Monthly Archives: March 2011

Gluten-Free Baking Class? Yes Please! Part 2

Hello, it’s Ally again.

Thank you for all the positive comments on my first posting about the gluten-free baking class that Kelley and I attended at the City Arts Centre last month.

If you remember the last post featured light and fluffy celiac-friendly scones and this post goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and features crisp thin homemade gluten-free crackers!

So, let’s get right to it!

First off, even though you make your own flour, this is probably the simplest recipe I have ever made!

Making the nut flour is possible in a “drinks” blender, if it is built for it.  My blender  is made for crushing ice for slushy drinks and it worked, but for best results use a food processor.  In fact, your standard run-of-the-blender would likely not be powerful enough.

Our instructor, Jody Shenkarek, got this great cracker recipe from the Green Kitchen Stories blog:

Gluten-Free Nut Crackers

2 cups nuts and/or seeds (Kelley, Jean & I chose mostly sunflower seeds with sesame, pumpkin, cashew and almonds)
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sea salt

Toppings: salt, herbs, garlic … whatever you like. We left them plain, but the recipe advises brushing them with Braggs liquid aminos and sprinkling sesame seeds on top.

  • Preheat oven to 360 °F (not 350°F) and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Mix nuts/seeds into a flour in a blender or food processor.
  • Put in a bowl and add egg, water and salt. Stir until a stiff dough is formed.
  • Divide in two and place half on each of the two baking sheets covered in parchment.
  • Roll out into rectangles about 2 to 3 mm thick. If dough is sticky (you bet it is!) put another sheet of parchment on top to keep the rolling pin from sticking.
  • Cut into sticks or squares mist with a little water and sprinkle on toppings.
  • Bake for roughly 10 minutes – you must watch them as they burn easily.
  • Store in jars. Make sure they are perfectly airtight as these have no preservatives and you want them to stay crisp.

These turned out so great in class, in fact out of the two cracker recipes we tried this was by far the best one.  In case you are watching your salt intake you can leave it out; Jean and I thought the added salt was quite unnecessary for our taste, while Kelley thought it was just right.

Since the crackers turned out so great and the recipe left me some latitude to to try different nut and seed combos, I couldn’t wait to experiment with different nut mixes at home.  I finally got around to it towards the end of February which was a very busy day for me.  In hindsight, I would have had much better results if I hadn’t felt rushed….

Here are the proportions of nut and seed mixes that I tried out:

Pecan: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 ½ Cups Pecans!

Pistachio: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, 1 Cup Pistachio’s, ¼ Cup Sesame

Pumpkin: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup Sesame, 1 Cup Pumpkin.

Cashew: ¼ Cup Hemp Seeds, ½ Cup Sunflower seeds, ¼ Cup sliced Almonds, 1 Cup Cashews

I love to experiment when I’m cooking and rarely stick to the recipe when making a meal, because I like more spices than most recipes call for.  Baking on the other hand is not quite as flexible, but I was fairly certain that I could safely experiment with this recipe.

So for half of the pecan mix I added about an 1/8 cup of defrosted frozen blueberries, and with half of the Pumpkin mix I added 1 tablespoon of fennel candies, which I love.

As I mentioned, I was quite rushed and tried to do too much in too little time (2 ½  hours), so I did not pay enough attention to the thicknesses when I was rolling out the cracker dough.  In addition, I only own two cookie sheets so I was pre- rolling the nut mixtures on parchment, while the first batch was in the oven, and finally, I do not own a rolling pin so I was rolling out with a juice glass.

Sigh.

As you can imagine it was a bit crazy.

To achieve better results each batch should have been split between two baking sheets rather than trying to crowd it all onto one.  Adding the berries and candied fennel certainly made for yummy flavour combos but those turned out to be more biscuit-like than the crispy cracker I was after, and they had to be refrigerated which kept them moist. Although tasty, very “uncracker-like”.

I wanted snack crackers that could be eaten without toppings so I deleted the salt. My personal favourite is the Pumpkin with Candied Fennel, next is Pecan, because they are my favourite nut and I cannot get enough of them. The Cashew was most popular with friends – even those who generally don’t favour cashews. I think it is because they were the most “cracker-like” in flavour, were the best thickness, or rather THIN-ness, and worked with toppings or with dips. I did love the taste of the pistachio sticks but they were much too thick, though I could call them mini-biscotti, and pretend that was on purpose.

