Jon and I, a couple years back, after making our own Thanksgiving cornucopias.
My favourite time of year has always been ‘holiday season,’ and by that, I’m not being politically correct. ‘Holiday season’ is an exhilarating eight-month deal for me, as I consider September (the kick-start to fall and harvest and all that good stuff) to April (spring-time flowers and Easter) book-ending this. Do I show favouritism towards any specific holidays within this eight-month span? Of course. Christmas tops my top-3-favourite-times-of-year list, and Thanksgiving and Halloween follow.
So naturally, being September and all, I started thinking about the first event slated in the (Canadian) calendar: Thanksgiving, which this year falls in two weeks.
I’m especially excited for it this year, as I didn’t celebrate it last year. Why? I was busy getting married! While my husband I made sure to infuse fall-themed meals and flavours into our day, we missed out on the turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. So, naturally, this year I plan on going all-out with as many gluten free equivalents as I can muster up. ‘Maybe I can even make those cornucopias again,’ I thought. This is where my excitement started to really percolate.
Mint chocolate avocado brownies, sans butter and ‘real’ flour.
About a year ago I turned my eye to avocados. Up until this point, I never cared for the slimy green fruit. Nachos have always ranked high on my list of favourite junk foods, and while I enjoyed them ‘loaded,’ guacamole was never something I’d want along with them. To be perfectly honest, I still don’t like guacamole!
What finally turned me onto avocados was a salad my cousin had made. Cherry tomatoes, avocado, lime juice, olive oil, black pepper – that’s it. And wow, was it ever delicious. Since then I’ve made it every other week or so, only I make it with the delicious addition of mini bocconcini, fennel seeds, and balsamic vinegar. This salad is incredibly satisfying and I encourage you all to try it.
But the star of this post is not salad; it’s brownies. So let’s get to it. I recently got my hands on a cookbook on all-things avocado, and it’s become my favourite free goodie as of late. From breakfast to dessert, the book, ‘Absolutely Avocados’ by Gaby Dalkin, is a colourful page-turner of tantalizing avocado-based recipes. I’ve had to adapt some to make them gluten free, as this is not a g-free cookbook, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the end results.
I’ve altered Dalkin’s avocado brownies in a number of different ways, so I’m not going to post her recipe as it appears in the book. However, the book’s been a real asset in my kitchen, so I thought I would encourage you to check it out.
I’ve been gluten free for well over a year now, and while I’ve found my groove in what to eat and where to shop, I don’t dare call myself an expert. Yet I have learned a thing or two along the way, and I thought I’d share them here. I do want to remind readers again, though, that this is all coming from someone with a gluten intolerance, not Celiac disease. Cross contamination is an absolute no-no for people with Celiac, but people with an intolerance, such as myself, can take the chance. So what follows is my own little slice of how I go about living a gluten free life day-by-day.
Have you ever been turned off of a particular food because of its colour? I have. As many of you know, I don’t like green split peas. But what about the colour of some processed foods? Recently, two bloggers spearheaded a movement to get Kraft to stop using food colour in their famous Kraft Dinner. I don’t want to knock these bloggers (I’m always impressed when the ‘little guy’ rallies the troops for positive change), but I have to ask, why not just stop buying Kraft Dinner? Omitting the dye will not suddenly transform this popular dish into a healthy lunch option.
I didn’t grow up eating KD. My brother and I grew up with homemade meals, and I actually learned how to make mac’n’cheese from scratch at a relatively young age. I’ve adapted my mom’s recipe to make it gluten free, and I even found a way to make it that distinct bright yellow colour. Want to know the secret?
Yep. There you have it. You can make your own macaroni and cheese gluten free and vibrant yellow to boot.
My homemade gluten free mac’n’cheese
To tell you the truth, I only eat corn pasta. Rice pasta is alright, but I find it a tad on the gummy side. Corn pasta, on the other hand, is not gummy, and it sits lighter in my stomach. It’s also incredibly quick to cook in boiling water. And I’m impatient, so this is a good thing.
If you’re interested in making your own mac’n’cheese, read on. It’s a delicious gluten free comfort food that’s healthier than the store-bought boxed version, and naturally yellow — if you like that kind of thing.
Last year I missed out on my nonna’s pane di Pasqua, or ‘Easter bread’ in English, or ‘squooti’ in her Siderno, Italy dialect (don’t ask about that last one). Even if you’ve never tried it, I’m sure you have seen it: bread braided to nest or hold eggs. I’ve come to look forward to this treat every year, so much so, in fact, that it has become a staple of Easter in my mind. I didn’t want to go another year without it, so I spent all of yesterday in the kitchen with my nonna – a day she probably never saw coming, as I’ve never been ‘that’ Italian girl. I have always gone out of my way to stay as far from the kitchen as possible. Why should I help with anything domestic when my brother gets to sit with the rest of the guys in the living room? I always found it unfair, and to be honest, I still do. But it was nice having that one-on-one time with her. We didn’t have to serve anyone; we were simply having fun adapting a decades-old recipe into one that was gluten free.
My proud nonna, taking my gluten free Easter bread out of the oven after a long day in the kitchen.
Before we got down to business, my mom surprised us and popped in. Would this be a case of ‘too many cooks stirring the pot’? I’ve seen what happens when my mom, nonna, and uncle (who happens to be a chef) cook a meal together; it can very easily turn into Hell’s Kitchen. Truth be told, my mom’s presence was a godsend. She had been helping with the recipe all week, translating my nonna’s instructions into English, and actually having her in the kitchen was helpful, too. She acted as translator when the language barrier got in the way, but, more importantly, she became our unofficial ‘Overseer of Operations’ when my oh-so hard-headed nonna would try to veer away from the written instructions and toss in a few extra ingredients. Normally I’d say, ‘nonna knows best,’ and back off, but I’ve read gluten free flour mixtures can be finicky, and I didn’t want to take any risks with how this bread would turn out!
Even though I’ve never really spent too much time in the kitchen, I suppose I’ve always been a fan of the Bulk Barn. However my main reason for visiting throughout the years has always been so I could pick up snacks for the movies. I mean, hey, why spend $5-$10 on a snack when you can spend $2 and have a larger selection of chocolate to choose from?
Last week I showed my recipe for gluten free key lime cupcakes and I said I used a mix because I essentially couldn’t be bothered to mix my own flours. Well, I decided to suck it up and finally do it. I’ve been spending months reading about gluten free recipes, and so many have said, ‘mix your own flour’ because the end result is just that much better. So, I took some time researching different gluten free flour mixtures and headed to the Bulk Barn. I was surprised to see the store had an entire gluten free section. Very impressed. The flours were even on sale; consider me doubly impressed.
A gluten free section at the Bulk Barn — and they’re all on sale? What a happy surprise.
I purchased brown rice flour, sorghum flour, coconut flour, cornstarch, and tapioca starch, and the final tally was $5.47.
Now what to bake with all these flours…
$5.47 for all of that! If I had bought a pre-packed mix of gluten free flour to equal the amount I purchased, I would have easily spent between $15 and $20.
So there you have it. I may be late in the game, but better than late than never. Oh, and if you’re wondering what exactly I’m going to do with all this flour, well, stay tuned…