Alton Brown’s Peanut Butter Cookies

Baking

These are one bowl, easy and accidentally dairy AND gluten free. Just a big old win over here.

These come from Alton Brown’s Everyday Cook and they’re perfect in every way except that the recipe is not in grams. What the hell, AB.

They really are foolproof.

This cookbook is one of my top 3 most used and if you don’t have it, you should.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made these and it won’t be the last. 10/10 for chewiness, flavor and easiness.

Did I mention that I met him? Two years ago he was signing this cookbook at Williams Sonoma and we got to skip the line because we had a tiny baby. He said Mathias had a cool name, and now every time we go to name a kid it’s impossible because I’m trying to live up to that standard.

I’ll just leave this here.

Vegan Baking Tips + Lemon Cookies

Baking

Long story short: both of my kids have been born with food intolerances. Neither could handle dairy or soy; Livia couldn’t handle eggs or nuts either. Liv is fine with eggs and soy now, but nuts and dairy are a serious no go. Which means that most of the time, she’s not getting any cookies (….totally acceptable for a 14 month old who already has a sweet tooth).

Now here’s my big issue with vegan cookies: they usually end up hard.

My brother has a dairy allergy so I’ve been baking dairy free for thirteen years! Things have come a long way – we have so many more options and it’s a lot easier to make a good dessert that’s vegan and no one is the wiser; this recipe is one of those.

My mom discovered Fleischmann’s when we lived in Kensington, an area in Brooklyn that’s heavily populated by Hasidic Jews. Those of us who are not Jewish may know very little about Jewish laws (what makes food kosher). One of the big rules is the separation of meat and dairy – they can’t be cooked together, and aren’t eaten together at a meal. That means if you’re making chicken kosher you aren’t cooking it in milk, you’re not eating it with buttered rolls, etc. The rules even dictate how much time must pass between meals before transitioning from meat to dairy (so you can’t eat a steak and then have ice cream for dessert a half hour later). Luckily for the rest of us – vegans or those with dairy allergies or intolerances – what this means is that anything labeled Kosher Paerve (or Parve) has NO dairy, has not been on any equipment used for dairy products, has zero cross contamination and is 100% absolutely safe. While there are other vegan brands that you can use for baking, Fleishmann’s has no aftertaste and is my fam’s preferred butter substitute (#notsponsored).

There are so many issues when baking vegan because baking is chemistry and any substitute will change the chemistry of whatever you’re baking. I’ve found that when baking, these are the best subs for whole milk: almond milk, coconut milk and pea protein milk.

Soy has an aftertaste that I can’t get past. Rice, hemp and oat have all *RUINED* recipes on me. You don’t want anything too thin because it’s like substituting water. Canned coconut milk is way too thick and I really don’t suggest it if you’re making substitutes on your own.

There are unsweetened and sweetened versions of all of these milks which is slightly confusing since cows milk is just…regular?

The difference when baking is very slight, but I prefer to use unsweetened if I have it.

This time I was baking not only for Livia (no dairy or nuts) but also for our friend’s toddler who also can’t have nuts, coconut or eggs.

Coconut has been my go-to for the past two years simply because it’s my favorite to drink. However, since Liv stopped breastfeeding I started to give her Bolthouse Farms Plant Protein Milk instead of formula or whole milk so I wanted to try it in a cookie!

I am happy to report that these cookies stays moist for DAYS. They weren’t hard or crunchy out of the oven and Livia loved them.

Vegan Lemon Cookies with Lemon Icing

Adapted, slightly, from Go Dairy Free.

  • ½ cup dairy-free buttery spread or stick (in this case, Fleishmann’s)
  • 1¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup Bolthouse Farms Original Plant Protein Milk
  • 1 egg replacer (I used Namaste Foods egg replacer)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 10 drops of yellow food coloring
Lemon Icing
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used a little over 1)

You can find the original recipe and the directions, here.

What’s a “Tubie?”

