May Food Find- Krusteaz Apple Muffins

I haven’t done a Food Find post in a while so I thought I’d share a store-bought muffin mix I found recently: Krusteaz Fat Free Apple Cinnamon Muffin Mix.

Before I begin though, I thought I’d mention that I’m in no way connected to any of the foods I review, nor do I get any kind of free samples. These are things I find while spending an inordinate amount of time reading labels at grocery stores.  I post these things solely to help other families find options that might work for them and maybe spend a little less time grocery shopping.

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So I saw this Krusteaz muffin mix on the shelf at the grocery store and decided I would give it a try.  I love making homemade apple muffins but it takes a lot of time to prep all the apples and the whole process makes quite a mess.  That level of commitment to making muffins is often more than I want to deal with in the morning.   I’m always on the lookout for a box mix I can stash away for an impromptu breakfast or even better – to travel with!   I love my food processor but it doesn’t make the list of travel items.  Sooo… Krusteaz was up to bat.

The Krusteaz muffin mix cost $2.99.   Not crazy expensive like some of the specialty box mixes I’ve purchased in the past, so that was nice.

The ingredient list did not contain dairy or soy.   It does warn that the mix is made on the same machinery as these and other allergens, so I probably wouldn’t have given it to Colin in his worst days, but we take the risk now.   Although the ingredient list seems pretty allergy safe for us,  it isn’t a perfect option.  It includes a lot of things that wouldn’t be in muffins made from scratch, like high fructose corn syrup,  so I wouldn’t make it a weekly breakfast choice,  but I think that is par for the course with most boxed mixes.

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The box comes with a bag of dry mix, a pouch of apple filling and only requires water to mix it all up.  I loved that I didn’t need a milk alternative, which makes them even more convenient and travel friendly.   It was easy and crazy fast to prepare, so I had my doubts about the quality of the muffins.

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My little kitchen elves helping stir it together. They are so simple to make – the muffins that is.

 

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The apples come in a pouch. They taste like apple pie filling.

To my surprise the resulting muffins were very moist and flavorful.   The apples have a bit of the “apple filling” taste- probably from being cooked and having high fructose corn syrup in them, but they weren’t a deal breaker.   The muffins were overall good and I’d definitely eat them again.

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If I have the time and patience for homemade apple muffins, they would still be first in my book but this is a great option for convenience.  I actually purchased another box to take on a trip with me since they were so simple to make and good enough to share with family.

If you’d like to read more about the Krusteaz products or locate their products you can visit their website here.   If you can’t find this muffin mix at your store you can buy it here.

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You Won’t Miss The Cheese Stromboli

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It has been way too long since my last post.  I used to write once a week when Colin took two naps a day.  Now my goal is one a month. Colin has taken to skipping naps if there is anything interesting going on and when Hannah is home, his nap hour is our dedicated read-together time.   It is really tough to find an hour or so in the evening to sit at the computer. With both kiddos doing some sort of school in the fall, I know this crazy time will pass and I will miss being so busy with them.  So although I’m paring back a bit, I’m not disappearing. Bear with me!

Speaking of days when I had more time:  Before Colin was born I used to go to one of those meal making places where in one hour I could make 12 meals for my family and fill my freezer.   It was such a time saver but these days it just doesn’t work for our diet needs.  A few months ago I tried to make my own “Freezer Meals” but I just couldn’t find a lot of recipes that didn’t involve Cream of Something soup or lots of cheese.   It wasn’t a total failure though.  I did find a stromboli recipe that we love at a site called Freezer Friends, written by a group of girls who work together to make freezer meals each month.  Genius!  I would love to do this someday.

Anyway, at first I made two different stromboli, a cheesy one for my husband and daughter, and a cheeseless for Colin and I, but after trying our dairy-less version, my husband said to just make the dairy-free version in the future.  He didn’t miss the cheese.  That is a HUGE win in our house.

I think the key to this stromboli is the egg yolk and herb mixture that is spread on the dough before the rest of the toppings.  It brings the fat, richness and moisture to the party that keeps us from missing cheese.

