Tuesday, November 25, 2014

bacon fat chocolate chip cookies

Ok guys, it's cookie time.  Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies, but they're hard, right?  I mean, you have to try so many different tricks just to get them how you want them.  Crisp or moist?  Chewy or crunchy?  Do you want them big or small, fat or flat?  Oh man!  Chocolate chip cookies are such a science, and such a test of personality more than anything.  I like mine flat and chewy, underbaked as much as can be.  Thankfully I married someone who was likeminded, and my kids don't really have a preference yet as long as its sweet.  Let me tell you the beauty of these cookies (because I baked them 3 different ways with the same batch of cookie dough, just for you), they will turn out beautiful no matter how you prefer them!  I baked some little round fatties, delish.  I baked some flat ones with crispy edges and a super chewy middle, perfect.  I baked some perfectly shaped, slightly crispy ones?  Yum.  All around!

But there's a catch, and you need to not be afraid of it.  Bacon fat.  Do you keep it when you cook bacon?  I do.  Old school, perhaps, but it's very useful.  It's so good if you cook up some breakfast potatoes in it.  Use it in place of butter when you roast a chicken or any meat, for that matter.  I know, I know, but it's bacon.  It'll take the place of salt in your dish, too.  It adds complexity and depth.  And when added to these cookies?  Forget it.  You may never go back.  It's not overpowering, it's not the only fat you're using here, or even the most prominent, but I promise it will add something you never knew you were missing.  If you don't have any, you can make these with an extra tablespoon of salted butter, but you'll be missing out.  You have been forewarned.

Cream your butter (we use Smart Balance Light with Flaxseed Oil, it's dairy free), coconut oil, bacon fat, brown sugar and granulated sugar together until smooth and light.  For the egg replacer "eggs", let me tell you, I wing it.  I know, I know.  What I did here was take 2 tsp of Ener-G Egg Replacer and mix with 4 tbsp of warm water, then whisk until frothy.  You don't want to do this too far in advance, it activates quickly so you want to add it to your mixture pretty quick after you've gotten it ready.  Add it in slowly to combine.  Then add a spash (or two...) of vanilla.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Once it's all combined, it will be a sort of greasy looking dough.  That's ok.  The cookies will not turn out greasy I promise.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  If you're looking for vegan/allergy friendly, you can't do much better than Enjoy Life chocolate chips.  They taste amazing, and their facility is well reputed for having great cross-contamination avoidance.

Heat your oven to 375.  Drop dough in spoonfuls onto a baking sheet in whatever size/shape you desire.  Like I said earlier, this is not a picky recipe.  If you like them flatter, make them smaller and flatten them out.  They'll melt a little, but they won't go over board.

Bake at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes.  Most of mine I baked to 8 minutes, because I like mine underbaked.  9 minutes will put a nice golden brown around the edges, and 10 minutes will give you some crunch.

Oh, and if you eat this cookie dough?  There's no eggs, so no rules.  *Wink Wink*  Ok, there are still rules, but sometimes I just like to throw caution to the wind.

hot cocoa

What is better than hot cocoa and a Christmas movie on a cold night?  Not much!  But when you're not able to have dairy in your house, it severely limits the cocoa options to...well...nothing.  (Perhaps there is a packet option out there, but I've yet to find one.)

Well, worry no more.  It's so simple, it's so delicious.  This "recipe" is more of a guideline.  It will fill up a small mason jar (see photo), for you to use multiple times, or once, depending on the size of cups you use.  When I make this for my kids, I use tiny tea cups, so I put about a tablespoon of the mixture in each time.  If you were using a full sized coffee cup, I'd put more like 2 or 3 tablespoons in...or more.  You can eyeball it, and add more if it's not rich enough for you.

So, the process is simple.  Bring some coconut milk to just below a boil.  We don't need to burn anyone, we just need to melt the cocoa and sugar together.  Once it's steaming and hot, pour it over the cocoa mixture in the cup and stir, stir, stir.  A trick I have, to make sure you're not left with any lumps of powder, is to pour a little bit of the cold milk in with the powder, and mix it up, then add the hot milk on top of that.  The hot milk will dissolve the rest without any issues.  Garnish with marshmallows of course, and you're set.

