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Cranberry orange tarts

I'm always looking for holiday treats that are gluten, sugar, and/or dairy-free. These amazing cranberry orange tarts have none of these things and are still ridiculously delicious. These use cashews and coconut oil to satisfy.

How can they be good, you ask? If you've been lucky enough to get one in the last few weeks, you know how good they are!

They are easy too so you still have time to whip up a few for Christmas.

Tart Shells:
2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line muffin tins with 12 paper liners. In food processor add all of the crust ingredients and mix well. You can use your hands to work it into a smooth dough. Add the mixture to the muffin cups and press down firmly using your knuckles, going up the sides a tad. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool about 10 minutes and place tin a cool space until you are ready to assemble the tarts. I made the shells (and the cranberry sauce) the night before finishing everything else.
Cashew Cream Layer:
3/4 cups raw organic cashews, soaked at least 4 hours, or overnight
Juice from 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons filtered water (or more OJ)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add ingredients to food processor and mix for as long as it takes to make it smooth and creamy. A Vitamix would be brilliant and take a bit less time to get that creamy consistency.
Cranberry-Orange Sauce:
1 cup fresh cranberries, washed
1 large orange, peeled, sectioned and pith removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Zest from orange, set a little aside for topping when serving
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
In a saucepan over a medium heat, combine the the cranberries, orange pieces, maple syrup, ginger and cloves. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop and the orange pieces dissolve. You can get in there and mash up the cranberries. Remove from the heat, stir in the orange zest and allow the mixture to fully cool. Place into the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the tarts. I like to cool until thickened.
Remove the paper liner off of the tart shells. Top each of the tart shells with a spoonful of the cashew cream filling and a spoonful of the cranberries, sprinkle with a little orange zest. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
(Original recipe found on the Free People blog)

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Flow Magazine: December 2013

Gluten-free Gastropubs
Woodfire Grill, Congress Beer House, Bell ‘n Whistle Bar & Bistro
By: Lynette Suchar

Downtown Saskatoon has been very lucky over the last year to see three unique gastropubs open all within walking distance of each other. Importantly, all have gluten-free menus. It’s nice to see local restaurants/pubs offering more and healthier options, and as a food lover with a gluten sensitivity, these places are a treat.

Woodfire Grill (152 2nd Avenue South): This is the smallest and most subdued of the three spots but it has the biggest selection of gluten-free eats—good news for diners (including two of the owner’s loved ones) who both have celiac disease and are unable to tolerate gluten. The welcoming fireplace upfront is a reprieve on cold December nights.
We went for the hearty vegetable ratatouille with a side of house-made beet and parsnip chips—the chips perfect for a happy hour snack. We also had the BBQ chicken burger on a gluten-free bun, salads with delicious homemade dressings, and glasses of warming pinot noir.
The tapas-sized meals were tasty and filling, though some may find the serving bowls a little small. Personally, I like space to dig my fork around without food spilling over. We couldn’t skimp on dessert, and it was hard to resist my favourite, a classic crème brulée. It didn’t disappoint, creamy on the inside and sugar-crisped up top. The Drambuie-marinated fruit skewers covered in caramel sauce and sprinkled with icing sugar didn’t satisfy quite as much. I would’ve preferred the raw fruit to be caramelized, but overall the meal was gluten-free, the space warm and inviting, and 100 percent satisfying.

Congress Beer House (215 2nd Avenue South): Cozy and rustic describe this place—an unexpected and pleasant surprise. The food here blew me away; it’s pub food but kicked up a few notches and full of gluten-free food and beer selections.
We started with the sea salt and smoked paprika potato chips with a sinful Sriracha aioli, plus baked brie with roasted garlic, candied nuts, sea salt and jam. Easily one of the prettiest, most delicious compositions I’ve ever had. We also had the “eat ya damn veggies” special: roasted, seasonal vegetables and the “twisted Greek” quinoa salad, along with a selection of beer and cocktails. Their Honey Nut Old Fashioned warmed me right up.
The food here is simply delicious and the servers helpful and knowledgeable. Congress has been open since May and offers local beer samplings. If you call ahead you can try five half-pints of different beers for $15, including their gluten-free beers.  Next time I go I want to try the Granville Island maple cream ale (they were out the night a friend and I stopped by).
Though more spacious than your typical pub, verging on restaurant size, Congress is my new favourite watering hole/eatery for sure.

