August 31, 2010

Toms and Cukes

Summer weather has returned thankfully. Last week it seemed like October had arrived. Summer is always so short and I like to take advantage of every minute, except when it’s 29° outside (before the humidity is tacked on!). It’s back to dinners that keep you cool.

With the bounty at the markets I don’t know how some people still aren’t eating their veggies. Maybe because I’ve always loved my vegetables my mom never had a problem with my sister and I getting our full servings +. I contribute this love to my easy transition to being vegetarian.

On my way home from work I popped by the market and picked up some cucumbers to go with the tiny tomatoes on my counter. With the weather being a scorcher, a tomato and cucumber salad was a nice and easy dinner. It was made a little more filling by the addition of feta cheese on top.

To make: Chop cucumbers into bite-sized pieces and cut the tomatoes in half (if you’re using larger tomatoes, cut them into bite-sized pieces as well). Crumble feta cheese on top and drizzle some salad dressing of your choice (I used a homemade balsamic dressing). Lastly, sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.

August 30, 2010

White Sandwich Bread

The loaf of bread I made the other day has turned out pretty good. Of course, I’m always disappointed when the bread isn’t light and fluffy like regular wheat bread, but that is something I’m learning to live with. And in experimenting with different recipes, I find ones I like and don’t like. Even without this gluten allergy I’d still be testing recipes.

I mentioned the other day that I made a new recipe from a new gluten free cookbook. I was unsure how it would stand up to sandwiches. It seems most I make stand up to toasting and a pile of jam, but never tomatoes, veggies, etc. Well, this one has. It made it through a toasted tomato sandwich with Dijon mustard. It didn’t fall apart nor get soggy. It’s a keeper! It tastes pretty decent too so I’m passing along the recipe.

I have a Black & Decker bread machine with a gluten free cycle so I used that and needed to add 10 mins of baking time at the end (a little extra baking time was needed). With a regular bread cycle, the recipe suggests using the dough cycle, then the bake cycle for 60 mins at 350°F. The recipes come from 250 Gluten-Free Favourites by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt.

White Bread Mix
Makes 3 ½ cups (enough for 1 loaf)
1 ¼ cups brown rice flour
½ cup almond flour
½ cup amaranth flour
½ cup quinoa flour
1/3 cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca starch
1 tbs xanthan gum
1 ¼ tsp instant yeast
1 ¼ tsp salt
Mix all ingredients together

Sandwich Bread
1 ¼ cups water
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs honey
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 ½ cups white bread mix
Add ingredients according to your bread machine instructions.
If using the gluten free cycle, increase the water to 1 ½ cups. Bread is done when it reaches 200°F.

August 29, 2010

A Meal Before a Meal

This evening we’re off to my in-laws for a birthday dinner for the Honey. She’s got a BBQ planned, and as always, I’m a tad concerned what I will be able to eat. As a vegetarian I usually end up with salad and potatoes, and some raw veggies beforehand. Since I eat fish my mother-in-law will often have a frozen salmon fillet for me, microwaved until it resembles leather. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the effort. But I always leave hungry. I understand I have a larger appetite than many other women. In fact, my university buddies would comment in awe on what I could pack away while still retaining an athletic-type build. But with my in-laws, I’ll say its age. I’ve heard that as people age they don’t eat as much.

As a result, I have something to eat before I go. I started this about a year ago after stating my frustrations to the Honey. He suggested having a bite before venturing there and I must admit it was a brilliant idea. Today, those little eggplants were calling me along with a peanut sauce that is lip-smacking. Both recipes come from the Moosewood Cookbook and are meant to go together, but I find the peanut sauce is also great for Pad Thai, and anything else that might benefit from it. My sister recently tried it and won’t go back to a bottle Pad Thai sauce.

