Chicken and Leek Pie

I haven’t found a new recipe to add to our family dinner menu rotation in a long time.  Recently I made a recipe that I was going to make with the butter it called for, but at the last-minute decided to try our usual dairy substitutions.   Sometimes these cooking adventures turn out just ok, but this endeavor turned out DELICIOUS.

The recipe is a Chicken and Leek pie recipe from Williams Sonoma.   I saw this recipe originally in the Williams Sonoma book, The Weeknight Cook, which I love.   I always saw the pretty picture of this dish and then skipped it because the topping looked like puff pastry to me and I figured that butter would be pretty crucial to the dish.  (Really I should have just read the recipe.)

One night I decided to stop skipping this recipe and make it mainly for my husband and myself (with butter), but my husband challenged me to give it a go with our Earth Balance Soy Free Spread and rice milk (vanilla is all I had on hand!)   I was dubious.  I also didn’t realize the chicken was supposed to be cooked and shredded ahead, so we cut raw chicken into small pieces and cooked it in the pan before actually starting the recipe.  (I didn’t shred it)

The result was a delicious, creamy dinner that reminded me a LOT of chicken pot pie.  It’s flavor was a little different though, without the carrots that usually show up in a pot pie.  The topping was not at all like puff pastry but more like a dumpling or biscuit.  It was fluffy, browned on top and just a bit moist on the bottom, not at all soggy.   leek pie 1

We were amazed, especially because I had used vanilla rice milk, and also really happy to find a creamy dish that was dairy free.  We all fought over the leftovers that week.  It will definitely be one to make again and again this winter.

If you aren’t too familiar with leeks, they are in the same family as onions and garlic but their flavor is very mild.  In the raw state they are very fibrous but if you cut the main bottom section (white and light green tube-shaped part) thinly so they are thin rings, they cook easily and become very soft.  So soft my kids didn’t realize there were leeks in the meal.   Well they probably did know, because my husband feels compelled to make “leek/leak” puns for hours by putting the leeks tops on things like the faucet and yelling “Kids! The faucet is leaking!”  (ahhh Dad jokes!)

So check out the original recipe Here or see my dairy free substitutions below.  And if you are worried about your milk substitute, be adventurous!  Our vanilla rice milk worked fine!

*I am not affiliated with Williams Sonoma or Earth Balance in any way, nor receiving any compensation from them. Not that I would mind …… 🙂

Chicken and Leek Pie

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil like Olive oil or Canola Oil
  • 5 tablespoons Butter Substitute -I use Earth Balance Soy Free Spread
  • 2 large leeks (or 3 medium) white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken, homemade or purchased
  • 1 cup baby peas
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk substitute – I used rice milk

Directions
Preheat an oven to 375ºF.

In a large ovenproof fry pan over medium-high heat, add 4 tablespoons of oil.  Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the wine and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken and peas, and season with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour, the baking powder and the 1/2 tsp. salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in 5 tablespoons of butter replacer until the mixture forms coarse crumbs about the size of peas. Add the rice milk (or your substitute) and, using a rubber spatula, stir until evenly moistened. Place heaping spoonfuls of the batter evenly over the chicken filling.

Bake until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 25 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

 

 

 

Freezer Meal #1: Honey Sesame Chicken

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my recent cooking ventures was to attempt to make freezer meals to pull out for dinner on busy nights.   I read a lot of Once-A-Month-Cooking websites, a lot of freezer-meal websites and came up with a collection of meals.  It wasn’t a giant collection, as many of the recipes were impossible to make dairy/soy free, but a good number of recipes nonetheless.  I made a grocery list and headed to the store.  In addition to the meats and veggies and spices, I purchased two boxes of freezer friendly gallon size ziptop bags. (I like to double bag my freezer stuff in case a leak should happen).   Then when I got a 2 hour window of time I set it all up:

1.   A meat chopping station

2.  A veggie chopping station

3.   Lots of measuring cups and spoons (every set I had)

4.   My recipes all printed and laid out in order of assembly-  I tried to do all chicken ones in a row so I could chop all the chicken at one time.

I assembled five recipes in about an hour and tucked them into the freezer.  We’ve eaten most of the meals now and some of our recipes were total flops.  A few were good with some additional spices. The best by far was Honey Sesame Chicken.

I found the recipe Honey Sesame Chicken on Damn Delicious where the recipe had been adapted from The Comfort of Cooking.   It originally contained soy sauce, but I swapped it out for coconut aminos  and added some salt to the recipe.  My coconut aminos is much sweeter than soy sauce and lacks the salt that soy brings to the party.  Add a little salt to the recipe and my family never misses soy sauce.  I wasn’t sure about the ketchup in the recipe when I read it, but when we ate it we couldn’t pick out that flavor at all.  Seems crazy but don’t skip it!  Lastly, my kiddos can’t handle any heat/spiciness in food so we left out the red pepper flakes.  Red pepper usually just adds a great background flavor and I love it, but it always seems like my most heat sensitive child ends up with the flakes in her food and then refuses to eat any more.  So we left that out of our batch.

