October 2009


My little man had his first fever and cold/flu this weekend and its been lurking for a while, so I’ve been busy.  I have some recipes I’m hoping to post soon, but for now I just wanted to talk a little bit about eating out.

When I first went gluten-free I didn’t eat anywhere and I didn’t eat anything.  But slowly that has evolved.  I now have certain meals that I eat at certain restaurants (including the mall food fair) that I know satisfy my hunger and cravings without wrecking havoc on my body.

I first visited Cravings when I still ate gluten and was impressed; the restaurant (which used to be a sandwich deli in another lifetime) had a great atmosphere, helpful servers and delicious food.  Nestled in among old apartment buildings it seemed a rare find.

I went back for my 27th birthday, I was now gluten-free, but noticed that their website mentioned that they were able to accomodate Celiac’s.  When I made the reservation I indicated that I would like to take advantage of their gluten-free options.  When we arrived I was a little dissapointed that no one seemed to know what I was talking about when I mentioned that I had requested gluten-free items, but the situation was quickly remedied.  A woman, I assume was a manager or owner, came to the table and walked me through the menu; she let me know which items were naturally gluten-free and which items could be made gluten-free.  I enjoyed the West Coast Bouillabaisse (“A selection of West coast seafood (salmon, sole, halibut, ma hi ma hi, prawns, shrimps, scallops, and mussel) cooked in a tomato broth flavoured with saffron”) and it was absolutely delicious.

My husband and I went back again this September for our 3rd Wedding Anniversary; our first “date night” since the arrival of our son.  This time when I arrived and asked about gluten-free menu items the server quickly rushed off and brought me back a “Celiac Menu”.  There was an entire page of options and they all sounded delicious; having a specific menu gave me some confidence that the food would not be contaminated that the chefs knew what they were doing.

This time I enjoyed the Roasted Squash Salad (“Roasted squash served warm with spinach leaves, carmalized pecans, and crumbled Feta, drizzled with honey vinaigrette and balsamic reduction”) and rice pasta pesto (rice pasta “and chicken breast strips tossed in fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan”).  The only thing that could have made it better was fresh pasta, but despite being dried pasta it still tasted WAY better than pasta I make at home.  We practically rolled out of the restaurant and into the movie theatre.

All is all, Cravings is a great gem of a restaurant that was able to provide a menu of delicious gluten-free options, a warm atmosphere and helpful service.  We went for an early dinner around 5pm, but by around 6 it was starting to get busy, so you may want to make reservations if you aren’t normally in bed by 9:30pm like I am.

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Being a new Mom means that pretty much everything in my life has changed; my world is no longer solely focued on me, and I absolutley love it.  My little man is the centre of my world and I just can’t get enough of him.  Of course there are days where I want to tear my hair out, but those days are few and far between.

As a gluten-free Momma, I have of course been researching, reading and contemplating the introduction of wheat and gluten to my son.  I have spoken to the doctor, I’ve read books and I’ve searched the internet, although my doctor recommended I go gluten-free I have not formally been diagnosed with an allergy to gluten or with Celiac’s, so of course that does complicate things slightly.  All that being said, we have decided to wait until my bubba is a year before introducing any wheat products.

To a non-gluten-free Momma that probably sounds extremley difficult, but for me its totally reasonable.  When its time to have toast, he can have Mom’s potato bread, when its time for pasta he can have rice pasta, when it came to baby cereal we stuck with just rice instead of jumping on the barely and wheat train.  Now that he’s over 6 months however, I was a little worried that perhaps rice cereal for breakfast everyday was getting a little mundane.

So after a little research, (Wholesomebabyfood was very helpful) I decided to introduce some Millet to my little man.  It is a natural source of iron, protien and potassium to name a few.  I discovered (like the other grains) you can make your own cereal by simply grinding millet down and cooking it on the stove.  Since I didn’t have any millet grain on hand, I decided to use millet flour.  The first batch was lumpy to say the least, but after  few attempts I had a pretty good system.

