Recipe: E&B’s No Nutz Buttercups (Egg, Dairy, Peanut, Tree Nut, Gluten Free and Vegan)

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I feel like I have struck gold with this one.  It’s hard to admit this, as an allergy mom, but my all time favorite holiday candy has always been the peanut butter cup.  I used to get so excited when the special edition holiday shapes came out because those were always the freshest and yummiest versions of all.  I don’t actually remember the last time I had one, but I would guess it has been a couple of years.  Then I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade chocolate peanut butter cups.  These looked so easy, delicious, and best of all, perfect for our usual substitutions.  This recipe is definitely a game changer.

How easy are these to make?  All you need is a microwave and a freezer.  In fact, you could probably do it without either.  That’s right, I’m pretty sure that if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing but these ingredients and some cupcake liners, you could still make these.  Although, good luck getting an internet connection to view the recipe.

I used a mini muffin pan and mini cupcake liners.  You could make these full sized, but they are very rich, so the minis are definitely the way to go.  Also, there is no serving size.  Eat as many as you want.  I know I do.

Ingredients:

1 10 oz. bag Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup Wowbutter (or your favorite safe peanut butter alternative)

1/4 cup powdered sugar (watch for hidden wheat in the ingredients)

2 tbsp. Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread, softened

Directions:

Line muffin pan with mini cupcake liners.  If you don’t have a mini muffin pan, you can just put the liners on a cookie sheet.  Melt Enjoy Life chocolate chips.  I microwaved them for 1 minute, stir, 45 seconds, stir, then 30 second increments until smooth.  Spoon just enough melted chocolate into the bottom of each liner to cover the bottom.  Be careful not to use too much or you won’t have enough to cover them.  Place the pan in the freezer while you make the filling.

For the filling, mix Wowbutter, powdered sugar, and EarthBalance.  Taste the filling and you can add a little more powdered sugar if it needs it.  I added about a teaspoon more, then it was perfect.  After these ingredients are combined, check the cups in the freezer to see if the bottom layer is firm.  When firm, remove from the freezer.  Spoon about 1/2 tsp. of filling into each cup and press it down to fit the space.  After you have filling in each cup, spoon enough melted chocolate on top to cover the filling.  The thinner the chocolate is, the easier it is to get the amount right, so warm it for a few more seconds if it has begun to thicken.  Then pop them back into the freezer and wait about 10 minutes, if you can.

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I had more filling than I needed, so I wrapped it in plastic wrap and popped it in the fridge to make more the next day.  You can also freeze it and thaw for a quick treat another time.

If you do happen to exercise some self restraint and have a few of these left over, you have some options for storage.  You can keep them in the refrigerator, but it’s not necessary.  In fact, I tried both ways and we liked room temperature storage the best.  The chocolate doesn’t melt, but it stays a bit softer, which I prefer.

Why are they  called E&B’s No Nutz Buttercups?  My daughter, Elena, and her friend, Blake, share a very special bond.  They both have the same food allergy profile (allergic to egg, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts).  I just love the fact that every time I modify or create a recipe for Elena, I already know of another child who will benefit.  I know they will both enjoy their very own allergen free butter cups!

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*A special thanks to Eric Reavis for coming up with the name.

NO this, NO that…What CAN you send to school for lunch?

I know that many parents struggle to find school lunch ideas, even without restrictions.  For some, finding themselves in a nut-free school or allergen free classroom is a huge inconvenience.  Although my daughter’s school is not nut or allergen free, I know that many of the other parents make an effort to send in lunches that are safe for her so she can sit with friends without worrying about their food or hands touching her.  For the record, I am not suggesting that everyone should pack allergy free lunches.  I just like to share some of the things we pack in hopes that others might see something they like and can use.  I have been asked many times what I send for lunch and I feel like the options are extensive, despite being dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut free.  Below is my post from last year with all of the lunchtime details.  I promised to add more to it, so here they are.  I have photographed lunches these first two weeks of preschool so you can see what I send.  Notice that there are two in several of the pictures.  My non-allergic daughter goes to school a few days each week and she eats the same lunch as my allergic daughter.  It’s not “special” food.  It’s just FOOD.

