gluten free portion control

this photo almost never happened: note the self control!
My experience with celiac disease has gone through a number of phases. One that I can't seem to shake is a complete lack of control where gluten-free baked goods are concerned. If there is something I CAN eat... I EAT it. Be it an entire box of cookies in less than 24 hours, or an entire cake. I don't exaggerate. I'm confessing. This likely stems from having grown up in a world where I rarely saw a box of cookies that I could eat. Perhaps I'm just making up for lost time :).

Admitting the problem is step one. One of my more recent management techniques, is to get out of the grocery store without buying VOLUME. I'm very frugal by nature, but sometimes, paying more for an individual serving means not feeling lousy about having overindulged. 

One of my latest finds has been this single serving chocolate walnut brownie by Sweets of the Earth. It is so sweeeeeet - that I can actually walk away (for at least half an hour) after eating only a few bites. 

For those of you who have more discipline, I would highly recommend the flourless cashew cookies - I've linked to their website HERE. I had to stop purchasing them as I can't find the strength to put them away before I've finished the box. I've also tried their vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake. I wouldn't dream of bringing home a cake just for me, but I'm very happy to see it turn up again and again at events so that I can enjoy a piece. These treats also work well for those who are unable to eat dairy or eggs.This is not a paid endorsement - I critique gf foods based on what I find, purchase and want to tell you about.

Next I need to locate where I can purchase their new gluten-free frozen cookie dough... that way I can make only as many cookies as I should eat in one sitting.


gluten-free at the Christmas party

The Party. If we are lucky, we have reasons to celebrate all year. What differentiates holiday parties is often the number we attend and the size of the affairs. I find the bigger the event the more gluten-ous the challenges. I thought I'd address a few of the specifics around large scale events on this post.

For starters, anything being walked around on a tray by a server is likely to include pastry, or something sitting on bread, or a meatball full of crumbs. At the risk of offending, I'll tell you not to ask the server if you're itching to know whether you can eat something he's offering. If possible, go to where the caterers are working and ask if there are any goodies in circulation that are gluten free. I've been a server at many catering affairs in days of yore. We just picked up the trays and moved the goods. We had nothing to do with the food prep and often little knowledge of the ingredients we were presenting. Also note - those trays that now carry something you can eat, were carrying the puffed pastry 5 minutes ago. We all have our own comfort level with contamination risks.
Food is also sitting unattended on tables. Lovely platters heaped with delicious looking goodies. Often no one around who knows what's on the plate either. If it's catered - follow earlier instructions. If this is a pot luck affair... you could get lucky and have someone tell you who brought what - and ask.

Typically - I use my good sense. I eat things that obviously safe (sadly, this is rarely the fresh veggies - I often resent this option, even though it's a smart and virtuous one). I'm not proud to admit, I'm the person who wipes out the cheese platter. I also eat the nuts, potato or corn chips (watching that corn chips are not multigrain, and potato chips are plain to be safe). They make decent substitutes for the crackers. I eat the olives.

Two other very important tips: one, when appropriate, bring something for the potluck that you enjoy eating and that will satisfy your hunger. Tip number two: never show up at a party hungry, even if it means eating trail mix in the parking lot before you arrive. 

I find I'm happier if I don't attend large gatherings with a focus on the food. I go for the conversation. I'm there to catch up and celebrate with friends, and meet some interesting new people. That said, if there is a cheese platter - I meet most of them in its vicinity.

I'll add that these parties are often less about the food and more about the beverages. Those are easier to manage, and I've gone into some detail on the safety of alcohol in a post HERE.

Happy Holidays!!


gluten-free spiced carrot cake

One of my favourite finds on our trip to Copenhagen was the little bakery across the street from our apartment. They made a carrot cake with a distinct cardamon flavour that knocked my socks off and inspired me to try my hand at some renegade baking when I got home. I say renegade, because I'm not a very scientific baker (read more on my technique HERE). I like to play - and assuming the textures feel right as I'm going, I feel pretty sure that the final outcome will be edible. 

I recognize that this is not the comfort zone of most people - so this time, I wrote down what went into the food processor (you could use a mix master - I'm too lazy to pull ours out). The outcome was a springy and delicious cake that we shared with Bennett and Angela. Last weekend I followed my notes and made the cake again in honour of my Mum's birthday. A hit on both occasions. It's a big and hearty cake - best shared.

