Monday, December 5, 2016

Caramel Brownies

Hello out there!  I'm back again to post a couple of recipes and then I'll probably disappear for a few months again.  That's about all I seem to have time for!  We are enjoying the holiday season as I'm sure you are too.  We recently invited some friends over for dinner.  I don't know why it is, but I always want to experiment with recipes when I have company over.  It's insane.  You'd think I would want to stay with something tried and true to spare my sanity and stress level.  While I did stay safe with a tried and true lasagna for dinner, I did experiment with dessert. I took a twist on the best brownie recipe I have (already on my site) and added caramel.  I couldn't stop 'sampling' the brownies!  (I had to make sure they were going to taste all right for my guests!)  Chocolate + Caramel = decadence.  These do take a little planning.  They are a bit of a labor of love, but worth it.  Hope you enjoy!

Caramel Brownies
From Egg Free  Bakery

1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
1 cup water 
1/2 cup butter 
1/4 cup shortening or vegetable oil 
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 1/2 cup white sugar 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag kraft caramel bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13 inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving edges of foil hanging slightly over the edges (so you can lift the brownies out of the pan later).  Spray foil with cooking spray, being sure to get the sides too.  This will help immensely so the caramel doesn't stick and you end up cursing because you can't get your brownies out.

In a saucepan combine the 1/3 cup of flour and water. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thick. (When you stir it, you should see the bottom of the pan.  It will have the consistency of pudding.) Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool. 
In a small saucepan, melt butter. When butter has melted, add the shortening (or oil) and stir to let the shortening melt too. (This can also be done in the microwave) Add the cocoa powder; mix until smooth and set aside to cool. 
Beat the sugars and vanilla into the cooled flour mixture, mixing well. Stir in the cocoa mixture until well blended. 
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, stir into the batter until just blended. Fold in chocolate chips. 
Spread 2/3 of brownie batter into prepared baking pan and bake 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl (or in a saucepan) combine sweetened condensed milk and caramels.  Heat and stir until caramel bits are melted and mixture is combined.
Pour caramel sauce over partially baked brownies and spread to cover evenly.  Drop remaining brownie batter by spoonfuls onto caramel layer.  With a knife, carefully swirl top layer of brownie with caramel.  Return to the oven and bake additional 30-40 minutes. It should look "done" and not be "jiggly". Remove from oven and cool completely. Lift the brownies out of the pan by grasping the aluminum foil edges.  Carefully flip the brownie over to a cutting board. Peel off the aluminum foil and cut the brownie into bars. Yield: about 15 good sized brownies

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Classic Beef Stroganoff

This is not the best picture, but this recipe is BY FAR my favorite for beef stroganoff.  There is a secret ingredient that varies from most traditional stroganoff recipes but I love the boost in flavor that it gives:  *drumroll please* : tomato paste!  And only a small amount, just a couple of tablespoons but it's just the right touch to make this the most scrumptious beef stroganoff.  This comes together quite quickly- making it perfect for a weeknight meal but it's also fancy enough to serve to dinner guests.  Serve it over brown rice or noodles, both are great!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Classic Beef Stroganoff
From Egg Free Bakery 

1 boneless beef sirloin steak (1 lb or 12 oz) 
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups sliced mushrooms, optional
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter

Thinly slice meat across (against) the grain into bite size pieced.  In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, tomato paste, flour, beef broth and pepper; set aside.  In a large skillet, cook meat, mushrooms, onion, and garlic in butter over medium high heat for 5 minutes or until desired doneness.  Drain off fat.  Stir in sour cream mixtures.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, then cook one minute longer.  Serve over hot noodles or rice.  Yield 4 servings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Building a 72-hr kit with Food Allergies

Last summer, a fire broke out across the street and behind the hill where we lived.  We could see the smoke, and firefighters were alerting the neighbors across the street for possible evacuation.  It wasn't a big fire and they had it under control and were just taking precautions.  It was such a surreal moment for me.  One that I'd never imagined happening to me.  Even though they were not worried about our side of the street, I still ran in a packed some bags just in case.  

My sweet children helped by packing some clothes into their backpacks...and video games... and stuffed essential stuff here, right?  It was a great test in emergency preparedness for me to see how quickly I could gather everything together.  

Having a 72 hour kit is important for everybody.  You just never know when disaster might strike, and it seems like these kinds of events are happening more frequently.  But when you have food allergies, it makes having a 72 hour kit even THAT much more important!  I know as a mom with a boy with life threatening food allergies, I want to make sure that in the event of a disaster, he has something safe to eat.  I won't be able to rely on anyone else for that.  Besides that, a popular food of choice for emergency situations is the protein-packed, shelf-stable PEaNut ButTeR!!  Nope.  Won't work.

I am no where near an authority on this subject and I know I'm just brushing the surface here, but after doing some homework about what to put into a 72 hour kit and these are some of the things that I've learned:

1) Especially in the case of food allergies, put items in that are safe and that you will want to eat.  I'm sure that anything would be better than nothing if we were on the brink of starvation but, seriously, knowing we have something that we'd actually WANT to eat is a comfort. It also makes rotating the items much easier.

