Sunday, 25 August 2013


Amaranth Goodies

A few months ago I discovered amaranth.  Amaranth is a little known seed that is naturally gluten free, with more than double the fibre content of wheat.  Cooked amaranth is easy to digest and is found to be very high in nutrients.  I'm thinking it might just be the new quinoa.

Amaranth Seeds

I had heard that popped or puffed amaranth was very tasty, and a good substitute for popcorn.  And since I'm a snacker at heart, that was what really got my butt off the couch and over to the Bulk Barn to buy a bag.  Popping amaranth seeds is really easy, as long as you know how (instructions included below!).  The trick is just doing a little bit at a time, but it goes fast and before you know it you'll have a whole bowl full of the little puffed seeds.

Puffed Amaranth

But note, I said little.  That's what my prior research had failed to divulge.  The seeds start out tiny, and although they do puff up when they are popped, they are really just slightly less tiny!  I persevered, sprinkling my tiny puffs with a little sea salt and trying desperately to get my fingers to act as a carrier for the puffs to be transported into my mouth.  Let me tell you, it resulted in a small amount of success.  Although my kitchen floor got a good taste.  So, as any normal snacker would do I think, I reached for a spoon and stared eating my amaranth popcorn that way.  Well, it tasted great.  Amaranth has a lightly nutty flavour, and the sea salt brought that out nicely.  It was honestly a much more interesting flavour than standard popped corn.  But eating it with a spoon kinda killed it for me.  I don't know how other people out there are eating it, maybe I just have weird sausage fingers, but I couldn't do it!  And so the bag of remaining seeds languished in my cupboard unpopped and lonely.

Of course, that was until now.  Now, I have discovered that puffed amaranth lends itself extremely nicely to desserts, in a grown up Rice Krispies squares kind of way.  So amaranth and I are friends again.  BFF's if you will.  This recipe experiment was partially an 'everything in my kitchen except the sink' kinda thing, and partially a collection of all things yummy, mixed together and topped with chocolate.  Either way, it worked, and they taste amazing!  These goodies are such a great way to finish off a casual meal with friends, there is no way to not enjoy them.  And plus, they just look so damn awesome.

Amaranth Goodies

So here are the det's.  Super easy to make, keep a tin of these in the freezer for whenever you need a little treat (or treats).

Puffed Amaranth
You'll need a large pot with a good solid bottom and a bowl to put the puffed seeds in, but that's it.  Place the pot on the burner, and turn the heat to medium-high.  Make sure you let the pot get completely hot before you start popping.  A good way to tell is by putting a couple seeds in there when you start.  When they are dark brown, your pot should be ready.  Just be sure to discard those brown seeds before you start.

Pour one tablespoon of seeds into the pot, and start shaking or sliding  the pot over the burner right away.  Keeping the pot moving the whole time is key to not burning any of the seeds.  They should start to pop within a few seconds, and will finish in about 10 or 15 seconds.  Pour that batch into a bowl, and then start another tablespoon of seeds.  Don't try to do more than a tablespoon at a time!  There can only be a single layer of seeds on the bottom of the pot.  Also, when they pop, they really pop, so a large pot will help keep the excitement contained and not all over your counter.

That's it!  Now on to the good stuff...

Cashew Coconut Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Amaranth Goodies

Amaranth Goodies

2 cups puffed amaranth
1/2 cup roughly crushed cashews
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 sweetened coconut
1 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup dark chocolate

In a large bowl, mix together the puffed amaranth, crushed cashews, unsweetened coconut, and half of the sweetened coconut (1/4 cup).  In a small dish, combine the peanut butter and coconut oil, heating in the microwave for about one minute or until smooth and pourable.  Add the peanut butter and oil to the dry ingredients and mix until completely combined.

Line a 9" square pan with parchment paper, and press the mixture into the bottom of the pan, evenly.  Melt the dark chocolate and pour over the amaranth mixture, using a spatula to spread evenly over the entire surface.  Top with the remaining sweetened coconut (1/4 cup) and place in the freezer for at least one hour.  When ready to serve, lift out by the parchment paper onto a cutting board and crack into pieces with the point of a knife.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


I suddenly realized that summer is almost over!  Next week will mark the end of August, and even though I know it can stay pretty warm in September, it's really not summer anymore.  It seems like the season went by in a flash, as though it was just a few days ago that the warm, sunny months were stretching in front of me.  Along with this realization of impending season changes, was the thought that I'd better get my chilled summer soup recipe up before the leaves start falling.  Because who wants to eat cold soup in the winter?!

Chilled Coconut Cucumber Avocado Soup

But it is still summer for now, and this soup is deliciously creamy and cool.  The flavours of the avocado, cucumber and coconut milk complement each other perfectly, and the chili pepper brings a slow burst of heat to these subtle ingredients.  No cooking needed for this recipe, you can throw everything into the blender, and just have at 'er.  I garnished mine with a little fresh dill, but I think basil would also be very nice.  This Chilled Coconut Avocado soup makes a lovely appetizer for dinner, or serve for lunch with some grilled bread.  Side note:  I can eat buckets of grilled bread.  Seriously, it's like a drug for me.  Soooooo good.

