Friday, August 30, 2013

Back to School for the Gluten Free Child


As a parent of a gluten free child, you've probably spent a ridiculous amount of time ensuring that your child is prepared, not only with new clothing and supplies, but with the knowledge necessary to remain safe in an environment that will be filled with food and products that contain gluten. Teaching your children how to cope with a variety of situations is important, but equally important is getting the school on board.

We've all heard horror stories of schools or teachers not taking the issue seriously, and I experienced that attitude at my son's former daycare, but most teachers take student welfare very seriously. However, they don't all understand what Celiac disease or non-Celiac gluten sensitivity really means, making it difficult for them to truly understand how to help your child.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Thoughts on the FDA Ruling on Gluten Free

This month I wrote an article for A Sweet Life online magazine offering my thoughts on the new FDA Ruling on gluten free food labelling.

Want to read the article? Of course you do! Click on over to A Sweet Life to read it in full.

 If you have both Celiac Disease and Diabetes (a pretty high percent of those with Type 1 diabetes also suffer from Celiac) this magazine is a great resource for information, recipes, and tips for those living with diabetes.

Thank you so much to A Sweet Life for inviting me to contribute to the magazine, and keep up the good work!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gluten Free Travel: Napa's Inn on Randolph


It’s no secret that I love to travel, and that I write about places to stay or eat that are gluten free friendly. Eating gluten free shouldn’t hold anyone back from seeing the world, and I certainly wouldn’t want my son to think that he has to miss out because of his food restrictions. That’s why I get particularly excited when I hear about locations that are geared entirely toward the gluten free traveler.  Inn on Randolph in Napa, California is one of those places. 
 

Main Inn
 
The Inn on Randolph (www.innonrandolph.com) in downtown Napa was completely renovated by new owners Dan and Karen Lynch in 2012. Karen was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity seven years ago and wanted to provide a place for those who are gluten free or who have Celiac disease to be able to feel safe.  “I always felt like I was being a pain in the neck,” said Karen.  “My meals while traveling were often substandard substitutes—such as being served a frozen gluten-free waffle instead of the freshly prepared foods everyone else was enjoying.”  She would sometimes choose to not eat or just bring her own food. 



That mirrors my family’s experiences in many places. We now limit our hotel choices to places that have a kitchenette, just in case. The Inn on Randolph eliminates this need. The remodeled kitchen has never known a spec of gluten.  “Everyone is served the same food and since we’re 100% gluten-free, there’s no risk for cross-contamination,” said Karen. This means that every delectable item on the menu is gluten free, including their signature breakfast dishes: smoked salmon, vanilla pancakes, bacon wrapped polenta, corn cakes with homemade applesauce, and Mexican soufflés.


Gluten Free Breakfast

The Inn itself is a historic 1860s Victorian estate that has been completely renovated to preserve the historical character, but provide every modern, luxurious amenity. The Inn offers accommodations within the Inn itself, or in one of the cottages on the property. Whether travelling for romance, business, or with family, there is an accommodation to suit your needs. Organic bathroom amenities, whirlpools, high quality linens, and relaxing décor add to the ambience.
 

For guests who plan to visit wineries, Karen provides guests with a complimentary bag of gluten-free crackers and is working with local Napa restaurants to help broaden the gluten-free menu options for her guests.  There are already two completely gluten-free restaurants in Napa: C-Casa and Pica Pica.  In addition, the inn offers gluten-free cooking classes taught by Jeffrey Larsen. “There’s a lot of emotion behind food,” says Karen.  “The classes are more than just learning how to cook gluten-free; it’s about bringing people together to share in a supportive community and realize they’re not alone.” 
The classes provide hands-on experience and a complete packet of recipes that guests can recreate in their own kitchens.  The next class—a gluten-free guide to surviving the holidays—will cover how to make an entire gluten-free holiday dinner including appetizers, stuffing, rolls, cookies, and pies.   The three-day class is scheduled for November 1-3, 2013. 

When travelling gluten free, the question of where to eat is borne from more than just a desire to try local food, it is a matter of staying healthy and safe. Inn on Randolph takes the guesswork out things by providing a gluten free experience that doesn’t compromise on quality or comfort for guests.
 

