Friday, March 30, 2012

blueberry crunch tops

When I stirred the buttermilk soaked oats the very first time I made these (over a decade ago), there was such an instantly sensationally visceral palpability in the gloriousness of that gorgeous texture.  And yes, all of those words are necessary.  And no, they probably do not all belong in the same sentence.  But there you are.

Switching from dairy buttermilk to non dairy buttermilk was a bit daunting at first, and I have to admit that I kind of put these on the back burner until I was able to find a suitable substitute.  I have made these with soy milk mixed with white vinegar and with lemon juice (both work very well) and to be honest, I am not really interested in trying out my other buttermilks from The Challenge, because the others didn't thicken up as well as the soy.  This recipe, for me, is as much about recreating the loveliness of the texture as it is about the depth of flavor; both attributes, fortunately, are very much present...

Blueberry Crunch Tops

1 c. oats
1 c. soy milk
1 tbs fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c. dairy free butter, melted
1 c. blueberries

for the topping:

2 tbs dairy free butter, cubed
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. oats
1/4 c. light brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400.
In a bowl, combine the soy milk and lemon juice.  Let stand for a few minutes, give it a good stir, and add the oats.  Set aside.
In another bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well.  Stir egg and butter into buttermilk mixture.  Add wet ingredients into the dry, stirring until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries.
Combine the topping ingredients in a bowl with fingers.  Sprinkle on top of the muffins, pressing gently to adhere.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

spur of the moment paper dolls

My daughter, like most 4 year olds, loves making crafts.  She loves to play with glue, tiny pieces of paper, glitter, tiny pieces of wood, glue, tiny pieces of string, sequins, glue, and tiny pieces of paper.  You get the idea.  For two years, her teachers have commented with amazement at how she will cut up itty pieces of paper, not even a half inch in any direction, and compose entire little drawings on them.  

And then she will carry them around with her all day.  I just love her..

This afternoon, while watching her make a scrap paper collage, I started cutting out little people.  She got so excited and it just went from there.  She drew in the faces, and told me what types of dresses they needed, what their names were, and what kinds of shoes they simply had to wear.  I am so inspired by her creativity!  More people cut outs are definitely on the way.. 

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the doll in the pink dress, Zoe, needed red shoes. No, not flats.  The kind that clop!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's a great day for lentil soup...

Oh, how I love soup.  It is so fresh, healthy, easy to make, and it really just warms the soul.  Not to mention, it is the best way to use up all of the stray veg you have waiting around in the fridge.

This evening had all of the ingredients for a perfect soup.  It was an easy, sunny, lazing around outside kind of a day.  I wasn't able to go to the store, and our fridge was full of condiments and randomness at every turn.  And I was just plain downright tired.  I looked in the pantry and found everything I needed.  I always keep lentils and at least 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes on hand, in case I want to make a quick tomato sauce, or like tonight, soup!  Perfect.

The prosciutto in this recipe lends the soup a salty, smoky note which I love.  It can be substituted with bacon or turkey bacon if you don't want the red meat.  Or you could leave it out, which incidentally is what happened this evening..  If you do choose to leave it out, you might want to add a bit more salt, just a half teaspoon should do it.  I am not a big salter (unless of course it is garlic salt; I can't seem to get enough of it), so to be honest, I have no idea how much salt you would want.  I would add salt a bit at a time though, as you don't want to over salt.  What a shame that would be, with this beautiful soup...

If you would like a nice hearty lentil soup with rice, just add 1 cup basmati rice at the same time as the lentils.  Follow the recipe below, but after bringing to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

I like to serve this with pita chips (which are just pitas, quartered and pulled apart, slathered with earth balance dairy free butter, sprinkled with a relatively heavy hand of garlic salt, and put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes), but alas, with the absence of pita in my bare pantry, the oyster crackers sufficed nicely.

Lentil Soup

2 tbs olive oil, give or take
2 oz prosciutto, chopped or cut into bits with scissors
1 onion, chopped; and/or leek, white and light green bottom part, halved lengthwise and sliced (in the case of tonight's soup, half of a leftover onion and a whole leek)
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (I like to keep larger chunks of garlic in the soup)
2 cups of lentils
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried cumin
8 cups of water
1 14oz can diced tomatoes and their juice
juice from one lemon (or about 2-4 tbs)
1 tsp salt
large handful of spinach, sliced into ribbons

Heat the olive oil over med-high in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven.  Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until nice and crispy.  Add the onion, leek, carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the lentils and stir.  Add the thyme and cumin, stir until incorporated, and cook until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the water and tomatoes with their juice.  Give it all a good stir, and set the heat to high.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and cook at a simmer.  Here, the cooking time will vary.  The end result is that you want to cook until the lentils are tender.  If you use red lentils, you can cook for 20-30 minutes, brown lentils, 30-40 minutes, and french green or puy lentils, 1 hour.  Once everything is tender, cut off the heat and add the lemon juice and salt.  Give it a good stir and then add the spinach.  You don't actually have to cook the spinach; it will wilt nicely in the hot soup and will enhance the soup canvas if you will, with beautiful flecks of bright green...

