Book Review: Homemade Snacks and Staples


Homemade Snacks & Staples (Living Free Guides) is a new cookbook that feels just like me. As the authoress, Kimberly Aime, puts it “I grew up in the 1980’s, when processed foods were the norm and quicker was always better.” How she came to eating a clean diet parallels mine. You have to find out why it is good for you, before you accept the life change. While her book has a few meat and fish recipes, overall the book is vegetarian friendly. And the book does deliver – every staple item you could want/need for your pantry and refrigerator, along with small bites, snacks and even meals. This is a keeper of a cookbook, and a great gift for anyone who is learning to cook!

So, in all that I passed over the sunflower butter (I will be making it once I can source peanut and nut-free sunflower seeds!) and many other tasty items…and enjoyed one of my rare fish meals, which I enjoyed quite a bit. It was crunchy, moist and the artichokes/water chestnuts? Wow, why hadn’t I thought of that before? Way better than say celery…..


Manatee’s Tuna Salad (Page 125)


  • 1 12-ounce can tuna packed in water, drained (used 2 7-ounce cans Albacore)
  • ¼ cup white onion, diced
  • ½ cup water chestnuts, chopped*
  • ¼ cup artichoke hearts, drained and diced (used canned ones)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (regular, preferably organic, or egg-free for allergies)


Flake the tun into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Season to taste with ground black pepper, if desired.

*OK, I used an entire can of water chestnuts. I drained and rinsed, then drained again (it really cleans up the flavor). Try to find a brand with only water chestnuts and water and no additives.

We served the tuna salad over a bed of romaine hearts, thinly sliced. Each plate had one hearts worth.

Serves 3.


FTC Disclaimer: We received a copy for potential review.


Book Review: Outside The Lines

The PR pitch was that children would enjoy coloring Outside the Lines: An Artists’ Coloring Book for Giant Imaginations. Kids? Pfffttt! How about me. Hehehe.


My Mom loved to color with me when I was little. She would lay on the floor and patiently color, while I had the patience of a squirrel, unable to stay within the lines. I am sure it pained her 😉 Thankfully, as with many things in life, I got more patience. There was a reason she had the big box of Crayola Crayons, and I had all the lumpy, half-broken ones. Now I get the big box and Walker gets the broken ones 😉 And I got to spend a lazy Sunday, on the floor, coloring!

I love the concept of taking coloring books to a new level, take modern art and let the reader bring it alive. Brought to life by Penguin Books and curated by Souris Hong-Porretta, it is coming out in early September.

Me? I bought a 96 count box of Crayola’s and had fun. Even with Walker squawking loudly that he should have my crayons and book 😉


East River Tattoo, by Duke Riley. And this piece is the work of art on his tattoo parlor’s website front page, East River Tattoo, in New York. And I’ll admit that I didn’t research Duke Riley’s works before having fun doodling. I wanted it to not be affected by what I might learn. I went as fanciful and bright as I could imagine it. And my box of crayons even had glittery ones. I had forgotten how much I just love coloring!

Coloring modern works of art? Beyond fun! And hey, at least I wasn’t being forced to color Elmo or dinosaurs….


FTC Disclaimer: We received a review copy.

The No-Wheat Cookbook: Tuna Noodle Casserole


With the family falling into a mostly-gluten-free way of life, so that Alistaire can eat with us, I picked a recipe we might all enjoy from The No-Wheat Cookbook: Easy, Delicious Recipes for a Wheat-Free Diet. I hate sounding like I am getting on the bandwagon for no-wheat…but honestly, I have to say my stomach has felt better as I move us off wheat pasta (and all other forms of it….). We are eating less pasta, be it GF or not, and my stomach doesn’t feel like a lead balloon and I might add, this week we got home late, and I made a fresh tomato sauce tossed with wheat spaghetti….it was delicious and my gut hurt after it. Lesson learned. Once you wean off, you notice things. Which is a huge bummer, because as Kirk can attest, I reeeaaalllllyyyyyy love pasta. Maybe Alistaire’s allergies are a blessing? Kirk would say yes 😉 It is the pasta that does me in, not bread. Sheesh!

I grew up on casseroles, as I have mentioned before. Many involved cans of cream of mushroom soup and a lot of pasta. Our casseroles were heavy on carbs, low on protein (pasta is cheap, tuna not so much). I reversed that formula and Kirk loved it. One of our realties with a plant-based diet and a child with allergies is fish/meat has had to come back into our diet, so that he can get what he needs. I am OK with using a little here and there, if it is ethically sourced. Between Wild Planet tuna and making it gluten/dairy free with Go Veggie cheeze, we had a great casserole. All it was missing was a bag of crushed potato chips on top 😉

PS: Here is an option though – it would have been great with a can of drained garbanzo beans as well, instead of the tuna.


Tuna Noodle Casserole (as adapted from page 166)


  • 8 ounces brown rice noodles (used twists)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ cups milk (used unsweetened So Delicious)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • ½ tsp dried majoram
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 (5 ounce) cans albacore tuna, drained and flaked (see above for a veg option)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (used Go Veggie, Dayia would work for a full veg option)


Preheat oven to 375°, lightly oil or spray a 9×13″ baking dish.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil, cook pasta as directed, drain when just al dente (I took a minute off the cooking time).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-low, add in oil, onion, carrots, red pepper and garlic, cook for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Take off heat, stir in tuna.

In a medium saucepan, whisk the milk, broth, marjoram, and cornstarch until smooth. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper/ Take off heat and stir in cheese.

Add cooked pasta to skillet, toss with vegetable mix, add in sauce and stir to coat. Transfer to baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes. If desired, top with ¼ cup more cheese, and serve.

Serves 6.


FTC Disclaimer: We received a review copy.

Zucchini Bread From Learning To Bake Allergen-Free

When I need inspiration that isn’t coming from the ever-growing stack of cookbooks waiting to be reviewed…I go wandering on Amazon. Amazon rarely fails in this: if I know a cookbook I like, I have many others presented to me that are similar. Then I go to the library’s website and start searching. Being that our county library system is massive (how big? 48 libraries!) and one of the most used in the US (it is a yearly battle between KCLS and one in New York – 22 million items circulated alone in 2012!)…well most times I can get the books I see on Amazon. It gives me a chance to find authors I might have missed and avoid stinkers (which is one reason I like the luxury of getting so many review copies of cookbooks!)l My goal was to find more inspiration in baking for Alistaire and the family. Finding gluten-free books isn’t hard, but those that are also egg, nut and peanut free? It gets a lot thinner in choices. Real thin. I picked up a pile of books and started flipping through. The first two went back into my library bag. One claimed to be nut free but wasn’t (really??), the second one used a GF flour mix in every recipe that was nearly all garbanzo bean flour (my stomach said nooo thank you!).

The third in my pile had me happy. It was that special-needs diet cookbook I was dreaming of. How had I missed it before? Learning to Bake Allergen-Free: A Crash Course for Busy Parents on Baking without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy or Nuts by Colette Martin. And more so, it follows pretty closely to how we eat, unprocessed and plenty of whole foods. And will walk the shaky/nervous/overwhelmed through it (yes, it is a crash course, but there isn’t a learning curve  with allergens…ugh). And this is a relatively new book, having come out last year, with plenty of color photos, sprinkled throughout.


This made the most ethereal loaf of zucchini bread.


Ummm…this was beyond fantastic. Consider it this way: zucchini bread is usually a heavy loaf that is dark in flavor, texture and heavy in the stomach. This wasn’t that. The vanilla slips through, mingling with the sugar. It doesn’t taste gluten-free. Or allergy-friendly. If you brought it out and kept quiet, it would disappear quickly. Walker and Alistaire happily had it for dessert, and Walker ate what baby didn’t finish.



I took the boys out to the garden, and we picked a couple of small zucchini to use in it. There is something so cool about having fresh produce on the vine, waiting for you!



It never got above 65° today. What a way to celebrate the first day of August. No measurable rain in all of July, first day of August and it opens up dumping and cold. Loved it! The plants did as well….

The bread pulled together quickly, and was in the oven before we sat down to dinner. This could become a go-to for all those squash plants 😉 Yellow squash would be so pretty.



Zucchini Bread, pages 102-103 (adapted for our dietary issues)


  • 2 cups gluten-free flour blend (see notes)
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum (see notes)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer + ¼ cup warm water, mixed
  • ½ cup oil (called for grapeseed, used olive oil)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (called for hemp, used coconut milk)
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups zucchini, shredded



Preheat oven to 350°, spray or lightly oil a 9×5 bread pan.

Mix together the flour, xantham gum, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Blend together the egg replacer mixture, oil, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl, with a hand mixer on medium speed, for 1 minute.

Gradually add the flour mixture, blending on medium speed until the batter is smooth.

Add the zucchini and mix for an additional 2 minutes, until combined.

Scrape batter into the loaf pan, smoothing out. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick or thin butter knife comes out clean in the center, and the top is turning golden. My loaf took a full 60 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes, gently flip over to remove, let cool on a wire rack before slicing (a serrated bread knife works well). Once cool, store covered, eat within a day or two for best taste!


I used Trader Joe’s all-purpose gluten-free baking mix, a comparable version is King Arthur’s.

