Think of Me Gluten-Free

Think of Me Gluten-Free: October 2012

30 October 2012

Seize the Squash!

Sunday was the perfect day. From the late morning, starting with breakfast and tea, to driving along the highway and back. We awoke to heavy clouds and the sprinkling of rain on the windows, dampening our expectations of a nice day in Steveston, which would undoubtably be wind swept and cold in the current weather.  My initial response was,

"Oh no,"

as I stared at the sky, surprisingly close to us sitting in the kitchen,

"you don't mean to make me stay at home again do you!? Outside looks so depressing and cold, those clouds so dark!"

Dad replied to my over exaggeration calmly,

"No, we'll just see how the day goes."

And that's exactly what we did, taking each moment bit by bit, which turned into the best of all days.

Unplanned moments are always the best of moments. There are no expectations or ideals to compare with, everything just happens, flowing seamlessly when you let it, and these days can be experienced and appreciated for what they are. That spontaneity enlightens us, takes the pressure off making the day perfect, and instead, allows each of us to enjoy the company, the environment and what we set about doing that day.

I was ready to tackle the drive up to Squamish, along the highway from where our ferry docked, to a small cafe where we stopped for lattes  - and to my surprise, gluten-free muffins! It was set among shops along the main road, and served a healthier option to Starbucks drinks and snacks, where the rock climbers, bikers and hang-gliders from the area come for their fill. A young girl served us, and many others who lined up, and soon after a young couple who knew her came in for coffees and breakfast wraps. They chatted, staying longer than other customers as no one else remained who needed to be served, and I was reminded of the relaxed comfort in the familiarity of small town coffee shops, where everyone knows the cashier, and everyone meets jovially, explaining the latest news in their lives, exclaiming their joy at seeing someone they know.

Traffic was sparse and calm, benefitting my new driver abilities, and dad and I later left mum to read her book comfortably settled in the cafe as we drove around, practicing on the many four-way stops, and the one round-about we found after many wrong turns. It was a warren maze of small streets and scattered stop signs, which jumped out from overgrown gardens with protruding trees, only visible when nearing the stop line. My thoughts were on nothing more than the present, which calmed me, and I was able to focus on driving solely, a helpful advantage to previous driving practices when I was focusing on school and homework or flitting between homework and dance, my mind racing between the tasks, trying to keep up with everything.

From Squamish we continued up the valley to Whistler, a spur of the moment decision as the clouds began to lift, and the possibility of some sunshine sneered up above the clouds, enticing but not yet apparent. Steveston seemed like a far drive, and we weren't keen on getting back into the city, which contained a hustle and busyness we wanted to steer away from today. We liked the tranquility of the valley, even with the heavy fog seen to be streamlining down the mountain's banks.

I drove again up the highway, manoeuvring the twists and turns through the rocks that were still uneven from their blasting to increase the size of the highway for the 2010 Olympics. It's a nice highway to drive now, smooth, and a much faster journey, which has allowed Whistler to be a day trip rather than the whole weekend for us. Gas is also cheaper in Squamish, so in a way, it's justified when paired with our need for a day out.

It was colder in Whistler, the 9°C temperature was replaced by a cooler front, although I didn't check the screen in the car I know it must have been about 4 or 5°C. Many couples walked around bundled in checkered red scarves and big duffle coats, their red mittens blended together as they cupped each others hands. Kids who climbed about on the new playground structure, an extraordinary wooden enclave, were wrapped in pastel-coloured coats and little red hats, their mothers and fathers stood with hands in pockets and babies in buggies were wrapped in furry blankets and toques with animal faces.

We walked through the village three in a row, and I broke from the pod as I darted in and out of stores, looking, looking. From the North Face to Columbia stores I was looking for a coat, one that could keep me as warm as it would keep me dry during the winter' this winter is meant to be one filled with cold temperatures and will threaten us with snow throughout the season.

Dad thinks I planned the day, with the intention of finding this coat. Ha! I love it, and it is exactly what I was looking for, even before that day, but I'm not that good at steering them. I certainly had an idea of what stores were in the village before, but how could I have ever known we would end up in Whistler?

Dear mum and dad, thank you for such a wonderful day. Finding that coat was just the icing on top of the cake, the foam of our lattes, the gluten-free to the muffins we found in that small cafe, and for dad: the complementary flavours of your beer paired with your lamb stew for lunch. It is the Irish of the pub we went to that day.

Autumn Stuffed Squash
Print Recipe.

Roasted squash, with melted butter and a seasoning of salt, is the perfect accompaniment to a fall dinner. Add a drizzle of maple syrup for another variation, or try a stuffing of wholesome rice with nuts and dried fruit, such as natural dried cranberries to complete the meal. The complementary flavours, loaded with ingredients of fall, this dish will bring everyone to the table, to the warmth of the kitchen, and can be made any time squash is available.

The best dried cranberries are from natural food stores, where added sugars are minimum, and the natural flavours of the cranberries, including a particular tartness, remains.

The stuffing of rice can be cooked and stored in an airtight container on the refrigerator up to 2 days ahead.

Serves 6


3 medium squash, halved lengthwise with seeds removed (I used different types to try the variety available in our local grocery store)

4 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance) melted
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves

2 cups cooked wild rice (1 cup uncooked)
2/3 cup raw cashews, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush 1/2 tbsp of melted butter over and inside each squash halves, sprinkle with brown sugar, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the halved squash inside facing up on a baking tray in the centre of the oven. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until just tender when pierced with a fork.

