Monday, September 30, 2013

September Cookbook Review: Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free & A Winner!

Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free
Allergy-Friendly Vegan Desserts

Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free will prove that you can have your cake and great health too! The desserts and other baked goods found in this book were inspired by the author’s decision, after decades of baking and indulging in unhealthy sweets, to radically heed her body’s wake-up call and radically alter her diet.
The book features:
- 100 dessert recipes all free of gluten, eggs, and dairy; many are also soy-free (or offer a soy-free option), corn-free (all but one!), and nut-free (or offer a nut-free option)
- Comprehensive introductory matter, including helpful information on: ingredients, tips & techniques, tools & bake ware, and an at-a glance pantry list
- The author’s first book, Sweet Freedom, is listed on Ellen
DeGeneres’s Web site as one of her top vegan cookbook picks


PURCHASE

REVIEW

This cookbook is different from almost any other book I've used before. The desserts are familiar, with items such as cupcakes, muffins, brownies, pies, but they are all made with non-traditional ingredients. It's not a low-fat dessert book, or a book that substitutes a few ingredients here and there- it truly calls for ingredients that are much healthier than regular dessert ingredients. I'll be honest, some of these ingredients might not be familiar to the average baker, particularly if you're a novice. I've been baking for many years, but I tend to stick to the usual ingredients; some of these were brand new and unfamiliar to me. The final products, however, were really, really, good.

I stuck to the simpler recipes to start, using shorter ingredient lists and more familiar flavours, and had a lot of success. I probably shouldn't admit this, but if you're not avoiding ALL of the items that are excluded, some ingredients could be substituted back in. SSSHHHH, don't tell anyone, but I **may** have occasionally used an egg or two. Maybe. You can't prove it. The muffins, cupcakes, and cookies in particular are easy to bake and have pretty short ingredient lists.

In all seriousness, though, these recipes are fantastic for anyone who either has multiple allergies or food restrictions, or who is just looking to eat cleaner but isn't ready to give up dessert. With these recipes, you don't have to. These desserts aren't lacking in flavour or texture, and they look exactly (or at least pretty close) to the traditional versions. It did take a while to adjust to the ingredient list since I'm used to baking with all those things that are left out, like white sugar & eggs, but the recipes were easy to follow. The cookbook is beautifully laid out, with gorgeous photography and straightforward instructions. Now you can have your gluten-free (and sugar free and egg free and nut free and dairy free) cake and eat it too!

GIVEAWAY WINNER!!

One lucky reader has been chosen to receive her very own copy of Ricki's book. Lisa S., check your email, and congratulations!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan



Monday: Baked Tacos
(Prepare filling for your favourite taco recipe and fill. Line tacos in a baking dish, top with grated cheese and bake at 350F for 15 minutes.)














Tuesday: Spaghetti Squash with Sundried Tomatoes
(Cut squash in half, boil for about 5 minutes. Remove and release strands with a fork. Toss with olive oil, parmesan, salt, pepper, basil, and sundried tomatoes.)














Wednesday: Portobello Risotto















Thursday: Baked Potato Soup


















Friday: Sausage Bake

Friday, September 27, 2013

Gluten Free Buzz (14)

The weekend is upon us once again, and with it come the latest edition of Gluten Free Buzz! Here are some of the headlines from the week, all focused on the latest research into Celiac Disease. Happy reading!

Doctors weigh in on the theory that changes in wheat have contributed to a rise in the incidence of Celiac disease. Article on WCAI.

Study finds a link between anti-secretory medications and an increased risk for Celiac disease. Read more at Healio.

An Australian study reveals some interesting information about the frequency of Celiac disease, over at Private MD Labs.

A new study for the treatment of Celiac disease. Info at News_Medical.

A new study claims there's no link between Autism & an increased risk for Celiac disease, but didn't study the effects of removing gluten from the diet of someone with Autism. The findings leave room for more questions and more room for further studies. Read more at The Globe and Mail.





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recipe Shortcut: Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Squares

This is more of a recipe "how-to" than an actual recipe, because I made the cake from a mix, the icing is from a box, and I only made slight modifications. It's for those times when you want something baked, but want to expend minimal effort and still get great results.  These little cake squares are the perfect way to add some pumpkin to your fall baking without making things complicated. They would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving dessert table for those who don't love pumpkin pie. I could also see them decorated with some candy ghosts or mini spiders for Halloween.

Both my sons loved them, and one little square is actually a much smaller serving size than a whole piece of cake would be. The recipe is made from a mix that only makes one 8 inch cake, rather than a double layer cake, so the squares are half as tall as they would be otherwise, making them perfect for eating by little fingers.  The pumpkin icing trick is one my mom came up with a few years ago, and it's great on cupcakes too.

