Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Final Festive Fruits

The year is almost over, and while a lot of others are busy making their lists of resolutions or "best of's", I'm still trying to catch up from Christmas. I would definitely be remiss if I didn't mention the awesome (if I may boast) mincemeat pie I baked for my dad's holiday dinner yesterday... he is the mincemeat-eating king, and even though nobody should really be chowing down on the stuff en masse, it's a one-a-year treat he really looks forward to. Besides, I make both crust and filling from scratch - which is way better than the stuff out of boxes and jars!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Berries and Grains for a Holiday Recovery

Bet that lured you into thinking that this post would be all health food and diet guru-y-ness... well, I hate to disappoint, but I've still got holiday goodies to tell you about! At least these ones are physically gone from the hous - to my mom's relief. She's actually said that she wished I didn't cook and bake so well because all my goodies were addictive. Well, I don't know about that, but I can't be taking the credit: I had a few really good teachers!

I suppose that there has to be something to be said for the fact that these cookies were a little bit closer to the "healthy" side of the holiday table, and as far as I know they tasted great, since my mom actually hoarded some for her own personal "work stash" and the guests that had a taste went back for seconds. I figured that I had to make the holiday gig my last real baking "hurrah" for a while, so I was going to make it worthwhile! A few of my loyal taste-testers / eaters have recently been bemoaning their apparent weight gain (just where they're gaining it, nobody else can see!) and I've been taken on as a personal nutrition consultant for a handful of them - I've turned it into a self-fulfilling job hunt, I guess! (By the way, I am taking online clients... you can email or Tweet me for details).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love Me / Hate Me Fudge

If you were to poll my family members as to their favourite sandwich spread, anyone hailing from the Italian region of the globe would give you the same, sweet answer: Nutella. My sister would tell you the same thing, although you would have to specify on or in what the chocolate-hazelnut butter would be a part of.

For instance, there's no way she'd accept this fudge as a viable carrier for it's flavour. For one thing, it's not straight Nutella. Even if it was made with all milk chocolate and contained a full jar of the spread, it's got chunks of filberts and a dash of booze... which would make for an instantaneous exclusion from her menu!

Luckily, when I was making this chocolate-hazelnut fudge, I didn't have to worry about those details. It was a gift-y kind of good, and so I was able to keep it away from her - though hiding it from the others took a bit more squirreling away! If I hadn't known that even so much as a crumb of this passed my lips I'd really regret it (and would be writing this from an ER cot), I somehow doubt that  the packages I made up for my friends would have made it to the post office!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Staying Up for Santa

So, Christmas Eve, eh? I don't know how many of you fall into the same trap I did this year, when it comes down to (literally) the eleventh hour and all of a sudden - gasp - you realize that you haven't wrapped a carefully - hidden gift you bought ages ago, or that you need to be at a potluck in four hours and you, planning to be the source of the desserts, discover that some cookie-monsters have eaten all the shortbreads on the platter!
Thankfully, cookies are fast, and if you get those sneaky elves to help you out with the little bits and pieces, you can boast not only a beautiful plate of sweets but a few leftovers to keep for Santa. Considering that he has the whole world to deal with in one night (can we say overbooked?) he'll need a bit of a boost!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pretty Perfect Pretzels

With the overabundance of sugar and butter that seems to accompany the holiday season, sometimes I crave a simpler snack. Now, I still love my sweets - I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't - but at the same time, when you spend a good portion of your day up to your elbows (sometimes literally!) in different sugars and cookie doughs the opposite end of the spectrum starts calling your name.

To give our hard-working digestive tracts a little bit of a break before the whole 15-person shenanigan fest of Christmas Eve's dinner and Christmas Morning's brunch (yeah, my Mom cooks for both of those - she's a bit of a glutton for punishment that way!), I wanted to come up with a nice, basic complex-carb snack that people could grab on the go or munch while wrapping gifts. For me personally, I wanted to make something that would give my skin a break from constantly being abused by the whole wheat-flour-flying antigen factor that seems to constantly arise when I bake - which meant making something gluten free.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ginger (and) Mint

I think I'm pretty good at pegging what people like when it comes to the whole dessert / snack thing. Certainly I've become better at it over the years - I generally know how far "outside the box" I can go with my offerings before I start meeting resistance or (perish the thought!) outright rejection. It's all about picking up on the subtle cues people leave in conversation - even if you aren't talking to them about food (what, there's another topic of conversation out there?), people do drop hints as to their personality and generally their likes and dislikes.

A classic example I've come to realize over the years is that, for the most part, adults are perfectly content with desserts and snacks that are more spicy than sweet. They are the dark chocolate people, the ones who eat the actual gingerbread of the gingerbread houses (rather than people like me and most kids who would rather pick off the candy and royal icing), and those who lean towards fruit and nut types of concoctions rather than a sticky-sweet nougat or caramel.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Bite of Biscotti

I think some of the quintessential Christmas cookies out there are biscotti. Thinking about it, it really does make sense: you can make them well ahead of time, they never really go stale (come on, they’re cookie croutons after all), can be jazzed up a gazillion different ways and make great gift-basket or cookie swap additions. And really, you can dunk them in pretty much any hot beverage – I’ve made apple butter biscotti that went great in hot apple cider, for instance, and there’s even brands of them for sale that specify that their perfect pairing is tea. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the standard espresso dunk either, but I have to say my favourite combination was chocolate-malt cookies that I had with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

I do go through phases with my Christmas cookie baking, I’ve noticed – this year it seems to be that I’ve done a lot of fruity mixes, and with luck I’ll get them all posted before the 25th! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a few chocolatey goodies on the dial too, but in general I think maybe this whole nutrition thing is wearing off on me. Thankfully, it’s not rubbing off too much, because if I was to take everything we were taught as the be-all-end-all gospel truth, I don’t think I’d even be breathing, let alone driving home in my gas-powered car, firing up my electric oven and making something that just *might* involve non-organic, shipped goods and sugar. Moderation, I say. And when better to test the boundaries of this “moderation” concept than at Christmastime?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Deviance and Deliciousness

