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.

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

Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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Ingredients:

1 large (or 2 small) roasted red peppers*

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained

3 tbsp. sesame seeds (ground or whole)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

2-3 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cumin

3/4 tsp. paprika

3/4 tsp. ground coriander

3/4 tsp. onion powder

2 dashes of cayenne pepper

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Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  I use the tamber to move all ingredients toward the blade while pureeing with the Vitamix.  If you need to, stop and stir during processing to make sure everything gets incorporated and your hummus is smooth.

Mmmmmmmmmmm-licious

I mixed my spice blend and just tossed it in when I was ready to make the hummus.  I like to do little things in advance to make life easier when the littles are begging for lunch.  Also, the lemon pictured was a dry as it looks.  I supplemented the juice from it with some bottled lemon juice from the fridge.

*You can roast your own red peppers or buy them already roasted.  These that I used are from Costco and the peppers are whole.  I have also roasted my own and it works well.  Just cut your pepper in half and remove seeds.  Place halves with the opening face down and place under the broiler on low.  Keep a close eye on them so you don’t burn them.  When they start to char, flip them over.  When the underside starts turning brown, remove the pepper halves and cover them in foil.  Let them cool for about 15 minutes.  The foil will keep moisture in so they will continue to steam and soften.  They will be ready to use when cooled.

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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Recipe: Black Bean Hummus

All I can say is, after eating this hummus, you will never again be satisfied by store bought.  You have been warned.

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Black Bean Hummus

Ingredients:

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained

1 can black beans, drained

3 tbsp. sesame seeds

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. salt

2-3 cloves garlic or 1 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. coriander

3/4 tsp. onion powder

2 dashes cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor.  You can grind the sesame seeds first in the food processor, or just leave them whole.  I do it both ways and I am not bothered by whole seeds, so choose your preference.  Blend to a smooth texture.  With the Vitamix, I use the tamper to move everything down toward the blades, but if you need to stop your food processor and stir it around for this purpose, do what you need to do to get it all smooth.

That’s it.  It’s too easy not to try.  Play around with the spices and customize it to your own tastes.  Don’t be afraid to add extra flavors or reduce others.  It can be really fun to experiment with the flavors.

A word to the wise…If you’re trying to get a photo of this stuff, you had better work quickly.  I turned my back for a split second and little sister had already swooped in.

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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!!!!!

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.

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.