Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Classic Apple Crumble

In the midst of holiday chaos, it is nice to be able to quickly throw together a quick, crowd pleasing, and classic treat. This Crumble is all of those things as well as much healthier than it's traditional counterpart. 

Apple crumble is great at the end of a family dinner or with a cup of hot chocolate snuggled up on the couch after the kids are in bed. I like mine straight up, but you could easily whip up some coconut cream and add some fresh mint for a little flare to impress your guests.

This dessert to me, has always been a perfect example of how things don't need to be over the top or pretentious. Sometimes things are classic for a reason. There is nothing left to be desired when friends and family fill your home with the smell of apples and cinnamon are coming from the kitchen.

Good luck getting anyone to leave at the end of the meal though...

Apple Crumble

1 cup gf rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/8 cup psyllium husk
1/8 cup flax meel
1/8 cup arrowroot/tapioca
1 cup palm sugar or sucanat OR 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch clove
1 cup coconut oil

6-8 med apples (gala, honey crisp, pink lady, northern spy)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup honey/sugar (white, sucanat or palm)
1/8 cup starch
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla

Peel, core, and fairly thinly slice all of the apples, and toss with remaining ingredients for the filling. place them into a glass or ceramic casserole dish with a few inches to spare at the top. 

For the filling, mix all ingredients together except for the coconut oil. Once mixed, using your hands, incorporate the oil into dry ingredients by rubbing your hands together with a handful of topping until sandy texture is achieved. It should clump together when squeezed in your hands. If it doesn't add a bit more coconut oil. 

Sprinkle about 1 inch of topping onto the apples. Do not pack it down. 
Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 50 minutes.

Eat at room temperature or while it is still warm. Store any leftovers in the fridge,  reheats in the oven very nicely.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Embrace your life.... Dealing with a new autism diagnosis

Very often people ask me questions about what we did immediately after little man's diagnosis, how we handled it, how we felt, how we got to where we are now. It's funny though, I rarely think about it at all, unless prompted, I just tend to keep the "moving forward" mentality.

As a parent, when your world is shaken, when one of your children need you, you put aside your own feelings and desires and do what needs to be done for them. But what happens after the dust settles?
What happens after you have left the doctor's office, practically bogged down google with all of your searches and wiped the shelves clean in the autism section at the book store. What happens when you are overwhelmed with information and still have no idea what you are supposed to do for your child.

The easy answer here is to apply your new found understanding for your child. No one is textbook anything, but having a bit of insight as to why your child has issues with falling asleep at night, or screams murder every time you step foot into a store goes a long way when trying to figure out what to do about it. Trust your instincts, and put your child first. Remind yourself in a moment of frustration while dealing with the same issue for what feels like the hundredth time, that it is harder for them to feel out of control then it is for you to feel annoyed or frustrated or embarrassed. Remember that a scream, physical outburst, or a total shutdown is a desperate attempt from your child when they are feeling most lost to ask for help.

Probably the most important thing that each autism parent has to learn and accept is that THIS IS NOT THE FAULT OF YOU OR YOUR CHILD. Parents tend to shame themselves with "what did I do wrong?" and "But I take such good care of him/her" and even "Not my child!" This sort of negative thinking is unhealthy and counterproductive for both you and your child. Imagine a world where people looked at you like you were broken just because you are not an exact carbon-copy of little Timmy who lives next door. Children should grow up believing they are special, not sick.

Grieve your loss. In order to shed unwanted negative feelings about the situation, you must first face them. Every parent to be begins to map out all the different possibilities for their coming child's life. What will they look like, what sort of personality will they have, will they get her sense of humour, or his forgivable nature, schools, careers, relationships, grandchildren, etc, etc.
In all of the different scenarios played out in your mind, I doubt having an autistic child with unfamiliar issues was one of them. I doubt you thought you would have meetings months before school started to set up game plans for the coming school year, or that you would need to attend social groups so that your four year old can learn how to say "Hi" to another child. You probably never imagined that your child would be a part of a growing statistic and that sometimes people would forget that you have a child, not just a diagnosis.
Well, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry". It is okay to be disappointed, it is okay to feel sad. Grieve the loss of a life that you had planned for your child. Grieve the fact that you won't be holding their hand through life pointing out the path for them, but then embrace your new life, allow them to lead you. Discover a new life together, and you will be amazed at how beautiful it is.

Help your child. I am not nor have I been on a search for a cure for autism. My little man is who he is and I love him just the way he was made. I would not want to change him, and I don't see autism as a disease to be cured. With autism however, there are complications that will inhibit your child from reaching their full potential and leading a happy life. Without sufficient communication skills, your child will be hard pressed to find healthy relationships. If violent outbursts are common, your baby might be secluded from others in the class and treated as a threat instead of a student.
Just like with any other characteristic about any child, it presents it's own sets of challenges and blessings. For us, diet, natural health, and consistent reiteration of appropriate outlets have been key. Our little man still flaps his hands when he's excited, and feels the need to excuse himself frequently from social settings, but we are getting farther away from the screaming, hitting, and irrevocable loss of control. We are not taking away his autism, we are helping him to become a happy adult, that's our job as parents.

My final piece of advice is to celebrate the small successes. It is easy to see the negative side of any situation, but if you look for the small bits of happiness inside of a trying situation, life will be much more pleasant and you and your child will be happier. All any of us really want is to have happiness for our children and for ourselves. Allow yourselves this, whether it's celebrating the fact that your six year old had finally potty trained, or that your nine year old has made his first real friend. Don't cheat yourself out of happiness by focusing on the fact that it "took longer than it should have" or that they still aren't meeting milestones.

Remember that for every bad day, a good one is right behind it. Be thankful for your beautiful, honest, and true hearted children, they are exactly where they are supposed to be, and so are you.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Gluten Free Potato Leek Quiche

My wonderful husband started a new job this year. He seemed to have lost a bit of his passion for cooking, and it was something he felt like he was giving more of himself to than getting in return. With this new job however, it has reignited the love he had for creating in the kitchen.

I am very glad that he has rediscovered what makes him happy, and I am also very happy that he has done so in such a great place to cook. His chef is a true back to nature chef, who forages, hunts, grows his own produce. It's nice to see that some people have maintained the natural way of procuring food as apposed to the processed bought in products that a lot of chains and inexperienced restaurant cooks seem to favour.

DH comes home at the end of each day with a sense of pride and contentedness. He is also really embracing the waste-not want-not mentality, and a more simplistic adaptation to food. So when he came home recently with a couple dozen farm fresh eggs from his chefs chickens, I was pumped and wanted to do justice to them in a dish that would showcase them as well as display that with inexpensive ingredients and little effort, you can make something with delicious simplicity.

