Think of Me Gluten-Free

Think of Me Gluten-Free: November 2012

29 November 2012

Potate-oh, Pah-tato

Love has great taste.

For those who believe that food is love; the love for that perfectly baked cake, the chicken roasted to perfection, chocolate that melts in your mouth, then you'll want to cook as much as I do.

Or maybe it's something someone else made for you that's just to die for.

Today, mum and I met after an early end to school (those really are the best of days) and we decided upon lunch at our favourite spot on the island. The view looks out on the ferry's path, and on a clear day our tiny ferry can be seen passing the routes of the huge ferries in comparison on it's way back and forth from the mainland.

Kids waited for their dance classes over juices and oversized cookies and situated in the comfortable lounge chairs by the fire in the corner, but their voices escalated around the entire room as did their levels of sugar.

At a small table by the window, mum and I sat across from each other and waited for our food after ordering at the counter, laden with jars of cookies and biscotti and farther down from that, a tiered cake platter supported large meringues of varying sizes and shapes - my favourite being the little mouse ones. Perfectly decorated with little half pistachios as ears and chocolate chips for eyes, they look like the perfect afternoon treat. In the cooler we eyed the prepared dishes, our mouths watering at french delicacies, soups, sandwiches and tapas.

The cafe varies their menu of soups often, tomato basil one week, to squash, potato & cumin the next, and because of their enviable gluten-free bread served alongside, a tasty slice with the evidence of being grilled from the black criss-crossed lines along the front and back, I am most inclined to feel the comfort of a hot bowl. Immediately upon entering, I check the small blackboard that sways in its brackets above the counter and announces today's soups in colourful, spiralling chalk lettering.

What a comfort to have soup by the window of a cafe, overlooking an array of trees pounded by the rain, and to be still and warm, even overheating, from both the food and a hot latté.

I wish you were here.

The food comes by way of a friendly waitress, who lays each dish down on the wooden table as I collect napkins and cutlery from a little basket from the centre table.

It smells so good.

And for dessert, because we just couldn't resist the new addition to the display of enticing dishes, we shared a warm rice pudding served in a cute little jar and topped with raspberry jam. Mum and I couldn't keep our spoons still even if we tried.

"Pass the puddin' please,"

we repeated over and over to each other, until the very last spoonful was scraped from the bottom, and we finally relaxed back into the large wooden chairs to people watch again. Perhaps one day I will finally make such a delicacy, and together, we will share in the warmth and comfort of a creamy rice pudding, straight from the oven.

And perhaps with the intent of cooking from scratch, it may take a few tries to reach the desired creaminess with that subtle hint of real vanilla. We will indulge in the simple pleasure of creation, and the outcome of something so beautiful, even if it only lasts a few moments in the face of expectant family and friends.

They will love everything you cook for them. So, dinner tonight?

Baked Rosemary Potatoes
Printable Recipe.

To accompany any main meal, these potatoes are full of rich flavours and cooked to perfection!

A Quick Note:
When chopping the onions, it is much easier to chop them with the ends still on! The end with the roots attached, that resembles little tentacles, actually holds together the onions structure, and keeps the layers tightly bonded. I usually cut my onion in half, slice across it again, without cutting the end, and then slice, which creates diced onions!

Serves 3 - 4 as a side dish.


2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb baby potatoes
1 red onion, chopped


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a 20 cm wide baking dish, combine the garlic, rosemary, rice wine vinegar, mustard, oil and salt and pepper, stirring until mixed.

Chop the washed potatoes in halves, and add them with the red onion to the dish, coat in mixture.

Cover the dish with foil, securing the ends by curling the foil around the dish, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil, and bake for another 20 - 25 minutes.

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28 November 2012

If Life Throws Snowballs, Sweeten Them!

Ever feel as if the cold of winter wraps it's icy tendrils around everything, and despite the layers of blankets the draft disperses and grows from underneath your skin; winter, in it's stubborn display of the changes to come, the winds and cold, the storms and the crystallised beauty, also wraps you gently at first, comforting and softly, tightening as a cocoon around a caterpillar, with each fibre pushing it's frosty exterior further onto you, freezing to the touch, and never letting go.

Maybe this is why I love winter, it truly is like being wrapped in a forever Snuggy. Forever slippers on your feet, and never thinking that the skies will suddenly brighten, open up, and even disperse.

I find the contrasts of winter's arrival most apparent as I stand on the dock for the ferry. The wind blows carefully at first, testing it's recipients for reaction, and with none, increases intensity. Laughing, it speeds up, as if a child chasing an animal around, it winds precariously through cars, through people, jumping over benches and fences, and still never tiring. Above, clouds hover close, grey and white in patches, but mostly a light grey similar to that of the sparse populations of seagulls buried in their feathers; some gulls peer atop their wings only in the search of dropped food. You feel as if a heavy dome encompasses the world, but there lies the sea, an expansive, vast body which stretches farther than the horizon, although unseen at the moment. By land you can continue on, but by the space above, the star and moon invisible, you are halted. You can travel off the island, there are so many places to be explored; other continents, ones you have traveled  others unknown, lie beyond the boundaries far off, perhaps they can be escaped to, and perhaps winter can be forgotten for some time. And yet, situated on a small island between the surrounding mainland, time seems to have stopped after five o'clock each night, and again we wait for winter to pass over in the tranquil escape of our homes.

