Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hankering for peppermint hot chocolate

One of my favorite food things the past two holiday seasons has been Westsoy's Chocolate Peppermint Stick beverage, which I discovered last year among the other shelf-stable soymilk cartons at Whole Foods. Before that I spent way too much money on peppermint hot chocolate at Starbucks, so I was so happy to discover a cheaper - but incredibly tasty - replacement. This year, Ainsley got addicted to it too, so we doubled our purchases from last year. Well, all good things must come to an end - we went to Whole Foods yesterday and, alas, it was no longer there. But thanks to my recent purchase of peppermint extract for a recipe I have yet to try, I decided to concoct my own, which Ainsley declared to be "just as good as the kind we get at the store!" Here's the "recipe":

-Start with 1 mug of soymilk (plain or vanilla).
-Mix in enough liquid chocolate Nestle Quick or Hershey's syrup (both are free of Ainsley's allergens!) to make the milk very brown ("hot chocolate brown").
-Add 2 drops peppermint extract.
-Microwave for 1 min. to 1 min. 30 sec. (I microwave Ainsley's for just a minute because I don't want it very hot for her).
-Add safe marshmallows (like Kraft Jet-Puffed) if desired.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fun food allergy Christmas gifts

Before I had Ainsley, I never knew what to say when people asked what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday. I am not one of those people who enjoys collecting purses, jewelry, perfumes, shoes, DVDs, CDs, or anything like that (believe me, Dave is quite happy that he married a girl like me! I have saved him a lot of money over the years). So I have always had to think of random things for them to get me - but it was never anything that I really had to have.

Since we discovered Ainsley's allergies and I began (slowly) learning how to cook and bake from scratch, however, I have discovered the fun world of cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, and appliances, and all of a sudden I had things I really, really wanted - or even needed - that I could put on my Christmas and birthday list.

This Christmas I got a great haul of these items, including: the Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book, a new food processor (old one died), a new hand mixer (Leighton threw away one of the beaters to my old one, and a one-beater mixer is not very effective), an immersion blender (I saw this on someone else's blog and thought it looked really cool), and a Belgian waffle iron (I looooove Belgian waffles).

So far I've used all of them except the immersion blender, which I plan to break out next time I make soup. I've even combined gifts: I used the waffle recipe from the baking book to make waffles using my waffle iron and have also made her berry breakfast smoothie in my new food processor (I have resolved that our family will eat a healthier breakfast in 2010 so I've been feeding them bran muffins and smoothies every weekday morning; I break out the waffle maker on weekends).

The fact that Ainsley's entire family, including the grandmothers, is cooking more means that I also have more ideas for gifts for them than I did before. This year I got my mom a new cake pan and cookie sheet because the ones she uses now are really old, and she was really excited.

Any cool kitchen gadgets/appliances you love? I am always interested in hearing what gets used a lot in other kitchens.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some ideas for people who must also eat soy-free

Last week I had a cooking/baking challenge that opened my eyes to how difficult it is to live with a soy allergy - especially when it's coupled with a dairy allergy. We threw a little New Year's Eve dinner party for friends who, like us, have small children (and thus can't do the traditional stay-up-til-midnight drinking thing). One of the moms who came is eating dairy- and soy-free because her baby has a suspected milk and/or soy allergy. She has been having a really difficult time finding recipes that don't contain one of these allergens as an ingredient. I always knew it would be hard to have both allergies - because most dairy substitutes are made with soy - but buying ingredients to make food that was safe for her made me thankful that we do not have a soy allergy in our house. I have been taking for granted that almost everything I make for Ainsley has soy in it.

I finally landed upon a few recipes that turned out wonderfully. One was the plain cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (see sidebar, "My Favorite Cookbooks", for link to this book). The only substitutions I made were to use rice milk in place of the soy milk and soy-free Earth Balance in place of the regular Earth Balance I usually stock at home. I also made the icing from that cookbook using soy-free shortening (Spectrum, which is 100% palm oil), soy-free Earth Balance, and rice milk (in place of the soy milk).

In addition, I made cookies using this recipe from Kelly Rudnicki's new baking book: http://www.foodallergymama.com/2009/06/02/another-treat-idea-for-end-of-school-year-parties/ . As with the cupcakes, I used soy-free Earth Balance and rice milk.

Both the cupcakes and cookies turned out wonderfully. I got many compliments from non-food-allergic people about how yummy the cupcakes were (one said to me that it was the best cupcake she'd ever tasted).

I also made a dairy- and soy-free pizza for my friend (and Ainsley - for the other people we ordered in from a local pizzeria). I used this pizza dough recipe: http://www.foodallergymama.com/2009/03/08/the-fastest-allergen-free-pizza-ever/ , which contains no soy. For the sauce, I combined 1/2 can of Muir Glen Organic pizza sauce (available at most Whole Foods) with 1 small can tomato paste. For the topping, I browned ~1 lb. of ground chuck in a skillet. When the meat was still a little pink, I added 1/2 chopped green pepper and 1/2 chopped onion. I also added liberal amounts of salt and pepper. After the meat was browned and the veggies tender, I put the mixture on top of the sauce and baked the pizza according to the above recipe's directions. (Note that if you're okay with soy, you could also use Pillsbury refrigerated pizza crust.)

I have to say that this was probably the best dairy-free pizza I've made, and our soy- and dairy-free friend loved it. I sent the leftover pizza and desserts home with her to enjoy. If any of you have any easy soy- and dairy-free recipes you'd like to share, please post them or post links to them and I will be sure my friend gets them!