Friday, August 26, 2011

Vanilla Layer Cake

The time is approaching. The time when every day we will have to wear layers and slipper socks....and dare I say it...jackets. No more flip-flops, or tank tops, or summer skirts.  I have found myself over the past couple of weeks being cold. I don't like that. I've had to open my sweater drawer and put one on. I have started to drink hot tea, instead of iced. Fall is almost here. Almost....not quite yet. But it's coming. I can feel something, and it feels like Fall.

I can see it too, in my garden. My sunflowers have started to bloom and my winter squash are thriving. I have just been able to harvest a ripe Golden Hubbard squash. I'm not about to complain about that part of this time of year. In fact, I love that part, but I'm trying to change my way of thinking about the rest of it.

I live for summer. L I V E. I love it. I feel like I come alive during summer. I wait all year long for it to appear. When I was a kid I used to like spring, but only really because I had a cute rain jacket, I liked to wear rubber boots, and my birthday is in April. Those reasons don't do it for me anymore. Spring is just a stepping stone for Summer. Ah...Summer!

One of the large parts of Fall that I dislike is that "back to school" feeling. Even though I'm not going to school right now, I still get it. I'm starting to think that this feeling never goes away. Just the other day, my mother-in-law said she had that feeling. There has to be something we can do to change that! The weird thing is that I like school, but that feeling is something all unto itself.

Over the past couple of years, my sadness over the "Death of Summer" - as I like to call it - has escalated. I end up mourning the loss of summer before it's even gone. By doing this I end up waisting the end of my precious summer, and for what? I've decided feeling that way is not worth it, so I've been trying to train my mind to feel positive about Fall. I'm starting to think of this time of year as not the "Death of Summer", or even the "End of Summer" but as the "Beginning of Fall".

I know, it's so obvious and it sounds simple, but a change like this would be monumental to my way of thinking. I've been compiling a mental list of all of my favourite things about fall, and most of them revolve around food. I love fall produce, and as luck has it, can eat quite a lot of it! I'm starting to look forward to harvesting the rest of the fall veggies from my garden, like parsnips, squash, and Jerusalem artichokes (otherwise known as sunchokes). I also can't wait for the show my sunflowers will put on - a sneak peek has already begun!

I assure you that I will get to posting fall recipes, but for now I am going to avoid it at all cost and try to just enjoy what Summer has left to offer.

Summer is, in a large part, about entertaining. So, in celebration of the last precious days of August, I give you my Vanilla Layer Cake. I remember the day when I successfully created this recipe and what a day it was! Cake, was yet again, a part of my life!

This cake is delicious, and no, I am not going to be modest about that. This is a fight-for-the-last-slice kind of cake. An excuse-to-drink-another-cup-of-tea cake. A cake-is-a-legitimate-breakfast-food cake. It has a taste that is a bit different from a conventional vanilla cake, which is made with butter, eggs and wheat.The taste of this cake is a teensy bit reminiscent of cornbread, but in a more delicious, cakier way. I have heard people on TV talk about how chickpea flour tastes too much like chickpeas, and because of this you can only put it with strong flavours like an immense amount of chocolate. I disagree. If you have the correct balance of ingredients in your recipe, you will not be able to recognize the chickpea flavour. You may have noticed this if you tried the Chocolate Chip Pancake recipe I posted a few weeks ago.

This cake is one of my big crowd-pleasers. It will satisfy your guests no matter what their dietary restrictions are. There is always a "wow" factor attached to a layer-cake and it can be the perfect addition to a celebratory meal. Speaking of "wow" factors, you may be wondering why I have not included a photo of the complete cake. I made this cake the other day when we had guests, and had intended to take photos of it in its entirety. I was in a hurry to assemble it, and I ended up breaking the top layer of the cake. It looked terrible, but I was assured by everyone at the table that the taste made up what the cake lacked in appearance.

I suggest that you layer this cake with my Vegan Buttercream Icing. I also make this recipe into cupcakes. You can ice them, or serve them with berries as a sort of short-cake. I will post photos of an entire cake and cupcakes the next time I bake them. In the meantime, the photos of this slice will have to do. I hope you are able to take advantage of these last few days of Summer. Enjoy your cake!

Vanilla Layer Cake

Compared to a conventional cake, this cake is free of gluten, wheat, eggs and dairy, and also does not have baking powder that generally includes corn or potato starch. This cake is also vegan.

1 1/2 cups/375 mls sorghum flour
1 cup/250 mls chickpea flour or white bean flour
1 cup/250 mls tapioca starch
2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup/250 mls sugar

2 cups/500 mls rice milk
2 tsps apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup/157 mls sunflower oil
4 tsps vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350˚F/176˚C.

If baking a cake, grease two 9''/23cm pans, line bottom and sides of pan with parchment, grease parchment.

If baking cupcakes, line cupcake pans with liners.

