Avocado Encore: Chocolate Avocado Pudding

I know that it’s Easter weekend and the typical thing to post about would be Easter-related. We’re not exactly holding the traditional Easter weekend this year. So, I thought I’d do a post on a recipe that I tried out last week.

Remember how I had said in my Mango Avocado Salsa post that my Quack had recommended that I eat more avocados? Not long after I did that post, I found an article in my Living Without magazine all on Avocados. If you are a subscriber to the magazine, you can get the full Avocados article when you log in here. If you’re not a subscriber, and are interested in the article, you can buy that particular issue (February/March 2013) here under Recent Living Without Back Issues.

The article includes the following recipes (for those of you with a subscription, you’ll be able to use the below links to log-in and access the recipes if you’re February/March 2013 issue isn’t handy):

Avocado Lemon Quick Bread
Avocado Dinner Rolls
Chocolate Avocado Muffins
Blueberry Avocado Pancakes
Simple Avocado Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Avocado Chocolate Pudding

So far I’ve only tried the Avocado Chocolate Pudding, but I intend to try most, if not all, of these recipes.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

I don’t have a food processor so I used my blender, so the pudding came out with some small avocado chunks in it. I think it’s time that I finally invest in a food processor. Speaking of food processors, local blogger Colorful Canary just did a post on a BPA-free Glass Bowl Food Processor that looks economical.

Because Living Without is a subscription based website, I didn’t want to reproduce the recipes here. I did notice that the Avocados article was written by another blogger, Colette Martin, of Learning to Eat Allergy Free. So I checked out her blog and she just happened to have the Chocolate Avocado Pudding recipe there. The only difference is on the blog the serving size is half of that in the Living Without article (Living Without version Serves 4) as well as the Living Without version also recommends to refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. So I’ll direct you over to Colette’s blog to check out her Chocolate Avocado Pudding recipe.

If you’ve tried this recipe, let me know what you think! I thought it was delicious! 🙂

Mango Avocado Salsa

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One of the foods that my Quack suggested that I incorporate into my diet was avocados. “Great”, I thought sarcastically, “I don’t particularly enjoy guacamole”.

So when I discovered this Mango Avocado Salsa recipe in Free For All Cooking (check out an overview of the cookbook in this post), I thought it was a great way to incorporate avocados because I hadn’t yet had a chance to do any searching for recipes using avocados, and I have loved mangoes ever since my first Mango Daiquiri at the Mexican resort that our good friends got married at, in back in 2011.

Mango Avocado Salsa

(from Free For All Cooking)

Serves 4

1 large mango, peeled and diced

1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled and diced

1 cup black beans, rinsed

1/2 ear cooked corn, cut off of the cob

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Approximately 3/4 teaspoon Tabasco

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss together to combine. Taste to determine if you like more spice.
  2. Serve with corn tortilla chips, Golden Potato Latkes, Fish Tacos, or over grilled white fish like tilapia, orange roughy, or flounder.

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I didn’t have Tabasco on hand so I decided to throw on a dash of Tex-Mex spice and topped it with a dab of sour cream. It was delicious and a great option for anyone with an tomato allergy/intolerance who miss the ability to enjoy salsa (I’d caution to check any spice mixes that you might use to ensure that they are free of tomato).

What types of recipes do you like for incorporating avocados?

Chocolate Power Balls Recipe Trial

This past Sunday I realized that I had all the ingredients I needed to try out a new recipe that I had flagged. The recipe is the second that I’ve attempted from the Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food recipe book that I first introduced in my peach & blueberry smoothie post.

I know what you’re thinking: Are you vegan now? … No. However:

  1. I’m interested in learning about vegan cuisine, and
  2. I had planned on using it to attempt recipes for my friend who blogs at Am I Vegan Now? before she decided to move to the opposite side of the country.

(Sharon, if you’re reading this: I totally would have surprised you with these had we been living in the same city. If you try these, think “Supreeze!” as you imagine me gifting them to you).

There were three things that drew me to this recipe:

  1. Most importantly: Chocolate
  2. Cardamom
  3. Chia seeds

I have been in love with the combination of chocolate and cardamom ever since I first had a bite of this Polish chocolate bar:

I had discovered these bars at a specialty food store several years back. Apparently they would only stock the bars around the holidays because they claimed that it wasn’t worth the cost of importing the bars (from Poland) regularly throughout the year. Considering this, whenever my guy would ask what I wanted for Christmas, I would respond saying that all I wanted was a box of these bars to keep me going all year long.

