Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Strawberry Mango Coconut Crisp (Gluten Free)

The delightful dish household was hit with one killer cold/flu virus last week. I was completely incapacitated for the better part of the week. And when the plague was finished with me, it moved on to the boy! The nerve of it. 

The worst part? I was hardly interested in any food at all for daaaaaaaays. This was new to me. No matter what goes wrong there is one thing you can be sure of, and it is that I am planning my next meal. Scheming my next snack. So you KNOW there is a problem if I am not hungry. I am only aware of one other occurrence of this, after having my wisdom teeth removed last year, and even that didn't last long (oh hello, pudding cups!).

I eventually realized my lack of interest was due to out-of-order taste buds. Poor little guys had lost their flavour-detecting-powers. And what point is there in eating when everything tastes like sand? None, I tell you. None. I started overloading everything with salt or sugar just to get my fix, the flavour junky that I am. A life without taste buds sure would be a sad life to live...

One of those awful days, the only food I would even consider touching was the soba-noodle-nebiyaki from our favourite Japanese (which we sadly no longer live around the corner from). The craving popped into my head and stayed there stubbornly... the hot, spicy, salty (sinus clearing!) broth swimming with noodles, chicken and egg. I had to have it. So my sweetheart of a boyfriend, already feeling not-so-hot himself, but probably sick of hearing me whine, ran right out and got it for me.

(Isn't he the best?)

That soup. I swear. It is the reason I am still living.

By Saturday we had both mostly recovered, save for some headaches and coughing fits. My taste buds were on the mend and I was craving normalcy. And normalcy for me means gettin' in the kitchen! We also happened to have a huge amount of strawberries deteriorating in the fridge... so I set out to create something yummy with them and this crisp/ crumble is what resulted.

This was like a flavour explosion after a week of bland tasting foods. Once again, I was surprised at how good a gluten free dessert could be. It really doesn't taste it! With the sweet fruit and nutty coconut pieces it is a little bit tropical. But still a familiar-comforting dessert in the way crisps and crumbles are. I would make this again in a heartbeat and share with all my non-GF friends :)

Even if you are not gluten free, you must find a way to get this flavour combo in your mouth. Seriously yummy!


Strawberry Mango Coconut Crisp (Gluten Free)


Switch the butter in the topping for margarine or coconut oil to make this recipe diary free.

Ingredients - Fruit Mixture

2 Cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 Mango, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon agave syrup or honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon
2 Teaspoons corn starch

Ingredients - Topping

1 Cup gluten free baking or pancake mix ( I used Pamela's)
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
1/3 Cup butter, softened
1 Cup large flake coconut, unsweetened

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease the bottom and sides of a pie plate or gratin dish. Cut up the fruit and mix with the agave/ honey, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Set aside.

2. Whisk together the baking mix, sugar, and spices. Add butter and work in with your hands until the dough forms pea-sized pieces, mix in coconut flakes.

3. Press about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Use the palm of your hand to press it flat, this will be a thin layer. Spread the fruit in an even layer over top, and top with the remaining crumble mixture. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the top is browned.

Toppings are endless: a drizzle of full-fat coconut milk , a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of a vanilla bean gelato. I think I'll help myself to that last option right about now.

Recipe adapted from this one.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gluten Free Blueberry Coconut Muffins with Coconut Streusel Topping

The first time I cut wheat from my diet, I lost ten pounds in two months. I was eating salads and nuts and lean protein and very little gluten substitutes.  My intention had mainly been to be healthy, not to lose weight, but it sure was a great bonus. I felt lighter and better all over.  And then I started to discover things... like gluten free cupcakes! And cookies! And Nanaimo bars!

Uh ooooh.

Turns out a lot of chocolate bars are gluten free, same goes for ice cream. And chips. And popcorn.  Then of course I started to try out things like wheat free breads, pastas, and cereals. I found there are some fantastic substitutes out there. I realized that living gluten free might not have to mean living without all of these delicious foods. 

But it does mean I'll have to get my butt to the gym. Especially if I keep eating these muffins!

As I mentioned yesterday, I am brand new to the world of gluten free baking.  And a bit intimidated by it at that. So, I chose to eliminate some of the guess work involved and use a pre-made gluten free flour blend here. I'm not up for having to buy and measure out 8 different flours quite yet. I'm just dipping my toes in here.

To be perfectly honest, I was completely surprised by how easy and good these muffins turned out to be. I had myself convinced that gluten free baking was hard, something I couldn't possibly master. And that the results would suck. I have tried some wheat free baked goods that simply don't measure up to their gluten-y counter parts. They can be overly dense, dry, grainy and just plain YUCK.

But these little cuties puffed up beautifully in the oven and are moist and tender and bursting with sweet blueberries. And that topping. It's ridiculous. This is such a great beginner recipe. I brought the muffins to a picnic and even my wheat-eating friends loved them!

Gluten Free Blueberry Coconut Streusel Muffins

This recipe can very easily be made dairy free too, just swap the butter in the batter  for oil, and the butter in the topping for dairy free margarine or coconut oil.

