Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Accidentally gluten-free

By Giselle Wedemire

I cook a lot in my daily life, and I find that browsing for recipes often takes up a sizeable portion of my down time. This isn't a bad thing at all -- in fact, I'd be willing to file this admission under the 'first world problems' category of personal issues -- and it means that I have food ready and waiting for me in the fridge.

Lately, however, I've noticed that about 85 per cent of the recipes made in my house have not only been vegan (as is to be expected, what with my veganism and all), but accidentally gluten-free as well.

If you were to draw a venn diagram of what diets most of the dishes recently cooked in my home have been catering to, it would look a little something like this:

A 'happy medium' is no longer a saying -- I'm living the dream by regularly eating dishes that are both vegan AND gluten-free.
The best part of it all is that this pleasant surprise has showed me that eating vegan and gluten-free does not automatically limit anyone's dining options to rice cakes and salads (although there's nothing wrong with eating copious amounts of those two items. I won't judge you). 

What do some of these vegan/gluten-free meals look like, you ask? Let me show you!*

Roasted brussels sprouts with rice and cranberries from Thug Kitchen (swapped the recipe's quinoa with rice because why not?)

African sweet potato and peanut stew from The Vegan Table (recipe available here)

Edamame succotash adapted from Food Network. Check out my veganized version of this recipe here.

Fresh herb potato salad from Thug Kitchen.

*Sometimes, in my haste to dig into whatever I've just cooked, I forget to snap some food photos. While I deeply regret the fact that you won't be able to get your dose of food porn for some of the glorious gluten-free/vegan foods I've recently made, you can at least try them out yourself. Here are some of the scrumptious recipes that were so good, their end results never got a chance to be photographed:

Tofu scramble
Pumpkin pie cookies
Black bean brownies

So there you have it: it's completely possible to make your own drool-worthy vegan and gluten-free food without having to resort to basic, uninspired meals.

What are your favourite vegan and gluten-free recipes? Please feel free to tweet us with your recipe suggestions at @PickyBitchez.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Suffering succotash!

By Giselle Wedemire

Sometimes I just need a really quick, reliable, and healthy dinner option that takes no time at all to prepare. It sounds like a tall order, but I think I've found something that works as a great side dish in any time-pressed, last-minute dinner menu.

With Looney Tunes on the brain one day, I decided to research succotash, the source of Sylvester's infamous catchphrase. 

That night, I learnt four things:

1. Succotash was popular in the Depression because its core ingredients are fairly inexpensive.
2. Succotash is incredibly easy to make and comes together in no time.
3. Succotash is amazingly delicious and I constantly wish I had more of it in my tummy.
4. 'Succotash' is ridiculously fun to say (and to type).

While I had to adapt an online recipe to suit both my vegan needs and the contents of my pantry/freezer, my veganized version turned out well so I figured I'd brag share it with you.

*Note: this recipe was inspired by Food Network's online recipe for a similar edamame succotash. The recipe I've concocted (below) is both vegan and gluten-free.

Edamame succotash

What you'll need:

2 tbsp sesame oil
2 stalks finely chopped green onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen edamame
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen is fine)
1 cup frozen green peas
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp black pepper

What you'll need to do:

In a skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic. 
Add the edamame, corn and green peas and cook until heated through. 
Once cooked, sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

"If you're vegan, where do you get your protein from?"

By Giselle Wedemire

Long before Picky Bitchez was conceived, I created a little vegan blog to help a few friends transition to a cruelty-free lifestyle. That blog is now defunct, but one of the posts I'm most proud of contains information that's relevant to every vegan (and to those curious about veganism). 

I'm sure almost every single vegetarian and vegan has been asked the question, "If you're veg(etari)an, where do you get your protein from?" This question makes me chuckle because: 1) It's super easy to get protein from a plant-based diet, and 2) that question reminds me of this Mean Girls  scene.

