Monday, December 31, 2012

So Long 2012, Hello Buckwheat Apple Muffins

As my husband and I drove home this afternoon from Trader Joe's with our usual stockpile of goat yogurt, corn and rice noodles, taco seasoning (yes, finally a dairy-free taco seasoning!), rice crackers, and goat cream cheese, we congratulated ourselves.  A year ago we were feeding our kids Greek yogurt, whole wheat muffins, scrambled eggs, soy milk smoothies, and wheat name a few. All healthy foods, just not for us.  Our kids were happy, I suppose.  But they were itchy, rashy, sneezy, tired, coughing, bumpy, wheezing, and even lethargic after eating.  What a difference a few tests made.  The discovery of allergies has been the biggest blessing of 2012, for sure.  While it is also the greatest challenge, no major change comes easy.  And boy has this one been worth it!  Today my kids are medication-free, bouncing off the walls happy, full of energy, and free of all of the symptoms they were experiencing.  I'm thankful each and every day we discovered this when we did, and that we struggled through the frustration together with faith that we would find a solution.

Our last baking project of the year was a success.  These muffins look interesting.....buckwheat always does.  But they are full of flavor, and everyone in the house agrees they are fabulous.  I'm happy I got to knock out 2012 with both my little bakers in aprons, standing on their chairs at the kitchen counter with mixing bowls and whisks in hand.

I wish you all the best in 2013, and I hope that your kitchen is filled with tasty, allergen-free meals and treats.  I also pray for those that are suffering from allergies, that they may discover their triggers, eliminate them, and find wellness just as my family has.

Buckwheat Apple Muffins
2 cups buckwheat flour
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons egg replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons rice milk
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped apple (I used Fuji but I imagine Granny Smith would be amazing!)

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease or line muffin tin

2.  Mix egg replacer with rice milk and set aside.

3.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.

4.  In a separate bowl, mix together the applesauce, oil, agave, vanilla and egg replacer mixture.  Beat until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute.

5.  Add the flour mixture to the wet and mix until just blended.  Do not overmix.

6.  Fold in the apples.

7.  Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full.  Bake 20 minutes.

Cool in tins for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Orange Chiffon Cake

Well, Christmas is all over.  I always get a little down this time of year.  The decorations are slowly making their way to a pile/corner in the living room, which will get boxed up and garaged in a couple days.  No more anticipation.  No more presents.  No more cookies.  But we still have plenty of reasons to bake, right?  There's always a reason to bake.....

Tonight we have friends coming for dinner.  I took the easy way out and stuck a pot roast in the crock pot this morning.  Along with potatoes, onions, and carrots, the roast is creating the most delicious aroma in the house.  I'll toast some rolls and serve them with dinner, even though it's pretty much a complete meal in itself.  I also cooked up some gluten-free, dairy-free gravy.  Yum.  But what to have for dessert.... how about this?

Orange Chiffon Cake
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup rice milk
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest
3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Orange Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Spectrum shortening
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a Bundt pan and dust with a little flour

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour mix, xanthan gym, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and egg replacer.  Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute.

4.  Add the orange juice, orange zest, and canola oil.  Mix for one minute more.

5.  Sift the dry ingredients into the wet in three batches, mixing after each addition.  Mix until smooth, about 1 minute.

6.  Pour the batter into the pan.  

7.  Bake in the center of the oven for a total of 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  Let cool for about 5 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.  Let cool to room temperature, then place the cake on a serving plate.  Poke holes into the cake and pour half the sauce over the top and sides making sure to drizzle into the holes so it sinks in.  Reserve the remaining sauce to serve with the cake (I heated it up in the saucepan before drizzling on individual plates as I served.).  Store cake covered in the fridge, if you have any left.  

The was amazing!  Everyone agreed.  The girls went back for seconds.  I went back for thirds.  My husband went back for fourths.  Can't wait to go to bed so I can wake up and have cake for breakfast!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Food

What a day!  I always try to savor every moment.  We spend an entire season building up to this one day, and then it's gone, but that entire season was well worth it.  My husband and I decided in advance this year we would stay home, in our jammies, all day and relax.  It's the first time I think I've ever done this, and boy was it an amazing day (not to say that my previous 31 Christmases weren't, but you know what I mean)!  We started off with family and presents at my house, breakfast and more presents, and then a few more presents.  When everyone left, we had nap time followed by more presents.  Then a couple movies, dinner, and the last of the presents!  I'm still laughing about my little one, Emma.  She got some pretty awesome gifts, but the two things she would not let out of her sight were her new toothbrush and washcloth.  Of all things!  It's the little things....and I'm glad she was easily impressed.

