Spices- What’s a Mom to do?

We do not have peanut allergies. But the whole cumin recall disaster has made me question our spices. Are the ones I’ve been using considered safe? Truly safe? I set out to find out.

We use mostly Tone’s spices and Hy-Vee brand spices. I called Hy-Vee and was told Hy-Vee spices are made by Tone’s. I was impressed that the lady on the phone from Hy-Vee was able to tell me this: “The facility has wheat, oats, rye, dairy, eggs & coconut.”

So next I called Tone’s. Tone’s confirmed the statement above, but clarified that the coconut is in the warehouse, but not packaged there. Coconut is not an issue for us, but I wanted to include that part for those of you who avoid coconut. The lady from Tones told me they have “strict clean outs” and they DO NOT label for “may contains” and there “could be shared lines” with dairy and eggs.

I jumped in on McCormick’s Facebook thread about the cumin recall and how their cumin isn’t included. That’s great news! However, I asked about dairy and egg in the facility and shared lines and this was the response.

McCormick's response to me.  I didn't get a response to my shared lines question.

McCormick’s response to me. I didn’t get a response to my shared lines question.

What’s a mom to do?!?!

Go to her trusty “Milk Allergy Mommies” and ask questions, that’s what!!!

Someone suggested Morton & Bassett spices. The mom had called and asked and was told it was a dairy and egg free facility. I called, too, to confirm. I need peace of mind.

IT’S SAFE, PEOPLE! There are no dairy or eggs in the Morton and Bassett facility, according to the woman I spoke to on the phone.

I gathered up all of my Tone’s and Hy-Vee spices and kicked them to the curb.

Isn’t that dramatic, you might think? They used those spices for years.

The thing is, sometimes after meals SG would have a mystery hive. I hate mystery hives. Maybe it was a trace amount from a spice? I really don’t know.

But now that I know, I’M NOT TAKING ANY CHANCES!

I rushed off to the store and spent a small fortune on safe Morton and Bassett spices.

My poor Huzz… I was all in a tizzy the moment he walked in from a hard days work blathering on about spices and how much these new spices cost.

So, I’ll just blather on with you about spices. That’s okay, right? The Huzz will appreciate you listening to me.

Yesterday, I found another spice brand, JR Watkins, and called them. It took at least 10 minutes of me being on hold and going back and forth with the lady (nicely, of course) and SG dancing all over the aisles while I stood there… Yeah- fun! The end result- shared facilities. Not safe for us.

I will stick with my new and safe brand- Morton and Bassett.

I have to add- this recall is very scary for food allergy moms. I cook all of our meals. I rely on spices to make our food delicious. I also rely on the companies whose products I purchase. For food allergy parents, the results of these massive recalls can be catastrophic and life ending.

Here’s what I will continue to do.  I will continue to make my small voice heard by calling companies and asking questions about allergens, shared lines and shared facilities.  It’s important to speak up and be heard.  Let us let companies know allergens are big deals and we want clearer labeling!  I’m dreaming of more legislation about clear labeling for shared lines and shared facilities.

What are your thoughts on the cumin recall?  Do you have a brand of spices you use?  Have you called them and asked about shared lines and shared facilities?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Where I Belong

I’m a wife and mother. My precious SG is 4 years old. She is our joy.

It took us years of trying before we became pregnant with SG.

We tried again for baby number 2 but it hasn’t happened.

We have an only child.

Not by choice.

But for now, it’s part of God’s plan.

I have to trust God and know that whatever happens- He’s got this.

I’ve found peace with our little family.

It’s not what we planned or hoped for. But God’s plan is always better than mine. Always.

So, lately, I’ve been thinking about where I fit in this world of fertility and infertility.

I AM a mother, so I don’t really fit in the world of hurt that I lived through for so many years- the childless couples. If you’re there now, my heart aches for you. Keep praying and trusting God for His perfect plan for you and your husband.

I have not been able to become pregnant again, so I don’t really fit into the “we’re having baby number 2, 3, 4 or 5” group. Neither are we are in the our family is complete and I’m completely content group.

I’m not jealous, truly I’m not. But there is a sense of being “left behind.”

If you have one child and long for another, I know you get the left behind statement. If you don’t understand it, then that’s okay, too.

I’ve learned with infertility and food allergies, there are depths of pain, worry and stress.

