Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Whoopie Pies

whoopiepie 001.resizedWhoopie Pies are the next hottest food trend for 2010, according to the National Restaurant Association. And with good reason; their pillowy soft and cakey texture aligns perfectly with a sweet and fluffy filling. How can you go wrong? These little retro treats are popping up all over the place now, and in some cases becoming more popular than cupcakes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Whoopie Pies takes over the whole cupcake craze altogether.

These fantastic cakes are said to come from Amish farmers wives, who packed them away in their husband’s lunchboxes. I guess the term “Whoopie” came from what these lucky guys said once they opened them…but who knows? One thing I know for sure is, my kids love saying “Whoopie Pie” as much as they love eating them. And they LOVE eating these Whoopie Pies. They are highly addictive and hold up surprisingly well for a few days when stored in an airtight container. Ours are usually gone within a day or two though.

I’m sure many of you have your own versions of the Perfect Whoopie Pie,¬†as there’s many out there. Some are made with chocolate cakes, some with pumpkin or even carrot cake. The filling is generally a soft and creamy frosting, but¬†I have¬†seen¬†recipes that use Marshmallow Fluff or even just a large vegan marshmallow sandwiched between the two cookie cakes. I prefer a simple vanilla scented frosting because I think it adds just the right amount of sweetness to the two cookies.

Whoopie Pies are also traditionally fairly large in size, but I like mine smaller. I use a mini cookie scooper, but you could certainly use a larger sized one to suit your tastes. You may need to add a couple of minutes to the cooking time. One more tip – if you want your frosting a little firmer, put it into the fridge for several minutes to chill before spreading on the cooled cookies. I personally don’t see the need and like my frosting a bit creamier, but it’s all a matter of personal preference.

I think these would be the perfect treat to bring to our kids’ Valentine’s Parties at school, along with some of my Classic Sugar Cutout cookies (in pretty hearts of course!) for the non chocolate lovers. It makes a nice large batch, especially if you use the smaller cookie scooper. Enjoy and Happy Baking!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE WHOOPIE PIES

1 c. dairy free margarine (2 sticks)

2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s)

1 c. dairy free sour cream (I use Tofutti)

1 c. hot water

Filling

1 1/2 sticks dairy free margarine

2 3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar

4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tsp. soy or rice milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line three baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the dairy free margarine until smooth. Add the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add applesauce and vanilla and mix thoroughly. In a separate medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder with a wire whisk. Add the flour mixture in thirds with the margarine mixture, alternating with the dairy free sour cream and hot water.

Use a cookie scooper to drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes, or when the cookie bounces back slightly when touched in the center. Lightly flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand if you like a slightly less puffed cookie. Cool completely on baking sheets. Meanwhile, prepare filling.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream the dairy free margarine until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time until mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and soy milk and mix on medium high for a couple of minutes or until it resembles a creamy frosting. If you’d like your frosting a little firmer, put in fridge for a few minutes.

After cookies have cooled, use a small butter knife to spread a thin layer of frosting on the bottom of one cookie, and top with another cookie to make the Whoopie Pie. Continue with the remainder of the cookies. Store in an airtight container for a few days.

The FAM Baking Book gets a starred review from Library Journal…

It was wonderful to learn this week that my book received a starred review from the Library Journal, one of the most respected trade publications for librarians. It’s also one of the oldest, in its 133rd year of publication. Here’s what they had to say about FAM:

*Rudnicki, Kelly. The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book: Great Dairy, Egg, and Nut-Free Treats for the Whole Family. Surrey. 2009. 112p. ISBN 978-1-57284-102-4. pap. $19.95.

This hot-off-the-presses gem is a baking basic for moms raising kids with food allergies. The whole family will enjoy the recipes, though there’s a focus on dealing with birthday parties and allergy-free treats for school.

I’m so glad that this book is available in many local libraries, and hope that other food allergy mama’s will enjoy the recipes as much as I have. I ‘m also thankful for you, all the amazing moms and dads, who often write me, sharing your family’s experiences with my recipes. I probably won’t be able to post as many recipes in the next several weeks as it looks like I’ll be having baby #5 in a week or two, but I promise I will do my best. After all, I can’t go very long without baking something. :)

Happy Baking everyone and thank you again for all your amazing support!!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

doublechocmuffins.resizedValentine’s Day is right around the corner, and that usually means a day filled with chocolate treats. These giant Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Double Chocolate Chip Muffins are the perfect treat to serve for breakfast, perhaps with a glass of ice cold soy or rice milk and a big bowl of fresh strawberries. I promise your kids will think they hit the breakfast jackpot! Perhaps you could make¬†a basket of these yummy muffins for your child to deliver to their teacher as a¬†special Valentine’s treat.