That's why I've decided to re-run that post here to help any future picky bitch commit to a plant-based diet. Without further ado, here is a breakdown on vegan protein sources (re-printed with permission from, um, myself?):

"Once I went veg, almost every social gathering became a mild interrogration that was a lot like this scene from Everything Is Illuminated:

As a veg(etari)an, you're undoubtedly going to hear the phrase, 'Where do you get your protein from if you don't eat meat?' at least 500 times a day.  People generally are wrapped up in the notion that you can only get protein from meat.  Once you eliminate meat from your diet, it's as though Pandora's box has been opened, and people begin smearing themselves with poop and speaking in tongues -- it sort of awakens in them a sense of mass confusion and hysteria because they just don't seem to comprehend that there are other means of acquiring full nutrition.

Here's the lowdown on where you can fill your protein quota, so you'll forever be ready to combat that pesky question:

Soy: An obvious protein go-to is tofu, which is made from fermented soybeans that have been ground and shaped into blocks.  Soybeans (a.k.a. 'edamame') are a complete protein, which means that they have an adequate combination of amino acids.  You can get your soy fix in a number of ways, including: edamame, soy milk, tofu, and tempeh.

Quinoa: Pronounced 'keen-wahh', this grain-like food is also a complete protein, cooks like rice, and is extremely wallet-friendly.  You can get a massive bulk bag of quinoa for maybe $20, and it'll last you around a year or so -- however, I'd suggest you buy a smaller bag on the first go, just to see if you actually like quinoa's slightly nutty taste.  Quinoa flour is also being made more readily available, which is awesome news for those with gluten sensitivities.

Pulses: Pulses refer to legumes and beans (Why didn't I just say 'beans', then?  Well, because I'm showing off my smarty pants, and it's my blog, so deal with it.).  Included are: chickpeas/garbanzo beans, lentils, red peas/kidney beans, black eyed peas, etc.  In the beginning, try testing out which pulses you like by buying them canned.  After you ascertain what you do and don't like, think about buying your pulses in bulk.  Where I shop, 2 or 3 cans of chickpeas is the equivalent of the cost of a 1kg bag of dried chickpeas (which ended up lasting me 9 months after very regular use).

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds of any kind are a good way to sneak in more protein when you're on the go, and they're generally cheap (unless you wear fancy pants and insist on buying macadamia or Brazil nuts).  They're higher in fat than other plant-based protein sources, but those fats are mostly good fats (i.e. poly- and monounsaturated fats), so don't throw them out the window!  (I mean, you did spend money on them, after all)

Whole Grains: Brown rice, barley, quinoa (as mentioned above), kamut, and millet are all examples of whole grains that have impressive protein track records.  They're all easy to store and buy in bulk -- plus, you won't feel like that much of a hippie when you're at the checkout of the supermarket with these items, as opposed to a cart full of tofu and soy milk (not that I ever give a damn about looking like a hippie).

As much as people like to tell you that being veg(etari)an can lead to health problems associated with a lack in protein, protein deficiency in herbivores is extremely rare (and when it manifests itself, it's usually due to an overall lack in proper nutrition, which is not the fault of a typical plant-based diet).

If you find that the people around you still won't shut up about the apparent lack of protein (i.e. slab of meat) on your plate, some good options for silencing them include: putting your iPod on, walking away from them, or yelling something ridiculous."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Picky Bitch on a Plane

By Casey Knoll

I caught something during my four years of University.

It wasn't mumps (thankfully), or some other air-borne illness – I caught the 'travel bug.'

So a week after graduation (June 12), I hopped on a plane for a monthlong trip to Europe  through Great Britain and Ireland, and then Berlin, Prague, and Vienna.

A few days before my trip I remembered something: it was my first time traveling as a wheat-free woman. 

The company I traveled with, Contiki, helped with some arrangements for provided meals, but I was nervous. Surprisingly, it wasn't that bad.

I found the UK in general was fairly gluten-free friendly. Sainsbury’s, the main supermarket, had tons of gluten-free snacks. When there was one nearby, I stocked up like crazy, especially for long trips on the tour bus.  In terms of restaurants, the ones I visited either had gluten-free menus or were willing to adjust menu items for me.  I fell in love with a restaurant chain called Bella Italia – they had the BEST gluten-free pizza. I dined there twice (in York and Glasgow), and ate my pizzas at a speed that would have put the Cookie Monster to shame. 

