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Posts Tagged ‘dairy free’

These buttery, brownie/chocolate chip blondie hybrid bars are absolutely addictive! Unlike most desserts, these grain-free goodies taste better and better each day after you make them, and will last for 3 weeks in an airtight container – if you can make it that long without gobbling them up.  (Mine last that long because I won’t share them with my kids. I gave them life; they can eat store-bought GF cookies.)

The bar pictured is 3 weeks old and still has a moist, buttery crumb and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chips when heated in the microwave.

The bar pictured is 3 weeks old and still has a moist,       buttery crumb and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chips when heated in the microwave.

Warning: Please consume responsibly. Since these are made with honey instead of sugar, and almond flour instead of high-carb flours, you might be tempted to pretend that these are “healthy.” Feel free to make them a regular part of your Weight Loss for 1 in a Family of 4  diet in small amounts for dessert – but not dinner.

Grain-Free Nutella Bars

10 T. butter, softened (1 cube + 2 T.)
½ c. Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
½ c. honey
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ¼ c. almond flour (not almond meal)
¾ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, Nutella, and honey until smooth.  Mix in eggs and vanilla.  Add almond flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Spread batter in a greased 9”x13” pan.  Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees until done in the center.  (These will get dark around the edges because of the cocoa, but they’re not overdone.) Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Reheat individual bars for 10-15 seconds before serving.

Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Blondie variation (based on this recipe): Substitute coconut oil for the butter, increase the honey to 2/3 c. and salt to 1 tsp., substitute ½ c. almond butter for the Nutella, and use Ghirardelli or Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips (which are dairy free).

Keepin’ it Real…
While food bloggers tend to only share their success stories, we also have our share of epic fails. My most disgusting food fail – a 10 on the Gagometer scale – was my attempt to make gravy using potato starch instead of cornstarch.  Apparently, potato starch + turkey drippings = snot. My poor husband – who has bodily fluid issues – was traumatized, and at one point shrieked in horror, “It’s a dangler!”  My son, however, was fascinated by the gelatinous goo stretching from his fork to his plate and reveled in it’s grossness, as is befitting a 13-year-old boy.

"Its a dangler!"

“Its a dangler!”

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Turkey Vegetable Soup

This hearty, flavorful without being spicy, soup is my go-to lunch most days during the winter.  It’s a dieter’s friend because it contains no starchy veggies or grains, but fills you up when served with an apple or other piece of fruit. Most canned soups are full of broth (and scary ingredients!), but this soup actually satisfies because it’s full of meat and veggies with just enough broth to call it soup.

It only takes about 25 minutes to prep, and 15 minutes to cook, but makes enough to last throughout the week.  I love cooking once and having lunches taken care of for the week!  I can pull this together for under $6 – local friends, ask me and I’ll tell you how – so it’s very economical.  If you don’t like or have on hand the veggies I use, just substitute your favorite veggies.  To save time and add variety, I’ve substituted frozen peas and carrots for the fresh baby carrots.  I’ve also used yellow summer squash instead of okra.  If you’re not carb-conscious, you can toss in some frozen corn or white beans.

Look at me, pretending to be a real food blogger with my ingredients picture. You're so impressed., right?

Look at me, pretending to be a real food blogger with my ingredients picture. You’re so impressed, right?

Hearty Turkey Vegetable Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 stalk celery, chopped
8-10 large baby carrots, chopped (or frozen carrots)
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 lb. ground turkey (dark meat is perfect)
1 1/2 T. chicken flavor Better Than Bouillon
2 c. hot water
2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes with onion and garlic*
1 can (10 oz. or 15 oz.) diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 c. frozen green beans
3/4 c. frozen chopped okra, summer squash, or a second zucchini
1/4 c. diced mushrooms, optional (fresh, canned, or freeze dried)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

*If you can’t find diced tomatoes with onion and garlic (mine are from Albertson’s), just use 2 cans of diced tomatoes and saute 1/3 c. chopped onion with the zucchini, adding 1 T. minced garlic for the last minute.  If you can find the canned version, though, it’s a huge time saver and has wonderful flavor!

Directions:
Heat a large soup pot at one notch past medium heat and add olive oil.  Saute celery and carrots (if using fresh carrots), and onion (if you can’t find the diced tomatoes with garlic and onion) for about 3 minutes.  Add zucchini and saute for about 4 minutes, until zucchini is lightly browned.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  (This step seals in the flavor and helps the zucchini keep its shape instead of turning mushy.)  If you’re adding minced garlic, saute it for about 30 seconds.  Remove veggies temporarily to a bowl.  (I just use the bowl I’ll be eating out of.)

In the same pot, brown the turkey until no longer pink.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Don’t drain the juice that’s released by the meat – it’s not fat. Push the meat to the outer edge of the pot and let the juice pool in the middle. Add the Better Than Bouillon to the juice and stir until it’s dissolved.  Add water and canned tomatoes.  Throw in the bay leaf and bring the soup to a boil.  Stir in frozen veggies, mushrooms (if using), and the sauteed veggies.

Simmer 15 minutes, covered, or until veggies are cooked to your preference. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Serves 6-8.

 

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The holidays are often the toughest time of year for those with gluten intolerance, especially if you have multiple food sensitivities in your home.  The one menu item that’s, perhaps, the most stressful to replicate is a gluten free, dairy free roll.  Personally, I hate baking yeast breads because they’re so time-consuming, and they end up grainy or crumbly when made ahead.  So I modified my popover recipe for those times when I want a roll without all the fuss.

