Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Preparing for a Different Kind of Christmas

With best intentions I bookmarked a few ideas for this coming Christmas.  This was the year I would make Christmas spectacular, making fabulous memories for my children.  I bookmarked a few good movies like Nativity.  I looked up information on Advent.  I bookmarked an activity called the Jesse Tree Advent Celebration.  I have a few (ahem dusty) books off my shelves, such as Stories behind the Great Traditions of Christmas by Ace Collins and Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas also by Ace Collins.  I had visions of truly getting into the REASON for the SEASON.  

I thought about this before Thanksgiving.  Knowing I needed to prepare both materials and my heart.  Having done this in years past, I vowed "THIS is the year I will get it all ready and actually do it!"  Once again, I fell short.  I realized today we should have lit the Advent candle yesterday.  Opps.  I meant to find sheet music and recordings to listen to and try to play that go with Ace Collin's book.  Opps.  I meant to have all the Jesse Tree material cut, pasted, assembled and ready to go.  Opps.  I meant to have meaningful activities about each tradition Ace Collin's book talks about.  Opps.

But you know what?  I forged ahead anyways with what little I did have.  We read the story about how Advent came about.  We read about the first song on the list and listen to a hastily googled song.  But you know what?  It was something.  It was more then last year.  And my kids told dad all about the advent wreath, even though we didn't light anything or make anything.  Tomorrow will probably be another "wing it" since today is done and I am so done.  So, I will forge ahead, do what I can do.  And try to focus on the meaning of the season.  Love.  Love for Jesus Christ.  Love for my husband.  Love for my kids.  AND love for myself even when I fall short.  =)  After all, Christ's message is all about Grace.

 Luke 2:8-14 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Merry Christmas ya'll.  What are you doing to bring a bit of the real meaning into your school room or family's life?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Learning about Skeletons

We are doing a unit on the skeleton.  I am LOVING it!  We made play-do bodies with and without tooth picks to emphasize the importance of bones for our bodies ability to be able to stand upright.  Simple, yet fun.  It was a great way to include the youngest in a more difficult lesson.  The older two, of course, had to give a bit more verbal detail and such, but everyone got to participate. 

Please note:  I do have boys, so of course the bodies had to be super heroes of some sort, complete with swords in hand.  Gotta love those boys.

We are also making a paper skeleton to add organs and muscles to as we continue our body study.  Awesome!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just a Little Angry Birds for my Turkey

My little turkey has been asking for an Angry Birds cake for his birthday, so of course I had to oblige.  I saw a good friend post some pictures of a cake she had made for her kiddos (who also have allergies) using something that looked like fondant.  She made the cutest Hungry Caterpillar cake!  I was intrigued!  I emailed her to see what she used.  She sent me a recipe she had used.  I had to tweak it a bit further to make in corn free as well, but it worked!  But a bit of a warning.  Making this fondant is a work out for the arms and hands.  This recipe is based off of this link.

***Note: This recipe needs to be made in advance.  Make sure to refrigerate over night.

Slowly melt marshmallows in microwave.  I put them in for about 20-30 seconds and then stirred, repeating this process.  AllerEnergy Marshmallows melt very quickly.  Add in vanilla and water, stir until mixed into a smooth consistency.  Add one cup of powdered sugar at a time (reserve one cup for dusting kneading surface.)  Dough will be SUPER sticky.   Grease hands.  Begin kneading dough.  As you knead it, it will become pliable and workable.  Turn out onto powdered sugar surface and keep kneading for about 5-10 minutes.  When you are done, wrap in plastic wrap or place in a Ziploc bag.  Refrigerate overnight.

Take dough out of refrigerator 1 hour before you need to start working with it.  I divided the large chunk into pieces.  I needed 7 colors, so I divided it into seven pieces.  I used plastic glove for this part so that the food coloring wouldn't stain my hands.  I washed the gloves off in between colors to keep them from staining the next color I worked with.  I sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar onto a work surface.  Knead the color into the piece until it is well mixed.  I suggest having plastic baggies ready for each color to keep them from getting dried out on the outside. If dough does get a bit dry as you are working with it, it will quickly soften as you knead the dough.  This dough will dry if left out.

