Dairy, Egg, and Peanut Free Homemade “Uncrustables”

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I’ve been inspired by a few blogs out there. 100 Days of Real Food and MOMAbles has recently inspired me to try making my own homemade uncrustables. Here’s why. SG is allergic to all things dairy and eggs…and now possibly peanuts! Lunches are a BIG struggle for me. I’m talking- HUGE. I never know what to feed her for lunch.

To even be able to make SG a simple PB&J sandwich, I first have to make the bread. I have not found a safe pre-made bread out there. I purchased a Black and Decker bread maker from Target and used my friend Jill’s recipe for bread. Here’s the simple, yet yummy recipe:

Dairy and Egg Free Homemade Bread
Ingredients:
1.5 cups hot water
3 Tbsp oil (I use canola)
3 Tbsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
4 cups bread flour (We use King Arthur Bread Flour) Update: Now I use regular all purpose unbleached flour and it works great
2 Tbsp quick rise yeast (I buy the kind that says it’s good for bread machines.)

Directions:
Put everything in the order listed in the bread machine. Before you add the yeast, make a little well in the flour with your finger and then add yeast. Close machine and cook. Our machine has an option to bake the bread in one hour and that’s the only way we’ve ever done it. It works great.

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Now go take a shower or something. Burn a little time. Relax. Build a tower with blocks and watch your child gleefully knock it down- over and over and over and over…

Once the bread is done, you’re ready to start making your uncrustables! I ordered this handy dandy bread sealer from amazon.com. This blog post from MOMAbles also shows you how to seal the sandwiches with a jar. I wanted the little gadget. It’s just cuter. And since I do lots of grunt work, the Huzz happily ordered it for me. It’s the little things, ya know?

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The hardest part of this whole thing was cutting the stinkin’ bread. Really. I have a great knife but cannot cut a straight slice to save my life. Once I got past the wacky widths, I was ready to make my very first uncrustable!

I gently pressed the red box on the slice of bread to be my guideline of where to put the “peanut” butter and jelly. I call it peanut butter, but really it’s SunButter. It’s a good peanut butter substitute. Anyway, I loaded the slice up with first SunButter and then jelly. I put the top slice on and followed the directions from the bread sealer label. Just press the white outer square first and then the inner red box. Easy. Done. Tip- pull the crusts away while the bread sealer is still pressed down. Save the crusts on a plate. I’ll tell ya what I did with my crusts in a bit.

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You now have your very own truly homemade uncrustable! :::Insert cheering crowd::: I think I immediately texted a pic to the Huzz, my mom, sister, and brother. I was very proud.

The second uncrustable was beautiful. The others were kind of ugly because the bread broke right in the middle. I solved it by tucking little bits of leftover bread in the cracks. Not pretty, but really, who cares? She’s two. And I made the homemade bread and uncrustables. I’m giving myself some grace here.

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According to the MomAbles post, they recommended flash freezing the sandwiches for two hours. I did three because I forgot. I double wrapped the sandwiches and put them in a freezer safe gallon baggie, labeled and dated. Now toss in the freezer for future lunches!

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The only stinky part is I could only get 5 uncrustables from this loaf. I think it’s because I hacked the bread. Next time, the engineer Huzz will pre-slice the bread for me. And he’ll do it perfectly. 🙂 With his help, I think I’ll get more sandwiches out of this recipe in the future. If you can use pre-made bread, you can make as many as you want!

After making the sandwiches, I had a big plate full of funny looking crusts, which I thought about throwing away. However, I remembered back to when we first discovered SG’s food allergies and needed bread crumbs for a recipe. I hadn’t yet discovered the safe brand we now use. So, in order to have bread crumbs, we made a loaf of bread, toasted it in the oven with the broiler, and then used the food processor to make bread crumbs. It was a pain to do all of that JUST for breadcrumbs. But today it was easy and perfect!

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Here’s how I make Homemade Bread Crumbs:

Turn on broiler. Mine automatically goes to 500 degrees so I left it there. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Spread out the crusts and leftover bread pieces. Toss in the oven. I set my timer for 2 minute intervals. It only took 4 minutes to brown one side. Take out, flip the crusts, and repeat. Throw the browned crusts in the food processor, (shriek when your toddler tells you she licked a crust and then tossed it in) and voila! Homemade bread crumbs. I have no idea how long these last. I’ve only done this once before. However, I have two safe recipes that call for bread crumbs: meatloaf and meatballs. I plan on preparing some stuff for the freezer to use up these bread crumbs.

