Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Muffins: Gluten-Free Cornbread Muffins

I have to admit, this one's a cheat.  Crazy, busy life leads to taking shortcuts here and there.  Last week for MOPS I needed to make some sort of side dish.  I figured cornbread fit the bill, and since I was short on time, energy, and resources due to not making it to the store, I went with a package of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Cornbread.

I'm not usually a fan of prepackaged gluten-free anything, particularly Bob's.  But, given the circumstances, I used it anyway with some modifications.  I have made this mix in the past and every time it turned out dry.  This makes for a great crumble topping for chili or soup, but not so much if you are to be eating the bread as....well, bread.  So, I added some liquid, lowered the temp, and hoped for the best.  

I think I'm on to something.  I will definitely make these again.

Steph's Version of Bob's Gluten-free Cornbread Muffins
1 (20 oz) package of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Cornbread Mix
2 cups Rice Milk
1/3 cup canola oil
3 teaspoons egg replacer + 4 tablespoons rice milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 325.  Grease or line a muffin tin 9 (I used a mini muffin tin)
2.  Place the entire package of cornbread mix in a large mixing bowl.  Add the milk, oil, and egg replacer.  Mix on low speed until combined.  Beat another 30 seconds on high speed.
3.  Pour into muffin tin.  Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

As usual, I made extras and put some in the freezer.  Worked out nicely! :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wasting Time Talking About Applesauce When I Should Be Doing A Million Other Things

It's snowing!  I waited all winter for this, and now, the first full day of spring, here it is! It's not sticking, but it's still fun to know it's happening.  I love the snow.  It makes me giddy.

You know what else makes me giddy? Running! I'm so excited about this weekend.  It's the Run, Ladies, Run! Half Marathon in Friday Harbor.  I am heading up to Anacortes to catch a ferry for San Juan Island early Saturday morning with a group of gals for a fun, kid-free escape, and of course a fabulous run on Sunday.  Saturday morning can't get here soon enough!

In the meantime, I have a lot to accomplish in the next 24 hours.  Monday is my baby's 2nd birthday!  Her doctor gave us the green light to have a playdate party outside, which is totally awesome.  We've been sort of in seclusion here at home to avoid germs before her surgery on Tuesday.  But, Dr says if we're outside, it should be fine.  Woohoo!  So, I made a batch of vanilla cupcakes this afternoon to pop in the freezer and have ready for Monday.  Also, since I won't be around this weekend, I will need to stock up on soft, easy-to-eat foods like coconut yogurt, jello, and sorbet tomorrow.  Since my other daughter will be staying with my mom so that we can keep our attention just on Emma, I'll need to make sure she has some allergen-free snacks and treats packed, as well as clothes, etc.  Clothes....that reminds me, I need to do laundry.  Oh, I should probably pack my own clothes, too.  What the heck am I doing on here right now?!

Well, anyway, since I brought up freezing the cupcakes, I wanted to mention again just how easy it is to freeze foods.  Anytime you make cupcakes, muffins, cookies, bars....make extra.  And freeze them!  I buy freezer bags in bulk at Costco and go through them like there's no tomorrow.  I know, I should really use reusable freezer containers, but bags are just so much easier at this stage in life.  I'll get there someday.  I promise.

One of the most frequently used ingredients in my kitchen is applesauce.  I use it a lot in my baking.  Every person under this roof loves to snack on it, as well.  And let me tell you, Tree Top's got nothing on me.  My applesauce is the bomb.  Why?  Because it's pure and simple.  It's applesauce.  Not sugar sauce.  Not cinnamon sauce.  Not water sauce.  Applesauce.  Sometimes with a splash of vanilla.  Sometimes a hint of agave.  But mostly just good old organic (it IS after all on the dirty dozen list) apples.  My applesauce is so smooth and sweet, my kids won't even touch the store bought stuff.