So with the cold air coddling the timbers of our wooden house, and escaping in through every possible crack, I decided to embrace the winter wonderland it so wishes to be, and turn my counter into my very own personal snow field.

And with that, I poured icing sugar across the counter.

My own winter wonderland.

It's almost December, and surprisingly, I couldn't be more excited for Christmas.

So time to start the Christmas baking, the holiday treats, and decorating all those wonderfully sweetened cookies.

Did I mention that we already have a bottle of organic Egg-Nog in the fridge? A delectable winter treat, creamy and sweet, especially comforting when it's been warmed up on the stove and spiced with a delicate peppering of nutmeg and cinnamon. Remember last Christmas when you sipped Egg-Nog by the window and snow flakes fell, and still, you were warm.

Look, even the restaurants think it's already that time of year.

This is the first time that I have incorporated any of the gums, xantham or guar, into my baking, and although reluctant I thought it was worth a try. So many successfully bake with them, and can bypass the result of crumbly, flaky cookies or muffins which give gluten-free baking such a bad name.

Mum was given a small package as a sample of Bob's Red Mill Guar gum, and for the past couple of weeks it has been peering round the corner of a basket in the cupboard. I admit, I've eyed it a couple of times, however I haven't seen the need to use it. That is, until today.

I was reminded of my friend's comments on my cookies,

"These are sooo crumbly!"

And the picture of the depleted loaf when it came out of the oven, nearly crumbling across the expanse of the counter as I lifted it from the baking tin. No, I don't want disappointment from these picturesque little treats. They should be full of love and fun.

No tears, nor fears, mum would say.

Gluten-Free (and Vegan) Chocolate Snowball Cookies
Printable recipe.

Truffle-like in taste, but moist and light, these little snowballs will definitely be by my side for every winter celebration and party this year. They're the very essence of winter, comforting and delightful, and like the snow on the ground (may it come soon) they look like little snow balls that fly across the yard.

Quickly and easily made in a short amount of time, it's important to set aside a large area for the icing sugar, which will coat these little snowballs in a feathery dusting. Just remember, this area must be completely dry to avoid actually icing to form, which is very difficult to scrape clean!

Makes approximately 16 1-inch balls


4 oz gluten-free unsweetened chocolate chips or grated chocolate
2 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp ground flax seed
3 tbsp almond milk

1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c light brown sugar

1/2 c coconut flour
1/4 c sorghum flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp each salt and guar gum (use xantham gum if you prefer)

approximately 1/2 c icing sugar for coating


Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, melt together the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave (high for 2 minutes, stir, and repeat for 1 minute or until completely smooth) or in a dish above a pot of simmering water on the stove.

In another, larger bowl, whisk together the ground flax and almond milk. When the chocolate and coconut oil is completely melted, pour into the flax mixture and stir well to combine.

Add the sugar and vanilla extract.

In another bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, salt and guar gum before combining to the chocolate mixture. It should turn out thick and moist. If using shredded coconut, add it here.

With your hands, roll the dough into small balls and place approximately 3 centimetres apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Even though the snowballs are still hot (and don't look like snowballs just yet!) roll them in the icing sugar, coating them completely before setting aside and repeating with each.

During this process, the snowballs will begin to cool, so repeat coating them until they are covered completely and no brown of the cookie dough can be seen.

Serve and enjoy!


If you choose to use sweetened chocolate, reduce the sugar to 1/4 c and taste test before baking. For a sweeter treat, keep the same amount of sugar with sweetened chocolate.

Between 1/4 c and 1/3 c of finely shredded coconut can also be stirred into the mixture right before forming the snowballs for a crunchier texture, however after baking the coconut might suck some of the moisture.

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25 November 2012

With Water Droplets, Make Apple Loaf

It's become a nice weekend ritual for me to bake a sweet bread loaf before dad comes home, it's nice for all three of us to sit around our mug of tea, placed in a triangle around a cutting board with a warm loaf. The table is always littered with crumbs and the loaf is usually missing its other half when we've sipped, chatted, ate, and laughed. And with each new week I want to try something new, to experiment and perfect recipes, and hopefully hit a high note on my parents taste buds; I love the days when they exclaim after finishing a slice,

"Okay, this is really good!"

I love sharing the gluten-free goodies that I bake with family and friends, and those that eat gluten can compare the difference of outcome with either flours (their favourite comment still remains how crumbly some cookies end up - I groan, 'again?') Their positive response to the taste is encouraging, but really it's just so easy now. Their sighs of pleasure with the first bite into something straight from the oven is perfect. Could there be anything more satisfying than the approval of the hours you spent perfecting in the kitchen?

Going gluten-free may appear daunting, just thinking about all those dinners at friend's houses when they serve pasta or pies at dinner, pancakes and waffles for breakfast. However I find, especially now with so many options available in stores, and the changing approaches of consumers consequently influencing what is actually more readily available, the switch away from wheat is becoming much easier for everyone.

Last Friday mum and I went out for lunch after I had my graduation photos taken, and wanting to divert away from more stresses, we settled on a nearby location with a promising name. It's as if I find a hundred things to worry about, and they all descend upon my shoulders, nestle in my hair and between the fibres of my clothes like tiny water droplets from heavily weighed clouds above. I don't know the reason for this, and I don't like the feeling of it either.

