An Attempt At Coconut Milk Yogurt

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Last week I found this yogurt maker on Amazon for $24.99.

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There’s all kinds of ways to make your own yogurt at home, you don’t necessarily have to have a yogurt maker. You can use your oven light or a cooler with a heating pad. But both of those methods didn’t appeal to me and when I realized I could purchase a yogurt maker for such an inexpensive price, I figured, why not.

Good, dairy free grocery store yogurt is difficult to come by. There are do-able brands like the So Delicious Greek Style Yogurt made with coconut milk and the Amande brand made with almond milk. While both of those are tasty, neither one of them have a real yogurt consistency and they are loaded with refined sugar and additives.

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It’s definitely worth it to make your own organic yogurt where you control the sugar and additive content. Making yogurt out of non-dairy milks can be a challenge though. I did the research and there are several methods and all kinds of advice. I wanted it to be as pure as possible so I just added the coconut milk, medicinal honey, and one and a half very high quality probiotic capsules. I take that probiotic daily, so it was convenient to use. If you need to purchase a probiotic for yogurt making (I think that’s the easiest way) make sure you do your research and choose high quality.

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The milk needs bacteria to ferment and the bacteria needs sugar to eat and grow.

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 I read the simple directions to figure out the quantity of milk I needed, did some research on the internet to try to figure out a good balance between honey and probiotics and I was off to a good start.

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You just mix all the ingredients together, pour them in the glass jars (after washing them of course), put the lid on, turn the machine on, and let it sit for 8-12 hours. I let mine sit for 12.

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The first thing I noticed after the 12 hours was that the cream had separated to the top.

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I could tell that even if I shook it that the cream on top wasn’t thick enough to compensate for all of the liquid on bottom.

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So I did a bit more research on “coconut milk separation” and decided to add a bit of gelatin, which I probably should have added at the beginning of the process. Not knowing how much was too much, I just added a little pinch to each jar, gave it a very good shake (1 minute each to dissolve the gelatin), and placed them in the fridge overnight.

By the way, gelatin is excellent for the gut, joints, hair, and nails.

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Looked promising when I put them in the fridge…

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By mid day the next day they had solidified more than the night before, but still not enough to become yogurt. I shook them again a few times and left them for one more day.

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A little improvement but not much. I should have been more generous with the gelatin, but was afraid it would end up too gelantinous.

But all was not lost!

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I ended up with a batch of fabulous fermented coconut milk to drink and use in smoothies. Whether it’s solidified in the form of yogurt or not, it’s still excellent for your health. We made vegetable fruit smoothies with some of the fermented milk this morning and they were delicious.

This weekend I’ll try a different brand of organic coconut milk and also increase the gelatin amount.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Wholesome & Happy

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I recently discovered that many of the beauty products I’ve been using have gluten. It started with my face lotion that was making my eyes puffy, my nose itch like crazy, and my face feel rashy. I sat down at my computer and researched every ingredient. Whoops…gluten. Then I went to my body lotion, lip balm, hair spray, body soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste…and you guessed it, almost every single one of them had gluten. 

You can find all kinds of recipes on Pinterest for making your own body care products. Once you do a little research and get the basic idea, you can get creative using ingredients that appeal to you. You can order all of the ingredients I used on Amazon.com. I purchased all of the containers online from specialtybottle.com. I found they had the best variety and the best pricing.

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On Day 1 I started with a couple of easier projects so I could experiment with solid and liquid oils and essential oils. Turns out, it’s incredibly easyAnd SO much fun to create your own textures and scents.

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This mixture set up very quickly! As soon as it hits a cooler object it starts to set up.

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I made these the consistency of chap stick by just allowing them to cool in the tins. If you want a fluffier, kind of balmy or creamy texture, allow the oils to cool and set up in a mixing bowl, then whip with the whisk attachment on your mixer. Then just spoon it into the tins and smooth.

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~Luscious Lemon Lip Balm~

6 ounces of organic virgin coconut oil, 1 teaspoon pure almond oil, 2 ounces of pure beeswax, 1 Tablespoon of raw wild honey, 1/4 teaspoon of lemon essential oil. Melt the coconut oil, and beeswax in a double boiler slowly until completely melted. Add the almond oil and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Add the honey and essential oil and stir.

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~ Dreamy Sleep Salve ~

1 Cup of organic virgin coconut oil, 1 Cup of organic olive oil, 4 Tablespoons of pure beeswax, 1/2 teaspoon of pure almond oil. Melt the coconut oil and beeswax in a double boiler slowly until completely melted. Add the olive oil and almond oil and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add 40 drops of cinnamon bark essential oil,  60 drops of ginger essential oil, 80 drops of peppermint essential oil, 80 drops of lemon essential oil, and 80 drops of grapefruit essential oil and stir.

