The holiday season is in full swing! Like most of you, I’ve been so busy with the season, cooking up a storm, entertaining guests and getting ready for Christmas. I have some advice for you! Slow down. Enjoy your family and friends. Savor the moment! Why not take a slower pace this weekend and start the day with these decadent gluten free apple fritter pancakes:)
They are actually really easy to make, because of this wonderful gluten free pancake mix from XO Baking Company that I found at Home Goods! You can also find it on Amazon, but at double the price. Yikes. Whenever I see it on the shelf, I buy every box!
As you know, I make as much as I can from scratch, but this mix contains simple ingredients and lightly sweetened with pure cane sugar. It’s gluten free base is cassava flour, potato starch and coconut flour. This great combination of ingredients produces a beautiful, fluffy pancake!
I bored a few weekends ago and was inspired by my last Honey Crisp apple to make an apple fritter pancake. I just chopped up the apple into small bite sized pieces and roasted it up with a little butter (or coconut oil), cinnamon and brown sugar for about 10 minutes.
While the apple is cooking, make the pancake mix per package instructions. Carefully, fold the apple mixture into the pancake batter.
To make, add butter or coconut oil to a hot cast-iron pan or skillet…I like to add a little extra to make the pancake more crispy! Use 1/4 cup of batter per pancake and flip when tiny bubbles form on top. I enjoyed these with pomegranates and plenty of maple syrup. Enjoy these on a chilly morning, savoring some calm, with family and friends!
September, 2016. I finally get my chance to go back to Africa! Four years earlier, I had travelled to Uganda for 3 weeks on a medical mission. We spent most of our time, under very primitive circumstances. There was often no running water, no proper toilets and questionable sanitary conditions. This time, the experience would be much different. The plan was to spend our vacation on safari, observing the wild animals and hopefully, experiencing new food adventures! Our time would be spent in Botswana and Zambia, celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary. I can’t wait! The reason we chose to spend a majority of our time in Botswana is that Botswana is renowned for responsible tourism, focusing on a high-end, low impact model which benefits the local people. This focus on sustainability makes it one of the most rewarding and game-rich safari destinations in Africa.
We begin our journey in Cape Town, South Africa, at the southern most tip of Africa. We decide that this will be the spot where we can adjust to the time change, relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. I chose a small boutique hotel in Camps Bay.
POD Hotel proved to be the perfect option. It has the perfect blend of sleek, modern and natural elements and is set on a hillside, overlooking the ocean. The management is kind enough to upgrade us to their best room. It’s a corner unit, with floor to ceiling windows, an open concept shower, large tub, unlimited mini bar and snacks and the MOST amazing bed.
They also offer an amazing breakfast, that is included in your room rate! Yum! Highly recommend!
Our first day in South Africa, is spent on an all day tour of the wine country through African Eagle (arranged by the hotel). An amazing day, exploring the sights, sipping wine, shopping and enjoying good food. We started our wine tasting at Zevenwacht.
It’s a beautiful estate, located on a small lake, with gorgeous views. I loved how they paired their wines (Sauvignon Blanc) with a variety of cheeses.
Next we stopped in the town of Stellenbosch, located on the heart of the Cape Winelands. It is adorable, with its oak lined streets and Cale Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture!
It is picturesque and quaint, with lots of sidewalk cafes and shops.
We stopped for a quick round of shopping (a bit pricey) and then head to lunch in the town of Franschhoek. Our tour guide makes a recommendation for lunch. Not satisfied, we find another restaurant, off the beaten path. The menu looks perfect, the tables are set under large trees….and there is no one there?! We decide to take a risk and it is amazing! The duck confit, I am told, was very good. I ordered the salmon salad, over smashed potatoes. It is heavenly.
The Sauvignon Blanc is the icing on the cake! The name of the restaurant is Cafe des Arts. A great find! I hope it’s still there!
Our next stop is at Taste at Laborie.
Lots of good tastes!
We are welcomed by a cozy tasting room connected to a beautiful patio. Here, we get to sample a variety of wines and as an added surprise, brandy.
Our last stop is at Marianne, which offered the best views of the day, which was perfect since the sun was beginning to set in the sky, casting a beautiful glow on the landscape. Heavenly!