Ever felt like you’re going full-tilt, in a gazillion places at once, and yet you just can’t seem to get anything done? That’s me this holiday season. I am honestly so behind on everything these days – writing, gift wrapping, even baking for gifts I’m giving out this holiday have all somehow become stuck in the proverbial mud. I’m of course going to blame the obvious time-suck for me these days – school – but I’m not alone in my heel-dragging this year. My mom and I, usually so “on the ball” when it comes to our holiday shortbreads, only made our first batch of the year this past weekend!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Bread From a Coffee Shop Order

I found myself in Starbucks for the first time in ages this week. Even when I was a die-hard coffee addict (oh yes, I was addicted to the stuff), the one place's brew I just couldn't stomach was the 'bucks. But it was cold, and windy, and I had just spent 3 hours fighting my way along the highway to try and make it to class. Only making it halfway there by the three hour point, I was too tired to even try thinking, and more than anything else I really needed to find a spot with a restroom and a working heater. The first spot I found to fit the criteria was... the Seattle empire of espresso. I hate to admit it, but that bitter, almost acrid smell of the dark-roasted beans and stale coffee that permeated every orfice of the café was enticing.

Come in, sit down, it called, stay awhile.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kissing Up

And of course, by kissing up, I mean with these babies:

I know, aren't they awesome?? And addictive!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holy Hemp!

There is quite the trade going at my school for "natural" energy bars. The office sells them, along with all our textbooks - but even without the "inside" sales, I see more vega, soyjoy and larabars being eaten than anywhere else. I have to say I'm a bit surprised. After all, we are a nutrition college, which does emphasize whole food and actually eating breakfast, lunch and dinner (though if you talk to my current prof we'd all be on a week-long juice fast right now), so the thought of the processed, pre-wrapped bars is kind of contradictive.

But the demand is there, and seeing as I had a review copy of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich standing by (review is forthcoming!) I figured I'd page through it and see if she had a nice, "wholesome" bar I could bring in. I did find a good base recipe - if you have the book it's her Honey Hemp Bars - and after making the original (according to mom: yum!) I knew I had something I could work with. I needed to make a fair amount of changes to it though: I make whatever I bring into the school vegan (if you saw the demographics of our program you'd totally understand!) and I try to bring in mostly gluten-free items, especially since one of my friends is gluten-free herself!

Then of course I set about emptying my pantry of every possible gluten-free and vegan add-in I could find: tahini, cacao nibs, bittersweet chocolate, flax, poppy, hemp, sesame and sunflower seeds, two types of nuts and every kind of dried fruit I could find! All the additions expanded the recipe so much that it essentially doubled in volume, which was fine by me... after all, I was feeding a goodly amount of people!

After baking them and letting them cool down (trust me, you need these to be completely cool before you cut them!), I figured I'd make them look like their $2.50 counterparts by wrapping them each in plastic wrap and slapping a label on them. I thought they were pretty nifty myself - and was asked more than once how much I was selling them for!

Wholesome Hemp Energy Bars
Makes 16
1/4 cup toasted buckwheat kernels (kasha)
1/4 cup water
2 cups puffed millet cereal
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup whole flax seeds
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
3 tbsp miniature chocolate chips
2 tbsp currants
2 tbsp dried blueberries
2 tbsp gogi berries
2 tbsp dried cherries
2 tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp cacao nibs
1/3 cup dark agave nectar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp fresh-grated ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 300F, line a 9x13 pan with parchment.
  2. Combine kasha and water in a microwaveable dish, cover and microwave on HI for 2 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
  3. In a bowl, combine kasha, millet cereal, nuts, seeds, chocolate, fruits and cacao nibs.
  4. In a small saucepan, heat agave, corn syrup, tahini and ginger, stirring until smooth and liquefied.
  5. Pour over the cereal mixture and fold in, stirring well to coat everything. It may not appear as if everything will be incorporated, but it will blend!
  6. Scrape into the prepared pan and with a spatula (I use an offset palette knife) press down into an even layer.
  7. Bake for 1 hour, covering pan with foil after 30 minutes.
  8. Cool completely, then lift out of the pan and cut into bars.
  9. Wrap individually in wax paper or cling wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 175.9
Total Fat: 8.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 13.6 mg
Total Carbs: 22.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 4.4 g

For those in the Durham region or who is a student at IHN that is interested in purchasing these bars, I am selling them for $1.75 each or as a box of 16 for $24 (a savings of $4).

I also specialize in made-to-order holistic, healthy baked goods and meals, lead grocery store tours (for those beginning new eating plans) and if there is enough demand will expand to cooking classes on a variety of topics. For those interested in nutritional counselling, cooking classes or ordering products (I am working on setting up a portfolio, but anything is fair game - if you have an idea let me know),
please e-mail me at

Sunday, November 28, 2010

As If You Needed Another One...

Banana breads are really one of the culinary universe's chameleons. You can do pretty much anything you want to them - leave them spartan, plain and proud, or go crazy adding everything from different spices to nuts to fruit and even candy. Ranging from the über rich, full-on butter and egg cake-like creations to a  dairy-, oil- and sugar-free loaf and even a raw vegan dessert, pretty much anything is fair game. But usually all banana breads we make are reliant on a single basic formula - we find one that works for us and our kitcheny circumstances and stick with it's ratios of fat/flour/binder/banana, just tweaking here and there.

So why even bother posting yet another banana bread recipe? After all, I fall victim to the "tweaker" mentality too. And yet, I have still managed to post almost thirty banana-filled quickbreads, muffins and cakes. Probably because with each progressive incarnation, each addition or flair, the results are so welcomed by those I give them to that I can't not share with everyone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Craving Some Kale

Well, now that both us Canadians and our neighbours to the south have had their first meal of the pig-out season known as Thanksgiving-through-New Years, there's a tiny bit of leeway in between feasts to give our bodies (and jeans) a bit of a break. What better than to balance out the turkey, potatoes, stuffing and gravy than with a good hearty bowl... of greens?

No, I'm not talking a giant bowl of shredded iceberg lettuce (though there is nothing wrong with that!) - I'm talking some good, hearty greens. Kale, to be exact. And yes, I cook it. I have to admit, I never used to like kale in any variation - raw, stewed, in soups, sauteed, even as chips. I just couldn't get my head around enjoying the bitter, dark leafies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Who's Getting Buttery Bliss??