Potato Leak Quiche


  • 2 cups grated potatoes
  • 1 T melted coconut oil or ghee (plus some for cooking leaks)
  • 1/2 cup sliced leaks
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cups full fat coconut milk
  • 1 T nutritional yeast (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. Toss ghee or coconut oil and a pinch of salt around potatoes and press into a 9" or 10" pie plate
  3. Bake potatoes for 20 mins or until browned and crispy
  4. In the meantime, cook leeks in ghee until tender, a slight browning is fine. Season while cooking.
  5. Mix eggs and coconut milk very well. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Evenly sprinkle leeks into pie crust after it is cooked.
  7. Lower oven temp to 375°F and place pie plate on pulled out rack.
  8. Carefully pour egg mixture into crust, almost to the top
  9. slide rack back into oven and cook for about 30 mins or until no longer liquid, but the centre still has a bit of a "jiggle" to it.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  11. Serve immediately or store in fridge and heat in a moderate oven to serve later.

This dish is rustic, easy, and versatile. Feel free to add any of your favourite ingredients, like crispy bacon, sautéed mushrooms, wilted spinach, anything you can think up, you can add. 

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Friday, 4 October 2013

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Gnocchi

Well, it's that time of year again... pumpkin flavoured EVERYTHING!
Personally, I don't mind, I rather like pumpkin. I wanted to post a pumpkin recipe myself, but didn't really want to just put up another pumpkin pie, or another pumpkin latte, I wanted something that spoke more to the chefy side of me and the rustic, comforting feel of fall. What better fits that bill than slightly nutty, slightly sweet gnocchi in a delicious brown butter...

If you have ever had gnocchi at a restaurant, or your Nona used to make it when you were little, you will agree that few things compare to their simple, delicate, loveliness. I have worked in restaurants where gnocchi was on the menu year round, and people would come just for that, toting that it was wonderful and the type of thing they would never be able to make at home. Well, you can.

Traditional gnocchi is made with potatoes, flour, egg, and seasoning. It can be served in a brown butter (like our recipe today), tomato sauce, or cream sauce. It is one of my favourites. It has all the flavour of a pasta dish, but the simple hardiness of a dollop of fluffy mashed potatoes.

It is very easy to switch this simple recipe up and add squash, polenta, cheese, you name it. In keeping with the fall theme, and in the upcoming thanksgiving holiday, pumpkin was the obvious choice on this cold, rainy autumn day.

These are gluten free, refined sugar free, corn free, soy free, casein and lactose free; But certainly not lacking in the delicious category.

So before we start in with the recipe, I just have a few tips and tricks you might find useful when making gnocchi:

  • Cook the potatoes properly. By this I mean steam or boil them until they are cooked all the way through, but don't just leave them on the stove forever. Have you ever had gluey mashed potatoes? Well that comes from overcooking the potatoes. I like to use my paring knife and insert it into the potato. If it slides out easily, you're good. 
  • Roast the pumpkin, don't boil it. The natural sugars in the pumpkin will caramelise a bit and you'll get a better flavour. You can do this by cutting a pie pumpkin in half and scooping out the seeds. Then put each half face down on a lined cookie sheet and roast in a 375°F until tender (about 45 mins)
  • Don't add too much flour. This is reason number one for dense, tough gnocchi. I don't give an exact measurement for flour in my recipe because it's all about feel. The dough will be quite wet and soft still. Only add just enough flour to be able to get it to stick to itself. 
  • Be gentle. Use a light hand while rolling out the dough. You'll get a feel for it after the first pass or two. 
  • Relax. It's not as hard as you think it is and sooo worth the effort.

Maple Pecan Pumpkin Gnocchi:

  • 1 pie pumpkin, roasted and removed from skin
  • 1 large or 2 small cooked, peeled starchy potatoes (russets work very well)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup pecans crushed very finely (can omit for allergy, just add a bit more flour)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup All purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T brown Ghee, you can do this using the same method for making the ghee, except leave it on the stove when cooking until milk solids on bottom of the pot brown, ghee changes to a slightly browned colour and smells quite nutty.
  • Fresh sage, just a couple of leaves
  1. Mash pumpkin and cooked potato quite well with a fork or put through a ricer
  2. Add egg, 1/2 cup flour, pecans, maple syrup, and salt and pepper. 
  3. continue to mix using fork, adding more flour 1 T at a time just until it comes together.
  4. Put a pot of water on the stove and get to poaching temp (when little bubbles begin to appear at sides of pot) but do not boil.
  5. While water is heating, sprinkle some more all purpose flour onto work surface, I like to do this on silmat for easier clean up. 
  6. Dollop about 2 T worth of dough onto floured surface and sprinkle top with a bit more flour.
  7. With a very light hand, gently begin to roll into a thin log, about 3/4 inch in diameter
  8. using a bench scraper, or a knife, make quick cuts every half inch or so. 
  9. dust with a little extra flour so they stick don't together
  10. After about 2 logs worth are cut, gently scoop up and allow extra flour to fall away. Plop them one by one into the water and leave them
  11. While they cook put brown butter ghee into a frying pan and lay sage leaves on top. Turn on burner to med-high.
  12. When ghee begins to bubble around the leaves and the gnocchi float to the top of the water, scoop out with a slotted spoon and add to pan.
  13. Let them cook undisturbed until they let go of the pan, then gently toss them and allow to continue to cook for another couple of minutes.
  14. Serve with crispy sage leaves and a sprinkle of sea salt.

My hubby (also a chef)  came home as I was finishing this recipe and voiced his concern about how gluten free gnocchi would turn out. Having already tested it (and a certain two year old stealing most of it) I was quite confident. I told him he could have a bite, which he did, and then he ate the whole bowl. After hearing him praise my work for a little while and an "I told you so" from me, I was very excited to share this. So give it a shot and impress the people in your family. You won't be sorry.                

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Friday, 27 September 2013

DIY Natural Baby Wipes

Babies are expensive. Diapers, wipes, clothes, formula, food, cribs, chairs, daycare, and on and on.
I feel far richer with a full house and an empty bank account then I ever did when my money was mine, but it's still hard to spend so much on stuff that either gets tossed out after a single use or is outgrown in weeks to months.

Now I do not have a lot of spare time, like none really, but I am still determined to save a couple bucks on things that are easy to do myself. The second part of that determination comes from finding out just how awful baby products are. I mean is it really necessary to include toxic chemicals in body wash, wipes, formula, etc? It's funny how you don't hear anything about the amount of chemicals we and our children come into contact with or ingest daily. You would think it would be brought up almost constantly what with the steady rise in cancers and other health issues.

