Dairy-Free Treats for my Niece

My niece gets eczema-like flakiness on her scalp.  It was originally diagnosed as cradle cap, but when the condition persisted into her toddler years and didn’t respond to cradle cap treatments, my sister suspected a dairy allergy.  A couple weeks after removing all dairy from her diet, my niece’s scalp wasn’t dry and flaky anymore.

This spring I experimented with making dairy-free desserts for my niece.  Two were big hits with our whole family, the other, was good but not great.  I have an idea of how to make it better, though.

On Hannah’s birthday I made a dairy-free Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie in addition to her birthday cake.  I found the recipe for a CC skillet cookie via Pinterest, tweaked it a bit and Viola!

Dairy-Free Skillet CC Cookie

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 ¾ c                    white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s)

½ tsp                   baking soda

14 tbsp                 Earth Balance

½ c                       granulated sugar

3/4 c                     packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown)

1 tsp                      salt

3 tsp                     vanilla extract

1                            large egg

1                            large egg yolk

1 ¼ c                    Enjoy Life semi-sweet chips

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Adjust oven rack to middle position.  Lightly butter pan.

  1. Whisk together flour and baking soda; set aside.
  2. Heat 10 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat until melted about 2 minutes. *Continue      stirring for another 1-3 minutes until brown and nutty in aroma.*   {Earth Balance doesn’t get brown and      nutty, so I skipped this step}
  3. Remove from heat.  Pour heated butter through a sieve into a heat proof bowl.  Stir in remaining butter until completely melted.  Add all three sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully combined.  Add egg and egg yolk, whisk until mixture is smooth and no sugar lumps remains, for about 30 seconds.
  4. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes then whisk for another 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat step four 2 more times until mixture is thick and shiny.
  6. Stir in flour until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips until combined.
  7. Press cookie dough mixture into pan.  Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until golden brown and still puffy.  {Note:  baking time is based on using a 10-inch skillet.  If you use a smaller or bigger one you will have to adjust your baking time.}

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For St. Patrick’s Day, I made the Coconut Oil Fudge recipe that I found on Common Sense Home blog.  It was good, but I didn’t add the nuts or dried fruit in the recipe and you could really taste the coconut oil.

coconut fudge

I think if I make it again I will use a neutral taste coconut oil like Jarrow’s and add the nuts and/or dried fruit.  Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
2 c                     unrefined coconut oil, softened
¾  c                  finely chopped nuts
1 c                     organic cocoa powder
7 tbsp               maple syrup or honey
¼ c                   chopped dried organic cherries or dried, unsweetened coconut
¼ c                   chopped dried organic cranberries

Directions:

In the bowl of a standing mixer stir coconut oil until creamy with no lumps (if oil is too thick, set bowl in warm water). (You want the oil soft, not liquid.  If it is liquid, the other ingredients will settle to the bottom of the pan instead of staying mixed with the oil.  If this happens, you can warm the whole thing and remix.)  Add cocoa powder and sweetener, mixing after each ingredient. Mix in the dried fruit, (coconut), and nuts.

Spread fudge into 7″x11″ or 9″x9″ inch pan and refrigerate or freeze until firm. Cut into squares and serve. Keep refrigerated.

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What Easter basket is complete without chocolate?  My very favorite are buttercreams.  I decided to make dairy-free buttercreams for my niece for Easter and they were fantastic!  For the filling I used this Irish Potato recipe from Cooks.com, minus the coconut (yes, Irish Potatoes are buttercreams plus coconut and rolled in cinnamon).

DF Buttercreams

Recipe:

1 lb           10x sugar

1 stick      Earth Balance

½ tsp       salt

1 tsp         vanilla

1/3 c        light Karo

1 bag       Enjoy Life semi-sweet chips

Directions:

Mix ingredients by hand or in mixer.  When combined put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  Melt Enjoy Life chips in double boiler.  Scoop filling with spoon or cookie dough scoop and roll in melted chips.  Remove and place in paper candy cups or on wax/parchment paper.  Refrigerate until set and store in refrigerator.  Note: the filling warms easier and faster that true buttercreams so you may need to work in small batches so it doesn’t get too soft to work with.

I’m already looking for summer desserts that I can make for my niece and can’t wait to share them with you!

Cousin’s Weekend – Team Boys!

My sister and I both have 2 children – and both a son and daughter.  My son is 7 1/2 and my daughter is almost 5.  Her twins are 4 1/2.  The kids really enjoy having “switcheroo” sleepovers, where the boys sleep at my house and the girls sleep at her house.

Hannah, who rarely plays with dolls, loves playing princess and dress-up with her cousin and spending time with her aunt and uncle.  Noah adores both of his cousins, but has a blast having another boy around who can keep up with his endless amount of energy!

Our 1st trip after we got home was to Oley Valley Feed to get some feed for the critters and some fence supplies.  Then we went over to The Oley Turnpike Diner for lunch…

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and to see the animals in the petting zoo.  It was so cold and windy, but the kids liked all the animals plus they got to feed them crackers!  The donkeys were the loudest and one sounded like it was crying!