While the squash is in the oven, heat a large frying pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of butter.

With the butter beginning to foam, add the chopped onion, shallots, and celery, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stirring to coat.

Cook for about 6-8 minutes, with an occasional stir, until the vegetables just begin to soften. Add the chopped basil leaves and cook for another minute, or until fragrant.

Remove vegetables from the stove top and stir in the cooked rice, chopped cashews, chopped cranberries, and salt and pepper.

Spoon the filling into the roasted squash halves, it will be about half a cup each, and drizzle some of the melted butter over top.

Place the squash on the baking tray and roast under the same oven temperature until it is completely tender and the edges begin to brown. About 20-25 minutes.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

26 October 2012

What the Oat? The Truth About Oats

I suddenly like mornings.

I never used to, always dreading the early rises when I would be forced to tread quietly through the house trying not wake anyone as they still slept blissfully, cozied up in bed. It's weird for me, and I like that. Weird is interesting.

I now go to bed anticipating the time when I sit down to my breakfast, engrossed in a book and my morning green tea. If I'm feeling exceptionally adventurous I'll even turn on the radio, which mostly remains fuzzy to what I call "morning ears," causing things to sound strange and indecipherable, but allowing me to remain peacefully unaware of the world around me, that is until the cold air from outside awakens me furiously.

Even though the house usually sleeps in a colder state than my room, a warm cave for my cold-blooded self, it doesn't bother me in the early mornings, and I just slip into a cozy blanket that awaits neatly folded on the back of a chair, and as I shuffle around to make breakfast it slips off my shoulders every now and then. I don't even mutter under my breath like usual, although I may unconsciously wish I had a snuggy to loyally cuddle around me.

Suddenly, I've come to lay in bed at night almost in anticipation for the morning. Some would say I'm crazy to love waking up at six-twenty everyday. But I don't really, I don't actually enjoy cutting my sleep in half just to get to school, I just like having that time to myself, where I have not yet tuned in to my phones beeps and alerts, and the chatter of life hasn't drowned my own desires. From when I get up until just before I leave the house, it's me time.

To allow a little more time in the mornings, I like to prepare my breakfast the night before and leaving it in the fridge for the next morning. Now, this cannot be done with any cereals, because soggy breakfast is not enjoyable in the least, however, oats are a perfect (and quick) morning starter.

I understand that some cannot (or do not) eat oats, due to the small gluten component, however I would like to clear up some common misconceptions that I've uncovered in my 'investigations' for the truth. Contrary to what many believe, oats, like quinoa and buckwheat, are naturally gluten-free. However, because they are often a rotational crop with wheat, and processing occurs in the same facilities, contamination with gluten can occur.

My mum, a buyer for a local food store, asked a few of her suppliers and distributors to clear up the facts after we scoured Whole Foods and our local grocery store for oats that stated 'gluten-free.' Before becoming gluten-free I was a religious breakfast enthusiast when it came to hot porridge every morning, reminding me of breakfasts when we went camping when I was much younger. Apple cinnamon was always a favourite on those brisk mornings after coming out from the tent, still wrapped in a warm blanket.

It is different in the United States, however government guidelines in Canada state that no oat-containing product may have the label 'gluten-free,' although Health Canada recognises that oats, certified pure and uncontaminated, can be consumed by people with celiac disease of gluten sensitivity in small quanities. Uncontaminated oats contain no more than 20 parts per million of gluten, though those with severe celiac disease are recommended to contact their doctor or health care practitioner before consuming oats.
In the United States oat-containing products can be labelled 'gluten-free,' but the stricter guidelines in Canada state that there cannot be any amount of gluten in the product for it to attain this label. Instead, we see many items on our grocery store shelves that will instead have packaging promoting 'wheat-free.' The difference? It's in the policies. Since oats do actually have some gluten, a very minute amount, they are marketed to be avoided for everyone with allergies to gluten, severe or minute, thus causing this widespread misconception.

My granddad for instance, who has a severe celiac condition, cannot eat any oats or any products which contain them. Me on the other hand, will be able to eat small quantities of oats, and hopefully after reading this, some of you will realise that you can too!

Cooked oats, heated and served with chopped apple and maple syrup
Nighttime Oats
Print Recipe.

I put them in the fridge the night before, two ingredients that looked as if they would never form something tasty, and by morning, to my wonderful surprise, it was a delicious, hearty breakfast. Filled with lots of fibre and nutrients, oats are a great way to start the day as they provide the energy you need to keep going.

When gluten is not being eaten, small quantities of oats should be added to the diet first, slowly increasing to about 1-2 cups per day for adults. For severe celiac conditions, oats should be avoided.

Serves 1 


1/2 c instant plain oats
3/4 c almond milk
1/2 c blueberries

1 chopped banana or 1/4 c dried fruit and nuts/seeds
maple syrup to serve


The night before combine the oats, almond milk and blueberries in a bowl, cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The next morning, add the banana, dried fruit or nuts/seeds and drizzle with maple syrup to sweeten. The oats can be heated in the microwave as well if you prefer.


Labels: , , , , ,

23 October 2012

The Bar of Bliss

Like rolling the tapes of a movie, or repeating the lyrics of a song in your head until the words melt together and the meaning becomes indecipherable, I've been going over this post, trying to come up with phrases and anecdotes, clever similes and descriptions.

Lost in the wordplay instead of finding the meaning, I've convoluted my metaphors. It's messy.

