My Interview with Ian & Margery on FM107.1


I was Ian & Margery‘s guest this morning on FM107.1 Minneapolis/St. Paul.

You can listen to the segment here:

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Here’s a link to the MP3 file: Interview by Ian & Margery on FM107.1

Ian and Margery, FM 107.1 Minneapolis/St. Paul

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April 28, 2009: Morning drive radio interview with Ian & Margery of FM107.1, Minneapolis/St. Paul.

MP3 file: 20090428-ian-margery.mp3

My Favorite Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Chocolate Cake

_rkp4124Today is my husband’s 39th birthday and tomorrow is my soon to be 4-year-old’s birthday. Even though their birthdays are back to back I plan on making two varieties of cakes; vanilla with vanilla frosting and chocolate with chocolate frosting. The latter is for my chocoholic husband who delights in anything made from cacao beans. My little guy Matthew prefers vanilla. I could make the NYC favorite black and white cookies and just be done with it, but I think birthdays have to be celebrated with a homemade cake.

This year my husband asked for cupcakes and Matthew wants a square cake. The square cake lends itself to so many decorating ideas. Our kids love to throw on all their favorite sprinkles and allergen free candies. Matthew wanted to add a little Nesquik syrup but I nixed the idea for obvious reasons. I think next year I might bake their favorite cakes in mini cake pans rather than one big cake; less chance of sibling rivalry among who gets the last green sprinkle!

Here’s my favorite dairy, egg and nut free chocolate cake with chocolate frosting recipe. This recipe can¬†be made in a 13 x 9 glass cake pan, as a 9-inch layer cake or my favorite, plain old but still fabulous cupcakes. Enjoy!

Yield: One 9-inch layer cake or one 13√ó9-inch cake.


Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Chocolate Cake

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

11/2 cups dairy-free buttermilk (Mix 1 1/2 cups soy milk with 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar)

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups cake flour

11/2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup cocoa powder

11/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine shortening, buttermilk, water, and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. In a separate medium bowl, combine cake flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the shortening mixture, and beat on high speed 3 to 4 minutes, occasionally scraping sides with a rubber spatula.


Preheat oven to 350¬ļF, and spray two 9-inch round cake pans or a 13√ó9-inch glass baking dish with dairy-free baking spray. Pour batter into prepared pans, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.


Classic Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes


Prepare Classic Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe as directed. Line 24 cupcake molds with paper liners. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.


Creamy Dairy Free Chocolate Frosting


Yield: 2 cups


1 cup dairy-free margarine (I use Fleischman’s Unsalted Margarine)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup soy or rice milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the margarine and cocoa powder until smooth. Add soy milk, vanilla, and salt, and mix thoroughly. Slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar, mixing on low for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium, and beat 4 to 6 minutes, until light and fluffy.









A reaction waiting to happen….

It seems as though every day lately reminds me of how vigilant we all must be regarding food allergies. Case in point: John’s Spanish teacher organizes a fun and dynamic Spanish market (Mercado) every spring for the first graders. The kiddos make a bunch of cute items to sell and barter, and they¬†practice using their Spanish while buying items with their handmade pesos. I volunteered for this market when my daughter was in first grade and had a blast. But I remembered they also sold popcorn too. So I happened to run into¬†John’s teacher¬†yesterday after school and asked if they still offered popcorn at the mercado. She reponsed, “Oh yes, I already bought it and we are all set”.

Hmm…that was the first I had heard of it. I asked her if she purchased it or if a parent was supplying it. She said she already bought it and told me the brand name. I informed her that John has severe dairy and nut allergies, and that most popcorn sold contains the milk allergen. She looked puzzled. She told me that she had asked the school nurse if there were any allergies in the first grade and the nurse gave the name of two children. But not my son’s name. Of course, the Spanish teacher apologized profusely and said it was her fault. I told her no, it was the nurse’s fault. I will have a serious discussion with the school nurse this morning.

At the begining of the school year I always sit down with the nurse and teacher to discuss John’s allergies as well as his allergy action plan. However, we got a new school nurse mid year and I assumed, wrongly, that the nurse was brought up to speed on all the children with allergies. Imagine the scenario if I hadn’t asked the popcorn question to John’s Spanish teacher. And again, I only knew about the popcorn because I had volunteered to work the mercado two years prior for my daughter. The scenario would have gone something like this: In the midst of the confusion and chaos of the mercado (and it is organized chaos) John would have asked his teacher if he could buy the popcorn, and she would have said yes because she checked with the school nurse about any allergies. John would have eaten the popcorn(which by the way has milk in it, based on the brand the teacher bought), suffered a reaction, and you can fill in the rest.

This is deeply disturbing to me. Who else is better qualified to be knowledgeable about our childrens’ allergies than the school nurse? She is the one who keeps John’s allergy action plan and 504 plan as well as his medicine kit on file in her office. How on earth did she oversee this when communicating with the Spanish teacher? John is one of those kids, (like many of your children) who have multiple, severe allergies and asthma, a deadly mix. This oversight could have put his life at risk. Not just hives and a tummy ache, his life.

