Saturday, 29 December 2012

Wassap, B?

I have to admit that back in my rice-eating days, I used to order avocado rolls simply for their neutral flavour, as they were a perfect vehicle for the taste of wasabi and pickled ginger.  Wasabi is just a fantastic punch-to-your-sinuses that I cannot put behind me.  I chuckle every time I see the David and Goliath sticker (which I first saw in a Waikiki store a couple years ago), which has a sushi roll asking the pile of wasabi, 'Wassap, B?"  So imagine my excitement to see this soba salad recipe.  Buckwheat noodles (soba)?  I can have!  Edamame?  Totally.  Wasabi?  You are ON!

As I mentioned earlier, I forgot to get a few things when I went grocery shopping last, so if you are wondering why radishes are in my recipe and not in my pictures, that's why.  I had every intention of using them!  Otherwise, I made slight adjustments to the original (due to an allergy to peas and rice--including rice vinegar) and figured you may want to try my version too!


1 pkg (250g) buckwheat noodles (be careful!  If you have rice or wheat allergies, not all buckwheat or soba noodles are 100% buckwheat)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame (I used more than that because I had more, but don't, keep it to 1 cup!)
4 carrots, julienned
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons wheat free tamari soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon prepared wasabi paste (I have wasabi powder, which is mixed with water to make a paste)
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced 

1. Prepare the vinaigrette by combining the garlic, vinegar, oil and paste.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
3. Steam edamame and carrots 4 minutes or until crisp-tender.
4. Toss everything together. Serve immediately, or until you have wasted enough time and camera battery life taking pictures of your meal.  Enjoy!

A quick note on leftovers: the excess vinaigrette is completely soaked up overnight and without a top up of more vinaigrette or at least a little bit of tamari soy sauce, your leftovers might taste surprisingly bland.  But once you add a little more vinagrette, your dish returns to it's freshly-cooked flavour.

This isn't the end, wasabi.  We will see one another again soon, I am sure of it!!!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Dinner Starring.....MEATLOAF!

I don't know what inspired me to try to make meatloaf.  I guess it has always seemed liked one of those mountains that needs to be conquered.  What I used to like about meatloaf, primarily being able to drown the beefy goodness in ketchup, is no longer an option due to my tomato allergy.  Not to mention it's contents are generally held together with breadcrumbs and egg.  When I bookmarked Allergic Living's recipe, it planted a seed in my head that maybe I could enjoy meatloaf, even on it's own, without ketchup.  So on my cooking extravaganza that I am performing this holiday season, I set out to give it a go.  Let's say first that it did NOT turn out how I was hoping, but it was decent.  Read the end of the post for my reflections.  Here's how I made the recipe this time:

2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 sweet onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 1kg (2 1/4 pounds) raw ground turkey
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flax meal, 6 tbsp warm water blended until thick)
1 cup millet cereal
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch of each salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a skillet, sauté onions and garlic in vegetable oil until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients including cooled onion and garlic. Mix well and place in a loaf pan.  The original recipe calls for 6 patties to be made, but then it's more like salisbury steak, no?  So it went in a loaf pan. 
4. Place in oven for 60+ minutes or until cooked through.  It takes about 60 minutes for it to cook through but it took an extra 15-20 for it to be drier and not soggy.  BLECH!  Soggy meat.  I served it with spaghetti squash seasoned with vegan butter, salt and pepper (always a success, yum!!).

So like I said, this recipe did not quite turn out.  I can think of a few reasons:
1.  There was just too much turkey.  Who in their right stomach can digest that much ground turkey?  And that was even 0.4kg less than what the recipe called for.  Next time I will half it and it will not need to cook for so long.
2.  I need to cut the onions smaller.  I find it difficult to mince an onion, but I must try harder next time.
3.  I didn't realize it until it was in the bowl with the raw turkey but my stick blender didn't mix my flax egg completely, so that's why it may have been more crumbly. 
4.  There needed to be a higher cereal to turkey ratio (though it looks very strange, it is undetectable in taste).  Less turkey would accomplish this AND maybe I would even sacrifice some of my delicious 100% Rye bread to make breadcrumbs instead of using cereal.  But by next time I may not be so willing to entertain that thought so I might just stick with cereal, hahahaha. 

