Dinner, Uncategorized

The Best Crockpot Pork and Beans Recipe

Beans were a cheap and easy meal for my mom to make when I was growing up. I loved (and still love) salted pinto beans in a crockpot with cornbread.

However, when I got married, I quickly realized my husband didn’t feel the same way. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what recipe to use that my husband would actually like.

As beans are super cheap, filling, and nutritious, I like to use them often. My poor hubby had to eat a lot of beans that he didn’t really like… Until I figured this recipe out. He sat down for dinner and was surprised that he actually loved them!!

Other recipes for ham and beans have left me wanting more. They often use a ham bone, which is fine if you like that flavor. It never really appealed to me.

Then one day, it hit me! I had some pork I needed to use, but I was tired of pork chops and potatoes. So I tossed the pork chops with our favorite pork rub into the crockpot, added some pinto beans and water… And got this delicious recipe!

This isn’t your typical pork and beans- it has a nice kick of spice and only a little sweetness to it. I don’t enjoy canned pork and beans mainly for the sweetness overload. If you try this recipe out, please let me know if you enjoyed it in the comments below!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups rinsed pinto beans
  • 1 1/2 Quarts of chicken or veggie broth or water
  • 1 Quart of water
  • 3 Pork chops/ pork cut of your choice (Or more- This recipe ends up being more beans than shredded pork.)
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon of paprika
  • 3/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 Teaspoon thyme

Directions:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in the crockpot (Except for the 1 quart of water) and set it to high.
  2. Let it cook for 12-36 hours. I tend to let it cook for at least 24 hours because I like the more mushy texture.
  3. Add in the 1 quart of water as needed- it can be the texture of chili or soup. Just make sure it doesn’t dry out and burn!
  4. Shred the pork chops and mix them into the beans.
  5. Serve with cornbread. (Optional, but highly recommended!)

Notes:

  • If you want a shorter cook time, I recommend soaking the beans in water overnight. Then cook them on high for at least 12 hours. I like to make sure the beans are cooked and mushy for better flavor and less gastrointestinal distress.
  • I have used pork roast or pork chops in the times I have tested this recipe and they have both been delicious! I think you could use any cut of meat that you like with beans. I just happen to like pork with pinto beans.
Baking, Uncategorized

Gluten and Dairy-Free Almond Brownies

As a college student, I had a roommate with celiac disease. We would make gluten and dairy-free meals together, and it generally tasted pretty delicious! However, I can honestly say that gluten and dairy-free desserts are generally made of chalk and disappointment. At least, the ones I tried with my friend.

But fear not, my friend! This gluten and dairy-free brownie recipe is not comprised of dusty chocolate or sadness. These brownies hold their shape super well, and they can be either delightful and fudgy or light and cakey!

I created this recipe for a potluck we went to. I know how disappointing it is to go places and not be able to eat any dessert, so I wanted to have a way for everyone to enjoy a treat.

I applied the knowledge I have of brownie making to a basic almond flour recipe I found on the internet and improved it! For all the secrets to making these brownies delicious, look in the notes below.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups almond flour
  • 1 Cup white sugar
  • 1 Cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons of Instant Clearjel powder (Or cornstarch)
  • 1 Cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of baking soda (for more cakey brownies) or 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (for more fudgy brownies)
  • 4 Eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 Teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 Tablespoons ghee (for just lactose-free), melted vegan butter, or olive oil
  • 1 Cup of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
  3. Add in the wet ingredients and stir until everything is combined.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spread the brownie batter in the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. If you want more fudgy brownies, take them out closer to 25 minutes when they are slightly jiggly in the middle. If you want more cakey brownies, I would take them out closer to 30 minutes or until the middle isn’t jiggly anymore.
  6. Let them cool completely. This is a key step! The texture won’t be perfect until they are cool.

