Tiramisu for the Dairy-Free Queen

Oh, dear readers– I love me some Universal Magic! Remember when I first came across Leanne Vogel and her killer website? (If you’re wracking your brain and searching for clues, you might also remember this first encounter as The Guilty Peanut Butter Incident, in which I felt intimidated by Leanne’s ninja-like wizardry in her allergy-friendly kitchen. Yes! I just called Leanne both a ninja and a wizard. No wonder I got suckered into the “I’m Not Worthy!” trap. Never fear, though. I’ve since recovered and reclaimed my cool factor. I’m OK, she’s OK, and it’s all good. Promise!)


It’s been an honor and an absolute thrill to work with Leanne this winter, helping her share The Most Amazing Christmas Cookbook Ever with as vast a swath of the internet as we can manage. (I feel like the Christopher Columbus of the Internet lately– exploring uncharted waters, but now with less scurvy!) Who knew an awkward first website visit would morph into a lasting friendship and an exciting business experience? I feel like I’m in my very own sitcom here, Full House style. Happy endings for all! Thanks, Universe!


Back to the amazing cookbook, though. The e-book is called Christmas Dessert Freedom and features ten holiday classics made tastier, prettier, and more ninja-like than ever before. What’s Leanne’s secret? She’s banished all the dairy, gluten, grains, refined sugars, peanuts, corn, soy, and eggs from the recipes we’ve felt guilty about eating since the Dawn of Time.

Peppermint bark? Check!

Rum balls? They’re in there!

Shortbread cookies? Uh-huh!

Pecan bars? She’s on it!

Leanne has even managed to create a dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free version of tiramisu. I kid you not! (That recipe alone is worth the 10 buck cookbook cost. Seriously.)

Since I love a good challenge even more than I love this cookbook, I decided to attempt the Queen Recipe (tiramisu, obviously) to prove a couple of things:

1. Even a disaster-prone chef (like yours truly, ahem- almond milk mayhem! Cough, cough– sauerkraut carnage!) can create these recipes and have them turn out just fine.

2. You don’t need a mile-long list of alien ingredients to make the recipes in this book– even something even as intimidating-sounding as tiramisu.

3. You don’t even need all of the recommended kitchen appliances to make these recipes turn out right. I, for example, don’t have a stand mixer OR electric beaters. So there!

4. The recipes aren’t some half-assed shadows of the original, guilt-laced confections. They will still impress even the most skeptical of tastebuds.

So! Adventures in Tiramisu Making!

The full list of ingredients for the tiramisu includes cashews (I used almonds instead), non-dairy milk, coconut oil, coconut nectar, vanilla extract, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, coconut milk, coffee, rum (optional but hello! IT’S CHRISTMAS!), cocoa powder, dark chocolate, coconut flour, and maple syrup. (Obviously, if you have an aversion to coconut, this is not the recipe for you. Same goes for people with nut allergies, though the e-book does contain 6 nut-free recipes, FYI.)

Making tiramisu

The assembly line in action!

Anyway. I started off by making a batch of Leanne’s Maple Shortbread cookies (recipe included in the e-book), and then I chilled some ingredients and mentally prepared to slave away in the kitchen all day. Let down alert: No slaving was necessary. The prep work for the recipe was surprisingly easy (even for me, who has a hard time making ice). You blend some of the ingredients together to make a “cashew cream” layer (almond cream layer in my case– I’m wicked allergic to cashews). You mix some of the other ingredients together to make a sinful “coconut cream” layer, and then you stack everything together in a loaf pan with the shortbread cookies and let it chill overnight. Seriously way less work than I was expecting. And the rewards?

Sheer decadence. And deliciousness. And divinity… and other great words that start with ‘d’.


This is Leanne’s photo, not mine.

I was worried because my can of coconut milk rendered a runnier “cream” than you would expect from the word “cream”. Leanne even had to give me a pep talk while my tiramisu was setting in the fridge, which consisted of the ever-encouraging words, “I hate to say it: but it may not turn out” AND the always-rousing phrase, “it may be a lost cause.” Ha. AND EVEN STILL: my batch turned out just fine. Delicious! Guilt-free! Impressive to my neighbors! Sure, it might not win any presentation awards from the judges on the Food Network, but tummies can’t tell the difference if the recipe still tastes delicious, right? My point exactly.

