Friday, November 26, 2010

A Thanksgiving Re-cap

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!  It was our first being allergy friendly, and I cooked for everyone; hence the blog hiatus the past few days.  I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of preparing an allergy-friendly Thanksgiving to the extended and immediate family.  Around here, you don’t change up Thanksgiving, we are all about tradition; and that’s exactly what I did.  We opted not to travel to my hometown this year to visit the extended family on my side; they were not very understanding of our predicament.  My father assumed that we would just bring a separate meal for our daughter, he didn’t understand that we don’t segregate our food in our family.  I didn’t think it would be much of a holiday meal if everyone wasn’t treated the same.  With that in mind, I started preparing the menu with some of our family favorites of turkey, ham, stuffing, mac-n-cheese, broccoli casserole, sweet potatoes, and a fabulous vanilla bean cheesecake.  With some fabulous additions from my mother-in-law, we were set.  The day before Thanksgiving I was hoping to take the kids to the movies and relax, but that went out the window when I started my prep.  I tried to get as much done ahead of time as I could to ease the following day; I ended up being awake till one in the morning with my cheesecake.  So tired the following day, but I take my cheesecakes very seriously.  Anyone who has made one before knows that you cannot just shock them into a different temperature or they will crack.  You have to pre-heat the oven, the ingredients need to be room temperature, and then you pay attention to the baking process.  When it starts to brown around the outside of the top, keep the oven door closed while turning the oven off.  When the cheesecake top is set, no jiggle room, I crack the oven door to allow a continued decrease in temperature.  When my cheesecake is room temperature it can be placed in the fridge.  The temperature slowly decreasing and the water bath it bakes in make for the creamiest cheesecake ever.  So yummy!

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

4 packages 8 oz. cream cheese
5 eggs
16 oz. sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 in. vanilla bean; split and scrape out beans.
¼ cup orange juice; pulp free.
2 tbs corn starch

Make sure ingredients start off at room temperature, it makes for a very creamy finish.  Start with your cream cheese to mixing bowl, add sugar and beat on low, add sour cream and orange juice slowly.  Add Corn starch and eggs one at a time, combining eggs before adding the next, add vanilla.  Do not over mix.  Pour mixture over crust of your choice in spring form pan wrapping with aluminum foil.  Add mixture to water bath and bake in 325 degree preheated oven.  When top of cheesecake starts to brown, keep oven closed and turn heat off.  The rest of cheesecake will slowly set up.  Keep oven door cracked to decrease heat more once cheesecake center is set.  When cooled to room temperature, can place in fridge.  Super creamy, a fave of my family’s.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Not A Tip-Toe Kind of Gal!

I am not being silly!  That is what I keep telling myself, anyway.  If I so much as mention food allergies or the snacks options around us, the other parents go into defense mode.  Why is that?  My husband whom is my biggest fan; he tells me to deal with it.  No, really.  Deal with it because no one wants to talk about it or deal with it- except us. 
Why is that?  I don’t understand why people are so defensive about their own food choices and why I should have to tip-toe around it.  I’m not a tip-toe kind of gal, and I don’t want to be.  With that said, however, am I being too obnoxious to the outside world with what I’m doing at home?  Am I too involved at school?  My children attend public school, and they do not provide my daughter anything to eat because of her food allergies.  By state law they are supposed to provide her with a well-balanced meal everyday for lunch.  When we spoke with the head of food services, she allowed us to look through their food/menu options.  None of which she could have.  Therefore, I was allowed to bring a microwave into her classroom for the year and provide her lunch daily.  I assured her teachers that whatever was to come up with classroom parties, treats, etc., just email and I will provide her with an allergy-friendly version.  I thought all this was a good thing, but maybe not. 
When dealing with school and sporting events, the other parents act like I’m making it up or something.  My daughter doesn’t want everyone to know she has food allergies, she’s 8, and so I just bring her own snacks and be done with it.  The other parents get defensive that maybe I don’t think their snacks or treats are good enough.  Are you serious?  First of all, they usually aren’t good enough because it’s usually junk food.  Even before we had food allergies I was the mom bringing the fruit, and I still am even now.  You would think with the emphasis on health in today’s society that more parents would be doing so, but that is not the case in this area.  I tried speaking to the principal.  She looked at me and asked what I would like her to do for us because more fruit was not an option due to money.  What?  I don’t agree with that at all, but who am I except a lowly housewife and mom.  No one important to them.  Well, maybe I can make a change somehow, even if it’s just through all of you readers. 
I would love to hear some of your stories, ideas, and input.  Even if you don’t have a challenge of food allergies, are you an advocate for healthier choices?  What about the olden days when the “treats” were a sticker or pencil?  I thought that was great, why not try that route.  More is not necessarily better.

