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Big March Post #3: A New Place for FOOD!

It’s the last day of March and the last of the three big announcement posts promised for this month! This one continues our theme of “new:” first a new bed, then a new baby, and now… a new blog!

The new blog is a place where I can post all about food, like how we continue to deal with our changed diet due to food sensitivities, new recipes that I’m perfecting, ingredients we’re watching out for, our meal plans, and our weekly lunch wrap-up posts will move there in early April. We’re of course focusing on eating happily without dairy, eggs, wheat, nuts… basically all of the top 8 most common allergens.

The new site is NourishingRainbows.com, and for more on the name and what the site is all about, follow that link! It’s been up for about a week now and there are several new recipes up and a big post dedicated to an awesome potential Easter dinner, complete with dessert.

Here are some examples of current and future posts…

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As for 9 Years Later, this blog isn’t shutting down. I still plan on posting about the 9-year goal to self-sustainability, although the posts may be quite sporadic. I’m doing a lot of gardening this year so watch for posts on that as the season heats up (haha, see what I did there?). Thanks for hanging in with 9YL and be sure to check out the new NourishingRainbows.com!!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #23

It’s lunch time! Here’s another look at what Kiddo1 brought to school for lunch last week.

If you’ve been keeping up with our “three big posts” for March, you know we have one more big one on the way! I’ll give you a hint… it does have something to do with lunches, in a small way. And we got a new lunch container – no more plastic boxes! So coming soon you’ll see a slightly different weekly wrap up. Next week is Spring Break so stay tuned for the launch date for Wrap Up 2.0 in two weeks!

Monday

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Leftover pork roast for lunch on Monday! And we have been continuing with our rainbow carrots – today Kiddo1 had yellow carrots with some broccoli. For sweets he had strawberries and applesauce.

Tuesday

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Lately I’ve been obsessed with making myself sandwiches (darn pregnancy hormones!) so there has been more lunch meat in the house lately. For Tuesday’s lunch Kiddo1 got one of his favorites: rolls of ham lunch meat (and turkey this time too) with slices of cucumber in the middle. He also had more broccoli, a mix of yellow and orange carrots, and more applesauce.

Wednesday

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I’m not sure why this picture looks so weird… maybe I left an extra light on or something? Well anyway, Wednesday is always leftover tacos day, I believe we had beef tacos this week (it seems to be alternating between ground beef and ground pork lately – tonight we’re having chicken tacos though!), always served with shredded romaine and diced cucumber on soft corn tortillas. He had yellow and purple carrots with strawberries.

Thursday

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Recently Kiddo1 told us he likes salami (where did that come from??) and since I’ve had some around lately for my sandwiches (and it is casein free!), Kiddo1 got some along with ham sticks in his lunch. He also had the veggie trifecta: cucumbers, broccoli, and carrots. And rounding out the goodness is more applesauce.

Friday

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Finishing out the last day before Spring Break, and the last day of the trimester! And I had no idea what to make for lunch! So I settled on the rest of the leftover taco meat in a “taco salad” with blue corn tortilla chips (it’s hard to see them under there) plus Kiddo1’s traditional taco toppings of shredded romaine and diced cucumber. He also had even more carrots and a couple small slices of vegan dark chocolate truffle from Missionary Chocolates.

See you for new and improved lunch posts in two weeks!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #22

Welcome to another weekly wrap up of last week’s school lunches! Here’s what Kiddo1 took to school last week…

Monday

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We started off simple and basic on Monday. No meat leftovers from Sunday so Kiddo1 got some “sticks” of ham, along with carrots, cucumbers, a Mandarin orange, and strawberries (organic strawberries were on sale again – score!).

Tuesday

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More ham on Tuesday – apparently we needed to cook more last week! But things around here have been super busy so I guess ham comes to the rescue again! More cucumbers on Tuesday, along with carrots – but this time they’re special yellow carrots! Another Mandarin orange and two Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday

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Leftover tacos on Wednesdays! This week we had ground pork with our tacos, and Kiddo1 likes his with romaine and cucumber on a soft organic corn shell. He also got purple carrots (we’re on a colorful carrot kick!), broccoli, apple slices, and a couple more Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.