Chinese Peanut Sauce
Makes 1 cup
½ cup good peanut butter
½ cup hot water
2 tbs GF soy sauce
2 tbs sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cider vinegar
1-2 tbs cilantro, miniced
Cayenne to taste
Place peanut butter in a small bowl. Add the hot water and stir patiently until uniformly mixed. Stir in remaining ingredients and mix well.

Eggplant and Peppers in Spicy Peanut Sauce
Serves 6                 30 minutes to prepare
1 medium eggplant, unpleeled and cut into 1x2” pieces
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 recipe Chinese Peanut Sauce
Bake eggplant until tender (about 15 minutes). During the last 5 minutes add the pepper to the baking tray. Cool the vegetables to room temperature then add the peanut sauce.
* With the return of summer temperatures I sauteed the veggies so I didn't have to turn on the oven

August 28, 2010

Jelly Beans

Friday I came to realize that life can be a lot like a bunch of jelly beans. You just never know what you’re going to get or what’s going to happen. I came to this realization after I had poured some into a bowl to munch on while I poured over program evaluations.

Yesterday I had the day off and for a change I didn’t make one single plan. I was going to do whatever came my way whenever it showed up. This included the repairman for the stove, but they show up anytime within a four time frame so I don’t count it as a plan. There were many possibilities and for a change I had a light airy feeling inside me.

Breakfast constituted of gluten free cinnamon raisin bread. I picked it up on sale a while back from the Natural Pantry, sliced it up and popped it into the freezer. Today was the last of it and it was covered in margarine (the Becel Vegan Margarine I wrote about recently). Butter and margarine don’t make an appearance on my plate very often, and only when I have one of two things: cinnamon raisin bread and corn on the cob (and only with corn on the cob do I have an obscene amount of salt as well). They are nice little loaves and when I see one on sale I’ll pick one up again. The consistency and texture are the same as the regular ones I would pick up at the store once in a while many, many years ago.

The house was pretty disorganized so I did some tidying up and was pleased. There were quite a few spider webs here and there, made more obvious by the cat hair trapped in them. That could wait for another day. I didn’t feel like lugging out the vacuum cleaner. Afterwards I went outside to survey the work of our contractor who spent the last few days installing eavestroughing for us. He has done a very nice job. Hopefully that will have an effect on the water that gets into our basement and the rain barrels will also help in lessening the flooding in the driveway.

While I do enjoy eating with my Honey, I also enjoy dining alone as I can make whatever I want. Since he’s a picky eater that really opens up my options. There was an interesting recipe in Fresh Home with Tilapia and Strawberries and lunch seemed like a perfect opportunity. Off I went to the Parkdale Market and picked up some strawberries. There were some nice little eggplants that would be perfect for a recipe in the Moosewood Cookbook so in my bag they went, along with some tomatoes. A stop at Metro on the way home resulted in some tilapia. Two small fillets. Perfect.

Upon returning home I set to work tying up loose ends from the summer program. It was time for lunch once the tummy began rumbling. Out came some pots and pans and the kitchen filled with the aroma of strawberries and wine.

The end product was delicious. I didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly pleased. The flavours all came together and none overpowered the others. A very simple salad only dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, raspberry balsamic vinegar, and freshly ground pepper was all that was needed to use up the sauce that remained on the plate.

While dining on my lovely lunch I realized that I hadn’t made any bread in a while. I had made some last weekend, but it was a little on the gross side and ended up in the composter. Out came one of the new gluten free cookbooks and I found a recipe for sandwich bread. Plain Jane bread. None of this flaxseed, honey, healthy stuff. I wanted bread I could have for toast or a sandwich, without it falling apart or tasting weird with mustard or veggies. (By the way, it turned out quite nice for toast this morning. We’ll have to see about the sandwiches. I’ll keep you up to date.).