My flour of choice is chick pea. I mix it with a little brown rice. If you have a favourite flour concoction - feel free to use it. Also, alter the spice quantities to suit your taste. Adding veggies and fruit makes most cake recipes more forgiving - eggs are important too. I don't use xanthan gum any more and don't miss it in cakes, muffins or cookies. I use organic ingredients when I can find them.

Spiced Carrot Cake

1/2 cup oil (safflower, canola, anything of quality with little flavour) you could also use softened butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 cup chick pea flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamon
pinch salt
2 large carrots - grated
1/2 cup pitted dates chopped fine
1/4 cup crystalized ginger chopped fine 
1/4 cup walnuts chopped

Add ingredients in order shown into the food processor. Whirl them around on low with the paddle attachment between additions. Before you get to the carrots your mixture should be fairly stiff. Add carrots and turn up the speed so that they integrate well. At the end throw in the last bits and stir enough to blend them into the batter. 

Pour batter into a non-stick pan. Mine is 10" diameter and has a hole in the middle. This type of pan means that the batter never needs to rise across a wide distance. I credit the pan to the success of this. I'm sure you could also make two small non-stick loaf pans or a 10" diameter round pan work, but I cannot commit to the outcome :)
angel food cake pan or a bundt cake pan both seem to help with gluten-free cake success

The oven. I put the rack in the middle and crank it hot (ours is gas). When at least 400F I pop the cake in and turn the temperature down to 350F. Here it will sit permeating your home with a lovely spicy smell for the next hour. 

If you are not sharing - you can carve it up into about 16 healthy sized pieces. Wrap individually and freeze. They make an excellent emergency breakfast - and are handy for a last minute treat with tea at any time of the day!


gluten-free Copenhagen!

Copenhagen was our last stop on the month-long journey. This city had been on my personal wish list for almost 2 decades. In a past life I worked in the contract furniture industry and gained serious respect for Danish design, long before the mid-century modern furniture craze hit the masses. 

So - day one, we needed a bank machine. I don't think I ever fully got the hang of the Kroner...it was hard to wrap your mind around such large numbers and I was doing a lot of bad math in my head for a week. 

designer coffee at Bang & Jensen
 I digress. The point of the bank machine was that this was the impetus for stumbling upon Bang & Jensen - which became our "go to" place for the week. Their (badly translated) site can be found HERE.
I note the translation - because I could not believe how well everyone in this city speaks English. Not second language English either. The owner of this cafe spoke so eloquently, that Bill and I were stunned. We suddenly realized that we'd spent weeks speaking such simplified English in an attempt to be understood.

The other reason I bring up English, is that suddenly, I was not anxious about eating out anymore. I could simply have the conversation I would have in Toronto, asking questions like "is it breaded, dredged or coated in anything?" and know that I my questions were clearly comprehended.
waiting for the bus to ferry us across the river
I must apologize that there are no food photos to share here. Despite the loveliness surrounding me, I didn't take my camera out very much. Instead, I found myself soaking up the sights and just "being" in the moment (vs capturing it all for later). 

While I did not partake in any Danish sandwiches, they are worth noting. Danes eat "open" sandwiches - meaning one slice of bread on the bottom. Many could feasibly be ordered without the bread. Bill ordered a "potato" sandwich which was essentially a substantial potato salad with a thin slice of bread at the bottom of the bowl. Think smoked salmon, for example (hold the bread - and if you're inclined, cart your gf Wasa crackers :). 

One night at Bang & Jensen I asked the staff about the (not so healthy) natchos on the menu. When I showed concern about the chip ingredients - she brought me the bag. Ingredients were listed in more than a dozen languages, which was very reassuring. They were ordered again a few days later :).

Our most memorable meal in Copenhagen was a simple one. It's hard to mess up on a simple steak. We ordered steak frites and a salad at Cafe Oscar. A delightful little restaurant just down the street from the Danish Design Museum. If you are lucky enough to travel here, don't miss either spot. 

