Gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free

Cost of Ingredients: $ /$$         Time: 10 minutes

Smores truly don’t require a recipe, but camping with allergies can be a bit complicated, and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on this delicious summer treat. It took a bit of planning, but after several trips to the grocery store I was prepared for a weekend in the woods with friends. Of course we ended up bringing more food than we needed, but I would rather carry a bit more than go hungry!

In addition to normal Smores ingredients (graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate), I also bought some slightly fancier chocolate that is allergy friendly (no dairy or soy lecithin). I couldn’t find gluten free graham crackers that are also dairy free, so I bought gf/dairy free ginger snaps (Mary’s Gone Crackers makes some great ones). The hint of ginger worked really well with the slightly minty dark chocolate I used, and of course the perfectly toasted gooey marshmallow.

Sometimes it’s ok to try a new take on an old favorite. I think we will make more on our grill next weekend, I’m sure they’ll be just as good in our driveway as they were by the fire in the woods! And the flavor combinations are endless! What kinds of cookie/chocolate combinations would you try? Let us know in the comments!


Nina’s Pantry Staples

Here is part 3 of our pantry staple series!

I (Nina) have a pretty long list of food intolerances, but the main things I try to stay away from completely are dairy, gluten/wheat, and soy. I try to bring lunches to one of my jobs, and on days that I spend in the studio I make lunch at home. My other job is at a restaurant, so I don’t usually bring food there, but it also means I’m not cooking on those nights. But when I do cook I generally make as much as possible from scratch, and I try to use local ingredients when possible.

Here are some of my staple ingredients. It was actually quite difficult to narrow it down, there are a lot of things I use regularly (and many of them are already on Annika and Marissa‘s lists).


  1. Chickpeas: So versatile! I often make a coconut curry with these, some coconut cream (see below), curry and other spices, and spinach. Great for lunch on a cold day!

coconut cream

2. Coconut cream: I don’t know how I would cook without this. It’s creamy and not super sweet, so it works in savory sauces (it does require a bit more adjusting than heavy cream or sour cream would, but it works), dishes like creamed spinach or corn, and when cold it can be whipped for dessert or turned into chocolate mousse. It’s a bit thicker than canned coconut milk, and while that means it has a bit more fat, I think it’s absolutely worth it!


3. Eggs: (I’m sorry, Marissa!) I stayed away from eggs for a year and a half before reintroducing them, and aside from cheese (which I still miss dearly), they were the thing I missed the most. I usually just soft-boil or poach them and eat with roasted potatoes, or hard-boil them to put on a salad. Eating eggs also means I can eat mayo again (at least the whole foods store brand, because it doesn’t use soy oil, unlike most regular mayo brands), which is great in dressings and when making spicy mayo or aioli to have with french fries, which leads me to the next number:


4. Potatoes: (Confession: I think french fries are my favorite food). Potatoes are so versatile, I think I could eat them every day. Roasted with herbs, as gnocchi, or mashed (try adding a bit of coconut cream when mashing them), they’re amazing. And since I can’t eat wheat, they’re a solid starch that replaces bread or pasta as a side.


5. Honey: I don’t think I’ve ever not had honey in my pantry. These days I eat it with a little peanut butter on rice cakes (both also staples), and put it in tea. And sometimes you just need a spoonful to make the day better. I also eat local bee pollen regularly, to help with my seasonal allergies.

Do you have any staples you can’t live without?

Rosemary Syrup

Gluten-Free, Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Corn-Free, Soy-Free

Cost of Ingredients: $          Time: 30 mins

rosemary syrup 1

As a former bartender, I often try to think of ways to make simple drinks a little more interesting. I recently bought some habanero shrub that adds a great bit of spice to a smokey mezcal margarita. In the winter I make various spice syrups that work equally well in an old fashioned or a latte. But these days it’s starting to feel like summer around here, and one of my warm weather go-to drinks is a cold gin and tonic, preferably with lime and lemon (yes, both, try it, you won’t regret it!).

rosemary syrup 3

While I try to grow my own herbs often, I seem to have no green thumb at all, so when we bought a grill recently (stay tuned for food recipes using this new gadget!) I decided to buy some herbs to add to our dinner. While my partner was cooking outside, I prepped some quick cocktails to enjoy in the sunshine.

rosemary syrup 2

Simple syrup is just that, super simple. Combine equal parts water and sugar, and heat until dissolved. Once cooled, store in a jar or bottle in the fridge. This is a great way to sweeten iced coffee without ending up with a layer of sugar granules in the bottom of the cup. And it’s a great way to add a variety of flavors to drinks!

rosemary syrup 4

I let this mixture just barely boil before taking it off the heat to cool down. The rosemary infuses as the mixture cools, and it will be ready to use in about 30 minutes.

rosemary syrup 6

The syrup will keep for a week or two in the fridge, so I make small amounts to make sure I use it all up. A one cup of each of water and sugar fit perfectly in these little bottles, and they make pouring the finished syrup mess-free.

rosemary syrup 7

I didn’t have any fresh lemons and limes on hand when I made this G and T the other night, but the rosemary syrup added a nice bit of earthy and fresh flavor.