After lunch I paid some bills (always a joy), cleaned up my emails and touched base with a few friends. Then I got the dreaded box of program evaluations. They’ve been sitting in my car for the last few weeks and they needed to get done. It was going to take a while, but breaks were nice. The cat needed a scratch and massaging pet, Steven and Chris were giving some kind of DIY advice on lampshades. Another break occurred when the Honey called to say he was going out with colleagues after work (a send-off for one). Although I was disappointed I quickly thought of what to have for dinner. Back to Metro (they probably think I don’t have a home I’m there so often) and to the fish section. I really like fish. Salmon would be great, drizzled with some maple syrup. Then I saw red salmon. I couldn’t remember seeing it before. It was so red! It was worth a shot.

The red salmon with a fish seasoning instead; I wanted to see what it tasted like. And on the side, some of those tiny eggplants with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh ground pepper. Mmmmm

The jelly beans were good today.

Tilapia with Strawberry-Thyme Sauce (adapted from Fresh Home)

35 minutes Serves 4
1 cup quartered fresh strawberries
½ cup white wine
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp salt, divided
4 tbs gluten free flour
¼ tsp pepper
4 generous tilapia filets
1 tbs olive oil
Crumbled blue cheese
In a small saucepan, combine the berries, wine, sugar, lemon juice, thyme, and ¼ tsp salt. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Combine GF flour, pepper and remaining salt. Sprinkle over tilapia. In a skillet, cook fillets in oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 mins each side. Serve with sauce and sprinkle with blue cheese.

August 25, 2010

Fruit in a Jar

I haven’t made jam in years due to our old house having a horrible and poorly set up kitchen. It was a rental so we went going to put any money into it to make it useable. It also had a small fridge and freezer, so making freezer jam was out; and that’s what I love to make. We bought our house at the end of last summer and it has a wonderful, big, user-friendly kitchen. It isn’t perfect, but it’s fine for me.

This year I want to go all out and make up for past years and store-bought jam. I grew up with homemade jam and so I’m quiet particular about the jam I buy. So far I’m enjoying the process of making jam, jelly, preserves, conserves, and whatever else you feel like calling it.

In May a friend and I went strawberry picking at Rochon farms in the east end of Ottawa. One of the women at their stall at the Parkdale Market gave me directions. I figured if their berries were good at the market, they must be just as good from the field; and they were. My friend and I enjoyed ourselves and we had four baskets in no time. So we picked one more. After dropping off our bounty we got cleaned up and reenergized over breakfast. Back at my place we set to work and made a ton of jam. Using the Certo recipes from the box we made a few batches of strawberry jam and a batch of strawberry banana. We had never seen it before and figured ‘Why not!’. At the end of it all we sat down ready to relax, and then we saw it; the fifth basket. Those ended up getting frozen as we were all jammed out. What an enjoyable day.

While my mom was up we got some rhubarb at the Lansdowne Market and made some rhubarb conserve. What a treat. It was much different than my rhubarb ginger jam.

Last week I had Wednesday off and had a whole list of things to do. One of them was to make some jam. I’m fond of raspberry jam and have never made it. My mother in law made some last year and complained of the cost. I think it’s worth it. I’ve picked up raspberries on many occasions this year and they always made it to my belly. My Five Roses cookbook has a section about making jam and jellies and it seemed simple enough: boil the raspberries with some sugar then pour it into jars. And it worked! I finally had success with something simple!!

My next job: red current jelly.

Rhubarb Conserve
2 lb rhubarb
2 oranges
1 lemon
3 ½ cups sugar
Grate rind of oranges and lemon, and then extract juice. Cut rhubarb into ½ inch pieces. Combine all the ingredients and het slowly until sugar dissolves. Simmer slowly, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick and clear.

Raspberry Jam (from Five Roses Cookbook)
Makes 3-4 (16oz) jars
9 cups raspberries, crushed
6 cups sugar
Combine the crushed raspberries with sugar and slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to jelling point. Pour into jars.
* Can use blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, gooseberries or loganberries.

