lonely gluten free moments - that don't need to be

Ok, I know that this image of my brother's dog has little to do with gluten-free anything... but what illustrates sadness like the big brown eyes of a golden retriever puppy?

I've been thinking about the situations in which I haven't felt so full of bravado about living with celiac disease. Examples might include:
  • The Awards Dinner - last minute work commitment with no time to prepare. Preset dinner serving over 500 people in a room so big you have no idea where the food is arriving from. Even the vegetables are floating in some kind of "sauce".
  • The Road Trip - nothing but the same crap highway food for 16 hours. You are tired, hungry and have eaten nothing but potato chips. Being stuck in an airport is a close tie.
Life will deal you some bad days that can't always be avoided... but some situations are made bad, not from lack of planning - but from lack of sensitivity:
  • The Dinner Party. You've advised... but they didn't get it (or want to). You find yourself staring at an empty plate.
  • Ordering In. Everyone is hungry and there is a decision to order take-out. Your needs are diminished with a comment like - "don't worry, I think they make a salad". Meanwhile you watch you friends drool over pizza and lasagna.
What would be really sad, is if we actually thought that such people were our friends. I'm rarely hurt by people's thoughtless behaviour twice... because I don't tolerate it any more than I do the gluten!

Living WELL on a gluten-free diet has a lot more to do with sharing food with people that you enjoy being with - than finding a replacement recipe for cinnamon buns. I'm rarely sad about my diet - and am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to have good friends who consider me as they'd consider themselves. 

May the new year ahead be full of feasts with your real friends.




gluten-free gingerbread house kit... home sweet home!

I walked by the kit twice before I finally picked up the box and gave in to the urge. I have never actually built AND eaten a gingerbread house in my life. El Peto just made it too easy to walk away. 

While this model won't make it into Architectural Digest... I'm pretty pleased with myself for making the effort - and will be just as pleased to demolish it over the holidays and eat the cookie slabs (as opposed to just picking off the decorations!). Do you have any classic yuletide favorites you are looking to find, or replicate this holiday season?



non recipe for gluten-free muffins...hard to go wrong!

I'm a renegade baker. I don't follow instructions well... so muffins and cookies are pretty much my limit. I am posting this little ditty simply to encourage other non-bakers to experiment every now and then. 

I made these banana muffins without a recipe. I can hear gasps of disapproval as I type... but truth be told, I just toss a bunch of ingredients fairly ad-hoc into my food processor... pour and bake. Now, I must admit that muffins are something I can do by "feel" - as long as my batter has the consistency of molasses I seem to do just fine. I tossed the following into the processor in this order without any measuring utensils: canola oil, brown sugar, 3 small eggs, two bananas, brown rice flour, baking powder, pinch of salt, garam masala spice, walnuts & raisins. Muffins baked at 375 for 30 minutes.
Sometimes I use different spices, sometimes chickpea flour replaces the rice or applesauce replaces the banana.  
I'm not saying you don't need to know what you are doing to make a well-risen cake or replicate a danish in gf form, however, it's hard to fail with muffins and I encourage you to give it a go once and awhile without feeling intimidated. (There are lots of recipes on the net if you want some measurement guidelines). Things like pancakes are also very forgiving...Would love to hear of other easy/no-fail recipes non-bakers like me are experimenting with!

gluten-free greeting card winners.....!

Thank you to those who commented here - and on facebook! The winners of the greeting cards are celiac in the city... & Trina! CONGRATULATIONS!! I'll be shipping out your cards shortly!


arepa... another gluten-free gift

Tonight I stopped by a lovely event held at an amazing Venezuelan cafe in downtown Toronto called arepa. This spot is an absolute gluten-free delight.

An arepa is made of corn flour. The "bread" has a very slight crispness on the grilled exterior and is soft and warm inside. The fillings can be made of pulled meat, and or cheese and or vegetables.  

I had my very first arepa in San Francisco a couple of years ago - and I thought I'd have to travel great distances to have another... until Angela introduced me to this amazing place in our own city. I was giddy the first time I walked in.