Here's what you do:

Peel, core and slice a bunch of apples.  I buy organic Fuji apples at Costco because they're cheap.  Using a variety will boost flavor.  Experiment with what you like, and report back to tell me what I should be doing differently!

Dump them in your crockpot.

Pour some water on top (the amount depends on how saucey you around with this, but start with a little, you can always add more)

Add a teaspoon or so of vanilla.  Or more.  A dash of cinnamon is acceptable, too.

If you must sweeten, use a splash of honey or agave.  Not too much, though, you'd be amazed at how tasty unsweetened applesauce can be.

Set your crockpot on low for 8 hours.  Let your house fill with the sweet smell of amazing applesauce.

Take a potato masher or a whisk and stir/break up any chunks that are left. Unless you want them, some people like their sauce chunky!

If you want to freeze your applesauce, pull out an ice cube tray (or make a mad dash for the store if you're like me and use only your automatic ice cube maker from the freezer).  Fill each cube with sauce and plunk it in the freezer overnight.  Pop out the frozen applesauce cubes and throw them in a freezer bag (there I go again with the bags!).

Done.  Now you have applesauce at your disposal for all sorts of baking and snacking needs.

Bet you'll never guess how I prepared and stored all my prepared baby food.  ;)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Living With Food Allergies

It's the first day of spring, and what would be more ordinary than a rainy, gray day in Seattle?  And that's exactly what we've got.  I'm not complaining.  My veins bleed rain.  I'm a true Seattle girl, and yes I have worn socks with my Keens.  And rainboots with skirts.  And softshell jackets with dresses.  And wool socks with shorts.  Don't judge.

What will we do on this rainy, dreary day?  What we normally do I guess.  Play, go for a splashy walk in our rainboots, bake something, watch Sesame Street...a pretty typical day.  Oh, and a couple of our favorite friends are coming to play this morning too.  Not only are these fabulous friends that we have a blast with, but they are allergy-buddies, too!  We all eat the same foods, and that in itself is a blast.

I saw this on Pinterest the other day, and had to save it:

Having food allergies can certainly be a hassle as well as a huge source of stress.  Always having something on hand to accommodate an outing, playdate, or even birthday party where allergen-free food might not be available requires a lot of preparedness, planning, and thought on my part.  But what does it include for the allergic child?  Not getting to eat what the other kids eat.  Feeling left out.  Feeling disappointed and sad that they yummy cake is for everyone but me.  Watching while other kids get to indulge while I have to eat something totally different .  Crying and feeling angry that I have to leave my friend's birthday party because someone kissed me with peanuts on their breath and now I'm having an allergic reaction.  Or being bummed that I didn't even get to go in the first place

These are all things my kids have experienced, and so much more.  They aren't even at an age yet where they are able to adequately verbalize their emotions regarding allergies.  But I can tell you exclusion is there, I have seen it in many forms.  Sometimes they seem affected by it, sometimes they don't.  Sometimes I am affected by it, and I am an adult! (I know, cry me a river, get over it, right?!).  

So, what does this mama do to make sure my kiddos always are included on some level?  What do I do to ensure my level of stress stays somewhat low?  I plan.  And plan. And then I plan a little more.  You can never be too prepared.  When I bake, I make extras and freeze.  Cupcakes, cookies, and bars freeze really well.  You have no idea how much stress is alleviated by simply being able to grab a cupcake from the freezer at any given moment (this doubles as a great stress reliever when the stress has already hit and mama is in need!).  

Whenever we are invited to a party or gathering I first always check to see if peanut products will be present.  If they are, we usually decline the invitation.  If it's one of the lesser-reactive foods, we'll go but pack our own food.  I always give a head's up to the host that I am doing this as I don't want to be rude, but I also want them to be on board with me and not serve food to my kids.  Creating an understanding ahead of time really helps, and we have had some really successful parties due to clear communication and foresight.  

However, this does not alleviate the disappointment when the birthday girl blows out the candle on the beautiful glutenous cake that everyone but my child gets to eat.  That disappointment will always exist in those situations.  But, being included is better than staying home.  Right? 

