Easy Allergen-Free Weeknight Dinner Series: “Cheesy” Chicken and Rice

Cheesy Chicken and Rice

This is reminiscent of the broccoli, cheese and rice casserole that is popular in Oklahoma and which was usually present at nearly every potluck I attended as a child. I looked forward to potlucks for this very dish. I loved the creamy combination of rice and cheese. If I could compare it to another delicious dish, I would say that this is a Southwest version of a delicious risotto. The version I made here does not have broccoli because I didn’t have any on hand, so I subbed red bell pepper and celery and it was a hit. You may decide on different veggies as the base of this is pretty versatile.

I made this in the skillet, but you could certainly bake this in a casserole dish after browning the meat and onions, and keep it warm until guests come over. Add some gluten-free breadcrumbs and put it under the broiler for a bit for browning. My family went back for seconds AND thirds, so I don’t think they missed the real cheese. ūüôā

Make ahead notes for quicker weeknight dinner prep: Make large batches of rice on the weekend and freeze in 2 cup portions. You can also do the same for mashed or grated potatoes. For your protein, keep three packages of meat thawing in the refrigerator at all times. When you use one, get another package out to thaw and keep rotating. Use the one that has been thawing the longest. Fish usually thaws in one day, so you may want to plan differently for fish. Having rice handy and meat thawed out will make your dinner prep quicker and easier. Use canned beans for meatless nights (try to get the canned beans that do not have EDTA as a preservative. Ingredients should just be beans, water, salt.)

Ingredients:

1 lb. of ground chicken

1 small yellow onion or 1/2 of large white onion, chopped

2 cups cooked med or long grain rice

1-2 cups of water

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon, dried sage

1/2 teaspoon, dried thyme

2 ribs, celery, chopped large

1 red bell pepper, chopped medium

1-2 cups daiya vegan cheese

2 Tablespoons earth balance vegan margarine (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 2 slices of allergen-free bread, toasted dark golden brown, crumbled

or 1/2 cup Mary’s Gone Crackers’ Herb Flavored Gluten-Free crackers, crumbled

Directions:

1. Brown ground chicken and onions in a large skillet over medium heat.

2. Put your frozen rice in the middle (if you made it in advance) and add some water. Cover and let boil and steam, stirring occasionally to break up the rice, add more water if needed.

3. When rice is hot and incorporated, remove lid and add spices and veggies. Let simmer until water is mostly evaporated.

4. Turn heat to low and add the vegan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning and amount of cheese to your liking. If you do not have vegan cheese, try using a combination of vegan margarine and nutritional yeast.

5. (Optional) For a crunchy breadcrumb topping, process some Mary’s Gone Crackers Herb-Flavored gluten-free crackers in a small food processor and sprinkle over top. Or, you could toast a slice or two of gluten-free bread, process in a food processor or crumble over top.

Garnish with fresh parsley, basil or rosemary or add hot sauce if you like.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles: No Eggs, No Worries, and So Much Fun!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough TrufflesThis is what happens when a foodie realizes some of the benefits of allergen-free cooking and baking. The pleasure of eating raw cookie dough. And I will admit that this recipe was a happy accident.

Two weekends ago, I picked up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie Mix because I needed a shortcut. The last cake order was an ambitious and time-consuming project and I needed to make cookies shaped like firewood for the campfire cake – stat! I was already getting behind with three failed attempts on allergen-free strawberry cake. So, to experiment with an egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free cookie dough that would hold it’s shape? No way. ¬†Go for the sure thing. That’s what baking-mix-friends are for.

I had noticed the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie Dough Mix on the shelves nearly every time I’ve gone into the store. Until this great hour of need, I have avoided the gluten-free shortbread mix. This might be surprising to some, as my pantry is stocked with just about every gluten-free product produced by Bob’s Red Mill. But not the shortbread one. Why? For some reason I felt that since most shortbread cookies were pretty dry, I could only imagine how dry a gluten-free version would be.

Well, I was wrong. The Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookie Mix was so soft and pliable and perfect.

When I made the cookies, I had some dough leftover. Since I had substituted the egg with 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, there was no worry of salmonella. What a great feeling to just be carefree about cookie dough! I brought my guys into the kitchen and we had little bits of delicious shortbread cookie dough. The taste was similar to chocolate chip cookie dough, though less intense. So, I decided to see if we could turn it into that.

I added some dairy-free chocolate chips, a little bit of brown sugar, a little bit of vanilla extract and touch more salt. Did it work? Oh my yum… did it ever.

The other night, I made some again without any intention of baking them. I didn’t add the brown sugar and salt like I did before because I was in a hurry. It was still pretty good, but ¬†I finally had a chance to add the brown sugar, vanilla and salt, and it just makes it so… “choco chippy cookie doughy.” ¬†Yes, I said it. And even though Valentine’s Day isn’t here yet, these treats absolutely deserve to be surrounded by hearts. They are so wonderful.

Best of all, they are free of many common food allergens. They are dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free and I think they might be soy-free but please double check on that. I do not know about the nuts either. I was so much enjoying this that I got distracted. Shame on me – lost in treat land. But, I will make this again and amend this post with that information.

Make and Merrily Eat!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

1 bag of Bob’s Red Mill GLUTEN-FREE Shortbread Cookie Dough Mix

1 bag of Enjoy Life Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free Chocolate Chips (use only 1/2 cup for the cookie dough)

3/4 cup of your favorite solid fat (Spectrum Shortening, Earth Balance or Coconut Oil. Do not use coconut oil if avoiding nut allergies).

1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil (to replace the egg)

1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 tsp salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

About 1/4 cup of water (just enough to get the dough to stick together)

Directions:

Prepare the Shortbread Mix with the ingredients listed above. Reserve the remaining chocolate chips.

Roll into bite size truffles and set on a sheet of waxed paper.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until the chips are melted. Note: do not add liquid to these chocolate chips, they don’t behave like the dairy ones. If you add liquid, it will actually turn hard and form into a clay-like texture. (I don’t know why – yet. It is pure cocoa butter and seems to behave differently than cocoa butter that has been cooked and blended with milk or cream.)

Once the chocolate is melted, pour gently over all of the cookie dough truffles. Roll them around to make sure they are fully covered in chocolate. You can also add some Sunbutter to the mix if you like that flavor.

Transfer the truffles to a baking sheet or container lined with waxed paper and put them in the refrigerator so that the chocolate will set.

 

 

Finally! A Super Safe Root Beer Float!

Root Beer Float

Many of us have wondered, “Is Root Beer gluten-free?”

Now, some of you may be wondering why one would even have to ask. It’s a beverage, not bread. However, most dark colas are made to look that way with an ingredient called caramel color.

Caramel color is tricky to know with certainty whether it is processed using wheat or not. Even with the 365 brand, it stated that the caramel color was made from cane sugar. But does that mean it’s only cane sugar? There was no gluten-free indicator on the bottle and I am wary when they don’t label something as gluten-free. So, my fiancee’ (who is quite the thorough food investigator) wrote an email to Whole Foods to ask about the processing of the caramel color from cane sugar in the 365 brand sodas.

I must say that given the bit of push-back that I usually encounter when I am calling or investigating food ingredients, I was quite pleased when he received this initial response:

“Thanks for contacting us.¬† I have a four year old with life threatening food allergies as well, so I know exactly how hard this can all be, and especially how important it is to us as parents to make sure they can have as inclusive and “normal” a diet as possible.¬† I will reach out to the soda vendor and see what information I can get about the sugar.¬† I doubt I hear back from them today, but I will let you know as soon as I do.

Just for the future, if you have any other questions about our private label line, you can email me directly at¬†customer.questions@wholefoods.com.¬† It’s a little more direct than the web site, if that is easier for you.

I will be in touch as soon as I hear from the vendor on the sugar.”

That was a super friendly and helpful response!!! We were happy to wait a few days. When we heard back from the representative, this is what we received:

“I heard back from our vendor and there is no possibility of gluten in the caramel coloring; they even have a gluten free certification on file.¬† I hope this helps – please let me know if you need anything else!

If you have any further questions please use our online response form.”

So, with that, we called in my son and told him the exciting news! Today, we paired it with our homemade coconut milk non-dairy ice cream and made a root beer float. He had never had one before. He absolutely loved it.

What a great way to celebrate the joy of safe eating!

Root Beer Float 2

Sweet Treats Complete! Allergen-Free Campfire Chocolate Cake and Strawberry-Vanilla Cake

Campfire CakesI am really excited that these turned out! ¬†I used to do regular baking before I started dealing with my son’s onset of Celiac and dairy allergy (about three years ago). But now I am getting back into baking – with a focus on the fully decorated cakes being free of the 8 common allergens. With these cakes, my client only wanted them to be vegan. But because I cannot work with wheat flour, these are also wheat- and gluten-free. So, in the end, these cakes ended up being without wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts and peanuts and partially without soy. The marshmallows have soy and the strawberry cake utilizing a gluten-free flour mix that used soy lecithin – I went ahead and used it because ¬†the client was only focused on the cakes being vegan.
I did make myself available by phone, if for any reason, she had anyone with food allergies needing to ask questions. I kept the packaging of ingredients that I used so that they can be readily available for evaluation. I know how I am, and I want to make sure that others are absolutely 100% sure that it is okay.

There is a lot of trust in this business and I will take that trust as seriously as my own death. I will have ways of making sure that my clients know 100% what will be going into their cakes. I will use their requests and their experience as my guidance. My clients are my royalty, they deserve it.

That said, I have a lot of recipe to post here. And I will say that I did use one shortcut: a gluten-free flour mix. Specifically, King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix for the chocolate cakes and Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix for the strawberry cakes. Now, the reason I did this is simple: I do not have a kitchen scale. And as I have learned that in gluten-free baking, precise weighing (not volume measuring) is needed, I relied on the companies to do that for me. Secondly, every ingredient in those mixes is exactly what I would have used to prepare my own mix, the only exception being that the King Arthur Flour has some emulsifying agents to help the cakes retain moisture longer.

So, onward with the recipe dispensing!

Campfire Cake

For the Chocolate Cake Layers

2 boxes of King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix (note that the box indicates that one mix will make two 8 or 9 inch round cakes. I did not find this to be true – unless I wanted really thin layers).