The ambiance of arepa cafe is contemporary yet cozy. Rows of packaged PAN cornmeal are on display... such a comforting sight! The  menu indicates which dishes (most!) are free from gluten. A haven for celiacs :)
photo credit: vince talotta/toronto star

Tonight I was there for the exhibition opening of Michele Guevara - a very talented fibre artist whose work will be on display at arepa cafe through January 12. 

The combination of warm people, creative expression and abundance of delicious foods we can indulge in... reminded me once again that life is full of gifts. I can't wait to go back.


free gluten free greeting cards - win the give away!

I'm more than just an opinionated celiac :) I'm also a printmaker - and I have a line of greeting cards under the banner "claudine's calling". This hand printed card was designed for people like us, and to thank people who take good care of us!

I am loving spending time in our beautiful studio... and hope to find to find time to do lots of new creative projects over the winter. If you are interested in seeing more - take a look at the cards & prints link at the side.

A set of 5 peanut butter cookie cards posted above will be given away to two lucky winners drawn on Wednesday December 14th. 

Simply leave a comment below for your chance to win! 


Gluten-Free Article in The New York Times

This weekend there was an article in The New York Times that really got my adrenaline flowing. A link to the article can be found by clicking here: 

Gluten-free diets are the topic du jour. What really struck me about this particular article was the General Mills element. 

Companies that are making mass produced, processed foods are on the gf bandwagon in a big way. I'm not as grateful as you might think. In fact, I published the following comment on the Times site last night: 

As someone who nearly died before being diagnosed with celiac disease 40 years ago - I am MORTIFIED by two elements that were highlighted in this article:

1) Gluten-free has most certainly become a 'fad' - and puts some of us at considerable risk when operating in the world at large. 10 years ago it was safer for me to order in a restaurant than it is today - because almost everyone assumes that they know what gf means, and most see it as a diet trend. 

2) WHY are we so hell bent on eating commercial foods - (made by General Mills no less) - as if we've learned nothing from the fact that our bodies don't want to eat processed crap.

I'm hardly a crunch granola type - but companies like General Mills already have way too much power over our food supply. They are worried about losing market share... and we are worried about not eating "what everyone else is eating". Monsanto has nothing to worry about. We are lemmings.

I concede that I was being a bit heavy, but I am really struck by how we are not learning anything from the rise in food intolerance. 

Instead of seeing this as a sign that something has gone wrong... and that perhaps we need to take better care of ourselves - we are greedily looking to make our lives look like they used to. We romanticize about foods, and forget how lousy we felt when we ate them (and not just because they had gluten in them!).

We don't seem to mind that our food is modified beyond recognition to behave the way we want it to (and survive on a shelf for a very long time). I'm not above eating gluten-free cake mix... but I have to say that I'm feeling worried about the direction this is taking.

I wonder what "food" will look like in another 25 years.


Goodbye Gluten - leave your reading glasses at home!

This ginger cookie hails from a pretty divine place.

I finally made it up to gluten-free heaven. Entering Good Bye Gluten (GBG) was probably the only time in my entire life that I've walked into a store and could pick anything off of a shelf and "know" that it was gluten-free.

I was also very happy to have a chance to speak with owner Ricki, who explained that she had decided to open the store because her daughter had been diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 15 (nearing 20 years ago) at a time when gluten-free was hard to come by.  

At Goodbye Gluten she has culled the best gluten-free goods on the market and brought them to Toronto. What's not on shelves is freshly prepared and served behind the deli & bakery counter - or in the fridge and freezer. I could make an extensive list... but trust me, you will want for nothing.

Oh, and you need an event catered? They've got that covered too. A colleague of mine at work had her wedding cake made here.  Both she and her guests were delighted with the results.

GBG claims to be the first 100% gluten-free food store of its kind in Canada with this range of offerings. All I know is that Torontonian celiacs couldn't be luckier! Click on the hyper link above for their website.


counter to my last post - gf products CAN be healthy!

I've been feeling bad about calling out how unhealthy many of our gluten-free products actually are for us. In fairness, they are not any less healthy than most processed foods on the market. Just because we are not genetically made to eat gluten, doesn't mean we don't want the same options (healthy or otherwise) that others have. 