Now, here are some extra ideas.  First, I use the boxed coconut milk made for drinking for this recipe.  If you want a really rich treat (you're someone who likes full fat milk, admit it) use the light canned stuff.  I am sure it's AMAZING and sinful.  I think the full fat canned stuff would be too much, but who am I to judge?  You're an adult, you do what you want. You could also substitute any other milk for it, of course, but we only use coconut in our house (dairy/soy allergy, and rice milk is so watery) so I can't vouch for it's awesomeness. I even tried melting just a smidge of coconut oil into my own cup and it took it to the next level, dude.   Try adding some cinnamon or peppermint for a little variation.  Stir with a candy cane.  So much you can do!  It's the holidays, get to packing on those pounds.  You have until December 31st before the guilt sets in anyway.

We enjoy ours while watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas, because a 22 minute running time is about as much as my kids will pay attention to, and also how long it takes them to drink a tiny cup of cocoa.  Ah, Christmas.  I just love you. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

pumpkin pie rolls

So cinnamon rolls.  They're good, huh?  I mean, has anyone ever survived getting weak in the knees just smelling Cinnabon?  You can imagine we don't eat a whole lot of cinnamon rolls in our house, with a dairy allergy.  But I'm determined to make some good ones this holiday season.

Now that I've got you thinking about cinnamon rolls, I'll tell you these are not cinnamon rolls.  Because it's fall, and we've got so little pumpkin devouring time left, I thought I'd throw you one more pumpkin recipe.  Dude!  I'm on a roll with breakfast breads.  Will your hips ever forgive me?

Ok, I have a confession to make.  I tossed all of those ingredients into my breadmaker and let it go until it was dough that has risen.  If you don't have one, just throw everything into a mixing bowl and mix until combined then let rise for 45 minutes.  Roll out into a large rectangle and let rise for about 15 more minutes on your countertop while you mix the filling.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all filling, except butter, and then spoon out onto the rolled dough.  Get it good!  Then roll it up as tight as you can, which won't be very tight.  Make it a nice log, and then slice into 9 pieces.  It's going to be sloppy and messy, but that's ok.  I used a cast iron skillet for baking, you can use any deep walled baking dish.  Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.  While that's baking, melt the butter.  When 10 minutes has passed, pull out the rolls and pour the butter over the top.  Why?  I don't know, I find that it lets the butter flavor really get in there better and keeps things from being too wet. 

While you're waiting for your rolls to bake, can I just show you something?  To prove that I truly don't know what I'm doing as a human adult?  This is my rolling pin.  

Ok, are you done shaming me now?  It should be time to pull your rolls out of the oven.  Let them cool in the pan while you make the topping...a buttercream that tastes enough like cream cheese that you'll never realize it isn't as it's melting all over these amazing pumpkin rolls.  I mean, yeah, maybe they're dessert...but can't we eat them for breakfast too? 

To make the butter cream, whip the butter by itself (we use Smart Balance Light with Flaxseed Oil) in standing mixer for a few minutes until it's nice and glossy.  Then add powdered sugar, in 1/2 cup intervals.  Whip together for about 5 minutes, add a little salt and vanilla if you wish.  Then you'll want to put it in a jar and, ideally, let it sit over night.  Then whip it again while its cold, which will make it divine.  But for the sake of this recipe?  Well for you, I dug in right away.  You're welcome!  (Looks like someone else wanted me to break the rules and eat one right away too.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

abelskiver wafffles with blackberry amaretto sauce

So, our 8 year wedding anniversary was last month.  I wanted to make a special breakfast, and because I'm creepy, I did just that.  Creepy?  Well, my memory is creepy.  I can't remember when I last took a shower sometimes (ahh, the glamorous life of a stay at home mom) but I can remember exactly what we ate for breakfast the morning after our wedding.  We went to The Old European restaurant, and of course we ate Danish Abelskivers.  Oh, YUM.  I dream of these.  Are you noticing a trend here?  I like breakfast food.  And what's more, I like breakfast items that resemble CAKE.  I want to eat cake for breakfast on the regular, man.