So instead I sat down and closed my eyes, and to conjure up the perfect place - a peaceful scene in my mind - to banish worries from my mind. You know, like one of those places the instructor will tell you to imagine in relaxation sessions, or classes at school, which I often scoffed at, and instead made to-do lists in my head while I pretended to participate with eyes closed.

So here goes;

A large, muffled robin-egg-blue house, with a wrap around deck sits amid a golden landscape, awash in the afternoon sun. It's not new, although nor is it shabby. It's well maintained and the wood of it's structure still remains intact. All around this house span fields of tall grasses, bending to the movement of the warm breeze; summertime. Bay windows expand across one side of the house and inside comfortable, fluffy cushions of warm colours are arranged neatly along the window seat. From a seat there one can view the large oak tree situated outside, with the leaves that remain green this time of year.

Many have climbed its large, rippled trunk and the thick, supporting branches that lend themselves to be perches for kids, birds and cats; notched and pock marked from the joyous escapades to its heights, letters and signatures dot the lower branches. Hanging from the thickest of them all is a faded yellow rope with knots tangled and gnarled into inconceivable shapes, and an old pickup truck tire that sways gently at the end. The tire appears worn, with edges smoothed, from those who have played and flown through the air while watchful mothers peered over steaming mugs of freshly brewed chai teas out of the bay windows: a portal to the fleeting movements of children's lives.

The aroma that seeps from teapots encompasses the interior of the house, a welcoming and comforting scent which resides, the spices a tender nudge to the senses upon entering through the dark blue front door, decorated with a large stain glass window down the length of it.

The breeze outside softens the intensity of the hot sun, but remains so gentle as to not move dust from the winding dirt driveway down to the distant main road, and give dance to the long grasses in the rolling hills. It plays tricks on my hair, which flows out behind as I run and jump and play in the expanse of never ending fields. Untouched by anxieties and fears, this is freedom.

The soft tendrils of the grass playfully lap at my skin, nudging my senses, tickling. My dog runs alongside in a joyous oasis while sniffing the smells carried by the wind and excited by my own personal happiness.

I remember the quaint oak table inside, with the delicate setting of a white table cloth that hosts afternoon tea and freshly baked brownies, still warm from the oven, and all prepared tastefully before my return from checking on my horse just up the hill from the house.

The barn, classically painted a deep red with white trim just last summer, houses a beautiful thoroughbred mare that awaits outside in his paddock; a strong stature and watchful gaze greet me, followed by the nodding of his head to my offering of an apple, picked a few moments ago. His coat glistens a rich brown in the sun, and he trots closer in anticipation, excitement, sniffing. Three black socks mark his legs, the front left an astonishing white. Tomorrow we will ride.

Another adventure, another carefree day will ensue, and peace always remains in reach.

Gluten-Free Brownie Bliss Bars
Print Recipe.

Ever just crave chocolate? I know I do. Often. These bars, creamy, rich, and perfectly chocolate, are an excellent after dinner treat served with vanilla ice cream, or as a sweet treat to a long day!

Baked with love, and baked in just a short time, these can be enjoyed anytime!

For best results, allow the brownies to cool at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan, and then let them cool completely on a rack before cutting. This will prevent them from crumbling, but if you can't wait, they can be eaten straight from the pan with a spoon. (Which will probably be me, so don't be shy!)

The best gluten-free brownies... Moist and delicious!

Makes 16 square brownies.


1 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter, or Earth Balance
1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c 100% cocoa powder

3 eggs

3/4 c Nana's Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1 tsp baking powder

1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tbsp tepid water


Grease an 8" square baking pan with butter and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter, sugar and salt together in a bowl. If melting on the stove top, combine ingredients in a bowl and place over a pot of simmering water, stir frequently until butter and sugar melt together. For a faster method, place ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and cook on high for 1 minute.

Stir well and add the vanilla extract and cocoa powder.

In a smaller bowl, beat together all the eggs before adding. Beat rapidly to remove any lumps and until the mixture looks shiny and smooth.

Blend in flour mix and baking powder, and slowly fold in chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into the baking pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle 1 tbsp water over, and place in the oven.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until an inserted knife from the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow the brownies to cool for 15 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Cut into squares once completely cool.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

21 October 2012

Pumped For Pumpkin

I just saw the page views from last week on my "Pea-Nutter Butter Cookies" Recipe and jumped up, extremely excited - Indonesia to the United States to Russia! It's amazing how many people, who I never imagined, have now seen my recipes. Thank you, to everyone!

Before starting, I was reluctant because I never thought I'd be able to post every week, and stay committed enough to cook every weekend whilst taking photos, but it's become so much more exciting each time, and I approach every post with anticipation for the process. This blog has opened my eyes to things around me that I would never have taken the time to notice before; the beauty of those little things in life, such as small moments that change the day for the better, are especially amazing to experience and ones that I've come to cherish. I've come to appreciate perseverance over procrastination, as the thrill of a popular post far outweighs the comfort of having nothing change, and never taking risks.

It reminds me of the time mum, dad and I looked up from lunch one Sunday to the swaying of a large tree out front of our house. It's one of the largest alders, but tiny branches grown just last spring splayed out from the expanding trunk. Among the branches, his charcoal black coat apparent against the drab brown and golden leaves of the tree, a big squirrel and its even larger tail jumped from branch to branch with vigor and speed, and not one of us knew of his intentions. He climbed higher and higher, to the teetering branches that bounced at the slightest wind, and careened over as the squirrel bounded down the length of it.

"What's he doing!?"

Dad exclaimed, as mum cried out,

"That's amazing!"

