Crispy Beet Cakes

Eat your beets! These wonderfully flavored root vegetables are beautiful and tasty and full of beneficial health properties. They contain potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A, B & C, beta-carotene, beta-cyanine, and folic acid just to name a few! And they help guard against cancer and heart disease.

Our friend Charmanye made these little delights last summer served with goats cheese and a salad. Divine. Since I am not eating cheese, we ate them with avocados which was beautiful and satisfying. They were also yummy the next morning served with poached eggs!

1 cup onion, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
2 cups beets, shredded
1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup rice flour
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Stuff a 1/3 cup measuring cup with the mixture. Heat a skilled over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then drop the formed mixture onto the hot pan. Continue with as many as your pan can hold, leaving room to flip. Cook for 3 minutes on one side, flip and cook another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and eat immediately.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my first sweet cravings after eliminating gluten and dairy were chocolate chip cookies.

I was thrilled when we found a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar free bakery at Broadway Market in Hackney in East London. This bakery stand offered brownies, cakes, muffins, Bakewell tarts, and chocolate chip cookies.

They were not like these traditional Toll House cookies, they were flat and very chewy, but very delicious; they satisfied my cravings for months. After we had discovered the chocolate chips in Whole Foods, I no longer had any excuse to not try to make them.

With only a couple of tweaks and discovering Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Flour these cookies, well, these cookies, rock! They are a delicious cookie and many would not know that they are gluten and dairy-free. I highly recommend you make them, tonight!

1 cup coconut oil, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Flour
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Whisk all dry ingredients together, except the chocolate chips, and set aside.
Using and electric mixer, mix coconut oil and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add brown sugar until light and fluffy again. Add each egg, one at a time, then vanilla, and mix well. Now in three batches, slowly add dry ingredients. Remove from mixer and using a wooden spoon mix in all chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Roll dough into 2 inch balls and space evenly on pan, taking care not to over crowd. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven. Remove and let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then place on cooling rack and enjoy!

Pesto Pasta

One of my favorite go-to recipes is Pesto Pasta.

It take 20 minutes to make start to finish, Lua likes it, and the left over pesto is great to use all week long. When searching online for a pesto recipe, I found there are so many versions in terms of the quantity of ingredients and which herbs or nuts to use.

I can not eat pine nuts, which seems to be the traditional nut used to make pesto, however walnuts, pecans, almonds or a mixed blend of nuts work great. The left over pesto is great the next morning on eggs or as a snack on crackers. If you are in a pinch and are looking for a quick and easy dinner, this is your recipe!

1 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or a mix of all)
5 cups basil, loosely packed
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons red hot chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Toast nuts by placing in a pan over medium high heat for 2 minutes or until they become aromatic. Shake often to prevent burning. Place basil leaves in a food processor, pour warm toasted nuts on top then add remaining four ingredients. Pulse a couple of times, then while running, slowly add extra virgin olive oil. Pulse until at desired consistency. Add more oil if mixture is too dry and season with salt and pepper. Enjoy with pasta, chicken or fish.

Fudgy Brownies

One of Lua’s favorite chocolatey treats are brownies. Before I was gluten and dairy-free I had been on a hunt for the perfect brownie. Now, when you bring up the topic of brownies we all have our own version of the perfect brownie. With or without frosting? Shall we add nuts? Caky, fudgy, or chewy? You all have to ask yourselves these questions, it may change by the day, but in general, my favorite type of brownies are the fudgy, not too sweet, and have that crispy top thing going on. I love the crispy top and had not found a recipe that fit my three basic requirements.

When in doubt, I often consult with Martha, Stewart that is! I absolutely love Martha and all of her trusty advice. Her website offers loads of brownie recipes, many of which I had tried. But until now, have found my version of “The Perfect Brownie.” And to top it off, they just so happen to be gluten-free, using cornstarch instead of flour. The original recipe uses butter, but the coconut oil was a fabulous substitute.

Below is the recipe from (with the exception of the coconut oil). I ended up adding 1/4 more cornstarch and 1/4 cup more cocoa powder because the melted chocolate and coconut oil was still rather runny after adding the sugar.

