Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Little Mommy/Daughters Time- Baking Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

There is no better way to spend a dreary, rainy evening than baking cookies with my girls. They decided they wanted oatmeal craisin cookies tonight- something a little different than the regular oatmeal cookie.

I happened across a recipe online for oatmeal craisin cookies. I was looking for one with not quite as much butter and sugar- most call for a cup or more of butter and 2 cups of sugar! This recipe I found called only for 1/2 cup of butter (I used dairy free margarine) and less sugar then normal. I adapted it to fit our needs and I think it worked out perfectly. We had so much fun making these!

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup dairy free margarine- softened
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground flax seed meal ( not pictured)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups quick cooking oats- I used Trader Joes Organic oats
3/4 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)

I put all the ingredients out in separate bowls so the girls could pour them into the bowl easily.

1.Preheat the oven to 375. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.In large mixing bowl- I used my Kitchen Aid mixer, you can use a hand held mixer also- combine margarine, brown sugar, and white sugar. Mix well on medium speed.

3. Add in egg and vanilla and mix well until combined.

4. Add in cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and flour. If desired add in ground flax seed meal. Mix well until all ingredients are wet.

5. Add the oatmeal and craisins- fold in by hand with a large spatula or wooden spoon.

6. Drop rounded Tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet.

7. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden. Let cool before removing from cookie sheet.

Adapted from a recipe on

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Does a Dairy Free Kitchen Look Like?

I can go into someone's kitchen who is not dairy free and not be able to eat a single thing they have- except for fresh fruits and veggies. That is because so many items contain hidden dairy- breads and rolls, crackers, chips, cookies, soups,rice mixes, pre-made meals. Yet my kitchen is pretty much overstocked- and mostly with completely dairy free items! So I have been asked to show what I keep on hand and what basic brands I buy.
We have been converting to more organic products recently, as well as getting our animal products from local and/or organic farms- Chicken and eggs from Drury Lane Farm, beef from a private farmer in West Virginia, and our pork from an organic farm in Michigan but will soon be getting that from Drury Lane as well. Our veggies come from the Clayhill Farms CSA starting in May and going until October. During the off season we get our veggies from Trader Joe's or BJ's, and we try to buy mostly those veggies that are in season.
Here's a peak into my (mostly) dairy free kitchen. I do have to keep a few things on hand for the kids: Greek Yogurt for my oldest daughter, cheese sticks for my middle daughter, and organic milk for their cereal in the morning.
Here's what my fridge looks like:

I keep 2 kinds of soy milk on hand- I like Vanilla for my coffee, pancakes and my overnight oats, and use plain my cooking.
We also have plenty of fruit preserves, fresh veggies, eggs, and two kinds of juice- always have Simply Orange or Trader Joes orange juice, and Northland cranberry pomegranate juice.
I also keep tofu on hand- makes a quick and easy lunch. I don't have a brand preference at this time.

As for condiments: I use a lot of Asian sauces- toasted and spicy sesame oil, MSG free soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, sweet and sour sauce, Hoisin sauce. I also keep several vinegars on hand for making dressings with :rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Apple Cider vinegar, and red wine vinegar.
for sandwiches we have mayo, French's mustard, dijon mustard, ketchup, All Gold Tomato sauce (South African ketchup-it tastes different than ours), Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce (The BEST BBQ sauce there is!), Nando's Peri Peri sauces for chicken (I have garlic, medium, and herb), Salsa- we eat lots of salsa. Our favorite brand is Chi Chis but I will buy Tostitos or Trader Joes.
We also have Mrs. Balls Chutney: it's a South African chutney and can be found at World Market. It's delicious on red meat, in lasagna (that special recipe is for another day), in Bobotie, with lamb, with curry... the possibilities are endless.
I also keep lime and lemon juice on hand.
Butter- yes I use small amounts of regular butter. But VERY small amounts. There isn't that much lactose in pure butter so I can tolerate it in small amounts. However, I also use lactose free margarine, especially when I need to use a large amount.