The original recipe called for 1lb defrosted bread dough.  I couldn’t find any soy free varieties so I always use fresh dough.  I’ve tried various things and usually use either the olive oil dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day (the recipe is down a bit in their post) or I use Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust yeast and follow the directions on the back of the yeast packet.    The olive oil dough you have to make a few hours in advance.  The Fleischmann’s dough you can whip up and use in 5 minutes.

I tend to stick to the meat and veggie ingredients in the recipe below, for no other reason than we like it.  When I find something that works, I go with it.  Feel free to swap things out, just try to not to overload the dough with filling or with extremely wet ingredients or you might run into trouble sealing the dough.  If yours starts to have a life of its own, don’t panic.  In the past I’ve had ugly, patched up and messy looking stromboli going into the oven but they bake up delicious.

Stromboli

Adapted from Stromboli By Jackie

Ingredients

1 lb defrosted frozen bread dough or fresh pizza dough (my favorite way is using this yeast)

12 oz. italian pork sausage (we use mild, light turkey sausage)

1/2 onion, diced

2 egg yolks, save the whites

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil

2 oz. turkey pepperoni

Italian Seasoning

Directions  (photos below to help with construction)

Have dough defrosted/ready to use.  Place the pork sausage and onion in a medium-sized pan and cook over medium-high heat, chopping sausage into small crumbles while cooking.  Cook until sausage is cooked through and onion is translucent. Turn off heat and set meat mixture aside.  In a small bowl beat the egg yolks and combine with the next four spices and the 2 tablespoons oil.  Next, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or a Silpat mat or just grease your cookie sheet generously.  Use a rolling pin to roll your dough into a large rectangle (about 8×12).   Spread the egg yolk mixture on the dough but leave a half-inch border on the sides a 1 inch border at the bottom with nothing on it.   Now add toppings: spoon the sausage mixture over the egg yolk and herbs, again leaving the sides and one inch border at the bottom empty.  Spread pepperoni evenly over the sausage mixture.  Using two hands start at the top (where it is covered with toppings)  and roll the dough in on itself until it reaches the bottom.  Roll up that bottom 1 inch and stop, so that the seam is on the bottom of the stromboli.  Gently beat the egg whites in a bowl and then give the stromboli a light brushing of egg white.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  Cut into slices.  Serve with warmed marinara or spaghetti sauce for dipping.

 

Spread the herb mixture over the dough

Spread the herb mixture over the dough

Add toppings

Add toppings everywhere but the bottom 1 inch.  I put the pepperoni on first on this one.  As long as the egg mixture is down first it doesn’t matter.

 

Roll up from the long edge- use both hands to roll evenly

Roll up from the long edge- use both hands to roll evenly

Finish rolling seam side down. Tuck ends in and bake.

Finish rolling seam side down. Tuck the ends in. 

Slice and serve with marinara

After baking, slice and serve with marinara

 

 

 

Eggo Dillema

It can be tough having children with very different dietary needs and preferences. When we are planning meals/snacks/treats we are always trying to balance nutrition, convenience, cost, allergens, and feelings.   Most of the time we buy and cook things that everyone in our house can eat.  Cooking “Colin Friendly” saves time but I also like to think it keeps Colin from feeling “left out” more than he has to.  He is definitely aware of what he can and can’t have, and is also aware of what his sister is eating.   If Colin had been our first child, we’d always have been eating the Colin Diet and Hannah wouldn’t even know what we are NOT eating.  But she was born first and knows what is missing from the table.

For the longest time after Colin was born, I held out on purchasing those Oh So Convenient Eggo brand Nutri-Grain wheat waffles, even when Hannah asked for the 100th time if we could buy them.  I don’t know why she loves them but she does.  Is it that they are circles? Who knows.  I was making homemade waffles and enjoying our lack of processed foods.  But as time has gone by, the kids appetites have increased and time seems to be decreasing.   I finally gave in and bought Hannah her frozen waffles.  I won’t lie- they make the before school breakfast debate a lot easier.  I top them with a smear of peanut butter, chopped fruit or even a slice of Canadian bacon for a quick breakfast sandwich and she is good to go.

