Wednesday, May 30, 2012

dairy free peanut butter cups

I saw this recipe online and was instantly intrigued.  I read it over and over, inside and out. I went to sleep thinking about coconut almond cups surrounded by chocolate.  Not a bad way to go to sleep..

That night, my father came to me in a dream.  I made these for him in the old kitchen; in the house where I grew up.  It was so detailed, in the dream, how I slowly melted the chocolate on the stove, and how I made the almond spread, step by step.  When I served them, my dad was just beside himself with joy, smiling and laughing and laughing and laughing.  And then I woke up.  I knew I had no choice.  He had spoken:  I simply had to make them.

With some modifications, of course.  For starters, I would have to make them dairy free, which at this point is kind of a no brainer.  Second, I would have to change the sweetener.  I have a problem with artificial sweeteners, mainly just because they are artificial.  You can sing and dance all you want about how it's made from real sugar, or how it's made with natural sweeteners found in fruit.  And even if they are better for you than sugar, I still can't get past the name.  Artificial sweetener.  But, I think, more than anything else, I have been fantasizing about sweetened condensed coconut milk somewhere in this recipe.

But unfortunately, we will not be having almond joy cups.  A couple of days ago, Ian was eating his regular cereal with his regular almond milk, and his upper lip swelled to the size of a grape.  We gave him some benedryl, the swelling eventually went down, I put in a call to his allergist, and lo and behold, we have to re-test him for an almond allergy.  No tree nuts until he has been tested.

I just couldn't shake it though.  The cups have been on my mind all day.  I had to go to Michael's today, and I just happened to stumble upon the cup molds.  Now, the universe had spoken.  I knew right then, that I was going to be making some sort of cup tonight.

Enter the peanut butter.

I did consider making coconut peanut butter cups, but I really want to hold out for the almond.  Hopefully Ian's tests are almond friendly..  And really, what's wrong with regular ol' peanut butter cups?

Absolutely nothing.

Dairy free peanut butter cups

2/3 c. Enjoy Life chocolate chips, separated
about 1/3 c. peanut butter

On low heat, melt 1/3 cup of the chips.  Take a small spoon and put about a teaspoonful of melted chocolate into each cup.  (I used these mini cups that I bought at Michael's).  Create a pool in the bottom of the cup and take the back of the spoon, kind of pushing the chocolate up the sides.  After you are finished, place the chocolate filled mold into the fridge or freezer to set.  It may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on where you put it.

When set, scoop about 1/2 teaspoon (I really didn't measure) into the bottom.  Wet the back of the spoon a little bit and smooth the peanut butter into the mold.  Wetting the spoon keeps it from getting sticky.  Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1/3 cup of the chips.  Using the same small spoon, put a dollop of melted chocolate on top of the peanut butter and spread it all around making sure that it fills in all the gaps out to the sides.  Put it back into the fridge and let set for a few hours or overnight.  That's it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

while the pasta cooks...

Sunday is usually pasta night.  I don't often go to the grocery store on the weekends, and by the time Sunday comes along, I am, to be honest, just plain lazy.  To provide for these lazies (or to satisfy a hankering for yummy soup), I always try to keep at least two 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes, several cans of beans, and a variety of lentils in my cupboard.

Last night was no exception.  And with two sick children, I really didn't want to spend a lot of time on this.  I used red lentils because they cook up a lot quicker than either brown or green.  And truth be told, I am always looking for an excuse to use them.  Aside from the fact that they are full of protein, fiber, folate, iron, blah blah blah, they are such a beautiful orange, and so delicate; I really love sticking my hand in the bag and letting them run through my fingers... 

Lazy Sunday Lentil Pasta

whole wheat pasta, 1/2 box
2 tbs olive oil
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
large handful (about 1/3 cup) red lentils
few sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
few springs of oregano, roughly chopped
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
handful of baby spinach, roughly chopped

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions, or to taste.

While the pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add garlic, and cook for a couple of minutes, or until it just starts to get toasty.  Dump in the tomatoes all at once, and stir until it all quiets down.  Reduce heat to low.
Put some water (about 1/4 full) into the tomato can, give it a swirl, and pour it into the pan.  Add the lentils, thyme, oregano, and basil.  Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. 
Take off heat, add the spinach, replace the lid, and let sit for a few minutes to let the spinach wilt.
Season with salt and pepper and serve! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

sick day

My daughter called me and said that she needed a tissue.  Her nose was all stuffed up and she had the remnant of a sneeze dripping down her face.

At 2 am.

Thankfully I fell back to sleep, only to hear that familiar call, although slightly more distraught, an hour later.  I returned to her side, wiped her nose, and held her hand until she got comfy again.

3:30 am.  The voice is now thoroughly upset, punctuated with sniffles, cries, and whimpers.  Ok, time for my baby girl to come into bed with me...

If you have never had a sick child in bed with you, it really just means restless sleep for her, and no sleep for you.  But at least when she wakes up crying, all she has to do is reach out to touch your hair, take your hand, and then let out a very satisfied sigh, knowing that she is not alone.  That one moment makes all the sleeplessness worth it.

My favorite thing to do for my babies when they are sick is, first of all, make homemade chicken noodle soup: the epitome of comfort food.  There has been so much research done on the health benefits of chicken soup.  I wonder though.  Are there any comparable studies on the healing properties of cookies?

There should be.

This (adapted) recipe comes to us from the lady who first inspired my cookie obsession, Mrs. Fields.