Thursday

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For Thursday’s lunch Kiddo1 got leftover meatballs we made Wednesday night from more of the ground pork we got in our half pig share. He also had broccoli, carrots, cucumber, and some apple sauce.

On Friday there was no school, yay! And only one more week of lunches before Spring Break! See you next week!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #21

We’re back to regularly scheduled weekly lunch posts!

Monday

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We started off the week with some strips of leftover chicken. We usually eat a whole chicken every other week or so, and when we’ve had our fill we strip off all the leftover meat and make a broth with the bones. I love that our chickens do double-duty, or even triple-duty, for us – we get dinner, some lunch leftovers, and tasty broth too! But back to this lunch… Kiddo1 also had his fairly standard carrots and cucumber, along with some strawberries (organic strawberries were on sale last week – it’s almost strawberry season!).

Tuesday

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No leftovers from Meatless Monday so Kiddo1 had ham, more carrots and cucumbers, a Mandarin orange, and Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday

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Beef tacos again this week, since they’re Kiddo1’s favorite. Plus more carrots and cookies! A fairly standard Wednesday lunch.

Thursday

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Kiddo1 finished off the leftover chicken for Thursday’s lunch, plus had a bunch of veggies and fruits – carrots, broccoli, cucumber, and strawberries. And of course the Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies are not to be forgotten!

Friday

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Finishing off the week by finishing off a few things from the fridge – the last of the carrots, some more ham, another Mandarin orange, and  a special request for raisins. And those are the lunches for this week!

 

So after much teasing last week about the “three special announcements” for March, I’ll finally have the first one published this weekend. And it won’t involve lunch foods at all!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #20 (Catch Up #3)

Whew, the last catch up post is here! This one covers the last week of February. Next lunch post will be at its regularly scheduled day on Tuesday. And of course, since I haven’t mentioned it already (ha!) there are three big posts/announcements coming in March too! Keep checking the blog or drop your email in the “Follow” box at the right to stay updated.

Monday

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Kiddo1 hasn’t had a lettuce wrap in a long time! We had some leftover pork roast from Sunday night so I figured wrapping it up would be the best way to get him to eat it. There’s also diced cucumber in the wrap. On the right we have carrots sticks and a couple Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.

Tuesday

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Once again we were out of meat leftovers for Tuesday’s lunch (because Monday nights are meatless) but we do almost always have our back-up: ham! We buy Beeler’s uncured ham. Kiddo1 also had his usual carrots and cucumbers, plus a nice-sized little Pink Lady apple and a couple Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies. It was a chocolate chip cookie week around here!

Wednesday

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No leftovers again on Wednesday, this time it was because we went out to eat on Tuesday night – something we rarely do anymore! But it was my birthday and the family wanted to celebrate, so we did a bunch of research to find a place where Kiddo1 could eat foods that he would both enjoy and wouldn’t give him tummy troubles. We found a place willing to make some plain chicken and french fries for him – it was so good we didn’t have any to take home for lunch the next day! So instead of more ham I cut up these meatsticks that everyone in the family loves. The are beef and organ – yes organ – meat, super good for you and you don’t even know it is in there! Kiddo1 was a little weirded out at first but he loves them – and loves freaking out his friends a little when they see the package. Kiddo1 also had a bunch of good-looking veggies and some more Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.

Thursday

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On Wednesday we had to have tacos (since we missed them on Tuesday night) – a week can’t go by without tacos! For Kiddo1 we had beef tacos again (two weeks in a row!), along with his favorite toppings, romaine and cucumber. He also had more carrots and cookies.

Friday

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On Friday, Kiddo1 had more sausage from the pork buy we got in February. Our whole freezer is full of nothing but pork right now, so we’ll be eating a lot of it! Completing this lunch are more carrots, cucumbers, another mandarin orange, and the rest of the Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.

