Sweet potato coconut muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Sweet potato muffins in baking tinsWhen I decided to focus on the Dominican Republic this weekend, I was attracted by a recipe for a recipe for pan de batata from the excellent Aunt Clara’s Kitchen Dominican cooking blog. It looked to be naturally gluten-free and probably tasty. However, it looked more like pudding than bread (“pan” means bread) or cake, and other pan de batata recipes I saw on other sites confirmed this. I didn’t want pudding. I wanted muffins. Partly because they freeze well and go nicely into lunchboxes. Partly because, well, I just like muffins.

In addition to the aforementioned pan de batata recipe, I found a couple of gluten-free sweet potato muffin recipes that sounded good, one at The Roasted Root and one at Meg’s Vegucation, but neither of these seemed 100 per cent perfect to me, though the Roasted Root one ended up being my rough template. It’s true – although I was going to be baking with the notoriously difficult coconut flour for the first time, I couldn’t resist experimenting a little.

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Chicken with wasakaka

Roasted chicken with bowl of roasted vegetables, citrus parsley sauceOur whole family loves roasted chicken and we also love fun words, so when I was researching our Dominican Republic weekend and I saw a recipe for pollo con wasakaka, or roasted chicken with garlic sauce, it was hard to go past. Unfortunately, garlic is high in FODMAPs, so I knew I was going to have to come up with an alternative. I’m a little ashamed to admit just how easy it was. Continue reading

Dominican Republic – Children’s activities

The Dominican Republic celebrates its Independence Day on February 27th, and I figured this was as good a reason as any to designate this weekend Dominican Republic weekend. Besides, after all the rain we’ve had this winter, we needed a dose of the tropics. I figured there was no better way to start than with a little tropical music and dance.

Merengue is the dance of the Dominican Republic and, handily, it’s probably the easiest of the Latin dances. I’m no expert dancer but I figured even I might be able to teach my four-year-old the basics of merengue. Continue reading

Boeuf bourgignon

Beef stew on a plate with vegetables and mashed potatoBoeuf bourgignon. Even saying it is satisfying. When I decided to make this past weekend France-themed, it was the first dish that popped to mind. There are few things better than hot stew on a cold, damp night, as all English nights are in February. Besides, it was the weekend of love, and what dish better to get you in the mood for love than a dish full of red wine and red meat?

I used to make boeuf bourgignon quite a lot in the slow cooker. But that was before I was diagnosed with IBS and discovered the low-FODMAP diet. Boeuf bourgignon normally involves mushrooms, which are high in mannitol and exacerbate my IBS symptoms. I didn’t make this dish for a long time because wasn’t sure if I could make a satisfying boeuf bourgignon without mushrooms. Fortunately, I’ve found I can. Continue reading

Afghan-style kale and spinach curry (sabzi)

Chopped greens in a pan with a wooden spoonWhen I lived in Toronto years ago, my place was right near an Afghan restaurant where the stars of the menu were kebabs, mantu dumplings with yogurt sauce, bolani stuffed flatbread, and kabuli pulao, a biryani-like rice and meat dish. I alternated between the mains but I usually ended up also getting a spinach side dish. I liked it but once I moved away from the area, I didn’t think about it again until I decided to make Afghan food last weekend. Then the spinach… er… I hesitate to call it a curry because the sauce is quite light, but I suppose that’s what it is – popped back into my mind.

Partly it was because I figured it would be easier than trying to figure out gluten-free versions of mantu or bolani. Partly it was because I thought it would be a nice healthy complement to the kabuli pulao I also planned to make. But suddenly I missed it. It was light and mildly spiced and went with any dish at the restaurant. But I hadn’t had it in years and I didn’t remember enough about it to try to recreate it from memory. Continue reading

Sheer pira – Afghan-style almond cardamom fudge (vegan)

Four squares of almond fudge with walnutsOccasionally my wild kitchen experimentation results in something so good, it sets a new standard. Such was the case with my attempt at making sheer pira. In the future, I won’t be able to help but compare other fudge. It won’t taste almondy enough. Not cardamomy enough. Not… not my version of sheer pira.

I should back up a little and explain. For our Afghanistan-themed weekend, I looked for Afghan dessert recipes and thought sheer pira/sheer payra sounded nicest as well as naturally gluten-free. But most sheer pira recipes, like this one from SBS, involve powdered milk. Not only do I not have any powdered milk in the house, I’m lactose intolerant. So that was out. I did find an alternative from Recipes of Asia that involved regular milk instead. I thought I might be able to replace that with almond milk.

But that little bit of tinkering with the recipe wasn’t going to be enough. I decided to replace the pistachios, which are high in FODMAPs, with almonds, which are moderate in FODMAPs. And because the recipe seemed to involve too little in the way of solids, I decided to double the amount of nuts so it would be more in line with the SBS version. I decided not to use rosewater, which most recipes call for, because my husband doesn’t like it and I didn’t have any on hand. Finally, I decided to make my version dairy-free. So the experiment was on. Continue reading

The Kite Runner-Around-The-House

Little girl seen from back, spinning with small paper kite in airLast weekend was Afghanistan weekend. Why Afghanistan? Because I had some cubed lamb in the freezer I wanted to use up, and because Afghanistan started with an A, for our first weekend choosing a country without an obvious reason.

To teach my four-year-old about Afghanistan, I started by pointing it out on the globe, then I showed her the trailer from The Kite Runner movie (I haven’t actually seen the movie but I loved the book) to give her an idea what the country looked like. We talked about how the boys in the movie loved flying – and fighting with – kites, as well as talking briefly about what war is and how it can destroy friendships and make countries poor. Then, to lighten things up a bit, we made a kite. Continue reading