Think of Me Gluten-Free

Think of Me Gluten-Free: December 2012

27 December 2012

A Flurry of Festivities

We've been traveling in a flurry of festivities and holiday cheer this past week. From parties and gatherings with friends which have filled the afternoons and evenings, I've never felt so exhausted from good food, laughter and welcoming homes. Everywhere, each home and out front all the stores, are decorated with colorful baubles, twinkling lights, one fuzzy tree to be admired in the centre of activity, and countertops are repeatedly replenished with the endless possibilities of delicious food; baked goods topple higher on delicate porcelain serving dishes, mandarin oranges roll over each other and across the counter when someone grabs a select orange, and hot plates enter the oven before quickly being swept up and onto awaiting plates in the dining room.

After such busy activity in this hive, I like to think of us who live on this island as bees living together, I've settled down this afternoon to a classic cup of tea, and a few scrumptious treats still awaiting to be eaten. Gluten-free mince pies tiered precariously on a serving platter, the pastry flaking when someone ventures to move them.

Christmas morning we awoke late, all tired out from our Christmas Eve party the night before. Friends gathered at our place to spend the evening together around glasses of wine, home cooking, and Christmas music. Groups were situated throughout the living area in our house, chatting and laughing together. I fiddled around in the kitchen for a bit, preparing appetizers to share, before sitting down with my sister for a bit, and playing board games with one girl much younger who comes with her parents each year.

It was nice this year as the guests didn't stay long, departing just after ten o'clock, but we all decided upon a movie to watch, which dragged the night out until after one. I slept badly with excitement for Christmas morning, waking up repeatedly before turning back over and trying to fall asleep again.

Then my sister bounded into my room just after nine thirty in the morning, exciting the dog with her enthusiasm and movement, and they both tumbled over me wrapped up in just a few blankets. My parents still exclaimed this year how it was unusual for me to be up after my sister, despite the same thing happening last year - although we stayed up far later after guests drank too much at our Christmas Eve party.

To her surprise, my sister and I were in matching pajama pants, something I planned without her knowing the night before, as she remains consistently loyal to her favorite pajamas. We made tea for the family, rooibos for mum and dad, regular and chai for my sister and I, and then proceeded to gather the plump stockings which leaned against the hearth to be carried up to my parents bedroom.

Opening our stockings together up in my parents bedroom is one of my favourite parts of Christmas. Everyone is together, and just like when I was little, each of us sits cozied up in fuzzy pajamas, worn slippers and hot cups of tea as we enjoy being together after a busy year and even more hectic season. The excitement of opening the first present of Christmas, tearing wrapping paper and tossing it to the floor, brings me full circle and back to completely enjoying the holiday season.

And so I drag the festivities, and the fun of unwrapping presents, long into the afternoon. Taking my time with each present, my sister groans when the time it takes for her to unwrap three presents has only given me time to unwrap one.

"I think you need to go a little slower!" She mocks, and when I do, she can't resist that little sisterly nudge, which I know is code for,

You're really funny, and I love that about you.

Honey Marmalade Baked Brie
Print recipe here.

A deliciously gooey and tasty appetizer for the holidays, baked brie is a soft delicate cheese spread for rice crackers or gluten-free bread. The sweetness of the marmalade makes this twice as enjoyable.

Use fresh cheese from your local farmers for the best flavour, and choose select marmalade to top.

Perfect for a party or as a pre-dinner cheese tasting.


1 round of soft brie
Orange marmalade to spread on top

Pecans to top, whole pecans look aesthetically pleasing, however if you would prefer, chop the pecans into larger pieces. This may be easier when many people are cutting into the same dish.

4 tbsp honey


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the brie round from the wrapping, and place in a round oven-proof dish with a lid.

Spread marmalade thickly on top of the brie, it should be approximately 0.5 cm thick.

Sprinkle the whole or chopped almonds on top and place the covered dish in the kiddie of the oven.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, the brie should be runny in the centre, however the outside will still appear hard.

While the brie is in the oven, heat the honey in a small pan over medium heat, or in a small bowl in the microwave until it becomes runny and translucent.

To serve, drizzle the honey over the brie, and have rice crackers or other gluten-free crackers to spread the brie over.