See you with more lunches on Tuesday! Have a great weekend!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #19 (Catch Up #2)

Here’s our second of three “catch up” lunch posts to get us back on track after a busy no-post February! There are also THREE big posts/announcements scheduled for March coming up too – and they aren’t involving lunch! But for now, let’s get to the wrap up – this post covers the third week of February (no posts for the second week because I was out of town).

Monday – no school, happy President’s Day!

Tuesday

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Kiddo1 had some leftover bits of pork chop on Tuesday with a side of bbq sauce. It’s been difficult finding good bbq sauce – one without corn syrup (or even without a ton of sugar), no artifical flavors/colors, etc. This one is the Woodstock brand and it is pretty tasty, plus organic and a decent ingredients list. Kiddo1 eats it with everything! He also had his usual carrots and cucumber, plus two Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday

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More leftover tacos! This week we had beef tacos, Kiddo1’s favorite. He also had his favorite applesauce and some carrots. And this week we had a good supply of cucumbers so no running out before Wednesday like last week.

Thursday

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Iin February we bought a half pig’s worth of pork and it came with a whole lot of the boys’ favorite – sausage! So you’ll see a few lunches with sausage over the next couple posts. Normally I’m not a huge fan of processed meats – we try to limit ham (but everyone loves it so we’re not too successful), but this sausage isn’t too bad because it is pretty “minimally processed,” if that’s a thing. We talked a lot to the butcher who processed our pork and he left the sausage uncured and kept the ingredients minimal and to our “clean eating” standards. So I can’t complain too much about this sausage! “Rounding out” this lunch – haha, notice all the round foods? – are carrot rounds, cucumber, slices of apple (they don’t brown too much if you keep them stacked up like this) and some slices of vegan dark chocolate truffle from Missionary Chocolates.

Friday

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On Friday, Kiddo1 said he wasn’t too hungry so we packed a fairly minimal lunch of ham sticks (we can’t ever get away from ham!), carrot sticks, a mandarin orange, and more vegan dark chocolate truffle from Missionary Chocolates.

Year in Review

It’s almost 2015! Lately my mind has been on coming up with a great resolution for next year. BUT, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. We still have a day or two left of this year and as excited as I am about the possibilities for all the improvements that 2015 can bring, I think I need to pause for a moment and reflect on the accomplishments of 2014.

At the beginning of 2014, I set my resolution to remove all the GMOs from my house. The idea wasn’t to search and distroy within my pantry but rather do a slow replacement of offending items as they ran out. A nice, easy transition.

Things started to snowball around the middle of the year, though, and before I knew it I was learning not just about modified foods but about pesticides, chemical additives, industrialized food, etc. That transitioned into learning about grains and why they aren’t fulfilling my family’s nutritional needs. From there we did food allergy testing on our son to see if we could nail down some persistent digestive issues… and we discovered the need to keep out wheat as well as spelt, diary, eggs, and peanuts. And more research has led me to try to restrict certain other foods, like nightshades (potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes).

This year has been a big learning experience with food. And we’ve come a long way as a family with our diet. We started the year very grain- and dairy-heavy: lots of cereal, lots of cheese, lots of baggies of processed snacks and a whole pantry of dinner “helpers” in a box and processed convenience foods. Now we still have a couple snack foods that we buy but we’ve switched to buying brands with more quality ingredients. We read labels on everything now and we try to make foods rather than buy them.

Speaking of making foods, now we cook all our meals at home, three times a day (I work from home which helps with this tremendously). We went from going out to eat at least once or twice a week to family meals out maybe twice in the last few months (it’s easy to stop eating out when you’re avoiding just about everything on the menu!). This has been really great on our pocketbook and it’s really easy to avoid the “no” foods by just not being around them. But we’ve had to learn to cook everything!