First off, I want to say a HUGE thank you to the six participants in my fist ever giveaway - it was more than I thought ever read my blog in the first place at all, and your feedback was definitely good reading (and made me hungry!). Unfortunately, as much as I would love to give each of you a prize, I only have one gift basket from Gay Lea to give out. Thanks to the random number generator, we have a winner...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

After the Frost

Don't forget, Ontario residents - enter to win a Gay Lea baking basket of goodies worth $60! Deadline is midnight tonight!

Well, we had our first "major" frost snap last night - not surprising, seeing as it's mid-November now, but stil a little bit of a depressing sign that all too soon that "white stuff" will be sticking around for a while. Our grass is back to it's dead brown blah-ness and our vegetable garden is bare - I picked all the remaining tomatoes (even the green ones) a few weeks ago and it's been far too late in the season for the plants to even think about doing anything but "kicking the bucket", so to speak.

But what was I then to do with all those "reject" tomatoes that didn't get their butts in gear fast enough to mature? I'd already done jars and jars of mincemeat, enough to last my dad (the only real mincemeat fan) for years. Then again, I did have a ton of apples still hanging around from our orchard trip, and some way-too-hard green pears that for some reason would not soften up. So what the heck - pie filling it is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jacking (Up) the Apples n' Flax

I've never liked cereal. Even as a kid, when faced with a dizzying array (even back then) of sugar-crusted, "froot" flavoured boxes of the stuff when I went to a friends house, the grocery store or even hotels with continental breakfast options, I just didn't go for it. Don't know why, really - I mean, what kid would say no to Count Chocula or Corn Pops when you know your mom's not looking? But there you have it. I won't say I never ate cereal, since it was kind of hard to get away from it as a convenient, on-the-go breakfast when our family went up to our boat at 5AM, but even then - it had to be dry (I still believe milk + cereal is heresy), and I didn't want any sugary junk in it. For the longest time if I ate it at all, I'd chow on plain old Cheerios, Shreddies or a big brick of Shredded Wheat. Back then (God I sound old, don't I?), the only real "varieties" of these three were the Honey Nut Cheerios and plain frosted Mini-Wheats - there was no "Vanilla Shreddies", or "Cocoa Rice Krispies", or Mini-Wheats in 9 different varieties. I think the extent of the typical lines of cereal extended to maybe a Holiday colour trio of Rice Krispies each year.

When I hit university for some odd reason I developed a craving for cereal. And not just any cereal - I was craving a fake-flavour laced variant of an old love: the Apple Cinnamon Cheerio. And not just a handful or seven out of the box for a snack - I actually ate bowls of it for breakfast, too. Far from getting "tired" of it after slaking my craving, I just loved it more. Though it doesn't necessarily love me back these days, I still do crave it on occasion.

Times have sure changed - for one thing, now when I hit the cereal aisle it's more like shopping in a candy store! But if you search on the lowest shelves, or hop into the nearest bulk store, you can still find the old, plain classics. So I decided to fix my current craving for the apple-cinnamon rings by baking them. Rather than making cookies or marshmallow bars with the plain Cheerios I picked up, I did what I do best: bread!

So though I've been remiss in my general posting and certainly in my submissions to events like Wild Yeast's YeastSpotting (I admit it, I'm in class right now and thoroughly ignoring my prof's "beans + rice always = deficiency in your diet, ergo bad" rambles), I hope to start making it up soon. God knows, I have enough posts in backlog!

Apple Jacks n' Flax Bread
Makes 14 slices
2/3 cup warm apple cider
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup warm, unsweetened applesauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1/4 cup potato flour
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1/3 cup whole flaxseed
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp instant yeast
1 medium tart apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup Cheerios cereal

  1. In a medium bowl, beat together cider, egg, applesauce, honey, butter and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl or basin of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together flours, flaxseed, cinnamon and yeast.
  3. Add the liquid ingredients and mix well.
  4. Knead for 12 minutes, until dough begins to form elastic "strands".
  5. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
  6. Knead a further 7-8 minutes on medium speed, then re-cover and let rest 15 minutes.
  7. Scrape onto a floured counter and knead in apple pieces and Cheerios cereal. It will take a while, but it will all fit!
  8. Shape into a round, cover and let rest 30 minutes.
  9. Lightly deflate dough and shape into a loaf, place into a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Preheat oven to 350F.
  11. Place bread on the lowest rack of the oven and bake 50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 175.0
Total Fat: 4.9 g
Cholesterol: 19.5 mg
Sodium: 28.6 mg
Total Carbs: 29.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.5 g
Protein: 5.2 g

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beautiful Bliss with Butter - and a Gay Lea Giveaway!

With Christmas season fast approaching (eek!) I know my mom and I are scouring the grocery stores each week looking for the best deals on butter. I'm pretty sure that, in baking alone (mostly shortbreads too!), we are probably responsible for using up the dairy output of an entire cow during the month of December. Last year - not a word of a lie - we burned through seven pounds of butter in our shortbread marathons and our two loaves of intensely rich (but oh so freaking good) Holiday Brioche. That is a lot of butter. Considering that as a whole our family uses maybe one pound of the stuff throughout the rest of the year, it's almost gluttonous to think of the exponential upswing in our fat intake in just 31 days!

But you have to admit, butter has that undeniable feel-good factor inside. As healthy as it may be, you don't get a comforting feeling from toast drizzled with olive oil and cinnamon! Any baker knows that there is a world of difference too between a cake with a bland shortening base and one made from rich, creamy butter. The one recipe I will never ever swap out the real stuff in are my mom's shortbreads - and for good reason. They work. They taste great. And they're cookies - if you want health food at Christmas, you'll have better luck chewing on some organic pine tree bark as a Christmas snack!