3 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 6 Tablespoons of warm water

1/2 cup mashed banana (from a small to medium banana)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (instead of the 2/3 cup that the package calls for since the banana provides moisture and binding)

1 cup of water (instead of the 1 and 1/3 that the package calls for due to the extra liquid from using the egg replacer)

Prepare the cake according to package directions except omit the part about the eggs and add the replacer at the end and increase baking time to about 35 to 45 minutes. Use the toothpick test to make sure it is done.

Repeat for the second cake layer. I do not recommend mixing both batters at once as it could change the chemistry of volumes and ratios and affect the outcome of your cake layers.

I recommend making the cakes a day in advance so that they have time to cool properly. Cakes that are not fully cooled will release more crumbs when you are trying to frost it (and you don’t want that).

Chocolate Mock-Buttercream Frosting

I recommend that you make this when you are ready to frost. Although, you can make it in advance and put it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. But do set out the frosting to bring it to room temperature for about an hour so that it will be soft enough to work with.

1/2 cup organic non-hydrogenated shortening such as Spectrum brand

1/2 cup soy-free earth balance buttery-flavored margarine

1 teaspoon of gluten-free vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa

1 32oz bag of powdered sugar (make sure it is fresh and has not been opened as powdered sugar can take on a stale taste very soon after opened. If you have a corn allergy, look for powdered sugar made with tapioca starch instead of corn starch).

*2-4 Tablespoons of hemp milk or rice milk (hemp milk has a creamier texture due to the fat content)

Mix together the fats and vanilla until blended. While the mixer is on, slowly add the cocoa and 1 Tablespoon of hemp milk. Gradually add powdered sugar and hemp milk, alternating so that it does not slow your mixer down.

*BE CAREFUL TO NOT ADD TOO MUCH LIQUID. You want the frosting to be very thick/stiff. If it is too wet, you will have a difficult time frosting your cake.

This should be enough for filling and frosting the outside of it. You may need to make more if you need more frosting for decorating.  Decorating tip: frost the sides first using a 16 inch icing bag and the icer tip. It helps to have a turning cake stand, too. Use a small frosting spatula to even out the sides. Then do the same with the top. Once it is frosted, refrigerate for 10 minutes to set and then use a piece of wax paper to smooth out the surface of the frosting.

Campfire Flames

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

You will need about 4 large bags of dum-dum lollipops. These are the only hard candies that I could find that are made in a dedicated allergen-free facility and are free of the 8 common allergens.

Separate out the colors (strawberry, cherry, orange, peach-mango and cream soda flavors).

Put each color in its own ziplock bag and smash with a hammer (on a surface that is safe and will not cause any damage).

Arrange the crushed lollipops on a parchment paper with the dark colors being on the bottom and the lighter ones to the top.

Melt in the oven for about 10 minute or until all of the candies have melted and blended.

Take out of the oven and use a toothpick to blend (if you want).

Transfer the parchment to a cool table. Candy will quickly set in about 10-15 minutes.

Once cooled, break into triangles as best you can. Be careful not to hurt yourself and don’t let the kids help with this one. Once the flames have been put into the cake for the event, suggest breaking them back down again for kids to eat.

BE CAREFUL THAT NO ONE GETS HURT BY HARD SHARP CANDY FLAMES. 

For the Logs and Rocks

1 Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie Mix

1 package of Enjoy Life dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free chocolate chips

Prepare a package of Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie mix, except replace the egg with 1/4 cup of vegetable or allergen-safe oil.

Try not to eat all of this cookie dough at once because it is delicious!

Form the cookie dough into desired shapes and bake for 12-15 minutes. The color of the cookies will not change significantly.

Once cookies are cooled, brush with melted enjoylife chips.*

*Here is something that I learned the hard way: ¬†if you add a tiny bit of liquid to the chocolate chips (like a bit of food color for the rock shaped cookies), the chips will harden back up into a clay mass while you’re trying to melt them. If this happens, add about 2-4 tablespoons of hemp milk to the chocolate and stir and blend. If you do this, you will have to put the cookies in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.

For the Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Frosting 

Strawberry Cake

Note: the pectin in the strawberries makes the chemistry especially tricky in this application. I have failed at several attempts at strawberry cake and finally found this version that was still a little dense but still cake-like in texture (rather than the ones that came out gummy or hard before) and finally had a balanced strawberry flavor that went well with the frosting. I had to use three mixes as these did not want to rise. Once I finally understand what is weighing this cake down, I will ammend this post with a slightly better version. But this recipe is still quite delicious, but do understand that it is about the same density as a pound cake.

3 packages of Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix (use a different kind if you need to avoid soy such as the King Arthur Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix)

For EACH cake layer (which you must prepare separately), you will need to add:

1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries ————- (3 cup total)

2 teaspoons of lemon zest ——————— (6 teaspoons total)

1 teaspoon of gluten-free vanilla extract —————– (3 teaspoons total)

1/2 cup earth balance buttery-flavored margarine (or Spectrum brand shortening if you don’t have EB) ———- (1 and 1/2 cups total)

1/2 cup rice milk ————–¬†(1 and 1/2 cups total)

4 and 1/2 teaspoons of EnerG egg replacer mixed with 8 Tablespoons of warm water ————– (haven’t figured out the total, just have enough to do this three times)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease pan.

In a mixer, combine all of the ingredients except the strawberries. Once everything is combined, add the strawberries and let the mixer run until the strawberries are all smashed up and the batter is pink.

Bake in one 8 or 9 inch pan until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (about 35-40 minutes).

Vanilla Mock-Buttercream Frosting

SAME AS CHOCOLATE MOCK-BUTTERCREAM ABOVE, JUST OMIT THE COCOA.

A Lot More Ways to Replace Eggs Than The Average Baker Thought (via King Arthur Flour Community)

KAF Community Egg SubsThe title of this article/info-share especially holds true for me. You see, I’m embarking on making some vegan cakes for a cake order this weekend (pictures forthcoming when completed) and the last time I did home baking with real cake orders, I did it with all of the good old fashioned ingredients that most bakers use: wheat, eggs, milk and butter. Not anymore. And as I’ve not completely mastered this as of this writing, I’m nervous. I know it will be decent no matter what. But I want to make sure the cakes are absolutely delicious and not gritty. As a friend has lovingly offered their kitchen scale for my use. I am grateful and appreciative as I await arrival. In the meantime, I am turning to some King Arthur Flour gluten free cake mixes because they are comprised of the flour mixes I make at home, but also with the specific ratios that I know King Arthur would use to ensure consistency in baking (which I haven’t done without the scale as of yet). I also know that the rice flour component is superfine, which should eliminate the gritty texture we all very much hate in our should-be-tender baked goods. And the great thing about gluten-free flours is that they are generally also free of the ridiculous number of additives that are found in conventional wheat flour mixes.

That said. I cannot fail.

Therefore, I will do my damnedest.

So, I turned to the KAF website to research best way to replace the eggs with their cake flour and they are not recommending that eggs be replaced. They have indicated that the results with flax meal, bananas or applesauce has not been good See the discussion here. This concerns me a little bit. But I have no choice and I have to replace the eggs. Since the mix calls for 4 eggs, I can only assume that the eggs are needed for both binding and leavening. So, I have two mixes. The first thing I’m going to do after I write this article, is use a half binding / half leavening approach. Ener-G egg replacer offers the leavening effect while bananas and applesauce provide the binding effect. For the time being, I’m avoiding flax meal. I have made one cake with flax meal and the texture was so firm that it was like eating a cake-flavored English muffin. The texture could have been due to other factors. However, as I have never seen a cake take on that texture before, and I can’t be sure that flax meal wasn’t the cause, I’m staying away from it for now.

This is no small challenge… but we can do this.

With nearly every chemical component being replaced in this baking endeavor, and with food manufacturers providing all sorts of products for which to experiment, the baking community is on the cusp of developing a whole new world of baking science for which the world has yet to see. It will be interesting to see what kings of delicious baked goods we come up with in the next ten years. This article will not have as much research and information as I would like (as I have some baking to do), but I wanted to share this with all of my readers. (And I will hopefully have more answers very soon).

So, when you click on This KAF Community Contribution About Ways to Replace Eggs, you will see some ideas that diversify into ingredients beyond the usual four egg substitutions (flax meal, banana, applesauce and Ener-G egg replacer). There are suggestions for binding and leavening and for particular use in cookies, pancakes, waffles and biscuits.

I am particularly interested in the idea of whipping xanthan gum and water to get it to act like an egg white.

There is nothing definitive for the best egg-replacer for cakes from this King Arthur Flour community contribution. However, the list of ideas gives me plenty of fodder for experimentation, which, as you know, I find rather fun – and sometimes frustrating – as is par for the course.

Enjoy and happy experimenting!

It Can No Longer Be Denied: Allergen-Free Baking MUST Be Precise Kitchen Chemistry

Baking Chemistry BWAfter a solid 13 months of attempting various types of allergen-free baking, I can no longer deny that allergen-free baking must be approached as chemistry. I can no longer hold onto the notion that there can be any flexibility in baking that eliminates the three most essential chemical elements: wheat gluten (reaction base), eggs (leavening/binding) and dairy (liquid and/or fat).

After wasting hours of kitchen time (and precious dollars), I have come to the very disappointing realization that this is – in no way – anything like wheat baking. ¬†I have officially been forced to accept that my 15+ years of experience in wheat/dairy/egg baking has given me a sense of over-confidence with which I have scoffed at allergen-free baking authors that have warned me to either weigh correctly and/or use the exact ingredients listed. I have had a cavalier attitude about my ability to achieve great success with my recipes while saving both time and money by bypassing measurements and substituting ingredients. The results of these baking endeavors have laughed in the face of my over-confidence. That biscuit above does seem to have an under-bitten smug laugh, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’m not as brilliant in my baking as my wheat experience has led me to believe!

The only thing I can endeavor to do at this point is to no longer deny my un-brilliance in baking and that the science of it must be absolutely understood in order for this to work effectively and consistently. I must accept that the comprehensive information on gluten-free baking just does not exist, especially not in the common areas of the Internets or in the popular cooking and baking consortiums, societies and schools.

