Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On to the next chapter

Perhaps you have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here at No Whey Baby.  Truth be told, it is because I have been slowly re-introducing dairy into my diet, and after about 6 weeks with no negative reactions on Warren's part, my dairy-free diet is officially over.  I thought this would feel different, that I would be headed straight to Trader Joe's to load up on all my favorite ice creams and cheeses.  On the contrary, I am taking it a step at a time.  The thought of drinking a glass of milk is completely unappealing and I am sticking to almond or coconut milk for my lattes; we went out for pizza to celebrate the other night and while I did enjoy it, the flavor seemed a bit dull - so many of the foods I have come to rely on over the past few months are so much cleaner, brighter, and more flavorful than mozzarella cheese.  Our eating habits have changed for the better, and I hope to keep some of those changes for the long term.

By far the biggest relief has been eating away from home.  About a six weeks ago, for my first big experiment, we went to Cafe Delle Stelle, my favorite little Italian place in Walnut Creek.  I chose something non-cheesy, but for the first time in seven months I didn't cross-examine the waiter before placing my order.  After rapturously eating my linguine with shrimp and savoring a glass of Montepulciano, our waiter asked if we would like to see the dessert menu.  Justin's eyes met mine across the table, and not wanting our carefree dining experience to end, we said yes.  Although I hadn't been planning on testing the waters quite so much, the biscotti with zabaglione sounded too good to pass up.  We were having too much fun to stop now, so I also ordered a coffee with - gulp - cream!  Dreamily, I let each bite melt on my tongue.  As good as we ate on our dairy-free diet, there is still nothing that compares to a rich pudding made with real cream.  I felt just a twinge of guilt when we got back to my mom's to pick up the kids, but Warren was fine the next day, and the day after.  I avoided dairy for the most part until Thanksgiving, trying bits here and there, and then officially ended the diet on a very thankful Thanksgiving Day.  Mashed potatoes and buttery dinner rolls were never appreciated so much.

While I am so glad that this trial didn't last long (I was expecting at least a year), I am thankful for all that the experience has taught me.  I have gained so much compassion for families that have to deal with food allergies, and I hope that I will be able to use my knowledge to help other parents facing this challenge.

Thank you to everyone who has read my stories and encouraged my writing.  At the moment I am thinking about starting another cooking blog, but that will probably wait until after the holidays.  Until then, I hope you continue to find these recipes useful and inspiring.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich

You are looking at a picture of one of the tastiest things I have ever made, the Pork Meatball Banh Mi sandwich from Bon Appétit.  As you can see from the photograph, I was barely able to stop eating it long enough to get my camera.  Words fail me when I try to describe it: a little spicy, a little sweet, a perfect blend of comfort food and exotic flair.  Three weeks later, Isaac is still talking about the meatballs (I simply left the hot sauce out of his portion).  Plus, this recipe is dairy-free and soy-free with no modification!

If you had asked me after my first experience with Vietnamese food, I would have said, "Never again!"  My husband got hooked on the cuisine while working in the financial district in San Francisco, and knowing how much I like to try new things, he was eager to share it with me.  Unfortunately, I was eight weeks pregnant and completely nauseated when he took me to a restaurant that shall remain nameless in a Concord strip mall.  Lesson number one: don't try a new Vietnamese restaurant without a recommendation.  Lesson number two: don't take your queasy wife anywhere that smells like fish sauce.  Needless to say I couldn't keep down the pho with mystery meat that was brought to the flourescent-lit table.

Five months and a lot of convincing later, I found myself walking into Pho 84, a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant near my doctor's office in downtown Oakland.  Soon I was enchanted by the aroma of grilled meats, pickled vegetables, and warm curry.  In many ways it is similar to Thai food, but because of the French colonial influence, it is richer and a bit more sophisticated.  I fell in love, and we made a tradition of  celebrating each healthy checkup with a meal at Pho 84.  Now I can scarcely walk into a doctor's office without drooling at the thought of it.  So drop whatever dinner plans you have for tonight and make some banh mi.  I promise you'll be glad you did!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Banana Bread

Could anything be lovelier than the comforting scent of warm, soft banana bread wafting through the house on a crisp fall morning?  My love affair with banana bread is a recent one, as my mother, not being much of a breakfast pastry eater, rarely made it.  It fell into a broad category of her dislikes that I was deprived of during childhood, along with coconut, bread pudding, and nuts or dried fruit invading a baked good in any form.  "Why would you ever put in nuts when you could put in chocolate chips?" she would ask, without a hint of irony in her voice.  As I discovered when I was turned loose in my own kitchen, I am quite, even especially, fond of all these things and I have done my best to make up for lost time.

After trying several recipes for banana bread, I found that my own version is in fact my favorite.  It uses four bananas rather than the standard three, which keeps it wonderfully moist and sweet enough with less sugar.  You may use any milk alternative you like, but I think coconut makes the most natural partner for bananas.  And trust my mother on this one: gooey chocolate chips make a much more beguiling accent than walnuts.  Your morning coffee just found a new best friend.

*Ingredient note: You may have noticed that most of my baking recipes call for white whole wheat flour.  It is made from a lighter variety of wheat, so while its nutritional profile is the same as traditional whole wheat, its color and flavor are milder.  I can't resist adding it to recipes like this because it adds some nutrition without sacrificing flavor.  If unavailable, you can substitute regular whole wheat flour or all purpose flour.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 very ripe, darkly speckled bananas
1/4 cup regular coconut milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Grease and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan; set aside.  Combine coconut milk and lemon juice in glass measuring cup and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine flour, white whole wheat flour, cinnamon, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, mash the bananas well with a wooden spoon, then stir in the coconut milk mixture, eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla.  Mix until well combined (there should still be some small banana chunks).  Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until most of the flour is incorporated, then gently fold in the chocolate chips.  Do not over mix.

Pour into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of loaf comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fan Fare

As Isaac has been completely swept up into the excitement of October baseball,  it seems all I hear is "Buster Posey!" in his excited, three-year-old baseball fan voice.  I, on the other hand, am using the playoffs as an excuse to make one of my favorite vices: garlic fries.  Once we get out the deep fryer (yes, I registered for one when we got married) we do a lot of frying so as not to waste the oil.  Which means I made these three times in the course of a week, and the requests are still coming in for more.  They taste just like the ones they sell at the Giants' games.  And let's be honest: half the reason we all go to Giants games is for the garlic fries.  So make a batch and pretend you're at the game, with no BART ride, no overpriced concessions, and no fear of hidden allergens.  Our team flew home last night; perhaps the familiar smell of garlic in the air will help push them towards a victory over the Phillies tomorrow.  Go Giants!

