August 29, 2011

Warming Up

Even though it’s still August and summer isn’t officially over, the days are becoming noticeably shorter and the mornings a little cooler. With some of the rain cooling us off quite a bit, the days seem unseasonably cool. Where’s summer going? It’s too soon!

With cooler temperatures (it’s still in the 20s so one can’t complain too much) I can turn on the oven guilt-free. It’s not super hot so I don’t have to worry about making the house even hotter and with a cool breeze the oven takes the chill out of the house.

One thing I love is gluten-free chicken fingers. This recipe appeared in Metro sometime last year and I’ve made it a few times. I don’t have anything else to compare to since I haven’t had a ‘real chicken finger’ in 15 years, but I think these are pretty good. One can change the spice/herbs in it and make a Cajun or Thai version, which sounds delicious.

Almond Crusted Chicken
1 egg white
1 tbs cold water
1/3 cup ground almonds
¾ cups gluten-free breadcrumbs
1 tbs fresh parsley
2 tbs lemon zest
Salt and pepper
¼ tsp fennel seed (ground)
1 ½ skinless chicken breasts (1 ½ lbs)
In a small bowl combine the almonds, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper, lemon zest, and fennel. Transfer to a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk egg white with water until frothy. Cut chicken lengthwise into strips. Dip strips into egg and allow extra to drip off then dredge in almond mixture until well coated. Lay on baking sheet and bake in oven until cooked through and browned, about 12-15 minutes. If you wish, you can spray the tops with cooking spray to add an extra crispness and browning.

August 27, 2011

Gadgets, Gadgets Everywhere!

My kitchen is becoming quite cluttered with gadgets even though I’m not one of those people who has to buy the latest thing when it comes out. And I do use them once my kitchen becomes their home. From always living in small apartments or having a kitchen that wasn’t very practical I only kept what was useful. To this day I laugh at my mom who has moved many of her useless things from house to house. Using her kitchen drives me nuts. It’s come to the point that I do my best to avoid using anything but the toaster. Even that can be tricky – it was my babcia’s and it’s still kicking after it was rewired in the early 90s.

Back in the spring there was a fabulous craft show in Almonte called HandmadeHarvest. It is the thing to go to –regardless how far it is to get there. I met a woman whose husband is celiac and of course the usual questions and discussions came up (how long, when were you diagnosed, etc, etc). When the husband returned he showed us something he was more than impressed with. In fact, I was impressed as well and couldn’t resist picking one up for myself.

Not sure what it is? They are Toaster Tongs to get your tiny pieces of toast out of the toaster. And anyone who has toasted some gluten-free bread knows how difficult that can be (I became skilled with a knife believe it or not). Those buttons and levers on the side can only do so much, especially before they pop off. This little gadget helps save those fingers from getting burnt and people like me from electrocuting themselves.

With The Wooden Snowflake John Morin believes in not letting anything go to waste. He takes leftover pieces of wood, such as from felled trees or leftover projects, and creates wonderful objects such as wooden spoons. The result: every item is one of a kind and can be made from almost any type of wood that’s out there. My toaster tongs are made from Sugar Maple.

If you’d like your own pair, drop John a line at woodensnowflake [at] gmail [dot] com. Your fingers may thank you.

August 25, 2011

Mmmmm Beeeeeerrrrrrrr

I think Homer Simpson said it best and I’m sure I’ve done my ancestors proud by quenching my thirst with a beer. Of course, I’m known to drink other tasty beverages, but there’s something about beer.  After your first sip (especially after a day of gardening or a tough day at work) it’s hard not to say ‘ahhh’. Even though beer snobbery seems to be hitting its all-time-high of late, I’ve always enjoyed beers from a nice micro-brewery. I fell in love with Creemore at 19! And with Muskoka at 22! I’m much older now and I guess I can say I was ahead of the times.

With gluten now being off limits, beer was one of those things that I missed a lot. Dare I say it; even more than bread! I’m far from a boozer and I know my limits, but I do enjoy a nice beer when the time is right. There are some gluten-free beers on the market and they can be hit and miss. There is Messagère from Quebec, but the yeasty flavour just doesn’t do it for me. Then there is New Grist, from Milwaukee, which is quite nice and with good flavour. But then I found Nickel Brook, from Burlington (ON). This beer is tops in my book.

