On Sunday we took Mathias and Livia to the Prudential Center Mall in the Back Bay area of Boston to see Santa…well, the line was about 50 people deep and my kids probably wouldn’t have made it halfway through the line without one of them having a meltdown. So instead we ended up taking a stroll around the neighborhood to enjoy the holiday lights and decor.
If you’re not familiar with Boston, Back Bay is an affluent neighborhood downtown best known for its gorgeous rows of brownstones and high-end shopping – kind of like if New York City’s Upper East Side had a baby with 5th Avenue. I have always been drawn to this neighborhood because the brownstones remind me of home. They’re a huge part of the architecture in Brooklyn and I think every city girl’s dream is to live in one. It isn’t necessarily on the standard tourist’s bucket list, but I always suggest it to friends who visit from out of town. This area is magical in a way that will make you fall in love with this city and its history.
I always struggle with being both comfortable and fashionable when I’m pregnant and for the past three pregnancies I’ve always turned to PinkBlush Maternity.
The thing with being a mother of soon to be three under three is that we are ALWAYS on the go. And if I’m going to be hauling around two toddlers with a huge belly, I’m looking for something that is going to be flattering and transitional without me having to do anything other than changing my accessories. I wore this dress all day – to the mall, to Pizzeria Uno, walking around Back Bay – and hat and a change of shoes brought me from day to night look with no effort. I plan on wearing this for at least one holiday event this season and have a few others I can’t wait to wear! You can find their dresses here.
Oh, and a Back Bay resident who was walking his pug told me I looked fabulous, so that made me feel pretty good after failing to bring my kids to meet Santa.
You can find my dress here and right now there is a sale for 20% off! They ship super fast and you definitely have time to get something before the holidays.
Actually I’d like to thank my extremely protective mother who refused to allow any dairy in our house for 8 years, and forced me to learn how to bake dairy free against my wishes. The first time I got to bake with real butter again was only after I got married.
My youngest brother is severely allergic to dairy (I’m talking, can’t walk into an italian restaurant without wheezing and getting a runny nose) and we had quite a few scares when he was a baby because anaphylactic reactions are life threatening. So we went dairy free. And at 13, I already had a passion for baking (I think I wanted to be a pastry chef around age 7 or 8) and it was like…the end of the world. But I learned, slowly, and good thing I did because both of my children have had dairy intolerances as infants and Liv still hasn’t outgrown hers.
A decade ago, vegan and dairy free recipes were not trendy or, honestly, available. I remember when Babycakes opened in NYC and my mom went there so excited because their desserts were allergy friendly and it was a safe place to buy something for my brother. But it was expensive. So that was a rare occurrence and instead we all learned that baking dairy free was not only possible, but could be just as good (or better) than desserts with dairy!
I’ve mentioned before how things have changed so much since then and how many more options we have, but I am so grateful that vegan food has entered mainstream culture. And because of my mom’s drive to protect my brother at all costs, I learned how to adapt recipes and for them to not be total failures (usually).
So! I made Red Velvet Whoopie Pies on Wednesday as part of our cookie challenge and they were very, very dairy filled. They tasted great – everything you would want from Red Velvet Cake, they were moist and rich and the cream cheese frosting was perfectly thick and a happy balance of not too sweet, not too tart. They didn’t rise as much as I would have liked and I brought that up to the other ladies in this challenge with me and they offered some suggestions.
However, Livia has learned what cookies are during this time and was ~furious~ that I wouldn’t give her any. So I decided to adapt the recipe, not just to be dairy free but totally vegan, because why not go all in?
I was elated because these were even better than the original!
Look at that rise! 🙌🏼
I am always hesitant about substitutes and the original recipe called for buttermilk. When you want to make a vegan milk “buttermilk” you add 1 tsp of vinegar to 1 cup of alternative milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. This was my first time using Bolthouse Farms to make buttermilk and it worked out really well!
They are “velvet” whoopie pies and I went with green to distinguish them from the red non-vegan ones I made the day before. And in honor of Boston – I’m calling these Green Monstah Whoopie Pies.
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted vegan butter, softened to room temperature. I used Fleishmann’s.
1 cup (200g) packed light brown sugar
1 egg substitute – I used Namaste Raw Foods Egg Replacer but have no preference
2/3 cup (160ml) “buttermilk”, room temperature; mix 1 cup of bolthouse farms unsweetened plant milk with 1 tsp of apple cider or white vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes and then measure 2/3 out. It will be clumpy – this is normal! *if you don’t want to use Bolthouse Farms, here are my suggestions: unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk (not canned!). Other milk alternatives are usually too thin and will thin out your batter!
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
~ 1 tsp gel green food coloring, I used a little more
Cream Cheese Filling:
6 ounces (170g) vegan cream cheese substitute, softened to room temperature. I used Wayfare (it is coconut based) because I like their flavor best
1/4 cup (1/2 stick; 60g) unsalted vegan butter substitute, softened to room temperature
2 cups (240 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted (plus more for topping)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F (°C). Line at least one cookie sheet with parchment paper – I alternated my two in the oven but in an ideal world I would have lined three.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
In either a large bowl using hand-held beaters or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium-high until fluffy and combined. Beat in egg replacer on high speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla and “buttermilk”. If it looks curdled at this point don’t worry!
