Product Review and Allergen Information: Briannas Poppy Seed and Dijon Honey Mustard Dressings

I love finding great products that I am able to find easily in most grocery stores and that I know we can trust.  With allergies to egg, dairy, peanut, tree nuts and gluten, salad dressings can be tricky.  We make a lot of our own, but sometimes you just need a great dressing you can trust and find easily.  When we travel, or visit family, or even just want a quick grab for dinner, I want to know what to get without having to gamble on something new and unfamiliar.  We have been using Briannas Salad Dressing for years.  I’m convinced that their Poppy Seed Dressing is one of the reasons my kids learned to loved eating salads and we use the Dijon Honey Mustard as a dip for chicken tenders and fish sticks, a sandwich condiment, and all kinds of other uses.  It’s delicious!

Since we use these a lot, they end up in my daily lunch posts on my Facebook page quite often.

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When I send poppy seed dressing, I know the salad container will be completely empty when they get home.

 

 

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The dijon honey mustard is perfect as a dipper for veggies and nuggets.

 

I was asked for more detail on the allergen information and emailed the company today.  I got an answer to my email within fifteen minutes of sending my questions. I asked specifically about the possibility of cross contact with egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten during manufacturing with the dijon honey mustard and poppy seed dressings, and I got information about all of their dressings.  SCORE!  Here is their response…

“We have an Allergen Control Plan in place to prevent cross contamination between allergen and non-allergen products, this includes a complete wash down after each flavor that is followed by pre-operational inspections and sanitation verification. Peanuts and tree nuts are not part of our ingredients and we do not process any other products that contain them.

At the end of last year we revised our labels to show the attributes of each flavor. Those that have “no gluten” are now marked as such. You should be seeing bottles with the new labels very soon. Poppy Seed and Honey Mustard are among the flavors that contain no gluten. I’ve attached an attribute chart for your information.”

This chart is an amazing reference tool. Also, did you know they’re family owned and operated? I just LOVE that there are companies and products like this available to us! Enjoy!

2015 Briannas Product Attribute Chart

*All views expressed in this blog are my own.

Bravely Seeking Safety

I love this post from Momastery, “This is What Brave Means”, so much and, of course, it feels so familiar.  Take a minute to read it if you haven’t seen it yet.  It’s time to redefine “bravery” for your children and for ourselves and to realize that physical danger is not the defining characteristic of a brave action.

For people with food allergies, who get pressured all the time to take risks, bravery is not eating something you’re unsure of or taking risks with your precautions.  Bravery is standing up for yourself, asking for precautions, and risking being different because you aren’t eating the food at a party or other social event.

Children are often expected to take management of their allergies into their own hands, which sometimes means defying adults who don’t fully understand their allergens. THAT is brave.  Bravery is the second grader I heard about recently who gave herself an Epipen after her teachers told her she had to wait for the ambulance to arrive, because she knew she needed it.  Can you even imagine?  A child was told by grown ups that she could not have the medicine she knew could save her life until an ambulance arrived, which could easily be too late.  A second grader, grabbed her own Epipen and injected herself in the leg, defying the adults around her , and possibly saving her own life.

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My own 5 year old daughter also exemplifies bravery to me, although to others, she might seem fearful and overly cautious.  Bravery is when she decided on her own to skip Sunday school because she found out they were passing out donuts and goldfish.  Bravery is when she walked calmly to sit in a chair so I could inject her with an Epipen because she realized she had eaten something she shouldn’t have.  Bravery is standing up for herself and suggesting to her brand new kindergarten teacher that she should wear gloves and collect chicken eggs with her class, despite her allergy.  Bravery is marching into almost every party she has ever attended with her own cupcake or meal and her bag of epinephrine auto injectors, because she knows that when it’s time to eat she will be surrounded by allergens and will need to act differently from everyone else to keep herself safe.  Bravery is when we eat out and she takes it upon herself to tell her server all about her allergies and what all she is allergic to.  Bravery is when she has to go to the Dr’s office for a food challenge and spend 4 hours taking bites of food she knows could make her sick, could require her to need Epinephrine, and that she has spent her entire life trying to avoid at all costs.