So Hannah was happy with her waffles but Colin wanted in on the Eggo fun so I needed to have something quick on hand for him.  Why not freeze our Colin-safe waffles in individual potions?  So I began making a full batch of waffles once a month on a Sunday morning.  Whatever we don’t eat get’s quartered and frozen.   These frozen waffles are “Colin’s Eggos.”  I pop a frozen quarter into the toaster and then breakfast is ready in a jiffy.   Our toaster has a “Frozen Food” setting that works well but if I forget, I just toast it twice on a very light setting.

It is so nice to have another “Go-To” breakfast option for Colin. Colin is happy with his waffle, Hannah is happy with her Eggo, and we get through our morning rush with a little less drama.  That makes me extra happy.

This old waffle iron has cranked out a lot of waffles in her day.

This old waffle iron has cranked out a lot of waffles in her day.

 

Dairy Free Waffles

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients

1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour  (*see note about alternate flours)

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups rice milk (others will work, rice is our favorite)

1/2 cup canola oil or other neutral oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

1.   Preheat your waffle maker.  Spray with oil/grease with canola oil if needed.

2.   Combine the dry goods-   In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

3.   Combine the wet goods-  In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.

4.   Mix it all up –  Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.

5.   Pour waffle mix into waffle maker.   Check with your waffle maker instructions/use a little trial and error.  Mine takes a hefty 1/3 cup of batter.   Cook according to your waffle maker’s directions.   If waffle top and bottom separates try cooking it slightly longer or thicken batter with 2 -4 tablespoons flour.

** Using alternate flours:   I love to use 3/4 cup almond flour in place of 3/4 cup AP flour. The end result is even crispier.  Sometimes I have to add 2-3 tablespoons of extra AP flour to thicken the batter when using almond flour.   I’ve used also made it with whole wheat pastry flour, using half of the AP flour and half whole wheat pastry flour.   I have to be better about greasing my waffle maker with these alternate flours, especially almond flour.

Udon Noodle Stir-Fry

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We make a lot of stir-fry dishes these days since they cook quickly once the prep is done, and I can use whatever veggies I have lying around.   Here is my basic stir-fry procedure:

1.  Prep all vegetables, meats and sauces, making protein bite size and cutting vegetables thinly and uniform in shape

2.  Cook the protein over medium-high and remove it from pan

3.  Cook veggies until soft

4.  Add sauce and protein to the vegetables in the pan.

5.  Serve over rice or add in noodles

So using this formula I create new stir-frys with whatever we’ve got.  I use about a half cup of coconut aminos as a base for my sauces and add things like chicken stock, ginger, salt, pepper, garlic powder and/or sesame oil to change the flavor.  Coconut aminos taste a lot like a sweeter soy sauce and I find them at Whole Foods or other natural foods stores.  If I add a little salt to the recipe to compensate for the sweetness, it is a great soy sauce substitute.

The recipe I’m sharing today is for the stir-fry we had this week.  Feel free to play around with it and add/subtract veggies based on what you like.  My husband hates water chestnuts and sesame oil so I leave them out of the pan, adding some to just my portion.  Just remember to cut veggies thinly so they cook quickly and cut them all about the same size so they cook evenly.  When I’m short on time I pick up a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies.  They seem a bit softer in texture than fresh ones, but will do in a pinch.

One of my favorite parts of this dish is the udon noodles.  Udon noodles are a thin wheat noodle and I find them in the Asian foods section of our grocery store.  Other thin noodles, unflavored ramen or serving it over rice would work too.

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Here is my stir-fry plan in action this week:

I cut onions, mushrooms, carrots, and butter lettuce all very thin.  I have a prep bowl handy to dump them in as I chop, which keeps them from taking over the counter.   I made a sauce of chicken stock, coconut aminos, salt and garlic powder in a two cup glass measuring cup.

Food Pics

I cooked the chicken and set it aside.  I check the temp often while it cooks or cut pieces in half to check for doneness.  I think it’s really important not to overcook it.

