Soy/Dairy Free Frosting

If you’ve been thinking about one of the cake recipes I wrote about last week but wondered what to do for frosting- have no fear!  As long as you can get a butter replacer like Earth’s Balance Soy/Dairy Free spread, Earth’s Balance Organic Coconut Spread, or Spectrum Organic Shortening, you can make frosting.  If you can’t get your hands on exactly what I use in my recipe below, try making it out of one of the other products.  The end texture and taste will vary depending on what you use but you will still get a fair substitute for real frosting.

I’ve come up with a pretty good replacement for buttercream-like frosting using some Earth Balance Soy/Dairy Free Spread and some Spectrum Shortening. Using all Earth’s Balance spread was a bit salty for my taste and it wasn’t very pretty.  Using all Spectrum shortening worked, but the flavor was much improved when I added in some Earth’s Balance spread.  Using both I created a frosting with a texture similar to buttercream and really not unlike many shortening based frostings I’ve tasted on grocery store cakes.  I’ve put this on just about everything that could use frosting: chiffon cupcakes, Back to Nature Vanilla Wafers, a spoon. 🙂

*Also see my post about using 100% cane sugar powdered sugar.

Dairy-Soy Free Frosting

Ingredients

2 tablespoons Earth’s Balance Dairy & Soy Free Spread

6 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening

1 1/4 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups powdered sugar  (use brands with 100% cane sugar for best results)

about 2 tablespoons water

Directions

In a half cup measuring cup place 2 tablespoons of Earth’s Balance Dairy & Soy Free Spread.  Fill the rest of the measuring cup up with Spectrum Organic Shortening (6 tablespoons).  Place the spread and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Mix using a medium speed until combined.  Add in 1 cup of powdered sugar and mix on medium high for 1 minute.  Add in 1 tablespoon of water.  Mix again for 1 minute.  Add the second cup of powdered sugar and mix for 4 minutes on medium high.   At the end of 4 minutes check the consistency.  if you want it thinner add a little water and mix again for a minute.  Makes about 1 cup.

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Brussel Sprouts

Two weeks ago as Colin started to bounce back from his vaccines, I planned Brussel sprouts as part of our weekly menu.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t eaten them since Colin was born.  I tend to forget about them since they weren’t something I ate very often growing up. I think Brussel sprouts have been made to be a vegetable villain but when cooked correctly, they can actually be delicious.  I made a simple side dish of sautéed Brussel sprouts with bacon.  Our family enjoyed them for dinner but as time went on we discovered Colin was not a fan of Brussel sprouts.  The next night Colin had the worst tummy troubles since his colic days.  Terrible gas, crying, completely uncomfortable.  It was a long three days after that.  I’d eaten some for lunch the day before he started getting fussy so it took even longer for it all to clear his system. (We are still exclusively breastfeeding).  His GI upset pushed trying solids off another few days and then we were leaving for a trip to see my sisters out of town.  We were going to start Saturday when I got back but Colin now has a cold that is really messing with his system so solids are pushed off again.   He turned seven months old this last weekend. Goodness!  Where is the time going? His baby days are going too fast!

In better news we have been trying to add chicken back into our menu.  Although I don’t think I could eat chicken several days in a row, I think a chicken meal here and there seems to be okay for him.  It is really nice to have another protein option and to be able to use chicken stock here and there.

Hopefully you can enjoy this Brussel sprout recipe.  As soon as Colin is done nursing it will be back in our rotation for sure.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Ingredients

1 lb Brussel sprouts, washed and loose/damaged leaves removed.

4 slices bacon

Salt and Pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, saute bacon over medium heat until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, chop each Brussel sprout into four pieces.  I stand them up on the stem end and cut them down the center from top to bottom and then in half again.  Once the bacon is crisp, transfer the bacon slices to a plate with several paper towels on it (to soak up any extra grease).  Let bacon cool.  Drain off all but two tablespoons of bacon grease from the pan.  (You really can eyeball this.)  Return the pan to the stove and add the chopped Brussel sprouts. Cook the Brussel sprouts over medium heat for 15-20 minutes until soft.  Season the sprouts with salt and pepper.  Crumble the cooled bacon and sprinkle it over the Brussel sprouts.  Serve immediately.   Makes about 3 servings.