I highly encourage you to try out this recipe as it is very simple and quick for a single batch, then you could comment back to Kelley about your successes, experiments and tasty mistakes!

Click to print recipe

Advertisements

Hungry? Why not Eat Alberta!

Since this is a vegetarian cooking blog, I won’t ask if you are interested in making your own sausage, but what about cheese making and tasting, or how about apple pie and pastry making,  pasta making, or best of all slow rise pizza dough making?

If any of these sound interesting to you then you will want to consider attending the Eat Alberta Conference on April 30, 2011 here in Edmonton.

The sessions will take place downtown from 8:30am until 5:00pm and get started with a continental breakfast, lunch break with a cheese, charcuterie (I think I will stick with the cheese -haha), and artisan bread pairing and “wine down” with a wine tasting at the end of the day.  Of course you know everything is going to taste wonderful being that this conference is organized by local foodies and bloggers, such as The Canadian Foodie, Brulee Blog, and Only Here for the Food.

Aside from the fantastic activities I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the day gets underway with an open session on urban gardening and gets everyone together at the end of the day for a session on urban homesteading, which sounds really interesting!

Throughout the day, you can choose from honey tasting with Lola Canola.  This is something I have always wanted to do.  I think it would be incredible to taste different types of honey and associate each of them with their respective flowers!

The conference also offers sessions on coffee tasting and how to make the perfect cup of coffee with the experts from Transcend, and of course more wine and cheese with a Canadian wine and local cheese tasting.

Best of all there is a local edible plants session!

This One-Day-Hands-On-Do-It-Yourself local food conference will be the place to be the last Saturday in April.  So take a peak at your calendar and save the date and plan to Eat Alberta!

Click on www.eatalberta.ca to register and find out more about this exciting food-filled day!

Gluten-Free Baking Class? Yes Please!

Hi Everyone, Ally here, I am excited make a guest appearance on Kelley’s fantastic food blog!

As you know from Kelley’s recent post she and EPC have had a very busy month or so thanks to Coco, the new adorable addition to their family. In the midst of her hectic month Kelley did make time to attend a Gluten-Free Baking Class, with me, at the City Arts Centre. It was her idea, because she loves baking, and I am the lucky Celiac friend who often benefits from her passion for new foods.

There were 11 of us in the class, all ladies, about a 50/50 split between “there for their own health or interest” and “there for their husband’s gluten intolerance.”

“Where are all the husbands?” Kelley wondered aloud.

After brief introductions and a short overview by our instructor, Jody Shenkarek (former co-owner of the fabulous Cafe Mosaics), we split up into groups of 2 or 3 and headed into the large kitchen to test our baking skills. Each group had chosen two of the recipes in the handout provided so that by the end of the evening we would be able to sample a bit of everything.

Kelley and I were joined by a lovely older lady named Jean and the three of us set to work mixing up a batch of  Basic Gluten Free Flour Mix.  We made a double batch to provide the basic ingredients for most of the groups. Rather than sifting we mixed the Basic Flour ingredients with a whisk which certainly did the trick.
Our group’s first recipe was for Basic Scones, which was very exciting! Both Kelley and I  love scones!

Baking by committee in a crowded kitchen had its challenges but we managed to gather all the ingredients measure them properly and keep track. In the recipe it says to flour a surface and your hands when splitting the dough into two batches. Well, the GF flour mix doesn’t behave like regular wheat flour so Jody, our instructor, took over – simply plopping the halved dough right onto the parchment and using slightly floured hands to shape it. It provided a good “teachable moment” for her.

Our scones turned out perfect and all three of us were quite pleased.

I have since made these scones at home adding an eighth of a cup (1/8 C) defrosted frozen blueberries to one half, and sprinkling chopped pistachios and mission figs on top of the second half. They turned out delicious! However the berries added a lot of moisture so the scones needed an extra
3 to 5 minutes to fully cook and brown nicely. Personally I think you should experiment with the options – I used to love Berry and White Chocolate, or Cheese and Spinach scones – from Good Earth Café in Calgary. The Basic Scone recipe is straightforward and easy to experiment with, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

Once our scones were in line for the oven, we set to work on the Nut Crackers. I will continue with this recipe in Part 2 of Gluten-Free Baking Class!

