Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Not Your Average Cornbread...

Why?  Well, for starters, because it's not made with corn.

[cue cricket chirps for awkwardly long pause]

Aside from gluten and dairy, I also have a sensitivity to corn.  I discovered it in the year or so after removing gluten from my diet, when my diet took a marked turns towards increased indulgence in corn tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa, popcorn, and delicious breakfast tacos, enchiladas, and tamales. I am in Texas, after all.  However, after eating these items, more and more I was being seized by seemingly inexplicable abdominal cramps along with hives all over my body.  One would think that after discovering a major food allergy that I would be better able to put two and two together.  But I honestly think that at the time, after suffering from food for so long and finding actual relief that didn't come in the form of a pill, I wanted gluten-free to be "the answer."

Friday, December 26, 2014

White Bean, Sweet Potato, & Kale Soup

Hot, hearty soup on a cold Winter day.  

There's something magical about that combination, right?  I remember my grandmother always making soups and stews throughout the colder months, helping to bring heat within and keep the whole family resilient and strong against sickness.  The frigid wind, the biting frost, the ice underfoot, and the cold that made it hard to breathe - all of that was made much more bearable knowing there was hot soup waiting for us at home to enjoy together as a family.  

And while the Winters of central Texas are a far, far, far cry from the Winters of Michigan I experienced growing up [cue dramatic echo], there still remains an undeniable urge within me to follow the lead of my grandmother's spirit and make soups that will satisfy, ground, and heal during these months.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Challenging Illusions

This morning at 5:30am, I walked under moonlight through a grove of cedar and cypress trees on my way to the studio.  A chill hung suspended in the quiet darkness, the sparse commotion of cars on the highway sharing a quiet echo as I studied the stars.  And though I was embarking upon the day with barely 4 hours of sleep, it made me smile - both from happiness and recognition that sometimes we get exactly what we want in life.  

Though the "way" we get it can often seem perplexing at first.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Juice Cleanse Adventure

Change is in the air. 

Leaves revealing fiery color and trees and shrubs molting to carpet the ground below.  A chill suspended in the breeze as the days grow shorter and shorter and we set the clock back.  Sweaters, scarves, and animal themed knit caps coming out of storage.  A yearning for hot soup, steamed drinks, and pumpkiny desserts.

And even for us in Austin, Texas, where the weather has just finally decided to downgrade from Summer-like temperatures, the change of season is still apparent in what's now plentiful at the farmers' market and in the aisles of the local grocer.  From the melons, stone fruit, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and berries of the Summer months, we now make way for apples, pears, persimmons, citrus, gourds, cruciferous greens, and root vegetables of Autumn and Winter.

So what better time than for a juice cleanse?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Maple Nut Granola Clusters:
From Silvana's Kitchen to Yours

"To this day, it still astonishes me that with just a little knowledge, 
we can make dishes that have the power to help the body heal itself."

These words wonderfully capture the ethos of Silvana Nardone's advocacy and leadership within the gluten-free community.  When her son, Isaiah, was diagnosed with gluten and dairy sensitivity, she, too, had to undergo a transformation of perspective that many of us know all too well.  What to buy?  What not to  buy?  What is okay and what is not….  How to make this, that, or those…..


Thursday, October 23, 2014


I have been away for a while.

79 days to be exact since I last published anything on The Canary Files.  And while I have missed writing and sharing here, what I learned (and am continuing to learn) in the time since was a lesson long overdue.  A lesson that I could no longer conveniently keep on the back burner, pretend was not there, or place into a box wrapped with a perfectly tied bow.

A lesson that I knew would be difficult to write about and that I would procrastinate long and hard about formulating into words.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How Time Flies...

12 years ago today I stepped off a plane to live in Austin, Texas.

People in Michigan asked, "Why would you want to move to Texas?"  I would begin by telling that I was pursuing my Ph.D. at The University of Texas, but also added that Austin was kind of like "an oasis" in the middle of the state to see if that might ease their look of confusion/bafflement/pity.  It usually didn't.

But that's probably because that wasn't the answer to their question.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Coconut Caramel Cocoa Nib Cookies with Sea Salt

I never had much of a sweet tooth.  So, it follows that once I embarked on a gluten-free, dairy-free, and now vegan, life, I almost never suffered the mourning, the temptation, nor the bitterness of not being able to have baked goods like cakes, pies, and cookies.  Now, before we go any further, please notice that I have said, "almost never."  For there are times when others are intensely enjoying a dessert: eyes rolling back, giggles bubbling over into ecstatic gibberish, and then the words, "You have to try this!" - when do I feel it.  Not so much because I actually want the dessert(s) in question, but because I wish to share in that experience.