I wasn’t too much of a cook before this year. I could make a mean boxed mac n’cheese. I could bake chicken and stuff too, but cooking a whole chicken or making a vegetable without a cheese topping really wasn’t my thing. This year I have learned so much about cooking and baking. I can make several meals without recipes now and I have lots of resources for finding things to eat when I get stuck. I meal plan every week – no more winging it like I used to! I know how to properly use and care for my cast iron pans (that I had but only used a handful of times before this year – now I use them at least once, sometimes two or three times a day!). I’ve totally changed how and where we shop for food so that we can buy from local farms and outside the industrialized food system.

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My latest meal planning tool – the list of foods we can eat!

 

I’ve learned that a lot of the food out there today is just plain not food. I’ve learned that I want to participate in a better food system, and if I really want to bring about change then I must be conscious of how each one of my food dollars is spent. We buy from local farms because organic is good for us, but we also buy that way because we’re supporting a way of growing food that is sustainable on every level: good to the Earth, good to the animals, good to the workers, good to the neighbors, good for the community, on and on and on. Yes it is more expensive but what is the true cost of the alternative? The cost of food is not just what I see on my receipt!! It’s in how the workers are paid so they can contribute to a healthy economy, it’s how the animals are treated so they are healthy and strong (cause if they’re not healthy my meat isn’t going to be too healthy eaither), it’s in the way we treat the Earth so we have fertile soil and clean air to keep growing healthy food, it’s in the LACK of government subsidies that decive customers with food prices that are unsustainably cheap. That cheap food is costing us much more than the tax dollars we spend on the subsidies. In my opinion, it is not sustainable or responsible to turn a blind eye to what we buy.

Out of everything, the biggest thing I learned and my family learned is just general awareness of food: what’s in it, where it comes from, who makes it, why it’s good for us or not, where we can buy it, etc. This year of discovery has completely changed everything about food for us and I’m so glad we opened this can of worms and started making these changes!

Goal Update – New Phases

There have been so many things on my mind lately it has been hard to post! As soon as I settle on one topic I’m distracted by another.

I deal with distraction by making lists, so I’ve decided to update my Goal Phases page (tab at the top of this screen). I started the page to try to organize all the things I want to learn as part of my self-sustaining goal.

Now the list on the page is helping me to focus on just a few areas at a time. Lately I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to learn and I’ve gotten a little overwhelmed! But if I step back and recall that I’ve set a nine-year timeline, then I can break up my time into segments and feel a little more relaxed.

I’ve realized that this whole year I’ve spent most of my time learning about foods that the best for my family’s health and how to cook those foods. So that is my official focus for 2014… which I do realize is almost over. But I’ve learned so much about food this year so it’s okay that I’m just now applying the label. I’ve been focusing on this goal already without even realizing it!

So by the end of this year, just 6 or 7 weeks away, I hope to know enough about food that I can cook whatever we manage to bring home without too much stress. I’ve learned to cook a lot of things this year: I’ve learned the difference between cooking convensional beef vs grass-fed, I’ve learned how to cook a variety of winter squash (never had cooked a squash before this year!), I’ve learned how to chop an onion, how to properly hold a chef’s knife, substitutes for wheat flour and eggs, how to use a pressure cooker, how to cook in cast iron, how to lacto ferment vegetables, and way more than I ever thought I’d need to learn!

Cooking isn’t just proper use of ingredients and equipment. It’s also meal planning and shopping. So by the end of the year I’d like to have my planning and shopping systems in place well enough that I don’t have to think about them as much as I do now. Right now I spend about two hours planning meals and snacks for the week. I can’ keep spending that much time on it so I keep tweaking my planning system. I’m still using my meal planning template – that is actually working really well for me still. Coming up with ideas for what to eat is always the most difficult, so I’m working on a sort of “map” to give me fresh ideas each week. It has themed days, lists of healthy foods, and other things to trigger my brain and make planning fast. When it is more complete I promise to share it!

We spend a good amount of time on shopping for foods, too. We spend so much time partly because my planning isn’t 100% yet so every few days I realize we’re out of something and we have to go replenish supplies. I’m getting really close to only shopping once a week, but not quite there yet.