Those donkeys were loud!  :)

After we got home, the boys rode bikes outside…

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…and cut down some bushes.  In 10 years or so, they’ll be a pretty good grounds crew!  🙂  Oh, while we were outside I introduced my nephew to “Aunt Kim tissues”, too… (the edge of my shirt or sleeve for little noses).

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When the boys got too cold we went inside where they wrestled and played cars.  After dinner, they watched some tv and snuggled with Fastnacht, our house bunny.

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Sunday was even colder and windier, but they boys insisted on riding bikes again.  They managed to stay outside for about an hour in the morning and again in the afternoon.  They perfected riding on ice (which was nerve-racking for me), but at least my nephew had training wheels on his bike!

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We visited the sheep, but the sheep didn’t want any attention since we didn’t have food.  My nephew got to see his favorite sheep, Fiona, who he said was “all grown up and beautiful”.

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At lunch Dave opened his venison (or benison!) summer sausage from Shaffer Venison Farms.  After I ate some the boys each tried some.  We sent some sausage pieces home with my nephew because he liked it so much and that night I got a text from my sister, “Is this really deer sausage? … He wants me to get him more.  He was so excited when he remembered he had it.”  I know what he’ll be getting for his birthday this year!

After lunch the boys rode bikes again.    We played with the cats…

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…and played “Octonauts” (a Disney show) while snow flurries swirled around!  The kids’ fort was their headquarters and the bikes were their Gups (submarines).  At one point my nephew asked for a tissue and I told him I didn’t have one (hoping to go inside – I was freezing!).  He said, “What about an Aunt Kim tissue?”  Haha!

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Everyone had a wonderful weekend and I love having my nephew stay with us!  I think we were all tired out by Sunday afternoon and slept well Sunday night!

(I was very happy to have my baby girl home again, too!)  😉

Meet Our New Pets!

We’ve had house rabbits in the past (Beau lived till he was 8 and Lola lived till she was 7) and our kids have been asking to get more rabbits for a while now.  On Sunday we went to the PaSRBA Convention in Lebanon, PA and the kids chose 2 rabbits to bring home.

Welcome Home!

Noah chose a broken black Mini Rex buck and named him Fastnacht (fosh-not).  For anyone not familiar with what a fastnacht is, click here.

Fastnacht

Hannah picked out a black otter Netherland Dwarf doe.  She first picked the name Blackie, but then decided on Black Rock.  I guess Blackie wasn’t creative enough for her!

Black Rock

They are each 3 months old and in separate cages until they can visit the vet, but here’s a cute picture of them together when we first brought them home.

bunnies

Making Gnocchi

Gnocchi can be made 2 ways… with potato or Ricotta cheese.  I use my grandmother’s recipe to make mine and use Ricotta.

What you’ll need:

3 lbs         Ricotta Cheese

2lbs+        Flour (you’ll need to add more than 2 lbs so that the dough isn’t sticky and also for rolling the dough)

3                eggs

handfull of parmesan (I use Locatelli instead)

Gnocchi boards or forks

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Step 1 – Put wax paper on cookie sheets.

gnocchi2

Step 2 – Measure out ingredients and make “well” in center of flour.

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gnocchi3

Step 3 – Mix together eggs, Ricotta and parmesan.

gnocchi5

Step 4 – add wet mixture to well in flour and knead dough (don’t over-knead or the dough will become tough).

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Step 5 – Wet a towel with water, wring it out and cover dough so it doesn’t dry out.  Cut of small amount of dough off.

gnocchi8Step 6 – Roll into long “rope” and cut into small pieces.

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Step 7 – Roll pieces of dough on gnocchi boards or forks.

Step 8 – Freeze gnocchis on cookie sheets then put into freezer bags (you can also cook the fresh gnocchis).

Step 9 – Cook in boiling water until they all float.  Serve in a dish with gravy (we don’t call it sauce!) and enjoy!

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Remembering September 11th, 2001

Eleven years ago thousands of Americans lost their lives in a horrific act of terrorism.

September 11th, 2001 was my 2nd day at my new job at the US Court of Appeals Law Library in Philadelphia.  We first heard the news from a friend of my co-worker who worked in NY.  He didn’t say what kind of plane crashed so I immediately called my boyfriend (now – husband) because his company (an aerial survey company that I had just left to join the library) flew in NYC airspace frequently.  I couldn’t imagine a large jet would crash and could only think that it might be one of the flight crews that I had worked with.

Then we found out what happened.

Center City Philadelphia was essentially evacuated.

As soon as I left the courthouse I called my dad…and looked up.  Rumors were traveling that Philadelphia was on the terrorists’ list of targets.  One memory that’s burned into my mind of that day is the brilliant blue sky.  It was gorgeous.

Mass transit was a nightmare.  It took me 2 hours on the regional rails to get to NE Philadelphia (a ride that usually took 30 minutes or so).  But I couldn’t even get to the station near where my car was parked.  That line was closed because it was also an Amtrak line that went into NYC.  Someone on the train offered another girl and me a ride to that station since we were both parked there.

I got to the station and went around the block to my boyfriend’s condo.  I walked in the door just when the second tower collapsed.  I sank to the floor and cried.

