How to be Nutfree, Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

Happy New Year!

At the end of December, we put our planner away and the to-do lists aside and just focused on enjoying time with family and friends. The past 2 weeks have been wonderful; we had a chance to reconnect and recharge. However, we are ready to get back into a routine! Thank you for hanging in there while we took a short break. This next year will be full of new experiences and new recipes that we are so excited to share with you here!

Before we dive back into recipes – and food allergy friendly finds – we want to talk about some kitchen basics. Food safety is a priority for us ALL the time since cross contact can happen so easily; especially if you do allow your allergen in your kitchen.

person washing his hand
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com
  1. Wash your hands – Washing your hands is the easiest way to stop the spread of food borne pathogens that could make you sick. The US FDA recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds with hot, soapy water, or just sing the ABC Song! Get scrubbing!
  2. Sanitize your kitchen – I know we all love to use Mrs.Meyers smell good kitchen sprays, but they offer no actual sinitzation! We like to use spray bleach in the sink and around the counter tops, then I like to rinse with hot soapy water. The kitchen sink is known for having more bacteria than a garbage can!
  3. Clean your gear – Sponges are prime breeding grounds for lots of bacteria, so we tend to never use them, unless its a one-time use for a cleaning project. We use disposable dish cloths and throw them out after a week. Cutting boards, especially wooden, are also succeptable to bacteria, so make sure to use a plastic mat board for bacteria prone items that you’re prepping, like meats. In our home, we have color coded plastic cutting mats for raw meat items and then hard plastic / bamboo cutting boards for all other items; breads, fruits, veggies, etc.
  4. Season Safely – Most bacteria can’t live for more than a few minutes in direct contact with salt, it can live on the edges of a box or shaker. To avoid contamination with salt well or pepper mill, mix your seasonings in a small bowl prior to making your meal. This allows you to reach into the bowl to season your meats as needed without the risk of cross contact to the box / container that will go back in your pantry.
  5. Separate raw and cooked foods – Keep raw and cooked foods separately to prevent the spread of bacteria. Dont place cooked food on a plate or cutting board that came into contact with raw food and wash utensils that come in contact with raw food before reusing them, like meat thermometers and wooden spoons.
  6. Don’t rinse raw meat – Avoid rinsing raw meat and poultry. Contrary to what we have learned in other cookbooks, rinsing is more likely to spread bacteria in and around your sink. Cooking food to a safe temperature will kill surface bacteria no problem.
  7.  Defrost in the fridge – On the counter, the temperature is higher and bacteria multiply quickly. Place food on a plate or in a bowl to catch any liquid. Most food will take 24 hours to thaw.
  8. Reheat Rapidly – when food is reheated, it should be brought thru the danger zone (tempterature ranges from 40 to 140 degrees where bacteria thrive) as rapidly as possible . Dont let it slowly come to a simmer. Bring leftover sauces, soups and gravies to a boil and make sure casseroles reach 165.
  9. When in doubt, throw it out – No explanation needed. If it doesnt smell right or look right, just toss it. It’s not worth it.
  10. Allergy Spot – if you have food allergies in your home, you may want to consider having an allergy action plan where the food is only allowed in a specific area. For nut allergies, many families allow the peanut butter, cashew butter, etc. in a separate cupboard, then they eat it over the sink, then wash the sink out when they are done so there is no chance for cross contact. I’ve done this in our house with peanut butter and I usually end up washing the sink about 4 or 5 times before I move on. It’s a little much, but it works.

 

We have been talking about fast and healthy breakfast items to go – the kids have enjoyed sleeping in and this next week back at school is going to be a little adjustmet. We’re making banana bread, breakfast bars and scones to stock up our pantry. The new banana bread recipe has DOUBLE the bananas! Now that’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Have a great week – and keep your kitchen clean 🙂

 

Holiday Favorites

The Best No-Bake Fudge

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Cooks Country is a new magazine we decided to pick up at the grocery store last week. We liked it because it’s an oversized magazine. The images for the recipes are huge and lets be honest, the photos are the best part! We found an amazing fudge recipe and made it not once, but twice! WE plan to make it one more time since it’s so easy and extremely tasty.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 12 tbsp unsalte butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (we used Artisan Kettle bars, and you dont even need to chop, they have perforations so you can just break them)
  • 5oz large marshmallows, this is 21 marshmallows to be exact

Directions

  1. Line an 8″ baking pan with foil, or use a disposable foil pan. Spray lightly with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and salt in large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer. Bring mixture to 234 degrees, takes about 5 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and remove your pot from the burner. Add chocolate and marshmallows. Whisk until fully smooth and melted, about 2 min.
  4. Transfer the mixture to your pan. Let cool on the counter for 2 hours. Transfer to fridge for 2 hours.
  5. When the fuge is firm, you may brin it out, and cut into 1″ squares.

If you’d like to add toppings, candy canes, pretzel, caramel are some of our favorites. We love fudge! Hope this adds a little easy sweetness to your holiday!