Graduation photos should have been fun, and they were, once I was there and in my dress. But the hours before, as we pottered around town in anticipation of my appointment, I stressed about the condition of my hair, my makeup, the fit of my dress. And I know that it agonised mum to see me so worked up.

I am truly thrilled to be finally graduating, I just wish I could enjoy it.

The photographers were really good, although they were being as fast as they could with so many kids coming in, and it seemed as if we were just going through the paces as a horse would in training, they were jovial and made us all feel comfortable. I liked being in front of the camera, and just letting go of the tensed muscles involved in keeping my face downcast, a smile let me relax, and I could feel the tension vanish. I should do it more often.

Mum and I sat down at a table in a delicately decorated bay window of the Ethical Kitchen Cafe and Bakehouse, after we had ordered lunch, and my photos were past us, a block behind us. I was surprised by the gluten-free items on their menu, including tapioca buns, gluten-free Nanaimo bars, muffins, cookies, and more. I wanted to try them all.

A woman sat at a table with a glass teapot of herbal tea, the water could be seen to be coloured by the tea leaves at the bottom, and she waited for her meal as she stared across the room, clearly lost in thought behind the glassiness of her eyes. In front of her line of vision sat a large family, taking up the half of the room filled by an elegant wooden dining table. Members hurried behind the counter simultaneously as tasks needed to be finished, and they were clearly the owners of the business.

I had a Breakfast in Brazil, which was an array of fried up vegetables, peppers, tomatoes and snap peas, spicy kimchi, and eggs on a tapioca bun. It was so flavourful, and I could detect the freshness, and the quality, of all the ingredients. We later noticed on our way out, that a garden was attached to the side of the building where green plants towered out of planting boxes, and little plaques labelled the undecipherable green leaves to those without the green-thumb. Our little basil plant remains an example of this, as it sits in the window sill above the kitchen sink for a few weeks before giving up on being green, and begins to wilt, with it's stems slowly browning the leaves dry up before falling off.

My favourite thing about that restaurant was that mum and I were able to order breakfast as if we had just woken up, which it sure felt like, even at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We needed a fresh start to the day, and mum needed an energy boost after dealing with the stresses I clearly had just created for myself. I hope that her sourdough apple crêpes and americano did just the trick. I know I felt better immediately after sipping the flower infused early grey latté I ordered. Warm, aromatic, and just the perfect interlude to stop the busyness of a frantic mind.

My baking is how I break from the quarrels in my mind, it allows me to hold onto something peaceful and relaxing, and in return I can let go of whatever is bothering me. I once asked mum if she found baking relaxing, or perhaps I asked if she would bake something on her day off, she replied,

"But I don't enjoy it like you do!"

Needles to say, there weren't cookies when I came home! (Don't worry, we've got plenty in the cupboard now).

Gluten-Free Apple Loaf
Print Recipe

A delicately spiced loaf, with warm fall flavours, this apple loaf is a perfect bread to be served with warm or cold drinks, or under a spread of variations of spreads and butters. As a moist and dense bread, it's a perfect substitute for sweet breads and loaves that can be found in coffee shops, but contain wheat.

Try it for snack-time, breakfast-time, or any-time!

Makes 1 loaf


1 3/4 c gluten-free flour mix
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 c melted coconut oil
1 egg
3/4 c coconut sugar (if you don't have any, brown sugar is fine)
1 grated and peeled apple, however sometimes, I leave the peel on which adds a bit of texture to the finished loaf
3/4 c unsweetened apple sauce

For something extra, add 1/2 c shredded coconut, this will add a bit of crunch, and also develop the coconut flavour a bit more in the loaf. You can also add any substitutions of dried fruit, nuts, or even chocolate chips to suite your tastes (or that of your critics!)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan with oil or butter.

In a large bowl, mix together the gluten-free flour mix, cinnamon, baking powder and soda, and salt.

In another, smaller bowl, melt the coconut oil in the microwave and then beat in the egg. Stir in the coconut sugar, grated apple and applesauce. Mix well.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined. The mix should be wet and thick, but still runny.

Transfer the mixture into the baking pan and set it into the oven.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. A knife inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. A longer cooling time will allow the flavours to develop and the loaf will crumble less as you cut.


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18 November 2012

Happy as a Yam

It was dark all day today; the clouds never parted and the rain only stopped for breaths of wind to channel down through the valley. In our pyjamas and morning sleepiness, we dallied into the afternoon as breakfast stretched into lunch, lunch into dinner.

It was a nice day, I can't deny that, but now as the light fades and the fire burns brightly, I feel winter is right there, standing on the doorstep prying to wash over us again, snow, frost, and all.

I'm coming. I'm coming.

It seems to whisper as if beckoning, enticing.

Good thing I've got my nice warm coat, my dashing red, woolly headband, and my thick Roots socks to keep me warm as I venture through the trees with my dog. Good thing for my hot bean bag at night as I curl into a deep sleep. And thank goodness for the kettle, fuelling me, pushing me through, with each cup of tea.

The first Christmas craft fair of the year was held today, just a short walk down from my house, and I could see the abundance of cars lined up in the parking lot outside the building, in neat rows like received Christmas cards will start to be; one will say

Happy Holidays!

Next to another that chimes Silent Night from a small box in the centre of the card. There will be no surfaces available again this year. No longer a perch for Saturday afternoon phone calls, the window sill becomes a home for the cards each winter, and the cat jealously eyes their beneficial location, her usual kaleidoscope to the world she no longer escapes to - her bed by the fire, for some reason, is much more enticing.

