December 31st, 2009 § § permalink
What better way to ring in the New Year than with a good old-timey meal of pan fried fish. I love fish and chips but all that wheat-based batter gave me tummy troubles. This delicious, gluten and egg-free alternative will more than substitute. Add some lovely mashed spuds, a vegetable sidekick and my Easy-Peasy Egg-Free Tartar Sauce and you’ll swear you’re back on the farm. I prefer halibut, but any fresh or thawed frozen fish will do. Happy New Year!
Gluten-free Fish Batter:
2 tablespoons Sorghum flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste.
Heat enough oil (I use organic coconut oil) on medium heat in a pan (preferably cast iron) so that you have about 1/4 of an inch in the bottom of the pan.
Mix the gluten-free fish batter ingredients in a bowl big enough to accommodate your pieces of fish. Dredge the fish one piece at a time in the flour mixture until covered in a nice thin coat. Place the fish in the hot oil and fry until crisp, turning the fish once to fry both sides. If the oil is the proper temperature, the fish should be crisp and light with very little oil retained in the batter.
Easy-Peasy Egg-Free Tartar Sauce:
4 tablespoons of sour cream
1 heaping tablespoon of mustard relish
drop of agave syrup (optional)
Mix ingredients with a spoon until blended. Serve on the side.
December 24th, 2009 § § permalink
Desire is the true mother of invention. I love holiday sweets, especially shortbread. This recipe makes a fabulous crust as well as wonderful cookies. Add orange rind or minced candied ginger to the dough for variations on the shortbread cookie theme. If making cookies, handle them with great care until they are cool. Happy Holidays!
Shortbread Pie Crust or Cookies
1 cup fine sugar
1 cup margarine or butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 ground almond meal
1 cup rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/4 tsp salt
Blend margarine/butter and sugar until whipped. Add vanilla. Beat again. Mix flours, xanthan gum and salt. Add to butter/sugar mix and mix until blended. For pie crust, roll onto floured wax paper, flip into pie plate then mold it to fit. Prick with a fork. Bake at 325 for 15-20 mins. Cool thoroughly on wire rack before using.
Roll dough about 1/4 inch and cut into shapes. Bake at 325 for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden on edges.
Start with above recipe. Add 1/4 cup orange juice and a tsp of lemon or orange zest or 1/4 cup minced candied ginger. Roll onto gluten-free flour dusted surface. Cut and carefully transfer to parchment-lined trays. Bake at 325 for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. Let cool for a few minutes before carefully transferring to cooling racks.
December 21st, 2009 § § permalink
Gravity Review in the Bookshelf’s “Off The Shelf”
Here’s a review of Gravity Brings Me Down by Laila Hawrylyshyn from the Bookshelf in Guelph.
Being odd and original doesn’t make you a “weirdo.” Some people may say so but what do they know about your life and the way you live it?
“I’m a bird flying overtop of everything.” This is how Sioux Smith describes herself. And for her, all other people are monkeys following their great masters. Her life was as normal as it could ever get; she had her best friend Sharon, her friendly stalker, Tod, all the monkeys, teachers, her family – and then she met Mabel.
Mabel was special in her own way. When Sioux met Mabel, she thought she looked like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and that’s what she called her until she found out her actual name. For Mabel, Sioux wasn’t just a teenage girl that she randomly built a friendship with – she thought she was her youngest daughter Marie. Sioux let her continue to believe it, but not in a mean way, she just didn’t want to break the lovely old lady’s heart, or to ruin the friendship.
Natale Ghent expresses very well the life of a teenage girl who is completely lost in this world and finds help from the least expected person in this book. It’s personally one of my favourite novels.
December 20th, 2009 § § permalink
I just got back from seeing James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D. Let me start by saying that I loved this film.
Technically, it is the most incredible fulfillment of CGI I have ever seen. The world and the characters are so lush, so sensuous, you want to reach out and touch the screen. The imagery and artistry is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, but in the most respectful way, and I found myself wishing the story could go on and on.
