Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies and NYE Resolutions

Dear Readers,

I have some new for you. Some perhaps shocking or bad news for those of you who like my sugary unhealthy desserts because my new years resolution is to be healthier. To be more specific: to eat better and exercise more. I know new years resolutions are a bit lame but I kind of like the idea of wiping the slate clean.

Don't worry I'm going to be realistic about it. So I know there will be occasions like xmas, birthdays, potlucks and perhaps cheat days. But on the whole I want to eat a lot less sugar. This is big for me, because sugar is my drug. Also less deep fried foods and just less oil in general. 

But since this is new years eve I wanted to share with you one last sugary dessert I made today to take to a friend house tonight.

I made gingerbread cookies with my new cookie cutter I got for xmas. The cookies cutter set is so great because they come with letters so you decorate with whatever message you want, like this:

Because it's so hot I decided to make ice cream sandwiches with them. These cookies tasted great and had a great texture, but unfortunately I made them a bit thick and I don't recommend freezing them as they are a big too hard when frozen. I also made some vanilla ice cream to go with it. I don't recommend making vanilla ice cream. Its so boring, you might as well buy it, seriously don't bother!

Anyway here is the recipe from the allergen-free bakers handbook. She has a special flour mix in her cookbook but since she uses the same mix for most recipes I don't think it would be fair to post it here. I will tell you though that I subbed the brown rice flour for regular white flour as I couldn't get any from my health food store and it still worked fine.

Gingerbread cookies (makes 24 small cookies or in this case 18 larger ones)
2 3/4 cup gluten free flour mix
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dairy free shortening (I used nuttelex)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup agave
1/4 cup molasses (I used golden syrup)

In stand mixer fitted with paddle, combine dry ingredients. Mix on low speed for about a minute. Add shortening and apple sauce then mix until combined.

Add agave and molasses and again mix until combined.

Divide dough into two balls and roll in between two baking sheets until about 1/4 inch. Place in freezer until firm, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two sheets with baking paper.

Cut dough using cookie cutters. Place on baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, Remove from the oven and let set for a few minutes and then cool for a few minutes before transferring them to cooling rack.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Anyone else making new years resolutions?


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pina Colada Ice Cream

I've been waiting for an excuse to bring out this pineapple bowl

We got a pineapple in our food co-op a few weeks ago and so after a little googling I come across this recipe on Jeroxie, I didn't have any limes or shredded coconut though so I ended up going with a recipe with only 3 ingredients.

PiƱa Colada Ice Cream from Elana's Pantry

  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup freshly chopped pineapple
  1. Place coconut milk, agave nectar and ½ cup pineapple in a food processor/blender.
  2. Blend thoroughly until smooth and well combined
  3. Briefly blend in remaining ½ cup pineapple, leave texture a little chunky
  4. Place in fridge until its cold.
  5. Process according to the directions of your ice cream maker.
  6. Place in fridge until desire texture
This was so sweet and refreshing, just like a real pina colada without the alcohol. So perfect for the hot weather but be warned it doesn't make much. Well in this household only enough for 2  serves!  I wasn't sure if it would thicken without the arrowroot but it was fine.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gluten Free Anniversary

We have a few anniversaries to honour in December, first Toby moved here in December from Hong Kong 6 years ago and its also been 2 years of blogging at this address. Although I blogged for years at aprevious site. It also marks my first anniversary of being gluten free. I did go on and off a gluten free diet a few times last year but got my final coeliac biopsy results and committed to being gluten free in Dec last year.

I thought it might be helpful for those who have recently found out they are coeliac or gluten intolerant to talk about my experience. I was miserable when I got my first blood test results, friends and family tried to be supportive by saying focus on what you can eat, how lucky you are to know what was causing issues etc. In the beginning I couldn't be 100% positive about it, I was grieving all those foods I could never eat again like crumpets, amazing sourdough bread, and so much more. I'm happy to report that was a phase and I didn't stay being grumpy about it. It's so much easier now that I have a routine at home, recipes all sorted, friends who make amazing gluten free dishes and know half a dozen restaurants where I frequent. However, I do on rare occasions get cravings and miss the convenience of take away sandwiches but being gluten free just means being a bit more organised about meals.