The Dreamy Sleep Salve recipe was courtesy of onegoodthingbyjillee.com. I used almond oil instead of vitamin E oil because vitamin E oil is typically derived from wheat germ which means it’s not gluten-free. And I tweaked the amounts on the oils just slightly.

Day 2 I moved on to a more involved experiment. But still SO easy!

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Piping it into your jars of choice is as easy as using a zipper bag and cutting a small opening in one of the corners. I would avoid using your good piping bags.

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You won’t believe how your skin feels after a night of being pampered with this cream.

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~ Calming Chamomile Night Cream ~

8 ounces of organic raw unrefined shea butter, 8 ounces of virgin organic coconut oil, 2 Tablespoons of beeswax, 4 ounces of pure jojoba oil, 4 ounces of organic virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoons of raw wild honey, and two tea bags with chamomile flowers, blackberry leaves, lemongrass, rose petals, spearmint leaves, lemon balm leaf, hibiscus flowers, lavender flowers, marigold flowers. You can purchase them already together or do your own. Mine are the Tazo Calm Chamomile tea bags. Add the tea bags to a double broiler and melt the shea butter, beeswax, and coconut oil slowly. Add the jojoba oil and olive oil and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags. Add the honey and pour into a mixing bowl. Allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour. Place mixing bowl on stand mixer with whisk attachment and whisk until light and fluffy. This process will take some time. You will need to scrape down the sides and bottoms frequently until all is incorporated and smooth.

On Day 3 I decided to try my hand at making shower fizzies. When I have a migraine or I’m not feeling well, I love to shake a few drops of eucalyptus globulus, peppermint, or lemon essential oils onto the shower floor. If you haven’t tried it, DO! It helps a headache and nausea tremendously. The one downside is it washes away so quickly. A shower fizzie drenched in essential oils washes away slowly, allowing you to linger.

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Scoop them into muffin papers (I found that the tinfoil lined ones worked better) and allow them to completely dry.

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~ Sinus & Migraine Shower Bombs ~

1 1/2 large boxes of baking soda, 3 Tablespoons of potato starch, about 1 1/2 cups of warm water, 3 Tablespoons eucalyptus globulus essential oil, plus more for the tops after they dry. Add the baking soda and potato starch to a large bowl and whisk. Slowly add the water, mixing until you have a thick slurry, but not too thick and not too wet. Add the essential oil and spoon into muffin tins lined with muffin papers. Allow to dry completely, about 24 hours. Once they are dry and you’re ready to package them, put a few more drops of essential oil on the top of each one.

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~ Rise & Shine Shower Bombette! ~

1 1/2 large boxes of baking soda, 3 Tablespoons of potato starch, about 1 1/2 cups of warm water, 2 1/2 Tablespoons of Lemon essential oil,  and 60 drops of peppermint essential oil, plus more for the tops after they dry. Add the baking soda and potato starch to a large bowl and whisk. Slowly add the water, mixing until you have a thick slurry, but not too thick and not too wet. Add the essential oil and spoon into muffin tins lined with muffin papers (I used mini muffin papers for the Rise & Shine and regular for the Migraine).  Allow to dry completely, about 24 hours. Once they are dry and you’re ready to package them, put a few more drops of essential oil on the top of each one.

So by the end of day 3 I was feeling pretty darn proud of my creations. It’s quite addictive! Not only that but it’s fun and relaxing and no too labor intensive.

Day 4 brought a luxurious body lotion with five different types of butters and oils and three kinds of essential oils.

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~ Body Quench Luxurious Body Lotion ~ 

1/2 batch of my body butter without essential oils, 6.5 ounces of pure cocoa butter, 16 ounces of pure almond oil, 3 ounces of organic virgin coconut oil, 1 Tablespoon of spring water, 12 drops of lavender essential oil, 25 drops of peppermint essential oil, 20 drops of lemon essential oil. Make the 1/2 batch of body butter first. After it’s been whipped in the mixer, add the cocoa butter, and coconut oil (solid). Whip with the whisk attachment until thoroughly combined. This will take a while, you’ll need to scrape down the sides and bottom frequently until it is fully incorporated. With the mixer running on medium to medium high, slowly drizzle the almond oil into the whipped mixture about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing it to mix in thoroughly and fluff before adding the next 1/4 cup. Do this until all of the almond oil has been added. Whip on medium high scraping down the sides for 5 minutes. Slowly drizzle the water in a little at a time, whipping in between additions. Once all of the water has been incorporated, whip on medium high for 10 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom about every 2 minutes. 

And lastly, Day 5 was completed with a scrub. This scent reminds me of the Seattle Market Spice Tea. Heavenly!