Extensive wine menu
The next day, we opted for a half day tour of the Cape of Good Hope, Boulder Beach and surrounds. This included a hike around the Cape of Good Hope. I was in heaven! Imagine breathtaking vistas, crashing waves, Penguins, ostrich, and baboons!
Hiking the Cape
Between both of these tours, we sadly, did not have a chance to experience much of the food scene in Cape Town (which is supposed to be amazing), so I guess that means I need to go back!
Our journey to our safari begins four hours north in Maun, Botswana, via a 12 seat Caravan😬.
The Okavango Delta
On our way to camp
The Okavango Delta is fertile and green, despite it being the dry season. The view from the airplane is utterly unreal. From 10,000 feet you can see numerous of herds of elephants, pods of hippos and a few wandering giraffe. For the next 10 days, we will visit 4 Sanctuary Retreats lodges in Botswana, along the Okavango Delta and in Zambia, on the Zambezi River. My goal is to eat a pescetarian, gluten free diet. Will this be possible in Africa?!? Yes! It is!
The food at all if the lodges was very good, with tons of dietary options and each lodge was able to accommodate my gluten free diet. All of the Sanctuary Retreat lodges that we stayed at offered the same enormous meal plan, which is included in the cost of your stay. For breakfast, they offer a large continental breakfast, along with a small menu offering eggs and various side dishes.
Breakfast with a view
Coffee, tea and baked goods are offered during the morning game drive.
Coffee and tea
To my surprise, each lodge prepared gluten free goodies, specially for me! Lunch is served in three courses, with wine and multiple options available.
Lunch on an island on the Zambezi River
Eggplant caprese stack
Mixed bowl of veggies and feta
Generally, a gorgeous puréed soup or beautiful salad to start. Meat, fish and vegetarian options were available for the main course. The desserts were rarely gluten free, so I opted for a fruit plate. High Tea is served before the evening game drive with a huge selection of sweets and savories along with coffee and tea.
At the end of the evening game drive, they serve a sundowners, which generally consists of wine, beer or cocktails with nuts, dried fruit and beef jerky.
Finally, dinner is served at 8pm and it’s another three course extravaganza. Phew!
All of the Sanctuary Retreat lodges that we stayed at were fantastic. Each place had magical element about it! Our favorite had to be Baine’s Camp. Located on a private concession in the Okavango Delta, this rustic styled lodge, with only 8 rooms, is intimate, has amazing service and has gorgeous surrounds.
Special thanks to Henry for making us feel so at home! Picture candlelit bubble baths under the stars as well as sleeping under the stars in the comfort of your four poster king sized bed, with the sounds of hippos, and crickets singing you to sleep. The Elephant Experience that they offer made for one of the most memorable days of my life.
And the game drives here were some of the best of our entire trip! These were experiences right out of my dreams…..
The newly remodeled Chief’s Camp was the most luxurious of all of the accommodations. We were welcomed by a huge guest house, filled with floor to ceiling windows, to take advantage of the panoramic views of the Moremi Game Reserve.
Gorgeously decorated, each guest house came complete with an indoor and outdoor shower, huge soaking tub and our own plunge pool. The food was also amazing.
We were treated to a BBQ feast of their traditional foods under a moonlit sky. The game drives here, were also very abundant! We saw the big five!
Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero was a larger camp, located on a hill top with stunning views of the Chobe River.
The chef here took special care in arranging my gluten free options. He checked in with me at every meal. I really appreciated this special attention.
The evening boat rides were wonderful and gave us a different viewing perspective for the elephants, African buffalo, hippos, crocodiles and birds.
We did enjoy one afternoon at the spa here, as well.
We were very pleased with the tranquil facilities and our massages!
Sussi & Chuma, located in Zambia, on a beautiful stretch of the Zambezi River, marked the last stop of our trip. We spent 3 days exploring Victoria Falls, taking boat rides, fishing and enjoying the spa.
The chef here made the best gluten free toast and muffins, using cassava flour. Have you ever used it? It was the base for much of the gluten free goodies that were made for me in Africa. It’s made from a root, so it’s gluten free and grain free.
Best of all it’s easy to use. The chef was kind enough to share his recipes for pancakes and chapati with me. As an added bonus, Malala (the esthetician) went entirely out of her way and purchased a 2 kg bag of cassava flour for me to take home.
(Can you imagine explaining that to the customs officer in Amsterdam?!)