Overall, it was decent.  Those around me at the lunch table the next day thought it smelled delicious, so there is definitely potential!  Stay tuned in coming months when I try to make this again, you know, when I can look at turkey again after the holiday season. 

Okay, I Give In...

I will finally get a steamer basket.  I've had my eye on one anyways, but my procrastinating personality wouldn't let me pay $10 for it.  When I look at that sentence now, I feel a bit foolish.  My cheeks, I'm sure, are reddening and I am entertaining thoughts of deleting this whole paragraph.  But that's what this blog is all about, right?  If I was able to steam successfully with a metal colander I would tell you (don't laugh!!  Okay, laugh).  These are my adventures and perhaps you too would like to know if you can do it.  Well, I'm going to tell you honestly that when you have to steam most of your meal, like I have for this Millet Bowl recipe, you need a steamer insert or basket.

I actually didn't need to change much of this recipe to suit my allergies.  The millet and bean mixture went together easily on the stovetop and had a strong ginger taste.  I even took another stab at baby bok choy and mushrooms (I couldn't find shiitake so I used portobello caps), some of my least favourite vegetables.  Steaming took forever though, as nothing was steaming evenly in the colander (go ahead, I'm kind of snickering at myself too).  I may have steamed the mushrooms and bok choy to death, perhaps you will have better success with that.  The next go around with this recipe will see me using some other green (perhaps kale) and using small mushrooms or *ahem, none at all.  I will also alter the dressing, as I craved a stronger vinegar taste than what I was getting, Maybe even adding a bit of fresh ginger to the dressing so the flavour was carried throughout the dish.  It even has potential to be a stir fry, if you don't mind a little more oil in your diet.  I will be making this again for sure.  Hope you enjoy it too. 

Stocking Up.

And this isn't even half of it!  I may have gone a little overboard.  You see, the week before Christmas I decided that I didn't want to have to deal with holiday lineups at the grocery store, and the mean people who race their way through the aisles to get the one thing they forgot to get before the store closes early.  Worse yet, I had a few nightmares of being partway through a recipe and to my horror I would discover that I too was missing a key ingredient!  So I carefully wrote out a recipe plan, printed off the recipes, made my grocery list, and methodically went store-to-store to get what I needed with plenty of time to spare before the holidays.  Then, I soon realized, you have to be able to put all this food away.  This of course led to my cleaning out and reorganizing of the fridge....

Thank you Tupperware's Fridge Smart Containers for extending the life of my fresh produce.  My herbs should now outlive my procrastination. 

This is the fullest my fridge has EVER been.  Yet, it should not surprise you that I did forget a few things.  It just seems to be my style.  I'd probably forget my head if it was not screwed on.  But I have been making do.  Some of the recipes that I've tried during my time off have been real successes.  Others have shown some potential so stay tuned, you will not be disappointed!  You don't have to go to the same extremes, but you can definitely benefit from mine. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Things Are Getting Twisted Around Here!

All the ingredients on hand....we are going to make some pretzels today!

I have had this recipe for Rye Pretzels for a LONG time.  I don't know why yeast baking scares me, but it does, I am very hesitant to work with it.  Yet, when I make a recipe involving yeast I am always pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.  So when I was cooped up at home this weekend I decided to take advantage of the time on my hands and make this recipe.  I gathered all the ingredients together, with some minor adjustments.  I used all rye flour and coconut sugar instead of the malt powder or sugar.

Mixing up the dough was easy.  I loaded it into the oven and with just the light on and saran wrap covering the top of the bowl, I waited 1 1/2 hours.  When I looked at it, it had not risen much at all but I was impatient so I went ahead, divided my dough, and started to form pretzels on my pastry mat and brought it over to the stove, where my water was starting to boil.

No one warned me that when you add the coconut sugar and baking soda to your boiling water it bubbles up over the saucepan.  Consider yourself warned. 