School Lunch:  Keeping it Simple (The original lunch post)

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Turkey rolls, tomatoes, steamed green beans, berries, and popcorn.

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Quinoa salad, turkey rolls, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, strawberries, fruit smashie pouch, and juice.

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Turkey rolls, steamed green beans, carrots, tomatoes, mixed berries, hummus, crackers, fruit smashie pouch, and juice.

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Nectarine, raisins, and hummus with veggie dippers: green peppers, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes.

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Rice cake, turkey rolls, tomatoes, green peppers, and apple slices.

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Turkey rolls, green beans, tomatoes, apples, crackers, and hummus.

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Apples, green beans, red grapes, green olives, somersaults sunflower seed snacks, tomatoes, and turkey.

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Tomatoes, red grapes, frozen peas*, frosted mini wheats, raspberries, sweet potato sticks, Triscuits, and hummus.

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Hummus, crackers, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumbers, blueberries, and carrots.

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Fruit smashie pouch, honeydew, strawberries, mini banana muffins*, kidney beans, carrots, green beans.

A few notes:

*1) I pack the frozen peas straight from the freezer.  I don’t thaw at all.  If I pack the night before, they thaw by lunch time.  If I pack the morning of, my girls eat them frozen.  They actually love them frozen as much as thawed, if not more.

*2) I made a double batch of mini vegan banana muffins before school started and popped them in the freezer (wrapped in sets of 4).  I take out a pack of 4 the night before I want to pack them and put them in the fridge.  They are thawed by morning.

3)  You will notice I pack a lot of hummus.  I have learned to include a spoon because no matter how many dippers I give, the fingers will end up in the hummus by the end if there is no spoon.

If your kids really love their nut butter sandwiches, fear not.  There is an option even if your school is nut free.  We are big fans of WOW Butter.  It is school safe and has the texture of real peanut butter.  The flavor is great too.  There are a lot of alternatives on the market, but after trying many of them, this is our favorite.

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If you peel back the label, there are even little sticker labels to put on the sandwich wrapper so you can be sure it won’t be mistaken for peanut butter.

*All views expressed in this blog are my own…until I change my mind, at least 😉

Empty Tear Ducts, Full Promises

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Today is Elena’s last first day of preschool and Olivia’s first first day of preschool.  It’s a big day.  This is different from the past two years when Elena went off to school for a few reasons.

This is the first time I have sent a non-allergic child to preschool.  It’s incredibly different.  When she got out of the car, I didn’t feel panic that it might be the last time I see her.  I didn’t worry about what the other children in her class might bring in or might have eaten for breakfast.  I know that, even if things don’t go perfectly for her today, Olivia will be safe.  That’s not to say it’s easy to let her go or that I don’t have any concerns for her.  I really hope she has fun, and makes friends, and makes it to the potty every single time.  If not, though, I know she will have another chance.

With all of the recent news of children losing their lives to food allergies lately, this year was the toughest for me.  Last night I was restless.  I have always promised Elena I would keep her safe, but this year that’s not enough.  I have a few more promises I need to make.  Elena, I promise not to let you see my fear as I drive you to school this morning.  I promise to get all of my tears out when you’re not around, so you don’t have to wonder what might be causing them.  I promise I will be strong and brave and I will not let my fears prevent you from living.

When every bite of food your child takes could take her life, it is terrifying to know she will be eating when you’re not around.  Even though I have checked and packaged all of her food myself, I won’t be able to breathe easy until I see her face at pick up.  I will smile and try not to hug her too tightly.  I will act like it was a normal day.  I will pretend like I enjoyed my break while the girls were at school.  Mostly, I will say a prayer of thanks that she is back under my watch.

I have many prayers of thanks for this day.  I thank God that Elena doesn’t seem crippled with the fears that are eating me alive.  I thank God for the brave parents,  like Natalie Giorgi’s mom and dad, who use their own loss to bring light to the subject and make all of our children safer.  I thank God for the wonderful and loving teachers and director at Elena’s school who “get it”.  I thank God that He gave me such a wonderful partner to navigate these challenges with.  My husband is strong when I’m weak and he is able to help me avoid making emotional decisions against my better judgement.  Finally, I thank God for the strength to let her go and live that life He gave her.