There are a few important steps to success for this recipe.  First, don't skip the soaking time.  It rinses away excess starch and greatly improves the texture of the fries.  Second, make sure your oil is at the right temperature before you begin.  Too hot and they will burn; too cool and they will be greasy.  And finally, the two-step frying process is essential.  The first step cooks the potatoes thoroughly, while the second gives a crispy, golden exterior.

Ballpark Garlic Fries

6 large russet potatoes
10 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed with garlic press
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
Oil for frying (canola, soybean, or peanut all work fine)

Scrub and peel your potatoes.  Using a very sharp knife, slice them about 3/16" thick.  Then stack the slices and cut them into plank style fries, not quite 1/2" wide.  They will shrink somewhat when you cook them, so don't worry if they look a little thick.  Place the fries in a large bowl and cover them with water; set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

Fill your deep fryer with oil to according to manufacturer's instructions (or a Dutch oven on the stove top with a deep fry thermometer attached - oil should be a few inches deep).  Heat to 320* F.  While oil is heating, put 2 Tbsp olive oil in a small saucepan.  Add garlic and cook over low heat until fragrant and just beginning to sizzle (do NOT brown garlic).  Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic to a small bowl and toss with the parsley.  Set aside.

Set out 2 large rimmed baking sheets and line them with paper towels.  Drain potatoes and spread out on one sheet, and pat dry thoroughly with more paper towels.  Place 1/3 of the fries in your fryer basket and lower them gently into the hot oil.  Cook about 5 minutes.  Fries should be flexible and the outsides will blister a bit, but they won't start browning yet.  Drain and pour cooked fries onto clean paper towels on second sheet.  Repeat with remaining potatoes in 2 more batches.  Throw away the wet paper towels and replace with a new layer.

Increase the fryer temperature to 375* F.  Place 1/3 of the cooked potatoes in the fryer basket and lower into the oil.  Cook about 5 minutes, until golden and crisp.  Drain and pour out onto the clean paper towels; repeat with remaining fries in 2 more batches.  Place fries in a large, wide bowl and sprinkle with salt.  Spoon garlic mixture over and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ginger Molasses Sugar Cookies

You know those women you meet that inspire you just because of who they are?  My husband's grandmother, Nina, is one of those women.  She hasn't had it easy, and if you asked her she probably wouldn't take credit for the incredible things she has done in her life.  She moved from Texas to California with her husband to start farming toward the end of the Dust Bowl years, and ever since she has patiently cared for her family like nobody else I know.  When you arrive at her house for a holiday, she manages to have the house spotless and dinner ready, yet she is calm and ready to focus on her guests - not an easy task!  Her famous goodies are myriad: sour cream sugar cookies, Southern cornbread dressing, Texas sheet cake, and addictive buttery dinner rolls to name just a few.  You can just feel the warmth of God's love radiating from within, and to top it all off, she is always wearing beautiful shoes.  If I am half the woman she is when my children are grown with families of their own, I will have done well.

Here is one of my husband's favorite Grandma recipes from childhood.  I recently made these for some friends and now the recipe is spreading like wildfire.  Generously spiced, with a perfect balance between crispy and chewy, these sparkling, crackled cookies are simply irresistible.  Serve some with fresh apple cider after you get home from the pumpkin patch, and you will have yourself a perfect autumn afternoon.

Ginger Molasses Sugar Cookies

3/4 c vegetable oil
1 c sugar
1/4 c full-flavor molasses
1 egg
2 tsp baking soda
2 c flour
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
About 1/2 cup sugar for coating

Mix oil, sugar, molasses and egg and beat well.  Sift together flour, soda, and spices; add to first mixture.  Mix well.  Cover dough and chill.

Preheat oven to 375.  Line cookie sheet with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.  Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough and roll into balls.  Roll in granulated sugar and place 2" apart on baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until edges are beginning to brown and tops are crackled.  Be careful not to overbake.  Cool on sheet 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cinnamon Almond Coffee Cake

First of all, I need to give a big shout out to the Giants for winning the NL West last night!  Can major league baseball inspire breakfast pastry, you ask?  Why yes it can, if that pastry is a coffee cake modeled after the cinnamon-roasted almonds sold at the ballpark.  If you have ever walked past the Emerlad Nut stand at AT&T Park then you know exactly the irresistible scent that I am talking about.  Once I bought a little bag of the nuts at a game and was disappointed to find that the flavor wasn't quite as beguiling as the aroma.  Not so for this moist, delicious coffee cake.  Picture to come when I get home tonight.  GO GIANTS! 

Cake Batter:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup plain almond or rice milk

Crumb Topping:
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dairy-free, soy-free margarine (such as Earth Balance Soy Free), softened

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour an 8" square baking pan. 

For crumb topping, place almonds in food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt and pulse to combine.  Pour into bowl and cut in margarine with a fork until evenly mixed.  Set topping aside while you prepare the cake batter.

In medium bowl, combine all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, almond meal, baking soda and salt; stir well.  In bowl of standing mixer, whisk together the sugar, egg, oil, vanilla, and almond extract until well combined.  With mixer running at medium-low speed, add 1/3 of rice or almond milk.  When almost combined, add half of flour mixture and mix until most of flour is incorporated.  Repeat, ending with the final 1/3 of milk and stirring just until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over the batter.  Bake at 350 until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 - 50 minutes.  Let cool before cutting into squares.  You can make this the night before; let cool, cover, and wait until morning to cut into squares.  Makes 9 servings.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Endless Summer

When the cool weather started toward the end of September, I was giddy with excitement.  Memories of vibrant fall colors in upstate New York flood over me this time of year, and I dream of crisp afternoons, leaves piled high, and comforting hours spent in the kitchen with dear friends.  After months of outdoor cooking, fun as it was, I simply couldn't wait to turn my oven on and fill the house with aromas of cinnamon-laced breads and simmering stews.  My October issue of Bon Appétit arrived, and I read it cover to cover while sipping hot cider.  I rushed off to the store and bought a pie pumpkin, set it on my counter, and started plotting a recipe for pumpkin bagels.

And then the heat wave came.  Sweltering in my kitchen in the hundred-degree heat, I knew my pumpkin bagels would have to wait.  So rather than depress myself by blogging an autumn recipe in defiance of the weather, here is one of my summer favorites.

Piña Coladas are one of the best dairy-craving cures I know of.  Lusciously creamy and not too sweet, this recipe is simple and delicious.  And because it uses natural ingredients instead of a flavored mix, it won't leave you with that I-just-drank-sunscreen feeling.  While you take a sip and feel those tropical breezes blow, it may be the perfect time to daydream along with me about cooler days to come.

Ingredient notes:  Fresh pineapple will give a brighter flavor, but the texture will be smoother with canned pineapple.  I make them both ways depending on what I have on hand.  Cream of coconut comes in a can and may be found at Latin markets or the beverage aisle at the supermarket (much cheaper at the former).  Do not confuse with coconut cram, which is unsweetened.  Be sure to stir well before using.

