October 26, 2010

Dinner Changes

The other night I had a craving for some Pad Thai. There was some peanut sauce in the freezer and thought it would be nice to have the following evening. The rain had returned and it would be perfect to warm me up from the inside. I put it into the fridge to thaw during the day and thought about the veggies covered in that spicy peanut flavour. I was really looking forward to it.

I returned home after work, puttered around the house then decided to put on some dinner. I pulled that little plastic container with that light brown mass inside and opened it up. It was refried beans. The two things I hadn’t been bothered to label and of course, as luck would have it, I pulled out the wrong one.

What to do with it?

I stuck my head back in the fridge and took a look around. No. No. Ah tortilla shells. I thought they were all gone!

Lucky for me the pack of brown rice tortillas got pushed to the back of the fridge. Even better, some pre-sliced/chopped veggies from a few days prior. Cheese – check. Salsa – check. Fajita seasoning – check. Quesadillas!

In the pan went the veggies to sauté with some herbs and some PC Fajita seasoning (gluten-free). Next, tortillas were placed on a cookie sheet, then the beans were spread on top, followed by the sautéed veggies.

The cheese was shredded and sprinkled on top. Lastly, another tortilla was placed on top. In the oven it went until they had browned.

Dolloped some salsa and plain yogurt on the side and enjoyed with a New Grist beer. Nice and healthy, and hit the spot.

The peanut sauce? It’s still in the freezer for another time.

October 24, 2010

AC & NYC part 2

A while back I wrote that the Honey and I had taken a trip to Atlantic City and New York City. I also wrote that I would post some of our discoveries. Well, I’m finally doing it.

Travelling with a gluten allergy is not only tolerable, but do-able. Do some research, but don’t be afraid to wander from your pre-made list. Leave the anxieties at home.

Our trip is divided for the two cities for the sake of reference.

New York City I had my list as I had gone through the web searching and cross referencing websites making sure the places were still up and running. It is NY. Its bad enough in Ottawa so I can only imagine in NY. We weren’t there solely to eat so weren’t planning our trip via my list of gluten-free restaurants, which is just as well since there were a number that disappeared by the time we got there. In restaurants it was pretty easy and wait-staff could answer questions or get the answers. Only once did I encounter a ‘dummy’, but I couldn’t get mad as the conversation was just ridiculous. It went like this:
Me: Excuse me, could you tell me if this macaroon is made with wheat or flour?
Her: Meat?!
Me: No wheat, like flour.
Her: No, there’s no wheat in it, but there’s flour. Do you want one? (and no she wasn’t kidding)
Me: Ah, no thanks (and I’m sure I gave her some kind of ‘are you an idiot?’ look)

There were many salad/sandwich shops around where you could customise your salads. It was great to see that they used a new bowl for every new salad. After the macaroon I was wondering what kind of response I would get requesting a new bowl for mine to be mixed in, but I didn’t have to. PAX Wholesome and Swich Wholesome Sandwich Co have locations throughout Manhattan.

Bloom’s Deli on Lexington and 40th was our breakfast place. They have a gluten-free menu and you would not believe the selection. I had gluten-free French toast for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-long. It was delicious! The Honey was appalled that I put ketchup on it; always have done that and that’s the way I like it. Another day I had gluten-free pancakes. I had a regular breakfast on our last day so I could dip my gluten-free toast in my over-easy eggs. I haven’t had those in years.

Another night we got pizza at Slice, where they make it by the round or slice to order. It was great thin crust pizza and tasted good with New Grist beer (I’m starting to like that beer more and more). Ironically there were more Canadians in that little restaurant that night than locals (the cook, a family of ex-pats, a couple, and ourselves). Even more creepy was the fact that all of us, except the Honey, were originally from south-western Ontario. And of course we all, except for the Honey, ordered gluten-free crusts.

Other places included Sarabeth’s for delicious lunch (Central Park), Café del Mar (Greenwich Village) – both places had a nice patio for people watching; few and far between in NYC – and The Blind Tiger. What a great list of beers they had, all microbrews, and a cider; the only one I found.

