Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Cookbook Review: The Looney Spoons Collection

This month I decided on a cookbook that's not a dedicated gluten free book.  It's important to be able to make meals from a variety of sources, and many dishes are naturally gluten free or can be adapted to be gluten free quite easily.  I also picked this book because I own one of their previous books (from the 90's) and still use it on occasion.  I was excited to see if the new book would be as good as the one I already owned. 

The Looney Spoons cookbook is written by Greta and Janet Podleski, two sisters from Canada who create lower-fat and more nutritious versions of everyday dishes.  Their signature style is to give their recipes crazy names and to throw in tons of nutritional tidbits and corny jokes along the way. 

Many of the recipes in the menu plans for this month came from this cookbook, including the following dishes:
-Chicken Thighs in a Wild Mushroom Sauce
-Vegetable Fried Rice
-Pasta Primavera (I substituted gluten free pasta)
-Teriyaki Chicken
-Vegetable Gratin
-Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
-Moroccan Quinoa Salad and Falafel Patties
-Hearty Beef and Vegetable Stew
-Rice Salad (I substituted rice for the orzo pasta called for in the recipe)

Look and Feel of the Book:  This cookbook is a large, softcover book, with clearly marked sections and easy to find recipes.  Since it's a collection, it does include some recipes from their previous books, as well as some new recipes.  It's a step up from the book I have because there are colour photographs of almost every recipe.  I also really like that there are nutrition sidebars on almost every page. 

The Recipes:  The recipes are pretty standard, familiar dishes for a North American palate, with a few variations.  Most dishes are ones that people have eaten before, but overhauled to have less fat and higher nutritional value than the original.  Meatballs, burgers, lasagna, broccoli soup, fried chicken- all things that are pretty basic but well-loved.  I tried to pick a variety of different types of dishes, including some that are maybe a bit out of the ordinary for some people, like the falafel or Moroccan quinoa salad. 

Mushroom Chicken & Stir Fried Vegetable Rice

Teriyaki Chicken with Sesame Seeds

Pasta Primavera 

Verdict:  I expected good things from this cookbook and it did not disappoint.  The range of choices from appetizers all the way to desserts could provide any family with delicious choices for months.  The recipes are easy to follow and use simple ingredients that are easy to find.  I had success with every recipe I tried, although I will admit to occasionally adding a bit more oil than a recipe called for, or adding a bit more grated cheese to the top.  Overall, the flavours are good, the instructions are clear, and the photos provide a good picture of what the finished product will look like.  

It's true that not all the recipes are gluten free, and there are a few that specifically call for whole wheat flour, for example, that I personally can't be bothered to modify and will probably skip altogether.  However, there are so many recipes that are gluten free, or that can be easily modified, that I feel that this cookbook is still a good investment.  I would recommend this book to anyone looking to eat healthier, but who doesn't want to give up all their favourite dishes to do it!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Photos will be updated later tonight, but here's what we're eating this week at my house.

Monday: Brown Rice Pasta Primavera with Roasted Vegetables

Tuesday: Chicken Thighs in a Wild Mushroom Sauce with Stir Fried Vegetable Rice

Wednesday: Black Bean Soup & Roasted Corn and Pepper Quinoa Salad

Thursday: Chicken, Bean and Lime Salad

Friday: Leftovers!!!  (I won't be home for dinner Friday, so my husband and son will eat whatever tickles their fancy!)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gluten Free Commercial

Although Gluten Free Rice Krispies have been on the shelves for a month or two in Canada already, I saw the first t.v. commercial for the product last night.  I know it's just an ad, and maybe it's because there's a little boy in it, but I was really happy to see it. 

I guess it's nostalgia, or the desire to share experiences from my childhood with him, but I'm excited to make some rice krispie squares with him soon!  Maybe they'll even start producing gluten free prepackaged rice krispie squares that I can put in his little lunch box when he goes to school....

Ok, I'm getting ahead of myself.  I guess the marketing people did their job!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Five List

So, this week has been crazy-my mother-in-law was here, my mom went in for surgery, my son turned three, and I had a late work meeting that kept me there until after 8pm.  Something had to give, and for the second time in two weeks, it was blogging.  Which makes me pull out my hair, because keeping up this blog is one of the things I look forward to the most each day.  But such is life I suppose, and like I have on other occasions, I will make up the lapse with two posts on one day.  That might be tonight or it might be tomorrow, but it will come!

Back to the matter at hand though, here's today's 5 list.

1- Snowmaggedon turned into rain/slush/snow that melted away by the time I picked up my son from daycare.
2- I should stop making to-do lists.  They're never ending.
3- Waiting for a phone call makes time virtually stop.
4- I'm currently addicted to a quinoa salad I buy from my local grocery store.  I'm going to try to recreate it for my menu plan this week.
5- Maple syrup is flowing early this year.  If any of the parks are open, we're going to bring our son this weekend.  What kid doesn't like maple syrup???

