Vignettes from a School Trip

We had a wonderful time in NYC and got home without any incidents. We already want to go back!

But I wanted to share some things that happened as an illustration of why I think allergic teenagers still need an adult advocate with them on a big trip like this, where they are at the will of the tour guide company and there is one nurse for 80 kids.


The tour guide company wants to try to plan the allergen-safe meals themselves because you are paying a lot of money for their service. You decide to let them try because you know you will be along for the trip. Someone in the office calls you to give a progress report. “I have spent HOURS on the phone tracking down this information. I asked for the ingredients in the meal at the first restaurant and the person on the phone LAUGHED.” She then tells you, in so many words, not to sue them if things go wrong.


You packed some food but are unable to bring food into many venues due to heightened security. You do not return to the hotel until nighttime each day. You are in a large group and are not able to go off on your own to buy food very often. You make sure to have small prepackaged desserts and some nut butter packets for protein, being very careful of your nut allergic friend and using lots of hand wipes.


You have poured over the entire trip schedule making plans for each meal. The very first stop on the interstate is listed as a choice of two restaurants. Your bus pulls up in front of a third choice with nothing else nearby. 


You find the manager at the first dinner restaurant and ask if there is dairy in either meat being served to the group. “No. No dairy.”

“You’re sure.”


“No milk, cheese, butter….”

“Oh yeah, there’s butter in the rib marinade.”

You get a double order of chicken.


Because you are in a group of 100 people being served a limited number of choices, the dairy-free options are often gluten-free and vegan as well. Plain roasted vegetable salad is not a big hit. 


Your small group also includes a nut allergic child, necessitating at least two stops for lunch during free times: one for a nut-free meal and one for a dairy-free meal. These girls have been friends since Kindergarten, and happily coexist eating each other’s allergens.


Your tour guide often says you need the “gluten free meal” instead of the dairy-free meal, and mistakenly tries to order you a bun-less cheeseburger like the one the gluten-free teen on your trip is eating.


Because your meals are prepared separately, your group is often the last one to eat, sometimes having to leave food unfinished. Your chaperon may or may not have lost her mind during the last meal and told you to sit and eat because they aren’t going to leave without you. 🙂


These incidents are all par for the course and not worth getting upset over, but I do think they are too much for an eighth grader to deal with alone. Adults sometimes don’t take kids’ concerns as seriously as they should. It pays to have an adult allergy spokesperson who won’t take no for an answer.

Dairy-Free Shoofly Pie

This Pennsylvania Dutch treat is one of my favorite pies. It is often served for breakfast, and who am I to argue? It’s so good with a cup of coffee and uses ingredients you probably have in your house right now.

Of course I’m posting this for Pi Day, but I’m also posting it in honor of my Aunt Jenny, who passed away in January. We are having her memorial service this coming weekend, and of course she is on my mind. Jenny was, among many other things, a fabulous cook. If I ever served her something and she asked for the recipe, I was immensely flattered. In recent years, I served Shoofly Pie to Jenny, and she said she’d never had it before. I couldn’t believe I’d found something my well-traveled, well-fed aunt had never eaten!

There are many, many variations of Shoofly Pie. I found this recipe years ago on the now defunct BeanPlate blog and made it dairy free. Enjoy, happy Pi Day, and I love you, Jenny.

Dairy-Free Shoofly Pie
Molasses pie, perfect for dessert--or breakfast!
  1. One dairy-free pie crust
  1. 1 cup boiling water
  2. 1/3 cup molasses
  3. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine
  3. 1/3 cup sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Press piecrust into a pie pan.
  3. Crimp edges.
  4. Mix the filling ingredients together until the molasses is dissolved.
  5. Mix the crumb ingredients together with your hands until they are the consistency of...crumbs.
  6. Pour the filling mixture into the piecrust.
  7. Evenly sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the filling.
  8. Carefully place the pie in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
  10. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Nora Bee at BeanPlate
Adapted from Nora Bee at BeanPlate
No Whey, Mama

Tenth Birthday; Dairy-Free Cookie Icing

Today Eli is ten. Double digits. Goodness. To celebrate, we are on year seven of a John Deere cake for dessert and year six of ninjabread men for a school treat. He’s a man who knows what he likes. And you can’t say I haven’t gotten my money’s worth out of those purchases.

Parenthetically, this also means that I’ve been blogging for nine years. 

The cookie recipe I use is the one from the back of the ninjabread men box, altered to be dairy free. Here is the dairy-free icing I make every year to decorate the ninjas. It sets up hard and glossy, perfect for transporting treats to school. Corn syrup is the magic ingredient that makes it work.

Happy Birthday, Eli.

Dairy-Free Cookie Icing
A hard-drying, glossy icing perfect for decorating sugar cookies or ninjabread men.
  1. 1 cup powdered sugar
  2. 2 teaspoons corn syrup
  3. 2 teaspoons dairy-free milk
  4. 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Mix all the ingredients together until well blended.
  2. You will be tempted to add more liquid as the icing is quite stiff, but don't!
  3. Spoon the icing into a piping bag.
  4. Use to pipe designs onto sugar or gingerbread cookies.
  1. I have the most success doing larger decorative items first (ninja masks) then going back and adding detail (ninja eyes) after the larger items are dry. That way they don't clump together.
No Whey, Mama

Eighth Birthday; Dairy-Free Birthday Pancakes

Helen is eight today. EIGHT. Wasn’t she just born? Didn’t I just post her first picture, like, three years ago? 

