February 26, 2011

Cherrybrook Kitchen

A while back I wrote that I had found a truckload of gluten-free mixes at Homesense and came home with a bagful. Well, I had found quite the variety and have been trying them out when time allows. One of them was Cherrybrook Kitchen. A company in Massachusetts that makes a whole variety of tasty products, from pancakes to cookies to cakes to frosting. The majority of them are wheat and gluten free and all of them are free of peanuts, dairy, egg, and nuts.

The sugar cookies are really good and I couldn’t resist dressing them up a bit. They are firm without being hard or crunchy and have a soft chewy centre without being gummy. The texture is what one would expect of a cookie. The flavour is really nice and tastes like a real sugar cookie. These cookies baked really nicely as the dough was rolled and allowed to bake. They didn’t spread out into pancakes, but the uneven height posed challenges for icing – it kept running off.

The chocolate chip cookies were a softer batter so they were spooned onto the baking sheet instead. Like the sugar cookies, they are a perfect balance of firmness and chewiness. The flavour is a little different for a chocolate chip cookie. They are just a touch grainy, but not as bad as others I’ve had and not so bad that I’d never eat them again, and the chocolate chips tasted a little odd.

Would I recommend them? Sure. I’d definitely recommend the sugar cookies, and the chocolate chip too if you needed a quick batch and couldn’t make them from scratch. If you happen to be walking through a Homesense store, keep your eyes open and think about picking up a box. While I love supporting my local shops, many of which are small, sometimes the mixes are a bit pricey (I saw these from $6-9). So seeing them at Homesense for almost half the price was an extra incentive for trying them out.

February 25, 2011

Gluten-Free Event at Natural Pantry

If you want something to do this weekend, pop into the Natural Pantry Saturday for their Gluten-Free Day.

February 24, 2011

Irresistibly Gluten-Free

One day while walking down the aisles of my nearby Metro a small shelf catches my eye. What do I see? A whole shelf of gluten-free products and these aren’t just any kind of gluten-free products. These are Irresistables Gluten-Free, the store brand for Metro and its sister companies.

While Metro’s Irresistables line isn’t as far reaching as Loblaw’s President’s Choice, this is the first time I saw a store brand gluten-free product in North America. Whenever I’m in England I get excited when I see a Tecso or Sainsbury product that’s gluten/wheat-free and never encountered the same thing here. But I digress.

For a store brand, it is impressive how many products there are and all gluten free: breadcrumbs, pancake mix, macaroni and cheese (another post), pasta, vegetable rice, and cake mix. Even some of the store brand sausages are GF! Like the name, I couldn’t resist trying a few products.

The pancake mix was the first test. Normally I’m not into pancakes from a box or bag but I thought of a cousin has never made pancakes from scratch and so picked it up (it’s funny to me because she’s a baker). I thinned out the batter a little more than in the directions because I wanted to try crepes. The batter is easy to work with and tastes like regular pancakes. I’d recommend using a non-stick pan (they didn’t work well on my mom’s plain Jane frying pan) and butter or margarine for the pan. It’s a good alternative for those who don’t want to make them from scratch.

The white cake mix was decent. It had a nice flavour and was light in texture and taste. It wasn’t gummy or dense. If I made this again, I’d either use two small pans and layer it or use a bundt pan. In the recommended 9x13” pan it was too short as it doesn’t rise too much. It’s a nice cake and what you imagine when you think of a white cake.

The penne pasta is a rice-based pasta and cooks quite quickly. I had expected the long length the mac & cheese took, but it was ready in no time flat. It had decent texture and held onto tomato sauce. While it isn’t my favourite pasta, I’ll still pick it up if I’m in a pinch.

The mac & cheese is a nice alternative to KD and make the Honey happy. It’s just as easy and tasty (and yes, the cheese is bright orange too!). The only criticism is that the macaroni takes quite a long time to cook, longer than usual, but is something you can get used to. We’ve begun keeping a few boxes of these in the cupboard for those ‘I don’t feel like cooking’ nights.

I’ve seen many people buying the products so they must be happy as well. A cashier at my local Metro was amazed with a conversation the woman behind me and I had regarding the products. The woman was picking up the vegetable rice and really likes it. The products go on sale once in a while and usually with bonus air miles too (whohoo!). Regardless, the Irresistables Gluten-Free products are a decent price.

