Google+ Allergy-Free Vintage Cookery: August 2011


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cheeseless Lasagna with Hidden Veggies

I never knew I had a dairy allergy until I was 43 years old.  I actually hated milk as a kid, but was forced to drink it anyway (as we all probably were) because it was "good for me."  I couldn't stand the taste of cheese either, but eventually learned to tolerate it because it was everywhere and I hated being left out.  For a long time, Velveeta was my go-to cheese (I know, I know, we weren't a gourmet family by any stretch of the imagination).  After years of experimenting, I finally learned to appreciate a wider variety of cheese flavors, but there was still one dish that I just couldn't stomach... lasagna.

What's that you say?  Everyone loves lasagna?  Not me.  Too much of that mushy cheese.  I broke my arm last winter, and no fewer than six thoughtful neighbors brought over dinners they had made....and every single one was a lasagna.  Not wanting to be rude or ungrateful (and not having much choice anyway), I ate them all.  And I swore I would never do that again to my stomach.

In the spring, I learned about my dairy allergy (among many others) and all the pieces clicked into place. So THAT'S why I was never down with the milk and cheese!

Since we now have a houseful of dairy allergies, I thought I'd give cheeseless lasagna a shot.  My husband is still on the vegan track, so this dish is just for the boys and me.  Rather than try to replace the cheese with some kind of artificial substitute (we can't eat soy anyway), I just left it out.  To have something else to layer with the meat and noodles, I sliced up some tomatoes, and love how the color looks, and to round out the dish I diced some raw broccoli (including the stems) to mix in with the meat.  All the non-allergenic food groups in one dish, and some nice contrasting colors too!  And to wrap it all up with a bow, the gluten-free rice pasta is nice and firm, so my mushy texture issues are taken care of as well.  It's a winner!

Cheeseless Lasagna with Hidden Veggies

1 package gluten-free lasagna noodles (I used Tinkyada brown rice noodles)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (choose your favorite)
1 pound ground beef (organic, if you can find it)
2 cups broccoli, chopped very small (or broccoli slaw, chopped up)
2 fresh tomatoes
fresh tarragon to taste

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions and drain.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown and crumble the beef with salt, pepper and oregano to taste.  When cooked, remove from heat and mix with 3/4 of the jar of sauce, and the 2 cups of broccoli (still raw).

In an 8x8" pan, layer the noodles, remaining sauce, meat mixture, and tomato slices.  You will need to trim the noodles to fit the pan, and may have a few left over.  Finish with a noodle layer and top with sauce, being careful to spread it to cover all the edges of the noodles (otherwise they dry out).  This recipe is small, because the organic beef came in such a small package it wouldn't stretch to fill a regular sized pan.  (Next time I'll double the recipe.)

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, and top with something fresh and green to serve (I used tarragon).

Shared with the Hearth and Soul Hop at Premeditated Leftovers and What's Cooking Wednesday at Turning Back the Clock and Gluten Free Wednesday at the Gluten Free Homemaker and Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health and Good and Tasty Tuesday at Stay At Home Babe and Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom and Thursday's Treasures at Recipes for My Boys and Hunk of Meat Monday at Beyer Beware.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Maple Sweet Potato Biscuits

It's teatime again!  Today's blue and white setting is the perfect foil for an allergy-free version of Paula Deen's Sweet Potato Biscuits.  As you would expect from the Queen of Butter, Paula's biscuit recipe includes several types of dairy.  I've substituted coconut oil for the butter, sorghum and rice flour for the wheat flour, and added maple sugar instead of refined white sugar.  To make life even easier, I've used jars of baby food sweet potatoes instead going through the trouble of peeling and boiling raw sweet potatoes.

The result is a very sweet, moist biscuit that has undertones of coconut, but you wouldn't be able to place it if someone hadn't mentioned coconut.  The faint maple flavor adds an original touch.  Perfect with a nice lemon herbal tea!

Maple Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1/4 cup white rice flour
2 heaping Tablespoons maple sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 jars baby sweet potatoes (organic)
1/4 cup coconut oil

Mix together the dry ingredients, then add the wet and mix lightly until just blended. Add a little more flour if your dough is too moist.  Roll out to 1/4" thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter.  Place on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.  Watch the oven, as the biscuits can burn quickly at this temperature.

Shared with Tuesdays At The Table at All The Small Stuff and Tea Time Tuesday at Rose Chintz Cottage and A Return to Loveliness at A Delightsome Life and Tuesday Tea for Two at The Plumed Pen and Tea Cup Tuesday at Artful Affirmations and Table Top Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life and Idea Sharing Wednesday at Women Who Do It All and Whatever You Want Wednesday at Free Pretty Things for You and Good Life at The Beach Cottage and Anything Goes at Type A and Market Yourself Monday at Sumo's Sweet Stuff and Your Whims Wednesday at My Girlish Whims and Inspiration Friday at At The Picket Fence and Wellness Weekend at Diet Dessert and Dogs and Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home and Whatcha Got Weekend at Lolly Jane Boutique and Strut Your Stuff Saturday at Six Sisters' Stuff and the Tuesday Talent Show at Chef-n-Training.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Have You Inherited?

I would like you to meet Harriet Louise Kloss and Daniel Francis Barnett, my great-grandparents.  Hattie emigrated to the U.S. from Germany at age three.  Nothing is known about her mother (she may have died in Germany), her father was married four times, and Hattie herself was in service as a domestic in Connecticut for many years.  She was the mother of six children, and died of a heart attack at age 55.  Only two of her children lived past age 70, and heart disease was a major contributor to the deaths of most of them (one died in WWII).

Daniel was the 10th of 12 children of Irish immigrants.  He grew up on a tobacco farm, his mother died when he was three years old, he eventually lost his own farm and his family as a result of his alcoholism, and he died of heart disease.  Of his 11 siblings, every one died as a result of heart disease, with the exception of one who died in infancy and one who drowned.

What do you suppose I have inherited from these colorful people?  Hattie's German determination?  It's possible.  Daniel's Irish propensity for the bottle?  I hope not.  Heart disease?  Pretty likely, although I won't know until I'm a little older.  Or possibly, could I have inherited food allergies from them?

Current research suggests that many food allergies are inherited.  When one parent has food allergies, there is a 50% likelihood that his/her child will also have food allergies.  When two parents have food allergies, that likelihood jumps to 100%.  My mother has a tremendous number of food allergies, which were not diagnosed until she was in her sixties.  Over the years, she suffered quite a bit from the physical effects of these.  Hattie and Daniel were her grandparents.