My child may be cautious, but she and all of the others like her are the most BRAVE little beings I know.

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Elena and her friend, Blake, share allergies to the same four foods.

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Sausage Soup Recipe

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Ingredients:

10 cups chicken broth

1 lb sausage (details below)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 large red onion, diced

1 large bunch of kale, chopped

1 ½ tsp. sage

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Before I get too far into these “directions”, I want to emphasize how easy and flexible soup can be.  You really have a lot of wiggle room with ingredients and quantities.  As long as you have enough broth to cover your solids, you will probably end up with soup.

For this recipe, I combine all of the ingredients, except the kale, in the crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Just make sure your broth covers your ingredients.  Add extra if needed.  About 30-45 minutes before you are ready to eat (or turn it off) stir in the kale.  That’s all.

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For the sausage, I used Wild Turkey Farms fresh polish keilbasa.  This is not like the highly processed keilbasa you find in the grocery store that is precooked and has to be sliced.  It is fresh sausage in a casing that gets soft and crumbly when cooked, so it breaks up easily in the soup.  If you don’t have access to fresh local keilbasa, italian sausage also works well in this.  You can buy it with the spices added or just buy fresh ground pork or turkey and add your own (I usually use fennel, paprika, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper).  You can brown it before adding, or just add it to the broth and break it up near the end, after it is cooked through.

As far as salt goes, take into consideration how salty your broth and meat are.  Remember that these things will season the soup too, so you might not need any additional salt.  As always, using your own homemade broth takes this soup up about 10 notches, and since you know exactly how much salt is in it, it’s easy to know how much to add.  If you haven’t made your own broth yet, please try it.  Then leave a comment below about how life changing it was 😉

We Have a Plan and We’re Not Afraid to Use It…Not Anymore, Anyway.

In our 5 years of dealing with food allergies, my husband and I have trained a LOT of people on how to follow our action plan and how to give the Epipen or Auvi-Q.  We have trained friends, family, babysitters, teachers, sunday school teachers, Nursery workers, neighbors, etc.  This usually consists of talking through possible symptoms, when to give it, and a demonstration using the trainer device.  One time it also consisted of me using the real Epipen on myself, thinking it was the trainer.  It was all my husband’s fault, but you probably knew that.  Most people ask the same question.  “Have you ever had to use it?”  I hate this question, only because I hate my answer.

Our answer was that we had never used it, but we should have.  There have been a couple of incidents where we just failed to do the right thing.  In one case, we were so close to the hospital that we drove there, Epipen in hand and they gave it to her when we got there.  This horrifies me now, knowing what a huge risk we took for no reason.  Another time we drove to the ER and sat outside waiting to see if Benedryl would take care of the vomiting and hives.  Again, not the right choice.  Yes, we were very lucky and everything turned out fine, but I never want to depend on luck when my child’s life is at stake.

This past weekend, however, our answer changed forever.  After 5 years of coaching others on how to follow our action plan, we finally followed it correctly ourselves.  It took everything in me not to let the hesitation take over, but this time, everything in me was enough.

Here is our story:

Our two older girls were visiting their grandparents for the weekend.  Our oldest is allergic to eggs, dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Our 18 month old son stayed with us and he is allergic to dairy only, per his allergy testing one year ago, which included the top 8 allergens and several seeds.  We struggle with how to give our children their siblings allergens safely, so he has not had much opportunity to have nuts or eggs.  I decided to take this opportunity to fix that.

After I dropped off his sisters on Thursday, I took little brother out for lunch and got him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  His FIRST peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever.  Since he had been tested for peanut allergies already, I wasn’t really worried about a reaction.  He ate about half of his sandwich and was perfectly fine, so we headed home.  Successful peanut exposure…check.