The same year that I went gluten-free, he stocked up on these chocolate bars and stuffed them in my stocking. Sadly, I discovered that these delicious bars had a ‘May Contain’ statement for wheat. At first, I decided to take my chances and tried a piece. And I can confirm that the ‘May Contain’ statement was valid … and I have not indulged in such deliciousness since that last bite 😦

As for the chia, I explained in my naturopath post, that my “Quack” had recommended I introduce chia seeds into my diet to increase my Omega Fatty Acids

… Just curious: hands-up if you sung “Cha-Cha-Cha-Chia” as you read the word chia?? I sing it every time I pull the package out of our pantry 😀

So, when I saw the combination of chocolate, cardamom and chia I had to try this recipe out! 🙂

Chocolate Power Balls

Makes about 16 Balls (my attempt yielded 20)

1 cup walnuts

1 cup cashews

1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon flax seeds

1 tablespoon pure vanilla

1/2 cup Enjoy Life Foods vegan chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (I opted for the 1/4)

1 tablespoon of water or orange juice

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  1. Place nuts and dates in a food processor and pulse until ground. Add the rest if the ingredients and whirl until the mixture begins to form a ball.
    (I don’t have a food processor, so I used my blender. I threw in all the ingredients as it directed but I started to get a perimeter of nicely chopped nuts and dates, but would jam up under the blade preventing the remainder from chopping. As a result, I had to take the blender jar off several times in order to shake and stir-up the contents. When I do this recipe again, I’d use smaller amounts in the blender and then transfer it to another bowl in order to chop the rest. I also think that the intent was for the chocolate chips to be grounded into more of a powder so that I would more easily disperse … but because there was so much volume to the recipe, very few of the chocolate chips would hit the blade. At first I thought that this was a downfall of how I had executed the recipe, but after the fact I realized that I quite like having the full chocolate chips intact. I thought I would point this fact out for anyone who might want to try out this recipe).

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  2. Remove the mixture from the food processor and put in a large bowl. Spread some waxed paper on a cookie sheet and with clean hands, form small balls (about tablespoon-size) and place them on the cookie sheet. Place in the refrigerator for about an hour to harden. 

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We love these! The recipe recommended that you keep the balls in the refrigerator and consume within one week. Considering that the recipe yielded 20 balls that were made on Sunday afternoon, and it’s now only Tuesday evening and there’s only 3 left …. I don’t think that will be an issue 😉

Let me know what you think if you try out this recipe! 

Cookbook Recipe Trial: Pumpkin Pancakes

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As I mentioned in my earlier post which profiled the FREE FOR ALL COOKING: 150 EASY GLUTEN-FREE, ALLERGY-FRIENDLY RECIPES cookbook, it only took about a year and one “snowpocalypse” to attempt this recipe. I’ll apologize in advance for the lack of “oomph” that my pancake pictures bring to the table …. but I assure you that the taste made up for the lack of presentation effort on my part. What happened was: we were in the middle of the worst snow storm (actually blizzard) that I can remember since moving to St. John’s in 2001, and we were racing against time to prepare breakfast before our power cut out again. In hindsight – probably not the smartest move on my part, to profile a recipe for my blog under these circumstances ….. but I had psyched myself up for these pancakes when I went to bed, and they were the first thing that I thought of when I woke up that morning. I needed those pancakes to be in my belly!

To give you an idea of how intense the storm was, nearly 50cm fell and wind gusts of more than 100 km/h were experienced. We were one of the few lucky sections of the city to only loose our power for about 30 minutes. The power went out early Friday morning and for some, it was late Saturday afternoon before power was reinstated. The airport had also shut down until midnight Saturday night due to the storm (which was further impacted by an ongoing strike by maintenance workers). Like I said, it was one of the most intense snow storms that the city had seen in years.

Before: Mid Afternoon, Thursday January 10th 2013. After: Mid Morning Friday January 11th 2013.

Before: Mid Afternoon, Thursday January 10th 2013. After: Mid Morning Friday January 11th 2013.

Ever since I had my first pumpkin cinnamon roll from Gluten Free Treasures at my local Farmer’s Market, I realized that I was IN LOVE with everything pumpkin! So when I stumbled across the Pumpkin Pancake recipe in  this cookbook, I knew that it would be the first recipe that I would attempt.

Pumpkin Pancakes

As I mentioned in my post that profiled the cookbook, the recipes are written for use with Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Blend. Considering that I didn’t have all of the ingredients in my pantry to mix a batch of her flour blend, I turned to another fine lady named “Pamela” and opened the package of her baking and pancake mix that my friend, Felicia, had surprised me with a while back. Felicia raved about the mix but … once again … I hadn’t found the time to test it out. I thought that I would substitute the Pamela’s flour blend for that of Jules’ blend and see how it turned out.

I won’t reproduce the recipe here, but the recipe did consist of:

  • gluten-free flour
  • baking powder
  • pumpkin pie spice
  • cinnamon
  • egg (or egg substitute)
  • cooking oil
  • brown sugar
  • pureed pumpkin
  • milk
  • optional: raisins, cranberries or chocolate chips (I opted for plain pumpkin pancakes).

Although we eat food with dairy, we don’t normally purchase milk for use as a beverage, and as a result there was none in the fridge to use in the recipe. Luckily I had a carton of almond milk in the cupboard. We had eggs in the fridge so they were used in the recipe. At some point I might attempt an eggless version … but for the time being, I was running against the clock to finish the pancakes before the power cut out again (thankfully though, it remained on for the remainder of the day).