What allergies might they have had?  Could their heart disease have been mediated or even prevented if those hypothetical food allergies had been diagnosed?  Of course, food allergies have only been on the radar of the medical profession in recent years, but it is likely that old-fashioned ailments like "wasting" or "dropsy" or "shimmies" might in fact be describing symptoms of food sensitivities.

Apparently, today's allergists and researchers are honing in on the connection between food allergy and heart disease (among other chronic ailments).  Here is a concise explanation of that connection from Dr. Len Lopez, a nutrition and fitness expert:

"Heart disease is the number-one killer in America. The true cause of heart disease is inflammation.  Inflammation also triggers an increase in cholesterol. Unfortunately, just lowering the cholesterol is like closing the barn door after the cows have gotten out. You need to be addressing the cause, which is inflammation. The greatest source of inflammation for most Americans comes from their diet. Improperly digested food irritates and inflames the body.  This causes the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, which is needed to reduce the inflammation. This constant demand on the adrenal glands can easily overwork them and cause adrenal exhaustion and fatigue, which is a primary contributor to so many health problems." (full article here)

It's this kind of result that I try to keep in mind when I start craving those foods I'm sensitive to.  I miss cheesy pizza so much, but when I look at the big picture -- pizza or a heart attack -- it's a little easier to pass on the ooey gooey pie.

Do food allergies run in your family?  When you look back through your family tree, do you find mysterious illnesses that might actually be physical manifestations of food sensitivities?  Let's hear from you!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Allergy-Free Seven Layer Bars

Ready for something you'll want to eat with a spoon straight out of the pan?  (Not that I've ever done that!)  Seven Layer Bars are a well-known traditional dessert that typically contain butter and sweetened condensed milk, along with crushed graham crackers, which are made with wheat.  We were thrilled to discover that we could find easy substitutes for all these allergenic ingredients, and the result might even be more delicious than the original!

For the graham crackers, we found a gluten-free brand called S'morables by Kinnikinnick Foods that are gluten-free, corn-free, and dairy-free.  The chocolate chips were easy -- there are a number of gluten-free, dairy-free brands at our local supermarket.  Instead of butter, we used coconut oil, and instead of sweetened condensed milk, we made our own by cooking down coconut milk and maple syrup.  Our nut allergies are to cashews and peanuts, so we used pecans for that layer.  The finished product looked just like it should, and after we let them set in the fridge for a while, the texture was right too.  Score!  It's so nice to be able to eat one of our favorite treats again... we almost feel normal again :)

Allergy-Free Seven Layer Bars

1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
8 oz. gluten-free graham crackers (one package of S'moreables)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups flaked coconut

Caramelizing the coconut milk takes 30 minutes, so start this first.  In a small saucepan on the stove, mix together the can of coconut milk and the maple syrup.  Warm over low to medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture thickens.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  In an 8x8" baking dish, place the coconut oil, then set in the oven for a few minutes until it melts.  Remove from oven and begin to add the other layers, being careful not to touch the dish with your bare hands as you work.

Crush the graham crackers into a powder, and spread over the bottom of the baking dish.  Pat down gently.  No need to stir -- the oil will soak into the crumbs after a few minutes.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the cracker crust, then the pecans.  When the coconut milk has thickened, pour it over the other layers.  Finish with a layer of flaked coconut.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool before cutting (or not -- these taste great warm -- you'll just need a spoon).  For firmer bars, let set in the fridge at least 1 hour.

(Note:  These aren't marked vegan because the graham crackers we used had honey in them, but if you can find another brand that doesn't, you can call your bars vegan!)

(I've also made these with Rice Krispies when we were out of graham crackers.)

Shared with Pink Saturday on How Sweet the Sound and Sweet Indulgences Sunday at A Well-Seasoned Life and Just Something I Whipped Up at The Girl Creative and Pink Dandy Sunday Blog Hop on Pink Dandy Chatter and Sweet Link Party on Little Rays of Sunshine and Whatcha Got Weekend at LollyJane Boutique and Sweets This Week at Sugar Bananas and Motivate Me Monday at Keeping It Simple and Tuesday Confessional at Confessions of a Stay at Home Mom and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Tea Party Tuesday at Sweetology and Tasty Tuesday at Naptime Creations and Making The World Cuter Monday and What I Made Wednesday at Sweet Peas and Bumblebees and Wow Me Wednesday at Ginger Snap Crafts and Sweet Tooth Friday at Alli & Son and Recipe Sharing Monday at Jam Hands and Crazy Sweet Tuesday at Crazy for Crust and Cast Party Wednesday at The Lady Behind the Curtain and the Dessert Recipe Linky at Joy of Desserts and Cookie Exchange 2011 at Art of Dessert and Allergy Free Wednesday at Tessa the Domestic Diva and Metamorphosis Monday and Wow Us Wednesday.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's Hurricane Time!

Batten down the hatches all my blogland friends on the East Coast!  Hurricane Irene approaches!  I'm planning to cook up a storm (pun intended) today so we'll have some ready-to-eat meals if (when) our power goes out.  And I'm sure it will, because in my town, the power goes out if someone looks at a utility pole cross-eyed.  I'm located in Western Massachusetts, and they're predicting the eye will track right over us, but it may weaken to a tropical storm by the time it reaches us.  I can only hope!

I've also scheduled a few posts to publish themselves over the next few days, in case my computer is down.  When the tornado came through in June, not only did our power go out, but our landline phones and cell phones were also down.  I'm thinking I'm going to be incommunicado for a few days!

So be careful everyone, stay safe, and if you don't hear from me for a bit, don't worry.  I'll be busy photographing all the delicious dishes I'm planning to make today to share with you later in the week.  Until we blog again....

(Note:  Our photo today features the wedding of Ed Coughlin and Loretta McGuire.  Sending out prayers to all those who were planning to get married this weekend!) 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summertime Tomato and Caramelized Onion Tart

I've always loved the idea of a tomato and caramelized onion tart, but most recipes that I tried came out too soggy and relatively bland, probably from all the cheese they included.  Now that we're dairy-free, I thought I'd try my hand at a tart without cheese.  I was a little worried that the finished product would be lacking in some necessary saltiness, that it would need a counterpoint to the mild tomatoes and sweet onions.  Lucky for me, I needed to make this gluten-free as well, so instead of a traditional pie crust, I used a nut & oat crust instead, and WOW did that work out well to provide the yin to the filling's yan!