At first the pretzel sinks, but in a split second it begins to float, and before you know it, you need to turn it over (be careful, I had to use a couple of slotted spoons for this).  Sprinkled them with caraway seeds and salt....mmmmm....but FYI: the amount of salt you see on these pretzels is too much.  Just a little bit goes a long way, especially if you are dipping your pretzel in dijon mustard.  It was so delicious, that I ate four pretzels that afternoon.  My lesson for today?  Don't be afraid of a yeast bread recipe, you could be surprised by how it turns out!  Now excuse me, I have some eating to do...

Friday, 30 November 2012

My New Favourite Breakfast

I used to enjoy the sweet smell of scones, muffins and pancakes on the weekends.  A trip to IHOP in the fall when the pumpkin pancakes come out would immediately send me to my cozy, happy place.  Now that I am aware of what those things do to me allergy-wise, breakfast has lost a little luster (though I assure you all, I am still trying to find/perfect safe recipes for those aforementioned baked goods).  I did, however, find a recipe that brought back the culinary shine to my weekends, and it involves having vegetables for breakfast.  How could this be???  Only with favourite darling that can be served at any meal of the day: Bacon.  I first found this recipe a couple of weeks ago and have been too busy to share my results with you but a sick day from work seems to be the most perfect opportunity!  The Brussels Sprouts Breakfast Hash  from the blog, How Sweet It Is inspired me and required no substitutions, just the egg omission.  It is certainly filling enough without the egg also, and I may have added a bit more bacon.... (*sheepish grin).

4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped (it was a large piece of frozen bacon I cut it off of, so I may have added a wee bit more than four slices worth)
1/2 red onion, diced
1 10oz package of frozen sweet potato that is precubed for you!  (why do the work of peeling and cutting anything more than you  have to?)
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced
freshly ground salt and pepper

Cook your bacon in a large skillet on medium heat, then remove from pan, but leaving the wonderful rendered fat in the pan.  Add sweet potato and red onion, cooking for 6-8 minutes (likely closer to 8 minutes if you are using frozen), tossing as you go.  Add garlic until you are hit with the wonderful aroma, about 30 seconds (too long and it burns!).  Then add your brussels sprouts tossing it around in the pan for another 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, toast some bread that is safe for you to eat.  For me, it's bakery baked 100% rye.  "Butter" the toast and serve with your hash and find your cozy, happy place.

Bad Case of the Munchies

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine sure is.

I was preparing my salad ingredients for a lunch this week when I had a nibble of my roasted edamame beans.  It was late (after my 7pm cut-off for eating that the homeopath recommended), and I just had to "test" them, you know, make sure they turned out.  One taste and I was hooked.  I finished about a half a cup worth.  Okay, more than half a cup.  It didn't leave much for lunch the following day so I quickly whipped up another batch....and proceeded to eat the rest of the first batch.  When it's a "safe snack" it is difficult to deny or even pace myself.  Perhaps you too have snacks that you enjoy like this, in moderation.  These are a great after-work snack, salad topper or movie theater sneak-in.  Salty goodness in little green beans. 

Roasted Edamame

1 cup edamame (I often am too hasty and skip thawing them, it still works, just a little less crunchy)
1 tbsp oil (if that, I use grapeseed a lot lately)
freshly ground (Hawai'ian? hehe) sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss (preferably thawed) edamame in oil and spread out on a baking sheet.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring around every ten minutes or so, until they start to turn golden brown.  You will still see some green parts, but trust me they will be delicious.  Crack salt and pepper and when cooled, store in an airtight container....if there's any left. 

Poultry Love: A Love Story Between Cranberries and Turkey.

Okay, I played around with some special effects for this picture, but cranberry chutney without refined sugar and citrus does seem kind of magical, no?

Turkey dinner is not turkey dinner without cranberry sauce.  The three basic ingredients in most cranberry sauces are cranberries, sugar and orange (juice, maybe even rind/peel): a nightmare for the liver diet I'm on (no citrus or sugar allowed) and bad for an orange allergy (hello, itching!).  But what is turkey dinner without cranberry?  So when a friend had a bunch of us over for turkey dinner I remembered a cranberry chutney recipe I happened upon and offered to make it for this dinner. I saw the potential in this chutney and even though I made alterations for my diet, I wasn't disappointed with the result, and I think the other cranberry lovers at the dinner weren't either. 