After reading about gluten-free baking in every resource I have been able to get my eyes or hands on, I STILL do not understand the reasons that there must be potato starch AND tapioca starch in nearly every basic gluten-free flour mix. Why potato starch if tapioca starch can do everything that potato starch can do? I admit that I have not googled this question. Or, if I have, I did not get a satisfactory answer. I do not understand why sweet white rice flour should be added to a mix or not, other than that I noticed that my banana bread came out a little more tender when I added it, but that sadly, it has also made my pancakes a little gummier (an effect I did not desire). Said sweet white rice flour could also be making the elusive tender biscuit too dense or heavy. I don’t know exactly why my biscuits have sometimes come out too dense/heavy or too light and crumbly. I do not know if it is the switch to a superfine brown rice flour (which could be taking up more airspace than the more grittier Bob’s Red Mill version) is to blame, or if the new aluminum-free baking powder is affecting performance.

As of this writing, I have attempted an allergen-free biscuit at least five times with varying results. All attempts have been adapted from the basic Fannie Farmer baking powder biscuit recipe. The first two attempts were a somewhat stunning success using only sorghum flour with the addition of the appropriate amount of xanthan gum. The only problem is, the biscuits were freakishly filling and did some very strange things to our digestive systems (I’ll leave out the details of those effects). Another attempt was made with the standard gluten free flour mix that I made with Bob’s Red Mill products. Then I made the biscuits and didn’t notice that I had forgotten the xanthan gum until the results were extremely crumbly. I made the biscuits again with the same mix and they were nearly perfect, with the exception of the “gritty” texture.

So, after a year of reading in various allergen-free baking books and blogs, and upon the insistence of many gluten-free recipe authors, I finally ordered some superfine brown rice flour with the goal to eliminate as much as possible, the grit texture. I waited this long because I really didn’t want to have to order a flour. All along, I have wanted all of my recipes to be accessible to everyone but I thought, if it’s really worth it to do it, it would justify the insistence from many other gluten-free recipe authors. And really, most people can order online now and it isn’t that cumbersome. It is just a matter of waiting.

A few days later, my order of Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour came in from Amazon. When I opened the bag, I had every member of the family come into the kitchen to feel the texture. We were almost breathless with awe. It felt powdery the way a wheat flour does. And although, you’ll get down to the smallest possible grit (that is how you know that it is STILL not exactly like wheat), it was not nearly as much gritty as with the Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour. With Bob’s Red Mill (BRM), you can feel the grit between your fingers almost immediately and it is a larger grit.

Superfine Flour
Superfine brown rice flour feels just like wheat flour.

I was so impressed and happy with the texture, and the potential for all of my baked items to have that wheat-like tender crumb without the grit, that I really could not wait to start working with it. I wasted no time in preparing my basic gluten-free flour mix and then went right to work on biscuit recipe, which, up to this point, has been ALMOST PERFECT.

I did another thing, too (mostly because a cake I made the other day came out tasting metallic), I also used aluminum-free baking powder instead of the alum kind because, sheesh, who needs to eat alum and taste any tone of tin to their baked products? So, make I did. Then I baked. Then we ate.

The results were abysmal.

:-/ No rise. Not tender. Dense. Kinda hard.
:-/ No rise. Not tender. Dense. Kinda hard.

It’s was like taking ten steps backward in all of my biscuit making weekends. How frustrating is it to get SO CLOSE with the sorghum and BRM mix and then this, with the flour that is supposed to make every gluten-free endeavor that much more perfect, come out so hard, so dense, and with so little rise? Ugh!

A similar disaster has been going on behind the scenes with a Boston Cream Pie (which is really cake) and I’ve been so anxious to develop really good recipes for that as well.

I’m SO VERY CLOSE to having recipes that are worth posting but I refuse to post recipes that have not been tested, or do not taste good. I tend to hate untested and untasted published recipes and won’t do that to my readers.

In the end, my fiance is right, I can’t just embark on this like the wild wheat baker I once was. I need to get out some books, do some research and know precisely how each ingredient is going to work and how it will affect the others. ¬†The good part about this is that by the end of ¬†THIS year, I will have compiled some comprehensive information on the function and purpose of the various flours that is hopefully more comprehensive than what is currently available. And yes, the Culinary Institute of America has not even divulged the science behind the performance of each gluten-free flour. I’ve gone to the library and searched every single gluten-free baking book for this information. The most I’ve been given is that yeast breads require higher protein flours. But why garfava flour in some recipes and garbanzo flour in others? I don’t know! And neither does anyone else except that it “seems to work.” Oh so vague! Exactly how much higher is the protein content in each of these flours? I will have to do a lot more reading and determine this myself. Unless there is a comprehensive resource out there on the science of gluten-free baking that I don’t know about.

I will say that the one place that I found some somewhat more comprehensive information on baking with gluten-free flour is from a blog called¬†Gluten Free on a Shoestring¬†and she has even authored a few books. While I can’t defer to this site much for totally allergen-free baking (we have to avoid dairy around here), she goes into a great explanation on the reasons for weighing flours and the ratios of flours-starches-gums that work best for her. Click Here for What You Need to Know About Gluten-Free Flour¬†and you will find some good information.¬†I have not tried any of the recipes yet. They look gorgeous. And if you are not allergic to diary and eggs, then these gorgeous recipes are worth a shot. (And let me know what you think of them).

As for allergen-free baking, I still defer to Cybele Pascal’s book. The recipes are great. But, unless you know about the secret of weighing flours instead of measuring them by cup, you will still end up with inconsistent results. And there is still the economy issue. I really don’t want to have to purchase egg replacer, agave nectar, and expensive organic palm oil for every recipe. Is there a way that more of those items can be made with more economical ingredients such as oil instead of shortening? I’m hoping. So far, I’ve had luck with both the banana bread, chocolate cake and pancakes using oil and applesauce instead of shortening and egg replacer.

Still more recipes to play with. Many more Рwith a mission for the recipes to taste good and be of good texture while be as economical and accessible as possible. With that, I want to include information on how and why each flour-starch-leavener-binder works and how to make it work consistently.  After all, everyone does not have an unlimited food budget. And everyone deserves a consistently successful Sunday biscuit breakfast, or sandwich for lunch or to have an occasional slice of their favorite Boston Cream Pie.

We will get there, young dairy-free and egg-free Glutanawans. Soon.

Now, it’s time to get that kitchen scale I’ve been meaning to pick up and get seriously scientific about this.

Easy Allergen-Free Weeknight Dinner Series: Chicken and Gluten-Free Pasta with Parsley Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Chicken and Gluten-Free Pasta with Parsley Pesto and Sundried Tomatoes

Homemade pesto is as versatile as it is easy to make. This allergen-free recipe uses sunflower seeds in place of the pignola nuts (a.k.a. pine nuts) that is commonly used in pesto. The sunflower seeds add the depth that a bold pesto requires, while garlic, salt and oil bring out the brightness and aromatic flavors of the fresh herbs.

Parsley is often more readily available and is also a great economical choice at about one dollar per bunch. I will say, however, that it is quite peppery when prepared this way, so you’ll need a bit of sweet basil (or dried basil) to offset that peppery bite of the parsley. Or… you could mix in 1-2 of your reconstituted dried tomatoes.

The sundried tomatoes were well worth the extra 10 minutes in the store to find and acquire. They add the acidic tang to round out the flavors of this classic Italian-American dish. My son does not like fresh tomatoes but loves these dried tomatoes.

And while mushrooms are depicted in the image (they *are* pretty aren’t they?), my fiance and I both agreed that a more spring flavored roasted veggie, such as asparagus would go a little better with the parsley pesto. The mushrooms weren’t bad – it’s just that they weren’t the optimal choice. So, instead, roast some asparagus, green beans or broccoli in lieu of the mushrooms. (Once I make this again with asparagus, I’ll update the picture).

Ultimately, this was very flavorful and satisfying. All family members devoured it and leftovers barely made it to the next day.

Chicken and Gluten-Free Pasta with Parsley Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1-2 pounds of chicken tenders or breast, cut into cubes or sliced in strips

1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped medium dice

1 Tablespoon fresh cracked pepper, salt and dried Italian Seasoning or Dried Basil

1 16-ounce package of gluten-free pasta

1 8-ounce package of sun-dried tomatoes (either in dry package or in oil, either will work)

4 cups (32 ounces) of parsley, packed (set aside some for garnish)

2 cups (16 ounces) of fresh basil, packed

3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/3 cup of sunflower seeds (check for allergens), or 2 Tablespoons of sunflower seed butter

1 peck of mushrooms, roasted at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (optional)

1 bunch of asparagus, roasted at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (optional)

2 Tablespoons of Earth Balance or your favorite dairy-free margarine (make sure that it is totally free of whey, casein, and all milk proteins)

2 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast

Directions:

1. Wash and chop all of your veggies and herbs.

2. In a large skillet, cook the chicken and onion in some water with and seasoning such as salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning or dried basil. While the chicken is cooking (put a lid on it to keep warm once finished cooking), reconstitute the dried tomatoes and prepare the pasta according to package directions. Also, roast your mushrooms and/or asparagus if you like.

While all of that is cooking, prepare the parsley pesto:

Add the parsley and basil to the food processor with the oil, garlic and sunflower seeds or sunflower seed butter. Add more oil or water if needed. Process until smooth.

Drain the soaked dried tomatoes and chop. (Note: they are large chop in the picture but we liked them better when we diced them smaller and had more bites with dried tomato flavor.)

Drain pasta, chop chicken and add to the pasta. Stir in the parsley pesto, dried tomatoes, earth balance and nutritional yeast. Taste and add salt as needed.

Serves 6-8

 

Easy Allergen-Free Weeknight Dinner Series: Blackened Chicken with Orange-Jalapeno Coleslaw

blackened chkn with slaw A vibrant slaw made of purple and green cabbage with shredded carrots, spring onions and jalapenos  are tossed in a bright teriyaki-orange vinaigrette and topped with blackened chicken to make for a gorgeous late summer dinner that is just as much fun to eat as it is to see. My son loved it and asked to have some for his lunch.

If you are allergic to sesame: replace the 1/2 cup sesame oil with 1/2 cup fragrant olive oil mixed with a Tablespoon of sunflower seed or pumpkin seed butter. (Sunflower seed butter often has soy in it, ask if anyone has a soy allergy). And then replace the sesame seed garnish with plain shelled and salted sunflower seeds (make sure you check the ingredients label on this because roasted sunflower seeds are often roasted with allergenic ingredients such as wheat and dairy).

If you are allergic to chicken: Replace with another protein of choice, or omit it entirely as this is very good by itself.