I'm still tweaking the crust a little to make it harder and easier to serve without crumbling, but I'm posting the recipe now so you can try it while all the lovely tomatoes are in season!  For a more elegant presentation (for a brunch or a tea), you might want to grind the nuts to an even finer powder and pack them in a thinner layer, so the crust is more delicate.  You may also want to slice your tomatoes thinner and use more of them so the filling looks finer and more deliberate.

Summertime Tomato and Caramelized Onion Tart

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia or similar)
2 large tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup pecans
1 cup oats (I used Irish oats)*
2 - 3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

Begin by caramelizing the onion.  Slice it very thin, and cook over medium heat in 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar (use raw sugar, or leave this out if you are avoiding sugar).  Stir occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden brown.  This may take 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, prepare the crust.  In a food processor, grind macadamias, pecans and oats until they become a fine powder.  Mix in 1 tsp salt and 2 -3 Tbsp olive oil, until the mixture can be pressed into a pie pan and hold its shape.  Flatten bottom of crust and use a spoon to press the mixture up the sides of the pan.

When the onions are ready, pour them into the crust.  Slice your tomatoes as thin as you can and layer them in a circular pattern over the onions.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes.  Garnish with fresh tarragon or rosemary and serve warm.

*Note: To make this crust Paleo (without grains), substitute 1/2 cup coconut flakes or 2 Tbsp coconut flour.

Shared with Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert and Dogs, and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health and Fresh Food Friday at La Bella Vita and Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home and Inspiration Friday at At The Picket Fence and Hodgepodge Friday at It's A Hodgepodge Life and Friday Flair at WhipperBerry and Allergy Friendly Friday at Cybele Pascal and Show and Tell Saturday at Be Different Act Normal, and On The Menu Monday at StoneGable and Living Well Blog Hop at Jo's Health Corner and Friday Food at MomTrends and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Amaze Me Monday at Dittle Dattle and Just Another Meatless Monday at Hey What's For Dinner Mom and the Homestead Barn Hop at the Prairie Homestead and Good and Tasty Tuesday at Stay At Home Babe and Farmhouse Friday at LaurieAnna's Vintage Home and Rednesday at It's A Very Cherry World and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Share Awesomeness Thursday at The 36th Avenue and Simple Lives Thursday at Sustainable Eats and Sharing Sundays at Everyday Sisters.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vegan Volcano Brownies

Before allergies took over our lives, we used to love eating Chocolate Lava Cakes.  For the uninitiated, these are individual cakes baked in ramekins that are left soft in the middle, so when you sink your fork in for a bite, a river of hot chocolate "lava" runs out onto your plate.  Unfortunately, when that undercooked middle contains eggs, it wreaks havoc with the digestive systems of those allergic to eggs.

While leafing through the Gardener's Community Cookbook by Smith & Hawken, I came upon a really unique recipe for Beet and Blackberry Brownies.  With a few substitutions and measurement adjustments, I was able to make a delicious allergy-free version, but found that the middle was quite soft.  The tops of these brownies are drizzled with melted blackberry jam, which looks a *bit* like rivers of lava, so....I suddenly realized that I had stumbled upon an allergy-free version of a lava cake!  Jackpot!

Because these brownies are made with beets, they do have a faint red tint to them, and depending on the brand of jam you use, your lava may be red as well, so serendipity has dropped a fun new dessert in our laps :)  Here's how you make them:

Vegan Volcano Brownies

1 cup chocolate chunks (I used Enjoy Life dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free)
1/2 cup coconut oil (or canola oil)
2 peeled and cooked beets (our grocery sells cooked organic beets)
1 cup blackberry jam, divided (use an all-fruit preparation if you can. Mine was a mixed berry jam)
2 egg substitutes (I used 2 Tbsp flax seed and 6 Tbsp water)
3/4 cup agave nectar (or sugar, if you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup gluten-free flour (I used oat flour, but quinoa would work well too)

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate chunks and the oil together.  Puree the beets in a food processor, and add them to the chocolate, along with 1/2 cup of jam.  Take off the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your egg substitutes, agave, and vanilla.  Stir in the chocolate mixture.  Add your preferred flour and mix well.  Pour into an 8x8 baking pan.  Melt the remaining 1/2 cup jelly in the microwave (or on the stove) but do not boil.  Pour over the chocolate batter, but do not stir in.  Use a knife to make designs if you like.

Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.  Serve warm... the centers will be soft.

My Good-Luck Kitchen Elf!

Shared with Anything Goes at Type A and Good Life Wednesday at A Beach Cottage and Share the Love Wednesday at Very Merry Vintage Style and the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as a Mom and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health and Sweet Tooth Friday at Alli and Son and Mangia Mondays at Delightfully Dowling and Rednesday at It's a Very Cherry World and Cure For the Common Monday at Lines Across My Face and Whatcha Got Weekend at Lolly Jane Boutique and Allergy Friendly Friday at Cybele Pascal and Joy of Desserts and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and Tuesday Talent Show at Chef in Training and Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet As Sugar Cookies and Show Off Your Stuff at Fireflies and Jellybeans and This Week's Cravings at Mom's Crazy Cooking and Gluten Free Wednesday at The Gluten Free Homemaker and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Joy of Dessert and Traditional Tuesday at Whole New Mom and Tea Party Tuesday at Sweetology and the Gingerbread Christmas Tea at The Plumed Pen and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and These Chicks Cooked at This Chick Cooks. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Simple Bean Chili

Chili is typically made with meat, but an all-bean chili can make a hearty, protein-rich meal just as well.  Some chili recipes require long, slow cooking on the stove, but in this hot weather, the quicker I can turn off the burners the better, so this recipe cooks for just 15 minutes.  Limes and avocados as toppings keep the meal summery, and chances are you have all the necessary ingredients in your pantry already.  There are a wide range of possible allergens in our regular chili recipes -- for this version, I left out the white beans, the onions, the vinegars and the beer  (someday maybe we'll get back to that!)

Simple Bean Chili

2 cans red kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 jar or can tomato paste
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp each cumin, chili powder and oregano
1 tsp each salt and pepper

Drain the beans, then dump everything into a nice big pot and boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Top with avocados that have been sprinkled with lime juice, and strips of tortillas if you don't mind the wheat.

