The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book is finally out!

Somebody once said to me that writing a book is like giving birth, and while I am not sure about that, I will say it has been a long and wonderful process. And as of tomorrow,¬† The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book will finally be available everywhere. I saw a copy of the book for the first time today, and it brought back so many memories of the last year; the baking, the taste testing, the mess in my kitchen on a daily basis, the photo shoot and so much more. It was a true joy for me to work on this project and share it with all of you. I am¬†also so grateful for the amazing amount of support I have received from not only my close friends and family, but from all of YOU, my virtual friends.

So many of you have written in with your heartfelt testimonials about how much your families have enjoyed the recipes, and it always made my day to read your comments and emails. Now that the book is officially available at the major booksellers, such as Amazon, please take a moment to share your experiences and write a review on their site. So many of you have also shared awesome variations, tips and tricks; share those too. We’re all in this food allergy baking circle together, so the more we can help each other out in the kitchen, the better! Also, remember that if you order directly from my site, a larger portion¬†of proceeds from every book sold will go to directly to Food Allergy Initiative Chicago, a not-for-profit that provides funding for food allergy research and education. I personally sign every book that is purchased through www.foodallergymama.com .

Thanks again for always supporting me and this book. I am truly grateful, and you can be sure I will keep developing and making more yummy recipes for all of our families to enjoy!

Just what the doctor ordered…tea and toast.

_RKP2992In case you haven’t noticed I’ve been¬†M.I.A. this past week, with barely one post written. Truth be told, I have been sick as a dog (though I still don’t quite know where that expression comes from). It started as the flu (either swine or the regular grade) and now has turned into a horrible case of bronchitis. My nights have been spent wheezing and coughing (thanks to asthma!) and my days have been spent exhausted, with more wheezing and coughing. I’m still sick,¬†but am on new medicine so I am hoping once and for all I will kick the bug out of me and be on the road to recovery.

I must admit, I still baked this week. I made chocolate cupcakes for John as he had a birthday party to attend, as well as some blueberry muffins because I was craving them and just had to have them that instant (I suppose that’s more of a pregnancy thing). One thing I really really really wanted was toast with honey and cinnamon sugar. I craved a warm, freshly made loaf from the oven but simply didn’t have the energy or stamina to do it. My Whole Wheat Bread recipe is so easy that I pondered making it from scratch for about five minutes. Then I had an epiphany; there was an extra loaf in my freezer in the basement. I hopped right off the couch and went to retrieve the well wrapped frozen loaf so I could defrost it for my favorite snack later that night; tea and toast. Discovering previously baked goodies in the freezer is like Christmas: true bliss.

My Dairy and Egg Free Whole Wheat Bread is outstanding, and everything bread should be..crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside, flavorful and wholesome. Homemade bread is something that can’t be beat, especially when you sick, down and out. In fact, my mom always made me cinnamon toast when I was sick as a child. She’d heavily butter the toast and then take that little shaker guy filled with cinnamon sugar and douse the heck out of that toast. I loved it. It always hit the spot. I also loved having honey and butter sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. It’s still one of my favorite treats to this day. And honey is one of the best cures for hacking coughs and sore throats.

I am excited to share my recipe for Whole Wheat Bread for you because I know it won’t fail you and it is extremely easy to make.¬† Some people are very intimidated by any recipe that contains yeast. Don’t fall for this; yeast breads are actually one of the easiest things to make yet one of the most rewarding. You simply mix up the ingredients and let time do the work. You can even put your kids to work by having them do the minimal kneading that is required to develop the gluten. Have fun and bake a couple of loaves of bread. And remember to save that other loaf for later…someday the frozen treat might pick up your spirits when you most need it.

Old-Fashioned Dairy and Egg Free Whole-Wheat Bread 

This is one of my favorite breads to make. It is delicious toasted and spread with dairy-free margarine and honey. Freeze the extra loaf by wrapping well in plastic wrap, then foil. Label, date and freeze for up to two months.

Yield: 2 loaves

4‚Äď41/2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 packages active dry yeast

2 cups soy or rice milk

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons dairy-free shortening

11/2 teaspoons salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 21/2 cups of the flour and the yeast with a wire whisk. In a medium saucepan heat the soy milk, sugar, shortening, and salt until warm, about 110¬ļF. Add the soy milk mixture to the flour mixture, and beat on low for about one minute. Scrape down sides with spatula. Beat on high for an additional minute.

