Sharing the fun and creativity in my world and encouraging the same in yours.

Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Cooking from Scratch – with food allergies

COLLEGE YEARS AND BEYOND

Over the course of my lifetime, I have come to appreciate homemade food and have found I cannot tolerate processed mixes and foods and, quite frankly, I simply don’t like them. From what I remember, a lot of them tasted like cardboard and/or were quite flavorless. Dehydrated onions vs. freshly chopped onions sauteed in olive oil? No comparison. Fresh for me!

There’s another reason I cook from scratch: both my husband and my son have food allergies. Our son’s are more extensive than my husband’s so as a result, I am a detailed-reader of food labels, triple-checking before I buy anything. I even have to be careful about buying a turkey for Thanksgiving! Did you know some turkeys have milk/dairy in the “flavorful injections”? Who knew?

Luckily, I already knew the basics of preparing, cooking and baking, I simply had to discover substitutions and create my own variations! The most difficult part for me? Remembering to write down the amounts of certain items for the next time I make the dish. 😀

WHAT ALLERGIES?

My husband is allergic to raw green peppers but can eat them when they are cooked. My son is allergic to raw celery but can eat it once cooked. Cooking apparently breaks down certain proteins and changes them in such a way that their bodies can handle the green pepper and celery just fine! Amazing, huh?

They both are allergic to most, if not all nuts; our son is allergic to all things dairy and eggs along with some fruits. My husband is allergic to most fruits but can eat apple pie since it’s cooked, but he can’t eat cherries at all. Bananas? No problem.

These are just some of the restrictions I’ve had to learn to cook around for more than 25 years, and thanks to my parents’ appreciation of fresh produce and homemade meals and my mother’s love of cooking, it’s been an easier challenge for me than most.

Did your parents cook from scratch too, and do you now? Or do you cook from scratch now because they didn’t while you were growing up? Does your family have any food restrictions which have helped you become a more creative cook?

Please feel free to share your story in the comments below, or if you’d like, start to comment and link to a blog post to finish your cooking story. I’d love to read them! 🙂

Copyright 2013, 2014, 2015 – All rights reserved.

My Mom’s Apple Pie And Cooking With Food Allergies

MOM’S APPLE PIE

My mom cooked almost everything from scratch. The first house we lived in had a good-sized garden and the second house had a barn and acres of farmland. This meant LOTS of fresh produce to eat, freeze, can, and cook with daily. Of course, on the occasion when she was pressed for time, she’d use a box of say, cake mix but always added an extra something to it to make it special. Other than that, she always preferred cooking and baking from scratch when possible.

One of our favorite baked goods was apple pie using Red Delicious and Winesap apples (half and half) from our own trees. Since Winesap apples are not available here in the south (something I am very upset about), I cannot seem to duplicate the flavor and texture of my mom’s apple pie.

Sometimes, though, a pre-made crust can come in handy. ;)

Homemade Apple Pie With Pre-made Crust

I find Granny Smith apples hold up well, though, and my son loves the slight tang of their flavor. The Red Delicious apples are usually too mealy and simply turn to mush by the time the Granny Smith apples are cooked so I simply removed them from the pie altogether. I remember making our own crusts half the time and the other half of the time, we used pre-made crust. Depending upon my mood, I use both as well.

Leftover Single Crust? Chop up apples, add a little sugar and cinnamon, and voila! Homemade Apple Turnovers.

Leftover Single Crust? Chop up apples, add a little sugar and cinnamon, fold over, and voila! Homemade Apple Turnovers.

COOKING FROM SCRATCH

As far as cooking from scratch goes, I cook from scratch now and have for about 25 years with rare exceptions. During my college years, I came to appreciate homemade food and have found my body is better for it.

Besides the many health benefits of cooking and baking from scratch (and incorporating as many organic items as money allows), I love the flavors of fresh produce. Dehydrated onions vs. freshly chopped onions sauteed in olive oil? No comparison. Fresh for me!

One other very important reason why I cook from scratch is food allergies. Both my husband and my son have food allergies.

Our son’s are more extensive than my husband’s so as a result, I am a detailed-reader of food labels, triple-checking before I buy anything. I even have to be careful about buying a turkey for Thanksgiving! Did you know some turkeys have milk/dairy in the “flavorful injections”? Who knew?

WHAT ALLERGIES SPECIFICALLY?

