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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My GF lasgena...and man, it's goooooood!

I had posted a blog about my making a lasgena and gf boston creme cake and never thought of posting the recipes for them. So I decided to post my GF lasgena recipe now:
P.S. I just adapted it from the one I grew up eating that my mom made and then, as I got older, I learned to make.

1 box of gf lasgena (I use Tinkyada GF lasgena)
One can or jar of pasta sauce
Kraft cheese slices (between 6 and 8 slices)
GF bread crumbs
Cheddar (grated)
Ground chicken
Tomatoes (diced)
Italian seasoning
Sea salt

Boil large pot of water. Put noodles in to cook (I cook them as the water boils, usually once the water is boiled, the noodles are done). Add oil to prevent noodles from sticking. Noodles are done when they are soft.
At the same time, brown ground chicken in pan.
Drain water from noodles and add in cold water to cool the noodles off quicker because you have to handle them with your hands.
Get a large rectangular casserole dish or lasgena pan. Start the layers.
First layer-lasgena noodles (I usually get four across), sauce (I don't bother heating up the sauce first), seasonings, ground chicken. Make sure the noodles are well covered in sauce to ensure that the noodles don't dry out.
Second layer-noodles, sauce, cheese slices (I lay these side by side, they add a nice creaminess) and diced tomatoes.
Third and final layer-noodles, sauce, seasonings, cheddar and GF bread crumbs sprinkled on top.
Put in oven, preheated to 375 F and cook for 30-45 mins. It's done when the cheese starts browning on top.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nuts and Bolts, GF style

One of my best friends, Lyndsie, has always been a lot like me in that when Christmas time comes, she wants to bake and make lots of fun nibbles. She's also a full time working mom of one (and another on the way) and so the fact that she even made something that I could eat for her Christmas party we went to this past weekend, was a huge thing! I know how little time I have to make stuff...ok, so the time I do have I usually try to nap...but I do make plans to do stuff sometimes and sometimes I even succeed!
Anyway, long story short, when we got to her Christmas party, she started showing me the gluten free things she had MADE for me! And true to Lyndsie form, she had put some out but even more importantly, she had set aside a bunch for me to take home. Bless her!! She made me gf brownies with M&M's and this gf rice chex nuts and bolts mixture.
Here's my connection to Nuts and Bolts. Growing up, every Christmas Eve was always spent with my Dad's family at my Nana and Grampy's house and Nana ALWAYS made Nuts & Bolts which consisted of pretzels, cheerios, shreddies and peanuts. When I moved to Ontario at 16, I missed that tradition and after one disastrous time of making it myself, I called Nana and got her recipe and proceeded to make it every Christmas for my family and friends when we had them over for our annual Christmas party. Everyone loved it and I got to nibble on it too. Then, when I got Celiac, I stopped making it because I couldn't justify making something that if it didn't get all eaten, I was stuck with a ton of this awesome nuts and bolts I COULDN'T EAT. So I just didn't. Sure, I've seen recipes since then, but honestly, I just didn't want to start all over again, never knowing if it would taste good or not. But then...I had Lyndsie's mix...and I was converted to the dark side! After taking a handful and eating it (gluten free pretzels, peanuts, gf rice chex, and various seasonings) and going "OMG!", I immediately asked for the recipe. When she showed it to me, I thought about trying to write it all down and knowing I would lose it, I did the next best thing, I took a picture of it with my Blackberry so I could refer to it later. So I know now that I have the recipe and hopefully over the holidays, I can find a little time to make them myself! Yeah!! Success! Thanks again Lyndsie!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trying to bake Gluten free

