Episode 5: Granola Bars (Wheat-, Dairy-, and Soy-Free)

In the length of time I have not posted any new recipes, I’ve discovered that I also cannot eat wheat, tapioca, and quite a few other things. So I’ve been modifying quite a few recipes, and searching for already existing recipes I can use. Here is one that my kids love. I can’t eat these very often because oats are on my ‘eat only infrequently’ list, but they’re a handy snack to have for rushed mornings and crazy trips where I really need to have something to feed the kids. And my mother-in-law is allergic to wheat and asked me for the recipe after I gave her a few of these, so here it is! 🙂

Ingredients

  • 3c rolled oats
  • 3/4c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2c ground flax seeds
  • 3/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1c almond flour
  • 3/4c golden raisins
  • 3/4c Craisins
  • 1c pecans or walnuts
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 1/2c honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2c melted coconut oil
  • 2tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. Line a bar pan (or 9”x13” pan if you do not have a bar pan) with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Make a hole in the center of the mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix well.
  4. Evenly distribute the mixture into the pan and pat it down firmly, making sure that it is spread evenly to the edges.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the bars just begin to brown at the edges.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then remove carefully using parchment paper. Cut into bars immediately or they may become too hard to cut once cool.
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Episode 4: Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookies

My whole family has had the flu, to varying degrees, over the past week. We even had to rush one person to the ER for dehydration…. (They aren’t kidding when they say to drink lots of fluids when you are sick, kids, so pay attention and drink up!) ….Ok, just so you don’t think I’m a bad mom, it was my husband. Does that make me a bad wife? Perhaps, but I would have thought that he would have remembered to drink something. Unfortunately, the flu kind of makes your brain foggy and so things like staying in bed for eighteen hours, sweating a fever and chills off with the electric blanket on high, make sense to you — at the time. And then you find yourself in your wife’s arms on the kitchen floor (and thank goodness I’d come home for a quick pitstop in the middle of a busy day and was in just the right place to catch him when he blacked out!).

The kids lucked out and had less severe symptoms than either of us grown-up people. Perhaps the juvenile flu shots were more effective than the adult ones this year? That, and the miracle of nursing: momma’s milk contains antibodies from her own immune system, and that’s probably why the baby was the least sick of any of us. As for the older fellow, we’ll just be thankful he seems to have finally completely recovered from the Lyme Disease he had four years ago, as that interfered with his immune system and both of the previous times he’s had the flu his fever spiked at 106.5°F — trust me, that’s enough to chill any parent’s heart to the core.

Anyway, apparently when I’m that sick, I crave high-energy, high-fat foods. I was seriously after anything we had that fit those requirements, and that’s not an awful lot at the moment. This, for some reason, meant that I found myself in the kitchen baking a batch of cookies when my fever was up to 103.7°F … oh, wait, the reason was that when you’re dairy and soy intolerant you can’t just send a healthier member of the family off to the grocery store and tell them to get you cookies. Right. So there I was, baking, and the cookies disappeared in a day, so then I baked more. That second batch is fast on its way to disappearing, too, so I must not be the only person who thinks they’re pretty good. They’ve got a nice crispy shell and a soft, chewy center, and this is how I did it:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I’m using a half and half mix of unbleached all purpose flour and whole wheat white flour at the moment.)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening (For a non-dairy, non-soy cookie I used Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Butter Flavor Shortening.)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (You already know my views on vanillin, so don’t go there.)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chunks (Keeping in mind the non-dairy, non-soy requirements of my family, I used a package of Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks. Yes, the package comes out to about two cups.)
  • 2 cups walnuts (You can chop these if you want, but I did not take the extra time to do so and the cookies turned out fine.)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Soften the shortening in the microwave, about 20-30 second should do it but keep in mind that every microwave is different.
  4. In a large bowl, cream shortening, water, vanilla, and both sugars.
  5. Add eggs to shortening mixture and mix well.
  6. Add in flour mixture in 2-3 sections, mixing well after each section.
  7. Stir in chocolate chunks and walnuts.
  8. Drop onto cookie sheet by rounded tablespoon-fulls and bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown.
  9. Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

And this is the chewy, chocolatey deliciousness you wind up with:

Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookies, fresh from the oven!