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Good Bye Abuelita!!!

Tomorrow morning my mother-in-law goes back to El Salvador, and I know a little boy who is going to miss her.  My son and his abuelita are upstairs right now, chatting up a storm before he goes to bed.  When he wakes up in the morning, she'll already be gone.  The next time he'll see her will hopefully be in December for my brother-in-law's wedding.

This week has been fantastic for my son.  He got his grandmother practically all to himself the whole time, and  they spent hours playing cars and trains, singing songs and reading books.  Every night she put him to bed and she fed him breakfast every morning.  It will be quite the shock for him to return to the daycare tomorrow!

My mother-in-law also got her wish to see snow, and she experienced the true meaning of winter.  I prefer the heat of El Salvador, but the cold was a treat for her.

We're going to miss her around here, but hopefully we'll see her again before the end of the year.

Have a safe flight Abuelita!

Chillin' with Abuelita

First time seeing snow!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Mardi Gras!

Sometimes I feel like every week there's another holiday just begging me to overindulge!  This year we didn't eat the traditional pancake dinner, but I am a little jealous of those around the world celebrating Carnival this week.

If you're not lucky enough to have a Mardi Gras party in your neck of the woods, throw on some music and have a little dance party of your own at home!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

My mother-in-law is visiting from El Salvador for my son's birthday, and she made a dish to contribute to this week's menu plan.  That's what we'll be eating Monday.


Monday:  "Salon con Limon" (Roast with Lemon, Herbs, and Salt) & Vegetable Soup 

Tuesday: Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetable Gratin  

Wednesday: Out for dinner (It's my mother-in-law's last night here)

Thursday: Lasagna 

Friday: Broccoli & Cheese Soup 

Birthday Party for a Gluten Free Three Year Old!

I was so tired last night after Etienne's birthday celebrations that I didn't write a blog post, so today there will be two posts- this one and the weekly menu plan. 

We decided not to invite a bunch of kids this year because my son wasn't asking for a party, and was only excited about the prospect of cake when discussing any form of party.  Instead, we opted to take him and his cousin to an indoor play place near our house for an hour or two of running around.

On the swing together

Later, we came back home for dinner. Roast chicken, quinoa salad, wild rice salad with apples and cranberries, bean salad, edamame and tomato salad, potato wedges, and Greek salad fill everyone up before the guests arrive for coffee and cake. 

We ordered his birthday cake (gluten and dairy free) from Augusto 33 Bakery, the same place we ordered from last year.  I picked up the cake earlier in the day, and it was beautiful!

The inside was chocolate, with a soft, vanilla icing, decorated with some trucks and cars we provided the baker.  As you can see, it was yummy!

Normally, we open gifts before cake, but he was so excited for the cake that we reversed the order.  He received some really cute toys- a mini golf game, some cars, a doctor's kit and a few sticker books.  His favourite thing to do though was pop the balloons.  Go figure!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Five List

This is a long weekend in Ontario due to Family Day, and it's also the weekend of my son's 3rd birthday.  Today was a crazy day at work, and so my plans to post my cookbook review tonight went out the window.  I was so wiped out that I fell asleep with my son while putting him to bed, and slept for a good hour before waking up!  Here are some of my thoughts for today:

1- It's my son's birthday, so of course he's sick and I'm not sure that he'll feel well enough to celebrate his birthday the way I'd hoped.
2- My mother in law had never seen snow before, so although I hate the cold and snow, I'm happy we've had some flurries over the past couple of days.
3- For some reason, without fail, the Friday before a long weekend is always crazy at work.  Anything that can go wrong, does.
4- My mother in law makes great black beans.  YUM!
5- Can't wait to see my son's face when he opens his gifts tomorrow!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Mother-in-Law is Here!!

My husband's mom is here visiting from El Salvador for the week, to celebrate my son's 3rd birthday.   My son's party isn't until Saturday and he's already been spoiled with gifts from his relatives in El Salvador.  A new backpack, cars, pyjamas, puzzles, a soccer ball and several other fun things that should keep him busy long after his abuelita leaves.

He spent the whole day home with her, playing games, singing songs, and trying to get better from the cough that's been plaguing him for the last two days.  I'm so excited that she's here for his birthday because it will be the first one he'll get to celebrate with her.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!!!!

Whether you're celebrating with someone special or enjoying your single self, take some time to do something special today.  And eat something delicious and gluten free :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Early Valentine's Day Surprise

My husband decided to surprise me tonight with an early Valentine's day dinner after my son went to bed.  My mother-in-law is arriving Wednesday night, so he figured we would be busy Tuesday.

He brought me flowers...

Set the table and served up some delicious sushi.  Vegetarian for me and the raw fish kind for him...

And some yummy cupcakes for dessert...

