Introducing Giant Hippo

My wife has a new web site. In her own words:

Gluten-free? Dairy-free? Egg-free? Some-kinda-other-allergen-free? Presenting my new blog dedicated to cooking and eating authentically and well while allergen-free: . I cook for my son, who has multiple food allergies and an adventurous palate. Most of the recipes are my own. The photos are hardly professional and yes, there are going to be more kids’ melamine dinnerware and even Legos in the pictures with every weekly update, but hey, that’s just how this mama rolls.

What are you waiting for? Visit:

This is important stuff. Share with anyone you may know who has food allergies, has celiac disease, incurable eczema (generally due to a food allergy), or who just happens to need a recipe without those ingredients.

Butter Cream Frosting


  • 1 small can (8 oz.) of chilled evaporated milk
  • 1 cup shortening  (you can substitute in 1/2 cup butter or a full cup butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Cream shortening and sugar together
  2. add evaporated milk until the sugar is dissolved
  3. add vanilla extract
  4. mix about 1 minute more
  5. Put frosting into the fridge until you are ready to put it on cake or cup cakes.

Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  • This is good on any cake or cake-like breads. For example, it goes just as well on banana, carrot, zucchini breads as it would on a chocolate cake.
  • You need to chill the evaporated milk first, otherwise this recipe does not work. Chill it for at least a few hours in the fridge.
  • You can substitute the shortening with butter except in very hot, humid weather. In which case, I use 1/2 shortening and 1/2 butter.  Grandma Bednarski used shortening only (no butter) in hot sticky weather; she preferred Crisco brand.

Dan’s note: Shortening refers to Crisco. Please note that Crisco is a partially hydrogenated, trans-fat. Recently, a lot of health news has been made about how bad partially hydrogenated fats are for you. Essentially, those fats are more likely than others to clog arteries. But whoever said butter cream frosting was health food. As this recipe provides, the alternative is butter (not exactly diet food either).

Chocolate Cake


  • 1 3/4 cup flour,
  • 2 cup sugar,
  • 1/2 cup oil,
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder,
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda,
  • 1 teaspoon salt,
  • 1 cup coffee,
  • 2 eggs,
  • 1 cup sour milk,
  • 3/4 cup cocoa,
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla.


  1. Put everything in a large bowl and beat for two minutes.
  2. Bake in a 350 degree oven, for 35 to 40 minutes.

Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  1. I have made this for 30 years. My friend Jane gave it to me.
  2. This is a very moist cake.
  3. You can use any regular cooking oil such as canola oil or olive oil
  4. Use pre-made or instant coffee. WARNING: Do NOT do what Danny did and use coffee grounds (what a surprise!).
  5. You can sour milk by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.

Nana’s Ice Box Dessert


  • 1/2 lb. graham cracker
  • 1/2 lb. dates
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 lb. marshmallows
  • 2/3 cup cream


  1. Roll the crackers. (I assume, she means use a rolling pin to crush the graham crackers.)
  2. Mix all ingredients, except 1/4 cup of crushed/rolled graham crackers.
  3. Shape into a roll, then roll the roll over the 1/4 cup graham crackers that you saved.
  4. Place in refrigerator for 12 hours.
  5. Slice
  6. Serve with whipped cream (optional)

btw: posted for my mom and aunts (the nana referenced is their nana).

Nana’s Pie Crust


  • 1/2 cup shortening *see note below
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Mix ingredients and moisten with ice water. Use a tablespoon at a time until dough holds together. Don’t work the dough too much, or it will be tough.

Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  • To double, use 14 tablespoons of water.
  • Shortening probably refers to Crisco; however, note that Crisco is a partially hydrogenated, trans-fat. Recently, a lot of health news has been made about how bad partially hydrogenated fats are for you. Essentially, those fats are more likely than others to clog arteries. But whoever said pie was health food. The alternative is butter (not exactly diet food either).

Papaya Soup

Difficulty Level: easy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours


  • 6 qts water
  • 1-2 lbs. pork butt shoulder
  • 2-3 smaller papayas or one larger papaya cut into pieces. (you can use the green papaya)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger in large slices
  • handful of peanuts (the amount can vary based on how much you like peanuts)
  • 3 or 4 dried jujubes for some added sweetness


  1. Rinse the jujubes well and soak for about 30 minutes
  2. Cut pork butt shoulder into cubes. I generally cut into 1 inch cubes. The cubes need not be perfect and can be cut into any size you prefer.
  3. Slice ginger.
  4. Peel the papaya, cut into halves, and scoop out the seeds. Then cut the papaya into pieces.