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22 December 2012

It Actually Snowed, and I Made Mince Pies

We had the first snowfall of the year on Tuesday, but snowflakes began falling Monday night. It would be nice to have some photos of the little winter wonderland the white blanket created, but sadly, and as West Coast weather goes, it was quick to fade as a heavy cloud of rain brewed above and quickly washed away the beauty which everyone kept commenting on. And which also caused numerous problems as last year, as if snow is once again something so unknown and mysterious to each and everyone of us.

But it sure feels that way with the amount of excitement building, especially this close to Christmas and with everyone in such a good mood. It's the possibility of a White Christmas.

It was good timing for the island to be encompassed by the comforting, wintry, weather. My sister arrived last weekend, and with the entire family home, it was the perfect family picture. (However, none were taken as I battled the last week of school - and teachers trying to fit last minute projects in - while my sister and her boyfriend fit as many Vancouver activities into their week together here as they could.)

I had a sense of déjà vu as I started writing this post out in my head, almost as if I'd pictured writing each sentence, each comparison to my entranced state from falling white specks, a million times with every snowflake that fell each year. As if every snowfall was a new experience.

Each time, as I again imagine the whitened fields and snow tiered trees, I also picture the road to my best friends house awash in white. It's the postcard image of winter, a long road, which often isn't plowed after heavy snowfalls, with rows of evergreen trees weighed down heavily and lined neatly alongside the road. Her house, sitting amidst a large field, often has at least 1 foot of snow when my house has only 1 or 2 centimeters.

I remember one year, it must have been my first year if high school, when the snow fell just as the festivities for Christmas began: the Christmas Craft Fair. Usually we spent the entire day wandering the craft tables and helping out with or parents shopping by exclaiming,

"Ooh! Look at this!"

Or, "Can I get this...?"

However, this year as we entered the gymnasium lined with tables and ornamental figurines on display to sell, little snowflakes drifted slowly down. It then became our duty to check frequently on the levels of rising whiteness outside, until that memorable moment came. After forgetting our patrol outside for sometime, minds filled with laughter and excitement from the cake walk and other festive treats inside, we finally returned outside to find more than a foot of soft, powdery snow.

It was then that we headed for the small embankment off the side of the school, where we were usually forced to steered clear from in fear of angered school teachers who would exclaim the low level of safety we risked by stepping one foot on the muddy, steep, and above all, crumbling, hill. Despite a road, with a cement fence, built just on top of the hill.

In nothing more than sweaters, and some of us in light shoes suited for dryer weather, we slid down the hill on our backs and stomachs, delighting in the thrill as the run became icier and faster with each person's turn. We were un-deterred by the cold, and warmed by the happiness of tumbling down a fast track made of snow and ice, surrounded by determined snowflakes and an island awash in winter paradise, we were unscathed by bumps and bruises by the slide down, and instead remained entirely exhilarated whether we felt the wet and cold or not.

I made mince pies today, a Christmas family tradition which we make every year for our annual Christmas Eve party. However, as mum baked a batch of the regular mince pies, I was motivated to try my hands at gluten-free pastry, and these indulgent little sweets.

It was definitely more time consuming, the pastry had to be played with and encouraged into form, and peeling it from the wax paper after rolling was one of the hardest parts. I wanted those little little pies though, so I kept going, repeating the cutting and peeling and placing process until I had twelve uncooked pastry pies sitting in a muffin tin, and were ready to be baked.

Traditional Gluten-Free Mince Pies
Print recipe here.

The buttery pastry is almost melt in your mouth delicious, and with the sweet n' spicy flavours of the mincemeat these are truly a Christmas delicacy.

Makes approximately 16 mince pies.


400 g gluten-free flour mix (I don't recommend using coconut flour in this mix, as it will just soak up all the moisture and leave the pies dry and crumbly.)
1 tsp salt
200 g chilled butter

I recommend cubing the measured amount of butter needed and placing it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so, to make sure it is extra cold when added to the flour. The trick is cold ingredients!

approximately 16 tbsp mincemeat

milk for brushing


Preheat the oven to 415°F and start by greasing a muffin tin with butter, and sprinkling with a bit of gluten-free flour mix.

In a food processor, combine the flour mix and salt. Pulse once, quickly.

