December 24, 2012

White Christmas

The last 2 ½ months have passed by in a blur – lesson planning, bake sales, and the resulting lack of energy. I have two weeks off and I’m going to try and enjoy every minute of it.

With my first weekend off I decorated my first ever gingerbread house. When a friend heard that I had never done one, she invited me to join her and her daughter’s afternoon of gingerbread house decorating. It was quite fun and my friend was ever so helpful in giving me directions on what to do, but once it came to decorating, I got a little stressed out. Having an artsy background and being a bit of a perfectionist I wasn’t sure what to do. Here I had a blank canvas in front of me and I had to decorate it at that moment. My friend, I’m sure, was unaware of this inner strife and after a minute or so I trucked on. The end product was cute to look at, and far from professional, but that doesn’t matter. I had fun and great company – my friend’s cute little girl provided hours of happiness and joy (and some laughter too). My student was also surprised at my lack of experience with gingerbread houses and was impressed by my first attempt. Honestly, I think he was more amused by my excitement for the task. (And I know someone is going to ask – No, it isn’t gluten-free and I don’t really care if it isn’t because I have no intention of eating it.)

Our little one, who is on the futon behind me snoring away, is happy to be back at home after numerous visits to the vet in the last week and a half. Her first visit was for some dental work, then to the emergency clinic after she went into a diabetic seizure (I thought she had eaten enough for her insulin shot – apparently not), then back to the vet a few days later for an ‘after-near-death-experience-check-up’. Thankfully, she is doing so much better (on new food and off the insulin!). I’ll be returning to the vet, alone, after the holidays to pick up some new asthma medication for her.

Friday we got pounded with a snowstorm; first with freezing rain then with big, fat snowflakes. Our 10-minute commute turned into 30 minutes. We quickly learnt what our neighbourhood is going to look like when the city finally begins the LRT construction – a nightmare. Buses were lined up along Scott and Albert Sts (most of the Transitway in that area was shut down for some reason), cars were backed up, and accordion busses were jack-knifed blocking lanes – what a holiday joy!!! But coming up the hill at Albert and Bronson I was overcome by the beauty of the season. Everything was covered in the sticky pure white snow and it looked absolutely beautiful. Now if only it would stay that way.

With our holiday plans turned upside down due to our munchkin, my mom came to us. She arrived yesterday and helped put up our tree. I think I spent more time laughing than singing carols because my mom was so funny. You see, her tree is very organized and particular; every decoration has its place. She has always been like this and that is why I have multi-coloured lights, whatever kind of ornaments I want, and they go wherever one feels like putting them. My mom was at a bit of a loss: ‘Where does this one go?’, ‘Where should I put this one?’, ‘Does this look ok?’, ‘Are you sure you want to put that there?’. She wasn’t used to the lack of rules when decorating a tree and it gave me quite the laugh. It had been a few years since we put up our tree and it looks nice all lit up and decorated.

Whatever you do to celebrate at this time of year – a holiday tradition or just time with family or friends – enjoy.

December 6, 2012


Here's a problem I never expected: I maxed out on my photo storage. Who knew that was even possible?! So I've been trying to venture to Picassa, because apparently all my photos are automatically stored there from Blogger, and I'm not having any luck. To top it off, whenever I go into Picassa the language switches to French, even though all my language settings (computer, web, blogger, etc, etc, etc, etc) are set to English. Even Google help searches are not even helping. After an hour of fiddling around I'm beyond annoyed and frustrated. I never asked for photos to be stored on Picassa, nor do I want them there. I have a hard drive for a reason.

Enough is enough. If I'm quiet for a while, like I have been, it means that I'm still trying to figure this out.

November 19, 2012

Crunchmaster Crackers

There is a new cracker out there and it is the bomb. Crunchmaster is an American company that makes a variety of gluten-free crackers. According to their website, “Gluten free snacking doesn’t have to mean boring, tasteless and low nutrient value.” and how right they are. Experienced Celiacs know that eating gluten-free can be healthy and delicious and there are more and more companies out there that are helping make life a little easier for us.

I’ve tried a few varieties of the multi- seed and multigrain and I’ve been happy with them. A friend couldn’t stop raving about them, especially after she found out they were gluten-free (and she’s a regular gluten-eater). As far as crackers go, they are an average price compared to regular and gluten-free crackers. Price will also depend on where you buy them. So far I’ve seen them regularly at Bulk Barn, Rainbow Foods, and the Natural Pantry. Other health food stores will probably also carry them.

They seem like an ideal cracker. They hold up to dip and spreadable cheese like camembert, and taste great with firm cheese too. These would be perfect to take with you travelling or to friends, just to make sure you can munch too.

November 11, 2012

Gluten-Free Awesome

I’m currently reading the Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha and it’s quite intriguing. There are some things that make you smile and reminisce and some that make you go ‘Oh ya, that IS pretty cool’. And of course, there are some I just don’t get. But this book also got me thinking. Being gluten-free is always seen as a negative; something we never seem to get over. We go on and on about the things we can’t have, how it has affected our bodies, and what we miss out on. Sometimes we shed a tear, even when it’s been eons.

Ironically though, being gluten-free can be awesome. OK, stop laughing! It CAN be awesome and I’ve put a list together telling you how it’s possible.

*Finding your favourite gf products on sale. Seriously, how good is it when those frozen pizza crusts, bagels or whatever are a $1-2 dollars off? Most of the time it’s only 20-30 cents and that doesn’t even cover the tax, but a $1-2, that’s worth stocking up on.

*Trying a new gf item and it is delicious. More often than not, gf people are leery about trying new things because they usually taste horrible. But when you pick something up and ‘Mmmmm’ comes out of your mouth, that’s pretty cool.

