Kielbasa and Kraut

When you have to cook most everything you eat, ideas for quick and easy meals are so wonderful to have in your recipe box.  One of our favorites is kielbasa and kraut.  I grew up eating sauerkraut and spareribs (there are those German roots for ya), but I had never had kielbasa.  So I guess this recipe really came from my husband and his family.  Kielbasa is basically just Polish sausage.  There are several varieties at our grocery store, containing different mixtures of beef, pork or turkey.   The turkey is a healthier options but the beef is oh so delicious. For this recipe I chose one made by Farmland because it was dairy and soy free.

I love this recipe because it only requires three ingredients.  The kielbasa, some sauerkraut and your favorite bbq sauce.  My favorite sauce is actually Super Smokers St. Louis Style sauce, but I had to go with Gates Sweet and Mild sauce to get a soy free bbq sauce.

Grilled Kielbasa and Kraut

Ingredients

Kielbasa (Polish Sausage) – dairy and soy free variety

BBQ Sauce –  I use Gates

Small can of sauerkraut

Equipment – Grill or Grill pan

Directions

Preheat a grill pan * on the stove top over medium heat.  Open the kielbasa and cut into 3 large segments.  Split each of those large pieces down the middle lengthwise.  Place the kielbasa on the grill pan and cook about 7 minutes a side until the internal temperature is 180 degrees. 

You will see juices bubbling on the surface.  Serve with bbq sauce and sauerkraut that is room temperature or you can warm it briefly in the microwave.

*Sometimes we make this on our Weber grill outside, following the same directions.

Soy/Dairy Free Muffin Mix? Duncan Hines Simple Mornings Review

Although I’ve been making soy/dairy free muffins that I really like for several months, I was excited to see Duncan Hines came out with a new product call Simple Mornings Blueberry Muffin mix. It advertised more whole grain and nothing artificial.   Here are the ingredients:

It is dairy free but more importantly there are no soy products in it, which is really hard to find. I also liked the idea of something quick, on hand in the pantry and only needed ingredients that I always have.  The directions called for adding water, oil and egg which meant I didn’t even need to find a milk substitute. Yay!

The box comes with a bag of dry muffin mix and can of blueberries to drain and rinse.  The directions call for adding eggs, water and oil to the dry ingredients before folding in the rinsed blueberries.

The batter looked the same as every other box muffin mix batter.  I tasted it and could detect a bit of the whole wheat flour that isn’t usually present in box mixes.

I made 12 muffins with the batter.  My timer died during baking so I lost the exact time but it was right in line with what was on the box.  I just watched until they were slightly golden and took them out to cool.   So the verdict?

Well….To review these muffins I realized I need to make two reviews, one in comparison to the standard box of blueberry muffin mix and one compared to the homemade blueberry muffins I have been making for months.

1.  Comparison to regular box muffin mixes (like Betty Crocker Wild Blueberry Muffin Mix):  The batter and muffin have a slightly more wheat flavor but it is not off-putting in any way.  The baked muffins are not quite as light and fluffy but still have a great muffin texture, not too heavy. They were really very close to the standard muffin in texture.   In some muffins the blueberries did tend to sink down to the bottom a bit.  Not sure if it was the ones I scooped first and the blueberries sank or just a coincidence.  The flavor is similar to regular box muffins.  There is a blueberry flavor added to the mix so if you tasted just the batter without a blueberry in it you would still know it is blueberry muffin mix.  However, I  think in the Simple Mornings mix the blueberry flavoring tastes more artificial than in a regular box mix.  If you are used to eating box muffins you might not mind it at all but this flavoring was the deal breaker for us which leads me the second review.

2.  Comparison to muffins made from scratch:  Well the Simple Mornings mix went together faster,  made less mess in my kitchen than scratch muffins and having canned blueberries I didn’t have to can/clean myself was convenient.  That is about where the positives ended.  The biggest problem with the Duncan Hines Simple Mornings mix is the blueberry flavor they add to it.  The box says “nothing artificial” but the blueberry flavoring tastes so artificial we couldn’t get past it and no one wanted seconds.  I was so disappointed.  I was the only one who would eat them the next day and that was mostly because they were a safe food for me and I didn’t want them to go to waste.  We also wished for more blueberries or bigger blueberries.   Since I can freeze normal size blueberries to cook with all year long, the convenience of the canned blueberries was lost on me.

