Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Shortbread Cookies

shortbreadcookies.resizedNow that Thanksgiving is over I can turn my attention and time to one of my favorite things; Holiday Cookies. This year I am planning on trying even more new cookie recipes since I have a little more time than I had last holiday season (I had a looming book deadline and was baking nonstop). I have some new favorite recipes to share, and some are under development. It’s my hope that you’ll find something delicious and special to make with your children, or to give to family and co workers. And shhhhh…..don’t bother telling them it’s dairy, egg and nut free because I promise they won’t know the difference.

The best cookies to give as gifts for the holidays are ones that hold up in its packaging and freeze well. The Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Shortbread Cookie fits the bill exactly. If you were ever a fan of Walkers Shortbread you’ll love these cookies. They taste buttery and have the perfect crumbly texture. The cookies can be shaped in a variety of ways; round circles, oblong biscuit “fingers” or even baked in a round pan and cut into segments. For the holidays I especially like to use star cookie cutter and then drizzle with dairy free chocolate icing. My kids love the cookie with or without the drizzled chocolate. Or perhaps you could bake the cut out shortbread, cool slightly and dip half the shape into the melted chocolate. Whatever way you choose it is the perfect cookie to make with your children.

Happy Baking everyone!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE SHORTBREAD COOKIES (WITH DRIZZLED DAIRY FREE CHOCOLATE GLAZE)

1 c. dairy free margarine (I use Fleischman’s Unsalted)

3/4 c. granulated sugar

2 1/2 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 recipe Dairy Free Chocolate Glaze

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the dairy free margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together and is fully incorporated. Roll out dough onto a lightly floured board to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a biscuit cutter or other shapes. Place on baking sheet and bake 20-22 minutes or just until very lightly golden on top and bottom of cookie. The cookies shouldn’t have any brown color to it.

Once cooled drizzle melted dairy free chocolate or dip the shapes into the melted chocolate.

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE CHOCOLATE GLAZE

2/3 c. dairy free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life or Divvies)

1/4 c. dairy free free margarine

1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup

Fill a small saucepan with about 1/2 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Place a glass Pyrex bowl over the simmering water (being sure not to touch the water) and add chocolate chips, margarine and corn syrup. Heat until melted, stirring constantly. Cool slightly and use in Shortbread Cookie Recipe.

The Perfect Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Thanksgiving Pie: Apple Crumb Pie

applecrumbpie 003.resizedI happen to live near a Baker’s Square, and every time I drive by I think of my days in high school when I use to go there with my mom and even my girlfriends. My favorite pies were French Silk, Dutch Apple and Strawberry Rhubarb, and I always begged my mom to order these pies around Thanksgiving from my beloved Baker’s Square.

I still hang out with some of these same girlfriends, and recently we were out to lunch. One of my favorite things about these friends is that they ALWAYS order dessert with me, no matter how full everyone is. I love that about them. Because for me, a meal has to include something sweet at the end. These girls know how much I love an apple dessert, so they always humor me and let me order an apple crostata, crisp, etc. with a side of vanilla ice cream. Of course we order a few other desserts to sample as well!

This apple pie is essentially one of those crostata/crisp desserts I always seem to order when dining out. It combines all the things I love; cinnamon scented apples, flaky crust and a crunchy brown sugar topping. But what I love most about this pie is that it is perfect for any holiday table, especially Thanksgiving. Serve it alongside my dairy free pumpkin pie, and you’ve got dessert covered for Turkey Day.

DAIRY AND NUT FREE APPLE CRUMB PIE

Yield: 1 9 inch pie

1/2 recipe Easy Pie Dough (follows) or 1 disk refrigerated pie dough (Pillsbury)

Pie Filling:

6 medium apples (I like a combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and sliced

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 T. unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

1 T. fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp. salt

Crumb Topping

1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 c. quick cooking oats

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1/3 c. brown sugar

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 c. dairy free margarine, cut into small dice (I use Fleischman’s Unsalted)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line pie plate with rolled out pie dough. Crimp edges and put aside.

