Reindeer Poop (or yummy fried dough)

Pardon the name.  I won’t admit to taking part in the naming of this yummy treat, but when you have boys in your home, well, potty humor happens.  Last year, we decided to do a family activity every evening of Advent.  This activity, making fried dough, is an easy crowd pleaser.  The kids even get to help with the dough unrolling, careful slicing, and sugar shakin’.

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You will need:

1 can of Pillsbury French Loaf.

1 large bottle of vegetable oil.

1& 1/2 cups of sugar and 1 tbsp of cinnamon, mixed well

cutting board, pizza cutter, plastic container with tight lid

I start by pouring the whole bottle of oil into a large corning-type crock or other safe for frying (high walled, appropriate material) pot.   Heat the oil over medium heat for about five minutes.  Open the can of french bread and unroll it lengthwise onto a clean cutting board.  It’s sometimes tough to get started, but don’t give up, it will unroll.  You should end up with a flat, rectangle of dough.  After that, I use a pizza cutter to slice the dough into several small 1-2 inch rectangles.  You can roll it into whatever… um… shape you want, but I like easy so I just leave it as is.  Gently place 5-6 pieces at a time into the hot oil.  Careful to avoid splashes because they hurt!  You will know your oil is hot enough when they float right up after you drop them in.  It takes just a minute or two on each side and I flip them with a metal, slotted spatula.  Once they are golden brown on both sides, remove from pot and place on a paper towel-lined plate.  Then, I use tongs to move them from the plate to a lidded plastic storage container holding the cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Put the fried dough into the container, place the lid on tight, and shake!  Remove the “Poo” carefully and voila, delish!

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Summer Vacation Grocery List

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The only way I can actually relax on vacation, is if I do the cooking myself.  For that reason, we try to stay somewhere with a kitchen.  We have made do with just a minifridge and microwave, but let’s just say it was no gourmet affair.   Every year, I try to make a grocery list ahead of time that will allow us to be in and out quickly once we arrive at the store near our location.  This year, I’ve decided to blog it so I don’t have to rewrite the darn thing next year- and also to share with you of course!  Some items we prefer Publix brand for, but if you know of another brand substitution that is milk, egg, and peanut free- please share!

This is my list for out of town groceries for 5 days for a family of four, with two children allergic to milk, egg, and peanut.  We try to stick to simple recipes that hopefully our kitchen-away-from-home will have the tools to execute and just focus on hitting the basic food groups:  protein, produce, carb.

  • Breakfast:
  • Frosted brown sugar and cinnamon pop tarts
  • +/- a box of cereal: Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, Cookie Crisp
  • Vanilla soy milk.  We prefer Publix Greenwise brand but will use Silk in a pinch.
  • Lunch:
  • 1 loaf of bread.  We use Publix honey wheat.
  • 1-2 pounds of deli meat.  We do not use fresh sliced meat from the store’s deli due to the concern of cross contamination with cheese and meats containing nuts.  We use prepackaged Oscar Meyer delifresh honey ham.
  • Pepperoni.  We use Hormel original.
  • 1-2 bags of chips.  We like Tostitos original, Rold Gold pretzels, and Lays original or BBQ.  We have found milk in some BBQ brands, milk in some Tostitos flavors, and the potential for peanuts with other pretzel brands.  Always read the label.  The whole label, not just the “Contains” statement.
  • Produce:  Carrots, baking potatoes, bananas, watermelon, apples, strawberries, blueberries…mmmm.
  • Snacks:
  • Microwave popcorn.  At least a 6 pack.  We use Orville Redenbacher’s Naturals, Simply Salted variety.
  • If we’re lucky: ice cream!  We like Tofutti Cuties vanilla ice cream sandwiches, So Delicious brand vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and Purely Decadent’s Cookie Avalanche flavor of dairy free ice cream.
  • If not ice cream: popsicles!  We like So Delicious brand creamy fudge bars, Popsicle brand plain flavors (although they have recently had a recall where these contained milk so I may be revising my opinion of this brand), PhillySwirlz, and FunPops- the kind grandma always had in her freezer- the all-American brightly colored sugar-in-a-plastic-sleeve type.
  • Cookies!  We like Oreos.  Oreos have recently updated their labeling so that now ONLY the original and double stuffed are safe for us.  No more minis or vanilla kind. 😦  We also like Chips Ahoy original chocolate chip cookies.  I know the package says contains whey, but for some reason, these have never been a problem for us.
  • Dinner:
  • 1 pound of chicken breast cutlets.  1 pound of lean ground beef. 2 pounds of salmon.
  • 1 small box of Bisquick original baking mix (for “breading” oven-baked chicken).
  • 1 bottle of Morton Season All, salt and pepper.  Or *pack ahead*.
  • Canned veggies.  We like Green Giant brand green beans and corn.
  • Pasta sauce.  We use Prego Traditional variety.
  • Spaghetti.  We use Publix brand.
  • Dairy free margarine.  We use Earth Balance brand.
  • Cooking oil for greasing pans.  We use Publix brand vegetable oil, EVOO or canola spray.
  • Canned bread.  We use Pillsbury brand french loaf or original crescent rolls.
  • Tyson brand dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets.
  • Oreida brand crispy crowns, waffle fries, or crispers.
  • Ketchup
  • Maybe a frozen pizza for Mom and Dad on nugget night.  Yes, we sometimes eat what they can’t.  We feel the world will be this way for them, and they will have to learn to adjust and take caution for cross contamination in every circumstance.  But that’s a whole other blog topic!
  • Hmmm.  One night left.  What to fix?  I think I will *pack ahead* (**= reminding myself) a baggy of Ener-G egg replacer and use the rest of my Bisquick box for pancakes.  So you will also need:
  • 1 package of Oscar Meyer bacon.
  • Oreida brand crispy crowns or hash browns.
  • 1 bottle of maple syrup.  We use Hungry Jack Lite.
  • Bottled water, soda
  • Plastic baggies to make snacks portable
  • Sunblock!!!

I know, this is not the absolute healthiest list, but it’s simple and I’ll rest easy knowing it’s safe and they at least got a few more nutrients than a week of fast food would provide.

Also, when we get to our kitchen-away-from home, I always run the dishwasher first to rewash the dishes.  That’s just me.  I want to know for sure that they have been cleaned properly and are free of cross-contaminants.

Happy trails!

Birthday Cakes: Bring on the Magic!

I wasn’t born a baker. Nope. I’m sorry kids, when you read this, but birthday cakes are something I dread having to make the most. Just know that I do it, and try hard to do it right, because I love you.  The pressure of coming up with a new idea, topping last year’s cake, or just meeting the expectation of your birthday cake hopes and dreams is stressful! Oh how I’ve longed to be one of those Mom’s who just order from the grocery store bakery.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know plenty of Mom’s who bake birthday cakes because they want to, but I am not one of them.  I’ve had so many cakes fall apart, only to be patched back together with icing, crumbs peaking out here, there, and everywhere. Challenges aside, I can proudly say I don’t think I’ve ever disappointed them. In fact, just today, I was given a high five to “Mom Power” and told that no matter what, they would like it… unless it was disgusting. (LOL)  So with that awesome accolade, I will share with you a compilation of my past cakes, as well as this year’s Minecraft Creeper cake adventure.

For my first child’s first birthday, I tried to make a cake from scratch, using a baking powder version of an egg substitute.  The end result…was only slightly taller than a pancake.   Fail.  But hey, she was 1, she only wanted to squash it anyway!

Then I discovered the amazing miracle of Cherrybrook Kitchen boxed cake mixes.  I love, love, LOVE Cherrybrook Kitchen products!  I am so grateful for the food allergy pioneers that came before me who decided to share their fabulous creations with the world.

If you don’t have any Cherrybrook Kitchen mix on hand, you can also try making Wacky cake or a Divvies recipe based cake.

Learn from my mistakes.  (please!) Here are some tips I’ve had to learn the hard way over the years.