Our last dinner was at Risotteria and it was great. We had gluten free pizzas and breadsticks; they were divine. I also had a St. Peter’s Sorghum Beer and it was delicious. I don’t know if I was more excited about the beer or the breadsticks or the pizza. It is my mission to find this beer. It tastes like beer!!!! No funky taste, no yeasty flavour. They also had baked goods and sweets, but I saw the prices and thought I’d stick to the beer. It was way too good to say ‘no’ to.

October 23, 2010


A while back I wrote that the Honey and I had taken a trip to Atlantic City and New York City. I also wrote that I would post some of our discoveries. Well, I’m finally doing it.

Travelling with a gluten allergy is not only tolerable, but do-able. Do some research, but don’t be afraid to wander from your pre-made list. Leave the anxieties at home.

Our trip is divided for the two cities for the sake of reference.

Atlantic City The breakfast buffet at our hotel, the Trump Marina, had the usual stuff plus an omelette station, some fruit salad (out of a jar mind you) and smoked salmon. I tried to stay healthy and had an omelette with some veggies and cheese. Back at the table I smiled at the smoked salmon on my plate – yeah, weird I know – and draped it on my omelette. Mmmmm.

Lunch was a bit more challenging as it was the typical big American buffets with batters and sauces. The restaurants we saw along the boardwalk seemed to be fast food (pizza and burgers), and others just seemed way expensive. Surprisingly many were closed until dinner. We settled on the buffet at the Showboat Casino/Hotel. It’s based on New Orleans and Mardi Gras and so the décor was really cool. The buffet was huge and I did find a few things I could eat. Being lunch time I didn’t want to ask any questions – the long line of people behind me deterred me – so I stuck to the very obvious safe bets. One would still find ample choices. There was also a big salad bar and some fresh fruit. When time came round for dessert I took a peek. Some looked like they may be possible. I asked the woman behind the table and she thought one or two would be fine, but she wanted to check to be on the safe side. I was really pleased to hear that, unfortunately the news wasn’t good as every one had flour in it one way or another. At least the fresh fruit tasted nice and fresh.

Dinner was at Melting Pot. I found it online and they could do things for celiac. It was a fondue restaurant and seemed so cool. It was a little more than we had expected to spend (actually a lot more), but there was sooooo much food. We enjoyed every minute of it and many minutes there were. We were literally there for hours because we needed to take breaks here and there. It was worth it though and dinner was fabulous (luckily for us we won on a slot machine so it paid for dinner and then some!).

October 18, 2010

Nice buns, hun!

I wrote the other day that I had made buns/rolls for Thanksgiving. I had never made them before, but there was always a first time. Buns is what I was listed to bring. There wasn’t much of a choice as it was the only thing left. It wasn’t very exciting either. A cousin laughed and replied ‘That’s ok. I’m bring pickles; like that’s exciting!’. I love pickles so to me it was. You can get all kinds of pickles: dills, gherkins, onions, garlic, sweet mix. Buns are buns. So I made some.

And boy did word spread.

We got out of the car and a cousin asked ‘Are those the homemade ones?’ How did he know? ‘Oh, I heard about them’. I’m always taken by surprise when I realize how fast news travels through the Honey’s close-knit family. And it’s quite frequent. After 15 years I’m still not used to it.

Days before I tried out the dinner roll recipe from A. Roberts’ Gluten-Free Baking Classics (I think I love this book!) and it was successful. Sometimes it seems like a crap-shoot with new things. The item looks great and may even smell good, but with the first bite sometimes regret follows. A word of warning though: these buns need to be done in a muffin or bun tin as the dough is on the runny side and it’ll just spread out otherwise.

They are nice and fairly light. Inside looks like real bread. The first bite is…heavenly. It tastes like a real bun!! The Honey couldn’t stop eating them. These were going to the farm!