In a large bowl, combine apples, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt until thoroughly combined. Pour filling into prepared pie dish.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in small diced dairy free margarine with a pastry blender (or your fingers) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Evenly scatter crumb topping over pie filling. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and loosly cover pie with foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until juices are bubbling.

Remove pie from oven and cool completely on wire rack.

Easy Pie Dough

Yield: Makes enough dough for a double-crust 9-inch pie

 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup dairy-free shortening (I like Crisco, plain), chilled and cut into small pieces

5–7 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add small pieces of shortening, and pulse a few times until mixture resembles small crumbs. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to flour mixture, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Transfer mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Use wrap to pull sides of dough together to form a rounded disk. Chill at least 30 minutes before using.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Apple Spice Coffee Cake

applescoffecake 001.resizedI’ve had apples on my mind a lot lately. There are so many varieties on sale at the market these days, and as much as I’d love to make apple pie and apple crisp every day (my two favorite apple desserts) I wanted to experiment and make something new. So I took another one of my favorite treats, the coffee cake, and created the Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Apple Spice Coffee Cake. It has quickly become one of my family’s favorite cakes. I especially love the fact it is easy to make and bakes in about 35 minutes.

With Thanksgiving a little over a week away,  I highly recommend serving this coffee cake at brunch or as a mid morning snack as everyone is waiting around the kitchen for the big Turkey Dinner. But I also love the cake served slightly warmed with a side of soy ice cream for a simple dessert after supper. My daughter in particular loves to snack on this yummy cake when she gets home from basketball practice. Whenever you decide to serve it, I can guarantee everyone will love it.

Happy Baking and enjoy!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE APPLE SPICE COFFEE CAKE

Yield: 1 13 x 9 cake

1/2 c. dairy free shortening

1 c. granulated sugar

2 T. water

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. dairy free sour cream

2 c. peeled, grated apple ( I like to use Granny Smith)

TOPPING

1/2 c. oats

1/2 c. light brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 T. dairy free margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 x 9 glass Pyrex baking dish generously with dairy free baking spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add water, vanilla  and dairy free sour cream, and combine well. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt with a wire whisk. Add dry mixture to shortening mixture and mix on until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in grated apple. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinke topping evenly over coffee cake and bake 35-40 minutes (depending on how hot your oven is, check after 35 minutes) or until cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.

Serve alone or slightly warmed with soy ice cream.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Gingerbread Cake

gingerbread 002.resizedThere’s a short list that is always associated with holiday desserts; pumpkin pie, apple pie, cranberry tarts and gingerbread cake. I love the complexity of a Gingerbread Cake; sweet and spicy with a tender crumb. If you love the taste of ginger, Gingerbread Cake is the way to go. It’s the perfect holiday cake to bring to Thanksgiving dinner parties and relatives’ houses as it travels well. In fact, molasses naturally preserves the flavor and texture of the cake, keeping it moist for days.

Gingerbread Cake is often served with dollops of fresh whipped cream, but really, it doesn’t need all that extra dairy anyway. I like this particular cake with a generous dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but my kids love it with soy ice cream. This is also another one of those recipes that literally takes five minutes to make. Usually by the time my oven is preheated, the cake is ready to go into the oven. I love fast and easy recipes that can be made on a whim for your family as a delicious treat after dinner, or given to friends, family and teachers over the holidays. Whomever you decide to make it for, I promise it will go on your Holiday Dessert short list as well.

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE GINGERBREAD CAKE

Yield: 1 8-inch cake

1/2 c. dairy free shortening (I like to use Crisco)

1/3 c. granulated sugar

3/4 c. molasses

3/4 c. plus 1 T. hot water

2 1/3 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspooon ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Confectioner’s Sugar for Dusting

Soy ice cream, for serving

In the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening, sugar, molasses and hot water. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture, and beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes, scraping the bowl occassionally.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8 inch glass baking dish with dairy free baking spray. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until an inserted cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely in pan, and serve dusted with confectioner’s sugar and with soy ice cream.