My tiramisu. No Miss America, granted, but hot damn, it's DELICIOUS!

My tiramisu, collapsed on its side. DON’T LAUGH! It’s no Miss America in the looks department, granted, but hot damn, it’s DELICIOUS!


This cookbook is Leanne’s labor of love and her holiday gift to the world. It’s great for people who have special diets or a mile-long list of food sensitivities, and it’s great for the people who love them, too. It truly feels like the “Get Out of Jail Free” card of Christmas– a way to actually partake in the holiday festivities without feeling gross or guilty afterward. Christmas Dessert Freedom for the win!

Cookbook Particulars

  • $10 USD per copy
  • 10 revamped recipes of holiday classics (vegan, paleo, gluten-free, all-around miraculous!)
  • 35 pages, full color PDF
  • Totally effin’ incredible!


As the helper elf to Leanne’s Santa (or something…), I get to share in some holiday abundance for everyone who makes a cookbook purchase through the links in this post. In other words, I’ll get a few bucks if you decide to buy the Christmas Dessert Freedom cookbook based on this review of it. Don’t be fooled by my pathetic-looking tiramisu, either: IT TASTES GREAT. You know I wouldn’t even be involved in this project if it wasn’t totally awesome, let alone pimp it out on this here blog. I promise the cookbook is amazing. I promise you can impress your friends and family by making any/all of the recipes in the book. I promise you can become a Christmas ninja, too.*

*Actual ninja-ness may vary. Also, if you have super grinches for friends, their level of being impressed by your kitchen wizardry might vary, too. Jerks!
Your turn, dear readers: Is guilt a regular part of your typical holiday experience?
What’s your favourite holiday treat?     

Become the Best Worst Friend You Can Be

Classic Wooden Boat Festival– one of the many events that takes place right on our doorstep every summer.

Over the past three Harbour seasons, I have learned a lot about friendship– namely, how difficult it is to maintain even cursory relationships when you’re otherwise occupied drowning in the chaos you call your job. Don’t get me wrong: I value my friendships and wish that I could be a much more stellar and reliable amiga. However, for my own sanity and cognitive well-being, I’ve got to start accepting the fact that– for the most part– I am a flaky, preoccupied, over-stimulated, sleep-deprived, sad and sorry excuse for a compadre.

Let’s not mince our words here, shall we?

Sometimes I err on the side of optimism and believe that I’ll have time to “catch up” with my friends during the off-season. During the summer months, I keep guilty tabs on everyone who will need phoning and make lists of all the neglectful wounds that will need patching up come October, but suddenly it’s April again and I’m still as terrible a friend as I’ve been for the past three years. What gives? In the past month alone, I have unintentionally committed three grievous Friendship Code Violations– I didn’t call my best friend on her birthday, I didn’t RSVP to the same friend’s wedding invitation by the specified deadline (even though I had months to ponder my reply), and I didn’t even phone my youngest sister on her birthday last week. Yep. Optimism be damned: I am a rotten, stinking, no-good friend. 😦

Hey! Wipe that smile off your face, you! What did we just say about being a horrible friend?

Here’s the good news, though:

Rather than beat myself up over my lack of social reciprocity or my severe deficits in normal engagement levels, I’ve decided to use my weaknesses to my advantage and become a Horrible Friend Coach. Yes! I’ve got all the experience and tools you’ll need to have yourself deleted from every former friend’s day timer, address book, birthday calendar, or newfangled iPhone. I’ve even distilled my vast knowledge and years of expertise down into three simple, easy-to-follow steps! If you try my program and don’t experience 100% friend loss, I’ll even refund your money– no questions asked!

Wow! Be a GREAT Bad Friend!

Step 1: Get a job at the Inner Harbour!

