A Special Treat: Dairy Free Hot Cocoa

hot cocoa 001resizedWho doesn’t love hot cocoa? It’s sweet, chocolaty, warm and perfect with marshmallows. My kids are always asking for me to make a mug of this delicious concoction after school. There aren’t any suitable allergen free mixes on the market, and warming Chocolate Soy Milk doesn’t do it for me. I want something as close to the real deal as possible.

When I used to work in the city, I loved to visit Ghirardelli’s Chocolate Shoppe for a tall mug of hot cocoa to go. Over the years, I’ve turned to this easy do-it-yourself hot cocoa mix because it reminds me so much of that decadent hot¬†cocoa I used to enjoy. There’s nothing better than warm chocolate to soothe the soul, especially on¬†a chilly fall day. All you need is¬†soy milk, Hersey’s cocoa powder and¬†a little sugar. Oh, and a mere five minutes on the stove top. The best part? The aroma of simmering chocolate on the stove top can’t be beat.

Upcoming Event alert: If you are in the Austin, Texas area be sure to sign up for a holiday baking class with me at the Whole Foods Culinary School on Saturday, Nov. 14th. I’ll be hanging around afterward to sign books and talk about my favorite allergen free baking tips. Hope to see you there! Happy Baking everyone!

hot cocoa 002resized


Yield: 4 servings

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hersey’s)

1/3 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. water

3 1/4 c. plain soy or rice milk

Allergen free marshmallows, for topping, if desired (I use Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallows)

In a medium saucepan combine cocoa powder and granulated sugar with wire whisk. Add water and heat mixture over medium high heat until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in soy milk and reduce heat. Simmer five minutes and serve in fun mugs with allergen free marshmallows.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Snickerdoodle Cookies

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Snickerdoodle CookiesA while back a reader wrote me asking whether¬†my new book has a recipe for Snickerdoodle Cookies. She said her husband loves these cookies, and she wanted to make a version free of dairy, eggs and nuts. As it turned out, my current book doesn’t have a Snickerdoodle recipe, but I was already developing one for a new book down the road. Finally, the Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Snickerdoodle Cookie is here! And it is one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

The Snickerdoodle Cookie prompts passionate responses from people. It is one of those simple, straightforward cookies whose roots are typically traced back to our childhoods. Some old cookbooks claim the cookie was originated in 19th century New England. The soft and chewy cookie is characterized by a cinnamon sugar and crackled surface. Also, the Snickerdoodle typically uses a mixture of cream of tartar and baking soda as a leavener instead of baking powder. I always have cream of tartar around the house since I make a lot of play dough with my kids. Buy a small jar to have on hand;  it will keep practically forever.

This is another recipe I love to make with my kids because they have fun rolling the dough into little balls and then dropping them into a cinnamon sugar mixture. I also like to use the mini cookie scooper for scooping out perfect little 1 inch balls of dough. These scoopers make the whole process of scooping out portions of dough easier and faster.

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as we do. I’d love to hear from any of you who remember a special cookie they loved growing up, but now can’t find or an enjoy a recipe that is allergen free.¬†Happy¬†Baking!


1 c. dairy free shortening (I use Crisco)

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

3 c. unbleached all purpose flour

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture for Rolling:

3 T. granulated Sugar mixed with 3 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine shortening, sugar and applesauce.  In a seperate medium bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture and mix on low until thoroughly combined.

Use a small cookie scooper to make 1 inch dough balls. Drop the cookie balls into the cinnamon sugar mixture, making sure the entire surface is evenly coated.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until edges are just starting to brown the middle is still somewhat soft. Cool completely on baking sheet and store in an airtight container.

Halloween; It doesn’t HAVE to be scary for food allergic kiddos….