Since I was up all night getting my tears and fears out anyway, I put together this video.  Get a tissue.  You have been warned…

Here are a few helpful resources if you’re sending your child to school this year with Anaphylactic Food Allergies…

Get Schooled In Anaphylaxis

FARE Food Allergy Action Plan

Top 8 Food Allergies (and how to eat around them)

Lunch Ideas (egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free)

We rocked out the night before school started to Kyle Dine‘s CD’s.  They’re really fantastic for getting the kids thinking and asking questions.  I also like sharing these songs with our non-allergic friends.

Please post in the comments if you have resources that helped you with the task of sending your allergic children off to school.  Most of the best resources I have found in this journey have come from other mothers.

We’re Up To Something: The Unveiling!!!

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People often ask what we are up to these days or what exactly we’re doing with ourselves.  Justin and I are collaborating our efforts for the first time in an attempt to create something together.  Actually, we have three kids, so maybe not for the first time.  Nonetheless, here is the backstory…  [hazey fade in to three years ago]

In the spring of 2011, we went on a nice family vacation to Key West, just the three of us.  I was pregnant with our second daughter.  We had already been through our big dining out scare and had learned a lot about how to find safe meals in restaurants.  We knew all about asking for allergen menus and talking to managers.  We also knew that chain restaurants were more likely to have specific allergen information available.  We got a room with a kitchenette so we could put together safe breakfasts and snacks, but we didn’t worry too much about finding safe meals.

Elena had just turned 2 years old.  On our first night at our destination, we decided to go out for dinner.  We hadn’t had a lot of time for call aheads, so we decided to go to a chain restaurant with an allergen menu.  We looked up the menu online before we left the room, picked out a few options, then headed to the restaurant.  We spoke with a manager and they brought us the print out of the allergen menu.  Immediately we realized the info was different from what we had seen online.  Uh oh.  It appeared that the things we had chosen were either not on this menu at all, or were listed as unsafe for Elena’s allergens.  After reviewing the menu with the manager, we determined she could safely have steamed broccoli and italian dressing.  That was all.  Obviously, we had to leave.  She was melting down and we drove around looking for another option.  We were all pretty hungry by this point.  We eventually found a grocery store and just went in to get something we could eat while having hunger induced meltdowns and tantrums in the aisles.  After all, I was pregnant.  We left with a few odds and ends and went back to the room to put together a terribly disappointing dinner.  There had to be a better way.

[Not so hazey jump back to today] My special effects are pretty low tech.

One problem is that it takes a lot of time to read allergen menus when you have more than one allergen to consider.  We are usually handed four separate menus, one for each allergen, and we have to cross reference to find something that is labeled safe on all four.  Sometimes we sit and read for quite a while before we complete the puzzle, just to find that nothing is safe for her.  We had to figure out something better.

Initially our only goal was to solve the problem of puzzling through the menus to find a safe dish.  Our solution was allergenmenu.  We created a tool that would do the work for you.  The idea is that you input your profile, based on your allergens, and it sorts through the menus for you and tells you which dishes fit your restrictions at restaurants near you.  It returns actual menu items, based on the information provided by the restaurants, so you know what your options are before you step in the door.

Then we realized we needed more information.  We wanted specifics.  We didn’t just want to know what the corporation says they can make without these ingredients.  We want to know if the servers and managers demonstrate competence with food allergies.  We want to know how willing they are to take extreme precaution.  We want to know what modifications can be made to dishes to make them safe.  Most importantly, we want to know if the food is good.  Every time we actually visit a restaurant, we leave with more information than we could ever gain through researching online.  We want that level of information without having to visit to get it.  We need a tool where everyone can review and rate what they are eating in restaurants.  I only want to see the dishes that are safe for us and I want to know details about the location I’m considering visiting.  This is the beginning of Noshed It.