Shared with Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and What's Cooking Wednesday at the King's Court IV and Just Another Meatless Monday at Hey What's For Dinner Mom? and Rednesday on It's A Very Cherry World and Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet and Simple Lives Thursday at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa and Melt In Your Mouth Monday at Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms and My Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Allergy-Free Tea Sandwiches

Classic tea sandwiches generally consist of thinly-sliced white bread (no crusts, please!), a butter-based or cream-cheese-based spread and some finely chopped flavorings like watercress, cucumbers, chicken salad, egg salad, or the like.  If you take away all the allergens in these tiny bites of loveliness, all you are left with is a few raw vegetables!  What's a tea-lover to do?

I attacked this earth-shaking problem one element at a time.  The white bread was easily dealt with by substituting white rice bread.  Although it's relatively bland, it's extremely firm, which keeps the fillings from making the sandwich too soggy.   If you don't care for the taste, try toasting it -- that brings out a bit more flavor.  Now that we're gluten free, onward to....

The spread ... my next hurdle.  Butter and cream cheese are out for our dairy-free, mostly vegan family, so I searched my pantry and fridge for some other kind of base... something that would function to bind my flavors together.  To my surprise, I actually found several good options!  For my savory sandwiches, mashed potatoes made with oil worked amazingly well, and for my sweeter sandwiches I found mashed bananas a wonderful starting point.  Avocado can also work, although its tendency to brown so quickly makes it hard to work with.

Now I could have some fun with flavor!  By starting with classic tea sandwich recipes and mixing in some extra items for kick, I was able to brainstorm over a dozen allergy-free sandwich versions... far more than I thought I would!

The traditional cucumber sandwich came together with a thin layer of mashed potato mixed with lots of salt, minced garlic, dill and chives.  The thinly-sliced cucumbers layered nicely on top, and when I sliced the sandwich, it looked exactly like it should have.  The boys tasted it and I had to laugh when my oldest, who doesn't much care for cucumber sandwiches, said diplomatically, "Well, it tastes just like a tea sandwich!"

A watercress sandwich can be built in a similar manner, starting with potatoes mashed with oil, salt, parsley, watercress or arugula, and some finely shredded carrot.

Longing for a curried chicken sandwich?  Leave larger chunks in your mashed potatoes, mix with curry powder, salt and pepper, minced celery, and nuts or raisins to your own taste.

Traditional radish sandwiches are also a breeze -- just potatoes, lots of black pepper, and thinly sliced radishes.  Try some paper-thin raw onion slices as well, if you're brave.

How about something completely fresh and different?  My new favorite British chef, the incomparable Lotte Duncan, features a fun potato mash made with fresh peas and mint in her new cookbook, Lotte's Country Kitchen.  Smush it all together with some oil and salt, and that's all you need!

Sweet sandwiches are easy to brainstorm as well.  Starting with mashed banana, you can add coconut, mango, berries, SunButter, jelly, maple cream, honey, or even rose petals.  Eat these quickly before the bananas turn brown.

A wonderful avocado sandwich can be made by mashing together avocado, lime juice, salt, cilantro and chopped tomatoes.  Another variation on the tomato sandwich can include potato, tomato, lemon juice, garlic and basil.

And my favorite sandwich of all, a version of a James Beard classic featuring caramelized onions, mashed potato, and parsley, rolled in some chopped chives so the edges are green.  Yum!

In the photo above are radish sandwiches on top, cucumber sandwiches on the left and banana raspberry sandwiches on the right.

Have you given up tea sandwiches since you began eating allergy-free?  What other types can you brainstorm?  Let's hear from you!

Shared with Tea Time Tuesday at Rose Tree Cottage and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Tea Party Tuesday at Sweetology and A Return to Loveliness at A Delightsome Life and Tuesday Tea for Two at The Plumed Pen and Tabletop Tuesday at A Stroll Through Life and Tea Time Tuesday at Lady Katherine Tea Parlor and Whatever You Want Wednesday at Free Pretty Things for You.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Apple-Free, All Natural Fruit Punch

My six-year-old son has been watching me with great interest these past few weeks as I experiment with allergy-free foods, and today he asked if he could invent a new drink!  He has a major allergy to apples, grapes and pears, so just about all the boxed juices on the market are off-limits to him -- even seemingly innocuous flavors like cherry are generally built on an apple base.

He had a blast pouring things into the blender, and lo and behold the result was quite tasty!  Dad thinks it tastes like apple cider, and the brothers think it's more of a fruit punch flavor, so that's what we've dubbed it.  Our Little Chef actually likes his with some seltzer in it, so it becomes another soda alternative. Either way, it's a lot of fun in a little glass.

Here are his notes on his project:

That's maple syrup (his favorite food of all time), pomegranate juice, crackers (an earlier version had pecan crackers for protein, since he's always hearing mom harp on protein content), orange juice and a special brand of pink lemonade called Berry Berry Good Lemonade, that contains cranberry juice for color.  The final version looks like this:

Apple-Free, All Natural Fruit Punch

1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup pink lemonade
1 Tbsp maple syrup
seltzer to taste (optional)

Blend the three juices and the maple syrup in your blender (it makes nice bubbles, like soda), then drink as-is, or pour in the seltzer for more carbonation (do not blend the seltzer in the blender).

We hope you love Little Chef's creation as much as we do! :)

This recipe has been shared with the Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania and the Prairie Homestead's Barn Hop and Come Together Kids' School Days Link Party and Mom's Sunday Cafe's Hearth and Soul Hop and Confessions of a Stay At Home Mommy's Tuesday Confessional and the Gallery of Favorites at Premeditated Leftovers and Make Your Own Monday at Nourishing Treasures.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Are Food Allergies Isolating Your Family?

We all want to protect our children, especially those who run a higher risk of serious illness on a daily basis.  We can also appreciate the desire to preserve our precious family units as long as possible, as those dear children grow up so fast.

Unfortunately, the world in which we live has not yet become reliably food-allergy friendly, and as a result, those of us who deal with this particular challenge tend to drift past protection and preservation into ever-increasing isolation.

While there are times that we choose to remove our families from dangerous situations, there are still far too many times when food-allergic families are excluded from events and activities because those in charge are not yet aware of the changes that must be made to make them safe.  Even worse, a disturbingly high percentage of non-allergic people still believe that "it's not fair" for a group to make adjustments to accommodate one or two sensitive individuals, and lack the empathy to see the inherent boorishness of their attitude.

Eating hot lunch at school, having snacks at a friend's house, joining in the fun at birthday parties, eating out at restaurants, visiting relatives for holiday meals, having friends over for dinner.... depending on the breadth and severity of your family's allergies, some or all of these common social pleasures may no longer be possible for you.  Must we resign ourselves to a reduced quality of life?