Ingredients

For Cake:
1 box GF chocolate cake mix that makes one 8 or 9 inch cake (I used President's Choice cake mix)
Ingredients for cake as indicated on box

For Pumpkin Icing
1 container GF vanilla icing (regular, not whipped or it will be too soft)
1/4-1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I freeze the remaining puree for other recipes)
Cinnamon & Nutmeg to taste

Directions

1- Preheat oven to temperature indicated on box. Mix together ingredients for cake according to instructions. Rather than pouring it into one cake pan, split the batter between two pans so that it will only rise a little.

2- Cook cake mix for about 1/2 the time called for on package. I check after ten minutes, and remove the cakes when a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

3- When cakes are cooled, turn them out onto a sheet of parchment paper. Cut each cake down the middle so each cake is cut in two pieces. It's easier to top each cake with its own half then to try to flip a whole one over since they're so thin.

4- Put the icing, 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree and a small amount of cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Mix to combine, and then adjust amounts of pumpkin and spices according to taste.

5- Frost one half of each cake, and then flip the unfrosted sides on top. Frost the top of the cakes and cut into squares.

Serve on a pretty platter or put a themed decoration on top. These are perfect for eating with your hands.

I won't tell.

Enjoy!






Monday, September 23, 2013

Recipe: Gluten Free Hamburger Squash (Stuffed Squash)

I bought a few little dumpling squashes last week, and they came with a recipe. Ontario produce often comes with little recipes attached, which I love. I modified the recipe to better suit my personal taste, and it turned out fantastic!

I've decided to call it Hamburger Squash, because it has ground beef and cheese, and is delicious.

Ingredients
(1/2 squash per person, serves 4-6)
***An adult might eat 1 whole squash, so take a look at them when you purchase and make an executive decision ;)

2-3 small squash (dumpling, acorn, turban, etc.)
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 package sliced mushrooms
1 handful parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper
Milk (or non-dairy substitute)
Shredded cheese of choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F

1- Cut tops off squashes, and scoop out seeds and an
y stringy bits. Set in roasting pan or ceramic casserole dish and add about 2 inches of water to the dish.
***I think the squash look nicest presented whole, but for easier serving, cut in half vertically and fill halves.

2- Finely chop mushrooms, onion, and parsley and mix to combine in a large bowl with the ground beef. Stuff squash with mixture. Pour milk into squash to fill. Cook until juices no longer run pink, about 1 hour. If tops begin to get too dark, cover with foil.

3- Remove from oven and grate cheese over the top immediately. Have some extra cheese available for serving.

To eat, dig in with a fork, making sure to get some of the flesh of the squash as well.

Hamburger Squash

Giveaway: Copy of Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free Desserts

September's cookbook of the month is Rick Heller's Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free Desserts, and I've already been making desserts from it for three weeks. The recipes are delicious! In my INTERVIEW with Ricki, she talked about her new book and her motivations for cooking vegan and mostly allergy free.



Now, I have a hard copy of the book to give away to one lucky winner!

Want to win your very own copy? Enter below! Winner will be announced at the end of the month. Open to residents of Canada and the United States. 

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan






Monday: Stuffed Squash with Ground Beef & Mushrooms (RECIPE)















Tuesday: Gluten Free Pasta Carbonara







Wednesday: Beef & Vegetable Stew
















Thursday: Teriyaki Chicken & Steamed Bok Choy














Friday: Vegetarian Eggplant Bake

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Recipe: Cajeta (Dulce de Leche or Caramel Sauce)

Dulce de Leche, Caramel Sauce
I love Cajeta. Some people know it as Dulce de Leche, or Caramel sauce. Whatever. It's delicious. Made with goat's milk, my son can eat it too. It's a key ingredient in many Latin American sweets, but is also a great topping for ice cream, in baked goods, or drizzled over fruit. I may make some caramel apples with my son, too.

Or you could just eat it off a spoon. Not that I would know anything about that.

Traditionally, cajeta becomes thick enough when cooled that it's almost like a pudding. It won't fall off the spoon like a sauce. It's great to use as a filling for cookie sandwiches that way. To make it more like a sauce, just shave off a bit of the cooking time indicated in the recipe, and remember that the sauce will thicken a little as it cools, so take it off just before it's as thick as you want it.




Ingredients

6 cups goat's milk (1 bag of milk)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon or one cinnamon stick, to be removed when mixture begins to thicken
1/2 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water


Directions

1- In a large sauce pot, pour in the milk and cook over medium high heat until it starts to bubble. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the cinnamon.  

2- In a small cup, dissolve the baking soda in water. When the milk mixture begins to bubble again, add the dissolved baking soda. The mixture will bubble. Remove from heat and skim off foam that forms. Return to heat, and cook at just above a simmer (around a 4 on a traditional stove), stirring every 10 minutes or so. If more foam appears, just skim it off.