Karen was gracious enough to provide me with the recipe for her gluten free granola. If you can tolerate oats (as my son can), this recipe is absolutely divine.


Inn on Randolph Gluten Free Granola
 
 
 
Ingredients
 
3-1/2 cups gluten free oats

1-1/2 cups gluten free cereal (i.e. corn or rice chex)

½ cup each of 3 different kinds of nuts, broken (i.e almonds, hazelnuts,

      pecans)

¼ cup each pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

1/8 cup each flax seeds and sesame seeds

½ cup each dried cranberries, dried apricots, cherries

¾ cup shredded coconut

peel/zest of 2 oranges.  Save a bit to put in the liquid pot

 
Directions
 
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl

 
Combine in a small saucepan:

 1/3 cup molasses

1/3 cup maple syrup

¼ cup canola or some flavorless oil

½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

some orange zest and ¼ tsp juice

 Place liquids on medium heat and wait for boil slowly and evenly. Pour over dry mix while stirring. Mix well

 Bake on a baking sheet at 350 for about 45 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Baking time will depend on your desired crispiness.

Watch the edges—they tend to cook faster.

 

Inn on Randolph

411 Randolph Street

Napa, CA  94559

707-257-2886
 
Disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post. I have been compensated by Inn on Randolph for this post, but the opinions are my own.
 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan





Monday: Butternut Squash Soup  (Recipe)









Tuesday: Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes, Feta, & Spinach (Recipe)











Wednesday: Chicken with Tomatoes & Olives w/Sautéed Swiss Chard (Recipe) 









Thursday: Baked Chicken Tacos w/Black Beans, Tomatillo Salsa & Grated Goat Cheese Mozzarella







Friday: Gluten & Dairy Free Stuffed Eggplants (Recipe)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gluten Free Buzz (12)

What's happening in the world of Gluten Free & Celiac this week?  Here are the headlines.

Excellent question: Gluten free industry is healthy, but is the food? Via CMAJ

Allergic Living discusses gluten free beer.

Smuckers buys into gluten free, on Food Product Design

Cat Cora and Pillsbury team up for the new gluten free line, from Delight Gluten Free

If you're in Sydney, Australia, there's a Gluten Free Expo coming your way!

Gluten Free Living has the details on some upcoming events.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's a Birthday!

Today is my youngest son's 1st birthday! We had a small party with family over the weekend, and the weather was perfect for a backyard bash. This year has gone by very quickly, but I'm excited to see how much he's grown and changed over the past 12 months. I'm looking forward to what comes next! He is a very sweet child, curious to discover new things and always smiling. I'm a lucky lady to have two beautiful children!


Newborn

 
We opted for a simple pizza lunch, with veggies and potato chips. We couldn't find a pizza place that makes large enough gluten free pizzas to feed the whole party, so we ordered regular pizzas from the bakery that made the cake, and then my son and his cousin made their own gluten free pizzas. All the food was consumed outside, and the kids at their pizzas at their own little picnic table.


The little pizza chefs hard at work

We ordered a gluten and dairy free cake for the event, because I never want my older son to feel left out in his own house. We order all our cakes from the same place, Brookelynn Bistro, a small bakery and bistro close to where we live. We've been eating there since our oldest son was still a baby, and the location went by a different name. The woman who runs it remains the same, and their food is absolutely incredible. The cakes are no exceptions.


The small uneven section at the front is our fault, not the baker's!


We ordered a round, gluten and dairy free cake to serve 10. There were 13 people at the party, and even after feeding everyone I was left with almost half a cake. I sliced it into pieces and froze them separately so that my son will have cake to bring with him when he gets invited to events like birthday parties where there aren't any gluten free desserts.


Triple layer, gluten and dairy free chocolate cake with whipped icing

The birthday boy made it through most of the party, but needed a little catnap near the end. It was great to have everyone over and celebrating with us. A 1st birthday party success!

 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Giveaway: Pizza Slice Spice Gluten Free Pizza Toppings

When I heard about Pizza Slice Spice, I thought it was a fun way to add some life to a traditional slice of pizza. My husband thought it was genius! The company owners managed to take something tried and true, like pizza, and add a new twist on an old favourite.