I have learned to lay my worries, stress, and pain down at the foot of the cross. There is where I find peace, contentment and bask in the gloriousness of trusting it’s going to be okay even when I feel like it’s not. Ya know?

So, where do I belong?

I belong in my precious little family of three. I find joy in covering my little 4 year old with kisses and holding her precious little hands. I find joy and lots of giggles in painting her perfect little toenails bright pink. I find love and acceptance in the strong, hardworking arms of my Huzz. I find wisdom and peace in reading the Holy Bible. I find friendships and support through my sweet girlfriends. I find love and acceptance through our supportive church.

Isn’t it all too easy to dwell on the ugly and hard stuff of life? I can all too easily fall into that trap. Life with food allergies, after all, well…it’s HARD.

I have to choose joy and contentment. I have to choose to thank God for the blessings I have- and I have many. So many.

I choose to cry out to God and know that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

I choose to “Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” Psalm 116:7

I choose to say “You are my God, and I will give you thanks.” Psalm 118:28

I choose to remember “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

I choose to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

I choose to believe “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

I choose to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

(All NIV)

I belong right where I am, nestled under the loving and protective wing of my Almighty God, my precious Savior Jesus, with my Huzz & my SG. That’s where I belong.

From "Who I Am" by Jessica Andrews

From “Who I Am” by Jessica Andrews

Homemade Peanut Butter Cookies Topped with Homemade Dairy Free Chocolate Hearts

Now that title is a mouthful!

I couldn’t think of a cute name and I didn’t want to copy the original recipe’s name. I want y’all to know these babies are topped with homemade chocolate candy hearts. Whoop, whoop!!!

I’m seriously like a giddy little schoolgirl, y’all. For real.

I made these just in time for Valentine’s Day, although I’m not sure they’ll last 48 hours… The Huzz is nick named the Cookie Monster for a reason.

I found Sally’s recipe on Pinterest. I had just the day before purchased a silicone heart mold from HyVee for just a $1. I thought I’d just make some chocolate candies for us for Valentine’s Day.

Then I saw her pin and got pumped up.

I can make pretty food, too. It just takes more effort. And some experimenting. And I’m proud to say I adapted it just right the first time around. Yay!

Here’s how I made these awesome cookies. I used peanut butter because we don’t have peanut allergies. I’m guessing Wow Butter or SunButter would work well, too. I personally like the way Wow Butter tastes better than SunButter. But I digress.

Peanut Butter Cookies topped with Homemade Dairy Free Chocolate Hearts
(adapted from this recipe here)

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of Earth Balance Vegan Butter
  • 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 prepackaged cup of Mott’s Natural Applesauce
  • 3/4 cup of creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • Homemade Chocolate Candy Hearts (Recipe to Follow)

Directions:

  • Slightly melt the vegan butter in the microwave. Make it just soft enough to be mixed well with the sugars.
  • Use a large bowl with a hand mixer or a mixer with a stand.
  • Add the sugars and vegan butter and mix well.
  • Add the applesauce and mix well.
  • Add the peanut butter and mix well.
  • Add the vanilla and mix well.
  • Add the baking soda & flour and mix until just well blended. Don’t overmix.
  • Put dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Now it’s time to make the chocolate candy hearts.

Ingredients:

  • Safe Chocolate Chips
  • Safe Shortening
  • Candy Mold (I used a heart mold)

Directions:

Pretty much here’s what I did:

Just 2 Ingredients

Just 2 Ingredients

  • I didn’t measure. I just eyeballed the chocolate chips and added a dollop of shortening. I bet you could use coconut oil instead of the shortening if you wanted.
  • I melted my chips & shortening in the microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between times.
  • Stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth.
  • Pour melted chocolate into heart candy mold. Put in freezer until the cookies are almost done cooking. Pop the chocolate hearts out when firm to the touch and keep in the freezer until they are needed. (I only had 1 mold so I had to repeat this step two times. I’m going to buy another candy mold so I don’t have to do this step twice!)
Melted Chocolate in the Heart Mold

Melted Chocolate in the Heart Mold

These are firm to the touch and ready for the cookies.

These are firm to the touch and ready for the cookies.

Back to the cookies!