Something I love about traveling the globe, is being exposed to a multitude of new flavors, spices, textures, ingredients and food combinations. My travels stay with me, not only in my memories and pictures, but in the recipes and food inspiration that follows me back to my kitchen. On this trip, the two things I have developed a huge appreciation for are cassava flour and the safari tradition of the sundowner.
The sundowner is an essential part of traditional safari life, the concept of having drinks while watching the sun go down.
Sundowners after a game drive at Baine’s Camp
It originates from the time of the great safaris of the 1920’s. Picture the serving of elegant ‘bush’ cocktails against the unforgettable backdrop of the African sunset. Our sundowner began with a gentle drive to a scenic spot where wine, cocktails and snacks are set up. Magical, memorable and romantic, the sundowner is an experience not to be missed and I look forward to replicating back home in Oregon, but there is NOTHING like an African sunset.
I generally don’t eat potatoes. Probably because I grew up in a Mexican American household where rice was the predominate starch. Because of this, I have not mastered mash potatoes, scalloped potatoes or the summer favorite, potato salad…..that is, until now!
I stumbled into the most adorable sack of baby, tricolored potatoes while grocery shopping this week. I promptly purchased them, with the intention of making the best potato salad, ever. A beautiful potato salad, devoid of mayonnaise and tangy, bright and lemony.
For the vinaigrette, I relied on one of my favorite recipes. The base of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and a hefty shot of dijon mustard would be the perfect dose of flavor to liven up the potatoes.
My garden is bursting with herbs, so I added a hefty handful of basil, purple basil, thyme and chives. These herbs and their blossoms, are perfect to add a layer of fresh flavor to any salad and they also provide a gorgeous pop of color. I also tossed in some arugula to boost the green factor:)
Potato salad generally has relish or pickles added to it to intensify the flavor. Luckily, my refrigerator is full of homemade pickled beets, carrots and onions.
Next time you are at the grocery store, look for pickled veggies that are readily available. These veggies are the perfect addition to any summer salad! I roughly chopped these up and added them to the mix. They looked like confetti, dancing in the salad.
The potatoes are so small, only 15 minutes of boiling was needed to cook them through. When they became cool enough to touch, I sliced them in half and added all of the ingredients, in a large bowl.
The arugula became perfectly wilted in the process. The vinaigrette soaked into the warm potatoes. I placed the bowl in the refrigerator to chill.
My last step was to soft boil 4 eggs. This last step is mandatory. I prefer 7 minute eggs, where the yolks are just barely cooked through and still a bit runny. If that is not your thing, go for the 10 minute egg (a true hard boiled egg). Once the egg has cooled down, slice it carefully in half (you don’t want to loose too much of the yolk) and add it to the potato salad. Go ahead and stir it in so that the yolk spills into the salad. The yolk adds a layer of thickness and richness to the vinaigrette, without weighing it down too much.
As you stir, use your spoon to gently chop up the egg whites, so that it incorporates evenly throughout the salad. Add salt and pepper or a squeeze of lemon juice if needed. Sprinkle with additional herbs and blossoms to garnish. Enjoy! And by the way, it’s even better the next day;)
1/4 cup of chopped, fresh herbs (recommend chive, basil and thyme)
2 cups arugula or other greens
4 eggs billed to your preference
3 TBS apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp honey
2 TBS whole grain mustard
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 pinch of salt and pepper
Boil potatoes in salted water for 15 minutes. In a separate pan, boil eggs to your preference and allow them to cool. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice on half and add to a large bowl along with the arugula, herbs and pickled veggies. Whisk last 7 ingredients together to make vinaigrette and add to salad, coating all ingredients evenly. Add salt and pepper or lemon juice if needed. Place in refrigerator to chill. Once eggs have cooled, cut them gently in half and stir them into the salad.
These last few weeks have been a rollercoaster ride! Lots of ups and downs, a wedding and birthday, travel and fun, mixed in with one head cold, a life changing diagnosis and the stomach flu:/ Oh, but I digress…. In the midst of the carnival ride that is my life, I had the opportunity to make a birthday cake for Jason.
Jason turned 46 this year and when I think of the 28 birthdays we’ve shared, there is one element that remains constant……No fuss. He’s just not into the fanfare, the parties and the singing (ok, maybe just a little). This year, created an added challenge, when he also happened to get a nasty cold. This would be a mellow celebration, if ever there was one!
