Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The weather outside is frightful!

This is what fall is supposed to be like! Not so, here. The winds are ferociously blowing outside and the trees are swaying back and forth in response. All the colourful leaves are being blown off the trees and whipped across our property. The rain is coming down and it's icy cold - threatening to turn to snow later this afternoon if I believe the weather channel. The sky is completely grey and the only bright colour out there is the maroon from the sumac fruit (a learning moment: the fruit stacks are called bobs!), and the bright ocean blue of the damn inflatable pool that I've yet to roll up and bring into the shed.

Today calls for something homey and yummy! It's a good think I bought a bag of local apples recently - I'll make apple crisp! I take out my ceramic pie dish and place it on the counter. Not that your pie dishes must be ceramic, I just like the feel of this one. Mine is just plain beige, not cranberry like the one online. It sets the tone for whatever I'm going to make - it says: "whatever you bake in me is going to be yummy and delicious and smell like home". Then I cough loudly and look away, and try to look cool after imitating the pie dish talking outloud.... I like the ceramic ones too as they "cure" like a cast-iron pan over time, making them naturally non-stick.

I cut up the apples in wedges, taking out the cores, and put them in the pie dish (maybe about 10 small apples). Next, I take a bowl and mix up:
  • 1 cup brown rice (or other non-gluten) flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats (see note below)
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar (see other note below)
  • 1/2 little tub of Fleishmann's non-salted margarine (or casein-friendly: 1 stick butter)

Use a pastry cutter or a couple of knives to chop up the margarine into the flour and oats, to a coarse texture. Once mixed, pour the topping all over the apples and pop the whole dish into the oven for 50 minutes at 375F. Perfect for a day like today!

Note on oats: oats are naturally gluten-free, however, since most oats are processed in a mill/factory where other flours are being milled, the companies cannot guarantee that they are gluten-free (including Bob's Red Mill for most of their oats). There are, however, some companies that now have guaranteed gluten-free oats (including Bob's Red Mill).

Note on brown sugar: I adjust the amount of sugar according to whatever fruit I use - if the fruit is more naturally sweet like peaches, I'll use less, but if it is more tart, or I add in berries, I'll use more.

Note on my ineptitude: I went to take a picture of this super crisp, and found the batteries were dead. Left the camera on last time I downloaded pictures :( So, no picture this time of food. I'll try to be less of a useless blogger next time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Buckwheat Zydeco Pancakes

It was Saturday morning. I knew I'd be home slogging it out on the laptop for much of the day, working :(. I needed something hearty to get me through the day! I looked in the fridge... wasn't feeling like eggs. I was feeling like bacon, but we didn't have any. Hmm... what to make? Oatmeal? Ok... but guy doesn't like oatmeal very much. He eats it if he has to, but only if it's slathered in fruit and brown sugar and yogurt and nuts and everything else in the pantry that could effectively hide the "bland" taste of the oats.

Then I remembered the entry from Gluten Free Girl where she talks about her husband not being into oats as much as she is. She had come up with a recipe for pancakes, which incorporated cooked oats, and her husband loved them! I decided to do the same thing. I guess it's a bit like hiding the veggies in chocolate sauce so your kids eat them. Or wrapping your dog's flea pills in meat (which only works if your dog is not so smart - ours used to neatly lick off all the meat and then, just as neatly, spit out the whole pill, and then would look at us with a look that said: "Really? You think I'm that dumb? Come on, people, give me more credit than that!" And then he'd walk away, rolling his eyes at us and shaking his head, laughing.)

So, Shauna uses sweet rice flour and oat flours in her pancakes, neither of which I had. I did have regular white rice flour, so decided to use that. My other choices were brown rice, corn, potato, or buckwheat flours. I decided to try the buckwheat, as I had been wanting to try it, and hadn't yet had the chance. I knew from reading about 'alternative' flours that buckwheat gives an earthy flavour (so good for breads and such). And, despite its name, is not related to wheat in any way. Plus it has a cool name - I can't seem to stop at buckwheat, I have to say buckwheat zydeco, and that is just plain fun on a Saturday morning. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Ok, back to the kitchen. I made the pancakes following her recipe, but substituting the rice flour for the sweet rice flour, and the buckwheat (zydeco!) flour for the oat flour. They, of course, ended up being much darker than in her picture, and they were absolutely DELISH! Guy loved them too! We sprinkled ours with icing sugar, and then drizzled maple sugar (well, maybe a little more than drizzled) all over the top. Yum yum!

Bon appetit, mes amis!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crispy Cheese Chow Mein

This is an entry to file under both "succesful" and "not so succesful". A couple of weeks ago, my guy and I (my husband? the man who lives in my house? my love? the oak to my elm?) decided to make pizza from scratch. It's Friday night, the music is turned up, the wine is flowing, and we've still to decide which recipe to use. I found what looked to be a fairly good and simple recipe at the website for Capers Market, which is under the umbrella of Whole Foods Market in Vancouver. I just checked the website for the on-line version of the recipe and it appears they've changed things and taken the recipes down, so I'll type it out below. Anyway, I made the dough, following the recipe, and it turned out great, thankfully! We put our organic tomato sauce on the bottom, and we chopped up all our toppings - green peppers, onions, tomatoes, pepperoni, mushrooms, broccoli, and CHEESE.

