Think of Me Gluten-Free

Think of Me Gluten-Free: April 2013

21 April 2013

Eggplant Fries with a Side of Delight

I was reminded of the post I wrote a few weeks ago, and my desire for fresh eggs, with the sound of our neighbors' chickens outside, and the brown blur speeding by the windows as a little hen raced back to the nest she had made beside our house in a little box filled with hay. They've got surprising speed those little chickens; I would never have placed a chicken on the same level of agility as my dog for example, given their tiny legs underneath such a comparatively large and rounded body.

As dad worked outside (it sounded like he chopped wood all afternoon, but we never really checked) he noticed a small indent in the hay shed. And amidst the pieces of straw bent round as if part of a large bird's nest, he noticed a perfectly oval egg in the centre, lightly spotted brown and still warm when he held it.

Our neighbors didn't seem to mind that we had been given an egg by one of their chickens, so after showing them our treasure we brought it inside to replace the depleted stock of store bought eggs from all of my baking. Instead, our neighbors laughed, and the chickens continued to have free range of both their yard and ours.

My luck didn't stop there.

As the morning rose, I sat by the windows and watched the chickens scurry past the fence and onto our driveway. Picking their way through the shrubs and trees, they explored the expanse of grass and hills that makes up our lawn. One little brown chicken scampered through the ferns and low trees, pausing beneath the branches for a few moments, hidden, and then returning to the open lawn.

I wish the little chickens would still give us their deliciously golden eggs, but sadly, I think they've been trained to lay only in the neighbours yard as of that weekend, since I haven't found anymore eggs, depositing checking quite regularly. I have still loved the taste of freshly poached eggs in the morning, or on particular week nights when breakfast for dinner sounds perfect, mum and I have a plate of poached eggs over cooked tomatoes and mushrooms.

When I found out that it was National Egg Benedict Day last Tuesday, I couldn't help but yearn for poach my eggs for lunch when I came home from school early, and drizzle a little bit of honey mustard dressing over top them with avocado, fried onions and tomatoes. Sure, it wasn't exactly an eggs Benny, but I really didn't want to stand over a stove top stirring the buttery Hollandaise sauce, and this version of mum's made a long day seem suddenly insignificant, a delicious plate of good food to brighten my mood. There really wasn't anything more comforting in the drizzling rain, and I was refueled moments after.

If there's one thing I've learnt being gluten free, if it isn't that I absolutely adore avocados, and will eat them with almost anything, it's that getting creative with ingredients, especially a wild array of vegetables and homemade sauces, is the best thing when in a pinch. Sometimes the best meals come from the food tossed together in a large saucepan and served with a tomato and basil sauce. Or when there's no gluten free bread? Eggs are wonderful baked in an avocado, topped with salsa or honey mustard dressing (it's my new favourite!) or quickly fry some rounds of sweet potato for a fancy-style beans on toast (or tuna melt). Anything made gluten free is jazzed up anyway, and even more so in flavour, and I've got proof (well, from mum and dad) who both exclaimed an undying enthusiasm with the plate of aubergine fries I served for dinner.

"This is our new thing! Mum exclaimed, and dipped another fry into the honey which had drizzled down to the bottom of the bowl.

I served a simple dinner of fries and salad, but as I said before, spruced up and gluten free. Both plates had the combination of sweet and savoury flavours, and from what I could tell, went very well with an entire bottle of red wine. I don't usually post two recipes, but since everything went so well together, with room for dessert (to come later), I'll post them both.
Eggplant Fries with Honey
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A new twist on the generic fries, and made gluten free! These eggplant fries are more tender than potatoes, and have their own unique, and subtly sweet flavour that will keep your hand reaching back to the dish of fries. And when drizzled with warm honey, there really aren't too many things that'll compare, and I don't think I'm going back to potato fries. 

