Paleo Shamrock Shake

Oh, hi.

I know I haven’t posted in a while.  I’m sorry.  It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve been busy, and my health has needed more tweaking, and I have been lazy about my diet and haven’t been making as many things from scratch.  I’ll try to do better!

Right now I just really wanted to share this recipe from Primally Inspired.  Even though St. Patrick’s Day was on Sunday, and it’s sort of irrelevant at this point.

I didn’t even bother taking a decent picture of it, so here is one from my iPhone with a terrible vintage filter:

Shamrock Shake with a terrible vintage filter.

I made this for dinner last night, because I had a huge carb-heavy lunch and I was too lazy to make a real dinner after pilates.  And it was awesome.  So:

Paleo-ish Shamrock Shake – Single Serving Edition

    • 3/4 cup unsweetened Coconut Dream
    • 1/2 avocado
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp raw honey
    • 1/2 cup ice cubes
    • 1/2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
    • 1/3 tsp peppermint extract

Blend.

Notes:

The original recipe called for a can of coconut milk.  I didn’t want anything that heavy, so I used Coconut Dream.  Real coconut milk would be creamier.  I also toned down the peppermint extract because I thought it was too strong, but if you’re into that sort of thing then use 1/2 tsp.

Nothing I Make Ever Looks Like the Picture

There’s nothing I enjoy more than spending a bunch of time and using a ton of expensive ingredients, only to end up with a shameful embarrassment of a food.  I have decided to post these failures more often, because if the internet can’t laugh at me, who will?

This past weekend, I was invited to a “cookie party” and decided to bake grain free gingerbread cookies.  The recipe? Paleo Gingerbread Cookies by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason from The Food Lovers Kitchen. If you haven’t seen their cookbook, Make it Paleo, you should check it out, because it’s a great book full of amazing photography.

These are their gingerbread cookies:

© The Food Lovers Kitchen

Cute, right?

My first mistake was probably using blackstrap molasses.  The batter was very dark and sticky, and it was almost impossible to cut out shapes.

Not chocolate.

I had to keep it in the fridge for much longer than the recipe said, but the batter was still warming up too fast when I rolled it out, so I could only get 1 or 2 hilariously deformed shapes out of it before it turned into the mush pictured above.

My boyfriend had the brilliant idea of covering the rolled out batter with ice packs, and only uncovering small parts at a time to cut shapes.  It worked very well, and I was able to get several disfigured men into the oven.

Then I burnt them.

I mean, seriously, what is this?

“SOMEBODY LOVE ME.”

One of my friends pointed out that this is basically the botched Ecce Homo painting of gingerbread cookies.  Although, it did taste like it probably would have tasted good if it weren’t burnt.  (That’s right, I ate it.)

In summary, let’s compare:

ORIGINAL.

Potato Jesus Cookie

MINE.

I’m basically Martha Stewart you guys.

Donuts 2.0

Everyone likes my Gluten-Free Baked Sprinkle Donuts, especially my gluten-eating friends (who once requested that I bake them while drunk at a party, which I did, and they were glorious).

However, I feel like since I stopped eating gluten, I’ve been relying too heavily on Silvana‘s All-Purpose Flour mix from Cooking for Isaiah.  It’s an awesome mix, but I’ve been really wanting to experiment with different flours, and to try ones that are higher in protein and fiber than rice flour.

Especially since I have accumulated a ridiculous amount of flours:

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Baked Donuts
Yield: 10 donuts

1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour/starch
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup golden cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup original almond milk (or other milk substitute)
1 egg
4 Tbsp Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
  3. In a small saucepan on low heat, whisk together almond milk, egg, Earth Balance, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix until it is well blended and feels warm to the touch (do not overheat).
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  5. Put the batter into donut pans.  (I use my finger; some people prefer to pipe the batter into the pans.)
  6. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry and just before the donuts start browning.
  7. Cool and decorate!

Topping

1/2 cup icing sugar
2 Tbsp almond milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Shredded coconut

  1. Mix icing sugar, milk, and vanilla extract into a paste.  Dip donuts in glaze.  Cover with coconut.
I also made some with red sugar, which was a terrible idea because the sugar just melted and now I think the donuts are too sweet.  But oh well.

