Vegetarian Donairs / Vegan Donair Meat

Last May, I started dabbling in the creation of vegetarian meat substitutes – you may remember the entry on Boneless, Meatless Ribs, or the Vegetarian Chorizo Burger with Grilled Poblano and Cilantro Pesto.

Well, I was working on Donairs for More Than Poutine this week, and I was feeling a bit guilty that my husband wouldn’t get to try them. He’s never had a Donair, so that wasn’t helping things – he’s ALL about trying new foods.

So, as my own loaf of tasty tasty donair meat was almost ready to go in the oven, I decided I’d play around with my seitan recipe, and come up with a vegan donair meat for him. It was done completely as a surprise for him, he had no idea what I was up to. Frankly, I didn’t want to disappoint him if it didn’t turn out.

Well, I guess I was overly cautious, because it turned out amazing. I was kind of shocked at how much it looked, smelled, and felt like the real thing. I was actually able to taste a bite (I’m gluttening for the next week or so), and… damn. I could absolutely be tricked by it in a sandwich, had I not made the thing. Completely bizarre!

Anyway, he LOVED his first Donair ever, and joked that it should be called a “DON’Tair”, along the lines of food names being changed a bit to denote their vegetarian status. We also used red pepper instead of tomato, as he hates tomatoes.

While the Donair “meat” here is vegan, the sandwich itself is vegetarian. As he doesn’t have to be dairy free, I just haven’t played with the alternatives enough to have the first clue on how to make vegan donair sauce.

Excuse the crappy cell phone photo! I’m still shocked how proper it looks!

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

For MOST recipes that aren’t inherently gluten-free, high quality GF versions will be included.

Ravings of a Canadian Expat: Christmas Oranges

I was going to start this entry out with something like “This time of year, the topics of discussion in groups of Canadians living away tends to turn to food…”… but let’s be real, at least 80% of what we talk about in Canadian groups is food.

Foods we miss, foods we’re now cooking because we miss the source material, how COMPLETELY inferior American chocolate is, griping about how corn syrup is in everything here and makes stuff – soda, certain candies, etc – taste weird, etc. I don’t remember us being particularly food obsessed when I still lived at home, but man… take a Canadian out of Canada, and food is the great bonding experience.

Recently, I noticed that “Christmas Oranges” don’t really seem to be a THING in Minneapolis. Like, you can buy Cuties or Halos, but there doesn’t seem to be a culture of … well, them being particularly “holiday”.

When I was a kid, we’d get one in the toe of our Christmas stocking, and it usually ended up being my favourite part. I LOVED them!

As I grew a bit older, holiday season meant buying crates of Mandarin oranges. They were the same oranges I’d have as a kid – sold in boxes, imported from either China or Japan, and individually wrapped in green paper. There was always at least one completely moldy one in the bottom, but the rest were *gold*.

I would buy several 5lb cases at a time. At least one would end up consumed within a day or two – I’d crash on the couch with a book, and snarf ungodly amounts of oranges. I’d buy more than one case, as it was usually insanely cold (I’m from Winnipeg), and I liked to have enough to last me a week or so.

… December is the month where I am least likely to come down with scurvy… By a longshot! In addition to snarfing oranges by the case, I also enjoy to make things from them, such as:

Candied Orange Peels

Cuties Mead

Cranberry-Cuties “Christmas” Wine

Cuties Marmalade

I even juiced and zested a bunch of them to make a Cuties mousse last New Years.. Oh, it was amazing.

Anyway, I digress.

This past week, I decided that I NEED THOSE ORANGES. Cuties and Halos just don’t cut it, I wanted a bit of *home*.

My first stop was a group for local food bloggers. I explained what I was looking for, and a few people weighed in with suggestions.

I should mention that part of the problem with looking for oranges like I knew back home, is that when it comes to this sort of thing, oranges suffer from the same sort of thing that Sweet potatoes / yams do. Different products are sold as the same thing, the terms are used interchangeably, and people have wildly different ideas of what is meant when you say “yam” – and, in this case, “Mandarin orange”.

