Monday, July 01, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake

These past five years have been difficult, to say the least. I not only have had to learn to live with countless new food allergies, I have had debilitating migraines. When they first began I was getting multiple migraines a day. Since then I have changed many things in my life and gathered a team of professionals to help (a neurologist, a naturopath, a chiropractor, a holistic allergist) and in doing this, I've managed to reduce my migraines to 2-3/week.

I know this sounds silly...but recently I have been avoiding you on purpose. My health has drastically improved (HURRAH!) but I haven't wanted to jinx it.

At the end of March, I went to a new dentist because I had extreme jaw pain. She quickly told me that one of my wisdom teeth, which I had been told countless times would never come in, was pushing a molar out of my jaw. Gross. Painful. Yes. And yes.

She said she would have to remove my molar. It was a dumb tooth anyway. I didn't want it anymore. It had caused me so much grief already, with countless attempts to fill a cavity, and eventually a root canal (because my then-dentist didn't get my entire cavity from the get-go). So, my new dentist pulled my molar. Then something amazing happened. My. Migraines. Stopped.

They just stopped. I had a migraine the morning my tooth was pulled, and I haven't had one since. I've been resisting dreading writing about it because what if writing on this blog forever ruins my migraine-free streak? Well, that's just dumb. So, here I am. Finally, writing it for all the world to see. My. Migraines. Stopped.

There, I said it again.

I haven't just been avoiding you because I (foolishly) didn't want to jinx my good-fortune. I've been living my life! I've been gardening like mad and I can't wait to show you my masterpiece-of-food-growing. I've been getting healthier by exercising and making my body stronger. And, what I'm most excited about: I've been singing and getting my voice back into shape. And oh, how I've missed that part of my life. My life is suddenly full of possibilities that I thought had all but disappeared. So, Sheena. What shall we do now?

For today, I will celebrate Canada Day, and the summer bounty of strawberries, with this beautiful recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. This is a substantial shortcake, not sponge cake that is quite often seen posing as shortcake. They are actually my tea biscuit recipe and if you're not into strawberry shortcake they go splendidly with some butter/vegan butter and jam. Yum.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians around the world! Sorry I didn't post this sooner for you to make it this weekend. And happy (early) Independence Day to those of you in the US.

Make this dough ahead of time and let it rest in the fridge for an hour, or over night. They can also be cut into biscuits and frozen, then baked, but you will need to increase the time a minute or two or defrost them before baking. 

Strawberry Shortcake

Shortcake/Tea Biscuits

2 cups brown rice flour
2 cups sorghum flour
6 tbsps tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsps xantham gum
3 tsps baking powder*
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan butter (I prefer Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Flavoured Spread) **
1/2 cup coconut oil **
1 1/4 cup milk***

Measure vegan butter and coconut oil. Freeze until firm. Mix dry ingredients. Add small chunks of firm vegan butter and coconut butter. Mix until crumbly, but you want some small chunks of butter and oil to still be visible. Slowly add milk and mix just until combined - if using a mixer wait just until dough starts to pull away from sides of bowl. Cover and refrigerate dough until chilled or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°/190°Remove dough from fridge and allow to warm up a bit so it's not too solid to work with - but you don't want it warm. Handle the dough as little as possible, to avoid a tough final result. Roll between two pieces of parchment or two silicone baking pads (If you do not have either of those items, you may want to use a bit of tapioca flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Try not to use too much.). Roll until about 2 1/2 - 3 cms / approximately 1 - 1.18" thick.  Dust the top of the dough with icing sugar (if you desire a sweet biscuit). Cut with desired cookie cutters. Dust underside with icing sugar. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your cookie cutters, or until cooked through and golden brown on the bottom.

If you prefer to make drop-biscuits add a bit more milk to your dough so it is more of a batter. Drop by spoonful onto your prepared sheet. Dust with icing sugar, bake following above directions.

To Make Shortcake

Slice or mash strawberries and arrange on top of a biscuit. Top strawberries with whipped cream, whipped coconut milk, ice cream, or non-dairy ice cream. Top with another biscuit. Or, instead of using two biscuits per dessert, you could slice the biscuits in half.

Coconut Whipped Cream

I have made coconut whipped cream before and it turned out great. But when I went to do it for this photo shoot it was an epic fail. Here is a great post from Oh Lady Cakes on Coconut Whipped Cream. It seems like she has it all figured out! I now know my whipped cream results were so drastically different because initially I used Thai Kitchen coconut milk, but this time it was an inexpensive kind that I realize was made with coconut extract and water. Gross. Because of this, my photos are with coconut ice cream.


* If you are allergic to corn and cannot find a corn-free baking powder you can make your own. Just follow this ratio: 1 part baking soda, 1 part starch (like rice, arrowroot, or tapioca starch/flour), and 2 parts cream of tartar.

