Think of Me Gluten-Free

Think of Me Gluten-Free

06 December 2013

Holiday Shortbread for a (Stop-Everything-and-Hibernate) Cold Christmas

We drove nearly two hours for gluten free perogies. Up past rows of newly built houses and across lights that flickered red to green and back again. We took the scenic route, turning left off the highway to stop suddenly at a small garage at the end of a vineyard. Inside, buckets lined the wall, along with grapes, apples, pears, and squash ($1.00 each!) that were all for sale. 

We fumbled around our pockets for change, hopping from one foot to another in equal excitement and desperation. Such delicious grapes those were, but we had to leave empty-handed, not a coin had found its way into our hands to be exchanged for the delicious produce laid out. 

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20 November 2013

Nanaimo Bars at the Little Bakery

There must be an easier method to shelling almonds. I stood at the counter with a pot of almonds that were soaking for a few hours, peeling the husk off each one in a pile of 130 grams.

It wasn't all that bad though, leaning from right foot to left and back again. I had the radio playing gently behind me, and fell into a rhythm of peeling, pulling, dropping, and repeating with a new almond each time, building one pile of clean, naked almonds, and slowly pulling away from a mound of brown and streaked. Each almond had its own look, its own feel, and the longer they soaked, the easier it was for me to tear the husk away.

It turned an hour or two of baking nanaimo bars into a whole afternoon, but I'm always happiest in the kitchen anyway, and I sipped on a cup of tea while repeatedly refilling it from a pot brewing warmly at the side.
I remember the old bakery on Bowen that always had fresh nanaimo bars for the many islanders needing a sweet treat, some conversation, and even a bit of coffee while they waited in line for the ferry. Construction workers ordered double sandwiches and extra large cookies, mums and their kids took away hot chocolates in the pouring rain. There were always customers streaming in and out of that bakery, whether it was for a piping hot sausage roll served while still on it's rack from the oven, and placed in a white paper bag to warm your hands, or for one of the biggest white chocolate macadamia nut cookies to share with dad as the line of cars slowly snaked is way onto the ferry.

I even remember the morning that bakery was suddenly gone, along with its brownies and pies set out in the front cooler, and the trays containing the nanaimo bar I was looking forward to on my way down to the ferry.

So suddenly, all that was left was a charred black square, a few lines of yellow tape, and the air hanging thick with questions left unanswered.

The front room of the bakery was always small, but next door at the Snug Cafe we sat around tables if we planned on hanging around. No one has ever replaced that memory of my first nanaimo bar at the bakery, and the sticky mess I got myself into while excitedly savouring each layer, starting with crumbly chocolate topped with a creamy custard, and finally, thick chocolate that quickly melted in my little hands and made its way along my upper lip, and over my fingers, suddenly making them taste delicious too.

It wasn't until brunch at a gluten free bakery in Victoria with mum that I remembered these delectably sweet moments, ones that will always make me think back fondly on the community we shared, the local coffee shops and bakeries that felt more like a living room with all our family and friends, and those irresistible nanaimo bars that I haven't yet found to replicate that pure, young enjoyment.

It was while we ate our plates of breakfast in a windowed alcove that I looked around to the trays of baked sweets and realised how many times I've recently seen nanaimo bars, since we've moved to Vancouver Island in fact. Suddenly, they seem to be back in fashion, or are popping up to remind me of something.

Something wonderful, they are.

Nanaimo Bars {gluten and grain free, vegan}

{print recipe here}


130 g almonds, soaked
110 g dates, soaked
65 g ground walnuts
50 g shredded coconut
60 g cocoa powder

80 g raw cashews, soaked
2 tbsp raw cashew butter
3/4 coconut cream
1/4 c coconut oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Layer
300 g dairy free chocolate chips
50 g coconut oil


Soak your ingredients. In separate bowls, soak the almonds, dates, and cashews overnight.

Shed the almond husks. Peel back the husks of the almonds to reveal the white meat inside. Use a garlic peeler or two sheets of paper towel to rub the husk off for a quicker method, otherwise use your hands. The longer the almonds soak, the easier this process will become.

Make the base. In a food processor, blend the hulled almonds until very fine. Drain the dates, setting the water aside to use later, and add them in the processor with the almonds. Blend again. Combine the ground walnuts, shredded coconut, and cocoa powder in the processor, blending until all the ingredients are well mixed.

Add the date water. Using the leftover water from soaking the dates, slowly pour in a tablespoon at a time to the base mixture, blending each time, until it begins to come together in a large ball. It should stick together, but should not be gooey.

