Friday, October 10, 2008

Soft & Chewy Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

Are you ever in the mood for a chocolate cookie that is dense, soft, and chewy all at the same time? Here's one that I would say is almost brownie-like in consistency. Not the gooey kind, but the slightly raised dense cakey variety. The added touch of raspberry flavor also works well with the chocolate. It's a recipe from the book Veganomicon, which as the title suggests, makes these dairy-free, egg-free, and, in this case, nut-free. I agree with the authors who say that these would work great as ice cream sandwich cookies. After I bit into one, I did think that a scoop of vanilla ice cream paired with it would have hit the spot.

These are also simple enough to make with kids. I made these with my children and they enjoyed pressing (or rather in their case, smashing) the dough balls into flat cookie shapes. I think you could also roll the dough out and use cookie cutters.

RECIPE for Chewy Chocolate Raspberry Cookies by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Late July Organic Sandwich Cookies

I've been meaning to create a running list of packaged cookies and snacks that are good as well as dairy-free, nut-free, and egg-free. Unfortunately, I just haven't had the time to sit down and do it. However, I thought I'd make a note of one cookie that would definitely be included on this list. It's Late July's Organic Vanilla Bean with Green Tea Sandwich Cookies. Much healthier in comparison to an Oreo cookie with no hydrogenated oils, no transfats, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial anything, the list goes on. I've tried a number of allergy-friendly Oreo-like cookies including Whole Foods 365 Sandwich Cookies and Trader Joe's Joe Joe's cookies, but I have to say that this one is my favorite so far. I like the vanilla flavor and the consistency of the cookie (not too light and brittle). I can't say that I really taste the green tea part, but I imagine it must be enhancing the flavor in some mysterious way. This is a cookie everybody can enjoy. You can use it at kids parties, mash it into some dairy-free ice cream, or just have it around for general snacking.

(Note: The allergy information on the box reads "Made in a plant that also processes milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts.")

Friday, August 1, 2008

No-Cheese Macaroni Bake

I stumbled across this recipe one day while surfing the internet. It's one of the first dairy-free casseroles that I've been able to find that does not from the outset try to clone its cheesy counterpart. While admittedly it looks like macaroni and cheese and apparently has even fooled some kids into thinking so, it was created to be tasty on its own merits. It's healthy too, with pureed cauliflower being the main "creamy" component of this dish.

The recipe is by Lucy Waverman, a well-known Canadian culinary personality. I especially like the fact that her approach to cooking for food allergies is similar to mine. She says, "My recipes are made with natural ingredients and are not intended to imitate the more conventional recipes. They make superb eating on their own." This one is definitely good eating on its own and will appeal to both kids and adults alike.

I found this recipe at the Canadian Epipen site. You will need to register for free to get the recipe. There are other dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free recipes as well which you may want to try.

RECIPE for Creamy Macaroni Bake by Lucy Waverman

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Grilled Peaches and Pork

I love peaches. Everything about a fresh, plump, ripe peach just beckons you to partake and enjoy. Now that we're well into summer, the peaches are plentiful at my local farmer's market. Each time I go, I pick up several to last me the week. However, I'm now finding that the little mouths to feed in the house have also developed a taste for fresh peaches and before I know it, my store of these luscious, sweet fruits are depleted. I guess that means this mom needs to haul more back from the market each week. They're good, but good grief, they sure can get heavy to lug around with all my other produce purchases!

Anyway, here is a great dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free recipe for those days you'll be doing some summertime grilling. The peaches here are paired with boneless pork chops and drizzled with a balsamic vinegar sauce. It's very yummy and gives you a different way to enjoy your peaches. You can also use nectarines instead of peaches if you prefer.

RECIPE for Grilled Peaches and Pork by Cooking Light

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fine Dining at Home - Osso Buco

So I was wandering around my neighborhood grocery store and came upon a "special today" for veal shanks. Now I don't usually buy veal, but this deal could not be ignored. There were only 3 packages sitting on the refrigerated shelf for only $3.99/lb! After careful inspection, I determined that the rock bottom price was not due to the meat being spoiled or anything bad like that so I snatched up two packages and resolved to finally try a recipe for osso buco, a dish I had, up until now, regarded only as "fine dining" fare. Well that notion could not have been farther from the truth. After making my way through the recipe, it seemed to me that osso buco is simply a glorified beef stew with very little difference in preparation technique.

For the recipe, I chose to go with Giada De Laurentiis' osso buco recipe based on the 5 star reviews. I was pretty happy with this dish. It wasn't difficult to make and the resulting tender morsels of veal were flavorful and satisfying. I think this makes a great dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free entree that would be excellent for guests or if you just want to treat yourself to something different from the usual routine.

RECIPE for Osso Buco by Giada De Laurentiis

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Ok, for all you dark chocolate lovers out there, this is the cookie for you. It's very dark and very chocolatey with just a touch of oatmeal. And most importantly, it's dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free! Very easy to make and very yummy to eat. I took the advice of some of the recipe reviewers and rolled my cookies in sugar before I baked them, however, I think they would also do quite well without this added touch.

RECIPE for Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies from Bon Appetit

Recipe Notes:
  • To make this dairy-free, substitute non-dairy margarine (I recommend Earth Balance) for the butter.
  • Refrigerate the dough about 1/2 hour or more before baking to prevent too much spreading.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Grilled Steak/Chicken & Asparagus

I think grilling is a great way to produce a variety of dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free meals. With just some basic seasonings and marinades, you can create easy and great tasting food that everyone in the family can enjoy. As the weather has started to warm up a bit, we've begun firing up our grill more often. Here are two allergy-friendly grill recipes that my family really enjoys.

