For a few days every Spring, the crab apple tree in my parents backyard blooms with the prettiest pink flowers. After a day or two, petals start showering down until there is just one little flower left. The backyard is like a little sanctuary; surrounded by trees on all one could almost think they were in the country. Almost. I like to sit out there on the weekends with a nice cup of coffee and just enjoy the weekend, it helps take the stress of the week away.
My doctor recently told me to try not to stress. Easier said than done. He also told me to cut back on caffeine. He then went on to list things that have caffeine in them; coffee, tea, soda, chocolate…
I know that chocolate has caffeine in it, but the idea of taking chocolate out of my life as a way to reduce stress just seems like madness to me. So I have decided to selectively follow his advice. I don’t eat that much chocolate, but I’m not prepared to give up what I do have.
This tart wasn’t made to intentional defy the doctors orders, but he may have put the idea of chocolate into my head. I was flipping through Martha Stewart’s New Pies and Tarts, when I came across this recipe. I had all the ingredients and it looked really easy and quick to put together so I figured I’d give it a try. I was right, it was really easy to put together, but I’m not sure it could be made without a food processor. A few drops did drip out of the tart pan, so if you decide to make this placing a baking sheet on the rack below that tart.
Basically a flourless chocolate cake with pears, this tart is intensely chocolatey. The pear and chocolate were a really nice combination, and the almond rounded all the flavours out. I did find it a little too moist, I think some of the juice from the pear seeped into the tart.
Chocolate Pear Tart
Adapted very slightly from Martha Stewart
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp almond liqueur
- 3 firm, ripe pears
- 2 tbsp apricot or apple jelly
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 inch tart pan, set aside.
- In a food processor, combine the almonds and sugar until finely ground. Add the butter, eggs, cocoa, vanilla and almond liqueur. Process until well combined. Pour into the prepared tart pan.
- Peel, core and slice the pears and place them on the tart. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Heat the jelly slightly then brush on the pears. Let the tart set for 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
When I was a kid if you asked me what my favourite fruit was I would answer with zero hesitation: cherries.
Today the answer is a little more complicated. It varies from month to month. In June I think strawberries are the greatest thing ever. Once July comes around my attention is divided between raspberries and cherries. In August I eat Lac St Jean Blueberries by the handful.
I’d like to say that peaches are on my list, but I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find good peaches in the last few years. I remember eating Niagara peaches from those pretty little baskets when I was young that were incredibly sweet and bursting with flavour. Lately I’ve found them to hard and tasteless; so disappointing I would rarely buy them. This weekend I had a peach that brought me back to my childhood. It was exactly the flavours I remembered. These weren’t from Niagara; I don’t know where they were from (unless Costco is a country).
Fruit that good cannot be allowed to go to waste so I used a few in a crisp. I decided to add a few cherries to please my inner child as well.I flavoured the fruits with almond extract and added some almond meal to the crisp topping. If you can find oats that haven’t been in contact with wheat this dessert is a great gluten free treat.
Peach Cherry Crisp
- 3 large peaches, sliced
- 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp almond extract (or 1 tbsp amaretto)
- 2 cups oats
- 1/3 cup almond meal
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
- Preheat the oven to 375 F
- In a bowl toss the fruit with 1 tbsp sugar and the almond extract. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix the oats, almond meal, cinnamon and salt together. Add the butter, then using your fingers tips cut the butter into the oat mixture. It should clump together when combined
- Pour the fruit into a baking dish or pie plate, top with the oat mixture.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Serve warm or cold.
I’m finding the sugar-free/gluten-free challenge to be a little tougher this time. I’m having more sugar cravings than I did the first time around. My nutritionist would say I’m missing protein, but I think it’s because I don’t have the support group I had last time. Those of us doing the challenge would get together and compare notes, and since I was doing the challenge with Janice we had daily chats comparing menus and sharing ideas. This time it’s just me and my blog (although Janice is still hearing about, thanks for listening!)
So I decided to make myself some popcorn as a treat. Popping my own kernels made this totally within the rules, and to make it a little more interesting I added some curry powder and chili powder to the melted butter. The spice gave the popcorn a really nice kick. I could have eaten it all day.
Indian Spiced Popcorn
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- curry powder, chili powder and salt to taste
- Coat the bottom of a large pot (make sure you use one with a lid) with the oil. Add the kernels, cover and turn on heat to medium high.
- Let the pan heat till you start to hear kernels popping, then lower the temp to medium. Shake the pot occasionally until you don’t hear kernels popping anymore. The whole process takes 5 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer popcorn to a large bowl.