  1. Combine all ingredients, except the papaya, in a pot
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Turn down the heat and simmer for an hour
  4. Add the papaya and simmer for another hour
  5. Serve

papaya soup
Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  • This recipe can be doubled.
  • Feel free to substitute pork for other meat. The idea is to cook the papaya in a meat broth. Others use fish, chicken, and beef. You can also mix two meats for a richer broth.
  • Jujubes are also sold as chinese dates. In place of jujubes, you can probably use other types of dried fruit that are used as a sweetener, such as dried plums (aka prunes).
  • You can use either ripe (yellow) or green papaya, or a mix. I prefer using both ripe and green papaya.
  • If you add in fresh mushrooms, add them in the last 30 minutes or so. Shitake and oyster mushrooms are both great additions to this soup.
  • Note: this dish is commonly served to nursing mothers. You might wish to avoid it if you are pregnant. I was told green papaya helps contract the uterus and lessen water retention after child birth. On the other hand, if you are nursing (or cooking for a nursing mother), you might wish to try this.
  • Another variation of Papaya Soup can be found at:

Tomato Ginger Stew

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes


  • 4 or 5 large, fresh tomatoes. The sweeter, more ripe, and softer, the better.
  • Thumbsize piece of young ginger.
  • 2 eggs
  • small chunk of rock sugar
  • About two tablespoons of cooking oil. I use canola or olive oil.

I use a wok when preparing this dish. If you don’t have one, try this in a pot you’d prepare marinara sauce in.


  1. Cut the ginger into thick cross sections. Crush a little with the back of your knife to bring out some more flavor.
  2. Put the tomatoes into boiling water for about two minutes or until the skin breaks on one of them. You might find it easier to do two or three batches.
  3. Immediately after you pull the tomatoes out of the boiling water, rinse them in cold tap water. This will stop the boiling.
  4. Peel the skin from the tomatoes, then quarter them. Put them in a bowl.


  1. Season the wok using the ginger. To do this, put the oil in the wok and turn the heat on high. When you see small bubbles in the oil, add the ginger. Stir the ginger around every 10 seconds or so for about two or three minutes.
  2. Pour in the tomatoes and any juices collected in the bowl. Mix them around a little bit in the wok to disperse the ginger. Stir every 30 seconds, or so. After about three minutes, if the tomatoes haven’t broken down and the mixture isn’t too liquidy, add 1/2 cup of water. Stir some more.
  3. Turn down to medium heat once the liquid starts to boil. The goal is to keep it at a high simmer but to not boil.
  4. Add in the sugar after you turn down the heat. Stir.
  5. Cook 5 minutes, then turn heat down to low, cover and cook for five more minutes.
  6. Remove to heat resistant bowl.
  7. Rinse wok (no need to clean it, yet) then reheat it.
  8. Start to scramble the egg on medium. Pour in the tomato stew when the egg is half done. By half done, I mean it is half solid and half runny. Stir the mixture some more.

Tomato Ginger Stew
Notes, hints, and substitutions:

  1. You can substitute the young ginger with regular ginger which is generally more pungent with a stronger flavor. If you do use regular ginger, use a smaller piece. I will use 1/3 less regular ginger. Prepare the same way. You can also shred the ginger if you like.
  2. When seasoning the wok, you can also throw in some garlic.
  3. I’ve never used regular sugar but that would probably work, particularly if you use the brown molasses type sugar.
  4. You can skip the fried egg step altogether by adding the egg in step 6 before covering or by frying the egg completely in another pan. I’ve done it each way.
  5. Like most stews, this tastes better the next day. The ginger has more time to share its flavor.

Broiled Asparagus

Tonight, we had the best asparagus I’ve ever tasted.  Here is the recipe.

1 bunch, thick asparagus
grapeseed or olive oil, to drizzle
sea salt, to sprinkle
fresh ground pepper, to taste
two cloves, diced garlic

1) Turn on broiler, set the rack at the second notch from the top.
2) Clean and snap off the bottoms of the spears where they turn from green to white. This removes the fiberous part.
3) Place the asparagus in a broiler pan. I use a cast iron griddle.
3) Drizzle olive or grapeseed oil over the top, sprinkle sea salt and the pepper.
4) Then brush the mixture over all the asparagus spears. Be sure to flip them over to get both sides.
5) Put in oven for fivce minutes.
6) Remove from the oven, flip the asparagus spears over, sprinkle on the garlic and rebrush the oil using oil in the pan.
7) Broil another ten minutes or so. You want the asparagus to blister and brown.