Completely Allergy Friendly and Actually Good Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know I mentioned this a while back, but my niece is gluten free. My extended family has been making a considerable effort to make all meals safe for both my niece and Ricky. For those of you keeping track, that means free of gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. Yup, it’s a lot. Lucky for us, my sister is a great cook and I do my best to keep up:-) So, we have started compiling a list of apps, entrees, sides and desserts that are safe for the whole family and I’m going to share them here as well. In an effort to start off with a bang, the first recipe up is a chocolate chip recipe free of the top 8 allergens! That is a big flipping deal guys!

We started with both of our favorite chocolate chip recipe, the much revered Nieman Marcus chocolate chip recipe, and tweaked it until it was safe and tasted just as delicious as the original. No, I am not just saying that, it is actually just as good as the original recipe! My family is not exactly the kindest of critics when it comes to food, and they all approved! I’m going to give you both the non-gluten free and gluten free options, just to cover all our bases.

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Top 8 Safe Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dairy-free butter at room temp (we use Blue Bonnet Lactose Free sticks, Earth Balance Dairy-Free, Soy-Free is a great options as well)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 flax eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour*
  • 2.5 cups blended oatmeal**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 8-10 oz Enjoy Life chocolate chips (This depends on your taste, I like a little less chocolate in my cookies…don’t judge me)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix your flax eggs and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and both sugars
  • Mix in the flax eggs and vanilla
  • In a seperate bowl, combine flour (and xanthum gum if using), blended oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda
  • Slowly incorporate flour mixture into butter/egg mixture. Once fully blended, stir in chocolate chips.***
  • Roll dough into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes at 375 degrees. Cool on a wire rack.
  • Enjoy and try not to eat all of these in one sitting!

*If gluten free, use 2 cups  King Arthur All Purpose Gluten Free Flour and 1 tsp xanthum gum
** Place rolled oats in a food processor and blend until it is a fine powder
*** Suggestion: refrigerate dough for ~30 minutes (or longer) prior to rolling into balls. The dough is much easier to work with when it is cold

Allergy Friendly Brunch

I’m not the only one with spring fever, right? I desperately want to open all the doors and windows in the house and spend countless hours at the park.

I am so thankful that we had a glimpse of spring on Easter. It was wonderful to have an Easter egg hunt outside and not feel rushed to get back inside to warm up! We had a busy day, starting with 7:45 am mass, breakfast at my sisters and ending with an egg hunt and dinner at Karl’s uncle’s house. Our immediate families have really started to come around to serving only Ricky-friendly food when we’re all together. Have I mentioned that we have awesome families? Because we do. Breakfast is especially tricky to avoid dairy and eggs, on top of that my niece cannot have gluten so we need to try to eliminate that as well! When trying to fit in so many family gatherings on holidays, avoiding breakfast is not really an option, so we have come up with a pretty excellent brunch menu that is delicious and free of nuts, dairy, eggs and gluten!

Brunch Menu

breakfast brunch

It may be simple, but it works for us and I haven’t heard any complaints yet!

Gluten Free Banana Cinnamon Crumble Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 flax eggs (2 Tbs ground flax, mixed with 6 Tbs water)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk*
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup bananas, mashed (~2 large very ripe bananas)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups King Arthur All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 tsp xanthum gum
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cinnamon Crumble Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup King Arthur All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter softened**
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Make flax eggs and buttermilk and set aside for approximately 5-10 minutes
  • Whisk together flax eggs, buttermilk and oil
  • Mash bananas and add to the flax egg mixture along with the vanilla. Mix well
  • In a separate bowl combine flour, xanthum gum, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon and salt
  • Add flour mixture into the flax egg mixture slowly, stirring to combine. Be careful not to over-mix
  • Pour bread dough into a greased 10″ bread pan
  • Mix your cinnamon crumble topping by adding the flour, sugar and cinnamon to the softened butter and stirring with a fork. Break any large pieces up and sprinkle evenly on top of your bread dough
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 75-85 minutes. Note: this is a lower temperature setting than called for by the “extensively baked” plan, but the duration of time is quite a bit longer, so it is approved by our allergist.
  • Take the bread out of the oven and cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack

*To make dairy free buttermilk, mix 1 Tbs vinegar with 1 scant cup coconut milk
**Best dairy free option here is Blue Bonnet Lactose Free

And since I know you’re all dying to see my cuties on Easter, here you go! Karl and I have agreed that I can dress the boys (including him) on Christmas and Easter without any sass from him, and I make the absolute most of it!

