Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust

Friday night was pizza night.  My son's been enjoying helping me in the kitchen lately, so I picked up a Bob's Red Mill Pizza baking mix and decided to bake one together.  The dough comes together quite quickly, although it thickens up and can be difficult for a mixer with a small motor to beat through.  The dough needs to stand for 20 minutes before being pushed into place on a baking sheet.  It makes one large pizza or two small ones.

What makes this dough feel different from regular pizza dough is that it's less elastic, but much stickier.  You have to use wet hands to push it into place on the baking sheet, which feels strange if you're used to working with regular dough.  It then needs to be baked for a few minutes before taking it out of the oven and putting the pizza toppings on.  It kind of has the consistency of a flat bread when it comes out of the oven.

We went for the classic mushroom and pepperoni pizza, with goat's milk mozzarella.  My son loved placing each slice of pepperoni into the sauce, and scattering the cheese over the top.  Then it goes back into the oven for 15-17 minutes until everything is hot and bubbly!

The finished crust is not quite a thin crust, but isn't as thick and springy as a thick one.  It's perhaps a little bit sweeter than a typical pizza, but the flavour doesn't distract from the toppings the way some take-out pizzas do.

The true test was the fact that my son ate 2 slices before my husband or I even began to eat!  The pizza was really good, especially hot out of the oven.

  Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave, but the texture of the crust doesn't respond all that well.  I would recommend reheating leftovers in a regular oven or a toaster oven to maintain the crispness of the crust.  That's true of all pizzas though. 

I've tried a few different gluten free pizza crusts in the past, and this one is my favourite so far.  It's not as convenient as a frozen, pre-made dough, but the final product is superior to any other I've tried at home.  I have the feeling that pizza night might be making a comeback in our house!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Husband!

Last night my son and I spent some time baking a gluten free birthday cake for my husband.  Even though his birthday is today, my son just couldn't wait and so we had to blow out some candles and sing happy birthday a day early!  Etienne has become quite the little helper in the kitchen, cracking eggs and pouring the liquid ingredients into the batter.  He helped every step of the way, and the cake turned out great. 

As for my husband, he enjoyed his birthday surprise, and even got to help blow out his own candles!!! 

Happy Birthday Mi Amor!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Product Review: El Peto Pancake Mix

On Sunday, I promised my little guy a pancake dinner since he couldn't eat the pancakes at the maple syrup festival that looked delicious but were full of gluten.  Thankfully, I had a box of gluten free pancake mix in the cupboard that I had bought a while ago with the best of intentions but had never quite gotten around to making. 

The El Peto mix calls for eggs, milk and oil to be added to the mix, and then to let it stand for 15 minutes to thicken.  The instructions say to add some more milk to the mix after the 15 minutes if it's a little thick.  Each batch makes between 10 and 14 pancakes.  I used a quarter cup scoop for my pancakes and got almost 14 pancakes from a batch.  I made 2 batches, and found that I had to add quite a bit of extra milk to each batch, as they thickened up considerably.

They did, however, cook up quite nicely.  They puffed up and came out light and fluffy, with good flavour.  My son ate 8 of them.  Seriously.  That's why I had to make two batches. 

I've never made pancakes using another gluten free mix, so I have nothing to compare this to, but I have to say I was impressed with the quality of the finished product.  I've been disappointed with some of El Peto's baking mixes in the past, so this was a nice surprise!  We covered them with some real Canadian maple syrup and they were as good as any pancakes I've ever had. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Maple Syrup Festival at Kortright Centre

Yesterday was a beautiful day, with temperatures hovering around 18C, the nicest it's supposed to be for the next week at least.  So, we decided to get out of the house and take our son to the Kortright Centre, where the Sugarbush Maple Syrup festival is underway.  I like the Kortright Centre for several reasons.  There are several hiking trails where one can enjoy nature peacefully while getting in some exercise, but there are also several programs for adults and kids, including guided walks, night walks, special events and seasonal activities.  Just being there brings me a sense of calm.

My son has been obsessed with dragons and wolves lately, and so was thrilled to be going to the forest where the wolves live.  We tried to explain to him that the wolves would be hiding, but he wasn't fazed; he was so excited to see the trees that seeing an actual wolf wasn't necessary (thank goodness!)

We decided on the self-guided tour this year, since we've done the guided tour before, and we set out along the trail.  The first thing that I noticed was the quiet that enveloped us as we made our way onto the path and away from the main centre.  Although the trees were still without leaves, there's a definite beauty to the bare trees, surrounded by a floor of dried leaves and a few patches of moss peeking through.

Etienne was excited to see the sap dripping into the buckets attached to the maples, and even got to sample some sap before it was boiled down into syrup.  The demonstration of the boiling sap was interesting, although Etienne was more interested in the fire than the syrup, and kept reminding me that fire was for cooking marshmallows.  Somebody remembers his cottage visit from last summer!

We bought some maple candy (gluten free!) and some syrup, and ended our day off with a wagon ride around the centre.  There was a snack centre serving food, but unfortunately nothing was gluten free- pancakes, sandwiches, sausages on a bun, etc.  Instead, I promised Etienne that we could have a special pancake dinner when we got home topped with the maple syrup we bought.