I've strict about the gluten free diet. I've been glutened a couple of times this year with sometimes small amounts of gluten and its not pretty, my stomach bloats so much that I look pregnant,  I have horrible sharp pain on one side (generally left) and other bowel related issues that I'm sure you don't want to hear about on a food blog. It generally takes me about 24-48 hours of feeling horrible and up to a week til I feel back to normal. The longer I'm gluten free the worse the symptoms seem to get. Thankfully it has only happened a few times. I know some people cheat because they don't have many symptoms but its so not worth the possible long term health issues such as bowel cancer. I also find it easier, because I start to forget how amazing gluteny crumpets, pastry, bread etc can be. So don't do it guys!

I'm definitely felt healthier this year, not just stomach and bowel related but also with less colds and other viruses and my body seems to be able to fight viruses and infections better. I've also had more energy. My body is finally been able to absorb vitamins and minerals properly but with that have also come a small amount of weight gain. Although that might be a coincidence or my age as many people report weight loss after going gluten free.

I found the process of going gluten free so much easier thanks to a couple of coeliac friends who talked me through it, talked to me about good brands, answered so many questions about ingredients and just  agreed that it can be bit shit sometimes. So I'm more than happy to answer any gluten free/coeliac questions, not from a nutrition standpoint of course but in terms of the above. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

Here is some advice which I found useful in the beginning and which people often get confused about:
  • There is wheat in regular soy sauce.
  • Spelt products are NOT gluten free.
  • Most buckwheat noodles contain regular wheat.
  • Most fresh rice noodles contain wheat, but dried varieties are generally fine.
  • Barley is part of the gluten family, everyone forgets about this one.
  • There is barley in some brands of soy milk and some miso paste.
  • Products can contain wheat and still be labelled gluten free as it depends on the way the wheat is processed. So the gluten free label overrides everything else.
  • In Australia, caramel and glucose syrup derived from wheat are gluten free as no gluten remains after processing it. Does this apply in other countries too?
  • Basically the only alcohol you need to avoid is beer, ale, lager, stout and Guinness. Although spirits may be derived from wheat, rye or barley they are distilled in such a way that there is generally no gluten remaining in the final products.
  • If any ingredient in a product is derived from wheat, rye, barley or oats, then this must be declared on the label in Australia. 
  • Watch out for for wheat in some corn starch and icing sugar varities.
  • Check out Coeliac Australia website for more details: 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gluten Free Xmas Pudding Ice Cream

The night before the potluck, I got the strongest urge to make ice cream, even though I had already started on the brownies. I decided to veganise xmas pudding ice cream, its strange because I don't even like xmas pudding, but everything tastes better in ice cream form!

Christmas Pudding Ice Cream inspired by bbc goodfoood recipe

  • 200g dried cherries, chopped (or sub raisins etc)
  • 6 tbsp brandy
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Ice Cream:

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 1 t vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 gingernut biscuits, broken into chunks (I used the leda gf ones)
  • zest ½ lemon and ½ an orange 
  •  2 teaspoons arrowroot
  1. Mix all of the boozy fruit ingredients together in a bowl, then microwave or cook on stovetop for 3 mins. Stir, then leave to cool completely, for a few hours to overnight.
  2. For the ice cream, put the spices in a saucepan and gently heat for 3 mins or so, stirring once or twice, until fragrant. Tip in the coconut milk (reserving 1/4 cup) and sugar and bring to the boil. Bring to boil. 
  3. Pass the mix through a sieve and add in the vanilla extra, arrowroot mixture and zest. Place in fridge for a few hours until completly cold. 
  4. Follow ice cream machine instructions. Place mix the cherries and ginger nut in last few minutes. 
  5. Freeze til desired texture.

