7 Must-Bake Vegan Christmas Cookies

7  Must-Bake Vegan Christmas Cookies

With Christmas fast approaching, it’s time to get on the baking train. Whether you’re entertaining friends and family or simply want to spread a little cheer with some homemade goodies, then these recipes are for you!

Plus, they’re all simple, delicious AND vegan! And your friends and family will never know the difference!

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Dairy Intolerance? What about Lactose, Casein & Whey?

Dairy.jpg

If you have have a food intolerance, then you know it isn't fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea. Other symptoms linked to food intolerances include muscle or joint pain, headaches, exhaustion, and even skin symptoms like rashes and eczema.  Dairy happens to be one of those foods that many people seem to be intolerant of.

So let’s talk about the main parts of milk that people react to: lactose, casein, and whey.

Milk Sugar (Lactose) Intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store. Lactose-free products are treated with the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.

The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. It breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn't have enough lactase, the lactose doesn't get broken down the way it should.  Undigested lactose ends up being food for your resident gut microbes. And as they ferment the lactose, they create gases that can cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and even diarrhea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn't that easy as it is added to other foods like baked goods, soups, and sauces. And if you're taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it's in there too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them.  If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication, and supplement labels.

Milk Protein (Casein & Whey) Allergy

Milk is a known, and common, food allergen. In Canada, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.

So, what are the allergens in milk? You've heard of "curds and whey?" Well, these are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey. Who knew?!

Unlike lactose intolerance, casein and whey can cause an actual immune response. It’s an allergy. And this immune response can cause inflammation. In fact, we don’t know how many people have these milk allergies, but most estimates put it far below that of lactose intolerance.

Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They're not just in dairy but are often in protein powders as well (think of those Whey protein powders).

Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy differ from that of lactose intolerance; things like nasal congestion and mucus (phlegm) are more common here. And casein seems to be linked with belly fat.  Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.

Like lactose intolerance, if you're allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.

Conclusion

If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.

While dairy may be an entire food group, it is NOT an essential nutrient. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet. And you may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues, I know I sure did. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat!

If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, let me know your experience in the comments below.

And now for one of my fave non-dairy treats!

Chocolate Nice Cream

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 3 bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 2 tsp cacao powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tbsp almond butter

Instructions:

Place frozen bananas in food processor and blend until smooth (a few minutes). You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides.  Add cacao powder and almond butter and blend until mixed well.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/how-to-get-rid-of-bloating/

https://www.dietvsdisease.org/11-warning-signs-you-have-a-food-intolerance/

https://authoritynutrition.com/dairy-foods-low-in-lactose/

https://authoritynutrition.com/lactose-intolerance-101/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/whey-protein-allergies-intolerances-bloating

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-food-sensitivities

https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-great-dairy-debate/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-milk-and-mucus-a-myth/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/milk-protein-vs-soy-protein/

https://examine.com/supplements/casein-protein/

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/

http://foodallergycanada.ca/about-allergies/food-allergens/milk/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blood-pressure/milk-protein-may-lower-blood-pressure

No-Bake Peanut Butter & Chocolate Oatmeal Flax Cookies

Looking for a delicious treat that you can whip up in a few minutes AND is good for you? Well look no further!  These Peanut Butter & Chocolate Oatmeal Flax cookies are no-bake, gluten-free, dairy-free & egg-free!  And with only a handful of real, natural ingredients they are good for you too!  The kids love them and they're lovely and rich and no one would ever guess that they are filled with loads of goodness.

PB & Chocolate Cookies

No-Bake Peanut Butter & Chocolate Oatmeal Flax Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Natural Peanut Butter (or substitute your favourite nut-butter)
  • 3/4 cup Maple Syrup (or Honey if that's your thing)
  • 1/2 Coconut Oil
  • 2 cups Gluten-free Oats
  • 1/4 cup ground Flax
  • 1/4 Hemp Hearts
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 6 tbsp Cocoa powder

Instructions:

  • Combine peanut butter, maple syrup (or honey) and coconut oil in medium sized pot.  Heat on low and stir frequently until all ingredients have blended together and remove from heat. You don't want to cook out all the goodness from the honey!
  • Next, stir in your vanilla and cocoa until combined.  Then add in the oats, hemp & flax and mix well.
  • Once everything is nice and blended and ooey-gooey, drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  I smoothed the cookies out with the back of my spoon, but you can totally leave them as little stacks if you prefer.

All that's left to do is pop the pan in the fridge (or freezer if you're impatient) and wait for them to set. Once they are nice and chilled, keep them in an air tight container in your fridge or freezer and enjoy a little healthy indulgence whenever you like!