Press into the pan. Line a 9x9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, and press the base mixture evenly onto the bottom. Place in the fridge.

Make the creamy filling. Rinse out the food processor and blend the soaked cashews, drained, until it becomes almost creamy. Add the cashew butter and process again. Next, add coconut oil, then maple syrup and vanilla extract. Process on high for a couple of minutes until it is completely smooth. Scrape down the sides and blend again.

Pour on the filling. Remove the base from the fridge and set it on a flat surface. Using a soft spatula to scrape the filling from the processor, pour it over the chocolate base, starting in the middle and working your way in a spiral to the edges. Even it out quickly before returning the whole pan to the fridge.

Make the chocolate topping. Over medium-high heat, bring a pot of water to boil on the stove top. Place a bowl over the boiling water and add the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Stirring continuously, melt together the chocolate and coconut oil. Remove the bowl from the saucepan when the mixture is completely smooth, letting it stand a minute or two before pouring it over the base and creamy filling of your nanaimo bars. Pour slowly, as the hot chocolate could melt the filling. Pour in the same pattern, starting in the centre and working your way outwards.

Freeze to set. Place the pan in the freezer for 1 - 2 hours, placing it in the fridge at least 45 minutes before serving. Cut with a hot knife, wiping it clean and reheating it between each slice.

Enjoy! xx S

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19 November 2013

Enjoying Gluten Free Brunch

The camera felt too heavy to hold and snap up photos this week, even though I was cooking and experimenting each day in the kitchen, with new ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And despite being busy with a new job, a new schedule, I was still cooking and baking, but neglecting to write down anything, my only records being photos quickly snapped up with my phone and a quick two-line caption for Instagram. I have to say that this past week has given me lots of food for thought... quite literally, and I have more ideas for recipes which I will hopefully have time to make before another round of days where I'll be working.

Here's some of the last week's shots, an incomplete diary of gluten free meal ideas, but definitely some of my favourites, and some of my favourite creativity with breakfast and lunch. Brunch.

Starting last week with training at my new job, a receptionist at one of Sooke's hotels, I spent the last of my lazy weekends stretching mornings out, spending time with family, and hiking up one of the mountains nearby. One Sunday morning was spent in my fuzzy pajamas, a hot almond milk mocha, and some gluten free toast. The bread I use now comes from a local bakery called Little Vienna, where they have an array of speciality foods, from cakes and pastries to cookies and doughnuts, and a whole menu of soups, salads and sandwiches for lunch. Among them, many items are wheat free, so we often stop by for a cup of coffee and a small bite under the sun, leaving with buns of bread for dad, and some gluten free for me. And so, for an autumn breakfast, these buns toasted, one half topped with raw chocolate hazelnut butter, the other with local marmalade, and for a perfect finish, some sliced banana, are delicious any morning.
It was a lazy Sunday morning after all, one complete with a little fog that quickly dissipated as the sun warmed, so I felt little need to cook up eggs, keeping my inner laziness happy for just a little while longer.
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10 November 2013

Better than Chocolate? Pots au Chocolat

There is chocolate, and then there are pots au chocolat. Warm, silky, and irresistibly smooth desserts made from the only ingredient that I can undeniably and unregrettably crave in each and every winter dessert. Or any dessert. As days become shorter and daylight is filled with more rain and clouds than the sun, I want desserts made with rich ingredients that fill the house with as much holiday aroma while it cooks. I want a dessert that is easy enough to prepare, but has the flavour and appearance of a professionals wooden spoon.

Of the many chocolate desserts I've made previously, including Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding, Chocolate Hazelnut Cakes, Ginger Coco-Cran Chocolate Clusters, or even the Chocolate Cheesecake, none of them quite capture the smooth melted chocolate centres of these pots, nor the warmth of a mug of hot chocolate on a snowy afternoon that fills every chilly part of you in each and every bite, and keeps you wrapped in a delicious chocolaty hug. A perfect dessert for holidays, or for guests to share beside the crackling fire, these pots have lasted me throughout the first pang of dessert-cravings when I began this blog, to entertaining guests that were sceptical about gluten free to start with. A little secret it has remained, as I felt it was almost too good to share, and I kept it hidden away for nearly 14 months - all the while enjoying it in a guilty chocolaty trance. (I'm sorry).

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04 November 2013

No More False Appearances, Tossed Vegetables Make Us All Happiest

I was thrilled when I read a post so openly criticising what Pinterest and Instagram have become, making each of us focus on how everything looks again. Each site is filled with food bloggers and perfectly posed photos under an array of lights to cast the oh-so-natural-but-not-real lighting streaming in through what appears to be a window propped open that leads to a fresh cut lawn and a platter of home made cookies and pitcher of freshly squeezed lemonade for everyone to enjoy, because there are no enemies in this world right? I remember starting this blog to get away from an image-obsessed world and the popularity contest that ruled the halls, and finally feeling a freedom in being able to start from scratch, and from there, to build a place where I could write, write, and write even more, being in a place away.