What do you do?  Do you pour all your energies into making your child's school lunchroom a safe environment, leaving nothing left for you to spend on purely social eating occasions?  Do you send your child to parties with his own food packed in a "special" lunchbox, and silently curse those other parents for making your sweetheart feel left out?

Do you decline to attend holidays at other homes, and instead spend days planning elegant allergy-free meals for your relatives, secretly hoping they'll take up the challenge and try a few new recipes next year, thereby giving you a break from the constant hosting?   Do you travel long distances just to try a new allergy-friendly restaurant, or have you given up on eating out altogether?

What can we do?  A quick scan of the internet shows that there are many, many of us out there with similar issues....why haven't our voices been heard?

Drop me a quick note about your personal challenges, your frustrations, and any victories you might have had (however small they may be!)  We all know there is strength in numbers, and by sharing our strategies, we can make life a little better for the allergy-free family a little at a time!  Thanks for stopping by... I look forward to hearing from you.

Shared with Family Time Tuesday at Celebrating Family and Pennywise Platter at the Nourishing Gourmet. 

Gluten-Free Coconut Lime Scones

I'm still on my teatime kick, and am proud to finally be able to share this gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and corn-free concoction that actually looks and tastes like a traditional scone!  These Coconut Lime Scones use a combination of several gluten-free flours (boy, before I started trying to bake without gluten I had no idea how uniquely these different flours can act) and after many tries I think I've finally hit on proportions that act politely and don't spoil my teatime by crumbling to bits :)  Teatime is no place for bad manners.

Instead of sugar, there is agave nectar, so you can feel somewhat healthy, and instead of butter I used coconut milk.  This is a dense scone on purpose, as many gluten-free flours used without eggs or xanthan gum can be much too delicate to handle.  (I skipped the xanthan gum because it's corn-based, and used corn-free baking powder as well).  The extra liquid helps bind everything together so you can actually pick it up and eat it!

Coconut Lime Scones

1 cup oat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 Tbsp baking powder (corn free)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup agave nectar
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup coconut flakes

Combine the three flours, the baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl.  In your 2-cup measuring cup, pour the coconut milk, then the agave nectar, then the lime juice, and stir.  Pour into dry mixture and stir.  Add 1/2 cup coconut flakes.  Scrape the batter directly onto a baking sheet and form by hand into a flat circle about 1 1/2 inches high.  Sprinkle the 1/4 cup coconut flakes evenly over the top.  Using a long bread knife, cut the uncooked dough into 8 triangles, and separate a little with the knife.  Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Let cool on the tray for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

This recipe has been shared with Cybele Pascal's Allergy Friendly Friday and Wellness Weekend at Diet Dessert and Dogs and Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound and Gluten Free Wednesdays at the Gluten Free Homemaker and Themed Baker's Sunday at Cupcake Apothecary.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gorgeous Summer Berries with Lavender Honey

Is there anything more beautiful than perfect summer berries?  Last weekend we had a delicious meal at the Cape Sea Grille on Cape Cod, and my dessert was a basket made of spun sugar filled with summer berries and drizzled with lavender honey.  Spectacular!  And it seems so simple to make, too!

Well, let me tell you, it's awfully humid here on the Cape in August, and our beach house has no air conditioning.  Today I tried and tried to replicate that sugar basket, but all my efforts produced only sad lumps of soft, warm sugar.  I'm still so excited about this dessert, I decided to post it without any sugar basket pictured, and I'm including the directions to make one so if your kitchen is a little cooler than mine, you can try it.

Lavender honey is made by bees who only take pollen from lavender flowers.  The Cape Cod Lavender Farm in Harwich, MA is one source of this delicious treat, but unfortunately they don't seem to be selling it on their website (  Hope you can find some near you... it's wonderful!

Sugar Baskets

1/2 cup sugar (raw works fine)
1/4 cup water

Pour the water in a small saucepan on medium heat.  Pour the sugar into the water, but do not stir.  Let cook about 10 minutes until the mixture turns a reddish amber color (or is 310 degrees Fahrenheit).  Still do not stir; if you need to mix the sugar and water, swirl the pan around.  While the sugar is cooking, prepare the molds you want to use to shape the baskets.  I used two small bowls (abt. 3" diameter) turned upside down on a cookie sheet.  Grease the backs of the bowls with oil.  You may also want to put down some parchment paper.

Remove the sugar from the heat and let cool a minute or two.  When the mixture will drip slowly from a spoon, drizzle it over your molds, or onto parchment paper, in interesting shapes.  To make a basket, move your spoon methodically from the center of the bottom of the bowl to the outside perimeter and back, as if you were drawing a sun with rays or a starburst.  When you have enough vertical stripes of sugar, move your spoon in a circular or spiral motion to make the horizontal stripes.  Some sugar will drip down onto your cookie sheet -- this can be cut off with a knife as the sugar cools and hardens.

If all goes well (and your humidity is low), your sugar shapes will harden and you can use them to decorate desserts.  Good luck!

This recipe has been shared on Fresh Bites Friday.  Click here for more recipes using real food.

It has also been shared on Fresh Food Friday at Bella Vita.  Click here for more recipes shared by readers. 

Also shared at Tablescape Tuesday at Between Naps on the Porch and Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home and Inspiration Friday on At The Picket Fence and This Week's Cravings at Mom's Crazy Cooking. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cozy Tomato Soup

Those of us of a certain age remember fondly those many winter days we spent slurping Campbell's tomato soup sprinkled with salty Goldfish crackers (or Saltines!).  It was with that cozy feeling in mind that I set out to create a new, healthier version of tomato soup.  I added carrots for some sweetness, some garlic for depth, and threw in some farro for texture and to add some protein (kind of a grown-up tomato and rice).  We just discovered that white rice bread, when toasted, tastes pretty yummy (this after several young boys spit out their untoasted rice bread).  (These are our "crackers.")

For this version, I used what I found in my kitchen -- a few fresh tomatoes, and the last of my carrots.  To save a little time, you might want to use organic baby carrots, and combine diced and pureed tomatoes from a can.  With our mold allergy, we're prohibited from using canned tomatoes (I know, random, huh?) but I'm sure this would taste very similar with them.  I would also recommend investing in an immersion blender, as it makes pureeing soups so much easier.  This is a very thick soup; if you prefer a thinner one, add more broth, less farro, or a bit of rice milk.  Tastes good warm or cold!

