Finding Neverland

Sometimes we're thrown curveballs that we think will devastate our existence. Maybe it's losing someone we love. Maybe we are losing the love itself. And sometimes it is something smaller and more superficial - but just as maddening and disheartening. Recently I lost wheat. And right along with it I lost the local pizza joint, fresh baguettes, a good sandwich on crunchy coated chewy bread. There were lost opportunities in social aspects. The loss of Cheez-Its. Where does the madness end and the new beginning start?


I introduce to you the best bread I've had in almost 5 months.

Maybe, a little backstory.
Since I am a vegetarian and now avoiding wheat due to severe migraines, my Dad was wondering just what the hell I was going to eat for Thanksgiving this year. No turkey, no stuffing, no fresh baked bisquits and even no green bean casserole (the onion topping stuff)!
Enough to make one crazy mad right? And to be honest with you all. I didn't care. I kind of had given up. In fact just nights before Thanksgiving, I had decided to try homemade GF pasta dough in a Roasted Butternut & Shallot Ravioli recipe I found. it didn't go so well. Let me just conclude that story and move on with one sentence that sums it up. After working for about 1.5 hours on the prep and dough - I fast-pitched it into the floor and punched a cutting board. (I am not really prone to violent anger - but this was just too much). No fresh pasta, no fresh bread, no convenience foods. I felt like I was destined to a life of mediocrity in food. And food is my passion. MY PASSION PEOPLE!

Anyways my Dad is a pretty swell guy and decided on what he could do to make Thanksgiving special for me. He went to the store, found a bread mix and read up on making it in his breadmaker. Fast forward... I show up and see a very mischievious and happy Dad who urges me to go unwrap the towel in the kitchen. I do. In it, is the most fantastic tall loaf of bread. But I'm hardened to the game of deceiving appearances. I grab a serrated knife, slice off a piece. Slather it with butter and bite. And bite. And bite. Oh my GOD! It most definitely is not artisan bread, in fact it's not even like wheat bread. What it's most like is Wonderbread. Now, I have to be honest here. I haven't eaten white bread for over half of my life. But I am in lurv with this bread. And here's why... GF bread is tough. It's smaller than a real loaf of bread. I've had about a zillion varieties, from the GF bakery in town, to the frozen varieties...it's either a dense brick, or so crumbly it doesn't hold together, or gummy. But this, this bread was good crumbly. It was tall. It smelled like bread. Real bread. So I guess you could say I've come full circle on bread. And isn't that where it all begins? With bread?

So, Brian, being the most loving and wonderful man I know secretly ordered one along with an Allergy Cookbook. He's so good to me. Upon reading the manual we discovered the reason the bread comes out so good is because the Breadmand TR2500BC Ultimate has a Gluten Free program. So it cooks the loaf of bread differently. Wonderfully. And it comes with a handful of recipes for GF bread. Yay! Brian made the first bread - Pumpernickle. And it tasted like sweet, earthy goodness!! Love love love it.

I'm making the Onion Dill Bread now. I'll let you know how it goes.


Pokey Grits

Okay, so I didn't have any images for you of yesterday's dinner, so I'm making it up to you with breakfast grits today. Jalapeno Sharp Cheddar Grits-Cakes with Pokey Egg and just Plucked Pear Tomatoes to be exact. It was decadent.It's days like this that remind me how much I enjoy cooking. I woke up and wondered (again) what I can eat that would be healthy and comforting at the same time. (Those two go together like repelling magnetic poles generally). I remembered the extra grits in the fridge from last night, that I had rolled out into a flat circle about 3/4 inch thick. I had four little pie-chart pieces. I took the two and threw them into a pan with a scant 1/2 tsp olive oil. I was hesistant that they would hold together, but walking away does wonders for an anxious mind. So, walk away I did, until I could smell them gaining crust. I flipped them over and put a decadent bronze over the other side. I slid them out onto my plate and slid an egg into the small warm pan and began to make a Pokey Egg. I call it a Pokey Egg because well, I honestly can't keep the styles of eggs retained in this brain. And I'd hate to end up with something other than I want at a restaurant, therefore Pokey Egg — gets it right everytime. Kind of stuck I guess.