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On Saturday morning, we decided to take him out to breakfast, which is something we almost never do.  We took him to a restaurant we trust and we spoke with the manager about his dairy allergy.  We wanted him to have eggs, so the manager told us they could use a clean pan instead of the flat top and just use shell eggs, without the usual liquid egg mixture mixed in.  They would use no butter and no seasoning.  We also ordered him bacon and fruit.  the bacon was to be cooked in a dedicated section of the flat top that only cooks meat and the fruit was cut in the prep kitchen, which handles no proteins.  Yes, it’s a lot of precautions, but you’re about to find out why it matters so much.

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When he took his first bite of egg, he spat it out and threw it across the table, then he scraped at his tongue with his hands.  This is actually not an uncommon reaction for him when trying any new food for the first time, so, though a bit embarrassed at his lack of table manners, we were not concerned.  Then he took a tiny bite of bacon.  A few seconds later he looked like he was choking, with small gags and big eyes.  I made sure his mouth was clear and he stopped, then started again.  I could hear his voice, so I knew his airway wasn’t completely blocked.  Then he vomited.  Still thinking it was a choking episode that caused him to vomit, I took him outside for some air.  As soon as I got him outside and looked at him, I knew he hadn’t been choking.  His eyes were quickly swelling and he had hives on his face.  I ran back in with him, and told my husband we had to leave now.  The server was at the table so she gave him the check and he just laid down cash and bolted.

In the parking lot, we began our usual, “should we?”, but quickly knew there were no questions to ask.  WE SHOULD!  We strapped him into the carseat to keep him still and I climbed in the backseat beside him.  My husband held his leg and I gave him the injection.  Then my husband called 911 and requested an ambulance while I got him out of his seat.  He stopped crying right away and his face returned to normal very quickly.

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This is after the Auvi-Q injection while waiting for the ambulance. Facial swelling and hives are already returning to normal. I have no before picture for comparison, but take my word for it.

By the time the ambulance arrived, he looked like himself.  In fact, he smiled and waved at the ambulance as they pulled in.  We climbed in the back and they took us to the hospital after a quick evaluation.  On the way to the hospital, he started getting panicky and scratching his arms and legs ferociously until they bled.  The paramedic gave him a shot of Benedryl, which helped give him some relief.  He got a dose of steroids at the hospital and a prescription to continue them for a few days.  After a couple of hours of observation, we went home.

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Quick power nap at the hospital after the Benedryl kicked in.

Even though this was the first time we have ever given epinephrine, it was by far the least scary experience we have had around a reaction.  As soon as we gave the injection and saw his symptoms fade, I knew we had FINALLY handled it the right way and he would be ok.  I knew that if he needed another one, I could do it.  I knew, without a doubt, that this reaction would not be taking our baby from us.

Now we have to figure out if he has developed an allergy to eggs or if his food did have some kind of contact with dairy.  Another round of allergy testing in in his near future and we will have our answer.   The only thing I know for sure is that no matter what the results are, we can handle it.  We have a plan and we’re not afraid to use it!

Piñata Rice: Egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut, and gluten free, vegan Mexican rice

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Since today is Cinco de Mayo, I had to post one of our favorite fiesta recipes.  We enjoy this as a main course, and usually eat the leftovers as a side dish, so it can work either way.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

8 cups cooked brown rice

1 cup Herdez Salsa Casera (or other salsa)

1 medium onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

8 oz package of baby bella mushrooms

1 small red bell pepper, diced

3 small tomatoes, diced and seeded

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

juice from one lime

1 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp hot sauce (I use Cholula Original in this recipe)

Salt to taste

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

 

Directions:

Coat bottom of large pan with olive oil and heat over medium.  Add chopped onion, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté until tender.  Add diced tomatoes (seeded to reduce liquid) and diced bell pepper.  Cook about two minutes or until peppers begin to soften slightly.  Add beans, rice, lime juice, cumin, and hot sauce.  Turn heat up to medium high and keep the rice mixture moving in the pan.  If the rice is sticking to the pan, add a little more oil.  When everything is hot and the rice/veggies begins to brown, it’s ready!  Top with fresh cilantro and serve!