On to the cinnamon rolls.  I made these before church on Christmas Eve.  When I pulled them out of the fridge to heat them up Christmas morning, they seemed a little dry.  So, I made the glaze with extra rice milk then added it to the rolls then baked them for about 10 minutes.  They were perfect!  I recommend adding extra moisture in some form if you are making these in advance.  My "accident" seemed to work out perfectly, thank goodness!

 Christmas Cinnamon Rolls
1 cup rice milk
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups basic gluten free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup Spectrum shortening (softened in the microwave about 30 seconds)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Rice Milk Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons rice milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Spectrum shortening
(Whisk all ingredients together until smooth)

1.  Mix together the rice milk, oil, and sugar in a microwave-safe bowl.  Heat for about a minute and ensure the mixture doesn't reach above 115 degrees.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and yeast.

3.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and blend well.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 10 minutes.  In the meantime grease around baking pan.

4.  Flour a flat workspace as well as your hands.  Turn your dough onto the workspace, sprinkle with flour, pat lightly, then flip and repeat.

5.  With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a long rectangle.  It should be about 1/4 inch thick and about 16 inches long by 9 inches wide.

6.  Brush the softened shortening evenly over the dough.  Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar together and sprinkle evenly across the dough.

7.  Gently roll the dough lengthwise into a log.  I used a spatula to help coax it along.

8.  Cut a log into 12 pieces and transfer to greased baking pan.  Proof for about 2 hours (I used a warm oven with a bowl of water on the lower rack to prevent the cinnamon rolls from drying out.).

9.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

10.  Drizzle with the glaze while still hot. Let cool in pan and serve warm.

And then there was dinner.....turkey, sweet potatoes, and cornbread stuffing.  Sounds more like Thanksgiving, but who can complain about that?!  I had some turkey in the freezer, so that was easy, popped in a pan with a little oil and heated it up.  Baked sweet potatoes, piece of cake.  But the stuffing.....nothing beats the aroma of every stage of stuffing.  First the baked cornbread, then come the chopped onions, after that the sausage, next up the seasoning....thank goodness we have leftovers, I"m getting hungry!

Gluten Free Cornbread Stuffing
1 Package Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix prepared in a 9x13 pan
4 Ribs celery diced
1 small (or medium if you like) onion, diced
16 links turkey sausage, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning (or a little each of Thyme, Marjoram, Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, and Sage)
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper

1.  Prepare a pan of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Cornbread Mix following the package instructions.  Bake it in a 9x13 pan instead of 9x9.

2.  Cool, then cut the cornbread into cubes.  Let them sit overnight.

3.  Toast the cornbread cubes in the oven then set aside.

4.  Saute the onion and celery in the olive oil on medium-low until translucent.  Add the garlic and seasoning and stir for about two minutes.  Add in the turkey sausage (Mine is pre-cooked, if yours is not, cook it ahead of time).  Remove from heat.

5.  Toss the cornbread and sausage mixture in a large bowl.  Add the chicken broth and mix with your hands.

6.  Transfer to a casserole dish and bake covered at 425  for about 20 minutes.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dinner Rolls and Beautiful Pantries

I dream of lovely pantries.  Not only am I extremely short on space in my kitchen, but I also have two little stinkers who get into things make a mess of things destroy things in my kitchen! My youngest, in particular, is strongly drawn to the pantry where she pulls out anything she can reach.  I often find her covered in flour and dragging a Costco sized jug of olive oil through the house.  As much as I try to keep things in my house organized, it is usually the case that someone (someone short and cute) comes along and gets into things.  This is my life.  Someday I will be able to reclaim some territory in my house (as well as own a much larger pantry!), but in the meantime I dream of things such as these:

This is my favorite, only I would go with orange
This is nice, minus the cat!

For now I'm stuck with this and the many cupboards I keep canned and other dry goods in, although I think I'll start working on collecting canisters and other such receptacles:

Now, on to the dinner rolls.  This is an adapted recipe from Colette Martin's book Learning to Bake Allergen-free.  She uses a white and multigrain mix, but I prefer just using the multigrain mix.  Also, I have found that active dry yeast works much better than quick rising yeast, which is what this recipe originally called for.  Also, many recipes I have found using active dry yeast involve dissolving in water and sugar and setting to foam.  My master baker brother told me to forget that and just mix it in with the flours like you would the instant yeast.  So far, so good! This lengthens the proofing time, but my baked goods always turn out so much better when I don't use the quick version.  So plan ahead!  