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Episode 3: Decadent Truffle Frosting

Tonight, my friends, I have created a thing of beauty.  A thing of absolute beauty.

I had no intentions to, of course.  I simply started following a recipe.  A recipe of which I have made the cupcakes several times, but have never made the frosting.  I used up the last of my previous batch of experimental frosting and set out to try the frosting that came as part of the cupcake recipe.   After all, I still had cupcakes to frost!

I was not overly impressed with the orange frosting (I have the feeling I would have liked it better made with a coconutty spread instead of the strongly flavored non-dairy/non-soy margarine I had to use, knowing that one of the people I’m going to share these with tomorrow is allergic to coconut), and the chocolate frosting did not turn out quite right for me.  Instead, I wound up with:

Decadent Truffle Frosting

Ingredients (Please note amounts may not be exact as I am still finalizing this recipe; I will update it with final measurements as soon as possible, but this was too good to wait to share!):

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance Non-Soy Buttery Margarine
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I am trying out different varieties and wound up using SaCo Premium Cocoa, which is half Dutch processed and half natural.)
  • 2 tablespoons original almond milk
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. Cream your margarine in a small-to-medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add in your cocoa powder and almond milk, mixing until creamy.
  3. Mix in your confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at a time.

Note:  The measurements on the margarine and cocoa powder are set – it is exactly how much confectioners’ sugar and almond milk I used I am not entirely certain of, so feel free to adjust as necessary to get your frosting to turn out to the right consistency.

This frosting is amazing – it tastes just like the truffles you can find at Costco at holiday time – and it will be my go-to recipe for chocolate frosting from now on, so it shouldn’t be long before I can post a finalized recipe for you.  🙂

Original recipe found at: http://www.godairyfree.org/recipes/dairy-free-desserts/chocolate-orange-halloween-cupcakes

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Episode 2: Cream Cheese Mints

Christmas has come and gone, four times!, for my family.  Now that we’re all done with the giving and receiving, I thought I would share a Christmas gift with you: an unbelievably delicious mint recipe.  This is what I made to give to each family that we saw at the big Christmas party we went to on Friday.  It does contain dairy (I had set my heart on making these before I realized that dairy was such a big problem for my family, and, well, I’m kind of stubborn, so I made these anyway).  It is soy-free, though, and it was a huge hit, so it would be a great gift to make for anyone with no dairy sensitivities or even an innovative item to take to a dinner party or potluck.

I do intend to work up a non-dairy/non-soy mint recipe eventually, so you could just wait for that instead, and as long as you don’t mention that you had thought of making “cream cheese mints”, no one will know the difference!

Cream Cheese Mints

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil, depending on how strong you want your mints (And, yes, I do mean the peppermint oil that you can find in aromatherapy and lip-balm-making sections of stores. Just read the label or ask a store associate to ensure you are getting an edible type of oil.)
  • 8 cups of confectioners’ sugar
  • Food coloring (optional)