Most of us can agree that ANY food (gluten-free or otherwise) is better for us the less we muck about with it. I am particularly pleased with these crackers I just found from Orgran.

These Essential Fibre Crispibread are virtuously satisfying on their own...but best enjoyed with cheese, hummous, or nut butter. They are both gluten-free AND good for me! Only six ingredients: brown rice flour, wholegrain sorghum, psyllium, rice bran and salt. Gluten-free goodness!


gluten free is not synonymous with healthy

Sorry Glutino.... I'm a big fan of many of your products... but I was less than thrilled when I read the ingredients on the side of your table crackers. 

Normally, I wouldn't dream of buying anything without having read the ingredients first. However, when the box read "gluten-free", and came from a trusted gluten-free manufacturer, I happily tossed it in my basket with little concern. Just because a product doesn't contain gluten, does not mean it's a good choice.

I do love the texture and weight of these crackers, alas reading what they are made of I've decided this was my last box. There is nothing good for me here. If this is what it takes to make gluten-free crackers simulate regular ones, I'll happily give them up. 

The point here is not to pick on any one product in particular.  Generally, gluten-free products are made to replicate "normal" food. Sometimes, (ironically) to make these products as close as possible to those we miss - more food science (read chemicals) are used.

I don't need to eat the gluten-free version of what everyone else is eating if a lot of unhealthy ingredients need to go into making it "edible" for me. 

We eat gluten free for our health - right?


Rapini - la mia verdura preferita!

rapini with garlic & olives

My body just CRAVES this vegetable, and when it's in season it is at it's very best. Slightly smoky and just a little bitter, it is an excellent food for the digestive system. My body pulses with happiness when I eat it.

I learned how to prepare this Italian staple Roman-style. Excellent as a dish on its own, or mixed with gluten-free rotini shaped pasta & sprinkled with fresh grated parmigiano. 

It also makes an excellent accompaniment to sausages, fish or chicken. When served as a side, I'll skip the cheese and sprinkle with fresh lemon juice instead.

The method below is called "ripassata in padella" (loosely translates to passed from the pot into the pan) - and can be used to prepare any number of greens like chard, kale, spinach etc. Typically with leafy greens I skip the steaming part and go straight to the pan. 

This is super easy. 

Wash one bunch of rapini, remove tough ends & chop into 2" pieces. Toss into pot with water and steam. 

Peel and split one clove of garlic in two. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a non-stick frying pan and put garlic open side down with a sprinkle of chili flakes.

When rapini is limp remove from water and toss into pan. Add
6-8 salt cured black olives. Stir to coat with oil and cook until any water evaporates. 

I use the water that I steamed the rapini in to cook the pasta (great flavour and use of lost nutrients!). Also saves time and energy washing up :) 

In winter when rapini goes on sale I will steam a number of bunches at once and freeze it. I store it in baggies and then thaw and finish it off in the pan when I want it (thanks for teaching me this trick Rosa!). 

I seriously never tire of this dish - but would be thrilled to learn of new ways to prepare rapini and other seasonal winter greens.


new gluten free products I've checked out

I try not to buy gluten-free cookies. I try, because I have no willpower. Because I have no willpower, I buy gluten-free cookies. It's an ongoing battle. One I typically lose when I see a new cookie on the market that I haven't tried before. Luckily, at $7.95 a box, my budget keeps me from buying every flavour (at once anyway!). 

These GAGA for Gluten Free cookies are made in Toronto, which appeals to my "buy local" attitude. I tell myself it's important to help out new local start up bakeries. You can see I have this dialogue about why I should buy a box of cookies down to an art. 

As usual, I ramble. What you really want to know is whether to part with your $8 should you stumble upon these cookies. There were two other flavours on the shelf  - I naturally lunged for the "chocolicious" ones. If you like a really rich chocolate taste, and a slightly sandy cookie (shortbread-like texture) indulge in a box. They are soft and a little crumbly (not a problem as they are small and can be popped directly in your mouth in one go). I'll probably talk myself into another box of these again soon.
Now onto the savoury. I have been a fan of Mary's Organic Crackers for a few years now. I'm pleased to see them turning up on tables next to dips and cheese at the homes of my gluten eating friends too. A nice change from the Asian rice crackers I've been eating for years. 