Noshed It is a free iPhone app that addresses these more detailed needs.  Rather than compiling information provided by the corporations alone, it compiles reviews from actual diners from specific visits.  I review what we eat and if a dish I reviewed fits the restrictions you indicated in your profile, you will see what I had to say about the food, the service, and exactly how I ordered.  This is not only for those with food allergies.  It’s also for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten free dietary restrictions.

We have been using the app for several months now and love that all of our experiences are documented to look back on.  We know exactly how we modified our dishes to make them safe and whether or not the food was good.  We still use all of the same precautions as always, such as speaking with a manager, checking ingredients, and asking for clean careful preparation, but now we have a huge advantage when we’re eating out.  Based on the reviews other people have submitted, we have found several safe meals for Elena in our own home town that we did not know about and might never have found.

To review a meal, you just snap a photo with your phone, then review right away or save it for later.  It’s very simple.  Sometimes we start chowing down before we take a photo.  No problem.  Reviews can be written without a photo as well.  We have even been known to use a photo of a half eaten dish.  Anything goes.   Follow these links to see some actual reviews on Noshed It.

Kyle Dine’s Chipotle Review

Emily’s Salsarita’s Review

We have noticed a trend among people living with food allergies.  There is a question that pops up on message boards, facebook pages, group sites, and all over search engines.  We constantly see people asking and answering the same question over and over.  “What/where do you eat in X city with an X allergy?”  Everypone is seeking the same kind of answers we were seeking.  They don’t just want to know what the allergen information on the website indicates.  They want to know where other people with similar restrictions have eaten successfully.  They want to know what they ate and how the management handled allergies.  They want to know exactly how others are ordering.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all of those answers were compiled in one place with all of the details and ratings?  It might have saved us an ER visit when we were first learning to navigate food allergies.

So this is what we’re doing now.  After much soul searching, Justin left his corporate job of 9 years, which he loved, and we are focused on creating tools that will lessen the burden of living with dietary restrictions.  Hopefully Elena will never have to go through the challenges we have faced in finding meals for her when she’s out navigating the world on her own with food allergies as an adult….or even scarier, a teenager (gulp).  She will have these tools to help make it easier to be safe and to live a normal life.

But that was all too simple.  For a few reasons, which I won’t go into, we have decided to change the name of Noshed It.  By the end of the month, Noshed it will become….drum roll……………………..wait for it……………………….. YoDish!!!

(Download the app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.  Did I mention, it’s FREE?)

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We are so excited to continue rating our meals and to see what others add to YoDish.  Go ahead and start dishing your favorites.  Actually, dish the meals you have hated as well.  Knowing what to avoid is every bit as important as knowing what to nosh.  (See what I did there?)  Let us know what you think and how we can make it better.  Your feedback will help us build a tool that will change dining out with food restrictions.  Our hope is that the next generation of food allergic individuals will have it easy.  Come on!  What are you waiting for?  YoDish!

Spaghetti Cecca: Molto Buona Ricetta Italiana

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I can’t believe I’m giving this one up.  This is my favorite easy recipe to feed a crowd.  I have made it for company more times than I can count.  It is definitely a family favorite around our house and it couldn’t be any easier.  I pretend it’s a well guarded secret recipe, but anyone who has eaten it could easily replicate it exactly.  That’s the only reason I have the recipe myself.

One summer I had the privilege of traveling to Italy with my brothers.  It was my first time in Europe and our only trip together as adults, just the three of us.  I can’t express what a valuable experience this was, so I won’t even try.  Anyway, this is a recipe post.  While we were in Italy, we ordered Spaghetti Cecca and it was my favorite dish the entire trip.  I came home and replicated it to the best of my memory and for 7 years it has stayed in our regular meal line up.

It’s almost embarrassing how easy this recipe is to make.

Ingredients:

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1 16 oz. package spaghetti

2 pints ripe red grape tomatoes, halved (or 5-7 medium tomatoes, diced)

1 11.1 oz. jar Kalamata olives (whole or halved)

10 large leaves of fresh basil

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The longest part of this process is boiling the pasta, so start your water first.  Follow the directions on your pasta package.  While your water/pasta is boiling, give the basil a rough chop and drain the olives.  Combine the olives, tomatoes, and basil in a medium mixing bowl.