RECIPE for Grilled Flank Steak With Rosemary by Bon Appetit

Recipe Notes:
  • The marinade in this recipe is very flavorful and can be used on other meats. As you can see from my picture, I like to apply it to chicken. When using chicken breasts, I like to pound the meat to about 1/2 inch thickness prior to marinating.
  • I have found, along with other reviewers, that the additional salt in the recipe is not necessary and can result in an overly salty end-product depending on the thickness of your meat.

RECIPE for Grilled Asparagus With Balsamic Vinegar by Cooking Light
  • This makes a great side. Just a very tasty way to cook up some asparagus.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Simple Teriyaki Chicken

If you enjoy Asian foods, there are many dishes that you can make that are dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free. Here is one of those classic dishes - Teriyaki Chicken - that is allergy-friendly, very easy to make, and simply very good. It's from Ellie Krieger, the health-conscious celebrity chef on the Food Network. I really like her version of the teriyaki marinade. You can use it on other meats or tofu too.

RECIPE for Teriyaki Chicken Thighs by Ellie Krieger

Recipe Notes:
  • If you are allergic to or avoiding seeds, omit sesame seeds.
  • If you don't prefer the spiciness, omit the red pepper flakes. It tastes fine without them.
  • For kid-friendly eating, try this with chicken drumsticks. I've done this many times. Rather than broil I like to roast them in a 450 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shall We Try Some Spice Cake?

Spice cake is usually not my first choice for dessert. Just hand me a slice of chocolate fudge cake and I'll probably be happy 90% of the time. However, now and again, I like to venture into less charted baked-goods territory and experience a change of flavor.

I came across this recipe recently and based on all the positive reviews thought I'd give it a go. It requires some very basic substitutions to make it dairy-free/egg-free/nut-free, but otherwise it's really quite easy to make. The recipe is actually written for a double-layer cake with frosting, but I decided to halve the recipe to make a simpler one-layer cake and quartered the frosting portion, adding just a bit more liquid so that I could just drizzle it on my cake. The resulting cake was quite good. It was moist with a good balance between the sweet frosting and the slightly less sweet cake. Raisins were a nice touch, but could easily be omitted if you don't prefer them. I would say this definitely makes a good alternative to your standard chocolate or vanilla cake.

Give this dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free spice cake a try if you're in the mood for something just a little different. I can easily see this working as cupcakes or muffins too (I think I just might try that next time). Just be sure to adjust the baking times accordingly.

RECIPE for Applesauce-Raisin Cake With Caramel Icing from Cooking Light

Recipe Notes:
  • To make this dairy-free, be sure to use dairy-free shortening and margarine (such as Earth Balance) and substitute soymilk for the milk.
  • To make this nut-free, omit pecans.
  • If you're going to try making this in another form such as cupcakes or muffins, use the trusty clean toothpick as your guide to when it's done (I would guess cupcakes/muffins would take about 25 minutes).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Braised Asian-Style Spareribs

Here's a really good dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free sparerib recipe everyone in my family enjoyed. It's sweet and sour Asian-style and fall-off-the-bone tender (yum, yum !). It makes a great addition to a multi-course meal or you can just serve it with some vegetables and rice.

RECIPE for Sweet-And-Sour Spareribs by Bon Appetit

(The recipe is for standard size spareribs, but I like to get my ribs cut smaller cross-wise. This makes the ribs easier to handle and easier to fit on any size or shape serving platter.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One Of The Best Dairy-Free/Egg-Free/Nut-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes I've Found So Far

I have been looking for a good dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free chocolate chip cookie recipe for a long long time. I've tried several recipes, even attempted to create my own, all resulting in cookies that fell below expectations. Either they were too thick and dense, too cakey, too doughy, looked unappetizing, or simply didn't taste like what I thought a chocolate chip cookie ought to taste like.

Well, I can finally relax from all the searching and recipe testing. Here is a recipe for an allergy-friendly chocolate chip cookie that I would gladly make over and over again. It's from the website for Amanda's Own Confections where I also found this great chocolate chip banana muffin recipe. I found the cookies to look and taste most like regular chocolate chip cookies and they also met my requirement for no obscure ingredient substitutions. Overall, a really really good cookie I'd recommend to anyone.

RECIPE for Amanda's Dairy-Free Nut-Free Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies by Amanda's Own Confections

Recipe Notes:

  • This requires a little bit of advanced preparation as the dough needs to sit several hours in the refrigerator to firm up. However, this added inconvenience is well worth it.

  • Watch the baking time if you want softer cookies. I waited until my cookies were golden brown which, for my oven, ended up taking about 5 minutes longer than the baking time specified. At that point my cookies had turned crunchy, but you know what, they still tasted great!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Meatloaf Muffins, Mmmmm

Recently, I've been experimenting with meatloaf. It used to be on my banned food list due to its egg content, but after making this egg-free turkey meatloaf, I started to wonder just how important eggs really were in traditional meatloaf. I figured eggs acted as a binding agent and perhaps enhanced overall texture, but were they absolutely necessary? After all, do hamburgers (arguably a flat form of meatloaf) require eggs? Would the taste, structure, or texture really suffer that much if I simply omitted eggs from the recipe? I decided to test this out on a favorite meatloaf recipe from my family's pre-food-allergy days.