August 17, 2010

Oh, the ease of it all

Currently I’m working/experimenting with a gluten-free flour mix. I don’t normally like mixes, such as for pancakes, cookies, etc. Even the full-on regular gluten versions rarely entered my cupboards. But I’ve been trying out one of the mixes used in Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. In her book she uses 2-3 different kinds of mixes depending on the type of recipe, and I’ve been using one of them for my quick breads and loafs. So far I’ve had quite a bit of success trying out some of my regular recipes, and the success rate is fabulous when I remember the guar gum.

Here it is, give it a try if you like. The original mix called for potato starch; however, I prefer cornstarch. I’ve been using an equal amount to what the recipe calls for with regular flour. And don’t forget the guar gum!

Rice Flour Mix from Gluten-Free Baking Classics
brown rice flour (2 parts) 2 cups 6 cups
cornstarch (2/3 part) 2/3 cups 2 cups
tapioca flour (1/3 part) 1/3 cup 1 cup
Mix in a container and voila!

August 15, 2010

Cats & Dogs

This morning I woke up to the rolling thunder and constant rhythm of a hard rain. There weren’t any loud crackles or booms, just the sound of bowling balls off in the distance. Yesterday, the weather was perfect; sunny and not too hot. It was ideal for playing in a golf tournament that has become an annual event in the Honey’s family. The weekend before had also been wonderful as we went out for a drive (discovering Constance Bay) and hiking on the trails in Gatineau Park. But as we peeked out the window this morning we knew there would be rain all day. We needed it, but I was hoping to procrastinate from doing my end-of-program-report a little more by getting outside.

With a grey sky it was a perfect time for pancakes. I don’t make pancakes very often; usually because they don’t turn out (I have trouble boiling eggs too). But I felt like them this morning. I pulled out a new gluten-free cookbook – it’s the only thing I’ve made from it so far, so no review yet – and set to work. The recipe is really easy and I adjusted it a bit this morning as I didn’t feel like having an egg yolk being pushed around in my fridge and added extra almond milk. I also got adventurous half way through and added even more almond milk to thin out the batter to make gluten-free crepes.

Once they were topped with maple syrup I was set with my gardening magazine and coffee for the next hour. I guess rainy days aren’t too bad.

Gluten-Free Pancakes
Makes 8- 4” pancakes
½ cup sorghum flour
¼ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup whole bean flour
¼ cup potato starch
2 tbs sugar
½ tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 egg white
¾ cup milk
2 tbs vegetable oil
In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Mix well and set aside. In a separate bowl beat eggs, milk, and oil until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until almost smooth. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Pour batter onto skillet and cook until bubbles form on the top. Flip and cook for another minute, or until bottom is golden. Grease skillet between batches as necessary.
*can use 2 eggs + 1 cup milk and leave out the egg white
**almond milk works great
***add extra milk for crepes

August 12, 2010

Wrap it up

A while back we were having dinner with family and friends (taking a break from all the Buck & Doe preparation) at the Red Dot Cafe in Osgoode. Our cousin chose the venue because they like the food and it has a gluten free menu (I have no review to write, but everyone liked their meal, so I recommend it). I got a salmon wrap and was impressed, especially by the tortilla. Apparently, they’re common and can be purchased at Loblaws.

On my next shopping trip I popped into Loblaws and headed for the freezers in the Health Food section and picked some up. These Brown Rice wraps are made by Food for Life, a Californian company, and are quite pliable and have the same taste and texture as the wheat-based counterparts. I’ve used them mainly for sandwiches, but last night we had burritos.

The Honey, who is a diehard carnivore, loved the zucchini and pepper burritos from Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. I halved the recipe and it gave both of us 1 ½ big burritos. And to make it easy, I put everything into my food processor to chop it up. Simple, fresh, and tasty.

 Today I got to come home for lunch as my class was early today (7:30-10:30 – Hello coffee!!) and made myself a wrap with Dijon mustard, mixed lettuce, smoked salmon sprinkled with pepper and dill. Delish!

