food not fear

Allergy Friendly Food– recipes and restaurants

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Thrifty Thursday– this week’s bounty

6 hours of work and look what I have to show for it!

6 meals worth of spaghetti sauce with ground turkey

Sweet Potato casserole to enjoy with ribs tomorrow

Chicken Pot Pie– this was supper tonight and lunches tomorrow

A berry pie and a berry crumble made with the leftover pie crust– the crumble disappeared tonight.

Banana chocolate chip loaf and cookies

Blueberry banana muffins. My son will FLIP for these. He LOVES blueberries.

How does it look? Not bad for a single afternoon and evening. It’s more than I would make if I spread it out. And the best part of all– the kitchen is already clean.

What looks good to you? Which recipe should I share next?


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Confession time: I hate recipes

Yes, you read that right. I write a food blog and I hate recipes. I’m also a seamstress and I hate sewing patterns. I generally hate following a set way of doing anything. I like to float through life. But I also like order. I am an oxymoron– I have accepted that I am strange.

Usually I can get away with this laid back way of living, but sometimes it poses a problem, like when I’m trying to share a recipe. It’s hard to say, “Well, you put in some of this, and then add some of that, and if you like this, you could dump in some of it too.” Who could follow that? Yet it’s the way I cook!

Don’t get me wrong, I do use recipes. But I use them as a suggestion rather than a rule. Measuring cups? Who needs them? Now, it probably helps that I have a good spacial sense and a photographic memory. And no, that doesn’t mean that I remember EVERY detail– it means I remember in pictures. In this case, I can remember what a cup of flour looked like when I dumped it in a bowl, and I’m pretty good at recreating that amount of flour without measuring it. I cook a lot of foods where the exact amount of ingredients used won’t make or break the recipe. It will change the flavour a little, but will come out roughly the same.

I also expect my food to turn out a little different each time. A great example of this is my spaghetti sauce. I have a few ingredients that go in every time, and the spices are roughly the same, but I like to add lots of vegetables, and I don’t always have the same ones in my fridge. Here’s where that fly by the seat of my pants way of living comes in. I grocery shop based on what looks good and what’s cheap, not off of a menu. A lot of food gets wasted this way, and I hate that. My Thrifty Thursday bulk cooking is my attempt to “fix” this.

Is it working? Well, I decided what I was making today while I was at the store yesterday. I did pretty good and got most of the ingredients I needed, but I forgot the zucchini and mushrooms for the spaghetti sauce. Instead of running back out to the store, I just worked with what I had. I pulled a bag of grated zucchini meant for muffins out of my freezer and added chopped spinach. I had to do without the mushrooms. Is the sauce the way I usually make it? Nope, but I suspect it will be just as good (we’ll eat that meal later this week).

See, most of the time I get away with bluffing my way through cooking. But then sometimes I mess up.

What is this? Well, I guess it’s a cookie. A banana chocolate chip cookie. I knew it would have a bit of a strange texture because of all the mashed banana. It’s good though.

But how about this? It’s a chocolate chip banana loaf.

But wait a second– they are made of the exact same batter (well, I added a little baking soda and baking powder to the loaf because I had forgotten to put it in initially.)

So, it’s a cookie or a loaf. Both taste good.

How about these? Clearly they are blueberry banana muffins. Good ones too. I’ll make them again.

But wait, there’s the problem again. I have no idea how to do this again. I threw ingredients into the mixer for both of these without really paying attention. This usually works out okay. Sometimes the results are a little disappointing, but what comes out of the oven is almost always edible. It’s times like today, when the finished product tastes GREAT that I get frustrated. Will I ever be able to duplicate this? That photographic memory is handy, and I could probably remember what I did with about 70% accuracy. And my future attempts might be even better. Still, I need to keep better track of what I’m doing.

So how is it that I can share recipes on the blog? Well, I have to make everything as I write down the recipe. And I have to pay careful attention to what I’m doing. Sometimes the recipe isn’t right the way I measure it out. That happened with my chicken pot pie today. It was too dry– I didn’t use enough broth. It’s an easy fix, but I will still have to make it again before I post the recipe, just to be sure I got it right.

So yes, I hate recipes, but for you, I will write them down and follow them. At least once 😉


Cutting your Costs– time and money!

Allergy friendly eating can be expensive or time consuming– often both! If we want prepared foods, we often have to turn to expensive specialty brands. But cooking from scratch can eat up a huge chunk of your day, and by the time you buy all of the ingredients you need, you may end up paying nearly as much!

I have a bad habit of buying foods that look appealing in the grocery store, but not being in the mood to make the meals when supper rolls around. My fresh foods go to waste and we end up eating processed convenience foods. I have vowed to myself over and over to stop eating this junk, but I always go back to it because it’s so much easier.

My son started Kindergarten last month, and his school schedule has forced me to get more organized. Also, with only one kid at home during the day, I have time to get a little more done. On Wednesdays, I go to Bible study across the street from Trader Joes (If you’ve never heard of it– it’s an affordable grocery store with lots of great produce, organic, and allergy friendly foods). After the study, my daughter and I grab our shopping bags from the car (Seattle has gone bagless!) and do our shopping for the week. I go in with three specific meals in mind to shop for, then on Thursday, I spend the day baking and cooking. I make a double batch of each meal, put one in the fridge and the other in the freezer.

