Monthly Archives: January 2014

Game Day Menu with Chili Con Queso, Dairy Free

chili con quesoWe don’t watch the Super Bowl in my home. Shocking! It wasn’t until last week that I even had any idea of football on my radar. So many people do watch the Super Bowl that it’s almost like a holiday. A day that has it’s own food culture. I’ve also recently become more aware of how limiting being dairy free is. I don’t miss cheese like I thought I would, but up until this point, I haven’t tried to make many meals with a cheese substitute. I like my dairy free lasagne made with cauliflower/tofu sauce, but there isn’t anything ooey or gooey about it.

I recently learned about Daiya cheese products. This is something I would consider a specialty item, and not something I would buy very often. Except that my son who can’t eat cheese LOVED it! So now I might have to buy it more often! I’m happy that he has a new food that he can add to his available options. It’s easy for me to just cut it up and give it to him. Although it’s not what I would consider a “whole food”, and has a few ingredients that I find iffy. I approve of Daiya cheese only as an occasional treat.

I was inspired by this web site to make my own Chili Con Queso with beef. The original recipe is from a vegan site, so I hope they aren’t too offended by my inclusion of ground beef.

Olive Oil,
Half a medium size onion, diced
Half pound of ground beef
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon chili poweder
3/4 C gluten free beer (I used homebrewed sorghum beer)
1 Package Daiya Havarti Wedge with jalapeño and garlic, cubed
Half Package of Daiya Cheddar Wedge, cubed
3/4 Cup Salsa
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute beef and onions with a splash of olive oil on medium heat. Seaon meat with paprika, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Break up ground beef into small pieces. Once onions are transparent and meat is cooked, add the gluten free beer and simmer about 5 minutes. Turning heat to low, add diced Daiya cheese and stir until all cheese is melted. Do not over cook. Stir in salsa last. Done!

This dish was best served right away after making. It is warm and gooey. Just right! Eat with chips, or makes a fantastic sauce for hot dogs or sliders too! I even made it into a quesadilla the next day! When reheating it, avoid using the microwave. I microwaved it, and a bit of separation occurred.

We made a lot of other food for Family Dinner night, all Mexican themed, and all that would be great for a game day, too, if you are so inclined. We made salsa verde using beautiful, large tomatillos from a farmer’s market.
me cooking

Margaritas using Wildtree organic agave mix:
agave margarita mixer
Kimmy’s Mexican Chicken Soup:
kim seasoning
Fresh guacamole:
guac 2

And next day quesadilla:

Photography: I was away at my sister’s house spontaneously for Sunday dinner. It wasn’t planned, and my Canon DSLR was not charged. I decided to see how pictures turned out using my iPhone. Although not the best, with a little bit of TLC using Photoshop, I don’t mind these pictures at all.


Sharon’s White Bean Vegetable Soup

Sharon N’Diaye is my friend who hosts the Cooking with Kids class at The Ajna Center for Wellness here in Croton.  I love Sharon’s approach to getting preschoolers involved in the preparation of their own meals!
This is part two of a two part series on Sharon’s classes.


Our next recipe is for warm, comforting white bean and vegetable soup! We needed 2-3 cloves garlic, 1/2 package of organic spinach, 2 carrots and 1/2 lb (or half can) of white beans. Salt, pepper, your oil of choice (we used olive oil) and 2 cups of broth of your choice (we used chicken broth).
Our little chefs cut up some garlic, and then they cut spinach and (parboiled) carrots and mashed up some white beans. Some used a masher and some liked to squish them with their fingers. Whatever technique you opt for, so long as they get into the pot, it doesn’t really matter taste-wise!


I sauteed the spinach in the garlic and olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, then our chefs helped me put the veggies and beans into the pot. I sauteed them all up together a minute or two then added the broth to cover the bean mixture an inch or two. I boiled for 5 minutes and simmered for 10 minutes. You can simmer longer if you like for a fuller flavor. 
Then, voila! Soup is ready!

Ingredients for White Bean Vegetable Soup:
2-3 Cloves garlic
1/2 Package of organic spinach
2 Parboiled carrots
1/2 lb (or half can) of white bean
Olive Oil
2 Cups of broth (chicken or vegetable for vegan option)

I hope you like these recipes, and even if you don’t make them with neither a roomful of kids or any kids, they’ll still taste good! To find out more about Cooking With Kids, at the Ajna Center for Wellness & Community in Croton, contact We have classes Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10:30 am.