In that little bowl above is a newer product from Mary's called Sticks & Twigs. Kind of like pretzels. What I particularly like about these is they are so healthy! I never buy "flavoured" chips, crackers or rice cakes. The less chemicals, the better my tummy operates. This means I rarely venture beyond "plain". These are curry flavour. The flavour comes from one ingredient - curry powder (no weird sounding additives). I know, curry powder is made up of a variety of spices... but that is all they are. I eat a little bowl like the one above and my craving for salty snack is satiated. Unlike the cookies... I eat these guilt free.


invited for gluten-free dinner

You've just been invited to dinner. If you are going to the home of someone else for the first time, you know there is a conversation ahead of you. If you are lucky, the host is already well versed in the language of gluten-free... and those two little words will suffice. 

Ideally it is you accepting the invite, giving you the opportunity to clear your throat and drop the bomb. But how about when you're partner comes home to tell you that the boss has invited you both over to dinner? 

The call will need to be made. Once the conversation has been had around ingredients, I will typically ask if I can bring something. I assure them that it needn't be complicated.  

Of course, at this point I find myself wondering if they are already wishing that they hadn't invited me. Then it occurs to me that if it's too much for them, I don't want a second invite anyway. 

Moving along... when I arrive I usually make for the kitchen and have a chat/review of what's cooking (more of a "how can I help" interaction). The goal being to assist both the host and myself and alleviating the stress that comes with wondering if they put worcestershire sauce (malt vinegar) in the dressing or bouillon cubes in the soup. Hanging in the kitchen also gives me the opportunity to show my appreciation for their special consideration of my particular needs.

Good news: future invites are a sign that all went well - and each visit becomes more natural and enjoyable for everyone.

When we invite others over, my first question is usually whether there is something our guest doesn't eat. I'm setting precedent for when they reciprocate :)

Thanks to our amazing friends for the many delicious dinners we enjoy in your homes - one of my greatest joys (if you'll pardon the expression) is breaking bread with others.



easy gluten-free breakfast idea

I greet each new day in a zombie stance - each step of my routine is done with little thought - all process. Maximizing hours with my head on the pillow has inspired a diligent routine that begins with hitting the snooze button exactly twice. 

All this said to illustrate that I am not one to create a leisurely breakfast. It's about speed and nutrition. In the cold months I want something hot and comforting. Good local fruit is limited... so it's time to pull out the Bob's Red Mill hot cereal.

At first I balked at the effort required. It's now so simplified and automated that some mornings I do it in my sleep. The trick is having the ingredients and tools at the ready. My breakfast gear is all stored on one shelf in jars.There are microwave instructions on the bag... but I opt for stove top as it takes the same time and "effort".

1/4 cup brown rice or "GF Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal" mix
3/4 cup water

handful walnuts & organic raisins
1/2 tsp brown sugar or maple syrup
cinnamon or ginger or garam masala

cook first two ingredients in a little pot. When thick pour over the other ingredients in a bowl. Stir. Eat while surfing the net or looking for your keys.

This stuff sticks to your ribs and will keep you fueled until lunch. Keep in mind that what makes it stick to your ribs, also makes it stick to the pot - so rinse out right away or pay later! 



happy gluten-free halloween!

I had Hollie Hobby fever in the 70's. This shot was taken on Halloween, but that "costume" got sported pretty much anywhere I could pull it off for the rest of the year. When I outgrew it, I asked my mum to sew me a new one. There are family pictures of me at Christmas wearing that bonnet. Super geek!!

Little House on the Prairie fantasies aside, I was crazy for Halloween (what kid isn't?). Dressing up, clearly being a year round activity for me... October 31 was all about the candy stash. 

I grew up in a home that saw little junk food on the shelves. There was no pop in the fridge. You know, the type of home where the popsicles were homemade (with juice). Today - I am grateful to my mother for her good care. As a 9 year-old I just wanted to eat as much crap as I could get my hands on. Halloween was license to fill. 

