Quick and Easy Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Frosting

We have lots of birthdays in the fall. So, I’ve been working to develop a frosting that works for our allergies as well as those of our friends so that we can all enjoy the same dessert. I think I’ve landed on a keeper.

It has very simple ingredients, and comes out smooth and creamy. And unless you are allergic to chocolate, it should work for almost any allergy except for corn, because it does require powdered sugar. I’d prefer to substitute another sweetener, but haven’t come up with an option that adds sweet and bulk at the same time.

Ingredients: Cocoa powder, oil (I use light olive oil), water, pinch of salt, 1/8 tsp vanilla, powdered sugar.

Now, you’ll note that I didn’t give measurements on lots of the ingredients because it all depends on the yield you need. So, here are some ratios, and sequences to follow. This is a good recipe for just eyeing it, and when it looks right, stop.

  • To determine your approximate measurements, decide about how much icing you want to end up with. If you want a yield of 2 cups of icing/frosting, then start with 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and estimate that you will add about 1 cup of sugar.
  • Note: I do not recommend using dark chocolate cocoa powder. It’s too strong and requires too much sugar to balance out the bitterness.
  • Start by mixing the cocoa powder and oil. This is essential to mix these first.
  • Use half the amount of oil as you use cocoa powder.
  • Use twice the amount of sweetener as you do cocoa powder.
  • Add water in very small amounts (as small as 1/2 tsp at a time), alternating with adding the powdered sugar, until you get the consistency you want.
  • If you need to add more bulk, but your icing is sweet enough, add a little cornstarch.
  • Add the salt and vanilla at the end. Just a bit of both. Not much.
  • Mix by hand with a wire whisk for best results.

This icing is rich, and chocolatey, and delicious.

Creativity in your Kitchen

As a general rule, I like to solve problems in life. And as a general rule, these are the only times that I would consider myself to be creative. I get to practice this a lot in my kitchen figuring out recipes and food substitutions for my food sensitive kid. So, in my life, creativity only expresses itself out of some need.

Yesterday, I was forced to be creative in my kitchen for lunch and dinner because 1) I forgot my what my original meal plan was. And 2) Neither backup plans worked either.

Now, this is where most people would pull out a box of Mac & Cheese and call it good. That’s great if you have an easy option like that. But, about the only things I can buy pre-packaged for our food sensitivities are flour tortillas and graham crackers. That doesn’t make for much of a dinner.

So, I had to use what was on hand and make it ready within about 30 minutes. What I came up with is below. Not my best cooking ever, but it was hot, healthy, and homemade, and I’m proud of that. How do you show your creativity in the kitchen?

This was lunch. Flour tortillas, crisped in the oven to be quesadillas, lentils cooked and smashed to substitute for refried beans, leftover Jalepeno lime chicken from the the fridge, topped with homemade herbed ricotta, seasoned toasted pumpkin seeds, my homegrown herb garlic dehydrated cherry tomatoes, and some fresh chopped Jalepenos. It was actually tasty.

See below: Dinner consisted of turning the innards from our carved pumpkin into pumpkin bisque courtesy of our Instant Pot, cooked sausages from the freezer, and cabbage sautés with onion. It made for a good fall combo.

Have you come up with any creative meals lately?

Sprouting Grains

Sprouted and ready to store in the freezer.

I’ve been sprouting spelt for the last 9 months to grind to make our bread each week. I was so intimidated by the idea when I started. And I really couldn’t find any reliable information or consistent techniques online. But, now that I have it figured out….. it’s so easy! There’s really nothing to it. Once you have it worked into your routine, you can easily sprout a batch ahead, and always benefit from the additional nutrition that sprouting makes accessible to your body in your breads and baked goods.

Easy Steps to Sprouting Grain:

(These steps work with any grain.)

  1. Soak your grain in a large bowl overnight, or for about 10-12 hours.
  2. Drain into a mesh colander and rinse.
  3. Return the drained grain to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel.
  4. Rinse every 6-12 hours, depending on how fast it dries out until you see little tails at the tips of each seed.
  5. Spread on your dehydrator and dehydrate 110-120 degrees (I usually do 115) until the grain is hard and cannot be indented when pressed upon by the end of your fingernail.
  6. Store in sealed mason jars in the freezer if you don’t plan to grind your grain within 2 days.

That’s it! Give it a try. Sprouted grain makes a softer flour, is easier to grind than unsprouted, and I think makes lighter baked goods.

Unsprouted spelt berries.

Cover with water and soak for 12 hours.

 

Sprouted. See the tiny tails on the tip of each seed?

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Before dehydrating.

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After dehydrating.

Dehydrated and ready to go in the grain mill.

In the mill. About to become flour.

Compare: Left – after dehydrating, Right – before dehydrating.

Fresh Bread – Step by Step

img_0070I’ve been so blessed to be able to make my family delicious loaves of bread like this the past year.

Here are some step by step photos if you want to try too.

First you need a cute helper like this. She makes the job much more fun and is a hard little worker. She would make her great-great grandma Maggie proud. She stirs with determination until all the flour is added.