Gluten-Free Baby Millet Cereal

Ingredients:

  • generous cup of water
  • scant 1/4 cup of millet flour
  • fruit puree

Directions:

  • Mix together water and millet flour (this worked best in a shaker for protein shakes or a cup with a lid).
  • Put mixture into a pot and heat over medium-high heat, stirring often with a whisk.
  • Once the mixture becomes hot, reduce heat to low-medium and continue to cook, stirring often for approx 7 minutes until the cereal has thickened and doesn’t taste too grainy.
  • Scoop one portion into a dish for your baby to eat right away and mix in some fruit puree if desired.  My little man loves to eat his cereal with pears!
  • The cereal will thicken as it sits, so if you don’t add fruit, you may need to thin with a little additional water, breast milk or formula once it cools enough for baby to eat.
  • Put extra cereal in a container in the fridge or in ice cube trays to be frozen.  The cereal defrosts and reheats well, however it takes longer to heat back up than fruit puree, so I recommend microwaving the cereal briefly (10-15 seconds) before adding the fruit and reheating to the desired temperature.

My baby loves his millet and pears for breakfast, but I was eager to introduce oats as well, so I’ve been keeping my eye out for wheat-free oats at my local health stores.  I can always get some at Choices, I just haven’t made a trip there in a while.  Just this week I excitedly found some Bob’s Red Mill Wheat-Free Steel Cut Oats and although I’ve never had steel cut oats, I read that since they are less processed, they are actually better for making baby food.

September 09 - 281I also picked up some millet grain, my Mom donated an extra coffee grinder that she had and suddenly I was ready to make a healthy whole grain cereal that both the baby and I could enjoy.  I have a food processor, but the coffee grinder is just so much easier for the small quantities that this cereal calls for.  I found this recipe for a millet and oatmeal cereal (akin to cream of wheat) and happily began to create.  We’ve had millet/oatmeal cereal for breakfast the last three days; the bubba had his with pears and Momma had hers with raspberries, flax and honey.  Mmm, Mmm Good!

GF millet/oatmeal cerealnote: the pear puree is just softening up, I do of course mix it all up for him to enjoy!

As and aside, I’ve found that I like to use 2 cups of water (rather than the 1-3/4 cups the recipes calls for) and that more stirring/whisking is required than the recipe alludes to.  All in all an easy and nutritious breakfast!

Millet Porridge on Foodista
Oatmeal Porridge on Foodista

As I child I though Mabo Tofu was a Japanese dish, why, I’m not exactly sure.  I knew I could get it at Chinese Restaurants, but the sauce you could buy in the stores to make it at home always seemed to look Japanese to me.  Once I went gluten-free, I really wanted this slightly spicy, always delicious, tofu and pork dish.  Of course every bottle and package of sauce that I read contained soya sauce and of course wheat, so I found myself on a mission to find a recipe that I could adapt myself.

During my online searches, I found oodles of recipes, all slightly different AND I discovered that Mabo (or Mapo) tofu is actually a Szechuan dish; given the spice this really is not all that surprising.  I eventually found 2 recipes (about.com and Nook & Pantry) that seemed reasonable and feasible for me to make, and then I worked with both of them to make a recipe that I really enjoy.  I’ve made this quite a few times and tweaked the ingredients each time; I think I finally have it just right, at least for my liking  – feel free to adapt it to your tastes.

Mabo Tofu

This recipe does however call for some ingredients that will require an Asian grocery store and/or a little searching.  First it requires dried and salted black beans and Chili Bean Paste (my research indicated that Broad Bean Chili Bean Paste is the most authentic, but use what you can find); make sure you read the bottles, most of them have soy and wheat.  I have included an ingredient picture for this recipe to help you find these ingredients.