Friday, November 19, 2010

When in doubt, go with fruit!

Seriously.  When in doubt, go with fruit.  I am the mother of a child with multiple food allergies and no one ever takes her restrictions into consideration.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect the world to revolve around our needs, it would be nice, but I’m not a fool.  What would help is the daily, routine activities we are involved in would be more flexible than they currently are.  I’m sure all parents of children with food allergies probably feel the same way; at least I hope they do.  The more allergies a person have the more restrictions. 
       We have dealt with health issues for my daughter, my youngest, since conception.  She didn’t even wait until she was born; it was very difficult from the beginning.  We have been faced with a lot of challenges, and it has made me into a force to be reckoned with.  I tend to just be “okay, just tell me what we need to do and I’ll get it done” type of person.  I’m not the wait and see person by any means.  I knew from very early in my pregnancy that we would be faced with some challenges, and I have not been disappointed.  I am a very lucky person, I have her here and she is a very happy, active little girl.  Even though we live in a rather small town, a lot of people have never realized any of the challenges that we have had as a family.  We’re not those people, never have been.  We live on a small farm and tend to keep everything close to home.  I, personally, wonder if that’s why things are more difficult since the food allergy diagnosis this year. 
       Before starting school this year, we spoke with the principal and school nurse regarding the new food allergy diagnosis.  We were, fortunately, able to place a microwave in her classroom to be used for her food only.  Even though, by law, her school is supposed to provide her lunch, I don’t trust them.  I make her lunch everyday.  Unfortunately, everything in our society is still revolved around food.  It’s something different every week.  A fractions project with a Hershey chocolate bar, which she can’t have.  A cookie dough project, with grocery store refrigerated cookie dough, which she can’t have.  A cooking club that she, her best friend, and brother really want to join and they call me the night before with the menu.  I’m left looking like a grump because I’m scrambling to find allergy-friendly options for her to have that are equal to what her friends will be having, so she doesn’t feel different.  I stay pretty tightly wound cooking, researching, and trying to educate. 
       I needed a support system so badly, but there wasn’t one available in my area.  Which was troubling, we have a rather large hospital and university, but there was nothing.  Therefore, I started one because I’m the “making lemons into lemonade” girl.  I have close to 40 members of gluten free KY group on facebook, and a steady number who attend the monthly food allergy support group meetings.  They have helped with support, but our area doesn’t provide very much for the allergy friendly.  There is only one restaurant we can eat at, and what they do have available at the grocery store is outrageous in price.  I just want to scream, when in doubt, go with fruit!  It’ll be much easier. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Different Kinda Pumpkin Recipe

I have come up with a great recipe of meatballs with pumpkin puree, believe it or not.  They are incredibly yummy and very tender.  I came upon this recipe because I had just enough pumpkin puree leftover to make something really yummy, but not enough to warrant keeping.  This particular day, my husband and son were gone deer hunting while my daughter and I spent some quality time in the kitchen.  She recently turned eight years old and is very interested in learning about her newly diagnosed food allergies.  We look through cookbooks and try to think of different foods to prepare that will be easy on her dietary restrictions.  On this cold, cloudy day we decided pasta and meatballs were such a food.  We prepared spaghetti style rice noodles, meatballs with pumpkin puree, and a brown butter sage sauce.  Needless to say, dinner was very rich and filling.  The pumpkin was not overpowering at all, and added a very velvety texture to the already tender meatballs.  My daughter went out to our herb garden and gathered a number of sage leaves to prepare flavored oil; we appreciated the brown butter sage sauce more! 

Pumpkin Meatballs

3 lbs ground beef 80/20
½ tsp ground sage
Small onion chopped and browned in skillet.  I use my iron skillet
2 tbs. pumpkin puree
3 eggs
½ cup allergy free bread crumbs

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix to combine.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out meatballs to a little larger than golf balls.  Brown in same skillet as onions was done in.  Brown on two sides and add to baking dish in oven and cook until done – about 20 minutes.  I combine with pasta and a brown butter sage sauce.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sorghum Baked Custard

Sorghum Baked Custards

8 large egg yolks
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tablespooon sorghum
3 cups milk or 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream – what I use depends on what I have in the fridge.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Arrange 6 ramekins in a baking dish – I use small jam jars.  In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, brown sugar, salt, and sorghum.  Set aside.  In a saucepan, bring the cream and/or milk to just under or at a boil over medium heat.  Remove from heat and add cup of milk mixture to yolk mixture and whisk, continue whisking and add yolk mixture to rest of milk mixture.  I use a funnel to add mixture to ramekins for easier control and less mess.  Fill baking dish half full with water around ramekins, cover tops with aluminum foil, and add to pre-heated oven. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until butter knife is inserted into one of ramekins and comes out clean.  Take out of oven and set to side to cool.  When room temperature, remove foil topping and add a little sorghum to top.  You can eat at cool, room temperature, or warm in oven just before serving.  My kids also enjoy a topping of whipped cream just before digging in. 