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So there you have it. Dairy, egg, and peanut free homemade uncrustables. Yes, I wish it was less time consuming to make. But a little time and effort gives us more options and freedom when lunch time rolls around. I can’t wait to throw an uncrustable in her little backpack, along with some fresh fruit and a drink, and know I’m providing the very best lunch I can for my little SG. Convenient, homemade, safe, and since I already did the hard work- easy!

Check out this post from 100 Days of Real Food on why it’s better to make your own. Also, check out MOMAbles– it has lots of great lunch ideas!

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Dairy Free and Egg Free Meatloaf

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I love meatloaf. It’s comforting and makes me happy. There’s just something about it… Now that we are dairy and egg free, I’ve been toying around with different recipes. All of my attempts have been pretty good, but without the real eggs, my meatloaf kept falling apart- even with the egg substitutes. However, I think I finally have just the right recipe.

A quick tip: Make two meatloaves. Freeze one and bake the other for dinner that night. You’re already doing the work- why not just do it twice and save yourself time in the future?

Here’s my latest and greatest meatloaf recipe:

Ingredients:
For Meatloaf:

  • 2 lbs ground chuck
  • 3 “flax eggs”
  • 1/3 c finely chopped veggies (I used carrots. In the past I’ve used green peppers and carrots and even zucchini.)
  • 1/2 c finely chopped onion (Another quick tip- chop an entire onion and put whatever onion you don’t use in a freezer safe baggie and freeze to throw in future recipes.)
  • 1 c Panko breadcrumbs (Hy-Vee brand is safe for us.)
  • 2/3 c ketchup (We use Simply Heinz.)
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

For Glaze:

  • Ketchup
  • Brown Sugar

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare flax eggs first. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp milled flax seed and and 3 Tbsp of warm water PER EGG. So, 3 Tbsp flax seed and 9 Tbsp warm water. Stir well and let sit until it reaches an egg white consistency. (5-10 minutes)
2. While the egg is gelling, combine everything else (except glaze stuff) in a big bowl. Add the flax eggs. Get your hands in there and mix well.
3. If you’re baking it right away, plop it into a loaf pan and pop in the oven.
(I kind of messed up here because I forgot to write down the exact time it took to bake- I think it was an hour and a half. Check after an hour with a meat thermometer and go from there. Sorry about that!) Once the meatloaf is almost ready, dump some ketchup and a little bit of brown sugar in a bowl. Mix well. Spread on the top of the meatloaf. Put the meatloaf back in for 10 minutes to let the glaze do it’s “thang.”

If you’re freezing the meatloaf, spread the meat blob on plastic wrap. Shape into a loaf. I wrap my meatloaf twice in plastic wrap and once in foil. On the foil, use a Sharpie to label and date your meatloaf. Freeze. Allow 24 hours to defrost in the fridge. Bake as directed above in a loaf pan.

Living dairy and egg free can be a challenge, but it can be done. And it can be done well. Happy eating, my friend.

My Favorite Bible Verses

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I really never tried to memorize bible verses until my 30’s. I knew a few from hearing them at church. I even memorized one when I was in college: “I can all do things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 But that was it. I had never thought to memorize bible verses and use them in my life. That is, until The Lord got my attention and showed me through small group, church, and bible studies the importance of hiding His word in my heart.

My repertoire of memorized verses is not as vast as I’d like it to be. Truthfully, remembering stuff is just not my thing. I struggle with it. Ya know, going from the bedroom to the kitchen and forgetting what you went to get or do? That’s me. However, I have made an effort to memorize some key verses for my life.

I’m going to share some of my memory verses with you. I didn’t memorize them all at once. Usually a struggle or life event happens that prompts me to search the scriptures and find a verse I can memorize and hold onto and repeat as many times as I need to.

“O Lord, my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2
I found this verse (and many others) when I had a sub-chorionic hemorrhage when pregnant with SG. I chose this verse to memorize during the awful ordeal and repeated it SO many times. Sometimes in tears, sometimes to chase away the worry, and even in rejoicing as I healed. I now pray this verse for SG and her food allergies.

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:27
I clung to this verse during our journey through infertility. Long before we conceived, I found this verse at a Christian book store on a ceramic cross, took a pic with my camera phone, and kept it as my screen saver. I prayed this even more throughout my pregnancy.

