Apples to sticky apples

Ever since I moved to Montreal and discovered all the surrounding apple orchards I have made an effort to get myself a giant bag of apples.  Nothing says fall to me like apple picking.  For the second year in a row, I ventured out with Dayle, Dave and Zak (Andrew couldn’t make it out this year, work shmurk).  Dayle and I have been apple picking for a few years now, I still remember our first time — when she neglected to mention her severe motion sickness after I forced her onto a ferry to Oka — we had such a wonderful day out with our choir girls.  More than 10 years later, this feels like a traditional family outing that I would hate to miss.  Zak is 2 going on 5 and it was so much fun climbing ladders and racing through trees with him.

Dave, Zak and Dayle

This year we went to Quinn Farms where they have apples, animals, pumpkin patches and plenty of heavy duty trucks for a boy to climb on.  This is a big farm, you can pick strawberries and asparagus in the summer and cut down Christmas trees in the winter, so they have a store with jams and fresh veggies and a little hot dog and soup stand.  They have hot apple cider and fresh apple juice, popcorn and candied apples.  They also sell baked goods, nothing gluten free unfortunately.  Zak and I picked up a candied apple and are both happy to report we miraculously still have all our teeth; sadly, I wouldn’t recommend these shiny red treats.  The candy was really hard and stuck to your teeth and once you got to the apple your face was fluorescent from the dye (that you could taste more than the sugar).

Red dye no. 4

We picked two 18 pound bags of two apple varieties, Cortland and Empire.  Apparently Cortland are better for baking, so that is what I did when I got home.  Thanks to my Bob’s Red Mill gf oats and gf all purpose flour I was able to whip up a crisp!

Apple, blueberry and raspberry Crisp

GF Apple crisp
This is a gf, nut free version of the crisp my mom makes, it’s easy and it’s always delicious!  It’s also good for breakfast.
What you’ll need:
2 cups gf oatmeal (if you want nuts use 1 cup oats and 1 cup pecans), 1/3 cup of all purpose gf flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 3/4 cup of melted butter (1/2 cup will do the trick too), 1/2 tsp. salt, as many peeled and sliced apples as you can fit into your baking dish, any other fruit you might want to bake in there (I love blueberries and raspberries, dried cherries, pears and rhubarb)
Preheated oven (325〫), baking dish (this is enough crisp to cover a 9″x 13″ dish)

Layer your fruit into your baking dish, don’t be afraid to heap.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and sprinkle on top.  Bake for about an hour or until the fruit starts to bubble up along the edges.  Eat a la mode or with whip cream or all by itself.

So my crisp used 9 large apples, now I just have to figure out how to deal with the 15 pounds of apples I have left…I see apple bunt cake in my very near future (just saw a recipe in allergic living).  Happy Fall!

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Wasabi peas and memories.

I love Chinese food,  I miss Chinese restaurants and Dim Sum; I haven’t eaten Dim Sum in 3 years, I used to eat it every 2-3 weeks (probably not the healthiest thing to admit, but it’s in the past 🙂 ).  My Grandmother is Chinese, making me one-quarter, but I’m fairly sure I would love and miss this delicious cuisine just as much if I hadn’t grown up with my Chinese connection.

I have wonderful memories of various Chinatowns: snooping through all the treasures, the inexpensive and delicious groceries, the mysterious candies with only Chinese characters on the packaging…  San Francisco (the oldest Chinatown in North America and a must for tourists), Vancouver, Victoria (second oldest), Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, it doesn’t matter where I am, when I see lion statues and red gates electricity and excitement run through my body.  The smell of pork buns, bbq’d duck, sesame balls with bean paste and egg tarts all ignite my childhood flashbacks and then it hits me: I can’t eat any of it.  My trips to Montreal’s Chinatown have dropped drastically since my diagnoses and when I do go, I run in and out like there is a fire.  (It’s the best place to buy pork, 3 lbs. of ground pork for under $6 can’t be beat)

I decided it’s about time I reconnect.  Time to take a trip down there without a grocery list and just make my way through the memories.  Let the scents of Chinatown be the calorie free way to enjoy Chinese, then go home and make something inspired by the things I find on my trip.

We had a cabbage, carrots and bok choy from our veggie basket, so I decided to make spring roll insides (we make this when we don’t feel like frying) and some kind of bok choy dish on the side.  I bought 3 lbs. of pork, ginger, Thai basil, 4 chopstick rests, vermicelli noodles, dried shiitake mushrooms and green onions for about $15!  I also found WASABI PEAS!!! In individual, single serving packets no less!  I’ve seen Wasabi peas around, but they always contain wheat flour.  Not these babies!  And they pack as much punch as I remember!  This little pack of peas has renewed my faith in the gf revolution!  Even Chinatown is going GF!  I have a renewed sense of Chinatown purpose!  A raison d’être, a whole new game plan in Chinatown my friends!  GF is so trendy.

