Gold Medal Meals

I can barely rip my eyes away from my screens during the Olympics. I get obsessed. So many amazing athletes, feats, stories, and atmosphere. I had the chance to go to the Vancouver Olympics as a volunteer – an experience chronicled in my first blogging attempt – if you happen to have a similar obsession, it is fun to re-live!

But the best thing so far about the Rio Olympics is learning about pão de queijo a Brazilian cheese bread that is always made gluten-free (with tapioca flour). I made these last week for a little Opening Ceremony party with friends and they would not, could not believe they were gluten-free! They are not pictured because you can’t keep paws off of them long enough to take a shot!

Before the Olympics began (when I still had time for reading), I borrowed Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon from my local library.

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I tried 6 recipes while I had it checked out and 5 were fantastic (Popeye Protein Bowl, Mixed Greens with Beet and Walnut Puree, Summer Tomato Salad, Barbeque Tempeh with Cauliflower ‘Couscous’, and Kale Slaw with soaked Golden Raisins). I’ve already made the cauliflower ‘couscous’ a couple of times again. The other miss was the Chickpea Deli Salad which was fine but not among my favourite chickpea salads – luckily those other five recipes meant I need to get my own copy so I can make them all again and all the others that look great too!

And a few more favourites from the past few weeks:

  • Summer curry with eggplant and squash from Veganista. A great way to use up August produce!
  • Vegan Pepperoni from Minimalist Baker (who has a cookbook out I can’t wait to get my hands on!)
  • Chatelaine’s Nutty green beans. I made this with Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Panko and it worked just great even though it doesn’t look like traditional panko.
  • Lots of salads with the great local produce including a version of this Loaded Power Salad from What’s Gabby Cooking – with a really yummy basil vinaigrette!IMG_20160806_185118

The travels continue – closer to home

Wedding related activities have provided me with several opportunities to visit my hometown of London, Ontario this year.

When I visited in April I was pre celiac diagnosis but doing a detox with no wheat, no cow’s milk, no soy amongst other things. This meant I freaked out a bit when my mom asked me to find somewhere to go out for dinner. Veg Out, a former London vegan institution would have been an obvious choice but it recently closed. The only vegan option I could find was Plant Matter Kitchen, but at the time it was only open for lunch. We ended up at Under the Volcano which had quite a few options – although vegan just meant meat and cheese free with no alternatives (but I certainly wasn’t complaining!)

I was happy to have many more options when I returned a couple weeks ago.

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For lunch we went to the elusive Plant Matter Kitchen (which is happily now open for dinner too). It has a bit of an industrial fancy cafe style with a great open kitchen/bar as pictured above. There are also lots of really neat artwork which looked like movie posters but for fruits and veggies with cute quotes.

For lunch I had a quinoa Mac and cheese made with gluten free quinoa noodles and a great panko-like topping (gluten-free!). The Caesar salad was also really good.

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Art at Glassroots

For dinner the next night we visited Glassroots which has opened in the same location Veg Out occupied. It was fantastic! They have a cool repurposed vibe which totally suits the Victorian style building. Some root veggie chips came out to start (with my Forbidden cider – an emphasis on local alcohol here as well). Then I had the Hawaiian burger – yay – let’s hear it for gluten free veggie burgers!

We went all in for dessert with my moms ordering the blueberry fritter and cheesecake and I had a delicious gluten free flourless chocolate cake.

I’m so happy to see a green food revolution is taking place in my old neck of the woods! I’m not scared that I will have no options next time I take a visit home as I would love to come back to either of these establishments!

Iceland in Review

I started with the specifics, but want to end with a wider picture. Despite some challenges and some success eating in Iceland every other part of the trip was magical!

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Gullfoss waterfall

We spent most of our time in Reykjavik – kicking it off on day one with a walking tour from I heart Reykjavik. I would definitely recommend this. It got us oriented and adjusted after an overnight flight. While you’re on the tour it feels like you’re going all over the place and you may never find these places again, but wander around a bit more (or consult their cute little Tak Tak card after the tour) and you realize that most of central Reykjavik is pretty much ten blocks!

On our third day we went to the Blue Lagoon. It is certainly a cool experience and very other world-ly. It feels kind of like you are bathing on the moon in those lava fields.

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It was worth the trip but I don’t think it was as much as I was expecting. There was very little to do apart from lounge in the water or a steam room/sauna. There was no really outside lounging type area and it was cold to do so anyways. I kept comparing in my mind to the capital region’s Spa Nordik and for a full day experience I would say Nordik is far above. It was really nice that they had staff around to take your photo (for free!). That was really appreciated!