3- Cook for 1 1/2 hours, reducing heat if bubbles start to get too big. The idea is for the milk to reduce slowly, but not to burn. As it reduces, the heat can be lowered. In the last half hour, it needs to be stirred more frequently to prevent burning. If using a cinnamon stick, remove it after an hour.

4- When cooked almost to desired consistency, remove from heat and pour into clean jars. For a completely smooth cajeta, pour through a sieve. Cool and refrigerate.

The heat from the cajeta should seal your jars. It will last several months.

ENJOY!



Dulce de Leche, Caramel Sauce




Friday, September 20, 2013

Gluten Free Buzz (13)

Welcome to the Gluten Free Buzz, where I round up a few of the week's headlines concerning Celiac Disease & Gluten Free.

The CBC has uncovered an interesting trend in the cost of gluten free food.

BlueWater Seafood's Grilled Fish Line has been Certified Gluten Free. Details at the Financial Post.

The Washington Post is calling for recommendations on where to find the best gluten free pizza in the city.

Allergic Living asks if the higher gluten content in wheat today is responsible for the rise in Celiac Disease.

If you live in Scotland, you might be interested in the huge growth in the incidence of Celiac Disease over the last 20 years. Read more at Healio.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Recipe: Curtido (Salvadoran Cabbage Slaw)

My husband is originally from El Salvador, and we visit his family there on a regular basis. One of the things I love about the country is the food! I have to admit, I probably like traditional Salvadoran food more than he does. Since my son went gluten free, I appreciate it even more. Most of what they eat is naturally gluten free, and based on corn, beans, vegetables, fruits, and some meats.

One simple side dish that is served with almost everything is called Curtido de Repollo. It's pretty much their version of Sauerkraut or a vinegar based coleslaw, and it's delicious. I used to think it was time consuming to make, but it turns out that unlike Sauerkraut which has to sit for a long time before eating, Curtido can be made and eaten pretty much the same day, yet it still keeps well. It's used as a topping for pupusas (stuffed soft corn tortillas), meat, or really any dish that needs some crunch.

After we made all the cabbage rolls this past weekend we had some cabbage leftover and I figured I would try my hand at Curtido. I'm glad I did because it came out so delicious, I have been eating it straight from the jar with a spoon.

Don't tell anyone.

I had two cabbages left over so I made a gigantic batch and canned it, but 1 head of cabbage will provide you with a nice batch. Don't be alarmed at how much it looks like at the beginning, because the ingredients will be pressed down and will reduce in size considerably.

Ingredients
Makes about 6-8 cups

1 head of green cabbage, shredded or chopped in strips
1 large onion, sliced in strips
2 large carrots, cut in matchsticks (or you can cheat and buy a small bag of carrots already cut into matchsticks. I'm not telling which option I chose)
1 1/2 cups white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. I use white.
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
1 tsp. dried oregano or about the same amount chopped fresh
1 hot chilli pepper minced(optional, omit if you don't like spicy food)

Directions

1- In a large plastic, glass, or ceramic bowl, mix cabbage, onion, carrots, oregano and chilli pepper if using. Stir to combine with plastic or wooden spoon. Pour vinegar and water over mixture and mix to combine.

2- Sprinkle 1 tsp. salt on mixture and stir well. Sprinkle second tsp. salt if using, and repeat. Pour vinegar and water over mixture and toss to coat.

3- Press down on mixture with the back of a wooden spoon or a small cutting board until cabbage mixture is covered with liquid. If after a few minutes of pressing it's still not covered, add some more vinegar and water to top up.

4- Let mixture sit covered in the fridge for about 4-6 hours before serving. Store in glass jars in the refrigerator, or freeze in freezer bags. Curtido will last a long time if stored properly.

Serve with tacos, beside eggs, in salads, with grilled fish or ceviche, or anywhere you would use sauerkraut. I eat it plain, but that's probably just me.

A word about oregano. I tried making it without, because oregano is not my favourite herb, and the first thing my husband asked when he tasted it was if we had any oregano in the garden. If you're serving this to someone who will know the difference, don't leave it out!




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Recall Alert: Bob's Red Mill Product Recalled for Undeclared Gluten

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued a recall of certain packages of Bob's Red Mill brand Sweet White Sorghum Flour for undeclared gluten.

Click HERE to see the full advisory including product specifics, UPC code, and Sell By date.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I have fallen in love with my slow cooker. It was a gift from a co-worker for my wedding shower, and I've probably used it a handful of times over the last 8 years. Then, a few months ago I chose a Slow Cooker cookbook as my cookbook of the month and had to dust it off.

