The chocolate is strong with this one

My toddler is a true chocoholic, much like her mama.  On the one hand it’s great because who doesn’t like having a chocolate buddy, but on the other hand it poses a challenge because most things chocolate also contain dairy.

For dessert on Thanksgiving I tried out a 3-Ingredient Dairy Free Fudge from the Pretty Bee.  It didn’t set as well as I’d hoped but popping it in the freezer helped in a pinch.  Emily LOVED it.  The best part was that it took five minutes to prepare.

Last weekend I took it a step further and made ice cube tray truffles.  If you’ve never seen these, they’re little truffle-like candies you make using ice cube trays.  I studied a few different tutorials and combined the steps/methods from several of them, but in a nutshell here’s what I did.  I melted dairy-free chocolate over the stovetop and filled each “cube” of an ice cube tray about 1/3 of the way with the melted chocolate.  Then I dropped a small dollop (about 1-1.5 tsp) of cookie butter into each cube, and then I filled them the rest of the way with more chocolate.  I put them in the freezer for several hours and took them out to thaw about ten minutes before serving.

THEY.  WERE.  AMAZING.

Keep in mind it was pretty dark chocolate, being dairy-free and all, but Emily took one bite and immediately demanded more.  She ate two full ice-cube sized truffles and sobbed furiously when I cut her off because her bedtime was right around the corner.

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The truffles, like the fudge, were a five-minute project.  I’m going to make more this week to give out as Christmas gifts and I plan to fill them with a variety of things, like caramel sauce and almond butter.

Clearly I’ve spent a lot of time cooking with chocolate lately.  I’ve considered making some vegan sugar cookies to decorate for Christmas but I tend to ruin them even when they’re not vegan so I’m still on the fence.

As if cooking from scratch daily and working full time and being a rockstar allergy mom all wasn’t enough, I recently opened an Etsy shop and also launched the Idaho Food Fighters Facebook page.  My husband just got sucked back into the Candy Crush realm and I refuse to go down with him, so I’m trying to be more productive instead.  *Laughs maniacally as I drink another pot of coffee*

And is anyone else floored by the fact there are only 15 days left until Christmas?  My shopping is DONE (it’s a Christmas miracle!) but I still have to wrap everything….or rather, I still have to double-wrap everything because the toddler is anything but gentle with the gifts currently under the tree.

Hope you all have a great week ahead of you!  If you have any good vegan sugar cookie recipes, send them my way.  I promise I’ll try not to ruin them.

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Catching Up

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?

Between a nasty sinus infection, a cat who decided to develop asthma, and a huge project at work, finding time to blog was next to impossible.  But here I am.  I made it.  Let’s catch up!

Muffins (Baked Milk Challenge): The muffin game is still going strong over here.  Emily won’t touch a bowl of oatmeal, but she LOVES oatmeal muffins.  My last three batches have all been variations of oatmeal muffins.  Emily BEGS for her “muffies” and it’s hard because she’s only allowed one every couple of days.  We’ll have to do this until January and then we’ll retest her IgE levels.  In the meantime, she likes to “help” me bake.

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Cooking: YOU GUYS, I’ve finally started cooking pork chops!  First I followed this recipe for Glazed Pork Chops, and last night I used Shake & Bake (shhhhh…).  My hubs is grateful to be eating something that’s not chicken, and Emily appears to be a big fan of pork.  YAS.

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Other shenanigans: I’m plotting a ginormous organizing spree at home.  (Side note: Since when is “ginormous” considered an actual, proper word? I think I missed a memo.)  I have a list of small projects that will hopefully make life in a small house more tolerable.  I started a Pinterest board for home organization and I’ve got items in my Target and Amazon carts stacking up.  It’ll be a ridiculous amount of work but worth it in the long run!  I’ll be taking before and after photos and I’ll be sure to share my favorite organizational hacks.

Lastly:  Let’s talk cheese.  Or, “cheese.”  I have a handful of vegan “cheese” recipes to try for Emily, but since my last two cashew-based cheese attempts were flops, I’m emotionally scarred and I’m afraid of trying again.  We recently tried Heidi Ho, a plant-based “cheese” I found at Whole Foods, and both Emily and I enjoyed it but it’s so…damn…expensive and it doesn’t have a long shelf life.  I’m not ready to admit defeat yet, so I’m gearing up to try a new vegan cheese recipe.  If you have one that you think is foolproof (remember who you’re dealing with here), please share!

So there’s a few weeks worth of stuff crammed into a 400-word post.  Now that my cat and I are both breathing again, I’m hoping to be back here this weekend.

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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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?

Cooking without cheese

I have a sneaking suspicion my 11-week-old is insensitive to milk protein (that she gets through breastfeeding), so I’m cutting out all dairy for two weeks to see if it makes a difference.  I’m pretty sad about giving up yogurt, but the biggest challenge is going to be cooking without cheese.  I cook a LOT of things with cheese.

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Last night, I made a deep-dish taco pizza.  As I grated the cheese that would be sprinkled all over the top of the pizza, I kept reaching to pinch some shreds of cheese between my fingers and eat it.  It’s usually my reward for grating cheese because I HATE grating cheese.  But of course, I had to continually slap my hand and tell myself that cheese is currently off-limits.

I scattered the cheese all over half of the pizza, because only my husband would get to eat that part.  When the pizza came out of the oven he looked at it, perplexed, and said, “How can you eat a taco pizza without any cheese?”

I should have slapped him.

(Don’t worry, there isn’t actually any husband-slapping occurring in this house.)

So, one dinner down, 13 to go.  I will be scouring Pinterest and my recipe-books for dairy-free recipes, and I will be avoiding anything that involves cheese so I’m not being teased like I was last night.  Sorry, B, if I’m going cheese-free, so are you.

Any favorite dairy-free recipes you can recommend?