 Pizza Slice Spice is a line of pizza seasonings that you shake on pizza to give it a little added "kick." Fat free, under 5 calories, all natural, Kosher, and Certified Gluten Free, this product is great for people with food restrictions who don't want to sacrifice flavour. I'm always wary when products claim to be gluten free, but Pizza Slice Spice is certified, which makes me a happy lady. It comes in four flavours, based on some of the most popular pizza flavours: Bacon Cheddar Pizza, Buffalo Wing, Parmesan Garlic, and Barbeque. These inexpensive spice blends allow users to elevate a plain slice of pizza to the next level, and allows every person at the table to enjoy a different flavour experience, without the added cost of purchasing different pizzas to suit individual tastes.

Bacon Cheddar Pizza
"All natural bacon flavor sizzles with the fresh taste of aged Vermont Cheddar. A pinch of parsley, chives and onion rounds out this unique Pizza Slice Spice. A wallop of deliciousness with only three calories per serving."

Buffalo Wing
"Buffalo wings and pizza? It might not be an obvious combination, but you’ll soon be addicted to the killer combination of the all-natural ingredients in this remarkably inventive and zesty Buffalo "hot sauce" spice."

Parmesan Garlic
"Made with authentic, aged parmesan cheese and fresh garlic our special spice is the perfect combination of celebrated Italian flavors."

Barbeque 

"Using all-natural ingredients and a secret recipe of flavor combinations, our Barbeque Pizza Slice Spice is deliciously sweet and smoky--tasting of sugary molasses and vine ripened tomatoes, topped with fresh garden hints of onion and garlic."

Sound delicious? Of course it does! Want to win a prize pack of all four flavours? Enter to win below! Contest is open to residents of the United States. No purchase necessary.

Pizza Slice Spice Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan





Monday: Potato and Leek Soup (RECIPE)












Tuesday: Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Thighs with Carrots & Peppers over Rice 
















Wednesday: Marc Angelo's Chili-Lime Pork Loin (Certified Gluten Free), sliced and tossed in a Salad with Crumbled Goat Cheese  














Thursday: Twice Baked Buttercup Squash with Sautéed Vegetables and Goat milk Cheddar (This would also be great with Parmesan) 












Friday: Oven Broiled Pork Chops with Fig Sauce on the side and Sautéed Mushrooms

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gluten Free Buzz (11)

Hello everyone. This weekend is a special one for us, we're celebrating our youngest son's first birthday. Looking forward to the special gluten free cake we ordered! Hope your weekend is great. Here are the latest gluten free and Celiac headlines.

I posted in the past about a gluten free camp for children in Eastern Canada, but today I learned about some out West. The Western Producer offers more information.

Barilla is launching a new line of gluten free pasta. More at Huliq.

The Wine Spectator answers a question about wine and gluten. This was of particular interest to me, I'm not gonna lie ;)

Speaking of gluten and wine, Siduri Wines are going to begin testing for gluten. 4-Traders explains why, and which wines will be tested.

Aldi's, the discount retailer, has recently introduced a gluten free line of food in the UK. The Grocer provides details.


Gluten Free Buzz is a collection of headlines I find relevant or interesting. It is not a link exchange, and I don't receive any compensation for linking to news or other sites. It is for information purposes only.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Product Review: Heinz Deliciously Gluten Free Pasta

We eat a lot of pasta at our house. In fact, when I first told my Dad my son had to go gluten free and explained what that entailed, his immediate response was "you mean he can't eat anymore pasta?" Pasta is a big deal to Italians, and so I'm constantly on the look-out for brands that make gluten free pasta taste as good as the regular kind. It's been hit and miss. Some brands are outright awful, while others have been as good as the real thing. Where I've been having trouble is finding a good spaghetti. For some reason, short pastas (like penne or rigatoni) tend to be better suited to the whole gluten free thing. Perhaps it's because they are less likely to stick together and get clumpy.

When my friend Penny came to Canada last month from England, she arrived on my doorstep with a bag of gluten free goodies for my son, all of which are unavailable in Canada at this time. One of the items was Heinz Deliciously Gluten Free Spaghetti. Obviously it was the first thing I had to try.

One of the things I noticed was the quantity. Many gluten free brands package small amounts of pasta per bag, making it necessary to use more than one bag of pasta for a meal that serves four. The Heinz pasta comes in a proper size, making a huge bowl of pasta. The product is made in Italy, from a blend of Corn flour, Potato flour, and Lupin flower. An interesting mix, but it works well.