Basic Dinner Rolls (or Sandwich Bread)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
4 teaspoons active dry yeast 
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
6 teaspoons egg replacer mixed with 8 tablespoons warm water (equal to 4 eggs)

1.  Spray a muffin tin or loaf pan with cooking oil (the cookbooks I have recommend gluten-free loaf pans.  I have yet to buy one of these, so I'm just using my 9 by 4 loaf pan.  My bread always turns out just fine)

2.  Whisk together flours, xanthan gum, yeast, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  

3.  Blend oil, water, sugar, egg replacer on medium speed for about a minute.

4.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low speed until combined.  Then beat for 2 minutes on medium-high until the dough is smooth.

5.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan or muffin tin.  Proof for 90 minutes.

6.  With 5 minutes left to rise, preheat the oven to 375.  

7.  Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes for the loaf, and 12-15 minutes for the muffins.  

A couple of tips - 

The yeast used in this recipe is more than what you will get in a single packet, so be sure to adjust if using that form of yeast.

Slice the bread and stick it in the freezer for future use.

The muffins freeze well, too!  No need to slice.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Flours not Flowers

My daughter has this cute little Pooh Bear book called the Honey Cake Mix-up.  It's from the Disney series Out and About With Pooh.  This series is full of little adventures intertwined with a moral and strong friendship theme.  The Honey Cake Mix-up tells the story of how Pooh and Roo are trying to make a cake for Kanga's birthday.  Since they can't read, they have Rabbit tell them the recipe and mistake flour for flower.  So, off Pooh and Roo go to find the perfect flower for Kanga's cake.  They try several kinds including tiger lilies, buttercups, and thistles, to no avail.  Finally Christopher Robin saves the day when he informs Pooh he needs baking flour, not flowers with petals and stems.  The honey cake for Kanga finally turns out and everyone enjoys Pooh's delightful treat.

Sometimes gluten-free baking can be as challenging and disappointing as Pooh's baking adventure.  It's certainly a science, as no one single flour can successfully (at least in my experience) replace wheat flour.  Add the need to replace butter and eggs and you really have a science experiment!

The gluten-free flours on the market include coconut, rice, corn, quinoa, flax, teff, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, sorghum, potato, tapioca, garfava, bean, oat, and montina.  The flours I am most familiar with and use on a regular basis are rice (specifically brown rice), potato, tapioca, sorghum, oat, buckwheat, and coconut.  I have listed below my two favorite flour blends, the ones I most often refer to in my recipes.  The reason I don't use prepackaged flour blends is simply because I have never found one I like.  While I do love Bob's Red Mill flours, their flour blends include bean flours which really give an off-putting taste, in my opinion.  I'm happy to stick with their products that I like and do the messy work myself.

It is important to remember that a gum is necessary to help bind, thicken, and emulsify your gluten-free goods. I use xanthan gum.  If you use none to too little, your recipe will end up a crumbly mess.  If you use too much, it will leave a heavy, gummy, or even slimy texture in your baked goods.  I tend to stick with about 1/4 teaspoon to one cup of flour in most of my baking, though some breads and doughs will benefit from more.  I never add xanthan gum to my premade flour blends.  I only add it to the recipe as I am ready to bake.  Xanthan gum is quite pricey, but since you are using such small quantities of it, it will last awhile.

Here are the proportions for my favorite flour mixes:

Basic Gluten-Free Flour Blend
4 cups brown rice flour
1 1/3 cups potato starch (note that this is different than potato flour)
2/3 cup tapioca flour (which is also known as tapioca starch)

Multigrain Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch

I have found the basic gluten-free flour blend to work best in cookies.  The multigrain flour blend works really well in breads and cakes.  I mix up large quantities of both and store them in ziplock freezer bags in my fridge.  I typically use Bob's Red Mill flours, and I have found that has the best deals, especially if you use their subscribe and save program.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Allergen-free Christmas treats

If there's one thing I absolutely love, it's Christmas.  I love everything about it.  The songs, the movies, the lights, the tree, the presents under the tree....and the cookies.  Oh, the cookies.  When I was growing up, my favorites were  peanut butter blossoms.  Man, I could not wait for them to cool just enough to help my mom pop the Hershey's kisses on top.  They melted in my mouth.  Literally.  Well, you won't find any peanut products in or near this house.  And of course the remaining ingredients are mostly off limits, too (wheat flour, eggs, butter). Is there Christmas-cookie-life after allergies?