Bell ‘n Whistle Bar and Bistro (243 2nd Avenue South): The most pub-like of the three restaurants I visited this month, Bell ‘n Whistle is full of wood and brick accents in their décor and they offer a gluten-free menu as well.
A great spot for drinks out with friends, Bell ‘n Whistle not only has an energetic vibe to it but also delights with food selections. I had heard the Caesars here are one of a kind so we each grabbed one, and extra spicy, of course. These drinks are appetizers in themselves since they are served with skewers of shrimp, cheese, garlic and olives. The rumours proved correct—one of the city’s best.
As for actual food, we couldn’t resist the steamed, lemongrass-curried mussels. I’m glad we didn’t. The only thing lacking was more bread to soak up the flavour-packed sauce. My friend had the Mediterranean wrap while I caved and indulged in my idea of comfort food: a grilled Gruyere cheese and pear sandwich. I had a beet and arugula salad on the side.

Little touches here made the night seem that much more special, from being greeted at the door to the server writing her name on our napkin as a personal touch. I’m still dreaming of their Caesars. Maybe they’ll soon deliver?

(Previously published in Flow Magazine December 2013)

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Flow Magazine: November 2013

EE Burritos and Konga Cafe
By: Lynette Suchar

EE Burritos: This Latin American (as opposed to merely a Mexican) restaurant opened years ago and Saskatoon food lovers have come to like it a lot because it is still one of the most popular spots around. So visible have they become that owners Manrique Medrano and Kathleen Lipinsky, who took over two-and-a-half years ago, were featured on Food Network Canada’s “You Gotta Eat Here” in March 2013.
Medrano’s favourites in terms of taste and preparation are their tamales, pupusas and pozole. Pupusas are a Salvadoran specialty (El Salvador is where he was born) and are like a corn pancake with choice of filling: pork or cheese and jalapeño. Having tried them recently, they are a must! The pupusas are balanced with sour cream, a light tomato salsa and curtido, or pickled cabbage, on the side.
The next mouth-watering surprise was when the tamales came. They, along with pozole, a Mexican soup, are quintessentially Mexican dishes and they’re done very well at EE Burritos. Service here was fast and attentive, and even before describing the rest of the food, I can’t wait to go back.
The tamales, cooked in banana leaves, were creamy and slightly sweet made with maiz (corn) imported from El Salvador. The huge plate of nachos we ordered (topped with shredded beef, cheese and sour cream) is big enough for a group of friends on a Friday night, when the restaurant hosts Latin dance lessons. Fridays at EE Burritos are extremely festive, with salsa music playing while dancers hit the dance floor. Even hearing the music on a weekday evening gives a taste of the atmosphere.
We added a little green to our table with the subtly spicy chipotle shrimp salad—a nice way to enliven your tastes without adding lots of calories. And I washed it all down with a refreshing horchata, a Mexican beverage made of rice, vanilla and cinnamon. A little out of the way at 102 Avenue P South, EE Burritos is worth the trip for some spicy Latin cuisine. You may even forget the temperature is dropping.

Konga Cafe: As soon as you walk into this casual dining space at 204 Avenue H North, you get the feeling you’re in the kitchen already: the head chef, wearing a faded t-shirt and her apron, stands a metre away stirring something in a big metal pot; the scent of sweet Caribbean nutmeg, allspice and chillies that form the heart of Jamaican food is in the air; Reggae music infuses everything with an infectious vibe; a familial chatter between customers and restaurant staff carries over from table to table.
Konga Café takes me away to a warmer place. It’s why the regulars have their favourite spots and dishes, and jerk chicken is one of the most popular here.
The Konga jerk has a bite but doesn’t overpower, and the sauce coats the chicken and the bottom of the plate making it good for dipping rice or mixing in with the accompanying carrots, zucchini and tomatoes.
The Creole shrimp are an easy choice, though if you like them as much as I did, forget about getting the recipe, however, the chef did tell me that the blend of pureed peppers in a rainbow of colours are a key to a successful Creole sauce.
Depending on how busy it is, Konga Café can be either hectic, with staff looking frenzied, or blissfully calm with service that’s very quick (we fortunately had the latter). As for vegetarians, this is one restaurant with very limited options except for the delicious sides of vegetables, rice and beans, though they do serve a vegetable wrap at lunch.
As I have been told, a spicy Jamaican meal is not complete without a refreshing slice of homemade key lime pie, along with a Red Stripe beer to cleanse the palate. I didn’t opt for either, but they do sound tempting.
Konga’s Caribbean eats and beats make this little west side story well worth the short trip there. 

(Previously published in Flow Magazine November 2013)

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