Friday, December 23, 2011
Happy Holidays!
It had to happen...we had to leave New York behind. It was definitely a completely different experience going with kids and actually doing family stuff. It was a trip of a lifetime and we all had such an incredible time.


These were just some of my favorite shots. The last one being the icing on the cake...Max passed out in the taxi on the way to our flight home. 

I know most of you are gone and off to be with family. We will be doing the same soon if only for a short time. I want to wish you all a very Happy Holiday! Please travel safe and I look forward to hearing all about your holiday adventures!

posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 8:07 AM   15 comments
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Adventure Time!
Just popping in to say all is good and that I will be back up and running soon. Our little family is doing our Christmas thing starting now! I will be back to share our adventures when things are settled. Have a great weekend and I hope you all get to enjoy some fun festivities too!

Until next time, I leave you with a little treat! Brown sugar banana bread!

This is one of my favorite recipes and the mini version was perfect for gifts!

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 7:00 AM   13 comments
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Bacon Caramel Popcorn! (or without bacon is good too)
For all that asked, dairy free white chocolate chips are real and can be purchased here, here and here. I get mine from all of those places depending on when I order something.

Now, for a dairy free treat for my bacon lovers...

Bacon Caramel Popcorn!

You don't have to add the bacon...mine was without, but the boys love this! We had a super lazy day on Sunday and this a was perfect treat while we watched movies and hung out together. I love this recipe because it is so quick to come together for such a special treat!

Bacon Caramel Popcorn

20 cups air popped popcorn
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TBSP coconut oil (or bacon grease or dairy free butter substitute of your choosing)
2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped thick cut cooked bacon

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil sprayed with cooking spray.

In a small pot over medium heat, add sugars, syrup, oil and salt stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. Allow to boil for 2 minutes without stirring. When the sugar mixture is done boiling, add the chopped bacon and pour the caramel mixture evenly over the popcorn and stir to coat. Pour the popcorn mixture in the prepared pan and lay in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes stirring at about 8 minutes. 

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 6:30 AM   20 comments
Monday, December 12, 2011
Food, Family and Friends!
Highlight eats from the weekend...

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark!

Unwrap peppermint candies, place in a heavy duty plastic zip bag and beat the heck out of them with a frying pan (great for getting your aggressions out). Melt two bags of white chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 minute, stir and then go another 30 seconds if they are still not melted. Once the chocolate is melted, add the crushed peppermints to the chocolate and stir well. Pour the mixture onto parchment paper and allow to harden. Break apart into two bite pieces.

Gluten Free Sausage Balls!

I have found local sausage here and it's not loaded with tons of crap or have wheat/MSG in it! Huge score for Tony since I made a double batch for a get together with friends on Saturday and they were devoured!

Sunday was a complete lazy day with my three guys. We literally watched tv and hung out the entire day (there may have been a nap or two too). It was amazing! I know the next few weeks are going to be crazy for us, so it was nice to just hang out together with no agenda. 

For me, this weekend was filled with friends and family. I felt soooo in the holiday spirit and really loved every second of everyday! I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people! On that note, I want to also say that, unfortunately, the holidays don't always have a happy meaning to everyone. We all go through ups and downs in life and we all have our way of handling these feelings. Goodness knows I've had my fare share. You may not even know the person you're speaking to is going through something. Please make a point to tell those you love and care about that you are there for them and that you do care. Random acts of kindness mean more than you think they do when times are tough. 

(side note, just so everyone knows -including Granny- I am good, we have a friend that is going through an extraordinarily hard time and I do think this is important not just during the holidays, but all the time)

To that end, thank you all for being there for me. So many of you have been such an incredible support system for the changes I've been going through. I promise I will be around more soon. I'm almost ready for my final in my nutrition studies and then I will see what the next turn in the road has for me...

Have a great Monday!

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 6:00 AM   15 comments
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Baking Season Has Begun!
It's that time of year again...time to bake! I have a standard few things that I make every year during the holidays. My most favorite is....

Cinnamon bread!

This always goes to the teachers.

It's the perfect bread to package up for traveling and it only gets better when it sits over night!

The cinnamon bread really feels like the holidays for me and I love baking this for people!

This is a mini version I made that is perfect for giving to friends and loved ones! I like giving them in the mini pans for an extra special gift, wrapped in clear wrap and tied with a ribbon.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Bread
(3 Mini Loaves or 1 Large Loaf)
original recipe can be found here

1 1/3 cup sugar (white or turbinado)
1 cup Bob's Red Mill White Rice Flour
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice Flour
1 /2 cup Bob's Red Mill Buckwheat Flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg (flax egg works too - 1 TBSP flax meal mixed with 3 TBSP hot water)
1/4 cup California Olive Ranch's Mild and Buttery Artois Ranch***
1 1/4 cup milk or dairy free milk alternative (I use almond)
1 tsp vanilla

1 TBSP turbinado sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 3 - 5.75"x3.35"x2.25' mini loaf pans or 1 9x5 loaf pan with California Olive Ranch Mild and Buttery Artois Ranch.

