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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!!

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.

Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipes

In my quest to perfect survive gluten free baking, I’ve experimented with a lot of flours. Now I’m no where near as experienced as more serious gluten free bakers, I just do this in my spare time. But since my family has stopped eating wheat, dairy, and eggs I have taken it upon myself to make the treats we can no longer easily obtain from a store. Bread, cakes, cookies, pancakes, pastries, and donuts have become something of an obsession. And to make those I need just the right blend of flours.

The biggest thing I’ve learned about allergy-friendly baking is how important it is to have good flour blends. There is no one perfect blend that will work for everything, especially if you are able to sometimes add eggs to you mix. I have been using slightly different blends for bread, cake, etc. Soon I want to post all those recipes, but they’re not quite post-ready yet. In the meantime, I offer you some of my experimental mixes. I will probably update this post as I keep experimenting, but might as well put this out here now so I can refer to it as I post more.

A couple things to keep in mind about all the mixes:

  1. All blends yield about three cups. If you need more, just multiply the quantities by the number of batches needed.
  2. All flours are measured by weight, which is much more accurate than measuring by volume.
  3. I find my baking is more consistent if I weigh and mix my flours when they’re at room temperature. Flours should be stored in the freezer over the long term to prevent them from going rancid (source). I’ll usually pull my flours from the freezer the night before baking. Gluten free baking requires a little more advance preparation but the trade-off is getting to enjoy treats similar to the gluten-filled counterparts, so I’m willing to put in the extra effort.
  4. I get all my flours from Bob’s Red Mill, mostly because their certified gluten free facility and bulk foods store is about 10 minutes from my house. It smells really good there. And sometimes I sneak in a gluten free vegan cookie from the shop. Shhh, that’s our secret. You can find Bob’s Red Mill flours online if they aren’t available in your area.
  5. For more information about mixing gluten free flours, I like this post by Gluten-Free-Girl.

Rice Flour blend (good if you can use eggs with it since it turns out gummy with all egg replacers I’ve tried)

100 grams Brown Rice Flour
100 grams White Rice Flour
100 grams Sweet Rice Flour
80 grams Tapioca Flour
2.5 grams Xanthan Gum (or 1 teaspoon), in addition to what’s called for in your main recipe

 

Bread Blend #1 (no gum, no rice, good with egg replacers like chia seeds)

100 grams Sorghum Flour
100 grams Millet Flour
100 grams Oat Flour
80 grams Tapioca Flour

 

Bread Blend #2 (a little lighter than BB #1; no gum, good with egg replacers like chia seeds)

100 grams Sorghum Flour
100 grams White Rice Flour
100 grams Oat Flour
80 grams Tapioca Flour

 

Pastry Blend (no gum, good with egg replacers like chia seeds and a little lighter than the bread blends)

I’m still working on this one – I hate having more than five ingredients in a flour blend. But in the meantime….
50 grams Brown Rice Flour
50 grams White Rice Flour
50 grams Sweet Rice Flour
40 grams Tapioca Flour
100 grams Oat Flour
100 grams Millet Flour