GF, DF Popover Rolls

Mmmm…no fuss bread.

If you’re not familiar with popovers, they traditionally have a big hole inside the crusty exterior, and the roll is very moist and spongy.  Gluten free popovers do not “pop,” so I added some baking powder to give mine a little rise.  The result is that instead of a big hole in the center, these have several holes throughout, which give it a more roll-like appearance.  But once you taste them, you won’t care if it’s a true roll or not because they have a wonderful flavor!

The key to a tasty, gluten free roll is a little cornmeal.  You won’t taste the corn, but it helps the flavor and texture to resemble wheat rolls.  If you can’t tolerate corn, just substitute an equivalent amount of your GF flour blend.  Likewise, I used almond milk because I like its texture for baking, but you could use rice milk if you can’t tolerate almonds (although you might want to increase the fat by 1 T. and decrease the milk by 1 T., since rice milk is pretty watery).  For this recipe, I used the Namaste flour blend because my Costco is carrying it for a reasonable price, but I imagine you could substitute the flour blend of your choice.

These rolls come together in a snap – just the time it takes to preheat the oven – and are very tasty with honey butter, jam, or our new favorite spread, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter.  They can be made ahead of time, since these will never get crumbly, and they will last for several days in the fridge.  If you have leftover rolls, try slicing them horizontally (with a sharp, serrated knife to keep from mashing the insides) and filling them with leftover turkey or your favorite sandwich fillings.  My family enjoyed them for breakfast, filled with scrambled eggs, sausage, and melted white cheddar (which you can omit, if cheese is not tolerated).

For more gluten free holiday recipes, check out my Green Bean Casserole and Pumpkin Pie Crunch.  For a special holiday breakfast, try my Orange Cranberry Scones and Bacon-Wrapped Smokies.  Happy holiday baking!

Gluten Free, Diary Free, Popover Rolls

1 1/2 c. minus 1 T. Namaste GF flour blend*
1 T. cornmeal (put this in the bottom of your 1/2 c. and fill with above flour for easy measuring)
3/4 tsp. salt (reduce to 1/2 tsp. if using salted butter or margarine instead of coconut oil)
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. + 6 T. original almond milk (NOT vanilla sweetened)
3 eggs
2 T. refined coconut oil, melted (or substitute DF margarine with salt note above)

*If using a different flour blend that doesn’t already contain xanthan gum or guar gum, add 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum to the dry ingredients.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  (You’ll turn it down to 400 when you put the batter in, but you want the oven really hot.)

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.  Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until the batter is smooth.  Stir in the melted coconut oil or butter.

Pour batter into 12 greased muffin cups.  Turn the oven down to 400 degrees, then bake for 30-40 minutes.  (I baked mine for 33 minutes, but they could have gone a little longer to brown more.)  Serve warm from the oven or reheat in the microwave.

Just so you know…
As I promised in my pledge to blog the truth, here is – literally – the rest of the picture that you didn’t see in my photo above.  I had to shove my daughter’s spelling book out of the picture, brush crumbs off the table, and straighten the tablecloth for the kajillionth time before snapping my photo because my family is physically incapable of sitting at the table without pulling the tablecloth askew.  Please also notice the Legos on the stairs in the background because there are ALWAYS Legos everywhere.  Always.  And it’s laundry day, so as I type this, my laundry basket (also in the background of the picture) is waiting to hold the clean – but now incredibly wrinkled – clothes from the dryer.  Be blessed.

 The Rest of the Picture

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These Paleo-friendly muffins are moist and soft with a mild pumpkin flavor, and taste even better the second day (which, I’ve noticed, is common among baked goods made with coconut or almond flour).  For a stronger pumpkin flavor, substitute another 1/2 c. pumpkin for the banana (although this may affect the sweetness). You can vary the flavors by substituting a different fruit puree for the pumpkin, like applesauce or one of the many unsweetened flavored applesauce squeeze pouches available now, and swapping in frozen blueberries for the cranberries.

Oct 2014 019

These look and taste yummy, but scroll to the bottom to see my latest cooking flop. Seriously, it’s an epic fail.

This time of year, when fresh cranberries are available, I love the tart burst of flavor they add to muffins.  (Helpful Tip: Stock up on cranberries in November when they usually go on sale for $1, then put them inside a gallon-size freezer bag and throw them in the freezer for later use.)  These would make a great holiday breakfast because they’re low in sugar and loaded with protein and fiber, so you’ll at least start the day with a stable blood sugar level – even if you plan to indulge later!

Also, if you want to save money by roasting your own pumpkin, hang on to any leftover uncarved pumpkins you may have bought to decorate your doorstep.  Don’t listen to the fancy-pants food blogs that insist you can only bake with a special “pie” pumpkin (which is code for “expensive” pumpkin).  Lean in, because I have a secret to tell you:

Pumpkins are food.  Food can be eaten.

My grandmother made pies out of our leftover uncarved pumpkins for years because people who lived through the Depression survived by not throwing away food.  I know, shocking.  Some jack-o-lantern pumpkins may be a little more watery, but you can strain out the water with a coffee filter or just adjust the liquid content in your recipes, if needed, although I’ve never had a problem with mine.  I’ve followed these pumpkin roasting directions and simply cut my big pumpkin into chunks that will fit on my baking sheet.  (You may need to do it in batches or extend the roasting time if using big chunks.)

The best part about roasting and pureeing your own pumpkin is that you can freeze it in portion sizes that fit your favorite recipes.  I like to put 1/2 c. portions in quart-size freezer bags, press it into the bottom half of the bag, then press out the air and stack them in a loaf pan to freeze.  To thaw, simply pop one in the microwave for 30 sec. on 50% power, then flip over and repeat.