 GF Dinner Rolls
For small buns – makes 12; For big buns – makes 6
½ cup millet flour
½ cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1 ½ tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp active yeast
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 egg white
3 tbs melted butter
¾ cup milk (or buttermilk)
Add ingredients according to the bread machine instructions. Set bread machine on the gluten-free cycle for the knead cycles only. Allow kneading to continue for 5-10 minutes (at least into the 2 kneading) then remove from machine and scoop into muffin tin. For large buns, fill cup half full; for smaller buns, fill cup until bottom is covered (maybe 1cm). Let rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until browned. Buns will sound hollow when tapped.

October 16, 2010

Another Evening of Girls and Baking

Thursday evening was another gluten-free baking workshop hosted by Alea at My Real Food Life, and it was another success. The agenda for that night was: gluten-free pumpkin waffles, gluten-free batter for chicken (or whatever), gluten-free tortillas, gluten-free chocolate cake, and lastly gluten-free rosemary crackers. I must say that the crackers were quite fragrant and could be smelled throughout the kitchen, even before being baked. The fresh rosemary was the prominent fragrance of the evening.

Like the first workshop, it was great to hang out with others with similar difficulties, frustrations, and moments of joy. People meshed really well chatting about family, work, the weather, and of course what they were making. Some returned from the first workshop and it was like seeing an old friend.

Even though hands were busy mixing, chopping, and flipping there was ample time to chat.


Lots of time when goodies were being baked.

There was a guest appearance by Peter from Judy’s Magic Mixes. It was great to hear him speak about their (him and his wife) learning, what works, what doesn’t, the demand of products out there. It was great to have him there and he was patient in answering many questions. He was my partner in making the pumpkin waffles so it was nice to pick his brain a bit on the subject of gluten-free flours.

Everything tasted so good and went quickly. Unlike last time there weren’t many leftovers to take home, but that’s a good thing. We couldn’t resist our handmade wares. It seemed at every bite you could hear ‘Mmmmmm’ or ‘Oh that is so good’.

October 13, 2010

Glebe Sauntering

Yesterday I needed to run to the Glebe for a few errands and decided, since I had the time, to pop into some old and new haunts while I was there. The weather was nice and sunny even though the wind put a chill in the air.

I popped into the usual places, like the Glebe Emporium, J.D Adams, and the Papery. I stopped in at Brio to get some wash liquid for delicates. I’ve never been one to treat my delicates very nicely and sometimes the work seemed like too much of a hassle. But they have a great product called ‘soak’ and all you literally have to do is soak your gear for 10 minutes then rinse. No shaking them around or wringing them out. It couldn’t get any easier than that. I’ve been converted.

I also popped into Nicastro’s and found some little pieces of cheese that was a nice treat for lunch. I have learnt in the last year that I need to limit the amount of cheese I consume. Too much and my body isn’t happy. Gone are the days of having three types of cheese in the fridge (along with the parm and cheddar). I got a raw goat’s milk hard cheese and a slice of camembert. They were perfect size for two slices of toast.

Whenever I’m in the Glebe I pop into The Wild Oat. I’ve always heard that they carry gluten-free goodies, but whenever I’m there I’m out of luck. They have their regular wheat laden stuff and many items made with spelt; fine when I was only wheat-free, but never gluten-free. It was my lucky day because on the shelf were gluten-free date squares and gluten-free chocolate peanut butter squares. I may have mentioned before that I love date squares, but don’t like making them (what a pain!) and so I had to get one. The chocolate peanut butter square had to be tried as well. Lunch was done!

It was hard, but I got them home. Well, at least most of it did. Half of the chocolate and peanut butter square had to be sacrificed for the sake of hunger panes. The date square was great - chewy and moist – and the pb square; it was just ok.

October 11, 2010

Farm = Family

Every year for Thanksgiving we go to the Honey’s ancestral farm just across the river in Quebec. For me this is interesting and fun; 1) because his family has pretty much worked off this land since they arrived after the potato famine, and 2) the family is huge. It’s always nice to see everyone and hang out.

There are new additions.

 There’s always a hayride up to the ‘camp’ (this year we filled that wagon with people);

kids awaiting to start off

Passing by the sugar shack and the cows

We walk around marvelling at the colour of the trees; and sometimes walking down to the Blanche River. But always on the lookout for Meadow Muffins (cow patties).

This year a few had to stay behind and guard the hay from the cows.

Some cousins even pick out their Christmas tree; an annual event for tradition

Afterwards there’s a football game, and catching up.

This year the barn cats are friendly. I was told it is due to the increase of grandchildren and their fondness for the cats.

Needless to say there’s a big feast put on by his aunt and uncle and their daughters and daughters-in-law. Even though it is potluck, it is a lot of work and their effort is more than appreciated. This year my contribution was homemade gluten- free buns and a gluten-free pumpkin pie (I can’t go and not have dessert!!)

Every year the meal is fabulous and everyone enjoys every minute of it. Sometimes a little too much.

After settling down and letting our food digest, the cards come out. This family loves Euchre and no get-together is free from a few hands. There’s no time for small talk as those cards need to be kept moving. And when you’re done your game, you need to either move on to another table or find a new partner (if a bathroom break is needed).

Before you know it, the night comes to an end and it’s time to head back to Ottawa.

It’s a day to be thankful for family.

October 9, 2010

Girls and Baking

This week has been an interesting one. The weather finally got better and I’ve been going out for more walks. It’s peaceful walking along the river hearing the water lapping against the shoreline. There are usually geese in the distance or flying overhead honking away. Something about it is peaceful. I’ve also been quite busy in the kitchen; with many successes too. As a result, all of this has put me in a bit of a better mood.

This little guy also put a smile on my face on Thursday. Every time I passed the window I got a glimpse of him. He enjoyed the sunshine all morning.

Thursday my friend and I also dropped off some gluten-free brownies for a charity bake sale out in Kemptville. I worked hard on those (and the six pans) to make sure they were perfect. I hope they sold; 1) to assist the cat sanctuary and 2) because they were my gf brownies.

In the evening I had a fun night with a bunch of girls (women actually) in a kitchen baking to our hearts content. Alea at My Real Food Life organized a gluten-free baking workshop and man, was it a nice way to spend an evening. All of us were different, but one thing linked us: we were all gluten-free for one reason or another. There was a mother-daughter team (the daughter was diagnosed a year ago), two friends who were both GF (one because her son was celiac), and a woman who was going or had gone gluten-free because she felt better. The rest of us at some point found out what gluten did to our bodies and made changes accordingly.

While stirring, rolling, and sifting, we asked each other questions about one’s diagnosis, talked about products and restaurants, and so many other things.

As our endeavours finished and were ready to eat, topics shifted to our frustrations, both in being celiac and in being diagnosed. I counted myself lucky as my GP at the time was more than happy to brush me off onto someone else. Her loss, but my gain in working with someone who could help me go along a correct path for my body. And more recently, luck would put me in contact with someone, who again, helped me work out what I needed to do and how to accomplish getting my body healthy again. But many, here and elsewhere, are not.

No matter what our cooking skills and knowledge beforehand we all came away with something – whether it be a recipe, a helpful tidbit, or some new contacts. I’m pleased with my cooking skills, but I figured ‘What the hell. I might just learn something new.’ (by the way, I like going through life with this mantra) and I did. I learnt that I can help my bread rise by using the oven on a really low setting, especially if I lack a ‘warm spot’ for it to happen naturally.

A nice day indeed, and finishing it off with a bunch of like-minded women (and good food) was the icing on the gluten-free cake.

October 6, 2010

Flattened Chicken

The weather finally picked up again and I thought firing up the BBQ was in order. I’d heard about flattened chicken and seen it at the grocery story in the poultry section. I was intrigued when I came across a recipe for it in Kraft’s little promo magazine a while back. It seemed pretty easy and foolproof. The bonus is that you can grill a whole chicken in less time due to it being flattened.

I picked up a nice little chicken at Saslove’s and asked them to flatten it for me. If you buy a whole chicken at the grocery store, you could ask the butcher to do it for you. Of course, you could always do it yourself (strong scissors are recommended instead of using a knife – that’s why I had it done for me).

With our BBQ I needed to shift it around a bit due to the uneven heat and it took longer as well (but again, that could be our BBQ). I picked up a better meat thermometer so next time should be better. The recipe suggested using foil, but next time I’ll pick up a disposable foil tray. The foil kept ripping under the weight of the chicken when I moved it around, causing some flare-ups.

It turned out quite nicely. I’d recommend keeping an eye on it the first time you try this, depending on your BBQ.

Maybe Thanksgiving dinner will be done on the barbie.

Grilled Flattened Chicken (adapted from What’s Cooking, published by Kraft Canada)
3/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 roasting chicken (3 lb)
Mix first 3 ingredients until well blended. Place chicken in a shallow dish (or freezer bag) and coat with dressing mixture. Refrigerate 2 hours to marinate, occasionally turning chicken over. Heat bbq to medium heat. Cover grate with heavy-duty foil and coat with cooking spray or oil. Remove chicken from marinade and grill chicken, breast-side down, 10 min. or until grill marked. Turn over and grill another 35 min. or until chicken is done (170ºF). Transfer to cutting board. Tent with foil; let stand 10 min.
Balsamic vinaigrette: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, oregano, parsley, basil, salt and pepper

October 4, 2010

Boring Life

Other than a few things I’ve got going on, my life isn’t really that interesting. My schedule is pretty slow right now and with the chilly weather I’m finding it difficult to get out of my warm cozy bed. The cat doesn’t seem to mind that much either. Usually she’s itching to get downstairs and get something to eat, but lately, she’s content getting her scratches then cosies up beside me.

I know many people wish for more free time, and I have often been one of them. And now that I’ve got all this time I must say that I’m pretty bored. There is painting that has been calling my name. The doors upstairs still need to be painted from when we moved in. Also, the trim on the main floor still looks disgusting, all chipped and scuffed. A fresh coat of paint would do them good. With the weather supposed to be sunny and mild this week I should get it done.

Something that gets me though the day is lunchtime. Remember, I said my life isn’t very exciting right now. Last week I picked up some avocados from my local Metro, and they were the perfect ripeness. You don’t often get that (I find it sometimes takes days before you can slice one open).

For lunch I slice a few pieces of gluten-free bread, toast them up, smother them with Dijon mustard, put on some sliced avocado, grind some fresh pepper on top, and voila. With the crunchy toast, the smooth buttery taste of avocados, and the zip of the Dijon I’m left smiling.

October 1, 2010

Succulent Rhubarb

On a trip to the Byward market on Monday I saw some rhubarb. The stalks were about half the size they were a few months ago, but they were slim and perfect for baking. I couldn’t resist and picked up a few bunches. Immediately came to mind was my Lunar Rhubarb Loaf.

This recipe has been in my collection for a long, long time. In an early summer phone call with my sister our conversation involved rhubarb. She mentioned that she didn’t have a rhubarb loaf recipe, and would love to find one. So of course, like a good big sister, I passed mine along. In its original form, it’s heaven. It’s crumbly, yet doesn’t fall apart. It’s sweet, but not too much.

I can’t take credit for Rhubarb Lunar Loaf as much as I’d like to. It belongs to a woman in Halifax. I worked with a woman many years ago and whenever I had a food dilemma, she’d call her mom. I think it was a good excuse to call home. This recipe is hers and I make it every summer. After going wheatless, I would make it with spelt flour and it was just as wonderful. Since going gluten-free I’ve been using the rice flour mix from Gluten Free Baking Classics (A. Roberts). It is quite nice. It has the same flavour and consistency, but don’t forget to add the guar gum, otherwise the lunar bumps in the top won’t happen.

Lunar Rhubarb Cake
50 minutes Makes 1 loaf
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp Guar gum
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 tsp flour
¼ cup butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in vanilla and egg. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk (making 3 dry 2 wet additions). Toss the rhubarb and 1 tsp flour. Spoon into a pan. Blend together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until the cake has risen and browned. Serve hot topped with whipped cream or ice cream.