Piña Coladas
makes 2

1/2 cup chopped fresh pineapple or canned crushed pineapple
1/3 cup cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
1/4 cup light rum (sub lemonade for non-alcoholic)
1 cup ice
Dark rum for garnish
Lime wedges

Combine pineapple, cream of coconut, light rum, and ice in blender.  Blend until very smooth.  Pour into two glasses.  Top each with a small splash of dark rum and a lime wedge.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weeknight Chicken Dinner

In my life, the eternal question has turned out to be "What's for dinner?"  Getting dinner on the table night after night without boring everyone to tears can be quite a challenge, so for busy days when I don't feel like thinking too hard, I keep a bag of boneless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer.  They cook quickly and can be dressed up in countless ways, which makes them a perfect weeknight meal.  This flavorful recipe utilizes ingredients I always have on hand, including the perennial herbs in my garden.  Add some rice or potatoes, sauteed spinach or a salad, and, "Dinner's ready!"

Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, and Herbs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice + zest of 1 lemon (here is my favorite zesting tool)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish.  Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest,  garlic, rosemary and thyme and pour over chicken; turn to coat.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Cover dish and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat, or oven to 375.  Grill or bake chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165, turning halfway through cooking.  Time will vary depending on thickness of chicken and cooking method used.  Our smallish chicken breasts took about 15 minutes on the grill.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free "Cream Cheese" Frosting

When Britni sent me the carrot cake recipe I was eager to make it right away, but what was I going to frost it with?  An internet search for dairy-free cream cheese frosting turned up dozens of recipes using soy-based cream cheese alternatives, but there was nothing out there that I could use.  So I turned to my trusty copy of Go Dairy Free, which has a recipe for a cashew-based cream cheese spread.  Using that as a starting point, I came up with this recipe, which I must say I am quite proud of.  It is creamy, tangy, and rich and it complements the cake beautifully.  It would also be an excellent accompaniment to cinnamon rolls.

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free "Cream Cheese" Frosting

1 cup raw cashew pieces
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup regular coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
5-6 cups powdered sugar

In food processor, process cashew pieces until finely powdered and beginning to clump.  Add coconut oil, lemon juice, hot water, and salt; process until smooth.  Transfer mixture to blender and add coconut milk.  Blend until as smooth as possible, about 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of blender with spatula.  Pour into container, cover, and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Place the cashew mixture in bowl of standing mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, add vanilla and beat at medium speed while gradually adding the powdered sugar.  Five cups of sugar will yield a softer frosting perfect for cinnamon rolls; the full 6 cups will give a stiffer frosting that will hold its shape on top of a cake.  When all sugar is incorporated, beat at high speed 1 minute.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Best Ever Carrot Cake

It has been an interesting few weeks around here.  After 3 strict weeks of the elimination diet, then lots of indulgences when some dear friends visited last weekend, it seemed apparent that Warren's symptoms and my diet may not be correlated after all (well, except for broccoli, which  I think I shall survive without).  I even added eggs and nuts back into my diet with no ill effects.  So yesterday morning, just before breakfast, I told my husband I was quitting the elimination diet.  I poured myself a bowl of homemade dairy-free granola with nuts and sat down to a delicious, guilt-free breakfast.

I was well over halfway through the bowl when it happened.

The scary dairy nightmare was coming true.  My mouthful of granola was doused in real, creamy, from-a-cow milk.  In my early morning, overloaded mommy fog, I had gone on auto-pilot and reached for the gallon of dairy milk instead of the carton of rice milk.  I paused, swallowed, and briefly considered calling CPS on myself.  And then a sense of peace came over me.  I laughed.  "I think he's going to be ok," I thought to myself.

It is well over 36 hours later and Warren is perfect.  No crying spells, no upset tummy.   He is sleeping peacefully right now and I am really not sure what to think.  I'm not reaching for that carton of Haagen-Dazs quite yet, but the worst certainly seems to be over.  I am relieved and grateful.

In celebration of the end of the elimination diet, here is one of the first recipes I made when I started the dairy-free, soy-free diet.  I had been waiting for a special occasion to share this one, and I think this is it!

I have always been fond of carrot cake, but I had no idea it could be a transcendent experience until I had a slice at Selland's Market in Sacramento, where my friend Britni was the pastry chef.  Since carrot cake is naturally dairy free, she graciously shared the recipe with me, and I made just a few tweaks so that it makes a bit more sense for a home cook.  Plus, I managed to create a dairy-free, soy-free "cream cheese" frosting that is surprisingly cream cheesy.  Even Justin, my alternative food skeptic, gobbled it up.  Of course, if your diet allows, use your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe.

Britni's Best Ever Carrot Cake

1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 1/3 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups a.p. flour + 1/3 cup whole wheat flour)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 cups shredded peeled carrots (from about 1 1/4 lb. carrots)
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, well drained (place in sieve and press out liquids with back of spoon)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease 3 - 8 " cake pans.  Line bottoms with rounds of parchment or waxed paper.   Grease the paper, then flour the pans, shaking to coat evenly and tapping out excess.  Set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer, beat together the canola oil and sugar.  Add the eggs and beat at high speed for 3 minutes.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add to egg mixture and beat at low speed until just incorporated.  Add the carrots, pineapple, walnuts and vanilla, then blend until batter is uniformly mixed.

Pour into prepared pans and bake 40-50 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool in pans until cool enough to handle, then invert onto wire racks and remove paper to cool completely.  Frost with "cream cheese" frosting.

Check back tomorrow for the frosting recipes!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Elimination Diet Gravy

If, like me, you are following the Dr. Sears regimen and living off of turkey and potatoes, then some good old-fashioned gravy is exactly what you need to stave off starvation and culinary boredom.  Yes, you can make a pretty decent gravy with just the ingredients from the list.  First, take yourself down to the health food store and get some rice flour from the bulk bins.  Then, roast your turkey (or if you're lucky like me, let your wonderful mother-in-law smoke one for you) and save all the drippings.   I got enough gravy from this recipe to last me a few days, and I especially liked it poured over turkey and rice.  Time to sauce it up!

Elimination Diet Turkey Gravy

All fat and drippings from a roasted turkey
Rice flour, as needed
Rice milk, as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

1.  Put your pan drippings in a clear container and refrigerate until the fat is clearly separated at the top.

2.  Set a small saucepan over medium heat.  Skim the turkey fat from the drippings put it in the pan, stirring until smooth.  Add rice flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, and stir with a whisk until it has a pasty consistency.

3.  While whisking, slowly pour in all of the remaining turkey juices.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly.

4.  Add rice milk to get your desired thickness and taste.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Pour it all over your plate.  Enjoy eating a meal that actually has some flavor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Exciting News!