Produce drawer- I always have peppers- usually red, yellow, orange, and green,- lemons, limes, tomatoes, carrots, apples, onions, garlic, shallots, red potatoes, white potatoes, sweet potatoes ( We like potatoes, can you tell?), fresh ginger, jalapenos, scallions, celery. In the summer I have more thanks to the CSA and the huge variety from them. I didn't take pictures of all 3 produce drawers, but trust me- it's all there.
Here's a trick I learned a long time ago:
Line your produce drawers with paper towels- it keeps the drawer clean, absorbs extra moisture, and ever week or two you can change out the paper towels to ensure that your drawers and your veggies stay clean.
My freezer:

One side is frozen fruits and veggies: I love the Trader Joes brand of frozen veggies. I love that I can get frozen organic fruits and veggies for such a fair price. We always have green beans, broccoli, potatoes, strawberries- for smoothies, mango- for the baby, edamame, spinach. I also make my own baby food so I put my freezer trays in there- in the trays in the picture I was freezing pureed cinnamon apples, mango, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

The meat side: beef from our beef share- I brought some in from our deep freezer so I would know what I had on hand. Fresh chicken from Drury Lane Farm, Harvest Land boneless skinless chicken breast pack and thigh pack, bacon, and of course the chicken strips for the kids. I do buy the Purdue or Tyson chicken tenders for the kids. They are dairy free too- but be careful because not all chicken fingers are dairy free. These happen to be and they make a decent quick meal on nights we have a lot going on.They are also good in wraps for lunch, or on top of salads.

All the breads in this picture are dairy free! And the Apple Strudel from TJ's is Vegan and soooo good! Just like my Mom's actually!

On to the cabinets:

We like the Cascadian Farms Granola, and Kashi cinnamon shredded wheat for Dairy Free cereal options. The girls eat Rice Krispies, and regular and Honey Nut Cheerios- all Dairy Free as well. I find that buying those in bulk saves a ton of money too!
I always keep pasta on hand- I don't shy away from Carbs since I can't eat dairy. I normally keep penne, shells, bowtie pasta on hand, along with Linguine, Angel Hair, and Spaghetti.
Peanut butter is a staple as well, but the kids will not eat organic peanut butter. It's too thick and salty. So we compromised and buy the Natural.

You will see the large quantity of Mac and cheese- that is for the kids of course!
Panko bread crumbs are dairy free and a definite staple in a DF kitchen! Other brands may contain dairy.
We keep rice- basmati and brown on hand, chicken stock ( I much prefer the Pacific brand to any others)
You'll also see the TJ's brownie mix and a box of Cinnamon Hot Roll mix- both Dairy Free!

My canned good cabinet: I always have tons of canned tomatoes on hand- sauce, paste, diced, stewed, crushed... you can create so many meals using them and we go through A LOT of canned tomatoes!
The canned veggies are for the kids. I don't particularly like canned veggies, but on those nights when we need a quick meal, or when Daddy and I are going out, they help round out a meal.
Other items you will always find in my cabinets:
Black Beans, Red Kidney Beans, coconut milk, tuna, crab...

Baking cabinet basics:
White flour, whole wheat flour, sugar: granulated, brown, powdered, Turbinado
Vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, corn syrups, Molasses, Honey, baking cups and decorating items (this doesn't even scratch the surface of my cake making items. I have the huge Wilton Box too)
Cooking sprays, olive oil, canola oil.

My Spice Cabinet... always adding to it. Here's a list of what I keep on hand:
Basil, oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Curry Powder, Garlic Salt, Dried Garlic, Powdered Ginger, Onion Powder, Chipotle Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Season Salt, All Spice- whole and crushed, Pumpkin Pie Spice,Apple Pie Spice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Cream of Tartar, Ground Marjoram, Yellow Mustard Seed, Ground Mustard, Dill, Turmeric, White Pepper, Chicken Bouillon, Dark Chili Powder, Bay Leaves, table salt, sea salt, peppercorns, Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix, Lipton Dry Onion Soup Mix.

My Snack Cabinet:
You will see the bag of Goldfish Crackers- yes they contain dairy. Those are for the kids. I also keep nuts, air pop popcorn ( as most microwave popcorn contains dairy, as does movie theatre popcorn- learned that one the hard way during the last Batman movie- YIKES!), plain potato chips- Lays are my preferred brand, soda water, Triscuits, Animal Cracker, and juice boxes for school lunch.

