A Gaggle of Girls
I'm a divorced mom of 3 gluten-free daughters. We've outgrown dairy, soy, egg, and corn allergies, but still deal with a berry allergy in my youngest.
More about us
email me
Bentos for A Gaggle of Girls
The Year of Living Change-erously
I'm a Mormon.

We are hosted by Invehosting

Archive for the ‘tips’ Category

postheadericon Dairy-free and Soy-free baking tips

In general, I find baking dairy-free reasonably easy – there are a lot of alternatives out there, and in general dairy-free baking doesn’t alter the recipe – be it Gluten-free or not. Eggs are another story, but we’re not going there today! I use Fleishmann’s Unsalted margarine (Kosher Pareve, no dairy, no casein) as a 1:1 substitute for butter when I bake. I use Soy Garden or Earth Balance tubs (both Vegan and Kosher Pareve, no dairy, no casein) margarine in place for butter in stove-top cooking. I use Spectrum Shortening for any shortening needs, but Crisco is also dairy-free.

I use rice milk, soy milk, water, or coconut milk (usually the latter) in place of any milk in baking. To make “sour cream” or “buttermilk” or even “yogurt” when its called for in recipes, I add 1TBS of lemon juice or vinegar per 1 cup “milk”, and it works just right in baking. Coconut milk works especially well for anything that needs more substance – ie: sour cream or yogurt substitutes. If you need “cream”, you can chill a coconut milk can, which separates it into a solid and a liquid. Scoop out (and heat) the solid, and you have the texture of cream, as well as the fat to carry flavor. Savory foods won’t taste coconutty, but sweet foods will have a bit of coconut taste, depending on the amount used (ie: if you use 1/4 cup coconut milk to 2 cups chocolate, no one will notice).

Once you are soy-free, things become more complicated. The liquid changes are the same, but the margarine changes aren’t. In some areas, Fleishmann’s sells a tub-product called “Fleishmann’s Light”, and it has no soy or dairy. The Fleishmann’s Unsalted that I currently use has soy oil, which is OK for some people who are avoiding soy, and not OK for others. If they aren’t available in your area, you can order them at Kosher.com.

For soy-free baking, I use Spectrum Shortening in place of butter/margarine. Spectrum Shortening can be found in most large grocery stores in the Health Food aisle, or in any health food store – including Gluten-Free Mall online. It worked well for me in baking and cooking, but it doesn’t have quite the same flavor, and is most definitely not a table spread. Flax oil worked as a “liquid butter” topping for my kids, but that might not work for everyone.

For a completely dairy-free and soy-free margarine, you want to start keeping your eyes out for Kosher grocery stores and even some Kosher delis. At Passover, they will sell Mother’s Margarine (Passover Version), which uses cottonseed oil as a base. It’s not an optimal oil in general, but it is allergy-safe. Many Kosher grocery stores keep the Kosher for Passover Mother’s Margarine in stock year-round. You can also order it online at various Kosher supply stores such as Kosher.com. As we get closer to Passover, it will be easier to find.

Chocolate is another one thats difficult if you’re soy-free. Most chocolate has soy lecithen, which is like soy oil – safe for some and unsafe for others. The EnjoyLife chocolate chips are soy-free, and most health food shops stock them – including Gluten-Free Mall online. This is another area where Kosher for Passover comes in handy – if you live in an area with Kosher grocery stores, you can get soy-free chocolate during the Passover season. Chocolate Emporium has lovely Dairy Free and Soy Free (and Gluten-free) treats near Passover – usually their treats have soy lecithen, but they are soy-free during Passover for religious reasons.

I need to edit some recipes to link back to this, and explain the substitutes that have worked for me over the years. We have now been at least somewhat dairy-free for 9 years, Gluten-free for 5 years, and during those 5 years we have been (at different times) soy-free, egg-free, corn-free, and now berry-free.

Do you have any dairy- and soy-free baking/cooking tips? What did I forget?

postheadericon Coping with the aftermath of holiday foods

You walk into a house that isn’t yours. You have arrived at a holiday party, and there is a lot of food. Food is the way many people show love (think of all those cookies you receive!). You hang up your coat, and then greet your hosts, friends, and family. You are offered a variety of drinks, and choose something you like to keep your mouth moist as you talk. After some chatting, you become hungry, so you walk over to the spread of food.