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Then I cooked the veggies until they were soft.

Steamy veggies blurring up the pics a bit

Steamy veggies blurring the picture a bit

Then I began cooking the noodles in their pot of water, added the sauce and chicken back to the vegetables and went to break up an argument about a couch fort in the living room.  Sooo no pictures here.  I obviously struggle with being mom, photographer and cook all at the same time during the dinner rush.  But here is the end result!

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It was a big hit with everyone at the table!

What combinations of veggies does your family like?

(Forgive me for the title – I’m coming up blank on this one so I’ll name it for what it is)

Thursday’s Stir-Fry

1/2 cup Coconut Aminos

1/2 cup Chicken Stock

1/8 teaspoon Sesame Oil – optional, add more to taste

1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder

A good pinch Salt

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts – cut into bite sized pieces

8 oz  white button mushrooms – sliced thinly

1 large portabella mushroom- cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 carrot or 4 baby carrots – cut very very thinly

1 small onion – cut into thin slices

1 head butter lettuce or cabbage – chopped (about 2  1/2 cups)

1 small can water chestnuts – optional

6 oz Udon Noodles (dry weight)

Directions

Start heating a large pot of water for boiling the noodles.  Prepare the sauce by combining the coconut aminos, chicken stock, sesame oil (optional), garlic powder and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.   Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the chicken.  Cook the chicken 5-6 minutes or until cooked through and there is no pink inside.  Place the chicken on a plate.  In the empty skillet add one more tablespoon of oil.  Add all of the vegetables.  Cook 6 minutes on medium high heat or until the vegetables are all soft.  Add the udon noodles to the boiling water and set your timer for 4 minutes.  Add the sauce mixture to the vegetables in the skillet.  Cook one minute and add the chicken back in.  Cook one more minute to warm the chicken.  When the timer goes off for your noodles, check for doneness and if cooked through, drain and add the noodles to the stir-fry.  Stir to combine and serve.

Beef and Broccoli over rice

Things are going well at our house.  Holiday season is in full swing.  The Christmas tree is up, I’ve got most of the presents bought, a few wrapped and I”m narrowing down this year’s list of cookies to make.

Colin is doing great. He has found his appetite!  Although the pediatrician said a toddler’s appetite usually slows a bit at this age, Colin is just finding a new interest in food.  He is asking to eat and eating quantities that make my husband and I do a double take.   He still  has a lot of foods he doesn’t want to eat, including most vegetables, but he is slowly broadening his diet.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are his all-time favorite.  He wakes up in the morning and asks me to make him one for breakfast every day.  We haven’t been doing as many smoothies, therefore very little Neocate Jr., but we found some gummy vitamins and gummy calcium supplements that he seems to tolerate.

Yes, food is going better, which always feels good.  I also found a new recipe last week that I couldn’t wait to share.  I was hungry for something that tasted like Chinese food and so I Googled “Beef and Broccoli.”  One of the first results was a recipe from Food. com.  I decided to give it a try, making it soy friendly.   I substituted coconut aminos (which I buy at Whole Foods) for the soy sauce.  Since the coconut aminos are a bit sweeter than soy sauce, I used less brown sugar than the recipe called for and added salt.   The recipe called for a whole teaspoon of ground ginger, which is a lot more than I use in other gingery dishes.   While cooking it I thought the ginger was going to be too intense for my family, since it smelled so strongly of ginger, but by the time it hit the table the ginger had mellowed and it was delicious.  Both kids gobbled it up and my husband said it was the closest to real Chinese food we’d ever made at home.

I served the beef and broccoli over rice.  I used jasmine rice, since it is my husband’s favorite, but use brown rice, quinoa, couscous, or whatever your family prefers.  Just start the rice before starting the stir fry.  Cooking a stir fry usually goes quick and it needs your attention.

