Edible Wild: Trout Lily

It’s already mid-May here in Southern Ontario and the trees are only just beginning to bud.  Without the canopy of leaves overhead there is plenty of light reaching the forest floor.  Just as the early bird gets the worm, there are a few opportunistic plants taking advantage of this early light by being the first to arrive.  These plants pop up and flower very early in the season and by the time the leaves appear in the trees over head, they are gone.  Of course I am generally only concerned with the ones that I can eat.

My favorite early spring time edible has to be the Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum.  These can be found in the moist soils of deciduous forests where plenty of light reaches the forest floor in the early spring. This hill along a local trail was covered in Trout Lily and receiving plenty of afternoon sun:



In my area around Toronto, the Trout Lily seems perfect for picking around the end of the first week of May, but this will of course vary with the weather.  Personally, my foraging of this plant is generally limited to eating a few out of hand when I’m hiking.  The leaves are soft, moist, have a very nice delicate and somewhat sweet flavour.   They are also easy to identify as there isn’t much else around.

The smooth, toothless leaves are light green, mottled with some dark green, almost brown areas, when they are perfect to pick.  As they mature they become a solid light green and will begin to lose flavour.


Their bell-like yellow flowers also help make them easy to identify.

It is generally recommended that you cook the leaves and many authors warn of their emetic effects, that is, they could cause you to vomit.  I have never eaten enough of them to find out if that is true.  You can also go a step further and dig up its roots to find a very small bulb-like corm.  These should be boiled for 20 or more minutes and served with butter.  The corms are relatively deep in the soil for a plant of this size and are delicate enough that you can’t just partially dig and pull or you will lose them.  You will have to dig deep enough to loosen the corm if you want to be putting a few in your dinner pot.

Here are two great resources to bring on your hikes to help you with plant identification:
•    Forest Plants of Central Ontario; Lone Pine Publishing
•    Peterson Field Guides – Edible Wild Plants, Eastern/Central North America

As with any wild plant:
•    harvest/consume only those that you can identify positively
•    when in doubt ask an expert in the area
•    Learn to distinguish from any similar poisonous plant (if applicable)
•    Sample sparingly at first to gauge individual sensitivities/allergies
•    Understand which parts of which plants may be consumed as many edible plants have toxic parts/structures
•    Harvest only when/where abundant
•    Do not harvest plants that are endangered or in need of protection

Happy Trails!

Flax buns (that happen to be Low carb and gluten-free)

Intrigued by the writings of Peter Attia on well-formulated ketogenic diets for cycling performance, not to mention the collective works of Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek, I decided it was time at last to give low carb a try.

A few days into a low carb experiment I was browsing the cavemanketo website for some dinner ideas and came across this incredible flax bun recipe.  I want to emphasize that you do NOT need to be on a gluten-free or ketogenic diet to thoroughly enjoy these flax buns!  Here’s how they looked as a breakfast sandwich:

Low carb flax bun breakfast sandwich

Low carb flax bun breakfast sandwich

They turned out great, but I wanted to modify the recipe a bit.  After several attempts, here’s my final recipe:


  • ¾ cup Flax Meal
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 1.5 tsp Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Salt
  • ½ Cup Water
  • 2 Tbsp melted Coconut Oil or Butter
  • 2 Large Eggs


  1. Combine dry ingredients, then add eggs/oil/water and mix
  2. Portion onto pan, using 4” baking ring to form perfect circles
  3. Bake for 18 minutes at 350 degrees
  4. Let cool on wire rack

Makes 8, or enough for 4 sandwiches/burgers.

Portion onto your pan and press into 4" cooking ring

Portion onto your pan and press into 4″ cooking ring for a consistent shape

Some added coconut flour holds some more moisture into the buns and allows them to hold their form better given that I don’t have those muffin top pans that cavemanketo uses.

Prep time is minimal.  With a bit of practice you should have everything ready by the time your oven has preheated.  I baked mine for about 18min, but you can throw the broiler on towards the end if you want yours to brown a bit more than those shown above.

Need to get rid of some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving?  Flax bun turkey burgers of course!

Turkey burgers

Turkey burgers

Here’s the 3rd batch as a burger, slightly more toasted this time:

Flax bun burgers!

Flax bun burgers!

They are gluten-free of course, and if you’re looking for a low carb recipe these will fit that bill as well.  Here are the approximate numbers for 1 serving (2 halves), if you’re into that:

Fat    19.3g
Protein      9g
Net Carbs     1.7g


Snacks: Roasted Chestnuts

What should you eat when you’re hungry, ‘on the go’ and it’s still hours until dinner?  There are a ton of bad options out there calling to you.  How about something that isn’t full of sugar and that has some protein and fat in it?  You don’t even need to be following some version of a paleo diet to appreciate this choice.  This week some roasted chestnuts answered my hunger’s calling.


