Dairy Free Chocolate Shakes…yum….

_rkp3909We have a fabulous little Ice Cream/Diner in Wilmette called Homer’s. I read in yesterday’s paper that Al Capone was a regular there and it was recently voted one of the Top 10 Ice Cream Parlors in the United States. I concur; their ice cream is rich, decadent and simply fabulous. Homer’s is a regular hangout for post season soccer, baseball and basketball celebrations. My son John’s basketball team recently had their celebratory get together. The kids pulled up a few tables, dined on hot dogs and fries and of course had their share of ice cold milkshakes and homemade creamy ice cream.

Obviously John missed out on that last part due to his milk allergy. As usual I brought along a special Food Allergy Mama chocolate chip cookie for him to have during their desserts. But I couldn’t help but wonder if he felt left out. When I asked later, he said he was. No matter how many times we have gone to birthday parties, or these post sports season parties, it doesn’t get any easier. I feel awful for John that he always has to miss out on these simple little joys of childhood.

Homer’s ice cream excellence inspired me to make a dairy free chocolate shake that rivals theirs, or any other great ice cream parlor. I wanted John to know what a REAL chocolate shake tastes like. This Dairy Free Chocolate Shake is simply amazing and takes just a couple of minutes to whip up in your blender or milkshake maker. I often make these shakes when my kids are home sick, and need a special “pick me up”. I especially love¬†to make them on Friday Pizza Nights. Give your blender a whir and make these shakes for your own family. I know they’ll love them.



Yield: 2 servings


11/3 cups soy or rice milk

1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate syrup

4‚Äď5 generous scoops vanilla soy ice cream


Combine the soy milk and chocolate syrup in a blender, and pulse for a few seconds. Add the soy ice cream and purée on low speed about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth and blended together. Serve in tall glasses.



Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

_rkp2562Oatmeal Raisin cookies are on my top five list of favorite cookies. Actually they are number two, right behind the classic chocolate chip cookie. That probably explains why I have oatmeal and raisins for breakfast nearly every single morning! It’s a little bit sweet, but not overly so, and warm and comforting all at once. Perfection.

People tend to be finicky about their oatmeal raisin cookies. You either fall into one of two categories; hard and crunchy or soft and chewy. I am of the rare breed who doesn’t have a strong preference one way or the other. I loved chewy cookies from the bakery and those hard and crunchy ones with the icing on it from the grocery store. Until one day I set out to make the perfect oatmeal raisin cookie that was soft and chewy (because my daughter preferred it). This cookie recipe is the result of that mission, and¬†the mission was accomplished. This cookie is perfect.

You will be shocked at how decadent these cookies are. I’ve served them to true Oatmeal Raisin cookie lovers (who happened to not be allergic either) and they raved. My sister’s family requests these cookies every time I visit them or they visit me. In fact I just made a batch to mail to Kentucky for my nephew’s sixth birthday tomorrow. They pack very well and stay ultra fresh for days in an airtight container. Also, omitting the raisins and adding dairy free Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips is a delicious variation. Try both!


Yield:  2 dozen cookies


1/2 cup dairy-free shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup molasses

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats

1 cup raisins


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening, sugar, applesauce, and molasses until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture, and beat well.


Preheat oven to 400¬ļF, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir in oats and raisins with a rubber spatula. Use a cookie scooper to place batter onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 7 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, press down slightly on dough, and let cool completely on baking sheet.



Prepare Oatmeal‚ÄďRaisin Cookie recipe as directed, but substitute 1 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips for the raisins.



A Food Allergy Awareness Weekend

The weekend of April 18th-19th will be a busy one here in Chicago. The THRIVE Allergy Expo is coming to McCormick Place as well as the FAAN conference April 18th. I plan on attending both and am really looking forward to it. I’ve been to FAAN conferences in the past and the day is filled with tons of information and¬† research presentations. This will be my first THRIVE expo and given the days’ schedule I am really excited to attend a conference that is dedicated to raising awareness about food allergies and asthma.