And now he's waiting patiently for me to finish this post so we can relax and watch a movie.

Before I go, here's a shot of the little treat bags I'll be handing out at my son's daycare tomorrow...
Stickers, Pencil, Bubbles and a Lollipop

For my list of gluten free candy and treats from last year, click HERE.

For some Valentine's day craft ideas, click HERE.
I'll catch you tomorrow!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Monday:  Italian Style Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Mini Meatballs

Tuesday: Moroccan Style Quinoa Salad and Falafel Patties

Wednesday: Hearty Beef and Vegetable Stew

Thursday: Rice Salad with Fresh Herbs and Vegetables and Leftover Falafel

Friday:  Greek Salad and Leftover Soup or Stew

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gluten Free at Augusto 33 Bakery

Last year we bought my son's birthday cake from a bakery in Maple Ontario called Terra Mia Bakery.   Click Here to see pictures of the cake and read about our great experience.  It was so delicious that my sister even bought her daughter's birthday cake there (and she's not gluten free).  So this year, we went back to place another order. 

Since last year, the bakery has changed names, but not owners.  It's now called Augusto 33 Bakery.  We went in today to place our order for next week, and were met by the same friendly people that were there last year.  I instantly felt guilty for not shopping there more often.  They have a variety of cookies, brownies and muffins that are gluten free, including carrot muffins and carrot cake.  Gluten free pizza dough is available for purchase.

What got use to sit down today though was the poster advertising gluten free waffles.  We ordered one for my son and sat down to wait.  When it came out, I couldn't believe how delicious it looked!  A huge plate of fluffy, warm waffle, covered in lactose free whipped cream and dairy free chocolate sauce with sliced strawberries and topped with a maraschino cherry.  To die for.  My son was so excited he dug right in with his fingers before I could remind him to use his fork.

Gluten Free Waffle (with Dairy Free Chocolate sauce and Lactose Free Whipped Cream)

Believe it or not, my son ate THE WHOLE THING!!!

The rest of their food is just as good.  My husband had a meal of porchetta (an oven roasted pork) with greens and a side of pasta.  I had some pizza.  Add two bottles of water, a coffee and a tea and the bill came to less than $30.

My husband's meal (not gluten free)
We left the cake order with the instructions to create a car/truck theme, and left behind some of my son's cars and mini tractors to use as decoration.  I can't wait to see what the baker will create.  I hope it's as great as last year.

Augusta 33 Bakery
9300 Keele Street
Maple, On L6A 1P4
(905) 832-2833

Friday, February 10, 2012

Impressed with York Central Hospital

I had an appointment for an ultrasound and a blood test at York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill.  My usual hospital experiences, even with an appointment, generally involve cramped waiting rooms and excruciatingly long waiting rooms.  In fact, although my appointment was for before 8:30 am, I had booked off the whole morning from work because I figured it would take forever to get done.

Not today.  My appointment was for 8:20 am, and I was in and out before 9.  This included registering, an ultrasound, a brief meeting to make later appointments, and some blood tests.  Less than 40 minutes all told.  I was back at work before 9:45.  

I have no idea if this is the way things generally are at that hospital, but I have to say I was thoroughly impressed.  Since I was done so early, I took a quick look at the cafeteria.  It was early in the morning, so not all the food was out yet, but the fridge had a nice selection of fruits, yogurt, and salads that are good options for those avoiding gluten.  When I go back for a later appointment I'll do a better scouting job of the gluten free hot options available.

Here's to hoping that today's great experience was the rule, rather than the exception!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Preparing For This Month's Cookbook Review

Generally I like to review cookbooks that are specifically gluten free, but this month I'm picking a regular cookbook.  I'm going to pick the recipes for next week's menu plan from the book, and I'll pick ones that are either naturally gluten free, or I'll comment on how I modified the ingredients to make it gluten free.

My husband grocery shopping as we speak (have I mentioned how much I love him?) and I can't wait to try the new recipes.  If I'm organized enough (haha) I might even try a dessert for Valentine's day. 

Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Too Tired to Think

This has been a pretty stressful week.  My mom has been sick for the past couple of months, and we've been waiting to find out when she would be booked for treatment.  She spent the last two days at the hospital, but today we finally got a few things settled.  She's got all her appointments lined up, her surgery is scheduled, and there finally seems to be a plan in place to move things along.  

This is a huge weight lifted.  We went to visit her tonight to see how she's doing, and now I feel as though all that waiting has finally caught up with me.  I'm too tired to think much, so I'm going to go to bed early and try to get an hour or two more sleep than usual.  Catch you tomorrow!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Found the Gluten Free Rice Krispies

So, after hearing about Gluten Free Rice Krispies coming to Canada in January, I finally found them!  Well, my husband found them, but that's not the point. 

