This meal is a game changer. I was in a cooking rut, sick of the routine taste palate and missing dairy desperately when someone on one of my allergy Facebook groups posted a recipe for a ranch seasoning packet mix, free of any dairy. Yes, please! This is the best non-dairy, dairy mimic I have found yet and oh boy does my whole family love it.
Side note- this is not part of the written recipe, but I also roast some asparagus and cut that up to add to the pasta. You could do this with any favorite vegetable to add a little color to an otherwise beige (although delicious) meal.
Again, a food photographer I am not, but that doesn’t make the meal any less scrumptious.
Dairy-Free Ranch Chicken Pasta
Ranch Seasoning Ingredients
- ½ tsp basil
- 1 tsp dill
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 2 Tbs parsley
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup Just Mayo
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 1 box rotini noodles (we have had the best luck with Ronzoni Smart Taste to avoid egg cc)
- Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour (or until cooked through)
- Cook noodles
- Combine seasonings for ranch packet. Mix in 1 cup of Just Mayo.
- Chop cooked chicken, add to the cooked noodles. Stir in the ranch mix until well combined and place in serving dish.
- Heat further in oven if necessary, otherwise, enjoy!
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.
Top 8 Safe Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 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)
- 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
Ricky’s taste buds change faster than any human I know. It is insane. Example: I bought clementines for him to try this past winter because the previous year he had been a big fan. He tried them twice and spit them out both times- just not happening. Then he visited my sister’s house about a month later and ate an entire clementine, all the while chirping about how delicious it was! So, of course I go to the store and buy more for our house. Two days later, he hates them again. wth. It is annoying with clementines, but it is absolutely infuriating when it happens with milk muffins. I usually make a double batch of baked dairy muffins and freeze them, because they are such a pain to make. I’m sure you all understand- when cooking with something your little one is allergic to, you try to be as cautious as possible! I only make them when Ricky is sleeping, then scour the kitchen afterwards to make sure no dairy got anywhere. Gotta love food challenges. So, when I have 24 muffins in the freezer is not the best time for Ricky to decide he no longer likes a certain flavor. Lucky for me, I have found the winner. He has yet to get sick of these and I suspect it is due to the chocolate chips. That kid will eat anything if you put chocolate chips in it… I wonder where he comes from 😉
My Banana Chocolate Chip muffin recipe is modified from this original. I like to think that the whole wheat flour balances out the chocolate chips in the health spectrum.
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 flax egg
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup Enjoy Life chocolate chips
- ~1 Tbs granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Make flax egg and set aside. Mash bananas.
- Combine bananas, brown sugar, milk, oil and flax egg in a large bowl- beat well. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt just until incorporated (don’t over mix). Add Enjoy Life chocolate chips.
- Grease muffin cups or place muffin liners into pan. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups. Sprinkle each with ~1/4 teaspoon sugar.
- Bake 13 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan and cool on rack.
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!
It may be simple, but it works for us and I haven’t heard any complaints yet!
Gluten Free Banana Cinnamon Crumble Bread
- 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
- 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!
I feel like I’ve been in the trenches of motherhood. Raymond is still refusing a bottle and Ricky has hit a difficult stage of testing boundaries. Both boys (and Karl) were sick the past couple of weeks and this mama is tired. Babies with colds are just sad because they struggle to breastfeed and coughs wake them at night, which leads to mommy holding baby all night and sleeping in a chair. Toddlers with colds are awful because they turn into butt heads. Don’t get me wrong, I know Ricky wasn’t feeling his best and that is hard when you are little and don’t understand, but for some reason this also made him feel as though he could turn into a sassy pants for two weeks straight. Punishing a sick kid is tough; he was extra testy and objecting time outs, and although I didn’t want to make him scream and hurt his throat worse, I also didn’t want to condone his behavior. I ended up being a softy most of the time, which has led to what we’ll call challenging behavior these last couple weeks. He is feeling better now and we are getting back into a normal routine, so here is hoping that his behavior turns back around too. I’m also going to blame spring fever- this kid is ready to get outside and get out some of that energy!
Little Raymond is still trying to get over his cold. I’m hoping he gets back to 100% soon so we can get back to sleep training. Lack of sleep is definitely in the top 3 hardest parts of parenthood. While he has been sick, my nights have been reduced to either getting up every 1-1.5 hours to rock him back to sleep or holding him and sleeping upright. Neither is a good option. Although Karl is more than willing to help, my mamma’s boy is having none of that. Ray loves playing with daddy, but when he needs comforting it is mommy time all the time.
While we were sick, I made some delicious vegetable minestrone soup (it also happened to be a Friday during lent). Homemade soup and homemade bread are an instant pick me up in this house.
Vegetable Minestrone Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 3 large carrot, diced
- 1 zucchini
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth*
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 15 -ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup elbow pasta
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the zucchini, dried oregano and basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook 3 more minutes.
Add the diced and crushed tomatoes and the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the kidney beans and pasta and cook until the pasta and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
*This could easily be made vegan by using only vegetable broth
They might drive me crazy sometimes, but I still wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Life is busy. I should have been able to predict this by extrapolating from life with one baby, but man is life with two babies BUSY! I have to admit though, that cheesy saying “Full hands, full heart” has never been more true. I mean seriously- look at these kids.
Raymond is four months and has started taking longer naps, so I am finally getting back to cooking real meals for dinner (as opposed to frozen chicken strips or even… Sunbutter and jelly sandwiches! don’t judge!) . He is also, however, a poster child for four month sleep regression. He went from sleeping from 10 pm – 7 am consistently to up at least 5 times a night. It is rough. He is so darn cute and smiley during the day, though, that I still like him.
Ricky is potty trained! Almost. We started a couple weeks ago and still have a few accidents here and there, but he is doing great! We went the method where they run around sans pants for a full weekend. We were terrified going into it that the entire house would end up covered in urine and poop, but we were pleasantly surprised with only 3 small accidents over 3 days! We are using candy (either chocolate No-Nos or Starburst) and this kid LOVES candy, so he was very motivated. I’m pretty proud of him. That being said, it has made my days even more hectic because there are pretty frequent “false alarms” when someone claims he has to go, but is really just looking to score a treat. Dropping everything to run to the bathroom every half hour can definitely break up your day.
Anywho- onto the delicious recipe! This is another one that I grew up enjoying, but have since altered to fit into our food allergy family. Enjoy!
Chicken Pot Pie
- Pie crust (Pillsbury is dairy free)
- 2 Tbs dairy-free butter (we use Blue Bonnet Lactose Free)
- 2 Tbs flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1/8 tsp thyme
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup dairy-free milk (we use coconut milk)
- ~2 cups cooked chicken (diced)
- 1 package frozen peas & carrots (12 oz) – cooked and drained
- Fit one pie crust in a pie pan, cut other into strips for lattice crust
- Melt butter in large sauce pan over low heat. Blend in flour, salt, pepper and thyme
- Cook over low heat, stir constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly
- Stir in broth and non-dairy milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.
- Boil and stir for 1 minute, stir in chicken and cooked vegetables
- Pour into pastry lined pie pan. Place strips of pie crust to form a lattice top.
- Cover edge with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning- remove for last 15 minutes of baking
- Bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown
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).
No-Nut Chocolate Cups
(Makes 24 cups)
- 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)*
- 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