Here are a few pictures of the cake I made for my sweet little turkey.  Love that kid!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

One of my sweetheart's (and mine) favorite meals is Chicken Pot Pie (of the gluten variety).  My littlest one has been begging for pot pie.  I acquiesced finally after several months.  The idea was daunting.  I had to replace A LOT of milk based products.  The end result was pretty good.  I am sure the recipe will be tweaked as I make it again.  I will update the recipe each time I make it if I try any changes.  I have both recipes listed here to share with you so whether you eat gluten, dairy etc. or not , you too can enjoy Homemade Chicken Pot Pie.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie (contains gluten and dairy)

Mix together in a bowl:
1 cup diced chicken (leftovers from Slow cooker chicken work well)
1 cup homemade chicken broth (leftovers from Slow cooker chicken work well)
1/2 package of cream cheese
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 package Trader Joe's mixed veggies

For crust, any package of pie shells that has two crust will work.

Preheat oven to 400.  Cook one pie shell in bottom of pan for 10 minutes.  Ladle in filling.  Cover with second pie shell.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  This is actually even better reheated.

(I never claimed it was a HEALTHY RECIPE.  wink, wink)


Allergen Free Chicken Pot pie

1 1/2 cup of Cream of Chicken Soup Recipe
1 cup shredded chicken (leftovers from Slow cooker chicken work well)
1/2 cup homemade Chicken broth  (leftovers from Slow cooker chicken work well)
Any mixture of veggies you have on hand.  Total should be 1 to 1- 1/2 cup.  I used shredded carrots, broccoli, cut up green beans.

Pie Crust:
I highly recommend making a pie crust from Cooqi Cake and Pastry Flour mix! Follow the link for directions.  I omitted the sugar for a savory crust.  I was using a smaller stone wear pan so the single crust was plenty!  Refrigerating the crust helped a ton when I did the top layer! (I may have skipped that step with the bottom layer and had issues... just sayin'~ be sure to follow the refrigerating tip...)

I prebaked the bottom crust for 10 minutes.  Added filling.  Covered with remaining crust and baked for 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just a little OCD

If I am honest about myself, I have to admit I can get a little OCD about things.  I have noticed my posts are just a little heavy on the food side these day.  Actually if I am honest, they are ONLY about food.  Sigh.   I do have a life outside of food (but not much ~wink, wink).  I naturally HAVE to obsess about "what will my kids eat today"; "Do I have food to pack if we have to go someplace?"; "Is the freezer stocked so that if I can't cook I have back-up?" etc. with all the food allergies my kiddos have.  Also, for my part time job I am creating a Holiday Meal Plan and Shopping Guide for people with food allergies.  So that increases the food obsession right there!  Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!  Right?!?

This blog is such a outlet for me and my life.  We are crazy busy.  So busy my calendar is color coded.  So busy that I often feel like I don't sit until I take time to work on this blog.  So busy I crash at night, if I sit still I fall asleep.  This blog gives me a bit of peace.

We have some family stuff going on and it isn't really blog worthy for this blog, but it is a stresser for me.  When I stress I cook/bake.  So I guess that means I now BLOG about what I COOK/BAKE when I am stressed.  LOL

So bear with me as I continue to blog about food.  After all it is my life.  As I know it.  Pun intended.  Note to self, don't blog at 2:00 AM.  The post becomes very weird.  I will continue to post about other topics.  But for now, it will be most likely all food.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A List of Ideas for Breakfast Meals~Allergen Free

Here is a list of our breakfast meals:

Please note all our breakfasts are rounded out with fruit, lemonade (we don't do juice) and I try to have some type of a protein.  All children take supplements (vitamins).

Creamy Rice Farina (Bob's Red Mill) think Cream of Rice
Steel Cut Oats (please only buy certified gluten free oats)
Coffee Cake  (recipe is in Special Diets for Special Kids II)
Indian Fry Bread (recipe is in Special Diets for Special Kids II)
Toast with Sunbutter
Pancakes (recipe is in Special Diets for Special Kids II)
Leftovers (recipes doubled and frozen for later)
Coconut yogurt and Coconut Cultured Drink (So Delicious)
And don't forget the huge wide world of smoothies!

At grocery stores there are now gluten free English muffins, bagels, waffles and so much more!