My children (and yours) live in a very toxic age. It's now to the point where people don't even question it. Everything, from the food we eat to the lotions we slather on our new born babies' skin, is loaded with chemicals. We all just assume that it's there for a reason, and that it can't be that harmful or they wouldn't allow it. Wrong. Most of the time, the reason is to allow larger production, longer shelf life and therefore a bigger profit margin, and we all know that when it comes to the business man's priorities, a little toxicity does not compare with dollar signs.

Most people remain unaware because the effects of this type of exposure is more chronic than acute. If you ate some questionable fish and then 12 hours later you were laid up in bed, you would probably think a little harder about it the next time suspicious fish came your way. However, if you ate fish that smelled fine, tasted fine, looked fine, but was contaminated with, lets say... trace amounts of lead, and consumed said fish over several years, you would see a depletion in health and the guilty fish would go unsuspected. We as people, have a very cause and effect mentality. We tend to look at the thing that immediately preceded something and assume it is the reason.

Our children are the first generation expected to live a shorter life span then their parents, and childhood illnesses and afflictions are at an all time high, including autism. My children also suffer from very sensitive skin. Now I am not a doctor. I am also not a scientist, I am a mother. I have learnt to trust my intuition and to do what feels right for my children. Honestly what feels right for me, might not feel right for someone else, but parenting doesn't come with a manual and each child is different, that is why I think it is important to follow your instincts and do what you think is right for YOUR child.

For my family, I have really begun to adapt a more organic way of living. Now like i mentioned before, I don't have a ton of free time, nor is my bank account equipped to buy 100% natural, organic, free from, etc, etc. The only way I have figured out how to do what I feel is right for our household, is to do it gradually, and to DIY a lot of things. Now I am not a good enough sewer to make all my own cloth diapers, nor do I have the time to grow all of our own produce year round, I do what I can. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, small steps in the right direction.

So my first small step that I decided to take was baby wipes. My mom used baby cloths on my siblings and I, and washed them after each use. I had my children in the age of convenience, and am a bit ashamed to admit, but not too proud, that I just can't muster up the gumption to go from disposable wipes to washing poop covered washcloths by hand multiple times a day, ewe. Yes i know, I sound spoiled, but most of us are. I have however, decided on a reasonable compromise.

This method of making baby wipes can also be used to make other household wipes, such as glass cleaner wipes, makeup removal wipes, furniture wipes, etc. You can choose to use an eco-friendly paper towel for this (or not) but whichever you choose, make sure you don't skimp out on quality. A strong paper towel that holds up when wet is key.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 Roll good quality paper towel
  • 2 Containers, I use plastic food containers
  • Natural, pure liquid soap. I use vegetable glycerin soap from The Soap Works because my husband is allergic to hemp oil found in the leading castile soap, Dr. Bronners, but both work beautifully
  •  Witch hazel (optional, but it is very soothing as well as helps the wipes to remain mould free)
  • Essential oils (again optional, I like tee-tree for it's anti-fungal properties. Rose and lavender are also nice)
  • Coconut oil (LOVE LOVE LOVE Coconut oil)
  • Distilled or boiled water (I just boil the kettle)

  1. Cut the roll of paper towel in half. This is kind of a pain in the butt, but takes just a minute or two and then it's all down hill after this. 
  2. In each of the containers, dump in 1.5 cups of hot water, 1T liquid soap, 1-3 drops essential oil, 1.5T coconut oil, and a capful of witch hazel(about a t). Gently stir. 
  3. Place 1/2 roll of paper towel in each container and squish down with lid until it closes. 
  4. Make sure lid is on tight and then flip the containers over and let them sit for about 10 mins.
  5. Turn back over and remove lid. Grab ahold of the tube in the centre and pull it out. It will come easily. 
  6. Pull first paper towel from the centre to start using roll. 
  7. Keep the lid on when you aren't using the wipes. 

I have kept wipes around after making them for about a week before using and have had no signs of mildew.  I have also had no need to put any kind of preventative diaper rash products on my babe's bum because the residual coconut oil does a great job.

I have two still in diapers, and They have both had less irritation and almost no rash issues since I switched to homemade wipes, and I have also saved a ton by buying my paper towels in bulk and each item you add to these wipes lasts a really long time.

I also make my own baby wash, laundry soap, and toothpaste now. Little bit by little bit, we are greening our home, I encourage you to give it a shot! Whether it's for frugality's sake or health concerns, what have you got to lose?

Friday, 20 September 2013

Gloriously Green - Creamy Broccoli Soup Recipe

Well, tomorrow is the first official day of fall. Seems like I was still waiting for summer to begin when it was suddenly over. We did miss out on a lot of the fun summertime activities this year, what with the new baby (which puts mama into hibernation mode) and little man's cast being on for 2 months. Poor thing didn't even get to the lake once this year.

As sad as I am to see summer disappearing however, I am equally pleased to welcome fall. I love the fall. Beautiful colours, warm days and cool nights, pumpkin picking and family dinners. Fall has always felt somewhat romantic to me. That is right up until I had four little germ factories coughing directly in my mouth the second the temperature dips. Kinda brings all those romantic illusions crashing down.

This last week, right on schedule, we all spent the days sick with a nasty cold. So what that means for mama is three sick kids (babe didn't get sick, thankfully) a sick husband and a pile of work to do. All the while I feel like death myself, have what I will swear is the whiniest bunch of munchkins on earth and cold and flu season hasn't even officially started yet.

This year, I'm determined to kick cold season's butt. The kids are now taking vit C, Zinc, and echinacea. I am also Determined to sneak as many vitamins and nutrients into their food as possible. This soup looks like broccoli soup and tastes like broccoli soup but is so much more than that.

My little unsuspecting babies gobbled this up never knowing that it was crammed with extra green goodness. It was tasty, warm and comforting. Do yourself a favour, make a double batch of this at once (only takes about half an hour) and freeze half for an on hand vitamin boost later!

Creamy Broccoli Soup

  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1/2 leek, chopped
  • 3 cups broccoli florets 
  • 1/2 bunch kale (just the leaves)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 garlic cloves (smashed)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 TBSP Ghee
  • Salt and pepper
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1 Litre of chicken stock (can use other stock if preferred, but I like chicken)
  • 1 Can full fat coconut milk
  • 2 TBSP Nutritional Yeast (Don't worry, this yeast is not like brewer's yeast, won't contribute to candida issues) 

  1. First sweat the onion and leek and garlic for five minutes or so in the ghee. 
  2. Once they turn translucent, add in cumin and cook until very fragrant. 
  3. Then add kale,  broccoli, coconut milk, and chicken stock. bring up to a gentle boil on med-high, then reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender.
  4. Remove from heat and blend until very smooth in a blender. (Or whatever you prefer to blend with) You will probably have to do this in batches.
  5. In the last batch, add in avocado, nutritional yeast, and spinach. 
  6. Mix all the blended soup together and season to taste.

