Kid Approved: Recipe for Non-Dairy Yogurt

We're doing a food experiment in our house. We've long suspected that our daughter has some allergies (or, at least, intolerances - these are not life threatening). But we've been too tired and lazy to change much, other than limiting the amount of cow's milk that she drinks. She still consumes most other dairy products. We recently embarked on a strict diet with her, cutting out all dairy and any trace dairy in other foods (including casein). Lo and behold, we saw an improvement.

Despite the positive changes, I was finding the new diet a struggle. Our daughter's favourite foods include: cheese (all types), yogurt, sour cream and butter. She eats fruit, veggies and protein as well, but not with the same gusto.

So, my challenge has been to find some alternatives that are both tasty and don't break the bank. So far our one success has been fake butter. And no, I'm not talking about chemically-laden margarine laced with milk products; I mean this stuff - Earth Balance. Dairy-free AND soy-free, and given the thumbs up by picky kiddos everywhere!

Other products have been a giant failure. She hates Daiya "cheese," although we haven't tried to make pizza with the shredded variety yet. Another score for the garbage was coconut "yogurt." Blech!! It was jelly-like, a weird pale grey colour and FULL of sugar and additives. She also shunned my homemade almond milk, and still prefers the store-bought variety.

The holiday season arrived. We gave up for a couple of weeks and let her eat whatever she wanted, because food was everywhere, and I was tired of having nothing to offer her for snacks and/or lunch. There's only so much fruit, nuts and vegetable with hummus you can offer a kid before they ask for cheese and crackers.

Christmas day came, and Santa surprised me by leaving a big wrapped box under the tree. Inside I found a Blendtec blender, a kitchen gadget I've been swooning over for a while now. Other people spend hundreds of dollars on hair treatments, gym memberships, Ipads, Iphones and giant TVs. My weakness is kitchen gadgets.

Can I just say, this blender has truly changed my culinary life. Things that I've always dreamed of doing, I can now do in a matter of minutes!! I can make amazingly healthy smoothies, without all the floating chunkies that my hand-held blender used to leave. I can make all my own coconut milk and almond milk, and I can even blend up my favourite drinks (mmmm pina colada!!)

I've also discovered CASHEWS!! Almond milk is totally yummy, but a bit of a pain to make because you have to squeeze it through a nut bag (no, I'm not making this up). But cashews don't take any time at all. You soak them overnight, whiz them up with water, and voila!! Yummy, creamy, awesome milk. And the more digging I did, the more I discovered what I could make out of cashew milk.

In this post I'd like to share my successful Cashew Yogurt, adapted from this recipe at The Spunky Coconut.

First Step

Make the cashew milk! Soak nuts in water overnight, and then drain and rinse. Put them in your food processor or blender. Add 4 cups of water, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1tsp honey. Blend until smooth and frothy.

Second Step

Bring the 4 cups of cashew milk to a simmer in a saucepan.

Third Step

Whisk in 2 tsp of Gelatin dissolved in boiling water (one packet of Knox Gelatin worked for me). The instructions of how to dissolve the gelatin are on the packet. The Spunky Coconut mentions a substitute for vegetarians, but I haven't tried it, so not sure if it would work.

Fourth Step

Let the milk cool until it reaches about 90-92 degrees F (having a good book nearby to wait while it's cooling is a good idea, or just put the whole pot in the sink with cold water)

Fifth Step

Whisk in 3.5 tsps non-dairy probiotic. I used Inno-Vite DDS Original powdered probiotics. Basically, you need about 30 billion colony forming units, so just read the label on your favourite probiotics.

Sixth Step

Put the yogurt into a yogurt maker, oven with the oven light on (I have a "proof" setting on my oven), or in a cooler with something to keep it warm in water bottles etc. I've heard the yogurt maker is the easiest, but it's one gadget I don't own. Leave the yogurt overnight.

Seventh Step

In the morning, pour the yogurt (it will still be quite runny) into a container and refrigerate. When it is completely cool, it should have set and be thick and yummy. Sweeten with maple syrup, add fruit, vanilla, whatever!! Enjoy!

