Cupcakes for Lindsay

You know how you meet someone sometimes and know instantly that you're going to be friends? That's how it was with Lindsay and I.

@ashleydtl @kitchenoperas Singing Strong
We initially bonded over our love of musical theatre, singing and Idina Menzel in 2008 and our relationship has flourished since then.

We sing together.
We make delicious gluten free, vegetarian, Ashley & Linz-friendly things.
We take hilarious adventures.
We share a love for tea,  kale, girly things, Pinterest and everything to do with hummus.
And our voices combined reach decibels that only teeny tiny dogs and unicorns can likely hear. (we take our #twosquealingsopranos hashtag quite seriously) 

I adore this woman who is a kindred spirit to me in many ways. And in the years we've known one another, the two of us have been through a lot.

She has supported me through so much, including my Crohn's diagnosis, going gluten free and dairy free (and everything else free), the end of my relationship with my ex-fiance and everything else along the way. She has been one of my biggest supporters in all my artistic endeavors and has always been there to lend a hand or an ear when I needed it most. A couple months ago I was going through a drawn out break up, Linz was there to listen, (gently) force me to eat, distract me with shopping adventures and sangria and give me flexibility to sleep on her couch for a weekend while I needed the extra support.

I've had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with her family as we've prepared for the wedding and they are some of the most delightful people I've ever encountered. Her fiance is an awesome guy and I've had so much fun with both of them over the years; I love their love. She is surrounded by so many beautiful people who love her immensely, which is further affirmation to what an exceptional person she is. Linz is kind, hilarious, talented, charming, empathetic and wonderful; she's one of the best friends I could ask for. I only hope that I've been as good of a friend to her as she has been to me.

@ashleydtl @kitchenoperas wedding shower

It was such an honour when she asked me to be one of her bridesmaids, and I'm grateful that the last year has brought us closer together. The planning process has been a lot of fun and I'm so happy that I got to be so closely involved! This week has been full of wedding shenanigans and formality, culminating in the big day on Saturday. I've already cried so many times (with joy!!) about the wedding and I don't know how I'm going to keep it together this weekend. Thankfully my dress has pockets to store all the tissues I'm gonna need... 

The bridal shower was this past Sunday and I wanted to make extra-special Linz-friendly treats for everyone to enjoy so I pulled together these cupcakes. Based on a few different recipes, I was quite happy with the results and so was the bride-to-be. 

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes for Lindsay 
Gluten free, Dairy free
Makes 18-20 cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
(Aka Lindsay's Dark Chocolate Quinoa Cake in miniature form)
Gluten free, Dairy free
2 c. cooked quinoa
1/3 c. almond milk
4 large organic, free-range eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. coconut oil
1 1/2c. organic cane sugar
1 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line two cupcake tins with 18 liners. Use snazzy ones for extra pizzazz

In a blender, add the quinoa, almond milk, eggs, vanilla, and coconut oil. Blitz until smooth.

 In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Once well combined, add the quinoa mixture from the blender.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners, so that each is about 3/4 full. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F, until a knife or skewer inserted into the centre of  a cupcake comes out clean. Put on a cooling rack to cool.

Dairy Free Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Gluten free, Dairy free  

I love to use my pink Kitchen Aid stand mixer for this recipe! This was the first time I had made it with something other than butter. It's a little more fussy and needs to be stored in the fridge (especially in 40 degree heat), but the result is incredible and creamy! 

5 large free-range, organic egg whites
1 cup + 2 tbsp organic sugar
Pinch of salt
485 g. Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool - about 8-10 minutes.

With mixer on medium-low speed, add the coconut spread a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all of the coconut spread has been added, whisk in vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth.

Refrigerate immediately. Whip in mixer before using if not using icing immediately.

Putting it all together

Once cupcake are cool, pipe or frost with the buttercream. I was storing the piping bag in the freezer until I was ready to pipe. The buttercream holds its shape well enough to be piped and looks really pretty, it just needs to be cold.

Drizzle with a chilled dairy free caramel - I used this one.

The cupcakes are best stored in the fridge, but should be taken out of the fridge about 5-10 minutes before serving to allow the buttercream to soften and the cupcakes to thaw a bit. The buttercream is insanely smooth and the texture contrasts nicely with the chocolatey cupcakes. The caramel makes them a bit messy, but caramel + chocolate is a divine flavor combination. All taste testers agreed!! AND they're gluten-free and dairy-free!

gluten free dairy free cupcakes

Can't wait to continue the celebration with Lindsay, her soon-to-be husband and all of their family and friends. It's going to be an incredible day for one of my most favourite people. I love you Linz!

Woman to Woman at the Toronto Botanical Garden

Way back in the depths of winter I received a save the date for "Woman to Woman - a Lunch in the Garden" at the Toronto Botanical Garden. This was appealing to me for three reasons:

1. I didn't know that the Toronto Botancial Garden existed
2. I love any opportunity that calls for pretty dresses, hats, flowers and fascinators
3. It gave me hope that summer was coming!

I asked Lindsay to be my date and the two of us patiently waited for late May to arrive. We chatted about wardrobe and hats and were delighted when it was finally time for our fancy garden lunch!

Woman to Woman, Toronto Botanical Gardens
As soon as we arrived I was taken aback by how gorgeous the Toronto Botanical Gardens is. How did I not know about this place?? They're tucked away at Lawrence and Leslie and upon entry I felt like I was discovering a magical Toronto secret. 



