RECIPE THURSDAY: Delicious Dairy-Free Whipped Cream

I’ve been struggling for a long time to come up with a nice thick and rich frosting or whipped cream alternative that is dairy-free and here it is! It’s a very simple recipe as it only has two ingredients – coconut milk and icing sugar (I’m working on a sugar-free, stevia sweetened version… stay tuned!)

BUT don’t be fooled! Not all coconut milk is made the same.

The key to making this recipe work is to use a high quality coconut milk that is not overly watered down, and that will separate into solids/liquids when refrigerated. I tried a few different varieties and landed on Thai Kitchen as the best bet. The ingredients in this are coconut milk, water and guar gum (no preservatives… yay!)

This recipe’s texture will vary quite widely based on its temperature, since it essentially gets its thick structure from the natural coconut fats. The cooler it is, the harder it will be. Keep this refrigerated, because if you leave it out too long, some of it can start to liquify. If you like a softer texture, just take it out of the fridge 30-60 mins before serving. More likely though, it will be long gone before you ever need to think of storing it :)

Ingredients:

1 can Thai Kitchen coconut milk
2-4 tbsp Icing sugar, per your sweetness preference
1 tsp Vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions:

1. Refrigerate your can of coconut milk overnight before opening. At least 1 hour before you are ready to make your recipe, chill a medium mixing bowl and beaters.
2. Open the coconut milk can and drain away liquid contents. (I like to keep the coconut water to add to my morning smoothies!)
3. Scoop out solid coconut fat into your chilled bowl and add sugar and vanilla. Beat with electric hand mixer on high for 2-3 minutes or until your frosting becomes smooth and fluffy.
4. Serve over your favourite gluten-free pie, ice cream or fresh fruit; or use in place of frosting on cakes. Keep refrigerated and enjoy!

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RECIPE THURSDAY: Gluten-Free Gnocchi with Organic Homemade Tomato Onion sauce

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For the past two years, I’ve been trying my hand at backyard vegetable gardening – something that has been far more rewarding that I ever thought. I knew I would be enjoying a steady stream of fresh veggies, but I never knew how satisfying the entire experience would be … strolling out to my backyard everyday, nurturing and watching my plants grow, and enjoying fresh-as-you-can-possibly-get organic produce. Now I’ve never been a fan of tomatoes (I remember picking them off my plate as a kid), but the flavour of my garden tomatoes is not even comparable to the tomatoes you find at the grocery store. I’m a firm believer in intuitive eating, so maybe as a kid, I was turned off by the pesticides more so than by the tomatoes themselves (?) All I know is the heirloom zebra tomatoes that I grow organically in my yard are delicious!! So naturally, I’m using them up in recipes like this!

This is one of my easiest dishes ever, and something that I can whip up in less than 10 minutes. I recently discovered this Aurora rice gnocchi at Food Basics, and while I don’t often eat any type of processed food, I must admit that this really hit the spot. Gnocchi was never one of my favourite pastas even before I went gluten-free, but this stuff is just a lovely treat! You can boil it, but I like to pan fry it with a little bit of butter (and/or olive oil), and it comes out crunchy on the outside, and tender and just a little bit chewy on the inside. Combined with a homemade version of tomato sauce, this is most definitely something the whole family can enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 package Aurora rice gnocchi
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 fresh organic cooking onion, diced
1 clove organic garlic, crushed
2 fresh organic tomatoes, diced
1 tsp dried organo
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil (or butter) over medium heat. Add rice gnocchi, separating pieces with a wooden spoon. Cover and allow to cook for 3 minutes.

2. While gnocchi is cooking, heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil (or butter) in another saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until fragrant and onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 3 minutes. Add oregano and diced tomatoes and cover again for 2 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

3. Uncover gnocchi, stir, and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.

4. Pour gnocchi onto serving plates, top with sauce and serve. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Complete the dish with fresh cucumbers, cooked broccoli, parsley or other sides of your choice. Enjoy!

Aurora rice gnocci

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Gluten-Free Baking Tips

gluten-free carob waffle

Gluten-free carob waffles

Have you ever tried to bake your own gluten-free cake or bread only to have it turn out to be either a crumbly mess or rock hard paper weight? Don’t give up just yet, because there’s a simple explanation for these kitchen disasters, and better yet – there’s a simple solution.

Baking, gluten-free or not, is essentially like conducting a science experiment. Properly measured ingredients mixed in specific proportions interact together to make a desired product. The problem with the typical gluten-free experiment is that people try to make straight substitutions of wheat flour for gluten-free flours. Why does this not work?

When you’re trying to substitute wheat flour out of a recipe, you need to substitute for its three key qualities: bulk, binding and leaving. (Leavening means the ability to make baked goods rise.) Most gluten-free flours can only replace for the “bulk” quality of wheat flour. I call these “base” flours because they act as the base for the recipe, and can include options such as brown rice flour, white rice flour, millet flour and lentil flour.

When mixed with water, gluten becomes sticky and elastic, which is where it gets its binding and leavening qualities. This is why many gluten-free foods are crumbly and don’t rise well. In order to substitute for binding qualities, you’ll need to add either a starch or a gum to your recipe. These ingredients can include: corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, arrowroot flour, sweet potato flour, sweet rice flour, guar gum, xanthan gum and carrageen. While the proportions for using each of these ingredients can vary widely, a couple simple substitutions you can use in ANY recipe are:

1 cup wheat flour = 3/4 cup brown rice flour + 1/4 cup arrowroot flour, OR

1 cup wheat flour = 1/2 cup brown rice flour + ½ cup sweet rice flour

The first substitution is best for crusts, cookies, and anything that is crunchy, while the second is best for delicate cakes and anything that is soft or spongy. In both the combinations above, I’ve used brown rice flour as my “base” and added either arrowroot flour or sweet rice flour as my “binder” to substitute for the sticky quality of gluten.

As a rule of thumb, I also like to add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of gluten-free baking powder per 1 cup of flour to help compensate for the extra rising or leavening qualities of gluten as well. I discuss in greater detail various other base flours, binders and leaveners along with their characteristics and substitution proportions in my book, Where Do I Start? Your Essential Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free and Sugar-Free Food Allergy Cookbook.

By using a few simple rules of thumb when it comes to substitutions, you’ll be able to make any recipe gluten-free, and finally stop having to replace all your favourite old recipe books. And remember, if your recipe doesn’t quite turn out the way you like, just try again with slightly adjusted proportions. Good luck and happy baking!

This article originally appeared in Village Living Magazine.

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