The recipe was super easy to prepare.  To make it for the freezer,  I set a freezer friendly gallon zip top bag in a large bowl to keep it from falling over.   I dumped in the diced onion, garlic, honey, coconut aminos, ketchup, oil, chicken, salt and pepper.   I pushed the air out of the bag, sealed it, double bagged it in another ziptop bag, labeled it and froze it flat in our freezer.

I defrosted the meal still in the bag. and in the fridge, the night before I cooked it in the slow cooker.  I do want to note that I’ve started cheating in this part of the freezer meal recipes.  Most freezer meal recipes say to defrost in the fridge starting the night before.  Well, I often don’t have my act together that far in advance.  After cleaning up a dinner, getting two tired kids through the bath and bedtime routine and finding an hour to regain my sanity, I rarely think ahead about dinner the next day.  (Gotta work on this, I really do.)   So since I usually wake up and think, “Oh no!  Forgot about the freezer meal again!” I’ve started defrosting a double-bagged freezer meal in a sink half full of water with the tap dripping slightly.  (The dripping breaks up the cold water around the frozen item.)   In an hour most of my meals are completely defrosted and ready to dump into the slow cooker.   This procrastinator-friendly strategy is a time saver, but if you try it for any recipes make sure your meat is fully defrosted so it cooks evenly and fully.

My family ate this meal over rice.  This recipe calls for cooking the chicken for 3 and a half hours and then removing the chicken to cool and shred it.  When I took the chicken out I immediately started a pot of rice on the stove.  The recipe for the chicken says to cook an additional 30 minutes with the shredded chicken added back into the slow cooker, so my rice and chicken were ready right about the same time. My family loves jasmine rice.  Check it out if you’ve never tried it.

Honey Sesame Chicken

Ingredients

1 small onion diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup honey

½ cup coconut aminos

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup ketchup

2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Garnish for serving day (optional)

1 green onion, thinly sliced

sesame seeds, for garnish

 

For Freezer Meal Preparation:

In a heavy-duty gallon sized ziptop bag, combine the onion, garlic, honey, coconut aminos, salt, ketchup, oil, and red pepper flake (optional).   Place chicken thighs inside the bag. Seal bag tightly.  Gently squish/massage bag to combine the ingredients.  Place inside another ziptop bag, label and freeze flat.

When ready to make the meal:  Defrost.  Add to slow cooker.  Cook on high for 3 ½ hours.  Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred with forks.  Return chicken to the juices in the slow cooker.  Cover and keep warm fro 30 minutes.   Great served over jasmine rice.

 

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

 

 

 

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 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!

Magic Salmon

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Welcome 2013! You’ve been a rough one so far, but hopefully many better days ahead! The kids and I are all finally on the mend and we are getting back to eating food again.

I thought I would start out 2013 with a recipe that is for sure my favorite dairy/soy- free dinner: Magic Salmon.  It is delicious and wonderfully easy.

The inspiration for this recipe came from salmon my dad makes in the summer with the fresh salmon he catches in Lake Michigan.  He liberally sprinkles fresh salmon steaks with Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Salmon Seasoning and grills them on cedar planks.   The Magic Salmon Seasoning, which you can get in the spice aisle of many grocery stores or here at amazon.com, is just a spice blend that is amazing on fish.

Magic Salmon Seasoning

I’ve made my dad’s recipe many times, but one night I decided to add a coating of mustard to the salmon before the Magic Seasoning.  The result was fantastic!  We now make this recipe whenever good salmon fits into the grocery budget.

You don’t like salmon you say?  Well, don’t blame your taste buds just yet.  It may be the salmon you are buying.  Some of the fishiest salmon with the worst texture I ever had was a frozen package I bought at my grocery store.  It was so different from fresh salmon that I couldn’t believe it. If you can’t get high quality fish at your grocery store, I highly recommend finding a fish market.  The best salmon I’ve found, outside of freshly caught, is salmon from a great seafood shop nearby that just does seafood.  The next best I can buy is from Whole Foods.  At both locations the people working there can tell me where the fish was caught, when it was caught, and how the variety I am buying compares in taste to other varieties.   We often buy Scottish salmon, which to my taste is very fatty and rich.  It picks up the flavors of the cedar planks and grill smoke beautifully, but it does make for a rich meal. Also, it is pricey.  No doubt about it.  But like a nice steak, it is not something we have every week and it is definitely worth the cost.

