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. 

Dairy-Free Seven-Layer Bars

Today is the last day of school! We made it through all of the May activities in one piece! I didn’t lose any children when I chaperoned a field trip! And that was a near thing. Luckily (?), the first-grader who kept running away from me in the children’s museum shares a name with one of my children, so I could call upon many years of hissing her name in Mom Voice to keep her in line. 

This seems like the perfect day for a special dessert . Recently, I had some Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut left over from a recipe trial, so I thought I’d try my hand at some dairy-free Seven-Layer/Magic Bars. I served them to extended family on Memorial Day and the dairy eaters thought they were just as good, if not better, than the original. What really makes these authentic are the cream of coconut and the homemade dairy-free butterscotch chips.

Wherever you are in your end-of-the-school year or summer schedule, I hope you find a moment to sit back and relax with a cookie and a cup of tea. Perhaps while watching your preschooler play with his new “hoop de hoop.” (If you tell him the correct name is a ‘hula hoop,’ I will hunt you down.)

Dairy-Free Seven-Layer Bars
A favorite bar cookie, made dairy free
  1. 1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, melted
  2. 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  3. 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
  4. 1 cup homemade dairy-free butterscotch chips
  5. 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  6. 1 1/3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  7. 1 can cream of coconut
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine the margarine and graham cracker crumbs and mix well.
  3. Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of 13x9-inch baking pan.
  4. Evenly spread the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and walnuts layer by layer in the pan.
  5. Sprinkle the coconut on top.
  6. Pour the cream of coconut evenly over the top.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned.
  8. Cool.
  9. Cut into bars.
  10. Store covered at room temperature, or chill if desired..
  1. Don't have time to make the butterscotch chips or need to leave out the nuts? Just add an extra cup of dairy-free chocolate chips instead.
No Whey, Mama

Dairy-Free Meatloaf; Being Cozy

Ground beef and breadcrumbs, some onions and an egg
My mouth is watering so please don’t make me beg
I know everybody’s got their tastes and that’s just fine
But if you say that you don’t like it, then you’ve never tasted mine
I’m talkin’ ’bout meatloaf (meatloaf)

Have you seen the episode of Phineas and Ferb with the band Tiny Cowboy singing their song “Meatloaf”? Tiny Cowboy, awesomely voiced by Peter Noone and the late Davy Jones, a band that bears more than a passing resemblance to Oasis? Seriously, listen to the song and see if you don’t spend the rest of the day singing a Meatloaf/Wonderwall mashup.

I’m talkin’ ’bout meatloaf, I’m a meatloaf lover
I’ll tell your brother, yeah, don’t need no other
Talkin’ ’bout (meatloaf) meatloaf, meatloaf lover
Warms you from the inside like it’s made by your mother

This simple meatloaf is adapted from my neighbor’s recipe. My kids prefer it to “fancier” meatloaves we’ve tried, which is fine with me. I don’t even pull out the recipe card to make it. I do double the original so we have leftovers for sandwiches.

So moist and savory, it’s beef that’s shaped like bread
Don’t know what that aroma’s doing in my head
Whatever we don’t eat we’ll discreetly put away
But never fear, my meatloaf, we’ll eat again someday



Dairy-Free Meatloaf
An easy, tasty dairy-free meatloaf. Optionally gluten free.
  1. 2 pounds ground beef or turkey
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 2 handfuls quick cooking oats (gluten free if desired)
  4. 1/4 cup homemade dairy-free onion soup mix, made with gluten-free bouillon, or one packet of dairy-free onion soup mix
  1. Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly.
  2. Place in a greased loaf pan.
  3. Pat down evenly and smooth the top.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for one hour.
  5. Uncover and bake for 10-15 more minutes, or until cooked through.
No Whey, Mama
 On a completely unrelated topic, last month I took The Nester’s Cozy Minimalist course, thinking it might help me freshen up our living room on my budget of negative zero dollars. It did, but it also inspired me to clean out our basement I can’t even explain the magic this woman works, but the end result is that I am happier and more content in our home than I’ve been in awhile. And that is priceless.

If you sign up for a slightly abbreviated (and cheaper!) version of the class I took and enter my name (my real name), you get $10 off the cost of the course. I can’t recommend it enough. Then we can get together and talk about the creative things we’ve done in our homes. 

Non-alcoholic Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby was this weekend! Did you watch? We did because we have an enormous, ugly antenna on the top of our chimney now! It can be seen for blocks! My dad keeps teasing me about how shiny and visible it is because he knows I hate love it so!

But, it does enable us to be able to see live sporting events for free since we haven’t had cable for years. And no one was killed installing it. Double bonus.

So we watched the Derby, placed our imaginary bets, and had fancy drinks. Three of our children picked three of the top four winners, so maybe we should have placed real bets.

There’s no way to make a faux Mint Julep taste like a real one, but the kids and I did enjoy our virgin Mint Juleps very much. They are based on several recipes I found online. The syrup is my Aunt Marian’s recipe with added lemon juice. I especially found the combination of mint and ginger soothing as I’d been struck down by the stomach virus the kids have been passing around.  I know how to party.

Non-alcoholic Mint Julep
A refreshing ginger ale-based beverage for the Kentucky Derby or any celebration.
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1/4 cup lemon juice
  4. 14 mint sprigs, crushed
  5. ice
  6. ginger ale
  7. additional mint sprigs for garnish
  1. Boil the water and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from the heat.
  3. Add the lemon juice and mint sprigs.
  4. Let steep for ten minutes.
  5. Remove the mint.
  6. Pour ginger ale over ice in a glass.
  7. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the lemon mint syrup.
  8. Garnish with an additional mint sprig.
  1. Refrigerate any leftover syrup in a glass jar. It can also be used in tea or other drinks.
No Whey, Mama

Dairy-Free Alfredo Sauce

For the past month, I’ve been busy enjoying a very early Mother’s Day present: The Nester‘s Cozy Minimalist course. I have been having so much fun meeting new online friends and rethinking our living room without spending much money. The effect has spread to the rest of the house, too, and bags of unneeded items have been kicked to the curb. And to the Salvation Army and to our neighbors’ houses. It is such a fun class; I recommend it if you have the chance.

Needless to say, dinners have been super simple in the midst of all of this painting and rearranging. If you’re looking for an easy, springy pasta sauce for dinner, may I suggest this dairy-free Alfredo? It’s based on a dairy recipe of a friend of mine, I just substituted dairy-free ingredients, subtracted the Parmesan, and added some seasonings. It’s pictured here with chicken, but it is also great with spring vegetables. This is the one dairy-free Alfredo that even the dairy eaters in our family enjoy. I hope you do, too.

Dairy-Free Alfredo
An easy, crowd-pleasing, dairy-free Alfredo sauce
  1. 8 oz. dairy-free cream cheese
  2. 1/2 cup dairy-free margarine
  3. 3/4 cup plain dairy-free milk
  4. 1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
  5. salt to taste
  6. nutritional yeast, optional
  1. Place the first four ingredients in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add a dash or two of salt; this helps replace the saltiness of the Parmesan.
  3. Sometimes I add a dash of nutritional yeast for an added cheesy flavor, but it isn't necessary.
  4. Cook over medium low heat, whisking occasionally, until the cream cheese and margarine are melted.
  5. Whisk to combine.
  6. Heat until just bubbly around the edges of the pan.
  7. Taste for salt.
  8. Add more if needed, especially if you did not use the nutritional yeast.
  9. Serve over pasta and/or vegetables.
No Whey, Mama