A visit to a sweets shop and an update on the lunch line woes…

Last week I wrote about my son not being able to order an item on the lunch menu because a new brand was offered. As many of you already know, I took issue with this not only because it was one of the few items my son could eat, but because I was more concerned about inclusion in the lunchroom for our food allergic kids. I took the matter to the higher powers in our school district and was pleasantly surprised.

The head cafeteria administrator explained to me that the new product was ordered because it had zero trans fat, an issue that was very important to our school district when they were creating the lunch menu this year. Most of the items served had to fit this requirement. Unfortunetly, the nuggets John ordered safely last year had trans fat in them.

We talked at length about how to best address the needs of those on special diets as well as meet the needs of every student in the school. Every item ordered needs to fall within the nutritional guidelines of zero trans fat and make economical sense. We also discussed the issue of why soy milk can’ t be introduced, especially for children who have dairy allergies, are lactose intolerant or are vegan. The head cafeteria admisinstrator was initially told she couldn’t get soy milk because her vendor couldn’t stock it, but it turns out they can. They just have to order smaller quantities and will sell the 8 oz. cartons of soy milk at $1 each. It will be a pilot program and the head cafeteria administrator will order a small case to start. Hopefully it will go well; I’ll keep you posted.

Finally, I offered to to come in to meet the head cafeteria administrator to gain a better understanding of the whole ordering process. The woman who oversees all this was extrememly kind and receptive to all my concerns and readily accepted and understood the needs of  FA kids in the lunchroom. She really got it, and I was so grateful for her support, understanding and “can do” attittude. It is in moments like this that I feel very lucky to live in a school district that is so willing to listen to change. She was the first to say when asked about piloting the soy milk introduction, “why not” and “let’s give it a try”. How lucky is that?

There’s one more thing I had to share because it seemed so funny. Since the weather was warm this weekend we splurged and took the kids out for a treat. We took along a bag of Starburst for John (his favorite) and let the three other children choose a treat at a local sweets shop. Chloe, Matthew and David each ordered a cupcake and my husband ordered a chocolate chip cookie. Every treat tasted awful, so awful that no one finished anything. This is unheard of in my house…throwing out a cupcake? Horrors! Seriously though, it was that bad. And these treats were made with full butter and eggs. My son John laughed at his sister and brothers, and told them, ” you guys should know mom’s treats are better!” It was a good reminder for all of us that we’re not really missing much in the world of bakeries and sweets shops! Bake your own treats…they are so much better. :)

Happy Baking!

A successful Halloween and lunch line woes…

johnhalloween.resizedWith Halloween over and out, I am happy to report we had another successful candy-filled holiday. The parties at school were a smashing success and all the children devoured the treats from my book. It was especially nice to see many of the children outwardly comment how delicious the cookies were. I could tell it made John feel included and proud. In fact, I think the kids preferred the homemade treats vs. the store bought ones. No matter whose recipe it is, I think homemade is always superior(unless you count my very first cookie creations years ago!).

So while Halloween at school was a success, I recently ran into an issue at my son’s cafeteria that I felt had to be addressed. I’ve written in the past about how happy I’ve been with our cafeteria’s food allergy policy, and how I am especially grateful for our head chef lady. It is because of her willingness to make changes and be diligent about food safety that John has been able to order from the lunch line several times. I NEVER thought this would be possible due to the extent of his allergies. However, the head chef lady prepares food separately in her kitchen for John, orders food from the vendor that has minimal allergens in it, and makes a lot of her food from scratch (as opposed to the overly processed, frozen junk most food vendors carry).