Make sure you give yourself super long hours and stupid amounts of work to do. Don’t take any days off unless it is raining goats outside, and even then, use the precious hours away from work to run all the errands you don’t have time to do otherwise (groceries, laundry, banking, cooking, cleaning, sleeping?, etc.). Forget about weekends. Forget about “hanging out”. Forget about attending birthdays, weddings, funerals, baby showers, stag/ettes, or doing anything remotely resembling “fun”. In fact, forget you even know what “fun” is. (That last part will come naturally, don’t worry.)

We were even at work when the sky looked like this, to give you an idea of the Harbour schedule you should keep.

Step 2: Make well-intentioned (but empty) promises and set unrealistic expectations of yourself!

Definitely tell everyone you know that you will call them in November (or get together for tea, or go out for dinner with them– whatever. The details don’t really matter here– the point is to make “plans” with people and to create a false sense of hope.) We’re not just playing with other people’s hearts here, though– no. In order for this program to work effectively, you have to set your standards bar unbelievably high, too. Believe that you will, indeed, follow up with all of these people and attend all of these future engagements. Fill your heart (and theirs) with optimism! You’re a good friend! People like you!

Let’s go see a Super Pod of whales after Harbour season, okay? It’ll be fun!

… Then wait until November. By then, your nerves will be frayed and your eardrums will be begging for silence. You’ll have experienced months of noise– people, buskers, boat engines, float planes, festivals, children, seagulls, and cell phones– so the last thing you will want to do is call anyone, let alone meet anybody in person somewhere public, aka noisy. At this point, you can take your bar of standards down from its lofty perch, clothesline your friends with it, and then take a stab (ha) at impaling yourself with it. The disappointment of letting other people down will be painful, but then again, so was listening to various buskers sing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ 8 million times during the summer. It’s all relative.

Disclaimer: If any of your friends will happily attend a silent retreat with you come winter, The Best Worst Friend program is considered null and void.

Step 3: Move!

Maybe you’ve done a half-decent job of keeping in contact with your friends over the winter months, and maybe you’ve even made good on some of your phone call/tea/dinner promises. If you’re serious about burning bridges and losing friendships, though, the best thing to do is pack up all of your belongings and completely uproot yourself! So what if you just moved in December? It’s April now– move again!

Most of your friends probably have birthdays and wedding anniversaries in April, anyway, so it will be perfect timing for you not to have any phone or internet access. Keep ’em guessing! Did she really not have internet/phone access, or was she just being her regular Bad Friend self by not phoning on my birthday? Who’s to say?

Take it from me: you’ll be so busy packing, unpacking, cleaning, and oh yes, working at the Harbour!– you won’t have much time for frivolous things like “friendships”. A big part of you will feel sad and like you’re missing out on the most important aspect of life, but don’t let it get to you. We’re all good at something in this lifetime, and maybe you’re just an All-Star Horrible Friend. Own it!


Pitiful ed. note: I have been wracked with guilt about my non-availability and my non-awesome friendship skills lately. To my friends in real life: thank you for your understanding and for your continued ability to take my super crazy schedule in stride. To my online friends: thank you for being my friend! (And consider yourselves lucky that you only have to deal with Flaky Online Me, and not Flaky In-Person Me, too. Heh.)     

Lucky Sevens

I’m taking this opportunity to highlight some of my favourite posts, including ones that might have been missed or overlooked by newer readers:

1. Most Beautiful

“Beautiful” isn’t usually a word I would use to describe my own writing, but if I had to choose my most beautiful-ish post, it would probably be Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me: God. A post about love should never be ugly, right?

2. Most Popular

One would think that my Freshly Pressed Post, Crying (and Cursing) Over Spilled Milk— in which I outlined the trials and tribulations of making almond milk for the first time– would be my most popular. Surprisingly, it is not. Rather, an otherwise nondescript post about ugly Christmas sweaters crushes the entire competition. In Search of the World’s Worst Christmas Sweater has nearly 4 times as many hits as any other post on my blog, including my Freshly Pressed post. Most of the search engine terms that lead people to my blog also have to do with ugly and horrific Christmas sweaters. Go figure.

A bit of sparkle from a gigantic Ugly Christmas Sweater I borrowed from a colleague. Unfortunately, it reeked of Bounce sheets and gave both Marty and I allergies. We couldn’t even wear it as a joke. 😦

3. Most Controversial

I have two categories of controversial posts– the first category deals with issues of censorship and the boundaries around what we choose to share online. A Visit from the Overshare Fairy chronicles the fallout of posting a little bit too much information about myself on the internet.