Indeed there is.  In fact, in the last few days I have made some of the best treats I have ever tasted in my life.  I think my sugar cookies top the peanut butter blossoms, and that is no small feat.  I'm impressed with the outcome of all my tasty treasures, and am so excited my kids got to have a cookie decorating party this morning...and lick to their heart's content!  Never mind the crash that occurred an hour later....nor the fact that I am a genius and mopped the floor yesterday....

These were worth it!

Here's what we made in order of favorites (most to least, but there really is no least because these are all larping...a family word for scrumptiously delicious): chocolate sandwich cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies (not Christmasy, but who can resist a delicious chocolate chip cookie?!), sprinkle-coated homemade marshmallows, and gingerbread muffins.  I honestly recommend all of these, they are all so good, and my kids' frosting-stained faces are proof!  Here are the recipes:

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
1/2 cup Spectrum all vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons applesauce (I used homemade, yum)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon egg replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water (mix well and let sit for a few minutes)
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum, unless your flour mix already has it
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream Filling:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Spectrum all vegetable shortening
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of salt
3 tablespoons water (as needed)

1.  With a stand mixer, combine shortening and sugar using a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla, applesauce, and egg replacer.  Mix for another minute.

2.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour mix, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  

3.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing on low until smooth.  

4.  Divide the dough in half and place each on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Fold the plastic over the dough and roll until you have a log about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap the plastic at the ends and place in the fridge for 2 hours.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.  

5.  Preheat the oven to 325.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  

6.  Remove one log from the fridge (you will want to keep the other one cold until just ready to use).  Roll again to reshape.  Unwrap and use a sharp knife to cut into 1/4 inch slices.  You will be able to fit at least 20 on a sheet.  Bake for 9 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Let cool on pan for a few minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.  Repeat with the other log.

7.  For the filling: Blend together the powdered sugar, shortening, vanilla, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the water on low speed for about 5 minutes until well blended.  At this point if it is not creamy enough to spread, add more water 1/2 tablespoon at a time.  Spread the filling on one side of a cookie and cover with another. 

8.  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate leftover filling.  Or just give the bowl to your kids to lick it.  I mean clean it.  

Sugar & Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (unless your flour blend already has it)
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
8 tablespoons Spectrum all vegetable shortening
2 tablespoons applesauce
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chunks (for the chocolate chip cookies...I guess that makes them chocolate chunk cookies, doesn't it?)

1.  Wisk together the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. 

2.  Cut the shortening into tablespoon-sized pieces and place them on top of the flour mixture.  Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour mixture until crumbly.

3.  Add the applesauce and continue cutting with the pastry blender.  

4.  Add cold water 1/2 tablespoon at a time, as needed.  Continue cutting until the dough forms.  You can also use your hands to form the dough.  At this point, add chocolate chunks if you choose.  

5.  Roll the dough into a long cylinder, about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap in plastic and store in the fridge for 2 hours.  

6.  Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Slice the cookies about 1/4 inch thick and place on cookie sheet.  If you are using chocolate chunks, it will be hard to cut, so just break off in small clumps.  

7.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

I used the same frosting as above for the chocolate sandwich cookies, but instead of using 3 tablespoons of water as needed, I used 2 tablespoons of vanilla rice milk.  Decorate with sprinkles (I recently learned that sprinkle ingredients vary by brand and some in fact contain wheat starch, so be sure to check the labels!)

I should mention that buckwheat has a grayish-brownish, sort of unappetizing color.  However, the taste is amazing.  Better than any wheat flour cookie I have had.  No joke.

Homemade Marshmallows
2 tsp canola oil for greasing pan
1 cup cold cup water
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

1.  Line a 13 by 9 inch pan with foil and grease with oil.  Set aside.  

2.  In a large, metal bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water.  Set aside

3  In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining water.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reacher 240 degrees (it will resemble a soft ball at this point)

4.  Remove from heat and slowly add to gelatin mix.  Beat on high until mixture is thick and the volume is doubled.  This will take about 15 minutes, so turn on your stand mixer and go start a load of laundry.

5.  After about 15 minutes, add in the vanilla.  Spread into prepared pan.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for 6 hours or overnight.

