Walking for a cure; FAAN’s Chicago Food Allergy Walk

On Sunday, October 17th I’ll be in Chicago’s gorgeous Lincoln Park walking with hundreds of other food allergic families to raise money for a cure. Read more information about the event here .

I’ll also be at the event signing books, but apparently you’ll need to pre order copies and bring them to the walk. All proceeds to go FAAN. Or, if you have one at home, bring it! I’ll be happy to sign it as well.

Finally, if you’d like to join my Team Food Allergy Mama and walk with us (which is really just me and whatever child of mine doesn’t have an activity or game that day!) or to make a donation on our behalf, visit my team page here.

I also just want to give a HUGE THANK YOU, to all of YOU, my readers, who truly inspire me every day through your comments and emails. Your stories about your children and families often move me to tears, and I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know you, either personally or virtually. I love how we are all working together in ways big and small, to make food allergies a thing of the past. Thank you again for everything. XOXO

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Apple Cinnamon Crunch Bars

My neighbor showed up at my doorstep with a bag of gorgeous apples freshly picked from the apple orchard. I had no choice; I had to make a warm, slightly gooey apple dessert that is perfect for weekend snacking and after- school treats.

This Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Apple Cinnamon Crunch Bars are a delicious cross between an apple crisp and an apple pie. I love this treat slightly warmed with a small scoop of soy ice cream right on top of it. My 10-year-old daughter loves it for breakfast…though I have to admit it is a bit of a stretch to serve for breakfast. But once in a while, who cares if you serve treats for breakfast, right?

Enjoy these beautiful fall days everyone…they go by way too fast. Happy Baking!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE APPLE CINNAMON CRUNCH BARS

CRUST

2 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. quick cooking oats (PLUS 1 c. ADDITIONAL OATS TO ADD FOR TOPPING LATER)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c. dairy free margarine (I use unsalted Fleischman’s), cut into small cubes

2 T. water

APPLE FILLING

4 c. peeled and thinly sliced apples (I use any variety I have on hand, but love a mixture of different varieties like Braeburn, Cortland, Gala and Granny Smith.

1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour

3/4 c. brown sugar (light)

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 13 x 9 glass baking dish with dairy free baking spray, set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. oats, baking powder and salt with a wire whisk. Add cubes of dairy free margarine and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives. Once mixture is the size of peas (some bigger chunks are fine too) add the water and stir with a rubber spatula until incorporated. Press half of mixture into prepared baking pan using the back of a measuring cup or spoon, or use your hands but slightly wet them to make this process easier. Set aside. Add an additional 1 c. oats to the remaining flour mixture in the bowl and mix thoroughly using a rubber spatula.

In a medium bowl, combine apples, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Pour apple mixture over the prepared crust in baking dish. Sprinkle remaining flour/oat mixture over the apples and bake about 45 minutes or until top is lightly golden brown. Cool and cut into squares.

Finally, a Dairy Free Classroom too….

Yep, you read that right, John’s classroom is Nut AND Dairy Free. He’s in the third grade now, and historically speaking the third grade teachers allowed birthday treats, food, etc. in the classroom. Frustrated by the constant topic of food in the class, and the inability to get our school to have a district-wide policy of food- free Birthday Celebrations, I decided my son’s Section 504 Plan needed to be beefed up.

At the end of last school year I had my son’s annual IEP review meeting, and I requested his classroom be Dairy Free as well as Nut Free. Honestly, I was just tired of everyone thinking that a peanut-related reaction was the only one that was life-threatening. Everyone gets (or at least most everyone) that peanut allergies are dangerous. But no one talks about the other common allergens; wheat, soy, dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, and that they, too, can produce life-threatening reactions. That’s why they are called a food allergy.

Some of my son’s most severe, so-scary-you-never-forget type reactions were from dairy products that he inadvertently touched or ingested. So as long as my school insists on food and snacks in the classroom, I insist his classroom and learning environment be free of the food that could cause him a serious reaction. His class should be a safe haven. For the record, the lunchroom is still status quo: John sits at a peanut free table, but the rest of the lunchroom has milk, peanut butter, etc. and I am totally fine with this. I know this is the real world, and John, along with millions of other food allergic children have to find a way to adapt to lunchrooms, restaurants, etc.