Stir in remaining flour, one cup at a time, to make a stiff, but pliable, dough. Turn onto floured board, and knead 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to a bowl sprayed with dairy-free baking spray, turning to coat all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Shape each portion into a ball, and place on lightly floured board. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest about 5 minutes. Place dough into two 8-inch loaf pans sprayed generously with dairy-free baking spray. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375¬ļF. Bake 35 to 45 minutes. Cool slightly, and then remove from pans onto wire rack to cool completely.

A new study proves the public is misinformed about food allergies..

Knowledge about food allergies and its dangers is lacking, according to a new study by Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Based on a survey, 65 percent of respondents answered knowledge based questions accurately. In addition, 46 percent thought there is a cure for food allergies. Dr. Rachel Story, attending physician, Allergy & Immunology at Children’s Memorial Hospital spoke at the Illinois MOCHA (Mothers of Children Having Allergies) meeting and shared the recent¬†findings with attendees. She shared some fascinating information about new research methods, and the results look promising in the long term. But for now, I am still astounded by the lack of awareness about the real dangers of food allergy by the public.

Another key point Dr. Story discussed was that 2/3 of respondents thought that daily medication taken by the food allergic individual prevented life threatening reactions. In addition, 2/3 of parents surveyed¬†thought it would be unfair for their non food allergic child to bring a peanut butter sandwich or other peanut¬†product¬†to school. Of course, like many of you, I have heard this “unfair” situation firsthand, along with that other taboo subject; celebrating birthday parties at school with food.

These findings indicate what we, as parents of food allergic children have known all along. The public reaction to food allergies is largely due to a general lack of awareness and understanding of how life threatening food allergic reactions can be. I’ve heard from parents who are are unfamiliar with food allergies compare my son’s dairy allergy to a lactose intolerance, and asked if I could just have John take something like Lactaid. I’ve heard from parents who think people can only suffer anaphylactic reaction from peanuts. I’ve also heard from parents asking if John could have cheese pizza, even thought they knew he had a milk allergy (apparently thinking he was only allergic to milk, and not all dairy products). Finally, I’ve heard from parents who still had the look of shock and awe in their faces when I told them it would only take minutes for my son to die if he didn’t have the right rescue medication on him at all times. Even then, a food allergic person can continue to suffer anaphylactic shock after being given a dose of epinephrine (hence the reason to always carry two on you at all times, and immediately call 911 after administering medication).

You’ve all heard it too, I am sure. This is why we need to step up our efforts and raise awareness in our own communities wherever, and whenever possible. Attend a local FAAN walk with your family and friends, donate money to the various food allergy organizations listed on my homepage, have frequent dialogues with your school’s principal and nurse about policies and procedures, use play dates and parties as a opportunity to educate about food allergy issues and write letters to your local papers, magazine and news shows asking them to do more stories on food allergies. As a former producer, I can tell you first hand, the people in the news business DO listen to their readers and viewers, and are always looking for interesting story ideas.

Finally, if you live in the Chicago area and want to participate in the groundbreaking food allergy study at Children’s Memorial Hospital, please contact me for more information or go to the MOCHA website. The study still needs a few hundred case families, and the time commitment is only two hours, once a year. It’s a small chunk of time but could prove enormously helpful in finding a cure for food allergies. Also, tickets are now available for the very cool FAI Chicago benefit, to be held October 24th at the River East Art Center in Chicago. This will be THE food allergy event to attend as it attracts the Who’s Who of Chicago donors. FAI Chicago will also hail the accomplishments of Chef Charlie Trotter for dedicating excellence in health and well being of his restaurant’s patrons. If you wish to receive an invite, please email me. If you live out of state, please consider donating the cost of a $300 ticket.

We CAN make a difference, and I believe we will.

Dairy and Egg Free Apple Cranberry Crostata

_RKP3316As many of you can already tell, I love desserts that aren’t fussy and simple to pull together…with or without the kids around. Desserts that use pastry are perfect for allergen free baking, and can be modified in a variety of ways; pies,¬†tarts and crostatas. In fact, crostata is just another name for a tart. The dough is rolled out and the center is filled with a variety of fresh fruits or jam. The sides are then folded over the filling to give the tart a rustic look (have your kids help fold over the sides, it’s like playing with play dough for them). Bake for a short while in the oven¬†as you would for a pie and that’s it. How easy is that?

In my crostatas I love to use fresh fruit, and whatever is in season. Of course, it is already apple season so now is the perfect time to make this. I love the color and flavor contrast of dried cranberries so I’ve added them here, but you could certainly leave them out if you wish. This dessert is best served warm and perhaps with a scoop of soy vanilla ice cream. Or you could simply sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar if desired. I particularily love serving this crostata with a mug of warm mulled apple cider. Have fun making this wonderful fall dessert!