Here’s a sampling from the event schedule for THRIVE; “Free From Cooking Stage”, Free Asthma Screenings, Information about Medic Alert bracelets, live epinephrine demos, and cookie decorating for kids. Tickets are $10 and Food Allergy Mama readers get a Buy One Get One Free discount by using the promo code foodallergymama. The code expires April 20th, 2009. Visit www.thriveallergyexpo.com for more information and to buy tickets.

The FAAN conference has another great lineup this year including: information about the latest food allergy research, strategies for avoiding reactions, tips for dining out with food allergies and a lot more.  I always learn something new at these conferences. And I hope to bump into some of you at both events that weekend!

Travelling with food allergies…

It’s spring break season in most parts of the country. Our school’s spring break is this week and it seems that my little village 14 miles north of Chicago is abandoned. Most families around here escape the lingering chill and head to warmer climates like Arizona, Cancun, Florida and Hawaii.¬†We have yet to take that week long, get away from everything type of vacation. We tried booking our first ever Disney vacation (with all those amazing tips from all of you I was really excited) but it was apparent that I was a slow in getting the flights booked and driving would take too long given how much time we had off. So Disney will have to wait until summer. But I hear that is the off season and I should get an even better deal then.

We also pondered Arizona since I used to live there and still have so many wonderful friends and family there.¬† But the tab for six flights was too much to stomach, at least for this year. Besides, I have to admit that I have yet to take my food allergic son John on a flight…it’s a hurdle I will have to cross at some point¬†but it still concerns me nonetheless.

So we decided make the the majority of our spring break a Staycation. Our children of course complained, that all their friends were going somewhere warm and sunny. That got us thinking…aren’t water parks warm and sunny too? We can wander around in our shorts and flip flops there too, right? When we proposed a weekend away to the self proclaimed “Water Park Capital of the World” in the Wisconsin Dells our children were all for it (especially my 2 and 3 year old because they¬†like to yell “yeah” at just about anything).

Our plan was to stay for the weekend in a condo like room with a fully equipped kitchen so we could prepare meals in the room. For the sake of cost and sanity I would do this even if we weren’t dealing with food allergies. I can’t imagine getting them all ready to eat breakfast out every morning, or even lunch. Eating out with very young children was never my idea of relaxing fun. I brought food from home (including bread because so many brands have milk in them) and it was great to let the kids snack and eat their meals in our room. We dined out for dinner twice, but not without the checking, and double checking of ingredients, cross contamination practices, etc. We ended up eating at the same restaurant two nights in a row, because we had a great experience and trusted the manager understood the seriousness of John’s allergies.

That got me thinking to the report released last week at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, saying that food allergies can alter a family’s vacation plans. More than 400 food allergic families filled out a questionnaire about travelling with food allergies. Researchers found that 68 percent of respondents limited where they vacationed and a third avoided specific types of transportation (such as ships and planes). The report also pointed out the¬†concern about quality medical care and appropriate facilities nearby. Finally, nearly all the respondents said they would not consider vacationing in a remote location such as China, Japan, India and other foreign countries.

I fall right in line with those people. I wish I could get past my fear of travelling abroad as a family and show John the world. Maybe some day I will, and maybe some day we’ll find a cure for food allergies all these issues will just go away. But in the meantime I¬†look forward to vacationing in allergy aware destinations as well as vacationing the old fashioned way; long, adventurous and memorable road trips with our children. No, it’s not Hawaii or the Bahamas but it is still wonderful in its own right. I hope you all have a great time with your own families this spring…whether its a vacation or a staycation.

The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book is almost ready…

Some of you may or may not know that I have been busy the past several months finalizing a project very close to my heart; The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book: Great Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Treats for the Whole Family. It will be officially released October 1st of this year but is available through pre order online at¬†Amazon.com.

