Kabocha and Cranberry Risotto

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We love risotto. Once you get the hang of it, there are endless possibilities. Endless. Really, any winter squash is going to work in here, but the creamy texture of the kabocha is perfection. It’s a bit of struggle to peel the kabocha squash (which you may have had in Japanese restaurants as that tempura that wasn’t quire in your gluten eating days). I cut it into small-ish pieces, scooped the seeds and string bits out and then used the vegetable peeler until all green bits were gone.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3/4 cup diced kabocha squash
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups simmering vegetable stock (I used a mixture of vegetarian chicken and mushroom)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Pinch cinnamon
Handful of cranberries (Fresh for colour and if you’d like a tart punch; Dried for a bit of sweetness and chewy highlights)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon non-dairy margarine
Chives or green onions, for finishing

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat for about 10 minutes, until they are translucent. You don’t want them to brown – just gently cook. Once they have cooked down, add the squash and cook for a minute or so. Add the rice and combine with a wooden spoon until all the grains of rice are coated with oil. Wine goes in the pan next and the stirring begins. Once the wine has been absorbed into the rice, add 1/2 cup of stock and stir until it has been absorbed. Add the dried herbs. Keep an eye on the heat level and make sure you’re just sitting at a nice gentle bubble. Add the remaining stock a ladle at a time and constantly stir until the rice reaches al dente. As you’re approaching al dente, add the cranberries. You may not need all the stock, but it’s generally pretty close to a litre you’ll need. Once you’re at al dente, turn off the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast and margarine. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Top with chives or green onions and serve.

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I Had a Picnic (And Got Married): The Damn Cupcake Edition

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Planning is all well and good but when it comes to executing a DIY event, such as your wedding, there are bound to be *ahem* bumps. This is the story of the damn cupcakes. They’re pretty, no? Yes, very pretty. But I still hate them.

This is the story of how I came to have 5 grades of cupcakes in the freezer.

About 2 months before the wedding, I got sick. It turned out to be gluten. Blah, blah, blah, here we are on this gluten free blog. I did some experimenting beforehand and found I had not troubles whatsoever making the transition to gluten free baking, so I wasn’t terribly worried about the  cupcakes. I had a DIY stand in mind and the two bottom layers were going to be cupcakes; the top our wedding cake to save for our first anniversary. 

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Husband is not terribly fond of chocolate cake. Chocolate is the easiest to make delicious but he will always choose vanilla first. I was set to do vegan vanilla – which is always a bit touchy, but then gluten free life got in the way. I think vegan vanilla cupcakes are too heavy and have yet to find something I’m satisfied with. Other people are delighted; my palate is too sharp for me to often think something is perfect.  Vanilla was out.

I prefer desserts with fruit and fruit went perfectly with the picnic motif. I thought green and pink would be a great match for the stand I’d made, so green tea it was. Raspberry is a wonderful complementary flavour, raspberry buttercream. I did a test run.

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Officiant and husband thought it was delicious. I was not impressed. After a few days, I noticed husband had not eaten another piece, which means it couldn’t have been that delicious. Green tea was out. One more shot, I did banana-cinnamon to go with maple buttercream. Nah, banana was too boring and the texture was too much like quick bread. Cupcakes should be light and airy.

There was no money or time left for test runs. Also how much cake can two people eat?! Bleh, still sick of cake. Chocolate. Back to chocolate. It’s the easiest flavour to knock people’s socks off with without having to fuss over the details of how it gets made. To ensure my comfort, I decided to go with a very rich vanilla bean buttercream because high-quality vanilla is so very decadent.

I’ve baked a million cupcakes in my life. Never have any trouble. My home kitchen is really tiny, so I did all the wedding prep in my old apartment, where my friend still happen to live. I hauled all my things over and got to work, with my clipboard and endless to-do list(s). When I made the first batch, I was befuddled by the thick and dark batter. I was stressed and already exhausted, so I chalked it up to the gluten free flour mix being different. Baked them. They were hard and gross. I forgot the sugar. F Grade. NO CAKE. Owing to my stress, the heat and my emotions running high from forgetting the sugar, so I thought I’d try to save the rest of the batter by adding the sugar after. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was never going to work. D Grade. NO CAKE.

I did up another batch. Too thick but at least I remembered the sugar this time. C Grade. NO CAKE; NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Changed the recipe, to one with cold coffee and more cocoa. Coffee wasn’t cold enough. B Grade.  NO DAMN CAKE. Got the coffee cold enough. Comparatively A Grade, but I still didn’t really like them. For whatever reason, I also forgot to make the top layer cake, even though it was on my to-do list. Opppppssssss. I put it off and added it to another day. I also kept changing my mind about the design of the frosting because I really don’t care for the standard look of cupcakes. NO CAKE; I CAN’T DECIDE. I settled on a rose design.  NO CAKE; I DON’T HAVE TIME TO PRACTICE. Sent three people out into the great city of Montreal looking for the right tip and a bigger piping bag than the one I had. A couple of incorrect tips (and no pipping bag because the person at the store swore they didn’t sell them there) came back. I decided to use what I already had. NO CAKE THEN. Another trip to the same store turned up a piping bag that fit the new tips. Maybe cake? I don’t know when I’ll have time to frost these cupcakes. NO CAKE; NO TIME.

Flash forward to a night before the wedding – I left a mix for my then fiance to just add the liquid ingredients to and then bake. Except. I. Forgot. The. Sugar. We scraped the top layer being a cake idea (and kept the messed up top layer for our first anniversary) and decided to go with cupcakes on all the layers. As I was frosting the cupcakes, covered in buttercream, giddy from all the sugar I’d eaten from testing it, I kept changing my mind half way through. There ended up being 3 layers of frosting on each cupcake because of my indecision. NO CAKE; TOO MUCH FROSTING.

The morning of the wedding, in the car, the cupcake stand broke in someone’s hands. So, there was no stand. NO STAND; NO CAKE. Really, I kept wanting to drop the cake from the menu and everything conspired to make that possible for me. NO CAKE FOR ANYONE. Nah, there was cake and people liked it or whatever. I didn’t want any flowers, but someone was kind enough to give me a lovely bouquet before the ceremony and they were the absolute perfect addition to our make-shift cupcake stand (on a bbq).

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