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Buttermilk Challenge

So.  The most interesting dairy substitution for me is buttermilk.  Normally, one would take regular ol' cow's milk, ferment it a bit, and whammo, out comes buttermilk.  That's the easy way to make it.  The traditional method involves churning butter out of cream, and well, let's just say that I am very glad we are dairy free. The best thing is that a surprisingly suitable substitute can be made easily. The problem is that with so many dairy alternatives out there, how would I know which is the best one?  Every single book I have read on living dairy free says to use whichever dairy alternative you like and mix with vinegar.  I didn't buy it.  I wanted to find out for myself which was the best.  I had tried a couple of milks prior to The Challenge, and I have to admit, I did have a favorite.  But I still had to know...

I took five milks: almond, rice, oat, hemp, and soy.  I mixed each milk with three fermenting agents: white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and fresh lemon juice.  The first thing I looked for was consistency; which milks would thicken up to a buttermilk standard.  The second, of course, was the taste; I really wanted to see which milks best replicated buttermilk's distinct tanginess.  After letting them sit for several minutes, I had a little taste test.  Here are my results!

Right off the bat, almond milk curdled and separated and got really gross.  I had gotten this reaction before, which was the main reason why I wanted to do this challenge.  I knew that not all dairy alternatives were created equal.  Having said that, I want to state that almond milk is one of my favorites.  It just doesn't ferment well.

The rice milk did not change consistency at all, but it did have a nice flavor.  It wasn't buttermilky, but it was light and fresh.  It is inherently sweet, rice milk, which unfortunately just diluted the tanginess right out.  It really just tasted like watered down white vinegar and watered down lemon juice; not so much in a bad way, but not in a buttermilky way. The cider vinegar mix was surprisingly bland.  I might use the rice milk/white vinegar combo mixed with some honey for a salad dressing...

Oat milk starts out thicker than rice milk and almond milk, and it has a very oaty flavor.  I was surprised to find that it did not thicken at all when the acids were added.  The only real passable combo here was with the cider vinegar; it had a nice sourness to it. The white vinegar tasted too oaty and sweet, and the lemon juice was ok.  It wasn't as oaty as the others, but it really just tasted like lemon.

The hemp milk thickened ever so slightly, but when I tasted the first mixture with the white vinegar I actually got kind of grossed out.  It tasted so grainy and sour.  It was really terrible.  The cider vinegar was loads better, and it had a very nice clean tang to it.  The lemon was also passable.  Not as good as the cider vinegar, but it wasn't bad at all.

The only milk that actually thickened nicely was the soy milk.  The texture was instantly velvety and gorgeous.  When mixed with the white vinegar, one could probably confuse it with dairy buttermilk.  The texture was perfect and the tanginess was just right.  The cider vinegar on the other hand, was surprisingly bland. The lemon juice produced another successful pairing.  It had a nicely sour lemony tang, and would do well in blueberry muffins.  This, too, I had known before...

Before this test, soy milk had been my go-to buttermilk, so I wasn't really that surprised with the results.  I was happily surprised that there are so many different options in the bunch.  But The Challenge isn't actually over...  Step two involves using the successful buttermilks in a control recipe to see how they really measure up in "the field" as it were....  I'll keep you posted!


I did not include coconut milk in this challenge, but I have since tested it.  As with the almond milk, the coconut milk instantly curdles when the acids are added.  But, the great thing about coconut milk is that it can be substituted directly.  It doesn't have the same type of tang as dairy buttermilk, but it certainly tastes delicious!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Corned beef hash with a side of anaphylaxis, please!