Zucchini & Pepper Burritos
Makes 12, 30 minutes to prepare
2 tbs olive oil
1 ½ cups onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
¾ tsp salt
1 large bell pepper, minced
5 small zucchini, diced
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1 tbs dried basil
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
Cayenne and black pepper to taste
1 1/3 cups grated cheese
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add onion, garlic, and salt and sauté over medium heat until onions are soft. Add the pepper, zucchini, and seasonings. Stir and cook until zucchini is beginning to soften. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Fill tortillas.

August 10, 2010

To Market, To Market…….

I started back with my government students today and after my morning class I was free for the day. Since I had a doctor’s appointment later in the afternoon, I decided to stay downtown and hang out a bit.

Of course I had to tour the market, remembering the tall bunches of basil on sale and a vendor still having rhubarb. So after my other errands, off I went. I wasn’t disappointed. Although I enjoy the Parkdale Market, I find the Byward Market a feast for the senses; especially the eyes.

Fresh garlic is out. I love the braids so much that I never want to use them.

I love string beans.

Seeing all those blueberries makes me wish I liked them. The one fruit I don’t like.

The corn neatly piled drew me near to admire the colours of the husks. That’s one of the fun parts of having fresh corn: removing the husks enables stress to be released.

And my bounty; the berries were very tasty as I sat in the sun to enjoy them.

Some fabulous garlic was purchased from a flower vendor beside LE MOULIN DE PROVENCE, at the market building. I’ve never seen garlic so easy to peel. The freshness of the cloves had a smell I’ve never experienced before. It was so pleasant.

Fresh garlic for my homemade pesto.

Lattes, a jaunt downtown, and a tour of the market; what a nice way to spend the day.

August 9, 2010


I’ve always loved tomatoes. Sliced, diced, on salads, sandwiches, sprinkled with pepper or a little Dijon; they are wonderful. Now field tomatoes are at the market in all shapes and sizes and they taste so wonderful. You know summer is in full bloom by what is at the market and tomatoes are one sure sign.

My latest purchase turned into gazpacho. I usually follow this recipe then do something a little different. This time round I used both a pepper and cucumber, and used some clamato juice instead of plain jane tomato. The nice thing about recipes: you can play with them.

Chunky Gazpacho
Serves 6 25 minutes to prepare
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped
1 cup green pepper or cucumber, seeded & chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 ½ tbs chopped basil
1 tbs chopped parsley
2 cups tomato juice
¼ cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
In a large bowl combine all ingredients and place in the freezer (for a quick chill) for 15-20 minutes, or in the fridge to a few hours.

August 4, 2010

The time has come

Five and a half weeks ago I stood with 14 teachers in an office going over our orientation day. The teachers got their classrooms ready, and then the students arrived. Tomorrow is their last day of class before they have a blast at a talent show and return home to their parents. As the cliché goes: ‘It feels just like yesterday’.

I had some time to myself the other day and took a stroll through the halls and classrooms and this is what I saw.

Tomorrow everything will need to come down. There are painters coming to give the school a fresh coat in time for September. There will be mixed feelings abound. Relief that five weeks of lesson planning and its lessons is finally over. Sadness as a teacher removes the faces and the adjectives that describe them from their door. Happiness as students get ready to see their family and start their college studies. And of course tears, as those same students say goodbye to friendships that helped them survive away from home.

Previous year’s teachers have warned the newcomers that there will be waterworks on Thursday, and it won’t be just the students. The teachers have formed a great team and since many have worked quite closely together, some friendships have been made as well. While no teacher will be sad saying goodbye to the photocopier that tormented us throughout the five week, there will be some realizations Friday morning when teachers first open their eyes and think ‘I don’t need to go to school today’. There will be some relief, then followed by a twinge of sadness. They probably won’t see their students again, and it may be some time before they see their colleagues again.