A few of my recipes have been included in Smart School Time Recipes, a new e-cookbook now available for free download here.   I am so excited to have been a part of this project.  Many thanks to Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free for putting it all together!  The cookbook includes many easy, healthy recipes for the lunch box and meals at home for the busy back to school season.  It is also available for Kindle.  I hope you enjoy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

No Nothing, Baby

After a disheartening visit with Warren's gastroenterologist and the threat of outrageously expensive hypoallergenic formula looming over my head, I have embarked on the Dr. Sears Total Elimination Diet.  Here are my menu selections at the moment:

Yellow Squash
Salt & Pepper

I have eaten nothing outside of these things for seven long days now, and to be honest, it left me feeling too depressed to write.  Living in a world where I couldn't cook creatively left me feeling like a stranger in a foreign land (and a hungry one at that!)  But today, Warren's symptoms began to improve, and with them the state of my soul.  Truly, I will do whatever it takes to make that little angel's tummy stop hurting him.  In the meantime, I keep daydreaming about which food to reintroduce first.  Bananas?  Avocados?  I think olive oil is winning by a nose so I can start frying everything humanly possible.

On the bright side, the pregnancy pounds are melting before my eyes, and my husband has promised to take me bowling since I am desperate for some fun!  Seriously, it is just wrong to deprive a mother of a well-earned sweet treat after the two boys are finally tucked in bed.  But I am finally relieved of worrying over every little thing I eat.  The diet may be monotonous, but at least it feels safe.

Since I know there are other mothers out there bored to tears with the elimination diet, I am going to keep posting what I am making in hopes of helping someone in my shoes.  Here is my first total elimination diet recipe.  It's very easy, filling, and comforting.

Turkey & Zucchini Pasta

8 oz. brown rice fusilli or other pasta shape
1 lb. ground turkey (not extra lean)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
salt & pepper

Heat a non-stick skillet (I use cast iron) over medium heat.  Add the turkey and break up with the back of a spoon.  Add zucchini.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until meat is browned and zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and stir into the turkey mixture.  Serve immediately.

This makes about 3 servings.  Heat up the  leftovers for a quick lunch the next day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies

See the ooey-gooey goodness?
Re-learning how to cook has been an exercise in open-mindedness.  Take the avocado, for example.  If you were to describe the flavor of an avocado, you would probably use words like creamy, buttery, nutty, and rich.  So why is it that we automatically pair it with spicy foods?  Couldn't it work just as well with, say, double chocolate fudge cookies?

I got the idea for avocado as cookie egg-replacer from Alisa Fleming's book, Go Dairy Free.  I liked her version but was looking for something a little different, and on my third batch I finally got it right (and as a result managed to actually gain two pounds on this diet!).  These are super soft, gooey, and intensely chocolatey.  If you don't share my devotion to coconut, you could substitute vegetable or olive oil, but I think it goes beautifully with the chocolate.  The avocado flavor fades into the background, leaving behind only its rich, creamy texture; just don't tell anyone the secret ingredient for these dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free indulgences.

Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup mashed ripe avocado (about half an avocado)
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.  In a small bowl stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer with paddle attachment, beat avocado until no lumps remain.  Add applesauce and coconut oil and beat until smooth.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat until creamy.  Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined.  Fold in chocolate chunks with a wooden spoon.

Scoop large, rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.  You should end up with 12 large cookies.  Bake about 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set but still soft.  Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely (though they are really good warm!)  Be aware that because there are no eggs, these are a bit delicate, so be careful when moving them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Zucchini Salsa Verde

My college apartment was not exactly typical.  In our entryway stood a six foot chest freezer filled with farm-picked blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and homemade apple pies.  If you came over for spaghetti, the sauce was home canned by my roommate, Sarah.  Pizza for a study night?  Not unless we made the crust from scratch and followed it with homemade doughnuts hot from the fryer.  And our only magazine subscription, which we eagerly awaited and read voraciously, was Bon Appétit.

Through the years I have not missed a single issue of my beloved Bon Appétit, and I  make a special point to try at least a few of the new recipes every month.  Rarely do they disappoint, and while many of the dishes still revolve around cheese and cream, they have shifted their focus to more sustainable - for the earth and the body - ways of eating.  Which means that there are plenty of recipes rich with fresh, seasonal produce that require no modification on my part.  My recent favorite is a zucchini salsa verde, which was a perfect way to use up the zucchini that are currently taking over my garden.  We ate it heaped over shrimp instead of the halibut called for in the recipe, and it was fantastic.  Even better was the next day when I slathered it over fresh corn on the cob, and used some as dip for my tortilla chips.  I can't think of a more delicious way to eat your veggies.

Here is the link to the recipe.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Banana Pancakes

As promised, here is my creative breakfast recipe for the week: my first ever vegan pancakes, which I was pleasantly surprised by.  I almost wonder why pancakes have eggs in them to begin with, as moist, tender and flavorful as these were.  I used an over-ripe mashed banana to replace the egg, and in keeping with my tropical obsession, coconut milk and coconut oil.  Some whole wheat flour added substance, and a healthy dose of baking powder kept them fluffy.

These are very loosely based on the "American breakfast pancakes" from one of my favorite cookbooks, Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess.  If cooking out of a book with a title like that doesn't make you feel fabulous, nothing will.  We enjoyed them with dairy-free margarine, crisp applewood-smoked bacon (yes, vegan pancakes with bacon, stop laughing!), and real maple syrup.  In my opinion, real maple syrup is an absolute must, so please step away from the "pancake syrup" and splurge on a bottle of the good stuff, grade B if you can find it, which has a deeper color and flavor.  My husband, who has been a little wary of some of my alternative cooking projects, gave these the thumbs up.  Enjoy!

Banana Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup regular or white whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup regular coconut milk + 3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 very ripe banana, well mashed
2 Tbsp coconut oil

In a glass measuring cup, combine the coconut milk, water, and flax seed meal; set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and baking powder.  In another bowl mix the mashed banana, coconut oil, and coconut milk mixture.  Make a well in the flour and pour in the wet ingredients.  Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Transfer to a pitcher or large glass measuring cup.

Heat your griddle or large frying pan and coat lightly with oil.  Pour batter onto griddle and cook until surface is bubbly and edges look dry.  Flip pancakes and cook until golden.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Serve hot with dairy-free margarine and maple syrup.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Win a Kid-Friendly Allergy Cookbook

Link to the contest page here.  If I don't win I may need to buy myself a copy.  I'm sure I'll be needing it when Warren moves beyond mashed veggies!

Gone-Nuts Granola

For three nights this week, I was up late tending batches of granola for my husband's backpacking trip.  I practically drooled as pan after pan of nutty, spiced oats came out of my oven tempting and taunting me, enough granola to sustain four men hiking seventy-five miles over a week, of which I could taste none.  When my non-cereal eating husband sampled it and raved, I knew I had to make myself a nut-free version.