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As soon as the pasta is cooked al dente, add it to the mixture.  You want it to be as hot as possible.  No need to rinse, the oil will keep it from sticking together.  Add the oil and salt and toss it all together well.  That’s it.  The tomatoes and olives sometimes fall to the bottom of your bowl, so you might need to scoop around the bottom with your spoon when you are serving it up.

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*Although, traditionally cecca recipes are made with uncooked tomatoes, sometimes I like to warm them slightly if they have been refrigerated.  If they are room temperature, I leave them as they are.  To warm them, I just pop them in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds.  It should not be long enough to make them mushy, but just long enough to knock the cold off.

July 4th Treats: Top 8 Allergen Free

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Here is what we will be bringing to our 4th of July celebration this year.  These are free of the top 8 allergens and are also oh so yummy.  With just a few tweaks on the classic recipe, these are the perfect allergy friendly patriotic treat.

Ingredients:

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10 cups Rice Krispies Cereal or Gluten Free Rice Krispies Cereal, depending on your needs

6 tbsp. Soy Free Earth Balance Spread

8 cups miniature marshmallows

Mix ins:

1 cup dried blueberries

1 cup dried cranberries

2 cups miniature marshmallows

That’s it!  These are so easy.  All you do is melt the Earth Balance and 8 cups of mini mallows on medium heat in a large pot.  I mix everything in the same pot, so I use a really big one.  When it looks nice and smooth, remove the pot from the heat and mix in the cereal.  I have found that a giant spoon-ula works best.

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When you feel like the cereal is well coated, just throw in your mix ins and give it another stir.  It gets a bit stiff, so you can count this as your daily workout.  I do.

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Spoon it all onto a big jelly roll pan.  You can grease your pan with Earth Balance, or just line it with parchment paper like I did.  If the “stuff” sticks to your spoon-ula, just give it a little spritz with safe cooking spray.   I like to put another sheet of parchment paper on top and just press it down with my hands until it’s all flat and smooth.  Then let it cool for as long as your will power allows and cut it into squares.

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The pot can be a nightmare to clean, so it helps if you have a few little kitchen dwellers who are willing to remove the stuck on bits for you.  Mine are always willing.

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The blueberries don’t look super blue, but they have blue in the name, so it totally counts.  Hey, it’s better than eating neon blue food dye, right?

Have a safe and happy 4th!

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Red Beans and Rice

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This recipe is one of our family favorites.  The girls will eat the leftovers for days without getting tired of them.  This is one of those dishes where everyone gets seconds and sometimes thirds.  It is so good.  It’s a bit spicy, which some kids like and others don’t, but you can always just reduce the spice by cutting the creole seasoning as much as you would like.  It’s de-yum-a licious!  Did I mention it cooks in the crock pot?  As a crock addict, that makes me appreciate the dish even more.

Red Beans and Rice

Ingredients:

1 lb. dried small red beans

7 cups water

1 small green bell pepper

1 small red bell pepper

1 medium onion

4 large celery stalks

2 medium tomatoes

4-5 minced cloves of fresh garlic (or 4 tsp. freeze dried garlic)

13.5 oz andouille sausage

3 tbsp. creole seasoning (check ingredients, I use Zatarain’s)

cooked brown rice (or whatever kind of rice your crew loves)

Directions:

Dice the bell peppers, onion, celery, and tomatoes.  Slice the sausage as thick as you would like.  I do about ¼ inch coins.  Rinse beans in cold water and remove any funky looking beans or rocks.  I have never actually found a rock, but the bag always says to do this, so I do.  Is it a prank?  Has anyone ever found a rock?

Put the beans, water, diced veggies, garlic, sausage, and creole seasoning into the crock pot.  Yeah, that’s right, everything but the rice.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve with cooked rice.  Don’t be stingy with the serving sizes.  The bowls will be cleared in a hurry.