Mathias, SLOS

People ask me questions about Mathias’ feeding issues daily. Mathias’ feeding issues are complex, so I’ll try to answer the most frequently asked questions in this blog post.

What’s a “Tubie?”

A Tubie is anyone who has a feeding tube, no matter what kind!

How does Mathias’ tube work?

This is actually a question that people DON’T often ask me because they are often afraid of asking. I’ll be the first to admit it: I had NO experience with a feeding tube prior to Mathias, and my first exposure to a “permanent” feeding tube was only 1 year before Mathias was born. So many of us are blessed to not ever worry about these kinds of things, so when we’re exposed to them we don’t even know what to think. There are a few different kinds of feeding tubes with various abbreviations, but the purpose of a feeding tube is universal: to deliver nutrition to someone who can’t eat or drink enough on their own. Mathias has a gastrointestinal tube or g-tube, which is a very small device that’s inserted into the stomach through the abdomen and sits above-left of the belly button. It delivers food directly to the stomach. Mathias’ g-tube is a mini-one button and sits pretty flat against his stomach. The g-tube itself is actually a little balloon that inflates with water and drips food into his stomach.  When Mathias needs to be fed he gets connected to a feeding pump (it’s a blue Infinity One pump) and the pump regulates the length + dose of his feed. When Mathias first got the tube we had to run the pump very slowly – I think it was around 2.5 ounces per hour. Livia can drink that much in less than 5 minutes, but Mathias’ reflux was so bad that he projectile vomited if we ran it faster than that. When I started writing this post eight months ago, his feed ran at 215 ML an hour (7 oz) and 165 ML at a time (5.5 oz), and he was connected to the feeding tube for about 45 minutes at a time, 3 times a day plus a longer overnight feed. His overnight feed was about 3 and a half hours long. Nowadays, since we switched from Elecare Jr. (formula) to Nourish (a real food blend) for his “food,” his pump runs at 300 ML an hour and 200 ML at a time – only 30 minutes! Plus, his overnight feed is about an hour and a half long. It’s nice when things change!

Why does Mathias have a feeding tube?

Mathias has had feeding problems from day one, which all stem from his genetic disorder. Most babies born with Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome do not have a hunger drive and it does not develop until anywhere from 12 months of age to 3 years old. Mathias’ developed around 18 months – nowhere close to the beginning of his life.

People love to say that your baby won’t starve themselves, but in my case this was not true in the slightest. We literally started weigh-ins only days after he was born (when they discharged us from the hospital my nurse told me that feeding issues were “normal” and that he’d “get the hang of it” and until then to pump and bottle feed. He was born on a Tuesday and on that Sunday my mom paid a lactation consultant to come look at Mathias and try to figure out what the issue was with nursing. We syringe fed him for days hoping to not cause any bottle confusion. I tried using a nipple shield to help him latch and slow my let-down, which the consultant said could have been part of the issue. She told us to go to a chiropractor to help fix his wonky head and his neck, which was stuck on one side, saying that often nursing problems go away after those issues were solved. The chiropractor did help his neck, but did nothing to help change my child’s eating patterns, who despite what everyone told me, did not seem to be hungry.

Mathias was born around the fiftieth percentile, at 7 lbs and 13 oz, three days past his due date. By one month of age he had dropped to the fifteenth percentile, and slowly worked his way down the growth curve to the 7th, then 5th, then 2nd percentile. It wasn’t until he hit the 0th percentile at six months old, and had not gained weight in one month, that his gastroenterologist decided to hospitalize him to try to figure out the problem.

