Monday, October 31, 2011
Pumpkin Day 2011!

I think that if you do something like this three years in a officially becomes a tradition. Last weekend we went on our fun fall pumpkin tradition with the Wilsons! It's an event that starts early in the morning and ends late into the night. We all look forward to it.

I ended up getting 4 edible pumpkins. I LOVE roasting my pumpkin from scratch. I haven't bought a can of pumpkin in years. Last year I discovered the cinderella pumpkin and fell in love. They are beautiful and delicious!

The car was beyond full! Jay actually had his pumpkin on his lap the whole way home...which was not just around the corner, mind you...

We had some negotiating to do with Max. We gave him a price limit and in true Max form, he needed to go $1 over that price for the perfect pumpkin to carve...a battle of the wills! He was beyond proud of his pick!

Doing traditional things like this really makes me realize how big the boys are getting! Time is really going too fast!

This was just a few of the pumpkins we came home with! The boys carve their own pumpkins every year. They come up with the ideas and do the work themselves. I love this! Tony, unfortunately, got a warty pumpkin since he was carving Yoda and the pumpkin was far too waxy and hard for him to carve. I hated that he couldn't carve through that darn thing.

He and Matt have started a new tradition of making a joint pumpkin character. They don't carve them, but they decorate them. I love this one! He had such a personality!

We always put something in the crock pot to cook while we're gone since we are starving when we get back! This beef stew is easy to put together and was done when we got back! Perfect!

Crockpot Beef Stew
(makes 15 cups)

This stew is hearty and chunky. The flavor options are endless. I kept the herbs simple, but rosemary would be a great flavor to add if you are looking for a little something special.

2 medium onions (sliced thick)
8 medium carrots (cut about 2 inches long)
5 medium red potatoes (cut into quarters)
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 ½ - 3 lbs bottom round roast (cut into 1 ½ - 2 inch cubes)
½ cup flour
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 bay leaves
6 cups low sodium beef broth
2 Tablespoons flour plus 2 Tablespoons water (optional)

Layer your vegetables in the bottom of your crockpot. Next, on the stove, heat the oil in a heavy pan. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Coat the beef in the flour mixture and then brown it in the oil. Add the beef to the crockpot along with the bay leaves and broth.  Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. If the gravy needs to be thicker, mix the 2 Tablespoons of flour with 2 Tablespoons water and stir it into the stew. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

**Thank you Nayoung for taking pictures that day! 

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 5:30 AM   20 comments
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Pumpkin Mini Muffin Repeats!
This past weekend we went to the pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkins. I will not tell you the embarrassing amount that I purchased to roast. Let's just say we are covered in the pumpkin area for quite a while...maybe. While we were there, the torture from the amazing smell of pumpkin bread coming from the building at the farm was killing me. So, what do I do...bake pumpkin muffins, silly!

I made 2 batches of these mini pumpkin muffins in less than 24 hours due to the speed with which they were eaten!

Dairy free, gluten free, fat free and so good! Now I want more!

To make them a little extra special, I added a little cream cheese icing to some of them.

I had some happy campers here! Let's just say we were al properly fueled to carve pumpkins that night!

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, chilled (Tofutti works really well as a dairy alternative)
1/4 cup light butter or stick margarine, softened (I use Light Smart Balance)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

I have to say that pumpkin muffins are definitely a weakness for me. Every year when we go to the farm, the smell just drives me crazy (in a good way).

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 6:00 AM   12 comments
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Gluten Free Dairy Free Cookie Cake!

Wow, thank you all so much for your kind words and encouragement for my decision to study for my nutrition certification. I'm such a nerd right now with my nose constantly in my books. I'm completely in love with learning right now! I also realize that I'm spread a little thin, so I'm kind of all over the place. No worries though, things will get settled soon enough!

For now...

there's gluten free cookie cake!

The boys wanted chocolate chip cookies and I did not want to be in the kitchen any more that day. So, I asked if they would be interested in cookie cake. Who was I kidding? When are they not interested in cookie cake? They only deal was that I wanted to try out a gluten free version (my regular version). My boys are great with this team...they are always game for gluten/dairy free treats since they know Tony and I can have them too!

These were chewy on the inside while slightly crisp on the outside. Since I didn't frost these, the boys enjoyed them with ice cream on top.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Cookie Cake

1 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs (flax egg works too...2 TBSP mixed with 6 TBSP hot water)
1/2  cup coconut flour (almond flour works too)
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2/3 cup white rice flour
2/3 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 cups dairy free chocolate chips

In large bowl, beat the coconut oil, white sugar, dark brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. In a separate bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking soda and xanthan gum. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat until well blended. Next add the chocolate chips. Spread on a parchment lined 10 1/2x15 inch cookie sheet or 14 inch pizza pan. (I refrigerated the cookie on the pan for about 30 minutes at this point) Bake at 375 degrees for 18 to 25 minutes. Cool the cookie in the pan on a cooling rack. Decorate as desired.

