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 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.