“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise The Lord.” Psalm 113:9
I read this many times through our infertility trials and still read it now, as we wish and pray for baby number two.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Oh Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
We were challenged at a bible study to write three things on one side of an index card we could work on in our lives. One of the things I wrote down was “Thoughts”. The challenge was to find a bible verse to combat the three things. I found this verse and quickly memorized it. I find this verse covers so much: my words, my tone, my heart, my thoughts, and are they pleasing to The Lord? Sometimes the answer is yes. Sadly, sometimes the answer is no.

“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2nd Corinthians 10:5
I wrote about this verse and worrying in my very first post on the blog, “My Cup Runneth Over“. I am a worrier. I know I shouldn’t be and I’m working on it. I know there is a verse about worrying I need to find and memorize. When I worry and when my thoughts stray to somewhere they should not, I silently recite this verse in my mind.

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
I had a time where I kept having bad dreams and quickly memorized this verse. It brings me much comfort to recite this verse silently over and over until I fall back asleep again. Recently, SG woke up crying and I prayed this verse over her and rubbed her little head and she was instantly calmed and drifted right back to sleep.

I wrote a few verses on an index card and keep it in my bible. It’s a great visual reminder to myself.

These are some of my favorite verses- not all of them. Do you have some favorite bible verses? Memorized or not, please share!

Eating Out Stresses Me Out!

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I love to eat out. Eating out will never be the same experience, however, unless SG grows out of her food allergies. We still do it, but now jump through hoops to keep her safe. Of course, we gladly do it. But it STRESSES ME OUT!

If you ever see me at a restaurant, I might look CRAZY to you. I feel a little crazy. I immediately cover her high chair with her cover (Yes, she’s 28 months old and I’ll continue to use her cover until she’s old enough to sit in a booster seat. She’s not there yet.) I wipe down the entire table with a baby wipe- sometimes two or three times. I air dry the table with my hand. (I won’t use a napkin from the restaurant. What if someone had dairy/cheesy hands or residue while rolling the silverware in napkins or when dropping off our extra napkins???) I immediately stick the little plastic placement down for SG to eat off of. We ordered a few hundred of them from amazon.com. I wipe down my hands with a wipe again before handling her food- which I bring from home. I carefully set out her little meal before her. I warn her to keep her hands on the table. She’s so sensitive that if there’s cheese caked somewhere on the high chair underneath the cover and she touches it that she’ll break out in hives. I, of course, try to pick the cleanest looking high chair.

Then I sit back and try to maintain some semblance of sanity and not worry if SG is going to be okay and safe. Try. I usually warn the server of her food allergies. No, we’re not cheap! I’d LOVE to order her anything off the menu, actually. I don’t care about the price. However, this is our reality if we want to eat out somewhere. It’s almost not worth it because I stay on high alert while I bug the Huzz and he sits back and relaxes. Doesn’t this all sound relaxing to you???

When my food comes, I feel like I inhale it all without breathing. I want to finish quickly so I can go wash my hands and wipe my mouth and not be contaminated. And if you know me, I’m a SLOW eater. Like super slow.

SG hasn’t yet figured out that when we eat out, she’s eating food from home. She’s too young to know the difference. There is an option for us, though- Chick-fil-A! Our local Chick-fil-A (CFA) knows us and our special orders. Did you know the grilled nuggets are dairy and egg free? And they are grilled on their own special grill? Nothing else is grilled there. Yay! Their french fries are fried in their own space- nothing else is fried there. Yay! Their lemonade is safe and yummy! Yay! (I do wipe the cup down). SG gets to have grilled nuggets, french fries, and lemonade from CFA. I request the food to be “red flagged for a glove change for a food allergy.” My CFA is very accommodating.

We recently ate at a restaurant, just me and SG. I didn’t have her lunch planned (my bad!) so I ordered her CFA to go and she ate it at another restaurant. A cop was dining there and as he passed our table said, “I remember those days with my kids- where they only want french fries and you have to bring it with you.” He said it with a smile. I almost blurted out “My child has food allergies and I have to do this. I wish she could eat anything she wanted from any restaurant!” Instead, I just savored the moment of feeling normal, smiled and said something like, “Yeah, she loves Chick-fil-A.”