The pancakes were a little denser than a regular pancake because of the pumpkin … but then again …. all gluten-free pancakes are denser than your ‘regular’ pancake, so no difference there. Regardless of the density of the pancake, the result was absolutely delicious!

The recipe serves 4 and because my guy decided that he would only take one pancake to eat with his breakfast ….. it meant that I had enough for leftovers! There’s nothing better than warming up a pancake when you’re in the office on a Monday morning!! Just don’t forget the maple syrup! ….. unless you’re allergic …. then, go ahead and forget the maple syrup! 😉

As I was scanning through the recipe to write this post, I noticed that Jules suggests that you strategically place chocolate chips after flipping to create the illusion of a jack-o-latern … Jules: I like your style! And I like love Halloween. I will DEFINITELY be making jack-o-lantern pumpkin pancakes, next Halloween! 🙂

Jules has several recipes related to pumpkin included in the cookbook, which is great because now I have more ways to feed my love of pumpkin. Up next? Pumpkin Corn Muffins! 🙂

They Love Me, They Really Love Me: How Friends & Family are Adapting to My Gluten Intolerance

I couldn’t resist misquoting “The Mask” who misquoted Sally Fields’ 1985 Oscar Acceptance speech. I thought it was fitting, because my family and friends obviously love me enough to put up with and cater to my gluten intolerance.

Here are a few examples:

  • If I’m dropping my Guy to work and as he’s about to give me a kiss as he exits the car, he’ll shout “Wait, I just ate a glutenous breakfast sandwich!!” as he turns to kiss me on the cheek instead.
  • They call me up to check on items before using it in dishes if I am heading to their house for a meal.
  • For those who now have a good handle on what naturally has gluten and what doesn’t, their attention has now shifted to ways in which cross-contamination can occur in prep.
  • They tell me about, send me links to, pick me up a sample of any new gluten free products that they see.
  • They forward me gluten-free recipes, or even surprise me with gluten free cookbooks.
  • They have started modifying their naturally containing gluten recipes so that I don’t feel left out!
  • They keep their cupboards stocked with gluten free snacks (in the event that I pop by and I’m hungry).
  • They offer to let me pick a place that they know that I can get good gluten-free options at when we dine out.

The biggest challenge has been for my family back home in my small rural hometown, Twillingate (which had a rough population of just over 2400 people as of 2006). Because it’s a small town, there’s not a lot of options when looking for food alternatives and often food has to be bought at the closest “large centre” (i.e. Gander, with a population of roughly 11,000 in 2011), which is roughly a hour and a half drive away. So, this year when I travelled home for Christmas, I came bearing my own bag of gluten-free goodies: canned soup, wraps, Nourish bread & bagels, toaster-bags, Cashew Lärabars, Kind Fruit & Nut bars, plus additional supplies to make gluten-free cookies during my visit.

The first night that I arrived I asked my mom what was for supper and she was so proud that she had made a separate Mac & Cheese without the Ritz Crackers. When I asked her where she picked up the gluten-free pasta she looked at me with the most mortified look and said “But, you can eat macaroni ….. !? ….. I’ve heard you say a dozen times that you’ve had pasta for supper” and I smiled as I looked to her and said “I can eat gluten-free macaroni”. Poor Mom was devastated that she had been so careful to make my meal safe for me to eat, only to discover that it was completely made of gluten. She said that she figured that it would probably take her all of Christmas to get over the fact that she didn’t have a safe meal for me when I got home that night. I told her that I had brought some gluten free groceries with me and that I could very quickly open and warm a can of soup. After supper she scored brownie-points when she broke out some Chocolate Mice (cookies) that she had made for me (not sure what they are? Check out this recipe on Rock Recipes). She had picked up some Gluten Free Rice Krispies, had checked the chocolate chips and other ingredients for sources of gluten, and even had went so far to buy a brand new jar of peanut butter so that she didn’t have to worry about glutenous crumb-contamination in the jar!) They were delicious and I probably ate 7 (no joke!) that first night!! Mom also had my Aunt G pick up a package of President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies when she was in Gander so I also gorged myself on those as well over the holiday when everyone else was eating homemade cookies.  The next day my mom made a delicious pot of homemade soup which fed me for several meals while I was home – Mom’s homemade soup is one of my favourites! I thought that I had left a pack of Glutino table crackers to go with the soup but I must have finished them off the last time I was out or brought them back to the city with me. I will have to remember for the next time I pack my GF grocery bag! 🙂

When I stopped by my mom-in-law’s the next day I discovered, that she had discovered, that one of the local grocery stories starting stocking Udi’s gluten-free products in its freezer section. She had picked up Udi’s GF white sandwich bread (which I actually hadn’t tried up until this point because we never really did buy much bread before I went gluten-free), Udi’s GF Cinnamon Rolls (which I also hadn’t tried up until this point), and also had picked up a pack of gluten-free flour when she was in Gander earlier that month.