I have to say, I was really impressed with this product. The pasta didn't clump while cooking, and didn't disintegrate into a blob once drained.



Each strand kept its texture, and the spaghetti cooked al dente, with just the right bite. An added bonus? The leftover pasta kept in the fridge and didn't turn rock hard and dry like some brands do. It kept it's texture perfectly.



Now they just have to start selling it in Canada. Or my friend has to ship it to me by the case ;) Are you reading, Penny?



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to School Gluten Free with Mott's Fruitsations + Veggie

It's quickly approaching back to school time, and while I'm usually the one preparing to head back to teaching, this year back to school means something completely different at my house. My oldest son, the reason I started this blog in the first place, is starting kindergarten. Around here, we have full day kindergarten, so he'll be at school all day, five days a week. Unlike at the daycare where his lunches are catered, I will be sending him to school with a lunch from home every day.

Packing lunches for any child every day can be a lot of work, but the task is just a bit more complicated when food restrictions or allergies are added to the mix. Many of the popular lunchbox snacks are off limits for my little guy, because so many items contain gluten. My son happily eats fruits and veggies, but every kid deserves a little treat in their day, and finding one that's gluten free and still pretty healthy isn't always easy. 

Lucky for us, Mott's Fruitsations + Veggies are gluten free, and are 4 year old boy approved. I always have Mott's products in the house, because so many of them are safe for my son to eat. The no sugar added fruit purees are a favourite that we always have on hand. When I was offered the opportunity to try the new Mott's Fruitsations + Veggie snacks, I didn't hesitate. The snacks come in individual serving size packs that are pretty easy to open, even for little fingers. I let him try a pouch to see what he thought, and he liked them so much that he immediately asked me for more. I would say that's a success!

Each pouch is 80 calories, has no fat, and contains 100% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C. They are easy for a 4 year old to open and eat, aren't messy, and can be consumed in a short period of time. They are gluten free, and he loves the way they taste. For school lunches, my son will be getting a main meal, a fruit and veggie of his choice and a large bottle of water everyday. An added pouch of Mott's Fruitsations + Veggie are a great way to add a "special" treat, without filling his lunchbox with high fat baked goods. They are easy to pack, keep well, and taste good enough that even the pickiest eater will take a liking to them.

Mott's is excited to share their new product, and are also excited to help make back to school a little less expensive! Visit their Life Made Delicious Facebook Page to enter to win a $500 pre-paid cash card to help cover all those back to school expenses, through September 8, 2013. There are also coupons for $0.50 off Mott's Fruitsations + Veggie products, while quantities last.

Source



Disclosure – I am participating in the Mott’s Fruitsations & Veggie fruit snacks Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Small Business Profile: Sweet Sammies, Toronto's Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches

I often write product reviews on the blog, usually because I've stumbled upon something I want to share. In this case, my husband stumbled upon some fantastic ice cream bars at a downtown farmer's market while on his lunch break, and he like the product so much he texted me to tell me about them and left my card with the owner. She got in touch with me, and I was intrigued by the business model she runs, and thought it might be nice to do something a little different and feature a small business owner who provides a selection of gluten free products.
 
Sweet Sammies Ice Cream Sandwich Co. is a local Toronto company that specializes in gourmet ice cream sandwiches. Along with regular sandwiches, they also offer some gluten free flavours, which is what my husband tried. He called his sandwich one of the best he's ever eaten, and was impressed at the quality and flavour. The owner, Sanobar Motiwala agreed to a quick Q & A with me about her business, ice cream sandwiches, and why she decided to branch out into gluten free.
 
 
1) How did you choose ice cream sandwiches as the one product to create? Do you have any plans to expand your flavours or offer different products?

I have always loved ice cream sandwiches, and have a fascination with frozen treats like ice cream, gelato, shaved ice desserts, etc.  Ice cream sandwiches were a fun way to combine my interest in ice cream making with baking while offering people something different that's not already out there.

Right now, our product offering includes regular sized and mini ice cream sandwiches, custom ice cream cakes, and pints of ice cream.  At select farmers' markets and events, we also offer ice pops, which are gluten-free and mostly dairy-free/vegan.  
 