My solution? I would bake Jason a simple birthday cake from scratch. Even if his poor taste buds were malfunctioning, I figured a cake could save the day:) I had made a fantastic cake last year using ricotta cheese and almond flour. This would be the perfect base for my gluten free chocolate cake! I decided to adapt the recipe and make it my own, with the addition of a finely grated chocolate bar and some raw cacao powder.
The key to infusing rich, chocolate flavor into the cake, is to use your favorite chocolate bar. I prefer 70% semisweet cacao, which is rich and dark. Because you are mixing the chocolate into a bland mix of ricotta and almond flour, the richness of the chocolate, is tempered. It creates a balanced and lighter batter. So, even if you are not a fan of dark chocolate, I would still recommend it!
Another important element is grating the chocolate as finely as possible. I have this lovely microplane grater, which is also ideal for citrus zest, garlic and hard cheeses.
There is some patience required at this step, but it actually, only takes about 5 minutes of time! It’s so worth it, I promise! I also added a small amount of raw cacao powder to the mix. I recommend raw organic cacao.
It’s worth spending the extra money. It’s potent, unsweetened and will last a long time!
We were so excited to eat it, I barely let it cool. I added a small scoop and we enjoyed it warm. It was yummy and not too rich;) I even had it for breakfast the next day! So simple and delicious! Enjoy!
Whisk the eggs and sugar for a few minutes and then add the almond meal. Add the melted butter to the mixture. Add the ricotta, mixing it well. Then add the brown rice flour, grated chocolate and cacao powder. Pour the batter into a greased pie dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. You can enjoy it warm or at room temperature. The flavors seem to be more rich and flavorful at room temperature. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days! Enjoy!
I’ve been working really hard to shift us to a plant based diet for the New Year. For the first two weeks, I was obsessed with everything Japanese. Clean broths, lots of fish and veggies. Everything was squeaky clean. Perhaps too clean. Poor Jason was beginning to look famished. So this week, I’ve gone back to my cooking roots and I’ve been working on more familiar inspiration. I decided to start with lentils. Why lentils? Lentils have the second highest ratio of protein per calorie of any legume, except for soybeans. So, it’s a great plant based protein source:)
Have you cooked with lentils? Most people tend to simply use lentils in soup, but they are so adaptable and can be used in so many other dishes. There are tons of varieties available. The colors range from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black. It can get very confusing if are not familiar with the differences between them. The French lentil is a good option for this recipe because they are sturdy and don’t fall apart.
So, I stumbled onto this amazing looking lentil recipe on Pinterest. I didn’t have the exact ingredients, but I decided to swing it anyway. The most important part of the recipe was the French lentils. the next key ingredient was mushrooms and I had a huge batch of chanterelle mushrooms that I needed to use.
The recipe also called for kale. Given my recent Japanese food kick, I had a bunch of baby bok choy, so I decided to use it.
Feel free to use the mushrooms or greens of your choice. They will work!
Ok, so as the the recipe states, it contains cream. Yes, cream. Actually, a lot of cream. Here’s the thing. There is nothing like eating real food to get your glow on! Live it up and enjoy the deliciousness of whole milk, butter and CREAM.
These ingredients are great to have in a diet that is comprised of fresh whole foods. Go ahead. Eat like royalty (at least once in awhile), as long as the ingredients you use include lots of delicious organic veggies, herbs and nutritious proteins like lentils!
The recipe is actually very easy, but does occupy 3 pans. It was worth it!
French Lentils with Cream, Chanterelles and Greens
Cream braised French lentils. Simply delicious and decadent!
Rinse lentils. Simmer in vegetable broth for 30 minutes. Lentils should be al dente. In a large skillet, at medium-high heat, brown butter. Add shallot. Cook until about a minute. Add mushrooms and 1/2 of the salt. Then add garlic. Cook until it starts to slightly stick to the bottom of the pan. Do not burn. Deglaze with the wine. Reduce until nearly dry. Add cream and simmer until cream just begins to thicken up. Add lentils and the remaining salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
In a separate pan, add enough oil to cook the 2 eggs. Cook eggs to your liking. And place on a separate plate, until lentils are done. Add the chopped bok choy to the lentils. Do not overcook, keep them green. Season lentils if needed. Serve 2 equal portions, with an egg on each. Top with freshly grated parmesan. Yum!