School Lunch: Keeping it simple.

School lunches are a challenge for many parents.  Especially those who find themselves attending a school that enforces mandatory exclusions to protect other children from allergens.  If you are not used to avoiding certain foods, it’s even more difficult to pack a lunch without them.

One of the most common questions I get when I tell people what all Elena is allergic to is, “What do you feed her?”  In fact, that’s the question I had in my own head when I first got her diagnosis.  We started with the basics and had a lot of fun with it.  We do a lot of “cutting board” dinners in the summer.  I just go to the cutting board and prep all kinds of produce and sometimes bread.  It’s simple, quick, healthy, and I don’t have to heat up the oven or stove at all.  We do this a lot using muffin tins, ice cube trays, or other sectioned containers.  The girls love it.

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One of our muffin tin lunches last summer. I can’t believe how little the girls looked.

The lunches I pack for school are very similar to this.  I love doing it this way because I can just throw in whatever we have in the fridge.  She likes the variety and she rarely has the exact same lunch twice.  I always give her a juice box and usually a fruit puree pouch, which we call “smoothies”, or “moosies” if you’re Olivia.  Here are some of Elena’s actual lunches she has taken to school.   You won’t believe how simple it really is to pack an allergy friendly meal.

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This is a Hummus dipper lunch. Get a single serving pouch of safe hummus, or spoon some into a small container. Then all you have to do is give some crackers, veggies, or other dippers. Of course, our usual “smoothie” and juice box are here as well.

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Bento style lunch. Fruits, veggies, craisins, and pasta in this one. Anything goes.

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Pasta salad with veggies and mixed fruit. Yes, the pasta is heart shaped. I usually just use bowties or penne.

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Here we have edamame, berries, crackers, tomatoes, and turkey jerky bites. Ok, so it’s not ALL healthy. The tomatoes are in a silicone cupcake baking cup. I use them as dividers a lot.

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Obviously, this one was from Valentine’s Day. Cucumbers, red peppers, and a sandwich. I don’t remember what kind of sandwich this was, but probably either turkey or sunbutter and jelly.

I also always try to throw in a special napkin.  I get character napkins from the party section at Target or use the extra party napkins from various celebrations.  She really likes having a colorful napkin, since we don’t typically use those at home.  Elena also has a very special way of reminding me to send a fork.  I owe a big apology to her teachers for those days I forget.  I know it doesn’t slow her down one bit…

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Brie’s Minestrone

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This is one of the meals that was brought to us after the birth of our son, Wyatt.  Our dear friends, the Johnson’s, are among the people in our lives who know and understand safe food handling practices for Elena.  Brie always writes up an information sheet to go along with any meal she brings us.  It usually includes the ingredient labels, details about any food that did not have a label, and any other information regarding preparation.

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If you know her, I’m sure you are not surprised by this attention to detail.  One of the side benefits of this is that I can automatically steal the recipe to anything she brings us.  You might be thinking that is an awful way to treat someone who is doing us such a grand favor, but that’s just because you haven’t tasted her minestrone yet.  Make the soup, taste it, and tell me you wouldn’t be stealing the recipe yourself if I hadn’t already done the dirty work for you.

Minestrone:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion

3-5 stalks celery

3 cloves garlic

2 large zucchini

3 medium potatoes

1 cup diced carrots

2 cans kidney beans

3 cans Italian style tomatoes

2 cans garbonzo beans

2 cans Great Northern beans

1 carton chicken stock

water 

safe pasta of your choice

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil.  Combine all ingredients in a large pot on the stove and simmer, or in a crock pot and slow cook all day.  You can play with the ingredients too.  Use any veggies you have on hand that you think sound good.  A little spinach goes really well and you can do more or less of any vegetable as needed.  Cook pasta al dente in a separate pot and add desired amount to each bowl.  Ladle soup over pasta and serve.

Along with this recipe comes a tip for all soups with pasta.  Make the soup and cook your pasta separately.  Add it to each bowl, rather than the whole batch.  That way, you can cook fresh pasta to add to the leftovers and it won’t get soggy from reheating.  Not only has Brie improved our lives by being part of them, she has improved our leftovers for life with this little tip.