Here's what I did:

Cranberry Chutney

kitchen twine
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cups cranberries (as this was after Thanksgiving, fresh cranberries were unavailable so I used frozen)
1 cup coconut sugar (just enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries, not enough to notice a taste difference from white sugar)
1 1/4 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 firm Bosc or Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (is it a surprise that I used Hawai'ian ginger?)

With a piece of cheesecloth and twine I first make a bag and place my cloves and cinnamon sticks in.  This way I do not have to dig them all out later (granted there was one stray clove that my friend found, but the majority came out in the little baggie with no problem at all). 

In a large saucepan, combine, the cranberries, coconut sugar, baggie, water and salt.  Bring to a boil on medium heat.  Cook for about 10 minutes until the cranberries start to pop open.

Reduce heat and simmer on low, adding apple, pear, onion and ginger.  Cook for another 10-15 minutes (although admittedly I may have let it sit a little longer, I do get distracted very easily, but at least nothing boiled over!!).  Remove from heat, remove the baggie of cinnamon sticks and cloves, and let cool to room temperature before placing in a jar (or jars, this recipe yields enough to fill a 0.5L and a 1L glass jar).  Refrigerate and enjoy the turkey lovin'.

The prep work is quite easy and the reward for your time is unbeatable!  Making this again for a family dinner in another week.  MMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Soup's On!

This post is not exactly about soup.  It's about what you need for most soups: stock. It's surprising how many commercially made stocks have potato or tomato in, I make my own!  Mine is the vegetable stock recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Slow Cooker cookbook (which is strangely, one of the few recipes in the cookbook not made in a slow cooker).  A very similar recipe is found on the Williams-Sonoma website here.  Basically after prepping all your veg (leeks, yellow onions, carrots, celery, button mushrooms), you throw it in your stockpot and add parsley, thyme and peppercorns.  Add 2L of water and boil!  Sounds simple, and it is, but I tend to walk away and not realize the pot's contents are boiling until it's all over the cooktop.  That's my cooking style: burnt and crusty.  So, if you cook like me, you turn down the heat, clean up the cooktop and simmer for about an hour.  I let it cool down until I can easily strain the solids out without burning myself because, well, I that's what I tend to do.  Depending on whether I use the stock right away or freeze it, I package it appropriately, and VOILA!  I have the magical base for plenty of soups and stews in honour of the cooler weather that is now upon us.  Stay warm everyone...  Well, er, with my bad circulation, eat warm!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Mexican Night, Allergen-Free Style!

What to do, what to do, when you are allergic to some of your most favourite cuisines?  You improvise.  A Mexican inspired meal without rice, without corn or flour tortillas, without...TOMATOES???  It seemed impossible, but in my internet search travels I stumbled upon a Martha Stewart recipe for Black Beans and Rice.  It didn't need a tortilla.  Or tomato paste.  All it needed was an alternative to rice.  Queue: hulled millet.  With a little bit of "butter" and sea salt (from Hawai'i of course), millet isn't a half bad alternative to potatoes and rice.  With a little sliced avocado, and omitting the squirt of lime (it didn't really need it anyways, but if you are able to eat it, by all means, it's more authentic that way!) I had my first Mexican meal in a long time.  Take that, allergies!

It's so tiny!  Cooks and absorbs water like rice.  And I haven't burned it to the pan yet.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Liquid Luxuries

I have learned over this year that when one cannot buy, make... so I make a lot of things.  Smoothies tend to be my favourite luxury.  They are sweet and nutritious and I can almost convince myself that it is a good dessert substitution, or an awesome breakfast accompaniment.  When 2012 Whole Living 28 Day Mind + Body Challenge included blender smoothie recipes for breakfast in week one, I jumped on it and ran with them for the entire year as the occasional treat.  Most recently this week I bought the smallest bottle possible of carrot juice, broke out the frozen mango and made the Carrot-Mango Smoothie from the list of snacks for week 1.  Delicious!  And...I kind of drink two servings at one time.  What?   It's all fruit and vegetables! Look me in the eye and tell me you don't do it too.  I didn't think so....Happy sipping!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

You'll want more....