A Super Simple Dessert

Beginning our allergy free lifestyle a few months ago made for some of our more traditional dishes being deleted for a while.  Not for good, but for a while!  Our Kentucky-style dessert menu contains a lot of pies and my favorite, bread pudding.  I wanted to conquer a new dessert for my family yesterday, and I won! 

Desserts can be overwhelming with an allergy-free lifestyle change.  You have to supplement a lot of ingredients for what used to be simple recipes.  That can be a tough change to make, at least it was for me.  I found myself buying a lot of pre-made sweets for the house, something I never did before.  For a healthier change a few years ago, I eliminated sweets from the house.  I would make dessert once or twice a week, and that was it.  It was an awesome change when the kids were younger because they were reaching for the fruit and appreciated the homemade desserts.  I found that if we had cookies or ice cream in the house consistently, they would get eaten consistently.  That’s not a healthy lifestyle for us.  I am slowly but surely making the homemade desserts for us again.  When my dairy goats were being milked,  I was making a lot of homemade frozen custard thanks to my Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker attachment.  That thing is awesome!  This year I lost my oldest girl, Grace and my bigger girl, Heidi, is newly bred.   Therefore, no goat milk until she kids. 

When considering our favorite desserts yesterday, I remembered how easy it was to make my frozen custard.  I considered how great it would be for the boys to come home from their deer stand to warm, baked custards.  SOLD!  My daughter and I got to work considering what we had in the pantry and fridge for ingredients.  One thing we always have is sorghum molasses.  I love it!  It’s one of those ingredients that we tend to always have because it’s not something you use all the time.  I have to say, I was pretty impressed with this dessert.  I, shockingly, got it right the first time.  I made the dessert first and moved the jars to a cooling rack while I made dinner.  While the family was enjoying their pasta and meatballs made with pumpking and brown butter sage sauce, oh yeah!  Recipe to come on that one.  I had the oven on warm and just reheated the custards through.  One thing I did not have was ramekins.  Instead, I used my small jam jars and the jars that came with my yogurt machine.  Pretty simple and delicious!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just a Note

I have been so incredibly blessed since starting my Food Allergy Support Group.  We meet monthly and I have gained such a support system in them.  We have been lucky enough to receive samples to try from Pamela's, Katz, Udi's, Kinnikinnick's, and most recently Namaste Foods.  We have enjoyed these so much!  Being in a smaller town, there is not a lot out there in our faces to try.  Most of these members had not tried a lot of these companies.  It is such a blessing to have them so willing to send us samples and literature to further educate ourselves and our families.
Most recently, we received samples from Namaste Foods.  They are an allergy free company whom prepare dry mixes for purchase in specialty stores in our area of Kentucky.  In our shipment we received Chocolate Cake Mix and Toffee Vanilla Frosting mix.  I made cupcakes to share to our members and encouraged everyone else to bring an allergy free treat as well.  It was our last meeting of the year due to the busy holiday season ahead.  The cupcakes were a hit!  I have already received notification from some of our members who have located and bought the mixes in hopes of sharing with their families over the holidays.  Good News!  
I hope my support group, blog, upcoming books, and family continue to thrive in this allergy free lifestyle in the oncoming year.  My daughter was diagnosed with her allergies this past July at 7 years old.  We continue to have  daily struggles at home and with our public school system and family.  I hope to continue to advocate to our local restaurants and school system to include food allergies in their daily menus and schedules.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hill Family Potatoes

With the colder months coming in, my family enjoys more comfort food.  Our family never stops – be it with sports, our animals, entertaining, or the farm.  When the activity level doesn’t slow down, I need to make sure they are eating plenty of warm, hearty meals.  This recipe is extremely thrifty, which I am all about.  It is exactly how I learned to cook, as well.   My husband and I were very young when we got married and started our family.  We were, literally, living paycheck to paycheck for what felt like a really long time.  I could either spend thirty dollars on a few pizzas to last a night, or I could buy flour, beans, etc. and learn to make my pasta and other things.  This is how I learned to garden.  I still continue to learn about the different fruits and vegetables that I grow.  This past year was my first time growing potatoes, and boy did I get that one right.  We continue to have tons of little red potatoes to use up. 

