Monday
Sep032012

Allergy-Friendly School Lunches

Happy Back to School everyone!!

I wanted to share this "round-up of round-ups" for those, who like me, who are ill-prepared (yeah ... understatement) for the school year. Today I frantically turned to the blogosphere to hunt down some of the best collections of allergy-friendly school lunch and snack ideas. There's a wealth of inspiration here to help you (and me) keep school lunches from becoming same old same old.

Got a dynamite addition for this list? Just leave a comment with the link and I will add it in.

I've also started a "My Healthy Lunch Box" Pinterest board. Let me know if you want me to add you as a pinner to this board. I'd love to do so. It's empty right now, waiting for you to fill it up : )

Back to School 2012 Lunch Box Ideas

100 Gluten-Free School Lunch Ideas

Gluten and Allergen-Free Lunch Box Ideas

Printable List of 50+ Allergy-Friendly Lunch Box Ideas

What's in the Lunchbox?

Allergy-Friendly Lunch Box with Brain Power 

20+ Resources, Tips and Tools

Healthy Lunch Box 2012 

Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas and Allergy-Free Snacks

12 Healthy Snack Ideas

52 Healthy, Packable Back-to-School and Work Snacks

Easy Kids Lunchboxes

Gluten-Free Lunch Round-Up

Packing a Gluten-Free Allergy-Friendly School Lunch

What to Pack

Top Foods for a Healthy Lunchbox

Bento Lunches

What's for Lunch (packed in Laptop Lunchboxes)

Tuesday
Aug282012

Google+ Moms are Hip

Alright, so being a Google+'er may not propel me to "hip"ness, but by golly, today I'm feeling mighty hip.

Last month if you'd asked me what Google+ was, I'd say "no clue."

Today is a different story. Recently, I was fortunate to be schooled on this thing called Google+ — from a Google "insider" no less. It was kind of like being invited to the popular girl's house to play after school and she let you use her make-up ... and it was the coolest day ever (because at 11 your mom still didn't let you wear make-up, much less shave your legs)!

Anyway, Ms. Google as I fondly refer to her, threw buckets of techie words at me as she explained Google+. Today I am going to attempt to share what she shared—and offer my take on Google+.

What is Google+?

Google+ has been referred to as a social networking service. I'm kinda seein' it as a rockin' "interests" forum—an interactive venue where voices may be shared and heard. It launched in the summer of 2011. You could say it's kind of like Facebook—but offers more functionality and is significantly more robust.

You ask how it compares to Facebook or Twitter? Think of it this way:

  • Facebook is for checking in and keeping up with, friends and family.
  • Twitter is for surface interaction, quick updates.
  • Google+ is for people who share the same interests. It is interest-based. It's about finding new people and them finding you based on your interests.

How Does it Work?

Before we dive in, having some basic Google+ lingo down helps. Words you should know:

POSTS: You have a stream of "posts" just like you do in Facebook.

YOUR CIRCLES: With Facebook, you have "friends." With Google+ you have "your circles".

CIRCLING: In Facebook you "follow" someone. In Google+ you add them to a "your circles."  Circles are all about organizing the people you "follow" and "share" with by interests (for example; gardening, photography, cooking, etc). When you have something to share, you select the circles you want that "post" to feed to—perhaps all of your circles or just one in particular. It's targeted communication made easy!

ADD YOU BACK: When you "circle" someone, they will be notified. And if they are interested in what you're all about, they'll likely "Add You Back"—meaning they want to see your stuff, too. 

+1: If you like someone's post, you can "like" it by hitting "+1".

PING: If you're looking for a fast, easy way to start communicating live with your contacts, you can "Ping" them. Much like instant messaging. 

HANGOUT: And then there are the Hangouts—super coolness! Think video chatting like Skype, iChat, Facetime—but conveniently located right there in your Google+ window. You can Hangout with one or multiple people at a time. It may be kept private or go live with an "Air" broadcast (streamed live and then uploaded to YouTube).

What Stuff Do They See? What Stuff Do I See?

If you are out there posting, only the Circles you select your post to post to will be able to view it in their stream. For example, I know my gardening friends are not interested in photography so I'll leave that circle out when posting about macro lenses. But if I have some real cool content to share that would interest everyone, I simply click "Everyone."

Like with Twitter, you can "follow" or "circle" anyone you want. Whether you see posts from them depends on which circles they are posting to. Oh ... and you can post to a single person—much like "messaging" someone in Facebook—but it shows up in their stream rather than in a dedicated message window. This is where you want to take care. You don't want inadvertently send a private message to your public circles. Read more of my thoughts on privacy below.

What Makes it Robust?

The cool features I've discovered in Google+ are:

LOCAL: Click this button and you can find and rate local business. This could become a powerhouse of a tool for those of us on special diets. The more restaurants we review, the more help we can be to our little community. 

EXPLORE: See what's hot on Google+ by hitting the "Explore" button. You can then search by word or topic (such as "dairy-free" or whatever it is you are interested in exploring).

EVENTS: Create an invitation to an event (or dinner party or baby shower). Share photos from the event instantly in "Party Mode." Upload everyone's photos in one place after the event. 

HANGOUTS: These video chats allow us to communicate easily with our family 7,000 miles away—for free. AND it will allow me to communicate with Lexie's Kitchen readers via broadcasted Hangouts.

I recently hungout with Anne-Marie of This Mamma Cooks on a Diet. (She was a delight, and yeah, I look TOTALLY confused in the beginning ... I was still getting the hang of it ... it gets a little better, promise. And oh, how Ann Curry makes interviews look so easy!)


How I Plan to Use Google+.

I tend to be a private person. I rarely, if ever, broadcast sensitive and private matters over social media. That said, I like the way I can keep up with close friends and family with Facebook, but I've found it a little limiting when it comes to following communities that share my interests. This is the gap I think Google+ will neatly fill.  I believe it is a great public forum for exchanging ideas and following the "voices" of people, businesses, and bloggers that interest you.

If you have an audio/video-equipped computer, I think you will definitely enjoy the Hangout. Hangouts are private unless you click the Hangout Air feature which will then broadcast your Hangout on to your Google+ stream and then upload it to YouTube (so use with care!). Great for business. Not great for chatting with your girlfriends about the family that just moved in next door.

Get in There and Play.

The best way to get acquainted with Google+ is to get in there and play. I still have a lot to learn. Want to jump in? Head over to the Google+ homepage and create an account with your Gmail or Google log in.

And don't forget to "circle me", Lexie Croft, so that we can connect. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Tutorial and Sample Hangouts.

I will leave you with a few videos to further illustrate what Google+ is all about. I hope this has been a tad bit helpful.