My delicious "funghi" pasta at Carluccio's in
London Heathrow Airport
 The best meal I had in the UK was actually at  London Heathrow Airport on the night before I  flew to Berlin. I had an awesome mushroom,  or 'funghi', pasta dish at a restaurant called  Carluccio’s. I hadn't experienced a decent  pasta dish in some time, so this was a nice  pick-me-up for the trip ahead.

Gluten-free (and vegan!) crackers in Berlin.

The last half of my trip in Berlin, Prague and Vienna also brought unexpected gluten-free surprises. I found some gluten-free crackers at a health food store in Berlin – although a few grains short of tasting like sand, they served as decent 'on the road' snacks.

Chocolate cake at Schönbrunn Palace.

 On  my last night in Vienna, my group and I  went to dinner at Schönbrunn Palace where I  had an awesome gluten-free chocolate cake.  Generally, during my travels I had fruit salad  for dessert if we went out for meals (not a  bad trade-off), but having a pastry was a nice  change!

If you’re travelling gluten-free, here are a few tips: 
  • Bring as many snacks as you can in your luggage. This will tide you over until you can figure out where to eat once you've reached your destination. 
  • Do some research to find gluten-free restaurants or supermarkets where you're going.  I wish I did more of this –- it would've been a huge help!
  • Be as flexible as you can. You may end up eating the same type of meal over and over -- for me, it was a chicken breast and veggies. But hey, at least you’ll be able to eat!

Above all else, don’t panic. Travelling gluten-free can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bottoms up: a round-up of gluten-free beer

By Giselle Wedemire

With the massive media spotlight currently being cast on the evils of gluten, it's no wonder that the gluten-free beer market has expanded.

Free of wheat and gluten allergens, these new breeds of beer are brewed with innovative substitutions such as sourghum, millet, rice, and corn. While their status as specialty beers in most stores means they carry a heftier price tag, I fully stand behind this new development because I firmly believe that no beer lover should be denied beer by any means.

Being the curious beer lover that I am, I've found that trying new beer can sometimes be intimidating and often disappointing (I'm looking at you, Vampire Republic Czech Pilsner). However, I've gone ahead and taken one for the team by sampling six celiac-friendly brews.

1. New Grist

Made from sorghum and rice, New Grist is Lakefront Brewery Inc's gluten-free brew that promises to be "a crisp and refreshing alcoholic beverage." The brewery delivers on this lofty promise because it blew me away with its crisp, thirst-quenching tastes that were vaguely citrusy and hoppy. 
Had I been blindfolded when I first tasted this beer (come on, you know you've been there and done that), I wouldn't have been able to tell you that I had just sampled a gluten-free beer. 
I was pleasantly surprised by this beer, and it was a great and refreshing introduction to the world of gluten-free brews.

Rating: 4 stars (out of a potential 5)

2. Bard's Gold
This beer offers up an unmistakably stale aftertaste.
On second thought, every swig of Bard's Gold -- from the first sip to the last lingering bits of aftertaste -- is permeated by a flavour that is decidedly unfresh. A curious thing happened to me while drinking this beer, as well. After a few sips, it felt as though the roof of my mouth was growing numb (an effect that I often associate with drinking too much root beer). 
The label boasts that it is "the original sorghum malt beer", but being an original and being the best are not always mutually exclusive. The ingredients list is similar to New Grist's, though where New Grist uses rice, Bard's employs yeast in its recipe. I suppose this slight difference is anything but slight because I threw out this beer after a few sips. 
While I'm normally a thrifty person and would never entertain the thought of throwing out half a bottle of beer (especially after just a few sips), I just couldn't stomach the stale taste and the Too Much Root Beer mouth-numbing effects it caused.

Rating: 1 star (I've had worse beer before)

3. Estrella Damm Daura

Hailing all the way from Barcelona, this imported lager is light and surprisingly familiar in taste. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say that its closest rival taste-wise is Corona and it's a great introduction to the world of gluten-free beers just as Coronas are a great, inoffensive introduction to the world of mainstream beers. 
While Estrella's ingredients don't stray too far from the other gluten-free brews already ranked, the formula seems to be heightened by the addition of barley malt.
Though it's a crisp and satisfying beverage, it's nothing to write home about -- but I could see it becoming a staple in a number of celiac's coolers because it's bound to have more of a mass appeal because of its inoffensive neutrality.

