Improvising

Lately little miss Emily has been all about apple EVERYTHING.  Apple sauce, apple juice, apple slices, and even pineapple because it has the word “apple” in it.  She eats enough apple I’m pretty sure her skin is slowly turning into an apple peel.

So I found this recipe for Pork with Buttered Apples and thought it seemed pretty perfect.  I’ve had a pork tenderloin sitting in my freezer for a few weeks and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it anyhow.

I did have to substitute a “buttery spread” for the butter for Emily, and that part was fine…no big deal.  Where this recipe went terribly wrong for me was the pork.

The recipe says I should “cook the pork, turning occasionally” until browned, and then to cover and simmer on low heat until cooked through–15 to 20 minutes.  That is exactly what I did, but after 20 minutes was the pork cooked through?

No.  Nooooooope.

In fact, it was still raw and dark pink inside, registering a temp of just barely 100 degrees.  By then the apples were done and the rice I’d made as a side was done, and I could tell the pork was far from being edible.  Meanwhile, my hangry toddler wandered back and forth between the living room and the kitchen, shouting, “Eat?  Eat?  Eat?  Eat?”

Clearly I needed a plan B.  I had purchased a turkey kielbasa that I was going to use in a pasta dish, but last night’s dinner needed it even more.  I was a little worried that turkey and apples wouldn’t make the best pairing, but it was either give it a shot or have rice and apples for dinner.  I sliced the kielbasa and tossed it in the pan with the buttery remnants from the apples while I let the rice cool.  Once the kielbasa was browned, I added the apples back in and called it a done deal.

The verdict:  Turkey kielbasa and apples actually taste great together, and my husband and toddler both thought it was fantastic.  CRISIS AVERTED.

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So where did I go wrong with the pork tenderloin?  I honestly don’t know.  My hunch is that I was supposed to slice it prior to cooking, but the recipe doesn’t give that instruction so I’d hate to make that assumption.  All I know is that next time, I’m not cooking it on the stovetop.  That sucker took almost an hour to cook all the way through.

At least not all of my kitchen ventures this week have been failures.  I made some seriously wicked chocolate chocolate chip muffins for Emily’s baked milk challenge.  My modifications:

  • I subbed a flax egg for the real egg
  • I added four tablespoons of powdered milk to the wet ingredients to make the milk-per-muffin measurement meet Emily’s needs
  • I omitted the nuts (choking hazard)

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I could LIVE off of these muffins, they are so delicious!  I think Emily enjoyed them, too.  😉

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Don’t Forget the Broth

I have this way of just…screwing up in the dumbest of ways.

A couple of nights ago I made this Orange Beef Stir Fry (sans mushrooms) I found on the Allergic Living website.  Although I did read through the recipe before cooking it, I have to be honest that I’ve been slacking on my mise en place lately.  I could give you every excuse in the book, but what it comes down to is that I tend to convince myself that skipping this step is saving me time.  Not only is that wrong–so, so wrong–but this is what got me into the most trouble all those years ago when I started cooking.

Long story short, when I was finished cooking this recipe I regarded the appearance of the stir fry with serious confusion.  The sauce didn’t seem very sauce-y.  It was gelatinous and somewhat chunky from the cornstarch.  It was three times thicker than I expected it to be, and it was white with a soft yellow tinge–nothing like the gorgeous brown stir fry sauce shown in the picture of the dish on the website.

I dipped my finger in and took a quick taste.  The flavor wasn’t bad.  It might not have been the consistency I’d expected, but it wasn’t awful.  I called out that dinner was served, and we all sat down at the table to eat.

Although it didn’t taste bad, and my husband and daughter were both eating it, I couldn’t shake the fact that something was off with the sauce.  Then it hit me:  THE BEEF BROTH.

I’m guessing the 3/4 cup of beef broth I was supposed to add with the cornstarch/orange juice mixture would have made a huge difference in the outcome of this dish. When I realized my mistake, I sheepishly admitted it to my husband, who did a horrible job of disguising the fact that he’d known something was off.

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Snot sauce, anyone?

I have vowed to myself to return to my mise en place ways.  This cannot happen again.

Also this week, I made Cinnamon Roll Bread for Emily’s week 9 baked milk challenge. It’s gorgeous AND terrifyingly delicious.  Swaps I made for allergies:  vanilla almond yogurt in place of the plain Greek yogurt, and a flax egg in lieu of the real egg.  This bread truly tastes like cinnamon rolls.  It’s dangerous to have a whole loaf of it calling my name from the kitchen.

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My husband will be away with a friend on a camping trip this weekend, so I have a rare opportunity to “cook outside the box,” so to speak.  He hates all the good foods like sweet potato and quinoa and avocado, which means the kiddo and I will be trying out some different things while he’s away!

Chicken Pot Chicken Pot Chicken Pot Pie

It’s FINALLY FALL, Y’ALL.

Okay, technically I’m writing this post on the last day of summer.  But it’s been cold, rainy, and windy, and I’ve been wearing scarves and sweaters.  As far as I’m concerned, fall has begun, and that means it’s time for comfort food cooking.