Many of the recipes I have shared¬†on this blog are included in the baking book. I’ve also included Tips for Classroom¬†and Birthday Parties as well as my favorite ingredient substitutions, baking tools and food allergy resources. Advocacy and food allergy awareness are very important to me, so I am giving a portion of¬†my proceeds to the Food Allergy Initiative Chicago. FAI is an incredible organization that is fully committed to raising funding for food allergy research and awareness, something that is still lacking despite the recent spike in media coverage. Last November FAI Chicago raised $1.2¬†million dollars for food allergy research, an astounding¬†amount of money. I am so proud to be working on this year’s benefit and am confident we’ll raise even more money this year.

I believe one day we will find a cure for food allergies, and am hopeful that someday our children will live freely and without fear of potentially life threatening reactions. Until that day comes I am happy to share this book with all of you. Because I think our kids should be able to have their cake and eat it too. Thanks for your support!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Soy Nut Butter Cookies

_rkp2429I loved peanut butter. It was my favorite breakfast; whole grain toast with a couple of tablespoons of creamy peanut butter.  It was my favorite lunch; a simple yet delicious peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. It was my favorite Little Debbie snack; Nutty Bars. I was always so grateful those little treats came in packages of two. It was also my second favorite cookie; classic peanut butter with the criss cross fork marks (sorry, chocolate chip will always be my ultimate favorite!)

When I learned my son had a severe peanut allergy, I was dumbfounded. How could¬†something that seemed so nutritious and a staple of so many pantries be life threatening? Then I thought it had to be all the peanut butter I ate during my pregnancy. Of course all these questions were answered by my son’s allergist but it still boggled my mind, this whole peanut allergy thing. Once I researched the biology of food allergies I understood the true seriousness of a severe peanut allergy. I also realized I’ll never again have peanut butter.

As obsessed as I once was with peanut butter, I can now say the same about soy nut butter. I love it! Yes, it took about a week to get used to the slight difference in taste but now I use it in all the same ways; toast, sandwiches and cookies (even Snickeroos but that’s another blog post altogether!). It is a fantastic alternative to Peanut Butter (assuming you don’t also have a soy allergy as well).

A Food Allergy Mama reader asked if I would share my Favorite Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Soy Nut Butter Cookie recipe. I am happy to, and can tell you this one won’t disappoint. I know my son will never eat a Real Peanut Butter Cookie, but¬† this one is so much better. It even is complete with the classic criss cross fork marks in the middle.


Yield: 2 dozen cookies


1/2 cup dairy-free shortening (I use Crisco)

1/2 cup creamy soy nut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

11/2 unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, thoroughly combine shortening, soy nut butter, brown sugar, and applesauce. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Add flour mixture to shortening mixture, and stir until just combined. Chill dough 1 hour.


Preheat oven to 375¬ļF, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using your hands, shape dough into 1-inch balls, and place onto baking sheets. Dip fork into flour, and press into dough ball in a crisscross design. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until light brown. Cool completely on baking sheets.



Dairy Free Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick’s Day has long been a favorite holiday of mine and not only because I have Irish roots (my mom was a full blown redhead after all!). Chicago is a great place to visit for this popular Irish holiday. We have so many fabulous authentic Irish pubs, food, two festive parades, and a river that is dyed green every year. Of course, many people in Chicago claim their “Irish Heritage” every March 17th but that’s what makes the day so much fun. Everyone is in the spirit to eat, drink and be merry, the Irish way.

Eating the Irish way on St. Patrick’s Day inevitably means serving some variation of Corned Beef and Cabbage. A wonderful and traditional accompaniment to this dinner is the Irish Soda Bread. The Soda Bread itself has a long history in Ireland, dating back to 1840 when bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to the country. It became especially popular after the Famine Years, since the baking soda replaced the more expensive yeast in bread recipes. Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipes have just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Other add ons like currants, raisins and caraway seeds were introduced later as a way to give more flavor and variety.

I love the flavor of currants and caraway seeds so I’ve included them in my Dairy Free Irish Soda Bread. Also, since my recipe is dairy free, it uses a buttermilk substitute by simply adding vinegar to soy milk. Many soda bread recipes are shaped into a free form loaf and have¬†an X marked on the top. It is written that the X is meant to ward off evil but a far more common explanation for the X is to give a guideline for cutting slices. Mine is simply put into a round baking pan. What could be simpler?