Mabo ingredients

Gluten-Free Mabo Tofu

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 2 Tbsp tapioca starch (cornstarch would be ok)
  • 3.5 Tbsp gluten-free Tamari

Ingredients:

  • ~2Tbsp vegetable oil
  • splash of sesame oil
  • 3 green onions, chopped, white and green sections seperated
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2.5 tsp salted, dried black beans
  • 1 heaping Tbsp Chili Bean Paste (adapt to your tastes as necessary)
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 package Medium Firm tofu cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 2 Tbsp gluten-free Tamari
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch

Directions:

  • Mix the marinade ingredients together and set aside for about 20 minutes.
  • Heat oils in a med-high wok, once hot at the white sections of the green onion and the ginger and saute until fragrant.
  • Add the marinated pork to the oil and cook until brown; you will need to use the back of a spoon to push the pork apart into pieces or you will end up with one big lump of ground pork.
  • Stir salt into the meat and allow flavours to mix, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the salted black beans  and use the back of a spoon to mash them slightly to release the flavours and blend with the meat.
  • Add the Chili Paste and mix into the meat.
  • Add the stock, tofu, remaining green onion, garlic and sugar.  Mix well and continue to cook until tofu has softened and taken on the colours of the sauce.  Approximately 5-7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile mix the warm water, GF Tamari and cornstarch together (add the cornstarch last).
  • Once the tofu looks ready to eat, add the cornstarch mixture, stir together gently and remove from heat.  This will thicken your sauce and bring everything together (this step is optional).
  • Serve over steaming white rice and enjoy!

Tofu on Foodista

Now that my son is getting a little bit more independent and doesn’t need Mom every single second, I think that I am slowly finding my inspiration to cook again.  Cooking GOOD gluten-free meals takes a little bit of thought and effort, and in truth for the last 6 months, I really haven’t had time for much of either.  Last weekend waffles struck my fancy; I’ve used Bob’s Red Mill GF Biscuit mix and it makes great waffles, and I’ve also tried Ginger Lemon Girl’s Belgian Waffle Recipe.  They were also delicious, but they were a little crispy throughout and not quite as soft in the middle as I would like.  So not only did I decide I wanted to have waffles I decided I wanted to adapt my family pancake recipe to be gluten-free and waffle worthy.

This recipe turned out amazing; my husband gobbled them up uttering compliments all the while telling me I should make a recipe book.  These were absolutely the best waffles I’ve had in ages.  Of course we ate them with bacon and fresh blueberry sauce, the only thing that could have made them better was fresh whipped cream!

As my eczema has been bad lately, and my milk consumption seems to affect my son’s eczema, I have been limiting my dairy products and drinking rice milk.  I made this recipe using half rice milk and half 1% milk with great results – I therefore assume that you could use any non-dairy substitute.  Similarly, you could likely replace my flour mixture with 2 cups of gluten-free flour mix with similar results, but personally I like to custom blend quantities for each individual recipe.  If you try it out with a different non-dairy product or gluten-free flour, let me know how it works out for you.

GF Waffles

Gluten-Free Waffles

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup Millet flour
  • 1/4 cup Brown Rice flour
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Rice flour
  • 1/4 cup Potato starch
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca starch
  • 1/2 tsp Xantham gum
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 3 eggs, seperated
  • 1-3/4 cups milk or non-dairy substitute
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:

  • Preheat your waffle iron.
  • Mix (I like to use a hand whisk) flours, xantham gum, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (this only takes a few minutes in a stand mixer), set aside.
  • Mix egg yolk, milk and oil together.
  • Add dry ingredients to the milk mixture and mix.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into your batter, adding about a third of the egg whites at a time.  Egg whites do not need to be totally uniform in the batter, we are trying to add extra “fluff” to the batter.
  • Spray your waffle iron as necessary, pour the batter by heaping 1/4 cups and cook according to your waffle iron directions.  These waffles do not puff as much as regular waffles, so you need to add MORE batter than you are used to if you want to get the nice full crispy waffle wells that hold the butter and syrup so well.  Trust me having a tiny bit of spillover while you figure out the exact quantity for your iron is totally worth it.
  • Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Waffles on Foodista