Directions

  1. Put cream cheese in microwave on high for 10 second intervals until mostly softened (it can help to break the cream cheese into chunks first as it will be more likely to become softened through to the center without cooking around the edges in smaller pieces).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, blend cream cheese, peppermint oil, and food coloring (if using) until well mixed.
    1. You can vary the amount of peppermint oil you used based on how much mint flavor you like.  Buttermint strength would be about 1/4 of a teaspoon, but what I did was I made several colors and had each color be a different strength of mint, ranging from 1/8-1/2 teaspoon of peppermint oil – and they all tasted great.
    2. As for food coloring, remember you will be mixing in a lot of confectioners’ sugar, so if you want a strongly colored mint you will need to use perhaps a bit more food coloring than you think you will, and then some again.
  3. Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar.  You will want to mix it in by the cup, and if you are using a hand-mixer, there will come a point where even the strongest motor may not be able to handle this without the special mixing technique I explain for you below.  Be prepared to mix the last few cups in either with a spoon or by getting your hands dirty, as it is more than possible to kill the motor in your hand-mixer (honest confession here: I may have killed the motor on my more powerful hand-mixer before I figured out this technique; I still need to test it and see if the motor has recovered or if I will need to add a new hand-mixer to my birthday wishlist…).
  4. Spread some confectioners’ sugar on a flat surface (I found a pastry mat to be ideal for this) and some on your hands, too!  Grab a small handful of the cream cheese mixture and roll it into a ball in your hands, then turn that into a thick cylinder and place that on your working surface, rolling it back and forth until it becomes a thin rope.  Push it off to the side (or, more ergonomically, to the top) and use a thin knife to slice it into small sections.  Adjust how you slice it up depending on whether you want these to be small nuggets like buttermints, or thin slices.  You can also use a small stamp or a fork to create patterns on the sections.  I found it wise to prepare and slice several ropes up, pushing them to the top of my pastry mat, and let them begin to dry a little before squishing them with a fork.
  5. Line cookie sheets, cooling racks, bar pans, or whatever type of flat surfaces you might have available with waxed paper and heavily dust with confectioners’ sugar. Transfer your prepared mints to these to finish drying.  If you slice your mints small enough, they could be ready to package in as soon as 12 hours, but I would suggest allowing even the thinnest mints 24 hours if possible.  Thicker mints will take longer to become completely dry, perhaps up to 48 or even 72 hours.  Be sure to allow room for the air to circulate around these mints or they will take longer to dry!
  6. Mints should keep for several weeks in an air-tight container.  No need to refrigerate, though refrigerating will not hurt them.

Alright, what is that super-secret blender technique that will keep your motor alive (if done properly)?  For a recipe that gets as thick as this one, you will want to add in your dry ingredients in small batches.  Each time you dump more of the dry ingredients (confectioners’ sugar for this recipe) onto the top of your wet mixture, you will want to just barely dip the spinning part of your blender into the top.  Just get through the dry ingredients and get barely enough of the wet mixture for your dry ingredients to begin mixing in a bit.  This will form weird lumps and balls that you can then mix into the wet mixture by moving your hand-mixer around the edges of your mixing bowl, where the ingredients will be thinnest.  Once it is fairly uniformly mixed around the edges, take quick spins across the center of the bowl to finish mixing this batch of ingredients.  Be careful not to dip your mixer too deep for too long or any extra thick mixture that you are working with could burn out your motor!  Repeat these steps as necessary to mix in the required amount of dry ingredients.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and your newfound hand-mixer expertise!  See you next time, for another exciting episode (of some sort)!

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Episode 1: Welcome to my world — have some brownies!

Hello, Dear Readers!

Today we will cover a few topics which are sure to titillate your imaginations:

  • Who I am.
  • Why I’m here.
  • What I hope to accomplish.
  • And, if you make it through all of that, a recipe for the best brownies I have ever tasted.

So, who am I?  You can call me Liza.  I’m a 30-something writer, blogger, and all around creative person who is returning to the world of public blogging after a lengthy absence (though that might be for the better — the musings of my teenage self left something to be desired, and my 20-something self hadn’t found a blogging niche yet so the things she talked about probably weren’t that interesting to anyone other than her).

Why am I here?  I want to share information on living without dairy or soy, and maybe share some information and pictures of the kiddos with friends and family — wait, did I forget to mention that? Not only do I have a collection of furkids (and a tortoise!), I also have two completely human children to call my own.

What do I hope to accomplish?  I hope to make the transition to the dairy- and soy-free lifestyle easier for other people who have discovered food sensitivities.  I also plan to share random other tips and tricks that I run across or come up with myself.