The bag I picked up contained two 100g packs of roasted chestnuts.  As you might guess from the packaging, I picked these up from an Asian grocer.  They were around $3.  Since these are still in the shell, and you have to peel them first, they will slow down your snacking, even if only slightly.






Gluten-free Chocolate chip cookies

Gluten-free choc chip cookies

Gluten-free choc chip cookies

No single grain bakes with quite the same characteristics as wheat.  So, for gluten-free baking, folks have gotten creative, blended various flours and gums to get the characteristics they are looking for.  Which flour mixture should I go with, I wondered?  Rice flour and potato starch?  Sorghum and rice and tapioca?  So I decided to keep it simple and picked up a gf-flour that’s already blended.  I chose Bob’s Red Mill ‘All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour’ since I’ve enjoyed their products before.  Their flour is a blend of Garbanzo bean flour (chick pea), potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour and fava bean flour.  Their packaging provides instructions for the quantity of xanthan gum to be used per cup of flour, depending on the item you’re baking.  For cookies, it’s just 1/4 tsp / cup.

I should note that Bulk Barn has a gluten-free baking flour with the same ingredients list as Bob’s Red Mill.  I have put the two together and they are identical in colour.  Bob’s is $5.99 for a 623g pack, or $9.61/kg.  Bulk Barn’s is $9.15/kg.  I’ve used them both with good results.  This price difference may not warrant a trip to the Bulk Barn, but if you’re heading there anyway, it is a bit cheaper, for what appears to be an identical product.

I wanted my cookies dairy-free as well so I’ve adapted my recipe from the Land O Lakes recipe, where I’ve replaced the butter with coconut oil and, while I was at it, reduced the sugar, removed the vanilla and added a bit of molasses and some cinnamon – because that’s the way I like them.

Prep time: 15min
Cooking time: 10-14min


2 1/4 cups gluten-free baking Flour Mix
½ tsp xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup coconut oil or butter (softened)
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp molasses
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup semi-sweet dark mini-chocolate chips (the dough doesn’t hold the larger choc chunks well and 1/2 of them end up at the bottom of the mixer.)


Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Combine flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and cinnamon in medium bowl. Set aside.  Bring eggs to room temperature.

Combine soft, but not melted, coconut oil (or butter) and brown sugar in bowl. Mix at medium speed until creamy, scraping bowl often. Add eggs and molasses. Continue mixing until well blended. Slowly add flour mixture, mixing at low speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto cookie sheets, flatten slightly by hand.

Bake 10-14 minutes or until light golden brown. Let stand 1-2 minutes on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack and eat them all before your wife gets home.

gf_choc_chip_cookies (3)

Gluten-free Pancake Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday preceeds the 1st day of Lent.  A longstanding tradition is to have pancakes as a meal.  Growing up we always had them for dinner on Shrove Tuesday.  For those not participation in Lent it is still a great excuse to eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.  So I skipped breakfast and had my pancakes for lunch today with a huge onion and spinach omelette.


Here’s a whole grain gluten-free pancake recipe if you’re interested in trying something new.  To start things off you’ll need:

1/2 cup quinoa (red quinoa adds some nice colour)
3/4 cup short grain brown rice
Soak the grains overnight with enough water to cover and add 1tbsp lemon juice.

In the morning, rinse the grains in a colander and place in a blender.

quinoa and brown rice

quinoa and brown rice

Add 1/2 can of coconut milk and blend until smooth (a few tbsp of water may be needed to get the blender going, depending on how thoroughly you strained the grains).
Mix in:
1 egg
1Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1/4tsp sea salt
2Tbsp shredded coconut or brown rice flour or tapioca flour  ( optional )

Finally, briefly stir 1tsp baking soda into vortex.

Cook on medium heat with a small amount of oil in the pan and enjoy.  Makes a dozen 3.5″ pancakes.


Soup’s on!

“A good soup will resurrect the dead” — ancient proverb

Nothing beats a nice hot bowl of soup on a cold day, especially when you’ve made it yourself and don’t have to worry about MSG, BPA or excess of salt.  Once you get into the habit of making soup, the bones you used to throw away become one of your favorite ingredients.

For this soup I chose beef neck bones.  The many joints provide lots of gelatin and other nutrients for the stock.  Just a few of the nutrients leached from the bones and joints will include Calcium, Magnesium, trace minerals and items such as chondroitin and glucosamine (anyone taking these for arthritis?).  For more information about the health benefits of a proper soup stock I always refer to the article ‘Broth is Beautiful‘, by Sally Fallon at the Weston A Price Foundation.