I laughed at their excitement, as well as the humor in their expressions, both standing at the window peering up to the trees. You can tell we don't have a TV.

"He's going to get picked off by an eagle..."

Said dad, and I wondered why such a small creature would venture up so high, with so much risk of falling. So much to lose.

"He can't get any food up there can he?"

I asked, "I mean there aren't any nuts or fruit growing on those trees."

"Look he's way at the top!"

Mum shouted excitedly, dashing back to find her camera from a large pile on the counter, an array of written out recipes, pens and schoolbooks.

"That would be a great photo, you can just see the outline of him up there!"

The branch that he was perched on bent precariously under his weight, bowing down ceremoniously. I gasped as he skittered forward, down, so near to losing everything, although so close to reaching the top of the tree.

Just at that moment, with his head tucked underneath the rest of his vertically positioned body, he sprung up and landed at the end of another branch and scurried furiously along it to the trunk of the tree.

A sigh of relief. It was even better than watching a movie.

And with that, after such difficulty and precision in steps, that big squirrel, who we all doubted from the moment the branch began to give way, had completed his journey to the top. Still, his purpose remained unknown, although it seems unlikely that he intended to get a better look at the mountains, or to seek the thrill of being up so high. However to us, he overcame something unattainable. Unbelievable. Extraordinary.

Just like overcoming something in our lives, with adrenaline pumping, we set to high gear. To go. Go. Go. But for some, after days of high heart rates and busy schedules, we rise to an early morning with dropping eyelids and a lagging drive to get up and out of the house.

In contrast to the squirrel, there's nothing behind us, like the fear of falling, to push us to the top, and propel us toward the day. So, for an added boost to my Sunday morning, I combined a bit of coffee, sugar and spice and definitely that something nice! Today, as fall envelopes my senses and imagination for cooking, I scraped the last of puréed pumpkin from the container.

I didn't quite have the energy to purée my own fresh pumpkin. Yet! However Halloween is still coming, and we have not yet carved our pumpkins - so soon!

Spiced Pumpkin Lattes
Print recipe.
A vision for fall:
Crisp air and the soft, gentle glow of the sun against brightly colored leaves. Bundled in warm mittens and scarves we bound through piles of maple leaves that float blissfully through the air as we walk the trails. As gatherings with friends slowly retreat indoors from the unused patio chairs, one treat remains a consistent favorite, and everyone enjoys the comfort of a perfect blend of spices - cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves - smooth, hot, and just enough sweet.

Serves 2


2/3 c brewed coffee
2/3 c almond milk
1 1/3 c water
2 tbsp honey

1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp powdered cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp puréed pumpkin


On the stove top, heat the coffee, almond milk, water and honey together
until it begins to boil.

Reduce to a simmer, and add the vanilla, spices and pumpkin.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Pour through a strainer a couple of times to get ride of thickness, and pour into mugs.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20 October 2012

As The Leaves Dropped, She Said "Wha-Fell?"


"What fell?"

Leaves, fluttering like feathers, rhythmical swayed back and forth as they descended from the trees this morning -


"Waffles for breakfast?"

The leftover pumpkin purée in the fridge has been my topping for everything since Thanksgiving, I've especially enjoyed it with plain yogurt in the mornings as the subtle, indulgent flavours complement added fruits such as apples or bananas. Oh, and don't forget the added serving of vegetables at the same time!

I've been admiring all the pumpkin baked goods at Starbucks, which I don't grab anymore, as I reluctantly pull my eyes away,

Focus on the hot drinks instead.

Except even those drinks don't maintain the true pumpkin taste I crave when the leaves begin to float through the air on their way to the ground, a complement to the cinnamon and nutmeg spices, and delicately embodying what I think fall is about. Comfort. Familiarity. Cherishing the moments.

This morning, my friend and I in oversized university sweaters from our sisters, slippers, and pyjamas, made tea to warm up with as mum and dad woke up and we decided about breakfast.

Fittingly, for the house was chilly when we awoke, I received a text from a friend that read,

'Hey its snowing!'

And in the grogginess of sleep I thought it was from a friend who lived nearby, and the possibility of it never crossed my mind. So, my friend and I leant far out the window with arms outstretched trying to find droplets, rain or snow, and wondering where she had gotten the notion of snow. To our dismay the air was clear of falling crystals, despite grey clouds above, and bundling back inside, tripping over one another to reach our sweaters, I realised the snow was falling much farther north, home to one friend and the source of the text.

It must be around -30° C where she lives, a temperature intolerable for me, as I find myself in sweaters, scarves, a big coat and mittens in the current 10° C and the thought of the inevitable -5° C of our winters frightening. But I will embrace it with a mug of tea in the morning and some gluten-free hot cereal, which I'm working on at the moment. Preparations for winter.

Saturday mornings are the perfect day for a cooked breakfast with family, as are Sundays, when everyone's home and all are ready to relax into a long morning that stretches into an afternoon filled with the repetition of pouring teapots and the flow of chatter at the table. Idle chatter about the week's events, and the island gossip; laughter as we poke fun, but also chatter about what might really be going on underneath the surface of those around us, and why things are always changing pace.

I've learnt time and time again that its best to open up, and never to let things simmer on high as they're bottled. The pot will boil over eventually. And breakfast, even if things aren't said directly, is the perfect time for the presence of those around to become the net to catch words, whether they be good, grieving, or ambiguously embedded and tied up in the need for others to decipher them.