Finally - the gluten-free highlight of Copenhagen was directly across from our little apartment. Naturbageriet had fresh gluten-free goodies waiting for me in the window every morning. I apologize profusely for not photographing the rumballs, cardamon carrot cake, the date loaf or the banana muffins. They had "regular" baked goods there too (they write about this on their site - see link) but go to every effort to keep the two worlds from colliding. The people who run the place are very knowledgeable about the ingredients and were most reassuring. I ate their goodies every day, and felt healthy - and VERY happy!!

Copenhagen was everything I hoped it would be. Inspirational eye candy everywhere. Extremely walkable. Areas reminiscent of a modern-day Venice. Style, often understated, but certainly painstakingly considered. Gorgeous, present and welcoming. 

We were extremely enamored with this part of the world and will certainly be making another Scandinavian excursion. Like anything in life, the first time is learning the ropes. Our next trip I'm sure that we'll have more exciting culinary adventures. For now I'm happy to report that we ate well - and I came home feeling good and inspired to transform the experience into new creative endeavours.


gluten-free Berlin

 Berlin....was stop number three, and we fell in love instantly. We were lucky enough to have an apartment in Kreuzberg - a fantastic neighborhood that was vibrant, and full of youthful, creative energy. Our block in particular was loaded with young people and hipster families - the kinder were everywhere!! The shops were delightful - plenty of tiny boutiques with unique finds beautifully displayed, including a charming licorice specialty store (yes, there were gluten-free goodies!). We were in Berlin for Halloween - and it was adorable to see how the little ones dress up here, and rather than going from door to door in the residential apartments, they hit the cafes and shops for their treats. 

We did art galleries (artists Kathe Kollwitz and Emil Nolde each have their own, and are to be seen!) museums, markets, checkpoint charlie, the wall... and we explored some off the beaten track neighborhoods as well. As the wall has only been down for 20 years - things are really moving here. Gorgeous urban parks are being constructed. Modern architectural wonders are tucked between lovely older buildings. You really get the sense that the place is reinventing itself and the energy is quite intoxicating.

We incorporated a long daily walk along the tree lined canal that runs through the area. Late night walks were a favourite activity - looking inside at the stylish apartments through lit windows... the high ceilings... the light fixtures! This was typically followed by a stop in a cozy local candlelit bar for a glass of wine.

I know I'm repeating myself, but it has to be said. We did not travel to northern Europe for the cuisine. Also: Berlin is not optimal for gluten-free grub. This was our third week on the road, and I was tiring of my daily fix of trail mix and gf Wasa crackers. I found myself up at night scouring the web for some advice. What I found was this fantastic blog: Glutenfrei Berlin and here, my suspicions were confirmed. There are a number of gluten free options - but they are spread far and wide in a pretty big city. None of them offered anything extensive or appeared worth a significant trek. If you are staying for one week, you don't want to spend it tracking down sustenance.

I was in luck, however, with two spots she'd reviewed within the very block where we were living: Popsy's Hamburger Heaven (the cooks working the night we went were a couple of charming young fellas, a Canadian and an American). Here I could have a frank conversation about food & gluten contamination. They got it. They made the food to order. I had a gf bun-less burger and AWESOME hand cut fries the first visit. On the second visit two days later, I had a grilled steak and repeat on the fries (I'm on vacation after all!). 

tiny Berlin kitchen produced some yummy dinners!

The rest of the week we had dinner at home. Our little rental was lovely and bright and came with a tiny, but well equipped kitchen. We wanted for nothing!

The second lead was a very well stocked little shop called Anderskorn. Here the owner had pulled together an impressive offering of gluten free goods that ran beyond the standard Schar I'd been finding to date. I had been carrying my little restaurant card around with me which had all of the German words for gluten. It sure was nice to be able to pick up foods that weren't necessarily "marked" gluten-free and have the shop keeper validate that they stocked said item because it was safe. I picked up some thin gf pumpernickel style bread that came in a little box, cookies, crackers, cubes for stock, pasta sauce and a bag of pasta. The rest of our goods came from the local grocer. One night we made a pasta dish. Another night we made lentil soup and gf grilled cheese sandwiches. Perfect dinners after long days of seriously trekking. Breakfast typically consisted of fruit with yogurt and gf toast so I'd be well fueled for all day outings where the trail mix and cheese and crackers in my purse might hold me until dinner. 