So, abelskivers.  They're fluffy little balls of pancake, basically.  I don't own an abelskiver pan, and I wouldn't know how to use it if I did.  But you know what I do own?  A waffle maker.  So I improvised!  There is very little about the batter itself that is different, just a few spices that kick up the flavor a little, it's really about the sauce you dip it in.  First make that. (Sorry, I didn't take any photos, but it is so quick and easy.)

For the sauce, I used 2 cups of frozen blackberries, 1 cup of sugar (I know, I know, but it's a syrup), 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of Amaretto.  Bring to a boil, dissolve the sugar, and taste.  If it's not sweet enough, add more sugar.  For us, this was just right.  Then let it cool, and once it is cool, blend it into a nice smooth sauce/syrup for dipping.

Now the waffles!

Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth, or throw it in the blender if you want.  I like to blend my pancake and waffle batter, it makes for such a smooth and luxurious texture!  Then cook according to your waffle maker's instructions.  Mine is a Belgian waffle maker, so it takes about 5 minutes to make these big ol things.  But just look at them!

Dust with powdered sugar, and serve with crispy potatoes and sausage.  Dip your bites into the blackberry amaretto sauce.  It's a restaurant style breakfast at home!  My mouth is watering now.

Friday, November 21, 2014

french toast

Raise your hands...how many of you can't (or won't) eat eggs, and have also not had the pleasure of french toast recently or ever?  Let me just tell you, french toast is one of my absolute favorite meals in all the land.  I craved it like WOAH both times I was pregnant.  Living without it has been tough for me!  But you know what made it worse?  Knowing that Nikola hadn't even TRIED the glory that is french toast!  I mean...come on! 

I've tried a ton of vegan recipes, and all have been less than wonderful.  They just didn't have that texture, that flavor, that decadence.  Most left the bread overly mushy, no crisp edges in sight.  I mean, who wants mushy, gummy bread?  Not me, that's for sure.  French toast is as much about the texture as it is about the flavor. 

Then I hit the jackpot.  And it's so SIMPLE you guys.  No fancy ingredients, no trip to the health food store. You already have everything you need in your pantry I'm sure! 

Add all ingredients (except bread, of course) in a bowl and whisk until a frothy, thin batter forms.   Heat up a non-stick skillet or griddle, add a small amount of oil to grease it up, and get your spatula ready.  Once your skillet is heated up, dip one piece of bread in and get it covered on both sides.  Throw that baby on the skillet and watch it fry up.

It takes about 2 minutes per side, sometimes more.  It's hard to screw it up, so if you flip it too soon, just let it go a while and flip it back.

When both sides look like this, you're done!  This recipe makes enough batter for about 8 pieces of toast.  Look at those crispy bits on the edge!  Who needs eggs?  Dive in!  Save some for me, ok?  I'll be over in 10 minutes.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Tree

The holiday season is kind of the best.  From Halloween to Christmas, I love it ALL!  But Thanksgiving is just so bland that it gets overlooked and overshadowed.  I think the ol' turkey day needs to step it up a little, am I right?  I'm trying to respect the holiday by not exploding Christmas decorations all over my house but it's just so hard!

This year, our family is doing Thanksgiving a little different.  I mean, we always do it different from most people...but this year we're changing things up.  We live on the campus of a Japanese women's university, and we host our Thanksgiving dinner in one of the banquet rooms at the school.  Why?  Well...it's so much better than having it in anyone's home and having to cram people in, and cook in a tiny kitchen.  We have a commercial kitchen at our disposal, and ample space to party and visit.  We have a large family, and on top of that, we host any and all students who would like to come who do not have a host family to spend the holiday with.  What does that mean this year?  Well, we are looking at probably close to 40 people!

As the mother of a child who has multiple life threatening food allergies, the thought of going to a food-centered party is enough to give me palpitations.  But this year?  We're making all of the food there, in the kitchen, and it's going to all be "Nik-safe", as we say in our house.  It's going to be traditional Thanksgiving food, nothing foofy, but all safe.  Can we pull it off?  I think we can.  And if we do, I plan to put together a recipe book to share if anyone is interested!