Hill Family Potato Hash

6 red potatoes  cut in half, then cubed.
1 ring of smoked sausage cut into coins
3 small onions cut into rings
your favorite breading for onion rings – we use a Cajun style corn meal breading.
3 eggs with 1/3 cup milk for egg wash
Salt and pepper to taste.

Put onion rings in egg wash, breading, and fry in corn oil until golden brown.  Place on paper towel to drain excess oil.  Add sausage coins to skillet on medium high heat until browned, remove from skillet onto paper towel to drain excess oil – leaving remaining fat in skillet.  Add potatoes to remaining fat in skillet and cook until browned and fork tender.  Combine potatoes and sausage and top with onion rings.  A great family-style meal. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Family's Mac and Cheese

It’s time to start thinking about favorite Thanksgiving recipes.  My family is excited to have one of our favorites – My Ky hot brown macaroni and cheese casserole.  I make it on special occasions.  It’s definitely not a once-a-week type of casserole.  I usually surprise them on  the occasional Saturday, and definitely on Thanksgiving.  The Kentucky Hot Brown is my favorite sandwich of all time, it was only fair that I turn it into a casserole.  Try it at your own risk!  I guarantee it becoming a favorite family meal.

KY Hot Brown Mac and Cheese Casserole.

Thick cut baked ham cut into pieces.
Turkey breast cut into pieces.
Cooked bacon cooked into pieces.
Fresh, sliced tomatoes
Cooked and drained macaroni.

Cheese Sauce
½ stick butter melted
Flour- mix to make a roux.  I use Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour.
Stir in heavy cream
Add cheese.  Mix until melted.

Mix everything together.  Add sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with more cheese. Bake until browned on top. 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Breakfast of Champioins!!

This has been the weekend of the Breakfasts!  A busy weekend Saturday filled with Basketball double-headers and a last soccer game and celebration called for a good morning start of western omelets.  Sunday was a day filled with riding four-wheelers through wooded trails and finished with horseback riding through the fields, a start of pumpkin pancakes with homemade cinnamon butter and maple syrup.  Yummy!  Days such as these call for a big, hearty start because you never know when you’ll be able to stop again.  We usually don’t stop again to eat until we’re enjoying an early dinner making up for lost time.  No one wants to stop for lunch when you’re having this much fun! 

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 cup Gluten Free Bisquick
1 cup milk
2 tbs oil
1 egg
¼ cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredients, add by heaping tablespoons to medium high skillet.  I add 2 heaping tablespoons per one pancake.  Flip when starting to bubble on sides.  Keep oven on warm temperature with plate on top rack, add pancakes to plate to keep warm.

Cinnamon butter

½ stick softened butter
2 tsp cinnamon

Combine well, goes great on pumpkin pancakes with 100% pure maple syrup.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Making Family-Style Easier

I love to cook, I really do.  I’m just a busy mom who doesn’t have time to make homecooked meals on a daily basis.  The best for my family are meals that are either simple to put together or meals that I can make in advance and freeze for later use.  Most of my recipes are exactly that, either super easy with make ahead ingredients or family-style casseroles to be frozen.  Sunday is usually my cooking day at home.  If nothing is planned, I’m usually found in the kitchen making chicken nuggets or soup.  My family doesn’t have the luxury of being able to stop and pick something up quick to eat on busy nights.  Food allergies have greatly limited our restaurants, which is a blessing in disguise.  Our family is eating a lot healthier, and the money we are saving goes into the higher priced allergy friendly foods. 
        If anyone is looking to better prepare their family meals I would say to figure out a day that is good for you to plan to cook.  I would also invest in freezer containers of all sizes, they’re great because they are reusable as well.  Pick a bag of beans every week and prepare simply.  You can always add flavor and spices, you can’t take away.  Prepare and freeze in small batches that fit your family size.  You can add to soups, casseroles, or prepare alone.  I do also buy the aluminum pans with lids that can be used to freeze casseroles and reheat in oven.  They are typically not reusable, but they are inexpensive.  Keep corn tortillas in the fridge, they can be layered for casseroles and you can always make a quick quesadilla for snack time. 