I was really happy with how the donuts turned out.  They are very moist and delicious!  I definitely want to start using coconut flour in more things.

 

Adventures in (Gluten-Free) Bread-Making

Once upon a time, during a family dinner, my brother asked “which foods would you not be able to live without?

I immediately answered, “bread.”   I would not be able to live without bread, no way.  Bread is the best food in the world.  Covered in butter, toasted with jam, dipped in oil and vinegar.  My favourite was golden flax bread from Stonemill Bakehouse, and if I went to a restaurant, I could polish off an entire basket of bread by myself.

A couple of years ago, I was talking to a friend, and she told me she could no longer eat bread or dairy.  NO BREAD OR DAIRY?  This was the first I’d heard about celiac disease.  I expressed my deepest sympathies and thought to myself: “if I couldn’t eat bread and dairy, I would LITERALLY DIE because that would be the worst.”

It’s amazing how we can adapt when we need to.

I stopped eating gluten last May.  I remember getting a phone call from my boyfriend sometime during the first week.  He was at the grocery store near work, and he said, “I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that I found gluten-free bread!  The bad news is it’s as hard as a rock and it expires in October.”

No thanks.

I have found a couple of local bakeries that make good bread, but I’ve realized I don’t actually miss it all that much, and I rarely buy it.  I hardly flinch when they put the basket of bread in front of me at restaurants (they always put it in front of me).  I don’t get mad when we visit my boyfriend’s parents and everyone eats crazy bread in front of me.  I even choose to eat burgers with a fork, even though I’ve found a company that makes delicious gluten-free buns.

So it turns out I won’t actually die from lack of bread.  Amazing!

That being said, my mom got me a gorgeous Emile Henry ceramic loaf pan for Christmas, and I bought a KitchenAid mixer from Amazon during Boxing Week sales (it was 60% off! and I had gift cards!  it only cost me around $40!), so I’ve been wanting to bake bread.  FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!

I spent ages trying to find a recipe, but all of the ones I found were for a bread maker, or they were flavoured (like pumpkin cranberry), or they used about 40 ingredients I don’t have, and I wanted to make something basic.  I ended up finding a recipe on the celiac.com forums and thought it looked pretty good (read: simple).  I’m not generally a huge fan of bread made from rice flour, but this was an experiment, not a Food Network competition (that’s a thing, right?).

Moments of panic during the bread-making process:

  • “It doesn’t say which attachment to use for the mixer!  Do I use the regular beater or the dough hook?!  AHHHHH!”
  • “It says to let the yeast proof for 15 minutes but it’s taking me longer than that to do the next step!  What if it’s sitting for too long?!  AHHHHH!”
  • “The recipe doesn’t say what kind of oil to use!  AHHHHH!”
  • “Where am I supposed to put the bread to let it rise?!  AHHHHH!”
  • “The recipe doesn’t say which size pan to use!  What if mine is the wrong size?!  AHHHHH!”

I was excited to see the bread rise.  Bread is so cool.  I love science.

I forced myself not to peek in the oven until the timer went off.  When it did, I saw this:

Holy crap!  Could this be a success?!

Yep, that looks like bread.  Magic!

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Sandwich Bread Recipe

  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3/4 cup white rice flour
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp oil (I used grapeseed oil)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  1. Mix yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl.  Let it rise for 15-20 minutes. You should have at least 1 1/2 inch of foam on top of the water.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together.
  3. Put eggs, oil and vinegar in the stand mixer bowl and mix for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is creamy.
  4. Add proofed yeast and all dry ingredients into egg mixture. Mix for 4-5 minutes with the dough hook attachment, scraping the sides at least once with a spatula.
  5. Line your bread pan with parchment paper.  Using a spatula, scoop the dough into the pan and shape into a loaf.  Let it rise for 50-60 minutes, or until the dough reaches the top of the pan.  At some point during this time, preheat your oven to 375F.
  6. Bake for 55-60 minutes.  Let it cool for 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Verdict:  Not bad!  It has a strong rice flavour that I don’t like, but it’s good covered in Earth Balance, especially fresh out of the oven.  It’s really, really soft with a nice crunchy crust.  I’m interested to see how long it lasts over the next few days.