Cozy Tomato Soup

2 cups vegetable broth
3 medium carrots, sliced thick
5 garlic heads, peeled
4 fresh tomatoes, diced
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup farro
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, combine broth, carrots and garlic and boil/simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the two types of tomatoes, salt & pepper and simmer 10 more minutes.  Take off the heat and puree to desired consistency.  Return to heat and add farro.  Simmer about 10-15 minutes, or until grain is al dente.  Serve warm with toasted white rice bread, or cold the next day (the farro stays nice and firm -- tastes delicious!)

Shared with Farmhouse Friday at LaurieAnna's Vintage Home and Whatcha Got Weekend at Lolly Jane Boutique and Simple Lives Thursday at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa (click here), and The Nourishing Gourmet's Pennywise Platter Thursday (click here) and Just Another Meatless Monday" by Hey What's For Dinner Mom? (click here) and Stay at Home Babe's Good and Tasty Tuesday and All The Small Stuff's Tuesdays at the Table and Homemaker Monday at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven and Meatless Monday at Midnight Maniac and My Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and Wellness Weekend at Diet Dessert and Dogs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Raspberry Banana Tea Bread

Teatime is my favorite time of the day, as well as one of my favorite ways to celebrate.  Going gluten-free makes my usual menu of scones, finger sandwiches and pastries a bit challenging to make.  My first attempt at an allergy-free (we also can't eat eggs, dairy, or corn) tea bread was a bit heavy (see Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread in an earlier post).  For that loaf, I used only quinoa flour, and the moisture came from a can of mashed pumpkin, which is awfully thick all by itself.

This Raspberry Banana Bread represents the next generation of my teatime baking.  I've switched out half of the quinoa flour for oat flour (see note about gluten), and traded raw sugar for agave nectar.  The result is a lighter, smoother loaf.  The finished product is a more appealing color as well, and the raspberries give it a festive look.

Raspberry Banana Tea Bread

2 bananas
1/2 cup rice milk
1 cup agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups quinoa flour
2 cups oat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raspberry jam (all-fruit)
1/2 pint of fresh raspberries

In a large mixing bowl, mash the two bananas with rice milk.  If you like, use an immersion blender for smoother consistency -- otherwise a fork works fine too.  Mix in agave and vanilla.  Dump in both flours, baking soda and salt.  Mix well.  As this is a very thick batter, the order in which you add the last three ingredients makes a difference to the appearance of your finished product.  First mix in the chocolate chips, then cut in the jam carefully to make swirls in the baked bread.  Then set out two loaf pans.  Spoon just enough batter to cover the bottom of each pan.  Place 5 or 6 fresh raspberries in each pan, then cover them with more batter.  Alternate until your batter is all in the pans.  Top each loaf with a few more raspberries, and push them into the batter.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Let cook before slicing.  These keep best in the fridge, where the cold helps firm up their insides to make slicing neater.

(* A note about oat flour:  While oats do not contain gluten, certain brands are processed on equipment that also processes wheat, and cross-contamination can occur.  Look for brands that are certified gluten-free.)

This recipe has been shared with The King's Court IV "What's Cooking Wednesday." Click here for more delicious recipes shared by readers.  It has also been shared with Sweetology's "Tea Party Tuesday" and Martha's Favorites "Tea Cup Tuesday" and A Stroll Thru Life's "Table Top Tuesday" and Lady Katherine's "Tea Time Tuesday" and A Delightsome Life's "A Return to Loveliness" and "Hodgepodge Friday" on It's A Hodgepodge Life and "So Sweet Sunday" on Little Rays of Sunshine and Your Whims Wednesday at My Girlish Whims and Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom and Tasty Tuesday at Naptime Creations and Tea Time Treats at Lavender and Lovage.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hidden Zucchini Soup

'Tis the season for gardens overflowing with zucchini!  As much as I try to love it, I find zucchini quite bland and a little too mushy for my taste.  This soup is a great way to camouflage this healthy vegetable with some strong flavors and lovely contrasting colors.  The potato in the soup gives it body, the cumin gives it flavor, and the beets make it pretty and add some sweetness.

Hidden Zucchini Soup

3 medium zucchini, diced
4 small or 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups vegetable broth
1 bunch green onions, sliced (including white parts)
1 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp cumin
2 - 3 beets, cooked and diced
salt and pepper to taste (I use a lot to combat the mushy zucchini curse)

In a large stock pot, combine the zucchini, potatoes, garlic and broth.  Boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.  Remove from heat and add green onions, mint, cumin, salt and pepper.  Puree using an immersion blender, or in small batches in a regular blender.  To serve, warm the diced beets on the stove or in the microwave, then garnish each bowl of soup with about 1/4 cup of beets.  Don't add these to the bowls too soon, as the color will start to weep and look funny.  If this does happen to you, just swirl the beet color through the soup gently (don't mix in completely) for an interesting striped look.

Shared with Healing with Food Friday,  No Croutons Required ,"Made From Scratch Tuesday" (click here) ,"Real Food Wednesday"  (click here)  ,"Hearth and Soul Hop"  (click here) ,"The Ultimate Garden Recipe Swap" (click here) , Farmhouse Friday , Meatless Monday , Pennywise Platter at the Nourishing Gourmet. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blueberry Cobbler

Just look at that yummy mess!  This cobbler is super-sweet, which is a function of my efforts to hide the bitter taste of the quinoa flour I originally used in the topping.  It took a few tries to get this one right, but the family was very happy to be the guinea pigs and taste every one :)  I eventually gave up on the quinoa and settled on a Bisquick gluten-free baking mix instead.  It contains rice flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, potato starch, salt and xanthan gum.  The quinoa-based topping was just too thick, and my attempts to mix it with other flours just didn't work out.

I found that the gluten-free topping tends to look too thick and too brown to people who aren't used to alternative flours, so when I serve this I never take it to the table in its original baking dish.  Instead, I serve it out into individual bowls in the kitchen, taking care to break up the topping and spoon a little blueberry over it to hide the funny color.  Using raw demerara sugar adds a nice crunch too.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Cobbler

2 pints fresh blueberries
1 cup plus 1/2 cup unrefined sugar (I used demerara)
1 cup Bisquick gluten-free baking mix
1 cup rice milk
1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves

Pour the berries into an 8x8 baking dish.  Sprinkle 1 cup sugar right onto the berries (you don't even need to mix).  In a separate bowl, mix the Bisquick, the additional sugar, and the spices.  Add the milk last and mix well.  Spread over the blueberry mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  Sprinkle a little bit more sugar on top of the cobbler after it comes out of the oven.  Serve warm.