Sunflower seeds have been my new best friend this week.  They look like a nut, taste like a nut, and bake like a nut, but for allergy purposes, they are not a nut.  First I bought a jar of sunflower seed butter so I could keep eating my toast with bananas, and now they would be the perfect stand-in for nuts in my new granola recipe.  Not to mention they're a good source of protein and very inexpensive.  I've been in a tropical mood lately - the coconut milk is probably going to my head - so I added coconut and banana chips to the mix.  I also used an array of spices, including cardamom, which I've been sort of obsessed with ever since that vanilla bean panna cotta with cardamom-infused apricot puree at a French restaurant several years ago.  Cardamom is a prominent spice in chai tea, so I couldn't leave out its partners, cinnamon and ginger.  Making granola is even easier than baking cookies, so get to it - it's worth it just for the aroma that will fill your home!

Gone-Nuts Granola

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened banana chips, crumbled
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat your oven to 250 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In large bowl, combine oats, flax seed meal, sunflower seeds, and coconut.  Mix brown sugar, salt, and spices together in a small bowl and sprinkle over oats; stir to combine well.  Whisk honey, coconut oil, canola oil, and vanilla together in glass measuring cup; pour over oat mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon until oats are evenly coated.  Spread in even layer on prepared baking sheet.

Bake about 45 minutes to an hour, removing from oven and stirring thoroughly every 15 minutes.  Watch carefully to prevent burning.  Granola should be uniformly golden when done.  Remove from oven and stir again; let cool.   Stir in bananas and apricots.  Store in airtight container.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lovely Latkes

Although I may have thrown you off the trail with my bacon and shrimp eating ways, I am in fact a girl of Jewish heritage.  One of my favorite food memories growing up were my grandma's latkes, though at the time we just called them potato pancakes and I was ignorant of the dish's Jewish origins.  All I knew was that they were crispy, moist and absolutely delicious with applesauce on top.

Traditionally, latkes are a Hannukah food, cooked in oil as a reminder of God's miraculous supply of oil for eight days.  Making them in the summer is probably akin to baking gingerbread men on a Tuesday in June, but I just can't seem to stop myself.  They pair perfectly with meats and fish, and while they are usually made with potatoes and onions only, they are an excellent vehicle for hiding some more nutritious vegetables.  I wish the recipe was more complicated so I could brag a bit more when people ask how I make them, but alas, they are wonderfully easy.  There is a lot of grating involved, so if the shredding attachment on your food processor is collecting dust somewhere, now is the time to brush it off.  You will be on your way to lovely latkes in no time.  L'chaim!

Vegetable Latkes

3 small/medium russet potatoes, peeled (about 1 1/4 lbs)
1/2 medium yellow onion, skin removed
1 small zucchini
1 large carrot, peeled
1 egg
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
Unsweetened applesauce (optional)

In a large bowl, beat the egg until combined, then whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

Using a box grater or food processor, coarsely shred the potatoes, onion, zucchini (with skin), and carrot.   Add to egg mixture and toss until vegetables are evenly distributed.

In heavy skillet over medium heat, heat about 1/2" of oil to about 350 F.  (To test oil, place a small dollop of latke batter in pan.  It should sizzle vigorously but not burn.)  Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.  Scoop potato mixture by heaping 1/4 cupfuls into oil.  Flatten into pancake with the back of a spatula.  Cook until edges are deep golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown.  Do not overcrowd the pan; cook only 3-4 latkes at a time.  Remove to paper towels to drain.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve latkes hot and pass a bowl of applesauce to spoon over the top.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chocolate Breakfast Scones

In honor of going egg-free and officially joining the ranks of vegan bakers, I decided to make myself a special treat for the first morning of my new dietary restrictions.  I chose the cocoa-nut (as in cocoa + coconut) scones from Alisa Fleming's excellent guide and cookbook, Go Dairy Free.  I ordered this book about a week after we found out about Warren's allergies, when I was basically living on lettuce and meat and feeling very sorry for myself.  When it arrived, it was like being handed a compass and a map while lost in the wilderness.  If you are new to living without dairy, or just want some new recipes, I highly recommend it.  You can visit Alisa's website, with recipes and dairy-free information, here.

My first foray into vegan baking was actually a lot of fun.  Part of why I fell in love with baking to begin with was the mystery of it all, how you can put a soupy mess into the oven and ten minutes later pull out a light, fluffy masterpiece.  Doing it now with all different ingredients makes the whole experience fresh again. Working with the margarine was a little tricky; it melts more readily than butter so I had to work quickly when cutting it into the dough.  I was a little skeptical as I pushed the pan into the oven, but as soon as I took the crackle-topped scones from the oven, I knew they were a success.  Rich with cocoa flavor but not too sweet, they were perfect with my morning coffee.  My husband liked them as well, but they were a bit too sophisticated for Isaac, who dismantled his to rescue all the chocolate chips.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just when I thought I had this figured out...

Warren had an appointment with the pediatric gastroenterologist this morning about his continued jaundice.  While we were there, I asked a few questions about the food allergies, and the doctor decided to test his poopy diaper for traces of blood (oh the glamour!).  Sure enough it tested positive, so he now wants me to cut out eggs and nuts for 10 days to see if that helps.  Oh dear.

I don't think I'll have to change the dinner menu much, but I'm not sure what to do about breakfast now.  I was pretty much eating either fried eggs, omelettes, or toast with peanut butter & banana.  Looks like there will be some very creative breakfast recipes coming your way this week!

Monday, July 26, 2010

When life gives you tomatoes...

We are now in the season when my backyard tomato vines are producing tomatoes faster than we can eat them.  Normally, we would be living on caprese salad, but since mozzarella is out, I've had to get a little more creative.  I've been wanting to try a tomato-watermelon salad for a while now, and our barbecue last night was the perfect occasion.  This one is based on an idea from this month's issue of Bon Appétit.  The flavor is a perfectly refreshing balance of tangy and sweet, punctuated by the peppery bite of arugula.  Isaac picked the cherry tomatoes for me while I mixed up the dressing, and they were still warm from the sun when we added them to the salad.  Have I mentioned lately how much I love summer?

Tomato-Watermelon Salad
serves 12 as a side dish

About 1/4 of a large seedless watermelon, cut in 1" cubes
4 large heirloom tomatoes, cut in chunks
2 cups assorted cherry tomatoes, larger ones halved
3 oz. arugula (about half of a salad package)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 small bunch chives, chopped
juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

In large salad bowl, combine watermelon, tomatoes, and arugula.  Sprinkle with mint and chives.  Toss to combine; cover and chill.