Homemade No-Nut Chocolate Cups

With Christmas approaching, I have been searching for the perfect gifts, which for me includes stocking stuffers. For some reason, my favorite part of Christmas every year was opening my stocking. Being quite a few years younger than my siblings, I was always the first one up for Christmas. Since my sisters were teenagers when I was still in gradeschool, you can imagine that they were a little slower to hop out of bed on Christmas morning. My mom took mercy on me and always let me open my stocking before everyone else got up and it became one of my favorite traditions. My mom put together one mean stocking- filled to the brim with our favorite candy, nail polish, fuzzy socks and the best part- one piece of jewelry. Having boys, the jewelry part is obviously not going to be a tradition that I carry on, but I still want to make sure they have excellent stockings! As any friends of Karl and I will tell you, we have quite the sweet tooth and it did not skip a generation- Ricky LOVES candy. It’s a problem. We try to keep sweets to a minimum in our house because of our intense addiction, but Christmas is not a time for self-control and restraint! Hence, my search for chocolate began.

There are not a lot of options out there for dairy free, egg free, and nut free chocolates. When I did find a few store-bought options, they were either dark chocolate (which has its place, but isn’t the best for a 2 year old) or was extremely expensive. We ordered some chocolate from Premium Chocolatiers and it was SO yummy! Seriously delicious. It absolutely fit the bill for stocking-stuffer perfection. Unfortunately, the price makes it a “special occasion treat” only. After trying their “Peanot Cups” I decided I needed to try to make my own. Mostly because they were so stinking good that I hadn’t had enough but couldn’t justify spending more $$ on chocolate. So, here is my version of No-Nut Chocolate Cups (I used Sunbutter, so we’re calling them Sunbutter Cups in our house because No-Nut Chocolate Cups is kind of a mouthfull for a 2 year old).

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No-Nut Chocolate Cups
(Makes 24 cups)

Ingredients

  • 2 bags Enjoy Life chocolate chips (10 oz each)
  • 1/2 cup no-nut butter (I used Natural Sunbutter)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs softened margarine or diary-free butter substitute (I used Blue Bonnet Lactose Free sticks)*

Directions

  • Line a mini-muffin tin with 24 paper liners
  • Melt the first bag of chocolate chips either in a double boiler or microwave. If using the microwave, be sure to melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring between each- this should take around 1.5 -2 minutes.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, divide evenly into the muffin cups using a spoon. Shake the pan every few cups to help smooth out the tops. Freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Prepare your Sunbutter mixture by combining the Sunbutter, powdered sugar and softened margarine in a bowl and beating with a hand mixer until smooth.
  • Divide the Sunbutter mixture evenly into the muffin cups, freeze for another 15 minutes
  • Melt your second bag of chocolate chips using the same method as the first bag. Divide the chocolate evenly on top of the Sunbutter mixture into each of the muffin cups. Shake the tray to smooth out the tops and be sure to work quickly here as the cups are cold and will start to harden the chocolate right away.
  • Finally, freeze for 15 more minutes to harden the top layer and then enjoy!

I recommend storing these in a ziploc bag in the freezer or refrigerator and thawing before serving. (Or if you’re me, put one on the counter to thaw, and then give in 2 minutes later and eat it frozen!)

*These could be made soy-free very easily by using a dairy-free, soy free option like Earth Balance

Baked Milk Challenge: Banana Cinnamon Crumble Bread

Hello world! I promise we’re all still alive and well over here- just a little busier with two babes running the show. Raymond is 2 and half months and fits into our little family perfectly. You often read about how adding a child to your family makes it feel more complete, and that is exactly the case with little Ray. We still plan to add a couple more munchkins to the gang eventually, but Raymond makes us feel even more like a family. Ricky has adjusted wonderfully! He was a little extra sassy the first month or so, but has started to calm down and get back to his normal, well-behaved self. I think this is because Raymond is taking more consistent naps in the morning, allowing me to give Ricky some one-on-one time. A little attention goes a long way with him and as long as he gets some face time, he is much more well-behaved the rest of the day. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, if we don’t get any one-on-one time and I’m focused on Raymond the majority of the morning, by nap time Ricky is guaranteed to have more than his fair share of tantrums. Let’s hope Raymond continues this new trend of morning naps, for everyone’s sanity!

Also, Raymond is huge. He is already starting to wear 6 month clothing! Ricky was in 3 months until he was around 5 months old! Just another example of each kid having their own identity, I suppose. Either way, they are both pretty darn adorable. Life is good.