Blackened Chicken with Orange-Jalepeno Coleslaw

For the chicken:

1 2-lb package of skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer)

2 Tablespoons of chili powder

1 Tablespoon of powdered garlic

1 teaspoon of ground coriander, cardamom or allspice (one of those will add a touch of sweetness)

1 teaspoon each of ground mustard, ground ginger, onion powder, salt and pepper

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil of choice (make sure the oil is allergen-free) and heat to medium high heat. Then mix the spices on a plate and coat each piece of chicken with the spices. Place the chicken in the hot oil and let cook for 3-5 minutes until thoroughly seared and blackened. Turn the chicken and sear for a minute or two. Add a little water, cover the skillet and let simmer while you are preparing the slaw. A long simmer will thoroughly cook the chicken and if you cook it long enough, it will break down and become “shreddable.” Just make sure you check on it often and add water if needed.

For the coleslaw:

1/2 head of red cabbage, sliced very thin or shredded in a food processor

1/2 head of green cabbage, sliced very thin or shredded in a food processor

~(feel free to try different varieties of cabbage for fun and/or add other greens)~

4 carrots, coarsely grated

4-6 green (aka “spring”) onions, slivered

4 jalepenoes, slivered (Note: Cut around the seeds. The seeds will burn your fingers and will add significant heat to your slaw. I omit the seeds for this reason but you may add a few if you want the heat. Use gloves if you are not adept at avoiding the seeds.)

1/2 cup raisins (or dried cherries, cranberries, mangoes, or apricots) – omit if you don’t like dried fruit in your salads

For the dressing:

1/2 cup (gluten-free) sesame oil or 1/2 cup olive oil mixed with 1 Tablespoon of sunflower seed or pumpkin seed butter

1/2 cup gluten-free rice vinegar (both seasoned and unseasoned will work, always check for allergens)

1 Tablespoon of gluten-free tamari (This is important to get gluten-free. Most soy sauces are made from wheat. Gluten-free soy sauces are made from soybeans instead of wheat – always be careful with soy sauce and ask if the people you are serving have a soy or gluten/wheat allergy. If you there are allergies to both soy and wheat, omit the soy sauce and substitute with 1 teaspoon of salt mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard)

1 Tablespoon of orange zest

1/4 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger

2 Tablespoons of sugar

2-3 dashes of Sriracha sauce (optional)

For garnish: 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (check label for allergens)

Chop and wash your veggies and combine in a large bowl.

Using a jar with a lid, shake the teriyaki-orange vinaigrette until well blended and pour over the coleslaw. Toss the coleslaw in the vinaigrette and serve on plates topped with the warm blackened chicken and garnish with the sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Serves 6-8

(Make extra chicken if serving more than 6)

The Best Allergen-Free Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate PuddingWhen your guy¬†says “oh my” and gets lost in the first bite, ¬†you know you’ve got a winning recipe. My two neighbors also gave this a big thumbs up… with jokes about licking the bowl.

*Ahem* One of us (who shall remain nameless) might have done such a thing.

Tapioca starch is recommended for this recipe. We tried making this with arrowroot starch but it didn’t turn out so well. Tapioca starch is perfect for this and as an aside, is also a versatile substitute for cornstarch in gravies, and a substitute for eggs in custard-style pies (see the pumpkin pie recipe for an example).

This chocolate pudding is quick and easy to ¬†make and it’s also good enough to eat when it’s still warm. It tastes a lot like that delicious gooey chocolate filling of a chocolate lava cake. YUM!

If you’d like to add an¬†allergen-free whipped cream, I recommend Cybele Pascale’s Whipped Topping from her book The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook. If you are not allergic to eggs, you could use marshmallow fluff whipped to a softer consistency with a little water to make a whipped topping. In the meantime, enjoy this delicious chocolate pudding!

P.S. Hint: Freezer Molds! Make¬†chocolate pudding pops out of this, too! ūüôā

The Best Allergen-Free Chocolate Pudding

4 cups¬†water (Note: You can replace water with a safe milk-substitute for a slightly creamier consistency. If you do this, please ask whoever you serve it to if the milk-substitute is safe for them. Many people are allergic to rice, almond, and soy milk. We are pretty happy using water, and it’s less expensive that way).

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup of dairy-free chocolate chips such as Enjoy Life brand (check for other allergens if needed). Add less or omit chocolate chips if you want a more mild chocolate flavor. If you do omit the chocolate chips, add 1/2 cup of palm oil shortening or else the mixture will be very gel-like.

1 teaspoon of vanilla

In a large saucepan, stir 1 cup of the water tapioca flour and cocoa until blended and smooth. This step helps get rid of lumps before you begin cooking.

Set the heat to medium and stir in the remaining 3 cups of water. Then add sugar and salt. Cook and stir constantly until mixture thickens to pudding consistency. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla. Keep stirring until chocolate melts.

Chill in refrigerator or pour into popsicle molds for pudding pops later.

Easy Allergen-Free Weeknight Dinner Series: Italian Sausage, Peppers and Rice

Sausage and RiceShort and simple. Filling. Tastes good. This recipe utilizes a product that I know is safe for us to eat. A Simply Nature Mild Italian Chicken Sausage from ALDI that is labeled Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free. Lactose-free does not mean Dairy-Free, so I have to be careful with that indication. After careful examination of the ingredients, it appeared totally dairy-free, so I decided to go ahead and prepare this easy one-skillet dish.

The good news: we’ve enjoyed this sausage in several meals now with no problems.

While we did very well with this sausage, always be careful of your food, always check the ingredients label and check with your dietitian or doctor if needed. Here’s what’s in this:

 

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Rice

1 package of allergen-free mild italian sausage

1 onion, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 14-0z can of diced tomatoes

1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

2-3 dashes of your favorite allergen-free hot sauce (or a dash of cayenne pepper), optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare rice according to package directions. (Preferably cooked in broth for extra flavor).

While rice is cooking, add the sausage, onion, and green bell pepper to large skillet set to med-high heat with a little allergen-safe oil. Saute until sausage is browned and vegetables are tender.

Add the spices, tomatoes (with juice) and minced garlic to the pan and let simmer until flavors have melded and liquid has thickened.

That’s it. Dinner is finished. Here is a picture of the sausage and the ingredients label:

Simply Nature Chicken Sausage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply Nature Chicken Sausage Ingredients

Vegan Peanut-Free Oat-Free No Bake Cookies (Super Quick and Easy!)

No Bakes 2By virtue of the powers that be: Earth Balance, Sunbutter, and Gluten Free Rice Krispies, ¬†I bring you this classic no-bake cookie recipe. Now you can have your childhood back and enjoy this fun and easy-to-make classic treat. It’s so easy and so quick. Just melt, stir and drop onto waxed paper. It truly tastes like those old fashioned peanut butter, oat and butter laced no bakes you used to have.

The reason I substituted the oats with the ¬†gluten-free rice krispie cereal is due to the fact that many people who cannot tolerate gluten, also cannot tolerate oats. As for flavor, I recommend that you go to the trouble of getting the plain gluten-free rice krispie cereal instead of using a sweetened Mom’s Best cocoa krispie cereal (I tried that and it came out too sweet).

If you have a Soy allergy, you will need to use the Soy-Free Earth Balance and find a different seed butter product (like pumpkin seed butter) as Sunbutter is processed in a facility that also processes soy. ¬†Remember that avoiding peanuts and nuts saves lives, so if you can make a switch to a seed butter, you’ll be making the world a better place.

~As with any recipe, always double check your ingredients to make sure everything is safe and nothing has changed. ~

Vegan Peanut-Free Oat-Free No Bakes

2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup of cocoa such as Hershey’s Cocoa Powder

1/2 cup of Earth Balance non-dairy margarine

1/2 cup of rice milk

1/2 cup of sunflower seed butter (or soy-free pumpkin seed butter)

1 teaspoon of gluten-free vanilla extract

3 cups of GLUTEN-FREE rice krispie treat cereal

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa powder, earth balance margarine and rice milk . On medium high heat, bring to a boil and boil for one full minute.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sunflower seed butter and vanilla extract. Make sure the seed butter is fully melted and incorporated into the mixture.

Stir in the rice krispies and coat all of the cereal. As you stir, the mixture will cool down. You may want to wait about 5 minute for additional cooling and thickening.

Then, drop mixture by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Cookies will set in about 10-15 minutes. Let the cookies fully cool down before transferring to an airtight container. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes about 20 small cookies.

Easy Allergen-Free Weeknight Dinner Series: Chili Lime Tortilla Soup with Red and Black Beans

Multi-Bean Chili Lime Tortilla Soup with Harissa Olive Oil

One of my favorite things to eat when I was younger was white chicken chili from a pub around the corner from my college. It was loaded with lots of butter, milk and cheese (of course). But I haven’t stopped craving those flavors. With this version, the green chili and lime flavors, along with a bit of the meal from the crumbled tortilla chips or taco shells, add the body and flavor that I’ve been wanting. If I don’t post this now, I’ll forget how I made it.¬†

The lime juice makes it, so if you can, try to get a lime. If you don’t have a lime, use your favorite vinegar based hot sauce to add the acidic component that this needs to be just right.

 

Chili Lime Tortilla Soup with Red and Black Beans

Serves 2 – Double or triple the recipe for a family

In a medium saucepot, add the following ingredients:

1.5 cups of broth (CHECK FOR ALLERGENS BEFORE USING)

1 (14 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14 oz) can of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 (8 oz) can of green chilis

2 taco shells or a handful of tortilla chips or fritos style chips crumbled into the soup (CHECK FOR ALLERGENS BEFORE USING) – this will thicken the soup as it cooks.

1 Tablespoon each of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder

salt and pepper to taste

Bring to boil, then turn down heat to simmer for about 15 minutes to develop the flavors.

Take soup off of heat . Add 1/4 cup of non-dairy milk and the juice of one lime.  Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve in bowls and give your family more taco shells or tortilla chips for crushing. Enjoy!

I Wasn’t Expecting to Cry Today. Then, This Touching Letter To Allergy Parents…

letter to allergy parents

To Allergy Parents by Rebecca x’s blog: (And Rebecca, thank YOU.)

http://www.peanutfreegourmet.com/2013/08/to-allergy-parents.html

Easy Allergen-Free Weeknight Dinner Series: Savory Beef n’ Quinoa

Savory Beef QuinoaThis warm, filling, savory dish of beef, onions, and fresh string beans is simple, quick and takes advantage of standard pantry items. And so begins this series of easy allergen-free weeknight dinners to help those needing some ideas of what to whip together in a hurry.