Spring Roll Insides
You may think this is weird, but this dish came from the excessive amount of leftover filling I had the first time I made spring rolls with my new deep fryer (Shout out to Jonathan!).  We made enough filling to feed a small army, eventually I had to stop frying and eat.  The leftovers were amazing and ever since, if I don’t feel like frying, I just make the insides with a bit less noodle and serve them over rice or more noodles.  Don’t judge, try them and you will see what I mean.

This recipe is inspired by Martha Liao’s recipe.  Martha Liao is married to Hao Jiang Tian an opera singer from Beijing and I happened to catch them being interviewed on Martha Stewart.  Apparently Martha Liao prepares her famous Peking duck feasts at the end of Hao Jiang Tian’s runs all over the world.  She is also known for her dumplings and spring rolls.  You can find the unaltered recipe and watch a clip of these two cooking with Martha here.  This recipe yields 40-50 spring rolls, you can see why I had so much leftover filling!  She also uses spring roll wrappers which contain wheat flour, I use rice flour wrappers and I’m just as content.

What you’ll need (for the spring roll insides, in case you forgot, because I blabbed a little):
1 pack skinny rice noodles, 1 small shredded head cabbage, 4 or 5 grated carrots, canola oil, 2 lbs. lean ground pork, 2 tbsp. chopped garlic, 2 tbsp. chopped ginger, 3 tablespoons gf soy sauce (I use BRAGGS), 1 tbsp. Shao Xsing (Chinese cooking wine pictured below), 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. cornstarch, 5 chopped green onions, 1 tsp. sesame oil and rice vinegar *this is a lot of filling, cut it half if you want*
Wok or large skillet, 2 big bowls, big spoon

Left to right: my cheeky red rice cooker, Chinese cooking wine, rice vinegar and sesame oil

Cook your rice noodles according to the directions on the packet, this usually involves soaking in hot or boiling water.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok with a lid over medium-high heat. Add cabbage and carrots and cook, stirring, until coated with oil. Season with salt and cover; cook until cabbage mixture is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer cabbage mix to a large bowl; set aside.
Add enough oil to lightly coat bottom of skillet. Add pork, garlic, and ginger; stir to combine. Add soy sauce, wine, and sugar. Whisk cornstarch together with 1/4 cup water until well combined. Add to skillet and cook, stirring, until mixture is thickened and pork is cooked through.
Drain rice noodles, pull out half the noodles and chop them up a little, stir into pork along with the green onions and sesame oil. Transfer pork mixture to bowl with cabbage; toss to combine.
Serve over the rest of the noodles or rice with rice vinegar and soy sauce!

Spring Roll Insides

Bok Choy and Shiitake mushrooms
What you’ll need:
3 or 4 Bok Choy cut into bite size strips, dried or fresh shiitake mushroom, chopped up garlic and ginger, gf soy sauce, sesame oil, s&p
Wok and spoon
If you are using dried mushrooms, soak them according to the package.
I used the same wok I had made the pork filling in, so it was already seasoned with oil, throw in the bok choy, ginger, garlic and soy sauce steam until the thick parts start to soften.  Slice the mushrooms and throw them in to heat.

Chinatown dinner


Bar Call not Pub Crawl

I was recently back in Calgary for my smarty pants friend’s call to the BAR.  She is my very first lawyer friend and I’m so happy to have been a part of her big day.  I had never heard of a BAR call and I had no idea that it was such a big celebration!  Admittedly, when Natasha (my lawyer friend) sent me her tentative bar call date in April, I put “Send Flowers” in my calendar, but in August Sarah (our outstanding mutual friend) tells me there are invitations and receptions and ceremonies and that I need to catch the next seat sale to Calgary!

Fast forward to September 23rd, a fun filled day of celebrating Tasha’s accomplishment and food!
The schedule:
7am Breakfast
4pm Court House with reception to follow at Tasha’s law firm
7pm Dinner at Alloy

We started early, even though I don’t think any of us had anywhere to be.  It was still dark when Sarah picked me up, I tried to take pictures of the sun coming up, but they look more like blurry UFO images (don’t worry I sent them to a lab for analysis, just in case).  We met up with Natasha and Jason (refresher: you met them the last time I was in Calgary) and two of Tasha’s friends from University in Bridgeland.  I clearly have not lived in Calgary for a while as I did not know that this up and coming little area called Bridgeland existed.  The restaurant is called Blue Star Diner, Tasha and Jason live nearby and had noticed the gf items on the menu. ***I love that my friends and family are so aware and on the lookout for gf goods***

Hears a taste:

Blue Star Diner.

This little diner is a gem.  The fresh interior, the stainless steel lunch counter, the chalkboard wall and long benches are welcoming and charming.  The staff was attentive and the food was delicious.  There are several, clearly marked gf items on the menu and gf buns and toast are offered as well.  I never really considered Calgary an “out for breakfast place”, but this neighborhood diner has made me think Calgary might have this breakfast thing down. Please note: Calgary has always had the pancake breakfast thing down, no other city I know makes free pancakes on the back of a chuckwagon, but that is only offered 10 days a year.

