Monthly Archives: October 2015

Dairy-free Candy Corn Sugar Cookies.

Dairy-free | Soy-free

Who loves candy corn?

I don’t. I do love cookies shaped like candy corn, though!DSC_0052

Sugar cookies feature prominently in many holiday traditions–at least in our home. This became problematic when, on Halloween one year ago, I had to cut dairy and soy out of my diet literally overnight. Let’s just say our Christmas season was a little less merry without Mom wanting to bake up our usual Christmas treats.

So this fall, when candy corn sugar cookies started surfacing again on Pinterest, I thought I would give them a dairy-free go. Here in warm, humid Florida, I have a hard enough time getting my sugar cookies to keep their shape without essentially subbing oil in, but I figured that an easy shape like this left enough room for error to give it a try.

This is basically just a half recipe of my favorite soft sugar cookies, with dairy subbed out, food coloring added, and a lot less rolling, flouring, and cookie-cutter-washing. Even with just a half recipe, these things are small enough that it literally made over EIGHT DOZEN–two cookie sheets’ worth. So prepare to give some away!

Dairy-free Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) Earth Balance buttery stick
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (add additional 1/4 cup if you live somewhere really humid)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (treat Earth Balance like salted butter and decrease the salt in your recipes)
  • red and yellow food coloring
  1. Cream Earth Balance and sugar in a stand mixer until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
  2. Gradually add dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  3. Divide dough into 3 parts.
  4. Line a loaf pan with wax paper. Press 1/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan, spreading evenly. (My loaf pan was about 2 inches too long, so I created a wall with my hand behind the wax paper while pressing the dough down with the other hand; otherwise my layers would be too thin.)
  5. Put 1/3 of the dough into a small bowl. Add yellow food coloring (3 drops). Mix it in with the back of a metal spoon, adding additional color if needed. It will look disconcertingly like Play-Doh. This is normal. Spread this layer over your white layer in the pan.
  6. Put remaining 1/3 of dough into the small bowl. Add the same amount of yellow food coloring, plus 1-2 drops red. Mix it in; press into pan on top of yellow layer.
  7. Cover with additional wax paper and chill several hours or overnight.
  8. Preheat your oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and add some sugar to a shallow bowl.
  9. Unwrap your dough. Cut a 1/3-inch slice widthwise, then make 6 angled cuts in the slice to make 7 triangles: DSC_0050
  10. Coat in sugar and place on cookie sheet: DSC_0049
  11. Repeat slicing and coating with remaining dough.
  12. Bake at 400 for 7-8 minutes or until just golden around the edges and set in the middle.
  13. Cool and enjoy!
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Make-Your-Own Salad Night: Chicken Apple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Gluten-free | Nut-free | Clean eating | Paleo

What would you say if I told you that, during our time living in Switzerland, Make-Your-Own Salad Night was my girls’ single most requested meal?

I wouldn’t have believed me either.

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But it’s true. When so many other things were different from what they were used to, we could count on the produce at our corner market to be both familiar and amazingly fresh. The bottle of Ranch dressing we brought with us helped too. (Don’t worry–I have a delicious clean dressing recipe at the bottom.)

Since returning, it’s still one of the few meals that don’t get any pushback or “how many bites?” Because they can make it how they want. Both of my big girls prefer to separate all the ingredients on their plates and eat one at a time.

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You can make this your own; I’m a big fan of fruity salads, so I just keep it simple with chopped apples, seasoned chicken breast, and balsamic vinaigrette, but I pull out as many of my girls’ favorite raw veggies and fruits as they can fit on their plates, and it all gets eaten! Tailor this to your (and your kids’) preferences and any dietary needs, and every once in awhile, add something that’s a little bit of a stretch for them to let them try: kale instead of spinach, for a start.

If making your own dressing sounds intimidating, start with this one. It has 4 ingredients and all you do is shake. Plus, you know what’s in it, and most importantly, what’s not in it.

Do you do a Make-Your-Own Salad Night? What do you include?

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Chicken Apple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • Greens of choice
  • Chicken breast, seasoned as desired and grilled or broiled
  • apple, diced
  • vinaigrette
    • 1/4 cup GOOD-quality balsamic vinegar (trust me, it’s important)
    • 1/4 cup grapeseed or other light-tasting oil (avoid olive oil)
    • 2 tsp prepared Dijon mustard, no-sugar-added
    • 1/2 tsp (or more, to taste) dried Italian herbs
    • dash salt
  1. Assemble greens, chicken, and apple.
  2. Add vinaigrette ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake vigorously until well incorporated. Drizzle over salad and enjoy!

Adapted from here

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Paleo double chocolate muffins/cupcakes and coconut cream frosting.