I know I haven't painted the best gluten-free picture here, but that was how I saw it. I'd also say that I'd go back in a heartbeat, and would love to rent an apartment for a month next time. Consider that an endorsement for Berlin! If you plan to go... check out the Glutenfrei Berlin site. She has done an incredible job of rounding up the best options and can give you way more useful advice than I can in one blog post.

Next stop - my favourite of the adventure... Copenhagen!



gluten-free Prague

Prague was our next stop on the northern European adventure. Gorgeous. So many people I'd spoken to when we were planning our trip gushed about this place, or shared a desire to get there. It has to be said, that while enchanting in many ways, its popularity has also made it the most touristic of the four cities we visited. Our best days were spent way off of the beaten track. We did do all of the major sites (in one day) and then Bill had us searching off the grid for some rare cubist-style architecture.  

As for the food... this was our first stop with our own apartment. It was wonderful to walk down the street, get our groceries and make a safe meal at home with a nice glass of wine after a day of walking the cobblestone streets. 

our kitchen at Residence Elema
gluten-free savoury Czech pancakes!

Schar products could be found in the grocery stores, along with a couple of other products that were clearly defined as gluten free. One of our finds were these amazing pancakes which we served with a hearty salad for dinner one night. One egg, some milk and this mix which was largely based of chickpea and corn flour and a unique blend of herbs made a very delicious and satisfying meal... but I'm taking too long to tell you about the BEST find in Prague.... 

Restaurace Na Zlaté křižovatce which translates to "At Golden Crossing". A completely gluten-free restaurant. Not kidding. It was unbelievable (and the celiacs were pouring in from everywhere!). 

front page of menu put you at ease!
Bill said that he had never seen me so relaxed in a restaurant. My biggest challenge was deciding what to have when you can have everything... (is this what "normal" people feel when they go out to dinner?!). I opted for the chicken breast stuffed with pancetta, spinach and some kind of cheese served with rapini (my favourite veggie!) and polenta. Bill had the wild boar stew with gf dumplings. Both were fantastic. 

And then... I had the first apple strudel of my life. 
gluten free apple strudel - I hated having to choose only ONE dessert from the extensive menu!
We got our Visa bill today. This meal for two complete with drinks, dessert and a tip came to $60 Canadian. If you go to Prague - go here. Go every night. Oh, and you must make a reservation. Many disappointed people were turned away. You'll find a link to gluten-free heaven right HERE where you can reserve via email :). I have to thank Erin at Gluten-free Globetrotter for posting about this place...check out her site to see more about all of the other places she's visited!


gluten-free Vienna

We have just returned from an incredible month of travel. Vienna, Prague, Berlin & Copenhagen in that order. I'm now going to give you the good, the bad and the ugly on each of these cities from the celiac perspective over the next couple of weeks. I'll start where we started... in Vienna. 

Unlike the other cities, here we were staying with our friends Andrew and Renu. This meant we had hosts who cooked, and knew the best places to shop, and dine when we ventured out for grub.

Viennese cafe food offers little for the gluten intolerant. Good coffee and wine though!
I hope you like eggs. Sometimes that was the best option on the menu as so many Viennese items are breaded (read: schnitzel)... that contamination (and disinterested wait staff) made me a bit skittish. 

I didn't suffer... we ate out at an international grocery store with an Indian meal counter called Prosi . If you haven't eaten a masala dosa - you are missing out hugely. Essentially a Dosa is an over-sized super thin crepe made of lentil and rice flour and stuffed with curried potatoes. I'll write more about these one day when I'm not talking about Vienna :).... the Viennese diet is not made for the likes of us. In this part of the world the diet revolves around breaded things and processed meat products.

We did have a terrific dinner out at a restaurant in the heart of Vienna. It was a beautiful venue, essentially an enormous greenhouse overlooking gorgeous gardens and historical buildings. I would certainly recommend Palmenhaus. Check out the link to see what I mean. I had a lovely salmon dinner with roasted potatoes and vegetables. Renu had a mixed grill seafood platter that was equally delicious and safe as our food was either grilled or roasted and very simply seasoned with oil and herbs.  Our server was gracious, patient and validated that my choice was a safe one.

