Monday, 30 September 2013


 I have never actually deep fried anything before.  Well, that is if you don't count attending an annual "deep fry day" party hosted by my boyfriend when we first started dating.  On that day, I watched and consumed a plethora of deep fried items, including cheeseburgers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, and many other random food items that never needed to be deep fried but were somehow lucky enough to become the chosen ones of the day.  I wasn't gluten free at this point, clearly.  It's a bittersweet memory filled with surprisingly delicious tastes and also a fair amount of overly full tummies and general nausea by everyone in attendance.

Sweet Potato Rice Donuts

So perhaps I should rephrase this to, I have never deep fried anything in my own kitchen, until now.  I had originally intended on baking these little doughy balls, in an effort to keep them as healthy as possible and thereby reduce guilt for all intended victims if we decided that we needed to eat the entire batch in one sitting.  As you have probably deduced by now, I did not end up baking them.  Blame a small birthday gathering for my darling little cousin that encouraged me to go full force into donut territory and break out the oil.  Or just blame me.  That's probably more accurate.

Sweet Potato Rice Donuts

I did a ton of research on gluten free donuts, specifically ones using sweet potato as a main ingredient.  I was looking for a sweet potato style donut specifically, in order to make them less of a gluten free version of a real donut, and more of a delicious donut that just happens to be gluten free.  That has actually become my goal in a lot of my baking - instead of replacing everything gluten filled with gluten free flour, which is undeniably not only a more difficult product to work with but also has an inferior flavour and texture to wheat flour, I constantly try to work with recipes that are more creative and use completely different and unexpected ingredients.

Often this means working with foods and recipes from different regions or cultures.  Wheat flour is a serious staple in our western diets, but is not always as common in other ethnic foods.  Which is how I came across this sweet potato rice donut recipe.  Beyond Kimchee is a Korean inspired food blog where I found not only this recipe, but also a new type of flour as well.  The author of this blog gave full disclosure - these donuts are a doughy, chewy texture that is quite unlike a donut made with wheat flour.  That's what I like to see.  I am all for trying to recreate a gluten free chocolate chip cookie that brings you back to childhood even with a difficult diet restriction - but let's also explore and create new recipes and foods that don't just adapt to being gluten free, but celebrate it.  Well, let's try anyways!

Sweet Potato Rice Donuts

So, the donuts.  These Korean style treats are covered in a cinnamon sugar mixture, so the first taste that hits your mouth is sweet and flavourful.  On the inside, the dough behaves more like an uncooked bread dough in that it's moist, chewy, and has a satisfying heft to it.  This is because of the first main ingredient, glutinous rice flour or sweet rice flour.  Despite its two names, this flour is neither sweet, nor full of gluten.  Typically used in Asian cooking, this flour is made from a shorter grain rice, the same kind you would see in sticky rice.  It has a higher starch content, and can be used in recipes that call for a stronger binding agent (you can bet I'm going to attempt a bechamel sauce with this stuff!).  The other main ingredient, the sweet potato, gives the donuts a beautiful pale orange colour inside the donut which is a great surprise after biting into one.  I opted to use brown sugar instead of white for my donuts, which complimented the sweet potato well, so the flavour was rich and deep but not overly sweet.  I also used grapeseed oil for frying which is a healthier oil choice than other more common types (although it would work with others too).

These sweet potato rice donuts were a hit.  Yes they were deep fried, but they were also delicious and we all couldn't resist have a second or third little donut that night.  A definite keeper for those special occasions.

Sweet Potato Rice Donuts

Sweet Potato Rice Donuts
Adapted from Beyond Kimchee

2 medium sized sweet potatoes (will be about 1 1/2 cups cooked and mashed)
2 1/3 cups glutinous rice flour (also known as sweet rice flour)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 - 1 cup hot milk
Grapeseed oil

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

First, cook the potatoes.  Wash and scrub the potatoes thoroughly, then pierce the skins all over with a fork.  Place them on a paper towel lined plate and microwave for about 8 minutes, turning halfway.  When the potatoes are cooked, peel off the skin and discard, then mash.  Let it cool a bit so the mash is easy to handle with your hands.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the mashed sweet potato and mix thoroughly until it consists of fine crumbs with larger pea sized chunks.  Add a 1/4 cup of the hot milk and mix with a spoon.  You want the dough to come together and resemble a bread dough.  Keep adding milk by the 1/4 cup as needed, stopping when you get to the correct consistency.  You'll know it's right when you are able to handle and knead it with your hands.  If you add too much milk, the dough may become too sticky and unworkable.  Just add more rice flour until you are back to a bread dough-like consistency.

Pull a piece at a time from the dough and roll it into a ball.  Try making them a little smaller than the 1" size, as they will puff up a bit when frying.  Roll all the dough into balls and cover with a towel to keep moist while frying in batches.

Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a deep pan on medium to medium-low heat, and fill with about 1 inch of oil.  When the oil is hot, drop a few balls into the pan and start rolling them around.  I was able to do about 5 at a time in my pan.  You want to do as many as you can to keep it moving, but you don't want the pan to be so crowded that they are going to stick together or not roll around to cook evenly.  Use a metal sieve with a long handle if you have it to roll them around, or a spoon will work too.  Brown the balls on all sides so that you have a nice evenly cooked donut.  Try tipping the pan sometimes to create a deeper pool of oil.  It will take 5-10 minutes for the donuts to cook through.  Remove from the pan with your sieve, and place in a single layer on a paper towel lined dish.  Then start the next batch.  After they have cooled just enough to handle, roll the donuts in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a serving platter.

You can cook these earlier in the day, and then let them cool completely to room temperature.  The texture and chewiness will develop more this way.  Or, if you can't wait just serve them warm.

Saturday, 28 September 2013


Roasted Chickpeas

It's true, roasted chickpeas are nothing new.  I used to make these regularly with my roommate in our tiny little galley kitchen to snack on while we watched countless episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  On vacation in the Bahamas one winter we showed our bed and breakfast owner how to make them too.  Clearly, they were a staple in my diet.  But somewhere along the way, I  forgot all about these tiny, crispy, nuggets of joy.  Chickpeas took a backseat to all of the other new and exciting foods that had crossed my path.

Welcome back chickpeas.  I recently made these again, and remembered why I loved them so much.  A good healthy snack, they occupy my hands while watching the tube, the same way that a bag of chips does, (and that could be potato chips or chocolate chips mind you)  but without all the calories or the long list of strange ingredients.  Roasted chickpeas give me that salt hit that I often crave, and that crunch that you just have to have while watching a movie, whether it's a good ol' romantic comedy or a nail biting thriller.

On a side note, I have terrible taste in movies.  It's like I actively want to turn my brain off when I turn one on.  In theory, I would love to watch something that informs me or teaches me.  In reality all I want is great clothes, good looking people, and some serious high school drama or a few hilarious hijinks.  It never ends well, let me tell you.  I can pretty much guarantee that it's going to end with me saying, "that movie was so terrible, I feel like I just lost two hours of my life".  And then I'll do it again.

But I would feel way worse if I didn't have chickpeas.  Then I would really be wasting my time.

Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas
2 cups chickpeas, rinsed, drained and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place the chickpeas in a large bowl a toss with the olive oil to coat.  Add the spices and mix thoroughly.  Spread the chickpeas out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Make sure they are in one layer only, and not overlapping.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, tossing them halfway through the cooking to ensure they cook evenly.  I find these keep well just in a dish on the counter, so they don't lose any of their crunch.

Friday, 27 September 2013


Cavena Nuda, also know as "rice of the prairies", is actually a naked (hull free) oat grain that looks very similar to brown rice.  But, don't go skipping over this informative text, because there is a shocking twist to this story.  Although cavena nuda may look like rice, it is actually not like rice at all...shocking right?!  I know.

Cavena Nuda

First of all, cavena nuda has a unique texture.  It's very chewy, in a good way.  I personally love the texture, and it's a nice change since it's unlike any other grain.  I find that the flavour is stronger than other grains, or in other words, it actually has a flavour of it's own, which tastes a bit nutty and earthy.  It's also super crazy high in protein and fibre.  Which means that a little goes a long way when you're eating it.  And of course, it's completely gluten free.  Yay!

You can use this super oat in place of its less nutritious friend rice, in your usual recipes.  Since I'm not really the biggest rice fan out there, I like to make up new recipes for cavena nuda specifically.  It's great served hot, cooked in some broth, or mixed with grilled chicken, or topped with sriracha, but it's also a fantastic replacement for pasta in a cold salad.  Since it is so sturdy, the flavour and texture stand up to being chilled and mixed with other ingredients and dressings so well.  A mixed and dressed salad can hang out in the fridge for a few days, becoming a quick and easy lunch, without getting at all soggy.

Here's a simple cold cavena nuda salad to try out.  You can find the oat grain in the health food section of the supermarket, or at the bulk food store.

Cavena Nuda Salad

Cavena Nuda Salad
1 cup cavena nuda
1 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 cups chopped cucumber
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
large handful of basil, chopped

Olive oil
Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt & pepper

To cook the cavena nuda, add the cup of raw grain to 2 1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and boil for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain the cooked cavena nuda, and leave in the strainer to cool.  Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.  Mix everything together in a large bowl, and then add the dressing.  Start by adding the juice of one lemon and two tablespoons of olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Taste, then add more dressing and seasoning as desired.  Chill in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.