Add in the butter and blend until the dough begins to form together into a large ball. If this does not occur, it may be due to the conditions of the air in your kitchen, pour a tiny amount of water in and pulse again.

Using two pieces of parchment paper for this next part, remove the dough from the processor and divide into two halves. Place one half on one piece of the parchment and layer the other piece of parchment paper on top. Roll out the dough through the paper until its approximately 0.5 cm thick.

Remove the top layer of parchment paper and cut out enough large circles with a cookie cutter. You may need to repeat the process of rolling and cutting a few times to fill the muffin tray. The cut outs should come up the sides of the muffin cups.

It may be easier to use slightly wet hands to peel the dough from the parchment paper to avoid it sticking to your hands, but it should not be wet.

With a tablespoon, scoop mincemeat into each pie so that a small amount sits in the centre of the cut dough.

With the other half of the dough, roll it out again as before, however, use a smaller sized circular cookie cutter to shape the lid of the mince pies. Place the smaller pieces atop the mincemeat and bottom so that the edges reach the side of the muffin cup.

When all are filled, use a fork to score all the way around the sides of the pies, and score once in the centre.

Pour a small amount of milk into a bowl, and using a little cooking brush, paint the tops of the pies with milk.

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. The tops of the pies should be golden brown from the milk coating.

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15 December 2012

Coco Loco For Christmas Macaroons

I don't know any other time when the house has been this tidy. Usually, with only mum and I here during the week, and dad home on weekends - my sister home once or twice a year - it stays clean. Especially compared to friend's houses who have little brothers and sisters running throughout the house, throwing toys around and a constant stream of visitors coming and going.

It started Thursday night with mum taking the afternoon off work to tidy and wash, vacuum and scrub the kitchen spotless. I came home from school to washed floors, and had to fight my way into the only dirty spot of the floor to put down my wet and muddy shoes. When the dog came back from playing around outside, dripping wet, she had to be towel-dried quickly before she ran across the wood floors and left little soggy footprints all across.

The house was being cleaned for today, finally the day when my sister comes home! However, the lovely weather outside, a constant drizzle of rain which sometimes switches into a light snowfall and heavy winds, has delayed flights and ferry schedules. Mum and dad remain on Vancouver Island at the moment, stuck between halted schedules due to delays from winds and weather. I couldn't be more surprised, I always thought ferries were very reliable. To make matters more confusing, I couldn't even understand the logistics of it when mum explained, my sisters flight has been delayed as well - I only hope it's not for too long, so that she can still make the connection of her flight to Vancouver. It's only a question of who will actually be on the mainland to be able to pick her up.

And I sit here, the focal point of their return. I woke up early in anticipation, I am so excited to have everyone home again, and to celebrate Christmas before the day with baking and decorating, and hopefully tomorrow we'll even go and get a tree. I've decorated the house with holly branches, of the ones that I could find with berries on, and have begun making Christmas presents. Scraps of fabric litter the craft table - I'm so happy we still have a craft room! - and decorations lay on top of each other across the floor. Two presents per person I've decided, which means lots of time in the back room with busy hands!

This morning I took my dog for an aprés-birthday walk, she turned three yesterday, and we battled the slanted rain and whistling of the wind through the forest trees. In my wool scarf, Olympic mittens from 2010, a red wool headband to cover my ears, big black rubber rain boots and an oversized rain jacket, I braved the weather, and the long walk there and back in the rain. It was a little frightening walking through swaying trees on my way down to the Chocolatier, as I was planning on warming up halfway with the best hot chocolate around, and my dog began darting quickly through the ferns, excited by the smells which were brought in my the movement of the wind, but also began to become wary of the sounds and air gushing past her and pushing her around.

She wasn't very good as I left her outside the shop to get my hot chocolate, and instead of sitting nicely, patiently like other dogs, she howled, whined and jumped up in a flurry of anxiety at being left alone. She could even see me from where she was sitting, through large glass windows, but it wasn't enough. I had to quickly order and pay, comfort her, return for my drink, and leave to soothe her again. She jumped up and pawed at me in excitement, as if I had just returned from being gone a week or more!

Now, she sleeps soundlessly on the rug, tired from running excited circles around me, and pacing lengths of the trail, back and forth past me.