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~ Sugar & Spice Hand and Elbow Scrub ~ 

12 Cups of raw turbinado sugar, 2 1/2 Cups of pure jojoba oil, 40 drops of grapefruit essential oil, 40 drops of cinnamon bark essential oil, 20 drops of lemon essential oil. Measure the sugar into a large bowl and add the oil. Stir until combined. Add the essential oils and stir. Scoop into wide mouth containers.

The Battle With Inflammation

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My morning anti-inflammatory elixir. Organic green tea and Manuka honey.

My morning anti-inflammatory elixir. Organic green tea and Manuka honey.

Not all inflammation is a bad thing. The inflammation response is meant to heal and protect our bodies from invaders like bacteria, viruses, cancer, etc. However, when you have food allergies your inflammation mechanism sees the allergen foods you’re eating as invaders of your system. If you aren’t aware of your food allergies and continue to eat foods that your body sees as the enemy, then inflammation in your body goes haywire leaving you with a lot of uncomfortable symptoms that can also eventually lead to numerous auto-immune diseases and many other dangerous, unwanted issues.

Manuka Honey from New Zealand. Golden & delicious!

Manuka Honey from New Zealand. Golden & delicious!

Up until about 8 weeks ago I had most of my inflammation issues under control. I of course, no longer eat dairy and gluten which helps immensely. I also take fish oil, vitamin D3, drink a lot of water, try to get regular exercise, and eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible. Unfortunately, even when we feel like we are working really hard at doing all of the right things, sometimes something gets thrown into the mix and gets our bodies off kilter.

A body that has been inflammation hyper for so many years is sometimes easily triggered when something foreign is thrown into the mix. So while I patiently (ha) wait for some test results and someone more educated than I to figure out what the heck has thrown my body off kilter, I’ve been researching Manuka Honey and thought I would give it a try. Everything I’ve read touts its amazing healing abilities as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-wounds, anti-gut issues, and anti-joint inflammation. And the best thing I like about it right now is that it’s not a steroid. I’m trying to hold off any major drug taking until we figure out what exactly is causing all of my symptoms.

I ordered the Manuka Honey on Amazon, it’s 8.8 oz and a bit pricey, but you only need a little each day. I’ve read that you can just eat it right off the spoon, mix it in a glass of water with a little apple cider vinegar, or in a cup of luke warm (not HOT!) tea. Drinking a glass of vinegar and honey first thing in the morning didn’t appeal to me, so I went with organic decaffeinated green tea (also excellent for inflammation) with about a teaspoon and a half of the honey. I’ll give it a week or so and check back in and let you know what I think.

If you’d like to learn more about Manuka Honey, Inflammation, and Anti-Inflammatory Foods, you can click on the links below:

Inflammation, The Silent Killer

How Inflammation Affects Every Aspect of Your Health

The Hidden Dangers of Inflammation

Manuka Honey for Inflammation

Manuka Research

Understanding the Chemistry of Manuka

The Benefits of Manuka Honey

7 Foods That Fight Inflammation

Eat To Beat Inflammation

How To Be Happy Without Gluten & Dairy

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It’s ALL about attitude and courage.

We need to be the positive voice in a sea of negative thoughts running through our own heads.

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We’re stressed because we feel terrible all the time and then we’re happy because we’ve figured out why we feel terrible and then…we’re stressed again because living allergen free requires a bit of research, time, planning, and courage.

And then there’s the other people who seem to be intent on being negative about our new way of living. Most people will be happy for us, but for some unknown reason, some people actually get very angry and defensive when we try to change our life. That’s where the courage comes in.

 I hate bringing attention to myself at a restaurant or when we’re invited to someone’s house for dinner. In fact, I still dread the dinner invite. But when it comes down to me making a choice between feeling horrible for the next week because I didn’t speak up, or kindly telling someone that I have food allergies, I just have to grin and bear it.

I’m excited to be able to share as many of my favorite gluten-free and dairy-free foods with you as I can.  I prefer home-made over store purchased but let’s be realistic. Most of us lead very busy lives and while we love to cook from scratch for our families, reality dictates that there will be times when we are going to need quick snacks, easy meals, and items to make life run smoother along the way.

I’ve spent the last few weeks creating a list for you that is going to help you get ahead of the game. Having as many of these items on hand as you can, will make your food life immensely easier and more enjoyable. We are all aware that fruit, vegetables, and meat are gluten-free and dairy free. So my list contains the “other” items that go into making life, especially if your new to an allergen free existence, much easier.

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Below, you’ll find a HUGE list of all kinds of foodie love from me to you.

Gluten Free Flours

Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour

Ingredients:  garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, whole grain sweet white sorghum flour, fava bean flour

(I prefer to use this flour for sweet breads such as banana bread. The beans definitely come across but they seem to meld well with sweet breads.)

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Silvana Nardone’s Gluten Free Flour Blend 

If you don’t have her cookbook, Cooking For Isaiah, you need it! Especially for the sweets. Her flour isn’t very nutritious, but when we’re wanting sweets, we rarely focus on that anyway!

