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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(Photo – peppersandrogersgroup.com)

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

Chicken Tetrazzini

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I used to make turkey Tetrazzini every year with Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey leftovers. Of course that was prior to going gluten-free and dairy-free and those Tetrazzini dishes included a lot of cream and probably three kinds of lovely cheese, along with gluten bread crumbs.

Our mornings are chilly now and that always gets me thinking about comfort food. I love fall and even winter (as long as it snows a lot! Yes you read that right…) and I look forward to baking pies, roasting things, and having my house smell like comfort food.

I don’t even know what was on television in the bedroom this morning while I was getting ready, but I heard the word Tetrazzini and thought, “YES!”. I had forgotten all about Tetrazzini! When you’re allergic to dairy you kind of get used to not thinking about cheesy, creamy, delightful, comfort food. Luckily, with more and more people becoming aware of food allergies and more people being tested, the whole food world is opening up with new products and new ideas for those of us that can’t eat traditional things.

I couldn’t remember how I used to make it exactly so I Googled Tetrazzini. Honestly, what did we ever do without the internet? After reading through several recipes it all started coming back to me and I realized that each recipe was different. Really different. So I just winged it and did what I thought sounded good. Giada De Laurentiis puts peas in hers. I thought that sounded good too and I could have sworn I had frozen baby peas, but no such luck. Her recipe also had about 30 ingredients. Seriously?

I just went with what I had on hand and it was fantastic. Total comfort food. So creamy and delicious, even I was shocked! Ahhh… the satisfaction of another traditional meal tackled and made into something that can fit my needs! Remember the movie Bruce Almighty where Jim Carey says, “It’s goooood”? For some reason that just popped into my head. Odd the things that rattle around in there…

I love having a good (or “gooood”) challenge. This recipe was challenging because I didn’t know if it would really work. That always bugs me a little because it’s not cheap to be dairy free and gluten-free. If it doesn’t turn out, it’s horrible to watch all of that $$$ going straight into the trash bin. Plus, dairy free cheese is a little weird sometimes. Occasionally it can make the texture of something really unappealing. Also, there’s a lot of steps. I was taking pictures in between steps and different parts of the recipe and not cleaning up, so my kitchen looked like a bomb went off.  But as soon as I had everything in the oven, it all cleaned up quickly and believe me…all the steps and all the prep work to get it into the oven was worth every-single-bite.

Another recipe challenge overcome! Hmmm…what’s next?

Chicken Tetrazzini

Bacon Drippings, or olive oil if you don’t have drippings on hand

2 Chicken Breasts, cooked & cubed or shredded into large pieces

1 Medium Onion, diced

About 6 Crimini Mushrooms, sliced

About 1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves

About 2 teaspoons Dried Thyme

1 Head of Roasted Garlic

About 1 Tablespoon Bragg’s Seasoning

About 1 Cup of White Wine

3 Cups of Almond Milk

About 2 Cups Gluten Free Chicken Broth

1 Cup Diaya Cheddar Style Cheese

1/4 Cup Buffalo Mozzarella

1/4 Cup Vegan Parmesan

Dairy Free Butter

About 1/3 Cup Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

Gluten Free Bread Crumbs, seasoned with oregano, basil, garlic powder, vegan parm, & kosher salt

About 12 oz. of Tinkyada Gluten Free Pasta, cooked aldente

1.  In a large skillet melt about 2-4 Tablespoons of bacon drippings. Add chicken breasts and brown on both sides just until they are done. About 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.

2.  Add the chopped onion and mushrooms and saute until onions are translucent and mushrooms begin to brown a bit. Add the thyme leaves. Add salt to taste.

3. Add the wine to de-glaze the pan and continue to saute over medium-high until the wine evaporates. Remove mixture to a large bowl. Set pan aside.

4. Dice or shred chicken and add to the bowl. Add the cheeses, roasted garlic, and Bragg’s.

5. Using the same pan, melt about 4 Tablespoons of dairy free butter. Add the flour and whisk together.

6.  Add the almond milk and chicken broth whisking quickly as to not allow lumps. Cook over medium-high until the mixture begins to thicken. Mine became very thick so I added a bit more chicken broth. You want a medium thick consistency. Salt & pepper to taste, add the dried thyme, set aside.

7. Cook pasta according to directions. I removed mine 2 minutes prior to “done”. Drain.

8.  Lightly coat a 9×11 baking dish with olive oil spray or dairy free butter.

9. Add the pasta and sauce to the large bowl of other ingredients. Toss well and pour into the baking dish.

10.  Coat the top with gluten-free bread crumbs (see below), and dot with butter.

11. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes until sauce bubbles. Serve with gluten-free french bread.

* I always toast (in the oven) and throw all uneaten or stale bread into a bag in my freezer. It makes it very easy whip up bread crumbs or croutons when I need them.