I also tried frying a few slices of carrot, which also tasted delicious, although very different to the sweetness of the eggplant. I might whip up this easy seasoning recipe again, just to try my hand at some other vegetables... the pickle jar was beckoning this time, but hungry family members stopped me this time. A healthier version than the fairground fried pickles, its something I'll have to try!


1/4 cup potato flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, fresh ground
1 large eggplant

Grape seed oil for frying
salt for seasoning



Peel the eggplant, and slice into approximately three inch long and 3/4 inch thick fingers. Set aside.

In a wide, shallow bowl, combine the potato and tapioca flours, dried oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper until thoroughly mixed.

Toss the eggplant slices a few at a time in the seasoned flour until well coated.

In a heavy-bottom medium saucepan, heat at least two inches of grape seed oil. When the oil is ready, drop a few sticks of eggplant into the oil – they should begin sizzling immediately. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan or have the oil temperature drop too much.

When the eggplant fries begin to brown, about a minute later, flip them over and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove the eggplant fries from the oil and let drain on a cooling rack. Serve hot with a shake of salt and a drizzle of warm honey.

A great snack or appetizer for 2-3 people.

Candied Pecan and Goats Cheese Salad
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A delicious array of fresh flavours, with the sweet crunch of candied pecans, and the creamy taste of goats cheese, this salad is perfect for the summer alongside something straight off the barbecue, or bring it to a dinner party and you'll for sure get the approval of all the guests - even if they just pick off the pecans as if they were candy.


3 large handfuls baby spinach mix
1/2 cup candied pecans, recipe here
2 - 3 tablespoons of soft goats cheese
1/2 - 3/4 pear, sliced thinly


When candied pecans are roasted and cooled, toss spinach together in a wide bowl.

Add over top pecans, goats cheese, and sliced pear, and you're almost to perfection!

I served this salad with my new obsession, Brianna's honey mustard dressing, and it tasted absolutely delicious.

Enjoy! xx S

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17 April 2013

On y va... Chocolate Chia Pudding

I have been a little jittery lately, well no, maybe I'm just so relaxed. I'm out of sorts. The end of school is quickly approaching and it's showing up with grad events and everyone's excitement in being so close to the end. I've received acceptance letters to the two universities I applied, and after the stress of sending in the right documents before the right dates, it's such a relief to finally have a big booklet with the word congratulations written in block letters across the front, and my name at the top of a letter inside. (And the bragging rights that goes with it). And now I have finally figured out the program to study in university after a year off travelling and hopefully volunteering across the globe. Who knows where I'll be this time next year. I might be flying to Australia, or set up in a country cottage in Italy enjoying the warmth of that oh so famous Tuscan sun. Or will it be the Amalfie Coast which mum so eloquently describes each chance she gets that will lure me in.

In any case, I've accepted my first choice of university with an entrance scholarship, and things are finally fitting into place. Bit by bit the puzzle is slowly being put together. I can make out a few more flights this summer, and a month full of French, adventure and lots of fun in Quebec. And I'm already starting to think in French, it must be the excitement: I'm creating phrases in my head while brushing my teeth or rolling out the dough for a batch of cookies.

Il y a deux mois et demi jusqu'à je vais voler à Rivière-du-Loup...

And then I get all excited again, and the phrases slip my mind while I think of all the delicious food Montréal and Quebec City have to offer, tucked into neat little cafés and restaurants, a cup of warming hot cocoa in a rounded mug, or a cooling lemonade as it will be summer while I'm there.

I'm getting ready with pommes frites served with marmalade baked brie... A delicious appetiser, and a delicious way to get my mind into action for checking and booking flights and trains. A whole new journey.

I am more than ready to be finished with school, to begin meeting different people and see a whole new part of the world with people of different points of view and lifestyles. I no longer want to feel caught in this collection of bubbles with groups divided into their own soap sud and standing in close knit circles with oblivious and blank expressions. I'll be choosing for myself which path to take, which country to travel to, and the people I'll meet.

Sometimes I forget, even on this blog with no other pressure to write or post any certain thing than from myself, that I should be doing the things which I enjoy.