The 3D aspect is remarkable. Forget the red and green vision-fuzzing cardboard glasses of old. This technology renders images so tangible, at one point in the film when a character crossed the lower right corner of the screen, I thought the man in front of me had stood up. It’s an immaculate reality so fecund, you can almost feel the water droplets dripping on your skin. That in itself is worth the price of admission.
The story is beautiful and moving with a message so potent and timely it brought tears to my eyes. Good thing I was able to hide behind the dark lenses of the 3D glasses. Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington were wonderful, and I was excited to see Wes Studi as the father.
In short, this film is a hit on so many levels, it’s going to be a very hard act to follow. See it, as soon as you can, and definitely pay the extra few dollars to enjoy it in 3D.
December 15th, 2009 § § permalink
I received this beautiful letter from a young reader. It was written as part of a Literary Letters contest.
Dear Natale Ghent,
Your book, No Small Thing, came to me at the exact right time. My dad, too, left me in a divorce when I was only three months old. It never really affected me until I started into the public school system and was bullied relentlessly. After that, I started to really miss a father figure who would tell me everything was all right, and that he would set those kids straight. It was comfort I missed; I still get to see him, but only for a couple weeks during the summer with my two stepbrothers and step-mom.
Growing up, I lived with my mom and my step-dad, Andrew. My step-dad was a pastor in three churches, then a librarian, and finally someone who pumps gas at a station. He could never keep a job and my mom was supporting three growing children on the money she made from selling her paintings, which wasn’t much. Like Nathaniel, Queenie and Cid, my siblings and I had to make do with what we had; I wouldn’t consider us quite as poverty stricken as your characters, but at birthday parties, we had to give away the few meager toys we had received. We saved tissue paper and every bag we found so people wouldn’t see how poor we really were when we went to a party. Even in those times of struggle, my mom was always there for me, just as Nat’s mom tried to be.
I can really relate to Nathaniel when he always saw his dad in places where he wasn’t, and missing yet hating him at the same time. What I found in your book that helped me through that part in my life was Smokey. To me, he symbolizes something or someone that can come into your life and change everything for the better. From there, I looked into all my school programs: band, math team, cheer leading, orchestra, and so much more. I picked orchestra because I had always wanted to play an instrument, and I practiced as hard as I could to keep my mind off things. I’ve been playing violin for almost three years and now I have a test to take in New York to get into a musical school, like a scholarship and I’m only in middle school!! No Small Thing really and truly inspired me to get out of my “slump” and find the joys of life I had been missing for almost half my life! Thank you so much for writing this amazing book.
December 15th, 2009 § § permalink
Who would ever guess that a sweet little cat like Wild Bill could be a killer of mice. Oh, yes, he most certainly is.
This adorable fuzzball can transition from man’s best friend to a fearless killing machine in one easy step.
How, you may ask??
Here’s the back story:
The problem started when we noticed a mouse running across the mudroom floor. It zipped here and there, completely at home, then scuttled up the wall and dipped happily behind the vapor barrier, nestling comfortably into a hole in the insulation.
I turned to my husband. “I thought you said mice don’t like Roxul?”
He gave me a sheepish look, hands in the air.
Okay, so apparently Roxul is not at all unfriendly to mice. What to do?
We tore apart the mudroom, clearing everything out, including the Roxul and the milk crates of split wood for the fire. Boots, coolers – everything was hauled out.
Did this dissuade the mouse?
No. He seemed to like the extra space and continued to run and explore, leaving a dark little trail behind him.
We caught him and put him back outside. He returned. We shooed him out several more times. He scurried back in.
“What now?” my husband asked.
We both turned to where the cat was placidly sitting. He’d been silently monitoring the mouse’s activity for days.
I raised my eyebrows. “Well…we could always let the cat slip into the mudroom…couldn’t we?”
I opened the door just a crack. It was very dark out there. The cat sauntered into the mudroom.