They still came out amazing. I would stick to this recipe below, unless you find that your batter is too runny after adding the sugar also.

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon course sea salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Then butter parchment paper again.

First melt together the chocolate chips and coconut oil using a bain marie or double boiler over very low heat. While chocolate is melting, whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. Once chocolate and oil are melted carefully remove from heat onto a heatproof surface and stir in sugar and vanilla. Then add one egg at a time until fully combined. Add dry ingredients and carefully stir until well combined. Pour into prepared pan, smooth the top, sprinkle course sea salt and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Then using overhang, remove from pan and cut into 16 pieces.

October 2012

Museums, a castle, a birthday party and more, this was a busy month!

By October the autumn season was in full swing, we pulled out our warm jumpers and prepared ourselves for rain with raincoats, brellies and wellies! I love British English.

At the beginning of the month, we received a surprise by the one and only Charmayne, who prepared for us the most wonderful care package filled with all things we love. For Lua, chocolate of course and a book about God, for Gabe a hilarious bug toy and red chili mix and for me my favorite California perfume, candle, and blue cornbread mix just to name a few. Care packages from home are always such a thrill to receive.

October was the first time that Gabe went to work in Palo Alto for 2 weeks since we moved to London and Lua and I managed ourselves well, though Gabe was terribly missed by us both. We were able to Skype with him every night and before you knew it the two weeks were over. Here is Gabe while skyping with us, Lua’s new favorite thing to do – taking pictures of the people we Skype with! We met Gabe at Heathrow, waiting patiently watching 100’s of people exit and then finally we saw him. Lua ran through the crowd of people, shouting, “Daddy!” and wrapped herself in his arms. It was such a beautiful moment, we were all together again!

Later that day, Lua and I attended a birthday party for one of her friends, Naia and Francine, her mother, prepared the most beautiful table of birthday cupcakes and cakes. Lua’s eyes lit up when she walked into the play area and found a table filled with cupcakes! We had a lovely time and Lua enjoyed her party favors filled with new candies she had never tried before and little toys that kept her quite entertained for the train ride back home.

On the day before Gabe left for sunny California, we enjoyed a beautiful Sunday together with a walk down Northcote and play time and lunch at Wandsworth Common. I should mention that Gabe was supposed to leave on Sunday morning, however after a couple of unfortunate public transit delays and confusion at the airport, he was checked in 58 minutes before the flight was to leave – the cut of is 60 minutes. Yes, they would not let him on the flight! I was shocked to receive a text from him that he missed his flight an hour before take-off, but Lua and I cheered and were thrilled to be able to spend another day together.

On the way to the park, we stopped at The Breadstall, Gabe wanted a coffee  and after the morning he had, he treated himself to one of their homemade doughnuts! They are a beautiful sight.

However, Gabe did depart the following day and Lua and I prepared ourselves with activities. We continued the usual Monday – Playball, Tuesday – Waldorf Hedgesparrows Group, Friday – Tap/Modern class, then added a few extras like play dates with friends, going to the Science Museum and the Tate Modern, and going to Windsor Castle for the first time.

The first time we went to the Tate Modern, Lua loved it, she was especially drawn to one of Picasso’s paintings and would talk about it for weeks. Here she is doing her Picasso impression! So she wanted to return to that painting, but then quickly after she mentioned that she felt scared. I shared with her that modern art sometimes scares me too. On the first floor of the main entrance there was a live exhibit with a group of about 30 people who would do a variety of things, sing, chant, walk, dance, run around all while people looked on. We asked on of the members about the exhibit and he said he could not talk to me about it, so it was very much an experiential living art experience.

After that we went to the cafe, had ourselves a long lunch, and then ended with a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.  We decided to walk back to the train station and took the footpath along the Thames, it was a cloudy, but dry and beautiful day to enjoy outside.