This soup reheats and freezes quite well. The nutritional yeast gives it just enough of a cheesy flavour, and the avocado makes it silky and creamy. Enjoy!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

How to make Coconut Butter

I LOVE this coconut butter! Seriously, I love it. I have no idea why it isn't main stream. It is nutritious, delicious, and a nut free alternative. It is chockablock full of MCT (medium chain triglycerides) and thyroid boosting goodness. It is also directly converted to energy, making it easier to burn, and is great for heart health, despite the bad rep that saturated fats have gotten over the last few decades. Did I mention that I love it?

Coconut Butter

1.5 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup coconut oil (maybe more)
1 TBSP raw honey

In a powerful blender or food processor, that is completely dry, process coconut for about 8 minutes or so. You will need to either tamp it down or scrape the sides fairly frequently. When the oils start to release from the coconut, add in the coconut oil. I like to do this because coconut oil is very healthy for you, and it helps to give a nicer texture at the end. It also makes processing the coconut easier.

In my food processor, the coconut butter stays pretty light, however when I use appliances with more power, the mixture heats up a lot, so be careful, but it also gives it a toasted colour and flavour. If you want this but are using an appliance that will not achieve it, toast the coconut (dry) on a baking sheet just until it browns lightly before you begin.

Once the mixture is the texture you prefer, i like mine almost completely smooth with just a bit of texture left, add in honey. The honey is optional, but I like it a touch sweet, and honey is healthy and a great unrefined sweetener. This may cause the coconut to seize up a bit. keep processing, again scraping sides as needed, and add a bit more oil if necessary.

Pour into the container you are going to store it in, I use an old peanut butter jar. Allow to come to room temperature. If it is cold where you are, it may become quite solid at room temp, but just place closed container in a warm water bath for a minute or two and it should come back.

This will separate, but just give it a stir before you use it, just like natural nut butters.

Coconut butter is a healthy, delicious, brain boosting, metabolism boosting treat. I eat most of mine right off a spoon when my sweet tooth kicks in. You can also use it in place of nut butters though. It is great on toast, paired with jam or bananas. I have also made chocolate coconut butter cups, watch out for that recipe in the future. Yum.

You can also buy coconut butter, but it runs for about $9-$15 per jar at my health food store. This cost me less than $3 to make. I was sceptical the first time I tried it, but trust me, you will be pleasantly surprised and love it!

Oh, one more thing, STOP BEING AFRAID OF FAT!!!! I have talked about this before, but it is so embedded into our brains that fat is bad, I need to constantly remind you. Some fat is great for you... like coconut for instance.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Sunday Morning Pancakes

You would think that pancakes would be one of the easier foods to convert to GFCF, but you would be surprised. I have tried recipe after recipe and have been disappointed every time. Finally I had the breakthrough I had been waiting for... my new all purpose flour mix. I have made rice flour pancakes by the hundreds, with results that were often not even edible, I have tried oat flour, which I love, but is far too heavy for pancakes to be the main flour. I see thousands of rice flour based pancake recipes on Pinterest and Google, and wonder if I have higher standards or if these people just don't remember what a real pancake tastes like.

When I began learning to cook GFCF, I had to start from scratch. I am a trained professional cook, and have no need to doubt my ability to make something as simple as a pancake, unless you take away all of the familiar ingredients, add in new ones, and leave me with no one I personally know with hands on experience to offer guidance. There was really nothing for me to do except start from the beginning. I researched what everyone else gluten free was doing and tried to do what they did. You figure something out pretty quick though, people have a different expectation for gluten free items. I don't want to make things that are "good for gluten free" I just want to make things that are good, period.

This recipe doesn't have pumpkin or banana or chocolate chips. It doesn't need them. Not that I have anything against these things in a pancake, but when you are using them as a camouflage for an inferior product, well then... Get the basics right first, then add in whatever you want. You need a solid foundation to take off from. I added a fruit component as my condiment, mango honey puree, but the kids just ate theirs with maple syrup, and they were delicious. 

I called these Sunday Morning Pancakes because that's usually the day that people are looking for a nice warm, comforting breakfast to have together as a family. For us, that day is not Sunday (the joys of having two shift working parents) but you get the point.

The best part of these pancakes though, I would have to say is their longevity. Yep. They last! Have you ever had those nasty frozen pancakes from the freezer isle, right beside the Eggos? They are full of chemicals, refined sugar, and don't even taste good. With these though, I just make a double batch, let the leftovers cool on a wire rack (single layer) while we eat, and when I'm cleaning up I just stack them, put them in a freezer bag and put them in the freezer. When the time comes, I gently separate a couple (they come apart pretty easily) put them on a plate, cover them with a paper towel and microwave them for a minute or so. They are just as good as when they were made!!! Kinda turns "Sunday Morning Pancakes" into "OMG We're running late and the kids haven't eaten what am I going to feed them in 2 minutes pancakes" doesn't it? 

Sunday Morning Pancakes

2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthm gum
2 cups almond milk (or other non dairy milk)
1.5 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large room temp eggs

  • Preheat Griddle to around 375° F or a non stick frying pan on med-high
  • In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients
  • Gently warm almond milk and mix with other wet ingredients
  • Pour wet into dry and mix (Do not over beat, but don't leave any lumps behind)
  • Let sit about 5 minutes (to thicken slightly)
  • Pour 1/3 cup of batter onto un-greased griddle
  • Leave until bubbles appear on the entire surface of the pancake
  • Flip over and continue cooking for 2 mins or so. Pancake should puff slightly when cooked
  • serve immediately or cool on rack and freeze

Mango Honey Puree 

1 large ripe mango, peeled and roughly diced
2 TBSP raw honey
2 TBSP melted ghee

  • warm mango and ghee slightly
  • blend all ingredients to desired consistency 
  • Pour over pancakes
I did this sauce in my smoothie maker, but you can use a blender, immersion blender, food processor, or mash with a fork. I like mine a little chunky, but you can let it blend a bit longer to make it smooth if you like. This would also work with berries, plums, peaches, etc.

I hope you enjoy these gluten free, dairy free, soy free, refined sugar free pancakes! They were very good. Period.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes That Put All Other Cupcakes to Shame

My beautiful baby girl just turned two. She is a textbook terrible two's kid, with an attitude as big as a house and a defiant streak that would make me proud if I didn't have to deal with it. She is also a chocoholic, just like her mama. You could hand this kid chocolate covered tree bark and she'd eat it with a smile on her face.

We had a pretty low key birthday. We have learnt over time that it's just not worth it to invite everyone. As much as there's people you wanted to come and were missed, it is so hard on little man to have that many people here. Home is like his safe haven and a massive disruption like that takes him a very long time to recover from.