The recipe is one for meatloaf muffins consisting primarily of ground beef, chopped vegetables, and crushed saltine crackers. Since I knew I would be omitting the two eggs called for in the recipe, I rounded up a bit on moisture-contributing ingredients, specifically, the vegetables and ketchup. After all was said and done, I'm quite happy to report that the egg-free end product did not stray too far from the original version. It still tasted good and kept its shape well. Perhaps this was a result of them being small muffin shapes versus a larger loaf which might have just crumbled and fallen apart. Whatever the case may be, I'm just glad that I can enjoy a once-favorite dish again and add another dairy-free, egg-free meatloaf recipe to the family meal rotation.

RECIPE for Diner Meatloaf Muffins by Cooking Light

Recipe Notes:

  • Omit eggs to make this egg-free.

  • If you find you have slightly more chopped vegetables than called for (i.e. rounded cup vs level cup measurements), go ahead and include it to boost the overall moisture content of the meatloaf. An extra 1-2 tablespoons of ketchup will also help in this regard.

  • I found that this recipe also works fine without Worcestershire sauce if you don't have it on hand or are avoiding seafood ingredients.

  • If your arteries can take it, consider making this with higher fat beef for even more flavor.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Something To Munch On

If you're just looking for something to munch on, here's a good dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free snack option that's relatively healthy, light on calories, and popular with both adults and kids. Fruity Booty is just one of the many natural snacks produced by Robert's American Gourmet. This one is puffed rice and corn with a mango and peach flavor. The flavor is actually quite subtle (I can't really distinguish that it's mango or peach), but regardless, it's still pretty good and I feel healthier eating this versus say a standard bag of potato chips. It's light and airy and would make a good replacement for popcorn.

(Robert's American Gourmet also makes Veggie Booty which is also dairy-free, nut-free, and egg-free, however, please note that the packaging for this product states that it was made in a facility that also produces dairy products.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Yummy Yummy Yams

I really like roasted yams, especially the sweetened variety you typically find in a Thanksgiving meal. However, most candied yam or sweet potato recipes are laden with butter and not friendly to those with dairy allergies at all.

I was happy to come across this yummy dairy-free roasted sweet potato/yam recipe which delivers great flavor along with a perfect light touch of sweetness. It not only tastes better, but I believe you'll also feel better about eating this version instead of the super rich and sugary renditions out there. It uses heart-healthy olive oil and also happens to be simple to prepare. I think this makes a great side to accompany any meal and not just those that include a turkey.

RECIPE for Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges by Real Simple

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Dairy-Free Cheese That Is Really Dairy-Free

When I first went looking for a cheese substitute after learning my daughter was allergic to dairy, I made the mistake of purchasing soy cheese. It was a logical choice. We were already using soymilk instead of cow's milk so soy cheese instead of cow's milk cheese seemed like a no-brainer. Then I took a closer look at the ingredients label. There in plain writing was the word "casein". As anyone familiar with dairy allergies knows, casein is one of those offending milk proteins that many with dairy allergies are sensitive to. Horrified (since I had already given a slice to my daughter, fortunately with no obvious adverse consequences) and disappointed, I tossed the package into the garbage. Yet another product off-limits to us, but it was a good lesson learned.

As it turns out, most packaged products with soy cheese contain casein. This is unfortunately true of the soy cheese pizzas out there I was also hoping to try out with my daughter (for a good no-cheese pizza option, see this post). I suspect it's the casein in these soy cheese products that allow them to behave much like regular cheese, in particular its ability to melt nicely.

Anyway, I figured going forward any type of cheese would just have to be avoided altogether, that is, until I found yet more varieties of cheese at Whole Foods. We've since tried a couple of completely dairy-free cheeses, this time vegan ones and therefore devoid of any cow's milk product. The one that my daughter likes best is the Vegan American Flavor Soy Slices from Galaxy Nutritional Foods. I like the fact that these are sold as slices so my daughter doesn't feel any different from her peers who may be eating their brand of yellow sliced cheese (although you need to be careful not to get them mixed up). Note that these are also soy-based, but are clearly marked vegan. From the perspective of one who has always eaten cow's milk cheese, this cheese doesn't taste as great and it doesn't melt well. However, since my daughter has no basis for comparison and is quite happy eating her cheese slices, this ultimately makes me a fan of them too.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hearty Bean & Barley Soup

Over the last several years I've gotten into a routine of making soup at least once a week. This has been driven more by practical reasons than a sudden love for soup. With young children just learning to eat solids, soup is an easy meal solution. You can blend individual portions of the finished soup to whatever consistency your child can eat while the adults in the family can continue to eat the soup as is. Everybody's fed, everybody's happy.

However, practical benefits aside, I have to say that this weekly soup routine has caused me to develop a much greater appreciation for soup than I previously possessed. Soup is warm, comforting, and surprisingly satisfying, often a meal on its own. The following soup is no exception. It's a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free soup comprised of a hearty combination of beans, barley, diced tomatoes, spinach and some other aromatic vegetables. It has good flavor and is quite nutritious as well.

RECIPE for Hearty Bean and Barley Soup by Cooking Light

Recipe Notes:

  • Omit parmesan cheese to make this dairy free

  • To save time, I've skipped the initial step of boiling and straining the first several ingredients. Instead, I will add minced garlic while sauteeing the other aromatic veggies (carrot, onion, celery), add rosemary directly into the soup, and simply omit the crushed red pepper.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Healthy Double Chocolate Muffins

I've never been too keen on using applesauce as an ingredient substitute in my dairy-free and egg-free baked goods since I think the resulting product pales so much in comparison to conventional baked goods. However, with an open mind, I decided to try out this recipe which a friend ripped out of a magazine for me. It's a recipe for dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free chocolate muffins with chocolate chips that not only uses applesauce, but also other ingredients and baking strategies that result in a healthy, lowfat, low-calorie muffin.