On the table(s), there are glazed sugar cookies, decorated gingerbread, fudge, salmon and crackers, ham, roast beef and cheese with sandwich buns, shrimp and cocktail sauce, chili, cheese and crackers, a bowl of dried fruits, some roasted nuts in a bowl, and some raw veggies with a dip. It’s a lot of food!

What do you do? What food allergies/intolerances do you cope with? Read the rest of the essay

postheadericon A few tips to help you on your Food Allergy trip

This post is part of the Food Allergy Blog Carnival

We’ve been living with dairy alternatives for 9 years now. We’ve been living gluten-free due to Celiac Disease for almost 5 years. We’ve been living berry-free for a bit over a year. In the past 9 years we’ve gone through times of needing to avoid citrus, soy, eggs, and corn. Not all at once, though! 😉 I’ve picked up a few ideas on how to make the transition to a new diet, and/or living with a restricted diet easier, and I hope they’re helpful.

I’ve got a new tip to start us off – my friend has a child who is anaphylactic to almost everything (no, really!). On their front door is a a sign saying “No Food Allowed”, because they live in a neighborhood with a bunch of kids who were coming over with food. If we lived in a neighborhood with a bunch of kids, we might well have a sign like that up, too. It’s a great way to reduce the risk of cross-contamination in your house, though you might have to pay for a bit more food so the neighbor kids have something to eat when they’re visiting!
Read more tips

postheadericon At last – A foodie book that doesn’t make the allergic folks cringe!

I’m sending you to one of my book reviews today – Phoebe Damrosch has written a book about love and food that is wonderful, and reads like a novel. While Damrosch doesn’t have food allergies, she mentions them frequently and treats them seriously, as does the restaurant where she worked – Per Se in NYC. It’s a refreshing change from most other foodie memoirs!

I received an advance reader’s copy of Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch from Harper Collins for review at the end of the summer. Unfortunately, it got put in the wrong stack of books, and I just now rediscovered it. I’m very disappointed I didn’t read it earlier.

I don’t want to pigeon hole Service Included into one category. It is a story about a woman’s experience as a “Captain”, or one of the main waitresses, in a four star restaurant in NYC. However, she isn’t a waitress to support another artistic career – she’s there because she’s in love with the food It’s also the story of a woman falling in love with a man who joins her in her food love affair, and brings the wine. This is a non-fiction book that reads as smoothly as a novel.

If you wanted a recipe for Service Included, I would say that it’s got a splash of Kitchen Confidential, a few pinches of Cooking for Mr. Latte, and a twist of Garlic and Sapphires. There’s a secret ingredient in there, too – Phoebe Damrosch’s perspective and personality, which makes everything “just right”. Read the rest of the review…

postheadericon Chocolate Peppermint Bark

This isn’t even really worth a recipe, but it’s an easy candy, and it looks nice. Broken up and put into petit fours cups or holiday ziplocs it is a great gift candy.

Peppermint bark

Melt 1 bag chocolate chips (if you can find white chocolate chips that fit your dietary requirements, that looks great)

Smash 4 candy canes into little bits (oooh, this is fun!)

Mix the two together, then spread out on parchment paper, wax paper, or silpat. chill. crack into pieces and serve.

I hear this is really yummy from my family and friends, but I don’t like candy canes. I’ll take other people’s word for it!

postheadericon Chicken Stock

This is a great and easy (and cheap!) way to make chicken broth while avoiding your dietary restrictions. Feel free to adapt ingredients as needed.


  • leftover chicken bones from other meals

  • vegetables – onion, garlic, celery, carrot
  • 2 bay leaves, any other desired spices
  • 1 tbs cider vinegar (or another vinegar)
  • kombu seaweed (optional) or a couple pinches of kosher salt
  • water

Fill crock pot with chicken bones, veggies, bay leaves, vinegar, and seaweed (if using). Pour water in until the crock pot is full.

Cover the crock pot and turn to low. Let simmer for 1-2 days. The vinegar will pull the minerals from the bones, and you will end up with a dark, rich broth.