If the GF flour mix you are using has xantham gum, do not add any to the recipe. I used the GF mix I have, it imparts a light flavor, where other ones such as Bob’s Red Mill have a heavier taste (it has beans). Use what you prefer, but keep that in mind.

Overall, I bake with So Delicious coconut milk. I like the texture/flavor. My husband prefers to avoid Hemp products. As for the oil, I cook with only two oils: olive and coconut. Maybe I am used to it, but I love olive oil in baked goods. I don’t fine it strong at all.


Inchilotta Casserole & A Dilemma

The irony in Alistaire’s allergies is it took away my lazy cushion for cooking. Many of my vegan/plant-based diet tricks were not there anymore. Nut “meat”balls? Nope. Wheat pasta? Yeah, nope. Finely ground nuts in oatmeal? Sigh. Gluten-based faux meats? And a big fat no. There have been days where I honestly feel pretty sorry for myself, then I remind myself that of all the kids to have allergies, he is pretty fortunate. At least he has a Mom that can learn to adapt not only his diet, but ours. At 17 months he wants to eat with us now, not just have a pile of “baby” food. No dummy there. Even then, I can’t cook with many ingredients anymore around him, so that means I have removed most everything he is allergic to from the house. From spelt flour to pecans, to my lazy-evening dinner solution: marinara sauce with faux-ground beef tossed with whole wheat pasta. He eats that, we have issues. And I got the bill for his last two ER visits and gack, no thanks on that. Oh well, at least we have met our yearly deductible, must look on the bright side.

So my dilemma is how do I get protein into him? I would fall back on faux meats about once a week and the rest of the time it was heavy on legumes and nuts before Alistaire was eating solids. Baking has to be vegan/gluten-free still, to avoid eggs. But I am also realizing we will have to have some meat, until I can get his diet under control. Trust me, I do NOT like cooking meat, nor buying it. This recipe does contain meat, although it can easily be converted to using faux-chickn’ strips chopped up. This will I am sure lead to some issues with readers, as I have primarily posted vegan and vegetarian recipes the past couple of years. I am not one to hide though and pretend to be something I cannot be. If my using organic meat offends you, I apologize, but what choice do I have until I can figure out my baby’s health issues?

Still, I am happy to be able to make my son a whole foods meal that he can enjoy with us. My inspiration? A copy of, Eating Gluten Free: Delicious Recipes and Essential Advice for Living Well Without Wheat and Other Problematic Grains, published in 2004, that I came across in our local library this week. I found it gratifying to read an older book on GF cooking/eating, being 9 years old, it doesn’t have a lot of hard to find ingredients, that are now in style for cookbooks (don’t get me wrong, I love hard to find ingredients…but hey, it makes it easier with allergies to avoid them). Picking through the recipes I found a number that were good to use as-is and many I could adapt for B’s allergies.


The Inchilotta recipe on page 41 caught me eye. It is the stuffing of a vibrant enchilada, and can be eaten as a salad, or baked as a casserole with corn tortillas. Yum! I had to try this out, so I got my shopping list ready and went to the farmers market.


Inchilotta Casserole (As adapted)


  • 1 pound organic chicken breasts (see notes)
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans organic black beans
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp rubbed sage
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • Generous pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 package corn tortillas (gluten and allergen-free), about 9
  • 8 ounces finely grated cheddar/jack cheese (see notes)


Preheat oven to 350°, line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray liberally.

Add the lemon juice to a glass mixing bowl, place chicken in, turn to coat, let rest for 10 minutes.

Mix the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Transfer chicken to baking sheet, discard lemon juice. Sprinkle the seasoning on top, flip over and sprinkle on the other side. Bake chicken for 30 minutes. Let rest until cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and tomatoes in bite-size pieces. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Rinse and shake off beans, add to onions. Add the spices, toss to coat. Stir in cooked chicken.

Eat as, or add chopped romaine hearts and make a salad, it keeps great in the refrigerator chilled – or better? Make a hot casserole!


To make a casserole:

Preheat oven to 350°, oil a baking dish (I used a 9×13″). Lay down a layer of corn tortillas, spread half filling on top, sprinkle on 1/3 cheese, then another layer of tortillas, remaining filling and 1/3 of cheese, ending with another layer of tortillas . Sprinkle last 1/3 of cheese on top, bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

– To fit tortillas in dish, cut 3 of them in half, and use 2 whole ones and 2 half-moons on each layer.


Use a favorite faux-chicken strips, chopped up, for a veg-friendly version. You won’t need the lemon juice. If your strips must be baked before, sprinkle the spices on, before baking. If going vegan, use a favorite faux-cheese.


Date Bars For My Youngest

Alistaire has changed, he is a big boy now. He looks at our food longingly. He wants what we have, to not be segregated due to his allergies. I went back into my copy of Enjoy Life’s Cookies for Everyone!: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free Treats that are Safe for Most Anyone with Food Allergies, Intolerances, an, to make a new recipe for him to enjoy. I picked the Date Bars on page 107 and adapted them to coconut oil, rather than shortening. I have really enjoyed this cookbook, I first found it long before allergies were even an issue in our family. Now? I have a vast array of sweet treats I can offer the littlest. No eggs, gluten, peanuts, nuts and so on 🙂


His face was beaming happiness.

Little man couldn’t get enough of it!


Baking for my children makes me happy, being able to create for the baby? That is more than happiness.


Date Bars

Cookie Base:


  • 3 cups medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1½ cups water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar



Preheat oven to 350°, lightly oil or spray a 9×13″ glass baking dish.

Place the dates, water and sugar in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until thick and mostly smooth. Set aside to cool while the crust is prepared.

Add the cookie base ingredients to a food processer, process until finely crumbed. Divide in half, spreading on half in the prepared dish, pat down firmly. Spread date filling over crust, smoothing out. Sprinkle remaining crust mixture over the top evenly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool partially on a wire rack, cut bars while still warm (but not hot).

I cut 16 bars. Wrap extras in plastic wrap, freeze on a baking sheet till hard, then package in a freezer bag.


I chilled a wrapped bar and took it on my Sunday hike. For second breakfast, it was so tasty. It fueled me on my way out! Even after I squashed it with my camera 😉 Oh yeah, that is Mt. Rainier.




Vanilla Frosted Cupcakes from The Ladies’ Book of Baking


If one wants to feel all fancy and have a proper smorgasbord of treats (and ooh, high tea anyone?), they must get a copy of The Ladies: Book of Baking:


Its paper cover is glittery, which my inner 12-year-old princess swoons over. The full-color photography is drool-worthy and the recipes will have you wearing fancy hats and looking for excuses to host parties. (Did I mention tea? It covers how to host a proper afternoon tea….)

My In-laws were visiting last week and in passing it was mentioned Kirk’s Aunt Donna had a birthday coming up (she was here as well visiting), so while they were all gone, I made the Vanilla Frosted Cupcakes from pages 42-43. Fab-u-lous. Moist, pretty and indulgent. Donna asked if they were healthy. I believe I might have snorted a bit and said “Not exactly”. If one is going to make a birthday dessert it must be luxurious! With that many around, the little cakes disappeared quickly.

PS: Visit the publisher’s website for even more wonderful ideas and inspiration!


Simply frosted, with a sprinkling of sugar on top.

Vanilla Cupcakes



  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp milk


Preheat oven to 350°, line a 12-count muffin tin with liners.

Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in gently. Gently mix in the milk.

Spoon the batter into the liners. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool.

Makes 12 cupcakes.


Vanilla Frosting


  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, preferably organic, sifted


Put the butter, vanilla extract, and milk in a large bowl. Using an electric handheld mixer, beat the mixture until smooth. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar and continue beating for 2-3 minutes, until the frosting is light and creamy. Pipe with a large star tip to make swirls. Sprinkle decorating sugar on top if desired (the recipe called for crystalized rose petals to decorate the top).


FTC Disclaimer: We received a copy of the book for potential review.

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal & A Book Review


I was on the fence while reading through The Everything Gluten-Free College Cookbook. Why? I felt that while the recipes are solid, it wasn’t realistic. Better to have named it the “The Everything Gluten-Free First Apartment Cookbook“. A number of the recipes need a stove or oven, something that I am going to guess just isn’t realistic for most students in dorms. I always lived on my own, in apartments  when I was in college, so I had an actual kitchen,  but how many young adults have that resource? And you need a refrigerator, as well as pots, pans and measuring cups. So if you need a gift for a college grad who is setting out in the world, who is GF, good choice. Bad choice for an 18 year-old who can’t have appliances in their dorm room.

Anyhow, while it isn’t fall, I decided on a baked pumpkin oatmeal. I tried it twice, first with egg as directed, then vegan the second time. You won’t miss the egg at all, it tastes exactly the same!


Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal


  • ½ cup canned pumpkin purée
  • 1 large egg or 1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal + 3 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup milk, dairy or favorite non-dairy
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats, GF certified, if needed
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350°, lightly oil an 8×8″ glass baking dish.

Whisk wet ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Stir dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, add wet, stir to combine.

Spread in prepared baking dish, bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cool, cover and refrigerate. Warm in microwave for about a minute.

Makes 4 servings.


The recipe called for an optional ½ cup walnuts or pecans, diced, added with the oats, for a crunch to the oatmeal. I let this out so Alistaire could enjoy it with us.


FTC Disclaimer: We received a review copy.

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