It was also a time of extreme gluten alert. My brother Paul learned early that in our house you didn't eat anything until you got home. Upon return the treats got dumped together in a pile, mixed up and sorted by the parents. As most items didn't have info on the individual portions mum had to "know" what was safe (often by reading the bags in the stores well in advance). The split was always even, but he got all of the chocolate bars with gluten, me without. There would be "negotiations".  When we got bigger - we would dump our piles and make parental moderated "trades". I always remember my brother as the candy hoarder. He could keep his box of goodies going for weeks. Me? Gone within a couple of days. Nothing much has changed.

Today when I buy Halloween treats to shell out I try to buy at least some that I can't eat. This is the only way to ensure that there will be something to dole out on the big night. 


gluten free bread - no matter how you slice it

Gluten-free bread has come a long way from its humble (or should I say crumble?) beginnings. Nowadays with the growing market there are numerous varieties to choose from. 

While I have access to at least half a dozen different bread options in my neighbourhood at any given moment, many are still rather disappointing.  

To this day, I won't even entertain the idea of eating most packaged gluten-free bread until it's made a trip to the toaster first. Slipping the bread impersonator into a toaster greatly improves its texture and strength, and gives the anemic little rectangles a healthier glow. With some bread I've learned that open-face sandwiches are the best way to go. Less bread, less money, more flavour from the filling and less agitation for the roof of my mouth!

Gluten-free bread doesn't have a long shelf life. Most of it can only be bought frozen and those that aren't are sold on the shelves often because of the expense for small stores to refrigerate them. Always check those baked goods carefully, as there is nothing more disappointing than bringing home a $7 loaf only to find the underside sprouting green fuzz. Sorry for the unappealing visual. Back to bread...

One last tip: to avoid chiseling away at your frozen bread in the morning.... aaarrrgghh! Be sure to jiggle the slices carefully in the bag to separate them before putting them back into your freezer at home. I've just preserved your dinner knives.  

Kvetching behind me. I'd like to comment on my current three favourite breads on the market. I can't believe how lucky I am to have such a selection!

The only bread I will consider eating without toasting (although much improved with warming). These travel really well too - so the best choice for the road trip. Also a perfect hamburger bun.

Just discovered - enjoyed my first loaf in Nova Scotia last week. Incredible. Good texture and taste. Perfect for making "normal" looking sandwiches for your kids. 

This much lauded bread finally made its way into my home. I'd picked it up in the freezer a few times, and the bag always felt too light for my liking. Silly me. Great texture - and surprising taste... which I'd attribute to the molasses. I prefer to eat this toast dry (yep, that good) with tea. 

Of course, you can always bake your own bread - but for that I'd recommend one of the links to the great baking blogs listed on the right side of this post :)


gluten free workplace heaven

Warning: this post could make you wish that you worked somewhere else.

I'll begin by stating that my job comes complete with all of the ups and downs that any office workplace does - including internal meetings that drag on, umpteen spreadsheets to study, crazy deadlines, and the like.... What makes the difference, is that the people I work with are often exceedingly kind to me. 

This past month in particular, I've had a couple of "gluten free gift" moments. By this I mean situations where someone has been particularly thoughtful and shown me kindness through food. 

First, there was the dreaded fundraiser bake sale at the office. Lori showed up with a batch of gluten free brownies for me and a fellow gluten-intolerant colleague to share. 

She even brought in the bag from the mix she used to calm any anxiety we might have about ingredients. Lori's husband is a 'lifer' celiac like me (diagnosed as a child)... she gets it.

Second, the dreaded lunch n' learn training session... with, you guessed it - take out pizza. 

I couldn't wait! Why? Because Denise had heard that Pizza Nova delivered gluten free and opted to choose this chain for our order so that I could partake. She even sent me a link to the site to validate that I was comfortable with this choice. It brought tears to my eyes. 

You should have seen my face when I lifted the lid of this box... pizza with my peers. A very rare occasion indeed.

Hey, I don't live in a dream world. I have bad days... and sometimes I still sulk a little and feel left out. I'm one of many here, and I certainly can't expect to be considered every time there is food. We're human. We're busy. But man... when someone goes out of their way to consider my gluten free needs... I can hear violins. Thank you to my team mates.

