April Vacation Muffins (Allergen Free)

I woke up on this first day of April vacation wanting to bake some muffins with the kids. It’s not something we get to do very often with school all week and the weekends busy with soccer and chores and family. So before even heading to the kitchen I was promising the kids banana muffins and they were just as excited to help with the baking as they were to eat the muffins. I knew I would have to do a little research for an allergen free recipe or a “normal” recipe that I could adapt. But I also knew I would need the bananas so I went to the fruit bowl…to find it empty. No bananas!! You can’t make banana muffins without bananas. Luckily, I’m good at improvising. (actually…I lie. Usually when I try to improvise while baking I end up with a huge flop, but not this time, so let’s just pretend)

So here is my recipe for “April Vacation Muffins” or “Strawberry, peach, a little applesauce and a tiny bit of banana muffins” They were delicious and moist and not too sweet. If I had thought I would have any success with these I would have taken some pictures of my adorable little bakers. Oh well, next time…I’ll definitely be making these again!

April Vacation Muffins

6 Tablespoons of Olivio coconut oil spread (you can use any dairy free “butter”)
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 (stage 3) jar of baby food bananas
6 Tablespoons of applesauce
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons rice milk
About a cup of diced peaches and strawberries (I used pre-chopped frozen fruit, thawed)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease muffin pan and set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream together “butter” and sugar. In a separate bowl whisk together all other ingredients except for the fruit. Once mixed add creamed “butter” and sugar to the mix and mix some more. Now gently fold in the fruit. Pour into muffin pan and bake about 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins. Enjoy!!

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Allergen free slow cooker sweet potatoes

I host Easter dinner each year for between 12 and 20 people and I love it. I enjoy entertaining and preparing a big sit down dinner for my family. The most difficult part for me has always been timing all of the food to be ready at the same time and a lack of oven space. But over the years I’ve learned to work out the kinks and roll with the punches. When things get too hectic in the kitchen (which is where everyone gathers, no matter how many times I try to kick them out!) I send the men and kids out to hunt for Easter eggs and when my oven broke one year we fired up the grill! One big help has been preparing one dish in the crock pot to free up some oven space. A few years ago I found this sweet potato recipe and I’ve been able to adapt it to be JT friendly. It’s so yummy!!

Allergen free Slow Cooker Sweet Potatoes

6  medium (2 pounds) sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into into 1/2-inch chunks      

1 1/2 cups applesauce                                            

2/3 cup packed brown sugar                                             

3 tablespoons dairy and soy free butter or margarine, melted  (we usually use smart balance with flax, this year I will try the new olivio coconut oil spread)                                           

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                             

1/2 cup dried cranberries

 

Place sweet potatoes in 2- to 3 1/2-quart slow cooker. Mix remaining ingredients and spoon over potatoes. Cover and cook on low heat setting 6 to 8 hours or until potatoes are very tender. I usually start them first thing in the morning and they are ready for our 2 pm dinner. This recipe can be doubled or tripled if you have a larger slow cooker.

Egg Free Easter

All holidays have changed for us, at least a little bit, due to JT’s food allergies. Easter is no exception especially since JT’s most severe allergy is to eggs…and eggs and Easter just go together. I remember feeling totally overwhelmed on the first Easter after JT’s allergy diagnosis. On top of hosting dinner for about 20, I thought I wouldn’t be able to give JT the things I grew up with on Easter. But I learned very quickly that with just a few changes we could be safe and still have a fun day with family. And the changes that we’ve made don’t take anything away from our Easter celebration. In fact, most of them are welcome changes. Like the fact that there are NO chocolate bunnies in the house. Do I miss egg shaped peanut butter cups? Yes. Would I eat an entire bag of Cadbury mini eggs if you put it in front of me right now? Yes! So, in the end, the lack of chocolate is really a good thing. So instead of focusing on what we can’t do, here is what my kids STILL get to do for Easter, even with JT’s food allergies.
The kids still get some yummy treats, they especially love Starburst jelly beans and egg shaped allergen-free rice krispie treats.
JT and Molly still get Easter baskets (that are filled with much less candy than they would be if JT didn’t have any allergies). I like to try to focus on a theme for each kid, like dinosaurs or princesses, it helps me to keep from buying way too much stuff.
The bunny still fills and hides plastic Easter eggs. They are filled with things like fruit snacks, stickers, temporary tattoos, coins and glow in the dark stars.
And we still decorate Easter “eggs”! This year we are making this adorable paint chip egg garland. I’m letting the kids decorate the eggs with glitter glue first and then I’ll string them up. In the past we’ve covered plastic eggs with glue and tissue paper and made embroidery floss eggs.

It’ fun to try to come up with something new and creative each year. Are you avoiding eggs this Easter? What tips do you have to share?

Here we are at Easter 2012!

Here we are at Easter 2012!

soy and fish free stir-fry sauce

IMG_20130217_173245_284I finally figured out a way to make stir-fry! I’ve been on the lookout for a good soy free stir-fry sauce (Oh, how I miss teryaki!) and found that a lot of alternatives are either fish based (another JT allergy) or seem too complicated. I finally found an alternative that works for us. This recipe is sort of a mix between this one and this one. I thought it was a great alternative and I can’t wait to make more stir-fry!