When did it become being about that 60-second elation upon receiving another notification for which, yet another, stranger has double tapped your photo. They chose my photo! You might scream out, only to glance upon another user's photo that has quietly surpassed any number of likes you've received. And the best part, this little elation dwindles quickly, leaving behind only an immense amount of disappointment. Maybe this one will do it, you think with each added hash tag to the caption of another photo, a towering plate of cookies that never tasted very good anyway, maybe more people will notice this time.

Oh. My. God. No. Since when did this become a network for the popularity-obsessed, each prying for one another's attention, and solely forgetting the interests that are clearly stated in each person's bio. I read a recent blog post from Gluten Free Girl, and have to say, that I couldn't have been happier that finally, someone had acknowledged how far this has gone, and how far it has come into each blog, as little as we realised. 

Now as I look around Instagram and Pinterest, it truly feels as if the attention has turned to being solely preoccupied with looking our best, and above all, making everything perfect. And for a perfectionist like me, someone who isn't often left happy with a "good" job, I'm sent into spirals and loops while I continually question all the effort I have already put into this blog, and the work I've had to put in to break away from high school pressures, mainly striving to be perfect in a world full of unattainable standards. 

Is it really fair to ourselves that the food we make, cooked so we feel better, healthier, is now a measurement of how others see us? That each photo taken can scale how good we have life, rather than just an outlet a long along with the creative process of cooking, and of blogging. So who cares if a hand peeks into the frame while a photo is snapped? The food I make is for people to enjoy, forks in hand, plates ready, so isn't it right that they would be there, with the food? And all those times we've left a table full of people waiting while the perfect shot has yet to be taken, only to present a plate that's cooled down, lost its brilliance of being straight from the oven, only to mumble, well at least I got a photo. 


It's this post from Gluten Free Girl that captured what I've been meaning to scream for too long now, after realising that those moments immediately after scrolling a news feed teeming with foodography were when I felt the worst, almost as if I had to live up to each brilliant, glittery photo. But how could I? When each post was unattainably attractive, without a dog hair in the frame, a perfect slice of apple pie that doesn't crumble when it's cut, and would never spill any of the evenly chopped apples inside. And of course it's free of anything that makes food taste good! As she says, "It’s just fake, all of it, this perfect food. I’m so damned tired of perfect food." And so am I. 

So here's to throwing pleasing, being perfect, and trying to attain something that, really, I would never want to be, out that perfectly propped open window and into the tray of baked cookies and lemonade. Besides, I'd rather have them warm from the oven. And a cake without sugar?  Puh-lease. 

Back to tossing vegetables together for dinner, throwing in an array of spices, and mixing up the colours to see what will come out the kitchen this time. There's excitement in that, and best of all, complete and utter joy while we enjoy the flavours in a plate that's still steaming in front of us. Behind that shine of perfection we see in photos on our Pinterest feeds is a whole lot of stifled creativity, and I'll have none of that, for this blog, and these dishes prepared, are for living without being heralded by appearances, perceptions, or worries.

This blog after all, has been a way for me to be happy, and I hope to keep it that way. 

Baked Root Vegetables Tossed in Fresh Rosemary

{print recipe here}
This was a great recipe as it used up some of our fresh vegetables, and fresh herbs that we picked up at a market in Saanich, with very little effort. Beets this time of year are juicy and full of flavour, as well as many other root vegetables such as yams and potatoes, that complement each other with taste and colour. 

serves 4


3 medium sized beets
1 onion, sliced
1 small yam, diced
3 - 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, cut from the stem
1 teaspoon salt


Start by cooking the beets, preheating the oven to 415 F, and chopping off the stems of each beet. Place the beets in a shallow baking dish and fill with water reaching halfway up the sides of the beets. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 40 - 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss together sliced onion, yam and potatoes, olive oil, rosemary and salt, and lay out onto a baking sheet. Place this in the oven, with the beets, and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the beets from the oven and allow to cool, or run under cold water. Using a knife, or gently pressing with your fingers, peel the beets, rinsing frequently to avoid staining your hands. They will stain everything if not rinsed immediately.

Cut the beets into small cubes and toss with tray of yams and potatoes, quickly returning to the oven for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot, enjoy a delicious meal with fresh ingredients!

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