Drinks, Uncategorized

Dairy-free hot chocolate mix

Hot chocolate is a quintessential winter drink that everyone thinks of when it gets chilly. It’s so easy to change up hot chocolate with whipped cream, peppermint candy, cinnamon, and more!

It’s hard to find hot chocolate mixes at the store that are allergy-friendly. A couple winters ago I decided to make my own mix so I could enjoy a warm drink with my husband.

The only downside to this recipe is that you do need to have milk of your choice on hand. There are bags of coconut and soy milk powder that you can buy at the store to mix with water, but I think they alter the flavor too much. Somehow coconut milk from the carton just tastes better in this hot chocolate recipe.

I decided to use Fair Life lactose-free milk when I made the hot chocolate today, but I also love making it with almond milk.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Add 3-4 tablespoons to a hot cup of milk of your choice.
  3. This mix makes 4-5 cups of hot chocolate.

Notes:

  • I used high quality cocoa powder. That will affect the flavor of your hot chocolate.
  • The kind of milk you use (lactose-free, almond, soy) should be unsweetened to avoid a sugar overload- unless that is what you are going for. No judgement here.
  • You can easily add 1/4 cup of add-ins to your mix, such as peppermint candy, marshmallows, or chocolate chips.
  • There are great options for whipped cream- Cool Whip is lactose-free and there are plenty of non-dairy whipped creams that come in the typical canister you find other whipped creams in.
  • In case you are wondering, I found these vegan peppermint marshmallows at Natural Grocer’s. The brand is Dandies. They are just as sweet and fluffy as your typical marshmallows!
Sustainable Home

Natural Hair and Skin care will change your life!

If you have been on the internet at all for the past several years, shampoo bars and fancy soap bars have increased in popularity. My husband and I had been thinking about them for a little while, but they seemed expensive to us.

My husband happened to pick up a shampoo bar at Walmart. It was fine, but not the best quality. I happened to go to our local soap store, The Spirit Goat, and saw that they carried shampoo and conditioner bars alongside their usual soap! Even better, they list every ingredient on each of their products so I didn’t have to guess if it will work for me.

We tried out the shampoo and conditioner bars, and LOVED them! No need to worry about a cumbersome bottle to throw away- you can use the whole product without breaking into a container. The bars come in little fabric bags and we reuse them- another benefit!

They keep our hair soft and healthy and leave no residue. (They also smell fantastic!)

As for the price- y seem more expensive up front, as a large shampoo bar is generally $13-$15 dollars. But you can use it for a couple months (if you don’t let it melt in a puddle of water) just as you would a nicer shampoo. I think it can outlast most bottled shampoos!

Conditioner bar on top of Rosemary Lemon Tea Tree shampoo bar

They use as few ingredients as possible in their products to make them as soothing and cleaning as possible. My husband has a finicky scalp and my skin is sensitive to many products.

I love their soap because it doesn’t irritate my skin. My hands are very sensitive and my eczema gets worse when I use liquid hand soap. I don’t know why yet, but something in it really hurts! Our local store also adds goat milk to all their products for a more soothing product.

In the end, it is your body and your decision. I highly recommend natural hair and skin care for healthier hair and skin, less waste, and more identifiable ingredients. I also highly recommend hard wood soap holders, as I before mentioned that shampoo bars can melt, like any other bar of soap.

If you want to check out The Spirit Goat for yourself, find their website here.

Breakfast

Dairy-Free Waffles

The great debate: Pancakes or waffles?

My husband is a huge fan of waffles and is apathetic towards pancakes. I love both! It’s so easy to customize waffles by adding oats, chocolate, or fresh fruit. I particularly enjoy adding ground flax seed for a little extra protein.

The great thing about waffles is that the waffle pattern is perfectly made to catch melted butter and maple syrup. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water!

Of course, every family has their waffle recipe. I particularly like this one because it is quick to mix together and has a great flavor and texture!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of milk of your choice (almond milk makes it a bit harder to brown the waffle- I like using coconut milk or a couple teaspoons of powdered coconut milk and water)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 teaspoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (Optional- I like to add some sugar to help the waffles crisp up)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed (Optional)
  • 1/4 cup of add-ins: chocolate chips, blueberries, pecans, etc.

