June 25, 2013


Here in Ottawa we’ve had quite the roller coaster of weather – super hot temperatures, frigid temperatures, snow, buckets of rain, humidex warnings, and finally some warm ‘spring-like’ weather. With the cold weather returning last week I felt like something warm and I had a few boxes of gluten-free lasagna noodles in the cupboard that a friend had given me. She had gone Paleo and no longer needed nor wanted them. I thought they were worth a shot and fell into company of the other box I purchased but never got around to using.

Now, I didn’t follow a recipe per se; however, I have made quite a few over the years and eaten even more so I felt the need to just wing it. I also don’t cook my noodles. It seems like such a fiddly step and more drama than it’s worth so instead I use extra sauce and let it cook a bit longer. This was a vegetarian lasagna and to make it even easier, I bought some frozen roasted vegetables (thawed and drained). Chopped frozen spinach would make a great spinach lasagna. I even used jarred tomato sauce – yes a faux pas I’m sure, but it did the job.

Whenever I make something ‘square’ or ‘rectagular’ I curse my semi-oval baking dishes. The corners are rounded just enough that they won’t fit a lasagna noodle and I can’t be bothered cutting them with a pair of scissors. If I have patience that day, I’ll break small pieces off until they fit. If I don’t, then I break a big chunk off and break the smaller piece again and fit it in to fill the spaces.

With this lasagna I poured some tomato sauce into the bottom of the casserole dish; enough to coat the bottom. Then a layer of lasagna noodles, then a layer of mozzarella cheese, then another layer of noodles and another layer of sauce. The vegetables were next and I used the whole bag. I find with vegetables that it looks like enough, but when it comes time to eat they get lost in the cheese and sauce so I always add more. Next was a layer of noodles, sauce, noodles and cheese. It was getting a little too high so I gave it a little push down. I covered the dish with some foil and tented it so the melted cheese wouldn’t stick. I also put it on a baking sheet just in case the sauce bubbled over. It was baked at 350° for 45mins. You know the noodles/lasagna is done when a knife is inserted and cuts through the noodles easily.

Lasagnas don’t have to be tricky or difficult (I’ve heard of people doing them in a slow cooker!) and you can put in whatever you like and in whatever order you like. Sure, there is probably ‘a way to make lasagna’, but seriously, life is too short. Whatever you like, you like. If someone doesn’t like it, well they can go home for dinner.

(I've used both Rizopia  and Pastariso organic noodles and am pleased with both of them.)   

June 23, 2013

Cabbage Rolls

Being half Polish I grew up with my Babcia’s cabbage rolls and of course they were the best. Seriously, they were. My Granny, her daughter, also made them, but they didn’t come close to my Babcia’s.

When I visited my sister in Mississauga last winter we hit a few of the Polish stores. She wasn’t fond of the one near her work (I also encountered their lack of customer service) and this isn’t the old country. In Mississauga, where 50-60% of the population is Polish, there is a Polish store in almost every strip mall and better options if they are lacking (I was like a kid in a candy store at Starsky; sadly I can’t eat much of it anymore). We left every store with cabbage rolls looking for the best one and surprisingly, we were disappointed each time. They were so bland. My Polish teacher laughed because they aren’t made with spices, but my Babcia’s always were (and so are mine).

Imagine my surprise when I found some fabulous cabbage rolls in my own backyard. Because my neighbourhood has a great variety of stores I don’t venture into The Market that much anymore, but one day I did and popped into the Sausage Kitchen.

I don’t venture there very often these days because the lovely pierniki (gingerbread) and paczki (doughnuts) and perfect pierogi are off limits, the rich chocolate drink has enough caffeine to keep me up all night, and it seemed a bit far to go for condiments. Plus as a vegetarian, I didn’t need to pick up any meat (now as a carnivore I shop in my neighbourhood). Well, they have cabbage rolls and they are the best I’ve ever picked up. They are big, full of flavour, and have the perfect amount of tomato sauce. Of course you can buy them singly, but at 2 for $5 why get just one? Yes, I can make great cabbage rolls myself, but that’s a lot of work for one person (The Honey doesn’t like cabbage so it’s just me). Now I’ve got a place to go for my next cabbage roll craving (they also have quite the selection of sausages and meat that are gluten-free).

If you can’t get to The Market or are vegetarian, your health food store may have products by Antipastos Kitchen. These vegetarian cabbage rolls look delicious and are packed then baked in tomato sauce. 