I used something a little different this time when I baked these. I used Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil. I love this oil! It worked perfectly in this recipe since I needed a solid fat for the texture of the cookie. I've really been focusing on the quality of the ingredients I use when baking and while I can't always do organic, I do like having a healthy balance. We loved these and you absolutely could not tell they were gluten or dairy free. These are definitely in the birthday rotation!

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 6:00 AM   27 comments
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Life Changes and Being Me!
So I lied...cookie cake will come tomorrow. For now I am too excited not to share this!

Times are a changing for me again. Life always seems to have been a roller coaster of events for me, especially recently. I'm happy to say I'm on the exciting part of that coaster again. I would have said the up or down side, but I'm guessing it all depends on whether you like going up with anticipation or the euphoric fall down...either way, I'm going with the good part!

I've decided to continue my education! As most of you know, I have a culinary degree and have worked in various fields in the culinary industry my entire career. I've always known that being a chef was not the end all be all for me in my career. Don't get me wrong, I love being a chef, but my focus has always been on health when it comes to food. So...

I've decided to get my Fitness Nutrition Certification! This will allow me to enhance my culinary knowledge, as well as, help me help others understand how to cook and prepare foods in a more healthful manner! Also, since I've been developing recipes professionally for a couple of years now, I feel like this is a great opportunity to really further my career in that direction too!

I knew I wanted this when I went to culinary school, but I never got the opportunity. My incredible husband helped me realize that it is time to do this for me. I love that man...supportive and cute...I'm a lucky gal!  So, let the craziness being! I can't believe how I excited I am to take quizzes and tests again, but I am so looking forward to it.

All of this is to say that I have finally found my groove. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have the opportunity to really be me and do my thing. I know it sounds cheesy, but I really do owe it to Tony. We are a great team and constantly change our roles to help the other person achieve personal goals. Right now, he is supporting my dream I can't tell you how much I appreciate him being there for me!

I never thought I would "go back to school". I remember older people in my classes (sadly, probably my age) in culinary school and how they were changing careers in the middle of their lives. While I'm not changing careers, I still feel this weird sense of change finding myself right now.

Would you consider studying more later in life? Are you doing what you though you would do?


posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 7:58 PM   32 comments
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Guest Post...
I will be back tomorrow to share some gluten free cookie cake!

But for now, go check out my guest post on Eggland's Best blog! You all know I love my eggs!
posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 7:40 PM   175 comments
Monday, October 17, 2011
Ready For Sunday!
This is one of those weekends that I wanted to end. I'm sorry to all of you because I wished it away. All the good stuff really happened on Sunday for me. Even though Tony was in NY for the convention this weekend, the boys and I still did our hors d'oeuvre dinner. The boys got to pick there meats and cheeses out of the deli department, which they find super exciting, and I went with some baked falafel (I used this recipe minus the artichoke), baked potatoes smothered in nutritional yeast and fresh red peppers all on top of a bed of crisp organic lettuce. This was so good.

I love the falafel done this way. Full of flavor, low in fat and super crispy (but not greasy)!

I had to work Saturday. I didn't mind working, it was the fact that I was working and so many of my friends were in New York where my husband was! The drunk texts by many of them at 1:30am Saturday morning were fun too, especially since I had to be up for work early in the morning. Good times. I guess at least I know I was missed! I also had an article I had to write so that put a little more on my plate. No worries though, I got everything done and I was happy with the article too! Saturday accomplished!

I was so looking forward to Sunday! My best friend from high school came over for a pizza lunch! You can never go wrong with good friends and good food! I will tell you, I have gotten to a certain comfort level with mine and Tony's food restrictions, but having my friend come over with a little one that can't have wheat, eggs, dairy or peanuts was a little scary. He's one and has allergies for all of these things. I would be devastated if I gave him anything that would remotely hurt him. I'm guessing this is how most people feel when our group comes over to eat. I made gluten/wheat free pizza for everyone. I used Bob's Red Mill's pizza dough (with a flax egg alternative)


socca made with Bob's Garbanzo and Fava flour mix. I'd never used that flour for socca before, but it worked like a charm!

(recycled photos, but the exact same pizza!)


After my lunch date was over, I had to get back to house work. I did a little laundry, also known as enough to not have everyone ask me first thing this morning where their favorite shirts are. Then I actually took a minute, watched Dirty Dancing (love that movie - I so wanted to be a dancer) and painted my nails. I thought I deserved a little me time this weekend.  