I couldn't bring myself to shop Christmas already, and the people exiting with baskets of goodies, soaps with names like Gingerbread and ornaments made from shells and driftwood, donned in their handmade knitted scarves, for once didn't make me envious. I wasn't ready for the sound of Christmas carols to be blasted from a speaker made in the seventies, causing the singer's voice to waver over high notes that couldn't be interpreted properly by such ageing technology. No, today I was still enjoying autumn, playing in the leaves and baking throughout the day; cookies in the morning - gluten-free chocolate chip - and blissful brownies in the afternoon.

My friend from Northern B.C. came down last weekend, for Remembrance holiday, and as we shopped downtown, milling about the shops and going for lunch at the gallery, I noticed the amounts of Christmas stock in store front windows, the gift packages in cosmetic and soap shops that lined the shelves and overflowed onto the floor, and the largest display, an ornamental Christmas tree in The Bay with decorations of yellow and gold throughout store aisles - tinsel, candy canes and baubles.

We even saw snow that weekend.

It was on our way into town that morning, and as both of us sat snuggled on the ferry, angling ourselves away from the slight draft coming from the door, my mum texted me with exclamation and excitement in her words,

"Look outside! It's snowing!"

We peered up from inside our scarves and could barely just make out the flittering of glimmering white specs across the sky, almost invisible against the white of the clouds and through the gleam of the windows. And it certainly felt cold enough today, as we headed out the door only to return for more layers, for a light dusting of snow on the ground, or even to be woken up in the brisk air as frost covers tomorrow's morning.

Sadly, it's forecasted to rain all week. My gumboots and umbrella will remain perched beside the front door, a dim reminder of the weather outside, even as I comfortably remain in the kitchen with the fire blazing and the oven baking something wonderful.

"Today doesn't look so good, maybe I'll just stay in, warm,"

I tell myself, until mum and dad drag me out of the house, earnestly stating how much I will enjoy getting out once I've had some air, as if I were the one on the leash, and not the dog. But I always feel so much better after, they're right, and especially after the heat and dryness of indoors for so long, that begins to make you feel cooped up, even if it does seem so cozy.

So finally, even after having this family favourite numerous times, we like it for lunch on the weekend, I have found the time when other recipes haven't bombarded me to post about them (who knew that could happen) and finally sat down to post about Yam Tuna Bakes. Tuna bakes have always been a delectable comfort food, although when I became gluten-free it was time to put a twist on the old bread base, and it also gave me an opportunity to find something tastier.

Oh the delight of finding pleasure in old comforts.
Even in the morning, yam tuna bake holds a high rank.
(A message received from my sister).

Yam Tuna Bake
Print Recipe.

For rainy days, for family picnics or gatherings, I'd whip up this old favourite any day. A comforting twist on a pantry staple, yam adds lots of healthy nutrients and enjoyable flavour. It can be made ahead of time by putting the yam in the oven at 450 F for about an hour, halved and scored, or for a faster method can be microwaved until tender for few minutes. Either way, the flavour will remain.

Don't be burdened by the ingredients in the recipe either, if you haven't got something, just incorporate the vegetables that you do have, and save a little time (and money) by skipping that extra dash to the grocery store. Besides, it'll probably be busy and just take too long anyway.

When choosing yams for this recipe, I usually go for the oddly shaped ones that end up neglected at the bottom of the baskets in grocery stores. For some reason, I just love their shapes and the interesting knobs in the skin, there isn't anything wrong with them, they're just different. And for that, should be loved like any other. 

Serves 2-3


1 large cooked yam, sectioned into equal parts

1 can albacore tuna
1-2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 tomato, diced
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional for a spicier taste

1/2-3/4 c grated mozzarella


Set the oven to broil, or preheat to 500 F, and set the sections of yam on a baking sheet. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the drained tuna, mayonnaise, vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Add cayenne if desired. Stir to combine completely.

Spoon the tuna mixture in equal amounts onto the yam halves, and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Place the baking tray under the broiler and cook for about 5 minutes, until cheese begins to bubble but not so much that it browns.

Remove, and cool before serving.

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14 November 2012

Pampered to Perfection: Dinner For Two

I feel as if it has been too long since my last post - ten days has made me realise how much I love each blog post, each creation. It's an outlet for my creativity and imagination, and also a stream of my consciousness limited by only myself.

I understand now that with each post, I will baby my blog even more, as if every addition is grooming and nurturing it so that it will grow and will evermore become greater to me each time I click Publish. I remember how I doubted my perseverance and ability at being able to continue posting throughout the  weeks, even months, but I think I've proved myself wrong and done exactly that.

I'm almost at 3 months at 25 posts. Almost.

Mum and I have started making dinner together again, perhaps due to the fact that I've become more relaxed around the kitchen, and have begun to let go of the control I sometimes try to retain when cooking,

"This goes here, and that in this cupboard here."

One day last week, when it was just the two of us for dinner, I cooked up the initial portion of the meal, blended in the spices and then hurried off to my evening dance class. For my return, mum had finished off the cooking, and placed the dish in the oven.

A wonderfully prepared, a collaboration, the meal was ready and hot when I came home.

Although we may not have been cooking at the same time, we still shared the tasks involved in preparation of that particular meal, and later shared the outcome of the satisfying tastes of something cooked together.