He has come a long way with a small get together of his closest people, (we usually split the close people up between two or three visits to keep it small) to the point where he stays in the room, talks to people and truly has a good time. After all, what is the point of having a party if no one's having fun?

There was a time (not so very long ago) that I believed we would never be able to say that little man had fun at a social gathering. I'm glad I was wrong. My little miss had a blast as well, but that's no surprise with her. They are polar opposites. The extrovert and the introvert, the social butterfly and the wallflower. She overwhelms him sometimes, but she really is good at bringing him out of his shell. She doesn't get offended when he doesn't respond to her, and just waits a bit and engages him again.

Her spirit and determination is bash my forehead off the wall frustrating sometimes, but when I look at the way they love each other, I am thankful for it. She makes him feel like it's OK to be fervent, impassioned, fun. I also have no doubt that she will stand up for him should the need arise (not that he'd appreciate that I'm sure).

So to commemorate the anniversary of the day that my little firecracker came in to our lives, I have made her my "could fool anyone chocolate cupcakes". Don't forget the pretty pink icing, because she likes to ninja you with her attitude, hiding it behind a sweet pink clad exterior before she strikes.

My husband said with a mouthful of his third cupcake "you could make a million dollars off of this and not even tell anyone they were gluten free"

My picky mother (love you) told me this is the best cake she has ever had, gluten free or not.

And my kids beg me for seconds every time I make it.

I usually try to be humble about the recipes I post, but honestly, I've just heard too many raves about this recipe to sell it short.

Chocolate Cake
yield: 18 cupcakes OR 2 small round cakes OR 9x13 sheet cake

2 cups cake flour
1 tsp xanthm gum
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups organic cane sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup coconut milk + 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup melted ghee or coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water

  • Preheat oven to 325° F 
  • Line cupcake pan with papers.
  • In bowl of mixer, or other large bowl, mix dry ingredients.
  • In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients minus the water
  • Add the wet to the dry and mix just until incorporated
  • lastly add in boiling water, mix until incorporated. 
  • Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and pop pan in to preheated oven
  • Bake for about 15-20 mins or until cake springs back when gently touched in the centre
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 10 mins or so in own, and then remove and finish cooling on wire rack.

Make sure you cool these COMPLETELY before frosting them, other wise your frosting will melt and slide right off. I make my own sometimes, but when pressed for time I purchase a frosting. This one is Wilton brand White Frosting from Michaels, thinned out a tad with coconut milk, whipped up and coloured.

These were amazing. I make this recipe every time we have a birthday. I always offer another cake, but am firmly told to make the chocolate one. Here is a picture taken at my brother's birthday last year with the same recipe. There were about 25 people here and no one knew the cake was gluten free.

I feel like I'm sharing something very dear to me by posting this recipe, so I would be very interested in feedback. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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Sunday, 1 September 2013

Funfetti Chocolate Chip Cookies

Remember To Have Fun!!!
This is something that I feel the constant need to remind myself of. With all of the chaos around here, and dh getting a new job that keeps him away for long hours, I often feel like I'm just getting through the day. No matter how much I clean, seems like there's always a mess; My to do list is a mile long and growing by the day, and someone is always hungry, or hurt, or needs a new diaper. 
These are my reasons for feeling overloaded, but it seems like everyone has their own now a days. Jobs, kids, family, friends, extracurriculars, second jobs, housework, and on and on. Sometimes we are so focused on getting these things taken care of, we forget about the truly important things, like having fun. 

When the children are being extra defiant (and yes I say extra, because no one like me would have obedient children) or are cranky, I think to myself, when is the last time the had any fun? Not just the normal fun, same old toys, same movies, same surroundings, but new, out of the routine fun. Usually when I ask myself that the answer is not recently enough. No wonder they're cranky, me too for that matter. Now I have not yet mastered venturing into the outside world with my socially frightened little man, my take off running little girl, and my 100% dependant 3 month old. 
This means finding something fun to do at home. Well, cookies are actually pretty fun, especially when you get three little rug rats helping you and add a bunch of coloured sprinkles (their idea, not mine). Don't stress about the mess the kids make helping out, don't stress if the recipe isn't followed to a T. Just relax, let them be kids. 
My beautiful step daughter was here that day, which really helped little man to want to participate. She is probably the one person that can get him to venture out of his comfort zone just by doing things in front of him. I didn't pressure him, and he actually participated! This was a great experience for little man in a lot of ways. He needed to take turns, follow directions, share the experience with other people, and wait for the final product, teaching him that effort and patience will pay off. 
All in all, it was a fun day, and at the end of it we cuddled up on the floor and watched a movie before bed with a plate of cookies. They were great, but I think the kids enjoyed them more because they were a part of the whole thing.

Funfetti Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield 24 cookies

2/3 cup ghee
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Large Egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Scant Cups All purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthm gum
3/4 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup coloured sprinkles
  • Cream sugars and ghee in stand mixer with paddle attachment, or by hand until pale
  • Add in egg and vanilla, mix
  • Whisk dry ingredients (minus the choc chips and sprinkles) in a separate bowl and then add to ghee mixture. mix until well Incorporated
  • Add in sprinkles and choc chips, mix by hand.
  • Pop in fridge and chill for 2 hours minimum.

  • Once dough is well chilled, preheat oven to 325° F
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment or silmat. 
  • Roll about 2 TBSP dough into balls and place on sheet about 1.5" apart. 
  • Bake for about 12 minutes or until slightly browned around edges and small cracks appear on top. 
  • Remove from oven and let cool ten minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

These cookies are wonderful, they're chewy and buttery. Yum!
Feel free to leave comments letting me know how you enjoyed them.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

10 Minute Roast Pork

...With roasted potatoes, caramelised onions, and delicious gravy.

In today's day, where there are often two working parents (or one working single parent), busy schedules and an abandonment of the philosophy that someone should be at home to take care of things, it's no wonder our grocery store shelves are stocked with ready made and heavily processed products.

People used to eat everything from scratch, at home, prepared by a family member. I know, crazy right?  But with the dawn of the dual working parent age, when moms were no longer content to stay home all day, came a profitable new business for those willing to sacrifice quality and nutrition. I like to refer to this stage as the TV dinner generation. Double the income, women gaining equal rights and not having their lives predetermined for them, able to enter into once male dominated territory, and then come home to a nice steaming hot Salisbury steak that's ready twenty minutes after walking through the door, sounds great! Unfortunately though, it came at a cost, our health

Now I'm not going to tell you about the nutritional content or the level of processing that goes into one of these things, you already know that. I am also not going to tell you about the down right awful food that comes out of a drive through window, because you know that too. I am not even going to tell you that all those so called "healthy options" in the freezer isle are only slightly healthier than their predecessors and only when considering certain things like added sodium or fat. I will however, tell you that you are not forced into eating like this just because we now live in an age where you need two incomes just to make ends-meat.

