Thursday, 28 November 2013

Gluten Free Biscuits, Cakes and other Nice Things

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
No Bake Peanut Butter Pie from Chocolate Covered Katie

This year I've gone gluten free, well almost gluten free, but I definitely don't eat bread anymore unless its gluten free and the rest of the time I try to keep my gluten intake as low as possible.  I've definitely felt the benefits healthwise, but its been a challenge as gluten free cereals and bakery items are always a lot more expensive to buy than the gluten un-free ones, and that's if you can manage to track them down in the first place.

One solution is to make your own and certain items such as gluten free flour, peanut butter, dark chocolate, apple sauce and dried fruit have become store cupboard staples.

I also have a sweet tooth, so I love my desserts and sweet treats and my favourite source of inspiration is Chocolate Covered Katie .  Her recipes are fantastic, often looking very indulgent but are surprisingly healthy alternatives.  Not everything Katie makes is gluten free but she makes it easy to substitute ingredients and adapt things to your own preference.

This week, I made these Peanut Butter Christmas (Gingerbread) Cookies and love them - they are so cheap and easy to make and great with a cup of tea or coffee.

peanut butter chocolate chip gingerbread christmas cookies

I follow Katie on Facebook because I like to keep up with all her news and latest recipes, but she also has a great blog and Pinterest site.  She's also working on a recipe book due out next year which I'm sure will be fantastic too

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Artisans' Market

This week-end I discovered we have a monthly Artisans' Market in our local town.  Apparently its been going all year and I don't know how I've managed to miss it, but I've only just discovered it.  We've had an award-winning monthly Farmers' Market once a month for quite some time now (said to be the best in Sussex) and the Artisans' Market seems to be an extension of the Farmers' Market but with the addition of more arty/crafty things.

So its nice to know that roughly every couple of weeks, we'll now be able to visit our local open air market and support local growers, food and drink producers, artists and craftspeople.  It brings an extra vibe to the town and people come from quite long distances to visit when there's a market on.

There was a great band playing to add to the atmosphere, playing a mixture of what seemed to be folk, swing and "upbeat blues" (if there is such a thing).  I had to do a double-take as one of the band members looked like my dad (who is also a musician) but he lives way up country so it wasn't him!!

Our town is also really well served for cafes and coffee shops, but the market had its own coffee wagon, serving hot freshly brewed coffee and I noticed some gingerbread men lurking around the counter as well.

Everyone seemed to be in happy mood, soaking up the atomosphere and, not least, this seagull who had positioned himself on the top of the war memorial next to the church.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Winter Cider Comfort

At this time of year when the weather turns colder and the days turn shorter, I find I can sometimes be surrounded by people who seem to spend their time complaining about the weather and using words such as "miserable" and "horrid" and generally bringing the mood down.  Personally, I feel its better to go with the flow and look for the positives rather than the negatives.

Our ancestors would accept at this time of year that more time would be spent indoors and it was generally seen as a time of rest and recharging.  I can't see anything bad about spending an evening indoors watching a good movie, curled up reading an interesting book or just enjoying a good conversation.  This can be made even better with the glow of a warm fire and a warming drink.

I've recently discovered a Swedish Winter Cider with Apple, Cinnamon and Vanilla from Rekorderlig.  It makes for a crisp and refreshing drink when served cold over ice but offers a completely different drinking experience when gently heated in a pan and served hot in brandy glasses - a real comfort drink!

The French (especially those in the northern areas of Normandy and Brittany) also like drinking their cider warm in cups and small glasses and on a visit to Brittany a few years ago, we found these gorgeous hand made cider cups - just the job for a cup of mulled cider on a winter's evening.  A cup of cheer if ever there was one!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Loads of Tomatilloes

Earlier this year, following my trip to Florida where I was inspired by the variety of Mexican influenced food there, I vowed to eat more Mexican dishes.  Growing my own chilli peppers and tomatilloes has helped me achieve that particular goal.  I've talked about chillies in previous posts, but not really mentioned the tomatilloes, or "tomate verde".  

Tomatilloes are native to Mexico and were domesticated by the Aztecs around 800bc, making them one of our most ancient vegetables.  As they grow, they develop paper-like (but weatherproof!) husks which protect the fruit (I love how once it is ready, it comes with its own packaging).  Its amazing to find something that grows pest free (not only do any potential nibblers have to get through the husk, but the actual fruit itself has a sticky surface before it is rinsed, so this is an extra deterrent).  

This year, I didn't grow an of the usual "red" tomatoes but just concentrated on this Mexican green variety instead. They have a slightly tart, citrusy flavour and are an essential ingredient of Mexican salsas. 

Its now early November and the crop is abundant but needed to be picked and used before the autumn storms finish them off (although once picked, they do store quite well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, it seems).

So this week-end, I gathered together the ingredients to cook up some spicy tomato sauce: mostly tomatilloes, but also a red pepper, 2 home-grown chillies, the juice of half a lime, a clove of garlic, 2 spring onions (scallions), quite a few cherry tomatoes from the fridge which were past their best and needed to be used, a tin of chopped tomatoes, some vegetable oil, half a teaspoon of cumin powder and a generous sprinkling of black pepper.

I chopped and fried the onions, tomatoes, garlic, chillies and pepper in the oil until they were soft then added the other ingredients and gently simmered for about 10 minutes.  Then once cooled, poured into containers ready for the freezer.

For ease of storage, as we only have a small freezer, these are "concentrated" sauces so will go much further when diluted with a further tin of chopped tomatoes for dishes such as chilli-con-carne (except I do a veggie version) and enchilladas.  But the possibilities are endless, here's a link for 80 more recipes from :-