Some of the things I love about this recipe; it is VERY fast to make, bakes in only 15 minutes and can be enjoyed as a breakfast or after school treat. I can’t tell you how excited my kids got when they saw these come out of the oven. EVERYONE devoured them.

Happy Baking!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 c. soy or rice milk

1/3 c. vegetable oil

2 T. water

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 c. all purpose flour

2/3 c. cocoa powder

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. dairy free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life or Divvies)

TOPPING

1/4 c. dairy free chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 12 cup muffin tin generously with dairy free baking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine soy milk, vegetable oil, water and vanilla. In a seperate large bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add soy milk mixture to flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide muffin batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. If using, sprinkle dairy free chocolate chips on top of muffins. Bake 15-18 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes and serve.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Cowboy Cookies

cowboycookies 002.resizedI’m counting down to the final weeks of my fifth pregnancy, and it never ceases to amaze me how awful I feel in the last month. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond excited and grateful for this healthy pregnancy, and the fact that I get to welcome my fourth son into the family very soon. But honestly, if there was a way to get past the “I feel like I have the stomach flu” every day, I would. So because I have little appetite I am only eating what sounds fantastic to me. That translates to lots of cereal, chocolate chip ice cream and sweet treats. Yes, even though I am feeling rough I can’t pull myself away from the kitchen to bake. I think I’ve proven to my husband and kids I have quite an obsession with baking. The desire to bake something sweet never quite leaves me!

So the past few weeks I’ve been craving something sweet but substantial. I wanted a cookie, but a big one loaded with stuff. Only one type of cookie could fit this bill, and that is the beloved Cowboy Cookie, dairy, egg and nut free of course. Traditional Cowboy Cookies are loaded with raisins, coconut, chocolate chips, oats, dried fruit and God forbid…nuts. My family isn’t¬†a fan of overly packed cookies with a bunch of “stuff” so I like to make my Cowboy Cookies with just some oats and chocolate chips. However, this recipe is meant to be adapted to whatever you like, so feel free to add or delete any of the ingredients.

Enjoy making your own version of this famous cookie! Happy Baking!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Cowboy Cookies

1 c. dairy free margarine

1 c. light brown sugar

1 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. old fashioned oats

1 c. dairy free chocolate chips (I use Divvies or Enjoy Life)

Optional mix ins:

1/2 c. raisins, cranberries, or cherries

1/4 c. unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine dairy free margarine, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add applesauce and vanilla, and mix well.

In a seperate medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt with a wire whisk. Add to dairy free margarine mixture and combine until thoroughly mixed. Stir in oats, dairy free chocolate chips (and optional mix-ins if desired) with a rubber spatula.

Use a cookie scooper to place batter on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake 15-17 minutes or just until light brown around the edges. Cool completely on cookie sheet and store in an airtight container for up until 5 days.

Updates on House Bill 281, an important food allergy study and a little victory in the lunchroom…

This week I was happy to attend the bimonthly MOCHA meeting (Mothers of Children Having Allergies). I am always amazed at how much I learn every time I go to these meetings. I love learning about the latest research and trends in food allergies, but most importantly I love mingling and talking with other food allergic parents (yes, dads attend too!). Everyone has a story to share, questions to ask and advice to give. I am grateful for the support and hard work of our leaders, Denise Bunning and Anne Thompson, true pioneers in food allergy advocacy.

Some highlights of the meeting:

  • Update on HB281: The Illinois School Code was amended to require that the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Health will develop guidelines for the management of children with Food Allergies. These guidelines will be provided to each school board no later than July 1, 2010, and they will be required to implement a policy based on those guidelines by January 1, 2011. This is a huge step forward in protecting our children at school.
  • Food Allergy Study: The Children’s Memorial Food Allergy Study needs 400 more families to participate in the next year. They already have 600, but need the extra push of families ASAP. The study recently received an important grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct genetic analysis of families living with food allergies. This information is critical in someday finding a cure. The study is looking for families from all over the United States, not just the Chicago area. Families eligible to participate should have at least one allergic family member under 21-years-old and have both biological parents’ participation. What’s involved? A one-time visit to Children’s Memorial Hospital, with OPTIONAL follow-up visits every one to two years. What are the perks? Other than Target gift cards, validated parking, goody bags for the kids and a super cool food allergy key chain, you can feel good about the fact that your participation may someday change all our lives for the better. Please consider it, and tell your food allergy friends too. Contact Deanna Caruso at 312-573-7755 or visit www.childrensmrc.org/allergy/study.