My husband is allergic to raw green peppers but can eat them when they are cooked. My son is allergic to raw celery but can eat it once cooked. Cooking apparently breaks down certain proteins and changes them in such a way that their bodies can handle the green pepper and celery just fine! Amazing, huh?

They both are allergic to most, if not all nuts; our son is allergic to all things dairy and eggs along with some fruits. My husband is allergic to most fruits but can eat apple pie since it’s cooked, but he can’t eat cherries at all. Bananas? No problem.

BEING CREATIVE IN COOKING

These are just some of the restrictions I’ve had to learn to cook around for more than 25 years and when I read this post to my husband just now, his reaction was, “Oh my God! That’s overwhelming!” I think he finally got a glimpse at the conversation that occurs in my mind when I’m grocery shopping and adapting recipes! 😀

But, thanks to my parents’ appreciation of fresh produce and homemade meals and my mother’s lifetime love of cooking, baking, and experimenting, it’s been an easier challenge for me than most.

Thank you, Mom!

And because of my mom, I already knew the basics of preparing, cooking and baking from scratch; I simply had to discover substitutions and create my own variations. The most difficult part for me? Remembering to write down the amounts of certain items for the next time I make the dish, something my mom did very well. She wrote her reviews and adaptations into the cookbooks themselves. 🙂

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Since it’s May and the month to celebrate your mother, did your mother have a favorite dish you’ve tried to replicate? Any success or adaptations?

Do you cook from scratch too? Did your parents?

Does your family have any food restrictions which have helped you become a more creative cook?

Please feel free to share your story in the comments below, or if you’d like, start to comment and link to a blog post to finish your cooking story. I’d love to read them! 🙂

Copyright 2011, 2012, 2013 – All rights reserved.

Comfort food: Chicken Veggie Noodle Soup!

We live in Florida, North Central Florida to be exact. Today was only 50 degrees F. and tonight we have a freeze warning from 11pm-9am tomorrow morning. We had unseasonably warm weather just 4 days ago, reaching 80 degrees F. As a result, I feel like I’m on a roller-coaster ride through the seasons!

On cold nights like tonight, I like to make homemade soups. Here’s one of our favorites to get us all toasty, inside and out. Enjoy! 🙂

I think I used too many noodles but that's okay. The soup was still yummy!

Chicken Veggie Noodle Soup

  • 3-4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 large celery sticks, sliced
  • 8 cups of chicken broth (I love Kitchen Basics myself; great because they care about allergens, no msg, no preservatives, etc. Read label. 😉 )
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 6 to 8 oz. of noodles, (depending upon how much you like)
  • 2 cups of cooked leftover chicken, cut up bite-sized

Instructions

  1. Heat large stockpot on medium heat until water skittles across the bottom. Add olive oil, enough to coat bottom then add onions. Saute onions until translucent (about 5-10 min).
  2. Add carrots, celery, and if desired, salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. Cover with tight-fitting lid and bring to a rolling boil.
  4. Add noodles and chicken and stir. Once the soup comes back to a boil, cook for 10-12 minutes (with no lid on). Serve hot!

I usually make biscuits with this but I totally forgot tonight which is alright because it turns out we didn’t have the shortening I needed to do so. 🙂

Substitutions: If you cannot use egg noodles due to an egg allergy, use 2-3 cups of cooked rice (white or brown). Simply add it with the cooked chicken and heat through, 5-10 minutes.

What is one of your favorite comfort foods for cold winter nights?

P.S. Sorry that the photo is kinda’ dark. I just looked at our light over the dining room table and yup, the light bulb on my side is out. Oops!

Copyright 2012 – All rights reserved.

Gingerbread cookies are done!

My son and I made Gingerbread cookie dough yesterday to refrigerate overnight. Thank you, Betty Crocker for the recipe which I have followed to the “T” for years. These cookies come out beautifully plump and soft every single time. The flavors of ginger, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon dance in your mouth. ~drool~ (oops, excuse me.) I get rave reviews from my son, my husband and everyone who tastes them!! 😀

We decorate them with raisins, cutting the raisins in half to form the eyes, and keeping them whole for the buttons. You can, of course, decorate them any way your heart desires.

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We baked 15 large gingerbread people and 9 mini ones (this size is great for holiday parties or school events). 😉  We have about half of the batch left so we can bake some more cookies either tomorrow, Christmas day or the day after. I just dropped off some of these cookies to our neighbors. Merry Christmas!!!! 🙂

Special Note: Never be afraid to split the baking over a night or two…or three! I’ve found, over the years, this prevents “burn-out”. Once the dough is made, you can always freeze or refrigerate until you’re ready for more.