Today's recipe was inspired by one of those times.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Quinoa Salad with Seared Zucchini & Chickpeas

Zucchini squash has been on the menu a *lot* in my kitchen lately.  Along with its multi-colored and often exuberantly shaped zephyr, pattypan, scallop, carnival, and gooseneck heirloom squash cousins, it has been a joy to see the strength of their numbers at the farmers' market and local grocers.  With such a diversity of not only shape, but flavor and texture, I am doing my best to take advantage of the season and try them all.  So, to perhaps help you do the same, I present a simple, yet strikingly flavorful, dish that will hit the spot for any occasion.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rhubarb Ginger Compote

Rhubarb - an ingredient known far and wide, and yet when asked exactly what it is, many are hard pressed to provide an answer outside how delicious it is with strawberries in a pie.  A plant similar in appearance to a cross between Swiss chard and celery with a canopy of large triangular leaves, it is a beautiful herbaceous perennial known for its fibrous stalks and trademark mouth-puckering tartness.  While the crimson variety is best known, rhubarb can range in color from pale green to yellow to a speckled pink.  First appearing in Spring, weather permitting, its growing season can continue throughout the Summer and even into the Fall, allowing this common and yet exotic ingredient to find its way into desserts, mason jars, roasting pans, and happy tummies for a good part of the year.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chilled Buckwheat Noodles

Today's recipe was inspired by a memory not from my childhood, but from my young adulthood.  Many of you know that I once worked at a place called Eastern Accents in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a Chinese bakery and restaurant that also specialized in Korean food.  It was in the years between completing my undergraduate and leaving for Texas to pursue my graduate degree, and allow me to say with no hesitation that they were truly glorious.  The business has since closed, but the owners and I still stay in contact, and they often refer to the time that I was there as their "golden years."  Employees were happy and productive, the business thrived, and we loved and respected each other as a family, creating friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fresh Mango and "Sticky" Quinoa

Allow me to express how much I love mango.  I have many fond childhood memories of my mother coming home from work during the Summer with a bag of beautifully ripe mangoes in tow.  She would deftly cut around the large seed, score the two outer thirds, and present them to my brother, sister, and I.  Our hands would be sticky, our upper lips mustached with orange pulp, and our smiles rife with the fibers as we enjoyed mango after mango until we were stuffed.  My mother saved the middle part with the seed, or the buto as we called it in Tagalog, for herself, unwrapping the sliver of skin around it like a delectable gift and then chewing the more tart flesh around the seed with closed-eyed contentment.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Icy Watermelon Mango Drink:
A Toast to Summer

Well, it was inevitable.  

In Austin, we have been spoiled with weather reminiscent of an actual Spring, with rain, cool, cloudy mornings, water in our brooks, lakes, and rivers, extended wildflower bloomings, and temperatures floating somewhere between 70 and 85 on a daily basis.  Which is totally not normal.  Which is why the extremely tardy appearance of Summer has completely blindsided so many of us here.  Now, temperatures are shackled between the 90s and 100+, and that's before we even take humidity into account, and walking outside during the day is less a recreational activity than a necessary evil.  [wrings out sweat-soaked bandanna]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Honor, Gratitude, & Remembrance

It all starts somewhere.

Whenever anyone remarks on my kindness, my smile, my compassion, my passion for taking care of others, and my memory for details, I always give credit where credit is due.  And the lion's share would easily go to the two women who raised me:  my Mother and her Mother.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Horchata: Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The first time I had horchata was when I moved to Austin in 2002.  It was at a taqueria in the wee hours of the morning after a night at the clubs, and my friends were ordering tall red plastic glass after tall red plastic glass of it.  When I asked what it was and they described it as "milky, cinnamony, and sweet," it didn't exactly rouse my tastebuds.  But upon being coaxed into taking a sip so I could "see for myself,"let's just say it was a wake-up call.  The look and the smile on my face made all my friends laugh out loud.  And that morning marked my leap onto the horchata bandwagon as tall red plastic glass after tall red plastic glass found its way to my place at the table.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kale Norimaki Crunch Rolls