Holy Mother of Mary

I do believe the gods have been holding out on me. I'm from the midwest, or moreso, the Northern state of Minnesota. So once I found out I needed to branch out and try new grains... I was happily tempted by the goldenrod colour of Stone Ground Grits. Woo me, they did. Especially when I found out people make cheesey-jalapeno style ones.

These were fantastic! I mean, truly far better tasting than any macaroni and cheese dish that's passed my lips. I made them alongside a French Onion & Leek Soup. Unbelievable. I was so excited to eat tonight that I forgot to take a snapshot of them for you. But — worry not, I'll be making them again very soon and will take a wondrous shot of me spooning them into my mouth.


Betty Crocker, Get To Work!

I'm sure most people in this community of cuisine know who Elise Bauer is. I've known about her site for years. It's a solid place to find scrumptious recipes. Imagine my newfound glory in seeing that she has provided recipes skewed for people just like me — and you, who have wheat sensitivity issues. Elise, thank you. After a full day of baking multiple baked goods for the first time, I saved yours for last, because I had a bit of a gut feeling that they'd work out.

It was a hard afternoon. The few recipes I tried for bread, left me low. Seriously, can't they generate something similar to gluten in a laboratory somewhere? I mean, I know we've got bigger fish to fry with curing disease and saving lives, but couldn't we at least get Betty Crocker to work on this?
The bread was like a yoga brick,with a lot less flavor. It smelled off to me too. The texture was like a really really dry crumbly (not in the good way) corn muffin — again without the yumminess that IS cornbread (love love love the cornbread). It was a horrendous colour too, somewhere around a dry and cakey mustard that was sitting out all day at a picnic. (You forgot, I'm a Designer, I think in colours first). I tried it with butter, then with jam, feverishly trying to mask it's tainted flavor. There must be better out there.

Enter Simply Recipes, my saviour for the day. My rai
nbow after the rain. Okay, bit sappy, but you didn't eat the bread, did you. ::wink::

I mixed up these muffins from Elise in no time. I had to modify a little bit, well - because I'm a cook and we all know that we as Artists (in whatever fashion) need to feel like we contributed. (Actually, I just dislike raisins. Oh! And I'm not a fan of nuts messing the consistency of my moist and airy muffins - so they went on top) Putting the nuts on top also works out for keeping some nut-free for others with sensitivities. I'm more of a rustic cook by nature so this aesthetically pleased me as well. Yay!
I also had trouble locating my standard muffin tins. Shoot! Mini-muffins it is - they are quite fun actually. Yay!

So, here we go, Wheat Sensitives and Wheat Lovers Unite! This is what you can expect.

Date & Pumpkin Cupcakes
Simply Recipes original ingredients in parentheses.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin purée
2 cups Bob's Red Mill's Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1 cup chopped dates (raisins)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (pecans)

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

*Note to make your own buttermilk, combine 1/2 cup of milk with 1/2 Tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice. Stir and let stand 10 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 350°F, and place rack in the center of the oven. Measure out a cup of dates and fill the cup with very warm water, set aside. Using your Kitchen Aid or your own two hands, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add in molasses and honey, mix for about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the pumpkin purée and vanilla and beat until fully mixed in. Drain dates and chop finely, set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the pumpkin batter, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Add the dates to the mixture and fold in.

Set paper cupcake holders in a muffin tin. Spoon the batter into the cupcake paper cups, close to the top of the cups. Bake approximately 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely before popping out or frosting - they need to set up.

To Make Yummy Frosting For Cupcakes

Using an electric mixer, mix together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add maple syrup and confectioners' sugar and mix to combine. Once cupcakes have cooled, apply frosting. Top each with sprinkled walnuts.

Makes 24 mini cupcakes and 6 large muffins (16 regular cupcakes)

These cupcakes were devoured by Brian as you can see above he was two in before I even got to frost the suckers. He claims that no one would ever know because they tasted so good. He doesn't lie. He said the bread sucked. Boys are good like that. Let me know what you think, and make sure to stop by Elise's and check out her site.