Two more notes- If you can’t use cornstarch try arrowroot starch or leave it out.  It thickens it but leaving it out won’t ruin the dish completely.  It has lots of great flavor going on! Maybe cut out the water that goes into the sauce in Step 2.    Second- make sure to cut your beef thin and against the grain.  A cheap cut of meat can be pretty good if you cut it right.  Look for the lines running in the meat and cut perpendicular to them.

Beef and Broccoli

3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided

1/2 cup water, more if needed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 lb boneless round steak, sirloin or flank steak cut into THIN slices  (I used sirloin)

2 tablespoon canola oil

4 cups broccoli, cut into small florets

1 onion, cut into slices

1/2 cup Coconut Aminos

1 tablespoon brown sugar

A good pinch of salt  (about 1/8th teaspoon)

1 teaspoon ground ginger

(hot cooked rice for serving)

Directions

Ingredients

1.  In a Ziploc bag or medium-sized bowl, combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water and the garlic powder.  Add the beef and combine.   Let it sit while you are chopping your onions and broccoli or just continue to step two.

2.  Combine the coconut aminos, brown sugar, salt, ginger, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and the remaining water.  Set aside (This sauce will go on near the end.)

3.   Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add one tablespoon of oil.  Add the beef and cook until beef reaches desired doneness.  (For me this means all red is gone.)  Remove the beef from the pan and keep warm.

4.  Add one tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the broccoli and onion.  If broccoli florets are large, add 2 tablespoons of water and cover pan to help it steam.

5. When broccoli and onion are cooked add the beef back to the pan.  Give the sauce you made in Step 2 a quick stir and pour it over the beef and vegetables.  Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes to thicken.

6.  Serve over rice.

Soy and Dairy Free Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is this week.  Last year I did a post of my Thanksgiving Food Plan and recipe ideas.  Like always, these food occasions are doable, just require some planning.  Thanksgiving is butter heavy all the way around so I usually ask for a bit of help from my in-laws and do quite a bit of cooking on my own.  At first I was hesitant to ask people to help us with our eating needs,  but I’ve found them very happy to help and relieved that we won’t be sitting there with empty plates.   I am able to eat dairy again since I am done nursing but here is my plan for Colin:

1.  Turkey – I check to make sure there is no butter/soy oils in or on the turkey.   One side of our family is smoking the turkey which is excellent.  I usually give Colin a piece of from the inside of the cut, just to be safe.

2.  Veggies-  I called my family and asked them to leave small bowls of plain veggies to the side.  Veggies like corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes and so on  I will microwave and season myself.  I use olive oil, Earth Balance Soy Free Spread and things like spices, fresh herbs, brown sugar and chicken stock to liven them up.  I travel with a bag of our cooking basics to make sure I have safe items on hand.

3.   Cranberry sauce-  We make this recipe every year, which takes less than 10 minutes.   Crunched for time? Buy a can of cranberry sauce.  All the cans I’ve found are dairy and soy free.

4.   Bread –  I make my own bread and bring it.  This is one area I like to have something safe and yummy, especially since the stuffing will be off-limits.  This challah bread, made with the canola oil option, is delicious.  I’ve made it for several years now.  I recently found Pepperidge Farms makes some frozen bread rolls that are dairy and soy free (check the variety you buy to be sure).

5.   Dessert-  I am making Colin a dairy free pumpkin pie, using a canola oil based crust and rice milk in place of the evaporated milk (see last year’s Thanksgiving post).   I also will bring fruity jello and coconut whipped cream, since I don’t know if he will go for the pie and I know it will be hard for him to see everyone else eating whipped cream.

I think Colin will get plenty to eat and I’ll be happy to know he isn’t missing out on a lot and has a lot of option on his plate to try.

For all those celebrating turkey day, I hope you enjoy a delicious meal, are surrounded by people you love and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Beef Daube Provencal

I bought a copy of Eating Light magazine recently and found a number of new recipe ideas.  Due to the magazine’s focus on healthier eating, there are a lot of recipes without butter/cheese and many other recipes that are easy to change to fit our dietary needs.

The first recipe I tried was Beef Daube Provencal.  It was in their “Top 25 Favorites” list and I can see why.  It was delicious, pretty easy to throw together and a definite hit all around the dinner table.