One night my Aunt G had invited us up for supper. She made ham, baked and scalloped potatoes, as well as marinated carrots. My aunt remembered that the tomato soup in her recipe for marinated carrots contained gluten so she made me a version that she substituted with ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar. She also remembered to take out some scalloped potatoes before she added the cream of mushroom soup which contains gluten (she had no idea that you can get gluten-free cream of mushroom soup in St. John’s, so for the next time that I’m out and she makes it, I’ll be sending her out some GF Cream of Mushroom Soup so that she can make one casserole dish of gluten-free scalloped potatoes instead of fooling around to make different versions). And to top it all off, Aunt G had also picked up President’s Choice Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies for me as well!

I was so excited to see my family finding ways to accommodate my intolerance. Both my mom, aunt, and mom-in-law pride themselves on making our favourite meals when we come home and they finally felt like they could cook for me again 🙂

My mom-in-law (or “Mama Sheila” as I like to refer to her) used the gluten free flour to make Homemade Stew with “Baked Pudding”. For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m referring to when I say Baked Pudding, I stumbled upon this recipe (we call it baked pudding but she calls it a biscuit/pastry).

Mama Sheila didn’t use these exact recipes but I assume that they were very similar. I’m pretty sure that she substituted the gluten-free flour for the regular wheat flour in the baked pudding. Normally when you make something with gluten-free flour you add a binding agent (such as guar gum, among others), but the like-for-like substitution seemed to work out just as good. Generally we lay the baked pudding on a plate, and then pour the stew over the baked pudding and let the gravy soak into the pudding. Veggies, gravy, baked pudding …. what more could a girl ask for?

One of our Christmas traditions that we’ve established over the past 5+ years is that we (my Guy and I) will open Christmas presents at my house first thing on Christmas morning and then we drive on over (to the opposite side of the harbour) to open presents with his parents. A few years back (several before I went gluten free), Mama Sheila made a “Breakfast Strata” for the first time and it was absolutely delicious!! The Breakfast Strata has since become a part of our Christmas morning tradition, and so she was able to use the Udi’s GF bread and the GF Rice Krispies to make me my very one Gluten Free version. Basically it’s bread, eggs, ham, peppers, cheese, a few seasonings and topped with Rice Krispies. We’ve agreed to only have it on Christmas day so that it remains extra special!

Breakfast Strata

Can you say Om Nom Nom!?

Unfortunately Mama Doreen (i.e. my mom) had to work most of the time that I was home for the holiday. So, where I could, I stayed at her place to maximize my time with her before she headed to, or after she got home from, work. On the mornings that she had to get up early and head to work, I ended up having breakfast (or in some cases, brunch) at Mama Sheila’s. One morning my dad-in-law, or Papa Garry as I like to refer to him as, made me Gluten Free French Toast using the Udi’s bread. One morning I had a simple breakfast of fresh fruit, greek yogurt and Udi’s toast. The final brunch was a huge family effort. If there’s one thing that the Guy family are good at – it’s brunch! Gluten-Free pancakes, turkey bacon, hash brown patties, and Mama Sheila even discovered some gluten free maple sausages that were delicious!! 🙂

Xmas Breakfast

Christmas was a gluten free success but our trip was short. My Guy had to head back to work on the 27th so we were on the road again on Boxing Day to head back into town. I had a few days to get ready for the arrival of my BFF, Jenny, from Toronto who came baring gluten-free chocolates … which included two boxes of Coco Mira Crunch in Mocha Latte and Dark Chocolate flavours … That girl knows that way to my heart!!

My guy’s Aunt Marguerite has been making lovely gift baskets ever year and we she always gives us an awesome one every year for Christmas. Throughout the year she’ll collect things that are of interest to us (some examples: BBQing or meal prep gear for Rob, cake decorating or gluten-free items for me) and in the Fall she’ll arrange them all to make a fantastic basket! This year she had a box of President’s Choice Gluten-Free The Smart Cookie, a box of Chocolate Chip Quinoa cookies and Cinnamon Quinoa Crunchies from GoGo Quinoa. Other goodies included chocolate, homemade pickles, homemade jams, as well as some non-GF items for my guy and a pack of dog treats for our Lakeland Terrier, Jax.

Christmas Basket

Aunt Marguerite also invited us over for a meal during Christmas while her daughter Corinne and family were still visiting from Calgary. Not long after I went gluten free back in 2011, I found out that Aunt Marguerite’s other daughter, Renee had also went gluten-free. As a result, Aunt Marguerite has become very knowledgable in preparing gluten-free meals. When we went for supper I discovered that she had made a roast with gravy made from cornstarch in lieu of regular flour; had made baby carrots and peas which were naturally gluten-free; a creamy mashed potato dish in which she checked all the ingredients to ensure that they were gluten-free; a broccoli casserole in which she grated up Udi’s Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns to use as a crust; and to top it all off she made me a big batch of gluten-free chocolate cookies (which I am still enjoying as of today)! It was a fabulous meal 🙂