The second category of controversy is controversial only because it contains graphic details about a circumstance which many women face, but few women talk about openly: miscarriage. My This Day In History series– parts One, Two, and Three— address the messy range of emotions that Marty and I faced when we lost a pregnancy back in 2006.

Not me– this is my sis when she was pregnant with our niece, Lily

4. Most Helpful

In case you haven’t noticed, my primary objective on this blog is not necessarily to be helpful. I write mostly to entertain (or be entertained), but one of my posts inadvertently became helpful to others and continues to generate a lot of ‘thank you’ e-mails. Chlorella: Superfood, My Ass! was originally written as a flippant, eff-you homage to the nutritional supplement that renders me paralyzed with projectile vomit. It’s not an especially well-written post by any means, but lots of people have since discovered it and written me privately to say thank you– either for naming the substance that was causing them severe GI distress or for simply acknowledging that not everyone does well on so-called superfoods. (So in case you were wondering, helpful posts can have the word “Ass” in the title. Who knew?)

5. Most Surprisingly Successful

The post that continues to garner many surprising hits (although not new comments) was written way back in 2008. Talk to the Hand recounts my experience visiting a palm reader at our local mall. If my site stats and search engine terms are any indication, lots and lots of people take to the internet to learn more about mysterious beauty marks on their palms. Hence, if you need to boost traffic to your blog, might I suggest writing about finding the ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ line on your palms? And vomit– lots and lots of projectile vomit. 🙂

6. Most Underrated

It must be a Universal Blogging Experience: you write a new post, congratulate yourself for your expert use of prose and scintillating adjectives, and then hit ‘Publish’– fully expecting a tsunami of Online Fandom to come crashing down in your comments section. But it doesn’t. To make matters worse, not only are you not ravaged by a destructive gale-force wind of admiration, but you also don’t even seem to make a ripple in the blogosphere. Maybe one person comments on your post… out of pity. The rest of your readers are already on to the next blogging sensation, and your Fantastic Post dies a quiet death in a lonely corner, all by itself.

The post I would like to offer up for your resurrection consideration is The Most Important Evening of Our Lives, in which I fail miserably as a wife, hairdresser, and a general human being.

At least *my* hair looked good on The Most Important Evening of Our Lives

7. Most Worthy of Pride

It probably seems a little strange, but I’m really proud of a post I wrote about eggs. The Dirty Dozen: My Initiation Into A Life of Crime came together effortlessly and incorporated all three of the essential ingredients in any winning post: hippies, Hollywood, and the Russian mafia. Every time I see this title in my “Your Recent Favourites” sidebar, I foolishly beam with the pride of a mother who has just watched her little Johnny hit a home run in a T-ball game. Other moms might not think my Johnny is a big deal, but I’m proud all the same. 🙂


When Dana Met Marty, Revisited

This is my first ever re-post, faithful readers. Today is the 8th anniversary of the day that Marty and I met (and, coincidentally, started dating.) Since many of my readers are new(ish) to the blog and haven’t been around since the original post (Dec 2009), I thought I would share the story of how we met with you all once more. Enjoy!

Marty with what we fondly refer to as his "terrorist beard", and me with my "terrorist, in-sore-need-of-some-threading eyebrows"


In November of 2003, I was decidedly single. Mr. Wrong, my on-again/off-again beau (if you could even call him that), had up and moved to Japan in August of that year, and we had only e-mailed each other halfheartedly a few times in those three months. I was waking up at quarter to five every morning (!!) and going to the gym for 2 hours as soon as it opened. I was also going to bed between 8 and 8:30 pm every night (out of necessity, to help facilitate my ungodly early morning routine), so yeah– I was definitely single. Fit… but single.

On December 6, 2003– a Saturday– I was spontaneously invited to a party by one of my friends from university, Colin. I sighed. Not only was I experiencing the heaviest period EVER that day, but my hermit tendencies were flaring up really badly and I didn’t feel like socializing with anybody or pretending to have a good time at some party (which of course, I wouldn’t be.) Besides, how would I be able to wake up for my morning workout if the party didn’t even start until after I would normally go to sleep? I didn’t tell Colin any of these things, but I mumbled that I couldn’t go.