I believe that the onus is on me to return the favour for others. Would be great to hear your "gluten free gift" stories and ideas on how we might "be the change" and spread the reciprocal love. 


gluten free weight loss

Are you kidding me? 

Gluten-free has been touted as a great way to lose weight... but let's be clear, you can't eat gluten-free substitutes of "regular" baked goods and lose weight. 

To make them tasty, gf goods are typically chock full of extra fat and sugar - which also helps to bind them together.

I'm seeing gluten free blogs created by trainers and triathletes. People going gluten-free in preparation for a marathon. Some people, who are only reading the headlines, may believe that a gluten-free diet is the wonder drug for losing pounds. I agree that it is good for you... and that many people likely feel better without gluten. I've been to the celiac conventions. There are some skinny folks there - but most of us? We struggle with our weight just like the rest of society.  

If one more person tells me how "lucky" I am to be celiac because I'm not tempted by the pastries on the kitchen counter at work - I might just scream. I have to curb my enthusiasm for lots of great tasting goodies (and junk food!) just like everyone else.

This recent interest on the part of "regular" people going gluten free, appears to be an offshoot of two other famous diet trends: the Atkins diet (which spiked in popularity and then like most diets.. crashed) & the Paleo (or caveman) diet. In a nutshell: zero carbs. This is not just gluten-free... for the most part, this is carb-free.

While I'm all for cutting back on the carbohydrates and building meals around protein and lots of vegetables, I'm concerned that this is not always an educated niche market. People selling gluten-free goods are NOT always going to regard gluten-free as a zero tolerance situation. 

If the baker at the market thinks - gf products are selling like hot cakes... I'll make a cake with rice flour (but dust my pans with pastry flour)... We are going to have a problem. If the waiter thinks you are watching your waist he may not take your questions about whether the risotto is prepared with pasta water very seriously either. (I don't mean to feed your paranoia. I'll save that topic for a future post.)

The more prevalent the gluten-free market becomes, the more I urge you to ask questions before taking the words gluten-free for granted. If you have celiac disease, I encourage you to let people know that for us, this diet is not a trend, but a prescription of living (ideally you can share this news without coming off as too much of a drama queen!). 

The word "diet" is a bit of a misnomer. If we want to lose weight on the gluten-free diet... we are going to have to cut back on the Pamela's peanut butter cookies, as well as the chocolate bars, ice cream, french fries and wine, too. Bummer.


gluten free market - it's hip to be gluten free!

This morning Bill and I went to the the Brick Works - an amazing place in Toronto that was once the location of the brick making kilns responsible for producing much of our city. Today this historic site is run by Evergreen, an environmental non-profit. Every Saturday they run an organic & local market. It was our first visit to this super lively venue. Among all the gorgeous fresh organic produce, there were five stalls selling baked goods.  The sweetest surprise was that of these five, three offered delicious gluten free goodies.

I am also noting another trend... many bakers are making goods that are both gluten-free AND vegan as a way of expanding their market with one product. Personally, I prefer butter and eggs in my baked goods... but I don't turn my nose up at any gluten free treat. 

I inhaled an enormous chocolate chip cookie from LPK's Culinary Groove... the image above shows the goods I left behind (this time!).  

Tonight I will scarf down a ginger loaf for dessert with friends. Jose from Pimenton gave me a sample... yum!! I asked him why they were offering gf - he replied that the market had driven the new products. I think that he too is curious to see how this "trend" will pan out.... I'm interested in hearing more about other's take on where this is all going. After all of these years going without - I'm still in shock at what is available around me these days.


elevate the everyday with an easy gluten-free staple

Sometimes one ingredient can make a mundane everyday food spectacular. Pesto is like that. Add a drizzle of pesto over a sliced tomato or even a boiled potato and you have something pretty heavenly. It's getting to the time of year where it will soon be hard to find big bunches of fresh basil. Get your hands on some while the going is good!

uber easy pesto 
  • lots of basil (a big sprig - see photo!) 
  • 3/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic 
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano (parmesan)
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)
I prefer recipes that start with 5 ingredients or less that are flexible with ratio/quantities. Make it your own. Toss all in the food processor and whirl it around until you have a lovely green puree.