Dinner at Aunt Marguerites

Rob won a turkey at his curling club and decided to give it to our good friends Darren and Tracey to smoke on their Big Green Egg. Sadly, like many of the other meals that we had over the holidays, I forgot to get a photo of the smoked bird before Darren carved it. Rob made a gluten free dressing using Udi’s white bread and I had made asparagus and “turnip fries” to bring out as well. When we arrived to Darren & Tracey’s we found that Mitch and Felicia were also there and Felicia was busy peeling carrots and potatoes which we quickly boiled as Tracey made gravy using corn starch (as I had forgotten to bring out some gluten free flour with me). The meal turned out lovely and Darren & Tracey were awesome enough to smoke the turkey and have us out for supper, despite the fact that they were recovering from colds. Such troopers!! 🙂

New Years Dinner

This was only my second Gluten-Free Christmas, and I have to say that it was incredibly delicious and absolutely perfect thanks to my super-awesome family & friends! xoxo

Care to share any ways that your friends and family have successfully adapted to your gluten-free or food allergy-free lifestyle?

Glutened, Days after attending Gluten Free Expo (… and no. it was unrelated)

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One of my favourite experiences from this year was travelling to Toronto to attend a Gluten-Free Expo (which I randomly became a last minute volunteer for)…. and I had a blast! You can read about it here.

My least favourite experience from this year? Getting “glutened” a few days later in the same city, during the same trip. Oh, the irony!

Luckily, getting glutened was totally independent of attending the Expo (…. Margaret & Ellen: if you are reading this, you can start breathing again 😉 ….. Margaret was the organizer and mastermind behind the expo and Ellen supported her remotely from BC. It was a pleasure to help them out during the event!).

Like I said, the Expo was amazing and I was very much looking forward to hanging around for a couple of extra days so that I could hang out with one of my BFF’s, Jenny, who had just returned from a trip to India.

Celiacs will go completely out of there way to go to a restaurant that has been identified as safe for Celiacs. I had consulted The Celiac Scene maps to look for a safe restaurant that had a brunch option for Jenny and I before we took on an afternoon of shopping. She had mentioned that there was a place called Mitzi’s that had gluten free options as far as she was aware. I remembered going there before I realized that gluten was making me sick and I remembered how delicious the food was so I agreed that we should definitely go there, even though Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on The Celiac Scene. But I know that the “Scene” is only as good as those who actively contribute to it …. so if you’re in an area where there aren’t a lot of Celiacs using the Scene, then chances are you could miss out on a fantastic restaurant with safe options because there’s been no one to providing feedback to the Scene in order to get that restaurant on the list. Perhaps, I figured, this was why Mitzi’s wasn’t showing up on the list.

When we got there and I had a chance to peak at the menu, I was SOOOOOO excited to see Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes! Generally, I don’t get the luxury of having someone else make me gluten free pancakes, unless they are made by my guy in our kitchen at home. Better still, the pancake of the day was topped with an espresso cream, maple syrup, whipped cream, and pralines – HELLO DELICIOUSNESS!!

I was delighted! That is, until the waitress popped back to our table and said that the pancakes were actually made with oats. I asked if they were certified gluten-free and she said that she didn’t think so. I asked if I could see the package to have a look at the ingredient list. Turns out it was Quaker Rolled Oats and there was a “May Contain” statement for wheat.

I don’t know if I have Celiac Disease or not. It was suggested by my naturopath that I was sensitive to gluten and I immediately went on a gluten-free diet. It was amazing the difference after years of bloating and digestive discomfort. I later realized that you should be tested for Celiac Disease before going on a gluten-free diet because gluten needs to be present to cause the the inflammation in the small intestine in order to get a positive diagnosis. So, although I do not know if I have celiac disease, I have so many of the symptoms that I’m almost certain that I do. I eat as strictly as a Celiac does …. with the exception of this instant. I totally let me guard down. In hindsight, I was being absolutely naive.

When I saw the “may contain” statement, I thought “Oh, it’s probably just a liability disclaimer. It’s likely that it’s made in a totally separate area, but because they process wheat in the same building they have to list a May Contain statement” ….. I normally DO NOT eat anything with a “May Contain” statement but the idea of eating those buckwheat pancakes with the espresso cream and other delicious toppings made me let my guard down. I kept telling myself, “I’m sure it’ll be fine …. maybe just some light swelling of my belly”.

I ate the pancakes and they were DELICIOUS!! When I left, I noticed that my stomach was swollen and I felt very nauseated….. but my stomach didn’t feel like it was ripping apart like it normally does when I accidentally ingest gluten. So I thought perhaps there was very little trace of the wheat in the oats. Boy, was I wrong. At about 3:30 that afternoon all hell broken loose on my digestive system and I was back and fourth to the washroom off and on for hours afterwards. My stomach was still not 100% back to normal when I went to bed that night. I think this is a very likely sign that I do in fact have Celiac Disease.