Stir Fry Sauce
1 Cup red wine
3/4 Cup brown sugar (not packed)
about 3/4 Teaspoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 Cup orange juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
(I didn’t have any, but I think some orange zest would have been really nice at the very end)

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So, I’m not going to write a really complicated recipe here…
I put it all in a sauce pan and cooked it down for about 20 minutes. Then I cooked up my stir fry as I normally would, using this as the sauce. My stir fry had chicken, carrots and broccoli served over white rice. I think pea-pods and onions would have been a great addition. I think you could use any veggies that do well paired with sweeter flavors. Enjoy!!

Dairy free ice cream

For Christmas this year my parents got me the ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I asked for this specifically so that I could make dairy free ice cream treats for JT.  Although he is able to have some sorbet and popsicles, there are not a whole lot of options for him in the frozen treat category. Now we can make our own “ice cream” at home… Yay! I can’t wait to experiment with different flavors. Maybe this year I will even be able to serve cake AND ice cream at his birthday party!

We tried our first batch last night and it was a success. The kids loved it. JT was thrilled to be able to have “real” ice cream! It’s always amazing when you can give a kid like him, who has so many allergies, the experience of eating things that other kids talk about and get to eat all of the time. Hooray! Oh and the kids had a blast helping me too, although making ice cream requires alot of patience!

My Favorite Helpers!

My Favorite Helpers!

My new ice cream attachment

My new ice cream attachment

I found the original recipe for dairy free marshmallow ice cream at picture perfect cooking. We did have to make a few changes due to JT’s soy and egg allergies. In the end I couldn’t decide exactly what the “flavor” of this ice cream was. Sort of vanilla, marshmallow, banana-y. It doesn’t matter anyway because it’s good and it’s smooth and surprisingly creamy! This is how I adapted the recipe:

Marshmallow Ice Cream

2 cups dairy free rice milk

10 oz. mini marshmallows

1 can coconut milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 large jar of baby food bananas

2 tbsp. vanilla

In a large microwave safe bowl heat marshmallows in microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted  (leave room in bowl as they expand quite a bit). Add in rice milk and stir well. In a small saucepan heat coconut milk almost to boiling. In a seperate small bowl mix sugar and banana together. Mix Banana and sugar mixture into heated coconut milk and then whisk into the marshmallow mixture. Add the vanilla and stir. Refrigerate overnight ( I tried to cut corners and skipped this step, it was a bad idea, it’s necessary). Process in your ice cream maker according to directions. Once processed it will be like soft serve, freeze overnight for a hard ice cream consistency.

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Trick or Treat!

Isn’t this such an amazing time of year? I love the fall….the colors, the apples, the crispness. It marks the beginning of a stretch of holidays that are filled with fun, family and food. But, for food allergy families, events that revolve around food can be very stressful. In order to not take any of the fun out of the holiday season I find that the best thing a parent can do for their child is be prepared. When we travel for Thanksgiving, we bring JT’s entire meal. At Christmas time, we always have JT safe Christmas cookies and treats so he isn’t left out.

Halloween can be tougher though. It’s much more difficult to be in control of the foods that your child will be exposed to. Chris and I don’t want JT to miss out on any of the fun of Halloween so we do go Trick or Treating with him. When he was just a baby we only brought him to a few houses and didn’t even collect candy. When he was a toddler, we stashed our pockets with raisins and pretended to collect them from each family. We wondered what he would think of this strange holiday when you have to get dressed up and everyone gives you raisins 🙂 As he got older we would check out the candy supply at each house, (very briefly) explain JT’s allergies, and then take candy that was safe or pass on candy that wasn’t (although sometimes Chris will grab some chocolate for us to eat after the kids are asleep!). We always have a back up supply of candy at home so that if he were ever to come home empty-handed we would have a big stash of goodies waiting for him. I’m sure this will become even more difficult for us as he gets a little older and how much candy he collects becomes a bigger deal. I remember filling pillow cases to the brim as a kid. For now though, we are happy with a small haul. Who needs all that candy anyway?

If collecting candy from others is out of the question for you, consider these options:

  • Give pre-packed and sealed bags of treats to neighbors beforehand and collect only from those houses on Halloween
  • Give neighbors non-food treats beforehand (play-dough, squinkies, glow sticks, etc.)
  • Stash your pockets with safe treats and pretend, if your child is young enough!
  • Trick or Treat for FAAN

If you need ideas for “safe” candy check out this great list from AllergyMoms newsletter! And if you are NOT the parent of an allergic child you can help too. It’s certainly not your responsibility to know what children in your neighborhood can or can not eat, but it might be nice to keep a few things aside that are chocolate and peanut free…just in case. You could make some kids (Moms!) night!

Sunbutter cookies

The cutest helpers around!

I LOVE sunbutter!