A few months ago I purchased a food dehydrator, trying to offset the cost of all the dried fruit I was purchasing to make my granola bars.  It requires more time and energy on my part to cut the fruit and tend to the fruit or herbs or whatever I am dehydrating.  It always turns out amazing though (except for papaya and cantaloupe, which is typically dipped in sugar syrup, and my homeopath would have a heart attack if I did that).  I've made dehydrated pineapple, mango, kiwi (I would recommend you skip that, it's is not as good as fresh, not even close), papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon (see kiwi comment), kale chips (turns out a little chewier than in the oven but doesn't burn which is awesome), and most recently, flax crackers.  I only used wheat-free tamari soy sauce, but my goodness they turned out well!!  My snacking ways almost caused me to inhale the whole batch.  Given that these are made with only flax seeds and soy sauce, that is not a wise idea, you could be a little too regular after that!  But in small amounts it is healthy and delicious!  I haven't tried it with a dip yet but I can imagine it would be delicious with avocado slices....bean dip....mmmmm....  If you have a dehydrator I highly recommend these as a healthy and nutritious, vegan snack.  Happy snacking!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sweet and Savoury

Thanks Martha (Stewart), for giving me such a wide variety recipes and ideas to keep things interesting, despite my restrictive diet.  This week I also made for the second time ever, peach gazpacho.  Light meal or snack it was super easy to make and super delicious.  It's going in my permanent recipe bank for sure!  Summer heat, meet your match with this no-cook soup.  I cook for just myself so I halved the recipe with success, oh, and because I couldn't find champagne vinegar in my local grocery stores I subbed with white wine vinegar too!  Three servings of goodness. 

Ok, so I filled it up past the fill line, but it still worked!
Even better after the flavours had time to mingle.  Give it a few hours or a day to let the garlic to shine.

Mingling with the Middle East

I was flipping through an Allergic Living magazine and took a second look at a recipe I had previously written off.  When I saw the recipe again for chickpea burgers with tabbouleh salad I thought, 'why couldn't I make that???'  Yes, I can't have lemon juice or tomatoes but why not use apple cider vinegar and double up on cucumber instead?  The chickpea burgers were an easy sell with no substitutions necessary so I took a chance with the tabbouleh.  You know what?  It turned out great!  I am so pleased and I will make it again.  The chickpea burgers were tasty but crumbled a bit, just like every other chickpea patty I have made, maybe next time I will add a flax "egg."  The tabbouleh needs to marinade in the dressing for a few hours but then it has the acidity just as if it had lemon in it and I didn't miss the lemon at all.  I most definitely recommend this recipe!

Preparing the chickpea patties....
While cooking the buckwheat....
Mixing all the ingredients together for cooking the patties....
The finished, delicious product.

Shhhhh don't tell the homeopath....

When I first started seeing a homeopath earlier this year, my liver results were almost off the charts bad.  He gave me a sheet of paper with more dietary restrictions to live by.  It actually wasn't too hard since it seemed to build on my allergy diet by taking away just a few extras like sugar and alcohol.  But since learning of my allergies, my friends have had me try a few things like unsweetened apple cider and certain wines without added sulphites.  Now I find it a little difficult to follow the diet in the alcohol respect so I try to keep it to a minimum, purchasing small quantities so that I only partake once every week or two.  At the liquor store last week, I was in purchasing my favourite apple cider when a point-of-purchase taster wine bottle caught my eye.  Thanks to it's light, tropical description of the Yellow Tail Moscato in-store I was sold, and waited for a special evening to crack it open.  While it doesn't appear to be organic or suphite-free I didn't get a headache or nausea from having a small glass of it and it was indeed light and refreshing.  It will definitely be a wine I can bring as a hostess gift and something I would serve with a group of friends.  I had to share my happiness with you, just don't tell my homeopath!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Any volunteers?