And I fell in love.

I'll admit, I'm one of those people who always wondered why I would spend 4 hours cooking a soup I could make in a pot on the stove in 30 minutes. Turns out I was missing the point. The slow cooker allows flavours to meld together. I frees up space on the stove top or in the oven for other items, which is important for me since I cook for the week all at once. It makes meat fall off the bone like butter. And it is a one pot wonder, with a removable inner bowl that allows me to cook and store the meal in the same container.

What more could I ask for from an appliance?

Not much.

Which is why it now has a permanent spot on my already cluttered counter.

I put it to good use this weekend cooking pulled pork. Actually, I bought a huge 4kg pork shoulder (bone in), cut it in half, and made one with a pulled pork sauce, and the other with a BBQ sauce. Absolutely divine, and so easy. The recipe below is for one recipe, which serves 6-8. If you want to do what I did, I recommend cooking it in two batches as well for even cooking, even if you're using the same sauce for all of it.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Ingredients

1 pork roast (about 2kg or approx. 4lbs.) or 1/2 pork shoulder of same weight
1 jar your favourite gluten free pulled pork sauce (approx. 500ml)
If you don't have a favourite, why not try my GF Strawberry BBQ Sauce Recipe?

Directions

1- Trim the pork of any large chunks of fat. If it is tied up, untie it. Place it in the slow cooker. Cover pork with sauce and add 1/4 cup of water to thin sauce a bit to start. Turn on slow cooker to cook for 6 or 8 hours. If you are cooking this overnight and won't have your eye on it occasionally, I would choose 8.

2-  If cooking at a higher heat, check on meat every hour and baste with sauce.  When cooked, remove meat and allow to sit a few minutes until it's cool enough to handle. Flake the pork with a fork and place in serving dish. In the meantime, pour sauce into a saucepan and simmer until it reduces to about 1/2 the amount. Pour over pulled pork and serve.


My Strawberry BBQ Sauce



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan






Monday: Gluten Free Meat Lasagna (Recipe) 













Tuesday: Steamed Salmon with Carrots & Greens  (Place salmon & carrots in steamer on different levels & cook until done. Toss salad.)





Wednesday: Stuffed Poblano Peppers (Recipe) with Chili-Lime Feta Corn on the Cob












Thursday: Butternut Squash & Apple Soup


















Friday: Cabbage Rolls 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Toronto Gluten Free Expo 2013

This morning I piled the family in the car and we drove downtown to the Gluten Free Expo. I went last year for the first time, when it was held in a hotel in Mississauga, and was so popular that they were filled to capacity and people had to line up outside in the lobby to wait for a chance to get in. This year they held it at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, a HUGE location, and sold advance tickets which allowed holders to enter two hours before the general public. Even with advance tickets it was pretty busy in there. I can't imagine how crazy it got after it opened to the general public! By the way, kids got free admission.



One small part of the Exhibit Hall minutes after the doors opened.
 
Some people ask me why I bother to go to these events year after year. I go for a few reasons. The first is my son. There aren't many places he can go where he can eat EVERYTHING without worry. For one day, if the kid wants to stuff his face with as many free samples as he can handle, so what? There are enough days when he goes somewhere and there's NOTHING he can safely consume. What I liked about this year's Expo was that at every booth serving food there was a card that the vendor filled in showing which allergens were present. Helpful for those with more than just a gluten restriction.




The second reason I go is to support businesses who are doing gluten free right. Those which are certified gluten free, local business that offer a small range of products and rely on expos such as this to get their product noticed. That doesn't mean I like every vendor or every product, but I appreciate that there are more choices available for my son today than there have ever been before. As a consumer, I get to choose which of those products I want to purchase, but an Expo is a great place to sample and learn about products with no need to purchase if it's not right for me.

The third reason I go is to meet people and learn about what's new. Particularly with smaller bakeries who have booths staffed by the actual people who run the business, it's a wonderful way for me to make personal connections and chat about their product. It's also a great way for me to get an idea of what's new and what trends might be on the way. For example, this year I noticed many more organic, vegan, and paleo offerings than I have in the past. There were also more companies offering different ethnic foods, like the all-natural Indian spice mixes I picked up.


What we brought home from the Expo

It's also fun! I chatted up other visitors, tried some great products, and picked up business cards and pamphlets. This year's Expo had wider aisles, a larger venue, a cafĂ©, and a stage for presentations. It felt like it flowed better than last year's did, and it was good value for the money. Definitely going to be a yearly tradition for my family.

The Expo is open on Sunday as well. If you're thinking of going, more info can be found at their website www.glutenfreeexpo.ca

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Celiac Awareness Day 2013!

