Category Archives: Holidays

Clean Gingerbread (that doesn’t taste clean!)

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


I love gingerbread cookies. My girls love decorating gingerbread cookies. The problem: since I’m the only one who likes eating them, I wind up eating all of them. 

So this year I wanted to try something a little different. My husband made me promise not to “ruin Christmas” by changing all of our time-honored traditional recipes to clean ones. But I’m the only one who usually eats the gingerbread, right? And I had to change it to dairy-free for my youngest anyway, right? So I went on the hunt.

These are great. They require little to no chilling time, so you can get them made and decorated in an afternoon. They don’t spread. They’re sweetened with maple syrup and molasses, the whole-wheat pastry flour keeps the texture the same as we’re used to, and they’re not too spicy and don’t contain cloves, so guess what? My family likes these! Turns out they just didn’t like my old, spicy gingerbread recipe. Maybe I should’ve made a double batch so I could have some to myself!


Clean Gingerbread Cookies (makes about 18, 3.5-inch-tall cookies)

Adapted from here

  • 1 egg, room temp
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup, room temp
  • 1/4 cup unsulphured molasses, room temp
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for rolling out dough
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 and line a baking sheet or two with parchment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add coconut oil, syrup, molasses, vanilla, spices, soda, and salt, and whisk well.
  3. Add flour and mix until incorporated, using your hands when it gets too thick for the spoon.
  4. If desired, chill for half an hour or so.
  5. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, then roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on cookie sheet.
  6. Bake 9-12 minutes depending on the size of your cookie cutters and how soft you want them. Mine are about 3 1/2 inches tall and I like them soft, so 9 minutes is plenty for me.
  7. Cool completely before decorating.

To decorate:

If you want to keep it totally clean, look at the original recipe for ideas of natural toppings to sprinkle onto maple-brushed cookies. My girls like to decorate theirs with frosting to look like real gingerbread men, so I made a dairy-free icing that we could pipe on. It’s not clean, but there’s so little on the cookies that we’re still balancing 80/20, right?

Dairy-free icing

(Not a recipe so much as “here’s how I did it this time because it worked”)

  • 1/2 cup shortening or Earth Balance buttery stick
  • if using shortening: pinch of salt
  • coconut cream from 1 can of coconut milk
  • powdered sugar, 2 cups plus, to desired consistency
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • optional: 1 tsp. meringue powder, to help it hold its shape
  1. Add ingredients to your stand mixer gradually, adding powdered sugar until desired consistency.
  2. Spoon into piping bag. Pipe onto cookies.


Filed under Holidays, Recipes

Outside-the-box ways to give this season.

Pies are cooling, turkey is dry-brined and in the refrigerator, so let’s take a break from Thanksgiving and talk about giving itself.

There are the standard ways you think of charitable giving during the holidays–spare change in the Salvation Army bucket, food drives, angel trees, sponsoring families, etc.–but here are a few more ideas maybe you haven’t thought of. They’re all easy, involving things you’re likely already doing during the holidays, are almost all free, and all help contribute a little to a lot of great charitable organizations. The more people who know about these, the bigger a difference we can make together!

amazonsmileHoliday shopping:

Odds are pretty good that you’re going to be shopping on Amazon in the next month. Next time, just go to, choose from over a million charities to support, and every time you shop, a portion goes to that charity. It’s the same website, with your same login, and millions of the same products are eligible for donation. So just remember to type a few extra letters before you do your Christmas shopping to help your chosen cause!

IMG_7175Letters to Santa:

Heading to the mall? Bring your kids’ letters to Santa! For every stamped letter addressed to Santa at the North Pole placed in a Macy’s red mailbox, the company donates $1 (up to $1,000,000) to the Make A Wish Foundation. Yep, it’s really that easy. Plus, it makes a great photo op, even if–especially if–your photo with St. Nick didn’t turn out so great. (You don’t want to see our Santa photos.)  Learn more here.

IMG_7321Every Mile Counts:

Do you run, walk, or cycle? Then get the free app Charity Miles. For every mile you go, a corporation donates 25 cents (10 cents for cycling) to your choice of over 30 charities. Even walking your kid to school, walking the dog, or walking the mall during your Christmas shopping–not to mention your morning run or spin class–can help raise money for charity. All you need to do is remember to turn on the app before you start moving! And you can get creative: turn it on indoor mode during a workout class; run it while you’re out mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or shoveling snow; run it on indoor at the grocery store. Just like that, you’re helping out charitable organizations by doing things you’re already doing anyway!