Here's my take on the end-product. First, let's just say that if you compare this to one of those store-bought dessert-like chocolate muffins or even to a cupcake, you will probably be disappointed. However, under the categorization of a healthy baked treat, this is pretty good. It uses unrefined oat flour which is heart-healthy and full of fiber, includes very little fat, and each muffin is only about 150 calories. I would say these are a great option if you're looking to make a more nutritious treat for your family (my kids actually really liked it) or perhaps for a health-conscious friend who might appreciate it.

RECIPE for Mariska's Joyful Heart Fudge Chip Muffins from Health Magazine

Recipe Notes:
  • Be sure to replace the almond extract called for in the recipe with more vanilla extract.

  • I found the baking time to be a little bit longer than specified, but it could just be my oven.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Puffed Pastry Twists

Here's a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free pastry/cookie that I just discovered. It's French Twists by Barry's Bakery. They are really good. As the packaging indicates, they are basically layers of puffed pastry in a twisted shape with sweet cinnamony flavor throughout. These would work well as a light dessert, go great with coffee, or in my case, just be a yummy snacking cookie to be eaten at any time of day. I've tried the original and the maple french toast flavors and they are both very good. I primarily buy them for my food-allergic daughter so she can enjoy some sweet snacks every now and then, but I have to admit that I think I'm the one eating most of them everytime I get a bag. They are also only 60 calories apiece, but be forewarned that you will want to eat more than one in one sitting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quick & Tasty Chicken Tagine

If you're in the mood for something just a teensy bit more exotic, try this tasty dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free chicken tagine recipe from Rachel Ray. A tagine, as I recently learned, is traditionally a slow-cooked dish originating from North Africa. I believe this particular dish has Moroccan flavors and it also happens to be one of Rachel Ray's "30-minute-meals", so no slow-cooking going on here (which is fine by me). By using chicken breast, this dish can be cooked in a short amount of time and it holds onto all the aromatic spices quite well.

This is a very flavorful dish that works well with the couscous that is also part of the recipe. It's aromatic with some subtle sweetness coming from the dried fruit ingredients. If you have the spices on hand (cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, tumeric, cinnamon) I'd definitely give this recipe a try. And even if you don't, consider making this at a later point in time. It's fast and it adds variety to the regular meal rotation.

RECIPE for Quick Tagine-Style Chicken by Rachel Ray

Recipe Notes:
  • Don't get too caught up in having all the ingredients called for. I didn't have dried prunes or raisins on hand, and ended up using dried cranberries. I also didn't use any of the condiments. Many recipe reviewers also used different types of dried fruit or didn't use any at all and still enjoyed the dish.

  • Taking a cue from several reviews, I added just a touch more spices to ensure optimal flavor.

  • Vegetarian/Vegan Version: As noted in the recipe, eggplant or tofu may be used in place of the chicken. Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Yesterday, with a couple of overripe bananas sitting on my counter getting browner by the second, I decided that it was a good time to test out a dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free chocolate chip banana muffin recipe I had dug up on one of my online recipe hunts.

I'm happy to say that they turned out fairly well. Worth the relatively short time investment. I liked the fact that they browned well, making them visually appealing. I'd describe the texture as being not very crumbly and not too dense, but not light and fluffy either. I only had two ripe bananas (large ones) versus the three called for in the recipe so my muffins probably turned out slightly drier than the recipe intended, however, I actually like my banana muffins this way. If you like yours moist, definitely use all three bananas.

Overall, I'd say this recipe turns out a good muffin which I would make again. If you happen to have some ripening bananas on your hands that you don't know what to do with, consider making a batch of these to satisfy your breakfast, brunch or general snacking needs.

RECIPE from Amanda's Own Confections

Note: Once you're at the site, you'll need to scroll down a bit to find the recipe. There are also other dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free recipes you might want to try as well.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dairy-Free Egg-Free Mayonnaise

[Post updated 3/17/08]

When you're looking to make an allergy-friendly sandwich, you can either go it dry without any type of spread, use mustard or ... use a dairy-free, egg-free mayonnaise. Yes, that's right, there are dairy-free, egg-free mayonnaise products out there. I didn't realize this until well into my first year of living with food allergies. Granted, if you've had "regular" mayonnaise, this kind of mayonnaise may not totally compare in terms of creaminess, but for the most part, they do an admirable job in place of the real thing. Here are three products I've tried:

Trader Joe's Reduced Fat Mayonnaise - Good for sandwiches, but would not recommend for something like macaroni salad as it's slightly on the thinner side. Least expensive of the bunch. (Note: This is "made on equipment shared with egg". I've not had a problem with this, but it's important to note for those wanting to play it totally safe.)

Vegenaise by Follow Your Heart - I had to go try this after a recommendation from a reader. I'm glad I did. This is probably the best one I've tried so far with good flavor and creaminess. It will probably hold up well in non-sandwich applications too.

Wildwood's Zesty Garlic Aioli - This is not super zesty. A good option if you want to vary up the flavor a bit.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Turkey Meatloaf

Here's a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, wheat-free, and soy-free turkey meatloaf recipe that was really much better than I expected. Let me first qualify this by saying that I did opt to make this with wheat ingredients (substituted panko bread crumbs for the quinoa) so I can't really comment on the recipe exactly as written. However, if you are simply looking to avoid dairy, eggs, and nuts like me, then I would definitely recommend this recipe with the use of dairy-free/egg-free bread crumbs. Since eggs are often used as a binding ingredient in meatloaf, I was happy to find that this version without eggs held up very well. I was able to easily cut bite size pieces for my 3-year-old without it crumbling at all. Overall a great meal option that was easy to make, nutritious, tasty, and popular with the kids.