Rating: 3 stars

4. La Messagere

Quebec lends a hand in the quest to find premium gluten-free suds with La Messagere. Brewed and bottled by the Nouvelle France microbrewery, La Messagere is marketed as a rice and buckwheat beer. One can only assume that this is because of the added rice and buckwheat malts.
As far as flavour goes, this brew tastes as though you chucked a teaspoon or two of molasses into a bottle of New Grist and tried to pawn it off on your friends at a backyard barbeque as your latest success from your budding basement brewery. (Though it tastes good, its palette reeks of DIY endeavours and seems to be trying too hard to impress.)

Rating: 3.75 stars

5. Mongozo Premium Pilsener

Fairtrade, organic, and gluten-free. These are the lofty adjectives adorning bottles of Mongozo Premium Pilsener everywhere, and while they are intended to boost the product's reputation, they fall flat once the contents are consumed. Brewed in the Netherlands, our last gluten-free beer features a pretty standard looking ingredients list of barley malt, rice, yeast and hops, with many of these items produced organically.
Though this beer may seem to employ the average hippie's dream team (see above adjectives), there is nothing remarkable about this formula -- it's pretty much the alcoholic equivalent of white bread. Disappointingly, you're ultimately left with a pilsner so plain it could very well be mistaken for water.

Rating: 1.5 stars (at least it was better than Bard's)

The road to finding a great gluten-free beer is long and sometimes disappointing. What are some of the best (and worst) gluten-free brews you've tried? Let us know by tweeting us at @PickyBitchez.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Raising the bar for gluten-free granola

By Casey Knoll

The end result!

Finally, I took the plunge and tried a gluten-free granola bar recipe. I had been eyeing online recipes for some time, but was scared away by often lengthy ingredient lists.

The recipe I snagged was from the University of Calgary’s student newspaper, The Gauntlet. For my first crack at gluten-free granola bars, they turned out pretty well – they were easy to make, with a great taste.

However, I found the liquid settled to the bottom after the granola bars cooled in the fridge, and they were a bit crumbly and overly sweet (all noted in The Gauntlet article). The “sweetness” was probably my fault since I added a bit over a ¼ cup of honey, along with ¼ cup of maple syrup (which isn’t in the recipe...I just like maple syrup).

To keep the bars sticking together, I’d recommend letting them set in the fridge for at least two hours. The recipe called for half an hour, but I found more time to set worked better.

Here’s the original recipe:
1 cup gluten-free oats
1 cup brown rice cereal
½ cup dried fruits (i.e. banana chips)
½ cup nuts (i.e. almonds or walnuts)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup honey
¼ cup butter
¼ cup white sugar
2 tbsp flax seeds
½ tsp vanilla extract (be sure to read the label – some can contain gluten)

Here’s what I did (along with adjustments to the maple syrup and brown sugar):
1 cup gluten-free oats
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp flax seeds
¼ cup honey
¼ cup butter
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup pure maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. Mix the oats, brown rice cereal, fruits, nuts, and flax seeds in a bowl. Set aside.
  2.  In a sauce pan, combine the butter, maple syrup, honey, sugar, and vanilla. Continuously stir, and bring to a boil. 
  3. Once at a boil, put the dry ingredients into the sauce pan mixture. Stir to coat.
  4.  Transfer into an 8’x6’ baking dish covered in parchment or wax paper. Make sure you firmly press down the mixture in the pan.
  5. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before putting it in the fridge for at least two hours.

The great thing about these granola bars is they’re easily customized – add whatever dried fruit or cereal you like. Let us know if you give them a try, or if you know of other gluten-free granola bar recipes!

Happy snacking. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

This is how we roll

By Giselle Wedemire

Going out for sushi is one of my favourite things in the world. Funnily enough, going out and spending money is one of my least favourite pastimes ever.

Inspired by my sudden onset of frugality and my boyfriend's recent purchase of the ultimate vegan cookbook (Veganomicon), he and I decided to try out one of the book's more ambitious recipes: Spicy Tempeh Nori Rolls

Though they have a mean learning curve, these tempeh sushi rolls are worth the time and effort once you get the hang of rolling sushi.