It was quite lucky actually as the LCBO was out of New Grist the day of my visit. I saw the cans of Nickel Brook’s Gluten Free Beer and asked the clerk if he knew anything about it. He told me he hadn’t tasted it, but they sold a lot of it. That sold me!

This golden lager-style beer has a tone of flavour. You know it’s not true beer, but it tastes pretty close (Barvarian Purity Act stipulates that if it contains anything besides barley and hops, it can't be called beer). And that yeasty flavour? Non-existent. Being available only in cans, one may be concerned about a tinny taste that can be encountered, but not this one (Hmmmm, I wonder if the gluten affects it – or lack of in this case). These cans are filled to the brim, so my only warning is to be careful opening them. Actually, my second warning is not to overdo it (they’re that good).

Perfect for summer; sitting in the backyard; taking them to a BBQ. Now if only I can convince the pub I go to to carry it.

August 23, 2011

Field Fresh Corn

Once mid-July comes around piles of ears of corn appear at the market stands. And for the last two weeks I’ve been waiting for it; that delicious sweetness that is plump and juicy. I don’t buy it too early, even though some vendors have it as early as the end of June. I like it sweet and tender and I find if I wait a bit, it’s perfect. I’m sure it is just as sweet when they pick it at that time, but it’s just my personal preference.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been trying to get corn on the cob home for dinner and each night something comes up – I’m exhausted, I’m nowhere near a market, The Honey would like something else. But tonight it finally happened.

We stopped by one of our favourite vendors at the Parkdale Market and picked up half a dozen ears. They looked perfect and I couldn’t wait to get them home. For dinner the lovely green was stripped away and the pale silks gingerly removed. A large pot of water was put on the stove and I waited. A watched pot never boils quickly, does it? At last it came to a boil and I smiled with anticipation. In went ¼ cup of sugar then the cobs. I put the lid back on and let it boil for a minute, then turned off the heat. I just let them sit there and cook all by themselves for 10 minutes. When I took off the lid the corn cobs were a luscious yellow.

I always make the mistake of trying to eat them too quickly, resulting in a burnt mouth so I was patient this time and waited. There is only one situation where I eat too much salt and butter, and it is with corn on the cob. The Honey and I slathered on the vegan margarine and sprinkled on the salt, and then we took a bite, then another and another. It was heaven. Often we chat during dinner, but tonight we were silent. We were too busy enjoying our delicious corn. The Honey was happy (mmmmm kept escaping from his lips) and I was too.

Some people don’t like eating just corn on the cob. I had a friend years ago who didn’t believe in eating it on its own; it had to have at least salad on the side. I think it had something to do with her Italian upbringing (I met other Italians who were the same – no stereotype intended). But this is the way I ate it growing up, my mom wanting to be as ‘Canadian’ as she could be and this is how people ate it in my hometown. This is also how The Honey ate it growing up in northern Ontario. So we’ll continue eating it this way. I had it roasted once while I was living overseas and it wasn’t the same. Only drenched in butter and salt for me.

August 18, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Mousse

I can never get enough of strawberries and I do my best to eat them all summer long. I usually go out picking at least once and buy the remainder from the market. This summer has been especially busy and has flown by so my supply has come from some of my favourite vendors at the Parkdale Market. Even though I’ve been swamped I’ve found the time to experiment with a few things. As always, friends are only happy to be guinea pigs and a colleague with this year’s summer program was a fellow celiac. She got gf goodies to make up for all the staff birthday cakes she could only look at.

I’ve rarely had mousse for dessert because it is usually made with gelatine, and as vegetarian it’s a no-no. To be completely honest, I had cut out gelatine prior to becoming veggie – the concept just grossed me out (now that I’m a meat-eater I haven’t ventured it yet). So when I found this recipe while browsing in my good-old-Moosewood I couldn’t pass it up. I made it twice in one week; it’s that good! My colleague was in heaven and we couldn’t decide which was better – the strawberry mousse or the raspberry.

Make the trip to heaven and give it a try while the berries are still around.