RECIPE for Turkey Meatloaf by Delicious Living

Recipe Notes:
  • As mentioned above, try this with dairy-free, egg-free bread crumbs (wheated version of the recipe). I made it with panko crumbs and it worked out great. You can probably find these Japanese-style breadcrumbs in the international section of your grocery store.
  • Mix a bit more ketchup (~2 Tbsp) into the meatloaf mix to further boost the flavor

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Super Healthy 17 Bean & Barley Soup

Here's a relatively new product that is being sold at Trader Joe's. It's their 17 Bean & Barley Mix which can be made into a very hearty soup if you follow the recipe printed on the back of the package. I've never been a huge bean person before, but I've discovered that many bean-based dishes also happen to meet my dairy-free, nut-free, and egg-free food requirements. I've also learned over time to appreciate nutrient-rich foods, such as beans, and in general try to eat as healthily as possible.

When it comes to healthy, this bean mixture certainly delivers. One quarter-cup serving includes 13g of fiber, 13g of protein, and 20% of the daily recommended allowance for iron. To make the soup, you will also need vegetable broth, onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper, canned tomatoes, garlic and a variety of spices. It's pretty hearty so it definitely qualifies as one of those soups that is a meal in itself. To make this easier for kids to eat, you can take a portion of the soup and blend it roughly with an immersion blender. This has turned into a great meal solution for me since everyone down to my one-year-old enjoys eating it and I can feel good knowing that we all managed to get something healthy in us for the day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Jamie Oliver's Best Pasta Salad

Dairy-free pasta recipes are often difficult to find. However, in the category of pasta salads, which are frequently made with vinaigrette dressings, you may be able to find several that are completely dairy-free or can be made dairy-free by simply not adding the accompanying cheese topping. Here is a completely dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free pasta salad recipe that is fairly easy to make and has a wonderful blend of flavors. While it tastes best with all ingredients, you can still produce a very respectable and tasty salad if you don't happen to have chives or olives on-hand. I've made it before without olives and thought it still tasted great. This allergy-friendly side dish would work well with any lunch, potluck, picnic or barbecue.

RECIPE for The Best Pasta Salad by Jamie Oliver

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Chili & Cornbread

Here's a simple yet satisfying meal that is very easy to make. Chili is one of those foods that we don't routinely eat, but every now and then I like to interject it into the rotation to change up our usual meal line-up.

This dependable chili recipe is one from Everyday Food. I like their recipes because they tend to have 10 or fewer ingredients and all of them are usually pantry staples or very basic items that are very easy to get. This recipe mixes it up a little by throwing in some cocoa to lend some depth to the overall flavor. I've never put cocoa in anything besides baked goods so this made the recipe sort of fun to make. Cornbread was something I didn't think we'd be able to enjoy with our chili again, but thankfully I was able to find a dairy-free, egg-free (vegan) recipe for cornbread that everybody in the family really likes.

RECIPE for Lighter Beef Chili from Everyday Food

Recipe Notes:
  • This is a very mild chili so it works well with kids. If you prefer more heat, boost up the chili powder or add some variety of hot pepper.
  • The recipe as written is very low on salt, so be sure to add salt according to your taste.
  • To balance out the tartness of the tomatoes, you may want to add 1-2 teaspoons of sugar.

RECIPE for Moist Vegan Cornbread from Recipezaar

Recipe Notes:
  • As the recipe indicates, this is best eaten the day it is made. In my experience, it will last 2 days before it dries out.
  • If you prefer your cornbread less sweet, cut back a little on the maple syrup (~3-4 Tbsp) and make up the difference in soymilk.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Perfect For A Get-Together - Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free (Vegan) Chocolate Bundt Cake

This past year I purchased my first Bundt pan. I've always eyed some of the well-designed pans out there, but resolved not to get one since the pans I found myself drawn to were on the expensive side and I figured if I wanted to make a cake, it didn't have to be domed with a big hole down the middle. Aside from financial considerations, my practical side also reasoned that my already-cluttered kitchen didn't need to be stressed further by the addition of an oddly-shaped, heavy pan. Then one day as I was wandering around Crate & Barrel, I found myself in the baking area where an attractive, flower-shaped Bundt pan lured me over to where it stood on the shelf. Glancing quickly at the price, I was surprised to see it on sale for over 50% off of what I'd seen these pans go for. The next thing I knew, I had snatched one up and was walking out of the store happily toting my new baking toy. So much for my cluttered kitchen (!).

Bundt pans are nice because they make cakes that are already pre-decorated with the design that is molded into the pan. With my new pretty pan in hand, I needed to get busy making some Bundt cake. Finding allergy-friendly recipes that I felt like making was actually quite difficult. However, I was able to track down this rich chocolately version by none other than Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the prolific vegan baker.