2) Are your sandwiches available year round, or are they seasonal?
 
Most of the Sweet Sammies menu is available year-round.  We play around with some seasonal flavours using Ontario fruits.  Right now, we are featuring a strawberry cheesecake flavour on the menu.  In the fall, we may do something with pumpkins and perhaps feature eggnog ice cream sammies on the menu around Christmas time.

3) How many flavours do you offer? How do you decide on flavours? 
 
Right now, we have over a dozen different ice cream sandwich flavours on the menu but we are constantly playing around with different ingredients as they come into season.  

Deciding on the flavours is the toughest (and the most fun) part of the job!  I went to culinary school for baking and pastry arts; that training helps a lot in terms of not just creating new recipes but also thinking of what flavours and textures pair well together.  At the end of the day, I try not to focus only on what I like, but offer variety on the menu.  Family and friends have been eager taste testers so I definitely incorporate others' feedback on what works and what doesn't in terms of different flavours.
 
 4) Which flavour is your personal favourite? Which flavour is the best seller?
 
The best seller hands down is the Crownie, which is a cross between a brownie and a cookie that has vanilla bean ice cream inside.  O'Canada (maple-bacon ice cream in a red velvet whoopie pie) is also surprisingly popular. My personal favourite - that is a really difficult question.  It changes every few weeks.  Right now, I am really enjoying Honey Boo Boo, which is one of our gluten-free flavours.

 
5) Describe your decision to go into business for yourself. 
 

I wanted to combine several different interests and skills of mine, and couldn't do that in any one job.  Sweet Sammies provides the perfect combination of all those things (chemistry/mad science, pastry arts, marketing and business).
 
 6) Why did you decide to offer a gluten free version? How do you avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen when producing them?
 
The best part of my work is seeing the delighted expressions on customers' faces when they take the first bite of their Sweet Sammies ice cream sandwich.  Several customers approached me and asked if any of our sammies were gluten-free.  It bothered me to have to say no and not be able to see that just-had-my-first-bite-of-a-Sweet-Sammie expression on their faces.  That was basically the motivation behind creating gluten-free options: to offer our customers what they wanted. 

We take the standard food safety measures in our kitchen to avoid contamination of the gluten-free products, such as sanitizing our work surfaces and utensils prior to making the gluten-free recipes, and storing the final products in separate containers.  We do make all our products in one kitchen, and we share the kitchen with other companies so unfortunately we cannot guarantee that the gluten-free products may not have come in contact with flour.
 
 

7) Which flavours are available gluten free?

In deciding to offer gluten-free options, it was important to me that they taste just as good as the non-gluten-free options.  I think we've succeeded in achieving that because many customers who are not even looking for gluten-free options opt for the gluten-free options.  Right now, we offer two gluten-free ice cream sandwich flavours.  Honey Boo Boo is a honey-lemon frozen yogurt sandwiched in French macarons made with ground almonds.  Mango Lassi is a mango frozen yogurt, also on the French macarons.  For catering orders, we can combine any ice cream flavour with our gluten-free cookies, so some people mix and match the macarons with our other ice cream flavours.
 
 
 
8) What has been the best part of opening a small business?  The most challenging?
 
 
The best part of starting Sweet Sammies has been the repeat customers - the regulars who come to the farmers' markets every week, rain or shine, for their ice cream sandwich fix.  There is a sense of validation that comes from seeing a satisfied customer that is unparalleled by any other accomplishment of the business.  The most challenging part of opening a small business has been not having enough hours in the day to get through my entire to-do list.  Many people had forewarned me that work-life balance will be a struggle and they were absolutely right!   
 

 
9) What piece of advice would you give to anyone thinking of opening their own business? 
 
Do what you love and everything else will fall into place.  And don't be afraid of failure.  I have already learned so much in my first year of business that I am excited to apply going forward.
 
 
 
Want to try a Sweet Sammie for yourself?  During the summer they can be found at the following weekly summer markets:
 
Tuesdays, 3pm – 7pm at Apple Tree Davisville Village Market
Wednesdays, 10am to 2pm at Nathan Phillips Square Fresh Wednesdays (July 10 – August 28)
Saturdays, 9am to 1pm at Withrow Park Farmers’ Market
Catering is also available.
 