Last Friday was the last assembly for the program and it was a nice way to finish. One class did a sing-along with a picture presentation on the screen above. Pictures showing the smiles, good times, and experiences that made the program once in a lifetime for them. The second class had a dance routine that got the mood up and the feet shuffling. Tomorrow evening, it will be some of the same, and of course more tears for both sadness and happiness.

August 2, 2010

Recipes from the Visit

Here are some of the recipes for some of wonderful things that were made during my mom’s visit. They were delish! The gf pancakes and lunar loaf will follow sometime soon in another post. It’s summer and there’s still rhubarb!

Blueberry Lemonade (from Real Simple July 2010)
Serves 4
In a blender combine 1 ½ cups blueberries, can frozen lemonade, ½ cup mint leaves, and ¼ cup icing sugar. Puree until smooth.
If it is too thick, add a can of water. Then add remaining water according to lemonade instructions.

Beet, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Salad (from Canadian Living Nov 2003)
Serves 4
30 minutes
½ cup toasted chopped walnuts
6 medium beets, cut into bite-size pieces and cooked
¼ cup orange juice
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups lettuce leaves, bite-size pieces
½ cup mild blue cheese
In a bowl, whisk together orange juice, oil, salt and pepper. Drizzle on beets and stir to coat. Arrange lettuce on a plate and spoon beets over top. Sprinkle with cheese and walnuts.

Fusilli with Zucchini & Herbs
Serves 4
20 minutes
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small zucchini, halved & sliced
¼ tsp salt
pinch pepper
½ cup vegetable stock
4 cups fusilli
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
¼ cup grated parmesan
In skillet heat oil & vinegar. Cook onion & garlic until very soft. Ad zucchini, salt & pepper. Stir often until zucchini is softened (approx. 10 minutes). Pour in stock & bring to a boil. Cook pasta. In a serving bowl toss pasta with sauce, basil, mint & parmesan.

Easy Summer Paella (adapted from Style at Home Sept 2010)
Serves 3-4
1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped peppers
1 cup zucchini, halved and sliced
2 cups cooked rice
Salt and pepper
Handful of fresh basil
1 tsp grated lemon rind
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the garlic and pepper. When pepper begins to soften, add the tomatoes and zucchini and cook until zucchini softens. Add the cooked rice, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and lemon rind to serve.
* Any summer veggies will do

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Tear up some lettuce. Slice up some cucumbers and tomatoes. Drizzle with a vinaigrette (olive oil, red vinegar, chopped garlic and herbs of your liking). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

August 1, 2010

Visiting with my Mom

My mom is in town for work and when she comes, she stays with us. Since she lives in Southwestern Ontario I don’t get to spend much time with her and so we relish the time we have together. We share many characteristics, and one of them is trying new things. My Honey is a little picky when it comes to food so with my mom in town I can make what I want and it is less of a chore to have something on the side for my Honey.

We made trips to the Lansdowne Market and picked up some fruit and veggies, some bison burgers from Pykeview Meadows, and some little gluten free sweets from Pretty-Fours.

I also found some more rhubarb (it’s still out there!) and made another gluten free lunar rhubarb loaf. This time I remembered the guar gum so it turned out perfect.

Dinners and leftover lunches have varied:
*roasted brussel sprouts with pine nuts, garlic and sundried tomatoes
*beet salad with blue cheese

*bison burgers with all the fixings
*Summer paella

*BBQ vegetable kabobs
*Pasta with zucchini and herbs

*Cucumber and tomato salad

*Freshly picked corn on the cob

And for breakfast:
*gluten free pancakes with stewed rhubarb

*vanilla yogurt (again) with stewed rhubarb

and gf toast with rhubarb marmalade.

And spending time drinking nice wine and blueberry lemonade.

And I can't forget about dessert (that also doubled as breakfast): rhubarb crisp

Many dinners were spent my favourite way: dining al fresco. Lingering over wine, chatting over dinner. Who could ask for anything more?