Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chicken Spring Roll Appetizers

I was invited to a New Year's Eve party with some good friends. When I asked if I could bring anything, their response was, "Something you can eat." I have a new bottle of coconut white balsamic vinegar from Prima Oliva, which is a great little shop just down the street from the wine shop where I work. I wanted to try it out, so I decided to make some chicken spring roll-inspired appetizers. Here's what I used:

For the dressing:

2 T brown sugar
1 clove garlic,  minced
1 cup chicken broth
3 T coconut balsamic vinegar
2 T sesame oil
1 T chili oil
a dash or two of soy sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces by about half. Allow to cool.

For the filling:

2 cups diced, cooked chicken (or tofu, pork, shrimp, mushrooms, etc)
2 cups prepared coleslaw. You can make your own, but I used a bag from the store. It seemed like the right thing to do.
3 T toasted sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss everything well. When the dressing is cool, toss dressing and filling together until you've got a well coated and damp, but not soggy mixture. Set this someplace cool until you're ready to fill your holders.

For the holders:

Here you have 2 options. You can either make wonton cups (spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Press in wonton wrappers and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove cups and place upside down on a cookie sheet. Bake an additional 5 minutes to toast the bottoms.) Or you can go the easy route and use premade fillo cups from the freezer section of the grocery store. Again, this seemed like the right thing to do. It had been a long day and I was exhausted.

Either way, fill the holders with as much mixture as you can stuff in there. Sprinkle them with some more sesame seeds if the spirit moves you (or cilantro, coconut flakes, red cabbage, crushed pineapple, crushed peanuts, etc.)

Serve these cool-room temperature. I'm taking along a bottle of Segura Viudas Prosecco to serve with these little munchkins. This recipe makes enough filling for 60 little fillo cups, or about 50 slightly larger wonton cups. I have no idea what happened to my finished picture, so unfortunately I can't show you what they look like done. They sure taste good, though!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year! May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white. Love, Cait

Monday, December 23, 2013

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

It's cold, it's wet, and my kitchen is jam-packed with people. It's soup weather in Western New York. We have a couple of vegetarians in the family, so when I make the soup I err on the side of vegan. Family and friends are in town and dropping by throughout the day pretty much every day as we head towards Christmas, so it's always necessary to have something on hand that can either be heated up quickly or simmer for a long while in order to accommodate visitors. Potato Leek Soup is a great way to start. It's easy to make, and it's one of those soups you can make vegan without many people noticing. For the meat-eaters at your table, you can offer crumbled bacon as a topping. I usually put some out as well as a bowl of chopped green onions, one of grated cheese (for those who can have it), and some homemade croutons.

Here's what you'll need to make enough soup for 4-6 people:

2 lbs of potatoes - peel them,cut them into chunks, and put them in a bowl of cold water.
3 large leeks - remove the dark green tops, wash well, and chop
2 Tbsp "butter"
2 cups coconut culinary milk
3 cups gluten free vegetable broth (I love this base)
2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Tennessee Sunshine (or any other hot sauce you have on hand)
salt and pepper to taste

1) In a soup pot, melt your butter alternative and stir in the leeks. Cook them for about 10 minutes until they are soft, but not brown.

2) Add the broth and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

3) Scoop roughly half of the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Return it to the pot and stir in the coconut milk, herbs, and salt and pepper. Add a dash or 5 of hot sauce to give it a happy little kick.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful...WINNER ANNOUNCED

It's been too cold and snowy to do much of anything the past couple of days. Yesterday shops all up and down Main Street closed around 3 so that employees could make it home safely. The normal 20 minute trip into work took me 45 minutes this morning and double that this evening.

Needless to say, I haven't made it out to the grocery store in a while and so I've been eating a whole bunch of spaghetti. Not too much fun recipe-wise.

To supplement my carb-fest and make me feel ever-so-slightly healthier, I've been eating clementines like they're going out of style. They're the perfect snack, because they come in their own packaging and don't squish as easily as bananas. (Although trust me when I say you don't want to forget there's one in your jacket pocket until after you've sat upon said jacket...)