Contact:
 
E-mailinfo@sweetsammies.ca
Phone416.738.4953
Twitter@SweetSammiesCA
Facebookwww.facebook.com/SweetSammiesCA
Instagram@SweetSammiesCA
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan





Monday: Oven "fried" chicken with gluten free cornflakes & baked potato wedges
(This recipe was adapted from the Looney Spoons cookbook to be gluten and dairy free.)














Tuesday: Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara
















Wednesday: Stuffed Chicken Breasts and an Avocado, Tomato & Arugula Salad












Thursday:  Beef & Vegetable Casserole, topped with Goat cheddar













Friday: Red Lentil Soup

Winner of the Oliver's Labels Back to School Giveaway!

Thank you to everyone who entered into the giveaway for the Oliver's Labels Back to School Giveaway. There were over 200 entries, making this contest a huge success.  I appreciate every single one of those entries and all of my readers.

The winner of the giveaway is Michelle G. Check your email! 

Thank you also to Oliver's Labels for sponsoring the giveaway. I've been using their products for over two years, and am still happy with the quality of labels I put on items that long ago.

If you didn't win, no worries. I have a few more exciting giveaways coming up on the blog soon.

Thank you again for entering!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gluten Free Buzz (10)

Welcome to the weekend! I hope it's a good one. Spend some time catching up on the latest news on Celiac and Gluten Free.

Poor Celiac Control (cheating on a gluten free diet) has been linked to an increased risk of lymphoma. Medscape has the story.

The Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston is initiating a study to explore the link between Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease. Read more about the study at PR Newswire.

So, there's a dating site for people who are gluten free. Presented with no additional commentary. Gluten Free Singles.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are once again offering gluten free beer, cider, and food options to fans. The Florida Times Union details all the options.

Want to know which Campuses in the US ranked in the Top Ten for being gluten free friendly? Of course you do ;) Check out Udi's for the results.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pilaros Taste of the Danforth & A Recipe!

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, or happen to be in town for the weekend, you know that this weekend is the Pilaros Taste of the Danforth Festival, running from Friday, August 9- Sunday, August 11.  This is Canada's largest street festival, and this year marks the festival's 20 anniversary, so things are going to be bigger and better than ever! 

My husband and I try to make it down for the festival every year. It's a great event for families, with children's activities, as well as great food and wine for the adults. GreekTown on the Danforth boasts one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per kilometer in the world. Closed off to traffic, the Festival route is 2.5 kilometers, where visitors flock to enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavours from over 100 participating restaurants and retailers that do their best to show off their excellent offerings, including special deals and samples. If you're not familiar with how delicious real Greek food can be, this festival is a great way to get acquainted with it. If you're going gluten free, like my son, then it's important to be more cautious about what you try, but there are many dishes that are naturally gluten free, or you can purchase some prepackaged goods from some of the vendors to try at home, and avoid the concern of cross-contamination.  

By the way, I checked, and ouzo is gluten free. Opa!

The Mediterranean diet is widely considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, incorporating many dishes that are naturally gluten free. Olive oil, tomatoes, grapes, fresh cheese (including feta, traditionally made from sheep's milk, not cow), lean meats and fish, beans and legumes, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, Greek yogurt, and moderate wine consumption combine to provide a diet rich in vitamins, lean protein, and healthy, complex carbohydrates.  Despite some misconceptions that pasta makes up most of the diet, that's actually not true. It is consumed, but Mediterranean meals also consist widely of soups, salads, vegetarian and fish dishes, grilled meats and vegetables, and there are plenty of beans thrown in for good measure. 

The Three Greek Sisters have been ambassadors of Greek food since their first cookbook was released a few years ago, and now they're back with a new cookbook featuring traditional Greek recipes. In celebration of the Pilaros Taste of the Danforth, I'm lucky enough to be able to share a recipe with my readers. Halloumi cheese is naturally gluten free, but always check ingredients to be sure. This is a simple recipe that even a novice chef can pull off!