Baking is a lot like watching the formation of secrets, the spices become buried underneath the complex configuration of other ingredients, masked in colour by the whiteness of flours, and hidden by the thickness of the batter. However, underneath each crust, muffin top or pastry shell, we know whats been added, although unknown to the baker are the chemical processes that undergo when heat is applied. The baker's apprentice, the bystander, can't yet understand the effect each ingredient, each addition, every cause, will have on the outcome, and the consequence triggered eventually. And like hurt that's been smothered as if a thick smog blanketed it once before, feelings eventually reveal themselves, all those hidden secrets, and all those forgotten spices come out again.

They give the cake it's name, make the muffin flavourful, desirable, as the secrets reveal themselves from under the shell.

So within these waffles I've added spices and pumpkin, a complementary pair, working heroes together, that make these waffles, and this breakfast, special. Memorable. They've made it what it is.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Waffles
Print recipe.

The moist and tender waffles can be altered to sport your favourite dried or fresh fruit, such as blueberries or peeled and diced apple, or even chocolate chips. Be happy with your creation.

Serves 6 to 8


250 g Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

3/4 pumpkin puree
4 tbsp grape seed oil
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

2 - 2 1/2 c rice or almond milk


Heat up waffle iron and preheat oven to 180° F with a large plate inside. Combine all flour mix, baking powder and soda, and spices in a large bowl, set aside.

In another bowl, combine pumpkin, oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs.

Make and well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add wet ingredient, stir until mixed.

Slowly pour in rice or almond milk and stir constantly, add enough for batter to become thick and runny.

Spoon mixture into waffle iron and close, following cooking instructions specific to your waffle iron.

Transfer cooked waffles to a plate in the oven until all waffles are cooked.

Serve with maple syrup and slices of fresh apple or banana.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 October 2012

"Pea-Nutter Butter Cookie"

I can't even remember the last I time I had a good, homemade cookie.

Not the crunchy, flaky, type but a real, soft cookie. With the first bite into its moist centre I immediately remember those days mum and I would bake together, me as a little toddler, and my eyes couldn't yet see over the edge of the counter. It was before I became caught up in life outside of the comfort of my home, and the warmth of the kitchen where we baked.

There's one photo from my childhood that a freshly baked cookie, still warm from the clutches of the oven, reminds me of. It's in one of three photo albums from before digital cameras changed the process of documenting life neatly into books, right at the back where other photos of me with chicken pox remain. I laugh now at the contrast of one photo of me painfully lying in the bath tub, covered in red spots and looking extremely unhappy. Next to it, it's of me sitting happily atop the counter with a cookie dough covered spoon in my mouth and round cheeks full of happiness. My little belly full of cookie dough bulges, and flour and other ingredients have spilt around where I am sitting.

I must have loved cooking even as a young child, as another photo rests in my album of me sitting beside a cupboard in the kitchen, a bag of flour spilt across my lap, and an eager smile still gleaming across my face. My pink tights are barely visible under the whiteness of the flour, and it cascades across the floor.

A cookie is packed with love, its not to be unrecognised - it holds so much more than it appears. I mean, you give cookies to new neighbours as welcoming and make lifelong friends, cookies make perfect gifts, and they're always there to comfort and make a good day great. I remember when my best friend and I would spend the afternoon baking together at her house, enjoying the sweet smells wafting from the oven as we sat excitedly waiting for the timer's ring, rocking our feet back and forth as we sat on the counter recounting the first time we met. Biting into a cookie and reading gluten-free cooking blogs this afternoon, as the day became darker with heavy rain, I came upon this perfect quote from Karina of Gluten Free Goddess:

"A good cookie can make you smile, even after a tiresome, irritating day.  Yes, I know it's food not love. But a cookie can be. Love I mean. A kind of culinary hug, when baked with affection.

A good cookie might even bring you a kiss. Or tender arms of appreciation wrapped around your neck. A good cookie might even make you a new friend... A good cookie can make you feel like you belong."

And I did, sitting around the table with mum and dad, our cookies on a small plate in the centre, and mugs of tea in our hands. I felt perfectly relaxed at home. The day had been dark and rainy from the moment we awoke, the pitter patter of raindrops became the soundtrack to the day, a melody for naps in the afternoon and a comforting beat to read lines in our books.

I set to making cookies fearing that I would forget a vital ingredient again, at the very least that they wouldn't rise, or the very worst, not cook at all. However, using My Nana's Gluten-Free Flour Recipe and with a little patience, they came out in perfectly round shapes, even holding the designs on top, and tasting like every girls dream cookie. Every child's favourite cookie, and especially dad's favourite cookie, who recommended peanut butter when I wondered about what to bake.

Never neglect a need for a good cookie, it makes everything so much better. I swear.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe
Print Recipe.

If you want a smoother cookie, use smooth peanut butter, but I quite like the bits of peanuts in mine, they make for little crunchy bits. I'd like to try different types of butters for a different flavour next time too, maybe cashew, hazelnut, almond or a mix of two!

I used half butter and half shortening for this recipe, using all butter will cause the cookies to be crunchier and shortening will result in a much chewier and softer cookie. For a little in between, a soft interior with a bit of crunch, do as I have done below.

Makes between 20 and 24 cookies, depending on size.


40 mL shortening, I used vegan shortening for these cookies
1/4 c butter, or replacement
3/4 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c raw peanut butter

175 g Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1 tsp baking soda


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper

In a large bowl beat together shortening, butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and peanut butter until smooth and thoroughly combined. If the butter and shortening is firm, microwave for 20 seconds to soften before adding other ingredients.

