Monday, 30 September 2013

Creamy Cashew Milk Hot Chocolate

When my naturopath told me almonds were a no-go, I didn't know what to think. Almonds are/were a huge staple in my diet. I eat them by the handful, plain or stuffed in olives (I confess I finished off a whole jar of almond stuffed olives the day I found out I was intolerant), I inhale almond butter by the spoonful and use it in a ton of baking, and I use almond milk for all my dairy replacement needs.

Since then, I have been using a little more dairy than normal as a stop-gap measure. Unfortunately, my naturopath said that dairy in the amounts I was already eating (i.e. minimal) was fine, not that I could go crazy adding in a ton more. 

Luckily for me, there are a ton of other non-dairy options. I'm not a huge fan of coconut milk (from the carton that is...I love the stuff from the can for cooking), or soy milk, but there are many home-made options that I have yet to try, such as oat milk, hazelnut milk, and cashew milk (expect to see me experiment with these over the coming months).

Today I was in the mood for hot chocolate, so I decided to begin with a cashew milk (based on this recipe by Cookie and Kate), allegedly the easiest of the bunch as no straining is required. Unfortunately, making home-made non-dairy milks requires soaking, so I had to wait a full 5 hours to satisfy my cravings!

Definitely worth it! Cashew milk is creamy, and super simple to make. I decided to go plain with my first attempt, but this would be awesome with the addition of a hint of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, or all of the above. I did not strain mine as I enjoy a bit of crunch, but you could easily do so (I suspect that if I had the patience or forethought to let my cashews soak overnight my problem would disappear).

I've never been a huge milk drinker, but in hot chocolate this is just divine!

Cashew Milk
Makes ~5 cups

1 cup raw cashew nuts 
water for soaking
4 cups water (adjust water amount if you want more or less creamy)
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

  1. Soak cashews for at least 5 hours to soften up
  2. Strain, rinse and add to food processor (or blender, but I killed my parent's blender with an attempt to blend unsoaked dates and have not yet replaced it)
  3. Add in all other ingredients and process until smooth and creamy!
  4. Strain out any crunchy bits (I left mine in)

Hot Chocolate
makes 2 servings

2 cups cashew milk
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp cacao powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon 

  1. Heat cashew milk and all ingredients on stove over medium heat, beating with a whisk until smooth and hot
  2. Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy! 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Simple Spaghetti and All the Tea from China

Tonight my parents returned from their month-long trip to China with fabulous stories and carrying bribery in the form of tea.... lots of tea.

Too bad the little monkey (aka Rascal) isn't a fan as he decided a good sulk was in order and is still hiding somewhere, whereabouts unknown.

After they arrived home following their 15 hour+ flight, we ate dinner and chatted as we sipped some "longevity" tea from an organic tea plantation in Guilan. 

Afterwards, we spent hours viewing some of the pictures they took on their trip. Although they had been up for over 36 hours straight (not a wink of sleep on the plane), they were trying hard to make it to 10pm to get themselves back on Toronto time as quickly as they possibly can.

For dinner, I prepared a simple tomato and vegetable sauce over rice pasta, nothing too fancy as I knew they would want something light after their month-long intake of Chinese food.

This recipe involves minimal prep work, but for maximum flavour must be simmered for an hour or so. 


Simple Spaghetti

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes
handful of basil, roughly chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. Heat coconut oil in large saucepan over medium heat
  2. Add chopped onion and saute until soft and translucent (~10minutes)
  3. Add garlic cloves, salt, bay  leaves, chili flakes and saute for a couple more minutes
  4. Add mushrooms and saute until they have released their water
  5. Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil
  6. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for an hour or so
  7. Serve over your favourite pasta with parmesan cheese

Craving-Satisfying Rice Bran Muffins

This morning I was craving the bran muffins I ate constantly in my gluten-full days. The recipe that I used the most in those days was an old recipe from the company's coming series. The cookbook has since fallen to pieces from overuse (I think it dates back to my mother's early cooking days), but the recipe lives on in my memory!

That recipe was moist and addictive. Once out of the oven, my father and I could polish off half a batch in one sitting! The hardest part was waiting for them to cool after baking.