*Going to or walking by somewhere new to you and seeing ‘gluten-free’ in their window or on a sandwich board. It always takes you by surprise and sometimes you have to do a quick second look just to make sure. If you’re like me, you immediately go in and see what they have to offer. Sweet!!

*Having a waiter/waitress understand your concerns. And I don’t mean the glazed ‘Sure’ that we often get. These lovely people ACTUALLY understand and are willing to double-check and make sure you can eat safely. The awesome factor is tripled if your server has gluten-issues themselves (therefore knowing where you’re coming from) or they help you with the menu steering you towards the good stuff and away from the evil gluten.

*Seeing ‘Gluten-Free’ on a label. It’s always when you don’t expect it. You pick something up and flip it over to see if it could be safe, not really having your hopes up. And there it is! Score!!
*Realizing you feel really good. This usually occurs out of the blue and usually after saying ‘Hey I don’t feel like crap!’. This often happens when you get up in the morning or finally dawns on you at the end of the day. Then you begin thinking how long you’ve been feeling like this and why you didn’t realize sooner. Then a smile comes to your face, you might do a little dance, and you’ll probably say ‘Ya, I feel good today. Ya, ya, ya!’ Awesome.

*Baking something and it not only turns out, it rocks! Baking is tricky at the best of times and throwing in the gluten-issue-factor, it can be a nightmare. Anyone who has baked something gluten-free has probably lost count how many times it’s fallen flat (no pun intended). If you’ve met someone who has never had something go wrong, move on and find a new friend because they are lying to you. Think about that feeling: You pull it out of the oven secretly praying that it turns out; You continue to cross your fingers as it cools; You say ‘please’ over and over as you cut a slice; Then in your mouth it goes; And then… ‘Oh my God!! This is so good!!. It’s hard to beat that feeling.

*Going across the border and finding gluten-free items that you’ve only seen in American blogs and magazines. You see them all the time and when it’s a good product you lament that you can’t buy/try it. But while on holiday or a shopping trip, you suddenly see it and smile with excitement.

*Gluten-Free Beer!! But don’t bother asking other celiacs because everyone has their own opinion (some find my favourite disgusting and vice versa). No matter your preference, once you find one that YOU like, the world seems like a better place.

*Going to a friend/family member’s house for dinner and you can eat everything because they kept you in mind (and did research to boot!).  You now know who your real friends are. That is just so awesome, that it rocks!

*When your difficult (and I mean ‘What?! I just don’t get it!) other half finally says: ‘I don’t think I see anything on the menu that you can eat. Let’s try somewhere else.’ They finally get it and a great weight seems to lift from your shoulders. Yes, it’s a shock at first and when you realize it wasn’t a one-off and you love that person a little bit more.

*Your other half doesn’t give you any grief about spending all of your allowable alcohol (aka ‘duty-free booze’) on gf beer and cider that you can’t find back home. Similar to above and finding those great things across the border (provincial or country), your partner forgoes their preferred booze so you can bring home something that you can enjoy without wreaking havoc on your body.

*The customs officer pushes you through quickly because they don’t want to hear anymore raving/rambling about above said beer/cider. We’ve all been there with that fear. You know, being told to ‘Go over there’ and worried that they’ll take away your gluten-free alcohol away (I’m willing to pay duty). But you’re so nervous, yet so excited about your finds, that you just keep going on and on that the customs officer can’t wait until you’re on your way. It feels pretty good, and even better when you start thinking about cracking one open as soon as you get home.
*Eating ‘whole’ or ‘real’ food. It doesn’t seem that exciting and many celiacs may not really notice a difference, but think about what all that healthy stuff means – vitamins, nutrients, healthy fats and carbs, fiber and protein. All the stuff your body needs to be healthy and happy.  Ya, that fast food combo may make you happy, but do you feel the same an hour later? Probably not. The real natural stuff makes us feel good; our bodies look better, behave better, and we probably feel like doing more. That’s pretty cool.

*Being the envy of your friends/colleagues because you’ve got an awesome gf pasta/stirfry/stew, etc, etc for lunch and not some tiny, lame, frozen thing like they do. It doesn’t matter if they are leftovers because it’s way better. The natural pleasant smells make everyone look and the ohhhs and awes make you feel pretty smug at your awesome culinary skills. And that’s ok because your lunch is awesome.

See? Being gluten-free doesn’t have to have a negative impact on our life. It doesn’t have to control how we live. Because, you know what? Being gluten-free can be, well, awesome.

November 7, 2012


I recently mentioned that I was tweaking my flour mix and baking some muffins. Muffins are one of those things that can be frustrating in gluten-free baking. Often they turn out like bricks; heavy and hard. The gluten-laden muffins seen in stores and coffee shops are light, fluffy, and big. Some are so big it’s ridiculous. I don’t feel too bad not eating those because I know how much sugar and fat are in them – lots!

I’ve been playing around with a few recipes and I’ve found one that I like. It isn’t perfect; there’s oil and sugar, but you can tweak it. I use canola oil because it’s a healthier oil, but butter or a vegan margarine would work too. You can also adjust the sugar depending on what you add to it – sweet berries could use less while lemon poppyseed could use the original amount. I wouldn’t recommend removing all the sugar as that will result in hard and heavy muffins. In my Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home they don’t suggest using this recipe as a plain muffin as it’s meant to have something added, like the apple, banana, blueberry-lemon, or zucchini on the following page in the cookbook. The picture above is peanut butter and chocolate chip (so tasty!).

2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¾-1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups gf flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
+ fruit/filling

In a large bowl mix together eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the fruit/filling option and mix well. In another bowl mix together the gf flour, baking powder and salt (and any spices if you like). Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined. Spoon the batter into a muffin tin and bake for 20-25 mins at 350°, until golden.