Birthdays, Food Allergies

Olaf Cake and Cupcakes

IMG_4012The cake!  I mean, I can’t stop eating the cake.  I needed a simple (time constraints up the wazoo) yellow or white cake recipe to adapt for my son’s 6th birthday party. Adapt, well of course, to be allergy-friendly.  And to adapt into an Olaf — that cute-as-a-button snowman from the Disney movie Frozen.

I found the Cake Boss recipe on the Rachel Ray Show website, and made a couple of key ingredient swaps that has me stealing tiny slivers of the leftover cake throughout the day.

First off, I tripled the recipe, as I needed to get an Olaf plus 3+ dozen cupcakes for our large party.  Tripling worked great, though I just filled the bowl of my huge stand mixer and needed to be very careful about not sloshing batter all over my kitchen.

Though we typically bake following real food principles, given the volume of cake I needed, and the short time frame I had to make it, I cheated and used some processed ingredients.  I used about 2/3 of the oil with canola (but that was it, I’m not buying it anymore, this recipe took all I had left!) and the remaining I used the cold pressed coconut oil.  I just LOVE the subtle flavor that it lends the cake.

I also used regular fine sugar, and all purpose flour.

For the milk I used vanilla soy milk.

This recipe is so delicious, and so easy!  I would not hesitate to make it again 🙂

I was able to make two very full round cakes plus 3 1/2 dozen cupcakes.  The cake is super moist, not too sweet (though it does have a TON of sugar in it) and delicious.

IMG_4009For the icing on the cake, I adapted a standard butter cream recipe — subbing coconut oil for the butter, and soymilk for the milk.  Delicious!  For the cupcakes, I cut jumbo marshmallows in half, and put them on top for the last three minutes of baking.  The effect is great (was going for a snowman) and my son happens to love marshmallow topped cupcakes.

A few more fake food decorations (colored twizzlers on the cake, and orange licorice drops + Wilton candy eyes on the cupcakes helped me create my very own Olaf.  Pinterest worthy?  Who cares, my son was thrilled!



Food Allergies, Healthy Food

Homemade Granola

My Homemade GranolaI did it!  I made homemade granola on request from my 5 year old.  He’s my cereal addict, and can burn through a box of Cascadian Farm Oats & Honey Granola in a few days.  At nearly $5 per box, it adds up.  But more troubling to me, in our new Real Food way of eating, are the added sugars and maltodextrin (seriously, tell me you cook with maltodextrin?!)

Despite being certified organic, this cereal is neither real, nor all that healthy (so much sugar!)

Cascadian Farm Oats & Honey Granola

As we use up our processed/packaged foods, I’m having to make things from scratch.  I used this recipe for my granola, but ended up modifying it a bit since my son is allergic to nuts and seeds.  I added an extra half a cup of oats, and omitted the nuts/seeds.  I also used coconut oil in place of the butter, since my son is also allergic to milk.  (I plan to make another batch loaded with those goodies, for me to eat!)

Want the truth?  It is good!  It isn’t as sweet as the boxed granola, but both of my cereal eating kids like it.  You can taste the subtle coconut oil flavor, but it isn’t overwhelming.  The cinnamon is the strongest flavor.  Also, this took minutes to prepare (but stays in the oven a long time.)  The only negative was heating up my kitchen on a hot day.

Making the granola felt like going up the next step on our real food journey.  I’m already wondering what next store bought staple will be replaced.  I’m also stuck on what to do about our store bought “O’s” cereal.  I’m buying the Whole Foods 365 brand — its organic, and pretty clean but does have added sugar. I suspect I will phase it out soon.

Please share your favorite granola recipes.  I am excited to try new versions!


Real Food

A couple of years ago I started following a great blog,, looking for inspiration on healthy meals for the family.  I have wanted to “go real food” for a long time, knowing too much to be comfortable with packaged foods and synthetic ingredients.  We’ve been buying mostly all organic food, as we could find it, having committed to organic dairy and meat many years ago.  But as you know, organic does not mean healthy, and we certainly were buying our fair share of organic junk food.

  • Chips/Pretzels
  • Mac N Cheese
  • Crackers
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Bread (yes, organic junk food bread, more on that in a little bit)
  • Cereal bars/Clif bars
  • Yogurt (full of sugar)
  • Packaged cookies

And more. But then we made a decision, starting September 1st we’d give the real food thing a serious try.  And we are loving it!

