Coconut milk + Chia seeds + Lemon zest = a yummy, healthy treat!

The ingredients for a lovely treat!

The ingredients for a lovely treat!

Life has been very busy these days. It happens every Spring. There is more light in the day, sunny afternoons meant for beers and laughing with friends. There are weekend getaways with friends who will shortly be moving on from Prague. And there is the Elementary School musical that I have been working with all school year. On Friday, we have show number one so this week is all about marathon rehearsals and very little time for creating in the kitchen. But I like a little something sweet when I am tired. Instead of turning to chocolate or other bad calories, I am preparing my healthy treats for the week.

1 can of coconut milk, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1 tablespoon honey- that is all this recipe needs. Of course you can jazz it up how you want. I have thought about adding a little cinnamon or chocolate chips or even mango purée. Today I was feeling the sunshine and decided to add lemon zest! All you have to do is put the ingredients in a bowl, mix until whipped and then leave in the fridge overnight. I prepare portions in small jars and as my Kindergarten learners would say- easy peasy.

Sweet, zesty, and yummy

Sweet, zesty, and yummy

 

Thanks to my Twinsie for serving this at brunch. My sweet tooth thanks you…

GF Pavlova with a Twist by Allison

I tried making pavlova two times before with my hand-held “immersion blender/tool” but it was an epic fail. The egg whites just never got stiff enough and my “Tesco special” was not making the grade. So I gave up…..until I pulled my cobalt blue KitchenAid mixer out of my top cupboard. Why yes, I had a KitchenAid mixer but couldn’t ever get it to work properly as my voltage converter I had wasn’t working properly. A friend was getting rid of hers so whallah! I knew where all of the fuse boxes were and had access to all of them in case I blew any fuses, which I did, but I got my prized KitchenAid mixer to work! This definitely called for a re-do of the pavlova as I knew my KitchenAid would be able to get the job done. You see, I was such an avid baker that I decided to carry my KitchenAid mixer back with me from the U.S. to Prague in my carry-on bag several years ago. Oh you should have seen the looks on the security personnel’s faces! They were pulling each other towards the screen and shaking their heads in disbelief! One gentleman pulled me aside and said, “Mam, is this mixer yours?!” I replied, “Yes it is sir….” with a smile of course and he said, “Oh, well Mam, we haven’t seen a KitchenAid mixer come through here before! It is quite an unusual item to carry with you but everything is fine from our side, hope it makes the journey for you” and that was that! I knew it was a questionable item to take on the plane but I did have my Mom wait before she left the airport in case they wouldn’t allow it so I could give it to her to take home. But I gave my Mom the thumbs up signal and waved goodbye before I headed towards my gate on the other side of security.
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Luckily I was flying business class on award miles and no one questioned the weight of my bag along my journey. In case you’re wondering, I was able to lift it into the overhead compartment on my own on two different flights as well! So you can imagine how rewarding it was for me to finally use it and to pull off a pavlova to serve at Easter brunch! The twist is the pavlova has cinnamon and vanilla bean in it…..and it is delicious, seriously delicious.

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Now I just need to work on preventing the cracking of the pavlova so next time I won’t cook it as long!

recipe for the pavlova slightly adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients 

For the pavlova:
6 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 heaping teaspoon balsamic vinegar
seeds scraped from a vanilla bean

To assemble:

2 small containers or 1 large container of liquid whipped cream 40% fat
2 Tbsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups mixed berries for the top

To make the pavlova: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until satiny peaks form. Add the sugar, 1 spoonful at a time, and continue beating until the mixture becomes stiff and very shiny.

Using a spatula, fold in the cinnamon, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla bean. Spoon the mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, forming a 10-inch circle that is about 2-inches thick.

Place in the oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 300°F or 150°C. Bake for about 1 hour . When the pavlova is done baking, it should look and feel dry on top. Remove from the oven, and let cool in a dry place overnight.

The next day, invert the pavlova onto a serving dish, peel away the parchment and reverse onto another serving dish. The pavlova shell can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Be sure to wrap it well in plastic wrap and keep it in a dry place until ready to assemble.

To make the whip cream: Use an electric whisk to beat the whipping cream until smooth. Whisk in the icing sugar and vanilla extract.

To assemble the pavolva: Dollop the whipped cream into the center of the pavlova, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle the fruit over the cream. Enjoy with friends and family!

