keep the meringue crisp on the outside and soft and marshmallowy on the inside. Once completely cooled you can remove from the parchment and plate. Just add your whipping cream, which is the cream and 1/2 cup of sugar beaten until fully whipped with lemon zest folded in. Then top that with a mixture of fruit and 1/4 cup of sugar that was allowed to sit in a bowl for a while to help develop a slight syrup. The lemon zest in the whipping cream really helps counter act all the sugar and freshens it up a bit.

I was really pleased with how easy this was and how well it turned out. It is a light dessert that goes well with heavier meals, like Easter dinner coming up. I hope you enjoy and Happy Birthday Mom!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Meat and Vegetable Lasagna


Lasagna is one of those homey hearty winter meals that help us make it through cold stormy nights. It's meal that reminds us of family, mostly because casserole dishes are easy to make and make a lot of food, so they lend themselves well to family dinners. I don't know many people who don't consume lasagna even if they have no Italian background what so ever ... like myself.

The other day I had a craving for lasagna and dug up the recipe my mom passed down to me ages ago. I wanted to make it a tiny bit healthier by adding a layer of vegetables. Everyone I know either makes a meat lasagna or a vegetable lasagna and never the two shall meet. Well I have made them meet in the middle and combine them for a tasty lasagna that has the meaty goodness that the men in your life will love and the vegetable goodness that will give everyone an added boost of nutrients, without taking away from the taste.


Meat and Vegetable Lasagna

1 box gluten free Lasagna*

1 lb lean Ground Beef
1 chopped Onion
1-2 teaspoons of minced Garlic
1 - 14 ounce can of Tomato Sauce
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Basil
1 teaspoon Thyme

250ml Cottage Cheese
250ml Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 - 3 cups grated Mozzarella (set aside half)
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Basil
1 teaspoon Thyme
Pepper to taste

2-3 cups of mixed sliced Vegetables* (in this case I used fresh zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, carrots and spinach)
1 - 14 oz can of Tomato Sauce

*I discovered a few tricks to help you save a few steps or some time when making this dish. First throw all of your vegetables into a food processor to slice them evenly and quickly for faster cooking. Second, don't precook your noodles. The noodles will have enough moisture from the sauce and vegetables to soften up, without having to cook them first.

First, fry up your onion, garlic and beef in an oiled pan, until all the meat is cooked through and the onions are soft and golden. Stir in jar of tomato sauce. Add herbs and heat until warm. Set Aside. In a separate bowl mix first three cheeses plus half the mozzarella, egg and herbs. Set aside. Process or slice all vegetables and set aside. To assemble grease a 9x13" baking dish and put the meat sauce in the bottom. Cover with a layer of uncooked gf lasagna. next add your vegetables and pour one can of tomato sauce over top. Add another layer of noodles. Top that with the cheese mixture and another layer of noodles. Cover this with aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove foil and sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top and then return to the oven uncovered for 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Bakery in Town

There is a new bakery in Victoria and it's a dedicated gluten free bakery! I would love to have a bigger write up about it, but the timing isn't good right now. The bakery is just starting and working on getting it's inventory up and I am in the midst of moving. So it's not the best time to take pictures of the new place (which is why I borrowed this one from their website). I will just have to be patient and post about it in the spring or summer sometime.

However, I still want to let you all know it's out there. It's only been open for two weeks, but it's a great little place. It's called Origin Bakery and can be found at 1525 Pandora.


I recommend checking it out. I'm saving the delicious looking focaccia bread for lunch tomorrow, but I couldn't keep my paws off the chocolate cupcake with vanilla bean icing and my boyfriend gladly finished off the brownie I bought for him. They were both fantastic. The brownie was ooey and gooey like a brownie should be and he quite liked it. He is the gluten free worlds toughest critic, so if he likes it, it must be good!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Curry and Spice and Everything Nice

Before I start in about how wonderful curry is, and it is wonderful, I would like to apologize for my current and up coming infrequency in my blogging. I usually try to make at least one post per week ... being new at this I fear I will run out of material if I post more than that. However, the month of March and maybe a little bit of April will be incredibly hectic for me and as such I won't be able to be as dedicated to my blog. Oh I will make an effort to keep it up, but sometimes life gets in the way and this time I'm sure there will be at least one week where my belongings are packed away that I won't be able to access my blog, because, you see, I'm moving.