Stay tuned.

Basic Gluten Free Flour Mix (makes 6 cups of basic mix)

4 Cups Superfine Brown Rice Flour
1 & 1/3 Cups Potato Starch (NOT potato flour)
2/3 Cup Tapioca flour (which is a.k.a. tapioca starch)

  • Sift in bowl or put into an extra-large Ziplock bag and shake to mix – keep remainder refrigerated!

Caution: when measuring, pour into measuring cup rather than scooping it – Then level off the top with a knife.
This will avoid packing it too densely and mixing  up the proportions.

Basic Scones (makes 1 dozen)

3/4 cup of plain yogurt (I used plain dessert tofu with no problems!)
3/4 cup milk (substitute rice or soy milk to make them dairy-free)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups Basic Gluten Free Flour mix (see above)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (NOT wax paper)
  • In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon & milk – set aside
  • In a large bowl whisk together all other (dry) ingredients.
  • Once it is well mixed add the wet ingredients and the oil, using a wooden spoon until it is well combined but still clumpy.
  • Divide the dough in half and plop onto cookie sheet – flour your hands and the top of the dough shape into two (6 inch diameter) discs (add optional ingredients to the top at this point if not added already)
  • Cut each disc into 6 “pie” slices and then bake in the centre of the oven for 15 to 17 minutes – transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm.

Optional ingredients: berries – 1 cup, chocolate chips ¾ cup

Recipes adapted from The Allergen Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal.

Click to print

Cookbook extraordinare: Ms. Moskowitz’s Appetite For Reduction

Prior to the release of Appetite for Reduction, I worked up my appetite for Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new vegan cookbook by making one of the sneak peek recipes off her website. The Baked Onion Rings turned out fantastic and upped my anticipation for the cookbook by 100%.

The first recipe that I tried from the actual cookbook pages were the  Chipotle Lentil Burgers.  They are spicy and delicious.  One of the big problems with vegetable burgers is that they do not hold together well.  Even if they taste great, but fall apart while cooking or while eating, they get a failing grade from me.  Moskowitz’s  burgers held up to cooking, despite begin flipped numerous times, and while begin squeezed between two halves of a whole wheat bun.  The recipe made 6 well-sized burgers and 1 each was all EPC and I needed, along-side our roasted vegetables, to be satisfied.   In addition the burgers are darn easy to make – another plus.

Now I had to decide what to make next.


I had a couple of ripe mangos in the fridge which prompted me to make Mango BBQ Beans and the suggested accompaniment, Fresh Corn and Scallion Corn Bread.  Both were good; however, EPC couldn’t get enough of the corn bread and for me the beans stole the show.  You know that rhyme that ends “and betwixt the both of them they licked the platter clean”, or something to that effect, well in the end it worked out well: neither of us fought over the leftovers. The recipe also prompted me to purchase my first bottle of liquid smoke.  I put in half of what the recipe asked for, because I was a little apprehensive of “smoking out” the beans, but I think Ms. Moskowitz got it right.

Sigh – I should have known better.

Finally, and best of all, the beans and the corn bread were both dead easy to make!

Her falafel recipe is fantastic too and best of all (like the onion rings) does not rely on a deep fryer for flavour.   The falafel came together in no time flat and I took her suggestion and served them atop organic greens, tomatoes, grated carrots and cucumber.  I probably took away the intended low-fat component to this recipe by topping the falafel patties  and greens with a tahini sauce, but I can’t have falafel without tahini!  Oh yes, I realized half way through my meal that I had forgotten to take a photo – I guess I was just too excited to get down to eating!

Next on my list was an easy choice: Curry Laksa.  You can never go wrong with coconut milk, veggies and curry!  And this recipe is oh so right!  The red curry paste, lime juice, ginger and garnish of cilantro quickly add flavour and pizzaz to this time saving meal.  I am a huge fan of coconut noodle soups and this is one of my favourites.  It is delicious and very quick to make.  Both EPC and I absolutely loved it.  I think the author is right when she says that this dish may not be authentic, but with the speed and flavour the lack of authenticity hardly matters.