In glass measuring cup, whisk together oil and lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and drizzle over salad.  Toss salad and serve immediately.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry muffins are a staple at our house, but the version I had been making lately was a decadent affair involving sour cream, so it wasn't an ideal candidate for dairy-free conversion.  In search of a simpler muffin from a simpler time, I turned to my well-worn original copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook., where I found the basis for this recipe.

The only trick to making good muffins is to avoid over mixing.  When you add the dry ingredients to the wet, stir with restraint; there should still be some lumps of flour.  The first time I tried these I used coconut oil instead of margarine, but the coconut flavor was out of place.  I used Earth Balance Soy Free margarine this time with much better results.  Enjoy these warm, so the blueberry juice oozes with every bite.

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain rice milk
1/4 cup dairy-free, soy-free margarine, melted
1 egg
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 F and grease a 12 cup muffin pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a glass measuring cup, combine rice milk, melted margarine, and egg; whisk to blend.  Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in milk mixture.  Stir just to combine.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Divide batter evenly in muffin pan and bake until light golden, about 20 minutes.  Cool slightly in pan, then run a knife around muffins to loosen and place on platter.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mocha Brownies

I apologize for a whole week with no recipes.  I braved another road trip, this time with my mom and the boys to Orange County for a family baby shower.  Isaac and Warren were troopers and I even got to eat In-N-Out again.  This time I brought my own bun (leftovers from the ones I made) and asked them to keep my burger separate from the cheesy ones on the griddle.  Perfect!

Now, on to the mocha brownies, which were a hit at the family barbecue on Saturday night.  To save time, I made my own "brownie mix" complete with instructions before we left, so all I had to do when we got there was add eggs, oil, and vanilla.  They even held their own next to my grandma's chocolate walnut brownies, which are made with butter.  The coffee flavor is prominent in this recipe, so if you are a coffee lover, whip up a batch and enjoy!

Mocha Brownies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp instant coffee granules
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper or foil.

In medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, and instant coffee and mix well.  In another bowl, stir together eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla and beat by hand until well combined.  Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Gently stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared pan, smooth top, and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 18-25 minutes.  Do not over bake - start checking brownies after 15 minutes.  Let cool in pan.  Using parchment or foil, lift brownies onto cutting board and cut into squares with sharp knife.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Heart Kale

Look at any list of calcium-rich foods to replace dairy in your diet, and the first one you will see is kale. But if you're like me, you have probably looked at a bunch of the dark, ruffled leaves and wondered what on earth to do with it. I worked for a catering company in high school and we used box upon box of kale to decorate buffet tables, but it never crossed my mind as an edible, let alone delicious, vegetable.

Besides being filled with all kinds of nutrients, kale has a deep, almost nutty flavor with just a hint of bitterness. It's also inexpensive and very easy to prepare. The following recipe is how I usually make it, as a side dish for meat entrées. When I served it to Isaac, my three-year-old, he said, "It's pretty good," and took another bite without any cajoling.  Last week I cooked up a large bunch and snacked on it at lunch time for the next few days.  If you've never cooked kale, I would encourage you to give it a try.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Braised Kale

1 medium bunch kale, any variety
1 shallot OR 1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste

Wash kale and chop coarsely, removing tough stems.  In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add kale and continue to cook until leaves begin to wilt.  Add chicken stock.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until kale is tender, about 5-7 minutes longer.  Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Burger Night

I have eaten more bun-less burgers in the last two months than I care to count.  Dairy-free, soy-free hamburger buns are impossible to come by at the grocery store, and ciabatta rolls just aren't the same as a soft, chewy hamburger bun.  We are still going strong in our quest to avoid eating out, so last night I decided to try making some from scratch, along with French fries from Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook.  (If at this point you're wondering how on earth I have time to bake bread and hand-cut French fries with a three year old and a newborn, you should know that I accomplished absolutely nothing else yesterday.  It's all about priorities.)

I hadn't come across any dairy-free burger bun recipes in my usual sources, so I came up with my own loosely based on a recipe for dinner rolls.  Sweet potato is used to replace most of the butter, which lends just the right amount of sweetness without any added sugar.  It's worth taking the time to pick up some bread flour as it really improves the texture.  These are actually very easy to make, and while it does take several hours, most of that is just rising time.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to store-bought buns after this!

Homemade Hamburger Buns

2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup mashed sweet potato (from 1 small baked sweet potato)
1 cup plain rice milk, warm (about 110 degrees)
1 egg
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 egg white
Sesame seeds

In bowl of standing mixer, combine flours, salt, and yeast.  Mix to combine.  In a glass measuring cup, combine warm rice milk, sweet potato, egg, and olive oil.  Mix well.  With mixer running at low speed with the dough hook attached, slowly pour in milk mixture.  Continue mixing until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Dough will be soft and slightly sticky.

Turn dough onto lightly floured board.  Knead by hand for 2 minutes. You can add a little flour if it is really sticking, but try to use as little as possible so you don't end up with dry rolls.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic.  Using bench scraper or sharp knife, cut dough in half, then cut each half into quarters so you have 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a smooth ball between your palms.  Place on baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat.  Flatten into a disc and repeat with remaining dough pieces.  Brush each roll lightly with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Put baking sheet in a warm place until rolls are puffy, about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 F and bake buns for about 10 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden.  When rolls are cool, slice horizontally with a bread knife.  Serve as is, or brush with dairy-free margarine or olive oil and toast on the grill.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fresh Summer Sorbet

We spent the 4th of July at my in-laws' almond farm where we celebrated by swimming, playing and cooking in the hot San Joaquin Valley sunshine.  Their family is huge and so is the dinner spread: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, fresh fruit, and chips.  It is everything that the 4th of July should be.  I could eat most of the dinner items, but dessert was another matter.  Rather than be bitter about missing out on the Texas sheet cake and home-made banana ice cream, I decided ahead of time to make my own dessert.   As the sun set and the fireworks were being prepared on the lawn, I sat down to a refreshing bowl of peach sorbet.

This is my own recipe and it turned out even better than I expected!  Make some now, while you can find peaches and golden raspberries at the farmer's market.  This makes a big batch, but you might as well make a lot if you're going to get out the ice cream maker.  Go big or go home, as my sister would say.  You can cut it in half if your ice cream maker is smaller.

Fresh Peach Sorbet

8 medium very ripe peaches
1 half-pint basket golden raspberries
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup honey

Bring large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water.  Boil peaches 1 minute to loosen skins.  Using a slotted spoon, remove peaches from pot and place in ice water.  Slip off skins. 

Puree raspberries in blender and strain out seeds.  Set raspberry puree aside and clean blender jar. 

Working over blender jar so you catch all the juices, pull peaches apart with your fingers and remove the pits.  Blend until very smooth.  Add raspberry puree and blend to combine.