Finally, I wanted to update you on the recent changes in our lunchroom. The pilot program for the newly introduced soy milk has been a success! Kids are buying it, and there have been several reorders. This is great news, especially since the soy milk is more expensive than the cow’s milk. Also, our head chef lady recently shared a great story. Every time I visit the cafeteria to tell her John is buying lunch that day, I remind her to put aside the veggies for John so they can be served butter-free. She decided a couple of days ago¬†NOT to butter any of the vegetables. Much to her surprise, the kids didn’t even notice and ate them up anyway. At a time when we are dealing with high levels of childhood obesity in our schools, this is a great testament to the fact that if our children are just given the chance…they usually will embrace the change.

Enjoy the week everyone!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Corn Muffins

cornmuffins 001.resizedA reader last week requested a recipe for Corn Muffins, and¬†a couple of other readers shared their yummy recipes (thank you!). I promised I’d share my Corn Muffin recipe from my book too. I make these muffins every time I serve chili for dinner because I can’t imagine a more perfect match. They are simply mixed in one bowl and make yummy regular sized muffins or mini muffins. In fact, I¬†make the mini’s more often because my kids love to grab 2-3 of them at dinner. With Super Bowl Sunday right around the corner, these are perfect to make for parties as well.

I particularly love the combination of corn muffins with raspberries. If there are any muffins left over from dinner I love to have them the next morning spread with red raspberry preserves and dairy free margarine. These muffins also freeze well. Enjoy the cold weather weather and happy baking!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Corn Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

1/4 cup dairy-free shortening (I use Crisco), melted

1 1/2 cups dairy-free buttermilk (1 1/2 c. soy or rice milk mixed with 1 1/2 T. white vinegar, let sit 5-10 minutes)

2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450¬ļF, and spray a 12-cup muffin pan (or alternatively spray a mini muffin pan) with dairy-free baking spray.

 In a medium bowl  thoroughly combine all ingredients with a rubber spatula. Fill prepared muffin cups with batter, and bake 18 to 20 minutes (10 minutes for mini muffins), or until cake tester comes out clean.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Banana Bread

bananabread 002.resizedIt’s a snowy day here in Chicago, the perfect kind to stay in and do nothing. I figured I would work on some new recipes today, especially since my due is approaching and am not sure of how much recipe work I’ll end up doing postpartum. But quite honestly, I didn’t feel up to working too hard in the kitchen today. I pulled out my cookbook and decided to make an old favorite: Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Banana Bread. I had brown speckled bananas sitting on my counter top that were screaming to be used in some way. I could have made a smoothie or something with chocolate chips in it. But today, I just wanted something pure and simple.

Then it hit me…I don’t think I’ve ever posted my Banana Bread recipe. I’ve posted the Banana Chocolate Chip and Banana Chocolate Chip Snack Cake, but not just the Banana Bread. It shocked me because it’s one of the very first allergen free recipes I developed that was awesome, yet it was also among the most simplest. I always make this bread when my in-laws come over to our house. My father-in-law literally looks for it upon arrival at our house, along with a fresh cup of coffee.

I’m also excited to share my new “Printer Friendly” option on my Recipes Page. You won’t see the change on the actual page itself, but when you go to print a recipe from my site, a simple black and white page will pop up, easier for you and your printer! A big thanks goes¬†to my FANTASTIC web guy Mark for creating this useful tool for the rest of us. Enjoy and Happy Baking!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Banana Bread

Make sure your bananas are nicely browned, because very ripe bananas produce the best breads. Make one for now, and freeze the other for later.

Yield: 2 loaves

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana

3 tablespoons water

2  3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup dairy-free buttermilk (1 c. of soy milk mixed with 1 T. vinegar. Let sit 5-10 minutes)

Preheat oven to 350¬ļF, and spray two 8-inch baking pans with dairy-free baking spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine margarine, sugar, bananas, and water. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder with a wire whisk.

Alternate the flour mixture with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Pour into prepared pans, and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until cake tester comes clean.

 Cool completely before slicing.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Chocolate Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

visitinghancockbldg 008.resizedI made a lot of shortbread cookies last month for the holidays, but this month all I can think about is chocolate. Maybe it has something to do with the fact I am 8 1/2 months pregnant and living off of toast, cereal and every piece of chocolate I can get my hands on! It started with sneaking Hersey’s miniatures during the holidays. The taste of pure chocolate is heaven to me, and in these times of feeling bloated, exhausted and just really huge, I need those little moments of heaven more than ever.

This cookie¬†has the same texture as my traditional shortbread cookies, buttery,¬†crumbly and¬†decadent.¬†The cocoa¬†powder offers a nice, slightly bitter contrast to the “buttery” taste¬†of the dough. My 4-year-old loves the shortbread solo, with no filling. However, me and the rest of the Rudnicki clan LOVE a little chocolate filling sandwiched between two cookies. The filling needs about an hour to properly set, but truth be told I have been known to eat a couple right away…so delicious! These are the¬†perfect cookies to serve with coffee or ice cold soy milk. They keep fresh for a few days in an airtight container. I think these cookies would be perfect for Valentine’s Day, cut out with heart cookie cutters instead of the 2-inch-round ones I used in the picture.