And finally, the brownies.  I know this is the part you were waiting for.

Dairy-free, Soy-free Brownies (can also be made nut-free by excluding the nuts).  Recipe adapted from Carroll Pellegrinelli’s Ultimate Brownies.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ozs chocolate (For a non-dairy, non-soy brownie, I suggest using Bakers 100% Cocoa Baking Chocolate or other comparable 100% cocoa mass chocolate, but be sure to check the ingredients list!)
  • 3/4 c coconut oil (Surprisingly, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and so it’s usually sold in glass jars in the healthfood/natural foods section of the store. I used Spectrum Organic Coconut Oil, refined for Medium High Heat.  This type has less of a coconut flavor and you can’t even tell it’s there in the finished recipe, which will be a relief if you have family members who aren’t so fond of anything labeled “coconut”.)
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 c granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla (Be sure to use actual vanilla extract, as the artificial flavoring called vanillin doesn’t add nearly the same pizzaz to your recipes.)
  • 1.5 c flour (The first batch of these brownies I made using unbleached all-purpose flour and they turned out very nicely; the second and third batches I used a “white whole wheat” flour and they turned out almost just as nicely, so if you are looking to sneak a little extra fiber into your diet, sneak away.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2.5 c chopped walnuts.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, or 325°F for glass or dark metal pans.  Grease a 9″x13″ pan.  (Here is a place to be very careful if you are just entering the no-soy world — most vegetable shortenings, vegetable oils, and non-stick cooking sprays have soy in them, and for the cooking sprays you have to be extra careful as they will often have some sort of soy propellant even if they are labeled as “canola” or another type of oil!)
  2. Chop your walnuts and put them in a shallow baking pan or a cookie sheet with edges.  Bake (during the preheat is ok) for about 5 minutes — use your nose!  If they smell done before the 5 minutes are up, go a head and take them out early.  Remember, these will cook later on in the recipe so they do not need to be all the way toasted, but if you feel they are not toasted enough it is ok to bake them for a little bit longer.
  3. Melt your chocolate and coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.
  4. Beat your eggs, sugar, and vanilla at high-speed for 10 minutes.  If you have a stand mixer, this is a nice place to use it (so I hear, but as I do not have one I can only imagine the luxury that would provide!).  You can also do this part of your mixing in a food processor, but unless you have a professional grade processor you will need to pour the egg mixture back into a mixing bowl for the next part.  If you’re using a regular old hand mixer, be smart and set it up next to the stove so you can beat away and still stir your chocolate mixture at the same time!
  5. Add in your chocolate mixture, flour, and salt and blend until just mixed.
  6. Stir in your nuts.
  7. Pour into prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes, being careful not to over bake.
  9. Cool completely before cutting — these brownies are super rich, so I would suggest cutting them into 1″ or 1.5″ squares max.  (And this is coming from a life-long baked-good-aholic, so consider yourself forewarned.)

You can frost these if you want to, but you honestly do not need to.  These will be the richest, most delicious brownies you have ever tasted — and if not, I want the recipe for the even better brownies you’ve had because I won’t believe it until I bake and taste those!!!

If you don’t plan to (or don’t want to!) eat all of these right away, they freeze very well.  Just cut them up and place them in an airtight bag or container, then freeze.  When you’re ready to defrost them either leave them out for an hour or so, place them in a lunchbox and they’ll be ready to eat by lunchtime, or pop into the microwave for 20-30 seconds on high for instant chocolately-gooey goodness!

I don’t have a picture of these brownies currently as I hadn’t been planning to turn them into a blog post the last time I baked them, but I took them to one of my son’s events and had lots of requests for second helpings and a request for the recipe (one request is pretty good when there are only three adults outside of your own family there, right?).  I may come back and add a picture in the future if I remember to do so, but for now you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that these brownies look as good as they taste!

Stay tuned for The Next Exciting Episode!  I have no idea what we will discuss, so at the moment it’s just as exciting for me as it is for you.

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