 

Friday
Aug242012

Crabapple Jelly Recipe

This post is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesdays and Gluten Free Fridays.

I am in love with this lower-glycemic crabapple jelly.

Last week the boys, my brave friend Hannah, and I did some raiding or—rather—foraging at dusk of a loaded crabapple tree down by the kids' school.

[Yes, you can eat crabapples]

We just had to do it. The fruit these trees put out is exceptional. They are palatable green-apple-tart (not all crabapples are so always sample the fruit) and were there for the taking—and for the making_of crabapple jelly.

Fresh piced crabapples. Fresh pressed crabapple juice.

I ended up doing it a little differently. For this jelly I used a reduced measure of coconut sugar. The result was a darker, tart, mildly sweet jelly that I can't get enough of. It reminds me of the guava jelly my mom makes. So good!

Thank you dear Laurel V. for digging out your Pre-WWI worn and tattered copy of The Settlement Cook Book 1903 which inspired this jelly makin' project. I ended up ordering the cookbook and found it quite entertaining and useful.

A smear of Earth Balance buttery spread and crabapple jelly atop our favorite Food for Life yeast-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free and vegan bread.

CRABAPPLE JELLY

Ingredients:

Crabapples
3/4 cup COCONUT SUGAR or other granulated sugar
2 tablespoons PECTIN

Directions:

  1. Using a juicer, juice enough crabapples (about 1-1/4 pound?) to yield 1-1/2 cups crabapple juice.
  2. Add juice to a medium pot. Gradually stir in pectin.
  3. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat.
  4. Stiring constantly, add coconut sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  5. Return to full rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  6. Remove from heat. Skim off foam if necessary.
  7. Transfer to glass jar and refrigerate.

Notes:

Mind you, this is my way of doing it (I used pure juice, no addition of water). If you want to go with the experts, here's a fantastic Pectin Calculator for making jams and jellies.

Tuesday
Aug212012

Lexie's Kitchen 5-Minute Hangout - Episode 1

A big thanks to Alisa Flemming, author of the Go Dairy Free guide and cookbook, the informational website Go Dairy Free, and the recipe blog Alisa Cooks. She joined me today for a Lexie's Kitchen 5-Minute Google+ Hangout (though it ran more like 10 minutes). I look forward to broadcasting more Hangouts like these—gotta love Google Hangout!

To watch future broadcasts stream live, join me over at Google+. All you have to do is Circle me here. If you miss live broadcasts, know that you can find them right here at Lexie's Kitchen (or on YouTube).

Want to know what Google+ is all about. Stay tuned. I am working on a post that explains it in my simple words (ha ha!).

xoLexie

Note: In this Hangout I mention Penzey's Buttermilk Ranch dressing. It dawned on me "what am I thinking, we just had a discussion on DAIRY-FREE and here I go mentioning BUTTERMILK! Agggh. What am I thinking?" But it's all cool. The Penzey's Buttermilk Ranch Dressing spice blend is just that— a spice blend. What you add it to is up to you. I mix it into a mixture of non-dairy (unsweetened) yogurt, non-dairy milk and a squeeze of lemon juice. Okay. Cleared that one up. Phew!!

Sunday
Aug192012

Spicy Vegetable Juice

Aren't those the prettiest heirloom cherry tomatoes ya ever did see?

Back in January I picked up a Braun juicer at a local thrift shop. Here's a picture of the bad boy. He's older. But I'm cool with that. He gets the job done and personally, I love his avocado green accents.

As I do with many of my thrift shop finds (like that hand-crank meat grinder), I put Mr. Braun away for a rainy day.

One such rainy day in June it was time. Time to give this beast (actually, he's nice and compact) a run for his money (I dropped a whopping $9 for him). And well, the timing couldn't have been better. Farmers markets were in full swing, brimming with fresh produce for my experimentation.

Over the course of the summer, Mr. Braun and I have fallen in love. And below is the juice "recipe" that sealed the deal.

If you've been considering a juicer, check your local thrift shops or Craigslist. I was able to give juicing a try without breaking the bank. In time I may fork out more for a higher-end machine, but for now Mr. Braun's serving me well. 

I recently polled Lexie's Kitchen Facebook followers about the best juicers on the market. Lot's of good info (thanks everyone!). To view the recommendations, please visit my Facebook page and scroll to August 2012. And if anyone knows how to link to Facebook threads, let me know : )

Spicy Vegetable Juice

Ingredients:

2 large CARROT
2 stalks CELERY
1-2 large TOMATOES
1/2 medium CUCUMBER
1/2 medium BEET
1/2 green BELL PEPPER
1/2 lemon
1/4 small ONION
Handful CHARD (or other green)
Handful CABBAGE
Small GARLIC CLOVE
3/4 teaspoon HOT SAUCE (used Cholulas)
1/4 teaspoon SEA SALT

Directions:

Juice in juicer.

Serves 2-4.

______________________________________________________________________________

And wait 'till you see my next post. I'm juicing something rather out of the ordinary and I will share with you what I made. I know, the suspense is just killing you. Ha!

Got a favorite juice recipe? Leave it in the comments, I need more inspiration.

xoLexie 

Thursday
Aug162012

New Magazine Launching in November!

 

A new magazine is about to hit a magazine rack near you (or your mailbox or inbox)

The Simply Gluten Free magazine is a revolutionary idea whose time has come!

Carol Kicinski, author of the blog Simply Gluten-Free, has pulled together the internet’s top allergen free bloggers to create a beautiful, lifestyle magazine for people with food sensitivities by people with food sensitivities. These are the people who are not just writing about food sensitivities, they are people who are successfully living allergen free lifestyles every day.

Rather than focusing on deprivation, Simply Gluten Free magazine will celebrate the abundance of a gluten and allergen free life. It will provide simple, beautiful solutions to the challenges you face.

Simply Gluten Free will be an aesthetic, high-quality print magazine with a fully digital version, issued bi-monthly which the readership will want to collect and savor throughout the years.

While food and recipes will always remain at the core of the magazine, it will also cover such topics as: 

  • Beauty
  • Medical and Nutrition
  • DIY (Do It Yourself) and Crafts
  • Fitness
  • Homekeeping
  • Entertaining
  • Travel
  • Eating Out
  • Special Needs and Special Diets. 

In the Beyond Gluten Free section you will find mouthwatering, innovative and simple recipes for diets such as Paleo, Dairy Free, Vegetarian, Sugar Free and Vegan.

With an age range of writers that spans four decades, it will move across the age spectrum to include viable solutions from infancy and childhood to teen, college student, and young adult, to issues faced later in life as it is determined to leave no one out.