Makes 16 Muffins


1 1/2 Cups all purpose gluten free flour mix (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 Cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 Cup light brown sugar
1/3 Cup melted butter
2 Large eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract (gluten free)
1 1/4 Cups coconut milk
1 1/2 Cups fresh blueberries

Streusel Topping

1/3 Cup butter, melted
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/3 Cup all purpose gluten free flour
2/3 Cup coconut (I used half shredded and half coconut ribbons)


1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, coconut, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. In separate bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and beat well. With mixer on low, alternate between adding the flour mixture and coconut milk until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

3. Mix all ingredients for topping together in a small bowl. Use an ice cream scoop to fill liners about 2/3 full with muffin batter. Press 1-2 Tablespoons of topping on to each muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating once halfway through, until topping is browned and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from pan to cool.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

I am submitting this post to Food Allergy Awareness Day hosted by Tastespotting and the FIAPlease note that this recipe has not been reviewed by FAI or medical experts. Avoidance is the only accepted course of treatment for food allergy. Always verify ingredients or food products by checking with the manufacturer and/or your physician to ensure that any foods are safe for your unique allergy issues.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On Eating Gluten Free...

It is National Food Allergy Awareness Week in the states, and although we are in Canada, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a bit of my experience with food allergies on the blog. I don’t want to get TOO personal. Ultimately, this blog is just about pretty pictures of yummy food. But I can’t ignore the fact that this food goes into my body. And I need to treat my body well.

I have had stomach and digestion issues since I was a teenager, but up until recently I was more about band-aids and quick fixes than looking for solutions. Don’t ask me why… I can be slow to catch on sometimes! Anyway, over the past couple of years – through elimination diets, many doctors’ visits, plus a lot of trial and error, denial and frustration – I have come to the likelihood that the culprit is, sadly, wheat.

Gluten.Wheat. Flour. The main ingredient in all those delightfully light and fluffy pastries I love soooo much.

Lord, no.

Does being healthy really have to mean living without cakes and brownies and profiteroles? I have searched high and low for a solution that doesn’t point to wheat, but it just isn’t happening.  Since the first time I ruled out wheat, I have fallen off the wagon more than once. And once it was for like… half a year. The consequences of that were not fun. Denial doesn’t make this any easier. Many of you know the feeling. That sinking, hopeless sensation that comes with discovering a food allergy…

You mean I can’t eat that for HOW LONG?! 

Oh, just the rest of your life. No big deal.

Yeeeaaah... right. No big deal at all.

It begins to look like you will never enjoy food again... But then there is the over-the-top joy that comes with finding something amazingly delicious that is also gluten free. It is pretty much the best feeling ever.   And let me tell you, those brownies pictured above? They were a god send.

They were made with a mix from Trader Joe's (sorry, can't find a link), and were the first thing I baked after going gluten free. They were nothing fancy. But they saved me. To be perfectly honest, I have been a bit scared to start baking gluten free.

OK, not scared… terrified.

See, you give me flour, butter, eggs, and sugar and I KNOW I can throw it all together into something freaking delicious. But take away any one of those variables, and I am lost. Baking is something I consider myself GOOD at. I am so scared that being gluten free will take that away from me. But I have far too big a sweet tooth to give it up that easily. So I will come back fighting, with an arsenal of gluten free flours, and give it another try.

I want to be clear that I am not Celiac (as far as I know) and this is not a gluten free blog. I still bake for friends and family using wheat flour. And although its a slippery slope, I do sample a bite here and there myself. However, I will be giving lots of gluten free recipes a try, so stay tuned for those. When a recipe is gluten free, it will be clearly stated.

Be back soon, with mmmmuffins! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Snapshots of Spring and a Quinoa Salad

It's Spring. It's Friday. The sun is out. I couldn't be happier.

The last few weekends have been filled with brunching, shopping and lounging in the sunshine.

Plus some spring cleaning... but I won't share pictures of that. 

(Brunch at Cafe Medina in Vancouver)

(Waffle with white chocolate pistachio rosewater dipping sauce. Oh. Em. Gee. was this ever good)

This weekend to come should hold more of the same... plus a quick trip to the states AND our first BBQ Picnic of the season. Yay!

I hope I'm not boring you with the salads... I have been making a quinoa salad of some sort almost weekly this spring, and I am still loving them! Quinoa is just so good. and easy. and versatile. 

This one features in-season asparagus, the first of the plump, juicy grape tomatoes (they aren't quite there yet, but not long now!), and creamy dreamy goat cheese. Douse with balsamic vinaigrette and enjoy for lunches or as a side with grilled chicken or fish throughout the week.

Me? I can't wait to grab this salad and a bottle of chilled white wine and head to the park for the afternoon. 