Now you’re ready to make these delicious, grain-free muffins all winter long!

Grain-Free Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

1 very ripe banana (the more ripe, the better – just cut out any bad spots)
1/2 c. pumpkin puree (canned is fine, just make sure it’s plain pumpkin)
5 eggs
1/3 c. melted butter or coconut oil (I prefer butter, but have used both)
1/3 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. coconut flour
1/2 c. almond flour
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 c. cranberries, preferably chopped (frozen works)

*If substituting applesauce or a different fruit puree for the pumpkin – I’ve enjoyed using peach puree – omit the pumpkin pie spice, increase the cinnamon to 1 tsp., and use blueberries or whatever fruit you like instead of the cranberries.

Directions:
Mash the banana or break into chunks and mash in your mixing bowl with the paddle attachment.  (Just be sure to place your hands strategically over the bowl to prevent chunks from flying out of the bowl when it first starts.  Ask me how I know this…)  Mix in pumpkin puree.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one.  Mix in melted butter or coconut oil, honey, and vanilla.  Add remaining ingredients, except cranberries, and mix well.  Stir in cranberries.

Divide batter evenly among 12 greased muffin cups.  Smooth the batter on top, if you can, to avoid crunchy ridges on top of the muffins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden and the top springs back when you press down on one.  Again, these taste better the next day (and the next day, and the next day), so bake them the night before to make your morning go smoothly.

The Good, the Bad, and the “What is THAT?!!”
As now, as promised, here’s the flip side to my baking success.  I am most definitely NOT one of those artsy-craftsy bakers who makes Pinterest-worthy decorative cakes and cookies.  My idea of decorating a cake is topping it with the sprinkles that come with the can of Pillsbury Fudge Frosting (and God bless the folks at Pillsbury for making the BEST gluten free, dairy free chocolate frosting).  So when my son wanted to turn peanut butter balls into cute little owls, we came up with this:

Nailed it.

As my son put it, “I saw that turning out differently in my head.”  The good news is that when you’re baking with an almost-13-year-old, having your cute little owl morph into a spawn of the underworld is still a win.

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This moist, delicious chocolate cake is the only dessert recipe you need to serve all your loved ones with food allergies – unless they’re allergic to awesomeness!  It is not only free of the top allergens – wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts – it is super cheap and easy to make.  But most importantly, your guests won’t know what they’re missing.  When my gluten-eating family members come to a birthday party, they eagerly ask, “Is this THE chocolate cake?”  When I served this at a party with gluten-eating friends, one of the teenagers – a TEENAGER, people – said, “This is gluten free and dairy free?  It tastes better than regular cake!”  She is wise beyond her years.

The secret to the moist crumb is vinegar and baking soda for leavening instead of eggs.  I know, it sounds weird, but I promise you won’t taste the vinegar.  This cake is inexpensive, and doesn’t need refrigeration because it contains no milk or eggs.  Like most GF chocolate baked goods, it tastes better the second day, so it’s a perfect make-ahead dessert.  For a finer crumb to make cakes in molds, just omit the extra tablespoon of water and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.  To keep it from sticking to the pan, grease the pan and dust with cocoa.  The cake won’t be as moist and dark, but it will hold its shape for fancy cakes like my son’s Lord of The Rings, ring-shaped cake (a.k.a. One Cake To Rule Them All), which I baked in a tube pan.

Ring Cake

I substitute cornstarch for 2 T. of GF flour because that’s how you make cake flour.  However, if you have a corn allergy, you can substitute potato starch.  If you don’t have sorghum flour, or are using a flour blend that contains sorghum, just substitute 2 more tablespoons of your flour blend for the sorghum.  I’ve made this with both my flour blend (below) and Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend (in which case I don’t use sorghum or add xanthan gum since this blend contains both).

For frosting, I have yet to come up with a chocolate frosting that tastes better than Pillsbury’s Fudge Frosting.  It is dairy free, but contains soy, so if you have a soy allergy you’ll need to make homemade frosting.  However, the original recipe I modified calls for a dusting of cocoa on top, so you could also try that instead of frosting.  If you want a white frosting that’s allergen-free for a birthday cake, I’ve made one using canned coconut milk that tastes really good (recipe below).

Moist Chocolate Cake

Allergy Friendly Chocolate Cake
Makes one 8″x8″ pan or 8″ round, or 12 cupcakes

1 c. sugar
3 T. cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s cocoa, found in the baking aisle)
1 1/4 c. GF flour blend*
2 T. sorghum flour (or use additional flour blend if yours contains sorghum)
2 T. cornstarch (or potato starch)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if it’s in your flour blend already)
1/2 tsp. salt
6 T. canola oil
1 T. GF vanilla extract (we get ours from Costco)
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 c. + 1T. warm water (or more, if needed to get a loose batter)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  It’s important that the oven is ready to go and the cake goes into the oven as soon as the vinegar and soda are mixed, otherwise the cake will be flat.  For this same reason, be sure to grease your pan or muffin tin ahead of time.  If you’re planning on making a molded cake or removing it from the pan to frost, dust the greased pan with cocoa powder, as well.

Use a whisk or the whisk attachment from your mixer to combine the cocoa and sugar in your mixing bowl.  (I just hold the whisk attachment from the mixer to blend the dry ingredients, then attach it when I’m ready to mix in the wet ingredients.)  Once the cocoa is thoroughly blended with the sugar, to keep it from clumping, add the remaining dry ingredients and whisk to combine.