RECIPE for Rich Chocolate Bundt Cake by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Recipe Notes:
  • I've made this recipe with whole wheat pastry flour, however, I think I will try it next time with all-purpose flour. While it was still good, I found myself slightly distracted by the whole wheat texture. I think the recipe using the whole wheat pastry flour may actually work well in muffin form.
  • Be sure to replace the almond extract called for in the recipe with extra vanilla extract.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ratatouille Recipe (& Film) Earns Top Marks

In honor of Ratatouille, the movie, winning the Oscar for best animated film yesterday, I thought posting a recipe for ratatouille, the dish, would be fitting. Anyone who has seen the movie will recall at the end when a beautifully plated morsel of ratatouille is served to a harsh food critic. As the plate is presented before this critic, it seems as though you can almost smell the wonderful aromas emanating from the screen. Watching this scene was great except for one thing, I didn't have a clue what ratatouille was so I didn't know what I was supposed to be smelling. So, as I'm sure many people ended up doing after watching the movie, I immediately set out to discover what ratatouille was. Here's what I found:

Ratatouille is a classic French Provençal vegetable stew which can be served either as an appetizer, a side dish or a meal on its own. According to Wikipedia, "Ratatouille comes from "touiller," which means to toss food. ... It was originally a poor farmer's dish, prepared in the summer with fresh summer vegetables. The original Ratatouille Niçoise used only courgettes (zucchini), tomatoes, green and red peppers (bell peppers), onion, and garlic. The dish known today as ratatouille adds aubergine (eggplant) to that mixture."

Most importantly, however, given that I'm writing about this on this blog, is that ratatouille, in its basic form, is dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free. If you like eggplant, you will probably like ratatouille. Below is a well-reviewed ratatouille recipe from Epicurious that is intended to be a meal on its own. In this version, the vegetables are roasted in stages and then tossed with cooked penne pasta. I made this recently and thought it was quite good despite the fact that I wasn't using peak summer vegetables or fresh herbs. I imagine this would be even better if I did use the freshest of ingredients. I've also included a link to a basic recipe for ratatouille by Everyday Food. I haven't tried this one yet, but it looks simple and promising. Please let me know how it is if you decide to make it.

RECIPE: Ratatouille with Penne* from Epicurious

*Recipe Note: To make this dairy-free, simply omit the grated cheese accompaniment.

RECIPE: Ratatouille from Everyday Food

Friday, February 22, 2008

Giada's One Pot Chicken Stew

I'm a recent Giada De Laurentiis fan. You may be able to tell given that this is my third Giada (yes, we're on a first name basis now) recipe post in a short amount of time. I've never really paid much attention to her before because she specializes in Italian cooking and when I think of Italian food I think of cheese. However, in my continuous search for flavorful, allergy-friendly meals to cook, I've actually found that she does have some no cheese, non-dairy recipes (or cheese-optional recipes) and they have all been consistently good.

Here's another one of those recipes I've tried. It's great because it's hearty, nutritious, and you can cook it all in one pot. Perfect for a cold day or when you just want some warm, comforting food.

RECIPE by Giada De Laurentiis

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Trio Of 5-Star Simple Pot Roast Recipes

I had never made a pot roast until after I found out my daughter had food allergies. I've just never been too keen on wrestling with large unwieldy slabs of meat in a pot. However, in my search for dairy free, nut free, and egg free entrees, I kept running across pot roast recipes that were perfectly allergen free exactly the way they were written, no substitutions required whatsoever. Given that these are precisely the kinds of recipes I pounce on and the fact that just reading through the recipes made me hungry, I figured I had to give pot roast a try.

Well, after making three different kinds of pot roasts and enjoying all three, pot roast has officially made it onto the meal rotation. Here are the three pot roast recipes I've tried. All of them are 5-star-reviewed (as of this post), all delicious, and all easy to make. Each has a distinct flavor, so depending on your mood you can choose the one you feel like eating.

RECIPE: Pot Roast With Vegetables by Tyler Florence
Classic beef stew flavors that can't go wrong. Includes tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Use a 14oz can of crushed tomatoes as the recipe does not specify size.

RECIPE: Red Wine Pot Roast With Honey and Thyme by Dave Lieberman
I love the flavor of the red wine combined with the slight sweetness of the honey.

RECIPE: Stracoto With Porcini Mushrooms by Giada De Laurentiis
A nice deep, rich flavor. The aroma of porcini mushrooms and red wine as this cooks is amazing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Dairy-Free, No Cheese Pizza That Holds Its Own Against Traditional Pizza Pies

Given that cheese is a defining characteristic of pizza, anything that calls itself a pizza but doesn't have any cheese on it really has to excel on another defining characteristic of pizza - the toppings - in order to justify its place among the pizza ranks.

In the frozen pizza aisle at the grocery store I found one such cheese-less pizza that compares quite well against its cheese-laden counterparts. Amy's Roasted Vegetable No Cheese Pizza is a tasty pizza that I would seriously consider swapping a slice of traditional pizza for. The roasted vegetable topping has a subtley sweet roasted flavor that creates a nice aroma and is pleasing to the taste buds. I usually pick one of these up for my daughter whenever we want to have a pizza night and inevitably, I will want a slice of her pizza along with my other cheesy slices.

A side note on dairy-free pizzas: You may think that soy cheese pizzas are dairy-free, but I've found that soy cheese pizzas are typically not safe for those suffering from dairy allergies. Soy cheese pizzas often contain the milk protein casein which may not be safe for many people with dairy allergies. So you're better off just getting a no-cheese version like this one. No cheese, no worries.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Very Best Dairy-Free/Egg-Free/Nut-Free Chocolate Cupcake Recipe I've Found So Far

As the title suggests, this is my favorite dairy, egg, and nut-free chocolate cupcake recipe. I've tried many other recipes and this one is superior in terms of taste and cake texture. I use it all the time for birthday parties or whenever the mood for chocolate cake arises. It's from the popular cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World written by well-known vegan cooks Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Everytime I've made this people can't distinguish it from "normal" cupcakes. And you know what makes this even better? It's super simple to make.