What is on your breakfast table?  Leave a comment below to help others plan their list!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Green Bean Casserole

Today you get a three for one!  Three recipes for the price of reading one blog entry!  Whoot! Whoot! 

My poor, deprived kids, have NEVER in their memory had Green Bean Casserole.  If you are from the midwest area, you know that it is a holiday staple.  Can't have a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal without it.  BUT, all the goodies in it are full of gluten and dairy.  I have decided to try to recreate it.  Whether they will eat it or not is another story... Anyways, here is what I came up with.

Green Bean Casserole
1 ¼ cup cream of mushroom soup recipe or around 10 ounces of Cream of Mushroom Soup
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk, or milk alternative of choice
1/8 tsp pepper
About 18 ounces of green beans ~frozen or cut, washed and sliced
1 1/3 cup French Fried onions
MIX soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2 -qt. baking dish. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup French Fried Onions.
BAKE at 350°F for 30 min. or until hot.
STIR. Top with remaining 2/3 cup onions. Bake 5 min. until onions are golden.

Basic Cream Of Soup (I based this on Allergen Free Cooking's recipe, click here to visit her blog)

Choose one: Cauliflower or potatoes ~ 1 cup cooked and mashed
1 tsp garlic
½ tsp. onion powder
¼   tsp. cumin
 ¼ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1/8  tsp dry mustard
2 TBSP Earth Balance Soy Free or coconut oil
1 cup of Chicken Broth (I used homemade, make sure it is gluten free!)
1 cup of pure coconut milk (or milk alternative of choice) .
Pepper to taste
Melt butter in saucepan, incorporate spices.  Add your broth and veggie of choice.  Slowly add milk alternative while stirring.  Bring to a boil, stir occasionally to avoid scorching.  Remove from heat.  If needed add a bit of potato flour to thicken.

For Cream Of Chicken Soup
Replace half the milk with good chicken stock OR add 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules to the milk.
Add 1/2 cup small bits of cooked chicken
For Cream Of Mushroom Soup
In a large skillet over medium heat cook 1 cup diced mushrooms in 1 tablespoon butter. Don’t crowd the skillet and cook til the mushrooms are light brown in color.

2-3 large sweet onions (shallots would be a good choice too)
Dairy free milk to soak onions in, I used unsweetened coconut milk
¼ tsp cayenne or chili powder
2 tsp. sea salt
Pepper (I do not use pepper, but I think it would add a nice dimension)
1 ½ cups of gluten free flour mix of choice (I suggest a  lighter blend such as Hagmann’s GF blend or featherlight)
Coconut oil or oil of choice for frying

Heat oil in a large frying pan.  Oil should be about 1 inch deep.  Slice onions into rings, and soak in dairy alternative of choice.  Mix flour and spices in a ziploc bag.  Dredge the onions in your flour mix.  Place in oil.  Do small batches.  When they float towards the surface, flip over.  Drain on paper towels when done. 

There you go... Your components to make a Green Bean Casserole.  Let me know what you think.  Or if you have a different version feel free to leave your link in the comments.  Happy cooking y'all.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Substitutions ~ Soy Free

Now I know this topic can step on a few feet.  People love soy.  I know I love my soy sauce on my rice.  YUM!  People also love it as a substitution for so many things when they have allergies.  But I have to lay it all out straight for ya.  Soy is bad.  REALLY bad.  Especially in our country.  Our soy verses soy in other countries is radically different food.  Monsanto has genetically modified it into a monster.  It is almost impossible to buy non-GMO soy.  (or grow it!)  Now I know this is where I am supposed to cite all my fabulous resources.  But I won't.  I think that this is so important that I want to you research it and see what I mean.  Take ownership of your knowledge.  Or simply trust me on this.  So the bottom line is that I guess I am not really anti-soy, but the GMO soy has GOT TO GO!!!!

One thing soy can do that bothers me most is it mimics "female" hormones... it can bring early onset puberty in girls and reduce testorone in boys.  In otherwords, it messes up kids growth and hormone levels.

So with all that being said, what do you use for your Asian inspired dishes calling for soy sauce?

Soy Sauce Substitute
3 cups water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp minced garlic

What are your thoughts on soy?