Chilled Coconut Cucumber Avocado Soup

Chilled Coconut Cucumber Avocado Soup

1 cup lite coconut milk
5 baby dill cucumbers, peeled and seeded (or 1.5 full size cuc's), roughly chopped
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup 0% plain greek yogurt
1 green chili, seeded (if you are worried about the heat, just start with half the chili and taste, then add more if desired)
3 green onions, roughly chopped
Juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup water (use more or less to reach preferred consistency)

Place all the ingredients, except the water in a blender and puree until smooth.  Slowly drizzle in the water while blending, until the soup is smooth and creamy but still a thick consistency.

Enjoy on a deck or patio, under an umbrella or even by a sunny window!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013


Toronto Night Market

The 99 Sudbury building is host to a new Toronto night market, running from 5-10pm on Wednesday nights.  Perfect for those wanting to pick up a few goodies after work, and honestly much more conducive to many of the Toronto downtowners lifestyles.  

Now, just to set expectations I should say that it's pretty tiny.  But quality is key here, and hopefully with time it will grow into something larger in the long term.  But for now, it's adorable.  Yes, I called the market adorable.  It's all indoors, and the space is fantastic.  Concrete floors and high ceilings give it a really modern feel, but soft lighting keeps it nicely cozy and intimate.  Almost like a little lounge or a dinner party.  

Toronto Night Market

Adding to the lounge theme, there is a bar set up right beside the entrance for Beau's All Natural Brewing Company, where you can enjoy a Lug Tread Lager.  Yes, it's that kind of market.  

Toronto Night Market

Or, after just a few steps to the other side of the room, you can have a fancy cocktail at the Rivolta bar.  Over to the side is a seating area to relax in with your drinks and treats.

Toronto Night Market

The market does have traditional offerings as well, with a great table of fresh Ontario berries in all colours and shapes.  You won't be able to price compare since it's the only produce table there, but the product is good and there is a nice selection.

Toronto Night Market

There are a few other treats along the way as well.  A Indian stall proved worthwhile for its Shish Taouk sauce.  After a small sample, my boyfriend quickly grabbed a jar and handed over the cash.  Mixed with equal parts yogurt at home, it made a lovely chicken marinade.

Toronto Night Market

A well known favourite, the Mad Mexican was in appearance, sampling the always popular chips, salsas, and guac.  All of their salsas are super tasty, but we went hard core and opted for the "Morita Salsa".  A morita is a type of pepper that has been smoked, resulting in an almost black in colour, richly flavoured salsa.

Toronto Night Market

We also picked up a few ready made desserts to go at another stand and poked through a few craft stalls selling original, handmade jewelry and accessories.  It wasn't a long adventure, but I would say it was a quality one.  And maybe with a few more visitors this summer, this new night market will come back bigger and stronger next year.  But until then, you can hit it up until October and check out the website for details.

Saturday, 10 August 2013


The Pink Grapefruit opened up in May of this year, and it's been on my to-do list to visit this little take out shop since.  Rolling by on the streetcar, I first noticed this shop going up amid the less than fancy surroundings of Moss Park.  The clean graphic black and white signage stood out, and a peek into the interior revealed exposed brick walls and white accent furniture.

I'd been following along with their Facebook posts since then, until finally a long walk with the promise of Intelligentsia coffee lured me in.  Coffee was as good as expected, as was the flavoured iced tea for my partner in crime.  The shop is filled with treats little and large ranging from homemade kale chips to ready meals to go like curry rubbed chicken or cobb salad.  There are vegan options, gluten free options, and carnivore options.  There are goodies like gluten free brownies, chocolate rice pudding, jams, and more.   Their motto is "healthy food to go", but once inside you won't be thinking about being healthy because everything looks so damn tasty.

Once my caffeine was in the works we started poking through the refrigerated items, and although we weren't hungry in the moment, we figured we could easily make use of some sauce and dip later that night at home.  We picked up the "Triple Green Threat Sauce" for $3.00 which is a pesto type sauce made with kale, basil, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.  We also choose a Roasted Red Pepper and Feta dip for $4.25.  Very reasonable.

The Pink Grapefruit

Both were good choices.  We used the pesto sauce to make a yummy summer pasta salad, with gluten free rigatoni, grilled corn, sweet green peas, fresh tomato, and topped with grated parm.

The Pink Grapefruit

While we were waiting we snacked on rice crackers and the pepper feta dip.  Both were a hit.

The Pink Grapefruit

Fresh tasting, they had lots of great flavour, without being unnecessarily salty.  And it's nice to know that everything is fresh and homemade (but without the work for me!).