Ingredients: Beef Soup
4 pounds meaty neck bones
8 quartz cold filtered water
2-3 Tbsp vinegar
3 onions, sliced
6 carrots, coarsely chopped
6 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
5 slices ginger
Sea salt, added to taste upon completion

Getting Started:  I began by blanching the neck bones.  This will result in a clearer stock with less skimming later (if you want a richer colour and flavour your can quickly oven roast the bones).  I simmered the bones on low heat overnight with a few tablespoons of vinegar for about 12 hours.  The vinegar is said to help pull even more minerals from the bones.  With a slotted spoon I then removed the bones, but left the meat, and began to reduce the stock.  I sliced and browned 3 onions and added them to the stock with 6 chopped carrots, 6 chopped celery stocks and a few slices of ginger.  By the time the carrots had softened the stock had reduced to a rich flavour.

I will generally cool to room temperature before refrigerating.  Once chilled the congealed fat can be easily removed.  Reheat portions and serve.  This will make about 12 large servings.  Enjoy!

Part 3/3: Today’s ride – The Bakery

Sometimes you just need an excuse to go for a ride.  This wasn’t going to be a long ride, or a hard ride, just a little tour of town as I head for Bunner’s Bakery.  Bunner’s is a gluten-free (and vegan) bakery located on Dundas St West in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto.  I knew they had plenty of choice offerings, but I had just one thing in mind, their gluten-free cinnamon bun!

I arrived soon after they’d opened and the cinnamon buns were still warm.  Sweet, sticky and mouth watering just like they’d promised.  It did not disappoint.

Mmmmmm still warm 🙂

At just over $5 this certainly isn’t going to be a regular treat, but it’s nice to know that you can still indulge once and a while even while going gluten-free.

So there you go, another great excuse to go for a bike ride.

Jell-o for adults

I’ve been looking for some gluten-free desserts lately and I got to thinking about Jell-o.  It was always a childhood favorite.  Looking back I think the real attraction was that it was the only food you were allowed, even encouraged, to play with, or maybe it was just the neon colours and all of the sugar.  Over the last few years I’ve been learning of the many health benefits from the gelatin contained in Jell-o so I was excited to see it on sale last week for just $0.59 a box.  Then I read the package on the strawberry flavoured Jell-o:

Ingredients: Sugar, gelatin, adipic acid, sodium phosphate, sodium citrate, artificial flavour, fumaric acid, colour (E010B).

Okay, to be fair, you could do a lot worse when selecting a dessert but there is a lot of sugar and have you seen how “artificial flavour” is broken down?  Listing all of the chemicals involved would fill the side of the box.  I believe I first saw the break down in the book ‘Fast Food Nation’ and it looked a little something like this for the artificial flavour in a strawberry milkshake from a popular fast food restaurant:

“Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenyglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerbate, heliotropin, hydroxyphrenyl-2butanine (10% solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenythyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, y-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.”

I really don’t want to consume all of those chemicals even if they are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) by those that produce them.  So my ‘jello for adults’ is not made with vodka or shaped into something that you have to hide from your kids ’cause they “won’t understand until they are older”, it is simply a jell-o dessert with less sugar and less additives, a recipe that puts you in control of its contents, of how potent the flavour may be, of how sweet it is, a slightly more natural version and perhaps one you will appreciate if you are trying to avoid some chemical exposure while minimizing your sugar intake.

Okay fine I still bought eight boxes of the $0.59 J-ello, but now I’m moving on…

You’re going to need some gelatin (vegans can find vegan sources, I went with Knox gelatin), some juice and some water.  I chose Kedem’s Concord grape juice because it seems to be the most pure.  Just two ingredients, Concord grape juice and a preservative (if you can find a better one, use it).

Directions: Bring 2 cups of grape juice to a boil, stir in 3 packs of Knox gelatin until dissolved.  Remove from heat, stir in 1 cup cold water (or cold juice if you want a more concentrated flavour), carefully pour into the serving container(s) of your choice and chill until it sets.  This could take a couple of hours to set completely in your refrigerator.  You can use any juice that you like just don’t use fresh pineapple or the gelatin won’t set.

Want to know about the health benefits of gelatin?  Or how it can contribute to healthy joints, skin, bones, digestive track and a healthy immune system?  I was going to write about it here but I would just have to quote the heck out of my favorite article on the subject, so instead I’ll encourage you to go straight to the source, the article “Why broth is beautiful” from the Weston A Price Foundation:


Now go ahead – play with your food and feel like a kid again (while appealing to your adult sensibilities).  Enjoy!