Comfort food around this house isn’t as easy as it used to be.  Most of our favorite comfort foods involve cheese, heavy cream, butter, and eggs, which are all off-limits when cooking for my family.  My daughter, Emily, has multiple food allergies.  She can’t eat dairy, eggs, peanuts, or pumpkin.  Peanuts and pumpkin are easy enough to avoid in our own house (in fact, peanuts in any form do not even enter this house), but milk and eggs can be tricky.

I’ve been in the mood for chicken pot pie.  Can you imagine cooking chicken pot pie without milk and/or eggs?  Well, I went for it.  I made up a recipe on the fly using our go-to substitute ingredients, and as with many things I cook these days, I kept my expectations low.  Here’s what I did:

1. I made a basic white sauce using dairy-free margarine, flour, and unsweetened rice milk.  When it started to thicken, I tossed in a chicken bouillon cube and sprinkled in some pepper.

2. Once the sauce had thickened to my liking, I added a couple of cups of shredded chicken and half a bag of frozen mixed veggies and kept on the heat until the sauce was warm.

3. I spread out a Pillsbury pre-made pie crust into a glass pie dish.  Strangely enough, these pie crusts don’t contain dairy OR eggs.

4. I dumped the sauce/chicken/veggie mixture into the pie dish and covered with another crust.

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5. I baked for 20 minutes at 450 degrees F.

The verdict?  My daughter cleaned her plate, if you don’t count the green beans she thinks are evil.  I had to go back for seconds.  My HUSBAND, who never goes back for seconds, especially not when I load up his dinner full of vegetables, went back for seconds.  The best damn pot pie I’ve ever made, and without any dairy or eggs.

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Say something about my dirty stovetop–I dare you.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too cocky.  This is a rare victory for me.  *Has traumatizing flashback to the last time I tried to make vegan Alfredo sauce*  It is nice to have a good ol’ comfort food recipe to file away for later use, though.

Earlier this week I also baked a loaf of Dutch Apple Bread.  This one I actually made as a part of Emily’s six-month at home baked milk challenge.  Two months ago, her IgE numbers for casein (milk protein) dipped low enough that her allergist thought she could possibly tolerate baked milk.  When milk is baked, some of the milk proteins bake out. We started out with a baked milk challenge done at the allergist’s office so she could be monitored in case she went into anaphylaxis.  Unfortunately, she failed the challenge; she reacted to the milk, but it was a mild enough reaction that her allergist asked us to give her half of a muffin or slice of bread three times a week to help her body build up a tolerance for the protein.  The muffins and bread must contain a specific amount of milk so she’s getting enough, but not too much, exposure to those proteins.

LONG STORY SHORT…I baked bread.

I started out with this recipe, but I made several modifications.  First, I didn’t make the glaze.  Considering I have to make these things for Emily weekly, I figured she didn’t need all that extra sugar.  I did opt for a light sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar on top.

Second, I omitted the walnuts.  Emily is only a year and a half old, so I’m still cautious about choking hazards.

Third, I added half a teaspoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients.  Just ’cause.

Lastly, I substituted ground flax for the eggs.

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That brown goop?  That’s “egg.”

THIS BREAD IS SO DAMN DELICIOUS.

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All in all, I feel pretty good about this week’s creations.

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Never a Dull Moment

How do you even begin to catch up after 1.5 years away from a blog?

I’ll start out with an explanation of why I’m dusting off the ol’ cooking blog after 1.5 years away.

I started this blog almost six years ago when I couldn’t even chop an onion, and over the course of a few years I became a fairly good cook and I was afraid of getting boring.  The whole basis for this blog was that it was my way of documenting my journey as I learned to cook.  I had accomplished that and to be honest, I kind of lost my way when it came to writing things here.

Fast forward a few more years.  I have a daughter now–a TODDLER, say whaaaaaaa?–and it’s like I’m learning to cook ALL…OVER…AGAIN.  Here’s why:

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On the left is flaked nutritional yeast, and on the right is ground flax seed.  This is a picture of what “cheese” and “egg” look like in my house nowadays.

My daughter has severe dairy, egg, and peanut allergies.  I don’t know how many of you non-vegans out there have ever tried cooking with no eggs or dairy, but this is about how I feel at the stove quite often:

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Cooking without dairy and eggs is one of the most challenging trials I’ve experienced. Since my daughter, Emily, recently failed her baked milk challenge and we know now we are in this for the long haul, I’ve realized I have an opportunity.  I could either pull my hair out, or I can set out to accomplish the same thing I did all those years ago when I first posted on this blog.  I can learn to cook.  I can use this blog to share my adventures as I make cheese out of cashews, eggs out of ground flax seed, and ice cream out of bananas.  If you’ve been on this journey with me before, I hope you buckle in and enjoy the ride in this new scenery.  After all, you know there’s always a good laugh involved when I try new things.

xoxo
Hope

Five-second oatmeal mix-ins

oatmealOatmeal is one of my favorite foods.  I especially love the Quaker Instant flavored packets of oatmeal.  Late last year, B bought a giant box of them from Costco, ate two packets, and they’ve been sitting in our pantry ever since.  As much as I love them, I try not to eat them too often.  Although delicious, they’re loaded with sugar and I’ve been going through a phase of eating oatmeal every day, so I’ve been trying to keep it a little healthier.