So, it turns out that the Gluten-Free buckwheat pancakes were not actually not gluten-free at all. This is not the first time that I’ve been exposed to glutenous buckwheat breakfast items. I learned the hard way that the buckwheat crepes at Cora’s also contain wheat. In fact, first when I went gluten-free and was learning about all the things that I need to keep an eye out for it took me a while to clue in to the fact that the sausages that I was ordering contained gluten …. then I discovered that the breakfast potatoes were coated in a flour mixture. And after the third time going and coming home feeling nauseated and sick to my stomach, I decided to do a little googling. And sure enough, I found a Celiac Disease forum that stated that Cora’s buckwheat crepes actually contained wheat (despite wheat being in the name, buckwheat does not contain gluten). Every gluteneous mishap is another opportunity to learn from it. I learned a lot in the first few months of going gluten-free.

Because the food was so delicious, I wanted to provide suggestions to Mitzi’s so that they could improve their awareness of the dietary restrictions that surround Celiac Disease so that they could be a safe place for Celiacs and that we could get them added to the Scene. Here’s the suggestions (and pleas) that I emailed to them the next day:

  • PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not offer them to anyone who is Celiac or gluten intolerant/sensitive until you can take measures to ensure they are gluten-free (if you have to, Tell them that you ran out off your ingredients).
  • Purchase certified gluten-free oats.
  • Confirm if your buckwheat is gluten-free, if not, purchase one that is certified as gluten-free.
  • Ensure that any other toppings for the pancakes are gluten-free (for example, the pralines shouldn’t have a may contain statement).
  • Use a separate pan and separate spatula.
  • There’s a guide for food allergies available on the CRFA:http://www.crfa.ca/foodhealthyliving/#foodallergies . If you follow this link, it will take you to the guide on Restaurant Central (http://www.restaurantcentral.ca/FoodAllergiesGuide.aspx).
  • If you offer Gluten-free toast, don’t use the same toaster that you use for regular bread. Even if you use a convection heater, there’s still risk of cross-contamination. I found this statement on the restaurant guide for food allergies: 

Did you know: It is commonly believed that extreme heat during cooking will change the make-up of the food being prepared and remove the protein that can cause a reaction. This is not true. Cooking the food using extreme heat will not make the food safe for allergic individuals.

  • To help with toaster cross-contamination, you can get Toaster Bags, such as these: http://www.amazon.com/Set-NoStick-Toast-Toaster-Bags/dp/B0012XGM92 .
  • Be mindful of is crumbs in the butter and other condiment (such as mayo) containers. It’s best to use a separate container that’s designated as gluten-free and use a clean knife for cutting and spreading and a separate cutting board when slicing the bread (if it doesn’t already come sliced). I also recommend washing your hands and applying disposable gloves prior to handling the gluten-free bread.

I sent off my recommendations and feedback to the cook and the general email for the restaurant but I never did hear back from anyone. When I get a chance, I’ll call them up and see if they did implement any of my suggestions. I hope, for their sake and for mine that they do, so that I can enjoy another delicious meal when in Toronto and that we can recommend them to be added to the Scene.

I know there’s a bit of a learning curve when it come’s to gluten-free knowledge so I’m willing to give a second chance if I know that an establishment has taken the necessary measures to make positive changes. There is only one place that I have boy-cotted and that’s because I became sick for the third time after ordering a supposedly gluten-free item. Hence my adopted rule of thumb:

Gluten-me once: Shame on You. Gluten-me twice: Shame on Me. Gluten-me a third time and it’s automatic blacklist, buddy.

One thing that I’ve learned over the past year and a bit is that you can never be too safe when it comes to dining out gluten-free (or with any restriction for that matter). There’s no such thing as too many questions when it comes to your health and wellbeing. And such experiences reinforce the need (and my desire) to start Etcetera …. a safe-haven restaurant for people with food allergies and other dietary restrictions! 🙂

Cheers,
Krista 🙂

Gluten-Free Ginger”dead” Men + Fraggle Rock Shenanigans …

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If you’re either bit quirky, like me, chances are you also love and have a small collection of Fred products. When I stumbled upon this Fred item (while visiting Toronto for the Gluten-Free Expo and to see one of my BFFs, Jenny), I thought that it would be the perfect present for my friend, Ryan, who is born on Halloween and who throws one kick-ass Halloween party every year for his birthday…. and not only was I right, I now want one for myself 😉

Speaking of that Gluten-Free Expo … you may recall the recent blog post that I did about it. One of the delicious products that I sampled, purchased and brought back with me was 1-2-3 Gluten Free’s Chewy Chipless Scrumdelicious Cookie Mix. I’ve been holding off on using the mix for just the right time, and with Ryan’s birthday just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to not only give him the awesome cookie cutter-stamper for his birthday, but to also use it to make delicious (gluten-free) cookies to bring to his party (so that I’d know that there would be at least one thing at the party that would be safe for me to eat)!