Step 1: Remind myself daily, this blog is for me. I am writing for myself, and as an outlet of my creative side, my passion for good food, and colourful photography. Sometimes I get caught up in making it perfect, as I do with many other things, and forget to enjoy the beauty of intertwined words and weaved ingredients into a delicious plate of freshly baked gluten free bread. It takes a post that I find difficult to write to help me realise this again, to stop me from focusing on making it like the other successful blogs, and instead focus on what I really want to write about, or what I really want to post.

Step 2: Relax with hot, soothing drinks. I love these most after a long day, feet up, and the dog by my side (as long as she doesn't snore too loudly!) Boil ginger with honey and lemon for something really refreshing, or whip up a quick chai latte with almond milk to rejuvenate and reawaken.

Step 3: This is the fun part! Planning my adventures for next year is what will really get me through these last two months of school, even though I have no doubt that as exams are slowly dealt with, I'll enjoy grad events more and more. And because I love organising with maps and pictures, I'm sure I'll be drawing out lots of plans to prepare the where, when and how of my travels.

Step 4: Don't stress... And this might be hard, but I've learned that things will come into place if they're meant to happen, and good things occur with time. Always. You just have to relax and let it all play out. (And step 4 also includes taking my sister and mum's advice: the little things never turn out to be worth the stress and worry in the end).
Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding (With Fried Chai Pears)
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Chia and Chai... goes so well together.

For a certain luxury, there's always the pleasure of having dessert during the week. There's an even greater luxury when it's healthy, full of "good-for-you" ingredients, and after a long flight from across the continent. Except I believe that all food is good for you, as long as its real, and unprocessed. That's why I love this little après dinner treat - or it could even be eaten any time - it's so wonderfully delicious and chock-full of nutrients. I missed having some decadent desserts in Cuba, although the food is good, you don't go there for it, and instead of looking at the menu before entering a restaurant, the live music and atmosphere is a greater draw. Once, we had delicious 
creme caramels after dinner, but after tasting these, I'm sure you'll have satisfied your sweet tooth perfectly.  

Now it might sound a little deceiving to have fried pears, but when you have a basket of ripe pears which were flown halfway across the world and are losing their "flavour" fast, it's time to bring in other means to enjoy the juice of these delicious fruits - even if it means adding a few pinches of spices to the mix. They were traditionally used in food to mask undesirable flavours, so why not put them to use. 

I love using chia seeds in puddings and smoothies, as well as in a pot of overnight oats, because they give it that wonderful pudding-like texture. You could also add in other ingredients, such as shredded coconut, for more crunch and texture, but just make sure you let these babies sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours. We tried half an hour in eagerness, and ended up with half a pudding and half a glass of cold chocolate milk. Delicious no doubt, but also a little unexpected. So be patient! I'm considering trying a blend of nuts and chocolate (perhaps even dates?) to create a base later, and maybe even turn this simple dessert into a decadent tart. Let me know if you try it, and I'll hopefully post it soon!

Serves 2

2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons gluten free hot chocolate powder (or 2 tablespoons raw cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup, divided)
1 1/2 cup almond milk (or alternative)
1 ripe pear, cut into quarters and sliced horizontally
1 teaspoon chai tea spice mix

In two pots or ramekins, we used small mason jars, combine chia seeds, hot chocolate powder, and almond milk. Stir until combined and place in the fridge.

The stirring may take some time to combine the chia seeds and chocolate mix, but it will happen!

Now let them rest! Keep the pudding in the fridge for at least 3 hours. I expect leaving them overnight would have the best results.

20 minutes before serving, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the sliced pear with spices. Sauté until the pear begins to brown, and serve over top the pudding.
Sit down and relax.


Enjoy the delicious and healthy dessert you have created.

xx S.