Usually the shortbreads we make around this time of year are just that - plain, vanilla, no-fuss butter and icing sugar concoctions. No chocolate, nuts or fruit to mess with the velvety texture. Then the folks at Gay Lea - a great butter producer in Ontario - sent me a few rather unusual recipes for the treat: a savoury Chipotle & White Cheddar Shortbread Cracker, and some ooey-gooey-delicious Banana Coconut Cream Shortbread Stacks. While I dont think I can ever convince mom to use these in place of her coveted prize-winners, I can't wait to give them a whirl myself!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cookies with a Kick

These cookies were almost a case of a good idea gone horribly, horribly bad. Why, you ask? Well, it began with a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies and a jar of jelly.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Emptying the Bag

It's a toss up for me as to how I feel about the holiday food scene. I mean, though I despise pumpkin pie and think mincemeat is something best buried deep underground, I make several versions of both, and given their reception by both family and the foodie community I would say they're recipes worth keeping around for a while. Even though my grandma's famous mashed potatoes with their lashings of cream cheese and butter are off the menu for me now, I still adore mashers with the simple additions of salt, pepper and garlic. Oddly enough, I reserve my cranberry sauce use for mixing into those potatoes when they're day-old, and when I was a meat-eater it paired with cold turkey, Miracle Whip and whole-grain toast. It's not overly gourmet, but I love the way the cranberries pair with the other, drier ingredients, and my lower-sugar, stevia-sweetened sauce that I made last year is still one of my favourites.

But not everyone adores cranberry sauce as much as I do - except possibly my mom, who uses it almost as much as me! So every year we make a half-batch, which then leads to the random half-bags of the fruit sitting in the freezer. Of course something like that can't stay stashed for long around here... not with my "boredom baking" tendency! I had bought some organic almond butter and whole almonds a while ago for what I think was a batch of cookies, and I had seen a recipe somewhere for an almond and poppyseed cake. So what better than an almond-cranberry-poppyseed loaf?

So I chopped up those tart little morsels and chucked them into a decadent quickbread batter, topping the raw mix with some of the whole almonds just to be pretty. Because who doesn't want some pretty, glittering gems in their day?

Almond - Poppyseed Loaf with Cranberries
Serves 10
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tbsp almond butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk flours, sugar, poppy seeds, nutmeg and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat milk, butter, almond butter, egg, vanilla and almond extract.
  4. Add flour mixture and stir just to combine.
  5. Fold in almonds and cranberries.
  6. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes.
  7. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 268.2
Total Fat: 10.4 g
Cholesterol: 34.7 mg
Sodium: 51.7 mg
Total Carbs: 38.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.2 g
Protein: 7.2 g

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You Can Never Have Too Many Brownies

Are you one of those people in the die-hard "chocolate or bust" camp? Or are you more attracted to the rich, smooth velvetyness of the custards, the flans... the cheesecakes! I can never decide for myself. I mean, I adore chocolate - what girl doesn't after all? - but like my dad, I have a penchant for rich, creamy rice pudding. I picked up a love for Boston Cream Pie from grandpa. And cheesecake? Well, that's all mom's doing, for sure.

But finding good combinations for the two is tricky. The texture thing, for one - brownies are fudgy to cakey, easily eaten out-of-hand, slightly gooey and just brownie-ish. Rice pudding is thick but spoonable, requiring a bowl. Boston Cream Pie and cheesecake (for the most part) require forks. Then there's the whole taste factor: both the creaminess of the non-chocolate desserts and the fudgy qualities of the brownies are rich, and easily overpower a dessert. I've tried recipe after recipe over the years that combined the two - brownie batter-swirled rice pudding, brownie crusted cheesecake, and yes, even the common cheesecake swirled brownie, but there was always some sort of sway one way or another that meant one side won out over the other.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Baby, it's a Brand-New Day

I'm a huge fan of breakfast. I know it doesn't really show on the blog (okay, heck, not much in general has shown up on this blog recently), but to me a day simply cannot get started without some sort of nosh. Whether it's hot or cold, sit-down or on-the-go, as long as that food gets into my belly I'm happy.

Of course, I do prefer the hot (or at least warm) breakfast when I get the chance. Be it a bowl of nuked leftover rice from the night before (I stir in jam... nummy!) or a couple toasted corn flatbreads with cinnamon-sugar, the heat seems to keep me a bit more "up" the rest of the morning than a plain bowl of cereal. I know that a lot of people both my age, younger and older than me hate the whole concept of breakfast, though. My dad and sister, for example, could basically eat one meal at "lunch" and another around "dinner" and be done for the day. A couple of my friends who take transit into class in the early morning or work weird shifts simply say they have no time for breakfast. And then you have some of my clients with allergies - one girl who I've mentioned before, a celiac allergic to fungi, corn, strawberries, dairy and brassicae, is both run-off-her-feet busy with school, 4 jobs and army cadets is simply overwhelmed by the prospect of fnding anything convenient and safe to grab in the morning rush.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Either Late or Early

It's right smack-dab in the middle of the North American Thanksgiving "season" right now - our Canadian celebrations (along with my grandfather's birthday) are long since past, and the USA has yet to haul out their birds and pumpkin pie. It's always been the same sort of thing on our table during the holiday season, both at Thanksgiving and Christmas: roasted turkey (though dad did deep fry the thing a few years ago), mashed potatoes, a couple veggies of some kind (usually broccoli and Brussels sprouts at mom's, more often than not some sort of mashed squash thing at dad's), cranberry sauce, and... stuffing.

Oh, stuffing. the bane of my existence. I have never liked the whole idea of that dish... everything from the fact that it's scraps of otherwise inedible bread to the fact that it's shoved up a turkey carcass' butt and left to soak up all the fat and salmonella-y juices to the fact that it's like eating crusty mush is just not right.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Great-Full Start to A GF Day

I can't believe it's taking me so long to write posts these days. Mind you, unlike before, I'm not actually cooking and baking a whole lot either, so it's not only laziness that's led to the huge gaps between y ramblings on here. No, between school, commuting, sleep and myriads of doctor's appointments it seems that by the time I do get home looking at the computer screen doesn't rank very high on my list of to-dos. It doesn't help that I was diagnosed last week with iron-deficiency anemia, low blood sodium and a progression of my osteoperosis either - now I'm oscillating between snoozing my energy back and running on overdrive to catch up on everything I missed while asleep!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Merci, Julia, Merci

I honestly think that the application of the term "kitchen luminary and amazing home cook" cannot be applied to anyone better than Julia Child. She brought French cooking to the American and British masses (like I needed to tell you that!), and incorporated a style, grace and manner of teaching that endears her still to cooks and chefs worldwide. She also has the distinction of being the only cookbook author - indeed, the only chef - that made my mom change her entire approach to a dish that she's been making and we've been eating for years: cauliflower and cheese sauce. I personally have nothing against mom's recipe - really, it is delicious and probably won't be replaced anytime soon in our home. But Julia's recipe is not simply cauliflower and cheese sauce. And it certainly isn't the same "lighter" option for a dinner side that mom's Weight Watchers - age casserole is.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Whoa... Double [Cinnamon] All the Way...