These muffins are nothing like those in terms of ingredients, but, like the ones of my past, they are incredibly moist and altogether satisfying. I think that they came out quite well actually! Luckily, these days I have more self-control and was able to stop after just two!

Let me know what you think :) I like these 100% plain, but they would be great with chocolate chunks or nuts if you want something a little more decadent!

These are definitely worth repeating!

Rice Bran Muffins
makes 12

Dry ingredients:
1/4 cup buckwheat
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup hazelnut flour
1 TSP baking powder
1 TSP baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Bran Mixture:
3/4 cup buttermilk (or regular milk/milk alternative with a squeeze of lemon)
1/4 cup greek yoghurt
3/4 cup rice bran
1/4 cup quinoa flakes

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
3 TBSP molasses
Chia egg: 1TBSP chia seeds + 3 TBSP water, soaked until jelly-like
1/4 cup coconut sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix dry ingredients thoroughly in large bowl
  3. In medium bowl stir together bran mixture and let sit for 5 minutes. At the same time, now is a good time to prepare your chia egg
  4. Add all "Other" ingredients to bran mixture and mix
  5. Mix bran mixture into dry mixture, until just mixed
  6. Fill prepped (greased or lined) muffin tray
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes
  8. Let cool for 5 minutes before eating

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Monk and Cat do London and Oxford - Our Summer 2013 Getaway

Punting in Oxford
We travelled to England this summer - my first trip to the UK (not including 1 night stopovers!).  

As warned by many friends and relatives, the weather was grey and chilly so, alas, my optimistically-packed summer clothes did not even make it out of the suitcase. Despite the weather, we had fun visiting friends, walking around the city and tasting the foods along the way!

Tea at Fortnum and Mason's
I have to admit that London was not exactly my favourite city of all time (a toss-up between Portland and Paris for very different reasons). It could be that the weather was too dreary/damp (I am always cold as it is in normal situations) and we spent a ton of time travelling on the tube, rather than walking about.   More likely, it was the never-ending suit fittings for the Monk that really hurt my perception of London, so I will have to try again with an open mind (and a ban on shopping) another trip! We still had a ton of fun, discovering delicious gluten-free scones at Fortnum and Mason's, eating perhaps one of my favourite meals of all time at Nopi and spending time catching up with friends and family! 
Dinner at Nopi's

Cookbook addict that I am, I allowed the trip (and eating at Nopi's) to convince me to buy Ottolenghi's new(ish) cookbook Jerusalem

From London as a home base, we took a day trip to Windsor and another to St. Albans, where we toured the longest cathedral in England and also visited what claims to be the oldest pub in London "Ye Olde Fighting Cocks".

For all of my complaints about London's weather, the city was incredibly gluten-free friendly. Even pubs seemed to have separate Gluten-free menus to ensure no contamination. I was not glutened once on my trip to London and was even able to enjoy scones and other baked goods!

The view from Exeter College
For a complete change of pace from busy London, we spent the rest of our time in England in Oxford. 

Oxford was beautiful, with wonderful architecture, cute little pubs and tons of greenery. Our time in Oxford was incredibly relaxing!!! As a bonus, while we were there, the sun decided to peak its head out allowing us to have a picnic lunch and go punting!

The Old Radcliffe Hospital
Oxford also boasted a lot of gluten-free friendly options, with restaurant servers very informed about ingredients and 100% ready to help or make eating suggestions at pretty much every place we tried.

We wandered the streets of Oxford, day and night, snapping a ton of pictures along the way. 

These are some of my favourite shots (believe me it was hard to choose!)

A Cafe in Camden Town (London)
The Oldest Pub in England
Our Ride from London to Oxford.... Just Kidding!

A Graveyard in Hamel Hempsted

Street in Oxford
Bridge of Sighs, Oxford

A Difficult Journey with Rainbow Rice Wraps Waiting at the End of the Tunnel

Today was a hectic day! My parents are returning from their month long trip to the other side of the world this weekend so we had to return the little monkey back to his full-time home. The little monkey, unfortunately, has a BIG problem with cars, cat cages and anything to do with either. Let's just say that it was a long, noisy journey and leave it at that.

