Chocolate Sunday – Gluten-free, dairy-free Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes!

My son raved about the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes that his sister made for his birthday recently. She used the recipe on that I’ve linked to, but made only frosting, not the accompanying cookies, to go with the cupcakes. Even though the recipe makes 18 cupcakes, there was lot of frosting left over, so that’s something to keep in mind if you don’t plan to pile the frosting very high. She also added chopped-up peanut butter cups to the batter. Mmmm!

chocolate peanut butter cupcakes

My mini cupcakes, fresh out of the oven

I decided to try the recipe myself the other day, but didn’t have enough regular flour, so I used gluten-free instead (Bob’s Red Mill brand), and added 3/4 tsp xanthan gum as directed on the flour package. I’d bought it a long time ago, and never used it. It’s supposed to improve the texture of baked goods made with gluten-free flour.

I also used Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups (sorry, Reese’s!), another gift from my son when he brought back chocolate toothpaste on a recent trip to the States. Bonus – Justin’s peanut butter cups are dairy-free (although only for lactose purposes, but not for strict kashut purposes). I didn’t want to deplete my stash too much, but I didn’t want to underdo the amount either. I used four peanut butter cups, and it was a good amount. More would work too, but not less. Gooey when the cupcakes come out of the oven, and a delicious hit of chocolate peanut butter flavour when the cupcakes are a day old.

I also used almond milk instead of regular milk, and didn’t bother with the icing. I just wanted something sweet to go with a cup of tea.

As well, I decided to use mini-muffin tins, because it’s easier for me to eat in moderation when a serving size is small. But this is a quantity recipe! I ended up with 24 small and eight large cupcakes.

I baked them at 350 and (groan!) forgot to set the timer. I would suggest checking the minis after 10 or 12 minutes, the larger ones after 15.


No Gluten, No Dairy, No Sugar… Oh My!

I’ve never considered it a burden to cook vegetarian, or lactose-free, or nut-free or gluten-free. A number of my friends and family members have allergies, food sensitivities and/or diet preferences, so I’m used to working around food restrictions.

This week, and for the next two weeks, I’m dealing with some new restrictions, and it’s been interesting. I’m on an elimination diet (eliminating foods that might be problematic) in an attempt to figure out if I have any food sensitivities. There are a lot of restrictions on this diet, including no gluten, no dairy, no refined sugar, no alcohol, no chemicals (which I try to avoid anyway), and no eggs or nightshades (potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes). It is not a calorie-restricted diet.

After the three weeks are over, I’ll add back one food or category of food at a time, to see what happens.

Still trying to figure out what I’ll post on my Chocolate Sunday blog, but I have a few ideas.

I’ve always figured that there are so many foods you can eat when you’re on a restricted diet – why focus on the ones you can’t?


Whitefish, ready to go into the oven.

So on Monday, the day after I started the diet, I made a pot of red lentil soup, roasted two pounds of beets, cooked up some quinoa, sautéed leeks and mushrooms (oops, didn’t realize that mushrooms were on the verboten list), and baked whitefish brushed with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with fresh lemon, and generously topped with dill. Those dishes have been my staples this week, along with green salad, fresh fruits and vegetables, some leftover broccolini and sweet potatoes, and rice cakes and almond butter.

I haven’t felt deprived at all, and within a day I noticed that I had more energy.

However, on Tuesday night I went out with a couple of friends for dinner and realized that of all the items on the extensive menu, there were only two I could eat. And they were out of one.


Chocolate Sunday – Spicy Flourless Mexican Cookies!

I love when I make a recipe that I have misgivings about, but it turns out to be great.

Earlier this week, I saw this recipe for Flourless Mexican Chocolate Cookies with Spicy Roasted Pepitas on a blog called Kitchen Testedspicy mexican cookies

It appealed to me for several reasons:

1. The chocolate flavour.

2. The cookies are gluten-free.

3. They’re also dairy-free.

4. They’re sweetened with maple syrup and agave or honey, not refined sugar.

5. The spiced pumpkin seeds suggested added health benefits, and – together with the chocolate chips – promised an interesting combination of taste and texture.