Add the gluten-free flour and baking soda, stirring to cover flour and then beat.

Pinch of small pieces of the dough and roll it into a ball with your hands, pressing it onto the baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough. With the edge of a fork press down to create little ridges and flatten the cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12 - 16 minutes, they will begin to brown at the edges but the tops should not. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 October 2012

Drive Roll

You wouldn't believe the hype around here for Justin Bieber's Believe tour. I've never known so many people to go to one concert, at the same venue and time, and all people who I know. And some even got backstage passes - the opportunity to meet him.

Three friends and I were driven down to Tacoma, a three or four hour drive from here for my mum, with the cost of a hotel to share. Tuesday afternoon, with passports and money secured, as well as the tickets for the show safely stored someplace we would remember, my mum picked us up from school early, and we were off.

Music loud, and sun pouring down, the excitement for the next twenty four hours away built. Brick upon brick, joke upon joke, and tumbling down with pouring laughter.

It was hot in the car, and mum and I constantly fiddled back and forth with the temperature dial, me favouring the red side, where warm air escaped from the vents and blanketed me, and mum the blue, causing my toes to chill as icy particles splintered through my cocoon. The temperature outside read above 15°C, and as we drove mum commented,

"It feels like a May long weekend!"

Just like the days when school comes to the end early, and we all dash off for the weekend as a much needed get away, giving us all that extra push of motivation to carry on working and finish the end of the year.

We've had enough tests this week for it to feel like exam time, I've been swamped every evening, underneath toppled textbooks and scattered pens, creating a jungle around me as I sit wrapped up in slippers and a big sweater, cradling my iPad, and fingers drumming at the keys as I slip into zombie-mode...

Must. Get. This. Done. Tonight.

Until mum shouts out,

"Would you like a cuppa tea!?"

Everyone napped as the car edged through traffic, a stalled stampede through the winding array of businesses as we neared Seattle. Truck and RV vendors lined the highway, as advertisements decked out in quickly fading colours dotted along became blurred swatches of colour as we sped up.

The hotel which we checked into was nothing glamorous, with a double bed for two to share, extra padded as requested for a good sleep, and a TV on the wall. Very American. Downstairs, little girls dressed in purple t-shirts with slogans of

Believe Tour 2012


Justin Bieber We Love You,

Matched with little tutus danced around the foyer in excitement, smiles expanding as the time closed in. 3 hours.

In our room we donned make up and heels, and tried not to laugh at how silly we might look with so many younger kids around, in their pony tails and sneakers.

The venue of the concert was a dome building, with seats up the sides of the stage in the centre. We arrived in the middle of the opening act, Carly Rae Jepson, and the stands were only three quarters full. Many people, like us, thought they had loads of time to wait, as nothing ever starts on time!

I loved the costumes some girls wore, matching pinks and purples, matching hats and shirts, and my favourite, the hot pink skirts that read


On the back.

That was Tuesday night, and the last day of what still felt like summer. Today, I watched as rain drops fell down the windows, as if racing each other to the bottom.

I cheered for the underdog, slowly crawling and diagonally approaching the race. Slow and steady. If only I had taken heed of that advice as I cooked, maybe I would have remembered all the ingredients.

Like the butter. Which caused my pastry to resemble a cocoon, protecting the little caterpillar inside.

Although, I can't deny what I learnt from it, watching my little rolls sitting in the oven. I explored another consistency from baking with gluten-free flours, only found from straying from the written and tested recipes. Or forgetting to follow the path completely.

Butter is vital for many baked items, including cookies, cakes and pastries. The richness, as well as its creaminess, improves the texture, flavour, and moisture, as well as even freshness of whatever its used in. Butter, as the preferred fat by chefs all across the world, although I often opt for Earth Balance spread, serves for different purposes depending on the temperature.

Chilled butter, best when stored in the coldest part of the fridge, is specifically used for some pie crusts. Cold butter causes the flour to absorb less of the moisture contained within butter, and results in a flaky, crisper consistency.

Alternately, butter kept at room temperature is usually required for recipes that call for creaming together the butter and sugar. This process involves incorporating air, which helps with the process of rising as it bakes. The best temperature for storing butter at room temperature is between about 18°C and 21°C.

Finally, melted butter is often reserved for cooking sauces, and pan-frying, however sometimes it is used in baking recipes, such as cheesecake crusts. Using melted butter adds small amounts of flavour and moisture to dry ingredients.

So here, with butter this time, are my sausage rolls.

Gluten-Free Turkey Sausage Rolls
Print recipe. 

I really started crying this time, when I chopped the onions I mean. I must have been really upset about chopping up such a beautiful onion. Well actually, it was just really fresh. If this happens to you, causing you to sniffle and tear up while cooking, and forcing odd expressions of shock from those around,

"Whats wrong!?"

Chewing gum is meant to help. Try it!

My first attempt replaced the egg in this recipe with ground flax, preferable if you don't eat eggs or are allergic, however the result was crumbly, and the pastry was extremely difficult to work with. The second time, I completely forgot the butter! Which caused the pastry to resemble a shell-like cocoon, although still tasty. I also found that they took much longer to cook without butter, or any replacement. Finally, I remembered all the ingredients, and worked with proper flours to reach a perfect result.

Make 12 regular sized sausage rolls.