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Allergy update. We had a set-back a few weeks ago. We had worked our way in the baked dairy challenge all the way up to baked cookies (no longer considered “extensively baked,” baked at 350 degrees for ~10 minutes) with no reactions. So, we moved forward to the next step: stove-top pudding. We gave Ricky about a teaspoon of stove top pudding made with milk, and within a couple minutes he started itching and his lips got puffy. We monitored him closely for about 10 minutes before deciding to go to the ER. There were no hives, but his mouth was obviously swelling and he coughed a few times. We did not administer the epi because we live so close to the hospital, but I had it on hand, in ready the entire time. So scary. It was a real blow to our morale, we had truly gotten our hopes up that he had outgrown his allergy. This reminder that a small amount of something as common as dairy could kill our son was jarring. Because of the mouth swelling, our allergist suggested we dial back the baked dairy challenge to “extensively baked” for the next year, meaning everything has to be baked at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Ricky is only 2 and although he is very communicative for his age, he is still not able to accurately describe things like an itchy mouth or tongue swelling, so our allergist felt it best that we wait another year before trying to move forward and we completely agree. Which means, I need to continue to find yummy breads and other recipes that fit the “extensively baked” requirement. Here is one of my most successful finds, adapted from this recipe.

I have tried a lot of banana breads and they always seem to end up under-cooked in the middle. Finally, the yummiest, completely cooked bread with a crunchy cinnamon crumble on top. Enjoy!

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Banana Cinnamon Crumble Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 flax eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup bananas, mashed (~2 large very ripe bananas)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cinnamon Crumble Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter softened
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Make flax eggs and buttermilk and set aside for approximately 5-10 minutes
  • Whisk together flax eggs, buttermilk and oil
  • Mash bananas and add to the flax egg mixture along with the vanilla. Mix well
  • In a separate bowl combine flour, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon and salt
  • Add flour mixture into the flax egg mixture slowly, stirring to combine. Be careful not to over-mix
  • Pour bread dough into a greased 10″ bread pan
  • Mix your cinnamon crumble topping by adding the flour, sugar and cinnamon to the softened butter and stirring with a fork. Break any large pieces up and sprinkle evenly on top of your bread dough
  • Bake at 325 degrees for 75-85 minutes. Note: this is a lower temperature setting than called for by the “extensively baked” plan, but the duration of time is quite a bit longer, so it is approved by our allergist.
  • Take the bread out of the oven and cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack
  • Enjoy!

Ricky’s 2nd Birthday and Italian Pasta Salad

Our oldest little man turned 2 last week! I still can’t believe it myself. He is such a sweet boy and we are beyond blessed to have him in our lives. We had a little party to celebrate, just our immediate families and a few close friends. Ricky had a blast being the center of attention and everyone enjoyed watching him play, open presents, and of course- eat cake!

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We made sure all of the food was Ricky-friendly (i.e. nut free, egg free, dairy free) so no one would have to worry about smooching him or playing with him on his big day.Food allergy friendly party menus are not the easiest to create. You want everyone to enjoy the food (and not just “this is pretty good for being allergy food” enjoy it) but make sure it is 100% safe. Here is what we came up with for a nut free, egg free, dairy free dinner menu to serve ~25 people.

Appetizers:

Entre/Sides:

  • BBQ chicken on the grill (just chicken breasts slathered with some Sweet Baby Ray’s
  • Italian Sausage (be cautious of the buns used, not all are dairy free)
  • Applegate Beef Hot Dogs
  • Italian Pasta Salad (see recipe below)
  • Fruit Salad

Dessert:

Everything turned out great! The Italian Pasta Salad is a recipe of my MIL’s and I’m so glad she shared it! Most pasta salads contain dairy or Miracle Whip (i.e. eggs), so it is wonderful to have one that is completely safe for Ricky but still has lots of flavor!

Italian Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 box spiral noodles (we use Ronzoni Smart Taste)
  • 1 bottle Italian Dressing
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/2 package pepperoni, cut into halves (watch for dairy. we used Hormel)
  • 1/2 head broccoli
  • 1/2 head cauliflower
  • Seasoning: This recipe originally used McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning, but since that contains dairy, we mixed up our own! There are no exact measurements, use each according to your taste!
    • Salt, Sesame Seed, Poppy Seed, Paprika, Garlic, Black Pepper, and Red Pepper

Directions

  • Cook pasta according to box
  • Cut up veggies and pepperoni and toss with the pasta
  • Mix seasoning into Italian dressing
  • Stir dressing mixture into pasta and veggies
  • Enjoy!

Ricky’s First Ice Cream Outing

This weekend we went out for ice cream. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal for most families, in fact it is probably a weekly occurrence. For us, though, it was the first time Ricky has ever been able to go to an eating establishment and actually get something…and it was amazing.

On a recent trip to a local ice cream shop I noticed that they had a product listed as dairy-free. Let me start by saying that this is the same ice cream place that I grew up visiting and ranks FAR above any other similar shops. If you are from the metro-Detroit area you have most likely heard of Erma’s and if you haven’t ever visited, get in your car now. They specialize in frozen custard and it is amazing. They also change their flavors every couple of week so many people have special favorites that they wait to come up on the menu. My favorite is Wild Erma and it may or may not be marked in our calendar- it is scheduled for the weeks immediately following Baby #2’s due date and I had to make sure Karl was well aware that obtaining this custard was his primary duty while I’m out of commission (ok, maybe not primary, but important nonetheless).

I digress… so, I noticed that they had a product called Erma’s Ice, which is labeled as dairy free. It is very similar to sorbet in consistency and can be swirled in a cup just like normal soft serve! I gave the Utica store a call and they were very accommodating and read me all of the ingredients- there was nothing Ricky couldn’t have! Next step was talking to our allergist and he said as long as the ingredients were safe, the main things to watch out for are:
1) Is the Erma’s Ice always in the same canister or is it alternated with custard (providing high likelihood of cross contamination)? Answer: Erma’s Ice is always made in the same canister!
2) Are there ever nut flavored ices or other products made in that canister? Answer: Nope! There have never been any nut flavored Ice products.
3) Is there an individual spout for the Erma’s Ice or does it share a dispenser with custard (again, ensuring cross contamination)? Answer: Erma’s Ice can be twisted with custard, but it also has an individual dispenser spout.

Erma’s Ice seemed to meet all possible criteria for an allergy friendly food! Karl and I packed up the little man and went to the local Erma’s right when they opened on Sunday. We wanted to avoid any crowds and that place is hopping pretty much every evening. It was a wise decision and I was able to talk directly to the same excellent employee that had talked to me on the phone previously about ingredients. She was so thoughtful and even though I didn’t ask (which I should have- dropped the ball here), she went and put on gloves to handle Ricky’s Ice. Her thoughtfulness combined with getting to experience something all parents look forward to doing with their kids brought me to tears. I was definitely looking forward to the outing, but I had no idea how emotional it would be! So, this is my long, drawn out shout of praise for Erma’s Custard and encouragement for those that have food allergies to consider this an option for a fun family outing.

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photo 2 (21)What a happy boy! I just love bringing a smile to his face, especially when it involves a little red mustache 🙂

Blueberry Muffins and a Weekend Flying Solo

To all you people out there who have spouses that travel- I’m sorry. Karl rarely goes away for a night without me, and when it happens I turn into a 13 year old girl- pouty and scared of the dark. He went up north this weekend for a bachelor party with some of his closest friends and had a great time while I held down the fort at home. In the past whenever he left for a weekend, I had a bad tendency of laying on the guilt pretty thick- what can I say, I’m pretty selfish about his time and HATE sleeping in the house by myself. This weekend, however, I took a page out of his book and think I did a pretty good job of encouraging a fun weekend rather than being a downer. My husband is the best. Any time I have a girls night or go out to do something fun by myself, he is nothing but sweet and encouraging, usually sending me a note half-way through the evening reassuring me that everything is good at home and to stay as long as I want. Not that I need the permission, but it is great knowing that he is not back at the house wallowing in loneliness. Like I said, I have not always matched his kindness on this particular topic in the past, but this time I was bound and determined to make his weekend more enjoyable rather than take away from it with guilt about not being home.

I don’t know if it was good karma, but this was also the first time I’ve stayed in our house by myself without being terrified. I realize that I’m an adult with a husband and a child and have lived here for over 3 years, so I should be more than comfortable sleeping in my house alone, but I’m not. Once the sun goes down, every noise in the house becomes someone trying to break in and take me or my baby. The other night I heard a couple loud thumps and demanded that Karl search the house for anything amiss. He did and I was so unreasonably afraid that I accused him of not looking thoroughly enough because he came back way too soon. Did I mention that it was 2:30 am? Turns out it was just Ricky kicking the wall and I’m a big jerk. For the record, I did apologize in the morning once my sanity returned with the sunlight. BUT, I did great this weekend (sorry for the self-praise, but this was big you guys) and I’m hopeful that in the future I’ll be able to put on my big girl pants and not give Karl such a hard time when he wants to spend the occasional (let’s be honest- rare) night away.

In celebration of Karl coming home, I figured it would be nice to have a little treat waiting for him (not to mention a house that smelled a heck of a lot better than a cabin full of boys). These blueberry muffins are amazing and completely free of dairy, egg, soy and nuts! Take my word for it and make the most of those fresh summer blueberries this week with this yummy recipe!

Blueberry Muffins- dairy, egg, soy and nut free

Blueberry Muffins
Bake at 400 degrees, makes ~8 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbs flax, 3 Tbs water)
  • 1/3 plus 2 Tbs coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Grease or line muffin tin for at least 8 muffins
  • Mix your flax egg and let sit at least 10 minutes
  • Combine dry ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl- flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder
  • Mix flax egg, coconut milk and canola oil in a seperate bowl
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well
  • Fold in blueberries
  • Fill muffin cups to the top and bake at 400 degrees for ~25 minutes (start with 20 and add more time as needed