 Grilled Halloumi with Fresh Mint Vinaigrette
A tasty, salty and squeaky cheese that is ideal for grilling or frying.
Serves 4


INGREDIENTS:
4 halloumi cheese slices, ¼-inch thick
Olive oil for coating


FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh mint, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fresh red chili pepper, deseeded, minced
2 Kalamata olives, chopped


METHOD:
Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Lightly brush both sides of the halloumi cheese slices with olive oil. When the skillet is hot, add the cheese.  Cook on both sides for 1-2 minutes per side, or until the cheese is golden-brown in color.  Remove from skillet and transfer to serving platter.
In a separate bowl, mix the vinaigrette ingredients together.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the cheese and serve warm with bread.


Note: Halloumi cheese can also be grilled on a barbecue over high heat.
 
Photo courtesy of Pilaros


Join the 1.3 million others who regularly make their way down to the Danforth in Toronto this weekend and experience all things Greek at one of the most popular street festivals Canada has to offer. Sample some Greek wine, watch some fun performances, and bask in Mediterranean hospitality.

I hope to see you there!

Pilaros provided me with the facts and recipe used in this post, but I was not otherwise compensated in any way. If you are gluten free, be sure to ask questions before purchasing from the multiple booths that will be selling food. A lot of Greek food is naturally gluten free, but it's best to be certain.


 

 



 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Recipe: Quick Dairy Free Coconut Curry Chicken Soup

This is a Thai-inspired soup that is a cinch to make and tastes great. The curry flavour is mild, but adds so much depth to the soup that it really should be used. I use Thai Kitchen because it's gluten free, but always check labels, as ingredients change.

Ingredients
(Serves 4)

1 box vegetable broth (I use Campbell's Vegetable Broth, it's GF)
1 can coconut milk (400ml)
1 chicken breast, sliced thinly or in cubes
1 cup green peas
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. grated ginger
1-2 tbsp. yellow or red curry paste
Salt & Pepper to taste
Fresh mint & basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Directions

1- In a soup pot, combine broth, coconut milk, curry paste, and ginger. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

2- Add chicken and peas and lower heat to medium. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 min. Add lime juice, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.

3- Serve with basil and mint leaves to add extra flavour, if desired. For a spicier soup, add some hot pepper sauce when serving.

For a more substantial soup, add some cooked rice to the bottom of each bowl and ladle soup over the rice. Also great served with a mango salad or Vietnamese Style Spring Rolls.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Recipe: Three Ingredient Blueberry Jam

It's blueberry season where I live, and since I love taking the kids out fruit picking, we went to pick blueberries this weekend. They were so fresh that I couldn't help picking more than we probably need, but the kids had fun and I know that I'll make good use out of all those berries. I started by making some blueberry jam. This actually turns out a bit more like a jelly, but it's simple to make, tastes good, and only has three ingredients (I don't count water as an ingredient).


Before starting, make sure you have everything you need.  If you're canning the jam as preserves, make sure you have fresh canning jars that are clean and sterilized.  Follow the instructions for sterilizing provided by the manufacturer.  I put mine in a 200F oven for about 20 minutes.  To seal the cans by boiling, I put the canning pot full of water to boil once my ingredients for the jam are in the saucepot.  Place a ceramic or glass plate in the freezer to check for jelling before you start.



Ingredients
(This recipe makes approx. 6 (250ml) jars of jam)

8 cups clean, ripe blueberries (I don't cut the blueberries because they explode while cooking. I just press down on them while I stir. Feel free to chop them if you prefer.)
2 cups white sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup water

Directions

1- Get all equipment ready. Wash blueberries and put them in a large pot with sugar, lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to mix all ingredients.

2- Cook for about 15 minutes. At this point, I check for doneness by putting a spoonful of the jam on the chilled plate.  Return the plate to the freezer for one minute with jam on it.  Take it out, and run your finger through it.  Jam is ready when the line you made with your finger doesn't immediately get covered again with the jam. Jam will be runnier than the final product, because it will "set" as it cools.  If it's not ready after 15 minutes, check again every 5 minutes.  

3- Remove from heat and ladle into clean canning jars. Place seals and lids on jars and tighten to fingertip tight. If preserving using boiling water method, place jars in boiling water and cover, allowing to boil for 5 full minutes before removing from water using tongs. Allow to cool for 24 hours.  You should hear the lids pop as they cool, creating the vacuum seal. Any jars that don't pop should be refrigerated and used within a few weeks.