Combine oil, egg, vanilla and milk in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet. Mix just until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Evenly sprinkle each loaf with the cinnamon and sugar topping mixture. Cook for 35-40 minutes for mini loaves, 50-60 minutes for a large loaf or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean with a little bit of gooeyness on it. You can remove it from the pan after it has cooled for about 10 minutes or leave it in the pan and give it as a gift.

***Did you notice I used olive oil? This brand in particular is amazing. The mild buttery artois is so light and mild in flavor, it works perfectly in holiday baked goods!

I'm sharing this on Simply Gluten and Sugar Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

Do you have a standard thing you bake every year? This is something the teachers have started to expect and ask for so I'm happy to make it!

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 6:30 AM   19 comments
Monday, December 5, 2011
Pizza and Decorating!
I always hesitate to rant on my site, but I felt so much better after hearing all of your comments! Thank you for sharing your thoughts too! That's why I love this community!

As for the weekend, mine went fast. I worked on Saturday, so I had to cram a lot into one day. Friday night started the cram session with getting the holiday decorations out. I do not do stressful decorating here. It has to be fun and cheerful or I'm not doing it. I made pizza for Tony and we treated the boys with pizza delivery. Don't get me wrong, they love homemade pizza, but it has been years since we had pizza delivered and really that is a treat when you're young.

Mine was socca with roasted eggplant, peppers and onions with a healthy sprinkling of nutritional yeast. I swear I could eat this every day for the rest of my life and be happy. I actually made another one on Saturday after work since everyone else had good!

Tony had sausage ball pizza! This, my friends, is sausage ball season and without a doubt, there will be sausage balls made! I've been so impressed with Tony's rationing of the sausage balls throughout this batch. The man is a genius when it comes to things to make with these little holiday morsels!

Like I said, Saturday was a work day, but when I got home, we decorated the tree while watching Christmas movies. I LOVE that the kids are in to our movies now! Scrooged was the movie of choice that night. It's definitely one of my all time favorites! I love Bill Murray!

Sunday was an all day event of going out looking for more decorations for the house. We all wanted to decorate a little more and since our tree is pretty natural with it's decorations we went searching for pine cones and holly from the woods out back. We are extremely happy with the mantel decorations this year. Now if we can only figure out what to do with the banister...

The holiday decorating continues!

Do you like decorating for the holidays? Do you go crazy or do you keep is simple? I am definitely a simple gal, but the need for a little more definitely hit. Speaking of more, I bought a string of lights to replace a string that was a little flickery last year...I ended up using the new strand and the one from last year. That means more lights for the tree! I love tons of lights!

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posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 7:27 AM   10 comments
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Placing Judgement Is Just Wrong...
I have to get something off my chest. I'm warning you now, if you don't want to hear a rant, you are welcome to come back next time for my usual chipper self. As for now, this is the new me that has to speak her mind...

So, the other day, someone posted a picture of Nigela Lawson and Gillian McKeith on facebook with a caption asking which one you would rather look like. Along with this was a description stating that they were both 50, one eats whatever she wants (voluptuous) while the other is a vegetarian (let's just say not voluptuous). Obviously, most people said they wanted to look like Nigela and blasted Gillian for her looks. What I haven't mentioned yet is that Nigella was glammed up for an event while Gillian was doing some reality show in the jungle and not made up at all. I have a few gripes about this "picture"...

First off, shame on them for comparing peoples' looks like that. If you flipped who was fixed up, you would probably have a different opinion, but above and beyond anything... how can you be so rude as to make a judgement based on someone's looks? Did your mom not teach you anything?

Next, you are comparing apples to oranges or as Tony put it apples to melons. Really, these are two completely different people and you know nothing about their health. You are assuming that Nigella is healthier because she is fuller while Gillian is sickly because she is smaller. Did you look at their parents? This could be genetic!

As far as the blasts on vegetarians go, I'm just tired of it. 

Does it really matter if vegetarians choose to not eat meat? NO

Are they hurting omnivores by not eating meat? NO! In fact they're leaving more for omnivores to eat. 

Are they hurting themselves by not eating meat? NO! 

For those interested, a well rounded diet with the essential macronutrients along with vitamins and minerals is what we need...NOT MEAT! 

I should also add that my family eats meat. I buy and prepare meat for them. I am a classically trained chef and am not afraid of cooking or serving meat, I just choose to not eat it for my own PERSONAL reasons. 

I'm thankful that we can all eat the way we want to. I understand there is a flow to life and I do believe that we were meant to eat protein, but for some of us, that doesn't mean meat. I love having this conversation with Tony. He is always the first one to defend my food choices even though they aren't exactly like his... and we're both healthy!

One last thing for the record, I hate broad generalizations on people. It's wrong and rude. Try to understand someone else before you place judgement and leave your opinions to yourself. Besides, judging someone for their looks is just beyond wrong.

End rant... regular blogging will resume shortly! Thanks for listening. 


posted by Sarena Shasteen - The Non-Dairy Queen @ 9:14 PM   24 comments

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