Fill your 1 c. liquid measuring cup with hot water, then set it aside while you add the wet ingredients, starting with the oil.  Add the water last and mix on medium low for about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl occasionally and adding the additional tablespoon of water to get a thin batter.  Do not overmix.  If you use a different flour blend that absorbs water more, you may need to add another tablespoon of water to thin it.  The loose batter guarantees a moist crumb.  (See notes above if you want to make a molded cake that requires a finer crumb.)

Fill greased pan or muffin cups and immediately place in oven.  Bake square or round pan 25-30 min., or 20-22 minutes for cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (Use the shorter time if using a dark, nonstick pan.)  Cupcakes should rise to the top of the pan, but a square cake will not rise all the way up, so don’t worry that it didn’t turn out!  What it lacks in height can be made up with frosting…

Cool completely and frost or dust with cocoa powder.  Store tightly covered at room temperature.  Serve with vanilla ice cream – for a dairy free option, we like So Delicious brand coconut milk ice cream – drizzled with Hershey’s chocolate syrup, which is also dairy free!

Allergy Friendly Frosting:

1/2 c. dairy free margarine (I imagine coconut oil would work, with a dash of salt)
4 c. powdered sugar (this contains cornstarch, so do not use this recipe for corn allergies)
1/3 c. full-fat canned coconut milk (in the Asian food aisle, NOT the kind in the carton)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large mixer bowl, cream margarine and half the powdered sugar until light and creamy.  Add coconut milk and vanilla.  Gradually add remaining powdered sugar, beating until smooth.  Add a little more coconut milk if frosting is too stiff, or a little more powdered sugar if too thin.  This will have a mild coconut flavor that complements the cake well.

Chocolate Variation: I haven’t tried this, but according to my cookbook, you can replace 1/2 c. of the powdered sugar with 1/2 c. cocoa, sifted together with the remaining powdered sugar for a chocolate frosting.  For a mocha frosting, blend 1 T. instant coffee powder into the margarine.

*Brenda’s GF Flour Blend – I triple this and store it in a gallon freezer bag in the fridge:

1 c. rice flour
1 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. cornstarch
1/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
1 T. potato flour
1 T. sweet rice flour (also called sticky rice flour)

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I came up with this recipe after scoring a reduced-price Udi’s gluten free raisin bread loaf from the day-old bakery cart at the grocery store.  This is a great way to use up GF bread that is past its prime, since it’s too expensive to waste!  However, we were low on milk, so I searched the internet for recipes that use evaporated milk and found an easy one on the Carnation site that I modified by adding extra butter and substituting some rum extract, one of my husband’s favorite flavorings.  I used 9 slices of bread for a “cakey” bread pudding, so if you prefer a more traditional pudding texture, use 8 slices.

Substitutions
The original recipe called for bread and raisins, not raisin bread, so if you don’t have raisin bread you can substitute 8 slices of GF bread and 1/2 c. raisins.  I used a little less sugar than the original recipe called for, since the bread was already sweetened, so add another tablespoon of brown sugar if using plain bread.  If you’re not a fan of rum flavoring, or don’t have it on hand, just substitute additional vanilla extract for the rum extract.  To make this dairy free, substitute 1 1/2 c. original almond milk for the evaporated milk, since I have found that they both have the same creamy texture and have successfully substituted that in the past.

Raisin Bread Pudding

Gluten Free, Buttery Rum Raisin Bread Pudding

8 or 9 slices gluten free raisin bread, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
2 eggs, beaten
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk (NOT fat free) or 1 1/2 c. almond milk
1/3 c. brown sugar
5 T. butter or DF margarine, divided (if subbing unsalted oil, like coconut oil, add 1/8 tsp. salt)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. rum extract

Cube bread and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl combine beaten eggs, brown sugar, and 1/2 of the evaporated milk.  Melt 3 T. butter and add to mixing bowl with remaining ingredients and milk.  Stir until combined.  Add bread cubes and stir until coated.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While oven is heating, set a timer for 5 min. and grease an 8″ x 8″ pan.  When the timer goes off, stir bread and transfer to prepared pan, pressing down on the mixture with a spatula.  Set timer for 5 min. again.  Cut remaining 2 T. butter into 8 cubes and place on top of bread mixture.

Butter-topped Bread Pudding

When the timer goes off, place pan in the oven and bake for 35-40 min. or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  (Mine took 35 min.)  Serve warm with whipped cream or, for a sweeter bread pudding, drizzle with caramel or butterscotch sauce.  For a dairy free topping, I’d suggest a powdered sugar glaze with almond milk and vanilla.

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Making gluten free frozen meals doesn’t have to take extra time, just extra planning, and it can save you a bundle on expensive GF convenience food for those nights when you just don’t have time to cook.  The most economical way to freezer cook is to stock up on meat and ingredients for side dishes that freeze well when they’re on sale, and plan to cook enough for 2 or 3 freezer meals in addition to your dinner that week.  If you do this only twice a week, you’ll have a treasure trove of quick meals for busy nights in no time!  I did this for three weeks last month, and was able to take the week before Thanksgiving off of cooking as a result.  It was awesome!  If you’re having company come to visit, then you’ll definitely be glad you took the time to make a few meals in advance so you don’t have to spend precious visiting time slaving in the kitchen.