A New Eggs A Poach'ing.

It's raining here. it's been raining for days. That is good and bad. It's good because our land has been SO dry here all summer. Being Minnesotan means you get comments about the brutal winters but shock when you tell them how hot and muggy it gets here in the summer. Anyways, the rain is long overdue but now it's pouring on us in droves, the land can't drink up all of the water. I also have the day off. And since I do — when I should be focusing on reogranizing my life's materials (unpacking, sorting, elimintating) I have chosen to cook myself a familiar old friend. The poached egg.

The poached egg for me is a childhood memory of being woken by my Grandmother Ruth early in the morning around seven bells. I was asked to get dressed and to meet her in the kitchen. I was a hard kid to rouse. I was cranky. But everyday I got up to my Nana standing in the kitchen, holding a hot curling iron ( She was a Beautician afterall) and making me poached eggs to be deliciously dumped on a piece of warm buttered toast.

I haven't had a poached egg since I was a child. At some point there, in my childhood - I had refused eggs. I stopped eating them because of a science experiment of raising chickens in the classroom that had gone bad. And then, I grew up, moved out, and lost her to a really traumatic and drawn out chain of events. That was 7 years ago, this time of year. And I find that in the times I need strength most, she shows up persistently in my thoughts. Oh I miss her so.

Today reminds me of my Nana Ruth. So today I will make poached eggs. On toast. For the first time in more than 15 years. It's a day of needed comfort and warm memories over warm bread (wheat-free, of course).


The First Supper

It has taken me awhile to swallow this whole wheat-free deal. Last night I mustered up the courage to cook again. I've been living off rice and beans to get by, (my ultra comfort food) but frankly, I'm sick of it. Hallelujah! I'm quite positive Asian cuisine will be a great place to start. I think some veggie fried rice is in order. Asian food has tons of wheat free standards - rice, rice noodle, rice wrappers, fresh veggies. All good things I use frequently. So I start chopping. Chopping is rewarding. Chopping vegetables is monotonous. It's a good time for meditation. A time to reflect on one of the best things in life. Food. Food is something that nourishes us and brings us together. It's sensory. It's a basic need.
This looks good right?

So I had heard from some resources to pick up some Organic Tamari Soy Sauce. So I did that already, but man, I've got to tell you how freaking bummed out I was when I went to make my favorite peanut dipping sauce and noticed that the Hoisin is not wheat free. It hit the sore spot. I LOVE hoisin sauce with my Asian Spring Rolls (to be posted another time). I will have to check and see if there is another brand that will work for me.

Vegetable Fried Rice
(this version is vegetarian and wheat-free and is easily adapted to accomodate meat)

2 cups cooked brown rice - cold
1 small finely chopped onion
1 red pepper, chopped fine
30 peapods, chopped
1 chopped carrot
can of water chestnuts - drained
can of bamboo shoots - drained
1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 packed fried rice seasoning*

3 eggs, scrambled with a bit of milk and set aside

generous bunch of chopped cilantro (can use mint as well) for granish
4 chopped scallions for garnish

*I'd like to point out that I am working on a homemade seasoning mix, but until then, this will have to work.

You will want to use cold rice to make this to get the great texture in fried rice. I use brown rice because it is healthier and also holds up well. You can use Basmati as well.
Start out by frying up some scrambled eggs in another small pan, set aside. Then sauté vegetables you have chosen in a bit of sesame oil - we just want to soften them a bit, not cook through. When they are a bit more tender, push into a bowl to wait it out. Add your rice to the hot pan to fry it up. Add more sesame oil if you need to. Add back in the vegetables and toss in packet of fried rice seasoning, mix gently. Fold in eggs. Sprinkle with cilantro and scallions. Add Tamari to taste.

I know I'm sensitive, but a wheat sensitivity? What? Damn.