For bread crumbs I just add the toasted bread to a food processor. Add dried herbs, kosher salt, and  just a bit of olive oil. Pulse until it turns into crumbs and the herbs are incorporated. For this recipe I added basil, oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, vegan parmesan, and added a drizzle of olive oil at the end so it would all come together a bit.

Herb Cheese Logs

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Guess what? You can freeze goat cheese. Who knew?

I had no idea. According to the internet, soft cheeses freeze quite well, actually. This opens up all kinds of ideas for different types of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. This cheese is mild and delicious. Not overly “goaty” like a lot of aged goat or sheep’s milk cheese. Perfect on crackers, toasted baguette slices, on top of a baked potato, in your favorite salad, sprinkled over your favorite pasta dish…the options are endless. You can make it sweet with zest and agave nectar or savory with herbs and spices. I’ve used sweetened goat cheese with breakfast crepes and it was amazing. Get creative!

Goat’s Milk Cheese Logs

*Makes four 4-5 inch logs

1 Gallon Raw Goat or Sheep’s Milk

3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt + more for seasoning later

Juice of 10 Organic Lemons, about 1 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Chives, chopped

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Organic Thyme, chopped

About 2 teaspoons Chopped Garlic ( I used the organic garlic that comes in the jar)

Ground Pepper

I have a new obsession. Making my own goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheese! Once you try it, you won’t believe how incredibly easy it is.

I’ve read that it’s important to use raw milk because pasteurized milk doesn’t clot the same way. If you’re able, I would suggest trying to find a local organic farm where you can buy the raw milk.  And then of course, use organic lemons and organic herbs. I buy organic and all natural whenever possible. It just makes sense to eat pure, clean, food as much as I can.

But as you probably already have experienced yourself…pure, locally grown food comes with a little sticker shock.

I paid $16.58 for 1 gallon of raw goat’s milk. One gallon of goat’s milk made into cheese gives you about 12 ounces of cheese. That’s about $1.38 per ounce. Expensive, but really no more than you pay in a grocery store. And the satisfaction of making it yourself and knowing exactly what is in it and where the ingredients come from…priceless!

So give it a try, you won’t be disappointed, I promise:

In a large dutch oven or stainless steel pot (do not use aluminum) add several inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes to sanitize.  I carefully sloshed it up and around the sides. Drain, add the milk and salt, stir. Heat to 185-190 degrees stirring frequently. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t scald on the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, line a large strainer with the cheesecloth. I used all of the cheesecloth in the small package I purchased. Just fold it over and make sure it drapes over the sides. Place the strainer over a deep bowl.

When the milk reaches 185-190 ish degrees, remove from heat.

Slowly stir in the lemon juice. It starts to curdle right away.

Add a pinch of parsley, chives, and thyme, reserving the rest for after the cheese has drained. Allow to rest for 25 minutes in the pan.

After it has rested, pour slowly into the cheesecloth. Allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

Do yourself a favor though…keep an eye on it and don’t go check your blog or your Facebook page while you’re waiting for it to drain. Because you’ll end up with this:

And more importantly this…

Carefully pull the sides of the cloth in and twist into a ball, carefully squeezing out some more of the liquid. Allow to rest and drain for another 25 minutes or so checking and draining the bowl every so often so that it is not sitting in its own liquid.

Remove the cheesecloth from the strainer and scrape the cheese off with a spoon into a bowl. Add the remaining herbs and garlic and stir to combine.

Taste and add a bit more kosher salt and a few grinds of good peppercorns.

On a clean working surface pull out a piece of plastic wrap and fold in half. Spoon goat cheese onto the middle of the plastic wrap in a small row.

Gently roll up one side of the plastic wrap and snuggle it over the log. Roll the log to the other end of the plastic wrap, twist the ends tight and tuck under.

Continue to do this with the remaining cheese or if you’re going to use it within a couple of days, you can also make it into one large log or any shape you like, really.

Once all of the cheese has been rolled, refrigerate for three hours. Remove from fridge, roll in one more layer of plastic wrap, cover in tin foil, enclose in a freezer bag and freeze up to one month.

Happy Easter

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Another beautiful Easter has already come and gone. My mom and our son joined us this year…I only had to cook for 4 people! I’m used to cooking for a crowd on special occasions at our house. It felt a little odd to not have to cook for days in advance, but it was such a nice, relaxing, visit. We were even blessed with a sunny day! Something we haven’t had in a long, long, time.

As we sat at the table gabbing and eating and eating and eating…I was thanking God for how blessed I am. Truly, truly, blessed in so many ways, they are innumerable. I love those quiet moments in your head where you can stop in the middle of the busyness to really take a look around and soak it all in. I hope you all were able to spend this day with some of the people you love.

I thought it was funny that it took me 43 years to realize that I don’t need to do Easter Baskets with that crazy grass that you end up finding in your house for the next two months…this year, I just did gift bags with tissue and it worked just as well. Silly how we stick to certain traditions even though there are parts of them we don’t like (like plastic colored grass). It’s a tradition yes, but we can change it up any way we like and make our own traditions, right?