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07 April 2013

A Whirlwind of Timeless Cuba

The vastness of what we experienced during our week of spring break in Cuba overwhelms me a little even now. And I know that if I were to volunteer abroad during my year off next year in a developing country, as I currently plan to, that I would again be shocked by my experiences and the sights - but starting off small, slowly easing into new cultures and different ways of life, is important.
Every idea I've had to begin writing brings up new stories from our travels to the Caribbean island; each day was filled with it's own few chapters as if pulled from a novel. That's the lure of holidays and experiencing places, travelling to somewhere completely new gives us the chance to return with a backpack overflowing with stories and the excitement that comes from the thrill of it all. The trouble is always figuring out how to explain it all when someone asks the broad question of "how was it?" So, I'll begin when it really did all start.

The idea for Cuba began sometime last year, when we started fantasising about a tropical holiday during spring break. We had just returned from a few days in one of BC's interior ski mountains, and the idea of sitting somewhere hot and tanning on the beach was idyllic, even if our holiday was no where near a luxury beach resort kind of week. This idea of hopping on the plane this year to Cuba sat with us for the summer, for the fall, and until finally just after Christmas when flights were booked and we started looking into casa particulars, essentially bed and breakfasts run by Cuban families all across the country, to stay in a few different towns including Havana and Viñales in the country. After hostels and other budget accommodation, casa particulars are the cheapest option to stay in Cuba. For the equivalent of around $30 a night, three of us were able to stay in room with clean sheets, towels, and a bathroom complete with shower. Breakfast and dinner are also served in the casas for additional cost, and although we tried breakfast and dinner once at two of the three casas we stayed at, the atmosphere was minimal despite the food being delicious and overly abundant.

Each day had moments of excitement and new experiences that I remember in bursts now. Sometimes I remember the little Spanish I picked up, and reply with ci to someones question, or as I try to find something I mutter to myself, 'Dondé ésta...' There are also the conversations with inquisitive friends that cause me to remember a peculiar moment in a bicitaxi cruising through Havana as I try to recall the highlighted moments to satisfy their undying curiosity. There really isn't any one moment to call the highlight, from Havana (or Habana) to the Valle de Viñales, and finally to spending a couple of nights in Matanzas, one moment leads to another, onto explaining the people we came across, the situations were got into and the ones we almost got caught up in, and from there are the other adventures to be had. It's an intricate and detailed pattern of events. A tightly woven web, but I guess that's just how life goes.
This photo captures many of the cities attractions and features, a mix of 1950s cars and shops, and the new luxury items from China, including fancy new cars, a new line of Transgaviota buses for transporting hundreds of tourists to and from their plush resorts to only the best attractions in Cuba. Driving these cars are exuberant men who shout to friends they see in the street, some stopping in the middle of the road for a quick chat. And instead of slowing down at uncontrolled intersections, many drivers speed up and blare their horn loudly to alert any sleepy cars. But they aren't reckless, and instead share the road with bicycles, horse and carts, and bicitaxis, two person bicycle taxis pulled by one hard-working guy.
I really loved meeting all these different people, who had experienced life in a very different society from our own. There were men at the book sale in Havana's busy streets that were looking to find work in Canada sometime in the near future, and were hoping that each of our countries would relax regulations so that he could start a new life. At the moment, it was more profitable to sell books to eager tourists in the streets than his own government job as a school teacher. So, he worked longer days to support a family. 
In Cuba's valley towns there was a lower pace of lifestyle, cowboys rode horses through the streets, and large trunks came tumbling down the roads at 5 AM to pick up workers for a day in the tobacco fields. I loved this atmosphere with kids playing soccer in the street, and everyone staying up late to make sure they could catch up with friends in between doorways and on street corners. Even in Havana, kids played a game of baseball in a side street, or jump rope as the occasional car came down pushing them to the sidewalks briefly before carrying on.
In Viñales we explored the jardin botanical that has been growing for the past one hundred year. In the centre of what looks like a vast jungle of cocoa, mango, and banana trees, tobacco and flowers, is a small colourful cottage where a family lives. They take care of the jardin, and upon your entrance through the bright red gates will lead a tour around the paths of the garden. In our sparse Spanish and our guides limited English, we had fun deciphering the Spanish names of plants into our well-known English terms.
For a closer look into the beauty of Viñales, we were lead by a local on horseback through the tobacco fields and among the farmers who plow their fields with oxen. In the morning we set out, the sun was just beginning to warm our backs, and we rambled along through the fields and dirt tracks. As it began to get hotter, we stopped at an old man's house a top a grassy hill, where he served us hollowed out coconuts with rum and honey. Looking out, we could see the town of Viñales and spreading out from that an array of checkered houses and tobacco fields, and among that a small amount of corn and rice fields. It was amazing to experience rural Cuba with it's slower pace lifestyle, and laid back farmers on horseback in gum boots and smoking a Cuban cigar. For me, riding horses through Cuba was the perfect moment.
There is so much history in Havana. And in Cuba. Between the crumbling buildings and streets piled with rubble are places built in the early 1900's, and some of these places, recently restored into colourful attractions, have the undeniable beauty and amazing craftsmanship in ornately decorated columns, marble floors, and painted ceilings particular to that time period.
Among this revolution and restoration of the buildings there is the life of the Cuban people. Things seem to be on the brink of change with the widespread access to the Internet, and this newness of ideas flowing amid buildings which have stood for hundreds of years casts an exciting atmosphere among the people. However, if you stop to listen in broken English and reply in haphazard Spanish, the views of the Cuban people seem to reflect both gratitude and frustration with the revolution. A change in their country which both propelled a movement but now seems to have stagnated their countries development.
Sometimes, moments put you back into the 1950's while spending time on the streets of Havana or walking in Viñales' fields. A lineup of 1950's style cars at a crosswalk puts you into a different decade, as does the image of three cowboys on horseback trotting through dirt tracks just outside of your bedroom window. With this mismatch of modern and past culture, this country is unique in it's own way. That's the beauty of exploring new places, and places so different from home. There are windows into the history, and the people, and into the hopes and traditions of their lives.