Cavena Nuda Salad

Friday, 13 September 2013


Turkey & Feta Meatball Eggplant Involtini

Involtini!  Involtini!!  It sounds powerful, right?  It is.  It has the power to take over your afternoon and your kitchen.  To cover every and all countertop surfaces with a tray, a bowl, a cutting board, or a scattering of feta cheese.  It's also a nibble while you cook kinda meal.  Unfortunately, I had no self control on this particular afternoon and there was no one else around to shame me into acting civilized so many little pieces of feta, small meatballs, and chunks of roasted eggplant went missing along the way.  I didn't even really need dinner by the time the dish was ready.  But don't fret, I ate lot's of it anyways.

Eggplant Involtini is an Italian dish that is typically stuffed with a blend of cheeses, particularly ricotta.  This makes a great vegetarian main or vegetable side dish and since we all know how much I love cheese, a very tasty way to eat an eggplant. However, with the change of seasons I'm attempting to get back into healthier eating habits (tooo many summer cocktails on the patio perhaps?) and painfully, not eat an inordinate amount of cheese.  So I created this version that is healthy, full of lean protein, and a great dinner option when you want something really good without breaking the health streak.  And yes, it still has cheese in it.  I do my best, okay?

Turkey & Feta Meatball Eggplant Involtini

I don't usually post overly complicated recipes, and I wouldn't say that this is complicated, so much as time consuming.  There are a few shortcuts you can take, but unless you happen to have all the components already made in your fridge, it's going to take a bit of time.  Putting the final parts together is easy, but first you have to make the main three parts of this meal, a yummy gluten free, flour and rice free turkey and feta meatball, big slices of roasted eggplant, and your favourite tomato sauce.  Then it's just rollin', rollin', rollin'...

First up, get the eggplant going.

Roasted Eggplant
1 large eggplant
Olive oil

Prepare the eggplant by slicing off and discarding the stem ends.  Then slice the eggplant lengthwise in 1/4 inch thick slices (aka as thinly as you can).  If you have a mandolin, use it!  But I did it solo, 'cause I'm super talented.  And also because I don't have a mandolin.  Pile the slices in a strainer, sprinkling the slices of eggplant with salt in between each layer.  Leave this to sit for 30 minutes,.  The salt will pull out all of the excess moisture in the eggplant.  After the half hour is up, rinse the slices quickly in cold water and then pat dry.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lay the eggplant slices out in one layer, brushing each side lightly with olive oil.  Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes on each side, until lightly browned.

Turkey & Feta Meatball Eggplant Involtini

While you've got the eggplant going, you can start on the meatballs too.  Side note:  these are great just on their own, and you'll probably have a few leftover so just add them to the leftovers pile in your fridge for another night when you're in a rush.  However, don't expect them to act like regular meatballs.  Because they are completely free of any type of breadcrumb or flour they won't roll into balls in your hand.

Turkey & Feta Meatballs
2 lbs lean ground turkey
1 zucchini, shredded, drained, and patted dry
1/2 cup crumbled feta, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
3 tablespoons flax meal
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4  teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray lightly with oil.  Place spoonfuls of the meat on the baking sheet.  Since these meatballs are grain and flour free, the mixture will be a bit sticky, so don't worry about rolling them into balls, just put them on the sheet like you would cookies.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees, depending on the size.

With the two biggest parts of the involtini going strong, the last piece of the puzzle is the tomato sauce.  For the sauce, you can use your go-to tomato sauce, especially if you have some stocked up in the freezer ready to use.  I had thoughts in my head of doing a proper sauce for this myself, but as the kitchen got messier and the clean surfaces started to disappear I decided to take a shortcut instead.  I used a jar of strained tomatoes and simply added a few herbs and spices.  I figured everything would sizzle and simmer together in the over later anyways.

Tomato Sauce / Or use your own sauce
1 jar (680ml) strained tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.

When all of the three key parts are complete, you can start assembling your involtini.  Involtini!  I just have to do that.  At this point you're cruising.  And if you're like me, you're starting to feel pretty full from all the "cleaning up" of stray pieces of food.  But hey, there's still other people to feed.

Turkey & Feta Meatball Eggplant Involtini

Turkey & Feta Meatball Eggplant Involtini (GF)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large casserole dish, spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in a thin layer over the bottom of the dish.  Take one slice of eggplant, and roll it around one meatball, placing seam side down in the dish.  Continue until all the eggplant slices have been used, and fill any remaining spaces with plain meatballs.  You'll probably have meatballs leftover, which can be enjoyed another day (or just make another eggplant).  Spoon the rest of the tomato sauce over the rolls, and sprinkle with remaining feta.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dish is heated through, and the sauce is bubbling.  Serve and enjoy.