6.  Using foil, lift marshmallows out of pan (slowly peel the foil away).  With a pizza cutter coated with canola oil, cut into 1 inch squares.  Coat marshmallows in sprinkles, chocolate toppings, chocolate chips, etc.  We even used cake pop sticks and turned them into marshmallow sticks!

Gingerbread Muffins
1/2 cup canola oil
1 2/3 cups applesauce
1 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350, line muffin tin with muffin liners

2.  In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine canola oil and agave nectar.  Mix on medium for about 20 seconds.

3.  Add the applesauce and ginger.  Mix for another 20 seconds.

4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt.

5.  Add dry ingredients with the wet and mix until just combined.

6.  Fill liners to the brim with batter.

7.  Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Let cool in pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.  Let cool for about 30 minutes.  Store in an airtight container or pop them in the freezer.  These freeze really well and are a nice treat to have on hand!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Disneyland with Food Allergies

Adventures in eating out at Disneyland....I had major anxiety about Disneyland this time around.  It's not like we haven't been there before.  We have.  Plenty of times.  In fact, my husband and I are annual passholders, and now so is my oldest daughter.  We haven't, however, ventured to the happiest place on earth since our discovery of the girls' allergies.  My initial thought was, it's hard enough to eat out for dinner, how on earth are we going to get through four days at Disneyland?!

Fortunately it wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated.  I am very lucky that my mother in law lives in Southern California, and was more than happy to make a shopping trip for me ahead of time.  I also have learned from experience that having some of our tried-and-true snacks on hand makes life bearable in the worst of situations.  So, I packed some bagels, cookies, and bread that I had baked ahead of time.  I also am an junkie, and get good use out of my prime account.  Whenever we travel, I order ahead diapers, wipes, and other various snacks such as Betty Lou's fruit bars and Mish Mash squeeze packs, to be sent to our hotel.

This was our first experience flying Jet Blue, and I was impressed right off the bat.  When I asked if peanuts were to be served on the plane (which they are not, I don't think anyone serves them anymore), our flight attendant immediately took interest in Grace's allergy and made it a priority to inform those in the rows in front of and behind us that we had a peanut allergy.  Cool!  When we landed in rainy Long Beach, we headed straight to In n Out, where we again lucked out.  The famous burger joint has a "Not So Secret Menu," and their patties consist of 100% beef - no fillers, no soy, no eggs, no allergens!  And, for those of you that aren't privy to the "Secret Menu," it does consist of several choices including the protein burger in which lettuce replaces the bun - perfect for us!

In n Out also makes ordering easy with this:

Next it was time to hit Disneyland.  Well, after checking in at the hotel and letting (forcing) the kids have a nap.  Off to the park we went.  For our first dinner at the park we ate at Racho del Zocalo.  We talked with Bill, a chef at the restaurant, and he made some recommendations to us as well as prepared our food without butter or special seasoning (containing soy).  This pretty much set the tone for the rest of our trip.  What I learned is that while many menu items in the park do include ingredients we avoid, every chef we met (four!) was more than willing to do a special order for us.  This included meals like chicken and rice (minus the cheesy Mexican seasoning), rice noodles and stir fry (minus the soy sauce), and salad with dressing on the side (easy!).  

The biggest hit of all, was Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue.  Now, my kids love "chicken on the bone" as it is - but throw in some corn on the cob (ordered just steamed, minus the butter), and some tasty sausage and baked beans, boy we were happy campers.  So happy that we went back for a second night.  I will say that while the food here is good, the wait can be painful, so be prepared!  We learned that there are soy ingredients in the ribs, so our chef separated all our meat into their own buckets rather than serve then all together.  They have a gluten free roll, but it does contain eggs, so we skipped them all together.  However, they are transitioning to a gluten-free, egg-free roll in the coming months.  Way to go Disneyland!  Thanks for getting on board, and thanks for serving up some delicious food that my whole family could enjoy!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Meatloaf Muffins

Not only have I been blessed with two girls with allergies, one of them is as picky of an eater as they come.  She enjoys "chicken on the bone" (aka drumsticks), salmon with rice and broccoli drenched in balsamic vinegar, and pasta with spaghetti sauce.  And that's about it.  I get stuck in a rut of making dinner for three, then throwing a pot of pasta on, or grabbing a rotisserie chicken on the way home from preschool.  Every now and then she surprises me by eating a helping of carrots or chicken breast.  But usually not.  I have had to get tricky about serving vegetables, and have learned a lot from Jessica Seinfeld's book Deceptively Delicious.  I have a shelf in my freezer devoted entirely to pureed vegetables that find their way into pastas, onto sandwiches, and mixed into rice.