Quinoa (pronounced: Keen-wah), is really quite an easy side dish to prepare. The ratio is the same as rice, and so is the cooking technique: 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of liquid. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until grains have absorbed the liquid.  Drain any excess liquid (do not overcook or it will be mushy). And there you have it.

The most essential tool needed for quinoa is a fine mesh strainer as you will need to rinse before cooking. The purpose for this is that there is a coating on the quinoa seeds that will taste bitter if not rinsed off.

Savory Beef n’ Quinoa

Prepare quinoa according to package directions using beef, chicken or vegetable broth. Add a little salt if desired. While the quinoa is cooking, in a large deep skillet:

1. Brown 1 pound of ground beef.

2. Add 1 yellow or white onion, diced

3. Add 3 cloves of garlic, minced

4. Add a little water and season with fresh cracked pepper, salt, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder.

5. Add a generous amount of string beans (fresh or frozen) and stir fry with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar until beans are crisp tender.

Plate with sliced fresh cherry or grape tomatoes.

That’s it! You may also want to consider adding mushrooms, leeks, green onions or other favorite vegetables that pair well with beef. ¬†I recommend adding a dash or two of gluten-free Worcestershire sauce if you have it. If not, this dish is good on its own.

Fresh Basil-Mint-Rosemary Bruschetta

Fresh Basil-Mint BruschettaThis collection of ripe sweet tomatoes and fresh herbs were lovingly shared with us by one of the dearest couples we know. I wanted to honor their friendship by creating a recipe that incorporates everything that they are always giving us from their garden, as well as their constant love and care.

Bruschetta is a dish I love to make with gifts from the garden as it always reminds me of bonding with those close to me. A very close Italian friend taught me that bruschetta is not just a nosh, but an experience. A few years ago, my son and I visited her in her hometown in Pennsylvania and she showed me how to make it the way she does and to have it anytime you want it (not just when presented with it at a restaurant).

She taught me bang it up a little, to use the wooden spoon to press the tomatoes while adding salt and herbs to draw out their juices. ¬†When the bruschetta was finished, she told me that it’s best when it’s in a big bowl to share, accompanied by a large loaf to of bread. She clearly loved it and ate it at least once a week or more. She had such a big smile and couldn’t wait to share it with me. We sat down on the couch and we broke bread together, hovering our faces over our napkins on the coffee table. We laughed, scooped up luscious tomatoes, and dunking our uneven portions of bread into the big bowl of salty, herby tomato juice. We ate and bonded like sisters. That’s how I remember bruschetta and that’s how I also feel about our friends that just gave us these beautiful tomatoes and herbs from their garden.

Last night, to take the bonding of bruschetta even further, my son and I worked on it together. He had so  much fun stirring and cracking sea salt and adding olive oil. He would smell the fresh herbs and we would relish in their aroma. We really had a great time together. After I tucked him in bed, my fiance and I shared the rest of it while watching our favorite show. So fun!

Every time I make this simple dish, it ends up being an experience in friendship, love and bonding. And the list of moments over bruschetta keep growing.

So, a heartfelt thanks to “K2”. Here is a recipe dedicated to you, my dears! ūüôā

Fresh Basil-Mint-Rosemary Bruschetta

To be made free-form, with no exact measurements, adjust exactly to your liking.

In a bowl full of tomatoes of any sort, (which have been cut up into bite-sized pieces) add:

1. A generous amount of fresh basil, cut into small ribbons

2. Some fresh mint (about half of the amount of basil you added), cut into small ribbons

3. And just a little bit of fresh rosemary, minced (taste and add more if you like. Careful, rosemary is strong)

4. Then add olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice (about 1-2 Tablespoons)

5. Stir and crush. Add little water if you want more juices for dunking.

Serve with your favorite gluten-free bread. Toasted or not toasted. Enjoy!

Vegan Soy-Free Marshmallow Recipe

Credit for this goes to inhabitots.com So glad to have found this recipe and wanted to share it with you.

I needed to find this because I’ve got my first Nashville cake request (very exciting :-D) and my client wants the cakes to be vegan. Sticking with my mission as a baker that avoids all of the 8-common allergens – while making sure it is also vegan – ¬†is a challenge I’m a bit excited about.¬†The design I suggested calls for marshmallows and she loves it. Marshmallows are generally allergen-free but the gelatin in them makes them not vegan, as gelatin is sourced from animals.

The first thing I did was look at  the available manufactured vegan marshmallows. Unfortunately, the vegan marshmallows I can buy where available have soy protein isolate, which is of the 8-common allergens I want to avoid in all of my baking. Further cyber search led me to vegan marshmallow recipes that also call for soy. Finally, after some more specific search requests, I found this. I am going to try it. Let me know if you also try it, and what are your results. Enjoy!

Vegan Soy-Free Marshmallow Recipe

Tasty Macaroni and Cheese for the Dairy-Free Crowd (with Variations on a Theme)

Image

 

I’m overdue in putting this up on my wordpress page. So, here it is! A common weeknight staple in our house, this has a mild cheese flavor, like American cheese, and as most veteran dairy-free cooks know, the secret ingredient is Nutritional Yeast. You could add some Daiya cheese substitute to this also, but Daiya also uses nutritional yeast for their cheese flavor, plus pea protein and binders. So, to save my food budget, I just stick with the nutritional yeast and use a combination of a few ingredients in the recipe below that should be accessible to most, if not all, dairy-free cooks.

A little word about the credibility of this recipe (as I always appreciate it when others tell me that they actually make their recipe and that other people like it):

My son remembers having Mac n’ Cheese for most of his pre-school time. It wasn’t until he was 5 years old that his body started completely rejecting gluten/wheat and also dairy. He came up positive for dairy allergy at the doctor’s office with a deduction of celiac with regard to the wheat/gluten. I was vexed by living without diary. We lived in NJ where Italian food is prevalent. We usually had bread and pasta with cheese almost every night. Parmesan cheese became a flavoring of choice for a lot of my dishes. I made ricotta stuffed shells at least once a week. And aside from the Italian food, we loved grilled cheese and mac n’ cheese…. and rice n’ cheese. Oh, how we loved our cheese.

Trying to find ways to have “cheesy” things again is quite a challenge. After all, I’m still working on the non-dairy cheesecake recipe. In the meantime, this recipe is a big winner at home. My son, who recalls the real thing, really loves this. My fiance thinks its great and especially loves it when I add a little bit of meat sauce to it to make it a cheesy mac n’ beef. It’s decadent and satisfies our cravings for a hearty meal.

Here’s how to make it:

Cook a 16-oz package of your favorite gluten-free pasta, be careful to not overcook (I usually set the timer for two minutes less than the minimum recommended time as it will still cook a little on the stove while you are adding ingredients).

Drain the pasta and put back in the pot and turn the heat down to medium-low.

Add:

1 cup of your favorite allergen-free chicken broth

1/2 cup of Earth Balance dairy-free margarine (or 1/4 cup of light olive oil)

1/4 to 1/3 cup of Nutritional Yeast depending on how much cheese flavor you want

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard

salt to taste (very necessary for cheese flavor. Remember, the cheese making process involves salt)

pepper to taste (optional)

 

Stir and serve!

And, if you want to make it like a Hamburger Helper, or a full one-pot meal, here are some variations on the Mac n’ Cheese theme:

Sausage.

Meat sauce.

Chili meat or beans.

Baby spinach and sauteed onions and mushrooms.

Cubed cooked chicken and diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning.

Tuna, peas and hot sauce such as Louisiana Hot Sauce or a milder Cholula (I’ve always loved this combination).

My fiance just suggested using gluten-free beer instead of chicken broth to make the sauce. Hmm. Interesting idea. I might have to try that.

I have a friend that just makes the sauce (without the pasta) and uses it for nachos.

Do you have any more ideas?

 

 

Safe Treats Buffet. And The Kids Like Them, Too!

With Coriander Honey Roasted Chickpeas in the center, our dairy and gluten sensitive household can eat all the treats shown. I used an espresso cup to display the dum dums. Here are the ingredients for the candies and gum:

And my apologizes that this post won’t apply to the corn allergic. I will research corn-free candy soon. In the meantime, these are dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, mostly soy-free (double check), peanut-free and nut-free.

Treats

Rock Candy: 

Sugar, water, flavor via extract or oil.

If you are sensitive to flavor extracts or oil, please check the full ingredients from the store where you purchased the rock candy.

Dumdum Lollipops:

Ingredients (from their website):
Sugar, Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Salt, Artificial Flavor, Color Added (Includes Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1). Store in a cool dry place. This product does not contain peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, or gluten. It has been manufactured on dedicated equipment. There is a trace amount of soy oil in the lubricant that we use in our cooking kettles. This soy oil has been refined, bleached, and deodorized and all of the proteins have been removed. www.SpanglerCandy.com

Starburst Candy: (not for people with corn allergies) 

Ingredients (from their website):

INGREDIENTS:CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, APPLE JUICE FROM CONCENTRATE, GELATIN, FOOD STARCH-MODIFIED, CITRIC ACID, LESS THAN 1.5% – PECTIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, COLORING (RED 40, YELLOW 5). GLUTEN-FREE.

http://www.wrigley.com/global/brands/starburst.aspx

Double Bubble Gum: 

Ingredients in Dubble Bubble gum include dextrose, corn syrup, gum base, tapioca dextrin, titanium dioxide, confectioners glaze, carnauba wax, cornstarch, artificial flavors and colors. Based on the two ingredients in the top positions on the nutrition label, sugar makes up the majority of this product.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/278081-nutritional-information-for-dubble-bubble-gum/#ixzz2aYDzKO4R

The Popcorn is air popped and the Candied Honey-Coriander Roasted Chickpeas was adapted from a recipe I found here: http://www.getoffyourtushandcook.com/2013/06/roasted-cinnamon-sugar-chickpeas.html

I added coriander and used honey instead of agave nectar. I found that the chickpeas roasted unevenly, so I would recommend moving them around often and not taking them out until they are almost burnt. The lighter ones weren’t as crunchy.