Our next and final trip out of the city was the Golden Circle. This is the most common tourist trip as you can see three major natural wonders in one day from Reykjavik. Instead of a bus tour we hired a driver through our hotel IMG_20160617_134045which allowed us to see most of the sites without a huge group of people on a bus. We also got to add in a few cool stops along the way as well, including a hydroponic greenhouse that grows tomatoes. It was really cool. Iceland grows 80% of the tomatoes the country needs in this way – which is pretty amazing given that the climate and landscape doesn’t really permit much in the way of farming. There was even a restaurant in the greenhouse with tomato-everything on the menu!

 

We stayed in an apartment style hotel (the best in Iceland Brent would proudly proclaim!) which really helped on the food front. We had breakfast at the hotel every day and many lunches and a few dinners as well. Breakfast always included some Icelandic Skyr:

‘d read about Skyr before we arrived and was excited/nervous to try it. Cheese that tastes like yogurt… hmm. But  – turns out it was really good. Like Greek Yogurt but even higher in protein and lower in sugar. Win! And now it’s trendy back in Canada too so we have continued on our Skyr kick. It was even in the Globe and Mail and Chatelaine recently. I do like to think I’m a tastemaker…

A few other highlights… also food related – I’m obsessed!

There’s a big coffee culture in Reykjavik. Lots of cafes. The most popular was Reykjavik Roasters with a line out the door everytime we walked by. We finally went in to try and it was well worth a wait. And the other thing they love… despite the cold temperatures is ice cream. Year-round! We felt like locals when on our last day we finally had some ice cream outside (wearing hats and my big scarf). Oh yeah – my other highlight was the shopping! We came away with some great treasures that will remind us of this honeymoon for years to come including a beautiful icelandic wool blanket, a sweater each and my awesome big scarf and cute little hat. Yay!

When we planned this trip we knew that we wouldn’t get a chance to fully explore the country, but thought that it would be nice to plan ahead for an anniversary trip. And after dipping our toes in the Icelandic water it is certainly our plan to return again.

More Reykjavik Restaurants

We visited several more restaurants during our time in Reykjavik.

Verbúð was very close to our hotel and I loved the exterior the first time when we walked by. We checked out the menu online and they had a nut-loaf so we thought we’d give it a try. The nutloaf was no longer an option (a lot of restaurants here seemed to have out of date menus online) but there was a gluten-free veggie option – the eggplant. And it was so yummy I didn’t get a picture. I did snap a shot of their fun decor and even more fun dessert – creme brulé with pop rocks. An explosion in your mouth. Yummm!

 

I read about Vinyl online before we arrived and it was definitely on our list to check out. But we stumbled right up to it after visiting the Sun Voyager.

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Vegan food and vinyl records – Brent is all over that!

We had drinks that night (no cider unfortunately) and then came back for lunch the next day. I’d asked what gluten free options they had the night before and learned they had gluten-free bread for all the sandwiches. Although after getting my sandwich I learned the filling was covered in soy sauce. Ruh-roh. I had a bit of that and a bit of Brent’s Lonestar (BBQ Pulled Oomph) because it was accidentally the on gluten-free bread. So in terms of vegan food A+ in terms of gluten-free preparedness knowledge… C.

The setting was really cool though – games and books to flip through or play while the vinyl is spinning. I was also really intrigued by oomph which is a Scandinavian soy product. Looks like a great company and I love their marketing!

Since I was still craving a cider or beer, the next place we checked out was Mikkeller and Friends where there were two different gluten-free beers! Wow! This was the only place I found in Reykjavik with even one. The Mikkeller “American Dream” was my favourite of the two, the other being the ToØl “Reparations”. Both are breweries that primarily produce regular gluteny beer with these ones as well. That’s not something you see here very often – but I would love to see it. Local Ottawa breweries I’m looking at you!

 

Sidenote: The unnamed pizza place below Mikkeller and Friends does not have gluten-free despite what I read on Trip Advisor. I couldn’t find gluten-free pizza anyway in town.

While we were in town the English language newspaper “The Reykjavik Grapevine” published an article on the best veggie burgers in the city. Perfect! Except which are gluten-free? None of the menus online seemed to offer any insight. So we picked the divisive beet burger and a new neighbourhood and headed off to Kaffihús Vesturbæjar.

It was a really adorable spot (used to be a pharmacy – a theme they have continued into the washrooms). Unfortunately though the burger was not gluten-free. Brent had it and really enjoyed it (a point to the best side of the divisive tally) and I had the avocado salad. I won’t deny that I was a bit underwhelmed when we ordered, but then this fabulous looking salad was delivered and I changed my mind. There was at least 1.5 avocados on that plate, plus blueberries, strawberries, delicious salt and dressing. I didn’t leave quite full, but I was happy… especially when I found gf veggie burgers at the supermarket on the walk back to the hotel!