I love being so aware of all the options out here for me now. I just found a new place in Mississauga, called Healthy Planet, that is a big health food store, with LOTS of gluten free options. They will learn to know me well! I am excited when I see new products coming down the pipeline. Working for a restaurant magazine, I am seeing more and more showing up in the pages about companies adding gluten free products, restaurants offering gluten free options and more and more gluten free companies entering the game. Despite the fact that it still costs a fair bit to eat my GF stuff, I am really happy to see all this new stuff and get to sample it. Is it any wonder I'm in danger of busting my jeans? Crap...
I've always had a sweet tooth and because of my grandmother and my mom, I developed a love of baking from an early age. Making things from scratch was something I was always good at...plus with a single mom, it was more cost effective too. I learned pretty quick how to substitute when we didn't have an ingredient and what to add when the mixture in the bowl did NOT look like it was supposed to. Baking at Christmas was especially fun for me. No boundaries, no restrictions, just bake what I could with what I had before Christmas. I was in heaven and people who came to our house over the holidays were always happy to see my Nuts & Bolts, Chocolate Chubbie cookies, decorated sugar cookies, homemade donuts, fudge, spice cake, banana chocolate chip bread, etc. But then when Celiac changed my life, I lost my passion for it.
I hated not just being able to buy a massive bag of flour and go to town. Since I loved eating the sweets as much as my family and friends, I looked at the new situation as "what's the point anymore?" If I couldn't even EAT my desserts and yummies, why bother? So, truthfully, I gave up. As the market for gluten free products improved, I turned to mixes. For a baker, it kind of feels like a cop out. But when faced with having to purchase 8 different flours, starches and xantham gum (waaaay too expensive for this bargain shopper!), I looked at a cake mix ringing in at $4 and took the easy way out. I got the flavour I wanted but I didn't feel very "proud" of my accomplishments as I used to with all my "baking from scratch" successes. I felt like I was cheating, taking shortcuts. Then I had a child...yeah, time suddenly became something that I had when my baby was sleeping...and that wasn't much. Between her, working, my husband and sleep, I suddenly found baking with a mix not only necessary (if I wanted yummy treats) but way less stressful. So I succumbed.
Since then, I have found something that has made me feel like less of a failure, a GF all purpose flour mix...essentially giving me back my freedom of tossing the flour into my recipe and going for it. No complicated math equations to figure out what percentage of each flour and starch was needed to give me the correct "dough" like texture I required.
And here's another secret I found. I had cookbooks filled with recipes that had stains on them, well turned corners on the pages and flour marks on them from years of successful bakes. I didn't really want to give those books up. They held such great memories for me. But what to do with them? I had also received a few GF cookbooks but again, by having me mixing several types of flour and starches, along with a particular gum, I truthfully hadn't really used the books. So I thought about it and realized that if I had a good GF flour, I could still make those tried and tested recipes...and they would still be good.
My baking life became much more happy when I realized that I could enjoy the process again.
So, even though I know I won't have much time for a lot of Christmas baking, I plan to do at least a few things from scratch so that as my little two year old grows up, she will learn how to make a "bowl" or "well" with the dry ingredients, mix in the wet ingredients, use a beater (I even used a MANUAL in my day!), knead dough with her hands, make icing, use a fork to crimp a pie crust, and maybe she'll even enjoy it and can pass it on to her kids someday. She'll still know how to use mixes for baking but I love that I can have my old baker self, mix it in with my new GF baker self and find a peace somewhere in the middle. Now where did I put my pastry cutter?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Eating out GF

Eating at home is easy, comfortable, cheaper...and boring. Sometimes it's nice not to have to agonize over what to cook, then make the necessary mess and then have to clean it all up after. But man, sometimes, eating out is MORE stressful!
My husband doesn't have celiac so he's good to go anywhere. Me? I can't go anywhere because truthfully, despite more and more people understanding how to deal with allergies, I still seem to end up with the dum dums who don't know and I get sick.
But there are a few places I eat and don't fear being glutened. Boston Pizza (with their super yummy...albeit small pizza), Milestones (I could die a happy death eating their gf tomato basil spaghettini!) and that's about it. I have a bone to pick with all these restaurants offering "gluten free options". Wow, thanks for letting me know I can safely eat all the different kinds of sauce for wings...but NOT the wings. So what the heck am I supposed to put the sauce on? My fingers? And telling me I can eat the salad but like none of the dressings? I went to Kelsey's and asked for their allergen menu...wow, was THAT ever disappointing! Pretty much my only option was a steak and potato. In fact, all I ever eat when I go out is either a plain chicken breast with a potato or a steak with a potato. Joy! Grr...
Would it be so hard to keep a small stash of gluten free stuff to make for us poor pathetic Celiacs? A loaf of bread for garlic bread? Some dry gf pasta for dinner? One dessert other than plain vanilla ice cream? An appetizer? I know small restaurants can't do that...not enough space...but these big chains have massive kitchens, counter space, ovens, grills, etc. It really wouldn't be that hard. I do it in my kitchen...juggle gf and regular food and it's just a matter of proper storage and a few supplies kept together and a clean surface...heck, let me in there for 10 minutes and I can make my own damn supper...ok, probably defeating the purpose of eating out...but I want savory, exciting meals again! I pay $18 for a plain steak and potato...it sucks! I'd rather have a yummy bowl of gf pasta, some oven toasted cheesy gf garlic bread and a apple crumble for dessert...is that TOO much to ask for? Sigh...now I'm hungry...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One kick ass gluten free meal