After that, I just wanted something simple and healthy to eat - nothing fussy. I've just come off a 6 week+ detox from sugar, so I admit the hazelnut bites from last night were probably not the greatest idea... I needed to make something clean enough that I could digest, but filling enough that the Monk wouldn't complain. 

I've been avoiding grains for the past few months, but my naturopath's tests show that I have no sensitivities to non-gluten grains which means some experimentation is in order (its a good thing too - I don't think I would survive as a paleo, eggless, vegetarian). 

I decided to whip up some rice wraps. Easy, fast and 100% satisfying! 

This was more than enough for me, but the Monk became fussy and insisted on some meat for himself. He had some lamb and was thrilled, but I'm sure these would go well with most meat mains (but I'm a vegetarian so what do I know!?).

Rainbow Rice Wraps
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1 avocado sliced
1 carrot, cut in matchsticks
2 cups red cabbage

2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TSP dijon mustard
1 clove garlic
salt and black pepper to taste

To wrap:
Shallow dish of warm water
8 round rice paper sheets

  1. Mix together filling ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Mix together dressing ingredients in a small bowl
  3. Mix dressing with filling
  4. Soften rice paper sheets individually in warm water (about 30 seconds)
  5. Lay out rice paper sheet on surface
  6. Spoon about 1/8th of mixture into center in rectangle
  7. Fold top and bottom over mixture
  8. Roll up sides to form a roll
  9. Repeat steps 4-8 for remaining rolls

Lamb Chops
1 TBSP fresh rosemary
1 TBSP fresh mint
1 TBSP fresh thyme
1 clove garlic minced
pinch paprika
pinch salt and pepper

3 medium lamb chops
1TBSP coconut oil for cooking

  1. Chop herbs finally
  2. Mix herbs with remaining ingredients
  3. Rub all over lamb chops, let marinate for 1-2 hours covered in fridge
  4. ~30minutes before eating, remove lamb chops from fridge to come to room temperature and ensure even cooking
  5. Heat 1 TBSP coconut oil (or olive oil) in a skillet over medium-high heat
  6. Cook ~3minutes per side for medium chops

Friday, 27 September 2013

A Stuffed Squash for Autumn and a Monkey With Flour Covered Paws

For dinner today, I made a delicious stuffed squash, closely based on a recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen’s first cookbook. I’m so excited - Sara just announced that she is working on her second cookbook.  I can’t wait to get it into my hands! Her first book is one of the most treasured on my shelves. Although, not 100% gluten-free, her recipes are easily adapted and every one I have tried has been to die for!!! Sara’s recipes are my idea of comfort food – beautiful mixes of flavour and nothing too fussy either – perfect for weekday cooking!

I also decided to play around with some of the alternative flours I ordered from Not the greatest pic, I admit, as I took this from my smartphone, but I wasn’t the only excited one when the shipment arrived. Check out my littlest monkey trying to rip open the packaging upon arrival! Cute, but super destructive - he actually managed to get his claws into my bag of pistachio flour...  

I decided to start simple with the hazelnut flour (since I've used it before and figure its probably pretty close to almond flour).

The verdict? Little pudgy, two-bite chocolate chip cookies! These little beauties are pretty decadent so it will be hard to eat more than a couple - never a bad thing when it comes to cookies! I apologize again for the poor quality pics - the camera is out on loan to my parents so I am stuck with my smartphone for now!

Hazelnut Flour Bites

Makes ~20 two-bite cookies 

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2  cup Hazelnut Flour
1/2 cup Coconut Flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
1/4 cup +2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup raw honey 
1/4 cup milk or milk alternative (would normally use almond milk, but sadly its no longer an alternative for me)
2 tbsp cashew butter
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup candied ginger
2 tbsp chocolate chips (because that's all I had in the cupboard)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees  
  2. Mix together dry ingredients
  3. Add in wet ingredients and mix well. Mixture should stick together, but still be somewhat crumbly 
  4. Mix in add-ins
  5. Roll into balls (about a tbsp in each)
  6. Press lightly on the top of each ball to flatten
  7. Bake for 10 minutes 
  8. Cool for 10 minutes
  9. Enjoy!