 

What would a new baby meal blog be without a little newborn montage?  Meet baby Wyatt…

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Pops’s Famous Crock Pot Roast Beef

If you know my Dad, who now goes by Pops, you’re wondering where I’m going with this.  He is not a man who has spent a whole lot of time in the kitchen doing anything other than reaching over the chef’s shoulder to steal a few nibbles.  You know the type.

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Pops usually keeps himself pretty busy while others are cooking dinner.

Still, this recipe came from Pops.  He may not spend much time in the kitchen, but the man does grill and his steaks are world famous.  Wait.  Are there actual requirements for declaring something world famous?  No?  OK then, I stand by it.

I have wonderful memories of him prepping the steaks to go on the grill.  It’s always quite a production.  You know how Dads can make a one man job into a two man job because they need an audience?  Well, I was often recruited as the fork holder or plate stabilizer, so I got a front row seat.  First, he takes out an armload of spices and seasonings from the cabinets.  Then he lines up the steaks, which he has had cut and trimmed to his liking.  He starts by spreading butter on each steak, then the seasonings start flying, then a little shake of Worcestershire (so glad I’m writing it and not saying it).  After that, he flips them over and does the same on the other side.  He takes a beer out to the grill with him and pours it over the steaks a little at a time as they cook.  Except for the sips he drinks, which is an integral part of the process.  He asks everyone “how do you like your steak?”, then cooks them all to a perfect medium rare, no matter what you say.

We celebrated everything with steaks on the grill growing up.  It was even our Christmas dinner tradition.  This is saying a lot since I grew up in the mountains where it was not unusual to have white Christmases.  Dad would just sweep off the snow drifts, pull on his boots, and tromp out to fire up the grill in the middle of the snow.

I have tried a lot of roast beef recipes, but the best beef to me will always be my Dad’s steaks.  I decided to just use his “process” on a roast and I loved the way it turned out.  It’s not the same as my Dad’s steaks, but it’s the next best thing.

I also must say, the beef makes all the difference.  There is no substitute for high quality, grass fed, antibiotic free beef.  I would call it the secret ingredient, but this is too good to keep secret.  We get ours from Chestnut Grove Farms in Boone, NC.  Check out their website if you live in NC or find a local farm near you.  You won’t ever go back.

Ingredients:

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3 lb. boneless chuck roast (mine was frozen)

1 large onion, sliced

2-3 tbsp dairy free margarine, I use Earth Balance

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. crushed red pepper

½ tsp. minced Onion

4-5 cloves fresh garlic (minced)

⅛ cup Worcesterchire

1 bottle of beer, minus one sip

Directions:

Spray crock pot with cooking spray and place half of the sliced onion in the bottom.  Place the roast on top of the onion.  Slice the dairy free margarine into thin slices and place around the top of your roast.

With as much pomp and circumstance as you can muster, add the Worcestershire and spices to the roast.  If you have anyone else in the house, ask them to come and hold the lid while you measure out each seasoning.  This is important for the authenticity of the process.  Place the remaining sliced onions on top of the roast.

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Next, open the beer and take one sip.  Then you might need one more to be sure it’s just right.  Finally, pour the beer into the crock pot.  Pour gently and try not to wash away the seasonings.

Cook in your crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.  If your roast is not frozen, reduce cooking time to 4-6 hours.

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Everything on this plate is egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free. We used Earth Balance organic garlic and herbs spread on the bread. It is so delicious and easy.

Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without a few shots of Pops with some of his grandchildren.  They adore him as much as I do and he devotes a great deal of time to making wonderful memories with them.

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Pops and Little Buddy, July 4th 2010

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Pops and Squeaky, July 4th 2012

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Pops, Squeaky, and Little Buddy, Summer 2012

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Pops and Little Buddy on the beach in Hawaii, February 2010

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Pops and Little Buddy listening to the shell they found on the beach, Topsail Island, October 2011

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Pops and Sparky, April 2013