My husband and I sat and pondered out loud whether a year ago, when I primarily made boxed muffin mixes,  we would have noticed the blueberry flavor being such a turnoff or if now we were just “spoiled” by things cooked from scratch.  Well for good or bad the damage is done and the Duncan Hines mix will be a pass for us.

Sweet Vinaigrette Coleslaw with Ramen

We’ve been eating the same foods in our house a lot recently so I decided to find a new side dish.  I’d been thinking about an Asian slaw salad that became popular a while ago, the one with ramen noodles in it.  It is made up of cabbage, almonds, ramen noodles and a slightly sweet vinaigrette dressing containing some of the ramen spice mix.  Many nuts bother Colin so I thought I could make the salad without nuts and I’d be good to go.  So I headed to the grocery store.

Let the hunting begin!  Twenty minutes later I am sitting on the floor at the grocery store reading ramen noodles.  Digging around on shelves, several packages in my lap, trying to read the tiny print on the little square packages.   Did I look crazy? Yes. Did I care? No.  I like to think I have a new relationship with the grocery store since I spend so much time there reading the back of packages.  Anyway… All the ramen packages were on the very bottom shelf and there were at least 3 different brands and 5 or more flavor varieties.  I was determined to find ones without soy, dairy or chicken in them.   I found some packages had the ingredients for the spice package and noodles listed together and somewhere along the list was an offender.  Other boxes had safe noodles but not spices or vice versa.  I finally gave up on finding a totally safe package and found one package that had safe noodles.

I took this home and decided I’d make something up and see how it went.   I combined sugar, apple cider vinegar and olive oil  and poured it over the coleslaw.   It was nice and tangy but needed something else so I added some pepper and seasoned salt.    I kept tasting and adding more pepper and seasoned salt until there was a nice balance of sweet and savory.

Then I took half of the dry ramen noodles and crushed them up in my hands.  I sprinkled them over the coleslaw, mixed it all together and let it sit while I prepared the rest of dinner.

When I served it, the cabbage had wilted a bit (the way I think coleslaw should be) and the ramen noodles were just a tad bit softer but still very crunchy.   It was really good.   In fact, we’ve made three times this month since it was so easy and delicious.

I have even served the slaw to guests.   I am always nervous serving my adapted “safe” foods to other people who might really miss the “real thing.”   To my surprise, my father-in-law raved about the slaw.  He asked for second helpings and inquired about the ingredients.

The next day the ramen had absorbed some of the dressing so the crunch was gone but it was still very tasty.  I think I almost liked it even better that way.

Sweet Vinaigrette Coleslaw with Ramen

Ingredients

1/4 cup neutral oil – I use Canola oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

1 (16oz) bag of preshredded Cabbage or Coleslaw Mix

1/2 package of soy free Ramen noodles, dry – I use Top Ramen shrimp flavor

about 1/4 teaspoon Seasoned salt or other all purpose seasoning blend (sometimes I use Curt’s Table Spice)

1/8 to  1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper

Directions

In a small bowl combine the oil, sugar and vinegar and whip it with a fork for about 30 seconds.  Open the coleslaw mix and dump it into a large bowl.   Pour the oil/vinegar mixture over the coleslaw and use tongs or a large spoon to mix and distribute the vinaigrette evenly throughout.  Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper over the slaw.  Open the ramen and discard the spice packet. Break the block of noodles in half and put one half aside for the next time you want to make this salad. Over the coleslaw bowl, crush the half block of noodles with your hands until they are small pieces and sprinkle into the salad.  Stir to combine.   Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes before stirring again.  The cabbage will soften and shrink a bit.   Taste the coleslaw and add more pepper or seasoning if desired.

Goes great with bbq!