Thursday, 8 August 2013



This cider recently popped up on my radar when I spotted it on a trip to the "big" LCBO.  We live near a tiny, kind of pathetic type of LCBO, so occasionally we make the trek over to the "big" LCBO and I get overly excited and spend all kinds of money on all kinds of delicious things.  This is one of them.

Made in Ontario, this cider is so fresh and light, without any of that sour, bitter taste that ciders can sometimes fall prey to.  It's so easy to sip away at, especially in these summer days where you need both a thirst quencher, but also a real drink drink.  It's made from heritage apples, and has 5% alcohol, BUT what I really, really love the most is the packaging.

It's so cute, right?  I was out with some friends recently at a bar in Parkdale, and I saw that they had this cider on the menu.  I immediately ordered it, citing how cute I thought the bottle was, and the bartender quickly agreed to its cuteness as well.

Anyways, I proudly carried the cute 4 pack home from the "big" LCBO, and have enjoyed every last drop.  Except the bottle that my boyfriend stole.  I guess he thought it was cute too.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


I have yet to visit the home of the arepa (Venezuela & Columbia), but when I picture it in my head I imagine bright colours, warm kitchens, and people enjoying homemade foods, like these arepas that are served at every meal.  Like all cultures that have strong associations with food, I would bet that traditional recipes are passed down from generation to generation, with grandmother and grandchildren standing at the stove cooking together.  For some reason, it always seems that grandmothers have the best recipes, or that they know how to cook that recipe just right.


Well, I'm not a Colombian or Venezuelan grandmother, but when my boyfriend sent me an article about arepas, I was sure as hell ready to try and be one!  Thick, round disks of warm, crunchy, chewy cornbread, naturally gluten free, and virtually singing to me of warm, brightly coloured kitchens and family get togethers.  It's comfort food that belongs at every meal, whether it's spread with a little butter in the morning, stuffed with meat and cheese in the afternoon, in a bread basket at the dinner table, or even sprinkled with a little cinnamon and sugar for dessert.


I'm mourning the loss of the years that I wasn't making and eating arepas.  Forget being gluten free, these are for everyone.  Unless you don't have a soul.  If you don't want to eat these, you cannot possibly have a soul.  If you can smell these delightful little pucks of gold and still resist them, I am very, very scared of you and your demon powers.

On a more positive note, these are really not very difficult to make.  The hardest part of the process is finding the corn dough that you need to make them with.  It's pre cooked white cornmeal, and it is completely different from the regular cornmeal you probably already have in your cupboard.  Don't use that cornmeal, it won't work and you will curse me and cry for days.  If you can find it, use P.A.N. Pre Cooked White Maize Meal (instant dough).  We were able to find it at our local meat market that has a strong Latin American influence and so is well stocked with goodies like fresh tortilla chips, salsas, meats, cheeses, and of course this coveted yellow bag of P.A.N that would bring our arepas to life.


Here's how to make the dough for the arepas:
Start with 2 1/2 cups warm water, then add 1 teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of vegetable oil, and 2 cups of the P.A.N. cornmeal.  Start kneading everything together with your hand until a smooth dough forms.  You don't want to overwork it so it becomes dry, but you don't want it to be too wet either.  Try making a small patty, and holding it in your palm flip your hand over the bowl.  If it sticks to your hand, the dough is too wet.  Keep kneading or add a touch more cornmeal.  When the dough is ready, form small balls (about the size of a golfball) and then flatten so it becomes a round disk shape (like a hockey puck) but not too thick or it will take a long time to cook.

Cooking the arepas:
This can be done several different ways.  You can fry them, bake them, barbecue them, griddle them, or a combination of various methods.  We opted for what seemed like a traditional method, combo frying/baking.  Heat a large pan on the stove with a light coating of oil on low to medium heat, but no hotter than that.  The goal is to form a light brown crust on the outside, and to have the insides cook very slowly as well.  Ours took about 20 minutes per side to get a nice crust going.  While they are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and place a piece of parchment paper on a shallow pan.  When the arepas are browned on both sides in the pan, transfer them to the baking sheet, and place in the oven for about 20 more minutes.  Test for doneness by tapping them lightly.  If they sound hollow, they're ready.  When you cut them open the insides should be a bit doughy, contrasting nicely with the crunch on the outside.

Filling the arepas:
What do you have in your fridge?  What are your favourite meats, cheeses, or veggies?  Use them!  Seriously, this part is completely up to you.  I had to try one with just some butter on it, and it was amazing.  I could easily snack on those all day.  But we had these planned for a dinner, so we stuffed ours with slow cooked pulled pork and fresh avocado.  It was fantastic.  If you're looking for a veggie option they would be well suited to some grilled zucchini, eggplant and topped with brie cheese.  Or fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and cheddar would hit the spot.


I'm so happy I've discovered arepas.  They are so versatile, and such a good bread alternative.  I love the smell of warm cornmeal as they cook, and the steaming, gooey insides when you split one in half.  Although they may be common in the southern hemisphere, I think they make quite an impression here in the "north".  Plus, they are just fun to say.  Arepa!!