what's with the wheat sheaf pattern on the box??!
You may be surprised to learn that my favourite find was the humble Wasa cracker. I did find it a little ironic that the graphic on the box is that of WHEAT FIELDS. However, they were a much enjoyed staple. I carted them in a sandwich bag (I packed these - very handy!) to eat on the road. These crackers are light and hardy. They went well with the omlettes :). I also never left the house without my sandwich bag full of trail mix and a couple of little wrapped cheeses that kept well in my bag.

no shortage of carbs to be found in the grocery store
Finally, fear not. Schar products are available in a number of the major super market chains (we were mainly in the chain called  BILLA). Somehow I found my self restraint and didn't go overboard on this stuff. I knew that I had a long trip ahead of me that would be full of temptation and I was determined not to overindulge in products that I can find on my home turf in Toronto. The Naschmarkt is a great outdoor market where you can to shop for fresh produce, fish, cheese olives and the like.  

In summary, you can most certainly eat safely and well here - with a little patience, preparation and some realistically set expectations. Go for the art, the architecture, the history and the cafes (which are gorgeous - and don't seem to mind if you lounge with your book all day!). We saw so many inspirational works. We walked more than 10km every day and made up for passing the gorgeous bakeries by celebrating the end of each day with a good (and cheap!) bottle of vino. Don't go to Vienna for the gluten-free grub... but certainly do go. Next stop Prague... where I'll tell you all about an amazing gluten-free restaurant :)



gluten-free guest... staying with others

planning to stay with someone else... means some additional planning.

I recently posted about my weekend at Bennett & Angela's cottage... and it got more attention then I was expecting. The post was really a thank you to amazing friends who take really good care of my gluten-free needs (found HERE). 

I realized that this did not provide much valuable information to those looking for advice on how to keep gluten off of their plate when they arrive at the home of another. 

As such, I thought it might be more helpful to provide some thoughts on how to best prepare:

Let the host know about your concerns (not wanting to be difficult or cause too much work, and not wanting to go hungry or get sick). Anxiety is the hardest part to get over.

Give the host plenty of time to prepare and ask questions. Remember that they may be as anxious as you are. 

Offer to bring some of the food, play a role in the planning and in the making of meals. I don't put it all on the host. I typically bring a few things with us that I know everyone can eat, and anything that I know will fill a gap should I need it.

I try not to make it all about me. Being a considerate guest is a big part of making this work.
Time together with friends is precious. I love food, and despite what I've shared about some of my friends on this blog, I typically lower my expectations when visiting others as I'm one of many to be considered.

I've been doing this a very long time, which means that most of my friends are well versed in what it means to have me over.  As you can see from posts on this blog, I am still constantly moved by the effort made, and wonderful gestures of others. These are gluten-free gifts.


Gluten-Free Adventure in Northern Europe!!

prague... sigh. photo credit: national geographic
Vienna, Prague, Berlin & Copenhagen. We have booked an incredible adventure - and I'm really looking forward to reporting on the gluten-free finds and overall experience in this part of the world. As a starting point, I thought I'd share what the planning stage has involved. 

where to stay: we are staying with friends in Vienna - but for the other three cities we have rented apartments (see airbnb.com if you dare - you will certainly feel like traveling!). The apartments we chose are private (vs rooms in a house) that come with fully equipped kitchens. 

what to eat: Now many people wouldn't like the idea of cooking on vacation - but I am thrilled to know that we will have access to simply made meals from fresh local ingredients. This will mean safe food that's easier on the wallet. I'm not sure how much schnitzel I could tolerate anyway!

where to eat out: I've visited the celiac association websites for each of the countries. Austria's emailed me a current list of restaurants in Vienna, others have shopping recommendations on their sites. Naturally BLOGS have also been a great online resource. I will be printing out restaurant & ingredient cards found at celiactravel.com (a very handy site!).

sarah dining al fresco in our tiny Parisian apartment
When my friend Sarah and I stayed in Paris a few years ago we rented an apartment. Our regime was breakfast at home, then  sightseeing all morning. Back for a late lunch, reading or a nap, evening sightseeing and a fancy dinner out. You can really wear yourself out on this type of vacation, but we found this little rhythm of ours was just perfect. Now I just have to figure out a few basics in the Germanic languages... and find some decent walking shoes!


coleslaw - a mandolin makes fast work of fine chopping

Simple Red Cabbage Slaw
1/2 red cabbage
2 large carrots
1/4 medium red onion
1/2 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1tbsp celery seed

Once we get into winter, the local veggies are going to start getting more limited. I've decided that this year I'm going to try my hand and making what's available a little more exciting. I'm pretty chuffed about having another purpose for my new mandolin - which to date has only been used to cut fennel very finely to add to salads. This dish is super easy and was a well received hit of colour at the pot-luck.