In her own quiet yet determined way, she chose not only her birthday dinner (grilled cheese and tomato soup, using Daiya’s great newly improved cheddar shreds for the dairy allergic) but also her lunch for school (mac n’ cheese) and her breakfast (pancakes like Perkins’ Rainbow Pancakes). Parenthetically, I’m noticing a trend where the dairy eaters request dairy-full items for their birthdays as we don’t often eat them. Fine with me.

Her big sister was kind enough to make her special birthday breakfast. Katherine cooked the pancakes yesterday using Bisquick (Yes, it’s dairy free), eggs, and dairy-free milk. She added sprinkles to each pancake while they were cooking. This morning I reheated the pancakes and topped them with additional sprinkles and Vivian’s Live Again Creamy Whipped Topping. Our favorite dairy-free topping is So Delicious CocoWhip, but we were out. Unfortunately, the closest store that carries it is 45 minutes away. Vivian’s is great because it’s shelf stable and takes 5 minutes to make. No chilling time required and easy to keep on hand.

If your eighth birthday falls on a Monday and you have to get up to go to school, you might as well start celebrating first thing. Happy Birthday, Helen.

December Notes

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!


Dairy-Free Roasted Applesauce

The perfectly imperfect apples in the photo above are from an apple tree my great-grandfather planted about 100 years ago on my family’s farm. The sight of my five-year old happily chomping on one yesterday nearly brought me to tears. As did the simple kindness of a man at Wal-Mart offering me the cart he just pulled out for himself. 

No, I am not pregnant. But I am a little fragile from being out in public at one event after another. October was a blur. A blur of driving back and forth up and down the main street of our town from school to home, home to school, home to sporting events, the YMCA to home. Scott logically pointed out that of course I’m going to have more unpleasant interactions with other drivers than I ever had before because some days ALL I DO is drive up and down Main Street. This was cold comfort, though, when after I slowed down to successfully merge into the suicide lane, the 60+ woman behind me honked furiously then stopped traffic in her lane to roll down her window and yell, “YOU ARE AN A**HOLE!”

I live in a town of 8,000 people. I look forward to sitting next to this grandma at the second-grade spring concert. See also: The diamond-encrusted mom who flipped me off out the window of her Cadillac SUV a few weeks ago when I had to slow down to merge into the very same lane. Sorry my avoiding a head-on collision made you run 30 seconds behind, ma’am. Can’t wait to work with you at the fourth-grade book fair.

I want to hole up in my little house now that it’s November and cooking homey foods like roasted applesauce and never venture outside again. (This is a total fantasy. I have to go out again in two hours.) I hope you make this simplified version of Martha Stewart’s Roasted Applesauce, and I hope you tell me your driving stories to make me feel better.


Dairy-Free Roasted Applesauce
The lazy person's way to make flavorful homemade applesauce.
  1. 1/4 cup water
  2. Approximately three pounds of small apples
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour water into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  2. Top with apples.
  3. Roast until apples are very soft, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
  4. Let cool a few minutes.
  5. Working in batches, pass apples through the small disk of a food mill and into a bowl.
  6. Serve warm or chilled.
  7. Top with cinnamon, if desired.
  8. Freezes well.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Adapted from Martha Stewart
No Whey, Mama

Dairy-Free Chipotle Brownies

Years ago, I posted this recipe from my local newspaper on my blog as a gift for my friend Beck because she introduced me to the wonder of beets in chocolate cake. But I never made these brownies. Come on, chipotle… and pickled beets?! In brownies?

Inspired by these award-winning Mexican Hot Chocolate Oatmeal Drops (so good) and a jar of pickled beets I needed to use up, I made these Dairy-Free Chipotle Brownies, and they are wonderful. Very moist, with a kind of buttermilk taste from the pickled beets. Even my youngest children loved them. I swear.

I don’t know about you, but I could use some chocolate to help me survive this killer fall sports/activities schedule, and I could also use a recipe that helps me use up obscure canned goods so I don’t have to shop. Win win.


Dairy-Free Chipotle Brownies
Moist, tangy brownies with a hint of warmth from the chipotle puree.
  1. 1 jar sliced pickled beets
  2. 1 box dairy-free brownie mix
  3. 1/4 cup canola oil or other oil of your choice
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1/2 teaspoon chipotle puree
  6. 1 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly spray the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray.
  3. Drain beets, reserving 1/4 cup liquid.
  4. Combine beets and reserved liquid in a blender or food processor.
  5. Puree until smooth.
  6. Combine brownie mix, oil, eggs, pureed beets and chile powder in a large mixing bowl.
  7. Stir until blended.
  8. Stir in chocolate chips.
  9. Pour into prepared pan.
  10. Bake 30-40 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven; cool.
  1. To make chipotle puree, puree a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Store in a jar in the refrigerator.
  2. Because I used home-canned beets which didn't have much liquid, I used all the canning liquid in the recipe.
Adapted from local newspaper article, circa 2008
Adapted from local newspaper article, circa 2008
No Whey, Mama

Gratitude, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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.
  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
  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.
  1. These freeze well, too, and can be pureed later for a quick tomato sauce.
No Whey, Mama


Easy Dairy-Free Pancake Bars

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

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.