Last week, I started a new routine, a relaxing end to my day, and rejuvenating for myself as well. Sunday night, as I got back into the mind frame of starting another week of school, and the many upcoming tests I needed lots of rest to be able to study for, I also got myself relaxed enough to try and sleep at least 7 hours that night, an unusual feat for a night owl like myself - especially Sunday nights when my mind would rather race circles around imaginary stresses and upcoming depictions of events - almost irrelevant worries as soon as morning arises and the alarm chimes cheerily.

I started with the bottle of flax oil that I've been neglecting, previously unaware of all it's amazing benefits. I'm also intrigued to try the jars of coconut oil that are also being shunned to the cupboards, maybe tonight I'll take them out and give them a try too. There have been many positive reviews for coconut, especially for its rejuvenating effects on the human body, and both oils have been found to be extremely beneficial to the skin as well as general health.

I've heard that coconut oil is an excellent moisturiser, can be used as a face wash - although some with oily skin may not agree - is used as a natural anti-ageing remedy, for psoriasis and eczema, and has many other internal health benefits as well. It comes in many forms, and I have included coconut flour into my gluten-free baking flour mix because I just love its sweeter, lighter consistency, and the much appreciated dietary fibre that it also contains.

So by first pouring a small amount into the palm of my hand, the strong smell distinct among the warming aroma of freshly baked gluten-free goodies: chocolate chip cookies, I began by massaging small amounts into my hair, and especially focusing at the ends where I suffer from frizz, and moving to the roots where skin can become dry, particularly in the winter and dryer months.

I felt so good all pampered that evening, as if I was finally doing the right thing for my hair, giving it the nutrients and care that it needed, so much that I decided to do a face mask as well.

We've got our grad photos coming up soon, it's scary, already so close, and I want to look fresh, refreshed, and of course, healthy. As in glowing with health.

So, after rinsing my face with warm water, I mixed together a few drops of fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of natural honey, which mum was given by a local farmer when she visited the bees in the valley just outside Greater Vancouver, for product sampling. It felt wonderful.

And just for good, internal health, I ate a spoonful of honey as well.

For the fifteen minutes while my masks worked their magic, I took time for myself, laying down with my eyes closed, but also trying to stay out of the dog's reach, who would only try and lick the honey off my face - and she did try very hard!

Then, on Tuesday evening as the American election played out on the radio and via online streaming, I made it a ritual. Red and blues battled against each other for the last time this year as I mixed together my masks: flax oil for my hair between my fingers before being lathered in my hair; honey and lemon first in a small bowl, and then applied to my face. I wrapped up my hair in a small towel and twirled it on top of my head - I couldn't have felt more like a diva, slippers and robe and all.

The Shepherd's Pampered Pie
Print Recipe.

I've grown up on mum's homemade Shepherd's Pie with a tomato base to the sauce, but this recipe, combined with multiple herbs and flavours, will have everyone scraping the pot for that last mouthful! (Not that mum's didn't!)

My favourite ingredient of this dish is the rosemary, a warming and comforting additional twist on a familiar family meal. If you don't have some of the ingredients listed, don't fret, the beauty of the Shepherd's (Pampered) Pie is that multiple variations of vegetables can be substituted depending on the season, as long as the herbs and spices are kept constant to achieve that desired taste.

Let the dish cool slightly before serving, so that all the flavours can be detected upon serving, and so no one risks burning their mouths.

Serves 2-3


2 peeled/diced potatoes
2 tbsp vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
2 tbsp rice milk

1/2 tbsp grape seed oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 onion diced
1 sliced carrot
1/2 c sliced zucchini in half moons
1/2 c chopped broccoli
3/4 c black beans, cooked and drained

1 tsp Herbs de Provence
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp rosemary

1 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tbsp rice flour
3/4 c rice milk, warmed
1 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 bouillon cube

pepper to season



Place potatoes in a pot with water, and bring to a boil. Continue to simmer until tender. Drain and mash; add butter and rice milk.

Preheat oven to 350°.


In a skillet over medium temperature, heat grape seed oil and add garlic and herbs. Then pour in carrots, zucchini and broccoli.

Cook until tender (10mns), then lower heat. Stir in beans and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove and set aside.


In a saucepan over medium/low heat, pour in grape seed oil and stir in rice flour to make paste.

Add milk slowly, stirring. Add butter, and bouillon cube. When it begins to thicken, remove from heat.

Pour gravy into filling and mix well.

Spoon into a large ramekin, or individual ones, and top with mashed potatoes.

Sprinkle with ground pepper.

On baking sheet, bake for 20 minutes, and then increase the temperature 415° and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until top browns slightly.

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04 November 2012

Smooth(ie) Mornings: An Obsession With Oats

Okay, I'm obsessed with oats now.

I mean, they've got so much going for them, and they make me feel so good - I think of them as the popular super food that everyone's just got to have, got to know. I recently found that oats are okay for those with gluten-sensitivity, someone like me, and this truth about oats, has made me go crazy for them - I'm experimenting with smoothies, muffins, everything! They really help with baking, as they hold together the ingredients, making the outcome firm and moist, they also hold lots of moisture, instead of crumbly and flaky like many gluten-free baked goods.

And I just love that after having them for breakfast, whether in porridge or smoothies, I can start my day feeling nourished and full of energy. No need for caffeine!