Food Finds

After several friends telling me about the organic items available at Costco, I decided to go check out this megastore for myself.  I’ve been thinking about getting a membership there for a while.  The bulk produce is a big draw for us.  I’d also heard that Costco hae some “natural” baked goods and that they carry Huggies diapers in bulk. (We go through a ridiculous number of them.)  I was delighted to find that in addition to a lot of organic produce, I was able to find tortillas, french bread and a rosemary bread loaf that were all dairy and soy free.  They advertised lunchmeat cut straight from actual turkey breasts although I didn’t get to go check that out.  I had the kids with me and didn’t have as much time to explore as I would have liked, so hopefully there are more discoveries to be made.

In the last few weeks I’ve also found some new soy/dairy free ice creams that I can get at Whole Foods or my local grocery store, Dierbergs.  My favorite one is the So Delicious Cherry Amaretto coconut based ice cream.  So Delicious also makes a soy/dairy free mint chip coconut ice cream that I love, but I have to scoop out the chocolate flakes.  My daughter loves to”help” me with these and takes care of eating the chocolate spoonfuls. (Check your container though.  My container said soy free and contained no almond or soy lecithin but the website had a different list of ingredients for this item.)  The So Delicous website is really great for finding allergy information/ingredients for their products.  The third frozen delight I found is a sorbet made by Talenti: Roman Raspberry.  Just a handful of ingredients and very yummy.

My last recent food find is probably the one I am the most excited about.   I think it has the potential to bring Asian food back into my menu.  I was looking around online at possible substitutions for soy sauce and came across Coconut Secret Coconut Aminos.  It had great reviews as a soy sauce stand in so I went hunting it down and found it at Whole Foods for around $6 a bottle  (It was $14 on Amazon so price shop this stuff!)  Coconut Aminos are made from the sap of a coconut tree and sea salt.  The website discusses the health benefits of the product but what I care more about is that it is a safe food item for us and tastes a lot like soy sauce.  I would say it is a bit sweeter than regular soy sauce and seems mildly carbonated.  Make sure to open it slowly!  I haven’t cooked with it yet but I will definitely be trying it next week in a recipe.

Quicky Meatloaves

We love meatloaf in our house.  Years ago we could pop a giant meatloaf in the oven and wait hours while it cooked, but these days time is too precious.  Instead of abandoning this comfort food, a while ago I started making meatloaf in muffin tins.  I make 12 mini-loaves which cook in a fraction of the time.   It makes portioning and freezing so much easier as well as the added benefit of more “top” per serving.   You know, that delicous top crust where the ketchup glaze carmelizes on the meatloaf.  I put the glaze on each meatloaf muffin so everyone gets a good bit of that sticky yumminess.

This recipe was inspired by a meatloaf I saw Alton Brown make on one of his shows.  He used finely chopped vegetables to add lots of flavor and keep the meatloaf moist.   A food processor is key for quickly chopping the vegetables down to the size where they won’t ruin the stabililty of your meatloaf.  Alton also mixed things up by adding cumin in the meatloaf and in the glaze, which we loved.  Give it a try at least once.  If you do find that you aren’t a cumin fan, try replacing the cumin in the glaze with some worcestershire sauce.

Quicky Meatloaves

Ingredients

1 large carrot broken into three or four pieces

1/2 medium onion cut into three or four large chunks

1/2 red or yellow bell pepper cut into three or four pieces

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 egg

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1.5 lb ground beef – I use 90% lean

Glaze Ingredients

1/3 cup ketchup

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade, add the carrot, onion. bell pepper and garlic.

Place the lid on the food processor and chop all the ingredients using 6 1-second pulses.  The goal here is to finely chop but not to make soup.  Open the lid to check it a few times to see if you need a few more pulses.  You want tiny pieces but not a puree.

