Fall is by far my favorite time of year – I love the leaves changing, the cool weather, and most of all the food. While the leaves haven’t quite changed yet, we have still been finding lots of ways to enjoy the beautiful weather. Thinking about fall food, we decided to have some friends over for a fall cookout. When we prepare food for others, my goal is to make dairy and soy free food that is not “obviously” prepared around our dietary restrictions. I don’t even want people to realize that we are avoiding certain foods when they eat what we make. Here is the fall menu that we chose:

Mulled Apple Cider

Fall Vegetable Skewers

Hot German Potato Salad

A variety of sausages from a local place that we love (http://maialecuredmeats.com/)

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Spice Icing

 

Mulled Apple Cider:

My husband really took this one over. He searched the internet and picked components of several cider recipes and this is what he came-up with:

–          ¾ Gallon Apple Cider (unsweetened)

–          ¼ cup brown sugar

–          3 cinnamon sticks

–          20 whole cloves

–          ½ an apple, sliced

–          3 slices of an orange, with peel

–          1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled

–          2 tsp allspice

He combined everything in the crock pot and heated it on low for about 4 hours before our friends arrived. Once everyone got to the house, we strained out the large pieces, turned it down to low and people went back for more throughout the afternoon. We thought we might tweak it after we tasted it, but the only thing we wanted to change is that we wished we had made more!

Fall Vegetable Skewers:

We made skewers with red onion, bell pepper (straight from the garden), apples, and butternut squash. We brushed them with a little olive oil and sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and crushed rosemary, and threw them on the grill. The seasoning was great, and I especially loved the apples, which was something we had never done before. The only problem is that the squash did not cook as much as everything else and was still pretty crunchy. I was worried that would happen, but the trusty internet told us it was okay to grill the pieces raw. I think next time we will try to blanch the pieces for a few minutes before we put them on the skewers. All in all it was a great fall side, though.

Hot German Potato Salad:

My dad was the first one to introduce me to Hot German Potato Salad. This is not your typical potato salad – there is no mayonnaise for one thing, and it is served hot. But most importantly, it is made with bacon, so you know it has to be good. We searched a recipe a few months back (here is the one that we use). We have made this a few times, and it is always a hit. We like to cube the potatoes instead of slice them, and you want them to be cooked to the point that they are still a little firm when poked with a fork. This time we overcooked the potatoes a little so we ended up with Hot German Mashed Potatoes instead of potato salad, but it was still delicious.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Spice Icing:

We got a pumpkin a few weeks ago with no real plan for it, and I thought pumpkin cupcakes would be a yummy treat after our fall meal. The recipe I tried was okay, and the cupcakes were pretty much devoured, but I think it needs some tweaking. I am going to try again, and I’ll post the recipe when I get it right!

For icing I generally start with palm oil shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract, and then I tweak and add flavors for whatever I am working with. This time I added pumpkin pie spice until it tasted right to me. I would like to work on this recipe some more, too.

 

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day, and the food was a perfect way to start the fall off right. I am already thinking about other fall foods we didn’t have today that I can’t wait to make!  



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This is a milk and soy free recipe that my husband came up with one night when we didn’t have anything planned for dinner. I love it because it is super simple, but has great flavor.

Ingredients:

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts

2 Teaspoons dry Rosemary (crushed or ground)

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 to 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

 

Trim fat from chicken and cut into strips or bite sized pieces. If you have whole rosemary, you can crush or grind it. We have a mortar and pestle, which works great but requires a little elbow grease. You could also use a coffee grinder (best if only used for herbs), and I imagine a blender would work, too.

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Sprinkle a generous amount of rosemary onto chicken pieces, turning to coat all sides. I use at least ½ of a teaspoon per chicken breast. Salt and pepper to taste – I like to be pretty generous here, too. Heat oil in a skillet and add chicken pieces in a single layer. It may be necessary to do this in batches and/or add oil.

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Cook through, turning to get an even light browning on all sides. Remove from pan, and serve warm, or cool to refrigerate and use later.

We sometimes eat this as a dinner entrée with a vegetable and side, and we often cool and refrigerate it to be used during the week. My favorite way to eat it is on top of salad. It’s so easy to make a large batch of 4 to 6 chicken breasts over the weekend, eat a serving for dinner, and save the rest in the fridge. Then we bring this for lunches on top of a bed of mixed greens and favorite raw veggies.

Variation: You can also keep the chicken breasts whole, season both sides, and then follow the rest of the recipe as usual. Serve as whole breasts, or cut into strips if desired. This requires a little less prep work up front, but can be more challenging to cook through without burning.  If the pieces are very thick, you may want to pound them out a little first. Prepared this way, the dish has a milder flavor than when seasoned in bite-sized pieces.