Millet & Split Pea Soup, Vegan

Hulled Millet and Millet flour look deceivingly similar when online shopping! An entire case of hulled millet arrived at my home. Not what I was expecting. Hulled millet are tiny balls, similar in size to quinoa. I was disappointed that they take longer to cook. Directions range from 25-40 minutes cooking time, and from my first try with these grains, the longer the better!

Hulled Millet

The millet arrived on a day when the high was 9 degrees here in New York State due to the “polar vortex”. I decided to try a millet split pea vegan soup and a millet raisin pudding. I have to say that the millet raisin pudding was not a success, and I’m going to try again in a different way. I used directions for millet pudding in a slow cooker, and it became very dry. I would have needed a few more cups of liquid, which is the main reason why it did not work.

Millet Split Pea Soup, Vegan

My millet split pea vegan soup, however, came out quite good, and thick! Again, I ended up needed a bit more liquid than I first imagined. Millet is a thirsty grain! I like this topped with gluten free croutons. Recipes below.

Gluten Free Croutons

Ingredients for Soup:
1 package yellow split peas, about 1 pound
1/2 C hulled millet
4 C low sodium veggie broth, plus more as needed
3 C water
2 Bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 coarsely chopped, dried homegrown chili, or a dash of red pepper flakes
2 T Extra virgin olive oil

Directions for Soup:
Mix all ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2- 3 hours. Check level of liquid every half hour. Mine thickened much quicker than I anticipated! I had to add a cup of water about an hour into cooking.
Remove bay leaves and use an immersion blender for a smooth consistency. Top with gluten free croutons!

Ingredients for Gluten Free Croutons:
Leftover Gluten Free Bread, recipe here, cut up into 1 inch squares, about 3-4 Cups
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon each dried thyme and parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions for Gluten Free Croutons:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss to evenly coat the cubes of bread with the seasoning. Spread out on 2 baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Turn cubes half way through to make crisp on both sides. Bake an additional 3-5 minutes for more crispy croutons.

Eating Split Pea Millet Soup, vegan Eating Split Pea Millet Soup, vegan

Sharon’s Plantains

Sharon N’Diaye is my friend who hosts the Cooking with Kids class at The Ajna Center for Wellness here in Croton. My daughter Juliana has taken several of her classes and loves them. Juliana even added plantains to her list of foods she will eat. Although Juliana has no known allergies, she is a picky eater. I love Sharon’s approach to getting preschoolers involved in the preparation of their own meals!
This is part one of a two part series on Sharon’s classes.


Happy New Year!! We are coming off the high spirits of the holidays and January can seem like a bit of a downer in contrast…and with our snow and frigid temps, it’s just the right time for some cozy, warm recipes!!

These recipes are easy and a lot of fun to make with your kids! In fact, I’ve made these recipes with a whole roomful of kids at our Cooking With Kids class.  And the great thing is that they are allergen-free.
The first recipe to share is fried plantains. There are only two ingredients! Oil, really ripe plantains, and you can sprinkle them with sugar cinnamon or salt if you’d like. Our chefs paired this item with a salad. You can do an oil/vinegar/mustard dressing (vinaigrette) or if you’re not sensitive to eggs, you can make “pink” (Russian) dressing by adding a 1/2 cup of mayo with a 1/3 cup of ketchup!
The kids really enjoyed making the plantains. In fact, one particular small chef added plantains to her list of approved foods!

We started with really ripe (black) plantains, which are available in most grocery stores/bodegas. If you get them when they’re yellow or green, you can prepare them in a similar way, but for our purposes here, use the black ones!

The process was so simple and easy, and the kids enjoyed peeling and cutting the plantains. Once the plantains were cut, all we had to do was to heat up some coconut oil (or the oil of your choice) in a skillet / frying pan. Once the oil was hot, we let the plantains sizzle a bit until they were brownish on one side, then I flipped them over! The kids looked, but I took care of the flipping!

When the plantains come off the pan, you can put them on a paper towel covering a plate to soak up some of the oil. If your small chefs are so inclined, they can sprinkle their plantains with salt or cinnamon sugar. Or, if you’re into non-dairy cheese, that can be fun as a topping!