Fresh Strawberry Mousse (from Moosewood Cookbook)     Serves 4-6
4 cups sliced strawberries
6 tbs cornstarch
½ -- 2/3 cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
½ cup firm yogurt
Place strawberries in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until soup-like. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Use the same saucepan (without washing) and combine the cornstarch, sugar and lemon juice. Whisk until uniform. Pour the strawberries back into the saucepan with the cornstarch mixture and whisk constantly. Cook over medium heat until thick, still whisking. Remove from heat and stir in lemon rind. Transfer back into the bowl and cool until room temperature. Purée until smooth then chill until cold. Fold in the yogurt and serve.

August 15, 2011

Lowfat Berry Pie

Summer fruit can still be found at the local markets. On Sunday I saw raspberries and strawberries, and huge baskets of blueberries. They look so cute, I wish I liked them. Who knows how much longer these delicious little things will be around, and until they disappear for another year I’m enjoying them as much as I can.

 This berry pie came from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook and is with raspberries or blackberries, but I don’t see why it can’t be made with others. I made it as the recipe was written so you may want to tweak it a bit, for your sweetness preference (The Honey thought it was way too sweet while friends thought it was just perfect). With a gluten-free pie crust, this berry pie is a nice way to end a summer BBQ with friends.

Lowfat Berry Pie (from Moosewood Cookbook)
1 -9” gf pie crust, baked until lightly browned, then cooled completely.
6-8 cups fresh raspberries or blueberries
1/3 – ½ cup sugar
1 ½ tbs cornstarch
Place 2 cups of berries and 1/3 cup sugar in a food processor and purée. Taste to adjust the amount of sugar. Place the remaining berries in the cooled pie crust, gently spreading them into place. Put the cornstarch into a small saucepan and whisk in the puréed berries. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer. Whisk frequently for 5 mins or until thickened. Remove from heat and pour over the berries in the crust. Cool to room temperature before serving (or chill).

August 14, 2011


Being gluten-free has its challenges, and that’s no secret. Even those who aren’t gluten-free are hard pressed to think about the positive aspects – only the negative comes out. People, whether in the celiac community or not, talk about cheating. There’s the one side sounding like a strict granny telling you not to think twice about it and on the other side, someone you know well pushing you to try something that they make 15-year-old-peer-pressure look like childsplay. Then there are the moments when you’re stuck. That happened to me last weekend and I was practically in tears. Thankfully I had a lifesaver.

After being gluten-free for a while, one develops some tricks and secrets. One of mine is stashing fairly-healthy granola or snack bars everywhere. I always have some in my classroom. I had a box at my desk last month. And I always have some in my purse. Lucky for me I had some with me last weekend at Algonquin College because as I closed my car door I remembered my lunch sitting on the table beside the front door. The f-word came out a few times (making a man nearby look at me from his trunk) and I felt like crying. I had told my trainer the day before not to worry and order me lunch and here I was stuck. When I entered the classroom I pulled everything out of my purse and thankfully I had two granola bars. They were squished, but I had something to eat. The trainer had some fruit leftover from the day before so grazing tied me over and had given me enough energy through my test.

Finding decent gf granola bars can be tricky. There are some loaded with soy protein, some with a pile of sugar, and some that are more like a snack – two bites and it’s gone. And of course, some can be downright pricey. One of my tricks is to pick up some new ones when they are on sale so if they aren’t that great, I haven’t spent an arm and a leg. I also stock up on the ones I like when they are on sale. If I can save a dollar per bar, it’s even better (especially if you tend to be stuck as often as me).

Larabars are on the small side and a little pricey, but they pack enough in to hold you over. They come in a variety of flavours and are tasty. When they are on sale, by the box or individually, they are better for your wallet.

Enjoy Life makes some snack bars that might not hold you over till dinner after missing lunch, but they will help you make it to lunch at your morning break. They aren’t super filling so these bars could also be a nice treat at lunch. My favourites are the chocolate and apple as they remind me of chocolate cake and apple pie.

Kind Fruit & Nut bars are light and sweet. They should be treated as a snack or go with your lunch. While they come in a variety of great flavours and taste good, they don’t pack enough to tie you over till lunch or dinner.