3/4 c blanched almond meal
3/4 c potato flour (not starch!)
1 c brown rice flour
3/4 c tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt

1 egg
1/3 c butter, or dairy-free replacement
about 3/4 c chilled water

2 tbsp milk for brushing


500 g ground turkey

1 carrot, grated
1 apple, grated
1 brown onion, grated
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped finely
2 fresh basil leaves, chopped finely

1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp thyme leaves
salt and pepper to season
Using an egg helps bind together the pastry...

So that this is finally possible!


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor combine the dry ingredients, pulse, then add the chilled butter until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Pour in the egg and mix.

With the motor still running slowly add water until the pastry forms a ball. Remove from the processor, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.


Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a large bowl for the filling, squeezing the juices from the grated carrot, apple and onion before adding. Stir well, making sure ingredients are spread throughout the entire mixture. Set aside.


Remove the pastry from the freezer and cut in half. With one half roll it out on a piece of parchment sprinkled with brown rice flour. Shape into a long rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick.

Spoon the filling down the centre. Using the parchment paper underneath, fold the long edges over the filling.

Brush milk over the edges to help with sticking, and roll the pastry overtop, cinching the edges together. Place the roll so that the edges are underneath.

Cut into desired sizes, and place on the lined baking sheet. With extra milk, brush the tops of each sausage roll.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Delicious with caramelised onions or ketchup (not Heinz brand!)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 October 2012

Rain Grows the Flour

The rain finally fell today.

It's been over a month of dry weather; streams have dried up, and on long walks with my dog she jumps in excitedly at the site of every bed... Only to the thud of her paws on parched stones, and the scraping of her claws against rocks as she glides across them. Despite the lack of water, and to my surprise, there was still mud at the sides of the trails, an oozing dark brown with green skunk cabbages dotted throughout. It ushers dogs in, and their paws end up muddy, like little boots, just as you turn to leave. Its my dog's way of getting a bit more out of our walks.

This week I took my dog, a springer spaniel, and my neighbours two dogs, both cocker spaniels mixed, one with pug and one with springer spaniel. They were tons of fun running around, chasing one another, and jumping in the lake nearby. We ended up staying far too long at the beach, where sticks strewn about were picked up by the dogs to be thrown. My dog, with her huge webbed feet, loves the water, and splashes in jovially kicking off the ground to get height with each jump. The other two, both small and frisky, rolled around in the grass, tumbling over each others backs in play.

I met friends at the beach who were enjoying the bright sun and the peaceful air; squatting on the beach they looked out at the rippling water until the dogs disturbed their rest. Tourists lazed on the beach as well, but their serenity was halted as a wet dog made her way over to nuzzle their faces. Luckily, they didn't become angry, and instead played with the dogs, rubbing their bellies and running around in circles, looking for the excited faces of the dogs to watch in earnest, prized on the stick.

And still the rain fell as the day turned to night, the crisp in the air turned icy, and the drops became heavier, soaking into the parched ground, washing away debris.

It's so cleansing watching droplets run down windows, streaking the glass as if wiping it clean. The air becomes fresh as well, with the heaviness diminishing after each cloud burst.

Although its very different when it rains here compared to England, when the rain feels depressing, somber, and heavy. Rainy days weren't comforting when I visited this summer, however perhaps because I was jet lagged the first week of my holiday gave the wrong impression. It poured continuously as I stayed with uncles, until mum arrived. And from that day on, the sun shone, and I wore shorts and tank tops everyday, even tanning in London!

The freshness of this rain is much needed for the plants, to wear fall clothes (and boots!), and especially to enjoy the comfort of autumn foods. And I remind myself to dress warmly when I awake, when the night still darkens the morning until I leave the house. It's as if I still expect it to be sunny in just a few short hours, wiping away the brisk morning front.

Brisk morning fronts. As if standing atop a Scottish castle, overlooking the moors.

I've got Scotland on my mind, just as I've got my nana on my mind as well. My grandad recently sent me gluten-free recipes that my nana worked on to make a cookbook, although it has not been published. I've only received a couple of recipes, but I hope to try each recipe and post how it goes on here, including pictures to add.

It started in the late 1970's when my grandad first became sick. Initially he was brought to the doctors attention because of pain in his appendix, which transitioned into the discovery of his celiac disease, and the reason for his declining health.

When my grandad explains this story he always jokes about the numerous cakes and pies he ate, in hope of gaining weight, but further compounding the problem with even more gluten.

My nana, as a young woman, trained in the field then known as "domestic science," which included nutrition, diet and cooking, as well as an exploration of the research behind the science of cooking. This knowledge also helped her to make cordials and jams, as well as wine from tea. If only I knew how!

So when my grandad got sick, and was diagnosed as a celiac, my nana enthusiastically jumped at the challenge to help him, including tackling her own recipes. Everything she cooked was formulated by herself, as there was no access to the internet for tips on blogs like today.

Over the years she worked on recipes to help him, and was able to bring my grandad back to full health. Now, I start with her first recipe, a gluten-free flour mix, and the basic element to gluten-free cooking.

Having a strong base to cook with results in an easier time in the kitchen, no mixing flours every time, and packets aren't at risk of spilling across the floor each time you bake when rows of packets precariously line the counter tops.

My Nana's Gluten-Free Flour Mix
Print recipe.

Stir together a large batch of this mix and store in an airtight container in the fridge for later use in any baked goods. It is preferable to use within 3 months.

One thing to note, is that chickpea flour does have quite a strong, earthy taste, which you may not like at all. Recently, I have taken chickpea flour out of this recipe and replaced it with coconut - a sweeter, softer flour. So feel free to mix it up, but the general guidelines are as follows.