For more info about Cooking with Kids, or to sign up for a class:  Facebook: Sharon’s Barefoot Books and Small Cooks
Ingredients for Fried Plaintains:
Black plantains
Coconut oil or other healthy oil for frying
Optional toppings: Cinnamon sugar, salt, or non-dairy cheese
Ingredients for Salad:
Mixed greens (organic is best)
Shredded Red Cabbage (Juliana’s personal favorite!)
Fresh Cilantro
Ingredients for Simple Vinaigrette:
3 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil or similar oil
1 part Vinegar (I like raw organic Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 part Mustard
Ingredients for Pink (Russian) dressing:
1/2 Cup Mayonnaise (vegan mayo for egg allergic)
1/3 Cup Ketchup

Rainbow Snack


My children like to say “taste the rainbow” when they eat something they like. They also say “tastes like sunshine”, “tastes like rainbow flowers”. I think it’s so cute! When visiting a friend, she thought my children were quoting an advertisement, to her dismay. I insisted that they weren’t and that I had helped teach them to say “taste the rainbow” by making this snack.  I love making it so much, and it’s a great surprise to have waiting for them when they get home from preschool.

It’s very easy to do, just buy any selection of produce that is red, orange, yellow, green, blue and indigo. My selection today were strawberries, orange pepper, golden grape tomatoes, raw broccoli, blueberries, and red grapes.  Select organic when possible for higher nutrition and exposure to fewer chemicals. Rinse thoroughly and cut into bit size pieces. Arrange in the shape of a rainbow on a plate big enough to hold all those fruits and veggies! Enjoy watching your children eat! They ate almost all the colors, unfortunately the orange pepper wasn’t a favorite of the kids, but I love them so bonus pepper for me! Yum!


Happy New Year!

January marks the sixth month that my son and I have been eating gluten, dairy, egg, apple and nut free. We started this journey in August of 2013, and I feel like it’s a big deal that we’ve made it this long, and without too much struggle! My biggest concerns are birthday parties and family gatherings. I’ve been happily surprised at the amount of support my son and I have been given.  I’m also very lucky that my son is only 2. When I tell him that he is getting a “special Nathan cupcake” he is genuinely happy. At my friend’s house, when other children were eating apples, Nathan gladly ate a large tomato whole! I’m hoping that he outgrows his allergies before he realizes he may be missing out; however, I’m seeing such a positive change in both of us that our diet may become our lifestyle.

At Nathan’s December allergist appointment, our doctor was genuinely impressed with how good Nathan’s skin is improved.  Although he still has some tiny patches of eczema on his scalp and knuckles, everything else is healed! It’s hard for me to remember how bad Nathan’s skin was: huge red bleeding patches which hurt him day and night. I’m amazed at how diet change can provide such dramatic results. It makes me think about the how many people live with chronic conditions, and how something as seemingly simple as changing your diet can actually cure you!

The dietary changes produced almost over night results for Nathan, and I noticed many changes in myself. At first, it took some adjusting, and I felt more hungry, and hungry more frequently. Cooking from scratch was sometimes stressful. Now that I know many simple, go-to recipes, and what snacks work to hold me over until the next meal, I’m feeling much better. Better, in fact, than I’ve felt in years! I used to take a nasal steroid spray for a constant sinus infection I would get just about every winter. I was also taking Claritin and Mucinex for a stuffy nose and post nasal drip that would start in the fall and then continue into winter and then spring when outdoor allergies would debilitate me. Since starting eating without dairy and gluten, I’ve been breathing so well and haven’t needed any medication. I still have to see how spring will be, and I’m hoping I won’t need any medication this year! My digestion is also improved. I used to get a stomach ache from eating eggs, but never really made the connection. Kind of like how I didn’t make the connection about my nut allergy for a long time! Now, without eggs or gluten, my digestion is improved and I’m very regular.

So many people have asked me about if my son will outgrow his allergies. If outgrowing his allergies means returning to the standard American diet, I’m in no rush for him to ever outgrow them. Sure it’s a challenge on some days, but most days, I’m very grateful to be feeding my family foods that I’m confident are healthy, full of nutrition, and made with love.