Cut the cabbage head into quarters and remove the white core. Use the mandolin to shred the red cabbage. Watch your fingers! Next I cut the carrots using a special blade that makes mini sticks. If you don't have that attachment, simply grate it, and obviously, the cabbage could also be sliced thinly with a knife. I shopped the onion very fine as I don't like chunks of onion.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and vinegar stirring until dissolved. Add all other ingredients and toss. Let sit for 1 hour in the fridge and serve. Lasts about 3 days, makes an excellent side - and packs well for lunches too!


gluten-free gifts... to my heart through my stomach

who could eat so much at one pot-luck?!
We recently had a team meeting at my manager's house. The idea is to get away from the office for a day of creative thinking. For such events, our team pulls together serious pot-luck lunches. 

Last year I was blown away by everyone's consideration of my needs, and this year did not disappoint. When I showed up in Adrian's kitchen - this basket was waiting on the counter. It put one heck of a gluten-free grin on my face.

I shared the gf love... even if I wanted to eat them all!
A couple of months ago I posted a review of Queen B Pastry's CROWNIE. Any product I review unsolicited and based on my desire to share (vs paid promotion). 

A week after posting on the CROWNIE, owner David had a box of the delicious treats delivered to my home in thanks. Queen B now sells these and a number of other divine treats down the street from us at Crema Coffee (you must try the Olive Oil Orange Cakelettes!). 

This blog is called gluten free gift because I am constantly reminded of the kindness of others. My life is full of such gifts, for which I'm overwhelmed with gratitude.


fresh homemade salsa - no fat & loads of flavour!

salsa ingredients just before we mixed it up - bursting with flavour!
8-10 small fresh firm plum tomatoes diced small
1 small red onion diced small
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed & finely chopped
fresh lime juice squeezed from 2 limes
(optional: roast peppers over flame and remove skins)

As summer begins to wind down, I've been maxing out my in-take of tomatoes. Bill just whipped up this very simple fresh salsa (which lasts in the fridge for about 3 days)... and we've been eating it with corn chips. It would also make a fantastic topping on gf toast (not unlike bruschetta). This is a great way to get lots of good veggies into your diet. Adding two cans of rinsed beans (black beans or white kidney/cannellini) and 1/4 cup olive oil to this would turn this into an awesome bean salad. Consider this two recipes in one!! 


Brown Rice Wraps - Food for Life

gluten-free brown rice wrap served at The Beet
Brown rice wraps were a discovery that blew my mind. The only gluten-free option for a wrap that I had used to date were soft corn tortillas. I like those, but the flavour could be overpowering, and they didn't make a great "sandwich".

The brown rice wrap pictured here was served to me at one of my favourite local restaurants called The Beet. They grill the wrap first and then fill it with avocado, black beans and quinoa. They also serve it with barbeque chicken. Seriously good!!

These wraps, which are made by Food for Life are sold flat packed and frozen in a bag as tortillas. I had been nuking them, but since trying them grilled I've been warming them in a non-stick pan on the stove before stuffing. Both work, but the texture of the latter method is much better. 

Unlike so many rice based gluten-free baked goods, these hold together amazingly well - and have a quality we rarely get to enjoy: a little bit of chew!

One of my go-to meals when dining alone is to fill one of these with fresh arugula, spinach or chicory along with tuna, leftover grilled chicken or cheese. When you wrap them tight, you can cram a lot of greens into one of these wraps - so you get a complete meal without much prep or clean up.Click on the links to find out more about this amazing product and where you can find it near you!


ricotta in gluten free muffins

I don't see this site as a baking resource, and as noted in a previous post (found HERE)... I like to bake a little ad hoc. This was my first time replacing fruit or veg in my muffins - with ricotta. Divine. This light and airy cheese creates a wonderful flavour and texture. These are also packed with protein. I kind went with an Indian flavoured theme here...