He loves helping mommy in the kitchen, so the thought of cooking the pancakes was enough to make him forget that he couldn't have any at the festival.  Overall, it was a great morning at the Kortright Centre.
Kortright Centre for Conservation, 9550 Pine Valley Drive, Woodbridge ON L4L 1A6
Sugarbush Maple Syrup Festival runs until April 9, and is open daily.  
 Weekdays 9:30-4:00, Weekends 9:30-5:00.
Kids 4 and under are free.  Adults are $9 and parking is $4. 
Wagon rides are included in the price.  Food is extra. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Monday: Sundried Tomato, Spinach, Walnut & Feta Pasta

Tuesday: Split Green Pea Soup and Romaine Salad

Wednesday: Roast Beef with Potatoes & Carrots 

 Thursday:  Chopped Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing

Friday: Gluten Free Pizza with Mushrooms & Pepperoni (This isn't the pizza.  It will be our Friday night project!)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Few Final European Memories

It's been over a week since I've been back, and I've shared some of my gluten free experiences from the trip on the blog.  Along with eating great food, I got to see some magnificent sites.  Here's a round-up of some of my favourite shots from the trip!

The rose window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Sculpture in the Musée D'Orsay, Paris

Chocolate Easter Egg Art, Montecatini Italy

Artisanal Treats, Assisi Italy

View from Assisi, Italy

Rome, Italy

Barcelona, Spain

Carcassone, France

Overlooking the South of France


Friday, March 23, 2012

Gluten Free on the Overnight Train: Paris to Barcelona

When we travelled from Paris, France to Barcelona, Spain with our students, we took a high speed overnight train.  Far from traveling first class on the train, we travelled tourist class.  Our train compartments consisted of four fold down beds; two on top and two on bottom.  Once the beds were folded down, there wasn't much room for moving around, particularly with suitcases involved. The train had a small restaurant compartment, but as we were traveling overnight (8pm-8am), I didn't make it to the restaurant. 

First thing in the morning, we were brought little breakfast boxes that contained a huge croissant, a doughnut, and a juice box.  Basically a gluten filled bomb landed on my lap! 

But fear not, my gluten-free friends!  While skimming the Services Guide provided in the compartment, I came across a small section on special meals.  If ordered 72 hours in advance, a gluten free breakfast will be provided (although only for tickets purchase in Spain- I don't know why).  It doesn't state what that breakfast would include, but it's nice to know that the option is available. 

It's great to see that maintaining a gluten free diet even while on the road away from home is becoming easier and easier to accomplish.

 Happy travels!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gluten Free Gelato in Florence, Italy

Despite the prevalence of wheat based pasta and bread products in Italy, it's a country with a strong awareness of Celiac and gluten free diets.  Italians are tested for Celiac at a young age, and restaurant staff are generally well trained in the nuances of the gluten free diet.  Many places have gluten free alternatives readily available. 

When I was in Florence, we stopped for gelato (Italian ice cream) every opportunity we could get.  At one gelato spot, they were advertising gluten free cones.  In addition, for those who have dairy issues, there are several flavours available that are completely dairy free, or made with rice milk.  All I could think was how perfect a spot it would be for my son, who has issues with both gluten and dairy.

The gelato spot is called Festival del Gelato, located at 75 via del Corso, Florence.  Their website lists a selection of over 70 flavours, specifically mentioning their large range of options that are safe for those with celiac disease, as well as those with lactose intolerance, low calorie and no sugar options, and flavours that are soy or rice based.  With their available gluten free cones, every kid, or just those who are kids at heart, can indulge in the ultimate gelato experience in one of the most beautiful cities of the world. 

Gluten free cones

The prices were comparable to other gelato spots.  I paid 2 Euros 50 for a small cup with two flavours.  I chose chocolate and mixed berries.  The gelato was excellent.  The flavours were intense but not overly sweet.  We found a spot at one of the few table in the place and enjoyed our ice cream while watching the steady stream of customers come through the door.  It's certainly one of the most popular gelato places in the city.  I highly recommend this shop to anyone, but particularly for those who are gluten or dairy free, and want to have a range of options to choose from, jut like everyone else.

Wordless Wednesday: Italy

Florence, Italy

Rome. Italy

Assisi, Italy

Rome, Italy

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gluten Free in France

A large chunk of my recent Europe trip was spent in France- Paris, Carcassone, Arles, Orange, Nice and Monaco.  French cuisine is notoriously gluten filled, and there aren't many eateries touting gluten free items.  This doesn't mean that eating gluten free in France is impossible.  Like anywhere else, it requires a bit of research, patience and questioning.  The word for gluten is the same in French as in English, so asking for items "sans gluten" is always recommended.  Wheat is "blé" (pronounces blay). 

Like Spain, fresh food is abundant, and simple meals can be ordered in even the fanciest of restaurants.  If you want to have some food of your own on hand just in case, here are some options.