Following is the recipe along with a recipe for vanilla frosting which is also by the same authors:

RECIPE for Basic (Vegan) Chocolate Cupcakes

RECIPE for Vegan Fluffy "Buttercream" Frosting

Recipe Note:

For the cupcakes, be sure to add another 1/2 tsp of vanilla where the recipe calls for almond extract.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dairy-Free/Egg-Free/Nut-Free Baking - Simple Substitutions Only Please!

Yummy desserts can be hard to come by when you have a dairy, egg, and nut allergy. When I found out my daughter was allergic to these foods, I (and my serious sweet tooth) was quite dismayed at what this meant in regard to sweet treats for the household. I began a frantic recipe search for allergy-safe cookies, cakes, muffins, ... anything that would hit that sweet spot yet be safe for my daughter to occasionally enjoy as well.

As I mentioned in my very first post, I'm not a big fan of certain allergy-friendly substitutions, especially those that result in an end product that barely resembles the "real" version of the dessert or those where I end up feeling like a scientist in a chem lab mixing up concoctions to mimic common baking ingredients. Having made many traditional desserts before, I simply did not enjoy shifting to a process of shopping for uncommon ingredients (what is xanthan gum anyway?) and then making significant alterations and substitutions to favorite recipes only to end up with something that was less than satisfying. But that's just me. If other people have the ambition and patience to experiment with and combine various non-traditional ingredients into a dessert that ends up being truly delicious, believe me, I would be one of the first people in line to get it.

Having said all this, I do recognize that without dairy products or eggs, baking can be a daunting exercise and that some substitutions using non-traditional ingredients are required. So what kinds of ingredients work for me? I like ingredients that are fairly straightforward in terms of what they're substituting for. For example, I use dairy-free margarine (Earth Balance) or canola oil instead of butter and soy milk instead of cow's milk. I try to stay away from recipes where real eggs are critical (think custard) and instead lean towards recipes where eggs are used primarily for their leavening properties, in which case baking soda and baking powder together with vinegar seem to do the trick. For chocolate, it's often difficult to find any that is not manufactured on the same equipment as nuts. You could use carob, but for that real chocolatey taste, I've found two sources that are safe - Enjoy Life's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and Scharffen Berger's 9.7oz Home Baking Bars (see nutritional info here).

But can you bake anything good with only simplistic substitutions? Surprisingly, yes. I have to say that I am very grateful for all those creative vegan bakers out there. With the exception of those that include nuts, vegan recipes are a great resource when it comes to dairy, egg, and nut-free baking. Many of these recipes don't involve obscure ingredients either. I've tried several and, despite my doubts, they surprisingly passed my tastiness threshold. I will be posting these recipes on this blog and hopefully more as I continue to discover them.

So after much initial disappointment about not being able to bake goodies for my daughter to eat, I'm quite relieved and thrilled that I can once again incorporate some sweet treats into our lives that not only my daughter can enjoy, but my sweet tooth as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chinese Spareribs 101 (or rather 1,2,3,4,5)

Thank goodness meat is not off limits to those on dairy, nut, and egg-free diets. Here is one meat dish we're glad is still accessible to us. It's a very basic and classic recipe for Chinese style spareribs that is both easy to make and delicious.

1•2•3•4•5 Chinese Spareribs

Serves: 4-6 as part of a multicourse meal

2 lbs pork spareribs (cut crosswise into roughly 1 inch pieces and trimmed of excess fat)
1 Tbsp rice wine
2 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp soy sauce
5 Tbsp water

In a 3-4 quart saucepan, add ribs and enough water to more than cover the ribs. Bring water to a boil. Remove sludge that rises to the top as water is boiling. Remove pan from heat and drain ribs. (I sometimes skip this "cleaning" step if I don't have time or if the riblets are very small, but I think it makes for a neater presentation later.)

In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients. Add ribs back into pan and cover with the sauce mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 45-60 minutes*, stirring occasionally. If sauce begins to dry up before ribs are tender, add a little water. Ribs are done when meat is tender and sauce clings to ribs.

* Note - Depending on the thickness and size of your ribs, simmering time can fluctuate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Hot Bowl of Udon in Minutes

Living with food allergies means that you are preparing almost every meal from scratch. Conveniences like outsourcing pre-prepared foods from grocery stores or getting take-out from restaurants are rare. The continuous daily thought process behind meal planning can be quite tiring. So when you come across an allergy-safe packaged food item that also happens to be tasty, reasonably healthy, and quick to prepare, it's quite thrilling.

Annie Chun's Udon Noodle Soup bowl has become for us a great option for a quick, easy meal. It's microwaveable and literally takes about 3 minutes to prepare from start to finish (the packaging says 2 minutes, but you still need to do some minor preparations before putting it in the microwave for 2 minutes). My food allergic daughter really enjoys this noodle soup as does the rest of the family. To supplement the meal, we often add chunks of tofu and/or pre-cooked vegetables into the soup.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Have Milk, Need (Healthy) Cereal

With the widespread availability of non-dairy milks these days, cereal is a basic food product that those with dairy allergies can now keep in their diets. However, if you are also allergic to nuts, the selection of healthier cereals to chose from suddenly dwindles. (By healthier cereals, I mean those that do not contain a high sugar content, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors/flavors, or partially hydrogenated oils. There are actually quite a few allergen-free cereals that contain these ingredients, but keeping the goal of a nutritious diet in mind, I will not be looking at those.)