Tips on Freezer Cooking
The key to successful freezer cooking is to get rid of as much air as you can in your bag or container.  I have a fancy vacuum-sealer that I never use because it’s cheaper to just use a Ziplock freezer bag (I use generic brands).  Just place your completely cooled food items into the smallest size bag that will work, press out the air, close the bag almost all the way and, if it’s not raw meat, use a straw to suck out the rest of the air.  You’ll see the bag shrink around your food.  Then just pull out the straw and quickly seal.  Your food will last for months this way with nary an ice crystal to cause freezer burn!  For casseroles or side dishes like mashed potatoes, I like to place them in a disposable tin pan (from the dollar store) with a layer of plastic wrap against the potatoes and heavy duty foil over that.

If you’re new to freezer cooking, avoid dishes with rice or pasta, as these can be tricky to freeze without them turning to mush – especially rice pasta, which gets mushy easily.  However, corn tortillas freeze well, as do potato side dishes.  Most GF breads freeze well, as do cupcakes and cookie dough.  (I prefer to freeze the dough, rather than cookies which can crumble after thawing, since freshly baked cookies are the best!)  Homemade meatballs and chicken strips freeze well and go with side dishes that are quick to heat, like pasta or frozen GF French fries (always read labels on fries, since some contain wheat).  When making a homemade sauce or cream soup for casseroles, be sure to add a pinch of xanthan gum to keep the ingredients from separating.  (This miracle ingredient is in just about every commercial sauce or convenience food, and it’s already in your pantry.  Use it!)  It’s best to freeze sauces or crunchy toppings (like the onions for my Green Bean Casserole) separately and assemble thawed ingredients just prior to baking.

Some of my favorite freezer meals are right on this blog:

Crock Pot Pork Taco meat can be frozen in serving sizes for tacos or nacho meat. You can also make the tacos ahead of time and freeze them in a bag.  These make great enchiladas, too, but freeze the sauce for enchiladas separately.  This is a very versatile meat that is on the menu regularly because it’s easy to throw together, makes a lot, and pork roasts often cost less than $2/lb.

  • If you don’t have enough green chilies, you can substitute chopped onion.  Or if you’re not a fan of pork, just freeze your favorite meat with GF taco seasoning!
  • If you’re new to cooking with corn tortillas, heat 3 or 4 at a time over low heat on a griddle sprayed with oil.  Flip after a few seconds, and immediately top with shredded cheese (we use cheddar or co-jack).  Put a 1-in. stripe of meat down the center.  When cheese is melted, lift one side of the tortilla over the meat, then roll the whole thing over to seal.  The heat makes them more pliable for rolling, and the cheese will keep the tortilla from popping open.

Lasagna – Okay, I know I said to not do pasta, but this is the exception since you don’t cook the noodles in advance.  Just layer the ingredients and freeze for later, or make a double batch so you can cook one and freeze one.

Mashed Potatoes – I tried the recipe from the Pioneer Woman blog for Thanksgiving and loved it!  I mashed a 5 lb. bag of potatoes the week before and had some for dinner, then froze the rest in a gallon-size freezer bag.  Then, on turkey day, I thawed it in the microwave and plopped it in a greased crock pot on high for a few hours, stirring occasionally to heat evenly.  At first, it was really soupy, but it thickened as it heated up – and tasted amazing!

  • For dairy free potatoes, skip the cream cheese and just use dairy free margarine and rice milk.
  • For a one dish meal, set aside some mashed potatoes for Shepherd’s Pie, which can also be frozen.

Fried Chicken Strips – These are a great way to use tenderloins trimmed from chicken breasts, or you can slice chicken breasts into strips.  I’ve linked my Mandarin Chicken recipe, but these work with any dipping sauce.

  • To freeze, cool cooked chicken at room temperature on plates lined with paper towels, then transfer to a freezer safe baking tray to freeze for a few hours.  Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and press out (or suck out) the air.  Cook from frozen in a 400 degree oven for about 20 min.
  • Recently, I’ve been using/loving the Hodgson Mill GF Seasoned Coating Mix (dairy, soy and corn free, and available at our Wal-Mart).  I follow the directions on the back for Country Fried Beef (which you can also make and freeze), and skip the messy egg wash by just applying a liberal amount of coating mix and frying in oil until golden brown.  (I coat all the chicken once, then do it a second time.)  The recipe on the box for Country White Gravy is easy and awesome, so make sure you freeze some potatoes to go with your chicken strips!  However, these also taste great with barbecue sauce or honey mustard.

Meatballs or Mini Meatloaves – You can grind oats in a food processor as a healthy substitute for bread crumbs in your favorite meatball recipe, or grind the heals from GF bread (I save mine in the freezer for making bread crumbs) and combine with your favorite seasonings.  Recently, I’ve begun adding shredded potato and grated onion to my meatballs for moist meatballs that somewhat resemble my Grandma’s Swedish meatballs (only I’m too lazy to roll them in flour and fry them, like we do with Swedish meatballs).

  •  I like to heat up frozen meatballs in spaghetti sauce while the pasta boils, but we sometimes eat them like mini meatloaves or as meatball subs in toasted Udi’s hot dog buns with some spaghetti sauce and melted mozzarella or provolone.

Ham and Cheese Sandwiches on Onion Poppy Seed Cheese Rolls/Buns – My mother-in-law made these for get-togethers with family and friends because you can make these in advance and pop the wrapped sandwiches in the oven for a quick meal.  I like to make cheese rolls from a Pamela’s bread mix for these, but you could use your favorite hamburger bun/hot dog bun/roll for these.

Also, don’t forget to freeze leftover turkey or roast chicken to make Turkey or Chicken Pot Pie Pizza or Biscuit Pot Pies!