La Vie Claire is an organic grocery chain with locations all over France.  I stumbled upon it just steps from our hotel in Paris, and was amazed to find gluten free items advertised in store.  Despite selling organic food, the prices were quite reasonable and the selection was pretty good.  Along with packaged goods they also sold fresh food items and had a cooler with yogurt, cheese, etc.

There are several supermarket chains in France.  One of the biggest is the chain Carrefour.  If you can read French, the website lists their line of gluten free specialty foods available in their stores, including baguettes.  Definitely worth a look.

One of the places I stumbled upon gluten free food was the pharmacy.  Yup.  I was buying some throat lozenges, and turned around to see a gluten free product staring me in the face.  Since eating gluten free is the result of a medical condition for many, prepackaged gluten free items can be found in pharmacies across the country.  I snapped a pic of the item I came across.  Not only does it have gluten free plastered in bold cap letters across the front, it also has the no wheat symbol on the front.  Asking the pharmacist will help point you in the right direction. 

There are also many, many food markets across France, where vendors can help you choose items that are safe to consume for those avoiding gluten.  Some markets are open daily, while others operate only on certain days of the week.  Most travel guides can provide information about which markets are open when.  In Nice, there is a lovely market that's open daily, with a large selection of artisanal goods. 

Finally, if you're in Paris, there's a new bakery that's completely gluten free.  Unfortunately I didn't have the chance to visit since I was on a strict schedule, but if you have the time, Helmut Newcake has been receiving rave reviews.   I can't find their website, but their facebook page is HERE.  Send me a line and let me know if the pastries are as good as they look in the pictures.

France is one of my favourite countries, and there's no reason why being gluten free should be a deterrent to visiting.  Pack a dictionary and your sense of adventure and enjoy all the country has to offer!

Monday, March 19, 2012

When in Barcelona...

Eating gluten free in Europe is a matter of preparation, flexibility, and asking careful questions.  Just like eating gluten free anywhere else.  I just returned from a two week trip to Europe with 20 high school students and three teachers, visiting France, Spain and Italy.  Breakfast and dinner were pre-arranged affairs, with set menus in local restaurants.  Lunch was open to experimentation, and we ate anything from street food to real sit down meals in restaurants.

When in Spain, there are many local dishes that are gluten free, including many variations of the traditional dish paella.  Paella is a rice dish, typically topped with seafood or a variety of meats and cooked in a special pan over fire.  It takes a while to prepare, but it's worth every minute that it takes.  I ate a great vegetarian paella with peas, artichokes, carrots, onions and various other vegetables for lunch one day and it was delicious.  Of course it's always important to ask questions, especially when there are sauces involved.  There are various dining cards and images that can be used to help in translation if Spanish is not a language you speak.  Learn the words for wheat and other gluten-filled ingredients, and always ask for things "sin gluten" when ordering.

Much Spanish food centers around their meats and sausage, which are delicious and perfect when eaten with fresh vegetables on the side.

If visiting Barcelona, I highly recommend a trip to the Boquería Market, located right off the Ramblas, the main street of the city.  The market's origins date back to the 1200s, and is one of the most amazing locations for food that I've ever seen.  Here, you can everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, sausages and meat, fish, cheese, prepared foods, and much much more.  We had lunch there one day, but it would also be a great place to stock up on items to ensure that you always have a supply of gluten free items wherever you go in the city.  For 2 Euros, I had a huge fruit salad.  Fresh fruit juice was usually 1 Euro per glass, and tasty tapas bites went for a Euro each.  There are even some eat-in bars, with stools pulled up to the counter for patrons to sit and enjoy their meal.

I highly recommend a visit to this market for anyone interested in seeing some local culture, but particularly for those who are gluten free, because there is such a variety of items to choose from. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Today is a very special day.  It's my birthday!  It's also the day that regular blogging resumes.  I arrived home from Europe late Thursday evening, and spent the last two days with my husband and son, unpacking and doing laundry.  I've also been trying to shake the cough that I picked up in Europe. 

I thought resuming with the weekly menu plan would be a great way to get back into the rhythm of daily blogging.  It's great to be back.  Thank you for your patience!

 Here's what we're eating at my house this week!

Monday:  Pasta Carbonara  

 Tuesday: Chicken Fingers and Oil & Vinegar Coleslaw 

Wednesday: Stuffed Green Peppers with Ground Turkey, Rice & Vegetables

Thursday: Leek and Potato Soup and Spring Greens 

Friday: Montreal Spiced Steak, Potato Salad and Spring Greens 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Travel Update

The last time I posted I was headed to Paris.I was there for a few days and then moved on to Barcelona, Spain.  I haven`t had much time to do any posting, since I`ve been busy almost all hours of the day.  i have been taking note of some of the everyday gluten free options for travelers, and have taken some great photos, which I hope to post shortly.

I apologize for the delay between posts.  Tomorrow morning I`m moving on again, back to France.  I hope that sometime tomorrow or the day after I`ll have a larger chunk of time where I can really catch up with the blog and let you in on all I`ve been up to!

Talk to you soon!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Heading to Paris

I still have some things to get ready, and some time to spend with my son before I leave.  Hopefully, by this time tomorrow morning, I will be in the City of Light, Paris!