When the weather warms, something I tend to crave is sushi.  Something about it hearkens to cooling down after a long, hot day under the sun, awaiting the cover of nightfall and the pleasure of nightlife.  Back in the day, come May I was such a frequent flier at my local sushi bar that they would know me by name.  I would proudly order in Japanese, and the chefs happily took to broadening my vocabulary (with both savory and unsavory phrases, no doubt).  It was a transporting experience, allowing me to leave behind the stresses of school, work, and/or everyday life, and for a meal, I could imagine I was a jet setter passing through Tokyo or Nagoya, sampling the local cuisine.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Simply Roasted Sweet Potato

If I were to keep a master list of my favorite foods [cue sound of safe combination unlocking], sweet potatoes would sit pretty near the top.  Mashed, pureed into a soup, baked into a quick bread or muffin, made into fries, or plainly roasted, there is something undeniably comforting and satisfying about them.  And while I enjoy all these variations, I do lean pretty heavily towards roasting them whole, whether I'm cooking for others or just for myself.  It's just so simple, unfussy, quick, and a wonderful way to preserve and honor the beauty and nutrition of the sweet potato as it is.  And surprisingly, this way of preparing them seems to draw the most "ooooohs" and "aaaaahs."   People wonder how I was able to cook the sweet potato so perfectly and with so much flavor, and when I tell them the three easy steps, they always seem to be waiting for the catch.  

But there is no catch.  Just easy, honest cooking, allowing the ingredient to speak for itself.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gluten-Free, Vegan Pumpkin Apple Quick Bread

I was seriously considering not posting this recipe.  I do my best to eat with the seasons, and as such, I also do my best to share recipes that reflect this practice.  But as a fellow blogger mentioned on a recent post, "It's always pumpkin season in my opinion"  And when I take a step back, do I seriously think that people are only making my recipes around the date that I post them?  And so I will take that cue from her and nod my head emphatically in agreement as I present today's recipe.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Vegan Mushroom Tom Kha

I loooooove tom kha.  

A classic in Thai cuisine, it features a rich coconut milk broth, layered with the trademark aromatic citrus notes of Kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass followed by the warm zing of galangal and chile pepper.  A visit to a Thai restaurant does not seem complete to me without a cup of this wondrous soup, both comforting and invigorating, sweet and savory, light and luxurious, all at the same time. But alas, while vegetarian tom kha is a staple on menus, a vegan one can be harder to find, often due to the use of fish sauce.  And sometimes, even when it's vegan, it isn't gluten free because of soy sauce.  [cue sigh in synch with crossing of arms] But rather than let that stand in my way and inspire an unsatisfied pout,  it serves as wonderful motivation for me to create my own take on this classic.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Strawberry Cherry Smoothie with Cocoa Nibs & Lavender

The beauty of this smoothie is in its unexpected simplicity.  It has so many wonderful layers, from the sweet tartness of the fruit, the creamy mouth feel of coconut milk, the accent of rich, chocolate rising and falling on the palate with the occasional crunch, to the gentle, soothing aroma of lavender buds.  And yet, it only has six ingredients. [cue audience applause]

Friday, February 7, 2014

Pumpkin Teff Porridge:
Bringing Warmth Within

And…….I'm back.

After weeks of newness taking over my life, ranging from beginning the New Year(s), moving into a new apartment, discovering new ways of getting everywhere, to beginning a new romantic relationship, I've been admittedly MIA.  But whereas I might have been stressed about it previously, preoccupied with the idea of disappointed readers and canceled subscriptions, I totally felt at peace with it this time around.  After the chaos and life-altering upheavals of 2013, life is so much more precious to me.  And rather than spend my life in the shadow of fear, cowering in the face of adversity, I realize the choice that I have to live it in happiness and hope, regardless of my circumstances, embracing the power of both living and learning fully in the moment.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Now or Never

That is a theme that is currently redefining the geography of my life.  Its very close cousin, "All or Nothing," is also insistently hovering by my shoulder.  There are many, many things happening right now that are nearly sweeping me off my feet:  Things I have hoped for, things I have wished for, and things I have prayed for.

But as I've learned many times over (and will undoubtedly continue to learn), aren't those the things we often fear the most?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Braised Chard & Chickpeas: A New Year Begins

I know I am not alone when I say that 2013 was a difficult and painful year.  From cracking two ribs, the seemingly relentless natural disasters that devastated the Philippines, a breakup that shattered my heart, to the passing of three family members, among them my 105-year old grandmother who raised me - no, 2013 was not an easy year.  But even having said all that, 2013 was not a bad year.  For amidst such overwhelming darkness, therein lies the greatest opportunity to discover the Light, and the strength, that is within.

And that is exactly what I found.