I thought it was only appropriate to use the mix to make the Gingerbread Cookies recipe that was listed on the inside of the box (and available on the 1-2-3 Gluten Free website) …. although there are 6 different recipes available on the inside of the box (which includes one egg-free version).

It doesn’t hurt if he’s already dead, right? …

I found that it was best to roll the dough thick, cut the men out first, transfer to your baking sheet and then stamp …. otherwise, you’d end up with the poor soul in the above photo. The recipe suggested that you use a rolling pin on top of the plastic wrap but I found that my rolling pin would move the wrap around and leave indentations so I just smoothed out the dough by running my hand on top of the plastic wrap.

I also failed to heed the suggestion of spacing the cookies at least 2″ apart … As a result, the men sandwiched together and cracked when they didn’t have anymore room to expand. They didn’t look as good as I had hoped, but at least this way i didn’t have to be as particular when filling in their bones with royal icing …. which was a big time saver considering that I still had to finish off my Halloween costume for Ryan’s party (which was taking place the following evening).

I sampled one cookie that evening and it was delicious! I couldn’t wait until the next evening to have another. I think the cookies went over well with the “regular people” at the party and I bet that they had no idea that they were gluten-free. Ryan texted me the day after the party and said that they were amazing even a day later 🙂

And now on to the costumes (i.e. the Fraggle Rock Shenanigans)!

Ryan was a good friend from university and although we still live nearby, we don’t see/hang-out as much as we use to. With that said, we do tend to make a huge effort to make up for this at Halloween (i.e. his birthday) and we all put a LOT of effort into our costumes. A few of us who are more craftily inclined tend to partner up to work on group costumes. One year my friend Susanne and I went as Mickey & Minnie Mouse, another year as The Blue Man Group (in company with my Guy), not to mention Papa Smurf & Smurfette. Last year Susanne’s boyfriend Jon joined us when she went as Darkwing Duck, I went as Darkwing’s girlfriend Morgana McCawber and he went as LaunchPad McQuack. This year Susanne decided that she was going to be Red from Fraggle Rock and she suggested that I should be Mokey because she felt that I fit the part 🙂

Susanne is beyond resourceful every year when she plans out her costume. This year she found a template for a Muppet puppet and had the template enlarged so that it would fit our heads. Once the template was sorted, it was just a matter of finding all of the right materials.

This was the inspiration photo that I used when gathering items for the costume. The pink material in the second photo above was material that I actually picked up while in Toronto for the Gluten-Free Expo. The top right photo is of the template for one half of the Muppet head and I also included a close-up of the 4″ foam … as I beg to differ on the “Easily cut” statement 😉

I’m fairly certain that my dog, Jax, was convinced that the material that I had picked up was a mat. On three separate occasions when I had my back turned, upon turning around I found him perched on the material. Perhaps I’ll use the leftovers to make him a dog bed 😛

I was surprised to find that the material was incredible heavy. So heavy … that when I cut the small hole in it for my head, I discovered that it had stretched and was hanging too far out on my shoulders. I had to sew in a drawstring in the back to pull it together to close it up somewhat. And once I cut off the “sleeves” it was like I had a ton weight lifted from my shoulders. It was so incredibly heavy. I found the perfect sweater at Sears (that was actually on sale) and it even had two pockets in the front in a similar fashion to Mokey’s sweater.

Next was the hard bit … the foam cutting! Actually, it wasn’t the hardest part. The hardest part was trying to slice the 4” foam down to 1” but I’ll get to that in just a sec. I pinned down the pattern to the foam and did the outline in permanent marker. Sus had said how difficult it was to trim down the foam using a bread knife so I thought to myself – “I have an electric knife that’s been in my cupboard for (most likely) about 10 years … perhaps I’ll try that to see how it works”. The ironic thing was that it was just a few weeks before that I had been looking through my cupboard and I thought, “I haven’t used that thing in years. I should donate it to good will.

I’m glad that I didn’t because the thing worked like a charm! And the funny thing was that it was the first time it was used, it was used to carve out 4” foam for a Halloween costume … I know this for certain because when I took it out of the box, it still had the plastic protector on the plug and a twist-tie still around the cord. Yep, hadn’t been used since it was purchased!

Ok. Next was the really hard part! Trimming four inches down to one. I decided that because the pattern was for half of the head, and I’d need to carve out a second shape for the other side, that I’d use the top and bottom of the piece that I cut out so that I would minimize the amount of foam needed and would have a smooth edge for each half of the head. I marked out the perimeter and connected the dots to make a solid line and then started cutting with the knife. It was surprisingly easier than expected, but I started to notice that little particles of foam were flying everywhere. Having a HUGE eye phobia (called Ommetaphobia – these 3 clips from Friends pretty much sum me up: 1 2 3), and being terrified of getting the foam particles in my eyes, I decided to put on my safety glasses …. Only to realize that they were at the office. Remembering that my Guy sometimes goes to the dockyards when they have chartered vessels come in, the following conversation occurred:

Me: “Rob, do you have any Safety Glasses here??”

Rob: “(short pause) … I have onion goggles ….”