People think there are no other options when you work all day, get home at 5:30, and the kids will be looking for dinner at six. You need to do a bit of pre-planning, but your body and your wallet will thank you for the "real food diet".

Now this roast pork obviously didn't cook in ten minutes, but I truly only spent about ten minutes of any hands on prep and you can have it on the table in about twenty minutes after getting home from your day.

Roast Pork and Potatoes:
medium sized pork loin, thawed
1 large onion
2-3 bay leaves
1 carton chicken stock (whichever brand you like, or homemade)
small palmful of whole peppercorns
a few sprigs of thyme (or about a tsp dry thyme)
10-15 new potatoes

Special Equipment: Crock pot (don't have one? get one. doesn't need to be fancy, but if you want food ready when you get home, there is no better tool)

  • Peel and quarter the onion. This should take about 15 seconds, then wash and halve the potatoes, unless they're mini new potatoes and you can leave them whole, but double the amount. I do this with a paring knife so I don't have to wash a cutting board. (If you can't do this without cutting your fingers off, then don't, the price of a finger is too high for one unwashed cutting board)

  • Next, dump everything into the crock pot, pop the lid on and set it at medium for six plus hours, or high for four to six hours, choose what suits your needs best. 

  • Go to work (or shopping, or protesting for green peace, or whatever you do with your day)

When you get home, your roast will be tender, and the potatoes will be cooked. They will also be in need of some love. I don't think you can just pop something into liquid and then take it back out and serve it. It must be the restaurant chef in me, I can't serve blasé food, not even to toddlers.

  • Turn your oven up to 500° F And let it preheat while you line a baking pan with parchment, scoop out your potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon, and pop them and the roast onto the pan. liberally season roast (both sides please) and potatoes with salt and pepper, and pop into the oven. Cook for about twenty minutes, turning the meat over once and tossing the potatoes around a bit at the same time. The potatoes should start to get a bit of a coating from the fat rendering from the pork, this will help them brown. 
  • When you first put the pan into the oven, strain the juice from the crock pot. I like to do this into a juice jug, this way it all fits and if I have any left over I can put the lid on and leave it in the fridge for later use.

  • In a pot on the stove top, cook about 2 TBSP Ghee with about 2 TBSP rice flour on med-high for about two minutes after it starts to bubble, whisking constantly. Slowly pour about half of the cooking liquid into the pot while continuing to whisk. Let this come up to a gentle boil, and if it is too thick, add a bit more liquid. Continue to do this until desired consistency is achieved. You can make the gravy as thin or thick as you like. make sure you whisk the entire time, and that you bring the mixture back up to a boil to achieve full thickening power of the flour. Once desired thickness is achieved, simmer gravy for about ten minutes, or until any residual texture from the rice flour is gone. It should be perfectly smooth. Remove from heat.

  • After Your gravy is thick, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Remember that gravy should be just a touch salty to taste, as it is the seasoning for the roast (remember you can only season the outside of the meat). 

By the time your gravy is cooked, your potatoes and meat will be nicely browned, and your onions will be beautifully caramelized. turn off oven, and transfer roast to cutting board to rest.
In the meantime, set place settings and scoop potatoes into serving dish or directly onto plates. Pour gravy into serving dish as well, at my house that's a fancy dancy measuring cup ;)
Lastly slice the meat fairly thin and serve.

***To store any leftovers, put potatoes and pork into an airtight container and pour remaining gravy over top. This way when you warm it back up it will still be moist. 

Gluten Free Flour Blends

Photo Credit:

I have had great success with some recipes using my brown rice flour blend. Brown rice seems to be the most popular of bases for gf flour blends. It is inexpensive, mildly flavoured, and easy to find.

With other recipes however, I found that the rice flour didn't quite cut it. I attempted to make a shortbread using my handy dandy flour blend and ghee. The ghee was perfect for this recipe, buttery and rich. Though the texture of the cookie from the rice flour left much to be desired. It was very gritty. I had noticed a little bit of grit in other things but not enough that I thought it was a big deal. I had noticed the same grit in commercial products, more than homemade. This time though, I couldn't ignore the flaw and it sent me on a search for something new.

Don't get me wrong, I still use my rice flour blend for certain things. In fact I have tried my new flour blend in my very favourite cake recipe, and it took a wonderful recipe from amazing to meh. I will specify in my recipes which flour will work best in my opinion, but feel free to use them how you think they would suit your needs best.

I usually do these in large amounts and keep them in airtight labelled containers in my pantry so I don't have to fuss around too much when I feel like making something. I do them in one full cup per part. For example the 5 parts brown rice flour in the first blend, I do as 5 cups, and then 3 cups for the potato starch and 2 cups for the tapioca. Super easy to remember and makes a good amount.

***Update: I have recently added a paleo flour blend. This blend is grain free, and works quite well in a lot of recipes, however is not cup for cup. Increase liquids and eggs accordingly, or watch for future recipes using this great blend****

Brown rice flour blend (I will often refer to this as my cake flour)
5 parts white rice flour (super fine if you can get it)
2 parts brown rice flour (super fine if you can get it)
2 parts potato starch (not potato flour)
1 part tapioca starch (sometimes called flour)

This is a light and fluffy cake flour that yields beautiful results when used in batters which contain a lot of liquid and fluffiness is the desired result.

Sorghum flour blend (This has become my All Purpose Flour)
4 parts sorghum flour
4 parts potato starch
1 part buckwheat OR oat flour
1 part almond meal/flour (can substitute  with millet flour or more oat or buckwheat flour for nut allergy)

This blend is great for cookies, pie crusts, brownies, pancakes, etc. 

Teff flour blend (This is my Hearty Flour Blend)
2 parts sorghum flour
2 parts potato starch
1 part teff flour
1 part buckwheat OR oat flour
1 part almond flour/meal (can substitute  with millet flour or more oat or buckwheat flour for nut allergy)

This is a nutritious blend that tastes a lot like whole wheat flour and is great for muffins, quick breads and pizza crust.

2 parts coconut flour
2 parts almond flour
1 part tapioca starch

This blend is great for anyone on a grain free or paleo diet.

***For all blends, just measure into a large bowl or container that you can fit a whisk into, and whisk until blended. You will know when it is mixed because you won't see layers of slightly different colours anymore.

***I purchase all of my flours at the bulk food store (Bulk Barn here), but they are readily available at most health food stores as well.

***I do not add gums to my flour mixes, as I find that I like to add different amounts to different recipes to ensure that I do not use more than necessary as this can result in a slightly gummy texture.