Directions:

  1. Mix milk, eggs, vanilla, and oil together.
  2. Add flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and ground flax seed.
  3. Mix until just combined. If you mix too much it will turn tough. It’s ok if there are lumps.
  4. Cook in a hot waffle iron, top with butter and syrup, and enjoy!
Uncategorized

Simple Summer Snacks

Summer brings hot days, fresh produce, and family trips. While there are easy snacks to grab off the grocery store shelf, it is always nice to be able to make a quick snack from your own kitchen. I made a list of 10 snacks that you can throw together faster than a popsicle melts on the sidewalk.

  1. A spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of chocolate chips. If you don’t have any peanut butter cups in the house, this is a fun way to have a quick treat.

2. Cheese and crackers. We always had this snack growing up. We often added a little mayonnaise too.

3. Apples and fruit dip. There are so many recipes for easy fruit dip and it’s an easy way to get more fruit into your busy kids.

4. PBJB- Peanut butter and jelly banana sandwiches. I love replacing the bread with banana slices. It’s a fun way to spice up a classic snack.

5. Veggies and hummus. It’s a satisfying snack with plenty of protein, healthy fats, and fiber.

6. Fruit and cheese. This snack always makes me feel fancy!

7. Yogurt and fruit popsicles. It makes a popular favorite a bit healthier!

8. A handful of chocolate chips and raisins. This is a snack that my grandma and mom passed down, and I have always loved it too!

9. Pears and cottage cheese. It’s a simple way to get a sweet treat and some protein.

10. Popcorn. It is easy to make and you can store it for a quick snack later.

I hope these snack ideas gave you a little inspiration and help you spend less time making snacks and more time with family and friends!

Baking, Lactose-Free Dairy, Uncategorized

Lactose-Intolerant Friendly Chocolate Chip Ranking

If you are like me, chocolate is a versatile (and delicious) pantry staple. I always have chocolate chips in my cupboard in case I have an urge to make some chocolate chip cookies or I want to try my hand at tempering some chocolate to make truffles for a party.

Being lactose-intolerant can make it difficult to find chocolate chips that are smooth, decadent, AND friendly to my stomach. I went to a couple different local grocery stores near me and grabbed the options they had for chocolate chips that didn’t have dairy in the ingredients.

I tried out 9 different chocolate chips. Four of them are from Guittard at varying percentages of cocoa and two of them are from Simple Truth Organic. I was curious to see how the recipes varied between the types of chocolate. You might be surprised to know what I thought!

I evaluated them right out of the bag and then later in an oatmeal cookie. I chose to bake them in an oatmeal cookie for the mild flavor so the chocolate chips would stand out.

My verdict:

  1. Guittard – 55%: hard chip texture, nice light cocoa flavor, lightly sweetened, very nice vanilla flavor. BAKED: Smooth after being baked, good amount of presence without being overbearing. A good amount of bitter and sweet.
  2. Guittard 46%: Buttery texture in the mouth, sweet without causing a toothache. BAKED: Sweeter than the other chips, but a stronger chocolate flavor. Still not too sweet, which I appreciate in a cookie.
  3. Guittard 48%: Also buttery smooth, pleasantly sweet, prominent vanilla flavor. BAKED: Has a richer flavor than expected for its percentage. Since the chips are bigger, it is a good amount of chocolate in a bite. I thought these would be my favorite, but after comparing them all… maybe I like the 55% or 46% better?
  4. Guittard 63%: Harder chip texture, doesn’t melt as easily on the tongue, robust cocoa flavor and very lightly sweetened. BAKED: Doesn’t have as powerful of a presence as others. I like the level of cocoa.
  5. Kroger’s Private Selection 62% cacao: Harder texture of chip, deep cocoa flavor and sweeter than the Guittard 63%. BAKED: Lighter flavor than the Ghirardelli, but I prefer it in a cookie. It is just as of a rich flavor, but not as bitter.
  6. Ghirardelli 60% cacao (contains milkfat): Very smooth chip, more buttery on the tongue, not very sweet. BAKED: Almost an oily texture? Nice dark flavor, but not so dark that it overpowers the cookie. After baked, they are even more velvety and smooth than before. Not my favorite chip- a little too bitter for me. Not sure why they taste more bitter than the 62% and 63%- maybe the vanilla they used?
  7. Simple Truth Organic- semi sweet: Typical level of sweetness for a regular chocolate chip, no bitter flavor, soft with a nice chew. BAKED: Not super sweet, has a weird tang to it? Almost fruity? Not my favorite.
  8. Simple Truth Organic- allergy friendly: They are sweeter than Enjoy Life, true semi-sweet, has a bizarre bitter flavor. BAKED: Barely any flavor when inside a cookie- no recognizable chocolate flavor- I can feel the texture of the chips, but it it overpowered by the mild cookie flavor
  9. Enjoy Life- semi sweet mini chips: Instantly starts melting on the tongue, it has a bitter flavor- potentially from the vanilla? Not very sweet for a semi-sweet chip. BAKED: Very light flavor- can barely taste it in the cookie. It has a very fruity aftertaste. There is a slightly funky flavor that I can’t identify.