I've dug up a recipe from a while back now, as my day seems to be filled with crafting and putting together Christmas presents while I have the time, and while no one else is home who will spoil their surprise for Christmas Day.

Coconut Macaroons
Print recipe here.

A sweet and delectable treat, that can be made for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or for a tasty appetizer at any party... Your Christmas party may even be the perfect time to whip out this recipe and bake for friends. Soft and chewy, I love macaroons when I crave something sweet, and so do others!

Makes 12 macaroons.


2 eggs whites
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c brown sugar (I often find store-bought macaroons to be too sweet, so I lowered the amount of sugar in this recipe, however if you would like more sweetness, increase the sugar to 1/2 c)
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 3/4 c shredded, unsulphured coconut


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

In a large bowl beat together egg whites, vanilla, sugar and nutmeg.

Add coconut and stir to combine.

With a large spoon, drop mixture onto baking sheet, and leave in irregular shapes. Repeat for the rest of mixture, leaving 1 -2 inches between each macaroon.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops are golden.

Allow to cool for 10-20 minutes because they will be quite crumbly when they first come out from the oven.

Best served with a steaming mug of a Homemade Chai Latte or Spiced Pumpkin Latte.

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14 December 2012

Holiday Pumpkin Loaf; It's Winter Here!

This weekend I continued to pull the dust-covered cardboard boxes from the cupboard underneath the stairs, some cracked and fraying from use year after year, and among them lay a tangled array of forgotten Christmas lights, baubles wound up in the wires like roses caught among the brambles, and finally underneath the mess, small ornaments to be placed on window sills and around the house. Fuzzy white snowmen on a sled, a small figurine of Santa Claus sitting by his fire reading a letter which rolls down onto the floor, and some snow speckled trees carved from wood. We've made a little village atop the large book shelf in the living room from little ceramic buildings that have their windows carved out, and I managed to pull apart the white cob webbing for Halloween to make a simple layer of snow for the buildings to sit on. I also love how as I post this to my blog, a thin layer of snow rests delicately outside along the deck and down into the garden. Sadly, the wind must have blown the thin layer from the trees last night, but I remain happy in this little winter wonderland of my own.

They buildings sit perfectly arranged in a tight oval, and when the yellow Christmas lights are plugged in, the windows shine brightly as if little families sat snugly in their living rooms. The bakery across, not a palm widths more for us, is warmly lit, and the small garage and diner are bright and inviting, both situated around a tall model of an evergreen tree, which I also decorated with mini lights.

I love the comfort of this little village twinkling brightly when no other lights shine, and wish I could leave the village on during the night so I could wake to the warm glow of the miniature village appearing to be bustling with activity and Christmas cheer. But dad repeats that I'll burn down the house with the strand of lights arranged along a wooden bookcase and fake snow.

It's started with cookie swaps and a few Christmas parties filtering into the season, and its already become busy. School doesn't let out until less than a week before Christmas when our house will be full of people and preparations for the friends that come around Christmas Eve and those who return for Christmas dinner the following day. I am determined to cook a gluten-free dessert for the day, and I'm sure I'll be inclined to bake some elaborate cookies.

Because with an everlasting love for the holiday festivities, the season brings about rolling up the cuffs of our sleeves, diving into the pantry to look for our favourite cookie cutter shapes, and with ingredients neatly lined along the counter, we begin baking.

Is there really any better way to awaken that holiday cheer than filling the entire house with the warm and comforting aroma of sweet gingerbread, cardamom and vanilla scents? I'm sure if you haven't already, walking into an aromatic home, counters scattered with ingredients and the sink full of dishes from baking just as a tray of cookies is pulled from the oven, that you'll be tempted to run home and whip up a batch of your own kitchen delight.

'Tis the season for delightful cooking and cheer!

Pumpkin Pie Loaf
Print recipe here.

Again, I have resorted to trying guar gum in this recipe, I actually have found that it helps in the binding of all the ingredients, and makes it so that the loaf slices without crumbling nearly completely apart when I serve it. If you would prefer to use xantham instead of guar gum, the ratio is the same, or if you would rather not use any, the recipe will still work. I only recommend that in your gluten-free flour mix you incorporate starch, whether that be corn, tapioca, potato or arrowroot, as these help with the thickening, and make a nice blend of flours that is easy to use. Otherwise, any mix of flours can be used, I usually stick to any variety of at least three for a reliable consistency.