In small saucepan, combine water, sugar, honey and lemon juice.  Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Stir into fruit puree.  Place covered jar in refrigerator to chill.

Prepare ice cream maker according to instructions.  When sorbet mixture is chilled, place in ice cream maker and process.  Sorbet will be soft-set when done.  Transfer to airtight container and place in freezer until firm.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Last night was taco night at  our house.  We don't often cook Mexican at home because there are so many good restaurants around here, but we're trying to eat in as much as possible since I have a hard time trusting restaurant kitchens.  And for good reason - we have had several cheesy mishaps.

If I've learned anything from going dairy-free, it's that you can't take away cheddar cheese and sour cream without replacing it with something else creamy and delicious...like homemade guacamole.  I've tried eating tacos with just meat, lettuce and tomato and they are no bueno!  This guacamole works equally well as a dip for tortilla chips and as a condiment.


2 medium avocados, ripe but not mushy
1 small shallot, finely chopped OR 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1/2 lime
salt & pepper to taste
1 small jalapeno, seeded & finely chopped (optional)

Peel avocados and remove pits.  Mash with a fork and stir in remaining ingredients (guacamole should be chunky).  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


One of the things I missed the most during my pregnancy was sushi (raw fish is on the ever-growing list of pregnancy no-nos).  For nine long months I craved and dreamed about it, counting the days until I could eat what I pleased.  My mom brought me a spicy salmon roll while I was still in the hospital, and I never suspected that my favorite treat would soon be taken from me again.  After we discovered Warren's soy allergy, we ordered some sushi takeout anyway, but needless to say, dry sushi rolls were less than satisfying.  It just wasn't the same without the dark, salty, wasabi-laced dip.

Enter Midori, the most gracious restaurant owner you'll ever meet.  My family has been eating at Sushi Bar Hana, her Danville restaurant, since I was five years old.  When my mom went in for dinner, she told Midori that I probably wouldn't be around much because I couldn't eat soy.  That night, I got a phone call from my mom, telling me that there was actually a soy sauce alternative!  Another regular at Hana is allergic to soy and brings her own sauce, and Midori wrote down the name.  I was a little skeptical but excited to give it a try.

Since a visit to Hana was a given when my sisters were in town, we trekked to Whole Foods and found a bottle of Coconut Secret soy-free seasoning sauce, and at the first taste I could not believe how good it was!   The stuff is made from coconut tree sap of all things, but somehow it tastes just like soy sauce.  Just being back at Hana with my family, enjoying my favorite meal, made this whole allergy business seem a lot more bearable.

Besides dipping sushi, I am looking forward to trying the Coconut Secret in some Asian cooking at home.  Be on the lookout for new recipes!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dinner for Dad

cooking in the backyard

Last night we celebrated Justin's last night of paternity leave with one of his favorite meals: pan-fried ribeye steak with mushrooms, roasted potatoes with rosemary, and brussels sprouts.  Yes, brussels sprouts.  Don't believe me?  Try this recipe.  I promise you'll become a believer.

Bacon-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed & loose leaves removed
1 tsp salt
2 slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper

Fry bacon until crisp.  Chop and place in large bowl.  Add balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  Set aside.

In large skillet, bring 1/2 inch water to a simmer.  Add 1 tsp salt and brussels sprouts.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat until sprouts are just tender when pierced with a sharp knife.  Uncover and increase heat to medium-high until the water has evaporated; allow sprouts to brown just slightly.  Remove from heat.  Add sprouts to bowl with bacon mixture and toss to combine.  Season to taste with pepper.

I got the fingerling potatoes and the brussels sprouts at the Diablo Valley farmer's market at Shadelands in Walnut Creek.  It was my first visit and it was a wonderful farmer's market with a huge selection of produce.  It's Saturday mornings starting at 9.  Check it out!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thai Iced Tea

One of my very favorite drinks is Thai iced tea.  Something about the rich red color and the snowy swirl of milk just makes it feel special.  We made a big batch this week and it adapted quite nicely to being dairy-free.  The most challenging part of this recipe is going to an Asian market to find the tea.  I went to 99 Ranch Market and had to ask for help as the tea aisle was quite overwhelming.  Having conquered that, all you have to do is brew it according to the package directions and sweeten to taste.  If you have had Thai iced tea in a restaurant, you know they like to sweeten it quite a bit (think Southern sweet tea).  Then just chill, pour over ice, and add about 2-3 tablespoons of your milk alternative of choice.  I have tried it with coconut milk and with vanilla almond milk, and both were quite nice.  It was just the pick-me-up I needed at about 4 o'clock this afternoon.  Ahhh...summer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wine Country

All the chicks were back in the nest this week, as my mom likes to say, meaning that both of my sisters were in town. We had a great time hanging out, introducing my new brother-in-law to the Bay Area, and enjoying lots of good food, of course! I just have to rave about our day in Napa, where I enjoyed some of my best meals in a while, allergy restricted or not!

First we went to the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. It's sort of a glorified food court with some outstanding restaurants. At Pica Pica, I ordered a sweet corn cake with marinated skirt steak, black beans, and plantains with a side of yucca fries. Where has this meal been all my life? I am currently plotting my next trip so I can order another.

From there we took Isaac to his first big-screen movie (in 3D, no less!). Toy Story 3 was delightful, as were my Junior Mints. Our last destination was downtown Sonoma. After some wine tasting,

Isaac covering himself in dirt during said wine tasting

we walked over to
The Girl and the Fig, a French restaurant right on the square. Our knowledgeable waiter took me through the entire menu and there were actually several suitable options, but my heart sang when he uttered the words, "The duck confit would be ok." Duck confit? Are you kidding? I could go 1,000 years without cheese if there is duck confit in my world! So rich, so luxurious, so melt-in-your mouth fabulous nestled there on top of a warm frisée salad and roasted fingerling potatoes. And then, on the wall of the dining room on our way out, what did I see? The duck confit recipe published in Bon Appétit magazine! Not that I have time for any such elaborate undertaking, but it's nice to know I could, in theory, anyway. If there is someone out there with a little more free time than me, here is the link to the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Duck-Confit-241124

On a side note, Isaac had the grilled cheese with
pommes frites and garlic aioli. As we walked through the square on our way home, he lifted his head off his daddy's shoulder to say, "Mommy, those were very good fries." That's my boy!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Camp Chili

In spite of the many "You must be crazy!" looks we got when we told people we were going camping with a 3 year old and a 2 month old, I am happy to report that our first family camping trip was a great success! Isaac had a blast, Warren was happy, and we made it a whole week on the road with no allergy incidents. Most of the credit goes to my husband, who tirelessly set up camp every day while I nursed the baby. But another thing that made it really manageable was that I made the meals ahead of time and froze them in Ziploc bags. By the time we were all hungry in the evening, all we had to do was heat it up on the Coleman stove, and we were enjoying delicious homemade meals around a campfire in the beauty of the woods. Bliss!