Yay!  I don’t need to use my “kitchen failures” tag!

Gluten-Free in Las Vegas

A couple of weekends ago, I went to Las Vegas with my mom and four aunts.  I went for the first time this July with friends, and made a critical error food-wise.  When I googled “gluten free Vegas”, I found that there are a TON of restaurants with gluten-free options, or even entirely gluten-free menus upon request.  Awesome, right?

Right.  Unless you’re a vegetarian.

It hadn’t occurred to me that “gluten-free” and “vegetarian” aren’t frequently overlapping concepts in the touristy areas of Las Vegas.  Gluten-free options at restaurants are usually meat, more meat, and sometimes fish.  I was traveling with a huge group of people, and the last thing I wanted to do was inconvenience anyone.  That led to an unhealthy weekend of sub-par salads and watching my friends eat THE MOST DELICIOUS PIZZA I’D EVER SEEN.  I also ate Tex-Mex twice (basically just corn tortillas and cheese).

I did find one good place – Maggiano’s.  When I asked about their gluten-free options, they had the chef come out and speak to me personally.  He created a pasta dish just for me, and it was really good.  All of my non-GF friends liked the food there as well.

THIS TIME I was determined not to make the same mistake as in July, so I did a lot of research beforehand and read lots of menus and made a list of restaurants.

First and foremost, I found out there’s a freaking Whole Foods right by the airport on Las Vegas Blvd.  My mom and I headed there right after we checked into our hotel, so I could load up on snacks.

This store turned me into a crazy person.  This store made Whole Foods Toronto look like a gas station convenience store.  I completely lost the purpose of this visit and ended up buying $86 of groceries that I somehow needed to bring back to Canada in my tiny carry on suitcase.  (By the way, that $86 of groceries would have easily cost $150 at home.)

Look how much agave you people have! Do you know how many bottles I have to choose from at home? 2.

Not to mention WHOLE FOODS MARSHMALLOWS.

Fun fact: I asked an employee at the Toronto store why they don’t have Whole Foods brand stuff like marshmallows, and he said it’s because of French language laws for packaging. By law, our packages have to have both English and French. Apparently Whole Foods doesn’t think it makes financial sense to print special labels for its small handful of Canadian stores.

For dinner that night, we tried to get a reservation at Maggiano’s, but it was booked.  In fact, so was everything else on the list I’d made.  So much for that.  The concierge recommended Ferraro’s, so we went there.  All of the pasta dishes contained either meat or cheese, and I couldn’t eat either so I asked the server about my options.

“What can’t you eat?”
“Gluten, dairy, and meat.”  Side note: the look on people’s faces when I say that is endlessly amusing.  A cross between “what the hell is wrong with you?” and “shit, that sucks.”
“Okay, why don’t you try something different instead of pasta?”
“Like what?”
“Meat.”

Didn’t I just… oh, nevermind.  I ended up with gluten free pasta and tomato sauce.   It was… pasta and tomato sauce.  Boring.

The next morning, we went on a helicopter tour and drank champagne in the Grand Canyon.

That was really amazing.  The helicopter ride was the main reason I bought snacks at Whole Foods, because I didn’t want to be trapped in a helicopter for 4 hours with no food.  It ended up being shorter, and I could eat all the snacks provided by the tour company.

That night, we went to Mon Ami Gabi, the fairly expensive French restaurant in the Paris hotel.  Their gluten-free menu was all meat, but they were the only restaurant I found who advertised gluten-free bread.  I figured I could eat bread and a big salad for dinner.  It turns out they were SUPER accommodating, and even had a gluten-free dairy-free vegetarian item on their main menu.  It was essentially just vegetables, but they were seasoned really well and the restaurant seemed really careful with cross-contamination.  The bread was delicious too.

Overall, it was a really fun trip.  We saw Terry Fator (not my choice, but it was kind of fascinating) and Cirque du Soleil’s Love, which was probably the best show I’ve ever seen.  I saw O in July, and I’m still embarrassed to admit that I SLEPT THROUGH HALF THE SHOW because I was so hypothyroid I could hardly keep my eyes open.  No sleeping during Love!