I'm of the firm belief that when you find something - be it a flavour, a colour, an ingredient or even an idea - that is just so perfect that you can't get it out of your head, it is only fitting that you do it full justice. It is not enough to include that element just once in a recipe. No, no... the real way to experience the flavour filling your mind is to layer as many different types of it on top of one another. Take, for example, lemon cake, made with a lemon filling and topped with a lemon frosting. Really... can you ever have too much lemon? I think not. Or Alton Brown and his Super Apple Pie - the one with applejack booze in the crust. When I made it, not only did I throw Calvados (no applejeck around here) into the crust, but also a glug of local apple cider, and the filling used some homemade apple butter instead of AB's apple jelly. So the pie was not simply an apple pie. No way... that was apple on steroids pie!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When Pie Won't Do

We finally got in our annual apple-picking trip last weekend, over the Thanksgiving holiday Monday up here in Canada. Usually, that's the precursor for more batches of my mom's famous apple pie than most people would think humanly possible to churn out... and there will be several of them, I'm sure. But because we were fairly late in the harvest season - simply because the fruit ripened incredibly early with the hot, humid Summer weather - a lot of what would normally be considered "prime" cooking apples were a little... well, not so prime.

Don't get me wrong, they'll still make pie. More than "decent" pie, as a matter of fact. But there was just enough of our batch that were battered and scarred enough that my mom was prepared to chuck them into the compost. Instead, I figured I'd see what I could do with them after making oven-roasted apple butter like before. It really is my all-time favourite "use up" trick for leftover or almost bin-worthy apples, and it helps keep them hanging around just that little bit longer. Which is perfect for the season!

With my new bounty of concentrated, caramel-hued and lusciously velvety butter in my hot little hands (or big, cold fridge... whatever) I was faced with a myriad of options as to what to do with it. I did do the apple-butter pumpkin pies, of course... but I think I like these cheesy, dense, tall cakes better. There's just something about cheesecake that brings it above and beyond any other dessert out there, and really with the home made apple butter and the combination of toasted coconut, oats and cookie crumbs in the spiced crust, you'll be glad it's Fall all over again!

Apple Butter Cheesecake
Serves 16
¾ cup vanilla or graham cookie crumbs (GF if needed)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup butter, melted
16 oz cream cheese
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple butter (sweetened)
10.5 oz (300 g) silken tofu, pureed
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp fresh-grated ginger
1 tbsp instant apple cider mix (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp sweet rice flour (or tapioca flour)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease and line the bottom of a 9” springform pan with parchment.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs, oats, coconut, nutmeg, cinnamon and butter, tossing with a fork to moisten.
  3. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with a layer of foil. Set aside.
  5. Turn the oven down to 325F.
  6. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, brown sugar, apple butter and tofu until well mixed.
  7. Add the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cider mix and salt and beat well.
  8. In a small dish stir together the milk, vanilla and sweet rice flour until smooth, then add to the cheese mixture and beat in.
  9. Pour into the prepared crust and tap on the counter sharply to dislodge any air pockets.
  10. Place the cake into a deep roasting pan and pour boiling water ½ way up the side of the springform.
  11. Bake for 1 hour, until the centre is mostly set.
  12. Turn the oven off and allow the cake to cool inside for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack.
  13. Chill overnight before serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 240.2
Total Fat: 14.4 g
Cholesterol: 39.0 mg
Sodium: 153.3 mg
Total Carbs: 27.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.7 g
Protein: 3.9 g

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Way, for United Way

My mom's work does a lot of fundraising. I think there's at least one event for the Red Cross each year, and I believe it's twice a year that my mom's office hosts a bakesale that benefits the local United Way. However often it is, anyways, I'm always one to get a flurry of emails from people in her building that know me pretty much as "Heather's daughter, the girl who bakes yummy healthy stuff", asking if I'd mind sending in a batch of cookies. Would I mind? Come on!

Of course, they know that whatever I send in will be healthy(ish), delicious and most likely weird somehow! They've come to expect the alternative flours and grains in my baking, the assorted spices and veggies snuck in to everything under the sun and the sheer fact that you just can't get the "out-of-the-box" ideas I bake up from the store! My mom is fairly hesitant to send in "odd" bakes to the fundraisers, though, since she still believes (contradictory to what I hear) that people just don't want to buy them as much. Well, I know there are exceptions, but I've had enough experience doing bake sales from the time I was 7 years old at school that anything home made trumps a box of TimBits or a bag of Mr. Christies. They're good and all, but if I"m buying something from a bake sale, I think baking should have actually taken place. Even if it's from a box mix, the effort and time spent at home for the cause indicates a bit more than "I picked this up on my morning coffee run". Plus, baking for the events lets you play - even if it's just adding chocolate chips to a muffin mix or grating a bit of orange zest into a brownie batter, you get to make the day your way.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Guilt and Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving weekend is here once again. I love the preparation for the holidays, with all the baking and cooking and meal planning filling the week leading up to the big event, but when the day arrives I would honestly prefer to be anywhere but where the feast is taking place. I know it's selfish and odd for me to say that, but no matter how many years go by I can't escape the "awkward" feeling I get by having my own, totally different meal at the table. It doesn't really help matters on my end that I'm always juggling stove and oven space with everyone and everything else just to get something warm for dinner, or that if I'm going to someone else's home for the meal I wind up packing a duffel bag of my "safe" foods to take. Awkward. I feel badly too for the hosts of those get togethers too, who really do care about me and want to do whatever they can to make my holidays enjoyable, since I really do dread the travel and long evenings, and always wind up leaving the party at around 8 because I'm so exhausted!