- Add spices to butter then drizzled over popcorn. I like the layering method to ensure even popcorn coverage.
Earlier today we celebrated Sasha’s second birthday. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of fun I had at a child’s party. Turns out toys are fun for grown ups too. I have to tell you I am incredibly proud of myself for not breaking my sugar-free/gluten-free fast. Turning down the birthday cake was a lot easier with a gluten-free buddy, and I discovered that another party goer was in the process of eliminating gluten to test for intolerance. We both agreed that snacks and breakfast are the toughest meals of the day. She’s tackling the situation the way I did the first time I eliminated gluten, by replacing her usual foods with gluten-free versions. Although that works it is very expensive; a small loaf of bread is anywhere from 5 to 7 dollars in Montreal.
(I love the spots on organic eggs)
This time I decided to tackle the situation by actually changing the way I eat. Gluten free bread is a poor substitute for the real thing, so I see no point in eating it. The question then becomes, what to eat for breakfast? This meal is one of my solutions. I was inspired by Janice’s Bistro Style Egg Sandwich, but replaced the English muffin with oven baked home fries. This breakfast is great for a Saturday morning. It’s filling and delicious and pretty easy to make if you have a little time. I used a poach pod to poach my egg as none of the traditional methods ever work for me.
Poached Eggs With sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms and Home Fries.
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1-2 mushrooms per person
- A large handful of baby spinach per person
For the Potatoes:
- Slice the potatoes in half and peel them.
- Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes. Potatoes should be slightly less than cooked through.
- Cube the potatoes and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight if you are planning ahead (this step is important, it leads to crispy fries)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
- Toss the chilled potatoes with olive oil to coat and salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake for 20- 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes at least twice so that the are properly browned.
For the Spinach and Mushrooms
- Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Cook the sliced mushrooms until browned.
- Add the spinach and cook until wilted.
For the Eggs
- Crack an egg into a lightly greased poach pod.
- Fill a medium pot with about 2 inches of water. Heat until simmering. Gently place the poach pod in the simmering water. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cover.
- Cook the eggs for 4 to 7 minutes, depending on the desired doneness (that might not be a word).
Place the spinach and potatoes on a plate, and top the spinach with the poached egg. Season with salt and pepper.
Last November I participated in a 30 day sugar free/gluten free challenge. The challenge was difficult at first, because every single meal has to be planned, but once I got the hang of it things went very well. By the end of it I felt great. When it came time to implement what I had learned in every day life things kind of fell apart. I quickly went back to eating exactly the way I was eating before the challenge. A year later I feel like my diet needs a complete overhaul again, so I will be doing the challenge again starting tomorrow.
I was flipping through some magazines to plan next weeks menu when I came across this recipe for Summer Rolls with Sweet and Savory Dipping Sauce from Gourmet Quick Kitchen. I swapped out the tofu for shrimp, and used green pepper instead of cucumber because I had those on hand. The dipping sauce does not meet the sugar free rules, as it calls for some sugar, and hoisin sauce also has sugar in it. But since I’m starting the challenge tomorrow I decided to go ahead and make the sauce for today.
The quick pickled vegetables add a great flavour to the rolls. They are very tasty, and quick and easy to make. I probably should have rolled them a little tighter, but I was still able to pick them up and dip them in the sauce.
I’ll be submitting this post to Magazine Mondays. Head on over to Cream Puffs in Venice Mondays to see what people have been cooking up!
Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Makes 8 rolls
- 2 oz dried bean thread noodles
- 3 small carrots, cut into match sticks
- 1 smell bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp & 3/4 tsp lime juice, divided
- 8 rice paper rounds
- 24 medium-large shrimp, cooked
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 2 tbsp water
- Soak noodles in hot water for 10 minutes.
- While noodles are soaking, blanch carrots in boiling water for 45 seconds. Rinse under cold water then transfer to small bowl with peppers. Toss vegetables with rice vinegar, 3 tbsp lime juice, salt. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Reserve 2 tbsp of the vinegar mixture, and drain the vegetables.
- Drain the noodles, rinse them in cold water twice. Using kitchen shears, cut the noodles into smaller pieces. Toss with 3/4 tsp lime juice.
- Fill a shallow pan with warm water. Soak a rice paper round in the warm water for 30 seconds. Shake off excess water and place on a work surface. Place 3 shrimp, some vegetables, and some noodles on the bottome third of the round. Roll tightly around the filling, folding the sides in. Repeat with remaining rice paper rounds.
- Make the sauce; Mix reserved pickling liquid with hoisin sauce, peanut butter and water. Serve with rolls.