To get to this point however, you need a big bowl, wooden spoon, 2 tsp of Active Dry Yeast, 1 tbls of sweetener like sugar or honey to give the yeast a boost, and 1 cup of warm water. Not hot or you’ll kill the yeast. Body temp is best. Stir to moisten the yeast (that’s what she is doing) and then set the spoon aside and let it sit for about 5 minutes until it is bubbly and foamy. This is called proofing your yeast. This is how you know that it is active and alive.

The photo below shows what the yeast will look like once it has been proofed. Nice and foamy with some bubbles.

Now you start adding your flour. You can use whole wheat, white whole wheat, all purpose, or any combination of those. I like to use spelt with a little all purpose mixed in.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour of your choice on top of your proofed yeast and water mix, but do not stir. Then sprinkle 1-2 tsp of salt on top of the sprinkled flour. Then add 1 tbls of oil. I like olive oil. Now stir all that up. Add more flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture is no longer gooey and the dough starts to hold together, pull away and clean the sides of the bowl. It will be messy and sticky at first, but will soon start to form a smooth ball.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface. Knead gently adding as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking to your kneading surface and your fingers.

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Knead, keeping the outer skin of the dough as smooth as possible, until you feel less resistance in the dough and it starts to feel silky when you push it away. Once you reach this point, stop and pull off a strawberry sized hunk of dough. Flour it and gently begin to stretch it in all directions to see if you can stretch it thin enough to see light through the fibers of the dough without it tearing. If it tears easily, then you need to knead some more. This is called the “Window Pane Test.” If it stretches thin enough and doesn’t tear, and you can see light through then you know you have kneaded enough.

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Now, oil your mixing bowl and return your dough to the bowl, cover with a damp dish towel, and let it rise. You know it has finished rising when you can poke two fingers into the dough about 1/2″ and the indentations stay. Once it has risen to this point, you are ready to throw and shape your loaves.

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This is also a good time to liberally butter your loaf pan.

Remove your dough from the bowl and gently roll and shape it into a rough log shape. On a sturdy surface, throw your dough down on the table to remove any air bubbles. Really slam it down hard. You should hear a good hard slapping sound when it hits the table top. Do this 5-7 times. Then reshape your dough into a log shape just slightly shorter than your loaf pan.

These are my loaves after shaping.

Cover the loaf with a damp dish towel and let it rise until it reaches the tops of your loaf pan. The loaves below are finished rising and ready to go in the oven.

Put the loaves into a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees. Cook for 25-30 minutes until browned well on top. They should also be browned well on the inside of the pan. Another test to be sure that they are finished cooking is to remove them from the pan and thump the center of the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow. These loaves are cooked nicely.

Remove from the pans to cool immediately after removing from the oven.

Let the loaves cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife.

Enjoy with butter and your favorite jam.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

This was dinner tonight. Give it a try.

Start with enough sweet potatoes for the size of your family. I did one per person and had leftovers as they were large and not everyone ate a whole one.

Wash the sweet potatoes and prick all around with a fork.

Bake at 400 for 1-1.5 hours depending on the size of your potatoes.

While they bake, assemble your filling.

Filling: ground turkey, chopped onion, garlic, celery, cabbage, red bell pepper, salt, pepper, seasoned salt, sage, oregano, olive oil, flour, and water.

Brown the turkey meat. When cooked through, add a little olive oil to your pan and sauté the onion, celery, garlic, cabbage and red bell pepper. Now add the salt and pepper to taste, a sprinkle of seasoned salt, and the oregano and fresh sage. I used about 1 tbls. of fresh sage but you could use about 1 tsp of ground as well.

Next, a couple of tablespoons of flour into your meat mix and stir until the flour has absorbed. Then add about 2-3 cups of water. The addition of the flour and water will create a sauce which will keep the ground turkey from becoming too dry. Turn off the heat once the sauce has thickened.

When you’re sweet potatoes are soft when squeezed, remove them from the oven and place on a cookie sheet and slice open. Butter and lightly smash the insides. Then top with the meat mix. I sprinkled buttered homemade crumbled bread on the top. Return to the oven on 400 for about 15 minutes until the bread topping is toasty. Sprinkle with feta cheese crumbles to serve.

Fresh Bread Out of the Oven

I’ve been honing my bread making skills this last year. Follow my bread making journey by reading the latest on the Baking Day page.

Just can’t beat freshly baked sprouted spelt bread and raspberry jam.

Chocolate Raspberry Breakfast Quinoa – Make Ahead Instant Pot Meal

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I’ve been making good use of quinoa for breakfast in the Instant Pot lately. This is the latest and the easiest so far.

It is true that “necessity is the mother of invention.” The only reason that I came up with this recipe is because I was going to make the Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Quinoa, but I was out of pumpkin so I had to come up with another flavor.

This ended up being ridiculously simple.

Chocolate Raspberry Breakfast Quinoa: 

2 cups quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbls butter (or coconut oil if you can use that)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raspberry jam (or really any favorite jam flavor)
3 1/2 cups water

Cook in the Instant Pot on high pressure for 1 minute with natural pressure release. You can also use the Delay Start feature and set this up the night before to come on and be warm and ready when you wake up in the morning.

Serve warm sprinkled with sliced almonds, chocolate chunks and a dash of cream.