Making Progress

Colin is five months old now and recently I stopped to realize that although we still have to work on identifying all of his food allergies, he has come a long way in the last two months.  Two months ago he was spitting up all the time, projectile vomiting, and his diapers were a green mess after every feeding.   We just accepted that this was the way it was going to be for him.  These days the spitup and scary diapers are more occasional than everyday.  It is also easier to see when foods bother him because we have more “good days” than bad and we can see a change after I eat something. I also think he is looking better.  No more looks of dehydration and he is starting to pork up a bit now, nice round cheeks and little turkey legs on him.  I think it took eliminating a lot of foods and time for his intestines to heal to get to this better place.

There still are allergens we haven’t identified.  Last week Colin began spitting up every day and his sleep was awful!!  I kept reading over my food log but was totally perplexed and frustrated.  I had no idea what it was and still don’t.  Was it actually something I ate?  Was something I ate contaminated with soy from the factory? Usually we don’t have a problem with things made in the same factory but maybe this time whatever I ate was full of soy sprinkles (as my husband jokingly calls the soy in everything in the market).    Was it because Colin was teething?  I’ve heard teething or illness can exacerbate reflux.  There are so many variables and sometimes they are overwhelming.

Weeks like last week I think about going back on a total elimination diet, where I just eat 6 things over and over for a week and add new foods in one at a time.   Last time I tried that kind of diet it was terrible on Colin and myself.  I was starving all the time and it threw off my digestive balance, putting me in the same boat that Colin was already in.  Meanwhile, Colin just whimpered and whimpered so I stopped after barely a week.  Now I think that two of the foods that were supposed to be good choices, chicken and sweet potatoes, were foods that seem to bother Colin.  Jeesh!  Instead of swapping foods in and out trying to find a safe 6 for a baseline, I just decided to keep an uber detailed food/symptom log.  I keep track of everything that I eat and drink and also Colin’s sleep quality, poo, spitup, fussiness and other things like eczema or supplements like a probiotic.  At some point I may go back on an elimination diet but I’m hoping we won’t have to go there.

Right now I am not eating any form of soy, dairy, rice, chicken, peas, most beans, chocolate, sweet potatoes, avocado, nuts or anything the least bit spicy.  It sure makes meal planning hard, especially since I don’t want to eat red meat every day of my life.  Some days I get really down, feeling deprived and depressed, usually because I don’t have enough safe food in the house for me to eat or because I want to eat outside of my own house.  I definitely feel better when I plan better.  This blog has helped me a lot by having a place to keep track of things I can eat, a reminder that there are safe foods and also motivation to keep finding new foods that I can eat.

As Colin nears the six month mark I see this road is going to be a lot longer than I had originally hoped.  I thought by now we would have identified all of his allergy triggers and would maybe be outgrowing some.  I would say we know the big players but still have more to figure out.  The good news is we have had the chance to do some challenges since he is having good days and determine that some foods are for sure a problem and weren’t just confused with other triggers in the past.   Even having that confirmation is progress.  This week I am trialing almonds to see if there is at least one nut that I could eat, not to mention all the things I could make out of it.  Two days in and Colin seems to be doing fine.   Hopefully almonds will be a success but if not, at least it is more information and a small step forward.

Pumpkin Muffins

This week I saw I still had a can of pumpkin hanging around from the fall and decided to make some pumpkin muffins.  I have several pumpkin bread recipes hanging around my house and most call for oil so I didn’t have to come up with any milk/butter substitutes. Since I didn’t have to mess with the fats, I decided to play around with the flour.  I decided to use one of my new favorite baking products, whole wheat pastry flour.

(Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – Sorry for the wrinkly bag)

I have been substituting up to half of the white all-purpose flour called for in many recipes with this whole wheat pastry flour.  It makes my baked goods a little healthier and my family rarely knows the difference.  Don’t confuse it with regular all-purpose whole wheat flour though!  Being a pastry flour means it has lower protein so it will develop less gluten in the final product, making your treats more tender.  For this recipe I swapped out half of the all-purpose flour I usually use with the whole-wheat pastry flour.