Cheers!

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Weeknight Dinners

Christmas Chili

It’s that time of year where we want and need a good meal, but our schedules are over flowing with activities and a good meal is hard to come by.  However, this recipe is basic and you can find it on the back of your McCormick White Chicken Chili season packet. We named it Christmas Chili because of the red and green bell pepper that we added. This meal is ready in under 20 minutes. Get ready!

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Ingredients

  • 1 large frying pan with high sides
  • 1 pound of organic chicken, cubed
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • salt and pepper for chicken on both sides
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 white onion or shallot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (we only had black beans this time)
  • 1 avocado for topping
  • 1 McCormick white chicken chili season packet

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Directions

  1. Sautee your onion and veggies in 1 tbsp olive oil for about 4-5 minutes until they are crisp tender. Add garlic last before adding the chicken.
  2. Next, cut your chicken into small cubes and fry them in your pan for about 6 minutes, or until no longer pink. Medium heat.
  3. Add the season packet and finish according to package.
  4. Let it thicken up and enjoy!
  5. We placed our white chili over jasmine rice.
Weeknight Dinners

Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas

Who likes easy dinner clean up?!

*Raises Hand*

Perfect recipe for weeknight cooking! Especially if you have tiny steak lovers! However, I would HIGHLY recommend grilling the flank steak over putting it under the broiler. The broiler worked fine, if you cook it 1-2 minutes on each side. However, it can easily become chewy and tough in a matter of no time.

Flank steak is not cheap. For a little over one pound, we paid almost $12.00. This steak is delish, but you need to be careful in how you cook it. This recipe was good – and the kids did eat all of their food. But watch that steak! Or grill it quick. You know, Wisconsin style. Shovel a path to your grill, then stand outside in flip flops.

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Two sheet pans is a must. Ideally, you want the veggies to get a little roasty and crunchy. They won’t do that if they are crowded! Keep the meat separate and the veggies in their own space.

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Ingredients:

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler with oven rack in the top position. Place a rimmed baking sheet in oven (leave pan in oven as it preheats).
  2. Combine oil, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, chile powder, and black pepper in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place steak in a bowl. Place bell peppers and onion in a bowl. Add half of oil mixture to steak; toss. Add remaining half of oil mixture to pepper mixture; toss.
  3. Carefully remove baking sheet from oven. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pepper mixture to pan; broil 10 minutes or until almost tender. Remove pan from oven. Move pepper mixture to sides of pan; arrange steak in center of pan. Broil 3 minutes or until steak reaches desired degree of doneness. Sprinkle cilantro and lime wedges over pan.
  4. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, sour cream, lime juice, and ground red pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Heat tortillas according to package directions. Serve sour cream mixture and tortillas with steak and pepper mixture.

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Holiday Favorites

Berry Good Chocolate Cake

The LAST issue of Cooking Light Magazine has this lovely cake recipe as it’s cover + feature for December. I’m so sad to see this magazine come to a close. This has been a staple in our home for many years. However, like with many things that have happened this year, when one door closes, another one opens.

I’m excited to see Cooking Light Magazine’s sister, Eating Well Magazine. Eating Well will continue to have some of the features of Cooking Light Magazine. Cooking Light will continue as an online pub, much like the rest of the industry.

Bitter Sweet.

As a jornalism major in college, print was my all-time favorite. Although my AP stylebook is quite dusty now, and my writing here on this blog is half an effort, I will miss holding this magazine, watching the pages become littered with notes, post-its and drops and drippings from recipes we’re trying. I’ve saved almost all of our Cooking Light Magazines and resort beack to them when in I’m in a rut. Thanks Cooking Light, you’ll be missed!

The cake recipe! Here it is! I’m giving you the cheat method because if you’re making this for tomorrow, you do not have time to make the full-on homemade chocolate cake that goes along with it.

Ingredients

  • Chocolate cake box mix (betty crocker is safe, we used the Devils Food flavor)
  • Glaze
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (Vermont Nut Free or Nestle)
    • 1 oz semisweet chocolate chips
    • 2 tbsp milk
    • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
    • dash of table salt
  • Yogurt Cream
    • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup plain 2% greek yogurt
    • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Fruit Topping
    • 1 cup fresh blackberries
    • 1 6oz container raspberries
    • 1 cup strawberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray two 8″ cake pans with non-stick spray
  2. Make your box of cake mix according to the package.
  3. Remove and let cool completely before moving on.
  4. Prepare glaze: combine the glaze ingredients in small sauce pan over low, stirring constantly for about 3 min. Cool slightly.
  5. Prepare the yogurt cream: place cream and powdered sugar in large mixing bowl and mix until stiff peaks form. Then add yogurt and vanilla and beat on high until well combined.
  6. Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand and top with yogurt cream leaving a 1/2 inch border. top with second cake layer. Carefully pour the glaze over the top, spreading to the edges and dripping down the sides. Arrange berries on top.
  7. Enjoy!

Serves: 16, Calories: 308