The best part...I got to pick up my man from the airport at the end of the day!

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 5:30 AM   11 comments
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Butternut Squash OIAJ!

Now this is how you start your day!

Wake up before the sun rises...

Do a kick butt workout! Thanks Kendell Hogan!

Feast on a warm gooey jar of White Chocolate Wonderful with oatmeal topped with fresh roasted butternut squash, pumpkin pie spices and coconut flour!

Does it get any better than this? I think not. is definitely involved too! Now it's time to take on Thursday!

Yes, I'm talking myself into a great Thursday since I'm super jealous that most of my friends are in New York right now (or heading there...including Tony tomorrow) for the New York Comic Con and I'm here! Oh well, I am definitely making the best of it! 

Have a great one!
posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 7:40 AM   18 comments
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Happy Accident! Gluten and Dairy Free Biscuits!!!
I wish I could explain how my thought process works when I am working on a recipe. The one thing I can tell you is that it has to be simple. I love elaborate food, but not complicated...if that makes sense.  When I first made cheesy tapioca rolls, I knew I wanted to play with tapioca more. So, when we were making our Sunday dinner, I had the pork roasting and some carrots braising. I wanted a quick roll of some sort, so I turned to the cheesy rolls. Here comes the happy accident...

I made gluten free biscuits!

So, while they were not rolls, I came up with an almost perfect gluten free biscuit! 

Before I shared the recipe with you, I wanted to try a couple more things, so we decided to take one for the team (you guys are the team) and have biscuits with sausage gravy for dinner. 

The changes were exactly what they needed! These biscuits have an amazing crumb with a doughy chew on the inside and a crusty exterior!

Smothered with gluten free sausage gravy...

I had some happy boys!

I had mine with F.R.O.G. jam and an omelet!

I grew up watching my grandmother make biscuits. She was a pro at it. Sadly, she has celiac and hasn't enjoyed biscuits in so long. I'm hoping she whips up a batch of these to enjoy or maybe I should get my butt up to see her and make them! These biscuits are extremely easy to make and I was shocked how much they taste like wheat flour biscuits.

Gluten and Dairy Free Biscuits
(makes 9)

2 cups tapioca flour
1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch 
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup melted butter alternative (I used Smart Balance light)
1 cup seltzer water (helps leaven it and make them fluffier)
2 eggs
2 TBSP melted Smart Balance Light

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 13x9 pan with oil. 

Combine the tapioca flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt in a mixing bowl. Next add the 1/2 cup melted smart balance and mix well (I used a mixer with a paddle attachment). Then add the seltzer water and eggs to the flour mixture. Mix well. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes. Using a 1/4 cup cookie scoop, scoop dough into 9 biscuits in prepared pan. Wet your fingers and press the dough down a little. Next put about 1/4 tsp melted smart balance on each piece of dough. Now scoop another mound of dough on top of each of the buttered mounds. Wet your finger again and press the mounds down a little. Now put the rest of the smart balance on top of the biscuits. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes. They don't really brown much, so just make sure they are cooked through. 

I use the scoop to keep clean up down to a minimum and by layering two scoops together with butter in the middle, it creates a perfectly buttery spot to pull them apart for filling! Also, the seltzer water is like magic with baking stuff like this. It really does help give things a little lift!

Sausage Gravy
(makes enough for 4 servings)

1 lb sausage
2 TBSP butter (I used Light Smart Balance)
3 TBSP Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage until cooked through. Remove the sausage from the pan. Add Smart Balance to the pan and melt. Add the flour to the milk and mix until completely combined. SLOWLY add the almond milk to the butter and whisk. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens slightly. Add the sausage back to the gravy and cook to desired consistency.

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 5:30 AM   25 comments
Monday, October 10, 2011
Dinner and Movies...and Dessert!
Oh Monday...we meet again. Why so soon? I think it makes it worse since it was such a good weekend.

We started it off with our Friday night hors d'oeuvres dinner and watched some Modern Family on Hulu and then Ocean's 11 for our feature that evening!

The boys had assorted meats and cheeses along with some veggies and hummus.

I loaded up a bowl with a little lettuce, fresh cut carrots, celery, steamed broccoli, a baked potato covered in nutritional yeast and a mountain of hummus to finish it all off!

I didn't get to eat most of the day, so in my defense, I needed this monster bowl. It was so good!