This recipe has been shared at the Homestead Barn Hop (click here ), and the Gluten Free Homemaker's Gluten Free Wednesday (click here ) and Wednesdays at Lily Rose Cottage and Sweet Tooth Friday at Alli n' Son and Sweet Indulgences Sunday on A Well Seasoned Life and Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet As Sugar Cookies.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Spicy Red Pepper Dip

Here's another Middle Eastern staple that I've modified to be allergy-free (and oil-free for my low-fat vegan husband).  Called "Mohammarah," this dip is an enticing combination of ingredients that don't seem to go together, but after they mellow in the fridge overnight, create an amazing aroma that will keep you coming back for more.  The method is simple -- just dump everything in the blender -- but make sure you make this the day before you intend to eat it, because it really needs that time for the flavors to meld.

Normally, this dish would utilize fresh breadcrumbs.  If you are planning to use store-bought gluten-free breadcrumbs, try to find a brand that does not include sugar.  These breadcrumbs tend to be gritty, and as the dip is not cooked, the little sugar granules will stay intact and make your dip feel as though there is sand in it.  Also, if you are avoiding nuts, you can simply leave out the walnuts without any substitution, and your dip will be smoother.

Spicy Red Pepper Dip

1 24 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp cumin
juice of 1 lemon
Aleppo red pepper (or similar) if desired

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Refrigerate overnight and serve at room temperature.  Goes well with pita bread, crackers, or carrot sticks.

Shared with Go Ahead Honey It's Gluten Free at Mrs. Eds Research and Recipes, and Traditional Tuesday at Whole New Mom, and Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania (click here) and Stay At Home Babe's Good and Tasty Tuesday (click here).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Maple Sweet Potato Fries

These fries are baked, not actually fried, and they're the easiest thing to make.  I like to cut my sweet potatoes into relatively large "fries," because it saves time, but it means the finished product isn't particularly crispy.  I happen to like sweet potatoes any which way, but if you prefer a crispier fry, cut your potatoes a bit thinner and crank up your oven a bit higher.  I've also read a tip (but not tried it) that if you preheat your baking pan before you add the fries they'll get a little crisper.

Maple Sweet Potato Fries

3 large sweet potatoes
1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
salt to taste

Peel the potatoes and cut into your favorite fry shape.  Toss with oil, then spread out on a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then pour maple syrup on top.  Potatoes can be eaten as-is, or you may want to return them to the oven for 5 more minutes.  If you're lucky, the syrup will harden as the potatoes cool and your fries will be candied, but I must confess this hasn't worked on my larger, mushy fries.

Shared with the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as a Mom, and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and Homemaker Monday at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven, and Remodelaholic, and Bella Vita's "Fresh Food Friday" (click here) and "Fresh Bites Friday" at Real Food Whole Health (click here ).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mush Puppies (Our attempts at a gluten-free cookie!)

My gluten-free baking attempts have failed miserably, as we are not allowed to eat corn flour, white bean (garbanzo) flour, wheat flour, dairy or eggs because of our allergies.  I have read seemingly hundreds of labels of gluten-free baking mixes, all of which somehow include at least one banned ingredient (cornstarch is a tricky one too).  I have also tried to adjust "from-scratch" gluten-free recipes for cupcakes, muffins and cookies by substituting quinoa flour and flax-seed "eggs."  These attempts end in a bunch of disappointed boys gathered around the sink for the ceremonial dumping of the mush piles.

My good friend Lori brought over some delicious chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies that she had modified in the hopes that we could eat them.  The original recipe came from her mother (hi Mrs. Rosinski!) and included milk and butter.  Basically, the intent is to melt together butter, sugar, milk and cocoa, then mix in peanut butter and oatmeal off the heat.  Drop by spoonfuls on a tray and let sit to harden. In her version, Lori was able to switch out the milk for rice milk, but the butter provided the necessary "glue" to bind everything together.

Over the course of this week, I've been trying and trying to find a substitute for that butter, with mixed success.  Oil didn't work, because these cookies need to be solid at room temperature.  Flax seed meal and honey didn't work.  I can't use shortening because son #3 is allergic to palm oil and son#1 is allergic to corn oil.  In my latest effort, I left out the butter and substitutes altogether, and swapped in SunButter (sunflower seed butter) for the peanut butter.  The flavor is wonderful, but the cookies are still a little too soft to be practical.  The boys have been eating them with a fork from a plate!

I've included the latest incarnation of this recipe here, even though it's not quite right, in the hopes that some readers might have suggestions to improve it!  Three boys with chocolate all over their fingers would appreciate any help you can give :)

Mrs. Rosinski's Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies (with substitutions)

1 cup unrefined sugar
3/4 cup cocoa (I used Ghirardelli hot cocoa mix that had sugar in it but no dairy)
3/4 cup rice milk
1/2 cup SunButter (sunflower seed peanut butter substitute)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups oats

Melt together sugar, cocoa and rice milk.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and mix in SunButter, vanilla and oats.  Drop by spoonful onto wax paper and let set.  I put mine in the fridge to help them along.  In this version of the recipe, the cookies will get firm, but not hard enough to handle for very long (they melt in your fingers).

Looking forward to reading your suggestions!

(This recipe has been shared at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free's "Slightly Indulgent Tuesday."  Click here for more healthy recipes shared by readers.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Riff on Fattoush Salad

Between my husband not eating oil, and me avoiding vinegar (because of a food mold allergy), it's been a little tough to find salad dressing that we can both eat.  My standby is lemon juice with some chopped up avocado on top of greens, but unfortunately, my husband is not a fan of avocado.  Last night we finally found a compromise!  The Fattoush Salad is common in Middle Eastern cuisine, and it can be made without vinegar or oil, yet still has a very strong (and delicious!) flavor.  The boys even ate it, and surprisingly didn't complain about the assertive cumin.  Their favorite element, however, was the pita bread I sliced and toasted for the garnish.  If you are avoiding wheat, there is a great gluten-free pita bread recipe at you might like to try (link here).

Allergy-Free Fattoush Salad

3 cups of your favorite mixed greens
2 - 3 cups of your favorite chopped veggies (carrots, tomatoes, onions, cukes, peppers, etc.)
3 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp cumin
juice of 1 lemon (add more if you prefer)
salt and pepper to taste
1 -2 pita breads or tortillas
olive oil to taste

Combine veggies and herbs (hold lettuce aside) with cumin, salt, pepper and lemon juice.  Toss well.  Now toss with the lettuce in a large bowl.  Slice pita breads into 1/2" strips, toss with a little olive oil and salt, and toast on a cookie sheet either in the oven or the toaster oven. Cool a minute, if desired. Divide salad into serving bowls and top with crispy pita bits (don't toss with salad; they'll get soggy).