After writing all of this down, I’m wondering why we even bother eating out. And sadly, I can tell you. It’s my lack of planning. Even though I have a good collection of safe recipes, I’m hit or miss. I’m either little Holly Homemaker for a week or falling apart at the seams at dinnertime. Sound familiar? Please tell me I’m not the only one. Food allergies or not- meal planning and FOLLOWING THROUGH with the plan takes effort and energy!

Eating out: How do you do it if you have food allergies in your family? Do you cook all the time? Do you venture out as a family? Have you found safe restaurants? Or do you avoid them like the plague? I feel a little better now after telling the world why I look and act like I do in restaurants. It’s not because I want to- it’s because it’s a small price to pay to keep my precious child safe.

Our Journey through Infertility

image I first wrote about our journey through infertility almost two years ago for my friend’s blog. For the past year we have journeyed again down the same road trying for baby number two- without success. This time around has been different. I know I can become pregnant. I’m busy chasing after a 28 month old. And I amazingly have cried only once over not being able to become pregnant with number two.

As I post this again, I’m in a better place. We’re praying that The Lord would reveal His will for our family. As the Psalms say, “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.” Psalm 113:9

I’m hoping and praying that we will eventually go from one child to children (plural)! I’m reposting our journey because I need to. I need to remind myself of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. And to not lose hope and trust in the One who creates life.

Here’s our story (again) of infertility:

Infertility. Even now, my heartbeat is speeding up as I remember the crazy highs and lows of our journey. Tears come to my eyes as I vividly remember how my heart ached for a baby. First, let me introduce myself. I have been married for over nine years and two years into our marriage we decided we were ready to have a baby. Little did we know that years later we would be diagnosed as having “unexplained infertility.”

We tried to conceive on our own for about three and a half years before fearfully undergoing tons of invasive fertility tests. Everything checked out okay, we went on Clomid and didn’t have any success. When we first started Clomid, which is a medicine that helps women produce more eggs, I felt like a crazy person. It gave me tremendous highs and lows and I felt out of control emotionally. We lived on a calendar, counting days and waiting until the results of my blood test to let me know if my progesterone level was high enough. Most times it wasn’t, and the minute I found out, I would throw myself across the bed and cry. Sometimes, I would pour my heart out to God and other times I’d just lie there, cry, and feel sorry for myself. I often wondered why our love was not enough to make a baby. I was especially emotional when I would find out a friend or family member was pregnant. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for them, it was just a stark reminder that I wasn’t pregnant. The slap in the face was when people complained about the aches and pains of pregnancy.

We went to a fertility specialist and underwent IUI’s (intrauterine insemination) throughout the course of a year. Talk about invasive! More Clomid, painful shots, uncomfortable ultrasounds, insemination, and then holding my breath for two weeks waiting to find out the results…negative. Always a negative pregnancy test. By the time we were halfway through our IUI’s, I was numb. I felt sad when I found out I wasn’t pregnant, but then, just like that, I started my meds again and we were trying again. I found it hard to talk about our infertility at times and at other times I was an open book. It just depended on my mood and where we were in our trying.

I found an e-mail I sent to my mother just before we started our last try. I had just found out I wasn’t pregnant and couldn’t bring myself to call her and tell her because I knew I would fall apart.

Here’s my e-mail:

Fertility update: I got my period this morning. I have bad cramps and can’t seem to get motivated to get out of the house. Emotionally, I’m ok. Not great but not bad. I was pretty sad last night and felt like I was mourning the absence of life in my womb. I normally get a teeny bit sad and then move on. I’ve become so numb to the negative pregnancy tests. I think it just hit me that I might not get pregnant. When I finally prayed and laid it down at Jesus’ feet, I felt so much better and lighter. We want God’s will for our lives, but I guess I always assumed I would eventually get pregnant. Anyway, R told me last night that he thinks we should try one last time, but that he is excited about starting the adoption process and that is on his heart. That was good for me to hear. God’s plan isn’t always easy, but I know He will sustain me. Thanks for praying for us! I start my meds on Sunday, so just like that we begin the fertility process again. I hope I didn’t sadden you with these details. It helped me to just get it out and talk (type!) about it. I wanted you to know, but I don’t feel like talking about it on the phone. It’s just easier this way for me. I don’t want to hear my mom’s voice and start crying. Love, E

We started to research adoption because we thought maybe the Lord was calling us to that. We were on our very last try and we were waiting for the dreaded monthly, when my husband insisted I take a pregnancy test so we could know and move on. I was so scared to take that test because it meant giving up. We weren’t going to try anymore. This was it. We were tired of the emotional roller coaster. I was tired of trying, tired of the doctor’s visits, tired of getting my hopes up only to have them crushed.