One blogger commented to say that it sounded like I was describing Satsuma oranges, and that she knew they sell them at a local coop. She then mentioned that they’re more abundant in January (not the case, back home!) – so I had to make sure that she wasn’t thinking SUMO oranges (another addiction of mine). She wasn’t, so I called The Wedge coop, and grilled their produce guy.

HE agreed that I was talking about Satsumas, but then referred to them as being “more tart”. What a let down – I never would have described Christmas oranges as being tart!

I posted a quick note about my mission to a couple expat groups, and asked for info on what they remember of the oranges back home.

I got in my truck and headed over there anyway, because when you need a mess of oranges, you NEED a mess of oranges. I was surprised to see that they had several types of oranges that looked good… so I bought a few of each. I bought a whole bag of Satsumas – I know myself, and if they were even close… a bag wouldn’t be enough!

As all of this was going down, the threads were blowing up – Us Canadians are VERY passionate about our Christmas oranges, as it turns out!

As it also turns out, the whole “oranges going by multiple names” thing got further complicated by regional differences in what constitutes a “Christmas Orange”.

People from everywhere except Atlantic Canada agreed – sold in boxes, with almost everyone specifically referencing the green tissue paper. MOST people agreed that they were imported from China and Japan, though a few pockets of Canadians apparently got theirs from Morocco! I’m 90% sure I’ve never seen an orange from Morocco, so I found this fascinating. We all knew them as “mandarins”.

On the East Coast, “Christmas Oranges” are sold in smaller, wooden crates, usually with a red plastic mesh holding them in. There is no green tissue paper, and they are known as “Clementines” – not Mandarins. From my time in Newfoundland, I was familiar with them. They were definitely different from what I knew back home: A bit harder to peel, not as juicy, smaller, and rounder. Still tasty, though!

Anyway, back to the mission.

I noticed that all of the oranges at The Wedge were from either California or Florida, and I remembered that basically all of the oranges I’d seen anywhere in Minneapolis tended to be the same. I guess there isn’t a big market for imported oranges here?

I decided to follow up on another suggestion, and headed to United Noodle – a large Asian grocery store. They would for SURE have Japanese or Chinese oranges, right?

Nope. Neither did Sun Foods, another large Asian grocery.

What they did both carry, however, were Halos. Halos are fine – and they’re actually pretty close to the Atlantic Canadian idea of Christmas oranges, packaging aside – but I really wanted my Mandarins!

So, I ended up with 6 different types of oranges (as well as “Limequats”, which had absolutely nothing to do with anything, but fascinated me nonetheless!), and wanted to do a comparison. Aside from the Halos and the last “Mandarins”, all of the oranges – and Limequats – were purchased at Wedge Coop.

Of course – if it hasn’t been obvious from this blog post so far – take my findings with a grain of salt. Due to the nature of naming conventions, there’s a good chance you could buy something that is called the same as one of these, and have it be something completely different. For that reason, I am including as much identifying information as possible!