A&H Natural Bars and Taste of Nature are packed full of goodness. They are full of nuts and seeds (and I think some kind of syrup too), and they have enough in them to get you through to dinner. Both bars come in a variety of flavours that taste great. An added bonus with these is even when they are flattened or squished to death in your bag, they still stick together and stay in one piece. The downside is the Taste of Nature are becoming harder to find for some reason, so when I find them I stock up.


Bakery on Main remind me of rice krispie squares. They are full of rice crisps and are just as light. A nice light treat, but won’t hold you over when in a jam. Plus, I found them a little bland.


Glutino granola bars; not much to say about them. They’re an overgrown wafer cookie. They will satisfy a small sugar or chocolate craving (maybe with two) and that’s about it. Given the price, I’ll go for something healthier and with more heft.


Although one can't survive on these alone, they can help getting to lunch or dinner a little easier and be a lifesaver when in a bind.

August 9, 2011

Zucchini Patties

Zucchini seems to be in endless supply right now at the market. I know it will sadly come to an end once September rolls around, but it sad all around as most of our wonderful fresh produce is wrapping up. It is some time yet, so I can’t think about and get sad about it; I must enjoy it while it’s around.

Last week I made these great zucchini patties that are so easy to make. I use my gluten-free flour mix and you can substitute whatever cheese you like (the parmesan adds nice flavour though). With a little olive oil they fry up nicely and become a fairly healthy side dish. They also taste great cold for those sweltering days or those backyard potlucks that pop up every weekend. Next time I’m going to adding a bit of a zip to it and add a dash of cayenne and use a milder cheese – mmmmm.

Zucchini Patties      Serves 4     20 minutes
2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup chopped onion
½ cup  gf flour
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup grated mozzarella
salt to taste
In a medium bowl combine all ingredients. Drop mixture by heaping spoonfuls onto a hot fry pan & cook a few minutes on each side until golden.

August 7, 2011

Irresistible Mac & Cheese

It has been one crazy summer. I took a holiday from my government student to work at the summer program again this year and it has been far from a holiday. I haven’t stopped since it began at the beginning of July. Some days I just didn’t feel like putting anything together; salad was too much work; I didn’t want to hang out by the BBQ; and there wasn’t much beside fruit, jam, and pesto in the freezer. Luckily I have a box of GF KD in the cupboard.

While I’ve never been much of a fan of the original KD, I would have it once in a blue moon. Since going gluten-free it’s been out of the house and I made it from scratch. But then Metro released their GF line and I couldn’t help picking up a few boxes for The Honey. To him it doesn’t taste the same, to me it does.

The rice pasta holds its shape well and the cheese powder sticks to it nicely. The directions are the same and you can lower the dairy content with margarine and rice milk (the cheese powder contains milk ingredients) without altering the taste. It even has the same crazy orange colour. The only downside is that the pasta takes a little longer to cook, compared with its gluten-counterpart.

Unlike The Honey, I couldn’t eat this every night, but there are always a few boxes in the cupboard for him. They’re there for me too when a blue moon rolls around.

August 5, 2011


There’s a Seinfeld episode all about Salsa. It’s actually quite true and one cannot help but smile as George and Jerry discuss why it has become America’s number one condiment (I have no idea where it stands here in Canada). But Jerry boils it down to one thing: People like to say the word ‘Sal-SA’.

Whether it’s saying it, dipping it, or smelling those heavenly fresh tomatoes, salsa is a great treat.

I’ve been making my own salsa for years and like everything else that’s homemade, you can put your own spin on it. I rarely make mine the same way twice. I usually don’t strain it, but sometimes I do to make it chunkier. Sometimes I squeeze in some extra lime, or add jalapenos instead of the chillies, or hit it with a pile of garlic; whatever I fancy at the time.

With tomatoes appearing at the market it’s the perfect time for fresh salsa. This salsa freezes very well so it can be enjoyed any time of year. With some of the heirloom tomatoes you could even jazz it up with yellow or purple tomatoes. Ohhhh I can’t wait to try that!

Tomato Salsa           Makes 2 cups
3 medium tomatoes
2 scallions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful each fresh parsley & cilantro, minced
½ tsp ground cumin
¾- 1 tsp salt
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs fresh lime juice
crushed red pepper, to taste
Skin tomatoes & chop in a bowl. Combine with rest of ingredients. Cover & chill.