So, what did you think? Clearly, I am a fan of Guittard chocolate. The flavor and quality of the chips are unparalleled. I also love that they contain Fair Trade Cocoa and are made in a peanut free facility. I was disappointed by the allergy friendly chips, since I want a chocolate chip to stand out in a cookie. Maybe they would be better in trail mix, if you can get past the strange bitter flavor.

Let me know what brand of chocolate chips are your favorite! I am always excited to find new brands that are lactose-free and dairy-allergy friendly. I hope the list helped narrow down your search for a tasty chocolate chip!

Notes:

The only chocolate chips that are technically dairy-free are the allergy-friendly chips. Otherwise, the chocolate chips most likely were produced in factory with dairy or might have milk fat in them. Ghirardelli always has milk fat in all of their chocolate products. Milk fat doesn’t contain much lactose, so the chocolate chips haven’t bothered me yet. I would make sure to read the backs of the bars and bags from Ghirardelli because they don’t list milk on the list of allergens although it does have milk fat. To all those with milk allergies, please read labels!

Lactose-Free Dairy, Uncategorized

5 Tips for being Lactose-Intolerant

Welcome! You found out you are part of the lactose-intolerant group of uncomfortable stomachs and avoiding dairy. Now what?

When I first found out I was lactose-free, I went completely dairy-free because I didn’t know there were options for lactose-free products and lactase capsules. Now that I have adventured in lactose-free land for a couple years, I have a couple tips and tricks to keep you enjoying food AND having a happy stomach.

First, gauge how lactose-intolerant you are. Everyone has a different body, which means you can handle different levels than other people. I have to be super careful to not have dairy without a lactase pill… or I pay for it in the end.

Second, dairy-free options might be the best option for you. I know that I feel better when I eat less dairy, even if it is lactose-free. There are so many awesome companies that make tasty dairy-free products. Of course, it won’t be what you are used to, but now is a good time as any to broaden your horizons!

Third, Read labels, read labels, read labels. I cannot stress this enough! There are so many products that are lactose-free that don’t advertise it! Do I know why? Nope! But I am in the process of making a mega list of products that are sneakily lactose-free so keep your eyes peeled!

Fourth, ghee is a great substitute for butter when cooking. You get the same great flavor without the lactose. Ghee seems to be more accessible than lactose-free butter in stores, so it’s a great option. (Butter is super easy to make, and I have the recipe to make your own lactose-free butter here.)

Fifth, don’t be afraid to ask people what they put in food. In my opinion, it is better to be safe rather than sorry! Luckily, my family and friends all know, so when I ask if they added dairy, they know I am not being picky. More often than not, people are willing to accommodate you. If lactase works for you, that is another great option for big gatherings. Just remember- your stomach is important, and you need to take care of yourself!

I hope these 5 tips help you on your adventures in navigating food sensitivities. Let me know in the comments if you learned something new or have something to add!

Dinner

Better-than-Takeout Potstickers

Gyoza is one of my husband’s favorite meals of all time- and I feel much better about feeding my husband gyoza instead of freezer pizza on busy nights. (We call potstickers by their Japanese name- Gyoza.) My mother-in-law so kindly shared this recipe with me. She lived in Japan for a year and a half and brought home some wonderful recipes! During the past three years of marriage, I have slowly tweaked the recipe (Such as amounts of garlic or soy sauce) to make the gyoza exactly how we want.