Last week, I made:

– “My Favourite Veggies” Soup (My very first food creation– a tomato based turkey vegetable soup)
– Chili
– Creamy chicken broccoli casserole.

Today I bought the ingredients for a sweet potato casserole, chicken pot pie, and spaghetti sauce. We will eat those meals this week, and pull others from the freezer as needed.

I’m not sure if this is actually saving me time in cooking, but having to wash pots and pans once a week instead of seven times? Well, that makes it worth it right there! I love to cook, but I dread the clean up so much that I often forgo the whole process. Instead of ending up with dishes everywhere, I am forced to do my dishes as I go, because I don’t have enough pots to do that much cooking all at once.

I know I am saving money, because I buy what I need, and I use it the next day. My food waste bin is much emptier this week than it has been in the past. Nothing feels worse than throwing out healthy food while you eat junk!

This is only my second week of bulk cooking this time around. I am sure that with practice, my technique will improve. Last week I cut up all of the onions I needed for all three recipes and cooked them together. My eyes were pretty watery by the end of four onions, but I saved some cooking time and only had to wash the pan once. I know I could save more time by making similar foods all on the same day, but I want some variety since I’ll be eating all three meals in a row.

Have you tried bulk cooking? How did it work for you? What’s your favourite meal to make and freeze?


Dairy Free Spinach and Bacon Pinwheels

Fluffy puff pastry, savoury bacon, and sweet hints of apricot. And not a drop of milk in sight!

Mmm… is your mouth watering yet? I came up with these savoury little pastries when I needed a fancy hors d’oeuvres to bring to a wedding. There among all of the catered dishes, my little pinwheels stood their ground. Everyone was surprised to discover they were dairy free too! I need to bring a snack to our Women’s Midweek Bible Study tomorrow, so it seemed like the perfect time to post my first recipe.

In every recipe I post, I will be careful to note which major allergens are avoided in the food. Each and every one will be dairy and tree-nut free because these are my allergies. When applicable, I will let you know if it can be made wheat, egg, peanut, or soy free as well. This recipe contains wheat and soy, and though it lists egg, you can easily leave the egg out and seal the dough with water.

So, let’s get started. First, gather your ingredients.

1 package of 2 puff pastry sheets. I like Pepperidge Farm.
2 cups cooked and finely diced chicken. (about 6 tenderloins or two breasts)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp seasoned salt
2 cloves minced or crushed garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder (optional)
5-6 slices of crisp cooked bacon, crumbled (I used thick cut, but regular is preferable)
8 dried apricots, finely diced.
1 cup chopped spinach (if using frozen, thaw and squeeze out excess moisture)
4 TBSP Tofutti Better than Sour Cream (packaging may be blue or white with green text– available in most grocery stores in dairy aisle)
1 egg, beaten and divided in two equal amounts.

1. Remove your puff pastry sheets from the freezer. They need to defrost 45 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

2. Dice your chicken and cook, adding pepper, seasoned salt, garlic, and onion powder toward the end of cooking time.

3. Cook your bacon until crisp, let cool, then crumble into small pieces.
4. Chop your spinach and apricots.

(Note: the smaller you chop your ingredients, the better. It’s time consuming, but the roll will be easier and neater to cut if everything inside is tiny)

5. Combine chicken, bacon, spinach, apricot, Tofutti Better than Sour Cream, and one half of the beaten egg. Stir to combine well. Set aside.

6. Flour the surface of a clean countertop or table. Unfold your first pastry sheet. Mix 1/2 tsp of water with your remaining beaten egg and brush over the surface of the dough with a pastry brush (your fingers will work in a pinch).

7. Spread half of the chicken mixture over the surface of the dough, leaving 1″ clear at the bottom edge.

8. Carefully roll the dough, starting at the top edge. Pat the ends of the roll as you go to keep any filling from falling out.

9. Gently pat the seam with your fingers to seal the edge of the roll.

10. Wrap the finished roll in plastic wrap.
11. Repeat steps 6-10 with the second piece of dough.
12. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Dough can be made up to 24 hours in advance of baking.

13. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

14. Remove plastic wrap and, using a sharp, serrated knife, cut the dough into 1/2 inch disks.

15. Place the pinwheels on a lightly greased baking pan. Lightly brush the tops with the egg and water mixture. I forgot– oops! But it makes the tops glossy and the filling less likely to fall out after they’re baked.

16. Bake for 15 minutes @ 400 degrees until lightly golden. Peek in around 12 minutes. Cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes.

Serve them up! They’re best at room temperature. You can refrigerate them for a day or so, but the texture is best when they’re fresh. I actually only baked one of my rolls tonight so I could take pictures (and snack on them– sooo good!!). The second roll is in the fridge waiting to be baked fresh tomorrow morning. So I get to look like I got up at 5am to make these fancy little pinwheels, when they will only add 10 minutes to my morning routine– how awesome is that?

Give them a try and let me know what you think!