Well, I think that's it. It may seem like a bit of work to get these mixed up, but honestly, do yourself a favour and do it in big batches as recommended and you'll see how simple it can be. Five minutes worth of measuring and then you have exactly what you need for many recipes to follow. Happy Baking!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Butter without the bad... AKA Ghee

So I have mentioned ghee a couple of times as of late and thought I would share the method of making it.

Just to recap from earlier posts, ghee is butter that has been clarified, separating both the proteins and the lactose from the milk fat. 
This is not a vegan option, but it is a great way to eat tasty butter for those who are casein or lactose sensitive. 

There is a bit of a debate about ghee because it is almost 100% fat, and a saturated one at that. I am of firm belief however, that when you keep moderation in mind, a natural fat source is a much better option than man made or refined fats. 

I have switched entirely to cooking with ghee and coconut oil. Coconut oil for it's many health properties and ghee because of it's buttery flavour. I have also successfully substituted both into my baking, allowing for real butter flavour in my cookies and a healthy alternative to the canola oil found in a lot of recipes. 

Making ghee is really quite easy if you know what you're looking for. In this post I have included many pictures so that you will be confident in the process. 

You can purchase ghee in stores as well as on line, however it is quite costly. I find that if I buy butter when it's on sale and make a large amount of ghee at once that it is much more cost efficient. Ghee will keep for quite a long time; at least a month in the pantry and several in the fridge. In making it yourself you also have the option to use organic, grass fed and free from antibiotic butter. 

How to:

First start off with slightly cold butter, about two or three pounds. 
Unwrap, no need to cut it up, and pop it into a large pot with enough room that it won't bubble over the edges. 
Cook on low-med heat for 1-2 hours depending on the amount you are making. There is no real time line for this. When its done, it's done. 
The first stage will be quite foamy looking. Let it do its thing. Don't stir or play with it. It should look like this
At this point, you may find it is bubbling and spitting a bit, just leave it alone and watch out, It will settle eventually and look something like this
This is the stage when you need to pay a bit of attention. At this point the water has cooked out and you are beginning to cook the milk solids to the bottom of the pot. You want to make sure it is all separated, but if you have it turned up too high or you forget about it, you will end up burning the milk solids and the whole thing will be trash. I usually tip the pot a bit to see if the white on the bottom moves. if it does, let it continue, if not, this stage is complete. It will look pretty much like this once you are there. Remove from heat.
Let it cool undisturbed for about 15-20 mins, and then skim the thin top layer of solids off as well as you can.
Carefully pour clear ghee into container. You can pour through a few layers of cheese cloth if you like, I find that I make it enough though, that I don't need it. If any of the solids are pourable at the bottom of the pot, be careful and stop pouring once you can go no further without including them. This is what will be left in  the pot. All of the casein and lactose removed.

What you are left with is buttery, golden milk fat. This has a higher smoke point than coconut oil as well as a delicious flavor, so I do a lot of my searing and high heat cooking with this. It is also great when used for garlic butter as well as in cookies and other baked goods.

Put a lid on the container and pop it into the fridge for about an hour to re-solidify. Then take it out and keep at room temp for ease of use. It will remain solid but soft.

I looove ghee for its ease of substitution and its diversity. Not to mention it tastes better and is not chemical laden like those "buttery products". It's butter, lactose and casein free butter, who could ask for more?

Keep an eye out for upcoming recipes that utilize the wonderful flavor.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Big brother... again.

Boy oh boy, do we have some catching up to do.
Eight weeks ago we were blessed with our beautiful baby boy. He is healthy and gorgeous and I'm so in love. 

 Life always takes some adjusting to when a baby comes along, especially when there's a sassy two year old little girl and little man takes a spill and busts his leg. 

That's right. Full leg cast through the summer. Poor guy. 
He's coping surprisingly well though. I was very worried about what things were going to be like for him. Considering he has an electronic addiction (no seriously, Betty Ford here we come) which we try to moderate most of the time, it was really quite easy to keep him happy. I felt awful putting a limit on time with an iPod. I mean really, "ok no more iPod today, now sit there... For the next twelve hours"

Sometimes you just need to bend the rules, makes me feel like I'm still in touch with my rebellious side anyway. Now I imagine that iPod detox is gonna be a hoot after all this, but he'll survive. 

Now as you can imagine, pain, immobility, a new brother, and the loss of his main way of stimming (running), things were rough at first. He was just starting to get used to the new baby when he wound up in a cast. 

When parents of autistic children expand their family further they are extra worried and stressed for the future. You have a newborn and any parent knows how demanding and energy consuming that can be, and you have an autistic child who probably requires a substantial amount of hands on time. Also worrying about how brother or sister will cope with such an enormous change to home dynamic is at the forefront of your mind all the time. For little man, home is a sanctuary filled with familiar sounds, faces, energy. We have a chaotic home, but its chaos that he's used to. He is free to be himself without odd looks being thrown his way. He is happy here. So when you throw it all out of whack, it's bound to affect my rigid little angel. 

The only piece of advice I can offer is don't put too much pressure on them. Autistic children need time to warm up to change, new people, new sounds, and a baby brings all those things. We talked while I was pregnant with him about how he was going to get a brother and used our "this is so awesome" voices to invoke excitement. By the time the baby arrived little man was flappy at the thought of meeting his new brother and all smiles. 

When he came to the hospital however, he was completely thrown. He wasn't comfortable with any of it.  We introduced him and he seemed uninterested (his typical attitude about something too big to deal with) and then we didn't mention it again. Once babe and I came home we did reintroductions several times a day, but were very nonchalant about it. Eventually he wanted to sit beside him. Then it turned into making silly faces at him. Finally he asked to hold him. He was so proud. He was ok with it because he reached that point on his own and was ready. He held him for about two minutes and then ignored him the rest of the day, but it was clear that he really liked his new brother and thought it was pretty cool. He still randomly asks to hold him and says "I have a brober" and just beams while he's with him. 

We are very proud of how well he handled everything, and tomorrow the cast comes off. It's funny, you spend so much energy in worrying about how things are going to turn out. Energy that bought you nothing but anxiety filled nights and distracted days. It does seem to work out though. Baby Ronin is a happy, calm little slice of serenity, and Little man is a loving and caring older brother. Now all I have to worry about is the two little firecrackers in pretty pink dresses. 

Friday, 31 May 2013

Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Vegan Almond Cheese

Quinoa is a food trend that has been picking up steam for quite some time now. There is reason for this, several actually. Quinoa is a complete protein making it a great choice for vegetarians. It is extremely versatile and quite delicious. It also has plenty of fibre.

With the warmer weather finally making an appearance I tend to gravitate towards cold salads, fresh, raw vegetables, and healthier options. This particular salad is a great option for a light lunch or as a side dish to a nice piece of fish or something yummy from the grill.