Some of our favorite gluten free breads and desserts to freeze include:

With some quick meal items in the freezer this month, you’ll have time to bake yummy goodies like Sour Cream Sugar Cookies or these Easy Holiday Goodies to Make with Kids.  Throw some Wassail in the crock pot, and you’re set for the holidays!

 

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“Mmm, banana bread,” said my husband after taking a bite of these soft but hearty, gluten free, dairy free, banana pancakes.  These come together quickly using the Bob’s Red Mill GF pancake mix, although I also added some oats that I ground in my little Magic Bullet blender, along with some flax for extra fiber and nutrition.  This is a tasty way to use up a banana that’s about to go bad, or sneak some fruit into breakfast for the kids.  (It also contains applesauce!)

To simplify busy weekday mornings, I like to make a large batch of pancakes on the weekend and reheat throughout the week.  These also freeze well.  For best results, put a serving size (2 pancakes) in a quart-size freezer bag, then press out all the air (or suck it out with a straw, like I do) and freeze.  This recipe also makes tasty waffles.

Banana Pancakes

Since syrup is loaded with sugar, I prefer to make flavorful pancakes with just a hint of sweetness, so all you need to do is butter these pancakes.  If you prefer sweeter pancakes, just sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar.  For an extra special breakfast treat, drizzle them with caramel ice cream topping, then sprinkle with chopped pecans and top with canned whipped cream.  Yum!

Banana Bread Pancakes

Makes 20 5-in. pancakes

Wet Ingredients:
1 med. ripe banana (the riper the banana, the sweeter it is)
3 T. brown sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce (or a single-serve cup)
2 eggs
3 T. melted butter or dairy free margarine (if substituting oil, add a dash of salt)
1 1/2 c. original almond milk (or milk of choice, but I like the creaminess of almond milk)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. Bob’s Red Mill GF Pancake Mix
1/2 c. GF oats, ground into coarse flour
1 T. ground flax, optional
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Bacon grease (preferred) or coconut oil for frying
Butter and powdered sugar for topping
Optional – caramel sauce, chopped pecans, and canned whipped cream for topping

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, place banana that’s been broken into small chunks.  Add brown sugar and turn mixer on low, holding your hands over the top of the bowl to keep in any chunks that might go flying.  (The brown sugar acts like glue to help the banana stay in the bowl, but sometimes the little buggers still go flying.)  Increase to medium and mix until you have a slightly chunky banana puree.  (If you don’t have an electric mixer, just mash the banana by hand.)

Add remaining wet ingredients, beating well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients to bowl of wet ingredients and mix well.  The oats will absorb some of the liquid while the griddle heats, but you can add more pancake mix or almond milk until the desired consistency is reached, if needed.

I prefer to cook 4 pieces of nitrate-free bacon on my griddle, saving the grease in the drain cup, then cook my pancakes in the grease.  It affects both the taste and softness of the pancakes.  However, I ran out of grease for my large batch, and substituted coconut oil with good results.  Just drop a spoonful of the solid coconut oil on the warm griddle and spread around with the spatula as it melts.

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This fun take on 2 kid favorites – chicken pot pie and pizza – is a recipe I adapted from Family Fun Magazine, and can be made either as a pizza or biscuit pot pie.  I began making the pizza when we figured out that my son was suffering from Intersticial Cystitus, a chronic condition that feels like a constant urinary tract infection.  While there’s no cure, the symptoms can be alleviated by avoiding certain trigger foods like caffeine, citrus and many other fruits, including tomatoes (hence, the search for a tomato-free pizza).

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Before I go on to tell you about this tasty recipe, I just want to take a minute to tell my readers how much my heart goes out to you, especially if you’re a parent of a child with multiple food intolerances.  When I downloaded the enormous list of possible food triggers (many of which we’ve now determined are okay for him), it was like receiving the gluten intolerance diagnosis all over again.  I looked through my pantry with despair at all the foods that would be off limits to my son until we slowly tested each food.  As I looked through my cookbook and tagged the half-dozen recipes there were NOT off limits to him, I cried for him and myself.  I remembered how overwhelmed I was during our first few months on the gluten free diet, and how sad I was that my kids had to be “different.”  If that’s where you are today, I just want you to know that you’re not alone.  

It’s been 6 weeks since then, and my son has handled his new diet restrictions remarkably well.  I’m reminded, once again, of how resilient our kids are.  We think they’ll fall apart when something bad happens, but if we continue to love and support them, showing empathy and compassion, they can amaze us with their ability to bounce back.  Kids with food intolerances have the potential to be some of the most compassionate kids on the planet because they know what it’s like to be the only one who has to pass up the Valentines cookie or sip punch at a reception because it’s the only safe thing to eat.  They also tend to be more grateful when people do go out of their way to include them because they don’t take for granted that they will be given anything.  So yes, it hurts to see our kids suffer, but sometimes the road of suffering is the road that leads to strength of character, compassion, and gratitude.  

One way we can support our kids is by taking the time to make yummy substitutes for some of their favorite foods.  That’s why I’m continuing my series of “Gluten Free Kid Favorites” (like corn dogs and chicken tenders) with the recipe below.   