As with my other shortbread recipe, be sure to keep a little ramekin of flour next to your work surface, and flour your board and rolling pin. The dough doesn’t need to be chilled and can be used right away after mixing. Keep an eye on your oven and don’t over bake the cookies. You don’t want them too crumbly.

Enjoy and happy baking!

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Chocolate Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

2 sticks dairy free margarine

2/3 c. confectioners’ sugar

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 c. cocoa powder

Chocolate Filling

1 1/4 c. dairy free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life or Divvies)

1/2 c. soy or rice milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the dairy free margarine until soft and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and mix well.

In a seperate medium bowl, combine the flour and cocoa powder. Add to the margarine mixture and mix on medium low until the dough comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Transfer dough to floured work surface and roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick circle. Use a 2-inch-cookie cutter (dipped in a little ramekin of flour) and cut circles, rerolling as needed. Place dough circles on prepared baking sheet and bake 18-20 minutes. Let cool.

To make Chocolate Filling: In a small saucepan, combine the dairy free chocolate chips, soy milk and vanilla and simmer over low heat until chocolate and soy milk are melted together. Use a rubber spatula to stir often.

To Fill Cookies: Use a small butter knife and spread about a teaspoon of chocolate filling on the bottom of one shortbread cookie, and use another cookie to make a sandwich. Let the cookie sandwiches set for about an hour so the filling can harden.

It’s January…aka preschool and kindergarten registration time!

Happy New Year! It’s the time of year to¬†start thinking about registration for preschool and kindergarten in 2010-11.Hard to believe I know, but the sooner you get started in this process, the easier it will be. All four of my children have had IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans) and Section 504 Plans so for me this process always took¬†a bit¬†more time and work.¬†Registering your food allergic child for preschool is particularily difficult and can be overwhelming. Snack time is¬†a big part of a¬†preschool curriculum. Here are some of my favorite tips on how to ensure your FA child’s safety and inclusion in their class:

  1. Set up a meeting with the Preschool Director or School Principal first. I have found that the fastest route to get getting the most accurate information on school procedures and policies is to have a face to face meeting with the preschool director or school principal. Keep the meeting brief, but be sure to educate them about the severity of your child’s allergies, and ask for specific information in how the school handles snack time, birthday parties, class parties and food allergy reactions/emergencies. Discuss what modifications can be made to the individual classroom your child will be in, i.e. designating a Peanut Free Room, or only allow certain snacks to be brought into the classroom that are allergen safe.
  2. Schedule a meeting to determine your child’s eligibility for a Section 504 Plan. This document is CRITICAL in managing your rights as a parent and for keeping your FA child safe at school. Children with food allergies can be considered “disabled” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It requires schools to provide “free, appropriate education” regardless of any condition, physical, mental or emotional. A FA child’s personal safety is compromised if dangerous food allergens are present in a classroom, and therefore could fall into this category. Young children cannot be their own advocates, therefore it is essential to have this legal document on file at their school. It protects them, and holds the school accountable for safe practices in dealing with snack time, etc.
  3. Discuss a Snack Time Policy with the staff NOW, so there is no confusion later. When my son John first started preschool at age 2, I admit I was still naive to the whole snack time process, and how it would eventually be difficult to police everything that came into the classroom. I gave a list of approved snack items that parents were able to send in, but learned the hard way that ingredients change in a moment’s notice, and non-FA parents aren’t going to read the labels as closely as you or I would. If you’re dealing with multiple food allergies, the best policy is fresh fruit, dried fruit and veggies at snack time. Arrange for the teacher to send this letter out at the beginning of the school year, so everyone is on the same page from day one.
  4. Write a Food Allergy Action Plan with your child’s school. This document can be downloaded at www.foodallergy.org (FAAN). It includes a step by step process on how to handle a food allergic reaction should one occur at school. This document, along with a 504 Plan is critical in keeping your child safe at school.
  5. Talk with you child about their food allergies and eating at school. Your child may have some fears about eating away from the safety of their home. This is especially true for children who have gone through the terrifying experience of an anaphylactic reaction. Ease their fears, tell them you are working with their school to set up rules to keep them safe and remind them that school is a fun, safe place to be.

Most of what I learned about navigating through the process of sending a FA child to school was through trial and error. Like many of you, I’ve faced parents and teachers who were willing to help, and others who never understood the seriousness of food allergies. I think the more I tried to educate about food allergies in general the better. It’s hard to keep your emotions in check when discussing the life and death issue of keeping your child safe. But it is best to keep all discussions with school personnel neutral and on a matter-of-fact level. I’ve found school administrators are more responsive this way. Good luck and let me know what tips have worked for you!