Our most memorable outing for the month of October was going to Windsor Castle. It was our first weekend alone with Gabe being away, so Lua and I wanted to do something really special. The train to Windsor Castle was only 52 minute ride and it offered us an opportunity to see some of the countryside, which is lovely. The town of Windsor is incredibly charming, there was the hustle and bustle with all the tourists there on the weekend, but the village had a really lovely energy. After walking up a large hill to the castle’s entrance we saw a large line with at least a hundred people. We had purchased our tickets in advance so I sheepishly walked up to the guard at the gate at the front of the line and he let us into the “advance ticket” line, hidden by the large crowd of people. Words of advice, when going to Windsor Castle ORDER TICKETS IN ADVANCE. This was a huge time-saver. We squeaked right in and were able to start the tour.

Windsor Castle was everything I had imagined a castle to be, complete with a moat, beautiful gardens, a cathedral, guards, opulent State Rooms, and a large display of knights of armor and swords. Our favorite display was Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, it was absolutely exquisite – and just about the size of our entire living room. The dolls’ house had all the rooms you would imagine a castle to have, including a multi-car garage, and it is complete with running water and electricity! It is decorated by works of art of 1,500 of the finest artists, so the teeny, tiny little pictures and paintings are all authentic and real. It was worth the long wait in line, and a definite must see for both children and adults alike. Photography was not allowed, but you can check it out here. We were lucky that it was a dry day so we had plenty of time to explore the grounds of the castle which displayed beautiful gardens and views of Windsor and the surrounding area. Lua and I are excited to bring Gabe with us next time!

October was an event-filled month and we are excited to now be into the month of November. We have dear friends Sarah and her daughter Baye coming from California to spend a couple of days with us and then at the end of the month we will be traveling back home to The States to spend time with family and friends for the holidays. We are so excited to see everyone very soon!!

Miso Marinated Sea Bass

Gabe and I haven’t had that many date nights since moving to London, but one of our favorite nights out was a dinner at Nobu.

We ordered a variety of small appetizers, our favorite being the Lobster Tempura, a few pieces of sushi and because it was a special occasion we treated ourselves to the famous (because it is so amazingly delicious and cooked to absolute perfection) Black Cod with Miso. This dish is just so divine, Gabe and I have been craving it for months. So I decided to give it a shot.

I went to our trusty fishmonger just down on the road on Northcote and requested the black cod, however they did not have it as you must special order it 3 days in advance. They also warned me that is extremely expensive at about $50 per pound. Yikes! So instead I purchased a whole sea bass, which they filleted for me for a total of $13, much better! The other missing ingredient from my kitchen was sake and the grocery store did not have it, so I decided to try rice vinegar instead. And then the final change that I made to the original recipe that I found on Punchfork, was that I omitted the sugar.

It was incredibly easy, it just required some preparation time as it is best to marinate the fish for 12-24 hours. It turned out very tender, juicy and full of amazing flavors. So if you are planning a date night at home, here is a great dish to surprise the one you love.

2 fillets of black cod, halibut or sea bass
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons of mild olive oil

Rinse fish, pat dry and place in a container with a tight fitting lid; set aside. Mix the next three ingredients and pour over fillets. Refrigerate and marinate for 12-24 hours. When ready to cook fish, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat, then add oil. Lightly wipe off fish using fingers, add fish to pan, skin side down. Cook for 2 minutes, flip and cook for an additional one minute. Remove fish from pan and put into oven for 5 minutes. Remove fish and serve immediately.

Green Vegetables with Miso Dressing

This dish I served with the Sea Bass with Miso, it made a colorful and flavorful accompaniment with the fish.  Again, I veered a bit from the original recipe, choosing green vegetables that I know Lua likes and will eat and I added fresh ginger because we love it! The dressing is really nice and any leftovers are great to glaze onto the finished fish.

1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of dark leafy greens
2 garlic cloves
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled, and chopped
1/3 cup white miso paste
1 teaspoon gluten-free soy sauce
1/2 cup mild olive oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar

To prepare dressing, first mince garlic cloves by smashing, removing skins, and then finely chop. Then sprinkle a little (no more than 1/2 teaspoon) sea salt over chopped garlic, then using knife massage salt into garlic to form a paste. Add minced garlic and last four ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine.