I’m off to campaign for Whole Foods marshmallows in Canada.

Vegan Pesto

“Hey Jen?  Why is this photo so terrible?”

Good question, self!  I started this blog to encourage myself to cook more, bake more, and work on my food photography.  I’m a fairly lazy person, and when I went gluten-free in May I realized I couldn’t eat Kraft Dinner anymore.  I have to actually prepare meals.  And if I want to be healthy, I need to learn about proper nutrition, both in general and for my specific health issues.  What better place to learn than among passionate people who write about this stuff every day?

I do photography for a living, but with all of my chronic health issues I’ve barely been able to work for most of this year.  My body cannot currently take 16-hour film shoots outdoors in below zero weather where the only thing on the craft table is bagels and Tim Hortons donuts.  I can’t handle being on my feet all day when I currently need a nap after loading the dishwasher.  If I had a normal job, I would be on disability.  But I don’t.  Instead, I’ve been focusing on stock photography so I can maintain a passive income stream on the days where I don’t feel well enough to work.

Food photography always seemed super easy to me.  I’ve got to eat at least 3 times a day, right?  That’s easily 3 stock photos right there!  Except… no.  I’ve realized that I hate setting up food photoshoots.  When something is ready to eat, I want to shove it in my face.  Patience is not my best quality.  I have a lot of respect for food bloggers who take amazing photographs, like Angela, Elana, Deb, everyone who shows up on FoodBuzz’s top 9, etc.

When I made this pesto,  I already started stirring it into my corn pasta before I thought to myself, “maaaaybe I should snap a quick picture for my blog.”  I’m glad I did, because THIS IS THE BEST PESTO I’VE EVER HAD.  It was delicious.  For the next few days, I put pesto on everything.  Pasta, wraps, pizza, cupcakes.  (Okay, maybe not cupcakes.)

Vegan Pesto

1 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup pine nuts
5 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until nuts are ground. Pesto should still have texture and not be completely smooth. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

YUM.  The stupid thing is, I haven’t been able to find any basil at the grocery store since I made this.  Not even Whole Foods had fresh basil.  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FUEL MY PESTO ADDICTION WHEN I CAN’T FIND ANY BASIL?

I’m off to Vegas for the weekend with my mom and aunts.  Don’t eat all the pesto while I’m gone.

Gluten Free Angel Food Cake & Boiled Icing Recipe

My family celebrates “fake” holidays now, since we aren’t always in the same city for the real ones.  Sunday was Fake Jen’s Birthday (me!), and it was glorious.

On Saturday, my boyfriend and I went to Whole Foods to see if I could find some flours I’ve been looking for (Garbanzo-Fava and Arrowroot).  I haven’t been there since one of my friends worked there when I was in university.  IT WAS MAGICAL.  So expensive, but full of food I can eat.  They even had samples of fresh gluten-free bread from a local bakery, Aidan’s.  I was skeptical, having tasted other gluten-free “bread”, but this one was delicious!  I bought 2 loaves of bread and a bunch of supplies to make chili.  And $30 of raw coconut oil, but we don’t have to talk about that.

On Sunday, I went to my parents’ place and my mom and I made Angel Food Cake.  My grandma used to make this with boiled icing when I was a kid.  It was my favourite, but I haven’t had it since before she died, so at least 7 years.  We found a gluten-free recipe and my mom dug up my grandma’s old icing recipe.

The cake recipe calls for a 10″ tube pan.  That’s TEN inches.  So if you happen to have taken possession of your grandma’s old angel food cake pan, measure it because it might be only 9″ and then this will happen:

Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake
Adapted from this recipe.

1 2/3 cup egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup + 2tbsp corn starch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar, sifted

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Whisk together potato starch, corn starch and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla.
  4. Beat on high speed with electric mixer until mixture is stiff and stands in peaks, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Do not over beat.
  5. Reduce the speed to medium-high and sprinkle in the 1 cup of sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, for about 1 minute.
  6. Put mixer on lowest speed and slowly add the sifted flour and sugar mixture for about 1 1/2 minutes.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, carefully pour out the mixture into an ungreased 10″ tube pan.  Bake for 35 minutes.
  8. Invert and suspend the pan and let cool completely.