Something I figured out pretty early on is that gyoza is actually an easy freezer meal! While it is time consuming to fold all of the gyoza, after that, it’s super simple to pop some of the frozen gyoza into a pan and put some rice in the rice cooker and voila! A quick and delicious dinner in under an hour for busy weeknights!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of green onions, chopped finely
  • 1 cup cabbage, chopped finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground beef or pork
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of quality soy sauce (I like using 1/3)
  • 1-2 packages of gyoza wrappers
  • A small bowl of water for sealing the gyoza
  • A pan with a lid- I prefer to use a cast iron pan

Directions:

  • Mix everything together in a bowl.
  • Scoop about 1/2 a teaspoon of the mixture into a gyoza wrap.
  • Dip your finger into the water and brush it along half of the gyoza wrap’s edge.
  • Press to seal.
  • Crimp the edges.
  • At this point you can either put them on a baking tray to flash freeze them before placing into a container or you can cook them.
  • To cook, place 1-2 Tablespoons of oil into a heated pan and pan fry the gyoza for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and put the lid on.
  • Steam the gyoza until the water is gone.Serve with hot rice and steamed carrots or broccoli.

Side Notes:

  • Gyoza wrappers and wonton wrappers are not the same thing! Wonton wrapper fry up nicely, but don’t steam very well.
  • If the water is gone and you aren’t sure if the gyoza are done, cut open one of them to see if they are still pink.
  • For the frozen gyoza, you cook it the same way as the fresh gyoza. They take a little bit longer, but you don’t need to add extra water.
  • You can serve these with soy sauce, but our favorite way to eat them is with our teriyaki sauce recipe here.
Sustainable Home, Uncategorized

5 Tips for a More Sustainable Home

Sustainability is a broad topic that involves so many things! There are so many ways to live a sustainable life, and doing so generally grows your skills- i.e. making jam by buying local produce, growing a garden, or becoming a beekeeper.

Of course, being sustainable isn’t always easy- or cheap. But here are a few simple swaps you can implement without emptying your wallet!

  1. Switch from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo. There are so many brands on the internet for varying price ranges. You can usually find bamboo toothbrushes for the same price as plastic toothbrushes. We found 8 bamboo toothbrushes on Amazon for around $8. Sounds pretty good, right?!
Kitchen hand soap from The Spirit Goat in a hard wood soap holder.

2. Use bar soap instead of liquid soap. Of course, this is a personal preference, but I think bar soap lasts longer and treats my hands better than most liquid hand soap. I highly recommend finding a small company that makes soap locally or online. We love our Spirit Goat soap here in Cache Valley!

Flowers from The Willow Farm here in Cache Valley.

3. Find joy in what you have. It’s easy to get caught up in social media and what everyone else is doing. Just because a famous person on Instagram has a certain shirt, or home, or job, doesn’t mean you need those things too to live a fulfilling life. This is something I have been working on lately. Having gratitude for what we have and the opportunities in our lives makes life much better! (And cheaper!!)

4. Cook from home more. I know, I know, being a food blogger makes me a little biased, but seriously- it can save a lot of money! If meal planning stresses you out, there are so many awesome lists on other blogs that include everything you need for a recipe. Then you can plan simple freezer meals or 30-minute meals to make on busy days when it seems like it would be easier to eat out.

5. Shop local!! This has been a big trend on social media lately, especially with COVID over the past year. But it isn’t only a trend- it is a way to support other people and buy quality products! I like supporting ethical, local businesses because I can get to know the owners and their practices. It makes me feel so great knowing I am helping people create by buying their products.

These are just a few tips I have from trying to be more sustainable in my home. This list is by no means perfect or all-encompassing, but I hope it helps!

Baking, Uncategorized

Dairy-Free Pie Crust

Pie crust is a versatile ingredient in so many recipes- pot pie, pumpkin pie, quiche, and the list goes on! Who doesn’t enjoy a good pie crust? I particularly love this recipe because of the addition of vinegar. I dislike sweet pie crusts, especially paired with a sweet filling. The slight zing of the vinegar makes everything I put in the pie crust delicious!