This recipe has been shared with Midweek Fiesta at Food Corner, and the Weekend Wrap Up at Tatertots and Jello, and Simple Lives Thursday (click here ) and the Nourishing Gourmet's Penny Wise Platter Thursday (click here ).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quick Minestrone Soup

We ate a lot of minestrone from a can when I was a kid, and I always hated it.  Luckily, this recipe tastes nothing like those salty bowls of mush!  It only takes a few minutes to make as well, which I love because the vegetables stay a little al dente.  You can add any variety of vegetables you like, but I've noticed that using squashes (zucchini and yellow squash) tends to make the soup too bland.  The combination listed here is our favorite.

Quick Minestrone Soup

4 cups vegetable broth
3 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 - 2 cups pasta (I use rice pasta in penne shapes)
1 can red kidney beans
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups (or half a large bag) frozen spinach
1/2 tsp thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Saute the carrots, onion and celery in a little olive oil, or soften them in a little veggie broth if you are avoiding oil.  Add the rest of the broth, the garlic, the thyme, salt & pepper.  Bring to a boil, then add the pasta, beans, tomato and spinach.  Cook until pasta is al dente, usually about 8 minutes.  Serve warm; makes 6 servings.

Shared with Tasty Tuesday at Naptime Creations and Pennywise Platter at the Nourishing Gourmet.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oral Allergy Syndrome

As a mom, I try to provide the healthiest food possible for my children.  Conventional wisdom dictates that I should serve them a substantial amount of fruits and vegetables ... things like apples, bananas and carrots.... super healthy, right?  Unfortunately, some people (my kids included) suffer from a cross-reaction between their hay fever allergies and certain foods that fall into the same botanical family.

When they eat certain raw fruits and vegetables, like apples, pears, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon and peppers (just to name a few), they get an allergic oral reaction that often feels like tingling in the mouth (or "vibrating," as one son calls it).  Occasionally symptoms will include itching or burning lips, itching inside the ears, or a tightness in the throat. Severe indigestion can also result.

Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is also known as Pollen-Food Allergy.  People who are allergic to grass pollen, for example, may also have a reaction when they eat melons, tomatoes or oranges.  Those allergic to birch pollen may react to almonds, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, cherries, chicory, coriander, fennel, fig, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, nectarines, parsley, parsnip, peaches, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, prunes, soy, strawberries, or wheat.  That's 26 different food items!  What's left to eat?

Symptoms can increase and decrease with the levels of pollen in the air, and antihistamines can sometimes help.  Having a reaction to one item on the list of possible allergy trigger foods does not necessarily mean that a person will react to every item on the list.  When trigger foods are cooked, symptoms often disappear.

In our case, one son is so allergic he can't really tolerate any raw fruits but berries, and no raw vegetables at all.  Luckily, he will agree to eat a pretty wide range of cooked vegetables, so we can at least pump him full of those.  Another son can't stand cooked vegetables of any kind, but he does have a few more fruits on his list of "can-eats."  The last child will occasionally humor me by eating two blueberries or half a banana, but suddenly becomes extremely "full" when only vegetables are left on his plate.

We've been experimenting with "hiding" pureed baby vegetables in some of our dishes, in hopes of getting a few more vitamins into the boys.  Sweet potatoes mix well into pancake batter, and we used to use baby carrots in pasta sauce, until we found out that all three boys scored extremely high on their carrot allergy tests (so we haven't wanted to give them even cooked carrots anymore).

Has anyone else run into this issue of not having many choices for healthy fruits and vegetables for their children to eat?  Or themselves??  Love to hear about your solutions to this unique problem.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Breakfast "Milk" Shake

Before we learned that we'd need to avoid peanuts, the boys used to enjoy a yummy dairy-free milkshake made with peanut butter, honey and rice milk for breakfast, especially on days when they needed a little extra protein boost, like before Field Day!  Today we took a chance and made our favorite shake with SunButter instead -- it's just like peanut butter, but made with sunflower seeds (you should be able to find it in your local supermarket).  Wow!  The additional saltiness of the SunButter elevated this shake into the stratosphere.  The combination of the sweet honey and the salty seed butter turned this simple drink into one of our newest cravings!

Breakfast "Milk" Shake

1 cup SunButter (peanut butter substitute from sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup honey
2 cups rice milk

Blend thoroughly in your blender and serve immediately (this will separate after a while).  Makes three 4-oz juice glasses full.  It's very thick, so you don't need much!  If the sunflower seed flavor is too strong for you, feel free to thin the drink with more milk.

This recipe has been shared with Cybele Pascal's Allergy Friendly Friday blog.  Click here to see more delicious allergy-free recipes shared by readers.  Also shared on the Sunday Showcase at Under the Table and Dreaming and Friday Flair at WhipperBerry and the Breakfast Club at Fuss Free Flavours, and Make Your Own Monday at Nourishing Treasures. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Amazing Tortilla Soup

I once ate a delicious tortilla soup at the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot.  For years, I've wished I could go back and have that again... and now I've found a recipe to make my own at home (I fussed with it a little to make it allergy-friendly!).  I plan to eat this one at least once a week and dream that I'm on vacation :)

Tortilla Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 26 oz jar crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup (or 1/2 jar) tomato paste
1 - 2 Tbsp each chili powder, cumin and oregano
salt & pepper to taste
2 soft tortillas (GF if needed, leave off for GAPS)
1 lime
1 cup fresh parsley, snipped
1 - 2 avocados, diced

Soften the onion and celery in a little vegetable broth (or saute in oil).  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, the rest of the broth, and the spices.  Boil, then simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, slice tortillas into 1/2" strips.  Toss in a little canola oil and salt, then crisp in the oven or toaster oven.  After soup is off heat, add juice of 1 lime and the parsley.  Serve in a shallow bowl with diced avocado and a few tortilla strips.  Keep the rest of the crispy strips on a separate plate to be added as needed (otherwise they get soggy when they sit too long in the soup).

This recipe has been shared on the Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania.  Click here to see more healthy recipes shared by readers.   Also shared with Idea Sharing Wednesday at Women Who Do It All and On The Menu Monday at The Stone Gable and Hearth and Soul Hop at Premeditated Leftovers and the Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom and Gluten Free Wednesday at the Gluten Free Homemaker and the Homemaking LinkUp at Raising Homemakers.