*I don’t add salt to this dish because the beans and salsa add it for me, but if yours needs it, you can toss some in.

This dish makes a great main course, side dish, taco/burrito filling, thermos school lunch, etc.  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Recipe: Raspberry Filled Chocolate Candy (free from egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten)

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Well, I set out to replicate a peppermint patty, using this wonderful looking recipe from Primal Palate as my base and ended up going in a different direction with it.  I still intend to do the peppermint patty eventually, but for now, I’m really glad we went with these.   They are the perfect decadent treat.

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Ingredients for chocolate:

1 bag Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels

1 tbsp Coconut Oil

1/4 tsp. raspberry flavoring, like this one from Frontier Natural Products Co-op

Ingredients for filling:

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tbsp. honey (sub maple syrup for vegan option)

1/4 tsp. raspberry flavoring

1/4 tsp. clear vanilla extract

5 mashed fresh red raspberries  (frozen will work, but thaw completely first)

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Use a silicone candy mold for shaped chocolates or a mini muffin pan with liners for chocolate cups, similar to the soy nut butter chocolates found here.  I tried both ways and they were equally easy and delicious.

Melt together chocolate morsels, 1 tbsp coconut oil, and 1/4 tsp. raspberry flavoring in a small pot over low heat or a double boiler.  Spoon small amount of melted chocolate into the bottom of each liner or candy mold.  Place in freezer to harden for about 10 minutes.

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Combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl and combine until all ingredients are completely incorporated.  Remove hardened candy layer from freezer and add a small amount of filling to each mold/cup.  Do not flatten, but press down if the filling is above the level of the mold.  Fill the rest of the cup with melted chocolate to cover the raspberry filling.  If your chocolate has begun to thicken, just reheat and stir until smooth before filling.  Place your candies back in the freezer for about 15 more minutes until hardened.  Remove from molds and enjoy!

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From silicone heart shaped mold

Coconut Crunch Granola Bars: GF, Vegan, Peanut and Tree Nut Free

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My girls have pretty active sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) just like their Mommy.  One of their favorite treats is a granola bar.  Cascadian Farms makes two granola bars we have found that are egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free.  They are Harvest Berry and Oatmeal Raisin.  The girls love them, but they can be difficult to find.  Stores around us are inconsistent carrying these and the other Cascadian Farms flavors are not safe for us.  It can be quite frustrating to search for a product in two or three stores where you have seen them before and come up empty handed.

This seems to be happening more and more, which is driving me to find or create more recipes for the foods we love.  There is nothing more safe or guaranteed healthy than a homemade version because I can control the ingredients and the process.  I know these are made in an allergen free facility because I’m the kitchen manager.  (Self proclaimed, of course.)

I started by searching for yummy looking granola bar recipes that I could modify.  I found these on the Bless This Mess blog, which I love, and they looked so good to me… Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars.  Of course, for us, there are at least three reds flags in the name alone (chocolate=dairy, PB=nuts, pretzel=gluten), so I knew I would be in for some big changes.

My version does have coconut, so if you can’t have that, all you have to do is replace the coconut oil with safe “butter” alternative of your choice and omit the coconut flakes.

These are going to be a new staple at our house.  The best part is, I will never have to go on a hunt for safe granola bars again.

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Coconut Crunch Granola Bars

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey (substitute molasses or agave for vegan version)

1/2 cup WowButter

2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

3 1/2 cup gluten free oats

1 cup brown rice cereal (I use Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal)

2 cups Glutino pretzels

2/3 cups Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

4 tbsp. Unsweetened shredded coconut

2 Tbsp. Chia seeds

First, the fun part.  You need to schmoosh your pretzels.  The girls helped with this task, as they are professional food schmooshers.  We do it with ziplock bags and toy hammers, but any way you want to crumble them up will be acceptable.