(P.S. With the flax, oats & hemp heart; they make great lactation treats too!)

Foodie Friday: Gluten-Free Cookies for the Birthday Girl

So it's your kid's birthday; and you want to send your little Sally or Johnny to school with treats for all their classroom friends.  But wait....no nuts allowed at school....and your child is gluten-free....and another kid can't have eggs or milk....what do you do?  Spend hours searching online for a wheat-free, nut-free, egg-free & dairy-free recipe and then hope there's a late night grocery store you can hit up to find all the ingredients you need.  And then stay up late baking like a machine and praying your kids and all the others will eat your concoction?  Or you could try something much easier and stress free....King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Cookie Mix!

At least that's what I did.  You may already know that our household is gluten-free, but now with Stella (our birthday girl) in school we can't send her with any nuts.  I'm used to baking with various nut flours, but that's a big no-no.  And add into the mix I've recently learned I'm allergic to dairy and eggs.  Needless to say, my fridge and cupboards are lacking the usual baking ingredients.  But I really wanted to send something special to school for Stella's birthday and I wanted to be able to enjoy a treat too.
Luckily for me I had a box of King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Cookie Mix in the cupboard.  It's a great mix for your cookies and then you can design them however you want by adding your own special ingredients.  I was going to add raisins (my healthier choice) but Stella insisted on chocolate chips.  The next trick was to modify this mix to be dairy & egg-free.  Luckily it only calls for 1/2 cup of butter or shortening and 1 egg. I used a 1/2 cup of Earth's Balance Vegan Butter which I already had in the fridge.  But then I needed an egg substitute.  I would have used a banana as I've heard that works well, but wouldn't you know I'm also allergic to bananas!  So I found a great resource online that lists the various egg substitutes and what they are best used for.  Turns out the egg in a cookie recipe is just really for binding.  And a easy substitute is 2 tbsp of corn starch mixed with 1 tbsp of water.  So that's what I did and hoped for the best.

The mix was so easy to use and the instructions were fool-proof.  Once the dough was mixed up it looked just like cookie dough should.  Now the box recommended dropping it by heaping tablespoons to create about 2 dozen cookies.  But Stella's class is pretty big, so I used a teaspoon instead and ended up with about 33 cookies.  Pretty good for one box.

I baked them at the instructed temperature and found in my oven they took exactly 12 minutes to bake.  That was a long 12 minutes having to wait for those sweet smelling morsels to come out of the oven.  In the past I have found some gluten-free recipes to be a little more delicate than their traditional wheat counter-parts.  But these cookies weren't any more delicate than a wheat-based one.  (read: I didn't break them all getting them off the cookie sheet)
Once cooled, Stella and I decorated her special birthday cookies. 

 What 4 year old doesn't love hearts with star sprinkles?

We ended up with just enough cookies for us to have a sample before sending them off to school to be devoured.  And they received the seal of approval from Stella, Dad and myself.  And nobody would even guess they were gluten-free, dairy-free & egg-free.  So kudos to King Arthur Flour for making baking a fun family experience.  And now I can make the cookies AND eat them too!  Can't wait to try some of their other gluten-free products!
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 Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge from King Arthur Flour for the purposes of this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

How I Survived Thanksgiving & had my Vegan, Gluten-Free Pie too!

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving.  A lovely long weekend filled with family, friends and food.  I usually look forward to filling my belly with delicious dishes and my spirit with laughter and good times.  But this year I was more than a little hesitant.

This year I was hoping to avoid the tables of tantalizing foods and sidestep those awkward conversations about my eating habits.  You may remember a few short weeks ago I learned that I'm allergic to eggs and dairy and few other select foods.  Needless to say, having multiple feasts to attend was not my idea of a good time. But I realized that heading into the weekend, dreading what was going to be served, was really not the best mindset to have. So I decided to buck-up and take on the dinners like the gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free carnivore I am!

So here's what I learned and how I survived Thanksgiving:

1.  Don't be ashamed of who you are - too often I find myself avoiding conversations or situations where I will have to defend my food choices. I would say my friends and family are tolerant of my food restrictions, but they don't fully comprehend the choices I have made. So I decided to stand up and be proud of the fact that I made a choice for a healthier lifestyle and that means I don't eat certain things.  It also means I'm on the right path to feeling better physically and mentally. So whether you're Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo or whatever, don't be ashamed; be proud of who you are and what you eat.  Don't be all high and mighty, but be confident that your decision is the right one for you.  And that's all that really matters.

