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!

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

gnocchi1

Step 1 – Put wax paper on cookie sheets.

gnocchi2

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

gnocchi4

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).

gnocchi6

gnocchi7

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.

gnocchi9

gnocchi10

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!

IMG_7263

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!

Amazing Lavender

This evening I was pulling out some Pennsylvania smartweed but didn’t notice the bumblebee among the flowers and was promptly bitten.  I immediately remembered what my friend, Jenny, had told me after my encounter with a yellow jacket last month…  ” Lavender essential oil applied immediately r-e-a-l-l-y HELPS!  Almost no swelling/pain!” 

Well, I don’t have any lavender EO in the house, but I do have lavender plants in my perennial garden.  I plucked a few sprigs off a plants, crushed the leaves and held it to the bite.  I honestly wasn’t sure if it would help, even though I know lavender is wonderful for burns (more about that later).  Within a few minutes I had no pain!  I continued working in the garden and picked a bunch of beans!

…now to lavender and burns.  Back in college I worked at The Body Shop and learned that lavender can speed the healing of burns.  This was discovered by someone who was working with lavender oil a long time ago, got burned while doing his experiment and accidentally spilled the lavender oil on his hand.  The burned area that was covered by the lavender oil healed much faster than the rest of the burn. 

I have gotten burned in the kitchen several times and applied crushed lavender leaves immediately.  Viola!  Pain relief and quick healing. 

A few months ago I was having soup for lunch…it was much hotter than I thought it was.  I burned my mouth so bad…I don’t think I’ve ever burned my mouth that bad before!  I took a big drink of cold water, but I remembered that I read somewhere that sugar helps if you burn your mouth…not sure how or why…but I got some sugar out. 

Then I thought about the lavender…so I ran out and picked some leaves.  I put them in a sandwich bag with the sugar and crushed the leaves so that the sugar could absorb the lavender oil.  I picked out the leaves and let a couple teaspoons dissolve in my mouth.  The pain subsided slowly and I took a couple more teaspoons of sugar later that day.  Do you know how after you burn your tongue you can’t taste anything very well?  That evening my mouth felt better…and, even more importantly, I could taste my dinner.

If you’d like to make your own Lavender Infused Sugar, simply add a teaspoon or so dried lavender buds to a cup of sugar.  Store in a canning jar or other jar in a dark place for 2 weeks.  Shake the sugar every day or couple days so the sugar can absorb the oils.  You can strain the buds out or leave them in.  Enjoy!

Tour de … Fleece?

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the Tour de France, the 22-day long bicycle race across France starting on July 2nd … but how many of you have heard of the Tour de Fleece?  I’m sure if you’re familiar with Ravelry you’ve heard of it! 

Many handspinners around the world spin yarn while the cyclist are racing.  That’s right … 20 days of spinning at least a little each day with 2 rest days.  For some, it’s simple.  Others have it a little more challenging, especially those who have 2 young children, animals to feed and a growing garden. 

I did manage to spin every day that the cyclists rode.  To kick off the Tour I even made a special dinner on July 2nd…  One of our homegrown turkeys, rubbed with a mixture of olive oil and herbs de provence (brought home from Paris by my aunt!) rotisseried on the grill.

I also watched a lot of the race and really became interested in it.  Noah loved watching it with me in the mornings, and Dave and I watched some of it at night, too.  We all gasped when Johnny Hoogerland crashed and cheered for him when he continued racing.

Some days I only managed to squeeze in 10 or 15  minutes but most days I spun for 30 minutes or more.  A few days I spun on my drop spindle because I didn’t have time to sit down at my wheel.  We also left for camping a couple of days before the Tour was over so I packed my drop spindle to take with us… it takes up far less room than my wheel!  I posted photos of my daily progress to my Flickr account, but here’s a collage of my work:

Tour De Fleece collage

A Belated Happy St. Patty’s Day

We didn’t have corned beef and cabbage at our home…. we had corned beef and roasted potatoes, and other veggies.  This year I got a Nathan’s brand corned beef from our local market and it turned out great! 

We also had the best Irish soda bread.  I got the recipe from a dear friend several years ago and make it every year. 

Here’s the recipe:

4 cups                    flour

1 cup                      sugar

1 tsp                       baking soda

3 tsp                       baking powder

1 tsp                       salt

2 cups                    buttermilk or regular milk

1 cup                      raisins (rinsed so they don’t stick together)

1                              egg  (beaten)

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour in a cast iron skillet (grease and flour well).  Sprinkle ¼ cup sugar on top.  Bake at 350° for 1 hour.  Let cool 1 hour in pan.  Remove and cool completely.

Happy Fastnacht Day!!

Today is more commonly called Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, but here in Berks county, PA we are in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country!  Fastnacht (also spelled fasnacht or faschnacht) are a doughy potato pastry, similar to a doughnut, and fried in lard.  In the past people spread honey on them but, today, you most commonly find them glazed or coated in confectioners’ sugar.Mardi Gras has been a traditional day of feasting since the Middle Ages.  All the feasting would use up extra food in the home pantry that would be a temptation during the  40 days of Lenten fasting.  Lent is the period of 40 days prior to Easter and fasting during this time began as a Catholic custom, but is also celebrated by many Protestants.

Historically, fastnacht dough was set out to rise on the Monday before Ash Wednesday.  It was then cut into squares and fried in lard for Tuesday morning breakfast.  Everyone would eat all the fastnachts they wanted with their coffee or other morning  beverage.

fasnachts

Fastnachts & Coffee

I wish you all a happy Fastnacht Day!  If you can’t find fastnacht where you live, here’s a recipe I found at www.maplespringsfarm.com.  This farm is in Bradford County, PA and the family is of German and PA Dutch heritage.  (The recipe make 100 fastnachts – you might want to reduce it!)

Ingredients2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup shortening and ½ cup butter
1 quart milk – scalded and cooled
5 cups flour
3 packages yeast in 1 cup warm water (dissolve yeast in water + 1 tea sugar)2 eggs
1 tea salt
Rest of 5 pound bag of flour  

DirectionsMix first six ingredients in order with electric mixer. Let rise until double, approx. four hours at room temperature.Stir remaining 3 ingredients into previous batter. Let rise till double (approx. 5 hours). Roll and cut. Let rise again till double (2 – 3 hours).Fry in lard at 425. Makes 100.

Happy Fastnacht Day!!