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola (or light) oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup chick pea flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp each of cardamom and garam masala

In a food processor fitted with a paddle - add ingredients in order of appearance. These were sweet - you could cut back sugar to 1/2 cup if you prefer. Spices are important when using chick pea flour, because while very good for you - it has a distinct flavour that I like to mask in non-savoury baked goods. I'd like to try this next time with lots of lemon zest and a tsp of ground ginger in place of the raisins and spices listed here. I find it pretty hard to mess up  muffins. Be brave! Line muffin tray with paper cups and fill with the mixture which should be the consistency of cake batter, 30 mins at 350 degrees. Makes 12 muffins that freeze well. We typically buy ricotta to use in our baked ziti dish - and this is an excellent use for the leftovers. Check out another simple gf recipe inspired by the Sopranos right HERE!



farmers market - local, fresh & organic

Many of us can now easily  buy food directly from our local farmers even when we live in the heart of a big city. For awhile now, Bill and I have frequented a large outdoor farmer's market that we need the car to get to. This spring a tiny little organic market sprung up just 3 blocks from our home. As the summer roles in, the size of the market grows along with the offering of gorgeous produce.

It's a shame that our season is so short here in Canada... this may just be the year I look into canning and preserves. I've spent my whole life reading labels to know what's in my food. I'm coming to believe that knowing WHERE it's coming from and how it's grown is just as important.


visiting friends; the gluten-free guest

"brown paper packages tied up with string... these are a few of my favourite things!"

Gluten-free gifts are not typically wrapped in butcher paper - I thought that this one deserved special mention. 

Angela, who is a gluten-free gal 99% of the time, will occasionally partake in a stuffed chicken breast containing bread crumbs. She knew, however, that I did not have the same flexibility. So this weekend, when hitting the butcher in prep for my visit to their cottage, Angela picked up a couple of chicken skewers that the butcher could assure were safe. Don't you just love that they were waiting in the fridge when I arrived with my name on them? 

Never mind that there were also homemade gf breakfast bars presented with my tea upon arrival on Saturday morning and that lunch included mini pizza's served on rice paper wraps. I've said it many times here... friends show me the greatest affection through these gluten-free gifts. Thank you Angela!!

Check out this later post for more practical information on this topic HERE.  

Check out a post on an invitation to dinner at the home of someone you've only just met HERE



gluten-free barbeque: fresh seasonal corn!

corn season is coming!
Corn is an omnipresent ingredient in much processed food - from starch to syrup. It even makes up part of the packaging in which you buy your corn flakes... and it's used to manufacture various types of plastic. Doesn't sound too appetizing, I know.

In addition to the food processing world, Monsanto has altered farming practices and grains at a cellular level to the point that I can't help but wonder whether this is one of the reasons we are seeing such a spike in food intolerance. At the risk of never wanting to eat anything for the rest of your life, google Monsanto if you want to know more.

For SO MANY  reasons, I believe it is important to support local farmers who are using sustainable practices wherever possible. This means eating fresh food when it is in season.

Alessandra and I on her last visit from Rome
Corn season is short in Canada, but when it comes, it is sheer heaven. Crunchy and sweet - best cooked on the grill. Cut off the kernels from leftover grilled corn on the cob and add it to salads. We like to add it to black beans with chilies and coriander. Another favorite is Bill's baby potato,  corn and pesto salad. Simply mix said ingredients to make up a hearty seasonal summer dish!


gluten-free loving kindness

lee's rendition of william & claudine
This weekend my dear friend Lee married a lovely fella named Dave. Their ceremony was moving, and their reception was stylish, fresh and and full of love. The radiant bride had considered every detail, delighting all of their guests. 

About a month earlier, Lee had made a gorgeous wedding cake for Bill and I. This was a delivery on a promise that she had made to me many, many years ago. When she announced that she'd make me a gluten-free wedding cake. I'd had to remind her that I didn't even have a boyfriend at the time. 

The cake was presented at a house party we had weeks after we were wed. It was spectacular - and delicious, seriously impressing all of our guests. Lee had made the cake pictured on the right panel of this blog for my 40th. Our friends still talk about that cake. The girl knows how to bake. I was so moved by the love that Lee had put into this gift for us. 