Expanding on the success of her bestselling cookbooks, monthly television cooking episodes on Daytime TV and popular gluten free blog, Carol Kicinski has teamed up with veteran blogger, magazine editor, freelance writer and mother of two celiac children, Wendy Gregory Kaho (Editor-in-Chief) and over twenty of the allergen free bloggers you already know and love to bring you fresh, innovative, relevant content and gorgeous photography in the magazine you have been waiting for. 

Order your copy now!

Friday
Aug102012

Dairy-Free Peach & Cherry Yogurt Pops

This post is linked to Allergy-Free Wednesday #30

Pardon me, I just have to say "tee hee hee."

I've been wanting one of these Zoku Quick Pop Makers for a long time. A year ago I begged Zoku to send me one in exchange for a review on Lexie's Kitchen. Never heard back.

Sigh.

So I gave up. 

Zoku Quick Pop Maker © Photo copyright ZokuFast forward a year and I'm waltzing the aisles of TJ Maxx ... oh and "lookey there" a quick pop maker—not a Zoku, but some off brand for only $9.99 so who cares. Giddy-ly (is that a word) I put it in my cart along some unnecessary plastic objects and zipped up to check out.

If you're picking up on the tune I'm hinting at with "waltzing the aisles" and "unnecessary plastic objects" then you'll enjoy the little ditty sung by Nancy Griffith at the end of this post. :)

Anyway, I was excited. You see, popsicles stir up nostalgia for me. I remember Tutu and Grandpa's Wailupe Circle freezer being stocked with them. Us kids would grab our favorite flavor and dash out to the pier. We'd chomp and lick our pops as we dangled our feet over the edge of the bouncy diving board. The soothing tradewinds and vast expanse of ocean that lay before us were hypnotic. Oh but I am getting lost here in memories ... let me snap out of it.

I enjoyed many popsicles on, and dives off of, this pier. Aina Haina, Hawaii.

Okay, I'm back.

If you're the instant gratification type, you'll love one of these popsicle makers. Popsicles in 10 minutes flat! Can't beat that.

The only drawback to these makers is that you really need some kind of sweetener—honey, sugar, maple syrup, sugary fruit, etc. Without it the mixture may freeze too hard and you may have a difficult time getting the popsicles to release from their molds.

I would take a Zoku any day. You can do some fancy popsicle making with their special tools (sold separately). But I'm quite pleased with the X-Press Pops™ model—$9.99 at TJ Maxx (check your local store) or $32.99 on Amazon. You can buy Zokus here for $49.99. 

The first pops we made were these 4-ingredient French Vanilla Peach & Cherry Yogurt Pops. Dairy-free of course. I wanted them extra creamy so used some So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer. Divide the yogurt/creamer mixture and mix with different fruits to create a striped pop. Or just make it one flavor.

The X-Press Pops™ Popsicle Maker I got for a steal from TJ Maxx.

Dairy-Free French Vanilla Peach & Cherry Yogurt Pops

Ingredients:

1 cup non-dairy YOGURT (I used my homemade. So Delicious Coconut would work equally well.)
1/3 cup So Delicious French Vanilla COCONUT CREAMER
1/2 teaspoon gluten-free VANILLA EXTRACT
1 cup fresh FRUIT of choice (I split a batch and used cherries and peaches)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into blender container. Blend until smooth.
  2. Pour into popsicle mold following manufacturer's instructions.

Notes:

As of August 9th, 2012 the ingredients in So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer include: ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM, WATER, GUAR GUM), ORGANIC DRIED CANE SYRUP, NATURAL FLAVORS, COLORED WITH TITANIUM DIOXIDE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, CARRAGEENAN.

And here's that little ditty to enjoy with your popsicle ...

Thursday
Aug092012

Make Cool-Aid, Not Kool-Aid

Summer is winding down—the heat not so much. So why don't you come on over and let me pour you a glass of this thirst quencher. We'll sit in the backyard and talk about how it's all-natural, free of artificial colors, and easily zero-calorie—and of course, lot's of other stuff.

This refresher may look like Kool-Aid but is far from it. The base is herbal tea. Raw apple cider vinegar is added for tang and it's health-promoting properites and a little stevia (or natural sweetener of your choice) balances it all out. The only things missing are the artificial flavors and a good dose of Red #40.

If you're trying to give up sugary juices and drinks, give this one a go and let me know what you think.

"Better than Kool-Aid" Cool-Aid

Ingredients:

4-6 HERBAL TEA BAGS (pick a robustly flavored fruit variety)
About 4 cups boiling WATER, plus more cold water
2 tablespoons raw APPLE CIDER VINEGAR (we like this brand)
LIQUID STEVIA CONCENTRATE (we like this one) or other sweetener to taste

Directions:

  1. Add tea bags to tempered one gallon jar.
  2. Pour boiling water over tea bags and let steep 4-6 minutes
  3. Fill jar the rest of the way with cold water.
  4. Mix in vinegar and stevia or sweetener.
  5. Serve chilled over ice.

Notes:

Most tea blends that include hibiscus will produce the a very vivid colored tea.

Sunday
Aug052012

Making the Switch: Meg's Story

Today it's my pleasure to bring you another Making the Switch story—stories of everyday people making the switch from processed to pure food. This week Meg contacted me. I was so touched by her story that I asked if I could share it with you. It's a story of resolute determination to find answers. Of pushing docs and pursuing second opinions when your gut tells you that the answers you are getting just aren't adding up. We were there, and I know many of you may be, too. 

The Chronic Cough
Meg | Atlanta, Georgia 

We have always eaten very healthy in our house. My husband has been a vegetarian for over 16 years and the kids and I stick to a primarily vegetarian diet with the occasional addition of a lean meat.

I gave birth to our son 18 months ago and at 4 months old he was diagnosed with a chronic cough. His cough was violent, gagging and choking him over 20 times a day. The doctors could not find out what was wrong with him through months and months of testing. We visited Pediatric Pulmonologists, ENT's, and Radiologists hoping that someone would have an answer.

As we started to introduce whole foods into his diet our pediatricians and specialists became increasingly concerned because his cough was worsening and he was not gaining weight. His immune system was severely weekend and he was sick constantly. Our pediatricians suggestion was that since he liked yogurt and bread to feed him as much as he would eat. She told me to cover the bread with butter and cheese followed by feeding him yogurt at every meal. She also suggested giving him chocolate milk.

Alarm bells started ringing.

I knew that it was important for him to gain weight but they had moved away from having him eat healthy fruits and vegetables entirely because they were not fatty enough. To make it worse they were now suggesting sugar-laced milk as an answer to some of our problems. I asked if he could have food allergies but the doctor dismissed my concern saying that since he had the cough while I was nursing that food allergies were not the problem.