When I look back on it, I’m amazed that it took so long to figure it out, despite my pushing. The first gastroenterologist we saw wouldn’t prescribe any reflux medication because he didn’t “think it did much” and told me that the reason Mathias had weight gain issues was because he had a milk protein intolerance. And the latter was true – he did have a milk and soy intolerance, until he hit 24 months – but that wasn’t the reason my child needed to be force fed every two hours for six months, and would only eat eighteen ounces a day, on a good day. I logged every half ounce and ounce he ate. Some days he would literally only drink 12 ounces a day. Upon my insistance, my pediatrician gave me another referral and we switched to a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital when Mathias was four months old. Thank God we did because he’s the one who made the connection that Mathias’ head circumference had been at the 1st percentile since birth, and that he should see a neurologist to determine if there was a genetic component to why he wasn’t eating, after we had tried reflux medication, switching from breast milk to formula, different feeding schedules and different bottles.

Unfortunately, when Mathias was hospitalized for the second time at seven months, after our initial plans to get him to gain weight fell through, he was old enough to be traumatized by being force fed. He remembered pain and recognized where it came from. So while the experiment of placing a nasal gastric tube proved that he could gain weight if fed the appropriate amount, it also was the last time that my son drank milk from a bottle.

He has not drank any fluids besides water or very watered down juice since the week of February 28th, 2017.

Long story short: Mathias needed a feeding tube because he didn’t recognize hunger for the first year and a half of his life, and now, recognizing that he is hungry, is too sensory sensitive to consume much food. So many textures bother him and too many tastes offend him, and we can’t force him to eat anything. Contrary to what I believed growing up watching my parents raise six other children, you can’t force feed your children.

Up until July 2018, Mathias refluxed at least three times per week during his overnight feed. And that’s just the times he would throw up at night – that doesn’t include all of the times that his reflux rose up in his throat, burned and made him not want to touch any food.

Up until August 2018, Mathias couldn’t even swallow the solids he wanted to eat, because his tongue wouldn’t move in a circular motion to push food back to his throat.

Presently – Mathias can chew very crunchy, dissolvable solids. He will swallow purees, but only a few flavors. We have made progress with some soft solids (cake textures), but had regression.

How long will he need the feeding tube?

This is the question I am asked on a regular basis, and the question I have no answer to. He may need it for the rest of his life – most people with Smith Lemli Opitz syndrome do. Mathias is on the mild end of the spectrum but that doesn’t really give us a clear answer to anything. The doctors at the National Institute of Health told me they think that he will get off of the feeding tube eventually, but it’s really on Mathias’ terms. I would be happy if he is no longer tube fed by age 5 – we’ll see.

Right now, Mathias probably eats between 150-250 calories by mouth per day, but they’re “empty” calories, meaning they don’t provide nutrition. Applesauce and goldfish may be any toddler’s ideal diet, but until he’s eating something substantial on a regular basis, Mathias’ feeding team won’t let me subtract any calories. Since he’s on a real food blend, he gets less fat in his diet, meaning he really needs all of the calories he puts into his body.

I don’t know how long Mathias will need his tube. Maybe he’ll always have it and only need it sometimes. Maybe it’ll be gone in a few years. I can’t know, and all I can do is keep helping Mathias by offering him food every day and working with his therapists to overcome the obstacles in his way.

Bakery Style Butter Cookies, Sort Of

Baking

I’ve always been a perfectionist, which is one reason that baking is really fulfilling to me. However, baking every day means either making mistakes or bad judgment calls and that drives me crazy. That was the case with these cookies.

These are the kind of cookies that remind me of a few things. They’re the kinds of cookies in a mixed assortment from a bakery (or from the supermarket bakery section) that maybe aren’t your first choice now but as a kid you went for because they were essentially two cookies for the price of one and covered in chocolate and sprinkles. They’re also another cookie that reminds me of my dad, because God forbid my mother walked into a bakery for cookies…

So I attempted to make these without a piping bag, which was a *huge* mistake. Ok so I’m being a bit dramatic here, but the fact is that it’s dumb to attempt pretty picture perfect bakery style cookies without a piping bag or tips. Luckily they looked less ugly after baking.

#moneyshot

I filled these with raspberry preserves because the recipe said any kind and that’s what felt the most “bakery” to me.