With 17 gardens over 4 acres, it is a truly magnificent space that Linz and I had the chance to explore. It was an incredibly sunny, warm day which made it perfect for a garden lunch in support of the programming the TBG offers to children and adults and the maintenance of the gardens.

Toronto Botanical Gardens

Amid the gardens there were lovely fashions from vendors at Bayview Village and a silent auction among other festivities throughout the afternoon.

We were pleased that there was a scrumptious vegetarian option of mini Swiss chard souffles with leeks and tofu from Daniel et Daniel for lunch. We both raved about how spectacular it was and definitely went back for seconds...


There was also a beautiful dessert tent filled with stunning and delicious treats.

Mini-desserts on spoons are all kinds of awesome. Big win.

Ashley Gibson, Toronto Botanical Garden, dresses, flowers
It was awesome to dash away from work for an extra special lunch with one of my very favourite people in such a beautiful setting! So glad that I discovered the Toronto Botanical Garden and can't wait to go back to do some more exploring. Thanks to the lovely folks at TBG for the invite!

Queen B Pastry and Crownie Love

It's been more than four years since I went gluten free, and in that time I've had my fair share of gluten free baked goods. As a lover of delicious food, I want things to taste amazing and not just because they're gluten free. I just want them to be awesome. And I really appreciate others who share that philosophy.

Enter Queen B Pastry.

I first discovered Queen B Pastry at my favourite coffee shop, The Rooster. I noticed one day that they had a packaged gluten free cookie labelled as a Crownie. The ingredients looked Ashley-friendly, it was made in Toronto and sounded yummy so I decided to give it a go.

Ermigod.

The thing is chocolatey, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and all kinds of delicious - and not just because they're gluten free and dairy free. Made with just 8 ingredients including 70% Callebaut chocolate, I treat myself to this stellar cookie / brownie hybrid on occasion and it's always a wonderful experience.

With a cookie that makes me so happy, so you can bet that I was incredibly excited when the fine folks at Queen B Pastry offered to deliver some gluten free, dairy free treats to my office for me to sample. Crownies, Cocolimes (the Crownie's coconutty, limey brother), and three kinds of freshly baked cakelettes were delivered to my office alongside an email with a complete ingredient list.

gluten free dairy free Toronto

I was in baked good heaven.

gluten free Toronto dairy free

While I was familiar with some of the products, it was neat to be able to sample some of the newer items, like the two new cakelette flavors. Both the banana hazelnut chocolate chip and passion fruit & almond cakelette are quite nice; Lots of flavor, moist rich cake and tasty flavor combinations. But the classic orange olive oil cakelette is definitely my favourite of the three. I love that they take pride in their ingredients and that I can pronounce and identify everything they put into their treats.

Queen B Pastry Toronto

And it's not just me who thinks these cookies and cakelettes are delicious. I was meeting with my fascinator designer the day I received my box of Queen B goodness and I offered her a treat of her choosing. Here's what Elizabeth wrote on the box:

Crownie Queen B Pastry Toronto gluten free

"Best cookie of the year" from a non-gluten-free gal? See, it's not just my bias. They're all kinds of awesome.

Queen B Pastry products are available in a wide variety of retailers and coffee shops around the GTA. I love being able to enjoy a gluten free, dairy free treat alongside a tea when I head to the Rooster or Crema or any of the many other places their cute little logo is popping up. Thanks to David & the awesome peeps at Queen B for making my day with such a sweet delivery!

Learn more about Queen B Pastry on their website, Facebook or Twitter.

Ohai June

It's already June 10th and this is my first post of the month! Life has been an interesting mix of busy, awesome, a little not-so-awesome, hilarious and fun of late; I continue to embrace 2013 as the year of serendipity and that is serving me well.

I've been busy working away at the first Shakespeare / non-musical production I've done in awhile with the fun folks at Bard in the Park.

Bard in the Park, Shakespeare, Ashley Gibson, June 2013

We open The Merry Wives of Windsor tomorrow, which means that I'll be spending the week in a corset, causing trouble as Mistress Page surrounded by trees. I love fashion, but I am so thankful that corsets are not required attire in 2013. The show runs until Sunday and I'm really looking forward to having an audience to watch us scheme and play!

Speaking of shows... I went to opening night of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change a few weeks ago and was super stoked to see posters for The Life is Sweet Project!

Ashley Gibson, Angelwalk Theatre

While I've been talking about this show for awhile now, and it's still 8 months away, seeing my face on posters at the Toronto Centre for the Arts and hearing the season announcement really made reality sink in. I'm still so grateful and excited for this project to be happening, and looking forward to the creative process.

I've also been having a blast spreading the UnDiet love, following my stop on the blog tour with Meghan Telpner. It was lovely to be able to send a copy of the book to Sara, who was the winner of my giveaway.

I also posted some more UnDiet and creed love on Instagram this week, sharing my creed-inspired wake up message.
Meghan Telpner creed UnDiet

It's so important to me to start everyday with a positive message and work towards making it ridiculously awesometown, which includes:


Slurping up the sunshine and stopping to smell the lilacs


Eating cherries while thinking good thoughts (this time in popsicle form)


Being truthful, youthful, playful and funful


Wearing colour and eating colour. And all the while, dancing through life. 

I'm playing a little catch up on blog posts, but there's some neat stuff in the works. Fun things to expect include a review of an amazing gluten free bakery, a trip to the Toronto Botanical Gardens for a lovely event and the first post in a new series on things in my favourite neighborhoods. 

I hope June is treating you well so far. Summer is nearly here! Think of me as I'm sweating it out in a corset this week xo