At a year old the doctors were pressing down on us to have tubes placed in our sons ears for his, now chronic, ear infections and an invasive test that required sedation to look into his bronchial tubes.

I still had a nagging feeling that it was all food related.

As a last resort, and two weeks prior to the scheduled surgery, I took my son to a chiropractor in our area that focused on holistic medicine and worked with infants and small children. She suggested that I immediately cut gluten and dairy from his diet and mine. She confirmed that his problems could be food related and that a nursing mother can pass food allergens such as gluten and dairy to her child through breast milk.

She began adjustments to help with the ear infections and I began to alter our entire lifestyle. Within a week the cough had diminished greatly and my son had more energy than he had ever had. By the end of the 2 week period the cough was down to only a few times a day and his ear infections were gone!

We canceled the surgery and tests and really focused on our diet and lifestyle.


I am happy to say that at 18 months our son is free of his “chronic cough” and is thriving! We have a diet that is free of gluten as well as dairy and is primarily vegetarian. I stay away from processed foods and have opted to make everything I can at home, even our almond milk. The entire family is healthier and happier than ever before! We have even found through eliminating gluten from our diet that my husband has a gluten sensitivity that we weren't even aware of.  

Today I blog about our diet and new lifestlyle at Beard & BonnetSome of the my favorite tips for switching from processed to pure food can be found there. They are:

Shop your local farmers market and get to know the local growers.  

Ask to visit their farm and take your kids! We have had so much fun as a family learning about where our food comes from and how it is grown. Just a few years ago my daughter, then 8, and I helped to tend and harvest a local organic farm in exchange for fresh organic produce. The experience was invaluable for us and our daughter walked away with a new passion for food from seed to table. 

Have a family "cook" day.
For us it is usually on the weekend and everyone helps in different ways. Our daughter, Eliza, loves to cook and my husband is great about hanging out with us and washing up the dishes as we use them. He is also the designated DJ so sometimes our “cook day” turns into a dance party full of giggles and lots of laughter. Make it a fun family event that everyone can look forward to. Best of all, dinners during the week will be fast and easy because the bulk of the preparation has already been done.

  • We make a large pot of beans to use in different ways throughout the week.
  • I whip up a few storage containers of my own gluten-free baking mixes so we can whip up brownies or cookies on a whim during the week.
  • Todd makes a large batch of salsa and I make a few jars of homemade pasta sauce.

Eliminate temptation.
Upon our diagnosis of gluten and dairy intolerance I decided that the best thing for me to do in our house was to purge the pantry. If I couldn’t pronounce an ingredient on the label it was no longer allowed in our home. I donated all of the unopened food to our local food bank so that I knew it would go to someone that could really use it.

Try something new.
After I purged our pantry I set out on a mission to fill it back up with healthy choices that would keep our bellies full, our bodies healthy and my family happy. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods close to where you live they have lists compiled of all of their products that are allergen free. You can download these lists online or they will happily give them to you at the store. Our Whole Foods even has gluten-free store tours once a month! If you don’t have stores like these in your area you can also consult The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide by Triumph Dining to help you navigate your local grocery aisles.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Making the Switch, spotlights everyday people journeying on to better health and well-being by choosing pure food over processed. For some, it has been gradual. For others it was a complete about-face. 

Putting the modified diet focus of this blog aside, Making the Switch is open to all. The point being to bring personal stories to light that encourage young and old to get back into the kitchen to cook real food. As JAMIE OLIVER puts it, “make only a few small changes and magical things will happen.” Whether it’s weight loss, improvements in a child's behavior or the regaining of health, magical things will happen."

WHAT'S YOUR STORY? Consider being featured on Making the SwitchCLICK HERE and drop me a line telling me a little about yourself. Someone is waiting to be inspired by YOU!

Sunday
Jul292012

Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

Photo Courtesy of The Experiment.

Last week I baked and read my way through one of the hottest allergen-free cookbooks on the market—Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts.

Author Colette Martin has delivered a masterpiece of a handbook for navigating the world of allergen-free baking.

Colette blogs at Learning to Eat Allergy-Free. She first started baking allergen-free after her son was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis and multiple food allergies, in 2001. "It was a lot of trial and error. At the time, there was very little information available about baking without wheat, dairy, eggs, etc. I've always been a problem solver so I started to create my own recipes. It was just natural to decide to share what I've learned so that the whole food allergy community—and parents who are experiencing that helpless feeling of "there's nothing my child can eat,"—can benefit."

It is this experience that Colette so generously shares in her new book. When baking without gluten, dairy and eggs, successful recipe developers must have a thorough understanding of how alternative ingredients perform and interact. Part I of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free is dedicated to just this. We learn how to bake with store-bought mixes like Pamela’s, Bob’s Red Mill, and Namaste and are given formulas for making your own. We learn how and when to use flax gel, fruit purees, and Ener-G egg replacer in place of eggs. “Crash Course” pages sprinkled throughout the book offer tips and techniques that can be carried forward in your own baking experimentation. Part I, which makes up half of the book, is an invaluable resource.

In Part II, Colette shares some of her favorite recipes for baked goodies. From cakes to muffins to yeasted breads, you’ll find a collection of essential recipes. For the super busy, the final chapter of the book, “ Mix It Up,” offers up 17 recipes that are quick to make using these store-bought brands of mixes:

  • Pamela’s Products
  • Namaste Foods
  • Authentic Foods
  • King Arthur
  • Jules Gluten Free
  • Bob’s Red Mill
  • Gluten-Free Pantry
  • Stonemilled

As far as the recipes go, there are some definite keepers!

This is a soft cover, full-color book with beautiful photos of a handful of the recipes. Instructions are clear and easy to follow and lots of guidance is given. At $19.99 (and quite possibly much less on Amazon.com), this allegergen-free cookbook is a great deal and worth every penny—if not for the tips and advice alone. Well done Colette!

To give you a taste, The Experiment publishing and Colette are sharing this coffee cake recipe with us.

Photo Courtesy of The Experiment Publishing

Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping

Did you know that most coffee cakes don’t contain coffee? They get their name because they are intended to be served with coffee, which makes them the perfect treat for breakfast. My favorite part of a coffee cake is always the streusel topping—just enough sugar to wake you up.

The technique used here to create the streusel topping is one that will be used frequently when making cookie dough and pie crusts.

Ingredients:

For the Cake:
2 cups gluten-free flour blend
½ teaspoon xanthan gum (leave out if your flour blend contains xanthan gum)
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (½ stick) Earth Balance Natural Shortening, softened (see tip)
½ cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water (equal to 2 eggs)
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup coconut milk beverage (see tip)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Streusel Topping:
2/3  cup gluten-free oat flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons Earth Balance Natural Shortening, cold

Directions:

1.    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking oil.