Yeah, so I'm the "bad" relative these days... but every family needs one, right? At least I show up, and I never come empty handed - you can always count on something yummy walking in the door with me! Especially around the Fall and Winter holidays, where pies reign supreme. We always seem to have at least two of them on offer at Thanksgiving and Christmas, usually a pumpkin and an apple, to satisfy the masses. I think the apple pie thing started out of the fact that I actually hate pumpkin pie, but love my mom's apple pie that we would make by the dozen in the Fall and freeze. Ironically enough, I've become somewhat known for my own apple and pumpkin pies now, but I would always default to something baked by mom if given the chance (and if I was actually able to eat it).

The basis of this recipe is the same idea as the last apple butter pumpkin pie I made, but I made it deep-dish style this year, added maple syrup and tofu (!) to the custard and really bumped up the flavour and texture in the crust. Don't get oogied out by the tofu thing though - it replaces two of the eggs in a standard recipe, with the added benefits of no cholesterol, no flavour, and a naturally creamy texture that doesn't "whip" like eggs can, leading to cracks in things like cheesecakes and custard pies. I swear by it in any cheesecake I make now - it really makes a difference and nobody is ever the wiser! With the crust this time, I wanted to bring in another of my mom's favourite flavours (especially in pies) - pecans. So I ground some in my food processor until they were basically the same texture as ground almonds (wow, what a revelation... ;-) ) and tossed them in with a bit of spelt flour and cinnamon.

So what's on your dessert table over the Fall holidays? Apple pie? Pumpkin? Pecan? Or something totally different?

Perfectly Pumpkin - Apple Pie with a Spelt - Pecan Crust
Makes 1 deep dish 9" pie, 12 slices
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
3 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup ground pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
5.8 oz (3/4 cup) shortening
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
4 to 8 tbsp ice water
5 oz silken tofu
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups apple butter
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 egg
1 cup evaporated milk

  1. In a small dish, whisk together flaxseed and hot water. Set into the fridge for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile whisk together flours, pecan meal, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Cut in shortening until a coarse-meal texture forms.
  4. Stir in vinegar and flax mixture, then add only enough water so the mixture becomes a dough.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly (don't work it too much), then roll out into a large circle and fit into a 9" deep-dish pie pan. Place into the fridge while preparing the filling.
  6. Preheat oven to 425F and place the rack on the bottom rung of the oven.
  7. In a food processor, puree tofu, vanilla, apple butter, pumpkin, sugar, syrup, salt, spice, egg and evaporated milk until perfectly smooth.
  8. Spread into the crust and smooth the top.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes at 425F, then reduce oven to 350F and bake a further 45 minutes.
  10. Turn off the oven and let the pie sit inside for 1 hour, then remove and cool to room temperature before cutting (ideally, chill this overnight - the flavours really blend well!)
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 345.0
Total Fat: 16.9 g
Cholesterol: 23.8 mg
Sodium: 38.3 mg
Total Carbs: 44.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 6.6 g

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's That Time of Year

And as much as it may be true, I'm not referring to the start of cold and flu season. Yeah, a good portion of my classmates are feeling the cold weather cold at IHN - and I for once have managed to escape scot free so far (but I did get stuck into the walk-in clinic for kidney tests. Joy of joys).

But no. Not cold and flu season. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Making Summer Linger

After a Summer season that was as amazingly warm, sunny and generally enjoyable as this year's was, I'm unwilling to resign myself to the shortening days and cooler winds that are gracing us now. I've already been asked by a few family members for Christmas gift ideas (!) - not that I don't have any, mind you (new camera, anyone?? Preferably one that doesn't eat my shots??) but it's only October first! There are still some tomatoes and beans desperately clinging to the vines, my carrots and beets are still happily nestled in the soil and I'm sure I can get one last crop of rhubarb out of the year before the blitz of frost hits and ruins the rest of the plant life.

I did have to put my cucumber garden to rest last week, though. A few fairly cold snaps overnight sapped the last dregs of energy from the plants, and it was all I could to to grab the last few fruits off the vines before they wilted into sacs of mush. Even so, I again wound up with more veggies than I knew what to do with, or wanted to make pickles out of. To add to the glut, my stepdad finally decided to cut down the 5-foot-long zucchini (no, I'm not exaggerating!) for seed, but only used about a third of it, leaving the rest on the counter for the fruit flies (gee, thanks for that). 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Noodles

Sometimes the notion of "pasta for dinner" is equal to "I have no idea what to make and noodles works for everyone". I know that feeling well - especially when you're living in a family like mine, when (if my sister's home) we can easily prepare two to three different pasta dishes every night. I know that seems a lot for our family of five, but we have one (ahem) picky eater, me with the wheat and animal protein intolerance and other assorted allergies, then the rest of the household sharing the kitchen. Dinner times are staggered, and we all get fed one way or another, so it works for now! The fact that I cook and eat after the bulk of the meals are done also saves me from the awkward explanations of the "weird" meals I make - whether grilled tofu or tempeh based or a mashed potato with spicy beans, trying to tell people that my food does taste good even though it looks anything but is a bit draining.

Thankfully nobody was home when I came about making this noodle-omelette type dish the first time. Not only did it not involve meat or dairy (something my stepfamily still doesn't seem to "get" about me) but it involved a rather interesting impulse buy of mine from the Asian market: shirataki noodles. Usually used for stir-fry as far as I can tell anyway, they're packed in a bag of water and look like cellophane noodles. They don't really taste like much on their own, so I dug around in my crisper and found a portabello mushroom, grabbed some salsa and a carton of egg substitute (not being able to handle the yolks, egg whites are about it here) and boiled some water to hydrate some TVP crumbles I had in my pantry. A couple spices and some vegan Parmesan later I had an eggy, noodley mixture sizzling away in my brand new EarthChef pan (I freaking love that thing!), which I fired under the broiler for a few moments to crisp up the top before diving in. For extra zip I broke out a tomato-chili pepper sauce I had cooked up over the weekend, and while it was blow-your-head-off hot on it's own it really worked with the eggy, starchy and meaty meal.