Enough about the food.  That's not my angle for this post.  How do you bring together a gathering of 40 people and make it feel like an intimate family holiday?  Games, activities, social interaction, and hey, it's Thanksgiving, a movie or football too.  But let's remember the reason for the holiday, to be thankful for all of our many, countless blessings.  I mean, can you even count how many times every day you're blessed??  Blessings don't always come in the form of good things, either.  Sometimes a painful event spurred on something bigger, and we should be thankful for that too!  So, while our family (and plentiful host daughters) are breaking bread, we will be starting a new tradition.  Enter the Thanksgiving Tree.  It's simple, and it's not my original idea (I was inspired by the AMAZING Ann Voskamp here), but it's so good that we are bringing it in this year!   You can make your tree, or like me, use fallen tree branches from the yard.  I grabbed some interesting looking branches (they are HUGE), and painted them with gold.  I didn't cover them completely in gold, just accented them.  Then cut out (by hand) 50 leaves of varying shapes and sizes, painted them partially gold (and doodled a little in sharpie), then punched holes with the hole puncher and added paper clips.  I started out with cute ribbons, but realized there will be so many people that it couldn't work with ribbons, the leaves would be so bunched up.  The paperclip hooks should give each leaf a little space.  After all of that was done, I bound the branches and stuffed them into an extra big mason jar and just keep hoping that it doesn't tip over!  I'm going to have to find something to give it some weight but let it still look nice.  I put a slip of paper inside that reads "I am thankful for", to bring it together, and viola!  A really cheap DIY for a fun holiday activity that will hopefully become a tradition. 

We are hoping people will fill that tree up, and then we will read aloud the many things our family is thankful for later in the evening as everyone enjoys their pumpkin pie.  What do you think?  I'll post an update after Thanksgiving, with the tree full, and let you know how it went.  If you decide to make one, will you please share it too?  Thanks friends!

no bake cookies

Ok, guys.  It's Throwback Thursday, right?  Let's talk about a cookie that everyone probably had as a child because it's so easy even a parent who can't bake can make this cookie with success.  We'll keep this short, because I know you'll want to get right to making and eating these.

Remember how I showed you how to make sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) the other day?  Well today I'm showing you how to make a no bake cookie that's free of 7 of the top 8 allergens and UNBELIEVABLE.  You could make it using any oil you like, and any milk you like, so if you can't use coconut, just use what you can.  That's the beauty of this, they're easily customized if you get creative.  And did I mention good?  Like, seriously so good.  I mean, I ate three right away, and I'm seriously considering eating another now while I write this!

In a saucepan, bring the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, coconut oil, coconut milk and vanilla to a boil.  Remove from heat right away, then stir in the sunbutter and the oats.  Drop in spoonfuls onto wax paper or a lined sheet pan and let them set up.  I'm impatient and stick mine in the fridge, but if you can restrain yourselves, you can just leave them on the counter, they'll harden up within an hour or two depending on the temperature in your house. 

Now, go, make them.  They're fun to make with kids, or on your own and it'll make you feel like a kid.  And while you're at it, lick the spoon.  You deserve it.  (And if you made my sunbutter yesterday, remember they have flax in them.  Eat two...you know, so you get all of your omegas in.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


When you have a child allergic to peanuts (or, hey, anyone really) it feels pretty crushing at first.  Peanuts are in so much, and further more, so much that is GOOD.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, trail mix, granola bars, no bake cookies...oh man, peanut butter is some goodness. But the world isn't over!  There are other nut butters that are good.  (Cashew butter is like heaven on earth!)  And what if your child can't eat those?  What if they're allergic to other nuts?

Sunbutter.  Sunflower seeds.  Not only is it SO delicious, but most schools will allow it in place of a nut butter.  We make sunbutter + jelly sandwiches like they're going out of style, and my non-allergic child loves it just like he used to love peanut butter!  But the drawback, peeps, is that it's terribly expensive.  It's not so bad if you're making sandwiches, but what if you want to use it in cookies or something?  Those would be some crazy expensive cookies!  Trader Joes sells a 16oz jar for $4.99 here, everywhere else I see it around $8.99.  What's a girl to do when she wants a cookie?