Apple Cranberry  Crostata

Change the filling any way you want‚ÄĒpears, nectarines, mixed berries, and peaches would all be great here.

¬†Yield: 6‚Äď8 servings

 1/2 recipe Easy Pie Dough (or 1/2 box Pillsbury Pie Crust; contains Wheat)

2‚Äď3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 c. brown sugar

Soy ice cream, for serving

Prepare Easy Pie Dough recipe below as directed. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Transfer dough disk onto prepared baking sheet. Shape dough into a 12-inch circle.

In a medium bowl, combine the apples, cranberries, vanilla, lemon juice and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Place on top of the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold dough gently toward center, crimping as needed. Bake about 30 minutes, or until dough is golden brown. Cool slightly on baking sheet, and serve warm with dairy-free soy ice cream.

Easy Pie Dough (use 1/2 dough for the crostata recipe, and freeze the other half wrapped in plastic wrap for later use)

Yield: Makes enough dough for a double-crust 9-inch pie

 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup dairy-free shortening (I use Crisco), chilled and cut into small pieces

5‚Äď7 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add small pieces of shortening, and pulse a few times until mixture resembles small crumbs. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to flour mixture, pulsing until the dough just comes together. Transfer mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Use wrap to pull sides of dough together to form a rounded disk. Chill at least 30 minutes before using.

The Perfect Fall Treat; Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Apple Muffins

IMG_2608[1Fall has always been my favorite season. Growing up in the Midwest I have many memories of playing in big leaf piles, getting hot cocoa at local football games, visiting¬† pumpkin farms and my all -time favorite fall activity…going apple picking. In fact, the apple picking season is just¬†around the corner so¬†now is the¬†time to get your favorite apple recipes ready. I have several favorites, making it hard to choose, but often I will turn to the ones that can be made on a moment’s notice and with my kids. Baking is like magic for grumpy or bored kids, and mine love helping in the kitchen as much as possible.

One recipe we love to make often is my Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Apple Muffins. These are easy to make and don’t even require a mixer if you don’t feel like bringing it out. You can also use any apple on hand; Granny Smith, Gala, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, or even Honeycrisp (which should be arriving in markets any day now). I like to use chopped apples¬†for added texture and flavor. The additional chopped apples and cinnamon sugar topping adds another layer of delicious apple flavor.

I like having these muffins on the table when my kids get home from school or soccer practice. I personally love eating them as a way to curb my never ending pregnancy hunger. If you happen to have extras, freeze them in a plastic resealable bag for up to a month. But I promise they are so easy and fast to make, you won’t mind making a fresh batch every week. Happy Fall everyone!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Apple Muffins

 Yield: 12 muffins

 11/2 cups diced, peeled apple

4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup soy or rice milk

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

 Topping

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

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 the melted margarine, apple, and soy milk. In a separate medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar with a wire whisk. Add dry ingredients to apple mixture, and stir by hand just until combined. Fold in 1 cup chopped apple. Do not overmix. 

Using a cookie scooper, fill prepared muffin cups with batter, and top each with 1/2 cup diced apples. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over muffins. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

 

Food allergies and school awareness; it CAN happen over time…

IMG_2600[1This week was a particularly good week for food allergy awareness at my son’s school.

First, I got a phone call from a mom¬†running our school’s Fall Fundraiser asking if I wouldn’t mind baking an allergen safe cake for the ever popular Cake Walk. In addition, the committee is asking for two local Vegan and Wheat Free Bakeries to donate cakes as well. For the first time ever, children with food allergies and¬†gluten intolerances will have an option if they win the coveted prize. I truly applaud these women for coming up with this great idea.

Last year was John’s first Cake Walk, and he was excited since he heard so much about it. That is, until I broke the news to him that if he did, indeed win a cake, he couldn’t have it. As soon as I said those words to him, I could have kicked myself for being protective to the point of insensitivity. My son, like so many other food allergic children, are apparently so used to hearing “You can’t have that” that it didn’t break his heart, he just wanted to know if I would bake him a special cake at home instead. Of course, I said and we moved through the line. For the record, we never won a cake after seven tries. This year, though, at least I will feel good about the fact that if he does actually win, he gets to have his cake and eat it too.