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Combine your pretzel pieces, oats, rice cereal, coconut flakes, and chia seeds in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil, brown sugar, honey, Wowbutter, and vanilla over med heat, stirring constantly.  It will bubble slightly as you stir.  Keep stirring until it looks smooth and the sugar looks dissolved, then remove from heat and pour immediately over the oat mixture.  Stir together until well combined.

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Press the mixture into two square 8×8 pans or one 9×13 rectangular pan, which has been lined with parchment paper.  If you have two helpers, like I did, I recommend using two pans.  Then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and press them into the bars.  They will begin melting, so be quick or your hands will be covered in melted chocolate.  Resist the urge to cut them right away.  I tried and they fell apart.  Place them in the fridge until they are cool and solid (about 15-20 minutes should do it).

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Then lift them out of the pans, paper and all, cut them into your desired shape and enjoy!

A good sharp knife works best.  I thought a pizza cutter would be clever, but it didn’t work too well.  A good sharp knife.

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Take STOCK in This: A Souper Sensation

Making my own stock is something I have been doing for a short time.  I can’t figure out for the life of me why I haven’t been doing it forever and why everyone doesn’t do it.  It’s easy, free, useful, and so much better than any stock or broth you’ll find in a box on a shelf.  It might be the best kept secret of family kitchen history.  Well, I’m blowing the lid off this secret.  You deserve to know.

During a casual conversation with my friend Penny, who you might remember from this post, she mentioned throwing her chicken parts and some veggies into a crock pot to make stock.  I had a light bulb moment.  I thought, “I have chicken parts”, “I have veggie scraps”, “I could do that!!!”.  I asked a few questions about what to put in, how long to cook it, etc, and went home to cook a chicken, just so I could make stock from it’s “parts”.  For months, I have been in a complete state of stock shock.  I cannot believe I have never done this.  I went straight to my mother and asked her why we never did this.  She had the same light bulb moment I mentioned having and, instead of giving me an answer, went to cook a chicken.

I keep whole organic chickens in my freezer all the time and put them in the crockpot whenever I plan to make soup, chicken and dumplings, chicken salad, etc.  I literally just run the whole chicken under the water in the sink long enough to thaw the outermost layer so I can remove the packaging, then put the whole thing in the crockpot, still frozen.  Sometimes I spray the crock pot with oil first to theoretically make clean-up a little easier, but I have no idea if it makes any difference.  I do add a little salt and pepper to the top of the frozen chicken before I close the lid and turn it on.  That’s all I do.  How easy is that?  I cook it on low until it’s done, which I would say is usually around 6 hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

This used to be where the story of my chicken ended.  I would separate the meat from the skin and bones, then toss all of the non-meat “parts” in the garbage.  NO MORE!!!!  Now I toss those “parts” right back into the crock pot for round two.  This is what I call the “trash into treasure” phase.

On top of the chicken parts, I add vegetable parts that I would likely have thrown away otherwise.  Be sure to wash all vegetables well.  First comes the root end of a bunch of celery.  I just chop off the stalks and throw in the big ball of ends stuck together at the root.  I also might chop off the ends and throw them in.  I wash my carrots well and peel them.  I toss in the ends and peels of the carrots.  I also like to peel a few onions and put in the ends or a few of the less paper-like outer layers that I would debate keeping otherwise.  Sometimes I do put in the good parts of the veggies too, but lately I have been keeping a bag of usable scraps in the fridge so I rarely have to use anything we would eat.  It ends up looking something like this before I cover it all up with water.

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Veggie scraps on top of chicken parts. Carrot peels, celery ends and leaves, fennel sprigs, and onion. Be sure to wash all veggies thoroughly before peeling if you’re going to use the scraps.