We recently went to, what I would consider, the most relaxing birthday party ever.  Why?  Because our dear friends who are coming to play this morning were hosting.  First of all it was cute as can be - ten 4-year olds dressed in princess attire listening to princess music, playing princess games, etc.  But the food, where all of my anxiety normally lies, was fantastic.  Fruit, popchips, deli meat, and jello.  And of course, Cybele Pascal's vanilla cupcakes.  not a trace of gluten, egg, dairy, soy, or peanuts.  And I didn't have to pack anything!  It's really lovely having allergic friends on so many levels.  Someone to commiserate with (if I had a dime for every text that said "missing the days of ordering dinner in"....), someone to share recipes with, but most importantly someone to share every day life with and never worry about being "different."  

I have to give a shout out to my mom at this point.  She always makes sure there is something to eat for my girls.  But she goes the extra mile for treats.  She recently discovered gluten-free, soy-free ice cream cones.  Add some sorbet, you've got yourself a rockin' treat.  And how many food-allergic kids get to indulge on ice cream cones?!  It's pretty awesome when you have family and friends who are not only accommodating to your needs, but celebrate them.  Right on, Mom! Thank you for that (and for being the best mom ever and putting up with me for 33 years and all that other stuff). 

Some day my kids will be old enough to understand the emotional roller coaster food allergies brings to our lives.  Until then, they live and breathe it and suffer through it.  For people that don't have food allergies, please know our kids are still ordinary kids.  While it is unfair of us as parents to expect others to accommodate our children completely, I think it is fair of us to expect others to understand their needs and be empathetic toward them.  If we have to decline or leave an event due to a food-related issue, please be understanding about it rather than irritated.  Please don't single our kids out or draw attention to the differences, rather celebrate the commonalities and just respect their needs.  And please know that we would rather be envious of your wheaty cake  than not have been included at all.  We'll have our own cake and eat it, too. :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Best Ever Dairy and Soy-free Vanilla Frosting

My oldest daughter's birthday is June 25th, and my youngest daughter's is March 25th.  So, next week Little One is turning 2.  You'd think these cupcakes with incredibly yummy frosting would be for her, right?  But, they're for Big Sister.  Having a summer birthday myself, I completely understand the importance of celebrating throughout the year so as not to get jipped.  However, why did the preschool teacher have to pick March to celebrate this one?!  This made for a very confusing day in our house.  

Chocolate cupcakes, a cute little birthday crown, a special song, and suddenly it's her special day.  I think tomorrow will be mine.  Lucky for me I have plenty of cupcakes left to celebrate with.  

The Best Ever Dairy and Soy-free Vanilla Frosting

1 cup Spectrum shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup rice milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

1.  With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, cream the shortening and salt for about a minute.
2.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat for about 5 minutes until smooth.  

I like to use my pastry bags to swirl frosting on top of cupcakes.  Don't they look so pretty? :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Monday Muffins: Cinnamon Roll Muffins

You know you're worn out when escaping to the bathroom to pluck your eyebrows is a quiet luxury.  That's just how my week has been.  I was really looking forward to getting the kids to bed early on the weekend and having some quiet time with my husband.

Friday night, as he was finishing up bedtime with one of the girls, I was laying on the couch thinking how divine graham crackers with frosting would be.  Having just made my delicious graham crackers, I had plenty of those.  But I didn't have any frosting and I felt kind of silly getting up to make it just to satisfy my late night craving (and no, I'm NOT pregnant!).  It seemed like one of those feelings that might pass if I distracted myself.  So, I flipped on the tv and tried not to think about it.  But it didn't work and my thoughts kept going back to creamy vanilla frosting.  And then, wonder of all wonders, my husband walked in and said, "I sure wish we had frosting to go with these graham crackers."  My hero.