 

 

Totally Amazing Tomatoes – GF, SF, DF, NF, and V of course

Once you’ve had fresh tomatoes from the garden that have been grown with love and tender loving care, then there’s just no comparison to the taste of mass-produced tomatoes that can be found at your go-to grocery store chain. The taste, the flavor, the color and even the texture are different between the home-grown or farmer’s market tomatoes and store-bought tomatoes. Don’t you agree? I adore tomatoes. Really truly. Sun-dried tomatoes are a must-have in my pantry at all times. I cannot run low on sun-dried tomatoes. Speaking of which….have you seen the ingredient list on the back of a sun-dried tomato jar? Brace yourself. Vegetable oil to top the list and too many other crazy things in there that shouldn’t be in there to be honest. So I took matters into my own hands. I bought a dehydrator and set out to dry my own tomatoes! The result?! Incredibly tasty tomato chips if you like crunchy things without preservatives and artificial ingredients. They are absolutely delicious. I’ve also made dehydrated tomatoes and am preserving them in olive oil. They are waiting to be consumed with other Italian delicacies one day soon. This is not a new idea, many people have dehydrated tomatoes, but I’m here to share with you how easy and amazing they really are and urge you to get a dehydrator!  photo 3photo 1

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Dehydrated Tomatoes by Allison

Tools: 

sharp knife

dehydrator

delicious tomatoes from a farmer’s market

cutting board

Method:

Rinse tomatoes, you may also need to de-stem and de-core your tomatoes depending on the variety to prepare them for dehydrating. Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch slices and place on the dehydrator trays. Leave space in-between slices so the warm air can circulate around and between the tomato slices. I dehydrate mine at 55 degrees Celsius for 20-24 hours depending on the variety of tomato I used. You can sprinkle with salt, oregano, basil if you’d like. They are finished when they are dry and leathery. Sometimes I dehydrate them for 24 hours until they are brittle and eat them like chips or crisps. Either way they are delicious! Store in a sealed jar or freeze. Enjoy!

 

Back-to-school breakfast frittatas!

I love spending 3-4 weeks in the US during the summer holiday. I spend most of my time with family and friends mostly enjoying all my favorite Portland spots for beers, meals and dessert. But Mom and Dad’s house is one of the best “restaurants” in town!

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Thanks to my brother D for fishing and catching some beauties this season, we were able to enjoy a lot of fresh fish on the grill. And thanks to my Dad, and his trusty smoker, we also continuously snacked on smoked steelhead!

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Paired with fresh veggies from my Mom’s garden, we ate like kings and queen this summer!
But the time has come to head back into the classroom and start preparing for the new school year. The summer was refreshing and full of tasty treats, but now we must get back into daily routines.

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After a summer living alarm free, Monday morning is already on the horizon! And that means the alarm will go off and I will grudgingly get up for my morning run. But I won’t have to think about breakfast because I will be prepared with these mini frittatas! They are super easy to make and you can add whatever ingredients you want! I made these with mushroom, garlic, green onion, fresh rosemary and a dollop of goat cheese. My flat smells amazing and now I feel one step ahead of myself… Come on people, it’s time to get prepared! Enjoy

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Mini Frittatas
First, choose your ingredients…
I chose 10 small mushrooms, 1 green onion, 1 teaspoon chopped garlic, 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped and a bit of goat cheese.

Second, decide your number of cups…
For 6 egg cups, I used 6 eggs and 1 tablespoon soy milk.

While the ingredients were sautéing, I greased the muffin tins with PAM spray. Then beat the eggs and milk together. Place the ingredients evenly in the desired number of cups and pour the egg mixture to fill cups almost to the top… Leaving a little room for rising!

Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on your number of cups and ingredients.
When Mini frittatas are finished baking, let cool for 5-8 minutes then remove from the pan! Eat fright away or freeze them for later…

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It’s Rootbeer Float time!

Summertime is meant for spending time outdoors. I grew up on a street that is above a lake and when I am home visiting my parents during the summer this lake is my oasis.

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It is a short three minute walk down the hill to spend a couple hours floating in the sunshine! But summertime is also about satisfying my sweet tooth! Usually folks enjoy a bowl or cone of ice cream to cool down and satisfy their sweet summer cravings. I usually enjoy sorbet as it is lactose free. I have a sensitivity to dairy and have not eaten real, creamy ice cream in a very long time! But after a random conversation about old fashioned rootbeer I decided I really wanted a rootbeer float! I satisfied my sweet tooth with a cold, Pacific Northwest brewed rootbeer and two scoops of coconut milk ice cream!

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This Oregon rootbeer is made with 100% cane sugar and without high fructose corn syrup and it is gluten free! Combining it with the coconut milk ice cream, I made a gluten free and lactose free treat and it honestly tasted just as good as the real deal!

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This sweet summer treat brought back memories of childhood summers with my siblings… and during this last week in Oregon, I fully intend not only to enjoy a few more “floats” on the lake but also another float with this fancy Oregon rootbeer!