I’ll be honest, the first few days of this new Dairy Free Policy threw some people for a loop. I got calls and emails about what was safe and what wasn’t. Some parents were worried that their children only eat certain foods and they wouldn’t be able to find a snack they would eat. In fact, my other son (who is not food allergic) is in a Dairy Free Classroom too because of another food allergic child and there was confusion there too. I get it; change is hard and people generally don’t associate dairy as being dangerous. Yogurts, Cheddar Goldfish, and  Cheeze Its all leave milk residue on fingers, which could potentially touch desk tops doorknobs, pencil sharpeners, you name it. But once parents understood this I think they were much more willing to accept it.

Finally, my school nurse, who has taken great care in helping where she can to educate and keep all the food allergic children in our school safe, decided to give a 15 minute informational presentation on food allergies after all the curriculum nights. This was her idea, and in her own free time. I honestly can’t thank her enough for caring enough to go the extra mile and really helping to not only enforce these safety procedures, but to also educate others. Just this morning she emailed me to ask if I had any questions about John’s safety for an upcoming field trip. She’s amazing, and I am grateful.

It’s been a long road to get to this point. I can still remember back in 2004 when John was starting preschool, and I got the Deer-In-Headlights look after asking if his classroom could be nut free. I didn’t dare ask for it to be dairy and egg free too. I was too scared, thinking no one would comply anyway. And I didn’t want to rock the boat. But, if there’s one thing I have learned after all these years of school, snacks, and birthday treats in the classroom, it’s that you MUST rock the boat, and educate people to get on board with you. I really believe that most of the negative things we read about food allergies is just based on lack of information, or the unwillingness to access it. Call me a Pollyanna, but I really believe we are making great strides in getting the word out, keeping our kids alive and ultimately finding a cure.

Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Spiced Apple Bundt Cake

In the spirit of Rosh Hashanah yesterday I had to make this cake. It is a must for any Jewish holiday. And even if you aren’t Jewish, you must make this cake now, in the fall, with all the apples out in full force at the markets.

Many of you who read this blog on a regular basis know I love any and every type of apple dessert. I have a strong love for the pairing of apples and cinnamon. This Bundt cake fits the bill exactly. It is moist, but not too sugary and dense like many other Apple Cakes. I’m not terribly health conscious, but I do think that most desserts like this don’t need all the oil and sugar. This cake is lightened naturally by relying on the sweetness of fresh apples, lemon zest and lemon juice. I also like to grate my apples on a box grater instead of peeling and dicing for two reasons: for one, the apples are more evenly distributed in the cake and aren’t weighed down, and the second reason? I’m just too lazy to peel and chop. :)

I’m so sorry it’s been nearly two weeks since my last post…I can’t believe how fast these weeks have flown by! My kids have started school and with that comes room mom meetings, 504 meeting, curriculum night meetings, sports meetings and everything else that comes with having lots of little ones running around. I promise I won’t go that long again…or at least I’ll try! Happy Baking Everyone!!

DAIRY, EGG AND NUT FREE SPICED APPLE BUNDT CAKE

1 1/4 c. granulated sugar

3/4 c. vegetable oil

3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 T. vanilla extract

3 c. unbleached all purpose flour

1 T. baking soda

1 T. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

3 c. peeled, grated apples (about 4, any variety but I love granny smith and braeburn)

Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a Bundt baking pan with Dairy Free Baking Spray.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, oil, applesauce and vanilla until combined. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg with a wire whisk. Add to the sugar mixture and mix thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, combine the peeled, grated apples with lemon zest and juice. Use a rubber spatula to fold in apples into sugar/flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared Bundt cake pan and bake about an hour or until top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

Cool slightly, loosen cake from pan and turn onto serving platter. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.