Turkey & Feta Meatball Eggplant Involtini

Thursday, 12 September 2013


Weeknight Lentils

Okay, so I'll admit this is not the prettiest dish I've ever made.  But it's the lentils fault.  Totally not mine.  I used a yellow zucchini in an effort to brighten things up.  I mean, I guess you could make it with a green one, but come on, doesn't the yellow just look better?  That's what I thought.  But let's get to the food...

Like a middle child, I feel like lentils are overlooked a lot of the time.  They're small.  They're a dull brown colour.  They can look at little mushy at times.  But let's go beyond appearances.  Lentils are a legume that provide a source of protein and fibre, making them helpful in boosting digestion and long lasting energy.  They are low in calories, and very economical in all seasons.  But they are kind of forgettable.  Again, kind of like a middle child...

I am determined to eat more lentils.  To go beyond winter soups, and make them a staple in my diet.  And not a side dish kind of staple.  A front runner, headliner, main act, kind of staple.  First born child lentils.

The good thing about lentils, is that they require no preparation, and they cook quickly.  For a weeknight dinner, this is perfect.  They are also pretty innocuous so they go well with a range of different grains, vegetables, and flavours.  All this adds up to me being able to throw a bunch of things that happen to be in my fridge into a pan, and to come out with a dinner that even my meat loving boyfriend enjoyed.

So whether the zucchini is green or yellow or even turns out to be a red pepper, please just give these lentils the accolades they deserve.

Weeknight Lentils
1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 yellow zucchini, halved & sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
2 large handfuls spinach
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

First, rinse the lentils well.  Then place the lentils along with two and a half cups water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook partially covered for 20-30 minutes or until tender.  Drain any excess water.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick saucepan heat the oil and add the garlic and ginger.  Saute for about one minute, then add the zucchini and cook for five minutes, until tender.  Add the cooked lentils to the pan along with the cherry tomatoes.  Pour in the broth, and simmer for five minutes until the extra liquid is absorbed.  Throw in the spinach and basil and toss well.  Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for one minute.  Serve with hot sauce.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


Citrus Salt and Chili Salt

Salt is not evil.  Sodium in prepackaged foods may be your enemy, but real salt used to season real foods is a tasty little friend.  When used correctly, salt can really pump up the flavour on a fresh piece of fish, a grilled steak, or even a juicy piece of fruit.  Of course, plain old regular salt is fine if you don't mind yawning through your meal...but why not a lemon citrus flavoured salt, a heated chili salt, or even a sweet and spicy cinnamon salt?

This is really one of those food 'casions where you can create and customize based on your particular taste preferences and needs.  Love orange chinese chicken?  Make orange citrus salt!  Herb-a-holic?  Make a herbed blend salt!  Whatever your preference, the basic rules are the same.  For me, I love versatile flavours that suit my main dinner staples, fish and chicken.  Both of these lemon and chili salts do that perfectly.

Citrus Salt and Chili Salt

First, just zest, mince, chop or crush your preferred flavour.  I zested about two tablespoons of lemon and mixed with roughly two tablespoons of large flaked sea salt.  On flavour number two, I chopped and pureed one red chili pepper and mixed that with two tablespoons of salt.

Then, things got crazy.  I started thinking about sweet salts.  What would vanilla salt be like?  How could i use a honey salt?  Well, in the end I only have so much room in my condo sized kitchen so I chose to take a tablespoon of my lemon citrus salt mix, a tablespoon of my red chili pepper salt mix, and added in another teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of cinnamon.  Fresh, spicy and sweet, it's definitely a new addition to my spice cupboard.

But you aren't done yet.  The salt mixtures need to be dried out before using.  Spread out your salts in rows on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and bake in the oven at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for about one hour, or until completely dried out.  I've read that you can also leave the baking sheets out in a dry area, but it takes about a week for them to dry out like this, and come on, who has the time or space for that?  Yes, baking is key here.

Citrus Salt and Chili Salt

When the salt is all dried out, I like to give it a quick pulse or two in my bullet to get everything nice and mixed, but you can use it as is too.  Sprinkle over fish, chicken, steak or vegetables before baking, grilling or frying.  You can also use it as a flavourful finishing salt to top a meal just before serving.  As for the experimental cinnamon salt, I took a page from the southern climates typical beach snacks and sprinkled it over sweet, ripe slices of mango for dessert one evening.

Citrus Salt and Chili Salt

But wait!  I must also provide a word of caution.  This is salt.  Not seasoning.  You only need a little bit, just like with regular salt moderation is key for both enjoying your food and not harming your temple of a body.  Yes, you would think this is obvious.  But sometimes a gal can get carried away.  Not that I'm talking about me of course.  Nooooo, never.  Just go and enjoy your salt, already.