My family has used this pie crust for my whole life- and I know why! It’s flakey, delicious, and cheap to make. Best of all, it is dairy-free!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 2 cups and 2 tablespoons of shortening
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Whisk the flour and salt together.
  3. Add the shortening and cut it into the flour mixture with a fork until the shortening is about pea size. Be sure to not work it too much, otherwise it will turn into a strange clump of dough and won’t be flakey.
  4. Crack the egg into a liquid measuring cup and add the vinegar. Beat it slightly, then fill up to the 1 cup line with water.
  5. Pour the liquid slowly into the flour and shortening mixture and stir until it becomes a dough. It might be slightly crumbly, but that is normal. You might be tempted to add more liquid, but I promise it’s enough! Try not to stir it too much or the pie crust will become tough.
  6. Dump the dough out onto the floured counter (Or some parchment paper) and roll it out to the size and shape of your pie tin. It should make three or four 8-9 inch pie crusts. The more times you roll it out, the tougher it becomes.
  7. Place the pie crusts into greased pie tins and poke holes with a fork all over the crust. If you have dry beans or baking weights add them on top of parchment paper and place them in the pie crust for the first 10 minutes of baking. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Let the pie crusts cool and fill with your favorite filling. In these pictures, I chose to use banana cream filling! Yum!

Side notes:

  • As I said, the more you mess with the dough, the tougher it will become. I try to roll out each individual pie crust only once and fold the extra dough down into the pie crust to make pretty edges.
  • One of my family’s favorite ways to use the last bits and pieces of pie dough is to place them on cookie sheets and liberally sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar and then bake them for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. A delicious way to use up leftover dough! (And it pairs wonderfully with warm homemade pudding!)
Sustainable Home, sustainable kitchen

5 More Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen

Sustainability is one of my favorite topics, and there are countless ways to make your life just a little bit better each day. Here are 5 more of my ideas. Let me know if you already to these, or if you have any to add!

Grow your own herbs. Not only is it fun to see the herbs grow, but you eliminate the plastic you buy live herbs in- and you don’t need a bunch of space like gardens do. Fresh herbs really help to elevate a dish and seeds aren’t expensive. I am currently growing strawberries, mint, rosemary, thyme, and lavender- and we live in an apartment, so every spare space has a plant. (Sorry, hubby!) I am so excited to start using them this summer!

Prep your veggies and fruit and store them properly. I have this problem where I buy produce and forget about it at the back of the fridge until fridge-cleaning day… I feel guilty for buying something and not using it. It’s not budget friendly, and I hate creating more food waste. Some ways to prep food is to cut carrots and submerge them in water until you are ready to use them, or for a healthy snack. You can portion out meat into separate containers and freeze them so you don’t have to defrost the whole package when you next need meat. There are countless other ways to store your food so it lasts longer.

Eat what you have. This is a super simple thing to do to eliminate food waste. I try to buy what we will actually eat- for example, I know bell peppers are healthy, but neither of us like them. I am less likely to actually cook with them than something we do like- like carrots. So buying carrots would be a better option for us. Also, if you have the time to do so, I highly recommend making freezer meals! They save time on busy days and instead of going out to eat, you can pop the meal into a crock pot or instant pot, and voila! This has really helped us eat healthier meals without having to a) figure out what to eat and b) actually prepare it after a long work day.

Have a meatless meal or day every week. This actually helps the budget and can potentially make room to eventually buy quality sustainable meat from a local farmer. Our goal is to have more meatless meals and buy meat from local farmers that raise their animals well. No ideas for vegetarian meals? There are many delicious ideas out there! Sweet potato taco skillets, quinoa chili, pancakes, and countless other recipes can be found on Pinterest.

Use cast iron! Cast iron pans last forever- my mom has her grandma’s cast iron pan and it still works great! Stuck on non-stick pans? If your cast iron is used often and seasoned well (and used when HOT), you don’t have to worry about cleaning up a huge mess every time you use it. I am including this point because some non-stick pans have been proven to have some not-so-nice chemicals in them and you don’t have to buy more than a couple cast iron pans over your life time (and hopefully your grandchildren’s lifetimes too!)

I hope these five tips help you on your sustainability journey! And remember- you don’t have to do everything perfectly. Just one or two changes at a time have a big impact.