Are you wondering what a “daube” is like I was?  Well the good old internet taught me it is a French word for a stew made of braised meat, vegetables, herbs and spices.  Yep- that about sums up the recipe!  When we ate it we said it tasted like a fancier beef stew with great depth of flavor.

The recipe can be made in a slow cooker or in the oven.  I chose the slow cooker route since I love “fix it and forget it” cooking.  I chopped my veggies the night before, adding in a handful of mushrooms that I needed to use up.   In the morning I browned the beef  and made the sauce before throwing it all in my slow cooker.  (I skipped the cloves, since I am either out of them or they are winning in the hide and seek game happening in my spice rack.)   I cooked it on low for most of the day and by dinnertime the meat was really really tender and our house smelled fantastic.

The first night I served it with some nice crusty bread to mop it up with. The second night I served it over egg noodles.   Both nights I used scissors to cut up the meat into tiny pieces for my kids.  Had I served chunks they probably would have balked, but with the meat blending into the veggies and sauce, they gobbled it up.

Here is the recipe for Beef Daube Provencal and a picture of it.   I swear I took a photo of ours but it too is hiding somewhere.   I swear I’m losing my mind this month!

Need an easy bread side to serve it with?   Pepperidge Farm Stone Baked Artisan Rolls are frozen bread rolls that you don’t need thaw.   Just remove from the freezer and bake.  (Nice to have something simple in an MSPI house!)   I found them in the freezer section and there are several types you can buy.  The variety we had,  French bread, was dairy and soy free.  Here are the ingredients for the French Bread rolls:   Unbromated Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Water, Contains 2 Percent or Less of: Salt, White Rice Flour, Malt Syrup, Yeast and Sesame Seed Meal.

Soy and Dairy free pizza

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I love pizza.  Having to go dairy and soy free is really tough when it comes to pizza, since pizza just isn’t the same without the cheese.  Foregoing cheese meant losing one of our favorite foods, but also our family lost the convenience of an easy dinner, which sometimes feels worse.  There is no more “Oh dear, we are short on time! Let’s just order a pizza.”  That line of thought in our house is now “Let’s have pancakes because Mom is out of ideas.”

But really I couldn’t live entirely without pizza so I had a few options:

Order a cheese free pizza from a store and take our chances –

We rarely do this due to cross contamination fears.  A few times we have ordered a cheese free pizza from Papa Johns, but didn’t feed it to Colin.  It was just okay.  Unless I order a ton of toppings, it doesn’t feel worth the money.  Papa John’s allergy information is here  and some FAQ here but we couldn’t be 100% sure everything was free of soybean oil (soy category is unclear).   I have heard good things about Mellow Mushroom (thanks Karyna), which I saw in Florida but didn’t get a chance to try  They have a really helpful and easy to use allergy friendly meal planner.  If anyone else has info on pizza from big chain stores to share, please comment below!

Making my own pizza with fake cheeses

There are several fake cheeses in the vegan section of our grocery store and at Whole Foods.  The only one I found that does not contain casein, a milk protein, is the brand Daiya.  We tried Daiya with an open mind, hoping it could at least be a melty standby I would get used to, but I could never get over the flavor.  Both the yellow and white versions were awful, in my opinion.  If I’d never tasted cheese before maybe I could have eaten it.  Somebody must like it since they keep selling it, but no one in our house was willing to eat it a second time.