Last week I decided to mix up my turkey meatloaf recipe a bit.  After adding a few key ingredients that I thought Grace would find appetizing, I took it a step further and made it into muffins rather than a loaf.  Wouldn't you know it, she was impressed.  She even ate two!

Here is my recipe for a gluten, dairy, egg-free meatloaf:

1 1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs (or gluten free oats, or do 50/50 for fun!)
1 1/2 tsp Egg Replacer mixed with 2 T warm water
1 T brown sugar or maple syrup
3 T ketchup
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
Dash of salt and pepper
I also threw in 2 tablespoons of pureed spinach and called it parsley :)

Combine all ingredients and mash together.  This is easiest done with your hands.

Scoop into greased muffin tin, I used my cupcake scoop x2 for each muffin.  I also use grapeseed oil for greasing.  I use this fancy gadget.

Top with a dollop of ketchup and a sprinkle of brown sugar

Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes

These were great paired with rice fusili pasta and sauce (which consisted of Prego spaghetti sauce mixed with pureed sweet potatoes). 


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Baking for Disneyland

In preparation for our upcoming trip to Disneyland, I have been in a baking craze.  I have found that it is much easier and less stressful if we pack some of our favorite foods with us, rather than relying on restaurants to get us through the week.  We will definitely eat out, but in that "I'm starving and about to melt down and embarrass the heck out of you if you don't give me something to eat 5 seconds ago!" moment, searching for an allergy-free meal may not be all that practical.  A few weeks ago we were traveling and ate some delicious food that had been cooked in butter.  While it was a tasty treat, by the time we got home, my tummy was a complete rumbly tumbly mess and Emma's tummy and back were covered in eczema.  

Today, I made a couple batches of bagels and some of our favorite cookies.  I have found these bagels to be our go-to breakfast, lunch, or dinner bread.  These are great by themselves, with goat cream cheese, jelly, "butter spread" or almond butter.  In my experience, using coconut oil is a fabulous substitute for butter.  Sometimes I get hung up on the term "oil" because at room temperature, coconut oil is solid.  For some reason, today I melted my coconut oil rather than using it as a solid.  This did a couple of frustrating things.  1) My dough was much moister and a little more difficult to shape.  2) Made my bagels cook faster and hotter, causing the smoke alarm to go off in the middle of nap time.  

I was able to get to them before they were a complete loss.  I flipped the bagels over and finished baking them at a lower temp for just a few minutes longer.  Lesson learned - just because it calls for oil doesn't mean it calls for liquid oil.  Not sure what I was thinking! 

Miraculously, Emma went right back to sleep and these made for a terrific post-nap snack. 

Cinnamon Raisin or Onion Poppy Seed Bagels:

Add to mixing bowl:
3 tbsp golden flaxmeal 
3 tbsp applesauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum
1/4 rice milk or coconut milk
Beat with electric mixer.

Add, preferably in this order:
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup ghee (which is casein-free) or coconut oil, soft or liquified
2 tsp cinnamon & 1/4 cup raisins for Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
OR 1 tsp onion powder for Onion Poppy Seed Bagels
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder 

Beat again until a mass begins to form.

Form the dough into a ball with your hands. (I put some oil on my hands so the dough doesn't stick to them.) Divide the ball in half. Break each half in two, so that there are four balls.

Roll each ball in your hands, then push one finger through the middle and shape the dough into a ring. Note: They do rise a little in the oven, so the size of the hole will shrink slightly during baking. Tip: Use dry or slightly oiled hands to shape the dough, not wet hands. When my hands are wet the dough tends to break.

If making Onion Poppy Seed, wet the bagel a tiny bit (after shaping) and roll it in poppy seeds. Bake on a slightly greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 24 minutes.

Makes 4. (Yes, only 4! When I make this recipe I double or triple it to make it worth my while)

While I had several of my ingredients out, I decided to whip up our favorite cookies.  Are you as addicted to pumpkin as I am?  I could eat it every day, and actually I probably do.  I bake it into cookies, breads, cookies, oatmeal, soup, cookies, and cookies.  