Notes:

  • Instant ClearJel Powder can be found in many different stores and everywhere online. It is often used in pies and jellies, but it gives a wonderful texture to baked goods and keeps them moist. This is the secret to the texture of these brownies! It is essentially cornstarch, so you can use cornstarch in a pinch, but I do suggest using the Instant ClearJel powder.
  • Baking soda can be completely omitted from this recipe for the fudgiest brownies, however, the texture of the almond flour comes through more and is slightly grainy. I highly suggest adding 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to the brownies.
  • I have not experimented with gluten-free flour in the recipe. If you do, please let me know how it turns out!
Dinner, Uncategorized

Great Northern Bean and Kielbasa Soup

Where I live, spring is full of chilly days that are asking for a bowl of soup and a cozy blanket. This is a soup that I turn to regularly for dinner when I don’t have time (Or don’t want to cook!). It has a few simple ingredients that make a hearty, and dairy-free, soup.

I highly reccomend using homemade chicken broth to up the deliciousness, but boullion works in a pinch. If you need some more ideas for improving your soup recipes, you can find more ideas here.

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Medium onion
  • 4 Cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 Package of kielbasa sausage
  • 2 Cans of great northern beans
  • 1 Can of tomatoes (diced, whole, etc, whatever you like)
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Italian seasoning
  • 1 to 2 Teaspoons of salt
  • 1 1/2 Cups of water or bone broth broth (I just used one of the bean cans to measure)
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat a skillet to medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
  3. When the pan is hot enough, add the onion and garlic. Stir occasionally until they are fragrant.
  4. Slice the kielbasa sausage into rounds or half-rounds.
  5. Add the kielbasa to the pan and continue to stir it until the onions are transparent and the sausage has gotten crispy and golden brown on the edges.
  6. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the cans of beans and tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and broth. Add pepper to taste.
  7. Stir it occassionally and bring to a boil. Let it boil for five to ten minutes.
  8. Serve with buttered bread or crackers.

I love using beans in soup- it adds protein, vitamins, and texture. They are so cheap too! I like to cook dry beans in my crock pot or Instantpot and then freeze any leftovers. It makes the next time I cook soup even easier! I used cans of beans in this receipe because it’s what I had on hand. Either option works great!

However, if beans aren’t your thing, you could add some noodles instead to increase the satiety factor. I would boil the noodles in the soup itself so the noodles soak up all that flavor, then add another cup of water or broth if needed.

If you try out this recipe, let me know how it turned out for you! I would love to hear any comments you have about the recipe.

Dinner, Uncategorized

How to Take Your Soups to the Next Level

Soups are a staple for me during the autumn and winter seasons. I particularly love hearty and chunky soups.

When I want a bowl of soup on a snowy day, canned soup just doesn’t cut it. If you feel the same way, you might appreciate this list of tips to take your homemade soup to the next level. Soup can seem deceptively easy to make- which they can be- but hard to master. (I am no master myself!)

Without further ado, here are a few tips to make your next bowl of soup delicious.

1. Make and use homemade broth. I know, I know- this is a time consuming step. But I swear it makes the biggest difference. I always have a Snapware full of bones, chicken skin, and leftover pieces of veggies in my freezer to turn into broth. It’s super easy to make! Just toss your bones, veggies pieces, basically whatever you want to use, into your crock pot, instant pot, or pot on the stove. Cover it with water and add whatever seasonings you want. I like salt, bay leaves, and thyme. For the crock pot: I like to leave it running on low for at least 12 hours. Add a cup or two of water as needed so it always covers the bones/veggies. For the instant pot: I run it on manual for 3-6 hours depending on how long I have. For the pot on the stove: let it boil for a few hours and add water as needed.

When there is a nice layer of oil floating on top of the broth, you know it’s done. Strain it and pour into whatever container you plan to use. Of course you can use it right away to make soup, but I made large batches at a time, so I usually put it into glass jars and freeze it. (Make sure to leave plenty of room at the top of the jar, or else they will crack… I have lost too many glass jars that way.)

2. Use homemade noodles or dumplings for the coziest soup ever! There are so many recipes out there for homemade noodles or dumplings. They usually consist mainly of flour and eggs and can be whipped up in 5 minutes. Don’t worry, my egg noodle recipe is coming soon!