In the healthy cereal realm, there are quite a few cereals that contain nuts and sometimes dairy ingredients such as yogurt. What used to be a simple task of picking out a box of cereal sometimes becomes a drawn out exercise of going down the entire cereal aisle reading and re-reading labels. What makes it a bit more cumbersome is that a certain variety of one brand's cereal may contain unsafe ingredients, while a similarly named cereal in another brand does not. This is especially true with granola-based cereals. However, if you're patient, you will find that there are actually several healthier, allergy-friendly cereal options out there. Here are a few that our family commonly eats:

Kid-Friendly Cereals

  • Cheerios - A classic. I think everybody knows what these are.
  • Joe's O's by Trader Joes- Trader Joe's version of Cheerios.
  • Clifford Crunch by Cascadian Farm - An organic whole grain cereal that is fortified with calcium, iron, and a bunch of vitamins. Also contains a decent amount of fiber (5g) and has a relatively low sugar content compared to other kid cereals.
  • Gorilla Munch by EnviroKidz - An organic cereal made from corn meal. I think it's supposed to be a much healthier version of Cap'n Crunch.
  • Shredded Spoonfuls by Barbara's Bakery - A multigrain, lightly sweet cereal that looks like Chex.

Other (even healthier) Cereals

  • Flax Plus by Nature's Path - An organic multibran cereal that boasts 7g fiber and 500mg omega-3. If you are sensitive to seeds as well as nuts, you may want to avoid this as this contains flaxseed.
  • Kashi GO LEAN by Kashi - 13g protein and 10g fiber. Also note here that the seven whole grains that Kashi puts into most of their products contains sesame, so if you are sensitive to seeds, avoid this one too. If you are ok with sesame, many of Kashi's other cereals are dairy, nut and egg-free as well.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Go-To Beef Stew Recipe

Here is a very hearty, very satisfying beef stew recipe that is also fairly nutritious. You can alter the ingredient list a bit according to your taste. I like to reduce or omit the potatoes in favor of more carrots. I've also omitted the pearl onions if I didn't have them available.

RECIPE from Cooking Light

Friday, February 1, 2008

Lentil Soup Can Actually Be Good
(and it's good for you too)

I would never have considered myself a lentil person before. Somehow I had formed an impression that they were tasteless, mealy fare. While watching the Food Network one day, I saw Giada De Laurentiis whip up this lentil soup. It looked simple, fresh, and surprisingly good so I thought I'd give it a try. I followed the recipe, excluding only the parmesan cheese. My entire family, kids and all, loved it. It's now become a staple in our family. Serve it with some nice crusty fresh bread and you have a nice light meal.

Nutritional Notes:
Lentils pack quite a nutritional punch. They are rich in dietary fiber, protein and iron. And they contain more folic acid than any other unfortified food - a one cup serving contains 90% of the recommended daily allowance!

RECIPE by Giada De Laurentiis

Allergy-Friendly Tweaks & Other Recipe Notes:

  • Dairy-Free Tweak: Omit parmesan cheese
  • Vegetarian/Vegan Tweak: Replace chicken broth with vegetable broth
  • For a slightly thicker consistency, puree roughly 1/4 of the soup prior to adding the elbow pasta
  • Try this soup using French green lentils (pictured above) if you can find them since they don't break apart as easily, otherwise brown lentils work out fine

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In Search of Good Food

Cooking and finding foods to eat that avoid food allergies can be a burdensome task. Studying labels, substituting ingredients, wrestling over whether to buy something “made on shared equipment with” versus “made in a facility that also processes” x, y, or z become the norm in day-to-day living.

As a parent of an allergic child, I have done a fair amount of searching for flavorful, healthy foods the entire family can enjoy and yet are safe for my allergic daughter to eat. For us, it's important that our daughter feel free to eat anything at the table along with the rest of the family rather than be continually reminded of her allergies with separate, specially prepared "safe" dishes. Aside from wanting her to feel like a regular member of the family, this is really the most practical solution for mealtimes. (Of course this doesn't mean we don't have some "unsafe" foods now and then, but we try to keep those times to a minimum.)

I was disappointed when my initial foray into the food allergy world led me to specialized cookbooks or websites with recipes involving substitutions that didn’t really appeal to me. I didn’t want to make pasta alfredo using some sort of floury, cornstarchy mixture to simulate creamy alfredo sauce. Nor did I feel like mixing up some concoction to mimic eggs in my baked goods. I decided that as much as reasonably possible, I wanted to eat food as it was originally intended to be eaten, not merely a weak imitation of the real version. For me, this meant steering clear of any foods intended to resemble cheesy pasta dishes or desserts where eggs were a must. I wanted more ‘normal’ recipes any non-allergic person might make that also happened to not have the foods I was trying to avoid. I started doing a lot of searches on recipe sites and cookbooks, cherry-picking those recipes that did not include any offending ingredients or where simple substitutions could be made without grossly altering the final result of the dish (for example, I will routinely substitute olive or vegetable oil when butter is called for or soy milk in place of cow’s milk). As I started to find several recipes that fit the bill, the burden of procuring and preparing food around food allergies eased a bit. Even celebrity chef recipes were not off limits!

Aside from recipes, I am also continuously on the lookout for new food items in grocery stores that are safe or have safe ingredients. An unexpected benefit of living with food allergies has been discovering foods that we may never have tried and now enjoy had we not had food allergies to deal with. I am also happy to find that in today’s more allergy-conscious world, there seems to be a growing number of products that are allergen-free.

I’m always excited to discover these new recipes and foods for my family to try and hope others who face similar food allergy challenges would benefit from this information and be able to add to their own food repertoires. I will be recording my recipe and food finds here as well as other general thoughts and information about living with food allergies. The recipes and foods recorded here will all be dairy, nut, and egg-free, however, since I routinely come across those that also happen to be gluten-free or vegan, I will try to note those as well when applicable.

Here’s to a less burdensome, more enjoyable eating experience!