This dish would be great if you decided to leave out the vegan "cheese", but I think that if you are feeling adventurous and have a bit of extra time, you should give it a try. The "cheese" is less cheesy tasting then traditional feta, but offers a creamy texture, and zippy, salty tang.

I used red quinoa for this salad because I think it holds up a bit better to being cooked, cooled, and dressed. However, I have used white quinoa many times before for this type of preparation and have been pleased with those results as well, so the choice is yours.

Vegan "Feta"

1/4 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
2 TBSP Olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
3/4 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in food processor. Blend for five minutes or so, until very smooth. If you need to add a bit more water to help with the blending, do so sparingly. 

Line a strainer with a couple layers of cheese cloth. Fill with nut mixture, fold overhanging cheesecloth over top of mixture and weigh down with a plate. Make sure you have your strainer in a bowl, preferably one that the strainer does not touch the bottom of, and place in fridge for about twelve hours. 

Once cheese has set in fridge, remove gently from cheesecloth by inverting it onto your hand. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 200 F for about 1 hour. If your cheese looks like it is browning a lot or quickly, lower temp. Bake until firm. Note that it is a softer "cheese" when finished so it will still be delicate. 
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on baking sheet. Once room temp, transfer carefully to a plate and chill for at least six hours. 

Vegetable Quinoa Salad

4 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup raw)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 English cucumber, chopped small
3/4 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 orange or yellow pepper, diced
Small handful each of cilantro, parsley, and chives. 
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste. 
Vegan feta. 

Gently combine all ingredients but cheese in a bowl. Season to your tastes  (keep in mind that once cooled it will be less seasoned tasting) 
Once mixed, very gently fold in crumbled cheese. It will have a similar texture to goats' cheese, so some of it will mix into it but try to maintain some clumps as well. Reserve a bit of the cheese to sprinkle on top. 
You may serve immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for up to two days.  

This salad can easily be modified to fit personal tastes. My husband LOVES cilantro so I put lots in for him. If you don't like something, like tomatoes, leave them out or replace them with something you like better. 
Because my cheese was quite garlicky, I did not add any to the salad. If you choose to forgo the cheese however, I would add a clove of minced garlic into the salad. 

I hope everyone enjoys this easy and unique salad. I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Standardize This!

Here we go again, the battle between the judges and the judged.

Recently we were encouraged to have a psychological assessment done on our little man. It sounds scary, like a machine will be hooked up to their brain and they'll be tortured in a dark room or something, but we were assured that it was a play based encounter which would give a better understanding as to how little man learns and would be a useful tool for his teachers and EA's once he went to school. 

If someone could easily understand how he learns and thinks, therefore helping him to open up and take in more while at school, then that seems like a very good thing. "IF" is the operative word here though. 

What I failed to understand was that this was an extremely rigid standardised test designed to measure the intelligence level of typical children with a particular background and upbringing.  Not only are standardised tests not the best way for these "typical" children to be rated, but what about all the non-typical children? 

We were allowed to watch the assessment from an observation room where we were not visible to little man. He did quite well with coping with the new person in the room (the tester) thanks to the presence of his worker, whom he loves. Unfortunately though, that is where the positive in this particular scenario ends. Although he was not bothered by her presence, he was not really very interested in playing with her. What I did not know was that she would pose a question in a very particular phrase and could prompt once following the question in the same wording. ANY child, but certainly autistic children, sometimes need things to be rephrased for them. Little man in particular needs a question or request to be reworded very frequently, even common ones. The autistic mind is a marvel, the intelligence and ability to retain information is astonishing, however everyday conversations and questions are often perceived as foreign, and take some explaining and time to comprehend.
This does not mean someone is stupid. Every person is smart. Some excel in particular areas and struggle in others. Some seem to have a quick mind for most things. All people though, need to understand a question, truly GET what is being asked of them in order to answer it to the best if their abilities. To not allow this sort of room for comprehension in testing shows the narrow mindedness of the creators. How can you have accurate testing which you set a standard by, if not everyone is comprehending. It is extremely possible that with a slight rewording, someone who would have scored nothing on a question would be able to answer far exceeding the average person. 

My husband used a perfect analogy: You are a genius,you go to a foreign country where you do not speak the language, and they give you a test. It does not matter how smart you are, if you do not understand what is expected of you, you will fail. To them you know little if not nothing abut the subject being tested on. 

As little man's parents, we have a fairly good understanding of his current comprehension and capabilities. Watching him answer question after question wrong when you know he knows the correct answer is frustrating.  

We spoke with the lady following the assessment and were explained that things must be done a particular way. I enquired about the fact that she was asking many things that he had the capability to accurately respond to if she had reworded or made her expectations clear, and I was told that this is not how standardised testing is done. She then told me that she understood that all parents want to be able to hold up a piece of paper that says that their child is gifted, however in testing autistic children they very often scored low because of the difficulties that autism presents to the testing process. 

I was blown away by this statement. One, I am not a parent who only wishes their child be scored high so that I can have some sort of bragging rights about his intelligence. How absolutely arrogant would I have to be if that were my reason for wanting my child to succeed. Also, if the majority of autistic children score lower then their potential then why urge parents to participate in it in the first place? If you cannot assess the autistic mind accurately then don't put them in a position where they are falsely represented and underestimated. 

My major concern with the outcome of the test results was that this is a tool used by educators to pre-assess a child before meeting him, and begin a game plan for said child based in the information. If the results are in fact accurate, I truly see how this can be a useful tool in being as productive as possible from the get go. 

If it is not however, then a child walks into an environment where he has been grossly underestimated and it will take longer for his educators to challenge him. They may even rate progress based on success that in fact occurred much before being incorporated into the school system. No one wants to be treated as less then they are. If you or I were forced to spend our days with someone who patronised us at every turn and spoke to us as though we had the intelligence level far below our own we would find it offencive and less then helpful. 

Unfortunately standardised testing is a part of the education system all the way through. I am pained at the idea that my child will be subjected to such judgement and a total misunderstanding of how his spectacular mind works for the next 14-20 years. We, as a society, have begun to teach our children to "be yourself" and "everyone is special", but then we contradict this by shoving them in rooms with pencils and little circles that need to be perfectly filled in so we can slap them on a scale somewhere where they will either be better or worse then the average. This is not helpful. It is stunting the creativity and confidence of our children. Standardised? Who's standards are we referring to exactly? And why is their word absolute? Flawed. Entirely. 
I will teach my children, all of them, that personal success based upon things that are important to them, is more important than any government regulated mass test ever could be. Tests do not define you. Someone else's expectations should not be yours. I will teach my children to feel good about what they can do, not bad about what others say they can't.