Last year, I would make myself smoothies for the morning, blending fresh ingredients such as bananas and blueberries, yogourt and cinnamon together the night before, refrigerating it in a large container until I awoke, when I would pour some into a travel mug and leave the house in a rush - often forgetting an important project for school or even my mittens that protected my hands from the brisk wind, as well as keeping them warm as they wrapped around a cold mug, in my wake.

That was before I woke up early enough to allow myself the time to enjoy those dreaded hours, still dark before the sun rose, and just wanted to sleep as much as possible, without wasting a second on making and eating breakfast at home. However, as the days became shorter and jackets became heavier last winter, as they have begun to now, I replaced my mug full of smoothie with a hot drink to warm my hands, and left breakfast behind me, where I began learning to appreciate it at the kitchen counter before I left - keeping warm all the while.

This morning my parents and I awoke to a late start, and incidentally, a late breakfast, which then causes morning coffee time and then lunch to be pushed back farther into the day. I write this before lunch today, at three in the afternoon just as dad comes in the door with lunch in his hands - soup.

But today, I took coffee time on a healthier route, and announced it to mum and dad,

"I'm making something for you!"

I planned a detour from the unnatural high to low caused by the caffeine. Instead of grinding beans and putting them at the bottom of the pot, I heated apple juice on the stove, and as it simmered softly a comforting aroma of spices and cooked apples filled the kitchen, and then laid out delicate cups on matching saucers along the counter top.

Autumn smells filled the rooms.

Then, all the ingredients went into the blender, and maybe in excitement, I pressed the button to blend, without checking the speed or fit of the lid.

It splattered.

Across the counter, little droplets of smoothie were scattered, and oats congregated on the inside of the blender's lid, although luckily they were too large to escape from inside. It even got on me, and I had to run my arm under the cold water from the tap to relieve the burning sensation from the hot liquid. Fortunately, there was no evidence of a burn a short while later. Although evidence of my carelessness was left along the back splash, and on the jars that line the counter.

"You've left quite the mess here,"

Mum informed me as she wiped it clean.

I served the drinks, and we sat at the counter cherishing the warmth and taste, the rain heavily falling outside the house, where we were nestled in comfortably.

Apple-Oat Smoothie
Print Recipe.

Don't let cold weather and a bad nights sleep get the best of you, and don't opt for an unsatisfying cup of too-strong coffee to wake you up for only a few hours either, instead, try this perfect fall drink, which warms you right up, and will get you going with all it's vitamins and nutrients, and the energy that's packed in!

Apple and oats go perfectly with the blend of spices, and the almond add a perfect punch to your energy drive. This smooth and comforting smoothie is the perfect replacement for summer's popsicles and drinks, too cold to imagine having at this time. 

When blending the ingredients, make sure it is on the lowest setting to begin with, and hold down the lid as you press the button. For a smoother drink, grind the almonds beforehand, or try replacing them with other nuts such as pecans, or even dried fruit such as dried dates. 
Everything - before apple juice - in the blender

Serves 3


1 1/2 c apple juice
1 c water

1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 c unsalted almonds
1/2 c quick oats (wheat-free)
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup


In a saucepan, bring the apple juice and water to a simmer.

Add spices and simmer for another 5 minutes.

In a blender, combine almonds, oats and maple syrup, and pour in apple juice mixture.

Blend on low until smooth.

Pour into mugs and serve.

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03 November 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies: A Reminder of Memories

I was remembering England today, especially those first few days when the rain poured down day after day, a lot like the weather here these past few weeks. I don't know why I thought of it again, must have been missing the friends I made throughout the summer, as well as the simplicity and the enjoyment I got out of being so free - to do what I wanted, and without stresses and dramas to tie me down.

One of my favourite days in England, when patches of clouds brought heavy waterfalls of rain and then dispersed to short lengths of sunshine scattered on the cobbled streets, my aunt and uncle brought me into London by train, and we spent the entire day exploring museums, having cream tea, and ending with a performance at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.

We awoke early to get ready and make our way to the train station, not too far from their house, which would bring us into downtown London, or the ever-expanding Waterloo Station. Since it was a few weeks before the opening of the Olympics, construction workers hammered and drilled above us, and security personnel milled about, watchful. From the station we went down a few flight of stairs, swept up in the force of commuters hurried by their sense of purpose, and arrived at the platform for the underground. It was all a bit confusing for me; the busyness was overwhelming at times, and everyone looked above each other's heads, oblivious to the people around them and absorbed in the importance of their own world.

On trains men talked loudly on cell phones, shouting above the noise of wheels on the tracks as the train lunged then retreated, as if it were an animal itself. Some read, some stood, and one woman knitted, her bony fingers moving faster than my eyes could follow.

We arrived shortly and made our way above ground with a mob of other people, who quickly dispersed as if they were late for an important meeting. They would not remember many of the faces they had just seen, despite sharing a hand grip or ledge to lean on to prevent tumbling with the movement of the train.

My aunt, uncle, and I made our way along the street, and I gazed at the architecture of the old buildings. We don't have buildings like that here, our oldest have been knocked down to make way for modern structures, or preserved as 'ancient' once they reach one hundred years of age, no where near the history that buildings in London posses. Extremely intricate details line the walls and windows of most buildings, although some have begun to fade from age.