Make it yourself!  It's crazy easy, guys.  Here's what you need.

The steps are easy.  I buy raw, unsalted sunflower seeds in bulk, they're around $1.00 per pound.  I also buy raw flax seeds the same way.  Throw as many as you want in a single layer on a sheet pan.  You can leave out the flax if you want, but since I'm making this specifically with cookies in mind, I want all of the nutrition I can possibly get.  Roast them for about 10 - 15 minutes at 350.  Keep a close eye on them.  You want them golden and all nutty smelling, but they get burnt VERY quickly.  Once they're done roasting, transfer them to your blender or food processor, and blend while drizzling small amounts of oil in. You want to use small amounts at a time as you only want enough to make it blend smooth, not get oily.  Then you'll add a pinch or two of salt, depending on your tastes, and sugar the same way.  Blend blend blend until it's smooth and creamy, or as textured as you like.  It's a very forgiving recipe.  Store in an air tight jar in your refrigerator, it should keep about a week or so.  Mine has never lasted that long before being devoured (or used in cookies) so I really don't know, but I would make this in small batches.  Use it on sandwiches, in baking recipes, any time something calls for peanut butter.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2014


Halloween is kind of a big deal in my house.  Well, with three of us, anyway.  Richard could live without it, but he could live without all holidays.  I maybe married Mr. Scrooge, but we all know how that story ends, so I have hope!  And in the meantime, I love him anyway and just beg him to play along.  And he does, because he's the best.  So, anyway, back to Halloween.  We got up early and went to my office (where I don't work anymore, but that's a story for another day) and trick or treated there.  Everyone knows Nik, so we got very little candy (except Skittles) and more toys and little playthings.  I didn't have a costume, so I whipped up a really shabby Catwoman costume at 8am to keep with the superhero theme.  You would think I came up with an award winning costume, the way my kids when INSANE when they saw me.  I love how it takes so little to just really impress little kids.  We didn't go trick or treating at night this year, it's just too dangerous with Nik right now, so we went to my father in law's house and hung out with them, then passed out candy later.  I did make the boys go outside and let me get some adorable pictures of them in character, I mean, costume. 

Then, the next night, we had a party ourselves!  Yeah, that's right, I made Halloween into a two day affair guys.  I do that.  I'll share the cupcake recipe soon, they were so simple and so good.  I made two kinds of hummus, salsa, and cupcakes.  Kept it way simple this year. 

My child pretending to be a zombie made my mommy heart flutter.  He did it just for me.  I just love him!  See you next year, Halloween.

bbq chicken tortilla pizza

Did you miss me?  The week of Halloween gets a little crazy around here!  Not only am I a huge Halloween freak, but our wedding anniversary is two days before Halloween so it's a busy time.  But don't worry, I've been storing up meals for you!  First up is a super quick lunch that my kids loved, BBQ chicken tortilla pizza.  (It took some coaxing with the green right up there, front and center, but once they took a bite...they were sold.) 

When I say super quick, I'm not joking.  It'll feel like you're cheating!  Took me about 2 or 3 minutes to prepare, and 5 to cook.  Can you fend your kids off (or your own appetite) for 7 minutes for a quick, healthy meal?  I sure hope so!

Just assemble the ingredients and bake, it can't get any easier.  I used canned pineapple, canned chicken (white & dark meat) and fresh spinach.  You of course could use cheese if you like, but I don't think it needed it.  For my pieces, I threw some avocado, red pepper flakes and hot sauce on top as well, because I like my pizza kicked up a notch or three.  I used about a 1/2 cup of chicken, and made two pizzas with it, one for me and one for the kids.  Yeah, I ate a whole pizza.  And I'm not ashamed. 

You could bake it at a lower temp, but it would take longer, and because your tortilla isn't needing to be cooked...it's really not necessary.  Kick that oven up to full blast and crisp the whole thing up as quickly as possible.  Why didn't I just broil it?  Because that's too unpredictable.  I often burn things, the heat is so concentrated and so fast.

So what do you think?  Lunch tomorrow?  I'll be right over.