2.  Bring something you will eat - there's nothing worse than showing up for dinner and not being able to eat anything that's being served.  So bring a dish that you will enjoy.  Whether you are supposed to bring something or not, the host will be happy and so will you.  I brought a lovely vegan squash dish to Thanksgiving.  And I was pleased to see that it was almost gone by the end of dinner.  I didn't tell anyone it was vegan and made with almond milk and some Nooch.  But it was gratifying to see that everyone loved it and no one judged it.

3. You don't have to deprive yourself - regardless of what dietary needs you have, you don't have to miss out on great holiday foods.  I've spent a lot of time looking at what I can't eat instead of what I can.  Talk about counterproductive!  Switching my mindset has made a world of difference on how I view food and social situations.  So instead of standing beside the dessert table looking heartbroken, I brought my own dessert.  A Vegan, Gluten-free, Nut-Free Pumpkin Pie from Organic Works Bakery. Heaven!  And wow....I was shocked.  The pie looked and smelled fantastic!  You would never guess it was anything other than a good old fashioned Pumpkin Pie.  The crust was light and flaky and filled to the brim with delicious, perfectly spiced pumpkin.  My daughter who insisted she didn't like pumpkin pie finally decided to try some after seeing me enjoying a piece.  After her first bite she exclaimed that it was DELICIOUS and proceed to inhale the rest.  Upon cleaning her plate she promptly asked for more.  And that was the consensus from everyone who tried it.  I didn't advertise what it was made out of.  I just let them eat pie and decide for themselves.  If they asked what was in it I was happy tell them it wasn't your average pumpkin pie!

Now that Thanksgiving is done,  I'm happy to report I survived and even ended up with a pleasantly full belly and some great memories.  Now I'm looking forward to tackling the holiday parties over the next couple months.  And definitely looking forward to more pie!

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Disclaimer: I am a Brand Ambassador for Organic Works Bakery and  received this product free of charge for the purposes of this article.  The opinions expressed are my own. To see more from me go to www.suburbanhippiehomestead.com.

Foodie Friday: Guilt-Free, Gluten-Free Granola

It's a grey and dreary Fall day here at the Homestead.  So what better way to spend the morning then whipping up a batch of granola.  It's super easy and my recipe is nice and healthy too!  The thing I really love about making my own granola is that each time you make it ends up being a different creation.  Maybe you were out of this, or didn't have that, so you used those instead.  It really doesn't matter what you through in, it's always bound to be good.  And most of the time, that's how I roll...cooking with whatever is in the cupboard.  So for possibly the first time ever , I wrote down what I made today.  Hope you enjoy it!  And feel free to experiment and get creative.  As I am gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy/egg-free, there are none of those unpopular guys in this recipe.  But really, you don't need any of them anyways.  See for yourself!

Guilt-Free, Gluten-Free Granola

Ingredients: 

5 cups of Gluten-free Oats
1 cup of Spelt Flakes (mine were organic)
1 cup of Raw Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2  cup of toasted buckwheat groats (Kasha)
1/2 cup of almonds - coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of walnuts - coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of ginger
Pinch of salt
Sprinkle of Allspice
Sprinkle of ground Vanilla Bean
2 tbsp of Coconut Oil - melted
1/2  - 3/4 cup of Brown Rice Syrup - you can use maple syrup, agave etc. as a substitute

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl mix together all your dry ingredients until well blended.  Use your warming oven to melt your coconut oil in an oven proof dish.  Mix your melted coconut oil and brown rice syrup together and mix well.  Then add the mixture to your bowl of dry ingredients.  And mix it up.  This may take a bit of elbow grease, but you want to make sure all those awesome seeds, nuts and oats are coated in yummy, gooey goodness.  Pour your almost granola onto 2 baking sheets.  I like mined lined with parchment paper, but if you don't have any then simply grease the sheets with a little more coconut oil.
Bake for 12 minutes and then take them out and give them a good stir and then place them back in the oven some more.  You will need to repeat this a few times just until your granola is dried and slightly golden brown.  My batch took about 30 minutes overall. Once done, remove from the oven and let cool.  Then stir again to break up any delicious clumps.  And store in an air tight container.  This granola will last a few weeks in your cupboard if you don't eat it all before then.

This granola is great for breakfast as cereal or mixed into a yogurt.  Or why not stash a bit in your bag for an on the go snack?  It's even a great handmade gift served little mason jars tied with a bow.  The options are endless.  Add dried fruit if you like, take out the nuts, add some more spice or less, you choose...it's your granola!