Table below is pictured in order, left to right

Photo Sold As Details
Kishu Mandarin Tiny – about 1.5-2″ in diameter! Very easy to peel, loose skin, very little pith – which rubs off easily. Good balance of sweet and tart, leaning slightly towards the tart. Fairly juicy, seedless. Expensive, but fun. (They were obviously not Christmas oranges, but I couldn’t resist!)
Halos Halo is a brand name, not an actual variety. They’re very similar to Cuties, which we tend to prefer but haven’t seen in a while. Like Cuties, the variety of orange depends on the time of year. According to the Halo’s site (here), these were Clementines. Makes sense, given how similar they are to the Atlantic Canadian “Christmas Orange” – also sold as Clementines. These were not as easy to peel as I was looking for – skin comes off in small chunks. Also slightly more tart, and had no seeds. Readily available – it was all they carried in the Asian markets! Clementines also tend to be more spherical than what I was looking for.
Sunburst Tangerine This Florida orange was very smooth and shiny – a stark contrast to the rough, dimply skin of most of the other varieties. It was VERY difficult to peel by hand – probably better to slice. Thin, hard skin, with pith that is very attached to the segments. Has seeds, tastes like a pretty basic orange (not “Christmas” orange).
Algerian Mandarin These are called “Algerian”, but were grown in California! They were purchased at The Wedge, and is one of two oranges that were labelled as being Mandarins (not including Halos, which refer to their oranges as Mandarins on their site). This had a medium-thick skin that was very easy to peel, while not actually being loose/separated from the orange inside. It had a fair amount of sticky pith – harder to remove than some varieties. Tastes right, but the sticky pith is annoying. No seeds.
California Satsuma This was the “ugly” one of the lot – irregular, kind of squat shape, with very dimply, loose skin… AND IT WAS PERFECT. Very easy to peel, medium thick skin, only a small amount of pith that detaches from the segments very easily. Absolutely my favourite, and the closest to what I remember “Christmas”oranges being. Very plump and juicy segments, and among the sweetest of those tested. No seeds.
Mandarin After paying about $4/lb for the Satsumas, I saw 3lb bags of these “Mandarins” at Hy-Vee… and they looked very much like the Satsumas, just slightly larger. These were also very easy to peel – but had much more pith. Also has the thickest skin of all. The flesh isn’t has juicy as any of the other varieties, and has a gigantic grain to it. Has seeds.

So, as you can see… not only can the names be confusing (“Mandarin” was used for three wildly different oranges, none of which was what was referred to as “Mandarin” back home… which is “Satsuma” here!), but appearances can be deceiving, also: The Satsuma and second type of “Mandarin” looked VERY similar!

I’d asked this on my Facebook page, may as well as here too – the replies were FASCINATING (here):

1. Were “Christmas oranges” a thing where you grew up, and/or where you are now?

2. If so, what exactly does that mean to you? What was the actual orange called, what did it look like, was it easy to peel or not, how was it sold, where were they grown, etc. As much detail as possible, please!

3. Where was/is this (state/province, etc)

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Savoury Alligator Pie Recipe

A few weeks ago, my friend Charlotte posted something to the effect of “When I say ‘Alligator Pie’, you say what?” as a Facebook status. To me, the answer was obvious – “If I don’t get some, I think I’m going to die!”.

She ended up getting some weird responses, none seeming to know what she was talking about. I was kind of perplexed – Alligator Pie was SUCH a popular poem / book growing up, how could people not know what she – a fellow Canadian – was talking about? I had assumed the book to be British, on account of the style of artwork I remembered from it … and if it had been crazy popular back home, surely her American friends had heard of it, right?

Well, I guess I should have realized it from the hockey references… but as it turns out, the book is Canadian. I guess that explains the confusion! ANYWAY.

This time of year, I end up obsessed with Alligator meat. It finally cooled down enough for me to attend the Minnesota Renaissance Festival a couple weeks ago, and – in my mind – the alligator sausage there is the absolute best part of fest. (Aside from all my friends that work there, I mean!). Shortly after our day at fest, I happened across some frozen alligator meat in the grocery store, so I picked it up… thinking I’d make some sausage at home.

Well, having “Alligator Pie” stuck in my head, I ended up deciding that I should make some. I knew “Alligator Pie” existed in a few different incarnations as a dessert… some as a green coloured cream pie, others more like a pecan pie, with the nutty surface being representative of alligator skin. However, I had never heard of an ACTUAL alligator pie. As one of the most literal people ever (Seriously, Drax is my spirit animal)… it had to happen.