In a small bowl mix rice milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside. In a large bowl sift together dry ingredients. Add oil and vanilla to rice milk mixture. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk just until combined.

If baking a cake, divide batter into cake pans and bake at 350˚F/176˚C for about 34-38 minutes, or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool on racks in pans for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert onto a rack to cool completely.

If baking cupcakes, divide cupcake batter evenly into cupcake pans, you should have 24 cupcakes. Bake at 350˚F/176˚C for 18-22 minutes, or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool on racks for a few minutes in the pan, remove cupcakes and cool completely on rack.

Ice with Vegan Buttercream icing (recipe below) or icing of your choice.

Yield, a two-layer cake or 24 cupcakes.

Vegan Buttercream Icing

1 1/2 cups/375 mls vegan butter (I prefer Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Flavoured Spread)
5 cups organic icing sugar (I prefer Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Icing Sugar)
2 tsps vanilla extract
About 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Makes enough icing to ice a two-layer cake or 24 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, cream vegan butter. Gradually work in sifted icing sugar. Add vanilla and salt. Spread over cake or cupcakes once they have completely cooled.


- Even though I suggest using a sieve you may notice a few small lumps in your batter. These should dissipate during baking. Do not over-work your batter, as it will make your cake/cupcakes fall during baking.

-When purchasing icing sugar, be careful to read the label and double-check for potential allergens. Conventional icing sugar generally contains cornstarch. I noticed on Wholesome Sweeteners website that their icing sugar (sometimes labelled "powdered sugar" instead) can include cornstarch or tapioca starch.


- If you are allergic to chickpeas, try using white bean flour in its place. I find that white bean flour gives a finer crumb, and is a closer taste/texture to wheat flour. Some people who are allergic to peanuts also have a legume allergy. If you suspect this, talk to your doctor before introducing. If you know you are allergic to legumes, or the other flours listed, try substituting your own favourite flour blend or ask me to try one for you.

- If you are allergic to sugar, or you are just avoiding it, substitute your sweetener of preference. I have used part sugar, part maple syrup before with decent results. Keep in mind that if your sweetener is in liquid form, you may want to reduce the rice milk in the recipe.

- You may substitute any other milk for the rice milk. You could also try replacing the milk/vinegar combination for plain yogourt.

- If you are allergic to apples or apple cider vinegar, you may substitute the apple cider vinegar for a vinegar of your choice. You may also substitute the vinegar for lemon juice.

- I use sunflower oil in this recipe, but feel free to substitute your oil of preference.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pasta with Garlic Beans and Zucchini

I have to apologize in advance. This post is a little long, because it's been so long since I last posted. If you just want the recipe, scroll down to the bottom. No hard feelings.

When I first started having anaphylactic reactions to foods I cut many many things out of my diet. Actually for a week or two after my first terrible reaction I was so afraid to eat that I stuck mostly to plain rice, rice cereal, and Enjoy Life cookies. At this point I didn't know what all of my allergens were (I still don't, but I have a better idea) so I had no clue what foods were safe. I know a lot more now about which foods to avoid but the problem with latex-food allergies is that the lists of potential problem foods seem endless. So far I'm OK with some latex foods, like apples and cherries and I keep reading that most people are not allergic to ALL foods on the lists. This gives me hope.

There are only four fruits that I know for sure I can eat right now - apples, cherries, raspberries, and blueberries. Over the past few months, I introduced each of them slowly and I ended up being OK. I've been waiting to introduce more foods and I was hoping for a fruit so I decided to try peaches. Peaches are in season and Ontario peaches are always so amazingly delicious. I generally eat them by the container-full and ask myself "how many peaches are too many?".

The problem is that I have seen peaches listed on a few latex lists, as well as "fruit with stones", which really narrows it down. Come on! But, the idea of being able to add anything to my diet is so exciting to me, so I did. With a new food in mind the possibilities for cooking seemed endless. My mind started to wander, creating new recipe ideas....

My favourite was the idea of a peach marinade on chicken. I thought I would take peaches, blend them up with some ginger and garlic, then marinade the chicken. I think that would be prefect grilled.


What about stewed peaches on rice pudding or non-dairy ice cream? Deeeelicious! If you know you can eat peaches, try those out and let me know how they go!

As you can see, I don't have peach recipes posted here - just daydreams. I didn't get very far with the peaches.

The thing I keep reading about food challenges is that, yes, they are dangerous and should only be attempted with a doctor, in a hospital. In retrospect, I should have done it this way too, but I had not yet been referred to a doctor to help me in this way.

I slooooowly I tried the peach. I did little tests over about an hour and a half, each time waiting 20 or 30 minutes in between. I put a teensy bit of peach juice on my arm. Nothing. I put a drop on my lip. Still nothing. (I was getting SO excited!). I put a drop on my tongue and spit it out so that I didn't ingest very much - it was one of the most DELICIOUS things I have ever tasted in my LIFE! Still nothing. Then, I swallowed one drop of peach juice and INSTANTLY started having a reaction.  Another long story short, the ER doctor told me not to introduce any more foods on my own. Luckily, yesterday I had an appointment with my allergist and she is referring me to someone who will do oral challenges with me.