We made two pizzas - one for guy, and one for me. The one for guy had real cow cheese... mmm... yummy and melty. One half of mine was plain (just the toppings listed above), and the other half was loaded with the toppings, plus casein-free cheese - I wanted to give myself an out in case my cheese failed me. I chose a soy cheese, as, believe it or not, most of the non-cow cheese alternatives made with rice actually have dairy in them. All the rice cheeses that I've checked include casein as one of the main ingredients to give it, well, a cheesy consistency and taste. The soy cheese I used does not have casein, and that was the main reason I chose it - plus, it was the only casein-free option at my local grocery store.

So you don't confuse this product with cow cheese, the packaging calls it: Galaxy Nutritional Foods Vegan Soy Block (Mozarella Flavor). I grated up my lovely soy block, and put it on half the pizza. I was very excited. I hadn't had cheese since May. I was maybe a little too excited - really, it's only cheese. (Sometimes I catch myself doing senseless things. I had to ask myself, really? I'm jumping up and down over soy block? Yes, yes I was, and many of you people who are deprived of cheese, and are given a glimpse of cheesy hope would have been jumping up and down too).

I put the pizza in the oven and held my breath.

I watched the pizzas get warm.

I watched guy's pizza starting to ooze and bubble and look golden and melty.

I watched half of my pizza start to burn.

Seriously, the shredded soy block was just getting crispy. There was no melting. There was no oozy goodness, there was no more jumping up and down. I had to look away. I had to convince myself everything would be fine in the end.

It wasn't.

15 mintues later, we were eating our pizzas. I basically had to get over my cheesy excitement, and accept the fact that my pizza was italian-asian fusion, as there was nothing else to compare my grated cheese to than crispy chow mein.

Has anyone had casein-free cheese success? Let me know!

Here's the pizza recipe:

3/4 cup organic milk (about 110F) - I used casein-free rice milk
1/2 tsp honey
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 envelope instant yeast
1 Tbsp xanthan gum - more on this later, it's an excellent binder and emulsifier
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 425F. Dissolve yeast in a small bowl with milk and honey. Set aside. Sift together brown rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch, xanthan gum, sea salt and spices. Whisk olive oil and vinegar together. Add to dry mixture. Mix. Add milk and yeast. Mix well. The dough shoud be soft and pliable. Turn onto a (rice) floured work surface and knead gently for about a minute. Roll or pat dough into a 12-inch round, place on a pizza stone or lightly oiled pan. Crimp edges to hold in toppings. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, add toppings and bake 15-20 minutes longer, or until the crust is lightly browned.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Time to share

Well hello there, interwebs... it's been a while.

You might remember me from such blogs as... well, this one, just a long time ago.

I was talking to a friend at work today (hi!) who was telling me about a blog he started recently. It's a catch-all for all the resources he comes across for his hobbie - he thought it would be helpful for others as a place to learn the techniques of the trade through photos and video, and as a community for appreciation for the sport. It made me think about information and community and sharing - and how you can't have the middle one without the last one, or the last one without the first one.

I'd been thinking a lot recently about starting to write again, and this conversation is what jumpstarted me to be sitting here, in front of my screen, and typing again in the familiar "create post" section of this site. That, and several recent events.

This past summer I found out something about myself - I am allergic to both gluten and dairy! This diagnosis by a naturopath came after feeling bad for a long time. Trying to put my finger on it spefically is difficult, but I would say that I hadn't felt really well in close to a decade. Tired, blotchy skin, bloating, painful and hard stomach, forever feeling like I was coming down with a cold, along with hypothyroidism. I decided to see a naturopath in the early spring, and starting the next day, I spent a month on an elimination diet. Starting two days later, I felt a million times better! The stomach pains starting going away, the bloating started going away, my skin started clearing up, and I was less tired. I had more energy than I had had in a long time. I had eliminated most sugars, gluten, dairy, citrus, and "moldy" items like peanuts, mushrooms, etc. After the month was over, I brought back one item at a time, over 48 hours, and was easily able to tell the things that did not agree with me - definitely dairy, and definitely gluten, along with some citrus. I also eventually did an "official" test, and the results came back as allergic to gluten (protein found in wheat, barley, malt, and rye) and casein (dairy protein).

Pretty bad news for someone whose favourite meal included cheese on a french baguette!

Since the summer, I have been fairly strict about not eating either of those things, and have been feeling a lot better, and have lost some weight. My gains have been tempered somewhat with some stressful issues this summer (mostly work...) but overall, I feel tons better than I have in years.

It has definitely all been a huge learning curve for me - what does and does not contain gluten and/or dairy, what substitutions I can make, what other things there are in the world (teff? amaranth? wha?) to eat. Above all, it has been a lesson in listening to my body. When I unknowingly eat those items, I can tell right away. I can hear my body a little louder now - it's not so stifled under the big loaf of wheat bread.

So, as my friend is starting to do, I'd like to share my experience - through all the learning about new foods, about re-learning how to bake, and about my life in general in a gfcf context.

So, stick around, it'll be fun. Plus you'll get to laugh at all my bread failures. Or, maybe, you're looking for some gfcf goodness. I know there are a lot of gluten-free websites (I like: Gluten Free Gobsmacked and Gluten Free Girl ), and some dairy-free ones too, but not many that combine the two. So maybe, you just love food and arts and crafts and life in general, or you are here for other reasons.