The woman behind the blog set out a number or “rules” that guide her family; and I agree with her assessment.  No refined sugars, 100% whole grains only, no prepared foods with more than a few ingredients.  We haven’t converted 100% yet, but we are on our way.

Whole Foods Brand White Whole Wheat Bread

First Step: Swap Our Bread
The most major change for us is in the bread department.  Before September, I would mostly buy organic, Whole Foods brand, whole wheat bread.  Sounds good right?  Until I started on this journey, I felt pretty good about this choice.  But, I knew that with homemade the ingredient list would be shorter.  So, we bought ourselves a low-end breadmaker (thank you Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon) and got to work.  Now I make about 2 loaves per week, and it is delicious.   And it really only take 5 minutes tops to get all the ingredients (whole wheat flour, olive oil, sea salt, yeast, honey) in the breadmaker!  We’ve already improved our slicing skills, so we don’t have thick pieces anymore.  I use this recipe.

I also have made homemade pizza crust (also whole wheat), dinner rolls (that we also sub for hamburger buns) and bagels.  We plan to make homemade pasta soon.

The other changes are more subtle.  In packing the kids’ lunches, instead of sides of chips, they get fruit, or homemade whole wheat muffins.  We also are converting away from canola oil and only using coconut and olive oils.  And instead of refined sugar, we use maple syrup or honey. My recipes are still fabulous, and using these alternative oils and sweeteners have had no impact on taste!

I still buy packaged pasta (whole wheat) and found a spaghetti sauce that has no sugar added and made with olive oil, but I plan to try my hand at a homemade batch soon.  The key is to make large quantities so I can freeze for future meals!  We did switch away from a real staple in our home, frozen meatballs from Trader Joes.  My kids loved them. But they are terribly high in sodium and full of weird ingredients.  My first batch of homemade meatballs were a little heavy on garlic, but otherwise really good.  I’ll make up another 2 pounds soon (they are great for lunches!)

Planning is Key!
You may think I am in the kitchen all the time, but I’m not.  However, this new lifestyle does demand more planning!  And we can’t run out of fruit or else my kids would go hungry at snack time!  My husband and I do a very detailed meal plan on Saturday or Sunday, even thinking through lunches.  Then we do a huge shop (or 2, if we can hit the farmers market) to stock up.  The interesting thing is that we are coming home with fewer groceries, since it is all raw materials.  No more bulky boxes.  Then I do a fair amount of cooking over the weekend — but really I’m making our regular meals at the same time, so its only an incremental increase in kitchen time.  And knowing that we are set for the week makes it so worthwhile!

This hasn’t gone down without a few hiccups.  First, Kid #1 (10 1/2) is a super picky eater.  Super. Picky. Eater.  His diet includes 1. Mac N Cheese 2. Pizza 3. Cheeseburger 4. Tacos and 5. Nachos with cheese.  He’ll eat an apple.  And maybe some carrots.  Don’t ever suggest he dip an apple in cheese, he thinks its gross.  But, the same kid has been overheard in recent days to say “this real food thing isn’t so bad.”  See, he likes my homemade mac n cheese.  He also has surprisingly accepted zucchini muffins (knowing that they contained zucchini!)  But, he has also been grumpy and has skipped a few meals out of protest.  He does get to buy lunch once a week at school, and it is undoubtedly a cheese slathered affair.  But I’m ok with it for now.

We also would love to do all real food, but struggle with our allergy son.  To be “real” would mean forgoing some staples that he eats as alternatives to dairy.  So for now, we aren’t turning away from our beloved Daiya cheese alternative or Earth Balance margarine, or the soy products.  But, we have stopped plying the boy with packaged junk!

Middle child (8 1/2) has welcomed this lifestyle with excitement.  He’s our good eater.  Loves to try new foods.  Craves veggies and fruit.  Begs for chicken and ethnic food.  His attitude has certainly made the transition easier!

So, at the end of our first month of real food, I have to say that it has been easier than I thought, more rewarding, and the food has been all the better.  I look forward to furthering our transition, learning more recipes and buying less packaged foods.

Have you made any healthy food changes?  Please share!

Here’s to healthy eating 🙂