The Easy No-Bake Allergen-Free Cheesecake that You’ve Been Looking For. Almost Perfect. Accepting Challenges.

Foodie Challengers: Can you bring this allergen-free cheesecake to perfection? I developed this today but the filling needs refinement. It needs a creamier texture and stronger “real cheesecake” flavor. For some reason, the flavor weakened significantly during the chill and set process. It tastes like a mild vanilla jello. It’s good on it’s own (maybe for flan?), but otherwise, the crust overpowers it.

As for the crust, it is absolutely perfect and should remain unchanged. It has a really great graham cracker flavor and texture. When I ate a slice of this, the combination of the crust with the strawberries made me feel like I was having a cheesecake experience. It is the closest thing to cheesecake that I’ve had in years.

The filling really needs the most help, it needs a richer texture and deeper flavor. Ready to take on the challenge? Here are the requirements of the challenge:

1. it must use products that you can get from a store (not special ordered online)

2. it must be no-bake. And it must be free of dairy, eggs, soy, corn, peanuts and tree nuts.

So, should a solid fat be added such as earth balance or organic non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening? What about more nutritional yeast for the distinct cheesy flavor? Would a homemade condensed unsweetened milk help? Pureed bananas? Corn-starch-free melted marshmallows? Maybe?  What are your thoughts?

Anyway, if you like a milder, lighter, flan-style filling, you might want to stick with this recipe as is. It’s not bad at all. I had two slices of it and feel happy. But it could be better. And I look forward to hearing what you do with this.

Here’s the recipe:
No-Bake Crust

Coat the bottom of a spring form or cake pan with wax paper or a little oil.

In a food processor, process gluten-free chocolate rice crispy cereal until you have 3 cups of very fine crumbs. The finer, the better.

Then add crumbs to a bowl along with 1/2 cup of maple syrup. Mix until crumbs are all coated and it sticks together. Then press into the bottom of the pan. Cover and refrigerate.

The Cheesecake Filling

Boil 1/2 cup of water.

In a bowl, add 2 envelopes of non-flavored gelatin. Stir the boiling water into the gelatin and stir until dissolved.

Then add 1/2 cup sugar and stir until dissolved.

Add 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp vanilla, the juice of 1/4 of a lemon and stir.

Then add a pinch of salt and 1 15 oz. can of full fat coconut milk.

Pour into the prepared crust, cover and put in refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.

That’s it! What do you think would make the filling richer and creamier?

Easy Chocolate “Doughnut” Cake

Simple Chocolate Cake with Icing

But with a much more lively milk chocolate taste. This recipe is adapted from a standard quick and easy chocolate cake recipe. The icing consistency was an accident. I was going for a thicker decorator icing but this actually worked very well and really reminded me of going to a bakery and getting a chocolate cake doughnut. If you have a doughnut shaped pan, this cake recipe would be perfect for that!

This cake is free of all eight common allergens. The icing is made of pureed beans, confectioner’s sugar and almond milk. If you are allergic to legumes, you could puree a fruit of your choice or use a mixture of jam and your favorite non-dairy milk. Ooo… that just made me think of doing a strawberry icing with this.

The Cake

I. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly coat an 8-inch square or round cake pan (or your doughnut pan) with vegetable oil.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together:

– 2 cups of your favorite GF flour mix

– 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum

– 1/4 cup of cocoa

– 2 teaspoons of baking soda

3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together:

– 3/4 cup of mashed banana or applesauce

– 1/4 cup of canola oil

Р1 cup of brewed coffee  (Note: coffee intensifies the chocolate flavor.  No coffee? No problem, use water or non-dairy milk)

– 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

4. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients until well blended and pour into the pan. Bake until toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes. With a doughnut pan, I recommend checking to see if it is finished baking after about 15-20 minutes.

After cooled, cake can be wrapped up and kept at room temperature for about three days.

The Icing

1. In a small food processor, blend until as smooth as possible: 1 cup of white beans such as cannellini or navy, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/8-1/4 cup of non-dairy milk.

2. Pour the bean puree into a mixing bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 pound of confectioner’s (aka: powedered) sugar (example: about 1/2 of a bag of Dominoe’s powdered sugar).

3. Blend until smooth and thick but drippy.

4. Transfer to a small bowl. When you slice a piece of cake, drizzle the icing over the slice and enjoy.

The icing can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for about a week. It also goes great on cinnamon buns or buttery cinnamon toast. Yum!

Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chickpea Choc Chip Cookies

These cookies are totally free of peanuts, nuts, eggs, gluten, wheat, and dairy.

Why the chickpeas? I ran out of shortening and earth balance but had everything else to make chocolate chip cookies. I really wanted to experiment with an egg-free cookie recipe. But without the fat, I was a little stumped. Could I still do it? Most recipes call for so much of said fat, really, the fat only does two things: add volume and softness. I remembered seeing some posts in my Facebook feed from raw food pages about making chocolate chip cookies using chickpeas. So, I thought I’d try pureed chickpeas and canola oil to replace the fat and 1/4 cup of applesauce to replace the eggs.

After deciding on these replacements, and consulting volume of ingredients from two cookbooks, this is what I came up with: a thick, cake-like chocolate chip cookie that, when paired with a tall glass of non-dairy milk, makes for a very comforting treat. The family raved.

I made these very large because I knew my son would get a kick out it. But you can use this recipe for any size and thickness that you want since these don’t spread out at all like the traditional wheat and butter cookie.

Ultimately, there are five really great things about this recipe:¬†1. They taste great, just like traditional chocolate chip cookies (my fiance did not know I used chickpeas until I told him). 2. They are totally free of the eight most common food allergens. If there is a legume allergy, use silken tofu instead of chickpeas (do not use tofu if there is a soy allergy) 3. You can eat this raw without worry of salmonella poisoning from eggs. Idea: Stir the dough into your favorite ice cream! (Oh yum) 4. You have the benefit of having total control over the size, shape and thickness of these cookies. 5. You don’t have to buy ¬†expensive fats such as shortening, earth balance or peanut butter, and thus a bit more economical.

So, here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two large cookie sheets.

In a small food processor, add:

1 15-oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained.

1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup of canola oil

2 teaspoons of vanilla

Blend until mixture is very smooth and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together these dry ingredients:

2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour blend

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (if your flour blend does not have it)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 cup of dark brown sugar

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

Stir together the dry ingredients and then add the chickpea puree. Stir and then you may have to use your very clean hands to squeeze and mix the dough until it all comes together.

Add 1 cup of Enjoy Life or other non-dairy chocolate chips and mix.

Shape cookies and flatten to about 1/4 inch thick. Bake on a rack that is closer to the top as these cookies brown quickly on the bottom. Bake for 11-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the cookie. They are done when the edges are golden brown. If you want the tops of the cookies a deeper brown color, finish them under the broiler for just one minute.

Serve warm with a tall glass of cold rice, hemp, soy or other favorite non-dairy milk.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green TomatoesConsidered a Southern dish, it really doesn’t matter where you are from to enjoy this. Pluck some green tomatoes from your garden, fry these and it’s like having mild fried pickles with a fork. Oh, it’s so good. Not everyone likes these, but if you are looking for an allergen-free version, this is it.

Note that these are usually made with cornmeal, but the rice flour in your standard gluten free baking mix will add the sought after grainy texture.

How to make:

In a deep plate or dish, add 1/2 cup GF flour mix, salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon of onion powder.

In a large skillet, fry bacon and set aside the bacon

If necessary, add enough canola oil to the bacon grease to bring the oil up to about 1/4 inch of your slices of tomatoes.

Slice your green tomatoes in 1/2 thick slices and lightly coat each side with the flour mixture.

Gently set into the hot oil and don’t move it. Let it fry on a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and cook the same way on the other side.

Remove from skillet and keep warm in the oven if you like.

If you want to add a sauce, I recommend mixing 1 cup of mayo or veganaise with salt, pepper, onion powder, a little mustard, a dash of apple cider vinegar or louisiana hot sauce (or your favorite hot pepper sauce).

It’s that easy. Enjoy!

Salmon Fagioli w/ Sauteed Balsamic Tomatoes

One word: Delicious.

Additional words: Made entirely from ingredients purchased at ALDI, plus tomatoes from neighbor’s garden.

To make the Sauteed Balsamic Tomatoes:

In a large skillet, heat just a little olive oil or spray with a thin coat of olive oil. Cut up tomatoes in large chunks or halve cherry tomatoes, enough to fill the large skillet (about 15 large cherry tomatoes, or 4 regular sized tomatoes, or 2 pecks of grape tomatoes).

Saute tomatoes with a little salt, balsamic vinegar (not a lot) and a very tiny bit of sugar. Do this until tomatoes are wilted and the juice from the tomatoes becomes thick.

To make the Salmon Fagioli, add the following to a soup pot:

1 can salmon, undrained

1/2 of a 32-oz container of chicken broth

1 cup of water

1 white onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

2 potatoes, diced into 1-inch bite sized pieces

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 10-oz can of mushrooms (or fresh if you have them)

1 14-oz can of white beans

1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp ground sage

1/2 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp ground mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Boil and bring to hard simmer. Add 1 cup of gluten free pasta and cook until the pasta is done.

Take off of the heat and serve with the sauteed tomatoes. My fiance preferred this without the tomatoes but think the tomatoes would be great in a bruschetta application. So, I guess it depends on your taste (which is why I kept the tomatoes separate). My son doesn’t like tomatoes, but loved the addition of nutritional yeast to give this soup more of a Fish Chowder flavor.

“Just Peachy” Ice Cream

In the late summer, peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums and various stone fruits are in season. This is my favorite time of year because these stone fruits are my absolute favorite. I love peach pie, peach smoothies, peach sorbet, peach ice cream, peach jam. Yummmm.

In the days when I could eat real ice cream and frozen yogurt, I was always annoyed that I needed to work my way down into a pint to get another bite of a frozen peach encased in ice cream. And when I couldn’t eat ice cream anymore and I had to pay $7 or more for a pint of disappointing non-dairy ice cream, it was all good cause for me to respond with a sarcastic “Just peachy,” (if anyone were to ask how my day was going). Well, now that I’m in control of my own ice cream, I can say “Just peachy,” with a little happier tone in my voice. All it takes is a can of coconut milk for $1.79 blended with some inexpensive fresh or canned fruit, and the cost for a pint comes down from $7.00 to about $3.00. It’s so nice to afford this summer treat again.