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day, whether you’re Irish or not!




Yield: 1 round loaf


3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup currants

3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

11/2 cups dairy-free buttermilk (2 T. vinegar mixed with 2 cups soy milk, let stand 5-10 minutes)



In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Slowly add the buttermilk, and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in currants and caraway seeds.


Preheat oven to 350¬ļF, and spray a 9-inch cake pan with dairy-free baking spray. Place batter into prepared pan, and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly browned.


Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Strawberry Bread

It’s March and in Chicago that¬† means winter. But I still have spring on my mind, especially whenever I see the plentiful strawberries and oranges at the supermarket. I love to throw fresh strawberry slices on spinach salad for lunch. We also have¬†plenty of oranges to nibble on after dinner. Yes,¬†I do sometimes eat healthy desserts!

I love the combination of strawberries and oranges in particular. They seem to bring out the best in each other. My recipe, Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Strawberry Bread, is the perfect blend of citrus and sweet. I just made this bread this morning for my kids to have as a¬†snack. It takes as much time to whip up as it does to preheat your oven. And the result is so worth it the 50 minute wait. Everyone I know raves about this bread once they try it and are utterly shocked when they hear there’s no eggs or dairy in it. You can also feel good knowing there isn’t a ton of sugar and fat in it to weight it down. The recipe calls for frozen or fresh berries; use whatever you have on hand.

Make a loaf for breakfast, or serve with Tofutti cream cheese at lunch. For us, just a nice little slice with a glass of Soy Milk does the trick. Enjoy!



Yield: 1 loaf


11/2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons water

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 teaspoons orange zest

21/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

11/2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350¬ļF, and spray a 9√ó5√ó3-inch loaf pan with dairy-free baking spray.


In a blender, purée strawberries, water, oil, applesauce, orange juice, and orange zest until smooth.


In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and pour the strawberry purée into the well. Stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.


Pour into prepared pan, and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.


Cool completely before slicing.



Dealing with Food Allergies in the Lunchroom

My previous post Trust in the Lunchroom prompted some great questions about keeping your child with food allergies safe in the lunchroom. I empathized with all of your comments, and thought it might be helpful to share my personal experience in my son’s school. I agonized over the first day of First Grade from the time my son was diagnosed with his life threatening food allergies. I visualized “Boy in the Bubble” and total exclusion from his peanut butter eating peers. I recall just putting it out of my mind as I had bigger fish to fry; the preschool snack time.

But then that day came last August as my son started First Grade.  For years I assumed my son would never ever touch cafeteria food because of the cross contamination issue. Anyone familiar with the Sabrina Shannon story understands why we as parents are so fearful of this. But I had to find out once and for all if this was going to be the case his entire elementary, middle school and high school life.

Two weeks before school started I scheduled a meeting with the school nurse, principal, the school district’s director of food service and the head chef (I call her Chef Lady). I wanted to understand the school’s protocol for handling food service for those with food allergies as well as their emergency action plan in the event of an allergic reaction. To be clear, my school district is widely recognized as forward thinking about food allergies. The school nurse makes sure every food allergic child has an allergy action plan. But the lunchroom policy wasn’t as great. Epipens were not allowed in the lunchroom and it was previously understood that if a child experienced an allergic reaction then the lunchroom staff would promptly notify the school nurse down the hall. Again, anyone familiar with Sabrina Shannon knows this plan of action isn’t good enough and leaves room for error.

In accordance with my son’s 504 Plan, I required the school to designate ONE person to hold John’s Epipen IN the lunchroom. She is trained for what symptoms to look for, (physcial and verbal cues, ie. saying his throat is scratchy, mouth hurts, hives on or near face, excessive coughing, etc. ) and to take immediate action with the Epipen,¬†next call 911, then call the nurse to call me. Plain and simple. I questioned why the school never previously allowed these life saving devices in the lunchroom as it seemed like a no brainer to have one there (as opposed to a cabinet in the nurse’s office). I also made sure that John knows exactly who to go to if he feels he is having a reaction.