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • By now, the cookie dough has chilled. It’s time to roll the dough into round balls and coat the balls in granulated sugar. I put some sugar on a plate. I’d roll about 10 cookies at a time and then roll them in the sugar and place them on a cookie sheet (use parchment paper on the cookie sheet.)
  • Bake cookies for 8-9 minutes- until the cookies just start to crack. The original recipe said that and at 8 minutes my cookies didn’t crack- I needed 9 minutes with my oven. 9 minutes were perfect!
  • When you pull the cookies out of the oven, immediately top the cookies with the chocolate hearts. I gently pushed them into the cookies.
  • Put the cookie sheet directly into the freezer so the homemade chocolates don’t completely melt.
  • Freeze the cookies for 15 minutes.
  • Enjoy your cookies and bask in your beautiful creation… I did!
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Rolled in Sugar

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Rolled in Sugar

Cracked Peanut Butter Cookies- Just Right!

Cracked Peanut Butter Cookies- Just Right!

Frozen Chocolate Hearts Ready for the Cookies!

Frozen Chocolate Hearts Ready for the Cookies!

Isn't this beautiful?

Isn’t this beautiful?

I can't believe I made these little pretties!!!

I can’t believe I made these little pretties!!!

A Sea of Yumminess!

A Sea of Yumminess!

This also make great gifts for the special people in your life.

This also make great gifts for the special people in your life.

I used a box I picked up on clearance, a cute square muffin liner, a label & some Dollar Spot stickers to put our gift together.

I used a box I picked up on clearance, a cute square muffin liner, a label & some Dollar Spot stickers to put our gift together.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cookies Boxed Up and Ready to Share

Homemade Peanut Butter Cookies Boxed Up and Ready to Share

We are enjoying our special Valentine’s cookies.

Happy Valentine’s Day from our Blessed Little Family to yours!

17 Affordable Dinner Ideas

Budget Friendly Pineapple Fried Rice with Ham.  I now omit the ham and it tastes just as good!  This recipe makes a lot!

Budget Friendly Pineapple Fried Rice with Ham. I now omit the ham and it tastes just as good! This recipe makes a lot!

Our grocery budget is a monster.  Do y’all food allergy parents know what I mean?  I mean, it’s CRAZY!  And ya know what makes it even crazier?  We don’t even eat extravagantly.  Our safe foods are just THAT expensive.

I sat down and tried to brainstorm the most budget friendly tried and true recipes I could think of.  We are in Financial Peace University again as table leaders and really have budgeting on the brain.  I really want to cut our grocery bill each month.

My recipes might start looking a lot like these from now on since I’m trying to trim the giant grocery bill.

(These prices are what I pay at the grocery store and I don’t price out every item in this list.  Some are just my best guesstimates.)

If you want to get ahead of the menu planning game and like freezer cooking, the recipes that have stars are freezer friendly.

Meatless

  • Pineapple Fried Rice (1-2 pineapple cups {$1}, 2-3 carrots & 1-2 zucchinis {$2.50}, omit ham- can get 2 dinners from this & possibly 1 lunch)
  • Veggie Pizza** (1/2 bag Daiya {$2.50}, 1/3 green pepper {33 cents}, 1/3 green onion, olives)
  • Refried Beans, Rice & “Cheese” Burritos**
  • Rice & Beans (and maybe fruit to round out the meal)
  • Bean & “Cheese” Quesadillas (use homemade refried beans or black beans)
  • Veggie Spaghetti (1 zucchini {$1} & 1 carrot, sauce {$2.50} & noodles {$1}- can get 1 dinner and 1 lunch from this recipe)

Chicken

Turkey

  • Picadillo (1/2 pack ground turkey {$1.50} & rice)
  • Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole (1/2 pack ground turkey {$1.50} & approximately 1/2 bag of tater tots {$1.50})
  • Spaghetti (1/2 pack ground turkey {$1.50},  sauce {$2.50} & noodles {$1}- can get 1 dinner and 1 lunch from this recipe)

The chicken tacos are probably the most expensive dinner on this list because of the type of chicken we like and because of the fresh toppings.  I can plan another dinner or two that also uses those fresh produce ingredients like nachos or soup and salad night.  That helps lower the cost of the grocery bill & helps fresh produce not to go to waste.  I can also stretch the budget by stocking up on the chicken when it goes on sale.