Five minutes later I had us a fresh batch of frosting.  We plopped down on the sofa determined to watch a movie.  Every once in awhile I have a hankering for a good old Western flick.  I'm not sure if Gunfight at the O.K. Corral qualifies as "good," but it had 3 1/2 stars on Netflix so we decided to give it a go.  Halfway in and my sugar rush failed me.  I crashed and headed to bed.  Maybe tonight we'll get to the end.

Now about these muffins....they are heavenly.  My kids love them, but my husband is the one I have to keep my eye on.  Since I made mini muffins along with regular ones, they are so easy to just grab and pop in your mouth.  Seems like every time he's passing through the kitchen, he's got another one in his mouth.  I can always tell something's good when he goes back for more.  Though my kids are both picky eaters, they inherited that gene from the master, their daddy!  These are great with vanilla frosting, too.  :)

Gluten-Free, Vegan Cinnamon Roll Muffins

2 cups basic gluten-free flour blend
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoon Egg Replacer + 2 tablespoons rice milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 cup brown brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup rice milk
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Cinnamon sugar mix:
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line a muffin tin
2.  In a large bowl combine flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. 
3.  In a medium bowl mix egg replacer with sugar,  applesauce, milk and vanilla. 
4.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until combined.  
5.  Pour muffin mix into muffin tins until they're around 3/4 full. 
6.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mix over the top of the muffins, and swirl sugar mixture with a toothpick.
7.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer removes clean and the edges have pulled in from the sides. 

Pinterest Contest

I've created a new board on Pinterest called "I Can Make That Allergen-Free!" and want YOU to share it with me.  This community board will serve the purpose of finding new (and old) recipes to turn into allergen-free meals.  For example, we might post a recipe for a classic such as mac n cheese.  Then, I will do my best to create an allergen-free version of it (just an example, this one's already been done, check here.)  The beauty in this is that you don't have to post recipes that are already allergen-free, just recipes you'd like to see turn into allergen-free meals!  

Here's what you have to do:
1.  Follow me on Pinterest.
2.  Pin 5 pins.  Of those pins, 3 must be from my Allergen-Free Baking & Cooking Board
3.  Leave a comment on this page saying you completed 1, 2 & 3.  Also, leave a link to your Pinterest account so I can follow you and check out your awesome board(s).  

I will choose 3 of my favorite accounts based on your boards to share with me.  

Contest ends @ 5pm on Monday, March 25th. 

Start pinning! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gluten-free, Allergen-Free Graham Crackers

I'm laying on the couch with my little sickie watching Sesame Street.  I think I'm enjoying it more than she is, man Sesame Street is funny!  We're at Abby's Flying Fairy School right now, which is not my favorite segment.  So, I figured I'd catch things up on here.

Yesterday we made graham crackers.  I have tried several recipes over the past few months, and they all were flops.  Some were too dry and crumbly, some were too moist and didn't crunch, some burnt, and some just tasted nasty.  But I think I finally hit the nail on the head with this recipe.  It obviously took a few tries to get it right, but we were munching on these all night...and now this morning, too!  These will be helpful to have on hand in the coming weeks.  My little one is approaching her 2nd ear surgery, which will also include an adenoidectomy this time.  Not looking forward to this, but I'm hopeful it will help her experience some better health.  So I'm stocking up on easy snacks and treats.

I'm convinced the reason these graham crackers turned out so well is because both of my little helpers were in good spirits, working together (gasp!) and listening to directions.  I also realized we included some very important steps this time around that we failed to include in previous endeavors.

First thing's first, have your little helpers write the recipe.  (And yes, Helper #1 on the right is naked except for the apron.  If I haven't told you about "naked day" already, I'll get to that in a moment)

Next, put on some insanely cool glasses.  This is probably the most important step of the whole ordeal.  Do not, under any circumstances, leave this one out.  

After you've got on your insanely cool glasses, take them off.  Don't ask me why.  I usually don't understand these things, and it's often easier not to ask.  Whisk the dry ingredients together, making sure to glance at your upside-down cookbook to ensure you are doing it right.  