IMG_7320Shop with a Conscience:

(Photo cred: my 6-year-old)

Finally, while you’re shopping for friends and family, do a little research the companies you’re buying from. Many are already giving back, so by supporting them, you can support their causes. Here are a few we love. TOMS‘ motto is “one for one:” for every product you purchase, they provide someone in need with shoes, sight, clean water, safe childbirth, or counseling for bullying. Patagonia gives 1% to environmental organizations and is seriously dedicated to corporate and environmental responsibility. And my newest discovery is Punjammies, seriously comfortable and cute pajama pants (and t-shirts and other stuff) made by women in India wanting to remain free from sexual slavery; the parent organization, Sudara, provides them the job training they need to break the cycle and provide for their families. (Don’t tell my sister and sisters-in-law, but they’re all getting these PJs!)

So there you go. Just a few ways to make the things you’re already doing this season–heading to the mall, going for a run, doing your Christmas shopping–make a difference for someone else.

Had you already heard of some of these? What are some other ways you give back during the holidays?


Filed under Holidays

My Dairy-Free Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and if you’re like me you’re probably trying to figure out what you’re making for dinner. A year ago at this time I was scrambling to figure out how I could keep a traditional and delicious Thanksgiving with a newborn and without dairy or soy. And you know what? I pulled it off! Some of these are so good that they’re finding their way onto our table again this year, even without dietary restrictions (except for my 1-year-old).

If you’ve got a dinner guest with dietary restrictions, or if you’re facing some yourself this year, here’s my dairy-free (and, of course, other-allergen-free) menu from last year. All photos are courtesy of the original blogs.

W-SFirst off, here’s my secret to the most flavorful turkey every year, regardless of how you prepare it: Williams-Sonoma dry brine. All you do is rub it on the turkey Wednesday night, keep it covered overnight in the fridge, then rinse off the brine just before you prep it for cooking. It adds the flavor and tenderness of a brine without the mess or time, and has never ever failed me. It’s dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, clean, and paleo. Just make sure you reduce the salt in your recipe.

slow-cooker-turkey3We had a small gathering last year, so a turkey breast was just the right size for us, and this Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe made it easy, delicious, and kept my oven clear for the sides since I was the only one cooking. And the gravy? Easily the easiest and tastiest I’ve ever made in my life. Because of the saltiness of the dry brine, I didn’t add any salt and used the no-salt-added chicken broth. I made it dairy-free by using Earth Balance buttery stick instead of the butter; you could easily make this gluten-free with rice flour or another fine-grain gluten-free flour, or make it clean with whole-wheat pastry flour. We’re expecting a crowd at this year’s dinner; this is so good I’m seriously considering making this turkey breast in addition to the whole turkey in the oven, if I can get home from my Turkey Trot in time.

stuffingMy family’s generations-old super-secret stuffing recipe is…. doctored Pepperidge Farm stuffing. (Shhhhh.) But the soy additives weren’t going to work last year, so I was going to have to make it from scratch. I used this America’s Test Kitchen Easy Stuffing Recipe, with a Whole Foods bakery dairy- and soy-free sandwich bread and Earth Balance buttery stick. Now, I’m going to be honest: Earth Balance does not brown like butter does. But it was delicious nonetheless.

I made my mashed potatoes smoother with a bit of Earth Balance, some chicken broth, and a touch of unsweetened almond milk. I don’t have a recipe for that; I just kind of added and tasted until the taste and texture was right. And anyway, with that slow cooker gravy, who cares what the potatoes tasted like on their own?!

sweetpotatocasserolevegan-2335Now these sweet potatoes are definitely staying on my table for years to come. Saweet! Potato Casserole with a Crunchy Nut Crumble from Oh She Glows is vegan (and thus dairy-free), gluten-free, soy-free, clean, and so incredibly delicious that I was actually a little disappointed that everyone else liked it so much because I seriously could’ve eaten the whole pan on my own. Now, just in case you think I’m exaggerating, my husband doesn’t like sweet potatoes, and he’s instantly suspicious of anything with a “healthy” buzzword like “vegan” or “paleo”–and he asked for seconds. If I had a double oven, I’d be making two of these this year. Now, if I remember right, I increased the amount of maple in the crumble, but I don’t recall by how much. Just taste and adjust as needed.