If you can, don’t skip the cedar planks.  They really are an important part of the recipe, adding lots of flavor to the fish and protecting the fish from the direct heat of the grill.  I’ve found them for sale in the seafood section of many grocery stores but they are also easy to find online.  (The cedar planks in my pictures are from Woot.com.)  The trick with cedar planks is to remember to soak them in water for at least an hour before you use them.

This recipe is really easy, with minimal prep work so don’t overthink it.  I’ve given rough measurements for the dijon mustard and seasonings but don’t feel like you have to get out the measuring spoons, I don’t unless I’m trying to write down recipes to share.  I literally just smear mustard all over the salmon fillets until they look coated on all sides (except the skin) and then sprinkle the salmon seasoning VERY liberally on all the fleshy sides.  Quick and easy!

Magic Salmon

Ingredients

4 Salmon Fillets, 1/2 pound each (skin on is fine)

about 4 tablespoons Dijon Mustard, divided

about 4 teaspoons Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Salmon Magic Seasoning, divided

2 Cedar Planks for grilling, soaked in water for 1 hour

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Directions

First make sure your cedar planks have been soaked and are ready to go.  Then get your grill going.  (I use a charcoal grill.  I start the charcoal in a chimney style lighter and after the coals are lit/ashed over,  I spread them evenly over the bottom of the grill.  Then I place the grate on the grill, put the lid on and let the grill heat up for about 5 minutes.)

Prepare the fish:   Place the salmon fillets skin side down on the cedar planks, two fillets per plank.  Smear about 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard over each fillet, more if needed.

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Then sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Salmon Magic Seasoning over each fillet, using more if needed.

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Place the cedar planks on the grill and put the cover on the grill.  Cook the salmon for 20-30 minutes.  I check the fish at 15 minutes with a probe thermometer.   Take the fish off when it reaches 135 degrees F.   I use a big cookie sheet to lay the planks on to carry the fish into the house.

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As you take the fish off the cedar plank, usually the skin stays behind, making it perfectly ready to serve and eat!

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Cider Simmered Brats

This weekend for Labor Day we decided to try something new on the grill.  My husband received the “Weber Way to Grill” grilling cookbook for this birthday and we gave “Cider Simmered Brats with Apples and Onions” a go.  It was fabulous.  It is definitely a new combination of flavors for us but that is why I love it.  All the flavors worked together perfectly and they were a great change from the usual brat toppings.  They have the recipe and a video online here.  I used a package of Johnsonville Brats, they were dairy and soy free, and I ate mine without a bun.  I could have made my own bun but didn’t have the time. Also, don’t be scared by the words “apple butter” in the mustard topping for the brats.  All the apple butter I have ever had is completely butter free. It is actually a thick jamlike spread made solely of fruit and spices.  It’s easier to find in the fall but some apple jelly would work in a pinch.

Eating at Restaurants While Avoiding Dairy/Soy

Although I’m a huge proponent of eating healthy home cooked food, it is really nice to have options for eating outside the house when I travel, have crazy busy days or just want a night off from cooking.  Somewhere near the beginning of this crazy diet to keep Colin safe, I searched and searched the internet looking for restaurants that offered items that were dairy and soy free.  I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find something.  Chain/fast food restaurants seem to be the most likely to offer allergen menus and ingredient lists, but it is rare to find anything that doesn’t contain soy.  Over time I’ve found a few places I can eat, but before I go over them I need to add a few words of warning.

As I said in my last post, eating out is very risky.  Even with the most detailed ingredient lists and promises from wait staff/kitchen staff, I can never know what is really in my food when I don’t prepare it.  Did it touch something else on the grill that isn’t allergy friendly?  Was there butter reside on the tongs they used to scoop up my steamed plain vegetables?  I’ve ordered things that were supposed to be safe but when I got them they clearly weren’t ok, or I ate them but Colin had a reaction soon after.  Although I eat at restaurants every once in a while, I don’t eat restaurant food if Colin is already not feeling well.  I really feel that a plain salad with just fresh vegetables is the safest thing to order when out, but I hate paying money for something that simple and I have to bring my own dressing anyway.

So these are the restaurants I eat at but here is one more disclaimer:   WARNING:  What is safe for my family where I live may be unsafe for you.  Always double-check the ingredients at your local restaurants since ingredients do vary by location for some restaurants.  And I repeat- eating out is a risk.  You can’t be 100% sure your food is safe unless you’ve made it yourself!