So many of my other favorite bloggers have given some fabulous tips about allergen safe candies, tips and tricks for Halloween parties and trick or treating. As a busy mama of four I am usually not that creative and don’t plan too far in advance by special ordering candy, etc.¬† But I do follow some very simple rules every Halloween that make the holiday fun and carefree for John. Here’s some ideas about how to get through this “tricky” holiday:

  • PREPARE TO HANDLE THE HALLOWEEN TREAT FOR SCHOOL PARTIES: Ever since John started preschool I have designated myself as the “Snack and Treat Mom” for all holiday parties.¬†¬†Sometimes, I’ve had to combat with¬†some moms who were adament about sending in¬†their child’s favorite peanut m&m’s. ¬†But over time, as there has been more awareness over the danger of food allergies, I’ve had less resistance. I like to offer a treat that also serves as a craft: pumpkin shaped plain sugar cookies (see my recipes section), bowls of allergen safe icing, candies and sprinkles to decorate. I also love to serve fresh fruit kabobs to the kids along with the cookies. Too much sugar CAN be a bad thing….
  • LOAD UP ON ALLERGEN SAFE CANDIES AHEAD OF TIME: There are some good allergen safe candy choices at the store. Our favorite every year are Smarties, Starburst Plain, Original Skittles and those fabulous little Dum Dum Suckers. I fill a huge bowl with all of these and let my kids pass the candy out to all the trick or treaters.
  • GO TRICK OR TREATING: What makes Trick or Treating so much fun is not just getting candy, but the act of running from house to house with your family and friends and waiting for the perfect moment to scream “Trick or Treat!”. This is probably John’s favorite part, even more so than getting the candy. We have had a strict rule since he was old enough to talk that there is NO eating on the way. But I always have a backup bag of “safe candy” in my purse if he whines loud enough. So we all just go from house to house, trick or treating like everyone else.
  • WHEN YOU ARRIVE HOME WITH YOUR CHILD, ASK HIM TO HAND OVER THE BAG: This is discussed several times prior to Halloween so there are no surprises or issues. The full bag of treats is handed over to me for even exchange of my own bag of “safe treats, cookies and candies. In addition, I pack either a Target gift card or special toy I know he’s been asking for (this year it’s a DS game (on sale of course…). When John was in preschool hot wheels and little trucks did the trick.
  • DONATE THE RELINQUISHED BAG OF CANDY: Our school collects excess candy to give to nursing homes and homeless shelters, so it is easy for us to trade our candy in. If your school doesn’t do this already, consider asking your principal to start this year. It’s a wonderful way to give back to others.
  • SIT BY THE FIRE, ENJOY A CUP OF MULLED CIDER A WARM DINNER IN THE CROCKPOT: My sister has¬†a tradition of having sloppy joes in the crockpot waiting for her overtired and sugar-crazed trick or treaters. I inherited this great tradition from her and it is a wonderful way to end the evening of craziness. The kids warm up their toes, eat a good dinner and talk about how much fun they had. Again, the less emphasis put on food and candy, the better.¬†So, in¬†the end, John’s Halloween isn’t¬†much different from anyone else’s. ¬†Halloween doesn’t have to be so scary, right?

I’m sure many of you have your own tried and true Halloween tips and tricks….I’d love to hear them!

Happy Halloween!

A weekend of “First Events”….

IMG_0011[1It has been a weekend of First Events. My sister ran her first¬†marathon here in Chicago. I hosted my first food allergy book launch for friends, family and an extended family of food allergy mamas. And on a more serious and personal note,¬†¬†my friend’s son suffered a serious food allergy reaction to cashews, his first ever.¬†

I’ve often said I would never wish a food allergy diagnosis on anyone. It’s terrifying to know that food could inadvertently kill or seriously harm someone you love. I believe that’s why we are all so passionate about awareness and keeping our children safe. I am sure we all can recall that first reaction our children suffered. It’s a life changing event to see your child struggle to breathe or get so violently ill because they happened to eat a cookie that was unsafe, or nibbled on a trail mix bar they’re allergic to.¬†Your life changes in that moment. There is no longer a carefree, eat-whatever-you want type attitude. We all know what could happen, and work very hard to keep food allergy reactions to a minimum. My friend’s life is forever changed after this weekend; having to see her child struggle to breathe, call 911 and spend nearly four hours in the E.R. She was sent home with a much improved son and an EpiPen. But she’ll carry that experience with her for a long time to come.