I love that this recipe calls for oat flour.  When I first started cooking without wheat flour, I spent a lot of money on alternate flours, and occasionally still do.  One trick I have learned, however, is that ground up oats make a nice flour, and I buy them in bulk at Costco already!  We add chocolate chips to ours (I buy Enjoy Life)

Santa is very interested

I love my KitchenAid Mixer, but this is one of those times I really wish I had the bigger one (and and orange one, I really wish I had gone with orange!)!

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

1 cup softened virgin coconut oil (or unsalted butter)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar, maple sugar, or brown sugar
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large bowl beat together, using an electric mixer, the coconut oil, pumpkin, sugar, flax seeds, and vanilla extract. Add the remaining ingredients and beat together again. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While your oven is preheating let your cookie dough rest on the counter for 20 minutes. The oat flour will absorb some of the liquid during this time which helps the cookies hold their shape. 

Drop by the spoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges Cool on a wire rack.  


Welcome to the Joy of Allergies!  You may think I’m off my rocker with a name like that.  But, I’m here to tell you, living with allergies doesn’t have to be an unhappy battle with illness.  In fact, discovering allergies, specifically food allergies in my case, has been a blessing in disguise in our family. 

As a kid, I don’t remember hearing too much about allergies.  I am pretty sure I was affected by the typical seasonal crud, but nothing food-wise really bothered me.  Or did it?  When most people think of allergies, they think of hives, feeling itchy, congestion and nasal symptoms, and in extreme cases anaphylaxis.  Well, food never caused any of those for me.  However, I did have headaches a lot as a kid, and constant tummy troubles, as well as patches of itchy skin.  As an adult I have discovered I am allergic to wheat and dairy.  Since removing those from my diet, I am symptom-free!  Every now and then, often by mistake, I consume one or both of these and can immediately feel the effects.

When my oldest daughter, Grace, was one, I fed her peanut butter in an attempt to get some much-needed protein in her diet.  Instantly she broke out in welts, was itching like crazy, and was swelling up every place the peanut butter had touched.  She even rubbed her eyes, which caused her eyeballs to swell.  I did not know this was possible, but my poor girl’s eyes were literally bulging out of her head.  It was crazy!  She has since had some reactions when she has been in the same room as peanuts, or even if someone has just had it on their breath.  We carry an epipen and avoid peanuts like the plague.  In the past year I suspected there must be something else in her diet that was causing her trouble.  She complained of tummy aches, frequently got bumps on her shoulders, was often itchy, and had some strange behavioral issues.  We had some further testing done and discovered in addition to the peanuts, she is also allergic to wheat, dairy, soy, and eggs.  Upon removing them from her diet we have seen a dramatic difference.

On to my youngest, who was the driving force to getting us all tested in the first place (and I should mention, whose middle name is Joy).  Emma was six months old (and within a week or so of starting solid foods) when she developed a persistent dry cough that wouldn't go away.  She was eventually diagnosed with asthma, and when put on a couple of steroid inhalers, finally stopped coughing.  Then she started getting ear infections….one after the other.  She eventually had tubes put in, and we were hopeful that would be the end of the misery.  Only it wasn’t.  Much to our surprise, Emma continued to wake up all night pulling at her ears, itching at her hands (which along with her cheeks and legs were covered in eczema), and grabbing at her nose.  I took her in for an allergy test, which confirmed she too was allergic to many things including wheat, dairy, eggs, and banana (of all things!).  The very day we eliminated these foods from her diet, her personality seemed to shift from a grumpy, tired baby to one that had a little more life and great big smile.  But the biggest blessing (at least to Mommy and Daddy) was that she slept through the night, and even woke up singing the next morning.  Now that she has been on an allergy-free diet for almost six months, Emma no longer uses an inhaler on a daily basis, has not needed antibiotics, does not use any sort of cream nor does she have any sign of eczema, and doesn’t require the use of antihistamines.  She is also a great sleeper so long as she doesn’t have any teeth cutting through!

Yes, I would say that discovering allergies in our family has been a huge blessing.  I was overwhelmed at first, I’ll be honest!  One of my favorite hobbies is baking.  How on earth does a person bake without wheat, dairy, and eggs?  Well, it is possible, and can actually be quite tasty.  And I’m here to say that baking is still one of my favorite hobbies, so it is true that it can still be fun!  My hope is that this blog will help others discover some yummy allergy-friendly recipes, get some guidance on allergy topics, and also help me keep myself organized and log my own experience as I walk this journey with my family.