Prepare the Cake Batter

2.   Mix together the flour, xanthan gum (if needed), baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set it aside.

3.   Cream together the shortening and granulated sugar in a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, for about 5 minutes, until a textured paste forms. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.

4.   Add the egg replacer mixture, applesauce, coconut milk, and vanilla to the creamed sugar. Blend with a mixer on medium-low speed for 2 to 3 minutes.

5.   Gradually add the flour mixture and blend on medium speed, about 2 minutes.

6.   Pour the batter into the baking dish, spreading it to the sides of the pan.

Prepare the Streusel Topping

7.   In a large mixing bowl, combine the oat flour and brown sugar, using a pastry cutter or pastry fork.

8.   Cut the shortening into tablespoon-sized pieces. Use the pastry cutter to work the shortening into the flour.

9.   Crumble the streusel topping over the batter.

10. Bake at 350°F for 32 to 36 minutes.

Tips:

  • Note that the shortening for the cake is used at room temperature, whereas the shortening for the topping is used cold. Plan to let just the 4 tablespoons sit out to soften and leave the remainder in the fridge until you need it for the streusel. 
  • If you need to avoid coconut due to an allergy, substitute hemp milk or rice milk for the coconut milk.
  • Use your favorite gluten-free flour blend.

Recipe from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts. Copyright © Colette Martin, 2012. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.

Tuesday
Jul242012

Boulder Cream Doughnuts

The Spunky Coconut has done it again.

Kelly has created a another masterpiece in the kitchen—this time in the shape and flavor of Boulder Cream Doughnuts—a healthified coconut flour-based grain-free, starch-free, egg-free version of Boston Cream Doughnuts.

That's right a baked good made with coconut flour and ZERO egg. Stunning achievement, Kelly!

I have a full day planned but was determined to carve out time to make these. They came together quickly and are all that Kelly describes them to be in her post. I just got off the phone with her and we both marvelled at the texture of the doughnut. Slightly stretchy, tender, and with just the right amount of chew. Though not super sweet, when paired with the cream filling and chocolate frosting they are perfect. I like that you can adjust the sweetness to your liking.

I didn't have butternut squash on hand so used canned sweet potato in its place. Worked great! Then get this ... the doughnuts were 30 seconds into baking when I realized I'd forgot to add the melted buttery spread. Yikes! So I pulled them out, threw them back into the bowl, blended, and rescooped the mounds onto the cookie sheet (the ones I rolled out in my hands baked up with smoother tops). And to my surprise they still rose! Wuh?! Quite the forgiving dough if you ask me.

To try these out for yourself. Head on over to The Spunky Coconut for the recipe.

Saturday
Jul212012

Top O' The Hill in Fort Collins

 

Yesterday a friend and I loaded the kids in the car and headed south into Colorado to visit the Nelson family's Top O The Hill roadside stand.

Hannah and I met the Nelson kids last summer when they trucked it 50 miles up the road to Cheyenne to peddle homegrown green beans, squash and cucumbers.

Falling in love with these kids was easy. They are good kids. They are full of life and interests beyond computer games and hanging out at the mall. They are polite, hardworking, and can upsell better than most car salesmen.

Most impressive of all is that these kids run the farm. From tilling to planting to harvesting to selling, they do the bulk of the work. Big brother Seth, barely out of his teens, is head honcho (we didn't get to catch up with him). The story is that his grandfather taught him the ropes.

Today, he and his siblings have a pretty good gig going at the crossroads of Highway 257 and County Road 82—a mile or two east of Interstate 25 in Fort Collins. The green beans, beets, carrots, squash, cucumbers, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon, Swiss chard, and cantaloupe—everything with the exception of the peaches—are grown at Top O' The Hill. 

And what a view! You can make out Longs Peak and the Rocky Mountains through the haze.

We bought a huge box of peaches to slice and freeze and a half a peck of cucumbers that I'm staring at wondering how to lacto-ferment without raspberry or grape leaves (help!). Also bought some carrots and beets which I juiced this morning. So good.

Top O' The Hill uses no chemical fertilizers and offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are not pleased with your purchase, they will replace it. I like that they get that the customer is #1.

The underpinning of the whole operation is old-fashioned integrity. These farmers strive for honesty and fairness in all their relationships, seeking in all things to love their neighbors as themselves. 

I can only imagine the lessons these kids are learning. Lessons from the land, their parents, and the good Lord above. It is refreshing. They are reaping rewards in more ways than one. 

To many, the Nelson kids may lead a humdrum life, tied to the farm and their work. But I saw self confidence and joy in their eyes. They have been given wings and know-how to make things happen. They are not waiting, nor expecting, the world to give to them but have learned the beautiful lesson of giving back to the land and fellow man. 

And they do have fun.

Business got a little slow while we were there so cousin Nelson showed off another of his talents. Unicycling!

If you live in Fort Collins or are passing through, drop by Top O' The Hill. From I-25, head east on Mulberry a mile or two. You'll see signs along the way.

Seth encourages you to follow the farm on Facebook. He regularly posts about the crops they are harvesting. You also might enjoy the occasional video (like this one) he posts.

If you would like to find a farm or stand like Top O' The Hill, Local Harvest is a great resource. Support your local farmers—young and old!

Wednesday
Jul182012

Another Way to Pit Cherries

Get ready for some groovy music and a tip I found over at The Kitchn for pitting cherries. My hair was a mess today so hope you don't mind the talking hands. I can be a rambler and the camera and I aren't exactly the best of friends, but I sure do love the idea of video blogging once in a while. Would you be interested in more short clips like this?

Here is one of our favorite cherry smoothies. I think you'll love it, too.

Okay folks ... so after I posted this, Shawna emailed me the link to this video. Brilliant. If you want to move beyond an icing tip, give this techniqe a try. Thanks Shawna!

Thursday
Jul122012

Maple-Sweetened Apricot Compote

It’s apricot season in these parts. Such a pretty fruit.

When it comes to dried apricots, I've enjoyed them by the handsful. But fresh apricots—that’s another story. I've never cared for them. The ones I’ve had have been mealy and mushy—blech! Like, gag me with a spoon! No thanks.

So when my husband proudly displayed the fresh apricots he picked up at the Idaho Falls Farmers Market, I couldn’t help but snicker (with a hint of wifely sarcasm)—"you enjoy those apricots, honey!"

Never did I think I would be eating my words and attitude—but then I often do—and fresh apricot compote by the spoonsful. Chopped apricots stewed with maple syrup—oh my, so good. The perfect blend of sweet and tart.

I recommend using apricots that are on the tart side and have good flavor. I bought the "Perfection" this week and the they were quite bland. Choose good fruit.