Which brings me to another¬†first; hosting a book launch party for my first book, The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book. The event was held at a fun breakfast spot in my local town. I spent two days baking a ridiculous amount of treats: pumpkin sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, banana chocolate chip muffins, french puff muffins, pumpkin bread and even a gluten free variation on my favorite snickeroo recipe. The parents sipped on hot coffee and lattes while the children enjoyed freshly made Italian Fountain Sodas. Parents mingled happily and children snacked freely. I was so touched and grateful to all my dear friends who travelled near and far to come support this project I have worked on for so long. But what I was most humbled by were the food allergic children, happily mixing with other non food allergic children, and eating all the “normal” treats of childhood. It was a sight I never thought I’d see and it¬†was amazing.¬†I especially empathized with the new food allergy mama’s I’ve never met before, who still had a look of fear and disbelief in their eyes, when told that yes, their child really could eat whatever they wanted.¬†It’s these little moments of normalcy that I never take for granted.¬†I’d love to have more¬†of these events for our children.¬†

In addition to the book launch party this weekend, my¬†older sister ran her first marathon. This¬†was no easy feat for her; she’s had two knee surgeries, two back surgeries,¬†as well as other countless other injuries. In fact, she was registered to run the Chicago Marathon in 2006, but yet another injury sidelined her.¬†She worked¬†hard every¬†single day. And every day presented its challenges; sick kids, travelling husband, exhaustion, naysayers, and a lot of¬†pain from her countless injuries.¬†She NEVER gave¬†up, and never doubted she could¬†do this.¬†And she did it; 5 hours,¬†45 minutes and 35 seconds. I¬†watched her¬†approach the finish line with her¬†12-year-old son standing next to me and I swore my¬†knees were buckling because I was so overcome with emotion. She DID it.¬†And¬†she did it well.¬†She never hit the wall, took her time, and enjoyed running through the diverse neighborhoods of Chicago. I am so proud of her and she serves¬†as an inspiration to me that really, we all can do anything we put our minds to. Whether that’s running a¬†marathon, writing a book, or working hard to build awareness so we can someday find a cure for food allergies. The future is limitless and I am still very hopeful we will indeed find a cure, so we won’t have to live with food allergies¬†much longer.

Finally, I want to¬†THANK YOU¬†all of you who post comments and send emails, saying how much you’ve enjoyed the new book and my recipes. It means the world to me and I am so happy that your families are loving these treats as much as mine have. To help spread the word, please consider sharing your experiences with other food allergy mamas by writing a review at¬†www.amazon.com .¬†I’m sure other parents would love to know how the recipes worked out for you.

Happy Baking!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Blueberry Bran Muffins

bran muffins 006There’s a chill¬†in the autumn air, and all¬†I seem to want these days is something warm and wholesome.¬†I think that’s why¬†I’ve made a lot of muffins lately.¬†The Dairy, Egg and Nut Free¬†Blueberry Bran Muffins is the perfect muffin when you’re looking for¬†something with a little more substance. The classic blueberry muffin is still one of my all time favorites, but this one is a fantastic variation using Kellogg’s All Bran or Wheat Flakes cereal, soy milk and fresh or frozen blueberries. I love this recipe for its simplicity; just a bowl and a spatula is all you really need. It’s the perfect muffin to make with your kids as they can literally produce the entire recipe from start to finish by themselves. And because they helped make it, chances are they’ll actually eat and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

As a pregnant mama, I love making a batch of these even just for me, as it freezes well and can’t be beat for¬†a quick on the go snack. I feel good knowing that I’m eating something that is at least somewhat healthy. Bring your kids to the kitchen, pull up a chair to the counter and make a batch of these. I promise you’ll enjoy them and make them a part of your “favorite muffin” recipe rotation.



Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Blueberry Bran Muffins

For this recipe, I use Kellogg‚Äôs All-Bran¬ģ cereal. Make sure you always double-check food labels for changes in ingredients.



Yield: 12 muffins

3 cups bran flakes cereal

11/4 cups soy or rice milk

1 tablespoon water

5 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted

13/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

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

In a medium bowl, combine cereal, soy milk, water, and margarine. Let stand for about 5 minutes. In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder with a wire whisk. Add the wet cereal mixture to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in blueberries, and divide evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with granulated sugar, and bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.