I've spent countless days pondering my allergy-ridden life. It gets me down, more than I like to admit. I still have hope though, and try to keep my head up. Something that one of you said has helped me immensely. I found a comment by "Anonymous" under my Chocolate Chip Pancakes post. It seems as if I have the ability to help this person. It reminds me of why I started this blog and re-enforces what I already know - that there are people out there with similar allergies. I know that it doesn't always feel that way when you're dealing with a reaction or its aftermath. I feel lonely and scared and anxious about my allergies - I'm sure some of you do too. I'm learning that these feelings are all normal, and it's ok to feel this way sometimes. My naturopath referred me to a holistic allergist and with her help I'm learning to let go of these emotions. My husband also reminds me that although I've had a lot of reactions, I've survived them and I'm OK. It's important that we try to keep things in perspective like this, and remember that you are not alone. The thought of that helps me more than you know.

My recipe today is one that my husband and I created before my allergies were a big problem. We were on a trip to Italy and lived in Venice for a month - my husband is studying Venetian Renaissance Art History and I got to tag along. What a treat! If you have ever been to Venice you know that food prices there are just ridiculous. We were on a tight budget and also wanted to eat as deliciously as possible. Most of our meals were vegetarian and our favourite was Pasta with Garlic Beans and Zucchini. Since Italian food doesn't mix well with my allergies now (no more wheat, no tomato, no parmesan, no spicy pepper oil) I have made several alterations. But, I assure you this version is equally delicious. This is a vegan meal, but it will also satisfy the meat-lovers in your home, just trust me.

Pasta with Garlic Beans and Zucchini

Gluten-free pasta of your choice (I use GoGo Quinoa Spaghetti)
8-10 cloves of garlic (just trust me) crushed or minced 
2 small zucchini diced
2 small cans (roughly 800 mls or 3 1/2 cups) of organic beans - I find that navy beans are best
about 1/2 cup olive oil or oil of your choice
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice the zucchini and saute at medium/medium-high heat in a small amount of the oil for about 2 -3 minutes or until it begins to soften and release some of its juice. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two, just until it begins to soften. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Add most of the oil to the pan. Drain and rinse beans (if using canned) and add to pan. Gently fold garlic and zucchini into beans until beans are warmed through, about another minute or two (careful not to cook them too long, or else they will go soft and starchy). Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook pasta to manufactures' directions. Drain pasta and add to beans and zucchini mixture. Add the rest of the oil. Gently fold beans and zucchini into pasta. Add more oil if necessary.

This recipe makes enough pasta for four generous servings, and possibly leftovers too! Feel free to cut the recipe in half if you want small portions or are feeding a smaller crowd. If you don't feel like pasta, try the beans and zucchini on their own as a side dish. I have also been known to eat a bowl-full for lunch or dinner .


- Be very gentle while folding the beans. If you mess around with them too much they will get mushy and too starchy.

- If your beans are already salted, be careful about the amount of salt you add. Try to buy organic beans, if using canned, because non-organic canned food generally has preservatives.

- When cooking gluten-free pasta make sure you have a large pot and PLENTY of boiling salted water. Stir your pasta around frequently, as it tends to stick together.

- I have recently discovered quinoa-rice blend pasta and I I'm hooked on it - actually our whole family is. If you cook it according to the directions on the box (the kind I buy, GoGo Quinoa, takes 13 minutes) you will be very satisfied. I had to pinch myself a few times while eating it because it is so close to wheat pasta that I got a little scared! I have not craved pasta in a LONG time but I assure you, my cravings are back!

- If using rice pasta watch the cooking time very carefully because it tends to turn from under cooked to mush very quickly. If you are not satisfied with your pasta, try other brands because they differ significantly. The best rice pasta I've tried so far is President's Choice Organics brand.

- Use your own judgement, but you may want to rinse your rice pasta after cooking. I know that this is often considered a big no-no in cooking, but rice pasta has an immense amount of starch and may end up being very sticky, especially combined with the starch of the beans.


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

- I have seen zucchini and squash listed on some latex lists, so please check with your doctor before introducing. If you are allergic to zucchini, I think this would be delicious with mushrooms and I know it is delicious with tomatoes. You could also try substituting your favourite vegetable or use just the garlic beans alone.

- I prefer to use navy beans because they do not fall apart as easily as larger, softer varieties like kidney beans

- If you are allergic to peanuts or other legumes ask your doctor before trying any beans. If you know you are allergic to beans, try substituting your favourite veggies, or some chicken.

- The original recipe had freshly grated parmesan, spicy pepper oil and sometimes tomatoes so feel free to add these ingredients if they are not allergens for you.