I was given a promotional job offer for another town and accepted. So my partner and I are packing up our things and moving up island, away from the busy bustle of the city (if you can call Victoria busy) up to the lovely quite town of Parksville. Hopefully it's a good move and we won't have any regrets, but never say never. In the meantime, I am looking forward to our new home as it is bigger and brighter than what we currently rent. Bigger and brighter means better food photography ... at least I hope so! Deep dark dungeons, sometimes known as basement suites, just don't cut it when you are trying to make food look good.

One food that always looks and smells exotic and enticing is curry. I LOVE curry and I think that I could eat it every day. I add curry spice into my tuna melts and hash browns and so many other things. I'm sure all curry related things will be posted on here eventually, as I have an almost endless supply. Okay, I may be exaggerating there, but I definitely love to cook with curry. It stems from my childhood and mostly my grandmother who I called Nana ... and sometimes Nana B to differentiate between the sides of the family, as I called both my grandmothers Nana.

Nana B met Grandpa B in Burma. He was a British firefighter and she was an orphan. She had Burmese blood in her and my grandpa was pretty much of English or European blood. She and her sister would go for walks outside the orphanage and these walks would take her down the street and passed by the fire hall where my Grandpa worked. This is how they met, fell in love and married. I heard many grand stories of their travels while growing up. When war got to rough and they had to abandon Burma, they fled to India with young children in tow (my Dad was one of them). Along the way my Grandpa injured his leg and it became gangrenous. My Nana, now a nurse, refused to let the doctors amputate and treated his wounds with traditional Indian medicine and it healed. I have heard stories of my dad running into a cobra in the barn when he was just a little boy and then of their many travels to Scotland, Quebec, and much more before they ended up settling in Victoria. Of all their worldly travels, the one thing that they brought with them everywhere was the knowledge of how to cook curry.

My Nana is not the one pictured here, but it is a relation. Growing up in Burma (now called Myanmar), my Nana learned how to cook all types of curry and as wonderful parents do, they pass their knowledge on to next generations. So she taught my Mom and so my Mom taught me. Every special event that wasn't Christmas or Thanksgiving (aka birthdays and celebrations of important times in our lives (graduation, etc)) was marked by curry dinners. They were huge fantastic events. Curry chicken, curried beef, sometimes curried prawns, dhaal, poppadoms, raita and samosas. When we had curry we went all out.

Since I moved away from home I started making curry a more regular habit. It became a regular meal without all the fanfare. I sometimes like to make big curry feasts for friends who don't eat it as often as I do, but it is no less yummy when it's just a quick meal at home. Now after all that build up I should probably post a home made recipe for curry, and like I mentioned before, I probably will eventually.

However, lately I've been having a lot of issues with my spices. Spices that seem harmless (especially chili powder, paprika, and cinnamon) have been causing me to have gluten reactions. I have learned that even though a spice packet doesn't say it's cut with something, it may in fact be. Paprika used to be a big problem as it is an expensive spice, and if you cut it with wheat it's a lot cheaper to make. Any way, that's a whole other story, but because I'm not so trusting of my spices (I am slowing switching over to McCormick as I've heard they are safe) I really fell in love with Daksha's Gourmet Spices. They have a big selection of gluten free curry spice packages. Each package comes with enough spice to make 2 to 3 large meals and it's just the spice, so everything else is from scratch. Each package also tells you how to make the curry ... add yogurt or marinate for several hours, that type of thing. My favorite by far is their Butter Chicken, but I like to play with different flavours and made their Chicken Vindaloo the other day. Vindaloo is naturally a very spicy curry so my mouth burned and my face broke out in sweat, but man was it worth it! I added some sweet potatoes to the mix, just to add a vegetable and change it up a bit and then topped my curry with some plain yogurt to help tame the spice. My boyfriend mocked me for wimping out and using the yogurt, but once I made him try some he added it to his curry as well. As mentioned before Vindaloo is naturally very spicy and hot, but the other curries, such as Butter Chicken are much milder and don't require tricks to consume them. If you are worried about your spices or haven't really made curry before, this is the best way to go for sure.