We started in the Victoria & Albert Museum, situated across the street from the National History Museum and among others in the same area. Straightaway, we made our way to the Fashion section inside, weaving among sculptures preserved in glass boxes and explained with small plaques stuck below.

Inside, mannequins wore beautiful ballgowns from as far back as the 1800s, and petite shoes, intricately embroidered, were placed delicately beside, too small to be worn by any woman today. They were extremely narrow, and I have no doubt that they were not worn for comfort, and definitely not for the working class as they would not be suitable for outside wear, and perhaps not even for activity. They are a perfect indication that the phrase, 'beauty hurts,' has been a motto for fashions designers throughout the centuries. Pieces form famous designers were also displayed, such as my favourite, a velvet black jumpsuit designed by Coco Chanel. I loved the simplicity of the garment, and the beautiful detailed put into every aspect of it, including the layering and embellishment of the white collar and cuffs. A perfect antithesis to the black of the jumpsuit.

I love fashion, and was in heaven wandering around the passages lined with ensembles and styles from history, and dresses worn by royal figures, such as a suit worn by Princess Diana - a white skirt and matching blazer, covered in tens of thousands of tiny pearls - or celebrities; created for special occasions by famous designers such as Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood.

I noticed a girl, not much older than me, was sitting beside the dresses from red carpet events and sketching in a thick black notebook. She must have been a student at one of the nearby universities, studying fashion perhaps, or maybe she had a passion for the beauty in clothes. If I had more time, I think I would have enjoyed doing the same.

By the time we had finished the exhibition, we ventured outside and to the courtyard of the museum, where families milled about in the hot sun, now free from behind the clouds. Children splashed about in the pond, and vendors sales of cold drinks must have suddenly risen as people became parched from the rising heat. Eventually, after walking around in earnest for a spot for lunch amidst the crowds, we decided that a hot lunch in one of the ornately decorated rooms inside would be more suiting to our day, where the walls were designed with colourful stained glass windows, drawings and letters of another language, and some lines of Shakespeare, in the centre of the dome-shaped room, a large chandelier hung by a thick chain.

Later that afternoon we came for tea at the same location, venturing into another room that was equally as intricately decorated. At lunch we had been enticed by the smells of freshly cooked scones and clotted cream, and since it was before I became gluten-free, not yet aware of the problems it caused my skin, we indulged in the sweet taste of clotted cream tea, and the perfect tranquility of the rooms in an old English building. It was my first clotted cream tea since my previous time in England - three years or so ago - and I enjoyed every moment of it. From people watching, and listening to the different conversations held within my range of hearing and deciphering the stories of those around me, to the decadent Darjeeling tea in my cup and saucer and the mouth-watering scone in my hand, topped with raspberry jam and cream.

Since it was so late in the afternoon, nearing five o'clock, the museum staff were cleaning up the last remaining dishes and washing floors while one man personally informed each party that we were expected to pack up and head out. Luckily, outside was still warm as the sun still shone as we headed out the grand doors and onto the street. We explored the streets of London for some time, killing time until the doors opened for our performance that evening, "London's 'Best Night Out'", Wicked.

The sets were amazing, and the theatre was packed with all ages, little kids came dressed in fancy clothes, boys in smart pants and collared shirts, and little girls in cute dresses with bows in their hair, and some adults dressed to impress. Lights moved across the stage throughout the performance, parts moved to create new scenes, all automatically, such as bridges and new backdrops.

Wicked is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, also known as Elphaba, and is a detailed account of her life, from childhood to her death, caused by Dorothy. My favourite character was definitely Galinda, a friend of the witch's from university, who later becomes the Good Witch. In the musical we saw, she was ditzy and hilarious, drawing huge amounts of laughter from audience whenever she spoke.

At the end of the musical, everyone poured out onto the streets, some hailing cabs while we, and many others, took the stairs down to the underground and traveled back to the train station, and then caught the train back to my aunt and uncle's house, where we suddenly felt the exhaustion from the day, and were suddenly all very ready for sleep. We needed the next morning all to ourselves, where we could lay in bed until about ten o'clock, and later shuffle around the house in pyjamas until the tea kicked in, readying us for another busy day.

I feel that its a lot like that here, on Saturday mornings, when the whole week, and the loss of sleep that comes with such an early start for school, catches up on you. We read, we watch movies, we have a late breakfast, we have tea, and we get a few chores done.

And I bake. My relaxation method, simply at peace I can cook.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Print Recipe.

I was amazed by the page views on my last cookie recipe, Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies, and as the last of the cookies were eaten I missed them extraordinarily. They were always there when I came home, and were the perfect accompaniment to any tea time.

Decadent and sweet, but not overpoweringly so, these little delights are soft and chewy; the perfect recipe for that perfect chocolate chip cookie, they'll remind you of every good childhood memory, in and out of the kitchen.

Makes 12-14 cookies


1/4 c shortening, or vegan shortening
1/4 c butter, or vegan replacement
3/4 - 1 c brown sugar

100g vanilla yogourt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 2/3 c Nana's Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4-1/3 c water

2/3 c gluten-free chocolate chips


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

In a large bowl, cream together shortening, butter and brown sugar.

Add in the vanilla yogourt and vanilla extract and mix together.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour mix with baking powder and soda, then pour into the larger bowl and stir until all ingredients are well blended.

Add enough water until mixture comes together, but remains moldable and firm.

Stir in chocolate chips.