Me: “(short pause) … That’ll do”

And with that, I put them on, and got cracking ….. errr, I mean slicing.

The next part was time consuming but it really helped define the shape – sewing the foam to form the head. Sus had used a glue gun to glue hers together but she said that you had to hold it for a long time to get the glue to bond well. I have been used to sewing most of my costumes in the past so I decided to sew my head together. I held it all in place with A LOT of safety pins. Then I sewed … and sewed and sewed … until finally it looked like the head that you see in the photo. I then cut out some pink fleece material that I had picked up from Fabricville and also sewed that to the head. I couldn’t wait to get the eyes on it because at this point it looked like I was making a pink Barney costume :S

I was really pleased with how the eyes turned out – they really made the costume come to life.

I had found 3 different shades of wool to use for the hair and it was a different type of yarn that is really stringy so it really gave it the look I was looking for. I randomly made multiple stands of the different colours and tied them in a knot at the middle to make a section, which I glued to the head with a glue gun. It didn’t take long to fill out the hair.

The next task was to cover the inside of the mouth with red. I made a flap with red felt on the bottom lip and attached a red sheer material to the top so that it was see-through for me, but difficult for people to see my face inside the head. I then used Velcro to secure the felt to the sheer material and this was used as an opening for when I wanted to eat or if I got too warm. …. Which I did. When the head was off, you could put your hand in the head and just feel the heat come off of it. But it was worth it 🙂

Susanne’s boyfriend, Jon, decided to join in on our costumes again this year and he went with us as Marjory the Trash Heap. Everyone got a kick out of us and the highlight of the night was when Ryan downloaded the Fraggle Rock Theme Song and the 3 of us danced our hearts out to it. I have no idea how we will top these costumes off next year! 🙂

Oh, and the easy-access hatch that I made came in handy …. especially for eating the gluten-free Gingerdead Men (I bet you didn’t notice Mokey stuffing her face in the right-hand photo above)!

Halloween truly is one of my most favourite times of the year! Happy Birthday Ryan!! 🙂

Cheers!

Krista.

Recipe: Vegan Gluten-Free Coffee Crisp Clusters

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In my last post I talked about how I found a Coffee Crisp Hot Chocolate mix when I was visiting friends in Halifax. I looked at the ingredients and it appeared to be gluten-free after consulting my pocket dictionary that I received from the Canadian Celiac Association. And just for good measure, I contacted Nestle and they assured me that if there was any possibility of it being contaminated with gluten, then gluten would have been listed as a “may contain” ingredient.

And it was just like I remembered Coffee Crisp bars tasting ….. absolute deliciousness!

My next thought? …… Must.Find.Gluten.Free.Coffee.Crisp.Bar.Recipe!

I expected to have to scroll through pages and pages of search engine results to find recipe links until I found the proper one, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I hit the jackpot with the first result! www.iheartwellness.com .

The recipe sounded super easy and the pictures of the clusters looked inviting. I then read the About section of the blog and my jaw dropped at how much I could relate to Kris and her life experiences! I’ll send you over to her blog to get the recipe but the gist of the recipe is as follows: dark chocolate, grapeseed oil, coffee, coconut flour and flax, mix in a bowl and toss it in the freezer. When you have things to do, people to see, and topics to blog about … you can’t go wrong with a recipe as simple as that! 🙂

For the most part, the ingredients were fairly straight forward. I knew that I’ve never seen Perky’s Crunchy Flax Cereal at any of the nearby supermarkets, and I had also planned on visiting my li’l cousin, Monica, in Clarenville that coming weekend. Knowing that she’s crafty like me and enjoys “baking”, I figured that this recipe would be a fun thing to do together…. but if I had to rely on ordering the Perky’s online, I wouldn’t be able to receive the package in time and would have to hold off for a few more weeks before being able to try these little morsels out.

Or would I??

Enter Exhibit A: Real Food Market. An online organic store offering delivery in the St. John’s area. Here’s how they work. I had remembered corresponding through email with the owner a while back and remembered them saying that they would be stocking gluten-free items. I wondered if they would carry Perky’s. …… and I was in luck. I checked my address to figure out my delivery zone, and my Perky’s (in addition to the other items that I purchased) would be delivered to my door on Thursday night, just in time for me to pack it in my bag before heading to Clarenville for the weekend 🙂

I forgot to bring a few things out to Clarenville with me: like a vegan dark chocolate bar, grapeseed oil and decaf coffee so I had to do a little improvisation. Despite this, the result was still fantastic!! And I can totally understand Kris’ obsession with Perky’s!!

The odd thing, I came to discover once we were finished making the recipe, was that Monica doesn’t even actually like chocolate!  I’m sure that the most confused look rolled across my face followed by the biggest “Grinch” of a grin ….. it was all mine. Those delicious little nuggets, were all mine 😉

Thanks to Kris at iheartwellness.com for posting her recipe and Real Food Market for stocking Perky’s! You are awesome!! 🙂 🙂