Extra Special Note: This recipe is dairy-free and egg-free. Check it out in your Betty Crocker cookbook! 😉

There really is nothing like a freshly baked gingerbread cookie, warm from the oven. Yum!

How is your holiday baking going?

Copyright 2011 – All rights reserved.

Herbed Stuffing with Sausage and Apples

Stephanie aka @skinnyjeans asked me for this stuffing recipe. I serve this mainly on Thanksgiving but it’s good any time of the year.

Stephanie (and any other vegetarians/vegans), you can simply leave out the sausage and substitute gluten-free bread for my herbed French bread. If you’re making your own bread, I encourage you to add the herbs to the recipe. It makes a world of wonderful goodness!

I’ve also heard many people substitute cornbread in place of regular bread because cornbread is gluten-free apparently, (but please check it out for yourself to be on the safe side). Anyway, play around with the recipe, have fun and enjoy! 🙂

Ingredients

  • Homemade herbed croutons (see recipe below)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 oz. of ground pork sausage
  • 1 med. onion, chopped
  • 1-2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large red delicious apple, peeled & chopped
  • 2-4 cups of low-salt chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • In large heated stockpot, add olive oil (just cover the bottom, 1-2 Tbs.) and sausage. Separate and brown sausage until cooked through. Remove sausage to bowl and set aside.
  • Add onion (and a little olive oil, if needed) to pot and saute until translucent.
  • Add celery (and a sprinkle of salt and pepper), saute for about 10 minutes until tender.
  • Add chopped apple. Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add cooked sausage to pot.
  • Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth (or veg. broth), stir to get all the great flavor from the bottom of the pot.
  • Add croutons, stir/fold gently & add more broth til moist but not wet (1-2 cups).
  • Pour stuffing into a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish and bake in a preheated 350 deg. oven for 30-45 minutes.

French bread recipe

I make a French bread (no dairy, no egg) in my bread machine and turn it into herbed croutons for this stuffing.

  • 1-1/3 cups of warm water
  • 2 Tbs. of sugar
  • 2 tsps. of salt
  • 4-1/3 cups of unbleached flour
  • 2 tsps. active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsps. each of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme

I like to mix the herbs into the last 1/3 cup of flour before putting it into the bread machine. Put the ingredients in the bread machine in the order above, set to regular. This produces a 2-lb. loaf of herbed French bread.

Croutons

Once bread is cooled, dice up the entire loaf. Yes, the entire loaf!! Okay, you can give the ends to your hungry spouse or munchkins but that’s it. Then spread the cubes on a cookie sheet and toast in a 400 deg. oven for 10-20 minutes until lightly browned & crunchy. Voila! Herbed croutons for your stuffing! 🙂

This recipe usually fills two large cookie sheets. I then let the bread cool, pour into Ziploc bags and the croutons are ready to use later that day or the next. One added benefit, this process will make your home smell soooo good, you’ll have people drooling as they walk into the house! 😀

NOTE:  Chestnuts are a good addition to this recipe as well. I’ve simply stopped using them because for one or two years I couldn’t get any at the store, and then I simply forget to add them.

ANOTHER NOTE:  I know there is a meat substitute but I’m afraid I can’t remember what the heck it is since I’m not vegetarian.

Vegetarians and vegans, please help me (and the rest of the readers) and comment below with ideas. Thanks! 🙂

Copyright 2011 – All rights reserved.

Baking powder instead of baking soda

Several years ago, when I went to make my dairy-free, egg-less chocolate cake recipe, I discovered I was out of baking soda.  (The recipe called for baking soda and red cider vinegar.) I looked online to find the substitution measurement of baking powder vs. baking soda so I could use what I had on hand in the kitchen: baking powder.

On a cooking site (forgive me, I’m not sure which one it was), they recommend using 3 tsp. of baking powder to replace the 1 tsp. of baking soda (minus the vinegar).

Okay, fine.  Skip ahead to one or two years ago, I was running low on baking powder. I only had 2 tsp. of baking powder left.  My desire for cake won out and I used the 2 tsp. and baked the cake anyway. I thought I’d just have a denser cake, which was fine by me.  It would still taste just as good. 🙂

‘Lo and behold!! My cake was as high, if not a little higher with only 2 tsp. of baking powder versus the 3 tsp. I’ve used all this time! I was pleasantly surprised!