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Makes About 4 pounds

6 cups (870 grams) white rice flour
3 cups (375 grams) tapioca flour
1½ cups (246 grams) potato starch
2 tablespoons (17 grams) xanthan gum
1 tablespoon (10 grams) salt

Gluten Free Mama’s Almond Blend Flour

This is my #1 favorite gluten-free flour for converting gluten recipes. It works very well for pie crust, cookies, and even pastries.

Ingredients:  white rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, almond meal flour, sweet rice flour

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No Gluten No Problem (Artisan Gluten Free Flour Blend)

This cookbook is also fantastic! I haven’t made one recipe out of it that I didn’t love. This flour mix can also be used to convert gluten recipes. They also list substitutions for the flours they use.

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Single Batch (about 3 cups)

1 1/4 cups (156g) brown rice flour
3/4 cup (88g) sorghum flour
2/3 cup (90g) cornstarch
1/4 cup (37g) potato starch
1 tbsp + 1 tsp (14g) potato flour
1 tsp (3g) xanthan gum

Quadruple Batch (about 12 cups)

5 cups (625g) brown rice flour
3 cups (350g) sorghum flour
2 2/3 (360g) cups cornstarch
1 cup (148g) potato starch
1/3 cup (57g) potato flour
1 tbsp + 1 tsp (14g) xanthan gum

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is typically necessary for gluten-free baking. It acts as a “gluten” binding agent. Xanthan gum is derived from corn, wheat, or soy. If you click on the link you can learn more about it and decide if it’s right for you.

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Bread &  Pizza Crust Mixes

Gluten Free Pantry French Bread Mix

I cannot say enough about this bread mix. I’ve used it hundreds of times. Works great for french bread, bruschetta, croutons, stuffing…

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Hodgson Mills Pizza Crust

Trust me when I tell you that I have tried too many gluten-free pizza recipes to count. I’ve tried many home-made recipes, boxed recipes, frozen crusts, and Hodgson Mill is the absolute best and probably the closest you’ll ever get to real pizza crust. I can’t find it here in NH, so I order online by the case.

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 Cake and Brownie Mixes

Betty Crocker’s gluten-free cake mix makes a good cupcake. There are many gluten-free cake recipes online and on Pinterest that you can make from scratch, but this is fantastic in a pinch. I’ve used both the yellow and the devil’s food numerous times with great results. However, I do not care for their gluten-free Bisquick product.

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Simply Organic Carrot Cake Mix is very good. You can go here for my carrot cake cupcakes. I’ve made it into cupcakes and snack cake and both ways are very tasty. You can add raisins, nuts, coconut, chocolate, whatever you like.

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Love, love, love, Namaste’s brownie mix. Rich, decadent, and fabulously delicious. You won’t be disappointed. I’ve added all kinds of things to this over the years and it stands up well to experimentation.

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Dairy Free Chocolate

Trader Joe’s 70% Dark Belgian Chocolate

It’s vegan and OH SO amazing.

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Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Yep, it’s dairy free!

Dairy free and great for baking. I’ve used this for hot chocolate, cookies, candy…it’s great! Also WAY less expensive than vegan chocolate chips.

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Thickeners For Gravy, Chicken & Dumplings, Soup, Sauces

I prefer to use potato starch over tapioca starch. Tapioca has the tendency to make things somewhat gelatinous. You can also use cornstarch. But that can get gelatinous as well and if I eat too many corn products it gives me gluten symptoms.

Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch

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Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

This also works fantastic as a thickener. It also makes a very nice roux.

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Organic Broth

Pacific has chicken, beef, and vegetable broth. This is the only broth I use unless I have made my own from scratch. I love that it doesn’t have to be refrigerated until it’s opened and I stock up on them when they are on sale.

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Dairy Free Butter

Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread (soy free) is hands down the best dairy free butter.Use it just as you would regular butter for toppings, baking, and cooking. When baking with it, I add just a touch of extra salt to the recipe.

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Gluten Free Pasta 

Tinkyada Gluten Free Pasta

This is my pasta of choice. They have everything from spaghetti to lasagna noodles. Follow the directions on the back of the package and it will turn out perfectly.

There’s actually a large choice on the market when it comes to gluten-free pasta…brown rice, cornquinoabuckwheatblack bean, give them all a try and see which is your favorite.

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I just tried this penne pasta from Jovial the other night. It was very good! Perfect texture and a very good flavor.

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Breakfast Cereal

I rarely eat it, but my husband is a complete cereal addict so it’s a must in our house.

Envirokidz Gluten Free Cereals 

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Chex Gluten Free Cereals

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Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oatmeal

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Enjoy Life Crunchy Flax

Perfect plain with almond milk and also adds a nice crunch on top of dairy free yogurt.