To prepare greens, rinse and chop the head of broccoli. Heat a medium size pot with two inches of water. Once water starts to boil, add broccoli and cook for 4 minutes, strain out all water, set cooked broccoli aside. Rinse leafy greens, remove middle stem and stack leaves with the largest one on the bottom. Then tightly roll leaves into a cigar shape,

and finely chop.

Heat a sauce pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, wait until pan is hot, then add leafy greens. Sauté greens for 2 minutes, add cooked broccoli, then add dressing. Serve immediately.

Happy Halloween

We made a trip to the Whole Foods in Kensington for our Halloween morning outing. It is a cold and windy London day, so the costume that my Mom made for Lua was perfect and it kept her nice and warm.

Why Whole Foods, well, we wanted an indoor location, we had never been and have wanted to check it out since we moved as it is the largest store in London.

They had a chocolate counter – perfect! Lua’s Halloween treat is complete!

And here is what she thought when I let her pick out only 2 chocolates, yikes!

A couple of days ago we carved our pumpkin.

As you can see, my carving skills require some practice!

We decided to make roasted pumpkin seeds after pulling out the insides.

They are so easy to make, just remove seeds from the pumpkin, rinse and dry well.

Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 20-30 minutes.

We are now warm and snug at home as a cold wind blows dark grey clouds through the London sky. And for a special treat, we are watching Mary Poppins instead of going out trick-or-treating. As much as I love watching Mary Poppins, I am missing home, wishing we could be trick-or-treating with you all.

We hope you have a wonderful and festive day! Also we are thinking of all of our East Coast family and friends and sending much love to you all!

Broadway Market

The day after we arrived in London 2012 was Christmas Eve. My sister, Jenny, traveled with Lua and I and stayed with us for our first 10 days in England. We were all thrilled to walk out of our flat to find Broadway Market. When we first arrived, our flat in Clapham was not yet available, so in the meantime we rented a very sweet flat in East London’s Hackney neighborhood.

One of my favorite qualities of London is the diversity amongst its 33 boroughs, each with its own government and member of parliament, and each with a distinctive and unique energy and purpose.

The flat we rented in East London was just a block from Regents Canal where houseboats docked and people enjoy a lovely walking and biking path. While passing the docked houseboats, you also walk under many small and narrow brick bridges.

East London thrives on creativity and uniqueness and is almost void from chains – most of the businesses are original stores and restaurants. It feels bohemian and is diverse with cultures.

And so, it was Christmas Eve, we were still fighting off  jet lag and our eyes were lit with excitement and joy as we walked down the narrow street through the bustling market. Our first greeting was the olive stand with wooden barrels holding over 15 olive blends and spreads. Besides chocolate, olives are one of Lua’s favorite foods, so a container of olives entertained her for the entire market outing.

We did not get very far, as our eyes and stomachs were caught by the bread stand. Two long folding tables held a variety of artisan, handmade breads.We enjoyed the mixed seed bread and the rustic white bread. Every morning we toasted slices of these fresh breads, added butter which was melting as we added our fresh strawberry preserves that we also bought at the market. Remember, this was just weeks before I said good-bye to the gluten and dairy. But it was delicious.

That first day we purchased foods for our Christmas Day feast. We roasted a chicken, a beautiful organic, free-range fresh chicken from the market that was the juiciest roast chicken that I had ever made. We also made a cauliflower gratin and a green salad and for dessert we had chocolate chip cookies from Ben’s Cookies. Everything was so exciting and new, and this was how we came to know, Broadway Market.

Even after we moved to Clapham, we still return to Broadway Market at least once a month to enjoy the food and atmosphere. When we arrive we generally stop at Cafe La Bouche, which was our first London coffee shop experience. Gabe orders a Flat White and we are on our way.

We walk through the market and browse at the new stalls. This last time we went we found handmade baskets and other items from Kenya.

We got Lua his basket and I picked out this very tiny wooden bowl with spoon as a salt server.

Then we each get a bite to eat, I can’t seem to ever pass up the best falafel at Damascean Falafel.

Then we make our way to the secret market in the market just around the corner near London Fields where there is a wooden playground set for Lua to play on and a Bubble Man who has cleverly fashioned ropes together to make huge bubbles. Many children gather here to each take a turn at popping them.