Being our first foray into the recipes found in this cookbook -- which is practically the vegan bible -- we didn't know what to expect. 

Normally I love everything the book's co-author Isa Chandra Moskowitz creates, but I was somewhat skeptical because of how labour-intensive this sushi recipe appeared in print (plus, rolling your own sushi by hand for the first time is pretty darn intimidating).

Would this take forever to make? Will our failed nori rolls cause us to curl up into a fetal position while refusing to carry on cooking? Will this recipe require a million weird ingredients that only hippies know of? These were all questions we were initially asking ourselves.  

However, once we got everything going, it wasn't as tiring a feat as I had anticipated.

The only real trouble we got into was when we attempted to use the recipe's instructions when it came time to assemble the rolls. The instructions weren't nearly demonstrative enough, which led to a bit of huffing, puffing and kitchen-related grumpiness. However, a quick visit to YouTube showed us how to craft the sushi, and we were well on our way to having a fancy dinner at a minimal cost.  

All in all, the sushi turned out amazingly and they were absolutely delicious and filling. Whether you're interested in trying the recipe itself or the book in its entirety, I highly recommend you give these rolls a try. (Though I have one caveat: this recipe is messy. If you're a neat freak, you might be better off sticking to the routine of ordering your sushi from your favourite restaurant).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Looking for a new cook book? Give this one a whirl

By Casey Knoll

When it comes to food, baking is my strong suit – cooking, not so much.

So when I whip up a dish, I like to keep things simple and tasty.

Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking by Carla Kelly checked off both of those boxes.

I found this book when I was in Chapters at Christmas, hunting down a vegetarian cookbook for my mom. A helpful sales associate told me about Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking and handed me a copy.

Contrary to its name, the book has a wide selection of gluten-free recipes. While the lengthy ingredient lists are intimidating (especially when it comes to spices I haven’t heard of), the recipes themselves are simple.

That’s what I love about slow cooking. You just throw everything in a pot, and leave it to its own devices.

The dish I made: Peas, Potatoes, and Broccoli.
The recipe I made was called Peas, Potatoes, and Broccoli. Basically, the vegetables are slow cooked in a spice/vegetable stock mixture, which includes cumin, coriander, garlic powder, cinnamon, and black pepper. Chickpeas and potatoes are cooked for three hours on low in the spice mixture, with green peas and broccoli added last.

It was awesome. The slow cooking really brought out the spices. I served it with basmati rice, but this dish can stand by itself. It also passed the left-over test, as it was still yummy after multiple re-heats in the microwave.

So if you’re in a market for a new cook book, this one is worth checking out.

Have a favourite cook book? Let us know!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup-cakes

By Giselle Wedemire

Gluten-free vegan baking is a feat I rarely ever attempt because it generally seems like a gamble.

While I live in a household of mixed culinary influences and dietary needs, I seldom branch out and make baked goods that are both vegan and gluten-free. However, Santa left me a super cool gift in my stocking this Christmas. Enter Ecoideas chocolate cake mix.

Both vegan and gluten-free, this convenient mix combines the best of both picky worlds with packaged goods that are super easy to prepare. The mix was fool-proof, with only three steps in its set of instructions: 1. pour mix into bowl, 2. add two cups of water, 3. bake at 375 for 35 minutes. It really couldn't have been any easier, though I do have one caveat for those interested: don't try the raw batter. The taste is overpoweringly....green, I guess you could say. (Kinda like chlorophyl-filled dirt. I honestly couldn't believe that I was sampling what was soon to be a dessert.)

Funky batter tastes aside, I powered through and made the cake mix into a dozen and a half delicious cupcakes. While they baked to perfection, I thumbed through my copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and  whipped up a batch of Peanut Buttercream, since I'd been craving peanut butter and chocolate and Reese's peanut buttercups are no longer a viable snack-time option for me. 

Once out of the oven and left to cool down, I performed pastry surgery by cutting out quarter-sized circles from the tops of each cupcake and filled each doughy depression with a dollop of icing, reassambled the cupcake, and added one last dollop on top for good measure.

Et voila, peanut butter cup-cakes -- the perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter for vegans and celiacs alike!