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Dairy Free Milk

Pacific Organic Almond Milk – Unsweetened

This is my favorite dairy free milk for everyday use. But there are many choices out there. Ricehempsoyoat (make sure it’s made from GF oats), hazelnutcoconut.

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Canned coconut milk is fantastic for baking, making home-made ice cream and for making coconut whipped cream.

Dairy Free Yogurt

So Delicious Greek Style Coconut Milk Yogurt

This is the absolute best dairy free yogurt I have ever tasted. It’s thick and creamy, a bit tart…just like the real thing!

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Amande Almond Milk Yogurt

Delicious, thick and creamy, with a very nice “almondy” flavor.

There are also soy, rice, and goat’s milk yogurts available. However, the coconut and almond yogurts are leaps and bounds above in texture and flavor.

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Dairy Free Cheese

Daiya Dairy Free Cheese

I use this cheese for lasagna, grilled cheese sandwiches, stuffed potatoes, all kinds of things. It melts and is stringy like regular cheese. The only downer is that it does not taste good uncooked.

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Galaxy Foods Vegan Parmesan Grated Topping. This is soy based, but they also have a rice based grated topping that you can use if you’re opposed to soy. I try not to use soy too often. This parmesan topping is fantastic on garlic bread, in pasta, in home-made pesto, and I also use it in my lasagna.

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Goat’s Milk Cheese

There are all kinds of delicious goat’s milk cheeses, hard and soft, out on the market these days. I just bought a wedge of goat Romano at the co-op the other day and it was so good I bought another one yesterday! Some people with milk allergies can handle goat’s milk and some can’t. I can eat it without any issues about 1-2 times a week. If it starts to bother me, I back off for a couple of weeks and then eat it once every couple of weeks and I feel fine.

Trader Joe’s has an AMAZING Goat Gouda. I highly recommend it.

Buffalo Mozzarella

Ahhh…buffalo milk mozzarella. It has changed gluten free and dairy free pizza forever. I was thrilled to run across it at Trader Joe’s! It’s creamier and smoother in texture than cow’s milk mozzarella and the best news of all is that it doesn’t make me sick. I tread lightly like I do with the goat’s milk cheeses though. You can go here and see what it looks like on a pizza I made. Slice and drain on paper towels for a few minutes before placing it on your pizza.

Dairy Free Ice Cream

Coconut Bliss is hands down the best dairy free ice cream I have found. They come up with new flavors all the time, have ice cream bars, fudgecicles…just delicious. If you can’t find it in your area stores, there are other brands you can try, but I would advise you to stay away from the soy milk brands. Not good.

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Crackers & Snack Chips

Schar Table Crackers

As close to a Saltine cracker as you’ll ever get. I eat them with DF butter, peanut butter, with goat cheese, with soup and with chili.

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Mary’s Gone Crackers

Great with dips! Sometimes if they’ve been on the store shelf for a while…they can get very crispy. Check the expiration date.

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Edwards & Sons Brown Rice Snaps

Yummy!

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Glutino Pretzels

Deelish! I cover these with vegan chocolate for a sweet snack every now and then. Wonderful. They do have corn flour so if that tends to bother you like it does me, tread lightly.

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Kettle Brand makes some very tasty chips that are both gluten-free and dairy free. Make sure you always read their labels though as a few of them do contain dairy. I love these baked chips. Light and crispy, perfect when you’re craving chips but don’t want the fat and oil. My other favorites, when I don’t mind the fat…are their Spicy Thai and Vinegar and Sea Salt chips. Yum!

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These Beanitos are like corn chips but corn free! They are made from black beans and work fantastic with salsa, bean dip, and guacamole. They have a couple of types but I have only tried these.

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Alcohol

There’s a bit of controversy behind the alcohol aspect of living gluten-free. Many people believe that the distilling process removes the gluten from alcohol made from grains. I’ve read many different pro’s and con’s and even some of the most diligent gluten-free bloggers, writers, and recipe creators drink all kinds of alcohol just fine (except beer). I don’t take the chance. There’s no drink on earth that is worth what I would feel like for 3-5 days after I had it if I had a reaction. I stick to non grain alcohol ONLY.

Ciroc vodka is made from grapes. It’s a bit pricey (much less expensive here in NH though), and is fabulous. I keep mine in the freezer so it’s chilled and wonderful when making cocktails. I also use this vodka to make home-made vanilla extract. (3-4 Vanilla beans slit down the middle, put them in a small jar, fill to the top with vodka, let sit one week.)

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1800 Silver Tequila is made from 100% Agave and is delicious. In fact, I couldn’t stand tequila until I tried this. It makes a very tasty margarita.

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Meyer’s Rum is made from sugar cane that is boiled into a syrup and aged.