Quinoa and Goats Cheese Patties
Print recipe here!What I loved about the food in Cuba, and I know that no one goes there for the food, but it was still delicious, was that the ingredients were all so simple, fresh, local, and tasty. They used simple ingredients like fish and chicken, which was cooked or fried in a sauce, and served with rice, and often beans. In the valley we had a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables such as bananas, shorter than the ones we have at home, and much sweeter. Our host family went into their back yard and came back with a bundle of tiny little bananas, and offered us one each, which we devoured greedily, enjoying the sweetness of these pale green goodies.

This recipe follows a similar principle, simple, fresh ingredients for a decadent dinner. For best tasting results, use locally grown vegetables, and if you have access to it, local goats cheese. 
Serves 2 (makes 4 patties)


1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup warm water

2 tbsp soft goats cheese
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1 medium carrot, grated
1 egg
1 large (2 small) garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to season
1 tbsp grape seed oil (for frying)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the uncooked quinoa and warm water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine goats cheese, cottage cheese, grated carrot, egg, and minced garlic. Stir to combine.

Add in the cooked quinoa slowly, mixing between each addition to prevent the egg from cooking.

Sprinkle chili powder, salt, and pepper in, and stir well.

At this point, if you're mixture is not sticking together well, or has too much liquid, add in rice flour 1 tablespoon at a time. It should be sticky and hold its shape.

Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon of grape seed oil. Using a 1/4 cup measuring spoon, ladle the quinoa mixture bit by bit into the frying pan and press down to form approximately 1 inch thick patties.

Cook for 5-10 minutes on each side. Lower the heat if they brown (or blacken) too quickly, or the oil begins to spit, and raise the heat if after 5 minutes there is no colour change.

Enjoy with Baked Tomato Salsa, or use instead of meat patties in a gluten free burger bun.

Enjoy! xx S

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