Of course everyone knows that clementines are as healthy as they are tasty, but I was surprised to find out just how good they are. Did you know that 2 whole clementines have fewer calories than 1 cup of pineapple, and less sugar and more than twice as much potassium. They're also fat free, which means you can snack with a clear conscience. Of course dipping them in melted chocolate makes absolutely no difference.*

How would you like to win a box of clementines? Just leave a comment below telling me what your favorite snack is, and I'll pick a random winner on Friday, December 20.

*I'm lying.

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

I like pretty much any fruits, although we don't have clementines very often.
Congratulations, Katherine! Send me an EMAILwith your contact info and I'll get your prize out to you!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hot Cocoa and a Treat

Today has been freakishly warm. 55 degrees in Western New York. In December. I love it! So of course, on this beautiful sunny day, I've been craving hot cocoa like it's going out of style. I ran over to the local grocery store and was shocked to see that they now carry Almond+Plus milk. This stuff is so tasty. It doesn't taste too much like almonds, so I use it in sweet and savory dishes alike. It's one of the few milks out there that I'll pour a straight glass of and drink. Good stuff!

I had some Archer Farms Dark Hot Cocoa mix from Target on hand, and mixed the two together. Exactly what I was looking for!  A creamy, rich, chocolaty cup of happiness on a not-so-chilly day. Mmmm!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Just a Haircut...

On a completely unrelated note, I'm cutting my hair in a month. It's really not that big a deal to get a haircut, I know, but I'm doing this as a fundraiser for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

On January 1, 2014 I'll head over to a friend's house and she's going to give me a pixie cut. While I'm hoping to look something like this:
there's a pretty good chance that I'll come out looking more like this:

The fundraiser is Goin' Bald For Bucks, and the idea is that participants cut their hair to show support for those who go through chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or just deal with cancer on a daily basis. I'll admit that I'm not quite brave enough to shave my head like some of the participants. The pixie cut is going to be my shortest haircut ever. As an added bonus, I'm donating the cut hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for people undergoing cancer treatments. A friend of mine made some adorable headbands to send along with the hair so that whoever gets mine also has something to put in it right away.

My goal is to raise $500 for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and I'm not quite at the half-way point yet. If anyone would like to contribute, I'd be very grateful. I know this is a busy time of year with holidays, travel, family visits, and everything else, but every little bit helps. The link to my site is right underneath the 2nd photo, and there you can see my before picture. It was taken a few months ago, and my hair's a bit longer now... 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dairy-Free and Easy

I got called on to babysit today at the last minute. It's a cold day, and so I wanted something warm and cozy we could do together indoors. What's more fun than baking and decorating cookies? Because I wasn't sure what my friend had on hand and I didn't want to haul all of my ingredients over,  I went for the no-fuss option of pre-made dough. 
Pillsbury makes dairy-free sugar cookie dough! 

I'm a sucker for canned icing, and there are a surprising number of dairy-free options. My favorite is the Betty Crocker Cream Cheese flavored icing. Yes, it's dairy-free. Please don't ask me to think too much about what ingredients go into dairy-free cream cheese icing... 

The cookies are a breeze to make. Preheat the oven to 375, then all it takes is 10-15 minutes. Adds and I decorated a gingerbread house while we waited for the cookies to cool enough to frost. The gingerbread house is admittedly far from dairy-free, but it's not really for me anyhow. 

When the cookies were cool, we spread a bit of frosting on top and then sprinkled them with some snowflakes in honor of the weather. 

Easy-peasy, dairy-free. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

This is my perfect, go-to comfort food. I love how simple it is, and the fact that you can dress up either the soup, sandwich or both. The possibilities are endless! Making dairy-free grilled cheese does take attention to detail, though. You can buy bread, but homemade is better. Here's what you need:

2 slices of bread per sandwich (rocket science, right?)
Dairy-free spread - I like Earth Balance, but use what you like best.
"Cheese" - again, use what you like best. I've had great results with Vegan Gourmet Cheddar

Spread your bread, make a sandwich using the "cheese" and toast it on a hot pan or in a panini press. Mmmm!