DIY Energy Bars

I can remember many a cool fall ride in the mid to late 90s, coming over a rise on a beautiful country road, as I neared the half way mark of a 100+km ride, the birds overhead flying south for the winter, the sun low in the late afternoon sky, as I tried in vain to gnaw my way through a cold Powerbar that had been in my jersey pocket.   They were hard as a rock and about as palatable.  The only thing worse than their texture was the effort required to open their space-age mylar packaging, with gloves on, as you rode!   Powerbar was the go-to brand though.  They sponsored everything on two wheels and they were about all you could find at the bike shop, I even acquired a taste for them after a while.  Seriously!  I’m not sure exactly when Clif bars came out, but I was quick to convert.  They offered chewy ‘chocolate chip’, ‘oatmeal raisin walnut’ and ‘carrot cake’, among others!   They were like cookies that you could believe were good for you.  As the years, and the miles, passed, my nutritional perspective began to change and I sought to get away from the carb dominant bars and soy protein isolates.   By this time, around 2005, I wasn’t riding much, except to get to work, but I was looking for a convenient bar to fuel the longer sessions in my outrigger canoe that tended to take me from the TSCC in Toronto to Port Credit and back (about 34km depending on the line taken), or from the TSCC to Ashbridges Bay (also about 35km), or for a quick post workout recovery snack after my favorite loop around the Toronto Islands.  Around this time MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) products were becoming better known amongst endurance athletes, and while I wasn’t about to drink MCT oil from the bottle, I did look for lower carb bars that were higher in fats, especially these medium chain fats from coconut oil.  My favorite became the Cocochia Bar by Living Fuel.  It happens to be dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free so it’s ideal for those looking to remove these common allergens from their diets too.  The flavour is mild, and it provides sustained energy, just like the wrapper claims!  In fact I liked them so much I became one of their Trusted Advisors, or distributors, a few years ago.   The only problem, other than all of the chia seeds that will be stuck in your teeth and the fact that no one will tell you, would be the price, about $35 +tax for 12, or about $3.25 per bar.  The price is actually a bargain given the quality of the mostly organic ingredients, but it does add up after a while.  Still a favorite I tend to pack one in my jersey occasionally now that I’m back to cycling regularly  and covering longer distances again.  Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more:  http://www.livingfuel.ca/en/products/Original_CocoChia_Bar/index.html

But this isn’t about Cocochia bars, this is about my bar, or your bar, this is about making your own and packing it to go!

I was inspired about a month ago have a go at making my own bar so I looked for recipes online.  Many of them used oats as their base.  I have been on a gluten-free diet since March, and while oats are a gluten-free grain, they are pretty much all contaminated with other cereal grains, and thus gluten, during shipping, processing and packaging, so I decided to go with toasted Buckwheat instead, and hoped for less contamination.   Yes, despite having wheat in the name Buckwheat is one of the few gluten-free grains.  It has a rather strong flavour though, compared to oats, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out in a bar, but I figured if I mixed in enough dark chocolate chips it would all even out 🙂

So with some online recipes in mind to serve as a guideline I took a trip to the Bulk Barn at Yonge and Carlton and picked up a pile of things that I hoped would go well in a bar;  Toasted Buckwheat (often labeled Kasha), raisins, shredded coconut, walnuts, semi-sweet dark chocolate chips etc and some brown-rice syrup to help bind it all together.  The most expensive ingredient would be the walnuts, but even then, the price per bar comes in under $2 and for that price I know what’s in it, and I get exactly what I want.  Actually I would prefer to use almonds instead of walnuts but my partner may be allergic, so I made the change in case she’d like a sample.  Baked ahead of time, these chewy, nutritious walnut-buckwheat bars are the perfect companion for long rides or your favorite canoe route. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give them a try, or make a few substitutions and come up with your own:

Chocolate-Walnut-Buckwheat Energy Bars (okay I may need to work on the name)

Homemade energy bars

1 1/2 cups Toasted buckwheat (kasha)

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar (to help balance the bitterness of the cocoa powder)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In food processor, or coffee grinder, grind all or most of the walnuts into a coarse flour.

In large bowl thoroughly mix together all dry ingredients, add oil and brown rice syrup and mix thoroughly.

Pat mixture evenly into a parchment-lined cookie sheet until it reaches desired thickness. Bake about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to cutting board to cool.

While still warm, shape edges if necessary.

Once cool cut into rows, 2×5.  Makes 10 bars (obviously).

Enjoy and let me know how yours’ turn out!