I had this great plan to give everyone small little tubs of this for xmas gifts which they could take home. Unfortunately it doesn't make a lot so ended up just serving it at the potluck. If you plan on serving it to several people, I recommend doubling the recipe. Despite not being a fan of xmas pudding, I still enjoyed this recipe, I think it had a good combination of fruit, booze and spices. Although I have to admit that I am a huge fan of the ginger biscuits which do have a strong flavour. So ginger fans stay away. I certainly think it is a better alternative for those us who celebration xmas in the southern hemisphere. The best thing about ice cream is you can make this well in advance too!

The potluck was great and included amazing things like vegan and gluten free prawn toast, ferrero rochers and lots more.

For other xmas dessert ideas, check out previously made candy cane ice creamcandy cane fudge, and candy cane cookies (not gf) and xmas pudding bites.

Thinking I might try to fit in one more xmas ice cream flavour this year, any suggestions?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa Hat Brownies

This is a first, i'm posted about a dessert that I am taking to a potluck prior to going. I am keen to post these recipes early though in case people are looking for xmas dessert inspirations right now for next week.

I'll post about my other dessert later today or tomorrow. First these santa hat brownies which were popular on pinterest and are orginally from Ericas sweet tooth,but I think this is the first vegan and gluten free version posted. The original recipe asked for white chocolate but a few people have made it with icing. I had planned to make brownies from scratch using the recipe from babycakes but was a bit low on a few flour types and also need to buy coconut oil, so in the end went with the cheaper and lasier option and bought this packet mixture.

It makes great tasty brownies particuarly when they are fresh from the oven they are quite fudgy but they do become a bit hard the next day.

I made this cream cheese frosting and ended up with a fair bit leftover:

Dairy Free Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from VCTOTW
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup tofutti cream cheese
1 cup of icing sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Beat margaine and cream cheese together. Add in vanilla. Slowly add in sugar about 1/4 cup at a time until all mixed in.

Santa Hat Brownies makes 14 (depending on how many strawberries in punnet)
1 punnet of strawberries (I recommend doubling next time as I had lots of brownies left)
1 packet of brownie mix (or make your own)
cream cheese frosting

Bake brownies in cupcake/muffin pan. I actually forgot this step and so had to try to cut them into circles using a glass. Once brownies are cool, pipe icing around base of strawberry. Put strawberry on top and pipe tiny spot on top of each strawberry.  I was piping with a plastic ziplock bag and my kills aren't the best but I still think they are cute.

I do have to admit these are the better looking ones, have some ugly square ones too but taste wise it doesn't matter. Transport is going to be an issue though, any ideas? Flavour wise they are great combination I mean how can chocolate brownies, cream cheese icing and strawberries not be a winner?

I might make these again on Sunday for my family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thanh Nha Nine

Phone pics warning

This post has been sitting in drafts for months. I kind of put it on hold for vegan mofo and then I forgot. Yes bad blogger! Thankfully the post was mostly done so don't need to rely on my memory.

We had a work dinner at Thanh Nha Nine- a Vietnamese restuarant months ago. Although they had several options on their vegetarian menu I was a bit nervous about what they could offer me which was both vegan and gluten free so I called them up about a week before and confirmed that there would at least be a couple of options.

The staff member who I suspect to be one of the owners was knowledgeable about what was gluten free and suggested that I have vegetarian fish sauce in place of soy sauce which put me at ease straight away.

I started with some rice paper rolls, they were fresh and healthy with tofu and lemongrass but not quite as tasty as I wanted them to be so but were made better with some vegetarian fish sauce. I couldn't resist the three colour drink made from coconut milk, red beans and jelly.

The highlight of the night however were these mini savoury pancakes made from coconut milk and rice flour. The texture of the pancakes was like a crunchy pastry, they were topped with mock prawns and a tasty mung bean paste, it sounds weird but the texture and taste was kind of like mashed potato. They were served with more vegetarian fish sauce and coconut milk. They were outstanding but with the drink and rice paper rolls I unfortunately couldn't finish them.