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How to make your own rootbeer float!
1. Put two big scoops of your favorite vanilla flavored ice cream in a tall glass. (If you are a non-dairy or lactose free person use a soy or coconut milk based ice cream!)
2. Pour 1/2 a bottle (or can) of rootbeer over the ice cream and let it fizz! Then pour as much as you want to fill the glass!!
3. Enjoy with a spoon or straw, inside or outside and alone or with people… Just enjoy it!

Gluten-Free Blueberry Buckle by Allison

Blueberries by the basket you say? Yes indeed, I’ve been buying blueberries by the basket! Why not? Being from the Pacific Northwest I grew up with being able to have fresh berries at my fingertips. I can remember back when I was in college and seeking out “U-Pick Farms” and I got bucket loads of raspberries for 50 cents a pound! I made cartons of freezer jam that night until the wee hours of the morning! Now I’m in the Czech Republic which is also “Berry Land” and I’m lucky to be able to have access to local farmers who grow the berries. They just taste better than the kind you buy in large stores let me tell ya! So here’s one way to get some more antioxidants in your system, eat blueberry buckle!photo (4)

This is my Mom’s recipe and it is certainly a family favorite. You can use frozen blueberries as well just be sure to thaw them out before-hand and make sure they are without extra moisture. My crumbly topping sank to the bottom as I used a bit more butter than needed but they turned out great and they were very delicious!
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Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake
slightly adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook

Ingredients

2 cups gluten-free flour ( I like Schar Mix C gluten-free flour)

¾ cup sugar

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 c. butter

¾ cup milk

1 egg

2 cups well-drained blueberries

 

Topping:

½ cup sugar

1/3 gluten-free flour

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup soft butter

Mix and sprinkle over batter in pan.

 

Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease round layer pan, 9 ½ inches or square pan, 8″ x 8″ pan or pour into a muffin tin.  Blend all ingredients except blueberries and topping.  Beat for ½ minute.  Spread in pan.

Sprinkle topping over batter and bake for 45 to 50 minutes if baking it in a pan or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. My muffins baked about 20 minutes.

 

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Gluten-Free Spinach and Mushroom Egg Bake by Allison

There are so many beautiful cafes in Prague to enjoy breakfast in while you sit, savor and soak in your surroundings with friends or family. But sometimes a homemade breakfast in the comfort of your own home is what you’d like to offer your newly arrived guests from overseas after a long journey. Aromas of steaming hot double-shot coffee brewing in the french press and a pot of black or green tea steeping in a beautiful Polish pottery teapot await for thirsty guests.  The egg bake is cooking away in the oven while we enjoy greek yogurt with homemade granola and fresh fruits of the season, apricots, cherries and strawberries. One word, delicious.

 

There’s nothing like farmer’s market eggs or homegrown eggs in your own backyard. They taste better, they are fresher and it feels good to support local farmers at the same time. I try to only buy my eggs from the farmer’s market and especially for this recipe.

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Gluten-Free Spinach and Mushroom Egg Bake by Allison

Ingredients

Fresh mushrooms (1 large container or approximately two 1/2 to three cups of sliced mushrooms)

200 grams of fresh spinach

2 Tbsp. butter

2-3 cloves garlic

2 small onions

fresh thyme springs

12 eggs

2 cups grated cheese (can use cheddar or gouda or a smaller amount of parmesan)

1/2 cup of milk or cream

1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 185 degrees Celsius.

First melt the butter in a large frying pan/wok, then add the chopped onion and cook on low until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add garlic to the pan after cooking onions for 10 minutes and stir frequently to prevent from burning. Turn up the heat to medium and add mushrooms, thyme leaves and salt. Cook until the moisture in the bottom of the pan has cooked off, about 10 minutes or so. Then add fresh spinach in 2 handfuls at a time until it wilts and cooks down, continue to turn and stir. Remove from heat and in a large bowl crack 12 eggs and add in the milk and grated cheese. Beat mixture with a whisk until blended, be careful not to over beat. Add in the mushroom, onion and spinach mixture and stir gently. Pour into a large 9″ x 13″ pan and bake uncovered for the first 25 minutes, check frequently to see if the top is getting brown and cover with foil when you’ve reached the desired color on the top of the egg bake. Total baking time should be around 40-45 minutes depending on your oven. Serve warm and enjoy!

Gluten-free Cinnamon Yogurt Muffins by Allison

This muffin recipe is a keeper, let me tell ya! I remember tasting these muffins at dear friend’s home when I was in Elementary school way back when. This recipe has withstood the test of time. One of my Mom’s best friends, CW, used to make these for camping trips, snacks after her kids (my dear friends then and now too) and I got out of the pool, post softball games and for breakfast. I loved them then and I loved them now (gf of course) and they have that same taste I can remember from way back when. I needed to make some food for some friends of mine here in Prague who just had a baby and these muffins popped into mind! I whipped up a batch and placed them into two bags, one for the freezer and one for them to eat right away. These are a yummy, anytime kind-of-a-treat!

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GF Cinnamon Yogurt Muffins
 slightly adapted from Cindy W’s recipe

3/4 cup margarine (Hera here in Prague)

1 1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

8 oz. plain yogurt

2 cups GF flour (I use Schar Mix C)

1 tsp. GF baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

 

Cream together margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add yogurt and blend well. Combine dry ingredients, then add yogurt mixture (stir only until all dry ingredients are moistened). Fill greased muffin tins or cupcake liners half full. Combine 3 Tbs. sugar with 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon; sprinkle half of this mixture over batter in each cup. Fill with remaining batter; sprinkle muffins with remaining cinnamon mixture. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 14-17 minutes. Enjoy! 

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Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies by Allison (GF, Dairy-Free, Grain-Free)

While these cookies don’t taste like my Mom’s chocolate chip cookies, they taste really good when you’ve cut out all the nuts, dairy and grains on top of the gluten! By the way, nothing can beat my Mom’s cookies. Really truly. I’m serious. She has a gift, well many gifts, but one of them being the ability to make amazing cookies. Her sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, molasses crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, and oatmeal raisin cookies are all off the charts fabulous (and I’m not the only one who thinks so)!

I haven’t always been gluten-free, but the last three years I have and I don’t miss much as far as food or treats go, but I do miss my Mom’s incredible cookies. These coconut chocolate chip cookies can’t be measured against your cookies Mom, they are not even in this same world but they are interesting. They are a totally different kind of cookie than you’ve ever had before but I still think they are worth the calories! You can buy everything you need right here in Prague as well! Whip up a batch and have it with a glass of coconut milk and tell me what you think! Enjoy!

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Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Dairy-Free, Grain-Free – but not taste free)

recipe adapted from The Lemon Bowl

 

Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed plus 3 Tbsp. water (mix and let sit)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil (melted )
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • ½ cup coconut milk (I use homemade as coconut milk has a lot of additives in it)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup + 2 Tbsp coconut flour (gf )
  •  ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips (I use Lifefood 80% sugar-free chocolate)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with baking paper or foil
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together ground flax seed and water, then set aside for a few minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl mix melted coconut oil, date sugar, coconut milk, vanilla, and salt.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in coconut flour, chocolate chips and flax seed mixture.
  5. Scoop cookies using a large tablespoon and form a ball, flatten with the palm of your hand and place on a baking sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes or until slightly browned.
  6. Let cookies cool completely before removing from pan. Enjoy!

 

Two Nut Chocolate Torte and it is Gluten Free! by L

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If you are looking to indulge, this is the cake! I found this recipe in a hand-me-down copy of Jamie Oliver’s The Return of the Naked Chef (thanks C.M.) It calls for a favorite combination of mine: Chocolate and Nuts. Although the recipe says you can substitute any kind of nut, I followed Jamie’s instructions to a tee. For my next round, I might try it with hazelnuts or pecans.

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Besides having a fantastic dessert to look forward to, another sweet thing to come out of this baking experience was the chance to reconnect with my ol’mixer. It is a powerhouse of a kitchen gadget, something like a Kitchen Aid, but I think this one really rocks the house. I pulled out my Bosch MUM out of the pantry, dusted it off and gave it a quick whizz. After sitting idle on the shelf for over 2 years, it was still in perfect condition. Before the children were born, this machine had a very important place on my kitchen counter and was used very often. When the twins arrived, good ol’ Bosch got shoved aside by the Avent bottle sterilizer.

Well, it’s back and I can honestly say, it’s getting a lot of use again.

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Two Nuts Chocolate Torte (from The Return of the Naked Chef, by Jamie Oliver)

(Note: We enjoyed the torte more the day AFTER it was baked. It seems like the flavor and texture could use a bit of settling in time. If you are looking to really indulge, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche. SOOOOO good!)

150g of ground almonds

150g of finely ground walnuts

300g of your best quality cooking chocolate

1 teaspoon of cocoa powder

255g butter

100g caster sugar

6 large eggs, separated

salt

Preheat the oven to 190C

Line or grease the bottom of your spring form or baking tin.

Place nuts, chocolate and cocoa in food processor and whizz for 30 seconds to break up the chocolate.

Put aside in a separate bowl.

Add the butter and sugar to the food processor and beat until pale and fluffy.

Keep the processor running and add the egg yolks, one at a time, then mix together with chocolate and nut mixture.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks.

Gently fold in the egg whites into the chocolate, butter and nut mix.

Pour all the mixture into the tin.

Bake in the oven for around an hour.

To test if the torte is cooked, insert a toothpick or tip of a knife in center of the cake and hold for 5 seconds.

When it is removed, it should be clean.

Enjoy with some ice cream, whipped cream, greek yogurt or creme fraiche!