I also buy dried beans.  It’s easy to soak and cook the beans.  I think I get 6-8 cups from one bag of dried black beans (my memory is a little fuzzy on this number.)  The beans cost $1.18.  Much cheaper than canned!  I freeze my beans in one cup portions and pull them out as needed.  A quick defrost in the microwave and the beans are good to go!

Do you have some food allergy & budget friendly dinner ideas?  Please share in the comments below.

Thanks!

Sautee chopped carrots & zucchini in olive oil until tender.  Add spaghetti sauce & serve over noodles.

Sautee chopped carrots & zucchini in olive oil until tender. Add spaghetti sauce & serve over noodles.

Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole

Picadillo Tater Tot Casserole

11 Quick and Easy Ideas for Leftover Chicken

I love leftovers! My little family is quite happy to eat the same exact meal two nights in a row, as am I.

However, I’ve been trying to be more creative in my menu planning.

Leftover drumsticks?  Pick the meat off and use it for a new recipe the next day.  Leftover chicken breast?  Chop it or shred it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.

Here’s a list of ideas of what to do with leftover chicken.

  1. Make Chicken Salad (serve on homemade rolls, sandwich bread or crackers)
  2. Make Chicken Nachos (with or without barbecue sauce)
  3. Make Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wraps
  4. Make Chicken & Daiya “Cheese” Quesadillas
  5. Make Chicken & Rice Soup
  6. Make Chicken Noodle Soup (sub vegan butter and safe noodles)
  7. Make Meat & “Cheesy Ranch” Rollup
  8. Make Ally’s 20 Minute Skillet Stir Fry
  9. Make “Cheesy” Taco Stuffed Crescent Rolls
  10. Make BBQ Chicken Pizza
  11. Make Crispy Southwestern Chicken Wraps

Numbers 7 & 10 use a homemade pizza dough.  It’s not quick, but it is easy because it uses the bread machine to make the dough.  Use a safe pre-made dough for these if you’re short on time.

I love cooking chicken once and using it for two meals.  If you menu plan, print this list and keep it handy.  It will help you plan easy meals for leftover chicken.  I know I’m excited to use this list when I menu plan.

I hope these 11 quick and easy ideas for leftovers help with stretching the budget and menu planning.

Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza

Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza

Vegan Queso Bean Dip: Dairy & Egg Free

I jokingly called this “Chip Dip” and it has stuck. Otherwise named by me as vegan queso bean dip… also known as my new obsession for my lunches.

It has just three ingredients: Daiya cheddar style block, salsa, & black beans.

3 Simple Ingredients

3 Simple Ingredients

And it’s SO, SO good!

Doesn’t this look yummy?

Yummy Vegan Queso Bean Dip

Yummy Vegan Queso Bean Dip

I’ve been making chip dip with just salsa and Daiya cheddar for awhile now, and it’s great that way, too. I wanted to bulk up my lunch by adding more protein, so a few days ago I threw in a cup of my frozen black beans. (I soak and cook my own beans so I keep them in the freezer in one cup portions.)

The beans were apparently just what my body needed, because I felt great all afternoon! I didn’t even need my usual afternoon cup of coffee.

This recipe is so easy and I’m just lovin’ it!

Today I measured the ingredients for the sake of this post, but I usually don’t measure. You can’t really mess this up.

Vegan Queso Bean Dip:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of safe salsa
  • 1 cup of black beans (drained if from can)
  • A few slices of Daiya cheddar style block, cut into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Add salsa, beans, & cheddar pieces to a pot.
  2. Heat until cheese is melted and the dip is well mixed and heated through. Add more cheese if the dip isn’t cheesy enough or add more salsa if it’s too cheesy.
  3. Serve as a dip with tortillas.
2 Cups of Salsa

2 Cups of Salsa

1 cup of Black Beans

1 cup of Black Beans

I started off with this much "cheese."  I later added another strip of Daiya to make it a bit cheesier.

I started off with this much “cheese.” I later added another strip of Daiya to make it a bit cheesier.

Ready to Heat

Ready to Heat

I like the dip to be about this color.  Yum!

I like the dip to be about this color. Yum!

Mission is our favorite brand for tortilla chips.  This is my favorite new lunch.

Mission is our favorite brand for tortilla chips. This is my new favorite lunch.

Not only is this a rockin’ lunch, but this would also be a great dip to bring to a potluck or to serve at the next big game.