What I ate:
Shitake Mushroom and Sweet Onion Eggs Benedict with GF bun
Side of Bacon
Delicious Tea (deserves to be mentioned because it was so yummy)

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Eggs Benedict with GF Buns

Breakfast buddies

The event at the courthouse had no food, but still deserves an honorable mention. 😉 In Alberta each person who passes the BAR receives their own personal oath taking ceremony.  Tasha’s principals (her bosses) present her to the court and basically talk about what a great person she is and how hard she works and what a fantastic lawyer she will be, then Natasha takes the big oath, the judge waves his magical gavel and Tasha is a lawyer!

Next stop the Firm.  Natasha (love her) had ordered some food specifically for me.  They had a lovely cheese plate and glutino crackers, spring rolls with extremely salty peanut sauce and skewered chicken.  For dessert there were fruit plates and chocolate covered strawberries.  A good pre-dinner snack.

Just a quick aside:  I really like glutino crackers, they are tasty, they come in a few varieties and they definitely work with cheese.  The company needs to rethink their packaging because the boxes make the crackers look a bit like cardboard.  No one seemed to notice that they were gluten free!

Then to Alloy!

Hears a taste:

Alloy.

This restaurant opened in the weirdest location ever a few years ago; it can be found across from Safeway’s frozen food storage.  Alloy renovated and re-purposed an old building that I never noticed.  I went there once with my family, but I think it was B.C.  I remember enjoying my food and when I heard Tash picked this restaurant for dinner with her closest friends and family, I knew this was a big deal.  Natasha had selected a reduced menu for our very large group and I had a few options in each course, try not to drool!

What I ate:
Indian Butter Prawns with chili pepper, fenugreek and crispy papadam
Roasted Halibut with more grilled prawns, green curry risotto and lemongrass coconut cream
Cholado = fresh fruit, sweet coconut reduction, trio of sorbet

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Indian Butter Prawns

Plate of delicious halibut

My trip to Calgary was great because of this day.  I’m so lucky to have been able to fly back to Cowtown and share the day with Tasha.  She has worked so hard and I’m so proud to know her.  Thanks for wanting me there and thanks for all the fabulous food!  Congratulations!

Good food, messy kitchen

I love cooking.  I think one thing that made my transition from gluten eater to gluten free a lot easier was my familiarity with the kitchen.  Thanks Mom!  Because of my comfort in the kitchen, when I am in a restaurant I have a pretty clear idea of how things are made, where they might sneak in a thickener or what should and shouldn’t use flour.  Although I’ve been writing about restaurants, I’ve also had a great time in the kitchen this summer.  My veggie basket has given me exactly what I wanted: inspiration.  I’ve made things like red wine and maple glazed carrots (needed to use my carrots and shallots), fennel and apple salad (I had a fennel), leek and cauliflower soup, bbq’d cauliflower, roasted tomatoes, grilled zucchini, fresh pesto (so much basil, so little time)…

Here are a few of the things I made and recipes:

Cauliflower and Leek Soup
What you’ll need:
3 leeks, 1 head of cauliflower, 1 liter of broth, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, S&P
Big pot, blender or immersion blender, spoon

First, boil cauliflower florets in water with lemon juice (added once the water has reached a boil)

Boiled cauliflower

Chop up the white end of 3 leeks, soften and sauté in butter.

Softening the leeks

Once the leeks start to brown, reduce the heat and add 1 litre of broth.  (I use whatever I have in the freezer or pantry so chicken, turkey or veggie).  Throw in the cauliflower, then blend and bring back to a boil.  Easy.  Delicious.  The first night, we just ate soup, but the next day we ate TV dinner style leftovers (picture below).

He and she TV dinners

Butter chicken, indiana succotash and cauliflower soup

Pulled Pork Tacos
What you’ll need: (inspired by Emeril Lagasse)
1 boneless pork shoulder, 1 1/2 tablespoons light-brown sugar, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper, 1 teaspoon crumbled Mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon cayenne, old bay seasoning (if you have it), S&P
Slow cooker, baking dish or bowl, forks

Place pork roast in a large, shallow baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, s&p, crushed red pepper, chipotle and cayenne pepper, and oregano. Using your hands, rub spice blend evenly over pork. Loosely cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Transfer pork to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high until tender and falling apart, about 8 hours, breaking into smaller pieces as it becomes more tender.
Using 2 forks, shred meat.

Pulled porky goodness

Devon's Taqueria

We ate the pork with corn tortillas, homemade salsa, spicy corn and lime.  Too good.  The next day I melted it all in cheese for quesadillas!

Frittata
What you’ll need:
5 Eggs (this is plenty for 2 people), 2 potatoes, 1 onion, tomatoes, whatever vegetable you have in your fridge and want to use, 1/2 cup milk, butter
Cast iron pan, wooden spoon or paddle

Cook the potatoes in a bit of butter, set aside and sauté the onions and your other veggies (I like spinach and kale and peppers), when those are cooked add the eggs and milk (which you should whip together in a seperate bowl).  Mix around the eggs to cook a bit, but stop when it starts to set up.  Layer with tomatoes and place under a broiler (medium heat), bake until the tomatoes start to brown.

Kale, potato and tomato frittata