Back to Lee & Dave's wedding. The dinner plates are being cleared,  when a young man places a chocolate cupcake in front of me. I looked up at him and say "Oh, thank you but I can't have that" - practically waving it away. He asked if I was the lady who ate gluten free. I said I was, and remembering Lee's attention to detail, I thought that perhaps there was some fruit put aside for me. Nope.

gf cupcake photo courtesy of Sharon :)
Not only was this cupcake for me, it turns out that the bride had baked it herself. It was made from the gluten-free batter from the wedding cake that she had made for us just weeks before and frozen in anticipation of this evening. I could have wept. 

"gluten free gift" was given it's name because I often think that the most profound acts of kindness I have experienced have been related to people taking care of me with food. This was a gift, and a memory that I will always cherish as part of Lee & Dave's beautiful wedding. Grazie mille Lee!


gluten in alcohol

detail from print by claudine crangle
The misinformation out there on alcohol can make you dizzier than downing a mickey of rum. To start, I'll share that that said rum would be gluten free. Actually, anything purely "distilled" is a safe bet. Yep - even if that vodka was made from wheat. Distilled alcohol does not contain particles large enough to carry the gluten protein. Drink up Johnny. 

There are two different processes for making alcohol: fermentation and distillation. very simply put, fermentation is the addition of yeast to sugar (like grapes). Yeast acts on sugar, creating carbon dioxide and alcohol. Beer and wine are both made this way.

Distillation is the addition of an enzyme to starch, which creates sugar. Yeast is then added, and the result is fermented alcohol. The liquid containing this alcohol is then heated. The alcohol, which contains very small molecules, evaporates faster than the other liquid in the vat. The actual grains used to make this product are protein molecules too large to evaporate with the alcohol. So the grain remains in the "mash" or mush left at the bottom of the vat. The result is pure alcohol with none of the characteristics of the product from which in originated. To this end, a distiller of vodka could use corn one year and wheat the next and his product will not change. Gin is made in the same manner, but what makes it different from vodka is an infusion of herbs and flavorings. 

The reason it's important to note the difference between these two processes is because in fermentation, the ingredients all go into the bottle. In distillation, only the vapors from the ingredients go into the bottle. These molecules are not carrying any of the grains made to use the by-product. It's been suggested that the quantity of gluten left after the distillation process is so minute you'd have to drink a barrel of it to experience any side effects. I suspect you'd have bigger problems than a gluten reaction!

All this said, I'm a wine drinker. Not a fussy one. I just like wine. Oh, and Campari. big fan. That Campari is a "fortified" wine beverage - meaning it has distilled alcohol in it too.

I get it if you still aren't sure. Check with the distributor of your favorite booze if you want a second opinion - I got mine from a meeting with an expert from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. I interviewed him for my book (much of what I've posted here is an excerpt of Living Well with Celiac Disease). 

Oh, and I'd be remiss not to mention all of the new gluten-free beers on the market... no need to go without anymore! Isn't it shocking that alcohol can be so widely distributed without an ingredients listing? It's no wonder everyone is so confused.


roman tomatoes with risotto and basil

tomato flesh and liquid is mixed with risotto rice, basil, oil, salt & pepper before being put back in the tomato
In the 70's stuffed peppers were pretty trendy. Yuck. They kinda ruined any interest I might have in any other vegetable being stuffed - especially with rice. That is, until I learned how to make this classic Roman dish. Seriously, you are so going to love these.

This is how it's done. Cut the tops off of some good sized seasonal tomatoes (round and firm work best) and scoop out the innards (see above) and place in a bowl mixed with 2 heaping tbsp of uncooked risotto rice per tomato, lots of chopped fresh basil, 1tsp of olive oil per tomato, salt & pepper. Mix the ingredients together in the bowl and reload the tomatoes. Pop the tops you cut off back on like little hats to enclose. Bake in a glass ovenproof dish for 1 hour at 350 degrees). You can wedge these in the dish with potato wedges, which will roast alongside your tomatoes and keep them tightly packed in place.

In Rome, this is a summer dish often cooked late at night or in early morning when it's still cool outside. The dish is served at room temperature later in the day when it's simply too hot outside to cook. I do up a load and have them over the course of a few days. We've got a lot of hot days like today on the way... These are so good you'll find yourself wanting to make them all summer!!