It's almost Valentine's Day, and we spent the day celebrating quietly. Just a few special touches, like candles surrounded by cinnamon hearts, made our day romantic and relaxing.
We decided to take full advantage of the beautiful weather and the freshly fallen snow. We grabbed our snowshoes and headed for the local trails. The sun was shining, the weather was warm and the woods were serenely quiet. I'm not sure who had more fun, us or the dog.
After our snowshoeing adventure we came home and prepared a lovely chocolaty feast. Valentine's Day and chocolate seem to go hand in hand. And what better way to enjoy it, than a leisurely chocolate fondue?
It literally takes minutes to prepare and you can dip just about anything in there. This one uses almond milk and some almond extract, but instead of the almond extract, I'm sure you could use some orange extract or your favourite liqueur.
1 1/2 cups of dairy free chocolate chips
3/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and microwave on high for 60 seconds. Mix well and pour into your fondue pot. If you don't have one, you could use a bowl or even a small crock pot.
For dipping we used bananas, strawberries, mango and some small pretzels, but the possibilities are endless. We gobbled up every bite! This would be great fun with the kids as well. Who doesn't like to dip things in chocolate?
Once our tummies were full we set up mats and blankets in the living room and treated each other to Thai massage! We borrowed an instructional DVD which led us through the basics and took turns giving and receiving. It really was a great way to reconnect and pamper each other. And we spent next to nothing! Sometimes I feel like these holidays have become way too commercial.
How will you celebrate with your loved ones??
In this day and age we all probably know at least one person that is gluten intolerant or has celiac disease. The Canadian Celiac Association says that Celiac disease is a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten. This results in an inability of the body to absorb nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for good health. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 100 people in the United States suffer from celiac disease. But you don't have to have celiac disease for gluten to wreak havoc in your body. In some people gluten is responsible for digestive problems like bloating, cramps, diarrhea, as well as fatigue, depression, irritability, achy joints and even skin rashes. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
All of us at some point in time have suffered from some of these symptoms, so how do we know if they are caused by gluten in our diet? The simplest way to know is to eliminate it from your diet and see how you feel! Sounds simple enough, but gluten is found in so many foods that you have to become a bit of a detective to eliminate it all. Additionally, a test is now available that will measure levels of certain antibodies present in the blood.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten also shows up in many whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). Some celiac disease experts warn patients to steer clear of oats, as well, although you can purchase oats that are certified gluten-free. A gluten-free diet means eliminating most breads, pastas, cereals and processed foods. Even soy sauce and tomato soup usually contain gluten, so read your labels!
In baking you can replace wheat flour with other gluten-free flours such as brown rice flour, sorghum flour, chickpea flour, quinoa flour, and buckwheat flour. They are more expensive and more difficult to find, and usually cannot be substituted easily in recipes that call for all-purpose wheat flour, so be prepared to experiment and look for recipes that are designed to be gluten-free.
Here is a simple recipe for Gluten-free plant based pancakes that I made for breakfast this morning. These are soy free, low in fat and use maple syrup to sweeten them. You could use agave or another sweetener if you prefer.
Gluten-free Lemon Blueberry Pancakes
1/2 cup gluten-free flour blend
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon rind
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries (I used a mixture of both)
Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add liquid ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in berries. Let the batter rest for about 10 minutes. Add a bit more water if the batter is too thick.
Heat a large non-stick skillet on medium high. Once preheated, ladle the batter into the skillet. No need to add any oil to the pan. After about 2 minutes, little air bubbles will start to form. Flip pancakes over with a spatula and cook on the other side until golden brown. Serve with more pure maple syrup.
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