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Gluten-free | Paleo | Clean eating

These cupcakes may be decorated for Halloween, but let me begin by sharing something that I just learned:

Paleo baking isn’t scary!!!
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To keep the record straight, I have no intention of abandoning my beloved grains. But I had lately begun to notice that so much of my cooking was bordering on Paleo anyway–without being a buzzword–that it seemed like a logical experiment, especially when I learned that my oldest’s 1st-grade teacher is celiac.

So what is Paleo cooking? Basically the idea, and hence the name, is to eat what was available to our cave-dwelling ancestors (but a whole lot tastier and with more variety!): meat, eggs, seafood, veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds. No dairy, grains, sugar, or artificial junk. (Obviously the sprinkles are NOT Paleo.)

So clean eating is basically Paleo + dairy and whole grains. And when you’re eating dairy-free anyway, the only thing you have left to cut out is the grains! Again, I don’t plan to cut out grains altogether, but occasional paleo choices have helped me lower my carb intake and see results around my waistline, even when indulging in occasional treats like this one.

These are really just muffins with frosting, and they taste just fine without the frosting. In fact, my coconut-averse middle child (is she really my child???) prefers them without the frosting, but they’re so much more fun to decorate with it!

The verdict? Let’s just say that her teacher asked to know my secret to successful gluten-free baking.

Double Chocolate Paleo Muffins/Cupcakes

(original recipe here)

  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder (darker is better if you like richer muffins)
  • 3 Tbsp Enjoy Life or other allergy-friendly mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • optional: 1/2 scoop protein powder (we used Vega brand chocolate flavor)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce or coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 9 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners, or use a silicone muffin tin.
  2. In a smallish bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, applesauce or oil, honey, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mix until well incorporated, then stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour scant 1/4 cupfuls of batter into papers. Bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Coconut Cream Frosting

  • can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least 24 hours
  • 1/2 tsp (or to taste) vanilla
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) honey
  1. Keep can steady and DO NOT SHAKE while removing from the refrigerator and opening with a can opener. Skim the cream off the top and spoon into a small bowl.
  2. Add vanilla and honey; whisk well for 2 minutes. If desired, place back in the refrigerator to firm up more.
  3. Frost muffins and decorate as desired.

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Oldies but goodies, revamped.

With the new direction we’re taking, I thought I’d go back into some of my old favorites and bring them back in our new light. All of these are dairy- and other allergen-free, and most are clean and unprocessed. All are delicious and totally family-approved.

Sw008eet potato pancakes – These are perfect for fall, and for switching things up on the pancake front for breakfast or “brinner.” I recently gave them a clean makeover, and I honestly think they taste better than before!

peanut butter ballsPeanut butter protein balls – A perennial favorite in our house. I always have a batch sitting in the freezer to thaw a few for us to eat. If you have a new mama in your life, these are perfect for quick, easy energy during those ravenous first few weeks of breastfeeding; plus, the flax and oats help with milk supply.

creamy tomato basil pastaVegan creamy tomato-basil pasta – “Vegan” used to be a dirty word in our house, but once we got past that, this is quite possibly the perfect weeknight pasta dish, especially when you’re dealing with dietary restrictions. I dial the garlic and basil down from the original recipe and throw a couple handfuls of short pasta into the water with the spaghetti to keep the little ones happy. This was the first meal where my little one ate exclusively “grownup” food!

chicken curryChicken curry – I seriously love yellow curry. Good thing, because for awhile it seemed like the only MSPI-safe restaurant food in the U.S. was Thai curry! I think my girls got sick of curry after awhile. If you don’t have delicious Thai takeout nearby, this one is easy, delicious, and family-friendly because you can adjust the spices up or down.

banana swirlOne-ingredient ice cream – Quick, easy, lots of ideas to change it up, and dairy-free! I think this will come in handy as my MSPI baby starts to notice more that sorbet isn’t the same thing as ice cream and wanting some too.

peanut butter cookies 1Flourless peanut butter cookies – Sometimes, as a stressed-out mom of a newborn, who felt like I couldn’t eat anything, ever, I just needed a treat. Or several. Dairy-, soy-, and gluten-free, these fit the bill for dietary-restriction-sufferers. And the protein was great for nursing!

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Maple Oat Pumpkin Muffins.

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Clean eating

Maple Oat Pumpkin Muffins

One major discovery I’ve made in my clean-eating journey is that I have an inherent sweet tooth–and depriving myself on this or that diet plan just sets me up for failure because I never feel quite satisfied. So now I’m learning to find clean, healthy ways to satiate that need for sweetness, and as a result I don’t need “cheat days” or “when I’m done with this 21-day challenge I’ll gorge myself on X, Y, and Z.” So on here you’re probably going to be seeing a lot of clean sweets.