3. Never underestimate the power of onions and garlic. These are ingredients that are used very frequently- and for good reason! If you don’t have fresh onions, tossing a teaspoon or two of dried onions will work just fine. It adds that extra level of flavor that makes soups so satisfying.

4. Use more beans. There are so many kinds of beans out there. Beans are such a great source of protein and vitamins. I grew up eating a lot of beans, so they have a special place in my heart, err, stomach.

They are super cheap, especially if you buy dry beans. If you are worried about the possible *ahem* digestive effects of beans, I recommend soaking them overnight and then cooking them for at least 12 hours on high in a crock pot or a couple hours on manual in an instant pot. The more you cook beans, the fewer issues you will have. And of course, canned beans are an easy way to make a 15-minute soup.

If the texture of beans isn’t your favorite, you can add them to your soup and then blend them up to make a thick and creamy soup!

5. Use coconut milk (or your favorite Dairy-free milk) to add creaminess to any soup. The nice thing with soup is that the meat and veggies in the soup are the highlight. My husband isn’t a huge fan of dairy alternatives, but he usually can’t tell when I use them in soup.

I hope you feel inspired to make a warm pot of soup now! If you have any tips to add, let me know in the comments!

Uncategorized

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Lactose Intolerance

I’m sure we have all met at least one person that says “Yeah, I’m lactose-intolerant but I eat whatever I want anyway.”

Ummm….are y’all ok?

For me, the symptoms of lactose intolerance are not easy to ignore. I definitely feel it if I eat something I shouldn’t!

For those of you that eat whatever you want anyway… Here’s a quick list of why you should consider NOT doing that.

1. There are lactase chewables, tablets, powders, and liquid drops all at your disposal. These enzymes make life so much easier and less painful. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of them? (Not using them doesn’t make you any cooler- just gassier.)

2. Spend less time in the bathroom. If you know… You know. Nobody wants to watch a full season of a Netflix show in the bathroom.

3. Keep your gut healthy! Your gut health affects everything else in your body because it’s where your nutrition and energy come from. Having a healthy gut can help your energy and mood! My poor husband knows very well that a bloated wife is not a happy wife.

4. Expand your palate. There are so many ingredients out there that are dairy or lactose-free and just as tasty! I have learned so much more about food and what I like as I have experimented with vegan alternatives.

5. Stop dreading the effects of food. Food should be delicious (of course!!), but it shouldn’t make you feel like dirt after eating it. The association of pain and discomfort with food shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence.

I don’t know that I convinced you to use these tools in your life, but when you are ready to embrace the lactose-free life, you know where I am! I work hard at these recipes to not only feel good in my life but to help everyone out there in the world looking for solutions.

Lactose-Free Dairy, Uncategorized

9 Products to Make the Holidays More Lactose-intolerant Friendly

Food intolerances and allergies are no fun, especially when it comes to the holidays. All that dairy, gluten, and sugar come together to make such tasty treats- buuut my stomach doesn’t see them as gifts.

Dark Chocolate Lime Ganache Truffles

Over the years, I have found lactose-free and dairy-free options to still make my favorite treats. It just takes a little extra time at the store and finding what works in the recipes. (Although the whole reason I am making this blog is so you don’t have to stress over how to change the recipes.)

Since Christmas is this week (What?! Where did the time go??), I thought you might need a little help finding these products so you can make every treat you can think of.

Without further ado, here is my list of products that I like to keep on hand during the holidays.

1. Lactose-free Evaporated Milk- You can find it here. It’s great to have on hand in case you want to make a last-minute pumpkin pie.

2. Lactose-free Sweetened Condensed Milk- You can find it here. I like to use it to make a quick caramel.

3. Coconut Condensed Milk- You can find it here. I like having options in my cupboard when I get the urge to be creative- vegan recipes, here I come!

4. Green Valley Products- You can find them here. I highly reccomend these products, as they are organic and high-quality. They produce yogurt, butter, cream cheese, and more!

5. Homemade Lactose-free Butter- You can find my recipe here. Butter is always great to have on hand, and you can easily store it in the freezer until you start baking!