I tempered the chocolate per the recipe but it was pretty thick. I’m not sure if it’s because of the chocolate I used (Trader Joe’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips) but I would probably thin it down with either a tablespoon of butter or some corn syrup next time.

Full disclosure: I broke about half of these cookies.

This recipe is from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Every Day (can you tell I love her?) and the cookies themselves were extremely straight forward …. it was just everything else that I did not do quite perfect.

Will I make these again? Maybe. Maybe not sandwiched. Probably not during this challenge…I’m more of a chewy cookie type of girl.

Chocolate Chip Cookies, with a Twist

Baking

Yesterday was National Cookie Day and Day 4 of the #25daysofcookies challenge! So I thought I’d do something classic, like a Chocolate Chip Cookie…..

Well, I don’t know how your house is in the winter, but mine is cold and butter takes forever to soften. Enter Adrianna Adarme of A Cozy Kitchen to save the day because her recipe for Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies uses MELTED BUTTER.

So this is a slightly adapted recipe because I subbed Whiskey for Bourbon, used more chocolate chips than pecans (not a big nuts fan, as I mentioned earlier), and added cinnamon because Whiskey makes me think of my husband, and he’s a cinnamon fiend.

Lucas built us a bench for our kitchen table recently and ever since then Mathias has been climbing on top of it to go talk to our Echo Dot (he can’t talk, but figured out that there’s a button that turns it on so he doesn’t have to say “Alexa” and then he babbles at her). So this happened.

Don’t worry, the ornaments didn’t affect the baking of this cookie.

Either I did something wrong or my oven is just jacked up because they took an extra 5 minutes longer than the suggested time to bake, but they still turned out chewy which is all I really want from a chocolate chip cookie. They had a slight whiskey taste but I would add more than a teaspoon of cinnamon next time just to add more of a kick.

You can find the original recipe here and they make quite a few cookies, so I froze half of the batch to bake later!

Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Baking

Day 3 of the #25DaysofCookies Challenge meant breaking out my Dominque Ansel Cookbook. 

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

I don’t use it often because, quite frankly, I’m intimidated. Dominque Ansel – for those of you who don’t know – is the creator of the Cronut, pastry chef extraordinaire, owner of multiple bakeries in different countries and a culinary genius. And his cookbook is not for amateurs. 

This is the first time I made these and I was worried the whole time that I was doing something wrong with the chocolate. The recipe calls for melting chocolate over a double boiler and then adding melted butter out of the microwave into the chocolate. It sort of thickened and freaked me out, but it hadn’t seized so I wasn’t sure if I had screwed it up or not…turns out everything was fine and I was overreacting.

I’m not usually a huge fan of nuts in my cookies. I’d go so far as to say that a lot of times I feel like they actually *ruin* cookies. Not the case here. At all.

This is in the beginner category of the DA Cookbook. I’ve ventured into the “intermediate” category, but since this is Dominque Ansel we’re talking about, I’ve been too scared to head into the Advanced category. You can visit his bakeries in New York, Paris, LA and Tokyo, or buy his cookbook, here

Olive Oil Shortbread with Rosemary and Chocolate Chunks

Baking

Hear me out. This combination is…untraditional, but this accidentally on-purpose vegan recipe from Smitten Kitchen Every Day is a little sweet, a little savory and a little Christmas-y.

It’s super simple: flour, powdered sugar, salt, rosemary, chocolate chunks and olive oil all go into one bowl, get mixed by hand, and get poured out onto a cookie sheet. That’s literally it. The perfect cookie recipe for a busy day.

Mathias was interested in helping me for approximately 30 seconds.

I love these and will keep making them! They’re not overly sweet like most cookies – they’re faintly savory and crumbly in a melt-in-your-mouth sort of way. Lucas prefers a chewy cookie, so keep your audience in mind. Liv and I love them.

PS – This is one of my favorite cookbooks. Not endorsed (I wish!). But I seriously use this cookbook at least once a week. You can find it here