Whether you like chicken pot pie or are just looking for an easy GF pizza crust recipe, I’ve got you covered on both!  The crust recipe is so versatile.  It makes tender, flaky biscuits, a quick and easy pizza crust, and can be used in your favorite recipes that call for Pillsbury biscuits from a can.  I like to mix up the dry ingredients in bags to have on hand for quick suppers.  If you have a food processor, you can simply dump the dry ingredients in, cut in the butter, then add milk.  So easy!  I’ve made it with half milk and half cream for extra moist biscuits, and rice milk for dairy free recipes.  The pot pie filling is spot on when it comes to mimicking those little (nutritionally void and laden with unhealthy ingredients) frozen pies I used to love.

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Chicken or Turkey Pot Pie Filling/Topping

1 T. butter
1 T. GF flour blend with a pinch of xanthan gum
1 tsp. chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon + 2/3 c. water (or 2/3 c. GF chicken broth)
1/2 tsp. dried minced onion
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. sage (I use ground sage, not rubbed)
1/4 tsp. thyme
2/3 – 1 c. frozen mixed veggies, thawed and patted dry (I use peas, diced carrots, and corn)
2/3 – 1 c. cooked chicken or turkey, chopped
1 c. shredded mozzarella (optional, if making biscuit pot pie cups)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute.  If using Better Than Bouillon, whisk this into the roux (the flour/butter mixture).  Slowly whisk in the water (or chicken broth) until the mixture is smooth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens and begins to bubble, about 2 min.  Whisk in onion and seasonings, and cook for 1 more minute.

Remove from heat and let cool while you make the dough.  If you made the dough first, just pop the sauce in the fridge on a hot pad to quickly cool while you chop the meat.

Biscuit and Pizza Crust Dough

1 c. gluten free flour blend
1/4 c. tapioca starch/flour (they’re the same thing)
1/4 c. potato starch (for softer biscuits) or cornstarch (for pizza crust)
2 1/2 T. baking powder
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 c. butter or dairy free margarine (real butter is best, if tolerated)
2/3 c. milk, rice milk, or half-and-half (for really good biscuits)

Whisk dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl or food processor.  Cut butter into chunks, then cut into dry ingredients with a food processor or two knives used like scissors.  (When I use my food processor, I like to add half the butter and pulse a few times, then add the remaining butter chunks and pulse a few more times.  Ideally, you want some pieces to be small and some larger pea-size chunks.  Smartypants Factoid: It’s the steam created from the melting of the larger chunks of butter that creates the flaky layers in biscuits, so don’t over-process.)  Stir in milk.

For Pizza: With floured hands, spread dough onto a 15-in. greased pizza pan or, if preheating a pizza stone in the oven, spread dough onto a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the stone.  (Preheating your pan will help brown the bottom of the crust.)  Spread sauce over the crust and top with 1 c. veggies and 1 c. meat.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over the pizza.  Bake 18-20 min. at 425 degrees.  (This crust also works with any topping, not just the pot pie topping!)

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For Pot Pies: Divide dough into quarters.  Divide each quarter into 3 balls.  Place the balls in 12 greased muffin cups.  With floured hands, gently press the dough down and up the sides of each muffin cup.  The dough should reach the top of the muffin cup.  (If you do this before making the filling, you may need to go back and press the dough up the sides again before filling, since it will slide down after sitting for awhile.)  Stir 2/3 c. meat and 2/3 c. veggies into the sauce and divide among the cups, about 2 T. filling per cup.  If desired, sprinkle with cheese.  Bake 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees.

For Biscuits: Divide dough into quarters or thirds (depending on how big you want your biscuits to be) and roll into balls according to pot pie directions.  Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and, with floured hands or the bottom of a glass, gently press down on each ball until it’s about 1/2-in. thick.  Or, using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and gently press down to flatten.  (These won’t rise or spread much, so you’ll end up with more even results if the biscuits are flat instead of rounded.)  Bake 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees.

There are lots more variations for this dough, so check back for future recipes like Garlic Cheese Biscuits, Bread Sticks, and more!

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Last weekend, I spontaneously decided that a family fun night was in order – it was either that, or lock the kids in their rooms for the rest of winter – and invited my daughter, Little Miss Planner, to help organize it.  Honestly, I think putting her “in charge” was as much of a thrill for her as the actual event itself.  We started by coming up with 3 possible options for the dinner menu, dessert, game, and family movie.  (We’ll use this same format next month when it’s my son’s turn to plan our family fun night.)  Even though I came up with most of the ideas, I tried to casually mention them as options from which she got to choose.  Again, she had so much fun writing down the ideas we came up with and circling her favorites, I was reminded that giving kids opportunities to have control is good from time to time.  (Not surprisingly, she’s been a much more cooperative child this week.  Hmmm…)

As we narrowed down the list of ideas, I realized that we could easily turn our fun night into a snow-themed party, a fitting way to celebrate the good part of winter – snow!  Here is what we did, along with some ideas for your own snowy fun.

Dinner Menu
Since we’ve had snow on the ground since Christmas, I suggested that we gather some clean snow to make snow cones.  I had bought some snow cone syrup years ago, and it had been sitting, unopened, in the garage for who knows how long.  But since it’s just corn syrup and chemicals, we decided to take a chance and ended up enjoying delicious, watermelon-flavored snow cones.  (It was actually strawberry syrup, though – I said it was old.)  Real snow cones are awesome!  If you have the means, I highly recommend them.

To go along with our snow theme, I wrapped homemade burgers on buns in white parchment paper and called them “snowball burgers.” (This was a BIG deal to my gluten intolerant family, since we rarely buy expensive GF buns.  However, I’ve discovered that the crusts from Udi’s and Rudi’s bread make great buns when buttered and grilled.)  I made a fresh fruit salad with pineapple, strawberries and kiwi, then sprinkled dried coconut on top and called it “snow-covered fruit salad.”  For veggies, I cut up broccoli “trees” and drizzled ranch dressing “snow” over top.