We just made extra and froze it in ice cube trays. Once solid, the lovely little green squares are tossed into a freezer bag. Thaw out a couple as you need them. If you've got some thoughts on using pesto - would love to hear them....Buon appetito!


best gluten free baking blogs - the top 5

don't worry - this cake is not gluten free!
I've said it before - this is not a blog for people who want to bake gluten-free sticky buns. There are a few reasons that I am not focusing on baking on this blog. 

1) I can bake, but I'm no pastry chef 

2) I try not to bake often, because a lack of willpower has me eating entire cakes in one sitting.

3) There are AMAZING blogs that can deliver really great baking tips and recipes.

I'd like to introduce you to the gluten free gift top 5 blogs for baking & inspiration in the kitchen. They are not in a particular order - I've chosen them to share with you as each delivers something unique in way of recipes, voice and aesthetic. 

Karina at glutenfreegoddess is a writer, poet and artist. An awesome read, visual feast and great looking recipes.

Shauna (and Danny, her husband the chef) at glutenfreegirl
will take you on an uplifting culinary voyage... every day at their house is a celebration. 

Jeanine of thebakingbeauties has an extensive list of recipes that include ambitious goodies like scones and cinnamon buns.

Elana at elanaspantry uses unique ingredients.. and thanks to the efforts of my friend Angela, I've tested the outcome of her recipes first hand.

Meg... ooh la la... glutenfreeboulangerie is a seriously gorgeous blog.

I like to drool over these blogs... and on occasion I'll pull out the mixer and give a recipe a whirl... but more often than not, I'll run out and buy a good bar of chocolate and use the time saved to play in my art studio. 

For those who like to bake (or want to send a link to a friend who might bake something for them!) I'd bookmark these great blogs. If I've missed another winner - please feel free to share it here!


brunch - gluten free style

gluten-free bread served with eggs, bacon and home fries at little fish
The gluten-free stars really have aligned for me - a year ago a bakery called littlefish opened in my neighborhood directly across the street from my home on Dundas Street West. This is essentially an all day brunch establishment - that is NOT gluten free. However, when you order your gluten-free toast they actually offer you a selection of white or brown. My typical classic breakfast is pictured above. Delish.

Last December, a totally gluten-free (and vegan) bakery opened up less than a block from my home. Bunners makes a cupcake so rich that it should only be eaten in two sittings - and the red velvet birthday cake? Divine. 

The Beet (a mere 3 blocks away) has a number of healthy, tasty, local, organic & gluten-free entres clearly marked on the menu. I particularly like the bbq chicken rice wraps.

My neighborhood in Toronto is known as the Junction. Ten years ago there was literally nothing to draw people here - today, it has certainly made me feel very much at home. 

Finally on the topic of local baked goods... a shout out to my dear friend Angela, who showed up at my door with a gift of homemade gluten free carrot muffins last weekend. The universe is keeping the baked goods coming!


blogging gluten-free

Saying I'm low tech is an understatement. I'm a troglodyte. Until yesterday I'd avoided facebook like the plague. It's a miracle that you've found me.

As of today, I have a gfg facebook page and a flickr page. Last night I figured out how to add code so that I could have a facebook "like" button on my posts.

Current research estimates that 1 in 133 North Americans have celiac disease and even more people are gluten intolerant. I know that my people are out there!

There are a already a number of really fantastic gluten-free bakers blogging. I've created this blog as I'm convinced that less than half of us want to spend our days learning how to make bread with tapioca flour. If you are reading this and know someone who is gluten intolerant and wanting to explore options that don't involve a mix master please share this blog!



rice cake

When I was growing up in the 70's, rice cakes were the terrain of leftover hippies. I was the only kid who brought them to class as others snacked on Wagon Wheels and Twinkies. Today the rice cake has finally achieved status as food for the masses. You may have grown to resent them. I did for many years, but I suggest you take a second look at these Styrofoam discs, as they're a lot more than just emergency rations. 