Saturday was a cleaning day. We all spent time cleaning things up. It feels better when we all work together on the house. The windows were open and the fresh air, combined with the clean house made the day perfect. We ran a few errands that night and ended up at Moe's for dinner. That part was kind of a let down though. Moe's is really starting to lose it's luster with us. The food is just not that good anymore. We ended up watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with the boys Saturday night. Tony and I are really enjoying watching movies with the boys these days. I cry every time I watch this one. I absolutely love it! I would have cried anyway if I had to watch Alien VS. Predator again...UGH! I get out voted all the time. Luckily, they had pity on me this time! Sometimes being the only girl is awesome!

Sunday was a laundry day. Sounds fun, right? Yeah, well, that mountain keeps growing! I am sad to say, it is not all done, but I did put a pretty large dent in it. We also did our big Sunday meal, but I will save that one for tomorrow...I accidentally made gluten free, dairy free biscuits! It was a happy accident that's for sure! I will save that one for tomorrow though.  

I will leave you with the treat of the weekend...

Peanut Butter Pizzert topped with dairy free vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips and drizzled with warm peanut butter!

Did you watch movies with your parents? My favorites were The Big Chill and Highlander. I'm sure there were more, but I can't remember them. My dad and I watched Highlander a lot together. I miss those days...

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 5:30 AM   15 comments
Friday, October 7, 2011
Effect or Affect?
I took a fit assessment yesterday and it felt odd being tested on something like that. I remember doing that stuff as a kid. Jay gets tested too in middle school and he hates it. He's not out of shape, but I think the fact that he's tested on how fit he is freaks him out. Oddly, it's for a grade. He hates running like I do and he cracked me up when he told us that he knew how many laps he had to go to get a good grade for a boy and stuck with that. That's my enough to get through it. He does seem to like lifting weights now...just like his dad. I can't imagine what the kids that aren't close to being fit do with that test though. It seems kind of unfair since they don't completely make choices for themselves and the point of PE is to teach them about being fit, not judge them for not being fit. Anyway...

This always gets me to thinking about the choices I make as a parent and how they effect or affect my kids. I actually think both of those words work here. I don't force the kids to eat everything I eat. I can't say I do everything right either. I remember being forced into the "happy plate" club as a kid and well...those were some pretty ugly meals by the time I got done with them. I do ask what they like and try to give them choices too. I don't plan all the meals here because I don't think that's right either. They are people and deserve an opinion. I believe we don't argue about food with the kids because they are given the upper hand to choose meals and snacks sometimes. It's all about power!

I like making build your own meals for the family because, well, they're fun and they give us all options. This night, Tony made a meat sauce (he was craving it) so I popped open another jar of Barilla I got from BlogHer Food.

I can honestly say, I love these sauces! They are very velvety, thick, rich and full of flavor. They aren't greasy or watery at all like some store bought sauces can be. This one was the Montanara Sauce with huge chunks of mushrooms. Max doesn't like meat sauce and loves mushrooms, so he and I ate this.

As luck would have it, I happened to have a spaghetti squash hanging out in the fridge waiting for me!

This was a layered masterpiece of roasted portabello mushroom, roasted eggplant and oven roasted broccoli all over spaghetti squash with Montanara sauce and nutritional yeast!

As for the roasted eggplant, I got the idea from Kath and it is amazing. I'm not a huge fan of eggplant (it was on sale and I'm a produce whore when it's cheap), but I sprinkled a good amount of garlic powder and onion powder with some salt and pepper on it and then baked it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipped it and cooked it another 20-25 minutes...WOW!

I did the broccoli the same way and it was perfect. The bushy part gets all crispy (like kale chips) so the textures in this meal were amazing!

So, the question is, what did the kids eat from this? Well, Max ate the squash, sauce and broccoli. Jay ate none of it. As a kid, I would have probably eaten the broccoli, sauce and mushroom, but I don't know that I would have jumped at the eggplant. I've only recently started playing around with it and this (along with the BBQ eggplant) have been my favorites so far. While Jay didn't eat any of what I ate that time, he has started putting tomato on his sandwiches which I think is pretty huge...especially since most people seem to have issues with the texture of tomatoes. He has been a champ and tried more these days. He loves veggies in his fried rice and he eats a good amount of fruits. Like I said, pressure doesn't help, but I do think that setting an example does.

Do you like things now that you didn't like as a kid? Did you're parents set an example with foods? Were you part of the "happy plate" club? Like I said, I'm not an expert...I'm curious to know thoughts on getting kids to eat more well rounded meals. What worked for you and what didn't? Jay has a huge texture issue with things (he gets that from Tony too). Max and I LOVE texture to our food though. I guess we are all different.

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 5:30 AM   16 comments

Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen
Home: Atlanta, GA, United States
About Me: Lactose Challenged
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