Part of planning better shopping is having a really good handle on what we actually use each week/month. So I’m working on tracking our consumption habits so I can better prepare for how much of something we’ll need to get. It’d be so much better to get say… granola only once a month and get it at a discount because we ordered five pounds.

So lots of cooking and food-related work still to do this year! But I feel like we’ve come a long way! We are WAY less reliant on standard consumer fare in order to get ourselves fed and that really is the goal here isn’t it! As long as we have ingredients and some tools, we can make ourselves a good dinner.

Once the year is over though, it’s not like I’ve totally mastered cooking. Like many life skills it requires lots of practice and a thirst for knowledge in order to keep skills sharp. So I’ll still be reading cookbooks and perusing the internet for cooking smarts in 2015 and beyond. But, I’ll try to make it less of an obsession.

In 2015 I’ll attempt to move on to a new obsession, which is to grow a lot more of the food we eat. We had a decent first year of gardening in 2014, but we need to step it up a lot in order to call ourselves self-sufficient.

For the future phases beyond next year, see the new page at the top of this screen. I will update it often!

Diet Changes Are Hard, Part 3

The struggle is real! Some things are getting easier, some are still difficult.

Recall from parts 1 and 2, we gave up processed and over-refined foods at the beginning of the year, then we gave up diary, eggs, wheat, and peanuts about three months ago (for the background story on that later restrictions see this post).  Here’s an update on our progress…

First, the good. Dinners have become much less of a struggle than they were a couple months ago. We’ve found a few meals that are guaranteed hits, greatly reducing sorrow from both the diners and the chef. Kiddo1 has also been slightly more willing to try some foods, as long as each meal is served with at least one thing that he likes already. He’s much more willing to try a vegetable if it is served alongside the chicken he loves. And we found a vegan ranch dressing with which he’ll eat almost any veggie.

There are still nights when we butt heads a little, mostly the meatless nights. We’ve had Meatless Monday going for awhile now, but I just added Meatless Thursday (or leftover Thursday, depending). It is a struggle to find meatless meals with at least one thing that the kids already like, but it is good for us (both our physical health and financial health!). I’m sure they’ll get used to it just like the other changes! But it is really hilarious to see Baby2 get excited on the nights when we do have meat. She says, “Meat!” in this very excited voice and points to her empty place for me to pile it on.

Lunches are great. We’ve been very successful at putting together a healthy lunch for Kiddo1 to take to school every day. I’m sure that posting the lunches weekly has helped with that. Of course, I still struggle to get up from my home office computer and build myself a healthy lunch, but Mr. Handsome has helped – either by making my lunch or reminding me to eat on the days he can’t make something for me. I’ve found the key to successful lunches is making a bigger dinner than I think we need so that we have leftovers at the ready. That, and having a lunch fallback for the days there are no leftovers or the plan somehow falls through. Our go-to on those days is a lettuce wrap “sandwich” – ham and cucumber wrapped in a romaine leaf with a raw veggie side – usually carrots or, if we’ve got vegan ranch on hand, some broccoli.

Another good thing lately is that Kiddo1’s appetite has been super strong in the past couple months. I have to think that has something to do with eating foods that his system can handle well. Before we started these diet changes, he hardly ate at all. Now he’ll eat twice as much food as me and still ask for dessert. And a bedtime snack. At the beginning of the school year he complained that he had too much food for lunch, but now the lunch box comes home totally empty. Between meals he’s always asking for snacks and while that’s driving me nuts and wreaking havok on the grocery planning and budget, I couldn’t be happier that he is finally eating like a teenager. (PREEEE-teenager – I hope he didn’t hear that “teenager” slip! He’s only 11! But wants so desperately to be 13 already!)