He pressed on and urged me to come. He was hosting a ‘listening party’ for one of his sets on CBC Radio [note: this is Canada’s national public broadcasting station, for my non-Canuck readers]. It would only be aired once and it was a big deal for him to have been selected as the emcee/DJ for this particular radio series. Plus, there would be 50 people there, so I could blend into the walls– cramping and kvetching all I wanted– without anybody noticing if I felt like it. All in all, he would be hurt if I didn’t at least make an appearance.

Ah, the Guilt Trip… such an effective weapon to wield against somebody like me!  Reluctantly, I agreed to attend the listening party. But I resented Colin every second before the party started for pressuring me into going. I was a full blown social recluse at that particular point in time, and I hated him for making me be interactive and festive.

Marty, in the meantime, was racing back to Calgary from Victoria. He had received an odd phone call from Colin that there was going to be a party thrown to celebrate some radio show. The only problem was– Colin had planned to throw this fabulous party at Marty’s house and had already put Marty’s address on all the invites. Fifty people were going to show up, so long as Marty would be there with the key to let everybody inside! Frustrated at Colin’s blatant disregard for his own plans and schedule (Marty had been housesitting Robertina in Victoria for the past 5 weeks), Marty left Robertine with the next door neighbours and made the 16 hour trek back to Calgary. He figured he would host this stupid party for Colin, pack his bags, and move to Victoria permanently the very next morning. He was ready to leave Calgary for good. Harumph! (Robertina, by the way, proceeded to dig up the next door neighbours’ entire backyard in Marty’s absence. She was so. very. upset. with him, and hell hath no fury like a puppy’s love scorned!)

On Saturday night, Colin picked me up at 7 o’clock to take me to his listening party. I felt bloated and cranky. And resentful. Marty’s house happened to be only 5 minutes away from my own house by foot, so we arrived there in no time by car. (We drove why..?) Marty, freshly back from Victoria, ushered us inside and let us know we were the first people to arrive. He was a very welcoming and gracious host, despite having gone 16 hours out of his way to be there. Excited, Colin unloaded hundreds of dollars worth of food out of the car and onto the kitchen table in preparation for the big night!

Half an hour passed, and we were still the only people at the party. We ate pizza and waited for the other guests to arrive…

An hour passed and we were still the only people at the party. By then, it was painfully evident that nobody else was coming, and that we had a mountain of food to chisel through by ourselves. I felt bad for Colin, stood up by most of his so-called friends in his hour of glory, but even worse for Marty, who had come all this way to hang out with two solitary people and listen to the radio.

We passed the time before the actual radio show by flipping through some of Marty’s photo albums. I noticed with a flicker of appreciation how great Marty’s legs were in the shots (Deep Thoughts by Dana L.), but at that point, I was still bloated and kind of cranky. I was mostly ready to listen to this radio show and then head home to bed.

The show finally came on and ended an hour afterwards, at midnight. Incredibly, I was still awake. The show itself was a really amazing collection of songs by Calgarian musicians, and for the first time that evening, I didn’t feel so resentful or upset that I was dragged the whole 10 blocks away from home to come to the party. I actually enjoyed the radio show! Then Colin, being the zany and offbeat character he is, suggested that instead of retiring to our own humble abodes for the night, we all sleep over at Marty’s house.

The universe must have been working its wacky magic at that point, because ordinarily– being both a Catholic girl and a certified hermit– I would never have agreed to this ridiculous idea. (And oh yeah, did I mention I was having the heaviest period EVER??) I would never, ever— in my right mind and better judgment– have agreed to sleep at a strange man’s home under these circumstances. But like I alluded to earlier, I was simply a pawn that night and the universe made me do it. So there.

Under the spell of the universe, I found myself agreeing to sleep over at Marty’s house and then changing into Marty’s pyjama pants (!!!) so I wouldn’t have to sleep in jeans. I said a quick prayer to the universe that I wouldn’t bleed through Marty’s (light blue) pants overnight and silently wondered to myself what the hell I was doing. Seriously, the whole night was so out of character for both Marty and I… there is no way we were acting on our own accord.

