Dairy and Soy Free Easter/Spring Lunch Ideas

Happy First Day of Spring!  It sure doesn’t feel like spring here but I’ve got springtime cooking on my mind.

I have two Easter celebrations to cook for this year and so I’ve been busy Googling recipes.  Both get togethers are closer to lunchtime than brunch so I’m looking for some new ideas.   Lunch ideas are hard for me on a regular day, let alone for guests.  I haven’t narrowed the menu down just yet, but I thought I would share the ideas I’m considering.  I’ve tried a few of these recipes but haven’t blogged about them.  The rest are new things I’ve not made before but most have reviews you can check out.  I know it might seem strange to post things I haven’t cooked yet, but hopefully it can save you some time searching the Internet if you need an Easter meal idea.  After Easter I will post what I ended up making and share my own reviews!

Springtime Lunch Menu Ideas

Appetizers

Main Course

Sides

Desserts

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Household Tips – One Handed Cutting

Just wanted to share a few timesavers this morning that go along with preparing food with kids.  Since I am often cooking during the sleepier/grumpier times of day (breakfast and dinner) I often have to prepare food while holding Colin on my hip.  Recently I discovered how useful a pizza cutter can be to cut up things that often take two hands.  Pancakes, waffles, sandwich crusts, pita bread, quesadillas and more are easily with one hand wielding a pizza cutter.   I usually lay the food, like a pancake, on a cutting board and dice it up with the pizza cutter into kid sized bites and then put it into a plate to serve.

The pizza cutter works really well for making “dippers,” as Hannah calls them, which are basically long strips of food she can dip into sauce.   For pancakes I make “dippers” and serve them with a plastic shot glass with a little bit of syrup in it (less than half full).  She enjoys the dipping and I can control the syrup consumption.  We do hamburger and chicken “dippers” too with ketchup, minus the shot glass.  It’s amazing how changing the way food is presented can persuade a kid to eat it!

I’ve also started using a pair of kitchen scissors (meaning one I keep for food, not cutting household stuff) to cut up spaghetti noodles for Colin quickly with one hand.   Just put the spaghetti in a bowl so it can’t get away from you and snip, snip snip.  Toddler sized noodles in no time!

Hope you are having a good week and if you are in the USA, surviving the time change!

 

Dairy and Soy Free Hamburger or Hotdog Buns

hamburger buns

We grill food all year long.  Even if it is snowing, my husband is out there at the Weber kettle.  I’m pretty sure the neighbors think he’s nuts but I think he secretly enjoys winter because he can stick a beer down in the snow and keep it cold.  I love his passion for grilling and the delicious food he makes regardless of the weather.

We make a lot of burgers, hot dogs and brats but I’ve yet to find dairy/soy-free buns that are also oat free at any grocery store.   For a while I just ate whatever we grilled without a bun, or wrapped in lettuce, but it just wasn’t the same.  Fortunately I came upon a recipe from Taste of Home that changed everything.  I now make fresh hamburger/hotdog buns anytime we need them and use leftovers for sandwiches during the week.    I keep a jar of active yeast in my fridge at all times and everything else in the recipe is pretty basic so I always have the ingredients on hand. 

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it is fast for a bread recipe.  The process from start to finish only takes 40 minutes but I sometimes push mine to an hour if I have the time.  My kitchen is pretty cool  (temperature wise) and the extra time helped mine rise just a bit more.  But like I said, if you are in a rush, 40 minutes will do just fine!

I made a few adjustments to the original recipe.  First I always use half the sugar.  The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup but for my family, that was a bit much, and the buns were great without the extra sugar.  The second change I make is to sub in at least a half cup of whole wheat pastry flour for the AP flour.   The whole wheat pastry flour makes me feel a little better about all those simple carbs and my wheat-bread-fearing-daughter doesn’t mind it as long as it is half or less of the total flour in a recipe.

The total amount of flour I use in this recipe changes each time I make it, which is why the ingredients say you will need 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour.  Your goal is to make a dough that is not sticky but not bone dry.  I usually add about 3 cups and then start testing it by touching it with my finger.  If my finger is covered in big gloopy dough, I keep adding flour.  If it is just a little bit sticky I stop adding flour.  When you knead the dough you can add a bit more if it sticks to your hands.

The recipe makes 1 dozen hamburger buns but the beauty of this dough is that you can make it into any size or shape buns that you need. I’ve made them into regular hamburger buns, mini burger buns and brat/hot dog buns.  I use a digital kitchen scale to help me portion out dough so they cook evenly but you can go by sight/feel too.  For hot dog buns I divide the dough into 10 pieces instead of 12 and roll them out to a length of 6 inches or so.  If you want a hoagie style bun, great for sandwiches, divide the dough into 8 pieces.

If you are nervous about making your own bread, as I know some people are, you can do this!  This recipe makes it easy!  I think one of the most important things to know is  that yeast is alive.  Treat it right and it will do great things for you.  Here are a few tips on using yeast that help me to get a good end result:

  1. When starting the dough, yeast likes warm water but not hot water.  Yeast dies instantly in 140 degree water.  I really like to use an instant thermometer to make sure I’ve got the water temp close to 115 or 120 degrees.  I don’t always trust my constantly cold hands to tell me if the water temp feels right. 
  2. If your yeast is old  (it doesn’t last forever) and you’re not sure if your yeast is still alive and kickin’, make sure to proof/test it.  Once the yeast is combined with the water and sugar in the recipe, let it sit for 10 minutes.  If it starts to bubble/foam up, your yeast is alive. Hurray!  If you don’t see anything happening, your yeast may be dead, time for new yeast.  I never proof my yeast anymore unless I pull an old packet out of the back of my pantry that has been hanging around a long time.  I keep a jar of yeast in the fridge and never have any problems with it. 
  3.  Dough should be kept in the warmer parts of your kitchen when rising because it does best around 78-80 degrees.   My kitchen is pretty cool in the winter which I why I like to give the dough an extra 20 minutes of rise time when our schedule allows it.

Quick Hamburger/Hotdog buns

Ingredients

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons very warm water, not hot (about 115 degrees F)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/3 cup neutral oil, like canola oil

2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour  (you can substitute in some whole wheat pastry flour here)

Directions

1.  Pour the warm water into a large bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water.  Add the oil and sugar.  Let this stand for 5-10 minutes (if you are checking to see if your yeast is alive, it should foam/bubble up by the end of 10 minutes).

2.  Add the egg, salt and mix.  Slowly start adding in the flour.  Continue to add flour until a soft dough forms.  Usually it will take 3 cups of flour, the last 1/2 cup varies.  It shouldn’t be runny/gloopy or bone dry, but slightly tacky.

3.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

4.  Scrape the dough together into a ball with your hand or spatula and place it on a lightly floured kitchen counter.  Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes, adding flour if it is sticking to your hands.   Immediately divide into 12 pieces for hamburger buns or 10 pieces for hot dog buns.   For hamburgers roll into a ball and flatten slightly.  For hot dog buns roll out into 6 inch long pieces.  Place dough several inches apart on a greased baking sheet or silpat.   Cover with saran wrap and let rest in a warm spot for 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes.   (I think they improve with the longer rest but are still great if you only have time for 10 minutes).

5.   Uncover and bake for 8-12 minutes until golden brown.