Apricot season is one I’ve not paid much mind to. But that’s changed. I’ve been buying fresh apricots by the pound and making lots of compote to dress up scoops of ice cream, pancakes, waffles, smoothies and toast. 

Dear apricots, I declare my love to thee. Sigh. You can bet I will be looking forward to the season next year.

Maple-Sweetened Apricot Compote

Gluten-Free | Casein-Free | Citrus-Free | Corn-Free | Dairy-Free | Egg-Free | Fish-Free | Nightshade-Free | Peanut-Free | Potato-Free | Rice-Free | Shellfish-Free | Soy-Free | Tree Nut-Free | Wheat-Free | Grain-Free | Sesame-Free | Yeast-free | GFCF | Vegetarian | Vegan 

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes 

Ingredients:

1 pound almost ripe APRICOTS, pitted and chopped
1 tablespoon WATER
3 tablespoons MAPLE SYRUP
1/4 cup WATER
1 tablespoon TAPIOCA STARCH

Directions:

  1. In medium saucepan combine apricots, 1 tablespoon water, and syrup. 
  2. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine 1/4 cup water and tapioca starch.
  4. Whisk tapioca slurry into simmering mixture. Cook another minute until thickened.
  5. Cool and refrigerate. Use within a week.

Enjoy!

Wednesday
Jul112012

Book Review: Simply Gluten-Free Quick Meals

Among the perks of food blogging are the hot-off-the-press cookbooks that land on my doorstep. In exchange for a complimentary copy, publishers hope you will cozy up with the book, give it a good read, test drive a few of the recipes and give it a raving review.

But let me tell you, it can become quite overwhelming, especially when that stack grows to 12 books high. Aghhhh!

Lexie's Kitchen Book Review Policy

As much as I love reviewing cookbooks, I have decided to throw this out there to save everyone some time and money. If a cookbook is a good fit for this site and I feel the majority of my readers would enjoy it, there's a high probability I will review it. If the recipes are heavy on the eggs, sugar, processed food or have a drop of gluten in them, it's probably a no go. And if any of the recipes I try "don't work." It's definitely a no go. I feel this is only fair to my audience and their pocketbooks.

With that little bit out of the way, I am happy to say that I have found Carol Kicinski's latest Simply ... Gluten-Free Quick Meals; More than 100 Great Tasting Recipes for Good Food Fast to be a gem.

Yes, Carol uses some eggs. Yes, she uses some dairy. But Carol is consistently good about suggesting substitutes.

Carol is the author of the blog Simply Gluten-Free. She's big. Google "gluten-free" and hers is THE FIRST blog to show up in the results (I think I need to take her SEO guy to lunch). She has a heart of gold and is one smart gluten-free cookie. I think she has a winner in this latest book and here's why.

Cookbook Review: Simply ... Gluten-Free Quick Meals; More than 100 Great Tasting Recipes for Good Food Fast


The "Simply" in "Simply ... Gluten-Free Quick Meals" doesn't just make for a catchy title. The recipes in this cookbook truly are quick and easy to prepare. I spent the last week cooking out of this book and was very impressed. The recipes are not over the top, which as a busy mom, I appreciate. I had to chuckle because I could relate to Carol when she writes that she is "always looking for time-savers and shortcuts, but ironically I am also a person who tries to cram as many activities into each day as humanly possible." I have to think that these are recipes Carol has cooked over the years as she raised two boys, and ones she's perfected to a T from a time-to-prep standpoint.

Some Chapters I Love

The chapters I have fallen head over heels in love with are:
  • Simple Suppers
  • Easy Entertaining
  • Pantry Raid (I read THAT one wrong more than once!)
Simple Suppers and Easy Entertaining offer up complete meals—usually a main, a side, and a dessert—that can be made in under an hour. The Pantry Raid (there I went, again) chapter I plan to turn to on those nights I have nothing in mind for dinner and the clock is striking five. Recipes in this chapter can be made by raiding your pantry and fridge and using ingredients you may already have on hand.

Some recipes in this book do call for dairy, however the Carol has provided substitutions for dairy (usually coconut or rice milk) and suggestions for other substitutions such arrowroot for cornstarch. So there are ways to work around allergies and intolerances and still cook out of this book—the only exception being the recipes that call for eggs. But still, there are plenty of other recipes in the book that we can enjoy.

A Theme and Menu Approach

Carol has come up with some great themes for each menu. Last week I followed these menus and clean plates were a testament to how good each was:

ALL-AMERICAN MEATLOAF DINNER MENU
Mini Meat Loaves (left out the egg)
Smashed Potatoes
Broccoli with Garlic Chips
Dairy-Free Chocolate Ganache with Fruit

PIE FOR DINNER MENU
Polenta Potpies (left out the cheese)
Pear and Arugula Salad
Hot Cherry Sundaes
The recipes in this book are a mixture of classics and some that take us out of our comfort zone. Sticky Rice and Mango is a dessert I order in Thai restaurants. Now, thanks to this book, I can make it at home. And how about quinoa tabouleh ... that's next on my "to try" list—a combo I've never tried.

The book is black and white with a few pages of color photography. The recipes are well laid out and directions are easy to follow.

To Buy or Not to Buy

If you are JUST gluten-free: A definite BUY!

If you are gluten-free and dairy-free:
Buy if you are comfortable using non-dairy substitutes (soy cream cheese, Daiya, etc. or just leaving it out) and know that some recipes may simply be challenging to make without the real deal.

If you are gluten-free, dairy-free AND egg-free: Buy knowing that there may be a handful of recipes that just may be too difficult or impossible to make without these ingredients (like salmon cakes and breakfast quesadillas).
Thursday
Jul052012

Lexie Talks Food Allergies & A Winner

I while back I was asked by Circle of Moms to share a little about our food allergies. For those new to the world of food allergies/intolerances, I hope you'll find a bit of encouragement here.

What's one thing you'd like all parents to know about food allergies (either about your family's specific allergies or in general)?

The food allergies/intolerances we manage in our home are to gluten, dairy, and egg. In addition, soy, yeast, legumes, nuts, sweeteners, and high-sugar fruits are currently restricted in our son's diet. Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives are strictly avoided.

From personal experience, there will be days you feel you have this allergy thing under control. And then there will be days you find yourself sitting in front of the fridge, crying. You may even begin to have feelings of doubt. Doubt that you are doing enough to nourish your child. Doubt that you are a good enough mom, dad, or caregiver. Go easy on yourself. Having a child(ren) with health issues can take a toll on your own mental health and well-being. Remember to take care of you, too. Do all you can to find a way to deal with the doubt and anxiety that can come with special diets and illness. Find a support group, make a friend online who is in your boat, talk to someone.