Strain, then refrigerate or freeze for later use. Freezing in muffin tins or ice cube trays works well – then pop them out and keep in a large ziploc bag in the freezer until needed.

Don’t forget to save your chicken bones from your meals for your next batch of broth!

postheadericon Bagels, Buddy, and Me

Reading to herself

Our family lives with Celiac Disease. This auto-immune disease means that our family cannot eat foods with wheat, rye, oats, or barley. In our house, this means that we eat a lot of home-made treats using my recipes.

There aren’t a lot of books about kids with Celiac Disease, but the ones we have seen talk a lot about what the kids can’t have, whereas my kids think that you can eat anything with Celiac Disease, you just have to be patient for Mom to make it. :) The picture book Bagels, Buddy, and Me tells the story of a boy with Celiac Disease, but with a focus on the positive. It also talks about the family changing their diet, not making special meals for one person – this book showed something very similar to our lives in a book!

Read the full review

postheadericon Perfect Gluten Free Pie Crust

Just one slice

adapted from my mother’s friend’s award-winning crust recipe.

This is a delicious gfcf, gluten free, family-friendly recipe! It is also (if you double check ingredients!) a wheat free, dairy free, soy free, could be egg free, tree nut free, peanut free, fish free, shellfish free, corn free, top 8 allergen free, vegetarian, and potentially vegan recipe.


Pi Pie
  • 2 cups shortening (I use Spectrum)

  • 1/2 cup margarine (I use Fleishmann’s unsalted, but you could also use an additional 1/2 cup shortening)
  • 4 cups gluten-free flour (I like amaranth, sorghum, millet, or rice)
  • 2 cups starch (tapioca and arrowroot are good choices)
  • 2 TBS xanthan gum (if not GF, just use 6 cups flour and omit this)
  • 1 TBS baking powder (optional, omit if corn-free)
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1 TBS salt
  • 1 large egg (or egg replacer of your choice)
  • 2 TBS cider vinegar
  • Cold water


Blending together the Pie Crust

Combine flours, xanthan gum, baking powder (if using), sugar, & salt in a large bowl. Add shortening & margarine and cut in using a pastry blender or 2 knives until it begins to resemble coarse meal.

In a measuring cup with a spout, beat the egg, vinegar, and enough water to equal 1 cup. Gradually add the liquid to the flour, tossing with a fork, until the pastry gathers into a mass.

If the dough needs more water, add 1/4 cup iced water at a time, until sticks together.

we like pie

Divide the pastry into 6 portions and form each into a patty-like disk. Each patty makes 1 crust. Put each in a small ziploc and freeze, or, if you are using now, chill for an hour or so. If you freeze, dough must be completely thawed before rolling. (If you plan to make pocket pies, just refrigerate it all in a lump and break off pieces to make the pocket pies)

Rolling out the dough

For easier handling, roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap. Peel off top piece of plastic wrap, position dough in greased pie pan, then remove bottom piece of plastic wrap.

This makes 6 single pie crusts, or top/bottom pie crusts for 20-25 pocket pies.

postheadericon Food Allergy Week

FYI – this week is Food Allergy Week! Check out the information from FAAN and the Check my Tag Community.

I have written up Our Story of food allergies, food sensitivities, and celiac disease. I hope having it written down helps someone! (and that I haven’t forgotten too many things) Enjoy your allergy-safe, delicious food this week!

You might want to check out this book review – there’s a great book called The Peanut-free Cafe, which would be a good read this week!

postheadericon Quick Quinoa Tip

Quick tip –

When a recipe calls for couscous or barley, a great substitute (with even more nutritional oomph) is quinoa.

It’s also incredibly easy – rinse 1 part quinoa in a few changes of water. Add 2 parts stock or water and bring to a boil. Let simmer 15-20 minutes, until water is absorbed.

If you want to avoid the rinsing, some stores carry the red quinoa that cooks up pink (what girl doesn’t want to eat pink food?) and doesn’t require rinsing.

My kids have loved it since early toddlerhood. It makes a great mess with babies too. :)

Look at our lunches!
Foods we have made
Recipe Categories