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December Notes

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Here is a list of some of the things I do to make December less stressful and more pleasant. I want to remember them, and I want to share them with you. Of course I’d also love to hear your ideas!

  • We switched to making large amounts of simple cookies and candies instead of small batches of fussy ones, such as dairy-free chocolate covered marshmallows. Two of our favorites are Nicole’s Chocolate Barks and Katherine’s Chocolate Chip Shortbread. Parenthetically, Katherine is the newest member of the Go Dairy Free crew! It’s so much fun to do a monthly column with her. Here’s the first one–a great holiday roll recipe.

    Dairy-free chocolate covered marshmallows

    Dairy-free chocolate covered marshmallows

  • I started sending New Year’s cards last year, and I am never going back to Christmas cards, at least while there are kids in the house. We don’t travel at Christmas, and Scott has the whole week off, so I have lots of time to spend on writing out cards. 
  • I finally ‘splurged’ on a timer for the outside lights. No more wading out in the porch snow to turn them off every night. See also: one of those big button things where you or a child can easily turn the tree off and on without crawling back to the outlet. Life changing.
  • We let our nine-year old be in charge of the camcorder at Christmas concerts and other events. Sure, the quality might not be the best, but it keeps him entertained, we don’t have to do it, and who really watches their old middle school band concerts, anyway?
  • We celebrate St. Nicholas Day. This has turned out to be a great time to give new Christmas shirts, or PJs, or a new Christmas book or movie. Also, I make Santa Claus pancakes with dairy-free whipped cream. If you make the pancakes ahead of time, you just have to heat them up, decorate them with whipped cream and fruit, and serve. It’s a nice way to do something festive early in the month before you blink and it’s December 18. 
  • I shop online as much as I can.
  • Aside from shopping, I spend less time online. Something has to go in December, and blogging/tweeting/pinning is it.
  • At the neighborhood Christmas party, we make graham cracker gingerbread houses, not real ones. And we make them ahead of time. The kids just decorate them, which is the only part they care about. 

    gingerbread houses

    Gingerbread Houses

  • And of course we talk about the Christmas story. One of my favorite ways to do so is through our yearly reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which gets me every time. I must say I find parts of it even funnier now that I’m an adult. I really empathize with Mother, who ends up in charge of the pageant against her will. And the writing is hilarious. “The spotlight swooped back and forth and up and down till it made you sick at your stomach to look at it and, as usual, whoever was playing the piano pitched ‘Away in a Manger’ so high we could hardly hear it, let alone sing it. My father says ‘Away in a Manger always starts out sounding like a closetful of mice.” Last St. Nicholas Day, I gave them the TV movie version of it, which I loved as a kid.

Merry Christmas!

 

Gratitude, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Today is the start of week three of the school year, and things are settling into a routine. I continue to be so amazed and grateful for our community that holds us up and supports us in a million little ways. It literally would not be possible for our children to be involved in all they do without our friends and family.  As for food allergies, marching band, cross country, youth group–not a hitch. Everything has be handled so well.

We have a trip coming up and I am worried about the food situation, as I always am when we travel. How wonderful that I don’t have to worry like this every day.

I am also grateful for the bounty from others’ gardens as summer turns to fall.  I was a tomato-hating child, but now they are one of my favorite foods. This is a good thing because our kitchen is overflowing with them right now! These roasted ones make a great topping for pasta or rice, or a side dish, or even a snack. 

I hope you are enjoying the last warm days, too, and are getting ready for fall.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
An easy, versatile tomato dish. Use as a side dish, a pasta or rice topping, the base for an easy sauce, or just enjoy by themselves.
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  2. 1 onion, cut into wedges
  3. 1 stem of fresh basil or oregano
  4. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash cherry tomatoes.
  3. Remove stems
  4. Pour 1 Tablespoon olive oil onto rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Spread cherry tomatoes on baking sheet.
  6. Pour remaining Tablespoon of olive oil over tomatoes.
  7. Drape herb leaves and onion slices on tomatoes.
  8. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.
  9. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft.
  10. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Notes
  1. These freeze well, too, and can be pureed later for a quick tomato sauce.
No Whey, Mama http://nowheymama.com/

 

Easy Dairy-Free Pancake Bars

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August marches on. The kids have to be up and out to sports practices so early, even though school hasn’t started. I want to provide them with a filling breakfast that they can easily serve themselves without heating up the kitchen first thing in the morning. Aside from the usual ideas: muffins, eggs and toast, oatmeal, etc., sometimes I make pancake bars. Yes, bars.

If you know me at all, you know that I will do anything to avoid shaping individual items when cooking. I like bar cookies. I’ve converted a muffin recipe into bars. (I’ll have to post that sometime!) And now pancakes. I can’t be stopped. 

You can of course make these from scratch, or with your favorite healthy mix. This time around I used a dairy-free add-water-only mix from Aldi. I’m not saying it’s health food, but it took two minutes to get into the oven on a busy night when there were no breakfast items in the house. Also, sometimes it’s fun to grab a safe prepackaged item because so often I am unable to because they have dairy. In the morning kids can serve themselves the bars, heat them up, top them with syrup, and eat. 

I’m not even making a recipe card for this because it’s too ridiculous.

Easy Dairy-Free Pancake Bars

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9×13 pan.

Mix enough pancake mix for 18-24 pancakes (usually 3 cups) of dry mix according to package or recipe directions. For this mix it was three cups of mix plus two cups of water.

Mix in fruit or other add-ins of your choice.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the top is slightly golden. They will be pale. If you cook until golden brown the bars will be rubbery.

Let cool for five minutes, cut into 20 bars, and serve. If you are making them the night before, do not cut into bars until serving.

Serve with dairy-free margarine and real maple syrup. (I’m not an animal.)

Summer Recipes

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We still have one whole month left before school begins, and yet I’m having that Sunday night feeling. Sports practices are starting. Preschool teachers are emailing. My daughter started band camp today. BAND CAMP. I am a Band Parent. A Band Parent who may have cruised by the high school to catch a glimpse of my girl learning how to march. Don’t worry, I didn’t yell out the window.

Here are some recipes we’ve been enjoying this summer. These are recipes that I haven’t changed in any significant way, so I’m linking to the originals. 

Strawberry Cake, pictured above–Made by my daughter (with a dairy-free cake mix, of course) and served with powdered sugar lemon glaze and blue sprinkles on July 4. Our chocolate-loving child put in a request for this cake for her January birthday. That’s how good it is.

Panzanella–Made with cannellini beans instead of mozzarella

Roasted tomato sauce–For all the CSA tomatoes

Crunch Salad–made with 100% kale instead of Romaine. I’ve made this at least twice a week all summer.

Any-Berry Jam and Peachy Peach Jam–I can’t believe we’re done with strawberries and blueberries and are on to the blackberry and peach stage. We went blackberry picking the other day, and my arms look like I was attacked by a cat.

Vegetables roasted with olive oil and Kosher salt for 20-25 minutes at 450. Roasting magically gets the kids to eat almost anything from the CSA. 

I also received a super cute package of baking mixes from Enjoy Life Foods. They’ve developed a way to include probiotics that withstand heat in their mixes, which is so cool. Even though we aren’t a gluten-free family, we’ve really enjoyed these mixes. The brownie mix and muffin mix are the biggest hits so far.

What are some of your favorite summer recipes? Is one of them a snack? If so, enter The Snackable Recipe Contest. You could win a cool $1000, which would really take the edge off all of those back-to-school expenses.