What advice would you give to a parent who just found out their child has a food allergy?

Some of my best tips have come from my readers and and the blogging community. People ask how you do it. To which I answer, "you just do." And be grateful that what you are dealing with is ALL that you are dealing with.

1. HAVE A GOOD CRY. This is real loss. Allow yourself to go through the grieving process; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Here's a great post on that topic.

2. MAKE A PLAN. Research replacements for the foods you are going to be living without.

3. PURGE THE PANTRY. Go through the pantry and fridge and remove the offenders. By ridding your home of foods to be avoided, you are removing any and all temptation. This should include the immediate removal of life-threatening offenders. If the rest of the family refuses to support the member with the food allergy by forgoing that food as well, establish a “non-safe food shelf”— preferably up high. But do all you can to get buy-in from the rest of the family to remove the food completely—especially in the case of foods that easily cross-contaminate like gluten-full grains.

4. GO SHOPPING. Now it's time to stock up on foods that can safely be eaten. Most natural food stores offer tours. Just ask. Many nutritionists and health coaches also offer this service for a reasonable fee. They can help you get acquainted with new products and teach you how to read labels for hidden ingredients.

5. MEAL PLAN. Plan your meals for the week and avoid that 4:00 pm feeling of defeat! There are some great services that can help. If you are gluten-free, check out www.gfreecuisine.com. In five minutes you can plan and generate a gluten-free menu plan for the week. Also, find 2-3 snack foods you can prepare at the start of the week and have on hand. And don’t feel guilty about sticking to the basics—roast chicken and two veggies for dinner, for example. A green smoothie and sausage patty for breakfast. As much as you may want to be Julia “Allergy Mom” Childs, give yourself a break. I have found that hanging a big old menu board in the kitchen helps me (see pic above).

What are your three favorite blogs posts:

What are your go-to products or brands?

Pantry Staples:

  • Agar-Agar Powder
  • Coconut Oil
  • Coconut Secret® Coconut Aminos
  • Coconut Secret® Coconut Nectar
  • Coconut Sugar
  • NuStevia® Vanilla Liquid Stevia
  • Raw Honey
  • Thai Kitchen® Coconut Milk
  • White Chia Seed (1 T ground + 1/4 cup water = 1 egg replacement)

Prepared Foods:

  • Ancient Harvest® Corn and Quinoa Pasta
  • Applegate Farms® Meat Products
  • Authentic Foods® Brown Rice Flour
  • Bob’s Red Mill® All Purpose GF Mix
  • Earth Balance® Soy-Free Buttery Spread
  • Enjoy Life® Chocolate Chips
  • Food For Life® Yeast Free, Wheat, & Gluten Free Multi Seed Rice Bread
  • Glutino® Pretzels (treat)
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers Crackers
  • So Delicious® Unsweetened Coconut Milk & Yogurt (when we travel)
  • SunButter®
  • Tinkyada® Brown Rice Pasta

Ice Cream Cookbook Giveaway Winner

Finally, congratulations to Judie who commented "I would love to win your book. I have been lactose intolerant for over 40 years and have a terrible time with my sweet tooth. Also, gluten free for 2 years. Any help I can get is appreciated. Thank you for this opportunity." Judie you are the winner of The Spunky Coconut Ice Cream Cookbook giveaway. You are going to LOVE this book! Enjoy.

Saturday
Jun302012

Dairy-Free Ice Cream Cookbook & Giveaway

A new cookbook from The Spunky Coconut launched last month.The moment a copy of The Spunky Coconut Dairy-Free Ice Cream landed in my hot little hands, I was off and churning up some sweet cold treats. Here is my review of the book. I hope you find it helpful.

The Intro

The Spunky Coconut Dairy-Free Ice Cream opens with a well-researched history of dairy-free ice cream penned by no other than Kelly's husband Andrew. Andrew is a history buff and knew how and where to find factoids on the subject. Quite an interesting read.

The Chapters

Classics
Coffee & Tea
Cake & Cookies
Yogurt, Pops & Sherbert

The Flavors I've Made

My goal is to churn my way through this book by the end of summer. So far we've made Chocolate, Rocky Road, Chocolate Brownie Batter Swirl, Vanilla, Swiss Almond, Toasted Coconut, Vanilla, the Yummy Yogurt Drink (used for making frozen yogurt), Lemon Lime Frozen Yogurt, and Strawberry Rhubarb Sherbet. All have been ridiculously tasty, but the standouts for me have been Chocolate Brownie Batter Swirl and Lemon Lime Frozen Yogurt. The vegan brownie batter was divine. Half went into the ice cream and half was eaten out of the bowl. The Lemon Lime Frozen Yogurt was like eating frozen cheesecake ... oh my ... so good.

The vanilla, which is the base of many other recipes in the book was quite good. A little heavy on the honey taste—but am sure that can be tweaked by using a milder honey or agave (if you do agave). I have not made any of the toppers or cookies to accompany these flavors so cannot speak to those at this time.

The flavors next up to try are Eggnog, Mint Chocolate Swirl, Rum Raisin, Pina Colada, Pistachio (which Kelly said has been most popular), Honeysuckle Tea, and Apricot Amaretto Frozen Yogurt. There are 55 recipes in the book—which will you try first?

The Ingredients

So you're probably wondering—what ingredients are used? The milks used for the base of the ice creams are coconut, cashew, and/or hemp. My son is nut-free so we make ours with coconut and hemp milk. One secret to Kelly's creamy, won't-freeze-to-a-brick ice cream is guar gum. It definitely helps but may be omitted if it's something you need to avoid.

The frozen yogurts are made using a base of Kelly's Yummy Yogurt Drink (recipe in the book). It requires time for culturing but is well worth it. Plus it will introduce you to making non-dairy cashew/coconut milk yogurt if you've not ventured there yet. Fresh fruit, dates, and coconut water are also ingredients that are called for in some recipes.

Kelly's Got the Tips

One of the greatest things about this book is the pointers Kelly offers for successfully mixing, freezing and storing non-dairy ice cream. Without heavy dairy cream and commercial additives, it can be challenging to get a creamy ice cream that doesn't freeze to a solid brick.

For an ice cream that resembles soft serve, "eat it straight out of the ice cream machine," Kelly suggests. For "pretty scoops," spread out in a shallow dish, freeze until hard, then let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Great tips there. Especially the "shallow dish" part. I always scooped mine into a bowl which prevented it from thawing evenly.