Because there wasn’t really something pre-existing, I could pretty much do whatever I want! I decided to start with a proper cajun trinity – onion, celery, and green peppers – as a nod to gator meat as a very southern thing. (Says the Canadian, making a pie about a beloeved Canadian poem!). I flavoured it with some of the same seasonings I could taste in the alligator sausage that I loved so much… but only as an accent. I didn’t want it to be a sausage pie, after all. I wanted it to be like the savoury pies I’d grown up with – some meat, some vegetables, a little gravy, and a ton of flavour.

This ended up a huge hit with both my husband and a couple other friends that happened to pop by the night I made it… including The Pink Dalek, who almost didn’t share with her mom! The meat was tender and juicy, and the flavours all worked very well together.

This recipe will work well with your favourite pie crust recipe, or even with store bought crust. Looking for a tasty gluten-free pie crust (the filling is inherently gf!)? You should buy a copy of my book, Beyond Flour – pie crust is only one of the many “as good or better than the gluteny original!” recipes in there.


Alligator Pie

2 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 lb alligator meat, cut into small pieces
1 lb pork loin, cut into small pieces
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 dried oregano
Pinch dried thyme
pinch cayenne powder
1/2 cup chicken broth or dry white wine
2 tsp corn starch
Salt and pepper

1 double crust recipe of pie dough, prepared (or store bought)

1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 425 F

In a large pan, melt butter. Add onion, peppers, and celery, cook until veggies start to soften. Add garlic, meats, and seasonings, continue cooking until meat is browned. For a finer texture filling (as pictured), I transferred the mixture to my food processor and blitzed it a few times, but this is optional.

Whisk together broth and corn starch until smooth. Add to pan, bring to a boil. Allow to cook until liquid becomes quite thick. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide dough into 2 parts – one slightly bigger than the other. Roll the bigger section out , use it to line a deep-dish pie pan* – carefully working it into the corners. Fill pie pan with alligator filling, spreading it into the bottom edge and mounding it in the center.

Roll out the second part of dough, cover the pie filling. Crimp the edges as desired, poke a couple of slits in the top. If desired, roll any extra dough very thin, cut into shapes, and apply to the crust for decoration. Whisk together egg and water, brush over the entire top of pie.

Whisk the egg together with water, use a pastry brush to coat the entire crust with a thin wash of this glaze. Cut thin strips of aluminum foil, gently wrap over the outside edge of the crust to protect it from burning.

Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, and continue baking for another 10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Serve hot!

* I couldn’t find my deep dish pie pan when actually making the pie, so I used a quiche pan – works just as well!

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Interested in Gluten-free cooking and baking? You’ll LOVE Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

How many times have you come across a gluten-free recipe claiming to be “just as good as the normal version!”, only to wind up with weird textures, aftertastes, etc? Most gluten-free recipes are developed by taking a “normal” recipe, and swapping in a simulated “all purpose” gluten-free flour… whether store bought, or a homemade version. “Beyond Flour” takes a different approach: developing the recipe from scratch. Rather than swapping out the flour for an “all purpose” mix, I use various alternative flours as individual ingredients – skillfully blending flavours, textures, and other properties unique to each flour. Supporting ingredients and different techniques are also utilized to achieve the perfect end goal … not just a “reasonable facsimile”. Order your copy here.

Looking for even MORE fantastic gluten-free recipes? Beyond Flour now has a sequel: Beyond Flour 2: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking!

Imagine gluten-free foods that are as good – or better! – than their traditional, gluten-filled counterparts. Imagine no longer settling for foods with bizarre after-tastes, gummy consistency, and/or cardboard texture. Imagine graham crackers that taste just like the real thing. Crisp, flaky crackers…without the sandy texture. Hybrid tortillas that: look and act like flour tortillas, with the taste of fresh roasted corn! Imagine chewy, delicious cookies that *everyone* will want to eat! Imagine BAGELS. If you’ve cooked from “Beyond Flour”, you already know that these fantasies can be reality – it’s all in the development of the recipes. Order your copy here.