I haven't posted for a while. To be honest with you, I'm working hard on a new site I've been designing (oh I forgot to tell you I'm a Designer) for a new cereal that is launching in the market next week. I also just found out that I have wheat sensitivity that may be contributing to the stress-tension and migraine headaches that I've been experiencing since my early teen years. Oh joy! Thank God that the headaches might go away, right? So sad! Because I just realized that my chosen restrictive diet just got pummeled with the need for change. I am choosing to focus on the challenge of cooking the best wheat free, vegetarian but easily adaptable food for anyone that I can.

And know the funny part of it all? That cereal website I've been working so damn hard on for the past 9 months -seriously, I could have made a baby in that time? It's made with whole grains.


Strawberry Jam Mornings

Today is going to be a great day. I can smell it in the fresh baguette I'm cooking this morning. I can smell it in the organic butter I've just unwrapped from it's waxpaper wrap. And I can taste it in the strawberry freezer jam I just got from one of my favorite people in the world, my friend Karen.


Inspired, but tired.

So when I work hard, I cook hard. Seems the more pressure on me in my work life, the more I need to just come home and immerse myself in cooking to rebalance. So after a very full day just short of a double shift, I decided I had to make a tart, much to my lovely boy's wish of running to the grocery store at 9pm or thereabout to get the necessary ingredients. This one is adapted from Epicurious, spinned lollya-style and is delicious.

Camembert & Caramelized Leek Tart


1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed

3 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion - chopped
4 leeks, trimmed - sliced ¼ inch thick
1/4 cup water

2/3 cup whipping cream
4 ounces Camembert cheese – slice off rind and cube for easy melting
(take note that it is FAR superior with a fresh cheese shop cheese)
1 large egg
Pinch of cayenne
Grating of fresh nutmeg pod

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp chopped thyme

mesclun or other leafy green mix
olive oil
grey poupon


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Flour your surface and stack pastry sheets on top of eachother
Roll out to size (14” round for pizza stone/ 14” x 17” rectangular to fit baking sheet)
Crimp edge of dough to all around to form at least 1/4-inch rim. Transfer to pizza stone or baking sheet. Freeze 10 minutes.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add red onions & leeks and 1/3 cup water; cook until leeks are tender, about 15 minutes.

Season onion mixture with salt; set aside to cool.

Bring cream to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; add Camembert and stir until melted. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Whisk in egg, cayenne, and fresh nutmeg.

Take out the frozen pastry and sprinkle Parmesan all over it. Spread onion mixture over the entire crust evenly.

Drizzle custard over.

Bake until bottom is golden, about 20 minutes.
Transfer to rack; cool 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serve on a bed of oil & vinegar dressed mesclun greens.
This tart was adapted from Epicurious. Man I love those guys.


Ready. Set. Grow.

I'm hopping on the culinary wagon. I've been cooking my entire life, but never has it been more definitive of who I am than now. The busier I get, the more I want to just hole up in my tiny kitchen and have a go at my fresh veggies. Rinse and chop and marry them into a mouth explosion deserving of a Roman god.

I find cooking such a calming experience, that I often find myself daydreaming of the next tastebud-slapping match that I will compete in.

It's officially summer now, so I can only think of one recipe to start this journey out with. So, here goes...

Kick Ass Mexican Black Bean Burger
This veggie option burger has a wonderful contrast with a crunchy crust and a smooth soft interior. It's spicy and delicious. It's kicks frozen veggie burger ass.
  • 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, diced fine
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp. chipotle powder
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs (can use regular)
  • Serve on a toasted onion bun (we were out of them for the pic above) spread with yellow mustard. Top with sharp cheddar, sliced red onion, sliced tomato, few leaves of cilantro and drizzle with bbq sauce.

    1. Preheat your grill
    2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until it's paste-like
    3. Add chopped vegetables
    4. Crack an egg over everything
    5. Toss in your spices
    6. Mix slowly and incorporate panko until it takes form
    7. Divide into 5 equal portions and form patties
    8. Wrap in tinfoil
    9. Grill for 10 - 15 mins until good crust forms on the outside
    10. Serve on bun with the fixings mentioned above


© 2007 All writing and photography is owned by Lollya.