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

Baked Milk Challenge: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

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 Muffin

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  • 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.
  • Enjoy!

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!

Sick Kids are the Worst (Vegetable Minestrone is not)

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

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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!

Baked Milk Challenge: Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Raymond is 6 weeks this Thursday! We’re finding a rhythm around here and loving our little family of four. It is definitely busier than usual, but I’m already past the zombie stage, which seemed to last a good 3 months with Ricky! We had a great weekend relaxing and spending some much needed family time. With Ricky’s 2nd birthday party last weekend and Raymond’s baptism next weekend, we knew we needed a little break in the middle.

Saturday snuggles- talk about a nice, lazy weekend.

Saturday snuggles- talk about a nice, lazy weekend.

The biggest highlight of the weekend though was finding out two of our closest friends got engaged! WAHOO! We are so thrilled for them and can’t wait to watch as they start their lives together. Now on to the recipe…

Blueberry breakfast cake ingredients Blueberry breakfast cake batter

On top of having a new little baby to snuggle, I’ve been trying to bake on a regular basis for Ricky’s baked milk challenge. This kid loves food, but he also knows exactly what he likes and what he doesn’t like. One of the worst things- finding and making a new recipe that fits within the baked dairy challenge only to have him not eat it. The worst. This delicious blueberry “breakfast” cake did not fall into that category, though – YUM! I almost didn’t want to share it with the toddler or husband. The recipe is altered from this original.

Baked dairy challenge - breakfast blueberry cake

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbs ground flax, 3 Tbs water)
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • Zest from 1 large lemon
  • 7/8 cup* + 1 tablespoon sugar**
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the blueberries)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • ½ cup buttermilk (made with a scant 1/2 milk combined with 1/2 Tbs apple cider vinegar)

*7/8 cup= 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbs
** Save for sprinkling on top

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and make flax egg, set aside for at least 5 minutes
  • Combine butter, lemon zest and 7/8 cup sugar- mix until light and fluffy
  • Add flax egg and vanilla, beat well until fully combined.
  • Toss blueberries with 1/4 cup of flour
  • In a seperate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk
  • When fully combined, gently fold in the blueberries.
  • Spread batter into a greased, square 9 inch pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
  • Enjoy!

Another baked milk challenge recipe: Pumpkin Zucchini Bread (with chocolate chips!)

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