“Just Peachy” Vegan Ice Cream

4 ripe apricots, peeled and chopped

1 14oz can of peaches in syrup (or the equivalent of fresh peaches)

1 14oz can of coconut milk (NOT cream of coconut) – always double check the ingredients

1 cup of corn syrup or 3/4 cup of sugar

1 tsp vanilla (gluten free)

In a food processor, blend all of the ingredients together. Transfer to an ice cream maker and run it according to your manufacturer’s directions. Freeze and enjoy the next day. Make sure you make more ice cream before you run out of that batch.

Delicious Pancakes

Behold. These are the ones. The pancakes. The IHOP/Waffle House/Jersey Hometown Diner (or whatever happens to be your definition of) oh-my-god delicious pancakes.

So far, the pancakes I have been making have not been worth really talking about on here, except the flourless banana pancakes, which taste more like bananas foster, than anything else. And I posted them for novelty sake. Some like them, some do not. We do. But still, they are not actual flour pancakes.

So, out of some frustration with being too broke to go to the store for the Bob’s Red Mill Pancake Mix (which is what I usually use), I decided to adapt my gluten free flour mix to a recipe in my Fannie Farmer cookbook. I adapted it even further to use oil to save on the cost. And these were born.

Surprisingly spectacular.

Here’s what the wheat eater in my household had to say about them: “Wow, I cannot tell at all that these are gluten free. And they have that nice eggy, fluffy, tender texture, like the pancakes you would get at a really good diner.”

WIN!

So, here they are

Make this GF Flour Mix: 6 cups brown rice flour, 2 and 2/3 cup potato starch, 2/3 cup tapioca flour, 2/3 cup sweet rice flour. ¬†Mix all together and put in a large ziplock bag. (If you can’t find sweet rice flour, you can substitute it with more tapioca starch. If you do that, I cannot guarantee this recipe).

For the Pancakes:

Use 2 cups of the GF Flour Mix for this recipe and store the rest for other baking recipes.

1 and 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum

4 teaspoons of baking powder

4 Tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

Mix the dry ingredients well with a whisk.

In another bowl add:

2 eggs

4 Tablespoons of Canola or Vegetable Oil

2 cups of unsweetened almond or unsweetened hemp milk (Note: these milks have a creamier texture and are great for baking. I’m not sure how rice milk would come out. In my opinion, rice milk is so watery that there is no difference in baking with rice milk vs. water. So, I just use water instead of wasting my rice milk if all that I have on hand is rice milk. My recipes have come out fine that way).

Whisk the wet ingredients together. Then mix the wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon. Add more almond or hemp milk (or water) if the mixture is too dense. It should be very pour able, like cake batter.

Then, make the pancakes how you would normally make them. If you are just learning how to make pancakes, see instructions below. Serve with a pat of Earth Balance spread and your favorite maple syrup (make sure it is free of caramel color. Caramel color in pancake syrup doesn’t seem to bother my son. But if it bothers you, use a mixture of light corn syrup and molasses to make an inexpensive syrup).

How to Make Pancakes:

Set your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. (For keeping cooked pancakes warm).

Heat a large non-skillet skillet over medium high heat and, depending on the size pancakes you like, scoop 1/4 or 1/2 cup fulls of batter into the pan. Cook about 5-7 minutes or until dry looking around edges and you see bubbles throughout the pancakes and then flip over. Cook another 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Transfer pancakes to a plate in the the warm oven while you are making the 2nd and 3rd batch.

For the pancakes you have not eaten, put them in a large zip lock bag and put them in your freezer for up to 3 months.

Reheat 1-2 pancakes as you need them.

Reheating instructions for microwaves:

Put 2 pancakes on an oven safe plate and cover with an almost sopping wet paper towel (this steams the pancakes and keeps them from drying out). Cook on high for 1-2 minutes until heated through.

Reheating instructions for people like me, who have broken microwaves and can’t afford another one:

Set your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Put your desired number of pancakes on a cookie sheet. Cover with about 2-3 sopping wet paper towels to keep them from drying out. Heat for about 5 minutes or until heated through.

Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

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I hope this savory shepherd’s pie, free of the eight common food allergens, is something you find delicious, comforting and satisfying. I want to tell you a secret about the mashed potatoes: keep the colander in the cabinet and don’t pour out all of the potato water. Leave about an inch of the potato water in the bottom of your stockpot as your liquid for mashing. There is a lot of flavor in that water (and also nutrients). Also, it’s easier and less expensive than using a milk substitute. As you know, I’m a fan of spending as little of my money on special ingredients as I can, so I used olive oil instead of earth balance, at least for the potatoes. Many of these ingredients are from ALDI. I shop there for many things so that I can save my money for things like the special ingredients I can’t do without. Okay, enough chit-chat, here is the recipe:

Peel, wash and put your potatoes in a large stock pot with boiling water. You only need about 6-8 potatoes but I make a whole bunch to save for leftovers. Start boiling your potatoes (Idaho potatoes work best for mashing but feel free to use what you have on hand). While those are cooking, prepare your chicken filling.

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In a deep skillet add:

One package of chicken tenders (about 2 pounds) – you can even put them in frozen, they’ll just have to cook longer until done. I do this all the time since I’m not a fan of using the microwave. If you have only chicken thighs or legs, or you’d rather do this with beef, lamb or pork, go for it!

1 yellow or white onion, medium diced

1 green bell pepper, medium diced

8 fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 stalks celery, small diced

10-15 baby carrots

water for simmering (the water will pick up flavor of everything, no need for broth)

1 tsp dried sage

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp onion powder

1-2 tsp salt

fresh cracked pepper to taste

Cover and simmer over medium heat until your chicken is cooked all the way through and your carrots and celery are tender. Watch and add more water if needed as you don’t want it to burn. When done, lower temperature and add:

1/4 cup of earth balance or olive oil

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp yellow or dijon mustard

If you don’t have the earth balance or nutritional yeast, don’t fret, this will still taste good!

Stir and keep warm while you prepare the potatoes as follows:

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Drain the potato water until you are left with about 1 inch of water at the bottom. Keep the water in there. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 1-2 tsp salt and cracked pepper to taste. Always taste and be sure you like it.

Set your oven to broil (or 500 degrees Fahrenheit) and then assemble the pie. Add the filling to an 8-inch or 9-inch pie dish, top with enough mashed potatoes to cover and then sprinkle 1/4 cup rice flour or your favorite gluten free flour blend on top. Using a pastry brush, lightly drizzle 1/8 cup of olive or vegetable oil over the the flour, getting as much of the flour oiled up as you can. Dust with paprika, salt, pepper, and ground mustard. I found a spice grinder at ALDI for poultry and I love it for this application (it has all of the spices I just mentioned and no bad additives).

Put your oven rack to the top of your oven, put in your pie and broil for 5-15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Depending on the type of oil and flour you use for your topping, this time can vary so keep a close watch on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Serve with chopped fresh rosemary. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, dried rosemary or dried Italian seasoning would also work.

If you have any questions, let me know. Happy Eating!

Chicken Nuggets

Again, all allergens avoided. And this is very simple and easy to make on a busy weeknight. I just made these for my son and his friend that I’m watching. She doesn’t have food allergies and absolutely loved these and wanted more. How cool is that? They kept eating these nuggets until I distracted them with the banana bread that I had just pulled out of the oven (see previous post). Lol. Enjoy!

Chicken Nuggets

In a bowl, stir together:

1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (see banana bread post for the gf mix I use but it doesn’t have to be exact like it has to be for baking because the gritty of whatever you choose will add to the overall crispy effect of these nuggets).

Then add 1 teaspoon each of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika and stir well.

Add 1/4 tsp of back pepper if you like.

Then cut up 2 – 2.5 pounds of chicken tenders into 1 inch pieces. Toss into the flour mixture. No egg coating is needed.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium heat. When oil gets up to about 325 degrees Fahrenheit,  carefully add the chicken pieces. Cook in two batches if needed and do not crowd the pan. Cook the nuggets about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Before cooking the second batch, lower the heat a bit before adding the second batch as the second batch will not cool down the oil as much and may burn.

Totally Allergen-Free Banana Bread

Banana BreadThis tastes sooooo good. And I’m so excited about this accomplishment because I’ve been working on this for almost a week. This has zero allergenic foods, meaning it is gluten free, diary-free, egg-free, soy-free, corn-free, peanut-free and nut-free. No coconut, either. I promise you that I test my recipes before I post and the picture of this bread was just taken after we devoured a couple of pieces. My son’s friends are over and they begged for another. I will have to guard the rest for sweetheart since he’s been wanting me to make another banana bread for him and I need him to taste this. I think it actually came out better than the egg version I¬†made last weekend. So far, the biggest challenge has been baking things without eggs. A friend suggested applesauce and upon reading more about it, the pectin in the applesauce helps act as a binding agent the way eggs do. Flaxseed meal mixed with water is suggested in some recipes as an egg replacer but if you are trying to avoid treenuts or soy, you may have to be extra careful with flaxseed meal. I have also used Ener-G egg replacer but that is just one more expensive special product to buy, and as you can relate, it is expensive enough to buy different kinds of flours. So, if I can use oil and applesauce instead of Earth Balance and Ener-G egg replacer, all the better.

Enough chat. Here is the  the recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat an 8 inch loaf pan with a little bit of canola or safflower oil (do not use the spray if you are avoiding soy because most oil sprays use soy lecithin). If your applesauce is cold, warm the 1/2 cup of applesauce in a saucepan on low heat while you prepare the ingredients. (Warm ingredients help fats coat the flour and improve performance of leavening ingredients).

In a large bowl, mix together the following:

  • 2 cups of gluten free flour mix (either use your favorite one for quick breads or you can use mine as follows: 6 cups superfine brown rice flour + 2 2/3 cup potato starch + 2/3 cup tapioca flour or starch + 2/3 cup sweet rice flour OR an addition of 2/3 cup tapioca starch if you do not have sweet rice flour).
  • 11/2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum

In the saucepan of warm applesauce, mix the following wet ingredients together:

  • 1/2 cup applesauce (warmed up if cold)
  • 1 cup of mashed bananas (about two very large ripe bananas or 3 small ones)
  • 1/3 cup of oil

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy warm with some soy free Earth Balance or cooled down – however you like, right?