Inverting is the tricky part.  My grandma used to balance the lip of the pan on 2 Coke cans, but since our cake basically exploded out the top of the pan we needed something that wouldn’t touch the cake.  We ended up using a paper towel holder:

Which was great until I turned around and this happened:

You can also use:

  • The neck of a bottle
  • Clothes pins clipped around the edge of the pan

Boiled Icing Recipe

1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan; stir until well blended. Boil slowly without stirring until mixture will spin a long thread when a little is dropped from a spoon (hold the spoon high above saucepan), or it reaches 238 – 242 degrees F (114 – 117 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with a mixer until they are stiff, but still moist. Pour hot syrup slowly over egg whites while beating. Continue until mixture is very fluffy, and will hold its shape. Add vanilla, and beat until blended.

The icing was PERFECT.  As soon as I ate some I had a massive flashback to my childhood.

The cake was good too, despite the “too small pan” fiasco.  When we covered it with icing, you couldn’t even tell there was a destroyed pile of angel food cake underneath!

Yum.  Fake birthday: successful.

27

I turned 27 on Wednesday.

This is going to be a good year.  I just need to crawl out of this slump.  It’s been 6 weeks since I increased my thyroid medication, which means I am due for another increase, and currently feeling about as bad as it gets.  I’m not nearly as sick as I was last time, but I am still sluggish and exhausted, every single one of my joints is aching, and I can’t even go into a downward dog or lift my freaking food processor to put it away in the cupboard because I feel so weak.

Since I had to cut out dairy, I’ve been fairly miserable.  I’ve had random bouts of depression, which others have suggested might be from the hormones in milk that I’m no longer supplying to my body.  I’ve also been constantly putting myself into a very stupid cycle of being too tired to make my own meals, not being able to eat anything else because EVERYTHING EVER contains gluten and/or dairy, then feeling worse because I haven’t eaten anything, and then feeling even less like making food… which usually has me in tears by around 7pm because I’m hungry, exhausted, and frustrated.  FUN!

And I miss cheese.  This is worse than my last breakup.

Last weekend I made a meal plan for the week and went to the grocery store to stock up on ingredients.  I forgot to factor in the whole “by dinnertime I’m going to be too exhausted to stand up in the kitchen to make a meal” thing, so my boyfriend has been cooking most of the time.  I haven’t felt like posting, or taking pictures, or doing much of anything at all.  So.  Not the best birthday ever, but I bet by next year I will be feeling the healthiest I’ve ever felt!  Check out the awesome positive thinking over here!  High five!

I can’t eat dairy.

I finally saw the doctor I waited 3 months to see.  He was nice, incredibly knowledgeable, and actually rolled his eyes at the things I told him other doctors have said to me.  He said he gets a lot of patients who have had doctors tell them they have “psychological problems” without trying to find the source of their problems.

He’s hooked me up with 3 requisition forms worth of blood tests, and a saliva adrenal panel that I have to mail to the USA with a customs form that explains that there might be saliva or human feces in the box.  HAVE FUN GUESSING WHICH ONE, CUSTOMS AGENT!

He gave me some supplements to take in the meantime, and reassured me that I’m not crazy and my problem is extremely common.  I could have hugged him.

And then I could have punched him, because he told me I should stop eating dairy.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

I had a surprisingly easy time giving up gluten.  I’m not going to pretend that I don’t still miss a buttload of my favourite foods, and that it doesn’t suck whenever I want to go on vacation or out with my friends, but overall I have done a really good job with my new diet.  Almost 6 months and I’ve never cheated once (except by accident), and truthfully, I don’t really miss it all that much.

But I love dairy.  I love milk, I love cheese, I love yogurt.  I eat a huge bowl of Greek yogurt for breakfast, I put cheese on everything, and I drink milk every day.  I have had a REALLY hard time this past week.  It didn’t help that we had just gone grocery shopping a couple of days before my appointment and bought a TON of dairy products.  Which I ate shamelessly, telling myself I’d only eat stuff we already bought, but I couldn’t buy anything new.

Now it’s all gone, and I’m completely off dairy.  I have no idea how I am going to accomplish being a gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian.  I’m trying to stay positive, but… cheese.

Sad face.