Thank you, Mrs. Fields.

Cinnamon Sugar Butter Cookies
Mrs. Fields Cookie Book

3 tbs white sugar
1 tbs cinnamon

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c white sugar
1 c earth balance butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

yield: 3 dozen

Preheat oven to 300˚F.
In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon for topping.  Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.
In a large bowl, blend sugars with an electric mixer set at medium speed.  Add the butter, and mix to form a grainy paste.  Scrape sides of bowl, then add the eggs and vanilla extract.  Mix at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed just until combined.  Do not overmix.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar topping.
Place onto ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Immediately transfer cookies with a spatula to a cool, flat surface.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

sesame free hummus

The top 8 food allergens:  dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, wheat, and soy.  You may notice that sesame is not on there (I have a feeling though, that it might be #9).  Two of my favorite people in the world suffer from a sesame allergy, which is why I have decided to use this recipe to recognize Food Allergy Awareness Week.

This recipe was given to me as a gift by my dear friend and one of my favorite people in the world (as mentioned above), Lina; a fabulous cook who makes me look like a hack.

I have never made hummus before, and it has been almost a year since I've eaten it.  The last time we had it, I had given some to my son, who devoured 3 tablespoons before his blood pressure dropped; he became instantly clammy, ghostly white, as cold as if he had an ice pack on his face, and listless.  That was definitely an epipen situation, but since I had never used one before, I hesitated.  I was terrified.  A drop in blood pressure like that can send your body into shock.  But the definition of anaphylaxis is having more than one body system react at the same time.  Blood pressure drop and vomiting, for example.  Hives and a swollen tongue.  Rash and difficulty breathing.  Because he only had one system at play, I gave him benadryl instead, which fortunately did the trick.

But with allergies, there are two reactions that can cause death even on their own.  Blood pressure drop and respiratory distress.  The doctor will tell you, "if in doubt, give the epipen."  And you will answer, "well, of COURSE I will give him the epipen, that's a no brainer!"  But when looking face down at a possible anaphylactic reaction, a funny thing happens.  You panic.  And you resist.  And deny.  And doubt.  And fear.  And bargain...  But when it happens again, you know what to do.  And you don't hesitate.

Wow, I didn't mean to overshadow this fabulous hummus with a big, dark cloud!  Let's get back to the food, shall we....

Cooking and baking dairy free isn't actually difficult at all.  There are many different substitutions and they are so varied, I don't miss dairy even slightly.  But sesame?  It is such a specialized food.  If you can't eat it, you just don't add it.  But sesame oil is one of my favorite things of all time.  Mixed with soy sauce, I could drink it straight.  Alas, I still haven't found an equal substitution for sesame oil.  (All suggestions are welcome!)

But tahini?  No problem!  

Sesame free hummus

1 can chick peas, drain and set aside the liquid
1 lemon squeezed (can adjust to taste)
2 cloves of garlic (can adjust to taste)
1/4 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 tbs creamy, all natural almond butter
pinch of salt and pepper

Put all ingredients except for olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.  If mixture is lumpy or thick, gradually add the reserved liquid 1tbs at a time until you get a smooth and thick puree.

With the motor running, open the vegetable shoot at the top of the food processor and slowly add in the olive oil.  Let the food processor run for another 3-4 minutes.

Plate and garnish with a little olive oil and some chopped parsley.

Friday, May 11, 2012

spur of the moment teddy bear

I am a hoarder.  I always kind of knew it, but since we moved back into the house, I have made a serious effort to move the way of purger.  (Unsuccessfully mind you, but a girl can still dream, right?) Alas, I discovered today that I am, without a doubt, still a hoarder.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we.

This morning, while making breakfast, I hear a couple of 4 year old feet hurriedly running down the stairs.  "Mama, where is my teddy bear?  The tan one!  Where is it?"  "You don't have a tan teddy bear, honey."

To that, my daughter launches into a full on still half asleep panic.  "No," she says, "I do have one!  Why don't I have one?  Where is it?  But it was in my dream!"

Ahh, there it is.  The dream.

"Ok, honey, well calm down and you can tell me what it looks like."  "She, mama.  What she looks like."

Oy.  Here we go.

She explains her size, "she has to fit in this bag."  The bag in question is about 2"x4"x4".  "Her arms go like this, and her legs go like this."  I wish I had a picture of her little body, perched on her pink cube seat in a slightly askew balance, arms and legs extended in all directions.  So I draw the picture, to scale, complete with eyes, nose, and mouth.  "No, mama, the mouth goes like this.  And it has to be brown.  The nose has to be blue, and the eyes are black."  Done, done, and done.

I drop her off at school, and plan to go to the fabric store after I give my son breakfast.  First, I decide to go upstairs, just to check, to see what I have.

And here we are, back at the beginning.

I find tan fleece, blue fleece in the exact same color as the chosen marker for the drawing, brown embroidery floss, and unspun wool from a project of years past.


I couldn't believe I had everything...  So I return to the kitchen, to my trusty sewing machine (because it is most convenient in the kitchen, serving the double purpose as a step for my kids), and begin.  An hour and a half later, teddy bear! And it was not so hard to do!  Very easy, actually.

I had such a good time making it, and I was so proud of the results, that I thought it was the perfect day to tackle my other project, my first painting since July.  Yeah, that wasn't as uplifting.  Not having painted for ten months took it's toll....  It wasn't bad, but definitely not my best.  Curious?

And now both of my blogs are connected.  And the circle of life continues...