Kurobuta Ham  (Japanese Black Hog)

This is the second time we’ve purchased a Kurobuta Ham to serve on Easter. Have you ever had one?  They are delicious, they’ve been dubbed the “Kobe beef” of pork. I’ve never had Kobe beef, so I’ll have to take their word for it and honestly, I can’t think of one reason to argue.

I wanted to prepare it the Bartolini Kitchen’s way…however, there were only two of us at the table that care for fennel. So I’ll have to wait until I’m cooking for a bigger crowd to try John’s roast pork with fennel.

I like to slather mine with Dijon mustard and then pack it with brown sugar. They are fully cooked so all you need to do is bring it to room temperature, heat the oven to 350 degrees and cook it for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until a thermometer is almost at 150 degrees. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Twice Baked Potatoes

8 Russet Potatoes

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Garlic Powder

Fresh Herbs Of Your Choice (I used a mixture of dried herbs for the outside of the potatoes)

Daiya Cheddar Style Cheese, about 3/4 Cup

Sheep’s Milk Cheese, about 1/4 Cup crumbled

Vegan Parmesan, about 1/8 Cup

Fresh Rosemary & Thyme, snipped

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Almond Milk, about 1/2 cup

Place each potato on a square of foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, and herbs. Roll up in tin foil and bake at 350 degrees until done. Allow to cool.

Slice each potato in half. I only stuffed 6 and used the innards from the remaining potatoes to add to the filling. I always make 2 extra potatoes to add to the filling.

With a small spoon carefully spoon out the potato filling into a medium bowl. Leave enough potato in the skins so that the potato will stand on its own without collapsing in on itself. Place the skins in a baking dish.

Add the cheeses, rosemary, thyme, salt, and ground pepper to the potatoes. Mash by hand until combined.

Warm the almond milk and add slowly while mashing. Mash them to the texture you like. I prefer mine with a little body.

Fill each shell and bake at about 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until tops are starting to brown.

 I also served steamed, organic carrots and sautéed organic green beans with garlic and wine along with the ham and twice baked potatoes. And it wouldn’t be Easter without deviled eggs as a little pre-dinner snack.

Lavender scented candles set the mood for a relaxing meal.

 Mud Pie (Layered Ice Cream Pie)

3 Pints of Dairy Free Ice Cream

(I prefer Luna & Larry’s Coconut Milk Ice Cream – I used Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge, Dark Chocolate, and Naked Coconut)

2 Boxes of Dairy Free & Gluten Free Dark Chocolate – Chocolate Chunk Cookies (I prefer Pamela’s)

Organic Crunchy Peanut  Butter

1 Ounce of Dairy Free Chocolate, chopped

2 Ounces of Dairy Free Chocolate, melted

Sprinkles

Since I wasn’t having to cook for a crowd this year I hemmed and hawed over all of my dessert choices. In the past when we’ve had larger groups, I’ve made several types of cookies, pies, or cakes. I finally settled on this because it was out of the ordinary – well, out of my “ordinary” for Easter, and I knew my husband and son would love it.

This pie is a bit of a project not because it’s hard, but because it takes time. You need to freeze each layer, which means you either need a long morning or a long afternoon to complete it. I made it yesterday morning, so I wasn’t pressed for time today. You should also be forewarned about the cost. If you’re making this gluten-free and dairy free…it’s not cheap. As you may already know, a pint of dairy free ice cream is about $5.99, this takes three. Then it takes two boxes of dairy free and gluten-free cookies, also expensive. Then there’s organic peanut butter, chopped chocolate… I save this recipe for special holidays and birthdays.

Believe me, it’s worth it.

First, line a spring form pan with plastic wrap.

Next, place the cookies in a food processor and pulse until ground.

Turn the food processor on and drizzle the melted butter in until the mixture begins to come together.

 Spoon the cookie mixture into the spring form pan and with a piece of plastic wrap, press the cookies into the pan, scooting about an inch up the sides. Make sure it is firmly pressed.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer to set. Remove one pint of ice cream, remove the lid, and allow it to sit on the counter to soften for 45 minutes.

Scoop the ice cream in a bowl and stir. Spread onto the frozen cookie crust.

Cover and place in the freezer for 45 minutes.

Remove from freezer and spread with 1/2 jar of crunchy peanut butter. Return to the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove another pint of ice cream and repeat the same process as above.

On this layer (the third layer) chop one ounce of chocolate and sprinkle over the top of the second pint of ice cream that you’ve spread over the frozen peanut butter. Cover with plastic and freeze for 45 minutes. Remove the last pint of ice cream and repeat the process.

 Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 2 ounces of chocolate. Drizzle over the top of the last layer and lightly cover with sprinkles.

Cover and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. Will keep in the freezer for up to 5 days.

From my family to yours – Happy Easter and many, many, spring blessings to you!