The news was on the rest of the day following any details that emerged.  The courthouse was closed the next day and when we returned to work on Thursday federal police armed with automatic rifles were guarding the courthouse (and every other federal building in the country).

 

My son, Noah, came home from school today and said, “Mom, do you know what happened on 9/11?”

Me: yes, did you learn about it at school?

N: yeah … {he then told me about the big planes that had lots of people on them and they crashed into two tall towers in NY}

Me: {almost in tears} did you learn about another building in Washington DC called the Pentagon?

N: no

… I then told him {with tears rolling down my face} about the 3rd plane that crashed into the Pentagon.  And I told him about the 4th plane where the passengers learned about what happened in NY and DC and how they became heroes because they didn’t let the “bad guys” who were flying the plane crash it into another building.  That plane crashed into a field in PA and those passengers died too, but they saved many other peoples’ lives.

 

Noah has learned about September 11th before, but I think this year (2nd grade) he could grasp what happened that day.

I pray that we never forget that day and continue to teach our children what happened.

Mom-Mom’s Meatballs – a Cooking Lesson

My mom-mom was a little Italian woman who could make anything.  Crafts, cooking, baking … you name it, she could do it.  Every Sunday our family would gather at Mom-Mom’s and Pop-Pop’s house for dinner.  Almost always a homemade Italian meal.  The only exceptions were the dog days of summer when Pop-Pop would grill.

All of us grandkids helped make spaghetti, ravioli, gnocchi, manigot (manicotti), lasagna … and meatballs.  I’ve promised a lesson on making gnocchi, but today we’re talking meatballs.  Mom-Mom’s meatballs were famous.  She’d never make less than 50 at a time, and more often would make 100-200.  She’d sell meatball sandwiches each year at the church’s June bazaar, along with fresh-squeezed lemonade, and people would flock to her booth.

Mom-Mom never measured ingredients and didn’t have a recipe for her meatballs so trying to replicate them was not always easy.  She had it all in her head, but we kept asking for a written recipe.  Thanks to our dear friend, Melba, we got one.  One day when Mom-Mom was making her meatballs Melba was visiting.  She took a pen and paper and wrote down everything Mom-Mom put in the mix.  Every time I make meatballs, I think of my mom-mom.  I also think of Melba and how grateful I am for the recipe in my hands, because it’s more than measurements – it’s a connection to wonderful memories.

 Now to the recipe and the lesson!

What you’ll need:

5 lb                    ground beef (I use 80% lean)

2-1/2 cups          breadcrumbs (or 1/2 cup per lb of meat)

5                       eggs (or 1 egg per lb of meat)

garlic powder, parsley, basil, grated locatelli cheese, salt, pepper, italian seasonings to taste.

Step 1

Spay a baking pan with olive oil Pam or rub with olive oil.  Turn oven on to 350 degrees.

Step 2

Mix ingredients in a large bowl by hand.  (I suggest that you remove any rings)  Instead of salt and pepper I like to use Nature’s Seasons (bottle with blue cap).  Be gentle while you mix the meat or your meatballs will be very dense.

I forgot to put the bread crumbs in the photo above!

Step 3

Roll the meat into meatballs.  Try to keep them somewhat uniform in size so they cook at the same rate.  Also, don’t pack them while you’re shaping – they’ll end up too dense.

Step 4

Bake in your preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, or until browned.

Step 5

Now they’re ready to eat, add right to your spaghetti gravy (no, we don’t call it sauce in our home), or cool and freeze.  Any juices in the pan can also be added to the gravy or frozen for future use.  Don’t throw them away … I believe Marie on the TV show Everybody Love Raymond called those juices liquid gold!

I hope you enjoy making and eating these meatballs as much as I do!

Lavender and Cuckoo Clocks

You may be asking yourselves what could lavender and cuckoo clocks possibly have in common….  I’ll tell you:  Mrs. Parr.

When I was a little girl, my mom-mom would babysit my sister and I while our mom and dad worked.  She and my pop-pop only lived about 5 blocks from us in our small town in south Jersey.  Mrs. Parr lived 2 doors from my grandparents and I loved to visit her and her husband.   

When I think of her house I remember the smallish but beautiful cuckoo clock in the plain living room.  I loved to listen to it announce the hour!  The detailed carving was so lovely and the polished wood shone. 

Out back you were immediately met by gardens with a myriad of flowers as tall as I was (remember, I was 5 or 6 at the time).  There were daisies and other wildflowers everywhere.  I first learned about lavender there.  I remember Mrs. Parr showing me the flowers and giving me some to dry.  I had those dried lavender buds in a dish on my dresser for years… and thought of her each time I looked at them.

Now lavender is an essential part of my garden.  My 1st garden in Philadelphia had lavender and it came to the farm when we moved.  I’ve learned about its medicinal properties (see my previous post) and how to propagate it.  I’m now planning to plant a lavender hedge along our patio in the coming seasons.

Oh, and as for the cuckoo clock… I’m still waiting for one.  Dave has been to Austria and Germany for business over the past couple years.  I’ve requested one the next time he goes back!