I hope y’all enjoy this as much as I do!

P.S.  Did you notice the cute blue measuring spoon with the super long handle?  I recently bought them at Hobby Lobby and I LOVE them.  They are so much fun!  It’s the little things, ya know?

28 Days of Dairy & Egg Free Dinners

Dairy, Egg & Beef Free Recipes

Dairy, Egg & Beef Free Recipes

I have been working hard on this menu- on and off since early January.  It’s finally ready, y’all. Whew!

We had the roasted broccoli from Day 1 last night (see, I’m already off schedule!) and the Huzz declared it restaurant worthy!!! I’m going to start roasting broccoli, folks, instead of steaming it. It was SO good!

The Sticky Chicken on Day 17 (from Once A Month Meals) was another recipe the Huzz declared a hit. He said I could make it EVERY WEEK!  That’s high praise.  So, it’s making its way into this month’s menu again.  I love finding good recipes that are worthy of repeats and adding into my regular rotation of meals.  This one was SUPER easy to make, too.  Thanks Once A Month Meals!  (Can you tell I love OAMM?  I really do!)

  1. Garlic Chicken, Baked Potatoes & Roasted Broccoli
  2. Buffalo Ranch Chicken Wraps (use leftover chicken from day 1 & make homemade ranch)
  3. Mexican “Beef” & Beans Casserole (sub ground turkey, black beans & add 1 cube of sofrito)
  4. Easy Lo Mein (sub zucchini for snow peas & use safe spaghetti noodles & liquid aminos for soy sauce & omit Sriracha)
  5. Tangy Slow Cooker Pork Roast, Baked Potatoes & Roasted Carrots (make enough carrots for 2 days)
  6. Southwest Crispy Pork Wraps & Leftover Roasted Carrots (sub homemade “sour cream” & Daiya vegan “cheese”)
  7. Allergy Friendly “Beef” Enchiladas (sub black beans for beef & make this new enchilada sauce)
  8. Ranch Chicken Tenders, Ranch Mashed Potatoes & Buffalo Cauliflower Bites (make homemade ranch dressing {see link on day 2}, dip raw chicken strips in ranch and roll in safe bread crumbs, bake at 400 degrees until cooked through, about 20-30 minutes- I haven’t figured out the exact cook time yet)
  9. Flex Meal
  10. The Best Fried Rice & Homemade Potstickers (for rice: omit the egg, sub vegan butter, omit oyster sauce, sub olive oil for sesame oil.  for potstickers: sub garlic powder for garlic paste and sub olive oil for sesame oil)
  11. Easy Tuscan Bean Soup & Bread & Vegan Butter
  12. One Pan Enchilada Pasta (use homemade taco seasoning from 100 Days of Real Food, enchilada sauce from day 7 & Daiya “cheese”)
  13. Veggie Pizza
  14. Nana’s Ribs, Baked Potatoes & Grilled Asparagus- Heart Shaped Wacky Cake for Dessert
  15. Flex or Leftovers
  16. Pasta E Fagioli with Rosemary Olive Oil Drizzle (use fresh tomatoes)
  17. Sticky Chicken, Baked Sweet Potatoes & Roasted Broccoli (see link on day 1)
  18. Ranch Turkey Burger Sliders with Homemade Rolls, French Fries & Sautéed Zucchini
  19. Spaghetti with Ground Turkey & Bread & Vegan Butter (I use jarred spaghetti sauce)
  20. Garlic Chicken, Garlic Ranch Potatoes & Slow Cooker Southern Collard Greens (use link from day 1 for chicken recipe & sub homemade dry ranch mix- link on day 2)
  21. The Best Chicken Soup Ever (use leftover chicken from day 20, use fresh tomatoes, omit corn, sub zucchini or chopped carrots)
  22. Pineapple Fried Rice
  23. Leftovers- Hurray!
  24. One Pan Spicy Lemon Chicken & Tomato Pasta (sub Daiya mozzarella shreds)
  25. Loaded Baked Potato Soup
  26. Easy Chicken Tacos (sub 2 tsp of homemade taco seasoning instead of store bought packet- use link from day 12)
  27. BBQ Chicken Pizza
  28. Mojo Pork Roast, White Rice & Black Beans

There ya have it friends… our menu for the month of February. Happy eating!