1 cup sugar*

1 cup water

herbs of your choosing**

  1. Add water to pot, turn to medium heat.
  2. Add sugar and herbs.
  3. Heat until just barely boiling.
  4. Remove from heat and let infuse and cool for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Strain into bottle or jar.
  6. Mix drinks and enjoy! ***

*I used white granulated sugar for this one, brown sugar also works well, the syrup will be a bit darker in color and have a bit more of a caramel flavor. Honey is also an option!

**I used a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in this version, but feel free to experiment! Lavender makes a great floral simple syrup, make a citrus version with orange and grapefruit peels (remove as much of the pith as you can), add a few drops of rosewater, or use some fresh sage leaves. Let me know what combinations you come up with! When it gets colder outside I’ll make sure to post the cinnamon spice syrup recipe, too.

***In a 16oz glass with a few ice cubes, add 1.5 to 2 oz of gin (Hendricks is great, but Tanqueray is our less expensive go-to, if you can find it, Half Moon Orchard Gin is my favorite!), add few slices of lemon and lime (or a splash or two of lime juice) and top with tonic water.

Gluten-Free Brownies

Gluten-free, Soy-free, Corn-free, Dairy-free, Egg-Free

Cost of Ingredients: $-$$ Depending on what kind of chocolate you use

Time: 1 hour total

brownies 1

These brownies are one of the first desserts I successfully made gluten-free. Success is measured, of course,  by the degree of willingness to eat them by my allergy-free partner. And these brownies passed the test with flying colors! Which is good, because after several serious failures I was contemplating giving up and never eating dessert again.

brownies 2

These brownies have quickly become a go-to in this house. I love an easy recipe that I can whip up with what I have on hand.

brownies 3

I have made these brownies both with and without eggs, luckily both versions are delicious, the egg-free version is just a little more cake-like.

brownies 4

Cocoa powder is messy.

brownies 5

Do you like nuts in your brownies? We do! I used a mix of walnuts and pecans here.

brownies 6

Adapted from Cara Reed’s Chocolate Chip Blondie recipe from her Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking. See her blog here.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F

1.25 cups GF Flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour)

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp xanthan gum (unless your flour mix already includes it)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 -1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (Guittard makes great dairy-free and soy-free ones)

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk of choice)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tsp egg replacer mixed until frothy with 6 Tbsp warm water*

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup walnuts or pecans

  1. Melt coconut oil, milk, sugars, and half the chocolate chips on stove or in microwave. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
  2. In large bowl mix flour, cocoa powder, xanthin gum (if needed), baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add egg replacer and vanilla to liquid ingredients.
  4. Mix liquid ingredients with dry ingredients, taking care not to overmix.
  5. Add the rest of the chocolate chips and and walnuts. Mix again until just incorporated.
  6. Line an approximately 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper (I often use a 6×8 inch pyrex if I want thicker brownies, or an 8×10 inch one works, too)
  7. Pour in batter, top with more chocolate chips (or chunks) and walnuts if you would like to.
  8. Bake at 350 Degrees F for 30-35 minutes. I like my brownies chewy and fudgey, so I stick to 30 minutes.
  9. Serve warm with non-dairy ice cream or whipped coconut cream.

*For even fudgier brownies, and if you don’t have an allergy, use 2 real eggs in place of the egg replacer. When using real eggs, whisk them a bit before adding to the oil/sugar mix, and make sure that mix is cooled down enough to not cook the eggs.


Cinnamon and Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Cost: $-$$ depending on how much you already have in your pantry

Prep time: about 40 minutes all together

I’m currently in the last month of graduate school, and I am definitely feeling some pressure. For me, baking is a great stress reliever. I always know when I’m avoiding the studio if there is a sudden increase of baked goods in my fridge.