Dump the chopped veggies into a large bowl and add the egg, breadcrumbs, chili powder, cumin, thyme, salt and tomato paste.  Mix gently.

Add the ground beef and mix lightly with your fingers or a fork until combined.

In an ungreased 12 count muffin tin, portion out the meat evenly.  I use a medium sized disher to put the same size scoop in each muffin tin and then any leftovers in the mixing bowl I try to dole out evenly by hand.

For the glaze combine the ketchup and cumin in a small dish and stir.   Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze one each meatloaf.

Cook for 34-38 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.  We usually serve two mini-meatloaves to an adult and one per child.  They are great atop a bed of potatoes mashed with some chicken or vegetable stock and butter replacer like Earth Balance Soy Free Spread.

You can refridgerate leftovers for 3 or 4 days or better yet freeze what you don’t eat.  Freeze mini-meatloaves within two hours of cooking them.  I usually arrange them on a plate so they are not touching each other, freeze 2 hours and then throw them in a zip top bag. They will keep for up to four months.   Anytime you need a quick meal you can pull out however many you need and microwave a few minutes until hot.

Sunflower Milk

Today I found another milk substitute coming onto the market:Sol Sunflower milk.  Seems like they are making more and more milk substitutes these days which is great news for the dairy/soy free crowd.  Now if only they can make it without carrageenan, which kills my stomach.  So I won’t be trying this one but would love to hear from anyone who has tried it!

Cheeseless Lasagna

Looks pretty good, huh?!  Looks like a lasagna?!  It is lasagna and it is delicious!  Even better- it is dairy and soy free!

(This is a dish I was really excited and made while I still was able to eat beans and milk substitutes.  I have been meaning to add it here for a long time.  With all the cooking I do and caring for my two little cuties, the time just flies.  So although I can’t currently eat it because of the beans, I highly recommend it if you are looking for a dairy free lasagna.)

After we found out we had food protein issues, I found the blog MSPI Mama, an amazing site for those who need to live dairy and soy free.  There are resources, recipes and a quick start guide for people new to the dairy/soy free life, which is very helpful.  (Although the author’s family can have soy oil/lecithin, we cannot, so I make sure to read recipes carefully and choose things that work for us.)

I was really excited to see a cheeseless lasagna in the list of recipes.  We used to eat a lot of Italian food before we went dairy/soy free and both my husband and I really missed lasagna.  Lasagna is one of my husband’s favorite foods and I love how lasagna makes a hearty dinner with plenty of leftovers.   I hadn’t attempted a cheese free lasagna myself because I hadn’t come up with a good cheese substitute (I really don’t care for Daiya cheese, the only fake cheese we could eat).  This recipe from MSPI Mama brilliantly uses cannellini beans with eggs and spices as a ricotta replacement and a white sauce made with rice milk to create that creamy goodness that cheese would bring to the party.

The recipe requires making the meat mixture, the ricotta-like bean mixture and the white sauce for the top. It does take a bit of time and quite a few dishes to prepare, but that is pretty standard for a lasagna.  In my mind lasagna makes so much food that is okay to have one really dish-heavy night.   It also calls for boiling the lasagna noodles but to cut down on prep time I used no-boil noodles and they worked just fine.  I used oat milk in place of the rice milk without a problem.  One other tip is to make sure to follow the directions to let it stand 15 minutes to set up.  Ours was a bit loose that first night, probably because I was so excited to eat it I was impatient and cut it early, but was picture perfect after being in the fridge overnight.

The end result was delicious.  It tasted like a lasagna and I REALLY didn’t miss cheese.  I think the white sauce on top, really made the dish.  My husband liked it to and ate it all week long with me as leftovers, which is a pretty good judge of a dairy free recipe in our house.  Remember this is the man who orders lasagna at every Italian restaurant so I’d say he’s pretty much a lasagna critic.  Also exciting was how nutritious this meal was to serve to my family.   Spinach, beans, no cheese!  I think even if I can go back to eating dairy world again sometime in my life I will bring some of the substitutions in this lasagna with me to make my old cheese filled dishes healthier.

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.