2011pumpkinpieFinally, the pumpkin pie. I’ve posted a milkless pumpkin pie of my Grandmother’s, but–no offense to her–I could never get the texture quite the way I liked it. This Dairy-Free Soy-Free Pumpkin Pie keeps the silky texture we’re used to, but amps up the flavor with the sweetness of coconut milk and a touch more spice than you see on the back of the Libby’s can. Sorry Grandmother–this is my new go-to pumpkin pie. I made the crust from my previously posted pumpkin pie recipe using canola oil to keep it soy-free; there are lots of great gluten-free crust recipes out there if that’s what you need. Top it with So Delicious CoCoWhip topping and you’ll be in Heaven. (I challenge you not to eat the CocoWhip with a spoon after your company has left…)

What are your plans this Thanksgiving? Are any of these or other allergen-friendly recipes going to be on your menu this year?


Filed under Holidays

Quick Kid Craft: Patriotic T-shirts.

patriotic shirts

This year we wanted to wear something a little different for the 4th of July, so we undertook this easy t-shirt craft after seeing a friend post a picture of her son wearing one. It takes only a few minutes apart from drying, & you can even “girlify” it with a little ribbon! I took sharp scissors & snipped small cuts in the shirt, either on the front pocket, or around the neck. Just make sure you have an even number. Thread the ribbon through & tie into a pretty knot or bow, then squeeze a little hot glue inside the knot to keep it from untying in the wash. Now, if your little girl has an abnormally large head like mine does, you may want to snip the ribbon where it doesn’t show & safety-pin it after she pulls it over her head. Didn’t think about the fact that it needed to stretch… Whoops!

Now on to painting!

What you need:

  • kid-sized white t-shirt (I got mine at Target for $5 each)
  • red & blue paint (you can use fabric paint, but acrylic is so much cheaper–usually less than 50 cents a bottle–& I’ll show you how to heat-set it at the end for the wash)
  • 1″ foam brush
  • 2 paper plates

What to do:

  1. Squeeze a generous amount of your blue paint onto one paper plate & spread it around.
  2. Place your child’s left hand in the paint, coating well. Then carefully help her stamp her hand, fingers outstretched, on the left side of the shirt. Clean off her hand &, if she’s young, let her go play while you do the rest. (By the way, 14 months may be a tad young for this craft; my little one kept squelching her fingers together & I had to spread them myself.)
  3. Squeeze some red paint onto the other paper plate & use your foam brush to paint stripes next to the handprint. The foam helps keep the stripes a nice uniform width. Paint as many stripes as you think look good!
  4. To heat-set: When the paint is completely dry, place a doubled-up paper towel inside the shirt & on top of the painted part, then iron on the cotton setting (high heat) for about a minute. Now you can wash it after they wear it!

If you’re looking for a place to wear your new shirts, how about organizing an indoor “parade” through a nursing home? That’s what we did yesterday, & it was a wonderful experience. We rounded up some friends from our MOMS Club, decorated up our wagons, waved some little flags, & played “Stars & Stripes Forever” on repeat on my iPhone with some little speakers as we marched through the halls. The residents were very appreciative of visitors, & it was a great experience for the kids! They loved marching & getting so much attention, & it was a great teaching moment about how good service can make us feel. My 4-year-old kept saying, “Mommy, they’re so happy to see me!”

decorated wagon

nursing home parade

Where will you wear your patriotic shirts?

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Filed under Activities, Crafts, Holidays

Simple Shamrock Sugar Cookies.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day (in a week or so) from this non-Irish (Scottish & Welsh, actually) gal!

I found this easy, kitchen-helper-friendly recipe at Better Homes & Gardens (I think) a few years ago & made it again this year for our Mom’s Club’s St. Patrick’s Day party.

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. extract of choice (I used vanilla, but you could do peppermint or almond)
  • green food coloring (I’ve used both gel & liquid now, & find that liquid is just easier & doesn’t affect the dough’s composition)
  • 2 cups flour
  • green sanding sugar
  1. In your stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed 30 seconds or until softened.
  2. Add sugar & salt; beat on med-high until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, extract, & food coloring. Beat well. Add more food coloring if necessary; it will look paler when the flour is added.
  4. On low speed, gradually add the flour & mix well. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts.
  5. Place a sheet of wax paper on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Pour a generous amount of sanding sugar all over the wax paper.
  6. Take 1 of your dough lumps & roll it into a long “snake” 1 inch in diameter. Let your kitchen helper assist you in rolling it in the sugar to coat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough lumps. Toss the wax paper & leftover sugar.
  7. Refrigerate dough “snakes” at least 2 hours, or up to 1 week (yeah right, like cookie dough would EVER last that long in someone’s refrigerator!).
  8. Preheat your oven to 350. Remove one “snake” from the fridge at a time, unwrap, & slice crosswise with a sharp knife into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Take a few of your slices & cut them into thirds to make your “stems.”
  9. Shape your shamrocks by placing 3 slices with sides very slightly overlapping on an ungreased cookie sheet & adding a stem piece. Gently press together. Don’t forget to make a few lucky 4-leaf clovers too!
  10. Bake for about 8 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