There's always a lot of talk about gluten free, but sometimes Celiac Disease is lost in the fray. It's important to remember that Celiac is a serious autoimmune disease that can have devastating health consequences for those who go undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, a failure to follow a strict gluten free diet is absolutely necessary to stay healthy. While there is more awareness of the disease today than there was fifty years ago, it is still woefully undiagnosed. On average, it takes between 6-10 years before a person is diagnosed. That's years of suffering, of visiting doctor after doctor, of being subjected to a variety of tests. We need to help raise awareness to help improve those statistics.

The problem is that the symptoms of Celiac are so varied that they are often mistaken for other illnesses. Other times they're brushed off as an upset stomach, a common parasite, or even being "all in your  head." For silent Celiacs, there are not outward symptoms at all, although the damage is still occurring on the inside. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a handy symptom checklist that is useful in identifying symptoms that could indicate Celiac Disease. The sheet can be filled in online, then printed out and taken to your doctor for follow-up. Access the form by clicking HERE.

A fellow blogger, Gluten Dude, created this handy infographic outlining some of the symptoms associated with Celiac. Does that clear things up? No? That's because the symptoms of Celiac are so varied that what one person experiences as symptoms can be completely different from what someone else does. This makes diagnoses even more complicated.



Celiac Disease Symptoms
Celiac Disease Symptoms – Courtesy of Gluten Dude



Some Facts About Celiac:

- Past estimates put the rate of Celiac in the United States and Canada at 1 in 133. More recent estimates put it at 1 in 100.

- Celiac disease used to be considered a childhood illness, but it actually affects people of all ages. While a gluten intolerance or wheat allergy may be outgrown, Celiac disease is a lifelong illness that cannot be outgrown.

- Even tiny amounts of gluten can make someone with Celiac Disease sick.

- There are no vaccines or antibiotics for Celiac Disease. The only treatment is the adherence to a strict gluten free diet.

- It is estimated that roughly 80% of those with Celiac Disease are undiagnosed.

Awareness is key to help get those who may not know they have Celiac Disease diagnosed, so they can begin to eat a gluten free diet and be medically monitored. Celiac Disease is linked to many other conditions, including Type 1 Diabetes, Downs Syndrome, and Thyroid Disease, just to name a few. Many Celiac patients have anemia, low levels of Vitamin D, and are at risk of contracting many kinds of Cancer, infertility issues, and more. With the rise of the trend in gluten free, it is often forgotten that Celiac is a serious disease with terrifying health consequences.

Take the time today to educate someone on this disease, and to encourage someone exhibiting some of the symptoms to talk to their doctor.

Ribbon from Prevention.com


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free Desserts: Interview with Ricki Heller


Ricki Heller's new cookbook, Naturally Gluten Free Desserts is being released this month, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions from me. Her answers are thoughtful and interesting and give some great insight into what to expect from the new book!






1- Your new cookbook features delicious desserts that are vegan, and for the most part, free from many of the top allergens. Why was it important to you to create recipes that are free from so many commonly used ingredients?

 
 
Most importantly, Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free is my response to so many of my former customers when I ran an organic bakery, as well as to current readers of my blog. The number of people with food allergies or dietary restrictions continues to grow every day. I know there are a lot of people out there who have a hard time finding all kinds of foods they can eat, including tasty desserts. For me, there’s nothing quite as gratifying as hearing from someone who tells me they used my recipe for their child’s birthday cake, or served my brownies at a pot luck, and everyone loved them and was able to enjoy them without worrying about allergies.

In addition, the recipes simply reflect the way I now eat, so you could say they come naturally to me. My diet is a variation of the anti-candida diet (for people with yeast overgrowth in the body), and it requires foods low on the glycemic index so blood sugars remain stable. It’s also a low allergen diet, since part of the purpose is to reduce the toxic load in the body so it can focus on healing itself. I’ve been eating a vegan diet for many years, adding gluten-free and sugar-free within the last ten years or so.

2- What types of desserts are featured in your new cookbook? What can a reader who is not familiar with your past work expect from this new cookbook?

The book contains every kind of baked good and sweet treat you can imagine, with variations on most of the classics. So there are chocolate chip cookies, brownies (five different kinds, actually!), cinnamon buns, pecan pie, cheesecake, muffins, pancakes, scones, ice creams, puddings. . . basically, any kind of dessert or breakfast baked good, revamped so that they are free of eggs, dairy, gluten, corn, yeast or high glycemic sweeteners. And everything is made from whole foods, unprocessed ingredients and natural sweeteners—nothing artificial in anything!