1.   Red Robin Gourmet Burgers –  Red Robin has an amazing document with recommendations for what is safe to order for a variety of food allergies. They’ve recently removed it from their website, but I emailed them and got a copy of their allergen menu, just like the old one online.   I couldn’t figure out how to post it here.  It is a huge pdf, so if you are interested, just shoot them an email: http://www.redrobin.com/contact_us.  They now have a gluten-free buns (Udi’s brand) so I can actually have a bun if I want to (it is dairy and soy free). The Udi’s bun is a bit chewy but decent. Before the gluten-free bun, I just ordered a burger with a lettuce bun, which is actually one of the “bun” options on their menu.  When I order my food I talk with my waiter/waitress about my food allergies and nicely mention that I’m aware they can make their food without the Red Robin seasoning on it. (The seasoning contains hyrdrolyzed soy protein so it has to go.)  Then I order a Keep-It-Simple Burger with No Red Robin Seasoning and fruit for my side.   Sometimes I order the fries with no Red Robin seasoning but the allergy document does say that the fries are cooked in a fryer with other things so there could be cross contamination concerns.  Colin hasn’t seemed to have issues after I’ve eaten them, so we take that risk once in a while if he is doing well otherwise.

2.  Panera –  Finding safe items at Panera takes a bit of work but they list every ingredient in each of their foods, which wins big points with me since we have to avoid oats and other things.  They have a nutritional calculator here.  To see what is in a food, you must choose items to “add to meal.”   You can then click on the word “ingredients” to see everything that is in the food.  They do include a note about possible allergens in a food but they don’t count soybean oil as a soy allergen, so you must read through the list anyway to check for soybean oil. They do count soy lecithin as an allergen and will have a note for that.  There are quite a few dairy and soy free breads:  Country loaf, Country Miche, Sourdough Loaf, Sourdough Roll, Tomato Basil XL Loaf, French Baguette, French Miche, Three Seed Demi, Sesame Semolina and Stone-Milled Rye.   I order turkey sandwiches when I eat at Panera, making sure they use one of these breads and NO Mayonnaise.  The Turkey-Bacon-Avocado sandwich with no mayo is great. I tried it during an avocado trial.  The moisture in the avocado makes up for the lack of mayonnaise.

3.  Pei Wei – Pei Wei is the fast food version of PF Chang’s China Bistro.  They have a great document here providing nutritional and allergen information.  The only item I can order there is the Sweet and Sour – Stock Velveted with Chicken or Shrimp.  Stock Velveted means the meat is cooked in vegetable stock instead of battered and fried.  The dish is delicious and lower in fat since it isn’t fried.

4.  Buffalo Wild Wings –  I wasn’t sure whether or not to include this one since it isn’t as clear-cut as others.  My decision to eat here was based on getting all the information I could and taking a risk.  Buffalo Wild Wings has an allergen list for their foods here.  They do note what products have dairy or soy, but the very bottom of the document states that they don’t count soybean oil that is in their dressings, sauces and products as an allergen.  This made me a bit unsure about finding a truly safe entrée so I did a bit more digging around for information. Their sauce ingredient list is here and I was able to see what sauces/seasonings were safe.   Also, the fry oil ingredients were listed in the main allergen list and I was able to see it is soy/dairy free.  I ordered the boneless chicken wings in sweet bbq sauce and fries.  We don’t eat here very often (not really a healthy meal) but I think its safe since Colin hasn’t had any reactions.

5.  Five Guys Burgers and Fries –  I really love the burgers at Five Guys and I love that I can get as many toppings as I want for no extra charge.  The burger buns aren’t allergy friendly (egg, milk, soy, gluten) but the meat and veggie toppings are ok.  Even the grilled mushrooms and onions, in all their greasy glory, are cooked in burger grease, not butter or soy oil.   This was the restaurant I mentioned in my last post that we found between Orlando and Tampa that was such a nice surprise.   If I am planning to eat at Five Guys I bring a pita pocket from home and stick the burger and toppings inside.  If I don’t have any pitas, I order the burger with lots of toppings, throw away the bun and eat it all with a fork off the foil wrapper.  A deconstructed burger salad I guess you could call it.  Here is the only nutritional info I could find.  EDIT:  They now have a bun free option which is the burger, toppings and lettuce in a foil box served with a fork.

6.  (Au Bon Pain) –  I  was recently in the Orlando airport where they had one of these restaurants.  In their “To-Go” section I bought fruit, a Naked Juice and hard-boiled eggs.  It was much better than the stale bagel I had planned to eat.  Since we don’t actually have one of these where I live, I haven’t done a lot of research, but when I took a quick glance at their nutritional info online here I was impressed.  They have icons for the allergens present in each item which makes it easy to scan items quickly.  I didn’t see any safe bread, so sandwiches are out, but I did see some soups, apple cinnamon oatmeal, hummus and cucumber, a side salad with raspberry vinaigrette and several things on the hot/cold bar.