Our deep freezer with our meat from our beef share- it's a little low but in a week or two we'll be getting more:-)We also have some pork, venison, and frozen veggies from last year's share.

This is what my husband calls the beer fridge, however it currently only has 2 beers in it.:-) It's also overflow for milk, juice, and our eggs (I buy 6 dozen at a time since I order once a month) In the summer it will also be storage for our extra CSA Veggies.

And last but not least, our frozen leftovers. We have South African Beef Soup, Lamb Stew, and Ox Tail Stew being stored in here currently.

So there you have it! I know, it looks like we keep a ton of food- and we do! We have to since we cook/eat 3 meals a day at home. Very seldom do we eat out. Very little of this goes to waste too. Every 2 weeks I write a very detailed bi weekly menu and a detailed shopping list to go with it. Surprisingly, this is all not that expensive. Since we don't buy a lot of dairy we save money there. Premade meals are overpriced so we save there as well. You will also notice there are no cheese or dairy replacement products in my kitchen. I seldom buy them. I will use them in recipes if I need to, but they are not staples in our kitchen.

I do still have to read the labels on some items, especially new items. And occaisonally I will come across something that I think will be DF but will end up having dairy. For example: Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar chips have dry nonfat milk in them. Who knew?! Luckily,Lays do not.

The contents of our cabinets and fridge does change somewhat, but this is generally what we keep on hand. One thing not pictured- our sandwich bread is Nature's Own Honey Wheat or Whole Wheat. And yes, it's dairy free!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What DO you eat?

When I tell people I can't eat dairy, they usually look at me with pity in their eyes and say, "Well then, what DO you eat?" I always find that funny because it seems sometimes people act like the only food group there is, is CHEESE. Granted, eating out is a pain because most restaurants feature cheese or cream in everything they cook. And going to gatherings where there is food is tough because I can't eat, unless I bring something that I made. There is hidden dairy in so many products- and that's sad. However, there are still plenty of things that I get to eat, and being dairy free has really changed my cooking, and made our family diet so much healthier and more varied.
A friend of mine suggested that I do a post, or a series of posts about how to shop dairy free, and what I keep on hand in my cabinets. So I am going to do several posts on this, along with the pros and cons of being dairy free.

First to answer the question "What do you eat?"
A typical day for me may look like this:
COFFEE! I always start my day with a cup of coffee with soy milk ( or maybe almond milk) and sugar.
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs ( fresh from the farm too), 2 slices of toast lightly buttered (with dairy free butter of course) and a fried Roma tomato on the side.
Lunch: stir fried veggies, and a glass of ice water with lime
Mid afternoon: Cup of rooibos tea (plain), and some tortilla chips and salsa, or handful of almonds
Dinner: Homemade spaghetti and meat sauce with crusty bread and a salad. Oh, and a glass of Merlot:-)
Evening snack: Not every night of course, but maybe some air popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil.

Or maybe it looks like this:
Coffee of course!
Breakfast: overnight oats made with vanilla soy milk, a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and dried cranberries ( SOOOO GOOD!)
Lunch: leftover taco meat from the night before, made into nachos with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, topped with black beans and salsa (that was my lunch today)
Snack: an apple and a cup of tea ( I LOVE my tea!)
Dinner: Sweet and Sour chicken with potatoes and spinach. And a glass of ice water.
Indulgence: 4 Hershey Kisses. Yes, I can have Hershey Kisses- but my limit is 4 in a day. (Serving size is 9 I think) Otherwise they make me sick.

Summer time we love to do steaks on the grill, along with some grilled veggies from our CSA share, and a pasta salad. Or one of our absolute favorite meals is my husband's homemade crab cakes- they are absolutely Delicious and totally dairy free! And if he's ever made them for you, you must be very important to us:-)

Those used to be tough to plan for. But here's and example of what I might serve at a casual, probably summer, gathering of friends:

My homemade BBQ ( which I have been told is better than anything you can get at a restaurant!)
Coleslaw with Marzettis dressing ( it's dairy free!)
Asian Chicken Wings
Make your Own Hoagie: We buy several dairy free French breads, cut them open, fill them with meats, lettuce, tomato, and some with onion, and then put out a fixings platter with spicy peppers, pickles, mustards, mayo and let people build a sandwich
Some sort of pasta or potato salad
Fruit Salad or fruit plate
Homemade Pico de Gallo with chips
BLT Phyllo cups
Chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes for dessert.
No one leave hungry!