I Have an All-American Food Dream

ImageI am not working twenty thousand hours a day now, thanks to the support of my sweetest and most wonderful love of my life. He is my partner in life, the one who encourages me and celebrates and supports who I am. I hope he feels equally supported and loved for who he is. I am so lucky and thankful. Together, we decided that I should quit my job and focus on building a better future for my son and his generation.

To start, we’ll begin the actions necessary to eventually build a restaurant that serves him and his friends where, according to a recent interview on NPR of a doctor in the depths of studying food allergies says, 1 in 13 of the kids, in the here and now, suffer from 1 or more of the 8 common food allergens. That is at least 1-3 kids per classroom across the entire nation that can’t enjoy a meal with their friends. I don’t know about the globe, but the numbers for the US are pretty stark. Here is the article/radio interview if you’re interested:¬†http://www.npr.org/2013/04/15/177319365/the-doctor-trying-to-solve-the-mystery-of-food-allergies

Reading that, coupled with my experience in trying to live with my kid’s diet as a working adult (and failing miserably because I had a choice to stop eating gluten free and dairy free – see the previous article A Walk in My Kid’s Shoes) made me realize that the need for a restaurant for people with food allergies is very VERY high. Especially restaurants that treat the elimination of gluten and other allergens as a serious thing and not a food fad where cross-contamination is not a concern. And I want the food to taste damn good so that people who can eat anything, go because it’s good. It’s just that they no longer have to exclude people with food allergies.

What I want: good food – safe for everyone. Period. Where kids can gather together and have a birthday party and no parent has to have a special long talk with the wait staff and worry about cross-contamination in the kitchen (and embarrass their kid in the process). And where, after a nice meal, no child has to then suffer 6-8 hours of vomiting in the middle of the night (like my son recently did when we bought bacon from a butcher that also uses the same surfaces to prepare sausage with milk and wheat powders).

My dream is to build a place that has brand new kitchen equipment that never ever comes in contact with wheat, diary, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, peanuts, fish or shellfish. Where a whole class of kids can order a hamburger WITH a bun, french fries, a homemade soda and apple pie with ice cream. Or a milkshake if they want. Or maybe they want cookies or a banana split or a strawberry sundae or chicken fingers with fun dipping sauces. It’s my All American Food Dream. Imagine, families going out on the town and their allergy kid can have a hot dog and some ice cream. Simple as that.

And yes, I’m talking about this restaurant dream. I don’t care how many people know my dream or steal my idea because the more restaurants that are out there serving my son and his friends, the happier this world will be. It would be like trying to hide the idea of putting wheelchair access in my own building and not wanting wheelchair access in other buildings. I want my son to go out to eat everywhere, to try different foods, to try different chefs’ take on favorite cuisines. Why wouldn’t I want everyone I know to make a restaurant that is safe? Whether the bandwagon has started or not. I’ll be the one of the first ones on it.

Already, I’ve been questioned by people as to whether or not this is actually a good idea. But that’s normal. And understandably, allergy foods are not known for being good and tasty, which is pretty sad. All good ideas need some scrutiny and I welcome that. It is also a challenge and a warning to me: the food better be damn good from first sale to last. I also see it as a teaching opportunity to help others’ understand that food allergies are a really horrible horrible thing to live with and that I’m up to this challenge. Food allergies are exclusionary in so many ways, not just in not being able to partake but also in having to offer low-quality food. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to the outsider, but when you’re inside the food allergy circle, a whole world of living gets cut off and you’re stuck with sucky food or nothing. You can go places, but eating places you can’t go. Your class can have cupcakes but your teacher has to pat you on your back and feel sorry for you while you stand and watch your friends eat cupcakes, trying to hold in your 7 year old tears because you’re trying to be a big boy and not cry about not getting a cupcake in front of all of your friends. (Btw, I had no idea that cupcakes were being served so often until my son told me earlier today). So, yeah, I’m up to this challenge. My son’s cupcakes will be safe and better then theirs! And then all his friends will be going “Dude!! When are you going to bring those cupcakes that are way better than the crappy cupcakes from Kroger?”

I mean.. because…Right ON! Right?

I’m not even the one suffering and I’m tired of living with food allergies. I’m tired of packing a bag of the same ol’ things my son can eat. He’s tired of eating the same ol’ things. I’m tired of worrying about cross-contamination and deciding against taking him out to eat when I’d love for him to sit in an Italian restaurant and dip into a basket of breadsticks and appetizers and relish new foods with us. I’m tired of driving by Krispy Kremes and Dunkin Doughnuts and Pizzerias and Cafes and Bakeries and all sorts of fun restaurants because it’s just not worth it to try to find a safe thing off the menu or to get a foreign worker to understand the importance of disclosing whether the rice is made with butter. I’m tired of cutting off our weekend outings to go home to eat. I’m tired of saying no to him when I’d rather say yes.

So, to start… serving the kids who want to have an ice cream float with wait staff that sings happy birthday to them? It’s going to be priceless. And then when they start dating (it’s not that far off!)…Image…those same kids who will eventually become high-school/college aged and will want to start dating without having to drop off their date early to go spend the night throwing up (because, you know how teens suffer themselves to impress a date). And then those kids will then grow up to have lunch with colleagues and co-workers and not want to call attention to their digestive disability. Giving them the world we non-food-sufferers now enjoy is going to be priceless for them. Not to mention the many, other, various situations that call for socializing over food.

As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I am a mother. That’s my son! It’s invention time.

Will there be challenges? Oh heck yes! How the hell am I going to come up with a hamburger bun that has no eggs, almond milk, corn leavener or soy flour that is way better than Udi’s? It’s not going to be easy. No offense to Udi’s, I’m glad they exist, but their give shit level, as with so many other gluten-free companies, is pretty low. Because 1. the hamburger buns are too small and 2. Six damn dollars?! ¬†for 4 tiny ass rolls? C’mon. Throw us a bone, Udi’s and help us feel a “little” normal. Like, give me 8 rolls for the money. Seriously!

Ugh, I hate the allergy food companies treat allergy sufferers like crap with the smaller portions and sizes and charge two or three times the price as conventional… with a quality that is “ok” at best.

But I digress.¬†This is all so unfair. The solutions is needed RIGHT. THE HELL. NOW. Food companies, environmental dumpings, bad air… I don’t know… whatever it is that has effed up our food supply so bad…all these kids’ bodies see them as toxins…it is a problem that isn’t going to go away or be solved anytime in the near future.

Our kids need us. They need our help and they need to be empowered to change the Imageworld, one menu at a time. Though it would be a long shot, it would be a great social lesson: that screwing with a global food supply (GMO, pesticides, etc.) does not increase profits but eventually decreases it to nothingness by rendering a whole society unable to digest the effed-with food items. How about those future profits now, Monsanto assholes?

Yeah, so screw them. I don’t want a single speck of their effed-up wheat dust to even enter the air vents of my future restaurant.

I don’t know if GMO foods can be linked (with any certainty) to my son and his generation’s food allergies but I think it’s safe to say that experimenting with GMO foods and using a whole population as guinea pigs is a really asshole fucked up thing to do. It is unethical and the results might be disastrous. The only power we have is to adjust our diet. The scary part of this is that if all of our food gets messed with, at what point will the entire human species see all food as toxic? It’s a scary thought and my son’s generation is bearing the first brunt of it. I’m mad as hell about it. And even though I can tolerate wheat, diary, etc., I’ll eat alongside my son and not give one red cent to the ones screwing with our food.

To my kid I say, “C’mon kiddo, to HECK with those freak foods – let’s make those hamburgers and milkshakes happen – OUR way! And BETTER, too!”

I’m mad. And it’s only going to get worse. Who’s with me?

Pizza!!

DSC_0636Yes You CAN Pizza! Yes, yes, yes! Delicious pizza that is completely free of wheat, gluten and dairy.

So, remember when I talked about the mixes in the earlier post about brownies? Well, yet again, Bob’s Red Mill people have a made a little boy a happy thing. Here is what you need:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pkg Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free pizza crust mix
  • 1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 4-oz can of tomato paste
  • garlic powder, salt, pepper, italian seasoning and 1 tsp sugar (for flavoring sauce)
  • 1 cup daiya dairy-free cheese substitute
  • ground beef (optional)
  • veggies (optional)
  • a few shakes of nutritional yeast (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. Brown ground beef (add salt, pepper, garlic powder and italian seasoning to taste).

In a large bowl, mix the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and add the 1 tsp sugar, and then some garlic powder and italian seasoning (about 1 tsp each).

There is a packet of yeast in the flour mix. Take it out and rinse it off. You will need to proof the yeast. It’s not that hard to do. You need 1 and 3/4 cup warm tap water (it should feel warmer than the skin on your wrist but not too warm, use a thermometer if you want, the water should be about 110 degrees Farenheit). Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water evenly. Shake it a little if you need to to make sure it all gets wet.

Meanwhile, scoop 3/4 cup of sauce into individual bags to freeze for future pizza-making. (You can warm these up in hot water on a busier night). Save 3/4 cup for your current pizza. Your yeast should be proofed now.

In a larger bowl, blend two eggs with the olive oil. Save about 1/2 cup of the flour out of the bag and set it aside. Then add the rest of the flour and yeasty water to the egg and oil mixture. Stir it all together using a wooden spoon. Note that your BRM package calls for a rising of the dough and then splitting it into two pizzas. You can do that if you want – and I have – but I don’t have time for all of that. This is involved enough, don’t you agree? Additionally, I like the results better with one flour mix dough for just one pizza and I think you will too. It makes a nicer “hand-tossed” new york style crust, in my opinion.

Oil your round pizza pan.

Add the 1/2 cup of flour that you set aside and knead it in a little bit. Adding it at this stage seems to make this somewhat sticky dough easier to handle. Then push it into pizza form on your pizza pan.

Top with sauce, meat, daiya, nutritional yeast and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is a nice medium golden brown.

Daiya cheese is supposed to “melt.” And I suppose it does a little bit. It’s not anything like the real thing, so don’t expect it to be a great cheese experience. But if you can never have cheese again, it’s really not a bad substitute at all. And the nutritional yeast is something I constantly use to add more cheesy flavor to things. I can tell you that the end result is a pizza that has a great flavor, great crust texture, and a great combination of sauce and meat and cheesy topping that is immensely enjoyed.

So…. ENJOY! ūüôā