Make my own pizza without cheese

Is this really pizza if it has no cheese?  At our house it is called “Colin Pizza.”   Simply- any pizza made without cheese is Colin Pizza.   In the last two years I have made a lot of “Colin Pizza” for myself and for Colin.   We have a “Make Your Own Pizza Night” once a week at our house.  I make a large batch of dough and let the kids help shape and top their own portion with a little help.  It is actually pretty fast, a good use of any leftovers and I can cater to everyone’s dietary wants and needs.  The key to cheeseless pizza is the toppings.  You have consider moisture and flavor.  Cheese brings a lot of moisture, fat and salt to the pizza party so you need to add ingredients that will help fill in those voids.  I think moisture is the most important one.  Once I figured this out, I was much happier with my cheese free pizzas.  I add fresh tomatoes, extra sauce, a hearty drizzle of olive oil or flavored oil or dashes of a nice balsamic vinegar after cooking.  But flavor is really important too.  I’ve found that if I add a lot of toppings, like sausage, musroom, onion, green pepper, extra tomato sauce,  fresh tomato and italian seasoning, I don’t usually miss the cheese much since there is a lot to keep my taste buds busy.  If I use some leftover roasted chicken (which is bland), I add sundried tomatoes and marinated artichoke hearts to punch up the flavor.  Experimenting is great so think outside the pizza box (bad pun I know).

Here are my tips for homemade pizza.

  • Dough – My #1 is definitely Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast.   This yeast has directions on the back for an easy dough with no rest time.  You mix it up and it is ready to go.  The yeast is formulated so the dough won’t spring back while rolling or shaping it.  It has good flavor and makes weeknight pizza night a cinch so I keep 3-4 sleeves of this stuff around.  The Fleischmann website has lots of good info on making pizza dough, materials and FAQ if you are new to the dough making process.  If you prefer using regular yeast, my favorite recipe is from the website Lauren’s Latest.  The  “Fail Proof Pizza Dough” recipe does need rest time, so you have to plan ahead, but the end result has great flavor and gets nice and crispy.  The pictures are great and walk you through the process with ease.  For any dough you use though, roll it out a bit thinner than you think you need to the first time you try it.  Remember, it will puff up as it bakes.
  • Sauce – Any good spaghetti or marinara sauce makes a decent pizza sauce at our house.  I always have jars of Prego Traditional (made with canola oil) on hand.
  • Materials –  I use a pizza stone for my pizza when I can, letting it heat up in the oven during the preheating cycle.  For the kids’ pizzas I put the dough on a Silpat and onto a cookie sheet.  No silpat?  Grease up a cookie sheet really well with olive oil.
  • Procedure–  Unless you own a pizza peel, make sure to have your dough where you want it before you add toppings.  I learned the hard way- making it all on the counter and then having to try to move a floppy mess to a pan.  Avoid that mistake!   While my pizza stone is heating up in the oven I am shaping my dough on a slightly floured board and prepping ALL toppings.   When the pizza stone is hot I take it from the oven, put it on the stove top, lay the dough on the pizza stone carefully and then VERY quickly add all the toppings.  For my kids I skip the dangerous pizza stone.  I put their dough on the silpat/pan and let them top the dough before I put it in the oven.
  • Cooking Time –  At 425 degrees F our pizzas take 8-10 minutes.
  • Toppings – For me I try to use leftovers or plan to have a little of this and that leftover from chopping ingredients to make pizza night easier. Here are my favorites

-Olive oil and garlic powder base, top with leftover steak, fresh spinach, mushrooms, olive oil, garlic and finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

-BBQ Chicken Pizza – BBQ sauce base, chicken, onion, corn and black beans

-Tomato sauce or olive oil base, top with lots of fresh tomato,  garlic basil and finish with olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Balsamic is good on this too.

– Tomato sauce base, top with Sausage or turkey pepperoni, mushroom, onion, green pepper, italian seasoning

-Olive oil and garlic powder base, leftover chicken, sundried tomato, marinated artichoke, minced leeks/shallots, a little salt

  • Topping for kids –   For kids like mine who have lots of food sensitivities, try topping their pizza with whatever veggies they can eat, regardless of how odd it may sound to you .  Colin used to have steamed carrots and corn on his.   For a long time it was just pizza dough and tomato sauce.  It didn’t sound great to me but he thought it was heaven since it was something new.  Colin’s current favorite is a heavy tomato sauce base (for moisture) with chopped up turkey or chicken meat/lunchmeat, and minced mushroom, peppers and onions.   Note- he wouldn’t eat any of those veggies if they were bigger sizes, but when I mince them he will eat them on pizza.  He hates fresh tomato but will eat tomato sauce.  Crazy kid.  So don’t be afraid to experiment and cut veggies very small so they will cook and soften.