As with most school lunchrooms John sits at a peanut free table. I used to visualize him sitting alone at this table, maybe with one or two other kids. Sadly, there are lots of kids at this table, as evidenced by the huge upswing in peanut allergies the past 10 years alone. This only reinforces the belief that the incidence of food allergies is increasing.  John never feels alone and has more than a few friends there.

Now for the tough part; ordering cafeteria food. As I said before I never thought this would be an option due to the severity of John’s multiple allergies. I flat out said no way, no how is he ever going to order food. Then John told me how much he really really really wished he could order a couple of his favorite foods. Turkey and soy nut butter sandwiches every day does get a little monotonous, after all. I had to think long and hard about this and wasn’t sure I could ever comfortably say yes. But out of respect for him I had to find out for sure (it also has a little to do with the former reporter in me, I can never let something go unless I find out myself).

During the August meeting with the school we discussed the menu at length. I determined which foods I though might be safe (like baked chicken breast on whole wheat, plain pasta or sloppy joes) and asked for an extensive ingredient list of each. Then I requested the phone numbers and contacts of the food vendors who supplied the foods so they could release an allergen statement and listing of ingredients. I also had a long discussion with the director and Chef Lady about cross contamination issues and how to safely prepare a tray of food for John that wouldn’t in any way get in contact with other potential allergens. In addition,¬† the one or two times a month John orders lunch I physically go to the school cafeteria that morning, recheck the ingredient labels and reinforce the food preparation techniques that will need to be used that day to avoid cross contamination (ie, no buttering of pasta, no sharing of food utensils, etc.) Finally, John only goes to the kitchen for his “special tray” to ensure that he is indeed getting the “allergen free” lunch.

Even with all these extra steps I still worry, and probably always will. But it is important to teach John that it’s OK to eat out, with the appropriate precautions taken. There will be a day he won’t be sitting at my dining room table, and the sooner he learns how to advocate for himself the better. But believe me, I will be watching him like a hawk until that day comes.

The Fastest Allergen Free Pizza Ever…

_rkp4075Last night my family was in the mood for pizza. Of course, this means making it at home as my son has a severe dairy allergy. But with this pizza dough recipe it couldn’t be simpler or faster. Unlike traditional pizza dough recipes this dough has no rise time. You just mix the ingredients, let the dough rest for about five minutes and you’re ready to roll. ¬†This time saving homemade pizza dough is a real life saver when you’re trying to pull together a fast dinner for six.

The best part about making your own pizza at home is that the kids love to roll and stretch out the dough, and top with their favorite ingredients. The dough can be rolled super thin or stretched to be slightly thicker.¬† Make one large pizza or divide the dough into six smaller balls ready to be rolled out by your family. I put out small bowls of jarred tomato sauce, sliced tomatoes, turkey pepperoni, black olives, mushrooms, red pepper, green pepper, broccoli and dairy free soy cheese. (Note: Be extra careful about the “soy cheese you use; a lot of brands contain caesin, a derivitive of milk. I like to use the brand Follow Your Heart: Vegan Alternative). Whether you have some or all of these ingredients, your pizza will be healthier than any version you would have had from a pizza place.

After rolling out your dough, place the rounds on parchment lined baking sheets and top away. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned and soy cheese is melted. Let it rest a few minutes before cutting and serve with a green salad.

Start to finish this entire pizza dinner will be done in 30 minutes (that includes the kids’ topping their own pizzas). I don’t even think Dominos can top that one…



1 package active dry yeast

1 c. warm water (about 110 degrees)

1 ¬Ĺ tsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 T. vegetable oil

2 ¬Ĺ c. unbleached all purpose flour


Combine yeast and warm water with a wire whisk and set aside. In a mixer fitted with the dough attachment combine sugar, salt, vegetable oil and flour with yeast mixture for about one minute or until combine. Set aside to rest for five minutes.


Turn dough onto floured board and knead about 15 times. Cut into desired portions.


Preheat oven 425 degrees and place dough on nonstick baking pan. Top as desired and bake about 20 minutes or until crust is golden and topping is warmed through.