I took the test and could not believe it when I saw the faintest second line. I screamed for my husband and he said he thought he saw a second line. Tears started streaming down our faces and I called the nurse. A few hours later a blood test confirmed that WE WERE PREGNANT!

We prayed and thanked God for this miracle baby. We longed for this for six years! I clung to this bible verse during the last year of trying to conceive and throughout my pregnancy:

“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.”
1st Samuel 1:27

Now that was true for me! We rejoiced that our prayers were answered.

On November 28, 2010, I gave birth to a beautiful, tiny, 5 lbs 6.8 oz baby girl named Sarah Grace and she is our joy, our precious gift from God. We named her Sarah, for like Sarah in the Bible, we waited a long time for our child. And Grace, because by the grace of God, we made it through our battle with infertility.

Do you have a friend or family member who is struggling with infertility? Ask her if she wants to talk about it. Respect her silence if that’s how she is dealing with it. Tell her you’ll pray for her. Love her. Hug her. Be there for her. Be a shoulder for her to cry on, because she needs one. But please don’t ignore it. I think loved ones don’t know how to deal with this and don’t know what to say. There’s really nothing you can say to ease the aching heart of a woman who’s trying to get pregnant and hasn’t. But I can tell you this, God is faithful and He will see you through it. He blessed me with a beautiful child and carried both my husband and me through this long and emotional trial called infertility.

Sofrito aka Magic Green Sauce

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Sofrito is an important part of Puerto Rican cuisine. According to my mom, sofrito is a unique seasoning that is a special blend of fresh veggies, herbs and spices. It’s sort of like a salsa that you can cook with and adds a little pizzaz to your dishes.

Here is OUR family recipe for sofrito, which has been handed down for generations: from my great-grandmother to my grandmother, from my grandmother to my mother, and from my mother to me.

Sofrito
Ingredients:
1 bunch of cilantro, with ends cut off
whole sweet onion, sliced
green pepper, sliced
one small fresh garlic bulb OR 2 tablespoons garlic powder
1-2 Tbs. green spanish olives, with pimentos
some olive juice
sea salt
oregano
pepper
some “Adobo” Spanish seasoning (found in the Spanish foods aisle at most grocery stores)
(For the sea salt, oregano, pepper, and Adobo, I kind of just sprinkle some in- there are no measurements!)

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Directions:
1. Throw all ingredients (prepped as directed above) in a blender or food processor. (I’ve used both and a big food processor works better.) Blend until smooth. It should resemble green mush. Note: You may need to add a drizzle of olive oil to start the blending process.
2. Use in stews, beans, red rice, soups, chicken and rice dishes, etc.
3. I pour this mixture into ice cube trays and freeze them. When frozen, put cubes in freezer bag and take out as needed.

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I just learned something new about sofrito when I called my mom to get her advice describing sofrito. She said my great-grandmother used to make this fresh everyday and my grandmother made it fresh and used it up in about a week. However, my grandmother later decided to blend it all up in a blender and my mom decided to freeze it because she wasn’t using the sofrito fast enough. Now on to me- I use it a few times a month, so I definitely need to freeze it! I generally use it within three-four months and it has still tasted great.

You can add sofrito to chicken and rice dishes, chicken and rice soup (I have a delicious soup I’ve created and will post soon), beef and pork, picadillo (a wonderfully seasoned ground beef served over rice), beans and more. The sky is the limit!

I will post recipes that use sofrito soon. In the meantime, break out the blender and get your sofrito on! You won’t regret it. 🙂

Huggies Rewards & Free Stuff

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If you use Huggies diapers and log in your reward codes, then hurry over and snag some FREE gift cards!

http://www.huggies.com/en-US/rewards/catalog

I redeemed my points for Amazon gift cards and a portable potty for our upcoming potty training adventures.

I used my gift card to order this tea cake pan. I’m going to use it to make strawberry shortcake cakes since we can’t use store bought ones. Yay for cute homemade stuff!! (And if it turns out I’ll post the recipe and pics)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0017IB8XC

I just love a good deal and free stuff! And I love sharing it with my friends.

P.S. The gift cards are a limited time offer so hurry if you have reward points!