Can you sense my anger over this? I am puzzled at how even though I go through great lengths to protect John, keep all the legal paperwork up to date, do a thorough system of checks and balances at every field trip, cafeteria purchase or class celebration, mistakes still happen. I don’t think the worry will ever go away, and every week we are faced with new challenges or situations. This is just another reason why I advocate for removing food from school celebrations and parties. The risk to a child’s life just isn’t worth it.

My Food Allergy Weekend…

This weekend was jam packed¬†with two food allergy conferences in the Chicago area. On Saturday I attended the 16th annual FAAN Food Allergy Conference in Rosemont. As usual I came away learning something old and something new.¬† A sampling of the topics included The Ins and Outs of food allergies,an informative guide to nutrition and food allergies, dining out¬†with food allergies and so much more. (For more information on the afternoon session please see my pal The Nut Free Mom’s blog entry today at – I had to leave after lunch).

As in years past my favorite part of the FAAN conference was the networking lunch where I had the opportunity to meet some wonderful parents who live with the same daily fears that I do. We talked mostly about our lives as parents of food allergic children; the first scary diagnosis, the first birthday party, the first cafeteria experience, the first plane trip, the first date, etc. I met some amazing moms and dads, and wish that lunch lasted a little longer. I always come away feeling comforted by the fact there are so many of you out there, living with food allergies, and living well. I can’t wait to see many of those same faces next year.

The first annual THRIVE Allergy Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago was also this weekend. I attended Sunday with my food allergic son John. It was meant to be a special outing for just us, a place where we can learn everything about new allergy aware products and attend some fun cooking demonstrations and informative panel discussions. 10,000 people were registered but I was told by expo organizers a little more than half than that number attended. Whether it was because it was an inaugural event or because of the Saturday conflict with FAAN I hope to see greater numbers next year. The organizers did a fabulous job in a scheduling a diverse number of vendors and speakers. My only complaint was that the food options were very limited. We ended up having lunch outside of the expo Рgo figure!

I met a lot of fabulous new vendors and topic speakers but two of our favorites were Sweet Alexis dairy, egg and nut free sweets (hmmm…wonder why that would be my favorite!) and the Angel Service Dogs. I met Michelle Fellows and Aimee Lithwin from the allergy concious bakery Sweet Alexis and they were both were sweet, full of enthusiasm and¬† deeply committed to food allergy friendly treats. In fact, their delicious chocolate chip cookies were the only sample John could eat there (again, go figure!). Definitely check out their online bakery for more yummy dairy, egg and nut free treats at .

We also had the amazing opportunity to meet the adorable Angel Service Dogs. These aren’t your ordinary cute pooches; they are truly your child’s best friend as they are raised and trained as a service dog to your child’s specific allergy. They can sniff out potentially fatal allergens and alert their owner. These dogs can travel with¬†your child to restaurants, birthday parties, and even on plane rides. Visit their website for more information. I wish I could have¬†brought home the little black lab puppy; they were so good natured and sweet.

Another guest I enjoyed meeting was singer/songwriter Kyle Dine. Think a slightly younger Ralph Covert of Ralph’s world; hip, young and fun but the beauty is all his songs are about food allergies. Songs like Eip Man and That’s a Peanut are wacky and a load of fun. Check him out at .

Finally, one more reminder about the Children’s Memorial Food Allergy Study. We need more families (allergic and non allergic control families) to sign up in order to gain the full benefit of this groundbreaking study. Your participation will directly impact the future of finding new treatments for food allergies. If you or someone you know lives in the Chicago area, please encourage them to call Deanna Caruso, project coordinator at 312-573-7755 to register.

That’s all for now folks. I have to get back to eating my last Sweet Alexis cookie. ūüôā

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free French Puff Muffins

_rkp2813By now, many of you already know about my obsession with cinnamon. It should come as no surprise to you then that my all time favorite muffin is the French Puff Muffin. This muffin is like no other, it reminds me of a yummy cinnamon sugar doughnut. I love to serve these muffins right out of the oven. Once they are cool enough to handle dip tops in melted dairy free margarine and roll in a cinnamon sugar mixture. In fact, rolling the tops in sugar is the job I hand over to my kids. They love it and feel like they are a part of the fun.

I remember the first time I served these delectable little muffins to my food allergic son John. I think even he was shocked at how amazing they were. But these have become one of his favorite muffins too. In fact, when I was working on the book and John happened to see a photo of them, he immediately asked, “Can we please make those again soon?” I can never say no.

Serve these to guests or your neighborhood kids. I promise they’ll never guess they’re allergen free.


Yield: 12 muffins



2/3 cup dairy-free margarine

1 tablespoon water

1 cup granulated sugar

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup soy or rice milk



1/2 cup melted dairy-free margarine

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350¬ļF, and spray a 12-cup muffin pan with dairy-free baking spray.


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the margarine, water, and sugar. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt with a wire whisk. Add the flour mixture and soy milk by thirds, alternating between each addition. Using a cookie scooper, put batter into prepared muffin pans. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.


Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and place melted margarine in a small bowl. Remove muffins from pan and dip each in margarine, and then roll muffin tops in cinnamon‚Äďsugar mixture.

*These are best eaten the day they’re made.


What’s in your Easter basket?

I remember as a child I loved those prepackaged, seemingly overstuffed (but then they really weren’t) Easter Baskets that were available at grocery stores and pharmacies. They seemed so magical, especially¬†that large, hollow, chocolate Easter Bunny with a¬†bow. I also loved everything else about Easter Sunday; my mother’s special deviled eggs, creamy mashed potatoes and her Krakus canned ham with sliced pineapple and butter on top. Not exactly an allergen free¬†meal I guess.

Times have changed. Most of¬†us either live with or know someone with a food allergy or intolerance. Big heavy dinners or brunches with an overabundance of cream and butter are long gone. (I’ve always wondered how popular TV chefs like Ina Garten, Martha Stewart and Paul Deen would handle food allergies in their house if they had to). Those big fabulous Easter baskets are also a thing of the past. They are an allergic child’s nightmare.

Even though we have allergies to contend with doesn’t mean we can’t have a fun, food filled holiday like everyone else, right? Seasonal and fresh ingredients can be dressed simply and beautifully without all the extra¬†cheese and milk. Ham or lamb can be prepared with a delicious maple or apricot glaze, rather than coated with butter. And I think you know how I feel about dessert; allergen free treats can and should be delicious. Make my dairy, egg and nut free sugar cookies in fun, whimsical bunny and flower shapes and decorate with pretty icing or colorful, allergen free sprinkles.

Finally, the Easter basket. I assure you that the first year the Easter Bunny was pretty skimpy on treats. (Bear with me here, my kids like to read my posts from time to time!) But over the years my son John has delighted over his basket, receiving goodies such as little hot wheel cars, stamps, stickers, silly putty, cool pens and notepads, sunglasses, seeds to plant, and of course allergen safe candy such original skittles, dum dum suckers, original starburst and smarties. The Easter Bunny also always gives each child a cute little book or stuffed animal. No one ever feels slighted that that they didn’t get tons of candy.

FAAN’s website¬† also has some great tips on how to handle allergies for Easter. I hope you all have a fabulous holiday weekend.

The Perfect Easter Dessert; Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Lemon Cake

_rkp3253Easter is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate.  This year my menu will feature seasonal produce such as asparagus and spring green salad, roasted thyme new potatoes and sweet maple glazed ham.  But the real show stopper is actually a very simple little cake that takes just a few minutes to whip up but is utterly delicious. The Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Lemon Cake is a perfect accompaniment to any menu, but it is also wonderful on its own as an after school treat. My kids have been known to ask for this tangy cake as a mid week, just because kind of dessert.

I like to use a metal 13 x 9¬†baking pan for this particular cake, not the Pyrex glass pan.¬†Also, only use fresh lemon juice and zest.¬†Don’t bother with the jarred stuff as¬†it won’t taste anything like it is¬†supposed to; light, bright and full of¬†sweet¬†lemony flavor. If you’ve ever had the Lemon Loaf at Starbucks this tastes quite similar but so much better and fresher.¬†¬†My kids love the simple little glaze with yellow specks of lemon zest, but you could forgo the glaze and just dust the top with confectioner’s sugar.

My son John absolutely loves this cake and it is on his list of all time favorite recipes. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!


Yield: 1 cake



1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

11/2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

3/4 cup silken tofu

21/2 unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup soy or rice milk

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


Creamy Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3‚Äď4 teaspoons soy or rice milk


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add 1 teaspoon lemon zest and tofu; beat well. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt with a wire whisk. Add to margarine mixture alternatively with soy milk, and beat well. Stir in lemon juice.


Preheat oven to 350¬ļF, and spray a 13√ó9-inch metal baking dish with dairy-free baking spray. Set aside. Transfer batter to prepared baking dish, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely.


Combine creamy glaze ingredients in a small bowl, and drizzle over cooled cake.



Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

_rkp2672As a runner I tend to always have a stash of bananas at my house. They are a fast and nutritious recovery snack especially after long runs. However, I have a thing for how ripe a banana should be when I eat it; perfectly yellow with just a hint of green. If that banana even remotely looks speckled…it gets saved for my kids who aren’t as neurotic as me. If the bananas have even more speckles then it gets made into delicious banana bread or muffins.

This is the perfect recipe to make for a yummy breakfast or after school snack. I’ve even packed it in their lunchboxes or road trips. Who doesn’t love the combination of banana and chocolate?


Yield: 12 muffins


2 medium bananas, mashed

2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, melted

1/4 cup dairy-free buttermilk (mix 1/4 c. soy milk with 1/4 T. vinegar and let stand 5-10 minutes) 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup granulated sugar

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375¬ļF, and spray a 12-cup muffin pan with dairy-free baking spray.


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine mashed banana, water, melted margarine, and buttermilk until well incorporated.


In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder with a wire whisk. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture, and mix well. Stir in mini chocolate chips, and divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.


Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean.