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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Back to School “Safe Snack List” for Teachers

Every year, I update this list of snacks that are safe for us and provide a copy to my kiddo’s teachers.  This year, I’m sharing it here too.  ***Remember, always be sure to do your own homework and ***always read every label to make sure these snacks are safe for you.

OK Candy
Smarties
Starburst
Skittles
Gimbal’s brand jelly beans
Dum-dums lollipops
Lifesavers, hard candy, gummies
Laffy Taffy (certain sizes only, read label)
Twizzlers (original strawberry)
Sour Patch Kids
Surf Sweets
Trolli gummy worms
Swedish Fish
Airheads
Saf-T-Pops
Peeps  (certain varieties only, read label)

OK Snacks/Treats
Any fruit or vegetable
Tostitos tortilla chips (plain)
Lays potato chips (plain or barbecue; if barbecue check for milk on label)
Pringles Original (plain)
Orville Redenbachers Naturals, “Simply Salted” microwave popcorn
Skinny Pop popcorn, original
Fritos (plain)
Rold Gold brand pretzels (plain)
Betty Crocker or Keebler Fruit Snacks or fruit rollups, Gushers
Keebler Graham Crackers
Teddy Grahams: chocolate, honey, or cinnamon
Oreo’s- original and double stuffed only
Marshmallows-Kraft or Publix brand
Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips, snack bars, or anything else (whole line is top 8 free)
Ice Pops (read label)
Tofutti vanilla or chocolate ice cream
Tofutti Cuties ice cream sandwiches
So Delicious vanilla, chocolate, chocolate obsession, cookie avalanche *soy* ice cream
So Delicious Minis *soy* (ice cream sandwiches)

Drinks
Juice, Gatorade, Powerade, soda, soymilk

OK Breakfast Foods
Cheerios (plain)
Chex (wheat, corn, or rice)
Cocoa Puffs
Rice Crispies, Cocoa Crispies
Pebbles (cocoa or fruity)
Apple Jacks
Fruit Loops
Cookie Crisp
Lucky Charms
Corn Pops
Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Frosted Mini Wheats
Pop Tarts (frosted strawberry or frosted brown sugar & cinnamon)

Pizza and Ice cream? No Problem.

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On more than one occasion, several in fact, we have been invited to birthday parties serving pizza and ice cream.  It’s pretty common party fare.  The first time this happened, I was a little overwhelmed with how to either A: create a milk, egg, and peanut free (and fabulous) version of these, or B:  convince my child that a safe alternative was just as good as what “everybody else” has.  Well, after many years of practice, here is what we do now.

For pizza, we use Pillsbury Original Crescent rolls for the crust.  Simply unroll the can and separate each triangle.  Viola-  pizza slices!  Then we spread a small amount of pizza sauce on each triangle.  We use Publix brand.  Now you could add your favorite dairy free cheese, such as Daiya, but my kids, having never had cheese, think replacements are just… weird.  Then, we apply 1-2 slices of pepperoni each.  We use Hormel or Oscar Meyer brand.  You could also add other toppings such as mushrooms, peppers, etc, but alas, we don’t like those either.  Bake according to crescent package directions.

For ice cream, see the recipe we use here.  In a pinch, we also love a few store bought dairy free brands, including So Delicious, and Tofutti.  Be careful to avoid flavors that may have your allergens, such as peanut butter varieties.

For cake, see the recipes we use here.  I make batches of cupcakes ahead of time, then freeze them without the icing on.  I also freeze cupcake-sized servings of icing in sandwich baggies.   When it’s time to leave for the party, I take the cupcake out of the freezer, place it in a storage container, snip the corner off a baggy of icing, add that to the container, and go.  If I won’t be at the party with them to pipe the icing on at the last minute, I’ll pipe it on before putting it in the container.  This method sometimes results in the sides of the container wearing most of the icing.  I’ve tried to stabilize it by jabbing toothpicks in before I put the lid on, but I haven’t perfected traveling with pre-iced cupcakes yet!

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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Allergy Friendly Easter Basket Tips

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I thought I would share some of our favorite Easter basket candy and non-candy goodies.   Holidays can be more difficult to manage with food allergies than every other day of the year.  We food allergy parents have to stick together and share our ideas!

As the kids get older, it becomes more difficult to find *useful* things to add to there Easter baskets.  I highlight useful here because I just can’t bring myself to add another chintzy plastic doo-hicky to their Easter baskets!  Those things were great when they were younger and easily entertained, but once you start finding plastic bugs, bracelets, and bouncy balls in every nook and cranny, you start to dread bringing any more home for fear they will multiply.   A few of my ideas, I got from my own awesome, yet practical,  Mom.  🙂

Here are some practical, non-candy ideas:

  • Cool new hairbrush or  hair accessories
  • Battery operated toothbrush  (I figure, what they hey, it’s a holiday!  Splurge!)
  • Books!
  • CD’s or movies
  • Craft supplies.  The sky’s the limit here.  Markers, colored pencils, chalk, paints, loom bands, play dough…
  • Perfume, lotion, bubble bath, etc.
  • Wall  or window decals
  • itunes gift card
  • Headphones
  • Lego packs
  • Jewelry
  • Gardening gear like gloves and seed packets.
  • Nail polish
  • Baseball cards, Pokemon cards, Garbage Pail Kids cards…

With candy, you have to be very careful and always read labels.  From year to year, we see changes in “may contain” labeling statements that are important to take note of.   We make it a rule to not trust off-label candies, especially the ones that are made outside of the U.S., where the same labeling laws and quality may not apply.  Also, be careful even with the candies you’ve known to be safe in the past.  Sometimes a different package size, different store, or even a different lot of the same thing may NOT be safe from your allergens.

Candies we like:

  • Skittles
  • Airheads
  • Cotton Candy
  • Starburst original candies and jelly beans
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Dum-Dums
  • Yummy Earth organic lollipops
  • Surf Sweets gummy worms, Trolli Crawlers gummy worms
  • Swedish Fish
  • Big League Chew
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Twizzlers
  • Lifesavers orginal, mints, and Big Ring Gummies
  • Peeps
  • Dots
  • Mentos
  • Fun Dip
  • Dubble Bubble gum
  • Saf-T-Pops
  • Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails cotton candy

 

 

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.

cookie cake

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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