Those are still a bit tough to get around. But I do make a homemade apple pie, brownies, Trader Joes Brownies, homemade chocolate chip cookies, granola bars, peanut butter brownies, smoothies, pies, cake... And I have a new cook book that I can't wait to get started on trying things from as well.

So to answer the questions of WHAT I Eat- A lot of things! Just hold the cheese, please.:-)

BTW- Dinner tonight is boneless skinless chicken thighs simmered in spaghetti sauce with peppers and onions. YUM!

Next post like this will be on good Dairy Free products to keep on hand. It's taken 3 years and a lot of label reading to finally know what to look for at the store.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's Do Lunch

For lunch a lot of people will go out for some sort of fast food, grab a microwave pizza, or skip it altogether. To me, as a Mom, lunch is the most important meal of my day most days, and the one I have the least time for. And I'll admit it, some days I am guilty of just grabbing whatever is handy ( a handful of chips, or the last brownie- I know- sooooo bad!) But I am trying to be a lot more healthy in my eating, so I can be a better example for my girls. ( I am against the "Do as I say, not as I do" method of parenting and more into leading by example, even though sometimes that is so hard to do- especially when it comes to eating.)
One of the tastiest, and easiest lunchtime meals I have discovered is stir fry. I always have a ton of veggies on hand, along with Asian seasonings and sauces so this is pretty simple to come up make up as I go along. I always opt to keep it meat-free just because I don't think we need meat at EVERY meal, although my husband would disagree with me:-)

Here's how I made today's lunch:
Time- 15-20 minutes total (I usually make mine while the kids are all sitting together eating their lunch.)

1/2 bag Trader Joe's Broccoli Slaw
1/2 small onion diced or sliced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced. You can also use powdered if you have some in your spice cabinet
4 baby portobello mushrooms
Soy Sauce
toasted sesame oil
rice sticks, or any other Asian noodle you prefer.
1 lime
1/4 block extra firm tofu**
Hot sesame oil**

**If Desired

1. Prepare noodles of your choice according to directions on the package- I use about a 1/3 of the pack of noodles today.
2. Spray pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil to the pan and heat on medium heat. Add minced onion and ginger. Cook for about 2 minutes, until onions are translucent.

3. Add Broccoli slaw, mushrooms, and any other veggies you choose to include.
4. Add soy sauce to taste to veggie in pan. Let cook on med. low heat.

5. While veggies cook, cut off about 1/4 of the tofu from the block, and squeeze the extra water out with a paper towel.

Slice and sprinkle with soy sauce and lime juice. Let sit until you are ready to add to the veggies. (If you want a stronger flavor to the tofu, do this step first and set aside.)

6. Add Tofu to the veggies. Let all of this cook together for a few minutes.
7. If you want a little bit of spice to this, add hot sesame oil at this point.

8. Add the noodles to the veggies, squeeze lime juice over the veggies and noodles, and toss together.

9. Eat and enjoy:-) Usually I will have leftovers for the next day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Easy Non-Cheesy Enchiladas

One night I missed enchiladas so much I decided to try them without cheese. Amazingly, it really didn't make any difference in the taste! What makes the most difference is the type of enchilada sauce you use. I have tried both Old el Paso and Trader Joe's, and TJ's is far better. It has a great flavor and a little bit of spice where Old el Paso is really bland.

This recipe is mine- I didn't get it from any website or book. I just starting putting stuff together one night and it worked. So now I am sharing it. I guess you could probably find one similar, but I doubt it would be cheese less.
I have been asked to include serving size and cooking time.

Serves: 5 ( 1 large enchilada per person)
Cooking Time: about an hour
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 large white onion
1 green pepper
1/2 can plain tomato sauce
1 bottle Trader Joe's Enchilada Sauce
6 Burrito size tortillas

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Brown beef in skillet. When beef is about halfway to browned, add in the diced onions and diced green pepper.