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White Rum is typically only aged about a year and then filtered to remove the color. I like to use Bacardi for mixed drinks.

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Green’s is my favorite gluten-free beer. I prefer an amber or dark beer, but they also have a blonde. There are quite a few gluten-free beers on the market now and more and more restaurants are starting to carry at least one brand.

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Gluten Free Bread

Udi’s has quite a few great bread choices. I prefer the whole grain and they also make  decent bagels, hamburger buns, and hot dog buns. The one annoyance I have with Udi’s is that sometimes you’ll get a loaf of bread ($4.99) with a big air hole in the middle. The bread is small so that hole makes a big difference! Home made gluten-free bread is better of course, but I’ve gotten lazy and rely on the Udi’s when we’re going to need sandwich bread. I like the texture whether it’s fresh or toasted and it holds together well for sandwiches. I haven’t tried their baked goods like muffins and such. I have tried their granola which is quite good, however I do not care for their pizza crusts.

Red Robin now carries their hamburger buns and you can also request GF fries. They are very diligent and careful with their allergen customers and I haven’t been glutened yet!

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Gluten Free Meats

We love the Applegate meat products. We use their lunch meats, pepperoni, and Sunday bacon on a regular basis.

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Gluten Free Condiments

We use San J gluten-free organic tamari when I make asian foods. To me, it tastes EXACTLY like  regular soy sauce and it’s lower in sodium. It’s a win-win.

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 We love Annie’s gluten free products. We use her ketchup, mustards, and BBQ sauces. There are many condiments on the market without gluten, just make sure you read labels carefully, and when in doubt, Google it or contact the manufacturer.

Gluten Free Canned Products

We don’t eat many canned products on a regular basis, but I do like to keep some chili and baked beans around. Stagg is our favorite chili, but read the labels, I’m not sure if every flavor is gluten-free. There are several brands of gluten-free chili on the market, even organic ones. I’ve tried three others besides the Stagg and while they didn’t give me major gluten symptoms, I didn’t feel well after eating them. I prefer the Stagg brand.

Bush’s baked beans are great. We also like Field Day Organic Vegetarian Baked Beans, & Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Beans. However, Trader Joe’s does not consider them gluten-free because they are canned on shared equipment with things that have gluten. They don’t seem to bother me.

Canned Soup

Canned soup makes me cringe. I always try to have home-made soup in my freezer, but sometimes in a pinch, canned is a must. I’ve tried probably every gluten-free canned soup there is. Most of them are totally disgusting. I only recommend one brand and it’s Wolfgang Puck’s gluten-free soups. They are very good. Some contain dairy though, so read the labels carefully. The gluten-free soups are clearly labeled right on the front of the can.

Gluten Free Cookies & Sweets

These Kinnikinnick animal crackers are just trouble in a box! I love how crispy they are and they taste very good. Your kids will love them if you haven’t eaten the whole box on the way home from the grocery store. I can only imagine how tasty they would be covered in chocolate.Gluten-Free-Kinni-Kritters-Animal-Cookies

Glutino’s Chocolate Vanilla Creme cookies are probably as close to Oreos as you will ever get. Yesterday I dipped them in a glass of almond milk and I was in foodie heaven.

Pamela’s makes some pretty good cookies. The Double Chocolate Cookies are my favorite and work fantastic for pie and tart crusts.

Pamela’s also makes a mighty fine gingersnap.

 I just tried these Schar wafers yesterday. Not bad. A little low on filling, but good in a pinch if you need something sweet and they are pretty low-calorie.

The other day while I was in the grocery store a woman pointed out the Hail Merry desserts to me. The chocolate tarts are to. die. for. Last week I served them for a quick and easy dessert with whipped coconut cream and macerated berry sauce. Delicious. I prefer the chocolate over the lemon, I found the lemon to be overly salty.

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Yesterday I bought these Hail Merry chocolate macaroons to give them a try. Wow! Very good. Similar to a coconut haystack truffle…yummy.

 I hope that some of these products will fit into your budget and help to make your gluten-free and dairy free life just a little bit easier. Don’t allow panic, overwhelming feelings, or other people’s negative opinions to stop you from doing what you need to do to feel better. I like to cook , but I understand that not only do many people not enjoy cooking, they simply are too busy and have other responsibilities. Don’t feel like you need to be a superhuman. There’s only so much you can do at a time. If you know you have food allergens, the most important thing is to get those foods out of your life. You can do that by cooking from scratch, you can do it by buying pre-made products and combining them with other things…there are all kinds of ways to get off on the right foot. Just take it one step at a time, do what’s affordable for your family, and make choices that work with your schedule and lifestyle.

As I try new things I’ll keep you all updated and I would love for you to do the same for me!

~ April

Homemade Electrolyte Drink

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Spring has finally sprung in beautiful New Hampshire! 