You can read other vegetarian accounts from wheres the beef  x 2, green gourmet giraffe and vegematarian.

It was pretty busy even midweek so make sure you book ahead!

Thanh Nha Nine
160 Victoria Street
9427 7068

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gluten Free Oreo Truffles

I was so excited when I saw Mandee tweet about gluten free and vegan version of oreos at the gluten free expo in Sydney, sadly they didn't have them at the Melbourne show, but I finally got my hands on some last week at the gluten free store in Keilor.

These come in handy this weekend when I woke up at 10am and remembered Emily's farewell picnic which was due to start at 12. I need to make something quic.

Remember the oreo truffle rage a few years ago? I made a few different varieties including white chocolate and peanut butter at one of my first potlucks. Anyway, here is the gluten free version, I think it could be tweaked further by adding more gluten free oreos or less tofutti cream cheese, so feel free to play around with it.

Gluten Free Oreo Truffles
makes approximately 20 truffles

1 packet of gluten free oreo type biscuits
half a pack of tofutti cream cheese
100 grams of chocolate chips

Crush biscuits in food processor. Add cream cheese, mix until well combined. Put mixture in freezer for 15 minutes (I skipped this step), then roll into balls. Melt dark chocolate in double boiler, dip balls in chocolate and place on lined tray. Put in fridge for 30 minutes.

I think the gluten free oreos have a slight after taste but when combined with cream cheese and chocolate you can't tell. I enjoyed these but unfortunately they melted quick quickly at the picnic and become gooey messy balls.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


'Easy' is probably one of the most common words used in this blog, along with noodles, ice cream and dessert because most of the dishes we make tend to be easy dishes which don't take hours and aren't fiddly to make. Except for maybe the few decorated cakes. This dish really surprised me because I didn't expect it to be easy.

I had areapas in san francisco once and enjoyed them and looked at the recipe in viva vegan but thought it sounded like too much word so avoided making them until a few weeks ago. I once tried to make pupusas but found them too be too fiddly but these are completely different. So easy and are quicker to make than corn tortillas.

But better yet they have act as a great glutenfree bun type alternative.  Ivan pointed out that they are almost like english muffins, slighty hard on the outside and soft iside. So I'm also considering making these again with tofu benedict.

I filled mine with our regular chilli, cheddar cheezly and quacamole. Not sharing the recipe, since I've already posted a few from viva vegan here and you should go get the book you cheap skate. I also tried the corn and cheese filled variety minus the cheese but found that the corn kept getting burnt so prefer the plain variety.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Westgarth Book and Cooks Cafe

Late last week a new vegan cafe opened called Westgarth Books and Cooks Cafe. It's a bookstore with a few small tables in the front and one slightly larger one in the backroom. I asked on facebook who wanted to check it out and a small group of us were keen to check it out on Sunday including Cindy and Michael, Troy, Bec x 2 and Craig.  We sat at the largest table which usually sits 6 but they grabbed a few extra chairs so we could fit. It was a bit of a tight fit though surrounded by books.

As it has just opened, there was a few issues such as the menu not being completely available and issues with the timing of dishes for such a large group. There was quite a large gap between the first person and the last person getting their dishes. Toby and I were among the last ones to get our dishes but I didn't mind as they were apologetic, they had only opened a few days before and gave us complimentary cookies but more importantly they had gluten free waffles:

The waffles were fantastic, you couldn't tell they were gluten free (no cardboardy texture or weird flavor) and the large section of fruit allowed me to feel better about having dessert for breakfast but the star of the dish was the ice cream. Made from cashews, it was smooth, sweet and amazing. I could eat a massive bowl of it.

Toby very kindly ordered the gluten free pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce so we could share. I really enjoyed this too, it really was creamy and was served with what I suspect to be cashew cream, pine nuts, parsley, onions and mushrooms. I look forward to trying more dishes when the menu is fully available.

Westgarth Books and Cooks Cafe
77 high street
Monday-Sunday: 10-6.

Shawna has already blogged about it here.