I feel very lucky to live in an area where alternative ingredients are fairly readily available, so a restricted diet hasn’t really impacted my baking habit. I just had to learn a few different tricks and accept that it’s best  not to aim for 100% imitations of “normal” food.

The no sugar thing is tricky, though.

Continue reading

No-Sugar Five Spice Plantain Chocolate Cake

Prep Time: about an hour all together

Grocery Cost: $

In the last month, I’ve picked up three great cookbooks: Near & Far by Heidi Swanson, The Chakra Kitchen by Sarah Wilkinson, and Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. In terms of food intolerances, The Chakra Kitchen is definitely the most friendly, but the other two feature recipes that are easily adaptable. Last year, Nina gave me another great book — that I highly recommend to all gluten-free/dairy-free bakers — called Flourless by Nicole Spiridakis. Spiridakis uses dairy and eggs but offers replacement instructions in almost all of her recipes.

The Chakra Kitchen and Flourless both feature great chocolate cake recipes. I’ve also come across a good option for one that works for those of us who are not eating any sugar (save for a small amount of fructose) on I haven’t looked too far into their website but it looks like they are working with similar restrictions. All of these chocolate cake recipes got me thinking about baking with chocolate when you’re not really supposed to eat sugar. Unsweetened chocolate is pretty unpalatable and bitter, a fact I discovered when I was very little and stole some of my Mom’s baking chocolate out of her pantry. That may be true, but I think that, unless you have a severe allergy to chocolate, it’s possible to make a delicious chocolate cake that fits into a lot of restrictions. So I experimented a little with all of the recipes I had on hand to make a little Five Spice Plantain Chocolate Cake.


This recipe makes for a dense but smooth cake, if that makes sense…it’s similar to what you might get from a flourless chocolate cake. Don’t expect it to be very sweet: it looks like “normal” chocolate cake, but it definitely has its own intense chocolate flavor. If you want it to be sweeter, but can’t have sugar, I’d recommend adding some raspberries as a garnish. If you can have sugar, you can always add a little honey to the batter or use a baking brush to add some maple syrup after you bake it. In my house, we usually make recipes that I can eat and then add things afterwards for those who don’t have the restrictions. cake2

For the cake:

  • 1 plantain (mine was a little scrawny and dry so I added 1/2 of a banana)
  • 1/4 c coconut oil, melted
  • 2 T unsweetened almond butter
  • 1 t alcohol-free vanilla flavoring
  • 1/3 c chai tea with almond milk (or just regular almond milk — you might need less or a little more)
  • 1/3 c pecan meal
  • 1/3 c coconut flour
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1-1/2 t five spice
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 2/3 c cocoa powder (I used a little less)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Chop the plantain (and banana) into slices, place in food processor
  3. Add the almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla. Process until smooth
  4. Add pecan meal, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, five spice, and cocoa powder
  5. If your batter is dry, gradually add the chai tea until you have a smooth batter
  6. Grease a 9″ round cake pan with coconut oil and transfer your batter (Mine was mysteriously hiding so I used a loaf pan and ended up cutting out round shapes with a cookie cutter).
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes
  8. Let cool completely before carefully taking it out of the pan. It might be pretty delicate.

If you don’t have any food intolerances, I’d also recommend adding some chocolate chips into the batter, but do that in a separate bowl after you process.

For the whipped coconut cream

  • 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
  1. Turn the can upside down and let chill in the fridge for a few hours (I keep mine in our pantry where it gets pretty cool at night, so I often don’t have to do this)
  2. Open the can and scoop out the separated coconut cream. Keep the liquid on hand.
  3. As you would regular dairy cream, whip the chilled coconut cream until it starts to soften. I often add a teaspoon or so of the remaining coconut liquid to smooth out the cream a little
  4. Serve immediately. It doesn’t keep very well, but it’s delicious and there often aren’t any leftovers to worry about. If you do have leftovers, store them in the fridge and use them the next day (on your oatmeal, on pancakes, or in a curry).

PS: If you love chocolate but aren’t eating sugar, Not Your Sugar Mama’s Chocolate Bars are really good. I tried Coconut Crunch and was psyched to find a chocolate that I could (sparingly) eat. They sweeten that particular bar with coconut nectar, which is low on the glycemic index. Am I supposed to eat it? I guess not…but it was my birthday, so…one piece wouldn’t be too much trouble. Some of their flavors do have other non-refined sweeteners. NYSM Chocolate is also vegan verified via the Vegetarian Resource Group. I need to do some more research on this group, but the chocolate bar didn’t have any animal products in the ingredient list.