This is a fairly recent discovery. I was reluctant to try sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds) with JT because I had heard that its color and texture were very similar to peanut butter. I was worried that if he got used to something so similar to peanut butter that he could get confused easily and mistake one for the other. Now he is old enough to understand the difference, so we decided to try some.

I was really hoping “SB + J’s” would become a fast favorite, but my kids are SUPER picky and so JT has decided he doesn’t like it, which means Molly won’t even try it 😦 But don’t let this dissuade you…I LOVE it!!! And I think if my kids weren’t so darn picky they would love it too.  I love sunbutter and jelly sandwiches (I had SO missed PB+J’s), and I love it on toast and as a snack on crackers. It’s texture, color and smell are very close to peanut butter and it’s delicious. It has a deeper and richer flavor than peanut butter. I actually think I prefer it.

I found a sunbutter cookie recipe on pinterest and was over-joyed! Peanut butter cookies were one of my favorite treats and after falling for sunbutter I knew it would make a good alternative. I used this recipe from baking bites, using JT safe butter and replacing the egg with 3/4 of a jar of stage 2 banana baby food. Just making that criss-cross pattern on the top of the cookie made me happy! The kids had a great time helping me make them too! And they came out great, they are DELICIOUS! I find them to be slightly saltier than a peanut butter cookie. I’m so excited to have another cookie recipe to add to my pretty small cookie repertoire. (Don’t be alarmed if the inside of the cookie turns a greenish color, it’s due to “cholorgenic acid” which is found in the sunflower plant and is totally normal)

Yummy sunbutter cookies!

allergen free slow cooker meatballs

Allergen free slow cooker meatballs.

1 lb. ground turkey

1/2 Cup panko breadcrumbs (You can also use crushed rice krispies for wheat free. Or if you are able to have italian breadcrumbs use them and omit the next 6 ingredients.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1-2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 large (or 1 small) onion, chopped

1 jar pasta sauce ( I used Classico fire roasted tomato and garlic)

1 can crushed tomatoes

1/2 can tomato paste

1 green pepper sliced thin (optional)

In a bowl mix ground turkey, breadcrumbs, salt, parsley, pepper, onion powder, oregano, basil, garlic and onion. Shape the mixture into 16 meatballs. In the slow cooker mix the jar of pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and pepper (if desired). Place the meatballs into the sauce and cook on low for about 6 hours.

I’m no photographer…but here they are in the crock pot.

slow cooker whole chicken

Until last night I had never cooked a whole chicken. Sure I’ve cooked chicken tenders and breasts but never the whole bird. I used to joke with my Mom that if I ever took over hosting Thanksgiving I would serve turkey breast. It seemed such an intimidating task. Enter my slow cooker….I had never considered cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker, but after coming across a few recipes online I decided to give it a try. I am SO glad I did!! Technically this isn’t a special “allergen free” recipe, but it’s got so few ingredients that it fits the bill for JT and maybe it will for you as well. If you have allergies to any of the veggies or spices you could easily make this without them. Oh…and it’s super healthy!

Slow cooker Whole chicken

1 whole chicken (mine was 4 lbs.)

1 Large potato, cut into chunks (I would have used red potatoes halved, if I had them. Also my kids refuse to eat potatoes so you might want to add a little more)

Baby carrots, about 2 handfuls

1 garlic clove diced or minced jarred garlic equivalent

1 teaspoon paprika

salt and pepper

aluminum foil or 1 onion cut into large chunks

Wash your chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with paprika, garlic, salt and pepper. Make 3 balls with aluminum foil and place into the crock pot, you will place your chicken on top of these (You could also place onion chunks on the bottom of your slow cooker if you prefer). Place potatoes and carrots around chicken. Cook on high for about 4-5 hours. No need to add liquid and no need to stir, although I did pull the carrots and potatoes away from the sides of the crock a few times.

The chicken will fall apart after cooking so I’m not sure you could pull the whole thing out, I just pulled the meat out and served on plates. I read that you could keep the bones in the slow cooker and make a stock with them, one step at a time for me though!

Wheat free play dough

Fortunately for our family,  JT outgrew his wheat allergy when he was two. But I still remember the days of worrying about wheat. Wheat was a very difficult allergen to avoid not only in food but in craft projects as well. Play dough and macaroni necklaces were out of the question. JT has always loved sensory play so I remember how thrilled I was when I found this recipe for wheat free play dough. Because it is made with rice flour it does tend to be a little grittier feeling than regular play dough, but that was no big deal for us, especially since JT had nothing to compare it to.

Here is the recipe :

1 1/4 C rice flour

1/2 C salt

2 tsp cream of tartar (despite the word “cream” this is dairy free)

1 C water (you would add a few drops of food coloring to the water if you want colorful dough)

1 Tbsp oil

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large pot. Mix in water and oil. Stir constantly over medium heat until the dough starts to form a ball, this should take about 5 minutes. Let cool and then knead the dough.  If you find that it is too sticky you can knead in a little more rice flour until you get a good consistency. Store in an airtight container.

If cooking up your own play dough is not your style Colorations makes a wheat and gluten-free play dough.