3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 c pumpkin purée (I used canned)
2 eggs
1/4 c grape seed oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 1/4 c gluten-free flour mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp guar gum


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

In a large bowl combine the sugar, pumpkin purée, eggs, oil, syrup, vanilla and lemon juice, and beat well.

Set this bowl aside, and in a smaller mixing bowl combine dry ingredients; flours, spices, baking powder and soda, salt and guar gum.

Pour into the wet ingredients and mix. The batter should resemble pumpkin purée, although slightly darker and thicker.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and set it in the oven. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the loaf.

Allowing the bread to cool completely after baking will make it easier to slice, and also let the flavours develop further.

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08 December 2012

The Story of the Goose and Orange Oatmeal Muffins

I never used to be one for non-fiction reading, always turning away from mum or dad's, or even my sister's recaps of what historic event had come up during a peruse through a book. I even stopped taking history in school as early as I could because I was never interested in it, and because of that I wasn't willing to study very hard for each test...

However, recently I have been immersed in book after book on the subject of animals, and especially ones that have a behavioural component to them, like why dogs are the why the are. I came upon this story a couple of days ago, and it stuck with me. So after thinking about if for some time, I realised how perfect a description it is of how I think people should act around and with each other, and that's what keeps bringing me back to accounts of animals. Something that we find amazing which an animal does, a dog saving a humans life from a raging river, or more simply, a cat comforting a person who is upset, are all important morals and emotions which we value, but may not practice daily. What if everyone really did help out one another as much as they could at the time?

Unfortunately, the author was not stated and remains unknown, however, I'd still like to share this, after all, Christmas is a time of giving and sharing among each other, and it rapidly approaches.

When you see geese flying south in the fall as winter comes along, flying along in a 'V' formation, I recommend that you consider why such a pattern in created in such perfect harmony of all the birds.
As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird following immediately behind. By flying in this 'V' formation, the whole flock add at least seventy-one percent more flying range than if each bird flew on its own. 
People, like these geese, can get where they're going more quickly and much easier when travelling with the help of one another by sharing a common direction and a sense of community. 
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of oncoming winds as it tries to fly alone ... So quickly, it must get back into formation to take advantage of the power caused by the lifting stream cast behind by the bird in front.

If we have as much sense of each other as the goose, perhaps we will stay in formation with those who are headed in the same way, and can offer guidance and support along that path.
 As flying continues, the head goose begins to tire, and will rotate back in the wing and allow another goose to replace it as point.
It is sensible to rotate in and out of demanding jobs just like the goose, a habit people should also consider in our daily lives.
 Furthermore, the geese who follow behind the point flyer, will honk in encouragement to those ahead of them to keep up the speed. Isn't that much better than complaining or competing to get up front all the time? Instead, encouraging and assisting those around us will benefit everyone with far greater return.
Finally - and this is important in the habits of geese - when one flyer becomes either sick or wounded from a gunshot causing it to fall from formation, two other geese will fall out with that goose to follow it down to safety and lend help and protection throughout. These two will stay with the fallen goose until it can safely return to flying on its own, or until it dies. Only then will they launch back into the sky on their own or to tether behind another formation in the hopes of catching up with their group.

If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other in the same way, and in the same manner; elegant and unceremoniously.

Gluten-Free Orange Oatmeal Muffins
Print recipe here.

With the fruity fragrance from orange juice and a little extra flavouring, plus the added nutrients of oatmeal in these little muffins, they're sweet and tasty, and will fill your entire kitchen with warm smells of baking.

Another added bonus is how quick they are to bake - after a little soaking of the oats to make sure they hold as much orange flavour!

Makes about 14 muffins.


1 c gluten-free oats (I used Bob's Red Mill for these ones!)
1 c pure orange juice
1 c boiling water

1/2 c butter
1/2 c brown sugar

1 egg
1 tsp orange flavouring

1 1/2 c gluten free flour mix
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg


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

In a bowl pour the orange juice and boiling water over the oats and set aside for 15 minutes, there will be some leftover water, but this will make your muffins lovely and moist!