Mexican Tortilla Casserole

Corn tortillas to cover bottom of 9x13 in. pan
4 chicken legs boiled
6 pack of chorizo sausage with casings removed.
1 ½ cups of frozen corn.
2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese
½ bag prepared black beans.
Enchilada sauce – canned or homemade.
Sour cream and/or guacamole for garnish.

Place chicken legs in stock pot and add water until just covered.  Heat on stove on medium heat for 30 – 40 minutes.  Remove chicken to cool.   Add chorizo sausage without casings to skillet on medium heat and cook until browned then drain off fat.  Add shredded chicken meat to cooked sausage.  Add frozen corn, prepared black beans, and enchilada sauce then pour over corn tortillas. Cover top with cheese and cook at 350 degrees until bubbly.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quick Comfort Food

Today is a day for comfort food.  It's Election Day and the kids are sleeping in while I'm up with the chickens drinking my daily ritual of coffee.  A lazy day at home will be warranted after still resting up from the holiday weekend.  My son will be running in and out of the house all day while continually adding things to his tree house, and my daughter will inevitably be in the field with her horses.  When daddy gets home from work will can enjoy a big bowl of hearty red beans and rice before preparing to finish the rest of the week.  I lived in Louisiana as a child and love me some cajun food, this is a toned-down version for my family.  Not too spicy and not too difficult to make.  Perfect for the busy family or the one who just wants to hang out.Lodge L Series Enamel 6 Quart Dutch Oven, Patriot Red

Red Beans and Rice

One bag of red beans – soaked overnight.
2 cups of brown rice
Smoked sausage ring – halved lengthwise and sliced.
1 ½ cups chopped thin okra
1 small squash quartered and sliced thin
Tony’s Cajun seasoning.
Stock or Broth – I make my own from end pieces of chicken I store in the freezer and a piece of ham hock.

I cook the sausage first – brown in skillet and remove into separate bowl.  Cook okra and squash mixture in drippings until browned well and crisped up a little.  Combine drained beans and rice into pot and cover with stock.  Cook until tender.  Drain rice and beans.  Add sausage, squash, and okra.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning.  Stir well and enjoy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cooking Allergy Free: Tips for an Allergy Free Kitchen

Cooking Allergy Free: Tips for an Allergy Free Kitchen: "Tips for the allergy free kitchen:We cannot use cooking spray due to the soy content – I used this to my advantage by making vario..."

Tips for an Allergy Free Kitchen

Tips for the allergy free kitchen:
  1. We cannot use cooking spray due to the soy content – I used this to my advantage by making various flavored oils to keep beside the stove.  It’s easy to do.  I buy our allergy free oil in bulk and place in small sauce pans on the stove.  Add favorite herbs and/or spices to oil and simmer for an hour.  I buy the oil bottles and add oil and at least one piece of herb to help identify.  I usually keep a silicone brush beside the stove to brush oil in cooking vessels that will need it.  It’s easy to do and adds a little more flavor. 
  2. Do the same with your vinegar!  As well as the oils, I also add herbs and/or fruits to plain vinegar.  Seal into mason jar and shake periodically for a few days, the longer it sits the stronger the flavor will be.  Strain into bottles for storage.  These are great for those salad dressings you have to make.  My daughter’s favorite combination for salads are the lemon vinegar with the basil oil.  Add to small jam jar with a bit of salt and cracked pepper.  Keep in fridge and shake to combine before pouring.  I love making these different combinations.  They are great for pasta salads and potato salads as well. 
  3. I use Method Cleaners in my house.  They are completely non-toxic and smell great!  My kids are to the age where we are starting chores and allowances for such.  These are perfect for them, I don’t have to worry about her allergies or hypersensitivity with these products.
  4. Accessibly storage.  I learned this the hard way.  The more food allergies you are challenged with, the more ingredients are involved with everyday cooking.  I bought large clear jars and containers to store the different flours, starches, beans, and rices in.  They are now labeled and placed on a shelf within easy reach.  It makes for easier cooking as well as being rather decorative.  If you have already discovered favorite mixes, buy in bulk and store in containers.  It’s also a great way to store your favorite homemade granolas!
  5. Write down your recipes.  If you are like me, I love to try new things.  Sometimes they are great, sometimes not so much.  My husband always makes the statement that if it’s good, I probably won’t make it again.  He was right!  I can’t tell you how many times I have found great combinations and never thought to write it down.  Nowadays, I have a little notebook on my kitchen counter that is full of little notes for recipes.

I am definitely not an expert!  I am just a mom who tries very hard to do and know as much as I can.  It’s my nature, I like to control things and this is my way of having a say in the kitchen.  These tips may  not work for everyone, but they may lead to something that will.