Misty Pratt is a mother of two girls, 1 and 4 years old. In her spare time she is a doula and childbirth educator. Follow her on Facebook or find out about her services here.

Going Bananas Over Allergy-Free Desserts (egg/dairy/nut/sesame/soy/wheat/gluten-free)

by Meghan Allergy-free and kid-friendly can pose a real challenge in the food department. When it comes to kid-friendly and allergy-free desserts the choices are limited unless you want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Allergy-free baking can be tricky (as with regular baking) and a lot of moms want easy – not everyone is a Martha Stewart.

It is difficult to find easy pre-made allergy-free desserts as they usually cater to only one food allergy or they are ridiculously expensive. I remember bringing home a $30 allergy-free cake to treat my family only to have my 3-year-old exclaim it looked yucky and the baby toss it on the floor.

When you want to treat your little ones and you don’t want all the mess/work, I say grab a banana. I live with a bunch of monkeys, so bananas do not last in the fruit bowl. I end up making a second trip to the grocery store to replenish what was eaten. Even the pickiest of eaters seem to be okay with a banana, so why not make a quick dessert from it? You can even get your picky eater involved!

Now you may wonder how a simple banana could be transformed into an easy dessert without just looking like a boring banana – “yippee mom, bananas again for dessert”.

Here are 5 ways to get your kids going bananas for these banana inspired allergy-free desserts:

Banana Sushi

As adults, we just love to use chopsticks even though we could take the simple route and grab a fork. My oldest daughter is fascinated by chopsticks, but wouldn’t touch real sushi. When she saw that I was rolling up some bananas for dessert, she was ready to use those chopsticks.

Directions: Slice 1.5 inch wide strips of a tortilla wrap. Spread sunflower seed butter (I use SunButter) on one side of the strip. Slice 1.5 inch piece of banana and place on one end of the buttered strip. You are then going to roll the banana into the strip. I topped each of the rolls with a little bit of raspberry jam to mimic fish eggs on real sushi.

Banana Boat

Why dirty a bowl when you have a banana?

Directions: Carve out lengthwise the top of the banana. Take a spoon and scrape out some of the banana and place in a bowl (you want to create a partially hollowed cavity in the banana). Mix 1 tbsp of brown sugar, 2 tbsp of oats, and 1 tsp of butter spread (I use Earth Balance – vegan) into the bowl with banana. Mash all together and place back into hollow cavity of banana. Top with dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand). Place in oven for 10 minutes at 375F (you can make a little stand from aluminum foil). Banana skin will turn a bit black, but insides will be all warm and gooey.

Banana Sundae

A simple summer treat!

Directions: Slice a pineapple and place ring at bottom of bowl. Place one scoop of sorbet in the middle of pineapple ring. Slice banana and layer around sorbet. Melt a few tbsps of dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand) with one tbsp of rice milk (or any other choice of milk) in microwave – stir. Pour chocolate sauce over sorbet and bananas. Top with a cherry.

Banana Chocolate Fondue

Kids love to get involved and decorate.

Directions: Slice bananas in 2 inch pieces. Melt dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life brand) with rice milk (or any other choice of milk) in microwave – stir (1 tbsp of milk for every 3 tbsp of chocolate). Dip banana pieces into melted chocolate and place on plate. Put toothpick in top of banana piece. Let kids decorate with sprinkles or cereal.

Banana Fruit Stick

The easiest and healthiest of all desserts, but children just love anything on a stick! My daughter wouldn’t touch kiwi, but since I put it on a stick next to the bananas, she didn’t make any mention of hating it.

Directions: Cut up bananas, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, or any other fruit on hand and place on a skewer.

Meghan is the mother of 2 beautiful girls aged 1 and 3. She has been recently diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis which is a form of arthritis. In the process she has discovered that diet severely influences her symptoms as she is intolerant to dairy, gluten, eggs, and corn. She blogs about her daily challenges with dietary restrictions at Bon Appetit Allergy Free Treats and you can also follow her on Twitter .