2. When beef is cooked, drain the fat off.
3. Add the half can of plain tomato sauce. You can add a whole can if you like. I added half tonight because I used the other half in my homemade Mexican rice.
4. Add half of the jar of Enchilada sauce and mix well. Let the mixture cook on low heat.

5. While meat and sauce are simmering, spray a large casserole (I used my lasagna pan) very lightly with cooking spray. Use a pastry brush to spread the spray evenly on the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour a small amount of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread that with the pastry brush, just to coat the bottom.

6. Fill each tortilla with a large serving spoonful of the meat mixture. Fold, and place folded side down in the casserole dish. Repeat.

7. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.

8. Bake until the sauce around the enchiladas starts to bubble, about 15 minutes.

I served mine with homemade Mexican rice and garnished them with fresh diced tomatoes.

Product Review: Second Nature Wholesome Medley

When you can't (Or choose not to) eat dairy, it can be a challenge to find a satisfying snack. I usually snack on a handful of almonds, but I do get a craving for something sweet every now and then. When I was pregnant with our 3rd child I had a bit of a sweet tooth, but I was determined to eat healthy and not gain any unnecessary weight ( it's just so hard to lose!) One shopping trip to BJ's Wholesale Club we happened to come across the most perfect, tasty, and satisfying snack for me. The Second Nature Wholesome Medley is a mix of almonds, cashews, peanuts, dried cranberries, dried cherries, and dark CHOCOLATE- So good! And it is completely dairy free! And even better- since we buy it from BJ's it comes in a large bag that is half the price of anything made by Planters (and so much better!)

The perfect afternoon snack: Half cup of the Wholesome Medley and a cup of Rooibos Tea.

**If you have a BJ's nearby, I really recommend trying them out. We've been shopping there since our 1st daughter was born 7 years ago. They offer a good selection of Organic products, and have a lot of variety They also have a great baby aisle- but we use Eco-friendly diapers and they don't sell those there.

Monday, March 7, 2011

New and Exciting Opportunities!

I can't believe it's already March! What happened to February?! There are a few new developments in our eating life since I last blogged- good ones. I have been hired by our CSA to do their website and tech needs, as well as keep up with their Facebook page and start a Twitter feed for them. I am so very excited to be so involved with our CSA! The owner of the farm is the nicest lady, and I love being able to help her out, and spread the word about their FANTASTIC Fresh and LOCAL veggies. I can't wait for our first delivery in May!

I have also finally found a local family farm to get our eggs and chickens from. They are 100% Organic and humane in the treatment of their animals. The owner of the farm has been so incredibly helpful. She has even offered to have our girls come out and see the farm, help collect fresh eggs, and help feed the chickens! I can't wait until the end of April to do that! They are going to have pigs this Spring too, so we'll be getting organic pork from them as well. I am working with them to hopefully get a drop off point closer to Yorktown, since currently we have to get to Williamsburg to pick up our order. But even so, the food is so good and totally worth a few extra miles! But if you live in York, Newport News, or Hampton we can work out a small co-op here and take turns making the drive to Williamsburg to get the orders.

If you live in the Tidewater area and are interested in fresh, local, SAFE foods check out these two websites.

Clayhill Farms CSA:

And for fresh eggs and chicken:

Even with all that's been going on, I have still be very busy in the kitchen. Just last week I made two dinners I wanted to post, but I forgot to take pictures as I was cooking. The first was crock pot beef fajitas and it was a recipe I made up one morning. I threw a chuck roast, some spices, peppers, and onions in the slow cooker and hoped it would turn out well. I also made homemade Spanish rice. It was all so good and I will make it again so I can share the recipe.

The other a very pleasant surprise and so super easy. I think it's our new family comfort food! We had the girls' performing arts classes last Thursday so I took out some boneless skinless chicken thighs and browned them in my "magic pot" with onions, garlic, and peppers. I added a large can of (plain) tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, and some seasonings, put on the lid, turned down the heat and let it simmer for a few hours. We ate it over rice after everyone got home. It was light enough to eat later in the evening, but filling.
I will make it again soon and add pictures. It also made fantastic leftovers for the next day.

I promise the next post with be an actual recipe:-)

Happy Cooking!