In addition, some of the recipes include atypical ingredients (such as veggies hidden in sweet treats), or grain-free sweets, such as the coconut flour biscuits or raw brownies, which will appeal to people on lower carb diets.  While some of the ingredients, such as coconut sugar or millet flour, may not be familiar to some readers, they can all be found at health food stores and online, or easily substituted with more conventional ingredients (such as all-purpose gluten-free flour or more common sweeteners instead of coconut sugar and coconut nectar).  There’s an entire chapter on ingredients and substitutions; and the recipes themselves contain clear step-by-step instructions with lots of helpful hints and tips to guide you as you go along, even if you’re a novice baker.

3- Which recipe from the new cookbook is your personal favourite? Why?

Oh, that’s such a tough question, because my most recent recipe creation is always my favorite! I’m going to fudge the question a bit and give you my three top picks if that’s okay.
 
I’m a chocoholic, so I will start with a brownie! I love all five brownie recipes in the book, but my go-to would have to be the Sweet Potato Brownies. They’re fudgy, dark, dense and just all-around great—a perfect treat to serve any friends who might be skeptical about “special” diets!  And if you like, top them with the Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, made without grains, dairy, eggs, sugar, nuts, corn or soy, another favorite. I’m also a huge fan of breakfast and brunch, so I’ve made the Carob-Buckwheat Pancakes with Chopped Almonds and Carob (or Chocolate) Chips countless times. Finally, I just love the Butter Tarts (a Canadian classic, normally made with butter, sugar, eggs, brown sugar and corn syrup, sort of like pecan pie without the pecans). Have you ever heard or a rich, gooey, decadent butter tart without gluten, eggs, butter or sugar? Well, that is one to try! My hubby tells me they taste just like “the real thing,” too.
Hmmm. . . I guess that’s actually four recipes! Sorry about that. ;-)


4- You are a long-time advocate of the vegan diet. What advice would you give someone thinking of going vegan?
 
Just remember that there’s such a thing as vegan junk food, too—and be careful what type of food you eat! When I first started eating a vegan diet in my 20s, I had no idea about nutrition or the need for sufficient protein in my diet, and I believe that’s part of the reason I got sick.  Focus on whole, real foods, and you should do just fine.  And it’s a good idea to read a couple of books on the subject, such as Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, or Vegan for Her by Virginia Messina and JL Fields, to help you navigate all the different nutrients and ensure that you’re eating a healthy diet. It’s not difficult, but it does require some knowledge.

5- You eliminated gluten from your diet several years ago. Can you explain why you made that decision and how it has improved your overall health?

I was required to give up gluten during the first stage of the anti-candida diet, as a way to minimize potential allergens in the body.  Although I never thought I had a problem with gluten, as soon as I removed it from my foods, I began to feel better. Symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain and irritable bowel syndrome seemed to resolve themselves naturally. On the few occasions, in the beginning, when I did eat gluten again, the symptoms immediately returned, sometimes within minutes. I decided I’d continue eating gluten-free because it seemed to be the best option for me.
I also much prefer baking with gluten-free flours compared to wheat flour. Look at all the varied options you have with gluten-free flours! The possibility for different tastes and textures are endless. With wheat flour, it’s basically the same outcome, all the time. How boring is that?
 
6- Often, substituting ingredients can be expensive. What advice can you give to those cooking or baking with food restrictions, but who need to stick to a budget?

There really are ways to keep the costs low. I always buy in bulk if I can, and freeze my nuts or seeds so they will last (I also freeze any flours that I won’t use within a few weeks, since gluten-free flours are mostly whole-grain, which means they contain volatile oils that can become rancid if left too long at room temperature). I make my own all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (the recipe is also in the book) instead of buying the packaged all-purpose gluten-free flour, which can be very expensive. And it’s surprisingly easy to make your own flours from whole grains, too, as long as you have a coffee grinder or spice grinder!

I find that if you stick to real, whole foods, your costs are inevitably lower. In other words, an apple is cheaper than applesauce; whole millet is cheaper than millet flour. And since so many products contain additives or potentially suspect ingredients anyway, it really does make more sense to create as much as you can from scratch.
 
 
 
Using only whole foods ingredients, a generous pinch of humor and input from her two chatty canines, Ricki shares gluten-free, allergy-friendly and sugar-free recipes on her blog, RickiHeller.com. Ricki’s second cookbook, Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free, will be released in September, 2013. Her first book, Sweet Freedom, is one of only three cookbooks recommended by Ellen DeGeneres on her website. Ricki is also an Associate Editor for Simply Gluten-Free Magazine and has written for Clean Eating magazine, Allergic Living, Living Without, VegNews, and many other publications. Ricki lives near Toronto, Canada with her husband and two dogs.
 
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Family Approved Gluten Free Cookbook Winner Has Been Chosen!