To serve, position them next to each other on a serving dish or tray rather than piling them onto a plate like I did. They ended up looking like a jumble of circles so no one knew what they were until they picked them up. Presentation is everything sometimes!I'm Lovin' It at TidyMom


Filed under Holidays, Recipes

Easy Valentine’s Dessert: 6-Ingredient Molten Chocolate Cakes.

For those of you looking for a last-minute dessert idea for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, here is a molten chocolate cake that tastes every bit as fancy as the restaurant ones, but is easy enough to leave plenty of time for romance!

These beauties became a family tradition for us the first Valentine’s Day after The Munchkin was born, when we weren’t able to go out. This year we actually got a babysitter & get to go out for the first Valentine’s Day since then, so I decided to make them tonight for Sunday Dinner so I could share the recipe with you. I’m sure that My Husband The Eater minded terribly.

I think I first got this from Kraft food&family magazine. This recipe yields 4 small cakes; you can easily halve it for just the two of you, or make the full recipe & save the other 2 to eat later (though they will be less molten). I won’t judge you one bit…. since that’s what we do every year.

  • 4 (1 oz.) squares Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate (or for more richness, use 4 oz. of your favorite bittersweet chocolate)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • whipped cream or ice cream, for serving
  1. Preheat your oven to 425. Butter or grease 4, 3/4-cup custard cups or souflee dishes. Place them on a baking sheet.
  2. Microwave chocolate & butter in a large microwaveable bowl on high 1 minute or until butter is melted. Stir with a wire whisk until the chocolate is melted too.
  3. Stir in sugar with the whisk until well blended.
  4. Whisk in the eggs & egg yolks. Stir in flour.
  5. Divide the batter equally among prepared cups. Bake 13-14 minutes or until the sides are firm but the centers are still soft.
  6. Let stand 1 minute, then gently run a small knife around the cakes to loosen them. Carefully invert them onto dessert dishes & serve immediately with ice cream or whipped cream.


Filed under Holidays, Recipes

Fresh strawberry frosting for heart cutout cookies.

Have you heard of Sprinkles Cupcakes? The first time I heard of them was when they featured this recipe on the Martha Stewart Show a few years ago. Then the California bakery opened a store on the Upper East Side shortly before we left New York, & I had grand designs of doing an East Side-West Side, West Coast-East Coast cupcake taste test to see if they competed with Magnolia, but ran out of time. So I still haven’t had one of their cupcakes. But I’ve never forgotten this frosting recipe!

While I was planning a slew of projects & activities to keep The Munchkin & me occupied & sane in our tiny apartment during Three-Day Potty Training (incidentally, it worked!), I decided on cookies instead of cupcakes because I knew she’d have more fun cutting them out. I had some Pillsbury refrigerated dough on hand, which saved prep time, but honestly the strawberry flavor didn’t come out very well because of the vanilla cookies. Ideally, you’d use the Sprinkles strawberry cupcake recipe too so you really get the strawberry flavor, or if you did do cookies, add some puree or a fruity extract (like lemon or orange) to the dough. But it sure does give a beautiful soft pink hue!

If you plan to decorate your cookies with piping, rather than just sprinkles, you’ll probably want to strain your strawberry puree & add enough cream to reach your desired piping consistency. Also, try to freeze your own fresh strawberries. Buying a whole bag of frozen strawberries at the store not only wastes money & strawberries if you’re not going to be using them; commenters had stated that the less-fresh strawberries made their frosting more gray than pink.

  • about 8 medium strawberries, frozen & thawed (I think they release more juice when they’re frozen… but I could be wrong.)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, firm & slightly cold
  • pinch salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. clear vanilla
  1. Puree your strawberries in a food processor. (I used a blender & ended up with some small chunks, rather than a completely smooth puree.)
  2. Cream butter & salt in stand mixer with paddle attachment until fluffy. Reduce speed & slowly add powdered sugar.
  3. Add vanilla & 3+ Tbsp. (to taste) puree; mix until just blended & even in color. Don’t overmix.

I'm Lovin' It at TidyMom   


Filed under Holidays, Recipes