Finally, as I wrote in a previous post, John’s class teacher has adopted a non food Birthday Treat Policy in her classroom.¬†There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate birthdays at school without sugary cupcakes and donut holes. Here’s a great idea from his teacher that she started just this year; the Sparkle Gram. It’s¬†a decorated box filled with little notes and pictures from classmates sharing what they like about the Birthday Student. It is a wonderful way for students and teachers to take some time to write something nice about someone else. Who wouldn’t want to be the lucky recipient of a Sparkle Gram? It’s brilliant, and I wish I could have taken a picture of John beaming as he ran out of school today holding his box of Sparkle Grams.

As a food allergy mom, I take great comfort in these little victories, because I believe over time they will add up to something big such as more awareness about allergies in general.¬†We’ve all had our share of rough spots, so I’ll take these moments of kindness every¬†chance I can get.

The Easiest Fancy Dessert Ever: Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Italian Fruit Tart

_RKP3312I love desserts that are easy, delicious and look like I’ve spent way more time in the kitchen then I actually did. The Italian Fruit Tart, also known as a¬†Crostata,¬†is precisely one of those desserts. It consists of fresh pastry dough and your favorite fruit jam. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less, unless of course you’d like to add a scoop of soy ice cream on the side. But the dessert has enough star quality on its own that it doesn’t need any embellishment.

I’ve used apricot jam in this recipe, but you could substitute any jam you like. I also like to make a pretty lattice¬†design for the top of the tart. Lattice is not hard to do and there are lots of ways to do it: weave each strip, lay each strip across one way, then the other strips another way, or simply lay down the strips on top and twist them. There are no rules here; whatever works best for you will look best on the tart.

I love a homemade pastry crust, but let’s face it, there are some days when you need to cut corners. In a pinch, use Pillsbury Pie Crust. The only allergen it contains is wheat, but of course, always double check the label before using. You never know when these manufacturers change their ingredients. It’s happened to me before!

Have fun with this dessert and surprise your family this week with a treat that looks much fancier than it really is. Enjoy!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Italian Fruit Jam Tart

Yield: 8 servings

13/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, chilled and cut into small pieces

2‚Äď4 tablespoons ice water

2 cups fruit jam (apricot, raspberry, strawberry, or blackberry)

2 tablespoons soy milk, for glaze

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut the margarine into the flour using a pastry blender or your fingers. The mixture should be crumbly. Add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to flour mixture until dough just comes together. Shape dough into a ball, and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Divide dough into two disks, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger disk to a 1/2-inch thickness. Transfer to a 9- inch tart pan that has been sprayed with dairy-free baking spray. Transfer tart pan and dough to refrigerator while you preheat the oven to 375¬ļF.

Remove tart dough from refrigerator, and spread the jam evenly over the prepared tart dough using an offset spatula. Roll out the remaining disk of dough, and cut the pastry into strips about 1/2 inch wide. Weave strips of dough into lattice design. Trim the edges with a paring knife, and brush pastry with soy milk. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Dairy and Egg Free Focaccia Bread

_RKP3126I love going to Italian restaurants for dinner, and love it even more when a big bread basket is plopped on the table. One bread in particular that I adore is Focaccia Bread. I love it topped with everything and anything; herbs, tomatoes, olives, fresh garlic or even just plain. It is the perfect bread to serve to dinner guests, or even your own family’s dinner table during the week. In fact, I’ve made this bread often when I bring over dinner to friends who recently have had babies, etc. I always like to serve it when I make minestrone soup or a hearty Bolognese sauce. The bread is so easy to make that it practically makes itself.

This recipe is straightforward with just a little rosemary and canned tomatoes that have been squeezed of any extra juice. Right now is tomato season so feel free to substitute some of those beautiful heirloom tomatoes found at the local farmer’s markets. Since I make this bread all winter long I usually turn to canned tomatoes often. This bread keeps well wrapped in plastic at room temperature. I hope your family enjoys this yummy focaccia as much as mine does!

Dairy and Egg Free Italian Focaccia Bread

11/3 cups warm water (about 110¬ļF)

1 package active dry yeast

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

31/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups canned diced tomatoes, drained

1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, for sprinkling

Combine the warm water, yeast, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a liquid measuring cup with a wire whisk. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt with a wire whisk, and slowly mix in the water mixture with a rubber spatula. Stir until the mixture is well incorporated, then mix for about 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Spread 1 tablespoon olive oil with a brush on the bottom and up the sides of a 14-inch round pizza pan. Transfer the dough into the pan, and press the dough into the pan and up the sides. Cover the dough with plastic wrap sprayed with dairy-free baking spray, and let rise again until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425¬ļF. Use your fingers to poke holes into the surface of the focaccia. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the tomatoes, rosemary, and salt, and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, and cut into slices.

 Makes 1 14 inch round loaf