I’m pleased and impressed with the Irresistables Gluten-Free product line. It’s great to see a grocery store moving towards another target customer; one that seems to be growing. The quality of the products overall are impressive, especially after trying more expensive products that disappoint. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this line of GF goodies remains on their shelves for years to come. And who knows, maybe the line with grow with time and feedback.

If you have tried the products, drop Metro a line and let them know. It’s always nice to hear positive feedback.

February 22, 2011

Good Gluten-Free Baking? NOT!!!

After many months I’m still perplexed at what I should do. You see, I bought a gluten-free baking book that looked like it would be wonderful. It wasn’t. It was far from wonderful. Everything I made was horrible – it tasted yucky, it didn’t rise, measurements were off. I was utterly disappointed.

While in Chapters browsing through the cookbooks (I always end up there – first the discounts, then the language books, then the cookbooks) and one caught my eye: Gluten-Free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America. I thought ‘Now that’s nice to see; a big culinary institution looking at food intolerances’. Then I thought ‘That’ll be good’ and how wrong I was. I find I’m a pretty good judge of cookbooks for my kitchen and this one had me fooled. Had I checked Amazon.com beforehand I would have seen all the negative reviews and warnings. But I hadn’t and ended up wasting some money. On one hand I was mad at myself, but on the other hand, I was relieved. It wasn’t me that was turning out bad baking, it was the book.

My question now is: What do I do with it? Normally I’d put it in a donation box, but I think that would be a little cruel. Some poor unsuspecting celiac would pick it up and be happier than a pig in poop at their lucky find only to discover one kitchen failure after another. I couldn’t do that to someone. So what do I do with it? It seems like a waste to throw it in the garbage – money and the environment. And I’ve never thrown out a cookbook before?

It’s been months and it’s still sitting on a chair. It doesn’t taunt me anymore. I verbally abused it for a while, but then the ‘You suck’ no longer felt satisfying. Now it just sits there, waiting until I figure out what to do with it.

Any ideas?

February 20, 2011


Scones have become the bain of my existence. They have been frustrating me for months. They have made me curse out loud after taking a bite. You see, I haven’t had any luck making scones gluten-free, or at least consistently.

I love scones and would eat them frequently. They are perfect for breakfast with jam (or when wrecking havoc on my system cornish or devon cream). They also make a good snack to tie you over until lunch or dinner.

When I was only wheat-free I would make them with spelt or kamut flour with success. I’ve tried adapting my recipe different ways and I’ve tried different recipes from different cookbooks – regular and gluten-free.

Sometimes they are great and sometimes they are not. One day the recipe will be tasty and mouth-watering and the next time the same recipe will be dry and bland. So you can see why it’s a little frustrating.

My goal this year is to conquer the scone. I will do it! I will make a delicious scone over and over again. I’m determined.

I’ll keep you posted on the scone wars.

February 14, 2011

Breadcrumbs – From Home with Love

Breadcrumbs aren’t a staple in my kitchen and don’t make an appearance on my plate very often. Other than strips of chicken and rounds of eggplant, I haven’t breaded anything nor wanted to. But I realize there are people who like breading and are on the search for something to stock their kitchen with. While the Natural Pantry stocks their own homemade breadcrumbs, it’s easy to make your own.

Breadcrumbs are so easy to make and can be ground as fine as you like. All you need is a food processor and bread (stale bread is okay). All those leftover end pieces are perfect (or cut them up for croutons) or take that beautiful loaf of bread that just didn’t turn out right (because the water was just a tad too warm) and turn it into something better.

Cut or break up into manageable pieces depending on the size of your food processor and press the button for how you would like it ground. I find ‘grate’ leaves them in larger pieces than ‘puree’. Let it run until everything has been ground to your liking.


Store these in a Ziploc bag in the freezer so they are ready to go when you are. If they are left in the fridge, they may spoil sooner depending on the amount of preservatives in the bread.

Your next parmigiana awaits.

February 11, 2011

Going Home

This past weekend I took a last minute trip to visit my folks in Southwestern Ontario. I don’t go very often because it’s a bit of a drive, and not a very exciting one. Once you hit the 401 it’s rock outcrops and country music until you reach Cobourg when some of the Toronto traffic roars by and the rock music returns. It had been a year since my last visit, a long time even though my mom and sister have visited us many times.

Shortly after starting on the 416 I realized I had forgotten to grab some CDs. I wasn’t looking forward to being stuck listening to the CBC (I know, I know, they actually have decent programs) or pressing the ‘seek’ button on the radio for 6 hours (there’s a reason country music was banned from our wedding). I was pleasantly surprised and encountered good music throughout beginning on the 401. That ‘seek’ button didn’t see much action and luck would have it, there was one good radio station after another. Partway I was singing along to some 80s tunes, then closer to Kingston I got K-Rock and ironically some Tragically Hip. Further along the highway I switched to a station playing a song with a nice little guitar melody. The lines were catchy. Then I heard the chorus ‘I hate Winnipeg’. I burst into laughter. Upon my return I learnt One Great City (check it out on YouTube) is by The Weakerthans and is about the love-hate relationship of their hometown. I could sympathize as I have a similar relationship with my hometown and only return to visit family.

This time I made the trip alone and it was nice as I got to have one-on-one time with my mom and dad. My family loves the Honey, but visits are different. My mom and I stayed up late chatting about anything and everything. Our speculations on people from the past, our plans for the next day, catching up not just on ourselves, but with people we knew. Over coffee and tea my dad and I talked shop and shared stories and frustrations about his parents and life in general. Visits to my hometown are usually short and when I have visits with those who I care about, I realize how short they really are.

One place I wanted to visit was the ElPeto Outlet Store in Cambridge to see what they had and if their prices were better than what I find in the stores here. Another was Ya’d Never Know Bakery, whose goodies looked delicious.

Rhonda Barr is the brainchild of the Valley Gourmet and the Back Alley Kitchen, home of Ya’d Never Know in Dundas, Ontario.

What began as a regular catering company morphed into a dedicated gluten-free bakery. One step into this little bakery you instantly smile. To the right are shelves of cookies and bread, to the left is a large freezer with items to take home, and in front is a cooler with pizza, lasagne, meat pies, and of course muffins, cookies and scones stacked on trays above.

The pizza is delicious.

The mini bagels taste like the real thing.

Another unintentional stop was Paris Health Food Store in nearby Paris, Ontario. It was a place I would visit on every trip to the area, but it had been a while.

All the baked and frozen goods are found in the back. If it isn’t from a larger company, it is made from scratch. Everything I’ve ever bought from this little place has been really good. On this trip I picked up some cheese buns; nice and light with some substance.

My only complaint is that the products are not priced. Some of the frozen goodies have a list on the freezer, but otherwise it’s guesswork. Also, prices have gone up a bit since my last visit (I know it’s been a while) to reflect the rise in cost of grains. Nonetheless, it’s worth it.

Although it seemed like my wallet kept coming out of my purse to buy something else gluten-free, it was worth it. If family can’t get me back to the area, the gluten-free bakeries will. ElPeto will be on the list again. Unfortunately we couldn’t get there in time; too much time was spent in Dundas (what a cute little place).

It seemed like my visit revolved around food quite a bit. Breakfast Saturday morning was at the Windmill in Mount Pleasant. While there aren’t any gluten-free bakery options, the breakfast is nice and simple and they have a great many products available in their fresh and freezer section. The majority of their products come from the area so it’s possible to get some homemade soup without spending the time on it. It is a family run business and every one of them is so nice (they toasted my GF English muffin for me – it helps that a sister knows them well too).

Dinner during a snowstorm took place at the Red Basil in downtown Galt (Cambridge). The tasty Vietnamese dishes were warming and enjoyable. One of the dishes came with the soy sauce on it after we asked for it on the side for my companions, so I’ll give them another chance on another visit. They were packed for Chinese New Year and the waitress may not have understood. Our group smiled when I requested a glass of the Shiraz and she asked ‘Red or White?’. Other than the oversight with the soy sauce, the service was great and the food delicious.

Brunch before coming home was at a little place near my dad’s in Paris. Scott’s on Scott (formally Kel’s) serves up a great breakfast. They always have something interesting on their special board, and like the Windmill, they don’t do anything funny with the ingredients (i.e. dredge the potatoes, etc). Everything is made there. The servers are a fun bunch too and know their regulars very well, including my dad.

Coming back to Ottawa was a breeze again, even though the ‘seek’ button was pressed more often. There wasn’t a rush as I’m not a football fan. And luckily enough, I beat another snowfall.

February 10, 2011

Under the Weather

With the up and down temperatures we’ve been having it was bound to happen. With going in and out of buildings every few hours it was bound to happen. With my diet of granola bars and tea as a result of fatigue and not wanting to make anything it was bound to happen. I got sick.

It isn’t very often I say that I don’t want to go to work. I enjoy what I do and work with amazing and interesting people. When the words do come out of my mouth it isn’t usually due to me or my job, like last Wednesday when we had a crazy snowstorm. One look out the window and I wanted to stay inside in my pj’s. The last thing I wanted to do was truck around in a pile of blowing snow, but I did. This morning was another story. With a severe tummy ache I knew I staying in bed was the choice to make.

Tummy grumblings are nothing new, but this wasn’t from something I knew I shouldn’t eat. Nor had I been around any sickies. It was perplexing. More sleep was needed. Finally when I knew I needed to be vertical for a bit longer I made some tea and gluten-free pumpernickel bread. I took a trip to my parents’ and visited a great gluten-free bakery (post to follow) where I picked up some pumpernickel bread. You would never know it was gluten-free. It’s light, soft, and delicious.

My day was spent with toast and some tea and flipping though a magazine when I could concentrate.

It did have some perks though. I had some good company.

February 8, 2011

Pasta Reunited

Gluten-free pasta may not be hard to find. It seems to be popping up everywhere these days. But good gluten-free pasta can be hard to find. Those who remember the wheat-based products probably remember the hardiness, weight, and ability to hold a sauce. Many gluten-free pastas have disappointed me over the years. They were often soggy, tasteless, and/or sauce would drip right off them. Notice the ‘and/or’. It’s disappointing when one occurs, imagine two or three!

My favourite pasta has appeared numerous times here. Le Veneziane is a corn-based pasta that has a nice texture and holds sauce really well. There are a variety of types, although fettuccini tends to be my favourite. This is my go-to-pasta for the quality and the price.

There are others that have appeared in my cupboard and seem to be replenished when they run low. In the words of Martha Stewart: ‘It’s a good thing’.

Mrs. Leepers is also a corn-based pasta that can be found at some of the big stores (mainly Loblaws). I buy this one because it’s the only gluten-free elbow pasta I’ve seen and liked. It’s great for mac & cheese or any type of soup that has noodles. At first glance it may seem a little bit more expensive than others (around $4.50/bag), but the package is a decent weight.

Riso Bello is a rice-based pasta that I actually enjoy. Out of all the gluten-free pastas, rice ones give me the most grief. Here is one that meets expectations and comes in a variety of types. So far, I’ve only found this at Farm Boy and is a reasonable price.

San Zenone corn pasta made by Prairie Harvest Pasta (finally a good old Canadian product). Like Le Veneziane, this is a great product with a good texture, taste, and can hold onto a sauce.

The downside about finding these great gluten-free pastas: my intake of pasta has risen dramatically. The upside: I can now enjoy all the great sauces I haven’t made in a long time.

February 3, 2011

Thai Fish Soup

I already had a post in mind for today, but as I was walking home today looking at the mounds of snow I changed my mind. We were walloped yesterday. And while other areas have been hit harder this winter (ah those poor Maritimers) I looked out the window yesterday morning and didn’t want to leave. It looked miserable and when the wind came up, it was. The poor Honey had shovelling to do after his day at work, just like everyone else.

Warm soup like this Thai Fish Soup is perfect for these situations. It warms you up inside and it’s super fast to make. It’s also flexible; put in whatever you want. I had forgotten to buy some green onions so I used some leek instead.

With winter around a few months more, this soup helps those days pass.

 Thai-Style Fish Soup      Serves 4        10 minutes to prepare
4 cups veggie broth
2 tsp hot chili-garlic sauce
3 tbs chopped pickled ginger
1 cup rice noodles
1 can chunked tuna, drained
2 green onions, sliced
Pour broth into a saucepan. Bring to a boil & add all ingredients. Cook for another 5 mins on med-low, until noodles are soft. Serve.