I'm excited to announce that a winner has been chosen for the Family Approved Gluten Free Cookbook! This giveaway was a quick one, with only a week to answer, but the response was still incredible. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter. If you didn't win this time, no worries because I have another great giveaway in store for September's cookbook of the month. The post announcing September's cookbook went up this morning, and the giveaway will be posted later this month, so keep checking back!

The winner of the August cookbook of the month is Simran S. Check your email!

September's Cookbook: Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free by Ricki Heller

Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free
Allergy-Friendly Vegan Desserts

Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free will prove that you can have your cake and great health too! The desserts and other baked goods found in this book were inspired by the author’s decision, after decades of baking and indulging in unhealthy sweets, to radically heed her body’s wake-up call and radically alter her diet.
The book features:
- 100 dessert recipes all free of gluten, eggs, and dairy; many are also soy-free (or offer a soy-free option), corn-free (all but one!), and nut-free (or offer a nut-free option)
- Comprehensive introductory matter, including helpful information on: ingredients, tips & techniques, tools & bake ware, and an at-a glance pantry list
- The author’s first book, Sweet Freedom, is listed on Ellen
DeGeneres’s Web site as one of her top vegan cookbook picks

This is the first time I've chosen a dessert book for the cookbook of the month, but this one just looked too good to be true. I make no secret about the fact that this blog exists specifically because my son needs to be gluten free, and that's what I focus on, but he also has issues with dairy. I also know that many people who are gluten free also have other food restrictions to deal with, and this book offers desserts free from gluten, dairy, eggs, or refined sugar, which I think may be of interest to many of you who read the blog.

This book is being released this month, and I'm excited to announce that not only do I have an interview planned with the author, I will also have a physical copy of the book to give away to one of you! If you're interested in hearing Ricki Heller speak, she will be at the Toronto Gluten Free Expo this weekend.
 
 
 
 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Recipe: Gluten Free Eggplant Cannelloni

Traditional cannelloni is made with pasta noodles, but I wanted to put a lighter spin on things and omit the pasta altogether for a naturally gluten free dish. I've mentioned before that my  husband took some convincing before he came around to enjoying eggplant, but now he's a convert! These are so easy to make, yet they look complicated and fancy. One large eggplant made 10 rolls, which is enough for my family. The recipe could easily be doubled or more. I use homemade tomato sauce, but if you're buying from a jar, one jar should be enough. Or, buy a jar of strained tomatoes, add some garlic, basil, olive oil and salt to the tomatoes in a sauce pot, and simmer until flavours are combined. A little bit of tomato paste can thicken things up.



Eggplant Cannelloni

Ingredients

1 jar tomato sauce, put aside

1 large eggplant
1 container (475g) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup good quality grated Parmesan cheese
1 bunch baby spinach, washed and stems trimmed, roughly chopped (or 1 box frozen spinach, thawed and well drained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F


1- Thinly slice clean eggplant lengthwise (to get long strips, not rounds) and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 10 minutes. This draws out the bitter taste. Wipe off salt with a paper towel. Place eggplant in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

2- While eggplants are baking, heat tomato sauce to a simmer.  In a frying pan, sautĂ© spinach and garlic until spinach is wilted. Turn off heat. If there is any liquid in the pan, drain it.

3- Add ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper to spinach. Stir to combine.

4- Place about 2 tablespoons of spinach and ricotta mixture on a slice of eggplant, about a quarter of the way down from the top. Roll eggplant around mixture, and secure with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish. Repeat with remaining slices. When finished, ladle tomato sauce over eggplant rolls. Top with more grated parmesan, if desired.

5- Bake for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Serve immediately or place in fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan





Monday: Vegetarian Eggplant Cannelloni 










Tuesday: Stir Fried Pork & Vegetables











Wednesday: Turkey Breast Roast & Roast Vegetables









Thursday: Roast Chicken & Vegetable Soup
















Friday: Roasted Vegetable Wraps w/Goat Cheese & Sundried Tomato Pesto in GF Corn Tortillas  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Recipe: Simple Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Last weekend we went apple picking as a family. We go to the same orchard every year, Pine Farms Orchard, because they have over 5000 dwarf trees, meaning that this kids can reach the apples all on their own, without the use of a ladder.

We always end up picking more apples than we need, but I don't mind. There are so many recipes to make with apples, and they keep well, so I don't feel the need to cook them all at once.

I make some homemade apple sauce every year, click HERE for the recipe. This year I wanted to make some apple butter too. If you're not familiar with apple butter, it's a thicker version of apple sauce, used as a spread or a fruit dip.

It takes a long time to make on the stove, involving a lot of stirring. Since it takes so long, I don't make it every year.

Then I thought about the slow cooker, and wondered if I could just make some apple butter in there.
Turns out the answer is yes. I will never make it on the stove again. I will probably make my apple sauce this way too.


Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Ingredients

20 apples (any apples will work, depending on whether you want the butter sweet, or tart, etc.)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup water (optional, but I find it helps get the cooking started)
1/2 cup agave nectar (maple syrup, sugar, honey all work well. Optional)
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Directions

1. Wash, core, and cut apples into slices or chunks. I didn't peel mine. Instead, I blended the apple butter later with a stick blender.

2. Place apples, lemon juice, water, and agave (if using) into the slow cooker and stir to mix. Turn temperature to high, and cover.

3. I cooked my apple butter for four hours on high. Check every 30 minutes or so, giving the mixture a stir. Once the apples break down and it looks like apple sauce, blend with a stick blender until smooth. If you don't have a stick blender, you can blend in a blender once cooked and cooled. Add desired amount of cinnamon and nutmeg.

4- After four hours on high, I was happy with the consistency and thickness. Continue cooking until the mix reaches the desired consistency. Adjust seasonings.  Turn off slow cooker and let mixture cool enough to handle. Place in jars or in re-sealable freezer bags to freeze.

Enjoy your apple butter! It makes a great spread for bread or crackers, a sauce for pork, a dip for fruit, or a dessert topping.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

First Day of Kindergarten! Mommy had a little cry before he left the house, but he walked into his class like a big boy.  I hope this means good things to come! I took several photos, but this was the only one that doesn't show the school name on his uniform.




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

August Cookbook Review: Family Approved Gluten Free Recipes & A Giveaway

Family Approved Gluten Free Recipes
by Pam Jordan


This Gluten Free cookbook contains simple recipes your family will love. The book highlights breakfast, appetizer, main dishes, side dishes, slow cooker and dessert recipes. This cookbook contains over 50 timesaving recipes that kids of all ages will love.

Pam Jordan is a working mom to three young kids and a Gluten Free blogger. Only meals that were eaten by her picky eaters are in the book! Recipes include apple pie, onion rings, greek yogurt pancakes, slow cooker lasagna, shepherd's pie, cheesecake, meatloaf, cake balls, baked ziti, pumpkin whoopie pies, and strawberry cake. The recipes take help from store bought Gluten Free product and every day items found in your pantry.

PURCHASE


Review

The author of this cookbook is a mother of young children, and so am I, and I'm always excited to try kid-friendly recipes. This is a shorter cookbook than some of the really long ones out there, but it still offers a nice range of recipes from breakfast, to mains, one pot meals, desserts, and more. The recipes are designed to be quick and easy to prepare. Some recipes ask for boxed flour or baking mixes, and I'm ok with that because while I do prepare stuff from scratch from time to time, on a day to day basis I need to get food on the table, fast. That often means buying a GF pie crust rather than always making one myself. Nothing wrong with that, especially since I have two kids under the age of five who need to be fed.

From this cookbook, I prepared: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (which have now become a staple in my house), Sausage Breakfast Skillet, Chicken Fried Rice, Parmesan Pork Chops, BBQ Chicken, Summer Veggie Medley, Sausage and Peppers, and the One Dish Wonder. The Lemon Squares are on my husband's wish list, and there are a few desserts I need to try!

True to the title, these recipes are family approved. My four year old ate everything without any complaint, and that's pretty impressive. Everything was simple to prepare, and the ingredients were pretty straightforward to find, except for the Bisquick GF mix, which I'm not sure is available in Canada. It didn't hold me back, though. There's nothing super fancy here, just quick and easy to prepare meals that most kids will enjoy.

This cookbook is great for families, but would also be wonderful for someone new to gluten free who isn't a strong cook to begin with. I get a lot of questions from people who just never learned to cook much growing up, and now are faced with learning how to do it gluten free. They want to enjoy familiar foods, but aren't sure how to prepare them. This book would be a great start.

Guess What? Pam Jordan has graciously offered to give a copy away to 1 lucky reader! Open to residents of Canada and the United States. Enter below.




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 2, 2013

Pizza Slice Spice Winner!

The Pizza Slice Spice Givaway was a HUGE success, thanks to every one of you who entered to win! Thank you so much for reading the blog! 

Unfortunately, there could only be one winner, but I have plenty of fun giveaways planned, so keep checking back!

Congratulations to Kim L.B.

Check your email!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan








Monday: Gluten Free Pasta Bake 















Tuesday: Pork Chops with Roast Cauliflower
(toss desired amount of cauliflower w/olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper, & a touch of nutmeg. Bake at 375F for 20 min. or until beginning to brown on top.) 











Wednesday: Red Lentil Soup











Thursday: Shepherd's Pie  (RECIPE)











Friday: Garden Fresh Quinoa Salad (RECIPE) and Crustless Quiche