** While I prefer the ratio of half vegan butter/half coconut butter, you can use:

- 1 cup vegan butter, or
- 1 cup coconut oil, or
- 1 cup butter

*** Use any dairy or non-dairy milk. These are particularly excellent with a high-fat milk, such as coconut milk, or 3.5% dairy.

A Note on Strawberries And Allergies:

I have noticed in the past that I sometimes have a reaction from strawberries. I have pinpointed the problematic strawberries to ones that have been imported, either from the US or from Argentina. I seem to have no issue with local, Ontario strawberries. My holistic allergist told me that strawberries contain a high amount of histamine, the natural chemical produced in your body during an allergic reaction. When a fruit or vegetable ages, it produces more histamine. I thought this was perhaps the reason imported strawberries were not great for me - they have most-likely been picked long before I consume them. I recently learned something else about strawberries from a farmer at the local farmer's market. She said that many strawberry farms inject their berries with shrimp extract (GROSS!), which gives their berries a brighter colour. She told me that many kiwi farmers do this as well, and she has heard a lot of people who have shellfish and shrimp allergies (like me) have had issues with both of these fruits. 

I am not sure what it is about imported strawberries that affect me, so I will stick with the strawberry farms that I know I have no issue with. If you are concerned about your strawberry allergies talk your local farmer about their farm practices. Always make sure you speak to your doctor before introducing a potential allergen. 

*Please Note* These recipes are part of my personal allergy diet. Please remember that everyone's allergies are different.  If you are unsure about any ingredients listed in these recipes please check with your doctor before introducing. I am not a doctor, these stories are from my personal experiences.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Carrot Cupcakes

I'm embarrassed that I've been away from this space for so long. Too long. Recently my friends have started to ask me if I am still blogging, because they have noticed my absence. I told them that I have indeed  wanted to, but I have been lacking inspiration. I'm glad to say that I feel the spark of inspiration yet again, so here I am! 

I've been spending my time wisely, mind you. During my hibernation, I've been developing and refining recipes that I will post shortly. I've also been seeing a chiropractor, doing exercises that he assigned, and eating healthier. My chiropractor has me walking every day, which drastically helps prevent my migraines. But because of the snow this winter, walking was a little difficult...until I discovered snowshoeing. I tried it for the first time this winter and fell in love. Even with the falling-down part, as you can see here:

But enough about winter. Let's welcome SPRING! And what better way to start this spring anew than with a delicious, healthy carrot cupcake recipe. I brought these cupcakes to my Mom's house for a big family dinner yesterday and everyone loved them. Personally, they are my favourite recipe I've created so far. As you can see, my nephew enjoyed them too :) 

I was browsing blogs for a delicious carrot cake recipe but had a difficult time finding one that met my allergy-restrictions. After a few attempts, I finally created my own recipe that fit my allergy-restrictions, and satisfied my healthy-side and my dessert-obsessed side. These cupcakes are free of all of the allergens I  avoid: dairy, fish, egg, gluten, peanuts, sesame, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. They also happen to be vegan, sugar free (accept the icing), and packed with goodness from carrots, and apple sauce. I hope you enjoy them as much as my nephew and I do :)

Carrot Cupcakes

1 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 tsp baking powder *if allergic to corn please see alteration below*
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsps cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2/3 cup agave nectar (or maple syrup)
1 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup water or non-dairy milk
1/4 cup oil of your choice
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup shredded carrots

Preheat oven to 375°/190°. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients, set aside. Combine liquid ingredients in a small bowl. Add liquid ingredients to dry and mix just until combined. Fold in grated carrot.
Spoon into cupcake tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool in tin on racks for a few minutes, then remove from tin and cool completely before icing with my Vegan Buttercream (tastes like cream cheese icing!).

Yield 12 cupcakes

*note* I have not yet made this into a cake, but I am sure it would work out fine. I would suggest a 9"/23 cm round cake pan, lined with parchment, and bake it for about 20-30 minutes. Make sure to keep a careful eye on the cake after about 15 minutes just in case my guess is off. If you want to make a layered cake, you will have to double the recipe.


- If you are allergic to corn and cannot find a corn-free baking powder you can make your own. Just follow this ratio: 1 part baking soda, 1 part starch (like rice, arrowroot, or tapioca starch/flour), and 2 parts cream of tartar.

- If you are allergic to any of the flours listed try substituting your own gluten-free flour blend.

- If you are allergic to apples, try substituting another fruit puree.

-If you are allergic to any of the spices try experimenting with your own spice blend.

- If you are allergic to sugar, or you are sugar-free and cannot eat the icing recipe, these would be delicious as muffins with some dairy-free margarine like Earth Balance. Or try topping them with a cinnamon butter. Combine to taste: margarine, cinnamon, and maple or coconut sugar.