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One night we were planning to grab a quick (cheap!) bowl of ramen from Ramen Momo – right near our hotel and with a big “Gluten Free Rice” sign outside. We go in… no gluten free. Argh! So we had to deviate from the plan and find somewhere else. Enter Tapas Barinn and the best meal we had all trip.

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The restaurant is actually just to the left of this photo – I’m not sure if the small building is really used, but how cute is it!

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When we said gluten-free vegetarian they showed us exactly what we could and couldn’t have and were able to alternate a few things and serve us the vegetarian combo with quick and friendly service. It was dim with lots of candles and Spanish decor and felt really authentic (not that I would really be one to know!)

I have one more post about Reykjavik to write where I’ll sum things up, but as you can see while it may have been a bit of a struggle to find food what I did have was pretty good.

 

 

What’s up in my kitchen

A whole lot – that’s what!

First, I’ve been continuing to make it my own and embracing my open shelving. I’ll need to share an update with some of my new wedding gifts making their appearance.IMG_20160417_161448

Second – a whole lot of smoothies! I’ve really been loving that Blend-tec lately. As I was waiting to see a specialist about my tummy issues I saw a naturopath who suggested I add a daily smoothie with l-glutamine and protein powder. That was an opportunity to try a whole bunch of new recipes… favourites include: Snickerdoodle Smoothie from Tasty Yummies, this Red Velvet Smoothie with Cashew Cream from Keeping it Kind’s book “But I Could Never Go Vegan” and a Sunshine Breakfast Jar from Faring Well. Although most mornings it’s just a combo of whatever is in my fridge and freezer!

And the third big update is obviously making everything gluten free and learning a bit more about gluten free substitutes. For instance – gluten free panko breadcrumbs didn’t seem to work so well pre-baking for these veggie burgers. The regular panko are on the right and pretty perfect – the gluten free were sticky messy globs.

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However – the oven did it’s magic and both burgers turned out just fine. These baked eggplant burgers from the Tolerant Vegan were incredibly delicious. A burger with hummus in it has to be a win in our home! And the gluten free buns were okay – but I’ve also learned that I only ever need one – I’d rather have a second burger bun-less thanks!IMG_20160625_185542

I picked up both of Deliciously Ella‘s books to help me through my detox and transition and those have been so helpful. The other night I made her quinoa pizza crust and was really happy with it. And I’ve had her speedy porridge all the time!

And finally, just a few favourite recipes over the last few months include:

Gló Reykjavik

Gló is deservedly the most prominent vegetarian haunt in Reykjavik. I had scouted it out in advance and was very excited to go so it was our first food stop! Their menu changes daily and features a variety of mains – vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, raw, and even a meal with meat. Something for everyone which I support. Then with your main you get to select three of their ten-ish salads (all veggie and gluten free). Like most of Reykjavik it was a bit pricey, but worth it.

I started with raw vegan enchiladas (the wraps were so tasty! Best gluten free wrap I have tried so far!), a chickpea/cauliflower salad, a watermelon salad and sweet potato salad. Brent had the enchiladas too – see happy picture below!

 

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The decor was very similar to a lot of places back home – reclaimed wood plus lots of white and great art. One side is a bit more cafeteria style but we sat in a quiet little corner which was really neat. Sleek, modern, trendy, on point!

We came back again a few days later to get take-away for our Golden Circle travel day. We both had lasagna (raw, gluten free for me and regular vegetarian for B). I also had a great green smoothie.

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And in true Icelandic fashion we mentioned Gló to our tour guide and he said ‘oh, that’s my cousin’s restaurant!’. Everyone knows everyone.

#VeggieGFTravels Report Card – Gló

Décor and Atmosphere: A

Variety of Options: A

Quality of Food: A

FINAL REVIEW: A

Back on a new track!

The first half of 2016 was a bit rough for me. My last couple posts give you an idea… I caught some sort of stomach bug which led to more severe gastro-issues and finally in the last few weeks a celiac diagnosis. So I am now officially a gluten-free vegetarian (with lots to learn).

photo by Brittany Lee Photography

photo by Brittany Lee Photography

I also got married(!!!) so wedding planning took a lot of the rest of my spare time. After the wedding we went on a honeymoon to Iceland and I definitely saw the value of a gluten-free vegetarian resource so I’ve decided to get back on track and try to post more regularly. I referenced many blogs while in Iceland trying to line up my next meal. But the vegetarian/vegan places weren’t necessarily gluten-free and the gluten-free recommendations certainly were not veg-friendly!

 

I have been wanting to work on my baking skills for years now and I now have so much more incentive – gluten-free baking is a whole new challenge and I can’t wait to share and figure it all out!