Some days I can really create a big mess in the kitchen.  For a person who doesn't cook much, I'm not always sure how I manage to do it.  Often the mess grows worse as I try to clean it up, terribly ironic, no?  Today I had a couple dishes leftover from last night and then added to it with the prep for my lunch tomorrow (the o-so-yummy roasted beet with edamame and arugula salad) and vanilla coconut milk ice cream to bring for dessert to my friend's house tonight.  I managed to do a sinkful of dishes only to return home and make roasted chickpeas for the movie I'm seeing tomorrow and my tropical oat bars 'cause I was officially OUT of them.  Finally, well past my bedtime, I am collapsed here on my sofa reflecting on my afternoon and evening with full knowledge now of where my mess came from.  Perhaps next time there will at least be a volunteer to do the dishes....

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Tasty, But Not Pretty.

Desperate for pancakes a couple nights ago (I love breakfast anytime of the day) I searched high and low online for pancakes I can make, preferably with oat flour.  I buy Bob's Red Mill Oat Flour, so I figured they might have something.  Sure enough, Oatmeal Pancakes was there for me.  I made some alterations and while my cooking method made them unpretty (not a word according to the blog's dictionary, but I'm pretty sure there was a TLC song entitled 'Unpretty' so I reserve the right to use the term), they tasted great!    
 vegan (dairy and egg free), wheat free, peanut free, tree nut free (unless you are unable to have coconut, then sub the milk), potato, corn and rice free. 

I used coconut milk this first time.  I only had full fat milk at the time, but I would say it would work possibly even better with the light coconut milk.  My rational brain said it would help them be lighter next time.
MMMoats, and allowing it to sit for five minutes as per instruction.

Dry ingredients, before being mixed, including coconut sugar instead of cane sugar.

Adding the cooked oats and milk mixture to the flour mixture.

This is where I varied from the recipe big time.  I added oil, as per instructions.  I had to omit the eggs, and the fluffy egg whites would definitely add fluffiness to the pancakes, and use two flax eggs instead (2 tbsp flax eggs and 6 tbsp water blended until a thick, glob). 

Once it's all mixed up, with all my changes, was really thick so I had to pat it down into a patty and make it look like a pancake.  I didn't grease my skillet, as it was already non-stick, but I think it really would've helped it in the end, mental note for next time!!  Next week I want to do breakfast for dinner so I'll make some changes and let you know if it works!

Like I mentioned, kinda ugly.....

But almost biscuit-like inside, and super delicious!

Oatmeal Pancakes, just waiting for me to dig into them!

Pasta Salad Pizazz!

This past week was extremely busy and while I was able to cook and take pictures, I had no time to post them, so here I am, Sunday afternoon, trying to make up for it.  On busy summer weeks I enjoy having easy, cold meals that can last a few days.  Pasta salads are always really good for that, but my diet didn't seem to allow for anymore pasta when I had to cut out wheat and rice.  It wasn't until my friend spotted Eden Organic Rye Spirals at a specialty grocery store that I had hope once again of consuming pasta salad.  All I needed was a recipe that worked well with the flavor.  Enter, Martha Stewart.  With a few alterations to the recipe, I made the Minestrone Salad.  It was delicious and it seemed to get better even better with a day or two under its belt to allow flavours to mingle properly.  Take a look, even the pictures make my mouth water!
vegan (dairy, meat and egg free), nut and peanut free, wheat free (if you use wheat free pasta)

As I mentioned before, I used my rye pasta instead of wheat.  Because of my allergies I left out green beans, corn and tomatoes and doubled up on the carrots and zucchini and added some celery in its place.  Filling and delicious.

Muffin Mania

When I saw a dietician very early on this year I was expecting a lot from her, I will admit.  I expected customized meal plans and a plethora of recipes or book recommendations.  What I got was a couple of recipes and a pat on the back assuring me I lost too much weight too soon and to expect some of it to come back.  I did not gain weight back, in fact I lost 15 more pounds while on my diet.  But I did find one recipe helpful in adding baking back into my life.  I make these muffins once every couple weeks and they're a great treat or perfect roundabout to a snack or meal.  They're on the sweet side but not too sweet.  A little dense and gummy, but it's close enough for my liking!