Why? For two reasons. 1) This meant my baking powder would last longer, and 2) It decreased the amount of sodium in the cake. (We’re being careful about how much sodium we’re using in our diets.)

The calculations:

55 mg of sodium per 1/8 tsp.  = 440 mg of sodium per 1 tsp.

I was using 3 tsps. so…3 x 440 =  1320 mg sodium for a single-layer 9-inch cake!

Granted, you don’t eat one entire cake in one sitting but still, that’s a lot of sodium.  I broke that down to 220 mg per slice out of 6 generous slices, (remember, it’s only a one layer cake).

Versus: 2 x 440 = 880 mg sodium.  That’s about 147 mg of sodium per slice using the 6 generous slices example.

Now for the fun, money-saving part!

The container says there are 383 servings per container.  Remember, the servings are 1/8 tsp., so 383 divided by 8 = 47.875 or about 48 tsps. of baking powder per container. If you use 3 tsps. each time, you get 16 single-layer cake uses out of one container.

However…if you use 2 tsps. each time, you get to bake 24 single-layer cakes instead of 16 out of the same amount of baking powder from the same container!!!  🙂  Woo-hoo! 8 more cakes before I need to buy another container of baking powder!

In times like these, I’ll take that savings! 🙂  LOL  Life’s simplest pleasures.

Copyright 2011 – All rights reserved.

Recipe: Pasta and Hot Dogs?

I learned this recipe in my Home Economics cooking class (remember those?) way back in high school.  I’ve made one or two adjustments over the years to make it my own.  One adjustment is that I serve the grated cheese on the side for myself and my husband because our son is allergic to dairy, (allergic not lactose intolerant, two very different things).

I’m also not one for hot dogs but when they’re grilled, I do like them and I buy the “purest” form of them: pure beef, no fillers, little or no preservatives.  We always grill extra so we have something for breakfast (my son eats leftover dinners for breakfast all the time), or lunch the next day.  The green pepper and the beef hot dogs are strong flavors so they need a sauce to match them.  I have found that this dish works better with a richer sauce rather than a marinara. Enjoy!

Pasta with caramelized onions, green peppers and hot dogs.

Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Green Peppers and Hot Dogs

  • 1 lb. elbow pasta (use 1/2 to 3/4 of the box)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 4-6 grilled hot dogs (leftover from night before)
  • 1 and a 1/2 jars of 7-herbed spaghetti sauce (1 lb. 8 oz. size jars)
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated (optional)

Takes about 30 minutes to make.  Serves 4-6 people.

Onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize! Yum!

Instructions:

  1. Fill large pot with cool water for pasta and begin to bring to boil.
  2. Heat large skillet on your stove top to medium heat. (That’s a 5 (out of 10) on my stove’s knob.)
  3. Chop onion and set aside.
  4. Check skillet.  If hot enough, swirl olive oil into the skillet, lightly covering the bottom.  Add onions and lightly sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper.  Saute onions until translucent and beginning to caramelize, about 5-10 minutes.

    Add green peppers, season and stir.

  5. Chop green pepper.  Add green pepper to skillet when onions begin to brown.
  6. About this time, the water should be boiling.  Pour dried pasta into boiling water, sprinkle with sea salt and a dollop of olive oil (keeps pasta from sticking together) and cook per instructions.
  7. Slice leftover grilled hot dogs and add them to the skillet once the green peppers are beginning to soften.

    Had a little incident with the olive oil jar, so there's more oil in here than I usually use.

  8. Brown the hot dogs on both sides, about 5-7 minutes.
  9. Carefully pour 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 jars of prepared 7-herbed spaghetti sauce into the skillet mixture.  Once boiling, lower the heat to 2 or 3 (low) and stir often for 5-7 minutes.
  10. Before draining pasta, spoon 1-2 large spoonfuls of pasta water into the skillet mixture.  This really does make a difference and helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
  11. Drain pasta and add to skillet mixture.  Mix thoroughly and simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

    After adding sauce, bring to boil and lower to simmer.

    Add cooked pasta and voila!

Serving suggestion:  Serve with your favorite fresh salad.  Enjoy!

Top with grated cheese for dairy-eaters.

Please note: I have a very light hand when it comes to salting our food.  I have found sea salt is not only better for you (your body processes it easier than table salt and it provides more minerals, nutrients), but it is more flavorful so you don’t need to use as much.  So, when I say sprinkle, I mean tiny sprinkle.  You can adjust to your own taste, of course.

Copyright 2011 – All rights reserved.