Sweet potato raisin muffins (Paleo, no added sugar)

Sweet potato raisin muffinsI’m almost afraid to admit this because it seems like such a trendy thing, but for many reasons I’ve been moving towards a more paleo/primal diet. Cutting down on grains has been a gradual process but for the last two and a half weeks I’ve been strictly following a grain-free, dairy-free, legume-free diet. I’m not sure if I always will be this strict – I’m doing this as an elimination diet and plan to later experiment with adding in various foods to determine what really does bother my gut – but for now I can report that I’ve been feeling better than I have in years.

I have, however, been craving a treat. For my elimination diet I’ve decided to give up all added sugar, even things like honey and maple syrup (which paleo people eat), so I thought I’d try to use naturally sweet ingredients to make muffins. That’s how I came up with these sweet potato muffins, which are studded with raisins and subtly spiced for a taste and smell somewhere between pumpkin pie and oatmeal raisin cookies.

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Gluten-free cheddar cornbread muffins

Cornbread muffinsI love cornbread muffins but a lot of them are too crumbly for my taste. I get that cornmeal is crumbly by nature but it gets to be too much when it’s difficult to eat. These gluten-free savoury cornbread muffins are moist and not crumbly at all. With the addition of cheese, corn kernels, chives, and smoked paprika, I got a tasty, easily packable breakfast or lunch food that reheats well. Plus they’re refined-sugar-free!

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Matzo ball soup (Gluten-free)

Matzo ball soupIt’s Passover, so I thought the time was right to make matzo ball soup. Not that I’m Jewish. I’m about as shiksa as they come. Especially when I was in university, however, I had a lot of Jewish friends. I even dated a couple of nice Jewish boys, much to the chagrin of at least one of the mothers. I attended a number of Passover seders and enjoyed them. The best part, however, I always considered to be matzo (matzah) ball soup. Continue reading

Gluten-free lime curd tarts

Lime curd tartsI was originally going to make lime curd tarts for St. Patrick’s Day, on the reasoning they’re (kind of) green. I didn’t end up getting around to it by St. Paddy’s Day but it didn’t matter, since it was really just an excuse to make lime curd.

I’d never even heard of lime or lemon curd until I moved to England last summer. Since then, I’ve seen lemon curd in all sorts of places – in jars on supermarket shelves beside the jam and peanut butter, in cakes, even in the form of lemon curd yogurt. This last is the only one I’ve actually tried. The cakes are always full of gluten and I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to a whole jar of lemon curd spread, especially since the commercial ones looked pretty full of chemicals. But my tiny tastes of lemon curd yogurt (only tiny tastes since I’m lactose intolerant) made me want more. More! MORE!!

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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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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

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