Kelly, as do I, uses a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker (use that link to purchase one and support Lexie's Kitchen :). She expertly reminds us that the insert must be frozen for at least 24 hours and to thoroughly chill the milk mixture before pouring into the ice cream maker. Some additional tips from me to you would be to 1) use a wooden/bamboo spoon for scraping off the ice cream that freezes to the sides of the insert and 2) crank your freezer up a bit. You want that insert good and frozen or you'll get soft, soft serve.

Two Thumbs Up

This book is a treasure and not just for the lactose-intolerant, casein-intolerant, and vegans—but for all. It retails for $20.00. If you really want to support Kelly, purchase it through her e-book store where she makes a better profit margin than she does over at Amazon—either way, it's a highly recommended buy!

Cookbook Giveaway

THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED

Between now and 5:00pm CST July 4, 2012 you can enter to win a copy of The Spunky Coconut Dairy-Free Ice Cream here at Lexie's Kitchen.

1. Just leave a comment at the end of this post.

2. For an additional chance to win, share this post with your friends via Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook or other social media then leave an additional comment saying you did so. Help spread the word about this great new cookbook!

Wednesday
Jun272012

Dad's Bacon and Kale Pasta

 

Since HH (Honorable Husband) created this dish—one of my new favorites—he gets to write the introduction. So here goes...

Alexa wasn't home one evening to make dinner for us troops so the privilege fell on my shoulders. While necessity may be the mother of invention, this one was based upon availability; pasta in the pantry, kale in the crisper, bacon in the freezer and sunflower seeds on the shelf. That is it, no long intro for me! Hope you enjoy.

Dad's Bacon and Kale Pasta

Gluten-Free | Casein-Free | Citrus-Free | Corn-Free | Dairy-Free | Egg-Free | Fish-Free | Nightshade-Free | Peanut-Free | Potato-Free | Shellfish-Free | Soy-Free | Tree Nut-Free | Wheat-Free | Sesame-Free | Yeast-free | GFCF

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups Tinkyada brown rice penne PASTA
1 package gluten-free BACON (around 12-ounces), chopped (we like Applegate)
2 packed cups chopped KALE
2 tablespoons WATER
1/4 cup raw SUNFLOWER SEEDS (roasted will do if that's what you have on hand)

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta al dente. Drain, rinse, set aside.
  2. In large frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon, drain, set aside.
  3. Reserve 1/4 cup of bacon fat and set aside. Discard remaining fat.
  4. Sauté kale with water (just enough to soften kale).
  5. Add bacon, pasta, and sunflower seeds to sauteed kale. Toss to combine and heat through.
  6. Drizzle with 3-4 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat and give it one final toss.
  7. Serve.

A Good Laugh

Well, my husband had one anyway when Lexie's Kitchen was contacted by First for Women magazine asking to feature HIS recipe in their November 12, 2012 issue. I mean, hello, it's MY blog and HIS recipe gets selected? Ha! Okay ... just don't tell him, but I was pretty tickled and am grateful for a husband who has skills in the kitchen.

Monday
Jun252012

Non-Dairy Hemp Milk Review

When my oldest was in preschool he raved the day they had a test taste of all things bitter, sweet, spicy, crunchy and mushy. Since that day, he's loved to conduct taste tests at home.

As I cruised the milk aisle the other day, I thought it'd be fun to buy a bunch of non-dairy "milk" beverages and let him conduct a couple of rounds of testing. I left the store with seven flavors. 

In the coming weeks I will review each variety that I picked up—hemp, almond, coconut, and sunflower—based on creaminess, sugar content, and overall taste. For nutritional values, other than sugar, I have linked to each brands' respective site.

Today we are tasting hemp milk—"Original" varieties in particular.

For those new to hemp milk, it boasts a distinct nutty flavor and is made by blending water and hulled hemp seed. I make it at home on occasion—but always keep some of the store-bought stuff on hand for convenience sake. Here's a little more info on hemp.

CONTENDER #1:
LIVING HARVEST TEMPT HEMP MILK ORIGINAL

How it Fared: This was our least favorite—which is funny because it's the brand I always stock. It was middle-of-the-road creamy but had a slightly bitter aftertaste. The lower sugar content (6g per serving) appealed to me.

Ingredients: Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed]), Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Tricalcium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12.

CONTENDER #2:
MANITOBA HARVEST HEMP BLISS ORIGINAL

How it Fared: Hemp Bliss offered the most pleasing milky-white color, contained only 6g of sugar, and was the smoothest, second to the Pacific Foods brand. However it was also the least creamy—on the verge of being watery. This was the kids' favorite. Alas! I now have to break the news that we will no longer be able to buy it! As I write this review and do all my "linking up" I have learned that Manitoba Harvest is pulling Hemp Bliss from the U.S. market (but not the Canadian market) due to low sales. Here's a statement from the company that includes a recipe for making your own hemp milk using their Hemp Hearts.

Ingredients: Don't matter, can't get it anyway—at least in the U.S.

CONTENDER #3:
PACIFIC NATURAL FOODS HEMP MILK ORIGINAL

How it Fared: From a taste and creaminess perspective, this was the shining star in my opinion—my husband agreed. No carrageenan for those sensitive to it. It was super creamy, smooth and quite tasty. The only boo hoo are the 12g of sugar it packs per serving. Twice that of the other brands. Yikes!

Ingredients: Hemp nut base (filtered water, whole hemp nut [shelled hemp seed]), Brown rice syrup, Disodium phosphate, Xanthan gum, Calcium phosphate, Vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin,Vitamin B12

All three brands state "Gluten-Free" on the packaging, however none appear to be certified gluten-free. Tempt and Pacific Foods come in unsweetened varieties but were not included in this taste test—probably should've been ... back to the store :).

Other Reviews

Hemp Bliss over at Go Dairy Free (for those outside the U.S.)
Pacific Foods Hemp Milk over at Learning to Eat Allergy Free
Non-Dairy Milk Review over at Vegan Baking

Monday
Jun182012

Gluten-Free Playdough

Have you gotten the "mom [or dad], I'm bored!" yet this summer? I have and it scares me—it's only June! I've been scrambling to keep the boys occupied while I spend the mornings working on my forthcoming cookbook and was elated to run across this gluten-free playdough recipe over at Nourishing Hope for Autism.

Playdough is a fun and creative art medium. However, for kids super-sensitive to gluten, the Play-doh® brand is not an option. If you look closely, you'll see that it contains wheat flour and since gluten can absorb through the skin and the mouth (okay, whose kid hasn't eaten playdough), gluten-free playdough is the solution.

This recipe is so easy and, when stored in an airtight container, will last for months. Here are the ingredients you will need.

Ingredients:

White Rice Flour
Cornstarch
Salt
Cream of Tartar (buying from the bulk section is way more economical)
Oil
Water
Food Coloring

Click here for the full recipe and directions.

Happy playdough making!

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