The head chef lady has even offered to stock plain popsicles that John can have on Friday’s Treat Day (where all the kids have the opportunity to buy cookies and ice cream for dessert). She also tried get soy milk on the menu so the kids with dairy allergies and vegan diets could enjoy a nutritional drink too instead of having to order juice. We ran into our first stumbling block with that initiative and that request was denied by the school district for reasons that still baffle me.

Which brings me to an issue that came up yesterday in John’s lunchroom. Last year, I had a list of menu items I knew John could safely eat from his cafeteria. This year, I have had to start all over again, because many of the “safe” products that John has previously enjoyed have been switched out for different brand names. Case in point: Chicken Tenders was on the menu and John was so excited to order this item again, as he had ordered them last year. I then did what I have always done; told John sure, but we have to go talk to the chef lady to double check the boxes and ingredients. I stopped in after dropping John off to his class, went to the freezer to look at the packaging and sure enough, the new chicken tenders had milk in it. I promptly informed the chef lady of this, who profusely apologized and had no idea. It wasn’t her fault; the head cafeteria administrator did the ordering and has changed products. Even though the nutritional value is the same, this person switched brand names for no apparent reason and with no regard for the added allergens in the product.

This is a great example of why we always have to check ingredients EVERY SINGLE TIME our children eat in the lunchroom. Take nothing for granted, because anything can change. What I am annoyed about is that John, and other kids with allergies were starting to enjoy the same freedom of walking through a lunch line that the other kids did. Even the head chef lady acknowledged that she saw John light up with a smile every time he could walk with a tray like his friends did.

I contacted the higher powers at our school about this and asked them to give the purchasing power back to the individual chefs at each of our school district’s cafeterias. They are the ones in constant contact with food allergy parents, and more closely monitor labels than a head administrator. I’ll keep you posted on the outcome.

Dairy and Egg and Nut Free Holiday Cranberry Pie

_RKP2879It’s officially November 1st, and in my book, time to break out all the best holiday recipes. Thanksgiving will be here in just a few short weeks, and I’m already thinking of potential Turkey Day desserts. Look in any food magazine that’s out right now and you’ll see plenty of recipes for Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Tarts, Pumpkin Cheesecakes and even lots of other fall recipes including apple pie. I’ve done them all, but the one pie that really surprised me when I made it last year was the Holiday Cranberry Pie.

This pie is superb in several ways; it’s delicious and not too sweet, colorful and festive. Raisins are a wonderful addition to the cranberries and lend just the right balance of sweet to the tart of the cranberry. You could make my Easy Pie Dough or simply purchase a Pillsbury Pie Crust. After baking the pie be sure to cool it completely before serving, otherwise it might fall apart on you. As with most pies, I love mine served slightly warmed with a generous dollop of Vanilla Soy Ice Cream.

Enjoy and happy baking!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE HOLIDAY CRANBERRY PIE

Yield: 6 servings

1 recipe Easy Pie Dough (see below) or Pillsbury Premade Pie Crust

1 c. water

1 T. cornstarch

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. raisins

2 c. fresh cranberries

2 tsp. grated orange zest

Prepare the Easy Pie Dough as directed and divide the dough in half. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the water and cornstarch until it boils and the cornstarch dissolves. Remove from heat, and add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature, and set aside.

Rinse the raisins in cold water to prevent sticking. Place raisins and cranberries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them a few times, just enough to roughtly chop them. Add the raisins, cranberries and orange zest to the cornstarch-sugar mixture and mix well.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9-inch glass pie plate with the first rolled out disk of pie dough. Pour the fruit mixture on top of the dough, and top it with the second rolled-out disk of dough. Crimp the edgest and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees adn bake for 25-30 more minutes, or until lightly browned and the fruit juices are bubbling. Cool completely.

Easy Pie Dough

2 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 c. dairy free shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces (I use Crisco)

5-7 T. ice water

Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the shortening, and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Add ice water, 1 T. at a time to the flour mixture, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Transfer the mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to pull the sides of hte dough together, forming a rounded disk. Chill at least 30 minutes before using.