6. I had all the ingredients on hand.

But I wasn’t convinced the recipe would work, and I usually avoid recipes that have recipes within them, when I’m pressed for time. However, roasting the pumpkin seeds with spices and oil before preparing the cookie dough wasn’t time-consuming, and I mixed the ingredients on a lined cookie sheet instead of in a bowl. One less item to wash.

pumpkin seeds spice oil

Pumpkin seeds, spices and olive oil

pumpkin seeds roasted

Twenty minutes later

Once I tasted the roasted pumpkin seeds, I found them a touch too spicy – at least for my taste. I decided to divide the dough in two, and leave one half plain, while using only half the amount of pumpkin seeds called for, in the other half of the cookie dough.

Even my mother preferred the finished product with the pumpkin seeds, not only for the health benefits but for the taste. That took me by surprise – I was sure the cookies would be too spicy for her.

“Delicious,” she said.

Wild Rice with Sauteed Sweet Potatoes

Now that I’m blogging about food, I’m more motivated to look for creative ways to use ingredients that are already in my kitchen.Image

In recent years – and recent weeks – a couple of things have changed.

1.     Over the last few years, the internet has influenced the way I source recipes and plan meals. Instead of relying primarily on my cookbooks, I often turn to Google, and enter ingredients that I want to use up. I’ve come across interesting food blogs and recipes, and I find it’s an efficient way to use what I have, as well as delay grocery shopping a day or two.

2.     The other thing that’s different is that, as a newbie food blogger, I’m concerned about the risk of breaching copyrights on my blog. From what I’ve read online (which isn’t necessarily authoritative), lists of ingredients are not subject to copyright laws, but recipe instructions may be. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of ways to adapt favourite recipes to make them my own.

The other day, I cooked some wild rice, which had been in my pantry for months. I considered adding red peppers, snow peas, and cashews, key ingredients in a recipe that appears in Susan Mendelson’s Official Cookbook of Expo 86. Unfortunately – or maybe not – I didn’t have the necessary ingredients.

The dish that I ended up making was inspired by Mendelson’s recipe, and by the limited choice of vegetables I had on hand. Her book dates back to the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver, BC, and is a favourite of mine for its appealing pictures and easy-to-follow instructions.

Although the book doesn’t mention it, her wild rice recipe (and mine too) is vegan and dairy-free. It can be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free tamari for soy sauce.

I used sweet potato and zucchini, which added flavour, colour and contrasting texture to the wild rice. Not to mention that sweet potato is a  so-called “superfood.” We enjoyed the resulting side dish the day I made it, and ate it chilled the next day as a salad.

Here’s my recipe:

Wild Rice with  Sweet Potato & Zucchini (inspired by Susan Mendelson’s Wild Rice with Red Peppers & Snow Peas)                                                  NB – recipe has been updated to make it gluten-free

1 cup wild rice

4 cups water

canola oil to thinly cover pan

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 –inch dice

½ zucchini, cut into ¼-inch dice

1 T. low-sodium soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari, for a gluten-free version)

sesame seeds for garnish (and nutrients!)

1.     Cook wild rice according to package directions. Keep an eye on it. Mine was ready sooner than I expected. Drain well.

2.     Heat oil in large non-stick pan on medium high. When one piece of onion sizzles, add garlic and the rest of the onion, and sauté for a minute or two.

3.     Add sweet potato for about a minute, then add zucchini. The sweet potato should be cooked until edible but not overly soft. Taste-test or insert the tip of a paring knife into one of the pieces to check for doneness.

4.     Add soy sauce and vegetables to rice, and combine.

5.     Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

6.     Enjoy!

A bonus today – friends travelling in Costa Rica sent me a link to this blog,  written by teachers from Chattanooga who are on the same tour. Yesterday, they posted food pictures for me! They also have some interesting photos of wildlife, and instructions for choosing a tasty pineapple: