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

Stuffed Pepper Soup and Sick Days

I know I’m not the only one LOVING this cooler weather! Bring on the sweaters, soups and cider! My sweet, sweet husband surprised me with my favorite orchard’s cider and donuts yesterday- what a guy!

We’ve been fighting through a cold this week, even poor little Raymond is stuffed up with a little cough. Sick babies are just the worst, followed closely by tired, stuffy toddlers. I decided to ignore our normal rule about tv limits yesterday and lean into a full-blown, loungy, pajama-wearing, couch day. The best thing to end a sick day is homemade soup.

Poor sick kiddo- no better cure than zoning out to some Doc McStuffins!

Poor sick kiddo- no better cure than zoning out to some Doc McStuffins!

Thank you Solly Baby for helping me out once again! Our littlest man has been stuffy and did not want to be laid down , so baby wearing was the best solution in order to actually accomplish something around the house. Not to mention, I loved snuggling him close to me knowing he wasn’t feeling his best, while still being able to make soup for my other sick baby.

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Now, onto the recipe! This was a hit with the whole family. I’m always looking for ways to get Ricky to eat more protein and this definitely fit the bill!

Stuffed pepper soup

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 cup rice (cooked)

Directions

  • Brown beef and onions over medium heat
  • Add beef, onions and remaining ingredients (EXCEPT RICE) into crockpot
  • Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours
  • When there is 30 minutes remaining, stir in cooked rice
  • Enjoy!

Bowl of stuffed pepper soup

Honey Mustard Chicken

We are weeks away from Baby #2’s arrival and I am counting down! I am in no hurry for my time devoted solely to Ricky to be over, but I am definitely ready to meet the squirmy baby in my belly. Not to mention it will be really nice to bend over to put shoes one without feeling out of breath- thank goodness it is sandal weather!

I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut lately, leaning a lot on my dear husband’s love of grilling. Let’s be honest though, grilling recipes are not usually worth sharing since most people tend to grill similarly and unless you have a secret rub or sauce you’ve created. Grilling is all about cook time and technique, which as I’ve mentioned, is Karl’s area of expertise, not mine.

BUT, I finally forced myself out of what I like to call the “last month of pregnancy funk” and tried something new- Honey Mustard Chicken. My recipe is modified slightly from this original. Karl is a fan of honey mustard in general, so this recipe was a big hit!

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Then place your chicken in a lightly greased 9×13 pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Combine mustard, honey, and remaining seasoning in a small bowl.
Honey mustard chicken glaze

Next cover the chicken with HALF of the glaze mixture and bake for 30 minutes.
Glazed honey mustard chicken

Remove from oven, flip chicken and cover with the remaining glaze. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Enjoy!
Honey mustard chicken

Honey Mustard Chicken

Ingredients

– 1.5 lbs chicken breast
– 1/2 cup dijon mustard
– 1/4 cup honey (+2 Tbs if you like things a bit sweeter)
– 1 tsp basil
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1/2 tsp parsley
– salt and pepper to taste

Directions

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees
– Place chicken breasts (half if large) in a lightly greased 9×13 pan
– Lightly salt and pepper chicken (optional)
– Mix mustard, honey, basil, paprika and parsley in a small bowl
– Pour half of this mixture over the chicken and brush to cover chicken
– Bake chicken for 30 minutes
– Remove from oven, turn chicken over and cover with the remaining sauce mixture
– Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink

This would be delicious served over rice or alone with sides!

Honey Balsamic Chicken Strips and Vacation Hopes

Happy Wednesday! This week we are in preparation mode for an upcoming family vacation with Karl’s extended family. Karl and I really struggled with the decision to attend the vacation this year. It is an annual trip and one of our favorite weeks of the year- we love his family and love spending time with them. That being said, as most allergy parents know, vacations are stressful when traveling with a food allergic child. There are extra dangers when you’re outside of your normal surroundings and in our case, we have to pack all of Ricky’s food because there is no guarantee we’ll be able to find his normal non-dairy, non-soy, non-egg, no-nut options where we are going. I don’t really mind packing the food since we’ll be driving and have enough room for a cooler, what scares me more is the potential for contact with his allergens once we arrive. The family all stays in one big retreat center, cooks in a big kitchen and eats together in a big dining hall. One obvious solution is to just stay away from those areas, which we will, but I also don’t want to entirely isolate my son from everyone. It is the family’s vacation and I fully expect everyone to be snacking all day, and understandably, not washing their hands after every time they eat. This means that I have to be extra on-guard when someone wants to play with Ricky as well as extra cautious about what toys he plays with. After MUCH deliberation, we decided to give it a shot with the flexibility of coming home early if there is more stress than fun. I’m hoping that lots of preparation and the support of immediate family members helps to make this vacation feel like a real vacation instead of a very nerve-wracking trial run for travel. Fingers crossed that when we return I can report back that the trip was amazing and there were no mishaps! Oh, and I’m also 35 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow, so let’s hope I don’t go into labor early 🙂

As promised- another delicious freezer meal!

Honey Balsamic Chicken Strips

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breast
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions

  • Mix balsamic, minced garlic, olive oil, honey and a bit of salt and pepper (to taste) in a ziploc bag.
  • Slice the raw chicken breasts into ~1 inch strips. Add the chicken to the ziploc bag and marinate for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • When done marinating, empty the chicken and marinade into a 9×13 baking dish and bake for 35-45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through

Note- to freeze, simply mix all the ingredients per directions in the ziploc bag and freeze until ready to cook. 

Freezer Meal Prep and Crockpot BBQ Chicken

My saint of a husband and I knocked out some serious freezer meal prep this weekend. We typically purchase our chicken from a local meat market in 5 lb untrimmed bags in order to save a little extra cash. My hubby then trims up the chicken and we freeze it in appropriately sized portions for meals that I’ll make over the following weeks. I do not care for uncooked chicken- it gives me the heebie jeebies in a very real way, so any time I can avoid handling it I jump at the opportunity. Since Karl was going to be trimming up the chicken already, I figured this would be the perfect time to make some freezer meals that require diced or strips of chicken so I wouldn’t have to do any dicing/handling of the yucky raw chicken the day of the meal! Freezer meal prep was one of the big to-dos on my pre-baby checklist. Because of Ricky’s food allergies, even when we are fortunate enough to have people drop off meals after the new baby arrives, Ricky will not be able to partake. So, home cooked, Ricky safe meals will still need to be on rotation, even when this momma is in recovery and does not have the energy to cook. Enter freezer meals *cue heroic music*!

Allergy safe freezer meals

This weekend we made:

Baked Chicken Fajitas
Honey Balsamic Chicken
– Rosemary Dijon Chicken
– Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
– Crockpot BBQ Chicken

I’ll share more of these recipes throughout the week, but let’s start with Crockpot BBQ Chicken. This recipe is super simple and great to freeze ahead! Just thaw the chicken mixture in the fridge overnight, then dump the bag contents into a crockpot in the morning or mid-day and cook until ready to serve! I prefer this yummy shredded bbq chicken as a sandwich on a hamburger bun, but you could serve it alone as well.

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs and 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs and 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions

  • Mix all ingredients (except chicken) in the crockpot and stir. Add chicken, stir to coat and cover in the sauce.
  • Cover and cook in crockpot on high for 3-4 hours or low for 7-8 hours
  • When fully cooked, shred chicken with two forks and serve on hamburger buns

Note: To freeze, simply combine all ingredients (including chicken) in a ziplock bag and store in the freezer until ready to cook.