Friday, September 30, 2011

Best. Lunch. Ever.

Sometimes it has very little to do with cooking and everything to do with what you have on hand.  Sure, you could call this a melted cheese sandwich with a bit of preserves on top.  But if that's all you see, then what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Because this a melted cheese sandwich made from fresh Okracity cheese from Stoudts - hand made cheese with, yes, roasted okra dotted throughout it.  I bought it from the cheese lady at the Farmer's market yesterday.  This cheese sandwich is also made from my own bread and topped with cranberry chutney that I picked up when traveling in Maine this summer.

And THIS was my breakfast yesterday:

I'll admit, I'm a fan of the bread and cheese combo for the small meals.  What you see here, is a cup of coffee from local a coffee roaster, my bread (again) and a bit of locally produced goat cheese from Whole Foods.  Perfection.

I'm always making stuff like this for myself on the weekends - a little hummus on crackers with some minced parsley and squeeze of lemon.  Avocado slices on a toasted English Muffin with a sprinkling of sea salt, maybe a thin slice of tomato.  A little leftover Rao's Spaghetti sauce, straight from the jar with a bit of fresh basil straight from the yard, maybe a little cheese, or not, on top of toasted pita, thinly sliced bread, or just some water crackers.  Bread, goat cheese, pumpkin butter.  Sliced grapes, feta, and chopped haricot vert salad. Maybe with a can of chopped drained tuna thrown in...

Whatever you have.  Smith has gotten into the habit of waiting to see what I'll make myself, before he goes to his default, PB&J.  Sometimes he sticks with the standard (particularly if what I'm putting together involves olives), sometimes he takes what I've got, and adds his own touch.  The big dinners are important, sitting together at a table with your spouse and children, or your fiends is an important part of the day, but it is the small meals, often eaten alone, which make up the majority of our dining experiences.  And these, in my opinion, should be tasty, created from the foods you love.  Pure comfort even if it's five minutes in the middle of the busiest part of the day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pancakes (Dairy Free)



So for the past, oh, 3 years or so, our Emm has eaten a Van's Chocolate Chip Waffle for breakfast.  Van's Waffles are the best frozen waffles you can buy.  They toast up crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside and have an excellent vanilla taste.  And because I don't allow my kids to have syrup on their waffles on a school day, I gave her maple flavored yogurt to dip her waffle in.
If you read my previous post, you already know the disaster that created. 

 The third ingredient in Van's Chocolate Chip Waffles?  That's right, Non Fat Milk.  And yogurt.  She doesn't even like yogurt, I just made her eat it because I thought it would be better for her than maple syrup.  It's like when they were children, and they'd be all, Mommy my feet hurt, and I'd be like no they don't we just bought you new shoes, but they'd complain and complain and you take them to the shoe store and it turns out their little feet have grown two solid sizes and you've been jamming their feet into those now tiny shoes.  It was like that.  Only worse.  A lot worse.  Yeah, so I don't feel badly about that AT ALL.

We started giving her oatmeal for a quick breakfast, but on weekends we are serious fans of pancakes. (With a side of bacon, of course.)  And I always made pancakes with buttermilk and butter - but I wanted to see if I could make them dairy free - and still have them taste good.  I started out using vanilla flavored soy milk and the dreaded earth's best margarine (again, previous post for what I think about THAT stuff) - and the pancakes were passable - but didn't get that nice crust we liked that came about when you buttered the pan.  Plus, the soy milk, no matter how much you try to hide it with vanilla flavoring, to me just tastes off.  There is an aftertaste.  I know lots of people like it, and I'm certainly not hating on the whole soy industry - it's just - for us, well, ew.  Plus in all my breast cancer research, there is a link between soy and hormones and breast cancer, so the girls and I are probably better off not drinking it.  So we switched it out for vanilla flavored rice milk - and that was great. No weird after taste - but I was still left with, ok I'm just going to say it, flaccid pancakes.  Ew.