Now that I have sufficiantly raved about the recipes I should talk a little bit about the overall content of the cookbook.  Appetite for Reduction contains 125 recipes divided into 8 sections: salads, sides, vegetables, beans, tofu and temeph, pasta, soups, and stews.  She also includes a special section on sandwiches and bowls.  In addition, the recipes are reviewed by a registered dietitian who also writes a introductory segment on vegan nutrition, containing info on vitamins and minerals and the scoop on good and bad fats.  Moskowitz also makes choosing a recipe easier for us by using icons with each recipe to identify it as soy or gluten-free and indicate whether the recipe can be made in 30 minutes and under and whether or not the recipe has “downtime”.  She also includes useful information and tips throughout its pages.  Best of all, the cookbook is written in Moskowitz’s standard cheerful and witty banter.

All and all I think this cookbook is fantastic.  I am not going to include any recipes because the cookbook was just released and I think you should pick up a copy for yourself or a as gift for a friend (and then borrow it!)  If you do want to give some recipes from Appetite for Reduction a try take a look at the website.  I think the Chickpea Picatta looks divine!

Click here to purchase from Chapters online, or Amazon.ca.  Just a note that on Amazon.ca you can take a look inside the cookbook!

Dog-Induced Sabbatical and Veggie Pot Pie

My husband and I have been talking about getting a dog for a while now and we finally did it!  In fact, the dog in question is curled up right beside me as I type this post.

We welcomed Coco into our home almost three weeks ago and she is fitting in great.  We found this cute 10 month old Cocker Spaniel at the Edmonton Humane Society and could not resist her.  We are loving every minute of it, but it has not been without its challenges.  She is very timid and scared around men, so EPC has had to work extra hard to win her affections and day-by-day walls are being broken down as she warms to up him.  We have had to do a bit of work on potty-training.  And although the worst is over,(or perhaps I am getting used to it) potty training seems to be a work in progress.  Furthermore, we have to keep an eye on her every second to make sure she isn’t into something (recycling bag, laundry basket) or chewing something (furniture) that she shouldn’t be.  Of course we both love the extra exercise we are getting taking Coco out for walks, but hope the weather will warm up soon! I think Coco feels the same way.

Needless to say I have been busy, hence the absence of posts last month, and Coco, not cooking, has been the center of my attention.  Between take out from Famoso and Padmanadi, Amy’s brand frozen pizzas and our favourite bottled sauces from the Italian grocer over pasta, cooking meals from scratch has been on the back burner.  That being said we have relied on a few quick and easy favourites of Lorna Sass’s in the pressure cooker, but I have not gotten very adventurous in the kitchen.

Since EPC and I had a relaxing weekend with Coco,  I felt inspired to try a new recipe.  I have been thinking about making a vegetarian savoury pie for a few weeks now and I was able to track down a recipe for  Pot Pie in my Vegetarian Times Cookbook, so I decided to give it try.

I was wonderful and I loved the biscuit crust!  The sauce thickened up nicely and wrapped the tender veggies and chickpeas in delicious blanket of flavour. EPC had two large helpings and Coco loved the slices of raw carrot that ricocheted off the counter as I chopped them up for the stew.

It was a  perfect meal on a windy, snowy day.  Yes, despite a respite a couple of weeks ago, it seems that winter will never leave us.

PS: It comes together quite quickly so do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients.

Vegetarian Pot Pie

2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 small red pepper, diced
2/3 cup frozen green  beans
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 19-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (Try brown rice flour to make it gluten-free)
1 cup skim milk (use soy or rice milk to make the recipe vegan)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce (use salt to make it gluten-free)
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour mix)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup skim milk or soy milk
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey

Heat ½ cup of vegetable broth in a large pot. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the celery, carrots, red pepper, peas, green beans and chickpeas.  Stir and cook for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat.  Slowly add the milk and vegetable broth stirring constantly to get rid of any lumps.  Add the parsley, soy sauce, sage, thyme, pepper and cayenne.  Stir constantly until the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat.

In a large bowl blend the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the 2 tablespoons of butter and blend in using a pastry knife (I like to use a large fork) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  I found I needed to add a tablespoon or two of olive oil for the coarse crumbs to develop to my liking.  Add milk and maple syrup and stir to combine.  If the dough is too dry add a touch more milk.  Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and roll it out on a lightly floured surface in roughly the same shape as your casserole.

Pour the vegetable filling into a lightly greased 2 quart casserole and lay the biscuit topping on top.  Do not seal the edges.

Put into the oven a bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes

Serve and enjoy.

Click to print