In a separate bowl you will want to cream the shortening with the brown sugar and agave.  At this point my phone disappeared so I was unable to take a picture of this step.  Once it was recovered I discovered about 20 pictures of my fireplace.  Cool.

You'll want to add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until just combined.  Don't overdo it.  It will still be crumbly, this is good. 

Next up, divide the dough in half and place one half on a sheet of parchment paper.  Have Helper #2, who in my case doubles as a hearthside photographer, pat it into a disk.  Then cover it with another sheet of parchment paper.

Roll that disk until is is pretty darn flat.  This is where a helper or two actually does come in handy, not that they didn't before.  Parchment paper is slippery, so an extra hand or two, or four, is really helpful in holding it down as you roll.  

 You'll want to try to get it into a rectangular shape as much as possible. Or maybe you don't. Maybe you want circle or square or traingular graham crackers.  To each her own. I used a pizza cutter to trim the edges. (After I took the picture)

Then I used the pizza cutter to cut the dough into rectangles and squares.  I'm not all that fantastic at spatial reasoning, so my spacing was a little off and I have several sizes of graham crackers.  I'm ok with this.  

Preheat the oven to 325, and put the dough, parchment paper included, on top of a cookie sheet and slide it into the freezer for about 20 minutes.  Then pull it out, remove the top sheet, and pop it into the oven for about 8 minutes.  Rotate the pan, then bake for another 8 minutes.  

Here's what you'll get.  Warm, golden yumminess.  The crackers will be soft at this point, that is ok.  Don't put them back in the oven!  Use your pizza cutter once more to run over the cuts you have already made.  this will help them break apart easier once they are hard. Transfer them, with the parchment paper, onto a cooling rack and leave them alone until they are completely cool.

Break the crackers apart carefully.  And start chowing down.  It will be hard not to.  These are just so good.  

We munched on them plain then made modified smores (because we were out of the "normal" ingredients), but there's just so many fabulous things you can do with graham crackers!


Gluten-Free, Allergen-free Graham Crackers
1 1/4 cups Basic Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1/4 cup Sorghum Flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Spectrum shortening
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/3 cup brown sugar

1.  Whisk together the first 7 ingredients and set aside.
2.  With a paddle attachment on a stand mixer, combine the last 3 ingredients and cream on medium for about 2 minutes.
3.  Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.
4.  Lay out 4 sheets of parchment paper.  Divide the dough evenly between two of the sheets.  Pat into disks and cover each with the remaining parchment papers.  Roll the disks flat into rectangles.  Remove the parchment paper.
5.  Using a pastry cutter (or if you're fancy and have a pastry wheel), divide into equal rectangles.  You could also score each rectangle in half lengthwise by pressing down with the cutter but not going all the way through.
6.  Place the parchment paper back on top and pop in the freezer for about 20 minutes until firm.  At this time you'll want to preheat the oven to 325.
7.  Once the dough is firm, remove from freezer and also remove top sheets of parchment paper.
8.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Rotate the pan, and bake for another 8 minutes (that's a total of 16 minutes, just in case you haven't had your coffee yet). Transfer the parchment paper onto a cooling rack, and let the crackers cool completely before breaking the crackers apart.
9.  Break apart and store in an airtight container.

Now about that naked day business.  Helper #1 is drawn to princess dresses, ballet tutus, beautiful clothes in general.  As long as it's not jeans or "scratchy" pants.  You will rarely find her in pants and a shirt, unless that shirt is some type of ruffly tunic or has ribbons or tulle on it.  However, she is also crazy about being naked.  She will, at any given moment of the day, peel out of her clothes and dance around the house singing "Naked Day!" Ah, the freedom of being 3 1/2 and having not a worry in the world except whether you should wear or a dress or nothing at all.  So, if you knock on my door, you never know what you're going to get.