(I should also mention that at this point, I didn’t have a crush on Marty or anything, and I’m pretty sure he felt the same way about me– I was just randomly changing into his clothes and climbing into his bed. For real. Chalk everything up to Colin and his zany schemes… and of course to the mysterious workings of the universe.)

Even though there were three whole bedrooms in Marty’s house, somehow all three of us: me, Marty, and Colin– ended up piling into Marty’s bed for the evening. I was feeling wildly uncomfortable in between the two men (with my period, I might add. Again), and I was certainly beginning to wish that I had just walked home for the night when I had the chance. After some silly photos captured our night for posterity (Colin’s idea– I was freaking out), I closed my eyes and tried to drift off into an awkward, G-rated slumber.

A few moments later– I don’t know how much time had actually elapsed– I felt compelled to look at Marty. The side table lights were still on and I was as nervous as hell, but I slowly opened my eyes…

And that’s when I fell in love.

Marty was looking back at me– also nervous, awkward, and probably acting against his better judgment– but his stare was so deep and warm, it was all it took for me to fall in love with him. Funny, I had looked at him all night without really seeing him. At that moment, though, my eyes were truly opened and I finally recognized him as an offering to me from the universe. He was everything I had been searching for.

It sounds cheesy and cliché, but time literally stood still at that moment. (And puppies barked and unicorns galloped beneath rainbows!) It was like in the movies when all of the background noise gets muffled and the only thing that matters is what’s right in front of the main character… and Marty was all that mattered to me just then.

(Colin, btw, decided to go home after all and left Marty and I to fall in deep sweet love together. His spider senses must have suddenly alerted him to his impending Third Wheel Status Of Doom, so he bolted out of the bed and left in a real hurry.) Marty and I, finding ourselves alone à la that infamous Tiffany song, stayed up all night talking to each other (for real– not used as a euphemism here) and discovered with amazement and excitement what a perfect match we were together. I remember how happy my heart felt that night and how overjoyed I was to have met such a wonderful person under such awkward and unlikely circumstances! I WAS IN LOVE!!! AGAINST ALL ODDS!!! I was brimming with jubilation and thankfulness!

The night gradually gave way to morning, and Marty and I still hadn’t slept a wink. [Insert cheesy sitcom moment here.] Of course, Marty had already arranged for some of his other friends to stop by the very next morning so he could make them pancakes to celebrate one of their birthdays. (This was when he still thought he would be booting it back to Victoria ASAP and before he knew he would be meeting the very woman of his dreams the night before: the pancakes would provide good road trip fuel en route back to Victoria.) The friends arrived promptly at some ungodly hour on Sunday, December 7th, and they were greeted by a sleepless Marty and some strange– also sleepless– woman wearing Marty’s pyjama pants: me. Ahem… The looks on their faces said it all: who the hell are you and why the hell are you wearing Marty’s pants??!

Good question.

Best photo of me ever. Ahem. No wonder Marty fell in love... (?)

We all ate wholesome buckwheat pancakes with fresh raspberry sauce that morning. It was an awkward encounter, for sure. (Them: “Gee, I don’t recall Marty ever mentioning you before..”, Me: “Um, we actually just met last night.” [painful silence]).  However, when I left Marty’s house afterward, I did so knowing that I had found my soulmate and that we were in love with each other. That was Sunday morning, and by Monday evening, Marty and I had moved in together. (Taking it slow, like the slow learner I am.) On Wednesday of that same week, we said the ‘L’ word out loud to each other (and meant it!) And a year and a half later, we were married.

This was on the first Monday. Yes, I am wearing Marty's sweater AND pj pants and am busily knitting an acrylic scarf. I think I had bed head for a whole month after meeting Marty.

For the record: our friends who shared those awkward breakfast pancakes with us ended up being our Best Man and Maid of Honour at our awesome impromptu island wedding ceremony. And we lived happily ever after! (cue puppies and roll credits)

Our first awesome 'couples' shot, a la junior high grad. Ah, young love!