Wheat, Egg, Dairy Free Rye Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from the Gluten Free Carrot Pumpkin Muffin recipe from Gluten-Free Diet-A Comprehensive Resource Guide (as my recipe is made with rye flour however, it does contain gluten!!  The original recipe uses the same amount of gluten free flour mix and 2 tsp xantham gum, as well as it also uses eggs and sugar).

makes about 18 normal-sized muffins
3/4 cup maple syrup
4 flax "eggs" (4 tbsp flax meal and 12 tbsp water blended into a thick and creamy concoction)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups cooked pureed carrots or 3/4 cup crushed pineapple (pineapple is of course my favourite, as I love anything that reminds me of Hawai'i)
3 cups rye flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking sode
2 tsp baking powder (I use my own special mix that's corn and potato free **see end of post)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Whisk together maple syrup, flax eggs and oil in large bowl until well combined.  Add applesauce, pumpkin, vanilla and carrots/pineapple.  Sift dry ingredients together and slowly fold into the batter. Scoop into paper lined muffin pans (I used a 3tbsp scooper twice over in each muffin cup).  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then place on cooling rack.

I use paper liners in the muffin tins, but they do tend to stick to the paper if not cooled completely.  Next time I will try to bake directly in a greased muffin tin and see what I end up with.  I always freeze them so that I don't polish them all off in one or two days.  They thaw very well.

There's also a variation in the original recipe that calls for eliminating the pumpkin and increasing the applesauce to 2 cups if you want to make a carrot cake, in case you were curious in trying that!

Makin' flax eggs...looks gross I know, but does the trick as a binder!

All the wet ingredients....

After folding in the dry ingredients....don't overmix!

Two scoops in each tin for regular looking muffins (always my aim).

The finished product: a moist and delicious muffin that's low in fat and low in allergens!

**all of the baking powders I could find contained corn or potato starch.  Thank you internet searches, which produced a recipe for corn-free baking powder at home that I make at relatively small batches at a time and use with success:

Friday, 27 July 2012

Breakfast bars: the quick, on-the-go morning solution

I quickly tired of a bowl of breakfast oatmeal when I started my allergy diet.  Not to mention you have to get up at the crack of rooster to create such a bowl and allow it to cool to eating.  I value my sleep too much in the early mornings before work.  I can't remember how I stumbled onto Smitten Kitchen's recipe (, probably on one of those never ending recipe searches I tend to perform when I'm feeling overwhelmed or bored with food.  After some alterations when my homeopath adjusted my diet further, I have ended up with two bars that I make once a week and alternate eating so I never have to eat the same bar every day.  I can't keep these recipes to myself, as they help me stay on track with my diet and keep me full until the morning break at work (a feat in itself!)

1.  Tropical Oat Bars 

I am always looking for ways to infuse my day with the taste of the tropics, as I continue to feed into my obsession with Hawai'i, my favourite place on earth.
vegan (dairy and egg free), wheat free, sugar-less (watch out for your dried fruit!), peanut and tree nut free (watch for cross contamination with the seeds though, and get them from specially marked brands if allergy is life threatening). 

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten is an issue for you, make sure you get gluten free!)
1/3    cup  oat flour (yes, oat flour.  Bob's Red Mill has one, or I hear oats can be ground into this)
2/3    cup  coconut sugar (aka-palm sugar)
1/2     tsp  salt
1 1/2 cups mix of unsweetened coconut, chia seeds and sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups mix of chopped dried apricots, dried mango and dried pineapple

1 tsp          vanilla extract
6 tbsp        melted coconut oil
4 tbsp        honey (if your homeopath doesn't like that, you could always try black cherry concentrate)
1-3 tbsp    water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8" pan with parchment.  Mix all the dry ingredients in the first section together in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix the liquid ingredients together.  Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and stir until combined.  It's not going to hold together the way dough would, but should be moistened.  Pour into your prepared pan and spread lightly to level and evenly fill the pan.  Do not press in too much, it seems to make it dry and rock solid, perhaps because the oats have nowhere to go as they cook?  My uneducated guess.  Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes.  I like to bake it just until I get a little browning on the edge.  Cool in the pan until it can go in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight (I make my bars the night before they're going to be needed).  Cut only after cooling in the fridge, as this sets the bars so well and makes clean cuts with fewer crumbs.  Whenever I'm too impatient I ignore this fact and make a sloppy mess but oooooit's still good!  Makes eight decent sized bars, any smaller and it may not satiate a healthy morning appetite.  Anything larger might be too much in one sitting, though I have been known to indulge on occasion...teehee...