I find that one of the hardest parts of being milk and soy free is finding quick and easy snack foods. Before eliminating milk and soy, some easy things to throw in my lunch (or the diaper bag) were yogurt, granola bars, string cheese, bagels, and crackers or fruit with cheese. Other than the obvious dairy items, I quickly found that if granola bars and bread products don’t have hidden milk, they almost always have soy ingredients. It’s taken some time, but I have gotten to a point that I have a good selection of quick and easy snacks for lunch or on the go. Here is my first stab at creating a list :

  • Fresh Fruit: Apples, bananas, pears, grapes, etc. make great on-the-go snacks, and are pretty much as easy as granola bars or other pre-packaged items. Other fruits like berries, cherries, sliced melon also make great snacks, but are better for lunches than on the go snacks. They can be slightly messier so I prefer to eat them when I have a fork, or at least a napkin available.
  • Carrots and Hummus: I had a hard time finding soy free hummus, but finally found a winner at Costco – Hannah brand Classic Hommus. It also happens to be organic (bonus!).
  • Pita Chips: I think these are my favorite crispy snack. I’m sure there are many good brands, but I buy Stacy’s brand, and I think it can be found at many stores. My favorite varieties are Simply Naked, Garden Veggie Medley, and Cinnamon Sugar, all of which are free of dairy and soy ingredients. I eat the Simply Naked and the Garden Veggie Medley plain or with Hummus. The Cinnamon Sugar variety is a nice treat to satisfy my sweet tooth without totally overindulging.
  • Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Almonds: Definitely an indulgence. These are more like candy than a snack, but at least they have protein, fiber, good fats, etc.
  • Ants on a log: In case I am the only that uses this term, I am talking about celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins. I used to worry that my co-workers would judge me for eating a snack common among kindergarteners, but after realizing how tasty it is I got over that. Just make sure you are using one-ingredient peanut butter to avoid any hidden milk or soy.
  • Trader Joe’s “The Bagel Spinoza” Cinnamon Raisin Bagels: I was pretty excited to find bagels I could have. These are delicious toasted with honey or just plain.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Salted almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are my favorite. Again, make sure if they are roasted that there is no soy oil on them.
  • Dried Fruit: Figs, apricots, raisins, craisins, banana chips, mango… there are so many options it’s pretty easy to add some snacking variety with dried fruit. Sometimes it a good fix for my sweet tooth, too.
  • Freeze dried fruit and vegetables: These make great crispy snacks, and it seems like this is becoming more common, and therefore easier to find. Just Veggies brand has a lot of options for fruits and veggies, and Target also sells a variety. With the Target brand, some of the packaging says that it might contain milk and soy. Since I don’t really know what that means, I just stay away from those, and choose the ones that look safe.
  • Trail Mix: Try different mixes of your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and of course milk and soy free chocolate too (I like Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips).
  • Toasted Corn: I have no idea how easy this is to find in grocery stores because I buy it in the bulk section of our Natural Food Co-Op, but this is by far my favorite new find. It’s super salty and crunchy, and ours is made without soybean oil (make sure to check).
  • Chips and Salsa or Guacamole: Some tortilla chips contain either milk or soy, but it has not been difficult to find some that don’t. I just discovered Food Should Taste Good brand tortilla chips. They come in different flavors, and are kind of a nice change. I would always check, just in case, but pretty much all salsa and guacamole should be milk and soy free. Salsa and guacamole are also pretty easy to make from scratch.
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter, fruit preserves, apple butter, hummus, etc: I’m not a big fan of plain rice cakes, but as a vehicle for something delicious, I can get on board.
  • Sliced avocado with salt: This is truly and obsession. I find myself looking for more ways to eat avocado, but I still love to just each the slices with a little salt.
  • Bean Chips: I just tried Beanitos out of curiosity, and was pleasantly surprised. They are chips made from beans, and are pretty tasty on top of being high in fiber and protein. I just tried the original black bean flavor with sea salt, but they have other varieties, too. I thought my husband would think they were weird, but he actually liked them and thought they tasted like Pringles.
  • Fruit and Nut Bars: There are days that I really need to just grab a granola bar on the way out the door, and these are a great alternative. Larabar is the only brand I have really tried, but I’m sure there are others. Most of them are milk and soy free, and there are a lot of flavors to choose from. My only complaint is that they are a little expensive, so I try to save them for days I am in a hurry and need something that is truly grab-and-go.

I mentioned some of my favorite brands, but you may find milk and soy free brands near you that are just as good. I included links to the brands that I wasn’t sure were common in case you want to know more about them. I am always on the look out for new ideas to add variety to my diet. Stay tuned for more lists!