Last night I was motivated...to cook...yep, I made dinner AND dessert. I decided to make my homemade lasgena, which is good for us and usually lasts us two to three days (by which point we're done eating it anyway!) and I had seen in the Sobey's flyer this Boston Cream Cake and I was totally drooling and thought "I want to eat that!" Then I thought, "Why don't I MAKE that?" So I bought a gluten free cake mix (Betty Crocker), a jar of icing, a box of Jello Instant pudding (vanilla) and made the pudding, baked the cake, cooled it, sliced it in half and smeared on the pudding put the top half on and slathered it in chocolate icing. It's pretty darn good and I'm proud of it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Don't gluten me please!

I went to a concert last week at Ontario Place (Def Leppard with Heart-beyond amazing fyi!) and though I knew I would have trouble finding something to eat, my friends and I hit up the Lakeside Grille and I hoped for the best (it was either that or Pizza Pizza or Chicken Chicken or vendors). I got a plain cheesburger with no bun but after handing me one WITH a bun (though I told both the cashier AND the server), they FINALLY got me a plain burger. I loaded it up with ketchup and cut up and ate my burger (I swear I'm gonna start carrying gf buns with me!). It wasn't fabulous but it filled the hunger gap better than a bag of chips. I was fine most of the night but just in case the beef hurt me, I popped in two Tums, hoping to alleviate any gurgling. I got home, went to bed and two hours later, woke up curled into a ball and in agony. I made it to the bathroom and proceeded to curse out the food for the rest of the night. I got up only to drop off Abby at daycare (cause I sure as heck couldn't take care of a rambuctious toddler while dealing with being sick like this) and crawled back into bed. I managed to get some tea and dry cereal in me and by 3 p.m., managed to finish off my gluten attack. After being prodded by a chef and good friend, I emailed Ontario Place and expressed my disappointment in both lack of food options for those of us with food allergies and lack of awareness of how to treat it (the server looked at me like I was high on crack!). I got a response saying they took it "very seriously" and told me to bring my own food in a cooler and store it there. Thanks for your comments and please come again. Yeah, screw you! No offering me a free pass or voucher or anything. Just thanks for your comments and we'll do what we can. Pish posh...I hate being tossed aside. You think I asked to be like this? That I enjoy going to places that treat me like I have the plague and just want me to go away? Grrr...I lost a day of work, respect for an establishment and who knows what my insides are looking like? I do my best to be careful...but it's like no matter how hard I try, I get sick and then back to square one...I wish I could just give this up like it was a sucky diet...guess not huh?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Our numbers are growing...we're coming to take you out!

Last week, I was in Chapters looking for a specific book about dealing with cognitive behaviour therapy (check my other blog for more about me and my therapy!) and ended up in the recipe books section. Yeah, I can't follow that logic either...but anyway...I did my usual scan for gluten free cookbooks (even though I don't buy them cause I just tweak all my recipes to make them gluten free) and couldn't believe how MANY there were. I swear when I was first diagnosed, there were TWO. Yes, TWO...and they were both by the same author. Cooking GF and Baking GF. Now, I found three SHELVES of gluten free (and other allergy free ones as well) cookbooks. My jaw hit the ground (I'm still bruised). I couldn't believe it. GF cookies, GF cakes, GF meals, GF...well, you get the point...it was damn impressive! I still didn't buy any but I stayed there for a little bit just taking it in and feeling pride that my "disease" was finally getting more recognition. In other news, I now have two other family members with Celiac (my dad's sister and my grandmother, his mom) and at least four friends with either diagnosed Celiacs (two-Rachel and Sarah) and two friends who eat gluten free because they feel better (Kelly and Natalie). In addition, one of my coworkers is Celiac and my boss is gluten intolerant. Sadly, this makes me happy. Not to see them suffer or watch as they struggle to find food but to have other people that understand EXACTLY what I am going through is like validation that I'm not just doing this to piss people off or being picky. I can bemoan the cost of food to them, share in the excitement of a new gluten free product that doesn't taste like a lump of sawdust, swap recipes, give each other tips on great places to eat or foods to try. When I go to eat at their house, I can relax knowing they aren't going to send me to the bathroom. When I was diagnosed 5 years ago, I knew NO ONE with my issues...now, I'm forming an army! Oh yeah!