Add food coloring! Feel free to use more or less; I used a little more because it didn’t feel green enough. If you have to use liquid food coloring be prepared to use the whole thing to get the right color.
Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. It will not be a cookie dough; it’ll be pretty sticky/wet but still scoopable
If you have time, let the batter rest for 15 minutes or stick the batter in the fridge until you are ready to bake, tightly wrapped (Saran wrap pressed against the batter). I did this between batches in the oven because I had to take a break for Mathias’ therapy and it scooped better a little chilled.
Scoop onto cookie sheet, leaving 2-3 inches between cookies. You should fit 8 cookies on the sheet comfortably. I use a cookie scoop and if you don’t have one, you should!
Bake for 10-12 minutes; my oven took *just* 11 minutes.
Let them cool completely before moving them!
Make the frosting – combine cream cheese and butter together until whipped. Add powdered sugar (sifted if you want, but I didn’t bother) and vanilla.
Match the cookies up based on their size – one thing I love about using a cookie scoop is that they tend to be pretty equal. Spread cream cheese filling onto the flat side of one cookie and sandwich with the other. Repeat with the rest. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top, if you want – it makes them prettier for pictures but messier to eat. Cover leftover whoopie pies and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or individually wrap the filled cookies and place in a freezer safe bag and put in the freezer for long term storage; according to the original author they should keep for a few months in the freezer!
I have always been intimidated by Madeleines. Firstly, because they’re French, and I feel like French Baking is superior to American Baking. Of course this is my just opinion, having never been to France but having attempted several French recipes that are much more complicated than American ones. What’s our claim to fame, Chocolate Chip Cookies? I love a good chewy, chocolatey cookie as much as the next girl (probably more) but no matter how you dress it up it’ll never be as fancy as a Macaron.
Madeleines are like the classy yet sophisticated school girl of French patisserie, and I’ve always been too afraid to make them, for no reasons other than that they’re French, require a fancy pan and are usually pretty expensive when store-bought.
All of my fears were totally unwarranted.
I followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe exactly and they were perfect!
I did leave them in the fridge for 8 hours – started in the morning – because Dominique Ansel’s recipe took an overnight approach even though Deb Perelman stated only a few hours was necessary. I would have made his recipe but they were for mini Madeleines and I have a regular sized pan.
They only made *exactly* one pan’s worth, which was a shame because we had guests over and we ate all of them, except one which was glorious with coffee in the morning.
These are another cookie I’d like to gift simply because they are #fancy but actually not a lot of work.
Firstly, a little commentary on how this 25 Days of Cookies Challenge is going.
Not every day has been successful. I have baked every day! But several days were less than impressive. So I’m not going to post every recipe on here, but rather the ones that I am definitely happy to make again and would recommend to my friends.
However – this week has been pretty successful! I started off on a high note on Day 10 with these Red Velvet cookies that we devoured too quickly and that have me wanting everything Velvet this week.
Full disclosure: this is a multi-step cookie. It is not a one-bowl, in the oven in 15 minutes cookie. But it is #worthit if you have the time!
There are very few things that have been consistent traditions since Lucas and I got married. We always get a real tree, but that’s basically it. Our first two Christmases married we got a tree at a local market. Our last Christmas we moved on December 15th and Lucas was the only one in the shop at Lighthouse trying to finish tables before Christmas, and I had given birth to Liv only 2 months prior. So I got a tree by myself with the babies at an Ace Hardware and it was very depressing because I wanted Lucas to be there but the first year of running your own business means making sacrifices, in this case, having your wife get your tree without you.
This year I had big plans: a farm, away from the city, on a beautiful early winter day, where we could cut down our own tree.
As it happened, it rained all day, and we almost went to Home Depot instead. I’m glad we didn’t. The drive was gorgeous and we stopped to take a few pictures on the way.
We went to Mistletoe Christmas Tree Farm in Stow, MA and unfortunately they already ran out of cut-your-own trees. Honestly we wouldn’t have done it anyway since it was so dang muddy and wet outside and Lucas refused to get his shoes dirty (not kidding).
Fortunately, they had a barn full of perfect trees and it didn’t take long for us to find the right one to take home!
Everyone who worked there was super nice and offered to take a few pictures of us, which I am as grateful for as the tree itself. Getting Lucas in a picture with me is so hard because he’s usually the photographer … but it’s not a family photo if the whole fam isn’t in it.
Mathias had a blast but wanted to run the whole time. Hence his lack of enthusiasm for these photos.
Raw enthusiasm pictured below:
He did end up falling in the mud, but didn’t seem phased by it which is amazing considering how texture sensitive he is! I’m sure it helped that only his pants got ruined and he didn’t get anything on his face…but still.
I had so many plans for how the day should have gone, and all the pictures I wanted to take, but the candidate that Lucas got are pretty amazing and I love them.
Maybe next year we’ll get to cut down our own tree and there will be snow on the ground, and we’ll have a great tripod set-up and we can take family photos in the field instead of in front of the barn. Either way, it doesn’t really matter – what matters is that we got to spend time together in a beautiful place, starting to prepare for the most wonderful time of year. For that, I’m grateful.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!