In another bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in the egg and add the orange flavouring.

Pour in the oats and beat once, quickly.

In another bowl, (might be a bit of clean-up here, but just tell someone in your family the goose story, and maybe they'll help!) combine the dry ingredients; flours, baking powder and soda, salt, and nutmeg.

Mix, and pour into the wet ingredients. The batter should be wet, however should not be runny.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and place into the centre of the oven.

After 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for a further 5 - 10 minutes, or until a knife (or toothpick) inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Cool before serving.

**A Quick Note: If you don't have any orange flavouring (it comes in a little bottle like vanilla extract), try grating half the rind of an orange and adding it in after the dry ingredients, the result may be a slightly different texture - however you'll still get the flavouring at a much cheaper price!

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03 December 2012

Bakin' Eggs All Right, Uh-huh!

I didn't think it would happen, however today as I gathered ingredients to bake Chocolate Snowball Cookies for dad's Christmas party tonight, I was actually nervous to use a substitution of wheat flour in place of my usual gluten-free flour mix. I was careful not to get any flour into the bags of sugar and in my mouth, which I imagined would be hard, however, as I mixed and brought ingredients together, I was not pleased by the look of the concoction forming in the bowl.

A sticky, gooey, stretchy, elastic...

That's not how those little cutie cookies were meant to look!

They didn't even hold their form as well as the cookies baked with coconut and sorghum flours, a surprise to me, and instead, as soon as I placed the little ball forms on the baking sheet, they melted down, oozing outward and flattening out. I had to add more flour a couple of times just to bring them back to a kind-of-desirable shape.

It's interesting to look back on this cooking "adventure" today, because as I mixed with a big wooden spoon, my arm slowly aching from the sticky dough pulling and grasping at each tug from my end, I had to add more and more flour just to get it back to the perfect moisture - it was eating away at the dough.

And yes, I do mean to personify it like it were a beast, but it shouldn't be really, it can be overcome like anything, it's not scary, just look at all the recipes I've been so lucky to try!

So each day, I take enjoyment with every meal, cooked or eaten, and love when I find something new, as if it were buried beneath the layers of an onion's skin, or inside the shell of a recently cracked egg. Perhaps even buried so deep, it remains locked up in the seed of a mango. It's an exciting and endless search, one that I hope to continue, and with a thirst for knowledge in the same manner that my hunger for irresistibly delicious and healthy food grows.

I trust the simple flavours in my food, those rich delicacies of home baking, as well as the subtle taste of raw ingredients carefully paired to complement each other.

Just like friendships, the best pairs are born from a base of truth, and only then can you really know the person. I'd like to know what really is in my vegetables as well, why can't we have that truth as well? I'd like to be aware of other products that may be in my eggs, and the past of the fish, even if its history consists of only a statement of its diet. Although even that's hard now.

However in our best effort, and in our best interest, mum and I opt for the freshest vegetables and eggs from chickens that are free-range and organically fed. At least that way we have a small indication of how the chicken lived, but I still hope that some day I'll raise my own little coop of chickens, with the benefit of farm fresh eggs each morning. A perfect start; protein; nutrients; truth; knowledge.

Baked Eggs with Tuscan Roasted Vegetables
Print recipe here.

The flavours of this oven baked dish are warm and fresh, a beautiful and colourful array of tastes and vegetables in the serving platter. No spices or herbs are needed with the fresh, organic vegetables used in this recipe, as their flavours are strong enough to be enjoyed as they are. It can be served on its own, a perfect dose of protein, or accompanying a few roasted potatoes or spiced couscous at dinner. However, enjoy this to start the morning, to keep you going at lunch time, or as a healthy and satisfying dinner.

The vegetables can also be roasted beforehand, sealed and then stored in the fridge until you're nearly ready to eat. Baking the eggs only takes a few minutes, so this can be prepared very quickly this way.

Serves 2


1 tbsp grape seed oil, or other oil suitable for frying
1/2 white onion, sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced

2.5 oz (70 g) fresh baby spinach leaves, whole

4 fresh, organic eggs


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry the onions until they soften, then add the peppers until they too begin to soften and the onions to brown.

Transfer to a wide baking dish, and add the sliced tomatoes and baby spinach. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes.

