Allergy Friendly Chicken and Rice

October is practically here and it feels like fall in Chicago. Fall in the Midwest is breath-taking; the colors on the trees are gorgeous and the chill in the air always makes me want to hole up in my cozy home. The reality is, though, two of my kids play travel soccer, two other kids play park district soccer, two kids take piano lessons, one takes guitar lessons, one is trying out for travel basketball, one is in yearbook club, two others are in chess club, and baby Michael’s lack of speaking means I have to add weekly speech therapy as well. Nevermind my own schedule. But I am still adamant about making a home cooked meal for breakfast and dinner most days of the week.

In order to do that, I have to plan ahead and choose meals that aren’t fussy. I love slow roasting, slow cooking and braising for easy home-cooked deliciousness. This Chicken and Rice dish screams comfort food…but it is incredibly easy and requires very little labor time at all. I love to saute the veggies when the kids get home from school (5 minutes) and then let the oven do the rest of the work. Feel free to use whatever veggies you want in the saute mixture…butternut squash, carrots, celery and zucchini are my favorites. I also use whatever rice I have on hand, Basmati, Brown, etc. This dish also makes an excellent leftover meal the next night.

ALLERGY FRIENDLY CHICKEN AND RICE

1 3-4 lb. package chicken, cut up into legs, quarters, breast, etc.

1 T. olive oil

1 T. dairy free margarine

3 peeled carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1/2 small butternut squash, diced

1 large garlic clove. minced

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 tsp. celery seed

1 3/4 c. rice (I like basmati or brown)

1 1/2 c. organic chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil and dairy free margarine until hot. Add vegetables and garlic, and season generously with salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes and stir in dried thyme and celery seed. Stir in rice and lightly toast for 1-2 minutes. Turn off burner and place chicken pieces on top of rice and vegetables. Place dutch oven uncovered in oven and bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and add chicken broth. Put cover on top of chicken and bake 40-45 additional minutes or until chicken is done.

 

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Oatmeal Creme Pies

As a kid, most of my favorite treats came from Little Debbie. Nutty Bars, Swiss Rolls, Honey Buns and my all-time favorite, the Oatmeal Creme Pie, made its way inside my orange Charlie Brown lunchbox most days of the week. My mom believed in having something sweet every day (God bless her), yet she was also a working mom of five kids and didn’t have the time to slave away in the kitchen baking. So, thanks to the explosion of sweet, processed, convenience treats in the 70′s and 80′s, Little Debbie successfully fulfilled my sweet tooth.

Over the years, I replaced my commercially processed sugar buzz with the homemade kind. But I never forgot how much I loved those treats. In fact, when I was suffering severe morning sickness (OK, when haven’t I had it?:) with my third son Matthew, eating three Oatmeal Creme Pies every day saved me from passing out. One for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner. No joke. I felt comforted and blissfully happy in those seven seconds it took to eat the cookie.

Recently at the grocery store, I passed by Little Debbie and suddenly realized that John HAS to know what an amazing little treat the Oatmeal Creme Pie is. But since I am a harsh critic of anything that resembles a “poser”, I hesitated to try to a similar version that was Dairy, Egg and Nut Free. But I got over it, and figured I’d keep trying until it was perfect.

This version is perfect, in fact, I can honestly say I love it even more than the Little Debbie version, and that is saying a lot. I don’t like to knock Little Debbie, ever. She’s a childhood friend.

Have fun making this with your kids and please be sure to wrap each individual pie in a little bit of saran wrap to keep it fresh. Put the pies in your kiddos’ lunchbox and start making your own “Little Debbie” memories.

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE OATMEAL CREME PIES

FOR THE COOKIES:

1 1/2 sticks dairy free margarine

1 3/4 c. light brown sugar

1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. good quality vanilla extract

2 T. water

2 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 c. quick-cooking oats

FOR THE CREME FILLING:

4 c. confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp. cream of tartar

2 1/2 T. good quality vanilla extract

5 T. soy or rice milk

1/2 c. dairy free shortening

Make the cookies:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dairy free margarine, brown sugar, applesauce, vanilla and water until mixed well. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to the margarine mixture and mix well. Stir in the oats with a rubber spatula.

Use mini cookie scooper to divide dough evenly onto parchment paper. Bake 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly on parchment sheets.

While cookies are baking, make the filling:

Combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well using a rubber spatula.

When the cookies are cooled, spread a generous amount (I love the creme part to seep through the edges for the ultimate flavor) on the flat side of one cookie, then top with another similar sized cookie. Wrap each “pie” in saran wrap to keep fresh.