If you have a dairy free pizza idea or topping combination you like, I would love to hear from you!

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A quick and terrible photo before eating it- One slice of tomato, basil, garlic and olive oil. The other slice is BBQ sauce, red onion, corn, and chicken

A Dinner Winner- Crispy Fish with Dill Sauce

The cover of the Cooking Light magazine (October edition) caught my eye recently in the grocery store checkout lane.  It had 25 of their best recipes so I decided to splurge on a copy.  I’ve found Cooking Light has a lot of dairy/soy free friendly recipes or ones that are easy to adapt.  This month’s copy has a lot of things I think we can eat.  This last week we tried Crispy Fish with Dill sauce.

This fish dinner was a hit with everyone at our dinner table, which is a huge win!   The fish was tasty and although not as crispy as a fried piece of fish, it wasn’t mushy like it usually is when I make it.  The dill sauce is basically a much better version of a store-bought tartar sauce.  I don’t think you’ll ever try to go back to store-bought tartar sauce once you’ve tried it fresh at home.

I didn’t have to make any adjustments to this recipe.  It even calls for canola mayonnaise, which is a soy free version I already use!  We used cod like the recipe called for, but I will try it again with other fish, whatever I find on sale.

Since I didn’t change a thing (and Colin is waking up), instead of typing it all out  I’m just leaving the link below:

Crispy Fish with Dill Sauce

Hope it is a winner at your dinner table!

Dairy Free Fall! Pumpkin Goodies and Apple Treats

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It is officially fall here and the weather has decided to cooperate. The heat is gone and we can open the windows to cool fall breezes.  Our family packed in all the fall fun we could this weekend: a fall festival, camping, apple picking, BBQing, and football.  We seem to have more rainy days in fall so I try to make the most of gorgeous days when we have them.

With fall comes fall goodies.  Over the last few years “pumpkin spice” flavored foods have become increasingly popular. Most people have heard of the Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte, but now the flavor is creeping into all sorts of things. I saw pumpkin seed chips recently and even pumpkin spice M&M’s.  It got me thinking about my favorite pumpkin treats. Also, with all the apples from our apple picking adventure to use up, I began hunting for some of my favorite apple recipes.

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So here is my roundup of dairy and soy friendly pumpkin and apple treats.  Most I have made but I threw in a few I really want to try.

1.  Pumpkin Muffins

2.  Super Moist Pumpkin Bars – I haven’t blogged about these but I’ve made them several times.  The pumpkin layer is delicious.  For the frosting I use my dairy free frosting recipe, taking out the almond extract and adding in a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar at the very end to give it a bite, similar to cream cheese frosting.

3.  Pumpkin Apple Muffins –  I skip the streusel part of this recipe and they are butter free.  Definitely sweet enough on their own without it.  I make a half batch and it is still enough to fill my mini muffin pan.

4.  Apple Cake – best when served fresh and warm

5.  One Bowl Apple Crumble Pie – made this for the fourth time this week.  Awesome and easy cleanup!

6.  Apple Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette  – great, just use half the red onion called for in the recipe

7.  Zucchini Apple Bread – another one I haven’t blogged but have made.  Excellent and no substitutions or changes needed.

8.  Fresh Cut apple slices with This or This caramel sauce.  I haven’t made either, I’ve just started looking at recipes for something like this.

9.   A pumpkin pie smoothie – looking for something to make with a little leftover pumpkin puree and came upon this.  Haven’t tried it yet but it sounds delicious.  I will use coconut milk in mine.

10.   Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte-  I make my own version at home with some coffee, rice milk and Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Spice Syrup.  Not quite as satisfying as the real thing (since I’m not super crazy about rice milk) but it will do.  The syrup contains “Cane Sugar, Water, Pumpkin Puree, Spices, Cinnamon Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Vanilla Extract, Citric Acid, Sea Salt.”  Get the syrup now, usually its gone by Thanksgiving time.