Spring Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Chickpeas and Goat Cheese



1 Cup Quinoa
1 Bunch Asparagus, blanched and cooled
1 Pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 Cup marinated artichoke hearts, coursely chopped
1 Can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 Bunch (3-4 stems) green onions, thinly sliced
6 Oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled


1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 Garlic clove, crushed or minced
Pinch each salt & pepper
3/4 Cup olive oil

1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions. I personally like to use just a little less water than directions usually say, it makes for a slightly drier end result. Once quiona is cooked (about 15 minutes), fluff with a fork and refrigerate to cool while you chop the vegetables and prepare the rest of the salad.

2. To make dressing, combine first 5 ingredients (excluding oil) and whisk together. Slowly add oil while whisking quickly, the dressing should thicken slightly.

3. Once quinoa is cooled, combine with the vegetables in a bowl, crumble in goat cheese, drizzle with dressing, and toss to combine.

Delicious served on a bed of baby arugula or spinach.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pizza Night

I made pizza last week. I swear to you, as I am sitting here typing up this post I can actually SMELL pizza. It is possible my neighbors are having pizza, but it's more likely that I'm finally losing my mind. Either way, I really want pizza, like... NOW! 

This pizza crust is a great healthy alternative to regular wheat crust. Since its made without yeast, meaning it doesn't need time to rise, it's quick and easier to throw together too. I would normally never dream of making a from-scratch pizza crust on a weeknight after work, but I did that here and dinner was ready before I knew it. Give this a try if you're trying to cut back on white flour like me, or if you just enjoy the chewy wholesome bite of whole grains.

The pizza you see here is topped with a simple white sauce, plus loads of sautéed mushrooms and spinach. To be honest though, I think I missed the tomato sauce. I might have even enjoyed the boys version more (not photographed), which had tomato sauce, spicy capicolo, and roasted peppers. For next time I'm thinking spicy chicken sausage, fennel and olives... or maybe a seafood pizza, the options are endless.

I love pizza night. 

100% Spelt Pizza Crust

Another benefit of this recipe is that the absence of yeast makes a less elastic dough, which is VERY easy to roll out. No more tossing and tugging!

Makes 2 X 12 Inch Round Pizza Crusts


    2 Cups whole grain spelt flour, plus  more for kneading
    2 Teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 Teaspoon fine sea salt
    1/2 Teaspoon sugar
    1 Cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
    1/4 Cup whole milk
    2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 Egg

1. Combine the spelt flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl - or the bowl of a stand mixture - and whisk until combined. Push the mixture up the sides of the bowl to make a well.  In a separate bowl, beat together the ricotta, milk, oil and the egg until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the centre of the well. Mix gently, gradually incorporating the flour into the wet ingredients, until a moist dough forms.

2. Fit your mixer with the dough hook attachment and set the bowl on the stand, kneading on medium for between 30 seconds to 1 minute, or just until the dough comes together in a smooth, but still tacky, ball. Alternately, lightly flour your hands and briefly knead the dough by hand for 7 to 10 turns, to get the same result.

Note: During this step I added 1-2 tablespoons additional flour to my dough, as I found it was too moist and was sticking to the sides of the bowl.

3. Cover your dough and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, this step is meant to let the bran in the whole spelt flour soften up. Meanwhile, you can prepare all of your other pizza ingredients and preheat the oven.

4. Unwrap the dough and divide into two parts. Begin to roll one half of the dough out onto a large piece of parchment paper with a rolling pin. Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin as you go, turning and rolling in each direction until the dough is a large uniform circle. Lift the parchment and use it to slide the pizza onto a pizza pan or peel, it should slide off easily. Repeat with second pizza crust.

Cover pizzas with sauce, cheese, and your favourite toppings. Bake at 500 F. until toppings are cooked and the crust is crisp and golden brown, about 15 minutes. 

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Easy Little Dark Chocolate Mousse Cups

Some days call for indulgence. Maybe you’ve stuck to your diet for a whole entire month and deserve a treat. Perhaps you passed economics with flying colours, went through with a tough-to-make-decision, or have a special anniversary to celebrate. Or maybe its just a rainy Thursday.  

Whatever your reason, these light, creamy little cups of heaven will fit the bill. They are simple enough to make, but to me, feel oh so special.

My mom used to make chocolate mousse from time to time when I was growing up. Most likely it was the Jell-O brand kind from a box, but I don’t remember having any problem with that.  What I do remember is creeping to the fridge and taking a big chocolatey spoonful before it was “ready”, and praying I wouldn’t get caught.
As an adult – if that’s what I’m calling myself these days – Chocolate mousse holds a certain nostalgia, while still feeling like a very elegant  and grown up dessert.

Dark Chocolate Mousse
Makes 8 servings
8 Ounces best-quality dark chocolate, chopped
¼ Cup unsalted butter
3 Eggs, seperated
1 ½ Cups Heavy cream (I used 33%)
3 Tablespoons icing sugar

1. Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Combine chocolate and butter in a heat-proof bowl and set on top of the pot to form a double boiler. Stir often, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside.  
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs yolks, cream, and sugar. Slowly add the egg-cream mixture to the melted chocolate, stirring constantly.
3. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold very stiff peaks. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
4. Pour into individual serving bowls and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Top with whipped cream and berries for serving.

Recipe adapted from Chocolate.