I developed this particular chili recipe while I was in college. It was inspired by one of the many wonderful chilis at the annual Ithaca Chili Fest, held every March when the spice of the food helped ward off the lingering cold of winter. It has been an enduring favorite owing to its complex flavor, inexpensive ingredients, and ease of preparation. And as a bonus, it's rich in iron, protein, fiber and vitamin C. It's great by itself, but I also like it served over steamed rice. Enjoy!

Emilee's Chili

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 14 oz. can yellow corn, drained
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained
1 14 oz. can kidney beans, drained
1 14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles*
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

In a large skillet, saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until onions begin to soften. Add garlic and cook one minute, stirring. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat with wooden spoon. Add all remaining ingredients except salt & pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cookies Worth Eating

Last week I tried a chocolate chip cookie recipe that used oil instead of butter. The batter was a little gummy and bland, and the finished cookies were just ok - not terrible, but a bit pale and devoid of flavor. "Hmm, they seem to be missing something...butter, maybe?" my husband teased.

If I'm going to waste calories on something as frivolous as a cookie, it had better be worth it. Determined to enjoy rich, chewy, fresh-baked cookies, I decided to address the three main issues: gummy texture, bland flavor, and pale color.

Flavor seemed the easiest to remedy. First, I added a generous amount of almond meal to provide rich nuttiness. I also increased the vanilla and used applesauce to replace part of the butter. For the rest of the butter substitute, I used a home-made "margarine" of coconut oil and olive oil, both much richer in flavor than the vegetable oil in my original recipe. This margarine is whipped to incorporate air, which did wonders for the texture. Finally, I increased the sugar, which helped the cookies brown, made them more tender, and also improved the flavor.

So here they are, my tender, flavorful, totally-worth-eating dairy-free chocolate chip cookies.


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup home-made "margarine" (see below)
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups semisweet dairy-free chocolate chips

For the margarine: Combine 1/2 cup room temperature coconut oil and 1/4 cup light olive oil in a small metal bowl. Place this bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice water. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and creamy. This will make more than you need for the cookies. Keep refrigerated, as it melts quickly.

For the cookies: Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

Combine flour, almond meal, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Place 1/2 cup chilled margarine and both sugars in large mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until creamy. Add applesauce, eggs, and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Place rounded tablespoons of dough on cookie sheets, spacing them 2" apart. Bake 9-11 minutes, until light golden (they will not get quite as dark as cookies made with butter; do not over bake). Cool one minute on sheet, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On the Road

Traveling has proven to be one of the more challenging aspects of avoiding dairy-laden meals. This weekend we headed up to Sacramento for my husband to take an exam and to visit some dear friends. We stopped at In-N-Out Burger on the way there, and I ordered my new standard: A Number 3 Protein style, add pickles, no onions. I have ordered it 3 times before with no objections from Warren, but this time I think my patty mingled with some cheese on the griddle and I had a fussy baby for the next two days. Farewell my sweet In & Out, I shall miss you! At least I can still eat the fries.

Surprisingly, I had a terrific meal with no problems at Swabbies, a crazy dive on the Sacramento River. Live music, rowdy crowd, margaritas, tri-tip, baked beans and coleslaw. Yum! I also had a great time dancing with Isaac, my little party animal.

I did come home with one exciting souvenir: my friend Britni's coveted carrot cake recipe, which is made with oil and no butter! Now I just need to come up with an alternative to the cream-cheese frosting, so I will get in the kitchen and start experimenting soon. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Coconut Mocha

I am very blessed that my husband got me an espresso machine a couple years ago, because coffee shops are out: they offer soy milk as the only dairy alternative. Most mornings I have a vanilla latte at home made with either rice milk or almond milk, and now that I am used to the taste, I don't even miss the "real" milk. But since I had leftover coconut milk from my curry the other night, I decided to experiment, and the coconut mocha was born!


1/4 cup regular coconut milk + 1/2 cup water
1 shot espresso
1 heaping teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
sugar or agave nectar to taste (about 1-2 tsp)

Combine sugar and cocoa in coffee mug. Steam diluted coconut milk to 180 degrees; set aside. Prepare espresso shot and add to mug, stirring to dissolve sugar & cocoa. Add steamed coconut milk and stir.

If you don't have an espresso machine, I think regular coconut milk would make an excellent coffee creamer. I have tried adding rice or almond milk to regular coffee but they just don't have enough richness to stand up to the coffee, especially if you brew it strong.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thai Curry Shrimp

All I have to say is, thank goodness for coconut milk! The curry I made for dinner last night was fantastic, and I'll be sure to take a picture next time I make it (which will be soon!). Once you have all your ingredients prepped, which could be done ahead, this comes together very quickly. Serves 2-3.


1 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 14 oz. can light coconut milk OR 2/3 cup regular coconut milk + water to make 14 oz.
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or low-sodium)
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup pineapple chunks (fresh or frozen)
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 small ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored & cut in chunks
1 large carrot, peeled & thinly sliced
1 lb. shrimp, peeled & de-veined
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
Steamed jasmine rice to serve

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add curry paste and shallots and stir; cook until paste is fragrant and shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer, stirring to blend. Add chicken stock, then pineapple & vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are almost tender, then add shrimp. Cook until shrimp are opaque. Add fish sauce, sugar, and basil, and cook until basil just begins to wilt. Serve over warm jasmine rice.

To really make the meal, serve with Thai iced tea with coconut milk or an off-dry Riesling.

Scary Dairy...

...crossed my mind as a title for my blog. My sister said it was too creepy. Ok, fine. But I have been having recurring nightmares about milk and cookies. In a moment of weakness or forgetfulness I eat one, only to realize that my poor baby will be in pain for the next three days. If it was my own allergy, I would be more relaxed about the whole thing. But the severity of his sensitivity requires that I be extremely vigilant about what and where I eat. Every time I see that sweet, goofy grin, it is worth it a million times over.

Let the cooking begin!

Welcome to my blog! When my son Warren was born 8 weeks ago, he was precious, but colicky. Every evening he would cry for about an hour before finally falling asleep, exhausted. When he started having some other odd symptoms, I turned to google and found that he was most likely allergic to dairy. I called his pediatrician and she confirmed the diagnosis and told me to cut it out of my diet to see if he improved. Almost immediately, his colic vanished. Well, this shouldn't be too hard, I thought. They have soy substitutes for just about everything, and I love Asian food. But then I ate some soy sauce, and the screaming resumed...oh my, this is going to be an adventure!

Here I will share recipes, meal-planning strategies, and my experiences dining out with dairy and soy restrictions. I will be learning as I go, and am hoping someone else out there finds this helpful!