2) Avoid items high is salt.  Salt makes your thirsty and you will need more water. (think beef jerky or cup of noodles)

3) Be sure to count the amount of calories you have.  I was surprised when I went through my kit and counted that I had no where near enough the amount of calories that we would need for the day.  You may even want to add more calories because in the event of a stressful situation when a 72 hour kit might be needed, you are going to be burning more calories.

4) Be sure to have a source of protein

5) Rotate the items in your kit.  I keep a list and I do this every 6 months.

6) Make sure you will be able to carry everything -- that it won't be too heavy.  There are a couple of ways to do this:  individual backpacks for everyone to carry if on foot or a waterproof bag or storage container that is easy to carry.

7) While I am just focusing on food in this post, other items you might want to consider are flashlights/batteries, can opener, matches, personal care items, utensils/cups/bowls etc, change of clothes/good shoes, comfort objects, small games--especially for kids .

Without further ado here are some of the items I decided to put in our kits.  I selected different items for mom and dad since I figured we will need more protein rich meals than the kiddos.

1) Nutrigrain Bars
2) Applesauce pouches
3) Instant oatmeal packets
4) Spaghetti O's
5) Ritz Crackers
6) Sunbutter *not pictured (to eat on the crackers)
7) Canned Chicken
8) Instant Rice (to eat with the chicken)
9) Sunflower seeds (my lifesaver!  1 cup=800 calories!  Perfect for 72 hour kits)
10) box of cereal such as cheerios *not pictured


For mom & Dad I added
12) cans of chili
13) protein bars and lara bars

Along with this we'd have to pack around 2 packs of 24 bottles of water.  I did not worry about variety.  We would eat the same thing every day, but it would be enough to get us by for 3 days.

There are many other choices you can add.  But the calorie, protein packed items are the best.  It is less you will have to carry.  Hopefully this helps to get the wheels turning and ideas flowing for you about making your own 72 hour kits.  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

One Bowl Egg Free Blueberry Muffins

I'm all about quick and easy, one-pot, one-bowl types of recipes.  As much as I love cooking and baking, this mama ain't got no time for complicated recipes. Blueberry Muffins have always been one of my favorite kinds of muffins and these ones do not disappoint! I love eating them while they are still slightly warm, sliced in half with a bit of butter smeared on them.  Ooh yum! These are so easy to put together. If you don't have fresh blueberries on hand, which I did not, you can definitely use frozen. (Not thawed)  I posted the original recipe below, but I'm pretty sure I reduced the amount of sugar listed.  I usually only put 1/2 cup of sugar in muffins.  Anymore than that is just too sweet for my taste.

*Tip:  Chop the blueberries in halves or quarters so they aren't as large. Regular size blueberries just seem to big for muffins.  I don't know if you've ever run into this problem before, but often when I make blueberry muffins, the batter around the blueberries would be mushy.  Chopping them smaller, or using smaller wild blueberries helps solve that problem.

One Bowl Egg Free Blueberry Muffins 
From, adapted egg free by Egg Free Bakery

1-1/2 cups  flour
3/4 cup sugar, plus more for muffin tops
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt (to replace 1 egg)
1/3 – 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp  vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, chopped, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.  (I used a 12-cup standard muffin tin) In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a liquid measuring cup, add oil and yogurt and then fill with milk until it reaches the 1-cup line.  Add vanilla and whisk until well combined. Using a fork, add milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix just until combined.  Do not overmix.  Fold in blueberries.  The batter will be very thick.  Scoop out batter by 1/4 cup and divide among paper lined muffin tin cup. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of the muffin batter. Bake 18-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out dry, not wet.  Remove to wire rack to cool.  Let cool a bit before serving so that papers do not stick to the muffin, though these can be served while still slightly warm. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Egg Free Cookie cake

Life has been full of changes for us these past 6 months.  My hubs got a new job in a different state and we've been busy making that transition. Selling our house, packing our things, changing schools, finding a new place to live...  I pretty sure I don't ever want to move again in my life!  We're settled for the most part now.  It's been a lot of work.

A couple of months ago, we celebrated my youngest 2nd birthday. (She's TWO already!)  She's not a fan of cake, in fact, she's not really a fan of normal-people-food. I wanted to have a treat for her birthday that she would enjoy, and I wasn't exactly keen on the idea of serving graham crackers. One things she does love is chocolate chip cookies.  Smart girl. So when I saw this recipe at Mel's Kitchen Cafe for a skillet cookie, I decided to top it with some chocolate frosting and sprinkles and call it a birthday cake!  The recipe is already egg free. It's basically the recipe for cream cheese egg free chocolate chip cookies, with the addition of some cornstarch for softness and baked in a pan rather than scooping into individual portions. The original recipe had the dough baked in a cast iron skillet, but I just used a round cake pan.  It was a success!