  •  Always (always) grease AND flour your pan to prevent your cake from getting stuck in the pan.  I use Crisco brand shortening.
  • Crumb coats are your friend.  I’m not the one to teach you what a crumb coat is, but Google can. 🙂
  • Invest in some good tools.  I am the cheapest person I know, and I try to get by without making extra purchases.  But I will tell you, my KitchenAid standmixer and my various Wilton cake tools are lifesavers.
  • Make your life easy and do cupcakes once in a while.  Let’s face it, they’re easier and you can even buy little plastic pegs to decorate them with your favorite characters.  Jazz it up with a cupcake stand display if you want to be fancy.
  • Plan ahead for unexpected birthdays by always having pre-baked frozen cupcakes available.  I freeze mine without the icing and then freeze separate single-serving sandwich baggies of icing so I can just cut the corner off, pipe it on, and go.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to bake, cool, frost, and decorate.  I always seem to end up rushing out of the house on party day, having just put the finishing touches on the cake… and still wearing some of it.

For icing, I use Pillsbury brand Chocolate Fudge and Vanilla flavors.  I’ve also made it from scratch using a mixture of shortening, dairy-free butter and powdered sugar, although the kids prefer Pillsbury’s product over homemade.  (Can’t win ’em all!)

This year I’m trying marshmallow fondant, because I don’t think icing will create the perfect squared-off Minecraft Creeper features I’m going for.  In the past, I’ve used storebought fondant, although I had a really hard time with it and that particular brand’s labeling no longer reads safe for us.  There are lots of marshmallow fondant recipes out there.  Mine is based on trial and error. I mixed about a bag and a half , or about 16 ounces, of melted mini marshmallows (we use Kraft or Publix brand) with enough (about 3/4) of a 2 pound bag of powdered sugar until I liked the consistency.  I added 2 Tbsp water, 2 Tsp vanilla, and some gel coloring to the melted marshmallows *before* I started adding in the powdered sugar .  I used my KitchenAid dough hook (grease bowl and hook well) to save myself some elbow grease and then I hand-kneaded the finished product with Crisco and powdered sugar on my hands and the counter to keep things from getting too sticky.

I used Americolor brand gel to make my “creeper” cake green.  I used to use Wilton, but was sad to see their labels now say there is a risk of cross-contamination with our allergens.  Bye-bye Wilton.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my run through birthday cake memory lane as much as I have.  Now, go celebrate!

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Wacky Cake

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This cake is quick, easy, delicious, and requires very few ingredients.  I’ve run across the term “wacky cake” on a few different allergy boards and have been meaning to try it.  I found the recipe I used at: http://southernfood.about.com/od/chocolatecakes/r/bl01018c.htm.

The wacky part is that my daughter, who normally dislikes anything chocolate- LOVES it.  Her non-allergic friends do too.  In fact, I got three requests for this to be someone’s birthday cake the first time I made it!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use Publix brand)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (I use Hershey’s brand)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Then, make three wells in the dry mixture.  Put the vanilla in one of the wells, the vinegar in one, and the oil in the third.  Pour the water into the bowl, then stir until everything is incorporated.  I used a greased 9 inch round pan to bake in at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until center springs back when touched.

For icing, I made a powdered sugar and water mixture to use as a drizzle/glaze.  Fill a small cup with powdered sugar and slowly add small amounts of water until desired thickness.  Then pour or drizzle over the cooled cake.

Quick Blondie Cookie Cake

I am so happy that another blogger shared this recipe!  The original blondie recipe can be found here: http://ellasurreau.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/our-favorite-blonde-brownie-recipe/

Friends of ours were having an impromptu birthday gathering and wanted to get a cookie cake.  On the inside, I was hoping they wouldn’t because the only thing I had ready was the standard frozen cupcake.  Then I thought of the perfect recipe I’d been meaning to try and accepted the challenge!

I made a few substitutions, to use what I had on hand and to make a half batch.  I also added about 1/2 cup of Enjoy Life brand Mega Chunks of chocolate and piped chocolate frosting (Pillsbury brand) along the edge to make it look just like a store bought cookie cake.  I only have the picture from my cell phone, but it was so yummy.  Full disclosure- my children did not like it.  But the other, non-allergy kids and parents at the party loved it and said it was reminiscent of the blondies that Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant use to serve.

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In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp baking soda, and a dash of salt.

