Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Roasted Zucchini and Garlic Dip

I've received so much great feed back so far, thanks to everyone who's visited my blog! I originally intended to post a couple of days ago but have had a rough week. Seems like I would have an easier time if I just followed my own rules. 
In my first post Chocolate Chip Pancakes I mentioned my unwritten rule "I only eat delicious food". This one is a little frivolous, but most are very serious, life-saving rules. I have lots of them now, my list keeps growing. On this list, I now have to add "don't touch anyone if they've eaten wheat". For this to make sense, you have to understand how insanely hyper-sensitive I am to wheat. There is no wheat in the house, but the other day my husband was out and ate a hamburger with a bun. When he got home I gave him a hug and my nose touched his face. I immediately started sneezing and long story short, I had to go to the hospital. Instead of getting frustrated (which is my initial reaction) I'm trying to look at that one as a learning experience and hope that it doesn't happen a second time.

I made these rules in order to protect myself - and still I break them all the time. I broke one just the other day. This rule is "don't use/eat anything before reading the ingredients". The other day I used some old hair mousse that I had. I was sure I had used it since all of these allergies began, so I slathered it all over my hair. Then I thought, "Hmm...better double-check, even though I'm already sure it's OK". And good thing I checked because it had WHEAT in it! Needless to say, I immediately washed the heck out of my hair to get rid of it all. I had a reaction afterward, but I was able to handle it at home with Benadryl. OK....also a learning experience. I get it!

Another rule that I try to follow as best I can is that "I only eat food I have made for myself". I have had countless reactions from food prepared by friends, from restaurants, and pre-packaged foods so that is the reason for this rule.  When it comes to pre-packaged products, unless something specifies that it is free of all gluten or wheat, I will not eat it. If I have a concern about my other allergens, especially banana, I call the company and find out what is processed in the plant. This makes my options for food very limited. I do not even buy things like jam or juice because they may have cross-contamination with other fruits I'm allergic to - the same goes for sauces, soups and dips. Essentially I make all my own food, from scratch. There are few shortcuts - one that I get excited about is using beans from a can....sad, I know.

Following this rule means that I spend a ton of time in the kitchen on a regular basis. But, the silver lining is that this is beneficial for my blog! So, for all of you lovely allergyers out there who tirelessly make all of your own food, here's another recipe. This is my Roasted Zucchini and Garlic Dip. The preparation is quick and easy and it is so delicious and versatile - I also use it as a sauce for pasta, or a condiment. I'm sure you could even add a touch to homemade soups, or even as a pizza sauce. The zucchini in my garden are a little slow this year, but I expect an abundance in no time and when they arrive I will be trying to bottle some of this sauce for later days. If you have latex-food allergy please make sure that you are OK with squash and zucchini before making this recipe. I have seen them listed on some latex lists. If you are unsure, speak to your doctor before introducing a new food. If you are allergic to zucchini I think it would be delicious using roasted asparagus, fennel, cauliflower, or try experimenting with your favourite vegetable. Please let me know how it goes, I'm very interested in hearing about your experiences with my recipes and your comments will be very useful for others too! And remember, try to follow your own rules, they will help protect you.

Roasted Zucchini and Garlic Dip

Serve this dip hot or cold, with crackers or veggies, or try using it in place of other sauces or spreads.

2 medium zucchini
1 bulb of garlic
About 3 tbsps of olive oil (or oil of your choice) plus more for roasting.
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Line a baking sheet with parchment and drizzle oil over the surface. Slice zucchini length-wise and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle more oil on top of the zucchini. Cut the top off entire bulb of garlic and place on the baking sheet and drizzle top with oil. Roast on the top rack of your oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender. Remove zucchini and reserve in another container, continue roasting the garlic until the cloves are soft and can be squished out of their skin easily, about another 10 minutes.

Cool zucchini and garlic so that you can handle them safely. Put the zucchini, 4 cloves of the roasted garlic, and the oil into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth, adding a bit more oil if necessary. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Makes approximately 1 and 1/2 cup or 375 mls of sauce.


- If you find that your zucchini is not pureeing easily, it may not be cooked enough or you may need a little extra oil to help it along.


- If you are allergic to zucchini substitute it for roasted asparagus, fennel, cauliflower, or try experimenting with your favourite vegetable.

- If you are allergic to garlic simply omit it from the recipe.

- The recipe calls for only 4 cloves of garlic. With this amount, there is a subtle flavour of garlic, without overpowering the taste of the zucchini. Feel free to add more if you are a real garlic lover. I suggest to roast the whole bulb of garlic, simply because it is easier to do it that way. I also find that any leftover roasted garlic can liven up many dishes like soups, or even be used as a spread on a cracker.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

 So, here it goes. I've been toying with the idea of starting a recipe blog for months now. My sister and my husband have told me countless times to "stop talking about it, just start"...but things keep getting in the way. I'm not feeling well, or I don't have perfect photos of my recipes, or I just don't feel ready... My husband says this is all part of the journey my "followers" will want to hear about. The thought of anyone being interested in what I have to say is strange and, I admit, more than a little scary. I read blogs like Orangette and Gluten-Free Goddess and get scared all over again because of their perfection. But I guess everyone has to start somewhere. I will probably never be as wonderful a blogger as they are, or have their kind of following, but I feel like I have important recipes to share. These recipes are important because without them I probably would have gone mad by now. I'm thankful that I can cook and adapt recipes to suit my dietary needs - which seem to be getting more and more strict.