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Atmosphere
I knew my craft-loving daughter would get excited about decorating, so I dug out some snowflake stamps for her to use to decorate white paper as place mats (which, unfortunately, doesn’t show up in my picture).  We set out colored pencils so everyone could draw snowman pictures on their place mats while they waited for dinner, like the kids do at restaurants.  I also gave my daughter snowflake stickers to put on cheap, white paper plates.  I dug out some plastic snowman cups and snowman napkins from Christmas, and also set some snowflake votive candle holders on the table.  It’s easy to re-purpose Christmas decorations to add a festive touch (if your husband is willing to drag out the boxes from the garage that you JUST put away).

For music, we played the “Happy Feet” soundtrack (which I’ll admit, I do enjoy) while we got everything ready.  During dinner, we switched to George Winston’s “December” album, which is not overly Christmasy, and provides nice background music.

Activities
Our favorite activity, hands down, was the “snowball” fight with rolled up white socks as snowballs.  We each took a corner of the room and started with 6 “sockballs” each.  The kids and I hid behind chairs, while my husband was exposed (to level the playing field a little).  My daughter got to tell us when to start, then we proceeded to pelt each other with socks.  The great thing about sockballs is that they’re reusable, so we played until I got tired of getting beaned in the head by my husband, who has way better aim than I do.

For our other game, my daughter chose Cadoo, which is Cranium for kids.  It involves easy word puzzles and group activities like charades, drawing, and sculpting.  The winner got a ride in the “snowmobile” (an 18-gallon storage bin powered by my husband), while the losers dumped a sockball avalanche on the snowmobile.

Ice Cream Snowmen

Dessert
After so much play and exertion, we were ready for dessert.  To go with some leftover cake, we made ice cream snowmen.  Unfortunately, we were in a hurry to assemble them before we started the party, and did not let the ice cream scoops harden long enough, so our snowmen ended up leaning on the cake for support.  Oh well.  They’re super easy to make, however.  I used a cookie scoop to scoop out 3 small vanilla ice cream scoops for each snowman, and placed them in a wax paper-lined pan.  (I’d recommend letting them harden in the freezer for at least a half-hour to avoid lopsided snowmen.)  When the balls are firm, stack them into snowmen next to an edge of your pan to keep them from tipping over.  Put them back in the freezer for another 10-20 minutes.  (I skipped this step and regretted it.)  While they’re firming up, gather your supplies for making the face, arms, and hat.  Decorating the snowmen is a great activity for the kids.

  • For the face, we used mini chocolate chips for eyes, and jimmies sprinkles for the nose and mouth.  We use an orange sprinkle as a “carrot nose” by inserting a pointed end into the ice cream.  We used a brown sprinkle as a mouth.
  • For the arms, we used Glutino gluten free stick pretzels.  I broke the sticks in half, since a half pretzel looked better.
  • For the hat, we used a partially melted chocolate chip to “glue” a Rolo candy onto a Peppermint Patty because that’s what I had on hand.  (I warned the kids to eat the candies separately because…yuck.)  You can use a mini cookie for the base of the hat and whatever candy you have on hand for the top.  To glue them together, put 1 chocolate chip per hat on a piece of wax paper and heat it in the microwave until it starts to soften.  It should still retain its shape until you press down on it.  Use a spatula to transfer it to the base of the Rolo or whatever candy you’re using, then attach it to the base of the hat.  We had a hard time keeping the hats on the snowmen, but they still looked cute!

Snowman Candy Hats

Movie
After dessert, we watched our favorite winter movie, “Snowball Express” – a must-see family movie!  It’s from the ’70s, so it might be hard to track down, but it’s great fun.  “Happy Feet” and “Happy Feet 2” are also great for little ones.  Older kids will like “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” or “Chronicles of Narnia.”  Any movie about winter/snow would work, though.

During the movie, we had to have some hot chocolate, of course.  (We normally don’t consume this much sugar, but that’s what makes it a party!)  This easy mix can be used with any kind of milk, so it’s perfect for kids with dairy allergies who can’t have the powdered mixes.  I like to keep a batch of this mix in a container to add to warm milk whenever the kids have been playing in the snow.  Add your favorite flavoring and you have gourmet cocoa that’s a whole lot healthier than the stuff from the store for just pennies.

Dairy Free Cocoa

Dairy Free Cocoa Mix:

  • 1/4 c. cocoa (the kind you use for baking)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • Milk (dairy, rice, almond, coconut)
  • Flavoring, optional (vanilla flavoring, peppermint extract, rum extract, coffee syrups)
  • Canned whipped cream or mini marshmallows, if desired

Combine cocoa and sugar in a container.  Heat milk of choice (or decaf coffee for the grown-ups!) in the microwave until just warm.  In my microwave, it takes about 1 min. to heat 6 oz. (3/4 c.) milk.  Stir a heaping tablespoon of cocoa mix into each 6 oz. of milk (slightly more for coffee), then add a drop or two of flavoring, if desired.  Top with a squirt of whipped cream or mini marshmallows (or if you’re me, use kitchen scissors to cut up old, hard marshmallows leftover from last summer – the kids will never know!).

With a little creativity and planning, having a snow party can break up the winter blahs and brighten those long, dark nights.  For more indoor winter party ideas, check out my posts on cheap Valentines Fun with kids and Spring Break Staycation ideas.  Yes, it can be a happy January!

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