First, let's take a look at the positive personality traits of our friend the rice cake:
  • they're their own plate
  • they're cheap
  • they keep well, providing you seal the bag tight
  • they don't require refrigeration
  • they don't grow mold
  • they have no flavour to compete with their toppings
  • they're lightweight
  • they protect your breakables when used for packing
  • Always where you left them (no one steals rice cakes)

The first consideration when working with what are essentially edible plates is to consider whether or not you want to assemble them well in advance, or put them together just before eating them. If, for example, you were carrying them in your bag to take with you on a day of errands, I'd avoid anything wet, as they go mushy within an hour of topping. With this in mind, I've split up some topping options based on convenience:

Rice cake toppings to enjoy right away:
  • tomato & pesto (you'll see a lot of that around here)
  • avocado with salt & pepper
  • baba ghannouj
  • hummus
  • sliced or mashed banana
  • melted cheese (nuked or broiled carefully!)
Rice cake toppings to enjoy within a couple of hours:
  • cream cheese (add herbs or spices for variety)
  • jams, jellies, marmalade (great with the cream cheese)
  • chocolate hazelnut spread (yes, this is junk;)
  • peanut butter and bananas
The go all day rice cake:
  • peanut butter
  • nut butters - cashew, sunflower, almond....
I stack the ones in the last two lists. The stickiness holds them together and up to four will fit into one sandwich bag. Voila - you have lightweight snack to throw in your bag that weighs nothing (and is more durable than a banana).


gluten-free gratitude

some shameless self promotion... cards are from claudine's calling -click on the link in the sidebar to see more!
An attitude of gratitude...

The waiter comes back with more questions from the kitchen? 

You get invited to dinner and the host takes good care of you?

A friend sends you a link to an article about a new gluten-free bakery in your city?

Your office mate brings an intentionally gluten-free item to the potluck? 

  • A verbal thank you with a great big smile.
  • A great tip.
  • A hug. 
  • A thank you note in the mail.
  • A reciprocal gesture.


gluten-free grocery shopping

At the risk of stereotyping... I think it's fair to say that most women like to shop. I'm one of them. Unlike most women, however, I don't like to shop for shoes...but I LOVE the grocery store.

Aisles and aisles of things to choose from, lots of interesting packaging to explore, lots of inspiration for new meal ideas. You probably think I'm full of it. Shopping for most things makes me feel guilty. Not food. Need it to survive.... can't be avoided.

Most of us have a favorite grocery store... it has the best butcher, the freshest vegetables, the easiest parking.... 

What if you could ensure that the same supermarket is also carrying the best line of gluten-free bread? Best assortment of crackers? Gluten-free sausages in the meat department?

It can be done. 

Start by connecting with the store manager. Ask at the customer service desk on your next visit. If they aren't in, leave a note or get their email address.

If they are already carrying a couple of items - THANK them for carrying these products and let them know that this is WHY you are shopping in their particular store. If you have to drive to two other places to get your gluten-free needs met... share this too. Let them know you'd prefer to give them all of your business.

In a highly competitive market, stores need to differentiate, and typically store managers of large chains have an option of what to stock so as to meet the tastes of the neighborhood where they operate. If they know that this is a draw, they will be open to giving more real estate on the shelves to gluten-free products.

I spoke to a store manager about two years ago who told me he had tried carrying gluten-free bread, but it didn't sell. I suggested that perhaps no one knew he had it after he admitted that they had been stocking it next to the frozen vegetables.This same store now has bread AND pretty much all of the other GF staples. This is not a big store... but they need to compete with some swankier ones in the neighborhood.

If you want gluten-free selection close to home - I suggest you get in touch with the people who can help make that happen. Never hurts to shoot an email to customer service at head office too.

The image above is for the tiny co-op near our place in rural Nova Scotia... admittedly, I haven't tried this tactic there...much of the current stock is pretty dusty. I recognize that not everyone lives in a metropolis - but if you live in a town large enough to have a couple of competing places to shop - that should provide enough incentive for shop owners and managers to please you (and the rest of the people like us that live in your town). 

Another gift - you probably never would have pulled a stunt like this before the diet eh? Add the word "advocate" to your resume.