Now the not-so-good… As much as I complain about the family’s willingness to try new foods, I’m probably the biggest “defector” of all of us. Confession time! Sometimes when I’m out of the house by myself, I go to Dairy Queen. I know! Now, I’ve already admitted this to the family and have made amends with them about it, but I still feel guilty. Although the guilt is not much in comparison to how my tummy has felt the last couple times I’ve had any kind of dairy. When I eat it, about three hours later I’m back to where I was two months ago – unable to do anything but lie down and wait for the pain to end. So now I don’t stop at Dairy Queen anymore. Damn you, Snickers Blizzard. Damn you.

Eating out in general is really difficult. Sometimes it seems like everything has cheese. Even gluten free hamburger buns have eggs. Meatballs have bread crumbs. There’s no getting away from all the allergens when we go out, unless we all have salads (and even then, the salad dressing could have cream, eggs, cheese, etc). We have been great at cooking our food at home, and the allergy concerns are a good motivator for that. Yet sometimes we want to go out for a special occasion or just because we have a free evening, but we have to be careful and plan ahead to find a place with a few items on the menu that we can have. That hunt is almost more difficult than just planning a special meal at home! But then we still have to do the dishes.

And as long as we’re on the not-so-good stuff, I’ll tel you that baking has been a struggle. After my first success with a bread mix, I went rogue and tried to develop a flour blend of my own that would work. The result? I found out it is really hard to do that! I must have baked 10 loaves of bread before deciding it was the flour mixture that was the problem, not the ratio of xanthan gum to flour, not the ratio of non-dairy milk to flour, not the baking powder vs baking soda (baking soda alone made the bread super gross!). But now I’ve changed my flour mix and the results have been better. Still not 100% awesome, but at least my loaves aren’t turning out super gummy anymore. The item that really got my confidence back up are the apple cider donuts I posted a few days ago. I’d still like to come up with a simpler flour blend for those, but for now I’ll bask in my victory.

Slowly but surely the new diet is getting easier. As it gets easier I find myself wanting to make more changes for example: I’d love to get us off sugar and I wish we’d eat more fermented foods. Perhaps I will make strides on those by the time I’m ready to post another update!

Vegan and Gluten Free Apple Cider Donuts Recipe (GF, V, NF, AF)

Apple Cider Donuts! The baked good that got me out of my baked goods slump. This is adapted from mydarlingvegan.com to make it gluten free as well as vegan.

Apple Cider Donuts (gluten free, vegan, nightshade free, allergy friendly)

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Here’s what you need:
For the donuts:
1 cup Pastry Blend flour mix (my own recipe)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup applesauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp oil (coconut or olive is what I use)
1 tsp vanilla

For an optional glaze (omit if you want to keep this sugar free):
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp apple cider

For a sugar dusting (substitutions for sugar free*):
1 Tbsp sugar* (I use a vegan organic granulated sugar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
* for sugar free, brush donuts with oil or Earth Balance butter, then press the donut into this sugar mixture but substitute coconut sugar or sucanat for typical sugar

Tools:
Measuring cups for quantities listed above
Stand mixer (I’ve also mixed these with a wooden spoon when I was too lazy to clean the Kitchenaid)
Donut pan (I like my stainless steel one from USA Pans)
Spoon for guiding batter into donut pan
Cooling rack
Small bowl for mixing sugar dusting (needs to be just bigger than a donut)

Here’s what you do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and oil the donut pan (I use coconut oil or Earth Balance butter).
2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a big bowl.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the same big bowl and mix with dry until combined.
4. Spoon batter into donut pan, filling each about 2/3 full.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until you can lightly press a donut with your finger and it bounces back into shape.
6. Let the donuts cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool for about 30 minutes.
7. Mix together the glaze in the stand mixer; mix together the sugar dusting in the small bowl.
8. Dip the donut tops in the glaze, then immediately dust with sugar mixture. (Again, for sugar free, brush donuts with oil or Earth Balance butter instead of using the glaze, then press the donut into the sugar mixture but substitute coconut sugar or sucanat for typical sugar)
9. Set aside the dipped and dusted donuts in a cool place so the glaze will harden.

Yields 6 donuts.