I don’t think I could ever get sick of good pumpkin treats. My friend recommended these beauties to me a couple months ago, and I’ve made them at least four times since. They disappear SO fast–even when I freeze 2/3 of the batch. (They do freeze beautifully, by the way; just wrap one in a paper towel and zap it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to thaw.) My whole family loves them; even My Husband The Reluctant gave them the glowing review the first time he ate them of, “I would like these even if I weren’t forced to eat clean!” They’re sweetened with real maple syrup in addition to the natural sweetness of the pumpkin, and the oats and whole-wheat pastry flour make them hearty enough to be a light breakfast–without weighing you down.

Maple Oat Pumpkin Muffins

  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other milk of choice)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • (heaping) 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
  • (heaping) 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice (or cloves)
  • 1 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour*
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned (not instant) oats, plus more for sprinkling
  1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease** the cups of a muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut oil and syrup. Beat in eggs. Mix in pumpkin and almond milk until smooth, then mix in soda, vanilla, salt, and spices.
  3. Switch to a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Add flour and oats at once, stirring until just combined.
  4. Scoop scant 1/4-cups of batter into muffin cups (an ice-cream-style scoop works really well for this), then sprinkle with a few oats and some cinnamon.
  5. Bake for 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Wait until cooled (or try to) to remove them from the pan.

* Whole-wheat pastry flour is ground finer than other whole-wheat flours, so baked goods come out lighter and less dense; it is an ideal substitute for all-purpose flour. I pretty much only use this now, even in my less-clean recipes.

** If you’re going soy-free, PAM for Grilling is the only mainstream brand of cooking spray I’ve found that does not contain soy lecithin. I use it for everything!

Original recipe here.

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A new face and a new direction. (Also: where have I been the last 2 years?)

Seeing the date of my last post–2 years and 6 days ago–reminds me just how much has gone on to keep me from blogging.

I ran a half marathon.

I learned how to eat clean, and how great it made me feel.

I got pregnant, and the resulting months of debilitating morningsickness and exhaustion kind of put preparing unprocessed foods on the backburner.

This cutie was born in October last year.0b

3 weeks later, we learned she had MSPI: milk/soy-protein intolerance. Literally overnight, I had to cut all dairy and soy out of my diet in order to keep her from writhing and crying in pain after every feeding.

Adjusting to life with a newborn, a kindergartener, and a 2-year-old, combined with having to completely turn all of my meal planning and shopping on its head, reading labels on everything, and not being able to eat at most restaurants, brought on postpartum depression and anxiety. I had panic attacks ordering in restaurants and just driving down the road. I felt very fortunate to have a good friend whose baby, 9 months older, was also MSPI, so she was able to get me started in what to buy and how to order food, so it could have been a lot worse. But I still had a hard time functioning.

In January, when she was 3 months old, we found out we would have to move to Switzerland for 6 months for my husband’s job–with 4 weeks’ notice.

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Our time there was both awesome and at times quite difficult. I homeschooled our kindergartener, planned our family trips, and figured out where to buy the things we needed in another language. I learned what breads, chocolates, and pasta dishes were dairy-free, and thankfully soybeans are not nearly as widespread in Europe as in the U.S., so I was able to find plentiful eating options. We had the opportunity to travel all over Europe as a family, and thankfully when my baby turned 6 months her stomach became strong enough that I could enjoy dairy again. Hooray for croissants, gelato, and Swiss milk chocolate!IMG_4799

In July we returned to Florida, and after a rocky repatriation period, I’m back to spinning plates: PTA, extracurriculars, church and community responsibilities, nap time, race training, and the list goes on. I’ve recommitted to eating clean because it’s the only way I can have the energy I need to keep all those plates spinning.

And just a couple of weeks ago, this little one turned one!
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Because she spent almost as much time outside the U.S. as in it, I chose a world traveler theme for her party.party1

I cut up a map to make the pennant banner and the mini banner on the cake, as well as the tiny toothpick flag on her dairy-free cupcake. On another map I connected photos of each month of her life with where in the world she was. We ate foods from the countries she visited or lived in, and enjoyed our friends’ company.party2

So now that you know where I’ve been these last two years, here’s the aforementioned “new direction.” Since my little one’s diagnosis, I feel like friends and acquaintances with MSPI babies keep coming out of the woodwork. Since committing to eating clean, friends have asked “isn’t it hard?” So my plan going forward is to continue (resume?) posting great family-tested recipes, just now with an emphasis on whole foods and possible dairy-free substitutions. Even if (when?) my cutie outgrows her MSPI, I’ll continue posting with dairy-free options.

If you’re a new mom desperate for MSPI-friendly meal and snack options, start at my “eat while nursing” Pinterest board here, and I’ll try to start getting new recipes and shopping lists into your hand(held device) in the coming weeks!

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