With your hands, roll small balls of the mixture in your hands, and press onto the baking seet. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

With a fork, press each cookie down, making a cross-hatched design across the top of each one.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.

When cookies come out from the oven, allow them to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tray.

Serve to family and friends.

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02 November 2012

The G-Earls Will Have Their Muffins Now

Ever since learning to operate the intricate household kettle, I have enjoyed a daily ritual of "tea drinking." From the kitchen drawer, where flavours are lined according to popularity, I select a tea bag (where contents are unrecognisable) and drop it into a nearby mug, selected from a full cupboard located close to the kettle for convenience. My mug is chosen for it's weight, the colour and pattern that is printed, and how comfortable it is to hold in my small hands.

I fill the kettle and set it to boil, waiting a few moments before I hear that 'click', comforting and familiar, and pour the steaming water over my tea bag. I then allow the tea to steep for a few minutes as I collect almond milk from the fridge and a teaspoon from the drawer.

The process entitled "making a cup of tea" continues to be an oasis in my day, a simple ritual entailed by the pleasure of having time to relax, however something behind the manufacturing and processing of the tea I drink each day bothers me. Tea drinking has become increasingly widespread across North America, with sales rising from $1.8 to $6.5 billion over the past 16 years, a huge influx despite the recession - although perhaps this notion that a cup of tea helps us to relax is what drives buyers to places like David's Tea. Or maybe its the cost of buying a drink from Starbucks that makes people rethink where they're spending their money, and instead make drinks at home.

The soaring mass production we have seen, with stacks of tea in the aisles of grocery stores rising, has decreased the quality we taste in every bag, as well as a loss of the tradition behind every cup. As with most things in our society, we have ruined its history to make it profitable, to transform it into a commodity.

Today, gadgets are sold to aid the average customer, oblivious to the past of tea-drinking rituals, to produce a quality cup in their own home. Along with the enticing and fragrant flavours lining most household cupboards, holiday chai or tazo chai? Jasmine or Gamuacha Green tea? There has been more and more recreations of the simple strainer, technologically advanced tea cups, and mechanisms to keep your tea warm as you make your morning commute.

I admit, I have been enthralled by such products as I wait in line, they sit so dramatically along the shelves. And I feel as if I need it, the elegance and structure looks so beautiful, and the cup I am holding, a purple travel mug curved at the edges, fits perfectly into my hand.

I plead to my mum who casually turns her head. How many mugs have I bought recently?

After deciding upon a flavour of tea from the cupboard, two perfectly measured teaspoons are dropped into a "top-of-the-line" strainer, which fits into its matching cup, a device complete with a lid and designed for today's single-cup tea drinkers. According to instructions on the packet, I time it to steep for exactly seven minutes, a direction I should not take lightly to ensure that perfect outcome.

Ridiculous in appearance and the intricacy of the design, reviewers still rave about the final flavours of the tea created by modern mechanisms, flying off the shelves over and over again. Comparatively, the majority still makes tea with a ceramic pot, boiled water from the stove and with a steeping time of only a couple of minutes, and they've maintained the cultural aspects behind each mug brought to their lips.

My parents, both from England, have brought both me and my sister up to really enjoy a simply made "regular" cup of tea. We frequently ask for this, and it is always understand between us, however when others ask what type of tea we would like, and one of us replies,

"I'll have regular tea."

Causing puzzled looks, confusion. Then we have to try,

"English Breakfast?"

"Black Tea?"

But that always causes them to shoot back,

"But what type of black tea?"

Earl Grey Tea Muffins
Print Recipe.

Realizing that I didn't have a recipe for muffins on my blog (probably my favourite of all baked goods) I was shocked, and knew that this week I would set about making the perfect tea-time muffins. However, the first time I made them, we were completely out of eggs, and not thinking to run over to the neighbours, and over exaggerating the amount of times I have successfully baked without eggs, I opted to use ground flax instead. 

Needless to say, they did not work. And I instead pulled from the oven a tray of uncooked muffins, even after 45 minutes in the hot oven. They had come out mushy and gooey.

So unless you have an allergy, or follow a vegan diet, I would recommend these muffins to be cooked with eggs! Although if you do try the flax, it is 1 tbsp in 2 tbsp of warm water per each egg.

I also found that by using more cornstarch with a liquid, in this case the rice or almond milk, you can shape the texture of your muffins. For a denser outcome, use mor cornstarch in replace of the brown rice flour, and for fluffier muffins, reduce the amount or scratch it all together, instead using brown rice flour. The level of cornstarch will also determine the amount of liquid needed, as it acts as a thickener, so the measurement below is an approximation.

Makes 8-10 muffins


60 g sorghum flour
60 g potato flour
80 g brown rice flour
30 g cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 c coconut sugar
pinch of salt

2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp grape seed oil
1 1/2 c rice or almond milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp or 1 tea bag of finely ground earl grey tea, if the leaves are large, grind them between your fingers before adding to the mix


Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with paper cups, or reusable ones.

Add lemon juice to rice milk and set aside.

In a large bowl stir together flours and cornstarch, baking powder, sugar and salt. Combine.

Best eggs in a small bowl, then add vanilla extract and grape seed oil and pour into the bowl with dry mix. Stir until mixture comes together, then slowly pour in milk and lemon juice.

When mixture appears moist and smooth, stir in earl grey tea leaves. Spoon into individual muffin cups, dividing equally.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

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