6. Cool Whip- You can find it here. Did you know that on-brand Cool Whip is lactose-free? Crazy, right?! If you look closely at the nutrition facts, it says that it contains 0 grams of lactose. Please note that you HAVE to buy the brand Cool Whip, as I have not found any off-brand versions that are lactose-free. (There are plenty of dairy-free versions in the same area of the store though!)

7. Dairy-free Hot Cocoa Mix- You can find my recipe here. Who doesn’t like to have a warm cup of cocoa after some holiday fun? And it always makes a wonderful gift!

8. Dairy-Free Chocolate Chips- You can find some Guittard chips here. I tend to like Guittard in my cupboard, but you can also find dairy-free and vegan options at regular places like Smith’s Marketplace and your local grocery store. (I have even found bulk dairy-free chocolate chips at WINCO!)

9. Cocoa Butter (To temper chocolate)- You can find it here. The reason I suggest having cocoa butter on hand to temper chocolate is that I can’t use almond bark or candy melts. They both contain milk. Trying to dip treats in non-tempered chocolate results in chocolate-y, sticky fingers every time. No thanks! Tempering your chocolate is a little extra work, but worth it.

I hope you guys regularly refer to this list and make plenty of holiday treats! I have been busy making oreo balls and dark chocolate lime ganache truffles. Let me know in the comments what you get up to!

Peppermint Oreo Balls (Made with Green Valley Creamery Cream Cheese)

Side Notes:

The reason why almond bark and candy melts set up at room temperature is that they have oils as the fat instead of the typical cocoa butter. Cocoa butter forms “crystals” that allow us to temper chocolate by heating and cooling it to certain temperatures. If you’d like to know how I temper chocolate (the easy way!), I can write another post soon. I also highly recommend checking out Ann Reardon’s video on chocolate.

You might notice that none of the links on this post go to Amazon. While you can find just about anything on Amazon, I don’t love referring to it. If I can find it locally or buy it directly from the company itself, I will. I like to support small(er) and local businesses if possible.

Sustainable Home, Uncategorized

How to Make the Holiday Season More Sustainable.

It’s easy to get all wrapped up (ha, get it?) in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. There are so many gifts to get, treats to make (and eat!), and family events to go to.

I don’t know about you, but another worry to add to the list is all the waste during this time. Gift wrap, plastic wrapped toys, and ribbon all end up in the dumpster.

However, I realized that if I take the time to simplify or thrift my decor and reuse what I already have, I don’t have to worry so much! Without further ado, here are five tips to make the holidays a little better for the planet.

1. Reuse Christmas bags. This is pretty simple, and I think a lot of people already do it! No need to go out and buy more wrapping paper if you have plenty of gift bags at home.

2. Use alternatives to the typical wrapping paper. There are stores that carry recycled or paper-free wrapping, or even reused sari scrap fabric to wrap gifts in. Obviously, these options are more expensive, so no need to feel guilty for not using these! Just refer to tip #1. 😉

3. Reuse whatever fake Christmas tree you have or cut down your own live one (And please dispose of it correctly! Most towns offer a service after Christmas to pick up the trees). Either way, you have fun memories and decrease the need for a bunch more plastic trees.

4. Make your own decorations! I know that the dried orange decorations have been popular lately. I tried it out, and it is fun! I highly suggest making your own ornaments instead of buying new plastic ones each year, like stringing popcorn, cranberries, and more. (But remember, if you already have plastic ornaments or are gifted them, use them! They are still fun to look at and have a use! No need to feel guilty. Better to have them on the tree than in the garbage.)

5. Make treats and give them as gifts. Who said that we have to give elaborate gifts to show our love? This year, I made a bunch of sugar cookies to give out as gifts. It’s a fun way to show your appreciation without having to buy more stuff that people may or may not use. Who can refuse a cookie?? Of course, as a blog that focuses on dairy-free and lactose-free recipes, I highly suggest asking people if they have any allergies or intolerances before making them treats.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and are able to visit your loved ones! Remember that a little switch here and there for sustainability makes a difference too- you don’t have to empty your wallets in the name of saving the planet. Thriftiness and family actives are just as good- if not better- than new gifts.

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!
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!