“There it is!” I said, pointing to the mouse as it sat on top of the woodpile.
Brian flashed his headlamp on the mouse. “I’m just giving him a little head start,” he explained.
But Wild Bill didn’t need any coaching. His huge gold eyes locked on the mouse and every muscle in his body froze. The mouse slipped between two logs. Bill watched, unmoving. Even his tail, which is normally very animated, remained still.
After a minute, the mouse seemed to forget his life was in jeopardy and ran to the top of the woodpile again.
BAM! In an instant, Wild Bill had the mouse under one of his gigantic paws. It struggled, but Bill palmed it like a Harlem Globe Trotter, pulling the mouse to the edge of the pile. It tried to slip between the logs again, but Bill used his other front paw to secure the mouse from below. He pushed it against the floor, then grabbed it in his mouth.
Then he began to rumble.
Besides the tiger at the zoo, I have never heard an animal make this sound. It was deep and low and visceral. It came from the tiger within. Bill was in the throes of ecstasy.
He turned and started to march back into the cabin with his prize.
“Don’t let him in!” I said. “I don’t want the mouse to escape into the cabin.”
Brian closed the door, and from my seat at the table, I could still hear Bill’s rumble of pleasure. After several minutes, Bill let the mouse go, and Brian managed to cover the mouse with a yogurt container. He brought it outside and released it far from the cabin. Whether it will live or not is anyone’s guess, but I’m certain it won’t show its face in the mudroom again.
When I opened the door, Bill was waiting happily on the other side. He trotted in, tail raised high and engine purring loudly. He was pleased as punch with himself!
I was worried that our sweet little cat would never be the same after bagging that mouse, but no, he was just as sweet and cuddly as ever. He purred his way up to me and flopped on the floor in front of the fire. He rolled and smiled as I pet him, just as mushy as he’s always been.
But later that night, I woke to see him checking the woodpile next to the fire for hitchhikers. Our sweet little kitten has become a cat.
December 15th, 2009 § § permalink
Well, the weatherperson said there would be no snow up at the cabin this past week. Oh, it was going to be mild with a light smattering of rain.
Weatherperson, you were so WRONG!!!
We endured a three-day blizzard that forced us to move the car out to the road for fear of being snowed in. The wind roared like a freight train and the trees waved madly against the clouds.
It was glorious!!
The snow just kept blowing and snowing and whirling around. But did we care?
Pshaw! Not one little bit.
We had lots of food and a woodshed filled to the brink with the loveliest beech you’ve ever seen. We had bottles of wine and peppermints and a stack of games to play. We even brought the mini DVD player and all our favourite movies.
The snow was beautiful and white and it decorated our eaves with icicles of glittering crystal.
So toil away, weatherperson, we care not for your predictions…
December 1st, 2009 § § permalink
When I first went gluten free I was heartbroken to abstain from all the lovely Christmas goodies. Not to be undone, I rolled up my sleeves and whipped up these beauties. I’m proud to say these gluten-free gingerbread cookies are every bit as wonderful as their egg and wheat counterparts. The addition of coconut flour makes the batter extra yum. It’s so good, in fact, you’ll be tempted to eat it right out of the bowl. It rolls beautifully and bakes up perfectly. Ramp up the goodness by using 100% organic ingredients. Happy baking!
Gluten-Free Gingerbread Boys
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of molasses
11/2 tablespoons of sour cream or yogurt.
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup water
Blend butter and sugar. Add rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
11/2 cups Sorghum flour
11/4 cups rice flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice or a teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cloves
Mix dry ingredients well with a fork. Add in stages to the wet ingredients and blend until the dough is uniform and pulls away from the wall of the mixing bowl in a nice ball. Break the ball in two parts, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for two hours.
Lightly flour a rolling pin and board. Roll the dough to about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and transfer to a parchment-line tray. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 10 minutes (a bit longer if you like your cookies hard). Ice when completely cool if desired.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.