After adding the veggies, I just fill the crock pot up with water to the tippy top and add a little salt and maybe some garlic powder and celery seed.  You can put in anything you like.  I set it to low and cook it overnight or all day.  I store it in the refrigerator if I know I will use it within a couple of days.  Otherwise I freeze it for later.  It’s the best chicken stock I have ever had and everything I cook with it turns out better than ever.  I can get so much out of one chicken, and it’s virtually free since most of the ingredients would be thrown away if not used in this way.  Also, it makes me feel that much better about spending the extra money on organic chickens and vegetables, knowing I’m getting so much out of every part of them.  I cannot believe how much money I have spent on those cartons of organic broth in the past.  Never again!!!!

Be sure to strain it well.  The bones get pretty soft and small pieces can be hard to separate.  I always run it through a mesh strainer just to be safe.

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This is how it looks after cooking all day or over night. Now it just needs to be strained and it’s ready to use.

One thing I have learned is that there will be a thin layer of grease that solidifies on top of the broth after it cools.  I just wait until the first time I pull in out of the refrigerator to use it and spoon it into the trash.  The broth will be very dark and rich and the flavor is amazing.  This photo doesn’t do the color justice, but I wanted to show the thin layer of fat I mentioned after refrigeration so you won’t be weirded out when you see it in yours.

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I hope I’m not the only one who was in the dark on this.  Give it a try if you haven’t done it before.  You will be cooking chickens left and right, just so you can make your own stock.  If cooking whole chickens is not in your usual repertoire, use whatever kind of chicken you usually eat. Honestly, you can even just throw in the parts from your store bought rotisserie chicken.  It will work just the same.  Do yourself a favor and turn your own chicken parts into liquid gold.  It’s like printing money.  Stop buying stock.  Use your liquid assets.  I could do this all day.

If you want a more specific recipe, check out this one from 100 Days of Real Food.  This blog is fantastic.  If you don’t follow it already, you’re missing out.  It is geared towards good clean healthy eating and living.

Also, one more thing.  I always wondered what the difference is between stock and broth.  Since I went to the trouble to look it up, I thought I would share what I found.  Stock is made with bones and parts, like I have described here.  Broth is made with actual meat.  Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same.  In theory, you could get a richer flavor from broth since you are using the meat, but it’s hard for me to believe it could be any richer than this.  Does anyone have opinions on stock versus broth?  I would love to hear what you know.

Spinach and Pear Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

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Spinach and Pear Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

10oz of baby spinach

1 ripe bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced (mine was too big, so I only used 1/2)

4 slices of bacon or turkey bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (omit for vegetarian version)

¼ cup dried cranberries

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

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I tried the pomegranate flavored cranberries in this batch. They were decent, but I think the original is the way to go. The pomegranate flavored berries were a little too sweet.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Use recipe below to make your Maple Dijon Vinaigrette.

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I used regular bacon this time, but often use turkey. Turkey bacon is my preference, but you have to be sure to get it crisp. My husband, on the other hand, prefers regular bacon no matter how it’s cooked.

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

⅓ cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tbsp dijon mustard

⅔ cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste (I use about ¼ tsp of each)

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Whisk together first 5 ingredients.  Gradually whisk in oil until completely blended.

Drizzle dressing over top of salad, toss, and serve.  Extra dressing can be kept covered in the refrigerator and used within a few days.

This makes a great side dish and uses some of my favorite fall flavors.  It’s a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving and will be on our holiday table for sure.

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Baba Gha-Hummus: A Recipe and So Much More

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No matter how many times I was told that it’s easy to make my own hummus, I never really wanted to do it.  As soon as they said “food processor”, I was out.  I used to use a big food processor that was loud and had enough parts to almost fill the top rack of my dishwasher every time I used it.  It was a pain to get in and out of the cabinet with all of it’s parts, so it just stayed put.  It seems way easier to just buy our hummus than to take it out and wash it.

That all changed with one bite of this delicious hummus.  I will warn you.  It ruined me on store-bought forever.  Even if I wanted to purchase a quick fix, I just couldn’t enjoy it after tasting the real deal.  Conveniently, I had my Mom’s Magic Bullet at my house for making baby food, so I was able to try the recipe out in it.  Why was I using my Mom’s Magic Bullet to make baby food when I own a food processor?  I wasn’t exaggerating.  I REALLY hate taking it out.