Egg Free Cookie Cake
From Mel's Kitchen Cafe, slightly adapted by Egg Free Bakery

4 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
8 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cup flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt 
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream softened cream cheese, melted butter and sugars until well combined and fluffy.  Add vanilla extract.  Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt.  Mix until combined.  Mix in chocolate chips.  Spread batter into a greased 8 or 9 inch cake pan.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until desired doneness.  Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool.  Once cookie is mostly cool, run a knife around the edge of cake pan to loosen, then carefully flip the pan over onto a plate to release the cookie.  Make sure it is cooled completely before decorating.


1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Melt butter and stir in cocoa powder.  Alternately beat in powdered sugar and milk.  Mix in vanilla and beat until spreading consistency.

To decorate, pipe frosting around the edges and center and sprinkle with sprinkles!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Chicken Salad (with apples and celery)

I thought I'd share another chicken salad recipe a la my friend Lisa, who introduced me to the Avocado Chicken Salad already on my site. (One of my faves!) 

Lisa is one of those friends that we won't see each other for months, and when we do get together it's like no time has passed and we can pick up right where we left off. I love having friends like that! 

We used to get our kids together when they were littler every week for a play date, lunch and craft. I always enjoyed having lunch at Lisa's house. She's made this chicken salad for me several times and I love it! She doesn't really have a recipe, she just kind of eyeballs everything. So feel free to change it up the way you like. She uses mayonnaise, but to make it egg free I used sour cream. Yogurt could be another option too. Enjoy!

Chicken Salad (with apples and celery)
From Egg Free Bakery

1 12.5 oz can chicken
About half of a small apple, diced
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
Sunflower seeds, optional
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt plus more to taste 
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
Kosher salt to taste

Combine everything in a bowl and mix well to combine. Taste and adjust proportions ( ex more salt or sour cream etc) according to preference. Serve with crackers or in a pita or however else you like. Store leftovers, covered, in the fridge.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Our Food Allergy Story: Part 3: Conclusion

Since Logan was 4 years old we have had him tested yearly for his food allergies.  I still clung to a hope that he would outgrow some of them.  I'd be holding my breath and crossing my fingers each time we went in, only to be let down.  We discovered one more mild allergy to tomato.  I've come to accept that he is not going to grow out of his food allergies, but we've finally figured out a groove in how to manage his allergies.

In some ways, the older he has gotten, the easier it has been to manage his food allergies.  It has also presented new challenges to.  It's nice that he is now old enough to understand that he has food allergies and he can advocate for himself.  He can tell his teachers and other adults who take care of him "I can't have that."  This has been a huge stress reliever for me!  I've had several adults comment to me how impressed they have been with his knowledge of his food allergies and being able to speak up for himself.  

But again with age we've also encountered new challenges.  Starting school and getting involved in activities and trying to fit in with his peers.  He has become more aware of these things but if it bothers him, he doesn't show it.  Sometimes we have conversations about how "he wishes he didn't have food allergies" but most of the time he just rolls with it and I try my best to provide treats and experiences so that he is not missing out.

I often think about what his life will be as he becomes a teenager and moves out onto his own.  We will definitely have challenges unique to those ages that we will have to learn to deal with (like dating?)  TOO soon.  We'll figure that one out LATER.  One thing we are working on NOW is learning how to cook.  I will not always be there to cook for him.  So I've been letting him help me in the kitchen, teaching him how to make his favorite dishes.  Hopefully he will know enough by the time he is out on his own.  As he has been learning to read, I'm also teaching him about reading food labels and I also plan to teach him about calling food companies if he is unsure about something.

This is our story.  It's been a huge learning experience and is a big part of our lives and who we are.   I hope our story will help someone in some way.  To know that there are hundreds of other people going through this, and that you aren't alone.  To know it's only natural that you are a mega helicopter mom.  To know that at times it's so frustrating and scary and overwhelming and also to know that it does get easier and eventually it will just become part of you and it won't feel like as much of a burden as it does at first.

Q&A:  From perspective of Food Allergic Child:

What is your favorite foods?
 Hershey's Chocolate Bars, Macaroni & Cheese, Cheese Quesadillas and more cheese!

What's it like having food allergies?
Sometimes good and sometimes bad
What don't you like about having food allergies?
 That I can't eat stuff that people say are good like eggs and other types of candy bars that have nuts in them.

Is there anything you do like about having food allergies?
I can handle it, that's the good thing.  I'm always safe about the things I eat.  And I'm not allergic to dairy!  I get my own space and table at lunch.  It gets so crazy and loud if you sit at a regular table at lunch.  I like how it is peaceful and quiet at my table.

What advice would you give someone who has just found out about their food allergies?
I would tell them it's ok.  I would teach them how to handle their allergies by not eating stuff that has their allergens in it.  For example, if someone was allergic to peanut butter, um, I could tell them how to handle it because I know how to because I've had allergic reactions before and it's mostly like bad.

How do you handle your allergies?
I handle them really easily by not eating the stuff that I'm allergic to or going near them or even smelling them. I've had them my whole entire life.  So I've had a lot of experience with it.

Do people ever tease your about your allergies?
No, never.  Not one bit!

Would you ever want to do immunotherapy (where they give you a little bit of what your are allergic to until you can have it) for your allergies?
Uh.. maybe.