If you frequent Pinterest like I do (sigh), you’ve seen a billion and a half “recipes” for really exciting oatmeal concoctions.  Like “Healthy Blueberry Cheesecake Oatmeal” and “Vanilla Cake Batter Oatmeal.”  Um, I’m drooling just reading those names, but with a 12-week-old baby, I’ve got about two minutes to make my oatmeal.  When I purchase a tub of quick-cooking oats, I hardly imagine extending that cook time to 20 minutes just to make it taste like a delicious slab of cheesecake.

So what do I do?  I find whatever I can in my fridge or pantry to toss into my oatmeal and give it a little instant flavor without TONS of sugar.  Below are my top choices, plus two I wish I never would have tried.

  1. Brown sugar and cinnamon. Even just a nice, packed teaspoon of brown sugar in one serving of oatmeal gives it a nice syrupy sweetness.  The cinnamon I use VERY sparingly.
  2. Jam or jelly. I use about half a tablespoon.  I have to stir for a minute or so to thoroughly mix it in, but it’s tasty.
  3. Alpine Spiced Apple Cider mix. NOT a whole packet—usually 1/4 to 1/3 of a packet mixed into one serving of oatmeal.  This is probably my favorite of all the mix-ins I’ve tried.
  4. Hot cocoa mix. Again, not a whole packet—about 1/4 does the trick.  The kind I’ve used has been Starbucks cinnamon dolce, but I’m sure any hot cocoa would taste pretty good.
  5. Honey. It doesn’t take much since honey is so sweet.

Two things I mixed into my oatmeal that were just awful are applesauce and peanut butter (separately, of course).  Considering that I am addicted to peanut butter and eat it EVERY day, this is saying a lot.  I even tried to salvage it by adding some hot cocoa (because nothing is better than peanut butter except for peanut butter and chocolate together), and it still ended up in the trash.

What about you?  Do you mix anything into your oatmeal?

A tale of unfolded baby clothes

When I was pregnant with E, I worked hard on the organization in her nursery.  I carefully planned out where every little thing would live and I arranged and rearranged until everything felt perfect.  I even went so far as to Google how to properly fold her baby clothes because I meant business.

One night I went into the nursery with my laptop, put on some music, and spent nearly an hour folding E’s little sleepers and onesies and teeny-tiny little pants.  My belly was huge by then and I’d spent so long hunched over on the floor that I had a hard time getting back up.  But I was PROUD of my handiwork.  When I told my husband and my mom about it, they both gave me this odd smirk and claimed I would never keep it up.  And I laughed at them.  Why wouldn’t I keep it up?  What was I going to do, just toss everything into the drawers and call it good?

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Yep.  Yes, that’s exactly what I did.

The fancy, folded baby clothes lasted until the third time I washed a load of E’s laundry.  For the first two rounds, I would ask my husband to entertain E while I sneaked away to fold her clothes and put them away nicely in her drawers.  Both times I knew I was wasting my time because these days I can’t even get my damn bathroom clean, but I had been so hell-bent on proving my mom and husband wrong that I was going to stick with it.  HA!

By the third load of baby laundry, I wondered what it would feel like if I just tossed everything in the drawers and walked away.

It was LIBERATING.

I have not folded a single item of baby clothing since.  E’s drawers look like a hot mess and I don’t care.  It’s worth the extra 15 minutes a day.

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Now that I know how it feels, I just have to be careful not to do it with my own clothing…

Be honest, new moms:  do you fold your baby’s clothes?

Frank’s Red Hot ruined my breakfast

I have the same thing for breakfast every day:  egg whites on toast with a banana and coffee.  Even though it never changes, I love my breakfast.  Maybe that’s WHY it never changes.

But sometimes I do wonder if it’s a little boring.  For a few weeks I added cheese to my egg whites and that was fun and all, but it wasn’t conducive to my postpartum weight loss plan.

Suddenly it clicked: I’ve heard from a lot of people that Frank’s Red Hot is great on everything.  I’ve also been told it’s phenomenal on eggs.  So it was decided: today I would try Frank’s Red Hot on my egg whites.  I like Frank’s Red Hot.  I like egg whites.  How could this go wrong?

…….

Yeah, it went wrong.  I shouldn’t have listened to that “lot of people” who said the sauce was great on everything.  I’ve also heard from a lot of people that sushi is delicious, but I hate sushi and you couldn’t pay me to eat it.

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Nope.

I didn’t care for Frank’s Red Hot on my eggs.  I still ate it because a) I’m breastfeeding and need the food, but b) I was too lazy to scramble another pan of eggs.  But I won’t be doing it again and I won’t be getting experimental with my bottle of Frank’s Red Hot.  If it’s good on everything, “everything” must mean just chicken.