I mentioned a bite changed me.  I tasted this hummus at a party, and I couldn’t walk away from the bowl.  I will admit, I felt a little bit possessive of it, even though I hadn’t brought it.  That’s why they call it “crazy” good.  The Zimmermans, who brought the hummus, were kind enough to share the recipe with me and everyone else who tasted it because none of us were willing to let this recipe go un-had.

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The Zimmerman Family, looking all good.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Zimmerman family.  The only way I can really explain it is, they do it right.  By “it”, I mean life.  Homemade hummus is not even the tip of the iceberg.  I can’t do it justice, but check out the article, Family Lives the Self Sufficient Lifestyle, to have your mind blown.  What I CAN say is that every time I am around them, I leave feeling inspired to do a better job feeding my family.  This isn’t because they tell me I need to do better.  They never do that.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I have even seen one or both of them pretend to really enjoy my “something wrapped in canned dough” finger food offering at the very party where I laid claim to their hummus platter.  I want to do better because their passion and knowledge are inspirational.  They make the impossible seem pretty darn doable.  Not to mention, they do it all while raising two of the most well-rounded tween boys you will ever meet who are just plain fun to be around.

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They’re the kind of people who leave organic sweet potatoes on their neighbor’s porch as a random surprise. WIN!!!

So, maybe my big beautiful garden only exists on my Pinterest board and my “composting” takes place in our garbage bin, but we now eat homemade hummus.  Baby steps, right?  Without further ado…

Baba Gha-Hummus

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

3 tbsp. tahini (or sesame seeds and a little extra EVOO)

1 ½ tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

¾ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. ground red pepper (or less)

2 garlic cloves (Sometimes I just throw in garlic powder; sometimes I roast the garlic for some extra yum!)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 or 2 squirts of lemon juice (optional)

Penny’s directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Pierce eggplant with a fork. Place eggplant on a jelly roll and bake at 375 for 30 min or until tender. Cool eggplant completely; peel. (Although I don’t peel mine.) Cut eggplant into wedges. Combine eggplant, tahini, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

Yields 2 cups.

This recipe is very forgiving and also able to easily adapt. I often add a little lemon juice to bring out the flavors or have to add a little more olive oil if it seems dry. Also, don’t be afraid to play around with the amounts of the spices, just know that the flavors develop the longer it sits. Enjoy!

There you have it.  Below are some photos of what it looks like when I make this hummus.  I have had the recipe for a little over a month and I think I have made it at least 6 times.  I made a couple of batches by roasting red peppers when I was out of eggplant and it was great that way too.  I’m pretty sure you have to change the name if you swap out the eggplant, though.

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These are the ingredients. I use sesame seeds instead of tahini because I can’t find a tahini that isn’t processed in a facility with our allergens. Also, the ground red pepper is missing because I forgot to get it out for the picture. Oops!

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There’s the whole eggplant just roasting away. It doesn’t get any easier than putting it in the oven with no prep at all.

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I grind the sesame seeds to a powder first.

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With the magic bullet, I have to do a few small batches. I try to divide all of the ingredients into semi-equal parts. Here is everything in the first batch of this round.

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The Magic Bullet gets the job done, but it’s not without a good bit of effort.  I divide the ingredients into smaller batches, then I have to shake the blender considerably while it’s working through it to get all of the chunks down to the blade.  I end up adding a bit more oil and lemon juice as I go to thin it enough for the magic bullet to cut it.  This feels like a good time to mention that I’m campaigning hard for a Vitamix from my husband for Christmas.  Oh what I could do with one of those!!!  If you have any compelling arguments, go ahead and email him directly 🙂

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Did I mention this deliciousness is top 8 allergen free, gluten free, and vegan?  BOO-YA!!!!!