Serve it with the easiest creamy tomato soup ever:

1 large can of crushed tomatoes. Any kind, just be sure to read the label!
1 tbsp tomato paste
some fresh basil leaves chopped up
a dash of salt and pepper.

Put everything in a pot. Mix it up and heat all the way though. You'll have enough for 2, if you're feeling generous.

Enjoy just like this, or you can dress up the sandwich with mustard, tomato slices, bacon, basil, etc.

Opening the Box

Hi and welcome!

This is my new blog all about what it's like to be dairy-free and how to prepare yummy things without milk. If you're new to the dairy-free lifestyle, hang in there. It gets easier once you get the hang of the basics and start building up an arsenal of "safe" products. If you're looking for recipes because you want to cook something for a friend or family member who is dairy-free, yay!

Cooking dairy-free is harder than it might seem. It's not enough it simply omit milk, cream, butter, yoghurt, etc from a recipe. You also need to look at each individual component of the meal. For example, a friend of mine once invited me over for dinner. She planned for a couple of days in advance, searching for ingredients at several different shops before gathering everything she needed to make my favorite: grilled cheese and tomato soup. (I know, I know. I've always loved grilled cheese, even when eating the mainstream version makes me cry.)

My friend bought margarine instead of butter, rye sandwich bread, soy cheese, dairy-free culinary milk, and fresh tomatoes. She spent her afternoon creating a delicious meal for the two of us, and in the end it made me sick anyhow. The bread and margarine contained casein and whey. Even the soy cheese had milk proteins in it. What started out as an enormously generous effort ended in tears. Fortunately, my friend was not easily discouraged and asks me for tips and hints every time we eat together now.

Today the two of us went out for lunch as part of her "education." She watched in awe as I attempted to order a simple hamburger. First I checked that the burger was made with fresh ground beef instead of a pre-made frozen patty. Then I asked if anything other than salt and pepper was added to the ground beef. If bread crumbs had been added, I would have had to ask for an ingredient list to make sure they didn't contain any dairy. Once I was set on the burger being safe, I assured the waitress that I really didn't want cheese. When she started to tell me that there was no extra charge, I explained that I can't eat cheese because it contains milk which, hence the whole song and dance surrounding the beef, I am allergic to. I asked for mustard on the side, but only if she could bring me the bottle. The ketchup was on the table already. I went with the french fries as a side as macaroni and cheese was out of the question and she didn't know whether or not there was dairy in the coleslaw. I've learned the hard way, when in doubt, don't eat it.

Unfortunately, I couldn't eat my burger. When I lifted the bun to add the condiments (after checking the ingredients,) I saw what looked like butter. I asked the waitress and she told me yes, the rolls are buttered before being toasted on the grill. I told her I couldn't eat it because butter has milk which, unfortunately, I'm allergic to. I told my friend to go ahead and eat so that her food didn't get cold while I waited for my new meal. When it came out, I checked the bun, both top and bottom, to be sure that they were, in fact, new. I went ahead and ate my meal only to discover that milk was used somewhere. My guess is that the cook buttered the grill before putting down the patty. I should have checked. I excused myself before making it half way to...take care of the symptoms. When I returned, my plate was mercifully cleared (my friend explained that I was having a reaction when the waitress asked if she should wrap it up) and my friend was seething. She was gripping the little black thingy the bill came in so tightly that her hands were white and shaking. When I asked what was wrong, she informed me, "They're charging you for a meal that they made wrong." I let her know that this isn't unusual. My symptoms aren't life-threatening like someone with a nut allergy might experience. For the time being, until people are more aware of the fact that people with allergies actually have a legitimate reason for avoiding particular foods, this is going to happen again and again.

Well that's enough from me for now. My very first recipe posted comes from the amazing blog, The Aliso Kitchen. In order to make a good sandwich, you need some really good bread. Here's a great sourdough starter that should help you on your way. I'm going to get ahead of myself and tell you what to do with it in a 2nd post coming right now. After that one, you're going to have to wait until next week for another. Hope to see you again!

Happy cooking!