This is where Gabe generally gets his lunch, at Barbara’s Brasilian Stand, where he orders the traditional Brasilian dish, Feijoada.

On our way back through the market we make sure to stop at the gluten, dairy AND (refined) sugar-free bakery stand. It is incredible, the delicacies that they make. Lua always gets a double-chocolate brownie and I enjoy the ginger oat cookie.

And that is our Saturday Morning at Broadway Market. If you come to London, it is worth a visit!

Halloween Cut-Out Cookies

One of Lua’s most beloved past times is making cut-out cookies. My mom, the avid holiday cookie-maker, couldn’t wait for her first chance to make cookies with Lua two Christmas’s ago. Ever since, no matter what time of year, when Grandma Bobbie is visiting or when we are in Minnesota we make cookies.

As Halloween approaches we wanted to bring a special treat to her Hedgesparrow Tuesday morning group. It is a parent-child group organized by the Waldorf School of South West London located in Balham. It was the first group we joined after moving to London and has grown to be a very special weekly event of our London lives. We start with a morning song followed by a cup of tea and craft-making, then a cup of soup and an apple and end with songs. It all takes place in a wooded area of a large park, rain or shine!

Yvette showed us how to make festive spiders using conkers, which are seeds from the horse-chestnut trees. They are often used as a children’s game in Britain and Ireland where you take a conker which has been threaded with string and two players swing them into each other. Whose ever conker does not break is the winner. Though we did not play this game, it is important to note because the children run with excitement to collect these things. To live in England, it is good to know about conkers.

To join in the festivities Lua wore her Jack-o’-Lantern costume, my Mom’s first sewing project.

She did an amazing job, Lua received many smiles walking through the streets of London. And so, since it was a Halloween themed day in the park, we made cookies!

I found a recipe on line for gluten-free cut-out cookies and thought I had all of the ingredients. Come to find out, my bag of rice flour was just about empty. Thankfully, I had just bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free baking flour and it worked perfectly. The mix includes garbonzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour at about $6 per 600 gram bag. I am sure it would be most cost effective to buy all of the flours listed above and create my own. However, London living means small storage space.

Here is all of the pantry space we have, literally. I will not let you see inside because it is so crammed and in such disarray all sorts of packages would fall out! One day I will clean it and show you the before and after makeover.

The dough was wonderful, very easy to work with and very forgiving. One useful tip is to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out and then after the cookies are cut and before they go into the oven. I reduced the sugar quantity and replaced with almond flour and they were great. I also added a touch of nutmeg, which my Mom uses in her Christmas cut-outs, adding a beautiful aromatic warmth to a plain old sugar cookie.

We made some plain ghost cut-outs and then some pumpkin sandwich cookies filled with apricot jam, then rolled in sugar. This was another idea from Pia. During the Christmas holidays she makes wonderful cookies that are sandwiched together with your jam of choice then rolled in sugar while still warm. They glisten from the sugar and the jam makes for a very tasty cookie.

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free baking mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond flour
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 teaspoons rice milk
1 cup of sugar (to roll the cooked cookies in)
1/2 cup of jam of your choice

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine; set aside. Using an electric mixer beat coconut oil, sugar and almond flour until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Stop machine and add dry ingredients, slowly mix to combine. Add milk if dough is still crumbly, one teaspoon at a time until dough starts to come together. Shape dough into a disk, cover and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a work space with a piece of parchment paper, then sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon rice flour on top. Start rolling dough, moving and adding flour as you go to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Once you have the thickness that you like your cookie (thicker for a chewy cookie and thinner for crispy) start cutting out your shapes. If you are making the jam-filled sandwich cookies, make 1/2 of the dough plain and with the other half use a smaller cutter for the center so that the jam shows through. You do not have to do this, it just looks pretty. You can still make the sandwich cookies without the inside shape. Place them on one of your parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 15-30 minutes. Then bake for 12 minutes.

While they are baking place your jam of choice in a bowl and mix to smooth it out, then place 1 cup of sugar on a small plate. Once cookies come out of the oven immediately add jam, then top, then gently roll in sugar and let cool on a cooling rack.