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All the leaves are in and wildflowers are beginning to bloom. Everything is lush and green. We went on a beautiful walk over the weekend on an old rail trail. Then ventured off into the woods for a look-see.

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I thought New Hampshire was gorgeous in the winter, but spring…wow! I can only imagine what fall will bring with all of the reds, yellows, and oranges. Mother Nature is making up for the dry spell we had for a while. It was so windy and rained so much a few days ago, I had to pot my front porch plants on the kitchen counter.

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Worked out just fine!

One day last week we had an 85 degree day with an equal amount of humidity. Since I’m not quite sure how to work our new tractor I decided I would fertilize our (very large) lawn with a push fertilizer. In the heat and humidity, it was a major workout. I was shocked at how hot I felt, how much sweat was pouring off of me, and by how flushed I was when I came in the house. I realized that I was going to have to hydrate a little differently in New Hampshire than I did in Washington if I plan on working outside in the heat and humidity.

I ran across this website post on Facebook and thought it was such a good idea to make my own “Gatorade”! It’s so easy to make and I can use organic ingredients, leave the corn syrup out and who knows what else goes into those commercial sports drinks.

You can use the recipe I created below, or you can go to FitDay.com and try out some of their recipes.

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Homemade Electrolyte Drink

8 Cups Spring Water

12 oz. Can of Frozen Organic 100% Orange Juice

Juice of 2 Organic Limes

Juice of 2 Organic Lemons

1 teaspoon Iodized Salt

Place all ingredients in a container that is easy to pour, stir until combined. Refrigerate or pour into water bottles and refrigerate or freeze.

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Happy spring from Us to You!

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Fig Pillows & An Eye Opener

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Remember the book I told you I started the other day? Well, it’s packed full of all kinds of interesting information. I have only made it to Chapter 5 (there are 16) and I am already loving it. Much of the medical information I already knew or at least had heard of, but nonetheless, it’s all still very interesting. Xenoestrogen in particular. Lorraine Pintus, the author of Jump Off The Hormone Swing, refers to Xenoestrogen as Estrogen’s evil twin sister. “She looks like estrogen but she comes into your body from a foreign place.”

If you’re a male and you’re thinking this post isn’t for you, hold on a minute, because even though we’re talking about “estrogen”, it involves you too. Everyone is exposed to xenoestrogens through our environment. They are in the air we breath (chemicals, pollution) the water we drink (plastic bottles, pollution), the food we eat (non-organic foods, animals being given hormones and being fed GMO products), and the products we use (anti-aging creams, lotions, cleansing products, makeup, laundry detergents).

Lorraine says everything from diabetes to infertility are being linked to the “evil twin sister”. Also, many women who suffer from sever PMS and perimenopause symptoms are estrogen dominant. Xenoestrogens are a big part of that dominance problem.

If you would like to learn more about xenoestrogens in particular,  here are a couple more websites. Or, you can just Google “Xenoestrogens” and you’ll find all kinds of information.

http://flowinghealth.org/xenoestrogen_patient_handout.pdf  http://endojourney.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/a-list-of-xenoestrogens/ .

So, without getting completely obsessive and hyper about it, let’s look at it logically. Lorraine uses the 80/20 rule, which I think is a great idea. 80% of the time we can pretty easily control what we use, how we use it, what we eat, and what we are exposing ourselves to. If you leave your house, which we all do, then it makes a lot of sense that 20% of the time, you can’t control it, nor should you worry about it. Life is meant to be enjoyed. So approach this with the attitude of, I’m going to take control of what I put in and on my body and expose myself to, as much as possible. A little awareness and action is better than none.

Lorraine lists a website in her book with a database of all of the common cosmetics, cleansers, and lotions we use. What’s so cool about that you might ask? Well it has a number rating for each item based on how toxic it is. Yep. And let me tell you, it was an eye opener. Even the “natural” things you are buying might shock you. The ratings include reproductive organ toxins as well as cancer toxins, allergies & immunotoxicity, and overall health hazards.   http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Here is a quick look at their toxin number rating system:

0-2 Low Hazard          3-6 Moderate Hazard          7-10 High Hazard

Just to give you an idea, here is a list of things that I use on a regular basis that I researched on their website and their toxicity number level:

Organix Shampoo & Conditioner  = 4-5

Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser = 5

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub = (new on the market, not listed yet)

Dessert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil = 0

Yes To Cucumbers Sensitive Skin Calming Night Cream = 2

Kiss My Face Olive & Aloe Lotion (I use it for body lotion) = 5

Colgate Optic White (They didn’t have the specific one, but all of the other whitening toothpastes are the same score) = 5

Bare Minerals Foundation in Medium = 2 

Bare Minerals Mineral Veil SPF25 = 7

Bare Minerals Blush = 2

Bare Minerals Eye Shadow = 4

Almay Line Smoothing Concealer for the Eye = 9

Maybelline Lash Stiletto = 4

(If you have trouble looking up your specific item, just type in the brand name click on the brand, go to the left and click on what item it is..and then scroll down the list to see if it is rated.)

So, before you go gather all of your toiletries and cosmetics to check how awful they are for you, remember the goal is to minimize your exposure to unhealthy things, because truthfully, it is impossible to avoid them 100%.

When you’re finished looking everything up  you can go to the upper tool bar on the website and click on whatever you like to find lists of products from different companies that are non toxic. You can order them online, or print them out to see if you can find them locally.

And just in case you aren’t freaked out enough by the toiletries you’re using, here’s another website she listed so you can look up all of the chemicals in the other every day products you use.

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/

*But even before you do that, you may want to self medicate with a nice cup of soothing tea and my Fig Pillows. Because we all know that pie crust pretty much makes anything better.

Fig Pillows with Fig Glaze & Almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

*Makes 30

2 Portions of Gluten Free Pie Dough

GF Flour For Dusting & Rolling

Trader Joe’s Fig Butter

Powdered Sugar

Almond Milk

Pure Almond Extract

Raw Almonds, finely chopped

Roll out one portion of dough and slice into 30 squares with a sharp knife.

Add about a teaspoon of the fig butter to each square. Then, roll out the second portion of dough and slice into 30 squares.

Using a flat knife (I use a frosting spatula), take one square of plain dough, pat it out just a little with your fingers.

Take the patted out piece of dough and cover the fig jam carefully pressing down around the sides. Score each side with a fork, poke once in the middle so air can escape, and place the fig pillow on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue with the remainder of the dough until they are finished.

Bake in a preheated oven for 22 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

While the cookies are cooling, make a glaze with the powdered sugar, fig butter, almond milk, and pure almond extract (about 1/2 tsp.), and finely chop about 1/4 cup raw almonds.

Leaving the fig pillows on the cooling rack, drizzle with glaze and sprinkle with nuts.

Go With Your Gut

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Over the weekend I ordered a hot chocolate at a specialty shop downtown. I like to go to that particular shop because I know that their sipping chocolate is dairy free and they will make me a hot cup with almond milk.

Or so I thought. 

If possible, I usually watch people make my food and drinks. Because honestly, no one cares as much about my food allergies as I do. But on this occasion I was on a date weekend with my husband who has been traveling a lot. My focus was on him and we were chatting away, not paying attention to my favorite cup of sipping chocolate. As we walked out the door with my to go cup, I first put my nose to it and inhaled deeply as I always do. Ahhh…chocolate. Is there anything better on certain days?

Hmm…it smells different.

I stopped in my tracks. Took a couple of sips and again realized…something is different. I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think I should go back in and double-check if they made this with almond milk? I asked her to make it with almond milk right off the bat.” For whatever reason, I hate to be an alarmist. I hate to be one of “those” paranoid people who whine, or throw a fit when they think their order isn’t prepared properly. But my husband looked at me and said, “Just go back in really quick and ask. What’s wrong with asking?”

So I popped back in and nicely asked and… you guessed it. She made it with cow’s milk! I told them I was allergic to cow’s milk and that I had asked for almond milk. They apologized (kind of) and gave us a tiny little vegan caramel to share. How generous…and of course, made me another  sipping chocolate with almond milk.

Luckily, those two or three sips only resulted in mild stomach issues and a little swelling. There’s a theory that if you abstain from your sensitive foods and allergens that you can eventually add them back into your diet at some point once your gut has healed. Not so with me. My body now recognizes gluten and dairy almost immediately, where several years ago it would take 12-24 hours to appear.

This “accidental” exposure has happened to me numerous times with gluten and dairy. Seriously, more than I can count. It can make even the most anti-alarmist a little paranoid and skeptical. It has even happened in restaurants where I order off of the gluten-free menu and make sure there’s no dairy in my entrée.  As a matter of fact, sometimes when we are extremely busy, which we have been, we eat out a couple times a week. Even though I’m careful, very careful, I can tell after a few restaurant excursions that I am slowly being fed allergens in one form or another even if they tell me I’m not. Swelling joints, stomach issues, headaches, and if it’s really bad, shingles appear. Then I know for sure.

When we were standing at the counter waiting for my sipping chocolate, my  husband looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Always go with your gut.”

Wise words.

Always. Go. With. Your. Gut.

Who cares if people think you are an alarmist, paranoid, or just into the latest crazy diet fad? It’s your health and it’s important. A good reminder.

Here’s a very interesting article that popped into my email this morning. I am set up on Google Alerts for gluten and dairy intolerance articles. This article is very simple and informative in the way it explains the body’s response system to allergens, antibodies,  and how the inflammation process works. 

*Photo courtesy of DrOZFans.com