Who can go wrong with tropically inspired ingredients?  If you aren't allergic to nuts, I suppose you could always try macadamia nuts too instead/in combination with the seeds.

Mmm finished product.  It's like dessert to me, appealing to my sweet tooth tendencies.

2.  Rye Bars

Testing positive for wheat and not for rye proved to be advantageous.  Rye isn't as limiting as it sounds and doesn't always need to be associated with those hard, dry crackers or those dense, strong tasting breads.  
vegan (dairy and egg free), wheat free, sugar-less (watch your dried fruit again) though still plenty sweet and containing calories from maple syrup and butter, peanut and tree nut free (again watch your seeds).

1 2/3 cups crushed pure rye crackers (light or dark)
1/3 cup      rye flour 
1/2 tsp       salt
1/2 tsp       cinnamon
1 1/2 cups combination of pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, and flax seeds/meal
1 1/2 cups combination of raisins, dried currants and dried cranberries and/or cherries

1 tsp          vanilla
6 tbsp        vegetable oil (sometimes I use grapeseed oil) or melted margarine (read the ingredients!)
1/4 cup      maple butter (whipped pure maple syrup)
1/4 cup      pure maple syrup

Just like in the Tropical Oat Bars, you preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8" square pan with parchments.  You also mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the liquid in another.  I'm sometimes more of an estimator of the liquid ingredients and add a little more maple syrup if I feel like it needs a bit more.  It usually doesn't though, I just love the taste of maple and can be quite liberal with it.  Mix wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined.  Pour into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Doneness doesn't show with browning at the edges, as the bars themselves are brown in nature.  Don't be shy to take them out and allow them to fully cool in the pan, it continues to cook a wee bit in the hot pan.  Cool completely to room temperature before cutting.  You can otherwise cool completely in the fridge and cut into eight bars.  Don't forget to enjoy!  These are surprisingly delicious and many of my non-allergic friends and co-workers have enjoyed their taste and texture.

The dry ingredients already look delicious!

Yummers, the finished product, kinda crunchy, kinda spongy, and oh-so delicious!

Time to order a pizza?

Thanks to my horrific cooking abilities, dinner can start off really well and take a swift nose-dive. Top notch ingredients.  A delicious sounding recipe that I was going to alter for my purposes.  Despite such a great start, I really know how to mess these things up in execution.  I salvaged it, and made it edible, but it was one of those meals where one can easily give up and order a pizza were not for my allergies.  I tried making garlicky greens with pasta: garlic, kale and buckwheat pasta with a side of asparagus.  My asparagus turned out really well though!  Pan fried with garlic mmmm...

Fresh produce and 100% pure buckwheat pasta.

I enjoy prep work more than the pulling of it all together.  Rhythmic chopping is very calming.  Be sure to concentrate on your grip though, I speak from ridiculous experience...

In order to save my meal, I tossed the noodles and wilted greens with a red wine vinaigrette.  The pan fried garlic asparagus turned out the best!!  I love it when I get something right.  Topped with fresh basil, sea salt, pepper and a few red chili flakes and voila!  A meal that's half decent.

Next time I think I'll be more cautious and definitely have all my ingredients prepped and ready (I was still cutting kale in my haste to get dinner started).  I won't try to fry my 4 cloves of garlic for so long, as they were terribly burnt by the time my veggies were done.  I say that, but each time I seem to overcook garlic.  It's way too easy to do this, I'm learning.  I didn't have enough liquid in the pan to wilt the greens well so I will have to adjust that too.  I'm going to make this work next time, I'm sure of it!  And pizza won't be in order!