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Foodie Friday - From Biscuit Boondoggle to Breakfast Beauty

Yesterday I decided to tackle my new dairy-free and egg-free diet by attempting to make some simple biscuits for dinner.  Couldn't be that hard, right? Apparently I was wrong.  So I found this Vegan Biscuit recipe online from About.com and figured I would substitute the flour with my gluten-free mix and the margarine with coconut oil.  And I followed these instructions to a tee.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp margarine
  • 3/4 cup soy milk

Instructions:

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Using a fork, blend the margarine into the dry ingredients until the mixture breaks down into fine particles.Add the soy milk and stir until the particles cling together. Turn out onto a floured bread board or counter top and knead for 1 to 2 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Add more flour as needed if the dough is sticky. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut into rounds (a drinking glass works well), place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

I kneaded and rolled the dough and cut it into perfect circles and popped it in the oven.  13 minutes later I had some round dough circles that didn't look really any different from when I put them in. I don't blame the recipe as it had great reviews and lots of others had success.  So maybe it was my substitutions or maybe I kneaded the dough too long or rolled it too much, but my biscuits were not very biscuity.  They didn't rise and were just like hard round cakes.  On the upside, they were quite tasty with the coconut oil.

So instead of failed biscuits, they are now my Buckwheat Coconut Breakfast Cakes.  Covered with some peanut butter or no-sugar added jam, they are a perfect way to start the day and are a perfect companion to my morning java.  Not a bad recovery all in all.

Not a baking failure, but a baking discovery! 
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Yogurt to be Cheesing Me....No Dairy?!

24 hours ago I received news that I'm officially allergic to all dairy and eggs.  As an avid cheese connoisseur and omelet lover, I'm still in a state of shock.  It really seemed like no big deal yesterday when I got the news, but when we hit the grocery store last night the enormity of my diet change started to sink in.

Now this may seem a little over the top and melodramatic, but I'm heart broken to say the least.  I gave up sugar and wheat willingly as a way to be healthier.   It's been an awfully long time since I had someone tell me I can't have something.  I almost feel like stomping my feet and shouting "It isn't FAIR!"  Instead I will just have my little rant today as this marks the start of me being officially dairy and egg free.  Also on my report it turns out I'm also allergic to bananas, pineapple and tuna.  Granted, I do enjoy all these foods, they don't seem quite as devastating as the dairy.

My husband seems to be a bit in shock.  His test revealed his only offending food is eggs.  And he's quite happy about this given since I've known him he's always said he's allergic to eggs.  I just thought he was a baby and couldn't handle an omelet, but it turns out...he was right.  As supportive as I know he'll be, I asked him if he'd give up dairy with me.  His response:  "I guess I'll just eat my brie in the car."

And so starts a new chapter for me...dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free and sugar-free.  So I'm hoping you can help me out with this transition.  Have you gone through something similar?  Do you have any words of advice?  Or better yet, share some of your fave recipes so I can see that there is still food out there for me.

Recovering cheese addict,
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Foodie Friday: Gluten-Free, Sugar-free Brownies

So Stella had been continuously begging me to bake some sweet delicious treat.  She wanted cookies or cupcakes or brownies.  Since going wheat-free and sugar-free the amount of sweets in our house has declined significantly.  But given how persistent and ridiculously cute she is, I figured the least I could do is find a gluten-free and sugar-free recipe.  (OK. There is some honey, but I would have substituted Stevia if I had enough.)

It took me a bit, but thanks to the wonders of the interweb I found exactly what I needed.  I quit sugar in February 2013 and did a purge of my pantry, so needless to say it wasn't easy finding a recipe I could make without having to take a trip to the grocery store. But never say never! What I found was an easy and delicious recipe for brownies.  The entire pan was gone in less then 2 days!  So without further ado, here is the recipe!

Gluten-free, Sugar-free, Dairy-free Brownies
http://www.yummly.com/recipe/external/Gluten-free_-sugar-free_-dairy-free-brownies-324782

Author Notes: This recipe is a slight adaptation of Gluten Free Easily‘s Big and Rich Brownie recipe (http://glutenfreeeasily.com/big-rich-brownies-gf-friends/). 
 
Makes 12 brownies
Fresh out of the oven.



  • 2/3 cups Olive oil
  • 1/3 cup Cocoa powder
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3/4 cups Honey
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups Blend of corn and rice flour
  • 1/3 cup Nuts (I used slivered almonds)
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened Peanut butter, if desired, for “frosting”
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
  2. Grease an 8 x 8 (or comparable size) glass baking dish.
  3. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl. The nuts can be sprinkled on top just before the brownies are put into the oven, or mixed into the batter.
  4. Spread batter in the greased pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
 

Had a hard time keeping my hands of these while taking the pic!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Easy bakin',
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