I don't know why it took me so long, but I finally switched the margarine out for good old canola oil, and LOW AND BEHOLD, the perfect pancakes.  Add to them some dairy free chocolate chips and they were amazing.  Plus, no stomach ache.  And the other family members loved them.  So happiness all around.

I like to mix the dry ingredients for my pancakes and just leave it sitting in a jar so that it takes me a fraction of the time to make breakfast in the morning.

To do this scoop 4 cups of all purpose flour, 3 TBLSP of baking powder, 2 tsp of baking soda,  a scant TLBS of sea or kosher salt and 2 TLBS of sugar into a large jar and put the lid on and shake it up.  If you want to get fancy, you can divide this mixture into two smaller jars and drop a vanilla bean into one and an orange peel in the other - which will gently flavor your pancakes.  Or get crazy and drop in a cinnamon stick.

Then, when you are ready to make your pancakes, break 1 large egg into a large bowl.  Add 1 cup of vanilla flavored rice milk and 1TLBS of canola or other lightly flavored oil (grapeseed is good, but olive oil is too strong) to the bowl and give it a good whisking.  

Then dump in 1 cup of the pancake mixture.  If you mixture is plain, add 1 tsp of vanilla before mixing it.  If it is already flavored, leave it be.  Play around - have fun - go nuts with the flavors.  Mix it up until it is only marginally lumpy.  If it looks too dry, add more rice milk.  I don't like my batter too dry.

While you are doing all this, you should be preheating your pan or griddle.  Just before you make you pancakes - add a swirl of canola oil (this is usually a couple of tblsps) - Cook the pancakes over medium heat until the bubbles burst, then flip 'em.  I find that if I cook them on to high a heat they burn quickly, probably because of the oil - but do be sure your pan is good and hot before you add the oil.  Then turn the heat down to medium when you add the batter.

We are big fans of adding chocolate chips.  Emm has become addicted to these Enjoy Life Mega Chunk chocolate chips which are dairy, wheat and nut free.  A handful of these sprinkled on top of the pancake while it cooks, before you flip it - takes it from darn good to spectacular.

Heavenly - dairy (and stomach ache) FREE


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Goodbye Yellow Brick


Yes.  That yellow brick.  After 2 years of agonizing stomach aches, innumerable blood and skin tests, one endoscopy and a truck load of prescription strength Prilosec, we have our answer:  Em is allergic to dairy.

OH. MY. GOD.  I was kind of hoping for something simple, like corn.  It's not like corn is in everything... oh wait.  Actually, it is.

So, my heart is breaking.  Of course on the bright side, we'll all probably lose a few pounds here since I won't be adding tablespoons of butter to everything a la Paula Deen.  On the dark dark dark side: mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes are a staple in our house.  I know one can mash up potatoes with chicken stock (in fact, I usually boil my potatoes in a combination of chicken stock and and water), but to get them super super creamy you need butter.  A lot of butter.

Want to know what is NOT going to cut it for the mashed potatoes?  This:

This would be margarine.  I don't care that it's in gold packaging, I don't care that it is organic margarine (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) it's margarine and it sucks.

Years ago, in the late 70's when my parents and the parents of everyone else I knew was on a heart-healthy-health-food kick and consuming enormous amounts of margarine (...if you think it's butter but it's not...) - I remember my grandfather taking a stand.  Margarine was simply not allowed in his house.  My grandmother would plead, "But, Jimmy, our arteries..." and my grandfather would have none of it.  "That stuff'll kill you," he said plainly.  This was a man who salted his cantaloupe half each morning.  Who drank a Co-Cola every day, and a cocktail every night.  Sure he only lived briefly into his seventies, but he LIVED.  You know?  I miss that guy.

So, margarine isn't in the genes.  And I think olive and other expeller pressed oils are fine - and can be used in a lot of things in place of butter (see my next post which will be on truly yummy dairy free pancakes)  but - oh - dear - the mashed potatoes.

No recipe in this post, just mourning here.  Just mourning...