In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup of melted dairy free butter (I use Earth Balance), 1 cup packed of dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup of soy sour cream (I use Toffutti brand), and 1 tsp of vanilla.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together until well combined, then spread into greased 8×8 inch pan or similar small sized baking pan or dish.

Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, until center sets up and toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla Cupcakes

I bake cupcakes at least three times a year and freeze them so I can send them with the kids to school or birthday parties and I’m never caught by surprise or up ’til midnight baking cupcakes.  (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)  I freeze them without the icing because I have one chocolate fan and one vanilla fan.  I use Pillsbury brand chocolate or vanilla frosting.  You can freeze the icing too.  Spoon cupcake-sized portions of icing into sandwich baggies, freeze, then thaw when needed and cut the corner off to use it like a quick piping bag.

I’m so grateful for the folks who make milk, egg, and peanut-free product lines, like Divvies and Cherrybrook Kitchen, that make my life so much easier.   My go-to favorite is the milk, egg, and peanut-free boxed cake mix made by Cherrybrook Kitchen.  But if I don’t have any boxes left, I will bake from scratch using this recipe.

This recipe was adapted from the original Divvies recipe, which can be found here: http://allergicliving.com/index.php/2010/09/14/divvies-vanilla-cupcakes/

Ingredients:

  • 2 & 1/2 cups of cake flour
  • 2 & 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer plus 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free margarine.  We use Earth Balance brand.
  • 1 & 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vanilla soy milk.  We use Publix Greenwise brand.
  • sprinkles or safe chocolate chips/chunks (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners then spritz the inside of each liner with dairy-free cooking spray.  I use Publix brand Canola Cooking Spray.

Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.  With a hand mixer, in a separate bowl, blend together margarine, sugar, vanilla, and egg replacer mixture.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients about a cup at a time, stirring by hand to avoid over mixing.   Here you can fold in sprinkles or safe chocolate chips if desired.  I use Betty Crocker brand Rainbow Mix sprinkles and Divvies brand or Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips.  Fill each cupcake cup about 2/3 to 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting or freezing.   Makes 18 cupcakes.

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Safe Valentine’s Day Treats

Today I’m making Valentine’s Day treats to send with the kids to school tomorrow.  Their classes are having parties involving foods they can’t have and I want them to be able to have something special also.  While Oreos or a quick-thawed homemade cupcake will do in a pinch, if I have the time, I like to surprise them with extra special goodies.

My go-to sugar cookie recipe is really Grandma’s recipe.  (Thank you Grandma!)  We use this recipe for Christmas cookies, but I will sometimes do a half batch for small holiday treats.

  • 1 cup dairy free margarine.  We use Earth Balance.
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp Ener-G egg replacer plus 6 tbsp warm water (=3 eggs)
  • 3 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour.  I use Publix brand.  I have found cake flour that may contain peanuts!
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1& 1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter well.  Gradually add the sugar and continue creaming.  Add egg replacer and incorporate.  Blend in dry ingredients and vanilla.  Chill dough until firm, then roll onto floured work surface until about 1/4 inch thick.   Cut out patterns with cookie cutters then bake at 400F for 7-8  minutes.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies.   Note: They do not brown on top, but they will be light brown on the bottom when done.

For icing:

Mix 2-3 tbsp of water with 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar.  Use food coloring if you want to color it.  We also add sprinkles after icing, because everything is better with sprinkles, right?!  Some brands of sprinkles I have found may contain allergens.  We used Betty Crocker Decor sprinkles for today’s cookies.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

  • 1/2 cup milk, egg, and peanut free chocolate chips.  We use Enjoy Life Mega Chunks.
  • 1/2 cup milk, egg, and peanut free white chocolate.  We used Premium Chocolatiers’ Milkless Polar Dream White bar broken up into pieces.
  • Safe pretzels.  We use Rold Gold Tiny Twists.

Melt both the white and dark chocolate in separate microwave-safe dishes.   Cook for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until melted.  Dip pretzels in chocolate then lay on parchment or wax paper.  Sprinkle with sugar sprinkles or decorative sprinkles if desired and allow to dry about 1-2 hours at room temperature.

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