The Fortino's in Vaughan has a great big display of them!  A friend of mine told me that she found them at the Super Store at Weston Rd. and the 401 in North York.  This is GREAT news! 

The best part?  My son loves them.  He thinks they're talking to him.   Love it!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Happy Superbowl Sunday!!!!  Let's Go GIANTS!!!

Here's the menu plan for the week.

Monday:  Pulled Pork Tacos with Black Beans and Avocado

Tuesday: Ceviche

Wednesday: Steak and Vegetable Stir Fry (the dish we didn't end up makign last week) 

Thursday: Chickpea Chowder 

Friday: Shepherd's Pie 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gluten Free at the Zoo? Not so much...

Today we spent the day at the Toronto Zoo.  Although some exhibits weren't open due to the cold, my son had a great time checking out the animals.  We saw the new polar bear cub, which was really, really, cute. 

From an entertaining the kiddies standpoint, the zoo is always a hit. 

However, when it comes to food, for those with food allergies or intolerances, it's another story altogether.

First, although it was a busy Saturday at the zoo, only 2 cafes and 1 beaver tail stand were open.  Trying to find a warm place to sit and buy some food was extremely difficult, requiring us to double back and cover ground we'd already seen, passing several closed food places along the way.  It was really inconvenient.

Second, once we did find one of the 2 places that serves a variety of food (since beaver tails are deep fried dough, which, are obviously off limits), the only options were burgers, pizza and salad.  And they were out of salad.  Maybe some of the other food places have some options, but since so little was open, it's besides the point. 

It wasn't a huge deal for us because we always bring food for our son wherever we go.  However, for one of the largest tourist attractions in the city of Toronto that attracts several million visitors per year, I would hope that there would at least be a few options for those with dietary restrictions. 

Just a friendly suggestion.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Five Things on a Friday

This week has been an eventful one, and the weekend is full of activity too. Here are a few things that happened this busy week or are scheduled for the weekend:

1- Exams marked, marks calculated, semester finished
2- Thesis Defense Done!
3- Planning a trip to the zoo tomorrow
4- Dinner with a friend

It's no secret that I love football, so the Superbowl is always an event at my house, but this year my team (THE GIANTS) is playing, so it's extra special!!! 

Can't wait for the big day!  Don't worry though, the menu plan will still go up as usual.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gluten Free Dining: Farro Ristorante

Last night, in celebration of passing my thesis defense, we went out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant called Farro Ristorante.  The restaurant is the perfect date-night place, with a sophisticated ambiance and an extensive menu of mouthwatering food.  I was a bit nervous about bringing an almost three year old in, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the restaurant is family friendly.  The waiter brought my son a small colouring book when we arrived, and they had high chairs and booster seats available. 

Normally, Italian food is a gluten-filled minefield, but not at this restaurant. 

Farro makes pasta in house, and they have gluten free pasta available.  They also make gluten free pizza, which is what we ordered for my son.  The gluten free didn't come in kid size, but I didn't mind.  We packed up what my son didn't finish and brought it home. 

How was the pizza?  Fantastic.  It was thin crust, with an authentic pizza texture to the crust.  I would say that it was the best gluten free pizza I've ever tried.  My son agreed, as he gobbled down three and a half slices! 

We ordered a simple Margherita pizza for him, but since they have an extensive pizza menu, we really could have chosen from several pizzas.  Ditto for the pasta dishes.  And since our son was so engaged with his pizza, my husband and I enjoyed our meals drama free. 

My husband ordered Tuscan bean soup to start, followed by bacon wrapped pork medallions with grilled vegetables.  I ordered a mixed green salad and the Gnocchi Gorgonzola  with spinach and sun dried tomatoes.  We would have had dessert, but it was getting late and my son had started rubbing his eyes, so we passed.

On our way out, I noticed that the restaurant has a small section at the back where they sell some specialty food products, including gluten free pasta.   

I really enjoyed our dining experience at Farro.  It's not a cheap restaurant, but the prices are reasonable for the quality of the food and the dining experience that the restaurant provides.  They also offer take-out if you call and order in advance, which is a great option for my family. 

This is a restaurant that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys good food, and wants more than one gluten free option to choose from.  It's perfect for a date night, a family function, or just an impromptu dinner to celebrate something special. 

My only suggestion for the restaurant would be to advertise their gluten free items outright on the menu.  They have a mention of spelt pasta, but no mention of the gluten free options.  I think that they could bring in more business if they did.

Farro Ristorante
2316 Major Mackenzie Drive
Maple, Ontario L6A 1W6

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Get to Be a Master of Something!

Yesterday I promised plenty of exclamation points if I passed my thesis defense today.  So here goes:

Things went VERY well today, and my thesis was accepted by the committee!

I have to admit that I'm very relieved.  This has been a labor of love (and sometimes hate) for a very long time.

But now I'm DONE! 

Happy Me!