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?

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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.

Sigh.

Chocolate Sunday – Brigadeiro!

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Brigadeiro at Braz Pizzaria, in Rio

One of the great things about travel is tasting foods you’ve never tried before. On a trip to Brazil in April, a group of us went out for dinner at Braz Pizzaria, a popular upscale pizza chain.  Dessert – in honour of our friend’s birthday – was a chocolate confection called brigadeiro.

The version we had at Braz, in Rio de Janeiro, reminded me of sweet chocolate pudding, but more semi-solid in consistency.  The one I made at home gelled even more, and was basically caramel-like in texture.

Brigadeiros are little chocolate balls made with cocoa, sweetened condensed milk and butter. The mixture is chilled, then rolled in chocolate sprinkles.  In Brazil, the dessert is often served at parties and for birthdays.

I found a recipe and accompanying video at a website run by a team of San Francisco-based Brazilians who teach Brazilian Portuguese and blog about their native language and culture.

I confess that my favourite part of the video was hearing the Portuguese-accented pronunciation of “brigadeiro.”

As a rule, I don’t use sweetened condensed milk. It’s not ideal if you’re lactose-intolerant like I am, not to mention that it has 22 grams of sugar in 2 tablespoons. Yikes!

But I made an exception for a birthday this week, and also because I wanted to recreate – at least for myself – the relaxed, vacation feeling I had in Rio, with its endless beaches, mountains and greenery.

I was delighted to find sweetened condensed soy milk in a Rio grocery store. That would eliminate the lactose problem, although probably not the excessive sweetness – but I didn’t buy it, and it doesn’t seem to be available in Toronto.

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my brigadeiros

The recipe was easy to make, but it takes time – and a lot of stirring – for the mixture to reach the right consistency.

Brigadeiro is noteworthy for its history as well as its flavour and popularity – it’s named for a former presidential candidate, a Brazilian air force brigadier.  Here’s one source that offers more information.

Bom apetite!