Skinny Pastata
Serves 1
If you don't like, can't find or otherwise don't want to use shirataki noodles in this recipe, feel free to use an equivalent amount of cellophane noodles. Likewise for the Egg Creations you can use 3 eggs, 1 egg and 5 egg whites or 8 whole egg whites.
1/4 cup TVP
1/4 cup boiling water
dash liquid smoke
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
pinch kosher salt
1 small portabello mushroom, sliced thinly
8 oz shirataki noodles, drained and rinsed
dash hot sauce (like sambaal oelek)
2 tbsp spicy salsa
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup (150 mL) original flavour Egg Creations
1 tbsp Galaxy Foods rice Parmesan
  1. Place TVP in a small bowl and pour boiling water overtop.
  2. Add liquid smoke, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and salt, set aside for 15 minutes. Drain excess liquid.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a small, deep non-stick frying pan over high heat and coat with cooking spray.
  4. Add mushroom and cook, stirring, until browned - about 5 minutes.
  5. Add TVP, noodles and hot sauce and cook until dry and incorporated well with the mushroom.
  6. Spread mixture into one even layer in the pan and reduce heat to medium.
  7. Cook, undisturbed, for one minute.
  8. Whisk together salsa, water, oregano, salt, pepper and Egg Creations in a measuring cup or bowl and pour evenly over the noodle mix in the pan.
  9. Continue cooking over medium heat until almost completely set, then sprinkle with the rice Parmesan and slide onto an oven-safe plate.
  10. Place under the broiler and cook until browned and crusty, 1-2 minutes (this is optional, you can finish cooking this stovetop if you prefer).
  11. Eat right off the plate, or if sharing, cut into wedges and transfer to serving plates.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 204.0
Total Fat: 1.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 494.3 mg
Total Carbs: 13.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 11.8 g
Protein: 31.1 g

Spicy Tomato-Chili Coulis
A note about the tomatoes: nrmally I'm not a stickler for the seasonal / local thing, but when it comes to this sauce, it matters. You need them to be picked at the peak of their ripeness, flavour and nutrition, not crunchy like storebought tomatoes.
Makes 16 (2-tbsp) servings
3 1/2 lbs fresh, IN SEASON plum tomatoes (San Marzano if you have a garden with them) - see note above
2 hot cherry peppers (usually called "cherry bomb" or similar, you can substitute jalapenos)
1 sweet cherry pepper (usually called "cherry pick")
1/3 cup brown sugar
  1. Quarter tomatoes and peppers (seed the peppers if you're concerned about too much heat). Place into a food processor (skins and all).
  2. Puree until completely smooth.
  3. Pass the puree through a food mill to eliminate the skins and seeds, and pour that mixture into a large pot.
  4. Bring to a brisk simmer and add the sugar.
  5. Cook uncovered over medium-low heat for 4 hours, until reduced to a thick puree.
  6. Store in the refrigerator or process in a waterbath for 30 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 38.8
Total Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 10.8 mg
Total Carbs: 10.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 0.9 g 

I'm sending this dish over to Presto Pasta Nights (brainchild of Ruth, who's also the host this week).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Bite of Sweet, A Bite of Bitter

It's been a good long while since I've seen the Sugar High Fridays event around on the blogs. For a while, I thought our resident Domestic Goddess Jennifer had retired the long running event... but nope, it's back at Aparna's blog My Diverse Kitchen and the theme is tiny... literally. "Bite sized desserts"  are the order of the day, and lucky for me I've just done not one, but two, kinds of petit-fours perfect for the party!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Not Intended

When you hear "semolina", the application most people picture is in the creation of pasta dough. Durum semolina pasta is buttery-yellow, toothsome, and can form any sort of noodle: from fine, fragile angel-hair to the hearty, artisanal shapes made with the old bronze dies. You know you've got a good, authentic(ish) bundle of fettuccini on your hands when the strands are slightly rough and pebbly from the edges of the extruder... they hold onto even the thinnest sauces with the culinary equivalent of a vice grip and the cooked dough never seems to get mushy even after sitting in the fridge overnight. While I loved and (more than) willingly ate my fair share of whole wheat and spelt pasta before discovering my wheat and gluten intolerance, there was just something about those sunny strands that was, witout question, better.

But I'm not here to talk to you about pasta-making. No, no... been there and done that. And while I may have loved making the sheets of lasagne and pockets of beet-tinted, pumpkin-filled ravioli, let's just say that the family... didn't. So my poor, maligned pasta maker has been sent to the basement to languish until I move out and I had to find a new use for the bag of durum semolina flour in my pantry.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Better Broth

Have you ever found yourself looking into the depths of your freezer in search of something - anything - to make for dinner, and come face to face with a bag or two of some unidentifiable edible? On one hand, you know you should really use up that quarter pound of ground beef, or the handful of vegetable medley that would barely serve one. But when you're feeding a household those piddly amounts of freezer food just don't cut it in the volume department. We all know it takes well over 1/4 lb of meat to feed a family of four, and at the same time you're not likely to find many takers for the chronically mushy, freezer-burned plant life.

That is, until you break out the soup pot. Soup is the great equalizer of the food world - if you can chop an onion and saute a mirepoix, even if you have not a clue what that is, and you have access to some form of liquid, anything is game. You can add almost anything you find in your freezer, fridge or pantry to a flavourful broth, and over a lazy afternoon coax out everything good that you forgot about those forgotten ingredients.

It's almost always a case of "I found this in the freezer/fridge/cupboard, what can I do with it?" that directs my cooking experiments with my mom's weekday soup menu. Whether it's that last chunk of ground beef, those slightly wilted mushrooms, the almost sprouted potato or the ten cans of beans brought home by a certain step-parent from Costco in a fit of World War mentality, mom knows that I'll figure out something to make them all work together. Usually the size of the pot is determined by just how much crap stuff I can find in about a half hour, and of course the ever-economical shell beans are a great stretching tactic. This week's pot had no less than five types of beans in it - frozen green, fresh Romano, canned Mexican red and dried adzuki and kidneys - and got fleshed out with some tomatoes, sweet potatoes and barley. Still dealing with the overabundance of cucumber in our crisper drawers, I grated half of one big guy and let it melt into the broth seamlessly.

This soup is one of those that freezes incredibly well too - which is good, because it fits neatly into the category of "soup for a year" bulk-wise!

Beany Beef and Barley Broth
Serves 10
1/4 cup water
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 large onions, diced
6 carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 baby beets, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
5 cups beef or rich chicken broth
2 cups water
29-oz canned tomatoes with juice
5 fl. oz low-sodium V8 cocktail
1 2/3 cups roasted tomato sauce (or chunky tomato sauce)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
5 oz adzuki beans, soaked overnight
6 oz kidney beans, soaked overnight
10 oz cucumber, grated
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
35 fresh Romano beans (Italian flat beans), shelled (you can also use fresh or frozen baby lima beans)
7.5 oz sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup pot barley
19 oz can small red Mexican beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb fresh or frozen green beans, chopped
  1. Heat water in a large stockpot over medium-high.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring to crumble.
  3. Add onions, carrots and beets and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to turn golden - about 8-9 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer, until fragrant.
  5. Stir in wine and cook over high heat, stirring well, to dislodge the fond from the pot and reduce slightly.
  6. Add broth, water, tomatoes, V8, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, soaked beans and grated cucumber.
  7. Stir in bay leaves, thyme, oregano, basil, paprika and pepper, then bring to a boil.
  8. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3 hours.
  9. Stir in the freshly shelled Romano beans, sweet potato and barley and cook 1 hour further, until beans are tender. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems.
  10. Add canned and frozen beans, uncover and cook at a brisk simmer for 30 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 402.3
Total Fat: 6.0 g
Cholesterol: 17.0 mg
Sodium: 1,024.5 mg
Total Carbs: 65.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 18.8 g
Protein: 21.9 g

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Double (and) Nothing

I don't think I could say enough how much I'm in awe of the gluten-free chefs and foodies out there. I mean, these people not only have a need to cook for themselves in a safe and nutritionally sound manner, but they have a true passion to share what they cook, eat and live with the world who reads their words. In fact, I cannot commend and thank enough all the bloggers out there who share their personal stories, trials and tribulations as well as the foods that comfort them. It takes real courage to so openly display your life, and it takes a true writer to spin each story into something far from a self-pitying rant - a readable, relatable account of what we can generally take for granted each day.

This isn't to say that the rest of the blogging community at large is any less deserving of praise - any well-written work should be valued regardless of the backstory of the author. But for those of us who do cope with food-related allergies, intolerances and diseases everyday, finding a journal that we can reliably read, understand, navigate and (most importantly) relate to is paramount. There are so many out there that I won't even begin to list them - but I'm sure you'll find more than enough inspiration and help by searching.

It was a simple search string for a rather complicated issue that led me to this recipe on Wheat Free Bread Recipes. If you follow my Twitter feed occasionally, you may have noticed two topics that I've brought up in recent weeks - helping out a young adult with celiac disease (and assorted allergies), and the fact that making anything with "standard" wheat or spelt flour left my skin and eyes itching and burning to the point where I would resort to an anti-allergy medication to stop it. I already know that eating wheat is not a great idea on my front, since it tends to lead to a fair bit of GI upset, but the trouble arsing from the flour in the air really...well... troubled me. I'm a baker at heart, after all - take away my flour and you take away my soul!

Or so I thought. Luckily, I was as wrong as I was melodramatic. Sure, the choice to exclude the allergenic ingredients of wheat, corn, brassicae, mushrooms, strawberries and dairy from my kitchen for the well-being of my client did not make for your standard experience while baking, but it wasn't exactly a slog through the valley of despair either. Rather, it was refreshing to dust off my baking "mitts" and try something new and totally unusual for me in both ingredients and method! The thrill of pulling that perfectly baked loaf out of the oven after a series of rather odd preparation instructions was akin to winning the baker's lottery - and the fact that the bread not only looked good but tasted good was the proverbial icing on the cake. Hey, if you've had your "usual" hypoallergenic food (cardboard and wallpaper paste, anyone?) you'll understand how precious that complexity of flavour is.

I'm sending this sleeper success to Susan's event YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast.

Gluten-Free Double Quinoa Bread
Makes 1 loaf (16 slices) or 16 "rolls" in muffin tins
1 1/2 cups GF all-purpose flour (mixture of garbanzo bean, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour and fava bean flour)
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup El Peto Whole Grain Cream of Brown Rice Cereal
3 tbsp soy protein powder
6 tbsp soy milk powder
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tbsp chia seed
2 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/4 cup quinoa, soaked 8 hours in cool water and drained

  1. Spray 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with "safe" nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flours, rice cereal, protein powder, soy milk powder, flaxseed, chia seed, cream of tartar, baking soda and yeast, stirring well.
  3. In a pot, combine water and tapioca flour, whisking smooth.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook 1-2 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  5. In another bowl, beat together soy milk, sugar, egg and salt until frothy.
  6. Beat in the tapioca mixture, then mix the whole thing into the dry ingredients.
  7. Add the quinoa and beat smooth.
  8. Scrape into the prepared pan or 16 sprayed muffin cups.
  9. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake loaf 45 minutes, tenting with foil after 25 minutes. If making rolls in the muffin tins, bake 25-30 minutes.
Per one 1/16th of the loaf
Calories 135.2
Total Fat 3.2 g
Cholesterol 13.3 mg
Sodium 57.8 mg
Potassium 95.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 23.0 g
Dietary Fiber 3.0 g
Sugars 1.9 g
Protein 6.4 g

Vitamin A 3.2 %
Vitamin B-12 7.1 %
Vitamin B-6 1.3 %
Vitamin C 0.3 %
Vitamin D 1.3 %
Vitamin E 0.2 %
Calcium 4.6 %
Copper 2.9 %
Folate 2.2 %
Iron 8.9 %
Magnesium 3.2 %
Manganese 2.5 %
Niacin 0.4 %
Pantothenic Acid 1.6 %
Phosphorus 5.8 %
Riboflavin 7.0 %
Selenium 3.0 %
Thiamin 1.3 %
Zinc 1.4 %