I have a love/hate relationship with food. It is my friend and my enemy. My saviour and my destroyer. I'm new to anaphylactic food allergies and I'm trying to deal with the emotions that go along with them. My allergies seem to have taken a hold of my life and turned it upside down. This all started three years ago, if not earlier. Chronic, debilitating migraines kept me from continuing at my job. I was treated by a neurologist and medication helped a little. It was not until I started seeing a naturopathic doctor, who put me on an extensive elimination diet, that I was able to live migraine-free for a while. Food was obviously the culprit, but only re-introducing foods would indicate what the cause was. I found out the hard way and ended up having anaphylactic reactions when I re-introduced banana, then wheat, egg and shrimp. It turns out that my reactions to many foods are much more dangerous than just migraines. When I first started having anaphylactic reactions I was scared every time I ate. During the many hours spent at hospitals I have heard countless stories from nurses about their children or husbands who have anaphylactic allergies. They would always assure me that it would get easier and that the beginning of it is the most difficult part. I have to tell myself that once in a while because this is all still new to me, even considering the progress I have made. With perseverance I have gradually tested the waters and found enough friendly food to have a healthy diet. I still plan to re-introduce more foods so here's hoping that my diet will be able to grow, even just a little.

If you think that you have allergies you should talk to your doctor, especially before trying a new diet.  Let me be clear, I am not an expert on allergies. But, I do know how to live on an allergy-restricted diet and be STARVING for good food. I have an unwritten rule that I only eat delicious food. Of course, when I'm starving and I don't have time or ingredients or energy to make something, I will eat raw carrots or a bowl of rice with beans from a can, but I try not to make a habit of this. I love food and cooking and it was really a no-brainer when I began my brown-rice cleanse diet a little over a year ago that I would just make up new recipes. I have failed countless times when trying to bake something without gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts and I have cried in the grocery store after reading label and realizing that there isn't A N Y T H I N G  I can eat.

So, after my husband picks my spirits up again (he's had a lot of practice) and reminds me of the things that I CAN eat, I go home and spend some quality time in the kitchen.
One of my favourite pick-me-up meals are my Chocolate Chip Pancakes, so I thought I'd start my blog with this recipe. They are filling, quick, and easy and require just a handful of ingredients - something I appreciate from living on a budget and eating allergy-free. They are also good chocolate-free, slathered with vegan butter (I use Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Flavoured Spread) and maple syrup - but I prefer the chocolate ones. I eat them hot out of the pan, or as left-overs at room temperature. They also freeze well (I put sheets of parchment in between so they come apart easily) and can be popped in the toaster or oven at 350 for just a minute. They make a great meal or snack at any time of day - I prefer them for dessert. 


Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Compared to conventional pancakes, these pancakes have no wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs or corn. They are also vegan.

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup sorghum flour
3 tbsp flax seed
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups of rice milk
3 tbsp sunflower oil or light-tasting oil of your choice
1/2 - 1 cup of chocolate chips (optional) (I generally use 3/4 cup of Enjoy Life chocolate chips)

In a medium bowl sift flour and whisk dry ingredients together. Pour in 2 cups of rice milk and the oil and whisk to combine. Allow your batter to sit for a few minutes and the flax will cause it to thicken. Heat an oiled, non-stick frying pan to medium / medium-high heat but do not allow your oil to smoke. Drop by 1/8 - 1/4 cupfuls, depending on what sized pancakes you prefer. Watch carefully - they cook quickly! Turn the pancakes once you notice that they have slightly browned edges and several bubbles appear.  Re-oil the pan in between batches of pancakes to prevent them from sticking. Makes approximately 12 medium-sized pancakes.

Possible Alterations:

- Because I may be allergic to corn, and I'm definitely allergic to potato I do not use baking powder, not even the gluten-free variety. I have made my own before but have not yet achieved the perfect taste - I can always taste the baking soda too much. Because of this, these pancakes do not rise very much. I'm not a fan of the diner fluff "pancakes" but much prefer them to be substantial with an eggy texture. Funny enough, these also have no eggs, but the flax makes up for that. If you try these and are not pleased with their density then please feel free to add some baking powder, if your diet allows.

- If you are allergic to chickpeas you may substitute the chickpea flour for white bean flour instead. Be careful because they can easily stick to the pan with this flour so make sure you use a generous amount of oil in your pan.

- Rice milk is fairly sweet so if you are using a different kind of milk you may want to adjust the salt content accordingly. Do NOT do this by tasting the raw batter because it is gross and will give you no indication of what the final product will taste like. If I'm unsure of my salt measurement I like to make a mini pancake as a tester and then make adjustments to the rest of the batter accordingly.


- If your pancakes stick to the pan, either: your pan is not hot enough, there is not enough oil in the pan, your batter is too runny, or you're trying to flip them too soon. If it's your batter, let it sit for a minute and it may thicken-up because of the flax. If this does not happen, add more flax 1/2 tsp at a time, waiting for a minute after each addition so that you do not add too much.

- As the batter sits, it will continue to thicken. If it seems too thick, add a little more rice milk.