I was so excited with how the muffins turned out.  Very very moist and flavorful and as usual, my husband had no idea they were half whole wheat flour.  I thought they had plenty of pumpkin spice flavor but sometime might try using the individual spices (cinnamon, ginger, clove, nutmeg) to see how that turns out too.   For the sake of getting these ready in a hurry for breakfast though, I grabbed the catch-all, pumpkin pie spice.  I’m thinking my next experiment with this recipe will be to figure out how to lower the sugar content to make them an even better breakfast choice for my kids.   If anyone has any thoughts I’d love to hear them!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Ingredients

1 can(15oz) pure pumpkin

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup oil

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour  (if you don’t have this, just use 3/4 cup all-purpose flour for a total 1 1/2 cups)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping:

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.    Line a 12 count muffin tin with muffin cups.

Assemble the wet ingredients:  Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. (Yes, sugar is usually on the “wet” team)

Assemble the dry ingredients:  In another bowl combine the flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda,  pumpkin pie spice,  1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and salt.

Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together with a fork until just combined. (No lumps of flour showing but don’t overmix.)

Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin cups. (Hannah chose Dora the Explorer cups for these).   Bake 25-30 minutes.

While muffins are cooling, mix together the powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.   Use a shaker container or fine mesh sieve and sprinkle the sugar-cinnamon mixture over each muffin.  (You can shake it over the whole pan of muffins at one time or hold them over the sink one at a time for less mess.)

Chicken Taco Seasoning

I spend way too much time at the grocery store,  reading the back of pretty much anything that isn’t fresh produce.  One thing I found myself looking at much too often was taco seasoning.  I usually forget which brand we buy and since ingredients can change without warning, I was re-reading the back of the package each time anyway.  My sister gave me the idea to check at our favorite spice store, Penzey’s Spices, to see if they had something in bulk I could keep on hand.  Eureka!   I’m not sure why it hadn’t dawned on me before to get things like this at Penzeys.  I headed off to the store in our area and found they had multiple taco seasonings.  The regular and bold taco seasoning contained lactose.  The chicken taco seasoning however, did not.   The blend smelled good and so I bought a jar to try it out.    I used it some tacos we had that week and my whole family loved it.  I saw on their website that I can order it in various sizes, up to a 1lb bag!  No more reading all the packages at the grocery store for me!

Peanuts – Fail

Colin was finally feeling better after a month of being down due to immunizations followed immediately by RSV and a wheezing condition that left him really tired.  I decided to try a challenge food through my breastmilk.  To challenge basically means I eat something we suspect may be a trigger, while keeping the rest of my diet pretty much the same, and watching for any reactions after a day or two. Colin usually reacts 1-3 days after I eat something although spicy stuff seems to get there in a hurry.  We decided to try peanuts because nuts were a food we took off the list of safe foods without much evidence.  We knew they were a common allergy trigger and we connected a week of Colin screaming with the week I was eating a lot of trail mix.  It just seemed safer to remove all nuts from my diet.  There were still other food triggers in my diet back then, like rice and chicken, so we more recently we began to wonder about the nuts.  And I have been craving peanut butter.  It is so hard to make Hannah’s sandwiches some days and not dive into the jar of creamy peanut butter.  I would also really like to be able to use almond milk or almond butter,  but not having any of those on hand to test with, I chose to start with peanuts.

Although I would have liked to eat the whole jar of peanut butter for the challenge, I started with just a small spoonful of it once a day for two days.   To my dismay Colin very soon broke out in eczema on his head.  The exact same eczema spots that were really bad before we started eliminating things from my diet.  I waited one more week and tried peanut butter again to make sure it wasn’t something else I’d eaten and Colin got the eczema again. Like a big red stop sign on his forehead saying, “Mom, cut it out.  I don’t do peanut butter.” A few days of Aveeno eczema lotion for Colin and no more trips to the peanut butter jar for me and all is well.   Since his reaction was not really GI related and more of a skin symptom, I am wondering if peanuts are a true allergy for him, like the usual peanut allergy you hear about, and not a protein issue.

Hopefully almonds will be better.