Makes 1 kg, however if you bake a lot, double this recipe.


250 g potato flour (not starch)
200 g tapioca flour
175 g rice flour
250 g maize flour
125 g chickpea flour, coconut or sorghum flour can also be used to    
                               replace chickpea flour, or any of the above   
                               flours in the same quantities.


Combine, and mix well.

Pour into an airtight jar, and store in a cool, dry place.

Add baking powder when called for in recipes.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

07 October 2012

Maybe to Share

I walked into the store yesterday after forgetting the vital ingredients of a pumpkin cheesecake, and was bombarded by a flurry of movement. Last minute shoppers, like myself, were hastily grabbing items off the shelves as if it were the last one left on the island. Chances are, that will probably happen by Sunday this weekend. Thanksgiving always embarks with busier ferry rides, great weather, and dwindling shelf stocks.

A group of friends and I are having our own Thanksgiving tonight, divvying up the plates to bring, and then meeting in the afternoon to cook the turkey. It's our first attempt at cooking a turkey, without the assurance of adults monitoring the progress and carefully taking the inside temperature to check against the time. One will be bringing his homemade cranberry sauce, another their stuffing, and a series of desserts will also make their way onto the table. As always, they're the favourite.

The problem is? A lot will be made with wheat; the pies will be made with a wheat flour pastry, the stuffing from bread.

Luckily, as I came home yesterday, chilled by the winds outside and loving the idea of a hot oven baking delicious sweets, I set to baking a gluten free cheesecake. Maybe to share.

The cheesecake is egg free this time, as one of my friends that will be there tonight has a severe egg allergy, an obstacle to eating many desserts people bake. Surprisingly, this didn't change the consistency of the cheesecake too much, only increasing the time required in the oven. The berries of summer, bright in colours and flavours, used in my last cheesecake recipe were replaced with fall ingredients: the flavours associated with autumn, warm and comforting, and (thankfully) the bridge from summer into the cold, icy winters.

I'm thankful for the time Thanksgiving occurs, as its a perfect interlude of busy schedules, and a time to relax, reflect and rejuvenate. The weekend is for a little personal R&R, with the added bonus of really good food to aid the replenishing of motivation. The extended weekend, if only for a day, changes Sunday's atmosphere by reducing the ominous presence of Monday ahead - threatening to bring us back to that busy schedule once again. Sunday becomes another Saturday, another day to enjoy the time walking trails with the dog, or playing in the yard with family and friends.

I awoke relaxed for the first time in ages this morning, noted by mum as I sat, reflected, and didn't jump in anticipation for the dishes to be cleared from the morning's coffee, and start on the next job of the day. Instead, by contemplating my state, definitely peaceful, I was able to enjoy the fact that the sun shined brightly, without any evidence of the usual mosaic of clouds in the sky, and I could spend a few enjoyable hours basking in the vitamin D... A remedial nutrient to health, increasingly apparent as the days shorten, and the majority of daylight is spent inside, or wrapped up in layers of clothing, further banishing the sun from the sight of our skin.

Mum exclaimed that I was "pensive, perhaps relaxed."

And that "something was different today."

I think its the open air and clear sky above this weekend, uplifting everyone's mood atleast, and also opening by mind into the realisation that the little stresses swaying me so much during the week cannot have any positive outcome, nor do they help me in finishing projects, or enjoying each day. Things to do are only blown out of proportion, making them see like the end of the world, unthinkably large and unmeasurable. Potentially, this weekend has the power to unleash my inner calm, previously barricaded and locked away, the key thrown to the stresses in my mind. Like the leaves of fall, blown from the tree to a new location, but in time they renew into new plants, new life.

The beauty of fall intrigues me.

The warmth and comfort of Thanksgiving dinners, with leftovers packaged and stored in the fridge for the upcoming week to come, sustains my excitement for change.

Flavours, spices that uplift the senses, unify the meals we cook this season.

The scarf, still hanging on the rack until the wind blows colder, will tie together every moment, as it reappears in photos taken.

Pumpkins resemble the unity and family we cherish during this holiday. A symbol seen throughout autumn.
Mixing the crust... and maybe stealing a spoonful!
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake (Egg-free too!)
Print recipe.

A rich and creamy denouement to any fall dinner, especially Thanksgiving, as the rich spices invigorate digestion through the senses. The nutty base is a perfect alternative to using gluten-free biscuits for the crust, adding more flavour to the entire dessert. You can alter the amount of spices to create the perfect pair to your flavour of cheesecake.

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake.



1/4 c butter, melted
1/3 c almond meal (blanched)
2/3 c ground whole almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 c white rice flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder


250 g cream cheese (light)
250 mL creme fraiche

1/2 c plain Greek yogourt
2 c canned pumpkin
1 1/2 c white sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9-inch removable bottom pan with parchment paper. Trace the bottom to create a circle of parchment to layer the base, and line the sides.

In a small bowl combine the filling ingredients, making sure ingredients are equally dispersed throughout the mixture.

Press the mixture onto the base of the pan, evenly spreading it out across.

Place the pan in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

In another, larger bowl, add the cream cheese and creme fraiche together. Beat on medium speed to blend and soften.

Add in the yogourt, canned pumpkin, sugar and spices. Stir until combined, and then beat until creamy and soft.

Pour the filling over the base, levelling it across.

Bake for 1 hour.

Upon removing from the oven, allow to cool completely before transferring it to the fridge to set for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Delicious with a topping of fresh whip cream.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,