Crack the whole eggs over top the vegetables and return the dish to the oven. At this point you may wish to increase the heat to 400°F for a faster cooking time. At 375°F the eggs should bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 2 - 3 minutes, this will also allow the eggs to harden slightly.

Serve and enjoy!

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02 December 2012

Starts with a Chip, and Dip!

Last week I perused through recipes, and trying to decide upon what to make as a simple appetizer for mum's dinner party this weekend, every tab on my iPad was open to a different chef. The recipe I eventually chose, a simple Mexican staple (at least our idea of it), was salsa, but one sneaky ingredient that I didn't know left me puzzled.

The ingredients list had one unfamiliar vinegar, white balsamic vinegar.

"Just perfect, another thing to buy that I'll never use again."

I though to myself, and scanning the grocery shop shelves, I couldn't seem to find it anywhere.

I was the list girl in the never-ending aisles, wandering endlessly up and down, up and down. I felt like I was five years old again and even started to feel the panic of losing your mum in a big, unfamiliar place.

I almost gave up at that point to regular balsamic vinegar, already tucked in the cupboard, and also, barely used.

However, I really am glad that I double checked the aisles, because next to the Balsamic de Modena, an Italian vinegar, and White Cider Vinegar, and across the teas and coffees (I thought it was an odd location at the time), there was just what I was looking for - a clear glass bottle with a transparent, white liquid, that could only be balsamic vinegar.

As I stood in the aisle, I wondered how the two, with a very similar name, could be so different. And so, on my iPhone standing there facing the shelves, I did my research: It turns out that Italian vinegar production has been going on for thousands of years with a process very similar to that of vineyards in the production of making wine. Sweeter grapes are used, and of a much whiter colour, and are pressed into what is called "must" before being simmered for long periods of time (hours) until they thicken into a caramel-like substance. This syrup-y liquid is then portioned into many barrels, made from different types of wood to give the vinegar flavour and the "character" that its label boasts, and then aged. What is called "authentic vinegar" requires an ageing time of at least twelve years, however cheaper balsamic vinegars are not aged for nearly as long and in much larger quantities. The cheapest brands will be mixed with wine vinegar and be coloured by additives.

The white grape must is blended with white wine vinegar and then cooked at a very low temperature, this is required to prevent any darkening. The flavours of dark balsamic vinegar, the kind I always seem to have plenty of in the cupboard, and white balsamic vinegar are quite similar in flavour, despite balsamic vinegar being sweeter and having a more syrup texture. I found the white to be less rich, and also to have much less of an after-taste, which was really lovely in the salsa!

A huge reason that many use white balsamic vinegar in cooking rather than the regular balsamic is to prevent a discolouration. Since balsamic vinegar has such a strong colour and will change the appearance of the dish, white balsamic is used with lighter coloured foods, such as tomatoes and other sauces or dressings. Regular balsamic vinegar could work in this recipe, if you don't mind a darker salsa.

I know it seems like a summer recipe, this salsa, an odd pair to the start of Christmas festivities and decorations today, however, as we would start a dinner party, we shall start off December's posts with a little chip and dip.

Roasted Tomato Salsa
Print recipe here.

A colourful array of vegetables in this wholesome salsa makes a perfect appetizer to any party. The complementary herbs and spices bring about authentic flavours of the tomatoes and onions, and with only a subtle pinch of chile spice, everyone can enjoy this salsa whether served with chips, crackers, or on gluten-free bread as a bruschetta dish.


3-4 c roma tomatoes diced into large chunks
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
200 mL corn kernels, sliced from a cooked corn cob, or for a  
      quicker version, use canned corn kernels

2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp chile powder

3 tbsp grape seed oil
1/4 c white balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to season
a few chopped basil leaves to serve


Preheat the oven to 375°F and place a large baking dish on the side.

Toss the chopped vegetables, corn kernels, dried parsley and chile powder together in the baking dish.

Drizzle the grape seed oil and white balsamic vinegar over top the vegetables, and mix well.

Place the dish in the oven and cook for 30 - 35 minutes, tossing halfway and adding more chile powder if desired upon tasting (Careful! It will be hot!)

Remove from the oven and set aside until completely cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge, and serve at room temperature with chopped basil and salt and pepper on top.

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