Well, it happened.  We finally had to break out the epipen.  I knew one day we would have to use it, although in the back of my mind I thought, "nah, we'll be ok.."  Our little Ian had some contaminated food and went into full anaphylactic shock.  It started out small, with his allergy specific fussiness followed by some clamminess.  I gave him the benedryl (which has been done before), but then an hour or so later the coughing started, the cold clamminess returned, and with the raspy breathing, led to a very rapid decline.  I called the doc, shot him with the epipen (which is a concentrated dose of epinephrine- or straight adrenaline), and even WITH the instant redbull, he was losing consciousness on the entire Indy500 wow my husband has mad driving skills ride to the hospital.  Watching your two year old's eyes roll to the back of his little head, his skin turn yellow, and having to actively keep him awake was the most difficult part for me, I think. Fast forward to the 5 failed attempts at administering an IV (his veins had collapsed due to the drop in blood pressure, but don't worry, I was told, if we need to we can administer the IV by putting a needle into his bone..  Thank goodness we didn't have to do that!) and an 8 hour hospital stay, and I don't have to tell you I don't ever want to experience that again.  Very scary indeed.

But with all of this anxiety and fear, comes an almost empowering sense of hyper vigilance.  I had to re-buy several stock pantry items, making sure the new items do not share machines with dairy or sesame.  The most difficult item to find was cocoa powder.  With all the baking I do, cocoa powder is essential in my cupboard.  You would think that cocoa powder would be safe, it's just straight cocoa, but alas, most cocoa powder manufacturers also make milk chocolate and use the same machines.. I prevailed at Whole Foods, and my faith in the food industry has been restored.  And now, let my dairy free sesame free cookbook really commence!

One other good thing has come out of this.  Ian's reaction started in a restaurant we frequent.  Eating out with food allergies is difficult, indeed, so I have to really make sure the waitstaff and chefs know about Ian's allergies.  Our regular waitress, Renee, is great and she knows us well.  She wasn't there on Friday, however, and a new waiter helped us.  I went through my regular spiel about what we can eat. There are a few items that we can eat, as there is no dairy or sesame anywhere near the recipes.  (I say we, because when I am with Ian, I am dairy free as well.  I like to give him a little solidarity, and if you've ever seen his little face, you'll understand why I don't ever want to have to tell him he can't eat what I'm eating).  I don't quite know what happened, if the waiter didn't take Ian's allergy as seriously as it is, or if it was a cross contamination of the food, or if it was a negligent browning of the bread on the buttery grill pan.  But whatever the case, the waiter experienced Ian's reaction first hand.  And after my phone conversation with the manager, and my very VERY detailed explanation of how his anaphylaxis progressed, I am convinced by her horrified response that the waitstaff has not only been alerted, but educated as well. (And, being hyper vigilant, they will be receiving more calls)..  Not a lot of people take food allergies as seriously as they should (a case in point being the whole peanut on an airplane situation- is it really SO terrible having pretzels? I don't want to get started on that, and we don't even have peanut allergies).  But if I can reach one restaurant at a time, then I think we can make a difference.

I never thought I would be that person, but, there it is.  I have become that person.

Monday, March 12, 2012

oatmeal fluffs

These cookies are soft, chewy, and in a word, delightful.  But really though, oatmeal cookies with homemade marshmallow fluff?  What could be better than that....

for the cookies:

3/4 c. soy butter softened                             1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. packed brown sugar                           1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c. granulated sugar                                 1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs                                                           1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla                                                  3 c. quick cooking oats

for the fluff:

3 egg whites
1 1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs vanilla
2 c. confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350

Beat butter and sugars on medium speed until creamy either in bowl of electric mixer or with hand mixer.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.  Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and mix well.  Add to the butter mixture a bit at a time and mix well after each addition.  Add the oats and mix well.  Drop dough on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes or until set and browned around the edges.

While the cookies are in the oven, make the marshmallow filling.  Combine the egg whites, corn syrup, and salt.  Beat at high speed until thick, about 5-10 minutes.  Add the sugar a bit at a time, and mix well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  (This actually makes a lot of fluff, but it does freeze well.  Just remember to stir with a spoon before you use it again.)

After the cookies have cooled, I find it a good idea to match up similarly sized cookies for the sandwiches.  You don't want a loppy cookie, as the marshmallow is very sticky and it takes a little while for it to set.  Put about a teaspoon of fluff on one cookie, and top it with another. Easy as that!

Welcome to my world...

Hello!  Welcome to my little domestic blog....  Here you will find art projects, crafts,  fun stuff, and good food.  All of my food is dairy and sesame free (if you read my profile you'll know why!).  I have been looking to alternative soy products to go with my alternative dairy products, since soy and dairy issues are almost related.  I also don't like to use a lot of soy due to the estrogen levels and the way it's genetically modified and overprocessed.  Unfortunately though, I haven't found a better dairy substitute than soy milk for certain baked foods.  Earth Balance does make a soy free dairy free butter, but I haven't found it in sticks.  But my search continues.....