Now I was a little confused at first because they are labelled gluten-free and in theory, cabbage rolls are gluten-free. My Babcia’s and Granny’s never had gluten, all the ones in Mississauga didn’t have gluten, the Sausage Kitchen’s don’t have gluten, and my Polish teacher says one would never put it in a cabbage roll (so I’m chalking it up to the typical North American craziness of putting stuff where it doesn’t belong). Now, these cabbage rolls were tasty, but I was disappointed. Where were the vegetables? I assumed by the picture that these cabbage rolls would have quite a few vegetables, but they were chopped quite small and I found them to get lost in the rice and sauce.

Antipastos Kitchen packages four cabbage rolls in a container for around $10, depending on the store, so the price isn’t too bad. The instructions are to bake it from frozen, but it takes a long time and seems like a waste to turn on the oven for something so small. So it might be worth a shot to thaw them overnight and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Antipastos Kitchen also makes gluten-free squash ravioli, which were good, but needed more filling in my opinion. In the meantime, I think I’ll stick to the Sausage Kitchen for my cabbage rolls.

June 19, 2013

And Bamm!

Well, it finally happened. I got sick. The Honey got a sore throat a week ago and it snowballed from there. He finally felt better last Monday, thanks in part to Caesar salad dressing kicked up with a tonne of garlic. However, the garlic didn’t ward off the sore throat that was beginning to be felt for me and the following morning it was in full force. Otherwise I felt alright so I trekked off to work. Within the hour I had a pain between my eyes, a heavy head, an itchy nose, and sore muscles. I knew it wasn’t my allergies as I had been taking those tablets for weeks (and they were wreaking havoc on my arthritis meds). I came home from work knowing that I probably wouldn’t be there the following day (and thankfully my bosses are understanding). Upon arriving home I gave my flower pots a quick water and noticed how well some of our plants are doing.

Ever since we moved to our new house and brought our peonies with us, they haven’t bloomed. We had a bud last year, but nothing materialized. Ironically, the scraggly ones popping up from the other side of the fence have one blossom each every year. This year, our plants have so many buds (and ants are crawling on them!) so my hopes are now set high (note: we now have three nice big blooms).

Our clematis is also doing phenomenal. Again, since we moved it, the four plants barely made it a foot tall. As of today they are climbing the trellis’ (trelli? pl?) with a vengeance. The Honey and I are floored.

Once inside I just wanted something to eat. I needed something in my stomach after a day of not eating much. I had a quiche in the fridge, but my tummy wouldn’t handle the eggs. I needed some toast and there were some avocados perfectly ripe in the fruit bowl.

I also had my eye one something to soothe my throat. I have a bottle of something special for those particular winter nights that warms me up from the inside out. For me, it’s an indulgence and why I don’t mind the hefty price tag. It’s so smooth and perfect for a sore throat. Only one hitch: it was 4:15. I have no problems uncorking a bottle of wine or uncapping a beer/cider at noon, but somehow this was different. Maybe because I was going to be under a blanket on the couch and in a horrible state. Later in the evening I did pour myself a bit and as always it tasted delicious and my throat instantly felt better. Maybe I should have poured a glass earlier.

June 2, 2013

Things Are Cookin’

After avoiding my cookbooks for most of the last 4-6 months (aka being too lazy/tired to cook) I have re-entered the kitchen with motivation. With the chilly weather earlier this week I made a delicious lasagna with some gluten-free lasagna noodles (will be posted at a later date) and we began an early weekend with some gluten-free poppyseed French toast. It was so good The Honey and I couldn’t resist gorging ourselves. There were four pieces leftover for my breakfast this morning and it tasted just as good as on Friday. I remember regular French toast getting all hard and gross when it was reheated, but that didn’t happen. I’m sure banana bread would be just as tasty.

The French toast recipe comes from Joy of Cooking and I had added some extra milk since I was going to slice up the whole poppyseed loaf, but I don’t think I was necessary. There was enough liquid to coat my 8x4’ loaf. The slices for the loaf can’t be too thin otherwise they’ll break once drenched in liquid, but they also can’t be too thick otherwise the centres won’t warm up while cooking.

A fabulous idea may be to make a batch one evening and warm some up each morning for breakfast before work. My colleagues would be so envious knowing I had delicious French toast for breakfast, and on a weekday too!

French Toast
2/3 cup milk
4 eggs
2 tbs sugar or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
Sliced bread of your liking

Whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Heat a large skillet and dip the slices of bread into the liquid until coated, then place onto the hot pan. Repeat and add as many slices to the pan as will fit. When they brown on one side, flip them over, then to a warm plate when browned on the second side. Serve with maple syrup.